The Rosery Folkñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“That was business and no mistake,” said the other guard; “wasn’t it?”
“Ay, and he meant business too,” continued the first speaker, “for the gent began to bluster, and say, ‘How dare you!’ and ‘I’ll give you in charge;’ and then he calls for a policeman; and then ‘Tak’ howd o’ my sister,’ says the big fellow.”
“Ay, that was it,” said the ticket-collector. “‘Tak’ howd,’ just like a Yorkshireman.”
“George there catches the girl, as was half-fainting; and as there was getting quite a crowd now, the bluff fellow tightens his grip, brings Mr Gent down on his knees, and gives him such a thrashing with a stout ash-stick as would have half killed him, if we hadn’t interfered; and Thompson come up and outs with his book. ‘Here,’ he says, just like one of the regular force; ‘I’ll take the charge.’”
“When,” said the second guard, “up jumps my gentleman, and made the cleanest run for it, dodging through the crowd, and out through the ticket-office, you ever saw.”
“Ay,” said the ticket-collector; “and he run round so as to get to the waterside, and over Charing Cross Bridge.”
“And did Thompson take up the countryman?”
“No,” said the guard. “He gave his name out straightforward – William Cressy, Rayford, Berks. ‘I’m there when I’m wanted,’ he says. ‘This here’s my sister as that chap was stealing away, and I’ve thrashed him, and I’ll do it again if ever we meets.’”
“And then the crowd gave a cheer,” said the ticket-collector.
“And Thompson put his book in his pocket,” said the second guard.
“And the countryman walked the girl off to a cab, put her in, jumped in himself, and the crowd cheered again; and that’s about all.”
“And I’d have given him a cheer too, if I’d been there,” said the clerk, flushing. “Why, if a fellow as calls himself a gentleman was to treat my sister like that, I’d half-kill him, law or no law.”
“And serve him right too,” was chorused.
Then the business of catching parcels began again; the indignant clerk continued his entering; a little more conversation went on in a desultory manner, and the guards and ticket-collector off duty walked home.
The station was disturbed by no more extraordinary incident that night. Trains went and trains came, till at last there was only one more for the neighbourhood of Scarlett’s home.
Doctor Scales was standing on the platform thinking, and in that confused state of mind that comes upon nearly every one who is in search of a person in the great wilderness of London, and has not the most remote idea of what would be the next best step to take. He was asking himself whether there was anything else that he could do. He had been to the police, given all the information that he could, and the telegraph had been set in motion. Then he had been told that nothing more could be done – that he must wait; and he was waiting, and thinking whether he ought to telegraph again to Scarlett; to take the last train due in a few minutes, and go down again; or stay in town, and see what the morrow brought forth.
“I’ll stay,” he said at last; and he turned to go, feeling weary and in that disgusted frame of mind that comes over a man who has been working hard mentally and bodily for days, and who then finds himself low-spirited and thoroughly vexed with everything he has done.
It is a mental disease that only one thing will cure, and that is sleep. It was to find this rest that the doctor had turned, and was about to seek his chambers, when he came suddenly upon the object of his search – Fanny Cressy – closely veiled and hanging heavily upon the great arm of her stalwart brother.
“You here, Cressy?” cried the doctor excitedly.
“Yes, sir,” said the farmer fiercely. “Hev you got to say anything again it?”
“No, man, no! But you – you have found your sister.”
“I hev, sir,” said Cressy, more fiercely still. “Hev you got anything to say again that – or her?” he added slowly.
“No, no; only I say, thank heaven!” cried the doctor fervently. “I came up to try and overtake her.”
“You did, sir? Then thank you kindly,” said the farmer, changing the stout walking-stick he carried from one hand to the other, so as to leave the right free to extend for a hearty shake. He altered his menacing tone too, and seemed to interpose his great body as a sort of screen between his sister and the doctor as he continued in a low voice, only intended for the other’s ear: “Don’t you say nowt to her; I’ve said about enough. – And it’s all right now,” he said, raising his voice, as if for his sister to hear. “Me and Fanny understands one another, and she’s coming home wi’ me; and if any one’s got to say anything again her for this night’s work, he’s got to talk to William Cressy, farmer, Rayford, Berks.”
There was a low sob here; and the doctor saw that the drooping girl was clinging tightly to her brother’s arm.
“I am sure,” said the doctor quietly, “no one would be so brutal as to say anything against a trusting woman, who placed faith in a scoundrel.”
“Doctor Scales!” cried Fanny, raising her head as she was about to say a few words in defence of the man she loved.
