Janet Carey


Ellen Wood

First published in May 1873.

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The University of Adelaide Library
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Janet Carey.

1.

It was a summer’s evening, some two years or so previous to the events told of in the last chapter, and the sun was setting in clouds of crimson and gold. On the green lawn at the back of Rose Villa—a pretty detached house, about twenty minutes’ walk from the town of Lefford—sat a lady in a gay dress. She was dark and plain, with crinkled black hair, and a rough voice. A girl of twelve, fair, pretty, and not in the least like her, sat on the same bench. Three younger girls were scampering about at some noisy play; and a boy, the youngest of all, lay on the grass, whistling, and knotting a whip-cord. The sun’s slanting rays tinted all with a warm hue.

“Get up, Dicky,” said the lady to the boy.

Dicky, aged five, whistled on, without taking any notice.

“Did you hear mamma tell you to get up, Dicky?” spoke the fair girl by her mother’s side. “Get up, sir.”

“Shan’t,” said Dicky.

You go in for me, Mina,” said Mrs. Knox. “I want to know the time. Arnold took my watch into town this morning to have the spring mended.”

Mina seemed in no more hurry to obey than Dicky was. Just then a low pony-chaise, driven by a boy-groom, rattled out from the stable-yard at the side of the house. Mina looked across at it.

“It must be about a quarter-past eight,” she said. “You told James not to be later than that in going to the station.”

“You might go and see,” spoke Mrs. Knox: “James is not sure to be to time. How glad I shall be when that governess is here to take the trouble of you children off me!” she added, fretfully. Mina did not take the hint about going in: she made off to her sisters instead.

This house had once been a doctor’s residence. Soon after Thomas Knox, surgeon and apothecary, set up in practice at Lefford, now five-and-twenty years ago, he married Mary Arnold. Rose Villa was hers, and some money besides, and they came to live at it, Mr. Knox keeping on his surgery in Lefford. They had one son, who was named Arnold. When Arnold was ten years old, his mother died. A year later his father married a second wife, Miss Amelia Carey: after which these five other young ones came to town. Arnold was to be a doctor like his father. His studies were in progress, when one morning a letter came to him in London—where he was walking Bartholomew’s Hospital under that clever man, William Lawrence—saying that his father was alarmingly ill. Arnold reached Lefford just in time to see him die. The little one, Dicky, was a baby then in long-clothes. Arnold was only nineteen. No chance that he could set up in, and keep together the practice, which fell through. So he went back to London to study on, and pass, and what not; and by-and-by he came down again Dr. Knox: for he had followed the fashion just then getting common, of taking the M.D. degree. Arnold Knox had his share of good plain sense, and of earnestness too; but example is catching, and he only followed that of his fellow-students in going in thus early for the degree. He arrived at Lefford “Dr. Knox.” Mr. Tamlyn laughed at him, before his face and behind his back, asking him what experience he had had that he should hasten to tack on M.D. to his name: why, not more experience than a country apothecary’s apprentice. Arnold, feeling half ashamed of himself, for he was very modest, pleaded the new custom. Custom! returned old Tamlyn; in his days medical men had worked for their honours before taking them. Arnold engaged himself as assistant to Mr. Tamlyn, who had dropped into the best part of Dr. Knox’s practice since that gentleman’s death, in addition to his own.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Knox, the widow, had continued to live at Rose Villa. It belonged to Arnold, having descended to him in right of his mother. Mr. Knox had bequeathed by will five hundred pounds to Arnold for the completion of his studies; and all the rest of his money to his wife and second family. Lefford talked of it resentfully, saying it was an unjust will: for a good portion of the money had been Mary Arnold’s and ought to have gone to her son. It was about three hundred and fifty pounds a-year in all; and Mrs. Knox bewailed and bemoaned her hard fate at having to bring up her children upon so little. She was one of those who must spend; and her extravagance had kept her husband poor, in spite of his good practice.

Never a hint did she offer her step-son of paying him rent for his house; never a word of thanks did she tender for the use of it.

Arnold said nothing: he was thoroughly warm-hearted and generous, considering every one before himself, and he would not have hurt her feelings or cramped her pocket for the world. As long as he did not want the house, she and his half-sisters and brother were welcome to it. When he came back from London he naturally went to it; it was his home; and Mrs. Knox did not at all like the addition he made to her housekeeping expenses: which could not be very much amongst the nine others to provide for. The very day after Arnold’s bargain was made with Mr. Tamlyn, she asked him how much he was going to pay her for his board. Half his salary, Arnold promptly replied; seventy-five pounds a-year. And Mrs. Knox would have liked to say it was not enough.

“Seventy-five pounds a-year!” cackled Lefford, when it got hold of the news. “Why, it won’t cost her half that. And she using his house and enjoying all the money that was his poor mother’s! Well, she has a conscience, that Widow Knox!”

The arrangement had continued until now. Three years had elapsed since then, and Arnold was four-and-twenty. Mrs. Knox found herself often in money difficulties; when she would borrow from Arnold, and never think of repaying him. She was now going to increase expenses by taking a nursery-governess. Awfully tiresome those children were, and Mrs. Knox said they wore her out. She should have managed the little brats better: not indulged and neglected them by turns. One hour she’d let them run wild, the next hour was shrieking at them in words next door to swearing.

