George Fenn.

The Rosery Folk





I never saw it so beautiful before, cried Scarlett excitedly. It is lovely indeed. Look, aunt. Why, Arthur, it was worth a journey to see.

The place is like one seen in some vision of the night, said Prayle softly.

Hah! yes, exclaimed the doctor thoughtfully; it is enough to tempt a man to give up town.

Do, old fellow, and you shall have us Impatients, cried Scarlett, We never want a doctor, and I hope we never shall.

Amen to that! said Scales, in a low, serious tone. Ah! he continued, what a pity it seems that we have so few of these heavenly days.

Oh, I dont know, said Scarlett. Makes us appreciate them all the more.

I think these things are best as they are, said Prayle in his soft dreamy tenor. Yes; all is for the best.

Lady Scarlett looked at him uneasily, and Aunt Sophia tightened her lips.

I should like to duck that fellow, and fish him out with the boat-hook, thought the doctor.

Then the conversation ceased. Words seemed to be a trouble in the beauty of that evening scene, one so imprinted in the breasts of the spectators that it was never forgotten. The boat was kept from floating down with the quick racing current by a sharp dip of the oars just given now and then, while every touch of the long blue blades seemed to be into liquid gold and silver and ruddy gems. The wind had sunk, and, saving the occasional distance softened lowing from the meads, no sound came from the shore; but always like distant thunder, heard upon the summer breeze, came the never-ceasing, low-pitched roar of the falling water at the weir.

The silence was at last broken by Scarlett, who said suddenly, making his hearers start: Now then, Jack, one row round by the piles, and then home.

Right, said the doctor, throwing the end of his cigar into the water, where it fell with a hiss; and bending to his oar, the light gig was sent up against the racing water nearer and nearer to the weir.

The ladies joined hands, as if there was danger, but became reassured as they saw their protectors smile; and soon after, quite near to where the river came thundering down from where it was six feet above their heads, instead of the stream forcing them away, the water seemed comparatively still, the eddy setting slightly towards the weir.

Heres one of the deep places, said Scarlett. I fished here once, and my plummet went down over twenty feet.

And you didnt catch a gudgeon? said the doctor.

Not one, replied Scarlett.

How deep and black it looks! said Prayle softly, as he laved one soft white hand in the water.

Enough to make it, said Scarlett deep as that. I say, what a place for a header!

Ah, splendid! said the doctor; only, you mustnt dive onto pile or stone. I say, hadnt we better keep off a little more?

Yes, said Scarlett, rising, oar in hand. I never knew the eddy set in so sharply before. Why, auntie, if we went much nearer, it would carry us right in beneath the falling water, and we should be filled.

Pray, take care, James.

To be sure I will, my dear auntie, he said, as he stood up there in the soft evening light, Ill take care of you all, my precious freight; and wailing his time, he thrust the blade of his oar against a pile, placed one foot upon the gunwale, and pressing heavily, he sent the boat steadily farther and farther away, Back water, Jack, he said. Now! As he spoke, he gave one more thrust; but in the act there was a sharp crack as the frail ashen oar snapped in twain, a shriek of horror from Lady Scarlett as she started up, and a dull, heavy plunge, making the water foam up, as Sir James Scarlett went in head foremost and disappeared.

Volume One Chapter Eleven.
The Doctor Abroad

The thrust delivered by Scarlett before the breaking of the oar, aided by the impetus given by his feet as he fell, sent the boat back into the rapid stream beyond the eddy; and in spite of the doctors efforts, he could not check its course, till, suddenly starting up, he used his oar as a pole, arresting their downward course as he scanned the surface towards the piles.

Sit down, Lady Scarlett! he cried in a fierce, hoarse voice. Hold her, or she will be over.

Aunt Sophia had already seized her nieces dress, and was dragging her back, the three women sitting with blanched faces and parted ashy lips, gazing at the place where Scarlett had gone down.

Dont be alarmed; he swims like a fish, said the doctor, though grave apprehension was changing the hue of his own countenance, as he stood watching for the reappearance of his friend.

Help! help! cried Lady Scarlett suddenly; and her voice went echoing over the water.

Hush! be calm, cried the doctor. Here, quick you Mr Prayle! Come and shove down the boat-hook here.

Shes drifting. Mind, man, mind! he cried, as Prayle, trembling visibly, nearly fell over as he stooped to get out the boat-hook.

He thrust it down into the water, but in a timid, helpless way.

Put it down! cried the doctor; and then, seizing an oar by the middle, he used it as a paddle, just managing to keep the boat from being swept away.

