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"Doctor," said Mr. Carden, "you are an old friend, and a discreet man; I will confide the truth to you."
"You may save yourself the trouble. I have watched the whole progress of this amour up to the moment when you gave them the advantage of your paternal wisdom, and made them both miserable."
"It is very unreasonable of them, to be miserable."
"Oh, lovers parted could never yet make themselves happy with reason."
"But why do you say parted? All I said was, 'No engagement till you can make a settlement: and don't compromise her in the meanwhile.' I did not mean to interdict occasional visits."
"Then why not say so? That is so like people. You made your unfavorable stipulation plain enough; but the little bit of comfort, you left that in doubt. This comes of not putting yourself in his place. I have had a talk with him about it, and he thinks he is not to show his face here till he is rich enough to purchase your daughter of you."
"But I tell you he has misunderstood me."
"Then write to him and say so."
"No, no; you take an opportunity to let him know he has really rather overrated my severity, and that I trust to his honor, and do not object to a visit--say once a week."
"It is a commission I will undertake with pleasure."
"And do you really think that will do her bodily health any good?"
Before Doctor Amboyne could reply, the piano was suddenly touched in the next room, and a sweet voice began to sing a cheerful melody. "Hush!" said Doctor Amboyne. "Surely I know that tune. Yes, I have heard THE OTHER whistle it."
"She has not sung for ever so long," remarked Mr. Carden.
"And I think I can tell you why she is singing now: look at this picture of Hope; I just told her I had a male patient afflicted with her complaint, and the quick-witted creature asked me directly if I thought this picture would do him any good. I said yes, and I'd take it to him."
"Come, doctor, that couldn't make her SING."
"Why not? Heart can speak to heart, even by a flower or a picture. The separation was complete; sending this symbol has broken it a little, and so she is singing. This is a lesson for us ruder and less subtle spirits. Now mind, thwarted love seldom kills a busy man; but it often kills an idle woman, and your daughter is an idle woman. He is an iron pot, she is a china vase. Please don't hit them too hard with the hammer of paternal wisdom, or you will dent my iron pot, and break your china vase to atoms."
Having administered this warning, Dr. Amboyne went straight from Woodbine Villa to Little's factory; but Little was still in London; he had gone there to take out patents. Bayne promised to send the doctor a line immediately on his return. Nevertheless, a fortnight elapsed, and then Dr. Amboyne received a short, mysterious line to tell him Mr. Little had come home, and would be all the better of a visit. On receipt of this the doctor went at once to the works, and found young Little lying on his carpenter's bench in a sort of gloomy apathy. "Hallo!" said the doctor, in his cheerful way, "why what's the matter now?"
"I'm fairly crushed," groaned the inventor.
"And what has crushed you?"
"The roundabout swindle."
"There, now, he invents words as well as things. Come, tell me all about the roundabout swindle."
"No, no; I haven't the heart left to go through it all again, even in words. One would think an inventor was the enemy of the human race. Yes, I will tell you; the sight of you has revived me a bit; it always does. Well, then, you know I am driven to invention now; it is my only chance; and, ever since Mr. Carden spoke to me, I have given my whole soul to the best way of saw-grinding by machinery. The circular saws beat me for a while, but I mastered them; see, there's the model. I'm going to burn it this very afternoon. Well, a month ago, I took the other model--the long-saw grinder--up to London, to patent the invention, as you advised me. I thought I'd just have to exhibit the model, and lodge the description in some Government office, and pay a fee, of course, to some swell, and so be quit of it. Lord bless you--first I had to lay the specification before the Court of Chancery, and write a petition to the Queen, and pay, and, what is worse, wait. When I had paid and waited, I got my petition signed, not by the Queen, but by some go-between, and then I must take it to the Attorney-general. He made me pay--and wait. When I had waited ever so long, I was sent back to where I had come from--the Home Office. But even then I could not get to the Queen. Another of her go-betweens nailed me, and made me pay, and wait: these locusts steal your time as well as your money. At last, a copy of a copy of a copy of my patent got to the Queen, and she signed it like a lady at once, and I got it back. Then I thought I was all right. Not a bit of it: the Queen's signature wasn't good till another of her go-betweens had signed it. I think it was the Home Secretary this time. This go-between bled me again, and sent me with my hard-earned signatures to the Patent Office. There they drafted, and copied, and docketed, and robbed me of more time and money. And, when all was done, I had to take the document back to one of the old go-betweens that I hoped I had worn out, the Attorney-general. He signed, and bled me out of some more money. From him to the other go-betweens at Whitehall. From them to the Stamp Office, if I remember right, and oh Lord, didn't I fall among leeches there? They drafted, they copied, they engrossed, they juggled me out of time and money without end. The first leech was called the Lord Keeper of the Seal; the second leech was called the Lord Chancellor; it was some go-between that acted in his name; the third leech was the Clerk of the Patents. They demanded more copies, and then employed more go-betweens to charge ten times the value of a copy, and nailed the balance, no doubt. 'Stand and deliver thirty pounds for this stamp.' 'Stand and deliver to me that call myself the Chancellor's purse-bearer--and there's no such creature--two guineas.' 'Stand and deliver seven, thirteen, to the clerk of the Hanaper'--and there's no such thing as a Hanaper. 'Stand and deliver three, five,' to a go-between that calls himself the Lord Chancellor again, and isn't. 'Stand and deliver six, naught, to a go-between that acts for the deputy, that ought to put a bit of sealing-wax on the patent, but hasn't the brains to do it himself, so you must pay ME a fancy price for doing it, and then I won't do it; it will be done by a clerk at twenty-five shillings a week.' And, all this time, mind you, no disposition to soften all this official peculation by civility; no misgiving that the next wave of civilization may sweep nil these go-betweens and leeches out of the path of progress; no, the deputy-vice-go-betweens all scowled, as well as swindled: they broke my heart so, often I sat down in their antechambers and the scalding tears ran down my cheeks, at being pillaged of my time as well as my money, and treated like a criminal--for what? For being, in my small way, a national benefactor."
