Passing this repository of the associated products about ten o’clock in the morning, I perceived in the shadow of the cavern no less a person than Miss Oman. She saw me at the same moment, and beckoned peremptorily with a hand that held a large Spanish onion. I approached with a deferential smile.
“What a magnificent onion, Miss Oman! and how generous of you to offer it to me—”
“I wasn’t offering it to you. But there! Isn’t it just like a man—”
“Isn’t what just like a man?” I interrupted. “If you mean the onion—”
“I don’t!” she snapped; “and I wish you wouldn’t talk such a parcel of nonsense. A grown man and a member of a serious profession, too! You ought to know better.”
“I suppose I ought,” I said reflectively. And she continued:
“I called in at the surgery just now.”
“To see me?”
“What else should I come for? Do you suppose that I called to consult the bottle-boy?”
“Certainly not, Miss Oman. So you find the lady doctor no use, after all?”
Miss Oman gnashed her teeth at me (and very fine teeth they were, too).
“I called,” she said majestically, “on behalf of Miss Bellingham.”
My facetiousness evaporated instantly. “I hope Miss Bellingham is not ill,” I said with a sudden anxiety that elicited a sardonic smile from Miss Oman.
“No,” was the reply, “she is not ill, but she has cut her hand rather badly. It’s her right hand, too, and she can’t afford to lose the use of it, not being a great, hulking, lazy, lolloping man. So you had better go and put some stuff on it.”
With this advice, Miss Oman whisked to the right-about and vanished into the depths of the cavern like the Witch of Wokey, while I hurried on to the surgery to provide myself with the necessary instruments and materials, and thence proceeded to Nevill’s Court.
Miss Oman’s juvenile maid-servant, who opened the door to me, stated the existing conditions with epigrammatic conciseness:
“Mr. Bellingham is hout, sir; but Miss Bellingham is hin.”
Having thus delivered herself she retreated towards the kitchen and I ascended the stairs, at the head of which I found Miss Bellingham awaiting me with her right hand encased in what looked like a white boxing-glove.
“I am glad you have come,” she said. “Phyllis—Miss Oman, you know—has kindly bound up my hand, but I should like you to see that it is all right.”
We went into the sitting-room, where I laid out my paraphernalia on the table while I inquired into the particulars of the accident.
“It is most unfortunate that it should have happened just now,” she said, as I wrestled with one of those remarkable feminine knots that, while they seem to defy the utmost efforts of human ingenuity to untie, yet have a singular habit of untying themselves at inopportune moments.
“Why just now, in particular?” I asked.