The governess engaged was a distant relative of her own, a Miss Janet Carey. She was an orphan, and had for a year or two been teacher in a boys’ preparatory school, limited to thirty pupils. Mrs. Knox wrote to offer her twelve pounds a-year and a “very comfortable home at Rose Villa; to be as one of the family.” It must have sounded tempting to Miss Carey after the thirty little boys, and she gratefully accepted it. Mrs. Knox had never seen her; she pictured to herself a tall, bony young woman with weak eyes, for that had been the portrait of her second cousin, Miss Carey’s father.

“Crack! crack! Tally-ho! tally-ho!” shouted Dicky, who had completed his whip, and got up to stamp and smack it. “Yo-ho! Tally-ho, tally-ho!”

“Oh, do for goodness’ sake be quiet, Dick!” screamed Mrs. Knox. “I can’t have that noise now: I told you I had a headache. Do you hear me, then! Mina, come and take away this horrible whip.”

Mina came running at the call. Master Dicky was so much given way to as a general rule, that to thwart him seemed to his sisters something delightful. Dicky dodged out of harm’s way amongst the shrubs; and Mina was about to go after him, when some one came through the open glass-doors of what was called the garden-room.

“Here’s Arnold,” she cried.

Dr. Knox was a tall, strongly built, fair man, looking older than his four-and-twenty years. Nobody could help liking his thin face, for it was a good face, full of sense and thought, but it was not a handsome one. His complexion was sallow, and his light hair had a habit of standing up wild.

“You are home betimes,” remarked Mrs. Knox.

“Yes; there was nothing more to do,” he answered, sitting down in a rustic garden-chair. “I met James in the pony-chaise: where’s he gone?”

“Why, Arnold, don’t you know that the governess is coming this evening?” cried the second girl, Lotty, who was fanning her hot face with a cabbage-leaf. “James has gone to the station for her.”

“I forgot all about the governess,” said Dr. Knox. “Lotty, what a heat you are in!”

“We have been running races,” said the child; “and the sun was blazing.”

Dicky came tearing up. Something had happened to the whip.

“Look at it, Arnold,” he said, throwing his arms and the whip on the doctor’s knees. “The lash won’t stay on.”

“And you want me to mend it, I suppose.”

“Yes. Do it now.”

“Is that the way to ask?”

“Please do it now, Arnold.”

“If I can. But I fear I can’t, Dicky.”

“No! You can mend arms and legs.”

“Sometimes. Have you a strip of leather? Or some twine?”

Dicky pulled a piece of string out of some unfathomable pocket. He was not promoted to trousers yet, but wore white drawers reaching to the knee and a purple velvet tunic. Dr. Knox took out his penknife.

“What’s the matter with that young Tamlyn again?” asked Mrs. Knox in a fretful tone.

“With Bertie?” returned Dr. Knox, rather carelessly, for he was intent on the whip. “It is one of the old attacks.”

“Of course! I knew it was nothing more,” spoke Mrs Knox in resentment. “There was to have been a party at Mrs. Green’s this evening. Just as I was ready to start for it, her footman came to say it was put off on account of Miss Tamlyn, who could not come because Master Albert was ill.”

“Miss Tamlyn would not leave Bertie when he is ill for all the parties in Christendom, mother.”

“Miss Tamlyn is welcome to stay with him. But that’s no reason why Mrs. Green should have put the rest of us off. Who’s Bessy Tamlyn, that she should be considered before every one?—stupid old maid!”

Mrs. Knox pushed up her lace sleeves in wrath, and jingled her bracelets. Evening parties made the solace of her life.

The wheels of the returning chaise were heard, and the children went rushing round to the front of the house to look at the new governess. They brought Janet Carey back to the lawn. Mrs. Knox saw a small, slight young girl with a quiet, nice face and very simple manners. Dr. Knox rose. Mrs. Knox did not rise. Expecting to see a kind of dark strong giantess, she was struck with astonishment and remained sitting.

“You are surely not Matthew Carey’s daughter?”

“Yes, madam, I am,” was the young lady’s answer, as a blush stole into the clear, meek face.

“Dear me! I should never have thought it. Mat Carey was as tall and big as a lamp-post. And—why!—you told me you were twenty-three!”

“I was twenty-three last March.”

“Well, I trust you will be found competent to manage my children. I had no idea you were so young-looking.”

The tone expressed a huge doubt of it. The ill-trained youngsters stood staring rudely into Miss Carey’s face. Dr. Knox, pushing some of them aside, held out his hand with a smile of welcome.

“I hope you will be able to feel at home here, Miss Carey,” he said: “the children must not be allowed to give you too much trouble. Have you had a pleasant journey?”

“Take Miss Carey to her room, Mina,” sharply struck in Mrs. Knox, not at all pleased that her step-son should presume to say so much: as if the house were his. And Mina, followed by the shy and shrinking young governess, went indoors and up to the roof, and showed her a little comfortless chamber there.

* * * * *

(But the reader must understand that in writing this paper, I, Johnny Ludlow, am at a disadvantage. Not having been present myself at Lefford, I can only relate at second hand what happened at Mrs. Knox’s.)

