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Stories of Mystery edited by Rossiter Johnson


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Stories of Mystery edited by Rossiter Johnson

"Strange," he murmured. "Well, I give it up. All is, I advise you to keep it, and I'm very glad some one did his duty by you in your hour of need, though I'm sorry it was not myself. Here's Mrs. Flanagan."

There was a good deal done, and a great burden lifted off an humble heart--nay, two!--before Dr. Renton thought of going home. There was a patient gained, likely to do Dr. Renton more good than any patient he had lost. There was a kettle singing on the stove, and blowing off a happier steam than any engine ever blew on that railroad whose unmarketable stock had singed Dr. Renton's fingers. There was a yellow gleam flickering from the blazing fire on the sober binding of a good old Book upon a shelf with others, a rarer medical work than ever slipped at auction from Dr. Renton's hands, since it kept the sacred lore of Him who healed the sick, and fed the hungry, and comforted the poor, and who was also the Physician of souls.

And there were other offices performed, of lesser range than these, before he rose to go. There were cooling mixtures blended for the sick child; medicines arranged; directions given; and all the items of her tendance orderly foreseen, and put in pigeon-holes of When and How, for service.

At last he rose to go. "And now, Mrs. Miller," he said, "I'll come here at ten in the morning, and see to our patient. She'll be nicely by that time. And (listen to those brutes in the street!--twelve o'clock, too--ah! there's the bell), as I was saying, my offence to you being occasioned by your debt to me, I feel my receipt for your debt should commence my reparation to you; and I'll bring it to-morrow. Mrs. Miller, you don't quite come at me--what I mean is--you owe me, under a notice to quit, three months' rent. Consider that paid in full. I never will take a cent of it from you,--not a copper. And I take back the notice. Stay in my house as long as you like; the longer the better. But, up to this date, your rent's paid. There. I hope you'll have as happy a Christmas as circumstances will allow, and I mean you shall."

A flush of astonishment, of indefinable emotion, overspread her face.

"Dr. Renton, stop, sir!" He was moving to the door. "Please, sir, _do_ hear me! You are very good--but I can't allow you to--Dr. Renton, we are able to pay you the rent, and we _will_, and we _must_--here--now. O, sir, my gratefulness will never fail to you--but here--here--be fair with me, sir, and _do_ take it."

She had hurried to a chest of drawers, and came back with the letter which she had rustled apart with eager, trembling hands, and now, unfolding the single bank-note it had contained, she thrust it into his fingers as they closed.

"Here, Mrs. Miller,"--she had drawn back with her arms locked on her bosom, and he stepped forward,--"no, no. This sha'n't be. Come, come, you must take it back. Good heavens!" He spoke low, but his eyes blazed in the red glow which broke out on his face, and the crisp note in his extended hand shook violently at her. "Sooner than take this money from you, I would perish in the street! What! Do you think I will rob you of the gift sent you by some one who had a human heart for the distresses I was aggravating? Sooner than-- Here, take it! O my God! what's this?"