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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Debtor: A Novel - Chapter 40
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The Debtor: A Novel - Chapter 40 Post by :jewelzca Category :Long Stories Author :Mary E Wilkins Freeman Date :May 2012 Read :1193

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The Debtor: A Novel - Chapter 40

Chapter XL

When Carroll came to himself that night after his fall, his first conscious motion was for his dollar watch. He was in William Allbright's bed. There were only two sleeping-apartments in the little tenement. William was seated beside him, watching him with his faithful, serious face; there was also a physician, keenly observant, still closer to the injured man's head; and the sister, Allbright's sister, was visible in the next room, seated in a chair which commanded a good view of the bed. It was Allbright who had rescued Carroll from the station-house; for when he did not rise, the usual crowd, who directly attribute all failures to recover one's self from a manifestly inappropriate recumbent position, had collected, and several policemen were on the scene.

"I know this gentleman," Allbright said, in his rather humble, still half-respectful, voice, which carried conviction. "I know this gentleman. I have been a book-keeper in his office. He slipped on the ice. I saw him fall. He is not drunk."

One of the policemen, who had been long in the vicinity and knew Allbright, as from the heights of the law one might know an unimportant and unoffending citizen, responded.

"All right," he said, laconically. "Hospital?"

"Guess he's hurted pretty bad," remarked another policeman, who was a handsome athlete.

"Hospital?" inquired the first, who was a man of few words, of Allbright.

"I guess we'd better have him taken to my house. It's right here," replied Allbright. "Then we'll call in Dr. Wilson and see how much is the matter with him. Maybe he's only stunned. The hospital is apt to be a long siege, and if there isn't any need of it--"

"His house is right here," said the first policeman to the second, with a stage aside.

"All right," said the second.

A boy pulled Allbright by the sleeve. "Say, I'll go for the doc," he cried, eagerly. He was enjoying the situation keenly.

"Well," replied Allbright, "be quick about it. Tell him there's a man badly hurt at my house."

The boy sped like a rocket, and three more with him. They all yelled as they ran. They were street gamins of the better class, and were both sympathetic and entertained. They lived in a tenement-house near Allbright, and knew him quite well by sight.

Meantime the two policemen carried Carroll the short distance to William Allbright's house. He was quite unconscious, and it was an undertaking of considerable difficulty to carry him up the stairs, since the Allbrights lived in the second story.

The clerk in the department store, and his mother, who lived on the first floor, came to their door in undress and offered their hospitality, but Mr. Allbright declined their aid.

"No," he said. "I know him. It is Mr. Carroll. He had better be taken up to my rooms."

When at last they laid the unconscious man on Allbright's bed, which his sister, pale, and yet with a collectedness under such surprising circumstances which spoke well for her, had opened, the policeman who was not an athlete, and was, in fact, too stout, wiped his forehead and said, "Gee."

The other remained looking at the injured man soberly.

"Guess he's hurted pretty bad," he remarked again.

"You bet," said the first. "Gee!"

Allbright's sister came with the camphor-bottle, which she kept in a sort of folk-lore fashion, as her mother had used to do in the country. Allbright brought the whiskey, of which he kept a small supply in the house in case of dire need, and stood over Carroll with that and a teaspoon, with a vague idea of trying to insinuate a few drops into his mouth.

The two policemen clamped heavily down-stairs, agreeing that they would remain until the doctor came, and see if it was to be the hospital after all.

"Guess he's hurted pretty bad," remarked the handsome policeman for the third time.

The doctor came quickly, almost on a run. He lived within a block, and had not a large practice. He was attended by a large throng of boys, for the three had served as a nucleus for many more. He turned around to them with an imperative gesture as he entered the house door.

"Now you scatter," said he. He was a fair man, but he had at once an appeal of good-fellowship and a certain force of character. Besides, there were the two policemen hovering near. The boys withdrew and remained watching in the dark shadows cast by an opposite house. In case the injured man was carried to the hospital, and the ambulance should come, they could not afford to miss that. They had not so many pleasures in life.

The doctor mounted the stairs; he had been there before, for Allbright's sister was more or less of an invalid, and he at once abetted Allbright's purpose of the few drops of stimulant on the teaspoon, which the patient swallowed with a pathetic, gulping passiveness like a baby's.

