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When fainting Nature call'd for aid, And hovering Death prepared the blow, His vigorous remedy display'd The power of art without the show; In Misery's darkest caverns known, His useful care was ever nigh, Where hopeless Anguish pour'd his groan, And lonely Want retired to die; No summons mock'd by cold delay, No petty gains disclaim'd by pride, The modest wants of every day The toil of every day supplied.--SAMUEL JOHNSON.
The exquisitely beautiful portrait which the Rambler has painted of his friend Levett, well describes Gideon Gray, and many other village doctors, from whom Scotland reaps more benefit, and to whom she is perhaps more ungrateful than to any other class of men, excepting her schoolmasters.
Such a rural man of medicine is usually the inhabitant of some pretty borough or village, which forms the central point of his practice. But, besides attending to such cases as the village may afford, he is day and night at the service of every one who may command his assistance within a circle of forty miles in diameter, untraversed by roads in many directions, and including moors, mountains, rivers, and lakes. For late and dangerous journeys through an inaccessible country for services of the most essential kind, rendered at the expense, or risk at least, of his own health and life, the Scottish village doctor receives at best a very moderate recompense, often one which is totally inadequate, and very frequently none whatever. He has none of the ample resources proper to the brothers of the profession. in an English town. The burgesses of a Scottish borough are rendered, by their limited means of luxury, inaccessible to gout, surfeits, and all the comfortable chronic diseases which are attendant on wealth and indolence. Four years, or so, of abstemiousness, enable them to stand an election dinner; and there is no hope of broken heads among a score or two of quiet electors, who settle the business over a table. There the mothers of the state never make a point of pouring, in the course of every revolving year, a certain quantity of doctor's stuff through the bowels of their beloved children. Every old woman, from the Townhead to the Townfit, can prescribe a dose of salts, or spread a plaster; and it is only when a fever or a palsy renders matters serious, that the assistance of the doctor is invoked by his neighbours in the borough.
But still the man of science cannot complain of inactivity or want of practice. If he does not find patients at his door, he seeks them through a wide circle. Like the ghostly lover of Burger's Leonora, he mounts at midnight and traverses in darkness, paths which, to those less accustomed to them, seem formidable in daylight, through straits where the slightest aberration would plunge him into a morass, or throw him over a precipice, on to cabins which his horse might ride over without knowing they lay in his way, unless he happened to fall through the roofs. When he arrives at such a stately termination of his journey, where his services are required, either to bring a wretch into the world, or prevent one from leaving it, the scene of misery is often such, that, far from touching the hard-saved shillings which are gratefully offered to him, he bestows his medicines as well as his attendance--for charity. I have heard the celebrated traveller Mungo Park, who had experienced both courses of life, rather give the preference to travelling as a discoverer in Africa, than to wandering by night and day the wilds of his native land in the capacity of a country medical practitioner. He mentioned having once upon a time rode forty miles, sat up all night, and successfully assisted a woman under influence of the primitive curse, for which his sole remuneration was a roasted potato and a draught of buttermilk. But his was not the heart which grudged the labour that relieved human misery. In short, there is no creature in Scotland that works harder and is more poorly requited than the country doctor, unless perhaps it may be his horse. Yet the horse is, and indeed must be, hardy, active, and indefatigable, in spite of a rough coat and indifferent condition; and so you will often find in his master, under an unpromising and blunt exterior, professional skill and enthusiasm, intelligence, humanity, courage, and science.
Mr. Gideon Gray, surgeon in the village of Middlemas, situated in one of the midland counties of Scotland, led the rough, active, and ill-rewarded course of life which we have endeavoured to describe. He was a man between forty and fifty, devoted to his profession, and of such reputation in the medical world, that he had been more than once, as opportunities occurred, advised to exchange Middlemas and its meagre circle of practice, for some of the larger towns in Scotland, or for Edinburgh itself. This advice he had always declined. He was a plain blunt man, who did not love restraint, and was unwilling to subject himself to that which was exacted in polite society. He had not himself found out, nor had any friend hinted to him, that a slight touch of the cynic, in manner and habits, gives the physician, to the common eye, an air of authority which greatly tends to enlarge his reputation. Mr. Gray, or, as the country people called him, Doctor Gray, (he might hold the title by diploma for what I know, though he only claimed the rank of Master of Arts,) had few wants, and these were amply supplied by a professional income which generally approached two hundred pounds a year, for which, upon an average, he travelled about five thousand miles on horseback in the course of the twelve months. Nay, so liberally did this revenue support himself and his ponies, called Pestle and Mortar, which he exercised alternately, that he took a damsel to share it, Jean Watson, namely, the cherry-cheeked daughter of an honest farmer, who being herself one of twelve children who had been brought up on an income of fourscore pounds a year, never thought there could be poverty in more than double the sum; and looked on Gray, though now termed by irreverent youth the Old Doctor, as a very advantageous match. For several years they had no children, and it seemed as if Doctor Gray, who had so often assisted the efforts of the goddess Lucina, was never to invoke her in his own behalf. Yet his domestic roof was, on a remarkable occasion, decreed to be the scene where the goddess's art was required.
