Gadgem jumped to his feet and snapped his fingers rapidly. Had he sat on a tack his rebound could not have been more sudden. This last was news to him.
“Shorn lamb, sir!” he cried gleefully, rubbing his palms together, his body tied into a double bow-knot. “Gentle breezes; bread upon the waters! By jiminy, Mr. Rutter, if Mr. Temple could be born again—figuratively, sir—and I could walk in upon him as I once did, and find him at breakfast surrounded by all his comforts with Todd waiting upon him—a very good nigger is Todd, sir—an exCEPtionally good nigger—I’d—I’d—damn me, Mr. Rutter, I’d—well, sir, there’s no word—but John Gadgem, sir—well, I’ll be damned if he wouldn’t—” and he began skipping about the room, both feet in the air, as if he was a boy of twenty instead of a thin, shambling, badly put together bill collector in an ill-fitting brown coat, a hat much the worse for wear, and a red cotton handkerchief addicted to weekly ablutions.
As for Harry the glad news had cleared out wide spaces before him, such as he had not looked through in years; leafy vistas, with glimpses of sunlit meadows; shadow-flecked paths leading to manor-houses with summer skies beyond. He, too, was on his feet, walking restlessly up and down.
Pawson and Gadgem again put their heads together, Harry stopping to listen. Such expressions as “Certainly,” “I think I can”: “Yes, of course it was there when I was last in his place,” “Better see him first,” caught his ear.
At last he could stand it no longer. Dr. Teackle or no Dr. Teackle, he would go upstairs, open the door softly, and if his uncle was awake whisper the good news in his ear. If anybody had whispered any such similar good news in his ear on any one of the weary nights he had lain awake waiting for the dawn, or at any time of the day when he sat his horse, his rifle across the pommel, it would have made another man of him.
If his uncle was awake!
He was not only awake, but he was very much alive.
“I’ve got a great piece of news for you, Uncle George!” Harry shouted in a rollicking tone, his joy increasing as he noted his uncle’s renewed strength.
“So have I got a great piece of news for you!” was shouted back. “Come in, you young rascal, and shut that door behind you. She isn’t going to marry Willits. Thrown him over—don’t want him—don’t love him—can’t love him—never did love him! She’s just told me so. Whoop—hurrah! I Dance, you dog, before I throw this chair at you!!”
There are some moments in a man’s life when all language fails;—pantomime moments, when one stares and tries to speak and stares again. They were both at it—St. George waiting until Harry should explode, and Harry trying to get his breath, the earth opening under him, the skies falling all about his head.
“She told you so! When!” he gasped.
“Two minutes ago—you’ve just missed her! Where the devil have you been? Why didn’t you come in before?”