“But I have tried to reason with her.”
“You can’t reason with her. She is beyond mere reason. I might as well try to reason you out of your conviction that the sun is shining. A delusion like hers has all the stability of a perfectly sane belief.”
“Then what can we do?”
“Since that delusion is a fact for her we must treat it as if it were a fact for us.”
“You mean we must pretend to believe that the danger is real?”
“It is real. People have died before now of nothing save a fixed idea of death.”
“But don’t worry. Aunt Amy is not going to die. When may I see her? If I come over in a half an hour will that be convenient?”
Esther rose with relief. How kind he had been! How completely he had understood! She had been right, perfectly right, in coming to him. In spite of Mrs. Coombe’s ridicule, Aunt Amy’s need had been no fancy. And there was another thing; he was coming to the house. Her mother would see him—and presto! her prejudice against doctors would vanish—he would cure the headaches, and everything would be happy again.
The doctor, watching keenly, thought that she must have been troubled greatly to show such evident relief.
“One thing more,” he said. “Was there, do you know, any history of insanity in your aunt’s family?”
The girl paled. The idea was a disturbing one.
“Why—no—I think not. I never heard. You see, she is not my Aunt, really, but my step-mother’s aunt. There was a brother, I think, who died in—in an institution. He was not quite responsible, but in his case it was drink. That is different, isn’t it? Does it make any difference?”
“No—only it may help me to understand the case. Good-afternoon.”
He watched her go, through a peep-hole made by Bubble in the blind.
“Pretty, isn’t she?” said a reflective voice below him.
The doctor started. But it was only Mrs. Sykes who had stepped around the house corner to pluck some flowers from the bed beneath the window. As he did not answer, the voice continued, “That boy Burk has gone fishing. I told you you’d regret putting that new suit on to him, brass buttons and all! Not that I want to say anything against the lad and his mother a widow, but when a person’s dealing with a limb of mischief a person ought to know what to expect. Anybody sick over at Esther’s house?”
The doctor, leaning against the door in deep reverie, did not seem to hear. Mrs. Sykes, after a suspicious glance, decided that perhaps he really had not heard, and proceeded.
“Not that I’m asking out of curiosity, Land sakes! But I’ve got some black currant jelly that sick folks fancy. I could spare a jar as well as not.”