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About the Book


Beryl Rosslyn Aylmer, known from childhood as Bride, is suffering from seizures. Her young brother, Bonny, calls in Dr. Gildredge, but quickly realises he has made a mistake, for he takes an immediate dislike to the man. Dr. Gildredge is determined to become famous throughout Europe, and diagnoses a rare condition in Bride that he will attempt to treat, and write about it in the medical journals -- whether she recovers or not. Dr, Gildredge soon sees that the only way to keep control of Bride's treatment is to persuade her to marry him, and also stop young Bonny from seeing her. As is to be expected, the outcome is far from straightforward. This story by Margaret S Haycraft is a very readable mix of romance and revenge.


Sister Royal

Margaret S. Haycraft

1855-1936


White Tree Publishing

Abridged Edition


Original book first published 1899


This abridged edition ©Chris Wright 2018


eBook ISBN: 978-1-912529-03-2


Published by

White Tree Publishing

Bristol

UNITED KINGDOM


wtpbristol@gmail.com


Full list of books and updates on

www.whitetreepublishing.com



Sister Royal is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.


All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this abridged edition.


Table of Contents


Cover


About the Book


Author Biography


Note


Chapter 1


Chapter 2


Chapter 3


Chapter 4


Chapter 5


Chapter 6


Chapter 7


Chapter 8


Chapter 9


Chapter 10


Chapter 11


Chapter 12


Chapter 13


Chapter 14


Chapter 15


Chapter 16


More Books from White Tree Publishing


About White Tree Publishing


Christian non-fiction


Christian Fiction


Books for Younger Readers




Author Biography


Margaret Scott Haycraft was born Margaret Scott MacRitchie at Newport Pagnell, England in 1855. She married William Parnell Haycraft in 1883 and wrote mostly under her married name. In 1891 she was living in Brighton, on the south coast of England, and died in Bournemouth, also on the south coast, in 1936. She also wrote under her maiden name of Margaret MacRitchie. Margaret Haycraft is currently our most popular author of fiction.

Margaret was a contemporary of the much better-known Christian writer Mrs. O. F. Walton. Both ladies wrote Christian stories for children that were very much for the time in which they lived, with little children often preparing for an early death. Mrs. Walton wrote three romances for adults (with no suffering children, and now published by White Tree in abridged versions). Margaret Haycraft concentrated mainly on books for children. However, she later wrote several romances for older readers. Unusually for Victorian writers, the majority of Margaret Haycraft's stories are told in the present tense.

Both Mrs. Walton's and Margaret Haycraft's books for all ages can be over-sentimental, referring throughout, for example, to a mother as the dear, sweet mother, and a child as the darling little child. In our abridged editions overindulgent descriptions of people have been shortened to make a more robust story, but the characters and storyline are always unchanged. Eliza Kerr is another Victorian writer whose stories deserve to be republished, and White Tree Publishing is releasing several of her books in abridged form.

A problem of Victorian writers is the tendency to insert intrusive comments concerning what is going to happen later in the story. Today we call them spoilers. They are usually along the lines of: "Little did he/she know that...." I have removed these when appropriate.

£100 in 1899 may not sound much, but in income value it is worth £12,000 pounds today (about US$15,000). I mention this in case the sums of money in this book sound insignificant!

Chris Wright

Editor



NOTE

There are 16 chapters in this book. In the last third are advertisements for our other books, so the story may end earlier than expected! The last chapter is marked as such. We aim to make our eBooks free or for a nominal cost, and cannot invest in other forms of advertising. However, word of mouth by satisfied readers will also help get our books more widely known. When the story ends, please take a look at what we publish: Christian non-fiction, Christian fiction, and books for younger readers.


Chapter 1


Stephen Gildredge M.D.

"Take my advice, Master Bonny, and call in the new young doctor from Sycamore Villa. He's got a long string of letters after his name, and folks say he's a wonderful hand at operating and using of the knife."

"But he won't use any knife to Bride. He isn't going to hurt her, is he, Mrs. Corbell?"

"Bless you, no, my dear. Nobody's a-going to use no knife to your sister. Don't you be frightened, Master Bonny. But Corbell is quite of my opinion that it's your duty to have medical advice, notwithstanding as Miss Bride herself has objections, knowing the medical man expects his fee; and well we know doctors has to live, my dear, the same as the rest of us."

"I wish old Dr. Downley hadn't gone away, Mrs. Corbell."

"Him as attended your poor ma, my dear? You wouldn't have him working for ever, would you, and him in his eighty-second year? Seeing the old gentleman's retired, it seems to me we'd better put the case in the hands of Dr. Gildredge, for he's clever, though abrupt. Wonderful good he did to Johnnie Ward's inside, to be sure. Number 15, across the way, my dear -- and that not three months ago."

"You see, Mrs. Corbell," said the boy, thoughtfully, "there isn't one of father's pictures left now, and I don't believe Bride's got any money to pay doctors. But there's my bright shilling that you gave me at Christmas for doing the errands. Won't that be enough if he comes just only once?"

"Doctors' charges varies considerably," said the landlady, shaking her head. "Leppard & Holman is seven-and-six a visit, but then they drives a pair, and none but the quality sends for them. Of course, my dear, Miss Bride could be out-patient at the hospital, but the hours wouldn't suit, for it's just her teaching time. Or you could have Mr. Neary, as is parish, but I've never forgot how sharp he spoke to my Preddy when groaning with colic, blessed lamb, last Michaelmas. I can't recommend his manners, and the drop of peppermint as I give the dear babe did more good, I warrant, than his nasty powders."

"He shan't come to Bride, Mrs. Corbell. Nobody unkind shall be my sister Bride's doctor."

