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Title: The Doctor's Red Lamp - A Book of Short Stories Concerning the Doctor's Daily Life
Author: Various
Language: English
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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.

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+------------------------------------------------------+
|                                                      |
|            THE DOCTOR’S RECREATION SERIES            |
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+------------------------------------------------------+
|                                                      |
|        CHARLES WELLS MOULTON _General Editor_        |
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|                                                      |
|                 [Illustration: LOGO]                 |
|                                                      |
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|                                                      |
|                      VOLUME TWO                      |
|                                                      |
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[Illustration: _THE VILLAGE DOCTOR_]


THE DOCTOR’S RED LAMP

A Book of Short Stories Concerning the Doctor’s Daily Life.

Selected by

CHARLES WELLS MOULTON.

[Illustration: DECORATION]



1904
The Saalfield Publishing Co.
Chicago   Akron, O.   New York

Copyright, 1904,
by
The Saalfield Publishing Company

The Werner Company
Akron, O.



TABLE OF CONTENTS.

  THE SURGEON’S MIRACLE,                              _Joseph Kirkland._

  THE DOCTORS OF HOYLAND,                                 _Conan Doyle._

  DOCTOR SANTOS: A CHARACTER SKETCH,                  _Gustave Morales._

  THE CURING OF KATE NEGLEY,                           _Lucy S. Furman._

  A DOCTOR’S STORY,                                        _E. M. Davy._

  JOHN BARTINE’S WATCH: THE DOCTOR’S STORY,            _Ambrose Bierce._

  TWO WILLS,                                                _Anonymous._

  A DOCTOR OF THE OLD SCHOOL (A GENERAL PRACTITIONER),   _Ian Maclaren._

  THE VARIOUS TEMPERS OF GRANDMOTHER GREGG,       _Ruth McEnery Stuart._

  DR. BARRÈRE,                                      _Margaret Oliphant._

  A WILL AND A WAY,                           _Margaret Sutton Briscoe._

  DR. ARMSTRONG,                                           _D. L. B. S._

  DR. WYGRAM’S SON,                                      _G. M. McCrie._

  ON THE INDIA FRONTIER,                         _Henry Seton Merriman._

  DOCTOR GREENFIELD,                                _Lady Mabel Howard._

  DR. GLADMAN: A SKETCH OF COLONIAL LIFE,        _Gentleman’s Magazine._

  DR. WRIGHTSON’S ENEMY,                             _Hon. Elenor Eden._

  THE COMING OF THE SHIP,                         _Maud Wilder Goodwin._

  DR. PENNINGTON’S COUNTRY PRACTICE,                    _Butler Monroe._

  THE DOCTOR: AN OLD VIRGINIA FOX-HUNTER,               _A. G. Bradley._

  THE DOCTOR’S FRONT YARD,                             _R. H. Sessions._

  A GENTLE MANIAC,                           _ George Edgar Montgomery._



ILLUSTRATIONS.

                                                                    PAGE

  THE VILLAGE DOCTOR[1]                                   _Frontispiece_
      _From the Painting by H. Kretzschmer._

  A SPOONFUL EVERY HOUR[1]                                            88
      _From the Painting by Ph. Fleischer._

  VACCINATING THE BABY[1]                                            174
      _From the Painting by Ed. Hamman._

  A VIOLENT FALL                                                     256
      _From the Painting by Adolf Echtler._


[1] Original by the courtesy of William Wood & Co., New York.



PREFACE


In preparing this book of short stories concerning the doctor’s daily
life, the editor has availed himself of the counsel of his staff
of editorial associates, and he trusts that this volume will prove
equally acceptable as the other works in THE DOCTOR’S RECREATION
SERIES.

The stories themselves are offered without critical comment. Many of
them are old favorites. Many of them are by well-known and standard
authors. All relate some episode in the doctor’s life in a manner both
striking and original. We believe this is the first volume of its kind
ever offered to the public.

For the courtesy of copyright privileges extended we return thanks to
S. S. McClure Co., The Century Co., Harper & Brothers, J. B. Lippincott
Co., Little, Brown & Co., Macmillan & Co., John Brisben Walker, Joseph
Kirkland, Dr. Conan Doyle, Lucy S. Furman, Ambrose Bierce, Rev. John
Watson, Ruth McEnery Stuart, Margaret Sutton Briscoe, Henry Seton
Merriman, and Maud Wilder Goodwin.

  C. W. M.

  BUFFALO, _March 18, 1904_.



THE DOCTOR’S RED LAMP.



I.

THE SURGEON’S MIRACLE.


“POOR Abe Dodge.”

That’s what they called him, though he wasn’t any poorer than other
folks--not so poor as some. How could he be poor, work as he did and
steady as he was? Worth a whole grist of such bait as his brother, Ephe
Dodge, and yet they never called Ephe poor--whatever worse name they
might call him. When Ephe was off at a show in the village, Abe was
following the plough, driving a straight furrow, though you wouldn’t
have thought it to see the way his nose pointed. In winter, when Ephe
was taking the girls to singing school or spelling bee or some other
foolishness--out till after nine o’clock at night, like as not--Abe was
hanging over the fire, holding a book so the light would shine, first
on one page and then on the other, and he turning his head as he turned
the book, and reading first with one eye and then with the other.

There, the murder’s out! Abe couldn’t read with both eyes at once. If
Abe looked straight ahead he couldn’t see the furrow--nor anythin’
else, for that matter. His best friend couldn’t say but what Abe Dodge
was the cross-eyedest cuss that ever was. Why, if you wanted to see
Abe, you’d stand in front of him; but if you wanted Abe to see you,
you’d got to stand behind him, or pretty near it. Homely? Well, if you
mean downright “humbly,” that’s what he was. When one eye was in use
the other was out of sight, all except the white of it. Humbly ain’t
no name for it: The girls used to say he had to wake up in the night
to rest his face, it was so humbly. In school you’d ought to have seen
him look down at his copybook. He had to cant his head clear over
and cock up his chin till it pointed out of the winder and down the
road. You’d really ought to have seen him, you’d have died. Head of
the class, too, right along; just as near to the head as Ephe was to
the foot; and that’s sayin’ a good deal. But to see him at his desk!
He looked for all the world like a week-old chicken, peekin’ at a
tumble-bug! And him a grown man, too, for he stayed to school winters
so long as there was anything more the teacher could teach him. You
see, there wasn’t anything to draw him away; no girl wouldn’t look at
him--lucky, too, seein’ the way he looked.

Well, one term there was a new teacher come--regular high-up girl,
down from Chicago. As bad luck would have it, Abe wasn’t at school the
first week--hadn’t got through his fall work. So she got to know all
the scholars, and they was awful tickled with her--everybody always was
that knowed her. The first day she come in and saw Abe at his desk,
she thought he was squintin’ for fun, and she upped and laughed right
out. Some of the scholars laughed too, at first; but most of ‘em, to do
‘em justice, was a leetle took back; young as they was, and cruel by
nature. (Young folks is most usually always cruel--don’t seem to know
no better.)

Well, right in the middle of the hush, Abe gathered up his books and
upped and walked outdoors, lookin’ right ahead of him, and consequently
seeing the handsome young teacher unbeknown to her.

She was the worst cut up you ever did see; but what could she do or
say? Go and tell him she thought he was makin’ up a face for fun? The
girls do say that come noon-spell, when she found out about it, she
cried--just fairly cried. Then she tried to be awful nice to Abe’s
ornery brother Ephe, and Ephe he was tickled most to death; but that
didn’t do Abe any good--Ephe was jest ornery enough to take care that
Abe shouldn’t get any comfort out of it. They do say she sent messages
to Abe, and Ephe never delivered them, or else twisted ‘em so as to
make things worse and worse. Mebbe so. mebbe not--Ephe was ornery
enough for it.

‘Course the school-ma’am she was boardin’ round, and pretty soon it
come time to go to ol’ man Dodge’s, and she went; but no Abe could she
ever see. He kept away, and as to meals, he never set by, but took a
bite off by himself when he could get a chance. (’Course his mother
favored him, being he was so cussed unlucky.) Then when the folks was
all to bed, he’d come in and poke up the fire and peek into his book,
but first one side and then the other, same as ever.

Now what does school-ma’am do but come down one night when she thought
he was a-bed and asleep, and catch him unawares. Abe knowed it was her,
quick as he heard the rustle of her dress, but there wasn’t no help for
it, so he just turned his head away and covered his cross-eyes with his
hands, and she pitched in. What she said I don’t know, but Abe he never
said a word; only told her he didn’t blame her, not a mite; he knew she
couldn’t help it--no more than he could. Then she asked him to come
back to school, and he answered to please excuse him. After a bit she
asked him if he wouldn’t come to oblige her, and he said he calculated
he was obligin’ her more by stayin’ away.

Well, come to that she didn’t know what to say or do, so, woman-like,
she upped and cried; and then she said he hurt her feelings. And the
upshot of it was he said he’d come, and they shook hands on it.

Well, Abe kept his word and took up schoolin’ as if nothing had
happened; and such schoolin’ as there was that winter! I don’t believe
any regular academy had more learnin’ and teachin’ that winter than
what that district school did. Seemed as if all the scholars had
turned over a new leaf. Even wild, ornery, no-account Ephe Dodge
couldn’t help but get ahead some--but then he was crazy to get the
school-ma’am; and she never paid no attention to him, just went
with Abe. Abe was teachin’ her mathematics, seeing that was the one
thing where he knowed more than she did--outside of farmin’. Folks
used to say that if Ephe had Abe’s head, or Abe had Ephe’s face, the
school-ma’am would have half of the Dodge farm whenever ol’ man Dodge
got through with it; but neither of them did have what the other had,
and so there it was, you see.

Well, you’ve heard of Squire Caton, of course; Judge Caton, they call
him since he got to be Judge of the Supreme Court--and Chief Justice
at that. Well, he had a farm down there not far from Fox River, and
when he was there he was just a plain farmer like the rest of us,
though up in Chicago he was a high-up lawyer, leader of the bar. Now it
so happened that a young doctor named Brainard--Daniel Brainard--had
just come to Chicago and was startin’ in, and Squire Caton was
helpin’ him, gave him desk-room in his office and made him known to
the folks--Kinzies, and Butterfields, and Ogdens, and Hamiltons, and
Arnolds, and all of those folks--about all there was in Chicago in
those days. Brainard had been to Paris--Paris, France, not Paris,
Illinois, you understand--and knew all the doctorin’ there was to know
then. Well, come spring, Squire Caton had Doc Brainard down to visit
him, and they shot ducks and geese and prairie chickens and some wild
turkeys and deer, too--game was just swarmin’ at that time. All the
while Caton was doin’ what law business there was to do; and Brainard
thought he ought to be doin’ some doctorin’ to keep his hand in, so he
asked Caton if there wasn’t any cases he could take up--surgery cases
especially he hankered after, seein’ he had more carving tools than
you could shake a stick at. He asked him particularly if there wasn’t
anybody he could treat for “strabismus.” The squire hadn’t heard of
anybody dying of that complaint; but when the doctor explained that
strabismus was French for cross-eyes, he naturally thought of poor
Abe Dodge, and the young doctor was right up on his ear. He smelled
the battle afar off; and ‘most before you could say Jack Robinson the
squire and the doctor were on horseback and down to the Dodge farm,
tool-chest and all.

Well, it so happened that nobody was at home but Abe and Ephe, and
it didn’t take but few words before Abe was ready to set right down,
then and there, and let anybody do anything he was a mind to with his
misfortunate eyes. No, he wouldn’t wait till the old folks come home;
he didn’t want to ask no advice; he wasn’t afraid of pain, nor of what
anybody could do to his eyes--couldn’t be made any worse than they
were, whatever you did to ‘em. Take ‘em out and boil ‘em and put ‘em
back if you had a mind to, only go to work. He knew he was of age and
he guessed he was master of his own eyes--such as they were.

Well, there wasn’t nothing else to do but go ahead. The doctor opened
up his killing tools and tried to keep Abe from seeing them; but Abe
he just come right over and peeked at ‘em, handled ‘em, and called ‘em
“splendid”--and so they were, barrin’ havin’ them used on your own
flesh and blood and bones.

Then they got some cloths and a basin, and one thing an’ another, and
set Abe right down in a chair. (No such thing as chloroform in those
days, you’ll remember.) And Squire Caton was to hold an instrument that
spread the eyelid wide open, while Ephe was to hold Abe’s head steady.
First touch of the lancet, and first spirt of blood, and what do you
think? That ornery Ephe wilted, and fell flat on the floor behind the
chair!

“Squire,” said Brainard, “step around and hold his head.”

“I can hold my own head,” says Abe, as steady as you please. But Squire
Caton, he straddled over Ephe and held his head between his arms, and
the two handles of the eye-spreader with his hands.

It was all over in half a minute, and then Abe he leaned forward, and
shook the blood off his eye-lashes, and looked straight out of that eye
for the first time since he was born. And the first words he said were:

“Thank the Lord! She’s mine!”

About that time Ephe he crawled outdoors, sick as a dog; and Abe spoke
up, says he:

“Now for the other eye, doctor.”

“Oh,” says the doctor, “we’d better take another day for that.”

“All right,” says Abe; “if your hands are tired of cuttin’, you can
make another job of it. My face ain’t tired of bein’ cut, I can tell
you.”

“Well, if you’re game, I am.”

So, if you’ll believe me, they just set to work and operated on the
other eye, Abe holding his own head, as he said he would, and the
squire holding the spreader. And when it was all done, the doctor was
for putting a bandage on to keep things quiet till the wounds all
healed up, but Abe just begged for one sight of himself, and he stood
up and walked over to the clock and looked in the glass, and says he:

“So that’s the way I look, is it? Shouldn’t have known my own
face--never saw it before. How long must I keep the bandage on, doctor?”

“Oh, if the eyes ain’t very sore when you wake up in the morning, you
can take it off, if you’ll be careful.”

“Wake up! Do you s’pose I can sleep when such a blessing has fallen on
me? I’ll lay still, but if I forget it, or you, for one minute this
night, I’ll be so ashamed of myself that it’ll wake me right up!”

Then the doctor bound up his eyes and the poor boy said “Thank God!”
two or three times, and they could see the tears running down his
cheeks from under the cloth. Lord! It was just as pitiful as a
broken-winged bird!

How about the girl? Well; it was all right for Abe--and all wrong for
Ephe--all wrong for Ephe! But that’s all past and gone--past and gone.
Folks come for miles and miles to see cross-eyed Abe with his eyes as
straight as a loon’s leg. Doctor Brainard was a great man forever after
in those parts. Everywhere else, too, by what I heard.

When the doctor and the squire come to go, Abe spoke up, blind-folded
as he was, and says he:

“Doc, how much do you charge a feller for savin’ his life--making a man
out of a poor wreck--doin’ what he never thought could be done but by
dyin’ and goin’ to kingdom come?”

“Oh,” says Doc Brainard, says he, “that ain’t what we look at as pay
practice. You didn’t call me in; I come of myself, as though it was
what we call a clinic. If all goes well, and if you happen to have a
barrel of apples to spare, you just send them up to Squire Caton’s
house in Chicago, and I’ll call over and help eat ‘em.”

What did Abe say to that? Why, sir, he never said a word; but they do
say the tears started out again, out from under the bandage and down
his cheeks. But then Abe he had a five-year-old pet mare he’d raised
from a colt--pretty as a picture, kind as a kitten, and fast as split
lightning; and next time Doc come down Abe he just slipped out to the
barn and brought the mare round and hitched her to the gate-post, and
when Doc come to be going, says Abe:

“Don’t forget your nag, doctor; she’s hitched at the gate.”

Well, sir, even then Abe had the hardest kind of a time to get Doc
Brainard to take that mare; and when he did ride off, leadin’ her, it
wasn’t half an hour before back she came, lickety-split. Doc said she
broke away from him and put for home, but I always suspected he didn’t
have no use for a hoss he couldn’t sell or hire out, and couldn’t
afford to keep in the village--that was what Chicago was then. But
come along towards fall Abe he took her right up to town, and then the
doctor’s practice had growed so much that he was pretty glad to have
her; and Abe was glad to have him have her, seeing all that had come to
him through havin’ eyes like other folks--that’s the school-ma’am, I
mean.

How did the school-ma’am take it? Well, it was this way. After the
cuttin’ Abe didn’t show up for a few days, till the inflammation got
down and he’d had some practice handlin’ his eyes, so to speak. He just
kept himself to himself, enjoying himself. He’d go around doin’ the
chores, singin’ so you could hear him a mile. He was always great on
singin’, Abe was, though ashamed to go to singin’-school with the rest.
Then, when the poor boy began to feel like other folks, he went right
over to where school-ma’am happened to be boardin’ round, and walked
right up to her and took her by both hands, and looked her straight in
the face, and said:

“Do you know me?”

Well, she kind of smiled and blushed, and then the corners of her
mouth pulled down, and she pulled one hand away, and--if you believe
me--that was the third time that girl cried that season, to my certain
knowledge--and all for nothin’ either time!

What did she say? Why, she just said she’d have to begin all over again
to get acquainted with Abe. But Ephe’s nose was out of joint, and Ephe
knowed it as well as anybody, Ephe did. It was Abe’s eyes to Ephe’s
nose.

Married? Oh, yes, of course; and lived on the farm as long as the old
folks lived, and afterwards, too; Ephe staying right along, like the
fool he always had been. That feller never did have as much sense as a
last year’s bird’s nest.

Alive yet? Abe? Well, no. Might have been if it hadn’t been for Shiloh.
When the war broke out Abe thought he’d ought to go, old as he was,
so he went into the Sixth. Maybe you’ve seen a book written about the
captain of Company K of the Sixth. It was Company K he went into--him
and Ephe. And he was killed at Shiloh--just as it always seems to
happen. He got killed, and his worthless brother come home. Folks
thought Ephe would have liked to marry the widow, but, Lord! she never
had no such an idea! Such bait as he was compared to his brother. She
never chirked up, to speak of, and now she’s dead too, and Ephe he just
toddles round, taking care of the children--kind of a he dry-nurse
that’s about all he ever was good for, anyhow.

My name? Oh, my name’s Ephraim--Ephe they call me, for short; Ephe
Dodge. Abe was my brother.

  JOSEPH KIRKLAND.



II.

THE DOCTOR’S OF HOYLAND.


DR. JAMES RIPLEY was always looked upon as an exceedingly lucky dog
by all of the profession who knew him. His father had preceded him in
a practice in the village of Hoyland, in the north of Hampshire, and
all was ready for him on the very first day that the law allowed him
to put his name at the foot of a prescription. In a few years the old
gentleman retired and settled on the South Coast, leaving his son in
undisputed possession of the whole countryside. Save for Dr. Horton,
near Basingstoke, the young surgeon had a clear run of six miles in
every direction, and took his fifteen hundred pounds a year; though, as
is usual in country practice, the stable swallowed up most of what the
consulting-room earned.

Dr. James Ripley was two and thirty years of age, reserved, learned,
unmarried, with set, rather stern, features, and a thinning of the dark
hair upon the top of his head, which was worth quite a hundred a year
to him. He was particularly happy in his management of ladies. He had
caught the tone of bland sternness and decisive suavity which dominates
without offending. Ladies, however, were not equally happy in their
management of him. Professionally, he was always at their service.
Socially, he was a drop of quicksilver. In vain the country mammas
spread out their simple lures in front of him. Dances and picnics were
not to his taste, and he preferred during his scanty leisure to shut
himself up in his study, and to bury himself in Virchow’s Archives and
the professional journals.

Study was a passion with him, and he would have none of the rust which
often gathers round a country practitioner. It was his ambition to keep
his knowledge as fresh and bright as at the moment when he had stepped
out of the examination hall. He prided himself on being able, at a
moment’s notice, to rattle off the seven ramifications of some obscure
artery, or to give the exact percentage of any physiological compound.
After a long day’s work he would sit up half the night performing
iridectomies and extractions upon the sheep’s eyes sent in by the
village butcher, to the horror of his housekeeper, who had to remove
the _débris_ next morning. His love for his work was the one fanaticism
which found a place in his dry, precise nature.

It was the more to his credit that he should keep up to date in his
knowledge, since he had no competition to force him to exertion. In
the seven years during which he had practised in Hoyland, three rivals
had pitted themselves against him; two in the village itself, and one
in the neighboring hamlet of Lower Hoyland. Of these, one had sickened
and wasted, being, as it was said, himself the only patient whom he had
treated during his eighteen months of ruralizing. A second had bought
a fourth share of a Basingstoke practice, and had departed honorably;
while a third had vanished one September night, leaving a gutted
house and an unpaid drug bill behind him. Since then the district had
become a monopoly, and no one had dared to measure himself against the
established fame of the Hoyland doctor.

It was, then, with a feeling of some surprise and considerable
curiosity that, on driving through Lower Hoyland one morning, he
perceived that the new house at the end of the village was occupied,
and that a virgin brass plate glistened upon the swinging gate which
faced the highroad. He pulled up his fifty-guinea chestnut mare, and
took a good look at it. “Verrinder Smith, M. D.,” was printed across
it very neat, small lettering. The last man had had letters half a
foot long, with a lamp like a fire station. Dr. James Ripley noted the
difference, and deduced from it that the newcomer might possibly prove
a more formidable opponent. He was convinced of it that evening when
he came to consult the current medical directory. By it he learned
that Dr. Verrinder Smith was the holder of superb degrees, that he had
studied with distinction at Edinburgh, Paris, Berlin and Vienna; and,
finally, that he had been awarded a gold medal and the Lee Hopkins
scholarship for original research in recognition of an exhaustive
inquiry into the functions of the anterior spinal nerve roots. Dr.
Ripley passed his fingers through his thin hair in bewilderment as he
read his rival’s record. What on earth could so brilliant a man mean by
putting up his plate in a little Hampshire hamlet?

But Dr. Ripley furnished himself with an explanation to the riddle. No
doubt Dr. Verrinder Smith had simply come down there in order to pursue
some scientific research in peace and quiet. The plate was up as an
address rather than as an invitation to patients. Of course, that must
be the true explanation. In that case the presence of this brilliant
neighbor would be a splendid thing for his own studies. He had often
longed for some kindred mind, some steel on which he might strike his
flint. Chance had brought it to him, and he rejoiced exceedingly.

And this joy it was which led him to take a step which was quite at
variance with his usual habits. It is the custom for a newcomer among
medical men to call first upon the older, and the etiquette upon the
subject is strict. Dr. Ripley was pedantically exact on such points,
and yet he deliberately drove over next day and called upon Dr.
Verrinder Smith. Such a waiving of ceremony was, he felt, a gracious
act upon his part, and a fit prelude to the intimate relations which he
hoped to establish with his neighbor.

The house was neat and well appointed, and Dr. Ripley was shown by a
smart maid into a dapper little consulting-room. As he passed in he
noticed two or three parasols and a lady’s sunbonnet hanging in the
hall. It was a pity that his colleague should be a married man. It
would put them upon a different footing, and interfere with those long
evenings of high scientific talk which he had pictured to himself. On
the other hand, there was much in the consulting-room to please him.
Elaborate instruments, seen more often in hospitals than in the houses
of private practitioners, were scattered about. A sphygmograph stood
upon the table, and a gasometer-like engine, which was new to Dr.
Ripley, in the corner. A bookcase full of ponderous volumes in French
and German, paper-covered for the most part, and varying in tint from
the shell to the yolk of a duck’s egg, caught his wondering eyes, and
he was deeply absorbed in their titles when the door opened suddenly
behind him. Turning round he found himself facing a little woman, whose
plain, palish face was remarkable only for a pair of shrewd, humorous
eyes of a blue which had two shades too much green in it. She held a
_pince-nez_ in her left hand and the doctor’s card in her right.

“How do you do, Dr. Ripley?” said she.

“How do you do, madam?” returned the visitor. “Your husband is perhaps
out?”

“I am not married,” said she, simply.

“Oh, I beg your pardon! I meant the doctor--Dr. Verrinder Smith.”

“I am Dr. Verrinder Smith.”

Dr. Ripley was so surprised that he dropped his hat and forgot to pick
it up again.

“What!” he gasped, “the Lee Hopkins prize man! You!” He had never seen
a woman doctor before, and his whole conservative soul rose up in
revolt at the idea. He could not recall any Biblical injunction that
the man should remain ever the doctor and the woman the nurse, and yet
he felt as if a blasphemy had been committed. His face betrayed his
feelings only too clearly.

“I am sorry to disappoint you,” said the lady, dryly.

“You certainly have surprised me,” he answered, picking up his hat.

“You are not among our champions, then?”

“I cannot say that the movement has my approval.”

“And why?”

“I should much prefer not to discuss it.”

“But I am sure you will answer a lady’s question.”

“Ladies are in danger of losing their privileges when they usurp the
place of the other sex. They cannot claim both.”

“Why should a woman not earn her bread by her brains?”

Dr. Ripley felt irritated by the quiet manner in which the lady
cross-questioned him.

“I should much prefer not to be led into a discussion, Miss Smith.”

“Dr. Smith,” she interrupted.

“Well, Dr. Smith! But if you insist upon an answer, I must say that I
do not think medicine a imitable profession for women, and that I have
a personal objection to masculine ladies.” It was an exceedingly rude
speech, and he was ashamed of it the instant after he had made it. The
lady, however, simply raised her eye-brows and smiled.

“It seems to me that you are begging the question,” said she. “Of
course, if it makes women masculine, that would be a considerable
deterioration.”

It was a neat little counter, and Dr. Ripley, like a picked fencer,
bowed his acknowledgment. “I must go,” said he.

“I am sorry that we can not come to some more friendly conclusions,
since we are to be neighbors,” she remarked.

He bowed again, and took a step toward the door.

“It was a singular coincidence,” she continued, “that at the instant
that you called I was reading your paper on ‘Locomotor Ataxia’ in the
‘Lancet.’”

“Indeed,” said he dryly.

“I thought it was a very able monograph.”

“You are very good.”

“But the views which you attribute to Professor Pitres of Bordeaux have
been repudiated by him.”

“I have his pamphlet of 1890,” said Dr. Ripley, angrily.

“Here is his pamphlet of 1891.” She picked it from among a litter of
periodicals. “If you have time to glance your eye down this passage--”

Dr. Ripley took it from her and shot rapidly through the paragraph
which she indicated. There was no denying that it completely knocked
the bottom out of his own article. He threw it down, and with another
frigid bow he made for the door. As he took the reins from the groom,
he glanced round and saw that the lady was standing at her window, and
it seemed to him that she was laughing heartily.

All day the memory of this interview haunted him. He felt that he had
come very badly out of it. She had shown herself to be his superior
on his own pet subject. She had been courteous while he had been
rude, self-possessed when he had been angry. And then, above all,
there was her presence, her monstrous intrusion, to rankle in his
mind. A woman doctor had been an abstract thing before, repugnant,
but distant. Now she was there in actual practice, with a brass plate
up just like his own, competing for the same patients. Not that he
feared the competition, but he objected to this lowering of his ideal
of womanhood. She could not be more than thirty, and had a bright,
mobile face too. He thought of her humorous eyes, and of her strong,
well-turned chin. It revolted him the more to recall the details of her
education. A man, of course, could come through such an ordeal with
all his purity, but it was nothing short of shameless in a woman.

But it was not long before he learned that even her competition was
a thing to be feared. The novelty of her presence had brought a few
curious invalids into her consulting-rooms, and, once there, they had
been so impressed by the firmness of her manner, and by the singular
new-fashioned instruments with which she tapped and peered and sounded,
that it formed the core of their conversation for weeks afterward. And
soon there were tangible proofs of her powers upon the countryside.
Farmer Eyton, whose callous ulcer had been quietly spreading over
his shin for years back, under a gentle régime of zinc ointment, was
painted round with blistering fluid, and found, after three blasphemous
nights, that his sore was stimulated into healing. Mrs. Crowder, who
had always regarded the birthmark upon her second daughter, Eliza,
as a sign of the indignation of the Creator at a third helping of a
raspberry tart which she had partaken of during a critical period,
learned that, with the help of two galvanic needles, the mischief was
not irreparable. In a month Dr. Verrinder Smith was known, and in two
she was famous.

Occasionally Dr. Ripley met her as he drove upon his rounds. She had
started a high dog-cart, taking the reins herself, with a little tiger
behind. When they met he invariably raised his hat with punctilious
politeness, but the grim severity of his face showed how formal was
the courtesy. In fact, his dislike was rapidly deepening into absolute
detestation. “The unsexed woman” was the description of her which he
permitted himself to give to those of his patients who still remained
stanch. But, indeed, they were a rapidly decreasing body, and every
day his pride was galled by the news of some fresh defection. The lady
had somehow impressed the country folk with an almost superstitious
belief in her power, and from far and near they flocked to her
consulting-room.

But what galled him most of all was when she did something which he
had pronounced to be impracticable. For all his knowledge, he lacked
nerve as an operator, and usually sent his worst cases up to London.
The lady, however, had no weakness of the sort, and took everything
that came in her way. It was agony to him to hear that she was about to
straighten little Alec Turner’s club foot, and right at the fringe of
the rumor came a note from his mother, the rector’s wife, asking him if
he would be so good as to act as chloroformist. It would be inhumanity
to refuse, as there was no other who could take the place, but it
was gall and wormwood to his sensitive nature. Yet, in spite of his
vexation, he could not but admire the dexterity with which the thing
was done. She handled the little wax-like foot so gently, and held
the tiny tenotomy knife as an artist holds his pencil. One straight
incision, one snick of a tendon, and it was all over without a stain
on the white towel which lay beneath. He had never seen anything more
masterly, and he had the honesty to say so, though her skill increased
his dislike of her. The operation spread her fame still farther at
his expense, and self-preservation was added to his other grounds for
detesting her.

And this very detestation it was which brought matters to a curious
climax. One winter’s night, just as he was rising from his lonely
dinner, a groom came riding down from Squire Faircastle’s, the richest
man in the district, to say that his daughter had scalded her hand, and
that medical help was needed on the instant.

The coachman had ridden for the lady doctor; for it mattered nothing
to the squire who came, as long as it were speedily. Dr. Ripley rushed
from his surgery with the determination that she should not effect an
entrance into this stronghold of his if hard driving on his part could
prevent it. He did not even wait to light his lamps, but sprang into
his gig and flew off as fast as hoofs could rattle. He lived rather
nearer to the Squire’s than she did, and was convinced that he could
get there well before her.

And so he would but for that whimsical element of chance, which will
forever muddle up the affairs of this world and dumfound the prophets.
Whether it came from the want of his lights, or from his mind being
full of the thoughts of his rival, he allowed too little by half a foot
in taking the sharp turn upon the Basingstoke road. The empty trap
and the frightened horse clattered away into the darkness, while the
Squire’s groom crawled out of the ditch into which he had been shot. He
struck a match, looked down at his groaning companion, and then, after
the fashion of rough, strong men when they see what they have not seen
before, he was very sick.

The Doctor raised himself a little on his elbow in the glint of the
match. He caught a glimpse of something white and sharp bristling
through his trouser-leg, half way down the shin.

“Compound!” he groaned. “A three months’ job,” and fainted.

When he came to himself the groom was gone, for he had scudded off to
the Squire’s house for help, but a small page was holding a gig-lamp in
front of his injured leg, and a woman, with an open case of polished
instruments gleaming in the yellow light, was deftly slitting up his
trouser with a crooked pair of scissors.

“It’s all right, Doctor,” said she, soothingly. “I am so sorry about
it. You can have Dr. Horton to-morrow, but I am sure you will allow me
to help you to-night. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw you by
the roadside.”

“The groom has gone for help,” groaned the sufferer.

“When it comes we can move you into the gig. A little more light, John!
So! Ah, dear, dear, we shall have laceration unless we reduce this
before we move you. Allow me to give you a whiff of chloroform, and I
have no doubt that I can secure it sufficiently to--”

Dr. Ripley never heard the end of that sentence. He tried to raise
a hand and to murmur something in protest, but a sweet smell was in
his nostrils, and a sense of rich peace and lethargy stole over his
jangled nerves. Down he sank, through clear, cool water, ever down and
down into the green shadows beneath, gently, without effort, while the
pleasant chiming of a great belfry rose and fell in his ears. Then he
rose again, up and up, and ever up, with a terrible tightness about
his temples, until at last he shot out of those green shadows and was
out in the light once more. Two bright shining golden spots gleamed
before his dazed eyes. He blinked and blinked before he could give a
name to them. They were only the two brass balls at the end posts of
his bed, and he was lying in his own little room, with a head like a
cannon-ball, and a leg like an iron bar. Turning his eyes, he saw the
calm face of Dr. Verrinder Smith looking down at him.

“Ah, at last!” said she. “I kept you under all the way home, for I knew
how painful the jolting would be. It is in good position now, with a
strong side splint. I have ordered a morphia draught for you. Shall I
tell your groom to ride for Dr. Horton in the morning?”

“I should prefer that you should continue the case,” said Dr. Ripley
feebly, and then, with a half-hysterical laugh, “You have all the rest
of the parish as patients, you know, so you may as well make the thing
complete by having me also.” It was not a very gracious speech, but
it was a look of pity and not of anger which shone in her eyes as she
turned away from his bedside.

Dr. Ripley had a brother William, who was assistant surgeon at a London
hospital, and who was down in Hampshire within a few hours of his
hearing of the accident. He raised his brows when he heard the details.

“What! You are pestered with one of those!” he cried.

“I don’t know what I should have done without her.”

“I’ve no doubt she’s an excellent nurse.”

“She knows her work as well as you or I.”

“Speak for yourself, James,” said the London man with a sniff. “But
apart from that, you know that the principle of the thing is all wrong.”

“You think there is nothing to be said on the other side?”

“Good heavens! do you?”

“Well, I don’t know. It struck me during the night that we may have
been a little narrow in our views.”

“Nonsense, James. It’s all very fine for women to win prizes in the
lecture-room, but you know as well as I do that they are no use in an
emergency. Now I warrant that this woman was all nerves when she was
setting your leg. That reminds me that I had better just take a look at
it and see that it is all right.”

“I would rather that you did not undo it,” said the patient; “I have
her assurance that it is all right.”

Brother William was deeply shocked.

“Of course, if a woman’s assurance is of more value than the opinion of
the assistant surgeon of a London hospital, there is nothing more to be
said,” he remarked.

“I should prefer that you did not touch it,” said the patient firmly,
and Dr. William went back to London that evening in a huff. The lady,
who had heard of his coming, was much surprised on learning of his
departure.

“We had a difference upon a point of professional etiquette,” said Dr.
James, and it was all the explanation he would vouchsafe.

For two long months Dr. Ripley was brought in contact with his rival
every day, and he learned many things which he had not known before.
She was a charming companion, as well as a most assiduous doctor. Her
short presence during the long weary day was like a flower in a sand
waste. What interested him was precisely what interested her, and she
could meet him at every point upon equal terms. And yet under all her
learning and her firmness ran a sweet, womanly nature, peeping out in
her talk, shining in her greenish eyes, showing itself in a thousand
subtle ways which the dullest of men could read. And he, though a bit
of a prig and a pedant, was by no means dull, and had honesty enough to
confess when he was in the wrong.

“I don’t know how to apologize to you,” he said in his shamefaced
fashion one day, when he had progressed so far as to be able to sit in
an armchair with his leg upon another one; “I feel that I have been
quite in the wrong.”

“Why, then?”

“Over this woman question. I used to think that a woman must inevitably
lose something of her charm if she took up such studies.”

“Oh, you don’t think they are necessarily unsexed, then?” she cried,
with a mischievous smile.

“Please don’t recall my idiotic expression.”

“I feel so pleased that I should have helped in changing your views. I
think that it is the most sincere compliment that I have ever had paid
me.”

“At any rate, it is the truth,” said he, and was happy all night at
the remembrance of the flush of pleasure which made her pale face look
quite comely for the instant.

For, indeed, he was already far past the stage when he would
acknowledge her as the equal of any other woman. Already he could not
disguise from himself that she had become the one woman. Her dainty
skill, her gentle touch, her sweet presence, the community of their
tastes, had all united to hopelessly upset his previous opinions. It
was a dark day for him now when his convalescence allowed him to miss a
visit, and darker still that other one which he saw approaching when
all occasion for her visits would be at an end. It came around at last,
however, and he felt that his whole life’s fortune would hang upon the
issue of that final interview. He was a direct man by nature, so he
laid his hand upon hers as it felt for his pulse, and he asked her if
she would be his wife.

“What, and unite the practices?” said she.

He started in pain and anger. “Surely you do not attribute any such
base motive to me,” he cried. “I love you as unselfishly as ever a
woman was loved.”

“No, I was wrong. It was a foolish speech,” said she, moving her chair
a little back, and tapping her stethoscope upon her knee. “Forget that
I ever said it. I am so sorry to cause you any disappointment, and I
appreciate most highly the honor which you do me, but what you ask is
quite impossible.”

With another woman he might have urged the point, but his instincts
told him that it was quite useless with this one. Her tone of voice was
conclusive. He said nothing, but leaned back in his chair a stricken
man.

“I am so sorry,” she said again. “If I had known what was passing in
your mind I should have told you earlier that I intend to devote my
life entirely to science. There are many women with a capacity for
marriage, but few with a taste for biology. I will remain true to
my own line then. I came down here while waiting for an opening in
the Paris Physiological Laboratory. I have just heard that there is
a vacancy for me there, and so you will be troubled no more by my
intrusion upon your practice. I have done you an injustice, as you
did me one. I thought you narrow and pedantic, with no good quality.
I have learned during your illness to appreciate you better, and the
recollection of our friendship will always be a very pleasant one to
me.”

And so it came about that in a very few weeks there was only one doctor
in Hoyland. But folks noticed that the one had aged many years in a few
months, that a weary sadness lurked always in the depths of his blue
eyes, and that he was less concerned than ever with the eligible young
ladies whom chance, or their careful country mammas, placed in his way.

  SIR A. CONAN DOYLE.



III.

DOCTOR SANTOS: A CHARACTER SKETCH.


EVERY one in Madrid knew Doctor Santos. He was a little bit of a man,
with his beard and hair clamoring for the use of the scissors, and
his clothes for benzine and a more fashionable cut. Nevertheless, he
had a universal reputation for great wisdom, and his popularity in
the district of Chamberi, the principal scene of his work, was beyond
everything.

Possibly the peculiarities of the doctor did more than his true merit
to attract the attention of the people. Perhaps some presentiment made
every one consider him physically of not much account, but mentally a
diamond of the purest water. It was well known that in the exercise
of his profession he was a true ministering angel, and without any
pretence of being a specialist or a philanthropist. People said that
he was half crazy over the subject of disease, and followed the
development of a fever with the same interest that others listened
to or read a dramatic work, but with this exception, that it was not
always necessary to be a mere spectator, that by discreetly intervening
sometimes, he prepared cheerful and unexpected comedy, where otherwise
there would have been the deepest tragedy.

This might have been merely scientific curiosity--we will not discuss
that point--but thanks to this keen interest, if a patient were very
ill, and that happened frequently, he would remain to watch by the
bedside, and again,--and this happened yet more frequently, for Doctor
Santos devoted himself almost exclusively to poor people--there would
not be money enough to buy supper for the family or broth or medicine
for the sick one; then our doctor would pull out his purse and send for
whatever was necessary. His patients never lacked for what was needed
to restore them to health.

The doctor’s greatest pleasure, as he always declared, was to cure sick
children. It seemed impossible that a man who had no family and who,
according to all accounts, had never married, and who had been adopted
himself by a barber who took him from an orphan asylum, should be able
to feel such absolute tenderness of heart towards little ones.

A woman, whose son the doctor had restored to health, aptly expressed
the sentiments of every one: “It seems as if Doctor Santos had been a
mother himself.”

We will take it for granted that his life and good deeds are well
known, for many a scientific work can testify to the merits of Doctor
Santos; so we will not stop to give a detailed resumé or minute account
of the arduous labor of many years spent in true performance of his
profession.

I am now going to speak of an event in his life which, if it were not
absolutely true, would seem to many people to be altogether improbable.

Doctor Santos always said that the elixir of long life was a very easy
and simple thing to obtain, that it was not necessary to knock one’s
head against the wall in order that the electric spark of an idea
should spring out of the brain, and that even the most stupid could
give a solution of the problem to those who discussed it learnedly, but
that not even this elixir nor any other could be applied in every case,
that it was just as difficult to unite a head to the body from which it
had been severed as to repair the ravages of some illnesses. In eighty
cases out of a hundred, however, he was sure that the elixir would give
good results.

The strangest thing was that these were not merely affirmations, but
positive proofs, for in his practice he had tried the remedy and, not
only eighty to a hundred, but in even greater proportion, had produced
good results. He never could be made to specify the remedy, and he put
an end to all questions on the subject, by saying:

“Nothing, nothing, it is like, it is like Columbus’s egg, why prove it?”

It was long after twelve o’clock one night, when Doctor Santos entered
a miserable garret in the _Salle de Fuencarral_. The door was partly
open. A middle-aged man was stretched out on a rude cot. The rest of
the furniture consisted of some broken, rush-bottomed chairs, and a
pine table by the bedside. The sick man had no relatives in Madrid;
he had arrived from Cataluña a little more than a month before and
had fallen ill with pneumonia. He refused, absolutely, to go to the
hospital, so a charitable neighbor, who had attended to his simple
wants for some time, called in Doctor Santos. The disease had already
made inroads upon the man’s constitution. Although the pneumonia was
helped, the doctor could not cure the quick consumption which followed
and which would soon end the man’s life.

When the sick man saw the doctor enter, an expression of joy passed
over his features, as if now black death had no terror for him; for, in
the last sad moments, a warm hand would clasp his and a loving heart
would be moved to sympathy. The doctor took the sick man’s hand.

“How are you, Jaime?” he asked.

“I am dying, I feel sure of it, but I wish to ask one more favor of you
who have already done so many for me. Tell me how much longer I have
to live. I know there is nothing that will help me, and I am almost
glad that it is so, for I have suffered so much in my life. At least, I
shall cease to suffer. It is true, is it not, that over there there is
no more pain, all is quiet, dark, cold?”

Accustomed as Doctor Santos was to such scenes, he could scarcely keep
back the tears--much to his own disgust, when he looked at the poor
fellow--and he growled to himself: “A weeping doctor is a fool.” But he
answered the dying man very gently:

“What can I do for you, Jaime? To whom shall I write? Let me know just
what you wish to be done and I promise you to do it as far as I am
able, and before it slips my memory. I don’t want to frighten you, but
every one takes things differently. Judging from the state you are in,
I am not the one just now to do you the most good, and we must soon
send for one who can give you the only true consolation. After all,
although this life means a great deal to us, we ought to be glad rather
than sorry at the thought of leaving it, because we are all sure that
God is good and will pardon us, and that he loves us. For this reason
we call him Father, for if he is not better than the best on earth,
what other conception can we have of him?

“Now, I will go myself to call a priest whom I know, and in the
meantime, I will see if a neighbor will stay with you.”

“Oh, don’t go, I beg of you. I must talk to you.”

The doctor dared not say no, but he knew that the hour of death was
swiftly approaching. A moment later he left the room, saying:--

“I’ll return directly.”

He sent a neighbor for the priest, then returned as he had promised,
and sat down by the head of the bed.

Jaime asked the doctor to do him the favor to put his hand under the
mattress and take out a packet which he would find there. After the
doctor had pulled out the packet, Jaime began to speak:--

“Doctor, I ask you not to open this packet until after I am dead, and
after that, with the help of your own conscience, you will decide what
you think had best be done. I want you, if any personal advantage can
come to you from it, to use it all for yourself. I have no affection
for any one else, nor am I in debt to any one. If this were not my
last hour on earth I should say that my soul held nothing but hatred
for the evil received from those I most cherished.”

The sick man seemed fatigued and the doctor told him to rest a few
moments, but now the man began to make those motions of the hands, so
characteristic of those about to die, and to plait and unplait the bed
clothing. He did not seem to know exactly what he was saying and his
eyes wandered restlessly about the room:--

“She deceived me. How much I loved her! Her beautiful black eyes! How
pretty she was! And he my best friend! It was infamous, shameful! I
saw them! the truth is proof enough! Ah, how much blood flowed from
the wound!--he did not mind dying because he knew she loved him. And I
envied him after he was dead! Ah, how hard the punishment! How dark the
cell, how heavy the shackles! It is shameful! I am an assassin! Every
one has left me! How blue the sky is! How fresh and green the fields! I
can’t get out with these horrible irons on my wrists!”

The priest came in time to administer the extreme unction. Jaime died
shortly after and the doctor returned home with the packet under his
arm. Once in his study, before going to bed, he decided to open the
bundle which Jaime had give him with so much mystery. It was an easy
task. He untied the paper and out fell what seemed to be a magazine.
There were hundreds of leaves, but each leaf was a banknote of four
thousand reals.

Daylight glimmered through the curtains. Doctor Santos had not closed
his eyes. He was the owner, the rightful owner of more than four
thousand pésétas (one hundred thousand dollars) and the donation was
absolutely legitimate. Jaime’s mind, as no one knew better than he, was
perfectly clear at the time he made the gift. What should he do with
all that money! He would be happy, all his friends would be happy, in
fact, everyone would be happy! What a library, what a laboratory, he
would have!

Hours passed, but the doctor tossed and turned restlessly on his bed,
unable to sleep for a moment. The clock struck seven. He could not stay
in bed any longer; he arose, made his accustomed hasty toilet, drank
his coffee and started off on his usual round of visits. He began with
the very sick patients, but at ten o’clock he said to himself, he would
get a friend to accompany him to the bank that he might deposit the
money. He had never kept any money in a bank. The little box in his
office had always held all he could spare, and he did not know exactly
what legal forms were necessary in order to have it placed so that he
could draw out certain sums when he wished.

His first patient lived several miles away, so he carried the precious
package with him in order not to lose time in going and coming. He
stopped at the patient’s house. The sick man was a cabinet maker who
had been trying to work with an injured hand, consequently, blood
poisoning had set in and the symptoms were such that amputation seemed
necessary. The poor man, strong as an oak, cried like a child.

“The maintenance of my wife and family lies in the skill of my five
fingers,” he said, “and now you are going to cut them off.”

But Doctor Santos, more of an optimist than ever that day, brought the
bright light of hope into the sad hearts of the afflicted family. They
might rely upon him for support and help as long as they needed it.

He then went to see a talented journalist who had not prospered since
he began to have ideas and tastes of his own instead of praising
those of other people. The journalist had lost his place because he
had published, without first consulting the director, an article
in which he said that what Marruecos most needed was some powerful
nation to civilize it, that our position in the matter was like that
of the gardener’s dog, keeping others from doing what we could not do
ourselves; that it would be better to be annexed to a rich country
than a poor one, to have a cultivated country instead of a semi-savage
one; and a hundred other barbarities besides.

As one might well imagine, the journalist had trouble with his head,
he was worn out by fatigue and had the beginning of softening of the
brain. Doctor Santos had ordered rest, a quiet, regular life, early
hours, and horseback riding.

The journalist sent out to a store for a pasteboard horse, and when the
doctor called to see him, the sick man said:--

“This is the only horse I can afford.”

Of course, he plainly showed his insanity by this act, but Doctor
Santos did not look upon it in that light. He begged the man’s pardon
for having advised him to buy what he could not afford.

A little later, he visited a widow with three children. She was young
and pretty; her husband had been a sculptor of some talent. He was
not rich, but he had earned enough to support his family decently. He
died and for the first year the wife managed to live fairly well, by
dint of great economy. The second year, the widow sold her husband’s
art treasures; the third year, she lived on the gifts of relatives and
friends, which gave out before the fourth year, and the family went
from the second floor to the garret, from wholesome food to scanty
scraps, from warm clothing to rags. Last of all came sickness.

Doctor Santos felt inspired: “If this little woman goes to the bad,
whose fault will it be? Her sewing brings in so little!” Pulling out
a banknote, he handed it to the widow, telling her to live where she
could have fresh air and sunlight, to buy nourishing food and look
after the little ones.

The doctor left that poverty-stricken place, his plain face so radiant
with happiness that it seemed almost beautiful. He thought to himself,
as he went along, that if Jaime had used some of this money for
himself and had lived properly, he would not have died of consumption.
“That devilish avarice!” he muttered. “A millionaire living and dying
like a beggar in order not to spend his money. What is the good of
money if it is not to spend?”

Suddenly two ideas flashed into his head. “Suppose this is stolen
money! What if the bills are false?”

He stopped. The package fell from his hand.

“Sir, you have dropped something,” said a poor woman who was passing.
The doctor picked up the bundle and, turning around, went home.

“Stolen or false,” he muttered grimly. “There is no other solution.”

The words and the ideas sounded in his ears, they hurt him, as if some
one had struck him on the head with a hammer.

He reached his home, told his old servant that he would see no one,
then changed his mind, sent the woman off on an errand, and shut
himself up in his office.

The doctor had in his house two banknotes of a thousand pésétas (two
hundred and fifty dollars) each.

“We will begin with the hypothesis that I can prove them false,” he
said. He took out his own banknotes and laid them on the table; took
another out of the package and placed it between the first two.

“They must have been stolen,” he said, “for all three are alike, the
same block, the same print.”

He turned them over, they were exactly alike. Well, there was nothing
to be done but to advertise and await the rightful owner, and he would
have to word the advertisement so that every Spaniard in the country
should not appear to claim the money.

He took a magnifying glass and began to make methodical observations.
First, the paper, its quality, its transparency; then the engravings;
the letters, letter by letter, the signatures. But even with the help
of the glass, which magnified the size six or eight times, he could
detect no difference between the bills.

“From whom could Jaime have stolen them? Had blood been shed on account
of those bits of paper? Had Jaime robbed the government or a bank?”

The doctor thought and thought. He studied, with the aid of a glass,
every detail, even the smallest.

“Is it possible,” he exclaimed, “that each one can be so perfect? They
have been stolen, undoubtedly stolen,” he said, at the end of a quarter
of an hour of close observation. Ten times, already, he had compared
the numeration, but he turned again to look at it.

“They all look alike,” he said again, but when he took away the crystal
he doubted the certainty of his own vision. He brought out a delicate
compass and measured the numbers of his old bills. He placed the
compass on the new, there was absolutely no difference.

He was not satisfied with the length alone, but he even measured the
width of the lines.

“They have been stolen,” he repeated mechanically. Then, as if
answering himself, he spoke slowly:--

“Where could he have stolen them? No, they are counterfeit, false,
false. Ah, thou Catalan rogue, who art in the infernal regions. I hope
that thou art making false notes with thy skin of Barrabas!”

“I have learned the secret,” thought the doctor. “There is no doubt of
it.”

He still looked exclusively at the numbers, the false ones looked
larger, they really were not, but as the lines were more delicate, it
made the ciphers look larger.

“Those poor people are now in prison,” said Doctor Santos sorrowfully.
“They have denounced me and the police will shortly come to arrest me,
and no one will believe they were ever given to me!”

He raised the stove cover. “No, that won’t do. The embers and ashes
will remain. They can smell the smoke and burnt paper.”

The doctor had a dove-cot: a dove just then lighted on the window
sill. A bright idea came to him. He took two tin boxes--such as are
used for cut tobacco--and stuffed them both full with bank notes,
climbed up to the dove-cot and looked through the garret window. No one
could see him. He raised some tiles and hid the boxes, then covered
them up, leaving all as it was before. Breathing heavily, his heart
thumping furiously, he descended the staircase which led to the second
floor and dropping into a chair, opened a huge volume which he held
before his face, while he tried to recover his usual composure.

If he had been surprised and arrested, the inspector would have noticed
that the book was upside down, the two old bills, with the magnifying
glass and compass, were still on the table, and that the lappels and
sleeves of his coat were covered with earth and whitewash.

After several hours had passed, the old servant had returned, and as
no one else had appeared, the doctor began to think that perhaps the
bills had not yet been changed and, by virtue of such a supposition, he
hurried to the widow’s house with the pious intention of substituting
one of his old bank notes in place of the supposed false one. The bill
had been changed; the widow and her children were having a little
party in honor of their great good luck. They were not alone, as they
generally were, but had asked several of their friends to share their
joy. They were so profuse in their expressions of gratitude that the
good old doctor did not know what to say nor how to explain his sudden
return.

“Now be sure you take a room where you can have sunlight and give the
children a dose of castor oil,” he said as he hurried away.

Doctor Santos did not recover his usual composure for a long time. He
seemed taciturn although he continued in his accustomed mode of living.
After a while, however, he became more like himself.

The cabinet maker, for whom the doctor had obtained a lucrative
position, wished to make a public manifestation of his gratitude, but
the doctor forbade him to even mention that he had received help.
Nevertheless, it was murmured continually, that Doctor Santos, on
account of his relations with persons of high rank, had given many a
one a modest pension, while he had restored others to health by giving
to them the money to procure a change of climate and a much needed rest.

Notwithstanding his friends of high rank, the doctor still lived in his
modest apartment and had moreover, dismissed his only servant. He now
took his meals at a neighboring tavern. He still kept the dove-cot,
and he had bought an expensive therapeutical apparatus and costly
instruments. He had a laboratory and a fine medical library.

He earned enough and he had innumerable friends who gave him money to
help cases of true necessity, owing to his fame of discerning where
help was really needed. Happily society is not so completely decayed
that it does not produce, with frequent spontaneity, the flower of
Christian charity.

When Doctor Santos changed his habits of living, his character also
changed. Formerly, he had been cheerful and lively, fond of an
occasional visit to the theatre, and especially fond of a good table.
But when he might have had all this he became gloomy and moody, and
reduced his personal expenses, in spite of his large earnings, to an
extent almost miserly.

The years rolled by, the doctor’s hair was snowy white, and he scarcely
spoke. As he was no longer young and paid so little attention to his
own comfort, his health began to fail. The cold was intense that winter
and Doctor Santos, in spite of himself, had to keep his bed many a day.

His medical confrères visited him, and one, in particular, earnestly
urged him to go to a warm climate.

“Must I go away, leave my work and occupations to die, not of sickness,
but of ennui?” “But,” argued his friend, “no one likes better than you
to send people off for a change of air during the winter.”

The doctor did not reply, but he remained in Madrid, passing sleepless
nights and coughing ceaselessly.

His friends, the only family he possessed, took turns, for a long time
in caring for him, but, as the days lengthened into weeks, the weeks
into months and each one gradually began to find that his own cares
absorbed his time, it was agreed upon that the best thing to do was to
have a sister of charity come and nurse the doctor.

Henceforth, his friends’ visits grew less frequent, and there were days
at a time when his door bell did not ring once.

Sor Luz, as the sister of charity was called, proved to be a perfect
substitute for all his other attendants. Although the doctor had never
cared for women’s society, he found Sor Luz such a charming companion
that he refused to receive other people, if it were possible.

Her white head-dress and the undulations of her soft gown, seemed to
him like the motions of a dove’s wings.

Doctor Santos followed her with an affectionate and grateful glance,
thus repaying the tender and solicitous care which only maternal
and Christian love could give with such absolute abnegation and
perseverance.

About the last of November, that harvest time of death, when a few
golden leaves still clung to the trees, when the mountain tops were
covered with silver and the cold, northerly wind penetrated the
crevices of doors and windows, Doctor Santos began to grow worse.

He declared in his will, dated years before, that he had no property
and that whatever was found in the house belonged, by right, to the
poor. That he wished to have a humble funeral and be buried in the
public cemetery.

In looking over his papers and effects, a tin box was found containing
forty banknotes of one thousand pésétas each.

His friends declared that he had died of avarice. Sor Luz said that
she had never known any one who had passed away with more tranquil,
resigned Christian spirit than Doctor Santos.

Nevertheless, she often spoke of some phrases of the doctor’s which
were utterly incomprehensible to her and for which she could not
account.

“When there was yet time,” he said, “I had the means to cure myself.
It would have been so easy, that if it had been any one else I should
have done so. I did not do it because I wished to preserve my own
self-respect and to have some merit when God called me to a better
life.”

--_From the Spanish of Gustavo Morales, by_

JEAN RAYMOND BIDWELL.



IV.

THE CURING OF KATE NEGLEY.


“I TOLD you once,” said Mrs. Melissa Allgood, “about the time Kate
Negley took that leading on the lodge line, and locked the doctor
out of the house one night when he was meeting with the Masons, and
hollered at him scornful-like, when he come home, to ‘get in with
his lodge-key;’ and how the doctor smashed up her fine front door
with an ax. Well, all the Station thought that might be the end of
Kate’s foolishness, and that maybe she would take her religion and
sanctification comfortable after that, same as other folks. And
everybody was glad Dr. Negley broke that door in, because it ain’t good
for Kate Negley or any other human to have their own way all the time.

“So Kate went along quiet and peaceable after that for two or three
months, and never had no new leadings to tell about in meeting, and
never did a thing to show she had heartfelt religion except to wear
her hair straight down her back, according to Paul. And ma she said to
me one day she believed Kate had come to the end of her line, and was
going to act like sensible folks the rest of her days. But I told ma
not to waste her breath in vain babblings; that I bet Kate Negley was
just setting on a new nest, and for ma to wait for the hatching.

“I hadn’t hardly spoke the words before it come. The very next Sunday,
when Brother Cheatham got through preaching and called for experiences
and testimonies, Kate she rose and said she was mightily moved to
rebuke a faithless and perverse generation, puffed up in its fleshly
mind, loving unrighteousness, and abominable in wickedness. She said
she had been wandering in the way of destruction like the rest, and
putting her faith in lies, till the last few weeks, when light begun
to dawn on her, and she commenced to search the Scriptures more. She
said she was fully persuaded now, halleluiah! and wanted all them that
desired to be wholly sanctified to enter the strait and narrow path
with her. She said the gospel she had to preach to them that morning
was the gospel of healing by prayer and faith, and not by medicines
or doctors; that though she had lain among the pots, like the rest of
them, yet now was her soul like the wings of a dove, and forever risen
above all such works of the devil as ipecac and quinine and calomel;
that only in the Great Physician did she place her trust; that as for
earthly doctors, she could only say to them, in the words of Job: ‘Ye
are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value.’ She said
yea, verily, all they was good for was to ‘beguile unstable souls,
and bewitch the people with sorceries;’ and not only that, but, like
Jeremiah says, ‘They help forward the affliction.’ She said she never
meant to say anything against doctors as _men_, but as _doctors_ they
was vessels of wrath, corrupters of souls, firebrands of the devil, and
the liveliest stumble-stones in the path of righteousness. She said
for them benighted folks that put their faith in physic to listen to
Jeremiah’s point-blank words, ‘Thou hast _no_ healing medicines,’ and
again, ‘In vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be
healed.’ She said from lid to lid of the Bible there wasn’t a single
case of anybody being cured of anything by either doctors or medicine;
and that ought to be enough for the earnest Christian, without looking
any farther. But, she said, knowing their hard-heartedness, she had
studied every verse of the Scriptures before she got up to speak.

“She said when the disciples was sent out, they was told to preach
the gospel, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out devils;
and they did it. She said she’d like to know how many that called
themselves disciples nowadays so bigotty, and claimed the in-dwelling
of holiness, ever even tried to do any of them things, except talk,
let alone do them. She said it was because they were so poor-spirited
they didn’t have faith to lay hold of the promise, though there it was
in plain words: ‘Ask, and ye shall receive;’ ‘According to your faith
be it unto you;’ ‘For I will restore health to thee, saith the Lord;’
‘I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal.’ She said, bless the
Lord, her spiritual eyes was open now, and the only medicines she would
ever take was prayer and faith. She said James’s prescription was good
enough for her: ‘Pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The
effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much;’ and that she
wanted every soul in the Station to get to the same point. But, she
said, until they did, she wanted it known that there was one righteous
soul in Sodom, that was going to start out on the war-path against the
devil and all his doctors. She said she was going to lay hold of the
promise of James: ‘Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders
of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil;
and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise
him up.’ She said she wanted it published abroad that anybody that
took sick was welcome to her services and prayers, without money and
without price. She said for all her hearers to put on the breastplate
of faith and the armor of righteousness, and enter in at the strait and
narrow path that opened into her front door, and keep out of the broad
way that led to the doctor’s office. She said she had a big bottle of
sweet-oil, and faith to remove mountains.

“Well, all the congregation was thunderstruck at the idea of Kate
Negley setting up in opposition to her own husband, Dr. Negley being
the only doctor at the Station. Ma said that anybody could have knocked
her down with a feather; and I know it made me right weak in my knees,
though, of course, I felt like Kate was doing right to follow her
leadings, and thought she was mighty courageous. I never could have
done it myself, especially if I’d had such a good husband as Kate. I
have traveled about more than Kate, and I know that hen’s teeth ain’t
scarcer than good men; yea, like Solomon says, ‘One among a thousand
have I found.’ But of course a woman never appreciates what she has,
and Kate she always took all the doctor’s kindness and spoiling like
it was her birthright, and ding-donged at him all the time about his
not having any religion or sanctification. Now, I reckon you’ve lived
long enough to know that there are three kinds of sanctified; them
that are sanctified and know it, humble-like--such as me; them that
are sanctified and don’t know or even suspicion it; and them that are
sanctified and know it too well. And I have told ma many a time that
Dr. Negley is one of the kind that is sanctified and don’t know it,
and that Kate might pattern after the doctor in _some_ ways, to her
edification. Somehow, I’ve always felt like ten or eleven children
might have took some of the foolishness out of Kate; but, not having
any, she was just on a high horse about something or other all the time.

“The evening after Kate did that talking in church, ma saw the doctor
riding by, and she called him to the fence and asked him if he had
heard about Kate’s talk, and what he thought about it. And he said yes,
Brother Jones and them had told him about it down at the post-office,
and it had tickled him might’ly; that he thought it was very funny.
Ma told him she should think it would make him mad for Kate to get
up and talk that away about doctors and medicine. ‘Mrs. Garry,’ he
says, ‘women are women; and one of their charms is that nobody knows
what they’re going to do next. And if my wife,’ he says, ‘has a extry
allowance of charm, I certainly ought to feel thankful for it.’ He
said if Kate wanted to quarrel with her bread and butter, and talk
away his practice, he wasn’t going to raise any objections; that he
needed to take a rest anyhow, having worked too hard all his life. He
said, another thing, a woman that took as many notions as Kate couldn’t
hold on to any one of them very long, but was bound to get cured of it
before much harm was done.

“Ma she told me what he said, and that, in her opinion, Dr. Negley
could give Job lessons in patience.

“Then we commenced to have times in the Station. The first thing Kate
did was to get up one night after the doctor had gone to sleep, and
go down-stairs and across the yard to his office, and hunt up his
saddle-bags, and stamp on them, and smash every bottle in them, and
then sling them over in pa’s cornfield. Pa he found them out there in
the morning after breakfast, and took them to the doctor’s office;
and he said the doctor did some tall swearing when he saw them. But
I believe that was a slander of pa’s, because I know the way the
doctor acted afterwards. At dinner-time he went up to the house mighty
peaceful, and eat his dinner, and then he says to Kate, very cheerful
and polite: ‘I see that my saddle-bags have met with a little accident.
It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good,’ he says, ‘and I don’t know
but what it’s a fine thing for my patients, some of them medicines
being powerful stale. But it’s mighty unfortunate for you, Kate,’ he
says, ‘for I will be obliged to use up all your missionary money for
the next year and a half to replenish them saddle-bags, times being so
hard,’ he says.

“You know Kate always give more money to missions than any woman
in the Station,--doctor just couldn’t deny her anything,--and she
prided herself a heap on it, righteous pride, of course. She was just
speechless with wrath at what he said, and she saw she’d have to change
her warfare and fall back on the outposts.

“So she started out and went to see the women in the Station, and
prayed with them, and strengthened their faith, and tried to make them
promise to send for her if anybody got sick, and not for the doctor,
and worked on them till they got plumb unsettled in their minds. Some
of them went to Brother Cheatham and asked him about it, and he said
it was a question everybody must decide for themselves, but there
certainly was Scripture for it, he couldn’t deny. It’s a funny thing
what poor hands some preachers are at practicing. Brother Cheatham
couldn’t get so much as a crook in his little finger but what Dr.
Negley must come, double-quick, day and night. I’ve always felt like
getting their doctoring for nothing was a big drawback to preachers’
faith.

“Kate didn’t only go about in the Station, but she would keep on the
watch, and when the doctor got a call to the country, Kate would saddle
her bay mare and follow after him, sometimes ten or fifteen miles. By
the time she would get to the sick one’s house, the doctor would be
setting by the bed, feeling the patient’s pulse, or some such; and
Kate would sail across the room, with never so much as ‘Howdy’ to the
doctor, and go down on her knees the other side of the bed, and dab a
little sweet-oil on the sick person, and pray at the top of her voice,
and exhort the patient to throw away the vile concoctions of the devil,
and swing out on the promise of James. And the doctor wouldn’t pay
no more attention to her than she did to him, but would dose out the
medicine and go on about his business, as pleasant as could be. After
he was gone, Kate would smash up all the bottles in sight, if the
folks wasn’t mighty careful; and then she would follow the doctor to
the next place, never any more noticing him or speaking to him than if
he was a fence-post. She said when the doctor was at home, he was her
husband, though unregenerate, and she was going to treat him according
to Scripture, and as polite as she knew how: but when he was out dosing
the sick, he was an angel of darkness, and not fit to be so much as
looked at by the saved and sanctified.

