صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

GHE QYSTERY OF NEXT DOOR.

BY A YOUNG DOCTOR.

CHAPTER 1.

A child in that house! It seemed too dreadful,

and at first I fancied I must have dozed and been HE house had been empty for dreaming, but the same sound came again, a bright months, and as the dirt accumu- ringing peal of childish laughter, and then all was lated on the windows, and the still. steps became a refuge for all the Next door was beginning to interest me, and waifs and strays of the neighbour. I was weaving together all sorts of romantic ideas, hood, we naturally began to look when I was brought back to reality by the postman's upon the place as a nuisance; a knock and the entrance of our maid Jane with some

blot on the page of social life as letters. represented by the inhabitants of Causland-street. It was bitterly cold, and settling down for a read, But one day a change took place; the odious bill “ To I congratulated myself that no patient required my be Let " was removed, and painters, paper-hangers, attention that evening, but I was reckoning without and all the other mysterious craftsmen of the British my host. workman genus were to be seen moving about within. Aboat eight o'clock I was startled by a long piercing Next came vans of furniture, handsome indeed, but shriek from next door. old-fashioned.

The place seemed shrouded in mystery, and I had Of course all the immediate neighbours were just began to wonder whether it would not be advisanxiously awaiting the arrival of the new inhabitants, able to give notice myself on the next quarter-day, but, strange to say, we were all disappointed. Their when a sharp pull at my own door-bell which cerincoming must have taken place after dark, and they tainly meant " Doctor," sent me flying to answer it. may have been there for days before we were really An old woman stood there without bonpet or shawl, sure of it.

and raising her hands beseechingly, cried, If next door had been an eye-sore before, it now “ For dear's sake come in, sir; the poor child's became a positive heart-ache. The blinds were never nearly burnt to death !" raised, except in the kitchen, where they were just Hastily gathering together such things as might high enough to enable one to see that there was a be necessary, I followed the woman into the house. fire in the grate. The door was rarely assailed by In the back room on the first floor, which was fitted visitors, but if some persistent vendor of ottomans or up luxuriously as a bedroom, lay a little girl of onions did succeed in getting an answer, the door perhaps ten years of age. Her face was unmarred was just opened enough to admit the faces of besieger and wonderfully pretty, but the poor little body was and besieged. There was something uncanny about sadly burnt, and it required all my skill to dress the the place, and my sisters began to shun even pass. wounds. ing it.

She, poor mite, bore my handling with the patient Some weeks elapsed before any human being was endurance of an older person, only the deep blue veins seen to leave the house, but at last, just as I was almost starting through the delicate skin testifying to starting for my rounds one morning, I beheld the the intensity of the pain. proprietor walking down the steps.

“ Never mind crying out, little woman," I said, A dried-up old man, bending under the weight of for I felt as if this unnatural fortitude must be years, or calamities, with loose, untidy garments and wrong. à slouch hat, thrust well over a pair of grey eyes “I must not cry out,” she answered;" it would ves which seemed to look every way at once ; such was grandpapa.”' our new neighbour. He was walking somewhat “So that old miser is your grandfather; you are & quickly, and it was not till he had passed me that I heap too good for him.” realised that he was perfectly noiseless in his move- So thought I, forgetting that it is God alone who ments.

judgeth. Struck by this thought I turned round and walked The servant meanwhile was standing near, moanbriskly after him. I then became aware of two ing and rocking herself backwards and forwards. things : first, that he wore goloshes, although the “How did it happen ?” I asked her. . ground was hard with frost; secondly, that he was “I left the poor child for a few minutes to go and talking to himself.

get the master's beer, and she undressed herself and “Twenty-seven, Burton-street," he murmured as got playing with the fire in her nightgown, I supI passed him.

pose.” For a few minutes I thought a good deal of the “No, nurse, I didn't," said the child. “I was mysterious old man, but a hard day's work drove cold, and knelt down too near the fire to say my out all recollections of the morning's encounter. prayers. Something popped out and set fire to my

I did not get home till late, and found my sisters nightgown. I tried to put it out myself, but when I had gone out for the evening. Sitting over the fire found I couldn't do it I screamed and ran out of the and thinking of nothing in particular, I was suddenly room to you. Do go down, nurse, and get grandroused by a peal of laughter coming through the walls papa's tea, and please tell him I am better." from next door.

