‘Why, that I’m going to marry her.’
‘Oh!’ said the doctor; and added after a pause, ’My dear sir, I wish you joy.’
‘I don’t feel that I deserve her,’ said Mr Rattenbury, somewhat fatuously.
‘Oh!’ said the doctor again. ‘As for that—’
He did not conclude the sentence, but drove on in meditation.
It is to be supposed that with marriage the widow mended her ways. Certainly she can have dabbled no more in smuggling, and as certainly she had told the truth about her age. Thrice in the years that followed Doctor Unonius spent some hours of the night, waiting, in the best kitchen at Landeweddy; and Mrs Rattenbury on neither of these occasions—so critical for herself—forgot to have him provided with a decanter of excellent brandy.
The doctor sipping at it and gazing over the rim of the glass at Mr Rattenbury—nervous and distraught, as a good husband should be—on each occasion wondered how much he knew.
Millionaire though he was, Mr Markham (nee Markheim) never let a small opportunity slip. To be sure the enforced idleness of Atlantic crossing bored him and kept him restless; it affected him with malaise to think that for these five days, while the solitude of ocean swallowed him, men on either shore, with cables at their command, were using them to get rich on their own account—it might even be at his expense. The first day out from New York he had spent in his cabin, immersed in correspondence. Having dealt with this and exhausted it, on the second, third, and fourth days he found nothing to do. He never played cards; he eschewed all acquaintance with his fellow men except in the way of business; he had no vanity, and to be stared at on the promenade deck because of the fame of his wealth merely annoyed him. On the other hand, he had not the smallest excuse to lock himself up in his stuffy state-room. He enjoyed fresh air, and had never been sea-sick in his life.
It was just habit—the habit of never letting a chance go, or the detail of a chance—that on the fourth morning carried him the length of the liner, to engage in talk with the fresh-coloured young third officer busy on the high deck forward.
‘A young man, exposed as you are, ought to insure himself,’ said Mr Markham.
The third officer—by name Dick Rendal—knew something of the inquisitiveness and idle ways of passengers. This was his fifth trip in the Carnatic. He took no truck in passengers beyond showing them the patient politeness enjoined by the Company’s rules. He knew nothing of Mr Markham, who dispensed with the services of a valet and dressed with a shabbiness only pardonable in the extremely rich. Mr Markham, ‘the Insurance King,’ had arrayed himself this morning in gray flannel, with a reach-me-down overcoat, cloth cap, and carpet slippers that betrayed his flat, Jewish instep. Dick Rendal sized him up for an insurance tout; but behaved precisely as he would have behaved on better information. He refrained from ordering the intruder aft; but eyed him less than amiably—being young, keen on his ship, and just now keen on his job.