'I don't know,' returned Mr. Wickfield.
'Well, Doctor Strong,' said the other - 'Doctor Strong was of the same mind, I believed. But as it appears from the course you take with me he has changed his mind, why there's no more to be said, except that the sooner I am off, the better. Therefore, I thought I'd come back and say, that the sooner I am off the better. When a plunge is to be made into the water, it's of no use lingering on the bank.'
'There shall be as little lingering as possible, in your case, Mr. Maldon, you may depend upon it,' said Mr. Wickfield.
'Thank'ee,' said the other. 'Much obliged. I don't want to look a gift-horse in the mouth, which is not a gracious thing to do; otherwise, I dare say, my cousin Annie could easily arrange it in her own way. I suppose Annie would only have to say to the old Doctor -'
'Meaning that Mrs. Strong would only have to say to her husband - do I follow you?' said Mr. Wickfield.
'Quite so,' returned the other, '- would only have to say, that she wanted such and such a thing to be so and so; and it would be so and so, as a matter of course.'
'And why as a matter of course, Mr. Maldon?' asked Mr. Wickfield, sedately eating his dinner.
'Why, because Annie's a charming young girl, and the old Doctor - Doctor Strong, I mean - is not quite a charming young boy,' said Mr. Jack Maldon, laughing. 'No offence to anybody, Mr. Wickfield. I only mean that I suppose some compensation is fair and reasonable in that sort of marriage.'