Dr. Knox


Ellen Wood

First published in July 1873.

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Dr. Knox.

“MY DEAR ARNOLD,

“Come down to Lefford without delay if you can: I want to see you particularly. I am in a peck of trouble.

“Ever your friend,

“RICHARD TAMLYN.”

The above letter reached Dr. Knox in London one morning in April. He made it right with the authorities to whom he was subject, and reached Lefford the same afternoon.

Leaving his bag at the station, he went straight to Mr. Tamlyn’s house; every other person he met halting to shake hands with him. Entering the iron gates, he looked up at the windows, but saw no one. The sun shone on the pillared portico, the drawing-room blinds beside it were down. Dr. Knox crossed the flagged courtyard, and passed off to enter by the route most familiar to him, the surgery, trodden by him so often in the days not long gone by. Mr. Dockett stood behind the counter, compounding medicines, with his coat-cuffs and wristbands turned up.

“Well, I never!” exclaimed the young gentleman, dropping a bottle in his astonishment as he stared at Dr. Knox. “You are about the last person I should have expected to see, sir.”

By which remark the doctor found that Mr. Tamlyn had not taken his apprentice into his confidence. “Are you all well here?” he asked, shaking hands.

“All as jolly as circumstances will let us be,” said Mr. Dockett. “Young Bertie has taken a turn for the worse.”

“Has he? I am sorry to hear that. Is Mr. Tamlyn at home? If so, I’ll in and see him.”

“Oh, he’s at home,” was the answer. “He has hardly stirred out-of-doors for a week, and Shuttleworth says he’s done to death with the work.”

Going in as readily as though he had not left the house for a day, Dr. Knox found Mr. Tamlyn in the dining-room: the pretty room that looked to the garden and the fountain. He was sitting by the fire, his hand rumpling his grey hair: a sure sign that he was in some bother or tribulation. In the not quite four months that had passed since Dr. Knox left him, he had changed considerably: his hair was greyer, his face thinner.

“Is it you, Arnold? I am glad. I thought you’d come if you could.”

Dr. Knox drew a chair near the fire, and sat down. “Your letter gave me concern,” he said. “And what do you mean by talking about a peck of trouble?”

“A peck of trouble!” echoed Mr. Tamlyn. “I might have said a bushel. I might have said a ton. There’s trouble on all sides, Arnold.”

“Can I help you out of it in any way?”

“With some of it, I hope you can: it’s why I sent for you. But not with all: not with the worst. Bertie’s dying, Arnold.”

“I hope not!”

“As truly as that we are here talking to one another, I believe him to be literally dying,” repeated the surgeon, solemnly, his eyes filling and his voice quivering with pain. “He has dropped asleep, and Bessy sent me out of the room: my sighs wake him, she says. I can’t help sighing, Arnold: and sometimes the sigh ends with a groan, and I can’t help that.”

Dr. Knox didn’t see his way clear to making much answer just here.

“I’ve detected the change in him for a month past; in my inward heart I felt sure he could not live. Do you know what your father used to say, Arnold? He always said that if Bertie lived over his sixteenth or seventeenth year, he’d do; but the battle would be just about that time. Heaven knows, I attached no importance to the opinion: I have hardly thought of it: but he was right, you see. Bertie would be seventeen next July, if he were to live.”

“I’m sure I am very grieved to hear this—and to see your sorrow,” spoke Arnold.

“He is so changed!” resumed Mr. Tamlyn, in a low voice. “You remember how irritable he was, poor fellow?—well, all that has gone, and he is like an angel. So afraid of giving trouble; so humble and considerate to every one! It was this change that first alarmed me.”

“When did it come on?”

“Oh, weeks ago. Long before there was much change for the worse to be seen in him. Only this morning he held my hand, poor lad, and—and——” Mr. Tamlyn faltered, coughed, and then went on again more bravely. “He held my hand between his, Arnold, and said he thought God had forgiven him, and how happy it would all be when we met in heaven. For a long while now not a day has passed but he has asked us to forgive him for his wicked tempers—that’s his word for it, wicked—the servants, and all.”

“Is he in much pain?”

“Not much now. He has been in a great deal at times. But it made no difference, pain or no pain, to his sweetness of temper. He will lie resigned and quiet, the drops pouring down his face with the agony, never an impatient word escaping him. One day I heard him tell Bessy that angels were around him, helping him to bear it. We may be sure, Arnold, when so extraordinary a change as that takes place in the temperament, the close of life is not far off.”

“Very true—as an ordinary rule,” acquiesced Dr. Knox. “And now, how can I help you in this trouble?”

“In this trouble?—not at all,” returned Mr. Tamlyn, rousing himself, and speaking energetically, as if he meant to put the thought behind him. “This trouble no earthly being can aid me in, Arnold; and I don’t think there’s any one but yourself I’d speak to of it: it lies too deep, you see; it wrings the soul. I could die of this trouble: I only fret at the other.”

“And what is the other?”

“Shuttleworth won’t stay.”

“Won’t he!”