"He swallows all right," remarked Allbright's sister, in an agitated voice. She stood aloof, waving the camphor-bottle; her eyes were dilated, and her face had a pale, gaping look.

"You go out in the other room and stay there," said the doctor to her, with the authority which a hysterical woman defers to and adores.

Allbright's sister was a very good woman, but she had sometimes imagined, then directly driven the imagination from her with a spiritual scourge like a monk of old, what might have happened if the doctor were not already married.

Carroll's forehead was dripping with camphor, and there was danger should he open his eyes. The doctor wiped the pale forehead gently and spoke to him.

"Well, you had quite a hard fall, sir," he said, in a loud, cheerful voice, and directly Carroll answered, like a somnambulist:

"Yes, quite a fall."

Then he seemed to lapse again into unconsciousness. The doctor and Allbright remained working over him, but it was within fifteen minutes before the time when the last train for Banbridge was due to leave New York that he made the first absolutely conscious motion.

"He is feeling for his watch," said Allbright, in an agitated whisper. His wits were sharpened with regard to Carroll's watch. Carroll's coat and vest had been removed, and were hanging over a chair. Allbright at once got the dollar watch from its pocket and carried it over to the sick man. "Here is your watch, Mr. Carroll," he said, and his voice was full of both respectful and tender inflections.

A sob was distinctly heard from Allbright's sister out in the sitting-room. The woman from down-stairs, the department clerk's mother, was now with her.

"He wants to see if his watch is safe, poor man," said she, in a tearful voice, and Allbright's sister whimpered again.

"It's a wonder some of them kids didn't swipe it," said the down-stairs woman, and Allbright's sister was conscious of a distinct thrill of disgust in the midst of her excitement and pity. She was of a superior sort to the down-stairs woman, and she often told her brother she could not get used to folks using such language.

Poor Carroll was looking dimly at his watch, and Allbright at once divined that he could not distinguish the time without his eye-glasses. He therefore leaned over him--his own spectacles were on his nose--and told him the time.

"It's almost seventeen minutes past twelve, Mr. Carroll," he said.

Carroll made a movement to rise, then subsided with a groan. "Where am I?" he inquired, feebly, with a bewildered stare around the strange room. Directly opposite him hung a large crayon portrait of Allbright's father, a handsome man with a reverend beard like a prophet, and his eyes became riveted upon that.

"You are in my house, Mr. Carroll," said Allbright, with a tender, caressing motion of his hand towards him, like a woman.

"You had a fall on the ice, Mr. Carroll," said the physician, in a tone of soothing explanation, "but you will soon be as good as new."

"How far up-town?" inquired Carroll, still gazing at the portrait, which had an odd hardness of outline, and appeared almost as if carved out of wood.

"You are at One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street," replied Allbright. "You are at my house, Mr. Carroll. You fell right out here, and I had you carried in here."

Carroll tried again to rise, and made a despairing gasp. "Oh, my God!" he said. "I have lost the last train out. There isn't time to get down to the ferry, and there is that poor child all alone there, and she won't know--"

"You can send a telegram," suggested the doctor. "Now, Mr. Carroll, don't get excited."

"She will be all right," said Allbright.

"What is it?" asked the down-stairs woman, coming to the door.

"His daughter is all alone in the house, I guess, and he's worried about her," explained Allbright.

"There ain't nothin' goin' to eat her, if she is, is there?" inquired the down-stairs woman.

"I'll run with a telegram," said Allbright, eagerly, to the doctor.

But at that moment Carroll lapsed into unconsciousness. The excitement had been too much for him. He lay as if asleep.

"Where does he live?" asked the doctor, of Allbright.

"I don't know exactly. Somewhere out on the Pennsylvania Railroad."

"You don't know?" repeated the doctor, with a faint accent of surprise.

Allbright shook his head.

"You were book-keeper in his office?"

"Yes, but I haven't been there for some time. I never asked any questions."

The doctor turned and looked at Carroll. Then he went out of the room, with Allbright following, and gave him some directions. He asked for a glass two-thirds full of water and poured some dark drops into it.

"The minute he gets conscious again give him a spoonful of this," he said, "and you had better sit beside him and watch him." Then he turned to Allbright's sister, who was trembling from head to foot with a nervous chill. "You take a dose of that whiskey your brother gave him," he said, jerking his shoulder towards the inner room, "then go to bed, and don't worry your head about him."

