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´╗┐Title: The Bag of Diamonds
Author: Fenn, George Manville, 1831-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Bag of Diamonds" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



The Bag of Diamonds, by George Manville Fenn.

________________________________________________________________________
This is a short book, and indeed later editions added some short stories
to bring the book up to a respectable size.  The story is also unusual
for this author, for much of the action takes place on the lower floors
of a doctor's house in nineteenth century London.

The edition used was one of the worst-printed books your reviewer has
ever seen, yet with diligence the story has been extracted from it and
is here presented.  The doctor had for some years been obsessed with an
idea that he could make an elixir of eternal life, and at some point in
the recent past he had started to neglect his patients, so that he had
very few new patients, so there was not much money in the house, and
times were hard.  The most amusing character in the book is Bob, the
"boots" boy, and it is he who at almost the last chapter rediscovers the
Bag of Diamonds, that had somehow got lost in almost the first.

There are villains, heroes, heroines--and Bob with his antics--in this
book, and you will enjoy it.  For the whole middle part of the book the
people in it are blundering about, none of them ever quite sure what was
going on.  You, as the reader, may well have a better idea than they do,
but be prepared to be wrong in your surmises.  Makes a good audiobook.

________________________________________________________________________
THE BAG OF DIAMONDS, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.



CHAPTER ONE.

IN A FOG.

"Ugh! what a night!  And I used to grumble about Hogley Marsh!  Why,
it's like living in a drain!"

Ramillies Street, W.C., was certainly not attractive at twelve o'clock
on that December night, for it had been snowing in the early part of the
evening; that snow was suffering from a fall of blacks: and as evil
communications corrupt good manners, the evil communication of the
London soot was corrupting the good manners of the heavenly snow, which
had become smirched by the town's embrace, and was sorrowfully weeping
itself away in tears beneath a sky--

No, there was not any sky.  For four days there had not been a breath of
air to dissipate the heavy mist, and into this mist the smoke of a
million chimneys had rolled, mingled, and settled down in the streets in
one horrible yellowish-black mirk.

There were gas lamps in Ramillies Street--here and there distinguishing
themselves by a faint glow overhead; but John Whyley, policeman on the
beat, was hardly aware of their existence till he laid his hand upon
each post.

"Now, only that Burglar Bill and Company aren't such fools as to come
out on such a night as this, here's their chance.  Why, they might
burgle every house on one side of the street while the whole division
was on the other.  Blest if I know hardly where I am!"

J.W. stopped and listened, but it seemed as if utter silence as well as
utter darkness had descended upon the great city.  But few people were
about, and where a vehicle passed along a neighbouring street the patter
of hoofs and roll of wheels was hushed by the thick snow.

"It is a puzzler," muttered the man.  "Blind man's buff's nothing to it,
and no pretty gals to catch.  Now, whereabouts am I?  I should say I'm
just close to the corner by the square, and--well, now, look at that!"

He uttered a low chuckle, and stared up from the curbstone at a dull,
red glare that seemed like the eye of some fierce monster swimming in
the sea of fog, and watching the man upon his beat.

"And if I didn't think I was t'other side of the street!  Ah, how you do
'member me of old times," he continued, apostrophising the red glare;
"seems like being back at Hogley, and looking off the station platform
to see if you was burning all right after I'd been and lit you up.  Red
signals for trains--red signals for them as wants help," he muttered as,
with his hands within his belt, he stepped slowly up under an arch of
iron scroll-work rusting away, a piece of well-forged ornamentation,
which had once borne an oil lamp, and at whose sides were iron
extinguishers, into which, in the bygone days when Ramillies was a
fashionable street, footmen had thrust their smoking links.  But fashion
had gone afar, and Ichabod was written metaphorically upon the door of
that old Queen Anne house, while really there was a tarnished brass
plate bearing the inscription "Dr Chartley," with blistered panels
above and below.  Arched over the doorstep was an architect's idea of a
gigantic shell, supported by two stout boys, whom a lively imagination
might have thought to be suffering from the doctor's prescriptions, as
they glared wildly at the red bull's-eye in the centre of the fanlight
above the door.

"Nothing like a red signal to show you where you are," said John Whyley,
stepping slowly back on to the pavement, to the very edge of the
curbstone, and then keeping to it as his guide for a few yards, till he
had passed a second door, also displaying the red light, and beneath it,
in letters nearly rubbed away, though certainly not from cleaning, the
word "Surgery."

"That's where that young nipper of a buttons lives, him as took a sight
at me when I ketched him standing on his head a-top of the dustbin down
the area.  Hullo!"

John Whyley stood perfectly still and invisible in the fog, as the
surgery door was opened; there was a low scuffling noise, and a hurried
whispering.

"Get your arm well under him.  Hold hard?  Shut the door.  Mind he don't
slip down.  It's dark as pitch.  Now then, come on."

At that moment a bright light shone upon the scene in front of Dr
Chartley's surgery door, for John Whyley gave a turn to the top of the
bull's-eye lantern looped on to his belt, and threw up the figures of
three men, two of whom were supporting on either side another, whose
head hung forward and sidewise, whose legs were bent, and his body in a
limp, helpless state, which called forth all the strength of the others
to keep him from subsiding in a heap upon the snow.  He seemed to be
young, heavily bearded, and, as far as his costume could be seen in the
yellow glare, he wore high boots and a pea-jacket; while his companions,
one of whom was a keen-faced man, with clean-shaved face and a dark
moustache, the other rather French-looking from his shortly cropped
beard, wore ulsters and close travelling-caps.

As the light flashed upon the group, one of the men drew his breath
sharply between his teeth, and for a space no one stirred.

"Acciden', gentlemen?" said John Whyley, giving a sniff as if he smelt a
warm sixpence, but it was only caused by the soot-charged fog.

The constable's speech seemed to break the spell, and one of the men
spoke out thickly:

"Axe'den', constable?  Yes, it's all right.  Hold him up, Smith.  Wants
to lie down, constable.  Thinks snow is clean sheets."

"Oh, that's it, is it, sir?" said John Whyley, examining each face in
turn a little suspiciously.  "Thought as it was a patient--"

"Yes," said the man with the moustache, speaking in a high-pitched
voice, "doctor keeps some good stuff.  Not all physic, policeman.  Here,
hold up."  This last to the man he was supporting, and upon whose head
he now placed a soft felt hat, which he had held in his hand.

"Gent seems rather on, sir," said John Whyley, going up more closely.

"Ah!" said the first speaker, "you smelt his breath."

"'Nough to knock you down, sir," said the constable.  "He'll want to
come and see the doctor again to-morrow morning."

There was a very strong odour of spirits, and in the gloom it did not
occur to the constable that the two men who seemed most intoxicated were
very bright-eyed, and yet ghastly pale.  He merely drew back for the
group to pass.

"Got to take him far, sir?"

"Far?  No, constable.  Let him lie down and go to sleep.  Dishgusting
thing man can't come to see friend without getting drunk.  Look at me--
and Shmith."

"Yes, sir; you're all right enough," said the constable.  "Shall I lend
you a hand?"

"No," said the man with the moustache, "we're all right; get us a cab."

"Where, sir?" said the constable, with a grin; "don't believe such a
thing's to be got, sir, a night like this.  All gone home."

At that moment from out of the fog there was a sudden jolt and the whish
of a whip.

"Hullo?" shouted the policeman.

"Hullo!" came back in a husky voice, as if spoken through layers of
flannel, "what street's this?"

"Ramillies.  Here's a fare."

There was a muttering, then a bump, jolt, and jangle of a cab heard, and
a huge figure slowly seemed to loom up out of the fog in a spectral way,
leading a gigantic horse, beyond which was something dark.

"What's the row?" said the husky voice.

"These gents want a cab."

"Oh, but I can't drive nowheres to-night.  I drove right into one pub,
and then nearly down two areas.  Where do you want to go."

"John's Hotel, Surrey Street, old man.  Look sharp.  Five bob."

"Five what, sir?  Why, I wouldn't stir a step under ten.  I'm just going
to get my old horse into the first mews, shove on his nosebag and then
get inside and go to sleep.  I can't drive.  I shall have to lead him."

"Give him ten," said the man with the sharp voice.

"All right.  Here, hold up, old man," said the other.  "Look sharp!  See
never I come out with him again."

"Yes, don't make a noise, or you'll bring out the doctor," said the
other man, and the policeman went to the cab door.

The cab evidently objected to the fare, for the door stuck, and only
yielded at last with a rattle, and so suddenly that John Whyley nearly
went on his back.  But he recovered himself, and held his light so that
the utterly helpless man, who seemed as if composed of jelly, was pulled
by one of his companions, thrust by the other, into the cab, and forced
up on the back seat.  "There y'are, const'ble," said the man with the
thick voice, "there's something to get glass; but don't take too much--
like that chap--my deares' frien', it's s'prising ain't it?  Tell cabman
John's Hotel."

"All right, sir, he knows.  Go ahead, cabby."

He took a few slow steps towards where the cabman stood by the horse's
head.

"Think they're all right?" said the cabman, in a husky whisper.

"Give me half-a-crown," said John Whyley.

"Did they?  Wish I'd stood out for a sovereign."

As he spoke he started his horse slowly, and the cab went by the
constable, whose lamp showed the interior very indistinctly, the cab
window being drawn up, and then the sight and sound of the vehicle died
out in the fog, and all was once more still.

"Ill wind as blows no one any good!" said the constable, slowly
continuing his beat.  "Rather have my half-crown than their sick
headaches in the morning.  Rather rum that no one came out with all that
talking."

John Whyley hummed a tune and tried two or three front-doors and area
gates, and then he took off his helmet and scratched his head as if
puzzled.

"Now, have I done right?" he said suddenly.  "Seemed to be square.
Smelt of drink horrid.  Other two 'peared to be on all but once or
twice.  I say!  Was it acting?"

He gave his helmet a sharp blow with his doubled fist, stuck it on
tightly, and took a few quick steps in the direction in which the cab
had moved off.

"Tchah!" he ejaculated, stopping short; "that's the worst o' my trade;
makes a man suspicious of everything and everybody.  Why, I nearly
accused the missus of picking my pockets of that sixpence I forgot I
spent with a mate.  It's all right.  They were as tight as tight.  Ugh!
What a night."

John Whyley's beat took him in another direction, but something--a
feeling of dissatisfaction with his late act, or the suspicion
engendered by his calling made him turn back and go slowly to the
doctor's door.

All was perfectly still; the red lamp burned over the principal door,
while over the surgery door the three last letters were more indistinct
than ever, and "Surg" somehow looked like a portion of "Resurgam" on a
memorial stone.

John Whyley went close up to the latter door, and listened.  All was
still.

He hesitated a few moments, and then tapped and listened again, when
there seemed to be a slight rustling sound within, but he could not be
sure.

Turning on his light, there, beside him, was a bell-pull with the hole
half-filled with snow.

"Shall I?" he said, hesitating.  "People don't like being called up for
a cock-and-bull story, and what have I got to say?  These gents came
away tight."

He paused and removed his helmet for another refreshing scratch.

"Was it acting?  I've heerd a chap on the stage drawl just like that one
with the thick voice.  Now, stop a moment.  Let's argufy.  Couldn't be
burglary.  Yes, it could--body burglary!"

John Whyley grew excited as a strange train of thought ran through his
head in connection with what he had heard tell about surgeons and their
investigations, and purchases delivered in the dead of night.

"I don't care," he said; "wrong or right, I wish I hadn't let that cab
go, and I'll get to the bottom of it before I've done."

It might have been connected with visions of another possible
half-crown, or it might have been in an honest desire to do his duty as
a guardian of the public safety.  At any rate, John Whyley gave a
vigorous tug at Dr Chartley's night-bell and waited.

"No answer; that's a suspicious fact," he said to himself; and he rang
again, listened, waited, and rang again.

Hardly had the wire ceased to grate, when a curious whispering voice,
close to his ear, said "What is it?" so strangely that John, who had
only been a year in London, bounded back into the snow, and half drew
his truncheon.

"What is it?  Who's there?" came then.

"What a fool I am!  Speaking trumpet!" muttered the man, and directing
his light toward the doorpost he saw a raised patch of snow, which upon
being removed displayed a hole.

To this, full of confidence now, John Whyley applied his lips.

"Police!" he said.  "Anything wrong?"  There was a pause, and then the
same strange voice came again.

"Wait.  I'll come down."

Waiting was cold work, and John Whyley took at trot up, and was
returning when he saw a dim light shine through the long glazed slits at
the sides of the principal door, and directly after he heard a click a
if a candlestick were set down on a marble slab, and one of the narrow
windows showed a human shape in a misty way.

The bull's-eye was turned on, and, after the momentary glimpse of a
face, the rattling of a chain was heard and the front-door was opened a
few inches to reveal a pale, haggard, but very handsome face, with large
lustrous eyes, which looked dilated and strange.

"I did not understand you, policeman.  Is anything the matter?"

"Well, Miss, that's for you to say;" and he related what he had seen.

"It is very strange.  My father's door is locked, and there is no
light."

"Yes, Miss--one over the door."

"Yes, but that only shines into the surgery.  My brother has not come
back."

"But the doctor had company, Miss: that gentleman who had taken too
much."

"Oh, no; impossible."

"Then I _have_ been done!" cried the man, striking his left hand a blow
with his fist, as if to clinch the thought which had been troubling him.

"I don't understand you."

"Well, Miss, I'm afraid there's something wrong.  But the doctor?"

"He is not in his room."

"But how about the speaking trumpet?"

"I heard the night-bell.  He is not in his chamber, and the passage door
is locked.  Perhaps--" a few moments' pause; then in a firm decided
tone, "Yes, you had better come in."

The door was closed, so that the chain could be unfastened; and as the
door was being reopened, John Whyley pulled himself together, and
cleared his throat.

"Don't be alarmed, Miss," he said, as he stood in the large blank hall,
and rubbed his shoes upon a very old mat.  "I don't like scaring you but
its better to make sure than to let anything go wrong.  That's partly,
you see, Miss, what we're for."

"Yes, yes, but come at once to the surgery."

"One minute, Miss," said the constable, examining carefully the handsome
frightened face, and noting that its owner was tall, graceful, rather
dark, and about three or four and twenty, while though her hair was in
disorder as if from lying down, the lady was fully dressed.

"What do you want?" she said, with the wild look in her eyes
intensifying.

"To do everything in order, Miss.  First, who lives here?"

"My father, Dr Chartley."

"Who else on the premises?"

"The servant-girl.  Our boy.  My brother, a medical student, lives here,
but he has not yet returned.  He is at a friend's house--a little
party."

"And you've had a party here, Miss?"

"Oh, no; we never have company."

"That'll do, Miss.  Now for the surgery.  One moment: your name,
please?"

"Richmond Chartley."

"That'll do.  Rum name," he muttered; and following the lady, who led
the way with a chamber candlestick in past the open door of a
gloomy-looking dining-room, constable John Whyley found himself at the
end of a passage to the left, in front of a half-glass door, whose panes
were covered on the other side by a thick dark blind.

"My father's surgery," said the lady in answer to an inquiring look.

The constable nodded, and tried the door twice before kneeling down and
holding his light to the key hole.

"Key in," he said gruffly, "locked inside.  Who's likely to be here?"

"My father.  He always sits in the consulting-room beyond at night--
studying."

Another short nod, and the constable rapped loudly.  No response.

He rapped again, with the same result.  Then he drew a long breath, and
the man showed that he possessed feeling as well as decision.

"I don't want to alarm you, Miss, but I ought to force open this door."

"But you do alarm me, man.  Yes, you are right.  No! let me come."

She rapped smartly on the door.

"Father!  Father!  Are you here?"

Still no reply; and she drew back, looking wildly in the constable's
eyes, while her hands seemed as if drawn together to clasp each other
and cheek the nervous trembling and be of mutual support.

"Yes," she said, "force it open.  Stop! break one of the panes."

The constable leaned his shoulder against the pane nearest the lock, and
there was a sharp crackling noise, the splintered glass being caught by
the blind inside; but as the man thrust his hand through the great hole
he had made, to draw the blind on one side, a fragment or two fell,
making a musical tinkling.

The man's next act was to take his lantern from his belt, and pass it
through, directing the light in all directions, as he peered through the
glass above, and then he withdrew the light with a low "Ha!"

"What can you see?"

"Hold hard, please, Miss, and keep back.  This isn't ladies' work.  I
want some help here."

"Then something has happened?"

"Well, Miss, seeing what I did see to-night, it may be nothing worse
than a drop too much, but it looks ugly."

"Who is it?  My father?"

"Can't say, Miss.  Elderly gent with bald head."

"Oh, what you say is possible!  Quick! burst open the door!"

The constable placed his shoulder to the door, but drew back with an
angry gesture.

"Of course!" he muttered, and thrusting his arm through, he reached the
lock, turned the key, and the door swung open with a dismal creak.

"Now, Miss, I'll see first, and come back and tell you."

"Man! do you think I am a child?" was the sharp reply; and rushing by
him, the speaker passed into the room, and went down upon her knees
directly beside a figure in a shabby old dressing-gown, lying face
downward on the floor.

"Is he--"

"Quick! turn on that gas."

The constable took a step to obey, and kicked against something which
rattled as it flew forward, and struck the wainscot board, while the
next moment a dim, blue spark of light in a ground-glass burst into a
flame, and lit up a dingy-looking, old-fashioned surgery just as the
kneeling girl uttered a piteous cry.

"That's enough," muttered the constable, stooping and picking up the
object he had kicked against--a short whalebone-handled life-preserver,
and slipping it into his pocket.  "Tells tales.  Now, Miss," he
continued aloud, bending over the prostrate figure.  "Hah! yes!  I
thought as much."

It was plain enough.  A slight thread of blood was trickling slowly from
a spot on the smooth glistening bald head of the prostrate man, while
as, with a moan of anguish, the girl thrust her arm softly beneath his
neck, and raised the head, the mark of another blow was visible above
the temple.

"Now, Miss, I can't leave you like this.  Let me stay while you go for
help.  We must have some one here."

These words seemed to rouse the girl into fierce action, and she gently
supported the wounded head, her hand sought the injured man's wrist, and
seized it in a professional way.

"Man," she cried with angry energy, "while we are seeking help he may--
Yes; still beating.  Quick!  Open that door.  No, no; that's the way
into the street!  The other door--the consulting-room.  Prop it open
with a chair.  We must get him on to the sofa, and do something at
once."

"Yes, Miss; but a doctor."

"I am a doctor's daughter, man, and know what to do.  Quick!"

"Well, of all--" muttered the constable, as he proceeded to the door in
question; and then, without finishing the sentence, "Well, she is a
plucked one!"

He stepped into a shabbily furnished room, in whose grate a fire was
just aglow; and as the door swung to, and he cast the light round to
seek for a chair, he caught sight of a vacant couch, a table with
bottle, glasses, and sugar thereon, and the cover drawn all on one side,
so that the glasses were within an ace of being off; and then, drawing
in his breath, he stepped to the other side of the table, and held down
the light, which fell upon a drawn and ghastly face, while, hidden by
the table-cover, there lay the figure of a well-dressed man.

"Fit," muttered the constable, bending lower.  "No; I ain't a doctor,
but I know what that means."

He stepped back quickly, and shut the door after him.

"No, no! prop it open."

"Let it be, Miss," he replied sternly.  "There's something else wrong
there."

The girl stared up at him aghast.

"Here's a sofy will do," he continued, pointing to a kind of settee,
cushioned, and with a common moreen valance hanging down, while a rough
kind of pillow was fastened to one end.  "You get up, Miss, and lift a
bit.  I won't hurt him more than I can help.  That's it.  Sorry, Miss, I
thought what I did."

A low moan escaped the sufferer as he was lifted with difficulty upon
the rough settee, and this being done, the constable renewed his
request.

"Now, Miss, it's a thing as wants doing at once.  Call help."

"Hold up his head," was the quick imperious reply; and as the man
obeyed, he saw to his surprise the girl go quickly to the row of shelves
at one side of the room, take down a labelled bottle, remove the
stopper, and pour some of its contents into a graduated glass.  To this
she added a portion of the contents of another bottle, taking them down,
replacing stoppers, and proceeding in the most matter-of-fact,
businesslike way, as if accustomed to the task, and returning to try and
trickle a little fluid between the patient's lip, supplementing it by
bathing his temples.

This done, she ran to a drawer, to return with a roll and scissors; then
getting sponge, water, and basin, and proceeding deftly to bathe and
strap up the bleeding wound, before turning to her assistant, who looked
dim, as the fog seemed to have filtered into the room.  "Now," she said
sharply, "is there some one injured in that room?"

"Yes, Miss; but stop.  I will have help now," said the constable
hoarsely.  "You shan't go in there!"

At that moment, as the man stepped before the consulting-room door,
there was the quick rattle of a latch-key heard faintly from the
front-door, and as the opening door affected that of the surgery, and
made it swing slightly and creak, the girl ran to it.

"Here, Hendon! quick!"

There was a heavy step in the passage, and a young man, who looked
flushed, hurried into the surgery, hat in hand, his ulster over his arm.

"What's the matter?" he said thickly.  The constable directed at him a
sharp glance.

"I don't know.  Look!  My father attacked, and--Oh?  Hendon, pray, pray
see!"

The young man had evidently been drinking; and the suddenness of this
encounter seemed for a moment to confuse him; but as he caught sight of
the injured doctor, the policeman peering at him with a sternly
inquiring look, and the tall, handsome girl, with wild eyes and parted
lips, pointing towards the consulting-room door, he threw back his head,
gave it a shake as if to clear it, and spoke more clearly.

"Accident?" he said.  "Look?"

"Yes, for pity's sake, look."

He strode to the consulting-room door, stepped in and was turning to
come back, but the policeman was following.

"What is it?" he said.  "Here! a light."

He snatched the lantern from the constable's hand, and the light fell
directly upon the face of the prostrate figure beyond the table.

"Who's this?" he said, going down on one knee.  "Why, constable, what's
up?  This man is dead!"

"Yes, sir, I see that."

"Yes, quite dead.  But what does it mean?  Has my sister--"

"Seen him?  No, sir, I wouldn't let her come.  Now, then, as you're
here, I'll go for a doctor and some of our men."

"One minute.  I'm a medical student--bit thick, constable--been at a
party--but I know what I'm doing.  Yes, this man's dead--shot, I think.
But my father?  Here, come back.  That poor girl must be half wild."

He ran back into the surgery.

"Here, Rich, my girl, this is a terrible business.  Yes, yes," he added,
slowly examining what his sister had done, and then drawing in his
breath, as he passed his hand over the smooth bald head.  "How did it
happen?"

"I--I don't know," gasped the girl, wildly; and now that the burden was
partly shifted from her shoulders, her feminine nature began to reassert
itself, and she uttered a low wail.

"But--here, constable, how did this come about?"

The man explained in a few words, all the time gazing searchingly at the
inquirer, but shaking his head to himself, as if feeling that the
suspicions he harboured were wrong.

"And now, sir, I must have some one in," said the man in conclusion.

"Yes; of course, of course.  But my father?  We cannot leave him like
that.  To take him up to his bedroom would not be wise, and we cannot--
here, Rich, I say, where are you?  Constable, help me carry out this
sofa."

John Whyley followed, and the comfortable couch was carried from its
neighbourhood by the ghastly figure lying beyond the table, into the
surgery, placed close to the wall, and the wounded man carefully placed
upon it in an easier position.

"Now, sir, just one look round," said the constable, as Richmond knelt
down, weeping silently by her father's side, "and then I'm off.  Got
this, sir."

He drew out the life-preserver, and showed it to the young student
before going into the consulting-room, and after a glance round,
kneeling by the dead man to make a rapid search of his pockets.

"Surely this is not necessary now?"

"Yes, sir, it is.  One of the first questions my sergeant will ask me
will be about recognitions.  That will do, sir.  Not a scrap of anything
about him after a sooperficial search.  Now the other place."

He returned to the surgery, looked round, peered into a closet, and then
examined the door.

"No signs of violence," he said; and then the settee caught his
attention, and he advanced cautiously, drew up the valance, but only to
reveal that it was a great chest, and had not harbour beneath for
concealment of person or article connected with the case.  "Chest, eh?"
he said; and placing his hand to the cushion, he found that it was
fastened to the great lid, which he raised with one hand, and directed
the light into it with the other; but before it was open many inches he
banged it down and started away as if horrified.

"Bah, man! scared by a few bones.  Articulations, and preparations used
in surgical lectures."

"Yes, I see," said the man, recovering himself, "but coming upon 'em
sudden like, they looked rather horrid.  Now, sir, I'm off.  I shall
send on the first of our men I see, and come back with the doctor.  One
two streets off, ain't there? if I can find him in the fog."

"Yes; Mr Clayton Bell.  Be quick."

The man hurried off, and in a remarkably short time, or so it seemed to
the brother and sister, who were conversing in whispers as they strove
to restore the unconscious man to consciousness, there was a ring at the
bell, and the constable had returned with a grave, portly-looking
surgeon and a sergeant of police.

"Yes," said the newcomer, after a careful examination, "two heavy blows,
given, I should say, the first from behind, the second as Dr Chartley
was turning round.  As you surmised, Mr Chartley, the skull is
fractured, and there is a severe pressure upon the brain.  And the other
case?"

The surgeon was led into the next room, where a long and careful
examination was made.

"No, Mr Chartley, no firearms here; the man has been poisoned."

"Poisoned!" cried Hendon Chartley, turning to the table, and taking up
one of the glasses to raise it to his nose, and then touch the liquid in
the bottom with the tip of his finger and taste it.  "Brandy," he said,
"only pure brandy."

He set it down, and took up the second glass, which he smelt.

"Ha! there's something here," he cried; and dipping his finger again, he
tasted it, and spat quickly two or three times, before passing the glass
to the surgeon, who contented himself with raising it to his nostrils.

"Yes; Mr Chartley; no doubt about that," he said.  "How did all this
come about?"

He turned to the young student, who looked at the sergeant, and the
sergeant at John Whyley, while the latter stared stolidly at the
surgeon.

"That's what we're going to see, sir," said Whyley.

"Quite right, my man, quite right.  Now, Mr Chartley, I can do no more
here.  I should like to have in a colleague in consultation over your
father's case.  Nothing more can be done now.  We will be here quite
early."

He gave a few directions as he passed through the consulting-room, and
then son and daughter were left to their painful vigil, and the thick
fog covered all as with a funeral pall.



CHAPTER TWO.

GOING BACKWARDS.

Breakfast-time in the dull dining-room, with its sombre old furniture,
carpet dotted with holes worn by the legs of chairs, and the
drab-painted panelled walls, made cheerful by a set of engravings in
tarnished gilt, fly-pecked frames of the princes of the blood royal:
H.R.H. the Prince Regent, with his brothers the Dukes of York, Clarence,
Kent, Cumberland, Sussex, and Cambridge, each with a little square
tasselled pillow at the top of the frame, and, reposing thereon, a very
shabby coronet; while the two windows, with their faded curtains, looked
across a row of rusty spikes at a prospect composed of a gaunt old
house, evidently let in lodgings.

Richmond Chartley, looking as charming as a handsome girl will look, in
spite of a line of care upon her her head and a twitch of anxiety upon
the corners of her lips, was distributing coffee, and alternating the
task by cutting bread-and-butter--thin-thick for her brother Hendon, who
was reading a sporting paper, and thin-thin for Dr Chartley, who was
gazing in an abstracted manner at a paper before him, and making notes
from time to time with a gilt pencil-case.

He was a bland-looking, handsome man, with stiff white cravat, and that
suave, softly-smiling aspect peculiar to fashionable physicians; but the
fashion had gone, though the smile remained, to be shed upon his two
children instead of upon the patients who came no more.

