Mrs. Foster said that the Vicar must not talk, it would tire him; she treated him like a child, with kindly despotism; and there was something childish in the old man's satisfaction at having cheated all their expectations. It struck him at once that Philip had been sent for, and he was amused that he had been brought on a fool's errand. If he could only avoid another of his heart attacks he would get well enough in a week or two; and he had had the attacks several times before; he always felt as if he were going to die, but he never did. They all talked of his constitution, but they none of them knew how strong it was.
"Are you going to stay a day or two?" He asked Philip, pretending to believe he had come down for a holiday.
"I was thinking of it," Philip answered cheerfully.
"A breath of sea-air will do you good."
Presently Dr. Wigram came, and after he had seen the Vicar talked with Philip. He adopted an appropriate manner.
"I'm afraid it is the end this time, Philip," he said. "It'll be a great loss to all of us. I've known him for five- and-thirty years."
"He seems well enough now," said Philip.
"I'm keeping him alive on drugs, but it can't last. It was dreadful these last two days, I thought he was dead half a dozen times."
The doctor was silent for a minute or two, but at the gate he said suddenly to Philip:
"Has Mrs. Foster said anything to you?"
"What d'you mean?"
"They're very superstitious, these people: she's got hold of an idea that he's got something on his mind, and he can't die till he gets rid of it; and he can't bring himself to confess it."
Philip did not answer, and the doctor went on.
"Of course it's nonsense. He's led a very good life, he's done his duty, he's been a good parish priest, and I'm sure we shall all miss him; he can't have anything to reproach himself with. I very much doubt whether the next vicar will suit us half so well."
For several days Mr. Carey continued without change. His appetite which had been excellent left him, and he could eat little. Dr. Wigram did not hesitate now to still the pain of the neuritis which tormented him; and that, with the constant shaking of his palsied limbs, was gradually exhausting him. His mind remained clear. Philip and Mrs. Foster nursed him between them. She was so tired by the many months during which she had been attentive to all his wants that Philip insisted on sitting up with the patient so that she might have her night's rest. He passed the long hours in an arm-chair so that he should not sleep soundly, and read by the light of shaded candles The Thousand and One Nights. He had not read them since he was a little boy, and they brought back his childhood to him. Sometimes he sat and listened to the silence of the night. When the effects of the opiate wore off Mr. Carey grew restless and kept him constantly busy.
At last, early one morning, when the birds were chattering noisily in the trees, he heard his name called. He went up to the bed. Mr. Carey was lying on his back, with his eyes looking at the ceiling; he did not turn them on Philip. Philip saw that sweat was on his forehead, and he took a towel and wiped it.
"Is that you, Philip?" the old man asked.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|