Round The Red Lamp
Arthur Conan Doyle
Part 3 out of 5
and mother had no sign of any morbid diathesis, but I
will not conceal from you that my grandfather was
afflicted with podagra."
Mrs. O'James looked startled.
"Is that very serious?" she asked.
"It is gout," said the Professor.
"Oh, is that all? It sounded much worse than
"It is a grave taint, but I trust that I shall
not be a victim to atavism. I have laid these facts
before you because they are factors which cannot be
overlooked in forming your decision. May I ask now
whether you see your way to accepting my proposal?"
He paused in his walk, and looked earnestly and
expectantly down at her.
A struggle was evidently going on in her mind.
Her eyes were cast down, her little slipper tapped
the lawn, and her fingers played nervously with her
chatelain. Suddenly, with a sharp, quick gesture
which had in it something of ABANDON and
recklessness, she held out her hand to her companion.
"I accept," she said.
They were standing under the shadow of the
hawthorn. He stooped gravely down, and kissed her
"I trust that you may never have cause to regret
your decision," he said.
"I trust that you never may," she cried, with a
There were tears in her eyes, and her lips
twitched with some strong emotion.
"Come into the sunshine again," said he. "It is
the great restorative. Your nerves are shaken. Some
little congestion of the medulla and pons. It is
always instructive to reduce psychic or
emotional conditions to their physical
equivalents. You feel that your anchor is still firm
in a bottom of ascertained fact."
"But it is so dreadfully unromantic," said Mrs.
O'James, with her old twinkle.
"Romance is the offspring of imagination and of
ignorance. Where science throws her calm, clear
light there is happily no room for romance."
"But is not love romance?" she asked.
"Not at all. Love has been taken away from the
poets, and has been brought within the domain of true
science. It may prove to be one of the great cosmic
elementary forces. When the atom of hydrogen draws
the atom of chlorine towards it to form the perfected
molecule of hydrochloric acid, the force which it
exerts may be intrinsically similar to that which
draws me to you. Attraction and repulsion appear to
be the primary forces. This is attraction."
"And here is repulsion," said Mrs. O'James, as a
stout, florid lady came sweeping across the lawn in
their direction. "So glad you have come out, Mrs.
Esdaile! Here is Professor Grey."
"How do you do, Professor?" said the lady, with
some little pomposity of manner. "You were very wise
to stay out here on so lovely a day. Is it not
"It is certainly very fine weather," the
"Listen to the wind sighing in the trees!" cried
Mrs. Esdaile, holding up one finger. "it is Nature's
lullaby. Could you not imagine it, Professor Grey,
to be the whisperings of angels?"
"The idea had not occurred to me, madam."
"Ah, Professor, I have always the same complaint
against you. A want of rapport with the deeper
meanings of nature. Shall I say a want of
imagination. You do not feel an emotional thrill at
the singing of that thrush?"
"I confess that I am not conscious of one, Mrs.
"Or at the delicate tint of that background of
leaves? See the rich greens!"
"Chlorophyll," murmured the Professor.
"Science is so hopelessly prosaic. It dissects
and labels, and loses sight of the great things in
its attention to the little ones. You have a poor
opinion of woman's intellect, Professor Grey. I
think that I have heard you say so."
"It is a question of avoirdupois," said the
Professor, closing his eyes and shrugging his
shoulders. "The female cerebrum averages two ounces
less in weight than the male. No doubt there are
exceptions. Nature is always elastic."
"But the heaviest thing is not always the
strongest," said Mrs. O'James, laughing. "Isn't
there a law of compensation in science? May we
not hope to make up in quality for what we lack
"I think not," remarked the Professor, gravely.
"But there is your luncheon-gong. No, thank you, Mrs.
Esdaile, I cannot stay. My carriage is waiting.
Good-bye. Good-bye, Mrs. O'James."
He raised his hat and stalked slowly away among
the laurel bushes.
"He has no taste," said Mrs. Esdaile--" no eye
"On the contrary," Mrs. O'James answered, with a
saucy little jerk of the chin. "He has just asked me
to be his wife."
As Professor Ainslie Grey ascended the steps of
his house, the hall-door opened and a dapper
gentleman stepped briskly out. He was somewhat
sallow in the face, with dark, beady eyes, and a
short, black beard with an aggressive bristle.
Thought and work had left their traces upon his face,
but he moved with the brisk activity of a man who had
not yet bade good-bye to his youth.
"I'm in luck's way," he cried. "I wanted to see
"Then come back into the library," said the
Professor; "you must stay and have lunch with us."
The two men entered the hall, and the Professor
led the way into his private sanctum. He motioned
his companion into an arm-chair.
"I trust that you have been successful, O'Brien,"
said he. "I should be loath to exercise any undue
pressure upon my sister Ada; but I have given her to
understand that there is no one whom I should prefer
for a brother-in-law to my most brilliant scholar,
the author of Some Remarks upon the Bile-Pigments,
with special reference to Urobilin."
"You are very kind, Professor Grey--you have
always been very kind," said the other. "I
approached Miss Grey upon the subject; she did not
"She said Yes, then?"
"No; she proposed to leave the matter open until
my return from Edinburgh. I go to-day, as you know,
and I hope to commence my research to-morrow."
"On the comparative anatomy of the vermiform
appendix, by James M`Murdo O'Brien," said the
Professor, sonorously. "It is a glorious subject--a
subject which lies at the very root of evolutionary
"Ah! she is the dearest girl," cried O'Brien,
with a sudden little spurt of Celtic enthusiasm--"she
is the soul of truth and of honour."
"The vermiform appendix----" began the Professor.
"She is an angel from heaven," interrupted the
other. "I fear that it is my advocacy of scientific
freedom in religious thought which stands in my way
"You must not truckle upon that point. You must
be true to your convictions; let there be no
"My reason is true to agnosticism, and yet I am
conscious of a void--a vacuum. I had feelings at the
old church at home between the scent of the incense
and the roll of the organ, such as I have never
experienced in the laboratory or the lecture-room."
"Sensuous-purely sensuous," said the Professor,
rubbing his chin. "Vague hereditary tendencies
stirred into life by the stimulation of the nasal and
"Maybe so, maybe so," the younger man answered
thoughtfully. "But this was not what I wished to
speak to you about. Before I enter your family, your
sister and you have a claim to know all that I can
tell you about my career. Of my worldly prospects I
have already spoken to you. There is only one point
which I have omitted to mention. I am a widower."
The Professor raised his eyebrows.
"This is news indeed," said he.
"I married shortly after my arrival in Australia.
Miss Thurston was her name. I met her in society.
It was a most unhappy match."
Some painful emotion possessed him. His quick,
expressive features quivered, and his white hands
tightened upon the arms of the chair. The Professor
turned away towards the window.
"You are the best judge," he remarked "but I
should not think that it was necessary to go into
"You have a right to know everything--you and
Miss Grey. It is not a matter on which I can well
speak to her direct. Poor Jinny was the best of
women, but she was open to flattery, and liable to be
misled by designing persons. She was untrue to me,
Grey. It is a hard thing to say of the dead, but she
was untrue to me. She fled to Auckland with a man
whom she had known before her marriage. The brig
which carried them foundered, and not a soul was
"This is very painful, O'Brien," said the
Professor, with a deprecatory motion of his hand. "I
cannot see, however, how it affects your relation to
"I have eased my conscience," said O'Brien,
rising from his chair; "I have told you all that
there is to tell. I should not like the story to
reach you through any lips but my own."