The breakfast progressed, with Hendon eagerly taking in the detail of
the last Australian boat-race, and the doctor making a calculation for
the variation of the compound that was the dream of his life, till, as
it was finally ended, he bent forward, and said softly, "Truly thankful,
amen!"

Hendon Chartley rustled his paper, and doubled it up, and thrust it into
his pocket.

"But no fried bacon," he said bitterly.  Dr Chartley turned his beams
upon his son, and shook his head slowly.

"Indigestible, Hendon.  But never mind.  Work as I do.  Get to the top
of the tree, and then you can keep your carriage, and destroy your liver
with Strasburg pie."

"Bah!" said Hendon; but his father's countenance did not change.

"Going to the hospital, my boy?"

"Yes, the old dismal round.  But to allay suffering.  A great
profession."

"Wish it had less profession and more solid satisfaction!" said the
young man.  "Good-bye, Rich."

He hurried out of the room, and the next minute the door was heard to
bang.

"An ornament to the profession some day, Richmond."

"Yes, dear, but--"

"Well, my love?" said the doctor, beaming upon her softly.

"Don't think me unkind, dear, now you are so deep in your study; but I
do really want a little help."

"Certainly, my darling, certainly.  Now, that's what I like; frank
confidence on your part.  You are the best of housekeepers, my child;
but I don't want you to take all the burden on your shoulders."

Richmond Hartley sighed, and the line on her broad handsome forehead;
took to itself so many puckers, which, however, did not detract from her
beauty.

"Well, my dear; speak out.  You want something?"

"Yes, father; money."

"Ah!" said Dr Chartley softly, as he tapped the table with the top of
his worn pencil-case.  "Money; you want money."

"Yes, father.  I am horribly pressed.  Poor Hendon has really not enough
to pay for his lunch, and--"

"Yes, my dear; but Hendon will soon be in a position to provide
comfortably for himself," said the doctor blandly.

The old proverb about the growing grass and the starving steed occurred
to Richmond, but he only sighed.

"I don't think you need trouble yourself about Hendon, my dear."

"But there is the rent, father," said Richmond desperately, as the full
extent of their position flashed upon her; and she felt impelled to
speak.

"Ah, yes; the rent.  I had forgotten the rent," said the doctor
dreamily.

"Final and threatening notices have been left about the rates and
taxes."

"Yes," said the doctor musingly.  "The idea is Utopian, but I have often
thought how pleasant life would be were there no rents or rates and
taxes."

"Dear father, I must tell you all my troubles now I have begun," said
Richmond, leaving her chair to kneel down before the handsome elderly
man, and lay her hand upon his breast.

"Certainly, my darling, certainly," he said, bending down to kiss her
brow in the most gentlemanly manner, and then caress her luxuriant hair.

"They have threatened to cut off both the gas and water."

"Tut! tut! how unreasonable, Richmond!  Really a severe letter ought to
be addressed to the companies' directors."

"And, father dear, the tradespeople are growing not only impatient, but
absolutely insulting.  What am I to do?"

"Wait, my darling, wait.  Little clouds in our existence while we are
attending the breaking forth of the sun.  Not long, my dear.  I am
progressing rapidly with my discovery, and while I shall be extent with
the fame, you shall be my dear banker, and manage everything as you do
now."

"Yes, yes, dear, I will; but it is so sad.  No patient seems to come to
you now."

"No, my dear, no," he replied calmly; "I'm afraid I neglected several,
and they talked about it among themselves.  These things will spread."

"Are there any means left of--pray forgive me, dear--of raising a little
money?"

"No, my dear, I think not.  But don't trouble about it.  Any day now I
may have my discovery complete, and then--but really, my dear, this is
wasting time.  I must get on with my work."

He rose, and Richmond sighed as with courtly grace he raised her hand
and kissed it, smiling it her sadly and shaking his head.

"So like your dear mother," he said; "even to the tones of your voice.
Don't let me be disturbed, Richmond.  I am getting to a critical point."

He slowly crossed the room, gazing dreamily before him, and passed out,
while his child stood listening to his step along the passage at the
back of the side-board till the door of the surgery was heard to close,
when, clasping her hands, she gazed up at the Prince Regent, as if he
were some kind of a fat idol, and exclaimed passionately, "What shall I
do?  What shall I do?"

A violent twitch made her raise her hand to her face, which was
contracted with pain, and she drew her breath hard; but the pang seemed
to pass away, and after ringing the bell she began busily to pack the
breakfast-things together.

Before she had half done, the door opened softly, and a rather dirty
face was thrust in.  It was the face of an old-looking boy with
snub-nose, large mouth, and a rough, shock head bristling over his
prominent forehead, and all redeemed by as bright and roguish-looking a
pair of eyes as ever shone out from beneath a low type of head.

The door was only opened wide enough at first to admit the head, but as
soon as its owner had given a glance round, the door opened farther, and
the rest of a rather small person appeared, dressed in a well-worn
page's button suit, partly hidden by a dirty green-baize bibbed apron.

The boy's sleeves were tucked up, and he was carrying a pair of
old-fashioned Wellington boots by the tops, and these boots he held up
on high.

"Didn't know, Miss, whether the doctor had gone.  Been a-cleaning his
boots.  Look, Miss, there's a shine!"

"Yes, yes, Bob, they look very nice.  Take them, up-stairs, and then
come and clear away."

"All right, Miss.  I made a whole bottle o' blacking outer half a cake
as a chap I knows give me."

"Yes, yes, Bob."

"Stunning blacking it is, too.  He's in the Brigade, and I minded his
box for him, and took sixpence while he went and had a game of marbles.
That's why he give me the cake."

"Now, Bob, my good lad, I don't want to know anything about that.  Take
those boots up-stairs."

"All right, Miss; but do look how they shines.  I polished tops and all.
Look, Miss."

"Yes, yes, yes; they are beautifully clean."

"I allus thinks about legs, Miss, when I cleans boots; and when I thinks
about legs, I think about the doctor making such a good job o' mine
arter I was run over.  It's stronger than the other; I am glad as it was
broke."

"Glad?"

"Yes, Miss.  Why, if I hadn't been run over, my leg wouldn't have been
broke, and then the doctor wouldn't have mended it, and I shouldn't be
here.  What's she gone away for?" said the boy to himself, as he stared
after Richmond.  "She's been a-crying; one of her eyes was wet.  What
cowards gals are to cry!"

The boy went to the door and listened, but all was perfectly still; so
he set down the boots, rolled his apron into what he called a cow's
tail, the process consisting in twisting it up very tightly and tucking
it round his waist.

This done he listened again, and finding all still, he thrust his arms
into the doctor's boots and indulged in a hearty laugh of a silently
weird description before going down on all fours, and walking as slowly
and solemnly round the table as a tom cat, whose movements he accurately
copied, rubbing himself up against the legs of the table, and purring
loudly.

This over, he rose to his feet and listened, but all being still, he
went down upon all fours again and trotted round the table, leaped on to
a chair, leaped down again, and ran out of the room and along the dark
passage towards the head of the kitchen stairs, looking in the gloom
wonderfully like some large ape.

Active as he was, a descent of the dark stone stairs on all fours was
beyond him; so he rose up, and reaching over, glided silently down the
balustrade, to the great detriment of his buttons.  But, arrived upon
the mat at the bottom, he once more resumed his quadrupedal attitude,
thrust his hands well into the Wellington boots, and trotted with a soft
patter into a dark back kitchen, out of which came a droning noise
uttered by some one at work, and apparently under the impression that it
was a song.

The boy, more animal-like than ever, disappeared in the gloom, with the
boots making a low _pat-pat, pat-pat_, and then there was a loud shriek,
and Bob bounded out, skimmed up the stairs, after evidently having
alarmed some one, and disappeared with the boots, which he sedately
carried up to the bedroom.  Then he descended, to listen at the head of
the stairs to a complaining voice relating to Richmond Chartley an
account of how an "ormuz" great dog had come down the area, run into the
back kitchen, and frighted some one almost out of her wits!

Bob's face expressed happiness approaching the sublime, and he hurriedly
cleared the breakfast-things, and took them down in time to be sent down
by a not over-clean-looking maid-of-all-work to shut that there gate.

The boy was in the act of performing this duty when a neatly-dressed
girlish-looking body approached, carrying a large folio under one arm--a
folio so bound that the neatly-mended and well-fitting little glove
which covered a very small hand could hardly reach to the bottom.

"Is your mistress in?"

"Yes, Miss," said Bob, whose face seemed to reflect the sweet, sunny
smile which greeted him.  "I'll slip round and let you in."

"Oh!"

This was the utterance of the new arrival, as she saw the boy apparently
hurl himself over the iron balustrade of the area-steps, and plunge into
the dust-hole region beyond.  But Bob had long practiced the keeping of
his equilibrium, as the polished slat of the iron rail proved, and,
instead of dashing out his brains on the stones, he reached the bottom
with a bound, and diving into the house, reappeared in a marvellously
short space of time at the front-door.

"She's in the dining-room, Miss," said Bob, making a rush at the folio,
and feasting his eyes the while on the natty fur-trimmed jacket and
little furry hat, whose hue harmonised admirably with the wavy dark
brown hair, neatly braided up beneath; for the visitor was remarkably
well-dressed, and her fresh young face set off everything so well that
no one thought of noticing that the dress had been turned, and that the
jacket's rough exterior had certainly last winter been upon the other
side.

Bob hurriedly closed the door, and ran into the chilly dining-room with
the folio, which he banged down on the table with--

"Here's Miss Heath, Miss;" and then darted out of the room, leaving the
two girls face to face.  "They don't like me to see 'em cuddling," he
said with a grin; and, urged by the enormous amount of vitality that was
in him, Bob bounded to the kitchen stairs to slide down, and, directly
after, a gritty rubbing noise, made metrical to accompany the shrill
whistling of a tune, arose, the result of the fact that Bob Hartnup, the
doctor's boy, who clung to the house with the fidelity of a cat, was
cleaning the knives.  Bob's facts were correct, if unrefined in
expression, for the two girls flew to each other's arms, and as they
kissed affectionately, each displayed tears in her eyes, while without
relinquishing hands, they sat down together near the window.

"No news, Janet?" whispered Richmond.  Her visitor shook her head
slowly, gazing wistfully the while into her companion's eyes.

"We must wait, Rich dear.  Africa is a horribly great place, and some
day we shall hear that he is coming back."

Richmond Chartley made no reply, but sat gazing straight out through the
uncleaned window, as if her large clear eyes were looking straight away
over the ocean in search of the man she loved.

"Don't, don't, darling; don't look like that," whispered the younger
girl.  "Don't think all that again.  It's cruel, it's wicked of them to
have said such things.  He was too young, and strong, and brave to die."

"Please God, yes!" said Richmond simply, but with a deep heart-stirring
pathos in the tones of her rich voice.

"And one of these days he'll come, dear, like the good prince in the
fairy tale, all rich and handsome, as my darling brother always was, and
marry my own dear Rich, and make her happy again."

"Please God, yes!" said Richmond once more; and this time there was
resignation, and despair so plainly marked that her companion flung her
arms about her neck and began to sob.

"Rich, dear Rich, don't, pray don't, or you'll drive me half mad.  I've
all my lessons to give to-day.  And my hand will tremble, and I shall be
so unnerved that I can do nothing."

"Janet dear, I try so hard not to despair, but the weary months roll by,
and it is two years now since you have had a line."

"Yes, but what of that?  Perhaps he is where there are no post-offices,
or perhaps he is not getting on; and, poor boy, he is too proud to write
till he is doing better.  Why, he has only been away four years."

"Four years!" said Richmond sadly; "is it only four years?"

"That's all, dear, though it has seemed like eight, and we will not
despair, even though it is so hard to bear.  Why, Rich, I feel sometimes
when I kneel down at night that if he were dead I should know it; he
would not let us go on suffering if it were so."

"Janet dear, I feel sometimes as if it was wrong to have loved him."

"What, dear Mark?"

"Yes."

"Wrong?  For shame!  How could any girl who knew my darling old Mark as
you did help loving him?"

"But it made him dissatisfied.  I was the cause of his going away."

"That foolish thought again!  You were not, dear.  It would have been
the same if he had loved any girl.  He said that he would not ask any
woman to be his wife while he was tied down here without any prospects;
and he went off to make his fortune, as many another brave young
Englishman has gone before."

"But I made him discontented, dear."

"You made him behave nobly.  Why, what other man would have said as he
did, `I hold you to no engagement.  I ask nothing of you: I only tell
you that I love you with all my heart'?"

"`And some day I will return,'" said Richmond, in a low deep voice.

"Yes, and some day he will return, dear: I do believe it, I _will_
believe it, and--Oh, Rich, Rich, Rich, why, why are we such unhappy
girls?"

It was the elder's turn now to try and comfort the younger, who had
burst into a passionate fit of weeping, so full of anguish that, at
last, Richmond raised her friend's hand, kissed it, and holding the
bonny little head between her hands, she said, with almost motherly
tenderness.

"Janet, Hendon has been speaking to you again?"

There was no reply.

"I knew it," said Richmond half angrily.  "It was thoughtless and cruel
of him!"

"No, no, don't blame him, dear.  No one could be more noble and more
good.  You know how hard he works."

"Yes," said Richmond, with a sigh.

"And if he is impatient with his home and your father, why, you must
recollect that he is a man, and men are not meant to be patient and
suffering, like women."

"He is too thoughtless, Janet, and--I don't like to say it of my own
brother--too selfish."

"No, no!" cried Janet, flushing.

"Yes, dear, yes.  Could he have had his way, you two would have been man
and wife, and he half living on the earnings of these poor tiny little
hands."

"I don't think he would have pressed me to it, Rich; and after all, it
was because he loved me so."

"Yes, and would have taken advantage of your loneliness here in this
great cruel city, and dragged you down to poverty and misery such as I
am bearing now.  Janet, Janet dear, I feel sometimes as if I cannot bear
this miserable degradation longer, and that all these troubles must be a
punishment for my not telling my father about Mark."

"Why, Rich," said Janet, turning comforter once more, "what was there to
tell?  You made no engagement.  And look here, if so much trouble is to
come of love, why, you and I will take vows, and be single all our days.
There, now, you look more like yourself; and I'm going to tell you my
news."

"News?" cried Richmond, starting eagerly, and then looking sadly at her
friend.

"Yes, two more pupils.  I'm getting along famously now.  And it does
make me so happy and resigned.  There, I must go, but--"

"You have something more to say to me?"

"Yes, only--there, I will be firm.  Don't be angry with me, Rich dear,
for I seem to have no one to care for here but you, and some day you
shall pay me again, and I want you to borrow this."

She slipped a tiny little purse into Richmond's hands, and then turned
scarlet, as she saw her companion's pallid face.

"No, no, Janet, I could not: your little scraped together earnings.
Pray don't speak to me like that again."

"I must.  I will!" cried the girl with passionate earnestness.  "I don't
want it, dear, and it is only a loan.  Do, do, pray take it."

"I could not," said Richmond, thrusting the purse into her friend's
hand.

"For Mark's sake, dear."

"For Mark's sake!" faltered Richmond hoarsely.

"Yes; how could I look him in the face again, if I had not behaved to
you as he bade me when we said good-bye on board the ship?"

"As he bade you?"

"Yes; to be as a sister to you always, and to look to you as a sister
for help and comfort when I was in need.  Yes, dear, for Mark's sake."

For answer, Richmond Chartley took her friend once more in her arms, and
kissed her, but only to press the purse back into her hand before going
with her to the door, from which they both shrank on opening it, for a
loud voice exclaimed, "Thank you!  How do?  Ah!  Miss Chartley, is the
doctor within?"



CHAPTER THREE.

THE DOCTOR AT HOME.

"Yes, my father is at home, Mr Poynter," said Richmond, speaking
calmly, and drawing back for the visitor to enter.

Then to Janet, in a whisper.

"Can you stay with me a few minutes?"

"I daren't, dear; I am late now, and--Yes, I understand.  I will."

It was Richmond's turn to display her firmness, and mastering a nervous
trepidation which she felt, she bent down, kissed her friend, and, with
a meaning pressure of the hand, said "good-bye," and ushered the fresh
visitor, who was busily turning a crimson silk handkerchief round a
painfully glossy hat, into the dining-room.

"Thankye," he said, sitting down, but jumping up again, and placing
another chair, "beg pardon, won't you sit down?  I'm in no hurry if the
doctor's engaged."

He nervously seized a very thick gold chain, and dragged a great gold
watch from his pocket to consult.

"Eleven," he said; "thought I'd come and see him as I went into the
City.  Nothing the matter, much, but it's as well to see your medical
man."

"I'll tell my father you are here, Mr Poynter."

"No, don't hurry.  I'm very busy at my place, but plenty of time.  How's
Hendon?"

"My brother is quite well."

"Is he, now?  That's right.  Fine thing, good health, ain't it?"

"Of course," said Richmond quietly.

"Yes, of course; so it is, Miss Chartley.  Hendon always seems to be a
fine strong fellow.  I always liked him since I met him at a fellow's
rooms.  Not at home now?"

"Oh, no; he has gone on to the hospital."

"Ah, yes.  Feel sometimes as if I should go to the hospital."

The visitor appeared to be a florid, strongly-built man, in the most
robust health, save that probably a love of too many of the good things
of this life had made its mark upon him.

"I will tell my father you are here," said Richmond again; and this time
she escaped from the room, to come suddenly upon Bob outside, striking
an attitude indictive of a determination to crush the glossy hat left
upon the table in the hall; and so sudden was Richmond's appearance that
the boy stood fast, as if struck with catalepsy, for a few seconds
before he bethought himself of a way out of his difficulty, when,
pretending to catch a fly which did not exist, he turned upon his heel,
and beat an ignominious retreat to the lower regions.

Dr Chartley's patient was no sooner left alone than he started up, and
began smoothing his short, carefully-parted hair, took off a second
glove to display half a dozen jewelled rings, and wetting fingers and
thumbs, he twirled the begummed points of his moustache, and fell into a
state of agitation about the cut of his ultra-fashionably made clothes.

He looked round in vain, for there was no looking-glass; still, he had
some satisfaction, for he was able to see that his tightly-fitting
patent-leather boots were spotless, and that the drab gaiters with pearl
buttons were exactly in their places; though the largely-checked
trousers he wore did give him trouble as to the exact direction the
outer seams should take, whilst his sealskin vest would look spotty in
certain lights.

He was in the act of re-smoothing his hair when Richmond returned, and,
hard City man as he was, he could not avoid an increase of depth in his
colour as he saw that the handsome woman before him was watching him
intently.

"My father will come to you directly, Mr Poynter," she said quietly.

"Oh, all right; but don't let me drive you away, Miss Chartley.  I don't
see much society, and chat's pleasant sometimes, ain't it?"

"Of course," said Richmond quietly; "but I thought my brother said you
were fond of society."

"Fond of it? yes, of course," said Poynter hastily; and he smoothed his
double fringe over his forehead again, where the hairdresser had cut it
into a pattern which he had assured him was in the height of fashion,
but only with the result of making him look like butcher turned
betting-man.  "Yes, fond of it," he said again, "and of course I can get
plenty with fellows, but--er--ladies' society is what I like."

James Poynter directed at Richmond a smiling leer, one which had proved
very successful at more than one metropolitan bar, where he had paved
the way for its success with gifts of flowers and a cheap ring or two;
but it was utterly lost here, for its intended recipient was looking
another way, and as it faded from its inventor's face there was a blank,
inane expression left, bordering upon the grotesque.

"You should go more into ladies' society, then, Mr Poynter, as soon as
your health permits," said Richmond, with provoking coolness.

"Oh, I'm not ill," he said hastily; and his forehead grew damp as he
floundered about, looking fishy now about the eyes and mouth, which
opened and shut at intervals, as if to give passage to words which never
came.  "Felt I was--er--little out of sorts, you know, and thought I'd
see the doctor.  Let's see, I said so before, didn't I?"

"Yes, I think you did, Mr Poynter.  Here is my father."

There was a slight cough just then, the door opened, and the doctor
entered, his bland, aristocratic presence contrasting broadly with that
of his patient.

"Ah, Poynter," he said, "good-morning.  Don't go, my dear; Mr Poynter
will come into my consulting-room, I daresay."

"Yes, of course," cried the patient, shaking hands, and forgetting to
leave off.  "I shall--shall you?--good-morning, Miss Chartley."

He released the doctor's hand, to turn and shake Richmond's which he
pressed desperately, and then followed the bland, calm, stately doctor
out of the room, when he caught up his hat savagely and ground his teeth
in the dark passage.

"I feel just like a fool when I'm with her!" he said to himself.  "I
never feel so anywhere else.  And I ain't a fool.  I should just like to
see the man who would say I was."

The doctor led the way through the glazed door into the dim surgery,
with its rows of bottles, and stoppered glass jars containing unpleasant
looking specimens preserved in spirits, all carefully labelled and
inscribed in the doctor's own neat hand, but grown yellow with time; and
as he closed the door after his patient, the latter's nostrils distended
slightly, and an air of disgust chased the inane look as he breathed the
unpleasant medicinal druggy air.

"I was just busy over my discovery," continued the doctor blandly, "and
I thought as a friend you would not mind coming here--it is the
consulting-room, my dear Poynter; and I could go on, and we could chat
over your ailment the while."

"Oh, it's all the same to me," said Poynter; and, once out of Richmond's
presence, he seemed another being.  Instead of carrying his glossy hat
in his hand, he had resumed it, and wore it with a vulgar cock; he
walked with the swagger of the low-class City man; and his face shone as
he whisked out a second crimson silk handkerchief redolent of perfume,
and blew his nose with a loud blast, which sounded defiant.

"Here we are," said the doctor, smiling at his patient, as if after a
long search he had found the ill which troubled him, and pulled it up by
the roots.  "Take that chair, my dear Poynter," he continued, pointing
to one by the fire, where a bright copper kettle was on the hob, and
closing the door, while his patient took off his hat, glanced round the
room, and blew the dust off the top of a side table before depositing
thereon his new head-covering.

There was a litter on the table, a chemist's set of weights and scales,
divers papers, a spatula, pestle and mortar of glass, toy-like in size,
and a book with memoranda, and pen and ink.

"Very busy, you see, Poynter; I've nearly completed my task, and in a
few months, perhaps weeks, the medical world will be startled by my
discovery."

"What are you going to do with it when you've done?"

"Do with it?"

"Yes.  Now, if I was you, I should say to a friend, `Lend me a thou.,'
and then take a little shop, put it up in bottles, with three-halfpenny
stamps, and advertise it well as the new patent medicine."

"My dear Mr Poynter!"

"Hold hard, doctor, I haven't done," he cried, speaking in a hard,
browbeating manner, as if he were giving orders.  "Give it a spanking
name, `Heal-all,' or `Cure all;' won't do to say Kill-all eh?  Haw, haw,
haw!"

He burst into a coarse, loud laugh, and the doctor sank back in his
chair, with his brows twitching slightly.

"Hold hard, I have it.  Nothing like a good name for the fools who
swallow everything.  Get something out of one of your Greek and Latin
physic-books--one of those words like hippocaustus or allegorus, or
something they can't understand."

"I do not quite see the force of your argument, my dear Mr Poynter,"
said the doctor blandly.

"Not see?  Why, man, it would be patent medicine then, and no one could
take it from you.  Look at Hannodyne--good stuff, too, when you've got a
headache in the morning--Government stamp, to imitate which is forgery!"

"But still, I--"

"Don't see?  Nonsense!  Make a fortune.  You want it.  Patients pretty
scarce, eh?"

He laughed again offensively, and the doctor winced, but kept up his
bland smooth smile.

"And suppose I took your advice, my dear Poynter, where is the friend to
lend me a thousand pounds?"

"Ah! where's the friend!" said Poynter, with a meaning look.  "P'r'aps I
know the friend, if things went as he wanted."

The doctor's face changed slightly, but his visitor was too obtuse to
see it.

"And would you suggest that I should--er--preside in the little shop and
sell the allegorus?"

"Ah, that ain't a bad name, is it?" said Poynter, giving his head a
shake in the stiff collar in which it rested as an egg does in a cup.
"No, not you; not businesslike enough.  Make Hendon do that."

"Ah," said the doctor slowly, as he took up the bottle, removed the
stopper, and smelled the contents before moistening one finger and
tasting it.

"You'll end by poisoning yourself with that stuff, doctor," said
Poynter, chuckling.

"No," he said blandly, "no, my dear James Poynter, no; it is a
life-giver, not a destroyer.  Now, if you were to take, say, twenty
drops in water--"

"With sugar?" said Poynter, grinning.

"Yes, with sugar, if you liked.  There's no objection to flavouring the
vehicle--water."

"Vehicle--water?  Why, I never heard of water being called a vehicle!
Thought vehicle meant a carriage or trap."

"In this case the water would be the vehicle, Poynter, and, as I was
saying, if you were to take twenty drops of this extract, or rather,
compound, you would feel as if a new lease of life were beginning--that
everything looked brighter; that nerve and muscle were being strung up;
your power of thought greater, and--try a little, my dear sir."

"No, thankye, doctor; but if you've got a drop of brandy in the place
and a bottle of soda, you may make it more than twenty drops of that."

"I have some brandy," said the doctor, rising, "but no soda-water.  I
can mix you a little soda and tartaric acid, though, in a glass of
water, and it will have all the effect."

James Poynter showed his great white teeth in a broad grin, threw
himself back in the patients' chair, and unhooking his watch-chain,
began to swing round the big seal, pencil-case, and sovereign-purse
which hung at the end.

"No, thankye, doctor," he said.  "Let's have the brandy-and-water, and
sugar purissima, as you folks call it now, and you can mix me up a tonic
and send it on."

"Certainly, my dear Poynter, certainly," said the doctor, going to a
closet, and taking out a spirit decanter, tumbler, and sugar, which he
placed upon the stained green-baize table-cover, smilingly looking on
afterwards with a little bright copper kettle in his hand as his visitor
poured out liberally into his glass.

"All right, eh, doctor?" said the young man, looking up in the bland,
smooth face, with a good many wrinkles about his right eye.

"I--er--do not understand you."

"Brandy all right?  No pilly-coshy or anything of that sort in it?  Fill
right up."

"No," said the doctor, smiling.  "It's the best brandy, and I'll take a
little with you."

He filled up his guest's glass, and then smilingly took a second tumbler
from the cupboard, and mixed himself a draught.

"Yes, not bad brandy, doctor, but wants age," said Poynter, rinsing his
mouth with the hot spirit and water, as if he had been cleaning his
teeth.  "Now, I have a few dozen of a fine old cognac in my cellar that
would give this fifty in a hundred, and lick it hollow."

Perhaps to be expressive, Mr James Poynter shuffled his shoulders
against the cushion of the chair and licked his lips, ending with a
fish-like smack.

"Let me send you a dozen, doctor."

"No, no, my dear sir.  I did not know you were in the wine and spirit
trade."

"Stuff and nonsense!"

"And I could not afford--"

"Yah!  Who asked you to?  I meant as a present.  Wine and spirit trade,
indeed!  Hang it!  Do I look like a publican?"

Dr Chartley told an abominable lie, for if ever man, from the crown of
his pomatumed head, down over his prominent nubbey forehead, small eyes,
prominent cheekbones, unpleasant nose, and heavy jaw, to the toes of his
boots, looked like a fast, race-attending licenced victualler, it was
James Poynter.

Dr Chartley said, in answer to the indignant question, "No."

"Humph!" ejaculated the visitor, mollifying himself with a large draught
of brandy-and-water.  "I should think not, indeed.  I shall send you a
dozen of that brandy."

"No, no, I beg!" said the doctor earnestly; and his white forehead
puckered up.

"Yes, I shall.  May I smoke?"

"Certainly--certainly."

A very large, well-filled cigar case was already in the visitor's hands.

"Take one."

"No, thanks.  I never smoke."

"Never mind, Hendon does.  Here, I shall leave those six for him."

