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NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
A REMINISCENCE OF A PHYSICIAN.
BY KELLY KENNYON.
I. YEARS, long, eventful years, have rolled away since I was a student at the university of the northern metropolis. Life since then has presented its varied phases of good or ill; and with the world's concerns and its cares I have been no stranger. Yet such have not made me forget the days to which I now revert. Recollection re-summons to its vision, with strange truthfulness, things long passed away, and brings again into a sort of ideal reality circumstances and their associations which lie far over the vista of time. Wonderful attribute art thou, Memory! A ray of that divinity woven in our natures, mysterious and incomprehensible the immaterial something added to material being, subject to no laws of matter, of space, or duration !
Having always had a taste for history, I recollect with what pleasure in
my walks and hours of leisure I visited the many places of historic interest in that ancient city. It was pleasing to think one trod on ground now classic, and that must be so while the race and language exist; it was pleasing to behold the habitations of high-born peers and ministers of state, who were proud and mighty in their pride of place in centuries long past, and compare their unostentatious dwellings with the palace homes of their descendants ; it was pleasing, I repeat, to trace the corroded armorial bearings and effaced inscriptions on walls hoary with age ; to see here the fleur-de-lis, there the crescent or the cross, which, vauntingly, had been reared“ as the proofs of lineage and the emblematic records of military glory. In such contemplations, it were more than probable a thousand questions would suggest themselves relative to those who had flourished and long ceased to be. It might be asked, were they endowed with the same impulses, affections, and passions--erring mortals like ourselves—in every whit resembling the bipeds of present days ? It was natural to speculate on their habits and oddities, to form notions of their tastes and amusements, and to associate them with the rough and rude times in which they lived. There was one residence more than any other familiar to me, and which is now, with greater vividness than any other, remembered.
In the southern outskirts of the old town there is a cul-de-sac kind of square, which, doubtless, in the days of yore, was more fashionable than
This is Park-place. There stood the once proud mansion of a metropolitan magnate, darkened and antiquated by the breath of time. In the downward course of its destiny it had undergone various reverses and metamorphoses. The old fabric is now faithfully imaged to my sight. I can see its little wall-girt paddock, which it were utter mockery to designate by the name of park; and surely the place could not have taken its prenomen from that confined little plot. I can still
Sept.-VOL. XCVI. NO. CCCLXXXI.
behold the unpretending entrance-gates; the half-dozen dirty, smokebegrimed sheep cropping the bare herbage in their intramural range ; the piles of tall and sombre houses by which it was hemmed in ; the garden run to waste ; the few overgrown shrubs; the air of desolation and decay which pervaded, with divers other features not more welcome in the retrospect. Then entering the mansion, the spacious, dreary, illlighted hall; the narrow stone stairs, that spirally conducted to the upper
stories ; the gloomy rooms, with their curiously-carved mantelpieces, massive doors, huge locks, and empanneled walls, which showed that earlier generations did not sacrifice strength for decoration. Then ascending to the second floor, and proceeding to the further extremity of a dusky corridor, is presented to my mind's eye a small, retired, lonely apartment, which I called the snuggery. Again, come to view its oldfashioned fireplace; the narrow and stoutly framed windows, with their faded curtains; the small table littered with books and
Shakspeare's soiled bust; the half-dozen frameless engravings nailed to the panels; the capacious easy-chair, in which I ensconced myself over the sea-coal fire ; again, I say, these come to view with the distinctness of yesterday! Well, this old mansion was the maternetie where I then resided as resident obstetric physician.
One evening, now well remembered, when lost in the abstraction of study, immediately previous to my going up to an examination, my attention was roused by a loud knock that threatened to send in the door. • Come in,” shouted I ; after which momentarily entered the porter, butler, factotum—"aut quocunque alio nomine gaudet," as Dalgelty would have said.
“Mr. Kennyon,” said he, hurriedly, "you're to gae to No. -, Sailsbury-street the noo, an' ye please, sir.”
“To Sailsbury-street !-where-where?—what is the name ?-on what business, Davie, eh?” demanded I of the broad-shouldered, thick-set Highlandman, who had bid adieu to the wilds of Mull for the better living and greater opportunities for fame and fortune in Edinburgh.
66 Dinna ken, sir, dinna ken; the laddie tault me No. street, and awa he gaed as if the deil had sent him.”
“ If I should be detained you'll know where I am, Davie,” said I, throwing on my cloak and hurrying off to the place directed.
Pacing along the flags, I could not avoid the idea that there was some mistake in the matter. I had not on my list any patient in that street.
However," thought I, “it is my duty to go.” It was a clear, frosty night, but my cogitations made me forget the uncomfortableness of leaving the warm fireside.
On reaching my destination, the door of No. — was slightly on the jar, and ere I had ascended the steps a respectably dressed female, with a candle in her hand, politely bade me walk in, and ushered me into a small but clean and neatly furnished sitting-room.
“Mr. Kennyon, I suppose ?" said she, inquiringly. “ My name is Kennyon; yes.”
“ Mrs. M'Andrews, the matron of your hospital,” returned she, “is my sister, and she recommended you to attend a stranger lady, who is now lodging in my house, and who will, I fancy, soon require your presence.” This personage
I shall introduce to the reader under the name of Mrs. Logie; she was a squat, square-built, red-faced little woman, apparently
Sailsburyon the wrong side of forty. Her small deep-set eyes, low brow, slightly compressed mouth, and somewhat sinister look, rendered her not the most prepossessing of her sex. After a little preliminary conversation, she bade me follow her into the adjoining apartment, where I was to be introduced to my patient. This apartment I found an exceedingly comfortable dormitory. The fire burnt brightly in the frost air of the evening, and imparted a more than wonted cheerfulness, whilst the red moreen curtains, the few pictures in their gilded frames, the pretty lamp that stood on the table emitting
its pale beams, with various other et cæteras, which, if they did not impress the mind with notions of affluence, they did of content and comfort, and led the beholder to deem it a nice, quiet, out-of-the-way-of-the-world little room. In an easy-chair in the corner sat an elderly lady, who respectfully arose and acknowledged my entrance. Mrs. Logie followed close at my heels, and said, by way of introduction :
“It is the doctor from Park-place, Mrs. Parkins," addressing herself to the occupant of the easy-chair.