"You are right, O'Brien. Your action has
been most honourable and considerate. But you
are not to blame in the matter, save that perhaps you
showed a little precipitancy in choosing a life-
partner without due care and inquiry."
O'Brien drew his hand across his eyes.
"Poor girl!" he cried. "God help me, I love her
still! But I must go."
"You will lunch with us?"
"No, Professor; I have my packing still to do. I
have already bade Miss Grey adieu. In two months I
shall see you again."
"You will probably find me a married man."
"Yes, I have been thinking of it."
"My dear Professor, let me congratulate you with
all my heart. I had no idea. Who is the lady?"
"Mrs. O'James is her name--a widow of the same
nationality as yourself. But to return to matters of
importance, I should be very happy to see the proofs
of your paper upon the vermiform appendix. I may be
able to furnish you with material for a footnote or
"Your assistance will be invaluable to me," said
O'Brien, with enthusiasm, and the two men parted in
the hall. The Professor walked back into the dining-
room, where his sister was already seated at the
"I shall be married at the registrar's," he
remarked; "I should strongly recommend you to do
Professor Ainslie Grey was as good as his word.
A fortnight's cessation of his classes gave him an
opportunity which was too good to let pass. Mrs.
O'James was an orphan, without relations and almost
without friends in the country. There was no
obstacle in the way of a speedy wedding. They were
married, accordingly, in the quietest manner
possible, and went off to Cambridge together, where
the Professor and his charming wife were present at
several academic observances, and varied the routine
of their honeymoon by incursions into biological
laboratories and medical libraries. Scientific
friends were loud in their congratulations, not only
upon Mrs. Grey's beauty, but upon the unusual
quickness and intelligence which she displayed in
discussing physiological questions. The Professor
was himself astonished at the accuracy of her
information. "You have a remarkable range of
knowledge for a woman, Jeannette," he remarked upon
more than one occasion. He was even prepared to
admit that her cerebrum might be of the normal
One foggy, drizzling morning they returned to
Birchespool, for the next day would re-open the
session, and Professor Ainslie Grey prided himself
upon having never once in his life failed to
appear in his lecture-room at the very stroke of
the hour. Miss Ada Grey welcomed them with a
constrained cordiality, and handed over the keys of
office to the new mistress. Mrs. Grey pressed her
warmly to remain, but she explained that she had
already accepted an invitation which would engage her
for some months. The same evening she departed for
the south of England.
A couple of days later the maid carried a card
just after breakfast into the library where the
Professor sat revising his morning lecture. It
announced the re-arrival of Dr. James M`Murdo
O'Brien. Their meeting was effusively genial on the
part of the younger man, and coldly precise on that
of his former teacher.
"You see there have been changes," said the
"So I heard. Miss Grey told me in her letters,
and I read the notice in the British Medical Journal.
So it's really married you are. How quickly and
quietly you have managed it all!"
"I am constitutionally averse to anything in the
nature of show or ceremony. My wife is a sensible
woman--I may even go the length of saying that, for a
woman, she is abnormally sensible. She quite agreed
with me in the course which I have adopted."
"And your research on Vallisneria?"
"This matrimonial incident has interrupted it,
but I have resumed my classes, and we shall soon
be quite in harness again."
"I must see Miss Grey before I leave England. We
have corresponded, and I think that all will be well.
She must come out with me. I don't think I could go
The Professor shook his head.
"Your nature is not so weak as you pretend," he
said. "Questions of this sort are, after all, quite
subordinate to the great duties of life."
"You would have me take out my Celtic soul and
put in a Saxon one," he said. "Either my brain is
too small or my heart is too big. But when may I
call and pay my respects to Mrs. Grey? Will she be
at home this afternoon?"
"She is at home now. Come into the morning-room.
She will be glad to make your acquaintance."
They walked across the linoleum-paved hall. The
Professor opened the door of the room, and walked in,
followed by his friend. Mrs. Grey was sitting in a
basket-chair by the window, light and fairy-like in a
loose-flowing, pink morning-gown. Seeing a visitor,
she rose and swept towards them. The Professor heard
a dull thud behind him. O'Brien had fallen back into
a chair, with his hand pressed tight to his side.
"Jinny!" he gasped--"Jinny!"
Mrs. Grey stopped dead in her advance, and stared
at him with a face from which every expression had
been struck out, save one of astonishment and horror.
Then with a sharp intaking of the breath she reeled,
and would have fallen had the Professor not thrown
his long, nervous arm round her.
"Try this sofa," said he.
She sank back among the cushions with the same
white, cold, dead look upon her face. The Professor
stood with his back to the empty fireplace and
glanced from the one to the other.
"So, O'Brien," he said at last, "you have already
made the acquaintance of my wife!"
"Your wife, " cried his friend hoarsely. "She is
no wife of yours. God help me, she is MY wife."
The Professor stood rigidly upon the hearthrug.
His long, thin fingers were intertwined, and his head
sunk a little forward. His two companions had eyes
only for each other.
"Jinny!" said he.
"How could you leave me so, Jinny? How could you
have the heart to do it? I thought you were dead. I
mourned for your death--ay, and you have made me
mourn for you living. You have withered my life."
She made no answer, but lay back among her
cushions with her eyes still fixed upon him.
"Why do you not speak?"
"Because you are right, James. I HAVE treated
you cruelly--shamefully. But it is not as bad as you
"You fled with De Horta."
"No, I did not. At the last moment my better
nature prevailed. He went alone. But I was ashamed
to come back after what I had written to you. I
could not face you. I took passage alone to England
under a new name, and here I have lived ever since.
It seemed to me that I was beginning life again. I
knew that you thought I was drowned. Who could have
dreamed that fate would throw us together again!
When the Professor asked me----"
She stopped and gave a gasp for breath.
"You are faint," said the Professor--"keep the
head low; it aids the cerebral circulation." He
flattened down the cushion. "I am sorry to leave
you, O'Brien; but I have my class duties to look to.
Possibly I may find you here when I return."
With a grim and rigid face he strode out of the
room. Not one of the three hundred students who
listened to his lecture saw any change in his manner
and appearance, or could have guessed that the
austere gentleman in front of them had found out
at last how hard it is to rise above one's humanity.
The lecture over, he performed his routine duties in
the laboratory, and then drove back to his own house.
He did not enter by the front door, but passed
through the garden to the folding glass casement
which led out of the morning-room. As he approached
he heard his wife's voice and O'Brien's in loud and
animated talk. He paused among the rose-bushes,
uncertain whether to interrupt them or no. Nothing
was further from his nature than play the
eavesdropper; but as he stood, still hesitating,
words fell upon his ear which struck him rigid and
"You are still my wife, Jinny," said O'Brien; "I
forgive you from the bottom of my heart. I love you,
and I have never ceased to love you, though you had
"No, James, my heart was always in Melbourne. I
have always been yours. I thought that it was better
for you that I should seem to be dead."
"You must choose between us now, Jinny. If you
determine to remain here, I shall not open my lips.
There shall be no scandal. If, on the other hand,
you come with me, it's little I care about the
world's opinion. Perhaps I am as much to blame as
you. I thought too much of my work and too little of
The Professor heard the cooing, caressing laugh
which he knew so well.
"I shall go with you, James," she said.
"And the Professor----?"
"The poor Professor! But he will not mind much,
James; he has no heart."