"Oh, doctor, he isn't going to die here?"

"Die here? No, nor nowhere else for one while. There is nothing the matter with the man except he bumped his head rather too hard for comfort."

"How long is he likely to be here on their hands?" inquired the down-stairs woman.

"He will be able to go home in the morning, I think," said the doctor.

"Oh, doctor, you aren't going to go away and leave us with a strange man as sick as he is?" asked Allbright's sister, hysterically. She shook so that she could scarcely speak.

"You won't have to worry half so much over a strange man as you would over one you know," replied the doctor, jocosely, "and he is not very sick. He will be all right soon. Now you take some of your brother's medicine and go to bed, for I have six cases to visit to-night before I go home, and I don't want another."

Allbright's sister bridled with an odd, inexplicable pride. She did not like to be a burden on her brother, nor make trouble, but there was a certain satisfaction in having the down-stairs woman, who, she had always suspected, rather made light of her ailments, hear for herself that she was undoubtedly delicate. Even the minor and apparently paradoxical pretensions of life are dear to their possessors in lieu of others.

"Very well. I suppose I've got to mind the doctor," she replied, and even smiled foolishly and blushed.

The doctor turned to Allbright.

"I think he will be all right in the morning," he said; "a bit light-headed, of course, but all right. However, don't let him go home before noon, on your life. I will look in in the morning before he goes." And then he turned to Allbright's sister. "On second thought, I will let you make a good big bowl of that gruel of yours before you go to bed," he said; "then he can take it in the course of the night if he is able; and beat him up some eggs in the morning."

"I'll make the gruel if she ain't able," said the down-stairs woman, in a tone vibrating between kindness and scorn.

"Thank you. I am quite able to make it," said Allbright's sister, and she was full of small triumph and persistency. Yes, she would make the gruel, even if she was so very delicate that she ought to go at once to bed. It was quite evident that she thought that the down-stairs woman could not make gruel good enough for that man in there, anyway.

"Well, I guess I'll go," said the down-stairs woman, "as long as I don't seem to be of any use. If there was anything I could do, I'd stay." And she went.

"The idea of her coming up here and trying to find out what was going on!" Allbright's sister said to her brother as she was getting the meal ready for the gruel. "I never saw such a curious woman."

"If we hadn't got so attached to the place we would move," said Allbright, who was leaving his patient momentarily, to change his shoes for slippers.

"I know it," said the sister, "but I can't help feeling attached to the place, we have lived here so long; and there is that beautiful cherry-tree out in the yard, and everything."

"That is so," said Allbright.

"I am glad Mr. Carroll didn't have to be carried to a hospital."

"I suppose he would have been if I had not happened to be right on the spot," said Allbright, reflectively, to his sister.

"You think he'll be all right in the morning, don't you?"

"Oh yes, the doctor said so!"

Outside, the watching boys in the shadow of the church disappointedly vanished, cheated of their small and grewsome excitement, when they saw the doctor quietly walk towards his house and realized that there was to be no ambulance and no hospital.

"Gee! I've had knocks harder 'n that, and never said nothin' about it," said one boy as he scurried away with the others towards his home in the high tenement-house.

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The Debtor: A Novel - Chapter 41 The Debtor: A Novel - Chapter 41

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Chapter XLIIt was quite early the next morning when Charlotte received the telegram that her father had had a fall on the ice, was not badly injured, and would be home on the noon train. Anderson had gone very early to the telegraph-office. It was being ticked off in Andrew Drake's drug-store when he inquired, and the boy viewed him with intense curiosity when he took the message, but did not dare ask any questions. Anderson hurried home with it to Charlotte, who was not yet up. Mrs. Anderson had insisted upon her having her breakfast in bed, and she had

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The Debtor: A Novel - Chapter 39
Chapter XXXIXAlmost at once a light flashed from an upper window in response to Charlotte's knock and ring. Anderson himself had been in New York that night with Henry Edgecomb to the theatre. A celebrated play was on, in which a celebrated actress figured, and the two had taken one of their rather infrequent excursions. Consequently, Anderson had not been in the house more than an hour, and during that hour had been writing some letters which he wished to get off in the early mail. His room was at the back of the house, a long room extending nearly the