“I hope you’ll find it yet,” returned Jan, taking the hint and retreating to the surgery. “You must have overlooked it amongst some of these papers.”
“I hope I shall,” replied the doctor.
And he shut himself up to the search, and turned over the papers. But he never found what he had lost, although he was still turning and turning them at morning light.
MISS DEBORAH’S ASTONISHMENT.
One dark morning, near the beginning of November—in fact, it was the first morning of that gloomy month—Jan was busy in the surgery. Jan was arranging things there according to his own pleasure; for Dr. West had departed that morning early, and Jan was master of the field.
Jan had risen betimes. Never a sluggard, he had been up now for some hours, and had effected so great a metamorphosis in the surgery that the doctor himself would hardly have known it again: things in it previously never having been arranged to Jan’s satisfaction. And now he was looking at his watch to see whether breakfast time was coming on, Jan’s hunger reminding him that it might be acceptable. He had not yet been into the house; his bedroom now being the room you have heard of, the scene of Dr. West’s lost prescription. The doctor had gone by the six o’clock train, after a cordial farewell to Jan; he had gone—as it was soon to turn out—without having previously informed his daughters. But of this Jan knew nothing.
“Twenty minutes past eight,” quoth Jan, consulting his watch, a silver one, the size of a turnip. Jan had bought it when he was poor: had given about two pounds for it, second-hand. It never occurred to Jan to buy a better one while that legacy of his was lying idle. Why should he? Jan’s turnip kept time to a moment, and Jan did not understand buying things for show. “Ten minutes yet! I shall eat a double share of bacon this morning.—Good-morning, Miss Deb.”
Miss Deb was stealing into the surgery with a scared look and a white face. Miss Deb wore her usual winter morning costume, a huge brown cape. She was of a shivery nature at the best of times, but she shivered palpably now.
“Mr. Jan, have you got a drop of ether?” asked she, her poor teeth chattering together. Jan was too good-natured to tell Deerham those teeth were false, though Dr. West had betrayed the secret to Jan.
“Who’s it for?” asked Jan. “For you? Aren’t you well, Miss Deb? Eat some breakfast; that’s the best thing.”
“I have had a dreadful shock, Mr. Jan. I have had bad news. That is—what has been done to the surgery?” she broke off, casting her eyes around it in wonder.
“Not much,” said Jan. “I have been making some odds and ends of alteration. Is the news from Australia?” he continued, the open letter in her hand helping him to the suggestion. “A mail’s due.”
Miss Deborah shook her head. “It is from my father, Mr. Jan. The first thing I saw, upon going into the breakfast parlour, was this note for me, propped against the vase on the mantel-piece. Mr. Jan”—dropping her voice to confidence—“it says he is gone! That he is gone away for an indefinite period.”