PAID IN HIS OWN COIN.
By Edward J. Goodman, Author of ‘ Too Curious.’
VOL. IL—CHAPTER X. AN ACCIDENT. It was not without some feeling of bitterness that Dr Elliot heard from Helen of her brother’s determination. He was struck by the painful contrast presented by her conduct and that of young Ralph Musgrave. Ralph s first thought was for the girl he loved, and he was ready enough to give up his family for her, Helen could keep him waiting for years —aye, and for years to come, perhaps —for the sake of her undeserving relatives. If she could but be brought to the same view of things that her brother had at once formed for himself ! But it was useless to attempt to persuade her to take that view. He had been trying to do it for years, and had failed, and he would fail if he tried again. Then why distress her at the moment of her greatest trouble and anxiety, with selfish complaints of his own hard lot ? Poor girl! flow she must bo suffering! And she bore her griefs and cares so bravely, so cheerfully. Thus he said nothing about the reflections that the story of Ralph’s plans had suggested to him, and only sought to comfort and help his beloved Helen in her distress.
“ Well, my dear,” he said, “ you are certainly in a very awkward position, with your father dunned for his foolishly incurred debt, your brother leaving you, and your own affairs in such an unsatisfactory condition.”
“ Yes, Mark,” replied Helen, “ it is quite sea of troubles,’ as Hamlet says, isn’t it? But there is nothing to be done except to adopt his advice, and ‘ take up arms against it,’ though the metaphor certainly is a little mixed for Shakespeare.” “ What a girl she is !” thought Dr Elliot, “ to talk in this light strain under difficulties that must make her heart ache bitterly.” Then he asked, “ But, my dear girl, what sort of ‘ arms ’ do you mean to take up ? It appears to me that your armoury is not abundantly stored with weapons.” “ Nay, Mark,” she said, “ I have the best weapon ever made —hope. That has carried people through worse troubles than mine before now.”
"Hope tells flattering tales, Helen," said her lover. " Yes, and true ones," she replied ; "and truth, you know, is sometimes stranger than fiction. But this is not very practical talk. I will tell you what I mean. I believe, lam sure, dear Mark, that this unfortunate state of things cannot last, and that some change for the better will before long occur. It may be faith or it may be only superstition, but I have a sort of presentiment that something will happen soon to improve our rather dark fortunes. Life is full of ups and downs, and lights and shadows, and I have never known happiness or unhappiness to last very long without something to chequer it. Indeed, I believe that is the experience of most people, and I am sure it will be so in our own case." " What a pretty fatalist you are ! exclaimed Mark. " Well, I only hope your faith will prove well-founded. But, meanwhile, you must need some help. Now, dearest Helen, I have never made such a. proposal to you before, and hesitate to do it now—will you let me assist you just a little?" "Assist me, Mark? How?" inquired Helen in a tone of surprise, yet half understanding his meaning. " Why," he replied, "I know you are sorely pressed for—for means, and if you would only let me " Helen interrupted him. There was no doubt as to his meaning now, and she said gently, but firmly: "No, Mark dear. No! You must not speak like that. You must not offer me such assistance, for I cannot accept it. Do not think me unkind in declining your generosity, and do not ask me why I decline it. Perhaps it is only from pride or false delicacy that I would refuse to take such a favor from your hands; but I must. So don't propose such a thing again—you will only pain me by doing so." She dropped her eyes with a sigh, and he sighed too in disappointment. Then she felt that she had hurt him, and she atoned for the injury with a kiss. " Well, love," said Mark, " we will not apeak of this any more. But I wish I could help you in some way." " Why, of course you can !" exclaimed Helen brightly. " Try to get me some new pupils. You must know more people than I do, and among some of your great doctors or your best patients you might say you know of a young lady gifted with the very highest intellectual capacity, with a brain stored with encyclopedic knowledge, and the teaching power of forty governesses, who would be simply invaluable to them. Of course, you mustn't Bay that you are engaged to be married to that young lady, or they might fancy—people are so suspicious—that you had some personal interest in her, and were prejudiced in her favor. But, seriously, if you could put in a good word for me where it might be useful, it would assist me very much indeed."
