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The Girl's Own Paper, Vol. XX. No. 1005, April 1, 1899

The Girl's Own Paper, Vol. XX. No. 1005, April 1, 1899
Author: Various
Title: The Girl's Own Paper, Vol. XX. No. 1005, April 1, 1899
Release Date: 2018-08-07
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 74
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THE HOUSE WITH THE VERANDAH

THE HOUSE WITH THE VERANDAH by Isabella Fyvie Mayo.

All rights reserved.]

CHAPTER I.

A lady came out of a little house set in thecorner of a quiet street on the northern edge ofBloomsbury. The house she left was tiny andodd-shaped, and seemed to have been built as anafterthought on a remnant of ground spared fromthe erection of its high, solemn, symmetricalneighbours, which towered two storeys above it.Among the dark dingy brick houses its front alonewas painted, and it was also rounded in form,probably to give a little more space to its smallrooms. It had a verandah too, whose top madea sort of balcony for the upper windows, and thewhole was decorated by bright hardy creepers.

As the lady left the house, she proceeded tocross the road. About midway she paused, andlooking back, she smiled and nodded to somebodynot very distinctly visible. Then something movingat the French window opening on the verandahcaught her eye. This was a maid-servant witha little child, and the lady, nodding with greaterenergy and kissing her hand, hurried on her way.

She had a light, swift step, and a bright mobileface. But it bore a strain of repressed, intenseemotion scarcely to be understood in a prettyyoung woman with a houseful of living treasures.

On and on she went, threading her way acrosssquares and along streets, looking neither to theright hand nor to the left, her thoughts evidentlyturned within herself. At last she emerged at thesouth-western side of Bloomsbury, into a street{418}chiefly taken up by shops and hotels.She slackened her pace a little, as onemay if one wishes to prolong a pleasanthope which may not be crowned byrealisation.

She paused opposite a shop window,wherein, backed by a half-curtain ofheavy green serge, stood three loweasels. Two bore sketches, one of anopal dawn over a mass of low red roofs;the other of a lurid sunset above a forestof spires and masts rising from apurplish mist. But the centre easel wasempty.

She gave a slight exclamation, andhastily entered the shop. She was notlong inside. When she came out, shehad her purse in her hands. Thoughshe had a smile on her lips, the emotionin her face was but more vivid, asif fuel had been added to the innerflame.

She did not retrace her steps to thelittle corner house with the creeper-drapedverandah. She went on westward,through the quiet streets at theback of Oxford Street until she reacheda long, decorous thoroughfare many ofwhose doors were adorned with brassplates bearing the names of well-knowndoctors. Again she slackened her paceand looked at her watch.

Very slowly did she walk past onegreat house, with heavy stained glassin the dining-room windows, and anelaborate gorgon’s head for the brassknocker. As she drew near the broadwhite steps, the door, which bore thename of Dr. Thomas Ivery, opened, anda woman came out, hastily drawing aveil over tear-stained features. Witha sudden movement, our pedestrianstepped forward and arrested the staidman-servant in the very act of closingthe door.

“Can I see Dr. Ivery?” she asked.

“Well, ma’am”—the well-trainedservant hesitated—“his consulting hoursare just over. Have you an appointmentwith him?”

“No,” she frankly admitted. “ButI think he may see me. Will you askhim, please?—say that Mrs. Challonerof Pelham Street will be so grateful ifhe can spare her a few minutes.”

“I will ask him, ma’am,” answeredthe man of the imperturbable face.“Will you wait here for his answer?”And he showed her into the front roomwith the stained glass windows, of whoseglories in the deepening gloom of theautumn afternoon little was visible saveone waving streak of crimson like astream of blood.

To her tense mood, the room seemedheavy with the atmosphere of doom.She wondered whether the apartmenthad any other uses, whether a happyfamily ever gathered about the greathearth, or a merry party ever sat aroundthe long dining-table. There were bigpictures on the walls, though all shecould see of them was spaces of darknessand mystery enclosed by heavygilt frames. A bust stood ghostly inthe furthest corner.

She had not to wait long. The man-servantthrew open the door.

“Dr. Ivery will see Mrs. Challoner,”he announced, as if she were one of awaiting group. “Will you walk thisway, madam.”

She followed him along a gloomypassage. He ushered her into a room,cheerful and homelike compared withthat she had left. This got the last ofthe day’s brightness through a big westwindow overlooking some open space;it was lined with books; a great bluejar filled with red flowers stood in onecorner; one or two homely crayon portraitsand weak little water-colours hungimmediately behind the doctor, as hesat in front of his desk.

“Mrs. Challoner?” he said, half-interrogatively.He had never seen herin walking dress before. There was asuggestion of anxiety in his tone.

“Yes, Mrs. Challoner, PelhamStreet,” she humbly explained. “Willyou forgive me, sir, and tell me if I amdoing wrong. I so want to speak to youabout my husband.”

“Ah, your husband,” echoed thedoctor. “Yes, yes—nothing wronganew, I hope.”

“Oh, no,” she answered. “All isgoing on well, so well that I know——”she paused. “I want to consult youprivately, Dr. Ivery. I could get noopportunity while Charlie was so veryill, and since he has been better onlythe young doctor has come, so I thoughtif I might visit you here—if you willforgive me?”

“Certainly, Mrs. Challoner, certainly.A private conversation with a patient’snearest friend is often as much aphysician’s duty as writing a prescription.Tell me just what is on your mindabout your husband.”

