How I Acted for an Invalid Doctor

"How I Acted for an Invalid Doctor"  (1905) 
by Clifford Ashdown

Short story originally published in Cassell's Magazine, January 1905

By Clifford Ashdown,

Author of "The Adventures of Romney Pringle."

How I Acted for an Invalid Doctor.

a complete story.

" I THINK you'll like the berth at Crowham," said Adamson, the medical agent, as I stood in his office. "It's not a large fee, but Dr. Ringmer says there's very little doing, and if it hadn't been for his club practice he wouldn't have taken the trouble to get a locum down at all as he hopes to be up and about again in a week."

It was a curious coincidence that although I had hardly heard of the place before, on my way to Waterloo the next day I caught sight of the name on the contents bill of a newspaper. From all accounts it was far too sleepy a little town to make any figure in the world, but at the station I got an evening paper, and there it was, sure enough. It appeared there had lately been a series of burglaries in the neighbourhood, and some comment had been made on the fact that they had all taken place in the middle of the night, and not, as is usual in the case of attempts on country houses, during the dinner-hour. The burglars were believed to be members of an expert gang, and so persistent and daring had they become that a regular panic seemed to have sprung up round about the place. After all, the news did not interest me much; I had no valuables to lose. But as the train was slow, even for a southern railway, I had plenty of time to learn all that was said on the subject before I arrived at Crowham.

As there was no one to meet me at the station I left my bag in the cloak-room, and cycled up through the town. Dr. Ringmer had said, according to Adamson, that he did much of his work on a cycle, and the "C.T.C." road-book spoke highly of the going thereabouts. The station-master had directed me to the house opposite the fire-station. "You can't miss it; it's a straight road," said he. So it was, but he forgot to add that it was a sharp down-grade all the way, and although I jammed on the brake the machine nearly ran away with me, and I had shot by the fire-station before I noticed it. Something was wrong with the brake; damaged in the train, I concluded. So I dismounted at the foot of the hill, and had a weary push up again. The doctor's house contrasted with its neighbours, which were nearly all rough-cast and timbered, being of a neat red brick with a three-windowed front, the central opening on each floor a blank, reminiscent of the days of Mr. Pitt's window-tax. There was a coach-house at the side, and as I drew up a man came out and touched his forelock.

"Are you Dr. Wilkinson, sir?" as he took the machine from me. "I'd have met you at the station, but the doctor didn't know what train you were coming by."

When I got inside I was quite charmed with the house. It was such a queer old rambling place, full of long, crooked passages, with every now and then a step just when you least expected it. There could be no doubt as to its age, for the doors and windows were so palpably out of plumb as to give one the impression of a rolling ship, and I found myself straddling for my sea-legs as I stood in the middle of the consulting room. But although the floor fell uncannily it was firm as a rock, for a large safe occupied the whole of one recess by the chimney. There were plenty of bookcases about too, and while waiting I amused myself by estimating Dr. Ringmer's literary taste. It seemed to be a very light one: of medical books there were next to none, but I found any number of the latest works on general science, and an enormous quantity of fiction. In fact, novels were everywhere, and the works of Gaboriau and Boisgobey, authors whose acquaintance I had yet to make, were specially prominent.

"The doctor is sorry to have to ask you to step up to his room, but he is still rather poorly," said the housekeeper presently.

As I followed the woman upstairs I was struck with the solidity of the wood-work, but the stairs themselves were so warped, and continued to creak so long after they were trodden upon, that I twice looked back to see if someone were not following. If the house was not haunted it certainly ought to have been.

I found Dr. Ringmer in bed in a back room on the first floor. As the light from the declining sun struck in upon him I had a full view of a handsome, clean-shaven face, reminding me of a bust of one of the Roman emperors, and lying there with the neck of his sleeping-suit carelessly open, I could see he had the torso of a Hercules.

