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Chapter 8

  • BEFORE Glenbarth and I parted on the terrible evening described in th_revious chapter, we had made a contract with each other to say nothing abou_hat we had seen to the ladies. For this reason, when my wife endeavoured t_nterrogate me concerning our entertainment, I furnished her with an elaborat_escription of the dinner itself; spoke of the marvellous cooking, and I hop_ave her a fairly accurate account of the menu, or rather so much of it as _ould remember.
  • "I suppose I must confess to defeat, then," she said, when I had exhausted m_owers of narration. "I had a settled conviction that something out of th_ommon would have occurred. You seem simply to have had a good dinner, to hav_moked some excellent cigars, and the rest to have been bounded merely by th_ommonplace. For once I fear Doctor Nikola has not acted up to hi_eputation."
  • If she had known the truth, I wonder what she would have said! Long after sh_ad bade me "good night" I lay awake ruminating on the different events of th_vening. The memory of what I had seen in that awful room was still as fres_ith me as if I were still watching it. And yet, I asked myself, why should _orry so much about it? Nikola had willed that his audience should see certai_hings. We had done so. It was no more concerned with the supernatural than _as myself. Any man who had the power could have impressed us in the same way.
  • But though I told myself all this, I must confess that I was by no mean_onvinced. I knew in my heart that the whole thing had been too real to b_erely a matter of make-believe. No human brain could have invented th_hastly horrors of that room in such complete detail. Even to think of it now, is to bring the scene almost too vividly before me; and when I lay awake a_ight I seem to hear the shrieks of the wretched woman, and the moans of th_an perishing in the vaults below.
  • On my retiring to rest my wife had informed me that she fancied Miss Trevo_ad been slightly better that evening. She had slept peacefully for upwards o_n hour, and seemed much refreshed by it.
  • "Her maid is going to spend the night in her room," said Phyllis; "I have tol_er that, if she sees any change in Gertrude's condition, she is to let m_now at once. I do hope that she may be herself again to-morrow."
  • This, however, was unhappily not destined to be the case; for a little befor_hree o'clock there was a tapping upon our bedroom door. Guessing who it woul_e, my wife went to it, and, having opened it a little, was informed that Mis_revor was worse.
  • "I must go to her at once," said Phyllis, and, having clothed herself warmly, for the night was cold, she departed to our guest's room.
  • "I am really afraid that there is something very serious the matter with her,"
  • she said, when she returned after about a quarter of an hour's absence. "Sh_s in a high state of fever, and is inclined to be delirious. Don't you thin_e had better send for the doctor?"
  • "I will have a messenger dispatched to him at once if you think it necessary,"
  • I returned. "Poor girl, I wonder what on earth it can be?"
  • "Perhaps the doctor will be able to tell us now," said my wife. "The symptom_re more fully developed, and he should surely be able to make his diagnosis.
  • But I must not stay here talking. I must go back to her."
  • When she had departed, I dressed myself and went down to the hall in search o_he night watchman. He undertook to find a messenger to go and fetch th_octor, and, when I had seen him dispatched on his errand, I returned to th_rawing-room, switched on the electric light, and tried to interest myself i_ book until the medico should arrive. I was not very successful, however, fo_nteresting though I was given to understand the book was, I found my thought_ontinually leaving it and returning to the house in the Rio del Consiglio. _ondered what Nikola was doing at that moment, and fancied I could picture hi_till at work, late though the hour was. At last, tiring of the book an_anting something else to occupy my thoughts, I went to the window and dre_ack the shutters. It was a beautiful morning, and the myriad stars overhea_ere reflected in the black waters of the canal like the lamps of a larg_own. Not a sound was to be heard; it might have been a city of the dead, s_till was it. As I stood looking across the water, I thought of the city'_ast history, of her ancient grandeur, of her wondrous art, and of the grea_en who had been her children. There was a tremendous lesson to be learnt fro_er Fall if one could only master it. I was interrupted in my reverie by th_ntrance of the doctor, whom I had told the night watchman to conduct to m_resence immediately upon his arrival.
  • "I am sorry to bring you out at this time of the night, doctor," I said; "bu_he fact is, Miss Trevor is much worse. My wife spent the greater part of th_vening with her, and informed me on my return from a dinner that she wa_etter. Three-quarters of an hour ago, however, her maid, who had bee_leeping in her room, came to us with the news that a change for the worse ha_et in. This being the case, I thought it better to send for you at once."
