Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

3 erthygl ar y dudalen hon

Dr. Smith of Queen Anne St.

Newyddion
Dyfynnu
Rhannu

[ALL RIGHTS RESEBVSD,] Dr. Smith of Queen Anne St. By ARABELLA KENEALY, Author of Dr. Janet of Harley Street," "A Semi- Detached Marriage," &c. Lady Angela stepped languidly from her victoria. A footman stood obsequious to mar- shal the brief transit between the edge of the pavement and the door of the doctor's house. He had already thundered upon this latter with a prolonged importunate rapping. It stood open now—the doctor's butler cere- moniously awaii )g the visitor. Through the gloom of the N(, ember fog and in the gleam of the electric L.ill lamp his starched shirt- front made a goa, of whiteness. "I have an engagement with Dr. Smith for half past ten," the visitor announced as she mwept gracefully into the dark hall. "Yes, my lady," he returned, and closed ,the door behind her. The footman sprang back to his box and the carriage moved on to make way for other comers. There was nobody in the waiting-room. The hour was early for, fashionable London. And Dr. Smith was just now the vogue for such women of fashionable London as were, or believed themselves to be, the victims of dis- ordered nerves. Lady Angela glanced about the waiting- room, which was obviously the doctor's modest dining-room. It had that aspect un- mistakable, frequently seen in London wait- ing-rooms, of having been furnished from auc- tion sales, there being a marked incongruity of style and yawning decades of period be- tween the various articles of furniture. Presently, no doubt, as Dr. Smith had be- come a vogue, he would refurbish his house, would perhaps migrate to some more fashion- able quarter than that of Queen Anne-street. But for the present he still lived in the street of the name of that dead lady, and his furni- ture was conspicuously second-hand. Lady Angela did not, however, dive deeply into the antecedents of her doctor's posses- sions. She merely shuddered slightly, gather- ing an impression of middle-class dulness. She seated herself wearily in a chair beside the fire. Mechanically she loosened her rich sable coat and set her pretty patent leather toes upon the fender-rail. It was a, depressing morning, not cold according to the ther- mometer, but such degrees of cold as there were, were of a penetrating rawness. She leaned back and idly wondered what she should tell this man about herself. Her symptoms were vague and variable. It would be difficult to make a case of them; and yet she could not conceal from herself that she was very far from being well. The second hand clock on the mantel-piece chimed a quarter after the hour. It looked like a handsome mausoleum out of repair. Its chime was a knell. Its time was slow, but if the doctor should keep his appointments by this dining-room clock of his she had some fifteen minutes to wait. She sighed distastefully, out of spirits with life, with everything. She settled herself down to wait some lifteen minutes. All at once she became aware of a strange pervading sense of tranquillity. The gloom of the room transformed itself into a restful twilight. A sudden warmth and glow stole over her. She turned her head. She had ob- served no flowers in the "room. Yet the air was now filled with perfume as of violets, of roses, of lilies. Yet turnir.g her head she found no flowers. Nothing of living nature beyond two unhappy-looking ferns in chipped white pots. She stood tlT) tingling through all her frame with nervous force and excitement. She laughed to herself in a sudden mood of joyousaess. "I feel well," she said aloud. "The fear of the doctor has frightened my stupid nerves into good behaviour." She walked about the room, examining the second-hand prints on the. walls with inte- rest As she did so she hummed a gay air. She broke off to wonder at herself. It was a year since she had felt spirit enough to sing. Dr. Smith apparently kept his engagements by some clocklllOre accurate than the dam- aged mausoleum. Five minutes before this latter reached its second quarter the door had opened and the butler was saying: "Will your ladyship kindly come this way." It seemed to her that she was ushered into a room ablaze with yellow sunshine and sweet with the singing of birds, a room so charged with colour and perfume and tune- ful sound as to be well-nigh overpowering. For a moment all was bewilderment. Then she four.d herself mechanically shaking hands witn a tall thin man of a serious countenance, who had risen from the chair beside his writ- ing-table. "Please sit there," he bade her, in the ac- customed manner, indicating the accustomed patient's chair on the opposite side of the table. As she sat down she collected herself. She saw now that there was no yellow sunshine, no singing-birds, no flowers, no colour or per- fume. She was in a sombre study, lined with books and set with scientific apparatus. There was a general effect of dingy green, faded myrtle carpet, fueled olive upholstery, faded grass-green walls, and at the table a faded tired man. As he drew forward his case-book she saw that his profile was fine and