The Rosery Folkñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Ah, well!” mused the doctor, as he stood at the window holding the blind a little on one side so as to gaze out at the grey sky, “it might have been worse, and it will make him more careful for the future. My word though, it was precious lucky that I was in the boat.”
He yawned slightly now, for there was no denying that the doctor was terribly sleepy. It was bad enough to lose a night’s rest, but the exhaustion he had suffered from his efforts made it worse, and in spite of his anxiety and eagerness to save his friend, there was no concealing the fact that unless he had risen and walked about now and then he would have fallen asleep.
Just as the sky was becoming flecked with tiny clouds of gold and orange, the first brightness that had been seen since the evening before, a few muttered words and a restless movement made doctor and wife hurry to the extempore couch.
“Kate! Where’s Kate?” exclaimed Scarlett in a hoarse cracked voice.
“I am here, dear – here at your side,” she whispered, laying her cheek to his.
“Has the boat gone over? Save Kate!”
“We are all safe, dear husband.”
“Fool! – idiot! – to go so near. So dangerous!” he cried excitedly. “Jack – Jack, old man – my wife – my wife!”
“It’s all right, old fellow,” said the doctor cheerily. “There, there; you only had a bit of a ducking – that’s all.”
“Scales – Jack! – Where am I? Where’s Kate?”
“Here, dear love, by your side.”
“My head!” panted the poor fellow. “I’m frightened. What does it mean? Why do you all stare at me like that? Here! what’s the matter? Have I had a dream?”
“He calm, old fellow,” said the doctor. “You’re all right now.”
“Catch hold of my hand, Kate,” he cried, drawing in his breath with a hiss. “There’s something wrong with – here – the back of my neck, and my head throbs terribly. Here! Have I been overboard? Why don’t you speak?”
“Scarlett, old fellow, be calm,” said the doctor firmly. “There; that’s better.”
“Yes; I’ll lie still. What a frightful headache! But tell me what it all means. – Ah! I remember now. The oar broke, and I went under. I was beaten down. – Jack – Kate, dear – do you hear me?”
“Yes, yes, dear love; yes, yes,” whispered Lady Scarlett, placing her arm round his neck and drawing his head upon her breast. “It was a nasty accident; but you are quite safe now.”
“Safe? Am I safe?” he whispered hoarsely. “That’s right, dear; hold me – tightly now.” He closed his eyes and shuddered, while Lady Scarlett gazed imploringly in the doctor’s face.
“The shock to his nerves,” he said quietly. “A bit upset; but he’ll be all right soon;” and as he spoke, the doctor laid his hand upon his friend’s pulse.
Scarlett uttered a piercing cry, starting and gazing wildly at his old companion. “Oh! It was you,” he panted, and he closed his eyes again, clinging tightly to his wife, as he whispered softly, “Don’t leave me, dear – don’t leave me.”
He seemed to calm down then and lay quite still muttering about the boat – the oar breaking – and the black water.
“It kept me down,” he said with another shudder, and speaking as if to himself.
“It kept me down till I felt that I was drowning. Jack Scales,” he said aloud, “how does a man feel when he is drowned?”
“Don’t know, old fellow. Never was drowned,” said the doctor cheerily. – “Now, look here; it’s only just sunrise, so you’d better go to sleep again, and then you’ll wake up as lively as a cricket.”
“Sunrise? – sunrise?” said Scarlett excitedly – “sunrise?” And as he spoke he looked round from one to the other. “Why, you’ve been sitting up all night! Of course, I’m down here. Have I been very bad?”
The doctor hesitated for a few moments, and then, deeming it best to tell him all, he said quietly:
“Well, pretty bad, old fellow, but we brought you to again, and it’s all right now.”
“Yes, it’s all right now. It’s all right now,” muttered Scarlett, looking from one to the other, and then clinging tightly to his wife’s hand he closed his eyes once more, lay muttering for a time, and then seemed to be fast asleep.
