“What is it?” asked he, rather wondering.
“I have had a letter from Prussia this morning, Mr. Jan, from my father. He says you and he are about to dissolve partnership; that the practice will be carried on by you alone, on your own account; and that—but you had better read it,” she broke off, taking the letter from her pocket, and handing it to Jan.
He ran his eyes over it. Dr. West’s was not a plain handwriting, but Jan was accustomed to it. The letter was soon read.
“It’s true, Miss Deb. The doctor thinks he shall not be returning to Deerham, and so I am going to take to the whole of the practice,” continued Jan, who possessed too much innate good feeling to hint to Miss Deb of any other cause.
“Yes. But—it will place me and Amilly in a very embarrassing position, Mr. Jan,” added the poor lady, her thin cheeks flushing painfully. “I—we shall have no right to remain in this house then.”
“You are welcome to remain,” said Jan.
Miss Deb shook her head. She felt, as she said, that they should have no “right.”
“I’d rather you did,” pursued Jan, in his good-nature. “What do I and Cheese want with all this big house to ourselves? Besides, if you and Amilly go, who’d see to our shirts and the puddings?”
“When papa went away at first, was there not some arrangement made by which the furniture became yours?”
“No,” stoutly answered Jan. “I paid something to him to give me, as he called it, a half-share in it with himself. It was a stupid sort of arrangement, and one that I should never care to act upon, Miss Deb. The furniture is yours; not mine.”
“Mr. Jan, you would give up your right in everything, I believe. You will never get rich.”
“I shall get as rich as I want to, I dare say,” was Jan’s answer. “Things can go on just the same as usual, you know, Miss Deb, and I can pay the housekeeping bills. Your stopping here will be a saving,” good-naturedly added Jan. “With nobody in the house to manage, except servants, only think the waste there’d be! Cheese would be for getting two dinners a day served, fish, and fowls, and tarts at each.”
The tears were struggling in Deborah West’s eyes. She did her best to repress them: but it could not be, and she gave way with a burst.
“I beg your pardon, Mr. Jan,” she said. “Sometimes I feel as if there was no longer any place in the world for me and Amilly. You may be sure I would not mention it, but that you know it as well as I do—that there is, I fear, no dependence to be placed on this promise of papa’s, to allow us an income. I have been thinking——”
“Don’t let that trouble you, Miss Deb,” interrupted Jan, tilting himself backwards over the arm of the chair in a very ungraceful fashion, and leaving his legs dangling. “Others will, if he wo—if he can’t. Lionel has just been saying that as Sibylla’s sisters, he shall see that you don’t want.”