“Mary Alice Welden was one of the first to take up with Kate’s
notions--I’ve always believed it was because Dick Welden scoffed at
them. If Dick had been a quick man, he never would have done it,
knowing well that the only way to get Mary Alice to do like he wanted
her to was for him to come out strong on the opposite side. But it
takes a hundred years to learn some men anything; and what did Dick do
that Sunday but laugh at Kate’s notions on healing. Ever since Mary
Alice had shook the red rag at Satan by getting up and shouting in
church one time when Dick had told her point-blank she shouldn’t, she
had enjoyed a heap of liberty, and Dick he had been diminished, like
the Bible says. So when Dick laughed at Kate, Mary Alice fired right up
and told Dick Welden that never another doctor or bottle of medicine
should ever step over her door-sill, and that the next time any of her
household got sick, prayer or nothing should cure them.

“So the next time her little Philury had spasms, Mary Alice sent over
for Kate; and when Dick come home for dinner, he found all the doors
locked, and looked in at a window, and there was Philury in fits on the
bed, and Kate and Mary Alice praying loud and long on both sides. Dick
was just crazy, and he ran up the street for the doctor, and they come
back and broke in the window, and there was Philury laying quiet and
peaceful and breathing regular, and Kate and Mary Alice shouting and
glorifying God for casting a devil out of Philury. That gave Kate a big
reputation, and stirred the Station to the dregs. And even the doctor
said it was only by the grace of God that Philury pulled through under
the circumstances.

“Sister Sally Barnes had been laying up for nearly a year with a misery
in her back, and the doctor had give her physic, and she had took up
all the patent medicines she could borrow or raise money to buy, but
there she laid, and expected to lay the rest of her days. Kate went
up there one day and expounded Bible to her and anointed her with that
oil, and prayed over her for about two hours, and then told her to rise
and cook dinner, that the Lord had healed her. And up Sister Sally got,
and has been up ever since. Of course everybody was excited and talking
about it. Ma asked Dr. Negley one day what he thought about it, and he
said it was a mighty fine thing for Sister Sally’s family, and that
Kate’s medicine was certainly better for _some_ folks than his.

“That healing gave Kate a big name, and folks begun to send for her
right and left. Some would send for her and the doctor both, thinking
it just as well to be on the safe side and not neglect either faith or
works. I reckon it did the sick good just to lay eyes on Kate, she was
such a fine, healthy, rosy-checked woman, and never had had a day’s
sickness to pull her down.

“Then come along the time for Sister Nickins’ shingles. For seven
years old Sister Nickins, Tommy T.’s ma, had took down regular,
every Washington’s Birthday, at ten o’clock in the morning, with the
shingles. Everybody thought a duck could as soon get along without
water as Sister Nickins without her shingles; and she never dreamt of
such a thing as not having them. They never got to the breaking-out
stage with her but once, but she was scared to death every time for
fear they would break out, and run all around her and meet, and of
course that will kill anybody dead. So she used to make her will and
give away her gray mule every year, beforehand.

“This time Kate sent Sister Nickins word not to make no will or give
away the mule; that she was going to cast them shingles into the
bottomless pit by prayer. So, at sun-up on the 22d, Kate went up to
Sister Nickins’s house, and set into praying and anointing, and by ten
o’clock she had Sister Nickins so full of grace and glory that the
devil or the shingles couldn’t get within a mile of her, and she never
felt a single pain. And of all the halleluiah times, that was one.
You could hear the shouting all over town, and nearly all the Station
went up there. I went myself, and saw Sister Nickins with my own eyes,
up and about, and full of rejoicings, and not a shingle to her name. I
thought it was wonderful. It seemed just like Bible times over again.
And Sister Nickins was so lifted up over it that she mounted her gray
mule after dinner and started out on a three months’ visitation through
the county, to spread the news abroad amongst her kin and friends.

“That was the winter I felt the inward call to preach, but never got
no outward invitations. So, while I was having that trial of patience,
I thought I might as well help Kate some, though I knew my call was to
preach, and not to heal. And I would go around a good deal with Kate,
though I never was just as rampant as she was, or as Mary Alice Welden,
and always allowed that doctors _might_ have their uses.

“One day Kate came by for me to go up with her to pray over old Mis’
Gerton’s rheumatism. So up we went, and Kate told old Mis’ Gerton what
we come for, and Mis’ Gerton said she never had no objections, that
prayer certainly couldn’t do no harm, and oil was good for the joints.
So I poured on the oil, and Kate did the praying. In about an hour Kate
jumped up and told old Mis’ Gerton to get up and walk, that the prayer
of faith had healed her. ‘No such a thing,’ old Mis’ Gerton says; ‘them
knees is worse than when you commenced.’ Kate got red in the face,
and said of course the grace was thrown away on them that wouldn’t
accept of it. Old Mis’ Gerton said she couldn’t tell no lies; that she
felt worse instead of better; that pain was pain, and rheumatism was
rheumatism, as well they knew that had it. She said she never meant no
disrespect, but that in her opinion prayer couldn’t hold a candle to
Dr. Hayhurst’s Wildcat Liniment as a pain-killer. Of course Kate was
horror-struck, and she wiped the dust of old Mis’ Gerton’s house off of
her feet when we went out.

“Then what should pa do about that time but take down with the yellow
janders. You know, and everybody knows, that pa never did have a bit of
religion. I would hate to say such a thing about an own relation, but
pa being my stepfather, and the second one at that, I feel like he’s
kind of far-removed. Well, ma would have been a mighty religious woman
if she hadn’t been unequally yoked together with unbelievers three
times. That’s enough to wear a woman’s religion to a frazzle, goodness
knows; and I have always made excuses for ma. So when pa got sick and
told ma to send for the doctor, ma, being one of those women that is
always trying to serve two masters, her husband and her religion, sent
for the doctor and Kate both. And when I got there, a few minutes
later, there set the doctor by pa’s bed, and Kate and ma back in the
kitchen, and every time Kate would start over the door-sill into pa’s
room, to pour the oil on him and pray over him, pa would set up in bed
and shake his fist at her, and swear a blue streak, and tell her not to
come another step. Ma and me we nearly went through the earth for shame
at pa; and of course he never would have done it if his liver had been
right, for I will say this for pa, he is a polite, mild-mannered man,
and slow to wrath, when he hasn’t got the janders. Then Kate would flop
down on the kitchen floor and thank the Lord she was being persecuted
for righteousness’ sake. And a good many people dropped in, hearing the
noise; and everybody was plumb scandalized at pa, and said he was a
downright infidel, and all their sympathies was roused for Kate.

“After that she had a bigger business than ever, in spite of a set-back
or two, like old Mis’ Gerton’s rheumatism, and Brother Gilly Jones’s
baby dying one night of the croup when him and Kate was praying over
it and wouldn’t send for the doctor. Kate said that it was the Lord’s
will, and the baby’s appointed time to die; and Brother Gilly Jones,
being sanctified, and having eight more children anyhow, he agreed
with Kate, and said he felt perfectly resigned; though Sister Jones,
poor thing, never has got reconciled to this day.

“Of course those things never fazed Kate, and she was just on the top
notch all the time, and going day and night. And every Sunday there
would be testimonials in church about healings, and faith begun to
take hold on both sanctified and sinner, till it actually got to the
point that folks’ religion was doubted if they sent for a doctor. And
when spring opened up, the doctor said his occupation was so near gone
that he felt justified in going on that camp-hunt he had been wanting
to make for fourteen years; so he made up a party of men--Masons and
such--and went down on Green River for two weeks’ hunting.

“Well, you ought to have seen Kate that morning the doctor left. He
wasn’t out of sight before she turned loose a-shouting over the triumph
of righteousness, and over having actually run the devil out of town;
and she held a thanks-meeting up at her house that night, and we had a
full-salvation time.

“Kate invited me to stay with her while the doctor was gone; so I
shooed my chickens down to ma’s, so’s I could have my mind free from
worldly cares, and shut up my house, and went. We had a mighty joyful,
edifying time for two days.

“The third night Kate woke me up sudden from a good sleep, about three
o’clock in the morning. ‘Melissy,’ she says, ‘get up and light the
lamp. I don’t know what on earth’s the matter with me,’ she says; ‘I
feel awful, and have got all the aches there is inside of me.’ ‘For
goodness’ sake, Kate,’ I says, rolling out of bed, ‘I reckon you are
getting the grippe.’ She groaned. ‘It’s worse than the grippe, Melissy
Allgood,’ she says; ‘I feel like I’m going to die.’ I lit the lamp and
brought it over by the bed. ‘I do believe you have got some fever,
Kate,’ I says. ‘I am eat up with it,’ she says, ‘and with aches, and
have a terrible gone feeling all over. I tell you, Melissy, I’m an
awful sick woman. Oh, what shall I do--what shall I do?’ ‘Do?’ I says,
no little surprised. ‘Why, _pray_, of course.’ ‘Well,’ she says, kind
of faint-like, ‘you’d better be about it.’

“I was a little outdone by her lukewarmness, but I got down on my
knees and went to praying. Kate kept up a consid’able groaning. In
about five minutes she says: ‘Get up from there, Melissy Allgood, and
do something for me. I’m a terrible sick woman,’ she says. ‘Gracious
sakes alive, Kate,’ I says, ‘there ain’t another thing I _can_ do but
anoint you with the oil.’ I run and brought the sweet-oil. ‘Take it
away!’ she says. ‘The smell of it makes me sick! I won’t have it!’ I
was completely dazed, and it seemed to me like the world was turning
upside down. But what can you expect of a woman that don’t know what
the feeling of pain is, and never had a sick day since she was a young
child and got through the catching age? I fell down on my knees and
went to praying again, not knowing just what to do. Kate stopped me
again. ‘Melissy Allgood,’ she says, ‘are you going to let me lay here
and _die_, and not stretch out even a finger to help me?’ she says.
‘Why, Kate,’ I says, plumb petrified, ‘you know I’m doing the very best
that can be done.’ I says: ‘You must have patience and faith, and wait
on the time of the Lord.’ ‘Oh!’ she says, fairly crying, ‘what on earth
made the doctor go off and leave me? He might have known something
would happen to me. He ought to have stayed here, where he belongs!
_He’d_ know what to do for me if _he_ was here,’ she says. ‘He wouldn’t
let his own dear wife lay here and die!’

“’Kate,’ I says, ‘you are wandering, the worst kind. I’m going after
Mary Alice Welden.’ So I slipped on my shoes and dress and run down
the street to Mary Alice’s, and we hurried back as fast as we could. I
told Mary Alice that Kate was sick, and out of her mind to that extent
she was calling for the doctor. Mary Alice said she certainly must be
mighty bad off, and that we must pray with abounding faith, and be
firm. When we got back, Kate was still a-groaning and crying. Mary
Alice told her to cease her complainings and put her trust in One who
was mighty to save. Then Mary Alice snatched up the bottle of sweet-oil
that set there on the table, and started at Kate with it. ‘She won’t
have it on her,’ I says, ‘it ain’t no use to try.’ ‘She’s _got_ to have
it,’ Mary Alice says, ‘whether she wants it or not. It’s a part of
James’s directions.’ Kate begun to holler and throw out her arms when
she saw the oil coming. ‘Take it away,’ she says; ‘it makes me sick!’
‘You hold her hands,’ Mary Alice says, ‘while I pour it on her.’ So I
set down and took a good grip on Kate’s hands, and Mary Alice poured
the oil on her, and it went all over her face and head and the pillow,
she kept threshing around so lively, and hollering till her mouth was
full. Then Kate she cried and carried on, and said we were treating
her shameful, and would be sorry for it when she was dead and gone: We
never paid any attention to her, of course, but got down on both sides
of the bed and went to praying as loud and earnest as we could, so as
to drown the groaning. Then Kate said she didn’t want to be prayed for
nohow, that what she wanted was the doctor. Mary Alice told her she was
plumb out of her senses, and didn’t know what she was talking about.
And Kate said, no such a thing; that she was a mighty sick woman, but
she was in her right mind, and knew what she wanted, and that it was
the doctor. She said the doctor was the only friend she had on earth.
She said the doctor wouldn’t stand by and see her die and never lift
a hand, and she knew it. She said he would know of something to give
her that would ease them aches and pains, and let her die in peace.
But she said of course if the _doctor_ was there she wouldn’t _need_
to die--that he would save her. She set up in bed. ‘Melissy Allgood,’
she says, ‘run over and tell your pa to mount his horse and ride for
the doctor,’ she says, ‘and never stop till he finds him!’ ‘Land of
the living, Kate,’ I says, ‘you know the doctor is thirty mile and
more away, and nobody knows where he’s at by now.’ ‘Tell Mr. Garry I
say not to stop till he finds him!’ Kate says. ‘And to keep life in me
till he gets here,’ she says, ‘I want old Dr. Pegram, at Dixie, sent
for immediate. He ought to get here in three hours’ time. You tell
Tommy T. Nickins to take my mare and go for him, quick!’ she says. ‘And
Mary Alice Welden, you go down in the cellar and bring me one of those
bottles of blackberry cordial, to keep up my strength till Dr. Pegram
comes.’

“Mary Alice and me were smitten dumb right there where we was at, on
our knees. ‘Kate Negley,’ I got the voice to say, ‘are you sure them
are your right-minded wishes, and not the devil speaking through you?’
‘I tell you to do what I say, and hurry up!’ Kate says. ‘Do you reckon
I want to die?’

“Mary Alice rose and walked out with never a word; but if I ever saw
complete disgust wrote on anybody’s face, it was hers. I had to go down
and get the blackberry cordial myself, and you ought to have seen Kate
make away with it. Then I went out and started off Tommy T. and pa.

“Old Dr. Pegram was there inside of three hours, dosing out big pills
for Kate to take every half-hour, and powders every fifteen minutes;
and it looked like Kate couldn’t swallow them fast enough to suit her.
Dr. Pegram told ma and me that Kate had a mild case of the grippe, and
there wasn’t no earthly danger.

“When Dr. Negley and pa come poking in after midnight that night, wore
out and muddy, you never saw as happy a woman in your life as Kate. She
laughed and she cried, and she hugged the doctor, and she kissed him,
and she said there never was anybody like him, that he was her sweet
angel from heaven, and the dearest darling on earth, and she knew she
wouldn’t have no chance to die, now he had come and would know just
what to do for her. And I reckon the doctor was the worst-astonished
man that ever was; but he was a heap too polite and kind to let on, and
went on dosing out physic for her just as if there wasn’t anything out
of the common. And never a word did he ever say to her, either, about
having his camp-hunt broke up; and that’s the reason I _know_ he’s
sanctified, for, like I told ma, what sainted martyr could do better?

“Of course the Station was shaken to the foundations over Kate acting
that way, and there was a big time of rejoicing amongst the scoffers.
And Mary Alice Welden hasn’t spoken to Kate since, and says she never
will. But I tell Mary Alice she ought to be ashamed of herself; that
she’s too ready in her judgments, and needs to make allowance for
humans being humans, and for folks changing with circumstances.”

  LUCY S. FURMAN.



V.

A DOCTOR’S STORY.


CROFT HOUSE, at the end of the village, that had stood vacant so long,
was let at last. A ladder leaned against the wall; a painter was
painting the shutters, a gardener digging in the garden.

Day by day the aspect of the place improved. Soft muslin shades
shrouded the windows, flowers bloomed where only weeds had grown; the
garden paths were laid with gravel. One night a travelling carriage was
driven rapidly through the village and in at the gate leading to Croft
House.

Whence came the vehicle? Who its occupants? No one knew, but everyone
desired to know. Nothing that took place within that dwelling
transpired outside. In passing by, one saw only that the standard roses
flourished and that the grass grew greener. What comments were made on
the mysterious and invisible inhabitants! What strange tales circulated!

I, the village doctor, concerned myself little enough about the matter.
The occupants of Croft House were no doubt human beings, and as such
must suffer some of the ills that flesh is heir to; in that case my
services would be required. I waited patiently.

A week went by; and one morning before I set off on my rounds, a
messenger arrived requesting me to call on Mr. Wilton of Croft House.
Dressing myself with more than ordinary care, I crossed the village
green. I was young, and felt important.

I was shown into the drawing-room. It was gay with summer flowers,
redolent of their perfume. On a couch lay a young girl, in appearance
almost a child. She was pale, delicate looking, and very lovely. In
front of her knelt a young man of two or three and twenty--one of the
handsomest young fellows I had ever seen. He held the hands of the
beautiful girl, and they were looking into each other’s eyes. As I
approached he rose, bowed, and welcomed me with an easy grace that won
my heart.

“I confess I expected to find the village doctor an older man,” he said
with a frank smile as he offered me his hand. “It is for my wife I
desired your attendance,” he continued, looking at her with the deepest
affection. “Una is not strong.”

Then at a sign from him, I sat down beside the couch of my interesting
patient.

“You are very young, Mrs. Wilton,” I remarked. It was certainly rather
a leading question.

“I am seventeen, doctor,” she answered simply. “We have been married
only a few months. We are strangers here, and wish to be so. Oh,
Charlie, please explain,” she asked, turning to her husband with a
faint blush. “You can do it better far than I.”

He bent over, kissed her on the forehead, then straightening himself
and looking at me, said: “In attending my wife, Dr. Gray, I must
ask you to undertake a double duty. We have decided to tell you our
secret--in part--so that while _we_ are your patients, I trust we may
look upon _you_ as our friend--one who will assist us in keeping our
secret and in living the entirely secluded life we desire to lead
here. Wilton is an assumed name. My father refused to acknowledge my
marriage with the girl I love. _Her_ father withheld his consent to his
daughter marrying into a family too proud to receive her. We would have
waited any reasonable time; but, when our parents sought to separate
us entirely, we took our lives into our own hands. We married, and
hope--in time--to be forgiven.”

They had both spoken to me with the candour of youth, of love, and of
inexperience. It takes very little sometimes to bring a doctor into
close relations with his patients. I seemed to become the friend of
this interesting young couple at once. I assured them they need not
fear being intruded upon by the villagers, and the only gentlemen’s
residences within calling distance were tenantless at that season of
the year, the owners either being up in London or travelling abroad.
As to the vicar, he was a man whose advanced age and infirmities
effectually precluded him from visiting more than was absolutely
necessary among his parishioners.

“If you go to the church--a mile from here,” said I, “he may or may not
call upon you. If you do not go, I think I may safely say he will not
consider it necessary. In that case you will probably never meet.”

Mr. and Mrs. Wilton thanked me warmly, pressing me to come to see them
frequently, which I did with ever-increasing pleasure as the beautiful
romance of these two loving hearts unfolded itself. I soon discovered
that Mr. Wilton had received a college education; I also gleaned that
“Una” was somewhat his inferior in social position, and that since
their runaway marriage they had been travelling abroad. It was no
business of mine to know more than they chose to tell. I respected
their secret, and asked no questions.

One morning--my visits had become almost daily now--I saw at once that
there was something wrong with Mrs. Wilton, and she saw also that I
perceived it.

“You need not feel my pulse, doctor; it is my heart,” she said in
answer to my looks. “You will think me foolishly weak, I know,” she
added, forcing a smile, “but I am miserable because my husband is going
to leave me.”

“Leave you! For how long?” I inquired anxiously.

She blushed, and, looking down, answered shyly, “Till this evening.
Ah, don’t laugh,” she implored; “we have never been separated for so
long since we were married. I am nervous and fanciful, I suppose,
but I scarcely slept last night for thinking of it, and when I did, a
dreadful dream kept repeating itself--

“Oh, you must not mind dreams,” I answered.

“I never did much before, but this--ah, Charlie!” she cried, as Mr.
Wilton came in booted and spurred, “I will come and see you mount.”

I saw the parting from the drawing-room window where I stood--saw her
husband place his hands on either side of the sweet face, and gaze down
into it with a look of unutterable love; saw their lips meet together
for a moment; after that he kissed her forehead and her beautiful fair
hair, then sprang into the saddle, and rode off swiftly as though he
could not trust himself to linger longer. At the gate, turning, he
waved a last farewell.

She came into the drawing-room presently.

“Doctor, excuse me. I think I will lie down,” she said, her large blue
eyes looking peculiarly plaintive, brimming as they were with tears. My
presence was not needed then. I bowed and took my leave.

But the evening of that day I was sent for to Croft House.

“He has not returned,” were the first words spoken by Mrs. Wilton, as
I entered the drawing-room. “And, oh! what a day it has been,” she
continued feverishly; “so long, so sad! I seem to have lived a cruel
lifetime in each hour.”

“But it is not late. You said Mr. Wilton would not return till
evening,” I urged.

“It has been evening a long time now. See, the sun is setting. Then it
will be night.” She shuddered.

I sat with her an hour, perhaps, trying in vain to distract her
thoughts. And I too--knowing not how or why--became uneasy. She told
me her husband had gone to D----, the nearest town, for letters he
expected to find at the post-office. I knew that I could have ridden
there and back easily in the time. Still, a thousand simple causes
might have delayed him. I begged her to take courage, suggesting she
would probably laugh to-morrow at the fears she had entertained
to-day. But she shook her head.

“I suffer too much ever to laugh at such feelings as these,” she
said in a half-whisper. “I do not wish to think it, but it is as
though I _knew_ something dreadful was--Oh, I cannot, I dare not
clothe the terrible thought in words. That would make it seem so
real--so almost certain. Dr. Gray, can this be the punishment for my
disobedience--_come so soon_?” she asked in awe-struck tones.

I could not answer her, but proposed that she should wrap a mantle
round her and come with me into the garden to watch for her husband.
She thanked me gratefully, and I carried a basket seat out for her and
placed it on the lawn.

Sitting with her hands clasped about her knees--paler, more fragile,
more childish looking than I had ever seen her--of a sudden I felt,
rather than saw, that a change had come to her. She bent forward as
though listening intently, and at the same moment a distant sound
struck on my ear--the galloping of a horse on the high road.

Was there ever before on human countenance such a beatified expression
as that which dawned and deepened on Mrs. Wilton’s as the sound
approached? It was close to us now, but the trees in the garden hid the
road from our view. Without slackening speed the horse galloped in at
the open gate.

“Oh, Charlie, Charlie! Oh, thank God!” cried the girl, in what seemed a
wild, ungovernable ecstasy of gratitude and joy. But I pulled her back
or the horse would have been upon her.

Then I saw that the animal was riderless, covered with dust and foam;
that the bridle hung loose, dragging on the gravel.

A groom who had been on the watch came out. In another moment all the
household were assembled on the lawn.

Mrs. Wilton had fallen back, as I thought fainting, in my arms. But
no, her senses had not forsaken her. She raised herself and pointed in
the direction the horse had come.

“He lies there, there!” she cried, and pushing me from her, ran forward
towards the gate. I bade the servants bring lanterns and follow me. To
Mrs. Wilton, who was out in the road by this time, I said all I could
say to dissuade her from going with me; but my words fell on deaf ears.
Feeling it was useless--in one sense cruel--to persist, I compelled
her to take my arm. Endowed for the time, by excitement, with almost
superhuman strength, she seemed to drag me forward rather than to lean
on me. After proceeding about a mile, we came to a bit of level road
which for some distance in front showed clear and distinct in the
moonlight. Here, I felt certain, we had lost all trace of the horse’s
shoe marks, which hitherto had been every now and again perceptible in
the dusty highway.

“There is a shorter cut--if he knew of it,” I said, and stopped.

“Then if there is he would come by it--he would be sure to find out and
come by it,” she cried.

And I led her back a little distance to a gate at the entrance of a
wood, where sure enough were traces sufficient to show we were again on
the right track. Servants with lanterns had overtaken us by this time;
so, calling out at intervals and listening in vain for a response, we
entered the dark wood. Through it was an almost unfrequented bridle
path, considered somewhat unsafe by day but particularly so at night;
the gnarled roots of trees forming a raised network upon the ground. It
was with considerable difficulty we made our way. Mrs. Wilton stumbled
many times, would have fallen but for my support. At last she loosed my
arm and ran forward, signing me not to follow her. In another moment
the wood resounded with a wild and piercing cry. She had seen what
the rest of us had failed to see, and when I came up to her she was
kneeling beside her husband, her arms clasped about his neck, her face
close pressed to his. One agonized look she gave me as I bent over
them: “My dream!” she said. I understood.

There was an ugly wound on the back of poor Charlie Wilton’s head; the
body was still warm, but the heart had ceased to beat. Though Mrs.
Wilton did not speak again, she never completely lost her senses, but
her mind seemed stunned. We put some hurdles together and carried him
back thus to Croft House.

An inquest was held, every particular of which was minutely reported
in the county newspaper, to appear in condensed form in most of the
journals of the day. But no friends of the dead man ever came forward,
nor was it satisfactorily proved whether his death had been the result
of violence or of an accidental fall from his horse in the dangerous
pathway through the wood.

The post-office officials at D---- perfectly remembered the deceased
calling for letters on the day in question, giving the name of Wilton;
but there were none for him. In the bank was lodged to his credit some
five or six thousand pounds.

I took upon myself the arrangements for the funeral as of everything
else. Mrs. Wilton’s mind had not sufficiently recovered from the shock
it had received on that terrible night to understand or care for what
went on around her. Only once--when I urged writing to her friends--did
she even momentarily rouse herself to answer me. “My father will never
forgive me,” she said. “I acted in defiance of his commands. No, I
cannot write to him.” Then she added: “He has married again,” which
perhaps in part explained.

A month later a baby was born--a boy whom she called Charlie--and when
she spoke the name, tears sprang to her eyes for the first time. It was
not until I saw those tears that I had the slightest hope of her mind
rallying from the shock; but then I knew that the living child would
save her. She looked upon him as having been sent direct from heaven
to solace her for her loss. She regarded him as an emanation from the
departed spirit of her husband. There was certainly something uncommon
about the child. He was pretty, but not engaging. He never cried; but
it may also be said, he never smiled. He did not suffer, but there was
about him none of the joyousness of childhood. It seemed as though the
thunder-cloud that had burst over the mother’s head had left its shadow
on the child.

Between two and three years after Mr. Wilton’s death a change seemed
likely to occur in my own prospects. A rich relation--a physician of
high standing--wrote urging me to come to London immediately, on a
matter, so he said, of the greatest importance to myself. There was
nothing to prevent my complying with his request. The village was in a
healthy state; my outside practice might be made to spare me. I wrote
stating I would be with him on the following day.

I went to Croft House to say good-bye. It was summer. Mrs. Wilton was
sitting out on the lawn with Charlie on a rug close at her feet. She
made room for me beside her, and we talked together for a short time of
her affairs and of the child. It was not until I had risen to go that I
broached the subject of my departure. She looked surprised, alarmed.

“But, Charlie,” she said; “if he should be ill?”

“I would not go if he were ill. I will return at once if he should need
me,” I answered earnestly. “But is he not the picture of health? Why,
he seems exempt from every childish trouble.”

I told her my relative’s address, knowing she only cared to have it
in case she needed me for her boy; then I lifted the child in my arms
and kissed him. “Good-bye, little man!” I said cheerfully. He was a
splendid little fellow, of whom his mother might well be proud; he
resembled his father, too, and was growing more like him every day.

I was about to set the child down, but something--some feeling I
cannot define--impelled me to hold him closer; to look into his
face--his eyes--more scrutinizingly than I had ever done. And so
looking, I shuddered at the thought that then assailed me. Great
powers! Could fate be so cruel? Had heaven no pity for this poor mother
who, so young, had already surely borne enough of sorrow? I put the boy
down quickly and turned away.

Perhaps--perhaps after all I may have been mistaken!

I reached London, and Dr. B---- ‘s residence that evening, and my
worthy relative quickly explained the object of his summons. He wished
me to undertake, with his supervision, a case requiring the utmost care
and consideration; one which rendered it necessary that a medical man
should reside for a time beneath the same roof as his patient, and be
with him night and day.

This patient was Lord Welbury, a self-made man so far as his immense
wealth was concerned; but he came of an ancient and honourable race.

I accepted the munificent conditions offered, and within a couple of
hours of my arrival in town was driven to Lord Welbury’s house in
Belgravia, and entered upon the duties of my post.

For some days and nights my responsibilities absorbed all my attention.
The life of a sick man hung on a thread, my medical capacity was taxed
to its utmost; I knew not, nor cared I, for the time being, what went
on outside that chamber.

The crisis passed, my patient began rapidly to recover. The first
day that he was able to sit up in his room he asked me a startling
question. He said: “Doctor, am I sane?”

“Your mind has never been affected,” I answered unhesitatingly. “Your
lordship is as sane as I am.”

“Good. Therefore a will made by me now could not be invalid?”

“Most certainly not on the ground of incompetency.”

“Then my will must be made to-morrow or next day at latest. This
illness has warned me to delay no longer. My niece’s child will be my
heir.”

His words set me musing and turning over in my mind how this could be.

“Your lordship is childless, then?” The remark slipped from me almost
unawares; but they were fateful words, as the result proved. “I beg
your pardon,” I added, seeing surprise and some annoyance written on
his face.

“Not at all,” he answered courteously. “I supposed you were acquainted
with my family affairs, for they are no secret. I _have_ a son, though
no communication has passed between us for nearly four years. He set me
and my wishes at defiance by marrying beneath him, consequently will
inherit little more than an empty title. I mean to leave my fortune to
my niece’s child. The boy was committed to my care when his parents
went to India, two years ago. He is a fine little fellow, and it shows
how close in attendance you have been on me if you did not even know he
was in the house--”

“Was your son’s name Charles--that of the girl he married Una?” I
asked, scarcely heeding his last words. My heart was beating faster
than it should, my voice in my earnestness less steady than it ought to
be.

“Yes. But why these questions?”

I knew he was well enough now to hear the truth, therefore I answered:
“Because it is my belief your lordship’s son is dead. I will relate to
you a sad story; when I have finished you will be able to judge whether
or not you are concerned in it.” Then I told, as briefly as I could,
the Croft House tragedy; and as I did so, read in the ever-increasing
interest with which he listened to my tale that my suspicions were
correct.

That the man I had to deal with was of a proud, egotistical,
unsympathetic nature I was well aware; that the death of his only son
would not vitally affect him I had rightly guessed; but I was scarcely
prepared for the interest he displayed on learning of the existence of
his grandchild. The better nature of the man seemed touched. I spoke of
little Charles’s beauty, his likeness to his father, even hinted at a
resemblance to Lord Welbury himself. With the feverish impatience of an
invalid he demanded that the boy should be sent for at once.

“He cannot come without his mother. The two lives are bound together as
one.”

“Then write to the mother and bid her bring him,” was the imperious
reply. And the speaker turned his face away as though to intimate no
more was to be said. The affair was settled.

On quitting the room I encountered a nurse leading a smiling, rosy
little urchin, clad in velvet and rich lace.

“Speak prettily to the kind doctor, Georgie,” said the nurse. “This is
the little heir, sir,” she whispered to me.

Three days later Mrs. Wilton--I must still call her so--and her
son arrived. I met them at the station and took them in one of his
lordship’s carriages to the house. The boy, exhausted apparently by the
journey, was asleep when he entered it; he was still sleeping when his
mother carried him across the threshold of Lord Welbury’s door.

His lordship’s reception of her was not ungracious. Could he fail to
feel touched at sight of this gentle, beautiful young creature, who had
loved his son so well! But it was evident he resented the fact that
his grandson, whom he had specially desired to welcome, could not be
prevailed upon to notice him, or enticed to leave his mother’s arms.

“Excuse him. He is so tired,” pleaded the young mother, reading the
disappointment on her father-in-law’s face.

“Well, well. Off to bed with him, then. Bring him to me bright and
smiling in the morning.”

Bright and smiling! Somehow the words struck me--even haunted me--they
were so totally inapplicable to Charlie. I tried to remember if I had
ever seen a smile upon that grave baby-face, but tried in vain.

When I entered Lord Welbury’s room next day--my presence there at
nights was now dispensed with--the old man, in dressing-gown and
slippers, was reclining in an easy chair. In front of him stood Mrs.
Wilton, with Charlie clinging to her long black draperies.

“Come here, Gray,” exclaimed his lordship, irritably. “I cannot get my
grandson to notice me. What is to be done?”

“Charlie is shy. He has been used to no one but me,” murmured the
mother, raising her eyes with an appealing look in them to mine.

“Madam, I fear you are spoiling him,” said Lord Welbury sharply. “The
other child took to me at once, but this--”

“Send for the other, sir,” I suggested, and presently “the little
heir,” with whom I had previously made acquaintance, was brought in by
his nurse. The latter sat down in a far corner with some knitting. The
child--as apparently he had been accustomed to do--ran to the old man
and scrambled at his knee. “I love ‘ou, I love ‘ou,” he cried.

Lord Welbury’s face was radiant.

“Now, Charlie, my man,” said he, as the other child after his
affectionate greeting scampered off to play beside his nurse.

Charlie was placed on his grandfather’s knee.

“Say ‘I love you,’” whispered Mrs. Wilton, as she tried to clasp her
own child’s arms about Lord Welbury’s neck.

“Say I love ‘ou,” echoed the boy mechanically; then dropped his head
and lay quite placidly as though he slept.

“Ha, ha, the young rascal! He’s making himself at home at last,”
observed Lord Welbury, well pleased. “And now that I come to see him
more closely, he’s not unlike what his father was at the same age, only
quieter. Do you know he almost strikes me as being a little dull. Have
you found him so, madam?”

“I have been too sad a companion for him, sir. I know--I feel it now,”
sighed the poor mother, her eyes wandering from her own boy to follow
the antics of the other, who astride a stick, was careering merrily
about the room.

“That can be soon remedied,” said Lord Welbury, putting Charlie off his
knee; “let the two youngsters romp together. I warrant they’ll make
friends if let alone.”

And in order to try the experiment, we three sat apart and kept up some
desultory talk. This lasted but a short time, however. It was broken in
upon by a startled cry from the younger boy, Georgie, who, apparently
terror stricken, rushed across the room.

“Naughty boy, naughty boy! Send him away. He’s making faces at me,”
cried the spoilt child in an outburst of passion, pointing with
outstretched finger at his little companion.

The nurse dropped her knitting, and rose instantly. “I have seen it
from the first,” she said, calmly confronting us. “The child is half an
idiot, my lord.”

All eyes were turned at poor Charlie, who stood among some broken toys,
his features distorted into the ghastly semblance of a smile.

Mrs. Wilton, running to her boy, shielded him with her arms. “My
darling, my darling! Has God no pity?” she cried, and bore him from
the room. She had prayed day and night--this unhappy mother--to see
either a smile on her baby’s lips or a tear in his eye, and hitherto
her prayer had been denied. It was granted now. The poor dulled senses
of the child, roused into something like activity by the antics of his
little lively playfellow, had caused the lips to smile. But what a
smile!

Lord Welbury turned pale. A look of disgust, not unmixed with anger,
settled on his face.

“There is no doubt the boy is imbecile,” he said, as I was about to
follow Mrs. Wilton from the room. “Dr. Gray, were you aware of this
when you allowed him to be brought here?”

“I was not aware of it,” I replied readily. For the sad foreboding
that first assailed me on the lawn at Croft House had received no
confirmation hitherto. “But even if the case is as we fear,” I added
earnestly, “it may be curable.”

“Excuse me, doctor,” he interrupted. “No man who has seen that child as
we have seen him can have the slightest doubt but that he is an idiot
for life.”

“On the contrary, my lord, we must regard the matter from another
point. Remember the shadow that rested on his mother before his birth.
Where there is no hereditary taint--”

“What then? On the mere chance of the child being curable, do you
suppose I am going to leave my money to him? No!” he cried excitedly.
“My own life is too precarious for me to delay longer the settling of
my affairs. My niece’s child is still my heir. I regard the other as
_non est_. For heaven’s sake don’t let me have my feelings harrowed by
the sight of that poor idiot any more. The mother shall have a handsome
annuity. I pity her.”

And that day Lord Welbury made his will, leaving his immense fortune as
he had said.

Once more I returned to my country practice; Mrs. Wilton and Charlie to
Croft House.

Never was grief grander in its simplicity, or more nobly borne than
that of Mrs. Wilton. She still prayed--prayed with the faith which we
are told will move mountains. Her eyes, when not raised to heaven, were
bent on her child, ever seeking for the dawning of that intelligence
which she believed must come in answer to her prayers. She tried to
teach him his childish lessons; she read, she talked to him; even
chanted in a low, sad voice the nursery rhymes that happy mothers sing.

At last, one day, exercising over herself a supreme control, she told
her son the story of his father’s death, told it in simple, child-like
language, but with a pathos that might have moved a heart of stone.

The boy was standing at her knee, she holding his unresponsive hand.
But, as she proceeded with her narration, he pressed gradually closer
to her side. With a thrill of rapture she looked at the drooped
eyelids, hoping, praying to see a tear glisten on the dark curled
lashes. Trembling, she reached the climax of her sad tale, and bending
over him:

“Charlie,” she whispered, “Charlie, he was _dead_! you understand?”

Alas, she knew then, even ere she had done speaking that the boy was
incapable of understanding her. His eyes were closed. He slept!

And he seemed for ever thus. Whether the beautiful but expressionless
eyes were open or closed his mental faculties were in that dulled
dormant state, it might be said they slept.

“He is like that little statue of Jesus now,” she once said to me,
pointing to a marble figure of Christ, “but some day God will awaken
his soul. Ah, doctor, shall I live to see that day?”

I scarcely thought she could, but did not tell her so.

From the day on which she related the story of her husband’s death, she
herself drooped visibly.

But grief kills very slowly. Five years passed by. Lord Welbury was
dead. His wealth--with the exception of the annuity to his son’s
widow--was left to his niece’s child; his title now by right became his
grandson’s.

The boy grew fast; he was eight years old, but his mind still
slumbered. He knew the sound of his mother’s voice, would come to the
side of her couch when called; would lie for hours folded in her arms,
whispering back her loving words, repeating her gentle admonitions
like an echo. The words apparently conveyed no meaning, but they
touched some hidden chord.

Weaker and weaker grew Mrs. Wilton.

On one of my daily visits the sick nurse, who was in constant
attendance now, whispered to me that the end was near. I was startled,
shocked, to perceive _how_ near!

“Doctor, dear friend,” she gasped very faintly, as I pressed her poor
transparent hand; but her whole attention was riveted on her son; she
was gazing at him with eyes out of which the light of earth was fading
fast. It was evident she desired to say something, but it was some time
before the words would come. At last, gathering strength, she said in
a low, penetrating voice that scarcely faltered: “I am going to leave
you, Charlie. _Here_ I could not help you, but when in heaven I see
our dear Lord face to face--when on my knees before the great white
throne--”

For an instant an expression of rapture irradiated her features; the
next, with a slight sigh she sank back upon the pillow.

I touched Charlie on the shoulder. He dropped upon his knees and,
unprompted, joined his trembling hands in prayer. His gaze was directed
upward. His countenance assumed a look of intensity I had never seen on
it before. Quite suddenly he rose, and flinging himself sobbing across
the bed, “Oh, mother, mother! Do not leave me all alone,” he cried.

“See! Your son is saved!” I whispered, bending over Mrs. Wilton. But I
was speaking to the dead.

And yet, even as I looked upon the still white face, the lips seemed
parting into a smile of the most holy, calm, ineffable content. Could
it be as she herself had said? Was she already kneeling before the
great white throne--had God listened to her prayer at last?

A few more words and this “o’er true tale” is ended.

From the moment of his mother’s death, the mists that had obscured poor
Charlie’s mind dispersed.

I took him to live with me, and watched his young intelligence grow day
by day to healthy vigour. Not even a shadowy semblance of a cloud rests
now upon his mind. He has succeeded to his grandfather’s wealth as well
as to the title, for “the niece’s child” is dead.

The present Lord Welbury ranks amongst England’s noblest sons--he is
one of the greatest philanthropists of the day.

  E. M. DAVY.



VI.

JOHN BARTINE’S WATCH: THE DOCTOR’S STORY.


“THE exact time? Good heavens! my friend, why do you insist? One would
think--but what does it matter; it is easily bed-time--isn’t that near
enough? But, here, if you must set your watch, take mine and see for
yourself.”

With that, he detached his watch--a tremendously heavy, old-fashioned
one--from the chain and handed it to me, then turned away and, walking
across the room to a shelf of books, began an examination of their
backs. His agitation and evident distress surprised me; they appeared
altogether reasonless. Having set my watch by his, I stepped over to
where he stood and said, “Thank you.”

As he took his watch and re-attached it to the guard, I observed that
his hands were unsteady. A slight pallor had come into his face. With
a tact, upon which I greatly prided myself, I sauntered carelessly to
the sideboard and took some brandy and water, then, begging his pardon
for my thoughtlessness, asked him to have some and went back to my seat
by the fire, leaving him to help himself, as was our custom. He did
so, and presently joined me at the hearth, as tranquil as if nothing
unusual had happened.

This odd little incident occurred in my apartment, where John Bartine
was passing an evening. We had dined together at the club, had come
home in a hack and, in short, everything had been done in the most
prosaic way; and why John Bartine should break in upon the natural and
established order of things to make himself spectacular with a display
of emotion, apparently for his own entertainment, I could nowise
understand.

The more I thought of it, while his brilliant conversational gifts were
commending themselves to my inattention, the more curious I grew and,
of course, had no difficulty in persuading myself that my curiosity
was friendly solicitude. That is the disguise that curiosity commonly
assumes to evade resentment. So I ruined one of the finest sentences of
his monologue by cutting it short without ceremony.

“John Bartine,” I said, “you must try to forgive me, if I am wrong; but
with the light that I have at present I cannot concede your right to go
all to pieces when asked the time o’night. I cannot admit that it is
proper to experience a mysterious reluctance to look your own watch in
the face, and to cherish in my presence, without explanation, painful
emotions which are denied to me and which are none of my business.”

To this ridiculous speech, Bartine made no immediate reply, but sat
looking gravely into the fire. Fearing that I had offended, I was about
to apologize and beg him to think no more about the matter, when,
looking me calmly in the eyes, he said:

“My dear fellow, the levity of your manner does not at all disguise
the hidden impudence of your demand; but happily I had already decided
to tell you what you wish to know, and no manifestation of your
unworthiness to hear it shall alter my decision. Be good enough to
persuade me to have a fresh cigar and you shall hear all that I can
tell you about the matter.

“This watch,” he said, “had been in my family for three generations
before it fell to me. Its original owner, for whom it was made, was
my great-grandfather, Bramwell Olcott Bartine, a wealthy planter of
Colonial Virginia and as stanch a Tory as every lay awake nights
contriving new kinds of maledictions for the head of Mr. Washington,
and new methods of aiding and abetting good King George. One day this
worthy gentleman had the deep misfortune to perform for his cause a
service of capital importance which was not recognized by those who
suffered its disadvantages as legitimate. It does not matter what it
was; but among its minor consequences was my excellent ancestor’s
arrest one night in his own house by a party of Mr. Washington’s
rebels. He was permitted to say farewell to his weeping family and was
then marched away into the darkness, which swallowed him up forever.

“Not the slenderest clew to his fate was ever found. After the war the
most diligent inquiry and the offer of large rewards failed to turn up
any of his captors or any fact concerning him. He had disappeared, and
that was all.”

Something in John Bartine’s manner that was not in his words--I hardly
knew what it was, or how it manifested itself--prompted me to ask:

“What is your view of the matter, Bartine--of the justice of it?”

“My view of it,” he flamed out, bringing his clenched hand down
upon the table as if he had been in a public-house dicing with
blackguards--”my view of it is that it was a characteristically
dastardly assassination by that d----d traitor, Washington, and his
ragamuffin rebels!”

For some minutes nothing was said; Bartine was recovering his temper,
and I waited. Then I said:

“Was that all?”

“No--there was something else. A few weeks after my great-grandfather’s
arrest his watch was found lying on the porch at the front door of his
dwelling. It was wrapped in a sheet of letter-paper bearing the name of
Elizabeth Bartine, his only daughter, my grandmother. I am wearing that
watch.”

Bartine paused. His usually restless black eyes were staring fixedly
into the grate, a point of red light in each, reflected from the
glowing coals. He seemed to have forgotten my existence.

A sudden threshing of the branches of a tree outside one of the
windows, and almost at the same instant a rattle of rain against the
glass, recalled him to a sense of his surroundings. A storm had risen,
heralded by a single gust of wind, and in a few moments the steady
splash of the water on the pavement was distinctly audible. I hardly
know why I relate that incident; it seemed somehow to have a certain
significance and relevancy which I am enabled now to discern. It at
least added an element of seriousness, almost solemnity. Bartine
resumed:

“I have a singular feeling towards this watch--a kind of affection
for it; I like to have it about me; though partly from its weight,
and partly for a reason that I shall now explain, I seldom carry it.
The reason is this: Every evening when I have it with me I feel an
unaccountable desire to open it and consult it, even if I can think
of no reason for wishing to know the time. But if I yield to it,
the moment my eyes rest upon the dial I am filled with a mysterious
apprehension--a sense of imminent calamity. And this is the more
unsupportable the nearer it is to eleven o’clock--by this watch, no
matter what the actual hour may be. After the hands have registered
eleven the desire to look is gone; I am entirely indifferent. But then
I can consult the thing as often as I like, with no more emotion than
you feel in looking at your own.

“Naturally, I have trained myself not to look at that watch in the
evening before eleven; nothing could induce me. Your insistence this
evening upset me a trifle. I felt very much as I suppose an opium-eater
might feel if his yearning for his special and particular kind of hell
were re-enforced by opportunity and advice.

“Now, that is my story, and I have told it in the interest of your
trumpery science; but if on any evening hereafter you observe me
wearing this damnable watch, and you have the thoughtfulness to ask me
the hour, I shall beg leave to put you to the inconvenience of being
knocked down.”

His humour did not amuse me. I could see that in relating his
hallucination he was again somewhat disturbed. His concluding smile was
positively ghastly, and his eyes had resumed something more than their
old restlessness; they shifted hither and thither about the room with
apparent aimlessness, and I fancied had taken on a wild expression,
such as is sometimes observed in cases of dementia. Perhaps this was my
own imagination; but at any rate I was now persuaded that my friend was
afflicted with a most singular monomania.

Without, I trust, any abatement of my affectionate solicitude for him
as a friend, I began to regard him as a patient rich in possibilities
of profitable study. Why not? Had he not described his delusion in the
interest of science? Ah, poor fellow, he was doing more for science
than he knew; not only his story but himself was in evidence. I should
cure him if I could, of course, but first I should make a little
experiment in psychology--nay, the experiment itself might be a step in
his restoration.

“That is very frank and friendly of you, Bartine,” I said cordially,
“and I’m rather proud of your confidence. It is all very odd,
certainly. Do you mind showing me the watch?”

He detached it from his waistcoat, chain and all, and passed it to
me without a word. The case was of gold, very thick and strong, and
curiously engraved. After examining the dial and observing that it
was nearly twelve o’clock, I opened it at the back and was interested
to observe an inner case of ivory, upon which was painted a miniature
portrait in that exquisite and delicate manner which was in vogue
during the eighteenth century.

“Why, bless my soul!” I exclaimed, experiencing the keenest artistic
delight--”how under the sun did you get that done? I thought miniature
painting on ivory was a lost art.”

“That,” he replied, gravely smiling, “is not I; it is my excellent
great-grandfather, the late Bramwell Olcott Bartine, Esquire, of
Virginia. He was younger then than later--about my age, in fact. It is
said to resemble me; do you think so?”

“Resemble you? I should say so! Barring the costume, which I supposed
you to have assumed out of compliment to the art--or for vraisemblance,
so to say--and the no mustache, that face is yours in every feature,
line and expression.”

No more was said at that time. Bartine took a book from the table and
began reading.

I heard outside the incessant plash of the rain in the street. There
was occasional hurried footfalls on the sidewalks; and once a slower,
heavier tread seemed to cease at my door--a policeman, I thought,
seeking shelter in the doorway. The boughs of the trees tapped
significantly on the window-panes, as if asking for admittance. I
remember it all through these years and years of a wiser, graver life.

Seeing myself unobserved, I took the old-fashioned watch key from the
chain and quickly turned back the hands of the watch a full hour; then,
closing the case, I handed Bartine his property, and saw him replace it.

“I think you said,” I began, with assumed carelessness, “that after
eleven the sight of the dial no longer affects you. As it is now nearly
twelve”--looking at my own timepiece--”perhaps, if you don’t resent my
pursuit of proof, you will look at it now.”

He smiled good-humoredly, pulled out the watch again, opened it, and
instantly sprang to his feet with a cry that Heaven has not had the
mercy to permit me to forget! His eyes, their blackness strikingly
intensified by the absolute pallor of his face, were fixed upon the
watch, which he clutched in both hands.

For some time he remained in that attitude without uttering another
sound; then, in a voice that I should not have recognized as his, he
said:

“D----n you! it is two minutes to eleven.”

I was not unprepared for some such outbreak, and without rising
replied, calmly enough:

“I beg your pardon; I must have misread your watch in setting my own by
it.”

He shut the case with a sharp snap and put the watch in his pocket. He
looked at me and made an attempt to smile; but his lower lip quivered
and he seemed unable to close his mouth. His hands, also, were shaking
and he thrust them clenched into his coat pockets.

The courageous spirit was manifestly endeavoring to subdue the coward
body. The effort was too great. He began to sway from side to side, as
from vertigo; and before I could spring from my chair to support him
his knees gave way and he pitched awkwardly forward and fell upon his
face--dead!

The post-mortem examination disclosed nothing; every organ was normal
and sound. But when the body had been prepared for burial a faint, dark
circle, as if made by contusion, was seen to have developed about the
neck; at least, I was so assured by several persons who said they saw
it; but of my own knowledge I cannot say if that was true.

Nor can I affirm my knowledge of the limitations of the principle of
heredity. I do not know that in the spiritual, as in the temporal,
world natural laws have no post-facto validity. Surely, if I were to
guess at the fate of Bramwell Olcott Bartine, I should guess that he
was hanged at eleven o’clock in the evening, and that he had been
allowed several hours in which to prepare for the change.

As to John Bartine, my friend, my patient for five minutes, and--Heaven
forgive me!--my victim for eternity, there is no more to say. He is
buried, and his watch with him; I saw to that. May God rest his soul
in Paradise and the soul of his unfortunate Virginian ancestor, if,
indeed, they are two souls.

  AMBROSE BIERCE.



VII.

TWO WILLS.


DR. BROWN had returned home late from a visit to one of his patients.
It was a serious case--doubly so for Brown--for not only had his
notoriously sure diagnosis failed him in this case, but the patient
was one of a family with which he had been on an intimate footing for
years, and consequently his personal interest was awakened. The doctor
saw no hope whatever for the sick woman. Since early morning he had
hourly expected her death. Weary and dispirited, after a light and
hasty supper, he sat down at his writing-table, and once more passed in
review the whole course of his patient’s illness. Every circumstance
was recalled.

“Unaccountable! perfectly unaccountable!” he murmured over and over
again, and, with each repetition, he shook his grey head.

“Doctor!” Brown started up in alarm. He had not dreamed that anyone
beside himself was in the room. As he looked up, he saw a lady standing
by the door, dressed in a peculiar nightrobe with only a light shawl
thrown over it.

“My God! What is that?”

It was indeed the subject of his thoughts. Amazed beyond expression,
Brown sprang from his armchair and hastened toward the intruder. “My
dear Madam! Mrs. Morley, in heaven’s name, why are you here?”

“Never mind, doctor. Sit down and write what I tell you.”

Brown mechanically obeyed the command. There was something in the look
and bearing of his visitor which forbade contradiction. Strangely
thrilled, Brown took up his pen and wrote at her dictation the
following words: “I hereby direct that, in case of my death, my body
be opened, and the cause of my illness and final demise be officially
and authoritatively stated by a competent physician. I am convinced
that I am poisoned, and that by my own husband, and only through such
a statement as the aforesaid will it be put out of his power to get
possession of the property coming to my only child, his step-daughter.
My will relating to this property is in the hands of my lawyer, Mr.
Batt, in London. Mr. Batt is, as I have unfortunately only lately
discovered, a man open to bribery, and my husband counts upon this
characteristic for the attainment of his object: that is to say, he
hopes to induce this lawyer, by pure falsification, to make the will
read in his favor. I believe he has already succeeded in doing this,
for, when, yesterday, I desired to see a lawyer of this town, in order
to have him take down my last wishes, my husband put every obstacle
in the way of his coming. I have put a sealed copy of my will in the
double bottom of the little box which stands always upon the table at
my bedside. The ostensible contents of the box are my daughter’s first
cap and a lock of my father’s hair.”

Dr. Brown had driven his pen as if under the domination of a higher
power. He was not conscious of having once lifted it from the paper to
the inkstand, and yet there stood the written characters, black and
clear, upon the white paper, and reminded him that he was not alone;
furthermore, that the head and heart whose wish and request these
characters had recorded, belonged to an existence which held his own
being, thought, and will in its power.

He made an heroic effort to regain the mastery of himself, and with a
powerful shake, as if to free himself from the grasp of this strange
will, he arose. “Madam, I--”

“Yes, but, doctor, the master sent me to tell you to come right away.
Mrs. Morley has been lying for two hours like dead, and the master
thinks it must be nearly over with her.”

Brown staggered back in amazement, and stared so vacantly at the
waiting coachman that the man was struck dumb.

“Jan? Where did you come from? Mrs. Morley is not yet----”

“Dead? No, doctor, not yet, but the master says she can’t last much
longer.”

“Very well. You see to the horses, and I’ll come right away.”

Dr. Brown put his hands to his head. He had need to convince himself by
some such means of his own mortal existence. Then he seized his hat and
coat and hurried after the coachman.

Drawing his coat tightly about him, he leaned back in the corner of
the carriage and racked his brain over the strange occurrence, but
to no purpose. The doctor was a hard-headed, practical man, and if
any one had related to him the events of the past day, he would have
laughed him to scorn; but, earnestly as he tried to do so now, it was
impossible for him to conjure up a smile. The carriage stopped and Mr.
Morley was at the door to receive him.

“I am glad you have come, doctor. I was afraid you would be too late.
As the clock struck twelve, there was absolutely no breath nor pulse,
and not until half-an-hour ago did she seem to come back a little to
life. She has just asked for you.”

These words were spoken outside the sick-room door. The doctor laid
aside his coat and went in, followed by Mr. Morley. The physician felt
something like horror at being in the near presence of this man, who
since half-an-hour ago had figured in his mind as the murderer of his
wife; and here in the sick-room while looking upon the dying woman, in
whose features he again saw plainly his recent guest, even here, did he
feel again that compelling force which had put the pen in his hand at
home.

The sick woman seemed to have been anxiously awaiting his coming, for
her great, earnest eyes fastened themselves upon him, as he entered the
room, and as he bent over her, he heard distinctly the low whispered
words: “Doctor, my child!” and in the same low whisper Dr. Brown
replied: “I will see that your will is executed.”

Then he raised his head and encountered a look from those eyes which
spoke a world of gratitude; and this was the last conscious look which
lighted them, for as Mr. Morley now softly approached, she looked
wanderingly at him, and then her eyelids closed, and her muscles
relaxed, and with a gentle sigh her heart ceased to beat.

“All is over,” said the doctor, as he stepped back to give place to the
mourning husband, who threw himself down beside his wife.

When he arose and turned toward the doctor, a tear glittered on
his lashes. His voice was hoarse and tremulous when he thanked the
physician for all the pains which he had taken during the long illness
of his wife, concluding with, “I shall never forget it!”

Dr. Brown only shook his head. He was thinking of the dead woman’s
will, and answered evasively: “I could not have helped your wife much,
since I never discovered the real cause of her illness.”

“No self-reproaches, doctor! You did what you could, and whether this
disease can be exactly diagnosed seems to me, from what I know of it,
altogether doubtful.”

“Every disease,” replied the doctor, “must finally disclose its cause
to the patient and thorough investigator; but in this case there were
so many accompanying phenomena that it was quite impossible to discover
the exact cause of the predominant disorder, at least in the living
body.”

The doctor, as he said this, looked sharply at his companion, over
whose countenance a slight cloud seemed to pass; yet there was scarcely
any discernible change in his voice as he replied: “No, no, doctor, we
won’t do that! The beloved body was sufficiently tormented in life; in
death at least it shall be at rest!”

“Yes, but it was the wish of the dead; and isn’t there any direction as
to that in the will?”

“No!--yet perhaps--I don’t know. Anyway the will is to be read
t-omorrow, and should any such direction be found there--well, I
suppose I shall have to carry it out. I will send immediately an
announcement of the death to our attorney, Mr. Batt of London. You will
be present at the opening of the will, will you not?”

“Most certainly!”

The doctor during this conversation had again approached the bed of
death. He carefully scrutinized the surroundings and, as if in an
absent-minded manner, picked up a little box from the table which stood
beside the bed and carelessly pushed back the cover. At sight of the
contents he could hardly restrain an exclamation; for there, exactly as
had been described to him, were a baby’s cap, yellow with time, and a
lock of hair, tied with a ribbon.

“Probably some of your wife’s keepsakes?” he remarked, turning
inquiringly to Morley.

“Yes, and as such they must be given into the hands of her daughter.”

“Will you allow me the pleasure of sending them to her by my sister who
is going to Switzerland to-morrow?”

“I suppose it would be more proper that she should receive them at my
hands; and yet, as I shall have to remain here for some time yet, and
a journey home in her delicate state of health would be hard for the
child, I shall be very much obliged to you if you will send them to
her. Give her my blessing with them, and tell her that from this time
forth I shall be more a father to her than ever.”

Dr. Brown thrust the little box deep into his breast-pocket, and took
his leave with the assurance that he would faithfully execute Mr.
Morley’s commission.

Once at home under the light of the lamp, he was not long in searching
for the further contents of the box, and he was filled with both
horror and astonishment as his search brought to light, from beneath a
cunningly-contrived double floor, the will as it had been described to
him--a clear, correct copy. After this discovery, the doctor awaited
with feverish anxiety the hour for the announced opening of the will.

At last it arrived, and Brown had to acknowledge to himself that its
contents agreed exactly with the copy in his hands until it came to the
names of the heirs. Here appeared clearly and plainly, “my daughter,
Mara Dix;” and there, just as plainly, “my husband, John Morley.” No
directions with regard to an inquest or autopsy appeared therein.

“I demand proof of the genuineness of that will!” rang loud and clear
through the room. No one could imagine from whom the words proceeded.
The will had been drawn up and carefully preserved by a prominent
attorney in London, and the family involved was one of the first in
the country; and now came this demand, which, as everybody knew, was
an unmitigated insult. Who had brought it forward? The chairman looked
all about the room. There he stood--Dr. Brown! He had again, quite
unconsciously, come under the spell of that mysterious power, and in
obedience to its behest had called out those words; now that they
were spoken, he would not recall them. Standing upright, the doctor
repeated: “I demand an examination of the will!” As he spoke, he had
the comfortable feeling of having kept a promise.

“By what authority?” asked the attorney.

“As the guardian of the deceased’s daughter.”

“Have you anything to offer in support of this request?”

“Yes, a copy of the original will.”

“Will?”

“And this has reference to an entirely different party.”

“Allow me to look at the document.”

Dr. Brown handed over the copy. A committee retired with it to another
room. On their return the chairman announced that in accordance with
Dr. Brown’s request, a preliminary examination of the will having been
made, the judge had decided to enter a complaint against Attorney Batt
of London for having falsified the will, and at the same time to place
the property of the heiress-at-law under legal protection.

“Dr. Brown, have you anything further to say in the matter?”

“I beg you will order an autopsy.”

“On what grounds?”

“It was the wish of the deceased.”

“Is that your only reason?”

“No, but because I have a strong suspicion that the deceased came to
her death through slow and protracted poisoning.”

All present were filled with horror.

Again the court withdrew, and again the decision was a fulfilment of
the doctor’s request; and when the verdict at the ensuing inquest was
brought in, it was expressed in one word: Poison!



VII.

A DOCTOR OF THE OLD SCHOOL.

A GENERAL PRACTITIONER.


DRUMTOCHTY was accustomed to break every law of health, except
wholesome food and fresh air, and yet had reduced the Psalmist’s
farthest limit to an average life-rate. Our men made no difference in
their clothes for summer or winter, Drumsheugh and one or two of the
larger farmers condescending to a topcoat on Sabbath, as a penalty of
their position, and without regard to temperature. They wore their
blacks at a funeral, refusing to cover them with anything, out of
respect to the deceased, and standing longest in the kirkyard when the
north wind was blowing across a hundred miles of snow. If the rain
was pouring at the Junction, then Drumtochty stood two minutes longer
through sheer native dourness till each man had a cascade from the
tail of his coat, and hazarded the suggestion, hal-fway to Kildrummie,
that it had been “a bit scrowie;” a “scrowie” being as far short of a
“shoor” as a “shoor” fell below “weet.”

This sustained defiance of the elements provoked occasional judgments
in the shape of a “hoast” (cough), and the head of the house was then
exhorted by his women folk to “change his feet” if he happened to
walk through a burn on his way home, and was pestered generally with
sanitary precautions. It is right to add that the gudeman treated such
advice with contempt, regarding it as suitable for the effeminacy
of towns, but not seriously intended for Drumtochty. Sandy Stewart
“napped” stones on the road in his shirt sleeves, wet or fair, summer
and winter, till he was persuaded to retire from active duty at
eighty-five, and he spent ten years more in regretting his hastiness
and criticising his successor. The ordinary course of life, with fine
air and contented minds, was to do a full share of work till seventy,
and then to look after “orra” (odd) jobs well into the eighties,
and to “slip awa” within sight of ninety. Persons above ninety were
understood to be acquitting themselves with credit, and assumed airs
of authority, brushing aside the opinions of seventy as immature, and
confirming their conclusions with illustrations drawn from the end of
last century.

[Illustration: _A SPOONFUL EVERY HOUR_]

When Hillocks’ brother so far forgot himself as to “slip awa” at sixty,
that worthy man was scandalized, and offered laboured explanations at
the “beerial.”

“It’s an awfu’ business ony wy ye look at it, an’ a sair trial tae us
a’. A’ never heard tell o’ sic a thing in oor family afore, an’ it’s no
easy accoontin’ for’t.

“The gudewife was sayin’ he wes never the same sin’ a weet nicht he
lost himsel on the muir and slept below a bush; but that’s neither here
nor there. A’m thinkin’ he sappit his constitution thae twa years he
wes grieve (steward) aboot England. That wes thirty years syne, but
ye’re never the same aifter thae foreign climates.”

Drumtochty listened patiently to Hillocks’ apologia, but was not
satisfied.

“It’s clean havers aboot the muir. Losh keep’s (Lord, keep us), we’ve
a’ sleepit oot and never been a hair the waur.

“A’ admit that England micht hae dune the job; it’s no cannie
stravagin’ (strolling) yon wy frae place tae place, but Drums never
complained tae me as if he hed been nippit in the Sooth.”

The parish had, in fact, lost confidence in Drums after his wayward
experiment with a potato-digging machine, which turned out a lamentable
failure, and his premature departure confirmed our vague impression of
his character.

“He’s awa noo,” Drumsheugh summed up, after opinion had time to form;
“an’ there were waur fouk than Drums, but there’s nae doot he wes a wee
flichty.”

When illness had the audacity to attack a Drumtochty man, it was
described as a “whup,” and was treated by the men with a fine
negligence. Hillocks was sitting in the post office one afternoon when
I looked in for my letters, and the right side of his face was blazing
red. His subject of discourse was the prospects of the turnip “breer,”
but he casually explained that he was waiting for medical advice.

“The gudewife is keepin’ up a ding-dong frae mornin’ till nicht aboot
ma face, and a’m fair deaved (deafened), so a’m watchin’ for MacLure
tae get a bottle as he comes wast (west); yon’s him noo.”

The doctor made his diagnosis from horseback on sight, and stated the
result with that admirable clearness which endeared him to Drumtochty.

“Confoond ye, Hillocks, what are ye ploiterin’ aboot here for in the
weet wi’ a face like a boiled beet? Div ye no ken that ye’ve a titch
o’ the rose (erysipelas), and ocht tae be in the hoose? Gae hame wi’
ye afore a’ leave the bit, and send a haflin (half-grown; a child)
for some medicine. Ye donnerd idiot, are ye ettlin (intending) tae
follow Drums afore yir time?” And the medical attendant of Drumtochty
continued his invective till Hillocks started, and still pursued his
retreating figure with medical directions of a simple and practical
character.

“A’m watchin’, an’ peety ye if ye pit aff time. Keep yir bed the
mornin’, and dinna show yir face in the fields till a’ see ye. A’ll gie
ye a cry on Monday--sic an auld fule--but there’s no ane o’ them tae
mind anither in the hale pairish.”

Hillocks’ wife informed the kirkyaird that the doctor “gied the
gudeman an awfu’ clearin’,” and that Hillocks “wes keepin’ the hoose,”
which meant that the patient had tea breakfast, and at that time was
wandering about the farm buildings in an easy undress with his head in
a plaid.