"We must tell him our resolution."
"There is no need," said Professor Ainslie Grey,
stepping in through the open casement. "I have
overheard the latter part of your conversation. I
hesitated to interrupt you before you came to a
O'Brien stretched out his hand and took that of
the woman. They stood together with the sunshine on
their faces. The Professor paused at the casement
with his hands behind his back, and his long black
shadow fell between them.
"You have come to a wise decision," said he. "Go
back to Australia together, and let what has passed
be blotted out of your lives."
"But you--you----" stammered O'Brien.
The Professor waved his hand.
"Never trouble about me," he said.
The woman gave a gasping cry.
"What can I do or say?" she wailed. "How could I
have foreseen this? I thought my old life was dead.
But it has come back again, with all its hopes and
its desires. What can I say to you, Ainslie? I
have brought shame and disgrace upon a worthy man. I
have blasted your life. How you must hate and loathe
me! I wish to God that I had never been born!"
"I neither hate nor loathe you, Jeannette," said
the Professor, quietly. "You are wrong in regretting
your birth, for you have a worthy mission before you
in aiding the life-work of a man who has shown
himself capable of the highest order of scientific
research. I cannot with justice blame you personally
for what has occurred. How far the individual monad
is to be held responsible for hereditary and
engrained tendencies, is a question upon which
science has not yet said her last word."
He stood with his finger-tips touching, and his
body inclined as one who is gravely expounding a
difficult and impersonal subject. O'Brien had
stepped forward to say something, but the other's
attitude and manner froze the words upon his lips.
Condolence or sympathy would be an impertinence to
one who could so easily merge his private griefs in
broad questions of abstract philosophy.
"It is needless to prolong the situation," the
Professor continued, in the same measured tones. "My
brougham stands at the door. I beg that you will use
it as your own. Perhaps it would be as well that you
should leave the town without unnecessary delay.
Your things, Jeannette, shall be forwarded."
O'Brien hesitated with a hanging head.
"I hardly dare offer you my hand," he said.
"On the contrary. I think that of the three of
us you come best out of the affair. You have nothing
to be ashamed of."
"I shall see that the matter is put to her in its
true light. Good-bye! Let me have a copy of your
recent research. Good-bye, Jeannette!"
Their hands met, and for one short moment their
eyes also. It was only a glance, but for the first
and last time the woman's intuition cast a light for
itself into the dark places of a strong man's soul.
She gave a little gasp, and her other hand rested for
an instant, as white and as light as thistle-down,
upon his shoulder.
"James, James!" she cried. "Don't you see that he
is stricken to the heart?"
He turned her quietly away from him.
"I am not an emotional man," he said. "I have my
duties--my research on Vallisneria. The brougham is
there. Your cloak is in the hall. Tell John where
you wish to be driven. He will bring you anything
you need. Now go."
His last two words were so sudden, so volcanic,
in such contrast to his measured voice and mask-
like face, that they swept the two away from
him. He closed the door behind them and paced slowly
up and down the room. Then he passed into the
library and looked out over the wire blind. The
carriage was rolling away. He caught a last glimpse
of the woman who had been his wife. He saw the
feminine droop of her head, and the curve of her
Under some foolish, aimless impulse, he took a
few quick steps towards the door. Then he turned,
and throwing himself into his study-chair he plunged
back into his work.
There was little scandal about this singular
domestic incident. The Professor had few personal
friends, and seldom went into society. His marriage
had been so quiet that most of his colleagues had
never ceased to regard him as a bachelor. Mrs.
Esdaile and a few others might talk, but their field
for gossip was limited, for they could only guess
vaguely at the cause of this sudden separation.
The Professor was as punctual as ever at his
classes, and as zealous in directing the laboratory
work of those who studied under him. His own private
researches were pushed on with feverish energy. It
was no uncommon thing for his servants, when they
came down of a morning, to hear the shrill
scratchings of his tireless pen, or to meet him on
the staircase as he ascended, grey and silent, to his
room. In vain his friends assured him that such a
life must undermine his health. He lengthened his
hours until day and night were one long, ceaseless
Gradually under this discipline a change came
over his appearance. His features, always inclined
to gauntness, became even sharper and more
pronounced. There were deep lines about his temples
and across his brow. His cheek was sunken and his
complexion bloodless. His knees gave under him when
he walked; and once when passing out of his lecture-
room he fell and had to be assisted to his carriage.
This was just before the end of the session and
soon after the holidays commenced the professors who
still remained in Birchespool were shocked to hear
that their brother of the chair of physiology had
sunk so low that no hopes could be entertained of his
recovery. Two eminent physicians had consulted over
his case without being able to give a name to the
affection from which he suffered. A steadily
decreasing vitality appeared to be the only symptom--
a bodily weakness which left the mind unclouded. He
was much interested himself in his own case, and made
notes of his subjective sensations as an aid to
diagnosis. Of his approaching end he spoke in
his usual unemotional and somewhat pedantic fashion.
"It is the assertion," he said, "of the liberty of the
individual cell as opposed to the cell-commune. It
is the dissolution of a co-operative society. The
process is one of great interest."
And so one grey morning his co-operative society
dissolved. Very quietly and softly he sank into his
eternal sleep. His two physicians felt some slight
embarrassment when called upon to fill in his
"It is difficult to give it a name," said one.
"Very," said the other.
"If he were not such an unemotional man, I should
have said that he had died from some sudden nervous
shock--from, in fact, what the vulgar would call a
"I don't think poor Grey was that sort of a man
"Let us call it cardiac, anyhow," said the older
So they did so.
THE CASE OF LADY SANNOX.
The relations between Douglas Stone and the
notorious Lady Sannox were very well known both among
the fashionable circles of which she was a brilliant
member, and the scientific bodies which numbered him
among their most illustrious confreres. There
was naturally, therefore, a very widespread interest
when it was announced one morning that the lady had
absolutely and for ever taken the veil, and that the
world would see her no more. When, at the very tail
of this rumour, there came the assurance that the
celebrated operating surgeon, the man of steel
nerves, had been found in the morning by his valet,
seated on one side of his bed, smiling pleasantly
upon the universe, with both legs jammed into one
side of his breeches and his great brain about as
valuable as a cap full of porridge, the matter was
strong enough to give quite a little thrill of
interest to folk who had never hoped that their jaded
nerves were capable of such a sensation.
Douglas Stone in his prime was one of the
most remarkable men in England. Indeed, he
could hardly be said to have ever reached his prime,
for he was but nine-and-thirty at the time of this
little incident. Those who knew him best were aware
that, famous as he was as a surgeon, he might have
succeeded with even greater rapidity in any of a
dozen lines of life. He could have cut his way to
fame as a soldier, struggled to it as an explorer,
bullied for it in the courts, or built it out of
stone and iron as an engineer. He was born to be
great, for he could plan what another man dare not
do, and he could do what another man dare not plan.
In surgery none could follow him. His nerve, his
judgment, his intuition, were things apart. Again
and again his knife cut away death, but grazed the
very springs of life in doing it, until his
assistants were as white as the patient. His energy,
his audacity, his full-blooded self-confidence--does
not the memory of them still linger to the south of
Marylebone Road and the north of Oxford Street?
His vices were as magnificent as his virtues, and
infinitely more picturesque. Large as was his
income, and it was the third largest of all
professional men in London, it was far beneath the
luxury of his living. Deep in his complex nature lay
a rich vein of sensualism, at the sport of which he
placed all the prizes of his life. The eye, the
ear, the touch, the palate--all were his masters.
