A Simpleton by Charles Reade
Christopher Staines came back, looking pained and disturbed. "There," said he, "I feared it would come to this. I have quarrelled with Uncle Philip."
"Oh! how could you?"
"He affronted me."
"Never you mind. Don't let us say anything more about it, darling. It is a pity, a sad pity--he was a good friend of mine once."
He paused, entered what had passed in his diary, and then sat down, with a gentle expression of sadness on his manly features. Rosa hung about him, soft and pitying, till it cleared away, at all events for the time.
Next day they went together to clear the goods Rosa had purchased. Whilst the list was being made out in the office, in came the fair- haired boy, with a ten-pound note in his very hand. Rosa caught sight of it, and turned to the auctioneer, with a sweet, pitying face:
"Oh! sir, surely you will not take all that money from him, poor child, for a rickety old chair."
The auctioneer stared with amazement at her simplicity, and said, "What would the vendors say to me?"
She looked distressed, and said, "Well, then, really we ought to raise a subscription, poor thing!"
"Why, ma'am," said the auctioneer, "he isn't hurt: the article belonged to his mother and her sister; the brother-in-law isn't on good terms; so he demanded a public sale. She will get back four pun ten out of it." Here the clerk put in his word. "And there's five pounds paid, I forgot to tell you."
"Oh! left a deposit, did he?"
"No, sir. But the laughing hyena gave you five pounds at the end of the sale."
"The laughing hyena, Mr. Jones?"
"Oh! beg pardon; that is what we call him in the room. He has got such a curious laugh."
"Oh! I know the gent. He is a retired doctor. I wish he'd laugh less and buy more: and he gave you five pounds towards the young gentleman's arm-chair! Well, I should as soon have expected blood from a flint. You have got five pounds to pay, sir: so now the chair will cost your mamma ten shillings. Give him the order and the change, Mr. Jones."
Christopher and Rosa talked this over in the room whilst the men were looking out their purchases. "Come," said Rosa; "now I forgive him sneering at me; his heart is not really hard, you see." Staines, on the contrary, was very angry. "What!" he cried, pity a boy who made one bad bargain, that, after all, was not a very bad bargain; and he had no kindness, nor even common humanity, for my beautiful Rosa, inexperienced as a child, and buying for her husband, like a good, affectionate, honest creature, amongst a lot of sharpers and hard-hearted cynics--like himself."
"It was cruel of him," said Rosa, altering her mind in a moment, and half inclined to cry.
This made Christopher furious. "The ill-natured, crotchety, old-- the fact is, he is a misogynist."
"Oh, the wretch!" said Rosa warmly. "And what is that?"
"Oh! is that all? Why, so do I--after that Florence Cole. Women are mean, heartless things. Give me men; they are loyal and true."
"All of them?" inquired Christopher, a little satirically. "Read the papers."
"Every soul of them," said Mrs. Staines, passing loftily over the proposed test. "That is, all the ones I care about; and that is my own, own one."
Disagreeable creatures to have about one--these simpletons!
Mrs. Staines took Christopher to shops to buy the remaining requisites: and in three days more the house was furnished, two female servants engaged, and the couple took their luggage over to the Bijou.
Rosa was excited and happy at the novelty of possession and authority, and that close sense of house proprietorship which belongs to woman. By dinner-time she could have told you how many shelves there were in every cupboard, and knew the Bijou by heart in a way that Christopher never knew it. All this ended, as running about and excitement generally does, with my lady being exhausted, and lax with fatigue. So then he made her lie down on a little couch, while he went through his accounts.
When he had examined all the bills carefully he looked very grave, and said, "Who would believe this? We began with three thousand pounds. It was to last us several years--till I got a good practice. Rosa, there is only fourteen hundred and forty pounds left."
"Oh, impossible!" said Rosa. "Oh, dear! why did I ever enter a saleroom?"
"No, no, my darling; you were bitten once or twice, but you made some good bargains too. Remember there was four hundred pounds set apart for my life policy."
"What a waste of money!"
"Your father did not think so. Then the lease; the premium; repairs of the drains that would have poisoned my Rosa; turning the coach-house into a dispensary; painting, papering, and furnishing; china, and linen, and everything to buy. We must look at this seriously. Only fourteen hundred and forty pounds left. A slow profession. No friends. I have quarrelled with Uncle Philip: you with Mrs. Cole; and her husband would have launched me."
"And it was to please her we settled here. Oh, I could kill her: nasty cat!"
"Never mind; it is not a case for despondency, but it is for prudence. All we have to do is to look the thing in the face, and be very economical in everything. I had better give you an allowance for housekeeping; and I earnestly beg you to buy things yourself whilst you are a poor man's wife, and pay ready money for everything. My mother was a great manager, and she always said, 'There is but one way: be your own market-woman, and pay on the spot; never let the tradesmen get you on their books, or, what with false weight, double charges, and the things your servants order that never enter the house, you lose more than a hundred a year by cheating.'"
Rosa yielded a languid assent to this part of his discourse, and it hardly seemed to enter her mind; but she raised no objection; and in due course he made her a special allowance for housekeeping.
It soon transpired that medical advice was to be had, gratis, at the Bijou, from eight till ten: and there was generally a good attendance. But a week passed, and not one patient came of the class this couple must live by. Christopher set this down to what people call "the transition period:" his Kent patients had lost him; his London patients not found him. He wrote to all his patients in the country, and many of his pupils at the university, to let them know where he was settled: and then he waited.
Not a creature came.
Rosa bore this very well for a time, so long as the house was a novelty; but when that excitement was worn out, she began to be very dull, and used to come and entice him out to walk with her: he would look wistfully at her, but object that, if he left the house, he should be sure to lose a patient.
"Oh, they won't come any more for our staying in--tiresome things!" said Rosa.
But Christopher would kiss her, and remain firm. "My love," said he, "you do not realize how hard a fight there is before us. How should you? You are very young. No, for your sake, I must not throw a chance away. Write to your female friends: that will while away an hour or two."
"What, after that Florence Cole?"
"Write to those who have not made such violent professions."
"So I will, dear. Especially to those that are married and come to London. Oh, and I'll write to that cold-blooded thing, Lady Cicely Treherne. Why do you shake your head?"
"Did I? I was not aware. Well, dear, if ladies of rank were to come here, I fear they might make you discontented with your lot."
"All the women on earth could not do that. However, the chances are she will not come near me: she left the school quite a big girl, an immense girl, when I was only twelve. She used to smile at my capriccios; and once she kissed me--actually. She was an awful Sawny, though, and so affected: I think I will write to her."