* * * * *

The time went on. Janet Carey proved herself equal to her work: although Mrs. Knox, judging by her young look and gentle manners, had been struck by a doubt of her capacity, and politely expressed it aloud. Janet’s duties were something like the labours of Hercules: at least, as varied. Teaching was only one of them. She helped to dress and undress the children, or did it entirely if Sally the housemaid forgot to attend; she kept all the wardrobes and mended the clothes and the socks. She had to be in all places at once. Helping Mrs. Knox in the parlour, taking messages to the kitchen, hearing the girls’ lessons, and rushing out to the field to see that Dicky was not worrying the pony or milking the cow on his own account. It was not an orderly household; two maids were kept and James. Mrs. Knox had no talent for management, and was frightfully lazy besides; and Janet, little foreseeing what additional labour she would bring on herself, took to remedy as far as she could the shortcomings and confusion. Mrs. Knox saw her value, and actually thanked her. As a reward, she made Janet her own attendant, her secretary, and partly her housekeeper. Mrs. Knox’s hair, coarse and stiff, was rather difficult hair to manage; in the morning it was let go anyhow, and Janet dressed it in the afternoon. Janet wrote Mrs. Knox’s letters; kept her accounts; paid the bills—paid them, that is, when she could get the money. Janet, you perceive, was made Jack-of-all-trades at Rose Villa. She was conscious that it was hardly fair, but she did it cheerfully; and, as Mrs. Knox would say, it was all in the day’s work.

The only one who showed consideration for Miss Carey was Dr. Knox. He lectured the children about giving her so much unnecessary trouble: he bribed Dicky with lozenges and liquorice from the surgery drawers not to kick or spit at her; and he was, himself, ever kind and considerate to her. They only met at dinner and tea, for Dr. Knox snatched a scrambling breakfast (the servants never got it ready for him in time), and went off betimes to Lefford. Now and then he would come home tolerably early in the evening, but he had a great deal to do, and it did not happen often. Mr. Tamlyn was the parish doctor, and it gave Dr. Knox an incessant round of tramping: for the less pleasant division of the daily professional work was turned over to him.

They got to have a fellow-feeling for one another—Janet and Dr. Knox—a kind of mutual, inward sympathy. Both of them were overworked; in the lot of each was less of comfort than might have been. Dr. Knox compassionated Janet’s hard place and the want of poetry in her life. Janet felt hurt to see him made so little of at home, and she knew about the house being his property, and the seventy-five pounds a-year he paid for the liberty of living in it,—and she knew that most of the income enjoyed by Mrs. Knox ought to have been Arnold’s income. His breakfast was scanty; a cup of coffee, taken standing, and some bread-and-butter, hurriedly eaten. Or he would be off by cockcrow without chance of breakfast, unless he cut a slice of bread in the pantry: or perhaps would have to be out all night. Sometimes he would get home to dinner; one o’clock; more often it was two o-clock, or half-past, or three. In that case, Sally would bring in a plate of half-cold scraps for him—anything that happened to be left. Once, when Janet was carving a leg of mutton, she asked leave to cut off a slice or two that they might be kept warm for the doctor; but Mrs. Knox blew her up—a fine trouble that would be! As to tea, the chances were, if he came in to it at all, that the teapot would be drained: upon which, some lukewarm water would be dashed in, and the loaf and butter put before him. Dr. Knox took it all quietly: perhaps he saw how useless complaint would be.

Mr. Tamlyn’s was a large, handsome, red-brick house, standing in a beautiful garden, in the best and widest street of Lefford. The surgery, built on the side of the house, consisted of two rooms: one containing the drugs and the scales, and so on; the other where the better class of patients waited. Mr. Tamlyn’s wife was dead, and he had one son, who was a cripple. Poor Bertie was thrown down by his nurse when he was a child; he had hardly ever been out of pain since; sometimes the attacks were very bad. It made him more cross and fractious than a stranger would believe; rude, in fact, and self-willed. Mr. Tamlyn just worshipped Bertie. He only lived to one end—that of making money for Bertie, after he, himself, should be gone. Miss Bessy, Mr. Tamlyn’s half-sister, kept his house, and she was the only one who tried to keep down Bertie’s temper. Lefford thought it odd that Mr. Tamlyn did not raise Dr. Knox’s salary: but it was known he wanted to put by what he could for Bertie.

The afternoon sun streamed full on the surgery-window, and Dr. Knox, who had just pelted back from dinner, stood behind the counter, making up bottles of physic. Mr. Tamlyn had an apprentice, a young fellow named Dockett, but he could not be trusted with the physic department yet, as he was apt to serve out calomel powder for camomile flowers. Of the three poor parish patients, waiting for their medicine, two sat and one stood, as there was not a third chair. The doctor spoke very kindly to them about their ailments; he always did that; but he did not seem well himself, and often put his hand to his throat and chest.

The physic and the parish patients done with, he went into the other room, and threw himself into the easy-chair. “I wonder what’s the matter with me?” he said to himself: and then he got up again, for Mr. Tamlyn was coming in. He was a short man with a grey face, and iron grey hair.

“Arnold,” said he, “I wish you’d take my round this afternoon. There are only three or four people who need be seen, and the carriage is at the door.”

