Implicitly trusting her husband—and rightly trusting him—Linley’s wife replied by a look which Mrs. Presty received in silent indignation. She summoned her dignity and marched out of the room.
Five minutes afterward, Mrs. Linley received an intimation that her mother was seriously offended, in the form of a little note:
“I find that my maternal interest in your welfare, and my devoted efforts to serve you, are only rewarded with furious looks. The less we see of each other the better. Permit me to thank you for your invitation, and to decline accompanying you when you leave Mount Morven tomorrow.” Mrs. Linley answered the note in person. The next day Kitty’s grandmother—ripe for more mischief—altered her mind, and thoroughly enjoyed her journey to the seaside.
During the first week there was an improvement in the child’s health, which justified the doctor’s hopeful anticipations. Mrs. Linley wrote cheerfully to her husband; and the better nature of Mrs. Linley’s mother seemed, by some inscrutable process, to thrive morally under the encouraging influences of the sea air. It may be a bold thing to say, but it is surely true that our virtues depend greatly on the state of our health.
During the second week, the reports sent to Mount Morven were less encouraging. The improvement in Kitty was maintained; but it made no further progress.
The lapse of the third week brought with it depressing results. There could be no doubt now that the child was losing ground. Bitterly disappointed, Mrs. Linley wrote to her medical adviser, describing the symptoms, and asking for instructions. The doctor wrote back: “Find out where your supply of drinking water comes from. If from a well, let me know how it is situated. Answer by telegraph.” The reply arrived: “A well near the parish church.” The doctor’s advice ran back along the wires: “Come home instantly.”
They returned the same day—and they returned too late.
Kitty’s first night at home was wakeful and restless; her little hands felt feverish, and she was tormented by perpetual thirst. The good doctor still spoke hopefully; attributing the symptoms to fatigue after the journey. But, as the days followed each other, his medical visits were paid at shorter intervals. The mother noticed that his pleasant face became grave and anxious, and implored him to tell her the truth. The truth was told in two dreadful words: “Typhoid Fever.”
A day or two later, the doctor spoke privately with Mr. Linley. The child’s debilitated condition—that lowered state of the vital power which he had observed when Kitty’s case was first submitted to him—placed a terrible obstacle in the way of successful resistance to the advance of the disease. “Say nothing to Mrs. Linley just yet. There is no absolute danger so far, unless delirium sets in.” “Do you think it likely?” Linley asked. The doctor shook his head, and said “God knows.”