It was impossible for a doctor to earn even the most modest competence
from a people of such scandalous health, and so MacLure had annexed
neighbouring parishes. His house--little more than a cottage--stood on
the roadside among the pines towards the head of our Glen, and from
this base of operations he dominated the wild glen that broke the wall
of the Grampians above Drumtochty--where the snowdrifts were twelve
feet deep in winter, and the only way of passage at times was the
channel of the river--and the moorland district westwards till he came
to the Dunleith sphere of influence, where there were four doctors and
a hydropathic. Drumtochty in its length, which was eight miles, and
its breadth, which was four, lay in his hand; besides a glen behind,
unknown to the world, which in the night time he visited at the risk of
life, for the way thereto was across the big moor with its peat holes
and treacherous bogs. And he held the land eastwards towards Muirtown
so far as Geordie. The Drumtochty post travelled every day, and could
carry word that the doctor was wanted. He did his best for the need of
every man, woman, and child in this wild, straggling district, year in,
year out, in the snow and in the heat, in the dark and in the light,
without rest, and without holiday for forty years.

One horse could not do the work of this man, but we liked best to see
him on his old white mare, who died the week after her master, and
the passing of the two did our hearts good. It was not that he rode
beautifully, for he broke every canon of art, flying with his arms,
stooping till he seemed to be speaking into Jess’s ears, and rising in
the saddle beyond all necessity. But he could ride faster, stay longer
in the saddle, and had a firmer grip with his knees, than any one I
ever met, and it was all for mercy’s sake. When the reapers in harvest
time saw a figure whirling past in a cloud of dust, or the family at
the foot of Glen Urtach, gathered round the fire on a winter’s night,
heard the rattle of a horse’s hoofs on the road, or the shepherds, out
after the sheep, traced a black speck moving across the snow to the
upper glen, they knew it was the doctor, and, without being conscious
of it, wished him God speed.

Before and behind his saddle were strapped the instruments and
medicines the doctor might want, for he never knew what was before
him. There were no specialists in Drumtochty, so this man had to do
everything as best he could, and as quickly. He was chest doctor and
doctor for every other organ as well; he was accoucheur and surgeon; he
was oculist and aurist; he was dentist and chloroformist, besides being
chemist and druggist. It was often told how he was far up Glen Urtach
when the feeders of the threshing mill caught young Burnbrae, and how
he only stopped to change horses at his house, and galloped all the way
to Burnbrae, and flung himself off his horse and amputated the arm, and
saved the lad’s life.

“You wud hae thocht that every meenut was an hour,” said Jamie Soutar,
who had been at the threshing, “an’ a’ll never forget the puir lad
lying as white as deith on the floor o’ the loft, wi’ his head on a
sheaf, an’ Burnbrae haudin’ the bandage ticht an’ prayin’ a’ the while,
and the wither greetin’ in the corner.

“’Will he never come?’ she cries, ‘an’ a’ heard the soond o’ the
horse’s feet on the road a mile awa in the frosty air.

“’The Lord be praised!’ said Burnbrae, and a’ slippit doon the ladder
as the doctor came skelpin’ intae the close, the foam fleein’ frae his
horse’s mooth.

“’Whar is he?’ wes a’ that passed his lips, an’ in five meenuts he hed
him on the feedin’ board, and wes at his wark--sic wark, neeburs--but
he did it weel. An’ ae thing a’ thocht rael thoctfu’ o’ him: he first
sent aff the laddie’s mither tae get a bed ready.

“’Noo that’s feenished, and his constitution ’ll dae the rest,’ and he
carried the lad doon the ladder in his airms like a bairn, and laid him
in his bed, and waits aside him till he wes sleepin’, and then says he:
Burnbrae, yir a gey lad never tae say ‘Collie, will ye lick?’ for a’
hevna tasted meat for saxteen hoors.”

“It was michty tae see him come intae the yaird that day, neeburs; the
verra look o’ him wes victory.”

Jamie’s cynicism slipped off in the enthusiasm of this reminiscence,
and he expressed the feeling of Drumtochty. No one sent for MacLure
save in great straits, and the sight of him put courage in sinking
hearts. But this was not by the grace of his appearance, or the
advantage of a good bedside manner. A tall, gaunt, loosely made man,
without an ounce of superfluous flesh on his body, his face burned a
dark brick colour by constant exposure to the weather, red hair and
beard turning grey, honest blue eyes that looked you ever in the face,
huge hands with wrist bones like the shank of a ham, and a voice that
hurled his salutations across two fields, he suggested the moor rather
than the drawing-room. But what a clever hand it was in an operation,
as delicate as a woman’s; and what a kindly voice it was in the humble
room where the shepherd’s wife was weeping by her man’s bedside. He was
“ill pitten thegither” to begin with, but many of his physical defects
were the penalties of his work, and endeared him to the Glen. That
ugly scar that cut into his right eyebrow and gave him such a sinister
expression, was got one night Jess slipped on the ice and laid him
insensible eight miles from home. His limp marked the big snowstorm in
the fifties, when his horse missed the road in Glen Urtach, and they
rolled together in a drift. MacLure escaped with a broken leg and the
fracture of three ribs, but he never walked like other men again. He
could not swing himself into the saddle without making two attempts
and holding Jess’s mane. Neither can you “warstle” through the peat
bogs and snow drifts for forty winters without a touch of rheumatism.
But they were honorable scars, and for such risks of life men get the
Victoria Cross in other fields. MacLure got nothing but the secret
affection of the Glen, which knew that none had ever done one-tenth as
much for it as this ungainly, twisted, battered figure, and I have seen
a Drumtochty face soften at the sight of MacLure limping to his horse.

Mr. Hopps earned the ill-will of the Glen forever by criticising the
doctor’s dress, but indeed it would have filled any townsman with
amazement. Black he wore once a year, on Sacrament Sunday, and, if
possible, at a funeral; topcoat or waterproof never. His jacket and
waistcoat were rough homespun of Glen Urtach wool, which threw off the
wet like a duck’s back, and below he was clad in shepherd’s tartan
trousers, which disappeared into unpolished riding boots. His shirt
was grey flannel, and he was uncertain about a collar, but certain as
to a tie, which he never had, his beard doing instead, and his hat
was soft felt of four colors and seven different shapes. His point of
distinction in dress was the trousers, and they were the subject of
unending speculation.

“Some threep (declare) that he’s worn thae eedentical pair the last
twenty year, an’ a’ mind masel (myself) his gettin’ a tear ahint, when
he was crossin’ oor palin’, and the mend’s still veesible.

“Ithers declare ‘at he’s got a wab o’claith, and hes a new pair made in
Muirtown aince in the twa year maybe, and keeps them in the garden till
the new look wears aff.

“For ma ain pairt,” Soutar used to declare, “a’ canna mak up my mind,
but there’s ae thing sure, the Glen wud not like tae see him withoot
them: it wud be a shock tae confidence. There’s no muckle o’ the check
left, but ye can aye tell it, and when ye see thae breeks comin’ in ye
ken that if human pooer can save yir bairn’s life it ‘ill be dune.”

The confidence of the Glen--and tributary states--was unbounded, and
rested partly on long experience of the doctor’s resources, and partly
on his hereditary connection.

“His father was here afore him,” Mrs. Macfadyen used to explain;
“atween them they’ve hed the countyside for weel on tae a century; if
MacLure disna understand oor constitution, wha dis, a’ wud like tae
ask?”

For Drumtochty had its own constitution and a special throat disease,
as became a parish which was quite self-contained between the woods and
the hills, and not dependent on the lowlands either for its diseases or
its doctors.

“He’s a skilly man, Doctor MacLure,” continued my friend Mrs.
Macfadyen, whose judgment on sermons or anything else was seldom at
fault; “an’ a kindhearted, though o’ coorse he hes his faults like us
a’, an’ he disna tribble the Kirk often.

“He aye can tell what’s wrang wi’ a body, an’ maistly he can put ye
richt, an’ there’s nae new-fangled wys wi’ him: a blister for the
ootside an’ Epsom salts for the inside dis his wark, an’ they say
there’s no an herb on the hills he disna ken.

“If we’re tae dee, we’re tae dee; an’ if we’re tae live, we’re tae
live,” concluded Elspeth, with sound Calvinistic logic; “but a’ll say
this for the doctor, that whether yir tae live or dee, he can aye keep
up a shairp meisture on the skin.

“But he’s no verra ceevil gin ye bring him when there’s naethin’
wrang,” and Mrs. Macfadyen’s face reflected another of Mr. Hopps’
misadventures of which Hillocks held the copyright.

“Hopps’ laddie ate grosarts (gooseberries) till they hed to sit up a’
nicht wi’ him, and naethin’ wud do but they maun hae the doctor, an’ he
writes ‘immediately’ on a slip o’ paper.

“Weel, MacLure had been awa a’ nicht wi’ a shepherd’s wife Dunleith wy,
and he comes here withoot drawin’ bridle, mud up tae the een.

“’What’s a dae here, Hillocks?’ he cries; ‘it’s no an accident, is’t?’
and when he got aff his horse he cud hardly stand wi’ stiffness and
tire.

“’It’s nane o’ us, doctor; it’s Hopps’ laddie; he’s been eatin’ ower
mony berries.’

“’If he didna turn on me like a tiger.

“’Div ye mean tae say--’

“’Weesht, weesht,’ an’ I tried tae quiet him, for Hopps wes comin’ oot.

“’Well, doctor,’ begins he, as brisk as a magpie, ‘you’re here at last;
there’s no hurry with you Scotch-men. My boy has been sick all night,
and I’ve never had one wink of sleep. You might have come a little
quicker, that’s all I’ve got to say.’

“’We’ve mair tae dae in Drumtochty than attend tae every bairn that hes
a sair stomach,’ and a’ saw MacLure was roosed.

“’I’m astonished to hear you speak. Our doctor at home always says to
Mrs. ‘Opps, ‘Look on me as a family friend, Mrs. ‘Opps, and send for me
though it be only a headache.’”

“’He’d be mair sparin’ o’ his offers if he hed four an’ twenty mile tae
look aifter. There’s naething wrang wi’ yir laddie but greed. Gie him a
gude dose o’ castor oil and stop his meat for a day, an’ he ‘ill be a’
richt the morn.’

“’He’ll not take castor oil, doctor. We have given up those barbarous
medicines.’

“’Whatna kind o’ medicines hae ye noo in the Sooth?’

“’Well, you see, Dr. MacLure, we’re homœopathists, and I’ve my
little chest here,’ and oot Hopps comes wi’ his boxy.

“’Let’s see ‘t,’ an’ MacLure sits doon and taks oot the bit bottles,
and he reads the names wi’ a lauch every time.

“’Belladonna; did ye ever hear the like? Aconite; it cowes a’. Nux
Vomica. What next? Weel, ma mannie,’ he says tae Hopps, ‘it’s a fine
ploy, and ye ‘ill better gang on wi’ the Nux till it’s dune, and gie
him ony ither o’ the sweeties he fancies.

“’Noo, Hillocks, a’ maun be aff tae see Drumsheugh’s grieve (steward),
for he’s doon wi’ the fever, an’ it’s tae be a teuch fecht (hard
fight). A’ hinna time tae wait for dinner; gie me some cheese an’ cake
in ma haund, and Jess ‘ill tak a pail o’ meal an’ water.

“’Fee; a’m no wantin’ yir fees, man; wi’ a’ that boxy ye dinna need a
doctor; na, na, gie yir siller tae some puir body, Maister Hopps,’ an’
he was doon the road as hard as he cud lick.”

His fees were pretty much what the folk chose to give him, and he
collected them once a year at Kildrummie fair.

“Weel, doctor, what am a’ awin’ ye for the wife and bairn? Ye ‘ill need
three notes for that nicht ye stayed in the hoose an’ a’ the veesits.”

“Havers,” MacLure would answer, “prices are low, a’m hearing; gie’s
thirty shillings.”

“No, a’ll no, or the wife ‘ill tak ma ears off,” and it was settled for
two pounds.

Lord Kilspindie gave him a free house and fields, and one way or other,
Drumsheugh told me, the doctor might get in about one hundred and fifty
pounds a year, out of which he had to pay his old housekeeper’s wages
and a boy’s, and keep two horses, besides the cost of instruments and
books, which he bought through a friend in Edinburgh with much judgment.

There was only one man who ever complained of the doctor’s charges, and
that was the new farmer of Milton, who was so good that he was above
both churches, and held a meeting in his barn. (It was Milton the Glen
supposed at first to be a Mormon, but I can’t go into that now.) He
offered MacLure a pound less than he asked, and two tracts, whereupon
MacLure expressed his opinion of Milton, both from a theological and
social standpoint, with such vigour and frankness that an attentive
audience of Drumtochty men could hardly contain themselves.

Jamie Soutar was selling his pig at the time, and missed the meeting,
but he hastened to condole with Milton, who was complaining everywhere
of the doctor’s language.

“Ye did richt tae resist him; it ‘ill maybe roose the Glen tae mak a
stand; he fair hauds them in bondage.

“Thirty shillings for twal veesits, and him no mair then seeven mile
awa, an’ a’m telt there werena mair than four at nicht.

“Ye ‘ill hae the sympathy o’ the Glen, for a’ body kens yir as free wi’
yir siller as yir tracts.

“Wes’t ‘Beware o’ gude warks’ ye offered him? Man, ye chose it weel,
for he’s been colleckin’ sae mony thae forty years, a’m feared for him.

“A’ve often thocht oor doctor’s little better than the Gude Samaritan,
an’ the Pharisees didna think muckle o’ his chance aither in this warld
or that which is tae come.”

  IAN MACLAREN.



VIII

THE VARIOUS TEMPERS OF GRANDMOTHER GREGG.


WHEN the doctor drove by the Gregg farm about dusk, and saw old Deacon
Gregg perched cross-legged upon his own gate-post, he knew that
something was wrong within, and he could not resist the temptation to
drive up and speak to the old man.

It was common talk in the neighborhood that when Grandmother Gregg made
things too warm for him in-doors, the good man, her spouse, was wont to
stroll out to the front gate and to take this exalted seat.

Indeed, it was said by a certain Mrs. Frequent, a neighbor of prying
proclivities and ungentle speech, that the deacon’s wife sent him there
as a punishment for misdemeanors. Furthermore, this same Mrs. Frequent
did even go so far as to watch for the deacon, and when she would see
him laboriously rise and resignedly poise himself upon the narrow area,
she would remark:

“Well, I see Grandma Gregg has got the old man punished again. Wonder
what he’s been up to now?”

Her constant repetition of the unkind charge finally gained for it such
credence that the diminutive figure upon the gate-post became an object
of mingled sympathy and mirth in the popular regard.

The old doctor was the friend of a lifetime, and he was sincerely
attached to the deacon, and when he turned his horse’s head toward the
gate this evening, he felt his heart go out in sympathy to the old man
in durance vile upon his lonely perch.

But he had barely started to the gate when he heard a voice which he
recognized as the deacon’s, whereupon he would have hurried away had
not his horse committed him to his first impulse by unequivocally
facing the gate.

“I know three’s a crowd,” he called out cheerily as he presently drew
rein, “but I ain’t a-goin’ to stay; I jest--Why, where’s grandma?” be
added abruptly, seeing the old man alone. “I’m shore I heard--”

“You jest heerd me a-talkin’ to myself, doctor--or not to myself,
exactly, neither--that is to say, when you come up I was addressin’ my
remarks to this here pill.”

“Bill? I don’t see no bill.” The doctor drew his buggy nearer. He was a
little deaf.

“No, I said this pill, doctor. I’m a-holdin’ of it here in the pa’m o’
my hand, a-studyin’ over it.”

“What’s she a-dosin’ you for now, Enoch?”

The doctor always called the deacon by his first name when he
approached him in sympathy. He did not know it. Neither did the deacon,
but he felt the sympathy, and it unlocked the portals of his heart.

“Well”--the old man’s voice softened--”she thinks I stand in need of
‘em, of co’se. The fact is, that yaller-spotted steer run agin her
clo’es-line twice-t to-day, drug the whole week’s washin’ onto the
ground, an’ then tromped on it. She’s inside a-renchin’ an’ a-starchin’
of ‘em over now. An’ right on top o’ that, I come in lookin’ sort o’
puny an’ peaked, an’ I happened to choke on a muskitty jest ez I come
in, an’ she declared she wasn’t a-goin’ to have a consumpted man sick
on her hands an’ a clo’es-destroyin’ steer at the same time. An’ with
that she up an’ wiped her hands on her apron, an’ went an’ selected
this here pill out of a bottle of assorted sizes, an’ instructed me to
take it. They never was a thing done mo’ delib’rate an’ kind--never on
earth. But of co’se you an’ she know how it plegs me to take physic.
You could mould out ice-cream in little pill shapes an’ it would gag
me, even ef ‘twas vanilly-flavored. An’ so, when I received it, why,
I jest come out here to meditate. You can see it from where you set,
doctor. It’s a purty sizeable one, and I’m mighty suspicious of it.”

The doctor cleared his throat. “Yas, I can see it, Enoch--of co’se.”

“Could you jedge of it, doctor? That is, of its capabilities, I mean?”

“Why, no, of co’se not--not less’n I’d taste it, an’ you can do that
ez well ez I can. If it’s quinine, it’ll be bitter; an’ ef it’s soggy
an’--”

“Don’t explain no mo’, doctor. I can’t stand it. I s’pose it’s jest ez
foolish to investigate the inwardness of a pill a person is bound to
take ez it would be to try to lif’ the veil of the future in any other
way. When I’m obligated to swaller one of ‘em, I jest take a swig o’
good spring water and repeat a po’tion of Scripture and commit myself
unto the Lord. I always seem foreordained to choke to death, but I
notice thet ef I recover from the first spell o’ suffocation, I always
come through. But I ain’t never took one yet thet I didn’t in a manner
prepare to die.”

“Then I wouldn’t take it, Enoch. Don’t do it.” The doctor cleared his
throat again, but this time he had no trouble to keep the corners of
his mouth down. His sympathy robbed him for the time of the humor in
the situation. “No, I wouldn’t do it; d--doggone ef I would.”

The deacon looked into the palm of his hand and sighed. “Oh, yas, I
reckon I better take it,” he said, mildly. “Ef I don’t stand in need
of it now, maybe the good Lord ‘ll sto’e it up in my system, some way,
‘g’inst a future attackt.”

“Well”--the doctor reached for his whip--”well, I wouldn’t do
it--_steer or no steer_!”

“Oh, yas, I reckon you would, doctor, ef you had a wife ez worrited
over a wash-tub ez what mine is. An’ I had a extry shirt in wash this
week too. One little pill ain’t much when you take in how she’s been
tantalized.”

The doctor laughed outright.

“Tell you what to do, Enoch. Fling it away and don’t let on. She don’t
question you, does she?”

“No, she ain’t never to say questioned me, but--Well, I tried that
once-t. Sampled a bitter white capsule she give me, put it down for
quinine, an’ flung it away. Then I chirped up an’ said I felt a heap
better--and that wasn’t no lie--which I suppose was on account o’
the relief to my mind, which it always did seem to me capsules was
jest constructed to lodge in a person’s air-passages. Well, I taken
notice that she’d look at me keen now an’ agin, an’ then glance at
the clock, an’ treckly I see her fill the gou’d dipper an’ go to her
medicine-cabinet, an’ then she come to me an’ she says, says she, ‘Open
yore mouth!’ An’ of co’se I opened it. You see that first capsule,
ez well ez the one she had jest adminstered, was mostly morphine,
which she had give me to ward off a ‘tackt o’ the neuraligy she see
approachin’, and here I had been tryin’ to live up to the requi’ements
of quinine, an’ wrastlin’ severe with a sleepy spell, which, ef I’d
only knew it, would o’ saved me. Of co’se, after the second dose-t, I
jest let nature take its co’se, an’ treckly I commenced to doze off,
an’ seemed like I was a feather bed an’ wife had hung me on the fence
to sun, an’ I remember how she seemed to be a-whuppin’ of me, but it
didn’t hurt. That was on account of it bein’ goose-pickin’ time, an’
she was werrited with windy weather, an’ she tryin’ to fill the feather
beds. No, I won’t never try to deceive her again. It never has seemed
to me that she could have the same respect for me after ketchin’ me
at it, though she ‘ain’t never referred to it but once-t, an’ that
was the time I was elected deacon, an’ even then she didn’t do it
outspoke. She seemed mighty tender over it, an’ didn’t no mo’n remind
me thet a officer in a Christian church ought to examine hisself mighty
conscientious an’ be sure he was free of deceit, which, seemed to me,
showed a heap o’ consideration. She ‘ain’t got a deceitful bone in her
body, doctor.”

“Why, bless her old soul, Enoch, you know thet I think the world an’
all o’ Grandma Gregg! She’s the salt o’ the earth--an’ rock salt at
that. She’s saved too many o’ my patients by her good nursin’, in spite
o’ my poor doctorin’, for me not to appreciate her. But that don’t
reconcile me to the way she doses you for her worries.”

“It took me a long time to see that myself, doctor. But I’ve reasoned
it out this a-way: I s’pose when she feels her temper a-risin’ she’s
‘feered thet she might be so took with her troubles thet she’d neglect
my health, an’ so she wards off any attackt thet might be comin’ on.
I taken notice that time her strawberry preserves all soured on her
hands, an’ she painted my face with iodine, a man did die o’ the
erysipelas down here at Battle Creek, an’ likely as not she’d heerd
of it. Sir? No, I didn’t mention it at the time for fear she’d think
best to lay on another coat, an’ I felt sort o’ disfiggured with
it. Wife ain’t a scoldin’ woman, I’m thankful for that. An’ some o’
the peppermints an’ things she keeps to dole out to me when she’s
fretted with little things--maybe her yeast’ll refuse to rise, or a
thunder-storm’ll kill a settin’ of eggs--why, they’re so disguised thet
_’cep’n thet I know they’re medicine--_”

“Well, Kitty, I reckon we better be a-goin’.” The doctor tapped his
horse. “Be shore to give my love to Grandma, Enoch. An’ ef you’re bound
to take that pill--of co’se I can’t no mo’n speculate about it at this
distance, but I’d advise you to keep clear o’ sours an’ acids for a day
or so. Don’t think, because your teeth are all adjustable, thet none o’
yore other functions ain’t open to salvation. _Good_-night, Enoch.”

“Oh, she always looks after that, doctor. She’s mighty attentive, come
to withholdin’ harmful temptations. Good-by, doctor. It’s did me good
to open my mind to you a little.

“Yas,” he added, looking steadily into his palm as the buggy rolled
away--”yas, it’s did me good to talk to him; but I ain’t no more
reconciled to you, you barefaced, high-foreheaded, little rolly-poly,
you. Funny how a pill thet ain’t got a feature on earth can look me
out o’ countenance the way it can, and frustrate my speech. Talk about
whited sepulchures, an’ ravenin’ wolves! I don’t know how come I to let
on thet I was feeling’ puny to-night, nohow. I might’ve knew--with all
them clo’es cedaubled over; though I can’t, ez the doctor says, see how
me a-takin’ a pill is goin’ to help matters; but of co’se I wouldn’t
let on to him, an’ he a bachelor.”

He stopped talking and felt his wrist.

“Maybe my pulse is obstropulous, an’ ought to be sedated down. Reckon
I’ll haf to kill that steer--or sell him--one, though I swo’e I
wouldn’t. But of co’se I swo’e that in a temper, an’ temp’rate vows
ain’t never made ‘cep’in’ to be repented of.”

Several times during the last few minutes, while the deacon spoke,
there had come to him across the garden from the kitchen the
unmistakable odor of fried chicken.

He had foreseen that there would be a good supper to-night, and that
the tiny globule within his palm would constitute for him a prohibition
concerning it.

Grandmother Gregg was one of those worthy if difficult women who never
let anything interfere with her duty as she saw it magnified by the
lenses of pain or temper. It usually pleased her injured mood to make
waffles on wash-day, and the hen-house owed many renovations, with
a reckless upsetting of nests and roosts, to one of her “splittin’
headaches.” She would always wash her hair in view of impending
company, although she averred that to wet her scalp never failed to
bring on the “neuraligy.” And her “neuraligy” in turn meant medicine
for the deacon.

It was probably the doctor’s timely advice, augmented, possibly, by the
potencies of the frying-pan, with a strong underlying sympathy with the
worrying woman within--it was, no doubt, all these powers combined
that suddenly surprised the hitherto complying husband into such
unprecedented conduct that any one knowing him in his old character,
and seeing him now, would have thought that he had lost his mind.

With a swift and brave fling he threw the pill far into the night.
Then, in an access of energy born of internal panic, he slid nimbly
from his perch and started in a steady jog-trot into the road, wiping
away the tears as he went, and stammering between sobs as he stumbled
over the ruts:

“No, I won’t--yas, I will, too--doggone shame, and she frettin’ her
life out--of co’se I sell ‘im for anything he’ll fetch--an’ I’ll be a
better man, yas, yas I will--but I won’t swaller another one o’ them
blame--not ef I die for it.”

This report, taken in long-hand by an amused listener by the roadside,
is no doubt incomplete in its ejaculatory form, but it has at least
the value of accuracy, so far as it goes, which may be had only from a
verbatim transcript.

It was perhaps three-quarters of an hour later when Enoch entered the
kitchen, wiping his face, nervous, weary, embarrassed. Supper was on
the table. The blue-bordered dish, heaped with side-bones and second
joints done to a turn, was moved to a side station, while in its
accustomed place before Enoch’s plate there sat an ominous bowl of
gruel. The old man did not look at the table, but he saw it all. He
would have realized it with his eyes shut. Domestic history, as well as
that of greater principalities and powers, often repeats itself.

Enoch’s fingers trembled as he came near his wife, and standing with
his back to the table, he began to untie a broad flat parcel that he
had brought in under his arm. She paused in one of her trips between
the table and stove, and regarded him askance.

“Reckon I’ll haf to light the lantern befo’ I set down to eat, wife,”
he said, by way of introduction. “Isrul ‘ll be along d’rec’ly to rope
that steer. I’ve done sold him.” The good woman laid her dish upon the
table and returned to the stove.

“Wish you’d ‘a’ sold ‘im day befo’ yesterday. I’d ‘a’ had a heap less
pain in my shoulder-blade.” She sniffed as she said it; and then she
added, “That gruel ought to be e’t warm.”

By this time the parcel was open. There was a brief display of colored
zephyrs and gleaming cardboard. Then Enoch began rewrapping them.

“Reckon you can look these over in the mornin’, wife. They’re jest a
few new cross-stitch Bible texts, an’ I knowed you liked Scripture
motters. Where’ll I lay ‘em, wife, while I go out an’ tend to lightin’
that lantern? I told Isrul I’d set it in the stable door so’s as he
could git that steer out o’ the way immejate.”

The proposal to lay the mottoes aside was a master-stroke.

The aggrieved wife had already begun to wipe her hands on her apron.
Still, she would not seem too easily appeased.

“I do hope you ain’t gone an’ turned that whole steer into perforated
paper, Enoch, even ef ’tis Bible-texted over.”

Thus she guarded her dignity. But even as she spoke she took the parcel
from his hands. This was encouragement enough. It presaged a thawing
out. And after Enoch had gone out to light the lantern, it would have
amused a sympathetic observer to watch her gradual melting as she
looked over the mottoes:

“A VIRTUOUS WIFE IS FAR ABOVE RUBIES.”

“A PRUDENT WIFE IS FROM THE LORD.”

“BETTER A DINNER OF HERBS WHERE LOVE IS--”

She read them over and over. Then she laid them aside and looked at
Enoch’s plate. Then she looked at the chicken-dish, and then at the
bowl of gruel which she had carefully set on the back of the stove to
keep warm.

“Don’t know ez it would hurt ‘im any ef I’d thicken that gruel up into
mush. He’s took sech a distaste to soft foods sense he’s got that new
set.”

She rose as she spoke, poured the gruel back into the pot, sifted and
mixed a spoonful of meal and stirred it in. This done, she hesitated,
glanced at the pile of mottoes, and reflected. Then with a sudden
resolve she seized the milk-pitcher, filled a cup from it, poured the
milk into the little pot of mush, hastily whipped up two eggs with some
sugar, added the mixture to the pot, returned the whole to the yellow
bowl, and set it in the oven to brown.

And just then Enoch came in, and approached the water-shelf.

“Don’t keer how you polish it, a brass lantern an’ coal ile is like
murder on a man’s hands. It will out.”

He was thinking of the gruel, and putting off the evil hour. It
had been his intention to boldly announce that he hadn’t taken his
medicine, that he never would again unless he needed it, and, moreover,
that he was going to eat his supper to-night, and always, as long as
God should spare him, etc., etc., etc.

But he had no sooner found himself in the presence of long-confessed
superior powers than he knew he would never do any of these things.

His wife was thinking of the gruel too when she encouraged delay by
remarking that he would better rest up a bit before eating.

“And I reckon you better soak yo’ hands good. Take a pinch o’ that bran
out o’ the safe to ‘em,” she said, “and ef that don’t do, the Floridy
water is in on my bureau.”

When finally Enoch presented himself, ready for his fate, she was able
to set the mush pudding, done to a fine brown, before him, and her tone
was really tender as she said:

“This ain’t very hearty ef you’re hungry; but you can eat it all.
There ain’t no interference in it with anything you’ve took.”

The pudding was one of Enoch’s favorite dishes, but as he broke its
brown surface with his spoon he felt like a hypocrite. He took one long
breath, and then he said:

“By-the-way, wife, this reminds me, I reckon you’ll haf to fetch me
another o’ them pills. I dropped that one out in the grass--that is, ef
you think I still stand in need of it. I feel consider’ble better’n I
did when I come in this evenin’.”

The good woman eyed him suspiciously a minute. Then her eyes fell upon
the words “ABOVE RUBIES” lying upon the table. Reaching over, she
lifted the pudding-bowl aside, took the dish of fried chicken from its
sub-station, and set it before her lord.

“Better save that pudd’n’ for dessert, honey, an’ help yo’self to some
o’ that chicken, an’ take a potater an’ a roll, and eat a couple o’
them spring onions--they’re the first we’ve had. Sense you’re a-feelin’
better, maybe it’s jest ez well thet you mislaid that pill.”

The wind blows sometimes from the east in Simkinsville, as elsewhere,
and there are still occasional days when the deacon betakes himself to
the front gate and sits like a nineteenth-century Simon Stilites on his
pillar, contemplating the open palm of his own hand, while he enriches
Mrs. Frequent’s _répertoire_ of gossip by a picturesque item.

But the reverse of the picture has much of joy in it; for, in spite of
her various tempers, Grandmother Gregg is a warm-hearted soul--and she
loves her man. And he loves her.

Listen to him to-night, for instance, as, having finished his supper,
he remarks:

“An’ I’m a-goin’ to see to it, from this on, thet you ain’t fretted
with things ez you’ve been, ef I can help it, wife. Sometimes, the way
I act, I seem like ez ef I forgit you’re all I’ve got--on earth.”

“Of co’se I realize that, Enoch,” she replies. “We’re each one all
the other’s got--an’ that’s why I don’t spare no pains to keep you in
health.”

  --RUTH MCENERY STUART.



IX

DR. BARRÈRE.

CHAPTER I.


DR. BARRÈRE was a young man who was beginning to make his way. In the
medical profession, as in most others, this is not a very easy thing
to do, and no doubt he had made some mistakes. He had given offence in
his first practice to the principal person in the little town where he
had set up his surgery by explaining that certain symptoms which his
patient believed to mean heart disease were due solely to indigestion;
and he still more deeply offended that gentleman’s wife by telling
her that her children were over-fed. These are follies which a more
experienced medical man would never commit; but this one was young and
fresh from those studies in which, more than in any other profession,
things have to be called by their right names. In his next attempt
he had nearly got into more serious trouble still, by his devotion
to an interesting and difficult case, in which, unfortunately, the
patient was a woman. From this he came out clear, with no stain on
his character, as magistrates say. But for a doctor, as often for
a woman, it is enough that evil has been said. The slander, though
without proof, has more or less a sting, and is recollected when all
the circumstances--the disproval, the clearing-up, even the facts of
the case have been forgotten. He was, therefore, not without experience
when he came to settle in the great town of Poolborough, which might
be supposed large enough and busy enough to take no note of those
village lies and tempests in a teapot. And this proved to be the case.
He was young, he was clever, he was _au courant_ of all the medical
discoveries, knew everything that had been discovered by other men, and
was not without little discoveries and inventions of his own. He was
still young, a few years over thirty, at the age which combines the
advantages of youth and of maturity, strong in mind and in body, loving
work, and fearing nothing. If his previous encounters with the foolish
side of humanity had diminished in some degree his faith in it, and
opened his eyes to the risks which those who think no evil are apt to
run in their first conflict with the stupidities and base ideas of men,
he had yet not suffered enough to make him bitter, or more than wary
in his dealings with the narrow and uncomprehending. He no longer felt
sure of being understood, or that a true estimate of his intentions and
motives was certain; but he did not go to the opposite extreme as some
do, and take it for granted that his patients and their surroundings
were incapable of doing him justice. He was sobered, but not
embittered. He was wise enough neither to show too much interest, nor
to betray too great an indifference. He listened seriously to the tale
of symptoms which were nothing to anybody but their narrator, and he
restrained his excitement when a matter of real importance, something
delicate and critical, came under his view. Thus it was proved that he
had learned his lesson. But he did not despise his fellow creatures
in general, or think all alike guilty of affectation and self-regard,
which showed that he had not learned that lesson with extravagance. He
was kind, but not too kind. He was clever, but not so clever as to get
the alarming character of an experimentalist--in short, he was in every
way doing well and promising well. When the untoward accident occurred
which cut short his career in Poolborough where he was universally well
thought of and looked upon as a rising man.

It may be well before going further to indicate certain particulars in
his antecedents which throw light upon Dr. Barrère’s character and
idiosyncrasies. He was of French origin, as may be perceived by his
name. The name was not so distinctly French as held by his father and
grandfather, who ignored the nationality, and wrote it phonetically
Barraire. In their days, perhaps, a French origin was not an advantage.
But in the days when Arnold Barrère was at college this prejudice
had disappeared, and he was himself delighted to resort to the old
orthography, and liked his friends to remember the accent which it
pleased him to employ. Perhaps the keen logical tendency of his mind
and disposition to carry everything out to its legitimate conclusion
with a severity which the English love of compromise and accident
prevents, were more important signs of his origin than even the accent
over the e. Dr. Barrère for his part did not like to elude the right
and logical ending either of an accent or a disease. It annoyed him
even that his patient should recover in an irregular way. He liked the
symptoms to follow each other in proper sequence; and the end which
was foreseen and evident was that which he preferred to have occur,
even when the avoidance of it, and deliverance of the sufferer were due
to his own powers. Like his nation, or rather like the nation of his
forefathers, he was disposed to carry out everything to its logical
end. His outward man, like his mind, bore evidence of his parentage.
He was about the middle height, of a light and spare figure, with
a thickly-growing but short and carefully cropped black beard, his
complexion rather dark but very clear, his voice somewhat high-pitched
for an Englishman, with an animated manner, and a certain sympathetic
action of head and hand when he talked, scarcely enough to be called
gesticulation, yet more than usually accompanies English speech. He
seemed, in short, to have missed the influence of the two generations
of English mothers and manners which might have been supposed to subdue
all peculiarities of race, and to have stepped back to the immediate
succession of that Arnold Barrère who was the first to bring the name
to this island. These individual features gave a certain piquancy, many
people thought, to the really quite English breeding of the doctor, who
had never so much as crossed the Channel, and knew little more French
than was consistent with a just placing of the accents, especially upon
the letter e.

It would be unnecessary to enter into full detail of how he formed
acquaintance with the Surtees, and came to the degree of intimacy which
soon developed into other thoughts. It is a proper thing enough in a
story, though not very true to real life, to describe a young doctor
as falling in love, by a sick bed, with the angel-daughter who is the
best nurse and ministrant that a sick parent can have. Members of the
medical profession are not more prone than other men to mingle their
affections with the requirements of their profession, and probably
a devoted nurse is no more the ideal of a young doctor than a good
model is that of a painter. As a matter of fact, however, it was while
attending Mrs. Surtees through a not very dangerous or interesting
illness that Dr. Barrère made the acquaintance of Agnes. He might just
as well have met her in the society which he frequented sparingly,
for there was no particular difference in her sphere and his, but
there were reasons why Miss Surtees went out little, less than most
young women of her age. Her family was one of those which had ranked
amongst the best in Poolborough in the time of their wealth, and no
one could say still that their place was not with “the best people”
of the town. But with a mercantile community more than any other
(though also more or less in every other) wealth is necessary for the
retaining of that position. Women who go afoot cannot keep up with
those who have carriages and horses at their command, neither can a
girl in whose house no dances, no dinners, no entertainments, are ever
given, associate long on easy terms with those who are in the full tide
of everything, going everywhere, and exchanging hospitalities after
the lavish fashion of wealthy commercial society. And this was not
the only reason that kept Agnes Surtees out of the world. There was
one more urgent which was told, and one which no one named but every
one understood. The first was the delicate health of her mother. Dr.
Barrère was aware that there was not very much in this. He knew that
had she been able to drive about as did the ladies who were so sorry
for her, and clothe herself in furs and velvet, and take change of air
whenever she felt disposed, there would have been little the matter
with Mrs. Surtees. But he was too sensible to breathe a word on this
subject. He held his tongue at first from discretion, and afterwards
because he had found out for himself why it was that Mrs. Surtees’
delicate health was kept before the public of Poolborough. It took him
some time to make this discovery; but partly from hints of others, and
partly from his own perceptions, he found it out at last.

It was that these two ladies were involved in the life of a third
member of their household--a son and brother whom the “best people” in
Poolborough had ceased to invite, and whose name when it was mentioned
was accompanied with shakings of the head and looks of disapproval.
Dr. Barrère did not ever see Jim Surtees until he had been acquainted
with his mother and sister for nearly a year--not that he was absent,
but only that his haunts and associates were not theirs. He was a young
man who had never done well. He had been far more highly educated than
was usual with the young men of Poolborough; instead of being sent into
the counting-house in his youth he had been sent to Cambridge, which
was all his father’s pride and folly, the critics said, exempting Mrs.
Surtees from blame in a manner most unusual. It was supposed that she
had disapproved. She had come of a Poolborough family, in business from
father to son, and knew what was necessary; but Surtees was from the
country, from a poor race of county people, and was disposed to think
business beneath him, or at least consider it as a mere stepping-stone
to wealth. When he died so much less well off than was expected,
leaving his family but poorly provided for, then was the moment when
Jim Surtees might have proved what was in him, and stepped into the
breach, replaced his mother and sister in their position, and restored
the credit of his father’s name. In that case all the old friends would
have rallied around him; they would have backed him up with their
credit, and given him every advantage. At such moments and in such
emergencies mercantile men are at their best. No one would have refused
the young man a helping hand--they would have hoisted him upon their
shoulders into his father’s place; they would have helped him largely,
generously, manfully. Alas! Jim Surtees did then and there show what
was in him. He had neither energy nor spirit nor ambition, nor any care
for his father’s name or his mother’s comfort. He said at once that
he knew nothing about business. What could he do? It was entirely out
of his way. He scarcely knew what it was his father dealt in. Cotton?
Yes--but what did he know about cotton, or bookkeeping, or anything?
The young man was interviewed by all who knew him; he was sent for by
the greatest merchants in Poolborough. What he ought to do was set
before him by everybody who had any right to speak, and by a great many
who had none. But nothing moved him. He knew nothing about business--he
would do nothing in it. Why should he try what he could not do? And
with these replies he baffled all the anxious counsellors who were
so eager to convince him to the contrary. Then there were situations
suggested, even provided, for him; but these were all subject to the
same objections. Finally it came about that Jim Surtees did nothing. He
had not been long enough at Cambridge to take his degree. He was modest
about his own capacities even when pupils were suggested to him. He
did not know enough to teach, he declared, till his modesty drove the
anxious advisers distracted. What was to be done? Jim Surtees eluded
every expedient to make him do anything. At last he dropped altogether,
and the best people in Poolborough were conscious of his existence no
more.

These were the circumstances of the Surtees family when Dr. Barrère
made their acquaintance. He thought for some time that the two ladies
lived alone, and that their withdrawal from society was somewhat
absurd, based as it was on that delusion about Mrs. Surtees’ health;
but a little further information made him change his mind. He changed
his mind about several things, modifying his first impressions as time
went on. He had thought the mother one of those imaginary invalids
who enjoy that gentle level of ill-health which does not involve much
suffering, and which furnishes a pretty and interesting _rôle_ for many
unoccupied women; and he had thought her daughter an angelic creature,
whose faith in her mother’s migraines was such that she cheerfully
and sweetly gave up the pleasures of her youth in order to minister
to them. But as Dr. Barrère changed from a doctor into a friend; as
he began to ask admittance at times when he was not called for, and
when, last seal of a growing intimacy, he began to venture to knock
at the door in the evening after dinner--a privilege which he pleaded
for as belonging to the habits of his French ancestry (of which he
knew so little)--his eyes were speedily opened to many things which a
morning visitor would never have divined. The first time he did so,
he perceived to his astonishment Agnes on the landing, half concealed
by the turn of the staircase, eagerly looking down to see who it was;
and her mother, though so little able to move about, was at the door
of the little drawing-room, looking flushed and wretched, far more ill
than when he had been called in to prescribe for her. For whom was it
that they were looking? It could not be for himself, whom nobody had
expected, whom they received with a tremulous kindness, half relieved,
half reluctant. After a few such visits he began to see that the minds
of these poor ladies were divided between pleasure in his society and
fear to have him there. If he stayed a little longer than usual he saw
that they became anxious, the mother breathless, with a desire to have
him go away; and that even Agnes would accompany him down stairs with
an eager alacrity as if she could not be comfortable till she had seen
him out of the house. And yet they were always kind, liked him to come,
looked for him, even would say a word which showed that they had noted
his absence if for a week or so he did not appear; although while he
was there they were ever watchful, starting at every sound, hurrying
him away if he stayed beyond his time. The sight of a tall figure
lurching along the street, of some one fumbling with a latch-key,
of which he was sometimes conscious as he went away, was scarcely
necessary at last to make him aware what it was that occasioned this
anxiety. Mrs. Surtees saw love dawning in the Doctor’s eyes. She would
not shut out from her patient girl the chances of a happier lot; but
what if the doctor should meet Jim! See him coming home sodden and
stupid, or noisy and gay. As Dr. Barrère became intimate they had
spoken to him of Jim. He was studying hard, he was writing, he was
always busy, he was not fond of society. There were so many reasons why
he should never appear. And by and by the doctor, with a great ache
of pity, had learned all these excuses by heart, and penetrated their
secret, and misconstrued their actions and habits no more.

Finally the doctor made the acquaintance of Jim, and to his great
surprise not only liked him, but understood why the mother and sister
were not always miserable, how life varied with them from day to day,
and how even Mrs. Surtees was often cheerful, though never unwatchful,
never at ease. Dr. Barrère thought with justice that nothing could be
more miserable, more inexcusable, than the life the young man was
leading. In theory fate should have put into every honest hand a whip
to scourge such a good-for-nothing. And sometimes the doctor felt a
righteous wrath, a desire to scourge till the blood came: but it was
not so much out of moral indignation as out of an exasperated liking,
an intolerable pity. What might happen in the house in those awful
moments when all was silent, and everybody at rest save the mother
and sister watching for Jim’s return at night, neither the doctor nor
any one knew. But at other moments Dr. Barrère found it impossible
to resist, any more than the women did, the charm of a nature which
had not lost its distinction even in the haunts where he had lost
everything else. He even tried to attract and draw to himself the
prodigal, entertaining visions on the subject and fancying how, if
there were a man closely connected with the family, himself to wit,
Arnold Barrère, and not merely women who wept and reproached and
condoned and wept again, but never made a determined stand, nor struck
a decisive blow, there might still be hope for Jim. It could not be
said that this told as a motive in the fervour with which he offered
himself to Agnes Surtees. The doctor was in love warmly and honestly,
and as he made his declaration thought, as a lover ought, of nothing
but Agnes. Yet when she hesitated and faltered, and after a moment
broke the long silence and spoke to him openly of her brother, there
was the warmth of a personal desire in the eagerness with which he met
her confessions half way. “Jim is no drawback,” he said eagerly--”to
me none. I can help you with Jim. If you will have me there shall be
no question of depriving him of any love or care. He shall have me in
addition to help him to better things.” “Oh,” Agnes had cried, giving
him both her hands in the fervour of love and trust, “God bless you,
Arnold, for speaking of better things for Jim.” And it was on this
holy ground that their contract was made. Henceforward there were no
concealments from him.

Dr. Barrère was not a man to let the grass grow under his feet. There
was no reason why his marriage should be delayed. He wanted to have
his wife--a possession almost indispensable, he assured Mrs. Surtees,
with a smile, to a medical man; and the mother, anxious to see one
child’s fate assured, and still more anxious, catching with feverish
hope at the help so hopefully offered for the other, had no inclination
to put obstacles in the way. The marriage day was settled, and all
the preparations thereto begun, when the sudden horror which still
envelopes the name of Surtees in Poolborough arose in a moment, and the
following incidents occurred to Dr. Barrère.



CHAPTER II.


HE WAS going to visit a patient in a suburb one dark October night. But
it could scarcely be called dark. There was a pallid moon somewhere
among the clouds whitening the heavy mist that lay over the half-built
environs of the town--dismal blank spaces--fields which were no longer
fields, streets which were not yet streets. The atmosphere was charged
with vapour, which in its turn was made into a dim, confusing whiteness
by the hidden moon. Everybody knows how dismal are these outskirts of
a great city. A house built here and there stood out with a sinister
solidity against the blank around. New roads and streets laid out with
indications of pavement, cut across the ravaged fields. Here and there
was a mass of bricks, and there a pool of water. A piece of ragged
hedgerow, a remnant of its earlier state, still bordered the highway
here and there; a forlorn tree shedding its leaves at every breath of
air stood at the corner where two ways met. Dr. Barrère was no ways
timid, but he felt a chill of isolation and something like danger as he
pushed his way towards one of the furthest points of the uncompleted
road, where one house stood shivering in the vague damp and whiteness.
He had to cross the other branching road, at the corner of which stood
the shivering poplar, which shed its leaves as if with a perpetual
shrinking of fear. There he was vaguely aware of something standing in
the shade of the ragged hedgerow--a figure which moved as he passed,
and seemed to make a step forward as if awaiting some one. To say that
it was a figure he saw would be too distinct--he saw a movement, a
something more solid than the mist, which detached itself as if with a
suggestion of watchfulness, and immediately subsided again back into
the shadows. Dr. Barrère, though he was not timid, felt the thrill as
of a possible danger, the suggestion having something in it more moving
than a distincter peril. But if there was a man lurking there waiting
for some passer-by, it was not at least for him, and he walked quickly
on, and presently in the interest of his patient, and in the many
thoughts that hurry through every active brain, forgot the curious hint
of mystery and danger which had for a moment excited his imagination.

When he approached the spot again on his return, even the suggestion
had died out of his mind. His eyesight and all his faculties were keen,
as befits his profession, and he saw, without being aware that he was
seeing, everything that came within his range of vision. Accordingly
he perceived without paying any attention, the vague figure of a
man crossing the opening of the road where the poplar marked the
corner, coming towards him. He saw the solid speck in the white mist
approaching--then in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, this vague
silhouette in the night became a sudden swift scene of pantomimic
tragedy, all done and over in a moment. A sudden movement took place
in the scene; another something, almost less than a shadow, suddenly
came into it from behind the poplar. No, these words are too strong.
What came into the night was the sound of a crashing blow and a fall,
and another figure, in a different position, standing over something
prostrate, raining down, as in a fit of frantic passion, blow on blow.
Passion, murder, horror, came in a second into the still confusion of
the misty air. Then, swift as the sudden commotion, came a pause--a
wild cry of consternation, as if for the first time the actor in this
terrible momentary tragedy had become aware of what he was doing.
The spectator’s senses were so absorbed in the suddenness of the
catastrophe that there was time enough for the whole drama to enact
itself before he found voice. He had broken mechanically into a run,
and thought that he called out. But it was not (it seemed to him in
the hurried progression of ideas) his cry or the sound of his approach,
but a sudden horror which had seized the man (was he a murderer?), who
had in a moment come to himself. When the doctor at full speed, and
calling out mechanically, automatically, for Help! help! reached the
spot where the prostrate figure was lying, the other had taken flight
down the cross road and was already invisible in the distance. The
doctor’s first care was for the victim. He was not an avenger of blood,
but a healer of men.

Presently there appeared around him two or three startled people--one
from the nearest house carrying a small lamp, which made the strangest,
weird appearance in the misty night; a passer-by on his way home; a
vagrant from the deserted fields. They helped the doctor to turn over
the murdered man, who was still living, but no more, and who, it was
evident to Dr. Barrère’s experienced eyes, was on the point of death
and beyond all human help. The lamp had been placed on the ground
close by, and sent up an odour of paraffin along with the yellow rays
that proceeded from its globe of light, and the figures kneeling and
bending over the inanimate thing in the midst looked more like a group
of murderers than people bringing help and succour. Some time had
elapsed before the means of transporting him even to the nearest house
had been procured, and by that time there was no longer any question
of what could be done on his behalf, and all that was possible was to
carry away the body. Dr. Barrère walked beside the melancholy convoy
to the nearest police station, where he made his deposition; and then
he went home in all the tremor of excitement and mental commotion. He
had fortunately no visits to pay that evening of any importance; but
he was too much stirred and troubled to remain quietly at home, and
after a while hurried out to Agnes, his natural confidant, to tell her
all about the shock he had received. It struck him with surprise to
see, when he entered the little drawing-room, that Jim was with his
mother and sister. It was a thing that had very seldom happened before.
He sat apart from them at the writing-table, where he was writing, or
making believe to write, letters. The sight of him struck Dr. Barrère
with a certain surprise, but he could not have told why. There was no
reason why he should not be found in his mother’s drawing-room. It was
true that he was rarely to be seen there, but yet sometimes he would
make his appearance. This evening he had dressed for dinner, which
was still more unusual: perhaps he was going out to some late evening
party; perhaps some one had been expected to dinner. These thoughts
flew vaguely through Dr. Barrère’s mind, he could not have told why.
There was no particular reason why he should thus desire to penetrate
the motives of Jim Surtees’ behaviour, or to explain to himself why the
young man was there. The speculation passed through his head without
thought, if such an expression may be used, without any volition of
his, as half our thoughts do, like the chance flight of birds or
butterflies across the air. They did not detain him a moment as he
came forward with his greetings, and met the pleased surprise of the
reception which the ladies gave him, “I thought it was too late to look
for you,” his Agnes said, with a brightening of all the soft lines of
her face, as if the sun had risen upon a landscape. And then, as it was
cold, a chair was drawn for him near the fire. “You have been kept late
on your round to-night,” said Mrs. Surtees. “Have you any very anxious
case?”

“It is no case that has kept me,” said the doctor. “I have had a
dreadful encounter in the road. You know that district up beyond St.
George’s-in-the-fields--those half-built, desolate villas and cottages.
The roads are as lonely as if they were in the middle of a wood. A new
quarter by night is as bad as a bare moor.”

Agnes stood listening with her hand on the back of his chair, but
still a smile upon her face--the smile of pleasure at his coming. Mrs.
Surtees had let her knitting fall upon her lap, and was looking at him,
listening with pleased interest. They had not perceived the agitation
which, indeed, until he began to speak, he had managed to suppress.
“And what happened?” Mrs. Surtees said.

“I have been,” he answered, his voice breaking in spite of himself,
“the witness of a murder.”

“Good heavens!” The ladies were too much startled to put another
question except with their eager eyes. They drew closer to him; the
hand of Agnes glided to his shoulder from the back of his chair. What
she thought first was that his emotion did honour to him.

Then he described to them briefly what he had seen--the lurking figure
in the shadow which had alarmed himself as he passed first, but which
he soon perceived had no hostile intentions towards him; the appearance
of the man approaching from the opposite direction as he returned;
the sudden assault; the rapid, breathless, horrible suddenness of the
tragedy. The ladies hung upon his lips, making exclamations of horror.
It was not till afterwards that Dr. Barrère became aware that the young
man at the table behind made no sign, said not a word. He had told
everything, and answered half a dozen hurried, faltering questions
before Jim made any remark. Then he suddenly stirred behind backs (the
group at the fireside having forgotten his presence) and asked, “What
are you talking about? What’s happened?” in a deep, half growling
voice, as of a man disturbed in his occupation by some fuss of which he
did not grasp the meaning.

“Oh,” said Mrs. Surtees wiping her moist eyes, “did you not hear, Jim?
The doctor has seen a murder committed. God preserve us! I feel as if I
had seen it myself. A dreadful thing like that coming so near us! It is
as if we were mixed up in it,” she said.

“A murder? Are you sure it was a murder? It might be nothing more than
a quarrel--how could you tell in the dark?” said Jim, always in the
same gruff, almost indignant voice.

“If you had seen it as I did you would have been in no doubt,” said
Dr. Barrère, turning half round, and catching a side view of the tall
figure slouching with hands in his pockets, his face clouded with a
scowl of displeasure, his shoulders up to his ears. This silhouette
against the light gave him a thrill, he scarcely knew why. He paused
for a moment, and then added, “After all you may be right; it was
murder to all intents and purpose--but whether it was intended to be so
there may be a doubt.”

“You are always so ready to come to tragical conclusions,” said Jim in
easier tones. “I dare say it will turn out to have been a quarrel, and
no more.”

“A quarrel in which one is killed is apt to look like murder.”

These words gave them all a shivering sensation. Even Jim’s shoulders
went up to his ears as if he shared the involuntary shudder--and Mrs.
Surtees said again, drying her eyes, “It is as if we were mixed up in
it. Poor man, poor man, cut off in a moment, without a thought!”

“It appears that he is a well known and very bad character,” said Dr.
Barrère. “I feel almost more sorry for the poor wretch that did it. The
cry he gave when he saw what he had done still rings in my ears.”

“Then you think he did not mean it, Arnold?”

“God knows! You would have said he meant everything that passion and
rage could mean to see the blows; but that cry--”

“He repented, perhaps--when it was too late.”

“It was horror--it was consternation. It was the cry of a man who
suddenly saw what he had done.”

There was a pause of sympathetic horror and pity. Then Jim Surtees went
back to the writing-table, and Dr. Barrère continued his conversation
with the ladies, which, however they tried to break into other and
happier subjects, returned again and again to the terrible scene from
which he had just come. They spoke in low tones together over the
fire--the doctor recounting over and over again the feelings with which
he had contemplated the extraordinary, sudden tragedy, the rapidity
with which all its incidents followed each other, leaving him scarcely
time to cry out before all was over. He was naturally full of it, and
could speak of nothing else, and his betrothed and her mother, always
sympathetic, threw themselves entirely into the excitement which still
possessed him. It was late when he rose to go away, soothed and calmed,
and with a sense of having at last exhausted the incident. It startled
him as he turned round, after taking leave of Mrs. Surtees, to see that
Jim was still there. And the aspect of the young man was sufficiently
remarkable. The candles on the writing-table behind which he sat had
burned low. They had escaped from the little red shades which had
been placed over them, and were flaring low, like a level sun in the
evening, upon the figure behind, which, with his head bowed in his
hands and shoulders up to his ears, seemed unconscious of all that was
passing. Jim neither saw nor heard the doctor move. He was absorbed in
some all-important matter of his own.

Next day Dr. Barrère was still deeply occupied by the scene he had
seen. He was summoned for the coroner’s inquest, and he was, as was
natural, questioned by everybody he met upon a subject which was in
all men’s mouths. It was equally natural that he should return next
evening to bring the account of all the encounters he had gone through
and all that was news on the subject to Agnes and her mother. Once more
he noted with surprise that Jim was in the drawing-room. Was he turning
over a new leaf? Had he seen the folly of his ways at last?

They were sitting as before over the fire, Dr. Barrère telling his
story, the ladies listening with absorbed attention. The interest of
this terrible tragedy which had taken place almost within their kin,
which they were seeing through his eyes, was absorbing to them. They
wanted to know everything, the most minute details, what questions had
been asked him, and what he had replied. Jim was still behind backs
at the writing-table with the two candles in their red shades, which
did not betray his face, but threw a strange light upon his hands and
the occupation in which he seemed to be absorbed. He was playing an
old-fashioned game with small colored glass balls on a round board,
called solitaire in the days when it was in fashion. The little tinkle
of the balls as he placed them in the necessary order came in during
the pauses in the talk like a faint accompaniment. But no one looked at
him: they were too much absorbed in Dr. Barrère’s report.

“And are you the only witness, Arnold?” Agnes asked.

“The only one who saw the deed done,” he said. “It is very rarely that
there is even one witness to the actual fact of a murder. But there
is other evidence than mine; the man is supposed to have been seen by
various people, and there is a dumb witness of the first importance,
the stick which he must have thrown away, or which dropped from his
hand in the horror, as I shall always believe of his discovery of what
he had done.”

At this point there was a ring as of the glass balls all tinkling
together on the board. The doctor turned round, slightly startled
in the high tension of his nerves, and saw that Jim had upset his
plaything, and that the balls were rolling about the table. But this
was far from being an unusual accident in the game, and neither Mrs.
Surtees nor Agnes took any notice, their nerves were not strained as
Dr. Barrère’s had been. The mother spoke low with a natural thrill of
horror and pity. “And is it known,” she said, “is it known to whom the
stick belongs?”

Before Dr. Barrère could reply there came a knock to the door--a knock
not at the door of the room in which they sat, but below at the street
door, a thing unusual indeed at that hour, but not so startling in
general as to excite or alarm them.

But perhaps all their nerves were affected more or less. It was very
sudden and sharp, and came into the calm domestic atmosphere with a
scarcely comprehensible shock. They all turned round, and Jim, the
doctor saw, had suddenly risen up, and stood with his face turned
towards the door. The summons rang through the silence with an effect
altogether out of keeping with its simplicity.

“Who can that be so late,” said Mrs. Surtees. “Jim, will you go and
see?”

“It must be some one for me,” the doctor said.

“Poor Arnold! I hope it is someone near,” said Agnes faltering--for
neither of them believed what they said. It was something terrible,
something novel, some startling new event whatever it was. Jim,
instead of doing as his mother wished, sat down again behind the
writing-table, within the shelter of the red shades on the candles, and
they all waited, scarcely venturing to draw breath. Presently the neat
parlor-maid, pale, too, and with a visible tremor, opened the door. She
said, with a troubled look at her mistress, that, “Please, there was
some one down stairs who wanted to speak to Mr. Jim.” Mrs. Surtees was
the last to be moved by the general agitation. She said, “For Mr. Jim?
But let him come up, Ellen. Jim, you had better ask your friend to come
upstairs.”

Once more there was a terrible, incomprehensible pause. Jim, who had
fallen rather than re-seated himself on the sofa which stood behind the
writing-table, said not a word; his face was not visible behind the
shaded lights. Mrs. Surtees threw a glance round her--a troubled appeal
for she knew not what enlightenment. Then she said breathlessly, “What
has happened? What is the matter? Who is it? Ellen, you will show the
gentleman up stairs.”

Heavens! How they stood listening, panic stricken, not knowing what
they were afraid of, nor what there was to fear. Mrs. Surtees still
kept her seat tremulously, and Jim, lost in the corner of the sofa,
suddenly extinguished the candles--an act which they all seemed to
approve and understand without knowing why. And then there came a
heavy foot ascending the stairs. Mrs. Surtees did not know the man who
came in--a tall soldierly man with a clear and healthful countenance.
It even gave her a momentary sensation of comfort to see that Jim’s
“friend” was no blear-eyed young rake, but a person so respectable.
She rose to meet him with her old-fashioned courtesy. “Though I have
not the pleasure of knowing you,” she said with a smile, which was
tremulous by reason of that causeless agitation, “my son’s friends are
always welcome.” Oh heaven above! her son’s friend! Dr. Barrère was
the only one among them who knew the man. The sight of him cleared the
whole matter in a moment, and shed a horrible light over everything
to the doctor’s eyes. He made a sudden sign to the newcomer imploring
silence.

“I know this gentleman, too, Mrs. Surtees,” he said, “he is one of
my--friends, also. Would it be taking a great liberty if I were to ask
you to leave us for a few minutes the use of this room? Agnes, it is
a great intrusion--but--for God’s sake take her away!” he said in his
betrothed’s ear.

Mrs. Surtees looked at him with some surprise and an air of gentle
dignity not entirely without offence. “My dear,” she said to Agnes,
“Dr. Barrère would not ask such a thing without good reasons for it,
so let us go.” She was not a woman who had been accustomed to take the
lead even in her own family, and she was glad, glad beyond description,
to believe that the business, whatever it was, was Dr. Barrère’s
business, and not--anything else. She accepted it with a trembling
sense of relief, yet a feeling that the doctor was perhaps taking a
little too much upon him, turning her out of her own room.

The two men stood looking at each other as the ladies went away, with
Jim still huddled in the corner of the sofa, in the shade, making
no sign. Dr. Barrère saw, however, that the stranger, with a glance
round of keen, much-practised eyes, had at once seen him, and placed
himself between Jim and the door. When the ladies had disappeared the
doctor spoke quickly. “Well,” he said, “what is it, Morton? Some new
information?”

“Something I regret as much as any one can, Dr. Barrère. I have to ask
Mr. Surtees to come with me. There need be no exposure for the moment:
but I must take him without delay.”

“Take him!” The doctor made a last effort to appear not to perceive. He
said, “Have you too seen something, then? Have you further evidence to
give, Jim?”

There was no reply. Neither did the superintendent say a word. They
stood all three silent. Jim had risen up; his limbs seemed unable to
support him. He stood leaning on the table, looking out blankly over
the two extinguished candles and their red shades. The officer went up
and laid his hand lightly upon the young man’s shoulder. “Come,” he
said, “you know what I’m here for: and I’m sorry, very sorry for you,
Mr. Jim: but no doubt you’ll be able to make it all clear.”

“Barrère,” said Jim, struggling against the dryness in his throat, “you
can prove that I have not been out of the house--that I was at home all
last night. I couldn’t--I couldn’t, you know, be in two places at one
time--could I, Barrère?”

“Mr. Jim, you must remember that whatever you say now will tell against
you at the trial. I take you to witness, doctor, that I haven’t even
told him what it was for.”

Jim ground out an oath from between his clenched teeth. “Do I need to
ask?” he said. “Doesn’t everybody know I hated him--and good reason
too--hated him and threatened him--but, God help me, not to kill him!”
cried the young man with a voice of despair.



CHAPTER III.


DR. BARRÈRE was left to break the news to the mother and daughter. He
never knew how he accomplished this dreadful office. They came back
when they heard the door shut, evidently not expecting to find him,
believing that he had withdrawn with his “friend”--and the anxious,
searching eyes with which his Agnes looked around the room, the mingled
terror and pleasure of her look on discovering him, never faded from
his mind. Mrs. Surtees was more disappointed than pleased. She said,
with an evident sudden awakening of anxiety, “Where is Jim?” And
then he had to tell them. How did he find words to do it? But the
wonderful thing, the dreadful thing, was that after the shock of the
first intimation there seemed little surprise in the looks of these
poor ladies. The mother sank down in her chair and hid her face in
her hands, and Agnes stood behind her mother, throwing her arms round
her, pressing that bowed head against her breast. They did not cry
out indignantly that it was not--could not be true. They were silent,
like those upon whom something long looked for had come at last. The
doctor left them after a while with a chill in his very soul. He could
say nothing; he could not attempt to console them in the awful silence
which seemed to have fallen upon them. Agnes tried to smile as he went
away--tried with her trembling lips to say something. But she could
not conceal from him that she wished him to go, that he could give no
comfort, that the best thing he could do for them in their misery was
to leave them alone. He went home very miserable in that consciousness
of being put aside, and allowed no share in the anguish of the woman
whom he loved. It was intolerable to him; it was unjust. He said to
himself as he walked along that the tacit abandonment of Jim, the
absence of all protest on their part that his guilt was impossible--a
protest which surely a mother and sister in any circumstances ought to
have made--was hard, was unjust. If all the world condemned him, yet
they should not have condemned him. He took Jim’s part hotly, feeling
that he was a fellow sufferer. Even were he dissipated and reckless,
poor fellow, there was a long, long way between that and murder.
Murder! There was nothing in Jim which could make it possible that
he could have to do with a murder. If he was hasty in temper, poor
fellow, his nature was sweet, notwithstanding all his errors. Even he,
Arnold Barrère, a man contemptuous of the manner of folly which had
ruined Jim, a man with whom wrath and revenge might have awakened more
sympathy--even he had come to have a tenderness for the erring young
man. And to think that Jim could have lain in wait for any one, could
have taken a man at a disadvantage, was, he declared to himself with
indignation, impossible. It was impossible! though the two women who
were nearest to him--his mother and his sister--did not say so, did not
stand up in vindication of the unhappy youth.

