The Rosery Folkñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Stay here, man – stay here.”
“Promise me you will use no violence, and I will loose your arm.”
“I promise – I will act like – a gentleman.”
The doctor loosed his arm; and drawing a long hissing breath, James Scarlett walked swiftly down the garden-path to where, in the moist dark shades below the trained hazels, the summer-house had been formed as a nook for sunny scorching days. It was close to the river, and from it there was a glorious view of one of the most beautiful reaches of the Thames.
James Scarlett recalled many a happy hour passed within its shade, and the rage that burned within his breast gave place to a misery so profound that, as he reached the turn that led to the retreat, he stopped short, pressing his hands to his throat and panting for his breath, which hardly came to his labouring breast. And as he stood there, he heard his cousin’s voice, in the silence of the evening, saying softly: “Then you promise? I will be at the station to meet you, and no one will know where you have gone.”
James Scarlett’s brain swam as he heard the answer. It was: “Yes!” A faithful promise for the next evening; and as he listened and heard each word clearly, he staggered back and nearly fell. Recovering himself somewhat, though, he walked slowly back, groping in the dark as it were, with his hands spread out before him, to keep from striking against one or other of the trees. The next minute, the doctor had him by the hand, and was hurrying him away, when Scarlett gave a sudden lurch, and would have fallen, had not his friend thrown one arm about him, and then, lifting him by main force, carried him to the house. The French window of the study was open; and he bore him in and laid him upon a couch, where, after a liberal application of cold water to his temples, he began to revive, opening his eyes and gazing wonderingly around. Then, as recollection came back, he uttered a low sigh, and caught at the doctor’s hand.
“Kate!” he said softly. “Go and fetch poor Kate.”
Volume Two – Chapter Twelve.
The Doctor’s Eyesight Improves
Doctor Scales left his friend, after sending word by one of the servants that he wished to see Lady Scarlett. The meeting would be very painful, and it was one to be avoided. Consequently, beyond encountering Aunt Sophia in the course of the evening and answering a few questions, the doctor managed so well that he saw no one else belonging to the establishment before asking whether Scarlett would see him again, and retiring for the night.
“It isn’t a question of medicine,” he had said to himself. “Wretched woman! I always mistrusted her. I don’t know why, but I did. And now, what will be the next movement? They will separate of course; and after poor Scarlett has got over the shock, I daresay he will mend. – How closely he kept it, poor fellow. He must have loved her very dearly, and would not speak while it was mere suspicion.”
It was just about this time that Aunt Sophia came to him, to ask him if he would have some tea.
“No,” he said shortly; “not to-night.”
“Do you know what agitated my nephew so much?”
“Yes,” said the doctor; “but I am not at liberty to tell you.”
“I will not press you,” said Aunt Sophia gravely.
“Lady Scarlett is with him now.”
She walked away; and after making sure that he would not be wanted, as has been said, Scales sought his room.
The night passed quietly enough; and in good time the doctor rose to take his morning walk about the grounds, when, as he returned, towards eight o’clock, he heard the grating of wheels upon the gravel, and saw the dogcart driven up to the door. He involuntarily drew back and stayed amongst the shrubs, just as Prayle came out quickly, with his coat over his arm, and thin umbrella in hand. His little portmanteau was handed in by the servant, and at a word, the groom drove off.
“Thank goodness!” ejaculated the doctor. “We’ve seen the last of him, I hope; and as to that woman – Pah! What brazen effrontery!” This was consequent upon seeing Prayle turn slightly in his place and look back at the end of the house, where, from a staircase window, a hand appeared, and a kerchief was for a moment waved.
Prayle, however, made no sign, and the doctor went in.
“I can’t help people’s emotions,” he said to himself. “I have to quell all mine and be matter-of-fact. Consequently, hunger has an opportunity to develop itself, and I want my breakfast as at any other time.”
There was no one in the breakfast-room when he entered; but in a few minutes Naomi came down, looking rather pale and troubled; and soon after Miss Raleigh appeared with a very solemn, stern countenance, which relaxed, however, as she laid her hand in that of the young doctor.
“You have not seen James this morning, of course?”
“No,” he replied.
“Ah! You will be glad to hear that he has had a better night. So Kate tells me.”
“Then he has forgiven her,” said the doctor to himself. “Well, I could not. It is Christian-like, though; and I suppose they will separate quietly.”
Just then, Lady Scarlett entered the room, looking very pale and red-eyed, as if from weeping. She went up to Aunt Sophia and kissed her, the kiss being coldly received; paid the same attention to Naomi; and then held out her hand to the doctor. He hesitated for a moment, and then, from force of habit more than anything else, he took a couple of steps forward and shook hands in a cold limp fashion, astounded at the fact that Lady Scarlett raised her eyes to his with a frank ingenuous look of pain.