Lady Scarlett kept following the doctor’s every movement with her wistful eyes till he said in a whisper: “Let him sleep, and I’ll come back presently.”
“Don’t you leave me, Kate,” cried Scarlett, shuddering.
“No, no, dear,” she said tenderly; and the poor fellow uttered a low sigh, and remained with his eyes closed, as the doctor softly left the room, beckoning to Aunt Sophia to follow him.
“I’m going to get a prescription made up,” he said. “I’ll send off the groom on one of the horses; there will be a place open in the town by the time he gets there.”
“Stop a moment,” said Aunt Sophia, clutching at his arm. “Tell me what, this means. Why is he like this?”
“Oh, it is only the reaction – the shock to his nerves. Poor fellow!” he muttered to himself, “he has been face to face with death.”
“Doctor Scales,” said Aunt Sophia, with her hand tightening upon his arm – “shock to his nerves! He is not going to be like that patient of yours you spoke of the other day?”
The sun was up, and streaming in upon them where they stood in the plant-bedecked hall, and it seemed as if its light had sent a flash into the soul of John Scales, M.D., as he gazed sharply into his querist’s eyes and then shuddered. For in these moments he seemed to see the owner of that delightful English home, him who, but a few hours before, had been all that was perfect in manly vigour and mental strength, changed into a stricken, nerveless, helpless man, clinging to his wife in the extremity of his child-like dread.
For the time being he could not speak, then struggling against the spell that seemed to hold him fast, he cried angrily —
“No, no! Absurd, absurd! Only a few hours’ rest, and he’ll be himself.”
He hurried into the study, and hastily wrote his prescription, taking it out directly to where the groom was just unfastening the stable-doors.
“Ride over to the town, sir? Yes, sir. – But, beg pardon, sir – Sir James, sir? Is he all right?”
“Oh, getting over it nicely, my man. Be quick.”
“I’ll be off in five minutes, sir,” cried the groom; and within the specified time the horse’s hoofs were clattering over the stable-yard as the man rode off.
“Like my patient of whom I spoke!” said the doctor to himself. “Oh, it would be too horrible! Bah! What an idiot I am, thinking like that weak old lady there. What nonsense, to be sure!”
But as he re-entered the room softly, and saw the shrinking, horror-stricken look with which at the very slight sound he made his friend started up, he asked himself whether it was possible that such a terrible change could have taken place, and the more he tried to drive the thought away the stronger it seemed to grow, shadowing him like some black mental cloud till he hardly dared to meet the young wife’s questioning eyes, as she besought him silently to help her in this time of need.
Volume One – Chapter Thirteen.
After the Mishap
Such an accident could not occur without the news spreading pretty quickly; and in the course of the morning several of the neighbours drove over to make inquiries, the trouble having been so far magnified that, as it travelled in different directions, the number of drowned had varied from one to half-a-dozen; the most sensational report having it that the pleasure-boat had been sunk as well, and that men were busy at work trying to recover it up by the weir.
The groom had returned; the patient had partaken of his sedative draught and sunk into a heavy sleep, watched by his wife; while the doctor had gone to lie down for a few hours’ rest, for, as he said, the excitement was at an end, and all that was needful now was plenty of sleep. Arthur Prayle had betaken himself to the garden, where he read, moralised, and watched John Monnick, who in his turn dug, moralised, and watched the visitor from beneath his overhanging brows.
Aunt Sophia and Naomi were in the drawing-room reading and answering letters; the former doing the reading, the latter the answering from dictation; for there was a cessation from the visiting that had gone on all the morning.
“Now I do hope they will leave us at peace,” said Aunt Sophia. “Talk, talk, talk, and always in the same strain. I do hate country visiting-calls; and I will not have my correspondence get behind. – Now then, my dear, where were we?”
“East Boodle silver-lead mines,” said Naomi. “Ah, of course. Expect to pay a dividend of twelve and a half per cent?”