clearly cut-that his hands were delicate and beautiful. For the rest he was lean and pale and weary- looking. When he glanced up, which for a space he seemed loth to do, keeping his eyes on the pages before him, the eyes affected her strangely. They contrasted so singularly with his weary face. They were like two lamps, new-lit and glowing. She noticed that his hand with the pen in it shook slightly as he looked at her. He had begun to speak, to frame a profes- sional question in a conventional voice of im- personal inquiry, when he broke off short. "It is most extraordinary," he said in an excited voice. "There must just now have been some unusual electrical disturbance, perhaps a slight earthquake shock somewhere near. May I ask were you conscious of any- thing unusual?" he demanded with mingled I' diffidence and warmth. He turned his new- lit eyes upon her. I suppose amid the circumstances of earth- quake strangers throw off ceremony and ac- cost one another as old acquaintances. She thought it must be something of this kind that broke all ice between herself and this man she was meeting for the first time. For 9 she felt all at once as though she had knows* him all her life. 0 "I noticed something unusual," she as- sented, lifting friendly candid eyes to him, beautiful eyes from which the men of her world would have given much to earn so straight and sweet a sialism^ I "U mbs me feel well," she continued. "My nervous symptoms have all vanished in I a iment." She dimpled charmingly. "Dr. ¡ giiiith," she concluded, "really I think I I must take my leave and return some other ¡ day. I feel so absurdly well I scarcely re- member the symptoms for which I have come to you." He smiled with a fresh boyishness that lighted and rejuvenated his tired face. With this illumining smile upon it it was a fine and attractive face. "But as you are here," he submitted, "will it not be best to go into the case. This at- mospheric disturbance, or whatsoever it may be that has just now happened to the ele- ments, is merely temporary, of course. To- morrow-later, to-day, perhaps—when its effect has passed, your symptoms may unfor- tunately return. Are they of long standing?" Briefly and clearly with the lucid ease of a clever woman she stated her case. For the last two years she had been the prey of a species of lethargy, physical and mental, which made the most trifling effort a tax. Naturally keen and interested in things, she had become a prey to a benumbing and ever- increasing apathy. For a while she had re- garded it as being purely mental, due per- haps to nervous fag and boredom. But of late it had so increased as not only to alarm her, but to convince her that it must have its source in some grave constitutional trouble. During her story the doctor kept his eyes upon his case-book, jotting down a note at intervals. Her eyes were on his face. Now he flashed up a look at her, penetrat- ing, keen, like the flash of a seaich-light. "You have been married-how long, Lady Angela I" •Two yeaa sad six months." "Have you any children?" Her beautiful eyebrows slightly arched themseirea. Did not everybody know there was am heir to the great old name and es- tates of Lord Follet of Fulholme? Then per- haps she remembered that Dr. Smith moved in a less exalted sphere than that of hers, and was not therefore cognisant of the data of the latter. "I have one little boy," she answered. Suddenly he rose. His face was agitated. His hands trembled. "Will you excuse me if I take a few steps up and down the room," he said in a strained voice. "This extraordinary electrical dis- turbance affects me strangely." The room was small. For two minutes he fOrged op and down it like a caged fierce I creature. At the end of that time he re-seated him- self, and trailed his handkerchief across a humid forehead. "'It is most unaccountable," he said. "It woul<f mem as though one's nervous system were in sympathy with the elements, and with fchens ha. departed from its normal. Believe mc-, I sm not in the habit of prancing about my consulting-room in this fashion. I beg you to excuse me." She bm-oke into a merry laugh, for sheer nervous elation on her own part and amuse- meat at Ms odd discomfiture. "li affects me delightfully," she told him. "If you could chain these freed elemental forces andadmillister, them in doses, your ratiento would have cause to be everlastingly grateful to yen." "If I could earn yonr gratitude," he began with a sudden feverish passion; "If I could free yon of one pain, of any least distress --Y9 He struggled with that which was clearly a tremendous effort—words that seemed surg- ing to his lips. He drew his handkerchief across Ms eyes and harshly sighed. With a violent effort he resumed his professional im pe". orial tone. "Have you taker, other medical advice, Lady Angela?" "NOf" she said. "As I tell you, I kept hop- ing the symptoms would pass, thinking I was merely bored and fagged. Society, of course, snakes great demands on one." '.Of course," he assented absently. Suddenly he leaned forward and flashed his lamp-eyes into hers. It seemed to her they found her very soul. "Dear," he said in a tense