“ Be sure I will, love,” replied Mark. “ If I have the ghost of a chance.” So, gratified with even this slight demand on his aid, though he had little idea how it could be met, Mark Elliot left his beloved with a somewhat lighter heart, yet with sore misgivings as to the future. He himself had one load lifted from his mind. Ever since he had parted from Mrs Fleming, his conscience had felt easier, and he never for a moment regretted the step he had taken. He thought kindly of the kind widow, but he was glad he had broken off all association with her, and sincerely hoped that it would never be renewed. It is only » man of the world, who is also a man of high feeling, that can appreciate his sense of relief at having freed himself from what to him was a terrible temptation. He felt that hisjevery thought, his every desire, was due to Helen, the pure, sweet woman, who loved him so fondly; and that he could not oe as true to her in his inmost soul as he wished to be while he had the fascination of that fair form before his eyes. But beautiful Mrs Fleming had passed out of his daily life, and she would trouble him no more. Would she not ? Ah! his release from that charming spell was not yet complete. If he had forgotten the lovely widow, she had not forgotten him. To him she had resolved to apply for help, if ever she should need it, and need it at last she did, He had but just returned one day to his surgery from his round of morning visits, in order to give some directions to his assistant before making his afternoon calls, when a cab suddenly drove up to his door, and a young woman, plainly but tastefully dressed, alighted and entered with a hurried step-in a state of some excitement. Dr Elliot immediately recognised her as Mrs Fleming’s French lady’s-maid. “ Monsieur," cried Louise, “ you must come—haste you—at once. Madame—she very ill—she have an accident. Oh I men Dien 1 Perhaps she shall be dead ! ” 41 Why, Louise ! ” exclaimed the doctor, “ what is the matter ? Pray calm yourself, my good girl, and tell me what sort of accident your mistress has had. I must know that first in order to see what I am to bring with me.” 41 She have been strike—she have fall—on the face—on the eye,” replied the agitated ? irl, “And she will lose the view—be blind. Oh, monsieur ! pray, pray haste you my poor madame.” Dr Elliot felt it was useless to question the excited young woman further, so, hastily gathering together some bandages, lotions, and other appliances, he led Louise to the cab, which still stood at his door, and drove off with her to the widow’s house. During the journey he extracted from the tidy’s-maid something like a correct, though not very coherent, account of what had happened. The girl seemed to be embarrassed by instructions she had received from her mistress, to misrepresent the nature of the ao-called accident. She spoke of Mrs Fleming as having had “ a fall,” but a chance exclamation of anger with reference to Mrs Fleming’s daughter, whom she spoke of as •' that petite demon,” led the doctor to suspect that the violent young lady had had some hand in causing her mother s misfortune, whatever it might be. Lomse did not really know what had actually happened, but at last admitted that there had been «ome quarrel between Mrs Fleming and her daughter, and that the latter had thrown
something at the former, striking her in the face and causing a terrible wound. She (Louise) had been hastily summoned to the room where this tragedy had occurred, and was ordered to go at once for Dr Elliot, and tell him that her mistress had met with an accident—had fallen and hurt her face. But, as has been seen, she told that and something more. Although he believed the story to have been exaggerated by the excitable Frenchwoman, it was not without some feeling of apprehension that Dr Elliot ascended the staircase to M r s Fleming’s drawing-room. There he found his fair patient lying on the sofa, not alas ! in her usual becoming pose, but huddled up with her face buried in her hands, and moaning pitifully. Her daughter was by her side, with tears rolling down her flushed cheeks, and was endeavoring to soothe her injured mother with caresses, and relieve her sufferings. “Why, my dear madam,” cried the doctor. “ what is the matter? ” At the sound of his voice, Mrs Fleming raised her head, and Dr Elliot, though not a little shocked at her appearance, was glad to perceive at a glance that the disaster was not of a serious character. She looked very pale, and by no means in good general health, and in addition the right side of her face was somewhat swollen and discolored, while a slight cut, which had bled, disfigured the temple. Mrs Fleming also trembled and sobbed a good deal, and seemed a little hysterical. Dr Elliot took a chair beside the sofa, and examined the injuries, and soon found that they were really of a very trifling character. The patient had evidently been more frightened than hurt, but it was equally clear that she had sustained a severe shock. He did not need to ask just then what had caused the injuries, such as they were. The remedies required were very simple, and these he had ready, and for the rest it was only necessary that the patient should keep quiet for a time, and not excite herself by talking. So he checked every attempt on her part to apeak, and also ordered Miss Una, in a somewhat sterner tone, to remain silent, and left her to sit and sob a little way off. When Mrs Fleming had become more composed, and had felt some relief from the doctor’s cooling lotions, she insisted on speaking. “It was an accident, Dr Elliot,” she said; “ only an accident. I slipped and fell and hurt my face.” “No, mamma, it—it wasn’t,” sobbed Una. “It was my fault, Dr Elliot. I did it. Oh, lam so sorry ! How could I have done such a tiling ? I had a book that mamma did not want me to read, and I would not give it up, and then —and then I threw it. Oh dear, oh dear, I wish I had not done it! ”
“But you did not do it on purpose, my love,” said the sufferer. “Indeed she did not, Dr Elliot. She did throw the book across the room, and unfortunately I happened to be in the way, and so it struck me.”