"Of course not, deary," said the good woman, looking admiringly at the glowing face, earnest and resolute, upturned to her own. "Not but what I hear the new young man at Sycamore Villa is a bit sharp and abrupt, but we've got to remember that he's a beginner, and so it's likely he'll be cheap. I've no doubt he'll do wonders for Miss Bride, my dear, and we'll manage to pay his little bill -- Corbell and I. We both feels the sooner Miss Bride sees a medical man the better. We don't like the looks of the poor young creature, and where's her appetite, Master Bonny? She don't eat enough for to nourish a fly that's well and hearty."

"I'll go at once, Mrs. Corbell," said Bonny Aylmer. "She's only got me, you know, in all the wide world now, and I mean to look after her. She shall have a real clever doctor, though I have to take out every penny I've got in my moneybox."

"Bless the boy!" said motherly Mrs. Corbell, watching eight-year-old Bonny striding with decision down the street. "Troubles has come to the little chap early, hut once Miss Bride gets back her strength, things will brighten for the two of them. I don't understand them fainting fits, though as Mrs. Collier with her own lips said to me yesterday evening, they're a deal too much like them trances as we reads about in the newspapers, as folks falls into in foreign parts. I always had a horror of them trances, and I don't know but what I'll leave Corbell instructions for to have me cremated when I passes hence. As Corbell often says, it don't matter what becomes of the body when the soul's out of it. But, then, there's the expense. I've heard tell it costs a goodish bit, and I wouldn't like to deprive the little ones of what I've put by for them, the dears, in the Post Office."

Meanwhile Bonny Aylmer hurried along towards Sycamore Villa, Tydebridge. He soon distinguished the doctor's house, detached in a semi-detached neighbourhood, and bearing itself with an air of gentility between the abode of the local rate collector and that of the registrar of marriages.

The large door at Sycamore Villa had no less than five bells, marked respectively, "Surgery," "Night," "Visitors," "Servants," "Trades people and Parcels." It was further adorned by a shining brass plate, and a red lamp that at eventide gave a glimmer of brightness to the most sedate-looking of the dwellings in a somewhat cheerless road.

Bonny searched carefully among the bells, and meaning to ring "Surgery," which was out of order, announced himself with clamorous electric resonance as "Trades People and Parcels."

A small red-haired maiden appeared in the area, and, seeing him empty-handed, told him, "You'd better not come here playing tricks with Dr. Gildredge's bell. Dr. Gildredge had a boy reprimanded at the police court only yesterday for aiming at his red lamp, and next time, they told him, it would be a fine. Dr. Gildredge isn't the sort to stand any nonsense, and boys is a great nuisance, playing in the road and interrupting of him in his studies."

The little girl was so small that Bonny was quite struck to hear the flow of language. "My sister's ill, if you please," he said, politely, "and I want to see the doctor."

"Ring 'Night,'" she said, disappearing into the lower regions. "'Surgery's' broke -- by Mrs. Tomlin, what rang to tell the doctor as how Jimmy Tomlin had got a marble into his nose."

Bonny rang "Night," and the front door flew open, revealing the doctor's manservant, between whom and Bonny there was recognition, but who, deeply conscious of livery, assumed an air of patronage, and graciously invited the visitor into the consulting room.

"No, thank you, Teddy," said Bonny, "I'm quite well myself. At least, I had a cold, but Bride got me some liquorice, and I'm nearly cured. I have come to say my sister Bride, Miss Aylmer you know, 11, North Terrace, at Mr. Corbell's, who works at the Stores----"

"Will you please to make an entry in the address book?" asked the fourteen-year-old footman, as though already too heavily oppressed mentally by the vast area of his employer's practice. Bonny wrote slowly and in round, clear hand: "If you please, Dr. Gildredge, come as soon as possibul to my sister Bride, at 11, North Terrace, and I, Reginald Frank Aylmer, will pay your fea."

"I'm in the third standard now, Teddy," he remarked, confidentially, as he handed back the book. But Teddy was debarred from social communications in that hall of learning by the dignity of office, and by the consciousness that the door of the consulting room stood ajar.

"Shut the front door, Coley," called an authoritative voice. "Let the boy leave his message and go."

Dr. Gildredge was deep just then in a German treatise on catalepsy, and the murmur of the boyish voices disturbed the workings of his brain.

Coley received the book from Bonny with a bow, and the child left, much awed by his livery and the calm polish and dignity of his bearing.

Nevertheless the heart was sore and anxious, and something inside Bonny's throat was so greatly swollen that he had to blink hard to keep back the tears of dread and suspense. What would Dr. Gildredge tell him when he had seen his sister Bride -- his precious sister, who seemed wasting away to a shadow, and on whom fell these strange, terrible faints that people whispered were the beginning of the end? Would she -- brave, busy, always cheerful, tender, and self-forgetting -- have a long illness like "mother," an illness that would end----?

No, Bonny refused to believe it. He clenched his hands and shook his head, putting away the thought of trouble to come.

"God won't take Bride away from me," he said to himself. "Dad has gone and Mother has gone, He wouldn't take Sis away, He couldn't. I'll go and get her a banana with my halfpenny. Sometimes she eats fruit when she doesn't care for her meals, and a banana's very nice when it hasn't gone bad."

Dr. Gildredge came early in the afternoon to 11, North Terrace. The young practitioner, determined in coming days to be known far and wide, and resolved already that the front rank of the profession should be his if stern hard work and tireless research could reach it, had only resided a few months in Tydebridge, and possessed no practice at all compared with that of the other doctors of the popular, busy country town. But his personality, and two or three cures of specially intricate cases, were gradually telling upon Tydebridge opinion.

"He's a bit of a bear," said some, "but the cleverest of the lot. None of the others have Gildredge's qualifications."

"Wonderfully clever, but not at all gentlemanly," said some of the Tydebridge ladies, and then it would be added that his brusque, uncourtly ways were not to be wondered at. Did not his father marry his cook or scullery maid or somebody? It must be a great drawback to the young fellow that his mother was not a lady -- not one that Tydebridge could be expected to call upon.

