George Fenn.

The Rosery Folk





How did you know? cried Fanny.

I was over at the station delivering my bit o wheat, when Sir James come in with that Mr Prayle. I dont think much of him.

And pray, why not?

Dunno. Seems too smooth and underhanded like. I didnt take to him when he come round my farm.

Youre a very foolish, prejudiced fellow, William, said Fanny warmly; and she whisked herself out of the room.

Thats what mother used to say, said Brother William, thoughtfully rubbing his broad palms to and fro along the polished arms of the chair. She used to say: Wilyum, my boy, thourt prejudiced; and I spose I am. That sort o thing is in a mans natur, and can only be bred out in time. Is tea most ready, Martha Betts?

Martha replied by filling up the teapot, and proceeding to cut some bread and butter, of both of which refreshing kinds of nutriment Brother William partook largely upon the return of his sister, who soon after hurried away to attend to her duties, that being with her a busy night.

Volume One Chapter Four.
Jack.

To unfig, with Sir James Scarlett, meant to thoroughly change his London garments for an easy suit of flannels, such as he used for boating and gardening, the latter pursuit being one of which he was passionately fond. He had begun by having a professed gardener, and ended by being his own head. For the sharp professed gardener seemed to be imbued with the idea that the grounds and glass-houses of the Rosery were his special property, out of whose abundance he grudgingly allowed his master a few cut flowers, an occasional cucumber, now and then a melon, and at times a bunch of grapes, and a nectarine or peach.

But that r?gime had to come to an end.

Hang the fellow, Kitty! cried Scarlett one day; he bullies poor old Monnick, and snubs me, and I feel as if I were nobody but the paymaster. It wont do. Whats the good of living in the country with such a garden as this, if one cant have abundance of fruit and flowers for ones friends?

It does seem too bad, certainly, dear, she replied. I dont get half the flowers I should like.

The result was that the professed gardener left, saying that he wanted to be where the master was a gentleman, and not one who meddled in the garden like a jobbing hand. Furthermore, he prophesied that the Rosery would go to ruin now; and when it did not go to ruin, but under its masters own management put forth such flowers and fruit as the place had never seen before, the dethroned monarch declared that it was scandalous for one who called himself a gentleman to suck a poor fellows brains and then turn him out like a dog.

Unfigged, Sir James Scarlett hurried out into the garden with his young partner, and for a good hour was busy seeing how much certain plants had grown since the previous evening. Then there was an adjournment to the grape-house, where the great black Hambros grew so well and in such abundance, without artificial heat; and here, about half an hour later, a very keen-looking, plainly-dressed man heard the sound of singing as he walked down the path from the house.

He paused and listened, with a pleasant smile coming upon his earnest lace, and as he stood attent, a judge of humankind who had gazed upon his broad shoulders and lithe strong limbs, and the sharp intelligent look in his face, would have said that Nature had meant him for a handsome man, but had altered her mind to make him look like one of the clever ones of earth. He laughed, and after listening for a minute, went on softly and stood in the doorway, looking up. The large house with its span roof was covered with the sweetly scented leaves of the young vine growth, and everywhere hung pendent bunches in their immature state, with grapes no larger than so many peas. It was not upon these that the visitors eyes were fixed, but upon a stout plank stretching from one iron tie of the grape-house to another; for, perched upon this plank, to whose height approach was gained by a pair of steps, sat the owners of the place, with heads thrown back, holding each a bunch of grapes with one hand, a pair of pointed scissors with the other, which clicked as they snipped away, thinning out the superabundant berries, which kept on falling, and making a noise like the avant-garde of a gentle hailstorm on a summers day. As they snipped, the grape-thinners sang verse after verse, throwing plenty of soul into the harmony which was formed by a pleasant soprano and a deep tenor voice.

The visitor stood for fully five minutes, watching and laughing silently, before he said aloud: What a place this is for birds!

Lady Scarlett started; her scissors fell tinkling upon the tiled floor, and her face followed suit with her name.

Why, Jack! shouted Scarlett, leaping off the board, and then holding it tightly as his wife uttered a cry of alarm. All right, dear; you shant fall. There, let me help you down.

I beg your pardon, Lady Scarlett, said the visitor apologetically. It was very thoughtless of me. I am sorry.

O Jack, old fellow, Kitty dont mind. It was only meant for a bit of fun. But how did you get down?

Train, and walked over, of course.

I am glad to see you, said Scarlett. Why didnt you say you were coming, and meet me at the station?

Didnt know I was coming till the last moment. Will you give me a bit of dinner, Lady Scarlett?