"I really would rather you did not, Poynter; indeed I would."

"Get out?  What's the good of having these things if some one else don't
enjoy 'em too?  Make Hendon a bit more civil to me.  He is so jolly--so
jolly--what do you call it?--soopercilious with me.  Because I'm not a
doctor, I suppose.  There's half a dozen good ones for him when he comes
in.  Now then, doctor, go ahead.  Want to see my tongue?"

"No--no," said the doctor; "the look of your eye is sufficient, Mr
Poynter.  It is much clearer.  Felt any more of the chest symptoms?"

"No, not so much of them; but I don't sleep as I should: feverish and
tossy--spend half my nights punching my pillow."

"Have you given up the suppers?"

"Well, not quite.  You see a man can't drop everything.  I know a lot of
men, and one's obliged, you see, to do as they do.  But now look here;
doctor.  You've been treating me these three months."

"Dear me! is it so long as that?"

"More.  You've poked my chest about, and listened to my works, and given
me all sorts of stuff to take, and told me to eat this and drink that,
and now I suppose you think I'm sound, wind and limb?"

"Certainly, my dear sir, certainly.  I told you so at the first, and
that no treatment was necessary."

"Yes, yes, all right; but I'd got to be a bit nervous doctor, and now,
as I say, you think me sound, wind and limb?"

"Quite."

"Then you'll agree, won't you?"

"Agree?" said the doctor, looking over the glasses he had put on when
commencing to be professional.

"Yes.  I'm as good a man as there is at Mincing Lane over a tea bargain;
but a job like this knocks the wind out of me, makes me feel a damaged
lot where the sea-water's got in, or a Maloo mixture.  Can't do it: but
you understand."

"Really, Mr Poynter, I--"

"Now don't run away, doctor; don't, please.  I'm a warm man, and I'm
getting warmer.  My house is tip-top.  I gave two-fifty for the piano, I
did, 'pon my soul, and fifty apiece for the cut-glass chandies in the
drawing-room.  There ain't a better garden in Sydenham.  You're willing,
ain't you?"

"Do you mean--"

"Yes, that's it.  Say the word.  There, I've loved her ever since I
first saw her.  And situated as you are, doctor--"

"Mr Poynter."

"No offence meant--far from it; but of course I can't help seeing how
things are.  Come, you'll give your consent, and get hers, and I'll make
settlements--anything you like.  You shall come and have a bit o' dinner
with us every Sunday, and a glass o' real port wine; and if you'd rather
have a cab to come home, why, there you are.  Come, there's my hand.
Where's yours?"

"Do I understand--"

"Stop a moment, doctor.  Of course you'll attend us, whether we're ill
or whether we ain't.  Keep us in order, like; and as to your fees, why,
I ask you now, as a man, what is a fee to me?"

"Mr Poynter!"

"One moment, doctor.  I don't say anything about a brougham.  If Miss
Richmond--I say, doctor, what made you call her Richmond and him
Hendon?"

"A foolish whim--eccentricity," said the doctor coldly.  "One child was
born on the North Road, the other at the pretty old place on the south
west."

"I see.  Well, as I was saying, if Miss Richmond likes it to be a
brougham, either the real thing, or on the job, she has only got to
speak, and it's lies."

"Am I to understand, Mr Poynter, that this is a formal proposal for my
daughter's hand?"

"That's it.  How you can put it, doctor!  You're right; it is, and
there's my hand."

"Mr Poynter," said the doctor, drawing himself up in his chair, and
without taking the extended hand, "that is a matter upon which I am not
prepared to speak."

"Why, you're her father, ain't you?"

"Does my daughter sanction this?"

"Well--er--yes--no--hardly, because I've never put it to her plump.  But
you know what women are--sealskins, a carriage, bit o' jewellery, _and_
their own way.  Why, of course she does; did you ever know a woman as
didn't want to marry?  They often say so, but--you know.  There, say the
word: I'll just go in and see her, and it'll be a good job for all of
us, and I shall go away with the day fixed."

"No, Mr Poynter," said the doctor gravely; "I have been a medical man
for thirty years--a great student, but I must frankly confess that I do
_not_ know what women are.  As to my daughter, she is of an age to judge
for herself, and when she accepts a man for her husband--"

"I say, hold hard; there's nothing on, is there?"

"You have told me that you love my child."

"Like all that, doctor.  But you know what I mean: old lover, prior
attachment, and that sort of thing."

"As far as I know, there has never been any attachment.  Richmond is not
like most girls."

"Right doctor.  She isn't.  That fetched me.  Why, in her plain shabby
things--"

The doctor winced.  "She knocks my sister into fits, and Lyddy spends
two-fifty a year in dressmaking and millinery, without counting
jewellery and scent."

"I may say," continued the doctor, "that my daughter has always devoted
herself to her brother and me."

"Oh, yes, doctor, I've spotted that," said the visitor, smoking
furiously.

"And I have never seen any sign of an attachment.  I once thought that
there was a liking between her and young Mark Heath."

"What, brother to that Miss Janet who comes here?" cried Poynter
eagerly.

"The same; but that was years ago."

"And he's abroad, isn't he?"

"He went to the Cape--to seek his fortune," said the doctor gravely;
"but he has not been heard of now for two years."

"Dead, safe!" said Poynter, drawing a breath full of relief.

"I'm afraid so."

"Afraid?"

"It would be sad if the young man had ended his career like that."

"Of course.  But they weren't engaged?"

"Certainly not, Mr Poynter."

"And you've no objection to me, doctor?"

"N-no--I--that is, Mr Poynter, I look upon this as a matter for my
daughter to decide."

"Of course, doctor.  Well, I'll just finish my cigar and grog, and then
I'll go and put it to her, plump and plain; and, as I said before, it'll
be a fine day's work for us all."

The doctor sighed.

"I say, you know," continued his visitor, with the wrinkles coming about
his eyes, "it was all a dodge of mine."

"I beg your pardon."

"There wasn't anything the matter with me when I came."

"Nothing whatever," said the doctor, nodding acquiescence.

"What! you knew that?"

"Of course I did.  I looked upon it as all imaginary."

"But you took the fees, doctor?" said the young man, laughing.

"You took up my time."

"But I say, doctor, isn't that too bad?"

"Not at all.  My dear sir, the medical profession.  Won't I be a poor
one if we had no patients with imaginary ills.  We treat them; they
think we do them good; and they grow better.  Surely we earn our fees."

"Oh, but, doctor," said the young man jocularly, "why not honestly tell
them they are all right, instead of taking their coin?"

"Because if we did they would not believe us, and would go to some other
medical man."

"Then you knew I was all right?"

"Certainly I did."

"And made me up that wretched physic to take."

"You would not have been satisfied without."

"Ah, well," said the young man, with a chuckle which resulted in his
wiping his eyes with his highly scented handkerchief, "I never took a
drop."

"I know that too," said the doctor.

"Ah, well; we understand one another now, and I'd better go."

James Poynter, however, seemed to be in no hurry to go, but sipped his
brandy-and-water, smoked his cigar down to the throwing-away length, and
then brought out from his vest-pocket an amber and meerschaum
mouthpiece, tipped with gold, into which he fitted the wet end of the
cigar, and smoked till he could smoke no longer, when he rose,
flush-faced, and with the dew upon his forehead.

"I suppose I must go and get it done, doctor," he said; "but it's rather
a--well, it makes a man feel--I say, doctor, what is there in a pretty
woman that makes a man feel half afraid of her, like?"

"I told you, Mr Poynter, a short time back, that I did not understand
women," said the doctor gravelly.  "I cannot tell.  Say Nature's
heaven-gift for her defence."

"Humph!" said Poynter, staring.  "I say, doctor--cigar, you know.  Could
you give a fellow a mouthful of something that would take the taste out
of one's mouth?  Going to see a lady."

"Try cold water," said the doctor, in a tone of voice which sounded like
throwing that fluid upon he young man's hopes; but he had so much faith
in himself that the verbal water glanced from his fine feathers, and
after rinsing his mouth, he shook hands clumsily, intending to leave the
doctor's fee within his palm, but managed to drop the more valuable of
the two coins on the edge of the fender, when it flew beneath the grate,
and had to be fished out with the tongs.

"Dodgy stuff, money, doctor," said Poynter, setting down the fire-iron,
and blowing the coin.

"Don't take all that trouble, pray."

"Oh, it's no trouble, doctor.  I was never above picking up a sov.
There, don't you come.  I know my way;" and he left the consulting-room
to go into the house and learn his fate.

"Brute!" said the doctor, with a look of disgust, as he sank into his
chair.  "Why is Fate so unfair with her gold!  I thought as much, but
Richmond will say _no_."

"Old lunatic!" said James Poynter, with his fat upper lip curling in
disgust, as his eyes lit on the row of glass jars with their ghastly
contents.  "Once I get my lady home, I don't mean to see much of him.
Here, boy," he said, as he reached the hall, and so suddenly that there
was nearly a serious accident, for Bob was coming down the balustrade
from the first floor, gliding upon the central part of his person with
arms and legs extended--taking hold having grown common.

The sharp "Here, boy!" so startled him that he overbalanced himself,
went right over, but caught at the upright spindly bars, and so far
saved himself that he came down upon his feet in a couple of
somersaults, recovering himself directly, and coming forward with a grin
upon his bloodless face, as if the feat had been intended.

"Ah, you'll break your neck some day.  Here's a shilling for you.  Take
me into Miss Chartley at once."

Bob bit the coin, and slipped it into his pocket before he replied,
"Gone out."

"Gone out?  Will she be long?"

"Dessay she'll be hours, sir."

James Poynter stamped with his foot, and muttered something
unparliamentary.

"Tell Miss Chartley," he said.  "No, don't tell her anything.  Here, let
me out."

Bob ran to the ponderous old door, and stood holding it open with his
eyes glittering as he stared at the visitor, till he had hurried out
with his hat set very much on one side, and walked sharply away.

"Thought he'd want the bob again," said the boy.  "Just do for the old
gal.  Well, I'm blessed!"

This last consequent upon his catching sight of a shabby-looking figure
in black, with a damaged bonnet, and a weirdly dissipated look, rising
slowly into sight up the area-steps, and then coming out of the creaking
gate to the boy, who grew more serious the nearer the figure came.

It was not a pleasant face to look upon, for it was not over-clean; the
black and grey hair was ill-arranged, and the eyes that shone above the
flushed cheeks belied the woman sadly if they did not tell the truth
about potations.

"Why, Bob, my darling," she said, with an exaggerated fawning smile,
"and how is my bonny boy?"

"Here stow that, mother," cried the lad, struggling from an embrace.
"Don't!  Can't yer see I've been brushing my hair?"

"Yes, and it looks beautiful, ducky.  I've been knocking ever so long at
the hairy door, and that fine madam saw me, and wouldn't let me in."

"No; she says I ain't never to let you in no more."

"Not let me in no more to see my own boy?"

"No; she says you took some fresh butter last time you was here, and you
sha'n't come."

"Then you sha'n't stay, Bob; I'll take you away, my darling.  Oh, it's a
wicked, cruel world!"

"Here, I say, mother, stow that.  Whatcher want?"

"What, my darling?  Yes, that's it: want--staring want; but you sha'n't
stay here."

"Get out.  I shall."

"No, you sha'n't, you ungrateful boy.  I won't be separated from my own
child.  Bob dear, have you got any money?"

"Eh?"

"Anybody give you anything?" whined the woman.  "There ain't been
nothing pass my lips this blessed day."

"Oho! what a wunner!" cried the boy.  "Why, I can smell yer."

"No, no, my dear; that's Mrs Billson as you can smell.  I've been
talking to her, and she drink 'orrid.  Ain'tcher got a few pence for
your poor lone mother, who's ready to break her heart sometimes because
she's parted from her boy?"

"Will you go away if I give you something?"

"Go away?  Oho!" whined the woman, wiping off a maudlin tear with the
end of her shawl.

"Here, I say, don't cry on the front-doorsteps.  Come down in the hairy,
where nobody can't see you."

"Driven away by my own boy!  Oho, oho!"

"'Tain't my fault.  Doctor said you wasn't to come, and if you did he'd
send me away."

"Then come home, Bob, to your poor heartbroken mother."

"Walker!" cried the boy.  "Why yer ain't got no home to give a chap."

"No home?"

"Well, I don't call that a home, living up in a hattic along o' old
Mother Billson."

"Oh, you ungrateful boy!  Ain't it enough for me to have come down so
that I'm obliged to see my own son in liveries, without him turning
against me."

"Who's a-turning again you?  Don't cry, I tell yer," he said, angrily
stamping a foot.

"Then you shall come home."

"Sha'n't.  I ain't going to leave the doctor and Miss Rich for nobody,
so there."

"Ugh, you viper!"

"Here, stow that.  Who's a viper?  See what they've done for me when I
was runned over.  Why, if it hadn't been for Miss Rich a-nussing of me
when you was allus tipsy, you wouldn't have had no boy at all, only a
dead 'un berrid out at Finchley along o' the old man."

"Ah, you wicked ungrateful little serpent!  They've been setting you
again' your poor suffering mother."

"Stow that, I say.  You'll have the doctor hear you if you don't be
quiet."

"I won't be quiet, you wicked, wicked--"

"Look here!  If you don't hold your row, I won't give you the bob and
two coppers I've got for you."

"Have you got some money for your poor mother, then?"

"I've got a bob a gent give me, and twopence, my half of what we got for
the bones me and 'Lisbeth sold."

"Ah?  I'm a poor suffering woman, and I do say things sometimes as I
don't mean," whined the wretched creature.  "Give me the money, dear,
and let me go."

"If I give it to yer, you won't say no more about my coming away?"

"No, dear; I only want to see you happy."

"Well, there, then," he said, giving her the coins; "and, I say--"

"Yes, my precious."

"You ain't to spend none of it in gin."

"Gin?  Oh, no, my dear."

"Get some pudding out of Holborn, and a saveloy; and, I say, mother, get
yourself a bit o' tea."

"Yes, my darling."

"And don't let Mrs Billson gammon you into lending her none of it."

"No, my dear.  And there, good-bye, Bob; be a good boy.  I won't come
wherriting of you no more'n I can help."

The miserable object, from whom out of compassion Richmond Chartley had
rescued the boy, shuffled along the street to the nearest public-house,
to buy more plus spirit with which to attack her miserable minus spirit,
with the result that, as a mathematical problem, one would kill the
other as sure as Fate.

Meanwhile Bob stood on the step watching her.

"Wonder whether the old gal does like me?  Somehow she allus goes as
soon as she gets all a chap's got.  Now she'll go and have a drop.  She
allus does when she says she won't."

"Bob! you Bob!" came in a shrill voice from the kitchen stairs.

"Can't you see I'm a-coming?" cried the boy; and hurriedly closing the
door, he returned to his work.



CHAPTER FOUR.

PUBLIC OPINION ON CURRENT EVENTS.

These was a desperate scuffle going on round the corner as Hendon
Chartley came by one day, and he would have passed on without seeing it,
only that his English blood was stirred at the way in which the odds
were all on one side--four boys being engaged in pummelling one who, in
spite of the thrashing he was getting, fought on boldly, till, with a
couple of sharp cuts of his cane, Hendon settled two of the combatants,
when the other two ran away.

"Thankye, sir."

"You young dog, is it you?" cried Hendon.

"Yes, sir; and I should ha' licked all on 'em if you hadn't come."

"Why, you ungrateful young rascal, be off back and wash your face.  Look
here: I'll have you turned away."

"No, sir; please, sir, don't, sir.  I couldn't help it, sir, I was
obliged to fight, sir; I was indeed, sir.  Oh, don't, sir; you hurts!"

Hendon listened to no remonstrance, but catching the boy by the collar
he thrust him back till he reached the door, which he opened with his
latch-key, and, bundling the boy in, sent him staggering along the hall
as he closed the door, and went on once more.

"Yah! who cares for you?" cried the boy angrily; and then his
countenance changed, and he broke into a smile as he found himself face
to face with Rich.

"Why, Bob," she exclaimed, "what is the matter?"

"I couldn't help it, Miss.  Mr Hendon shoved me in like that.  I meant
to come in by the area."

"But why did he bring you back like that?  Did he know where you had
been?"

"Oh, no, Miss!  I never tells anybody where I'm going with a note for
you; not even Mr Poynter, Miss.  Here's the letter; and Miss Heath said
I was to give her love to you, and she hadn't been because she was so
busy."

Bob drew a letter from his pocket, and as he did so made upon it an ugly
mark.

"Why, Bob, your hand's bleeding!"

"Is it, Miss?  Oh, ah! so it is.  That ain't nothink."

"You are all over mud, too.  Have you met with an accident again?"

The boy's lips parted to say "_Yes_," but as he gazed up into the clear
searching eyes which looked down so kindly into his, he shook his head.

"No, Miss," he said boldly.

"Why, Bob, you have not been fighting?"

"I didn't want to fight, Miss; but what's a chap to do?"

"Surely not fight when he is sent on an errand," said Rich severely.

"I didn't want to fight," said the boy again: "but I was fighting, and
Mr Hendon ketched me."

"I'm afraid, Bob, I shall be obliged to speak to my father, and have you
sent away."

"No, no! don't do that, Miss; please don't.  I will be so very useful,
and I will do everythink 'Lisbeth tells me.  Don't send a feller away."

"We cannot keep a boy who behaves so badly," continued Rich, who was
trying to hide being amused and pleased at the boy's affectionate
earnestness.

"Then I won't fight no more," said Bob.  "But you don't know what it is,
Miss.  You don't know how the fellers tease yer.  They're allers at yer.
Soon as yer goes down the street, some one shouts `Bottles!'  Jest
because I takes out the physic.  I should jest like to make some on 'em
take it.  I'd give 'em a dose."

"But, Bob, you ought to be too sensible to take any notice about a rude
boy calling you names."

"So I am, Miss," cried the boy, "ever so much.  I never did nothing till
they began on the doctor."

"Began on the doctor?"

"Yes, Miss; saying all sorts o' things about him.  I shouldn't like to
tell you what."

"And I should not like to hear, Bob," said Rich gravely, as she went
up-stairs; while after waiting till he heard a door close, Bob went
cautiously into the surgery, crept to the door of the consulting-room,
and listened to find out whether the doctor was there, and finding him
absent, the boy went nimbly to the nest of drawers, opened one, and took
out a pair of scissors before lifting a tin case from a corner--a case
which looked like the holder of a map.

Bob removed the lid, drew out a roll of diachylon, and after cutting off
a strip, he replaced the lid and scissors, and descended to the kitchen,
where Elizabeth was peeling potatoes, and making the droning noise which
she evidently believed to be a song.

"Look ye here!" cried the boy, triumphantly showing his bleeding
knuckles.

Elizabeth uttered a faint cry.

"Why, you've been fighting!" she cried.  "Oh, you bad wicked boy!"

"So are you," cried Bob tauntingly: "you'd fight if the chaps served you
as they did me, and said what they did about the doctor."

"What did they say?" said the girl, giving her nose a rub as if to make
it more plastic.

"You bathe them cuts nistely and put some sticking-plaister on, and I'll
tell you."

Elizabeth set down the potato basin, wiped her hands, and after filling
a tin bowl full of cold water, and fetching a towel, she tenderly bathed
the boy's dirty injured hands.

"Now tell me what they said about the doctor," she said coaxingly.

"Why, they gets saying things to try and get me took away.  My old woman
don't like me stopping."

"She's a dreadful old creature," said Elizabeth angrily, "and I won't
have her here."

"So's your old woman a dreadful old creature," retorted Bob, "and I
won't have her here."

"My mother's been dead ten years," said Elizabeth, battling with an
obstinate bit of mud, "and I won't have you speak to me in that impudent
way."

"Then you leave my poor old woman alone."

"You let her stop away instead of always coming down them area-steps,
and you encouraging her."

"That I don't, so come now.  She's my old woman and I'm very fond on
her, but I wish she wouldn't come.  She allus comes when I'm busy."

"And she ought to be very glad you are here."

"But she ain't.  She says doctors are bad 'uns.  And that they do all
sorts o' things as they oughtn't to.  She was in the orspittle once, and
she said it was horrid, and if she hadn't made haste and got well they'd
have 'sected her."

"Lor!" said Elizabeth, drying the boy's hands with a series of gentle
pats of the towel.

"And she says she knows the doctor does them sort o' things on the sly,
and that she shall take me away, and I don't want to go."

"Well, that didn't make you fight, did it?"

"Yes, it did, now.  I was going to tell you, on'y you're in such a
hurry, I went to take a letter for Miss Rich this morning, and as I was
coming back, I meets mother, and she was asking me if I'd got any--"

"Money?" said Elizabeth promptly.

"Well, s'pose she did?  If your mother warn't dead, and hadn't any
money, p'raps if she met you in the street she'd ask you for money.
Then how would you like it if four chaps come and said, `Hallo, Bottles,
how many dead 'uns have you got in the dust-hole?'"

"Lor! did they say that?" said Elizabeth, squeezing the boy's hand in
the interest she took.

"I say don't!  You hurt.  Here, cut up some o' that dacklum and warm it,
and stick it on.  Then one on 'em said he looked through the keyhole one
day, and saw the doctor sharpening his knife; and that set mother off
crying, and she sets down on a doorstep, and goes on till she made me
wild; and the more she cried and said she'd take me away the more they
danced about, and called me body-snatcher."

"How awful!" said Elizabeth, holding a strip of diachylon at the end of
the scissors to warm at the fire.

"But I got the old woman off at last for twopence, and soon as she'd
gone I was coming home, and I met them four again, and they began at me
once more."

"Did they, though?" said Elizabeth.

"Yes, and I pitched into 'em: and so would any one, I say.  Why, it's
enough to make the old woman fetch me away.  I say, Liz, you don't want
me to go, do you?"

"Indeed, but I do, sir."

"No, you don't.  I say, Liz, I'm so precious hungry.  Got anything to
give a fellow?"

"No.  You took out two slices of bread and dripping to eat as you went."

Bob nodded.

"Why you never went and give them to that old woman, did you?"

"Ah, your mother's been dead ten years," said Bob sententiously.
"S'pose I did give it to her?  It was mine, and I wasn't obliged to eat
it, was I?  Thankye, that'll do."

Bob patted the plaister down on his knuckles, and had reached the
kitchen door, when Elizabeth of the smudgy face called him by name, and,
with as near an approach to a smile as she could display, showed him a
piece of pudding on the cupboard shell.

"And you said you wanted me to go," said Bob, with his mouth full, after
a busy pause; "but I know'd you didn't mean it.  I say, Liz, is that big
gent with the rings and chains and shiny hat going to marry Miss Rich?"

"I don't know," said Elizabeth, suddenly growing deeply interested.
"Why?"

"Because he's always coming to see the doctor, and whenever I let him in
he asks me where Miss Rich is, and gives me something."

"Lor!"

"Yes, and he looks at her so."

"Do he, now?  And what does Miss Rich say?"

"Oh, she only talks to him about its being fine or rainy, and as if she
didn't want to stop in the room."

"Then she is," said Elizabeth triumphantly.

"Is?  Is what?"

"Going to marry him.  That's the proper way to a lady to behave."

"Oh!" said Bob shortly, and a curious frown came over his countenance.
"I don't like him, somehow.  I wish one didn't want money quite so bad."

Bob went up-stairs, and the place being empty he shut himself up in the
surgery, to indulge in a morbid taste for trying flavour or odour of
everything in the place, and fortunately so far without fatal or even
dangerous results.

After a time he had a fit, and prescribed for himself _Syrup Aurantii_--
so much in cold water, leaving himself in imagination in the chair while
he mixed the medicine, and going back to the chair to take it.  After
recovering from his imaginary fit, he spelled over a number of the
_Lancet_, dwelling long over in account of an operation of a novel kind;
and ending by standing upon a chair and carefully noting the contents of
the doctor's glass jars of preparations, which he turned round and round
till he was tired, and came down, to finish the morning by helping
himself to about a teaspoonful of chlorate of potassium, which he placed
in his trousers-pocket, not from any intention of taking it to purify
his blood, but to drop in pinches in the kitchen fire and startle
Elizabeth.

"Teach her not to say things agen my old woman," said Bob.  "Just as if
she can help being old!"



CHAPTER FIVE.

A SISTER'S TRIAL.

"Don't ask questions.  There's the money; take it.  You don't think I
stole it, do you?"

"Stole it, Hendon dear?  No, of course.  How can you talk so?"

"Then, why don't you take it?"

"Because, as your sister, I think I have a right to know whence it
comes."

"And, as your brother, seeing how we live here, in everybody's debt, I
don't think you need be so jolly particular."

"However poor we are, Hendon, we need not lose our self-respect."

"Self-respect!  How is a man to have self-respect, without a penny in
his pocket?"

"You just showed me pounds."

"Yes, now."

"How did you come by it, Hendon?"

"Don't ask," he cried impatiently.  "Take it, and pay that poor girl
some wages on account, and give young Bob a tightener.  Don't be so
squeamish, Rich."

"I will not take the money.  You deceived me once before."

"Well, if I'd told you I won it at pool you wouldn't have taken it."

"No," said Rich firmly, "I would sooner have lived on dry bread.  This
money, then, is part of some gambling transaction?"

"It isn't."

"Then how did you come by it?"

"Well, then, if you will have it, Poynter lent it to me."

"Oh, Hendon, Hendon, has it come to this?" cried Richmond piteously.

"Yes, it has.  What is a fellow to do?  Home's wretched; one never has a
shilling.  The guvnor's mad over his essence, as he calls it, and I
believe, if he saw us starve, he would smile and sigh."

"No, no.  He is so intent upon his discovery, that he does not realise
our position."

"His discovery!  Bah!  Lunacy!  There isn't a fellow at Guy's who
wouldn't laugh at me if I told him what the guvnor does.  Rich, old
girl, I'm sick of it!  It was madness for me to go through all this
training, when I might have been earning money as porter or a clerk.
Everything has been swallowed up in the fees.  Why, if Jem Poynter
hadn't come forward like a man, and paid the last--"

"What?"

"Well, what are you shouting at?"

"Did Mr Poynter pay your last fees at Guy's?"

"Of course he did.  Do you suppose the money was caught at the bottom of
a spout after a shower?"

"Hendon, dear Hendon!"

"There, it's no use to be so squeamish.  If those last hadn't been paid,
it would have been like throwing away all that had been paid before."

"I did not know of this--I did not know of this!"

"Don't, don't, dear!  I couldn't help it.  I used to feel as bad as you
do; but this cursed poverty hardens a man.  I fought against it; but
Poynter was always after me, tempting me, standing dinners when I was as
hungry as a hound; giving me wine and cigars.  He has almost forced
money on me lots of times; and at--at other times--when I've had a few
glasses--I haven't refused it.  It's all Janet's fault."

"Hendon!"

"Well, so it is!" cried the young fellow passionately.  "If she hadn't
thrown me over as she did--"

"To save you from additional poverty."

"No, it didn't; it made me desperate, and ready to drink when a chap
like Poynter was jolly, and forced champagne on me.  I was as proud as
you are once, but my pride's about all gone!"

"Hush!  I will not hear you speak like that, Hendon, my own darling
brother!  For Janet's sake--"

"She's nothing to me now.  I was thrown over for some other fellow."

"How dare you, sir!  You know it is not true!  Dear Janet!  Working
daily like a slave, and offering me her hard earnings when we were so
pressed."

"Did she--did she?" cried Hendon excitedly, and with his pale face
flushing up.

"There," cried Richmond half-laughingly, half-scornfully, "confess, sir,
that a lying spirit was on your lips.  Say you believe that of Janet and
that you do not still love her, if you dare!"

Hendon Chartley let his head fall into his hands, and bent down, with
his shoulders heaving with the emotion he could not conceal, while his
sister bent over him and laid her hand upon his head.