"Yes, my dear," said old Miss Elizabeth Balmer, of The Grange, to Mrs. Savory, of Tydebridge Manor, "they come from Northpoint, where Cousin Selina lives, you know, so I am well informed concerning them. One would like to have called -- but really, she was his cook, you know, his general servant, indeed, for the old gentleman was a sad failure professionally, and always poor. Cousin Selina says he meant to write a book on 'Nerve Roots' --- or some similar subject -- and he was making notes for it all his life. They lived in a ruin of a house, and the woman, who idolised him and thought him the greatest genius of the age, used to take in sewing to keep the boy at the grammar school. Cousin Selina says he was always as sharp as a needle, complaining when he was a little fellow that they did not give him lessons long enough. Think of that! And he went to the Medical College entirely on his scholarships."

"Poor young man!" said Mrs. Savory. "His mother will always be a social drawback to him, yet one must admire his chivalry in keeping her in his home."

Dr. Gildredge was received in North Terrace by Bonny, who was away from the Board school that afternoon by special permission. Bonny politely attempted to shake hands, and received the doctor's hat and stick, eagerly trying to tell him about Bride's strange fainting fits, and how he was Bride's only relation, and yet Bride wouldn't obey him and stop teaching till she got well again. Perhaps, if the doctor advised her...."

But Dr. Gildredge brushed him impatiently aside, and Bonny took a dislike to him on the spot. They faced each other for a moment -- the boy excited, impetuous, trying to hide the tears that kept stealing to dim the brightness of his gaze; and Stephen Gildredge, with fair, straight hair, keen cold eyes of grey, and clever, authoritative face, whereon Bonny, trying with timid heartbeats to read his expression, could find no gleam of sympathy or compassion.

"How I wish I'd had the great fat man that goes to No. 10!" thought Bonny, in self-reproach for bringing aught ungentle near the life he loved the best. "I hate this Dr. Gildredge -- he's horrid; and he shan't have the bright shilling. No, I'll change it at the milk shop for the dullest one they've got."

"Where is the patient?" asked the doctor. Nothing annoyed him more than to feel the value of his time insufficiently appreciated.

"If you please, sir," said Mrs. Corbell, advancing from the kitchen regions, "the young lady's in the front attic, what's their parlour since they give up the drawing room floor, as Mr. Aylmer took when they first come here."

"What is amiss with the patient?"

"It's the faintnesses, sir. They grows upon her. She lies for hours like as if she was dead, for all the world like a trance."

"A trance? Nonsense! Nothing of the sort."

"Well, sir, of course you'll know just what's wrong with poor Miss Aylmer, for it's well known in the Terrace what a cure you made of the little boy at No. 15. It's spoke of to this day, and Corbell and me, we felt anxious Miss Bride should be seen by one as is making such a name for himself in the place. But Miss Bride do fall into a trance, sir -- it's that and nothing else, if you was to carry me to the stake the next moment for saying of it."

"Is the patient hysterical? How old is she? How does she earn her living?"

"She's nineteen, Doctor, and she's a teacher. She knows a wonderful deal of book-learning. But she's never been in no hysterics all the three year they've lodged under my roof. She's one of the quiet sort -- a gentle-spoken young lady, one anybody might take to, and it do seem sad to see her fading away like a poor broken lily that's blown upon by the cold winds of autumn."

"What did Miss Aylmer's parents die of?" asked the doctor, nipping impatiently the poetic turn to the conversation.

"Well, sir," said Mrs. Corbell, subduing her voice as they neared the attic, "her pa were an invalid as long as I knew him. He were an artist, and I've heard say wonderful talented, but he were quite a cripple with rheumatic fever, sir, which it isn't to be expected as them artists can sit on camp stools in damp fields and among the marshes a-painting of the cattle, and not feel it afterwards in their bones. And her poor ma -- quite the lady, sir, and as like Miss Bride as ever you could wish to see -- she just seemed to pine away in grief for him after he were took. I'm sure if anything were to happen to Corbell -- and we married eleven year next Lady-day----"

"Then the patient had a long time of sick-nursing?"

"She did, sir, and it's that and the strain of anxiousness and want as have broken her down. Then, six weeks ago come Wednesday, she had a bit of a fright."

"Was that the beginning of these attacks?"

"I think the fainting fits come on about that time, sir. She were alone in a big house in the Crescent. The maids was out, and her pupil had gone shopping, and Miss Aylmer was a-waiting for her to come in. Well, there was a knock at the door, and Miss Bride opens it, and in steps two men sharp-like. Miss Bride was so startled she cried out, she thought they was going to attack her. One of the stupid creatures says, 'You may scream, miss, but here we means to stay.' Why couldn't they speak up quick and tell her they was bailiffs taking possession of the place for debt? She did look bad when she come home, it give her quite a turn. Ah, fright's got a lot to answer for, and I dare say it's told on her in her weak state. She don't eat nothing, Doctor. She's had nothing today but a cup of tea."

"Tea? Poison! Ruinous to the system!"

"Which it's well known, Doctor, a cup of tea's wonderful refreshing, and as to poison, that depends on how it's made, and if the poor young lady fancies it. ... Ah, Miss Aylmer, my dear, here's the new doctor from Sycamore Villa come to see you, which Corbell and me took the liberty to advise Master Bonny to fetch, seeing as how you did ought to be seen, my dear, by a medical man."

The girl, who was poring over a pile of sum papers on the table, looked surprised and a little reluctant. Mrs. Corbell rightly surmised she was reflecting upon the condition of her purse.

"I did not know my little brother had been to you, Dr. Gildredge," she said. "I am only tired. I am getting better. It was really not needful to trouble you to call."

The doctor's keen eye took in what he knew to be the beginning of the inevitable. He looked at the girl -- faded, white, thin, worn-out -- and wondered what they had been about not to seek medical aid in time.

"This must stop," he said, pushing the school papers away. "You must have rest, fresh air, and nourishing food -- no tea, mind," with a warning glance at the landlady. "You had better get a letter for a seaside or country home, but your strength must be built up before you are fit for travelling."

