George Fenn.

The Rosery Folk

Naomi noted Mr Saxbys uneasiness, and she also became aware of the fact that Arthur Prayle strolled slowly off into the conservatory, where he became deeply interested in the flowers, taking off a dead leaf here and there, and picking up fallen petals, accidentally getting near the open window the while.

Now, Mr Saxby, said Aunt Sophia sharply, you have brought me down those shares?

Well, no, Miss Raleigh, he said, business-like now at once. I did not buy them because

You did not buy them?

No, maam. You see, shares of that kind

Pay twelve and fifteen per cent, and I only get a pitiful three.

Every year, maam, regularly. Shares like those you want me to buy generally promise fifteen, pay at the rate of ten on the first half-year

Well, ten per cent, then, cried Aunt Sophia.

Dont pay any dividend the second half-year, and the shares remain upon the buyers hands. No one will take them at any price.

Oh, this is all stuff and nonsense, Mr Saxby! cried Aunt Sophia angrily.

Not a bit of it, maam, cried the stockbroker firmly.

But I say it is! cried Aunt Sophia, with a stamp of her foot. I had set my mind upon having those shares.

And I had set my mind upon stopping you, maam. Thats why I got up at six oclock this morning and came down.

Mr Saxby!

No use for you to be cross maam. Fighting against my own interest in the present; but while I have your business to transact, maam, I wont see your little fortune frittered away.

Mr Saxby! exclaimed Aunt Sophia again.

I cant help it, maam; and of course you are perfectly at liberty to take your business elsewhere. I want to make all I can out of you by commission and brokerage, etcetera; but I never allow a client of mine to go headlong, and run himself, or herself, down a Cornish mine, without trying to skid the wheels.

You forget that you are addressing ladies, Mr Saxby.

Beg pardon; yes, said the stockbroker, trying hard to recall what he had said. Very sorry; but those are my principles, maam. Im twenty pounds out of pocket, Miss Raleigh, he continued, by not doing this bit of business of your aunts.

And I think it is a very great piece of presumption on your part, Mr Saxby. You need not address my niece, sir; she does not understand these matters at all. Am I to understand then, that you refuse to buy these shares for me?

Yes, maam, must distinctly. I wouldnt buy em for a client on any consideration.

Very well, sir; that will do, said Aunt Sophia shortly. Good-morning.

But, my dear madam

I said that will do, Mr Saxby, said Aunt Sophia stiffly. Good-morning.

Mr Saxbys lips moved, and he seemed to be trying to say something in his own defence, and he also turned towards Naomi, as if seeking for sympathy; but she only cast down her eyes.

Perhaps Mr Saxby would like to walk round the garden before he goes away, continued Aunt Sophia, looking at a statuette beneath a glass shade as she spoke.

He will find my nephew and the doctor there. Naomi, my dear, come with me.

Really madam began the stockbroker.

Of course you will charge your expenses for this visit to me, Mr Saxby, said Aunt Sophia coldly; and without another word she swept out of the room.

Well, if ever I Mr Saxby did not finish his sentence as he stood in the hall, but delivered a tremendous blow right into his hat, checking it in time to prevent injury to the glossy fabric; and then, sticking it sideways upon his head, and his hands beneath his coat-tails, he strolled out into the garden.

Ten minutes later, Aunt Sophia returned into the drawing-room, and as she did so, a tall dark figure rose from where it was bending over a book.

Bless the man! how you made me jump, cried Aunt Sophia.

I beg your pardon Im extremely sorry, Miss Raleigh, said Prayle softly. I was just looking through that little work.

Oh! said Aunt Sophia shortly.

By the way, Miss Raleigh I am sure you will excuse me.

Certainly, Mr Prayle, certainly, said Aunt Sophia, who evidently supposed that the speaker was about to leave the room.

Thank you, he said softly. I only wanted to observe that I am engaged a great deal in the City, and er it often falls to my lot er to be aware of good opportunities for making investments.

Indeed, said Aunt Sophia.

Yes; not always, but at times, continued Prayle. I thought I would name it to you, as you might perhaps feel disposed to take shares, say, in some object of philanthropic design. I find that these affairs generally pay good dividends, while the shareholders are perfectly safe.

Thank you, Mr Prayle, said Aunt Sophia shortly. I dont know that I have any money to invest.

Exactly so, exclaimed Prayle. Of course I did not for a moment suppose that for the present you would have; but still I thought I would name the matter to you. There is some difficulty in obtaining shares of this class. They are apportioned amongst a very few.

And do they pay a high percentage?

Very, very high. The shareholders have been known to divide as much as twenty per cent, amongst them.

