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The Side Of The Angels A Novel

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The difficulty was, in the first place, one of date—not the date of a month or a year, but of a generation or a century. Had Thorley Masterman found himself in love with Rosie Fay in 1760, or even in 1860, there would have been little to adjust and nothing to gainsay. In 1860 the Fays were still as good as the Thorleys, and almost as good as the Mastermans. Going back as far as 1760, the Fays might have been considered better than the Thorleys had the village acknowledged standards of comparison, while there were no Mastermans at all. That is, in 1760 the Mastermans still kept their status as yeomen, clergymen, and country doctors among the hills of Derbyshire, untroubled as yet by that spirit of unrest for conscience' sake which had urged the Fays and the Thorleys out of the flat farmlands of East Anglia one hundred and thirty years before.

During the intervening period the flat farmlands remained only as an equalizing symbol. Thorleys, Fays, Willoughbys, and Brands worked for one another with the community of interests developed in a beehive, and intermarried. If from the process of intermarriage the Fays were, on the whole, excluded, the discrimination lay in some obscure instinct for affinity of which no one at the time was able to forecast the significance.

But by 1910 there was a difference, the difference apparent when out of the flat farmlands seismic explosion has thrown up a range of mountain peaks. For the expansion of the country which the middle nineteenth century had wrought, the Thorleys, Mastermans, Willoughbys, and Brands had been on the alert, with eyes watchful and calculations timed. The Fays, on the other hand, had gone on with the round of seed-time and harvest, contented and almost somnolent, awakening to find that the ages had been giving them the chances that would never come again. It was across the wreck of those chances, and across some other obstacles besides, that Thorley Masterman, for the first time since childhood, looked into the gray-green eyes of Rosie Fay and got the thrill of their wide-open, earnest beauty.

He was then not far from thirty years of age, having studied at a great American university, in Paris, Berlin, and Vienna, and obtained other sorts of knowledge of mankind. He knew Rosie Fay, in this secondary, grown-up phase of their acquaintance, as the daughter of his first patient, and he had obtained his first patient through the kindly intervention of Uncle Sim. From February to November, 1910, his "shingle" had hung in one of the two streets of the village without attracting a patient at all. He had already begun to feel his position a trial when his half-brother's daily jest turned it into a humiliation.

"Must be serious matter, Thor," Claude would say, "to be responsible for so many valuable lives."

Mr. Leonard Willoughby, his father's partner in the old "banking-and-broking" house of Toogood & Masterman, enjoyed the same sort of chaff. "Looking pale, Thor. Must be working too hard."

"Never mind, Thor," Mrs. Willoughby would encourage him. "When I'm ill you shall get me—but then I'm never ill."

At such minutes her daughter Lois could only smile sympathetically and talk hurriedly of something else. As he had meant since boyhood to marry Lois Willoughby when the moment for marriage came, Thor counted this tactfulness in her favor.

Nevertheless, he was puzzled. Having disregarded his future possession of money and prepared himself for a useful career with all the thoroughness he could command, nobody seemed to want him. It was not that the village was over-provided with doctors. Every one admitted that it wasn't—otherwise he would not have settled in his native place. The village being really a township with a scattered population—except on the Thorley estate, which was practically part of a great New England city, where there were rows of suburban streets—it was quite insufficiently served by Dr....