“Is Bertie worse than usual?” asked Arnold; who knew that every impediment in Mr. Tamlyn’s way was caused by Bertie.

“He is in a great deal of pain. I really don’t care to leave him.”

“Oh, I’ll go with pleasure,” replied Arnold, passing into the surgery to get his hat.

Mr. Tamlyn walked with him across the flagged court to the gate, talking of the sick people he was going to see. Arnold got into the brougham and was driven away. When he returned, Mr. Tamlyn was upstairs in Bertie’s sitting-room. Arnold went there.

“Anything more come in?” he asked. “Or can the brougham be put up?”

“Dear me, yes; here’s a note from Mrs. Stephenson,” said Mr. Tamlyn, replying to the first question. And he spoke testily: for Mrs. Stephenson was a lady of seventy, who always insisted on his own attendance, objecting to Dr. Knox on the score of his youth. “Well, you must go for once, Arnold. If she grumbles, tell her I was out.”

On a sofa in the room lay Albert Tamlyn; a lad of sixteen with a fretful countenance and rumpled hair. Miss Tamlyn, a pleasant-looking lady of thirty-five, sat by the sofa at work. Arnold Knox went up to the boy, speaking with the utmost gentleness.

“Bertie, my boy, I am sorry you are in pain today.”

“Who said I was in pain?” retorted Bertie, ungraciously, his voice as squeaky as a penny trumpet.

“Why, Bertie, you know you are in great pain: it was I who told Dr. Knox so,” interposed the father.

“Then you had no business to tell him so,” shrieked Bertie, with a hideous grin of resentment. “What is it to him?—or to you?—or to anybody?”

“Oh, Bertie, Bertie!” whispered Miss Tamlyn. “Oh, my boy, you should not give way like this.”

“You just give your tongue a holiday, Aunt Bessy,” fired Bertie. “I can’t be bothered by you all in this way.”

Dr. Knox, looking down at him, saw something wrong in the position he was lying in. He stooped, lifted him quietly in his strong arms, and altered it.

“There, Bertie, you will be better now.”

“No, I’m not better, and why d’you interfere?” retorted Bertie in his temper, and burst out crying. It was weary work, waiting on that lad; the house had a daily benefit of it. He had always been given way to: his whims were studied, his tempers went unreproved, and no patience was taught him.

Dr. Knox drove to Mrs. Stephenson’s. He dismissed the carriage when he came out; for he had some patients to see on his own score amongst the poor, and went on to them. They were at tea at Mr. Tamlyn’s when he got back. He looked very ill, and sat down at once.

“Are you tired, Arnold?” asked the surgeon.

“Not very; but I feel out of sorts. My throat is rather painful.”

“What’s the matter with it?”

“Not much, I dare say. A little ulcerated perhaps.”

“I’ll have a look at it presently. Bessy, give Dr. Knox a cup of tea.”

“Thank you, I shall be glad of it,” interposed the doctor. It was not often he took a meal in the house, not liking to intrude on them. When he went up this evening he had thought tea was over.

“We are later than usual,” said Miss Tamlyn, in answer to some remark he made. “Bertie dropped asleep.”

Bertie was awake, and eating relays of bread-and-butter as he lay, speaking to no one. The handsome sitting-rooms downstairs were nearly deserted: Mr. Tamlyn could not bear even to take his meals away from Bertie.

It was growing dusk when Dr. Knox went home. Mr. Tamlyn told him to take a cooling draught and to go to bed early. Mrs. Knox was out for the evening. Janet Carey sat at the old piano in the schoolroom, singing songs to the children to keep them quiet. They were crowding round her, and no one saw him enter the room.

Janet happened to be singing the very song she sang later to us that night at Miss Deveen’s—“Blow, blow, thou wintry wind.” Although she had now been at Rose Villa nearly a twelvemonth, for early summer had come round again, Dr. Knox had never heard her sing. Mrs. Knox hated singing altogether, and especially despised Janet’s: it was only when Janet was alone with the children that she ventured on it, hoping to keep them still. Arnold Knox sat in utter silence; entranced; just as we were at Miss Deveen’s.

“You sing ‘I’ve been roaming,’ now,” called out Dicky, before the song was well over.

“No, not that thing,” dissented Mina. “Sing ‘Pray, Goody,’ Janet.” They had long since called her by her Christian name.

The whole five (the other three taking sides), not being able to agree, plunged at once into a hot dispute. Janet in vain tried to make peace by saying she would sing both songs, one after the other: they did not listen to her. In the midst of the noise, Sally looked in to say James had caught a magpie; and the lot scampered off.

Janet Carey heaved a sad sigh, and passed her hand over her weary brow. She had had a tiring day: there were times when she thought her duties would get beyond her. Rising to follow the rebellious flock, she caught sight of Dr. Knox, seated back in the wide old cane chair.

“Oh! I—I beg your pardon. I had no idea any one was here.”

He came forward smiling; Janet had sat down again in her surprise.

“And though I am here? Why should you beg my pardon, Miss Carey?”

“For singing before you. I did not know—I am very sorry.”

“Perhaps you fancy I don’t like singing?”