  • "You did quite right, my dear sir, quite right," the medico replied. "There i_othing like promptness in these matters. Perhaps I had better see her withou_urther delay."
  • With that I conducted him to the door of Miss Trevor's room. He knocked upo_t, was admitted by my wife, and then disappeared from my gaze. Something lik_alf an hour elapsed before he returned to me in the drawing-room. When he di_o his face looked grave and troubled. "What do you think of her conditio_ow, doctor?" I asked.
  • "She is certainly in a state of high fever," he answered. "Her pulse is ver_igh, and she is inclined to be delirious. At the same time I am bound t_onfess to you that I am at a loss to understand the reason of it. The cas_uzzled me considerably yesterday, but I am even more puzzled by it now. Ther_re various symptoms that I can neither account for nor explain. One thing, however, is quite certain—the young lady must have a trained nurse, and, wit_our permission, I will see that one comes in after breakfast. Lady Hattera_s not strong enough for the task."
  • "I am quite with you there," I answered. "And I am vastly obliged to you fo_utting your foot down. At the same time, will you tell me whether you deem i_ecessary for me to summon her father from England?"
  • "So far as I can see at present, I do not think there is any immediate need,"
  • he replied. "Should I see any reason for so doing, I would at once tell you. _ave given a prescription to Lady Hatteras, and furnished her with the name o_ reliable chemist. I shall return between nine and ten o'clock and shall hop_o have better news for you then."
  • "I sincerely trust you may," I said. "As you may suppose, her illness has bee_ great shock to us."
  • I then escorted him downstairs and afterwards returned to my bedroom. The new_hich he had given me of Miss Trevor's condition was most distressing, an_ade me feel more anxious than I cared to admit. At seven o'clock I saw m_ife for a few minutes, but, as before, she had no good news to give me.
  • "She is quite delirious now," she said, "and talks continually of some grea_rouble which she fears is going to befall her; implores me to help her t_scape from it, but will not say definitely what it is. It goes to my heart t_ear her, and to know that I cannot comfort her."
  • "You must be careful what you are doing," I replied. "The doctor has promise_o bring a trained nurse with him after breakfast, who will relieve you of th_esponsibility. I inquired whether he thought we had better send for he_ather, and it is in a way encouraging to know that, so far, he does not thin_here is any necessity for such an extreme step. In the meantime, however, _hink I will write to the Dean and tell him how matters stand. It will prepar_im, but I am afraid it will give the poor old gentleman a sad fright."
  • "It could not give him a greater fright than it has done us," said Phyllis. "_o not know why I should do so, but I cannot help thinking that I am to blam_n some way."
  • "What nonsense, my dear girl," I replied. "I am sure you have nothin_hatsoever to reproach yourself with. Far from it. You must not worry yoursel_bout it, or we shall be having you upon our hands before long. You mus_emember that you are yourself far from strong."
  • "I am quite myself again now," she answered. "It is only on account of you_nxiety that I treat myself as an invalid." Then she added, "I wonder what th_uke will say when he hears the news?"
  • "He was very nearly off his head' yesterday," I answered. "He will be neithe_o hold nor to bind to-day."
  • She was silent for a few moments, then she said thoughtfully:
  • "Do you know, Dick, it may seem strange to you, but I do not mind saying tha_ attribute all this trouble to Nikola."
  • "Good gracious," I cried, in well-simulated amazement, "why on earth t_ikola?"
  • "Because, as was the case five years ago, it has been all trouble since we me_im. You remember how he affected Gertrude at the outset. She was far fro_eing herself on the night of our tour through the city, and now in he_elirium she talks continually of his dreadful house, and from what she says, and the way she behaves, I cannot help feeling inclined to believe that sh_magines herself to be seeing some of the dreadful events which have occurre_r are occurring in it."
  • "God help her," I said to myself. And then I continued aloud to my wife,
  • "Doubtless Nikola's extraordinary personality has affected her in som_easure, as it does other people, but you are surely not going to jump to th_onclusion that because she has spoken to him he is necessarily responsibl_or her illness? That would be the wildest flight of fancy."
  • "And yet, do you know," she continued, "I have made a curious discovery."
  • "What is that?" I asked, not without some asperity, for, having so much on m_ind, I was not in the humour for fresh discoveries.
  • She paused for a moment before she replied. Doubtless she expected that _ould receive it with scepticism, if not with laughter; and Phyllis, eve_ince I have known her, has a distinct fear of ridicule.
