The Wyvern Mystery, by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Chapter 21.

The Wykeford Doctor.

A FEW days had passed and a great change had come. Charles Fairfield, the master of the Grange, lay in his bed, and the Wykeford doctor admitted to Alice that he could not say what might happen. It was a very grave case—fever—and the patient could not have been worse handled in those early days of the attack, on which sometimes so much depends.

People went to and fro’ on tiptoe, and talked in whispers, and the patient moaned, and prattled, unconscious generally of all that was passing. Awful hours and days of suspense! The Doctor said, and perhaps he was right, to kind Lady Wyndale, who came over to see Alice, and learned with consternation the state of things, that, under the special circumstances, her nerves having been so violently acted upon by terror, this diversion of pain and thought into quite another channel might be the best thing, on the whole, that could have happened to her.

It was now the sixth day of this undetermined ordeal.

Alice watched the Doctor’s countenance with her very soul in her eyes, as he made his inspection, standing at the bed-side, and now and then putting a question to Dulcibella or to Alice, or to the nurse whom he had sent to do duty in the sick-room from Wykeford.

“Well?” whispered poor Alice, who had accompanied him downstairs, and pale as death, drew him into the sitting-room, and asked her question.

“Well, Doctor, what do you think today?”

“Not much to report. Very little change. We must have patience, you know, for a day or two; and you need not to be told, my dear ma’am, that good nursing is half the battle, and in better hands he need not be; I’m only afraid that you are undertaking too much yourself. That woman, Marks, you may rely upon, implicitly; a most respectable and intelligent person; I never knew her to make a mistake yet, and she has been more than ten years at this work.”

“Yes, I’m sure she is. I like her very much. And don’t you think him a little better?” she pleaded.

“Well, you know, as long as he holds his own and don’t lose ground, he is better; that’s all we can say; not to be worse, as time elapses, is in effect, to be better; that you may say.”

She was looking earnestly into the clear blue eyes of the old man, who turned them kindly upon her, from under his shaggy white eyebrows.

“Oh! thank God, then you do think him better?”

“In that sense, yes,” he answered cautiously, “but, of course, we must have patience, and we shall soon know more, a great deal more, and I do sincerely hope it may all turn out quite right; but the brain has been a good deal overpowered; there’s a tendency to a sort of state we call comatose; it indicates too much pressure there, d’ye see. I’d rather have him talking more nonsense, with less of that sleep, as you suppose it, but it isn’t sleep,—a very different sort of thing. I’ve been trying to salivate him, but he’s plaguy obstinate. We’ll try tonight what dividing the pills into four each, and shortening the intervals a little will do; it sometimes does wonders—we’ll see—and a great deal depends on our succeeding in salivating. If we succeeded in effecting that, I think all the rest would proceed satisfactorily, that’s one of our difficulties just at this moment. If you send over your little messenger, the sooner the better, she shall have the pills, and let him take one the moment they come—pretty flower that is,” he interpolated, touching the petal of one that stood neglected, in its pot, on a little table at the window. “That’s not a geranium: it’s a pelargonium. I did not know there were such things down here—and you’ll continue, I told her everything else, and go on just as before.”

“And you think he’s better—I mean just a little?” she pleaded again.

“Well, well, you know, I said all I could, and we must hope—we must hope, you know, that everything may go on satisfactorily, and I’ll go further. I’ll say I don’t see at all why we should despair of such a result. Keep up your spirits, ma’am, and be cheery. We’ll do our duty all, and leave the rest in the hands of God.”

“And I suppose. Dr. Willett, we shall see you tomorrow at the usual hour?”

“Certainly, ma’am, and I don’t think there will be any change to speak of till, probably, Thursday.”

And her heart sank down with one dreadful dive at mention of that day of trial that might so easily be a day of doom.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57