Chapter 2 | Going Backwards | The Bag of Diamonds

Breakfast-time in the dull dining-room, with its sombre old furniture, carpet dotted with holes worn by the legs of chairs, and the drab-painted panelled walls, made cheerful by a set of engravings in tarnished gilt, fly-pecked frames of the princes of the blood royal: H.R.H. the Prince Regent, with his brothers the Dukes of York, Clarence, Kent, Cumberland, Sussex, and Cambridge, each with a little square tasselled pillow at the top of the frame, and, reposing thereon, a very shabby coronet; while the two windows, with their faded curtains, looked across a row of rusty spikes at a prospect composed of a gaunt old house, evidently let in lodgings.

Richmond Chartley, looking as charming as a handsome girl will look, in spite of a line of care upon her her head and a twitch of anxiety upon the corners of her lips, was distributing coffee, and alternating the task by cutting bread-and-butter—thin-thick for her brother Hendon, who was reading a sporting paper, and thin-thin for Dr Chartley, who was gazing in an abstracted manner at a paper before him, and making notes from time to time with a gilt pencil-case.

He was a bland-looking, handsome man, with stiff white cravat, and that suave, softly-smiling aspect peculiar to fashionable physicians; but the fashion had gone, though the smile remained, to be shed upon his two children instead of upon the patients who came no more.

The breakfast progressed, with Hendon eagerly taking in the detail of the last Australian boat-race, and the doctor making a calculation for the variation of the compound that was the dream of his life, till, as it was finally ended, he bent forward, and said softly, “Truly thankful, amen!”

Hendon Chartley rustled his paper, and doubled it up, and thrust it into his pocket.

“But no fried bacon,” he said bitterly. Dr Chartley turned his beams upon his son, and shook his head slowly.

“Indigestible, Hendon. But never mind. Work as I do. Get to the top of the tree, and then you can keep your carriage, and destroy your liver with Strasburg pie.”

“Bah!” said Hendon; but his father’s countenance did not change.

“Going to the hospital, my boy?”

“Yes, the old dismal round. But to allay suffering. A great profession.”

“Wish it had less profession and more solid satisfaction!” said the young man. “Good-bye, Rich.”

He hurried out of the room, and the next minute the door was heard to bang.

“An ornament to the profession some day, Richmond.”

“Yes, dear, but—”

“Well, my love?” said the doctor, beaming upon her softly.

“Don’t think me unkind, dear, now you are so deep in your study; but I do really want a little help.”

“Certainly, my darling, certainly. Now, that’s what I like; frank confidence on your part. You are the best of housekeepers, my child; but I don’t want you to take all the burden on your shoulders.”

Richmond Hartley sighed, and the line on her broad handsome forehead; took to itself so many puckers, which, however, did not detract from her beauty.

“Well, my dear; speak out. You want something?”

“Yes, father; money.”

“Ah!” said Dr Chartley softly, as he tapped the table with the top of his worn pencil-case. “Money; you want money.”

“Yes, father. I am horribly pressed. Poor Hendon has really not enough to pay for his lunch, and—”

“Yes, my dear; but Hendon will soon be in a position to provide comfortably for himself,” said the doctor blandly.

The old proverb about the growing grass and the starving steed occurred to Richmond, but he only sighed.

“I don’t think you need trouble yourself about Hendon, my dear.”

“But there is the rent, father,” said Richmond desperately, as the full extent of their position flashed upon her; and she felt impelled to speak.

“Ah, yes; the rent. I had forgotten the rent,” said the doctor dreamily.

“Final and threatening notices have been left about the rates and taxes.”

“Yes,” said the doctor musingly. “The idea is Utopian, but I have often thought how pleasant life would be were there no rents or rates and taxes.”

“Dear father, I must tell you all my troubles now I have begun,” said Richmond, leaving her chair to kneel down before the handsome elderly man, and lay her hand upon his breast.

“Certainly, my darling, certainly,” he said, bending down to kiss her brow in the most gentlemanly manner, and then caress her luxuriant hair.

“They have threatened to cut off both the gas and water.”

“Tut! tut! how unreasonable, Richmond! Really a severe letter ought to be addressed to the companies’ directors.”

“And, father dear, the tradespeople are growing not only impatient, but absolutely insulting. What am I to do?”