“As much like that of a sweet innocent girl as I ever saw,” he thought, as he took his place.
The meal was not a sociable one, for everybody seemed awkward and constrained, and it passed off almost in silence; while, when soon after it was ended, the doctor asked if he might go up to Scarlett’s room, there was a look almost of reproach in Lady Scarlett’s eyes as she said: “O yes; of course.”
For some time past it had been Scarlett’s habit to stay in his room till mid-day. He dressed at eight, and then lay down again in a heavy, dreamy way, to lie moodily thinking; but this time the doctor found him fast asleep, looking very calm and peaceful, as his breath came regularly, and there was a slight flush upon his haggard face.
“Poor fellow!” thought the doctor, “How wretchedly thin he has grown. I was afraid the encounter last night would have been too much for him; but it almost seems as if he is better, now he knows the worst.”
As he stood watching him, he heard Lady Scarlett pass, on her way to her own room; but she seemed to change her mind, came lightly back, and opened the door softly.
“He is asleep,” said the doctor sternly; and she at once withdrew, leaving Scales at his post, from which he did not stir till luncheon-time, when he went down.
Lady Scarlett had been twice to the door, to look in with wistful eyes; but each time she had been forbidden to enter, as the patient was not to be awakened at any cost; so the anxious woman went patiently away to wait, for she never even dreamed of resisting the medical man’s command.
Sleep seemed to have so thoroughly taken possession of James Scarlett, that he remained under its influence hour after hour; and when Lady Scarlett timidly asked if it was right, she received the same answer – that under the circumstances nothing could be better – and went away content.
It was quite evening when Scarlett awoke to find the doctor sitting reading by his bed. “Why, Jack!” he cried, rather excitedly, “am I – am I – worse?”
“My dear fellow, no; I hope not.”
“No; of course not. I’m – I must be – Thank God!” he sighed fervently; “what a restful, grateful sleep. – Where’s Kate?”
“She has been here several times, but I would not have you disturbed.”
“Bless her!” said Scarlett softly. “Jack you are my one friend, the only one to whom I ever opened my heart, I trust you, Jack, with everything.”
“My dear old boy,” said the doctor warmly, grasping his hands, “I hope I deserve it. Heaven knows, I try.”
“You do deserve it, Jack. I can never repay you for hat you’ve done for me.”
“Tchah, man, stuff! Why, I owe you a debt for letting me try to cure you.”
“Now let me be more in your debt, Jack,” said Scarlett.
“As much as you like, old fellow. I’ll do all I can.”
Scarlett paused, and his face flushed almost feverishly as he gazed earnestly at his friend. At last he spoke. “I have been weak – unstrung; and that, made me what I was, Jack,” he said piteously. “You saw the weak side of my character last night. I had hidden it so well before; but when you came to me then, I was half mad, and – well, I need not confess – you must have seen the turn my thoughts took. You don’t wish me to degrade myself again – to make confession?”
“No, no – say nothing,” said Scales quietly. “My dear old fellow, believe me, I am your friend.”
“You are, Jack; you are more – my very brother at heart; and if you ever think again of my cruel sacrilegious doubts, set them down as a sick man’s fancies, and then bury them for ever. And – Jack, old friend – let last night’s outburst be a thing that’s dead.”
“I promise you, Scarlett, upon my word.”
“Thanks, Jack, thanks! I shiver when I think of it. If Kate knew, it would break her heart.”
The doctor was silent.
“When I came back with my brain reeling, I was drunk with a great joy. You know what I had fancied. O Jack! if I could forgive myself! – but I never can.”
“You are growing excited. You must be quiet, now.”
“Excited, man? Oh, it is only with my happiness. That accursed idea, born of my nervous state, was eating my very life away; while now that I know that it was but the foul emanation of my own brain, I can scarcely contain myself, and I seem to have leaped back to health and strength.”
Scales did not speak.
“But I am forgetting. – Good heavens! I have slept away the day, and the night is here. That wretched girl!”
The doctor gazed at him fixedly, asking himself if his friend’s brain was wandering.
“She promised to meet him – at some station – in London – to-night. Jack, it must be stopped before it is too late. – Where is that scoundrel Prayle?”
“He left this morning, early, to catch the train.”
“And I’ve lain here as if in a stupor – Quick, Jack – my wife – no, poor girl, she must not be troubled with this; she has borne enough. Ring for – No; fetch my aunt. Yes; she will be the best. Go, old fellow, quick!”
“Is he wandering, or am I a fool?” muttered the doctor, as he hurried from the room to encounter Lady Scarlett on the stairs. “He is worse!” she cried. “No, no,” said the doctor, almost roughly. “Not yet. You must not go, Lady Scarlett. I forbid it.”
