Friends I Have Made
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“‘If he had had opportunity,’ she thought to herself, and then sighing resumed her task, one that betokened a change at hand in their little household, with helplessness and expense attendant, and she sighed again, but only to check herself, and look anxiously to see whether her husband had noticed her despondency.
“But John Ross was too busily intent upon his studies, toiling on eagerly till called to visit some unremunerative patient, from whom he returned weary and worn to renew his work.
“Work was his only resource; and but for his constant application, life would have been almost a burden, from the hope deferred that maketh the heart sick.
“Two months had glided by, and their affairs were at such a low ebb that John Ross would have given way utterly to despair, had he been alone. But he dared not, for now it was his turn to solace and comfort. Complaining for so long of his poverty, he had been unaware that it had pleased heaven to make him rich – a wealth that in his blindness he could not see, until he had thrown himself sobbing upon his knees by his wife’s bedside to pray forgiveness for his murmurings, and that heaven would be merciful and not take away the spirit then flickering, hovering, as it were, between this world and that which is to come.
“For there had been a bitter struggle in that little poorly-furnished chamber, and more than once John Ross had felt that he would be left to fight the battle alone. But the change that came had been for the better, and now, pale and tottering when she tried to cross the room, Hetty Ross was once more down, able no longer to give consolation, but glad to take it herself.
“Her face was very, very pale, but at times it would light up with such a smile of ineffable joy, that her husband would forget his studies, and sit breathlessly watching the young mother’s countenance, as in the pride of first maternity, her gaze lingered where, in its cradle, there was something whose breathing gently raised and let fall the warm coverlid. Then the parents’ eyes would meet, and with the husband at the wife’s feet, all worldly trouble would be forgotten in that happiness given to all that are true of heart.
“Another month glided by, and by some means or other John Ross still struggled on, even hopefully, for his wife had grown almost strong again, and her strength gave energy to him in his efforts.
“They were seated at breakfast once more, when Mrs Ross spoke.
“‘Such sad news, dear.’
“‘What is it?’ said her husband, not raising his eyes from the paper.
“‘You remember saying that the Westerns, with their wealth, did not know care?’
“‘Ah – yes! one says plenty of stupid and bitter things when in trouble,’ said John Ross. ‘But what is it?’
“‘Jane tells me their little boy is dying.’
“‘Never!’ exclaimed Mr Ross, starting. ‘What, that fine little fellow that looked heartiest of the hearty?’
“‘I fear so. Jane heard it from one of the nurses, who says the Westerns are almost heart-broken, and the poor woman sobbed herself as she spoke of it.It seems that they wanted to have more advice, but Mr Tomkins said it was not necessary, and now it seems it is too late.’
“‘Poor little chap!’ exclaimed Mr Ross, dropping his paper, and gazing towards the cradle where his own child lay, by whose side Mrs Ross was now kneeling, to assure herself of its safety. ‘Poor little chap!’ he muttered again, and then aloud, ‘God forgive me, Hetty! What blind fools we are! and I was envious of those people.’
“Father and mother were bending over the cradle, when there came the rattle of wheels, a horse was dragged upon his haunches at the gate, the bell rang furiously, and as Mr Ross hurriedly opened the door, the rich Mr Western seized him by both hands.
“‘For mercy’s sake, Mr Ross, pray come! My poor boy’s dying – half murdered by that man,’ and before he could recover from his surprise the surgeon was hurried hatless into a brougham, thrust in almost by the excited father, the horse was flogged, and John Ross just had time to wave an adieu to his wife at the window before the carriage was turned, and they were going at full gallop through the town towards the Hall.
“On their way Mr Ross learned all the particulars he could respecting the child’s illness; how the family attendant had treated it as of little moment, and the child had gradually sunk, till as he finished his account Mr Western exclaimed, in a voice choked with emotion.
“‘And now I fear we are too late. Oh, that I had come last night!’
“‘Calm yourself,’ said Mr Ross. ‘It may be that I could do no more than your regular attendant.’
“‘Don’t tell me, sir!’ exclaimed the father angrily. ‘My child has been neglected – shamefully neglected. That man came to my house last night from some public dinner, and I feel sure now, though I did not detect it then, that he was ignorant of what he was doing. But quick, sir, follow me!’
“In another minute John Ross was in the chamber before the little sufferer, lying pale and wasted upon its weeping mother’s knees. For a moment the young surgeon was almost unmanned, when, looking to him as her last hope, the weeping woman raised her red eyes, and joined her hands supplicatingly, as if to say, ‘Oh, save – oh, save my child!’
“Wealth was there, glancing from every article of furniture in the handsome room, but the cold grim shade that visits the palace with the same stern justice as the lowly cottage, seemed to be also there waiting for a few brief moments ere he claimed his own.
