"It is nothing," I said.
"Nevertheless it should be seen to. A scratch from any animal mightturn out dangerous; there is nothing like being safe." I submitted;forthwith he began to dress my hand. He examined with amagnifying-glass the several parallel wounds, and compared them withthe slip of blotting-paper, marked with Silvio's claws, which he tookfrom his pocket-book. He put back the paper, simply remarking:
"It's a pity that Silvio slips in--and out--just when he shouldn't."
The morning wore slowly on. By ten o'clock Nurse Kennedy had so farrecovered that she was able to sit up and talk intelligibly. But shewas still hazy in her thoughts; and could not remember anything thathad happened on the previous night, after her taking her place by thesick-bed. As yet she seemed neither to know nor care what had happened.
It was nearly eleven o'clock when Doctor Winchester returned with SirJames Frere. Somehow I felt my heart sink when from the landing I sawthem in the hall below; I knew that Miss Trelawny was to have the painof telling yet another stranger of her ignorance of her father's life.
Sir James Frere was a man who commanded attention followed by respect.He knew so thoroughly what he wanted himself, that he placed at once onone side all wishes and ideas of less definite persons. The mere flashof his piercing eyes, or the set of his resolute mouth, or the loweringof his great eyebrows, seemed to compel immediate and willing obedienceto his wishes. Somehow, when we had all been introduced and he waswell amongst us, all sense of mystery seemed to melt away. It was witha hopeful spirit that I saw him pass into the sick-room with DoctorWinchester.
They remained in the room a long time; once they sent for the Nurse,the new one, Sister Doris, but she did not remain long. Again theyboth went into Nurse Kennedy's room. He sent out the nurse attendanton her. Doctor Winchester told me afterward that Nurse Kennedy, thoughshe was ignorant of later matters, gave full and satisfactory answersto all Doctor Frere's questions relating to her patient up to the timeshe became unconscious. Then they went to the study, where theyremained so long, and their voices raised in heated discussion seemedin such determined opposition, that I began to feel uneasy. As forMiss Trelawny, she was almost in a state of collapse from nervousnessbefore they joined us. Poor girl! she had had a sadly anxious time ofit, and her nervous strength had almost broken down.
They came out at last, Sir James first, his grave face looking asunenlightening as that of the sphinx. Doctor Winchester followed himclosely; his face was pale, but with that kind of pallor which lookedlike a reaction. It gave me the idea that it had been red not longbefore. Sir James asked that Miss Trelawny would come into the study.He suggested that I should come also. When we had entered, Sir Jamesturned to me and said:
"I understand from Doctor Winchester that you are a friend of MissTrelawny, and that you have already considerable knowledge of thiscase. Perhaps it will be well that you should be with us. I know youalready as a keen lawyer, Mr. Ross, though I never had the pleasure ofmeeting you. As Doctor Winchester tells me that there are some strangematters outside this case which seem to puzzle him--and others--and inwhich he thinks you may yet be specially interested, it might be aswell that you should know every phase of the case. For myself I do nottake much account of mysteries--except those of science; and as thereseems to be some idea of an attempt at assassination or robbery, all Ican say is that if assassins were at work they ought to take someelementary lessons in anatomy before their next job, for they seemthoroughly ignorant. If robbery were their purpose, they seem to haveworked with marvellous inefficiency. That, however, is not mybusiness." Here he took a big pinch of snuff, and turning to to MissTrelawny, went on: "Now as to the patient. Leaving out the cause of hisillness, all we can say at present is that he appears to be sufferingfrom a marked attack of catalepsy. At present nothing can be done,except to sustain his strength. The treatment of my friend DoctorWinchester is mainly such as I approve of; and I am confident thatshould any slight change arise he will be able to deal with itsatisfactorily. It is an interesting case--most interesting; andshould any new or abnormal development arise I shall be happy to comeat any time. There is just one thing to which I wish to call yourattention; and I put it to you, Miss Trelawny, directly, since it isyour responsibility. Doctor Winchester informs me that you are notyourself free in the matter, but are bound by an instruction given byyour Father in case just such a condition of things should arise. Iwould strongly advise that the patient be removed to another room; or,as an alternative, that those mummies and all such things should beremoved from his chamber. Why, it's enough to put any man into anabnormal condition, to have such an assemblage of horrors round him,and to breathe the atmosphere which they exhale. You have evidencealready of how such mephitic odour may act. That nurse--Kennedy, Ithink you said, Doctor--isn't yet out of her state of catalepsy; andyou, Mr. Ross, have, I am told, experienced something of the sameeffects. I know this"--here his
eyebrows came down more than ever, andhis mouth hardened--"if I were in charge here I should insist on thepatient having a different atmosphere; or I would throw up the case.Doctor Winchester already knows that I can only be again consulted onthis condition being fulfilled. But I trust that you will see yourway, as a good daughter to my mind should, to looking to your Father'shealth and sanity rather than to any whim of his--whether supported ornot by a foregoing fear, or by any number of "penny dreadful"mysteries. The day has hardly come yet, I am glad to say, when theBritish Museum and St. Thomas's Hospital have exchanged their normalfunctions. Good-day, Miss Trelawny. I earnestly hope that I may soonsee your Father restored. Remember, that should you fulfil theelementary condition which I have laid down, I am at your service dayor night. Good-morning, Mr. Ross. I hope you will be able to reportto me soon, Doctor Winchester."
