The Old Wives' Tale eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 811 pages of information about The Old Wives' Tale.

Meanwhile the doctor was at work.  He sent Dick Povey to knock up Critchlow’s, if the shop should be closed, and obtain a drug.  Then, after a time, he lifted Sophia, just as she was, like a bundle on his shoulder, and carried her single-handed upstairs to the second floor.  He had recently been giving a course of instruction to enthusiasts of the St. John’s Ambulance Association in Bursley.  The feat had an air of the superhuman.  Above all else it remained printed on Constance’s mind:  the burly doctor treading delicately and carefully on the crooked, creaking stairs, his precautions against damaging Sophia by brusque contacts, his stumble at the two steps in the middle of the corridor; Sophia’s horribly limp head and loosened hair; and then the tender placing of her on the bed, and the doctor’s long breath and flourish of his large handkerchief, all that under the crude lights and shadows of gas jets!  The doctor was nonplussed.  Constance gave him a second-hand account of Sophia’s original attack in Paris, roughly as she had heard it from Sophia.  He at once said that it could not have been what the French doctor had said it was.  Constance shrugged her shoulders.  She was not surprised.  For her there was necessarily something of the charlatan about a French doctor.  She said she only knew what Sophia had told her.  After a time Dr. Stirling determined to try electricity, and Dick Povey drove him up to the surgery to fetch his apparatus.  The women were left alone again.  Constance was very deeply impressed by Lily Holl’s sensible, sympathetic attitude.  “Whatever I should have done without Miss Lily I don’t know!” she used to exclaim afterwards.  Even Maud was beyond praise.  It seemed to be the middle of the night when Dr. Stirling came back, but it was barely eleven o’clock, and people were only just returning from Hanbridge Theatre and Hanbridge Music Hall.  The use of the electrical apparatus was a dead spectacle.  Sophia’s inertness under it was agonizing.  They waited, as it were, breathless for the result.  And there was no result.  Both injections and electricity had entirely failed to influence the paralysis of Sophia’s mouth and throat.  Everything had failed.  “Nothing to do but wait a bit!” said the doctor quietly.  They waited in the chamber.  Sophia seemed to be in a kind of coma.  The distortion of her handsome face was more marked as time passed.  The doctor spoke now and then in a low voice.  He said that the attack had ultimately been determined by cold produced by rapid motion in the automobile.  Dick Povey whispered that he must run over to Hanbridge and let Lily’s parents know that there was no cause for alarm on her account, and that he would return at once.  He was very devoted.  On the landing out-side the bedroom, the doctor murmured to him:  “U.P.”  And Dick nodded.  They were great friends.

At intervals the doctor, who never knew when he was beaten, essayed new methods of dealing with Sophia’s case.  New symptoms followed.  It was half-past twelve when, after gazing with prolonged intensity at the patient, and after having tested her mouth and heart, he rose slowly and looked at Constance.

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The Old Wives' Tale from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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