These letters brought just one lady, a Mrs. Turner, who talked to Rosa very glibly about herself, and amused Rosa twice: at the third visit, Rosa tried to change the conversation. Mrs. Turner instantly got up, and went away. She could not bear the sound of the human voice, unless it was talking about her and her affairs.
And now Staines began to feel downright uneasy. Income was going steadily out: not a shilling coming in. The lame, the blind, and the sick frequented his dispensary, and got his skill out of him gratis, and sometimes a little physic, a little wine, and other things that cost him money: but of the patients that pay, not one came to his front door.
He walked round and round his little yard, like a hyena in its cage, waiting, waiting, waiting: and oh! how he envied the lot of those who can hunt for work, instead of having to stay at home and wait for others to come, whose will they cannot influence. His heart began to sicken with hope deferred, and dim forebodings of the future; and he saw, with grief, that his wife was getting duller and duller, and that her days dragged more heavily, far than his own; for he could study.
At last his knocker began to show signs of life: his visitors were physicians. His lectures on "Diagnosis" were well known to them; and one after another found him out. They were polite, kind, even friendly; but here it ended: these gentlemen, of course, did not resign their patients to him; and the inferior class of practitioners avoided his door like a pestilence.
Mrs. Staines, who had always lived for amusement, could strike out no fixed occupation; her time hung like lead; the house was small; and in small houses the faults of servants run against the mistress, and she can't help seeing them, and all the worse for her. It is easier to keep things clean in the country, and Rosa had a high standard, which her two servants could never quite attain. This annoyed her, and she began to scold a little. They answered civilly, but in other respects remained imperfect beings; they laid out every shilling they earned in finery; and, this, I am ashamed to say, irritated Mrs. Staines, who was wearing out her wedding garments, and had no excuse for buying, and Staines had begged her to be economical. The more they dressed, the more she scolded; they began to answer. She gave the cook warning; the other, though not on good terms with the cook, had a gush of esprit de corps directly, and gave Mrs. Staines warning.
Mrs. Staines told her husband all this: he took her part, though without openly interfering; and they had two new servants, not so good as the last.
This worried Rosa sadly; but it was a flea-bite to the deeper nature, and more forecasting mind of her husband, still doomed to pace that miserable yard, like a hyena, chafing, seeking, longing for the patient that never came.
Rosa used to look out of his dressing-room window, and see him pace the yard. At first, tears of pity stood in her eyes. By and by she got angry with the world; and at last, strange to say, a little irritated with him. It is hard for a weak woman to keep up all her respect for the man that fails.
One day, after watching him a long time unseen, she got excited, put on her shawl and bonnet, and ran down to him: she took him by the arm: "If you love me, come out of this prison, and walk with me; we are too miserable. I shall be your first patient if this goes on much longer." He looked at her, saw she was very excited, and had better be humored; so he kissed her and just said, with a melancholy smile, "How poor are they that have not patience!" Then he put on his hat, and walked in the Park and Kensington Gardens with her. The season was just beginning. There were carriages enough, and gay Amazons enough, to make poor Rosa sigh more than once.
Christopher heard the sigh; and pressed her arm, and said, "Courage, love, I hope to see you among them yet."
"The sooner the better," said she, a little hardly.
"And, meantime, which of them all is as beautiful as you?"
"All I know is, they are more attractive. Who looks at me, walking tamely by?"
Christopher said nothing: but these words seemed to imply a thirst for admiration, and made him a little uneasy.
By and by the walk put the swift-changing Rosa in spirits, and she began to chat gayly, and hung prattling and beaming on her husband's arm, when they entered Curzon Street. Here, however, occurred an incident, trifling in itself, but unpleasant. Dr. Staines saw one of his best Kentish patients get feebly out of his carriage, and call on Dr. Barr. He started, and stopped. Rosa asked what was the matter. He told her. She said, "We are unfortunate."
Staines said nothing; he only quickened his pace; but he was greatly disturbed. She expected him to complain that she had dragged him out, and lost him that first chance. But he said nothing. When they got home, he asked the servant had anybody called.
"Surely you are mistaken, Jane. A gentleman in a carriage!"
"Not a creature have been since you went out, sir."
"Well, then, dearest," said he sweetly, "we have nothing to reproach ourselves with." Then he knit his brow gloomily. "It is worse than I thought. It seems even one's country patients go to another doctor when they visit London. It is hard. It is hard."
Rosa leaned her head on his shoulder, and curled round him, as one she would shield against the world's injustice; but she said nothing; she was a little frightened at his eye that lowered, and his noble frame that trembled a little, with ire suppressed.
Two days after this, a brougham drove up to the door, and a tallish, fattish, pasty-faced man got out, and inquired for Dr. Staines.
He was shown into the dining-room, and told Jane he had come to consult the doctor.
Rosa had peeped over the stairs, all curiosity; she glided noiselessly down, and with love's swift foot got into the yard before Jane. "He is come! he is come! Kiss me."
Dr. Staines kissed her first, and then asked who was come.
"Oh, nobody of any consequence. Only the first patient. Kiss me again."
Dr. Staines kissed her again, and then was for going to the first patient.
"No," said she; "not yet. I met a doctor's wife at Dr. Mayne's, and she told me things. You must always keep them waiting; or else they think nothing of you. Such a funny woman! 'Treat 'em like dogs, my dear,' she said. But I told her they wouldn't come to be treated like dogs or any other animal."
"You had better have kept that to yourself, I think."
"Oh! if you are going to be disagreeable, good-by. You can go to your patient, sir. Christie, dear, if he is very--very ill--and I'm sure I hope he is--oh, how wicked I am; may I have a new bonnet?"
"If you really want one."
On the patient's card was "Mr. Pettigrew, 47 Manchester Square."
As soon as Staines entered the room, the first patient told him who and what he was, a retired civilian from India; but he had got a son there still, a very rising man; wanted to be a parson; but he would not stand that; bad profession; don't rise by merit; very hard to rise at all;--no, India was the place. "As for me, I made my fortune there in ten years. Obliged to leave it now--invalid this many years; no tone. Tried two or three doctors in this neighborhood; heard there was a new one, had written a book on something. Thought I would try him."
To stop him, Staines requested to feel his pulse, and examine his tongue and eye.
"You are suffering from indigestion," said he. "I will write you a prescription; but if you want to get well, you must simplify your diet very much."
While he was writing the prescription, off went this patient's tongue, and ran through the topics of the day and into his family history again.
Staines listened politely. He could afford it, having only this one.