"Sorry to make you come up," he remarked pleasantly; "but I suppose you are used to mounting stairs." And he gave me a large, well-shaped hand, which gripped mine firmly. "You'll find this more like hospital work than anything else." he continued. "I've got a very small list at present, and most of those can wait until I am better. You'll principally have to see the clubbers—I hope you don't feel a draught, by the by; I always keep the windows open."

The abrupt remark made me turn to the windows, when, for the first time, I noticed a curious thing. Each was a light of twelve little old-fashioned panes, and they were flung open as far as they would go. An absolute forest of Virginia creeper and wild-rose festooned across them, and sturdy ropes had insinuated themselves between, throwing out trailers into the bed-room, while one of quite respectable size was actually extending itself along the floor. The windows must have remained open night and day for months past!

"Quite tropical, isn't it?" said Ringmer, without waiting for me to reply. "You'll find the garden pleasant to sit in, with plenty of fruit if you care for that sort of thing. Just take a look at it."

I got up and walked to the window. What a garden! There seemed no end to it. First there was a long stretch of lawn with a hot-house on one side, and grapes clustering thickly inside, and further on a mossy walk between a perfect forest of old-fashioned flowers, hollyhocks, and sunflowers and honeysuckle to any amount, and beyond them again fruit-trees. Such trees! Apple trees, pear trees, plum trees, mulberry trees, with figs, currants, and raspberry bushes between; the whole bounded, as to the side at least, for I was quite unable to see to the end, with a good honest old red-brick wall, thick and buttressed and lichenous, and it did my heart good to see how warmly it glowed in the sun. I don't know how long I remained looking in delight; I forgot that I was not alone until I heard Ringmer's voice.

"Yes, it's a glorious garden." I started, for I had said nothing, although he read my thoughts. "Yes, as you say, it's glorious," he repeated; "although you'd get very sick of it if you had to live here always."

"Never!" I exclaimed emphatically.

He smiled.

"Do you cycle?" he asked presently.

I told him how I had brought the machine down with me.

"That's right," he said. "You'll find the roads first-rate; you'd almost think they had been sand-papered; and dry as a bone too. You see, the soil is sandy, and the rain soaks in at once. By the by, you must be careful if you ride out after dark; the police are beastly keen about lamps being lit up, I can tell you. Cave—my man, you know—mostly rides my machine; I haven't been on it for a long time now."

"Have you been ill long?" I ventured to ask. The fact was I was getting desperately curious as to the nature of his complaint, and seized on the opening he gave me to ask him. Ever since I came into the room I had been watching him narrowly; but for the life of me I was unable to see the least sign of anything amiss with him.

"Oh, this cursed malaria—West Africa, you know," He pointed to the table by the bed-side, on which a large bottle of quinine tabloids was standing. "I'm better just now." Which was certainly true, for his skin was quite cool and moist when I shook hands with him.

"It's an obstinate complaint, certainly," I remarked. "You never know when the germs are going to wake up again."

"Yes, indeed it is! I took a ship out to Accra seven or eight years ago, and then was fool enough to go up country a bit. I thought I was tolerably proof, but I caught a dose of 'black water,' and very nearly joined the majority. However, I pulled through, thanks to what is known as a sound constitution." He thrust a muscular arm into the air and surveyed it absently, running a caressing finger over the cord-like muscles.

I was pondering what to say next when, "Just ring the bell, will you?" he said, adding when the housekeeper appeared, "Show Dr. Wilkinson his room, and send Cave down to the station to fetch the doctor's bag. Seven o'clock will suit you for dinner, I suppose? I'll try and have a nap now, if you'll excuse me."

My room, I found, was immediately above Ringmer's, with the same kind of creeper growing outside, but although running higher than the windows it did not obstruct them. Looking out I was able to see to the end of the garden, which was quite as wild as the part nearer to the house.

