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Poetry and Fiction by Rebekah Hyneman (1816-1875)

The Doctor

A romance novel (1860)

by: Rebekah Hyneman (1816-1875)


There was a fall of snow towards the close of a grey December day; not a regular snow storm, a real hearty, blustering shower that comes dancing and frolicking down, whirling around you in playful eddies, making you almost wish to be a boy again, that you may run shouting and whooping through it, gathering it into tempting balls, to be shied at some unguarded passer-by, not a bit of it; but an ugly, drizzling kind of snow that makes the sidewalks almost impassable, and sends a shiver and an unpleasant sensation even through broadcloth, velvet, and furs.

The Doctor had just come in; and shaking the wet from his rough overcoat, as he remembered it, and taking off his hat, he went, as was his custom, to look at his slate; secretly hoping that it would be empty; for it was a night on which home comforts are doubly appreciated.

"Deuce take it. What’s this?" he muttered, taking down the slate that he might make out the name at the window, for it was already dark in the little office. "Mrs. Berkley, who in the name of all the plagues that ever beset man, is she?" Betsy!"

He approached the kitchen door as he called, for Betsy was busy preparing his supper, and did not hear him until he called twice.

"Hey! What now?" she asked, snappishly, as she turned from the fire. "Mrs. Who? Oh, Berkley, yes; she said you must come over as soon as you got home."

"Shan’t do it," growled the Doctor. "Do they think I am not made of flesh and blood like themselves? Miss Araminta has cut her finger, or Miss Geraldine has been scared by a mouse, or something of that kind. I know what they are. I am wet, and cold, and hungry. Get me my supper."

"You are goin’ over there," queried Betsy, holding the saucepan from the fire as she asked.

"Not a bit of it; bring my supper in," he replied.

"If you don’t go, it will be the first time you ever refused to do a kind act," returned the woman. "If you’d a seen the poor white faced thing that came for you, you’d not have much appetite for your supper, till you’d gone over there."

"Et tu Brute?" muttered her master; as a savory whiff same from the saucepan, and tempted him to say, "If you are enlisted in their favor, I might as well go. Where do they live? Who are they?" he shouted.

"Hey! Where do they live? Why you saw ‘em comin’ in yesterday, as you stood by the window, didn’t you? The whole family, furniture and all, in Sim Grove’s wagon, and a poor forlorn set they was too."

"Why good gracious, woman! That’s across the hill, and I am half famished," returned her master in his loudest tone. "It is impossible to face this weather on an empty stomach. I must have my supper before I go; ten to one it is some nonsense after all," he continued, as he took his seat.

"Well, the Lord have mercy on the poor," muttered the woman as she placed his supper before him. "He knows why they are sent here, and I suppose it’s all right, or will be some day."

Betsy prided herself on her cooking, and the supper was one of her chefs-d’oeuvre, but it failed to please the palate of her master, notwithstanding his hunger. He began in good earnest, as if determined that nothing should mar his enjoyment, but after the first mouthful he started up from the table.

"Bother the woman," he exclaimed, "what does she mean by spoiling by appetite in this way? I shall discharge her as sure as fate. I know I shall be mad enough to bite my own head off when I find out what I am sent for."

But in spite of his grumbling, he was busy putting on his overcoat all the time.

The wind sent a dash of wet snow into his face, as he opened the door, that made him almost repent his kindness, and he stepped back to call Jack to get the buggy, but he remembered that the boy had complained of a sore throat that day; and rolling the collar of his coat up over his ears, and pressing his hat more firmly on his head, the Doctor sallied out with a grim determination to weather the storm, and a firm belief that he was a fool for his pains.

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