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had been difficult for Lady Vi, who knew her well, to believe that Mary Dunstable had made it.
Mary Dunstable had been very difficult to understand altogether lately. She seemed to be a totally different woman
. to the Mary Dunstable Lady Vi had known for years and played with as a child. That she had never had much sense and had always been easily influenced by anyone who chose to flatter and make up to her, that she had a hot temper and an extremely selfish disposition, Lady Vi had always known ; but now something quite new had taken place within her. There was a strange lack of consistency in all her actions, an indecision and curious excitability, which Lady Violet could not account for. Unless Mary was in love? That seemed the only possible solution of the question that Lady Vi could see. She had long suspected that Mary had given such love as her heart was capable of to Sir John Blunt; and now her suspicion grew into a certainty. This, and this alone, could account for the strange humour Mary was in ; but, as Lady Vi asked herself, what could it all mean? Sir John and Lord Leftbury were evidently upon the bests of terms, but Sir John never seemed to wish to see Mary or to hear how she was going on; and as to Mary, what good could it do her to remain at Delton Carr, if she refused to leave her room and never saw Sir John ?
So Lady Vi had left Delton Carr without being able to understand the matter at all; but in thinking that Mary did not know what she was doing, Lady Vi was very wrong. It is true that at first Mary had lost her head, and acted in a manner which she would certainly not have adopted had she had her wits about her; but that first false step had roused her thoroughly, and she had had all her wits in proper working order ever since.
Upon her father's arrival she had professed great delight at seeing him, and expressed much regret that he should have had so much anxiety on her account. She had told him how desirous she had been that he should not be telegraphed for; had lightly touched upon her efforts to appear only very slightly hurt, so to prevent the Morescliffes sending alarming accounts; and had altogether succeeded in winning his highest esteem.
Then she had thought very deeply, and resolved that at the expense
of any amount of boredom she must remain at Delton
Carr until her recovery was quite complete. There must be no risk of a relapse at Dunstable and Doctor Sleek's being sent for. That at all costs must certainly be avoided.
Doctor Sleek was now-a-days the only person Mary greatly feared. When Jennie had gone to Dunbarton, Mary divined that if any papers or letters were to be found in her possession they would have been discovered then. Jennie, in leaving the Cottage, would be nearly certain to turn over everything she possessed, burn the rubbish and take with her what she wished to keep. For a week or more Mary had lived in a state of torment, wondering if that letter of her mother's had yet been found. Then Jennie had gone to Dunbarton; no word of any discovery had been said ; and Mary had told herself that her worst
! danger was over, and begun to breathe more freely than she had done for months. Of course that letter might still turn up; but there seemed to be long odds against it now.
Doctor Sleek was the person to be feared ! How good his memory was Mary did not know; but she told herself that she would not like to trust it. He had a nasty, shrewd, businesslike look about him, had old Doctor Sleek; and the way in which he would run up a bill of twenty pounds or so for plastering up a cut on the kitchen-maid's or scullery-maid's finger, seemed to point clearly to the fact that he was not losing any of his faculties yet. He was an old man, but far from being in his dotage; and Mary often wished that he was older and less wiry-looking ; and, I fear, sometimes, that he was dead.
But Doctor Sleek neither being dead nor seeming at all likely to die, Mary determined that her ankle must recover very slowly indeed, and that she must not return to Dunstable until it was both strong and well.
With an iron resolution she suppressed a longing for that large, airy, well-furnished room of hers at home. Her many expensive knick-knacks and possessions in it she missed very often, at a time when she much needed them; but, with an amount of self-denial and self-repression quite new to her, she told herself plainly that there was no use in thinking of them; they must be done without.
Her refusal to be carried to a sofa downstairs, nobody but herself could understand. Mary, as a rule, would not have stayed in bed a moment longer than she was absolutely obliged
to do so, and yet now she had stayed there a fortnight and snubbed Dr. Berry in a manner so curt that it surprised him, when he suggested that she might find it more cheerful in the sitting-room, where she could see her friends.
That he had made that suggestion was known only to himself and Mary. He had been wise enough to take his cue from his patient's manner. Nobody knew better than he did that the sprain from which she was suffering, although very painful at first, owing to the pressure of a tight top boot, and the jolting of the farmer's gig, was not really at all serious, and that with moderate care Miss Dunstable might have returned home a week ago if she had wished it.
That she should wish to play the patient invalid had not greatly surprised that doctor. He had had patients before who had played that part quite prettily. But what did rather puzzle him was, that a handsome girl like Miss Dunstable should like to remain so long in her own room, when almost every evening Lord Morescliffe and his daughter seemed to be giving a dinner-party, and half the hunting men in Delton Carr were for ever to be met going up and down the stairs between the door of the Royal and the apartments devoted to his lordship's use.