“Mine is such poor singing, sir. And the songs are so old. I can’t play: I often only play to them with one hand.”

“The singing is so poor—and the songs are so old, that I was going to ask of you—to beg of you—to sing one of them again for me.”

She stood glancing up at him with her nice eyes, as shy as could be, uncertain whether he was mocking her.

“Do you know, Miss Carey, that I never ask a young lady for a song now. I don’t care to hear the new songs, they are so poor and frivolous: the old ones are worth a king’s ransom. Won’t you oblige me?”

“What shall I sing?”

“The one you have just sung. ‘Blow, blow, thou wintry wind.’”

He drew a chair close, and listened; and seemed lost in thought when it was over. Janet could not conveniently get up without pushing the stool against him, and so sat in silence.

“My mother used to sing that song,” he said, looking up. “I can recall her every note as well as though I had heard her yesterday. ‘As friends remembering not’! Ay: it’s a harsh world—and it grows more harsh and selfish day by day. I don’t think it treats you any too well, Miss Carey.”

“Me, sir?”

“Who remembers you?”

“Not many people. But I have never had any friends to speak of.”

“Will you give me another song? The one I heard Mina ask you for—‘Pray, Goody.’ My mother used to sing that also.”

“I don’t know whether I must stay. The children will be getting into mischief.”

“Never mind the children. I’ll take the responsibility.”

Janet sang the song. Before it was finished the flock came in again. Dicky had tried to pull the magpie’s feathers out, so James had let it fly.

After this evening, it somehow happened that Dr. Knox often came home early, although his throat was well again. He liked to make Miss Carey sing; and to talk to her; and to linger in the garden with her and the children in the twilight. Mrs. Knox was rarely at home, and had no idea how sociable her step-son was becoming. Lefford and its neighbourhood followed the unfashionable custom of giving early soirées: tea at six, supper at nine, at home by eleven. James used to go for his mistress; on dark nights he took a lighted lantern. Mrs. Knox would arrive at home, her gown well pinned up, and innocent of any treasonable lingerings out-of-doors or in. It was beyond Janet’s power to get Mina and Lotty to bed one minute before they chose to go: though her orders from Mrs. Knox on the point were strict. As soon as their mother’s step was heard they would make a rush for the stairs. Janet had to follow them, as that formed part of her duty: and by the time Mrs. Knox was indoors, the rooms were free, and Arnold was shut up in his study with his medical books and a skeleton.

For any treason that met the eye or the ear, Mrs. Knox might have assisted at all the interviews. The children might have repeated every word said to one another by the doctor and Janet, and welcome. The talk was all legitimate: of their own individual, ordinary interests, perhaps; of their lost parents; their past lives; the present daily doings; or, as the Vicar of Wakefield has it, of pictures, taste, Shakespeare, and the musical glasses. Dr. Knox never said such a thing to her as, miss, I am in love with you; Janet was the essence of respectful shyness, and called him sir.

One evening something or other caused one of the soirées to break up midway, and Mrs. Knox came home by twilight in her pink gauze gown. Instead of ringing at the front-door, she came round the garden to the lawn, knowing quite well the elder children were not gone to bed, and would probably be in the garden-room. Very softly went she, intending to surprise them. The moon shone full on the glass-doors.

The doors were shut. And she could see no children. Only Janet Carey sitting at the piano, and Dr. Knox sitting close by her, his eyes resting on her face, and an unmistakable look of—say friendship—in them. Mrs. Knox took in the whole scene by the light of the one candle standing on the table.

She let go the pink skirt and burst open the doors. Imagination is apt to conjure up skeletons of the future; a whole army of skeletons rushed into hers, any one of them ten times more ugly than that real skeleton in the doctor’s study. A vision of his marrying Janet and taking possession of the house, and wanting all his money for himself instead of paying the family bills with it, was the worst.

Before a great and real dread, passion has to be silent. Mrs. Knox felt that she should very much like to buffet both of them with hands and tongue: but policy restrained her.

“Where are the children?” she began, as snappish as a fox; but that was only usual.

Janet had turned round on the music-stool; her meek hands dropping on her lap, her face turning all the colours of the rainbow. Dr. Knox just sat back in his chair and carelessly hummed to himself the tune Janet had been singing.

“Mina and Lotty are at Mrs. Hampshire’s, ma’am,” answered Janet. “She came to fetch them just after you left, and said I might send in for them at half-past nine. The little ones are in bed.”

“Oh,” said Mrs. Knox. “It’s rather early for you to be at home; is it not, Arnold?”

“Not particularly, I think. My time for coming home is always uncertain, you know.”

He rose, and went to his room as he spoke. Janet got out the basket of stockings; and Mrs. Knox sat buried in a brown study.

After this evening things grew bad for Miss Carey. Mrs. Knox watched. She noted her step-son’s manner to Janet, and saw that he liked her ever so much more than was expedient. What to do, or how to stop it, she did not know, and was at her wits’ end. To begin with, there was nothing to stop. Had she put together a whole week’s looks and words of Arnold’s, directed to Janet, she could not have squeezed one decent iota of complaint out of the whole. Neither dared she risk offending Arnold. What with the perpetual soirées out, and the general daily improvidence at home, Mrs. Knox was never in funds, and Arnold found oceans of household bills coming in to him. Tradesmen were beginning, as a rule now, to address their accounts to Dr. Knox. Arnold paid them; he was good-natured, and sensitively averse to complaining to his step-mother; but he thought it was hardly fair. What on earth she did with her income he could not imagine: rather than live in this chronic state of begging, she might have laid down the pony-carriage.

