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What Timmy Did By Marie Belloc Lowndes Characters: 18812

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


A week later Enid Crofton lay in her drawing-room on the one couch which The Trellis House contained. She looked very charming in her new guise of invalid.

Several people had already called to know how she was, including Jack Tosswill and his father, but no visitor had yet been admitted. Now it was past four, and she was expecting the doctor-also, she hoped, in due course, Godfrey Radmore. That was why she had come downstairs, after having had an early cup of tea in her bedroom, and lain herself on the sofa.

The door opened, and as his burly form came through the door, Dr. O'Farrell told himself that he had seldom if ever attended such an attractive looking patient! She was still very pale, for the shock had been great; but to-day, for the first time since her widowhood, she had put on a pink silk jacket, and it supplied the touch of colour which was needed by her white cheeks. She had made up her mind that even a little rouge would be injudicious, but she had just used her lip-stick. It was pleasant to know that she had every right to be an interesting invalid with all an interesting invalid's privileges.

And yet, well acquainted as she was with the turns and twists of masculine human nature, Mrs. Crofton would have been surprised to know how suddenly repelled was the genial Irishman when she exclaimed eagerly:-"I do hope that horrible cat has been killed! Didn't I hear you say that you meant to shoot her yourself?"

It was not without a touch of sly satisfaction that Dr. O'Farrell answered:-"That was my intention certainly, Mrs. Crofton. But I was frustrated. The cat and her kittens vanished-just entirely away!"

"Vanished?" she exclaimed. "Then perhaps someone else has killed her?"

"Bless you, no. I'm afraid that the brute has still got her nine lives before her! She was spirited away by that broth of a boy. Timmy Tosswill's a good hater and a good lover, and that's the truth of it! I wasn't a bit surprised when I got the news that my services wouldn't be wanted-that the cat wasn't any longer at Old Place."

"D'you mean you don't know what's happened to the horrible creature?" she exclaimed vexedly.

"That's just what I do mean, Mrs. Crofton. That smart little fellow just spirited the creature away."

As he spoke, sitting with his back to the window, he was observing his pretty patient very closely. She had reddened angrily and was biting her lips. What a little vixen she was, to be sure! And suddenly she saw what he was thinking.

"I'd like to put a question to you, Mrs. Crofton."

"Do!" she insisted, but his question, when it came, displeased her.

"Is it true that that wasn't the first time you'd had an unpleasant experience with an animal at Old Place?"

Dr. O'Farrell had not meant to ask his patient this question to-day, but he really felt curious to know the truth concerning something Godfrey Radmore had told him that morning.

"Yes," she answered, slowly, "the first time I was in Old Place, Timmy Tosswill's dog frightened me out of my wits."

"That's very strange," said the doctor, "Flick's such a mild-mannered dog."

Enid Crofton lifted herself up from her reclining position. "Dr. O'Farrell! I wouldn't say so to anyone but you, but don't you think there's something uncanny about Timmy Tosswill? My little maid told me last night that the village people think he's a kind of-well, I don't know what to call it!-a kind of boy-witch. She says they're awfully afraid of him, that they think he can do a mischief to people he doesn't like." As he said nothing for a moment, she added rather defiantly:-"I daresay you think it is absurd that I should listen to village gossip, but the truth is, I've a kind of horror of the child. He terrifies me!"

Dr. O'Farrell looked round the room as if he feared eavesdroppers. He even got up and went to see if the door was really shut. "That's very curious," he said thoughtfully. "Very curious indeed. But no, I'm not thinking you absurd, Mrs. Crofton. The child's a very peculiar child. Have you ever heard of thought transference?"

She looked at him, astonished. "No," she answered, rather bewildered, "I haven't an idea what you mean by that."

"Well, you've heard of hypnotism?"

"Oh, yes, but I've never believed in it!"

To that remark he made no answer, and he went on, more as if speaking to himself than to her:-"We needn't consider what the village people say. Timmy just tries to frighten them-like all boys he's fond of his practical joke, and of course it's a temptation to him to work on their fears. But the little lad certainly presents a curious natural phenomenon, if I may so express myself."

