Mr. Massingbird was not going alone. Luke Roy was returning with him. Luke’s intention always had been to return to Australia; he had but come home for a short visit to the old place and to see his mother. Luke had been doing well at the gold-fields. He did not dig; but he sold liquor to those who did dig; at which he was making money rapidly. He had a “chum,” he said, who managed the store while he was away. So glowing was his account of his prospects, that old Roy had decided upon going also, and trying his fortune there. Mrs. Roy looked aghast at the projected plans; she was too old for it, she urged. But she could not turn her husband. He had never studied her wishes too much, and he was not likely to begin to do so now. So Mrs. Roy, with incessantly-dropping tears, and continued prognostications that the sea-sickness would kill her, was forced to make her preparations for the voyage. Perhaps one motive, more than all else, influenced Roy’s decision—the getting out of Deerham. Since his hopes of having something to do with the Verner’s Pride estate—as he had in Stephen Verner’s time—had been at an end, Roy had gone about in a perpetual state of inward mortification. This emigration would put an end to it; and what with the anticipation of making a fortune at the diggings, and what with his satisfaction at saying adieu to Deerham, and what with the thwarting of his wife, Roy was in a state of complacency.
The time went on to the evening previous to the departure. Lionel and John Massingbird had dined alone, and now sat together at the open window, in the soft May twilight. A small table was at John’s elbow; a bottle of rum, and a jar of tobacco, water and a glass being on it, ready to his hand. He had done his best to infect Lionel with a taste for rum-and-water—as a convenient beverage to be taken at any hour from seven o’clock in the morning onwards—but Lionel had been proof against it. John had the rum-drinking to himself, as he had the smoking. Lionel had behaved to him liberally. It was not in Lionel Verner’s nature to behave otherwise, no matter to whom. From the moment the codicil was found, John Massingbird had no further right to a single sixpence of the revenues of the estate. He was in the position of one who has nothing. It was Lionel who had found means for all—for his expenses, his voyage; for a purse when he should get to Australia. John Massingbird was thinking of this as he sat now, smoking and taking draughts of the rum-and-water.
“If ever I turn to work with a will and become a hundred-thousand-pound man, old fellow,” he suddenly broke out, “I’ll pay you back. This, and also what I got rid of while the estate was in my hands.”
Lionel, who had been looking from the window in a reverie, turned round and laughed. To imagine John Massingbird becoming a hundred-thousand-pound man through his own industry, was a stretch of fancy marvellously comprehensive.