“Yes, aunt dear,” said the girl, referring to a prospectus.
“Humph! That’s very different from consols. I think I shall have some of those shares, Naomi.”
“Do you, aunt?”
“Do I, child? Why, of course. It’s like throwing money in the gutter, to be content with three per cent, when you can have twelve and a half. Write and tell Mr Saxby to buy me fifty shares.”
“Yes, aunt dear. But do you think it would be safe?”
“Safe, child? Yes, of course. You read what all those captains said – Captain Pengummon and Captain Trehum and Captain Polwhiddle.”
“But Mr Saxby said, aunt, that some of these Cornish mines were very risky speculations; don’t you remember?”
“No, my dear; I don’t. I wonder that I remember anything, after yesterday’s shock.”
“But I remember, aunt dear,” said the girl. “He said that if these mines would pay such enormous dividends, was it likely that the shares would go begging, and the owners be obliged to advertise to get them taken up.”
“Yes; and Captain Polwhiddle in his printed Report says that there is a lode of unexampled richness not yet tapped; though one would think the silver-lead was in a melted state, for them to have to tap it.”
“Yes, aunt dear; but Mr Saxby said that these people always have a bit of rich ore on purpose to make a show.”
“I don’t believe people would be so dishonest, my dear; and as for Mr Saxby – he’s a goose. No more courage or speculation in him than a frog. Not so much. A frog will travel about and investigate things; while Mr Saxby sits boxed up in his office all day long, and as soon as a good opportunity occurs, he spoils it. I might have made a large fortune by now, if it had not been for him. Write and tell him to buy me a hundred twenty-pound shares.”
The letter was written, read over by Aunt Sophia, in a very judicial manner, through her gold-rimmed eyeglass, approved, and had just been addressed and stamped, when there was the sound of wheels once more, and the servant shortly after announced Lady Martlett.
At the same moment the visitor and Doctor Scales entered the drawing-room from opposite doors, the latter feeling bright and refreshed by his nap; and Aunt Sophia and Naomi looked on wonderingly as Lady Martlett stopped short and the doctor smiled.
Her Ladyship was the first to recover herself, and walked towards Aunt Sophia with stately carriage and extended hand. “I have only just heard of the accident,” she said in a sweet rich voice. “My dear Miss Raleigh, I am indeed deeply grieved.” She bent forward and kissed Aunt Sophia, and then embraced Naomi, before drawing herself up in a stately statuesque manner, darting a quick flash of her fine eyes at the doctor and haughtily waiting to be introduced.
“It’s very kind of you, my dear Lady Martlett,” said Aunt Sophia – “very kind indeed; and I’m glad to say that, thanks to Doctor Scales here, my poor nephew has nearly recovered from the shock. – But I forgot; you have not been introduced. Lady Martlett; Doctor Scales.”
“Doctor Scales and I have had the pleasure of meeting before,” said Lady Martlett coldly.
“Yes,” said the doctor; “I had the pleasure of being of a little assistance to her Ladyship;” and as he spoke he took a sixpence out of his pocket, turned it over, advanced a step with the coin between his finger and thumb, as if about to hand it to its former owner; but instead of doing so, he replaced it in his pocket and smiled.
Lady Martlett apparently paid no heed to this movement, but bowed and turned to Aunt Sophia; while the doctor said to himself: “Now, that was very weak, and decidedly impertinent. I deserved a snub.”
“Doctor Scales and I met last week – the day before – really, I hardly recollect,” said Lady Martlett. “It was while I was out for a morning ride. He was polite enough to open a gate for me.”
“Oh, indeed!” said Aunt Sophia quietly; and she wondered why the visitor should be so impressive about so trifling a matter.
“And now, tell me all about the accident,” said Lady Martlett; “I am so fond of the water, and it seems so shocking for such an innocent amusement to be attended with so much risk.”
“I was always afraid of the water,” said Aunt Sophia; “and not without reason,” she added severely; “but against my own convictions I went.”