Ringmer, I discovered, was a bit of a mechanic. After dining in solitary state (a meal admirably cooked, by the way; he possessed a genius in Mrs. Carpenter!), I went to have a look at my cycle. I felt uneasy about it; to ride with a brake in that condition was to court disaster. Cave had put the machine in an outhouse where Ringmer kept his own cycle, and, better still, his lathe. I soon found the reason of the brake's failure; as I expected, the damage had been done in the railway van, the lever being bent so as to lose half its power. I have always prided myself on being a practical cyclist, so it was not long before I had the whole affair off, and a very little gentle persuasion from Ringmer's vice soon put it right again. Mrs. Carpenter saw fit to assist at the operation. I did not object, partly because I was unaware of her exact status in the establishment, partly because I am always nervous of using another man's tools, and she was witness that I did them no damage.

No patients arriving, I seized the opportunity to do one or two small jobs about the machine, straightening a bent spoke, fitting a new washer to a valve, and finally oiled the bearings; and all the time I worked Mrs. Carpenter talked. I honestly think she was about the greatest talker I have ever met. She had been told it was a very fine lathe; the ironmonger said it had cost a lot of money. My cycle must have cost a lot too. She had heard they sold for as much as five pounds in the town. The doctor used to ride out a lot on his machine; he always took it at nights, and never called up the groom. There had been a lot of night-work lately; no wonder he was laid up. He was a real clever man, and very handy with tools; many was the hour he used to spend in his workshop; and when the talk of these burglaries first came about he took and altered the locks on the consulting-room door and had a safe in, and fitted it into the wall himself, to keep his money and valuables in. Ah, he was a clever man! And then da capo with variations.

About half-way through my work I happened to drop a nut, and, of course, it must needs conceal itself in the accumulation of dust and turnings under the lathe, so that I was nearly ten minutes hunting for it. Ringmer was certainly very careless with his tools, for I raked out a new file and a perfectly good chuck from the heap, and just before I found the nut, I turned up a twisted thing, formed out of a single piece of very stout wire. I had never seen anything like it before, and it was so odd-looking that I was about to ask Mrs. Carpenter if she knew what it was used for, when it occurred to me that it was just the thing I wanted for a tyre-lever; so, telling myself that it was of no value, I put it in my tool-bag incontinently.

It was getting dark when I finished, so, Mrs. Carpenter having disappeared and patients still declining to arrive, I had a look round the business part of the premises. The consulting room I had already seen, and wondered at; but the surgery was an even greater surprise. At this distance of time I may be mistaken, but I think I was unable to count more than a dozen bottles of drugs in the place. I peeped into a cupboard, thinking that Ringmer might be morbidly sensitive on the score of poisons, but it only sheltered a few empties. On the shelf just above the desk were some four or five "stock" mixtures, and scattered about here and there in any odd corner, were a few of the commoner drugs in daily use, a mere handful, making up the bare dozen I remember. The day-book, too, was a most eccentric compilation. So far as I could understand Ringmer’s hieroglyphics, there was no record of a single prescription; indeed, it was impossible to see what work was actually done, as there was next to nothing recorded against the days, let alone the laborious nights of which Mrs. Carpenter had spoken. But if I marvelled at the drugs, I was simply astonished at the collection of instruments! I had opened several drawers without discovering more than willow chip-boxes, corks, and the odds and ends one expects to find; and there only remained to explore a mahogany nest of drawers, much neater and cleaner than anything else in the place, which stood in a dark corner. At first I thought it locked, but when I gently touched the hinged flap which secured the whole nest I found it was open. The upper and narrower drawers were filled with papers, which I was careful not to disturb; and it was not until half-way down that I came on what I was seeking. As I expected, the instruments were not in very good order; indeed, they had been grossly neglected, and I made a resolution that if the work continued as slack as it promised to be, I would put in a little time at polishing them up, and generally making them more worthy of their office. And here a most puzzling thing happened. As I have said, it was only about half-way down the drawers that the instruments began—the usual assortment of knives and general tools for minor surgical work, all in very bad condition; but when I went lower I came on the queerest-looking set of things imaginable, the like of which I had never seen outside a museum of surgical instruments, and not even there! For if they were indeed surgical they must have belonged to some dead and gone era—the Saxon Heptarchy perhaps; none but a barbarian would nowadays use such things upon a human being. They reminded me of veterinary instruments more than anything else. But those I knew they were not. I happen to know something about veterinary practice, as a fellow-student took it into his head there was more money to be made out of horses than men, and before he qualified as a "vet." I spent some very interesting mornings with him in Great College Street, Camden Town. Quite characteristically, Ringmer seemed to keep his carpentering tools mixed up with the antiquities, and I noticed some drills, and even a collar from the lathe, jumbled together with them. The oddest thing of all with such a careless man was that the queer tools had not the slightest appearance of age, but were polished spick and span, without a particle of rust; indeed, Ringmer seemed to think more of them than of his legitimate implements.