“Wait, my darling, wait. Little clouds in our existence while we are attending the breaking forth of the sun. Not long, my dear. I am progressing rapidly with my discovery, and while I shall be extent with the fame, you shall be my dear banker, and manage everything as you do now.”

“Yes, yes, dear, I will; but it is so sad. No patient seems to come to you now.”

“No, my dear, no,” he replied calmly; “I’m afraid I neglected several, and they talked about it among themselves. These things will spread.”

“Are there any means left of—pray forgive me, dear—of raising a little money?”

“No, my dear, I think not. But don’t trouble about it. Any day now I may have my discovery complete, and then—but really, my dear, this is wasting time. I must get on with my work.”

He rose, and Richmond sighed as with courtly grace he raised her hand and kissed it, smiling it her sadly and shaking his head.

“So like your dear mother,” he said; “even to the tones of your voice. Don’t let me be disturbed, Richmond. I am getting to a critical point.”

He slowly crossed the room, gazing dreamily before him, and passed out, while his child stood listening to his step along the passage at the back of the side-board till the door of the surgery was heard to close, when, clasping her hands, she gazed up at the Prince Regent, as if he were some kind of a fat idol, and exclaimed passionately, “What shall I do? What shall I do?”

A violent twitch made her raise her hand to her face, which was contracted with pain, and she drew her breath hard; but the pang seemed to pass away, and after ringing the bell she began busily to pack the breakfast-things together.

Before she had half done, the door opened softly, and a rather dirty face was thrust in. It was the face of an old-looking boy with snub-nose, large mouth, and a rough, shock head bristling over his prominent forehead, and all redeemed by as bright and roguish-looking a pair of eyes as ever shone out from beneath a low type of head.

The door was only opened wide enough at first to admit the head, but as soon as its owner had given a glance round, the door opened farther, and the rest of a rather small person appeared, dressed in a well-worn page’s button suit, partly hidden by a dirty green-baize bibbed apron.

The boy’s sleeves were tucked up, and he was carrying a pair of old-fashioned Wellington boots by the tops, and these boots he held up on high.

“Didn’t know, Miss, whether the doctor had gone. Been a-cleaning his boots. Look, Miss, there’s a shine!”

“Yes, yes, Bob, they look very nice. Take them, up-stairs, and then come and clear away.”

“All right, Miss. I made a whole bottle o’ blacking outer half a cake as a chap I knows give me.”

“Yes, yes, Bob.”

“Stunning blacking it is, too. He’s in the Brigade, and I minded his box for him, and took sixpence while he went and had a game of marbles. That’s why he give me the cake.”

“Now, Bob, my good lad, I don’t want to know anything about that. Take those boots up-stairs.”

“All right, Miss; but do look how they shines. I polished tops and all. Look, Miss.”

“Yes, yes, yes; they are beautifully clean.”

“I allus thinks about legs, Miss, when I cleans boots; and when I thinks about legs, I think about the doctor making such a good job o’ mine arter I was run over. It’s stronger than the other; I am glad as it was broke.”


“Yes, Miss. Why, if I hadn’t been run over, my leg wouldn’t have been broke, and then the doctor wouldn’t have mended it, and I shouldn’t be here. What’s she gone away for?” said the boy to himself, as he stared after Richmond. “She’s been a-crying; one of her eyes was wet. What cowards gals are to cry!”

The boy went to the door and listened, but all was perfectly still; so he set down the boots, rolled his apron into what he called a cow’s tail, the process consisting in twisting it up very tightly and tucking it round his waist.

This done he listened again, and finding all still, he thrust his arms into the doctor’s boots and indulged in a hearty laugh of a silently weird description before going down on all fours, and walking as slowly and solemnly round the table as a tom cat, whose movements he accurately copied, rubbing himself up against the legs of the table, and purring loudly.

This over, he rose to his feet and listened, but all being still, he went down upon all fours again and trotted round the table, leaped on to a chair, leaped down again, and ran out of the room and along the dark passage towards the head of the kitchen stairs, looking in the gloom wonderfully like some large ape.

