‘Roger Hamley going off on a scientific expedition!’ exclaimed Mr Gibson, suddenly awakened into vivacity.
’Yes. At least it is not settled finally; but as Lord Hollingford is the only trustee who takes any interest—and being Lord Cumnor’s son— it is next to certain.’
‘I think I must have a voice in the matter,’ said Mr. Gibson; and he relapsed into silence, keeping his ears open, however, henceforward.
‘How long will he be away?’ asked Cynthia. ‘We shall miss him sadly.’
Molly’s lips formed an acquiescing ‘yes’ to this remark, but no sound was heard. There was a buzzing in her ears as if the others were going on with the conversation, but the words they uttered seemed indistinct and blurred; they were merely conjectures, and did not interfere with the one great piece of news. To the rest of the party she appeared to be eating her dinner as usual, and, if she were silent, there was one listener the more to Mrs. Gibson’s stream of prattle, and Mr. Gibson’s and Cynthia’s remarks.
It was a day or two afterwards, that Mr. Gibson made time to ride round by Hamley, desirous to learn more exact particulars of this scheme for Roger than he could obtain from any extraneous source, and rather puzzled to know whether he should interfere in the project or not. The state of the case was this:—Osborne’s symptoms were, in Mr. Gibson’s opinion, signs of his having a fatal disease. Dr Nicholls had differed from him on this head, and Mr. Gibson knew that the old physician had had long experience, and was considered very skilful in the profession. Still he believed that he himself was right, and, if so, the complaint was one which might continue for years in the same state as at present, or might end the young man’s life in a hour—a minute. Supposing that Mr. Gibson was right, would it be well for Roger to be away where no sudden calls for his presence could reach him—away for two years? Yet if the affair was concluded, the interference of a medical man might accelerate the very evil to be feared; and after all Dr Nicholls might be right, and the symptoms might proceed from some other cause. Might? Yes. Probably did? No. Mr. Gibson could not bring himself to say yes to this latter form of sentence. So he rode on, meditating; his reins slack, his head a little bent. It was one of those still and lovely autumn days when the red and yellow leaves are hanging-pegs to dewy, brilliant gossamer-webs; when the hedges are full of trailing brambles, loaded with ripe blackberries; when the air is full of the farewell whistles and pipes of birds, clear and short—not the long full-throated warbles of spring; when the whirr of the partridge’s wings is heard in the stubble-fields, as the sharp hoof-blows fall on the paved lanes; when here and there a leaf floats and flutters down to the ground,