She shrank back meekly. “Tell me that he is in no danger,” she said imploringly.
“Yes; I do tell you that,” he said with a feeling of repugnance that would tinge his voice. – “Where is Miss Raleigh?”
“In the drawing-room. I will fetch her,” cried Lady Scarlett, rushing to perform the task, while the doctor stood rubbing his ear.
“It is I who am mad,” he said to himself, “and not poor Scarlett. – Yes,” he said aloud, as Aunt Sophia came up, “Scarlett wants to see you at once.” He led the way back, and closed the door almost angrily after them, leaving Lady Scarlett with her head leaning against the wall, as the tears coursed down her cheeks.
“Why does he dislike me so?” she sighed. “He is jealous of my love for him – they are such friends. I ought to hate him; but how can I when he is so true!”
“Auntie!” exclaimed Scarlett excitedly, as the old lady entered his room, “I want you, quick – before it is too late. That smooth-tongued scoundrel Prayle – ”
“Amen!” said Aunt Sophia softly.
“Has been practising upon the weakness of that pretty little lass of ours – Fanny. He has gone up to town, and she promised him to follow. Go and stop her at any cost. Then send for her brother, and let him know the truth; and if he follows and thrashes – What?”
“The girl has gone,” said Aunt Sophia.
“She asked Kate for a holiday, and went this afternoon. She was to be back to-morrow night.”
“Good heavens!” cried Scarlett. “I would sooner have given a thousand pounds. – What is it, Jack?”
“Nothing – only this – so sad!” said the doctor hoarsely, as he sat where he had literally dropped – into a chair.
“What is to be done?” cried Scarlett excitedly. “Here, send for William Cressy. Let a man gallop over at once.”
“Yes, I’ll send,” said the doctor; and he literally staggered out of the room. “Am I really out of my senses?” he said to himself as he hurried down. “Have I been blundering all this time; or is it a ruse of the poor fellow to throw us off the truth? – Good heavens! what am I to think!” he ran into the study and rang the bell loudly, when Martha Betts came into the room at once in her calm grave way.
“Can you find the gardener – Monnick,” he said, “quickly.”
“Send him here – at once.”
The girl hurried out, and the doctor paced the room.
“If I am wrong, I shall never forgive myself. I can never look her in the face again. Good heavens! – good heavens! I must, have been mad and blind, and an utter scoundrel, to think such things of – Oh, what a villain I have been!”
Just then, there was a heavy footstep in the passage, and the old gardener tapped at the door.
“Come in,” cried the doctor, running to meet him; and as the old man entered, he caught him by the arm. “Quick!” he cried – “tell me – speak out, man – the truth.”
“Ay, sir, I will,” muttered the old fellow.
“Who – who – now speak out; keep nothing back; I am your master’s trusted friend. Who was in the summer-house last night with Mr Prayle?”
“That poor foolish little wench, Fanny, sir; and – ”
“Fool, fool, fool!” cried the doctor, stamping upon the floor.
“Ay, that’s so, sir; that’s so; and she’ll know better soon, let’s hope.”
“Quick!” cried the doctor. “Go – at once – and fetch her brother William Cressy here. Your master wants to see him instantly. Go yourself, or send some one who can run.”
The old man hesitated, and then hurried out. “I’d better go mysen,” he muttered. “P’raps it’s best; but I don’t think Willyum Cressy will be here to-night.”
He had hardly closed the door before the doctor had opened it again, and was on his way upstairs, but only to be waylaid by Lady Scarlett, who caught him by the arm, and literally made him enter the drawing-room.
“Doctor Scales, I am his wife,” she pleaded. “I have borne so much; for pity’s sake tell me. You see how I obey you and keep away; but tell me what is wrong – or I shall die.”
“Wrong?” cried the doctor, catching her hands, and kissing them again and again. “Nothing about him, my dear child. He is better – much better. The trouble – forgive me for saying it to you – is a scandal about that scoundrel – double scoundrel – Prayle.”
“And my husband?”
“Is better – much better.”
Lady Scarlett’s hands joined, and were raised towards heaven as she sank upon her knees motionless, but for a low sob that forced its way from her breast from time to time.
Doctor Scales stood gazing down at her for a few moments, and then stooping low, he laid his hand reverently upon her head.
This brought her back from her rapt state of thankful prayer, and she rose and caught his hand.
“I have been so rude and harsh,” he blundered out. “Can you forgive me?”
“Forgive? You, who have devoted yourself to him I love? My husband’s dearest friend has never yet truly read his poor wife’s heart.”
She said this with a quiet womanly dignity that humbled the doctor to the very dust, and his voice was broken as he replied gently:
“I never have – I have been very blind.”
He said no more, but went slowly to the door. There he turned.
“Once more,” he said: “Scarlett is much better. It was only to save you from pain that he sent for Miss Raleigh. That is all.”
