“Oh! very well; I dare say it is all right. I am sorry I have not the money for you to-day, doctor. Very tight just at present; you know how it is with men of business.”
“It would be a great accommodation if I could have it at once.”
“Impossible, doctor! I wish I could oblige you. In a week, or fortnight, at the farthest, I will call at your office.”
A week or fortnight! The disappointed doctor once more seats himself in his chaise, and urges his horse to speed. He is growing desperate now, and is eager to reach his next place of destination. Suddenly he checks the horse. A gentleman is passing whom he recognises as the young husband whose idolized wife has so lately been snatched from the borders of the grave.
“Glad to see you, Mr. Wilton; I was about calling at your house.”
“Pray, do so, doctor; Mrs. Wilton will be pleased to see you.”
“Thank you; but my call was on business, to-day. I believe I must trouble you with my bill for attendance during your wife’s illness.”
“Ah! yes; I recollect. Have you it with you? Fifty dollars! Impossible! Why, she was not ill above three weeks.”
“Very true; but think of the urgency of the case. Three or four calls during twenty-four hours were necessary, and two whole nights I passed at her bedside.”
“And yet the charge appears to me enormous. Call it forty, and I will hand you the amount at once.”
The doctor hesitates. “I cannot afford to lose ten dollars, which is justly my due, Mr. Wilton.”
“Suit yourself, doctor. Take forty, and receipt the bill, or stick to your first charge, and wait till I am ready to pay it. Fifty dollars is no trifle, I can tell you.”
And this is the man whose life might have been a blank but for the doctor’s skill!
Again we are travelling onward. The unpaid bill is left in Mr. Wilton’s hand, and yet the doctor half regrets that he had not submitted to the imposition. Money is greatly needed just now, and there seems little prospect of getting any.
Again and again the horse is stopped at some well-known post. A poor welcome has the doctor to-day. Some bills are collected, but their amount is discouragingly small. Everybody appears to feel astonishingly healthy, and have almost forgotten that they ever had occasion for a physician. There is one consolation, however: sickness will come again, and then, perhaps, the unpaid bill may be recollected. Homeward goes the doctor. He is naturally of a cheerful disposition; but now he is seriously threatened with a fit of the blues. A list of calls upon his slate has little effect to raise his spirits. “All work and no pay,” he mutters to himself, as he puts on his dressing-gown and slippers; and, throwing himself upon the lounge, turns a deaf ear to the little ones, while he indulges in a revery as to the best mode of paying the doctor.