“But Sir James is in no danger?”
“O dear, no,” said the doctor quickly.
“I am glad of that,” said the visitor, without turning her head, and taking the announcement as if it had come from Aunt Sophia.
“Thanks to Doctor Scales’s bravery and able treatment,” said Aunt Sophia.
“Pray, spare me,” said the doctor, laughing. “I am so accustomed to blame, that I cannot bear praise.”
“I am not praising you,” said Aunt Sophia, “but telling the simple truth. – What do you say, Naomi?”
“I did not speak, aunt,” replied the girl.
“Tut! child; who said you did?” cried Aunt Sophia pettishly. “You know that the doctor saved your cousin’s life.”
“O yes, indeed,” cried Naomi, blushing, and looking up brightly and gratefully; and then shrinking and seeming conscious, as her eyes met those of their visitor gazing at her with an aspect mingled of contempt and anger – a look that made gentle, little, quiet Naomi retire as it were within herself, closing up her petals like some sensitive bud attacked by sun or rain.
The doctor saw it, and had his thoughts upon the matter, as, upon his threatening to beat a retreat, Aunt Sophia said: “Well, never mind; I can think what I please.”
“Think, then, by all means,” he said merrily. – “Flattery is hard to bear, Lady Martlett.”
“I am not accustomed to flattery,” said the visitor coldly, and she turned away her head.
“That is a fib,” said the doctor to himself, as he watched the handsome woman intently. “You are used to flattery – thick, slab, coarse flattery – to be told that you are extremely beautiful, and to receive adulation of the most abject kind. You are very rich, and people make themselves your slaves, till you think and look and move in that imperious way: and yet, some of these days, ma belle dame, you will be prostrate, and weak, and humble, and ready to implore Doctor somebody or another to restore you to health. Let’s see, though. I called you belle dame. Rather suggestive, when shortened and pronounced after the old English fashion. – Well, Miss Raleigh, of what are you thinking?” he said aloud, as he turned and found Naomi watching him; Lady Martlett having risen and walked with Aunt Sophia into the conservatory.
“I – I – ”
“Ah, ah!” said the doctor, laughing. “Come, confess; no evasions. You must always be frank with a medical man. Now then?”
“You would be angry with me if I were to tell you,” said Naomi.
“Indeed, no. Come, I’ll help you.”
“Oh, thank you – do,” cried the girl with a sigh of relief, which seemed to mean: “You will never guess.”
“You were thinking that I admired Lady Martlett.”
“Yes! How did you know?” cried the girl, starting.
“Diagnosed it, of course!” said the doctor, laughing. “Ah, you don’t know how easily we medical men read sensitive young faces like yours, and – Oh, here they come back.”
In effect, Lady Martlett and Aunt Sophia returned to the drawing-room, the former lady entirely ignoring the presence of the doctor till she left, which she did soon afterwards, leaving the kindest of messages for Lady Scarlett, all full of condolence, and quite accepting the apologies for her non-appearance. Then there was the warmest of partings, while the doctor stood back, wondering whether he was to be noticed or passed over, the latter seeming to be likely; when, just as she reached the door, Lady Martlett turned and bowed in the most distant way.
Then John Scales, M.D., stood alone in the drawing-room, listening to the voices in the hall as the door swung to.
“Humph!” he said to himself. “What a woman! She’s glorious! I like her pride and that cool haughty way of hers! And what a voice!
“No; it won’t do,” he muttered, after a short pause. “I’m not a marrying man – not likely to be a marrying man; and if I were, her Ladyship would say, with all reason upon her side: ‘The fellow must be mad! His insolence and assumption are not to be borne.’
“I wish I had not shown her the sixpence, she will think me quite contemptible.”
“Talking to yourself, doctor?” said Lady Scarlett, entering the room, looking very pale and anxious.
“Yes, Lady Scarlett; it is one of my bad habits. – How is my patient?”