Will we give you a bit of dinner? cried Sir James. Just hark at him! There come along; never mind the grapes. I say, hows the practice improving?

Pooh! No. I shall never get on. I cant stick to their old humdrum ways. I want to go forward and take advantage of the increased light science gives us, and consequently they say Im unorthodox, and the fellows about my place wont meet me in consultation.

Well, you always were a bit of a quack, old boy, said Scarlett laughing.

Always, always. I accept the soft impeachment. But is a man to run the chariot of his life down in the deeply worn ruts made by his ancestors? I say, let us keep to the rut when it is true and good; but let us try and make new, hard, sensible tracks where we can improve upon the old. It is my honest conviction that in the noble practice of medicine a man may ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Just look at your husbands face, Lady Scarlett, cried their visitor, bursting into a hearty, uncontrollable fit of honest, contagious laughter.

My face! said Sir James. Why, of course I hurry back home for country enjoyment, and you begin a confounded lecture on medical science. Im quite well, thank you, doctor, and wont put out my tongue.

Well? Yes, you always are well, said the other. I never saw such a man as your husband, Lady Scarlett; he is disgustingly robust and hearty. Such men ought to be forced to take some complaint. Why, if there were many of them, my profession would become bankrupt.

You must be faint after your walk, Doctor Scales, said Lady Scarlett. Come in and have a cup of tea and a biscuit; it is some time yet to dinner.

Thanks. But may I choose for myself?

Of course.

Then I have a lively recollection of a lady with whom I fell in love last time I was here.

A lady fell in love?

Yes. Let me see, said the visitor. She is pretty well photographed upon my brain.

I say, Jack, old boy, what do you mean? cried Scarlett.

By your leave, sir, said the doctor, waving one strong brown hand. Let me see; she had large, full, lustrous, beaming eyes, which dwelt upon me kindly; her breath was odorous of the balmy meads

Why, the fellows going to do a sonnet, cried Scarlett. But the doctor paid no heed, and went on.

Her lips were dewy, her mousy skin was glossy, her black horns curved, and as she ruminating stood

Why, he means Dolly, cried Lady Scarlett clapping her hands Jersey Dolly. A glass of new milk, Doctor Scales?

The very culmination of my wishes, madam, said the doctor, nodding.

Then why couldnt you say so in plain English? cried Scarlett, clapping him on the shoulder. What a fellow you are, Jack! I say, if you get talking in such a metaphorical manner about salts and senna and indigestion I dont wonder at the profession being dead against you.

Would you like to come round to the dairy, Doctor Scales? said Lady Scarlett.

Id rather go there than into the grandest palace in the world.

Then come alone, cried Scarlett thrusting his arm through that of his old schoolfellow; and the little party went down a walk, through an opening in a laurel hedge, and entered a thickly thatched, shady, red-brick building, with ruddy-tiled floor, and there, in front of them was a row of shallow glistening tins, brimming with rich milk, whose top was thick with yellow cream.

Hah! how deliciously cool and fresh! cried the doctor, as his eye ranged over the white chum and marble slabs. Some men are wonderfully proud of their wine-cellars, but at a time like this I feel as if I would rather own a dairy and keep cows.

Now then, Kitty, give him his draught, said Scarlett.

Yes, just one glass, cried the doctor; and here we are, he said, pausing before a great shallow tin, beyond which was freshly chalked the word Dolly. This is the well in the pleasant oasis from which Id drink.

Give him some quickly, Kitty, cried Scarlett; his metaphors will make me ill.

Then my visit will not have been in vain, cried the doctor merrily. Then he ejaculated, Hah! very softly, and closed his eyes as he partook of the sweet rich draught, set down the glass, and after wiping his lips, exclaimed:

Serenely calm, the epicure may say

O yes; I know, said Sir James, catching him up. Fate cannot harm me I have dined to-day. But you have not dined yet, old fellow; and you shall have such a salad! My own growing; Kittys making. Come along now, and lets look round. Prayles here.

Is he? said the doctor, raising his eye-brows slightly, and his tone seemed to say: Im sorry to hear it.

Yes, poor fellow; hes working too hard, and I brought him down to stay a bit. Now youve come, and well have

No, no; I must get back. None of your unmanly temptations. Im going to catch the last up-train to-night.

One of your patients in a dangerous state, I suppose? said Scarlett, with a humorous glance at his wife.

No: worse luck! Ive no patients waiting for me. I say, old fellow, you havent a rich old countess about here baroness would do one who suffers from chronic spleen, as the French call it? Get me called in there, you know, and make me her confidential attendant.