At last, the first patient, having delivered an octavo volume of nothing, rose to go; but it seems that speaking an "infinite deal of nothing" exhausts the body, though it does not affect the mind; for the first patient sank down in his chair again. "I have excited myself too much--feel rather faint."
Staines saw no signs of coming syncope; he rang the bell quietly, and ordered a decanter of sherry to be brought; the first patient filled himself a glass; then another; and went off, revived, to chatter elsewhere. But at the door he said, "I had always a running account with Dr. Mivar. I suppose you don't object to that system. Double fee the first visit, single afterwards."
Dr. Staines bowed a little stiffly; he would have preferred the money. However, he looked at the Blue Book, and found his visitor lived at 47 Manchester Square; so that removed his anxiety.
The first patient called every other day, chattered nineteen to the dozen, was exhausted, drank two glasses of sherry, and drove away.
Soon after this a second patient called. This one was a deputy patient--Collett, a retired butler--kept a lodging-house, and waited at parties; he lived close by, but had a married daughter in Chelsea. Would the doctor visit her, and he would be responsible?
Staines paid the woman a visit or two, and treated her so effectually, that soon her visits were paid to him. She was cured, and Staines, who by this time wanted to see money, sent to Collett.
Collett did not answer.
Staines wrote warmly.
Collett dead silent.
Staines employed a solicitor.
Collett said he had recommended the patient, that was all. He had never said he would pay her debts. That was her husband's business.
Now her husband was the mate of a ship; would not be in England for eighteen months.
The woman, visited by lawyer's clerk, cried bitterly, and said she and her children had scarcely enough to eat.
Lawyer advised Staines to abandon the case, and pay him two pounds fifteen shillings expenses. He did so.
"This is damnable," said he. "I must get it out of Pettigrew; by- the-by, he has not been here this two days."
He waited another day for Pettigrew, and then wrote to him. No answer. Called. Pettigrew gone abroad. House in Manchester Square to let.
Staines went to the house-agent with his tale. Agent was impenetrable at first; but, at last, won by the doctor's manner and his unhappiness, referred him to Pettigrew's solicitor; the solicitor was a respectable man, and said he would forward the claim to Pettigrew in Paris.
But by this time Pettigrew was chattering and guzzling in Berlin; and thence he got to St. Petersburg. In that stronghold of gluttony, he gormandized more than ever, and, being unable to talk it off his stomach, as in other cities, had apoplexy, and died.
But long before this Staines saw his money was as irrecoverable as his sherry; and he said to Rosa, "I wonder whether I shall ever live to curse the human race?"
"Heaven forbid!" said Rosa. "Oh, they use you cruelly, my poor, poor Christie!"
Thus for months the young doctor's patients bled him, and that was all.
And Rosa got more and more moped at being in the house so much, and pestered Christopher to take her out, and he declined: and, being a man hard to beat, took to writing on medical subjects, in hopes of getting some money from the various medical and scientific publications; but he found it as hard to get the wedge in there as to get patients.
At last Rosa's remonstrances began to rise into something that sounded like reproaches. One Sunday she came to him in her bonnet, and interrupted his studies, to say he might as well lay down the pen, and talk. Nobody would publish anything he wrote.
Christopher frowned, but contained himself, and laid down the pen.
"I might as well not be married at all as be a doctor's wife. You are never seen out with me, not even to church. Do behave like a Christian, and come to church with me now."
Dr. Staines shook his head.
"Why, I wouldn't miss church for all the world. Any excitement is better than always moping. Come over the water with me. The time Jane and I went, the clergyman read a paper that Mr. Brown had fallen down in a fit. There was such a rush directly, and I'm sure fifty ladies went out--fancy, all Mrs. Browns! Wasn't that fun?"
"Fun? I don't see it. Well, Rosa, your mind is evidently better adapted to diversion than mine is. Go you to church, love, and I'll continue my studies."
"Then all I can say is, I wish I was back in my father's house. Husband! friend! companion!--I have none."
Then she burst out crying violently; and, being shocked at what she had said, and at the agony it had brought into her husband's face, she went off into hysterics; and as his heart would not let him bellow at her, or empty a bucket on her as he would on another patient, she had a good long bout of them: and got her way, for she broke up his studies for that day, at all events.
Even after the hysterics were got under, she continued to moan and sigh very prettily, with her lovely, languid head pillowed on her husband's arm; in a word, though the hysterics were real, yet this innocent young person had the presence of mind to postpone entire convalescence, and lay herself out to be petted all day. But fate willed it otherwise: while she was sighing and moaning, came to the door a scurrying of feet, and then a sharp, persistent ringing that meant something. The moaner cocked eye and ear, and said, in her every-day voice, which, coming so suddenly, sounded very droll, "What is that, I wonder?"
Jane hurried to the street-door, and Rosa recovered by magic; and, preferring gossip to hysterics, in an almost gleeful whisper, ordered Christopher to open the door of the study. The Bijou was so small that the following dialogue rang in their ears:--
A boy in buttons gasped out, "Oh, if you please, will you ast the doctor to come round directly; there's a haccident."
"La, bless me!" said Jane, and never budged.
"Yes, miss. It's our missus's little girl fallen right off an i-chair, and cut her head dreadful, and smothered in blood."
"La, to be sure!" And she waited steadily for more.
"Ay, and missus she fainted right off; and I've been to the regler doctor, which he's out; and Sarah, the housemaid, said I had better come here; you was only just set up, she said; you wouldn't have so much to do, says she."
"That is all she knows," said Jane. "Why, our master--they pulls him in pieces which is to have him fust."
"What an awful liar! Oh, you good girl!" whispered Dr. Staines and Rosa in one breath.
"Ah, well," said Buttons, "any way, Sarah says she knows you are clever, 'cos her little girl as lives with her mother, and calls Sarah aunt, has bin to your 'spensary with ringworm, and you cured her right off."
"Ay, and a good many more," said Jane, loftily. She was a housemaid of imagination; and while Staines was putting some lint and an instrument case into his pocket, she proceeded to relate a number of miraculous cures. Dr. Staines interrupted them by suddenly emerging, and inviting Buttons to take him to the house.
Mrs. Staines was so pleased with Jane for cracking up the doctor, that she gave her five shillings; and, after that, used to talk to her a great deal more than to the cook, which judicious conduct presently set all three by the ears.
Buttons took the doctor to a fine house in the same street, and told him his mistress's name on the way--Mrs. Lucas. He was taken up to the nursery, and found Mrs. Lucas seated, crying and lamenting, and a woman holding a little girl of about seven, whose brow had been cut open by the fender, on which she had fallen from a chair; it looked very ugly, and was even now bleeding.