When he had exhausted this natural indignation Dr. Barrère began to
contemplate the situation more calmly, and to arrange its incidents
in his mind. The horror of the thought that he was himself the chief
witness affected him little at first, for it was to the fact only
that he could speak, and the culprit, so far as he was concerned, was
without identity, a shadow in the night, and no more. But a chill came
over that flush of indignant partisanship with which he had made a
mental stand for Jim when the other circumstances flashed upon him. He
remembered his own surprise to find Jim in the drawing-room when he
arrived at Mrs. Surtees’ house; to see his dress so unusual, though
scarcely more unusual than the fact of his being there. He remembered
how the young man held aloof, how the candles had flared upon him
neglected. The little scene came before Dr. Barrère like a picture--the
candle shades standing up in a ludicrous neglect, the light flaring
under them upon Jim’s face. And then again, to-night: the senseless
game with which he seemed to amuse himself; the tremble of his hands
over the plaything; his absence of interest in the matter which was
so exciting to the others. Why was Jim there at all? Why did he ask
no question? Why keep behind unexcited, unsurprised, while the doctor
told his story? And then the reason thrust itself upon him in Jim’s own
words--”I couldn’t be in two places at once, could I? You can prove
that I was here last night.” Good God, what did it mean? Jim--Jim!--and
his mother and sister, who had sunk into despair without a word, who
had never said as women ought, “We know him better; it is not true--it
is not true.”

Dr. Barrère went home more wretched than words can say. Hard and
terrible is an unjust accusation; but oh, how easy, how sweet, how
possible, is even the shame which is undeserved! A century of that
is as nothing in comparison with a day or hour of that which is
merited--of the horror which is true. He tried to hope still that it
was not true; but he felt coming over him like a pall, the terror which
he could now perceive had quenched the very hearts in the bosoms of
the two women who were Jim’s natural defenders. They had not been able
to say a word--and neither could he. Dr. Barrère stood still in the
middle of the dark street with the damp wind blowing in his face as
all this came before him. A solitary passer-by looked round surprised,
and looked again, thinking the man was mad. He saw in a moment as by
a revelation, all that was before them--and himself. The horrible
notoriety, the disgrace, the endless stigma. It would crush _them_ and
tear their lives asunder: but for him also, would not that be ruin too?



CHAPTER IV.


THE trial took place after a considerable interval, for the assizes
were just over when the man was killed. In that dreadful time of
suspense and misery proof after proof accumulated slowly with a gradual
drawing together as of the very web of fate. The stick which was found
by the body of the murdered man was Jim’s stick, with his initials upon
it, in a silver band--alas, his mother’s gift. He was proved to have
had a desperate quarrel with the man, who was one of those who had
corrupted and misled him. Then the _alibi_ which had seemed at first
so strong disappeared into worse than nothing when examined: for Jim
had been seen on his flight home; he had been seen to enter furtively
and noiselessly into his mother’s house, though the servants were ready
to swear that he had not gone out that night; and all the precautions
he had taken, instead of bringing him safety, only made his position
worse, being shown to be precautions consciously taken against a danger
foreseen. All these things grew into certainty before the trial; so
that it was all a foregone conclusion in the minds of the townspeople,
some of whom yielded to the conviction with heartfelt pity, and some
with an eager improving of the situation, pointing out to what horrible
conclusions vice was sure to come.

Meanwhile this strange and horrible event, which had held the town for
more than nine days in wonder and perturbation, and which had given
a moral to many a tale, and point to many a sermon, held one little
circle of unhappy creatures as in a ring of iron--unable to get away
from it, unable to forget it, their hearts, their hopes, their life
itself, marked forever with its trace of blood. The two ladies had
roused themselves from their first stupor into a half fictitious
adoption of their natural _rôle_ as defenders of Jim. God knows through
how many shocks and horrors of discovery Jim had led them, making
something new, something worse, always the thing to be expected, before
they had come to that pitch that their hearts had no power to make any
protest at all. But when the morning rose upon their troubled souls
they began to say to each other that it could not be true. It could not
be true! Jim had now and then an _accès_ of sudden rage, but he was
the kind of man of whom it is said that he would not hurt a fly. How
could it be possible that he would do a murder? It was not possible;
any other kind of evil thing--but not that, oh, not that! They said
this to each other when they rose up from the uneasy bed in which
mother and daughter had lain down together, not able to separate from
each other--though those rules of use and wont which are so strong
on women made them lie down as if to sleep, where no sleep was. But
when the light came--that awful light which brings back common life
to us on the morning after a great calamity--they looked into each
other’s pale faces, and with one voice said, “Oh no, no, it cannot be!”
“Mother,” cried Agnes, “he would not hurt a fly. Oh, how kind he was
when I was ill, when you had your accident--do you remember?” Who does
not know what these words are--Do you remember? All that he was who
is dead; all that he might have been who is lost; all the hopes, the
happy prospects, the cheerful days before trouble came. No words more
poignant can be said. They did not need to ask each other what they
remembered--that was enough. They clasped each other, and kissed with
trembling lips, and then Agnes rose, bidding her mother rest, and went
to fetch her the woman’s cordial, the cup of tea--which is so often all
one poor female creature can offer to another by way of help.

No, no, he could not have done it! They took a little comfort for the
moment. And another strange comfort they took in a thing which was
one of the most damning pieces of evidence against Jim: which was that
he had quarreled violently with the murdered man and denounced him,
and declared hatred and everlasting enmity against him. The story of
the quarrel as it was told to them brought tears, which were almost
tears of joy, to Mrs. Surtees’ eyes. The man who had been killed was
one of those adventurers who haunt the outskirts of society wherever
there are victims to be found. He had preyed upon the lives and souls
of young men in Poolborough since the days when Jim Surtees was an
innocent and credulous boy. It was not this man’s fault that Jim had
gone astray, for Jim, alas, was all ready for his fall, and eager
after everything that was forbidden; but in the fits of remorse and
misery which sometimes came upon him it was perhaps no wonder if he
laid it at Langton’s door; and that the mother should have held Langton
responsible, who could wonder? The facts of the quarrel were as so
many nails in Jim’s coffin: but God help the poor woman, they gave
consolation to his mother’s heart. They meant repentance, she thought,
they meant generosity and a pathetic indignation, and more, they
meant succour; for the quarrel had arisen over an unfortunate youth
whom the blackleg was throwing his toils around as he had thrown them
around Jim, and whom Mrs. Surtees believed Jim had saved by exposing
the villain. The story was told reluctantly, delicately, to the poor
ladies, as almost sealing Jim’s fate: and to the consternation of the
narrator, who was struck dumb, and could only stare at them in a kind
of stupor of astonishment, they looked at each other and broke forth
into cries at first inarticulate which were almost cries of joy. “You
do not see the bearing of it, I fear,” said the solicitor who had the
management of the case, as soon as out of his astonishment he had
recovered his voice. “Oh sir,” cried Mrs. Surtees, “what I see is this,
that my boy has saved another poor woman’s son, God bless him! and
that will not be forgotten, that will not be forgotten!” This gentleman
withdrew in a state of speechless consternation. “No, it will not be
forgotten,” he said to Dr. Barrère. “I think the poor lady has gone out
of her senses, and little wonder. It is a piece of evidence which we
can never get over.” Dr. Barrère shook his head, not understanding the
women much better than the lawyer did. This gave them consolation, and
yet it was the seal of Jim’s fate.

Dr. Barrère himself in the long period of waiting was a most unhappy
man. He stood by the Surtees nobly, everybody said. No son could have
been more attentive than he was to the poor mother who was entirely
broken by this blow, and had suddenly become an old woman. And he
never wavered in his faith and loyalty to Agnes, who but for that
noble fidelity would, everybody said, have been the most of all to be
pitied. For Agnes was young, and had all her life before her, with the
stain of this crime upon her name; and if her lover had not stood by
her what would have become of her? The people who had been doubtful of
Dr. Barrère, as half a Frenchman, as too great a theorist, as a man
who had not been quite successful in his outset, began now to look
upon him with increased respect, and his firmness, his high honour,
his disinterestedness were commented upon on all sides. But in his
heart the doctor was far from happy. His life, too, seemed in question
as well as Jim’s. If the worst came to the worst, he asked himself,
would society, however sympathetic for the moment, receive the family
of a man who had been hanged--horrible words!--without prejudice?
Would there not be a stigma upon the name of Surtees, and even upon
the name of him who had given his own as a shield to the family of the
murderer? He did his duty--no man more truly. He loved his Agnes with
all the warmth of an honest heart, taking his share of all her trouble,
supporting her through everything, making himself for her sake the
brother of a criminal, and one of the objects of popular curiosity and
pity. All this he did from day to day, and went on doing it: but still
there were struggles and dreadful misgivings in Dr. Barrère’s heart. He
was a proud man, and except for what he made by his profession a poor
one. If that failed him he had nothing else to fall back upon, and he
already knew the misery of unsuccess. He knew what it was to see his
practice wasting away, to see his former patients pass by shamefacedly,
conscious of having transferred their ailments and themselves to other
hands, to be put aside for no expressed reason out of the tide of life.
At Poolborough he had begun to forget the experiences of his beginning,
and to feel that at last he had got hold of the thread which would lead
him if not to fortune, at least to comfort and the certainties of an
established course of living. Would this last? he asked himself. Would
it make no difference to him if he identified himself with ruin--ruin
so hideous and complete? The question was a terrible one, and brought
the sweat to his brow when in chance moments, between his visits and
his cases, between the occupations and thoughts which absorbed him, now
and then, suddenly, in spite of all the pains he took, it would start
up and look him in the face. “He had a brother who was hanged,” that
was what people would say; they would not even after a little lapse
of time pause to recollect that it was his wife’s brother. The brand
would go with them wherever he went. “You remember the great murder
case in Poolborough? Well, these were the people, and the brother was
hanged.” These words seemed to detach themselves and float in the air.
He said them to himself sometimes, or rather they were said in his
ear, without anything else to connect them. The phrase seemed already
a common phrase which any one might use--”The brother was hanged.” And
then cold drops of moisture would come out upon his forehead. And all
the possibilities of life, the success which is dear to a man, the
advancement of which he knew himself capable--was it all to go? Was he
to be driven back once more to that everlasting re-commencement which
makes the heart of a man sick?

These thoughts accompanied Dr. Barrère as he went and came, a son, and
more than a son, to Mrs. Surtees, and to Agnes the most faithful, the
most sympathetic of lovers. At such a moment, and in face of the awful
catastrophe which had come upon them, any talk of marriage would have
been out of place. He had, indeed, suggested it at first in mingled
alarm and desperation, and true desire to do his best, in the first
impulse of overwhelming sympathy, and at the same time in the first
glimpse of all that might follow, and sickening horror of self-distrust
lest his resolution might give way. He would have fled from himself,
from all risks of this nature into the safety of a bond which he could
not break. But Agnes had silently negatived the proposal with a shake
of her head and a smile of pathetic tenderness. She, too, had thoughts
of the future, of which she breathed no word to any one, not even to
her mother. All that was in his mind as subject of alarm and misgiving
was reflected, with that double clearness and vivification which is
given to everything reflected in the clear flowing of a river, in the
mind of Agnes. She saw all with the distinctness of one to whom the
sacrifice of herself was nothing when compared with the welfare of
those she loved. He was afraid lest these alarms might bring him into
temptation, and the temptation be above his strength; and his soul was
disturbed and made miserable. But to Agnes the matter took another
aspect. All that he foresaw she foresaw, but the thought brought
neither disturbance nor fear. It brought the exaltation of a great
purpose--the solemn joy of approaching martyrdom. Arnold should never
suffer for her. It was she who would have the better part and suffer
for him.

The dreadful fact that it was Dr. Barrère only who had witnessed the
murder, and that he would have to speak and prove what he had seen,
became more and more apparent to them all as the time drew on. His
description of the blows that had been rained down wildly on the
victim, and of the lurking figure in the shadow whom he had noted, as
he passed the first time, took away all hope that it might be supposed
the act of a momentary madness without premeditation. The doctor had
told his story with all the precision that was natural to him before he
knew who it was that would be convicted by it; and now it was no longer
possible for him, even had his conscience permitted it, to soften the
details which he had at first given so clearly, or to throw any mist
upon his clear narrative. He had to repeat it all, knowing the fatal
effect it must have, standing up with Jim’s pale face before him, with
a knowledge that somewhere in a dim corner Agnes sat with bowed head
listening--to what she already knew so well. The doctor’s countenance
was as pale as Jim’s. His mouth grew dry as he bore his testimony; but
not all the terrible consequences could make him alter a word. He could
scarcely refrain a groan, a sob, when he had done; and this involuntary
evidence of what it cost him to tell the truth increased the effect
in the highest degree, as the evidence of an unwilling witness always
does. There was but one point in which he could help the prisoner; and
fortunately that too had been a special point in his previous evidence:
but it was not until Dr. Barrère got into the hands of Jim’s advocate
that this was brought out. “I see,” the counsel said, “that in your
previous examination you speak of a cry uttered by the assailant after
the blows which you have described. You describe it as a cry of horror.
In what sense do you mean this to be understood?”

“I mean,” said Dr. Barrère very pointedly and clearly--and if there
had been any divided attention in the crowded court where so many
people had come to hear the fate of one whom they had known from his
childhood, every mind was roused now, and every eye intent upon the
speaker--”I mean--” He paused to give fuller force to what he said.

“I mean that the man who struck those blows for the first time realised
what he was doing. The cry was one of consternation and dismay. It was
the cry of a man horrified to see what he had done.”

“The cry was so remarkable that it made a great impression on your
mind?”

“A very great impression. I do not think I have ever heard an utterance
which affected me so much.”

“You were hurrying forward at the time to interpose in the scuffle. Did
you distinguish any words? Did you recognise the voice?”

“It would give an erroneous impression to say that I meant to interpose
in the scuffle. There was no scuffle. The man fell at once. He never
had a chance of defending himself. I did not recognise the voice, nor
can I say that any words were used. It was nothing but a cry.”

“The cry, however, was of such a nature as to induce you to change your
mind in respect to what had occurred?”

“I had no time to form any theory. The impression it produced on my
mind was that an assault was intended, but not murder; and that all
at once it had become apparent to the unfortunate--” Here the doctor
paused, and there was a deep sobbing breath of intense attention drawn
by the crowd. He stopped for a minute, and then resumed, “It had
become apparent to the--assailant that he had--gone too far; that the
consequences were more terrible than he had intended. He threw down
what he had in his hand, and fled in horror.”

“You were convinced, then, that there was no murderous intention in the
act of the unfortunate--as you have well said--assailant?”

“That was my conviction,” said Dr. Barrère.

The effect made upon the assembly was great. And though it was no
doubt diminished more or less by the cross-examination of the counsel
for the prosecution, who protested vehemently against the epithet of
unfortunate applied to the man who had attacked in the dark another
man who was proceeding quietly about his own business, who had lain
in wait for him and assaulted him murderously with every evidence of
premeditation, it still remained the strongest point in the defence.
“You say that you had no time to form any theory?” said the prosecutor;
“yet you have told us that you rushed forward calling out murder. Was
this before or after you heard the cry, so full of meaning, which you
have described?”

“It was probably almost at the same moment,” said Dr. Barrère.

“Yet, even in the act of crying out murder, you were capable of
noticing all the complicated sentiments which you now tell us were in
the assailant’s cry!”

“In great excitement one takes no notice of the passage of time--a
minute contains as much as an hour.”

“And you expect us to believe that in that minute, and without the help
of words, you were enlightened as to the meaning of the act by a mere
inarticulate cry?”

“I tell you the impression produced on my mind, as I told it at the
coroner’s inquest,” said Dr. Barrère, steadily; “as I have told it to
my friends from the first.”

“Yet this did not prevent you from shouting murder?”

“No; it did not prevent me from calling for help in the usual way.”

This was all that could be made of the doctor. It remained the
strongest point in poor Jim’s favour, who was, as everybody saw to be
inevitable, condemned; yet recommended to mercy because of what Dr.
Barrère had said. Otherwise there were many features in the case that
roused the popular pity. The bad character of the man who had been
killed, the evil influence he was known to have exercised, the injury
he had done to Jim himself and to so many others, and the very cause
of the quarrel in which Jim had threatened and announced his intention
of punishing him--all these things, had Jim been tried in France,
would have produced a verdict modified by extenuating circumstances.
In England it did not touch the decision, but it produced that vague
recommendation to mercy with which pity satisfies itself when it can do
no more.

Dr. Barrère took the unfortunate mother and sister home. Mrs. Surtees,
broken as she was, could not be absent from the court when her son’s
fate was to be determined. She was as one stricken dumb as they took
her back. Now and then she would put her trembling hands to her eyes
as if expecting tears which did not come. Her very heart and soul were
crushed by the awful doom which had been spoken. And the others did
not even dare to exchange a look. The horror which enveloped them was
too terrible for speech. It was only after an interval had passed,
and life, indomitable life which always rises again whatever may be
the anguish that subdues it for a moment, had returned in pain and
fear to its struggle with the intolerable, that words and the power of
communication returned. Then Dr. Barrère told the broken-hearted women
that both he himself and others in the town who knew Jim, with all the
influence that could be brought to bear, would work for a revision of
the sentence. It was upon his own evidence that the hopes which those
who were not so deeply, tremendously interested, but who regarded the
case with an impartial eye, began to entertain, were founded. “I hope
that the Home Secretary may send for me,” he said; “they think he will.
God grant it!” He too had worked himself into a kind of hope.

“Oh,” said Agnes, melting for the first time into tears at the touch of
a possible deliverance, “if we could go, as they used to do, to the
Queen, his mother and his sister, on our knees!”

Mrs. Surtees sat and listened to them with her immovable face of
misery. “Don’t speak to me of hope, for I cannot bear it,” she said.
“Oh, don’t speak of hope; there is none--none! Nothing but death and
shame.”

“Yes, mother,” said Dr. Barrère, and he added under his breath,
“whatever happens--whatever happens--there shall be no death of shame.”



CHAPTER V.


THE recommendation to mercy was very strong; almost all the principal
people in the town interested themselves, and the judge himself
had been persuaded to add a potent word; but as he did so he shook
his head, and told the petitioners that their arguments were all
sentimental. “What does your lordship say then to the doctor’s
testimony?” was asked him, upon which he shook his head more and more.
“The doctor’s testimony, above all,” he said. “Mind you, I think that
probably the doctor was right, but it is not a solid argument, it is
all sentiment; and that is what the Home Office makes no account of.”
This was very discouraging. But still there was a certain enthusiasm
in the town in Jim’s favour, as well as a natural horror that one
who really belonged (if he had kept his position) to the best class,
should come to such an end; and the chief people who got up this
recommendation to mercy were warm supporters of the Government. That,
too, they felt convinced must tell for something. And there reigned in
Poolborough a certain hope which Dr. Barrère sometimes shared.

Sometimes; for on many occasions he took the darker view--the view
so universal and generally received, that the more important it is
for you that a certain thing should come to pass, the more you desire
it, the less likely it is to happen. And then he would ask himself
was it so important that it should come to pass? At the best it was
still true that Jim had killed this man. If he were not hanged for it
he would be imprisoned for life; and whether it is worse to have a
relative who has been hanged for a crime or one who is lingering out
a long term of imprisonment for it, it is hard to tell. There did not
seem much to choose between them. Perhaps even the hanging would be
forgotten soonest--and it would be less of a burden. For to think of a
brother in prison, who might emerge years hence with a ticket-of-leave,
a disgraced and degraded man, was something terrible. Perhaps on
the whole it would be best that he should die. And then Dr. Barrère
shuddered. Die! Ah! if that might be, quietly, without demonstration.
But as it was--And then he would begin again, against his will, that
painful circle of thought--”the brother was hanged.” That was what
people would say. After the horror of it had died out fantastic
patients would cry, “The brother of a man who was hanged! Oh, no!
don’t let us call in such a person.” The ladies would say this: they
would shudder yet perhaps even laugh, for the pity would be forgotten,
even the horror would be forgotten, and there would remain only this
suggestion of discomfort--just enough to make the women feel that they
would not like to have him, the brother of a man who was hanged, for
their doctor. Dr. Barrère tried all he could to escape from this circle
of fatal thought; but however hard he worked, and however much he
occupied himself, he could not do so always. And the thought went near
sometimes to make him mad.

He had, however, much to occupy him, to keep thought away. He was
the only element of comfort in the life of the two miserable women
who lived under the shadow of death, their minds entirely absorbed
in the approaching catastrophe, living through it a hundred times in
anticipation, in despair which was made more ghastly and sickening by a
flicker of terrible hope. Mrs. Surtees said that she had no hope; she
would not allow the possibility to be named; but secretly dwelt upon
it with an intensity of suspense which was more unendurable than any
calamity. And when Agnes and her lover were alone this was the subject
that occupied them to the exclusion of all others. Their own hopes and
prospects were all blotted out as if they had never been. He brought
her reports of what was said, and what was thought on the subject among
the people who had influence, those who were straining every nerve
to obtain a reprieve: and she hung upon his words breathless with an
all-absorbing interest. He never got beyond the awful shadow, or could
forget it, and went about all day with that cloud hanging over him, and
frightened his patients with his stern and serious looks. “Dr. Barrère
is not an encouraging doctor,” they began to say, “he makes you think
you are going to die;” for the sick people could not divest themselves
of the idea that it was their complaints that were foremost in the
doctor’s mind and produced that severity in his looks.

But all this was light and easy to the last of the many occupations
which filled Dr. Barrère’s time and thoughts, and that was Jim--Jim
alone in his prison, he who never had been alone, who had been
surrounded all day long with his companions--the companions who had led
him astray. No, they had not led him astray. Langton, who was dead,
whom he had killed, had not led him astray, though he now thought
so, or said so, bemoaning himself. Such a thing would be too heavy
a burden for any human spirit. A man cannot ruin any more than he
can save his brother. His own inclinations, his own will, his love
for the forbidden, his idle wishes and follies--these were what had
led him astray. And now he was left alone to think of all that, with
the shadow before him of a hideous death at a fixed moment--a moment
drawing nearer and nearer, which he could no more escape than he could
forget it. Jim had many good qualities amid his evil ones. He was not a
bad man; his sins were rather those of a foolish, self-indulgent boy.
His character was that of a boy. A certain innocency, if that word
may be used, lay under the surface of his vices, and long confinement
away from all temptation had wrought a change in him like that that
came over the leper in the Scriptures, whose flesh came again as the
flesh of a little child. This was what happened to Jim, both bodily
and mentally. He languished in health from his confinement, but yet
his eyes regained the clearness of his youth, and his mind, all its
ingenuousness, its power of affection. Lying under sentence of death he
became once more the lovable human creature, the winning and attractive
youth he had been in the days before trouble came. All clouds save the
one cloud rolled off his soul. In all likelihood he himself forgot
the course of degradation through which he had gone; everything was
obliterated to him by the impossibility of sinning more--everything
except the one thing which no self-delusion could obliterate, the
unchangeable doom to which he was approaching day by day. Jim had
none of the tremors of a murderer. He concealed nothing; he admitted
freely that the verdict was just, that it was he who had lurked in the
dark and awaited the villain--but only he had never meant more than
to punish him. “It is all quite true what the doctor says. I knocked
him down. I meant to beat him within an inch of his life. God knows
if he deserved it at my hands, or any honest man’s hands. And then it
came over me in a moment that he never moved, that he never made a
struggle. It was not because there were people coming up that I ran
away. It was horror, as the doctor says. Nothing can ever happen to
me again so dreadful as that,” said Jim, putting up his handkerchief
to wipe his damp forehead. And yet he could tell even that story with
tolerable calm. He was not conscious of guilt; he had meant to do what
he felt quite justifiable--rather laudable than otherwise--to thrash a
rascal “within an inch of his life.” He had expected the man to defend
himself; he had been full of what he felt to be righteous rage, and he
did not feel himself guilty now. He was haunted by no ghost; he had
ceased even to shudder at the recollection of the horrible moment in
which he became aware that instead of chastising he had killed. But
when his momentary occupation with other thoughts died away and the
recollection of what lay before him came back, the condition of poor
Jim was a dreadful one. To die--for that!--to die on Thursday, the 3rd
of September, at a horrible moment fixed and unchangeable. To feel the
days running past remorselessly, swift, without an event to break their
monotonous flying pace--those days which were so endlessly long from
dawn to twilight, which seemed as if they would never be done, which
had so little night, yet which flew noiselessly, silently, bringing
him ever nearer and nearer to the end. Poor Jim broke down entirely
under the pressure of this intolerable certainty. Had it been done at
once, the moment the sentence had been pronounced; but to sit and wait
for it, look for it, anticipate it, know that every hour was bringing
it nearer, that through the dark and through the day, and through all
the endless circles of thoughts that surmounted and surrounded it, it
was coming, always coming, not to be escaped! Jim’s nerves broke down
under this intolerable thing that had to be borne. He kept command of
himself when he saw his mother and sister, but with Dr. Barrère he let
himself go. It was a relief to him for the wretched moment. Save for
the moment, nothing, alas, could be a relief--for whether he contrived
to smile and subdue himself, or whether he dashed himself against the
wall of impossibility that shut him in, whether he raved in anguish or
madness, or slept, or tried to put a brave face upon it, it was coming
all the time.

“It is sitting and waiting that is the horrible thing,” he said; “to
think there is nothing you can do. That’s true, you know, doctor, in
_Don Juan_, about the people that plunged into the sea to get drowned
a little sooner and be done with it--in the shipwreck, you know. It’s
waiting and seeing it coming that is horrible. It is just thirteen days
to-day. Death isn’t what I mind! it’s waiting for it. Will it be--will
it be very--horrible, do you think--at the moment--when it comes?”

“No,” said Dr. Barrère, “if it comes to that, not horrible at all--a
moment, no more.”

“A moment--but you can’t tell till you try what may be in a moment.
I don’t mind, doctor; something sharp and soon would be a sort of
relief. It is the sitting and waiting, counting the days, seeing it
coming--always coming. Nobody has a right to torture a fellow like
that--let them take him and hang him as the lynchers do, straight off.”
Then Jim was seized with a slight convulsive shudder. “And then the
afterwards, doctor? for all your science you can’t tell anything about
that. Perhaps you don’t believe in it at all. I do.”

Dr. Barrère made no reply. He was not quite clear about what he
believed; and he had nothing to say on such a subject to this young man
standing upon the verge, with all the uncertainties and possibilities
of life still so warm in him, and yet so near the one unalterable
certainty. After a minute Jim resumed.

“I do,” he said firmly. “I’ve never been what you call a skeptic. I
don’t believe men are: they only pretend, or perhaps think so, till it
comes upon them. I wonder what they’ll say to a poor fellow _up there_,
doctor? I’ve always been told they understand up there--there can’t be
injustice done like here. And I’ve always been a true believer. I’ve
never been led away--like that.”

“It isn’t a subject on which I can talk,” said the doctor, unsteadily;
“your mother and Agnes, they know. But, Jim, for the love of God don’t
talk to them as you are doing now. Put on a good face for their sakes.”

“Poor mother!” said Jim. He turned all at once almost to
crying--softened entirely out of his wild talk. “What has she done to
have a thing like this happen to her? She is a real good woman--and to
have a son hanged, good Lord!” Again he shivered convulsively. “She
won’t live long, that’s one thing; and perhaps it’ll be explained to
her satisfaction up there. But that’s what I call unjust, Barrère, to
torture a poor soul like that, that has never done anything but good
all her life. You’ll take care of Agnes. But mother will not live long,
poor dear. Poor dear!” he repeated with a tremulous smile. “I suppose
she had a happy life till I grew up--till I--I wonder what I could be
born for, a fellow like me, to be hanged!” he cried with a sudden,
sharp anguish in which there was the laughter of misery and the groan
of despair.

Dr. Barrère left the prison with his heart bleeding; but he did not
abandon Jim. On the contrary, there was a terrible attraction which
drew him to the presence of the unfortunate young man. The doctor of
Poolborough jail, though not so high in the profession as himself,
was one of Dr. Barrère’s acquaintances, and to him he went when he
left the condemned cell. The doctor told his professional brother that
Surtees was in a very bad state of health. “His nerves have broken down
entirely. His heart--haven’t you remarked?--his heart is in such a
state that he might go at any moment.”

“Dear me,” said the other, “he has never complained that I know of. And
a very good thing, too, Barrère; you don’t mean to say that you would
regret it if anything did happen, before--”

“No,” said the doctor, “but the poor fellow may suffer. I wonder if
you’d let me have the charge of him, Maxwell? I know you’re a busy man.
And it would please his mother to think that I was looking after him.
What do you say?”

The one medical man looked at the other. Doctor Barrère was pale, but
he did not shrink from the look turned upon him. “I’ll tell you what
I’ll do, Barrère,” said the prison doctor at last. “I’m getting all
wrong for want of a little rest. Feel my hand--my nerves are as much
shaken as Surtees’! If you’ll take the whole for a fortnight, so that
I may take my holiday--”

Dr. Barrère thought for a moment. “A fortnight? That will be till
after--I don’t know how I’m to do it with my practice; but I will do
it, for the sake of--your health, Maxwell: for I see you are in a bad
way.”

“Hurrah!” said the other, “a breath of air will set me all right, and I
shall be forever obliged to you, Barrère.” Then he stopped for a moment
and looked keenly in his face. “You’re a better man than I am, and know
more: but for God’s sake, Barrère, no tricks--no tricks. You know what
I mean,” he said.

“No, I don’t know what you mean. I know you want a holiday, and I want
to take care of a case in which I am interested. It suits us both. Let
me have all the details you can,” said Dr. Barrère.



CHAPTER VI.


THE day had come, and almost the hour. The weary time had stolen,
endless, yet flying on noiseless wings; an eternity of featureless
lingering hours, yet speeding, speeding towards that one fixed end. And
there was no reprieve. The important people of Poolborough had retired
sullenly from their endeavours. To support a Government faithfully and
yet not to have one poor favour granted--their recommendation to mercy
turned back upon themselves; they were indignant, and in that grievance
they forgot the original cause of it. Still there were one or two still
toiling on. But the morning of the fatal day had dawned and nothing had
come.

To tell how Mrs. Surtees and Agnes had lived through these days is
beyond our power. They did not live; they dragged through a feverish
dream from one time of seeing him to another, unconscious what passed
in the meantime, except when some messenger would come to their door,
and a wild blaze and frenzy of hope would light up in their miserable
hearts: for it always seemed to them that it must be the reprieve which
was coming, though each said to herself that it would not, could not,
come. And when they saw Jim, that one actual recurring point in their
lives was perhaps more miserable than the intervals. For to see him,
and to know that the hour was coming ever nearer and nearer when he
must die; to sit with him, never free from inspection, never out of
hearing of some compulsory spectator; to see the tension of his nerves,
the strain of intolerable expectation in him--was almost more than
flesh and blood could bear. They had privileges which were not allowed
in ordinary cases--for were not they still ranked among the best people
of Poolborough, though beaten down by horrible calamity? What could
they say to him? Not even the religious exhortations, the prayers which
came from other lips less trembling. They were dumb. “Dear Jim,” and
“God bless you,” was all they could say. Their misery was too great,
there was no utterance in it; a word would have overthrown the enforced
and awful calm. And neither could he speak. When he had said “Mother,”
and kissed her, and smiled, that was all. Then they sat silent holding
each other’s hands.

Through all this Dr. Barrère was the only human supporter of the
miserable family. He had promised to stand by Jim, to the end, not
to leave him till life had left him--till all was over. And now
the supreme moment had nearly come. The doctor was as pale, almost
paler than he who was about to die. There was an air about him of
sternness, almost of desperation; yet to Jim he was tender as his
mother. He had warned the authorities what he feared, that agitation
and excitement might even yet rob the law of its victim. He had been
allowed to be with the condemned man from earliest dawn of the fatal
morning in consequence of the warning he had given, but it appeared
to the attendants that Jim himself bore a less alarming air than the
doctor, whose colourless face and haggard eyes looked as if he had
not slept for a week. Jim, poor Jim, had summoned all his courage for
this supreme moment. There was a sweetness in his look that added to
its youthfulness. He looked like a boy: his long imprisonment and
the enforced self-denial there was in it, had chased from his face
all stains of evil. He was pale and worn with his confinement and
with the interval of awful waiting, but his eyes were clear as a
child’s--pathetic, tender, with a wistful smile in them, as though the
arrival of the fatal hour had brought relief. The old clergyman who had
baptised him had come, too, to stand by him to the last, and he could
scarcely speak for tears. But Jim was calm, and smiled; if any bit of
blue sky was in that cell of the condemned, with all its grim and
melancholy memories, it was in Jim’s face.

The doctor moved about him not able to keep still, with that look of
desperation, listening for every sound. But all was still except the
broken voice of the old clergyman, who had knelt down and was praying.
One of the attendants too had gone down on his knees. The other stood
watching, yet distracted by a pity which even his hardened faculties
could not resist. Jim sat with his hands clasped, his eyes for a moment
closed, the smile still quivering about his mouth. In this stillness of
intense feeling all observation save that of the ever-watchful doctor
was momentarily subdued. Suddenly Jim’s head seemed to droop forward
on his breast; the doctor came in front of him with one swift step,
and through the sound of the praying called imperatively, sharply,
for wine, wine! The warder who was standing rushed to fill it out,
while Dr. Barrère bent over the fainting youth. It all passed in a
moment, before the half-said sentence of the prayer was completed. The
clergyman’s voice wavered, stopped--and then resumed again, finishing
the phrase, notwithstanding the stir and hurried movement, the
momentary breathless scuffle, which a sudden attack of illness, a fit
or faint, always occasions. Then a sharp sound broke the stillness--the
crash of the wine glass which the doctor let fall from his hand after
forcing the contents, as it seemed, down the patient’s throat. The old
clergyman on his knees still, paused and opening his eyes gazed at the
strange scene, not awakening to the seriousness of it, or perceiving
any new element introduced into the solemnity of the situation for
some minutes, yet gazing with tragic eyes, since nothing in the first
place could well be more tragic. The little stir, the scuffle of the
moving feet, the two men in motion about the still figure in the chair,
lasted for a little longer; then the warder uttered a stifled cry. The
clergyman on his knees, his heart still in his prayer for the dying,
felt it half profane to break off into words to men in the midst of
those he was addressing to God--but forced by this strange break cried,
“What is it?--what has happened?” in spite of himself.

There was no immediate answer. The doctor gave some brief, quick
directions, and with the help of the warder lifted the helpless figure,
all fallen upon itself like a ruined house, with difficulty to the bed.
The limp, long, helpless limbs, the entire immobility and deadness of
the form struck with a strange chill to the heart of the man who had
been interceding wrapt in another atmosphere than that of earth. The
clergyman got up from his knees, coming back with a keen and awful
sense of his humanity. “Has he--fainted?” he asked with a gasp.

Once more a dead pause, a stillness in which the four men heard their
hearts beating; then the doctor said, with a strange brevity and
solemnity, “Better than that--he is dead.”

Dead! They gathered round and gazed in a consternation beyond words.
The young face, scarcely paler than it had been a moment since, the
eyes half shut, the lips fallen apart with that awful opening which is
made by the exit of the last breath, lay back upon the wretched pillow
in all that abstraction and incalculable distance which comes with the
first touch of death. No one could look at that, and be in any doubt.
The warders stood by dazed with horror and dismay, as if they had let
their prisoner escape. Was it their fault? Would they be blamed for it?
They had seen men go to the scaffold before with little feeling, but
they had never seen one die of the horror of it, as Jim had died.

While they were thus standing a sound of measured steps was heard
without. The door was opened with that harsh turning of the key which
in other circumstances would have sounded like the trumpet of doom,
but which now woke no tremor, scarcely any concern. It was the sheriff
and his grim procession coming for the prisoner. They streamed in and
gathered astonished about the bed. Dr. Barrère turned from where he
stood at the head, with a face which was like ashes--pallid, stern, the
nostrils dilating, the throat held high. He made a solemn gesture with
his hand towards the bed. “You come too late,” he said.

The men had come in almost silently, in the excitement of the moment
swelling the sombre circle to a little crowd. They thronged upon
each other and looked at him, lying there on the miserable prison
bed, in the light of the horrible grated windows, all awe-stricken
in a kind of grey consternation not knowing how to believe it; for
it was a thing unparalleled that one who was condemned should thus
give his executioner the slip. The whisper of the sheriff’s low voice
inquiring into the catastrophe broke the impression a little. “How did
it happen--how was it? Dead! But it seems impossible. Are you sure,
doctor, it is not a faint?”

The doctor waved his hand almost scornfully towards the still and rigid
form. “I foresaw it always; it is--as I thought it would be,” he said.

“His poor mother!” said the clergyman with a sort of habitual,
conventional lamentation, as if it could matter to that poor mother!
Dr. Barrère turned upon him quickly. “Go to them--tell them--it will
save them something,” he said with sudden eagerness. “You can do no
more here.”

“It seems impossible,” the sheriff repeated, turning again to the
bed. “Is there a glass to be had?--anything--hold it to his lips! Do
something, doctor. Have you tried all means? are you sure?” He had no
doubt; but astonishment, and the novelty of the situation, suggested
questions which really required no answer. He touched the dead hand and
shuddered. “It is extraordinary, most extraordinary,” he said.

“I warned you of the possibility from the beginning,” said Dr. Barrère;
“his heart was very weak. It is astonishing rather that he bore the
strain so long.” Then he added with that stern look, “It is better
that it should be so.”

The words were scarcely out of his lips when a sudden commotion was
heard as of some one hurrying along the stony passages, a sound of
voices and hasty steps. The door which, in view of the fatal ceremonial
about to take place, had been left open, was pushed quickly, loudly to
the wall, and an important personage, the Mayor of Poolborough, flushed
and full of excitement, hurried in. “Thank God,” he cried, wiping his
forehead, “thank God, it’s come in time! I knew they could not refuse
us. Here is the reprieve come at last.”

A cry, a murmur rose into the air from all the watchers. Who could
help it? The reprieve--at such a moment! This solemn mockery was more
than human nerves could bear. The warder who had been poor Jim’s chief
guardian broke forth into a sudden loud outburst, like a child’s, of
crying. The sheriff could not speak. He pointed silently to the bed.

But of all the bystanders none was moved like Dr. Barrère. He fell
backward as if he had received a blow, and gazed at the mayor
speechless, his under lip dropping, his face livid, heavy drops coming
out upon his brow. It was not till he was appealed to in the sudden
explanations that followed that the doctor came to himself. When he
was addressed he seemed to wake as from a dream, and answered with
difficulty; his lips parched, his throat dry, making convulsive efforts
to moisten his tongue, and enunciate the necessary words. “Heart
disease--feared all the time--” he said, as if he had partly lost that
faculty of speech. The mayor looked sharply at him, as if suspecting
something. What was it? intoxication? So early, and at such a time? But
Dr. Barrère seemed to have lost all interest in what was proceeding. He
cared nothing for their looks. He cared for nothing in the world. “I’m
of no further use here,” he said huskily, and went toward the door as
if he were blind, pushing against one and another. When he had reached
the door, however, he turned back. “The poor fellow,” he said, “the
poor--victim was to be given to his family after--. It was a favour
granted them. The removal was to be seen to--to-night; there is no
reason for departing from that arrangement, I suppose?”

The officials looked at each other, not knowing what to say, feeling
that in the unexpected catastrophe there was something which demanded
a change, yet unable on the spur of the moment to think what it was.
Then the mayor replied faltering, “I suppose so. It need not make any
change, do you think? The poor family--have enough to bear without,
vexing them with alterations. Since there can be--no doubt--” He paused
and looked, and shuddered. No doubt, oh, no doubt! The execution would
have been conducted with far less sensation. It was strange that such
a shivering of horror should overwhelm them to see him lying so still
upon that bed.

“Now I must go--to my rounds,” the doctor said. He went out, buttoning
up his coat to his throat, as if he were shivering too, though it was
a genial September morning, soft and warm. He went out from the dark
prison walls into the sunshine like a man dazed, passing the horrible
preparations on his way, the coffin! from which he shrank as if it had
been a monster. Dr. Barrère’s countenance was like that of a dead man.
He walked straight before him as if he were going somewhere; but he
went upon no rounds; his patients waited for him vainly. He walked and
walked till fatigue of the body produced a general stupor, aiding and
completing the strange collapse of the mind, and then mechanically, but
not till it was evening, he went home. His housekeeper, full of anxious
questions, was silenced by the look of his face, and had his dinner
placed hastily and silently upon the table, thinking the agitation of
the day had been too much for him. Dr. Barrère neither ate nor drank,
but he fell into a heavy and troubled sleep at the table, where he had
seated himself mechanically. It was late when he woke, and dark, and
for a moment there was a pause of bewilderment and confusion in his
mind. Then he rose, went to his desk and took some money out of it, and
his cheque-book. He took up an overcoat as he went through the hall.
He did not so much as hear the servant’s timid question as to when he
should return. When he should return!

After the body of poor Jim had been brought back to his mother’s house
and all was silent there, in that profound hush after an expected
calamity which is almost a relief, Agnes, not able to rest, wondering
in her misery why all that day her lover had not come near them, had
not sent any communication, but for the first time had abandoned them
in their sorrow, stood for a moment by the window in the hall to look
if, by any possibility, he might still be coming. He might have been
detained by some pressing call. He had neglected everything for Jim; he
might now be compelled to make up for it--who could tell? Some reason
there must be for his desertion. As she went to the window, which was
on a level with the street, it gave her a shock beyond expression to
see a pallid face close to it looking in--a miserable face, haggard,
with eyes that were bloodshot and red, while everything else was
the colour of clay--the colour of death. It was with difficulty she
restrained a scream. She opened the window softly and said:

“Arnold! you have come at last!” The figure outside shrank and
withdrew, then said, “Do not touch me--don’t look at me. I did it: to
save him the shame--”

“Arnold, come in, for God’s sake! Don’t speak so--Arnold--”

“Never, never more! I thought the reprieve would not come. I did it.
Oh, never, never more!”

“Arnold!” she cried, stretching out her hands. But he was gone. Opening
the door as quickly as her trembling would let her, the poor girl
looked out into the dark street, into the night: but there was no one
there.

Was it a dream, a vision, an illusion of exhausted nature, unable to
discern reality from imagination? No one ever knew; but from that
night Dr. Barrère was never seen more in Poolborough, nor did any of
those who had known him hear of him again. He disappeared as if he had
never been. And if that was the terrible explanation of it, or if the
sudden shock had maddened him, or if it was really he that Agnes saw,
no one can tell. But it was the last that was ever heard or seen of Dr.
Barrère.

  MARGARET OLIPHANT.



X

A WILL AND A WAY.


IT WAS in that pleasant season of the year when there is a ladder at
every apple-tree, and every man met on the road is driving with his
left hand and eating a red apple from his right. At this season, as
regularly as the year rolled round, old Carshena Hubblestone nearly
died of cramps, caused by gorging himself with apples that fell almost
into his mouth from the spreading boughs of fruit trees that fairly
roofed his low-built house. This was, as it were, Carshena’s one
dissipation. The apples cost him nothing, and his medical attention
after his bouts cost him nothing either, for he was the son of a
physician, and though his father was long since dead, the village
doctor would not render a bill.

“Crow don’t eat crow,” Dr. Michel answered, roughly, when Carshena
weakly asked him what he owed. The chance of thus roistering so cheaply
is not presented to every man, and reluctance to let such a bargain
pass was perhaps what helped to lend periodicity to the old man’s
attacks. Dr. Michel always held that this was his chief incentive, and,
be this as it might, it was very certain that apples and bargains were
the only two things on earth for which Carshena was ever known to show
a weakness, creditable or discreditable. Most small communities have
their rich men and their mean men, but in the village of Leonard the
two were one.

As the years passed on and Carshena’s head whitened, it naturally
grew to be a less and less easy task for Dr. Michel to bring his
patient back to the place where he had been before apples ripened.
If the situation had not tickled a spice of humor that lay under
the physician’s grim exterior he would have refused these autumnal
attentions. As it was he confined himself to futile warnings and
threats of non-attendance, but he always did obey the summons when it
came. The townsfolk of Leonard would all have taken the same humorous
view of this weakness of Carshena’s but for the trouble which it gave
his too-good sister Adelia--liked and pitied by every one. Adelia
nursed her brother in each attack with a tenderness and anxiety that
aggravated all the community. Nobody but his sister Adelia was ever
anxious over Carshena. It was, therefore, like a bolt from a clear sky
when, in this chronicled autumn, the following conversation took place
at the Hubblestones’ gate. Dr. Michel’s buggy was wheeling out to the
main road as Mr. Gowan, the town butcher, was about to drive through
the gateway.

“Well, doctor,” called the genial man of blood, a broad grin on his
round face, “how’s the patient?”

“He’s gone, sir,” said Dr. Michel, drawing rein. The butcher drew up
his horse sharply, his ruddy face changing so suddenly that the doctor
laughed outright.

“Gone!” echoed Mr. Gowan. “Not gone?”

“Yes, sir, as I warned him time and again he would go.”

The butcher shook his head and pursed his lips, the news slowly
penetrating his mind. “Well, I certainly would hate to die of eatin’
apples,” he said at last.

“I guess you’ll find you hate to die of anything, when the time comes,”
said the more experienced physician. “Carshena,” he added, “got nothing
he didn’t bring on himself, if that’s any comfort to him.”

“Don’t speak hard of the dead, doctor,” he urged. “We’ve all got to
follow him some day. He wasn’t a nice man in some ways, Carshena
wasn’t, but--”

“He was a nasty old man in most ways,” snapped the doctor.

“Don’t say such things now, doctor, don’t,” urged his companion. “Ain’t
he paid in his full price, whatever his sins was? Poor soul! he can’t
be worse’n dead.”

“Oh, yes, he can, and for one I believe he is,” interrupted the doctor.
His crisp white hair seemed to Mr. Gowan to curl tighter over his head
as he frowned with some thought he was nursing. “You haven’t seen the
will I had to witness this morning!” he burst out. “Just you wait a
little! Upon my soul! the more I think of it the madder I get! It’s out
of my bailiwick, but if I were a lawyer I’d walk right up now under
those old apple-trees yonder, and before that man was cold on his bed
I’d have his sister’s promise to break his old will into a thousand
splinters! Wait till you hear it. Good-morning.”

When the will was read and its contents announced, the town of Leonard,
including its butcher, took the doctor’s view to a man.

“A brute,” said Dr. Michel, hotly, “who has let his old sister work
her hands to the bone for him, and then turned her off like some old
worn-out horse, has, in my opinion, no right to a will at all. How
about setting this will aside in his sister’s interests, judge?”

A little convocation of the leading spirits of Leonard were met
together in Dr. Michel’s office to discuss the matter of Carshena’s
will, and what should be done with Adelia, cast on the charity of the
village. Judge Bowles, when appealed to, raised his mild blue eyes and
looked around the company.

“Adelia,” he said, “is the best sister I ever knew. Had the man no
shame?”

“Shame!” said the town’s barber, with a reminiscent chuckle; “why, he
came into my parlors one day and asked me if I’d cut the back of his
hair for twelve cents, and let him cut the front himself; and I did it,
for the joke of the thing! He saved thirteen cents that way.”

“Gentlemen, gentlemen!” demurred the judge; but amid the general
laughter the tax-gatherer’s voice rose:

“There isn’t a tax he didn’t fight. This town got nothing out of
Carshena Hubblestone that he could help paying; and now he leaves us
his relatives to support.”

Judge Bowles rose to his feet.

“Gentlemen,” he said, in mild but earnest rebuke, “the man is dead. We
all know what his character was without these distressing particulars.
It is entirely true that we owe him nothing, but a dead man is
defenceless, and his will is his will, and law is law. Did you ever
think what a solemn title a man’s last will is? It means just what it
says, gentlemen--his last will, his last wish and power of disposition
writ down on paper, concerning his own property. It’s a solemn thing to
break that.”

“A man’s no business having such a will and a disposition to write it
down on paper,” said the doctor. “What were the exact terms of the
will, judge?”

“Very simple,” said Judge Bowles, dryly. “The whole estate is to be
sold, and the entire proceeds, every cent realized, except what is
kept back for repairs and care, is to be applied to the purchase of
a suitable lot and the raising of a great monument over the mortal
remains of Carshena Hubblestone.”

“While his sister starves!” added Dr. Michel.

“Gee!” exclaimed the kindly butcher. He had heard all this before, but
thus repeated it seemed to strike him anew, as somehow it did all the
rest of the company. They sat looking at each other in silence, with
indrawings of the breath and compression of lips.

“There is this extenuating circumstance,” said the doctor, with
dangerous smoothness; “our lamented brother was aware that unless he
erected a monument to himself he might never enjoy one. We--the judge,
Mr. Gowan, and myself--are made sole executors under the will--without
pay. In Carshena’s life Adelia was his white slave. In his death,
doubtless, he felt he could trust her to make no protest. I wish you
could have seen her with him as I have, gentlemen. I shall call it a
shame upon us if we let her eat the bitter bread of our charity. She’s
been put upon and trodden down, but she’s still a proud woman in her
way, and we’ve got to save her from a bitter old age. We’ve got to do
it.”

“It’s the kind of thing that discourages one’s belief in humanity,”
said the judge, in a lowered tone. “This affair might be only absurd if
it weren’t for the sister’s share in it. As it is, it’s a revelation of
human selfishness that makes one heart-sick.”

Dr. Michel’s laugh rang out irreverently.

“It’s perfectly absurd, sister or no sister,” he said. “Nobody, not one
of us, loved Carshena in life--though I think now we didn’t hate him
half enough--and here in death he’s fixed it so the town’s got to pay
for his responsibilities while his money builds him a grand monument!
I call that about as absurd as you’ll get anywhere. I’ll grant you
it makes me downright sick at my stomach, judge, but it don’t touch
my heart. No, sir. Keep your organs separate, as I do, gentlemen.
There’s one thing certain”--he drew the eyes of his audience with
uplifted finger--”if we can’t outwit this will somehow, we’ll be the
laughing-stock of this whole county. I don’t care a snap of my finger
if Carshena has a monument as high as Haman’s gallows, if only his
sister is protected at the same time.”

“Well, short of breaking the will, what would you suggest, doctor?”
asked Judge Bowles, with a little stiffness. He had not liked the
familiar discourse on his organs, but the doctor did not care. The
judge was ruffled at last, which was exactly what he desired.

“Suggest?” he cried, laughing. “I don’t know; but I know there never
was a will written that couldn’t be driven through with a coach and six
if the right man sits on the box. You’re the lawyer, judge.”

The judge was a lawyer, as he then and there proceeded to prove. He
rose to his feet and spoke in his old-fashioned style:

“Gentlemen, I think I speak for this company when I say that we
strongly object to the breaking of this will as a bad precedent
in the community. We wish it carried out to the very letter. Our
fellow-townsman knew his sister’s needs better than we, and he chose to
leave her needy. There are many, many things this town sorely wants, as
he also knew, but he chose to use his money otherwise. What a monument
to him it would have been had he built us the new school-house our
town requires! The wet south lot down by the old mill is an eyesore
to the village. Had he used that land and drained it and set up a
school-house there, or indeed any public building, what a different
meeting this would have been! He was our only man of wealth, and he
leaves not so much as a town clock to thank him for. No; a monument to
_himself_ is what his will calls for, and a monument he shall have.
If we failed him here, which of us would feel sure that our own wills
would be carried out? In the confidence of these four walls we can say
that the difficulties of the inscription and the style of monument seem
insuperable. I know but one man to whom I would intrust this delicate
commission. I feel confident that he would not render us too absurd by
too conspicuous a monument or too florid an inscription. Need I name
Dr. Michel?”

“Out of my bailiwick,” cried the doctor--”’way out of my bailiwick.”
But his voice was drowned in the confusion of the popular acclaim that
was forming him into a committee of one. The kindly butcher made his
way to the doctor’s side under cover of the noise.

“Take it, doctor; now do take it,” he whispered in his ear. “There
ain’t a man in the town that can shave this pig if you can’t. I was
sayin’ just yesterday you’re lost in this little place of ourn. You’ve
got more sense than’s often called for here. Here’s the chance for you
to show ‘em what you can do. Do take it.”

The physician looked at the wheedling little butcher with a glance from
his blue eye that was half kindly, half irritated. “Well, I’ll take
it,” he cried; “I’ll take it; and I thank you for your confidence,
gentlemen.”

It was a full month before the little company met again in the doctor’s
office, but during that period they knew Dr. Michel had not been idle
in the matter intrusted to his care. He was seen in close conversation
with the town’s first masons, the best carpenters, the local architect,
and these worthies, under close and eager examination, gave answers
that dashed the unspoken hopes of those who questioned. Here were
_bona fide_ bids asked for on so much masonry, so much carpentering,
and the architect had been ordered to send in designs of monuments,
how high he deemed it unprofessional to state; but arguing inversely,
they judged by the length of his countenance that the measurements were
not short--he had particularly hated Carshena. It was, for all these
reasons, a rather anxious-looking company that met in Dr. Michel’s
office at his summons, and the doctor’s own face was not reassuring as
he opened the meeting.

“Well, gentlemen,” he said, slowly, “it’s a thankless task you’ve given
me, but such as it is, I hope you will find I have performed it to your
satisfaction. Here are various plans for the monument to be erected to
our late fellow-citizen, and here is a plan of the ground that it has
seemed to me most suitable to purchase. It has been a task peculiarly
uncongenial to me, because I, I suppose, know more than any of you here
how this money is needed where it ought to have gone. I saw Adelia
yesterday, and lonely and ghost-ridden as that old house would be to
any of us, it’s a home to her that’s to be sold over her head to build
this.” He laid his hand on the papers he had thrown down on the table
before him. The little company looked silently at each other, with
faces as downcast as if they were to blame. It was Judge Bowles who
spoke first.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “we must not let ourselves feel too responsible
in this matter. We are only following our plain duty. Show us the
monument which you consider best, doctor.”

The doctor was silently turning over the papers. “Family feeling is a
queer thing,” he said, meditatively. “I saw Adelia the other day, and I
asked her if she wanted a neighbor to sleep in the house at night.

“’There’s nothing here for robbers to take, Dr. Michel,’ she said;
‘and if it’s ghosts you think I’m afraid of, I only wish from my heart
ghosts would come back to visit me. Everybody of my blood is dead.’”

“It’s very pitiful,” said Judge Bowles, slowly.

The doctor turned on him instantly. “Do you seem to feel now that you
could countenance breaking the will, judge?”

“No,” said the judge, shortly, as one who whistles to keep his courage
up.

The doctor’s fingers drummed on the table as he paused thoughtfully.

“Carshena,” he said, “if you can believe me, measured out the kerosene
oil he allowed for each week on Monday; and when it gave out they
went to bed at dusk, if it gave out on Friday night. But one thing
Adelia did manage to do. So long as a drop of oil was in the measure a
light stood in a window that lit up the ugly turn in the county road
round the corner of their house. I know her light saved me from a bad
collision once; some of you also, perhaps. She’s kept that little lamp
so clean it always shone like a jewel up there. The window-pane it
shone through had never a speck on it either. That’s what I call public
spirit. And it’s public spirit, too, that makes her keep sweet-smelling
flowers growing on the top of the old road wall. In summer I always
drive past there slowly to enjoy them. When she comes on the charity
of the town she may console herself by remembering these things. She
did what she could (in spite of Carshena), and nobody can do more. Here
are the plans for his monument, gentlemen. I would like to have your
vote on them.”

The little company, as if glad to move, drew about the table as the
doctor opened out the plans in a row. The butcher, whose ruddy face
looked dim in his disappointment, and whose despondent chin hung down
on his white shirt bosom, picked up one of the designs gingerly and
examined it.

“Are they all alike, doctor?” he asked.

Judge Bowles looked over Mr. Gowan’s shoulder.

“Each design seems to be a hollow shaft of some kind, with a round
opening at the top,” he said, and looked inquiringly over his glasses
at the doctor, who nodded assent.

“They are all hollow. You seem to get more for your money so. The round
opening at the top of the shaft can be filled with anything we choose
later. I might suggest a crystal with the virtues of the deceased
inscribed on it. Then, if we keep a light burning behind the glass at
night, those virtues will shine before us by night and by day.”

Judge Bowles lifted his eyes quickly. The doctor’s face was
unpleasantly satiric, and his blue eyes looked out angrily from under
his curling white hair. Judge Bowles sat down, leaning back heavily in
his chair, his perplexed eyes still on Dr. Michel’s frowning brow. Mr.
Gowan, with a look as near anger as he could achieve, moved to a seat
behind the stove. His idol was failing him utterly. He felt he himself
could have done better than this. Dr. Michel’s roving eyes glanced
round the circle of dissatisfied and dismayed faces, and then for the
first time he seemed to break from his indifference:

“This is all very well, gentlemen--very well indeed. The facts are,
you gave me a commission, and bound me to fulfill it strictly and
to the letter, and now you are dissatisfied because I have followed
your wishes. What did you expect? If you had left the matter to me
without restrictions, I should certainly have tried to break the will,
as I told you. Briefly, here is my report. We shall have about twenty
thousand dollars all told to invest in a monument over our lamented
brother. Any one of these hollow masonry structures here will cost
about ten thousand dollars. As to the purchase of a suitable lot,
which the will directs, I think even Carshena would declare it a good
bargain to pay nothing whatever for the land, and that I can arrange,
I believe. I have good reason to suppose”--he began to speak very
slowly--”that the town would, without price, allow us to erect this
monument on that unsightly bit of wet land to the south, near the old
mill, if we in turn will agree to drain the grounds, keep them in good
order, plant flowers and shrubbery, and further promise to keep a light
burning all night in an opening at the top of the monument. I spoke
of a crystal set in that opening, with the virtues of the deceased
inscribed upon it, but we can, if we choose, carve those same virtues
in the more imperishable stone below, and print something else--a clock
face perhaps--on the crystal above. That’s a mere minor detail.”

Judge Bowles, whose gaze had been growing more and more bewildered, now
started in his chair and sat suddenly upright. He stared at the doctor
uncertainly. The doctor cast a quick look at him, and went on rapidly:

“If you will allow me, I’ll make my report quickly, and leave it with
you. I have a great deal to do this morning in other directions. It has
occurred to me that as the base of the monument is to be square and
hollow, it would be easy to fit it into a comfortable living-room, with
one, or perhaps two, small rooms built about it. I have not mentioned
this to the architect, but I know it can be done. The will especially
directs that repairs and care be allowed for.” The doctor was talking
rapidly now. “The monument will not cost more than ten thousand, the
clock about two. Twelve thousand from twenty thousand leaves eight
thousand. The yearly interest on eight thousand and the fact that we
could offer free residence in the monument should let us engage a
reliable resident keeper, who would give the time and attention that
such a monument and such a park would need.”

The doctor paused, and again looked about him.

The whole circle of faces looked back at him curiously--some
with a puzzled gaze, but several, including Judge Bowles, with a
half-fascinated, half-dismayed air. Mr. Gowan alone preserved his look
of utter hopelessness.

“Who’d take a job like that?” he said, gloomily. “I wouldn’t, for one,
live in a vault with Carshena, dead or alive.”

“Oh, the grave could be outside, and the monument as a kind of monster
head-stone,” said the doctor pleasantly. “My idea was to have the grave
well outside. Four or five hundred and a home isn’t much to offer a
man, gentlemen, but I happen to know a very respectable elderly woman
who would, it seems to me, suit us exactly as well as a man. In fact,
I think it would considerably add to the picturesque features of our
little town park to have a resident female keeper. I think I see
her now, sitting in the summer sunshine at the door of this unique
head-stone monument, or in winter independently luxuriating in its warm
and hospitable shelter. I see her winding the clock, affectionately
keeping the grave like a gorgeous flower-bed, caring for the shrubbery,
burnishing the clock lamp till it shines like a jewel, as she well
knows how to do, and best of all in her case, gentlemen, I happen to
know from her own lips that she has no fear of ghosts. Why, gentlemen,
what’s the matter? I protest, gentlemen.”

At that moment Mr. Gowan might be said to be the doctor’s only
audience. The rest of the company were engaged in whispering to each
other, or speechlessly giving themselves over to suppressed and unholy
glee. Judge Bowles was openly wiping his eyes and shaking in his chair.
Dr. Michel looked around the circle with resentful surprise.

“You seem amused, gentlemen!” he said, with dignity; and then
addressing himself to Mr. Gowan exclusively, as if that gentleman alone
were worthy to be his listener, “Would you object to a woman as keeper,
Mr. Gowan?”

“What’s her name?” asked the butcher.

A roar of laughter, not to be long suppressed, drowned his words.
Mr. Gowan looked about the shaken circle, stared for a moment, then
suddenly, as comprehension, like a breaking dawn, spread over his round
face, he brought his hand down hard on his fat knee.

“Well, doctor,” he roared, in admiration too deep for laughter, “if you
ain’t the dawgornest!”

The doctor’s wiry hair seemed to rise and spread as wings, his eyes
snapped and twinkled, his mouth puckered. “Will some one embody this
in the form of a motion?” he asked, gravely. The judge dried his eyes,
and, with difficulty, rose to his feet.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “I move that we build this monument with a base
large enough for a suite of rooms inside; that we set this structure
on the lot which our good doctor has chosen; that we ornament it with
an illuminated clock at the top; and further, that--that this female
keeper be appointed.”

“Seconded, by Harry!” roared Mr. Gowan.

The doctor, with his hands on his hips, his body thrown far back,
looked with the eye of a conqueror over the assembly. “Those in favor
of the motion will please say Aye; those opposed No. It seems to be
carried! it is carried,” he recited in one rapid breath.

“Amen!” endorsed Mr. Gowan, fervently.

And this warm approval of their butcher was in the end echoed as
cordially by the most pious citizens of Leonard. After the first shock
of their surprise was over, natural misgivings were lost in enjoyment
of the grim humor of this very practical jest of their good doctor’s,
that visitors now actually stop over a train to see. Many a village has
its park, and many a one its illuminated clock; it was left for Leonard
to have in its park a grave kept like a gorgeous flower-bed, and at
the grave’s head a towering monument that is at once a tombstone, an
illuminated clock and a residence.

Who the next keeper may be it is one of the amusements of Leonard to
imagine. The present keeper is a happy old woman, whose fellow-citizens
like nothing better than to see her winding the clock, caring for the
flowers, burnishing the town lamp; in summer sitting in the sunshine at
the door of the head-stone monument, in winter luxuriating in that warm
and independent shelter.

“I feel as if Carshena knew just what was best for me, after all,
doctor,” she said to her physician, in his first call upon her in her
new home; and that worthy, with a nod of his white head, assented in
the readiest manner.

“Doubtless, madam, doubtless,” he said, “Carshena had all this in
mind when he made me his executor. Didn’t you, Carshena?” He winked
his eye genially at the grave as he passed out, and with no shade of
uncertainty or repentance in his mind, climbed into his buggy and went
on his satisfied way.

  MARGARET SUTTON BRISCOE.



XI

DOCTOR ARMSTRONG.


I.

COLVIN ARMSTRONG tried to take up his pen with an air of happiness and
relief, for it was the last chapter of his great work which he was
about to commence. But the effort failed, and he leaned back in his
chair, thoroughly tired out--too jaded to be brisk or energetic.

It was not his professional work that tired him. A London surgeon, with
a magnificent reputation, he had more than enough to do; but he was
only forty, and his constitution was of iron. Work agreed with him: it
was Thought that utterly prostrated him at times. No sooner was his
last engagement fulfilled, or his last patient despatched, than he
retired to his library and gave himself up to the great psychological
problem that racked his brains. Night brought a short relief: he slept
from twelve till six; but morning renewed his wrestlings, and it was
only the necessity of attending to his surgery that freed him from the
incessant train of thought. Would that his head were as cool as his
strong, firm hands!

It was the Mystery of Human Pain that was haunting him. Until two years
back he had never given such questions a thought, but then the problem
began to force itself upon him. How was it that so many suffered a
living martyrdom, whilst he himself never knew a moment’s pain? How
was it that, having no personal knowledge of pain, he nevertheless
felt such an overpowering sympathy with those who suffered, and had
such an instinctive inborn gift of giving relief? And then the larger,
less personal questions: Was there any guiding hand allotting pain to
innocent mortals? Were they really innocent? If there was design in
it all, from whom came the design, and what was its purpose? Was it
for good, or evil, or both? If no Providence guided humanity, what was
the origin of pain? Why was it allowed to be? And so on, in an endless
train of thought, one problem suggesting ten others, till the subject
broadened out to the doors of Eternity itself, and the mind reeled
before its own imaginings.

[Illustration: _VACCINATING THE BABY_]

Armstrong flew to his books for assistance, and primed himself with the
ideas of the metaphysicians; but he was not satisfied, and a strong
impulse led him to try his own hand at solving the mystery. Gradually,
after much hard reading and thinking, he evolved a theory which, though
far from satisfactory, seemed ampler and better than the ideas of the
old philosophers; and then, slowly and laboriously, he committed it to
paper. As the work grew, he became more convinced of the truth which
seemed to lurk in his views, the foundation of real discovery on which
his theses were based. Something of his marvellous insight into disease
and distortion seemed to have entered into the book, and he was eager
to give it to the world.