The book itself—the cause of all this woe —was visible on the other side of the sofa, lying open on the floor. Dr Elliot rose and picked it up. It was only a small volume, but it was newly-bound in boards, with sharp edges, and if thrown with violence, might easily have caused such injuries as Mrs Fleming had sustained. Both mother and daughter looked greatly alarmed when they saw the volume in the hands of the doctor, and their emotion was further excited when he opened it and examined its contents, elevating his eyebrows in great surprise as he did so. “ So,” he said in a stern voice, “is this the sort of books you read, Miss Una ? Very pretty, very pretty indeed ! I don’t wonder that your mamma desired you to give it up, and I don’t wonder from what I know of you and your temper that you threw it at her.”
“ No, noto/ me,” murmured Mrs Fleming. “It doesn’t matter,” continued the doctor ; “ she threw it, and it struck you, and might easily have blinded you. Now, young lady, if you were my daughter, I should just shut you up in your room for a week, and keep you on bread and water. You are a detestable little termagant, and ought to be sent to a strict boardingschool.”
Una felt more ashamed than angry at Dr Elliot’s severe words, and sat looking at him out of her large dark eyes in humble silence. “ Don’t scold her, Dr Elliot,” pleaded her tender mother. " She is really very sorry, and I am sure nothing like this will ever occur again, will it, Una dear ? ” “ N no, mamma,” faltered the girl. “ I dare say not,” said the doctor. “ Not till next time. But there, we had better not discuss the subject further. All you will have to do now, young lady, is to keep your mamma very quiet, and free from all whims and tempers on your part. You have had a very narrow escape from injuring or disfiguring her for life, and even as it is, if she is annoyed or excited during the next few days, erysipelas may set in, and in that case she will probably die.” Una had now been reduced to a state of complete penitence and subordination, so there was no need of further warning on the doctor’s part. As for Mrs Fleming, he saw that she chiefly required repose, and could, at any rate for the present, be safely left in her daughter’s hands. He therefore would not allow her to talk to him, as she evidently desired to do, and promising to call again the next day, cook his departure. “ So,” he reflected as he made his way home—“ so it seems fated that I should be once more brought in contact with the fair widow. But it will only be for a few days. She has had a mere scratch and bruise, and will soon be all right. Yet she looks worn and wasted, poor thing, as though she had been worried and fretting about something or other. Oh, dear, I wish to heaven I were a manied man ! Then fancy that child reading such a book as that! One of the most vicious French novels that have been printed for many a year. I wonder where she got hold of it. Evidently mamma thought this rather too strong, and hence the scrimmage. Still, she is a charming child, or would oe, if properly handled : but I would not like to have the task of breaking her in myself.” Dr Elliot went round that same evening to Eden Yilla, and amused Helen with a lively account of the little domestic tragedy at which he had assisted. Helen said she was glad Mrs Fleming had sent for him again, though sorry for the cause of the summons. As for Miss Una, she added : “ Now do you know, Mark, that is just the kind of pupil I would like, I enjoy dealing with a girl of that sort, and have tamed more than one just like her. There is always some real good in these hottempered children, but it wants bringing out by proper treatment.” “ The good may want bringing out,” observed Dr Elliot; “ but I think the bad wants banging out first. At any rate, that is how I should be inclined to set about it,” Ah ! ” retorted Helen, “ doctors do not understand how to cure pains in the temper. Cases of this sort are matters for healing, not for operations.” “ Perhaps so,” said Mark, and the subject dropped. Dr Elliot went to see Mrs Fleming the next day, as he had promised, and for several days afterwards. The injuries she bad sustained in her encounter with ber passionate daughter were, as he supposed, of a slight character, and all trace of them soon disappeared. But it was plain to his practised eye that her general health was considerably impaired from causes wholly independent of the “ accident,” and her answers to the questions he put to her confirmed the impression. Yes, she had been suffering a good deal lately from low spirits and great debility ; and the sight of her pale fnce, her hollow eyes, and wasted form fully bore out her statement.