"I cannot give up my teaching, Doctor, even for a few weeks," she said, quietly. "It is my living, and my brother's."

The doctor was about to remark the Charity Organisation Society or the parish authorities might render some help to Bonny during her illness, when a strange thing happened, and he recognised, not without complacency, that he was dealing with a highly interesting case -- a similar one to that which had of late brought a fellow practitioner prominently before the scientific world. He saw before him a long vista of letters to the medical press. With her face turned to him, and her remark to him scarcely ended, Bride had suddenly become still as marble. She had sunk into what seemed like coma, though of breathing there seemed scarcely a sign.


Chapter 2


"All To Her Advantage."

"It's one of them trances," cried Mrs. Corbell, with a look of fright. "Don't she look for all the world, sir, like a marble statue? Poor dear young lady! Her limbs is that stiff as though she was a lifeless corpse. Miss Bride, my dear, try to rouse yourself, there's a dear young lady. Try to open your eyes and give us some sign you're not departed. Think of Master Bonny, and rouse yourself, there's a dear, good soul. What's to be done, Doctor? She's made me promise as we won't give her spirits, being teetotal, and Master Bonny too."

"The first thing to be done is to stop chattering," said Dr. Gildredge, "and the second is to send that boy I saw downstairs with this note to the Nurses' Institute. Someone capable and sensible must be in charge of this case at once.. Ask for Nurse Stracey."

Her indignation having dissolved in tears of concern for Bride and Bonny, Mrs. Corbell despatched the boy on his errand, and in about half-an-hour an important-looking personage, with dainty cap and neat uniform, was keeping Mrs. Corbell busy in procuring various articles from the kitchen, and rearranging Bride's room with a sofa-bed for the nurse.

"It is a case of catalepsy," Dr. Gildredge told the nurse, "but that in itself is, of course, not dangerous. There are, however, serious complications, and the patient's strength is at a low ebb. I shall want you regularly to take notes for me of the various changes and symptoms. I asked for you, if possible, having heard you nursed a cataleptic case before."

"Yes, Dr. Gildredge, a young woman in Kensington. Her attacks would last for days together, but in the end she became epileptic."

"Ah, it sometimes ends that way, but it will not be so in this case," replied the doctor.

All this time he and Nurse Stracey were busily engaged in trying to administer restoratives to Bride, and in using various means to restore animation.

"I doubt if she'll recover, Dr. Gildredge. She's naught but skin and bone. It looks to me like a case of wasting away," said the nurse.

"Permit the physician to judge as to the nature of the case," he answered, politely; "and as to recovery, the nurse is to expect that, and to work for it."

"Of all the conceited young fellows!" thought Nurse Stracey, disdainfully. She was herself somewhat dignified, but the self-importance of Dr. Gildredge made her feel some sympathy with Bonny, who had crept into the room and was rubbing his sister's hands, glancing now and then at the doctor, as though heartily desiring his absence.

"Begging your pardon, Doctor," said the nurse, presently, "but I've heard of this young lady as a teacher, and I'm sure they'd take her in at the dispensary. Wouldn't that save her pocket a good deal, Dr. Gildredge?"

"Is she in a fit condition to be moved?" asked the doctor.

He did not intend this rare and interesting case to pass out of his treatment. Nervous and mental cases were his specialty, but only once before had he been brought into personal contact with undoubted catalepsy, and the patient had recovered too soon to give much opportunity for study.

"Oh, don't let Bride be taken away!" cried Bonny, looking pleadingly, not at Dr. Gildredge, but at the nurse. "All, all you charge for her, ma'am, you shall be paid. I am going to be a great artist, and earn thousands and thousands of pounds one day for my sister Bride."

"Well, well, young lad," said Nurse Stracey, "your sister will not be taken away against the doctor's wish, of course. Now you must be a good boy and keep quiet, or I shall have to lock the door against you, you know."

Bonny said no more. He was beginning to feel helpless and powerless, so much worse, so much weaker had Bride evidently become. Hitherto he had cherished a sort of pride in knowing Bride had none but himself to look after her -- that he, when he grew up, was to make her rich and fortunate and happy, and they would keep house together in a lovely home, such as in one of his picture books, which the Prince provided as the residence of Cinderella.

That home seemed tumbling to ruins now. His heart grew chill with the dread that Bride was not going to recover, that she would never live to wear the silken gowns he had envisioned for her, riding behind the long-tailed ponies of his dreams.

"Mrs. Corbell," said the boy that night, when the kind-hearted landlady had insisted on his taking his bread-and-milk supper by the kitchen fire, "I think I ought to tell you something. I don't know if your children ought to play with me, but I can't help it, really. Mrs. Corbell, I'm a murderer."

"My dear lamb, don't talk so dreadful. You needs a good sleep, my dear. You've been worrying so over poor Miss Bride, and no wonder. Get your supper, and get to bed, there's a man."

"But I am a murderer, Mrs. Corbell. People who hate other people are murderers in their hearts, you know, and I hate and detest and abominate that Dr. Gildredge with all my heart."

"Don't say that, Master Bonny. He's very clever, and he's going to cure your poor sister, you know."

"No, he isn't. I believe she's going to die, and I wish I'd have gone to someone kind. There's lots of kind doctors, and I went and got a nasty, ugly, horrid, unkind, cruel one!"

"That isn't just, Master Bonny. Dr. Gildredge is not cruel. I own he's a bit wanting in sympathy, but then he's young, and it's only through going through a good deal ourselves that we learn to care about what others has to bear. Of course, some folks have kinder natures than others. Doctors as a rule is wonderful kind, and what they goes through in the way of hard work no money pays them for, it seems to me. It's only now and then one comes across one who's ... who's a bit sharp-spoken, like this Dr. Gildredge. Bless you, he don't mean nothing by it, and we'll be singing his praises soon for doing Miss Bride good. And you must get them unkind thoughts out of your mind, my lamb. Them ain't words and thoughts as would please your dear mother that's gone to Heaven, you know."