“Shuttleworth says the kind of practice is not what he has been accustomed to, and the work’s too hard, and he does not care how soon he leaves it. And yet Dockett has come on surprisingly, and takes his share now. The fact is, Arnold, Shuttleworth is just as lazy as he can hang together: he’d like to treat a dozen rose-water patients a-day, and go through life easily. My belief is, he means to do it.”

“But that will scarcely bring grist to his mill, will it?” cried Dr. Knox.

“His mill doesn’t want grist; there’s the worst of it,” said Tamlyn. “The man was not badly off when he came here: but since then his only brother must go and die, and Shuttleworth has come into all his money. A thousand a-year, if it’s a penny.”

“Then, I certainly don’t wonder at his wanting to give up the practice,” returned the doctor, with a smile.

“That’s not all,” grumbled old Tamlyn. “He wants to take away Bessy.”

“To take away Bessy!”

“The two have determined to make themselves into one, I believe. Bessy only hesitated because of leaving poor Bertie. That impediment will not be in her way long.”

He sighed as he spoke. Dr. Knox did not yet see what he was wanted for: and asked again.

“I’ve been leading up to it,” said Mr. Tamlyn. “You must come back to me, Arnold.”

“On the same terms as before?” inquired the doctor, after a pause.

“Nonsense. You’d say ‘No,’ off-hand, if I proposed them. In Shuttleworth’s place.”

“Of course, Mr. Tamlyn, I could not come—I would not come unless it were made worth my while. If it were, I should like it of all things.”

“Yes, just so; that’s what I mean. Don’t you like your post in London?”

“I like it very well, indeed. And I have had no doubt that it will lead to something better. But, if I saw a fair prospect before me here, I should prefer to come back to Lefford.”

That shall be made fair enough. Things have changed with me, Arnold: and I shouldn’t wonder but you will some time, perhaps not very far distant, have all my practice in your own hands. I feel to be getting old: spirits and health are alike broken.”

“Nay, not old yet, Mr. Tamlyn. You may wait a good twenty years for that.”

“Well, well, we’ll talk further at another interview. My mind’s at rest now, and that’s a great thing. If you had refused, Arnold, I should have sold my practice for an old song, and gone clean away: I never could have stood being associated with another stranger. You are going up home, I conclude. Will you come in this evening?”

“Very well,” said Dr. Knox, rising. “Can I go up and see Bertie?”

“Not now; I’d not have him awakened for the world; and I assure you the turning of a straw seems to do it. You shall see him this evening: he is always awake and restless then.”

Calling for his bag at the station, Dr. Knox went on to Rose Villa. They were at tea. The children rose up with a shout: his step-mother looked as though she could not believe her eyesight.

“Why, Arnold! Have you come home to stay?”

“Only for a day or two,” he answered. “I thought I should surprise you, but I had not time to write.”

Shaking hands with her, kissing the children, he turned to some one else, who was seated at the tea-table and had not stirred. His hand was already out, when she turned her head, and he drew back his hand and himself together.

“Miss Mack, my new governess,” spoke Mrs. Knox.

“I beg your pardon,” said Dr. Knox to Miss Mack, who turned out to be a young person in green, with stout legs and slippers down at heel. “I thought it was Miss Carey,” he added to his step-mother. “Where is Miss Carey?”

Which of the company, Miss Mack excepted, talked the fastest, and which the loudest, could not have been decided though a thousand-pound wager rested on it. It was a dreadful tale to tell. Janet Carey had turned out to be a thief; Janet Carey had gone out of her mind nearly with fever and fear when she knew she was to be taken to prison and tried: tried for stealing the money; and Janet’s aunt had come down and carried her away out of the reach of the policemen. Dr. Knox gazed and listened, and felt his blood turning cold with righteous horror.

“Be silent,” he sternly said. “There must have been some strange mistake. Miss Carey was good and upright as the day.”

“She stole my fifty pounds,” said Mrs. Knox.

What?

“She stole my fifty-pound note. It was the one you sent me, Arnold.”

His face reddened a little. “That note? Well, I do not know the circumstances that led you to accuse Miss Carey; but I know they were mistaken ones. I will answer for Janet Carey with my life.”

“She took that note; it could not have gone in any other manner,” steadily persisted Mrs. Knox. “You’ll say so yourself, Arnold, when you know all. The commotion it has caused in the place, and the worry it has caused me are beyond everything. Every day some tradesman or other comes here to ask whether the money has been replaced—for of course they know I can’t pay them under such a loss, until it is; and I must say they have behaved very well. I never liked Janet Carey. Deceitful minx!”

With so many talking together, Dr. Knox did not gather a very clear account of the details. Mrs. Knox mixed up surmises with facts in a manner to render the whole incomprehensible. He said no more then. Later, Mrs. Knox saw that he was preparing to go out. She resented it.

“I think, Arnold, you might have passed this one evening at home: I want to have a talk with you about money matters. What I am to do is more than I know, unless Janet Carey or her friends can be made to return the money.”

“I am going down to Tamlyn’s, to see Bertie.”

Dr. Knox let himself out at the street-door, and was walking down the garden-path, when he found somebody come flying past. It was Sally the housemaid, on her way to open the gate for him. Such an act of attention was unusual and quite unnecessary; the doctor thanked her, but told her she need not have taken the trouble.