Dr. Staines lost no time; he examined the wound keenly, and then said kindly to Mrs. Lucas, "I am happy to tell you it is not serious." He then asked for a large basin and some tepid water, and bathed it so softly and soothingly that the child soon became composed; and the mother discovered the artist at once. He compressed the wound, and explained to Mrs. Lucas that the principal thing really was to avoid an ugly scar. "There is no danger," said he. He then bound the wound neatly up, and had the girl put to bed. "You will not wake her at any particular hour, nurse. Let her sleep. Have a little strong beef-tea ready, and give it her at any hour, night or day, she asks for it. But do not force it on her, or you will do her more harm than good. She had better sleep before she eats."
Mrs. Lucas begged him to come every morning; and, as he was going, she shook hands with him, and the soft palm deposited a hard substance wrapped in paper. He took it with professional gravity and seeming unconsciousness; but, once outside the house, went home on wings. He ran up to the drawing-room, and found his wife seated, and playing at reading. He threw himself on his knees, and the fee into her lap; and, while she unfolded the paper with an ejaculation of pleasure, he said, "Darling, the first real patient-- the first real fee. It is yours to buy the new bonnet."
"Oh, I'm so glad!" said she, with her eyes glistening. "But I'm afraid one can't get a bonnet fit to wear--for a guinea."
Dr. Staines visited his little patient every day, and received his guinea. Mrs. Lucas also called him in for her own little ailments, and they were the best possible kind of ailments: for, being imaginary, there was no limit to them.
Then did Mrs. Staines turn jealous of her husband. "They never ask me," said she; "and I am moped to death."
"It is hard," said Christopher, sadly. "But have a little patience. Society will come to you long before practice comes to me."
About two o'clock one afternoon a carriage and pair drove up, and a gorgeous footman delivered a card--"Lady Cicely Treherne."
Of course Mrs. Staines was at home, and only withheld by propriety from bounding into the passage to meet her school-fellow. However, she composed herself in the drawing-room, and presently the door was opened, and a very tall young woman, richly but not gayly dressed, drifted into the room, and stood there a statue of composure.
Rosa had risen to fly to her; but the reverence a girl of eighteen strikes into a child of twelve hung about her still, and she came timidly forward, blushing and sparkling, a curious contrast in color and mind to her visitor; for Lady Cicely was Languor in person--her hair whitey-brown, her face a fine oval, but almost colorless; her eyes a pale gray, her neck and hands incomparably white and beautiful--a lymphatic young lady, a live antidote to emotion. However, Rosa's beauty, timidity, and undisguised affectionateness were something so different from what she was used to in the world of fashion, that she actually smiled, and held out both her hands a little way. Rosa seized them, and pressed them; they left her; and remained passive and limp.
"O Lady Cicely," said Rosa, "how kind of you to come."
"How kind of you to send to me," was the polite, but perfectly cool reply. "But how you are gwown, and--may I say impwoved?--You la petite Lusignan! It is incwedible," lisped her ladyship, very calmly.
"I was only a child," said Rosa. "You were always so beautiful and tall, and kind to a little monkey like me. Oh, pray sit down, Lady Cicely, and talk of old times."
She drew her gently to the sofa, and they sat down hand in hand; but Lady Cicely's high-bred reserve made her a very poor gossip about anything that touched herself and her family; so Rosa, though no egotist, was drawn into talking about herself more than she would have done had she deliberately planned the conversation. But here was an old school-fellow, and a singularly polite listener, and so out came her love, her genuine happiness, her particular griefs, and especially the crowning grievance, no society, moped to death, etc.
Lady Cicely could hardly understand the sentiment in a woman who so evidently loved her husband. "Society!" said she, after due reflection, "why, it is a boa." (And here I may as well explain that Lady Cicely spoke certain words falsely, and others affectedly; and as for the letter r, she could say it if she made a hearty effort, but was generally too lazy to throw her leg over it.) "Society! I'm dwenched to death with it. If I could only catch fiah like other women, and love somebody, I would much rather have a tete-a-tete with him than go teawing about all day and all night, from one unintwisting cwowd to another. To be sure," said she, puzzling the matter out, "you are a beauty, and would be more looked at."
"The idea! and--oh no! no! it is not that. But even in the country we had always some society."
"Well, dyar, believe me, with your appeawance, you can have as much society as you please; but it will boa you to death, as it does me, and then you will long to be left quiet with a sensible man who loves you."
Said Rosa, "When shall I have another tete-a-tete with you, I wonder? Oh, it has been such a comfort to me. Bless you for coming. There--I wrote to Cecilia, and Emily, and Mrs. Bosanquet that is now, and all my sworn friends, and to think of you being the one to come--you that never kissed me but once, and an earl's daughter into the bargain."
Ha! ha! ha!"--Lady Cicely actually laughed for once in a way, and did not feel the effort. "As for kissing," said she, "if I fall shawt, fawgive me. I was nevaa vewy demonstwative."
"No; and I have had a lesson. That Florence Cole--Florence Whiting that was, you know--was always kissing me, and she has turned out a traitor. I'll tell you all about her." And she did.
Lady Cicely thought Mrs. Staines a little too unreserved in her conversation; but was so charmed with her sweetness and freshness that she kept up the acquaintance, and called on her twice a week during the season. At first she wondered that her visits were not returned; but Rosa let out that she was ashamed to call on foot in Grosvenor Square.
Lady Cicely shrugged her beautiful shoulders a little at that; but she continued to do the visiting, and to enjoy the simple, innocent rapture with which she was received.
This lady's pronunciation of many words was false or affected. She said "good murning" for "good morning," and turned other vowels to diphthongs, and played two or three pranks with her "r's." But we cannot be all imperfection: with her pronunciation her folly came to a full stop. I really believe she lisped less nonsense and bad taste in a year than some of us articulate in a day. To be sure, folly is generally uttered in a hurry, and she was too deplorably lazy to speak fast on any occasion whatever.
One day Mrs. Staines took her up-stairs, and showed her from the back window her husband pacing the yard, waiting for patients. Lady Cicely folded her arms, and contemplated him at first with a sort of zoological curiosity. Gentleman pacing back yard, like hyena, she had never seen before.
At last she opened her mouth in a whisper, "What is he doing?"
"Waiting for patients."
"For patients that never come, and never will come."
"Cuwious! How little I know of life."
"It is that all day, dear, or else writing."
Lady Cicely, with her eyes fixed on Staines, made a motion with her hand that she was attending.
"And they won't publish a word he writes."
"Nice for me; is it not?"
"I begin to understand," said Lady Cicely quietly; and soon after retired with her invariable composure.
