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   Chapter 30 CHARLES JERMYN, M. D.

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 13139

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The only house in the neighbouring village where Lady Joan sometimes visited, was, as the gardener had told Cosmo, that of the doctor, with whose daughter she had for some years, if not cultivated, yet admitted a sort of friendship. Their relation however would certainly have been nothing such, so different were the two, had it not been that Joan had no other acquaintance of her own age, and that Miss Jermyn had reasons for laying herself out to please her-the principal of which was that her brother, a man about thirty, had a great admiration for Lady Joan, and to please him his sister would do almost anything. Their father also favoured his son's ambition, for he hated the earl, and would be glad of his annoyance, while he liked Lady Joan, and was far from blind to the consequence his family would gain by such an alliance. But he had no great hope, for experience, of which few have more than a country doctor, had taught him that, in every probability, his son's first advance would be for Lady Joan the signal to retire within the palisades of her rank; for there are who will show any amount of familiarity and friendliness with agreeable inferiors up to the moment when the least desire of a nearer approach manifests itself: that moment the old Adam, or perhaps rather the old Satan, is up in full pride like a spiritual turkey-cock, with swollen neck, roused feathers, and hideous gabble. His experience however did not bring to his mind in the company of this reflection the fact that such a reception was precisely that which he had himself given to a prayer for the hand of his daughter from one whom he counted her social inferior. But the younger man, who also had had his experiences, reflected that the utter isolation of Lady Joan, through the ill odour of her family, the disgraceful character of her father, the unamiability of her brother, and the poverty into which they had sunk, gave him incalculable advantages.

The father had been for many years the medical adviser of the house; and although Lord Mergwain accorded the medical practice of his day about the same relation to a science of therapeutics that old alchemy had to modern chemistry, yet the moment he felt ill, he was sure to send for young Jermyn. Charles had also attended Lady Joan in several illnesses, for she had not continued in such health as when she used to climb hills in snow with Cosmo. It is true she had on these occasions sent for the father, but for one reason and another, more likely to be false than true, he had always, with many apologies, sent his son in his stead. She was at first annoyed, and all but refused to receive him; but from dislike of seeming to care, she got used to his attendance, and to him as well. He gained thus the opportunity of tolerably free admission to her, of which he made use with what additional confidence came of believing that at least he had no rival.

Nor indeed was there anything absurd in his aspiring in those her circumstances to win her. He was a man of good breeding, and more than agreeable manners-with a large topographical experience, and a social experience far from restricted, for, as I have already mentioned, he had travelled much, and in the company of persons of high position; and had Joan been less ignorant of things belonging to her proper station, she would have found yet more to interest her in him. But being a man of some insight, and possessed also of considerable versatility, so that, readily discovering any perculiarity, he was equally ready to meet it, he laid himself out to talk to her of the things, and in the ways, which he thought she would like. To discover, however, is not to understand. No longer young enough, as he said to himself, to be greatly interested in anything but GETTING ON, he could yet, among the contents of the old property-room in his brain, easily lay his hands on many things to help him in the part he chose as the fittest to represent himself. The greater part of conventionally honest men try to look the thing they would like to be-that being at the same time the way they would like others to see them; others, along with what they would like to be, act that which they would only like to appear; the downright rascal cares only to look what will serve his purpose; and the honest man thinks only of being, and of being to his fellows.

But even had Jermyn only taken upon him to imagine himself in love with a woman like Lady Joan, he must soon have become, more or less, actually in love with her. This did not however destroy his caution; and so far as his attentions had gone, they were pleasant to her;-they were at least a break in the ennui of her daily life, helping her to reach the night in safety. She was not one of those who, unable to make alive the time, must kill it lest it kill them; but neither was she of those who make their time so living, that the day is too short for them. Hence it came when he called, that by and by she would offer him tea, and when he went, would walk with him into the garden, and at length even accompany him as far as the lodge on his way home.

Charles Jermyn was a tall, well-made man, with a clever and refined face, which, if not much feeling, expressed great intelligence. By the ladies of the neighbourhood he was much admired, by some of them pronounced very manly and good-looking, by others declared to be BEAUTIFUL. Certain of them said he was much too handsome for a doctor. He had a jolly air with him, which was yet far from unrefined, and a hearty way of shaking hands which gave an impression of honesty; and indeed I think honesty would have been comparatively easy to him, had he set himself to cultivate it; but he had never given himself trouble about anything except "getting on." You might rely on his word if he gave it solemnly, but not otherwise. Absolute truth he would have felt a hindrance in the exercise of his profession, neither out of it did he make his yea yea, and his nay nay. His oath was better than his word, and that is a human shame.

Women, even more than men, I presume, see in any one who interests them, not so much what is there, as a reflection of what they construct from the hints that have pleased them. Some of them it takes a miserable married lifetime to undeceive; for some, not even that will serve; they continue to see, if not an angel, yet a very pardonable mortal, therefore altogether loveable man, in the husband in whom everybody else sees only a vile rascal. Whether sometimes the wife or the world be nearer the truth, will one

day come out: the wife MAY be a woman of insight, and see where no one else can.