She looked at him puzzled. She had no idea what he meant.

"If that child wasn't the child of sensible people, he'd have become famous-he'd be what silly people call a medium."

"Would he?" she said. "Do you mean that he can turn tables and do that sort of thing?"

The doctor shook his head. "What I mean is that in some way as yet unexplained by science, he can create simulacra of what people are thinking about, or of what may simply be hidden far away in the recesses of their memory. In a sort of way Timmy Tosswill can make things seem to appear which, as a matter of fact, are not there. But how he does it? Well, I can't tell you that."

Enid Crofton stared at Dr. O'Farrell. It was as if he were speaking to her in a foreign language, and yet his words made her feel vaguely apprehensive. Surely Timmy could not divine the hidden thoughts of the people about him? She grew hot with dismay at the idea.

The doctor bent forward, and looked at her keenly: "I should like to ask you another question, Mrs. Crofton. Have you in your past life ever had some very painful association with a dog-I mean any very peculiar experience with a terrier?"

The colour receded from her face. She was so surprised that she hardly knew what to answer.

"I don't think so. My first experience of a really disagreeable kind was when that boy's terrier flew at me. It's true that I've always had a peculiar dislike to dogs-at least for a long time," she corrected herself hastily. She added after a moment's pause, "I expect you know that Colonel Crofton bred dogs?"

"Aye, and that very dog, Flick, was bred by your husband-isn't that so?"

"I believe he was."

She was wondering anxiously why he asked her this question, and her mind all at once flew off to Piper and Mrs. Piper, and she felt sick with fear.

"I ask you these questions," said the doctor very deliberately, "because, according to Mrs. Tosswill, Timmy thinks, or says he thinks, that you are always accompanied by-well, how can I put it?-by a phantom dog."

"A phantom dog?"

She stared at him with her large dark eyes, and then, all at once, she remembered Dandy, her husband's terrier, who, after his master's tragic death, had refused all food, and had howled so long and so dismally that, in a fit of temper, she had herself ordered him to be destroyed.

She lay back on her pretty, frilled pillow, and covered her face with the hand belonging to the arm that was uninjured.

"Oh," she gasped out, "I see now. What a horrible idea!"

"Then you have no painful associations with any one particular terrier apart from Flick?" persisted Dr. O'Farrell.

He really wanted to know. According to his theory, Timmy's subconscious self could in some utterly inexplicable way build up an image of what was in the minds of those about him.

"Perhaps I have," she confessed in a very low voice. "My husband had a favourite terrier called Dandy, Flick's father in fact. The poor brute got into such a state after his master's death that he had to be sent to one of those lethal chambers in London. The whole thing was a great trouble, and a great pain to me."

Dr. O'Farrell felt a thrill of exultation run through him. To find his theory thus miraculously confirmed was very gratifying.

"That's most interesting!" he exclaimed, "for Timmy, even the very first time he saw you walking down the avenue towards the front door of Old Place, thought you were followed by a dog uncommonly like his terrier, Flick. His theory seemed to be that both Flick and the cat did not fly at you, but at your invisible companion."

"My invisible companion?"

He saw the colour again receding from her face. "Don't for a moment believe I think there is any phantom dog there," he said soothingly. "All I believe-and what you have told me confirmed my theory-is that Timmy Tosswill can not only see what's in your subconscious mind, but that he can build up a kind of image of it and produce what is called, I believe, in the East, collective hypnotism. I should never be surprised, for instance, if someone else thought they saw you with a dog-that is as long as that boy was present. It's a most interesting and curious case."

"It's a very horrible case," said Enid faintly.

She felt as if she were moving in a terrible nightmare world, unsuspected, unrealised by her till then.