The woman looked first at me and then at the

[graphic]

ܙܙ

The Mystery of Next Door.

443

child, as if wondering what she should do ; duty call appearing to hear the doctor's opinion on her coning her below, while inclination evidently bade her dition ! stay by the bedside.

My professional dignity was touched, and I was fast "I will remain here till you come back," I said. working myself up into an injured state of mind com“Don't hurry; I should like to see her go to sleep patible with the circumstances, when a loud knock before I leave.'

at the hall door roused both me and my patient. The woman thanked me gratefully, went towards I hushed the child off again, patting the little hand the candle which stood on a table near the bed, and which lay in mine, and wondered who the new comer then hesitated again.

might be.

[graphic][merged small]

“ Maybe you'll be after wanting the light, sir ?" Presently a streak of light appeared across the

" Oh no! the firelight will do till you come middle of the room, and I saw that the folding doors back," I answered. " She is more likely to go to which separated the back from the front room were sleep."

open about a quarter of a yard. Certainly this was a queer house! The room I was doubtful as to what ought to be done; the luxuriously furnished, yet only one candle for upstairs child had tight hold of my hand, and I feared to wake and down i The child, pretty and good, and evidently her by moving, yet evidently the occupier of the other fond of her grandpapa, and yet that old ogre never room had forgotten my presence.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The fire was low and therefore we were in dark- greeted my ears—the voice of wailing and woe from ness, while I could see well into the front room. A the other room. firm, quick step ascended the stairs, and I heard a “Oh, God forgive me! How could I do it! Oh, voice exclaim :

Stanley, my darling; I did it for your sake; I did it " Who's that?”

to avenge you !" Then a tall fine-looking man walked into the I would hear no more; slipping my hand gently drawing-room.

from the child's, I crept downstairs and went quietly The old man raised the candlestick as if the better out. to view the intruder, and drawing himself up till his How that old man's grief reminded me of the poor usually drooping figure looked quite tall, exclaimed, in shepherd king's lament for his beloved Absalom, aud low, angry tones

evidently Stanley had not been a more dutiful son. “What has brought you here?"

Next door had assumed a new aspect. Mysterious “You know, father," was the answer. “I have as it had ever been, the mysteries seemed to deepen. come for my child. Have I not suffered enough that Yes! and I was to be mixed up in them too ! you must add yet this trouble to my heart? I have searched for you for months. Where is my child ?" “ How can I tell? Do you forget that you

robbed me of my boy, my darling ?” and there were tears

CHAPTER II. in the old man's voice as he lingered over the words. “Now you know what a father feels when

POR the next week I saw my little le has lost his child."

patient daily, and each visit made me “I tell you, father, I swear to you by the memory

like her more. With her gentle, loving of my mother, that I am guiltless of my brother's

ways Winnie was a child to gain all death, if indeed he be dead.”

hearts, but there was something about "If!" was the answer in a tone of almost majestic

her which made me fancy she was scorn. “If! Did not you lead him into danger ?

tongue-tied on some particular subject. Did not you plan that very boating excursion which Often she would pull up short in the middle of a cost him his life?"

sentence, but whether this were due to herself or to Yes, father, I know that it was owing to me that a signal from the old nurse Anne, I rever could find Stanley took to boating, but it was because I wanted out. to draw him from worse amusements. Remember “ I shall not come and see you to-morrow," I said there was another fellow with us. He was lost, too, 'one day. but his body was found. Stanley's was not, and until Why not?" asked the child, taking hold of my I see his body nothing will make me believe that he hand as if to prevent my going. was not saved. God knows I had a narrow escape “ Because I am very busy, and have a lot of other myself; you must have heard that I was half dead patients to see." when they pulled me out. Stanley was in difficulties, “ Burnt little girls, too ?” Then without waiting

for an answer she put her head down on my arm and “ Yes, there again," and the old man stamped his whisperedfoot impatiently, “there again you were cruel to him. “I wish you would come, you remind me of You were jealous of him because you thought I spoilt A tremendous sneeze from Anne startled us both. him. You thought I was going to leave all my money and the sentence was left unfinished, as the old to him, and so you got rid of him. But you won't woman bustled about to get Miss Winifred's room in gain by it! You are no son of mine now, and if you order. were starving I'd not give you the worth of a loaf. “ Where is your grandpapa ? ” I asked, more by Go! I cannot bear the sight of you !"