Meantime, Dr. Staines, like a good husband, had thrown out occasional hints to Mrs. Lucas that he had a wife, beautiful, accomplished, moped. More than that, he went so far as to regret to her that Mrs. Staines, being in a neighborhood new to him, saw so little society; the more so, as she was formed to shine, and had not been used to seclusion.
All these hints fell dead on Mrs. Lucas. A handsome and skilful doctor was welcome to her: his wife--that was quite another matter.
But one day Mrs. Lucas saw Lady Cicely Treherne's carriage standing at the door. The style of the whole turnout impressed her. She wondered whose it was.
On another occasion she saw it drive up, and the lady get out. She recognized her; and the very next day this parvenue said adroitly, "Now, Dr. Staines, really you can't be allowed to hide your wife in this way. (Staines stared.) Why not introduce her to me next Wednesday? It is my night. I would give a dinner expressly for her; but I don't like to do that while my husband is in Naples."
When Staines carried the invitation to his wife, she was delighted, and kissed him with childish frankness.
But the very next moment she became thoughtful, uneasy, depressed. "Oh, dear; I've nothing to wear."
"Oh, nonsense, Rosa. Your wedding outfit."
"The idea! I can't go as a bride. It's not a masquerade."
"But you have other dresses."
"All gone by, more or less; or not fit for such parties as she gives. A hundred carriages!"
"Bring them down, and let me see them."
"Oh yes." And the lady, who had nothing to wear, paraded a very fair show of dresses.
Staines saw something to admire in all of them. Mrs. Staines found more to object to in each.
At last he fell upon a silver-gray silk, of superlative quality.
"That! It is as old as the hills," shrieked Rosa.
"It looks just out of the shop. Come, tell the truth; how often have you worn it?"
"I wore it before I was married."
"Ay, but how often?"
"Twice. Three times, I believe."
"I thought so. It is good as new."
"But I have had it so long by me. I had it two years before I made it up."
"What does that matter? Do you think the people can tell how long a dress has been lurking in your wardrobe? This is childish, Rosa. There, with this dress as good as new, and your beauty, you will be as much admired, and perhaps hated, as your heart can desire."
"I am afraid not," said Rosa naively. "Oh, how I wish I had known a week ago."
"I am very thankful you did not," said Staines dryly.
At ten o'clock Mrs. Staines was nearly dressed; at a quarter past ten she demanded ten minutes; at half-past ten she sought a reprieve; at a quarter to eleven, being assured that the street was full of carriages, which had put down at Mrs. Lucas's, she consented to emerge; and in a minute they were at the house.
They were shown first into a cloak-room, and then into a tea-room, and then mounted the stairs. One servant took their names, and bawled them to another four yards off, he to another about as near, and so on; and they edged themselves into the room, not yet too crowded to move in.
They had not taken many steps, on the chance of finding their hostess, when a slight buzz arose, and seemed to follow them.
Rosa wondered what that was; but only for a moment; she observed a tall, stout, aquiline woman fix an eye of bitter, diabolical, malignant hatred on her; and as she advanced, ugly noses were cocked disdainfully, and scraggy shoulders elevated at the risk of sending the bones through the leather, and a titter or two shot after her. A woman's instinct gave her the key at once; the sexes had complimented her at sight; each in their way; the men with respectful admiration; the women, with their inflammable jealousy and ready hatred in another of the quality they value most in themselves. But the country girl was too many for them: she would neither see nor bear, but moved sedately on, and calmly crushed them with her Southern beauty. Their dry, powdered faces could not live by the side of her glowing skin, with nature's delicate gloss upon it, and the rich blood mantling below it. The got-up beauties, i.e., the majority, seemed literally to fade and wither as she passed.
Mrs. Lucas got to her, suppressed a slight maternal pang, having daughters to marry, and took her line in a moment; here was a decoy duck. Mrs. Lucas was all graciousness, made acquaintance, and took a little turn with her, introducing her to one or two persons; among the rest, to the malignant woman, Mrs. Barr. Mrs. Barr, on this, ceased to look daggers and substituted icicles; but on the hateful beauty moving away, dropped the icicles, and resumed the poniards.
The rooms filled; the heat became oppressive, and the mixed odors of flowers, scents, and perspiring humanity, sickening. Some, unable to bear it, trickled out of the room, and sat all down the stairs.
Rosa began to feel faint. Up came a tall, sprightly girl, whose pertness was redeemed by a certain bonhomie, and said, "Mrs. Staines, I believe? I am to make myself agreeable to you. That is the order from headquarters."
"Miss Lucas," said Staines.
She jerked a little off-hand bow to him, and said, "Will you trust her to me for five minutes?"
"Certainly." But he did not much like it.
Miss Lucas carried her off, and told Dr. Staines, over her shoulder, now he could flirt to his heart's content.
"Thank you," said he dryly. "I'll await your return."
"Oh, there are some much greater flirts here than I am," said the ready Miss Lucas; and whispering something in Mrs. Staines's ear, suddenly glided with her behind a curtain, pressed a sort of button fixed to a looking-glass door. The door opened, and behold they were in a delicious place, for which I can hardly find a word, since it was a boudoir and a conservatory in one: a large octagon, the walls lined from floor to ceiling with looking-glasses of moderate width, at intervals, and with creepers that covered the intervening spaces of the wall, and were trained so as to break the outline of the glasses without greatly clouding the reflection. Ferns, in great variety, were grouped in a deep crescent, and in the bight of this green bay were a small table and chairs. As there were no hot-house plants, the temperature was very cool, compared with the reeking oven they had escaped; and a little fountain bubbled, and fed a little meandering gutter that trickled away among the ferns; it ran crystal clear over little bright pebbles and shells. It did not always run, you understand; but Miss Lucas turned a secret tap, and started it.
"Oh, how heavenly!" said Rosa, with a sigh of relief; "and how good of you to bring me here!"
"Yes; by rights I ought to have waited till you fainted. But there is no making acquaintance among all those people. Mamma will ask such crowds; one is like a fly in a glue-pot."
Miss Lucas had good nature, smartness, and animal spirits; hence arose a vivacity and fluency that were often amusing, and passed for very clever. Reserve she had none; would talk about strangers, or friends, herself, her mother, her God, and the last buffoon- singer, in a breath. At a hint from Rosa, she told her who the lady in the pink dress was, and the lady in the violet velvet, and so on; for each lady was defined by her dress, and, more or less, quizzed by this show-woman, not exactly out of malice, but because it is smarter and more natural to decry than to praise, and a little medisance is the spice to gossip, belongs to it, as mint sauce to lamb. So they chatted away, and were pleased with each other, and made friends, and there, in cool grot, quite forgot the sufferings of their fellow-creatures in the adjacent Turkish bath, yclept society. It was Rosa who first recollected herself. "Will not Mrs. Lucas be angry with me, if I keep you all to myself?"
