She was dividedly conscious of a desire to laugh and of the notion that she must remain outwardly serious, because though this horrible Pemberton man was talking abject nonsense, she would presently be having him as a dinner-guest.
But what if he were not talking nonsense? The possibility, considered, roused a sensation of falling through infinity.
“Yes, yes,” Patricia civilly assented. “These young doctors have taken this out of me, and that out of me, as you might take the works out of a watch. And it has done no good; and they were mistaken in their first diagnoses, because what they took for true osteomalacia was only—— Would you mind telling me again? Oh, yes; I had only a pseudo-osteomalacic rhachitic pelvis, to begin with. To think of anybody’s being mistaken about a simple little trouble like that! And I suppose I was just born with it, like my mother and all those other luckless women with Musgrave blood in them?”
“Fehling and Schliephake at least consider this variety of pelvic anomaly to be congenital in the majority of cases. But, without going into the question of heredity at all, I think it only, fair to tell you, Mrs. Musgrave——” And Pemberton went on talking.
Neither of the two showed any emotion.
The doctor went on talking. Patricia did not listen. The man was talking, she comprehended, but to her his words seemed blurred and indistinguishable. “Like a talking-machine when it isn’t wound up enough,” she decided.
Subconsciously Patricia was thinking, “You have two big beads of perspiration on your nose, and if I were to allude to the fact you would very probably die of embarrassment.”
Aloud Patricia said: “You mean, then, that, to cap it all, a functional disorder of my heart has become organic, so that I would inevitably die under another operation? or even at a sudden shock? And that particular operation is now the solitary chance of saving my life! The dilemma is neat, isn’t it? How God must laugh at the jokes He contrives,” said Patricia. “I wish that I could laugh. And I will. I don’t care whether you think me a reprobate or not, Dr. Pemberton, I want a good stiff drink of whiskey—the Musgrave size.”
He gave it to her.
Patricia had as yet an hour to spend in Lichfield before her train left. She passed it in the garden of her own home, where she had first seen Rudolph Musgrave and he had fought with Pevensey. All that seemed very long ago.
The dahlia leaves, she noticed, were edged with yellow. She must look to it that the place was more frequently watered; and that the bulbs were dug up in September. Next year she meant to set the dahlias thinly, like a hedge....
“Oh, yes, I meant to. Only I won’t be alive next year,” she recollected.
She went about the garden to see if Ned had weeded out the wild-pea vines—a pest which had invaded the trim place lately. Only a few of the intruders remained, burnt-out and withered as they are annually by the mid-summer sun. There would be no more fight until next April.