Finlay measured the little Doctor standing there twisting his watch-chain, beaming with achieved satisfaction, in a consuming desire to know how far chance had been kind to him, and how far he had to be simply, unspeakably, grateful. He stared in silence, occupied with his great debt; it was like him that that, and not his liberty, should be first in his mind. We who have not his opportunity may find it more difficult to decide; but from our private knowledge of Dr Drummond we may remember what poor Finlay probably forgot at the moment, that even when pitted against Providence, the Doctor was a man of great determination.
The young fellow got up, still speechless, and confronted Dr Drummond. He was troubled for something to say; the chambers of his brain seemed empty or reiterating foolish sounds. He pressed the hand the minister offered him and his lips quivered. Then a light came into his face, and he picked up his hat.
“And I’ll say this for myself,” chuckled Dr Drummond. “It was no hard matter.”
Finlay looked at him and smiled. “It would not be, sir,” he said lamely. Dr Drummond cast a shrewd glance at him and dropped the tone of banter.
“Aye—I know! It’s no joking matter,” he said, and with a hand behind the young man’s elbow, he half pushed him to the door and took out his watch. He must always be starting somebody, something, in the right direction, the Doctor. “It’s not much after half-past nine, Finlay,” he said. “I notice the stars are out.”
It had the feeling of a colloquial benediction, and Finlay carried it with him all the way.
It was nevertheless nearly ten when he reached her father’s house, so late that the family had dispersed for the night. Yet he had the hardihood to ring, and the hour blessed them both, for Advena on the stair, catching who knows what of presage out of the sound, turned, and found him at the threshold herself.
“I understand how you must feel in the matter, Murchison, said Henry Cruickshank. “It’s the most natural thing in the world that you should want to clear yourself definitely, especially as you say, since the charges have been given such wide publicity. On the other hand, I think it quite possible that you exaggerate the inference that will be drawn from our consenting to saw off with the other side on the two principal counts.”
“The inference will be,” said Lorne “that there’s not a pin to choose between Winter’s political honesty and my own. I’m no Pharisee, but I don’t think I can sit down under that. I can’t impair my possible usefulness by accepting a slur upon my reputation at the very beginning.”
“Politics are very impersonal. It wouldn’t be remembered a year.”
“Winter of course,” said young Murchison moodily, “doesn’t want to take any chances. He knows he’s done for if we go on. Seven years for him would put him pretty well out of politics. And it would suit him down to the ground to fight it over again. There’s nothing he would like better to see than another writ for South Fox.”