“Only a portmanteau. My servant is looking after it. Here he is.”
A very dark man came up—an Indian—nearly as old as his master. Jan recognised him.
“I remember you!” he exclaimed “It is Batsha.”
The man laughed, hiding his dark eyes, but showing his white teeth. “Massa Jan!” he said, “used to call me Bat.”
Without the least ceremony, Jan shook him by the hand. He had more pleasant reminiscences of him than of his master. In fact, Jan could only remember Colonel Tempest by name. He, the colonel, had despised and shunned the awkward and unprepossessing boy; but the boy and Bat used to be great friends.
“Do you recollect carrying me on your shoulder, Bat? You have paid for many a ride in a palanquin for me. Riding on shoulders or in palanquins, in those days, used to be my choice recreation. The shoulders and the funds both ran short at times.”
Batsha remembered it all. Next to his master, he had never liked anybody so well as the boy Jan.
“Stop where you are a minute or two,” said unceremonious Jan to Sir Henry. “I must find one of the porters, and then I’ll walk with you.”
Looking about in various directions, in holes and corners and sheds, inside carriages and behind trucks, Jan at length came upon a short, surly-looking man, wearing the official uniform. It was the one of whom he was in search.
“I say, Parkes, what is this I hear about your forcing your wife to get up, when I have given orders that she should lie in bed? I went in just now, and there I found her dragging herself about the damp brewhouse. I had desired that she should not get out of her bed.”
“Too much bed don’t do nobody much good, sir,” returned the man in a semi-resentful tone. “There’s the work to do—the washing. If she don’t do it, who will?”
“Too much bed wouldn’t do you good; or me, either; but it is necessary for your wife in her present state of illness. I have ordered her to bed again. Don’t let me hear of your interfering a second time, and forcing her up. She is going to have a blister on now.”
“I didn’t force her, sir,” answered Parkes. “I only asked her what was to become of the work, and how I should get a clean shirt to put on.”
“If I had got a sick wife, I’d wash out my shirt myself, before I’d drag her out of bed to do it,” retorted Jan. “I can tell you one thing, Parkes; that she is worse than you think for. I am not sure that she will be long with you; and you won’t get such a wife again in a hurry, once you lose her. Give her a chance to get well. I’ll see that she gets up fast enough, when she is fit for it.”
Parkes touched his peaked cap as Jan turned away. It was very rare that Jan came out with a lecture; and when he did, the sufferers did not like it. A sharp word from Jan Verner seemed to tell home.
Jan returned to Sir Henry Tempest, and they walked a way in the direction of Deerham Court.