“Hm—hm!” remarked Mr. MacGentle again. It was a favorite comment of his upon business topics.
“It is possible I may be a very wealthy man,” said Balder, when Mr. Dyke had made his resolute bow and withdrawn. “But I hope my uncle is alive. It would be a loss not to have known so eccentric a man. I have a miniature of him which I have often studied, so that I shall know him when we meet. Can he be married, do you think?”
“Why no, Balder; no, I should hardly think so,” answered Mr. MacGentle, who, at the departure of his confidential clerk, had relapsed into his unofficial position and manner. “By the way, do you contemplate that step?”
“It is said to be an impediment to great enterprises. I could learn little by domestic life that I could not learn better otherwise.”
“Hm,—we could not do without woman, you know.”
“If I could marry Woman, I would do it,” said the young man, unblushingly. “But a single crumb from that great loaf would be of no use to me.”
“Ah, you haven’t learned to appreciate women! You never knew your mother, Balder; and your sister was lost before she was old enough to be anything to you. By the way, I have always cherished a hope that she might yet be found. Perhaps she may,—perhaps she may.”
Balder looked perplexed, till, thinking the old gentleman might be referring to a reunion in a future state, he said,—
“You believe that people recognize one another in the next world, Mr. MacGentle?”
“Perhaps,—perhaps; but why not here as well?” murmured the other, in reply; and Balder, suspecting a return of absent-mindedness, yielded the point. He had grown up in the belief that his twin-sister had died in her infancy; but his venerable friend appeared to be under a different impression.
“I shall go to New York, and try to find my uncle, or some trace of him,” said he. “If I’m unsuccessful, I mean to come back here, and settle as a physician.”
“What is your specialty?”
“I’m an eye-doctor. The Boston people are not all clear-eyed, I hope.”
“Not all,—I should say not all; perhaps you may be able to help me, to begin with,” said Mr. MacGentle, with a gleam of melancholy humor. “I will ask Mr. Dyke about the chances for a practice he knows everything. And, Balder,” he added, when the young man rose to go, “let me hear from you, and see you again sometimes, whatever may happen to you in the way of fortune. I’m rather a lonely old man,—a lonely old man, Balder.”
“I’ll be here again very soon, unless I get married, or commit a murder or some such enormity,” rejoined Helwyse, his long mustache curling to, his smile. They shook hands,—the vigorous young god of the sun and the faded old wraith of Brahmanism,—with a friendly look into each other’s eyes.
The vagaries of Helwyse.