Mr. Bitterworth and Jan were turning round in front, waiting; and the vicar hastened on, leaving Lionel glued to the spot where he stood.
MRS. DUFF’S BILL.
Peal! peal! peal! came the sound of the night-bell at Jan’s window as he lay in bed. For Jan had caused the night-bell to be hung there since he was factotum. “Where’s the good of waking up the house?” remarked Jan; and he made the alteration.
Jan got up with the first sound, and put his head out at the window. Upon which, Hook—for he was the applicant—advanced. Jan’s window being, as you may remember, nearly on a level with the ground, presented favourable auspices for holding a face to face colloquy with night visitors.
“She’s mortal bad, sir,” was Hook’s salutation.
“Who is?” asked Jan. “Alice, or the missis?”
“Not the missis, sir. The other. But I shouldn’t ha’ liked to trouble you, if you hadn’t ordered me.”
“I won’t be two minutes,” said Jan.
It seemed to Hook that Jan was only one, so speedily did he come out. A belief was popular in Deerham that Mr. Jan slept with his clothes on; no sooner would a night summons be delivered to Jan, than Jan was out with the summoner, ready for the start. Before he had closed the surgery door, through which he had to pass, there came another peal, and a woman ran up to him. Jan recognised her for the cook of a wealthy lady in the Belvedere Road, a Mrs. Ellis.
“Law, sir! what a provident mercy that you are up and ready!” exclaimed she. “My mistress is attacked again.”
“Well, you know what to do,” returned Jan. “You don’t want me.”
“But she do want you, sir. I have got orders not to go back without you.”
“I suppose she has been eating cucumber again,” remarked Jan.
“Only a bit of it, sir. About the half of a small one, she took for her supper. And now the spasms is on her dreadful.”
“Of course they are,” replied Jan. “She knows how cucumber serves her. Well, I can’t come. I’ll send Mr. Cheese, if you like. But he can do no more good than you can. Give her the drops and get the hot flannels; that’s all.”
“You are going out, sir!” cried the woman, in a tone that sounded as if she would like to be impertinent. “You are come for him, I suppose?” turning a sharp tongue upon Hook.
“Yes, I be,” humbly replied Hook. “Poor Ally—”
The woman set up a scream. “You’d attend her, that miserable castaway, afore you’d attend my mistress!” burst out she to Jan. “Who’s Ally Hook, by the side of folks of standing?”
“If she wants attendance, she must have it,” was the composed return of Jan. “She has got a body and a soul to be saved, as other folks have. She is in danger; your mistress is not.”
“Danger! What has that got to do with it?” angrily answered the woman. “You’ll never get paid there, sir.”