He sat down on the sofa by the window. The energy had suddenly left all his limbs. He sat with his head sunk, listening. The familiar room, the familiar voice of his wife and his children—he felt weak as if he were dying. He felt weak like a drowning man who acquiesces in the waters. His strength was gone, he was sinking back. He would sink back to it all, float henceforth like a drowned man.
So he heard voices coming nearer from upstairs, feet moving. They were coming down.
“No, Mrs. Sisson, you needn’t worry,” he heard the voice of the doctor on the stairs. “If she goes on as she is, she’ll be all right. Only she must be kept warm and quiet—warm and quiet—that’s the chief thing.”
“Oh, when she has those bouts I can’t bear it,” Aaron heard his wife’s voice.
They were downstairs. Their feet click-clicked on the tiled passage. They had gone into the middle room. Aaron sat and listened.
“She won’t have any more bouts. If she does, give her a few drops from the little bottle, and raise her up. But she won’t have any more,” the doctor said.
“If she does, I s’ll go off my head, I know I shall.”
“No, you won’t. No, you won’t do anything of the sort. You won’t go off your head. You’ll keep your head on your shoulders, where it ought to be,” protested the doctor.
“But it nearly drives me mad.”
“Then don’t let it. The child won’t die, I tell you. She will be all right, with care. Who have you got sitting up with her? You’re not to sit up with her tonight, I tell you. Do you hear me?”
“Miss Smitham’s coming in. But it’s no good—I shall have to sit up. I shall have to.”
“I tell you you won’t. You obey me. I know what’s good for you as well as for her. I am thinking of you as much as of her.”
“But I can’t bear it—all alone.” This was the beginning of tears. There was a dead silence—then a sound of Millicent weeping with her mother. As a matter of fact, the doctor was weeping too, for he was an emotional sympathetic soul, over forty.
“Never mind—never mind—you aren’t alone,” came the doctor’s matter-of-fact voice, after a loud nose-blowing. “I am here to help you. I will do whatever I can—whatever I can.”
“I can’t bear it. I can’t bear it,” wept the woman.
Another silence, another nose-blowing, and again the doctor:
“You’ll have to bear it—I tell you there’s nothing else for it. You’ll have to bear it—but we’ll do our best for you. I will do my best for you—always—always—in sickness or out of sickness—There!” He pronounced there oddly, not quite dhere.
“You haven’t heard from your husband?” he added.
“I had a letter—“—sobs—“from the bank this morning.”
“FROM DE BANK?”
“Telling me they were sending me so much per month, from him, as an allowance, and that he was quite well, but he was travelling.”