Late of an autumn evening three old women might be observed plying their aged limbs through the single street of the village at Middlemas towards the honoured door, which, fenced off from the vulgar causeway, was defended by a broken paling, enclosing two slips of ground, half arable, half overrun with an abortive attempt at shrubbery. The door itself was blazoned with the name of Gideon Gray, M. A. Surgeon, &c. &c. Some of the idle young fellows, who had been a minute or two before loitering at the other end of the street before the door of the alehouse, (for the pretended inn deserved no better name,) now accompanied the old dames with shouts of laughter, excited by their unwonted agility; and with bets on the winner, as loudly expressed as if they had been laid at the starting post of Middlemas races. "Half a mutchkin on Luckie Simson!"--"Auld Peg Tamson against the field!"--"Mair speed, Alison Jaup, ye'll tak the wind out of them yet!"--"Canny against the hill, lasses, or we may have a burstern auld earline amang ye!" These, and a thousand such gibes, rent the air, without being noticed, or even heard, by the anxious racers, whose object of contention seemed to be, which should first reach the Doctor's door.
"Guide us, Doctor, what can be the matter now?" said Mrs. Gray, whose character was that of a good-natured simpleton; "Here's Peg Tamson, Jean Simson, and Alison Jaup, running a race on the hie street of the burgh!"
The Doctor, who had but the moment before hung his wet great-coat before the fire, (for he was just dismounted from a long journey,) hastened down stairs, arguing some new occasion for his services, and happy, that, from, the character of the messengers, it was likely to be within burgh, and not landward.
He had just reached the door as Luckie Simson, one of the racers, arrived in the little area before it. She had got the start, and kept it, but at the expense, for the time, of her power of utterance; for when she came in presence of the Doctor, she stood blowing like a grampus, her loose toy flying back from her face, making the most violent effort to speak, but without the power of uttering a single intelligible word. Peg Thompson whipped in before her.
"The leddy, sir, the leddy!"
"Instant help, instant help!"--screeched rather than uttered, Alison Jaup; while Luckie Simson, who had certainly won the race, found words to claim the prize which had set them all in motion.
"And I hope, sir, you will recommend me to be the sick-nurse; I was here to bring you the tidings lang before ony o' thae lazy queans."
Loud were the counter-protestations of the two competitors, and loud the laugh of the idle loons who listened at a little distance.
"Hold your tongue, ye flyting fools," said the Doctor; "and you, ye idle rascals, if I come out among you." So saying, he smacked his long-lashed whip with great emphasis, producing much the effect of the celebrated Quos ego of Neptune in the first AEneid.--"And now," said the Doctor, "where, or who, is this lady?"
The question was scarce necessary; for a plain carriage, with four horses, came at a foot's pace towards the door of the Doctor's house, and the old women, now more at their ease, gave the Doctor to understand, that the gentleman thought the accommodation of the Swan Inn totally unfit for his lady's rank and condition, and had, by their advice, (each claiming the merit of the suggestion,) brought her here, to experience the hospitality of the west room;--a spare apartment, in which Doctor Gray occasionally accommodated such patients, as he desired to keep for a space of time under his own eye.