So this was the last chapter! By Jove! how hot and close the room
was! It was annoying to feel so dull and listless, but there was
some excuse: nine o’clock at night is not a time when a man is at
his freshest, and there was nothing so wearing as this closely woven
intellectual work, where every thread had to be followed to its end,
every detail thought out, every possible ramification explored, and
the mind kept at its highest tension throughout, straining to cover
the whole ground and to order in logical sequence its myriad elusive
thoughts. Difficult? Why, there was nothing to compare to it! But what
was the good of magnifying troubles? Here was the final chapter, the
conclusion which was to be so masterly, already mapped out in his mind,
only waiting to be transferred to paper. Armstrong wiped his damp
forehead, and seized the pen. The room was lit as he liked it, with
only a lamp casting a subdued light on his desk; the rest in deepest
gloom. Now was the time to begin. But he was terribly tired.

       *       *       *       *       *

Kr-rk!

Armstrong leaned back in his chair, and pressed his hand to his head.
Something inside seemed to have broken with a snap, or a tiny shutter
had fallen away, as in a camera, revealing a hidden lens in his brain.
His head was clearer and freer, as if some clogging veil had suddenly
been removed, and before his eyes there burned a new light, steady and
cold, but brilliant. A cooler, purer air filled the room. The present
melted away from his vision. * * * * *

Far away--so far that everything was dwarfed, but yet as distinct in
every detail as though it had been close at hand--Armstrong saw a
vision.

A dark underground dungeon, with damp standing in beads on its bare
stone walls; a man, bound, gagged, and helpless; another, black-masked
and sullen of movement; a third, seated on a small platform, with
his face in shadow. A feeble hanging lamp, swaying to and fro in the
draughts of the cell, was the only illumination.

The vision came nearer and nearer, and grew larger as it came, until it
reached Armstrong and filled his room, and he felt the dank breath of
the dungeon stir his hair. He looked again: the masked man was at his
elbow, the man on the dais was above him--unrecognisable in the shadow,
but smiling gently; that much he could see. Then he looked at the
third man, the prisoner; and a thrill of dread went through him, for
he recognised himself,--in old-world, long-forgotten garb, but still
himself. And then the whole grew real, with a deadly reality; he was no
more a mere spectator, but a part of the vision, and the vision was a
part of his own existence. The chill of the room fell on his spirit,
filling him with vague, horrible forebodings: the present mingled with
the past, and his spirit passed into the limp, helpless figure on the
rack. He--he himself, and none other--was the victim in the torture
chamber, and the world was black around him.

There was a clank of steel on the floor, as though little instruments
had been dropped, and then a sudden sharp pang struck him from an
unseen source. Another, another, and yet another,--a very multitude of
keen stabbing pangs. In uncontrollable agony he raised his voice to
shout with pain, but the gag stopped him, choked him, throttled his
curses. And the dark figure smiled from above.

Then came hot, burning, throbbing pains that shot through him, turning
the blood in his veins to fire, and gnawing his vitals till they
consumed away. He tried to turn, to roll, to ease himself in any way;
but he was bound and rigid and helpless, and his efforts only increased
the torture. And still the figure sat motionless above him. He turned
his streaming eyes upwards in mute appeal, and his answer was a smile.

Then the sharp pains and the burning misery ceased for a while, and
his aching limbs rested, and all seemed over. But the presiding fiend
waved a silent signal, and worse came--stretching, straining torture,
that nearly pulled the wretched frame asunder (well if it had!), and
dull grinding agonies, worse than the sharper pains, more cruel and
relentless than the stabs or blows or thrusts.

And then the worst of all--the whole in combination. Crushing,
grinding, distorting, straining, breaking, bending, blinding, burning,
flaying, racking, stabbing--more than the mind can picture or words
describe--in turn and together, and all the more horrible, coming
unseen and sudden and unawares. Crush and rack and burn and grind, till
the brain was on fire and the body groaning under its burdens; till
the face was furrowed with tears of agony, the whole frame shapeless
and broken, limbs useless, muscles tortured, twisted and crushed,
nerves shattered, and the spirit within flaming with miserable,
hopeless hate. Madness? No; that had come in the first silent moments
of fear and pain, but the cruel hand had driven it away, and now there
was only PAIN--deep, unfathomable Pain.

Then came a low whisper, the cool breath of Death waiting softly
outside the chamber, and the wounded soul fluttered for a moment in
joyous answer. But the human fiend above knew it, and the torture
stopped. Sore, blistered, broken, and useless, he was flung aside to
endure still longer in his misery, and Death turned sighing away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Armstrong sprang from his chair with curses on his tongue and fury in
his heart, and grasped convulsively at the retreating vision. But it
was far, far off, and melting slowly into air.

Then a great calm fell upon him, and he knew what he had seen. It was
a scene from a former life--his last existence--and it was vouchsafed
to him as a lesson, a glimpse of the everlasting order of life. The
inspiration of a great Message glowed on his brow and in his soul. And
this was the Message which he read, clear as the words of a seer:--

“For inasmuch as thou hast suffered pain and bitterness of spirit in
the past, so shalt thou now know freedom from such; and to thee it
shall be given, by thy past sufferings, to discern and make lighter the
grievous burdens of thy fellow-men. And the pain that thou hast felt
in thy veins shall give thee understanding above all others, that thou
mayest cure man’s infirmities and heal the sick of his house.”


II.

The light of a great revelation dazzled Armstrong for a while, but
he rose from it with renewed strength and hope and courage, resolved
to devote himself more than ever to the healing art. And first
he destroyed his manuscript, for his theories were shattered and
forgotten. The mystery of human pain was still unsolved; but was it
for him to solve it? Providence had given him another mission,--to
heal and cure. And Providence had given him the clue to one mystery,
at all events--his own great sympathy with sufferers and insight into
suffering. Sometimes he wondered whether another revelation would
follow; but none came, and he pursued his usual career, doing good
and working hard. The idle speculations, the restless quest of secret
things, which had haunted him and wearied him before, were now of the
past, and he lived for work alone.

But more was to come--unexpectedly and without warning.

It was an ordinary case he was treating: brain surgery. The man,
a wretched creature, suffered severely, and was in a broken state
of health; Armstrong had traced it to brain pressure, and saw his
way easily to put things right by a cerebral operation. He was just
concluding an examination, and the patient lay quietly in the great
chair, soothed by a slight injection of morphia. Armstrong turned away
to get a light--it was five o’clock on an autumn day, just beginning
to grow dark--when suddenly there came that strange grating “Kr-rk” in
his head, and he felt the room whirl around him. He clutched hard at
a table near him, but it receded from his grasp and he felt himself
falling down, down, down in giddy helplessness. Then the movement
stopped, and he felt, as before, that some weight had been lifted from
his brain, and a new, unused sense developed in him. But this time
there was no clear light, no pure air, no vision.

What was coming? Something, he felt, was in store--some strange,
new revelation--and he waited eagerly. As the prophets of old were
inspired, so light had come to him, and now perhaps he would learn one
more secret of the troubled world.

But nothing came; all was blank darkness around him, and an uneasy
sense of foreboding stole slowly over him, till his hand shook and his
face grew damp with cold sweat.

What was that? A far-off mocking laugh? And * * * O God in heaven! Not
_that_ again! Not _that_!

He tried to call again, for pangs worse than of death were racking
him; but something cold was thrust into his mouth and choked him. And
then his eyes, shut tight in the clenched agony of pain, opened again,
and he saw the streaming dungeon walls, the swaying lamp, the masked
torturer, and the grim shadow-figure seated motionless on the dais
above him; and his heart sank within him, and he turned sick and faint.

For one brief moment the masked man turned away--to heat his irons,
perhaps, or rest his arms, weary of their heavy work--and all
Armstrong’s spirit went up in one short, agonised, burning prayer, in
one deep, strenuous remonstrance.

“I have felt it before,” he cried. “I have endured it before, and I
know its meaning. Must I go through all again? Have I failed in my
duty? Save me from pain and madness before it is too late! O God of
cruelty, Pain-giver, merciless, wicked, infernal, save me, save me,
preserve me!”

His words, stifled by the gag, reached no human ear; but in the cell a
new presence was lurking, and on his face fell a hot, quick breath.

A voice spoke in his ear, very soft and gentle and low.

“You blaspheme in vain,” it said; “God has not sent you this vision,
but _I_.”


III.

The torture was over, and Armstrong waited quietly for the moment of
restoration to the world; but it did not come, and a new fear seized
him. What if he never recovered from this state? As the Powers of
Good had vouchsafed him the first vision, so the Powers of Evil had
mocked him with the second--the same as the first, but infinitely
more terrible, for through the former a subtle strength of will had
sustained him, and he had emerged from it wiser, happier, and stronger,
whilst now he felt himself deserted and unaided, and * * * Heavens
above! What would come next? The physical torture was over, but now his
mind was on the rack, and it was worse, far worse!

The two grim figures remained in the cell, motionless as statues. A
strange detachment of mind, a mystic duality of self, was torturing
Armstrong. Here he felt the pangs and achings of the most terrible
pain; yet at the same time he knew that it was all unreal, and his
thoughts turned to the world above--his work, his house, his friends,
the very patient in his chair, waiting and wondering. Somewhere between
the two lay madness, and his spirit cried for peace--a world all
vision, or a world all reality--anything but this perplexing, torturing
union of the two.

Quick as thought came the answer. “Look around before you go.”

It was the soft voice he had heard before--gentle, but insistent. But
he had seen too much of that hateful cell, and he closed his eyes in
tight resistance.

“Look around,” said the voice, even more gently than before.

A shuddering fear seized Armstrong.

The spirit read his thoughts. “You are afraid: you dare not look at
_me_. But you shall not see me. Look!”

He put his hand to his head and covered his eyes with a convulsive
movement.

“Listen!” said the voice. “You have not even seen your enemy. Would you
not know him?”

A cold sickness fell on Armstrong’s spirit, and he shuddered. Why see
the monster who had tortured him, the human fiend who could be nothing
other than repulsive?

Then the voice spoke again, more gently than before.

“Listen! I am the God of Evil, but I befriend you. I pass my hand along
your frame, and the pain leaves you. I touch your eyes with my fingers,
and they open. Look around!”

Armstrong rose, sound and strong. The dungeon was dark, but in its
recesses he could see two cowering figures, striving to hide themselves
from his eyes. One was the masked man; one was the director, the
inquisitor, the author of all his misery.

“See how he hides from you,” whispered the voice. “But you shall not be
denied. TURN!”

The sudden thunder of that last word echoed through the vault, and then
there came a short, sharp, double flash of blinding light. The first
flash showed a crouching, cowering figure in the background, with pale,
set face, and cruel eyes; the second struck Armstrong full in the face
and felled him to the ground.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dazed and frightened, as after a hideous nightmare, he pulled himself
together. The match he had taken up was still in his hand, and he
turned back, mastering himself with a great effort, to his patient.

He lighted the big burner and turned it full on the chair. The man,
roused from the lethargy of morphia, slowly opened his eyes.

Armstrong staggered back, stifling the cry of horror that rose to his
lips; for in that one glance he saw, clear and unmistakable, the face
of his torturer--reincarnated, but still the same.


IV.

Armstrong turned aside to hide his excitement. After all, then, the
vision had not been in vain: it was the complement of the first; and
now all was clear. The Mystery of Human Pain! His own great book on the
subject! He laughed aloud. All that thought and time and labour had
been wasted, and here was the truth, shown to him in a dream--the truth
that all the world should know. A strange exaltation filled his spirit.

“_I_ suffered pain, and now I reap my reward--strong, happy, a healer
of wounds, myself knowing no suffering. _He_ inflicted pain and
torture, and now he suffers for it.”

The patient in the chair moved uneasily and groaned. Armstrong went on:
“A righteous Judge rewards me for what I have undergone, and scourges
him for the evil he has wrought.”

“The Lord have Mercy on his Soul!”

It was a deep voice that spoke, the words booming and reverberating
like the notes of heavy bells. It touched a new chord in Armstrong’s
mind, and sent the blood throbbing and pulsing through his head. “The
Lord have mercy on his soul!” Why? What mercy had _he_ had for others?
And with that the fury of hate returned to him and surged through his
veins, till he felt himself more demon than man. Every pang, every
pain, every racking agony that he had suffered in those two terrible
visions, returned to him threefold, burned into his soul, branded on
every limb and sinew. Curse him with the curse of the martyr, and blast
him with the breath of his iniquities!

And then a cold, unnatural calm fell upon Armstrong, and his quivering
hands grew steady and cunning as before.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was all so easy! The man lay there, half conscious--with enough
sensation left to feel every torture inflicted on him, but yet unable
to speak or groan. It was a carefully managed anæsthetic, administered
just sufficiently to glaze the eyes and paralyze the tongue, but no
more. And the brain lay so near at hand!

The mad fury of revenge had left Armstrong, and he was cold, scientific
and deliberate--no movement hurried, no torment left untried, and all
done with the mechanical, even touch of the skilled workman. A pang for
a pang, a stab for a stab, a scald for a scald; Armstrong remembered
each pain he had endured, and paid it back threefold. On the subtle
mechanism of the head he played as on a keyed instrument, sending hot,
shooting pains, and dull, numbing clutches, to the remotest parts of
the wretched frame.

All the poor worn nerves centered within his grasp, and to his eyes
they were visible throughout their hidden course, coming to one common
end, where he grasped them as with a handle, and turned and ground
and twisted and crushed, till they stretched, strained, groaned and
quivered under his racking touch. He hissed taunting words in his
ears--words that he knew could not be answered; he mocked at the
helpless agony. And all the while he watched the blue lips, striving to
curse and moan, but bound by the hellish drug as with a gag; and the
bloodshot, straining eyes, too fixed even to appeal; and the dumb agony
of the whole wretched form. And a grim, silent laughter shook him.

But it could not last forever: his hand wearied, and his head reeled.
He fell to the ground in a swoon. * * *

Bells were ringing--light, airy, joyous bells; and he roused himself.
The bells grew slower, fainter--died out altogether--and in their place
a voice was in his ears, very soft and low. What was it saying? It was
so faint, so indistinct * * *

“On _your_ soul may the Lord have mercy!”

Armstrong rose as from a dream. In the chair lay a shape, not mangled,
indeed, but pale-faced, shrunken, distorted, horrible. He bent his head
down and listened to the heart; there were two feeble beats, a faint
flicker, and then it stopped.

There was a strange catch in the surgeon’s breath. The room was hot and
close; he pushed the curtains back, and looked out. It was night now--a
deep blue sky, studded with a myriad stars. And one star shot upwards
in a blaze of silver light.

Armstrong turned away, breathing heavily. There was the body still, and
there were the little instruments he had used.

The present did not stir him, gave him no thought; but the knowledge of
the future was upon him, and he groaned aloud in the new-born agony of
his soul. For he knew what he had done: it was his chance, and he had
missed it; it was his trial, his ordeal, and he had failed * * * And in
the next life on earth his torture would be longer and harder to bear.
The Lord would have no mercy on his soul.

  D. L. B. S.


XII

DR. WYGRAM’S SON.


CHAPTER I.


WHEN I met Dr. Clarence Wygram a few weeks ago, I had not seen him
for nearly fifteen years. We were boys at school together, and fast
friends at that time, but our intercourse since then has been very
intermittent. Since he lost his wife in Southern Italy, many years
ago, much of his life has been spent abroad, and, though he is to be
seen in London at intervals, I seldom catch a glimpse of him. We do
not belong to the same set in town, and as, being possessed of an
ample fortune, he has never engaged in practice as a physician, his
wandering and unoccupied life is little akin to my own. We do, however,
meet occasionally by accident, when we talk over old times, vow to see
more of each other in the future, and then part for--perhaps, other
ten years. Such acquaintanceships as this of Wygram and myself are the
most unsatisfactory of all--they can scarcely be called friendships.
Life, in my opinion, is too brief for such unfrequent greetings. It
is important, however, that I recall, for a moment, this penultimate
meeting with my old friend. It happened long ago, but the circumstances
are still fresh in my memory. As I have said, this was our last meeting
but one, and the date some fifteen years ago.

I was about to travel to the North by the night mail, and accidentally
stumbled against Dr. Wygram on the crowded platform at Euston. He is
always pleased to be facetious, when we do chance to see each other,
in regard to our mutually altered appearance since our last meeting,
and predicts, in jocular fashion, that, ere long, we shall certainly
pass without recognition on either side. There is some truth in what he
says, yet, to judge by my friend’s careworn and haggard appearance on
this occasion, I should say he was aging somewhat faster than myself.

It seemed that we were to be fellow-travellers. He also was going
north, though not so far as myself, and I willingly shared a
compartment, which he had already secured for himself and his son, a
stripling youth, apparently about fourteen. The latter was returning to
school after the Easter Holidays, and his father (who, by the way, is
not above the Cockney weakness of calling every big school a college)
was accompanying him on the journey. I remember that, for the first
hour or two, we had enough of conversation to beguile the time. Wygram
had, of course, been abroad--I forget where, or for how long, but we
were quite agreed--we always are, on this point--to view the simple
fact of his absence as being a perfectly sufficient and satisfactory
explanation of the time that has elapsed since our last meeting,
however long that interval may be. After that, our conversation began
to languish. Our old friendship notwithstanding, we have really very
little in common. Having spent a somewhat fatiguing day, I felt
disposed to doze, and I believe that I ultimately slept.

When I awoke, with a start, we were travelling at a high rate of speed.
On the seat directly opposite to mine reclined my young travelling
companion, apparently asleep, the lamplight falling full upon his
upturned face. He seemed to all appearance not very robust; I think
his father had hinted as much to me on the platform before we started.
The boy’s sleep was a somewhat restless one, and he shifted his
position uneasily, as, ever and anon, the oscillation of the carriage
half aroused him. As, only half awake myself, I sat drowsily watching
him, I suddenly became aware that his father, who was looking over
some papers by the aid of a reading lamp at the farther end of the
compartment, seemed to wish, by a sign that he made, that I should join
him. The thought struck me at the time, that perhaps he desired some
conversation with me while his son was not a listener. I accordingly
shifted my travelling rugs, and took a seat opposite to that of my old
friend.

The impression, on my part, that he did not wish the boy to overhear
what he said was partly confirmed when my companion began the
conversation in tones so low as to be barely audible above the rattle
of the train. But I confess that I was somewhat unprepared for the
substance of his communication, even when I did catch his meaning. At
first, what he said was almost unintelligible to me, but at length
I contrived to gather, from what he told me, that some trouble
(affliction, I think, was the word he used) had lately overtaken
him, and he seemed, though indirectly, to appeal to me for sympathy
under his trial. The appeal, however, was entirely indirect, as
no particulars were afforded--at least, if they were, I failed to
understand their meaning. Under these circumstances, I was about to
inquire, as delicately as I could, what the nature of his difficulty
might be, when I chanced to notice that, as he spoke, his eyes would
every now and then wander from looking in my face, and turn, as it
were unconsciously, in the direction of his boy, not apprehensively,
or as if he were afraid of him as a listener, but gently and tenderly,
as if in deep solicitude on his account. This being the case, I
forebore to press the father with questions which might be considered
intrusive. The trouble to which he alluded was perhaps connected with
the lad’s future, perhaps with something else concerning him, anyhow
the secret, whatever it was, seemed to lie in that, or in some other
equally delicate quarter, for Dr. Wygram did not give me any explicit
details--rather avoided doing so, with a reticence quite unlike his
customary frankness. But he had a favour to ask of me. It came to that,
in the end.

“You know,” he said appealingly, “you are my oldest friend--almost my
only friend now, for my wandering life does not gain me new ones, and I
beg you, most earnestly, to aid me, to help me, in this trouble--” Here
he paused as if about to make some disclosure, then, checking himself,
“to counsel me, when I ask you, at a future time.”

Of course, my somewhat pardonable curiosity had no further excuse,
but I murmured that I would be very glad if, at any time, I could be
of service to him. I added that our old friendship justified such
a claim on his part, and that, for my own, I would gladly meet it,
when necessary. I confess I thought that the reserve accompanying his
request was somewhat singular.

“Ah, but promise! promise to me!” (he repeated the word with such
passionate emphasis as to startle me); “promise that if I write you at
any time and ask you to come to my help, you will do it--wherever I may
be.”

This last clause of his request was a tolerably comprehensive one,
as, from the doctor’s well-known migratory habits, the summons might
possibly be indited from Mongolia, or the farthest recesses of
Crim-Tartary. But to pacify him, for I saw that my old friend was
strangely perturbed, I said that I would do what he wished, at any
time, if I could; which latter clause covered the aforesaid difficulty
so far. He seemed relieved by my assurance. His manner grew calmer.

“I cannot tell you more just at present,” he said (this with a glance
at the boy), “except that I am in sore trouble, from which, at another
time, not now, the counsel of a friend may relieve me. It concerns one
near and dear to me” (ah! then the secret did lie there), “and you
are the only one I could trust. Perhaps, in time, my trouble may be
dissipated” (this with a hopeless, sickly smile), “and then you will be
glad I have not bored you with it, but if not, and if I seek fulfilment
of your promise, remember!” With which words he abruptly broke off the
conversation.

Shortly afterwards my fellow-travellers reached their destination.
Dr. Wygram had, by this time, completely recovered his vivacity. When
wishing me good-bye, a silent pressure of the hand, more prolonged
than usual, alone betrayed any recollection, on his part, of our
midnight conversation. I did not recover my own equanimity so rapidly;
the interview came back upon me, as I sat alone for the rest of the
journey, somewhat too vividly for that. A nameless uneasiness possessed
me. I wearied myself with possible explanations of Wygram’s alleged
troubles. Money difficulties were out of the question in the case
of one so well off as he, so simple and unostentatious in his mode
of life, and he would be the last man to gamble. His son--pooh! The
birch was the best cure for boyish peccadilloes, and he would get that
on going back to school. Still, reason with myself as I might, Dr.
Wygram’s nameless trouble remained with me; the boy’s sleeping face
in the lamplight, the father’s urgent entreaty “remember,” these did
not pass away. After all, I would reproach myself for having promised
to obey the summons of my friend whenever it might come; how awkward
that might be! Why could not he, if so anxious for my counsel, arrange
to come to me? Altogether, it was not until several days had elapsed
that I shook off the disagreeable impression left by the journey. As
for Dr. Wygram’s possible summons, I looked for that, more or less
confidently, for several months, then my expectation of its coming
began to fade. As a matter of fact, it did come after all, but not for
fifteen years. Then it came upon this wise. I had been from home for
some days. On returning, a pile of letters awaited me. Sorting them
over one by one, the last in the heap was addressed in an unmistakable
handwriting. “Wygram’s summons at last,” I said to myself, as the mist
of the years rolled away and I was once more travelling northwards in
the train; once more my friend’s voice in my ear, “remember!” once more
the lamplight on his son’s sleeping face.

Opening the letter, I read as follows:--

  Low Tor Cottage, by Liskeard, Cornwall,
    Sept. 3, 188--.

 Dear F.:--Remember promise given long ago. Pray come as soon as possible!

  Thine
    CLARENCE WYGRAM.


In the circumstances, what could I do but make arrangements, as
speedily as I could, to keep my promise? Within twenty-four hours I was
on my way to Cornwall.



CHAPTER II.


A GIG awaited my arrival at the nearest railway station, and a short
drive brought me to Low Tor Cottage. Dr. Wygram met me at the door.
Considering the lapse of years since our last interview, I was, of
course, prepared to find my friend looking much older; but I was
scarcely prepared to see him so utterly feeble-looking and broken,
alike, apparently, with age and sorrow, as when he greeted me in
the doorway. He bade me welcome in hurried nervous tones; evidently
he laboured under the influence of suppressed emotion. We entered
the sitting-room: the dinner-table was set for two persons only. He
apologized for his secluded quarters, and the humble arrangements
of his household. “I have only been here for a month or two,” he
explained, “since my return from the Continent.” A staid, elderly
maid-servant here entered the room. It was, of course, too early for
any confidential talk between my host and myself; and, as the servant
waited upon us during dinner, anything but commonplaces were out of the
question. I judged from what I saw, however, that Dr. Wygram was living
alone; perhaps it was better so. Our intercourse would be the more
unrestrained.

Somehow, I do not know how it happened, I was the first to break the
ice, upon the question of the object of my visit. And this prematurely,
in fact within half an hour of my arrival. Now I had mentally cautioned
myself, on the way down, against precipitate allusions to the purpose
of my coming; yet, as it chanced, I stumbled upon the delicate topic,
unawares, before the servant had left us to our wine. It was, then,
on his son’s account that Dr. Wygram sought my presence here. As
much I gathered from his silence, sudden and pained, when I made the
remark. Of course after this, and until we were alone together, I
turned the conversation into other channels, in what I fear must have
seemed a very clumsy fashion. My host grew more and more absent and
distrait. When at length we drew our chairs near the fire, for the
autumn evenings were growing chilly, he had not opened his lips for
some minutes. I was quite unprepared for what was to come. No sooner
were we alone, than, in his attempt to speak, he burst into tears.
It was long before he regained his composure. At first all he could
utter was a renewal of his thanks to me for coming to see him in his
loneliness--his worse than lonely life, as he termed it.

I could make nothing of all this, but I endeavoured to assure him of
my earnest desire to help him, if only he would frankly confide in me
as his friend. It was pitiful to see how, even after this invitation,
it pained him to make any avowal. He sank into a reverie for a few
moments, then, quickly rising to his feet and laying a hand on my
shoulder, said:--

“I will show you my sorrow, my friend, rather than speak of it myself.
What I show you will speak for itself, for all words are vain.”

So saying, he motioned me to follow him, and led the way from the room,
carrying with him a small shaded lamp.

When we entered an adjoining apartment the shadows there were so dense,
and the light we had with us was so feeble, that, for some moments, I
could discern nothing. A dull fire smouldered in the grate, but shed no
light on the interior of the room, which seemed furnished as a small
parlour. There was a large sofa at the farther end, and someone lay
upon it covered with rugs. Dr. Wygram held the light a little lower,
the rays fell upon an upturned face, that of a boy apparently asleep.
I started, for was it not the self-same face upon which the flickering
light of a railway carriage lamp had fallen so many years before? The
very same, in every lineament, nothing was changed.

I am not naturally quick in coming to a conclusion. Things dawn upon
me now even more slowly than of old. I was startled for the moment,
nothing more; though a creeping horror moved already towards my heart,
I had not felt its actual touch.

“That is my sorrow,” said the father, turning to me, without diverting
the rays of the lamp from his son’s face; then, without another word,
motioned me to follow him out. I did so. The shadows fell once more
upon the sleeper, even as the shadows of the years had fallen, till
that moment, upon my recollection of his features.

On a sudden the full significance of what I had seen rushed upon me.

“Great God!” I cried, “what is this, Wygram? Speak!”

We were in the corridor now, and he did not return an answer. We
re-entered the lighted room. My patience gave way.

“For Heaven’s sake,” I said, “Wygram, tell me what is the meaning of
this! How is your son--the boy sleeping yonder--the same, unchanged--?”
The query died upon my lips, for he to whom I spoke was pale as ashes.
I read the answer of my inarticulate question, there and then, in his
face. By virtue of some nightmare spell, the boy I had seen so many
years before, the boy, who by this time should have been a grown man,
was slumbering, _still a boy_, in the room we had just quitted.

They say that when, in dreams, anything manifestly absurd or
inconsistent presents itself, the dreamer at once awakes. In the
sitting-room of the cottage that night, seated beside my old friend,
how often did I think myself dreaming, and long for the moment of
waking to be precipitated by the seeming contradiction I had just
witnessed! For some time neither of us spoke. Dr. Wygram sat motionless
with the blank and, as it were, featureless expression on his
countenance which I have so often seen sudden calamity impart. Yet
his affliction, new and inexplicable to me as yet, must have become
familiar enough to himself. After all, it must have been its first,
its only revelation to another, which, as it were, reawakened himself
to a sense of its utter bewilderment and hopelessness. And to me (of
all men) he had turned for help, for counsel, in circumstances so
astounding! What could I do? My own brain was in a whirl. The sense
of wonderment once past, a painful search for possible explanation
succeeded--explanation of what? That was the puzzling difficulty. A
problem was before me, but, from lack of all precedent, the conditions
of effectual presentation were wanting. How, then, attempt the solution?

It must have arisen, I suppose, from the mental confusion under which
I laboured that I can give no very lucid account of what immediately
followed. I cannot tell at what period of the evening the silent
current of our several thoughts flowed into a stream of conversation.
But I reproduce here the substance of Dr. Wygram’s narrative, in his
own words, as far as possible, omitting some details not germane to the
narrative.

“My son,” commenced Dr. Wygram, “inherited his mother’s malady, that
which in her case proved fatal, pulmonary consumption. The unmistakable
symptoms developed themselves in him at an early age. All the so-called
remedies had been tried without avail. Humanly speaking, my boy was
doomed, my house was apparently to be left unto me desolate. At first
I was in despair, a despair lightened to me at last, however, by a
gleam of hope. You are aware that I have devoted my life to the study
rather than the practice of medicine. Being untrammelled with regular
avocations, I have been enabled to explore, more fully than many of my
professional brethren, what may be called the by-paths of study--those
less explored tracks which are open to the medical scientist who is,
by training, a chemist as well. The practice of scientific medicine,
among us in this country, at all events, is in its infancy, although
many, whose interest it is to conceal the fact, will assure you to
the contrary. If any proof were needed of my assertion, the lame
and halting methods in use at the present day would suffice. The
insufferable greed for money so shamelessly manifested renders the
modern practitioner only a better-class charlatan. Their failures are
so gross, their expedients to conceal these failures so unblushing,
that I have long recommended an adoption by the public of the Chinese
system. The far-seeing Celestials only pay their medical adviser when
they are perfectly well. When they fall sick his pay stops till he can
restore them to health.

“But there is a second, and a higher path, known only to a few, and
these enthusiasts, careless of the rewards of the crowd. It is but a
dim and perilous way at the best--it is easier to deride those who
attempt to traverse it than to follow them. The herd of the profession
eschew it for the most part. Present-day materialists will have
nothing, accept nothing, which cannot be seen, tasted, handled, brayed
in a mortar, fitting fate for themselves as purblind fools! See how
reluctantly, how incredulously, the results of even such a coarsely
unmistakable remedy as electricity are received by the profession.
Yet electrical energy, in medicine, is a clumsy weapon compared
with others in the armoury of transcendentalism. There are blades
infinitely keener for the expert--viewless brands, wielded by few--the
peerless Excalibur itself, known to still fewer--for its point of a
truth turneth every way, to guard the path to the Tree of Life.” Here
he shuddered, but after a pause went on: “These higher methods have
their risks, their inseparable dangers. Remember that experiment must
at last be made upon the living, human, subject. Demonstration upon
a score of tortured puppies will not avail. Is _it_ a wonder that
the crude experimentalist, great at the torture trough, and brave in
_its_ cruelties, recoils when the higher issue is at stake? But as
I said, my boy was doomed, save, as I hoped, in the last resort of
transcendentalism. That last resort I tried, but not until numberless
trials in the laboratory had convinced me that my method must avail. I
had discounted every possibility of failure. So long did I delay that
the lamp of life had almost, with him, burned to the socket. But I was
wary; I knew well that the step I was about to take was an irrevocable
one, and my chief anxiety was to prevent a possible miscarriage of
consequences. My plan, in short, promised to secure for one, already
within sight of death’s portal, a lease of life prolonged--by how many
months or years I could not tell--that question lay in darkness, but
at least prolonged beyond what I could reasonably expect considering
his condition. A growth of new vital force--which yet was not a
growth--everything pointed the other way, let me say a stock, was
to be grafted into the decaying and wasting organism, permanent in
its character, constant, without flux or reflux. But (ah! that but
which mars all that blooms and hopes!), like all gifts added from
without, unlike all properties resident within, it, the gift, had an
imperfection, a strange, deadly, and irremediable fault. It grew not,
progressed not, aged not (do not start!); and this, its thrice-accursed
property, was so malignantly, so devilishly potent, beyond hope of
elimination or reduction, that it subdued unto itself whatsoever
it touched or joined. Life preserved under its influence would be
preserved, not in activity but as it were in arrestment, in default of
needed repair, or rather with a subtle supply and repair of its own so
elusive as to evade detection.

“Thus,” continued Dr. Wygram--”thus, with all my caution, I
erred--erred as all do, misled by some devil’s wile, who work against
the gods. Fool that I was, my own caution deceived me, and that lying
legend of him who sought for immortality, but forgot the advent of old
age. But it is past now; others would have slipped on that insuperable
threshold where I fell. I exulted in the thought that my boy would
drink of the water of life and so defy the killing years--but I forgot
that _he was not yet a man_--knew not that I was condemning him to a
life of immaturity. Hurry misled me at the last. Before I knew it, he
was almost gone--then I took the irrevocable step. It was well that I
worked in secret. No eye but mine saw him as (oh, wondrous change!)
he rose from his sick-bed with an assured gift of life in every limb
and pulse, so sudden and startling that I dreaded the coming of life’s
angel almost as much as I had the advent of him of death. For a time,
I say, I would almost, unknowing, have undone that which had been
done--but that stage passed, and I only watched and waited.”

Dr. Wygram paused. Was it fancy that as he did so I thought I heard a
light footstep in the room above us? The speaker did not seem to notice
it, but went on:--

“For a time I knew no fear, that I had erred I did not know, as yet.
For months he advanced in growth towards manhood. Then the spell began
to work its hellish will. As he was then, as he is now, so will he
ever be. A blight fell upon him, a chill mildew rained itself upon the
issues of his life. A true death in life is his, for life hasteth to
fruition and then falls; but this existence, with which I have dowered
him, continues changeless, dateless, ageless, as the years of the
Everlasting. I tell thee,” screamed the father, as he sprang to his
feet in a frenzy of uncontrollable horror--”I tell thee my boy will
never die!”

Overmastered by the contagion of his excitement, I too had risen from
my seat. As we faced each other in silence, a breathing murmur rose on
the air, formless at first, then died away. Again a hushed murmur, then
a crash of chords from an instrument in the room above. He of whom we
spoke was playing Chopin’s “Marche Funèbre.”



CHAPTER III.


I NEED not enter into the details of my stay at Low Tor Cottage, even
if I were able to reproduce them with correctness. My residence there
was, to me, a prolonged nightmare, with all hope of an awakening denied
me. Dr. Wygram had so completely surrendered himself to despair as
to be incapable of making any effort. It would have been a positive
relief to myself had I been able to have considered him insane, and
the mystery before me a delusion springing from that cause. But that
conclusion was shut out most effectually by my own personal testimony
(of which he always eagerly availed himself) as to his son’s identity,
and his practically unaltered condition after an interval of so many
years. I had every opportunity of assuring myself on this point. Young
Wygram, though shy and backward, preferring to mope in solitude, was
our companion after a day or two. But he never seemed wholly at ease,
would not join in any sustained conversation, and had an apathetic
listlessness about him which was positively repellent. It was vain to
try to arouse either father or son from the overwhelming depression
into which both had apparently sunk. Some melancholy drives we took
together in a pony phaeton through the solitudes of West Cornwall did
not enliven us much. It is a haunted land at its best, with its rolling
moorlands, and its mystic Dosmery Pool, fabled as ebbing and flowing
in its silent depths in sympathy with the tides of the distant sea.
As day after day slipped away, I began to feel myself as partaking
of my friend’s hopelessness. Yet, if I hinted the uselessness of
continuing with him, he would become almost frantic. As he pathetically
repeated to me, I was his only friend, the only one to whom he could
confide his sorrows, so insupportable when borne alone. Gradually he
persuaded me, on one point, against my better judgment. It was finally
agreed between us that ere I left some steps should be taken on his
part to endeavour to obtain a reversal, or part reversal rather, of
the conditions under which his son laboured (I use the periphrasis
as the plain words to me are unspeakably painful), by something of
the same methods by which they had been compassed. The prospect to me
was very distasteful, indeed revolting, nor did Dr. Wygram’s laboured
explanations convey much information to my non-professional mind. It
is useless to detail them here, they would be intelligible only to the
expert. But I could not deny him what he asked. I fancy his wish was
to secure some witness of his own moral innocency, should any untoward
accident happen. I cannot blame him; indeed, I think he would have been
justified in taking almost any steps, short of taking his son’s life,
in the unparalleled circumstances of the case.

And the time was short. That was another perplexity. The constant
state of nervous apprehension which overcame Dr. Wygram whenever his
residence in one place lasted any time, pointed, of itself, to the
necessity of making haste. Perhaps he magnified this difficulty; I
cannot say. But there was something about their retired life which
seemed likely to invite gossiping curiosity, in a country district
more especially. That the neighbours had already questioned him as
to the nature of his son’s _delicacy_ he assured me over and over
again. What could they mean? “He has been watched,” the father would
say, excitedly. “We have already been here too long. They notice his
unaltered appearance since our arrival. A growing lad, such as he
appears, would have made some progress in the time, and they notice
that he does not--nor ever will,” he would add bitterly, “unless my
last efforts should prove successful.” It was idle to try to reason
him out of these fears--for all I knew they might be real. It was
pitiful to think how long they had possessed him, during many weary
years. When I had met himself and his son fifteen years before, they
were, even then, travelling as fugitives from place to place to avoid
detection; still more harrowing to think that, in the father’s case,
from his rapidly aging look and growing feebleness, these wanderings
must soon cease. Of his son’s fate, in that overwhelming contingency, I
could never trust myself to think. The thought of it often overcame Dr.
Wygram himself. He told me once, that on one occasion, when abroad, the
terror of this self-same prospect so unmanned him that he had attempted
to confide in a brother practitioner, an Englishman, resident, I
think, in Milan. “Like most countrymen of his craft abroad,” said my
poor friend bitterly, “he proved to be utterly incredulous. I might
have known it, before exposing myself to his coarse ridicule. The line
of my studies has been so utterly outside the old groove of pill and
bolus, lancet and catheter, it is little wonder that the crowd will
have none of its results. This professional brother only laughed in
my face, rubbed his hands in glee, as at a good joke, asking me if I
would not part with my recipe for a consideration, seeing he had some
half-dozen youngsters of his own whose growing powers added to the
tailor’s bill. English medical men are proverbially obtuse, but for the
full development of their sheer obstinacy and mulishness they should be
transplanted to the soil which gave birth to transcendentalism.”

It was a breathless autumn evening when, in my presence, Dr. Wygram
commenced his second experiment with his son. The dim scent of the
shrubberies stole in through the open windows--over which the blinds
were drawn. On a couch in the centre of the room lay young Wygram
in a deep slumber, super-induced by an opiate which his father had
administered, to aid the further stages of the treatment. A brass
chafing dish lay upon the floor, containing some smouldering embers;
from a tripod upon the table hung a small retort of crimson glass which
glowed like a ruddy gem in the flickering light of the spirit lamp
underneath.

With arms stripped bare to the elbows, Dr. Wygram bent over his son,
watching the depth of unconsciousness in which the latter was immersed.
For nearly an hour my friend had not spoken a word. I did not wish to
interrupt him, but I saw by his manner at length that the critical
moment had arrived. He turned to me at last, and in a broken whisper
told me that a few moments longer would decide his success or failure.
“We shall now, I trust,” he said, “have insight granted us in regard to
a hitherto hidden mystery.”

I do not know whether he ever obtained the insight in question, but
I know that it was never granted to me. For, at that moment, loud
voices were heard in the corridor. The door was unceremoniously thrown
open, and three men entered the room. Their leader, a puffy, red-faced
individual, fixed me with his glittering eye from the moment of his
coming into the room. “That is the man!” he said, to his subordinates,
pointing, at the same time, to me as I stood irresolute.

A sudden panic possessed me that instant. To escape by the door was
impossible, as the men stood beside it, but the window behind me was
handy. I turned, lifted the blind, and precipitately jumped into the
garden a few feet below. I do not believe that I ever ran so fast in my
life as I did on that occasion through the mazes of the shrubbery. My
one frantic desire was to get away at all hazards from that dreadful
dwelling, though from what I fled I could not have told. I only knew
that horror, the accumulated horror, of the past weeks, compressed into
the moment, possessed me to my very heels. A wretched dog prowling
about the garden gave chase to me as I fled, under the impression
that I was making off with some portable property belonging to the
establishment; but I soon left him far behind, and I do not think that
the men joined in the pursuit, beyond the limits of the cottage, if,
indeed, they followed me at all. In my terror I never looked behind,
but ran through fields, hedges, and ditches till I arrived, breathless
and hatless, at the nearest railway station. The officials seemed
somewhat surprised at the appearance I presented, but I got a ticket
without question, and was soon seated in a railway carriage on my way
to London.

       *       *       *       *       *

These memoranda, written after a long period of nervous prostration,
must be published, if for my own exculpation alone. Shortly after their
committal to paper, a longing curiosity impelled me to inquire as to
the fate of my old friend. I had promised not to desert him, and that
promise I had scarcely kept. At all hazards, then, I resolved to go to
Cornwall once more, even if by doing so, I should fall into the hands
of the authorities, as I doubted not he had done. At all events, my own
innocency was beyond question.

On the Paddington platform my apprehensions in this latter respect were
redoubled. A young man standing beside me, when I was taking out my
ticket, certainly eyed me very narrowly.

“One of the minions of the law,” I said to myself; “the affair has got
wind after all.” As I was about to take my seat he came forward and
asked if he had the pleasure of addressing Mr. F---- of Blank Street.
Resolved to brazen it out to the last, I admitted my identity.

“You are acquainted with Dr. Wygram, I think?” he continued,
interrogatively.

I owned that I was. Denial, at this stage, would have been useless.

“I am his son,” he said smilingly.

“His son!” I gasped. Then, after all, Dr. Wygram’s second experiment
had succeeded, and he who was before me had been freed from the spell
of his youth. Yes, there was no doubt of it! He was now a man! “Is it
possible?” I repeated, gazing at him with astonishment.

“I think there is no doubt of it,” he replied coolly. “You will be
sorry to learn that my father is far from well,” he resumed. “I have
been from home for a long time, but am just going down to see him, in
Cornwall.”

“Just going down to see him?” This was mystery upon mystery.

“My dear sir,” I said in despair, “I am very sorry indeed to hear of
your father’s illness, but would you kindly answer me one question as
distinctly as you can. If you are Dr. Wygram’s son, how is it that you
do not remember me?”

“I do now most distinctly,” he replied. “I remember travelling with you
and my father, many years ago, when I was going to school in the North.”

Heavens! Then all the years, since then, had been a blank to him!

“Have you no recollection,” I suggested, “of having been with your
father since then, a short time ago, in Cornwall?”

“Ah! that is my brother,” he quickly returned. “Yes, _he_ was with my
father, when he took ill--been with him too long, in fact, for the good
of either. My father, I am sorry to say, has for some time been quite
unhinged mentally.”

I should think he has, was my inward comment, for I saw it all in a
moment. There were two young Wygrams; both of these I had seen when
they were youngsters of the same age. Why had I not thought of this
before? Is it not my special weakness that things dawn upon me very
slowly? The rest, of course, was Dr. Wygram’s delusion, ultimately
necessitating his being placed under the care of his friends.

“My dear sir,” I replied, after a pause, and with some effusion of
manner, “I sincerely trust that your father’s distressing illness may
be but temporary. On his being able to receive the message, kindly
present him with my warmest regards. Meanwhile, one question more
before we part, for I am not going by this train; I--I have changed my
mind. How many years, may I ask, may there be between your own age and
that of your brother?”

“About fourteen or fifteen,” was the reply.

“Quite so; and when you were youngsters of about the same age, say,
were you not considered very like one another?”

“Remarkably so,” he answered, laughingly, “as like as two peas.”

  G. M. MCCRIE.



XIII

ON THE INDIA FRONTIER: THE DOCTOR’S STORY.


“WANT Berlyng,” he seemed to be saying, though it was difficult to
catch the words, for we were almost within range, and the fight was a
sharp one. It was the old story of India frontier warfare; too small a
force and a foe foolishly underrated.

The man they had just brought in--laying him hurriedly on a bed of
pine-needles, in the shade of the conifers where I had halted my little
train--poor Charles Noon of the Sikhs, was done for. His right hand was
off at the wrist, and the shoulder was almost severed.

I bent my ear to his lips, and heard the words which sounded like “Want
Berlyng.”

We had a man called Berlyng in the force--a gunner--who was round at
the other side of the fort that was to be taken before night, two miles
away at least.

“Do you want Berlyng?” I asked slowly and distinctly. Noon nodded, and
his lips moved. I bent my head again till my ear almost touched his
lips.

“How long have I?” he was asking.

“Not long, I’m afraid, old chap.”

His lips closed with a queer, distressed look. He was sorry to die.
“How long?” he asked again.

“About an hour.”

But I knew it was less. I attended to others, thinking all the while
of poor Noon. His home life was little known, but there was some story
about an engagement at Poonah the previous warm weather. Noon was rich,
and he cared for the girl; but she did not return the feeling. In
fact, there was some one else. It appears that the girl’s people were
ambitious and poor, and that Noon had promised large settlements. At
all events, the engagement was a known affair, and gossips whispered
that Noon knew about the some one else and would not give her up. He
was, I know, thought badly of by some, especially by the elders.

However, the end of it all lay on a sheet beneath the pines and watched
me with such persistence that I was at last forced to go to him.

“Have you sent for Berlyng?” he asked, with a breathlessness which I
know too well.

Now, I had not sent for Berlyng, and it requires more nerve than I
possess to tell unnecessary lies to a dying man. The necessary ones are
quite different, and I shall not think of them when I go to my account.

“Berlyng could not come if I sent for him,” I replied soothingly. “He
is two miles away from here, trenching the North Wall, and I have
nobody to send. The messenger would have to run the gauntlet of the
enemy’s earthworks.”

“I’ll give the man a hundred pounds who does it,” replied Noon, in his
breathless whisper. “Berlyng will come sharp enough. He hates me too
much.”

He broke off with a laugh which made me feel sick.

I found a wounded water-carrier--a fellow with a stray bullet in his
hand--who volunteered to find Berlyng, and then I returned to Noon and
told him what I had done. I knew that Berlyng could not come.

He nodded and I think he said, “God bless you.”

“I want to put something right,” he said, after an effort; “I’ve been a
blackguard.”

I waited a little, in case Noon wished to repose some confidence in
me. Things are so seldom put right that it is wise to facilitate such
intentions. But it appeared obvious that what Noon had to say could
only be said to Berlyng. They had, it subsequently transpired, not been
on speaking terms for some months.

I was turning away when Noon suddenly cried out in his natural voice,
“There _is_ Berlyng.”

I turned and saw one of my men, Swerney, carrying in a gunner. It might
be Berlyng, for the uniform was that of a captain, but I could not see
his face. Noon, however, seemed to recognize him.

I showed Swerney where to lay his man, close to me, alongside Noon, who
at that moment required all my attention, for he had fainted.

In a moment Noon recovered, despite the heat, which was tremendous.
He lay quite still, looking up at the patches of blue sky between the
dark, motionless tops of the pine trees.

His face was livid under the sunburn, and as I wiped the perspiration
from his forehead he closed his eyes with the abandon of a child.
Some men, I have found, die like children going to sleep. He slowly
recovered and I gave him a few drops of brandy. I thought he was dying
and decided to let Berlyng wait.

I did not even glance at him as he lay, covered with dust and blackened
by the smoke of his beloved nine-pounders, a little to the left of Noon
and behind me as I knelt at the latter’s side. After a while his eyes
grew brighter and he began to look about him.

He turned his head, painfully, for the muscles of his neck were
injured, and caught sight of the gunner’s uniform. “Is that Berlyng?”
he asked, excitedly. “Yes.”

He dragged himself up and tried to get nearer to Berlyng. And I helped
him. They were close alongside each other. Berlyng was lying on his
back, staring up at the blue patches between the pine-trees.

Noon turned on his left elbow and began whispering into the
smoke-grimed ear.

“Berlyng,” I heard him say, “I was a blackguard. I am sorry, old man. I
played it very low down. It was a dirty trick. It was my money--and her
people were anxious for her to marry a rich man. I worked it through
her people. I wanted her so badly that I forgot I--was supposed--to
be a--gentleman. I found out--that it was you--she cared for. But I
couldn’t make up my mind to give her up. I kept her--to her word. And
now it’s all up with me--but you’ll pull through and it will all--come
right. Give her my--love--old chap. You can now--because I’m done. I’m
glad they brought you in--because I’ve been able--to tell you--that it
is you she cares for. You--Berlyng, old chap, who used to be a chum
of mine. She cares for you--God, you’re in luck! I don’t know whether
she’s told you--and I was--a d----d blackguard.”

His jaw suddenly dropped--and he rolled forward with his face against
Berlyng’s shoulder.

Berlyng was dead when they brought him in. He had heard nothing. Or
perhaps he had heard and understood--everything.

  HENRY SETON MERRIMAN.



XIV

DOCTOR GREENFIELD.


DR. GREENFIELD looked round his small study with satisfaction and a
touch of pride. In spite of the book-cases filled with treatises on
medicines and diseases, and the inevitable patient’s chair, the room
still managed to be an attractive one. The book-cases were of oak; the
dreaded chair lay claim to be a particularly good specimen of an early
Sheraton; and over the chimney-piece, and on all available space of the
soft green-colored walls hung good mezzotint prints in dark frames.

The servant put a match to the log-laid fire, for although it was May,
there was an evening chill, and a sensation of damp.

The Doctor had dined early, with the expectation of a long drive, so
his evening at home was unintentional, and caused by the little piece
of pink paper which now lay unheeded at his feet. He stretched himself,
felt how tired he was, and how luxurious was this unexpected evening at
home. Then he remembered the cause and, with an involuntary movement,
stooped and picked up the paper from where it lay. He opened it and
read it again, though he had done so several times already.

A telegram so short, but he knew what it had meant to the sender of
it; a lifelong message of despair, of shipwrecked hopes and utter
loneliness. “Charlie died this evening.” Dr. Greenfield read it out
loud quite slowly--and once more it fluttered to the ground, and he
sighed. So it was all over; the eight weeks’ watching; the alternate
hope and despair; the grim fight with death--and death had triumphed.
He saw the girl, the sender of the message, standing as she had done
when he told her that her brother must die. He thought of the weeks
during which time he had been so much thrown with this girl--Juliet
Carson--the days which they had spent together watching by the sick
man’s bed, fighting the battle of skill and science with destiny.

And all the time his mind dwelt on it, he knew it did not really touch
him--the worst part to him was that his science had failed him. For a
moment he let himself believe that the constant facing death, which as
a doctor he was bound to confront, had hardened his feelings, made him
callous, and taken his sense of pity and sympathy from him; but he was
too honest, and he remembered with a true flash of conviction that it
had always been so, and memory took him back over many years, and he
seemed to hear his nurse saying, “Master George has no heart, he didn’t
feel his father’s death a bit.” And it came to him how right she had
been, how he had wanted to care, but something wouldn’t let him; he
could not cry as his brother did, and he had felt as if he belonged
somewhere else. All his later life, too, he had known it. He had no
sympathy, no pity, and he knew that others felt the want in him, though
often they did not know what it was. He had lived for thirty-five
years now, and he had never cared for anyone; and for the first time
to-night, as he sat and looked into the fire, he knew that his life had
been only half complete, that he lacked what was the best, and that
his whole existence had been colourless. Still, as he argued against
himself, if he had lacked the best, he had also missed the worst: many
of his friends had gone; he had wanted to care, but the power was not
there; he had seen piteous sights; he had witnessed heartrending scenes
of poverty and despair, but they had all been nothing to him; they had
passed by, and he had forgotten.

Somehow the image of Juliet to-night came back to him; the girl in her
sorrow and loneliness with no one left to her; and he wondered why his
heart was not wrung with pity. Although she did not stir his heart, or
his senses, he could see she was beautiful; but for some other man, not
for him. A new and painful sensation of loneliness suddenly swept over
him, a horrible whiff of middle age, a foretaste of the solitude of old
age, which must overtake him, but he could do nothing to help himself,
he had no will, no power. He sat on in his deep reverie, with his eyes
fixed on the burning logs. Then he got up from his chair and went to
the window and looked out on the May evening.

It was half-past eight o’clock, and the chill which comes just after
sunset was in the air. He stood looking into the clear blue distance,
listening to the nightingales and the hum of the bees. Then suddenly
he saw a sight which astonished him--a procession winding its way down
the long avenue of limes which faced his window: a curious procession,
too--a funeral--it was unlike any he had seen before. It gave him a
strange sensation. Preceding it were men and women, chanting as they
went.

They paused as they came near to him, the singing ceased, and several
made a gesture as if they would ask him to join them; then they drew
back as he heard one say, “Ah, not him; he knows no pity, he has no
love, he cannot come;” and they passed on, taking up their chant; and
for the first time in his life he knew he was an outcast and a pariah.
He was hungering and thirsting for someone to help him and pity him.

Behind them came men carrying the body of the dead man, and he bowed
as they went by. Once more he looked, and he saw three figures--three
white-robed women, walking together. And the one who walked in the
midst had the eyes of Juliet Carson, and in her hands she held a large
cup. The three paused as they came near to him, and it seemed to him
as if a veil fell between the rest of the procession and them, the
music got fainter, and he was left alone with these three; something
within him told him that they held in that cup the power of pity and
love, that they alone could give them to him, and he cried to them
to take pity on him. Then Juliet, for it was Juliet, spoke to him;
her eyes were troubled, though her face shone with a radiant smile,
and her voice came to him as a soft wind, and stilled his despair and
restlessness.

“Listen,” she said, “and know what you ask. We are three sisters, Love,
Joy, and Sorrow, and if you drink of this cup you can never again be
as you were. You would wish, likely, to take only Love and Joy, but as
love brings joy, so also it surely brings sorrow, and you cannot take
one without the other. Say, will you take Love, and in so doing accept
Joy and Sorrow as they come?” and she paused while he made his choice.

But with eager, trembling hands he took the cup she offered him and
drank thirstily, and then--his whole being was flooded with hope and
delight, and as he handed the cup back to Juliet in her radiant form of
love, she bent forward a little and kissed him--a kiss which thrilled
his soul, and sent the life-blood rushing through his veins. Then the
figures vanished. Once more he heard the faint sound of distant music,
and then--and then * * *

The Doctor straightened himself in his chair, and looked round him in a
dazed, bewildered manner.

“A dream,” he murmured. “Is it possible? I, too, of all men.”

He looked round him. The May morning was breaking into his room, the
birds were singing, the sun was up. So then he had fallen asleep in
his chair, and all that seemed so real, so tangible, was nothing but a
dream--a dream of possibilities, and an awakening to realities.

As his mind grew clearer, he remembered all that had taken place the
night before--ah! that telegram was the reality; and once more he
stooped to pick it up. But, as he read it, a new feeling, and yet not
a new feeling came to him--the sensation of his dream. It made him
giddy, and he went to the window to steady himself, and to feel the
air. But in him, and all around him, he was conscious of a change; a
rush of almost divine pity and love swept across him. Ah! that, then,
was no dream; he was in touch with the love, the sorrow, and pity of
the world; he shared them all; he was one of them, he was no longer the
pariah, the outcast; and more than that, he too loved, and his love had
been alone with her suffering and sorrow all night. Last night he had
not cared; to-day the pity of it almost stifled him.

He threw up the window and stepped onto the lawn; the fresh dew was
upon everything, and he stretched himself in the rays of the sun, and
thanked God that he was alive. He looked long up the avenue, where in
his dream he had seen the procession come down, and he shuddered when
he thought how they had left him--no, not all--and his heart beat as he
thought of Juliet Carson, and how she had come to him at the time of
his great want. And the thought of her brought back to him the reality
and the present, and, as he listened to the clock striking six, he knew
that his restlessness must wait; he who had waited all his life was now
impatient for two hours to be over. Ah! had it come to this. He smiled
at his own impetuosity, but had not the heart to rebuke himself.

He spent the next two hours wandering up and down his garden, listening
to the morning sounds, as the world woke bit by bit to its day’s work.
He watched the workmen pass by his gate on their way to take up their
daily toil, and he wondered why he had never pitied them--his had
been so much more a case of pity. Though worn and tired, and perhaps
saddened, they, too, had loved; they had somewhere, sometime, romance
in their lives.

As the church clock struck eight he made his way to the stables and
ordered his dog-cart. His own voice had a conscious sound in it, and he
felt all the world must know he was a changed man. As he drove through
the deep lanes, with the honeysuckle, pink may, and wild cherry
blossom all in their beauty before him, he felt that there was only
life, only beauty in the world, and all the sorrowful and sad side of
it had fled away. But as he neared the old manor house, where death
triumphed, his beating heart quietened somewhat, and he felt a touch of
sorrow come over him.

He was evidently expected, for he was admitted at once into the long
low room, into which the sun was pouring. The window was thrown up, and
as he paused he felt that the stillness of death was in the house. Then
he heard a slight movement and turned. At the open window stood Juliet,
the sun’s rays lighting up her white gown, and her brown hair; her eyes
had the troubled expression of his dream, but there was no radiance in
the sad, weary, little face. In her hands she held great branches of
white lilacs, lilies, and roses.

He went to meet her with outstretched hand, and a great pity in his
heart spiritualizing his human love.

“I knew,” she said simply; “I knew you would come.” Had she, too, seen
the vision, or was it in his face?

And did she bend her head as in his dream?--for his lips found hers,
and that kiss drew the bitterness from her sorrow, while it opened up
his new life for him, sweeping away all the years he had left behind,
and flooding his soul with light and love.

And although they were in the presence of death, did not love triumph?

  LADY MABEL HOWARD.



XV

DR. GLADMAN, A SKETCH OF COLONIAL LIFE.


IT WAS Christmas morning in Southern latitudes. The thermometer stood
at 80 degrees in the shade, and we had just finished a really splendid
run across the Pacific, right away from the Cape, without touching, and
we were all delighted to be once more about to stand on terra firma. I
had signed articles in London, at a shilling a month, as surgeon, to
the good ship “Teneriffe,” the Company naturally considering the said
shilling good pay in addition to a free passage for myself, and at a
reduced rate for my wife, to Sidney.

We were passing a lighthouse, and could see the smoke rising from the
little settlement at King George’s Sound. The houses and harbour itself
were hidden by the first of the many headlands that were between us and
the narrow opening to the anchorage. There was the usual bustle on deck
and tramping to and fro of the sailors, who were getting the anchor
clear and the decks in readiness to let go.

My wife and her sister were making certain changes in their dress that
they might be ready the moment we dropped anchor to go ashore. I could
hear my wife ask her sister Rosie if she could really believe “this
everlasting voyage was over?” as I was hurriedly finishing off my
letters in the saloon to take ashore. I had just fastened and sealed
up a long letter to my friend H. at “Bart’s,” and another to my mother
in peaceful Devonshire, and had done the same for some half dozen or
more of my wife’s, when I heard the orders, “Hard a-port,” “Ease her,”
“Slow,” passed to the wheel and engine room as the pilot’s boat came
alongside. It was manned by four rowers in man-o’-war’s-man dress, and
a tiny golden-haired boy, who didn’t look more than ten, in the stern
holding the tiller ropes in his little brown fist, and keeping his eyes
fixed on the pilot’s movements till he was safe on deck. Then he said
authoritatively, “Let go the rope; fall astern,” rolling the “r” and
giving it “starn” in the approved style.

I ran down the companion-way again, and knocked at our state-room
to tell my women-folk to come up and see him--they both are so fond
of children. On going in I found my wife standing in the midst of
open portmanteaus, fastening on her sister’s white veil or puggery,
attired herself in shore-going garments, and with another long
red-and-white-striped puggery shading her own neck. My wife insists on
considering Australia tropical!

“Do they wear gloves, do you suppose, in this place?” she said, taking
a long pair of grey ones off the cabin sofa, with a somewhat scornful
emphasis on the “this place” which expressed her private feeling about
Australia generally.

“Of course they do; life in Australian towns is the same as life
anywhere else,” I said, proud of my information, derived from the
blue-books of the Agent-General.

My wife smiled. She has a peculiarly sweet way of smiling sometimes,
instead of answering one, which is equivalent to her to having the last
word, and is far more than equivalent to me, and very trying, as I have
to conjecture what the last word would have been.

We all went on deck. The pilot’s boat was already some distance
astern, and we could hardly see the little boy. We found we were
steaming slowly through the blue water, past the swelling furze-covered
headlands, the one we had just passed being crowned by a white
lighthouse, with what looked at the distance a tiny white cottage, with
neat palings and outhouses round it.

The pilot was in command on the bridge. We could see his figure against
the sky, standing on the narrow strip of a platform, from which the
officer of the watch rules his seagirt kingdom with an even more
absolute despotism than that of the sultans of the “Arabian Nights.”
His broad back, upright figure, and strong hands grasping the rail in
front, gave one a sense of security, though the quick clear enunciation
of the necessary orders was not quite that of a sailor, or at least did
not sound so, after the jolly roar to which we were accustomed in our
skipper.

For all that, we soon found ourselves safely anchored well in sight of
the tiny jetty of the straggling collection of wooden and corrugated
iron buildings that form the town of Albany.

The ship was at once surrounded by a swarm of copper-coloured
savages--lads and men, from apparently ten years old to about
thirty--more or less nude, who proceeded, one out of each pair in
their rough boats, to dive into the clear blue water after the coins
the passengers threw in, and which they came up holding in their white
teeth, shaking the water out of their close black curls.

We were watching two of these chattering gleaming “bronzes,” as my wife
called them, averring that unless you looked upon them as statuary they
were really not proper, when the captain came up to us, as we leant
over the bulwarks, to introduce the pilot, who stood just behind him
with an amused smile at my wife’s last remark.

“Doctor, let me introduce Dr. Gladman, our pilot, to you,” said our
skipper. “Mrs. M. and Miss N., this is our parish doctor, health
officer, and pilot--Dr. Gladman.”

The pilot bowed, and holding his peaked cap in his left hand stood
with his close curling grey hair uncovered in the glowing Australian
sunshine, while he shook hands with my wife and her sister. “Welcome to
Australia, ladies,” said he, still holding his cap.

“Thank you, doctor,” said my wife. “But are you not afraid to remain
uncovered in this dreadful sun?”

“Not for a short moment, madam,” he replied, and added, glancing at
her delicate pale face and the more blooming cheeks of her sister,
“We naturalised Australians long ago gave up all hope of having your
beautiful English complexions,” replaced his cap.

“Naturalised?” echoed Rosie, looking ready to shake hands over again.
“Are you really an Englishman, Dr. Gladman? Oh! I am so glad. I was
afraid every one would be Australian--Colonial now.”

Dr. Gladman laughed. “A good colonist,” he said, “but not a Colonial.
No, it certainly seems a very long time ago, but I did originally come
from ‘Home,’ as we say out here. I was born in Buckinghamshire, and
bred at Bart’s.”

The magic word Bart’s--my beloved hospital!--completed the charm Dr.
Gladman’s fine head, clever face, and quick cheery speech had worked.

Here was a brother in arms, at the first push off! As we made the tour
of the ship together, necessary before he could give us our clean
bill of health and a soul could leave the ship, I found he had known
several of the older men of my time who were youngsters in his. He had
qualified fifteen years before I did, but by the time we had reached
the cabin to go over the ship’s papers with the captain he seemed an
old friend. There is something in the air of strange lands that draws
Englishmen together. I had been sent out for my health; so had he, he
told me with a jolly laugh, “quite a wreck, they said, ten years ago!”
I told him the latest medical news from England, and found he was only
a fortnight behind me! and saw his _Medical Journal_ and _Lancet_ as
regularly as I did. As we sat down to the saloon table, I asked him how
they managed for a pilot, supposing a ship should come in and signal
for one, while he was away across the bay, or over on the bush, in his
capacity of doctor.

“Oh,” said Dr. Gladman, “it doesn’t often happen. You see the regular
liners--the P. and O. and Orient boats--don’t require a pilot, they
come in so often. I don’t quite know why you signalled for one,
skipper,” he added, turning to the captain, who had ordered sherry
to be put on the table, and was sitting with his elbows well squared
putting his very black and inky signature to the ship’s papers.

“I’ve never been in here as skipper before. Why, it must be four years
since I was here at all, Gladman. I was chief officer on the ‘Regulus,’
don’t you remember, when I last came into the Sound? Let’s see, in 1880
it was.”

“Ay, so you were,” returned the pilot; “but,” he added, turning to me,
“one of my boat’s crew has a pilot’s license too, and can take a boat
in quite as well as I can. If they don’t care to have him, they have
to wait till I get back, if I am out. Once or twice I’ve been run very
hard though, doing pilot and doctor at the same time almost.”

“I remember, Gladman, just this very day, eight years ago,” struck in
the captain, “you took in the ‘Badger’ for Captain D----. I was his
mate then, just before that awful gale of wind when the old jetty was
nearly washed to pieces. It was the first time I ever saw you, and you
were off then to some good lady--do you remember?”

“Yes, I remember that,” said the pilot, balancing his silver
pencil-case on his finger. “I hadn’t my little coxswain with me then,
had I, skipper?”

“Hadn’t you? Oh! no--of course you hadn’t”--and the skipper laughed.
“He was only born that night, was he? Dear, dear, how time flies! So he
is eight years old to-day! Here’s to him!” And the skipper raised his
glass, and so did the doctor, saying to me, “It’s the little chap you
noticed in my boat--my little coxswain.”