whisper—"Mar- garet, there is still the boat. If we can man- age to slip past the guard, I can row you across the loch." For one moment she sat amazed and dazed. Then as though speaking her part in a .play she answered to the cue. But I'm hurt, Ronald. I can never-get —so far." Her voice broke off in a petu- lant wail. Her knees shook under her. Her breath came faint and fast. She was con- scious of terrible weakness. A dull wound throbbed in her side. She felt the warm blood from it gnsh beneath her breast. Faintly she heard him say, as one speaking at a distance: "God I the villain wounded her! Sweet, bear np. Darling, be brave. See, you are light as a feather, I would carry you through hell's fire. And once in the boat She felt Ms kisses on her hands, she felt hot kisses on her face, the passionate an- guished kisses of lips that are tender as rose- leaves and fierce as steel. T-), the end of her life she did not know whfther they were real or but part of the phantasy. For she gave way to a sudden swooning of mingled sweetness and faintness and knew no more. Wiieji she awoke, she found herself lying on a coach in the doctor's consulting room. stood above her with a white, shocked face. A nurse in uniform was with him. Her dazed eyes opened upon a bottle of brandy and an empty glass. The sting of alcohol was ob her' lips. She raised herself upon an elbow. ) Did I faint?" she asked, feebly. "I have I never before done such a thing." Dr. Smith's eyes, no longer alight and I Samp-like, but grave and grieved, met hers. H You lost consciousness for three I miniite* he said. His watch was in his hand. It is no doubt an effect of this ex- traridinary electrical disturbance." Mi n cry returning to her, she flushed faintly In fainting does one imagine oneself æncone el&e?" she questioned. I fear I t-ttked euytie nonsense, but it seemed to me that I was answering some other speaker. Oh, yes! Now I remember. So foolish! I thought I was wounded. I thought the faint- ness "was caused by the wound. What tricks the mind plays!" Yes, the mind plays tricks," Dr. Smith said. There was a contraction as of sharpest pain about his mouth. Having written a prescription for her he sent the nurse home with her in her carriage. I For the rest of the day she remained in a of dreaming delirium. This, at all eveatffl, was her description to herself (for she mentioned it to no other) of the strange men- tol etate into which she passed. I Wilb th$mx,face of hex mind she lived her normal life. She lunched, received her friends, wrote letters, dressed, dined out, and went on afterwards to a State Ball. Yet below the surface of her mind there was an undercurrent life. Amid the social com- mor.places she could hear the clash of steel, the shout of battle, the cry of wounded men and horses. She and some other, whose hot breath was on her cheek, his strong arm supporting her, his fond words whispering cheer and courage, appeared to be passing through dire straits of circumstance, peril, flight, pursuit, capture, escape, wounds, death. And through it all kisses, kisses and dear words, hand claspings, vows of everliv- ing faithfulness, passionate devotion, lion- hearted bravery and tenderness, such emo- tions as knit and weld two souls in everlast" ing indissolubility. While she waltzed with a Royal Prince she was as in a dim and distant dream conscious of her lion-hearted lover standing over her, braving a score of lance-points in her de- fence. She heard his choking gasp of pain as one found a mortal part. She felt his hot blood drench her. She felt him stagger and fall, feeling out for her with blundering faithful arms, crying out for her with the moaning sob of unquenchable desire. She too, wounded and spent, crept to him, clung to him, died with his dying kisses on her dying lips, their last breaths mingling faintly, together growing cold, together ceas- ing. "Are you not well, Lady Angela?" the Prince asked, suddenly halting in their dance. 0 She collected herself, assured Him that she was well, and moved on again with a grace for which she was noted. When she awoke next morning the whole train of phenomena had passed. The weariness and mental lethargy had returned. Life was again a drab dull task. She began upon Dr. Smith's prescription. The end of a week found her a second time in the dingy waiting-room, seated below the mausoleum clock. Now she was not alone. Three other patients were in the room, one a Duchess of her acquaintance, who, the moment she en- tered, chained her to a long description of her symptoms. The man is astoundingly clever," she concluded. "His doses relieve my neuritis' better than all the doses of all the other men in London, and I've tried most of 'em. But what in the name of goodness are you here for? You look the picture of health." It was improbable that there was an earth- quake this day also. Indeed, Lady Angela had vaguely searched the papers for evidence of elemental distur- bance on the date of her former visit. Nor had any person she questioned noticed any- thing unusual about the atmosphere. Yet this morning the moment she passed the door of the house in Queen Anne-street