She gathered the boy into her arms, as she would have comforted one of her own flock. There Bonny cried himself into forgetfulness and sleep at last, while his sister lay still in the trance-like condition that caused even the nurse to wonder at times if she were still alive; and Dr. Gildredge went through certain notes of his father's, made with infinite pains and research, on the subject of catalepsy, and came to the mental conclusion that Bride Aylmer might have recovered had she not so spent her powers and strength that vitality within her seemed well-nigh exhausted.

This was the beginning of the study of a case in which he became intensely interested and absorbed. He wrote letters to the medical papers, and round these communications revolved quite a series of arguments and opinions. He received communications and inquiries from those whose names were well known in the scientific world, and so devoted was he to the study of the case that he was at Mrs. Corbell's three or four times a day.

"A more attentive doctor could not be," said that worthy woman, trying to make herself grow to like Dr. Gildredge, against whom she felt she was somewhat prejudiced still. "Here's poor Miss Bride been like death again and again, but he's that clever, he's always pulled her through."

"She's getting weaker and weaker though," said Nurse Stracey, touching the girl's thin hand compassionately, and speaking so that Bride could not hear. "This case will make the doctor's name. He'll write a book on it before he's done," the shrewd nurse soliloquised; and she guessed what the answer would be when she suggested a second opinion on one occasion, when the patient seemed sinking fast.

"Were there any need for consultation, I should ere this have arranged for it," said the doctor, in a tone of annoyance; a case so rare he preferred to keep under his own observation.

Thus three months went by. Someone paid the fees at the Nursing Home, and food and lodging the Corbells provided, knowing "Miss Bride" would pay them at last if she recovered, and if she died, "We shan't be the losers in the end," said Mrs. Corbell, even as she saw how her little store in the savings bank was diminishing. "The poor young creatures shan't want a friend so long as I'm spared and able to get about; and there's the Lord Jesus as says them as gives to others a cup of cold water even for His name's sake shan't never lose their reward."


Dr. Gildredge had not expected that Bride could linger on for three months. In paying for the nurse he had certainly kept his own studies in mind, but in his heart he had believed three or four weeks would see the end.

He was not altogether satisfied when he found that a doctor at the dispensary, one very friendly with Nurse Stracey, was also taking a great interest in Bride's symptoms, and even went so far as to show him an article in a German magazine concerning a patient very similar to Miss Aylmer.

Gildredge was not popular with his colleagues. His motto was "Every man for himself," and he meant to rise to the top of the tree; for other strugglers he had no thought nor care.

He had by no means exhausted his study of Bride Aylmer's case. There seemed continually something fresh to be noted, and there was yet a treatment detailed in his father's notes that was applicable to her condition, or rather that would have been applicable but for her weak and exhausted state. No one else should have anything to do with the treatment of a case so full of interest: on that point he was mentally resolute.

"Mother," he said one evening, going down into the kitchen where an old lady with cheeks like wrinkled apples was washing up his supper things, "the blue room must be got ready. I am going to bring a patient to this house."

"Very well, Stephen," said Mrs. Gildredge, who would have said "Very well" had her son suggested bringing a lion home from the Zoological Gardens, "I dare say it will help in the expenses. The rent and taxes do come high, and very hard on you, my poor dear."

"A medical man must live in a respectable place," said her son, "but as to the patient there will be no pay. In fact, I shall be out of pocket, but not in the end though, not in the end."

"Are you doing it out of charity, my dear? That is noble of you. Just like your poor father, but he never made money, you know, my dear. Not that money is the greatest thing in the world. There's hundreds that still bless your father's memory. Who is the poor man, Stephen, and what is the matter with him?"

"I never said he was a man," said the doctor, looking rather confused for a moment. "It's ... she's a woman, and she cannot live till Christmas, but she must be here under my own eye. It is expensive to have a nurse, but no one can look after a sick person better than yourself."

The old lady already did the cooking, and such work as "Goody," the tiny maid, could not manage; but it was a grand thing to be complimented by a son so clever, and she willingly shouldered the extra burden.

"I will nurse the case willingly if you wish it, Stephen," she said, "but I can't quite understand. You say it is a woman. Is she young or old?"

"About twenty, I fancy, but she looks any age. It is a hopeless case."

"But, Stephen," said the old lady, hesitating lest she should give offence to the son of whom she was so proud, "she is only a girl, and you see you are a bachelor, my dear. Do you think it would be quite ... quite...?"

"Oh, I have thought of all that," he said, indifferently. "She will come here as my wife. I am going to marry her before long."

"My poor boy!" said his mother, her face glowing with tender sympathy, "now I know why you have seemed so silent of late, and so taken up with your own thoughts. You have learnt to love, and the one you love is passing away. You long to cheer and tend her last days. My poor boy, may Heaven help and comfort you. Yes, bring her home, my poor Stephen, and she shall be to me as a precious daughter, and we will together smooth the way for the dear one to the Shadow Valley."

"You are as romantic as a schoolgirl," said Dr. Gildredge, rather irritably. "Still, I don't know that it matters much what view you take of my intentions; I only want to make it clear that in a few days the patient will be here, you will be her nurse, and she will be entirely under my care, you understand? Sometimes patients take a whim to see another doctor, but I am pursuing with this case an important course, and I intend to go right through with it. Already it has been of untold value to me, and I wish to take constant observations."

Mrs. Gildredge did not at all understand what he was talking about. The humblest of creatures herself, she had, mother-like, high ambitions for her son. She had felt assured he would one day marry money and position. She was a little disappointed, and then her heart went out to the dying girl who was beloved by her boy. She was not so old as to have outlived romance, and it was something like a story -- a sickroom marriage -- and a homecoming that was but as the threshold to the Homeland that knows not sickness and pain.

