“Is there mania in his family?” asked the voice. At this cruel insult Mr. Lavender, who was nearly smothered, made a great effort, and clearing his mouth of the pillow, said:
“Since we have no God nowadays, I call the God of my fathers to witness that there is no saner public man than I.”
It was, however, his last effort, for the wriggle he had given to his spine brought on a kind of vertigo, and he relapsed into unconsciousness.
IS CONVICTED OF A NEW DISEASE
Those who were assembled round the bed of Mr. Lavender remained for a moment staring at him with their mouths open, while Blink growled faintly from underneath.
“Put your hand here,” said the doctor at last.
“There is a considerable swelling, an appearance of inflammation, and the legs are a curious colour. You gave him three-quarters of a tumbler of rum—how much honey?”
Thus addressed, Joe Petty, leaning his head a little to one side, answered:
“Not ’alf a pot, sir.”
“Um! There are all the signs here of something quite new. He’s not had a fall, has he?”
“Has he?” said Mrs. Petty severely to her husband.
“No,” replied Joe.
“Singular!” said the doctor. Turn him back again; I want to feel his head. Swollen; it may account for his curious way of talking. Well, shove in quinine, and keep him quiet, with hot bottles to his feet. I think we have come on a new war disease. I’ll send you the quinine. Good morning.
“Wot oh!” said Joe to his wife, when they were left alone with the unconscious body of their master. “Poor old Guv! Watch and pray!”
“However could you have given him such a thing?”
“Wet outside, wet your inside,” muttered Joe sulkily, “’as always been my motto. Sorry I give ‘im the honey. Who’d ha’ thought the product of an ’armless insect could ’a done ’im in like this?”
Fiddle said Mrs. Petty. “In my belief it’s come on through reading those newspapers. If I had my way I’d bum the lot. Can I trust you to watch him while I go and get the bottles filled?”
Joe drooped his lids over his greenish eyes, and, with a whisk of her head, his wife left the room.
“Gawd ’elp us!” thought Joe, gazing at his unconscious master, and fingering his pipe; “’ow funny women are! If I was to smoke in ’ere she’d have a fit. I’ll just ’ave a whiff in the window, though!” And, leaning out, he drew the curtains to behind him and lighted his pipe.
The sound of Blink gnawing her bone beneath the bed alone broke the silence.
“I could do with a pint o’ bitter,” thought Joe; and, noticing the form of the weekly gardener down below, he said softly:
“’Ello?” replied the gardener. “’Ow’s yours?”
“Goin’ to ’ave some rain?”