I drank my glass also to the little fellow’s health, and then the
captain said:

“Tell the doctor, Gladman, how you came to take him.”

“What is his name?” I said. “I saw a curly-headed little fellow in the
stern of your boat, and also that you had four men besides. That is a
good large crew, isn’t it, simply to pull you out to a ship and back?”

“It isn’t a man too much, either, doctor, and when you have seen our
Breaksea in a storm of wind and rain you’ll agree with me. Besides,
that gig is all I have to take me to my patients across the bay, up the
harbour to the town. Of course there is a path to the town round the
cliffs from the lighthouse, where I live.”

“You saw it as we passed, doctor. Gladman is lighthouse-keeper, among
other things,” put in the skipper.

“But,” went on the pilot, smiling at the interpolation, “it is a long
way round, and I haven’t time for long ways round. We get all our
provisions, too, by the boat, and my wife goes to church and pays her
calls in it. She is a first-rate sailor, isn’t she, skipper? And as for
that monkey, Jack--my little coxswain--he’s a far better pilot than I
am.”

“Is he now?” said the captain. “Tell the doctor how you came to take
him,” he said, with a sailor’s love of a good yarn.

“He is not your son, then?” I said, a little surprised; for I had
noticed that the child was more carefully dressed than one would expect
one of the crew’s lads to be.

“Well, he is, and he isn’t. My wife and I adopted him. We lost our
little one--it was a girl though--the day he was born. Yes, it is eight
years ago to-day our little one was down with scarlet fever. She was
nearly two. There had been an epidemic of it in the town, but I never
knew how the child got it, up there miles away, unless, you know,
doctor,” he said a little sadly, “I took it up to the cottage myself--I
always feared so. I used, before then, to think if I had been to any
infectious cases in the town, that after the couple of hours’ row
across and round the point I should be safe and not take anything up
to the cottage. Anyhow, the little thing had it, and badly; I hadn’t
much hope in the morning. My poor little wife--she was one of your
Bart’s sisters before I married her--literally fought the disease inch
by inch, and we both of course did all that could be done. I had sat
up half the night--Christmas Eve--with the little maid. It was one of
those bad throat cases, doctor,” said the pilot, a little gruffly,
turning to me.

I nodded, and he went on: “About seven, one of the men at the
lighthouse came to say a pilot was signalled for by a ship off the
head.”

“That was the ‘Badger’--ay. I remember you coming aboard in the cool of
the morning, as well as if it was to-day,” said the captain.

“The other fellow was away,” continued the pilot; “so I had a bath and
changed all my things, and left the poor wife, who was beginning to
lose hope, sitting with the baby on her lap. I hardly thought it would
live till I got back. Just as I rounded the headland--or was it a bit
farther on, skipper--?”

“Thereabouts,” said the skipper.

“We met a boat from the town, and one of the boatmen called out to know
if I was aboard, because I was wanted in Albany. His wife was taken bad.

“You know what that means, doctor!” grinned the skipper.

“I ought to, captain,” I said, hearing as he spoke a smothered murmur
from our state-room, from which I guessed that the dead silence which
had till then prevailed therein was only another proof of the truth of
the saying, that women are curious beings.

Wholly unconscious that he had any other hearers than myself and the
captain, the pilot went on:

“We were steaming into the harbour as quick as we could, so I told the
man to fall astern, and we towed them behind us. When I got to Mrs.
Rogers, I found that she was better, and that I shouldn’t be wanted
probably that day at all; but I did not intend to go back home--I
thought it best not; but after an hour or two I saw my boat run in
alongside the jetty, and one of the fellows come ashore. In a few
moments, Rogers brought me a note from my wife begging me to come back
if I possibly could; she was frightened about the child.

“I knew I could do nothing, but I couldn’t bear the thought of the
wife’s being all alone up there and looking for me--and perhaps, later
on, I shouldn’t be able to go--so, as I found when I went up to Rogers’
cottage that everything was put off, and my patient preparing her
husband’s tea, I set off home again.

“The day had clouded over, and the hot wind that had blown off the land
all day had died down, and there was that dead silence we always have
before a black squall of wind and rain comes up from the sea.

“Before we got across the bay, gusts of wind dead in our teeth caught
us once or twice and curled the water round her bows; and just as I
jumped ashore, the first dash of rain came. As I stepped on to our
verandah, a great roaring gust nearly swept me away.

“I went up to the windows, and took down one of the outside shutters
my wife had put up to protect the glass, and saw her sitting with the
little one in her arms. She was relieved to see me, and beckoned to me
to go round and come in. But, you know,” said the pilot, clearing his
throat, “I couldn’t go in, going back, as I was, to the good woman in
labour over at Albany. It wouldn’t have been safe.”

“No,” I said, “I suppose not;” but I wondered if I should have been so
conscientious if it had been I.

“It may have been hard of me, perhaps,” said the pilot, looking
straight in front of him; “but I thought it right; and I could do
nothing; I knew that when I left in the morning. I opened the window
and told the wife how it was. She was very good; she wanted me to come
in, of course, if only to kiss the little thing before it died. But I
told her I did not think I ought. I couldn’t _do_ anything for the
child; it was dying then.”

The good honest fellow stopped a moment, and again I heard a movement,
and I thought a stifled sob, from our cabin; but the captain broke in
in a rather unnecessarily loud voice:

“You were quite right, doctor. It was very good of you. I couldn’t have
done it myself, I should have felt so for the missis.”

“I felt for my wife,” said the pilot, in rather a hard voice; “but
I couldn’t have done any good,” he repeated, as if afraid to trust
himself to say anything else. Then he went on:

“She sent the girl out with some food for me in the verandah; and we
watched the little one, she inside and I out. I couldn’t hear anything
in the room, the wind roared and shook the verandah so; but I could see
the child was breathing slower. Then my wife put her hand under the
wrap to feel its little feet.” He broke off, and then added:

“I didn’t see the end. One of the men came up to say they had signalled
for the doctor from the town. So I had to start back. The gig tore
through the black seas before the gale. It was a pitch dark night,
about eight when I started. I got to Mrs. Rogers just in time. The
youngster was born about midnight. The mother did very well, and when
I left, about four in the morning, the bay was like a sheet of glass,
and the sun rising without a cloud over the cliffs. The jetty had been
washed away, all but the stonework, and my men had had to beach our
boat right up on the road.

“When I got back, I found the wife on the lookout by the lighthouse.
She had heard nothing of us, of course, since I left the night before.”

“That was a hardish day’s work,” said the skipper--”thirty hours of it.

“Well, I was not sorry to get my boots off, and get some sleep, before
I started on my round. I’d a longish ride that day to the telegraph
construction camp, over the hill there,” said Dr. Gladman, getting up
from the table and taking his cap.

“And your little girl--doctor?” said my wife, suddenly appearing at her
cabin door, tears on her cheek and a little gasp in her voice.

“It was dead, ma’am,” said the father, and turned to the companion and
went on deck.

We saw very little more of Dr. Gladman while we were in Albany. My wife
and her sister went up to the lighthouse and called on his wife. They
came away charmed with her and the dainty little household she reigned
over. My wife was enthusiastic over the trim garden, cool little
parlour, and “exquisitely clean kitchen,” and “would you believe it,”
she said, “she has only one maid-servant, and that a girl of seventeen!”

“I think,” she said impressively, stopping in our walk up and down the
deck, as we were taking our last turn that night after leaving Albany,
gliding past the shadowy coast under the wonderful Southern Cross--”I
think they are both splendid, those Gladmans.”

A burly figure leaning over the bulwarks, puffing clouds of smoke into
the still night air, turned round, and the captain’s voice said:

“That’s what they are, ma’am. That’s the sort of colonist this
country wants; a man like Gladman is worth a whole shipload of the
ne’er-do-wells they’re so fond of sending out. As for such like!--”
he pointed with his elbow, as he replaced his pipe, to a group
of dissipated-looking youngsters coming up from the bar, whose
determination to drink more than was good for them had been a source of
worry to him all the way out--”As for such like,” he said, with a look
it would do many intending emigrants good to have seen, “I ask you,
doctor, what’s the good of them?”

  --_Gentleman’s Magazine._



XVI

DR. WRIGHTSON’S ENEMY.


FOR the last thirty years, Dr. Wrightson had been the sole medical
adviser of the little town of Oakhampton, and he was still a hale,
hearty, jovial, stout gentleman, of about sixty years of age.

Dr. Wrightson lived in the High Street, in a long, low, white house,
which never failed to look as clean and bright as if it had been
thoroughly done (apparently fresh from the foundry) announced in large
letters to every passer-by that this was the abode of Dr. Wrightson.
To the left of the white house stood the surgery, which was marked by
a glaring red lamp and several bells, and over this surgery presided a
helpless and timid young man named Titmas, the doctor’s only assistant.

Many wondered how it was that Dr. Wrightson did not engage a partner
in his business; but that gentleman invariably turned a deaf ear to
all hints of this nature. He was strong and well, he said, and able to
do his work himself without any help at present. There would be time
enough to talk about a partner when he grew to be an old man. The real
fact of the matter was, that Dr. Wrightson could not bear to admit
“a rival near his throne.” He was fond of his profession, proud of
his reputation in it, and very jealous of every other practitioner. A
partner would have driven him distracted; and I doubt if he would ever
have allowed him to feel a single pulse, or to have sent so much as a
black draught out of the dispensary, without his express permission.

Besides this, Dr. Wrightson had another reason for wishing to keep
all the practice of Oakhampton in his own hands. The doctor had a
daughter--his only child, and the very apple of his eye. To make, or
save a fortune for Fanny was the first great object of Dr. Wrightson’s
life, his one daily anxiety; and in this task the worthy doctor found
an able and willing coadjutor in his sister Penelope, who shared all
his hopes and fears, and seconded his endeavours to make a handsome
provision for pretty Fanny. A partner would necessarily have been very
much in the way of this project. If he did half the work, he would also
have divided the profits, and that would by no means have suited Dr.
Wrightson’s purposes; and, in short, a partner, or even an assistant
above the calibre of the inoffensive Titmas, who had not two ideas in
his head, would have caused Dr. Wrightson tortures of jealousy and
uneasiness.

Fanny Wrightson had been carefully brought up at a first-class
boarding-school; for her mother died when she was a very little
child, and Aunt Penny, who then came to take charge of her brother’s
establishment, though an excellent housekeeper, was scarcely equal to
the responsibility of undertaking the education of her niece. The day
she was seventeen, Fanny returned to Oakhampton as a “_finished_” young
lady, with a variety of rather useless accomplishments, and a very
slender stock of common sense.

Fanny had, moreover, a fine taste for romance, which seemed to be in
some danger of fading away from pure inanition at Oakhampton, when an
event occurred which startled the whole Wrightson family from their
usual equanimity, and raised a storm of conflicting emotions in the
heart of pretty Fanny.

“What _do_ you think? what _will_ you say? what _is_ to be done?”
exclaimed Miss Wrightson, as she entered her brother’s room in an
excited manner one afternoon just before dinner-time.

“Well, Penelope, what’s the matter now? Is the house on fire, or are
there burglars in the cellar, or what?” asked Dr. Wrightson, quietly
looking up from a medical journal which he was perusing with deep
attention.

“No, no, brother! but something quite as bad. That old house in Church
Street is taken, and by whom, do you think? By a medical man! There!
His name is Peirce--Montague Peirce--and they are coming in at Lady
Day.”

“The deuce they are!” cried Dr. Wrightson, throwing down his journal
with a bang. “Much good may it do them! I flatter myself the poor man
may go back where he came from without having done _me_ much injury.
I have not lived in Oakhampton all these years without being able to
hold my own against any impertinent upstart in the kingdom; and so you
may tell him, if you see him, with my compliments--my most respectful
compliments. Ha, ha, ha! a pretty joke, indeed. Poor Mr. Montague
Peirce! I am sorry for him. His prospects are not very lively, poor
fellow! Eh? Fanny, my dear, what have you got to say about it?”

“I say it’s a horrid, wicked shame,” replied Fanny, throwing her long
curls over her shoulders, “and I quite hate this Mr. Montague Peirce
already. What business has he to come poking his nose into Oakhampton,
of all places? as if anybody would ever think of sending for him when
they could get my dear old darling papa to attend them. The idea of
such a thing! But never mind, Aunt Penny, perhaps Mr. Peirce will take
some of the poor people who can’t pay, off papa’s hands; and then he
will have more time to spare for us at home.”

“Bless the child! that’s not a bad idea,” said Dr. Wrightson. “So we’ll
let him have some of the _very_ poor people, shall we? Yes, yes! so he
shall. Excellent practice for a rising man. Give him confidence and
experience, won’t it? We’ll hope, though, the poor fellow has not a
large family to support, or else that he has some private means of his
own. He won’t live in that house for nothing, I can tell him.”

“The rent alone is sixty pounds a year,” remarked Miss Wrightson;
“and the garden is being thoroughly set in order, Mudge tells me.
Mudge has been employed to do many little odd jobs about the house,
and I met him coming out of it just now. Mudge hears Mr. Peirce is a
single man--quite a young man--but has his mother living with him. He
was doing well in London, and was reckoned very clever there, so the
servants told Mudge; but the air did not suit the old lady, and so they
have come to settle in the country. I can’t think whoever can have
advised them to come to Oakhampton, of all places.

“Some ignorant busybody who did not know what he was about, you may
depend upon it,” said Dr. Wrightson. “Now, let’s go to dinner, Penny.”

“It’s not as if you were ever ill, you know, or unable to attend
to your duties,” continued Miss Penelope, as she walked into the
dining-room, “or as if, when you did go away for a day or two, you
could not get Mr. Halliday, from Littleton, to come and look after your
patients. It’s such a ridiculous thing of a young man to come down from
London, and try to cut you out at Oakhampton, brother.”

“It merely evinces great folly and presumption on the part of the young
man, my dear Penny, and so we’ll say no more about the matter.”

But from that day forward the favourite topic in the Wrightson family
was the last enormity committed by Mr. Montague Peirce.

“I saw that fellow’s trap standing at Hornibrook’s door,” Dr.
Wrightson would suddenly observe; “that fellow” being the very mildest
designation that was ever bestowed to Mr. Peirce.

“Oh, yes! I daresay you did. The man makes free with everybody, I
hear,” Miss Wrightson would reply, indignantly. “He goes and pays
people long visits, and bores them to death, I’ve no doubt, and then
hopes all the town will take it for granted that he is attending them.”

It was very disagreeable for poor Dr. Wrightson, when he drove through
the streets in his neat, respectable, blue brougham, to meet this young
Peirce dashing past in his light, smart-looking dog-cart, drawn by a
big chestnut horse; and it was most unpleasant for the whole family
to go to church every Sunday, knowing they were liable to be jostled
against “those Peirces” in the aisle.

Miss Penelope declared she could hardly bear to walk down the street,
lest she should meet her adversaries; and as for Fanny, she could not
think how it happened, but she never went near the windows without
seeing the “dreadful man” pass by. It was curious, that, under
these painful circumstances Fanny should spend the greater part of
her time in looking out of the window. To be sure, Mr. Peirce was
as good-looking and pleasant a young man as could be met with on a
summer’s day, and the old lady, his mother, was quite a picture in her
rich black silks; but the Wrightsons insisted upon considering the
Peirces as their mortal enemies, and would not listen to a word in
their favour.

The rest of the inhabitants of Oakhampton were naturally less rancorous
against the intruders. The Peirces were not likely to injure them in
any way. Mr. Priestly, the rector, his wife, and daughters, of course,
called on Mrs. Peirce, and pronounced her to be a very lady-like,
well-informed, agreeable person. The Pentelows, and the Fanthoms, and
the Hornibrooks, and the Goslings, and old Mr. Lillywhite, thought
it incumbent upon them to follow the example of the Rector, and it
was soon rumoured that the Peirces were not unlikely to prove a great
addition to the society of Oakhampton. Young men were scarce articles
in that locality, and Mr. Peirce, not having much to do, entered with
great zest into the cricket matches, and the croquet parties of the
neighbourhood.

Besides, Oakhampton was a place that was improving rapidly. That is to
say, a railroad had lately run through the town, and, in consequence,
fresh villas, streets, terraces, and squares, were rising up in every
direction. Quite a new population had been formed during the last few
years, and many of these new comers, who had not known Dr. Wrightson
from their cradles upwards, rejoiced in the advent of the new doctor
and determined to patronize Mr. Peirce from London at once. There were,
indeed, other persons in Oakhampton, old inhabitants who should have
known better, but who were so perverse and ill-judging as to prefer
the treatment of Mr. Peirce to that of Dr. Wrightson, who was by this
disaffected party termed “a twaddling old woman.” Others, again, there
were, who had been affronted occasionally, when, on sending for Dr.
Wrightson himself, they had been put off with “that stupid creature,
Titmas,” who never seemed to know what he was about; and these now
gladly employed the rival practitioner. With the best intentions, poor
Dr. Wrightson could not possibly make himself ubiquitous, or attend
to fifty patients at once. Thus it happened one unlucky day, when
Dr. Wrightson had been to pay a visit to his old and faithful ally,
Lady Cardozo, who lived about five miles from Oakhampton, that Mrs.
Pankhurst’s little girl took the opportunity of swallowing a pin, which
stuck in her throat, and frightened the whole Pankhurst family into
fits. As the case was one quite beyond the powers of poor Titmas, Mr.
Peirce was called in, and extracted the pin with so much promptitude
and skill that Mrs. Pankhurst was delighted with him, and asked him to
prescribe for her own nervous affections at the same time, and also, to
call the next day and see how the child was going on. It is true that
Mr. Pankhurst (as in honour bound) called on Dr. Wrightson immediately,
and explained to him fully all the circumstances of the case, but
that headstrong and unreasonable old gentleman could not be induced
to see the thing at all in its proper light. He looked annoyed and
huffy, and remarked in his most caustic manner, “that if Mr. and Mrs.
Pankhurst were satisfied with the attendance of Mr. Peirce, that was
all that could be desired.” Dr. Wrightson had not the slightest wish to
interfere, and thought Mr. Pankhurst could not do better than secure
the services of the young man altogether. Having been so successful
in his treatment of Miss Pankhurst, he would doubtless continue to
give advice to the rest of the family. Perhaps when Dr. Wrightson said
this, he never expected to be taken at his word; but it did so happen
that the very next week the whole of the little Pankhursts (eight in
number) were seized, in regular rotation, with the scarlatina, and Mr.
Peirce was in regular attendance at Pankhurst Park for the next three
months. This was a terrible blow to Dr. Wrightson, for Pankhurst Park
was one of the most profitable households in the neighbourhood; and
the Pankhursts were rich, influential people, and kept a good deal of
company; and of course Mrs. Pankhurst went about in her usual idiotic
manner, recommending Mr. Peirce as the most wonderful man of the age,
and the only doctor worth consulting in the county.

Still Dr. Wrightson and his sister shook their heads and shrugged their
shoulders, and repeated “that fellow would be found out before long.”
Now, it so happened that the garden of Dr. Wrightson’s house in High
Street stood at right angles with the garden of Mr. Peirce’s house in
Church Street, and at a certain point, the walls met. Fanny Wrightson’s
bed-room window commanded an excellent view of the Peirce’s garden, and
it was a never-failing source of interest to watch the proceedings of
the Peirce family. She was anxious to see what “the enemy” did, when he
was at home, and she soon contrived to make herself complete mistress
of his movements, and became intimately acquainted with his habits
and customs. He was very kind and attentive to his mother, that was
certain, and apparently he was good to his servants and spoke civilly
to them. They looked as if they had a great regard for him; even the
fat, lazy, old tabby cat loved him and followed him about, and jumped
upon his shoulder whenever she could get the opportunity. Fanny could
not help rather taking a fancy to that old cat of the Peirces, and when
she got over the wall into the Wrightson’s garden, Fanny was actually
guilty of giving her some milk sometimes when her aunt was out.

It was about this time Fanny took violently to the study of Shakspeare.
“Romeo and Juliet” was her favourite play. What sweet passages there
were in “Romeo and Juliet!” Nothing could be more striking, for
instance, than that part where Juliet exclaims--”Oh, Romeo! Romeo!
wherefore art thou Romeo?”

And how affecting were the lines--

  “My only love sprung from my only hate,
  Too early seen unknown; and known too late,
  Prodigious birth of love it is to me,
  That I must love a loathed enemy.”

But nothing would induce either Dr. Wrightson or his sister to allow
the poor Peirces any quarter. He was an interloper and an adversary
of the most aggressive nature. If Mr. Peirce happening to meet Dr.
Wrightson in the street, should, in the innocence of his heart, take
off his hat in passing, the old gentleman would turn his head the other
way and pretend not to see him, or would coldly return the greeting
with a gesture of intense disgust.

When Miss Wrightson and Mrs. Peirce met at the house of some mutual
acquaintance, as was not unfrequently the case, the spinster would
draw herself up, tuck in her chin, and curtsey in her stiffest manner
to the widow, and declining all conversation, would sniff alarmingly
during the whole period that Mrs. Peirce remained in the room. Neither
the doctor nor his sister scrupled to express the utmost solicitude
for all Mr. Peirce’s patients. They feared any sick person ran a very
poor chance who had Peirce for their medical attendant, and they did
not hesitate to say that rather than be left to the mercy of “that
inexperienced, conceited young fool,” they would prefer being in the
hands of Mr. Titmas himself.

In spite of all they thought, said, and looked, however, Mr. Peirce’s
practice increased daily. The farmers and their families flocked to
his door on market days, for “the young man from London” had performed
some almost miraculous cures, it was stoutly averred. Then many of the
tradespeople thought it fair to give “young Peirce” a turn now and
then, and his reputation spread to the servants of some great families
in the neighbourhood. Old Lady Cardozo’s own maid actually refused
to consult Dr. Wrightson about her digestion, and announced boldly
“that Mr. Peirce had done such wonders for her cousin, Mrs. Hogsflesh,
the butcher’s wife, in a similar case, that rather than not have the
benefit of his advice, she would walk all the way into Oakhampton on
her own legs, and pay him for it out of her own money.” And so good
an effect had Mr. Peirce’s medicine upon the malady of Mrs. Milliken,
that the good woman entreated her mistress to try just one bottle of
it, for her ladyship suffered sadly from precisely the same symptoms as
Mrs. Hogsflesh. The dose, taken surreptitiously and in great fear and
trembling by old Lady Cardozo, was most efficacious, and though she was
too loyal to her old friend to desert Dr. Wrightson altogether, still
Lady Cardozo sent Mrs. Milliken constantly into Oakhampton on secret
embassies to Mr. Peirce for further supplies of his very excellent
remedy for a weak digestion.

And so the autumn slipped away, and the trees grew bare, and the winds
howled, and the damp, chilly fogs of November fell upon the little town
of Oakhampton, and the more Fanny saw of her father’s enemy, the less
it became in her power to hate him, as she felt a good and dutiful
daughter should do. This made her very unhappy at times.

Lectures on scientific subjects were quite an annual institution
in Oakhampton during the long winter evenings. Fanny Wrightson had
always been a very regular attendant at these lectures, not that she
understood what they were about, the least in the world, or that she
came home a bit wiser than she went out, but the lectures offered
some excuse for a very mild kind of dissipation, and Fanny’s life was
a monotonous one. This year Fanny was more devoted than ever to the
“pursuit of knowledge under difficulties,” for Mrs. Peirce and her
son were sure to be at the Athenæum, and it sometimes happened (Fanny
declared she never knew how) that she found herself seated next to
the Peirces, and then Mr. Peirce would very good-naturedly explain to
her everything that she could not understand, and would make the most
abstruse subjects as simple to her as A B C.

Dr. Wrightson never went to lectures. He was too tired of an evening,
even if he had no patients to visit, and he was glad to take his
“forty winks” in his armchair by the fire. Aunt Penelope was too much
afraid of risking a bad cold to stir out after dark, and so Fanny was
duly called for every Thursday evening at half-past seven, by her
neighbours, the Pentelows, who also left her again at her own door
about ten o’clock; and when she returned, Dr. and Miss Wrightson were
too sleepy to ask many questions, or to make any stringent inquiries
as to Fanny’s adventures. She thought it was not worth while to wake
them up and make them uncomfortable by telling them about the Peirces,
and I have no doubt that if they gave the matter a moment’s thought,
they took it for granted that Fanny invariably sat between her friends,
Eliza and Harriet Pentelow.

It chanced, however, one Thursday morning, that Dr. Wrightson descried
in a shop window a notice, stating that Montague Peirce, Esq., was to
deliver a lecture on chemistry at the Athenæum that evening, and he
instantly came home, in great wrath and indignation, to forbid Fanny
or any of his household to attend the lecture, as usual, on pain of his
heavy displeasure. Not any member of his family, he declared, should
“encourage the man to make a Tom-fool of himself by giving lectures.”

In vain Fanny remonstrated and entreated and coaxed her father to let
her go, that once. Dr. Wrightson was inexorable, till his pretty little
daughter in despair burst into tears, and then Aunt Penny interfered,
and assured her father that he had better say no more about it. “Fanny
was moped to death at home, and after all, it would be amusing to
hear what a mess the young idiot made of his lecturing, and how he
would be the laughing-stock of the place, with his absurd conceit and
presumption.” So Fanny at length obtained a reluctant consent. It was
raining hard when the Pentelows called for her, but Fanny did not care
for that. Wrapped in her large waterproof cloak, she tripped along the
muddy streets to the Athenæum, feeling very proud and very happy, and
firmly convinced that if she had been forced to stay at home her heart
must have broken at once. Mrs. Peirce saw her as she entered, and made
her a sign to come and sit by her, and the old lady was so good and
kind as to confide to Fanny her nervous fears for “Monty,” though, at
the same time, she was quite sure his would be the best lecture of the
season. And such was soon the opinion of everybody in the room. Mr.
Peirce had so fine a voice, so happy a delivery, and such a thorough
knowledge of his subject, that the attention of the audience was
attracted, even by the first few sentences.

Mrs. Peirce and Fanny were gratified to their hearts’ content by the
acclamations of applause which greeted the close of the lecture.

The evening wound up with some amusing experiments with laughing gas
by which several school-boys and a shopman or two were thrown into
convulsions of laughter. This proved so catching, that the whole room
was in an uproar of merriment, and the audience clapped and screamed,
and stamped and cheered, till the whole street resounded with the
sounds of their mirth. At the very height of this confusion, a rough,
dirty-looking man was observed to press hastily through the crowded
hall, towards the platform. His eager looks and evident anxiety caught
the attention of the lecturer, and he instantly went forward to meet
him.

After speaking to the man for a moment, Mr. Peirce’s countenance
changed to an expression of the deepest concern and alarm. He whispered
a few words to his mother, and immediately left the room.

“What is it? What has happened? Is anybody ill?” inquired Fanny of Mrs.
Peirce.

“My poor child,” said the old lady, putting her arm around Fanny’s
waist affectionately, “something very terrible has happened. I hardly
know how to tell you that your father has met with a sad accident.
Can you bear it bravely? They say it is now freezing very hard out of
doors, and the streets are slippery. It seems Dr. Wrightson, on his way
to see a patient, has fallen down and hurt himself severely. They have
sent for Montague. Let us try to slip quietly out at that side door,
and we shall be at home as soon as they are.”

It was quite true, that the rain had soon turned to sleet, and the
sleet had frozen as it fell, and the streets were a perfect sheet of
glass, in which the houses were reflected as in a mirror.

Dr. Wrightson had been sent for to a sick person, and in picking his
way cautiously along the pavement, he had been suddenly startled, just
as he passed the Athenæum, by the shouts of laughter and applause that
issued from its partly-opened doors. In his astonishment and irritation
at these unexpected sounds, the doctor made a false step, his foot
slipped from under him, and he fell, with his head on the curbstone and
his leg doubled under him; and there he lay, stunned and helpless,
till some workingmen passing by, ran to his assistance.

Seeing he was perfectly unconscious, the men fancied he was dead, and
this was the report that one of them carried to Mr. Peirce.

When Fanny and Mrs. Peirce made their way into the street, they found
that it was hardly possible to walk without falling. No horse could
keep its footing at all, and people were slipping and sliding about
in every direction. It was with considerable difficulty that the two
ladies reached Dr. Wrightson’s door in safety, and there they were met
by a melancholy cavalcade. The good old Doctor lay on a shutter, borne
by half-a-dozen strong men, and was followed by a crowd of sorrowing
friends. At the head of the procession walked the Rector and Mr. Peirce.

At the surgery-door appeared Mr. Titmas, frightened at the tramping of
so many feet, who, when he learnt what had occurred, speedily lost the
little stock of presence of mind he had ever possessed, and collapsed
altogether into a state of helpless imbecility.

Miss Wrightson, who was summoned down-stairs by the shrieks of the
parlour-maid, instantly fainted dead away, in the front hall, just as
the lifeless form of her brother was brought into the house.

Nobody seemed to have any presence of mind but poor little Fanny, who
stood there, pale and trembling to be sure, but quite ready to obey Mr.
Peirce’s directions, and to make herself useful in every possible way.
Under Mrs. Peirce’s superintendence a bed was soon prepared for Dr.
Wrightson, in his own study; splints and bandages were procured from
the surgery, and Mr. Peirce proceeded to examine the injuries sustained
by the poor gentleman.

His head was badly cut, but it was hoped that no great harm was done
in that quarter; his right leg, however, had sustained a compound
fracture, and he seemed much bruised and shaken by his fall. Mr.
Priestly strove to help Mr. Peirce, Mr. Titmas being quite incapable
of being of the slightest use to anybody, and Mrs. Peirce proved
herself to be a most valuable and experienced nurse. As soon as Miss
Wrightson was restored to her senses, she sat crying and rocking
herself backwards and forwards, in a corner of the room, declaring
that her brother was dying, and that she should not long survive him,
while Fanny knelt by her father’s bedside, patiently watching the
proceedings of Mr. Peirce and his mother, and waiting upon them in a
quiet unobtrusive way, which raised her very much in their opinion.

The first words spoken by Dr. Wrightson were, “Send for Halliday
immediately. I don’t know what has happened; but it seems to me, I
am ill, and Titmas is no better than a fool. But don’t send for that
fellow Peirce, whatever you do. D’ye hear? all of you. I tell you I
won’t have the man in my house as long as I am alive to be the master
of it.”

“Ahem! my good friend,” began the Rector, gently clearing his throat,
“it is not possible to send to Littleton to-night; the roads are quite
impassable. You have had the misfortune to slip down yourself, and
your leg has been broken. It is now set, and will, we trust, under the
blessing of Providence, be ere long restored to use.”

“Nonsense! Don’t tell me,” cried the Doctor, angrily, “Halliday must
and shall be sent for. He will come directly he knows I am ill. My leg
shall not be set till Halliday comes. Let no one dare to meddle with
it.”

“Oh! my dear, dear father,” said Fanny, throwing her arms around him,
“do be good and let Mr. Peirce doctor your leg; it will soon be better,
if you will only lie still and be patient. For the sake of your poor
little Fanny, do let Mr. Peirce stay with you now. Oh! Mr. Peirce,
please don’t mind what he says. Don’t let papa send you away. If he
should say anything a little rude you won’t listen to him, will you? I
think he is so ill he scarcely knows what he says. Dear Mrs. Peirce,
pray ask your son to stay here, whatever papa may say against it.”

“Nothing will induce me to leave him, as long as I can be of the
slightest use to him, Miss Fanny, you may depend upon that,” said Mr.
Peirce, firmly.

In the meantime, Dr. Wrightson tried to move, but fell back with a
moan, and shut his eyes again. His face was quite contracted with pain.

“Calm yourself, dear sir,” began Mr. Priestly once more. “Consider that
your system has sustained a severe shock. You cannot keep your mind too
quiet. Leave everything to us, and try to sleep. Let me entreat you to
lie still, and trust yourself to the kind care of my very excellent
young friend here, and his good mother. Believe me, you could not
possibly be in better hands.”

“My patients! what will become of my patients?” groaned Dr. Wrightson
presently. “That fellow will inveigle away every patient I have. If
I lose my practice in Oakhampton, I am a ruined man this night. I am
too old to go away and begin life afresh elsewhere. You will be left a
beggar, my poor child, if I lose my patients here.”

“If you would allow me, Dr. Wrightson, to act as your assistant, till
you are able to make some arrangement with your friend Mr. Halliday,
I can only say I should be most happy to do so,” said Mr. Peirce. “I
would, of course, work strictly under your directions, and follow
out your wishes in every respect; and I would take care to make it
understood that I was only taking your place for the time being. There!
now will you consent to go to sleep with an easy conscience?”

Dr. Wrightson did not answer for some minutes, then suddenly holding
out his hand to Mr. Peirce, he exclaimed, with tears in his eyes:

“I am at your mercy, sir; I shall lie here for many a long week to
come, and maybe I shall never again be the man I was. There is a fine
opening in Oakhampton, sir, for a rising young man now. You had better
take advantage of it. I am not able to help myself.”

“Thank you, Dr. Wrightson; then you will let me have my own way,”
said Mr. Peirce, quietly; “and you will consider me as your junior
partner till you are quite strong and well again. Nay, if you have any
scruples about the matter, you shall pay me, just as you do my friend
Titmas--there need be no obligations between us. And by the by, to
begin with, where were you bound to this evening? I had better just run
round there at once, and when I return I shall hope to find you quite
comfortable and fast asleep. My mother will remain here to-night; she
is a capital nurse.” And the young doctor, feeling amply repaid for his
services by a look of intense gratitude from Fanny, retired to get his
instructions from Mr. Titmas.

The next day the snow fell fast and lay thick on the ground. All
communication between Oakhampton and Littleton was entirely cut off for
more than a week. No Mr. Halliday could by any possibility come over to
attend to the medical requirements of Oakhampton. Mr. Peirce, however,
cheerfully trudged about in his great jack boots, though he was often
up to his waist in the snow, and he never failed faithfully to report
progress to Dr. Wrightson of all his patients, humoring the old
gentleman by invariably asking his advice and opinion, though, perhaps,
he did not always follow it very implicitly.

On Christmas Eve, Mr. Halliday, with some difficulty, made his way to
the bedside of his old friend, and expressed himself highly delighted
with the progress Dr. Wrightson had made. Nothing could have been
more judicious, he declared, than Mr. Peirce’s mode of treatment. The
leg was going on marvellously well, and though it would naturally be
a tedious process at the doctor’s age, still the bones were knitting
famously already. Dr. Wrightson was most fortunate at such a moment to
fall into such skilful hands. “There was not one man in a dozen who
could have made so neat a job of such a case.” So said Mr. Halliday
emphatically.

“Ah,” sighed Dr. Wrightson; “it’s all very well, but I’m done for,
Halliday. I have had a great shake; I shall never be fit for much work
again after this. I never was ill before in my life, and at my age one
can’t stand this sort of thing. My poor child here will suffer for it.
I ought to have looked out for a partner before this, and have got a
good round sum down, for a share in the business. Now it is simply
worth nothing at all. That young fellow Peirce has got hold of all my
patients. They seem to take a fancy to him, and no partner of mine will
have a chance against him. But he’s a clever dog, and knows what he is
about; I must say that for him.”

“Then, in the name of goodness, why not make him your partner,
Wrightson? It is quite out of the question that I should come over from
Littleton to look after your patients, and so I tell you plainly. I
could not undertake it. Why not get this young Peirce now, to put his
money in with yours, and save you all the hard work? That will be your
plan, depend upon it. You will then have Oakhampton entirely in your
own hands, and carry all before you.”

“That’s what they all say,” replied Dr. Wrightson; “but the man
would not be such a fool as to consent to it, when he can get all my
connection away from me for nothing, if he chooses to try. The ladies
are all for him; he is popular enough here already. They are tired of
me. I am old and worn out, and past my work now, and Peirce is the man
to suit them henceforth in Oakhampton. I can see it plainer every day.”

“Oh, papa! dear papa! pray don’t talk in that dreadful way,” cried
Fanny, who was in the room; “Mr. Peirce is only anxious to work for
you, and be of use to you, till you are better. I assure you he
would gladly be your partner, or do anything to make you happy and
comfortable. Indeed, and indeed, papa, you may believe me when I tell
you this.”

“Bless my heart alive! Fanny, how do you know what Peirce wants? Why,
Fanny, child, what’s all this mean, eh? How the girl colours, and how
guilty she looks, a little minx! Come, child, tell me what makes you
think Peirce would like to be my partner instead of my rival? I should
like to know.”

“Here is Mr. Peirce, ask _him_,” replied Fanny, hiding her blushing
face behind the red moreen curtains of her father’s bed.

“My object, sir, is not so much to be your partner as your son,” said
Mr. Peirce, coming forward boldly. “If I can combine the two relations,
I shall indeed esteem myself a fortunate man. Will you let me help you
to work for our dear Fanny? I do not think you can be more devoted to
her interests than I am. Let me see. Suppose we say a share in your
practice would be worth fifteen hundred pounds--I have that sum lying
idle at my banker’s at this moment. It shall be paid into your account
as soon as you please. Then I am not entirely without private means. My
father left me an income of about eight hundred a year. Will you come
to terms and give me Fanny’s hand into the bargain?”

“What! so you’ve got possession of her heart safe enough, I’ll warrant
me, you young rogue, and I have not a word to say for myself. I’m
fairly conquered; you’ve won the day. Fanny, where are you? To go and
play such a trick to your poor old bed-ridden father! Eh! are you not
ashamed of yourself, miss?”

“No, papa, not a bit!” said Fanny, coming out of her concealment behind
the curtain; “and you have nobody but yourself to thank for it, after
all; for if you had not abused poor Montague from morning till night, I
dare say I should never have thought of him twice, or troubled my head
about him in any way. As it was--”

“You never thought of anybody else I may venture to hope, and I am duly
grateful to your father for it,” added Mr. Peirce confidently.

“Well, well, well! Have it your own way. I am a poor, broken-down,
useless, helpless, old man; but I did not think my own daughter would
have gone over to the enemy. When there are traitors in the camp, I’ve
nothing for it but surrender at discretion. Make your own terms--give
me no quarter--I’ve deserved it all for being a wicked, jealous,
uncharitable, ill-natured old brute. You’ve heaped coals of fire enough
on my head, Peirce, if that’s any consolation to you.”

“To-morrow is Christmas Day,” said Fanny, gently taking her father’s
hand, and putting it into that of her lover. “Now, father dear, promise
me you will never have any more enemies as long as you live, which we
hope will be very, very long, now you have Montague to take all the
hard work off your hands. In Oakhampton, at least, let us always have
in future ‘Peace and good-will towards men.’”

  HON. ELEANOR EDEN.



XVII

THE COMING OF THE SHIP: THE DOCTOR’S PATIENT.

 A selected reading from The Head of a Hundred. Edited by Maud Wilder
 Goodwin. Dr. Humphrey Huntoon, a young Englishman, in the early days of
 the colonies comes to this country in pique at the coldness of Elizabeth
 Romney, his sweetheart, who is above him in social station. The story
 is filled with charming pictures of colonial life and sentiment. In the
 opening part of this reading, Huntoon, in a burst of confidence, tells
 his old friend, the ship-captain, of his disappointment in love. In the
 second part a new ship comes from England.


’TIS strange what lightness of spirit comes with the laying bare of a
sore heart. Verily, a trouble half told is half healed. Here I, who had
not been merry for months, found myself now smiling in the dark, as I
talked of those pleasant days of old. Then, like a mourner ashamed that
he hath forgot his grief, I caught up my melancholy once more.

“Well, well! All that is over and gone. If she loved me in those
childish years (and I still think she did), she outgrew the foolishness
soon enow. Yet, from time to time, as she grew into maidenhood, she let
drop some word, some hint, as tho’ she would say, ‘Perhaps!’ but ere I
could pry into the meaning of her words her eyes gathered merriment,
like as if they were laughing at the poor fool who allowed himself to
be cheated thus.

“Once, ere I went to Oxford, I rode beneath her window. She, leaning
out of the casement, did drop a sprig of lad’s-love, which a moment
before she had been holding to her lips; then, when I looked up, with
my heart in my eyes, she slammed the window to, and a moment later I
heard her calling her dog within.”

“Tush, tush, lad! A woman’s ways are like the maze at Hampton Court. If
thou lose the clew, thou mayst wander round and round forever and be no
nearer coming out. Why didst thou not ask her flat, would she have thee
for her husband?”

“Why not, indeed. Ah, therein lies the root of all my bitterness! When
I had finished my studies at Oxford and got my degree as a physician
and chirurgeon in London, I found myself with a scanty portion of a
thousand pounds. Yet had I none the less high hopes of carving my way
to fame and fortune, as other men have done from still lower estate.
This did I write to Sir William Romney, and in a packet I enclosed a
letter to his daughter.

“Therein I told her anew what she knew of old, that I loved her. I
asked her not to share the fortunes of a poor adventurer. I did but
seek a pledge that she would grant me a year and a day, and a promise
that if by that time I had aught of success to lay at her feet, she
would look on my suit with favor.”

“It was done like thyself, Humphrey. What answer made she?”

“Answer! Oh, it makes me mad to think on’t! She might have said me
nay, and yet I would have gone my way loving her like a knight of
old, without hope of reward or return; but to be flouted and baited,
and badgered and mocked, when I had offered her that poor thing, my
heart--oh, it was ill done!”

The instinct of my body to keep pace with my restless and turbulent
soul led me to stride up and down, striving to master the storm within
me. When I took my seat again, Captain Chester drew me on to speak
further.

“Perhaps,” he said, “the maid was but the mouthpiece of her father. I
hear of him everywhere as a hard, cold man.”

“Oh! Ay, ay, ay,” I broke in, “I have said all that over and over to
myself, like a madman, since ever I received Sir William’s cool note of
dismissal, inclosing the daughter’s mocking lines; but whenever I would
soothe my sore heart with the thought that she wrote it not of her own
free will, my reason says: ‘’Tis false, and thou knowst it!’ She would
brave a thousand fathers if she really loved, and her will was crossed.
I know, of course, that her refusal jumped with her father’s wish.”

I was down for a week with that wretched James City fever. By day I
shivered, and by night I burned with a consuming heat. Pory said it
served me right that I, who had come hither hoping to fatten on the
misfortunes of others, should myself fall a victim.

Thus he talked, like himself, and equally like himself he stayed by my
bedside day and night, scarcely taking off his clothes, tending me as
if I were a baby, and mixing doses of the bark, a sovran remedy, till
he saw me well on the road to recovery.

My convalescence he cheered as he had cured my illness. One day (I
was quite recovered then) my lively friend came bounding in, full of
excitement.

“A ship lieth in the harbor,” cried he, “and she hath brought--what
think ye?”

“Sooth, I know not. How should I? And if I did, ‘twere cruel to spoil
thy sport by saying so. What is this wondrous cargo?”

“Why, twenty maids, come out with one that is already betrothed to
Babcock, the blacksmith!”

“Well, what of it?”

“What of it, man! Why, ‘twould be the making of the colony could we get
twenty score in place of one. Ay, I say, ‘twould be the making of this
colony. A shipload of good wives were the best cargo England could send
us.”

“And thou wouldst choose the handsomest for thyself, by right of thine
office, I dare be sworn.”

“Nay, not I. I have ever had too poor luck at play to throw dice with
Fate for such heavy stakes.” With this he ran out, laughing.

When he was gone, I stretched my head forth from the window of my
lodging. Yonder in the river, a tall ship lay black against the shining
water. I could see the sailors in their glazed hats and loose, flapping
breeches, casting anchor to the time of their harsh song. Skiffs and
canoes were plying busily betwixt the ship and the shore. One curious
thing I noted, that, whereas only one went out in each canoe, two came
back; and then, as mine ear caught the ringing of the church bells, and
mine eyes marked the gallants who had gone of late ill-clad and worse
shaven, now tricked out in bands of fine lawn and ruffles at their
wrists, a sudden light brake on me, and I realized that all this was
because the twenty maids were come, and straightway these bachelors,
who till now had been quite content in their single estate, must set
their silly hearts on being married.

“Ho! there, Master John!” I shouted, as I caught sight of Pory’s
grizzled head and pointed beard under my window. “Read me this riddle:
‘What is that which flies when pursued, and pursues when fled from?’”

“A maid.”

“Verily, thou art a shrewd fellow to have guessed it. Come up,
therefore, and tell me all thou knowest which thou mayst do, and yet be
gone in five minutes.”

“That my civility may the more brightly shine against the foil of
thine uncivil words, I will come, and, to heap coals of fire on thy
head, I will tell thee of the scene on shipboard. The choosing of
husbands and wives went on as merrily as the choosing of partners for a
country-dance. It was a busy market, I can tell thee.”

“A market--how meanest thou?”

“Why, ‘tis thus they manage it, by bargain and sale; and belike ‘tis
as good an arrangement as any, since when the husband hath paid down
his hundred pound of tobacco for a wife, he is bound to make himself
believe he hath a bargain, and the wife, seeing he hath set so high
an estimate on her worth, in honor must strive to live up to his
valuation.”

“And was every one of the twenty maids married thus?”

“Ay, all but one, and she remained without a partner from choice, which
thou wouldst have declared impossible. Many offered for her, though she
wore her veil and coverchief close and would not show her features.
But she would look at none, and went off at the last to lodge with her
friend--one that was taken to wife by Miles Cary. I was somewhat struck
with curiosity over the conduct of the one unwed maid, and I searched
out her name in the ship’s register, where she is set down as Elizabeth
Devon. Now, fare thee well! for my five minutes are over, and if I told
thee more, ‘twould be what I know not, and, ergo--lies.”

After my nimble-witted friend was gone his way, I sat for long,
looking down into the street and watching the bridal couples as they
passed from under Parson Buckle’s blessing to their new homes. All
this billing and cooing and setting up of new households made me
feel but the more lonely and doleful. So I went not abroad that day,
tho’ I was well enow to be out, but sat reading and studying with no
other comforter than my pipe. But, to say truth, the pipe is no mean
consoler, and there is no friend that doth so adapt himself to thine
every mood, so partake, as it were, the very shade and subtlety of thy
thought and feeling, as tobacco. Well, as I sat thus, the day wore on
to evening. The flame in my pipe was expiring with a final flicker,
when a knock sounded at my door.

“Come in!” I called, and Miles Cary entered.

“Why, how now, Cary! Art thou come to complain of thy bride of
half-a-dozen hours? Hath she beaten thee over the head with the new
broomstick, and thou art ashamed of thy black eye, and come to get it
healed by stealth after dark?”

“Nay, ‘tis nowt that,” answered the burly yeoman, as he stood awkwardly
twirling his Monmouth cap on the end of his finger.

I saw that my jests were less amusing to him than to me; so putting
off my jibing tone, I asked him seriously if aught were ailing in his
household.

“Ay, ‘tis the friend of my wife.” He grinned with sheepish pleasure
over the last word.

“Is that the unwed maid, Elizabeth Devon, of whom Master Pory spake?”

“Yes; her arm was hurt on the ship in the storm, and methinks it must
have been ill-treated, for, in place of mending it grows ever worse;
yet have we had a hard task to persuade her to see the leech, and even
now am I come without her consent. I fear me she is o’er-headstrong;
but my Kate will have nowt said to her save wi’ cap in hand, and she
gives more attention to her friend than to her husband.”

“Well, well, that is but natural. Grumble not, Cary; but remember that
thy courtship must be done after marriage, and be content to bear
awhile with coolness.”

I took up my box as I spake, and we went out into the night together.
As we walked through the town, I marvelled much that all should be
changed of a sudden. ‘Twas no longer a camp, but a village. For good or
evil, the first English homes had been planted here in the heart of the
wilderness.

We stopped before Cary’s cottage, and I marked its shining neatness.
The stepping-stone in front of the door was polished as smooth as
marble, and the floor within, for all it was but of logs rudely
smoothed with an axe, was clean and neatly set in order.

As I stepped into the kitchen, which served for hall and parlor and
dining-room all in one, I was greeted by the mistress of the house with
a deep-bobbing courtesy which brought her short skirt down over her
bright stockings, and almost hid the high heels and pointed toes of her
wedding slippers.

“Is thy friend badly hurt?” said I.

“Ay, sir, she suffers much, but she bears it ever with so brave a heart
and so cheerful a face that none would guess it to look at her.”

“Hast thou bandages and swathing-cloths at hand?”

“Nay, not rightly at hand, but a plenty in the sea-chest, which hath
not yet been opened. Wilt thou lend a hand--_Miles_?”

I could but smile to watch the coquetry with which the name was spoken,
and to see how a soft tone and glance oiled the wheels of life and made
the half-sulky husband her willing slave.

Foreseeing that the uncording of the chest would be a matter of time, I
stepped to the door of the nearer chamber (the house boasted but two),
and finding it ajar, I bowed my head to its low proportions and entered.

The room had been filled with flowers, in honor of the home-coming of
the bride. ‘Tis wonderful to me how thoughtful and tender to women
these rough fellows oft be. The window-sash, its panes filled with
oiled paper, was swung open and the night wind blew the perfume of
wildrose and honeysuckle in my face. I can feel it still. A single
candle shed a dim light around and threw a yellow ray on a wooden
armchair close to the table.

As I turned me toward this chair, suddenly my heart stopped beating.
If the thing had not been so wildly impossible, I could have sworn it
was Elizabeth Romney herself sitting there. The maid, whoever she was,
had the same delicate curve of ear and throat, the same droop of the
eyelid, the very trick of the hand lying open palm upward on the knee.

I brushed my hand across my eyes and looked again. My
God!--Incredible!--It could not be!--yet what a likeness!

Then I told myself that I was going mad from dwelling too long on one
thought. I must speak and break the spell. As I opened my lips, a
sudden searching conviction fell upon me like a lightning flash that
this was indeed she, the one woman in the world to me.

I gasped out: “_Elizabeth!_”

The maiden turned, and for the first time caught sight of me standing
thus in the doorway. She gave one low cry of “_Thou!_”

After that one word we faced each other in blank silence. The folk in
books have ever some pat speech ready for such a moment; but in real
life ‘tis not so. How could I speak when my brain was whirling like a
millwheel, and my voice choked in my throat? I stood still and looked
upon her, and the longer I looked, the harder I found it to believe my
eyes were not playing me a trick.

Yet ‘twas but the truth they told me. There she sat--she that had been
brought up to be tended and waited upon, and compassed about with
luxuries, now sick and suffering, with only a wooden armchair to rest
upon, and a cottage roof to shelter her. How, in God’s name, had it
come to pass?

Her face was deadly pale, for all she had been three months on the sea;
and now, as she gazed at me, she grew even whiter, and swayed as though
she would fall in a swoon. But all the while she kept her eyes fixed
steadfastly on mine. They were eyes never to be forgotten by one who
had seen them once. I have heard folks praise the brilliancy of her
glance and the curling length of her eye-lashes; but, to her lover,
there lay a subtler charm in the tender trouble of her eye-brows,
bending slightly downward toward the inner corner. I noted it now as
distinctly as the drowning man counts the bubbles in the water.

I was the first to find my voice, and I hated myself that it sounded
hard and stern, when I was mad to fling myself at her feet and entreat
her to trust herself to me. But that abominable diffidence of mine,
which is so akin to pride, made me seem in her eyes, I doubt not, like
a pragmatical schoolmaster chiding a recreant child.

“Elizabeth Romney!--am I dreaming, or is it indeed thou--come on the
ship with the maids?”

An angry flush swept over the whiteness of her cheek and rose to meet
the hair that curled in childish rings round her little ears.

“Thou art thinking, perhaps, that I, too, like these others, am come
three thousand miles in search of a husband?”

I knew not what to say, and so I said nowt.

“Well, believe ‘t if you will!” she flung out, her eyes one blaze
of wrath; “but believe not that thou art such a husband as I would
seek--not though thou wert the only man on this side of the ocean, and
though all the tobacco in Virginia were the price in thine hand.”

“I am not likely to believe that, Mistress Betty,” I answered bitterly.
“Yet would I rather believe anything than that this journey is a mad
prank of thine without rhyme or reason. Wild and venturesome thou hast
ever been, but never unmindful of thy sex or thy station.”

“Which means that now I have shown myself unmindful of both. I thank
thee, Humphrey Huntoon; but till I seek thy counsel, do thou keep thy
censure!”

I know not what we might have spoken further, for anger was hot in both
our hearts; but at that instant Dame Cary and her good man came in,
bearing a roll of linen and a whale-oil lamp, which, vile smelling as
it was, gave a brighter light than the candle.

As it shone on the maiden’s face, the look of illness and suffering
was more plain to be seen; and I cursed myself for a fool that I had
forgotten all this time the arm I had been called to tend. I took the
linen from Dame Cary’s hand and tore it into strips.

“Will you be good enough to let me see the hurt?” I asked, in a
constrained voice. Without a word, she threw back her short cape and
showed me the right arm wound round and round with clumsy swathings,
which I straightway set to work to unwind. It was well that my calling
had trained the fingers to work coolly.

I went near to breaking out into oaths when I laid bare the arm and saw
how great a bungler had had charge of the hurt there on the ship. As it
was, that which had been so ill done must be undone.

The doing of this cruel kindness went near to break my heart, yet she
who suffered bore it without a groan. The free hand grasped the arm of
the chair more closely, and the face was set in the look of one who
would die ere look or sound of weakness be wrung from her. Only the
sharper drawing down of the eyebrow marked the strain and stress of
suffering.

At length, after a time which seemed to me longer than any month I have
known since, the poor arm was rebound in a pair of splints hastily
made from barrel staves. As I swathed it in band over band of linen, I
turned to Dame Cary--I dared not trust my voice to address that other.
“Your friend,” quoth I, “hath an excellent courage.”

“That hath she!” broke in Miles Cary, who had the true English love
of bravery, and who, as he stood by, holding the lamp while I worked,
had been greatly stirred by the sight of the maid’s endurance. “Had we
but a company of soldiers like her, we had no need of a stockade round
about James City.”

“Ay,” put in his wife, “but ye should have seen her on the sea! In that
great storm when her arm was broke, she was the only one of us that
screamed not, nor wailed, nor wished herself on land; but went about
cheering and encouraging all.”

Methought I saw a glance of warning pass from the girl in the chair
to the woman in waiting, for she straightway brake off her discourse,
and spake quite sharply to her husband, bidding him go before with the
light, that we might follow without breaking our necks.

So they went out and I walked behind them stupidly as far as the door.
There I found my wits, and, turning back, I stepped close to the
armchair.

“The doctor,” quoth I, in a low voice, “craves pardon for the hurt he
could not help.”

“The _doctor_,” she replied, also speaking very soft, “is pardoned in
advance, for he hath but done his duty. For the friend, ‘tis another
matter. I cannot soon forget that he has failed me.”

“Yet he, too, hath but thy good at heart, and that thou wilt some day
confess; and so must I leave thee. Good-night, madam!”

I spoke the last words in a louder tone, and, bowing low, I passed out
of the chamber.

  MAUD WILDER GOODWIN.



XVIII

DR. PENNINGTON’S COUNTRY PRACTICE.


NEXT to her husband and her children there was nothing that Mrs.
Graham liked better than worrying herself. To a degree far beyond that
attained by any other woman in Marston, she enjoyed “the luxury of
woe,” and during the last few days she had been indulging in it without
stint. For during those days there had been five burglaries in that
town, and the little place, ordinarily no more excited than most summer
resorts, had become almost hysterical. First of all the post-office had
been robbed, and then, as though that robbery had been merely by way
of practice, the thieves on the next night had broken into a private
house. Other robberies had followed in quick and defiant succession,
and within twenty-four hours the little red brick railroad-station
on Orawaupum Street had been broken into, and the money in the safe
stolen. Then indeed there was excitement, for, as in all small towns
not too remote from large cities, the station was the real centre of
town life, and its misfortune was looked on almost as a sacrilege.

Even the summer residents seemed to consider it as such, and when, as
was the custom at Marston, the ladies drove down to the station in the
late afternoon to meet their husbands on their return from the city,
not one but looked at the little red building as though she expected to
hear it cry out against the profanation.

[Illustration: _A VIOLENT FALL_]

The older ladies sat comfortably in their carriages, and, in voices
pitched high because they were in the open air, talked volubly of the
burglaries. One and all agreed that they would never have expected
a burglary in Marston, and Mrs. Graham, by reason of her power of
self-worry, speedily obtained a high and commanding position among
them as a sort of possible martyr. The younger ladies, at the urgent
entreaties of their own or their friends’ inquisitive little brothers,
left their carriages and moved in a pretty crowd upon the station.
There the boys pointed out the drawers from which the money had been
stolen, and the girls examined them from a distance with respectful
interest. There, too, they saw the station-master in close conversation
with an important-looking person, while a young man seated on the
desk in the office swung his legs vigorously and looked bored. He
brightened up obviously, however, at the sudden influx of pretty girls,
and removed his hat. The other men merely glanced at the intruders and
continued their conversation.

When they had seen everything, the young ladies retreated to the
platform, from which they carried on an animated conversation with
their elders in the carriages, while the bored young man came to the
window and looked at them with admiration.

Suddenly all the talk was checked. Then a murmur of respectful
admiration ran through the crowd of ladies, and the coachmen sat up
straighter and flicked their horses. Even the ubiquitous small boys
became silent, as into the station yard whirled an open carriage in
which sat a young and very pretty woman. As soon as it had drawn up
near the platform, the talk began again, this time all directed at its
occupant.

“How do you do to-day, Mrs. Marmaduke?” was the first remark from
everybody, with a rising inflection on the second syllable of “to-day;”
and when Mrs. Marmaduke had replied that she was very well, there was
a chorus of almost incredulous congratulation. Then there was a hush,
broken in a moment by Mrs. Graham.

“Have you heard anything of your silver yet?” she began. Without
waiting for an answer, she continued, “I wonder how you bear it so
well. I’m sure I shouldn’t. I’m dreadfully afraid of burglars, and I
know it would kill me to know that they were in the house.”

“But I didn’t know it,” said Mrs. Marmaduke, with superiority. “Not
even Mr. Marmaduke knew that they had been there until afterwards.”

“Ah, yes,” returned Mrs. Graham; “but to find out, even afterwards,
that the horrid men had been there--ugh!--and had taken all your
silver--every bit of it--”

“They left some,” coolly interrupted the heroine. Mrs. Graham pretended
not to hear her.

“You should have had a burglar-alarm,” she said, patronizingly. “Mr.
Graham is going to have one put in for me.”

“We have a burglar-alarm,” answered Mrs. Marmaduke. “But it was out of
order.”

“Oh, how annoying!” chorused all the listeners except Mrs. Graham, who
sank back in her seat and signalled for her daughter Clara to come to
her.

Just then the train came around the curve below the station, and all
the adventurous girls retreated to their carriages. Out from his
office ran the old station-master, followed by the important-looking
man and by the bored young man. The man who carried the mail-bag
to the post-office sauntered up, and for an instant everything was
expectation. Then expectation became reality and confusion as the train
came to a stop. For a moment there was an outpouring of passengers,
then a thinning out of the crowd, and then a sort of stampede of the
carriages for the post-office, until, when the train started again,
only Mrs. Marmaduke’s and Mrs. Graham’s remained. Mrs. Marmaduke lay
back in hers, looking at her husband, as he stood on the platform
talking to the bored young man, while Mrs. Graham, after looking
carefully around for her husband, sank back without being able to find
him. Clara Graham had looked also, and when she could find neither her
father nor her brother she began again the conversation interrupted by
the arrival of the train.

“There were two burglars, mamma,” she said. “One was rather an old man,
they say, while the other was much younger. And of course there must
have been a third one to watch--”

“Drive on, George,” interrupted Mrs. Graham; and the coachman had just
turned from the platform when the gray-bearded station-master ran out.

“Hi, there! Mrs. Graham!” he shouted, waving a brown envelope, and as
the carriage stopped with a jerk, the old man plunged down from the
platform and ran to it.

“A telegram from Mr. Graham,” he explained, and, while Mrs. Graham
opened it hurriedly, he waited with one hand on the wheel-guard.

“Who were those two men talking with you, Mr. Underhill?” asked Clara
Graham, inquisitively.

“Wal, the gentleman wi’ the red beard--him a-standin’ in the doorway
noaw,” answered the old man, pointing towards the station, “is the
representative o’ th’ _Martson Enterprise_,--Mr. Long his name is. An’
t’other one, him a-talkin’ to Mr. Marm’duke, ‘s ‘porter fur one o’ th’
Noo York papers,--I don’ rightly know’s name.”

“Clara,” said Mrs. Graham,--”There’s no answer, Mr. Underhill. Drive
on, George. Clara, your father won’t be home to-night; he and Phil are
detained by business. They won’t be home until to-morrow night.”

“Oh, well,” said Clara, cheerfully, “of course we shall miss them, but
I think we can get along one night without them.”

“Ordinarily, yes,” her mother answered, promptly. even on her husband.
“Ordinarily, most certainly. But there are these awful burglars, and we
haven’t a man in the house.”

“There’s George, mamma,” suggested Clara. But George with great
promptness, spoke over his shoulder, as old coachmen have a way of
doing:

“Please, mem, I’ve got to be ‘ome to-night, because o’ my wife h’end
the baby as she h’expects.”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Graham, slowly, “George is right; he must be at home.
Could your Cousin Will come, do you think, Clara?--No: he’s away, too.
There’s Mr. Frisbie; we might ask him to take care of us. No sensible
burglars would think of robbing the parsonage.”

“No, I don’t suppose they would,” answered Clara. “But then Mr. Frisbie
wouldn’t leave Mrs. Frisbie and the little baby alone. And then suppose
the burglars were not sensible--”

“They must be,” said Mrs. Graham, with decision, “or they wouldn’t have
broken into the Marmadukes’ house.”

“Oh, mamma,” suggested Clara, “couldn’t we telegraph to somebody to
come out to us? We might have a messenger-boy sent out, or two or
three, if you wanted.”

“I’ve got a boy, miss,” said George, the coachman. “’E might take care
o’ ye, mem, over night.”

But when she found that George’s boy was only nine years old, Mrs.
Graham shook her head.

“He’s too young. And I do not want messenger-boys. They would be so
slow, and they wear great rubber trousers and always have their hands
in their pockets.” This was said very slowly and thoughtfully.

“We might telegraph to some friend in the city, mamma,” suggested
Clara. “He could come out on the ten o’clock train, and get here before
eleven. I don’t suppose the burglars would come before eleven.”

“Oh, no. They never come before eleven o’clock,” said Mrs. Graham, as
decidedly as though she had served an apprenticeship with a burglar
and knew all the rules governing his entrance into the best houses.
The idea of telegraphing to a friend evidently pleased her. “We might
telegraph to--to--”

“We might telegraph to Dr. Pennington,” suggested Clara, with just the
suspicion of a blush. “He would be sure to come.”

Her mother did not notice the blush, and was evidently considering
the question of telegraphing. Just then the carriage turned in at the
Grahams’ gate.

“We must telegraph,” said Mrs. Graham, nodding her head with great
decision. “Yes, we must telegraph, and to Dr. Pennington.”

It was later than usual that evening when Dr. John Pennington dropped
into the little French restaurant near his office, to which his
bachelorhood doomed him, and, as almost every one else had gone, he
was forced to eat a solitary meal. As he looked carelessly through an
evening paper which he had taken up to pass the time, he happened to
notice the following bit of news:

“The village of Marston is very much excited over several burglaries
committed there recently. The residence of E. L. Marmaduke, a wealthy
merchant of New York City, was entered on Tuesday night, and a large
quantity of jewelry and silver stolen. Last night, after visiting
several houses with little success, the burglars broke into the
railroad-station. Many commutation tickets had been renewed the day
before, and the burglars secured nearly two hundred dollars in money.
There are supposed to be three men in the gang. No clue to them has yet
been found.”

“I wonder,” thought the doctor, as he slowly sipped his coffee, “I
wonder if they have been to the Grahams’ yet. If they have, I’ll
wager a large amount--I’d go as high as my last year’s professional
income--that Mrs. Graham is now in a state of violent hysterics. If
they haven’t, she has at least sufficient material to keep her in a
state of worry for about one year.” He finished his coffee. “I believe
I’ll run out to Marston to-morrow,” he continued, thoughtfully; “that
is, if I’m not too much occupied.” (Pennington religiously made this
reservation, though since he had become a doctor he had never been
too much occupied.) “I haven’t been there for a long time, and the
burglaries will give me a good excuse for leaving my patients.”

Having made this determination, he dismissed the matter from his mind,
and, finishing his coffee, sat in silence till he had smoked his cigar.
Then he went home to take up his usual task of waiting for patients.
When he reached his rooms, he found Mrs. Graham’s telegram on his
table. It was as enigmatical as women’s communications generally are,
and was worded thus:

“Will you kindly take ten-o’clock train and spend night with us? Will
explain on arrival.”

“Spend the night? Will explain on arrival? What on earth can the woman
mean?” cried the doctor. “Can any of the family be sick, I wonder? If
so, why should she send for me, when there must be other doctors near
by? No: that can’t be the reason.” But, as he could think of no other
explanation, he accepted this one as the most plausible, and decided to
take his case of medicines with him to Marston. Looking at his watch,
he saw that he could barely catch the train, and hastily began to pack
his handbag. Then, telling his landlady that he would be back in the
morning, he called a cab, and reached the station with five minutes to
spare.