“Do take this seat; do, sir, I beseech you,” said Mrs. Parkins, as she arose, and pointed to the luxurious chair in which she had been sitting. “ It is a cold night, and this corner will be agreeable,” continued she, in a kind but half-subdued tone of voice. “ You are sent for, sir,” resumed Mrs. Parkins, after a short pause, “ to attend a lady who now sleeps there”—pointing to the bed on the opposite side of the room and may God in his goodness grant her to survive her coming illness," continued she, with a deep and anxious sigh. She then, with hushed and measured steps, advanced to the bed, and partially drew aside the curtains, but the patient was in a tranquil slumber. I returned to my seat, and begged she might not be disturbed. Mrs. Parkins reiterated her devout wishes for the safe delivery of the lady; and, as she again thus earnestly expressed herself, I did not fail to observe her voice grew tremulous, and methought her eyes grew bright with well-nigh starting tears. During the interval of our conversation I could ever and anon hear the soft breathings of the now unconscious patient. My eyes involuntarily cast a furtive glance at the various objects in the room, and from one observation and another my curiosity became a little excited. On a side-table was a very handsome lady's writing-desk, elaborately inlet with pearl, and which at a glance belonged not to furnished lodgings. On the mantelpiece were a costly bracelet and a large brooch bearing a miniature likeness, and also a couple of richly-set rings. In the bright rays of the lamp and blazing fire my scrutinising glance could at once perceive they were no baubles. On a small stand-table near me lay a snowy cambric handkerchief, edged with lace, and in one corner I observed the initials E. A. From those and other objects it was pretty evident the sleeping lady would prove a lady in reality. I say there was something mysterious in all this, yet I did not venture to offer any inquisitive remarks. Time," thought I, “ will at length disclose the secret—if secret there be.” Mrs. Parkins said that Mrs. Allen (for this was the lady's name) was very young to be a mother-heaved a deep sigh, and again expressed her fears of the result.
“The lady is in a delicate state of health,” continued Mrs. Parkins ; “she has been so nervous of late, poor thing. I would give my life if she were well again. Are you awake, Emily?" abruptly said Mrs. Parkins as she turned towards the bed, and spoke in a louder tone. No reply
was given. In the momentary pause which followed, the soft respirations were once more audible. From her conversation and mode of speaking, it was evident Mrs. Parkins was not Scotch, and her demeanour and address bespoke education and good breeding.
Some half hour had passed over, when a sweet and plaintive voice said,
“What is the time, ma’am?-—is it night or is it morning? I have been dreaming, and am bewildered.”
“ 'Tis but half-past seven, love, and here is the doctor—here is Dr. Kennyon!"
After such intimation of my professional presence, I now made myself acquainted with the fair patient whose slumber I had been loth to interrupt. I gazed upon one of the most interesting faces ever beheldon a being that seemed less of earth than heaven! The charmingly plaintive melancholy, the soft, subdued languishing of features exquisitely beautiful, that tranquil and lofty brow, those large lustrous eyes, rendered more captivating by the slight drooping of their snowy lids, which imparted the tinge of thoughtful sadness, the luxuriant clusters of sunny ringlets, which unconfinedly fell in graceful disarray over a bust on which an Angelo or a Murillo would have gazed with rapture, formed a specimen of human loveliness which artists might vainly try to imitate-poets to describe! The Saxon Edith could not have been more fair ! On her small and exquisitely chiselled hand shone a costly brilliant ; by her side was carelessly thrown a shawl, not to be mistaken with its cashmeric dyes ; partially hid by the folds of the shawl lay a small thick volume, with its gold edges and silver clasp, from which I conjectured it to be the Book of Books. In an agitated tone of fear and dismay she expressed her doubts of recovery. I tendered such consolatory observations as I best could summon to my tongue. After sitting some time I rose to depart, previously assuring Mrs. Parkins I would promptly return on being sent for. Throwing my cloak around my shoulders, I was in a few minutes abstractedly retracing my steps to Park-place.
Reaching the snuggery I rang the bell, ordered coffee, and at the same time desired Davie to inform Mrs. M‘Andrews of my wish to speak with her.
“I believe,” said I, “ you kindly recommended me to attend a patient whom I have just been visiting—a stranger lady now lodging with your sister in Sailsbury-street?"
“ I did so, sir ; first, because I felt satisfied she would be perfectly safe under
your care ; secondly, I thought you would take more interest in a patient (with whom there appears a mystery) than some of those business men of the world, who merely discharge their duties and have little time or inclination to attend to anything which does not redound to profit or advantage. I conceived, sir, she might find some sympathies in one like yourself, who had not been chilled and repulsed by the ingratitude of the world ; and, if my surmises are not mistaken, she is a person respecting whose history we are but little acquainted ; if we were, it might prove a strange narration."
“ Has Mrs. Allen been long at her present residence?" inquired I.
“ As near as I can calculate, about three months,” returned Mrs. M‘Andrews.
“ Is it known from whence she came ? what or who is her husband? or what the circumstances that brought such strangers from a distance ?"