The bouquet of old vintages, the scent of rare
exotics, the curves and tints of the daintiest
potteries of Europe--it was to these that the quick-
running stream of gold was transformed. And then
there came his sudden mad passion for Lady Sannox,
when a single interview with two challenging glances
and a whispered word set him ablaze. She was the
loveliest woman in London, and the only one to him.
He was one of the handsomest men in London, but not
the only one to her. She had a liking for new
experiences, and was gracious to most men who wooed
her. It may have been cause or it may have been
effect that Lord Sannox looked fifty, though he was
He was a quiet, silent, neutral-tinted man, this
lord, with thin lips and heavy eyelids, much given to
gardening, and full of home-like habits. He had at
one time been fond of acting, had even rented a
theatre in London, and on its boards had first seen
Miss Marion Dawson, to whom he had offered his hand,
his title, and the third of a county. Since his
marriage this early hobby had become distasteful to
him. Even in private theatricals it was no longer
possible to persuade him to exercise the talent which
he had often shown that he possessed. He was happier
with a spud and a watering-can among his orchids and
It was quite an interesting problem whether he
was absolutely devoid of sense, or miserably wanting
in spirit. Did he know his lady's ways and condone
them, or was he a mere blind, doting fool? It was a
point to be discussed over the teacups in snug little
drawing-rooms, or with the aid of a cigar in the bow
windows of clubs. Bitter and plain were the comments
among men upon his conduct. There was but one who
had a good word to say for him, and he was the most
silent member in the smoking-room. He had seen him
break in a horse at the university, and it seemed to
have left an impression upon his mind.
But when Douglas Stone became the favourite, all
doubts as to Lord Sannox's knowledge or ignorance
were set for ever at rest. There, was no subterfuge
about Stone. In his high-handed, impetuous fashion,
he set all caution and discretion at defiance. The
scandal became notorious. A learned body intimated
that his name had been struck from the list of its
vice-presidents. Two friends implored him to
consider his professional credit. He cursed them all
three, and spent forty guineas on a bangle to take
with him to the lady. He was at her house every
evening, and she drove in his carriage in the
afternoons. There was not an attempt on either side
to conceal their relations; but there came at last a
little incident to interrupt them.
It was a dismal winter's night, very cold and
gusty, with the wind whooping in the chimneys and
blustering against the window-panes. A thin spatter
of rain tinkled on the glass with each fresh sough of
the gale, drowning for the instant the dull gurgle
and drip from the eves. Douglas Stone had finished
his dinner, and sat by his fire in the study, a glass
of rich port upon the malachite table at his elbow.
As he raised it to his lips, he held it up against
the lamplight, and watched with the eye of a
connoisseur the tiny scales of beeswing which floated
in its rich ruby depths. The fire, as it spurted up,
threw fitful lights upon his bold, clear-cut face,
with its widely-opened grey eyes, its thick and yet
firm lips, and the deep, square jaw, which had
something Roman in its strength and its animalism.
He smiled from time to time as he nestled back in his
luxurious chair. Indeed, he had a right to feel well
pleased, for, against the advice of six colleagues,
he had performed an operation that day of which only
two cases were on record, and the result had been
brilliant beyond all expectation. No other man in
London would have had the daring to plan, or the
skill to execute, such a heroic measure.
But he had promised Lady Sannox to see her that
evening and it was already half-past eight. His hand
was outstretched to the bell to order the
carriage when he heard the dull thud of the knocker.
An instant later there was the shuffling of feet in
the hall, and the sharp closing of a door.
"A patient to see you, sir, in the consulting-
room, said the butler.
"No, sir; I think he wants you to go out."
"It is too late, cried Douglas Stone peevishly.
"I won't go."
"This is his card, sir."
The butler presented it upon the gold salver
which had been given to his master by the wife of a
"`Hamil Ali, Smyrna.' Hum! The fellow is a
Turk, I suppose."
"Yes, sir. He seems as if he came from abroad,
sir. And he's in a terrible way."
"Tut, tut! I have an engagement. I must go
somewhere else. But I'll see him. Show him in here,
A few moments later the butler swung open the
door and ushered in a small and decrepit man, who
walked with a bent back and with the forward push of
the face and blink of the eyes which goes with
extreme short sight. His face was swarthy, and his
hair and beard of the deepest black. In one hand he
held a turban of white muslin striped with red, in
the other a small chamois leather bag.
"Good-evening," said Douglas Stone, when the
butler had closed the door. "You speak English, I
"Yes, sir. I am from Asia Minor, but I speak
English when I speak slow."
"You wanted me to go out, I understand?"
"Yes, sir. I wanted very much that you should
see my wife."
"I could come in the morning, but I have an
engagement which prevents me from seeing your wife
The Turk's answer was a singular one. He pulled
the string which closed the mouth of the chamois
leather bag, and poured a flood of gold on to the
"There are one hundred pounds there," said he,
"and I promise you that it will not take you an hour.
I have a cab ready at the door."
Douglas Stone glanced at his watch. An hour
would not make it too late to visit Lady Sannox. He
had been there later. And the fee was an
extraordinarily high one. He had been pressed by his
creditors lately, and he could not afford to let such
a chance pass. He would go.
"What is the case?" he asked.
"Oh, it is so sad a one! So sad a one! You have
not, perhaps, heard of the daggers of the Almohades?"
"Ah, they are Eastern daggers of a great age and
of a singular shape, with the hilt like what you call
a stirrup. I am a curiosity dealer, you understand,
and that is why I have come to England from Smyrna,
but next week I go back once more. Many things I
brought with me, and I have a few things left, but
among them, to my sorrow, is one of these daggers."
"You will remember that I have an appointment,
sir," said the surgeon, with some irritation. "Pray
confine yourself to the necessary details."
"You will see that it is necessary. To-day my
wife fell down in a faint in the room in which I keep
my wares, and she cut her lower lip upon this cursed
dagger of Almohades."
"I see," said Douglas Stone, rising. "And you
wish me to dress the wound? "
"No, no, it is worse than that."
"These daggers are poisoned."
"Yes, and there is no man, East or West, who can
tell now what is the poison or what the cure. But
all that is known I know, for my father was in this
trade before me, and we have had much to do with
these poisoned weapons."
"What are the symptoms?"
"Deep sleep, and death in thirty hours."
"And you say there is no cure. Why then should
you pay me this considerable fee?"
"No drug can cure, but the knife may."
"The poison is slow of absorption. It remains
for hours in the wound."
"Washing, then, might cleanse it?"
"No more than in a snake-bite. It is too subtle
and too deadly."
"Excision of the wound, then?"
"That is it. If it be on the finger, take the
finger off. So said my father always. But think of
where this wound is, and that it is my wife. It is
But familiarity with such grim matters may take
the finer edge from a man's sympathy. To Douglas
Stone this was already an interesting case, and he
brushed aside as irrelevant the feeble objections of
"It appears to be that or nothing," said he
brusquely. It is better to lose a lip than a life."
"Ah, yes, I know that you are right. Well, well,
it is kismet, and must be faced. I have the cab, and
you will come with me and do this thing."
Douglas Stone took his case of bistouries from a
drawer, and placed it with a roll of bandage and a
compress of lint in his pocket. He must waste
no more time if he were to see Lady Sannox.
