“I think that is so,” said Mary, “but he told me one day, coming over on the steamer, that he knew nothing whatever of his own prospects or his father’s affairs. I don’t remember—at least, it doesn’t matter—how he came to say as much, but he did, and afterward gave me a whimsical catalogue of his acquirements and accomplishments, remarking, I remember, that ‘there was not a dollar in the whole list’; and lately, though you must not fancy that he discusses his own affairs with me, he has now and then said something to make me guess that he was somewhat troubled about them.”
“Is he doing anything?” asked Mrs. Carling.
“He told me the first evening he called here,” said Mary, “that he was studying law, at his father’s suggestion; but I don’t remember the name of the firm in whose office he is.”
“Why doesn’t he ask his father about his prospects?” said Mrs. Carling.
Mary laughed. “You seem to be so much more interested in the matter than I am,” she said, “why don’t you ask him yourself?” To which unjustifiable rejoinder her sister made no reply.
“I don’t see why he shouldn’t,” she remarked.
“I think I understand,” said Mary. “I fancy from what he has told me that his father is a singularly reticent man, but one in whom his son has always had the most implicit confidence. I imagine, too, that until recently, at any rate, he has taken it for granted that his father was wealthy. He has not confided any misgivings to me, but if he has any he is just the sort of person not to ask, and certainly not to press a question with his father.”
“It would seem like carrying delicacy almost too far,” remarked Mrs. Carling.
“Perhaps it would,” said her sister, “but I think I can understand and sympathize with it.”
Mrs. Carling broke the silence which followed for a moment or two as if she were thinking aloud. “You have plenty of money,” she said, and colored at her inadvertence. Her sister looked at her for an instant with a humorous smile, and then, as she rose and touched the bell button, said, “That’s another reason.”
I think it should hardly be imputed to John as a fault or a shortcoming that he did not for a long time realize his father’s failing powers. True, as has been stated, he had noted some changes in appearance on his return, but they were not great enough to be startling, and, though he thought at times that his father’s manner was more subdued than he had ever known it to be, nothing really occurred to arouse his suspicion or anxiety. After a few days the two men appeared to drop into their accustomed relation and routine, meeting in the morning and at dinner; but as John picked up the threads of his acquaintance he usually went out after dinner, and even when he did not his father went early to his own apartment.