There were two persons only in the vehicle. The one, a gentleman in a riding dress, sprung out, and having received from the Doctor an assurance that the lady would receive tolerable accommodation in his house, he lent assistance to his companion to leave the carriage, and with great apparent satisfaction, saw her safely deposited in a decent sleeping apartment, and under the respectable charge of the Doctor and his lady, who assured him once more of every species of attention. To bind their promise more firmly, the stranger slipped a purse of twenty guineas (for this story chanced in the golden age) into the hand of the Doctor, as an earnest of the most liberal recompense, and requested he would spare no expense in providing all that was necessary or desirable for a person in the lady's condition, and for the helpless being to whom she might immediately be expected to give birth. He then said he would retire to the inn, where he begged a message might instantly acquaint him with the expected change in the lady's situation.
"She is of rank," he said, "and a foreigner; let no expense be spared. We designed to have reached Edinburgh, but were forced to turn off the road by an accident." Once more he said, "Let no expense be spared, and manage that she may travel as soon as possible."
"That," said the Doctor, "is past my control. Nature must not be hurried, and she avenges herself of every attempt to do so."
"But art," said the stranger, "can do much," and he proffered a second purse, which seemed as heavy as the first.
"Art," said the Doctor, "may be recompensed, but cannot be purchased. You have already paid me more than enough to take the utmost care I can of your lady; should I accept more money, it could only be for promising, by implication at least, what is beyond my power to perform. Every possible care shall be taken of your lady, and that affords the best chance of her being speedily able to travel. Now, go you to the inn, sir, for I may be instantly wanted, and we have not yet provided either an attendant for the lady, or a nurse for the child; but both shall be presently done."
"Yet a moment, Doctor--what languages do you understand?"
"Latin and French I can speak indifferently, and so as to be understood; and I read a little Italian."
"But no Portuguese or Spanish?" continued the stranger.
"That is unlucky. But you may make her understand you by means of French. Take notice, you are to comply with her request in everything--if you want means to do so, you may apply to me."
"May I ask, sir, by what name the lady is to be"--
"It is totally indifferent," said the stranger, interrupting the question; "You shall know it at more leisure."
So saying, he threw his ample cloak about him, turning himself half round to assist the operation, with an air which the Doctor would have found it difficult to imitate, and walked down the street to the little inn. Here he paid and dismissed the postilions, and shut himself up in an apartment, ordering no one to be admitted till the Doctor should call.
The Doctor, when he returned to his patient's apartment, found his wife in great surprise, which, as is usual with persons of her character, was not unmixed with fear and anxiety.
"She cannot speak a word like a Christian being," said Mrs. Gray.
"I know it," said the Doctor.
"But she threeps to keep on a black fause-face, and skirls if we offer to take it away."
"Well then, let her wear it--What harm will it do?"
"Harm, Doctor!" Was ever honest woman brought to bed with a fause-face on?"
"Seldom, perhaps. But, Jean, my dear, those who are not quite honest must be brought to bed all the same as those who are, and we are not to endanger the poor thing's life by contradicting her whims at present."
Approaching the sick woman's bed, he observed that she indeed wore a thin silk mask, of the kind which do such uncommon service in the elder comedy; such as women of rank still wore in travelling, but certainly never in the situation of this poor lady. It would seem she had sustained importunity on the subject, for when she saw the Doctor, she put her hand to her face, as if she was afraid he would insist on pulling off the vizard.
He hastened to say, in tolerable French, that her will should be a law to them in every respect, and that she was at perfect liberty to wear the mask till it was her pleasure to lay it aside. She understood him; for she replied, by a very imperfect attempt, in the same language, to express her gratitude for the permission, as she seemed to regard it, of retaining her disguise.
The Doctor proceeded to other arrangements; and, for the satisfaction of those readers who may love minute information, we record, that Luckie Simson, the first in the race, carried as a prize the situation of sick-nurse beside the delicate patient; that Peg Thomson was permitted the privilege of recommending her good-daughter, Bet Jamieson, to be wet-nurse; and an oe, or grandchild, of Luckie Jaup was hired to assist in the increased drudgery of the family; the Doctor thus, like a practised minister, dividing among his trusty adherents such good things as fortune placed at his disposal.
About one in the morning the Doctor made his appearance at the Swan Inn, and acquainted the stranger gentleman, that he wished him joy of being the father of a healthy boy, and that the mother was, in the usual phrase, as well as could be expected.
The stranger heard the news with seeming satisfaction, and then exclaimed, "He must be christened, Doctor! he must be christened instantly!"
"There can be no hurry for that," said the Doctor.