They were twenty yards at least from where Scarlett went down: but had he possessed the power to urge the boat forward, Scales dared not have sent it nearer to the piles with that freight on board. And still those terrible moments went on, lengthening first into one and then into a second minute, and Scarlett did not reappear.

Why does he not come up? said Prayle, in a harsh whisper.

Silence, man! Wait! cried the doctor hoarsely, as he saw Lady Scarletts wild imploring eyes.

He must have struck his head against a stone or pile, thought the doctor, and is stunned. And then the horrible idea came upon him, that his poor friend was being kept down by the tons and tons of falling water, every time he would have risen to the top. Two minutes three minutes had passed, and, as if in sympathy with the horror that had fallen upon the group, the noise of the tumbling waters seemed to grow more loud, and the orange glow of sunset was giving place to a cold grey light.

Aunt Sophia was the next to speak. Do something, man! she cried, in a passionate imploring voice. But the doctor did not heed; he only scanned the surface of the foamy pool.

There, there, there! shrieked Lady Scarlett. There, help! James! Husband! Help!

She would have flung herself from the boat, as she gazed wildly in quite a different direction; and the doctor, dropping the oar across the sides, sent the frail vessel back from him, rocking heavily; for he had plunged from it headlong into the rushing water, but only to rise directly; and they saw him swimming rapidly towards where something creamy-looking was being slowly carried by the current back towards the piles. The doctor was a powerful swimmer, but he was weary from his exertions. He swam on, though, rapidly nearing the object of his search, caught it by the flannel shirt, made a tremendous effort to get beyond the back-set of the current, and then turned a ghastly face upward to the air.

The gig was fifty yards away now, Prayle being helpless to stay its course; and though the doctor looked round, there was neither soul nor boat in sight to give them help.

It was a hard fight; but the swimmer won; for some thirty or forty strokes, given with all his might, brought him into the shallow stream, and then the rest was easy; he had but to keep his friends face above the water while he tried to overtake the boat. For a moment he thought of landing; but no help was near without carrying his inanimate burden perhaps a mile, the lock being on the other side, its keeper probably asleep, for he made no sign.

Cannot that idiot stop the boat? groaned Scales. At last at last! He uttered these words with a cry of satisfaction, for Prayle was making some pretence of forcing the boat up-stream once more.

The doctor was skilful enough to direct his course so that they were swept down to the bows; and grasping the gunwale with one hand, he panted forth: Down with that boat-hook! Now, take him by the shoulders. Lean back to the other side and draw him in.

The swimmer could lend but little help; and Prayle would have failed in his effort, and probably overturned the boat, but for Aunt Sophia, whose dread of the water seemed to have passed away as she came forward, and between them they dragged Scarlett over the side.

The doctor followed, with the water streaming from him, and gave a glance to right and left in search of a place to land.

It would be no use, he said quickly. While we were getting him to some house, valuable minutes would be gone. Now, Lady Scarlett, for heavens sake, be calm!

Oh, he is dead he is dead! moaned the wretched woman, on her knees.

Thats more than you know, or I know, cried the doctor, who was working busily all the time. Be calm, and help me. You too, Miss Raleigh. Prayle, get out of the way!

Arthur Prayle frowned and went aft. Lady Scarlett made a supreme effort to be calm; while Aunt Sophia, with her lips pressed lightly together, knelt there, watchful and ready, as the doctor toiled on. She it was who, unasked, passed him the cushions which he laid beneath the apparently drowned man, and, at a word, was the first to strip away the coverings from his feet and apply friction, while Scales was hard at work trying to produce artificial respiration by movements of his patients arms.

Dont be down-hearted, he said; only work. We want warmth and friction to induce the circulation to return. Throw plenty of hope into your efforts, and, with Gods help, well have him back to life.

Naomi Raleigh would have helped had there been room, but there was none, and she could only sit with starting eyes watching the efforts that were made, while Prayle tried hard with the oar to hasten the progress of the boat.

There was no sign of life in the figure that lay there inert and motionless; but no heed was paid to that. Animated by the doctors example, aunt and niece laboured on in silence, while the boat rocked from their efforts, and the water that had streamed from the garments of the doctor and his patient washed to and fro.

It was a strange freight for a pleasure-boat as it floated swiftly down with the stream, passing no one on that solitary portion of the river; though had they encountered scores no further help could have been rendered than that which friend was giving to friend.

For the doctors face was purple with his exertions, and the great drops of perspiration stood now side by side with the water that still trickled from his crisp hair.