“I—I thought I’d like to ask you, sir, how that—that poor Miss Carey is,” said Sally, in a whisper, as she held the gate back, and her breath was so short as to hinder her words. “It was London she was took to, sir; and, as you live in the same town, I’ve wondered whether you might not have come across her.”

“London is a large place,” observed Dr. Knox. “I did not even know Miss Carey was there.”

“It was a dreadful thing, sir, poor young lady. Everybody so harsh, too, over it. And I—I—I can’t believe but she was innocent.”

“It is simply an insult on Miss Carey to suppose otherwise,” said Dr. Knox. “Are you well, Sally? What’s the matter with your breath?”

“Oh, it’s nothing but a stitch that takes me, thank you, sir,” returned Sally, as she shut the gate after him and flew back again.

But Dr. Knox saw it was no “stitch” that had stopped Sally’s breath and checked her utterance, but genuine agitation. It set him thinking.

* * * * *

No longer any sitting up for poor Bertie Tamlyn in this world! It was about eight o’clock when Dr. Knox entered the sick-chamber. Bertie lay in bed; his arms thrown outside the counterpane beside him, as though they were too warm. The fire gave out its heat; two lamps were burning, one on the mantelpiece, one on the drawers at the far end of the room. Bertie had always liked a great deal of light, and he liked it still. Miss Tamlyn met Dr. Knox at the door, and silently shook hands with him.

Bertie’s wide-open eyes turned to look, and the doctor approached the bed; but he halted for one imperceptible moment in his course. When Mr. Tamlyn had said Bertie was dying, Arnold Knox had assumed it to mean, not that he was actually dying at that present time, but that he would not recover! But as he gazed at Bertie now in the bright light, he saw something in the face that his experienced medical eye could not mistake.

He took the wasted, fevered hand in his, and laid his soothing fingers on the damp brow. Miss Tamlyn went away for a minute’s respite from the sick-room.

“Bertie, my boy!”

“Why didn’t you come before, Arnold?” was the low, weak answer; and the breath was laboured and the voice down nowhere. “I have wanted you. Aunt Bessy would not write; and papa thought you would not care to come down from London, just for me.”

“But I would, Bertie—had I known you were as ill as this.”

Bertie’s hands were restless. The white quilt had knots in it as big as peas, and he was picking at them. Dr. Knox sat down by the low bed.

“Do you think I am dying?” suddenly asked Bertie.

It took the doctor by surprise. One does not always know how to answer such home questions.

“I’ll tell you more about it when I’ve seen you by daylight, Bertie. Are you in any pain?”

“Not a bit now: that’s gone. But I’m weak, and I can’t stir about in bed, and—and—they all look at me so. This morning papa and Shuttleworth brought in Dr. Green. Any way, you must know that I shall not get to be as well as I used to be.”

“What with one ailment and another, with care, and pain, and sorrow, and wrong, it seems to me, Bertie, that very few of us are well for long together. There’s always something in this world: it is only when we go to the next that we can hope for rest and peace.”

Bertie lifted his restless hands and caught one of Dr. Knox’s between them. He had a yearning, imploring look that quite pained the doctor.

“I want you to forgive me, Arnold,” he said, the tears running down. “When I remember how wicked I was, my heart just faints with shame. Calling all of you hideous names!—returning bitter words for kind ones. When we are going to die the past comes back to us. Such a little while it seems to have been now, Arnold! Why, if I had endured ten times as much pain, it would be over now. You were all so gentle and patient with me, and I never cared what trouble I gave, or what ill words I returned. And now the time is gone! Arnold, I want you to forgive me.”

“My dear boy, there’s nothing to forgive. If you think there is, why then I forgive you with all my heart.”

“Will God ever forgive me, do you think?”

“Oh, my boy, yes,” said the doctor, in a husky tone. “If we, poor sinful mortals, can forgive one another, how much more readily will He forgive—the good Father in heaven of us all!”

Bertie sighed. “It would have been so easy for me to have tried for a little patience! Instead of that, I took pleasure in being cross and obstinate and wicked! If the time would but come over again! Arnold, do you think we shall be able to do one another good in the next world?—or will the opportunity be lost with this?”

“Ah, Bertie, I cannot tell,” said Dr. Knox. “Sometimes I think that just because so few of us make use of our opportunities here, God will, perhaps, give us a chance once again. I have not been at very many death-beds yet, but of some of those the recollection of opportunities wasted has made the chief sting. It is only when life is closing that we see what we might have been, what we might have done.”

“Perhaps He’ll remember what my pain has been, Arnold, and how hard it was to bear. I was not like other boys. They can run, and climb, and leap, and ride on horseback, and do anything. When I’ve gone out, it has been in a hand-carriage, you know; and I’ve had to lie and lie on the sofa, and just look up at the blue sky, or on the street that tired me so: or else in bed, where it was worse, and always hot. I hope He will recollect how hard it was for me.”

“He saw how hard it was for you at the time, Bertie; saw it always.”

“And Jesus Christ forgave all who went to Him, you know, Arnold; every one; just for the asking.”

“Why, yes, of course He did. As He does now.”

