“What is it?” asked Mr. Woodstock, holding a lighted match.
“Rotten fish, it seems to me,” said the other, holding his nose.
Abraham turned away; then, as if his eye had suddenly caught something, strode to another corner. There lay the body of a dead child, all but naked, upon a piece of sacking.
“We’d better get out of this, sir,” said the builder. “We shall be poisoned. Wonder they haven’t the plague here.”
“Seems to me they have,” returned Mr. Woodstock.
They went out into the street, and hailed the first policeman in sight. Then, giving up his investigations for that morning, Mr. Woodstock repaired to the police-station, and after a good deal of trouble, succeeded in getting the attendance of a medical man, with the result that the woman they had seen up in the garret was found to be in truth dying of small-pox. If the contagion spread, as probably it had by this time begun to, there would be a pleasant state of things in Litany Lane.
In the evening, before going home, Abraham had a bath. He was not a nervous man, but the possibilities of the risk he had run were not agreeable to contemplate. Two or three days went by without any alarming symptoms, but as he learnt that another case of small-pox had declared itself in the Lane, he postponed his personal activity there for the present, and remained a good deal at home. On the Sunday morning—when Waymark’s letter had already been posted— he awoke with a headache, continued from the night before. It grew worse during the day, and he went to bed early with a dull pain across the forehead, which prevented him from sleeping. On the following morning the headache still remained; he felt a disinclination to rise, and now, for the first time, began to be troubled with vague fears, which blended themselves with his various pre-occupations in a confusing way. The letter which arrived from Waymark was taken up to him. It caused him extreme irritation, which was followed by uneasy dozing, the pain across his forehead growing worse the while. A doctor was summoned.
The same day Ida and Miss Hurst left the house, to occupy lodgings hard by; it was done at Mr. Woodstock’s peremptory bidding. Ida at once wrote to Waymark, begging him to come; he arrived early next morning, and learnt the state of things.
“The doctor tells me,” said Ida, “there is a case in Litany Lane. It is very cruel. Grandfather went to make arrangements for having the houses repaired.”
“There I recognise your hand,” Waymark observed, as she made a pause.
“Why have you so deserted us?” Ida asked. “Why do we see you so seldom?”
“It is so late every evening before I leave the library, and I am busy with all sorts of things.”
They had little to say to each other, Waymark promised to communicate at once with a friend of Mr. Woodstock’s, a man of business, and to come again as soon as possible, to give any help he could. Whether Ida had been told of his position remained uncertain.