"We think otherwise," said the stranger, cutting his argument short. "I am a Catholic, Doctor, and as I may be obliged to leave this place before the lady is able to travel, I desire to see my child received into the pale of the Church. There is, I understand, a Catholic priest in this wretched place?"
"There is a Catholic gentleman, sir, Mr. Goodriche, who is reported to be in orders."
"I commend your caution, Doctor," said the stranger; "it is dangerous to be too positive on any subject. I will bring that same Mr. Goodriche to your house to-morrow."
Gray hesitated for a moment. "I am a Presbyterian Protestant, sir," he said, "a friend to the constitution as established in Church and State, as I have a good right, having drawn his Majesty's pay, God bless him, for four years, as surgeon's mate in the Cameronian regiment, as my regimental Bible and commission can testify. But although I be bound especially to abhor all trafficking or trinketing with Papists, yet I will not stand in the way of a tender conscience. Sir, you may call with Mr. Goodriche, when you please, at my house; and undoubtedly, you being, as I suppose, the father of the child, you will arrange matters as you please; only, I do not desire to be though an abettor or countenancer of any part of the Popish ritual."
"Enough, sir," said the stranger haughtily, "we understand each other."
The next day he appeared at the Doctor's house with Mr. Goodriche, and two persons understood to belong to that reverend gentleman's communion. The party were shut up in an apartment with the infant, and it may be presumed that the solemnity of baptism was administered to the unconscious being, thus strangely launched upon the world. When the priest and witnesses had retired, the strange gentleman informed Mr. Gray, that, as the lady had been pronounced unfit for travelling for several days, he was himself about to leave the neighbourhood, but would return thither in the space of ten days, when he hoped to find his companion able to leave it.
"And by what name are we to call the child and mother?"
"The infant's name is Richard."
"But it must have some sirname--so must the lady--She cannot reside in my house, yet be without a name."
"Call them by the name of your town here--Middlemas, I think it is?"
"Well, Mrs. Middlemas is the name of the mother, and Richard Middlemas of the child--and I am Matthew Middlemas, at your service. This," he continued, "will provide Mrs. Middlemas in every thing she may wish to possess--or assist her in case of accidents." With that he placed L100 in Mr. Gray's hand, who rather scrupled receiving it, saying, "He supposed the lady was qualified to be her own purse-bearer."
"The worst in the world, I assure you, Doctor," replied the stranger. "If she wished to change that piece of paper, she would scarce know how many guineas she should receive for it. No, Mr. Gray, I assure you you will find Mrs. Middleton--Middlemas--what did I call her--as ignorant of the affairs of this world as any one you have met with in your practice: So you will please to be her treasurer and administrator for the time, as for a patient that is incapable to look after her own affairs."
This was spoke, as it struck Dr. Gray, in rather a haughty and supercilious manner. The words intimated nothing in themselves, more than the same desire of preserving incognito, which might be gathered from all the rest of the stranger's conduct; but the manner seemed to say, "I am not a person to be questioned by any one--what I say must be received without comment, how little soever you may believe or understand it." It strengthened Gray in his opinion, that he had before him a case either of seduction, or of private marriage, betwixt persons of the very highest rank; and the whole bearing, both of the lady and the gentleman, confirmed his suspicions. It was not in his nature to be troublesome or inquisitive, but he could not fail to see that the lady wore no marriage-ring; and her deep sorrow, and perpetual tremor, seemed to indicate an unhappy creature, who had lost the protection of parents, without acquiring a legitimate right to that of a husband. He was therefore somewhat anxious when Mr. Middlemas, after a private conference of some length with the lady, bade him farewell. It is true, he assured him of his return within ten days, being the very shortest space which Gray could be prevailed upon to assign for any prospect of the lady being moved with safety.
"I trust in Heaven that he will return," said Gray to himself, "but there is too much mystery about all this, for the matter being a plain and well-meaning transaction. If he intends to treat this poor thing, as many a poor girl has been used before, I hope that my house will not be the scene in which he chooses to desert her. The leaving the money has somewhat a suspicious aspect, and looks as if my friend were in the act of making some compromise with his conscience. Well--I must hope the best. Meantime, my path plainly is to do what I can for the poor lady's benefit."