“ Well, then, my dear madam,” said the doctor, with genuine pity and sympathy, “why did you not send for me before ?” “ I did not like to do so,” the widow replied. “ I thought you would say it was only my imagination, and perhaps it was. You told me you could not visit me any more for such things, and so—and so—l thought I would not trouble you again,” There was a touch of pathos in her voice that went to his heart, and tpld him he had been cruel to her. She was now really suffering, and it was, perhaps, due to his neglect. What could have been the cause of her low spirits, her bodily weakness ? He hardly dared to ask the question, but it was his duty to ask it, and he did. “ I feel so lonely," his patient replied; “ I
have so few friends, and the society of dear Una, though she does her best to comfort me, is not enough.” The doctor reflected that Miss Una was probably quite as much of a plague as a comfort to her mother.
“Then,” continued Mrs Fleming, “lusod to give way to all sorts of dismal ideas and fears. It was very foolish of me, I dare say, but I could not help it.” “Ah !” said Dr Elliot, “ you have been a little out of condition. I will give you something that will soon put that right,” Mrs Fleming said nothing, but sighed. Her ailment was not physical so much as mental. Could her doctor guess what was the nature of it? He could now, but the question was too delicate to be touched upon. Mrs Fleming, however, did not seem inclined to abandon the subject.
“ Yes,”she went on; “I feel very lonely —or did till a few days ago.” Then she startled him by adding “ Do you never feel like that?”
Did he never feel lonely ? He, in those long, weary hours in his solitary surgery, as he sat there dreaming of the happiness so eagerly desired, so long deferred ? Ah, what was her loneliness to his ?
“ Perhaps I do,” he replied, with a slight sigh ; “ most people do who live by themselves, and I have no companion at home whatever.”
“ But you might have a companion if you wished it,” suggested Mrs Fleming. “ Indeed !” said the doctor, with a little confusion. “ What sort of companion ?” _ “A wife,” answered the widow, looking keenly at him, while he dropped his glance. “Have you never thought of that?” “ Perhaps I have.” “ Then why do you not marry ?” Dr Elliot’s heart beat violently. His patient was approaching dangerous ground. Yet was it dangerous ? Was she not unconsciously loading him to safety? Leading him to disclose that which, perhaps, lie thought he should have disclosed long ago—the fact that his affections were engaged? Should he tell her? Should he miss the chance of dispelling a fancy which he could not bat see was distressing her in mind and injuring her in body? He would keep silence ou this subject no longer. “ Yes, my dear Mrs Fleming,” he said, “I have long wished to be married.” “Then why do you not carry out your wish?” asked the widow in a voice trembling with agitation. “ There is a difficulty in the way,” replied Mark, reluctant to make his intended avowal too abruptly. “ A difficulty ?” echoed Mrs Fleming. “ Does—does the lady you admire not love you ?” “ Yes,” he replied earnestly, “ I am sure she does.”
“ What is the difficulty, then ?' asked the widow, adding, in a hesitating tone: “Is it —is it—money ?” “It is,” he answered. And he would instantly have told her how he had waited for years for the woman he loved, but how they bad been separated by poverty—by the needy position of his beloved’s family, whom she had re.olved to support, and by his own narrow means.
But at tbli moment there was an interruption. Una dashed impetuously into the room, with flushed cheeks and angry eyes. She had evidently had one of her many conflicts with her lady’s maid. But at the sight of Dr Elliot she paused, not a little alarmed, for he had inspired her with a wholesome dread, and she was ashamed to make, in his presence, any exhibition of that temper which he had lately so severely rebuked. “ I beg your pardon, mamma dear,” sbe said ; “ I did not know Dr Elliot was with you.” Then she retired, and neither the doctor nor Mrs Fleming made any attempt to detain her. For, in fact, her abrupt entry had changed the current of the thoughts of both of them.
