BACK TO BACK
Mrs. Scutts, concealed behind the curtain, gazed at the cab in uneasy amazement. The cabman clambered down from the box and, opening the door, stood by with his hands extended ready for any help that might be needed. A stranger was the first to alight, and, with his back towards Mrs. Scutts, seemed to be struggling with something in the cab. He placed a dangling hand about his neck and, staggering under the weight, reeled backwards supporting Mr. Scutts, whose other arm was round the neck of a third man. In a flash Mrs. Scutts was at the door.
“Oh, Bill!” she gasped. “And by daylight, too!”
Mr. Scutts raised his head sharply and his lips parted; then his head sank again, and he became a dead weight in the grasp of his assistants.
“He’s all right,” said one of them, turning to Mrs. Scutts.
A deep groan from Mr. Scutts confirmed the statement.
“What is it?” inquired his wife, anxiously.
“Just a little bit of a railway accident,” said one of the strangers. “Train ran into some empty trucks. Nobody hurt—seriously,” he added, in response to a terrible and annoyed groan from Mr. Scutts.
With his feet dragging helplessly, Mr. Scutts was conveyed over his own doorstep and placed on the sofa.
“All the others went off home on their own legs,” said one of the strangers, reproachfully. “He said he couldn’t walk, and he wouldn’t go to a hospital.”
“Wanted to die at home,” declared the sufferer. “I ain’t going to be cut about at no ’ospitals.”
The two strangers stood by watching him; then they looked at each other.
I don’t want—no—’ospitals,” gasped Mr. Scutts, “I’m going to have my own doctor.”
“Of course the company will pay the doctor’s bill,” said one of the strangers to Mrs. Scutts or they’ll send their own doctor. I expect he’ll be all right to-morrow.”
“I ’ope so,” said Mr. Scutts, “but I don’t think it. Thank you for bringing of me ’ome.”
He closed his eyes languidly, and kept them closed until the men had departed.
“Can’t you walk, Bill?” inquired the tearful Mrs. Scutts.
Her husband shook his head. “You go and fetch the doctor,” he said, slowly. “That new one round the corner.”
“He looks such a boy,” objected Mrs. Scutts.
“You go and fetch ’im,” said Mr. Scutts, raising his voice. “D’ye hear!”
“But—” began his wife.
“If I get up to you, my gal,” said the forgetful Mr. Scutts, “you’ll know it.”
“Why, I thought—” said his wife, in surprise.
Mr. Scutts raised himself on the sofa and shook his fist at her. Then, as a tribute to appearances, he sank back and groaned again. Mrs. Scutts, looking somewhat relieved, took her bonnet from a nail and departed.
The examination was long and tedious, but Mr. Scutts, beyond remarking that he felt chilly, made no complaint. He endeavoured, but in vain, to perform the tests suggested, and even did his best to stand, supported by his medical attendant. Self-preservation is the law of Nature, and when Mr. Scutts’s legs and back gave way he saw to it that the doctor was underneath.