luncheon with my lady—he was always welcome to the grandest circle of visitors in the house. He might lunch with a duke any day that he chose; given that a duke was forthcoming at the Towers. His accent was Scotch, not provincial. He had not an ounce of superfluous flesh on his bones; and leanness goes a great way to gentility. His complexion was sallow, and his hair black; in those days, the decade after the conclusion of the great continental war, to be sallow and black-a-vised was of itself a distinction; he was not jovial (as my lord remarked with a sigh, but it was my lady who endorsed the invitations), sparing of his words, intelligent, and slightly sarcastic. Therefore he was perfectly presentable.

His Scotch blood (for that he was of Scottish descent there could be no manner of doubt) gave him just the kind of thistly dignity which made every one feel that they must treat him with respect; so that on that head he was assured. The grandeur of being from time to time an invited guest to dinner at the Towers gave him but little pleasure for many years; but it was a form to be gone through in the way of his profession, without any idea of social gratification.

But, when Lord Hollingford returned to make the Towers his home, affairs were altered. Mr. Gibson really heard and learnt things that interested him seriously, and that gave fresh flavour to his reading. From time to time he met the leaders of the scientific world; odd-looking, simple-hearted men, very much in earnest about their own particular subjects, and not having much to say on any other. Mr. Gibson found himself capable of appreciating such persons, and also perceived that they valued his appreciation, as it was honestly and intelligently given. Indeed, by-and by, he began to send contributions of his own to the more scientific of the medical journals, and thus, partly in receiving, partly in giving out, information and accurate thought, a new zest was added to his life. There was not much intercourse between Lord Hollingford and himself; the one was too silent and shy, the other too busy, to seek each other’s society with the perseverance required to do away with the social distinction of rank that prevented their frequent meetings. But each was thoroughly pleased to come into contact with the other. Each could rely on the other’s respect and sympathy with a security unknown to many who call themselves friends, and this was a source of happiness to both; to Mr. Gibson the most so, of course; for his range of intelligent and cultivated society was the smaller. Indeed, there was no one equal to himself among the men with whom he associated, and this he had felt as a depressing influence, although he never recognised the cause of his depression. There was Mr. Ashton, the vicar, who had succeeded Mr. Browning, a thoroughly good and kind-hearted man, but one without an original thought in him; whose habitual courtesy and indolent mind led him to agree to every opinion not palpably heterodox, and to utter platitudes in the most gentlemanly manner. Mr. Gibson had once or twice amused himself by leading the vicar on in his agreeable admissions of arguments “as perfectly convincing,” and of statements as “curious but undoubted,” till he had planted the poor clergyman in a bog of heretical bewilderment. But then Mr. Ashton’s pain and suffering at suddenly finding out into what a theological predicament he had been brought, his real self-reproach at his previous admissions, were so great that Mr. Gibson lost all sense of fun, and hastened back to the Thirty-nine Articles with all the good-will in life, as the only means of soothing the vicar’s conscience. On any other subject, except that of orthodoxy, Mr. Gibson could lead him any lengths; but then his ignorance on most of them prevented bland acquiescence from arriving at any results which could startle him. He had some private fortune, and was not married, and lived the life of an indolent and refined bachelor; but, though he himself was no very active visitor among his poorer parishioners, he was always willing to relieve their wants in the most liberal, and, considering his habits, occasionally in the most self-denying, manner, whenever Mr. Gibson, or any one else, made them clearly known to him. “Use my purse as freely as if it was your own, Gibson,” he was wont to say. “I’m such a bad one at going about and making talk to poor folk—I daresay I don’t do enough in that way—but I am most willing to give you anything for any one you may consider in want.”

“Thank you; I come upon you pretty often, I believe, and make very little scruple about it; but, if you’ll allow me to suggest, it is that you shouldn’t try to make talk when you go into the cottages, but just talk.”

“I don’t see the difference,” said the vicar, a little querulously; “but I daresay there is a difference, and I have no doubt what you say is quite true. I shouldn’t make talk, but talk; and as both are equally difficult to me, you must let me purchase the privilege of silence by this ten-pound note.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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