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Chapter 40 (continued)
'Do you think he wants me now?' said Hugh.
Before the man had time to answer, a footstep was heard within, a light appeared, and Sir John, in his dressing-gown and slippers, opened the door.
'I ask your pardon, Sir John,' said the porter, pulling off his hat. 'Here's a young man says he wants to speak to you. It's late for strangers. I thought it best to see that all was right.'
'Aha!' cried Sir John, raising his eyebrows. 'It's you, messenger, is it? Go in. Quite right, friend. I commend your prudence highly. Thank you. God bless you. Good night.'
To be commended, thanked, God-blessed, and bade good night by one who carried 'Sir' before his name, and wrote himself M.P. to boot, was something for a porter. He withdrew with much humility and reverence. Sir John followed his late visitor into the dressing-room, and sitting in his easy-chair before the fire, and moving it so that he could see him as he stood, hat in hand, beside the door, looked at him from head to foot.
The old face, calm and pleasant as ever; the complexion, quite juvenile in its bloom and clearness; the same smile; the wonted precision and elegance of dress; the white, well-ordered teeth; the delicate hands; the composed and quiet manner; everything as it used to be: no mark of age or passion, envy, hate, or discontent: all unruffled and serene, and quite delightful to behold.
He wrote himself M.P.--but how? Why, thus. It was a proud family-- more proud, indeed, than wealthy. He had stood in danger of arrest; of bailiffs, and a jail--a vulgar jail, to which the common people with small incomes went. Gentlemen of ancient houses have no privilege of exemption from such cruel laws--unless they are of one great house, and then they have. A proud man of his stock and kindred had the means of sending him there. He offered--not indeed to pay his debts, but to let him sit for a close borough until his own son came of age, which, if he lived, would come to pass in twenty years. It was quite as good as an Insolvent Act, and infinitely more genteel. So Sir John Chester was a member of Parliament.
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