Mr. Tamlyn came into the room presently: he had been out to a patient. Seeing that Bertie was half asleep, he and Dr. Knox stood talking together on the hearthrug.

“What’s that?” cried the surgeon, suddenly catching sight of the movement of the restless fingers picking at the counterpane.

Dr. Knox did not answer.

“A trick he always had,” said the surgeon, breaking the silence, and trying to make believe to cheat himself still. “The maids say he wears out all his quilts.”

Bertie opened his eyes. “Is that you, papa? Is tea over?”

“Why, yes, my boy; two or three hours ago,” said the father, going forward. “Why? Do you wish for some tea?”

“Oh, I—I thought Arnold would have liked some.”

He closed his eyes again directly. Dr. Knox took leave in silence, promising to be there again in the morning. As he was passing the dining-room downstairs, he saw Mr. Shuttleworth, who had just looked in. They shook hands, began to chat, and Dr. Knox sat down.

“I hear you do not like Lefford,” he said.

“I don’t dislike Lefford: it’s a pretty and healthy place,” was Mr. Shuttleworth’s answer. “What I dislike is my position in it as Tamlyn’s partner. The practice won’t do for me.”

“A doubt lay on my mind whether it would suit you when you came down to make the engagement,” said Dr. Knox. “Parish work is not to every one’s taste. And there’s a great deal of practice besides. But the returns from that must be good.”

“I wouldn’t stay in it if it were worth a million a-year,” cried Mr. Shuttleworth. “Dockett takes the parish; I make him; but he is not up to much yet, and of course I feel that I am responsible. As to the town practice, why, I assure you nearly all of it has lain on me. Tamlyn, poor fellow, can think of nothing but his boy.”

“He will not have him here long to think of, I fear.”

“Not very long; no. I hear, doctor, he is going to offer a partnership to you.”

“He has said something about it. I shall take it, if he does. Lefford is my native place, and I would rather live here than anywhere. Besides, I don’t mind work,” he added, with a smile.

“Ah, you are younger than I am. But I’d advise you, as I have advised Tamlyn, to give up the parish. For goodness’ sake do, Knox. Tamlyn says that at one time he had not much else but the parish, but it’s different now. Your father had all the better practice then.”

“Shall you set up elsewhere?”

“Not at present,” said Mr. Shuttleworth. “We—I—perhaps you have heard, though—that I and Bessy are going to make a match of it? We shall travel for a few months, or so, and then come home and pitch our tent in some pleasant sea-side place. If a little easy practice drops in to me there, well and good: if not, we can do without it. Stay and smoke a cigar with me?”

Arnold looked at his watch, and sat down again. He wanted to ask Mr. Shuttleworth about Miss Carey’s illness.

“The cause of her illness was the loss of that bank-note,” said the surgeon. “They accused her of stealing it, and wanted to give her into custody. A little more, and she’d have had brain-fever. She was a timid, inexperienced girl, and the fright gave her system a shock.”

“Miss Carey would no more steal a bank-note than you or I would steal one, Shuttleworth.”

“Not she. I told Mrs. Knox so: but she scoffed at me.”

“That Miss Carey is innocent as the day, that she is an upright, gentle, Christian girl, I will stake my life upon,” said Dr. Knox. “How the note can have gone is another matter.”

“Are you at all interested in finding it out?” questioned Mr. Shuttleworth.

“Certainly I am. Every one ought to be, I think.”

The surgeon took his cigar from his mouth. “I’ll tell you my opinion, if you care to know it,” he said. “The note was burnt.”

“Burnt!”

“Well, it is the most likely solution of the matter that I can come to. Either burnt, or else was blown away.”

“But why do you say this?” questioned Dr. Knox.

“It was a particularly windy day. The glass-doors of the room were left open while the house ran about in a fright, attending to the child, young Dick. A flimsy bit of bank-paper, lying on the table, would get blown about like a feather in a gale. Whether it got into the fire, caught by the current of the chimney, or whether it sailed out-of-doors and disappeared in the air, is a question I can’t undertake to solve. Rely upon it, Knox, it was one of the two: and I should bet upon the fire.”

It was just the clue Dr. Knox had been wishing for. But he did not think the whole fault lay with the wind: he had another idea.

* * * * *

Lefford had a shock in the morning. Bertie Tamlyn was dead. The news came to Dr. Knox in a note from Mr. Tamlyn, which was delivered whilst he was dressing. “You will stay for the funeral, Arnold,” were the concluding words. And as Dr. Knox wanted to be at home a little longer on his own account, he wrote to London to say that business was temporarily detaining him. He then went to see what he could do for Mr. Tamlyn, and got back to Rose Villa for dinner.

Watching for an opportunity—which did not occur until late in the afternoon—Dr. Knox startled the servants by walking into the kitchen, and sitting down. Mrs. Knox had gone off in the pony-chaise; the children were out with the new governess. The kitchen and the servants were alike smartened-up for the rest of the day. Eliza, the cook, was making a new pudding-cloth; Sally was ironing.

“I wish to ask you both a few questions,” said Dr. Knox, taking out his note-book and pencil. “It is not possible that Miss Carey can be allowed to lie under the disgraceful accusation that was brought against her, and I am about to try and discover what became of the bank-note. Mrs. Knox was not in the house at the time, and therefore cannot give me the details.”