Dont slacken, he cried cheerily. Ive brought fellows to, after being four or five times as long under water, in the depth of winter too. We shall have a flicker of life before long, Ill be sworn. Is he still as cold? I cant stop to feel.

Aunt Sophia laid her hand upon the bare white chest of her nephew in the region of his heart; and then, as her eyes met the doctors her lips tightened just a little that was all.

Too soon to expect it yet. Dont be despondent, Lady Scarlett. Be a brave, true little wife. Thats right. He nodded at her so encouragingly, that, in the face of what he was doing, Lady Scarlett felt that all little distance between them was for ever at an end, and that she had a sisters love for this gallant, earnest man.

Where are we? he said at last, toiling more slowly now, from sheer exhaustion.

Very nearly down to the cottage, replied Prayle; and the doctor muttered an inaudible Thank God! It was not loud enough for wife or aunt to hear, or it would have carried with it a despair far greater than that they felt.

Can you run her into the landing-place?

Ill try, said Prayle, but in so doubting a tone, that the doctor uttered a low ejaculation, full of impatient anger, and Kate Scarlett looked up.

Naomi! Quick! Here! she cried. Kneel down, and take my place.

Yes; warmth is life, panted the doctor, who was hoarse now and faint. Poor woman! shes fagged, he thought; but still she is his wife. There was a feeling of annoyance in his breast as he thought this a sensation of anger against Kate Scarlett, who ought to have died at her post, he felt, sooner than give it up to another. Put the next moment he gave a sigh of satisfaction and relief, as he saw her rise and stop lightly to where Prayle was fumbling with the oar.

Sit down! she said in a quick, imperious manner; and, slipping the oar over the stern, she cleverly sculled with it, as her husband had taught her in happier times, so that she sent the gig nearer and nearer to the shore. But in spite of her efforts, they would have been swept beyond, had not the old gardener, waiting their return, waded in to get hold of the bows of the gig and haul it to the side. As it grated against the landing-stage, the doctor summoned all the strength that he had left, to bend down, lift his friend over his shoulder, and then stagger to the house.

Volume One Chapter Twelve.
A Hard Nights Work

Yes, said Scales excitedly, as he bent over his patient, whom he had placed upon the floor of the study, after ordering fresh medical help to be fetched at once yes there is hope.

As he spoke, Kate Scarlett uttered a low wail, and Aunt Sophia caught her in her arms; but the stricken wife struggled to get free. No, no; I shall not give way, she panted; I will be brave, and help. For, as the doctor slowly continued his efforts to restore the circulation, there came at last a faint gasp; and soon after, the medical man from the village came in, cool and calm, to take in the situation at a glance.

By this time, Scarlett was breathing with some approach to the normal strength, and Scales turned to the new-comer. Will you he began. He could say no more, from utter exhaustion and excitement, but sank over sidewise, fainting dead away, leaving the new-comer to complete his task.

It was not a long one now, for almost together James Scarlett and his friend opened their eyes and gazed about wildly.

The doctor was the first to recover himself, and he drank eagerly of the spirit and water held to his lips, and then rose and walked to the open window.

Im better now, he said, returning to where his fellow professional was leaning over Scarlett, to whose wandering eyes the light of reason had not yet returned. How is he now?

Coming round fast, said the other.

Hes dying? moaned Lady Scarlett, as she saw her husbands eyes slowly close once more.

No, no, said Scales quietly. It is exhaustion and sleep. Hell go off soundly now for many hours, and wake up nearly well.

Are you saying this to deceive me? cried Lady Scarlett.

Indeed, no; ask our friend here.

Lady Scarlett looked at the other appealingly, and he confirmed his confr?res words. But still she was not convinced, so pale and motionless Sir James lay, till the doctor signed to her to bend over and place her ear against her husbands breast.

Then, as she heard the regular heavy pulsation of his heart, she uttered a low, sobbing, hysterical cry, turned to Scales, caught his hand in hers, kissed it again and again, and then crouched lower upon her knees at her husbands side, weeping and praying during his heavy sleep.

The local doctor stayed for a couple of hours, and then, after a short consultation with Scales, shook hands. You have done wonders, he said on leaving.

No, said Scales quietly; I only persevered.

He found Aunt Sophia kneeling by Lady Scarletts side, pressing her to rise and partake of some tea which the old lady had ready for her, but only to obtain negative motions of the suffering little womans head, till Scales bent down and whispered

Yes, you must take it, Lady Scarlett; you will want all your strength perhaps when your husband wakes.

His voice roused her and she rose at once, caught his hand in hers and kissed it again before going to a side-table and eating and drinking whatever Aunt Sophia placed in her hands.

