Four Eyes Were Reading the Passage
I was running the head of my pencil-case along the line as I read it, and something caused me to raise my eyes.
Directly before me was one of the mirrors I have mentioned, in which I saw reflected the tall shape of my friend, Mr. Jennings, leaning over my shoulder, and reading the page at which I was busy, and with a face so dark and wild that I should hardly have known him.
I turned and rose. He stood erect also, and with an effort laughed a little, saying: "I came in and asked you how you did, but without succeeding in awaking you from your book; so I could not restrain my curiosity, and very impertinently, I'm afraid, peeped over your shoulder. This is not your first time of looking into those pages. You have looked into Swedenborg, no doubt, long ago?"
"Oh dear, yes! I owe Swedenborg a great deal; you will discover traces of him in the little book on Metaphysical Medicine, which you were so good as to remember." Although my friend affected a gaiety of manner, there was a slight flush in his face, and I could perceive that he was inwardly much perturbed. "I'm scarcely yet qualified, I know so little of Swedenborg. I've only had them a fortnight," he answered, "and I think they are rather likely to make a solitary man nervous--that is, judging from the very little I have read---I don't say that they have made me so," he laughed; "and I'm so very much obliged for the book. I hope you got my note?"
I made all proper acknowledgments and modest disclaimers. "I never read a book that I go with, so entirely, as that of yours," he continued. "I saw at once there is more in it than is quite un folded. Do you know Dr. Harley?" he asked, rather abruptly. In passing, the editor remarks that the physician here named was one of the most eminent who had ever practiced in England.
I did, having had letters to him, and had experienced from him great courtesy and considerable assistance during my visit to England.
"I think that man one of the very greatest fools I ever met in my life," said Mr. Jennings.
This was the first time I had ever heard him say a sharp thing of anybody, and such a term applied to so high a name a little startled me.
"Really! and in what way?" I asked. "In his profession," he answered. I smiled.
"I mean this," he said: "he seems to me, one half, blind--I mean one half[ of all he looks at is dark--preternaturally bright and vivid all the rest; and the worst of it is, it seems wilful. I can't get him--I mean he won't--I've had some experience of him as a physician, but I look on him as, in that sense, no better than a paralytic mind, an intellect half dead. I'll tell you--I know I shall some time--all about it," he said, with a little agitation. "You stay some months longer in England. If I should be out of town during your stay [or a little time, would you allow me to trouble you with a letter?"
"I should be only too happy," I assured him.
"Very good of you. I am so utterly dissatisfied with Harley."
"A little leaning to the materialistic school," I said.
"A mere materialist," he corrected me; "you can't think how that sort of thing worries one who knows better. You won't tell any one--any of my friends you know--that I am hippish; now, [or instance, no one knows--not even Lady Mary--that I have seen Dr. Harley, or any other doctor.
So pray don't mention it; and, if I should have any threatening of an attack, you'll kindly let me write, or, should I be in town, have a little talk with you." I was full of conjecture, and unconsciously I found I had fixed my eyes gravely on him, for he lowered his for a moment, and he said: "1 see you think I might as well tell you now, or else you are forming a conjecture; but you may as well give it up. If you were guessing all the rest of your Iife, you will never hit on it."
He shook his head smiling, and over that wintry sunshine a black cloud suddenly came down, and he drew his breath in, through his teeth as men do in pain. "Sorry, of course, to learn that you apprehend occasion to consult any of us; but, command me when and how you like, and I need not assure you that your confidence is sacred."
He then talked of quite other things, and in a comparatively cheerful way and after a little time, I took my leave.