"I should like to see the dear lass," she said, wistfully. "Can I go tomorrow morning, Stephen?"

"No, no, I don't want any fuss made about the affair, and you need not tell the domestics yet."

The "domestics" were Goody, then in bed, and Teddy, who had taken the resplendence of his buttons home, after delivering sundry powders and pills.

"I shall tell no one," said his mother, meekly; "but why should I not try to do something for the poor girl, Stephen, since so soon she will be my daughter?"

"The idea only occurred to me this morning," said Dr. Gildredge, "She knows nothing about it as yet. I have not mentioned it to her. In fact, she is too unwell just now for any kind of conversation."

"Then, Stephen, dear, you are not yet sure -- you do not know as yet if the poor young lady will consent?"

"Why, yes," was her son's reply, "there can be no question as to that. The girl is penniless and already in debt to the landlady. She will be very grateful. It will all be to her advantage."


Chapter 3


Bride's Decision

"Mrs. Corbell," said a faint voice from the bed, "I want to tell you something."

"Speak away, my dear," said the landlady, "if it would ease your mind, but it's against the orders of the medical man for you to agitate yourself, you know. And when I agreed for to take nurse's place this evening, while she had a bit of an outing, I promised her as I wouldn't let you excite yourself."

"I wanted nurse to go out," said Bride Aylmer, "because I have something to tell you. I think you will be glad, because ... because of Bonny. That was my only trouble when I knew I had to die: who would care for Bonny?"

Mrs. Corbell came to the bed from the window, which at Bride's request she had opened a little more widely, so that the breath of the dewy mignonette and the night-scented stock in the little back garden might be borne to the invalid's room upon the evening wind. She came and sat down beside the girl, and took the white, wasted hand into her own.

"Dear child," she said, gently, "don't let the thoughts of Bonny trouble your mind. Corbell and me, we loves him as our own, and while we lives and has arms to work, he shall be as one of ours, and he shall want for naught. Make your mind easy about the boy, my dear."

Bride tried to move her other hand to the broad, capable palm of the landlady, and the tears came to her eyes, thinking of all the kindness she and her dear ones had received within that home.

"God bless you," she said, faintly. "I know you will always be a friend to him. He will value your love for him. But, Mrs. Corbell, someone else will provide for him now. His future will be quite safe. He will be able to study, and he will have a splendid education. Dear Mrs. Corbell, one day next week, if I keep just a little stronger, I ... I am going to be married."

"The child's delirious," thought Mrs. Corbell, in much alarm. "I had better get Corbell to fetch the doctor immediate."

But she remembered no one would be in for about twenty minutes yet, and she put a handkerchief, wet with lavender water, on the invalid's head, bidding her "shut her eyes and get a bit of sleep, there's a dear."

"Mrs. Corbell, it is really true. He wants me to marry him. He is so good, so clever, so noble."

"Who, my dear lamb?" asked Mrs. Corbell, her face puckered up into lines of perplexity.

"Why, he, of course. The doctor. Dr. Gildredge."

"I do hope she'll say nothing of the sort in her light-headedness before Nurse Stracey," thought the landlady, "or in the doctor's presence. It would be very unpleasant for the young man. But maybe she'll excite herself unless I seem to take it all in as truth; I must humour the poor dear a bit. Talking of marrying, poor lamb, and she almost in her grave! Miss Bride," she said aloud, "I quite agree with you as Dr. Gildredge is wonderful clever. Folks do say he'll be keeping a carriage and pair one of these days. He's making for himself quite a reputation."

"And he is so noble-hearted," said the girl, a grateful light shining in her long-lashed eyes of dusky violet hue,. "So good, so generous. I cannot think how he could care for me, but he must, for ... for he wants to tend me, to look after me to the last. Mrs. Corbell, he has paid to have me well nursed, and he says he will see you are paid when ... when I am his wife. He says very little. Clever people do not talk much, I think, but I can see the reason of it all. He wants to care for me to the end in the shelter of his own home, and to have a right to pay for me and provide me with comforts, and to lift the anxiety about Bonny off my heart. He must have read my thoughts; he must have known I could not be content and restful, so anxious I have been about my young brother."

The voice had become a gasp, and Mrs. Corbell absolutely refused to allow another word. "My dear," she said, "I shall go out of the room if you opens your lips again. Take your medicine now and shut your eyes. You've talked beyond your strength."

"Tell Bonny, please," whispered Bride.

"All right, my dear; I'll tell him anything you choose, if only you'll be good and stop talking now."

The medicine was a sedative, and ere long Bride Aylmer was asleep, much to the landlady's relief. As soon as Nurse Stracey returned she reported that the patient had been light-headed and talking wildly.

"Why, what did she say?" asked the nurse. "She had her senses right enough when I went out."

"Oh, she talked a deal of nonsense. Folks do when they are weak and ill. Miss Bride was never one of the giddy sort, always talking and laughing about the other sex, like as some girls do who ought to know better; but in her delirium she's actually been telling me, poor lamb, as how she's going to get married."

"Did she say to whom?" asked Nurse Stracey, with a look that did not seem so surprised as Mrs. Corbell had expected.

"Poor dear, she talked a lot of nonsense. It's no good repeating the ravings of light-headed folks," said the landlady, who did not intend to mention the doctor's name as having been upon the lips of the invalid..

"I have heard some news while out this evening," said Nurse Stracey. "I should have been astonished, I confess, but in my experiences I have seen such strange things happen that I have left off being surprised at anything men do -- or women either, for that matter. They say that Dr. Gildredge means to marry Miss Aylmer. People are quite interested in the matter, and full of sympathy about it, knowing it is practically a death-bed union."

"But ... but ... I never dreamt as he was fond of her -- Dr. Gildredge -- he ... oh, what will poor little Bonny say?"

What Bonny said and did was not repeated either to the invalid or to Dr. Gildredge. He stamped and cried and kicked, and abused the bridegroom to his heart's content in the privacy of the Corbells' kitchen.