Shed make a splendid nurse, said the doctor to himself, so obedient and patient. I didnt think she had it in her, but somehow I dont quite like her and her ways.

Just then he turned and met Prayles eyes fixed upon him rather curiously, and it seemed to him, in his own rather excited state, that his friends cousin was watching him in no very amiable way.

The thought passed off on the moment and he went down on one knee by Scarletts extemporised couch. For by this time the patient had been made comfortable where he lay with blankets and cushions. The doctor too had found time to change, and had prescribed for himself what he told Aunt Sophia was the tip-top of recuperators in such a case, a strong cup of tea with a tablespoonful of brandy.

Poor old boy! he said tenderly, as he laid his hand upon Scarletts breast. Yes, your old hearts doing its duty once again, and, and confound it! what a weak fool I am.

He remained very still for some minutes, so that no one should see the big hot tears that dropped in a most unprofessional fashion upon the blankets and glistened there. But it was a failure as far as one person was concerned, and he might just as well have taken out his handkerchief, wiped his eyes, and had one of those good sonorous blows of the nose indulged in by Englishmen when they feel affected; for under the most painful circumstances, however natural, it is of course exceedingly unmanly of the first made human being to cry. That luxury and relief of an overladen spirit is reserved for the Eves of creation. All the same though, there are few men who do not weep in times of intense mental agony. They almost invariably, however, and by long practice and custom, the result probably of assistance in accordance with Darwinian laws, contrive to switch the lines or rather ducts of their tears, shunt these saline globules of bitterness, and cry through the nose.

There! hes going on capitally now, he said, after a time. Mr Prayle, you need not, stay.

Oh, I would rather wait, said Prayle. He may have a relapse.

Oh, I shall be with him, said the doctor confidently. I will ask you to leave us now, Mr Prayle. I want to keep the room quiet and cool.

Arthur Prayle was disposed to resist; but a doctor is an autocrat in a sick-chamber, whom no one but a patient dare disobey; and the result was that Prayle unwillingly left the room.

Got rid of him, muttered the doctor. Now for the old maid, who, by the way, has behaved like a trump.

I dont think you need stay, Miss Raleigh, he whispered. You must be very tired now.

Yes, Doctor Scales, she said quietly; but I will not go to bed. You may want a little help in the night.

I shall not leave my husbands side, said Lady Scarlett firmly. Oh, Doctor Scales, pray, pray, tell me the truth; keep nothing back. Is there any danger?

Upon my word, as a man, Lady Scarlett, there is none.

You are not deceiving me?

Indeed, no. Here is the case for yourself: he has been nearly drowned.

Yes, yes, sobbed Lady Scarlett.

Well, he has his breathing apparatus in order again, and is fast asleep. There is no disease.

No; I understand that, said Lady Scarlett excitedly; but a relapse?

Relapse? said the doctor in a low voice and laughing quietly. Well, the only form of relapse he could have would be to tumble in again.

Dont; pray, dont laugh at me, doctor, said Lady Scarlett piteously. You cannot tell what I suffer.

O yes, I can, he said kindly. If I laughed then, it was only to give you confidence. He will wake up with a bad nervous headache, and thats all. Now, suppose you go and lie down.

No; I shall stay with my husband, she said firmly. I cannot go.

Well, he said, you shall stay. Perhaps you will stay with us as well, Miss Raleigh, he added. We can shade the light; and he is so utterly exhausted, that even if we talk, I dont think he will wake.

And he will not be worse? whispered Lady Scarlett.

People will not have any confidence in their medical man. Come, now, I think you might trust me, after what I have done.

I do trust you, Doctor Scales, and believe in you as my husbands best and dearest friend, cried Lady Scarlett. Heaven bless you for what you have done! She hurriedly kissed his hand; and then, after a glance at her husbands pale face, she went and sat upon the floor beside Aunt Sophias chair, laid her hands upon the elder ladys knees, and hid her face, sitting there so motionless that she seemed to be asleep.

I wish she would not do that, muttered the doctor; and then: I hate a woman who behaves in that lapdog way. I never liked her, and I dont think I ever shall.

It was a change indeed, the long watch through that night, and it was with a sigh of relief that the doctor saw the first grey light of morning stealing through the window. Only a few hours before and all had been so bright and sunny, now all was depression and gloom. When they started for their water trip trouble seemed a something that could not fall upon so happy a home. Aunt Sophias fears had only been a motive for mirth, and since then, with a rapidity that was like the lightnings flash, this terrible shock had come upon them.





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