“Taken up!” replied Jan, ceasing from his pounding, and fixing his wide-open eyes on Miss Deborah. “Can I be taken up for doing this?”—and he brought down the pestle with such force as to threaten the destruction of the mortar.
“You’ll tell me, please,” she shivered.
“Well,” said Jan, “if you must know it, the doctor had a misfortune.”
“A misfortune! He! What misfortune! A misfortune at Chalk Cottage?”
Jan gravely nodded. “And they were in an awful rage with him, and said he should pay expenses, and all that. And he wouldn’t pay expenses—the chimney-glass alone was twelve pound fifteen; and there was a regular quarrel, and they turned him out.”
“But what was the nature of the misfortune?”
“He set the parlour chimney on fire.”
Miss Deborah’s lips parted with amazement; she appeared to find some difficulty in closing them again.
“Set the parlour chimney on fire, Mr. Jan!”
“Very careless of him,” continued Jan, with composure. “He had no business to carry gunpowder about with him. Of course they won’t believe but he flung it in purposely.”
Miss Deborah could not gather her senses. “Who won’t?—the ladies at Chalk Cottage?”
“The ladies at Chalk Cottage,” assented Jan. “If I saw all these bottles go to smithereens, through Cheese stowing gunpowder in his trousers’ pockets, I might go into a passion too, Miss Deb.”
“But, Mr. Jan—this is not what’s being said in Deerham?”
“Law, if you go by all that’s said in Deerham, you’ll have enough to do,” cried Jan. “One says one thing and one says another. No two are ever in the same tale. When that codicil was lost at Verner’s Pride, ten different people were accused by Deerham of stealing it.”
“Were they?” responded Miss Deborah abstractedly.
“Did you never hear it! You just ask Deerham about the row between the doctor and Chalk Cottage, and you’ll hear ten versions, all different. What else could be expected? As if he’d take the trouble to explain the rights of it to them! Not that I should advise you to ask,” concluded Jan pointedly. “Miss Deborah, do you know the time?”
“It must be half-past eight,” she repeated mechanically, her thoughts buried in a reverie.
“And turned,” said Jan. “I’d be glad of breakfast. I shall have the gratis patients here.”
“It shall be ready in two minutes,” said Miss Deborah meekly. And she went out of the surgery.
Presently young Cheese came leaping into it. “The breakfast’s ready,” cried he.
Jan stretched out his long arm, and pinned Master Cheese.
“What have you been saying to Miss Deb?” he asked. “Look here; who is your master now?”
“You are, I suppose,” said the young gentleman.
“Very well. You just bear that in mind; and don’t go carrying tales indoors of what Deerham says. Attend to your own business and leave Dr. West’s alone.”