“You hold your tongue, Fan,” said the farmer firmly. “The doctor’s right. He is a scoundrel, a regular bla’guard, as you’d soon have found out, if old John Monnick hadn’t put me up to his games.”
“Bill, dear Bill!” sobbed the girl.
“Well, ain’t he? If he’d been a man, and had cared for you, wouldn’t he have come fair and open to me, as you hadn’t no father nor mother? And if he’d meant right, would he have sneaked off like a whipped dog, as he did to-night!”
“Your brother is right, Fanny,” said the doctor quietly. – “Now, let’s get back, and I can ease the minds of all at the Rosery. It was at Sir James’s wish that I came; and I have been setting the police at work to find your whereabouts.”
“Sir James always was a gentleman,” said the farmer, giving his head a satisfied nod; “and it puzzles me how he could have had a cousin who was such a bla – Well, it’s no use for you to nip my arm, Fan; he is a bla’guard, and I’m beginning to repent now as I didn’t half-kill him, and – ”
“There goes the last bell,” cried the doctor, hurriedly interposing; and taking the same compartment as the brother and sister, he earned poor weak Fanny’s gratitude on the way down by carefully taking her brother’s thoughts away from Arthur Prayle and her escapade, and keeping him in conversation upon questions relating to the diseases of horses, cows, and sheep.
Volume Two – Chapter Fourteen.
Marrying and Giving in Marriage
“And would you say Yes, aunt dear, if he should ask me?”
“Before I answer that question, Naomi, my dear, let me ask you one. Is this little heart still sore about Arthur Prayle?”
“Indeed, no, aunt,” cried the girl indignantly; “pray, don’t mention his name. I am angry with myself for ever thinking of him as I did.”
“Under those circumstances, my dear, it may be as well to ask you whether you would like to be married.”
“Like to be married, aunt? – I – I – I think I should.”
“When, then – when a man, who is perhaps rather too bluff and tradesman-like in his ways, but who loves very dearly, and is a thoroughly true honest gentleman at heart, asked me to be his wife, I think I should say Yes.”
She was a good obedient girl, this Naomi, and most ready to obey her aunt and take her advice. So thoroughly did she act upon it, that the very next day, Saxby charged into the room where Aunt Sophia was writing a letter, caught her hands in his and kissed them, crying in the most exultant manner: “She’s said it – she’s said it!”
“What! has she refused you, Saxby?” said Aunt Sophia quietly.
“Refused me? No. Said Yes, my dear madam. Isn’t it wonderful?”
“Well, I don’t know,” replied Aunt Sophia. “Do you think so?”
“That I do,” said Saxby. “Oh, I am proud, Miss Raleigh, I am indeed; for though I’m an awfully big man on ’Change – away from Capel Court and my office, no one knows better than I do what a humbug I am.”
“Don’t be a goose, Saxby,” said Aunt Sophia severely. “There; you see you make use of such bad language that it is catching. Humbug, indeed! Look here, don’t you say such nasty things again. If I had not known you to be a very good true gentleman at heart, do you think I should have encouraged your attentions as I have? Don’t, say any more. She’s a dear girl, Saxby; and I am very glad for both your sakes that it is to be a match.”
“Oh, thank you!” he cried. “But mind this, Saxby; if ever you neglect or ill-use her – ”
“If ever I neglect or ill-use her!” cried Saxby. “Well, well, I know you will not. And now, listen, Saxby. I mean to give Naomi for her dowry – ”
“Nothing at all, my dear madam,” cried the stockbroker, interrupting her. “I’ve plenty of money for both of us – heaps; and as for yours,” he said, with a merry twinkle in his eye, “keep it for making investments, so that we can have a few squabbles now and then about shares.”
“Now,” said Aunt Sophia, “I daresay it is very wicked; but if I could see my dear Doctor Scales made as happy as Saxby, I should like it very much indeed. – What do you think, Kate? Can I do anything about him and Lady Martlett?”
“No, aunt; I think not,” said Lady Scarlett. “And yet it seems to be a pity, for I am sure they are very fond of each other.”
“It’s their nasty unpleasant pride keeps them apart,” said Aunt Sophia. “Anna Martlett is as proud as Lucifer; and Scales is as proud as – as – as the box.” For Aunt Sophia was at a loss for a simile, and this was the only word that suggested itself.
“Let them alone,” said Lady Scarlett. “Matters may come right after all.”
“But it’s so stupid of him,” cried Aunt Sophia. “Hang the man! What does he want? She can’t help having a title and being rich. Why, she’s dying for him.”
“But she sets a barrier between them, every time they meet,” said Lady Scarlett.