“For a moment John Ross thought he was too late, and his brow knit with disappointment; but the next instant he drew a long breath, and as if nerving himself to the struggle with the destroyer, he threw off his coat, knelt down, and softly lifted one blue lid, to gaze in the contracted pupil of the child’s eye, and listened to its faint, sighing breath.
“‘Cold water – towels – vinegar,’ he then said, in quick, firm tones. ‘Now brandy. What have you there, arrowroot? Yes; good. Now the brandy – quick!’
“Father and servants flew to execute his commands, and in a few seconds the tightly-closed lips were parted, and with difficulty a little brandy and arrowroot was swallowed. Towels saturated with vinegar and water were wrapped round the little golden head, and extemporising a fan from an open book, the young surgeon placed the father at his child’s head to keep up a sharp agitation of the air, and ran himself to throw open the window.
“Directly after he was back, and watching the child with an earnestness barely equalled by its parents, as at intervals he spoke, after drawing out his watch and referring to it from time to time.
“‘Look,’ he said, in short, peremptory tones: ‘the eyes are unclosing, the pupils dilate already, there is a little more pulsation – that sigh was stronger. Keep up the fanning, sir; now another towel, and colder water.’
Fresh applications were made, and then another anxious interval ensued, during which the dark shadow of death seemed to fade, and in a wondrous manner light – the faintest dawn of life – seemed to return into the child’s face.
“‘Good, so far!’ exclaimed Mr Ross, while father and mother watched him with an aspect almost approaching to the veneration that must have beamed in the face of the Shunammite woman when the ‘Man of God’ raised her child from the dead. And truly this seemed almost a miracle – the miracle of science given by the Great Creator to those who will study and learn His wonders.
“But now Mr Ross was at a table, hurriedly writing out a prescription on a leaf of his pocket book.
“‘Take that,’ he said to Mr Western – ‘take it yourself to my wife, and bring back what she prepares.’
“‘To your wife?’ stammered the father.
“‘Yes, to my wife,’ said the young surgeon. ‘There, man, I’d trust my life to her accuracy, so do not be afraid.’
“With the obedience of a servant, Mr Western hurried from the room, and in a few minutes more the sound of hoofs was heard upon the drive, as he galloped off himself to fetch the medicine.
“In less than half an hour Mr Western was back, to find that the poor child had shown further signs of returning animation; the horrible convulsed look had left its countenance; its breathing was more regular, and already, with tears of gratitude, the mother was whispering her thanks. But Mr Ross only shook his head, saying that the danger had been staved off for awhile, but that it was still imminent.
“Then taking the medicine from its bearer, he tasted, nodded his head in token of satisfaction, and with his own hands administered a small portion.
“‘Now, Mr Western,’ he then said, fanning the child’s head furiously the while he spoke, ‘we have done all we can do for the present, the rest must follow, and all depends upon good nursing. With your lady’s consent, then, we will divide that between us; but I feel it to be my duty to tell you that the child is in very, very great danger, and likely to be for some time. What we have to do now, is to try and make up for the waste of nature that has already taken place.’
“Then followed instructions for preparing the juice of meat, arrowroot, and that an ample supply of brandy should be at hand; when, just as Mr Ross was in the act of administering a little in the arrowroot, the door opened, and in walked the great practitioner, expressing great astonishment at seeing his fellow professional there.
“‘You here, sir?’ he exclaimed. ‘This seems to be a most astounding breach of etiquette. Perhaps you will step with me into the next room.’
“‘Mr Tomkins!’ exclaimed the father angrily, ‘I entrusted the life of my sick child in your hands. You neglected that trust – whether from ignorance or carelessness I will not say – ’
“‘Oh, indeed!’ blustered the surgeon loudly, ‘I can see through the trick; charlatans and pretenders are always waiting to seize their opportunity; and – good heavens!’ he ejaculated as if in horror – ‘a dessert spoonful of strong brandy to a tender child like that.’
“Mr Ross turned upon him fiercely, but recollected himself directly after, and kneeling down by his little patient, he proceeded to pour the diluted spirit, drop by drop, between the parted lips, watching eagerly the effect; every tiny drop that trickled down seeming to brighten the eye, and give new life; even as when the effect passed off, the eye grew dim, and that life seemed slowly sinking away.
“The old surgeon made some further remark, but Mr Western sternly ordered him to leave the room, when Mr Ross rose from his knees.
“‘I could not speak before that man, sir,’ he said, ‘for he has heaped too many insults upon me since I have been in Elmouth; but I think that now, with careful watching and treatment, there may be some hope for the little one; and if you would prefer that your old attendant should take my place, I will directly leave.’