Not being able to attack the doctor, Mrs. Knox vented all her venom on Miss Carey. Janet was the dray horse of the family, and therefore could not be turned away: she was too useful to Mrs. Knox to be parted with. Real venom it was; and hard to be borne. Her work grew harder, and she was snubbed from morning till night. The children’s insolence to her was not reproved; Mina took to ordering her about. Weary and heart-sick grew she: her life was no better than Cinderella’s: the only ray of comfort in it being the rare snatches of intercourse with Dr. Knox. He was like a true friend to her, and ever kind. He might have been kinder had he known what sort of a life she really led. But Mrs. Knox was a diplomatist, and the young fry did not dare to worry people very much, or to call names before their big brother Arnold.

2.

“Has Dr. Knox come in, Mr. Dockett?”

Mr. Dockett, lounging over the counter to tease the dog, brought himself straight with a jerk, and faced his master, Mr. Tamlyn.

“Not yet, sir.”

“When he comes in, ask him if he’ll be so kind as step to me in the dining-room.”

Mr. Tamlyn shut the surgery-door, and the apprentice whistled to the dog, which had made its escape. Presently Dr. Knox came across the court-yard and received the message.

“Mr. Tamlyn wants you, sir, please. He is in the dining-room.”

“Have you nothing to do, Dockett? Just set on and clean those scales.”

The dining-room looked out on the garden and on the playing fountain. It was one of the prettiest rooms in Lefford; with white-and-gold papered walls, and mirrors, and a new carpet. Mr. Tamlyn liked to have things nice at home, and screwed the money out of the capital put by for Bertie. He sat at the table before some account-books.

“Sit down, Arnold,” he said, taking off his spectacles. “I have some news for you: I hope it won’t put you out too much.”

It did put Dr. Knox out very considerably, and it surprised him even more. For some time past now he had been cherishing a private expectation that Mr. Tamlyn would be taking him into partnership, giving him probably a small share only at first. Of all things it seemed the most likely to Dr. Knox: and, wanting in self-assertion though he was, it seemed to him that it would be a right thing to do. Mr. Tamlyn had no one to succeed him: and all the best part of his practice was formerly Mr. Knox’s. Had Arnold only been a little older when his father died, he should have succeeded to it himself: there would have been little chance of Mr. Tamlyn’s getting any of it. In justice, then, if Mr. Tamlyn now, or later, took a partner at all, it ought to be Arnold. But for looking forward to this, Dr. Knox had never stayed on all this time at the paltry salary paid him, and worked himself nearly to a skeleton. As old Tamlyn talked, he listened as one in a dream, and he learnt that his own day-dream was over.

Old Tamlyn was about to take a partner: some gentleman from London, a Mr. Shuttleworth. Mr. Shuttleworth was seeking a country practice, and would bring in three thousand pounds. Arnold’s services would only be required to the end of the year, as Mr. Shuttleworth would join on the first of January.

“There won’t be room for three of us, Arnold—and Dockett will be coming on,” said Mr. Tamlyn. “Besides, at your age, and with your talents, you ought to be doing something better for yourself. Don’t you see that you ought?”

“I have seen it for some time. But—the truth is,” added Arnold, “though I hardly like to own to it now, I have been cherishing a hope of this kind for myself. I thought, Mr. Tamlyn, you might some time offer it to me.”

“And so I would, Arnold, and there’s no one I should like to take as partner half so well as yourself, but you have not the necessary funds,” said the surgeon with eagerness. “I see what you are thinking, Arnold—that I might have taken you without premium: but I must think of my poor boy. Shuttleworth brings in three thousand: I would have taken you with two.”

“I could not bring in two hundred, let alone two thousand,” said Dr. Knox.

“There’s where it is. To tell you the truth, Arnold, I am getting tired of work; don’t seem so much up to it as I was. Whoever comes in will have to do more even than you have done, and of course will expect to take at least a half-share of the yearly profits. I should not put by much then: I could not alter my style of living, you know, or put down the carriages and horses, or anything of that sort: and I must save for poor Bertie. A sum of three thousand pounds means three thousand to me.”

“Are the arrangements fully made?” asked Dr. Knox.

“Yes. Mr. Shuttleworth came down to Lefford yesterday, and has been going into the books with me this morning. And, by the way, Arnold, I hope you will meet him here at dinner to-night. I should not a bit wonder, either, but he might tell you of some opening for yourself: he seems to know most of the chief medical men in London. He is selling a good practice of his own. It is his health that obliges him to come to the country.”

“I hope you will suit one another,” said Dr. Knox; for he knew that it was not every one who could get on with fidgety old Tamlyn.

“We are to give it a six months’ trial,” said Tamlyn. “He would not bind himself without that. At the end of the six months, if both parties are not satisfied, we cancel the agreement: he withdraws his money, and I am at liberty to take a fresh partner. For that half-year’s services he will receive his half-share of profits: which of course is only fair. You see I tell you all, Arnold.”

