“I have asked Professor Kennedy, a specialist, to call, my dear,” said Atherton gently, without mentioning what the specialty was.
“Another one?” she queried languorously.
There was a colorless indifference in the tone which was almost tragic. She said the words slowly and deliberately, as though even her mind worked that way.
From the first, I saw that Kennedy had been observing Eugenia Atherton keenly. And in the role of specialist in nervous diseases he was enabled to do what otherwise would have been difficult to accomplish.
Gradually, from observing her mental condition of indifference which made conversation extremely difficult as well as profitless, he began to consider her physical condition. I knew him well enough to gather from his manner alone as he went on that what had seemed at the start to be merely a curious case, because it concerned the Athertons, was looming up in his mind as unusual in itself, and was interesting him because it baffled him.
Craig had just discovered that her pulse was abnormally high, and that consequently she had a high temperature, and was sweating profusely.
“Would you mind turning your head, Mrs. Atherton?” he asked.
She turned slowly, half way, her eyes fixed vacantly on the floor until we could see the once striking profile.
“No, all the way around, if you please,” added Kennedy.
She offered no objection, not the slightest resistance. As she turned her head as far as she could, Kennedy quickly placed his forefinger and thumb gently on her throat, the once beautiful throat, now with skin harsh and rough. Softly he moved his fingers just a fraction of an inch over the so-called “Adam’s apple” and around it for a little distance.
“Thank you,” he said. “Now around to the other side.”
He made no other remark as he repeated the process, but I fancied I could tell that he had had an instant suspicion of something the moment he touched her throat.
He rose abstractedly, bowed, and we started to leave the room, uncertain whether she knew or cared. Quincy had fixed his eyes silently on Craig, as if imploring him to speak, but I knew how unlikely that was until he had confirmed his suspicion to the last slightest detail.
We were passing through a dressing room in the suite when we met a tall young woman, whose face I instantly recognized, not because I had ever seen it before, but because she had the Atherton nose so prominently developed.
“My cousin, Edith,” introduced Quincy.
We bowed and stood for a moment chatting. There seemed to be no reason why we should leave the suite, since Mrs. Atherton paid so little attention to us even when we had been in the same room. Yet a slight movement in her room told me that in spite of her lethargy she seemed to know that we were there and to recognize who had joined us.
Edith Atherton was a noticeable woman, a woman of temperament, not beautiful exactly, but with a stateliness about her, an aloofness. The more I studied her face, with its thin sensitive lips and commanding, almost imperious eyes, the more there seemed to be something peculiar about her. She was dressed very simply in black, but it was the simplicity that costs. One thing was quite evident—her pride in the family of Atherton.