Read CHAPTER XIX of The Adventurous Seven Their Hazardous Undertaking , free online book, by Bessie Marchant, on ReadCentral.com.

The News

“Four days since Dr. Plumstead and Nealie went away, and never a word to say what has happened!” cried Sylvia as she came into Rupert’s room to see how he had slept.

“I expect they have eloped,” remarked Don calmly, as he sat up on his mattress and yawned widely, stretching first one leg and then another, in order to get them properly awake, as he said; for, being at the bottom, his legs always woke up last, according to his ideas.

“What do you mean?” demanded Sylvia, with a frown. She was feeling tremendously grown-up in these days, and did not permit overmuch levity on the part of her juniors.

“Isn’t that what people do when they want to get married?” asked Billykins, who was also just awake, and put his question while Don was struggling to find a definition of the word.

“But Nealie does not want to marry that usurping doctor who has taken dear Father’s place!” cried Sylvia hotly, the colour flaming over face and neck at the bare idea of such a thing.

“I expect they will want to marry each other. Mrs. Brown said so,” returned Billykins; and then he and Don trotted off to wash in the horse trough outside the stable door, where they had found they could get quite a decent bath without much trouble; and Sylvia bent her energies to waking Rumple, who, being a genius, was always so unwilling to get up in the mornings.

“Perhaps we shall get some news to-day,” said Rupert, who, because he was feeling stronger, was very much more hopeful than he had been.

“I don’t know what will happen to the doctor’s patients if he doesn’t soon come back,” Sylvia went on in a dissatisfied tone. “You see, they are all getting better without medicine; and it is so very bad for the practice, for if once people get the idea in their heads that they can do without doctors it is so hard to get them back to thinking they must call one in every time their little fingers ache.”

“A fresh crop of patients will turn up when the doctor comes home, I expect. Anyhow, I should not worry about it, for perhaps these people would not have paid the bills, and so in reality it is money saved,” Rupert said drowsily; and then he stretched his limbs in a luxurious fashion, and dropped into another doze, while Sylvia went back to the other room to start breakfast preparations. She and Ducky slept in the sitting-room now, while the four boys had the bedroom. They had taken complete possession of the doctor’s house, and felt so much at home in it that it was a little difficult to imagine how he would find room for himself when he came back.

Rumple, indeed, had suggested that the doctor might occupy the wagon; but as Rupert had pointed out that the wagon would have to be yielded up to the agent when Rockefeller came back from Mostyn, the only thing was to get the stable ready for use in an emergency.

On this morning, when breakfast was over, the three younger boys and Ducky went off to finish their task of turning the stable inside out. This, was the third day they had been at work on it, and the place was looking quite clean and respectable, thanks to their very hard work. They had even ejected the carpet snake that lived there and killed the mice which levied toll on the doctor’s cornbin; but the snake, like other ejected persons, was continually harking back to its old quarters, and so this morning, when Ducky rushed into the stable, the first thing which met her gaze was Slippy, the snake, curled up in a heap just inside the door, and of course there was promptly a fuss, for not all the arguments of the others about the absolute harmlessness of Slippy could convince Ducky that the creature was anything but a most dangerous foe.

She had rushed into the house and demanded the united efforts of Rupert and Sylvia to console her, and then was going back to the stable to insist on Slippy being again ejected, when she saw a wagon drawn by a fast pair of horses approaching at a rapid rate, and, having noticed with her sharp little eyes that the man sitting by the driver had only one arm, the empty coat sleeve being pinned across his chest in true warrior style, she rushed back into the house, crying shrilly: “Sylvia, Sylvia, the doctor has got a new patient coming! He has had his arm torn off in a dreadful accident, and has come to have it put on again!”

“Oh, Rupert, whatever shall we do? The poor fellow may die before help comes to him, and all through our fault in sending Dr. Plumstead to take care of Nealie!” cried Sylvia, turning white to the lips at the thought of the horrors which were about to be thrust upon her.

Rupert stood up and gripped her hand reassuringly.

“Don’t worry, old girl; just cut off into the bedroom and hide there until I am through with the business. I am not a doctor, but I know a good deal, and I think I can bandage the arm so that the man won’t die. Anyhow, I will have a good try.”

