It was evidently a most disreputable neighborhood. A sickening, nauseating revulsion crept over him: Zara—the beautiful, refined Zara—to be willing to meet a lover here! The brute was probably ill, and that was why she had looked so distressed. He walked up and down rapidly twice, and then he crossed the road and rang the bell; the taxi was still at the door. It was opened almost immediately by the little, dirty maid—very dirty in the early morning like this.
He controlled his voice and asked politely to be taken to the lady who had just gone in. With a snivel of tears Jenny asked him to follow her, and, while she was mounting in front of him, she turned and said: “It ain’t no good, doctor, I ken tell yer; my mother was took just like that, and after she’d once broke the vessel she didn’t live a hour.” And by this time they had reached the attic door which, without knocking Jenny opened a little, and, with another snivel, announced, “The doctor, missis.”
And Tristram entered the room.
And this is what he saw.
The poor, mean room, with its scrupulous neatness slightly disturbed by the evidences of the boiling of milk and the warming of flannel, and Zara, kneeling by the low, iron bed where lay the little body of a child. For Mirko had dwindled, these last weeks of his constant fever, so that his poor, small frame, undersized for his age at any time, looked now no more than that of a boy of six years old. He was evidently dying. Zara held his tiny hand, and the divine love and sorrowful agony in her face wrung her husband’s soul. A towel soaked with blood had fallen to the floor, and lay there, a ghastly evidence of the “broken vessel” Jenny had spoken of. Mimo, with his tall, military figure shaking with dry sobs, stood on the other side, and Zara murmured in a tender voice of anguish: “My little one! My Mirko!” She was oblivious in her grief of any other presence—and the dying child opened his eyes and called faintly, “Maman!”