He started up at her touch, seized and kissed her hand, and then, going
to the side of the room, he laid his arm against the panel and his brow
upon it, to stand talking there.

"I can't help it, Rich dear," he groaned; "I feel like a brute beast
sometimes, and as if I can never look her in the face again.  I've
drunk; I've gone wild in a kind of despair; and Poynter seems to have
been always by me to egg me on, and get me under his thumb."

"My own brother!"

"Don't touch me, dear.  I can't stop here.  I'll do as Mark Heath did,
and if Janet'll wait, perhaps some day I may come back to her a better
man, and she may forgive me."

There was a pause.

"I don't believe anything of her but what is good and true; God bless
her for a little darling--Why, Rich!"

He turned sharply, for a low moan had escaped his sister, and he found
that she had sunk into a chair, and was sobbing bitterly, with her face
in her hands.

"Rich darling, I did not mean it.  What have I said?"

"Nothing, nothing, dear; only you--you must not leave me."

"But Mark Heath--Ah! what a fool I am!" he cried, catching his sister in
his arms.  "I did not think what I was saying; and, Rich dear, hold up,
I don't believe the dear old boy is dead."

"Hush, Hendon dear," said Richmond, mastering her emotion; "I want--I
want to talk to you about Mr Poynter."

"Yes, all right.  Sit down, dear, and I won't be such a fool."

"You must not leave me."

"I won't.  I'll stop and fight it out like a man.  And as for James
Poynter, I wish I hadn't let him pay those rates."

"What?"

"I didn't like to tell you, but I let out to him about the gas and water
and the rest of it, and next day he gave me all the receipts.  It was
one night after I'd dined with him at his club, and I was a bit primed.
I thought it was very noble of him then, but when I saw it all I did
nothing but curse and swear.  It was nearly the death of a patient at
Guy's, for I forget what I was about.  Hang it, Rich dear! don't look so
white as that."

"I--I was wondering why we had not been troubled more," she stammered;
and then, with her face flushing, she turned fiercely upon her brother.

"Hendon," she cried, "do you know what this means?"

There was utter silence, and Hendon Chartley turned his face away.

"I say, do you know what this means?  Hendon, speak?"

"Yes."

It was slowly and unwillingly said.

"And you have encouraged this man to make advances to the woman your
best friend--almost your brother--loved?"

"Oh, Rich!"

"Speak."

"No, no!  I never encouraged him.  I fought against it, and it has made
me half mad when the great vulgar boor has sat talking about you, and
drinking your health and praising you.  Rich, I tell you I've felt
sometimes as if I could smash the champagne bottle over his thick skull
for even daring to think about you."

"And yet you have let him do all this!" cried Richmond, with her eyes
flashing.  "Hendon--brother, for the sake of this man's money and the
comforts it would bring, do you wish to see me his wife?"

"Damn it, no!  I'd sooner see you dead!" cried the young man
passionately.  "Say the word, old girl, and I'll fight for you as a
brother should.  I'll half-starve myself but what I'll get on, and pay
that thick-skinned City elephant every penny I've had."

"And some day Janet shall put her arms round your neck, and tell you
that you are the best and truest boy that ever lived."

"Ah! some day," said Hendon sadly.

"Yes, some day," cried Rich, clasping him in her arms.  "Hendon dear,
you've made me strong where I felt very, very weak, and now we can join
hands and fight the enemy to the very last."

"When old Mark shall come back."

"Hush!"

"No, I'll not hush!  When dear old Mark shall come back, and all these
troubles be like a dream."

Richmond looked up with a sad smile in her brother's face, and kissed
him once again.

"And Janet--" he said hoarsely, after he had returned her caress.

"Is acting as a true woman should.  Take her as a pattern, dear, and
show some self-denial."

"Why not take you, Rich?" he said kindly as he gazed in the sweet
careworn face before him.  "There, I won't ask you to have the money.
I'm off; if I stop here longer I shall be acting like a girl.  As for
Poynter, if he comes and pesters you--"

"Mr Poynter will not come," said Richmond, drawing herself up proudly.
"He has acted like a coward to us both."

"One moment, Rich," said Hendon eagerly: "do you think--the governor--"

"Has taken money from him?  No."

"Thank God!"

"My father, whatever his weakness, is a true gentleman at heart.  He
would not do this thing."

Hendon advanced a step to take his sister in his arms, but in his eyes
then she wore so much the aspect of an indignant queen that he raised
her thin white hand to his lips instead, and hurried from the house.



CHAPTER SIX.

THE SURGERY IMP.

Dr Chartley sat in his consulting-room, with a glass jar, retort,
receiver, and spirit-lamp before him.  The lamp was on the table, and
made with its shaded light and that of the fire a pleasant glow, which
took off some of the desolation of the bare consulting-room on that
bitter night.

He had been busy over his discovery, and confessed that it was not so
far advanced as he could wish.

"There is a something wanting," he had muttered more than once; and,
wearied at last, he was thinking more seriously than usual of his son,
of Richmond, and of James Poynter.

"It would place her above the reach of want," he said dreamily; "she
would be happy if anything befell me.  Yes, money is a power, and we are
now so poor, so poor, that life seems to have become one bitter
struggle, in which I am too weak to engage."

He sighed, and rose, walked into the miserably cold surgery, where Bob
was diligently polishing the front out of the nest of drawers containing
drugs, and having threads of cotton from the ragged duster hanging upon
the broken knobs.

"Good boy--good industrious boy," said the doctor, patting his head
gently, before taking up a little graduated glass, pouring in a small
quantity from a bottle at the top of the shelves, and after turning it
into a medicine glass, he filled up with water and drank it.

Bob took the glass the doctor handed to him, smiling.

"Good for a weary troubled old man, boy," he said, "but it will kill
you.  Don't touch--don't touch--don't touch."

He nodded and went back into the consulting-room, to compose himself
upon the couch for his evening sleep, which he took according to custom,
and from which he awoke refreshed and ready to work for hours, late into
the night, at his wearisome chimerical task, with which he grew more
infatuated the more his reason suggested that his work was vain.

The boy began to whistle very softly as the doctor disappeared.  Then he
washed and wiped the glass, and put it back in its place ready for use.
After this he threw himself upon the settee, took hold of his right leg
with his left hand, by the ankle, dragged it up, and held it across his
body rigidly as if it were a banjo, and began to strum imaginary strings
with his right hand, while in a whisper he sang a song about a yaller
gal somewhere in the south, with close-shut eyes and a long wide mouth,
and so on, through seven verses, with a chorus to each, all of which
seemed to afford him the greatest gratification, and which he
supplemented by leaping up and going round the surgery, holding out the
imaginary instrument for contributions.

These were acknowledged with proper darky grimaces and grins, and seemed
to be so abundant that Bob returned to the settee, and this time played
the bones with a couple of pair saved from a brisket of beef, but
without making a sound.

Another collection and another silent solo, this time on the tambourine,
which the boy pretended to beat with frantic energy, ending by going on
tiptoe to peep through the keyhole, and satisfy himself that the doctor
was in a deep sleep.

There was no doubt about that, so the boy's hour or two of indulgence,
on which he regularly counted, began.

He dashed at the settee, threw it open, stooped down to take something
out, but rose again, closed the lid, and listened as if afraid of being
caught.

Then shaking his head, he ran to the door, which opened into the lobby
and then into the street, from which place he came, helping himself
along by the wall to the settee, upon which he sank, and after lying
down and laying his leg out carefully, he began to play double parts,
that of surgeon and patient.  For, after feeling the leg and shaking his
head, he said to himself, "Ah, we'll soon put that right, my man."

Jumping up, he ran to a drawer, from, which he brought splints and
bandages, trotted back to the settee, and with ghastly minuteness--the
result of having been present at an accident, and studious readings of
Dr Chartley's books--he proceeded to set a serious compound fracture,
assuring himself that he bore it like a man, and that he need not be
under the least apprehension, for in such a healthy subject the joint
would knit together before long, and he would be as strong as ever.

All this was in company with the business he was carrying on of applying
the splints and bandaging the broken leg; after which, by aid of the
doctor's walking-sticks, he limped to the door, as there was no one to
carry him, thanked himself for his kindness, and in imagination
departed, leaving himself in the character of the doctor, whose walk he
imitated as he drew out a large pill-box, opened it, and took a small
pinch of magnesia as if it were snuff.

Another peep at the doctor through the keyhole, and a run to the door,
to make sure of there being no interruption there, and then the boy's
face assumed a very serious expression.  He took the cloth from the
little table in the corner, rolled up the hearthrug longwise, and tied
it in two places with string, and then treating it as a patient, he laid
it on the settee, and drew over it the table-cover.

He was not satisfied, though, and getting a square of paper, such as
would be used to wrap up a bottle of medicine, he poked his finger
through twice for eyes, made a slit for a mouth, and puckered the paper
for a nose.

This rough mask he tied at the end of the long roll, drew the
table-cover up to the face, and then came to see the patient, carried on
an imaginary conversation with a colleague, and ended by going to a
cupboard and getting out a long mahogany case.

Bob's reading for the past two years had not been the wholesome and
unwholesome literature provided for our youth, but the contents of the
doctor's little library, the _Lancet_, and the _Medical Times_.  These
proceedings were the offspring.

To carry out the next proceedings, Bob took off his jacket and rolled up
his sleeves; informed his colleague that it was a bad case--a diseased
heart--and the only hope for the patient's life was to take it out
completely.

This Bob proceeded to do with goblin-like delight.  He turned the
table-cover half down before opening the mahogany case, which contained
a set of long amputating knives; and these he tried one after the other,
to satisfy himself about the edge before commencing the operation, with
great gusto, cutting the string that bound the hearthrug, making an
incision, and extracting the heart.  Next the place was sewn up, the
cover replaced, the knives put away with horrible realism, the patient's
pulse felt and a little stimulus administered--the boy taking this
himself--to wit, a little ammonia and water.

Next the table-cover was drawn off, the hearthrug restored to its place;
and, grinning now hugely, Bob went to a drawer, and got out the doctor's
tooth-drawing instruments--for the doctor belonged to the old school,
and in distant times had not been above removing a decayed and aching
molar from a patient's jaw.

The boy flourished the instruments about with evident enjoyment, going
as far as to take a good hold of one of his teeth, but he refrained from
pulling, and rubbed his half-numbed hands.

It suddenly seemed to occur to him that he had not put on his jacket,
and resuming this, and proving its many buttons to be a sham, for it
fastened in a feminine manner by means of a series of hooks and eyes, he
made a bound to the settee, grinning with pleasure as he threw it open,
dived down, and brought out a glistening white human skull, handling it
with a weird kind of delight painted in his face.

He took the ghastly object, and fixed it upon a knob, one of those upon
the back of the old-fashioned chair in the middle of the room, draped it
round with the table-cover; and drew back to admire his handiwork.

"Oh, if our 'Lisbeth would come in now!" he said, with a chuckle, as he
rubbed his hands down his sides before proceeding to the greatest bit of
enjoyment he had in his lonely life at the doctor's.

From the very first the doctor's surgery and consulting-room had had a
strange fascination for him, and whenever he was missing, the
maid-of-all-work, who rarely showed her face out of the dim kitchen,
knew that the boy would not be playing truant from his work or playing
with other lads of his age, but would be found reading, dusting, or
amusing himself in the surgery, smelling bottles, opening drawers, or
standing on a chair, gazing at the ghastly preparations in one or other
of the row of glass jars.

His pranks he managed to keep secret, arranging to enjoy them when the
doctor was asleep, and he was not likely to be disturbed.

The present was his favourite feat from its reality.  There was
something to go at, he always said, and for the hundredth time, perhaps,
after performing the operation, and restoring with the help of a little
gum, he took up the doctor's tooth-key, fixed it carefully round a
perfectly sound molar in the fine specimen upon whose excellences the
doctor had before now lectured to students, and steadying the skull, the
boy pretended to engage in a terrible struggle; then gave a quick
twitch, and brought out the tooth, which he held with a smile as he
struck an attitude before its silent owner.

The boy had seemed goblin-like before, but as he now stood there before
the glistening relic of mortality, over which he had partly thrown the
corner of the table-cloth, the scene was weird and grim in the extreme;
for the one uncovered eye-socket seemed to leer at him in company with a
ghastly pride, as if rejoicing at the relief the operation had afforded.

"Now yer better, ain't yer?" said Bob.  "Eh?  Ah, I thought you would
be.  He was a tight 'un.  Some 'un coming."

Quick as thought, the boy snatched the skull from the back of the chair,
slipped it into the long chest, closed the lid, thrust the tooth-key
back into the drawer, and had thrown the cover on the table before the
door at the end of the house-passage was opened, disclosing him, in
spite of all his efforts, looking as if the mischief which lurked in the
corners of his mouth, and flashed from his eyes, had been running to the
full extent of its chain.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

AGONY POINT.

"Is that all?  What a fuss over a little pain!"  What many would say to
a suffering friend when sound and well themselves.  What Richmond
Chartley was ready to say to herself as she paced the room, with one
hand pressed to her face, where the agonising pain seemed to start as a
centre, and then ramify in jerks through every nerve.

Toothache, face-ache, neuralgia, according to fashion, but maddening all
the same.  A pain born of care and anxiety, close confinement,
abstinence, the damp unchanging foggy air, and settled in the face of a
heroine, to take, as it were, all the romance of her history.

But there it was all the same, fiercely stabbing, jerking, as if some
virulent little demon were holding ends of the facial nerves in a pair
of pincers, and waiting till the sufferer was a little calm for a few
moments before giving the nerve a savage jig.

After the tug a pause of sickening agony, and then that slow, red-hot
suffering again, as if a blunt augur was being made to form a channel
beneath the teeth, so that the aching pains, as of hot lead, might run
round without let or hindrance.

Neuralgia, with sleepless nights; neuralgia, with Hendon Chartley's
progress at the hospital; neuralgia, with the trouble about Janet;
neuralgia, with James Poynter's coarse vulgar face full of effrontery
always before her, flaunting his possessions, his power, and his
influence, and staring with parted lips over the words which somehow he
had never yet dared to utter, but which sooner or later she knew must
come.

Neuralgia, with the constant dread that some day her father would
indulge too deeply in the opiate she knew he took every evening;
neuralgia, with the constant carking care of the unpaid tradespeople:
and, above all, that wearisome agony, mingled with the chilling
heartache and those memories of the man from whom she had parted when in
his ardent desire he had told her that it was for her sake he was going
to leave England, to come back some day a rich man, and ask her to be
his wife.

"Dead, dead, dead!" moaned Rich, as she paced the room; "and if I, too,
could only be sleeping, for it is more than I can bear!"

But as the words left her lips, she threw her head back, and pressed her
long hair from her face.

"What a coward I am!" she cried, "with others looking to me for help,
and shrinking from bearing a little pain!"

She hurried to the door, telling herself that there was relief in the
surgery for all she suffered; but as she went along the dark passage to
the door she felt that there was one only anodyne for the greater pain
she bore.

As she slowly approached there was a quick scuffing noise, a dull rattle
as of something falling, and the loud closing of a heavy lid; then, as
she opened the door, she found Bob turning to meet her with an innocent
smile upon his face, while he was uttering a low humming noise, as if he
were practising the art of imitating a musical bee.

"What have you been doing, Bob?" said Rich hastily.

"Me, Miss?  Doing?" said the boy wonderingly.  "I ain't a-been doing
nothing.  'Tain't likely, 'mong all these here dangerous thinks;" and
Bob waved his hand round the surgery, as if indicating the bottles and
specimen jars.

"Because you have been warned frequently, sir, not to meddle."

"Course I have, Miss, and I wouldn't do no harm."

"Is my father asleep?"

"Jist like a top, Miss.  He took his drops, and he's lying on the sofy,
sleeping beautiful.  You can hear him breathe if you come and put your
ear to the keyhole."

"No, no," said Rich hastily; but, all the same, she walked quickly to
the consulting-room door, and opened it softly, to look in and see
across the table, with its chemical apparatus, the light of the shaded
lamp thrown upon the calm, placid, handsome face, as the doctor lay back
on the couch, taking his drug-bought rest according to his nightly
custom.

Rich sighed and walked right in, the door closing behind her as she
crossed the room, and stood gazing down, her head bent, and handy
clasped, while for the moment she forgot her nerve-pains, and the tears
started to her eyes.

"Poor father!" she sighed; "always so kind and gentle in spite of all.
How do I know what he may suffer beneath the mask he wears?"

She thought of the prosperity they had once enjoyed, the many patients
who came, and how, in this very room, as a child, he used to play with
her long curling hair, while she, with childlike delight, emptied the
little wooden bowl, and counted how many guineas papa had received that
morning.

She recalled, too, the carriage in which she had sat waiting, while he,
the handsome young doctor, had made his calls upon rich patients; and
then, like a cloud, came creeping up the memories of the gradual decline
of his practice, as he had devoted himself more and more to the dream of
his life--this discovery of a vital fluid which should repair the waste
of all disease, and with the indulgence in his chimera came the poverty
and despair.

"Poor father!" she sighed again, bending down and kissing the broad
white forehead; "there has never been anything between us but love."

She rose slowly, went to a corner where a faded old dressing-gown hung
upon a chair, and this she softly laid over the sleeping man, gazed at
the fire, which was burning brightly, and then stole away with the
agonising pang, forgotten for the moment, sweeping back, and seeming to
drive her mad.

"I see yer a-kissing of him, Miss," said Bob, grinning, as she closed
the door.

Rich turned upon him angrily; but the boy was looking dreamily towards
the doctor, and rubbing his shock head of hair.

"Don't he look niste when he's asleep like that?  There ain't such a
good-looking gent nowhere's about here as our master."

There was so much genuine admiration in the boy's tones that the angry
look gave place to one of half amusement, half pity.

"I've often wondered whether if ever I'd had a father, he'd ha' been
like the doctor, Miss.  Ain't yer proud on him?"

"Yes, Bob, yes," she cried, laying her hand upon the boy's shoulder,
while a strange sensation of depression, as of impending trouble, came
over her, making her forget everything, and hardly notice the next act
of the boy.

It is hardly fair to say that Bob's hands were dirty, but they were very
coarse in grain, and discoloured, the nails were worn down, and the
fingers were blue with chilblains where they were not red with the chaps
which roughened them; and those were the hands which took hold of Rich's
and held it for a few moments against the boy's cheek; while he rubbed
the said cheek softly against the smooth palm, his bright eyes looking
up at her as a spaniel might at its mistress.  In fact, there was
something dog-like and fawning in the ways of the lad, till the hand was
drawn away.

"So'm I proud on him, Miss.  He is a good 'un.  For it's like 'evin
being here.  Why, I've been here two years now, and he never kicked me
once."

"And used you to be kicked before you came here, Bob?" said Rich,
feeling amused, in spite of herself, at the boy's estimate of true
happiness.

"Kicked, Miss?  Ha, ha, ha!  Why, it was 'most all kicks when it warn't
pots.  Old woman never kicked me; but when she'd had a drop, and
couldn't get no more, she was allus cross, and then she'd hit you with
what come first--pewter pot, poker, anything, if you didn't get out of
the way."

Rich's brow contracted, and then for the moment the pain neutralised
that of the mind.

"But she didn't often hit me," said Bob, grinning.  "I used to get too
sharp for her; and she didn't mean no harm.  Want me to do anything,
Miss?"

"No, Bob, no," said Rich, turning away to the shelves, where the bottles
stood as in a chemist's shop.  "Poor boy! and the place is to him like
heaven!" she thought.

"Want some physic, Miss?" said the boy excitedly; "which on 'em?  I
knows 'most all on 'em now."

"I want the belladonna," said Rich, with her face contracted once more.

"Why, that's one o' they little bottles up a-top where they're all
pisons!  Whatcher want that for?" said Bob suspiciously.  Then, as he
read her countenance.  "Whatcher got--toothache?"

Rich nodded.

"Here, hold hard! you can't reach it, Miss.  Let me get on a chair.  Oh,
I say!  Let me pull it out."

The boy's eager sympathy and desire to afford relief, grotesque as it
was, seemed so genuine, so grateful to the lonely girl, that she smiled
at her poor coarse companion's troubled face.

"No, no, Bob," she said gently.

"Wish I could have it instead," he cried.  "I do, s'elp me!"

"It will be better soon, Bob," she said, as the boy climbed up and
obtained the little stoppered bottle from the top shelf.

"That's good stuff for it, Miss," said the boy.  "Bottle's quite clean.
I dusted all on 'em yesterday.  Here, I know! let me put some on."

"You, Bob?" said Rich.

"Yes, Miss; I know.  I've seen the doctor do it twiced to gals as come
and wanted him to pull out their teeth, and he wouldn't.  I'll show
yer."

Bob ran to a drawer and took out a camel-hair pencil, and operated with
it dry upon his own face.

"I'll show yer," he cried.  "You begins just in front o' the ear and
makes a round spot, and then yer goes on right down the cheek and along
yer chin, just as if you was trying to paint whiskers.  Let me do it,
Miss."

Rich hesitated for a moment, and then sat down and held her face on one
side, while the boy carefully painted the place with the tincture,
frowning the while and balancing himself upon the tips of his toes.

"Stop a moment, Miss," cried Bob.  "Then he dropped two drops out o'
this here blue bottle on a bit o' glass, and finished off with it just
as you does with gum when you paint a picture."

Rich watched the boy anxiously as he took down a bottle labelled
"Chloroform," but smiled and submitted patiently as the painting
operation was completed.

"Feel better, Miss?" said the boy.

"Not yet, Bob; but I daresay this will do it good.  Now put back those
bottles, and don't meddle with them, mind."

"As if I didn't know, Miss!  Why, I'm up to all the doctor's dodges now.
There ain't a bottle on any o' them shelves I ain't smelled; and look
at them things in sperrits," he continued, pointing to the various
preparations standing upon one shelf, the relics of the doctor's
lecturing days.  "I knows 'em all by heart.  I had to fill 'em with
fresh sperrit once."

Rich turned and smiled at the boy as she reached the door; and then once
more the young student was left alone, to go and peep through the
keyhole to see if the doctor was fast asleep, and this being so, he ran
to the door by the street, turned suddenly with his head on one side,
raised his hands with the helpless, appealing gesture of the sick, and
walked feebly to the cushioned chest, upon which he sank, with a low
moan.

It was a clever piece of acting, studied from nature, and sinking back,
he lay for a moment or two sufficiently long for the supposed patient to
compose himself, before he assumed another part.

Leaping up, he went on tiptoe to the consulting-room again, peeped to
see that all was right, and then, drawing himself up exactly as he had
seen the doctor act scores of times, he slowly approached the settee,
his face full of smiling interest, and sitting down in a chair beside
the imaginary patient, he went through a magnificent piece of
pantomime--so good that it was a pity there was no audience present to
admire.  For Bob had taken the doctor's glasses from the chimney-piece,
put them on, and bent over the patient.

"Put out your tongue," he said.  "Hum--ha! yes! a little foul."

Then he felt an imaginary pulse, his head on one side, and an imaginary
watch in his hand.

"That will do," he said, returning the imaginary watch to its airy fob.
"Now sit up."

Bob's ear was applied for a few moments to the phantom patient's chest.

"Breathe hard.  That's it.  Now more fully.  Yes.  Now a very long
breath."

So real was the proceeding that a spectator would have filled up the
void in his mind as Bob changed his position, holding his head now at
the patient's back.

"Hah!" he ejaculated, as he rose.  "A little congestion!  Stop a
moment."

He fetched a stethoscope from the chimney-piece, but instead of using it
at once, proceeded to lay his hand here and there upon his imaginary
patient's breast, and tap the back over and over again.

"Hah!" he ejaculated once more, as he applied his stethoscope now after
a most accurate pantomimic unbuttoning of vest and opening of a
shirt-front.  "Yes, a little congestion!" he said again; and going back
to the chimney-piece, he set the stethoscope on end as if it were a
little fancy candlestick, took up a morocco case, and unhooking it,
extracted therefrom a tiny thermometer, whose bulb he placed beneath his
patient's arm-pit, and he was just about to see to what height the
sufferer's temperature had risen, when there were steps again, and the
boy had hardly time to hide the little tester, when the door opened,
and, with a wild, dilated look in her eyes, Rich appeared again.

"Get me a small bottle," she said hastily.

"'Ain't it no better, Miss?"

"Don't talk to me!" cried Rich; "the pain is maddening.  Is my father
still asleep?"

"Yes, Miss; shall I wake him?"

"No, no.  The bottle--the bottle!"

The boy hastily took a clean bottle from a drawer, and fitted it with a
new cork from another, by which time, with the knowledge of one who had
before now made up prescriptions for her father, Rich took down the
chloral hydrate, and a graduated glass, pouring out a goodly quantity
ready to transfer to the bottle the boy handed her, while he still
retained the cork.

This done, Rich returned the chloral hydrate to the shelf, and took down
another bottle labelled _quin. sulph. sol_.  From this she poured out a
certain quantity, and by the time the glass had shed its last drop, Bob
was ready to hand another and larger bottle, which he had taken down
with eager haste, as if fearing she would be first.

Rich glanced at it, saw that it was labelled _aq. dest._, and filled up
the medicine-bottle, the boy handing the cork, and then gazing
sympathetically in the pain-drawn face before him.

"Hadn't you better let me take it out, Miss?" he said, but there was no
smile in answer--no reply, Rich hurrying away, while the boy listened to
her footsteps.

"Ain't she got it!" he muttered, and he stood listening still, for he
heard voices at the end of the passage.

"'Lisbeth," he said, and there was a knock.

The boy opened the passage door softly, and a voice said.

"I've cut you some bread and cheese; it's on the kitchen table."

"Goin' to bed, 'Lisbeth?"

There was a grunt, and the sound of departing steps, while the boy stood
gazing along the passage.

"So are you?" he exclaimed, closing the door, "Ain't she got a temper!
I can't help my old woman coming.  'Tain't my fault.  I shouldn't turn
sulky if it was hern."

Bob did not go down for a moment, but stood thinking.  Then he ran out
softly, and down-stairs into the dark kitchen to fetch his supper, which
he preferred to eat with the fragrant odours of drugs about him, and
seated upon the chest which contained the grisly relics of mortality,
and against whose receptacle the boy's heels softly drummed.

The stale bread and hard Dutch cheese rapidly disappeared, the boy
looking very stolid during the process of deglutition.  Then his face
lit up, and for a space he went through his pantomime again, seeing
patients, pocketing their fees, dressing wounds, setting limbs, and,
above all, prescribing a medicine which he compounded carefully, and, to
give realism to the proceedings, himself took.

It was not an objectionable medicine, being composed of small portions
of tartaric acid and soda, dropped into a wineglass which contained so
much water, into which had been dropped a little syrup of ginger,
afterwards flavoured with orange or lemon.

Tiring of this at last, Bob turned to the settee, whose lid he had
opened, and he had lifted out certain anatomical specimens for his
farther delectation, when there was a sharp ring at the surgery bell,
and an unmistakable sound in the consulting-room--a combination which
made the boy leap up, and, quick as lightning, turn out the gas, which
projected on its bracket just over the settee.

This done, there was a rapid click or two of bones being replaced, the
sound of the closing lid in the darkness, and by the time the
consulting-room door as thrown open, and a warm glow of light shone
across the surgery, Bob had effected his retreat.

"Lights out?" said the doctor going back from the door, to return
directly with a burning spill, when the gas once more illumined the
gloomy surgery, and to this the doctor added the ruddy glow of the
street lamp, as he opened the door of the little fog-filled lobby, which
intervened between him and the street.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

THE DOCTOR'S GUEST.

As Dr Chartley's hand was placed upon the latch the bell-handle
creaked, and the wire was sawn to and fro, while the moment the door was
opened a man in a soft slouch hat and pea-jacket, with an ulster thrown
over his arm, laid his hand upon the doctor's breast, thrusting him
back, passing in quickly, and hastily closing and fastening the door.