Mr. Gray visited his patient shortly after Mr. Middlemas's departure--as soon, indeed, as he could be admitted. He found her in violent agitation. Gray's experience dictated the best mode of relief and tranquillity. He caused her infant to be brought to her. She wept over it for a long time, and the violence of her agitation subsided under the influence of parental feelings, which, from her appearance of extreme youth, she must have experienced for the first time.
The observant physician could, after this paroxysm, remark that his patient's mind was chiefly occupied in computing the passage of the time, and anticipating the period when the return of her husband--if husband he was--might be expected. She consulted almanacks, enquired concerning distances, though so cautiously as to make it evident she desired to give no indication of the direction of her companion's journey, and repeatedly compared, her watch with those of others; exercising, it was evident, all that delusive species of mental arithmetic by which mortals attempt to accelerate the passage of Time while they calculate his progress. At other times she wept anew over her child, which was by all judges pronounced as goodly an infant as needed to be seen; and Gray sometimes observed that she murmured sentences to the unconscious infant, not only the words, but the very sound and accents of which were strange to him, and which, in particular, he knew not to be Portuguese.
Mr. Goodriche, the Catholic priest, demanded access to her upon one occasion. She at first declined his visit, but afterwards received it, under the idea, perhaps, that he might have news from Mr. Middlemas, as he called himself. The interview was a very short one, and the priest left the lady's apartment in displeasure, which his prudence could scarce disguise from Mr. Gray. He never returned, although the lady's condition would have made his attentions and consolations necessary, had she been a member of the Catholic Church.
Our Doctor began at length to suspect his fair guest was a Jewess, who had yielded up her person and affections to one of a different religion; and the peculiar style of her beautiful countenance went to enforce this opinion. The circumstance made no difference to Gray, who saw only her distress and desolation, and endeavoured to remedy both to the utmost of his power. He was, however, desirous to conceal it from his wife, and the others around the sick person, whose prudence and liberality of thinking might be more justly doubted. He therefore so regulated her diet, that she could not be either offended, or brought under suspicion, by any of the articles forbidden by the Mosaic law being presented to her. In other respects than what concerned her health or convenience, he had but little intercourse with her.
The space passed within which the stranger's return to the borough had been so anxiously expected by his female companion. The disappointment occasioned by his non-arrival was manifested in the convalescent by inquietude, which was at first mingled with peevishness, and afterwards with doubt and fear. When two or three days had passed without message or letter of any kind, Gray himself became anxious, both on his own account and the poor lady's, lest the stranger should have actually entertained the idea of deserting this defenceless and probably injured woman. He longed to have some communication with her, which might enable him to judge what enquiries could be made, or what else was most fitting to be done. But so imperfect was the poor young woman's knowledge of the French language, and perhaps so unwilling she herself to throw any light on her situation, that every attempt of this kind proved abortive. When Gray asked questions concerning any subject which appeared to approach to explanation, he observed she usually answered him by shaking her head, in token of not understanding what he said; at other times by silence and with tears, and sometimes referring him to Monsieur.
For Monsieur's arrival, then, Gray began to become very impatient, as that which alone could put an end to a disagreeable species of mystery, which the good company of the borough began now to make the principal subject of their gossip; some blaming Gray for taking foreign landloupers [Footnote: Strollers.] into his house, on the subject of whose morals the most serious doubts might be entertained; others envying the "bonny hand" the doctor was like to make of it, by having disposal of the wealthy stranger's travelling funds; a circumstance which could not be well concealed from the public, when the honest man's expenditure for trifling articles of luxury came far to exceed its ordinary bounds.
The conscious probity of the honest Doctor enabled him to despise this sort of tittle-tattle, though the secret knowledge of its existence could not be agreeable to him. He went his usual rounds with his usual perseverance, and waited with patience until time should throw light on the subject and history of his lodger. It was now the fourth week after her confinement, and the recovery of the stranger might be considered as perfect, when Gray, returning from one of his ten-mile visits, saw a post-chaise and four horses at the door. "This man has returned," he said, "and my suspicions have done him less than justice." With that he spurred his horse, a signal which the trusty steed obeyed the more readily, as its progress was in the direction of the stable door. But when, dismounting, the Doctor hurried into his own house, it seemed to him, that the departure as well as the arrival of this distressed lady was destined to bring confusion to his peaceful dwelling. Several idlers had assembled about his door, and two or three had impudently thrust themselves forward almost into the passage, to listen to a confused altercation which was heard from within.