"I am ready," said he, pulling on his overcoat.
Will you take a glass of wine before you go out into
this cold air?"
His visitor shrank away, with a protesting hand
"You forget that I am a Mussulman, and a true
follower of the Prophet," said he. "But tell me what
is the bottle of green glass which you have placed in
"It is chloroform."
"Ah, that also is forbidden to us. It is a
spirit, and we make no use of such things."
"What! You would allow your wife to go through
an operation without an anaesthetic?"
"Ah! she will feel nothing, poor soul. The deep
sleep has already come on, which is the first working
of the poison. And then I have given her of our
Smyrna opium. Come, sir, for already an hour has
As they stepped out into the darkness, a sheet of
rain was driven in upon their faces, and the hall
lamp, which dangled from the arm of a marble
caryatid, went out with a fluff. Pim, the butler,
pushed the heavy door to, straining hard with his
shoulder against the wind, while the two men groped
their way towards the yellow glare which showed where
the cab was waiting. An instant later they were
rattling upon their journey.
"Is it far?" asked Douglas Stone.
"Oh, no. We have a very little quiet place off
the Euston Road."
The surgeon pressed the spring of his repeater
and listened to the little tings which told him the
hour. It was a quarter past nine. He calculated the
distances, and the short time which it would take him
to perform so trivial an operation. He ought to
reach Lady Sannox by ten o'clock. Through the fogged
windows he saw the blurred gas-lamps dancing past,
with occasionally the broader glare of a shop front.
The rain was pelting and rattling upon the leathern
top of the carriage and the wheels swashed as they
rolled through puddle and mud. Opposite to him the
white headgear of his companion gleamed faintly
through the obscurity. The surgeon felt in his
pockets and arranged his needles, his ligatures and
his safety-pins, that no time might be wasted when
they arrived. He chafed with impatience and drummed
his foot upon the floor.
But the cab slowed down at last and pulled up.
In an instant Douglas Stone was out, and the Smyrna
merchant's toe was at his very heel.
"You can wait," said he to the driver.
It was a mean-looking house in a narrow and
sordid street. The surgeon, who knew his London
well, cast a swift glance into the shadows, but
there was nothing distinctive--no shop, no movement,
nothing but a double line of dull, flat-faced houses,
a double stretch of wet flagstones which gleamed in
the lamplight, and a double rush of water in the
gutters which swirled and gurgled towards the sewer
gratings. The door which faced them was blotched and
discoloured, and a faint light in the fan pane above
it served to show the dust and the grime which
covered it. Above, in one of the bedroom windows,
there was a dull yellow glimmer. The merchant
knocked loudly, and, as he turned his dark face
towards the light, Douglas Stone could see that it
was contracted with anxiety. A bolt was drawn, and
an elderly woman with a taper stood in the doorway,
shielding the thin flame with her gnarled hand.
"Is all well?" gasped the merchant.
"She is as you left her, sir."
"She has not spoken?"
"No; she is in a deep sleep."
The merchant closed the door, and Douglas Stone
walked down the narrow passage, glancing about him in
some surprise as he did so. There was no oilcloth,
no mat, no hat-rack. Deep grey dust and heavy
festoons of cobwebs met his eyes everywhere.
Following the old woman up the winding stair, his
firm footfall echoed harshly through the silent
house. There was no carpet.
The bedroom was on the second landing. Douglas
Stone followed the old nurse into it, with the
merchant at his heels. Here, at least, there was
furniture and to spare. The floor was littered and
the corners piled with Turkish cabinets, inlaid
tables, coats of chain mail, strange pipes, and
grotesque weapons. A single small lamp stood upon a
bracket on the wall. Douglas Stone took it down, and
picking his way among the lumber, walked over to a
couch in the corner, on which lay a woman dressed in
the Turkish fashion, with yashmak and veil. The
lower part of the face was exposed, and the surgeon
saw a jagged cut which zigzagged along the border of
the under lip.
"You will forgive the yashmak," said the Turk.
"You know our views about woman in the East."
But the surgeon was not thinking about the
yashmak. This was no longer a woman to him. It was
a case. He stooped and examined the wound carefully.
"There are no signs of irritation," said he. "We
might delay the operation until local symptoms
The husband wrung his hands in incontrollable
"Oh! sir, sir!" he cried. "Do not trifle. You do
not know. It is deadly. I know, and I give you
my assurance that an operation is absolutely
necessary. Only the knife can save her."
"And yet I am inclined to wait," said Douglas
"That is enough!" the Turk cried, angrily.
"Every minute is of importance, and I cannot stand
here and see my wife allowed to sink. It only
remains for me to give you my thanks for having come,
and to call in some other surgeon before it is too
Douglas Stone hesitated. To refund that hundred
pounds was no pleasant matter. But of course if he
left the case he must return the money. And if the
Turk were right and the woman died, his position
before a coroner might be an embarrassing one.
"You have had personal experience of this
poison?" he asked.
"And you assure me that an operation is needful."
"I swear it by all that I hold sacred."
"The disfigurement will be frightful."
"I can understand that the mouth will not be a
pretty one to kiss."
Douglas Stone turned fiercely upon the man. The
speech was a brutal one. But the Turk has his own
fashion of talk and of thought, and there was no time
for wrangling. Douglas Stone drew a bistoury
from his case, opened it and felt the keen straight
edge with his forefinger. Then he held the lamp
closer to the bed. Two dark eyes were gazing up at
him through the slit in the yashmak. They were all
iris, and the pupil was hardly to be seen.
"You have given her a very heavy dose of opium."
"Yes, she has had a good dose."
He glanced again at the dark eyes which looked
straight at his own. They were dull and lustreless,
but, even as he gazed, a little shifting sparkle came
into them, and the lips quivered.
"She is not absolutely unconscious," said he.
"Would it not be well to use the knife while it
would be painless?"
The same thought had crossed the surgeon's mind.
He grasped the wounded lip with his forceps, and with
two swift cuts he took out a broad V-shaped piece.
The woman sprang up on the couch with a dreadful
gurgling scream. Her covering was torn from her
face. It was a face that he knew. In spite of that
protruding upper lip and that slobber of blood, it
was a face that he knew. She kept on putting her
hand up to the gap and screaming. Douglas Stone sat
down at the foot of the couch with his knife and his
forceps. The room was whirling round, and he had
felt something go like a ripping seam behind his
ear. A bystander would have said that his face
was the more ghastly of the two. As in a dream, or
as if he had been looking at something at the play,
he was conscious that the Turk's hair and beard lay
upon the table, and that Lord Sannox was leaning
against the wall with his hand to his side, laughing
silently. The screams had died away now, and the
dreadful head had dropped back again upon the pillow,
but Douglas Stone still sat motionless, and Lord
Sannox still chuckled quietly to himself.
"It was really very necessary for Marion, this
operation," said he, "not physically, but morally,
you know, morally."
Douglas Stone stooped forwards and began to play
with the fringe of the coverlet. His knife tinkled
down upon the ground, but he still held the forceps
and something more.
"I had long intended to make a little example,"
said Lord Sannox, suavely. "Your note of Wednesday
miscarried, and I have it here in my pocket-book. I
took some pains in carrying out my idea. The wound,
by the way, was from nothing more dangerous than my
He glanced keenly at his silent companion, and
cocked the small revolver which he held in his coat
pocket. But Douglas Stone was still picking at the
"You see you have kept your appointment after
all," said Lord Sannox.