way of something to say than because I really cared " But, father, I can't go. I came for my child. to know his whereabouts. Where is she? I will not move till I know. Stanley · He isn't well; nurse says he has a bad cold. I has been dead two years, my child I lost six months haven't seen him since I was ill, and it is so dull." ago. I have only just been able to trace you, and • Never mind, Pussie; you will soon be able to get now I come to claim her from you. Father, give up if you are good.” her to me!"

The child's face brightened, and she murmured Both speakers had moved out of my sight, and the something to herself of which I could only distinguish conversation was carried on in low, earnest tones, the words “Pussie" and " father." I longed to take which told of the depth of feeling in both speakers. the child my arms and ask the reason of all this

I seemed spell-bound ; an unwilling listener at self-command, so unnatural in one so young, but first, my very hair seemed to stand on end as I once more Anne stepped in as a marplot, and I strained every nerve to catch the old man's answer : kissed my little friend hurriedly and left the house. * She is dead !"

So the old man was ill. Serve him right! I A deep groan, such as can only be drawn from a thought. man by very agony, the crash of falling furniture, Reading the Standard later in the day, my eyes swift steps on the stairs, the slam of the front chanced to fall on the “ Agony Column." door, and then all was quiet; and all was dark too, “ Stanley! All satisfactorily arranged. If you for the candle had evidently been overturned. would not cause the death of one who loves you,

I sat still in awe-struck silence awaiting the next return, or write to Marmion.” scene in the domestic tragedy, when a fresh sound Not many lines below I read the following:

you know

[ocr errors]

66

The Mystery of Next Door.

445

[ocr errors]

“ Marmion! The child lives. Come and see me the door, and putting her month within a few inches again."

of my ear whispered, “Is that true ?" As a rule such advertisements did but amuse me, Perfectly. I don't tell lies as easily as you seem but the familiar name Stanley and the word to in this house." Marmion in each seemed to connect them in some Another random arrow, and once more it lit the way with next door. What could it all mean? Was mark. it possible--

· Did he tell a lie, then, that night ? I thought You are wanted at once, please, sir, at 27, so when I heard the dear young master fly out of the Burton-street,” said Jane, hurrying into the room. house. I ran upstairs to try to speak a word to him,

“Who is it?" I asked, stepping out to the mis- but I was too late. Did he tell him she was dead?” senger ; but I might have saved myself the trouble, “I heard him say a child was dead," I answered, for the small maiden of about eighit could only tell and then I related to the old woman all that I had me that mother's new lodger was “awful bad- overheard. screaming and frightening everybody."

"Listen, sir,” she said when I stopped. "My Burton-street was quite close to us, and within master used to live in Ireland. He was married twice, five minutes I found myself face to face with one of and had one son by each wife, Charles and Stanley. the worst cases of fever I had ever attended.

Charles was the eldest by many years. He was a quiet, The patient was delirious, and I was fully an hour God-fearing young man, and master somehow never with him, whilst the landlady fetched a friend who took to him even as a boy. He didn't understand him, professed to be a good nurse.

I think. So when master brought a young FrenchHis talk was wild and disconnected, as such woman bome as his wife and the house was always ravings always are, but I listened attentively if some being turned out of windows with balls and such like, chance words might lead to the discovery of what Charles was sent to school, and hardly ever came had upset the delicate machinery of the brain. My home, even for the holidays. When Stanley was patience was rewarded at last.

born master seemed a new man, his whole heart was “ Stanley, Stanley !" said the sick man, as he wrapped up in him, and although after a time snatched at the counterpane, “you'll sink ! I paid Charles was fetched back to be a companion to him them all !"

