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Chapter 7 Malaria

  • "I suppose I must just do the best I can, sir," said Elsie on the landin_utside the bedroom. She smiled timidly, cheerfully and benevolently.
  • The doctor looked at her, startled. It seemed to him that in some magic wa_he had vanquished the difficulties of a most formidable situation by merel_acing and accepting them. She did not argue about them, complain about them,
  • nor expatiate upon their enormity. She was ready to go on living and workin_ithout any fuss from one almost impossible moment to the next. During hi_areer in Clerkenwell Dr. Raste had become a connoisseur of choice examples o_ractical philosophy, and none better than he could appreciate Elsie'_ttitude. That it should have startled him was a genuine tribute to her.
  • "Yes, that's about it," he said nonchalantly, with the cunning of an exper_ho has seen an undervalued unique piece in an antique shop. "Well, goo_orning, Elsie. Good morning."
  • He was in a hurry; he had half a hundred urgent matters on his professiona_onscience. What could he do but leave Elsie alone with her ordeal? He coul_ot help her, and she did not need help in this particular work, which was,
  • after all, part of her job at twenty pounds a year and food given and stolen.
  • She was beginning to see the top of his hat as he descended the stairs. Th_tupid, plump, practical philosopher wanted to call him back for an affair o_he very highest importance, and could not open her mouth, because Mr.
  • Earlforward's desperate plight somehow inhibited her from doing so.
  • "Doctor!" she exclaimed with a strange shrillness as soon as he had passe_rom her sight into the shop.
  • "What now?" demanded Dr. Raste sharply, afraid that his connoisseurship shoul_ave been mistaken and she would stampede.
  • She ran down after him. His gaze indicated danger. He did not mean to have an_onsense.
  • "I suppose you couldn't just see Joe for a minute?" she stammered, with _lush. This now faltering creature had a moment earlier been calmly ready t_o the best she could in circumstances which would scarcely bear looking at.
  • "Joe? What Joe?"
  • "Your old Joe. He's here, sir. Upstairs. Came last night, sir. He's very ill.
  • I'm looking after him too. Master doesn't know."
  • "What in God's name are you talking about, my girl?" said the doctor, move_ut of his impassibility.
  • She told him the facts, as though confessing a mortal sin for which she coul_ot expect absolution.
  • "I really haven't a minute to spare," said he, and went upstairs with her t_he second-floor.
  • By the time they got there Elsie had resumed her self-possession.
  • The doctor, for all his detached and frigid poses, was on occasion capable,
  • like nearly every man, of being as irrational as a woman. On this occasion h_as guilty of a perfectly indefensible prejudice against both Elsie and Joe.
  • He had a prejudice against Elsie because he was convinced that had it not bee_or her affair with Joe, Joe would still have been in his service. And he wa_rejudiced against Joe because he had suffered much from a whole series o_oe's successors. For the moment he was quite without a Joe. Also he resente_lsie having a secret sick man in the house—and that man Joe—and demanding s_nexpectedly his attention when he was in a hurry and over-fatigued by th_lls of the people of Clerkenwell. He would have justly contemned suc_rejudices in another, and especially in, for example, his wife; and it mus_e admitted he was not the god-like little being he thought he was.
  • Fortunately Joe was in a state which made all equal before him.
  • "Oh dear I do so ache, and I'm thirsty," the second patient groane_esperately, showing no emotion-surprise, awe or shame—at sight of the docto_nd employer whom he had so cruelly wronged by leaving him in the lurch fo_nadequate reasons originating in mere sentiment. He had been solitary fo_alf an hour and could not bear it. He wanted, and wanted ravenously,
  • something from everybody he saw. The world existed solely to succour him. An_ertainly he looked very ill, forlorn, and wistfully savage in the miserabl_ed in the miserable bedroom of the ex-charwoman. He looked quite as ill a_r. Earlforward, and to Elsie even worse.
  • "It's malaria," said the doctor in a casual tone, after he had gone throug_he routine of examination. "Temperature, of course. He'll be better in a fe_ays. I've no doubt he had it in France first, but he never told me. When the_rought back troops to France from the East, malaria came with them. All th_orth of France is covered with mosquitoes, and they carry the disease. I'l_end down some quinine. You must feed him on liquids—milk, barley-water, beef-
  • tea, milk-and-soda. Hot water to drink, not cold. And you ought to sponge hi_own twice a day."
  • Elsie, listening intently to this mixture of advice and information, could no_elieve that Joe's case was not more serious than the doctor's manner implied.
  • Well implanted in her lay the not groundless conviction that doctors were ap_o be much more summary with the sick poor than with the sick rich. And sh_as revisited by her old sense of this doctor's harsh indifference. He had no_ven greeted his former servant, had regarded him simply as he would regar_ny ordinary number in a panel.
  • "You won't have a great deal to do downstairs. In fact, scarcely anything,"
  • the doctor added, who apparently saw nothing excessive in leaving two patient_n charge of one unaided woman, she being also housekeeper, shopkeeper, an_omestic servant.
  • "Of course you can send him to the hospital if you care to," said the docto_ightly. "I dare say they'd take him in." He, was, in fact, not anxious t_nsist on Joe's removal, thinking that he had already sufficiently worried th_ospital authorities about the dwellers in Riceyman Steps.
  • To send Joe to the hospital would have relieved Elsie of the terrifi_esponsibility which she had incurred by bringing him unpermitted into th_ouse. But she did not want to surrender him. She hated to part with him. An_rivately, when it came to the point, she shared Mr. Earlforward's objectio_o hospitals. Joe might be neglected, she feared, in the hospital; he might b_ictimized by some rule. She had no confidence in the nursing of anybod_xcept herself. She was persuaded that if she could watch him she might sav_im.
  • "I think I can manage him here, sir," she smiled.
  • But it was a reserved smile, which said: "I have my own ideas about thi_atter and I don't swallow all I hear."
  • Dr. Raste began to put on his gloves; in the servant's room he had not take_ff his hat, much less his overcoat. She escorted him downstairs. At the shop-
  • door he suddenly said:
  • "If he  _does_  want another doctor there's Mr. Adhams—other side of Myddelto_quare." His features relaxed. This remark was his repentance to Elsie,
  • induced in him by her cheerful and unshrinking attitude towards destiny.
  • "You mean for master, sir?"
  • "Yes.  _He_  may be able to do something with him. You never know."
  • "I'm sure I'm very much obliged, sir," said Elsie eagerly, her kindlines_pringing up afresh and rushing out to meet the doctor's spark of feeling. H_odded. He had not said whether or not he would call again to see Joe, and sh_ad not dared to suggest it. She shut the door and locked herself in the hous_ith the two men?