And at that Douglas Stone began to laugh. He
laughed long and loudly. But Lord Sannox did
not laugh now. Something like fear sharpened and
hardened his features. He walked from the room, and
he walked on tiptoe. The old woman was waiting
"Attend to your mistress when she awakes," said
Then he went down to the street. The cab was at
the door, and the driver raised his hand to his hat.
"John," said Lord Sannox, "you will take the
doctor home first. He will want leading downstairs,
I think. Tell his butler that he has been taken ill
at a case."
"Very good, sir."
"Then you can take Lady Sannox home."
"And how about yourself, sir?"
"Oh, my address for the next few months will be
Hotel di Roma, Venice. Just see that the letters are
sent on. And tell Stevens to exhibit all the purple
chrysanthemums next Monday and to wire me the
A QUESTION OF DIPLOMACY.
The Foreign Minister was down with the gout. For
a week he had been confined to the house, and he had
missed two Cabinet Councils at a time when the
pressure upon his department was severe. It is true
that he had an excellent undersecretary and an
admirable staff, but the Minister was a man of such
ripe experience and of such proven sagacity that
things halted in his absence. When his firm hand was
at the wheel the great ship of State rode easily and
smoothly upon her way; when it was removed she yawed
and staggered until twelve British editors rose up in
their omniscience and traced out twelve several
courses, each of which was the sole and only path to
safety. Then it was that the Opposition said vain
things, and that the harassed Prime Minister prayed
for his absent colleague.
The Foreign Minister sat in his dressing-room in
the great house in Cavendish Square. It was May, and
the square garden shot up like a veil of green in
front of his window, but, in spite of the
sunshine, a fire crackled and sputtered in the grate
of the sick-room. In a deep-red plush armchair sat
the great statesman, his head leaning back upon a
silken pillow, one foot stretched forward and
supported upon a padded rest. His deeply-lined,
finely-chiselled face and slow-moving, heavily-
pouched eyes were turned upwards towards the carved
and painted ceiling, with that inscrutable expression
which had been the despair and the admiration of his
Continental colleagues upon the occasion of the
famous Congress when he had made his first appearance
in the arena of European diplomacy. Yet at the
present moment his capacity for hiding his emotions
had for the instant failed him, for about the lines
of his strong, straight mouth and the puckers of his
broad, overhanging forehead, there were sufficient
indications of the restlessness and impatience which
And indeed there was enough to make a man chafe,
for he had much to think of and yet was bereft of the
power of thought. There was, for example, that
question of the Dobrutscha and the navigation of the
mouths of the Danube which was ripe for settlement.
The Russian Chancellor had sent a masterly statement
upon the subject, and it was the pet ambition of our
Minister to answer it in a worthy fashion. Then
there was the blockade of Crete, and the British
fleet lying off Cape Matapan, waiting for
instructions which might change the course of
European history. And there were those three
unfortunate Macedonian tourists, whose friends were
momentarily expecting to receive their ears or their
fingers in default of the exorbitant ransom which had
been demanded. They must be plucked out of those
mountains, by force or by diplomacy, or an outraged
public would vent its wrath upon Downing Street. All
these questions pressed for a solution, and yet here
was the Foreign Minister of England, planted in an
arm-chair, with his whole thoughts and attention
riveted upon the ball of his right toe! It was
humiliating--horribly humiliating! His reason
revolted at it. He had been a respecter of himself,
a respecter of his own will; but what sort of a
machine was it which could be utterly thrown out of
gear by a little piece of inflamed gristle? He
groaned and writhed among his cushions.
But, after all, was it quite impossible that he
should go down to the House? Perhaps the doctor was
exaggerating the situation. There was a Cabinet
Council that day. He glanced at his watch. It must
be nearly over by now. But at least he might perhaps
venture to drive down as far as Westminster. He
pushed back the little round table with its bristle
of medicine-bottles, and levering himself up with a
hand upon either arm of the chair, he clutched a
thick oak stick and hobbled slowly across the room.
For a moment as he moved, his energy of mind and body
seemed to return to him. The British fleet should
sail from Matapan. Pressure should be brought to
bear upon the Turks. The Greeks should be shown--Ow!
In an instant the Mediterranean was blotted out, and
nothing remained but that huge, undeniable,
intrusive, red-hot toe. He staggered to the window
and rested his left hand upon the ledge, while he
propped himself upon his stick with his right.
Outside lay the bright, cool, square garden, a few
well-dressed passers-by, and a single, neatly-
appointed carriage, which was driving away from his
own door. His quick eye caught the coat-of-arms on
the panel, and his lips set for a moment and his
bushy eyebrows gathered ominously with a deep furrow
between them. He hobbled back to his seat and struck
the gong which stood upon the table.
"Your mistress!" said he as the serving-man
It was clear that it was impossible to think of
going to the House. The shooting up his leg warned
him that his doctor had not overestimated the
situation. But he had a little mental worry now
which had for the moment eclipsed his physical
ailments. He tapped the ground impatiently with his
stick until the door of the dressing-room swung
open, and a tall, elegant lady of rather more than
middle age swept into the chamber. Her hair was
touched with grey, but her calm, sweet face had all
the freshness of youth, and her gown of green shot
plush, with a sparkle of gold passementerie at her
bosom and shoulders, showed off the lines of her fine
figure to their best advantage.
"You sent for me, Charles?"
"Whose carriage was that which drove away just
"Oh, you've been up!" she cried, shaking an
admonitory forefinger. "What an old dear it is! How
can you be so rash? What am I to say to Sir William
when he comes? You know that he gives up his cases
when they are insubordinate."
"In this instance the case may give him up," said
the Minister, peevishly; "but I must beg, Clara, that
you will answer my question."
"Oh! the carriage! It must have been Lord Arthur
"I saw the three chevrons upon the panel,"
muttered the invalid.
His lady had pulled herself a little straighter
and opened her large blue eyes.
"Then why ask?" she said. "One might almost
think, Charles, that you were laying a trap! Did you
expect that I should deceive you? You have not had
your lithia powder."
"For Heaven's sake, leave it alone! I asked
because I was surprised that Lord Arthur should call
here. I should have fancied, Clara, that I had made
myself sufficiently clear on that point. Who
"I did. That is, I and Ida."
"I will not have him brought into contact with
Ida. I do not approve of it. The matter has gone
too far already."
Lady Clara seated herself on a velvet-topped
footstool, and bent her stately figure over the
Minister's hand, which she patted softly between her
"Now you have said it, Charles," said she. "It
has gone too far--I give you my word, dear, that I
never suspected it until it was past all mending. I
may be to blame--no doubt I am; but it was all so
sudden. The tail end of the season and a week at
Lord Donnythorne's. That was all. But oh! Charlie,
she loves him so, and she is our only one! How can
we make her miserable?"
"Tut, tut!" cried the Minister impatiently,
slapping on the plush arm of his chair. "This is too
much. I tell you, Clara, I give you my word, that
all my official duties, all the affairs of this great
empire, do not give me the trouble that Ida does."
"But she is our only one, Charles."
"The more reason that she should not make a
"Mesalliance, Charles! Lord Arthur
Sibthorpe, son of the Duke of Tavistock, with a
pedigree from the Heptarchy. Debrett takes them
right back to Morcar, Earl of Northumberland."
The Minister shrugged his shoulders.