Why, theres Lady Martlett, said Scarlett, with another glance at his wife which plainly said: Hold your tongue, dear.

Widow lady. Just the body. I dare say shell be here before long.

Oh, but Im off back to-night.

Are you? said Scarlett, Kitty, my dear, Jack Scales is your prisoner. You are the ch?telaine here, and as your superior, I order you to render him up to me safe and sound for transport back to town this day month. Why, Jack, you promised to help me drain the pond. Well do it now youre down.

Oh, nonsense; I must go back.

Yes; thats what all prisoners say or think, said Scarlett, laughing Dont be too hard upon the poor fellow, dear. He may have as much milk as he likes. Soften his confinement as pleasantly us you can. Excuse me, Jack. Theres Prayle.

He nodded, and went off down one of the paths, and his departure seemed to have taken with it some of the freedom and ease of the conversation that had been carried on; the doctors manner becoming colder, and the bright girlish look fading out of Lady Scarletts face.

This is very, very kind of you both, said the doctor, turning to her; but I really ought not to stay.

James will be quite hurt, I am sure, if you do not, she answered. He thinks so much of you.

Im glad of it, said the doctor earnestly; and Lady Scarletts face brightened a little. Hes one of the most frank and open-hearted fellows in the world. Its one of the bright streaks in my career that we have always remained friends. Really I envy him his home here, though I fear that I should be out of place in such a country-life.

I do not think you would, Doctor Scales, said his hostess, but of course he is busy the greater part of his time in town, and that makes the change so nice.

But you? said the doctor. Do you not find it dull when he is away?

I? I find it dull? she cried, with a girlish laugh. Oh dear, no. I did for the first month, but you have no idea how busy I am. James has made me such a gardener; and I superintend. Come and see my poultry and the cows.

To be sure I will, said the doctor more warmly, as they walked on towards a fence which separated them from a meadow running down to the river, where three soft fawn-coloured Jersey cows were grazing, each of which raised its head slowly, and came up, munching the sweet grass, to put its deer-like head over the fence to feel the touch of its mistresss hand.

Are they not beauties? cried Lady Scarlett. Theres your friend Dolly, she continued. She wont hurt you.

Im not afraid, said the doctor, smiling; and then a visit was paid to where the poultry came rushing up to be fed, and then follow their mistress; while the pigeons hovered about, and one more venturesome than the others settled upon her head.

They saw no more of Scarlett till just before dinner, when they met him with Prayle; and now it was that, after feeling warmer and more friendly towards his young hostess than he ever had felt before, the unpleasant sense of distance and of chill came back, as the doctor was shown up into his room.

Im afraid Im prejudiced, he said. Shes very charming, and the natural girlish manner comes in very nicely at times; but somehow, Kate Scarlett, I never thought you were quite the wife for my old friend. Lets play fair, he said, as he stood contemplatively wiping his hands upon a towel that smelt of the pure fresh air. What have I to say against her?

He remained silent for a few moments, and then said aloud: Nothing; only that she has always seemed to distrust me, and I have distrusted her. Why, I believe we are jealous of each others influence with poor old Jem.

He laughed as he said these words, and then went down-stairs, to find that his stay at the Rosery was to be more lively than he had anticipated, for, upon entering the drawing-room, he was introduced by Lady Scarlett to a stern-looking, grey, elderly lady as my Aunt Sophia Miss Raleigh, and to a rather pretty girl, Miss Naomi Raleigh, the former of which two ladies he had to take in to dinner.

Volume One Chapter Five.
The Doctor on Nerves

The dinner at the Rosery was all that was pleasant and desirable, saving that Doctor Scales felt rather disappointed in having to take in Aunt Sophia. He was not a ladies man, he said, when talking of such matters, and would have been better content to have gone in alone. He was not much pleased either at being very near Mr Arthur Prayle, to whom he at once took a more decided dislike, being, as he acknowledged to himself, exceedingly ready to form antipathies, and prejudiced in the extreme.

Ah, he said to himself, one ought to be satisfied; and he glanced round the prettily decorated table, and uttered a sigh of satisfaction as the sweet scents of the garden floated in through the open window. Then he uttered another similar sigh, for there were scents in the room more satisfying to a hungry man.

Perhaps youd like the window shut, auntie? said Sir James.

No, my dear; it would be a shame: the weather is so fine. You dont think it will give me rheumatism in the shoulder, do you, doctor?

No, madam, certainly not, said Scales. You are not over-heated.

Then we will have it open, said Aunt Sophia decisively.

