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had had another son, older than this, but he
He came in with a radiant face. They questioned him upon his appearance in South Wennock, when they had believed him in London, reading hard for his degree. Frederick protested his uncle John had invited him down.
"I suppose the truth is, you proffered him a visit," said Jane. "Or perhaps came without any notice to him at all."
Frederick Grey laughed. The latter was in truth the fact. But Frederick never stood on ceremony at his uncle John's: he was as much at home there as at his father's.
And as the days went on and the sickness in South Wennock increased, Mr. John Grey declared that his nephew's visit was the most fortunate circumstance that could have
"Is it anything about Laura?" asked Lucy, | happened. For the medical men were scarcely
in answer to Jane's last observation.
"Oh no. Nothing at all.”
"Do you think, Jane, that Laura is happy? She seems at times so strangely restless, so petulant."
"Lucy, I hope she is happy: I cannot tell. I have observed what you say, but I know nothing."
"Mr. Carlton seems very indulgent to her," neither had he time for more; and then, with returned Lucy.
And in point of fact, Lucy had been quite struck with this indulgence. Jane's own decision, not to visit at the house of Mr. Carlton, whether springing from repugnance or pride, or what not, she had strictly adhered to, but she had not seen fit to extend the prohibition to Lucy; and Lucy was often at Laura's, and thus had an opportunity of seeing Mr. Carlton's behaviour to his wife. She told Jane that she liked Mr. Carlton better than she had liked him as a little girl; she remembered, she said with a laugh, that she then entertained a great prejudice against him; but she liked him now very well, and he was certainly fond of Laura. Jane agreed that Mr. Carlton's manners were gentlemanlike and agreeable; she had now and then met him in society, and nothing could be more courteous than was Mr. Carlton's manner to herself; but, into his house Jane still declined to enter.
all the precaution of changing his clothes.
Lady Laura Carlton's feet seemed instinctively to take her to Blister Lane, past the front of Tupper's cottage. Jealousy has carried women to more inconvenient places. unhappy suspicion-how miserably unhappy it was to be in its ultimate effects, neither Laura nor any one else could dream of!-connecting her husband with that little child had grown to a height that was scarcely repressible; and Laura was in the dangerous frame of mind that has been metaphorically designated as touchwood-wanting but a spark to kindle it into a flame.
Not a day passed but she was walking down Blister Lane. She would take her way up the Rise, turn down the lane, pass the cottage, which was situated at this end of it, walk on a little way, and then come back again. All as if she were taking a walk to get a mouthful of fresh air. If she saw the little boy in the garden she would stop and speak to him; her jaundiced eyes devouring the likeness which she thought she detected to Mr. Carlton; it seemed that she could never tire of looking at
"I think he has always been most indulgent to her," observed Jane. “Laura, I fear, is of a difficult temper, but- -Are we going to have visitors to-night?" The break in her sentence was caused by a it. visitor's knock. Impromptu evening visitors
It was not altogether the jealousy itself that
took Lady Laura there, but a determination work, so confused and contradictory as nearly that had sprung out of it. A resolve had to drive the young woman wild, and then seated itself firmly in her mind to sift the retraced her fierce steps back again. Very matter to its very foundation, to bring to light | excessively astonished was she, to see, just on the past. She cared not what means she this side of Tupper's cottage, a sort of handused the truth she would know, come what carriage standing in the middle of the road would. Of a sufficiently honourable nature on path, and the little boy seated in it. He the whole, Lady Laura forgot honour now; looked weak and wan and pale, but his beautiMr. Carlton had reproached her with "dodg- ful eyes smiled a recognition of Lady Laura. ing" his steps; she was prepared to do that "Why are you here?" she asked. and worse in her route of discovery. "She took off her pattens and forgot them, and she has got a hole in her boot," lucidly replied the child.
It might have been described as a disease, this mania that was distracting her. What did she promise herself would be gained by these hauntings of Blister Lane? She did not know; all that she could have told was, that she was unable to rest away from the place. For one thing, she wanted to ascertain how frequently Mr. Carlton went to the cottage.
But fortune had not favoured her. Not once had she chanced to light upon the time that Mr. Carlton paid his professional visit. Had she met him-of which there was of course a risk-an excuse was ready. As if fate wished to afford her a facility of operation, Lady Laura had become acquainted with the fact that a young woman, expert in fine needlework, lived in Blister Lane; she immediately supplied her with some, and could have been going there to see about it had she been inconveniently met.
One gloomy day in the beginning of November, Laura bent her steps in the usual direction. It did not rain, but the skies were lowering, and anybody might have supposed that Lady Laura was better indoors than out. She, however, did not think so. In her mind's fever, outward discomfort was as nothing.