I was still puzzling over this extraordinary collection when I felt myself pushed roughly aside, and turning, saw Ringmer, who had come softly downstairs in his slippers, and was now slapping in the drawers one after another. I noticed particularly that, whether from agitation or fever, he was shaking all over.

"I shall be much obliged," he said, speaking in a high, sharp voice, quite unlike his previous cool manner, "I shall be much obliged if, while you're down here, you won't go prying about."

I thought this a most ungentlemanly thing to say, and I took care to let him see I was offended.

"I am not in the habit of prying about, Dr. Ringmer, and I have never been accused of such a thing before in my life! I was simply taking a look round the surgery, and found the instrument drawers unlocked."

"Well, I ask your pardon for what I said, but I keep some most important document in these drawers, and I was upset at finding them open. I am feeling queer, and I really came down for the 'nepenthe.'" He carefully locked the flap-shutter, and then, taking the bottle from the shelf, poured a dose into a glass measure. "I hope you will make allowances for my miserable condition!" he said, and then disappeared silently with the draught.

Perhaps I am unduly sensitive, but, in spite of his apology, I still felt annoyed, and as there was nothing doing, I went and sat in a basket-chair in the garden to cool down a bit, and lighted a pipe and watched the stars come out; but I could not get over it. No doubt Ringmer felt seedy, but such a speech was quite uncalled for, and I was still thinking of it when ten o’clock struck, and I came in and went to bed.

As a rule, I sleep soundly and dream seldom. But I suppose I was worried by the disagreeable events of the evening, for I continued to have queer dreams: as that Ringmer was seizing me in his muscular arms; now I thought he was throttling me, another time that he was boring into me with one of those strange tools of his, and
"'Sorry to make you come up.'" (p. 254).

again that I was bound to his lathe and was being whirled round and round upon it. At last I began to dream that Ringmer was creeping in at the window with a tool in his hand to brain me as I slept, and that time I woke. As I sat up with the idea vividly in my recollection I distinctly heard the creeper rustling, as if someone were climbing up it, and I sprang out of bed and peered over the sill, for I had followed Ringmer's example, and had opened both windows as wide as they would go. There was a faint light in the east, and I was able to see things fairly. Not a sound could I hear, but I was positive that the lower branches of the creeper were quivering, and a trailer or two on Ringmer's level were swinging, although there was not the ghost of a wind. Cats, I told myself; their flirtations had been going on all around me the whole time I sat in the garden.