The doctor stood back more in surprise than alarm, as his visitor seemed
to come in with a cloud of yellowish fog, which made him look indistinct
and strange, an aspect heightened by his thick beard and moustache being
covered with dew-like drops--the condensation of the heavy steaming
breath that came from his nostrils as he panted hard, as one pants after
a long run.

"May I ask--is any one ill?" exclaimed the doctor, to whom the sudden
call at any hour of an excited messenger was little matter of surprise.

"In, quick!" said the visitor hoarsely; and pressing the doctor back
once more, he stood listening for a few moments as if for pursuers, and
then, wild-eyed and strange, he followed Dr Chartley into the surgery,
closing the door and leaning back against it breathing heavily, his eyes
staring wildly round, his sun-browned face twisting, while a nervous
disposition to start and run seemed to pervade him in every gesture.

The fog and smoke which came in with him added to the strangeness of his
aspect as he stood there; his hair rather long, unkempt, and wet with
fog; his hands gloveless, and high boots spattered with mud and soaked
with half-molten snow.  There was more of the brigand in his aspect than
of the honest man, and yet his drawn, agitated face was well featured
and not unpleasing, besides which his wandering eyes suggested fear
suffered, and not a likelihood of inspiring fear; unless it should be,
as the doctor surmised, that he was mad, and the pursuit he evidently
feared were that of his keepers.

It formed a strange picture--the bland, smooth shining-pated doctor
facing this wild excited man standing with his back to the door, his
hands outspread as if to keep it fast, and his head half-turned as he
listened for the sound of steps in the stillness of the winter night.

"Will you be seated?" said the doctor blandly.  "Can I be of any
service?"

"Hush!  Can you hear anything?  There! that!" cried the newcomer, in an
excited whisper.  "They're coming!"

"Yes; mad," said the doctor to himself.  Then aloud, "The sound you hear
is the dripping of the melting snow on the pavement."

"Hah!  Are you sure?"

"Oh, yes.  Quite sure.  Sit down, my dear sir.  No, not here; come to my
consulting-room.  There is a fire."

The coolness of a doctor in dealing with ordinary delirium or insanity
is in its way as heroic as the manner in which a soldier will face fire.
To most men the advent of the strange visitor would have suggested
calling in help or taking instant steps for self-preservations; but
armed with weapons such as would prostrate his visitor should he prove
inimical, the doctor calmly led the way into his consulting-room, poked
the fire, turned up the lamp a little, and pointed to a chair, watching
his visitor keenly the while to satisfy himself whether his behaviour
was the result of fever, drink, or an unbalanced brain.

The man glared at the doctor for a moment, stepped quickly to the room
door, opened it, listened, drew back again, closed it, and slipped the
bolt on the inside.

Science-armed as he was, however, the doctor displayed no sign of
trepidation, but sat down, waiting till his visitor came quickly back,
threw his ulster over the back of the chair set for him, sank into it
with a groan, dropped his face into his hands, and burst into a
hysterical fit of sobbing.

"Hah!" said the doctor, rising, and laying his hand upon the young man's
shoulder.  "You seem overwrought, and--"

The stranger started back at the touch, and was about to spring up, a
cry of fear escaping his lips; and his slouched hat fell off, showing
his wet brow, with the tangled hair clinging to it in a matted mass.

"I thought--" he gasped.  "Ah, doctor, it is you!"

"Yes, sir; sit down and let's see.  You seem quite exhausted."

"Don't you know me, doctor?"

"Know you?  Good heavens!" cried the doctor in astonishment.  "Mark
Heath?"

"Mark Heath," said the visitor, sinking back with a groan.

"We thought you must be dead," said the doctor.

"You thought I must be dead," said the young man, passing his hand over
his brow, and speaking in a strange and laboured way.  "Yes, and I
thought I must be dead--a dozen times over.  I'm half dead now.  What's
that?"

He almost yelled the last words as he started to his feet again, his
eyes wild, his right hand clinched, and his left thrust into the breast,
as if in search of a weapon.

"I heard nothing," said the doctor.  "Sit down."

"Some one in the street trying to get in."

"No, no, no.  Sit down, my dear boy.  Come, come: what's the matter?"

"Are you sure you cannot hear any one?"

"Quite, and even if I could, no one could get in without I opened the
door."

"Hah!" ejaculated the young man, sinking down; "brandy! for God's sake,
brandy!"

The doctor looked at him, hesitated, and ended by laying his hand upon
his visitor's pulse, as he sat gazing strangely at the door.

If the doctor's soft touch had been that of white-hot iron the effect
could not have been greater, for with a smothered shriek the young man
sprang from his chair and stood at bay by the door.

"Why, Mark Heath, my good fellow, this will not do," said the doctor
blandly.  "There, there, come and sit down.  I was only feeling your
pulse."

A faint smile came over the young man's face, and he walked back to his
chair.

"I thought it was one of those fiends," he said, with a shudder.

The doctor coupled the admission with the mention of the brandy, but he
was not satisfied as to the symptoms, though, seeing his visitor's
exhaustion, he went to his closet and took out a spirit decanter, with
tumblers, poured a little into one glass, and was about to add water to
it from the little bright kettle singing on the hob, when the young man
snatched at the glass, and tossed off the brandy at a gulp; but even as
he was in the act of setting down the glass, he started and stared
wildly round towards the door.

"Hist!" he whispered.

"Pooh! there is nothing, my dear sir," said the doctor: "why, any one
would think you were being hunted by the police."

"Hunted?  Yes," cried the young man thrusting the glass from him, and
leaning across and seizing the doctor's wrist, "hunted--always hunted;
but there were no police, doctor; why were they not near to protect me?"

"Ah, yes," said the doctor, to humour his patient, as with keen interest
he watched every change in his mien.  "They are generally absent when
wanted.  So you have been hunted, eh?"

"Hunted!  Yes; like some miserable hare by the hounds.  They are on my
scent now.  Night and day, doctor, night and day, till they have nearly
driven me mad."

"Mad?  Nonsense!  Your brain is as sound as mine."

"Yes, now; but they will drive me mad.  Night and day, I tell you--night
and day, I have not dared to sleep," continued the young man wildly;
"no, I have not dared to sleep, for fear that I should not wake again."

"Indeed, Heath!  And who hunted you?"

"Fiends--demons in human form.  I have been so that I could not sleep
for fear of them.  They have always been on my track--on the road
through the desert, across the mountains, at the port, on shipboard;
they appeared again here in England, at the docks, at the hotel, in the
streets; hunted, I tell you, till I have seemed to be hunted to death."

"Be calm, my dear boy, be calm.  Come, you must have sleep."

"Sleep?  Yes, if I could only sleep; but no, I could not--I could not--
only drink, doctor, drink; and it has never made me drunk, only keep me
up--help me to escape from the devils."

"Ah, you have drunk a good deal, then?"

"Yes; brandy--brandy.  It has been my only friend and support, doctor.
I dared not go to an hotel; I was afraid to trust a bank; I had no
friend to whom I could go; and I swore I would trust myself till I could
get here safe in England."

"Where you are safe now."

"No, not yet, for they are tracking me.  I got to Liverpool yesterday,
and tried to throw them off; but they followed me to the hotel, and I
dared trust no one there.  They might have said I was mad, and claimed
me; said I was a thief--a dozen things to get me into their hands."

"Be calm, Heath, be calm."

"Calm?  How can a hunted man be calm with the jaws--the wet, hungry
jaws--of the hounds on his heels--while he feels that in a moment they
may spring upon him and rend him?  Oh, doctor, doctor, you never were a
hunted man."

"No, no," said the doctor blandly; "but we must master ourselves when we
feel that excitement leading us astray."

"Ay, and I have mastered myself till I can do no more," cried the young
man wildly; "I escaped from Liverpool."

"Escaped?"

"Yes, and managed to get to the train, as I thought, unseen; but at the
first stopping station I saw the demons pass my carriage and look in.
They had changed their dress, and disguised themselves, but I knew them
at once, and that my attempts were vain.  It was growing dark when we
reached London, and when they took the tickets I waited till the train
went on again, and then leaped for my life."

"You leaped from the train?"

"Yes.  I wonder I did not when it was at full speed, faraway in the
country."

"Hah!" ejaculated the doctor.

"I leaped from the train; but they were watching me, and they followed
down the embankment and into a maze of little streets in North London
yonder, where the fog and snow bewildered me; but I kept on all the
evening, fearing to ask help of the police, dreading to go to an hotel
for dinner.  The dread, the want of sleep, have made me nearly mad.  I
did not know where to go, and at last, after struggling wildly to
escape, I knew that my brain was going, that before long the dogs would
drag me down.  Then in my despair I thought of you."

"And came here?"

"Yes, for sanctuary, doctor.  Save me from these devils--save me from
myself.  Doctor, is this to be the end of it all?  I am alone--helpless:
they may be listening even now.  Doctor, for God's sake save me; I can
do no more!"

Trembling in every limb, wildly excited, and with his despair written in
every lineament of his face, Mark Heath dropped from his chair, and
crept upon his knees before the doctor, holding up his clasped hands,
and evidently so completely exhausted that he might have been mastered
by a child.

"Yes, yes; of course, of course I will," said the doctor kindly.
"There, come and lie down here on this couch."

"Lie down?" said the young man, with a suspicious look.

"To be sure; it will rest you.  You are quite safe here."

"Safe?  Am I safe?"

"Of course," said the doctor, spreading the fallen ulster over the young
man's shivering form, as he slowly lay down.

"Stop! where are you going?"

"Only into the next room--the surgery," said the doctor, turning to face
his visitor's fierce eyes as he started up from the couch.

"What for?  Is it to admit those devils."

Mark Heath, in a fit of impotent rage, made a dash to reach the
fireplace, but his feet were hampered by the ulster, and he would have
fallen heavily had not the doctor caught him in his arms.

"Why, man," he said, "I was going to get you something to take--
something to calm you.  It is impossible for you to go on like this."

The young man looked at him wildly.

"I can't help it," he said, calming down.  "I have been hunted till I am
afraid of everybody.  Save me, doctor, for you can."

"Lie down, then; there: that's better."

"Yes.  I am so helpless and so weak," the poor fellow moaned.  "The
brandy kept me up, but it makes me wild."

"Then you shall have something that will calm you, and not make you
wild," said the doctor; and he went out of the room, leaving his visitor
lying down with his eyes closed.

But the moment he was alone, Mark Heath started up on one arm,
listening, and thrust his hand into his breast.  He was listening for
the unlocking of a door; but he heard the chink of a glass and the faint
gurgle of some fluid, and he sank back with a sigh of relief.

"Rich--my darling," he said softly; "it is for you, sweet--for you!"

"There," said the doctor, re-entering with a glass; "drink that, and you
must have some sleep.  We shall soon get you right."

"Heaven bless you, doctor!" cried the young man, hysterically pressing
his hand after draining the glass.  "I feel in sanctuary here.  Ah," he
sighed, as he sank back, "to be at rest once more, and safe!  Doctor,
you must guard over me and what I have here."

"Oh, yes," said the doctor, sitting down after replenishing the fire.
"Did you have a rough passage back?"

"I don't know--I know nothing but that those fiends were after me to get
it, and I knew that they would kill me if they could only get a chance.
A heated hare sees nothing but the hounds."

"No, of course not," said the doctor, speaking softly to keep his
patient's attention, but watching him intently the while, to see the
effect of his medicine.  "Let's see, you have been away four years."

"Yes, four years," said Mark, speaking more calmly now.  "Lost every
penny, farming, doctor.  No good."

"I am sorry to hear that."

"Then I tried--wagon-driving, and made a respectable living--doing
regular carter's work till I had a team and wagon of my own; but I went
one bad time--right across the desert, and found myself at last--seated
on the last bullock of my team of twenty--by the wreck of my wagon--
doctor dying--for want of water."

"Ah! that was bad."

"Yes, but I was picked up by a party who came in the nick of time.  They
were going by across journey to the diamond-fields."

"Ah! you went there?"

"Yes, I went there," said the young man drowsily, and speaking in a
restful manner and with many pauses.  "Rough life, and for six months--
no good.  Then luck turned.  I went on.  At last found--self rich man.
Rather absurd, doctor--handful of stones--stones, crystals--handful in a
leather bag.  Soon nothing.  I often laughed.  Seemed so much trash, but
the right thing.  Very large some of them, and I worked on--digging--and
picking.  Knew I was a wealthy man."

"You were very fortunate, then?"

"Yes," was the drowsy reply.  "Then began the curse of it.  Couldn't
keep it--secret.  Found out that it was dangerous.  Ought to have
banked, but they were--were so hard to get.  'Fraid of everybody.
Felt--felt should be murdered.  Nearly drove--drove me wild.  Made
secret--secret plans--escape--get home--old England.  To bring--to
bring--bag of diamonds--leather bag--worth a deal--bring home myself.
Followed--followed me.  Three men--part of gang out there--gamble and
cheat men--at play.  Always--always--on my track--hunted--at bay--sea--
always watching--like tigers--Ah!"

He sprang up from his drowsy muttering state, in which he had been
incoherently piercing together his imaginary or real adventures, and
gazed wildly round.

"Who's that?"

"It is only I--Doctor Chartley.  Lie down again."

"I thought they'd come, and I--I was telling them.  Bag of diamonds.
No.  Nonsense!  All rubbish!  Poor man.  Going home.  'Nough to pay his
passage.  All nonsense.  No diamonds; no nothing."

He had sunk back once more, and went on muttering as he dropped asleep.

The doctor sat watching him, and then rose and tapped the fire together,
picking up a few fresh pieces of coal to augment the blaze, which seemed
to send some of the fog out of the room.

"Wild dissipation--gambling with Nature for treasure," said the doctor
softly.  "Imagination, poor wretch!"

The doctor bent down over his patient, who was now sleeping deeply, but
had tossed the ulster aside, so that it was gliding down.

"Curious, this wild delirium," said the doctor, rearranging the
improvised cover.  "I often wonder that I have not made it a study and--
Good heavens!"

He started back from the couch, and stood staring at his patient for a
few minutes before advancing again, and laying his hand upon his breast
gently, and then thrusting it beneath the fold of the thick pea-jacket.

"It is not delirium; they--"

The doctor hesitated a few moments after drawing back from the couch
once more.  Then, with his whole manner changed, he thrust his hand into
the sleeping man's breast, glanced round, and, satisfied that he was not
overlooked, drew forth a good-sized wash-leather bag, simply tied round
the neck with a strip of the same skin.

"Stones," muttered the doctor, with his face agitated and his eyes
glittering; and after balancing the bag in his hand and glancing at the
sleeping man, he placed it upon the table, where the light of the lamp
was upon it full.

Then ensued a period of hesitation, the doctor's fingers worked as he
stood gazing down at the little yellowish-drab bag, and anon at his
patient.

Then the newly awakened curiosity prevailed, and, unable to contain
himself, he rapidly untied the string, drew open the bag, and saw that
it was nearly full of large rough crystals, which sparkled in a feeble
way in the light.

"Why, they must be worth a large sum," muttered the doctor, pouring out
some of the stones into his hand, but pouring them back with a shudder.
"How horrible!"

He did not say what was horrible, but hastily retied the bag and placed
it back in the sleeping man's breast, before hurrying out into the
surgery, and pacing to and fro in an agitated way.



CHAPTER NINE.

THE STRANGE ACCIDENT.

A change seemed to have come over Doctor Chartley.  A short time before
he was calm and placid, his movements were slow, and a pleasant
stereotyped professional smile made his handsome face beam.  But now all
was changed; the smile had gone, and, as he had passed to and fro, the
light from the gas bracket displayed a countenance puckered with curious
lines and frowns, while the variations of shadow caused by his
constantly-changing position seemed to have altered him into another
man.

He went back into the consulting-room, and looked at his patient, to
find him breathing more easily and plunged into a deep sleep; and as he
bent over him his hand stole toward the prostrate man's breast.

He snatched it away angrily, and returned to the surgery, to resume his
hurried walk, muttering to himself, his thoughts finding utterance in
sound, till he started and looked about him, as if in dread of being
overheard.

Stealing back to the consulting-room, he went to the closet, and took
out the bottle which contained the result of his studies, and looked at
it with a sigh.  Then he raised the retort and its stand from the shelf,
shook his head, and replaced it.

"And if I only had money," he thought, "I could carry out my experiments
at my ease, and succeed.  This miserable poverty would be no more; my
children would be happy; and I should win a name which would become
immortal."

He shook his head, his brow grew darker, and a terrible temptation
attacked him.

"No one saw him come here.  It is his fancy that he has been followed.
One life.  What is one life in this vast world?  One life.  Why, my
discovery perfected would be the saving of the lives of thousands,
hundreds of thousands, of generations of human beings in this teeming
earth.  Suppose he slept and waked no more?  Ah!"

The doctor stood gazing down at the sleeping man.

"Such temptations come to all," he said softly; "and I have seen so many
die that the passing away of one--well, what is it but the deep long
sleep into which I could make him glide without pain?

"Ah, and afterwards?  Poor lad!  He came to me for sanctuary, and I had
betrayed my trust.  How could I look in the face of my son again--in the
eye of my girl?  Those clear eyes would read my secret, and I should be
as one accurst."

He bent down over the sleeping man again, and in spite of himself his
hand stole gently towards his heart, trembling.

"They are worth thousands," he said, "and they lie there as if of the
value of a few pence.  He came to me for refuge.  Well, he shall not
find that I have failed."

There was no tremor in his hand now as he re-arranged the cover over
Mark Heath's breast, to stand afterwards calmly watching his guest; and
then to go out into the surgery, turn down the gas, and slowly pace the
floor, thinking deeply.

Every inch of the surgery was so familiar that the darkness was the same
to him as the light, and the bitter coldness of the place seemed to
refresh him.

At the end of a few minutes he stood perfectly still, thinking; and then
going to one of the shelves, he ran his hand softly along the top row of
small bottles, took one, and turned down the gas.

As he entered the consulting-room again, he glanced at the label, nodded
his head in a satisfied manner, and after a glance at his patient he
seemed to make up his mind what to do.

"Perhaps I shall sleep," he thought, "and if I do he may wake.  It will
be a simple way."

He smiled as he took the glass into which he had previously poured the
brandy, and poured in a little more, to which he added sugar, and
half-filled the glass with hot water from the kettle.

"He will be sure to drink that," he said, as he replaced the glass
within easy reach of the sofa; and then removing the stopper from the
blue bottle he held, replaced it partly in the neck, rested it upon the
edge of the steaming glass, and began to count the drops which fell.

One--two--three.

Each drop at an interval after the one which had preceded it, while with
his left hand he steadied the tumbler.

As the third drop fell into the glass there was a strange noise
outside--a dull scuffling of feet, mutterings of voices, and then a low
imperious tapping on the panel of the door.

At the first sound the doctor turned his head sharply and gazed in the
direction of the door, while the rest of his body seemed to have become
fixed in a cataleptic state, save that his eyes dilated and his jaw
dropped.

And meanwhile, slowly and steadily, drip--drip--drip--drip, the globules
of fluid fell from the tip of the blue bottle into the steaming glass at
last in quite a stream.

A strange dread had overcome the doctor.  His patient's words about his
diamonds had proved to be true; were the rest, then, true--that he had
been pursued by men whose aim it was to plunder, perhaps murder him, and
they had really traced him down here?

"Bah! am I turning childish?" said the doctor, starting up, and letting
the stopper fall back into its place in the bottle, just as his patient
moaned slightly, turned impatiently in his sleep, and the ulster glided
to the floor.

The doctor stooped quickly, raised it, and threw it over his patient,
and, as he bent over him, listened intently to the repetition of the
tapping.

"It might be," he said softly.  "Pish! absurd!  The wanderings of a
diseased mind."

Catching up the bottle from where he had placed it on the table, he
walked quickly towards the door, paused, returned, and stooped as if to
pick up the poker.  Then smiled at his folly.

He passed softly out of the door, and closed it after him, to go to the
shelves in the dark, where he made a clicking noise among the bottles,
as he reached up; for there in the darkness the feeling once more
assailed him that his patient might be right, while for the third time,
more plainly heard now, there came a sharp tapping.

The doctor crossed to the gas bracket, turned it up, and as its light
filled the surgery, he walked boldly to the lobby-door, opened it, and
the dull red glare from the fanlight over the outer door shone upon his
handsome placid face.

The next moment he had opened the outer door, and was gazing at a group
of three men.

Mark Heath's announcement flashed through his brain once more, and then
gave place to the ideas furnished by his visitors.

"Thought you were a-bed.  Couldn't find the bell.  This cursed fog, sir.
Our friend here knocked down by a cab, and we saw your red light as we
were trying to get him to our hotel."

"Tut, tut, tut!" ejaculated the doctor.  "Bring him in, gentlemen."

He glanced at his visitors.  Saw that they were well-dressed men in
ulsters and low-crowned hats, and that the speaker was a well-built
fellow with a closely-cut beard; while another was a rather
Mephistophelean-looking man, with cheeks closely shaven, and upper lip
bearing a bristly moustache.

Between them they supported a slight, young-looking companion, who was
moaning slightly, but evidently making an effort to be firm.

"Mind, Harry--Rogers," he said, in a high-pitched voice, "it's as if
something red-hot was running through my chest!  Ah-h-h!"

"Support him, gentlemen," said the doctor.  "Mind he doesn't faint.
Here, quick!  Here!"

He spoke in sharp, decided tones, as he directed and helped them to lay
the injured man upon the settee, where he subsided with a querulous cry,
grinding his teeth the while, and compressing his lips.

"Kindly shut both doors," said the doctor; and the man who had first
spoken, and who looked very pale, obeyed.

"So cursedly unlucky!" he said excitedly.  "I never saw such a fog.
They've no business to allow men to drive fast on a night like this."

"Don't talk, old chap.  Not serious, I hope, doctor?" said the
Mephistophelean man.  "Cab seemed to come out of the fog, and he was
knocked down.  I got an ugly blow on the shoulder."

"Get me some brandy," said the injured man faintly.  "My chest's
crushed."

"No, no, not so bad as that," said the doctor kindly.  "You shall have a
stimulus soon.  Now, then, suppose we see what the damage is.  A broken
rib, I expect, and that will only mean a little pain.  Now, then."

His busy fingers were rapidly and tenderly unbuttoning the injured man's
coat, while a gasping moan came from his lips.

"Hurts me horribly--to breathe, doctor."

There was a gasping sound, and the Mephistophelean man reeled, tried to
save himself, and fell against the consulting-room door, which somehow
flew open, revealing the sleeping figure of Mark Heath on the couch.

"My dear sir--faint?"

"I beg your pardon, doctor," said the sinister-looking man.  "Sick as a
great girl.  I can bear pain, but to see him like that turned me over.
No, no, see to him; I'm better now."

The doctor continued his task, while the door swung to once more.

"Still feel faint?" said the doctor, without looking up.

"Oh, no; it's all gone now.  I really am ashamed."

"Nothing to be ashamed of, my dear sir.  It is a man's nature.  Now I
shall be obliged to ask one of you to lend me a little assistance here."

The bearded man stood ready, and exchanged a glance with his
Mephistophelean companion, who was behind the doctor now.

"Ah!"

Dr Chartley uttered a quick ejaculation, for, as he bent over his
patient, the man behind struck him a heavy blow with a short thick
life-preserver, and, quick almost as lightning, delivered another
crashing stroke on the back of the head.

Without so much as a groan, merely a catching at the air, the doctor
fell forward upon his supposed patient, and then rolled with a dull
heavy sound upon the carpet, to lie motionless--to all appearance dead.

"Yah! what a butcher you are, Rogers!" said the sham patient, in a
querulous high-pitched tone.

"Hold your row!  Quick!  Listen at that door."

The sham patient sprang to the door at the end of the passage, opened it
softly, and stood listening.

"All right," he whispered, "still as death."

"Curse you! hold your row about death," whispered the other as the door
was closed.  "Lock it."

"I was going to," said the younger man, turning the key softly.  "Is he
there, Harry?"

"Yes; all right," came in a whisper from the bearded man, who had softly
opened the consulting-room door and peered in at the sleeping figure
upon the couch.  "Quick! come on."

The man addressed as Rogers had stooped down and then gone on one knee,
thrusting the life-preserver into his pocket while he examined the
doctor, and not noticing that it slipped out onto the skirt of his coat,
and rolled aside as he finished his examination, and satisfied himself
that there was nothing to be apprehended there.

He started up, and followed his companion on tiptoe, and the next minute
they were gazing down at the man they had tracked from the
diamond-fields and run to earth at last.

"Hah!" exclaimed the Mephistopheles of the party; "that's right.  Give
him one if he moves."

This to his bearded companion, who had drawn a life-preserver similar to
that his companion had used, as he bent over the sleeping man.

"He has had a dose," was whispered back.  "You can smell his breath."

"Brandy.  All right!" cried the youngest of the three, catching up the
decanter, smelling it, tasting it with a loud smack of the lips, and
pouring out a goodly portion in the empty glass, he handed it to his
first companion.  "Here, Harry."

"Sure it's all right?" was whispered back.

"Swear it.  Now, Rogers."

"Here's mine," said the man, with a grin.  "Hot with.  Quick, lads!"

"Don't touch that," was on the younger man's lips; but his companion
raised the glass with a laugh, and as he followed his example by putting
the decanter to his mouth, the doctor's assailant literally poured the
contents of the tumbler down his throat, and then stood still, put the
glass back on the table, gasping and staring straight before him.

His companions were not heeding him, for each drank eagerly of the
brandy, and were setting down the decanter and glass, when the younger
man spoke:

"Why, Rogers, old chap!"

The man addressed turned his wild staring eyes at him for a moment, as
if to answer, and then walked blindly between the sofa and the table, as
if to go straight to the wall, reeled and fell, catching at the cloth,
which he dragged aside, nearly causing the lamp to go crashing on the
floor.

For a few moments the others stood aghast, staring at their prostrate
companion, who writhed slightly for a brief period, uttering a curious
sound, and then lay upon his back, stretched out motionless.

The younger man was the first to recover himself.

"Help!" he gasped, in a hoarse whisper.

"Hush!" cried his companion; "are you mad?"

He raised his life-preserver threateningly, and the other gazed at him
with ghastly face and staring eyes.

"What shall we do?" he whispered.

"Keep your head, and don't be a fool," was the reply.

As the bearded man spoke he went down on one knee, thrust his hand into
his comrade's breast, and then rose quickly.

"What is it, Harry--poison?"

"Yes, grim death, lad."

"Then, we've got it, too."

"No--all right.  The fool!  Smell that glass."

He took up and held the tumbler to his nose, and then passed it to his
companion, who smelt it, and put it down with a shudder.

"Come on," he panted; "let's get away."

"Without the diamonds--now?"

"I'm no use," groaned the younger man.

"Hold up, curse you!  It's fortune of war.  One man down.  Prize-money
to divide between two instead of three."

"Hah!" ejaculated the other, upon whom his comrade's words acted like
magic.  "I'm all sight, now.  Quick! let's have 'em!"

The elder man had already thrust his hand into Mark's breast.

"Well?"

"All right."

"Are they there?"

"Yes; safe enough."

"Get 'em out, then, and let's go.  Curse it!  Look at old Roger's eyes."

There was a dull heavy sound of a door banged, and the two men started
up in an agony of dread that the spoil for which they had toiled so
patiently and long, never getting it within their clutch till now, was
about to be snatched away.

It was a door that had been banged, and in their ignorance of the
configuration of the place they did not realise that it was in the next
house.

"Keep your head," said the elder man.

"Right.  I'm cool enough," was the reply.  "Quick! get 'em out, and
let's go!"

"It would take half an hour to get at them.  He has a belt buckled round
his waist under everything, and there'll be stones sewn into his clothes
all over."

"Curse it all!"

"Hush!  Quick!  Take hold of that ulster, and there's his hat."