"Lord Arthur is the fourth son of the poorest
duke in England," said he. "He has neither prospects
"But, oh! Charlie, you could find him both."
"I do not like him. I do not care for the
"But consider Ida! You know how frail her health
is. Her whole soul is set upon him. You would not
have the heart, Charles, to separate them?"
There was a tap at the door. Lady Clara swept
towards it and threw it open.
"If you please, my lady, the Prime Minister is
"Show him up, Thomas."
"Now, Charlie, you must not excite yourself over
public matters. Be very good and cool and
reasonable, like a darling. I am sure that I may
She threw her light shawl round the invalid's
shoulders, and slipped away into the bed-room as
the great man was ushered in at the door of the
"My dear Charles," said he cordially, stepping
into the room with all the boyish briskness for which
he was famous, "I trust that you find yourself a
little better. Almost ready for harness, eh? We
miss you sadly, both in the House and in the Council.
Quite a storm brewing over this Grecian business.
The Times took a nasty line this morning."
"So I saw," said the invalid, smiling up at his
chief. "Well, well, we must let them see that the
country is not entirely ruled from Printing House
Square yet. We must keep our own course without
"Certainly, Charles, most undoubtedly," assented
the Prime Minister, with his hands in his pockets.
"It was so kind of you to call. I am all
impatience to know what was done in the Council."
"Pure formalities, nothing more. By-the-way, the
Macedonian prisoners are all right."
"Thank Goodness for that! "
"We adjourned all other business until we should
have you with us next week. The question of a
dissolution begins to press. The reports from the
provinces are excellent."
The Foreign Minister moved impatiently and
"We must really straighten up our foreign
business a little," said he. "I must get Novikoff's
Note answered. It is clever, but the fallacies are
obvious. I wish, too, we could clear up the Afghan
frontier. This illness is most exasperating. There
is so much to be done, but my brain is clouded.
Sometimes I think it is the gout, and sometimes I put
it down to the colchicum."
"What will our medical autocrat say?" laughed the
Prime Minister. "You are so irreverent, Charles.
With a bishop one may feel at one's ease. They are
not beyond the reach of argument. But a doctor with
his stethoscope and thermometer is a thing apart.
Your reading does not impinge upon him. He is
serenely above you. And then, of course, he takes
you at a disadvantage. With health and strength one
might cope with him. Have you read Hahnemann? What
are your views upon Hahnemann?"
The invalid knew his illustrious colleague too
well to follow him down any of those by-paths of
knowledge in which he delighted to wander. To his
intensely shrewd and practical mind there was
something repellent in the waste of energy involved
in a discussion upon the Early Church or the twenty-
seven principles of Mesmer. It was his custom to
slip past such conversational openings with a quick
step and an averted face.
"I have hardly glanced at his writings," said he.
"By-the-way, I suppose that there was no special
"Ah! I had almost forgotten. Yes, it was one of
the things which I had called to tell you. Sir
Algernon Jones has resigned at Tangier. There is a
"It had better be filled at once. The longer
delay the more applicants."
"Ah, patronage, patronage!" sighed the Prime
Minister. "Every vacancy makes one doubtful friend
and a dozen very positive enemies. Who so bitter as
the disappointed place-seeker? But you are right,
Charles. Better fill it at once, especially as there
is some little trouble in Morocco. I understand that
the Duke of Tavistock would like the place for his
fourth son, Lord Arthur Sibthorpe. We are under some
obligation to the Duke."
The Foreign Minister sat up eagerly.
"My dear friend," he said, "it is the very
appointment which I should have suggested. Lord
Arthur would be very much better in Tangier at
present than in--in----"
"Cavendish Square?" hazarded his chief, with a
little arch query of his eyebrows.
"Well, let us say London. He has manner and
tact. He was at Constantinople in Norton's time."
"Then he talks Arabic?"
"A smattering. But his French is good."
"Speaking of Arabic, Charles, have you dipped
"No, I have not. But the appointment would be an
excellent one in every way. Would you have the great
goodness to arrange the matter in my absence?"
"Certainly, Charles, certainly. Is there
anything else that I can do?"
"No. I hope to be in the House by Monday."
"I trust so. We miss you at every turn. The
Times will try to make mischief over that Grecian
business. A leader-writer is a terribly
irresponsible thing, Charles. There is no method by
which he may be confuted, however preposterous his
assertions. Good-bye! Read Porson! Goodbye!"
He shook the invalid's hand, gave a jaunty wave
of his broad-brimmed hat, and darted out of the room
with the same elasticity and energy with which he had
The footman had already opened the great folding
door to usher the illustrious visitor to his
carriage, when a lady stepped from the drawing-room
and touched him on the sleeve. From behind the half-
closed portiere of stamped velvet a little pale face
peeped out, half-curious, half-frightened.
"May I have one word?"
"Surely, Lady Clara."
"I hope it is not intrusive. I would not for the
world overstep the limits----"
"My dear Lady Clara!" interrupted the Prime
Minister, with a youthful bow and wave.
"Pray do not answer me if I go too far. But I
know that Lord Arthur Sibthorpe has applied for
Tangier. Would it be a liberty if I asked you what
chance he has?"
"The post is filled up."
In the foreground and background there was a
"And Lord Arthur has it."
The Prime Minister chuckled over his little piece
"We have just decided it," he continued.
"Lord Arthur must go in a week. I am delighted
to perceive, Lady Clara, that the appointment has
your approval. Tangier is a place of extraordinary
interest. Catherine of Braganza and Colonel Kirke
will occur to your memory. Burton has written well
upon Northern Africa. I dine at Windsor, so I am
sure that you will excuse my leaving you. I trust
that Lord Charles will be better. He can hardly fail
to be so with such a nurse."
He bowed, waved, and was off down the steps
to his brougham. As he drove away, Lady Clara
could see that he was already deeply absorbed in a
She pushed back the velvet curtains, and returned
into the drawing-room. Her daughter stood in the
sunlight by the window, tall, fragile, and exquisite,
her features and outline not unlike her mother's, but
frailer, softer, more delicate. The golden light
struck one half of her high-bred, sensitive face, and
glimmered upon her thickly-coiled flaxen hair,
striking a pinkish tint from her closely-cut costume
of fawn-coloured cloth with its dainty cinnamon
ruchings. One little soft frill of chiffon nestled
round her throat, from which the white, graceful neck
and well-poised head shot up like a lily amid moss.
Her thin white hands were pressed together, and her
blue eyes turned beseechingly upon her mother.
"Silly girl! Silly girl!" said the matron,
answering that imploring look. She put her hands
upon her daughter's sloping shoulders and drew her
towards her. "It is a very nice place for a short
time. It will be a stepping stone."
"But oh! mamma, in a week! Poor Arthur!"
"He will be happy."
"What! happy to part?"
"He need not part. You shall go with him."
"Yes, I say it."
"Oh! mamma, in a week?"
"Yes indeed. A great deal may be done in a week.
I shall order your trousseau to-day."
"Oh! you dear, sweet angel! But I am so
frightened! And papa? Oh! dear, I am so
"Your papa is a diplomatist, dear."
"But, between ourselves, he married a diplomatist
too. If he can manage the British Empire, I think
that I can manage him, Ida. How long have you been
"Ten weeks, mamma."
"Then it is quite time it came to a head. Lord
Arthur cannot leave England without you. You must go
to Tangier as the Minister's wife. Now, you will sit
there on the settee, dear, and let me manage
entirely. There is Sir William's carriage! I do
think that I know how to manage Sir William. James,
just ask the doctor to step in this way!"
