So, in effect, he was. Doctor Torvey—with the florid gravity of a man who, having just swallowed a bottle of port, besides some glasses of sherry, is admitted to the presence of ladies whom he respects—entered the room, made what he called his “leg and his compliments,” and awaited the ladies’ commands.
“Sit down, Doctor Torvey,” said Lady Walsingham, who in the incapacity of her sister undertook the doing of the honours. “My sister, Lady Mardykes, has got it into her head somehow that Sir Bale is ill. I have been speaking to him; he certainly does not look very well, but he says he is quite well. Do you think him well?—that is, we know you don’t think there is anything of importance amiss—but she wishes to know whether you think him perfectly well.”
The Doctor cleared his voice and delivered his lecture, a little thickly at some words, upon Sir Bale’s case; the result of which was that it was no case at all; and that if he would only live something more of a country gentleman’s life, he would be as well as any man could desire—as well as any man, gentle or simple, in the country.
“The utmost I should think of doing for him would be, perhaps, a little quinine, nothing mo’—shurely—he is really and toory a very shoun’ shtay of health.”
Lady Walsingham looked encouragingly at her sister and nodded.
“I’ve been shen’ for, La’y Walsh—Walse—Walsing—ham; old Jack Amerald—he likshe his glass o’ port,” he said roguishly, “and shuvversh accord’n’ly,” he continued, with a compassionating paddle of his right hand; “one of thoshe aw—odd feels in his stomach; and as I have pretty well done all I can man-n’ge down here, I must be off, ye shee. Wind up from Golden Friars, and a little flutter ovv zhnow, thazh all;” and with some remarks about the extreme cold of the weather, and the severity of their night journey, and many respectful and polite parting speeches, the Doctor took his leave; and they soon heard the wheels of his gig and the tread of his horse, faint and muffled from the snow in the court-yard, and the Doctor, who had connected that melancholy and agitated household with the outer circle of humanity, was gone.
There was very little snow falling, half-a-dozen flakes now and again, and their flight across the window showed, as the Doctor had in a manner boasted, that the wind was in his face as he returned to Golden Friars. Even these desultory snow-flakes ceased, at times, altogether; and returning, as they say, “by fits and starts,” left for long intervals the landscape, under the brilliant light of the moon, in its wide white shroud. The curtain of the great window had not been drawn. It seemed to Lady Walsingham that the moonbeams had grown more dazzling, that Snakes Island was nearer and more distinct, and the outstretched arm of the old tree looked bigger and angrier, like the uplifted arm of an assassin, who draws silently nearer as the catastrophe approaches.