"Let him get it over, missus," said Corbell, placidly smoking his after-supper pipe. "He's never took to the doctor, and be ain't alone in his opinions neither. Still there's no denying it will mean a home for Miss Bride till she's took, poor thing, and the providing of all things needful for the boy's own future."

"He shan't provide for me!" cried Bonny, red in the face with passion. "I'd ... I'd rather be a stowaway like him in the recitation that was a noble boy and saved the captain's life. I won't go and live in that man's house, and I want Bride to die here, where mother did, and not in his horrid, ugly, stuck-up looking place."

Mrs. Corbell let the tempest of trouble and indignation spend itself; then she gently asked him not to speak of the matter to his sister for a day or two. She was too weak to be agitated. Meanwhile Mrs. Corbell would find out how Bride herself felt about it.

"If she's really fond of him, my dear," she said, "it will be a sort of comfort to your poor sister to belong to him before she passes hence. But if in her heart she don't want the marriage to come off, we'll have another doctor to her tomorrow, and she shall see no more of Gildredge, I promise you."

"Oh, do let us have another. He'd be so angry, he'd never come near the place again!" cried Bonny, eagerly.

"There'd be some difficulty about getting another, missus," said Corbell. "There's such a thing as medical etiquette, you know."

"There's such a thing as keeping Gildredge on the outside of our door, if it's the poor girl's wish I should do so," replied Mrs. Corbell. "Leave it to me, Master Bonny, we'll let it be just as Miss Bride desires. I knows you'll be a good lad and repress your feelings, for your sister's sake."

As soon as she could, the landlady gently brought forward the subject of their last conversation to the invalid, and asked her if she had consented to become the doctor's wife because of enlisting his help for Bonny.

"Forgive me, dear child," she said, "for making so bold, but it occurred to me you might be taking this step for your little brother's sake, and, if so...."

"If so?" said Bride, with the smile that made her thin face beautiful still.

"My dear, it would be a mistake. I won't say more, but if you're doing this for Bonny's future, don't you carry it out, Miss Bride. There's none ought to marry, save for affection. Supposing as you was to get well, and find yourself united to one as you'd never have thought of, save as a helper for Bonny "

"I shall never get well," the girl answered, "and I am content to go, for he will be a brother to Bonny all his life. And, dear Mrs. Corbell, don't you be troubled about me. I am very happy, oh, so happy he cares for me. I think I began to ... to like him ... ever since Bonny first brought him here."

"To like him! My lamb, I will not bother you with questions anymore, only tell me this: do you love this man who wants to marry you and take you from our home?"

"I do," she said, "with all my heart."

Mrs. Corbell stooped and kissed her. "God be with you both," she said, softly, "and grant you happy reunion where none shall say, 'I am sick,' and where there is no more pain."

"Thomas," Mrs. Corbell remarked to her husband later, "you know as I've always thought I can read folks' faces and judge of their dispositions by their looks?"

"So you can, missus. You never fancied the looks of them at No. 20, as run away, leaving me and everybody else in their debt. You're wonderful observational, and I must say I never knowed you mistaken in judging of the physiognomy."

"There's exceptions to every rule, Thomas, and I've been prejudicing myself unjustly against that there physician, Dr. Gildredge. Miss Bride, she's got a good mind and a lot of sense -- she's one as has a deal of learning and education -- and if she's gone and got fond of that there young man, there's qualities in him, rest assured, as have escaped my notice, and as don't lie on the surface. If Miss Bride have lost her heart to him, depend upon it he's a deal more amiable and well-dispositioned than I've suspected him of. He's one of those whose bark, as the saying goes, is worse than his bite."

"I don't know," said Corbell, thoughtfully. "There's no accounting for the tastes of the fairer sex, Mary Jane. Women is strange creatures, and what they sees to fancy in a man is as difficult a puzzle sometimes as any of them pictures they puts in the magazines. Not but what it seems to me the doctor's acting noble in wanting to care for the poor young lady's last days. Handsome is as handsome does, and his deeds is evidently superior to his manners. When is it to come off, Mary Jane? Is she to go away immediate?"

"He's arranging it all," was the answer, "and I don't like to ask him no questions. Nurse Stracey is to go with her and stay a day or two, and then some other body is to have the charge of her, poor dear. I'm thinking it will be but to ease her last moments and to close her eyes. Nurse Stracey told the doctor that moving her must be on his responsibility, and he said she could stand the move at present, but in two or three weeks she would be unable to bear the fatigue."


Bonny behaved like a hero when in his sister's presence. Mrs. Corbell had told him that the marriage would be for Bride's happiness, and that it was her wish as well as Dr. Gildredge's, and not one word did he utter whereby Bride could guess how he disliked the thought of the coming arrangement. That Bride could really like "that man" was a mystery to the boy -- Bride, whose ideals had been so grand and noble, being willing to belong to one whom he had heard a neighbour describe as a bear!

Still, for Bride to be happy during the short time that remained to her on earth was Bonny's chief concern. When she was with "Dad and Mother," he would go to Rome as a stowaway, there study art under great and clever masters, and become a celebrated artist, making beauty and brightness everywhere, and perhaps in Heaven they would know and talk about his pictures, and be glad.

So Bonny betrayed nothing of his own feelings concerning this marriage. As Mrs. Corbell said downstairs, "The boy acted every bit like him as stood so brave upon the burning deck. He stood by and heard them fix the date, and he was patting of his poor sister's hand and smiling, like that the boy in history as said nothing, though his inside was being all the time devoured by a fox."


Very bright and beautiful was the morning of Bride Aylmer's marriage. She was very weak and faint, but she smiled to see the sunshine, and her hand touched tenderly a bunch of sweet, pink rosebuds that rested upon graceful fern. She did not ask whence the flowers had come; he -- her hero -- had surely guessed her love for roses, as he guessed all her needs, and had sent them as his tender message. The Corbells' moneybox had been emptied to buy the posy, but this she knew not, and it warmed her heart to attribute the offering to the bridegroom.