"Ay," said the doctor, "you had committed the crime of brains; and the worse crime of declining to be starved in return for them. I don't rebel against the fees so much: their only fault is that they are too heavy, since the monopoly they profess to secure is short-lived, and yet not very secure; the Lord Chancellor, as a judge, has often to upset the patent which he has sold in another character. But that system of go-betweens, and deputy-go-betweens, and deputy-lieutenant-go-betweens and nobody doing his own business in matters of State, it really is a national curse, and a great blot upon the national intellect. It is a disease; so let us name it. We doctors are great at naming diseases; greater than at curing them.
"'Let us call it VICARIA,
This English malaria.'
"Of this Vicaria, the loss of time and money you have suffered is only one of the fruits, I think."
"All I know is, they made my life hell for more than a month; and if I have ever the misfortune to invent any thing more, I'll keep it to myself. I'll hide it, like any other crime. But no; I never will invent another thing: never, never."
"Stuff! Methinks I hear a duck abjure natation. You can't help inventing."
"I will help it. What, do you think I'll be such an ass as to have Brains in a country where Brains are a crime? Doctor, I'm in despair."
"Then it is time to cast your eyes over this little picture."
The inventor turned the little picture listlessly about. "It is a woman, with an anchor. It's a figure of Hope."
"Beautifully painted, is it not?"
"The tints are well laid on: but, if you'll excuse me, it is rather flat." He laid the picture down, and turned away from it. "Ah, Hope, my lass, you've come to the wrong shop."
"Not she. She was painted expressly for you, and by a very beautiful girl."
"Oh, doctor, not by--"
"Yes; she sends it you."
"Ah!" And he caught Hope up, and began to devour her with kisses, and his eyes sparkled finely.
"I have some good news, too, for you. Mr. Carden tells me he never intended to separate you entirely from his daughter. If you can be moderate, discreet, old before your time, etc., and come only about once a week, and not compromise her publicly, you will be as welcome as ever."
"That IS good news, indeed. I'll go there this very day; and I'll patent the circular saw."
"There's a non-sequitur for you!"
"Nothing of the kind, sir. Why, even the Queen's go-betweens will never daunt me, now I can go and drink love and courage direct from HER eyes; and nothing can chill nor discourage me now. I'll light my forge again and go to work, and make a few sets of carving-tools, and that will pay the go-betweens for patenting my circular-saw grinder. But first I'll put on my coat and go to heaven."
"Had you not better postpone that till the end of your brilliant career as an inventor and a lover?"
"No; I thirst for heaven, and I'll drink it." So he made his toilet, thanked and blessed the good doctor, and off to Woodbine Villa.
Grace Carden saw him coming, and opened the door to him herself, red as scarlet, and her eyes swimming. She scarcely made an effort to contain herself by this time, and when she got him into the drawing-room all to herself, she cried, for joy and tenderness, on his shoulder; and, it cost him a gulp or two, I can tell you: and they sat hand in hand, and were never tired of gazing at each other; and the hours flew by unheeded. All their trouble was as though it had never been. Love brightened the present, the future, and even the past. He did not tell Grace one word of what he had suffered from Vicaria--I thank thee, doctor, for teaching me that word--it had lost all interest to him. Love and happiness had annihilated its true character--like the afternoon sun gilding a far-off pig-sty. He did mention the subject, however, but it was in these terms: "And, dearest, I'm hard at work inventing, and I patent all my inventions; so I hope to satisfy your father before two years."
And Grace said, "Yes; but don't overwork your poor brain and worry yourself. I am yours in heart, and that is something, I hope. I know it is to me; I wouldn't change with any wife in Christendom."
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