Dr Elliot had long intended to give Mrs Fleming some wholesome advice as to the treatment of the troublesome daughter whose wayward conduct he knew was having a very prejudicial effect on her mother’s health; while Mrs Fleming, on her part, though loath to speak ill of her spoilt darling, felt greatly distressed and anxious about her, and the incident of the French novel had not contributed to allay her anxiety. “ I am afraid,” said Mark, “ that that young lady is giving you a good deal of trouble.”
“ Yes, indeed,” replied her mother. “ She is a dear, good, loving child ; but she is very passionate—like her poor father. I don’t know what to do with her. She has no governess now. I have tried one after another for years, but somehow no one can get on with her. Some are too gent'e, others too violent, and every engagement always ends in smnething unpleasant,” “ Why don’t you send her to a boarding school V” asked the doctor.
“Oh.” cried Mrs Fleming, “I can’t do that. I could not bear to be parted from her. I should be more lonely than And she is such a nice companion—when she is good.” “ But, meanwhile, my dear Mrs Fleming,” said Dr Elliot, “she is growing up wild, with her education neglected, and, as that little incident the other day showed, sometimes engaging herself in studies of the very worst sort for a young girl.” “ I know that,” sighed the widow. “ But what am Itodo ? I can’t get a governess to suit her—l wish I could. I would give any mone y_any salary she asked—to some nice, ladylike person, with pleasant and engaging manners, clever at teaching, and having kind, but firm and decided, ways. You read of such people in novels, but they don’t seem to exist in real life.”
A sudden thought, a suggestion he was eager to make, occurred to Dr Edict, but he hesitated to put it into words. He did not speak, so Mrs Fleming went on. “ Don’t you know of anyone of that sort ? You go about so much, and must meet so many different people. Would you make some inquiries for me, and see if you can find me some really nice lady, not too old nor too young, who would he suitable as a governess for my poor Una ?”
Thus tempted, Dr Elliot’s mind was made up. He saw possibilities iu the idea suggested to him which were full of promise in more ways than one, “ Well,” he said, “ the fact is, I do know of a lady who I think would exactly suit you. She is clever, charming in manner, of a gentle, yet very decided character, has had large experience of teaching and training, and has, besides, been accustomed to deal successfully with unruly children.” “Oh! Dr Elliot,” the widow exclaimed eagerly, “that would be the very thing. What is her name ?”
Mark Elliot could not repress a feeling of agitation as he heard this question. He knew Mrs Fleming was wholly ignorant of the circumstances of the trial of Dr Wynd, which had publicly disclosed the fact of his engagement to Helen Musgrave ; yet could she by accident have heard of that fact? Would she recognise the name when he should mention it ? “She is called,” he said, “Helen Musgrave.” He scrutinised Mrs Fleming's countenance closely. But the name excited no look of surprise, no show of feeling on her part. She only remarked: “ A pretty name. I fancy I should like the person who bears it, especially after your description of her. Shall I write to her, asking her to come and see me, or will you speak to her for me ?” Dr Elliot thought it better to speak to Helen, and promised to do so. Shortly after this he took his leave and departed, eager to discharge the commission entrusted to him.
As for Mrs Fleming, left alone, she reflected, not on the proposal to engage Miss Helen Musgrave as her daughter’s governess, but on a matter much nearer to her heart. “He loves me,” she thought; “lam sure he loves me. What did he say ? He had thoughts of marrying. He believes that the woman he had in his mind loves him. But there is a difficulty in the way—money. Oh, that miserable money ! He, who was too proud to take the present I ofiered him out of my grateful heart; he, who refused to visit me because he could not consent to my paying him for his attendance when he thought I did not require it—he would not marry a woman for her money 1 Why is he so proud, so scrupulous ? I wish I had no money, I wish I was poorer than he is. But money shall not separate us. For he loves me. Oh !I am sure he jtoyes pie !” ( To be continued,)
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PAID IN HIS OWN COIN., Evening Star, Issue 7910, 18 May 1889, Supplement
PAID IN HIS OWN COIN. Evening Star, Issue 7910, 18 May 1889, Supplement
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