"I don't know the word: have you any authority for it?"
Dr. Wycherley smiled with a sort of benevolent superiority that galled his patient, and proceeded to inquire after his nightly visions and voices. But at this Alfred looked grave as well as surprised and vexed. He was on his guard now, and asked himself seriously what was the meaning of all this, and could his father have been so mad as to talk over his own shame with this stranger: he made no reply whatever.
Dr. Wycherley's curiosity was not of a very ardent kind: for he was one of those who first form an opinion, and then collect the materials of one: and a very little fact goes a long way with such minds. So, when he got no answer about the nocturnal visions and voices, he glided calmly on to another matter. "By-the-bye, that L. 14,000!"
Alfred started, and then eyed him keenly: "What L. 14,000?"
"The fabulous sum you labour under the impression of your father having been guilty of clandestinely appropriating."
This was too much for Alfred's patience. "I don't know who you are, sir," said he; "I never exchanged but three words in my life with you; and do you suppose I will talk to a stranger on family matters of so delicate a kind as this? I begin to think you have intruded yourself on me simply to gratify an impertinent curiosity."
"The hypothesis is at variance with my established character," replied the oleaginous one. "Do me the justice to believe in the necessity of this investigation, and that it is one of a most friendly character."
"Then I decline the double nuisance: your curiosity and your friendship! Take them both out of my room, sir, or I shall turn them both out by one pair of shoulders."