"I might have gone a little way with him," thought Allan, his mind still running on
Midwinter as he put on his hat. "I should like to have seen the dear old fellow
fairly started on his journey."
He took his umbrella. If he had noticed the face of the servant who gave it to him,
he might possibly have asked some questions, and might have heard some news to
interest him in his present frame of mind. As it was, he went out without looking
at the man, and without suspecting that his servants knew more of Midwinter's
last moments at Thorpe Ambrose than he knew himself. Not ten minutes since,
the grocer and butcher had called in to receive payment of their bills, and the
grocer and the butcher had seen how Midwinter started on his journey.
The grocer had met him first, not far from the house, stopping on his way, in the
pouring rain, to speak to a little ragged imp of a boy, the pest of the
neighborhood. The boy's customary impudence had broken out even more
unrestrainedly than usual at the sight of the gentleman's knapsack. And what had
the gentleman done in return? He had stopped and looked distressed, and had put
his two hands gently on the boy's shoulders. The grocer's own eyes had seen that;
and the grocer's own ears had heard him say, "Poor little chap! I know how the
wind gnaws and the rain wets through a ragged jacket, better than most people
who have got a good coat on their backs." And with those words he had put his
hand in his pocket, and had rewarded the boy's impudence with a present of a
shilling. "Wrong here-abouts," said the grocer, touching his forehead. "That's my
opinion of Mr. Armadale's friend!"
The butcher had seen him further on in the journey, at the other end of the town.
He had stopped--again in the pouring rain--and this time to look at nothing more
remarkable than a half-starved cur, shivering on a doorstep. "I had my eye on
him," said the butcher; "and what do you think he did? He crossed the road over
to my shop, and bought a bit of meat fit for a Christian. Very well. He says good-
morning, and crosses back again; and, on the word of a man, down he goes on his
knees on the wet doorstep, and out he takes his knife, and cuts up the meat, and
gives it to the dog. Meat, I tell you again, fit for a Christian! I'm not a hard man,
ma'am," concluded the butcher, addressing the cook, "but meat's meat; and it will
serve your master's friend right if he lives to want it."
With those old unforgotten sympathies of the old unforgotten time to keep him
company on his lonely road, he had left the town behind him, and had been lost to
view in the misty rain. The grocer and the butcher had seen the last of him, and
had judged a great nature, as all natures are judged from the grocer and the
butcher point of view.
THE END OF THE SECOND BOOK.