Do you consider that rheumatism always comes from colds, Doctor Scales? said Arthur Prayle, bending forward from his seat beside his hostess, and speaking in a bland smooth tone.

That fellows mouth seems to me as if it must be lined with black velvet, thought the doctor. Bother him! if I believed in metempsychosis, I should say he would turn into a black Tom-cat. He purrs and sets up his back, and seems as if he must have a tail hidden away under his coat. No, decidedly not, he said aloud. I think people often suffer from a kind of rheumatic affection due to errors of diet.

Dear me! how strange.

Then we shall have Aunt Sophia laid up, said Sir James, for she is always committing errors in diet.

Now, James! began the lady in protestation.

Now, auntie, you know youd eat a whole cucumber on the sly, if you had the chance.

No, no, my dear; that is too bad. I confess that I do like cucumber, but not to that extent.

Well, Naomi, I hope you are ready for plenty of boating, now you have come down, said Scarlett. We must brown you a bit; you are too fair. Isnt she, Jack?

Not a bit, said the doctor, who was enjoying his salmon. A lady cant be too fair.

Aunt Sophia looked at him sharply; but Jack Scaless eyes had not travelled in the direction of Naomi, and when he raised them to meet Aunt Sophias, there was a frank ingenuous look in them that disarmed a disposition on the ladys part to set up her feathers and defend her niece.

I think young ladies ought to be fair and pretty; dont you, maam?

Ye-es; in reason, said Aunt Sophia, bridling slightly.

I side with you, Jack, said their host, with a tender look at his wife.

Yes, said Prayle slowly; one naturally expects a lady to be beautiful; but, alas! how soon does beauty fade.

Yes, if you dont take care of it, said Aunt Sophia sharply. Unkindness is like a blight to a flower, and so is the misery of this world.

So, said Scarlett, the best thing is never to be unkind, auntie, and have nothing to do with misery

If you can help it, said the doctor.

Or the doctors, said Scarlett, laughing always excepting Doctor Scales.

About this time, Aunt Sophia, who had been very stiff and distant, began to soften a little towards the doctor, and listened attentively, as the host seemed to be trying to draw him out.

What are you doing now, Jack? he said, after a glance round the table to see that all was going satisfactorily and well; while Lady Scarlett sat, flushed and timid, troubled with the cares of the house, and wondering whether her husband was satisfied with the preparations that had been made.

Eating, said the doctor drily, and to such an extent, that I am blushing inwardly for having such a dreadful appetite.

I suppose, said Prayle, that a good appetite is a sign of good health?

Sometimes, said the doctor. There are morbid forms of desire for food. What say?

I repeated my question, said Scarlett, laughing. What are you doing now?

Well, I am devoting myself for the most part to the study of nervous diseases, said the doctor. There seems to be more opening there than in any other branch of my profession, and unless a man goes in for a speciality, he has no chance.

Come, Aunt Sophia, said Scarlett, merrily; heres your opportunity. You are always complaining of your nerves.

Of course I am, said the old lady sharply; and no wonder.

Well, then, why not engage Doctor Scales as your private physician, before he is snatched up?

All, before Im snatched up, Miss Raleigh. Dont you have anything to do with me, madam. Follow your nephews lead, and take to gardening There is medicine in the scent of the newly turned earth, in the air you breathe, and in the exercise, that will do you more good than any drugs I can prescribe.

There you are, aunt; pay up.

Pay up? Bless the boy! what do you mean? said Aunt Sophia.

A guinea. Physicians fee.

Stuff and nonsense! said Aunt Sophia. But I dont want to be rude to you, Doctor Scales, and I think its worth the guinea far more than many a fee Ive paid for what has done me no good.

Ive got a case in hand, said the doctor, going on with his dinner, but finding time to talk. Ive a poor creature suffering from nervous shock. Fine-looking, gentlemanly fellow as youd wish to see, but completely off his balance.

Bless the man! dont talk about mad people, said Aunt Sophia.

No, maam, I will not. Hes as sane as you are, said the doctor; but his nerve is gone, he dare not trust himself outside the house; he cannot, do the slightest calculation write a letter give a decisive answer. He would not take the shortest journey, or see any one on business. In fact, though he could do all these things as well as any of us, he doesnt, and, paradoxical as it may sound, cant.

But why not? said Scarlett.

Why not? Because his nerve has gone, he dare not sleep without some one in the next room. He could not bear to be in the dark. He cannot trust himself to do a single thing for fear he should do it wrong, or go anywhere lest some terrible accident should befall him.

What a dreadful man! cried Aunt Sophia.





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