Indeed, Mr Prayle.

Yes, madam, indeed, said the young man, as solemnly as if it had been some religious question.

That settles it then, said Aunt Sophia cheerfully.

My dear madam?

If they pay twenty per cent, the thing is not honest.

My dear madam, I am speaking of no special undertaking, said Prayle; only generally.

Special or general, said Aunt Sophia dogmatically, any undertaking that pays more than five per cent, is either exceptionally fortunate or exceptionally dishonest. Take my advice, Mr Prayle, and if ever you have any spare cash to invest, put it in consols. The interest is low, but it is sure, and whenever you want your money you can get it in an hour without waiting for settling days. There, as you are so soon going, I will say good-morning and good-bye.

She held out her hand, which was taken with a great show of respect, and then they parted.

The old girl is cunning, said Arthur Prayle to himself; but she will bite, and I shall land her yet.

Ugh! How I do hate that smooth, dark, unpleasant man! said Aunt Sophia, hurrying up to her bedroom. He always puts me in mind of a slimy snake.

Moved by this idea, Aunt Sophia carefully washed her hands in two different waters, and even went so far as to smell her right hand afterwards, in happy ignorance of the fact that snakes are not slimy, but have skins that are tolerably dry and clean. So she sniffed in an angry kind of way at the hand she washed, though its scent was only that of old brown Windsor soap, which had for the time being, in her prejudiced mind, become an odour symbolical of deceit and all that was base and bad.

Ah! she exclaimed, after another good rub, and another sniff; thats better now.

An hour later, the doctor, Prayle, and Mr Saxby had taken their leave, the last fully under the impression that he had lost a very excellent client.

Most pragmatical old lady, he said to the doctor.

Well, she has all the crotchets of an old maid, said Scales. Ought to have married thirty or forty years ago. I dont dislike her though.

Humph! I didnt, yesterday, Doctor Scales, said Saxby; to-day, Im afraid I do. How she could ever have had such a niece!

Prayle looked up quickly.

Ah, it does seem curious, said the doctor with a dry look of amusement on his countenance. Would it not be more correct to say, one wonders that the young lady could ever have had such an aunt?

Eh? Yes! Of course you are right, said Mr Saxby, nodding. Or, no! Oh, no! That wont do, you know. Impossible. I was right. Eh? No; I was not. Tut tut! how confusing these relationships are.

Mr Saxby discoursed upon stocks right through the journey up; and Mr Prayle either assumed to, or really did go to sleep, only awakening to take an effusive farewell of his companions at the terminus; while Saxby, to the doctors discomposure, took his arm, saying, Im going your way, and walked by his side, talking of the weather, till, turning suddenly, he said: I say: fair plays a jewel, doctor. Are we both eh? Miss Naomi?

What, I? thinking of her? My dear sir, no!

Thank you, doctor. First time Im ill, Ill come to you. Thats a load off my mind!

But really, Mr Saxby, you should have asked Mr Prayle that question.

Eh? What? You dont think so, do you?

I should be sorry to pass any judgment upon the matter, Mr Saxby, said the doctor quietly; and now we part. Good-day.

Prayle, eh? said Saxby. Well, I never thought of him, and Ah, shes about the nicest, simplest, and sweetest girl I ever saw! But, Prayle!

People wondered why the smartly dressed City man stopped short and removed his glossy hat to rub one ear.

Volume One Chapter Fifteen.
A Wifes Appeal

Two months of the life of John Scales passed away, during which he had three opportunities of gaining good additions to his practice, but in each case he set himself so thoroughly in apposition to the medical men with whom he was to be associated, that they one and all combined against him; and the heterodox professor of strange ideas of his own had the satisfaction of learning that his services would be dispensed with.

It doesnt matter, he said to himself. Im a deal happier as I am. Strange I havent heard from James Scarlett, by the way. Ill give him a look in at his chambers. That Rosery is a paradise of a place! I wonder how the Diana is that I met Lady Martlett. If I were an artist, I should go mad to paint her. As Im a doctor, he added reflectively, I should like her as a patient.

I shall be ready to believe in being influenced, if this sort of thing goes on, said the doctor, a couple of hours later, as he read a letter from Lady Scarlett, giving him a long and painful account of his friends state of health.

Had four different doctors down, read Scales. Hum ha, of course would have asked me to come too, but they refused to meet me. Ha! Im getting a nice character, somehow. Say they can do no more. Humph! Wonder at that. Growing moral, I suppose. Might have made a twelvemonths job of it. Humph! Cousin, Mr Arthur Prayle, been so kind. Given up everything to attend to dear Jamess affairs. I shouldnt like him to have anything to do with mine. Will I come down at once? James wishes it. Well, I suppose I must, poor old chap. Theyve been dosing him to death. Poor old boy! the shock of that drowning could hardly have kept up till now. The upshot of it was that the doctor ran down that afternoon.