Dr. Knox dined with them, and found the new man a very pleasant fellow, but quite as old as Tamlyn. He could not help wondering how he would relish the parish work, and said so in a whisper to Mr. Tamlyn while Shuttleworth was talking to Bertie.

“Oh, he thinks it will be exercise for him,” replied the surgeon. “And Dockett will be coming on, you know.”

It was a dark night, the beginning of November, wet and splashy. Mrs. Knox had a soirée at Rose Villa; and when the doctor reached home he met the company coming forth with cloaks and lanterns and clogs.

“Oh, it’s you, Arnold, is it!” cried Mrs. Knox. “Could you not have come home for my evening? Two of the whist-tables had to play dummy: we had some disappointments.”

“I stayed to dine with Mr. Tamlyn,” said Arnold.

Sitting together over the fire, he and she alone, Mrs. Knox asked him whether he would not give her a hundred pounds a-year for his board, instead of seventy-five. Which was uncommonly cool, considering what he paid for her besides in housekeeping bills. Upon which, Arnold told her he should not be with her beyond the close of the year: he was going to leave Lefford. For a minute, it struck her dumb.

“Good Heavens, Arnold, how am I to keep the house on without your help? I must say you have no consideration. Leave Lefford!”

“Mr. Tamlyn has given me notice,” replied Arnold. “He is taking a partner.”

“But—I just ask you—how am I to pay my way?”

“It seems to me that your income is quite sufficient for that, mother. If not—perhaps—if I may suggest it—you might put down the pony-chaise.”

Mrs. Knox shrieked out that he was a cruel man. Arnold, who never cared to stand scenes, lighted his candle and went up to bed.

Shuttleworth had taken rather a fancy to Dr. Knox; perhaps he remembered, too, that he was turning him adrift. Anyway, he bestirred himself, and got him appointed to a medical post in London, where Arnold would receive two hundred a-year, and his board.

“I presume you know that I am about to run away, Miss Carey,” said Dr. Knox, hastening up to join her one Sunday evening when they were coming out of church at Lefford.

“As if every one did not know that!” cried Mina. “Where’s mamma, Arnold? and Lotty?”

“They are behind, talking to the Parkers.”

The Parkers were great friends of Mina’s, so she ran back. The doctor and Janet walked slowly on.

“You will be glad to leave, sir,” said Janet, in her humble fashion. “Things have not been very comfortable for you at home—and I hear you are taking a much better post.”

“I shall be sorry to leave for one thing—that is, because I fear things may be more uncomfortable for you,” he spoke out bravely. “What Rose Villa will be when all restraint is taken from the children, and with other undesirable things, I don’t like to imagine.”

“I shall do very well,” said Janet, meekly.

“I wonder you put up with it,” he exclaimed. “You might be ten thousand times better and happier elsewhere.”

“But I fear to change: I have no one to recommend me or to look out for me, you know.”

“There’s that lady I’ve heard you speak of—your aunt, Miss Cattledon.”

“I could not think of troubling her. My mother’s family do not care to take much notice of me. They thought my father was not my mother’s equal in point of family, and when she married him, they turned her off, as it were. No, sir, I have only myself to look to.”

“A great many of us are in the same case,” he said. “Myself, for instance. I have been indulging I don’t know what day-dreams for some time past: one of them that Mr. Tamlyn would give me a share in his practice: and—and there were others to follow in due course. Vain dreams all, and knocked on the head now.”

“You will be sure to get on,” said Janet.

“Do you think so?” he asked very softly, looking down into Janet’s nice eyes by the gaslight in the road.

“At least, I hope you will.”

“Well, I shall try for it.”

“Arnold!—come back, Arnold; I want you to give me your arm up the hill,” called out Mrs. Knox.

Dr. Knox had to enter on his new situation at quarter-day, the twenty-fifth of December; so he went up to London on Christmas–Eve. Which was no end of a blow to old Tamlyn, as it left all the work on his own shoulders for a week.

3.

From two to three months passed on. One windy March day, Mrs. Knox sat alone in the garden-room, worrying over her money matters. The table, drawn near the fire, was strewed with bills and tradesmen’s books; the sun shone on the closed glass-doors.

Mrs. Knox’s affairs had been getting into an extremely hopeless condition. It seemed, by the accumulation of present debts, that Arnold’s money must have paid for everything. Her own income, which came in quarterly, appeared to dwindle away, she knew not how or where. A piteous appeal had gone up a week ago to Arnold, saying she should be in prison unless he assisted her, for the creditors were threatening to take steps. Arnold’s answer, delivered this morning, was a fifty-pound note enclosed in a very plain letter. It had inconvenienced him to send the money, he said, and he begged her fully to understand that it was the last he should ever send.

So there sat Mrs. Knox before the table in an old dressing-gown, and her black hair more dishevelled than a mop. The bills, oceans of them, and the fifty-pound note lay in a heap together. Master Dicky had been cutting animals out of a picture-book, leaving the scraps on the cloth and the old carpet. Lotty had distributed there a few sets of dolls’ clothes. Gerty had been tearing up a newspaper for a kite-tail. The fifty pounds would pay about a third of the debts, and Mrs. Knox was trying to apportion a sum to each of them accordingly.