Sylvia made a bolt for the bedroom, and, casting herself on Rupert’s bed, rolled her head in a blanket, and, stuffing her fingers in her ears, remained quaking and shivering until there was a determined clutch on the blanket, and Ducky squealed in her ears: “Sylvia, Sylvia, Mr. Wallis has come to take Rockefeller and the wagon home; only Rocky isn’t here to be took, and he ­that is, Mr. Wallis ­has brought the man with him what made Father so poor; and now we are going to be well off again, and Father won’t be under a cloud any more. Isn’t it splendiferous? Just scrumptious, I call it! Oh my, but your hair is a sight! You will have to do it with Rupert’s comb, and that has lost half its teeth!” and Ducky whirled round in an ecstasy of excitement, while Sylvia hastily made her long mane presentable, and then went out to speak to Mr. Wallis, quaking a little, truth to tell, from the wonder as to whether he would be angry to find that they had sent Rocky off upon another long journey which was certainly not in the contract.

But one look at Rupert’s face assured her that she had nothing to be afraid of on that score, for he was looking simply radiant as he stood in earnest talk with a man who had only one arm.

“Why, I do believe that it is the very individual who upset poor Nealie so badly that day when we went to the botanical gardens in Sydney!” she exclaimed; and then she went forward, to be warmly greeted by Mr. Wallis, who claimed to be an old friend, and who at once introduced her to Mr. Reginald Baxter, the gentleman who had only one arm.

Sylvia, knowing so little of her father’s professional disgrace, which, indeed, should not have been disgrace at all, seeing that he had only done his duty, was not so much interested in this meeting as Rupert, and turned again to Mr. Wallis, anxious to get it made quite clear to that gentleman that it was through no fault of theirs that Rocky had not been handed over to the agent long before this.

“It was so terrible for us all to arrive here, as we did, with Rupert ill, and to take possession of what we thought was our father’s house, only to find that it belonged to another man of the same name,” she said, pouring out her words in a breathless hurry. “It seems a pity to me that doctors should be allowed to have the same name; only I suppose it can’t be helped. Anyhow, it was very bad for all of us, but it was especially dreadful for poor Nealie, because, you see, she is grown up, and so the conventions had to be considered. Then he ­the usurping doctor, that is ­would go with her to take care of her when she went to find Father; and that was awkward too, and a little unnecessary as well, for Nealie is so well able to take care of herself. But they have not come back, and we have not heard anything from them, and we are afraid that the practice will go all to pieces if the doctor does not soon come back to nurse it a little.”

“The practice will not suffer very much, I hope,” said Mr. Wallis soothingly. “But I do not think you quite understand, Miss Sylvia, what good things are happening, or are going to happen, to your father. Mr. Baxter, who has come with me to-day, has had a long letter from your friend Mr. Melrose, who, you may remember, left the ship at Cape Town. It seems that when the rich relative of Mr. Baxter disinherited him, because, owing to his arm having been amputated, he was maimed, she left her money to Mr. Melrose, who really needed it much more. But Mr. Melrose did not know that your father had had to suffer so badly in the matter, and when he gathered some idea of it through meeting you on board ship, he at once wrote to Mr. Baxter calling for his co-operation in setting your father straight with the world again, and it is in order to see how this can best be done that Mr. Baxter has travelled from Sydney with me.”

“What a wonderful story! Why, it sounds like a fairy tale. But does not Mr. Baxter hate my father for having been the means of making him poor?” asked Sylvia wistfully.

“No indeed! Mr. Baxter realizes that it was being thrust out upon the world which really gave him his chance, and so he is in a way as grateful to your father as Mr. Melrose; and between the two of them they will clear the way to a greater prosperity, I hope,” replied Mr. Wallis kindly.

“Here comes Dr. Plumstead, but Nealie is not with him!” yelled Billykins, rushing up from a short journey to the next house, where he had been to see if the woman who did for the doctor would undertake to provide luncheon for the two gentlemen.

Dr. Plumstead was riding a horse that was certainly not Rockefeller, for it was a miserable wry-necked screw, with nothing but pace to recommend it, and a temper so vicious that it just stood and kicked, from sheer delight at being disagreeable, when the doctor hastily dismounted and came forward to explain his solitary return.

“Your father is a hero; but, like other brave men, he has to pay the price of his heroism in suffering,” said the doctor to Rupert, and then he told them all how the other Dr. Plumstead had risked his life to pull the sick man from the burning shed, and that Nealie was staying to nurse him back to health again, she, in her turn, being taken care of by Mother Twiney, who was really a good soul at the bottom, although a little lacking in matters of personal cleanliness.

“Your sister was in great trouble about you all; but I said that Rupert and I could manage to take care of you for a few days or even weeks until she is able to come back and look after you,” said the doctor, linking Rupert with himself in the matter of responsibility in a way that made the boy flush with pleasure, although Sylvia wrinkled her nose with a fine disdain.

“I am quite equal to taking care of myself, and of Ducky too,” she said loftily. “But of course it will be convenient to have someone to keep the boys in order.”