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himself to cold fowl and tongue, and ask the servant for some hot potato and cold butter, my patience was severely tested.
Yet why should I have been vexed and irritated? What was poor Tom Falwasser to him? He was his patient, and promised to be a valuable one, had his recovery excited his father-in-law's gratitude-but else Tom, uninteresting as it must be confessed he was while in health, interested not my worthy friend the apothecary more than any other lout who might be put under his care for cure. Sniggs evidently enjoyed his repast, and from him I learned that Daly had actually left Blissfold; the state of mind in which he found the Rector and myself, and the unceremonious manner in which we felt absolutely compelled to turn him out, had determined him no doubt to quit a place, the hospitality of which could not have appeared to him in any very favourable light. It was, however, a seasonable relief to me to be assured of his absence. All that I had to reproach myself with was, the not having taken a favourable opportunity to inquire if any pecuniary aid would be essentially serviceable to him. I consoled myself, however, upon this point with the belief that if he felt himself at any time "hard run he would make no scruple in applying to me for assistance.
"Gad!" said Sniggs," this is an awkward job-Master Tom's dying at my house-infectious disease-keep away patients-never had such a thing happen to me before-odd circumstance-deuced unlucky."
"It is, indeed," said I, thinking at the same time of the two bottles of cherry brandy.
"You know Dr. Fuz by sight," said Sniggs, still eating-" the old man at Bassford-retired from practice now; did live here five-andtwenty years ago-comes to church sometimes-sits in the chancel opposite the Rector-he had a patient in his house-did I ever tell you that, Sir ?"
"I think not," said I, in a tone which ought to have induced a belief that I did not particularly wish to hear it then.
"Deuced odd," said my friend. "Fuz was riding home one night from visiting, and was stopped by a highwayman-things now getting out of fashion. Money or your life!' said the fellow. Fuz pulled up -a man who had saved so many other lives instinctively desired to preserve his own. 'Don't abuse me, Sir-you shall have all I have got.' Dark as it was, the remotest recesses of the Doctor's pockets were hunted in order to satisfy the rapacity of the robber, and twenty guineas, a ten pound note, a few shillings, and a gold watch, were delivered to the marauder, who, making the Doctor a graceful bow, wished him a good evening and went his way. Fuz-fond of money as he was, and deeply regretting his watch, the heir-loom of the Fuzzes-put spurs to his horse, which, as George Colman says,
was indeed a very sorry hack,
For what's expected from a horse
He he he! So, away goes Fuz as hard as he could with such cavalry -reaches home-rushes into the arms of Mrs. F., and bids her thank Providence that he is returned safe and sound, although deprived of his gold, silver, notes, watch, and ornamental appendages.
"What are ornaments compared with your life?' exclaimed the affectionate female Fuz. I do thank Providence-think no more of the money, love-it is, as they say, only mounting twenty or thirty pair of stairs next week, and it will all return.' And after this sweet parley they sat themselves down to supper.
"Scarcely had they entered fully into the enjoyment of the sociable meal before a loud ringing at their gate aroused them from their comforts.
"I know what it is,' said Fuz; Mrs. Rattletrap is
"What, I can't say," said Sniggs, " for the rest of the Doctor's supposition was cut short by the entrance of one of the servants, who announced that a gentleman had been fired at by a highwayman not a quarter of an hour before, and severely wounded. His horse, from which he had fallen, had escaped, and two labourers who had found him lying on the ground groaning heavily had brought him direct to the Doctor's door.
"Up jumped the Doctor, out he ran, and there sure enough found a gentleman bleeding and looking excessively pale; he had him carried into one of the parlours, and laid upon a sofa-his coat was taken off, and upon examination it appeared that he had received a gun-shot wound in his left arm-the ball however had passed clean through, marvellously escaping the heart of the sufferer, who, it was evident to the learned Fuz, was rendered senseless by the fall from his horse rather than the effects of the shot. The Doctor, who was one of the most humane of men, first bled his patient, and then when the gentleman was sufficiently recovered to comprehend the extent of his care and hospitality, told him that he could not think of letting him stir out that night, and had accordingly ordered a bed to be got ready for him. The wounded stranger was quite overpowered by the courtesy of his doctor.
“Sir,' said Fuz, it is not mere common-place civility that I offer. It is a duty I owe to Providence, Sir;-the villain who wounded you robbed me, Sir, not half an hour before, within twenty yards of the same place; if I had happened to deny him, or to have had nothing about me, gad, Sir, I might have been shot instead of you.'