Volume Two – Chapter Thirteen.
Events at a Terminus
There was a deeply interested gathering in one of the large offices of the Waterloo Station, where a clerk in his shirt-sleeves was seated beneath a gas-jet making entries, what time two porters, also in shirt-sleeves, and by the light of other gas-jets, seemed to be engaged in a game of “Catch.” They were, however, not displaying their deftness with balls, but with small packets, parcels, baskets, bundles of fishing-rods, and what seemed to be carefully done-up articles fresh from tradespeople’s shops. The game seemed to consist of one porter taking a packet from a great basket upon wheels, and saying something before he jerked it rapidly to the other porter, who also said something and deposited the packet in another basket on wheels; while, apparently, the clerk at the desk where the gas-jet fluttered and whistled as it burned, carefully noted the score in a book. Further inspection, however, showed the casual observer that the men were not at play, but busy manipulating parcels and preparing them for despatch to their various destinations. The business came to a standstill all at once, as a couple of guards just off duty, and an inspector and ticket-collector, came sauntering in, chatting loudly one to the other about some incident that had just taken place upon the platform.
“Ah, you fellows get all the fun,” said the clerk, sticking his pen behind his ear, and slewing round his tall stool, as the guards made themselves comfortable, one upon a wine-hamper, and the other upon an upturned box; while the ticket-collector seated himself upon the edge of a huge pigeon-hole, which necessitated his keeping his body in a bent position, something after the fashion of that held by occupants of the pleasant dungeon known in the Tower as “The Little Ease.”
“Well, we get all the rough as well,” said one of the guards, “and some ugly customers too.”
“Regular ’lopement, then?” said one of the porters, scratching his ear with a piece of straw.
“Regular, my lad,” said one of the guards. “You saw the gent before, didn’t you, George?”
“Yes; he was walking up and down the platform for half an hour first,” said the ticket-collector. “I hadn’t noticed the other, because he was outside the gate waiting.”
“Well, tell us all about it,” said the clerk.
“Oh, there ain’t much to tell,” said the guard who had spoken first. “I saw the girl get in at Lympton, regular stylish-looking body, nice figure, closely veiled. I thought it meant sixpence perhaps; and took her bag, and ran and opened a first-class, when she quite staggered me as she says: ‘Third class, please.’ Well, of course that made me notice her more than once, as we stopped coming up, and I could see that she had been crying and was in trouble.”
The little party grew more interested and drew closer.
“Somehow, I couldn’t help seeing that there was something wrong, for she tried to avoid being noticed, squeezing herself up in the corner of the compartment, and then being very fidgety at every station we stopped at, till I slapped my leg as I got into the break, and says to myself: ‘She’s off!’”
“Ah, it would look like it,” said the clerk, nodding, and letting his pen slip from behind his ear, so that it fell, sticking its nib like an arrow in the boarded floor.
“Yes; I wasn’t a bit surprised to see a dark good-looking gentleman on the platform, peeping into every carriage as the train drew up; and I managed to be close to her door as the gent opened it and held out his hand.”
“‘Why didn’t you come first-class, you foolish girl?’ he says in a whisper; and she didn’t answer, only gave a low moan, like, and let him help her out on to the platform, when he draws her arm right through his, so as to support her well, catches up her little bag, and walks her along towards George here; and I felt so interested, that I followed ’em, just to see how matters went.”
“You felt reg’lar suspicious then?” said one of the porters.
“I just did, my lad; so that as soon as they’d passed George here, him giving up the girl’s ticket, I wasn’t a bit surprised to see a great stout fellow in a velveteen jacket and a low-crowned hat step right in front of ’em just as my gent had called up a cab, lay one hand on the girl’s arm, and the other on the gent’s breast, and he says, in a rough, country sort o’ way: ‘Here, I want you.’”
“Just like a detective,” said the clerk.
“Not a bit, my lad – not a bit,” said the guard. “Reg’lar bluff gamekeeper sort of chap, who looked as if he wouldn’t stand any nonsense; and as soon as she saw him, the girl gives a little cry, and looks as if she’d drop, while my gent begins to bluster. – ‘Stand aside, fellow,’ he says. ‘How dare you! Stand back!’ The big bluff fellow seemed so staggered by the gent’s way, that for just about a moment he was checked. Then he takes one step forward, and look here – he does so.”
“Oh!” shouted the clerk, for the guard brought down one muscular hand sharply upon his shoulder and gripped him tightly.
“Lor’ bless you, my lad! that’s nothing to it. He gripped that gent’s shoulder so that you a’most heard his collar-bone crack; and he turned yellow and gashly like, as the other says to him with a growl as savage as a bear, ‘You want to wed my sister, eh? Well, you shall. I won’t leave you till you do.’”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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