At one bound Rickman had leapt the barrier of the counter; and here he was, enthusiastic and devoted. To be sure, his devotion was not fed largely upon praise; for, unlike the younger man, Jewdwine admired but sparingly. Neither was it tainted with any thought of material advantage.
It may have to go by auction after all. But if you'd like the refusal of it, now's your chance." But Rickman betrayed no enthusiasm. "You'd better see the guv'nor about it." Mr. Pilkington looked Rickman up and down, and encountered an immovable determination in his gaze. "Right you are. I'll send him word to-night. Ta-ta!" He turned again in the moment of departing.
And Rickman, standing bareheaded on the hillside, was lifted up out of his immense misery and unrest. He remembered how this land that he loved so passionately had once refused him the inspiration that he sought. And now it seemed to him that it could refuse him nothing, that Nature under cover of the darkness gave up her inmost ultimate secret.
Rickman again overhauled his complicated accounts. By what seemed to him a series of miracles he had saved seventy-five pounds somehow during those six months with Mackinnon; but how he was going to raise a hundred in four months he did not know. That was what he meant to try for, though.
And now, bringing it nearer still, so near that it was impossible to look another way, there came these disturbing suggestions of a misunderstanding between Rickman and his Beaver. The boarding-house knew nothing but that the wedding was put off because Rickman was in difficulties and could not afford to marry at the moment.
He demanded black coffee to keep him awake and the key of the side door to let himself out. All on the understanding that he would leave the house by half-past eleven or twelve at the latest. He could thus put in a good five hours extra without any one being any the wiser; and four o'clock would find Mr. Rickman stealing back to his hotel over the grey and dewy grass.
Rickman being for the first time up and dressed, Tom, the waiter, replied to the accustomed query with a cheerful "No sir, no letters; but a lady was inquiring for you this morning, sir." In Tom's mind a lady and a letter amounted to very much the same thing. "Do you know who it was?" "Yes sir, Miss Palliser." "Miss Parry? I don't know any Miss Parry," said Rickman wearily.
Rickman rose hastily, as if he were no longer able to sit still and bear it. "Jewdwine," he said, and his voice had the vibration which the master had once found so irresistible. "Have you read young Paterson's poems?" "Yes. I've read them." "And what is your honest your private opinion of them?" "I'm not a fool, Rickman. My private opinion of them is the same as yours." "What an admission!"
But his life since he had known her was judged even by Jewdwine to be irreproachable. As Rickman understood the situation, he had been sacrificed to a prejudice, a convention, an ineradicable class-feeling on the part of the distinguished and fastidious don.
And in sober sense what makes you so long from among us, Manning? You must not expect to see the same England again which you left. Mary has been dead and buried many years; she desired to be buried in the silk gown you sent her. Rickman, that you remember active and strong, now walks out supported by a servant-maid and a stick. Martin Burney is a very old man.