'No. Devoted to her.'
'Then, I have got it, boy!' said Mr. Dick.
The sudden exultation with which he slapped me on the knee, and leaned back in his chair, with his eyebrows lifted up as high as he could possibly lift them, made me think him farther out of his wits than ever. He became as suddenly grave again, and leaning forward as before, said — first respectfully taking out his pocket-handkerchief, as if it really did represent my aunt:
'Most wonderful woman in the world, Trotwood. Why has she done nothing to set things right?'
'Too delicate and difficult a subject for such interference,' I replied.
'Fine scholar,' said Mr. Dick, touching me with his finger. 'Why has HE done nothing?'
'For the same reason,' I returned.
'Then, I have got it, boy!' said Mr. Dick. And he stood up before me, more exultingly than before, nodding his head, and striking himself repeatedly upon the breast, until one might have supposed that he had nearly nodded and struck all the breath out of his body.
'A poor fellow with a craze, sir,' said Mr. Dick, 'a simpleton, a weak-minded person — present company, you know!' striking himself again, 'may do what wonderful people may not do. I'll bring them together, boy. I'll try. They'll not blame me. They'll not object to me. They'll not mind what I do, if it's wrong. I'm only Mr. Dick. And who minds Dick? Dick's nobody! Whoo!' He blew a slight, contemptuous breath, as if he blew himself away.
It was fortunate he had proceeded so far with his mystery, for we heard the coach stop at the little garden gate, which brought my aunt and Dora home.
'Not a word, boy!' he pursued in a whisper; 'leave all the blame with Dick — simple Dick — mad Dick. I have been thinking, sir, for some time, that I was getting it, and now I have got it. After what you have said to me, I am sure I have got it. All right!' Not another word did Mr. Dick utter on the subject; but he made a very telegraph of himself for the next half-hour (to the great disturbance of my aunt's mind), to enjoin inviolable secrecy on me.
To my surprise, I heard no more about it for some two or three weeks, though I was sufficiently interested in the result of his endeavours; descrying a strange gleam of good sense — I say nothing of good feeling, for that he always exhibited — in the conclusion to which he had come. At last I began to believe, that, in the flighty and unsettled state of his mind, he had either forgotten his intention or abandoned it.
One fair evening, when Dora was not inclined to go out, my aunt and I strolled up to the Doctor's cottage. It was autumn, when there were no debates to vex the evening air; and I remember how the leaves smelt like our garden at Blunderstone as we trod them under foot, and how the old, unhappy feeling, seemed to go by, on the sighing wind.
It was twilight when we reached the cottage. Mrs. Strong was just coming out of the garden, where Mr. Dick yet lingered, busy with his knife, helping the gardener to point some stakes. The Doctor was engaged with someone in his study; but the visitor would be gone directly, Mrs. Strong said, and begged us to remain and see him. We went into the drawing-room with her, and sat down by the darkening window. There was never any ceremony about the visits of such old friends and neighbours as we were.
We had not sat here many minutes, when Mrs. Markleham, who usually contrived to be in a fuss about something, came bustling in, with her newspaper in her hand, and said, out of breath, 'My goodness gracious, Annie, why didn't you tell me there was someone in the Study!'
'My dear mama,' she quietly returned, 'how could I know that you desired the information?'
'Desired the information!' said Mrs. Markleham, sinking on the sofa. 'I never had such a turn in all my life!'
'Have you been to the Study, then, mama?' asked Annie.
'BEEN to the Study, my dear!' she returned emphatically. 'Indeed I have! I came upon the amiable creature — if you'll imagine my feelings, Miss Trotwood and David — in the act of making his will.'
Her daughter looked round from the window quickly.
'In the act, my dear Annie,' repeated Mrs. Markleham, spreading the newspaper on her lap like a table-cloth, and patting her hands upon it, 'of making his last Will and Testament. The foresight and affection of the dear! I must tell you how it was. I really must, in justice to the darling — for he is nothing less! — tell you how it was. Perhaps you know, Miss Trotwood, that there is never a candle lighted in this house, until one's eyes are literally falling out of one's head with being stretched to read the paper. And that there is not a chair in this house, in which a paper can be what I call, read, except one in the Study. This took me to the Study, where I saw a light. I opened the door. In company with the dear Doctor were two professional people, evidently connected with the law, and they were all three standing at the table: the darling Doctor pen in hand. "This simply expresses then," said the Doctor — Annie, my love, attend to the very words — "this simply expresses then, gentlemen, the confidence I have in Mrs. Strong, and gives her all unconditionally?" One of the professional people replied, "And gives her all unconditionally." Upon that, with the natural feelings of a mother, I said, "Good God, I beg your pardon!" fell over the door-step, and came away through the little back passage where the pantry is.'