Stanley was always the favourite. Then again : “Pussie's gone! Poor Pussie !" “Some years afterwards the French lady died,

The sudden change from an evidently heavy and then master seemed as if he was just mad about sorrow to lamentation over the loss of some favourite the boy. He was spoilt in every way, and grew up cat would have seemed ludicrous at any other time. wilful, selfish, and extravagant. The only person

The entrance of the nurse released me from my who could do anything with him was bis brother post, and, giving minute directions as to the treat- • Marmion,' as he always called him, and so by ment of the patient, I left the house.

degrees Master Charles' real name was quite dropped. There was no doubt in my mind now. The sick • Marmion married about ten years ago, and then man was evidently the gentleman whom I had heard Stanley, not having anyone to look after him, just went talking to Winnie's grandfather. Stanley was the to the bad altogether. About two years ago he had got son and brother, and this was 27, Burton-street, the into fearful debt, and Marmion came over to spend very address the old miser had been muttering to a week with us. I overheard Stanley tell him that himself the first time I had the extreme pleasure of unless the old gentleman "stumped up a fearful lot" beholding him. The mystery was deepening, and I he should have to run for it. Master's a bit of a miser, went home and wasted an hour over those two ad- you know, sir, and had been saving up for this very vertisements, and then did what I ought to have done boy, I believe, and had paid his debts till be at first-went in next door and asked to see the old refused to pay any more. gentleman.

“ The next day the two brothers went out boating “He's gone away, sir ; been away for a week; with a friend ; a sudden gale came on, as it often but I didn't tell the child because she'd fret so." does on those lakes, and two of them were drowned.

“Theu give me his address, and I'll write to him. Master turned Marmion out when he returned to the By the by, what's his name?"

house, and said he had done it on purpose. After Name, sir ? Sure, and didn't ye know it was that master seemed almost out of his mind for a Jones?"

time. About twelve months ago Marmion's wife was The good-natured Irish face looked blank enough, taken ill, and master offered to take care of their and yet I was convinced that Jones was no more his little girl. She came to us, and for some time name than that it was mine.

letters passed between the two houses regularly, but Come, Anne, don't be an idiot," I said im- when the lady got better she was ordered abroad, and patiently, my temper rather ruffled by this trifling. the little one still left with us. * Give me his right name and address, will you?" “No sooner had they gone than master sends off

“Well, sir, as to his address, I can't tell ye, for all the servants but me, shuts up the house at KilI don't know it meself, but he's coming home to larney, and comes over to England, bringing only morrow; and as to his name, if ye don't believe me and the child. Since then we have not been å what I say, 'sure and you'd better ask him your week in one place, until I felt like a wandering Jew, self."

but now we have settled down it is worse, for I am “ Do you know that Mr. Marmion is very ill ?" I not allowed to go out in the daylight; one might as asked, venturing a random shot. Little had I well be in prison. Now I know what it all means, guessed how it would tell.

and the poor little lamb has been stolen from its The old woman pulled me into the hall, closed p:rents. Oh, oh, oh!” and the poor old woman broke down at last, and burying her face in her I hope it wasn't wrong, sir, but I did it for the child's apron, sobbed as if her heart would break.

sake, in case she was ill." Then Winnie is Marmion's child ?"

“The Villa, Hatfield, Herts,'"I read.

" Why Why, couldn't ye see the likeness? And didn't didn't you let them know the child was burnt, then ?” ye notice how I stopped the poor child's mouth when I asked, somewhat sternly. she began telling you that her father called her “And how could I, then, when I could not write, • Pussie'?"

and there was nobody to send ?

[graphic]

Evidently she had heard the wheels of my carriage.

“ But where is the mother ?” I asked.

“Well, I'll go myself at once." Anne dived into the depths of her pocket, and “God bless you, sir !" bringing out a miscellaneous collection of sweets, Hardly knowing what I was doing I was half-way thimbles, buttons, and papers, selected one dirty to the station before I remembered that I must get piece stuck together with stamp paper.

someone to take my work for the day. This arranged, " I know Mrs. Charles' writing, and finding that I went down to Hatfield, and, hiring a fly, soon found bit of a letter torn up one day, I stuck it together. myself at the entrance of a charming little house.

« السابقةمتابعة »