Dr. Ivery was a tall spare man with asilvered head very high and full at thetop. His composed face softened as hemet the eager searching eyes of theyoung wife. This was a woman whomust have the truth. He thanked Godinwardly that though the truth for hermust be hard enough, yet it was not thehardest!

“It is the future, sir,” she said,schooling her voice to absolute calmness.“Charlie is already talking ofreturning to the office.”

“The season of the year is againsthim,” remarked the physician, guardedly.

“But, apart from anything just now,sir,” she pleaded, “what do you thinkof Charlie’s possibilities in the longrun?”

She said the only words she couldbear to say. It would have killed herto ask, “Has Charlie any chance of life?Must Charlie die?”

The doctor paused. This was notbecause he had to extinguish hope, butbecause he feared to fan it too much.

“My dear lady,” he said, “I amsure I need not tell you that suchsymptoms as his are always serious andalways mean that grave mischief hasbeen done. At the same time, apart fromthese lung troubles, his general health isunusually good. The mischief seemsso local, that if he could get the rightclimatic conditions, I would incline tobelieve that he may live as long and ashappily and usefully as most of us.”

Mrs. Challoner’s face brightened.

“And are such climatic conditions tobe found anywhere in Great Britain?”she asked wistfully.

“I fear not,” said the doctor. “Iwas thinking of some of the colonies inthe Southern Hemisphere.”

“I thought so,” she answered withpatient sadness. She and Charlie hadtalked over these matters before. Evenbefore his recent illness, her husbandhad said that if he had known his ownconstitution earlier, he would not haveadopted such a profession as a solicitor’s,with all the limitations which wouldinvolve a new professional training inany change of sphere.

“Would there be any good for Charliein a long, long sea voyage?” she askedin the tone of one pleading for a dearlife.

The doctor brightened.

“The very greatest good,” he said.“This is just one of the cases where asea voyage often gives a new lease oflife. But we scarcely like to suggest itto a young professional man—a youngmarried man. We find that an absoluterearrangement of life is often morefeasible.”

“A sea voyage could be managed,Dr. Ivery!” cried Mrs. Challoner. “Ifthere is hope in it, it can be done—itshall be done!”

“To be of real service, it must be verylong,” warned the physician.

“It shall be the very longest that isto be had,” she said. She had risenfrom her seat. “I will talk over alldetails with my husband,” she added.“And when you come, sir, you willsupport my arguments.”

“Certainly,” he said, “and mostheartily too, now I am entitled to do so.We must remember that we may havedisappointment,” he added, gazing-downat her eager face. “But I can assure youwe shall have good grounds to hope.”

“I must not detain you longer,” shesaid. “How blessed you are to be ableto make others as happy as you havemade me.”

“I have often to make them sad,” heanswered, shaking his head, “at least,so far as we poor humans know what isgladness and what is sadness. AndMr. Challoner is really doing well?My assistant always gives favourablereports. And your boy? A bonnie boy!Why, who is looking after him whileyou are so much absorbed in yourhusband?”

“Oh, he can be with us now sinceCharlie has been getting stronger!”she answered. “And I can alwaystrust him with Pollie. I don’t knowwhat I should do without her. She hasbeen with us ever since we married. Ihave been so much more fortunate thanmost of my friends.”

“Pollie has been more fortunate thansome of your friends’ Pollies probably,”laughed the doctor. “I shouldn’t wonderbut you spoil her.”

“No, I don’t!” declared Mrs. Challoner,with a good housewife’s indignation.“But I knew when I had a goodservant, and I kept my place open forher for six months during her mother’slast illness, and when her invalid sisterwas attending the Free Hospital, I had{419}her to stay with Pollie. That is how wecame to hear about you, Dr. Ivery. SoI am sure we have been trebly repaid.These poor people live in a little dampcottage in Essex—I don’t wonder thefamily are sickly. Pollie herself hasgrown into a different girl since she haslived in Pelham Street.”

She spoke quite volubly. The doctorunderstood the nervous tension thussuddenly relaxed. She scarcely knewwhat she was saying. Then she recollectedherself, smiled—the smilemounting to her eyes—for the first timefor many weeks, and modestly took herleave.

The doctor himself escorted her to hisdoor, the watchful attendant saying tohimself, “There ain’t a many ladies, bethey whom they may, for whom themaster does that.”

The physician returned to his study,thoughtful. He said to himself, “Iwonder how they are to manage this?Challoner has said enough to me toshow how necessary he felt a speedyreturn to business to be! I supposeshe is going to work some sort of littlehuman miracle. How she lighted up!I wish I could find such a miracle to beworked by some of my lady patients, ifit would waken them up thus. But Isuppose each of us must find his or herown miracles. They cost too much forany of us to be able to get them for eachother.”

Mrs. Challoner turned eastward withflying feet. Her one thought now was,that at any cost this thing must be done.She felt herself like a frail little shipwhich has but to get the wind behind itto speedily reach its desired haven.Only she had got to steer it! If it werewrecked, the fault would lie with her,and with her only. It is something tohave ever gone through such an hourof glorious life. Henceforth, come whatmay, we know the secret of the faithwhich “can remove mountains.” Weknow too that the great will of theuniverse is with all things good andglad and hopeful, though we may failto set our little vessels where they cancatch its current, or though they maycome to disaster on other vessels alreadyfoundered.

Still, she had another visit to makeere she went back to the little house withthe verandah.

This time she paused at a great housein one of the more important Bloomsburysquares. On its portal it bore the signof “St. George’s Institute of Arts andLanguages.”

She was admitted with smiles, for ofold she had been

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