"What are you going to do?"

"We've got him.  He's drugged, and we can do what we like."

"What! bring him away?"

"Yes.  Quick! take hold of that arm!"

"But if he wakes?"

"Send him to sleep, as we did the doctor.  Now, held your row, do as I
do, and keep your head."

The younger man obeyed, and catching Mark Heath's arm, as his companion
had done on the other side, they placed his hat upon his head, and in a
half-conscious way he made an effort to walk, so that they had no
difficulty in getting him into the surgery.

"Now, then, button-up.  I'll hold him," said the elder man.

"But when we get him in the street?" whispered the other.

"Well--what?  He's drunk.  We'll get him in a cab.  No one will
interfere.  Leave it to me, and back me up.  Quick! shut that door; and
then turn on the light."

The orders were obeyed; and as soon as they stood in the darkness the
lobby-door was opened, where the red light gave them sufficient
illumination to finish their proceedings.

Another minute, and, their victim's arm well gripped on either side, the
elder man said hoarsely, "Ready?"

"Yes; but are you sure that he had the stuff on him?"

"Trust me for that.  Now, be cool, and the diamonds are ours.  Off!"

The outer door was opened, and with very little difficulty Mark Heath
was half-lifted, half-led outside, in an inert, helpless condition, his
brain steeped in sleep, and his mind a blank.  Then the two men stood in
the snow, listening for a sound within the house.

It was the elder who spoke then:

"Get your arm well under him.  Hold hard!  Shut the door.  Mind he don't
slip down.  It's dark as pitch.  Now, then, come on."

At that moment John Whyley turned on his lamp.



CHAPTER TEN.

"AY, MARRY IS'T; CROWNER'S QUEST LAW."

A jury of men, chosen with the careful selection always made by the
coroner's officer, and with such extraordinary happy results, sat
solemnly and listened to the evidence, after hearing the coroner's
preliminary address, and viewing the body of the deceased.

Witness by witness, all were examined.  John Whyley told all he knew,
and produced the life-preserver; Richmond Chartley, brought from her
father's bedside, where he lay perfectly insensible, gave her account of
the proceedings, and directly after joined Janet Heath, who was her
companion, and sat down to try once more to disentangle her thoughts,
which, from the time she had left the surgery with the bottle of chloral
till she was alarmed by the persistent ringing of the doctor's
night-bell, had been in a state of wild confusion.

Hendon Chartley gave his evidence.  How he had been spending the evening
with a gentleman of his acquaintance, and on letting himself in with his
latch-key he had heard voices in the surgery, and gone there.

Mr James Poynter, the gentleman with whom Hendon Chartley had been
dining corroborated the last witness, and seemed disgusted that he had
not a better part to play, especially after his announcement to the
coroner that he was a great friend of the family.

For some reason of their own, the sapient jurymen exchanged glances
several times during the evidence of the last two witnesses, and shook
their heads, while one man began to make notes on the sheet of paper
before him with a very scratchy pen, whereupon two more immediately
caught the complaint, and the foreman regretted to himself that he
wasn't as handy with ink as he could wish.

The surgeon was of course a very important witness, and he told how the
man upon whose body the inquest was being held had undoubtedly died of
an excessive dose of hydrocyanic acid, of which poison there was,
naturally enough, a bottle in the doctor's surgery; but how it had been
administered, whether by accident, purposely, or with suicidal intent,
it was impossible to say; and apparently the only man who could throw
any light upon the subject was Doctor Chartley himself, who was now
lying in a precarious state, perfectly insensible from the pressure of
bone upon the brain, and too feeble for an operation to be performed.

"Not the only man," said one of the jury; "three men were seen by the
policeman to leave the surgery."

The coroner said "Exactly;" and there was a murmur of assent; while,
after stating that it was impossible to say how long Dr Chartley would
be before he could appear, and that it was quite possible that he would
never be able to give evidence at all, the surgeon's evidence came to an
end.

Elizabeth Gundry was called; and a frightened-looking smudgy woman came
forward, trembling and fighting hard not to burst into tears, hysterical
sobbing having filled up so much of her time since the foggy night that
her voice had degenerated into an appealing whine.  She was
smudgy-looking, but undoubtedly clean; only life in underground
kitchens, and the ingraining of London blacks with the baking process of
cookery, had given her skin an unwholesome tinge, which her reddened
eyes did not improve.

Questioned, she knew nothing but that she thought she had heard the
doctor's bell ring; but that she always put her head under the clothes
if she did hear it, and she did so that night.  Further questioned why,
she said with sobs that it was a very large house, and nobody was kept
but her and Bob; and she was "that tired when she went to bed that she
thought it weren't fair to expect her to get up and answer the
night-bell, and so she never would hear it if it rang.  It warn't her
place; for though she did housemaid's work, and there was two sets of
front-doorsteps, she considered herself a cook."

Here there was a furious burst of sobbing, and the foreman of the jury
wanted to know why.

Now he, being a pleasant-looking man, won upon Elizabeth Gundry more
than the coroner did, that gentleman being suggestive of an extremely
sharp ratting terrier grown fat.  So Elizabeth informed the foreman that
her grief was, of course, partly on account of master, and she thought
it very shocking for there to be a murder in "our house;" but what she
wanted to know was what had become of Bob, whom she was sure one of
those bad men had smuggled away under his coat.

Of course, this brought Bob to the front, and, growing garrulous now,
Elizabeth informed everybody that Bob was a regular limb, but evidently
a favourite; and since Bob had answered her out of the surgery regarding
his supper, Bob had not been seen or heard of, and it was her opinion
that he had been killed, so as not to tell all he knew.

Bob's bed had not been slept in; Bob's hat was hanging in the pantry,
and the police had not been able to discover where Bob had gone.

The mystery seemed to thicken, and Elizabeth was questioned till she
broke down sobbing once more, after declaring that Bob was the
mischievousest young imp as ever lived, but she was very fond of him;
and if it hadn't been for his wicked old tipsy mother, who was no better
than a thief, there weren't a dearer, more lovable boy in the "old
world."

The sergeant of police and John Whyley made notes, afterwards compared,
about Bob and his mother, and Elizabeth went off crying and refusing to
be comforted because of Bob.

Then the sergeant stated perspiringly in the hot room, buttoned up in
his coat, that the cabman had been found; and in due course a red-nosed,
prominent-eyed member of the four-wheeled fraternity corroborated John
Whyley's evidence as to the three men whom he took in his cab.  He
reiterated the statement that "one on 'em was very tight;" told that he
drove them to an hotel in Surrey Street, close to the Embankment, and
corrected himself as to the driving, because "You see, gents, it was
like this here: the fog was that thick, if you sat on the box you
couldn't see the 'oss's tail, let alone his ears, and you had to lead
him all the way."

Did the men go into the hotel?

He couldn't say; they helped out the one as was so very tight, and they
gave him arf-suffrin--first money he'd took that night, and the last, on
account of the fog.

And where did the three men go--into the hotel?

He didn't know; they seemed to him to go into the fog.  Everythink went
into the fog that night or come out on it.  It was all fog as you might
'most ha' cut with a knife; and when he had a wash next morning, his
face was that black with the sut you might ha' took him for a sweep.

But the man who seemed to be drunk, did he say anything?

Not a word.

"Would he know the men again?"

Not likely; and besides, if he took notice of all parties as was very
tight, and as he took home in his keb, he'd have enough to do.  That
there fog was so thick that--

The coroner said that would do, and after the people at the hotel had
been called to prove that no one had entered their place after eleven
o'clock that night, and that the bell had not been rung, the coroner
said that the case would have for the present to be left in the hands of
the police, who would, he hoped, elucidate what was at present one of
the mysteries of our great city.  He did not think he was justified in
starting a theory of his own as to the causes of the dramatic scene that
must have taken place in Dr Chartley's surgery.  They were met to
investigate the causes of the death of this man, who was at present
unknown.  No doubt the police would be able to trace the three men who
left the surgery that night, and during the adjournment Dr Chartley
would probably recover; and so on, and so on; a long harangue in which
it seemed as if the fog, of which so much mention had been made, had got
into the evidence.

Finally the coroner said that he did not think he should be doing his
duty if he did not mark the feeling he had with respect to the conduct
of the police-constable John Whyley.

The gentleman in question glowed, for he felt that he had suddenly
become a prominent personage, with chevrons upon his arm to denote his
rise in rank.  Then he froze, and his face assumed a terribly blank
expression, for the coroner went on to say that never in the whole
course of his experience, which now extended over a quarter of a
century, had he been cognisant of such utterly crass stupidity as that
of this policeman--a man who, in his opinion, ought to be dismissed from
the force.

John Whyley wished a wicked wish after the jury had been dismissed, and
orders given for the burial of the Mephistophelean-looking man, lying so
stiff and ghastly in the parish shell--and John Whyley's wish was that
it had been the coroner instead of Doctor Chartley who had got "that
one--two on the nob."



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

MR POYNTER POLISHES HIS HAT.

James Poynter rang four times at Dr Chartley's door-bell, and rapped as
many at the great grinning knocker tied in flannel, before he heard the
chain put up and the lock shot back, to display the smudgy unwholesome
countenance of Elizabeth Gundry, who always blinked like a night-bird
when forced to leave her dark kitchen.

"There, hang it, woman, open the door!" cried Poynter.  "Do you take me
for a thief?"

"No, sir, I didn't know it was you; but I am so scared, sir, and they
ain't found Bob yet."

Elizabeth did not hear what James Poynter said about Bob, for she closed
the door, took down the chain, opened slowly and grudgingly, and the
visitor entered.

"How's the doctor?"

"Awful, please, sir, just; he's there with his eyes shut, as if he was
going to die, and Miss Rich and Miss Janet taking it in turns to sit up
night and day."

"Ask Miss Chartley to come down and see me."

"Which, please, sir, she said as she couldn't see nobody now."

"You go and do as I tell you."

"Which it ain't my place, sir, to answer the front-door-bell at all.
Poor Bob!"

She ended with a sob, and put her apron to her eyes.

"I say," said Poynter, giving her apron a twitch and dragging it down,
"look here."

"Well, I'm sure!" began Elizabeth indignantly.

"Look here; have your wages been paid?"

"Lor', no, sir, not for ever so long," said Elizabeth, with an air of
surprise at the absurdity of the question.

"Then look here, Elizabeth: you know what I come here for, don't you?"

"I think I can guess, sir," said the woman, suddenly becoming interested
and smiling weakly.

"Of course you can.  You're a sharp 'un, that's what you are.  So look
here: the day I'm married I'll pay your wages, and I'll give you a
fi'-pun note to buy yourself a new bonnet and gown.  Now go up and say
I'm waiting to see Miss Richmond on particular business."

Elizabeth's eyes opened widely, and there was a peculiar look of
satisfaction therein, as she closed the door, led the way into the
dining-room, and then, after giving the visitor a nod of intelligence,
she left him to go up-stairs and deliver her message.

"Pah! how the place smells!" muttered Poynter.  "Any one would think
that chap was here now.  A nasty, damp, fusty hole!"

He listened eagerly, but the step he hoped to hear was not coming, and
he began to walk up and down, twisting his silk handkerchief round, and
polishing his glossy hat the while.

"I'm screwed up now," he muttered.  "I'm not afraid of her.  She can't
say no, but if she does, she's got to learn something.  Perhaps she
don't know what putting on the screw means, and I shall have to teach
her.  All for her good.  Hah!"

There was no mistake now; a step was descending the stairs, and James
Poynter once more looked round for a mirror for a final glance; but
there was nothing of the kind on the blank walls, and he had to face
Richmond unfurbished.

She entered the room, looking quite calm, but very pale, and the blue
rings about her eyes told of her sufferings and anxiety.  There was a
slight heightening of her colour, though, for a few moments, as the
visitor advanced with extended hand, in which she placed hers for a few
moments before motioning him to a seat.

"How's the doctor?" he said huskily, and then coughed to clear his
throat.

"Very, very ill, Mr Poynter," was the reply.  "I am sorry, but I must
ask you to please see Doctor Maurice, who has promised to attend any of
my father's patients if they called."

"Oh! bother Doctor Maurice!  I'm better now.  Quite well."

James Poynter had partaken of the greater portion of a bottle of
champagne before he came, so as to screw himself up, as he termed it;
and there was plenty of decision of a rude and vulgar type as he spoke.

"I beg your pardon; I thought you had come to consult my father.  You
have come to see how he was?"

"No, I didn't?  You know what I've come for."

Richmond did know, and perfectly well; but as she scorned to make use of
farther subterfuge, she remained silent.

"I'm a plain fellow, Miss Rich, and I know what's what," he said,
"Hendon and I've had lots of chats together about money matters, and you
want money now."

"Mr Poynter!"

"Now, now, now! sit down, and don't get in a wax, my dear, with a man
who has come as a friend.  I'm well enough off now, but I know the time
when a half-crown seemed riches, and if a friend had come to me, I'd ha'
said `Bless yer!'"

"If you have come as a friend of my brother, Mr Poynter, I am
grateful."

"Now, don't put me on one side like that, Miss Rich--don't.  I have come
as a friend--the best of friends.  I know what things are, and that
you're pushed for money."

"Mr Poynter!" indignantly.

"Yes, I know what you are going to say.  'Tain't put delicate.  Can't
help that.  I'm a City man of business; but if it ain't put delicately
it's put honest.  We don't put things delicately in the City."

"I have no doubt of your intentions, Mr Poynter, and I am grateful."

"Thank you, and that's right.  Now, don't kick at what I'm going to say,
and let it hurt your pride, because it is only between you and your best
friend--the man as loves you.  There, I came to say that, and I'm glad
it's out."

"Mr Poynter," said Rich hastily, "I am worn out.  I am ill.  I have
that terrible trouble in the house.  It is not the time to speak to me
like this."

"That's where you're wrong, my dear; for when should your best friend
come if it isn't when you're sick, and so pushed for money that you
don't know where to turn?"

"Oh, the shame of it!" moaned Rich to herself, as her eyes flashed with
mortification, while Poynter went on polishing his hat.

"You see I know all about it, and I want to show you that I'm no
fine-weather friend."

"Mr Poynter I have told you that I am ill; will you please to bring
this visit to an end?  I--I cannot bear it."

"Yes, you can," he said, in what was meant to be a soothing tone; "let's
have it over at once, and have done with it.  I won't hurry you.  I only
want to feel that it will be some day before long; and till then here's
my hand, and it don't come to you empty.  Say what's troubling you, and
what you want to pay, and there's my cheque for it.  I don't care how
much it is."

"Mr Poynter," cried Rich, "you force me to speak out.  I cannot take
your help, and what you wish is impossible."

"Oh, no, it isn't!" he said, smiling, and leaving his handkerchief
hanging on his hat as he tried to take her hand, which she withdrew; "I
saw the doctor the other day, before this upset.  We had a long chat
over it, and he was willing."

"What! my father willing?"

"To give his consent?  Yes."

"It is impossible!" cried Rich.

"Oh, no, it isn't, and what's more, Hendon and I have often chatted this
over together, and he's willing, too.  Now, I say, what is the use of
making a fuss over it?  There, we understand one another, and I want to
help you at once."

"Mr Poynter," cried Rich, "I now calmly and firmly tell you that what
you wish can never take place.  Will you allow me to pass?"

"No," said Poynter, flushing angrily, "I won't.  Now, don't put me in a
temper over this by being foolish.  What's the good of it?  You know
it's for the best, and that as my wife you can help the old man, and get
your brother on.  See what a practise you could buy Hendon by and by."

"Mr Poynter, I have already told you, I can say no more."

"Don't say any more, then," he cried, barring her way of exit, as he
gave his hat a final polish, and pocketed his handkerchief.  "I respect
you--no, I love you all the more for holding out; but there's been
enough of it now, so let's talk sensibly.  Come, I say.  Why, after this
upset some men would have fought shy of the place, even if you'd had a
fortune.  I don't: I come to you quite humble, and say what shall I do
for you first?"

Rich stood before him pale, and with her eyes flashing in a way that
penetrated even the thick hide of his vanity, and was unmistakable.

"Look here," he said angrily, "don't go on like that.  It makes a fellow
feel put out."

Richmond once more essayed to leave the room, but Poynter stayed her.

"Look here," he said, "I'm a City man, I am.  I began life with nothing,
but I said to myself I'd make my fortune, and I've made it.  While other
fellows were fooling about, I worked till I could afford to do as they
did, and then, perhaps, I had my turn.  Then I saw you, and when I had
seen you I said to myself that's the woman for my wife."

"Mr Poynter!"

"Yes, and some day it shall be Mrs Poynter.  I said it should, and so
it shall!"

"Mr Poynter, will you leave this house?"

"No, I won't," he replied bitterly, "not till you've thrown all this
nonsense aside, and made friends.  What a temper!  Now, look here, Rich,
I've been afraid of you.  I've come here to see the doctor, and I've
shivered when I've seen you.  I've wanted to speak to you, but my tongue
has seemed to stick to the roof of my mouth; but that's all over now,
and we're going to understand one another before I go."

"Sir, this is insolence!"

"Insolence!" he said, with the champagne effervescing as it were, in his
veins.  "No, it's love."

Richmond rang the bell.

"Bah!" he said, "what of that?  When the girl comes--if she does--I
shall tell her to go, for I mean to be master here now."

"Coward!"

"No, not a coward now," he replied, laughing.  "Rich, do you know what I
can do if I like?  I can come down on brother Hendon for all he owes me,
and how would it be then?"

Richmond winced, and the flush in her cheeks paled away, while Poynter
saw it, and went on:

"What should you say if I was to act like a business man would, and come
down on your father!"

"What?  My father!  He does not owe you money?"

"Doesn't he!" said Poynter, with a mocking laugh.  "You see you don't
know everything, my dear.  Come, what's it going to be--peace or war?"

"War!" said Richmond firmly.  "My father cannot owe you money, and as to
my brother, he would sooner die than see his sister sold as a slave to
pay his debts."

"Would he?" snarled Poynter.  "Why he's as weak as water; I can turn him
around my thumb.  You tried to keep him away.  He wouldn't own it; but I
know.  He came, though, all the same, when I asked him; and he will
come, too, as often as I like, and he'll help me to make you--Bah!
nonsense!  Come, don't let's talk like this: you're out of sorts, and no
wonder, and I've come at a bad time.  To-morrow you'll be cool, and
you'll put that little hand in mine, and say, `James Poynter, you've
acted like a man and my best friend, and I won't say no.'"

He tried to take her hand, but she shrank from him.

"Sir, I beg that you will not come here again," she said, drawing
herself up.  "I am not blind to your position with my brother, but--"

"Your brother's a weak-minded young fool!" cried Poynter, who had now
thoroughly become roused, so withering was the contempt written in
Rich's eyes; "and--"

He stopped short, for in the heat of the encounter neither had heard the
latch-key in the front-door, nor the opening of that of the room, to
admit Hendon Chartley, who stood still for a few moments, and then
strode to his sister's side and put his arm round her.

"Yes," he said hoarsely, "I have been a weak young fool, James Poynter,
to let you play with me as you pleased; but please God, with my sister's
help, I'm going to be strong now, and if you don't leave this house I'll
kick you out."

"You kick me out!" snarled Poynter, snatching his handkerchief from his
pocket and polishing his hat savagely; "not you!  So it's going to be
war, is it?  Why, if I liked--There, you needn't threaten.  I'm not
going to quarrel with you, my lad, because we're going to be brothers."

"Brothers!" cried Hendon, in tones of contempt.

"Yes, my lad, brothers.  I've gone the right way to work, and you know
it, too.  There, we're all peppery now.  Rich, my dear, you know what
I've said.  I'm not angry.  It was only a flash, and you won't make me
any the worse for speaking out like a man.  Next time I come we shall be
better friends."

He gave his hat a final polish, flourished his handkerchief, and left
the room.

"Hendon, Hendon, what have you done?" cried Richmond, as soon as they
were alone.  "Had we not trouble enough without this?"

"The cad!" cried Hendon angrily.

"And after what had passed you went to him again!"

"How could I help it?" said the young man, with a groan.  "I owe him
money, and it's like a chain about my neck.  He tugs it, and I'm obliged
to go."

"And he hinted that our poor father was in his debt."

"The governor?  Oh, Rich!"

Richmond said nothing, but returned to her watching by her father's
pillow, asking herself whether the chain was being fitted to her own
limbs, and whether, to save those she loved, she was to become this
man's slave.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

THE DREAMS OF A FEVER.

A dreamy sensation of cold and thick darkness and stumbling on and on,
with a dull light glowing about his head and fading away directly, then
more darkness and stumbling on, and once more a dull yellow glow, and
this fading away, with the darkness increasing.  Then a slight struggle,
and a few petulant remonstrances.

Why wouldn't the doctor let him sleep?

Then another feeble struggle, a sensation of passing through the air, a
sudden plunge into the icy water, and then utter darkness, and a noise,
as if of thunder, in his ears.

But the sudden immersion was electric in its effect, sending a thrill
through nerve and muscle, though the brain remained still drowsily
inert, while the natural instinct of desire for life chased away the
helpless state of collapse; and Mark Heath, old athlete, expert swimmer,
man hardened by his life in the southern colony, rose to the surface,
and struck out, swimming slowly and mechanically, as if it were the
natural action of his muscles.  On and on, breasting the icy water,
keeping just afloat, but progressing blindly where the tide willed; on
and on through the darkness, with the yellow fog hanging like a solid
bank a few feet above his head, as if the rushing of the water were
cutting the lower stratum away.

Now a yellow light shone weirdly through the mist, came into sight, and
after glowing for a moment on the murky current, died away.

On still, as if it were the tide--that last tide which sweeps away the
parting spirit--stroke after stroke, given mechanically; and then there
was another light--a dull red light, then an angry glow--a stain as of
blood upon the black water; and it, too, died away, but not till it had
bathed the upturned face with its crimson hue.

Onward still, the icy water thrilling the swimmer through and through,
but seeming to bring with it no dread, no sense of horror, no
recollection of the past, no fear of what was to come: the sensation was
that he was swimming as one swims without effort in a dream.

A blow from some dark slimy object along whose side he glided, and then
on once more.

Another blow against something which checked him for a time, and turned
him face downward, so that the thundering recommenced in his ears; there
was the sense of strangulation; and then he was steadily swimming on
once more, past moored barge with its lights, past steamboat pontoon;
and then with a rush he was driven against a stone pier; his hands
grasped at the slimy stones without avail, he was turned in an eddy
around and around, sucked under, and rose again, to swim on and on, till
at last, in the darkness, his hands touched the muddy pebbles of the
river shore, his knees struck heavily, and he crawled through a pool,
and then staggered to his feet, with the water streaming from him.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

What next?  It was all as in a dream, in which, in the gloom of the
thick night, he stumbled upon a flight of slippery steps, and walked up
and up, and then along a road which he crossed again and again, and
always walking on and on.

At times he guided himself by mechanically touching a cold rough stony
wall, till somehow it was different and felt slippery, and his hand
glided over the side.

Then darkness, and a sense of wandering.  How long?  Where?  Why was he
wandering on?

------------------------------------------------------------------------

It was all a dream, but changed to a time when his head was as it were
on fire, and he was climbing mountains where diamonds glistened at the
top, but which he could not reach, though he was ever climbing, with the
sun burning into his brain, and the diamonds that he must find farther
and farther away.

And so on, and so on, in one long weary journey, to reach that which he
could not attain, and at last oblivion--soft, sweet, restful oblivion--
with nothing wrong, nothing a trouble, no weariness or care: it was
rest, sweet rest, after that toilsome climb.

The next sensation was of a cool soft hand upon his brow, and Mark Heath
opened his eyes, to gaze into those of a pale, grave-looking woman in
white, curiously-shaped cap; and she smiled at the look of intelligence
in his face as he said softly.

"Who are you?"

"Your nurse," was the reply.

"Nurse?"

One word only, but a chapter in its inquiring tone.  "Yes," she said
gently; "you have been ill.  Don't try to talk.  Take this, and lie
quite still."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Another long, dreamy time, during which there were noises about his
head--the gentle, pleasant voice of his nurse, and the firm, decisive
voice of the doctor.  It might have been hours, it might have been days
or weeks, he did not know; and then came the morning when he seemed to
awaken from a long disturbed sleep, full of terrible dreams, with a full
realisation of his position.

He looked about him, and there were people in beds on either side, while
a row of windows started from opposite to him, and went on right and
left.

At last he saw the face of the woman whom he felt that he had seen
leaning over him in his dream.

She came to his bedside.

"Well?" she said, with a pleasant smile.

"Is this a hospital?" he said eagerly.

"Yes."

"And I have met with some accident--hurt?"

"No," was the reply; "not an accident.  You have been ill."

"Ill?  How came I here?"

He looked wildly in the calm soft face before him, and behind it there
seemed to be a dense mental mist which he could not penetrate.  There
was the nurse; and as he lay, it seemed to him that he could think as
far as their presence there, and no further.

"You had better wait till the doctor has been round."

"If you don't tell me what all this means," he said impetuously, "you
will make me worse."

She laid her hand upon his forehead, to find that it was perfectly cool,
and he caught her fingers in his as she was drawing them away.  "Don't
keep me in suspense," he said piteously.

"Well, I will tell you.  The police brought you here a fortnight ago.
They found you lying in a doorway, drenched with water and fast asleep.
You were quite delirious, and you have been very ill."

"Ill?  Yes, I feel so weak," he muttered, as he struggled to penetrate
the mist which seemed to shut him in, till the nurse's next words gave
him a clue to the way out.

"We do not even know who you are; only that they suppose you to be a
sailor who has just left his ship."

"Heath--Mark Heath," he said quickly.

"Ah!  And your friends?  We want to communicate with them."

"My friends!  No; it would frighten her, poor little girl!"

"The cause for alarm is passed," said the nurse gravely.

"Yes.  Ah!  I begin to recollect now," he said.  "Send to Miss Heath--my
sister--19 Upper Brunswick Avenue, Bloomsbury."

"Yes; and now lie still."

The nurse left him, and he lay thinking, and gradually finding in the
mist the pieces of the puzzle of his past adventure, till he seemed to
have them nearly all there.

Then came the doctor with a few words of encouragement.

"You'll do now," he said.  "Narrow escape of losing your hair, young
fellow.  Next time you come from sea don't touch the drink."

Mark Heath lay back thinking, and with the puzzle pretty well fitted
together now all but what had happened since, half wild with exhaustion
and excitement, he had taken refuge at Doctor Chartley's.

"Don't touch the drink!" he muttered.  "He thinks I have had D.T.  Well,
I did drink--brandy.  I had some.  Yes; I remember now--at the doctor's,
and--Great Heavens!"

He paused, with his hands pressed to his forehead; and now the light had
come back clearly.

He lay waiting till the nurse passed round again, and he signed to her
to come to his side.

"You have sent to my sister?"

"Yes; a messenger has been sent."

"My clothes?" he said, in an eager whisper.  "Where are they?"

"They have been taken care of quite safely."

"And the bag, and the belt--the cash-belt I had strapped round my
waist?"

"I will make inquiries."

The nurse went away, and Mark Heath lay in an agony of spirit which he
could hardly control till her return, to announce that he had nothing
whatever upon him in the way of bag or money when found by the police.

Mark lay as if stunned till the messenger returned with the intelligence
that Miss Heath had left the lodgings indicated; that the people there
were new, and could give no information whatever.

"But you have other friends," said the nurse, as she looked down
pityingly in the patient's agitated face.

"Yes," he said, "I have friends.  Write for me to--"

He paused for a few moments, with a hysterical sob rising to his lips as
he recalled how he had struggled to return to her wealthy, and had come
back a beggar.

"Yes, to--"

The gently-spoken inquiry roused him, and he went on.  "To Miss
Richmond--"

"Richmond?" said the nurse, looking up inquiringly as she took down the
name in a little memorandum-book.

