The following day being very fine, I walked to Oldcastle Hall; but I remember well how much slower I was forced to walk than I was willing. I found to my relief that Mrs Oldcastle had not yet returned. I was shown at once to Mr Stoddart’s library. There I found the two ladies in attendance upon him. He was seated by a splendid fire, for the autumn days were now chilly on the shady side, in the most luxurious of easy chairs, with his furred feet buried in the long hair of the hearth-rug. He looked worn and peevish. All the placidity of his countenance had vanished. The smooth expanse of his forehead was drawn into fifty wrinkles, like a sea over which the fretting wind has been blowing all night. Nor was it only suffering that his face expressed. He looked like a man who strongly suspected that he was ill-used.
“You are well off, Mr Stoddart,” I said, “to have two such nurses.”
“They are very kind,” sighed the patient
“You would recommend Mrs Pearson and Mother Goose instead, would you not, Mr Walton?” said Judy, her gray eyes sparkling with fun.
“Judy, be quiet,” said the invalid, languidly and yet sharply.
Judy reddened and was silent.
“I am sorry to find you so unwell,” I said.
“Yes; I am very ill,” he returned.
Aunt and niece rose and left the room quietly.
“Do you suffer much, Mr Stoddart?”
“Much weariness, worse than pain. I could welcome death.”
“I do not think, from what Dr Duncan says of you, that there is reason to apprehend more than a lingering illness,” I said—to try him, I confess.
“I hope not indeed,” he exclaimed angrily, sitting up in his chair. “What right has Dr Duncan to talk of me so?”
“To a friend, you know,” I returned, apologetically, “who is much interested in your welfare.”
“Yes, of course. So is the doctor. A sick man belongs to you both by prescription.”
“For my part I would rather talk about religion to a whole man than a sick man. A sick man is not a whole man. He is but part of a man, as it were, for the time, and it is not so easy to tell what he can take.”
“Thank you. I am obliged to you for my new position in the social scale. Of the tailor species, I suppose.”
I could not help wishing he were as far up as any man that does such needful honest work.
“My dear sir, I beg your pardon. I meant only a glance at the peculiar relation of the words whole and heal.”
“I do not find etymology interesting at present.”
“Not seated in such a library as this?”
“No; I am ill.”
Satisfied that, ill as he was, he might be better if he would, I resolved to make another trial.
“Do you remember how Ligarius, in Julius Caesar, discards his sickness?—