It bothered her finely, for she was no accountant. She could manage to add up without making very many mistakes; but when it came to subtraction, her brain went into a hopeless maze. Janet might have done it, but Mrs. Knox was furious with Janet and would not ask her. Ill-treated, over-worked, Janet had plucked up courage to give notice, and was looking out for a situation in Lefford. Just now, Janet was in the kitchen, ironing Dick’s frilled collars.

“Take fifty-three from fourteen, and how much does remain?” groaned Mrs. Knox over the shillings. At that moment there was a sound of carriage-wheels, and a tremendous ring at the door. Sally darted in.

“Oh, ma’am, it’s my Lady Jenkins! I knew her carriage at a distance. It have got red wheels!”

“Oh, my goodness!” cried Mrs. Knox, starting up. “Don’t open the door yet, Sally: let me get upstairs first. Her ladyship’s come to take me a drive, I suppose. Go and call Miss Carey—or stay, I’ll go to her.”

Mrs. Knox opened one of the glass-doors, and whisked round to the kitchen. She bade Janet leave the ironing and go to do her books and bills: hastily explaining that she wanted to know how far fifty pounds would go towards paying a fair proportion off each debt. Janet was to make it all out in figures.

“Be sure and take care of the note—I’ve left it somewhere,” called back Mrs. Knox as she escaped to the stairs in hurry and confusion; for my Lady Jenkins’s footman was working both bell and knocker alarmingly.

Janet only half comprehended. She went round to the garden-room, shut the glass-doors, and began upon the bills and books. But first of all, she looked out for the letters that were lying about, never supposing that the special charge had reference to anything else: at least, she said so afterwards: and put them inside Mrs. Knox’s desk. From first to last, then and later, Janet Carey maintained that she did not see any bank-note.

* * * * *

Mrs. Knox dressed herself with Sally’s help, and went out with my Lady Jenkins—the exMayor of Lefford’s wife. The bills and the calculations made a long job, and Janet’s mind was buried in it, when a startling disturbance suddenly arose in the garden: Dicky had climbed into the mulberry-tree and fallen out of it. The girls came, dashing open the glass-doors, saying he was dead. Janet ran out, herself nearly frightened to death.

Very true. If Dicky was not dead, he looked like it. He lay white and cold under the tree, blood trickling down his face. James galloped off for Mr. Tamlyn. The two maids and Janet carried Dicky into the kitchen, and put him on the ironing-board, with his head on an old cushion. That revived him; and when Mr. Shuttleworth arrived, for Tamlyn was out, Dicky was demanding bread-and-treacle. Shuttleworth put some diachylon plaster on his head, ordered him to bed, and told him not to get into trees again.

Their fears relieved, the maids had time to remember common affairs. Sally found all the sitting-room fires out, and hastened to light them. As soon as Janet could leave Dicky, who had persisted in going to bed in his boots, she went back to the accounts. Mrs. Knox came in before they were done. She blew up Janet for not being quicker, and when she had recovered the shock of Dicky’s accident, she blew her up for that.

“Where’s the note?” she snapped.

“What note, ma’am?” asked Janet.

“The bank-note. The bank-note for fifty pounds that I told you to take care of.”

“I have not seen any bank-note,” said Janet.

Well, that began the trouble. The bank-note was searched for, and there was neither sign nor symptom of it to be found. Mrs. Knox accused Janet Carey of stealing it, and called in a policeman. Mrs. Knox made her tale good to the man, representing Janet as a very black girl indeed; but the man said he could not take her into custody unless Mrs. Knox would charge her formally with the theft.

And that, Mrs. Knox hesitated to do. She told the policeman she would take until the morrow to consider of it. The whole of that evening, the whole of the night, the whole of the next morning till midday, Janet spent searching the garden-room. At midday the policeman appeared again, and Janet went into a sort of fit.

When Mr. Shuttleworth was sent for to her, he said it was caused by fright, and that she had received a shock to the nervous system. For some days she was delirious, on and off; and when she could escape Sally’s notice, who waited on her, they’d find her down in the garden-room, searching for the note, just as we afterwards saw her searching for it in her sleep at Miss Deveen’s. It chanced that the two rooms resembled each other remarkably: in their situation in the houses, in their shape and size and building arrangements, and in their opening by glass-doors to the garden. Janet subsided into a sort of wasting fever; and Mrs. Knox thought it time to send for Miss Cattledon. The criminal proceedings might wait, she told Janet: like the heartless woman that she was! Not but that the loss of the money had thrown her flat on her beam-ends.

Miss Cattledon came. Janet solemnly declared, not only that she had not the bank-note, but that she had never seen the note: never at all. Mrs. Knox said no one but Janet could have taken it, and but for her illness, she would be already in prison. Miss Cattledon told Mrs. Knox she ought to be ashamed of herself for suspecting Janet Carey, and took Janet off by train to Miss Deveen’s. Janet arrived there in a shivering-fit, fully persuaded that the Lefford policemen were following her by the orders of Mrs. Knox.

And for the result of it all we must go on to the next paper.

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