Active as he was, a descent of the dark stone stairs on all fours was beyond him; so he rose up, and reaching over, glided silently down the balustrade, to the great detriment of his buttons. But, arrived upon the mat at the bottom, he once more resumed his quadrupedal attitude, thrust his hands well into the Wellington boots, and trotted with a soft patter into a dark back kitchen, out of which came a droning noise uttered by some one at work, and apparently under the impression that it was a song.

The boy, more animal-like than ever, disappeared in the gloom, with the boots making a low pat-pat, pat-pat, and then there was a loud shriek, and Bob bounded out, skimmed up the stairs, after evidently having alarmed some one, and disappeared with the boots, which he sedately carried up to the bedroom. Then he descended, to listen at the head of the stairs to a complaining voice relating to Richmond Chartley an account of how an “ormuz” great dog had come down the area, run into the back kitchen, and frighted some one almost out of her wits!

Bob’s face expressed happiness approaching the sublime, and he hurriedly cleared the breakfast-things, and took them down in time to be sent down by a not over-clean-looking maid-of-all-work to shut that there gate.

The boy was in the act of performing this duty when a neatly-dressed girlish-looking body approached, carrying a large folio under one arm—a folio so bound that the neatly-mended and well-fitting little glove which covered a very small hand could hardly reach to the bottom.

“Is your mistress in?”

“Yes, Miss,” said Bob, whose face seemed to reflect the sweet, sunny smile which greeted him. “I’ll slip round and let you in.”


This was the utterance of the new arrival, as she saw the boy apparently hurl himself over the iron balustrade of the area-steps, and plunge into the dust-hole region beyond. But Bob had long practiced the keeping of his equilibrium, as the polished slat of the iron rail proved, and, instead of dashing out his brains on the stones, he reached the bottom with a bound, and diving into the house, reappeared in a marvellously short space of time at the front-door.

“She’s in the dining-room, Miss,” said Bob, making a rush at the folio, and feasting his eyes the while on the natty fur-trimmed jacket and little furry hat, whose hue harmonised admirably with the wavy dark brown hair, neatly braided up beneath; for the visitor was remarkably well-dressed, and her fresh young face set off everything so well that no one thought of noticing that the dress had been turned, and that the jacket’s rough exterior had certainly last winter been upon the other side.

Bob hurriedly closed the door, and ran into the chilly dining-room with the folio, which he banged down on the table with—

“Here’s Miss Heath, Miss;” and then darted out of the room, leaving the two girls face to face. “They don’t like me to see ’em cuddling,” he said with a grin; and, urged by the enormous amount of vitality that was in him, Bob bounded to the kitchen stairs to slide down, and, directly after, a gritty rubbing noise, made metrical to accompany the shrill whistling of a tune, arose, the result of the fact that Bob Hartnup, the doctor’s boy, who clung to the house with the fidelity of a cat, was cleaning the knives. Bob’s facts were correct, if unrefined in expression, for the two girls flew to each other’s arms, and as they kissed affectionately, each displayed tears in her eyes, while without relinquishing hands, they sat down together near the window.

“No news, Janet?” whispered Richmond. Her visitor shook her head slowly, gazing wistfully the while into her companion’s eyes.

“We must wait, Rich dear. Africa is a horribly great place, and some day we shall hear that he is coming back.”

Richmond Chartley made no reply, but sat gazing straight out through the uncleaned window, as if her large clear eyes were looking straight away over the ocean in search of the man she loved.

“Don’t, don’t, darling; don’t look like that,” whispered the younger girl. “Don’t think all that again. It’s cruel, it’s wicked of them to have said such things. He was too young, and strong, and brave to die.”

“Please God, yes!” said Richmond simply, but with a deep heart-stirring pathos in the tones of her rich voice.

“And one of these days he’ll come, dear, like the good prince in the fairy tale, all rich and handsome, as my darling brother always was, and marry my own dear Rich, and make her happy again.”

“Please God, yes!” said Richmond once more; and this time there was resignation, and despair so plainly marked that her companion flung her arms about her neck and began to sob.

“Rich, dear Rich, don’t, pray don’t, or you’ll drive me half mad. I’ve all my lessons to give to-day. And my hand will tremble, and I shall be so unnerved that I can do nothing.”

“Janet dear, I try so hard not to despair, but the weary months roll by, and it is two years now since you have had a line.”

