The woman in white, p.42
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       The Woman in White, p.42

           Wilkie Collins
 

  The five days passed anxiously.

  Countess Fosco and myself took it by turns to relieve Mrs. Rubelle,Miss Halcombe's condition growing worse and worse, and requiring ourutmost care and attention. It was a terribly trying time. Lady Glyde(supported, as Mr. Dawson said, by the constant strain of her suspenseon her sister's account) rallied in the most extraordinary manner, andshowed a firmness and determination for which I should myself neverhave given her credit. She insisted on coming into the sick-room twoor three times every day, to look at Miss Halcombe with her own eyes,promising not to go too close to the bed, if the doctor would consentto her wishes so far. Mr. Dawson very unwillingly made the concessionrequired of him--I think he saw that it was hopeless to dispute withher. She came in every day, and she self-denyingly kept her promise. Ifelt it personally so distressing (as reminding me of my own afflictionduring my husband's last illness) to see how she suffered under thesecircumstances, that I must beg not to dwell on this part of the subjectany longer. It is more agreeable to me to mention that no freshdisputes took place between Mr. Dawson and the Count. His lordshipmade all his inquiries by deputy, and remained continually in companywith Sir Percival downstairs.

  On the fifth day the physician came again and gave us a little hope.He said the tenth day from the first appearance of the typhus wouldprobably decide the result of the illness, and he arranged for histhird visit to take place on that date. The interval passed asbefore--except that the Count went to London again one morning andreturned at night.

  On the tenth day it pleased a merciful Providence to relieve ourhousehold from all further anxiety and alarm. The physician positivelyassured us that Miss Halcombe was out of danger. "She wants no doctornow--all she requires is careful watching and nursing for some time tocome, and that I see she has." Those were his own words. That eveningI read my husband's touching sermon on Recovery from Sickness, withmore happiness and advantage (in a spiritual point of view) than I everremember to have derived from it before.

  The effect of the good news on poor Lady Glyde was, I grieve to say,quite overpowering. She was too weak to bear the violent reaction, andin another day or two she sank into a state of debility and depressionwhich obliged her to keep her room. Rest and quiet, and change of airafterwards, were the best remedies which Mr. Dawson could suggest forher benefit. It was fortunate that matters were no worse, for, on thevery day after she took to her room, the Count and the doctor hadanother disagreement--and this time the dispute between them was of soserious a nature that Mr. Dawson left the house.

  I was not present at the time, but I understood that the subject ofdispute was the amount of nourishment which it was necessary to give toassist Miss Halcombe's convalescence after the exhaustion of the fever.Mr. Dawson, now that his patient was safe, was less inclined than everto submit to unprofessional interference, and the Count (I cannotimagine why) lost all the self-control which he had so judiciouslypreserved on former occasions, and taunted the doctor, over and overagain, with his mistake about the fever when it changed to typhus. Theunfortunate affair ended in Mr. Dawson's appealing to Sir Percival, andthreatening (now that he could leave without absolute danger to MissHalcombe) to withdraw from his attendance at Blackwater Park if theCount's interference was not peremptorily suppressed from that moment.Sir Percival's reply (though not designedly uncivil) had only resultedin making matters worse, and Mr. Dawson had thereupon withdrawn fromthe house in a state of extreme indignation at Count Fosco's usage ofhim, and had sent in his bill the next morning.

  We were now, therefore, left without the attendance of a medical man.Although there was no actual necessity for another doctor--nursing andwatching being, as the physician had observed, all that Miss Halcomberequired--I should still, if my authority had been consulted, haveobtained professional assistance from some other quarter, for form'ssake.

  The matter did not seem to strike Sir Percival in that light. He saidit would be time enough to send for another doctor if Miss Halcombeshowed any signs of a relapse. In the meanwhile we had the Count toconsult in any minor difficulty, and we need not unnecessarily disturbour patient in her present weak and nervous condition by the presenceof a stranger at her bedside. There was much that was reasonable, nodoubt, in these considerations, but they left me a little anxiousnevertheless. Nor was I quite satisfied in my own mind of thepropriety of our concealing the doctor's absence as we did from LadyGlyde. It was a merciful deception, I admit--for she was in no stateto bear any fresh anxieties. But still it was a deception, and, assuch, to a person of my principles, at best a doubtful proceeding.