3336860Eugene Aram — Book 4, Chapter I.Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer



Ή Κύπρις ού ῶάνδκμος ἱλάσχεο τὴν θεὸν εἱτὼν Οὑρανιάν.——
*****ΠΡΑΞΙΝΟΉ. Θάρσει Ζωπυρίων, γλυκερὸν τέκος οὑ λέγω ἀπφῡν.
ΓΟΡΓΩ. Αἱσθάνεται τὸ βρέφος, ναὶ τὰν ῶότνιαν






Let a Physician be ever so excellent, there will be those that censure him.

We left Walter in a situation of that critical nature, that it would be inhuman to delay our return to him any longer. The blow by which he had been felled, stunned him for an instant; but his frame was of no common strength and hardihood, and the imminent peril in which he was placed, served to recall him from the momentary insensibility. On recovering himself, he felt that the ruffians were dragging him towards the hedge, and the thought flashed upon him that their object was murder. Nerved by this idea, he collected his strength, and suddenly wresting himself from the grasp of one of the ruffians who had seized him by the collar, he had already gained his knee, and now his feet, when a second blow once more deprived him of sense.

When a dim and struggling consciousness recurred to him; he found that the villains had dragged him to the opposite side of the hedge and were deliberately robbing him. He was on the point of renewing an useless and dangerous struggle, when one of the ruffians said,

"I think he stirs, I had better draw my knife across his throat."

"Pooh, no!" replied another voice, "never kill if it can be helped: trust me 'tis an ugly thing to think of afterwards. Besides, what use is it? A robbery, in these parts, is done and forgotten; but a murder rouses the whole country."

"Damnation, man! why, the deed's done already, he's as dead as a door-nail."

"Dead!" said the other in a startled voice; "no, no!" and leaning down, the ruffian placed his hand on Walter's heart. The unfortunate traveller felt his flesh creep as the hand touched him, but prudently abstained from motion or exclamation. He thought, however, as with dizzy and half-shut eyes he caught the shadowy and dusk outline of the face that bent over him, so closely that he felt the breath of its lips, that it was one that he had seen before; and as the man now rose, and the wan light of the skies gave a somewhat clearer view of his features, the supposition was heightened, though not absolutely confirmed. But Walter had no farther power to observe his plunderers: again his brain reeled; the dark trees, the grim shadows of human forms, swam before his glazing eye; and he sunk once more into a profound insensibility.

Meanwhile, the doughty Corporal had at the first sight of his master's fall, halted abruptly at the spot to which his steed had carried him; and coming rapidly to the conclusion that three men were best encountered at a distance, he fired his two pistols, and without staying to see if they took effect, which, indeed, they did not, galloped down the precipitous hill with as much despatch, as if it had been the last stage to "Lunnun."

"My poor young master!" muttered he: "But if the worst comes to the worst, the chief part of the money's in the saddle-bags any how; and so, messieurs thieves, you're bit—baugh!"

The Corporal was not long in reaching the town, and alarming the loungers at the inn-door. A posse comitatus was soon formed; and, armed as if they were to have encountered all the robbers between Hounslow and the Apennine, a band of heroes, with the Corporal, who had first deliberately reloaded his pistols, at their head, set off to succour "the poor gentleman what was already murdered."

They had not got far before they found Walter's horse, which had luckily broke from the robbers, and was now quietly regaling himself on a patch of grass by the roadside. "He can get his supper, the beast," grunted the Corporal, thinking of his own; and bid one of the party try to catch the animal, which, however, would have declined all such proffers, had not a long neigh of recognition from the roman nose of the Corporal's steed, striking familiarly on the straggler's ear, called it forthwith, to the Corporal's side; and (while the two chargers exchanged greeting) the Corporal seized its rein.

When they came to the spot from which the robbers had made their sally, all was still and tranquil; no Walter was to be seen: the Corporal cautiously dismounted, and searched about with as much minuteness as if he were looking for a pin; but the host of the inn at which the travellers had dined the day before, stumbled at once on the right track. Gouts of blood on the white chalky soil directed him to the hedge, and creeping through a small and recent gap, he discovered the yet breathing body of the young traveller.

Walter was now conducted with much care to the inn; a Surgeon was already in attendance; for having heard that a gentleman had been murdered without his knowledge, Mr. Pertinax Fillgrave had rushed from his house, and placed himself on the road, that the poor creature might not, at least, be buried without his assistance. So eager was he to begin, that he scarce suffered the unfortunate Walter to be taken within, before he whipped out his instruments, and set to work with the smack of an amateur.