I was roused again by a steam-saw getting to work in a timber yard. It was a glorious morning, and the sun was pouring into the room, so I got up and dressed and went down through the still sleeping house into the garden. At a nearer view it was not quite so attractive. The grass was long and in seed; the paths, too, sadly required weeding, and a number of sturdy wild flowers had sown themselves and were spreading in all directions; all the same, it was a very fine garden, and I calculated there must have been the best part of an acre within the walls. At the far end I discovered a door. The wood was very rotten and shaky, and at first I hesitated to draw the bolt, so rusty and stiff did it look; but it shot back easily, and I found myself standing in a narrow way which curved round to join the high road lower down. As I closed the door again I noticed the tracks of a cycle leading into the garden. They were quite fresh on the damp ground, and I recognised the pattern of Ringmer's tyres. Strolling back, I looked in at the outhouse; there were the two cycles just as I had left them last evening; but on glancing at Ringmer's tyres I saw patches of quite fresh mud upon them—indeed, in places it was still wet. Over in the stable Cave was whistling softly as he groomed the horse.

"Did it rain in the night?" I said, leaning over the half-door.

"There was a bit of a sprinkle, I think, sir."

"Weren't you out in it, then?"

“Me, sir? Not I, thank goodness!"

"But didn't you take the cycle out?"

"Cycle out?" he repeated, eyeing me sharply. "I took no cycle out."

I thought it best to change the subject.

"Roads are very good about here, aren't they?" I suggested.

"Very good indeed, sir."

As I went in to breakfast I wondered at the man's denial. The cycle had certainly been used, and no one but he could have ridden it. Why, then, did he lie about such a trifle?

"How is the doctor this morning?" I inquired as Mrs. Carpenter brought in the breakfast.

"He's doing nicely, thank you, sir, and will be glad to see you when you've done."

I found Ringmer as genial as ever, and he made no allusion to the affair of the instrument cabinet. He had had a splendid night after the "Nepenthe," he said, and thought if the work continued slack he would run down to Brighton for a week. There would be only one patient for me to visit, so far as he knew—the wife of the sergeant in charge of the police station; he had not seen her for a couple of days, and she was doing so well then that I should probably be able to strike her off the list altogether. I could cycle there; it was only just at the other end of the town.

It occurred to me then to mention the cycle track I had seen at the gate. I felt that I ought to let him know, for if he went off as he proposed, I should be in a way responsible for the household. I was sorry I did so, however, for I had hardly spoken when he raised his fist, clenched tightly, and seemed about to flare out with something; but the mood passed, and he treated the matter lightly.

"Oh, it's that fellow Cave again," he laughed. "The fact is he's after a girl at one of the houses in the neighbourhood, and since I gave him permission to use the cycle I suppose he finds it handy for a little early spooning; but he's a faithful servant, and as good a fellow as ever stepped."

Although no one could have been more civil, it struck me that his manner was rather constrained after this; it might simply have been a reflection of his annoyance with Cave, although I thought he resented my interference. Anyhow, it was no further concern of mine.

One or two "clubbers" arrived after breakfast, whom I religiously dosed from the stock mixtures. Poor creatures, their faith in drugs was greater than mine! It was nearing eleven when I started out on my visit to the police station. Crowham, I found, was not quite so small as it appeared at first. The principal street had numerous side ones branching off it, and turning up one I stumbled on the quaintest old market square. Here there was a curious round structure with benches running all round it for the village gossips to foregather—the 'cage,' as I learnt, now obsolete. Its successor was at the farther end of the town, and when I got there I found that Ringmer's forecast was correct, and that the patient would need little more attention. I had stood my cycle in the front garden of the little red-brick building, almost too pretty for a police station, and when I came out I was disgusted to find that the back tyre was nearly flat, the valve washer I had put in over-night having failed me. The sergeant, a true cyclist, lent a ready hand, and between us we soon had the machine upside down, when I found, in addition, a thorn sticking tightly in the rubber. I was commencing to remove the tyre with my fingers when I suddenly remembered my new lever, and fished it out of the tool-bag. The weather was warm, so I was not long waiting for the patch to stick; but when I had replaced the tyre I found that the reason the sergeant had left me to do the latter part of the process unassisted was his curious interest in my lever, which he was still examining intently.

"This is a queer sort of a tool," he remarked at last.

"Yes," said I. "Did you ever see one like it before?"

