Before quitting the room, Mrs. Chump asked Mr. Pole whether he would be up early the next morning.
“Very early,—you beat me, if you can,” said he, aware that the question was put as a test to his sincerity.
“Oh, dear! Suppose it’s onnly a false alarrm of the ’bomunable Mr. Paricles—which annybody’d have listened to—ye know that!” said Mrs. Chump, going forth.
She stopped in the doorway, and turned her head round, sniffing, in a very pronounced way. “Oh, it’s you,” she flashed on Wilfrid; “it’s you, my dear, that smell so like poor Chump. Oh! if we’re not rooned, won’t we dine together! Just give me a kiss, please. The smell of ye’s comfortin’.”
Wilfrid bent his cheek forward, affecting to laugh, though the subject was tragic to him.
“Oh! perhaps I’ll sleep, and not look in the mornin’ like that beastly tallow, Mr. Paricles says I spent such a lot of money on, speculator— whew, I hate ut!—and hemp too! Me!—Martha Chump! Do I want to hang myself, and burn forty thousand pounds worth o’ candles round my corpse danglin’ there? Now, there, now! Is that sense? And what’d Pole want to buy me all that grease for? And where’d I keep ut, I’ll ask ye? And sure they wouldn’t make me a bankrup’ on such a pretence as that. For, where’s the Judge that’s got the heart?”
Having apparently satisfied her reason with these interrogations, Mrs. Chump departed, shaking her head at Wilfrid: “Ye smile so nice, ye do!” by the way. Cornelia and Adela then rose, and Wilfrid was left alone with his father.
It was natural that he should expect the moment for entire confidence between them to have come. He crossed his legs, leaning over the fireplace, and waited. The old man perceived him, and made certain humming sounds, as of preparation. Wilfrid was half tempted to think he wanted assistance, and signified attention; upon which Mr. Pole became immediately absorbed in profound thought.
“Singular it is, you know,” he said at last, with a candid air, “people who know nothing about business have the oddest ideas—no common sense in ’em!”
After that he fell dead silent.
Wilfrid knew that it would be hard for him to speak. To encourage him, he said: “You mean Mrs. Chump, sir?”
“Oh! silly woman—absurd! No, I mean all of you; every man Jack, as Martha’d say. You seem to think—but, well! there! let’s go to bed.”
“To bed?” cried Wilfrid, frowning.
“Why, when it’s two or three o’clock in the morning, what’s an old fellow to do? My feet are cold, and I’m queer in the back—can’t talk! Light my candle, young gentleman—my candle there, don’t you see it? And you look none of the freshest. A nap on your pillow’ll do you no harm.”
“I wanted to talk to you a little, sir,” said Wilfrid, about as much perplexed as he was irritated.
“Now, no talk of bankers’ books to-night!” rejoined his father. “I can’t and won’t. No cheques written ’tween night and morning. That’s positive. There! there’s two fingers. Shall have three to-morrow morning—a pen in ’em, perhaps.”