In his youth the doctor had read a good deal of poetry, and enjoyed it in a surface-sort of fashion: discovering that Lady Joan had a fine taste in verse, he made use of his acquaintance there; and effected the greater impression, that one without experience is always ready to take familiarity as indicative of real knowledge, and think that he, for instance, who can quote largely, must have vital relation with the things he quotes. But it had never entered the doctor's head that poetry could have anything to do with life-even in the case of the poet himself-how much less in that of his admirer! Never once had it occurred to him to ask how he could be such a fool as enjoy anything false-beingless save in the brain of the poet-a mere lie! For that which has nothing to do with life, what can it be but a lie? Not the less Jermyn got down book after book, for many a day undusted on his shelves, and read and re-read many a passage which had once borne him into the seventh heaven of feeling, suggesting somewhere a better world, in which lovely things might be had WITHOUT TOO MUCH TROUBLE: now as he read, he was struck with a mild surprise at finding how much had lost even the appearance of the admirable; how much of what had seemed bitter, he could thoroughly accept. He did not ask whether the change came of a truer vision or a sourer judgment, put all down to the experience that makes a man wise, none to a loss within. He was not able to imagine himself in anything less than he had been, in anything less than he would be. Yet poetry was to him now the mere munition of war! mere feathers for the darts of Cupid! -that was how the once poetic man to himself expressed himself! He was laying in store of weapons, he said! For when a man will use things in which he does not believe, he cannot fail to be vulgar. But Lady Joan saw no vulgarity in the result-it was hid in the man himself. To her he seemed a profound lover of poetry, who knew much of which she had never even heard. Once he contrived to spend a whole afternoon with her in the library, for of the outsides of books, their title-pages, that is, he had a good deal of knowledge, and must make opportunity to show it. One of his patients, with whom he first travelled, then for a time resided, was a book-collector, and with him he learned much, chiefly from old-book-catalogues. With Lady Joan this learning, judiciously poured out, passed for a marvellous knowledge of books, and the country doctor began to assume in her eyes the proportions of a man of universal culture. He knew at least how to bring all he had into use, and succeeded in becoming something in the sweet lonely life, so ignorant and unsupported. He could play the violin too, and that with no mean expression-believing only in the expression, nowise in the feeling expressed: this accomplishment also he contrived she should, as if by accident, become acquainted with.

In the judgment of most who knew him, he was an excellent and indeed admirable man. "No nonsense about him, don't you know?-able to make himself agreeable, but not losing sight of the main chance either!" men would say; and "A thorough family-doctor, knowing how to humour patients out of their fancies!" would certain mammas add, who, instead of being straight-forward with their children, were always scheming, and dodging, and holding private confabulations about them with doctor and clergyman.

In that part of his professional duty which bordered on that of the nurse, the best that was in Jermyn came out. Few men could handle a patient at the same time so firmly and tenderly as he; few were less sparing of self in the endeavour to make him comfortable. And from the moment when the simple-minded Cosmo became aware of his attendance and ministration, his heart went out to him-from the moment, that is, when, in the afternoon of the same day on which Joan transformed his chamber, he lifted him in his arms that the gardener and his wife might place a feather-bed and mattress under him, obliterating in softness the something which had seemed to find out every bone in his body: as soon as he was laid down again, his spirit seemed to rise on clouds of ease to thank his minister. And Cosmo was one in whom the gratitude was as enduring as ready. Next to the appearance of Lady Joan, all the time he was recovering, he looked for the daily visit of the doctor. Nor did the doctor ever come without receiving his reward in an interview with the lady. And herein Jermyn gained another advantage. For Joan found herself compelled to take him into her confidence concerning her brother's ignorance of the presence of Cosmo in the house; and so he shared a secret with her. He did not, of course, altogether relish the idea of this Scotch cousin, but plainly he was too young for Joan, and he would soon find out whether there was any need to beware of him, by which time he would know also what to do with him, should action be necessary.

For the first week or so Joan did not mind how often the doctor found her with Cosmo, but after that she began to dislike it, she could scarcely have told why, and managed to be elsewhere when he came. After the third time the doctor began to cherish suspicion, and called cunning to his aid. Having mentioned an hour at which he would call the next day, he made his appearance an hour earlier, and with an excuse on his lips for the change he had been "compelled to make," walked into the room without warning, as of course he might without offence, where his patient was a young man. There, as he had feared, he found Lady Joan. But she had heard or felt his coming, and as he entered she was handing Cosmo the newspaper, with the words,

"There! you are quite able to read to yourself to-day. I will go and have another search for the book you wanted;" and with that she turned, and gave a little start, for there stood the doctor!

"Oh, Doctor Jermyn!" she exclaimed, "I did not know you were there!" and held out her hand. "Our patient is going on wonderfully now. You will let me see you before you leave the castle?"

Therewith she left the room, and hastening to her own, saw in the mirror the red of a lie, said to herself, "What will Cosmo think?" and burst into tears-the first she had shed since the day she found him.

The doctor was not taken in, but Cosmo was troubled and puzzled. In Jermyn's talk, however, and his own simplicity, he soon forgot the strangeness of this her behaviour.

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