the same singular joy and exhilaration pervaded her. The weariness and boredom vanished. The dull hall was filled with the joy of birds' singing. The dull air was perfumed with the odours of flowers." When she passed presently into his room, it was aglow with warmth and yellow sun- shine. A rose-bower could not have smellad more sweet. Life seemed complete, to have fulfilled all it most golden promises. His eyes, like two lamps again, were on the door through which she would come. As she appeared he drew in his breath with a stifling, whistling sound. There were pain and amazement on his face. For on# moment he covered his eyes with a hand as though to shut out the sight of her. The next moment he had risen and her hand was lightly held in his. He forced a conventional smile. "I hope you have been better," he ob- scrved. She told him the truth. She was not bet- ter. The langour and weariness had been almost insupportable. He re-read her ease in his book. He put a few questions nnsde notes of her s. and all the while she could see he was set- ting a fierce curb upou almost uncc-rolh- Ue agitation. Once he shirted from his ch.i.r as though to pace the room as he had previ- ously done. 1 He forced himself back. His voice was strained and unnatural. One of his beautiful hands, trembling and jerk- ing, seemed to thrust itself violently against his will across the table to her. She experienced an impulse it was anguish to control, as joints of martyrs that are stretched on racks. So her hand ached with an agonised yearning to meet his and be at rest. At the same moment that he withdrew his band with vehement effort, she drove her feet hard iu the carpet and with a force that was pain clasped her own hands tightly about the arms of 'her chair. He compelled himself to put professional questions, keeping' his eyes on his book. Suddenly he flashed up his eyes. Do you believe Hi at we have lived be- force" he demanded, "and Hint it is pos- sible for memories of former lives to re- turn?" 1, a n,(y,.nl.:1"1'I ií:hn. 1. [\U.. i-1,+ 1\1"\ +nA, 1. .n- t.t.t.l"l' >,1J.< 1.1' L-1.C."Il 1.:1. "J' .1.-Lv.' I! perienccd that same -ei-: ol an undereu-creill existence beneath the normal one. I have not given much thought to psychological things," she said. It may be possible of course," she added, dreamily. Again she heard tho clash of steel. She felt the fond strong arm about licr. She put up a hand to her breast where the wound throbbed. She began to swoon. But her hands were taken in a strong grip. She felt herself lifted to her feet. Lady Angela," Dr. Smith was saying, briskly. Pray do not give way again. Brace yourself against this weakness." He put smelling salts to her nostrils. Me beat her hands smartly. She cUagged her mind back with an effort. She opened her eyes. She was in the dull consulting-room. There were neither sing- ing birds nor clash of steel. In a revulsion of feeling she re-seated her- self and broke into a silent fit of weeping. Soon she was calm. She looked up, and smiled faintly. "I am horribly ashamed," she said. It is not my way to be hysterical." He' looked up from his writing-table. He rose to his feet. He passed across the table to her a sheet of paper on which 110 had written an address. "I regret to say," he told her in a dis- tressed voice, that your case baffles me. I fear it will be useless for you to come again to me. My irhmd, Dr. Hilton Baxter, is in my opinion the best man in London for such cases. Will you see what he can do for you? It sometimes happens," he added, that we doctors find a case in which we feel we shall be of no service whatsoever to our patient. I am very sorry." He stc-od with his head downcast, a strange light as cf poignant, illumining pain upon his face. His hands shook like those of a man palsied She never knew whether the first move- I | ment aae from him or from herself. But a | moment later she was in his arms. Tlier- j was caw long passionate, anguished, raptured | emhr"~ve, the cling of yearning limbs, her cheek tossed on a tern palpitating breast, | her lijrs beneath hot tender lipri. Then it was over. Oh, for God's sake go;" he cried, and thrust her from him. "I am covered with shame." j He muttered brokenly about his profes- sional honour. But she put out a little hand and gently touched one of his in comfort. No," she said, softly. It was not you and I. It was Ronald and Margaret. Poor —souls!" She added on a fobbing breath, But poorer, poorer you and II" With a choking sigh he dragged open the door. She passed out into the hall, and as though groping her way blindly amid Shadows, found the door and her carriage. Afterwards she remembered that coming down the stairs with a commonplace child on each side of her, she had seen a gaunt, middle-aged woman, who alternately fussed importantly and scolded shrilly a3 she came. She had so doubt but that this was Mrs. Smith. When a year later the beautiful Lady Angela Follett died at the age of twenty- four. her friends said it was really provi- dential because the poor lady had fallen into a state of profound melancholy.

FUN AND FANCY.

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