“I can’t tell you how much I esteemed and respected Maria's ascetic force of character. I miss her very much.”
“Of course,” said Richard Thornhaigh, with gravity. “But I want to talk to you about business, Charles—the business as to which I wrote you.” “Oh, yes, so you did. I remember the letter, now you mention it. Something about a gold mine, was n’t it? Do you know, Dick, I dis trust Australian gold mines. It’s instinct, I suppose.”
“I should think you did,” cried Uncle Dick. “And if you knew as much about them as I do, you’d sicken at the word. No, sir. My business is legitimate. I am agent for the Westralian Amalgamated Trust and Investment Company.” “You think that’s a good thing?” inquired the parson dubiously.
“I do. I do indeed. I put all I had into it—and here I am, as confidential agent. The shares are not on the open market—we don’t want all the world to rush in. It’s a snug investment, Charles. Fifteen per cent. How does that strike you?” “It strikes me as fishy—to be candid,” returned the Reverend Charles. “But we’ll go into it to-morrow after breakfast, when my brain is fresh and clear. I own I am on the lookout for a profitable investment—indeed, we all are, from the Dean downward. The recent depreciation of land and—what they call—agricultural depression have seriously affected the Cathedral revenues, Dick. Dean Venables has
been obliged to restrict his hospitality; and I heard he was actually putting down a man-servant.” “Well,” said Uncle Dick, “I want to stay with you a bit, and do a little business for our mutual accommodation—what?”
“Stay as long as you like, and the longer the better, business or no business,” said the Reverend Charles heartily. The way to Uncle Dick's bedroom lay through Lancelot's sleeping
chamber. The two men paused, the Reverend Charles shading the light with his hand, and looked at the boy curled up and sound asleep. Richard Thornhaigh slipped a sovereign into the little stocking, bulging with gifts, which was tied to the bed-rail, and went into his room.
Over his mantel-piece hung a photograph of his dead sister, Maria; the presentment of a dark, hard woman, with tight black hair strained over the temples and twisted into a heavy chignon behind. When the Reverend Charles had left his guest to himself, Uncle Dick held the candle to the set features and looked closely at them. “So you’re in Heaven, Maria,” he said. “Really, I think it’s the place for you. How you did hate me, to be sure! And jealous too, because you thought I should lead the gentle Charles astray.” He set down the candle, went to the window, and drew aside the curtain.