"Well, my dearie, the sun's smiling upon your wedding day," said Mrs. Corbell, as she entered the room in her best cap, "and it's myself that wishes you could have some of the wedding cake as Corbell have sent in, all iced, out of the baker's window in the High Street. It's hard as you must keep to milk and such like, and can't have nothing of a wedding feast."

"Isn't the sunshine lovely?" said Bride, faintly; "I wonder how it can be more beautiful in Heaven; but I shall soon know -- and till I go, it is all, all beautiful here."

Bonny was by the bed when the short service was held. He was holding his eyes very widely open to prevent any tears getting into them. The service ended rather abruptly, for his sister fainted away, and all became confusion till the doctor and Nurse Stracey cleared the room and took sole charge.

"Mrs. Corbell," asked Bonny, "did she faint in time to prevent ... I mean before it was over? Or is she married to him really? Is he my brother-in-law?"

"Certainly he is, my dearie; and you shall have the first bit of wedding cake; and I'm sure we all ought to be glad and thankful poor Miss Bride -- leastways, I mean Mrs. Gildredge -- will be under the best of care, and lack for nothing so long as the poor dear lives."

Bonny put his hands behind him. "No wedding cake, thank you," he said. "Do you know if I am to go to Sycamore Villa when the nurse takes Bride?"

"Why, yes, my dear; I heard your poor sister say you must be in the carriage also. That is your home now, Master Bonny, and a lovely place, I'm sure, with the front entrance all tiled and 'Sycamore Villa' wrote up in ornamental letters, all wonderful genteel. And Teddy Coley works there by the day," she added, confidentially. "A rare boy for marbles and kites was Teddy. You'll have many a game when he isn't busy. A smart lad is Teddy; well do I know his mother, and nursed him as a baby."

But Bonny shook his head. "Teddy is changed," he said. "He's like the statues in the museum now. Everything, everybody's changed. I ... I think I'll go and pack my paints, and get my things together now, Mrs. Corbell."

"I do think that there doctor might have given the boy a word or a look or a shake of the hand," thought Mrs. Corbell. "It isn't a bed of roses as is before that poor child under the roof of his brother-in-law. I wonder how they'll get on when Miss Bride have been took to glory. May Him as can do all things will soften that young man's heart to the lonely child, and give little Master Bonny grace and forbearance to act dutiful and obedient-like, and to keep the peace at Sycamore Villa."


Chapter 4


At Sycamore Villa

The move was safely accomplished. Dr. Gildredge had been called out to a patient when the invalid carriage drew up at his house, but the driver and Nurse Stracey between them carried Bride to her room, and she roused herself and looked with some degree of interest at her new surroundings. She was in his house -- Stephen's, as in her feeble heart she told herself -- and here all was restful, tender, and beautiful. How sweet were the flowers on the little table beside her, and what a lovely print faced her of the Saviour whose garment was touched by the woman who had suffered for twelve long years!

Young Goody and Mrs. Gildredge had brought in the flowers and the picture, and worked hard to make the sickroom homely and comfortable; but Bride, breathing with difficulty as she exerted herself to lift her head and look about her, thought what a wonderful thing is love -- how it had made Stephen understand just what would rest her eyes and calm her heart.

Like most people in Tydebridge, the girl had heard how Dr. Gildredge's father had married his cook, and she would have felt some curiosity as to what this old body, kept so much in the background, was like, but for the exhaustion that soon overpowered her, and which ended, to Nurse Stracey's satisfaction, in quiet sleep.

"I never thought she'd bear the move," said the nurse to Bride's mother-in-law, "but Dr. Gildredge said she could go through with it today. He knows just what reserve of strength she possesses, poor thing. It's too late to save her now. There's scarcely any vitality left; but he might have done much for her, I fancy, if he had been called in earlier. In fact, as it is, it's owing to his treatment that she is alive today."

"My son is very learned and clever," said Mrs. Gildredge, with a flush of pride. "I've never known him mistaken yet about a case. He's a great student, like his father before him. If anyone could have saved the poor lassie, he would have done it; but life and death are not in human hands, are they, nurse? The only thing we can do is to carry out my son's orders as to treatment, and of course to look after the poor girl's diet."

When Bride opened her eyes, Nurse Stracey was lying down in the ante-room, and an old lady with a wrinkled face and tender eyes of grey -- an old lady in a widow's cap and with hands not white and soft, but wonderfully gentle, though marked by hard, busy toil -- was sitting beside her, the best of books on her lap, and her spectacles within it. She had turned from making out -- for she was not a fluent reader -- the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, to look upon the wasted form, the white face of the fair girl who was loved by her son, yet beyond the saving even of his learning and his skill.

"My dear daughter," was all she said, the compassionate tears in her eyes, as she touched a curling lock of auburn hair that fell upon the pillow.

"I have been dreaming," said Bride, with a bewildered look. "I have been all among singing, and there were angels round me. I thought I saw my mother."

"The poor dear is seeing signs -- she's had a call," thought Mrs. Gildredge; but she said, soothingly, "It was only Goody singing, dear child. She's like a bird for song. She was sweeping outside the door and singing a piece she's learnt at the mission meetings:


"Beautiful valley of Eden,

Home of the pure and blest;

How often, amid the wild billows,

I dream of thy rest, sweet rest."


"Who is Goody?" said Bride, faintly.

"The little servant, my dear. We had to have someone cheap, and Stephen asked the workhouse people to let us have a little girl for me to train to the work. She is a poor little waif that belongs to nobody, but she's a born worker, and won't be without a scrubbing brush or a broom."

"I remember now," said Bride; "this is ... the doctor's house. I came here today. And you are Stephen's mother?" She put out both her hands, and smiled as the old lady bent and kissed her.


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