As she passed the gate of Tupper's cottage, Mrs. Smith, in her widow's cap, was leaning over it, gazing in the direction of South Wennock, as if expecting some one. She looked at Laura as she came up; but she did not know her for the wife of Mr. Carlton. And Lady Laura, with averted eyes and a crimson blush on her haughty cheeks, went right into the road amidst the mud, rather than pass close to the gate. It was the only time she had seen Mrs. Smith since that first day, for the widow kept much to the house.
On went Laura in her fury, and never turned until she came to the cottage of the seamstress. It seemed that she required an excuse to her own mind for being in the lane that day. The conclusion she had arrived at in her insensate folly was, that the woman was looking impatiently for the advent of Mr. Carlton. What passion that this earth contains can ever befool us like that of jealousy!
She went in, gave some directions about the
It was the drum broke, not the soldier. He hit it too hard."
The clanking of pattens was heard in the garden path, and a stout-looking country girl came forth. She knew Lady Laura by sight, and curtsied to her. Laura recognised her as a respectable peasant's daughter who was glad to go out by day, but who could not take a permanent situation on account of a bed-ridden mother.
"The little boy looks ill," remarked Lady Laura, rather taken to, and saying any words that came uppermost.
"Yes, my lady; and they say he is weaker to-day than he has been at all." "Mr. Carlton says so?"
"His mother says so.
Mr. Carlton hasn't seen him. He has not been to-day."
Laura strode away, vouchsafing no further notice of the speaker, not so much as a word of adieu to the little child. In her heart of hearts she believed the girl was telling her a lie; was purposely deceiving her; and that Mr. Carlton was even then inside the cottage. The child's words, "the girl that Mr. Cariton sent," were beating their refrain on her brain. Why should Mr. Carlton send a girl to draw out any child, unless he held some peculiar interest in him? she was asking herself. Ah, if she could but have seen the thing as it actually had been-how innocent it was! When the boy got past running about, Mr. Carlton said he must still go into the open air. The mother hired this little carriage, and was regretting to Mr. Carlton that she could not hear of a fit person to draw it; he thought at once of this young woman; he was attending the mother
at the time; and said he would send her. That was the whole history. Laura Carlton, in her blind jealousy, knew not the bed that she was preparing for herself.
She went straight home, walking fast, and entered the house by the surgery entrance, as she would do now and then in impatient moods, when she could not bear to wait while the street door was opened. Mr. Carlton's assistant, Mr. Jefferson, was standing there, and raised his hat to her.
"When do you expect Mr. Carlton in?" she asked, as she swept past.
"Mr. Carlton is not out, Lady Laura." "Mr. Carlton is out," she rejoined, turning her angry face upon the surgeon.
He looked surprised. "Indeed no, Lady Laura. Mr. Carlton came in about half an hour ago. He is down in the drug-room."
Lady Laura did not believe a word of it. Were they all in league to deceive her? She turned to the lower stairs, determined to see with her own eyes and confute the falsehood. This drug-room, sometimes styled shortly the cellar, was a small boarded apartment, to which access could be had only through the cellar. Mr. Carlton kept drugs and other articles there pertaining to his profession; the servants had strict orders never to enter it, lest, as Mr. Carlton once told them, they might set their feet on chemical materials of a combustible nature, and get blown up. They took care to keep clear of it after that warning.
Lady Laura passed through the cellar and peered in. Standing before an iron safe, its door thrown wide open, was Mr. Carlton. Laura saw what looked like bundles of papers and letters within it; but so entirely astonished was she to see her husband, that a sudden exclamation escaped her.
You have heard of this room and this safe before. Mr. Carlton once locked up a letter in it which he had received from his father, the long-ago evening when he first heard of the illness of Mrs. Crane. Laura knew of the safe's existence, but had not felt any curiosity in regard to it. She had penetrated to this room once in her early married days, when Mr. Carlton was showing her over the house, but never since.
A sudden exclamation escaped her. It appeared to startle Mr. Carlton. He shut the safe door in evident haste, and turned round. "Laura! Is it you? What ever do you want down here ?"
Laura was unable to say at the moment what she wanted, and in her perplexity spoke something very near the truth. Mr. Jefferson had said he was there, but she thought he was out, and came to see.
A walk in
"I should like to go, Jane. the air may take my headache off." "You are sure you have no sore throat?" asked Jane, somewhat anxiously. She had put the question once before.
Lucy smiled. Of course people were suspicious of headaches at this time! "I don't think I have any sore throat, Jane; I ate my breakfast very well. I did not sleep well last night, and that has made my head feel heavy."