Dr. Berry considered Mary rather an interesting study. She was not quite like other women, as far as his experience went. He did not admire her manner; she was often quite rude to him, but he admired her face and figure, and the fact that she was the only daughter of a lord, and known as being a very great heiress; and he felt that, under the circumstances, her manner, good or bad, mattered very little. So long as she wished to remain at the Royal, there was no possible reason why she should not do so. He, at any rate, was quite prepared to back her up.
Lady Vi had taken him by surprise when she had so abruptly asked him if Miss Dunstable might not safely go home. He had given her a far more direct reply than he had either wished or intended. But nothing came of it; and as he rightly divined, Lady Vi and her good intentions had been suppressed.
So Lady Vi left Delton Carr, and Miss Dunstable remained behind. And it was quite evident to Dr. Berry, that Miss Dunstable preferred to stay at Delton Carr, and that old Lord Leftbury was merely a tool in his daughter's hands.
LORD LEFTBURY TAKES A LINE OF HIS OWN.
THE Deltonites considered that Dr. Berry was a very clever man. They were justified in doing so. When he had a bad case he knew how to treat it; and what affected his reputation even more, he had a very happy knack of being able to read his patients' characters, could generally see what advice would be most acceptable, and, what was even more to the point, he generally
But, in thinking that kind-hearted, good-natured old Lord Leftbury was a mere tool in his daughter's hands, Dr. Berry made a mistake, as clever people sometimes do. That he idolized Mary and let her have her own way in every matter, big or small, was certain ; but he was very far from having no opinions of his own, or of being incapable of acting for himself occasionally without Mary's knowledge or assistance.
And on this occasion he took a line of his own, in a manner which Mary had assuredly never for a moment foreseen.
He waited patiently enough at Delton Carr for several days after the Morescliffes' departure, then he told himself that Mary's recovery was unaccountably slow, and that her state of health left much to be desired. It was quite unlike Mary to resign herself so quietly to being confined to her bed, and to losing her hunting, and either Mary's ankle was very seriously injured indeed, or something else was very wrong with Mary. It was evident that Dr. Berry did not understand her case.
No sooner did his lordship arrive at this conclusion, than he sent a telegram to Dr. Sleek requesting him to lose no time in coming to see his daughter. Then he wrote a note to Dr. Berry and told him what he had done. As soon as Dr. Sleek arrived he would let Dr. Berry know, and it would be desirable that the two doctors held a consultation without delay. No more courteous note was ever written than the one written by Lord Leftbury to Dr. Berry. “He had every confidence in Dr. Berry, but would like his old friend Dr. Sleek to see his daughter. He had known her from her birth.” Nevertheless Dr. Berry looked a little perplexed when he received it, and for several minutes afterwards hardly knew whether to laugh or frown.
It was not until many hours after the telegram to Dr. Sleek had gone that Lord Leftbury went up to Mary's room to break the fact to her that he had called in further advice. He determined to do so carefully; he felt a little anxious about Mary, and by nature he was rather inclined to imagine mountains where only molehills existed. As Mary called it, he was by disposition rather fussy.
“And how is this tiresome ankle to-day, Mary ?” he enquired, as he entered the room and leant over her to kiss her cheek. And he told himself, as he did so, that he had acted very wisely in sending for Dr. Sleek.
Mary was certainly looking rather pale. That any man or woman, accustomed as Mary was to an active outdoor life, would be likely to look rather pale after a fortnight's confinement to their bed, did not enter Lord Leftbury's head. Mary looked rather pale, and it was therefore certain that Mary must be seriously ill.
Something in his tone arrested her attention. She glanced up at him, and wondered what that excited expression in his blue eyes meant ? Why there was such a hectic flush in his wrinkled cheeks?
"Are you not well to-day, Papa ?" she enquired quickly, ignoring the question he had asked her.
For a moment he looked confused. Then he sat quietly down in a chair by the bed-side, and told himself that he must be calm.
"Only a slight head-ache, my dear,” he replied evasively. Nothing worth mentioning.”
“You are bored out of your life here !” she exclaimed, in the pleasant sympathetic tone which she always kept for him. * And little wonder! I really am very sorry to be so tiresome, but I could not help it, could I, Papa ?”
"No, no! my dear girl! Of course not,” returned the old man quickly, laying his hand affectionately upon hers as he spoke. “It is you who deserve all the pity, not I! And you are so patient and good-so very patient and good.”
"Not very, I am afraid,” replied Mary, who felt that it would