‘It’s her heart,’ said Mrs Draper.
‘Did she suffer from heart complaint?’ he asked.
’We suspected it, sir, though nobody knew it. She was very shy of talking about herself.’
‘We must send for the doctor at once,’ said Mr Thumble. ’We had better touch nothing till he is here.’ Then they retreated and the door was locked.
In ten minutes everybody in the house knew it except the bishop; and in twenty minutes the nearest apothecary with his assistant were in the room, and the body had been properly laid upon the bed. Even then the husband had not been told—did not know either his relief or his loss. It was now past seven, which was the usual hour for dinner at the palace, and it was probable that he would come out of his room among the servants, if he were not summoned. When it was proposed to Mr Thumble that he should go in and tell him, he positively declined, saying that the sight which he had just seen and the exertions of the day together, had so unnerved him, that he had not physical strength for the task. The apothecary, who had been summoned in a hurry, had escaped, probably being equally unwilling to be the bearer of such a communication. The duty therefore fell to Mrs Draper, and under the pressing instance of the other servants she descended to her master’s room. Had it not been that the hour of dinner had come, so that the bishop could not have been left much longer to himself, the evil time would have been still postponed.
She went very slowly along the passage, and was just going to pause ere she reached the room when the door was opened and the bishop stood close before her. It was easy to be seen that he was cross. His hands and face were unwashed and his face was haggard. In these days he would not even go through the ceremony of dressing himself before dinner. ‘Mrs Draper,’ he said, ’why don’t they tell me that dinner is ready? Are they going to give me any dinner?’ She stood a moment without answering him, while the tears streamed down her face. ‘What is the matter?’ said he. ’Has your mistress sent you here?’
‘Oh laws!’ said Mrs Draper—and she put out her hands to support him if such support should be necessary.
‘What is the matter?’ he demanded angrily.
‘Oh, my lord—bear it like a Christian. Mistress isn’t no more.’ He leaned back against the door-post and she took hold of him by the arms. ’It was the heart, my lord. Dr Filgrave hisself has not been yet; but that’s what it was.’ The bishop did not say a word, but walked back to his chair before the fire.