"Where did you come across it?" he asked, ignoring my question.

"In Crowham." I began to be impatient, and the sergeant’s manner was just a trifle inquisitorial.

"Look here, sir," he continued apologetically; "I don't want to say anything to offend you, but do you mind telling me where you got it? It's not from curiosity I ask."

"In Dr. Ringmer's workshop, if you must know."

He handed me back the lever without another word. But my own curiosity was raised, and I began to ask questions in my turn.

"Do you mind telling me what there is about it that interests you so much?"

He stepped back, and shut the door of the police station before he answered, in a low voice:

"If you'd found it anywhere else than where you did, sir, I should have said it was a picklock." I suppose I must have looked my amazement, for he added emphatically, "I should, sir!"

Our conversation was cut short by the arrival of a constable with a sheaf of papers, and as I rode off I smiled to think what a mountain the man's professional instinct had raised from such a molehill. No doubt it was a picklock, since he said so; but what then? Ringmer was a mechanic, as I knew; and had not Mrs. Carpenter spoken of his skill as a locksmith?

When I got back I found a far more important matter to think about. An urgent call had arrived from Paddenswick Castle; Ringmer seemed very excited over it, and, I learnt, had asked for me a dozen times.

"Look here!" he commenced, the moment I entered the room. "The Duke of Hammersmith is my best patient. It's just my luck to be laid up when I'm wanted—most likely he's got D.T. There's a strain of hereditary alcoholism in the family, and he was drinking like a fish last week. You know, by the by, that there's no such thing in private practice, don't you?"

"Brain fever, you mean," I answered promptly.

"That's it. Well, you'll have to be as tactful as you can with the Duchess, who'll probably have hysteria if she finds the Duke has got 'em again. You know what hysteria is, too, I suppose?"

"Influenza."

"Good; you know more about private practice than I gave you credit for. Well, hurry up, for goodness sake."

On the way out Cave dilated on the magnificence of Paddenswick; how the Duke had nearly drunk himself to death (a fact which seemed quite common property) until he married Miss Hepzibah Mudross, daughter of the millionaire ironmaster of Pittsburg, U.S.A., and reformed; how the Duchess's diamonds were the talk of the country, and how she had so many that she even wore them in bed; and how a rumour had filtered through the police station that the house had been attempted by the burglars only last night. I asked him at length how he came to know so much about the family, and he answered—rather sheepishly, as I thought—that he knew one of the servants, at which I smiled.

When we arrived at the Castle I was hurried across a vast mausoleum of a hall and up a staircase, lined with portraits of dead and gone Hammersmiths, into a boudoir, where I found an agitated lady who nasally demanded the reason of Dr. Ringmer's absence. It was a hard task to explain matters, and a harder still to retain my footing. Indeed, just how I did it I cannot explain now, but whether through impudence or diplomacy I gradually led her on to a relation of the patient's symptoms, and was standing by his bedside within a quarter of an hour of my arrival.

There was no doubt about the "brain fever"; it was as bad a case as could well be. His Grace was struggling with four men-servants, who had all their work cut out to keep him on the bed; while as to his language, it was calculated to make a pirate quail. There was only one thing to be done, so I waited until he had quieted down a bit, and then gave him a hypodermic injection of morphia. When I got away after a stay of over three hours he was enjoying the first sleep he had had for nearly a week.

After dinner, while I was smoking in the garden, Ringmer sent down for some "Nepenthe," and when I took it up I told him all about the morning's adventures. He smacked his lips as much over the big fee he expected to get, perhaps, as over the "Nepenthe," and leaving him a dose for the night, I turned in myself, horribly tired.

It seemed as if I had only just closed my eyes when the night-bell went off with the dismal cracked note of all its tribe—well do I know the sound! The speaking-tube was in Ringmer's room, so I had to go downstairs to the door. It was the Duke again. I could have sworn it.