  • "You may laugh at me if you please," she said, "yet the coincidence is to_xtraordinary to be left unnoticed. Do you happen to be aware, Dick, tha_octor Nikola called at this hotel at exactly eleven o'clock?"
  • I almost betrayed myself in my surprise. This was the last question I expecte_er to put to me.
  • "Yes," I answered, with an endeavour to appear calm, "I do happen to be awar_f that fact. He merely paid a visit of courtesy to the Don, prior to th_ther's accepting his hospitality. I see nothing remarkable in that. I did th_ame myself, if you remember."
  • "Of course, I know that," she replied, "but there is more to come. Are yo_lso aware that it was at the very moment of his arrival in the house tha_ertrude was taken ill? What do you think of that?"
  • She put this question to me with an air of triumph, as if it were one that n_rgument on my part could refute. At any rate, I did not attempt the task.
  • "I think nothing of it," I replied. "You may remember that you once fell dow_n a dead faint within a few minutes of the vicar's arrival at our house a_ome. Would you therefore have me suppose that it was on account of hi_rrival that you were taken ill? Why should you attribute Miss Trevor'_llness to Nikola's courtesy to our friend the Don?"
  • "I beg that you will not call him our friend," said Phyllis with considerabl_ignity. "I do not like the man."
  • I did not tell her that the Duke was equally outspoken concerning ou_ompanion. I could see that they would put their heads together, and tha_rouble would be the inevitable result. Like a wise husband, I held my peace, knowing that whatever I might say would not better the situation.
  • Half an hour later it was my unhappy lot to have to inform Glenbarth of Mis_revor's condition.
  • "I told you yesterday that it was a matter not to be trifled with," he said, as if I were personally responsible for her grave condition. "The docto_vidently doesn't understand the case, and what you ought to do, if you hav_ny regard for her life, is to send a telegram at once to London orderin_ompetent advice."
  • "The Dean of Bedminster has a salary of eight hundred pounds per annum," _nswered quietly. "Such a man as you would want me to send for would require _ee of some hundreds of guineas to make such a journey."
  • "And you would allow her to die for the sake of a few paltry pounds?" h_ried. "Good heavens, Dick, I never thought you were a money-grabber."
  • "I am glad you did not," I answered. "It is of her father I am thinking.
  • Besides, I do not know that the doctor here is as ignorant as you say. He ha_ most complicated and unusual case to deal with, and I honour him fo_dmitting the fact that he does not understand it. Many men in his professio_ould have thrown dust in our eyes, and have pretended to a perfect knowledg_f the case."
  • The young man did not see it in the same light as I did, and was plainly o_he opinion that we were not doing what we might for the woman he loved. M_ife, however, took him in hand after breakfast, and talked quietly but firml_o him.
  • She succeeded where I had failed, and when I returned from an excursion to th_hemist's, where I had the prescriptions made up, I found him in a tolerabl_easonable frame of mind.
  • At a quarter to ten the doctor put in an appearance once more, and, after _areful inspection of his patient, informed me that it was his opinion that _onsultant should be called in. This was done, and to our dismay the resul_ame no nearer elucidating the mystery than before. The case was such a one a_ad never entered into the experience of either man. To all intents an_urposes there was nothing that would in any way account for the patient'_ondition. The fever had left her, and she complained of no pain, while he_ind, save for occasional relapses, was clear enough. They were certain it wa_ot a case of paralysis, yet she was incapable of moving, or of doing anythin_o help herself. The duration of her illness was not sufficient to justify he_xtreme weakness, nor to account for the presence of certain other symptoms.
  • There was nothing for it, therefore, but for us to possess our souls i_atience and to wait the turn of events. When the doctors had departed, I wen_n search of Glenbarth, and gave him their report. The poor fellow was fa_rom being consoled by it. He had hoped to receive good news, and thei_nability to give a satisfactory decision only confirmed his belief in thei_ncompetency. Had I permitted him to do so, he would have telegraphed at onc_or the best medical advice in Europe, and would have expended half his ow_rincely revenues in an attempt to make her herself once more. It wa_ifficult to convince him that he had not the right to heap liabilities on th_ld gentleman's shoulder, which, in honour bound, he would feel he must repay.
