“I am very glad to see you, my dear sir,” said Mr. Ford, suavely; “I had just written you a note, the subject of which I can now speak about.” And, as he spoke, Mr. Ford tore open the letter which lay beside him, whilst his client was saying, “We are only passing through town on our way to Scotland. I shall be here two nights.”
“You remember instructing me that it was your wish to economize as much as possible during the minority of your son?” said Mr. Ford. His client nodded.
“I think,” continued the man of business, “there is a quarterly payment we have been in the habit of making on your account, which is now at an end.” And, as he spoke, he pushed the Rector’s letter across the table, with his fingers upon the name Abel Lake, windmiller. His client always spoke stiffly, which made the effort with which he now spoke less noticed by the lawyer. “I should like to be certain,” he said. “I mean, that there is no exaggeration or mistake.”
“You have never communicated with the man, or given him any chance of pestering you,” said Mr. Ford. “I should hardly do so now, I think”
“I certainly kept the power of reopening communication in my own hands, knowing nothing of the man; but I should be sorry to discontinue the allowance under a—a mistake of any kind.”
Mr. Ford meditated. It may be said here that he by no means knew all that the reader knows of Jan’s history; but he saw that his client was anxious not to withhold the money if the child were alive.
“I think I have it, my dear sir,” he said suddenly. “Allow me to write, in my own name, to this worthy clergyman. I must ask you to subscribe to his fund, in my name, which will form an excuse for the letter, and I will contrive to ask him if the list of cases has been printed accurately, and has his sanction. If there has been any error, we shall hear of it. The object of the subscription is—let me see—is—a monument to those who have died of the fever and” —
But the dark gentleman had started up abruptly.
“Thank you, thank you, Mr. Ford,” he said; “your plan is, as usual, excellent. Pray oblige me by sending ten guineas in your own name, and you will let me know if—if there is any mistake. I will call in to-morrow about other matters.”
And before Mr. Ford could reply his client was gone.
The peculiar solitude to be found in the crowded heart of London was grateful to his present mood. To have been alone with his thoughts in the country would have been intolerable. The fields smack of innocence, and alone with them the past is apt to take the simple tints of right and wrong in the memory. But in that seething mass, which represents ten thousand heartaches and anxieties, doubtful shifts, and open sins, as bad or worse than a man’s own, there is a silent sympathy and no reproach. Mr. Ford’s client did not lean back, the tension