“Yes; they’re both eaten up with pride,” cried Aunt Sophia. “Oh, if I were Scales, I’d give her such a dose!”
“Would you, aunt?”
“That I would. And if I were Anna Martlett, I’d box his ears till he went down on his knees and asked me to marry him.”
“Begging your pardon, ma’am, you haven’t seen master about, have you?” said John Monnick.
“He went up to the house just now, Monnick.”
“Because, if you please ’m, I’ve got him a splendid lot o’ wums, and a box full o’ gentles for the doctor.”
“Ugh! the nasty creatures!” cried Aunt Sophia, with a shudder. “I hope they are not going fishing up by that weir.”
“They are, aunt dear – for the barbel.”
But they were not, for a messenger was already at the gate.
Just then, James Scarlett and the doctor came along the path, laden with fishing-tackle, on their way to the punt; but they were stopped by Fanny, who came up with a letter in her hand, the poor girl looking very subdued and pale, and a great deal changed in manner since the events of a certain night – events that had, by Sir James’s orders, been buried for ever.
“Lady Martlett’s groom with the dogcart, and a letter for Doctor Scales, sir.”
“Ha-ha-ha!” cried the doctor, with a harsh scornful laugh, which told tales to the thoughtful, as Aunt Sophia and Lady Scarlett came up. “Here, Miss Raleigh, you see how I am getting on in my profession. Lady Martlett’s pet dog has a fit, and I am honoured by her instructions. Here: read the note, Scarlett.”
“No, thanks; it is addressed to you.”
The doctor frowned, and opened the note as he stood with his rod resting in the hollow of his arm, and his friends watched the change in his countenance. “Good heavens!” he exclaimed, with quite a groan. “Here, Miss Raleigh – read!” he thrust the letter into her hand, dropped the rod, and ran swiftly to the house, taking off his white flannel jacket as he ran; and a minute later they saw him in more professional guise beside the groom, who was urging the horse into a brisk canter as they passed along the lane beyond the meadow.
Meanwhile Aunt Sophia had read the letter. It was very brief, containing merely these words: “I am very ill. I do not feel confidence in my medical man. Pray, come and see me. – Anna Martlett.”
“Had we not better go over at once?” said Lady Scarlett eagerly; and the tears rose in her eyes. – “You will come, aunt?”
“Yes, of course, if it is necessary,” said Aunt Sophia. “But had we not better wait till the doctor returns?”
Kate Scarlett looked up at her husband, who nodded. “Yes,” he said; “I think aunt is right.”
So they waited.
Volume Two – Chapter Fifteen.
Ditto, and —
“This doesn’t look professional,” said the doctor to himself. – “Go a little more steadily, my man,” he said aloud to the groom; and consequently the horse was checked into a decent trot. For John Scales wanted to grow calm, and quiet down the feeling of agony that had come upon him.
“She may want all my help,” he thought. “Poor girl! Bah! Rubbish! A widow of thirty. Girl indeed! Well, I hope she’s very bad. It will be a lesson to her – bring her to her senses. What an idiot I am! Here, my hand’s trembling, and I’m all in a nervous fret. Just as if it was some one very dear to me, when all the time – When was your mistress taken ill, my man?”
“She’s kep’ her room the last fortnight, sir – not her bed; but she’s seemed going off like for months and months. Hasn’t been on a horse for a good half-year, sir, and hasn’t been at all the lady she was.”
By the time they reached the lodge-gates, which were thrown open by a woman on the watch for the returning vehicle, the doctor assured himself that he was perfectly calm and collected; but all the same there was a strange gnawing at his heart; and he turned pale at the sight of the promptitude with which the gates were opened. It seemed as if matters were known to be serious. This did not tend to make him cooler as they trotted along the beautiful avenue, and drew up at the great stone steps of the ancient ivy-grown mansion, with its magnificent view over a glorious sweep of park-land; neither did the sight of a quiet-looking butler and footman waiting to open the hall door lessen Scales’s anxiety. His lips parted to question the butler; but by an effort he restrained himself, and followed him up to a room at the top of the broad old oaken staircase, before whose door a heavy curtain was drawn.
“Doctor Scales,” said the butler, in a low voice; and as the doctor advanced with the door closing behind him, it was to see that he was in a handsomely furnished boudoir; while rising from a couch placed near the open window was Lady Martlett, looking extremely agitated and pale. Her eyes seemed to have grown larger, and the roundness had begun to leave her cheeks; but there was no languor in her movement, no trace of weakness. Still she was sufficiently changed to break down the icy reserve with which the doctor had clothed himself ready for the interview.