Lucy found Laura on a sofa in her dressingroom, a pretty apartment on the first floor. "Are you quite an invalid?" asked Lucy. "Not quite; I can manage to limp across the room. But the ankle is swollen and rather painful. Did Jane object to your coming?" "Not at all. How did you contrive to hurt it, Laura ?"
"I was in mischief," returned Lady Laura, with a half laugh. "And you know, when people do get up to mischief on the sly, punishment is sure to follow. Don't our first lessons in the spelling-book tell us so ?"
"What was the mischief," returned Lucy.
"I and Mr. Carlton are not upon the best of terms; there is a grievance between us," was Laura's answer. "You need not look so serious, Lucy; I do not mean to imply that we are quite cat-and-dog, but we are not precisely turtle-doves. He has secrets which he keeps from me; I know he has; and get at them I will. There's deceit abroad just now, and I
vow and declare I'll come to the bottom of it." Lucy listened in wondering surprise. Laura would say no more. 66 No," "she observed, "it is nothing particularly suitable to your ears let it pass, so far. He has got a strong iron safe in the cellar, and in this safe he keeps
papers and letters and things; I know, because I went down yesterday, when he had the lid open, and he started like a coward when he saw me, and shut it to. Well, I thought 1 would see what there is in that safe, and I stole down to the cellar last night with my bunch of keys, to try whether any one of them would unlock it."
"Oh, Laura!" broke forth Lucy, shocked and pained beyond expression. "How could you think of such a thing?"
"Wait until you have a husband like Mr. Carlton, who puts your temper up with his underhand ways, and then see what you would 'think' and do," retorted Lady Laura.
And Lucy ventured no further remonstrance, for she had once been a child under Laura's control, and was somewhat in awe of her still. "I went in the dark, lest the servants should see me," proceeded Lady Laura, "taking some wax matches with me, to light when I got down. All went well; I tried the keys (none of which fitted, so I was baffled there), and blew out my lights to come back again. We have to go down three steps in coming out of the drug-room, where the safe is, and mount two to get into the cellar-wretched incapables the builders must have been, to make you go down steps only to come up again! Well, Lucy, I slipped on something at the top of these three steps, something sticky, it seemed, and down I went to the bottom. I could hardly get up at first, for pain in my foot, and a regular fright I was in, fearing I must call the servants; however, I did succeed in crawling back. There's the history."
least it was so reported in the old days, I remember. But that is all past and done with. Frederick Grey is not interfering with Mr. Carlton's practice."
"No; Mr. Carlton would see him far enough away, rather than allow that. Lucy! are you ill? Your eyes look heavy, and your
cheeks are flushed."
Lucy had been bending her head upon her hand for the last few moments, as she had done earlier in the morning at her sister Jane's. "I got up with a headache," she replied, lifting her eyes wearily. "I thought the air, as I came along, might have done it good, but it has not, and my throat is getting sore."
"Throat getting sore!" echoed Laura. An instant's pause, and she started from the sofa in consternation, forgetting her lameness, seized her sister, and drew her to the light of the window.
"Lucy! it cannot be ! You are never going to have the fever!"
But Lucy was going to have the fever. In fact, Lucy had got the fever. And Lady Jane did not know of it until night, when she was expecting Lucy home; for Laura, from carelessness or from some other motive, never sent to tell her. At nine o'clock the footman was dispatched with the news, but it was Mr. Carlton who sent him.
Lady Jane could not believe it. It was simple Jonathan, and she did think the man must have made some mistake. Lady Lucy was in bed, he said. She had been taken ill soon after reaching their house. Mr. Carlton was out then, but on his return he pronounced
And a very creditable one! Lucy sat in it to be the fever, and ordered her instantly to wonder.
"He says he shall. I don't know. course London's the best field for a medical man. Talking of Frederick Grey, what's the reason that Mr. Carlton dislikes him SO much?"
"I know nothing about it,” replied Lucy. "I heard him going on to Mr. Jefferson about Frederick Grey's being down here interfering with the practice. There never was any love between them. Young Grey used to say Mr. Carlton drove his father from the town."
"As he did," returned Lucy, quietly. "At
bed. He had charged Jonathan to give his respects to Lady Jane, and to assure her that every care and attention should be paid to the invalid.