A heavy, two-horsed carriage had drawn up at the
door, and there came a single stately thud upon the
knocker. An instant afterwards the drawing-room door
flew open and the footman ushered in the famous
physician. He was a small man, clean-shaven, with
the old-fashioned black dress and white cravat with
high-standing collar. He swung his golden pince-
nez in his right hand as he walked, and bent
forward with a peering, blinking expression, which
was somehow suggestive of the dark and complex cases
through which he had seen.
"Ah" said he, as he entered. "My young patient!
I am glad of the opportunity."
"Yes, I wish to speak to you about her, Sir
William. Pray take this arm-chair."
"Thank you, I will sit beside her," said he,
taking his place upon the settee. "She is looking
better, less anaemic unquestionably, and a fuller
pulse. Quite a little tinge of colour, and yet not
"I feel stronger, Sir William."
"But she still has the pain in the side."
"Ah, that pain!" He tapped lightly under the
collar-bones, and then bent forward with his biaural
stethoscope in either ear. "Still a trace of
dulness--still a slight crepitation," he murmured.
"You spoke of a change, doctor."
"Yes, certainly a judicious change might be
"You said a dry climate. I wish to do to the
letter what you recommend."
"You have always been model patients."
"We wish to be. You said a dry climate."
"Did I? I rather forget the particulars of our
conversation. But a dry climate is certainly
"Well, I think really that a patient should be
allowed some latitude. I must not exact too rigid
discipline. There is room for individual choice--the
Engadine, Central Europe, Egypt, Algiers, which you
"I hear that Tangier is also recommended."
"Oh, yes, certainly; it is very dry."
"You hear, Ida? Sir William says that you are to
go to Tangier."
"No, no, Sir William! We feel safest when we are
most obedient. You have said Tangier, and we shall
certainly try Tangier."
"Really, Lady Clara, your implicit faith is most
flattering. It is not everyone who would sacrifice
their own plans and inclinations so readily."
"We know your skill and your experience, Sir
William. Ida shall try Tangier. I am convinced that
she will be benefited."
"I have no doubt of it."
"But you know Lord Charles. He is just a little
inclined to decide medical matters as he would an
affair of State. I hope that you will be firm with
"As long as Lord Charles honours me so far as to
ask my advice I am sure that he would not place me in
the false position of having that advice
The medical baronet whirled round the cord of his
pince-nez and pushed out a protesting hand.
"No, no, but you must be firm on the point of
"Having deliberately formed the opinion that
Tangier is the best place for our young patient, I do
not think that I shall readily change my conviction."
"Of course not."
"I shall speak to Lord Charles upon the subject
now when I go upstairs."
"And meanwhile she will continue her present
course of treatment. I trust that the warm African
air may send her back in a few months with all her
He bowed in the courteous, sweeping, old-world
fashion which had done so much to build up his ten
thousand a year, and, with the stealthy gait of a man
whose life is spent in sick-rooms, he followed the
As the red velvet curtains swept back into
position, the Lady Ida threw her arms round her
mother's neck and sank her face on to her bosom.
"Oh! mamma, you ARE a diplomatist!" she
But her mother's expression was rather that
of the general who looked upon the first smoke
of the guns than of one who had won the victory.
"All will be right, dear," said she, glancing
down at the fluffy yellow curls and tiny ear. "There
is still much to be done, but I think we may venture
to order the trousseau."
"Oh I how brave you are!"
"Of course, it will in any case be a very quiet
affair. Arthur must get the license. I do not
approve of hole-and-corner marriages, but where the
gentleman has to take up an official position some
allowance must be made. We can have Lady Hilda
Edgecombe, and the Trevors, and the Grevilles, and I
am sure that the Prime Minister would run down if he
"Oh, yes; he will come too, if he is well enough.
We must wait until Sir William goes, and, meanwhile,
I shall write to Lord Arthur."
Half an hour had passed, and quite a number of
notes had been dashed off in the fine, bold, park-
paling handwriting of the Lady Clara, when the door
clashed, and the wheels of the doctor's carriage were
heard grating outside against the kerb. The Lady
Clara laid down her pen, kissed her daughter, and
started off for the sick-room. The Foreign Minister
was lying back in his chair, with a red silk
handkerchief over his forehead, and his bulbous,
cotton-wadded foot still protruding upon its rest.
"I think it is almost liniment time," said Lady
Clara, shaking a blue crinkled bottle. "Shall I put
on a little?"
"Oh! this pestilent toe!" groaned the sufferer.
"Sir William won't hear of my moving yet. I do
think he is the most completely obstinate and pig-
headed man that I have ever met. I tell him that he
has mistaken his profession, and that I could find
him a post at Constantinople. We need a mule out
"Poor Sir William!" laughed Lady Clara. But how
has he roused your wrath?"
"He is so persistent-so dogmatic."
"Upon what point? "
"Well, he has been laying down the law about Ida.
He has decreed, it seems, that she is to go to
"He said something to that effect before he went
up to you."
"Oh, he did, did he?"
The slow-moving, inscrutable eye came sliding
round to her.
Lady Clara's face had assumed an expression of
transparent obvious innocence, an intrusive candour
which is never seen in nature save when a woman is
bent upon deception.
"He examined her lungs, Charles. He did not
say much, but his expression was very grave."
"Not to say owlish," interrupted the Minister.
"No, no, Charles; it is no laughing matter. He
said that she must have a change. I am sure that he
thought more than he said. He spoke of dulness and
crepitation. and the effects of the African air.
Then the talk turned upon dry, bracing health
resorts, and he agreed that Tangier was the place.
He said that even a few months there would work a
"And that was all?"
"Yes, that was all."
Lord Charles shrugged his shoulders with the air
of a man who is but half convinced.
"But of course," said Lady Clara, serenely, if
you think it better that Ida should not go she shall
not. The only thing is that if she should get worse
we might feel a little uncomfortable afterwards. In
a weakness of that sort a very short time may make a
difference. Sir William evidently thought the matter
critical. Still, there is no reason why he should
influence you. It is a little responsibility,
however. If you take it all upon yourself and free
me from any of it, so that afterwards----"
"My dear Clara, how you do croak!"
"Oh! I don't wish to do that, Charles. But
you remember what happened to Lord Bellamy's
child. She was just Ida's age. That was another
case in which Sir William's advice was disregarded."
Lord Charles groaned impatiently.
"I have not disregarded it," said he.
"No, no, of course not. I know your strong
sense, and your good heart too well, dear. You were
very wisely looking at both sides of the question.
That is what we poor women cannot do. It is emotion
against reason, as I have often heard you say. We
are swayed this way and that, but you men are
persistent, and so you gain your way with us. But I
am so pleased that you have decided for Tangier."
"Well, dear, you said that you would not
disregard Sir William."
"Well, Clara, admitting that Ida is to go to
Tangier, you will allow that it is impossible for me
to escort her?
"And for you?
"While you are ill my place is by your side."
"There is your sister?"
"She is going to Florida."
"Lady Dumbarton, then?"
"She is nursing her father. It is out of the
"Well, then, whom can we possibly ask?
Especially just as the season is commencing. You
see, Clara, the fates fight against Sir William."
His wife rested her elbows against the back of
the great red chair, and passed her fingers through
the statesman's grizzled curls, stooping down as she
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