Very probably, Sir,' said the gentleman, I believe it is very bad policy to make any resistance-somebody is sure to suffer.'
"Oh,' said Fuz, that's very true; but the highwayman sometimes gets the worst of it.'
"Yes,' said the patient, but I shall never try my hand again that way; however, your kindness, Sir, has been most seasonably bestowed, and I hope to be able to show you how very sensibly I feel it.'
"Don't mention it, Sir,' said Fuz; don't fatigue yourself with talking-lean on me-I will show you the way to your room ;-you will find everything comfortable, I hope. I shall bring you some gruel with a leetle very old Lisbon in it-Mrs. Fuz's favourite tipple-and a leetle dry toast, and then you will get a comfortable night, as I hope, and in the morning I shall have the happiness of presenting you to Mrs. F., and in two or three days all will be well again.'
"It should be observed," continued Sniggs, "not that I mean to question my old predecessor's philanthropy, but it is possible such a thing might have had its effect-that, when he removed the stranger's coat and waistcoat, he-accidentally of course-perceived a good store of
sterling coin in one of the pockets of the latter garment, which gave the provident Doctor a good, or rather a golden opinion of his chance customer, and seemed fully to justify the resistance which he had made to the highwayman's attack.
"I can never thank you sufficiently,' said the patient, as he toiled his way to the room appropriated to his use. Arrived at the apartment, the Doctor's own man was in attendance to assist and undress the opulent stranger.
"And now,' said Fuz, now, my dear Sir, when you are comfortably in bed, and would like the gruel I spoke of, do as Lady Macbeth did'Strike upon the bell,'
and I will bring the drink' myself. There is something in your misfortune and my escape which specially binds me to you-so do as I prescribe.'
"Indeed, Sir,' said the gentleman, your kindness is far beyond anything I could have expected from a stranger.'
"Not a word about it, Sir,' said Fuz; you see I act upon the best principle. You were a stranger, and I have taken you in.'
"Well," said Sniggs," the bell was struck-the gruel was takenthe patient shook the Doctor's hand, and they parted. The Doctor entreating the patient if he should feel the wound uneasy or any feverish symptoms should annoy him during the night, to ring his bell and summon him to his apartment.
"What Fuz said to Mrs. F. in that season of perfect ingenuousness which is comprised in the half-hour after retiring to rest, I know not," continued Sniggs, "but the chances are that he congratulated himself upon having what he called formed a connexion; he spoke with admiration of the manner of his guest, and certainly did not omit to substantiate all his favourable opinions by a reference to the contents of his sinister waistcoat-pocket
'Gold is the strength, the sinews of the world;
So says Dekker, and so thought Fuz.
"Well, Sir," said Sniggs," the patient slept soundly-no bell rang. Fuz was equally at his ease, nor did he wake till nine. Up he getsdresses with the nicest precision-and down to his patient in the best bedroom-taps at the door-no answer-taps again-still mute- Gad! he's dead!' muttered Fuz; tetanus, by Jove.' In he bolts-rushes to the bed-there was the nest, but the bird was flown. What did it mean? what could it mean?-where was he? what was he? In the midst of his confusion, Fuz threw his eyes upon a neat small table covered with a red cloth, whereon were deposited an inkstand, portfeuille, and all the other implements for writing, upon which lay a note, without a superscription, which, being directed to nobody, might be meant for anybody. This Fuz opened, and thus he read :
"DEAR SIR, I shall never forget your kindness. I felt it necessary to relieve you of my presence as soon as possible. You are much too good a fellow to suffer. Under the pillow of my bed you will find twenty guineas and a ten pound note; accept them without scruple, for they are your own; and in order further to show my sense of gratitude,
I beg to add, that if you will take the trouble to walk to the second field on the right hand beyond the turnpike, you will find your watch, chain, and seals stuck into a hay-stack which stands in the corner of it. I have to apologize for not having wound it up. I do not regret my wound, for if the two worthies who shot me last night had been as goodnatured as you, I should never have had the pleasure of your acquaintance, and you would never have got your own property back as a fee. Yours.' "Gad so!' cried the Doctor, 'this is strange!' The Doctor, however, did not lose much time before he lifted the pillow and found his money, and the first thing he did after he had breakfasted was to walk to the hay-stack and recover his watch. Wasn't that a good joke?”
Yes," said I, having mechanically listened to the narrative. "But," continued he, having completely anatomized the chicken, "I must be off again. You shall hear in an hour-and another bulletin before post-time."