Eliza, who had risen and stood, work in hand, simply stared at the doctor in surprise. Sally dropped her iron on the blanket.

We didn’t take the note, sir,” said Eliza, after a pause. “We’d not do such a thing.”

“I’m sure I didn’t; I’d burn my hands off first,” broke in Sally, with a burst of tears.

“Of course you would not,” returned Dr. Knox in a pleasant tone. “The children would not. Mrs. Knox would not. But as the note undoubtedly disappeared, and without hands, we must try and discover where the mystery lies and how it went. I dare say you would like Miss Carey to be cleared.”

“Miss Carey was a downright nice young lady,” pronounced the cook. “Quite another sort from this one we’ve got now.”

“Well, give me all the particulars as correctly as you can remember,” said the doctor. “We may get some notion or other out of them.”

Eliza plunged into the narration. She was fond of talking. Sally stood over her ironing, sniffing and sighing. Dr. Knox listened.

“Mrs. Knox left the note on the table—which was much strewed with papers—when she went out with Lady Jenkins, and Miss Carey took her place at the accounts,” repeated Dr. Knox, summing up the profuse history in a few concise words. “While——”

“And Miss Carey declared, sir, that she never saw the note; never noticed it lying there at all,” came Eliza’s interruption.

“Yes, just so. While Miss Carey was at the table, the alarm came that Master Dick had fallen out of the tree, and she ran to him——”

“And a fine fright that fall put us into, sir! We thought he was dead. Jim went galloping off for the doctor, and me and Sally and Miss Carey stayed bathing his head on that there very ironing-board, a-trying to find out what the damage was.”

“And the children: where were they?”

“All round us here in the kitchen, sir, sobbing and staring.”

“Meanwhile the garden-room was deserted. No one went into it, as far as you know.”

“Nobody at all, sir. When Sally ran in to look at the fire, she found it had gone clean out. The doctor had been there then, and Master Richard was in bed. A fine pickle Sally found the room in, with the scraps of paper, and that, blown about the floor. The glass-doors was standing stark staring open to the wind.”

“And, I presume, you gathered up some of these scraps of paper, and lighted the fire with them, Sally?”

Dr. Knox did not appear to look at Sally as he spoke, but he saw and noted every movement. He saw that her hand shook so that she could scarcely hold the iron.

“Has it never struck you, Sally, that you might have put the bank-note into the grate with these scraps of paper, and burnt it?” he continued. “Innocently, of course. That is how I think the note must have disappeared. Had the wind taken it into the garden, it would most probably have been found.”

Sally flung her apron over her face and herself on to a chair, and burst into a howl. Eliza looked at her.

“If you think there is a probability that this was the case, Sally, you must say so,” continued Dr. Knox. “You will never be blamed, except for not having spoken.”

“’Twas only yesterday I asked Sally whether she didn’t think this was the way it might have been,” said the cook in a low tone to Dr. Knox. “She have seemed so put out, sir, for a week past.”

“I vow to goodness that I never knew I did it,” sobbed Sally. “All the while the bother was about, and Miss Carey, poor young lady, was off her head, it never once struck me. What Eliza and me thought was, that some tramps must have come round the side of the house and got in at the open glass-doors, and stole it. The night after Miss Carey left with her aunt, I was thinking about her as I lay in bed, and wondering whether the mistress would send the police after her or not, when all of a sudden the thought flashed across me that it might have gone into the fire with the other pieces of paper. Oh mercy, I wish I was somewhere!”

“What became of the ashes out of the grate?—the cinders?” asked Dr. Knox.

“They’re all in the ash-place, sir, waiting till the garden’s ready for them,” sobbed Sally.

* * * * *

With as little delay as possible, Dr. Knox had the cinders carefully sifted and examined, when the traces of what had once undoubtedly been a bank-note were discovered. The greater portion of the note had been reduced to tinder, but a small part of it remained, enough to show what it had been, and—by singular good fortune—its number. It must have fallen out of the grate partly consumed, while the fire was lighting up, and been swept underneath by Sally with other remnants, where it had lain quietly until morning and been taken away with the ashes.

The traces gathered carefully into a small box and sealed up, Dr. Knox went into the presence of his step-mother.

“I think,” he said, just showing the box as it lay in his hand, “that this proof will be accepted by the Bank of England; in that case they will make good the money to me. One question, mother, I wish to ask you: how could you possibly suspect Miss Carey?”

“There was no one else for me to suspect,” replied Mrs. Knox in fretful tones; for she did not at all like this turn in the affair.

“Did you really suspect her?”

“Why, of course I did. How can you ask such foolish questions?”

“It was a great mistake in any case to take it up as you did. I am not alluding to the suspicion now; but to your harsh and cruel treatment.”

“Just mind your own business, Arnold. It’s nothing to you.”

“For my own part, I regard it as a matter that we must ever look back upon with shame.”

“There, that’s enough,” said Mrs. Knox. “The thing is done with, and it cannot be recalled. Janet Carey won’t die of it.”

