“The doctor?” muttered Mr. Pole. “The doctor?” he almost bellowed; and got sharp up from his chair, and looked at himself in the glass, blinking rapidly; and then turned to inspect Emilia.
Emilia drew him to her side again.
“Go on,” he said; and there became visible in his face a frightful effort to comprehend her, and get to the sense of her words.
And why it was so frightful as to be tragic, you will know presently.
He thought of the arrival of Braintop, freighted with brandy, as the only light in the mist, and breathing heavily from his nose, almost snorting the air he took in from a widened mouth, he sat and tried to listen to her words as well as for Braintop’s feet.
Emilia was growing too conscious of her halting eloquence, as the imminence of her happiness or misery hung balancing in doubtful scales before her.
“Oh! he loves me, and I love him,” she gasped, and wondered why words should be failing her. “See us together, sir, and hear us. We will make you well.”
The exclamation “Good Lord!” groaned out in a tone as from the lower pits of despair, cut her short.
Tearfully she murmured: “You will not see us, sir?”
“Together?” bawled the merchant.
“Yes, I mean together.”
“If you’re not mad, I am.” And he jumped on his legs and walked to the farther corner of the room. “Which of us is it?” His features twitched in horribly comic fashion. “What do you mean? I can’t understand a word. My brain must have gone;” throwing his hand over his forehead. “I’ve feared so for the last four months. Good God! a lunatic asylum! and the business torn like a piece of old rag! I know that fellow at Riga’s dancing like a cannibal, and there—there ’ll be articles in the papers.—Here, girl! come up to the light. Come here, I say.”
Emilia walked up to him.
“You don’t look mad. I dare say everybody else understands you. Do they?”
The sad-flushed pallor of his face provoked Emilia to say: “You ought to have the doctor here immediately. Let me bring him, sir.”
A gleam as of a lantern through his oppressive mental fog calmed the awful irritability of his nerves somewhat.
“You’ve got him outside?”
The merchant’s eagerness faded out. He put his hand to her shoulder, and went along to a chair, sinking into it, and closing his eyelids. So they remained, Emilia at his right hand. She watched him breathing with a weak open mouth, and thought more of the doctor now than of Wilfrid.
Braintop’s knock at the door had been unheeded for some minutes. At last Emilia let him in. The brandy and biscuits were placed on a table, and Emilia resumed her watch by Mr. Pole. She saw that his lips moved, after a space, and putting her ear down, understood that he desired not to see any one who might come for an interview with him: nor were the clerks to be admitted. The latter direction was given in precise terms. Emilia repeated the orders outside. On her return, the merchant’s eyes were open.