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Mr. Baynham accompanied his patient and her husband to Plymouth, where the family adviser of Trelasco had a long and serious talk with the leading medical light of the great seaport. The result of which consultation—after the tossing to and fro of such words as an?mia, atrophy, family history, hysteria, between the two doctors, as lightly as if diseases were shuttle-cocks—was briefly communicated to Colonel Disney in a sentence that struck terror to his heart, carefully as it was couched. It amounted in plain words to this: We think your wife's condition serious enough to cause alarm, although there are at present no indications of organic disease. Should her state of bodily weakness and mental[Pg 203] depression continue, we apprehend atrophy, or perhaps chronic hysteria. Under these circumstances, we strongly recommend you to give her a change of scene, and a milder winter climate even than that of the west of England. Were she living in Scotland or Yorkshire we might send her to Penzance; but as it is we should advise either a sea voyage, or a residence for the rest of the winter at Pau, Biarritz, or on the Riviera.

Modern medicine has a high-handed way of sending patients to the uttermost ends of the earth; and although Martin Disney thought with a regretful pang of the house and stables that he had built and beautified for himself, the garden where every shrub was dear, yet he felt grateful to the specialist for not ordering him to take his wife to the banks of the Amazon or to some sheltered valley in Cashmere. Pau is not far—the Riviera is the beaten track of civilized Europe, the highway road to Naples and the East. He thought of the happy honeymoon, when he and his bright young wife had travelled along that garden of oranges and lemons, between the hills and the sea, and how there had been no shadow on their lives except the shadow of impending separation, about which they had talked hopefully, trying to believe that a year or two would not seem very long, trying to project their thoughts into that happy future when there should be no more parting.

This—this dreary present—was that future which they had pictured as a period of unalloyed bliss. What had the future brought to that hopeful husband, going forth at the call of duty, to return with fondest expectations when his work was done? What but a year and a half of wedded life overshadowed by disappointment, darkened by vague doubts? And now came the fear of a longer parting than had lain at the end of his last Italian journey.

The patient herself was told nothing except that change to a warmer climate would be good for her, and that her husband had promised to take her to the South soon after Christmas.

"You will like to go, won't you, Isola?" he asked her[Pg 204] tenderly, as they drove back to the station alone, leaving Mr. Baynham to follow his own devices in the town. "You will enjoy seeing the places we saw together when our marriage was still a new thing?"

"I shall like to go anywhere with you, Martin," she answered. "But is it really necessary to go away? I know you love Trelasco."

"Oh, I have the Cornishman's passion for his native soil; but I am not so rooted to it as to pine in exile. I shall be happy enough in the South, with my dear young wife; especially if I see the roses come back to your cheeks in that land of flowers."

"But it will cost you such a lot of money to take us all away, Martin; and you could not leave Allegra or the baby. Doctors have such expensive ideas."

"Allegra, and the boy! Must we take them, do you think, love?"

"We could not leave him," said Isola, horrified at the bare suggestion; "and it would be very hard to leave Allegra. She bore all the burden of my illness. She has been so good and unselfish. And she will so revel in the South. She has never travelled, she, for whom Nature means so much more than it can for you or me."

"Well, we will take Allegra, and the boy, whose railway ticket will cost nothing, and his nurse. There is a shot in the locker still, Isa, in spite of last year's building operations, which cost a good deal more than I expected. We will all migrate together. Consider that settled. The only question that remains is the direction in which we shall go. Shall we make for the Pyrenees or the Maritime Alps? Shall we go to Pau, and Biarritz, or to the Riviera, Hyères, Cannes, Nice?"

Isola was in favour of Pau, but after much consultation of books recording other people's experiences, it was finally decided that of all places in the world, San Remo was the best winter home for Martin Disney's wife.

"You can take her up to the Engadine in June," said Mr.[Pg 205] Baynham, who had a superficial familiarity with the Continent from hearing his patients talk about their travels, he himself never having left Cornwall, except for a plunge into the metropolitan vortex during the Cattle Show week. "Or you may spend your summer in Auvergne—unless you want to come home as soon as the cold weather is over."

"I shall do whatever may be best for her—home or otherwise," answered Disney. "You may be sure of that."