Dr. Knox went about Lefford with the box in his hand, making things right. He called in at the police-station; he caused a minute account to be put in the Lefford News; he related the details to his private friends. Not once did he allude to Janet Carey, or mention her name: it was as though he would proudly ignore the stigma cast on her and assume that the world did the same. The world did: but it gave some hard words to Mrs. Knox.

Mr. Tamlyn had not much sympathy for wonders of any kind just then. Poor Bertie, lying cold and still in the chamber above, took up all his thoughts and his grief. Arnold spent a good deal of time with him, and took his round of patients.

It was the night before the funeral, and they were sitting together at twilight in the dining-room. Dr. Knox was looking through the large window at the fountain in the middle of the grass-plat: Mr. Tamlyn had his face buried; he had not looked up for the last half-hour.

“When is the very earliest time that you can come, Arnold?” he began abruptly.

“As soon as ever they will release me in London. Perhaps that will be in a month; perhaps not until the end of June, when the six months will be up.”

Mr. Tamlyn groaned. “I want you at once, Arnold. You are all I have now.”

“Shuttleworth must stay until I come.”

“Shuttleworth’s not you. You must live with me, Arnold?”

“Live with you?”

“Why, of course you must. What am I to do in this large house by myself now he is gone? Bessy will be gone too. I couldn’t stand it.”

“It would be much more convenient for me to be here, as far as the practice is concerned,” remarked Dr. Knox, after reflection.

“And more sociable. Do you never think of marriage, Arnold?”

Dr. Knox turned a little red. “It has been of no use for me to think of it hitherto, you know, sir.”

“I wish you would. Some nice, steady girl, who would make things pleasant here for us in Bessy’s place. There’s room for a wife as well as for you, Arnold. Think of these empty rooms: no one but you and me in them! And you know people like a married medical man better than a single one.”

The doctor opened his lips to speak, but his courage failed him; he would leave it to the last thing before he left on the morrow, or else write from London. Tamlyn mistook his silence.

“You’ll be well enough off to keep two wives, if the law allowed it, let alone one. From the day you join me, Arnold, half the profits shall be yours—I’ll have the deed made out—and the whole practice at my death. I’ve no one to save for, now Bertie’s gone.”

“He is better off; he is in happiness,” said Dr. Knox, his voice a little husky.

“Ay. I try to let it console me. But I’ve no one but you now, Arnold. And I don’t suppose I shall forget you in my will. To confess the truth, turning you away to make room for Shuttleworth has lain on my conscience.”

When Arnold reached home that night, Mrs. Knox and her eldest daughter were alone; she reading, Mina dressing a doll. Lefford was a place that went in for propriety, and no one gave soirées while Bertie Tamlyn lay dead. Arnold told Mrs. Knox of the new arrangement.

“Good gracious!” she exclaimed. “Coming back to Lefford! Well, I shall be glad to have you at home again,” she added, thinking of the household bills.

“Mr. Tamlyn proposes that I shall live with him,” said Dr. Knox.

“But you will never be so stupid as to do that!”

“I have promised to do it. It will be much more convenient.”

Mrs. Knox looked sullen, and bit her lips. “How large a share are you to have?”

“I go in as full partner.”

“Oh, I am so glad!” cried out Miss Mina—for they all liked their good-natured brother. “Arnold, perhaps you’ll go and get married now!”

“Perhaps I may,” he answered.

Mrs. Knox dropped her book in the sudden fright. If Arnold married, he might want his house—and turn her out of it! He read the fear in her face.

“We may make some arrangement,” said he quietly. “You shall still occupy it and pay me a small nominal rent—five pounds a-year, say—which I shall probably return in toys for the children.”

The thought of his marriage had always lain upon her with a dread. “Who is the lady?” she asked.

“The lady? Oh, I can’t tell you, I’m sure. I have not asked any one yet.”

“Is that all!”

“Quite all—at present.”

“I think,” said Mrs. Knox slowly, as if deliberating the point with herself, and in the most affectionate of tones, “that you would be happier in a single life, Arnold. One never knows what a wife is till she’s tried.”

“Do you think so? Well, we must leave it to the future. What will be, will be.”


And now I am taking up the story for myself; I, Johnny Ludlow. Had I gone straight on with it after that last night of Janet’s sleep-walking at Miss Deveen’s, you would never have understood.

It was on the Saturday night that Janet was found out—as any one must remember who took the trouble to count up the nights and days. On the Sunday morning early, Miss Deveen’s doctor was sent for. Dr. Galliard happened to be out of town, so Mr. Black attended for him. Cattledon was like vinegar. She looked upon Janet’s proceedings as a regular scandal, and begged Miss Deveen’s pardon for having brought her niece into the house. Upon which she was requested not to be silly.

Miss Deveen told the whole tale of the lost bank-note, to me and to Helen and Anna Whitney: at least, as much as she knew of it herself. Janet was innocent as a child; she felt sure of that, she said, and much to be pitied; and that Mrs. Knox, of Lefford, seemed to be a most undesirable sort of person. To us it sounded like a romance, or a story out of a newspaper police-report.