"All abnormality is unpleasant," said the doctor cheerfully, "I always thought the boy would grow out of it, and, to a certain extent, he has grown out of it. You'll hardly believe me, Mrs. Crofton, when I tell you that, as a little child, Timmy actually declared he could see fairies and gnomes, 'the little people' as we call them in my country! I think that's what firs

t started this queer reputation of his among the village folk. I tell you he's anything but a welcome guest in the cottages-people with evil consciences, you know!" The doctor laughed. "They're afraid of Master Timmy, that's what the bad folks in Beechfield are-they think he can 'blight' them, bring ill-luck on them. Well, well, I mustn't stop, gossiping here with you, though it's very pleasant. By the way, I'll ask you to keep all I've said to you to yourself-not but what the boy's parents know quite well what I think about him!"

Then followed a few professional questions and answers, and then the doctor went off, well satisfied with his visit.

After Dr. O'Farrell had gone, Enid Crofton lay back and shut her eyes. Her nerves had by no means recovered from the horrible experience, and she felt a sort of utter distaste to Beechfield and to everybody there-with the one exception of Godfrey Radmore. She promised herself fiercely that if Radmore did what she was always telling herself secretly he would surely end by doing, then she would make it her business to see that they never, either of them, came back to this horrible place any more.

Apart from anything else, Jack Tosswill was already beginning to be more of a complication than was pleasant to one in her weak, excited state. He had left a letter when he called that morning-an eager, ardent love-letter, entirely assuming that they were engaged to be married.

She took it out of the pretty fancy bag, which lay on her pale blue silk eiderdown, and read it through again with a mixture of amusement and irritation. It was a long letter, written on the cheap, grey Old Place notepaper, very unlike another love-letter she had had to-day, written on nice, thick, highly-glazed letter-paper which had a small coronet embossed above the address. In that letter Captain Tremaine urgently asked to be allowed to come down for the next week-end. He pointed out that his leave was drawing to a close, and that they had a lot of things to discuss. He, too, considered himself engaged to her, but somehow she didn't mind that. She told herself pettishly that Providence has a way of managing things very badly. If only Tremaine had Radmore's money, even only a portion of his money, how gladly she would leave England behind her, and start a new, free, delightful life in India! Tremaine knew the kind of grand, smart people she longed to know. He was staying with some of them now.

Just as this thought was drifting through her mind, the door opened and she hurriedly stuffed Jack's letter beneath her silk quilt. Radmore walked in, and his face softened as he looked down on the pale, fragile-looking girl-for she did look very much like a girl-lying on the sofa.

"I've brought you a lot of messages from Old Place," he began. "They really are most awfully miserable about you!"

"I'm glad the cat hasn't been killed after all," she said weakly.

She had at last seen the look of recoil on Dr. O'Farrell's face, and she was now trimming her sails accordingly.

"That's very magnanimous of you." Radmore smiled. He was surprised, and a little touched, too. "May I sit down?"

He drew up a chair, and then he touched the hand belonging to the bandaged arm. "I do hope you are fairly free from pain?" he said solicitously.

"It does hurt a good deal."

There was a pause; his hand was still lying protectingly over her hand.

She lay quite still-a vision of lovely Paris frocks, a Rolls-Royce running smoothly by a deep blue sea, a long rope of pearls, flashed before her inner consciousness. Then she was awakened from this dream of bliss by Radmore's next words:-"My godson's going to write you a letter of apology," he said.

And then, to her chagrin, he took his hand away; it was as though Timmy's malign influence had fallen between them. His very tone changed; it was no longer tender, solicitous-only kindly.

"Mr. Radmore, I want to tell you something. I'm horribly afraid of Timmy!"

There was an accent of absolute sincerity in her low voice. She went on:-"Dr. O'Farrell has been talking to me about him. He seems a most strange, unnatural child. The village people believe that he has supernatural powers. Do you believe that?"

"I don't quite know what I think about Timmy," he answered hesitatingly. He felt acutely uncomfortable, also rather shocked that Dr. O'Farrell had said anything about a child who might, after all, be regarded as his patient. But Enid Crofton was looking at him very intently, and so he went on:-

"I've never spoken to any of them about it, but, yes, if you ask me for my honest opinion, I do think the child has very peculiar powers."