  • I will not bore my readers with the abusive arguments against society, an_ocial etiquette, with which he favoured me in reply to my speech. The poo_ellow was beside himself with anxiety, and it was difficult to make hi_nderstand that, because he had not placed a narrow band of gold upon _ertain pretty finger, he was debarred from saving the life of the owner o_hat selfsame finger. Towards nightfall it was certain that Miss Trevor'_ondition was gradually going from bad to worse. With the closing of the da_he delirium had returned, and the fever had also come with it. We spent _retchedly anxious night, and in the morning, at the conclusion of his firs_isit, the doctor informed me that, in his opinion, it would be advisable tha_ should telegraph to the young lady's father. This was an extreme step, and, needless to say, it caused me great alarm. It was all so sudden that it wa_carcely possible to realise the extent of the calamity. Only two days befor_iss Trevor had been as well as any of us, and certainly in stronger healt_han my wife. Now she was lying, if not at death's door, at least at no grea_istance from that grim portal. Immediately this sad intelligence was mad_nown to me I hastened to the telegraph-office, and dispatched a message t_he Dean, asking him to come to us with all possible speed. Before luncheon _eceived a reply to the effect that he had already started. Then we sa_urselves down to wait and to watch, hoping almost against hope that thi_eautiful, happy young life might be spared to us. All this time we had see_othing of the Don or of Nikola. The former, however, had heard of Mis_revor's illness, and sent polite messages as to her condition. I did not tel_lenbarth of this, for the young man had sufficient to think of just the_ithout my adding to his worries.
  • I must pass on now to describe to you the arrival of the Dean of Bedminster i_enice. Feeling that he would be anxious to question me concerning hi_aughter's condition, I made a point of going to meet him alone. Needless t_ay, he was much agitated on seeing me, and implored me to give him the lates_ulletin.
  • "God's will be done," he said quietly, when he had heard all I had to tel_im. "I did not receive your letter," he remarked, as we made our way from th_tation in the direction of Galaghetti's hotel, "so that you will understan_hat I know nothing of the nature of poor Gertrude's illness. What does th_octor say is the matter with her?"
  • I then informed him how the case stood, and of the uncertainty felt by the tw_embers of the medical profession I had called in. "Surely that is ver_ingular, is it not?" he asked, when I had finished. "There are not man_iseases left that they are unable to diagnose."
  • "In this case, however, I fear they are at a loss to assign a name to it," _aid. "However, you will be able very soon to see her for yourself, and t_raw your own conclusions."
  • The meeting between the worthy old gentleman and his daughter was on his sid_ffecting in the extreme. She did not recognise him, nor did she know my wife.
  • When he joined me in the drawing-room a quarter of an hour or so later hi_rief was pitiful to witness. While we were talking Glenbarth entered, and _ntroduced them to each other. The Dean knew nothing of the latter'_nfatuation for his daughter, but I fancy, after a time, he must have guesse_hat there was something in the wind from the other's extraordinary sympath_ith him in his trial. As it happened, the old gentleman had not arrived an_oo soon. That afternoon Miss Trevor was decidedly worse, and the medical me_xpressed their gravest fears for her safety. All that day and the next w_aited in suspense, but there was no material change. Nature was fighting he_attle stubbornly inch by inch. The girl did not seem any worse, nor was ther_ny visible improvement. On the doctor's advice a third physician was calle_n, but with no greater success than before. Then on one never-to-be-forgotte_fternoon the first doctor took me on one side and informed me that in hi_pinion, and those of his colleagues, it would not be wise to cherish an_urther hopes. The patient was undeniably weaker, and was growing more s_very hour. With a heart surcharged with sorrow I went to the Dean's room an_roke the news to him. The poor old man heard me out in silence, and the_alked to the window and looked down upon the Grand Canal. After a while h_urned, and coming back to me once more, laid his hand upon my arm.
  • "If it is the Lord's will that I lose her, what can I do but submit?" he said.
  • "When shall I be allowed to see her?"
  • "I will make inquiries," I answered, and hastened away in search of th_octor. As I passed along the passage I met Galaghetti. The little man ha_een deeply grieved to hear the sad intelligence, and hastened in search of m_t once.
  • "M'lord," said he, for do what I would I could never cure him of the habit,
  • "believe me, it is not so hopeless, though they say so, if you will but liste_o me. There is Doctor Nikola, your friend! He could cure her if you went t_im. Did he not cure my child?"
  • I gave a start of surprise. I will confess that the idea had occurred to me, but I had never given the probability of putting it into execution a thought.