A night ride in an accommodation train is not exciting, and
Pennington’s trip to Marston was monotonous enough. He did not dare to
read by the villainous light, and so he devoted his time to speculating
on Mrs. Graham’s telegram. He stepped from the train at Marston,
however, without having come to any definite conclusion on the subject.

“I think, sir,” said an elderly coachman, stepping up to the young
doctor and touching his hat, “I think you must be the gentl’n
h’expected at the Grahams’. Will you step this way, sir? I ‘ave the
buggy ‘ere. These burglaries are h’awful, ain’t they, sir?” he began,
as he touched up the little mare.

“Burglaries?” said Pennington. “Oh, yes, I did read about some
burglaries up here--”

“Yes, sir,” said the man, “an’ Mrs. Graham is just scared out o’ her
senses, sir, an’ when she got the telegram from Mr. Graham, sir,--come
up, Jess,--sayin’ that neither he nor Mr. Phil ‘ud be up to-night, she
sent for you ‘t once. Ye see, sir,” he continued, waxing confidential,
“I’m out o’ the runnin’, on account o’ the visitor h’expected at my
‘ouse to-night.”

For the first time it dawned upon the doctor that it was not for his
professional services that he was wanted, but more heroic ones, and
he wished that he had left his case of medicines at home. Old George,
however, gave him little time for thought, but entertained him with
accounts, partly real, partly fictitious, of the daring and ferocity
of the burglars who infested the village, until the doctor began to
wish that Mrs. Graham had been able to secure any other protector than
himself.

As the carriage rolled up to the house, the door opened, and Mrs.
Graham, evidently on the watch, rushed out.

“Oh, Dr. Pennington!” she cried, excitedly. “You can’t tell how glad I
am to see you! I _hope_ you don’t think it presuming in me to send for
you?”

“Not at all,” began Pennington, getting out of the carriage; but Mrs.
Graham noticed his medicine-case, and interrupted him.

“You’ve brought your pistols,” she exclaimed. “How splendid of you to
think of them!”

“Do not for one instant think that you presumed in sending for me,”
said Pennington, as he ran lightly up the steps and took Mrs. Graham’s
outstretched hand. “You know, Mrs. Graham, that it can only be a
pleasure to me to be of any service to you or Miss Clara.”

“It is very good of you, I’m sure, and I shall never forget it; but
now come right into the library. Clara will be delighted to see an old
friend who has come in time of need. It was she who suggested sending
for you,” added Mrs. Graham, and Pennington blushed with pleasure.
“It’s very strange,” went on the lady, “that Clara isn’t half so
worried about the burglars as I am, when it generally takes so much to
worry me. Clara, here is Dr. Pennington, pistols and all; wasn’t it
good of him to come?” she concluded, as she entered the library. Clara
came forward to greet Pennington, blushing slightly, and looking so
charming that he felt he would be glad to have the burglars come, that
he might have the pleasure of defending her.

“I have just told Mrs. Graham, Miss Clara,” said Pennington, “that the
goodness is all on her side. You can’t realize how pleasant it is to
see you again. As for my pistols,” he added, carefully laying down his
medicine-case, “it overwhelms me with mortification to confess that I
have left the key of my case behind.”

“Perhaps it is best that you did,” said Mrs. Graham, while Clara
laughed.

“Don’t worry about that, Dr. Pennington,” she said, tapping the case
lightly. “Wait a moment, and I will bring something that will do as
well as the pistols you have here.” And she ran from the room. When
she returned, Mrs. Graham was insisting that Pennington should take
something to eat.

“Here is a weapon,” cried Clara, gaily, holding up an old-fashioned
muzzle-loading horse-pistol. She handed it to Pennington, who colored
as he took it. “I think that will frighten the burglars,” she panted,
looking at Pennington and laughing.

“Clara,” said Mrs. Graham, “I wouldn’t have that thing fired off in the
house for the world. Your father fired it off once at a cat, and the
noise it made gave me a nervous shock I didn’t get over for a week.
Besides, it brought in all the neighbors,--and some of them were very
common people,--who thought we had had a dynamite explosion here.”

“But this ancient fire-arm has no hammer,” said Pennington, after
examining it. “A pistol without a hammer, Mrs. Graham, is like a man
without a head,--comparatively useless.”

“My ignorance of such things,” said Mrs. Graham, with a shudder, “is
something stupendous, and I hope you won’t laugh at me when I ask what
the hammer of a pistol is?”

“Let me show you, mamma,” cried Clara, jumping up and taking the pistol
from Pennington’s hands.

“Be careful, Clara, be careful,” cried Mrs. Graham, evidently alarmed
at its proximity. “Are you quite sure that it won’t go off by itself?”

“Quite sure,” answered the doctor. But Mrs. Graham’s fears could not
be allayed until Pennington had placed the pistol on the bookcase. She
gave a sigh of relief.

“I am sure that we shall not need a pistol,” said Pennington, “for
burglars never come where they are expected.”

“Perhaps that is so,” answered Mrs. Graham. “I know that I am awfully
timid about them. But, doctor--could you--would you--do you mind
sleeping on this lounge to-night?”

“Not in the least,” cried Pennington. “Why, Mrs. Graham, it looks
extremely comfortable.”

“It is very comfortable,” said Clara, giving it a little pat by way of
enforcing her remark. “It is quite out of the ordinary run of lounges.
I often take naps on it myself.”

“That settles it,” cried Pennington. “Now not even wild horses could
drag me to a bed of ease.”

“I am very grateful to you,” said Mrs. Graham, who did not look upon
the matter as a trifling sacrifice for the doctor to make. “I think we
can make you comfortable, however.”

“Of course you can, Mrs. Graham; and then just think of the fame that
awaits me if the burglars do come. Why, the papers will be full of me.
‘Dr. Pennington defends two helpless ladies from desperate burglars.
His only weapon a horse-pistol without a hammer,’ and so on.”

“I don’t see how you can joke about such horrid men; the very thought
of them makes me shudder. But we mustn’t keep you up all night, doctor.
It is long after eleven. Clara, take my hand; you couldn’t persuade me
to go up the stairs by myself. Doctor, would you mind standing in the
hall till we get to our rooms--”

“Like the White Knight and Alice,” laughed Clara. “You remember he
asked Alice to wait till he was out of sight, because her presence
would cheer him--”

“Clara, you saucy girl!” cried her mother. “Doctor, I will send Bridget
down to make up a bed on the lounge. Good night,” she called again, as
she reached her room.

“Don’t treat the poor burglars too cruelly, Dr. Pennington,” cried
Clara, looking over the baluster, and then with a laugh she vanished.

“I wonder what she meant by that,” thought Pennington, as he went back
to the library. In a minute Bridget appeared with sheets and blankets,
and in a short time had made up a bed on the broad lounge. Then she
departed and Pennington was left alone.

“Suppose the burglars should come,” he thought, as he prepared to turn
in. “But it’s not likely they will. At any rate, I mustn’t let my
imagination run away with me; so here goes.” And with that he turned
out the gas and settled himself on the lounge, where, in spite of
discomforts present and burglars to be, he was soon fast asleep.

He had been asleep, it seemed to him, for hours, when he suddenly
sat up, wide awake in an instant. Had he dreamed that he had heard
footsteps at the back of the house, or was there really some one
moving about? Pennington listened with every nerve strained to its
utmost tension. There it goes again! He was sure he heard a noise. It
came from the dining-room--and it sounded like the rattling of silver.

“They’re here,” he muttered, and drew a long breath. “What in thunder
am I to do? Ah! I’ll get that old pistol and use the poker as a hammer;
the old thing has a cap on it.” Crawling softly from the lounge, he
groped his way towards the fireplace. The room was as dark as a pocket,
and before he had finished his uncertain journey he struck his foot
smartly against the coal-scuttle. It rattled. He made a dive to stop
it from falling, and in so doing upset it. It fell with a crash loud
enough, it seemed to him, to wake the Seven Sleepers.

Despite the pain of his stubbed foot, Pennington did not hug his
injured member with the affection usually displayed on such occasions
but ground his teeth and listened intently for any sign from the
burglars that they had heard him.

A moment of suspense; then he assured himself that they had heard
nothing, and, securing pistol and poker, started for the library door.
He reached it safely, and, opening it noiselessly, looked out into
the hall. A narrow streak of light from the partly-opened dining-room
door showed him where to steer, and, grasping the poker firmly in his
right hand and the pistol in his left, he tiptoed across the hall. The
rattling of silver in the dining-room continued, and almost drowned the
nearer and solemn tick of an old eight-day clock, whose brass and iron
nerves the doctor envied.

Creeping cautiously to the door, he looked through the crack. The light
was turned half on in the dining-room. At the farther end of the room,
with his back turned towards him, was an old man, who seemed to be
taking silver from the drawers of the sideboard and putting it into a
basket at his side.

“The old villain!” thought Pennington. “How cool he is! I wonder where
the other two fellows are. Somewhere at hand, I suppose.”

Suddenly the burglar turned half around, as though he were about to
leave the room. Pennington shrank back.

“I can’t shoot the fellow in cold blood,” he said to himself. Just then
his hand touched the knob of a door which he knew opened into a large
closet. An idea struck him. He opened the door very quietly, and then,
picking up the rug from the hall floor, was ready to carry out his plan.

The burglar was nearing the door. “Come up as soon as you can,” he
said, and as a muffled voice from somewhere answered, “All right,” he
opened the door and stepped into the hall.

With a bound Pennington threw the heavy rug over the man’s head, deftly
twisting it so that he could make no sound to warn his comrades. But
the doctor had not thought of the basket of silver which the man
carried, and it fell to the floor with a crash. There was a quick
movement in the direction from which the answering voice had come, and
a scream from upstairs. Pennington fairly hurled his prisoner into the
closet and locked the door; then he stood a moment uncertain whether
to run upstairs to the aid of Mrs. Graham and Clara or search for the
other burglar. Suddenly he heard a step behind him. Before he could
turn he received a blow on the side of his head. He fell to the floor,
where he lay half stunned. Then his hands were tied behind him, and he
felt himself picked up by his assailant and held a moment uncertainly
in mid air.

“Put him in here, Fred,” said a voice, and, to his horror, Pennington
heard the key turn in the lock, and the next instant he was thrown into
the closet with as little ceremony as he had himself used towards the
burglar. Then the door was locked.

A sudden cough from the burglar made Pennington’s hair stand on end,
and he shivered when he heard the man, sputtering and coughing, feeling
audibly for what Pennington knew was his revolver. He was as brave as
most men, and at once determined not to lie still at the mercy of a
desperate ruffian. Very cautiously he tried to pull his hands out of
the bonds that held them. To his joy, he found that the hastily-tied
knots would give way at a little straining.

Meanwhile, upstairs, Mrs. Graham and Clara had gone to bed together
for additional safety. Clara did not tell her mother, but to herself
confessed that she had every confidence in Dr. Pennington, and so went
calmly to sleep. Mrs. Graham was less confident than her daughter, and
her sleep was light and broken. The consequence was that the fall of
the silver basket woke her up instantly. She gave a scream.

“Clara!” she cried, shaking her daughter. “Clara, the burglars are
here!”

“Where?” demanded Clara, sitting bolt upright, and looking in
bewilderment out from the mist of her long brown hair.

“Down stairs,” said Mrs. Graham, in a hoarse whisper. “Help me, Clara,
and scream.” With that she set the example by uttering a shriek
that rang through the house, waking the servants in their rooms.
Clara sprang from the bed, and, scarcely knowing what she did, began
piling all the movable furniture in front of the door, while her
mother uttered scream after scream with the regularity of a piece of
clock-work.

There was a step in the hall, then another.

“There are two of them!” gasped Mrs. Graham, in an interval of
screaming. The door was opened slightly. “Push up the bedstead, Clara!”
and the two women pushed the heavy piece of furniture against the door.
The movement was so sudden that the door closed upon the intruder’s
fingers. There was a howl of pain.

“Scream!” commanded Mrs. Graham, as Clara caught her by the arm. The
girl did not at once obey.

“Oh, mother,” she cried, “what do you suppose they’ve done to John--I
mean Dr. Pennington?”

“Let me in,” cried a voice in the hall. “Let me in.” The two women
screamed again. The door was pushed open and a man’s head and shoulder
thrust in. In desperation, Mrs. Graham picked up the water-pitcher.
Rushing towards the man, she threw it at him. It struck the wall and
broke, near enough to him to drench him.

“Hold on, I say!” he cried. “Mother, what are you doing? Are you hurt?
Have those scoundrels hurt you?”

“Phil!” cried Mrs. Graham and Clara at once. “Phil! Why, what are you
doing here? How did you come?” And they rushed upon him, dragging him
through the narrow opening and embracing him rapturously.

“What are you doing here?” asked Mrs. Graham again, as she released
him. He could not answer at once, but after Clara had let him go, he
answered,--

“Well, father at first forgot all about the burglars. We were at the
library, working away like beaver lawyers, when he suddenly thought
of ‘em. He jumped up and said we must come right home, because you’d
be scared out of your wits.” Here he kissed his mother again. “So we
bundled up the papers, and, as we were too late for the ten o’clock
train, we came up on the other road, and walked across. We brought Fred
with us, too.”

“Fred Austin?” asked Mrs. Graham. Phil nodded, and went on:

“Father was sure you’d be awake, but you didn’t seem to be, so we
looked around, and pretty soon got in through the front window, which
was open.” Mrs. Graham looked frightened. “Then we felt sure there was
something to pay, especially when we saw the silver basket and the
silver scattered around on the table and sideboard, and the safe open,
so father picked up the silver, while Fred and I ran into the kitchen.”
Mrs. Graham had gasped when she heard of their discovery, and stood
listening with almost tragic intentness.

“We found no one there, but we heard a crash in the hall and ran
back. Fred came through the door into the pantry, while I came by the
dining-room. First thing I knew I heard somebody fall in the hall, and
then Fred called me. He’d found a big fellow standing by the door,
evidently waiting for me, and he’d hit him pretty hard on the head.
Then we tied his hands with a handkerchief and threw him into the
closet.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Graham, looking relieved, while Clara drew a long
breath, “that was good. Where is your father. Bring them both here.”

“Isn’t father here?” asked Phil. “Why, he came upstairs first--has that
scoundrel touched him, I wonder?” And Phil darted out of the room and
down-stairs.

“Then there was some one in the house,” said Mrs. Graham, “for Phil
said that Fred had to strike some one.”

“Mamma,” said Clara, tremulously, seizing her mother’s arm, “Fred hit
Dr. Pennington!” And she looked at her mother with wide-open eyes of
alarm. Mrs. Graham went into the hall, her daughter following her.

“Be still!” commanded Mrs. Graham, opening the door into the servants’
hall. “Girls, I’m ashamed of you! Bridget, Eliza! Be still at once!”
Her voice had its effect, and the house became quiet again.

Meantime the two prisoners in the closet had not been idle. Pennington
at first lay where he had been thrown, noiselessly trying to slip his
hands through his bonds. The burglar had evidently rid himself of the
rug, and Pennington could hear him groping his way about the closet,
now and again colliding with unknown obstacles. He was nearing the
prostrate doctor, who redoubled his efforts to free himself. Suddenly
the burglar’s foot struck smartly against Pennington’s head. The man
stopped and drew back; then he pushed his foot forward again till it
once more touched the doctor. Pennington, who had not quite freed
himself when the burglar first collided with him, jerked his hands out
of their fastenings, and, springing to his feet, aimed a blow in the
direction in which he thought the burglar stood. He missed his aim in
the darkness and bruised his knuckles against the wall.

“Whew!” he cried, jumping with pain. Just then he got a blow from the
burglar on his shoulder. He turned on him, but caught his foot on the
rug and fell at full length. He sprang up in an instant, however,
picking up the rug as he did so, and stood prepared to defend himself
as long as possible.

“Have you found your father?” asked Mrs. Graham, leaning over the
baluster and looking into the darkness of the lower hall.

“Not yet, Mrs. Graham,” answered a voice.

“Why don’t you light the gas, Fred?” asked Mrs. Graham, impatiently.
There was a scratching of a match, and in an instant the hall was
lighted. Just then Phil Graham came from the dining-room.

“I can’t find father,” he said anxiously.

Clara came timidly half-way down the stairs.

“Fred,” she asked, “what sort--who was it you struck?”

“A tall man, standing here. He was waiting for us to come out of the
dining-room; but I came up behind and hit him--so,” answered Fred
Austin, with some pride.

“Lucky he did, too,” said Phil. “The fellow had this,” he added,
holding up a pistol. Then, in a tone of astonishment, he cried, “Hello!
it’s father’s old horse-pistol!”

Clara flew down the stairs to her brother, her long hair streaming
behind her. “It wasn’t a burglar!” she cried. “It wasn’t a burglar!
Why did you strike him?” turning fiercely upon Fred Austin, and then
bursting into tears of terror.

Mrs. Graham followed her down. “He wasn’t a burglar,” she explained to
the perplexed young men. “It was Dr. Pennington. He came down here to
protect us while you were away. He must have heard you and taken you
for burglars, and you took him for one, and--”

“Pennington!” echoed Phil, while Fred looked at Clara, with admiration
and contrition, the former real, the latter half feigned. “I put
Pennington, if it was he, into the closet,” he added, stepping towards
the place. Clara was before him, however.

The sound of voices in the hall had already attracted the attention of
the two prisoners. The burglar groaned as he heard them, and his groan
was fatal to him, for it indicated that he was in the middle of the
closet. Instantly the doctor turned and threw the rug in the direction
of the sound. His aim was good, and in a moment he had the burglar’s
head again enveloped. His hands were free, however, and he grappled
with Pennington so vigorously that he had much ado to defend himself.
Suddenly he gave the burglar a strong shove from him. At that moment
the door was flung open.

“John,” cried Clara. The burglar fell through the door into the hall.
For an instant there was silence. Then the burglar began to kick
violently and to shout.

“It’s father!” cried Phil Graham, as he made a dive for the
half-smothered man and set him on his feet. Mr. Graham looked around
wildly for an instant as he got rid of the rug.

“There’s a burglar in there!” he cried. “Shut the door. Quick, shut
the door!” And he threw himself against it, refusing to move until
Fred Austin had locked it. “Whew!” he gasped. “The scoundrel! Have you
locked it Fred?--Tried to garrote me--whew!” And he wiped his face and
looked around on his astonished family.

“Why, how did you get in there, father?” asked Phil, while Mrs. Graham
led her husband to a chair. Clara stood still near the door.

“I was going up stairs with the silver basket, which the burglar had
left on the sideboard--”

“No,” interrupted his wife, penitently: “I told Eliza I would put the
silver in the safe myself, and I was doing it when Dr. Pennington came.
I ran out to meet him, and forgot all about the silver. I don’t believe
there was any burglar at all.”

“Yes, there was,” said Mr. Graham, sturdily. “As I was coming out of
the dining-room, a fellow threw this rug over me, and then threw me,
rug and all, into the closet. Presently he came in after me, I suppose
to remove the only witness against him. He was choking me when you
opened the door, and I broke away from him.” And Mr. Graham pointed to
the closet door.

“Why, that’s where we put Pennington,” cried Austin and Phil Graham.
Clara darted to the door and opened it wide.

“John!” she cried again. “Come out, come out.” And, in obedience to her
call, John Pennington came out.

“Where’s that burglar?” he asked.

“There were three of them,” answered Mrs. Graham, promptly. “We have
got them all.” Pennington looked around bewildered. He recognized Phil
Graham, and then saw Mr. Graham sitting in the hall chair, the rug at
his feet. His face fell.

“This was the burglar you captured,” said Mrs. Graham; and Mr. Graham
nodded.

“Who hit me, then?” demanded Pennington, rubbing his head. Fred Austin
seemed bashful about answering, and Phil spoke up:

“We took you for a burglar and captured you, just as you had captured
father.”

“Then there were no burglars?” asked Pennington, doubtfully.

“No, there were no burglars,” answered Mrs. Graham.

“Well,” said Pennington, as he rubbed his head again, “I suppose it’s
all right, but it’s rather hard on a well-meaning fellow--” And he
smiled rather weakly.

“It’s all right,” said Clara, unconsciously laying her hand on his arm.

“My dear,” said Mr. Graham to his wife some time later, as they were in
their room together, “my dear, didn’t Clara call the doctor John?”

“I didn’t think you noticed it,” answered Mrs. Graham.

“I did, though,” said Mr. Graham. “It seems to me, though there were
no burglars to take our silver, that Pennington has taken our little
woman’s heart.”

“Fair exchange is no robbery,” remarked Mrs. Graham; and her husband
looked at her, and nodded several times as though something pleased him.

  BUTLER MUNROE.



XIX

THE DOCTOR: AN OLD VIRGINIA FOX HUNTER.


NOW the doctor was a Southerner of the old school. Nor was he merely a
North Carolinan, a Tennesseean, a Kentuckian or a Georgian--not any,
thank you! No; our friend was a Virginian--a real, “old-fashioned,
blue-blooded, whole-souled, open-handed Virginian.” And this he was
by virtue of eight or nine generations of forebears who had fought,
physicked, speechified, fox-hunted, raised negroes and tobacco, in that
immortal commonwealth. No day passed but the doctor, in his simple
fashion, unconsciously thanked God that he was a Virginian. For did not
virtue, valor, honor, gallantry, select the Old Dominion in the days of
the Stuarts as their special depot, from whence, in modified streams,
these qualities might be diffused over the less fortunate portions of
the Western world? To the unsophisticated Englishman, to the ignorant
Frenchman or German, an American is an American. If he is not rampantly
modern, sensationally progressive, and furiously material, he is
nothing at all. But the doctor would scarcely ever speak or think of
himself as an American, except in the same sense as an Englishman
would call himself a European. The doctor was every moment of the
day, and every day in the year, a Virginian above everything; and
as I have already said, he felt thereby that a responsibility and a
glory above that of other mortals had been conferred upon him by the
accident of his birth. I may add, moreover, that he was unquestionably
non-progressive, that he was decidedly not modern, while to this day
he is so reactionary that the sound of a railway irritates him; and
finally, that he was, and I feel sure still is, eminently picturesque.

The doctor was about sixty-five at the time of which I write (not so
very many years ago). He had never set foot outside Virginia, and never
wanted to. That a country, however, or climate, or people, or scenery,
existed that could be mentioned in the same breath with the old
Cavalier colony, never for one moment was accounted within the bounds
of possibility by that good and simple soul.

And yet, paradoxical as it may seem, the doctor was proud of his
descent from pure English stock. “None of Scotch or Irish, or
Scotch-Irish for me. No, I thank you, sir.” “My folks,” he was fond of
relating, “were real English stock, who came over way back in early
colonial days, and settled on the York River. They were kin to the
nobility.” Whatever may have been the accuracy of this last claim,
the doctor’s patronymic in Virginia genealogy was above reproach,
and would have secured him an _éntree_ (had he owned a dress coat,
and had he felt a hankering after Eastern cities) into those small
exclusive coteries in transatlantic society that still recognize birth
as superior to wealth and even intellect. I should not like it to be
supposed that my dear doctor, of whom I am excessively fond, was given
to blustering about either his State or his descent. Your fire-eating,
blowing, swaggering Southerner belongs either to a lower social grade,
to the more frontier States of the South, or, to a greater degree
perhaps than either, to the fertile imagination of Yankee editors
and dime novelists. The doctor was a Virginian. His thoughts and
his habits, which were peculiar and original, were simply those of
Virginians of his class and generation somewhat strongly emphasized.
He was just and unassuming, kindly and homely. There was about him a
delightful, old-fashioned, if somewhat ponderous suavity of manner,
that the rest of the Anglo-Saxon race have long, long outgrown. Even
to hear a married female who was not black addressed as otherwise
than “Madam” positively pained him. As for the children, the doctor
had a separate greeting for every one of them, let his host’s quiver
be ever so full. Ay, and generally something more than that; for the
doctor’s capacious pockets were known by the little ones to be almost
as inexhaustible in the way of chincapins, hickory-nuts and candy, as
his well-worn saddle-bags were of less inviting condiments.

The doctor’s belief in his country (and by his country of course I mean
Virginia) was the religion in which he was born. He would never have
dreamt of intruding it on you. International comparisons he could not
make, for he had never been out of the State. I feel perfectly sure,
however, if the doctor had travelled over every corner of the earth,
that his faith was of that fundamental description which was proof
against mere sights and sounds. He would have returned to the shade
of his ancestral porch, temporarily staggered, perhaps, but still
unconvinced that any land or any people could compare with old Virginia.

The average American in London is a spectacle which has in it nothing
inharmonious; on the contrary, in these days it is sometimes hard to
distinguish him from the native. To picture the doctor in London,
however, requires an effort of imagination from which the intellect
shrinks. Of one thing I am sure, and that is, he would be very
miserable. He would call in vain for glasses of cold water like that
from the limpid spring under the poplar tree at home, of which the
doctor consumes about a horse-troughful a day. He would hang over
the apple-stalls, and groan over the deficiencies of a country that
could do no better than that. He would get up two hours before the
servants, and prowl about disconsolate and hungry till breakfast. What
an apology, too, for a breakfast it would be without an “Old Virginia
hot-beat biscuit!” In his despair of getting a “julep” he might take
a whiskey punch before his early dinner. But here, again, how could
the emblazoned wine-card, with its, for him, meaningless contents,
supply the want of that big pitcher of foaming buttermilk for which
his simple palate craves? The pomp and wealth, the glitter and glare
of a great capital, would be simply distasteful to our patriarch. In
his own land he and his have been for all time aristocrats--after
their own fashion, it is true, but still aristocrats. They have been
strongly inclined to regard themselves as the salt of the earth--and
perhaps they are; a good sturdy British foible this, intensified by
isolation and the mutual admiration atmosphere which isolation creates.
At any rate, gold lace and liveries and coronets are not indispensable
adjuncts of honor and breeding. The doctor, however--if we can imagine
him gazing on the stream of carriages rolling past Hyde Park corner
on a summer evening--would be sensible, for the first time in his
life, to a feeling somewhat akin to insignificance creeping over him.
He would hate and despise himself for it, but still it would make
him uncomfortable, and he would want to get away home. A depressing
suspicion would come over our good friend that the haughty squires and
dames knew no more of Virginia’s history, or of Pages and Randolphs,
and Pendletons and Byrds, than they knew of the obscure Elijahs and
Hirams and Aarons that tilled the stony fields of New England. I fear,
moreover, that the suspicion would be too well founded. As a Cumberland
squire in the eighteenth century might have been disillusioned by
a visit to the the capital, so to a much greater degree would our
good Virginian friend have in all probability suffered by a similar
transportation. Once home again, however, I can safely affirm of the
doctor, that these uncomfortable sensations would have vanished in no
time. Once more in his cane-bottomed rocking-chair on the shady porch;
once more within sight of the blue mountains, the red fallows, and the
yellow pine-sprinkled sedgefields of his native land, he would quickly
recover from the temporary shocks that had irritated him. The sublime
faith in “the grand old Commonwealth” would return, and he would thank
God more fervently than ever he was a son of Virginia; not because of
her present or her future--for he considered the Virginia he belonged
to died with slavery--but on account of her people and her past.
The doctor, happily, had been spared all these trials and his faith
remained pure and unimpaired. The only capital he had ever visited was
the charming little city of Richmond, where every third man or woman
he met was his cousin; where most of society call one another by their
Christian names, dine in the middle of the day, and sit out on chairs
in the street after supper. Richmond is delightful, and so are its
people; but its atmosphere would tend to confirm, not to shake, the
doctor’s homely faith.

Perhaps the Southern States was the only part of the world where the
practice of medicine has ever been looked upon as an honorable adjunct
to the possession of considerable landed estates and an aristocratic
name. As in England there were squire-parsons, so in Virginia there
were squire-doctors, men of considerable property (as things go
there) both in land and slaves, regularly practising in their own
neighborhood. The slaves that constituted the bulk of their wealth
have gone, but the lands and the practice remain--for those who still
survive and are able to sit upon a horse.

The doctor is one of these survivals--and may he long flourish! He had
only a moderate property--two farms--of which we shall speak anon. But
then he was a Patton; and as everybody south of the Potomac knows,
the Pattons are one of the first families in the State--none of your
modern and self-dubbed F. F. V.’s are they, but real old colonial
people, whose names are written on almost every page of their country’s
history. Besides this, Judge Patton, the doctor’s father, was one of
the greatest jurists south of Washington--”in the world,” Virginians
said; but as a compromise we will admit he was one of the first in
America, and quite distinguished enough to reflect a social halo over
his immediate descendants, supposing even they had not been Pattons.

The original Patton mansion was burnt down in 1840. Nothing was
left but the office in the yard, where in those days our friend the
doctor pursued his youthful medical investigations and entertained
his bachelor friends. The judge was a busy man, and much absent. He
was always “laying out to build him a new house;” but death “laid him
out” while the scheme was still in embryo. The doctor, who, as only
son, became proprietor, had his hands too full, what with negroes, and
farming, and physicking, and fox-hunting, to carry it out till the war
was upon him, and with its results put an end, as he thought at the
time, to everything which makes life sweet.

It must not, however, be supposed that the doctor and his father
had gone houseless or camped out since 1840. Not at all. From the
old brick office, whose isolation had saved it from that memorable
conflagration, there had grown--I use the word advisedly, as applicable
to Virginia architecture--there had grown a rambling structure,
whose design, rather than whose actual weight of years, gave it an
appearance venerable enough to command the respect and admiration of
summer tourists from New York and Philadelphia. It was not often such
apparitions passed that way, and when they did, it was generally in
pursuit of filthy lucre suppositiously concealed in the fields or
the forests. Nor are mining prospectors as a rule sentimental, but
sometimes they are in America. When such _rarae aves_ came by the
doctor’s front gate, they would almost always pull up and gaze through
it with that admiration and respect that Northerners are inclined to
pay to anything in their own country that recalls the past.

“Oh, isn’t that too quaint for anything!” the ladies who sometimes
accompanied them never failed to remark. “That’s a real old ramshackle
Virginia house, by thunder! and a pretty heavy old fossil inside it,
you bet!” said the more observant of the gentlemen.

The doctor would have gloried in such criticism had he heard it. He
hated Yankees; he hated your new-fangled houses; he hated railroads; he
hated towns; he hated breech-loading guns; sights and sounds and things
that he was not familiar with at five-and-twenty he would have none of
when he was between sixty and seventy.

The doctor’s house was unconventional, to be sure, while weather
and neglect of paint or whitewash had given it an air of antiquity
to which it had no real claim. It lay a hundred yards back from the
road, and appeared to consist of four or five small houses of varying
dimensions, and occupying relationships toward one another of a most
uncertain kind. Two of these leaned heavily together, like convivial
old gentlemen “seeing one another home.” The rest lay at respectful
distances from each other, connected only by open verandahs, through
which the summer breeze blew freshly, and lovingly fanned the annuals
that spread and twined themselves along the eaves. Almost every
style of Virginia rural architecture found places in this homely
conglomeration of edifices, which even “old man Jake,” the negro, who
has for twenty years looked after the doctor’s horses and stolen his
corn, described as “mighty shacklin’, and lookin’ like as if they’d bin
throwed down all in a muss.”

It was, however, a real old characteristic Virginia house of its kind.
There were squared chestnut logs, black with rain and sun, against
which the venetian shutters of the windows banged and thumped in gusty
spring days as against walls of adamant. These same logs were got out
of the woods and squared, the doctor would tell you, in days “when men
had plenty of time and plenty of force (_i. e._, slaves) to do those
things properly.” Then there were walls of pine weather-boarding,
erected at a period when, the same authority would inform you, “people
began to saw and season their lumber five or ten years before they
started to build.” There were roofs of wooden shingles slanting and
sloping in every direction--black, rotting, and moss-grown here, white
and garish there, where penetrating rains had forced the slow and
reluctant hand of repair. Dormer-windows glared out at you, patched
as to their shattered panes with local newspapers of remote date, and
speaking of stuffy attics behind, where hornets, yellow-jackets and
“mud-daubers” careered about in summer-time over the apple-strewn
floors. Then there was the old brick office--relic of a distant past;
of a period when the Virginia planters, though surrounded by the finest
clay, were so absorbed in tobacco that they sent to England for their
bricks. It is probable, however, that these particular bricks were
produced upon the spot. At any rate, their comparative antiquity and
presumably mellow tone have been ruthlessly effaced, for this is the
only part of the doctor’s mansion that he has selected for a coat of
whitewash. It is used for professional purposes, and is known by the
doctor’s patients as the “sujjery.” I know it is hopeless to try, by
a bald description of timber and bricks and mortar, to give any idea
of how the doctor’s rambling homestead appealed to the sense of the
picturesque, and to the affections of those of us who were familiar
with it and with its inmate. No doubt, however, the latter had
something to do with this. Nor should the surroundings be forgotten.
The stately oaks that towered high above the quaint low buildings, and
covered with leaves and dèbris the greater portion of that domestic
enclosure which in those parts was known as the yard. The straggling,
branching acacias that grew close to the house, and spread their tall
arms above the roof, littering it in autumn with showers of small,
curly leaves, and choking the wooden gutters (for the doctor considered
tin piping as a modern heresy) with fragmentary twigs. The fresh,
green turf that had matted and spread for one hundred and fifty years
around this house and the more stately one that preceded it. The aged
box-trees that had once, no doubt, in prim Dutch rows lined some
well-tended gravel path, but now cropped up here and there upon the
turf, like beings that had outlived their time and generation. The
clustering honeysuckles, bending their old and rickety frames to the
ground. The silver aspens before the door, whose light leaves shivered
above your head in the most breathless August days. The slender mimosa,
through whose beautiful and fragile greenery the first humming-birds of
early June shyly fluttered; and the long row of straw hives against the
rickety fence, where hereditary swarms of bees--let well alone--made
more honey than the doctor and all his neighbors could consume.

Yes! These objects are, and all and many more are, twined around my
heart, but the doctor’s front gate occupies no such position at all.
It was all very well for the people who stopped in the road and looked
through its bars at the fine old oaks, the green lawn beyond, and the
quaint, straggling structure, and then drove on their way. For those,
however, whose duty or pleasure compelled them to penetrate that
barrier, it was entirely another matter. It was a home-made gate--a
real “old Virginia” gate--put up at the close of the war as a protest,
it would almost seem, against Yankee notions of hurry. To look at the
tremendous portal, you would have supposed that the doctor was the
most defiant recluse, instead of the most hospitable of men. It was,
however, a typical Virginia gate strongly emphasized, just as the
doctor was a typical Virginia gentleman strongly emphasized. I couldn’t
speak accurately as to its dimensions, but I have often had to jump
for life as it fell, and from the way in which it hit the ground, I
should say that it must have weighed nearly a thousand pounds. Its
weight would have been of no importance whatever to anyone but the
doctor and the posts which supported it, had it been properly hung
with two hinges and a latch. No doubt it had commenced life with these
advantages; but during all the years I struggled with it, there was no
latch, and only a bottom hook-hinge. It was kept in its place by two
ponderous fence rails being leaned up against it. The most elementary
mathematician will at once arrive at the result which ensued on the
removal of these rails (a herculean task in itself) and the opening
of the gate, unless extraordinary skill was exercised. It was really
a performance beyond a single man; so most visitors, unless they were
“riding for the doctor”--in the most serious business sense--holloaed
for assistance, or rode about till some of the hands came up to the
rescue. It must not be supposed that the doctor’s establishment,
though strongly typical in a sense, resembled to any extent the real
old Virginia mansion. The Pattons, it will be remembered, had been
burnt out, and the present pile had been originally intended only as a
makeshift; but it was such a makeshift as would perhaps be seen nowhere
out of Virginia. Of the more substantial family mansions there were
plenty crowning the hills in the doctor’s neighborhood. Square blocks
of brick, some many-windowed and green-shuttered, with huge Grecian
porticoes supported by rows of white fluted pillars stretching along
their face. Great big wooden barns, others with acres of roof and
rows of dormer-windows, and crazy, crumbling porches, and stacks of
red brick chimneys clambering up outside the white walls at the gable
ends, or anywhere else where they came handy for that matter. There
were plenty of these within range of the doctor’s house and the limits
of his practice, and to the proprietor of every one the doctor was
related. The stages of this relationship varied from the unquestioned
affinity of cousins and nephews, to that which is described in Virginia
by the comprehensive and farreaching appellative of “kin.” To be kin of
the Pattons, moreover, was in itself a desirable thing in Virginian
eyes. Though the doctor lived in such an unpretentious residence, and
worked day in and day out as a country practitioner, there were people
in the neighborhood holding their heads pretty high, who were always
pleased to remember that their father’s first cousin had married the
doctor’s mother’s brother.

With all the doctor’s quaint ideas and strong prejudices, I have
said that he was a thorough gentleman. He was of the kind meant for
use, and not for show. Good Heavens! What would your dashing British
Æsculapius, in his brougham or well-appointed dog-cart, have said to my
old friend’s appearance when setting out for a long winter day’s work?
I can see him now, riding in at the gate on some wild January day,
bringing hope in his kindly face, and good conservative, time-honored
drugs in his well-worn saddle-bags. A woollen scarf is drawn round his
head, and on the top of it is crammed an ancient wide-awake. A long
black cloak, fastened round his throat with a clasp, and lined with
red flannel, falls over the saddle behind. His legs, good soul, are
thickly encased in coils of wheat straw, wound tightly round them from
his ankles upwards. In his hand, by way of a whip, he carries a bushy
switch plucked from the nearest tree, and upon one heel a rusty spur
that did duty at Bull’s Run.

Now do not suppose that the doctor on such occasions was regarded as
a scarecrow, or that his neighbors looked upon him as eccentric or
even careless of attire; on the contrary, this was a good old Virginia
costume. The doctor’s appearance as above described was not the
desperate expedient of a frontier and transitory condition--not at all.
It was a survival of two hundred years of a peculiar civilization; a
civilization that had been wont to look inside the plantation fence for
almost every necessary; a patriarchal dispensation whose simplicity was
to a great extent the outcome of exclusiveness; a social organization
wherein each man’s place was so absolutely fixed, that personal
apparel was a matter of almost no moment, and personal display, such
as engages the well-to-do of other countries in mischievous rivalry,
was hardly known.

The general shabbiness of Virginia was not the temporary shabbiness of
a pioneering generation--that condition everybody can understand--but
the picturesque and almost defiant tatterdemalionism of quite an old
and thoroughly self-satisfied community, unstimulated by contact with
the outer world. It was a mellow, time-honored kind of shabbiness of
which Virginians are almost proud, regarding it as a sort of mute
protest, though an extreme one, against those modern innovations which
their souls abhorred. The doctor had been a widower since the first
year of the war. In accordance with local custom, he had buried his
wife in the orchard. A simple marble shaft in that homely quarter spoke
of her virtues and her worth to the colts and calves that bit the sweet
May grass around her tomb, and to the inquiring swine that crunched the
rotting apples as they fell in autumn from the untended trees. Neither
had the doctor been blessed with sons or daughters. Who would he “’ar
(heir as a verb) his place to” was a common subject of discussion among
the negroes on the property. The doctor’s profession, no doubt, was
his first care; but his heart was with his farms and his fox-hounds.
The doctor had practised over, or, as we used to say there, “ridden”
the south side of the country for nearly forty years. He had studied
medicine with the intention only of saving the doctor’s bill in his
father’s household of eighty negroes. He had soon, however, dropped
into a regular practice, and for the last five-and-twenty years, at any
rate, no birth or death within a radius of ten miles would have been
considered a well-conducted one without his good offices. The doctor’s
income, upon the well-thumbed scroll of hieroglyphics that he called
his books, was nearly three thousand dollars a year. He collected
probably about fifteen hundred. A considerable portion, too, of this
fifteen hundred was received in kind payments, not conveniently
convertible, such as bacon, Indian corn, hams, wheat flour, woollen
yarns, sucking pigs, home-made brooms, eggs, butter, bricks,
sweet-potato slips, sawn plank, tobacco-plants, shingles, chickens,
baskets, sausage-meat, sole-leather, young fruit trees, rawhides,
hoe-handles, old iron. To utilize these various commodities, it would
have been necessary for the doctor to have had a farm, even supposing
he had not already been the fortunate proprietor of two. Indeed, a farm
to a Southern doctor is not only necessary as a receptacle for the
agricultural curiosities that are forced upon him in lieu of payment,
but for the actual labor of those many dusky patients who can give no
other return for physic and attendance received. You could see a bevy
of these Ethiopians almost any day upon the doctor’s farm, wandering
aimlessly about with hoes or brier-blades, chattering and cackling and
doing everything but work.

The doctor might have been called a successful physician. He had no
rivals. There were two inferior performers in the district, it is
true, who were by way of following the healing art--small farmers, who
were reported to have studied medicine in their youth. One of these,
however, had not credit sufficient to purchase drugs, and the other
was generally drunk. So it was only their near relations, when not
dangerously indisposed, who patronized them--or some patient of the
doctor’s now and again, perhaps, who took a fancy the latter was too
“aristocratic,” till he got badly sick, and returned with alacrity
to his allegiance. There is no doubt, I fear, but that the doctor
practised on the lines of thirty years ago. Tory to the backbone in
every other department of life, it was hardly to be expected that he
should have panted for light and leading in that branch of learning in
which he had no rival within reach. Papers or magazines connected with
the healing science I never remember to have seen inside the Patton
homestead; and yet, after a great deal of experience of the good old
man’s professional care, I have a sort of feeling that I would as soon
place my life in his hands as in the hands of Sir Omicron Pi!

What time the doctor had to spare from physicking, I have said he
devoted to farming and to fox-hunting. I should like to follow him for
a bit on his long professional rounds, and listen to his cheery talk in
homestead and cabin; to help him fill his long pipe, which he draws out
of his top-boot when the patient has settled down to sleep or quiet; to
hear him once again chat about tobacco and wheat, politics and foxes.
I should like, too, to say something of the doctor’s farming--heaven
save the mark--on his two properties; the one “’ard” him by his father,
and the other one, the quarter place near by, that “cum to him with his
wife, ole Cunnel Pendleton’s daughter.”

I must only pause to remark, however, that the doctor farmed, as he
did everything else, in the good old Virginia fashion--or in what
is now irreverently known as the “rip and tar (tear) principle.” He
didn’t care anything about acres or estimates; and as for farm books,
his professional accounts pestered him quite enough. Of rotations,
he neither knew nor wanted to know anything. His great idea was to
plough and sow as much land as he could scuffle over with all the labor
he could scrape together. Of manuring, clovering, or fertilizing,
he took little account. If he “pitched” a big crop only, he was a
proud and happy man. When each recurring harvest brought results
more insignificant than the last, a temporary disgust with the whole
business used to seize on my old friend, and he would swear that the
wheat crops had been of no account since the war; that tobacco had gone
to the devil, and that he’d quit fooling with a plantation for good and
all. In the eyes of those who knew him, however, such tirades meant
absolutely nothing. A Virginian of his description could no more have
helped farming than he could have altered any other of the immutable
laws of nature. A younger generation, and many indeed of the older
one, have learned wisdom and prudence in the management of land since
the abolition of slavery. The doctor, however, and the few left like
him, will be land-killers of the genial good old sort till they lie
under the once generous sod they have so ruthlessly treated.

The doctor’s first care was of necessity his patients; but there is
no doubt, I think, that his real affections were divided between his
farm and his fox-hounds. That he did his duty by the former was amply
testified to by the popularity he enjoyed. That he signally failed in
the treatment of his lands was quite as evident. For while he healed
the sores and the wounds of his patients, the sores, the wounds,
the storm-rent gullies, the bare galls in his hillsides, grew worse
and worse. The maize-stalks grew thinner, the tobacco lighter, the
wheat-yield poorer, year by year. One has heard of famous painters,
who perversely fancied themselves rather as musicians--of established
authors who yearned rather to be praised as artists. So the doctor,
who certainly had no local rival in his own profession, seemed to
covet fame rather as the champion and exponent of a happily departing
school of Southern agriculturists. In this case, the income derived
from the profession just sufficed to make good the losses on the farm.
So, though the doctor, in spite of his household expenses being almost
_nil_, could never by any chance lay his hand on a five-dollar bill, he
managed to keep upon the whole pretty free from debt. With a scattered
practice, and an agricultural hobby extending over one thousand
acres, including woods and old fields “turned out” to recover, it may
be a matter of surprise that our old friend had leisure for a third
indulgence, especially one like fox-hunting, which is connected in the
British mind with such a large consumption of time. Nevertheless, the
doctor, like most of his compeers, was passionately fond of the chase,
and in spite of the war and altered times, had kept hounds round him
almost without a break since he was a boy. It will be seen, however,
that fox-hunting, as understood and followed by the doctor, was by no
means incompatible with his more serious avocations.

Now, if the fashion in which the doctor pursued the wily fox was not
orthodox from a Leicestershire point of view, it was for all that none
the less, perhaps indeed so much the more, genuine. Around New York
and Philadelphia, it is true, the sport is pursued by fashionable
bankers, brokers, and lawyers in a style the most approved. All the
bravery and the glitter, ay, and much of the horsemanship of the
British hunting-field, is there. But, like polo and coaching, it is
there as a mere exotic, transplanted but yesterday, to the amazement
and occasionally indignation of the Long Island rustics and the delight
of the society papers. Everything is there--hounds, huntsmen, whips,
red coats, tops, splendidly mounted hard-riding ladies and gentlemen,
sherry-flasks, sandwich-boxes, etc., etc.,--everything, in short, but
the fox. So far, however, as I can learn, such an omission is of no
great importance under the modern conception of hunting. That wouldn’t
be the doctor’s way of thinking at all, though; for I must here remark,
that that worthy sportsman’s love of hunting is entirely on hereditary
principles and of native growth. Fox-hunting for two centuries has been
the natural pastime of the Virginia gentry. They imported the chase of
the fox and its customs from the mother country at a period when such
things were conducted in a very different style from what they are now.

The hunting of the fox, as carried on in England early in the last
century, let us say, offered, I take it, a very different spectacle
from that seen in the elaborate and gorgeous cavalcades and the rushing
fleet-footed hounds that race to-day over the trim, well-trained turf
of the shires. No foxes were killed in those days in twenty-five
minutes, I’ll warrant. Men started their fox at daybreak and pottered
along, absorbed in the performance of their slow hounds, over the
rushy, soppy, heathy country, from wood to wood, for hours and hours.
They were lucky then, no doubt, if Reynard succumbed in time to admit
of their punctual appearance at that tremendous three o’clock orgie,
which the poet Thomson has so graphically laid before us.

Amid the glitter, the show, the dash, the swagger of modern
fox-hunting, Englishmen who are not masters of hounds or huntsmen are
apt to lose sight of the original ends and aims, the craft, and the
science of the sport. It seems to me that fox-hunting nowadays, with
the vast mass of its devotees, is simply steeplechasing over an unknown
course. This is unquestionably a manly and a fine amusement, and far be
it from me to breathe a word against it. I only wish to anticipate the
sneers of your sporting stock-broker if he were to catch sight of the
doctor and his hounds upon a hunting morning.

With the average Nimrod of modern days, I venture then to assert
that fox-hunting is only a modified form of steeplechasing. With the
Virginian, who is simply a survival of other days, it is nothing of the
kind. The doctor knew nothing of bullfinches or double ditches, of post
and rails or five-barred gates, in a sporting sense; but what he did
not know about a fox was not worth knowing at all. As for his hounds,
he could tell the note of each at a distance when the music of a whole
pack was scarcely audible to the ordinary ear.

As far as I remember, the doctor used generally to keep about five
couple of hounds. It is needless to say he always swore they were the
“best stock of fox-dogs in the State.” Jim Pendleton, his cousin across
the hill, and Judge Massey, on the north side of the county, who also
kept hounds, were quite prepared to take an affidavit of the same kind
with regard to their own respective packs. The doctor’s hounds lived as
members of the family. A kind of effort was spasmodically made to keep
them from appropriating the parlor, and so long as the weather was
mild, they were fairly content to lie in the front porch, or in one of
the many passages which let the air circulate freely through the Patton
homestead.

If the weather was cold, however, and the doctor had a fire in the
parlor, the older and more knowing dogs seldom failed eventually to
gain a lodgment. By persistently coming in at one door, and when kicked
out by the long-suffering M. F. H., slowly going round the house and
slyly entering at the other, they invariably conquered in the long run,
and established themselves on the warm bricks of the hearth before the
great white-oak logs which blazed on the bright brass and irons.

Of course it was not often that the doctor and his hounds were all at
home together on a winter’s day. If the latter were not hunting with
him, they were out upon their own account, for, be it noted, they were
absolutely their own masters, as is the way with Virginia fox-hounds.
If the doctor chose to accompany them and do a great deal of tooting
and some hallooing, I have no doubt a certain amount of satisfaction
animated the breasts of the pack. But it made no difference whatever
to the sporting arrangements they had planned among themselves, or
to their general programme. Whatever happened, they were bound to
have their hunt. As the doctor’s pride and joy was not in his own
performance in the pigskin--for he never attempted any--but in the
achievements of his dogs, this want of discipline and respect was no
drawback whatever to his satisfaction.

I have said the doctor could combine his favorite sport with the
exercise of his profession. That is to say, if he were going out in any
likely direction, he would manage to keep his hounds around him till
he had despatched his lamplight breakfast, and they would all start
together. The pack, moreover, was easily increased, for the doctor had
only to step around to the back porch, which looked across the valley
to Cousin Jim Pendleton’s place, and to blow lustily on his tremendous
cow-horn.

A very little of this music was sufficient to bring the greater part of
the rival pack scrambling in a half-guilty way over the garden fence.
After a little growling and snarling and snapping, the strangers would
settle down among the doctor’s hounds as if they had been raised on the
place.

See the doctor attired for the chase emerging with his hounds from
that awful front gate of his, which is being held up and open by
the combined efforts of two stalwart negroes. It is a mild and soft
February morning, at about the hour when the sun would be seen mounting
over the leafless woodlands to the east of the house, if it were
not for the dark banks of clouds chasing one another in continuous
succession from the southwest. The doctor is not quite such a scarecrow
to-day. The weather is mild, and he has left the coils of straw behind,
having his stout legs encased in grey homespun overalls, which he calls
leggings. The long Bull’s Run spur is on his left heel. The black cloak
with the red lining is on his back. The slouch hat upon his head, and
spectacles upon his nose. A high standup collar of antique build and a
black stock give the finishing touch to a picture whose “old-timiness,”
as the Americans say, would have thrown a Boston novelist into
convulsions of ecstasy.

The doctor this morning is combining business with pleasure. He has to
visit the widow Gubbins, who fell down the cornhouse steps the week
before, and broke her leg. But he has had word sent to him that there
is a red fox in the pine wood behind the parsonage, hard by the Gubbins
domicile. I need not say the saddle-bags and the medicine bottles are
there; but, besides these, there is a great big cow-horn which the
doctor carries slung round him, and blows long blasts upon as he goes
“titupping” down the muddy lane. These blasts are rather with a view of
personal solace than for any definite aims. The doctor loves the horn
for its associations, and goes toot-tooting down the soft red road, and
waking the echoes of the woods and fields solely for his own personal
benefit and refreshment. Hector and Rambler, Fairfax and Dainty, and
the rest--little wiry, lean fellows of about two-and-twenty inches--hop
over the big mudholes, or creep around the dry fence corners waiting
for the first bit of unfenced woodland to trot over and commence the
day’s operations.

The doctor, however, is determined, if possible, to keep them in hand
till they reach the haunt of that aforesaid red fox which is said
to be lurking in the parson’s wood. He hopes to be able to exercise
authority sufficient to keep these independent dogs of his from getting
on the trail of a ringing, skulking grey fox in the first ivy thicket
or open bit of forest they come to. It is no manner of use, however.
The rutty, soppy road, soon after it leaves the doctor’s estate,
straggles unfenced through half a mile of mazy woodland. Though it is
a historic turnpike of old coaching fame--a road the memory of whose
once bustling gaiety well-nigh brings tears to the eyes of the old
inhabitants--it is scarcely visible to the rare wagoner or horseman
in these degenerate times, from the wealth of autumn leaves that hide
its rugged face. Into the wood plunge the eager and undisciplined
hounds, the dry leaves crackling and rustling under their joyous feet
as they scamper and race amid the tall oak and poplar trunks, and one
by one disappear beyond the very limited horizon. The doctor toots and
toots till not only the forest but the hills and valleys beyond echo
to the appeals of the familiar cow-horn. Mighty little, however, care
the dogs for such tooting. They look upon it as a harmless sign of
encouragement, a pleasant accompaniment to the preliminaries until the
more serious work begins. Nor do they care in the least when the doctor
drops his horn and begins to halloo and shout and storm--not they. He
might as well shout and storm at the wind. The doctor gets very mad.
He doesn’t swear--Virginians of his class and kind very seldom do--but
he uses all the forms of violent exhortation that his conscience admits
of, and that belongs to the local vernacular. He calls the whole pack
“grand scoundrels and villains.” In a voice grown husky with exertion,
he inquires of their fast-fading forms if they know “what in thunder
he feeds them for?” He roars out to little Blazer, the only one left
within good speaking distance that he’ll “whale the life out of him;”
whereupon little Blazer disappears after the rest. So he finally
confides to the sorrel mare, which is ambling along under him at the
regulation five-mile-an-hour gait of the Southern roadster, that
these dogs of Cousin Jeems’ (the doctor says “Jeems,” not because he
doesn’t know any better, but because it is a good old Virginia way of
pronouncing the name) are the hardest-headed lot of fox-dogs south of
the Potomac River.

But hark! There is a boom from the pine wood, the deep green of whose
fringe can be seen far away through the naked stems and leafless
branches of the oaks. The doctor pulls up; he “concludes he’ll wait
awhile and see what it amounts to, any way.” The scoundrels are
probably fooling after a rabbit, or, at the best, have struck the trail
of a grey fox (the most common native breed, that won’t face the open
or run straight). The doctor draws rein at the edge of the wood, where
the straggling forest road once more becomes a highway, fenced in from
fields of young wheat, pasture and red fallow. He thinks the widow
Gubbins can wait a bit, and that old red fox at the parson’s can lay
over for another day.

“That’s old Powhatan, cert’n and sure; and that’s a fox of some sort,
I’ll sw’ar,” remarks our old friend to the sorrel mare, which pricks up
her ears as another deep note comes echoing from the valley below.

It is late in February; and though February in Virginia is practically
the same dead, colorless, leafless, budless, harsh winter month it is
with us, yet there are sometimes days before it closes that seem to
breathe of a yet distant spring with more witching treachery than the
greatest effort that period can make in our more methodical clime. And
this is one of them. The soft and balmy air is laden, it is true, with
no scent of blossoms or opening buds. The odor of smouldering heaps of
burning brush and weeds, or of tardily burnt tobacco-plant beds, is all
that as yet scents the breeze. But after a month of frost and rain and
snow and clouds, the breath is the breath of spring, and the glow of
the sun, now bursting through the clouds, seems no longer the sickly
glare of winter. The soft Virginia landscape, swelling in gentle waves
of forest, field, and fallow to the great mountains that lie piled up
far away against the western sky, is naked still and bare, save for
the splashes of green pine woods here and there upon the land. But
there is a light in the sky and a feel in the air that seems almost
to chide the earth for its slow response. The blood courses quicker
through the veins of even easy-going Virginia farmers at the thoughts
of seeding-time. The negro’s head comes up from under his shoulders and
his hands from his pockets, where they have each respectively spent
most of the winter, and the air becomes laden with those peculiar
dirges that mark the Ethiopian’s contentment of mind at the prospect
of warm weather and of his limbs once more becoming “souple.” The
soft breeze begins to coat the tops of the damp furrows with a thin,
powdery crust that in a few days’ time will be converted into that
March dust so universally beloved of farmers. The young wheat, smitten
and scorched and beaten almost out of recognition, lifts its head
once again and spreads a carpet of tender green to the sun. The early
lambs, beginning to think that after all they were not sent into the
world to shiver behind strawstacks, frisk and gambol in the fields.
The blacksmiths’ shops at the cross roads and the courthouse villages
are thronged with colored laborers and tenants, whose masters, now
seeding-time is upon them, have suddenly remembered that every plow
in the place is out of fix, and not a harrow has its full complement
of teeth. The light breezes from the southwest moans softly in the
pines; but among the deciduous trees not a withered shred of foliage is
left for it to stir, and the silence is complete. The freshly awakened
sunlight streams softly down between the leafless branches and the
rugged trunks of oak and chestnut, hickory and poplar, and plays upon
the golden carpet of wasted leaves that hides the earth beneath them.

The doctor, as he stands at the edge of the forest, would ordinarily
upon such a day be deep in agricultural reveries of a most sanguine
nature. But he is now waiting for one more note of evidence that there
is a prospect of what he would call “a chase”--hesitating as to the
widow Gubbins.

Suddenly there is a great commotion in the wooded valley beneath, and
in a few seconds you might be in Leicestershire spinny, so busy and
joyful are the little pack with their tongues. “That’s a fox, any way,”
says the doctor to the sorrel mare, “and, likely as not, a red.” Two
small farmers, jogging down the road, pull up their horses and yell
with the peculiar shrill scream that is traditionally as much a part of
Virginia fox-hunting as the familiar cries of the British hunting-field
are with us. The doctor, though his voice is not what it was thirty
years ago, catches the infection, and standing up in his wooden,
leather-capped stirrups, halloos at his hounds in what he would call
“real old Virginia fashion.”

“By G--d! it’s a red,” says one of the small farmers, who had perched
himself on the top of the fence, so as to look down over the sloping
tree-tops on to the opposite hill.

“The dogs are out of the wood, and are streakin’ it up the broom-sedge
field yonder--dawg my skin if they ain’t!”

This is too much for the doctor.

“Pull down the fence, gentlemen, for God’s sake! and we’ll push on up
to the old Matthews graveyard on top of the hill. We shall see right
smart of the chase from there. I know that old fox; he’ll go straight
to the pines on Squire Harrison’s quarter place.”

The four or five top rails are tossed off the snake fence; but the
doctor can’t wait for the remaining six. The long spur is applied to
the flank of the sorrel mare, the apple switch to her shoulder. Amid a
crashing and scattering of rotten chestnut-rails, the doctor, cloak,
and spectacles, saddle-bags, pills, medicine-bottles, and overalls,
lands safely in the corn-stalk field upon the other side. The two
farmers follow through the fearful breach he has made, and they may
soon all be heard upon the opposite hill cheering and yelling to the
hounds, which by this time are well out of reach of such encouraging
sounds. Neither the country, nor the horse, nor the doctor is adapted
for riding to hounds; nor, as I have before intimated, has the
latter any idea of doing so. The good man wants to hear as much as
possible--of the chase; but when he neither sees nor hears a great
deal--which, when a strong red fox goes straight away, is generally the
case--he will still take much delight in collecting the details from
other sources.

If his hounds eventually kill their fox half-way across the county,
friends and neighbors, who became accidental witnesses of various
stages of the chase, and each of whom did their share of hallooing and
cheering, will send round word to the “old doctor,” or “call by” the
next time they pass his house, and cheer his heart with praises of
his dogs. The doctor will probably have bandaged Mrs. Gubbins’s leg,
and be half-way home by the time the death-scene takes place, in some
laurel thicket possibly miles and miles away from the corner where
we left our friend bursting through the fence. Not more than half a
dozen, probably, of the fourteen or fifteen hounds with which the
doctor started, will assist at the finish. Two or three of the puppies
will have dropped out early in the day, and come home hunting rabbits
all the way. Three or four more are perhaps just over distemper, and
will fall in their tracks, to come limping and crawling home at noon.
Rambler and Fairfax, however, having assisted at the finish, and being
perhaps the most knowing old dogs of the lot, will have trotted round
to old Colonel Peyton’s close by. They are mighty hungry--for Virginia
hounds won’t touch foxes’ flesh--and they succeed in slipping into the
log kitchen in the yard, while Melindy, the cook, is outside collecting
chips, and abstracting from the top of the stove an entire ham. The
said ham was just prepared for the colonel’s supper; but in fox-hunting
all is forgiven. So after a little burst of wrath he reckons they are
the old doctor’s clogs, shuts them up in the granary, and gives them
a cake of corn-bread apiece. The following day is Saturday, and the
colonel’s son, home from school for a holiday, thinks it an opportunity
for a rabbit-hunt in the pines behind the house not to be missed. So
Rambler and Fairfax are introduced to the proposed scene of action in
the morning. After condescending to an hour of this amusement, they
hold a canine consultation, and start for home, where they finally
arrive about sundown, to be made much of by the doctor, who has already
heard of the finish from a negro who was splitting rails close by.

The doctor’s satisfaction is quite as great as if he had cut down a
whole Leicestershire field in the fastest thing of the season. His
heart warms towards those undersized, harsh-coated, slab-sided little
friends of his as he stands watching the negro woman breaking up their
supper of hot corn-bread with buttermilk as a treat, on the back porch.
They have all come in by this time, and scuffle and growl and snap
around the board as the food is thrown to them.

The knowing ones take advantage of such an evening as this to assert,
with more than usual assurance, their right of entry to the house. The
doctor has had his supper, and hopes that no ominous shout from the
darkness will, for this night at any rate, call him to some distant
sick-bed. He has drawn up his one-armed rocking-chair to the parlor
fire, and by the kerosene lamp is poring over the last oration on
free trade by that grand old Virginia gentleman and senator, Mr.
Jefferson Randolph Beverly Page. Conscious, as it were, that some
extra indulgence is deserved on this night, the dogs begin to crawl
in. One by one, beginning with the oldest and wiliest and ending with
the timidest puppy, they steal into the room and become grouped in the
order of their audacity from the glowing bricks of the hearth outward
to the door.

Nor to-night has the doctor kicks or cuffs or anathemas for the very
worst of them.

The great oak logs blaze and crackle and roar in the wide chimney, and
the light of the flames flickers over the quaint, low-ceilinged room
with its whitewashed walls, black wainscotting, and homely decorations;
over the antlers on the door, that recall some early exploit of the
doctor’s in West Virginia wilds; over the odds and ends of old silver
on the sideboard, that have been saved from the wreck of the Patton
grandeur; over the big oil-painting of the famous jurist, and the
dimmer, smokier visages of less distinguished but remoter ancestors,
who believed in the divine right of kings and knew nothing of republics
and universal suffrage. Here, however, surrounded by his dogs, we must
take leave of the doctor. There are few like him left now in Virginia,
and fewer still who have clung to the good and bad of a departed era
with the same uncompromising tenacity as our old friend. They were a
fine race--deny it who will--these old Virginia squires; provincial and
prejudiced perhaps, but full of originality and manly independence.
Their ideas, it is true, are not those of the latter half of the
nineteenth century, but the men themselves are passing rapidly away,
and their ideas with them. Those who have known them can only regret
that a strong, picturesque, and admirable type of Anglo-Saxon has
disappeared forever from the ranks of our great family, unpainted by a
single master-hand of contemporary date.

  A. G. BRADLEY.



XX

THE DOCTOR’S FRONT YARD.


IT ALL began with the tap of a gavel--an imposing white gavel adorned
with a yellow bow and resounding like the crack of doom. Behind it,
under a nodding purple ostrich feather, sat Mrs. Bunker; before it the
eight awe-struck members of the Village Improvement Society; enveloping
us all in its cold, judicial atmosphere was room No. 10 of the new town
building, maintained as a meeting place in order to give dignity to our
association, and its rent representing just so many entertainments and
strawberry-festivals per annum.

Mrs. Bunker is the “progressive woman” of West Hedgeworth. She lives
in that large, white house with the terraces and box borders and a
fountain, just where you turn into Main street. She goes to Boston
twice each season to get clothes and ideas upon which she feeds our
little social circle through the medium of clubs and afternoon teas.
The clothes are remarkable, the ideas equally up to date; we look upon
her with reverence and obey her slightest mandate.

I believe I am the only one who now and then rebels inwardly. Why, for
example, I should have been considered eligible for the V. I. S., a
girl of twenty-three, with not the slightest pretensions to domestic
talent or judgment, except that I have had to take care of father and
the boys for the last few years, I couldn’t see,--nor could any one
else; but Mrs. Bunker had ordained that I should go into it, and I had
no choice.

“You are a very clever girl, Irene,” she explained severely, as if this
were a situation to be deprecated, but could be atoned for by penance
of some sort, “and it would be extremely unfortunate for you to have no
outlet for your talents. People should take up the work that best suits
them.”

I withdrew all objections, of course. If Mrs. Bunker pronounces one
clever, no matter how wretched one may be under the verdict, there is
never any appeal from it. But as the progressive woman is always ready
to shoulder the responsibility of her friends’ cleverness, I haven’t
found mine a very great burden. So far as the duties of membership in
the Village Improvement Society are concerned, they only consist in
doing as one is bid. The gavel roused me from a study of bonnets. Mrs.
Suter, the wife of our good druggist, and Mrs. Pitman, the postmaster’s
lady, always faithfully advertise the village milliner in familiar
black-lace-covered frames, the one adorned with aggressive bunches
of buttercups, the other trailed over by a hairy-leaved poppy. Mrs.
Cope, the Episcopal clergyman’s wife, has the parish down upon her
for appearing in unmistakable French headgear, simple, but beyond
imitation; it does not justify her in their eyes that the hats come
from a rich relative, and the poor soul is credited with proud and
haughty aspirations, of which she is as innocent as a babe. Miss Maria
Withers’ strong point is not fashion; so the little parched, limp,
black bonnet which she has found satisfactory for eight years, still
perches above her gray curls. I was absorbed in working out a series of
arguments on the effect of dress upon character, when the white gavel
descended and the Society came to order with a start.

