“Enough, enough, my dear Ammaby!” cried the Rector; “I put myself in your hands, and I will see to the public appeal at once; though I may mention that the credit of those compositions chiefly belongs to old Swift. He knows the data minutely, and he delights in the putting together. I think he regards it as a species of literary work. I hope you hear good news of Lady Louisa and little Amabel?”
“They are quite well, thank you,” said the Squire; “they are in town just now with Lady Craikshaw, who has gone up to consult her London doctor.”
“Well, farewell, Ammaby, for the present. Tell the doctor I’ll give his plan a trial, and we’ll get the place into working order as fast as we can.”
“He will be charmed,” said the Squire. “He says, as we are going on now, we are breeding two worse pests than the fever,—contentment under remediable discomfort, and a dislike to work.”
Mr. Ford’s client.—The history of Jan’s father—Amabel and bogy the second.
Among the many sounds blended into that one which roared for ever round Mr. Ford’s offices in the city was the cry of the newsboys.
“Horful p’ticklers of the plague in a village in —shire!” they screamed under the windows. Not that Mr. Ford heard them. But in five minutes the noiseless door opened, and a clerk laid the morning paper on the table, and withdrew in silence. Mr. Ford cut it leisurely with a large ivory knife, and skimmed the news. His eye happened to fall upon the Rector’s letter, which, after a short summary of the history of the fever, pointed out the objects for which help was immediately required. There was a postscript. To give some idea of the ravages of the epidemic, and as a proof that the calamity was not exaggerated, a list of some of the worst cases was given, with names and particulars. It was gloomy enough. “Mary Smith, lost her husband (a laborer) and six children between the second and the ninth of the month. George Harness, a blacksmith, lost his wife and four children. Master Abel Lake, windmiller of the Tower Mill, lost all his children, five in number, between the fifth and the fifteenth of the month. His wife’s health is completely broken up” —
At this point Mr. Ford dropped the paper, and, unlocking a drawer beside him, referred to some memoranda, after which he cut out the Rector’s letter with a large pair of office scissors, and enclosed it in one which he wrote before proceeding to any other business. He had underlined one name in the doleful list,—Abel Lake, windmiller.
Some hours later the silent clerk ushered in a visitor, one of Mr. Ford’s clients. He was a gentleman of middle height and middle age,—the younger half of middle age, though his dark hair was prematurely gray. His eyes were black and restless, and his manner at once haughty and nervous.