“I will meet her with the most matter-of-fact professional politeness,” he had said as he ascended the stairs, “do the best I can for her as far as my knowledge will let me, and she shall pay me some thumping fees. – No; she shan’t,” he added the next moment. “She shall know what pride really is. I won’t touch a penny of her wretched money. She shall have my services condescendingly given, or go without.”
That is what John Scales, M.D., Edin., as he signed himself sometimes, determined upon before he saw Lady Martlett; but as soon as he was alone with her, and saw the wistful appealing look in her eyes as she turned towards him, away went the icy formality, and he half ran to her. “My dear Lady Martlett!” he exclaimed, catching her hands in his.
For answer, she burst into an hysterical fit of sobbing, sank upon her knees, and hid her face upon his hands. “I cannot bear it,” she moaned. “You are breaking my heart!”
Jenner, Thompson, Robert Barnes – the whole party of the grandees of the profession would have been utterly scandalised had they been witnesses of Doctor Scales’s treatment of his patient, though they must have afterwards confessed that it was almost miraculous in its effects. For he bent down, raised her from her knees, said the one word, “Anna!” and held her tightly to his breast. In fact so satisfactory was the treatment, that Lady Martlett’s passionate sobs grew softer, till they almost ceased, and then she slowly raised her face to look into his eyes, saying softly: “There, I am humble now. Are you content?”
“Content?” he exclaimed passionately, as he kissed her again and again. “But you are ill,” he said excitedly, “and I am forgetting everything. Why did you send for me?”
“Is pride always to keep us apart?” she said in a low tender whisper. “Have I not humbled myself enough? Yes; I am ill. I have thought lately that I should die. Will you let me die like this?”
“Let you die?” he cried excitedly.
“No, no! But think – what will the world say?”
“You are my world,” she said softly, as she nestled to him. “My pride is all gone now. You may say what you will. It has been a struggle, and you have won.”
“No,” he said softly; “you have won.”
He never boasted of the cure that he effected here. Wisely so. But certainly Lady Martlett was in an extremely low state – a state that necessitated change – such a complete change as would be given by a long continental tour, with a physician always at her side.
The world did talk, and said that Lady Martlett had thrown herself away.
“The stupids!” exclaimed Aunt Sophia. “Just as if a woman could throw herself away, when it was into the arms of as good a husband as ever breathed.”
James Scarlett had one or two little relapses into his nervous state, and these were when family troubles had come upon him; but they soon passed away, and the little riverside home blushes more brightly than ever with flowers; the glass-houses are fragrant with ripening fruit; and Aunt Sophia sits and bows her head solemnly over her work beneath some shady tree or another in the hot summer afternoons, the only solitary heart there; – and yet not solitary, for it is filled as freshly as ever with the memory of the dead.
Doctor Scales practises still, in his own way; and though he is somewhat at variance with the profession, they all hold him in respect.
“As they must,” her Ladyship declares, “for there is not a greater man among them all.”
Saxby bought the pretty villa across the river that you can see from Lady Scarlett’s drawing-room. You can shoot an arrow from one garden into the other; but Aunt Sophia, who lives at the Scarletts’ now, when she does not live with the Saxbys, always goes round by the bridge – five miles – never once venturing in the boat.
Arthur Prayle has been heard of as a Company promoter in Australia, where, as he does not deserve, he is doing well.
“A rascal!” Aunt Sophia says; “and with the four hundred pounds he got out of me for that Society. But never mind; it was on the strength of my money that he tried to delude that foolish girl, and so we found out what a bad fellow he was.”
That foolish girl, by the way, has married a farmer, a friend of Brother William; and Aunt Sophia knits a great many little contrivances of wool for the results.
The last trouble that happened at the Rosery was when old John Monnick passed away.
“It’s quite nat’ral like, Master James,” he said, smiling. “Seventy-seven, you see. There isn’t the least o’ anything the matter with me, and I aren’t in a bit o’ pain. There’s only one thing as troubles me, and that is ’bout the opening and shutting o’ them glarss-houses. I hope you won’t be neglecting of ’em when I’m gone.”
“Oh, but you’ll be stronger soon, John, with the spring – and come and look after things again.”
The old man smiled, and shook his head slowly from side to side – “’Tain’t in natur’, Master James,” he said – “’Tain’t in natur’, my lady. I come up, and I growed up, and I blossomed, and the seed’s dead ripe now, ready for being garnered, if the heavenly Master thinks it fit. I’m only a gardener, Master James, and I’ve been a gardener all my life; and now, as I lie here, it’s to think and hope that he will say: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.’”
It was Kate Scarlett’s lips that formed in an almost inaudible whisper the word “Amen!” as the old man fell asleep.
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