He was delighted by his association with a concern so eminently respectable as that of Bommaney, Waite, and Co. Meanwhile Mr. Hornett's employer, with that dreadful rooted secret in his mind, which he did not dare to look at, sat alone, looking with staring eyes before him, and drumming in a regular tune upon the topmost note of the terrible little pile.
That's his window with the light in it. Bommaney moved to the window, and followed with his glance the direction of Hornett's outstretched finger. There was a window a few feet higher than the one at which he stood, and half-hidden from observation by a stone parapet. A shadow obscured the light, and moved about the ceiling, visible from below.
Hornett's coat sleeve was torn, and showed his arm half way down to the elbow, but revealed no hint of linen, The collar of his frock-coat was buttoned tightly about his neck, and there was a sparkling metallic rime upon his cheeks and chin and upper lip.
Bommaney had aged dreadfully during his year of hiding, and Hornett, who had drunk his employer's health upon his birthdays often enough to know his age to a day, could yet scarce believe that the dreadful spectre who knelt beside him numbered less than fourscore years. One question perplexed Hornett's mind.
For a mere second the familiar tones of his voice were no more than familiar to Bommaney, whose mind was confused by long misery and hunger and sleeplessness, and the shock of his late encounter. But when he turned and saw Hornett's long thumb and finger scraping at his stubbly jaws, the gesture and the attitude of apology brought him back to mind at once.
James Hornett had slid noiselessly downstairs, his mind inflated by pride. He was not proud of having played the eavesdropper, for even in Mr. Hornett's economy of things, that was an act to be proud of; but he was very proud, indeed, to be associated with a gentleman so magnificently respected as Mr. Bommaney.
The passion of his protest and the warmth of heart which Hornett's returning confidence had taught him had all died away, and he was his bankrupt, disgraced, and broken self again, old and maudlin, and strickenly conscious of his miseries. 'Phil might help me, he said shakily. 'He 'could, but he won't. He's got plenty of money.
Hornett led the way up a set of narrow and broken stairs, and having reached the uppermost story of the house, pushed open a broken door, which, depending from a single hinge, scratched, noisily upon the uneven flooring of the room. His guest stood shivering in the doorway until a match sputtered and fizzed in Hornett's fingers. Then, guided by that precarious light, he advanced.
'I'll engage he will. And then followed the statement about his old acquaintanceship with Mr. Hornett's employer. If there were anything to be told at all, it seemed not unlikely that this visitor might be the recipient of the intelligence, and Mr. Hornett lingered to find if haply he might overhear.