When he had gone we stood silent, till the rumble of his carriagewheels died away. The first to speak was Doctor Winchester:
"I think it well to say that to my mind, speaking purely as aphysician, he is quite right. I feel as if I could have assaulted himwhen he made it a condition of not giving up the case; but all the samehe is right as to treatment. He does not understand that there issomething odd about this special case; and he will not realise the knotthat we are all tied up in by Mr. Trelawny's instructions. Ofcourse--" He was interrupted by Miss Trelawny:
"Doctor Winchester, do you, too, wish to give up the case; or are youwilling to continue it under the conditions you know?"
"Give it up! Less now than ever. Miss Trelawny, I shall never give itup, so long as life is left to him or any of us!" She said nothing,but held out her hand, which he took warmly.
"Now," said she, "if Sir James Frere is a type of the cult ofSpecialists, I want no more of them. To start with, he does not seemto know any more than you do about my Father's condition; and if hewere a hundredth part as much interested in it as you are, he would notstand on such punctilio. Of course, I am only too anxious about mypoor Father; and if I can see a way to meet either of Sir James Frere'sconditions, I shall do so. I shall ask Mr. Marvin to come here today,and advise me as to the limit of Father's wishes. If he thinks I amfree to act in any way on my own responsibility, I shall not hesitateto do so." Then Doctor Winchester took his leave.
Miss Trelawny sat down and wrote a letter to Mr. Marvin, telling him ofthe state of affairs, and asking him to come and see her and to bringwith him any papers which might throw any light on the subject. Shesent the letter off with a carriage to bring back the solicitor; wewaited with what patience we could for his coming.
It is not a very long journey for oneself from Kensington PalaceGardens to Lincoln's Inn Fields; but it seemed endlessly long whenwaiting for someone else to take it. All things, however, are amenableto Time; it was less than an hour all told when Mr. Marvin was with us.
He recognised Miss Trelawny's impatience, and when he had learnedsufficient of her father's illness, he said to her:
"Whenever you are ready I can go with you into particulars regardingyour Father's wishes."
"Whenever you like," she said, with an evident ignorance of hismeaning. "Why not now?" He looked at me, as to a fellow man ofbusiness, and stammered out:
"We are not alone."
"I have brought Mr. Ross here on purpose," she answered. "He knows somuch at present, that I want him to know more." The solicitor was alittle disconcerted, a thing which those knowing him only in courtswould hardly have believed. He answered, however, with some hesitation:
"But, my dear young lady--Your Father's wishes!--Confidence betweenfather and child--"
Here she interrupted him; there was a tinge of red in her pale cheeksas she did so:
"Do you really think that applies to the present circumstances, Mr.Marvin? My Father never told me anything of his affairs; and I cannow, in this sad extremity, only learn his wishes through a gentlemanwho is a stranger to me and of whom I never even heard till I got myFather's letter, written to be shown to me only in extremity. Mr. Rossis a new friend; but he has all my confidence, and I should like him tobe present. Unless, of course," she added, "such a thing is forbiddenby my Father. Oh! forgive me, Mr. Marvin, if I seem rude; but I havebeen in such dreadful trouble and anxiety lately, that I have hardlycommand of myself." She covered her eyes with her hand for a fewseconds; we two men looked at each other and waited, trying to appearunmoved. She went on more firmly; she had recovered herself:
"Please! please do not think I am ungrateful to you for your kindnessin coming here and so quickly. I really am grateful; and I have everyconfidence in your judgment. If you wish, or think it best, we can bealone." I stood up; but Mr. Marvin made a dissentient gesture. He wasevidently pleased with her attitude; there was geniality in his voiceand manner as he spoke:
"Not at all! Not at all! There is no restriction on your Father'spart; and on my own I am quite willing. Indeed, all told, it may bebetter. From what you have said of Mr. Trelawny's illness, and theother--incidental--matters, it will be well in case of any graveeventuality, that it was understood from the first, that circumstanceswere ruled by your Father's own imperative instructions. For, pleaseunderstand me, his instructions are imperative--most imperative. Theyare so unyielding that he has given me a Power of Attorney, under whichI have undertaken to act, authorising me to see his written wishescarried out. Please believe me once for all, that he intended fullyeverything mentioned in that letter to you! Whilst he is alive he isto remain in his own room; and none of his property is to be removedfrom it under any circumstances whatever. He has even given aninventory of the articles which are not to be displaced."
Miss Trelawny was silent. She looked somewhat distressed; so, thinkingthat I understood the immediate cause, I asked:
"May we see the list?" Miss Trelawny's face at once brightened; but itfell again as the lawyer answered promptly--he was evidently preparedfor the question:
"Not unless I am compelled to take action on the Power of Attorney. Ihave brought that instrument with me. You will recognise, Mr.Ross"--he said this with a sort of business conviction which I hadnoticed in his professional work, as he handed me the deed--"howstrongly it is worded, and how the grantor made his wishes apparent insuch a way as to leave no loophole. It is his own wording, except forcertain legal formalities; and I assure you I have seldom seen a moreiron-clad document. Even I myself have no power to make the slightestrelaxation of the instructions, without committing a distinct breach offaith. And that, I need not tell you, is impossible." He evidentlyadded the last words in order to prevent an appeal to his personalconsideration. He did not like the seeming harshness of his words,however, for he added: