'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.'
'Compensation to the lady, sir?' asked Mr. Wickfield gravely.
'To the lady, sir,' Mr. Jack Maldon answered, laughing. But appearing to remark that Mr. Wickfield went on with his dinner in the same sedate, immovable manner, and that there was no hope of making him relax a muscle of his face, he added: 'However, I have said what I came to say, and, with another apology for this intrusion, I may take myself off. Of course I shall observe your directions, in considering the matter as one to be arranged between you and me solely, and not to be referred to, up at the Doctor's.'
'Have you dined?' asked Mr. Wickfield, with a motion of his hand towards the table.