Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/391

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March 26, 1864.]



“Mr. Carlton nodded. “One of the Messrs. Grey’s patients, I suppose? Was it young Mrs. Lipscome, of the Rise?”

“No, it was not, sir; and who it was don’t matter. Whether it was a lsdy-in-waiting to Queen Victoria or a poor peasant girl, the injury’s the same. And much that rascally omnibus cares.”

“Now then! Take seats for the up-train,” cried a man, thrusting in his head.

Mrs. Smith gathered her two bundles together, and went out. And Mr. Carlton crossed to the other door, for his ear had caught the sound of carriage wheels in the distance.


Dashing up with the speed of the omnibus came an open carriage, driven by a servant in livery. The man was the same who had been so supercilious to Judith Ford at Mr. Carlton’s residence; the carriage, a light, elegant vehicle, was the same spoken of by Mrs. Gould as the “cabrioily.”

Mr. Carlton stepped out of the station as it stopped, and peered at his servant, as well as the dusky night would permit. The man had transgressed against the rules of sobriety once or twice, and his master suspected the delay might have had its rise in the same cause now. But he seemed sober enough as he jumped down.

“What were the orders you received, Evan?”

“I’m very sorry to be late, sir; I can’t in the least make out how it was,” was the deprecating answer. “When I met the umnibus a-coming back, sir, I’m sure you might have knocked me down with a feather. I know I started in time, end-”

“No lie, Evan,” quietly interrupted Mr. Carlton. “You know you did not start in time.”

He motioned the man round to the other aside, ascending himself to the driver’s seat. It was not often Mr. Carlton took the reins; perhaps he still doubted his servant’s perfect sobriety on this night.

“You have not got the lamps lighted.”

“No, sir, I thought they’d not be wanted. And they wouldn’t be, neither, but for them clouds as is obscuring of the moon.”

Mr. Carlton drove off. Not quite with the reckless speed that characterised the omnibus, but pretty fast. The light carriage had good springs; those of the omnibus had probably been gone long ago. There was one smooth bit of road about midway between the two towns, and they had reached this, and were bowling along quickly, when, without any warning, the horse started violently and fell. Mr. Carlton and his man were both thrown out, and the shafts of the carriage were broken.

It was the work of an instant. One moment spinning along the road; the next, lying on it. Mr. Carlton was the first to rise. He was certainly shaken, and one of his legs seemed not quite free from pain; but there was no material damage. What had made the horse start he could not imagine; there was nothing to cause it, so far as he could see. Mr. Carlton went to his head and strove to raise him, but it was more than he could accomplish.

“Evan,” he called out.

There was no reply. Mr. Carlton turned to look for his man, and found him lying without motion on the ground. Evan appeared to be senseless.

“Well, this is a pretty state of things!” cried the surgeon aloud.

“What’s the to-do? What’s up?” exclaimed a voice in the rear. It came from a peasant woman who was approaching a gate that led to a roadside field. And at that moment the moon came out from behind its obscuring clouds, and threw its light upon the scene.

“Are there any men about?” asked Mr. Carlton. “I must have help.”

She shook her head. “There’s nobody about but me: my husband”—pointing to a hut just inside the gate-“is down with fever. Did the horse fall? Why—goodness save us! There’s a man a-lying there!”

“I must have help,” repeated Mr. Carlton. “Neither man nor horse can lie here.”

The woman stooped over the horse. “I don’t think he’s much hurt,” she said, after touching the animal here and there. “Some of them horses be as obstinate as mules after a fall, and won’t get up till it suits ’em to do it. May-be one of his legs be sprained. What caused it, sir?”

“That’s more than I know,” was the surgeon’s answer. “He was always sure-footed until to-night. His falling is to me perfectly inexplicable.”

The woman seemed to muse. She had left the horse, and was now regarding Evan. The man lay quite still, and she raised herself again.

“I don’t like them unaccountable accidents,” she observed in dreamy tone: “them accidents that come; and nobody can tell Why. They bode ill luck.”

“They bring ill luck enough, without boding it,” returned Mr. Carlton.

“They bode it too,” said the woman, with a nod of the head. “Take care, sir, that no ill happens to you in the next few hours or few days.”

“What ill should happen to me?” asked