Monday came in; a warm, bright April day. I was returning to Oxford in the evening—and why I had not returned in the past week, as ought to have been the case, there’s no space to tell here. Miss Deveen said we might go for a walk if we liked. But Helen and Anna did not seem to care about it; neither did I, to say the truth. A house with a marvel in it has attractions; and we would by far rather have gone upstairs to see Janet. Janet was better, quite composed, but weak, they said: she was up and dressed, and in Miss Deveen’s own blue-room.

“Well, do you mean to go out, or not, you young people?” asked Miss Deveen. “Dear me, here are visitors!”

George came in bringing a card. “Dr. Knox.”

“Why!—it must be some one from that woman at Lefford!” exclaimed Miss Deveen, in an undertone to me. “Oh no; I remember now, Johnny; Dr. Knox was the step-son; he was away, and had nothing to do with it. Show Dr. Knox in, George.”

A tall man in black, whom one might have taken anywhere for a doctor, with a grave, nice face, came in. He said his visit was to Miss Carey, as he took the chair George placed near his mistress. Just a few words, and then we knew the whole, and saw a small sealed-up box in his hand, which contained the remains of the bank-note.

“I am more glad than if you brought Janet a purse of gold!” cried Miss Deveen, her eyes sparkling with pleasure. “Not that I think any one could have doubted her, Dr. Knox—not even your step-mother, in her heart,—but it is satisfactory to have it cleared up. It has made Miss Carey very ill; but this will set her at rest.”

“Your servant told me Miss Carey was ill,” he said. “It was for her I asked.”

With a face of concern, he listened to what Miss Deveen had to say of the illness. When she spoke of Janet’s fright at seeing the policeman at the Colosseum, his brow went red and he bit his lips. Next came the sleep-walking: she told it all.

“Her brain and nerves must have been overstrained to an alarming degree,” he observed, after a short silence. “Mr. Shuttleworth, who attended her at the time, spoke to me of the shock to the system. But I hoped she had recovered.”

“She would never have recovered, Dr. Knox, as long as the dread lay upon her that she was to be criminally prosecuted: at least, that is my opinion,” said Miss Deveen. “I believe the chief thing that ails her is fright. Not a knock at the door, not the marching past the house of a policeman, not the sudden entrance of a servant into the room, but has brought to her a shock of agonizing fear. It is a mercy that she has escaped brain-fever. After all, she must possess a good constitution. The sight of that Lefford man at the Colosseum did great mischief.”

“It was unfortunate that he should happen to be there,” said Dr. Knox: “and that the man should have dared to accost her with his insolence! But I shall inquire into it.”

“What you have in that box will be the best medicine for her,” said Miss Deveen. “It will speedily effect a cure—or call me an untrue prophet. Dear me! how strangely things come out!”

“May I be allowed to see Miss Carey?” asked Dr. Knox. “And to—to tell her the story of her clearance in my own way?”

Miss Deveen made no reply. She looked at Dr. Knox, and seemed to hesitate.

“I think it may be better for Miss Carey that I should, madam. For more reasons than one.”

“And really I don’t see why you should not,” said Miss Deveen, heartily. “I hesitated because Mr. Black forbade the admission of strangers. But—perhaps you are not a stranger to her?”

“Oh dear, no: I and Miss Carey are old friends,” he answered, a curious smile lighting up his face. “And I should also wish to see her in my medical capacity.”

But the one to put in her word against this, was Cattledon. She came down looking green, and protesting in Miss Deveen’s ear that no male subject in her Majesty’s dominions, save and except Mr. Black, ought to be admitted to the blue-room. Janet had no full dress on; nothing but skirts and a shawl.

“Oh, nonsense!” cried Miss Deveen. “Why, Dr. Knox might have seen her had she been in bed: he is a physician.” And she took him up herself to the blue-room.

“Of all old maids that Cattledon’s the worst!” nodded Helen Whitney.

Miss Deveen went in alone, leaving him outside the door. Janet sat in an armchair by the fire, muffled in an old brown shawl of Cattledon’s.

“And how do you feel now, my dear?” said Miss Deveen, quietly. “Better, I see. And oh, I have such pleasant news for you: an old friend of yours has called to see you; and I think—I think—he will be able to cure you sooner than Mr. Black. It is Dr. Knox, my dear: not of Lefford now, you know: of London.”

She called the doctor in, and Janet’s pale cheeks took a tint of crimson. Janet’s face had never been big: but as he stood looking at her, her hand in his, he was shocked to see how small it had become. Miss Deveen shut the door upon them. She hoped with all her heart he was not going to spare that woman at Lefford.

“Janet, my dear,” he said in a fatherly kind of way as he drew a chair near her and kept her hand, “when that trouble happened at home, how was it you did not write to me?”

“Write to you! Oh, sir, I could not do such a thing,” answered Janet, beginning to tremble.

“But you might have known I should be your friend. You might also have known that I should have been able to clear you.”

“I did once think of writing to you, Dr. Knox: just to tell you that I had not indeed touched the bank-note,” faltered Janet. “As the money came from you, I should have liked to write so much. But I did not dare.”