"Oh no; but I'm afraid we must go into the hot-house again. I like the greenhouse best, with such a nice companion."
They slipped noiselessly into the throng again, and wriggled about, Miss Lucas presenting her new friend to several ladies and gentlemen.
Presently Staines found them, and then Miss Lucas wriggled away; and in due course the room was thinned by many guests driving off home, or to balls, and other receptions, and Dr. Staines and Mrs. Staines went home to the Bijou. Here the physician prescribed bed; but the lady would not hear of such a thing until she had talked it all over. So they compared notes, and Rosa told him how well she had got on with Miss Lucas, and made a friendship. "But for that," said she, "I should be sorry I went among those people, such a dowdy."
"Dowdy!" said Staines. "Why, you stormed the town; you were the great success of the night, and, for all I know, of the season." The wretch delivered this with unbecoming indifference.
"It is too bad to mock me, Christie. Where were your eyes?"
"To the best of my recollection, they were one on each side of my nose."
"Yes, but some people are eyes and no eyes."
"I scorn the imputation; try me."
"Very well. Then did you see that lady in sky-blue silk, embroidered with flowers, and flounced with white velvet, and the corsage point lace; and oh, such emeralds?"
"I did; a tall, skinny woman, with eyes resembling her jewels in color, though not in brightness."
"Never mind her eyes; it is her dress I am speaking of. Exquisite; and what a coiffure! Well, did you see her in the black velvet, trimmed so deep with Chantilly lace, wave on wave, and her head- dress of crimson flowers, and such a riviere of diamonds; oh, dear! oh, dear!"
"I did, love. The room was an oven, but her rubicund face and suffocating costume made it seem a furnace."
"Stuff! Well, did you see the lady in the corn-colored silk, and poppies in her hair?"
"Of course I did. Ceres in person. She made me feel hot, too; but I cooled myself a bit at her pale, sickly face."
"Never mind their faces; that is not the point."
"Oh, excuse me; it is always a point with us benighted males, all eyes and no eyes."
"Well, then, the lady in white, with cherry-velvet bands, and a white tunic looped with crimson, and headdress of white illusion, a la vierge, I think they call it."
"It was very refreshing; and adapted to that awful atmosphere. It was the nearest approach to nudity I ever saw, even amongst fashionable people."
"It was lovely; and then that superb figure in white illusion and gold, with all those narrow flounces over her slip of white silk glacee, and a wreath of white flowers, with gold wheat ears amongst them, in her hair; and oh! oh! oh! her pearls, oriental, and as big as almonds!"
"And oh! oh! oh! her nose! reddish, and as long as a woodcock's."
"Noses! noses! stupid! That is not what strikes you first in a woman dressed like an angel."
"Well, if you were to run up against that one, as I nearly did, her nose would be the thing that would strike you first. Nose! it was a rostrum! the spear-head of Goliah."
"Now, don't, Christopher. This is no laughing matter. Do you mean you were not ashamed of your wife? I was."
"No, I was not; you had but one rival; a very young lady, wise before her age; a blonde, with violet eyes. She was dressed in light mauve-colored silk, without a single flounce, or any other tomfoolery to fritter away the sheen and color of an exquisite material; her sunny hair was another wave of color, wreathed with a thin line of white jessamine flowers closely woven, that scented the air. This girl was the moon of that assembly, and you were the sun."
"I never even saw her."
"Eyes and no eyes. She saw you, and said, 'Oh, what a beautiful creature!' for I heard her. As for the old stagers, whom you admire so, their faces were all clogged with powder, the pores stopped up, the true texture of the skin abolished. They looked downright nasty, whenever you or that young girl passed by them. Then it was you saw to what a frightful extent women are got up in our day, even young women, and respectable women. No, Rosa, dress can do little for you; you have beauty--real beauty."
"Beauty! That passes unnoticed, unless one is well dressed."
"Then what an obscure pair the Apollo Belvidere and the Venus de Medicis must be."
"Oh! they are dressed--in marble."
Christopher Staines stared first, then smiled.
"Well done," said he, admiringly. "That is a knockdown blow. So now you have silenced your husband, go you to bed directly. I can't afford you diamonds; so I will take care of that little insignificant trifle, your beauty."
Mrs. Staines and Mrs. Lucas exchanged calls, and soon Mrs. Staines could no longer complain she was out of the world. Mrs. Lucas invited her to every party, because her beauty was an instrument of attraction she knew how to use; and Miss Lucas took a downright fancy to her; drove her in the park, and on Sundays to the Zoological Gardens, just beginning to be fashionable.
The Lucases rented a box at the opera, and if it was not let at the library by six o'clock, and if other engagements permitted, word was sent round to Mrs. Staines, as a matter of course, and she was taken to the opera. She began almost to live at the Lucases, and to be oftener fatigued than moped.
The usual order of things was inverted; the maiden lady educated the matron; for Miss Lucas knew all about everybody in the Park, honorable or dishonorable; all the scandals, and all the flirtations; and whatever she knew, she related point-blank. Being as inquisitive as voluble, she soon learned how Mrs. Staines and her husband were situated. She took upon her to advise her in many things, and especially impressed upon her that Dr. Staines must keep a carriage, if he wanted to get on in medicine. The piece of advice accorded so well with Rosa's wishes, that she urged it on her husband again and again.
He objected that no money was coming in, and therefore it would be insane to add to their expenses. Rosa persisted, and at last worried Staines with her importunity. He began to give rather short answers. Then she quoted Miss Lucas against him. He treated the authority with marked contempt; and then Rosa fired up a little. Then Staines held his peace; but did not buy a carriage to visit his no patients.
So at last Rosa complained to Lady Cicely Treherne, and made her the judge between her husband and herself. Lady Cicely drawled out a prompt but polite refusal to play that part. All that could be elicited from her, and that with difficulty, was, "Why quall with your husband about a cawwige; he is your best fwiend."
"Ah, that he is," said Rosa; "but Miss Lucas is a good friend, and she knows the world. We don't; neither Christopher nor I."
So she continued to nag at her husband about it, and to say that he was throwing his only chance away.