The Doctor hastened forward, the foremost of the intruders retreating in confusion on his approach, while he caught the tones of his wife's voice, raised to a pitch which he knew, by experience, boded no good; for Mrs. Gray, good-humoured and tractable in general, could sometimes perform the high part in a matrimonial duet. Having much more confidence in his wife's good intentions than her prudence, he lost no time in pushing into the parlour, to take the matter into his own hands. Here he found his helpmate at the head of the whole militia of the sick lady's apartment, that is, wet nurse, and sick nurse, and girl of all work, engaged in violent dispute with two strangers. The one was a dark-featured elderly man, with an eye of much sharpness and severity of expression, which now seemed partly quenched by a mixture of grief and mortification. The other, who appeared actively sustaining the dispute with Mrs. Gray, was a stout, bold-looking, hard-faced person, armed with pistols, of which he made rather an unnecessary and ostentatious display.
"Here is my husband, sir," said Mrs. Gray, in a tone of triumph, for she had the grace to believe the Doctor one of the greatest men living,--"Here is the Doctor--let us see what you will say now."
"Why just what I said before, ma'am," answered the man, "which is, that my warrant must be obeyed. It is regular, ma'am, regular."
So saying, he struck the forefinger of his right hand against a paper which he held towards Mrs. Gray with his left.
"Address yourself to me, if you please, sir," said the Doctor, seeing that he ought to lose no time in removing the cause into the proper court. "I am the master of this house, sir, and I wish to know the cause of this visit."
"My business is soon told," said the man. "I am a king's messenger, and this lady has treated me as if I was a baron-bailie's officer."
"That is not the question, sir," replied the Doctor. "If you are a king's messenger, where is your warrant, and what do you propose to do here?" At the same time he whispered the little wench to call Mr. Lawford, the town-clerk, to come thither as fast as he possibly could. The good-daughter of Peg Thomson started off with an activity worthy of her mother-in-law.
"There is my warrant," said the official, "and you may satisfy yourself."
"The shameless loon dare not tell the Doctor his errand," said Mrs. Gray exultingly.
"A bonny errand it is," said old Lucky Simson, "to carry away a lying-in woman as a gled [Footnote: Or Kite.] would do a clocking-hen."
"A woman no a month delivered"--echoed the nurse Jamieson.
"Twenty-four days eight hours and seven minutes to a second," said Mrs. Gray.
The Doctor having looked over the warrant, which was regular, began to be afraid that the females of his family, in their zeal for defending the character of their sex, might be stirred up into some sudden fit of mutiny, and therefore commanded them to be silent.
"This," he said, "is a warrant for arresting the bodies of Richard Tresham, and of Zilia de Moncada on account of high treason. Sir, I have served his Majesty, and this is not a house in which traitors are harboured. I know nothing of any of these two persons, nor have I ever heard even their names."
"But the lady whom you have received into your family," said the messenger, "is Zilia de Moncada, and here stands her father, Matthias de Moncada, who will make oath to it."
"If this be true," said Mr. Gray, looking towards the alleged officer, "you have taken a singular duty on you. It is neither my habit to deny my own actions, nor to oppose the laws of the land. There is a lady in this house slowly recovering from confinement, having become under this roof the mother of a healthy child. If she be the person described in this warrant, and this gentleman's daughter, I must surrender her to the laws of the country."
Here the Esculapian militia were once more in motion.
"Surrender, Dr. Gray! It's a shame to hear you speak, and you that lives by women and weans, abune your other means!" so exclaimed his fair better part.
"I wonder to hear the Doctor!" said the younger nurse; "there's no a wife in the town would believe it o' him."
"I aye thought the Doctor was a man till this moment," said Luckie Simson; "but I believe him now to be an auld wife, little baulder than mysell; and I dinna wonder that poor Mrs. Gray"--
"Hold your peace, you foolish woman," said the Doctor. "Do you think this business is not bad enough already, that you are making it worse with your senseless claver? [Footnote: Tattling.]--Gentlemen, this is a very sad case. Here is a warrant for a high crime against a poor creature, who is little fit to be removed from one house to another, much more dragged to a prison. I tell you plainly, that I think the execution of this arrest may cause her death. It is your business, sir, if you be really her father, to consider what you can do to soften this matter, rather than drive it on."
