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myself when I received this despatch, for my mind was fully occupied with the fate of poor Tom; but certainly, as the communication—by proxy—of an affectionate brother, the self-proposed godfather of my child, his infant nephew, never was anything less satisfactory. To have expected Cuthbert to exert himself to the extent of favouring me with an autograph letter might have been too much, but to find no word, no syllable from him, referring in the slightest degree either to my wife or child, or to his intentions respecting his sponsorial proposition, nor indeed any hint even tending to make me fancy that I occupied the smallest share of his attention, was beyond my anticipations. That it was painful I admit, and if I had been in a state to dwell upon it, it would have awakened a thousand feelings, which perhaps it was as well should not be called into play. It was evident that Mrs. Brandyball's influence was rapidly increasing, and the artless manner in which Kate mentioned the probability of that amiable lady's giving up the fatigue of general tuition, to devote her time and talents to the exclusive improvement of my two half-nieces, convinced me that all my worst apprehensions were eventually to be realised.
To Harriet I merely communicated the fact that I had heard from Cuthbert—for I could not venture to apprize her of the nature of his letter. She, dear soul, was so full of kindness, so feelingly alive to my interests, and had devoted herself so entirely for my sake to him, that I was sure she would feel deeply and bitterly the tone and spirit of Kate's letter. In fact, I do not think, since the day of my beloved mother's death, (a day always present to my memory,) I ever felt so perfectly miserable as on this.
With one o'clock—the hour of luncheon— came Sniggs, and his report was such as to convince me that no hope remained of saving the boy; it then struck me that I would wait until the fatal event occurred, and immediately afterwards start for Bath to break the news to Cuthbert; then I resolved upon writing, anticipating in my letter the worst which might happen. Sniggs worried me with technicalities, and the smell of the camphor with which he was highly perfumed reminded me of the danger likely to be incurred by his visit; for although the whole establishment had been rendered proof against the infection, still the baby was yet unharmed, and when I saw him deliberately sit down to help 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, supposing his recovery to excite his fatherin-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-and-twenty 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