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- Doctor Thorne - 30/119 -


ill: wait a minute, Janet, and I'll write a line. Mary, lend me your desk.'

The squire, anxious as usual for money, had written to ask what success the doctor had had in negotiating the new loan with Sir Roger. That fact, however, was, that in his visit to Boxall Hill, the doctor had been altogether unable to bring on the carpet the matter of this loan. Subjects had crowded themselves in too quickly during that interview--those two interviews at Sir Roger's bedside; and he had been obliged to leave without even alluding to the question.

'I must at any rate go back now,' he said to himself. So he wrote to the squire, saying that he was to be at Boxall Hill again on the following day, and that he would call at the house on his return.

'That's all settled, at any rate,' said he.

'What's settled?' said Mary.

'Why, I must go to Boxall Hill again to-morrow. I must go early, too, so we'd better both be off to bed. Tell Janet I must breakfast at half-past seven.'

'You couldn't take me, could you? I should so like to see that Sir Roger.'

'To see Sir Roger! Why, he's ill in bed.'

'That's an objection, certainly; but some day, when he's well, could you not take me over? I have the greatest desire to see a man like that; a man who began with nothing and now has more than enough to buy the whole parish of Greshamsbury.'

'I don't think you'd like him at all.'

'Why not? I am sure I should; I am sure I should like him, and Lady Scatcherd too. I've heard you say that she is an excellent woman.'

'Yes, in her way; and he, too, is good in his way; but they are neither of them in your way: they are extremely vulgar--'

'Oh! I don't mind that; that would make them more amusing; one doesn't go to those sort of people for polished manners.'

'I don't think you'd find the Scatcherds pleasant acquaintances at all,' said the doctor, taking his bed-candle, and kissing his niece's forehead as he left the room.

CHAPTER XII

WHEN GREEK MEETS GREEK, THEN COMES THE TUG OF WAR

The doctor, that is our doctor, had thought nothing more of the message which had been sent to that other doctor, Dr Fillgrave; nor in truth did the baronet. Lady Scatcherd had thought of it, but her husband during the rest of the day was not in a humour which allowed her to remind him that he would soon have a new physician on his hands; so she left the difficulty to arrange itself, waiting in some little trepidation till Dr Fillgrave should show himself.

It was well that Sir Roger was not dying for want of his assistance, for when the message reached Barchester, Dr Fillgrave was some five or six miles out of town, at Plumstead; and as he did not get back till late in the evening, he felt himself necessitated to put off his visit to Boxall Hill till next morning. Had he chanced to have been made acquainted with that little conversation about the pump, he would probably have postponed it even yet a while longer.

He was, however, by no means sorry to be summoned to the bedside of Sir Roger Scatcherd. It was well known at Barchester, and very well known to Dr Fillgrave, that Sir Roger and Dr Thorne were old friends. It was very well known to him also, that Sir Roger, in all his bodily ailments, had hitherto been contented to entrust his safety to the skill of his old friend. Sir Roger was in his way a great man, and much talked of in Barchester, and rumour had already reached the ears of the Barchester Galen, that the great railway contractor was ill. When, therefore, he received a peremptory summons to go over to Boxall Hill, he could not but think that some pure light had broken in upon Sir Roger's darkness, and taught him at last where to look for true medical accomplishment.

And then, also, Sir Roger was the richest man in the county, and to county practitioners a new patient with large means is a godsend; how much greater a godsend when not only acquired, but taken also from some rival practitioner, need hardly be explained.

Dr Fillgrave, therefore, was somewhat elated when, after an early breakfast, he stepped into the post-chaise which was to carry him to Boxall Hill. Dr Fillgrave's professional advancement had been sufficient to justify the establishment of a brougham, in which he paid his ordinary visits round Barchester; but this was a special occasion, requiring special speed, and about to produce no doubt a special guerdon, and therefore a pair of post-horses were put into request.

It was hardly yet nine when the post-boy somewhat loudly rang the bell at Sir Roger's door; and then Dr Fillgrave, for the first time, found himself in the new grand hall of Boxall Hill house.

'I'll tell my lady,' said the servant, showing him into the grand dining-room; and there for some fifteen minutes or twenty minutes Dr Fillgrave walked up and down the length of the Turkey carpet all alone.

