“I suppose that will be the best thing to do. You wish me, then, to engage a nurse?”
“Yes, doctor, if you will be so kind.”
“When do you go away?”
“At once. I shall pack up my clothes immediately. On the whole, I think I will go to the town where Godfrey is at school, and board there for the present. I must see him, and prevent him from coming home.”
“You will go into your husband’s chamber and bid him good-by?”
“No; I cannot think of it. It would only be useless exposure.”
“What will he think?”
“Explain it to him, doctor. Tell him that I hope he will get well very soon, and that I feel it my duty to go away now on Godfrey’s account. I am sure he will see that it is my duty.”
“I wonder what excuse she would have if she had no son for a pretext?” thought the doctor.
“Well,” he said, “I will do as you request.”
“See that he has the best of care. Get him two nurses, if you think best. Don’t spare expense.”
“What extraordinary liberality in Mrs. Preston,” thought the physician.
He went back into the chamber of his patient.
“Doctor,” said Colonel Preston, “you didn’t tell me what was the matter with me. Am I seriously sick?”
“I am sorry to say that you are.”
“Not necessarily. You have the smallpox.”
“Have I?” said the patient, thoughtfully.
“It’s an awkward thing to tell him that his wife is going to leave him,” the doctor said to himself. “However, it must be done.”
“Have you told my wife, doctor?”
“I just told her.”
“What does she say?”
“She is very much startled, and (now for it), thinks, under the circumstances, she ought not to run the risk of taking care of you on account of Godfrey.”
“Perhaps she is right,” said Colonel Preston, slowly.
He was not surprised to hear it, but it gave him a pang, nevertheless.
“She wants me to engage a nurse for you.”
“Yes, that will be necessary.”
There was a pause.
“When is she going?” he asked, a little later.
“As soon as possible. She is going to board near the school where Godfrey is placed.”
“Shall I see her?”
“She thinks it best not to risk coming into the chamber, lest she should carry the infection to Godfrey.”
“I suppose that is only prudent,” returned the sick man, but in his heart he wished that his wife had shown less prudence, and a little more feeling for him.
“Have you thought of any nurse?” he asked.
“I have thought of the widow Burke.”
“She might not dare to come.”
“She has had the disease. I know this from a few slight marks still left on her face. Of course, you would be willing to pay a liberal price?”
“Any price,” said Colonel Preston, energetically. “It is a service which, I assure you, I shall not soon forget.”