“Yes, but what of that? Perhaps he is where there are no post-offices, or perhaps he is not getting on; and, poor boy, he is too proud to write till he is doing better. Why, he has only been away four years.”

“Four years!” said Richmond sadly; “is it only four years?”

“That’s all, dear, though it has seemed like eight, and we will not despair, even though it is so hard to bear. Why, Rich, I feel sometimes when I kneel down at night that if he were dead I should know it; he would not let us go on suffering if it were so.”

“Janet dear, I feel sometimes as if it was wrong to have loved him.”

“What, dear Mark?”


“Wrong? For shame! How could any girl who knew my darling old Mark as you did help loving him?”

“But it made him dissatisfied. I was the cause of his going away.”

“That foolish thought again! You were not, dear. It would have been the same if he had loved any girl. He said that he would not ask any woman to be his wife while he was tied down here without any prospects; and he went off to make his fortune, as many another brave young Englishman has gone before.”

“But I made him discontented, dear.”

“You made him behave nobly. Why, what other man would have said as he did, ‘I hold you to no engagement. I ask nothing of you: I only tell you that I love you with all my heart’?”

“‘And some day I will return,’” said Richmond, in a low deep voice.

“Yes, and some day he will return, dear: I do believe it, I will believe it, and—Oh, Rich, Rich, Rich, why, why are we such unhappy girls?”

It was the elder’s turn now to try and comfort the younger, who had burst into a passionate fit of weeping, so full of anguish that, at last, Richmond raised her friend’s hand, kissed it, and holding the bonny little head between her hands, she said, with almost motherly tenderness.

“Janet, Hendon has been speaking to you again?”

There was no reply.

“I knew it,” said Richmond half angrily. “It was thoughtless and cruel of him!”

“No, no, don’t blame him, dear. No one could be more noble and more good. You know how hard he works.”

“Yes,” said Richmond, with a sigh.

“And if he is impatient with his home and your father, why, you must recollect that he is a man, and men are not meant to be patient and suffering, like women.”

“He is too thoughtless, Janet, and—I don’t like to say it of my own brother—too selfish.”

“No, no!” cried Janet, flushing.

“Yes, dear, yes. Could he have had his way, you two would have been man and wife, and he half living on the earnings of these poor tiny little hands.”

“I don’t think he would have pressed me to it, Rich; and after all, it was because he loved me so.”

“Yes, and would have taken advantage of your loneliness here in this great cruel city, and dragged you down to poverty and misery such as I am bearing now. Janet, Janet dear, I feel sometimes as if I cannot bear this miserable degradation longer, and that all these troubles must be a punishment for my not telling my father about Mark.”

“Why, Rich,” said Janet, turning comforter once more, “what was there to tell? You made no engagement. And look here, if so much trouble is to come of love, why, you and I will take vows, and be single all our days. There, now, you look more like yourself; and I’m going to tell you my news.”

“News?” cried Richmond, starting eagerly, and then looking sadly at her friend.

“Yes, two more pupils. I’m getting along famously now. And it does make me so happy and resigned. There, I must go, but—”

“You have something more to say to me?”

“Yes, only—there, I will be firm. Don’t be angry with me, Rich dear, for I seem to have no one to care for here but you, and some day you shall pay me again, and I want you to borrow this.”

She slipped a tiny little purse into Richmond’s hands, and then turned scarlet, as she saw her companion’s pallid face.

“No, no, Janet, I could not: your little scraped together earnings. Pray don’t speak to me like that again.”

“I must. I will!” cried the girl with passionate earnestness. “I don’t want it, dear, and it is only a loan. Do, do, pray take it.”

“I could not,” said Richmond, thrusting the purse into her friend’s hand.

“For Mark’s sake, dear.”

“For Mark’s sake!” faltered Richmond hoarsely.

“Yes; how could I look him in the face again, if I had not behaved to you as he bade me when we said good-bye on board the ship?”

“As he bade you?”

“Yes; to be as a sister to you always, and to look to you as a sister for help and comfort when I was in need. Yes, dear, for Mark’s sake.”

For answer, Richmond Chartley took her friend once more in her arms, and kissed her, but only to press the purse back into her hand before going with her to the door, from which they both shrank on opening it, for a loud voice exclaimed, “Thank you! How do? Ah! Miss Chartley, is the doctor within?”