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PAGE 3

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

He lay back in his corner, thinking. For a time his mind was occupied with the thoughts common to most of us when we go away–thoughts of all the things we have forgotten to pack. I don’t think you could fairly have called Ronald over-anxious about clothes. He recognized that it was the inner virtues which counted; that a well-dressed exterior was nothing without some graces of mind or body. But at the same time he did feel strongly that, if you are going to stay at a house where you have never visited before, and if you are particularly anxious to make a good impression, it IS a pity that an accident of packing should force you to appear at dinner in green knickerbockers and somebody else’s velvet smoking-jacket.

Ronald couldn’t help feeling that he had forgotten something. It wasn’t the spare sponge; it wasn’t the extra shaving-brush; it wasn’t the second pair of bedroom slippers. Just for a moment the sun went behind a cloud as he wondered if he had included the reserve razor-strop; but no, he distinctly remembered packing that.

The reason for his vague feeling of unrest was this. He had been interrupted while getting ready that afternoon; and as he left whatever he had been doing in order to speak to his housekeeper he had said to himself, “If you’re not careful, you’ll forget about that when you come back.” And now he could not remember what it was he had been doing, nor whether he HAD in the end forgotten to go on with it. Was he selecting his ties, or brushing his hair, or–

The country was appearing field by field; the train rushed through cuttings gay with spring flowers; blue was the sky between the baby clouds … but it all missed Ronald. What COULD he have forgotten?

He went over the days that were coming; he went through all the changes of toilet that the hours might bring. He had packed this and this and this and this–he was all right for the evening. Supposing they played golf? … He was all right for golf. He might want to ride …. He would be able to ride. It was too early for lawn-tennis, but … well, anyhow, he had put in flannels.

As he considered all the possible clothes that he might want, it really seemed that he had provided for everything. If he liked, he could go to church on Friday morning; hunt otters from twelve to one on Saturday; toboggan or dig for badgers on Monday. He had the different suits necessary for those who attend a water-polo meeting, who play chess, or who go out after moths with a pot of treacle. And even, in the last resort, he could go to bed.

Yes, he was all right. He had packed EVERYTHING; moreover, his hair was brushed and he had no smut upon his face. With a sigh of relief he lowered the window and his soul drank in the beautiful afternoon. “We are going away–we are going away–we are going away,” sang the train.

At the prettiest of wayside stations the train stopped and Ronald got out. There were horses to meet him. “Better than a car,” thought Ronald, “on an afternoon like this.” The luggage was collected–“Nothing left out,” he chuckled to himself, and was seized with an insane desire to tell the coach-man so; and then they drove off through the fresh green hedgerows, Ronald trying hard not to cheer.

His host was at the door as they arrived. Ronald, as happy as a child, jumped out and shook him warmly by the hand, and told him what a heavenly day it was; receiving with smiles of pleasure the news in return that it was almost like summer.

“You’re just in time for tea. Really, we might have it in the garden.”

“By Jove, we might,” said Ronald, beaming.

However, they had it in the hall, with the doors wide open. Ronald, sitting lazily with his legs stretched out and a cup of tea in his hands, and feeling already on the friendliest terms with everybody, wondered again at the difference which the weather could make to one’s happiness.

“You know,” he said to the girl on his right, “on a day like this, NOTHING seems to matter.”

And then suddenly he knew that he was wrong; for he had discovered what it was which he had told himself not to forget … what it was which he had indeed forgotten.

And suddenly the birds stopped singing and there was a bitter chill in the air.

And the sun went violently out.

. . . . . . .

He was wearing only half a pair of spats.