Although the Surgeon declared his patient to be in the greatest possible danger, the sagacious Corporal, who thought himself more privileged to know about wounds than any man of peace, by profession, however destructive by practice, could possibly be, had himself examined those his master had received, before he went down to taste his long-delayed supper; and he now confidently assured the landlord, and the rest of the good company in the kitchen, that the blows on the head had been mere fly-bites, and that his master would be as well as ever in a week at the farthest.

And, indeed, when Walter the very next morning woke from the stupor, rather than sleep, he had undergone, he felt himself surprisingly better than the Surgeon, producing his probe, hastened to assure him he possibly could be.

By the help of Mr. Pertinax Fillgrave, Walter was detained several days in the town; nor is it wholly improbable, but that for the dexterity of the Corporal, he might be in the town to this day; not, indeed in the comfortable shelter of the old-fashioned inn, but in the colder quarters of a certain green spot, in which, despite of its rural attractions, few persons are willing to fix a permanent habitation.

Luckily, however, one evening, the Corporal, who had been, to say truth, very regular in his attendance on his master; for, bating the selfishness, consequent, perhaps, on his knowledge of the world, Jacob Bunting was a good-natured man on the whole, and liked his master as well as he did any thing, always excepting Jacobina, and board-wages; one evening, we say, the Corporal coming into Walter's apartment, found him sitting up in his bed, with a very melancholy and dejected expression of countenance.

"And well, Sir, what does the Doctor say?" asked the Corporal, drawing aside the curtains.

"Ah, Bunting, I fancy it's all over with me!"

"The Lord forbid, Sir! you're a-jesting, surely?"

"Jesting! my good fellow, ah! just get me that phial."

"The filthy stuff!" said the Corporal, with a wry face; "Well, Sir, if I had had the dressing of you—been half way to Yorkshire by this. Man's a worm; and when a doctor gets un on his hook, he is sure to angle for the devil with the bait—augh!"

"What! you really think that damned fellow, Fillgrave, is keeping me on in this way?"

"Is he a fool, to give up three phials a day, 4s. 6d. item, ditto, ditto?" cried the Corporal, as if astonished at the question; "but don't you feel yourself getting a deal better every day? Don't you feel all this ere stuff revive you?"

No, indeed, I was amazingly better the first day than I am now; I progress from worse to worse. Ah! Bunting, if Peter Dealtry were here, he might help me to an appropriate epitaph: as it is, I suppose I shall be very simply labelled. Fillgrave will do the whole business, and put it down in his bill—item, nine draughts—item, one epitaph.

"Lord-a-mercy, your honour," said the Corporal, drawing out a little red-spotted pocket-handkerchief; "how can—jest so?—it's quite moving."

"I wish we were moving!" sighed the patient.

"And so we might be," cried the Corporal; "so we might, if you'd pluck up a bit. Just let me look at your honour's head; I knows what a confusion is better nor any of 'em."

The Corporal having obtained permission, now removed the bandages wherewith the Doctor had bound his intended sacrifice to Pluto, and after peering into the wounds for about a minute, he thrust out his under lip, with a contemptuous,

"Pshaugh! augh! And how long," said he, "does Master Fillgrave say you be to be under his hands,—augh!"

"He gives me hopes that I may be taken out an airing very gently, (yes, hearses always go very gently!) in about three weeks!" The Corporal started, and broke into a long whistle. He then grinned from ear to ear, snapped his fingers, and said,

"Man of the world, Sir,—man of the world every inch of him!"

"He seems resolved that I shall be a man of another world," said Walter.

"Tell ye what, Sir—take my advice—your honour knows I be no fool—throw off them ere wrappers; let me put on scrap of plaister—pitch phials to devil—order out horses to-morrow, and when you've been in the air half an hour, won't know yourself again!"

"Bunting! the horses out to-morrow?—faith, I don't think I could walk across the room."

"Just try, your honour."

"Ah! I'm very weak, very weak—my dressing-gown and slippers—your arm, Bunting—well, upon my honour, I walk very stoutly, eh? I should not have thought this! leave go: why I really get on without your assistance!"

"Walk as well as ever you did."