Next morning, on entering the study, he found Lady Scarlett and Prayle seated at the table, the latter leaning towards his cousins wife, and apparently pointing to something, in a small clasped book, with the very sharply pointed pencil that he held in his hand.

Prayle started, and shifted his position quickly. Lady Scarlett did not move, beyond looking up at the doctor anxiously, as his stern face was turned towards her.

I beg your pardon, he said; I did not know that you were engaged.

Mr Prayle was explaining some business matters to me, said Lady Scarlett. Dont go away. You said you should like to talk to me this morning.

Yes, replied the doctor coldly; but the business will keep.

Oh no; I beg you will not go, said Lady Scarlett anxiously.

Perhaps I shall be de trop, said Prayle smoothly, and his voice and looks forbade the idea that they were in the slightest degree malicious.

Well, as my remarks are for Lady Scarlett alone, Mr Prayle, perhaps you would kindly give me half an hour.

Certainly, cried Prayle, with a great assumption of frankness. Lady Scarlett will tell me, perhaps, when she would like to go on with these accounts?

Oh, at any time, Arthur, said Lady Scarlett anxiously. Pray, do not think I am slighting them: but this seems of so much more importance now.

When and where you please, said Prayle softly. Dont study me. I have only my cousins interest at heart. He rose, smiling, and left the room; but the smile passed off Prayles countenance as the door closed; and he went out angry-looking and biting his lip, to walk up and down the garden, turning from time to time to the book he held in his hand.

The doctor was very quiet and grave, as he took the chair pointed to by Lady Scarlett; and as he gazed at her rather fixedly, his face seemed to harden.

I am very glad you have come, she said. James seems to be more restful and confident now you are here. He always thought so much of you.

We were such old companions: perhaps that is it.

Well, you have seen him again this morning. You said I was to give you time. Now, tell me what you think. You find him better?

I must be frank with you, Lady Scarlett, said the doctor. No; I do not.

And I was so hopeful! said the poor woman piteously.

It would be folly for me not to speak plainly I think cruelty. I find him worse.

Lady Scarlett let her head go down upon her hands, covering her face, and the doctor thought that she was weeping; but at the end of a minute she raised her head again, and looked at her visitor, dry-eyed and pale. Go on, she said in a voice full of suppressed pain.

I cannot, help telling you plainly what I think.

No; of course not. Pray, hide nothing from me.

Well, it seems to me, he continued, that in bringing him back as it were to life, I left part of my work undone.

O no! cried Lady Scarlett.

Yes: I brought back his body to life and activity, but I seem to have left behind much of his brain. That seems half dead. He is no longer the man he was.

No, sighed Lady Scarlett. What you say is true; but surely, she cried, you can cure him now.

The doctor remained silent and thoughtful for a few minutes. I think when I was down here at the time of the accident I told you at the table about a patient I was attending a gentleman suffering from a peculiar nervous ailment.

O yes, yes! cried Lady Scarlett. I remember. It seems to be burned into my brain, and Ive lain awake night after night, thinking it was almost prophetic.

Ive thought so too, said the doctor drily, though I never fancied that I was going to join the prophets.

But you cured your patient? cried Lady Scarlett anxiously.

No; I am sorry to say that my efforts, have been vain. It is one of my failures; and I think it would be a pity for me to take up poor Scarletts case.

But he wishes it I wish it.

You have quite ceased going to Sir Morton Laurent?

O yes. He did my husband no good; and the excitement of going up to town the train the carriage and the cab and then seeing the doctor, always upset him dreadfully. I am sure the visits did him a great deal of harm.

Perhaps so, in his nervous state. Maybe, under the circumstances, you were wise to give them up.

I am sure I was, responded Lady Scarlett.

And the local doctors?

He will not see them; he says they aggravate him with their stupid questions. And yet he must have medical advice.

How would it be if you took him abroad say to some one or other of the baths? There you would get change of air, scene, the tonic waters for him to drink, and medical attendance on the spot.

No, no; no, no; it is impossible! You shall judge for yourself, cried Lady Scarlett. He would never bear the change. You will find that he is only satisfied when he is here at home safe, he calls it, within the garden fence. He will not stir outside, and trembles even here at the slightest sound.

But surely we could hit upon some clever medical man who would be able to manage his case with skill, and in whom my poor friend would feel confidence.

