“With a temperature dancing up and down like a mad thing between a hundred and one and a hundred and three? I’m dashed if I like the looks of her at all, at all, Miss Bilson; and I am well acquainted with her constitution and her temperament. She’s as delicate a piece of feminine mechanism as it’s ever been my fortune to handle, and has been so from a child. Mind and body so finely interwoven that you can’t touch the one without affecting the other—that is where danger comes in.—And I am glad to find she has so competent a nurse as Mary Fisher—a wholesome woman and one to put faith in. I have given my full instructions to her.”
“But I”—Theresa began fussily, her face crimson.
“Oh! I don’t doubt you’re devotion itself; only my first consideration is my patient, and so I make free to use my own judgment in the selection of my assistants. No disrespect to you, my dear lady. You are at home in more intellectual spheres than that of the sick-room. And now,” he wiped his mouth with his napkin, twinkling at her over the top of it with small blue-grey eyes, at once merry, faithful, and cunning—“I’ll be bidding you good-bye till the evening. I have told Mary Fisher I’ll be glad to sleep here to-night. And I’ll despatch a telegram to Sir Charles on my way through the village.”
“Sir Charles?” Theresa cried.
“Yes,” he answered her. “I find the darling girl’s illness as serious as that.”
A SOUL AT WAR WITH FACT
The deepest and most abiding demand of all sentient creatures, strong and weak alike, is for safety, or, that being unattainable, for a sense of safety, an illusion even of safety.
This, so universal demand, dictated, in Damaris’ case, her prayer for Dr. McCabe’s attendance. He belonged to the safeties of her childhood, to the securely guarded, and semi-regal state—as, looking back, she recalled it—of the years when her father held the appointment of Chief Commissioner at Bhutpur. Dr. McCabe was conversant with all that; the sole person available, at this juncture, who had lot or part in it. And, as she had foreseen—when drifting down the tide-river in the rain and darkness—once the supporting tension of Faircloth’s presence removed, chaos would close in on her. It only waited due opportunity. That granted, as a tempest-driven sea it would submerge her. In the welter of the present, she clutched at the high dignities and distinctions of the past as at a lifebelt. Not vulgarly, in a spirit of self-aggrandizement; but in the simple interests of self-preservation, as a means of keeping endangered sanity afloat. For the distinctions and dignities of that period were real too, just as uncontrovertible a contribution to her knowledge of men and of things, just as vital an element in her experience, as chaos let loose on her now. The one in no degree invalidated the truth or actuality of the other.