And then, all at once, Enid Crofton burst into tears. "Timmy terrifies me," she sobbed. "I wish he never came near me! He hates me-I feel it all the time. I'm sure he made that cat fly at me!"

Radmore remained silent-he didn't know what to say, what to admit. He wondered uncomfortably how she had come so near the truth.

"Come, come," he said, bending forward, "you mustn't feel like that. I don't think the child hates you, but I do think that he loves trying experiments with that queer power of his. I'm afraid he wanted to see whether the cat would behave as the dog had done."

"That's what I mean," she exclaimed, dabbing her eyes, "that's exactly what I mean! I don't want to hurt his feelings, or to make a fuss, but I should be so grateful if you could manage to prevent his coming here. I don't want to make you vain," she smiled, very winningly, "but sometimes I do feel that 'two's company.' Since I've been here I've hardly ever seen you alone. I used to enjoy our talks in London! I feel, I know that you're the only friend I've got in Beechfield."

"That's rather hard on Jack Tosswill," and though he smiled, he looked at her significantly.

Enid was so surprised that for a moment her composure gave way, and the colour rushed into her pale face. Then she pulled herself together. "It really hasn't been my fault," she said plaintively.

"I'm sure it hasn't. But in a village one has to be careful. Would it surprise you to hear that as I came along this morning, one of the inhabitants of Beechfield spoke to me of you and Jack, and suggested-forgive me for saying so-not only that the boy was very much in love with you but that you-well-encouraged him!"

Enid Crofton sat up. "I've always heard that villages were far more wicked places than towns, and now I know it's true!"

"Steady on," he said smiling, "forgive me for having repeated a silly bit of gossip. But, after all, what you said just now is quite true-I am your oldest friend by a long way, and so I feel I ought to give you a word of warning. I do think the poor boy is very fond of you, eh?"

Enid Crofton put out her hand and took his in hers. She squeezed it convulsively. "I feel so miserable," she sobbed, "so miserable and lonely!"

"Do you, dear-" And then they both started violently, and Radmore moved his chair away with a quick movement, for the door behind them had swung open, and Jack Tosswill, quite unaware of the other man's presence, came through it, and at once began speaking eagerly, excitedly, in a voice so unlike his usual "home" voice that Radmore hardly recognised it:-

"I'm so glad you're downstairs. I came this morning I hope you got my-" and then he saw the other man, and checked himself abruptly.

He had given the beloved woman he regarded as his future wife, his most solemn word of honour that no one should suspect that they were more than mere acquaintances. So, after a perceptible pause, he concluded, lamely, "my step-mother's message."

"Yes, I did; thank you very much."

He saw that she had been crying, and his heart welled up with tenderness, and with angry, impatient annoyance against Radmore's presence.

Why didn't the stupid fellow go? Surely he must realise, surely there must be something in the atmosphere, which must tell even the blindest of onlookers, how things were between him, Jack Tosswill, and the invalid?

But Radmore was quite impervious to the atmosphere of emotion and strain-or so it seemed. On and on he sat, Enid Crofton languidly making conversation with them both in turn, until at last Rosamund came in, and both men rose to leave together.

And then something curious happened. Radmore, even while conscious that he was a fool, felt a violent desire to see Enid Crofton again and very soon, alone. He was trying to make up a form of words to convey this to her before the other two, when good fortune seemed to favour him, for brother and sister began-as they were wont to do-wrangling together.

Seeing his opportunity he bent down a little over Mrs. Crofton's couch in order to suggest to her that he should come again to-morrow. And then, in a flash, the whole expression of his face altered and stiffened. Half under the lace coverlet over the eiderdown a letter written on familiar looking pale grey notepaper was sticking out, and he couldn't help seeing the words:-"My own darling angel."

Straightening himself quickly and hardly knowing what he was saying, he exclaimed, "I do hope you'll soon feel all right again."

And then he saw that she was aware of what had happened for she became even whiter than she had been before. Every bit of colour fled from her face-except for the unnaturally pink lips.

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