  • Why should it not be done? Galaghetti had reminded me how Nikola had cured hi_hild when she lay at the point of death, and the other doctors of Venice ha_iven her up. He was so enthusiastic in his praise of the doctor that I fel_lmost inclined to risk it. When I reached the drawing-room Glenbarth hastene_owards me.
  • "What news?" he inquired, his anxiety showing itself plainly upon his face.
  • I shook my head.
  • "For God's sake don't trifle with me," he cried. "You can have no idea what _m suffering."
  • Feeling that it would be better if I told him everything, I made a clea_reast of it. He heard me out before he spoke.
  • "She must not die," he said, with the fierceness of despair. "If there is an_ower on earth that can be evoked, it shall be brought to bear. Can you no_hink of anything? Try! Remember that every second is of importance."
  • "Would it be safe to try Nikola?" I inquired, looking him steadfastly in th_ace. "Galaghetti is wild for me to do so."
  • In spite of his dislike to Nikola, Glenbarth jumped at the suggestion as _rowning man clutches at a straw.
  • "Let us find him at once!" he cried, seizing me by the arm. "If any one ca_ave her he is the man. Let us go to him without a moment's delay."
  • "No, no," I answered, "that will never do. Even in a case of such gravity th_roprieties must be observed. I must consult the doctors before calling i_nother."
  • I regret very much to say that here the Duke made use of some language tha_as neither parliamentary nor courteous to those amiable gentlemen.
  • I sought them out and placed the matter before them. To the idea of calling i_ fourth consultant they had not the least objection, though they were all o_he opinion that it could do no good. When, however, I mentioned the fact tha_hat consultant's name was Nikola, I could plainly see that a storm wa_ising.
  • "Gentlemen," I said, "you must forgive me if I speak plainly and to the point.
  • You have given us to understand that your patient's case is hopeless. Now _ave had considerable experience of Doctor Nikola's skill, and I feel that w_hould not be justified in withholding him from our counsel, if he wil_onsent to be called in. I have no desire to act contrary to medica_tiquette, but we must remember that the patient's life comes before augh_lse."
  • One doctor looked at the other, and all shook their heads.
  • "I fear," said the tallest of them, who invariably acted as spokesman, "tha_f the services of the gentleman in question are called in, it will b_ecessary for my colleagues and myself to abandon our interest in the case. _o not of course know how far your knowledge extends, but I hope you wil_llow me to say, sir, that the most curious stories are circulated both as t_he behaviour and the attainments of this Doctor Nikola."
  • Though I knew it to be true, his words nettled me. And yet I had such a deep- rooted belief in Nikola that, although they were determined to give up th_ase, I felt we should still be equally, if not more, powerful without them.
  • "I sincerely hope, gentlemen," I said, "that you will not do as you propose.
  • Nevertheless, I feel that I should not be myself acting rightly if I were t_llow your professional prejudices to stand in the way of my friend'_ecovery."
  • "In that case I fear there is nothing left to us but to most reluctantl_ithdraw," said one of the men.
  • "You are determined?"
  • "Quite determined," they replied together. Then the tallest added, "We muc_egret it, but our decision is irrevocable."
  • Ten minutes later they had left the hotel in a huff, and I found myself seate_pon the horns of a serious dilemma. What would my position be if Nikola'_resence should exercise a bad effect upon the patient, or if he shoul_ecline to render us assistance? In that case I should have offended the bes_octors in Venice, and should in all probability have killed her. It was _ice position to be placed in. One thing, however, was as certain as anythin_ould be, and that was the fact that there was no time to lose. My wife wa_eriously alarmed when I informed her of my decision, but both Glenbarth and _elt that we were acting for the best, and the Dean sided with us.
  • "Since you deem it necessary, go in search of Doctor Nikola at once," said m_ife, when the latter had left us. "Implore him to come without delay; i_nother hour it may be too late." Then in a heart-broken whisper she added,
  • "She is growing weaker every moment. Oh, Dick, Heaven grant that we are no_cting wrongly, and that he may be able to save her."
  • "I feel convinced that we are doing right," I answered. "And now I will go i_earch of Nikola, and if possible bring him back with me."
  • "God grant you may be successful in your search," said Glenbarth, wringing m_and. "If Nikola saves her I will do anything he may ask, and shall b_rateful to him all the days of my life."
  • Then I set off upon my errand.