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The Doctor (a Chapter Of Accidents)
by [?]

“May I look at my watch?” I asked my partner, breaking a silence which had lasted from the beginning of the waltz.

“Oh, HAVE you got a watch?” she drawled. “How exciting!”

“I wasn’t going to show it to you,” I said, “But I always think it looks so bad for a man to remove his arm from a lady’s waist in order to look at his watch–I mean without some sort of apology or explanation. As though he were wondering if he could possibly stick another five minutes of it.”

“Let me know when the apology is beginning,” said Miss White. Perhaps, after all, her name wasn’t White, but, anyhow, she was dressed in white, and it’s her own fault if wrong impressions arise.

“It begins at once. I’ve got to catch a train home. There’s one at 12.45, I believe. If I started now I could just miss it.”

“You don’t live in these Northern Heights then?”

“No. Do you?”

“Yes.”

I looked at my watch again.

“I should love to discuss with you the relative advantages of London and Greater London,” I said; “the flats and cats of one and the big gardens of the other. But just at the moment the only thing I can think of is whether I shall like the walk home. Are there any dangerous passes to cross?”

“It’s a nice wet night for a walk,” said Miss White reflectively.

“If only I had brought my bicycle.”

“A watch AND a bicycle! You ARE lucky!”

“Look here, it may be a joke to you, but I don’t fancy myself coming down the mountains at night.”

“The last train goes at one o’clock, if that’s any good to you.”

“All the good in the world,” I said joyfully. “Then I needn’t walk.” I looked at my watch. “That gives us five minutes more. I could almost tell you all about myself in the time.”

“It generally takes longer than that,” said Miss White. “At least it seems to.” She sighed and added, “My partners have been very autobiographical to-night.”

I looked at her severely.

“I’m afraid you’re a Suffragette,” I said.

As soon as the next dance began I hurried off to find my hostess. I had just caught sight of her, when–

“Our dance, isn’t it?” said a voice.

I turned and recognized a girl in blue.

“Ah,” I said, coldly cheerful, “I was just looking for you. Come along.”

We broke into a gay and happy step, suggestive of twin hearts utterly free from care.

“Why do you look so thoughtful?” asked the girl in blue after ten minutes of it.

“I’ve just heard some good news,” I said.

“Oh, do tell me!”

“I don’t know if it would really interest you.”

“I’m sure it would.”

“Well, several miles from here there may be a tram, if one can find it, which goes nobody quite knows where up till one-thirty in the morning probably. It is now,” I added, looking at my watch (I was getting quite good at this), “just on one o’clock and raining hard. All is well.”

The dance over, I searched in vain for my hostess. Every minute I took out my watch and seemed to feel that another tram was just starting off to some unknown destination. At last I could bear it no longer and, deciding to write a letter of explanation on the morrow, I dashed off.

My instructions from Miss White with regard to the habitat of trams (thrown in by her at the last moment in case the train failed me) were vague. Five minutes’ walk convinced me that I had completely lost any good that they might ever have been to me. Instinct and common sense were the only guides left. I must settle down to some heavy detective work.

The steady rain had washed out any footprints that might have been of assistance, and I was unable to follow up the slot of a tram conductor of which I had discovered traces in Two-hundred-and- fifty-first Street. In Three-thousand-eight-hundred- and-ninety-seventh Street I lay with my ear to the ground and listened intently, for I seemed to hear the ting-ting of the electric car, but nothing came of it; and in Four-millionth Street I made a new resolution. I decided to give up looking for trams and to search instead for London–the London that I knew.