“Sleeping pretty easily,” she said. “I came to ask you to come and look at him, though.”
“What’s the matter?” cried the doctor sharply; and he was half-way to the door as he spoke.
“Nothing, I hope,” exclaimed Lady Scarlett, trembling; “but he alarms me. I – I am afraid that I am quite unnerved.”
The doctor did not make any comment till he had been and examined the patient for a few minutes, Lady Scarlett hardly daring to breathe the while; then he turned to her with a satisfied nod: “Only the sedative. You are over-anxious, and must have some rest.”
This she refused to take, and the doctor had to give way.
Volume One – Chapter Fourteen.
Mr Saxby Comes Down on Business
The next day and next, Sir James Scarlett seemed to be better. He was pale and suffering from the shock, speaking gravely to all about him, but evidently trying to make the visitors feel at their ease. He pressed them to stay; but the doctor had to get back to town; so had Prayle, though the latter acknowledged the fact with great reluctance; and it was arranged that they were to be driven over to the station together.
That morning at breakfast, however, a visitor was announced in the person of Mr Frederick Saxby.
“Saxby? What does he want?” said Scarlett. “Why, he must have come down from town this morning. Here, I’ll fetch him in.” He rose and left the room, and the doctor noted that his manner was a good deal changed.
“Unpleasant business, perhaps,” he thought: and then, as his eyes met Lady Scarlett’s: “She’s thinking the same.”
Just then Scarlett returned, ushering in a good-looking rather florid man of about thirty-five, over-dressed, and giving the impression, from his glossy coat to his dapper patent-leather boots, that he was something in the City.
“Saxby has come down on purpose to see you, aunt,” said Scarlett. “Trusted to our giving him some breakfast, so let’s go on, and you people can afterwards discuss news.”
Mr Saxby was extremely polite to all before he took his place, bowing deferentially to the ladies, most reverentially to Naomi, and apologetically to the gentlemen; though, as soon as the constraint caused by his coming in as he did had passed, he proved that he really was something in the City, displaying all the sharp dogmatic way of business men, the laying-down-the-law style of speech, and general belief that all the world’s inhabitants are fools – mere children in everything connected with business – always excepting the speaker, who seemed to assume a kind of hidden knowledge concerning all matters connected with sterling coin. He chatted a good deal upon subject that he assumed to be likely to interest his audience – how Egyptians were down, Turkish were up, and Hudson’s Bays were slashing, an expression likely to confuse an unversed personage, who might have taken Hudson’s Bays for some celebrated regiment of horse. He several times over tried to meet Aunt Sophia’s eyes; but that lady rigidly kept them upon her coffee-cup; and not only looked very stern and uncompromising, but gave vent to an occasional sniff, that made Mr Saxby start, as though he looked upon it as a kind of challenge to the fight to come.
Despite the disturbing influences of Aunt Sophia’s sniffs and the proximate presence of Naomi, by whom he was seated, and to whom, in spite of his assumption, he found himself utterly unable to say a dozen sensible words, Mr Frederick Saxby, of the Stock Exchange, managed to partake of a most excellent breakfast – such a meal, in fact, as made Dr Scales glance inquiringly at him, and ask himself questions respecting digestion and the state of his general health.
It was now, as the breakfast party separated, some to enter the conservatory, others to stroll round the garden, that Aunt Sophia met Mr Saxby’s eye, and nodding towards the drawing-room, said shortly: “Go in there! – Naomi, you can come too.”
Mr Saxby heard the first part of Aunt Sophia’s speech as if it were an adverse sentence, the latter part as if it were a reprieve; and after drawing back, to allow the ladies to pass, he found that he was expected to go first, and did so, feeling extremely uncomfortable, and as if Naomi must be criticising his back – a very unpleasant feeling, by the way, to a sensitive man, especially if he be one who is exceedingly particular about his personal appearance, and wonders whether his coat fits, and the aforesaid back has been properly brushed.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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