Galled as he was by neglect, this was irritating, and at last he could not help telling her she was unreasonable. "You live a gay life, and I a sad one. I consent to this, and let you go about with these Lucases, because you were so dull; but you should not consult them in our private affairs. Their interference is indelicate and improper. I will not set up a carriage till I have patients to visit. I am sick of seeing our capital dwindle, and no income created. I will never set up a carriage till I have taken a hundred-guinea fee."
"Oh! Then we shall go splashing through the mud all our days."
"Or ride in a cab," said Christopher, with a quiet doggedness that left no hope of his yielding.
One afternoon Miss Lucas called for Mrs. Staines to drive in the Park, but did not come up-stairs; it was an engagement, and she knew Mrs. Staines would be ready, or nearly. Mrs. Staines, not to keep her waiting, came down rather hastily, and in the very passage whipped out of her pocket a little glass, and a little powder puff, and puffed her face all over in a trice. She was then going out; but her husband called her into the study. "Rosa, my dear," said he, "you were going out with a dirty face."
"Oh!" cried she, "give me a glass."
"There is no need of that. All you want is a basin and some nice rain-water. I keep a little reservoir of it."
He then handed her the same with great politeness. She looked in his eye, and saw he was not to be trifled with. She complied like a lamb, and the heavenly color and velvet gloss that resulted were admirable.
He kissed her and said, "Ah! now you are my Rosa again. Oblige me by handing over that powder-puff to me." She looked vexed, but complied. "When you come back I will tell you why."
"You are a pest," said Mrs. Staines, and so joined her friend, rosy with rain-water and a rub.
"Dear me, how handsome you look to-day!" was Miss Lucas's first remark.
Rosa never dreamed that rain-water and rub could be the cause of her looking so well.
"It is my tiresome husband," said she. "He objects to powder, and he has taken away my puff."
"And you stood that?"
"Why, you poor-spirited little creature, I should like to see a husband presume to interfere with me in those things. Here, take mine."
Rosa hesitated a little. "Well--no--I think not."
Miss Lucas laughed at her, and quizzed her so on her allowing a man to interfere in such sacred things as dress and cosmetics, that she came back irritated with her husband, and gave him a short answer or two. Then he asked what was the matter.
"You treat me like a child--taking away my very puff."
"I treat you like a beautiful flower, that no bad gardener shall wither whilst I am here."
"What nonsense! How could that wither me? It is only violet powder--what they put on babies."
"And who are the Herods that put it on babies?"
"Their own mothers, that love them ten times more than the fathers do."
"And kill a hundred of them for one a man ever kills. Mothers!-- the most wholesale homicides in the nation. We will examine your violet-powder: bring it down here."
While she was gone he sent for a breakfast-cupful of flour, and when she came back he had his scales out, and begged her to put a teaspoonful of flour into one scale and of violet powder into another. The flour kicked the beam, as Homer expresses himself.
"Put another spoonful of flour."
The one spoonful of violet powder outweighed the two of flour.
"Now," said Staines, "does not that show you the presence of a mineral in your vegetable powder? I suppose they tell you it is made of white violets dried, and triturated in a diamond mill. Let us find out what metal it is. We need not go very deep into chemistry for that." He then applied a simple test, and detected the presence of lead in large quantities. Then he lectured her: "Invisible perspiration is a process of nature necessary to health and to life. The skin is made porous for that purpose. You can kill anybody in an hour or two by closing the pores. A certain infallible ass, called Pope Leo XII., killed a little boy in two hours, by gilding him to adorn the pageant of his first procession as Pope. But what is death to the whole body must be injurious to a part. What madness, then, to clog the pores of so large and important a surface as the face, and check the invisible perspiration: how much more to insert lead into your system every day of your life; a cumulative poison, and one so deadly and so subtle, that the Sheffield file-cutters die in their prime, from merely hammering on a leaden anvil. And what do you gain by this suicidal habit? No plum has a sweeter bloom or more delicious texture than the skin of your young face; but this mineral filth hides that delicate texture, and substitutes a dry, uniform appearance, more like a certain kind of leprosy than health. Nature made your face the rival of peaches, roses, lilies; and you say, 'No; I know better than my Creator and my God; my face shall be like a dusty miller's.' Go into any flour-mill, and there you shall see men with faces exactly like your friend Miss Lucas's. But before a miller goes to his sweetheart, he always washes his face. You ladies would never get a miller down to your level in brains. It is a miller's dirty face our mono-maniacs of woman imitate, not the face a miller goes a-courting with."
"La! what a fuss about nothing!"
"About nothing! Is your health nothing? Is your beauty nothing? Well, then, it will cost you nothing to promise me never to put powder on your face again."
"Very well, I promise. Now what will you do for me?"
"Work for you--write for you--suffer for you--be self-denying for you--and even give myself the pain of disappointing you now and then--looking forward to the time when I shall be able to say 'Yes' to everything you ask me. Ah! child, you little know what it costs me to say 'No' to you."
Rosa put her arms round him and acquiesced. She was one of those who go with the last speaker; but, for that very reason, the eternal companionship of so flighty and flirty a girl as Miss Lucas was injurious to her.
One day Lady Cicely Treherne was sitting with Mrs. Staines, smiling languidly at her talk, and occasionally drawling out a little plain good sense, when in came Miss Lucas, with her tongue well hung, as usual, and dashed into twenty topics in ten minutes.
This young lady in her discourse was like those little oily beetles you see in small ponds, whose whole life is spent in tacking-- confound them for it!--generally at right angles. What they are in navigation was Miss Lucas in conversation: tacked so eternally from topic to topic, that no man on earth, and not every woman, could follow her.
At the sight and sound of her, Lady Cicely congealed and stiffened. Easy and unpretending with Mrs. Staines, she was all dignity, and even majesty, in the presence of this chatterbox; and the smoothness with which the transfiguration was accomplished marked that accomplished actress the high-bred woman of the world.
Rosa, better able to estimate the change of manner than Miss Lucas was, who did not know how little this Sawny was afflicted with misplaced dignity, looked wistfully and distressed at her. Lady Cicely smiled kindly in reply, rose, without seeming to hurry,-- catch her condescending to be rude to Charlotte Lucas,--and took her departure, with a profound and most gracious courtesy to the lady who had driven her away.
Mrs. Staines saw her down-stairs, and said, ruefully, "I am afraid you do not like my friend Miss Lucas. She is a great rattle, but so good-natured and clever."
Lady Cicely shook her head. "Clevaa people don't talk so much nonsense before strangaas."
"Oh, dear!" said Rosa. "I was in hopes you would like her."
"Do you like her?"
"Indeed I do; but I shall not, if she drives an older friend away."