"Better death than dishonour," replied the stern-looking old man, with a voice as harsh as his aspect; "and you, messenger," he continued, "look what you do, and execute the warrant at your peril."
"You hear," said the man, appealing to the Doctor himself, "I must have immediate access to the lady."
"In a lucky time," said Mr. Gray, "here comes the town-clerk.--You are very welcome, Mr. Lawford. Your opinion here is much wanted as a man of law, as well as of sense and humanity. I was never more glad to see you in all my life."
He then rapidly stated the case; and the messenger, understanding the new-comer to be a man of some authority, again exhibited his warrant.
"This is a very sufficient and valid warrant, Dr. Gray," replied the man of law. "Nevertheless, if you are disposed to make oath, that instant removal would be unfavourable to the lady's health, unquestionably she must remain here, suitably guarded."
"It is not so much the mere act of locomotion which I am afraid of," said the surgeon; "but I am free to depone, on soul and conscience, that the shame and fear of her father's anger, and the sense of the affront of such an arrest, with terror for its consequences, may occasion violent and dangerous illness--even death itself."
"The father must see the daughter, though they may have quarrelled," said Mr. Lawford; "the officer of justice must execute his warrant though it should frighten the criminal to death; these evils are only contingent, not direct and immediate consequences. You must give up the lady, Mr. Gray, though your hesitation is very natural."
"At least, Mr. Lawford, I ought to be certain that the person in my house is the party they search for."
"Admit me to her apartment," replied the man whom the messenger termed Moncada.
The messenger, whom the presence of Lawford had made something more placid, began to become impudent once more. He hoped, he said, by means of his female prisoner, to acquire the information necessary to apprehend the more guilty person. If more delays were thrown in his way, that information might come too late, and he would make all who were accessary to such delay responsible for the consequences.
"And I," said Mr. Gray, "though I were to be brought to the gallows for it, protest, that this course may be the murder of my patient.--Can bail not be taken, Mr. Lawford?"
"Not in cases of high treason," said the official person; and then continued in a confidential tone, "Come, Mr. Gray, we all know you to be a person well affected to our Royal Sovereign King George and the Government; but you must not push this too far, lest you bring yourself into trouble, which every body in Middlemas would be sorry for. The forty-five has not been so far gone by, but we can remember enough of warrants of high treason--ay, and ladies of quality committed upon such charges. But they were all favourably dealt with--Lady Ogilvy, Lady Macintosh, Flora Macdonald, and all. No doubt this gentleman knows what he is doing, and has assurances of the young lady's safety--So you must jouk and let the jaw gae by, as we say."
"Follow me, then, gentleman," said Gideon, "and you shall see the young lady;" and then, his strong features working with emotion at anticipation of the distress which he was about to inflict, he led the way up the small staircase, and opening the door, said to Moncada, who had followed him, "This is your daughter's only place of refuge, in which I am, alas! too weak to be her protector. Enter, sir, if your conscience will permit you."
The stranger turned on him a scowl, into which it seemed as if he would willingly have thrown the power of the fabled basilisk. Then stepping proudly forward, he stalked into the room. He was followed by Lawford and Gray at a little distance. The messenger remained in the doorway. The unhappy young woman had heard the disturbance, and guessed the cause too truly. It is possible she might even have seen the strangers on their descent from the carriage. When they entered the room, she was on her knees, beside an easy chair, her face in a silk wrapper that was hung over it. The man called Moncada uttered a single word; by the accent it might have been something equivalent to wretch; but none knew its import. The female gave a convulsive shudder, such as that by which a half-dying soldier is affected on receiving a second wound. But, without minding her emotion, Moncada seized her by the arm, and with little gentleness raised her to her feet, on which she seemed to stand only because she was supported by his strong grasp. He then pulled from her face the mask which she had hitherto worn. The poor creature still endeavoured to shroud her face, by covering it with her left hand, as the manner in which she was held prevented her from using the aid of the right. With little effort her father secured that hand also, which indeed was of itself far too little to serve the purpose of concealment, and showed her beautiful face, burning with blushes and covered with tears.
"You, Alcalde, and you, Surgeon," he said to Lawford and Gray, with a foreign action and accent, "this woman is my daughter, the same Zilia Moncada who is signal'd in that protocol. Make way, and let me carry her where her crimes may be atoned for."
"Are you that person's daughter?" said Lawford to the lady.
