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THE DOCTOR'S MIXTURE.

BOOK I.
CHAPTER XXIII. A LADY'S VISIT.

CECIL LEADER was really much improving
in health, a great deal owing, it must
be said, to the Doctor's jealous supervision,
which, in that one point, reached almost
to despotism.

"I have a real regard for you, my dear
boy," he said, " and can make no
compromise with my conscience. You are free,
of course-come to man's estate; and glad
I am that that's not the only estate you
have, and that they can't keep you out of it.
But there we part, and go different roads."

"Dear Doctor, you know very well
I wish to do anything you like."

"Besides, even for Katey and Polly's
sake. If you only knew what those
treasures of mine think of you, how shy they
are of you, thinking you almost a philosopher,
full of wisdom and restraint! 'Pon
my honour and credit, it's beautiful to see
the sweet trusting faith and simplicity of
the two. ' Oh, Peter!' says Polly to me in
her gay way. ' Don't let Mr. Leader know
that. I'll die if you do.' Then Katey,
demurely, ' See, Peter, you wouldn't let us
down before Mr. Leader. Oh, I am so
afraid of him.' "

"And what," said the young man,
eagerly,  " what was this thing? Oh, tell me  !"

' What was it?" repeated the Doctor.
"Oh, I gave them my wordoh, I daren't.
Dear, dear, what pets they are! Why, sir,
they're theatres, playhouses, balls, dinners,
novels, poetry, all in a compenduum for
me. The whole diversion of London and
Paris going on before me, from morning to
night. Polly, like a sweet little Roman
candle sparkling and spluttering; Katey,
like a soft tune in your ear, the Last Rose
of Summer, going on all day long."

These artful raptures could not but
affect the young man a great deal, and the
glowing descriptions began to settle round
the heads of the girls like an aureole.
Apart from this, they were, indeed, as we
have seen before, very charming and natural
creatures, with whom it would be impossible
to associate much without what a
worldling would call " danger," burning
your wings, or fingers, with other metaphors
significant of disaster. Alas! for
romance, that this should mean those
" Caudine Forks" of matrimony, through which
the vanquished must pass. Of such a
humiliating finale Mr. Leader never dreamed.
Here were two delightful companions, who
were content to worship and admire him,
who thought him witty and wise, who
were terribly afraid of him, and who found
perfect compensation in the simple pleasure
of his society.

The Doctor's influence was still more
confirmed by a sort of little crisis. He
found his young patient one morning in
deep distress, owing to a letter just
received from Madeira, from Mrs. Leader.
It was to the effect that Mr. Leader had
received application from some money-
lender as to certain bills, and was couched
the severest terms. " I am not your
mother," she wrote ; " but I am your
father's wife, and I cannot see him
disgraced in this way by his son. I know
perfectly well how he has assisted you
before foolishly assisted you; with the
usual result. But he now sees it is high
time that some steps should be taken. No
one knows better than you the heavy
charges there are on the estate, which
it will require the greatest prudence to