“And you preferred to suffer all these weeks of pain, and the fright brought upon you by Mrs. Knox—for which,” said he deliberately, “I shall never forgive her—rather than drop me a few lines! You must never be so foolish again, Janet. I should have gone to Lefford at once and searched out the mystery of the note—and found it.”

Janet moved her lips and shook her head, as much as to say that he could never have done that.

“But I have done it,” said he. “I have been down to Lefford and found it all out, and have brought the bank-note up with me—what remains of it. Sally was the culprit.”

“Sally!” gasped Janet, going from red to white.

“Sally—but not intentionally. She lighted the fire that afternoon with the note and some more scraps. The note fell out, only partly burnt; and I am going to take it to the bank that they may exchange it for a whole one.”

“And—will—they?” panted Janet.

“Of course they will; it is in the regular course of business that they should,” affirmed Dr. Knox, deeming it best to be positive for her sake. “Now, Janet, if you are to tremble like this, I shall go away and send up Miss Cattledon—and she does not look as if she had a very amiable temper. Why, my dear child, you ought to be glad.”

“Oh, so I am, so I am!” she said, breaking into sobs. “And—and does every one in Lefford know that I was innocent?”

“No one in Lefford believed you guilty. Of course, it is all known, and in the newspapers too—how Sally lighted the fire with a fifty-pound bank-note, and the remains were fished out of the ashes.”

“Mrs. Knox—Mrs. Knox——” She could not go on for agitation.

“As to Mrs. Knox, I am not sure but we might prosecute her. Rely upon one thing, Janet: that she will not be very well welcomed at her beloved soirées for some long time to come.”

Janet looked at the fire and thought. Dr. Knox kept silence, that she might recover herself after the news.

“I shall get well now,” she said in a half-whisper. “I shall soon”—turning to him—“be able to take another situation. Do you think Mrs. Knox will give me a recommendation?”

“Yes, that she will—when it’s wanted,” said he, with a queer smile.

She sat in silence again, a tinge of colour in her face, and seeing fortunes in the fire. “Oh, the relief, the relief!” she murmured, slightly lifting her hands. “To feel that I may be at peace and fear nothing! I am very thankful to you, Dr. Knox, for all things.”

“Do you know what I think would do you good?” said Dr. Knox suddenly. “A drive. The day is so fine, the air so balmy: I am sure it would strengthen you. Will you go?”

“If you please, sir. I do feel stronger, since you told me this.”

He went down and spoke to Miss Deveen. She heartily agreed: anything that would benefit the poor girl, she said; and the carriage was coming round to the door, for she had been thinking of going out herself. Cattledon could not oppose them, for she had stepped over to the curate’s.

“Would you very much mind—would you pardon me if I asked to be allowed to accompany her alone?” said Dr. Knox, hurriedly to Miss Deveen, as Janet was coming downstairs on Lettice’s arm, dressed for the drive.

Miss Deveen was taken by surprise. He spoke as though he were flurried, and she saw the red look on his face.

“I can take care of her as perhaps no one else could,” he added with a smile. “And I—I want to ask her a question, Miss Deveen.”

“I—think—I—understand you,” she said, smiling back at him. “Well, you shall go. Miss Cattledon will talk of propriety, though, when she comes home, and be ready to snap us all up.”

And Cattledon was so. When she found Janet had been let go for a slow and easy drive, with no escort but Dr. Knox inside and the fat coachman on the box, she conjectured that Miss Deveen must have taken leave of her senses. Cattledon took up her station at the window to wait for their return, firing out words of temper every other second.

The air must have done Janet good. She came in from the carriage on Dr. Knox’s arm, her cheeks bright, her pretty eyes cast down, and looking quite another girl.

“Have you put your question, Dr. Knox?” asked Miss Deveen, meeting him in the hall, while Janet came on.

“Yes, and had it answered,” he said brightly. “Thank you, dear Miss Deveen; I see we have your sympathies.”

She just took his hand in hers and squeezed it. It was the first day she had seen him, but she liked his face.

Cattledon began upon Janet at once. If she felt well enough to start off on promiscuous drives, she must be well enough to see about a situation.

“I have been speaking to her of one, Miss Cattledon,” said Dr. Knox, catching the words as he came in. “I think she will accept it.”

“Where is it?” asked Cattledon.

“At Lefford.”

“She shall never go back to Rose Villa with my consent, sir. And I think you ought to know better than to propose it to her.”

“To Rose Villa! Certainly not: at least at present. Rose Villa will be hers, though; the only little settlement that can be made upon her.”

The words struck Cattledon silent. But she could see through a brick wall.

“Perhaps you want her, young man?”

“Yes, I do. I should have wanted her before this, but that I had no home to offer her. I have one now; and good prospects too. Janet has had it all explained to her. Perhaps you will allow me to explain it to you, Miss Cattledon.”

“I’m sure it’s more than Janet Carey could have expected,” said Cattledon, growing pacified as she listened. “She’s a poor thing. I hope she will make a good wife.”

“I will risk it, Miss Cattledon.”

“And she shall be married from my house,” struck in Miss Deveen. “Johnny, if you young Oxford blades can get here for it, I will have you all to the wedding.”

And we did get there for it: I, and Tod, and William Whitney, and saw the end, so far, of Janet Carey.

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