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Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (M R James) online
THE TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS
'Well, I ham pleased, I'm sure, sir, to see you. And so I'm sure, sir, will master.'
'How is your master, Brown?' Mr Gregory eagerly put in.
'I think he's better, sir, thank you; but he's had a dreadful time of it. I 'ope he's gettin' some sleep now, but--'
'What has been the matter--I couldn't make out from your letter? Was it an accident of any kind?'
'Well, sir, I 'ardly know whether I'd better speak about it. Master was very partickler he should be the one to tell you. But there's no bones broke--that's one thing I'm sure we ought to be thankful--'
'What does the doctor say?' asked Mr Gregory.
They were by this time outside Mr Somerton's bedroom door, and speaking in low tones. Mr Gregory, who happened to be in front, was feeling for the handle, and chanced to run his fingers over the panels. Before Brown could answer, there was a terrible cry from within the room.
'In God's name, who is that?' were the first words they heard. 'Brown, is it?'
'Yes, sir--me, sir, and Mr Gregory,' Brown hastened to answer, and there was an audible groan of relief in reply.
They entered the room, which was darkened against the afternoon sun, and Mr Gregory saw, with a shock of pity, how drawn, how damp with drops of fear, was the usually calm face of his friend, who, sitting up in the curtained bed, stretched out a shaking hand to welcome him.
'Better for seeing you, my dear Gregory,' was the reply to the Rector's first question, and it was palpably true.
After five minutes of conversation Mr Somerton was more his own man, Brown afterwards reported, than he had been for days. He was able to eat a more than respectable dinner, and talked confidently of being fit to stand a journey to Coblenz within twenty-four hours.
'But there's one thing,' he said, with a return of agitation which Mr Gregory did not like to see, 'which I must beg you to do for me, my dear Gregory. Don't,' he went on, laying his hand on Gregory's to forestall any interruption--'don't ask me what it is, or why I want it done. I'm not up to explaining it yet; it would throw me back--undo all the good you have done me by coming. The only word I will say about it is that you run no risk whatever by doing it, and that Brown can and will show you tomorrow what it is. It's merely to put back--to keep--something--No; I can't speak of it yet. Do you mind calling Brown?'
'Well, Somerton,' said Mr Gregory, as he crossed the room to the door. 'I won't ask for any explanations till you see fit to give them. And if this bit of business is as easy as you represent it to be, I will very gladly undertake it for you the first thing in the morning.'
'Ah, I was sure you would, my dear Gregory; I was certain I could rely on you. I shall owe you more thanks than I can tell. Now, here is Brown. Brown, one word with you.'
'Shall I go?' interjected Mr Gregory.
'Not at all. Dear me, no. Brown, the first thing tomorrow morning--(you don't mind early hours, I know, Gregory)--you must take the Rector to--_there_, you know' (a nod from Brown, who looked grave and anxious), 'and he and you will put that back. You needn't be in the least alarmed; it's _perfectly_ safe in the daytime. You know what I mean. It lies on the step, you know, where--where we put it.' (Brown swallowed dryly once or twice, and, failing to speak, bowed.) 'And--yes, that's all. Only this one other word, my dear Gregory. If you _can_ manage to keep from questioning Brown about this matter, I shall be still more bound to you. Tomorrow evening, at latest, if all goes well, I shall be able, I believe, to tell you the whole story from start to finish. And now I'll wish you good night. Brown will be with me--he sleeps here--and if I were you, I should lock my door. Yes, be particular to do that. They--they like it, the people here, and it's better. Good night, good night.'