‘Law bless ye, the doctor knows all about it, miss.’ The old woman’s face had a gleam of that derision which is so shocking in the features of feebleness and age.
’But it is a fit, it is paralytic, or something horrible—it can’t be safe to leave him to chance or nature to get through these terrible attacks.’
’There’s no fear of him, ’tisn’t no fits at all, he’s nout the worse o’t. Jest silly a bit now and again. It’s been the same a dozen year and more; and the doctor knows all about it,’ answered the old woman sturdily. ’And ye’ll find he’ll be as mad as bedlam if ye make any stir about it.’
That night I talked the matter over with Mary Quince.
‘They’re very dark, miss; but I think he takes a deal too much laudlum,’ said Mary.
To this hour I cannot say what was the nature of those periodical seizures. I have often spoken to medical men about them, since, but never could learn that excessive use of opium could altogether account for them. It was, I believe, certain, however, that he did use that drug in startling quantities. It was, indeed, sometimes a topic of complaint with him that his neuralgia imposed this sad necessity upon him.
The image of Uncle Silas, as I had seen him that day, troubled and affrighted my imagination, as I lay in my bed; I had slept very well since my arrival at Bartram. So much of the day was passed in the open air, and in active exercise, that this was but natural. But that night I was nervous and wakeful, and it was past two o’clock when I fancied I heard the sound of horses and carriage-wheels on the avenue.
Mary Quince was close by, and therefore I was not afraid to get up and peep from the window. My heart beat fast as I saw a post-chaise approach the court-yard. A front window was let down, and the postilion pulled up for a few seconds.
In consequence of some directions received by him, I fancied he resumed his route at a walk, and so drew up at the hall-door, on the steps of which a figure awaited his arrival. I think it was old L’Amour, but I could not be quite certain. There was a lantern on the top of the balustrade, close by the door. The chaise-lamps were lighted, for the night was rather dark. A bag and valise, as well as I could see, were pulled from the interior by the post-boy, and a box from the top of the vehicle, and these were carried into the hall.
I was obliged to keep my cheek against the window-pane to command a view of the point of debarkation, and my breath upon the glass, which dimmed it again almost as fast as I wiped it away, helped to obscure my vision. But I saw a tall figure, in a cloak, get down and swiftly enter the house, but whether male or female I could not discern.
My heart beat fast. I jumped at once to a conclusion. My uncle was worse—was, in fact, dying; and this was the physician, too late summoned to his bedside.
I listened for the ascent of the doctor, and his entrance at my uncle’s door, which, in the stillness of the night, I thought I might easily hear, but no sound reached me. I listened so for fully five minutes, but without result. I returned to the window, but the carriage and horses had disappeared.