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Dinner was over; and Mr. Wedmore, in a snug easy-chair by the
dining-room fire, was waiting for Doctor Haselden, who often looked in
for a smoke and a game of chess with the owner of The Beeches.
A lean, fidgety man, with thin hair and grayish whiskers, Mr. Wedmore
looked less at home in the velveteen suit and gaiters which he persisted
in wearing even in the evening, less like the country gentleman it was
his ambition to be, than like the care-laden city merchant he at heart
On the other side of the table sat his better half, in whom it was easy
to see he must have found all the charm of contrast to his own
personality. A cheery, buxom woman, still handsome, full of life and
fun, she had held for the whole of her married life a sway over her lord
and master all the greater that neither of them was conscious of the
fact. A most devoted and submissive wife, a most indulgent and
affectionate mother, Mrs. Wedmore occupied the not unenviable position
of being half slave, half idol in her own household.
The clock struck eight, and the bell rang.
"There he is! There's the doctor!" cried Mrs. Wedmore, with a beaming
nod. Her husband sat up in his chair, and the troubled frown which he
had worn all the evening grew a little deeper.
"I should like you, my dear, to leave us together this evening," said
Mrs. Wedmore jumped up at once, gathering her balls of wool and big
knitting-needles together with one quick sweep of the arm.
"All right, dear," said she, with another nod, giving him an anxious
Mr. Wedmore perceived the look and smiled. He stretched out his hand to
lay it gently on his wife's arm as she passed him.
"Nothing about me. Nothing for you to be alarmed about," said he.
Mrs. Wedmore hesitated a moment. She had her suspicions, and she would
dearly have liked to know more. But she was the best trained of wives;
and after a moment's pause, seeing that she was to hear nothing further,
she said, good-humoredly: "All right, dear," and left the room, just in
time to shake hands with Doctor Haselden as she went out.
Now, while the host found it impossible to shake off the signs of his
old calling, the doctor was a man who had never been able to assume
them. From head to foot there was no trace of the doctor in his
appearance; he looked all over what at heart he was--the burly,
good-humored, home-loving, land-loving country gentleman, who looked
upon Great Datton, where his home was, as the pivot of the world.
However he was dressed, he always looked shabby, and he could never have
been mistaken for anything but an English gentleman.
He shook hands with Mr. Wedmore, with a smile. These poor Londoners,
trying to acclimatize themselves, amused him greatly. He looked upon
them much as the Londoner looks upon the Polish Jew immigrants--with
pity, a little jealousy, and no little scorn.
"Where's Carlo?" asked he.
"Oh, Carlo was a nuisance, so I've sent him to the stable," said Mr.
Wedmore, with the slightly colder manner which he instantly assumed if
any grievance of his, however small, was touched upon.
Carlo was a young retriever, which Mr. Wedmore, in the stern belief that
it was the proper thing in a country house, had encouraged about the
house until his habits of getting between everybody's legs and helping
himself to the contents of everybody's plate had so roused the ire of
the rest of the household that Mr. Wedmore had had to give way to the
universal prejudice against him.
The doctor shook his head. Lack of capacity for managing a dog was just
what one might have expected from these new-comers.
Mr. Wedmore turned his chair to face that of the doctor, and spoke in
the sharp, incisive tones of a man who has serious business on hand.
"I've been hoping you would drop in every night for the last fortnight,"
said he, "and as you didn't come, I was at last obliged to send for you.
I have a very important matter to consult you about. You've brought your
pipe?" The doctor produced it from his pocket. "Well, fill it, and
listen. It's about young Horne--Dudley Horne--that I want to speak to
you, to consult you, in fact."
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