We are nothing if not parliamentary. The latest manual lies at
Mrs. Bunker’s right hand. Miss Scrapson, of the academy, makes an
excellent secretary, and her minutes are comprehensive. Miss Withers,
as treasurer, is somewhat rambling and uncertain. Her reports are
subject to pauses, silent mental calculations and ejaculations of “Dear
me,--no, that wasn’t it--just wait a minute,” and excursions into a
little black bag which she carries, after missing items on stray scraps
of paper. Mrs. Bunker bears this with self-control, as Miss Maria has
valuable qualities. Miss Scrapson and Mrs. Cope play into her hands
most cleverly in a discussion over a motion or a point of order. We
manage to have a little unfinished business on the carpet, usually, to
give style to the meeting, and altogether maintain an air of importance
which is quite remarkable for a small village club. But on this
particular day, a May morning, I saw in our president’s eye that there
was something new and exciting to be taken up.

“Ladies,” she announced at last, “our spring campaign is opening with
opportunities of no mean order. The village of West Hedgeworth is
menaced with a disgrace which so far outdoes in horror even the peanut
shells on the post-office floor and the loose papers on the common that
words almost fail me as I mention it. Give me your close attention,
please.”

Ever since the meeting when Mrs. Bunker took Mrs. Pitman to task for
the condition of her ash barrels, we have been subject to a weak-kneed
and guilty sensation when she gives us an introduction of this sort.

“You probably know,” she continued in more colloquial style, “the
small house with pointed gables and a piazza, fronting the common
next the old Benjamin place. You are aware how neatly it has always
been kept by former occupants. That house is just rented by a doctor
who has come here with his wife, I am told, from New York. They
moved in a week ago, and in that short space of time,--_one week_,
ladies,--they have made the premises a blot upon the scutcheon of our
lovely village. Their packing-cases were unloaded on the piazza in a
high wind, and bits of paper, excelsior and what not are scattered
from end to end of the yard; boxes, planks, tin cans and other refuse
are piled at one side; the whole appearance of the establishment is
enough to make one _of us_,”--impressively--”avert her head in passing
it. And still the scandal goes on, unabated, from day to day. It is a
moment for immediate action, a moment to be seized by patriotic and
public-spirited women, and the disturbers of our peace of mind made to
feel the necessity of taking immediate steps towards reform. I lay the
case before you, ladies, for suggestions as to prompt aggression.”

There was a suitable pause. Then Miss Withers’ gentle voice piped up.
“This is really a dreadful state of things,” she began mildly. “I
hadn’t noticed it myself, I suppose because”--

“Hadn’t noticed it!” ejaculated the president, in tones of thunder.

“I was going to say,” fluttered Miss Maria hurriedly, “because I
haven’t passed there in two weeks. If I had, no doubt I should have
been very much annoyed about it.”

“_Annoyed!_” exclaimed Mrs. Bunker again, savagely. “Annoyance is
altogether too personal a term. It arouses all _my_ loyalty to the
society; that’s the way it impresses _me_.”

Of course this brought forth many protestations of the same sentiment
from the rest of us. Then Mrs. Pitman ventured to ask if Mrs. Bunker
didn’t think it would be well to send a committee to the doctor and ask
him to “clear up a little.”

“The chair has no thoughts, Mrs. Pitman,” answered that body loftily.
“I await a motion.”

I always second everybody else’s motion, but have never made one yet,
in the meetings. Miss Scrapson, however, came to the fore, and it was
presently decided that the president should appoint a committee to
visit the doctor and his lady and reprove them.

“If that is really the pleasure of the Association,” said Mrs. Bunker,
with a wave of her purple ostrich plume, “I will appoint Miss Allison”
(that is my name), “a committee of one to call at the doctor’s house
for this purpose. As you are one of the young ladies of the place,
Irene, it would be in the way of your social duty at any rate. You can
mingle business with pleasure.”

“Yes,--but Mrs. Bunker, I never _could_ mingle things! Don’t ask me to
go,” I implored. “I’m sure I shall make a failure of it. I don’t want
to offend them, you know,--they may be nice people.”

“_Nice people!_” Mrs. Bunker compressed her lips into that peculiar
stiff smile which means scorn, and closed her eyes slowly with her head
tilted back.

“They certainly must be lax,” murmured Miss Scrapson,--”very lax.”
Nobody, however, came to my rescue. I was evidently doomed to be the
unhappy instrument of the Society’s revenge. I gave in and took my
instructions as meekly as I could.

“The wife has an extremely youthful and inexperienced air,” said my
mentor, “and undoubtedly needs a little judicious instruction. It will
alarm her less to be confronted by a person of her own age. Our work is
largely educational, you know, so do not antagonize her. Simply say to
her something of this kind in gentle but firm tones: ‘My dear madam, do
you not appreciate the beauty of this peaceful little village, and will
you not bear your part henceforward in the maintenance of its order and
symmetry?’ Such a method of speech would be better than to alarm her.
And yet don’t fail to impress upon her that disorder simply _cannot
be_.”

I acquiesced, with a slightly strangling sound, which the president did
not notice, fortunately. It resulted from physical distress of a kind
which is sometimes on these occasions, beyond control. It was with me
yet, in a milder form, as I ascended the doctor’s steps that afternoon,
card-case in hand, which last appendage seemed the most despicable
mockery.

The house was a neat, smart little affair in its way, inartistic, but
not aggressively ugly, and well arranged for professional purposes.
The sign, _Dr. M. H. Richmond_, was tacked up beside the door. There
certainly were evidences of an upheaval, however, in plain sight. The
front yard was, as Mrs. Bunker had described it, littered with papers
and excelsior, the piazza floor as bad. At the side of the house was a
pile of tin cans, boxes, broken china and other unsightly abominations.
Somehow one could not help feeling that a woman’s eye and touch were
wanting, and I found myself stiffening against the wife who could allow
such a state of affairs to go on. My primmest expression was ready, as
the door flew open, swung hospitably wide by a big young man with a
short brown beard and gray eyes. The moment I saw him it occurred to
me to wonder what he would take me for--patient, caller, or perhaps
an agent! Horrible thought, that last,--I found a certain timidity
threatening my assurance.

“Might I,” I began, putting myself into the latter category at once by
my mode of address, “might I see the lady of the house, please?”

“Walk in, won’t you?” said the doctor affably, ushering me into what
happened to be his office. Ah,--one knew now a little better where
one was. Whatever its exterior shortcomings, this must be the home of
thoroughly cultivated people. Their furniture was solid, their pictures
were fine, and their few decorations faultless.

As to their books, filling all available space, no library critic could
find the selection wanting in true literary discrimination. I felt the
courage of my mission diminishing as I slid into a leather covered arm
chair opposite the easy, amused looking doctor.

“I’m so very sorry,” he observed, “that she isn’t at home. She went
away by the early train this morning; but perhaps you could leave a
message with me if it’s a matter of importance.”

There was a short but awkward pause. No help for it,--I might as
well make the plunge. The more Bunkerish I could be, the better, if
any stern message was to be sent to the wife by this good-natured
personage.

“I wanted to see Mrs. Richmond,” I explained stiffly, “on a little
matter of business connected with the work of the Village Improvement
Society. It was reported at our last meeting that the condition of your
front yard is very bad.”

“My front yard! I see.” The doctor looked quizzical but serene, and
glanced out over his shoulder to the lawn.

“Our Association,” I continued bravely, “aims to incite the pride of
householders in the appearance of the village as well as in their own
homes; and your place here is conspicuous, facing the common as it
does. We thought that might not have occurred to you.”

“It really hadn’t,” smiled my host. “This is very kind of you, however.
Do I understand that your Society orders me, through you, to clear up
the yard? In that case, do they provide cleaners and so forth,--or will
they perhaps come and take charge of it themselves?”

“Not at all,” I exclaimed angrily. “You are expected to attend to it.”

“What should you do,” he inquired suavely, “if I left it in disorder? I
ask from curiosity, naturally, as I should never have the temerity to
defy so august a body. Would the law be obliged to take its course?”

“You are probably aware that we have no law whatever behind us,” I
said with all the dignity I could assume, “though the selectmen are
very good about backing us up in flagrant cases. But I should imagine
a doctor just settling in a town would be sufficiently alive to his
own interests to see the propriety of making a good impression by the
appearance of his house and grounds.”

“Ah!” He nodded slowly, smiling in a way which maddened me. “Now I
see. This is a special kindness on your part. How grateful I am to
you. Your suggestion may really result in my winning the hearts of the
West Hedgeworth people; and I shall begin at once. The propriety of
making a good impression by the appearance of my house and grounds!--it
is a noble sentiment. My colored boy who is my only servant, shall
attend to the matter, and the Village Improvement Society shall see a
change indeed. Are there any other little touches,--extra touches, you
know,--that occur to you?”

I glanced at the big, low table with its littering of attractive books
and magazines, a great ivory club of a paper knife lying across an
uncut review. I was as much at home among those things as he. Why had
I been forced into the attitude of an impertinent village miss, to be
laughed over with his wife again in the way he was laughing now? The
idea was distressing; but I had no defence.

“I think you are quite capable of arranging your own yard,” I said
curtly. “You will very soon find out what the village people like. All
that our Association requires is cleanliness and good order;”--with
which I moved towards the door, murmuring a regret that I had not seen
Mrs. Richmond.

“This is so good of you”--and now the doctor actually showed a shade of
embarrassment himself,--”that I am really overwhelmed with shame to be
obliged to disappoint you about my wife. It would be so pleasant for
her to know you ladies and to”--he coughed slightly--”to come under
your helpful influence. But the fact is, she isn’t--she doesn’t--there
never has--in short, there isn’t any Mrs. Richmond. My sister came with
me to help me settle things. She is a college girl somewhat younger
than I and with no experience whatever. I hope you will be willing to
welcome her when she comes back in July,--that is, of course, if we
are tidy enough to be recognized by the villagers.” Still the blandest
expression about his mouth, but a twinkle in the gray eyes which made
me grind my teeth. And he had calmly sat there, letting me call on
_him_!

I attempted to “sweep” across the piazza with dignity, but only swept
up little bits of excelsior on the hem of my gown. But I did make him
feel the arrows of a dignified wrath, I think;--not that he evinced any
such sensation at the time. To Mrs. Bunker, who had asked for a prompt
report, I flew. She took the affair with unsympathetic calmness.

“You did your duty, Irene,” was her gracious commendation, “and it was
not your fault that the girl--who certainly was there, for I _saw_
her--should be his sister and not his wife. You said precisely the
right thing, and I trust he will profit by it and earn the respect of
the village. I am glad he is a young man of taste.”

He got on, whether possessed of taste or not. It annoyed me to see the
way he made friends with everybody who crossed his path, man, woman or
child. They were rather slow to consult him professionally; but Doctor
Bell, the old physician who had all the practice round here, lives at
Hedgeworth Centre, three miles away, so when Miss Phœbe Withers,
Miss Maria’s older sister, had an attack of heart failure one day, they
sent for Doctor Richmond, and took a tremendous fancy to him. I kept
out of his way; to my mind he was the most thoroughly disagreeable man
I ever met.

The front yard, meanwhile, had been cleared up. Nick, the black
imp who drove, cooked and gardened for the doctor, was known to be
mysteriously occupied behind the house for hours at a time, after the
rubbish was removed. Mrs. Benjamin saw it all from her back windows,
and reported it at the sewing society. He spent hours pottering among
paint-cans, starting seeds and what not; and shortly after, the front
fence appeared painted grass green, the gate picked out with white
cross-bars, and the lamp-post similarly decorated, bearing a brand-new
reflector. Then clam-shell borders to the gravel-walk cropped out, and
two round clam-edged beds of geraniums stared from the lawn, while a
“rockery” of red and blue boulders, with ferns, reared itself where
the piles of tin cans had been.

“Do you like _that_ sort of thing, I want to know?” I inquired
wrathfully of Mrs. Bunker at our next Village Improvement meeting.

“Well, it looks perfectly neat,” she answered, “and it is in the style
of most of the best kept yards here. I can’t say that _I_ should not
prefer quieter colors; but he is a young man yet, you know.”

I was silenced. What right had I, any way, to feel as if there were a
sort of practical joke on me, personally, in all this? The day after,
a new ornament appeared;--a pair of andirons, painted scarlet, and
a hollowed out log across them filled with yellow nasturtiums. Mrs.
Pitman pointed it out to me delightedly.

“Just like a real fire!” she said. “Do you see, Irene? The doctor is
quite a landscape gardener, isn’t he?” I made no reply.

Another decoration was set forth next, on the opposite side of the
yard;--this time a crane, also of scarlet hue, and a swinging pot, with
money-wort bubbling in it and dribbling down the sides. By ill luck I
was passing at the moment when Nick put it there, turning round with a
grin for the approval of his master, who stood in the window.

“Very good, indeed, Nick,” I heard the doctor call out. “You’re a
regular Village Improvement Society in yourself, boy.” I wondered
if it were possible, by Delsartian methods, to throw scorn into
the expression of one’s back. The attempt ended weakly in one of
those little conscious adjustments of drapery to which one resorts
involuntarily at such junctures. Somehow I felt that those gray eyes
were upon me. I had occasionally caught the expression of them before,
always with the inevitable twinkle, when we met in public.

He grew into the habit of dropping in at the Bunkers’, to my disgust,
as it spoiled my own intimacy there. Mr. B., a shadowy figure in the
background of the family stage, had been cured, or imagined he had, of
rheumatism by the new physician, and took a great fancy to him. Emily,
the daughter, who is so fearfully quiet that most people never make
any attempt to rouse her, was actually known to chat with him quite
naturally and easily; and our beloved president submitted to cruel
thrusts from him with a good grace.

“Mrs. Bunker,” he said one evening as we were all sitting on the
piazza in a June twilight, “you’ve never told me yet how you liked the
arrangement of my front yard. Have you seen the new garden seat I had
put out this week? It’s one of the latest fads in outdoor decoration,
made of the head-board and frame of an antique bedstead--a very choice
thing. I got the idea from a farmhouse up on the north road.”

“I haven’t noticed it,” she answered somewhat cautiously, “but I
observe, doctor, that you have an idea of falling in with the taste of
the people.”

“My dear madam,” he clasped his hand round one knee and looked off
dreamily into space,--”a doctor just settling down in a town should be
sufficiently alive to his own interests to see the propriety of making
a good impression by the appearance of his house and grounds.”

How dared he mock me to my very face in this fashion? I was thankful
for the little back gate leading out of the Bunkers’ grounds, by
which I could get a short cut home, leaving my good-byes with Emily
Bunker. When we met accidentally at the post-office next morning, I
turned my back on him to stamp some letters, and never looked up till
he was gone, after telling Alice Cobb, one of the village belles, who
stood there, that he was going away in the afternoon to his sister’s
Commencement and would bring her back with him.

The week seemed very peaceful, and I enjoyed going about without the
dread of further shafts of ridicule. I was always planning some way to
give his impertinence a decided snub, but never found the chance. The
afternoon of his return, I was sitting with my work in Mrs. Benjamin’s
parlor as the buggy drove up, Nick having been left to walk home from
the station. When he helped the sister out,--a manifestly high bred,
charming little blonde,--I couldn’t help watching for the effect
upon her of those painted monstrosities. She wouldn’t tolerate them
a moment, I felt sure. But oh, stab after stab! She gave one glance
at them and turned to her brother with an expression of such utter
merriment that I knew at once the thing was a joke already understood
between the two. I decided that Amy Richmond would _not_ become a
friend of mine. Yet curiously enough she actually sought me out, at an
academy reception the next night. Emily Bunker introduced her, and she
began at once: “I’ve been so anxious to meet you, Miss Allison. Morris
tells me so much about you, and he’s sure we shall be congenial.”

I stiffened. Another back-handed thrust, probably, lay underneath this.

“He thinks I shall learn an immense amount from you, too,” she
pursued,--”don’t you Morris?”--to the doctor, who was unexpectedly
standing behind me.

“I’ve told my sister,” he answered, “that she must persuade you to give
her some hints about household matters. She hasn’t had even as much
experience yet as Nick and I.”

I tried to be very ungracious, as dark suspicions flew through my
mind; but Miss Richmond looked absolutely guileless, and furthermore
she wouldn’t let me alone; there was no use trying to avoid her. And
it _did_ seem good to have a friend of her sort. The West Hedgeworth
girls are bright and pretty, and some of them intellectual, but we had
all been village comrades too long to get up much enthusiasm over one
another’s society. Doctor Richmond’s brotherly devotion caused him to
lend his sister the buggy and spirited little horse for her own use
now and then, besides the drives she took with him; so we two enjoyed
long excursions through the country roads, steeped in July sunshine
and finding our mutual interest deeper with every day. Once I went to
tea with them, and on that occasion the doctor seemed quite like other
people, except just as I was leaving under the escort of my younger
brother, which I had purposely arranged, the temptation to give me a
parting thrust was too strong for him, and he remarked as we descended
the front steps: “Miss Allison, I am so glad to have had you get a
glimpse of our clam-shells in the moonlight.”

Amy went off to the seashore a day or two later, and I felt really
sorry for him, but it was much the easiest way to avoid him altogether,
and I never asked him to come to our house, nor crossed his path if
I could help it. As for the nasturtiums and geraniums, scorching on
his lawn in the midsummer heat, I wanted no sight of them. By and
by I went away myself, and came back in September to a taste of the
unpleasantnesses of life. My two brothers left home, one to a business
position in Boston, the other to college. Father, meanwhile, who for
eight years since mother’s death had been lost in melancholy and
required my constant offices as consoler, divulged the fact that a
buxom widow in Hedgeworth Centre had succeeded in resurrecting his
buried affections; an individual as utterly unlike--well, there was a
sting about it all that made things look pretty black for awhile, and
since they desired the engagement “kept quiet,” I locked up my woes and
could only wonder now and then whether anybody felt any sympathy, while
parrying the usual village questions about father’s frequent drives to
the Centre. The Bunkers went abroad for the winter, thank Heaven!--and
the V. I. S. was suspended for the time being. Mercifully I had a
chance to do something for somebody else. Aunt Abby, my mother’s
sister, who had lived alone with her servants in a big house fronting
the common, a rather morose and unmanageable old maiden lady, was
breaking down. My other aunt, who lives in California, could not come
east at once, so I was the only member of the family to nurse her, and
with father and the boys provided for I had time to go to her whenever
she needed me.

Dr. Bell fell ill and Dr. Richmond was called. His appearance in the
sick-room seemed likely to destroy the only comfort I had there; but,
strange to say, I laid down my weapons before three visits were over.
His management of her was absolutely perfect; thoughtful, gentle,
cheery, and so patient with her whims and imaginings, poor old soul,
that his coming grew to be the one bright spot in her life, and I
fancied she would give herself up to complete invalidism for the sake
of them. But he looked grave one day over her, and informed me she must
have a nurse.

“Do you think me incapable?” I asked rather sharply.

“No, but you couldn’t hold out to do all there is to be done. Your aunt
is going to be worse, Miss Allison, and I doubt if we can pull her
through. You’ll want somebody for night work.”

Mrs. Smith, the village nurse, is the dreariest of her kind, and brings
an atmosphere of melancholy with her. My services were needed as
cheerer-up from this time on, for poor Aunt Abby grew visibly weaker,
and finally one stormy night the end seemed near, so I did not go home.
Dr. Richmond came in about nine o’clock and found me in the cold, lofty
parlor with its straight backed furniture and grim family portraits.

“See here,” he remarked as he returned from the sick-room, “mightn’t
you be a little more comfortable somehow? You can’t sit up all night on
the edge of a slippery sofa like that. Why don’t you doze, and let the
nurse call if she wants you?”

I had unconsciously taken the attitude of my childhood’s years, when
sent to call on Aunt Abby and charged not to let my feet touch the
furniture, my hands crossed in my lap, and spine rigid. But I couldn’t
have slept at any rate, I told him, and should manage all right.

He opened the front door to depart, then came back. A West Indian
tornado was tearing at the house and lashing the trees with howls
of fury, the chimneys moaning and blinds rattling. He looked at me
irresolutely, I sitting motionless. What did a mere storm matter,--a
tumult of nature which would be over by morning? _He_ might object to
it, with nothing worse to worry about; it made no difference to me.

“I must be on hand every hour, anyway,” he said slowly, “to watch your
aunt’s pulse. Neither you nor the nurse would understand it. If you
don’t mind, I’ll stay here, instead of coming back and forth across the
common in such a gale as this. And meanwhile let me show you a better
way to rest.”

Poor Aunt Abby! It was fortunate that she could not see her plush sofa
moved around cornerwise and its end filled with pillows, nor the logs
which the doctor brought from the cellar piled across her beautifully
polished, unused andirons. Had I any business to sink back luxuriously
and enjoy the sparkle and warmth of a fire, with that unconscious
figure in the next room? I sprang up again and tiptoed in to ask the
nurse if I might not take her place.

“No,” said Mrs. Smith dolorously but firmly, “you ain’t experienced
enough to watch out her last hours. Miss Abby’s been good to me in ways
I sha’n’t say nothin’ about, and I’m a-goin’ to see her through. All I
want you for is to call if I need you, and so long as I ain’t all alone
I shall stay up till the last.”

I crept back, feeling incompetent and useless, and with some of the
diminished nerve which results from the nearness and certainty of
death--that hour we are never ready for.

“Lie against the cushions, please,” commanded the doctor quietly.
“Now I’m going to be here and watch every symptom. You won’t have
to keep anything on your mind,--and your aunt may rally, remember,
perhaps even return to consciousness again. Just put the responsibility
entirely on Mrs. Smith and me, and try to rest as much as you can.”

There was no resisting this; he should not see, however, that my eyes
grew moist under the unwonted sensation of being looked out for. I
turned my head away to pull my forces together, but he had gone back
to Aunt Abby’s bedside. When he came out, in about five minutes, he
told me that all was going well, and then sitting down began to speak
of everyday matters. Before very long a better footing was established
between us than ever before, and for a couple of hours we talked, only
interrupted by visits to the sick-room. I forgot my secret smart at
having been ridiculed, in hearing Morris Richmond tell delightful bits
of his own experiences and life interest. Not being enough of a woman
of the world to resist the delicate flattery which such a recital
implies, I didn’t suspect him either of adroitness enough to use his
autobiography for that purpose. But about twelve o’clock he looked at
his watch, then at me, and frowned.

“You’re horribly tired,” he said, “and I’ve no business to keep you
up when it isn’t necessary. Please go upstairs to bed, and sleep till
four o’clock. I shall be here till then, and there will be absolutely
nothing for you to do. If your aunt is improving, you needn’t be called
till seven, for you can take Mrs. Smith’s place to-morrow, and Mrs.
Benjamin will come over to help you if you need her.”

Evidently he himself was tired of talking so long. I didn’t give him
credit for any especially disinterested motives in sending me off,
but went with some resentment, since he so plainly wished me to go.
I didn’t sleep, however. The mirror on the wall of the barren guest
room moved from some hidden draught or jar, the old willow whipped its
twigs against the window panes, and I lay watching them with a strange
tumult in my heart, a whirlwind of whys and conjectures, a creeping
nervousness as to the outcome of the next few hours, a lonely dread
of the after months when Aunt Abby should be gone and my home life
changed,--and yet, through it all, an odd new satisfaction which I
tried to push away, and a tendency to go over word for word the talk
of that evening and the looks on Morris Richmond’s face. There was a
faint dawn in the room before I knew it, and then it occurred to me
that the doctor ought to have a little breakfast after his long vigil.
The servants were asleep, but the kitchen fire had been left “in,” and
I knew where everything was kept. I freshened myself up and stole down
the back stairs to cook coffee and eggs and hot toast. In the midst of
it the door opened behind me, and I started guiltily.

“What are you doing _now_?” he demanded.

“How did you know?” I faltered.

“The smell of that coffee going all through the house is enough to wake
anybody. So this is the way you obey orders! Miss West is better, and I
am just going. You might perfectly well have slept on.”

“But I couldn’t,” I insisted, “and you will stay and drink the coffee
now that I have cooked it.”

He consented if I would have some too, and we ate our impromptu meal in
the dark dining-room, warming up over it and chatting most familiarly.
It was growing light when the doctor took his hat in the hall.

“Thank you for being so good to me,” he said. “I appreciate it. Now
please don’t overdo. I sha’n’t be in again probably until noon, unless
you send for me;”--and he opened the door, where we both stood looking
out. We were just opposite his house. The storm was abating, but the
havoc it had made was visible everywhere. A big elm had been uprooted
on the common, and lay prone, with hundreds of scattered twigs about
it. And the doctor’s front yard? Alas! Mrs. Benjamin’s old buttonwood
tree, which had been dying all summer, was crashed over, burying in
its prostrate branches the crane, the andirons, the gay beds and
all. Nature itself had swept away the last barriers now, I reflected
triumphantly, to what might be a good satisfactory friendship. Better
days were coming. But--

“Whew!” said my companion lightly. “Look over there. Dear me--I must
hurry home and set Nick at work. It will take us a whole week to get
square with the Village Improvement Society!”

Aunt Abby lived nearly a month longer. Her sister came on from
California and took charge in the sick-room with an energy which left
very little for others to do. After the funeral she went away again.
The property had been left to her, the house to me, with just enough
income to live, economically, in it. Father and his affianced bride
were well satisfied with this arrangement, and made preparations to
be married at Thanksgiving, at which time I was to move into my new
abode. I felt it to be following indeed in Aunt Abby’s footsteps, and
could see myself in imagination going on year after year with my one
servant, growing older and grimmer, brooding over past days, finally
slipping out of life without a friend in the world. It was rather a new
thing for me to take this morbid view, but one always finds a fresh
idea interesting, and I hugged it for a time with all the vehemence
of my nature. The doctor I had seen now and then, and we had managed
to remain pretty well on our new basis of easy and even confidential
acquaintanceship. But I could not forget the old grudge; he would not
keep up that spirit of mockery which cropped out so often unless he
regarded me still as a village nonenity. Yet why need I care?

One November afternoon I started out to walk off the blues. It was gray
and windy, but with occasional gleams of sunshine,--a good day for a
hilltop. I went by the Bunkers’ shut up mansion, waved to Miss Maria
at her little corner sitting-room window, shook my head to resist Mrs.
Benjamin’s beckoning hand as I passed her door, and glanced at the
doctor’s yard. It was in order again indeed. The mutilated crane and
andirons had been removed, and the beds emptied and raked over; but a
new horror had been perpetrated in the shape of two brilliant globular
lawn-reflectors on pedestals, one blue-gray, the other yellow, which
gave a miniature distorted panorama of all passing objects and showed
me a waddling image of myself, with flattened, wrathful countenance.
It was the last straw, and I walked fiercely away, resolved that if my
future dwelling must be opposite this man’s, its front blinds should be
lowered forever.

As that walk registered just about the lowest point my mental and
spiritual barometer has ever reached, I can hardly forget it. I climbed
over Hart’s hill, and from its summit looked off westward over level
fields, bounded by a horizon of tossing gray clouds and slits of pale,
yellow light. The old graveyard lay to the right, smooth bare maple
boughs tossed above me. The road ran straight ahead, and I stood
undecided whether to go on down or not. If it had been in a story, I
reflected bitterly, the man I hated yet longed to see would appear then
and there; in real life such things never happen at the right juncture.
I should simply go back, give father his tea, and see him depart as
usual for the evening, then sit alone.

But, after all, this is a story, or I shouldn’t be telling it. A buggy
turned out of the farm-yard half way down the hill, and came toward me.
I knew the horse and occupant, and turned my feet resolutely homeward,
with a confusion in my brain which I thought was anger. A rapid trot
sounded behind me, and then the doctor’s “Whoa!” I did not look up till
I heard him say: “Miss Allison, would you please let me drive you home?”

“I came out for a walk,” I answered.

“Yes, but you’ve had the walk. And besides that, you are more by
yourself nowadays than is good for you.” What business was it of
his?--”Then, best of all, I have a letter from Amy to read you.”

“Oh, I don’t suppose it matters,” said I, climbing wearily in beside
him, “only please have the goodness _not_ to drive me past your house.
The prospect of looking at it morning, noon and night hereafter is bad
enough since this latest infliction.”

“Infliction! do you really think so?” he asked, with the old merriment
in his voice. “But I had to put something there, you know, to brighten
it up a little. You certainly would have me sufficiently alive to my
own interests as a physician, wouldn’t you, to see the propriety--”

“Stop!” I burst out, my cheeks one flame and the hot tears of tired-out
nerves and pent-up anger springing to my eyes. “Be kind enough to
understand that for your interests as a physician I don’t care one
straw!”

The Doctor turned and laid his hand gently on mine, looking down at me
with a smile which levelled all my fortifications.

“Of course you don’t,” he said. “But as a man--you surely must have
seen by this time how badly I need a wife! Won’t you come home and take
command of my front yard?”

  RUTH HUNTINGTON SESSIONS.



XXI

A GENTLE MANIAC.

A STUDY IN LOVE AND INSANITY.


CHARACTERS.

  MR. VALDINGAM.
  HENRY VAN HYDE, M. D.
  SUSAN VALDINGAM.
  ROSE.
  RICHARD, a servant.

 TIME: Present.

 PLACE: Mr. Valdingam’s country place near New York.

 SCENE: _Library in Mr. Valdingam’s house. At the right of
 the stage, there is a large window opening upon a veranda and garden;
 moonlight effect. At the left there is an exit to other parts of the
 house._

MR. VALDINGAM (_who is pacing the room restlessly_): Dr. Van
Hyde is extremely inconsiderate--extremely inconsiderate. He promised
to be here at six-thirty sharp. A physician should keep his word at all
hazards. (_He goes to his desk at right and rings a bell._)

(_Enter_ RICHARD _from_ LEFT.)

RICHARD: You rang, sir?

MR. VALDINGAM (_testily_): When does the next train leave for
New York?

RICHARD: In a half hour, sir.

MR. VALDINGAM: Good. If Dr. Van Hyde does not arrive within
that time, you will take the train and fetch him. Do you understand?

RICHARD: Yes, sir.

MR. VALDINGAM: Meanwhile, tell my sister that I want to speak
with her. (_Exit_ RICHARD, L.) Now I’ll surprise that excellent
woman; excellent, that is to say, if she possessed an ounce of
brains. If _she_ could have her way, Rose would soon be in a
lunatic asylum.

(_Enter_ SUSAN, L.)

SUSAN (_curtly_): You have something to say to me?

MR. VALDINGAM (_sharply_): Get ready a supper for two--for
_two_--do you hear?

SUSAN: For two?

MR. VALDINGAM: And you can serve it in this room.

SUSAN: You are expecting a friend?

MR. VALDINGAM: Yes, a friend; or, rather a physician--a
physician ... for Rose.

SUSAN (_aside_): The same old delusion (_To_ MR.
VALDINGAM.) But, brother, Rose is quite well.

MR. VALDINGAM: Well! You say _well_!... It’s none of your
business, however. Do as I bid.

SUSAN (_aside_): It’s useless to argue with him. (_To_ MR.
VALDINGAM.) When do you expect your--friend?

MR. VALDINGAM: By the train that was due several minutes ago.
Late, as usual.

(_Enter_ RICHARD, L.)

RICHARD: The doctor has just arrived, sir.

MR. VALDINGAM: Good. Bring the lamps, and then show the doctor
in.

SUSAN (_aside_): That doctor may be useful, after all.

(_Exeunt_ RICHARD _and_ SUSAN.)

MR. VALDINGAM (_exultingly_): Ha! I’ve gained my point, in
spite of them. Rose shall be saved.

(_Enter_, L., RICHARD, _with two lighted lamps.
After placing them, he retires, leaving_ DR. VAN HYDE _in the
background_.)

DR. VAN HYDE: This is Mr. Valdingam?

MR. VALDINGAM: And this Dr. Van Hyde? How delighted I am to
meet you at last! But it is disgraceful that you should have been so
long delayed. I shall see to it that the officers of the road are
severely censured.

DR. VAN HYDE: Pray do not worry over such a trifle.

MR. VALDINGAM: That is very nicely said, sir.... As I informed
you by letter, the case which you are about to treat is a very serious
one--a very complicated one. It may even baffle you.... But before
I add anything, permit me to see my sister for an instant. She is
preparing a little supper for us, and, if you don’t object, we shall
eat it here, _tête-à-tête_.

DR. VAN HYDE: With the greatest pleasure, Mr. Valdingam.

MR. VALDINGAM: Then kindly make yourself at home. The house is
yours while you are in it. (_Exit_ MR. VALDINGAM, L.)

DR. VAN HYDE (_throwing himself into an easychair_): A
comfortable place, certainly. That fellow, Valdingam, however, is
an odd chap. Restless and excitable, I take it; but very agreeable,
otherwise. I wonder what sort of a little creature the patient
is, by the way. A stupid thing, I suppose.... (_After a moment of
reflection_.) Strange!--I wonder if I am losing my own mind. For three
days I’ve been in a state which is positively abnormal. I am haunted
by a face, and I can’t rid my memory of it. And what a face! Who could
forget it after having once looked upon it? I am in love with it. I
am still more in love with its owner. That smile, like a glimpse of
paradise! That mouth, like a dissected strawberry! That blush, like the
stolen red of a rose! Oh, shall I ever see her again?

(_Enter_ MR. VALDINGAM, L.)

MR. VALDINGAM: You must be hungry, Dr. Van Hyde, and I fear
that I can offer you little to appease a healthy appetite--a bowl of
broth, a tender bit of broiled chicken, and some of the finest Burgundy
in the world to wash it down. We homely folk of the country stick to
the ancient fashions, you know,--a noonday lunch, and all that.

DR. VAN HYDE: I like your ancient fashions, as you call them,
Mr. Valdingam. (_Enter_ RICHARD, _who sets a small table for
two and serves supper_.)

MR. VALDINGAM: Then let us sit down without ceremony.

DR. VAN HYDE: Your Burgundy is indeed delicious, Mr. Valdingam.

MR. VALDINGAM: I flatter myself that it is. It dissolves
the cobwebs from one’s brains, so to speak. It is the elixir of
happiness; and alas! I am not a happy man, Dr. Van Hyde.... (_To_
RICHARD.) Leave us alone, Richard. (_Exit_ RICHARD.)

DR. VAN HYDE: Perhaps you exaggerate your misfortunes, my dear
sir.

MR. VALDINGAM: Far from it--far from it.... Imagine a father,
a doting father, like myself, whose only child is on the verge of
insanity.

DR. VAN HYDE: It is a pitiful case, truly.

MR. VALDINGAM: It is pitiful, and it is strange; strange
because my daughter Rose is, to all outward appearances, as sane as you
or I.

DR. VAN HYDE: But there are symptoms--

MR. VALDINGAM: Symptoms which my keen sight discovered long
ago. (_Mysteriously._) My daughter is morally irresponsible in her
social relations with men.

DR. VAN HYDE: You astonish me!

MR. VALDINGAM: Prepare yourself for still greater
astonishment. Accustomed though you are to dealings with the insane, I
venture to say that Rose will deceive you at first as she has deceived
others.... However, you are now on your guard. If you will permit me to
do so, I will indicate to you the line of inquiry which you may adopt
in your preliminary examination of my daughter.

(_As this conversation progresses the door at_ L. _is opened
slightly, and_ SUSAN _is seen to be listening. Later she
closes the door softly and disappears._)

DR. VAN HYDE: With pleasure, sir.

MR. VALDINGAM: Here is the point, then. My daughter appears to
fall in love with every young man that strikes her fancy.

DR. VAN HYDE: Really--

MR. VALDINGAM: She may even fall in love with you.

DR. VAN HYDE: Extraordinary!

MR. VALDINGAM: Your course, therefore, will be to draw from
her some decisive manifestation of this abnormal amativeness. You will
not be slow to discover how deep-rooted the disease is.... By the way,
would you object to meeting my daughter this evening? I shall not allow
you to return to New York to-night, you know.

DR. VAN HYDE: I am wholly at your service.

MR. VALDINGAM (_ringing for_ RICHARD): So much the
better. (_Enter_ RICHARD, _who removes the dining table_.)
Now, if you will join me in a cigar and a stroll in the garden, we
can talk more at our ease on this painful subject. (_They light their
cigars and pass out into the garden. Enter from_ L. _at the
same time_ SUSAN, _followed by_ ROSE.)

SUSAN: Well, what do you think of that?

ROSE (_laughingly_): I am very sorry for poor Dr. Van Hyde.
Suppose I should be attacked with a tender passion for him, after all.

SUSAN: Don’t be ridiculous, Rose. Between you and me, however,
it seems to me that this mad-doctor here, who is said to be so very
clever, might be turned to some good purpose. I begin to think that
your father needs looking after.

ROSE: Oh, papa is harmless. At any rate, wait awhile. At
present, you must remember, I am Dr. Van Hyde’s patient.

SUSAN: Nonsense!

ROSE: I intend that he shall practise on me, certainly,
especially if, as you assert, he is young and handsome. Or, let us say,
I will experiment on him.

SUSAN: You are out of your senses.

ROSE: Not a bit. Has not Dr. Van Hyde come all the way up here
to see _me_, to examine _me_? Shall I disappoint this luminary of the
medical profession?... Never!... Now, Aunt Susan, you must let me have
my own way this time. No harm shall come of it, I promise you. And who
knows? Perhaps I may be able to give Dr. Van Hyde points for his next
clinic.

SUSAN: Well, do as you please. But I fear the worst. More than
one sane creature has been clapped into a lunatic asylum by some fool
of a doctor.

ROSE: Tell me something more about this Dr. Van Hyde.

SUSAN: I’ve told you all I know ... young, handsome, and, I
doubt not, a gentleman; very pleasant mannered, so far as I could see.

ROSE (_musingly_): Young, handsome, pleasant mannered. Not the
traditional doctor, evidently; just such a doctor as I might naturally
fall in love with.

SUSAN: Rose, you amaze me!

ROSE: But I am not going to fall in love with him.... (_After
a pause, and mischievously._) Indeed, I have some one else in my
thought at this moment.

SUSAN: What do you mean?

ROSE: Don’t blame me if I am a little human. Have you never
met a man, Aunt Susan, who pleased you as no other man had ever pleased
you before?

SUSAN: Perhaps I have; but it was mighty long ago.

ROSE: Call me foolish if you will; I, too, have met such a man.

SUSAN: You! Where?

ROSE: You won’t be cross if I confide in you? Besides, it’s
not likely that I shall meet my Romeo again?--for he was a Romeo, Aunt
Susan.

SUSAN: There are no Romeos nowadays.

ROSE: Oh, yes, there are--in trousers. Now, let me tell you
my experience with him. It was not a bit romantic. Last Monday, as you
remember, I was shopping in New York. To-day is Friday. (_With mock
gravity._) An eternity from then till now.... Well, as I was rushing
through a quiet side street, in haste to catch a car, suddenly I
slipped and fell. My parasol went in one direction, my fan in another,
my purse in still another, and three parcels I was carrying in three
others. To make matters worse, I had sprained my ankle slightly, and
was ready to cry with pain and mortification. Imagine the situation,
Aunt Susan. There I sat in a heap on the pavement, surrounded by my
possessions.

SUSAN (_grimly_): I hope you didn’t sit there long?

ROSE: How unsympathetic you are!... No, I did not sit there
long. For a second I was paralyzed. Afterward, as I prepared to rise
with proper dignity, I heard a man’s voice--a particularly agreeable
man’s voice--close at my side. It said: “Permit me to assist you,
madam.” Before I could reply, the owner of the voice lifted me to my
feet. Oh, he did his part gallantly! I was, of course, too confused to
thank him at once. But he did not stop for thanks. He simply picked
up my purse, my parasol, and my parcels, and after placing them in my
hands, and inquiring very gently whether I was hurt, lifted his hat
courteously and passed on. Only for a single--a single instant, Aunt
Susan, our eyes met.

SUSAN: What then, pray?

ROSE: Nothing. I limped to the car. That’s all.

SUSAN: And this stranger is your Romeo! Rose, you are a goose.
Put him out of your head.

ROSE: How can I put him out when he persists in staying in?
There, now you have my story.

SUSAN (_starting at the sound of footsteps_): Hush! I think
your father and the doctor are coming back.

 (_Susan busies herself with one of the lamps at_ L., _and Rose
 takes up a book and pretends to read. Her face is turned away from the_
 RIGHT _entrance. Enter_ MR. VALDINGAM _and_ DR.
 VAN HYDE.)

MR. VALDINGAM: Doctor, I rely upon you now with the utmost
confidence. What a knowledge is yours! How vast, how intricate a
subject is this of insanity! I marvel that you should have learned
so much in so few years. I’ll wager that you have not passed your
thirty-fifth birthday.

DR. VAN HYDE: You have made a nearly correct guess, Mr. Mr
Valdingam. I am in my thirty-sixth year. But I have enjoyed unusual
experience.

 (_At the sound of_ DR. VAN HYDE’S _voice, Rose half-rises, then
 hides her face with her book_.)

ROSE (_aside_): Good gracious! I have heard that voice before.
(_She glances over the edge of the book toward the two men._) It is
he. (_She slips out of her chair, and joins Susan. The backs of the
two women are turned to the men, who are conversing sotto voce._) Aunt
Susan!

SUSAN (_starting_): What’s the matter?

ROSE: It is he.

SUSAN: He? Who’s he?

ROSE: The same.

SUSAN: Who’s the same?

ROSE: The doctor.

SUSAN: What of the doctor?

ROSE: The doctor is--Romeo!

SUSAN (_dropping the book which_ ROSE _had passed to
her_): Lord!

 (_At the sound of the book falling_, MR. VALDINGAM _turns and
 perceives the two women. Then he catches_ DR. VAN HYDE _by the
 arm_.)

MR. VALDINGAM (_to the doctor_): She is here. Prepare yourself.

DR. VAN HYDE (_glancing at the backs of the women_): Your
daughter?

MR. VALDINGAM: Yes, my daughter. A splendid opportunity for
you, doctor. I will see to it that you are left alone with her. Talk
to her. Watch her closely. Discover all you can. But first, I will
introduce you to her. (_He goes over to_ L., _while_ DR. VAN HYDE
_stays quietly at_ R. _He approaches his daughter._) Rose!

ROSE (_turning toward_ MR. VALDINGAM): Yes, papa.

MR. VALDINGAM: May I introduce to you a dear, a very old
friend of mine.

ROSE (_aside_): A very old friend! (_To_ MR.
VALDINGAM.) Certainly, papa.

 (_She advances toward center of stage._ SUSAN _glares at_
 MR. VALDINGAM, _but does not come forward_.)

MR. VALDINGAM (_to_ DR. VAN HYDE): Doctor!

DR. VAN HYDE (_advancing toward Rose_): At your service, Mr.
Valdingam.

MR. VALDINGAM: May I introduce--

 (_At this instant_, DR. VAN HYDE _obtains a full view
 of_ ROSE, _who regards him demurely. He stumbles back in
 amazement._)

DR. VAN HYDE: This--this--is your daughter?

MR. VALDINGAM: You appear surprised? (_Aside._) I knew it. I
knew it.

DR. VAN HYDE: Not surprised--but--

MR. VALDINGAM: I understand thoroughly. (_Aside to the
doctor._) Didn’t I tell you so? (_To_ ROSE.) Rose, this is my
friend, Dr. Van Hyde. For certain reasons, my child, he is anxious to
have a little chat with you.

ROSE (_innocently_): With me, papa?

MR. VALDINGAM: That is to say.... Well, no matter, I will explain
later. (_Turning to_ SUSAN.) Susan! (SUSAN _advances toward center
very stiffly_.) Dr. Van Hyde, this is my sister, Miss Valdingam.

 (DR. VAN HYDE _bows to_ SUSAN _in an embarrassed
 manner_.)

SUSAN: Glad to know you, sir.

 (_She retires to_ L., _accompanied by_ ROSE. MR.
 VALDINGAM _rejoins_ DR. VAN HYDE _at_ R.)

MR. VALDINGAM (_to_ DR. VAN HYDE): Did I not manage
that skilfully?

DR. VAN HYDE (_dryly_): Most skilfully.

MR. VALDINGAM: The rest is simple enough. Remain where you
are, and I will retire with Susan. Then you will have the field to
yourself. Do you agree with me?

DR. VAN HYDE: Perfectly.

 (MR. VALDINGAM _goes over to_ L., _consults in an
 undertone with_ SUSAN, _and then exeunt_ MR. VALDINGAM
 _and_ SUSAN _at_ L. DR. VAN HYDE _and_
 ROSE _are thus left alone. Their backs are turned to each
 other._)

ROSE (_aside_): He recognized me.

DR. VAN HYDE (_aside_): I wonder if she recognized me.

ROSE (_aside_): What shall I do--play the mad woman?

DR. VAN HYDE (_aside_): This, then, is the end of my dream. I
have fallen in love with a lunatic.

ROSE (_aside_): I suppose, to carry out papa’s wishes, that I
ought to make love to him.

DR. VAN HYDE (_aside_): How did she come to be alone in the
city last Monday? She must have escaped somehow. She is guarded with
too little caution.

ROSE (_aside_): Why doesn’t he speak?

DR. VAN HYDE (_aside_): She is more enchanting than ever. How
can so sweet a creature be condemned to such misery? (_He turns and
confronts_ ROSE.) Miss Valdingam!

ROSE (_without moving_): Yes?

DR. VAN HYDE (_more softly_): Miss Valdingam!

ROSE (_turning slowly, and half looking at him_): Dr. Van Hyde!

DR. VAN HYDE: Will you not sit down?

ROSE: Thank you, I will. (_She seats herself at_ L.)

DR. VAN HYDE (_still standing, and speaking gravely_): Now--

ROSE (_carelessly_): Oh, you may as well take a chair yourself.

DR. VAN HYDE (_seating himself at_ L.): With your
permission.

ROSE: Well?

DR. VAN HYDE: I was saying--

ROSE: Were you? I didn’t hear it.

DR. VAN HYDE: I was, rather, about to say--

ROSE (_laughing_): This is very odd, is it not?

DR. VAN HYDE: What, may I ask, is odd?

ROSE: This _tête-à-tête_.

DR. VAN HYDE: Professionally speaking--

ROSE: As a rule, you know, it takes two old friends to make a
_tête-à-tête_. Now, it must be admitted that we are not old friends,
are we?

DR. VAN HYDE: I trust that we shall be very good friends soon.

ROSE: Oh, my father has recommended you, and I may accept you
on that basis. Are you from New York?

DR. VAN HYDE: Yes.

ROSE: And you are a physician?

DR. VAN HYDE: I practice a little.

ROSE: I suppose papa is to be one of your patients. He has not
been strong. How is he, doctor?

DR. VAN HYDE (_aside_): She is very insistent.

ROSE: Why don’t you answer me? Is there some serious
complication?

DR. VAN HYDE (_hurriedly_): Nothing serious, I assure you....
In fact, I have had no conversation with Mr. Valdingam about his health.

ROSE: Then what about?... Oh, I forgot. You are very old
friends.

DR. VAN HYDE: Very old friends. (_Aside._) There is a strange
gleam in her eyes. Poor thing! Poor thing!

ROSE: It is singular that he had never spoken of you before
to-night.... (_After a pause of reflection._) Do you know, I feel that
you called to see _me_, as well as papa. Am I right?

DR. VAN HYDE: Partly right, Miss Valdingam.... And I am _very_
glad to have met you at last. I have heard so much about you.

ROSE: Still, you had never _seen_ me until this evening?

DR. VAN HYDE (_taken by surprise_): Oh, I had.... (_Aside._)
What a silly business I am making of this! She looks so perfectly
sane and charming that I am tempted to forget my mission. (_To_
ROSE.) It seemed to me almost, I mean, that I had met you--I
don’t know where.

ROSE (_aside_): This is delicious. I must punish him.
(_Advancing toward him with an air of anger._) Sir, I perceive that you
wish to mislead me. Your presence here has a professional object. Do
not deny it.

DR. VAN HYDE: I--I--do not deny it.

ROSE (_tragically_): Connected with myself?

DR. VAN HYDE (_aside_): Suspicious of a stranger! Restless
under medical observation! These are symptoms!... I must try to divert
her thoughts.

ROSE: I repeat, sir--connected with myself?

DR. VAN HYDE: Pray, Miss Valdingam, do not excite yourself.

ROSE: Conceal nothing! I am wretched, annoyed, persecuted.
I am under a wicked surveillance. Do you imagine that I’m blind?
I understand their plot. (_Pointing to door at_ L.) And
you, too, are in the plot. But I shall prove to you--at once, _at
once_--that I am as rational as they, as you. (_In a quieter tone._)
Now, have you any questions to ask me?

DR. VAN HYDE (_somewhat confused_): Do not take the matter
so seriously, Miss Valdingam. Even a rational person--not excepting
myself--may have theories, hallucinations, dreams--

ROSE (_wildly_): Dreams! I have astonishing dreams, doctor.
They come to me when I am awake, when I _seem_ to be awake. Strange
noises then rattle in my brain, and I grow dizzy. In any other person,
these dreams might be _ideas_.... At other times, the world of my fancy
is crowded with men, myriads of men.

DR. VAN HYDE (_aside_): Her father was not mistaken.

ROSE: Yes, young men; graceful men; men who flatter and adore
me!... Totally unlike the men I see when I escape to New York.

DR. VAN HYDE: Ah, she escapes!

ROSE: Then, too, I have visions of matrimony. I feel a wild
desire to propose to every man I meet. Have you ever proposed, doctor?

DR. VAN HYDE: Never.

ROSE: Why don’t you? You can not have lacked opportunity.

DR. VAN HYDE: I fear that I have.

ROSE: You are young, rich, good-looking, and successful.

DR. VAN HYDE (_aside_): Heavens!

ROSE: You should marry.

DR. VAN HYDE: I have not the time--

ROSE: There is no time like the present.... We are alone.

DR. VAN HYDE (_nervously_): Alone?

ROSE: Yes; papa and Aunt Susan were discreet enough to retire.
Do not be afraid.

DR. VAN HYDE: Afraid of what?

ROSE: Of proposing to me. If you are, I will propose to you.

DR. VAN HYDE (_aside_): I must humor her. But it is
distressing to do so. (_To_ ROSE.) You would marry me?

ROSE: Oh, yes!

DR. VAN HYDE: You like me well enough for that?

ROSE: I liked you at first sight.

DR. VAN HYDE: But you have barely an acquaintance with me.

ROSE: So much the better. If my acquaintance with you were
more intimate, I might not be willing to marry you.

DR. VAN HYDE: You can’t love me, however; and what is marriage
without love?

ROSE: Why can’t I love you?

DR. VAN HYDE: Love, my dear child, love is the tenderest
passion of our nature. It is the flower of life. It is the affinity of
souls. It is--

ROSE (_passionately_): It is--it is.

DR. VAN HYDE (_aside_): If I could only believe that she might
learn to love me--that she had not loved forty other men--that she was
not a monster in the guise of a siren! Yet I will do my duty, cruel as
it is to me. (_To_ ROSE.) But your father?

ROSE: Papa has never objected to my loving anybody.

DR. VAN HYDE: Then you have loved somebody else?

ROSE: Yes, indeed. Eighteen.

DR. VAN HYDE: Eighteen!

ROSE: Eighteen lost opportunities. You are the nineteenth.
If you refuse to take me, I shall have to look out for my twentieth.
Perhaps you can introduce me to one of your friends.

DR. VAN HYDE: Suppose--suppose--I consent to marry you; that
is to say, suppose you consent to marry me. How can I be sure that you
won’t fall in love with your twentieth--as you call him--to-morrow.

ROSE: You can’t be sure. Love has wings like a bird. Its
natural action is flight. How can one help loving?

DR. VAN HYDE (_tenderly_): I should not wish to share your
love with another man.

ROSE: I don’t understand you.

DR. VAN HYDE (_aside_): This is the most remarkable case in my
experience. The girl is clean daft on one subject. And yet, somehow, I
am half inclined to take her at her word. I might succeed in curing her
of her mania; I might transform her, create a new woman in this unhappy
spirit; I can not abandon her to a wretched fate. (_To_ ROSE.)
You say you do not understand me?

ROSE: I can’t understand why I should not be allowed to love
whomever I please.

DR. VAN HYDE: The law declares that you must love but one
husband.

ROSE: As I could only have one husband at a time, I might
still love some one who was not my husband.

DR. VAN HYDE (_crossing to_ R. _and seating himself
next to_ ROSE): Don’t you think you could love one man, whose
devotion to you would be tireless, whose life would be your life, whose
thought would be always for your welfare and happiness; don’t you think
you could love this man, and this man alone?

ROSE (_moving away from him_): I never thought of that.

DR. VAN HYDE (_moving toward her again_): Try, try, my dear
child, to see things with my eyes.

ROSE: I have a pair of my own, thank you.

_Dr. Van Hyde_ (_losing himself in his passion_): Listen to me. I _do_
love you, and I want you to love me--but not as you love other men. I
am anxious to be your friend, your very best friend. I want you to look
to me as you would look to no one else. I want--

ROSE (_changing her manner and laughing_): You play your part
admirably, Dr. Van Hyde.

DR. VAN HYDE (_in astonishment_): Play my part!

ROSE: You have just asked me to love you?

DR. VAN HYDE: Yes.

ROSE: To accept you as my very best friend?

DR. VAN HYDE: Yes.

ROSE: Then I wish to tell you, sir, that you have been
trifling with me. Your love-making is purely professional. It is a kind
of medicine.

DR. VAN HYDE (_aside_): This is a hopeless case.

ROSE: Furthermore, I have convicted you of falsehood. You
never met my father until to-night. You did meet _me_ last Monday
afternoon, in New York, at 2:25 p. m.

DR. VAN HYDE: Miss Valdingam!

ROSE (_courtesying to him_): Permit me to thank you, dear
doctor, for your kindness in picking up my parcels, my parasol, my
purse, and myself. I did not have a chance to thank you while you were
performing that unpleasant duty.

DR. VAN HYDE: Then you remember?

ROSE: How could I forget so fascinating an adventure,
although, to be sure, we crazy women are apt to have defective memories.

DR. VAN HYDE (_aside_): Have I been a fool? (_To_
ROSE.) I may as well confess that, when I saw you for the
first time here to-night, I recognized you. But I did not suppose that
you recognized me.

ROSE: Which proves that you are not so wise a doctor as you
ought to be.

DR. VAN HYDE: Really, Miss Valdingam--

ROSE: Really, Dr. Van Hyde--

DR. VAN HYDE: I--I do not know what to say.

ROSE: I repeat--you have played your part admirably.

DR. VAN HYDE: How can you accuse me of playing a part?

ROSE: Sweet duplicity! Did you not come here to minister to my
mind’s disease?

DR. VAN HYDE: To meet you--to learn to know you.

ROSE: Of course. Meanwhile, by way of illustrating my mania,
you made love to me.

DR. VAN HYDE: That is--

ROSE: That is--you played a part. And you were so successful
that, a few minutes ago, you thought I had fallen in love with you.

DR. VAN HYDE: You embarrass me, Miss Valdingam.

ROSE: A doctor should never be embarrassed. He should keep a
cool head. His nerves should be steady; his hand determined. Now, let
us be entirely frank. You wanted to diagnose me--to analyze me--perhaps
to hypnotize me. Have I been a good subject?

DR. VAN HYDE (_awkwardly_): An admirable subject.

ROSE: And, honestly, what do you think of my mania now?

DR. VAN HYDE (_still more bewildered_): It is a very gentle
mania.

ROSE: A very gentle mania? Nothing worse than that?

DR. VAN HYDE: Nothing worse; I am convinced.

ROSE: You reassure me. But let me tell you, in return, that I
have reason to be grateful to you, Dr. Van Hyde. It may be that I am
matrimonially mad. Many persons are. Nearly all girls are. But at least
I feel certain that I shall never be confined in an asylum. You would
not let them send me to an asylum, would you?

DR. VAN HYDE: No! No!

ROSE: Then we can afford to be good friends.

DR. VAN HYDE: The best of friends.

ROSE: We need not talk of love again?

DR. VAN HYDE (_hesitatingly_): No.

ROSE: Because, you see, though you are a man, you are also my
doctor; and a patient could not fall in love with her doctor, could she?

DR. VAN HYDE: Well, it’s not usual.

ROSE: Then, let me ask you a question. Do you think my
malady--it is a terrible malady, I suppose--can be cured?

DR. VAN HYDE: I am sure it can be.

ROSE: Ah! you give me hope.

DR. VAN HYDE: But you must follow my instructions carefully.
These I will explain to you later. In the first place, however, you
should try to exercise a certain amount of will power. When you meet a
person--that is, a man--

ROSE: I should hate and despise him.

DR. VAN HYDE: Oh, not so bad as that. You should avoid him.

ROSE: Avoid him, I see.

DR. VAN HYDE: Then you could hardly fall in love with him.

ROSE: Nor marry him.

DR. VAN HYDE: Of course you need amusement.

ROSE: Of course.

DR. VAN HYDE: Get as much of it as you can.

ROSE (_aside_): I’m getting it.

DR. VAN HYDE: Meanwhile, I will have a talk with your father.

ROSE: Papa will do anything for me.

DR. VAN HYDE: Then we have little to fear.... Now (_he turns
to upper_ L.) I know you must be tired. This long talk has
fatigued you. I will call Mr. Valdingam. (_He is about to open the
door._)

ROSE (_suddenly_): One moment, please.

DR. VAN HYDE (_turning to her_): Yes?

ROSE: Pardon me, I am not in the least fatigued. I
have--something more to say.

DR. VAN HYDE: Indeed?

ROSE: Before you see papa again.... Please sit down. (_He
seats himself at_ R. _She stands leaning against table at_
L.) We have had quite an important little chat, after all,
have we not?

DR. VAN HYDE (_gravely_): I think it has been important.

ROSE: For me?

DR. VAN HYDE: For you, I hope.

ROSE: And during this conversation, have I had--any lucid
intervals?

DR. VAN HYDE: Well, candidly, and though I am what is called
a specialist in brain diseases, I should regard your mind as perfectly
normal and healthy, except--

ROSE: Except on the subject of matrimony.

DR. VAN HYDE: Ye-s.

ROSE: Now, suppose I should assure you that I am not in the
least bit insane. Would that be characteristic of insanity?

DR. VAN HYDE: Few persons with a mania suspect their
affliction.

ROSE: I understand. But suppose--suppose--you had been
deceived?

DR. VAN HYDE (_jumping to his feet_): Is it possible?

ROSE: Physicians are deceived sometimes, are they not?

DR. VAN HYDE (_seating himself_): They are only human.

ROSE (_slyly_): And you are _very_ human.

DR. VAN HYDE (_confusedly_): I confess it--to-night.

ROSE: That is why, then, you have been so easily
deceived--to-night?

DR. VAN HYDE (_jumping to his feet again_): You mean?--

ROSE: That you have actually been deceived. I have no
mania--not even a mania to wed all the young men I meet. (_Laughing
merrily._) But, of course, you won’t believe me. My denial is only a
symptom of my dementia.

DR. VAN HYDE: What can I think? Your father told me--

ROSE: Yes, poor papa told you a great many things. You took it
for granted that what he said was said with reason.

DR. VAN HYDE (_moving toward her eagerly_): And I have been--

ROSE: As patient as a saint with the mad-cap teasing of a
foolish girl, and gently considerate of an old man’s whims.

DR. VAN HYDE (_joyfully_): Can it be true? Oh, Miss Valdingam,
I begin to look upon myself as the most ridiculous as well as the
happiest of men.

ROSE: But I could not resist teasing you. And still, in spite
of this confession, I have _one_ mania--only one.

DR. VAN HYDE: A gentle mania?

ROSE: Very gentle, as you have said. It is love--

DR. VAN HYDE (_advancing_): Love!

ROSE (_mischievously_): For my father.

DR. VAN HYDE (_disappointedly_): Oh!

ROSE: He is a good, kind father. Since my mother’s death I
have been his closest companion. Oh, doctor, I am so happy that you
have come to our house. It is my father who needs your help, your
sympathy. You will give both, I know.

DR. VAN HYDE: It is your father, then--

ROSE: Who is partially insane. He has been in this condition
for years. His chief delusion is that I am insane.

DR. VAN HYDE: What a fool I have been!

ROSE: Do not blame yourself. Have I not done what I could to
convince you that papa had told you the truth.... Can you forgive me?

DR. VAN HYDE: Forgive _you_! Can you forgive _me_?

ROSE: Let us forgive each other, then. (_Walking to the window
at_ R. _and looking out._)

DR. VAN HYDE (_following her_): Miss Valdingam--I--

ROSE (_turning and regarding him archly_): Be careful, sir!
Perhaps you are even now mistaken. Remember how cunning we maniacs are!

DR. VAN HYDE (_aside_): I am more than ever in love with her.
How beautiful she is. Sane or insane, it would be a blessing to possess
her. (_To_ ROSE, _nervously_.) Miss Valdingam, may I ask you a
question?

ROSE (_gently_): Yes.

DR. VAN HYDE: You remember that when--when--I thought you were
not quite--

ROSE: Balanced.

DR. VAN HYDE: I had the hardihood--well--to speak to you of
love.

ROSE: Certainly. You spoke professionally.

DR. VAN HYDE: I did _not_ speak professionally.

ROSE (_looking out of the window_): Oh, indeed?

DR. VAN HYDE: I spoke with sincerity--from my heart.

ROSE (_with mock dignity_): Sir!

DR. VAN HYDE: I must tell you the truth. Since that day--

ROSE (_smiling_): Monday at 2:25 p. m.

DR. VAN HYDE: Don’t laugh at me. I was in earnest a few
moments ago--I am in earnest now.... I love you!

ROSE (_with agitation_): You love me!

DR. VAN HYDE: With all my soul. (_He seizes her hand and
kisses it._)

ROSE (_drawing her hand away quickly_): Hush! Some one is
coming.

MR. VALDINGAM (_from behind the door_): Can we come in, doctor?

ROSE (_in a whisper to the doctor_): Pretend that you do not
know the truth, that you are able to cure me.

DR. VAN HYDE (_in a whisper_): That I have taken the case?

ROSE: Yes.

DR. VAN HYDE: For life?

ROSE: We shall see. But speak to him.

DR. VAN HYDE (_turning to_ L.): Is that you, Mr.
Valdingam? Please come in. (_Enter_ MR. VALDINGAM _and_
SUSAN.)

MR. VALDINGAM (_eagerly and secretly, to_ DR. VAN
HYDE): Well?

DR. VAN HYDE (_gravely_): I am glad to be able to assure you,
Mr. Valdingam, that my preliminary examination of your daughter has
been entirely satisfactory.

MR. VALDINGAM: Sir, I am overwhelmed with delight.

DR. VAN HYDE: While your daughter is, without doubt, suffering
from certain delusions--

MR. VALDINGAM (_turning to_ SUSAN): Do you hear that,
sister?

DR. VAN HYDE: Her trouble is not far enough advanced to
occasion anxiety.

MR. VALDINGAM: Heaven be praised!

DR. VAN HYDE: In fact, I promise you that within one month her
mind will be as clear and vigorous as your own.

MR. VALDINGAM (_grasping the doctor’s hands_): Sir, I regard
you as our benefactor.

DR. VAN HYDE: But you must be very patient and kind; and, with
your permission, I will take charge of her. My plan is to visit her,
here at your house, twice, or perhaps three or four times a week. You
will notice an improvement in her condition very soon.

MR. VALDINGAM: Have your way, doctor. So long as my child is saved
to me, that is everything. (_Turning to_ ROSE.) Rose, my pet, I
hear that the doctor and you have become fast friends already.
(ROSE _joins them at_ L. C., _and_ MR. VALDINGAM _kisses and
fondles her_.)

ROSE: Oh, yes, papa, Dr. Van Hyde and I are now very good
friends.

MR. VALDINGAM: That’s right--that’s right. Put your trust in
him, my child. He has your interest at heart.

 (MR. VALDINGAM _turns gleefully to_ SUSAN, _and the
 two converse_.)

DR. VAN HYDE (_to_ ROSE): You hear? He places you in
my care.

ROSE: I share his confidence.

DR. VAN HYDE: And--may I not hope to be--your nineteenth?

ROSE: There has not yet been--a first.

DR. VAN HYDE: Shall we unite then in a study of agreeable
possibilities?

ROSE (_archly_): Won’t you walk with me in the garden? See how
bright and beautiful the night is!... Come. Perhaps I may find you--_a
rose_.

(ROSE _and_ DR. VAN HYDE _exeunt at_ L. _as
the curtain falls._)

  GEORGE EDGAR MONTGOMERY.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

--Obvious errors were corrected.





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