“He tries to make little of it, and assures me it was only the heat of the house which caused him discomfort after the cold air out of doors. It may be only that, but I think we ought to make sure.”
Again, and with that same becoming hint of deference, she turned to her niece.
“So I sent orders that Patch should drive at once to Stourmouth and fetch Dr. McCabe. I did not stop to consult you because it seemed best he should take out the horses before they were washed down and stabled.”
“Yes—but I can go to him?” Damaris asked.
“Darling—of course. But I would try to follow his lead, if I were you—treat it all lightly, since he so wishes. Your father knows best in most things—and may know best in this. Please God it is so.”
Left alone with Carteret.
“I am anxious—most cruelly anxious about my brother,” she said.
While Damaris, sweeping across the hall and down the corridor in her sunshine silken dress, repeated:
“The ponies—the smugglers’ ponies,” a sob in her throat.
TELLING HOW CHARLES VERITY LOOKED ON THE MOTHER OF HIS SON
“Which is equivalent to saying, ’Hear the conclusion of the whole matter,’ isn’t it, McCabe?”
Dr. McCabe’s square, hairy-backed hands fumbled with the stethoscope as he pushed it into his breast pocket, and, in replying, his advertised cheerfulness rang somewhat false.
“Not so fast, Sir Charles—in the good Lord’s name, not so fast. While there’s life there’s hope, it’s me settled opinion. I’m never for signing a patient’s death-warrant before the blessed soul of him’s entirely parted company with its mortal tenement of clay. The normal human being takes a mighty lot of killing in my experience, where the will to live is still intact. Let alone that you can never be quite upsides with Nature. Ah! she’s an astonishing box of tricks to draw on where final dissolution’s concerned. She glories to turn round on your pathological and biological high science; and, while you’re measuring a man for his coffin, to help him give death the slip.”
Charles Verity slightly shifted his position—and that with singular carefulness—against the pillows in the deep red-covered chair. His hands, inert and bluish about the finger-tips, lay along the padded arms of it. The jacket of his grey-and-white striped flannel sleeping-suit was unfastened at the throat, showing the irregular lift and fall of his chest with each laboured breath. His features were accentuated, his face drawn and of a surprising pallor.
The chair, in which he sat, had been brought forward into the wide arc of the great window forming the front of the room. Two bays of this stood open down to the ground. Looking out, beyond the rich brown of the newly-turned earth in the flower-beds, the lawn stretched away—a dim greyish green, under the long shadows cast by the hollies masking the wall on the left, and glittering, powdered by myriads of scintillating dewdrops, where the early sunshine slanted down on it from between their stiff pinnacles and sharply serrated crests.