As Mr. Bellingham’s explanation (delivered in a rapid crescendo and ending almost in a shout) had left him purple-faced and trembling, I thought it best to bring our talk to an end. Accordingly I proceeded to inspect the injured knee, which was now nearly well, and to overhaul my patient generally; and having given him detailed instructions as to his general conduct, I rose to take my leave.
“And remember,” I said as I shook his hand, “no tobacco, no coffee, no excitement of any kind. Lead a quiet, bovine life.”
“That’s all very well,” he grumbled, “but supposing people come here and excite me?”
“Disregard them,” said I, “and read Whitaker’s Almanack.” And with this parting advice I passed out into the other room.
Miss Bellingham was seated at the table with a pile of blue-covered note-books before her, two of which were open, displaying pages closely written in a small, neat handwriting. She rose as I entered and looked at me inquiringly.
“I heard you advising my father to read Whitaker’s Almanack,” she said. “Was that as a curative measure?”
“Entirely,” I replied. “I recommended it for its medicinal virtues, as an antidote to mental excitement.”
She smiled faintly. “It certainly is not a highly emotional book,” she said, and then asked: “Have you any other instructions to give?”
“Well, I might give the conventional advice—to maintain a cheerful outlook and avoid worry; but I don’t suppose you would find it very helpful.”
“No,” she answered bitterly; “it is a counsel of perfection. People in our position are not a very cheerful class, I am afraid; but still they don’t seek out worries from sheer perverseness. The worries come unsought. But, of course, you can’t enter into that.”
“I can’t give any practical help, I fear, though I do sincerely hope that your father’s affairs will straighten themselves out soon.”
She thanked me for my good wishes and accompanied me down to the street door, where, with a bow and a rather stiff handshake, she gave me my conge.
Very ungratefully the noise of Fetter Lane smote on my ears as I came out through the archway, and very squalid and unrestful the little street looked when contrasted with the dignity and monastic quiet of the old garden. As to the surgery, with its oilcloth floor and walls made hideous with gaudy insurance show-cards in sham gilt frames, its aspect was so revolting that I flew to the day-book for distraction, and was still busily entering the morning’s visits when the bottle-boy, Adolphus, entered stealthily to announce lunch.