“Mr. William Nichol:
“Dear sir—A relative of yours is sick at my house. He came on the evening train. You and your wife had better come at once in the carriage.”
Martine retired to the room in which he had seen Mr. Kemble, that he might compose himself before meeting the physician. The sound of Helen’s voice, the mere proximity of the girl who at this hour was to have been his wife had not “old chaos” come again for him, were by no means “straws” in their final and crushing weight. Motionless, yet with mind verging on distraction, he sat in the cold, dimly lighted room until aroused by the voice of Dr. Barnes.
“Why, Hobart!” cried his old friend, starting at the bloodshot eyes and pallid face of the young man, “what is the matter? You need me, sure enough, but why on earth are you shivering in this cold room at the hotel?”
Martine again said to Jackson: “Don’t leave him,” and closed the door. Then, to the physician: “Dr. Barnes, I am ill and worn-out. I know it only too well. You must listen carefully while I in brief tell you why you were sent for; then you and others must take charge and act as you think best. I’m going home. I must have rest and a respite. I must be by myself;” and he rapidly began to sketch his experiences in Washington.
“Hold!” said the sensible old doctor, who indulged in only a few strong exclamations of surprise, which did not interrupt the speaker, “hold! You say you left the ward to think it over, after being convinced that you had discovered Nichol. Did you think it over quietly?”
“Quietly!” repeated Martine, with intense bitterness. “Would a man, not a mummy, think over such a thing quietly? Judge me as you please, but I was tempted as I believe never man was before. I fought the Devil till morning.”
“I thought as much,” said the doctor, grasping Martine’s hand, then slipping a finger on his pulse. “You fought on foot too, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I walked the streets as if demented.”
“Of course. That in part accounts for your exhaustion. Have you slept much since?”
“Oh, Doctor, let me get through and go home!”
“No, Hobart, you can’t get through with me till I am with you. My dear fellow, do you think that I don’t understand and sympathize with you? There’s no reason why you should virtually risk your life for Captain Nichol again. Take this dose of quinine at once, and then proceed. I can catch on rapidly. First answer, how much have you slept since?”
“The idea of sleep! You can remedy this, Doctor, after my part in this affair is over. I must finish now. Helen may return, and I cannot meet her, nor am I equal to seeing Mr. and Mrs. Nichol. My head feels queer, but I’ll get through somehow, if the strain is not kept up too long;” and he finished in outline his story. In conclusion he said, “You will understand that you are now to have charge of Nichol. He is prepared by his experience to obey you, for he has always been in hospitals, where the surgeon’s will is law. Except with physicians, he has a sort of rough waywardness, learned from the soldiers.”