"She understands no English," said Gray; and addressing his patient in French, conjured her to let him know whether she was that man's daughter or not, assuring her of protection if the fact were otherwise. The answer was murmured faintly, but was too distinctly intelligible--"He was her father."
All farther title of interference seemed now ended. The messenger arrested his prisoner, and, with some delicacy, required the assistance of the females to get her conveyed to the carriage in waiting.
Gray again interfered.--"You will not," he said, "separate the mother and the infant?"
Zilia de Moncada heard the question, (which, being addressed to the father, Gray had inconsiderately uttered in French,) and it seemed as if it recalled to her recollection the existence of the helpless creature to which she had given birth, forgotten for a moment amongst the accumulated horrors of her father's presence. She uttered a shriek, expressing poignant grief, and turned her eyes on her father with the most intense supplication.
"To the parish with the bastard!"--said Moncada; while the helpless mother sunk lifeless into the arms of the females, who had now gathered round her.
"That will not pass, sir," said Gideon.--"If you are father to that lady, you must be grandfather to the helpless child; and you must settle in some manner for its future provision, or refer us to some responsible person."
Moncada looked towards Lawford, who expressed himself satisfied of the propriety of what Gray said.
"I object not to pay for whatever the wretched child may require," said he; "and if you, sir," addressing Gray, "choose to take charge of him, and breed him up, you shall have what will better your living."
The Doctor was about to refuse a charge so uncivilly offered; but after a moment's reflection, he replied, "I think so indifferently of the proceedings I have witnessed, and of those concerned in them, that if the mother desires that I should retain the charge of this child, I will not refuse to do so."
Moncada spoke to his daughter, who was just beginning to recover from her swoon, in the same language in which he had at first addressed her. The proposition which he made seemed highly acceptable, as she started from the arms of the females, and, advancing to Gray, seized his hand, kissed it, bathed it in her tears, and seemed reconciled, even in parting with her child, by the consideration, that the infant was to remain under his guardianship.
"Good, kind man," she said in her indifferent French, "you have saved both mother and child."
The father, meanwhile, with mercantile deliberation, placed in Mr. Lawford's hands notes and bills to the amount of a thousand pounds, which he stated was to be vested for the child's use, and advanced in such portions as his board and education might require. In the event of any correspondence on his account being necessary, as in case of death or the like, he directed that communication should be made to Signor Matthias Moncada, under cover to a certain banking house in London.
"But beware," he said to Gray, "how you trouble me about these concerns, unless in case of absolute necessity."
"You need not fear, sir," replied Gray; "I have seen nothing to-day which can induce me to desire a more intimate correspondence with you than may be indispensable."
While Lawford drew up a proper minute of this transaction, by which he himself and Gray were named trustees for the child, Mr. Gray attempted to restore to the lady the balance of the considerable sum of money which Tresham (if such was his real name) had formally deposited with him. With every species of gesture, by which hands, eyes, and even feet, could express rejection, as well as in her own broken French, she repelled the reimbursement, while she entreated that Gray would consider the money as his own property; and at the same time forced upon him a ring set with brilliants, which seemed of considerable value. The father then spoke to her a few stern words, which she heard with an air of mingled agony and submission.
"I have given her a few minutes to see and weep over the miserable being which has been the seal of her dishonour," said the stern father. "Let us retire and leave her alone.--You," to the messenger, "watch the door of the room on the outside."
Gray, Lawford, and Moncada, retired to the parlour accordingly, where they waited in silence, each busied with his own reflections, till, within the space of half an hour, they received information that the lady was ready to depart.
"It is well," replied Moncada; "I am glad she has yet sense enough left to submit to that which needs must be."
So saying, he ascended the stair, and returned leading down his daughter, now again masked and veiled. As she passed Gray, she uttered the words--"My child, my child!" in a tone of unutterable anguish; then entered the carriage, which was drawn up as close to the door of the doctor's house as the little enclosure would permit. The messenger, mounted on a led horse, and accompanied by a servant and assistant, followed the carriage, which drove rapidly off, taking the road which leads to Edinburgh. All who had witnessed this strange scene, now departed to make their conjectures, and some to count their gains; for money had been distributed among the females who had attended on the lady, with so much liberality, as considerably to reconcile them to the breach of the rights of womanhood inflicted by the precipitate removal of the patient.
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