As Tom Marlin ended his narrative—often interrupted by the noise of the tempest without, and the peals of thunder that echoed awfully above, like the chorus of a melancholy ballad—the sudden clang of the hall-door bell, and a more faintly-heard knocking, announced a new arrival.
[Illustration: “I sid something white come out o’ t’ water, by the gunwale, like a hand.”]
Sir Bale’s Dream
It was Doctor Torvey who entered the old still-room now, buttoned-up to the chin in his greatcoat, and with a muffler of many colours wrapped partly over that feature.
“Well!—hey? So poor Feltram’s had an accident?”
The Doctor was addressing Sir Bale, and getting to the bedside as he pulled off his gloves.
“I see you’ve been keeping him warm—that’s right; and a considerable flow of water from his mouth; turn him a little that way. Hey? O, ho!” said the Doctor, as he placed his hand upon Philip, and gently stirred his limbs. “It’s more than an hour since this happened. I’m afraid there’s very little to be done now;” and in a lower tone, with his hand on poor Philip Feltram’s arm, and so down to his fingers, he said in Sir Bale Mardykes’ ear, with a shake of his head,
“Here, you see, poor fellow, here’s the cadaveric stiffness; it’s very melancholy, but it’s all over, he’s gone; there’s no good trying any more. Come here, Mrs. Julaper. Did you ever see any one dead? Look at his eyes, look at his mouth. You ought to have known that, with half an eye. And you know,” he added again confidentially in Sir Bale’s ear, “trying any more now is all my eye.”
Then after a few more words with the Baronet, and having heard his narrative, he said from time to time, “Quite right; nothing could be better; capital practice, sir,” and so forth. And at the close of all this, amid the sobs of kind Mrs. Julaper and the general whimpering of the humbler handmaids, the Doctor standing by the bed, with his knuckles on the coverlet, and a glance now and then on the dead face beside him, said—by way of ‘quieting men’s minds,’ as the old tract-writers used to say—a few words to the following effect:
“Everything has been done here that the most experienced physician could have wished. Everything has been done in the best way. I don’t know anything that has not been done, in fact. If I had been here myself, I don’t know—hot bricks—salt isn’t a bad thing. I don’t know, I say, that anything of any consequence has been omitted.” And looking at the body, “You see,” and he drew the fingers a little this way and that, letting them return, as they stiffly did, to their former attitude, “you may be sure that the poor gentleman was quite dead by the time he arrived here. So, since he was laid there, nothing has been lost by delay. And, Sir Bale, if you have any directions to send to Golden Friars, sir, I shall be most happy to undertake your message.”