"Miss Richmond Chartley, 27 Ramillies Street, Queen's Square,
Bloomsbury, to beg her to find and send my sister here."

The nurse smiled, and left him to his thoughts, which now came freely
enough--too freely to help him to convalescence.

It was late in the evening when the nurse came to announce that there
were visitors; and after a few grave firm words, bidding him be calm,
she left him, and returned with Janet and Richmond, both trembling and
agitated, to grasp his hands, and fight hard against the desire to throw
themselves sobbing upon his breast.

The nurse remained, not from curiosity, but to watch over her patient,
whom she had literally dragged from the grasp of death, while, after the
first loving words, Mark Heath gazed at Richmond in a troubled way, and
proceeded to tell of his adventures.

"But did you really bring back a bag of diamonds, Mark, or is it--"

"Fancy," he said bitterly.  "No; it is no fancy.  I have been delirious,
Jenny; but I am sane enough now.  I had the bag of diamonds, and over a
hundred pounds in gold, in a belt about my waist.  Rich, darling, I was
silent during these past two years; for I vowed that I would not write
again till I could come back to you and say I have fulfilled my promise,
and now I have come to you a beggar."

"Yes," said Richmond, laying her hand in his, as an ineffably sweet look
of content beamed from her eyes in his, and there was tender yearning
love in every tone of her sweet deep voice; "but you have come back
alive after we had long mourned you as dead."

"Better that I had been," he said bitterly.  "Better that that dark
night's work had been completed than I should have come back a beggar."

Janet and Richmond exchanged glances; which with a sick man's suspicion
he noted, and his brow contracted.

"They doubt me," he thought.

"But you have come back, Mark.  We are young; and there is our life
before us.  I do not complain," said Richmond gently.  "We must wait."

"Wait!" he said bitterly; and he uttered a low groan, which made the
nurse approach.  "No, no," he said, "I will be quite calm."  The nurse
drew back.

"Tell me, Mark," said Janet, with her pretty little earnest face
puckered up.  "Why did you not come straight to me?  How stupid?  Of
course you didn't know where, as you did not get my last letters?"

"No, I have had no letters for a year.  How could I, out in that
desert?"

"But, Mark, you recollect being pursued by those men!"

"Yes, yes."

"You are sure it was not a dream?"

He looked at her almost fiercely.

"Dream?  Could a man dream a thing like that?"

"Don't be cross with me, dear Mark," she said, laying her cheek against
his.  "It seems so strange, and you have been very, very ill.  My own
darling brother!"

It was not jealousy, but something very near akin, that troubled Rich as
she stood there, with an intense longing to take her friend's place,
after the long parting.  But there was the recollection that their
parting had not been the warm passionate embracing of lovers, only calm
and full of the hope of what might be.

Janet continued:

"And you went late at night through a dreadful fog, and took refuge with
a friend?"

"Yes," he said, with his features contracting, and a shudder passing
through him, as he gazed furtively at Rich.

"And what can you recollect besides?  Are you sure you had what you
say--diamonds and money?"

"Yes, I am certain."

"I never wore diamonds," said Janet, with her pretty white forehead
growing more puckered, "and I don't want any; but after being so poor,
and with one's dearest friends so poor, and when it would make every one
so happy, I should like you to find them again."

Mark uttered a low groan.

"But tell me, Mark, what else can you recollect?"

"Very little," he said.  "It all seems misty; but I recollect drinking
something."

"Brandy, Mark?"

"Yes; and afterwards a medicine that was to calm him, for I was half mad
with excitement."

"Yes; go on."

"Then everything is confused: I seemed to fall asleep--a long restful
sleep, that was broken by my taking a long journey."

"Yes, but that was dreaming, dear."

"Maybe," he said, "and then I was swimming--swimming for life--and then
toiling on and on, a long weary journey under a hot sun to get my
diamonds."

"Yes, dear, fever," said Janet, with the tears streaming down her
cheeks.  "Oh, Mark, what you have suffered!  Rich, love, do you hear?"

"Yes--yes," cried Rich, who seemed to be roused from a strange dream, in
which she was fighting to recall another of which she had a misty
recollection--a dream that troubled her on the night she took the
chloral, when half mad with pain.

"You have seen and borne so much, dear," said Janet piteously.  "Was not
all this about the bag of diamonds and those people a feverish dream?"

"Jenny, do you want to drive me mad?"

"My own dear old darling brother, no," she whispered caressingly; and
once more that strange half-jealous feeling swept like a hot breath of
wind across Rich, making her pale face flush.  "I only want to make you
see things rightly, and not fret about a fancy."

"I tell you it was no fancy," he said angrily; and then, as the nurse
held up a warning hand.  "All right," he added, "I'll be calm."

"Say something to him, Rich," said Janet piteously.

Rich started, and then took Mark's hand.  "You say that you went to the
house of a friend?" she whispered.

"Ye-es," he replied hesitatingly.

"And that you partook of some medicine that was to make you sleep?"

He bowed his head slowly.

"And that your next clear recollection is of lying here, where you were
brought after being found delirious by the police?"

"Yes, yes," he said impatiently.

"Robbed?"

"Stripped of everything," he said bitterly.

"It could not have been a friend, then, with whom you took refuge," said
Rich.

Mark was silent.

"Must it not have been a dream?" said Janet in a whisper to her
companion.

"No," said Rich aloud.  "I think that all Mark recollects before he took
this medicine must be true, and that this friend must have drugged him."

Mark drew a long, catching breath between his teeth.

"And robbed him while he slept."

Mark's breast rose and fell as if he were suffering some great emotion,
and he stared at Rich wildly, his hand twitching and his lip quivering
as he waited for her next speech, which seemed to crush him, as she
asked in a clear firm voice.

"Who was the friend to whose house you went?"

He looked at her wildly, with the thoughts of the consequences of
telling her that which he believed to be the truth--that Dr Chartley--
her father--the father of the woman he passionately loved--had drugged
him--taken the treasure for which he had fought so hard, and then cast
him forth feverish and delirious into the river to die.  For he realised
it now: he had been swimming; he could even recall the very plunge; he
had been cast into the river to drown, and somehow he must have
struggled out.

"Who was the friend, Mark?" she said again, in her calm firm way.

"Yes, who was it?" cried Janet, with her little lips compressed.  "You
are right, Rich.  Some one did do this dreadful thing.  Who was it,
Mark?"

The sick man turned from her with a shudder, while she, all excitement
now, pressed his hard hand.

"Tell us, Mark dear, that he may be punished, and made to restore what
he has stolen."

"No, no!" he said excitedly; "I cannot tell you--I do not know."

"Try and recollect, Mark," said Rich gently; and she looked in his face
with an appealing smile.

"No, no!" he gasped, as he shuddered again; "it is impossible.  I--I do
not know.  And Heaven forgive me for my lie!" he muttered, as he sharply
withdrew his hands, sank back upon his pillow, and covered his face.

"He must be left now," said the nurse firmly, "He is very weak, and your
visit is proving painful.  Say good-night to him.  You can come
to-morrow.  He will be stronger after a night's rest."

"But--there is no danger?" whispered Rich, as she caught the sister's
hand.

"No; the danger is past, but he must be kept quiet.  Say good-night."

Janet bent down and kissed her brother lovingly; and as she drew back
from his pallid drawn face, Rich took her place and held out her hand.

Mark caught it in both his, and there was an agonised look in his eyes.

"Rich," he whispered passionately, "I have come back to you a beggar,
after fighting so hard.  Heaven knows how hard, and what I am suffering
for your sake.  I cannot tell you more.  I only say, believe in me and
trust in me.  Kiss me, my love--my love."

Richmond Chartley's pale face deepened, but she did not hesitate.  There
were patients here and there who lay witnessing the scene, and there
were others present; but at that moment the world seemed very small, and
they two the only living creatures it contained, as she bent down,
passed her arm beneath his neck, and for the first time her lips met
his.

"Rich--poor--what does it matter, Mark?" she whispered, with her warm
breath seeming to caress his cheek.  "You have come back to me, as it
were, from the dead."

She drew down her veil as she rose from the parting, and the nurse's
quick experienced eyes noted the restful happy look that had come over
her patient's face.

"Good-bye," she said to the two visitors.  "May I?"

Rich leaned forward, and the two women kissed.

"I had some one once whom I dearly loved.  It pleased God that he should
die--for his country--trying to save a brother officer's life.
Good-bye, dear.  You are the best physician for him now.  Come back
soon."

Janet impulsively threw her arms about the sister's neck and kissed her.

"And I never thanked you for your care of my poor brother," she said.
"But tell me, he is still a little wandering, is he not?"

"I could not help hearing all that passed," was the reply.  "It was my
duty to be present.  I have, of course, had some experience of such
cases, and I fear that he must have been drinking heavily in riotous
company, and these ideas have become impressed upon his brain."

"And they are fancies?"

"I think so, but as he grows stronger these ideas will weaken, and you,
his sister--and you--Ah, men are sometimes very weak, but to whom should
they come for forgiveness when weak and repentant, if not to us?"

"But I won't believe my Mark has been going on as she hinted," said
Janet, through her tears, as she walked away, weeping bitterly, and
clinging tightly to Rich's arm.

"No; it is impossible," replied Rich; and with the feeling upon her that
it was her duty to suffer for all in turn, and be calm and patient, she
fought down her own longing to burst into a passionate fit of weeping,
and walked on to resume her watch by her father's side, where he lay
still insensible, as if in a sleep which must end in death.

"Rich dear, if it is true, and poor Mark was drugged and robbed, the
wretch who did it shall be brought to justice, shall he not?"

"Yes," said Rich, as she clasped the weeping girl to her breast.

And as she sat there in the silent chamber, through the dark watches of
the night, at times a feeling of exultation and joy filled her breast,
while at others a hot pang of rage shot through her, and she felt that
she could slay the wretch who had raised a hand against him who had
returned to her as from the dead.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

JANET IS HAUNTED.

A fortnight passed, and Mark was able to join his sister at her lodging,
from which she was out all day.

It was very hard work, that lesson-giving at different houses, but
little Janet trudged on from place to place, rarely ever travelling by
omnibus unless absolutely obliged, so that she might economise and make
her earnings help out her income of twenty-one pounds per annum.

Rather a small sum in London, but it was safe.  Seven hundred pounds'
worth of stock in the Three per Cents., and bringing in ten pounds ten
shillings every half-year.

One evening, as she was returning on foot, walking very rapidly, so as
to get back as soon as possible to Mark, her heart sank, and she felt
faint in spirit as she thought of her future and its prospects.  To go
on teach, teach, teach, and try to make stupid girls achieve something
approaching skill in handling their brushes, so that parents might be
satisfied.  For, poor girl, she found what most teachers do, that when a
child does not progress, it is always the instructor's fault, not that
of the disciple.

"I shall be better when I've had some tea," she said to herself, as the
tears gathered in her eyes.  "Why do I murmur so?  Rich never complains,
and her troubles are as great as mine.  I ought to be glad and rejoice
that poor Mark has come back safely, and--there he is again."

Janet's little heart beat wildly with fear as a tall muffled-up figure
appeared from a doorway in the sombre-looking square into which she had
turned from the street where she gave lessons three afternoons a week,
and followed her at a short distance behind.  For two months past,
evening after evening, that figure had been there, making her heart
palpitate as she thought of what a weak, helpless little creature she
was, and how unprotected in this busy world.

It was hard work to keep steadily on without looking round, without
starting off at a run.  Her breast seemed filled with that wild scream
which she longed to utter, but dared not, telling herself that to seem
afraid or to notice the figure was to invite assault.

"Oh, if Mark would only get well," she thought, "or if Rich could come
and meet me!"

Then she called herself a coward, and stepped daintily on along the
muddy street, wondering whether it would be possible to go by some other
way, and so avoid this shadow which dogged her steps.

There was one way to get over it--to mention if to Rich, and ask her to
bid Hendon wait for her and see her home.  But that, she said, she would
sooner die than do; so she had tried four different ways of reaching
home, and always with the figure following her to the door of the house
where she lodged, and where Mark sat waiting for her to come.

It was always the same: the muffled-up figure followed her closely, and
kept on the same side of the way till he reached her door, when it
crossed over, and waited till she went in, breathless and trembling.

Over and over again the little frightened girl tried to devise some
plan, but all in vain; till this night of the foggy winter she was
crossing the street, rejoicing that he was so near home, when there was
a shout, a horse's hot breath was upon her cheek, and she was sent
staggering sideways, and would have fallen had not the muffled-up figure
been at hand, caught her in his arms, and borne her to the pavement,
while the cab disappeared in the yellow mist.

"My own darling!  Are you hurt?" he cried passionately.

"Hendon!  You!" she panted.

"Yes, I," he said.  "You are hurt!"

"No, no," she cried; "only frightened.  The horse struck my shoulder.
But--but was it you who followed every night all the way home?"

"Yes," he said, coldly now, "you knew it was."

"I did not," she retorted angrily; and then in half hysterical terms,
"how dare you go on frightening me night after night like this?  It has
been horrible.  You have made me ill."

"Made you ill?" he said.  "How could I let you go about all alone these
dark evenings?  I was forbidden to talk to you as I wished, but there
was no reason why I should not watch over you.  How's Mark?"

"Getting better," said Janet, drawing a breath of relief at her
companion's sudden change in the conversation; for she felt that had he
continued in that same sad reproachful strain she must have hung upon
his arm, and sobbed and thanked him for his chivalrous conduct.  There
was something, too, so sweet in the feeling that he must love her very
dearly in spite of all the rebuffs he had received; and somehow as they
walked on, a gleam of sunny yellow came through the misty greys and
dingy drabs with which from her mental colour-box she had been tingeing
her future life.  There was even a dash of ultramarine, too--a brighter
blue than her eyes--and her heart began to beat quite another tune.

"May I come and walk home with you every night?" said Hendon at last,
as, after repeated assurances that she was not hurt, they stopped at
last at the street door.

"No," she said decidedly; and her little lips were tightly compressed,
so that they should not give vent to a sob.

"How cruel you are, Janet!"

"For trying to do what is right," she said firmly.  "What would your
sister say if, after all that has passed, I were to be so weak?"

"May I follow you at a distance, as I have done all this time?" he
pleaded.

"No.  You have only frightened me almost to death," she replied.  "Will
you come up and see poor Mark?"

"Not to-night," he said bitterly; "I couldn't bear it now.  Janet, if I
go to the bad, it won't be all my fault.  I know I'm a weak fellow, but
with something to act as ballast, I should be all right.  What have I
done that you should be so cold?"

For answer, Janet held out her hand.

"Good-night, Mr Chartley," she said quietly; but he did not take the
hand, only turned away, walking rapidly along the street, while,
fighting hard to keep from bursting into a violent fit of sobbing, Janet
hurried up to her room, to find her brother looking haggard and wild as
he slowly paced the floor.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

MARK HEATH IN THE DARK.

"No--no--no!"  Always the same determined answer to the declarations of
Janet that some steps should be taken to investigate the affairs of the
night on which her brother had first reached London.

"No," he said; "I will have nothing done.  Let me get well, and away
from here.  I've escaped with my life."

"And what will you do, Mark?" asked Janet, as she sat by his side.

"Try again," he said.  "But I must first get well."

He had heard that the doctor was ill, but everything else had been kept
from him, till one evening, as he was seated by the fire at Janet's neat
little lodgings, and his sister was called down to see a visitor.

She had a suspicion of who it was, and found Richmond waiting.

"Come up and see him."

Richmond hesitated.

"I must not stay long," she said.  "My father frets for me if I am
away."

"And I am situated almost the same.  Mark does not like to be left.
Come up, dear, and help me to persuade him that he ought to employ the
police."

"No, no! don't talk of them," said Richmond, with a shudder.  "I want
the horror at our house forgotten, and they keep reminding me that the
law does not sleep."

"Why, Rich, how strangely you talk!"

"Strangely, dear!  No.  Only it comes back like a nightmare ever since
that terrible affair, so soon as it is mentioned.  I seem to be
wandering about the house in misery, fever, and pain, trying to see
through a mist that I cannot penetrate.  I don't know how it is or what
it means, but I have this horrible thought troubling me, that I came
down that night to go to the surgery, and that I saw something."

"Saw something!  Saw what?"

"Ah! that is what I cannot tell," said Rich with a shudder.  "I was
better this morning, and more hopeful.  My poor father seemed a little
clearer in his mind, but the past is all a blank to him."

"He knew me, dear, when I came yesterday."

"Oh, yes! and he knows me well enough.  He talks sensibly about what is
going on around him.  But that night when he was struck down, the blows
seemed to break away the connection between the present and the past.
The physician, who has seen him, says very little, but I can see that he
considers the case hopeless."

"Oh, don't say that, dear!  We must all hope.  I hope to be something
better some day than a poor teacher.  Come up now, and help me to
persuade Mark to have in the police."

"No, no!" cried Rich hastily.

"Why not, dear?  Think what it means if it is true about the diamonds,
and we could get them back."

"But it cannot be true, Janet; and as to the police, they make me
shudder.  They were at our house this morning to see Hendon, and with
him my father, to try whether they could revive his memory, and get hold
of a clue to those men who came to our house that night, and they have
found out nothing.  They say they are straining every nerve now to find
that poor boy.  They think he must hold the clue."

"I think I could find it all out if I tried," said Janet.  "Had your
father any enemies?"

Richmond shook her head.

"Any one to whom he owed money?"

Richmond started, and her thoughts reverted to Poynter.

"No, no, no--impossible!  Let it rest, dear.  I have thought over it,
till it nearly drives me mad!" she cried excitedly.

"It is very strange;" continued Janet musingly.  "I don't like to let it
rest, and there is our trouble, too.  Rich dear, has it ever occurred to
you that it must have been the same night when poor Mark was found
wandering about?"

"Yes, dear.  I have calculated it out from what the hospital sister told
me.  It was the same night."

Rich looked at her wonderingly.

"It was, dear," continued Janet.  "While you had that horror at home, I
was sleeping here comfortably, and poor Mark was wandering about the
cruel streets half wild."

Rich made a gesture to her friend to be silent, and Janet passed her arm
about her waist, to lead her up-stairs, but with the full determination
to try and make some investigation.  For though there were times when
the thought of her brother having brought home a bag of diamonds seemed
mythical, and the birth of his diseased imagination--especially as he
never named them now--at other times visions of comparative wealth had
come to her, in the midst of which she seemed to see herself with
Hendon, and her old companion and her brother happily looking on.

Mark was seated gazing moodily at the fire as Richmond entered with his
sister, and he rose to take her hands, and lead her to a chair.

But somehow both seemed constrained and troubled by thoughts which they
kept from each other.

"I know," said Janet to herself, "it's that dreadful money which is
keeping them apart, and if I don't do something, Mark will be going off
again to seek his fortune, and it is like condemning poor Rich and
himself to a life of misery and waiting."

She sat working, but furtively watching the others all the while.

"This poverty is killing us all," she said to herself at last, "and I
will speak.  It may be true, and he shall do something to find out."

"Mark dear," she said aloud, "I have something to say."

"Indeed!  Well, what is it?"

"I've come to the conclusion that, now you are better, you ought to
speak out like a man, and--"

"Stop!" he said hoarsely.

"No, Mark, I shall not stop," cried Janet decidedly.  "You say that you
went to a friend's house that night with all your money and--and
treasure."

"Girl! will you be silent?" he cried savagely.

"No," said Janet, laughing.  "I want you to see this matter as I do.
Whoever this man is, he ought to be forced to give up what he must have
stolen from you.  If you will not stir, I shall."

"You will?"

"Yes, I shall take counsel with Hendon again."

"Again?" almost yelled Mark.

"Yes, sir, again.  We have spoken over the matter together, and he
agrees that the police ought to be seen, and that you must make this
friend give up what he has taken."

"You'll drive me mad, Janet.  Hendon thinks this?"

"Yes; and we are going to do it at once, for the sake of you and Rich."

"You shall not stir!" cried Mark fiercely.

"Why not?" interposed Rich, taking his hand.  "I think with my brother
and Janet now, much as I dislike these investigations."

"You think so--you?" cried Mark wildly.

"Yes.  Why not?" said Rich.  "Mark dear, why should you flinch from
speaking out?  You have no unworthy motive."

"Unworthy motive?  No," he said bitterly, "I give up everything to spare
another."

"Then you shall not," said Janet firmly.  "Your duty is to Richmond
here; your promised wife."

"Yes," said Mark moodily; "my duty is to Rich here, my promised wife."

"And yet for the sake of some unworthy wretch, you make her suffer--yes,
sir, and me too.  Why, Rich, dear Rich, what is the matter?"

She flew to her friend's side, and caught her hands; for Rich had
started from her chair, looking wildly from one to the other, as,
struggling as it were from out of a confused mist, how revived she could
not tell, there came back to her, memory by memory, the scenes of that
terrible night.  Yes: she remembered now, though it still seemed like a
dream--a fragmentary, misty dream.

Yes, that was the clue!  Janet had said it was upon that same night that
Mark had returned--had been found senseless in the streets.

"Don't, don't speak to me for a minute!" she cried, as she fought hard
to recall everything--the maddening pain that night, the visit to the
surgery, the chloral she had obtained and taken, and then that strange
wild sleep.

Yes; she recalled it now.  She dreamed she had come down to fetch
something else from the surgery to allay the agony she suffered, and
that the door was locked, and that she had heard voices--her father's
voice, Mark's voice--yes, it was Mark's voice; and she had stood there
trembling till it died away; and that formed part of her dream.

But now the voice was here in this room, and he caught her hand with a
wildly suspicious look in his eye.

"What are you thinking?" he said.

She turned upon him sharply.

"The name of your friend with whom you took refuge that night?" she
said; and her eyes flashed as she gazed searchingly in his.

He dropped her hand, and turned away, with his lips compressed and face
contracted.

"Mark," she cried, "why do you not speak?  Where did you go that night
when you returned?"

He looked at her for a moment, and then turned away again.  "I do not
know," he said hoarsely.

"It is not true," cried Rich.  "You must speak now.  It was to our house
you came."

"What!"

"I remember now.  I heard your voice.  You were with my father--in the
surgery."

"Rich," he said, almost savagely, as he caught her wrist, "think of what
you are saying!"

"Rich dear, don't say that!" cried Janet piteously.

"I know what I am saying," she said excitedly; and though her face was
calm, it was evident that she was suffering terribly.

"No, no," he cried; "no, dear, you are wrong."

"No, Mark, I am right: you told us you took refuge with a friend--that
friend was my father."

"What!  Rich, do you know what you are saying--do you know what this
means if the police should hear?"

"Yes," she cried; "the clearing up of a terrible mystery; perhaps the
restoration of all that you have lost."

"Janet, is she mad?" cried Mark.  "Do you not see what all this means?"

Janet shook her head with a helpless look on her face.

"Then I will tell you," he thundered: "it means ruin--misery to us all.
Girl, for pity's sake, be silent!  Rich, dear Rich, I love you with a
man's first strong love.  Have I not slaved for you all these years, to
win you for my own true wife?  Don't--don't raise this up between us.
What is poverty to such a shadow as this?"

"I do not understand you," she cried; "but it is true.  You did come to
my father's house that night."

He gazed at her in blank despair.

"Why do you look at me like that?  Do you not see the light?"

"The light!" he cried, with a bitter laugh.  "I see you--the woman I
love--trying to force me into a position which I would sooner die than
hold.  Hush, for mercy's sake!  No, no, no!" he muttered; and then
aloud, "Call it a lie, or a desperate man's last cry for help.  I did
not come to your father's house that night."

Rich gazed at him in blank astonishment for the moment, and then she
flung her arms about his neck, and with her eyes close to his, she
cried.

"What are you thinking--that it was my father who drugged and robbed
you, or my brother?  Oh, Mark?"

She seemed to throw him off as she stepped back, her pale face flushing,
and a look of indignant anger in her eyes.

"What does this mean?" cried Janet; but her words fell unheeded.

"Shame on you!  You are silent.  How could you think this thing?"

"Heaven help me!" groaned Mark.  "And I fought so hard!"

By a sudden revulsion of feeling, Rich turned to him again, and with her
sweet rich voice, fall of the agony of her heart, she caught his hands.

"How could you think it of him, Mark!  My poor gentle-hearted father!
Do you not see?  Did you not tell us that you were hunted from place to
place by those men?"

"Rich, my darling," groaned Mark, as he strained her to his breast, "do
you not see that you are digging a gulf between us, and that you will
soon be standing on the other side, shrinking from me in abhorrence as
the man who has brought this charge against your father?  And God knows
how I have striven to bear all in silence!"

"But, Mark--"

"Rich, it is your doing, not mine!" he cried wildly.  "What are the
diamonds to the loss of you?"

"But, Mark," she cried impetuously, "this is madness.  You suspect him.
You shall speak now--you shall.  You have thought my father did this
thing?"

"You drag it from me," he groaned.  "I do."

"Oh, shame!" cried Richmond, shrinking from him; "to suspect the poor
old man, who nearly died in your defence."

"What!" cried Mark.

"Whom we found struck down bleeding, and whom I am neglecting now, when
he is hovering almost between life and death--neglecting that I might
come to him whom I thought the soul of chivalry and faith."

"Stop!" cried Mark, in a harsh voice, as he released Rich, who straggled
from him, and stood with his hands pressed to his eyes.  "Janet, I have
been off my head.  I seem to think wildly now and then.  Do I hear her
aright, or am I still confused?  What does she say?"

"I--I don't quite know myself," faltered Janet, bursting into tears.

"And yet I seem to understand," cried Mark excitedly.  "Rich dearest,
speak to me again.  Your father found--struck down--in my defence?"

"Yes, that is what I said," replied Rich coldly.

"Struck down in my defence.  I did not know of this."

"You--you knew he was very ill," sobbed Janet.

"Yes; but I knew no more."

"How could we tell you when you were nearly dead?" sobbed Janet; "and
the doctor said you were not to be troubled in any way."

Mark Heath stood as if dazed for a few minutes, striving to think
coherently, and master the delusion, under which he had been suffering.

"Rich," he cried at last, "for God's sake, tell me all!"



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

A PHYSICIAN UNHEALED.

James Poynter sat polishing his hat with his handkerchief, and staring
at Hendon with a contraction, half smile, half grin, upon his face.

"I tell you I can't pay you.  You forced the money upon me."

"I forced it on you!  Come, that's a good one!  Now, are you going to
pay?"

"You know I can't, Poynter.  You must wait."

"Not likely.  Well, I must have my money, and what your father owes me
too."

"I have only your word that he does owe you money, James Poynter."

"All right, Mr Hendon; go on.  Insult me.  The more patient I am the
more advantage you take.  Ask him if he don't."

"Ask him?" said the young man bitterly; "you know his mind is as good as
gone."

"Is it as bad as that?" said Poynter, with assumed pity, but his eyes
twinkling with eagerness, as he wound the handkerchief round and round.

"Bad?  Yes.  Millington, our best man, saw him yesterday, and he says
nothing but an operation and raising the bone pressing on the brain will
relieve him; and at his age he would not be responsible for the result."

Poynter drew a breath fall of satisfaction, and smiled at his polished
hat.

"Well, I think the operation ought to be performed, so as to bring him
to his senses again.  Poor old boy!  He does seem queer.  I asked him--"

"What, you spoke to that poor old man about your cursed debt!" cried
Hendon furiously.

"Of course I did.  Cursed debt, indeed!  Why, I've behaved as well as a
man could behave.  Lookye here, do you want me to sell you up?"

Hendon uttered an ejaculation, and, writhing under his impotence, he
began pacing the old dining-room, while with a show of proprietorship
James Poynter set down his hat, put his handkerchief therein, took out
his case, and selected a cigar.

"Have a weed?" he said, nipping the end of the one he was about to
smoke.

"Damn you, and your cigars too!" cried the young man furiously.

