With a groan of relief the man who had been picked up sank back amongst the cushioned seats, carefully almost tenderly, aided by the chauffeur. Eagerly he thrust his hand into one of the leather pockets and drew out a flask of brandy. The rush of cold air, as the car swung round and started off, was like new life to him. He closed his eyes. When he opened them again, they had come to a standstill underneath a red lamp.
“The doctor’s!” he muttered to himself, and, staggering out, rang the bell.
Dr. Spencer Whiles had had a somewhat dreary day, and was thoroughly enjoying a late rubber of bridge with three of his most agreeable neighbors. A summons into the consulting room, however, was so unexpected a thing that he did not hesitate for a moment to obey it, without even waiting to complete a deal. When he entered the apartment, he saw a slim but determined-looking young man, whose clothes were covered with dust, and who, although he sat with folded arms and grim face, was very nearly in a state of collapse.
“You seem to have met with an accident,” the doctor remarked. “How did it happen?”
“I have been run over by a motor car,” his patient said, speaking slowly and with something singularly agreeable in his voice notwithstanding its slight accent of pain. “Can you patch me up till I get to London?”
The doctor looked him over.
“What were you doing in the road?” he asked.
“I was riding a bicycle,” the other answered. “I dare say it was my own fault; I was certainly on the wrong side of the road. You can see what has happened to me. I am bruised and cut; my side is painful, and also my knee. A car is waiting outside now to take me to my home, but I thought that I had better stop and see you.”
The doctor was a humane man, with a miserable practice, and he forgot all about his bridge party. For half an hour he worked over his patient. At the end of that time he gave him a brandy and soda and placed a box of cigarettes before him.
“You’ll do all right now,” he said. “That’s a nasty cut on your leg, but you’ve no broken bones.”
“I feel absolutely well again, thank you very much,” the young man said. “I will smoke a cigarette, if I may. The brandy, I thank you, no!”
“Just as you like,” the doctor answered. “I won’t say that you are not better without it. Help yourself to the cigarettes. Are you going back to London in the motor car, then?”
“Yes!” the patient answered. “It is waiting outside for me now, and I must not keep the man any longer. Will you let me know, if you please, how much I owe you?”
The doctor hesitated. Fees were a rare thing with him, and the evidences of his patient’s means were somewhat doubtful. The young man put his hand into his pocket.
“I am afraid,” he said, “that I am not a very presentable-looking object, but I am glad to assure you that I am not a poor man. I am able to pay your charges and to still feel that the obligation is very much on my side.”