Whom could I find? How could I find one? exclaimed Lady Scarlett. There is no one but you to whom I can appeal.

Is this truth, or acting? thought Scales. Why does she want me here?

I have thought it all out so carefully, continued Lady Scarlett. You see he is alarmed at the very idea of a doctor coming near him.

And yet you bring me here.

Yes; you are his old schoolfellow, and he will welcome you as a friend. The fact of your being a doctor will not trouble him.

I see, said Scales.

Then, while being constantly in his company, you can watch every change.

Nice treacherous plan, eh, Lady Scarlett! said the doctor, laughing.

Dont call it that, she said pitifully. It is for his good.

Yes, yes; of course of course. Its only giving him his powder in jam after all. But, tell me, if I agree to take his case in hand

Which you will? interrupted Lady Scarlett.

I dont know yet, he replied drily. But supposing I do: how often would you want me to come down here?

How often? echoed the lady, with her eyes dilating. I meant for you to come and live here until he is well.

Phee-ew! whistled the doctor, and he sat back in his chair thinking and biting his nails. What does she mean? he thought. Am I too hard upon her? Is my dislike prejudice, or am I justified in thinking her a woman as deceitful as she is bad? If I am right, I am wanted down here to help some one or other of her plans. I wont stop. Im sorry for poor Scarlett, and I might do him good, but

You have considered the matter, and you will stay, doctor, will you not? said Lady Scarlett sweetly.

No, madam; I do not think it would be fair to any of the parties concerned.

Doctor! she cried appealingly, oh, pray, dont say that. Forgive me if I speak plainly. Is it a question of money? If it is, pray, speak. Id give up half of what we have for my husband to be restored.

No, madam, said the doctor bluntly; it is not a question of money. Several things combine to make me decline this offer; principally, I find a want of confidence in undertaking so grave a responsibility.

Doctor! cried Lady Scarlett, rising and standing before him, with one hand resting upon the table, you are trying to deceive me.

Indeed, madam

You never liked me, doctor, from the hour I was engaged; you have never liked me since.

My dear Lady Scarlett!

Listen to me, doctor. A woman is never deceived upon such points as this; she as readily notes the fact when a man dislikes as when he admires her. It is one of the gifts of her sex.

I was not aware of it, said the doctor coldly, but I will take it that it is so.

I have never injured you, doctor.

Never, madam.

I have, for my dear husbands sake, always longed to be your friend; but be frank with me, doctor, as I am with you you never gave me a place in your esteem.

The doctor was silent.

I dont know why, continued Lady Scarlett, with tears in her eyes, for I have always tried to win you to my side; but you have repelled me. You have been friendly and spoken kindly; but there was always a something behind. Doctor, why is all this No; stop! Dont speak to me dont say a word. What are my poor troubles, or your likes and dislikes, in the face of this terrible calamity? You dislike me, Doctor Scales. I do not dislike you; for I believe you to be an honourable man. Let us sink all our differences. No, I beg I pray of you to stop here to give up everything else to the study of my poor husbands case. My only hope is in you.

As she made this appeal with an intensity of earnestness that was almost dramatic in its tone and action, the doctor imitated her movement and rose to his feet.

Lady Scarlett, he said coldly, you are excited now, and you have said several things that perhaps would have been as well left unsaid. I will not reply to them; for I agree with you that the question of Sir James Scarletts health and restoration is one that should sweep away all petty differences. I trust that I have always treated my poor friends wife with the greatest respect and deference, and that I always shall.

Yes, yes, replied Lady Scarlett sadly; deference and respect; and as she gazed at him, there was a pained and wistful look in her suffused eyes that seemed to make him hesitate for the moment; but as she added, rather bitterly that is all, the way to his heart, that was beginning to open a little, reclosed, and he said sternly:

No; I feel certain that it would be far better that I should not monopolise the treatment of my friends case, and that

Hush! exclaimed Lady Scarlett quickly, for the door opened, and the object of their conversation, looking thin, pale, and with a scared and anxious expression on his countenance, came quickly into the room.

Ah, Jack, here you are, then! he exclaimed. Ive been looking for you everywhere. Here, come and sit and talk to me.

All right, said the doctor, in his blunt way. What do you say to having out the ponies and giving me a drive?

Drive? a drive? repeated Scarlett uneasily. No, no. It is not fine enough.

Lovely, my dear fellow, as soon as you get outside.

No; not to-day, Jack. Dont ask me, said Scarlett excitedly, as his wife sat down and took up a piece of work. The ponies are too fresh. Theyve done nothing lately, and one of them has developed a frightfully vicious temper. I shall have to sell them.

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