Continued from the previous installment, Part V: The Chase (in which our heroine follows the Strange Physician through London town and loses her feathered companion)
A deft turn and a flick. A silent flourish and a toss, but with no dramatic intent. The Strange Physician had closed the door and thrown off his lendings. Curiosity, which was once fascination for the twitch of a frog’s leg, is now a mechanical spring which weighs his torso front and then back; so that he can walk, so that he can let his arms rise and fall and move his eyes left and right.
In the afternoons he works at his books by the light of a shutter crack and whatever is not being used he leaves under the white sheets, some stained. They cover everything. He has an interesting way of turning a page – he tugs a leaf from the bottom of the spine to the corner and then swipes thumb and forefinger up along the length before placing it down. You would never see this of course, for his fingers have quickened to this rhythm through much practice.
A meek rapping is heard at the door. The book is already hidden and gone before his nostril has had time to flare at the sound of an unwelcome visitor. He waits.
Millie inhales and stands as her corset commands her to. She knocks again, this time with a swift and sharp triple stroke. Inside the room he blinks lazily and calmly strides towards the door, but all Millie knows is an abrupt opening and a mute expression waiting for her to make her point.
– “Good afternoon, I am afraid that I did not think to advise you of my coming here, but I was hoping that I could speak with you just the same –”
He obviously didn’t recognise her from his lectures, either that or it didn’t mean anything to him either way. Millie was embarrassed by so much space to fill with speech, but persevered nonetheless.
– “I…I wished to speak with you…as one physician to another, one who shares your interests. I must tell you something, I must recount it to someone, if only you would let me in, I could explain–”
His back hunched forward now, and his palm pressed and spread against the door jamb. Millie looked down and discretely rolled her lower lip inwards. She had made a mistake. She should go, she thought, as her head found itself nodding slightly and repeatedly.
But the raven had other plans – there was a sharp tapping behind the shuttered window and Millie knew that it was him. The Strange Physician was thrown off guard and she shuffled inside unthinkingly, forgetting all about the feeling which had been spreading through her only a second ago…
To be continued…