To this a bland answer was received. Dr. West was agreeable to the dissolution of partnership; but he had no intention of resuming practice in Deerham. He and his noble charge (who was decidedly benefiting by his care, skill, and companionship, he elaborately wrote), were upon the best of terms; his engagement with him was likely to be a long one (for the poor youth would require a personal guide up to his fortieth year, nay, to his eightieth, if he lived so long); and therefore (not to be fettered) he, Dr. West, was anxious to sever his ties with Deerham. He should never return to it. If Mr. Jan would undertake to pay him a trifling sum, say five hundred pounds, or so he could have the entire business; and the purchase-money, if more convenient, might be paid by instalments. Mr. Jan, of course, would become sole proprietor of the house (the rent of which had hitherto been paid out of the joint concern), but perhaps he would not object to allow those “two poor old things, Deborah and Amilly, a corner in it.” He should, of course, undertake to provide for them, remitting them a liberal annual sum.
In writing this—fair, nay liberal, as the offered terms appeared to the sight of single-hearted Jan—Dr. West had probably possessed as great an eye as ever to his own interest. He had a shrewd suspicion that, the house divided, his, Dr. West’s, would stand but a poor chance against Jan Verner’s. That Jan would be entirely true and honourable in not soliciting the old patients to come to him, he knew; but he equally knew that the patients would flock to Jan unsolicited. Dr. West had not lived in ignorance of what was going on in Deerham; he had one or two private correspondents there; besides the open ones, his daughters and Jan; and he had learned how popular Jan had grown with all classes. Yes, it was decidedly politic on Dr. West’s part to offer Jan terms of purchase. And Jan closed with them.
“I couldn’t have done it six months ago, you know, Lionel,” he said to his brother. “But now that you have come in again to Verner’s Pride, you won’t care to have my earnings any longer.”
“What I shall care for now, Jan, will be to repay you so far as I can. The money can be repaid: the kindness never.”
“Law!” cried Jan, “that’s nothing. Wouldn’t you have done as much for me? To go back to old West: I shall be able to complete the purchase in little more than a year, taking it out of the profits. The expenses will be something considerable. There’ll be the house, and the horses, for I must have two, and I shall take a qualified assistant as soon as Cheese leaves, which will be in autumn; but there’ll be a margin of six or seven hundred a year profit left me then. And the business is increasing. Yes, I shall be able to pay him out in a year, or thereabouts. In offering me these easy terms, I think he is behaving liberally. Don’t you, Lionel?”
“That may be a matter of opinion, Jan,” was Lionel’s answer. “He has stood to me in the relation of father-in-law, and I don’t care to express mine too definitely. He is wise enough to know that when you leave him, his chance of practice is gone. But I don’t advise you to cavil with the terms. I should say, accept them.”