"Now I'm out of bed, I don't think I shall go back again to it."

"Would not, if I was your honour."

"And after so much exercise, I really fancy I've a sort of an appetite."

"Like a beefsteak?"

"Nothing better."

"Pint of wine?"

"Why that would be too much—eh?"

"Not it."

"Go, then, my good Bunting; go and make haste—stop, I say that d—d fellow—"

"Good sign to swear," interrupted the Corporal; "swore twice within last five minutes—famous symptom!"

"Do you choose to hear me? That d—d fellow, Fillgrave, is coming back in an hour to bleed me: do you mount guard—refuse to let him in—pay him his bill—you have the money. And harkye, don't be rude to the rascal."

"Rude, your honour! not I—been in the Forty-second—knows discipline—only rude to the privates!"

The Corporal, having seen his master conduct himself respectably toward the viands with which he supplied him—having set his room to rights, brought him the candles, borrowed him a book, and left him for the present in extremely good spirits, and prepared for the flight of the morrow; the Corporal, I say, now lighting his pipe, stationed himself at the door of the inn, and waited for Mr. Pertinax Fillgrave. Presently the Doctor, who was a little thin man, came bustling across the street, and was about, with a familiar "Good evening," to pass by the Corporal, when that worthy, dropping his pipe, said respectfully, "Beg pardon, Sir—want to speak to you—a little favour. Will your honour walk in the back-parlour?"

"Oh! another patient," thought the Doctor; "these soldiers are careless fellows—often get into scrapes. Yes, friend, I'm at your service."

The Corporal showed the man of phials into the back-parlour, and, hemming thrice, looked sheepish, as if in doubt how to begin. It was the Doctor's business to encourage the bashful.

"Well, my good man," said he, brushing off, with the arm of his coat, some dust that had settled on his inexpressibles, "so you want to consult me?"

"Indeed, your honour, I do; but—feel a little awkward in doing so—a stranger and all."

"Pooh!—medical men are never strangers. I am the friend of every man who requires my assistance."

"Augh!—and I do require your honour's assistance very sadly."

"Well—well—speak out. Any thing of long standing?"

"Why, only since we have been here, Sir."

"Oh, that's all! Well."

"Your honour's so good—that—won't scruple in telling you all. You sees as how we were robbed—master at least was—had some little in my pockets—but we poor servants are never too rich. You seems such a kind gentleman—so attentive to master—though you must have felt how disinterested it was to 'tend a man what had been robbed—that I have no hesitation in making bold to ask you to lend us a few guineas, just to help us out with the bill here,—bother!"

"Fellow!" said the Doctor, rising, "I don't know what you mean; but I'd have you to learn that I am not to be cheated out of my time and property. I shall insist upon being paid my bill instantly, before I dress your master's wound once more."

"Augh!" said the Corporal, who was delighted to find the Doctor come so immediately into the snare;—"won't be so cruel surely,—why, you'll leave us without a shiner to pay my host here."

"Nonsense!—Your master, if he's a gentleman, can write home for money."

"Ah, Sir, all very well to say so;—but, between you and me and the bed-post—young master's quarrelled with old master—old master won't give him a rap,—so I'm sure, since your honour's a friend to every man who requires your assistance—noble saying, Sir!—you won't refuse us a few guineas;—and as for your bill—why—"

"Sir, you're an impudent vagabond!" cried the Doctor, as red as a rose-draught, and flinging out of the room; "and I warn you, that I shall bring in my bill, and expect to be paid within ten minutes."

The Doctor waited for no answer—he hurried home, scratched off his account, and flew back with it in as much haste as if his patient had been a month longer under his care, and was consequently on the brink of that happier world, where, since the inhabitants are immortal, it is very evident that doctors, as being useless, are never admitted.

The Corporal met him as before.

"There, Sir," cried the Doctor, breathlessly, and then putting his arms akimbo, "take that to your master, and desire him to pay me instantly."

"Augh! and shall do no such thing."

"You won't?"

"No, for shall pay you myself. Where's your wee stamp—eh?"

And with great composure the Corporal drew out a well-filled purse, and discharged the bill. The Doctor was so thunderstricken, that he pocketed the money without uttering a word. He consoled himself, however, with the belief that Walter, whom he had tamed into a becoming hypochondria, would be sure to send for him the next morning. Alas, for mortal expectations!—the next morning Walter was once more on the road.