Tho doctor went back to his wife, with whom he always discussed everything, except purely professional matters—there were even occasions when he could not refrain from enlarging upon the interesting features of some very pretty case—and was enthusiastic in his praise of Colonel Disney.

"I never saw such devotion," he said. "Any other man would think it hard lines to have to strike his tent at a day's notice, and go off to winter at a strange place, among invalids and old women; but Disney says never a word of his own inclinations or his own inconvenience. He positively adores that young woman. I only hope she's worth it."

"She's very fond of him, Tom," replied Mrs. Baynham, decisively. "There was a time when I was rather doubtful about that. She seemed listless and indifferent. But since the baby came she has been growing fonder and fonder of her husband. I flatter myself I am a pretty good judge of countenances, and I can read hers. I've seen her face light up when the colonel came into the room. I've seen her go over to him shyly, as if it were still their honeymoon. She's a very sweet creature. I took to her from the first; and I shall be dreadfully upset if she goes into a decline."

The doctor shook his head despondently.

"There's nothing to fight with in her case," he said, "and there's very little to fall back upon. I can't make her out. She has gone off just like a girl who was simply fretting herself to death; and yet, if she's fond of her husband, what in Heaven's name is there for her to fret about?"

"Nothing," answered his wife. "It's just a delicate constitution, that's all. She's like one of those grape hyacinths[Pg 206] that never will stand upright in a vase. The stem isn't strong enough."

Allegra was all sympathy and affection. She would go with them—yes, to the end of the world. To go to San Remo would be delightful.

"It is a deliciously paintable place, I know," she said, "for I have seen bits of the scenery often enough in the exhibitions. I shall work prodigiously, and earn a small fortune."

She told her brother in the most delicate way that she meant to pay her own expenses in this Italian tour; for of course when Isola should be strong enough they would go about a little, and see the Wonderland of Italy.

Martin protested warmly against any such arrangement.

"Then I shall not go," she exclaimed. "Do you think me one of the incapable young women of the old school—unable to earn a sixpence, and wanting to be paid for and taken care of like a child? I would have you to know, sir, that I am one of the young women of the new school, who travel third-class, ride on the tops of omnibuses, and earn their own living."

"But I shall take a house at San Remo, Allegra. Do you expect me to turn innkeeper—charge you for your bed and board?"

"Oh, you are monstrously proud. You can do as you like in your own house, I suppose. But all travelling and hotel expenses will be my affair, remember that."

"And you don't mind leaving Trelasco?"

"I am like Ruth. You are my home and my country. Where thou goest I will go."

"And Captain Hulbert—how will he like to lose you?"

"What am I to Captain Hulbert?" she asked, trying to laugh off the question, but blushing deeply as she bent over her colour-box, suddenly interested in the littered contents.

"A great deal, I fancy, though he may not have found plain speech for his feelings yet awhile."

"If—if you are not a very foolish person, and there is[Pg 207] any foundation for your absurd idea, Captain Hulbert will know where to find us. He can spread his wings and follow."

"The Vendetta? Yes, she is pretty familiar with the bays and bights of the Mediterranean. No doubt he will follow us, dear. But I should like him to speak out before we go."

"Then I'm afraid you will be disappointed. He likes coming here—he likes you and Isola, and perhaps he likes me, pretty well, after a fashion; but sailors are generally fickle, are they not? And if he is at all like his brother, Lord Lostwithiel, who seems to have a dreadful reputation, judging by the way people talk of him here——"

"He is not like his brother in character or disposition. If he were, I should be sorry for my sister to marry him."

"Have you such a very bad opinion of his brother?" asked Allegra, shocked and grieved that any one closely allied to John Hulbert should bear an evil repute.

"Perhaps that would be too much to say. I know so little about him. I have scarcely seen him since he was a lad—only I have heard things which have prejudiced me," continued Disney, lapsing into moody thoughtfulness.

Was it not Mr. Crowther's insolence, and that alone, which had prejudiced him against Lostwithiel—had made the very name hateful to him? Yes, that was the cause of his aversion. He had disproved those insolent insinuations; he had exploded the covert slander and rebuked the slanderer; but he had not forgotten. The wound still rankled.


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