"If it ends fatally," said I, "I shall go to my brother—that I am resolved upon."
In this determination Sniggs strengthened me; and as soon as he had left the house, I went to Harriet, in order to prepare her for my departure. Mrs. Wells had, for the first day since my wife's confinement, left her and gone to the Rectory accompanied by Fanny, so that I had an opportunity of talking over our family matters without interruption; and since Harriet had now recovered sufficient strength to discuss the several points which appeared to press, it was a great comfort to me to find her views of the future characterized by the same sweet, mild, and generous spirit which she had uniformly displayed in what I now began to fear might have been our brightest days. My anticipations with regard to my brother's conduct after the death of Tom seemed perfectly to agree with those of my wife; we felt that he was estranged from us, and that nothing was wanting but such an event as this to sever entirely the bonds between us.
"What does it signify, Gilbert ?" said Harriet; "we have a larger house than we want a cottage will answer our purpose, and a plain, nice little garden will do just as well, without all this ground, and these hothouses, and pineries, and luxuries. Oh no, dear; so long as we have health we shall have happiness; and, after all, Gilbert, we shall be more independent."
"Come," said I, we will not make up our minds yet to the reality of our reverses: it is quite right, when one does depend upon the will of others, to be prepared for the worst; and you delight me by the way in which you bend to the coming wave. Still, I will not suffer myself to think so ill of Cuthbert's head or heart as even yet entirely to believe that we shall need to practise our philosophy.",
Thus I said; but did not feel as secure as I wished my poor love to imagine I did.
While these things were passing at Ashmead, other affairs were in progress at the Rectory. Merman, who, to do him justice, was sincerely attached to Fanny, had followed his letter, and was actually ensconced in his old lodgings in Blissford within a few hours after Wells received it. Of this fact he apprised the worthy Rector, and it was in consequence of these prompt measures that Mrs. Wells and her daughter had gone home to deliberate and to decide.
It is impossible for me to say what were the arguments adduced pro and con, or who chiefly advocated the cause of the Lieutenant; but, as I have already stated, the moment I heard that offended pride and true love were to be put in opposite scales, and that Miss Fanny was to hold the beam, I entertained very little doubt which would preponderate.
I ought, perhaps, to mention that Miss Millicent Maloney had not been heard of by Mrs. Pennefather at the time of the Lieutenant's departure-a circumstance which induced her affectionate friend to believe that the companion of her flight was not altogether so unexceptionable as she had hoped. It turned out, moreover, that the young lady's maid, Gibson, did not accompany her; but, on the contrary, was perfectly ignorant of her flight. Miss Maloney having sent her on an errand to the neighbouring town, desiring her to wait there for her, she did wait until so long after the usual dinner hour at home, that she fancied she must have made some mistake, and then returned; and, as she said herself, "the very first syllable as ever she heard of Miss Milly's going was from Susan when she came into the house."
Nobody in the neighbourhood had seen Miss Maloney out in the afternoon, either alone or with anybody else; no horses had been ordered from, nor come to any of the inns in the town, nor to the alehouse in the village, nor had any carriage passed through since the morning. Where, how, when, and with whom the young lady had migrated still therefore remained a mystery.
Not so the termination of the proceedings at the Rectory; for, hearing the approach of visitors across the lawn somewhere about four o'clock, I looked out and beheld four familiar faces, "wreathed in smiles," looking up at the windows of Harriet's room. They belonged to the Rector and his lady, who walked first, and to Fanny Wells and Lieutenant Merman, who followed arm-in-arm, just as happy and sociable as if nothing had ever happened to ripple the course of their true love.
I welcomed the young couple-for now they were avowedly a pairand shook my future brother-in-law by the hand, with a determination to make the best of it, and silently wishing that the service of his country might require his presence in some field of glory far from the quiet plains of Ashmead.
It was now drawing near post time, and I was waiting most impatiently for Sniggs, or a despatch from him, in order to regulate my proceedings. It was just five, and I grew dreadfully uneasy, and began to pace up and down my library, when the door opened and the servant gave me a note from Sniggs, sealed with black wax. My fingers trembled as I opened it. Opened, however, it was, and I read :
"The boy is less feverish, and I think things look better. You shall see me this evening. "Yours,
This unexpected report, of course, decided my stay; and, accordingly, I wrote to Cuthbert a detailed account of Tom's progress, and would have enclosed Snigg's last hope-giving note, but I was sure that the word "boy" would have excited all my brother's ire, and given an idea of neglect and carelessness in our proceedings, so I copied it, leaving