"My dyah, I'm not easily dwiven from those I esteem. But you undastand that is not a woman for me to mispwonownce my 'ah's befaw--nor for you to make a bosom fwiend of--Wosa Staines."
She said this with a sudden maternal solemnity and kindness that contrasted nobly and strangely with her yea-nay style, and Mrs. Staines remembered the words years after they were spoken.
It so happened that after this Mrs. Staines received no more visits from Lady Cicely for some time, and that vexed her. She knew her sex enough to be aware that they are very jealous, and she permitted herself to think that this high-minded Sawny was jealous of Miss Lucas.
This idea, founded on a general estimate of her sex, was dispelled by a few lines from Lady Cicely, to say her family and herself were in deep distress; her brother, Lord Ayscough, lay dying from an accident.
Then Rosa was all remorse, and ran down to Staines to tell him. She found him with an open letter in his hand. It was from Dr. Barr, and on the same subject. The doctor, who had always been friendly to him, invited him to come down at once to Hallowtree Hall, in Huntingdonshire, to a consultation. There was a friendly intimation to start at once, as the patient might die any moment.
Husband and wife embraced each other in a tumult of surprised thankfulness. A few necessaries were thrown into a carpet-bag, and Dr. Staines was soon whirled into Huntingdonshire. Having telegraphed beforehand, he was met at the station by the earl's carriage and people, and driven to the Hall. He was received by an old, silver-haired butler, looking very sad, who conducted him to a boudoir; and then went and tapped gently at the door of the patient's room. It was opened and shut very softly, and Lady Cicely, dressed in black, and looking paler than ever, came into the room.
"Dr. Staines, I think?"
"Thank you for coming so promptly. Dr. Barr is gone. I fear he thinks--he thinks--O Dr. Staines--no sign of life but in his poor hands, that keep moving night and day."
Staines looked very grave at that. Lady Cicely observed it, and, faint at heart, could say no more, but led the way to the sick- room.
There in a spacious chamber, lighted by a grand oriel window and two side windows, lay rank, title, wealth, and youth, stricken down in a moment by a common accident. The sufferer's face was bloodless, his eyes fixed, and no signs of life but in his thumbs, and they kept working with strange regularity.
In the room were a nurse and the surgeon; the neighboring physician, who had called in Dr. Barr, had just paid his visit and gone away.
Lady Cicely introduced Dr. Staines and Mr. White, and then Dr. Staines stood and fixed his eyes on the patient in profound silence. Lady Cicely scanned his countenance searchingly, and was struck with the extraordinary power and intensity it assumed in examining the patient; but the result was not encouraging. Dr. Staines looked grave and gloomy.
At last, without removing his eye from the recumbent figure, he said quietly to Mr. White, "Thrown from his horse, sir."
"Horse fell on him, Dr. Staines."
"Any visible injuries?"
"Yes. Severe contusions, and a rib broken and pressed upon the lungs. I replaced and set it. Will you see?"
"If you please."
He examined and felt the patient, and said it had been ably done.
Then he was silent and searching.
At last he spoke again. "The motion of the thumbs corresponds exactly with his pulse."
"Is that so, sir?"
"It is. The case is without a parallel. How long has he been so?"
"Nearly a week."
"It is so, sir."
Lady Cicely confirmed this.
"All the better," said Dr. Staines upon reflection. "Well, sir," said he, "the visible injuries having been ably relieved, I shall look another way for the cause." Then, after another pause, "I must have his head shaved."
Lady Cicely demurred a little to this; but Dr. Staines stood firm, and his lordship's valet undertook the job.
Staines directed him where to begin; and when he had made a circular tonsure on the top of the head, had it sponged with tepid water.
"I thought so," said he. "Here is the mischief;" and he pointed to a very slight indentation on the left side of the pia mater. "Observe," said he, "there is no corresponding indentation on the other side. Underneath this trifling depression a minute piece of bone is doubtless pressing on the most sensitive part of the brain. He must be trephined."
Mr. White's eyes sparkled.
"You are an hospital surgeon, sir?"
"Yes, Dr. Staines. I have no fear of the operation."
"Then I hand the patient over to you. The case at present is entirely surgical."
White was driven home, and soon returned with the requisite instruments. The operation was neatly performed, and then Lady Cicely was called in. She came trembling; her brother's fingers were still working, but not so regularly.
"That is only habit," said Staines; "it will soon leave off, now the cause is gone."
And, truly enough, in about five minutes the fingers became quiet. The eyes became human next; and within half an hour after the operation the earl gave a little sigh.
Lady Cicely clasped her hands, and uttered a little cry of delight.
"This will not do," said Staines, "I shall have you screaming when he speaks."
"Oh, Dr. Staines! will he ever speak?"
"I think so, and very soon. So be on your guard."
This strange scene reached its climax soon after, by the earl saying, quietly,--
"Are her knees broke, Tom?"
Lady Cicely uttered a little scream, but instantly suppressed it.
"No, my lord," said Staines, smartly; "only rubbed a bit. You can go to sleep, my lord. I'll take care of the mare."
"All right," said his lordship; and composed himself to slumber.
Dr. Staines, at the earnest request of Lady Cicely, stayed all night; and in course of the day advised her how to nurse the patient, since both physician and surgeon had done with him.
He said the patient's brain might be irritable for some days, and no women in silk dresses or crinoline, or creaking shoes, must enter the room. He told her the nurse was evidently a clumsy woman, and would be letting things fall. She had better get some old soldier used to nursing. "And don't whisper in the room," said he; "nothing irritates them worse; and don't let anybody play a piano within hearing; but in a day or two you may try him with slow and continuous music on the flute or violin if you like. Don't touch his bed suddenly; don't sit on it or lean on it. Dole sunlight into his room by degrees; and when he can bear it, drench him with it. Never mind what the old school tell you. About these things they know a good deal less than nothing."
Lady Cicely received all this like an oracle.
The cure was telegraphed to Dr. Barr, and he was requested to settle the fee. He was not the man to undersell the profession, and was jealous of nobody, having a large practice, and a very wealthy wife. So he telegraphed back--"Fifty guineas, and a guinea a mile from London."
So, as Christopher Staines sat at an early breakfast, with the carriage waiting to take him to the train, two notes were brought him on a salver.
They were both directed by Lady Cicely Treherne. One of them contained a few kind and feeling words of gratitude and esteem; the other, a check, drawn by the earl's steward, for one hundred and thirty guineas.
He bowled up to London, and told it all to Rosa. She sparkled with pride, affection, and joy.
"Now, who says you are not a genius?" she cried. "A hundred and thirty guineas for one fee! Now, if you love your wife as she loves you--you will set up a brougham."