Read CHAPTER XVIII - DORA IS THE NEXT MESSENGER WITH BAD TIDINGS of A Houseful of Girls , free online book, by Sarah Tytler, on

There is a curious feeling abroad in the world, that no two things happen alike on two days, or in two weeks, or months, running. If there has been a railway accident on Monday, there will certainly not be another of the same kind at the same place on Tuesday. Apart from the fresh precautions sure to be taken, it is not at all likely, in the chapter of accidents, that a facsimile will occur where the original has preceded it so recently. On a similar principle, if a man has been killed or badly injured by a fall from a horse, it goes against public opinion that his son or his brother should also be thus injured. If the singular repetition does take place, people will speak of it with bated breath, as of a fate or doom hanging over the family, and therefore bound to repeat itself again and again on the old lines. All this is in spite of the fact that there is such a word as “coincidence” in the language, and that there is hardly one of us who cannot remember several startling coincidences in the course of his or her history.

Annie Millar had an experience of the kind at this time. It was on the 20th of June that May arrived unannounced at St. Ebbe’s to recount her lost battle. On the 21st Dora appeared, in a like unlooked-for manner, to divulge her sorrowful news.

Annie was much more troubled by the spectacle of Dora standing alone in the middle of the hospital drawing-room, pale and agitated, than she had been by the discovery of May in that very condition the day before. Annie’s own colour died away while she ran forward and caught Dora’s hand. “What is it, Dora? Has anything happened to father or mother? yet if there had, you would not have left them and come up to town by yourself. Why are you here? Tell me quickly, for it is killing me to keep me in suspense.”

“Don’t be alarmed,” entreated Dora’s soft voice. “Father sent me up for the express purpose that you might not be alarmed when you heard. I must have managed badly to frighten you. I assure you nothing has happened, at least nothing very particular, only, well, father is very rheumatic, and the warm weather has done him no good. He has not been out of the house for a month, though we did not mention it in our letters, always hoping that by the next time we wrote he would be better. But he has not left his room till he contrived to go in the cab yesterday. Oh! Annie, he has sold his business to Dr. Capes. He father said it was no use to protract the struggle, it was only doing more mischief; he would never be able, at his age, to go about again so as to act fairly by his patients. He has given up everything to the bank’s creditors, and will pass through the bankruptcy court. He bade me tell you that he could see no other way, and he was afraid Rose or you might read his name in the Gazette without being prepared for it.”

“Father ill, old, and a bankrupt!” Annie’s cry was bitter. “It is hard after his long life of honourable industry. I can never forgive Mr. Carey.”

“Hush! hush! Annie, you must not say that. Nothing would grieve father more. Nobody has suffered like the Careys. Besides, father always says that he alone was to blame for buying the bank shares. He did it of his own free-will, just that he might grow richer in the idlest manner possible for him to do so. Dr. Capes has taken our house, the Old Doctor’s House too, and father and mother went into apartments those over Robarts the book-seller’s yesterday, till they could look about them.” Dora was crying quietly all the time she was speaking, and at the same time she was breaking off to say with pathetic resigned trust like her mother’s, “But only think, Annie dear, how much worse it might have been! What a great deal we have to be thankful for. Look at poor Mr. Carey sitting paralyzed, and quite childish; and do you know the sad news arrived last night that poor poor Colonel Russell is dead? He had a sun-stroke, and died within twelve hours; he has not been three months at his new post. Dear father has all his senses, and he says himself he may live for years and years.”

“I hope so,” said Annie fervently; but it is doubtful whether she fully appreciated the blessings of her lot at that moment. She busied herself for a few minutes with Dora, her nurse’s instinct as well as her affection telling her that Dora must be seen to first. Annie took off Dora’s hat and jacket, seated her in the easiest chair, would hear nothing more till she Annie had learnt when Dora had breakfasted, and then rung for a basin of soup and made her swallow it. “Now, Dora,” she said, sitting down by her sister, “tell me all there is to tell. What have father and mother to live upon? We must think and act for them now.”

Dora explained as well as she was able, since, like her mother, she had no great head for business. In addition to the sum given for the good-will of Dr. Millar’s practice, and for his house and furniture, which was to be paid over to the liquidators of the bank’s debts, (in return for which the debtor would get a discharge from farther obligations,) a small percentage was to be allowed to him from his successor’s fees.

“I am afraid it will be very small,” Dora made the despondent remark, “because, though all his former patients are fond of father, they got to see he was breaking up, and did not like to send for him during the night, or at odd hours. Mother and I did what we could, going round for him and inquiring after his patients; but, as he said, such a make-shift could not last. We were always hearing of more families calling in Dr. Capes or Mr. Newton. Father declared he could not blame them; he would have done the same in their place, and that every dog must have his day.”

“That was like father,” said Annie, looking up with a fleeting sparkle in her eyes.

“Then we thought,” went on Dora, “father and mother might have part of mother’s money, since you have always said you did not need it, while Rose is getting paid for her work, and there is hardly any doubt” (brightening up,) “but that ‘little May’ will take the scholarship. She was working so hard to pass her examination when she wrote last, that she was quite out of spirits about her chances, which father says is always the way with the best men when they are going in for an examination that they are safe to win. He supposes it will be still more so with women. He tells mother that he will not mind taking help from her, where her money is concerned, when he can no longer stir from his chair not to say to earn a fee, but to save his life. He has taken so much more help from her in other ways during all their married life, that this in addition will not count.”