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Stephen Hudson.

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"If you happen - to hear of - a secretaryship - Wyatt's - "

But by the time he got the words out Peter Knott was out of hearing.

In due course Peter Knott reported the result of his visit to Sir Herbert
Saunderson. The latter, a kindly man with an income barely enough for the
responsibilities a large family entailed on him, took counsel with his
old friend as to what could be done next. There was reason for believing
that David's stolid silence regarding his own concerns concealed a
general impecuniousness quite as pronounced as that of the artist friends
whose cause he pleaded.

"Why not send him the prints with a cheque on account and say you need
the catalogue soon, as you may make up your mind to sell them?"

"A capital idea," replied the other, and the suggestion was promptly
carried into effect.

* * * * *

One winter morning, some months afterwards, a seedy-looking individual
called at Portland Place with a typewritten letter, requiring an answer.

Sir Herbert Saunderson, busy reading and signing letters, tossed it over
to his secretary. The young lady read it aloud according to rule.


DEAR HERBERT [it ran], -

I have finished the catalogue, but there are one or two details which I
should like to settle before sending it to the printers. My friend Mr.
Wyatt, who has been kindly helping me with the work since my little
accident, will explain the different points to you and take your
instructions, I am so sorry I can't come myself, but Mr. Wyatt is
thoroughly competent and I can strongly recommend him if you have any
other work of an analogous character.

Yours ever,

D.S.


The one ear with which Sir Herbert Saunderson was listening while he went
on signing the papers before him had caught part though not all of the
letter.

"Did I hear the word 'accident,' Miss Milsome?" he asked, looking up.

"Yes, Sir Herbert."

"How did it happen? Let's have a look."

The busy man glanced through it.

"Send for Mr. Wyatt, please."

The seedy little man entered and was asked courteously to seat himself.

"What has happened to my cousin?" asked Sir Herbert.

Mr. Wyatt seemed embarrassed by the question.

"The fact is, Sir Herbert," he began hesitatingly, "Mr. Saunderson didn't
want much said about that. His great wish is that I should be given
certain necessary data regarding the catalogue, but to tell you the
truth - "

Mr. Wyatt stopped. There was a note of anxiety in his pleasant,
cultivated voice.

Sir Herbert Saunderson and Miss Milsome exchanged glances.

"Pray don't hesitate to tell me if anything is wrong with my cousin,
Mr. - er - "

"Wyatt," added Miss Milsome softly.

"I'm afraid he's rather bad."

The little man looked at Miss Milsome as he spoke. Her expression was
sympathetic, and he continued -

"You know, I believe, that he has been a special constable?"

Sir Herbert Saunderson nodded.

"As sergeant, he had charge of the arrangements for reducing the lighting
of the streets in his own district. One evening, about a month ago, he
was returning from duty, when he slipped on a curbstone owing to the
darkness. Fortunately it was close to his own place, and he was able,
though with difficulty, to make his way slowly up to his flat. When I got
there in the morning, at our usual hour for work, he was in great pain.
He had injured his arm and right hand - twisted it in some way so that it
was quite useless - "

Mr. Wyatt paused.

"I hope you sent for a doctor?" There was evident apprehension in Sir
Herbert's question.

"He absolutely refused to have one. He said he was only one of the light
casualties, and that doctors must be spared in these times for important
cases. He gave me quite a lecture about it. The charwoman came in with a
laudanum dressing from the chemist, who, he said, was a friend of his,
and just as good as a doctor."

"But this is madness - simple madness!" Sir Herbert's voice was agitated.

"Oh, his hand soon got better," the little man broke in, "and the pain
gradually eased off. In a couple of days he went on working again, but of
course he couldn't write. He joked about it. He seemed to like thinking
he was in a sort of way in the firing line, as though he was slightly
wounded."

Mr. Wyatt laughed very softly.

"But I must see to this at once. Miss Milsome, kindly ring up Dr.
Freeman. Tell him I'll call for him." Sir Herbert looked at his table,
covered with papers, and then at his watch. His fine mouth closed firmly.
"Now, at once, as soon as he can be ready."

Miss Milsome took the telephone from the stand beside her.

Sir Herbert Saunderson rose hurriedly and rang the bell.

"The car, at once!" he ordered as the servant entered.

* * * * *

"It's his heart I'm afraid of," said Mr. Wyatt. He was sitting on the
front seat of the landaulette, facing Sir Herbert Saunderson and Dr.
Freeman. "I don't think he knows how bad he is."

They were already in Chelsea.

"I think it will be better if Mr. Wyatt and I go up together first," the
doctor suggested as they arrived at the door. "If his heart is weak, a
sudden emotion might be injurious."

"I quite agree," Sir Herbert replied. "In fact, you need not mention my
presence. I only want to know your opinion. Now that he will be in good
hands I shall feel relieved."

The doctor jumped out. Sir Herbert detained the other an instant.

"Please keep me informed, Mr. Wyatt. I'm very much indebted to you for
telling me about this and for your care of my cousin."

Mr. Wyatt acknowledged the courteous utterance with a deprecating gesture
as they shook hands and followed quickly after the doctor, who was
proceeding slowly up the steep staircase.

* * * * *

Sir Herbert Saunderson buried himself in _The Times_, always placed
in his car. Suddenly he was disturbed. Mr. Wyatt, pale and hatless, stood
on the pavement.

"We were too late!" He uttered the words in a whisper, which ended in a
gulp.

The awed face told its own tale. Sir Herbert got out of his car and
followed him without a word.

At the bedside the three men stood silently, reverently looking down on
David Saunderson.

On his face that happy, superior smile seemed to say to them: "What a
lucky fellow I am to have the best of it like this - and Wyatt provided
for, too!"









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Online LibraryStephen HudsonWar-time Silhouettes → online text (page 7 of 7)