Now nothing in the world could have been much less welcome than this news to Lady Jane Chesney. To her mind there was something underhanded in their thus taking possession of Lucy, and she complained privately to Judith. Apart from Lady Jane's anxiety for Lucy, she had an unconquerable aversion to her lying ill at Mr. Carlton's, to her being attended by that gentleman, or to herself becoming an inmate, however temporarily, in his house, which she must do, were Lucy to remain. She took a moment's counsel with herself, for Lady Jane was one who rarely did things upon impulse, then attired herself for walking, and proceeded to Mr. Carlton's, taking Judith with her, and ordering her own footman to go as quickly as he could to Mr. Grey's and bring back that gentleman to Mr. Carlton's.
The best room, a large and handsome spare chamber adjoining Lady Laura's dressing-room, had been hastily prepared for Lucy. She was lying in it, looking flushed and anxious, and complaining of her head and throat.
"Jane," she whispered, as her sister bent over her, "Mr. Carlton says it is the fever. wish I could have been at home with you!" "You should have returned the instant you found yourself getting worse, Lucy," was Jane's answer. "I thought you were possessed of common sense, child. Laura, you ought to have sent her; where was your carriage, that she could not have the use of it?"
"It was not her fault- --or mine," replied Laura. "Mr. Carlton administered some remedies this morning, and wished to see the effect; to-night he says she is too ill to go. But, if you will allow me to express my private opinion, Jane, I should say that it has all happened for the best, for where can she be so well attended to as in the house of a medical man? And you may be sure she shall have good nursing."
"Laura, I would rather have her with me; she is under my charge, you know. I wonder if she can be moved now?"
"You must be stupid to think it," returned Laura.
"I told Mr. Carlton I felt well enough to be taken home," spoke Lucy, "but he said I did not understand the risk. I think I might be taken, Jane."
Jane inquired after Mr. Carlton. He was in the dining-room, taking some refreshment after a hard day's work, and' she went to him. He rose in astonishment. Lady Jane Chesney in his house !
"Mr. Carlton," she said, speaking quietly in spite of her anger, and she did feel very angry, "I have come to convey Lady Lucy home. I fancy it may be done without risk." "Impossible, Lady Jane. It might cost her her life."
"I cannot but think, sir, before you had assumed to yourself the responsibility of keeping her, that you might have sent to inquire my pleasure upon the subject," returned Lady Jane, with dignity. The fever must be quite at its earliest stage, and there was no reason why she could not have been sent home. She was well enough to walk here this morning, and she was, I make no doubt, not sufficiently ill to debar her returning this evening."
"It has come on very rapidly indeed," replied Mr. Carlton; "and I think she will have it badly."
"I still wish to take her, if possible," persisted Jane, somewhat agitated at the last words, "and I have dispatched a messenger
for Mr. Grey, that he may come here and give me his opinion upon the point. In doing this, I wish to cast no slight upon your judgment and skill, Mr. Carlton, but Mr. Grey is my own attendant, and I have unusual confidence in him; moreover, he will not be prejudiced, for her removal or against it. You and I, sir, perhaps are so; though on opposite sides." "I do not understand you," spoke the surgeon.
"I am prejudiced in favour of taking her; you, in favour of keeping her; Mr. Grey, on the contrary, will give his honest opinion, for he can have no motive to be biassed either way."
"Yes, he can," rejoined Mr. Carlton. "A profitable patient will fall into his hands, if he gets her away.”
True, so far; but the words vexed Jane. "She will be his patient in either case, Mr. Carlton. I mean, I say, no reflection on your skill; but my own doctor must attend on Lady Lucy, wherever she may be."
The cold, haughty tone of the words and manner, the “Lady Lucy," stung Mr. Carlton. Jane's treatment of him, her utter rejection of any intimacy, had been boiling up within him for years. He so far forgot his usual equanimity, he so far forgot himself, as to demand with a flash of passion and a word that had been better left unsaid, whether he was not as efficient as John Grey. Jane put him down with calm self-possession.
"Sir, it is true that my sister is your wife; but I beg you not to forget that I am Lady Jane Chesney, and that a certain amount of respect is due to me, even in your house. I do believe you to be as efficient as Mr. Grey; that your skill is equal to his; but that is not the question. He is my medical attendant, and I would prefer that he took the case.
"It's well known, sir, that when people are ill, there's no place seems to them like home," interposed Judith, who had quite adopted her lady's prejudices in the affair. "We'd a great deal better have her at home."
Before any rejoinder could be made, a noise was heard in the hall, and Mr. Carlton turned to it, Jane following him. Frederick Grey
had entered and Mr. Frederick was in a state of agitation scarcely suppressible. He caught hold of Lady Jane.
"My uncle was out, and I came in his stead," he cried, his words rendered half unintelligible by emotion. "Where is she? Is she very ill?"
An altercation ensued. Mr. Carlton, whose temper was up (a most unusual thing with him) stepped before his visitor to impede his way to the stairs.