"Thank ye, cub!" said Poynter, lighting up.  "There, you won't make me
waxy.  I'm a true friend in disguise.  Ah, this is one of a noo lot I
bought.  Have one, old man."

Hendon made a fierce gesticulation, and scowled in the grinning face.

"How long are you going to stop here?" he said.

"Long as I like.  P'raps I shall have the house done up, and come and
live here."

"What?"

"Ah! what indeed!  Suppose I bought the lease of the governor?  What
have you got to say to that?"

Hendon glared at him wildly.

"How's the little angel--Janet?"

Hendon's hands clenched, and he ground his teeth, while Poynter laughed
at him.

"So the big brother's out of the hospital; got over his D.T., and
lodging with his sister, eh?"

Hendon made no reply.

"Come, old chap," continued Poynter, "have a cigar, and do try and be
sensible.  I don't want to do nothing hard, but of course a man must
fight for his own hand.  I haven't come here to sell you up, but to
bring you to your senses, like the friend I always was.  Now look here,
Hendon, this brother seems to be as loose a fish as a girl could have
for a relation; but Miss Heath's as smart a little lass as e'er
stepped--"

"Have the goodness to leave Miss Heath's name alone, sir."

"Waxy again.  Now look here, Hendon, I'm a rich man.  Suppose I say to
you, my lad, look out for a snug little practice; I'll lend you the
money--can't afford to give it--buy the practice, and marry Janet.
Isn't that being a friend?"

Hendon went on pacing the room.

"Sulky, eh?  All right: answer me this, then.  Shouldn't I make your
sister a better husband than this Mark Heath?  Come, be sensible; take
me up-stairs to see her.  Now, at once.  Let me make things pleasant for
all of you.  What's the good of being enemies, when we might be
friends?"

"Friends!"

"Better than being master and slave, eh, Hendon, my lad?  Borrower slave
to the lender, eh?"

"Ah!" ejaculated Hendon.

"Come, come, you're sensible now.  Take me up-stairs, and let's have it
out with Rich."

"With Rich!" cried Hendon passionately.

"There, don't you be so cocky, young man.  I don't call your Janet,
Jenny.  Yes, with Rich; my own dear darling Rich.  There!  How do you
like that?  Now then, let's get it over."

"My sister is not at home."

"Then we'll go up and see the old man; and let's hear what he'll say to
it all.  He won't deny that he's in my debt."

"Poor old fellow, no," groaned Hendon to himself.

"I say," said Poynter, turning grave, "where's Rich?  She hasn't gone to
see that sailor chap?"

"I don't know whom you mean by `sailor chap,'" said Hendon bitterly.

"Then I'll tell you," he said.  "I mean Mark Heath, and I've got a
theory of my own about him."

"Curse you and your theories!" cried Hendon fiercely.

"Yes, and bless me and my money," said Poynter, laughingly.

"Stop!  Where are you going?"

"This is my house, or as good as mine," said Poynter; "and I'm going up
to see my poor old father-in-law to be.  I don't think he's properly
seen to, and I mean to have him off down to the seaside, to try and pull
him round.  Coming?"

Hendon was so much staggered by his visitor's cool insolence that
Poynter was at the foot of the staircase before he thought to follow;
and then, feeling that this man had a hold upon him that he dared not
shake off, he followed him up-stairs, and into the sparely-furnished
front drawing-room in which the doctor had been lying all through his
illness.

He was seated where he could see the window, and his handsome face
looked vacant and strange as he turned his head to Elizabeth, who was
waiting on him in her mistress's absence.

"Is that Rich?" he said feebly.

"No, doctor, it's me, come for a bit of advice," cried Poynter.  "Here,"
he said, turning to the maid, as he whisked his handkerchief round his
hat, "you be off."

Elizabeth left the room, wiping her eyes, and Poynter sat down beside
the doctor, and shook hands.

"Why, I ought to feel your pulse now, and not you mine," he said
boisterously.

"Glad to see you, Mr Poynter.  Pretty well, thank you.  Is my Rich
coming?"

"To be sure she is, old boy.  Now I just want a cosy chat with you about
Rich."

"About Rich?  Yes, yes."

"You remember how I proposed for her?"

The doctor looked at him blankly; and shook his head.  "Is Rich coming,
Hendon?" he said.

"Yes, father; she is here," he cried; for there was the sound of wheels;
and running to the window, he smiled grimly as he saw who descended from
the cab.

"Might have stopped a little longer," grumbled Poynter to himself.  "It
don't matter; the game's mine now.  Damn!"

He started from his seat as he saw Rich enter the room, closely followed
by Mark Heath and Janet, to whom Hendon hurried with outstretched hands,
and after a little hesitation, two little dark well-mended gloves and
their contents were placed in his strong grasp.

"Dearest father," said Rich softly, as she hurried to the old man's
side.

"Ah," he said, taking her hands, and fondling them, while a brighter
smile came into his pleasant vacant face; "that's better--that's better.
Here's Mr--Mr--Mr--"

"Poynter, doctor," said that individual, glad of an opportunity to
remove his eyes from Mark's, which were gazing at him rather inimically.

"Yes, yes, Mr Poynter come to see us, Rich."

"And I have come to see you too, doctor," said Mark.  "You remember me?"

The doctor looked up at him keenly, and then shook his head, and, with a
troubled look in his eyes.

"No," he said.  "No--no--no."

"Hah!" ejaculated Poynter, with a smile of satisfaction.

"Mark Heath, father dear," said Rich gently, "Don't you remember Mr
Heath, who went to the Cape?"

"Heath?" said the doctor; "Heath--Heath?  No--no," he added
thoughtfully.  "Glad to see Mr Heath.  Friend of Hendon's?"  His words
were calm, but he seemed to wince.

"No, doctor: I'm Hendon's friend," said Poynter, with a laugh; and he
gave his hat a loving wipe.

"Yes, Mr Poynter.  You came to see me the day before yesterday.  I
remember--remember.  I prescribed--"

"That's right, sir; that's right," cried Poynter, with one of his horse
laughs.

"Is this man going, Hendon?" whispered Mark impatiently.

"No, Mr Mark Heath, he ain't," said Poynter fiercely.  "Speak lower if
you don't want people to hear; we've got sharp ears in the City, and I'm
not going."

"No, no; Mr Poynter has come to see me," said the doctor, gazing in a
frightened way at Mark.  "Don't go, Mr Poynter.  It's very dull here."

"I'm not going, doctor.  It's all right," said the unwelcome visitor.
"You're going to set me right."

"You'll excuse me--Mr Poynter, I think," said Mark; "but I have some
private business to transact with Dr Chartley."

"Yes, I'll excuse you as much as you like.  I've got private business
with Doctor Chartley, too."

"Why, Mark," cried Hendon, "have you found out anything about your
loss?"

"Yes.  No.  Well, yes; I have learned something," cried Mark excitedly,
and he glanced again angrily at Poynter.

But the latter's unwelcome presence seemed to be ignored by all, in the
intense excitement of the moment.  For Rich threw herself upon her knees
at her father's feet, and took his hands.

"Father dear," she said gently, "I want you to try and remember
something."

"Yes, my dear, yes--certainly, certainly," said the old man, bending
down to kiss her tenderly.

"That night, you know, when--when you were taken ill."

"Yes, my love, that night I was taken ill?  Was I taken ill?"

"Yes, dear; but you are nearly well now.  Do you remember Mr Heath
coming?  Try and remember, dear."

Poynter's face grew convulsed and angry, and he seemed to be looking
about for some moral weapon with which to attack his enemy, but
contented himself with a whisk of his handkerchief across his hat.

"Heath, dear?  This is Mr Heath, you say--Heath?" and the doctor's face
grew troubled.

"Yes, yes.  Do you remember his coming to see you?"

The doctor looked from one to the other, and shook his head.

"Oh, father, dear father, for my sake try!" cried Rich.  "Do you not
remember his coming to you?"

The doctor put his hand to his head, and looked wildly round.

"No," he said at last.  "No, I don't think I have seen Mr Heath
before;" but the wild look was still in his eyes.

"Don't say that, doctor," said Mark, taking his hand.  "You have
forgotten.  Don't you remember?  That dreadful foggy night.  I came to
you, and you let me into the surgery?"

"Yes, dear, you recollect," cried Rich, piteously.

"I was utterly exhausted, and worn out--very much excited," continued
Mark.  "You took me into the consulting-room, and I lay down upon the
sofa.  You gave me brandy, and some narcotic."

"Brandy and a narcotic," said the doctor, smiling; "rather a strange
mixture.  Did I?"

"Yes; you recollect now?" said Mark eagerly.

The doctor looked at him intently, and then at Rich; but ended by
shaking his head slowly.

"No," he said, "I do not recollect."

"All this is maddening!" muttered Mark, "just when one's hopes were
reviving, and there was a chance of discovering something.  Doctor," he
continued excitedly, "try and recollect."

"Yes, dear, for Mark Heath's sake try," continued Rich; and Poynter
ground his teeth, as he felt what he would give to evoke the same
interest for himself.

"I will try, my love," said the doctor blandly.  "Of course."

"Then you remember I told you I had just come from the Cape; that I had
a bag of diamonds in my breast?"

Poynter uttered a sneering laugh, which made Heath wince, and turn upon
him wrathfully.

"Diamonds? did you say a bag of diamonds?" said the doctor.

"Yes, yes; you remember."

"Was it not a very unsafe place to carry diamonds?"

"Yes, of course it was; but I could trust no one but myself!  You
remember then, doctor?"

Dr Chartley paused for a few moments, and shook his head again.

"No," he said blandly, "I do not remember.  Diamonds, you say?"

"Yes, yes, diamonds!"

"I hope they were not lost," said the doctor simply.

"Yes; lost, lost!" cried Mark frantically.  "The night you were struck
down!"

"Here, hold hard!" cried Poynter sharply.  "Look here, Mr Mark Heath,
you came here that night?"

"Why do you interfere, sir?"

"Never mind.  P'r'aps I know something."

"You know something?"

"P'r'aps so.  You say you came here--late?"

"Yes, very late."

"That night the doctor was struck down?"

"Yes; but why do you ask?"

"Because, you scoundrel, we've got the clue at last.  You were the man!"

So sudden was the charge that Mark literally staggered back, and, weak
from his illness, he gasped, and looked to a superficial observer as
much like a guilty man as ever recoiled from a sudden denunciation.  But
as a wave of the advancing tide merely retires to gain fresh force, Mark
Heath recovered himself.

"You scoundrel!" he cried; and he would have sprung at Poynter's throat,
but for the restraining arm of Janet and Hendon.

"Scoundrel yourself!" cried Poynter savagely.  "Look at his face!
Here--the police!"

He strode towards the door, upon which at that moment there was a loud
tapping; and before he could reach it, Bob stood in the opening, very
rough of head, very ragged, and looking as if he had not been washed
since he was missed.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

BOB IS EXPLANATORY.

"Here, boy," cried Poynter, "quick!  Fetch a policeman.  Half-a-crown."

He thrust his hand into his pocket, but at that moment even that
outrageously large sum had not the slightest effect upon the boy, who
looked quickly round from one to the other till his eyes lit upon Mark,
at whom he rushed with the notion of a well-trained dog, seizing him by
the arm and breast of his coat, and clinging tightly.

"I've got him," he said shrilly.  "Fetch the perlice.  I've got him,
Miss Rich; I see him come that night."

Poynter raised his fist, and struck it into his open hand.

"I knew it!" he cried.  "I knew I was right!  Now, Mr Mark Heath, what
have you got to say?"

"Hendon, lad, lay hold of this boy.  He's mad."

"No, I ain't," cried Bob.  "Had 'nuff to make me, though."

"Let go, you dog!" roared Mark.

"All right, I'm a-going to," said the boy, shrinking away as Rich came
to him.

"Bob," she cried, "what is this you're saying?"

"Well, I d'know, Miss," he said, scratching his head; "and I don't think
now it weer him.  But I'll sweer he come and told the doctor as the
perlice or some one was after him."

"Yes, boy, yes; I did come, but you were not there."

"Worn't I?  Yes, I was," said the boy, grinning.  "I see you come, and
you'd got one o' them, long-tail ulcers and a broad-brimmed hat; and the
doctor--I say, Miss, is he better?"

"Yes, yes, Bob; but pray go on."

"I am glad the guvner's better.  It scared me.  I thought he was a dead
'un."

The boy looked round, and gave everybody a confidential nod, including
"'Lisbeth," who was standing at the door, crying, and smiling with
satisfaction by turns.

"But you say you saw me come!" cried Mark, while Poynter stood looking
on in triumph.

"See you come?  Course I did.  I know'd you d'reckly, but I don't think
it was you as did it."

"No, boy, it was not I.  But where were you?"

"Wheer was I?  Ah! you wouldn't know, I was afraid o' the doctor
dropping onto me for being there, and I skipped into the bone box."

"What!" cried Hendon.

"I did, sir, 'strue as goodness.  There's lot's o' room, and I could
just lift up the lid and peep, and that's how I see him come."

"You young rascal?" muttered Hendon; while the doctor sat quietly
smiling, as if it were something got up for his special amusement.

"Then the doctor he took you into his room, and you had some bran'-water
hot.  I smelt it.  And when he come and got down one o' the bottles, and
misked you up a dollop o' physic; and I heared you both a-buzzing away,
and talking about wheer you'd been.  The doctor kep' coaxing of you,
like, to go to sleep, and somehow that sent me off."

"What! in that box with those--"

"Oh, yes, I don't mind them.  I often nips in there when any one's
coming."

"Did you hear anything else, Bob?" said Rich excitedly, as she held the
boy's hand.

"Not till some one else come, and knocked two or three times; and I was
going to answer the door, when the doctor come and turned down the gas,
and then I lay still, and heard him putting the physic bottles away
afore he'd let 'em in; didn't you, sir?"

The doctor smiled, and shook his head.

"Why, I heared you!" said the boy reproachfully; "and then you turns up
the gas again, and I lifts the lid a bit, and sees it was two men and an
accident."

"An accident?"

"Yes, Miss, a chap as they said had been run over; and they brings him
in, and puts him on the cushion a-top o' the box I was in; and I lay
still and listens, for I says as it was a good chance to hear a
operation if I couldn't see one."

"Go on, boy; go on."

"All right, sir.  Well, as I listens--oh, it was good!  The chap groans
and hollers about his chest, and then he makes no end of fuss, and the
doctor says he'll soon be all right; and then--_whoosh!--croosh_!  I
hears as if some one had been hit, and a big fall--_quelch_!  Then I lay
very still, for I was scared.  I heard some one get off the box, and a
lot o' whispering and I dursn't move, for fear they should know I was
there.  But when I did peep, and lifted the lid softly, there was the
doctor lying close to the box, on his face, and I thought he was dead.

"That give me a turn, Miss," continued the boy, after moistening his
lips, for his voice had become husky, "and I don't think I knowed what
happened till I heerd a skeary kind o' noise, and a loud sort o' whop in
the 'sulting-room; and then the door was opened, and I see the light
shining on you a-lying on the sofa--you, sir--sleep or shamming, and a
man in there too, a-lying down, and--and--I--I can't help it, Miss--I
ain't had much to eat lately, and I--"

Poor Bob let himself sink in a heap upon the floor, covered his face
with his hands, and burst into a fit of sobbing.

There was another fit of sobbing heard, for grimy-faced Elizabeth rushed
forward, plumped down beside the boy, and took his head to her breast,
to rock him to and fro.

"Poor boy!" said Rich softly, and she took his hand.

The touch was like magic; for Bob lifted up his dirty tearful face, all
smiles.

"It's all right, Miss; I'm on'y a bit upset.  Only let me get into the
surgery again, and I knows what to take to put me right."

"Can you tell us any more, my lad?" said Mark kindly.

"Course I can, sir; not much, though, for I dunno what come over me.  I
see them two a-lying about, and as something horrid was the matter, and
I come over all wet and sick; and then I don't remember any more till I
seemed to wake up with a headache, and couldn't make out what it all
meant; and when I could I lifted up the box-lid, and put out my hand,
and felt to try if it was fancy.  But there was the doctor lying on his
face, and though all was very quiet, I knowed the other dead un must be
in the 'sulting-room, and I lay there 'fraid to move, and all of a
pruspiration."

"Did you hear anything else?" said Rich eagerly.

"Yes, Miss; I heared the window broke, and you come, and the perliceman,
and I heared all you said; but I dursn't move, for fear the perlicemen
should think I did it--the perlice is such wunners, you know; and last
of all, I hears the perliceman begin hunting about, and I got scared
again, and tried to hide; and jus' as I picks up that there white skull,
and was trying whether I couldn't get lower, he opens the lid, and bangs
it down."

"Should you know the men again?" asked Mark eagerly.

"Dunno, sir.  You see it was all foggy like, and they was wropped up;
but I should know 'em if I heerd 'em speak."

Mark uttered an ejaculation full of disappointment, and signed to the
boy to go on.

"Well, sir, that's all; only I waited till no one was there; and then I
lifted the lid and crep out of the box; and it was very horrid, for
there was the dead chap in the nex' room, and I kep' thinking he'd come
after me, or them others would; and I was that scared, I crawled along
the passage, and down-stairs, and then sat and shivered, list'ning to
you folks talking, and something in my head going buzz."

"Why did you not come to us?" said Rich kindly.

"I did want to, Miss, but I dursn't.  I was 'fraid 'bout what you'd say;
and there was the perliceman too, and I'd no business to be there.  I
d'know, only I was very frightened, and didn't hardly know what I did.
I never see anybody dead afore."

"Well, what did you do then?"

"Waited a bit, Miss, and then I got out in the area, nipped over the
rails, and went home and told mother."

"But one minute," cried Mark, pressing his hand to his breast; "did
you--did you hear anything said about--about diamonds?"

"Yes," cried the boy.  "I heared one on 'em say, `Be cool, and the
diamonds are ours.'"

Mark uttered a groan.  His last hope was crushed; and the boy went on:

"Mother said she know'd no good ud come of my being at a doctor's, and
that it all meant body-snatching and 'section, and that I shouldn't get
into trouble for no one.  She said if I stopped I should be took up by
the perlice; and I was scared enough, and did as she said, and she took
me with her down in the country."

"In the country?" cried Hendon.  "Where did you go?"

"I d'know," said the boy.  "Everywhere's, I think.  Tramping about, and
sleeping in workusses; and it's been very cold and mis'able, and I'm
very fond o' the old woman; only somehow--"

"Well, Bob, why do you stop?" said Hendon.

"Dunno, sir," said the boy, looking very hard at Rich's white hand.  "I
wouldn't ha' done it, on'y she was took bad, and they put her in one of
the workas 'firmaries, and wouldn't let me stop along with her.  They
shoved me in a school as was all whitewash, with a lot more boys; and I
got in a row with some on 'em, and we had a fight, and the master caned
me, and I hooked it; and please, Miss, mayn't I stay?"



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

A JAR WRONGLY LABELLED.

James Poynter blustered and threatened; but the only proceedings he took
were the sending of threatening letters to Hendon--letters which Mark
advised him to throw into the fire.

"Wait," said the latter one evening, "and let him develop his attack; we
should only weaken ourselves by going out to meet him."

"But if he really has claims on my father, and seizes this place?"

"Then, my lad, you and I must set to, and see if it is not possible for
us to join hands and get together another home for your father and
sister--one, perhaps, that, if small, might be made happy till I came
back."

"Came back?" said Janet, who had accompanied her brother to the doctor's
that evening.

"Yes, dear," said Mark.  "I have not said a word to a soul; but I'm
going back to the Cape by the next boat."

"To try your luck again?" said Hendon quickly.

"To try my luck again," replied Mark; and he glanced at Rich, who was
seated at work with Janet, while the doctor looked on, and smiled
placidly at both in turn.

Rich turned very pale; but she did not speak.

"I have no prospects here," continued Mark; "and out yonder I have faith
in making some progress.  I shall tempt my fate again."

"And if I could only feel sure that those we left behind would be safe,"
cried Hendon, "I'd go with you."

Janet's eyes lit up, and it was a look more of encouragement than blame
which she directed at her lover.

"You, Hendon?" said Mark, smiling.

"Yes; I want to get away, and begin differently.  I'm--there, look here,
Mark Heath; with a strong-minded chap like you, I know I could get on,
doctoring or diamond-digging, or something of that kind.  Hallo, what is
it?"

"Letter, sir."

"Letter?  Why didn't the boy bring it up?"

"He's a-dusting the surgery, sir," replied the maid, who seemed to have
been engaged upon some cleansing business in which she had been worsted.

"For you, Hendon," said Rich, who had taken the letter.  "Is it from the
hospital?"

"No, it isn't from the hospital," said Hendon quietly, as he knit his
brow over the correctly-written formal letter, in which a firm of
solicitors respectfully informed him that unless certain sums due on
dishonoured bills were paid to them in a specified time, they were
instructed by their client, Mr James Poynter, to take immediate
proceedings for the recovery of the debt.

"Mark, old chap, the attack has begun;" and Hendon handed the letter to
the former, who read it through.

"Let's go down-stairs," he said.  "I want to talk to you."

"Is anything wrong?" said Janet anxiously.

"Nothing fresh, my dear," replied Mark: "Hendon and I are going to chat
over matters.  We shall be up again soon."

"But is the news very bad?" said Rich.

"No: on the whole good," replied Mark; and he and Hendon went
down-stairs, and were going into the dining-room, but the gas was lit in
the surgery, and they went there, to find Bob going over the bottles,
and, after a careful polish, putting them back.

"Be off for a bit, my boy," said Hendon; "or--no; go on with your work."

He took a match from a box on a shelf, and lit the consulting-room lamp.

"Here," he said, "room's chilly; we may as well have a pipe over it."

Mark nodded, and they smoked for a few minutes in silence.

"Why did you say that was good news?" said Hendon at last.

"Because the enemy shows his hand."

"Shows his hand?  How?"

"If he had any claim upon your father, he would have attacked him first.
He has no claim.  It was an empty boast."

"So much the better," cried Hendon.  "Well, that settles it.  I shall go
off with you."

Mark smoked in silence.

"If you'll have me.  But I say, old fellow, do you quite give up the
diamonds?"

"Quite."

"You said you had been to the police again, yesterday."

"Yes, and they say they think they can lay their hands upon the men when
they try to sell."

"Well, then, there is hope."

"Not a bit.  They are cooling down.  I don't think they have much faith
in my story; and, besides, the matter is growing stale.  They have a
dozen more things on the way.  Hendon, my lad, you love my sister?"

"On my--"

"That will do.  I believe it; but neither you nor I can marry for years
to come.  You shall go with me, and we will come back well enough off to
make those two our wives."

"But Poynter's debt?  He'll have me arrested before I can leave the
country."

"His debt shall be paid."

"Paid?"

"Not in full, but as much as is honestly due to him.  I shall set a
sensible solicitor to work to make a compromise."

"But the money?  No, no; he will not give up.  This is putting on the
screw so as to move my sister."

"Whom he will not move," said Mark, smiling with content.  "I suppose
you are not likely to take up your father's invention?"

"Good gracious, no!  Millington, our big swell, told me, when I
mentioned it, that it was a craze, and that it was contrary to nature.
You can't arrest ordinary decay."

"No, of course not; life must go on till it reaches its highest pitch,
and then decline."

"Of course."

"Well, look here, Hendon, Janet and I have a little money between us in
Consols, and, as we are going to make a fresh start together, we'll do
so clearly, and your debt shall be paid."

"What, with Janet's money?  Hang it, no!" cried Hendon fiercely; "I'm
not such a cad as that."

"You are going to be my brother," said Mark, smiling as he slapped him
on the shoulder, "my younger brother, and you'll do exactly what I bid
you."

"Yes, but--"

"That will do.  I see my way clearly now, so let's go up-stairs and have
a chat with the girls."

Hendon put down his pipe very slowly, and glanced up at a shelf, upon
which some of the apparatus connected with his father's dreams was
standing; but it offered him no solution of his difficulties, and he
followed Mark Heath into the surgery just as Janet and Rich, who were
unable longer to bear the suspense, came down to press for an
explanation.

"Here, I say," saluted the party, from Bob, "who's been a-meddlin' with
these here preparations?"

"What preparations?" said Hendon sharply.

"These here," cried Bob, who had just taken down a large glass jar to
dust.  "The doctor will be in a way.  He don't like no one to meddle
with them."

The jar was labelled, like the row from which it had been taken, with a
gummed-on slip of letter paper, the contents being written in the
doctor's own bold hand, the ink now yellow with age, and the gummed-on
label beginning to peel off.

"Put the horrible thing away!" cried Hendon angrily.

"But some 'un's been a-stuffing something else in here as don't belong,"
cried the boy.  "I knows 'em all by heart.  Look here!"

He thrust his hand into the glass jar, after removing the great stopper.

"What are you doing, boy?" cried Hendon, stepping forward to arrest the
lad's action, as he drew out, all dripping with the spirit, a
disgusting-looking swollen object, evidently a portion of the digestive
viscera of a calf or sheep; but before he could reach him, Mark uttered
a wild cry, thrust him aside; and, as he snatched the hideous-looking
object from Bob's hand, the glass jar fell upon the surgery floor, was
smashed to atoms, and a strong odour of methylated spirit filled the
place.

"You've done it now!" cried the boy piteously; and then he stared as
Mark dragged from his pocket a knife, and cut the string of what, in
place of an anatomical preparation, was a soaked and swollen
wash-leather bag.

"Look, Rich, look!" cried Mark, dropping the knife, his hands trembling
with excitement, and his voice so husky and changed that it was hardly
recognisable.

As he spoke, he thrust Rich back upon the settee, and, with one quick
motion, poured a couple of handfuls of rough diamonds into her lap.

"Mark!" she cried, as he sank upon his knees before her, and clasped her
hands; while, in his excitement, Hendon caught Janet in his arms, from
which she might have extricated herself a little more quickly than she
did.

"Now just look at that!" said Bob, picking up the bag, which had fallen
upon the floor.  "Why, it's just like one o' them things as the doctor's
got saved up.  I say," he continued excitedly, "lookye here, sir,
there's another one inside."

He drew out of the swollen leather bag a stone as big as a small marble,
and held it out.

"Yes; and that's yours, my boy," cried Mark excitedly; "whatever it
fetches shall be for you."

"What! my own?" cried Bob.

"Yes--yes!"

"To do what I like with, sir?"

"Well, it shall be applied for your benefit, my lad."

"Then I wants some on it now!" cried the boy excitedly.

"What for?" said Rich.

"To get my old ooman home."

"And I want one, Mark," cried Hendon.

"Yes," said Mark; "to pay James Poynter's debt."



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

KNOTTING UP LOOSE THREADS.

It had been the doctor's last act before he admitted his assailants.  As
if inspired by a fear that his patient's excited utterances might be
true, and urged by the risk of leaving so valuable a treasure
unprotected, he had taken the bag, and slipped it in a place not likely
to be examined, though he never recovered sufficiently to recall what he
had done.

As to the two men who had visited the surgery that night, by a strange
want of scent on the part of the sleuth-hounds of the law they were
never found; one reason being that, with the cash they found in the belt
Mark Heath wore, they had made their way back to the Cape.

The house in Ramillies Street remained unchanged in aspect so that after
a time, under the old doctor's name, a new plate was affixed, bearing
that of his son.

The red light shone out every night, and the plate upon the door
glistened in the sunshine, such little as came into the street, after
Bob had been over the said plates with rotten-stone and oil, prior to
"cleaning hisself," as he called it, and donning his new smart livery,
ready to admit the patients who came; but though James Poynter was often
really sick, he sought advice there no more.

That red light shone out every night with a dull glare across the road;
but whenever as ordinary constable, or later on as sergeant, John
Whyley's duties took him round that way, he always stopped, and rolled
his head in his stock with a sapient shake.

"Ah!" he invariably said; "that there just was fog!"

THE END.





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