“As Mr Ross spoke, his eye lighted for an instant upon Mrs Western’s face, in which consternation was painted most plainly, but her husband took the young doctor’s hand, and in a broken voice said something respecting gratitude, and thanks, which he could not finish, for, worn out with watching and anxiety, he sank into a chair and wept like a child.
“Anxious hours followed, life appearing to be sustained by the strong spirit administered at intervals of ten or fifteen minutes, when the flame seemed to spring up vigorously, but only to slowly decline, and then begin to flicker and tremble, as if waiting for some stronger blast of air than usual to extinguish it for ever.
“And so on at every quarter-hour the little sufferer seemed to be snatched back, as it were, from the hands of death – all that day, all that night, and again the next day; and during that space the young surgeon never left the child’s side. Next night he lay down upon a sofa in the room for a few hours, but only to be awakened at four o’clock by the anxious father, who dreaded that some change for the worse had taken place.
“But the alarm was needless, though Mr Ross once more took his place at the side of the little cot, working incessantly at his task with the earnestness of a man whose soul was in his profession. No night seemed too long, no watching too tedious, in his efforts to get the better of the great enemy with whom he was contending. If he was away for ten minutes he was restless to return, lest any change should take place in his absence, and truly it seemed that, but for the incessant care and attention, death would have gained the victory.
“But science conquered; and from incessant watching, Mr Ross’s attention was reduced to visits three times, twice, and then only once a day. From the inanimate pale face the dark shadow had been effectually chased, and divers signs of amendment set in, one succeeding the other rapidly, till danger was quite at an end.
“And now the change had taken place; for instead of sitting at home hour after hour, neglected, and longing for a patient, the demands upon Mr Ross’s time grew incessant, till with a pout on her lips, but joy in her heart, Mrs Ross declared that she could never be sure of her husband from one hour to another.
“For the fame of the cure had gone forth, with all the exaggerations common to a country place, and wealthy old Tomkins grew at last fat, as he sat at home gnawing his nails with annoyance at seeing his practice become less year by year, till a call grew to be something unusual; and making a virtue of necessity, he told a crony, one evening in confidence, that with so many new-fangled ideas in medicine the profession was going to the dogs, and he was glad to say he was not called out now one night in a month; while as to meeting that upstart, Ross, in consultation, he would not do it to save his life – and he might have added, anybody else’s.
“But John Ross was not proud in his prosperity, and would at any time have stretched out the hand of good fellowship to the old doctor, could he have been sure that it would have been taken.
“The Ross family found fast friends in the Westerns; and it was at one of the dinner parties at the Hall, that after seriously speaking to his friends of the debt of obligation he was under to Mr Ross, and thanking him again as the instrument, under God’s providence, of giving them back their child to life, that, to give a livelier tone to the conversation, the squire related an anecdote he professed to have heard a few days before, in an encounter which took place between the sexton of the old church, and the old gentleman doing duty at the new.
“‘Ah!’ said the first old man, chuckling with triumph, ‘you don’t have half so many funerals in your yard as I do in mine.’
“‘No,’ said the other, ‘and somehow they seem to be falling off year by year. My place isn’t hardly worth holding now. The town gets a deal too healthy.’
“‘It does so,’ said the first speaker. ‘I’m nearly ruined, and can’t make it out anyhow – can you?’
“‘No,’ said the other, ‘it’s past me’ – ‘and then the two old fellows went chattering and grumbling off,’ continued Mr Western; ‘and if any one wishes to know the reason of the falling away, he must ask our friend the doctor there; though he will be sure to deny that he has had anything to do with it.’
“‘There’s the bell again, dear,’ said Mrs Ross one day, ‘and if it wasn’t for knowing that you are wanted for some poor suffering creature, I believe I should exclaim against it as being a perfect nuisance. You never now seem to get a meal in peace.’
“‘Oh! yes, I do,’ said Mr Ross smiling. ‘The bell does its share of work, though, certainly. By the way though, my dear, you never feel any dread in having the bell answered now, do you?’
“‘Dread? no; what a question!’ said Mrs Ross. ‘What made you say that?’
“‘I was only thinking of a few years ago, when a ring at the bell sometimes caused one’s heart to beat, lest it should be some hungry creditor.’
“Mrs Ross sighed, and then smiled, saying, ‘and all the rest has come of patience.’
“‘And work,’ said her husband.
“‘But I don’t think,’ she whispered, creeping closer to his side, and drawing one strong arm around her as if for protection – ‘I don’t think, dear, you will ever again say that the rich have no trouble.’
“John Ross was silent for awhile, as he recalled the loss he had so nearly sustained, and the scene at the Hall, when the hope of two fond parents lay a-dying, and then he answered softly —