Dr Fillgrave was not a tall man, and was perhaps rather more inclined to corpulence than became his height. In his stocking-feet, according to the usually received style of measurement, he was five feet five; and he had a little round abdominal protuberance, which an inch and a half added to the heels of his boots hardly enabled him to carry off as well as he himself would have wished. Of this he was apparently conscious, and it gave to him an air of not being entirely at his ease. There was, however, a personal dignity in his demeanour, a propriety in his gait, and an air of authority in his gestures which should prohibit one from stigmatizing those efforts at altitude as a failure. No doubt he did achieve much; but, nevertheless, the effort would occasionally betray itself, and the story of the frog and the ox would irresistibly force itself into one's mind at those moments when it most behoved Dr Fillgrave to be magnificent.

But if the bulgy roundness of his person and the shortness of his legs in any way detracted from his personal importance, these trifling defects were, he was well aware, more than atoned for by the peculiar dignity of his countenance. If his legs were short, his face was not; if there was any undue preponderance below the waistcoat, all was in due symmetry above the necktie. His hair was grey, not grizzled, nor white, but properly grey; and stood up straight from his temples on each side, with an unbending determination of purpose. His whiskers, which were of an admirable shape, coming down and turning gracefully at the angle of his jaw, were grey also, but somewhat darker than his hair. His enemies in Barchester declared that their perfect shade was produced by a leaden comb. His eyes were not brilliant, but were very effective, and well under command. He was rather short-sighted, and a pair of eye-glasses was always on his nose, or in his hand. His nose was long, and well pronounced, and his chin, also, was sufficiently prominent; but the great feature of his face was his mouth. The amount of secret medical knowledge of which he could give assurance by the pressure of those lips was truly wonderful. By his lips, also, he could be most exquisitely courteous, or most sternly forbidding. And not only could he be either the one or the other; but he could at his will assume any shade of difference between the two, and produce any mixture of sentiment.

When Dr Fillgrave was first shown into Sir Roger's dining-room, he walked up and down the room for a while with easy, jaunty step, with his hands joined together behind his back, calculating the price of the furniture, and counting the heads which might be adequately entertained in a room of such noble proportions; but in seven or eight minutes an air of impatience might have been seen to suffuse his face. Why could he not be shown into the sick man's room? What necessity could there be for keeping him there, as though he were some apothecary with a box of leeches in his pocket? He then rang the bell, perhaps a little violently. 'Does Sir Roger know that I am here?' he said to the servant. 'I'll tell my lady,' said the man, again vanishing.

For five minutes more he walked up and down, calculating no longer the value of the furniture, but rather that of his own importance. He was not wont to be kept waiting in this way; and though Sir Roger Scatcherd was at present a great and rich man, Dr Fillgrave had remembered him a very small and a very poor man. He now began to think of Sir Roger as the stone-mason, and to chafe somewhat more violently at being so kept by such a man.

When one is impatient, five minutes is as the duration of all time, and a quarter of an hour is eternity. At the end of twenty minutes the step of Dr Fillgrave up and down the room had become very quick, and he had just made up his mind that he would not stay there all day to the serious detriment, perhaps fatal injury, of his other expectant patients. His hand was again on the bell, and was about to be used with vigour, when the door opened and Lady Scatcherd entered.

'Oh, laws!' Such had been her first exclamation on hearing that the doctor was in the dining-room. She was standing at the time with her housekeeper in a small room in which she kept her linen and jam, and in which, in company with the same housekeeper, she spent the happiest moments of her life.

'Oh laws! now, Hannah, what shall we do?'

'Send 'un up at once to master, my lady! let John take 'un up.'

'There'll be such a row in the house, Hannah; I know there will.'

'But surely didn't he send for 'un? Let the master have the row himself, then; that's what I'd do, my lady,' added Hannah, seeing that her ladyship still stood trembling in doubt, biting her thumb-nail.

'You couldn't go up to the master yourself, could now, Hannah?' said Lady Scatcherd in her most persuasive tone.

'Why no,' said Hannah, after a little deliberation; 'no, I'm afeard I couldn't.'

'Then I must just face it myself.' And up went the wife to tell her lord that the physician for whom he had sent had come to attend his bidding.

In the interview which then took place the baronet had not indeed been violent, but he had been very determined. Nothing on earth, he said, should induce him to see Dr Fillgrave and offend his dear old friend Dr Thorne.


Doctor Thorne - 30/119

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