As I passed Ringmer's door I listened a second, and thought I detected a snore. I was glad he had not been roused, thanks to the "Nepenthe." I had no wish to
"I joined the police sergeant and half a dozen of his men."
disturb Cave; besides, I knew the way now, so I took out the cycle, and lighting my lamp, got away through the garden-door without disturbing anybody.

I found the Duke very much awake; the "brain-fever" had returned, so the Duchess informed me. Her confidence in me was obviously shaken, and I had to begin nearly all over again from the point I had started from in the morning. In the intervals of about an hour’s catechism from the Duchess I had managed to get the Duke quieted down at last, and was congratulating myself on being able to make my escape, when a tremendous uproar arose on the discovery that the Duchess's apartments had been broken into. Most of the feminine portion of the household were in hysterics, but I was delighted to see that their mistress was too much concerned as to her jewellery to follow their example. As there was nothing more I could do, and as the Duchess in her excitement seemed not only to have forgotten her husband but myself as well, I seized the opportunity to retire quietly.

At the door I found my friend the police-sergeant, and stayed a moment to inquire as to the truth of what I had heard inside. He was too busy to say much, but I gathered that his men had been watching the mansion since the night before, that they had sighted one of the burglars, and were now in pursuit of him across the opposite side of the park.

I must have ridden about a third of the way back when I was startled by something whizzing by me, and as it entered a patch of moonlight in front I saw a cyclist going at a tremendous pace, without a lamp; he was not one of the police, for I was just able to notice that he had no uniform. I at once thought of the burglar, and sprinted after him. I was faster than he, and as I put on the pace I soon caught sight of him again, and, despite his furious riding, began to overhaul him. The road was tolerably straight, and unless he managed to dodge up a side turning I felt sure of him, as mine was clearly the swifter machine; but looking back in the light of calm reflection, I am by no means certain at the present time as to what would have happened had I managed to catch up to him. But I was too excited to think, and faster and faster the trees flew by as the distance between us shortened, until I could even catch the sound of laboured breathing as the humped figure in front of me ate up the miles that lay between him and safety. Suddenly he gave a lurch to one side, and in the same breath seemed to collapse like an accordion, the whole thing being so instantaneous that at the rate I was travelling I was right on to him before I quite realised what had happened. With the inevitable collision uppermost in my mind, I instinctively wrenched at the handle-bar, mounted the bank at one side of the road, shot off again, and in another second had crashed into the opposite hedge, and was taking a header into the cornfield beyond.

By the time I had collected my wits, had scrambled to my feet, and hauled the cycle out of the hedge, I heard a murmur of voices and saw lights flitting about the road.

I crawled into it, and joined the police sergeant and half a dozen of his men, excitedly gathered around the body of the fugitive. His fork-crown had given way, and although like a good rider he still grasped his handles, I saw at a glance by the unnatural twist of his neck that it was broken. As one of the men turned him over, and the light fell upon his face, we gave a simultaneous shout, for there, among the sparkling contents of a shattered jewel-case, lay Dr. Ringmer!

Of course there was an inquest, and I was deputed by the coroner to make the post-mortem examination. My fees for the same I handed to Cave as a wedding gift, and as there was no chance of getting anything from Ringmer's representatives, I had quite made up my mind to cycle back to town as poor as I arrived, but as I packed up I was handed a note enclosing a very handsome cheque, with some complimentary expressions. Both were signed "Hepzibah Hammersmith."

Dr. Ringmer was at once credited with the whole series of Crowham burglaries—whether justly or not I cannot say, but at any rate they abruptly ceased. With regard to the final one, my own theory is that he had planned it long beforehand, and (knowing the ducal failing) that my engagement and his own assumed illness were all part of an elaborate scheme, which but for a mere accident would have succeeded to admiration. The collection of "instruments" which had puzzled me so much is now, I believe, in the "Black Museum" at Scotland Yard.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1926.


The author died in 1943, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 75 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.