Sir Alexander saw his error. There must be something peculiar in Lord Elster’s constitution, he blandly said; it would not have happened in another. Of course, anything that turns out a mistake always is in the constitution—never in the treatment. Whether he lived or died now was just the turn of a straw: the chances were that he would die. All that could be done now was to endeavour to counteract the mischief by external applications.
“I wish you would let me try a remedy,” said Lady Hartledon, wistfully. “A compress of cold water round the throat with oilsilk over it. I have seen it do so much good in cases of inward inflammation.”
Mr. Brook smiled: if anything would do good that might, he said, speaking as if he had little faith in remedies now. Sir Alexander intimated that her ladyship might try it; graciously observing that it would do no harm.
The application was used, and the evening went on. The child had fallen into a sort of stupor, and Mr. Brook came in again before he had been away an hour, and leaned anxiously over the patient. He lay with his eyes half-closed, and breathed with difficulty.
“I think,” he exclaimed softly, “there’s the slightest shade of improvement.”
“In the fever, or the throat?” whispered Lady Hartledon, who had not quitted the boy’s bedside.
“In the throat. If so, it is due to your remedy, Lady Hartledon.”
“Is he in danger?”
“In great danger. Still, I see a gleam of hope.”
After the surgeon’s departure, she went down to her husband, meeting Hedges on the stairs, who was coming to inquire after the patient for his master, for about the fiftieth time. Hartledon was in the library, pacing about incessantly in the darkness, for the room was only lighted by the fire. Anne closed the door and approached him.
“Percival, I do not bring you very good tidings,” she said; “and yet they might be worse. Mr. Brook tells me he is in great danger, but thinks he sees a gleam of hope.”
Lord Hartledon took her hand within his arm and resumed his pacing; his eyes were fixed on the carpet, and he said nothing.
“Don’t grieve as those without hope,” she continued, her eyes filling with tears. “He may yet recover. I have been praying that it may be so.”
“Don’t pray for it,” he cried, his tone one of painful entreaty. “I have been daring to pray that it might please God to take him.”
“Percival!” she exclaimed, starting away from him.
“I am not mad, Anne. Death would be a more merciful fate for my boy than life. Death now, whilst he is innocent, safe in Christ’s love!—death, in Heaven’s mercy!”
And Anne crept back to the upper chamber, sick with terror; for she did think that the trouble of his child’s state was affecting her husband’s brain.
A PAINFUL SCENE.