The Evil Genius
16. The Child
During the first week there was an improvement in the child's health, which justified the
doctor's hopeful anticipations. Mrs. Linley wrote cheerfully to her husband; and the better
nature of Mrs. Linley's mother seemed, by some inscrutable process, to thrive morally
under the encouraging influences of the sea air. It may be a bold thing to say, but it is
surely true that our virtues depend greatly on the state of our health.
During the second week, the reports sent to Mount Morven were less encouraging. The
improvement in Kitty was maintained; but it made no further progress.
The lapse of the third week brought with it depressing results. There could be no doubt
now that the child was losing ground. Bitterly disappointed, Mrs. Linley wrote to her
medical adviser, describing the symptoms, and asking for instructions. The doctor wrote
back: "Find out where your supply of drinking water comes from. If from a well, let me
know how it is situated. Answer by telegraph." The reply arrived: "A well near the parish
church."' The doctor's advice ran back along the wires: "Come home instantly."
They returned the same day--and they returned too late.
Kitty's first night at home was wakeful and restless; her little hands felt feverish, and she
was tormented by perpetual thirst. The good doctor still spoke hopefully; attributing the
symptoms to fatigue after the journey. But, as the days followed each other, his medical
visits were paid at shorter intervals. The mother noticed that his pleasant face became
grave and anxious, and implored him to tell her the truth. The truth was told in two
dreadful words: "Typhoid Fever."
A day or two later, the doctor spoke privately with Mr. Linley. The child' s debilitated
condition--that lowered state of the vital power which he had observed when Kitty's case
was first submitted to him--placed a terrible obstacle in the way of successful resistance
to the advance of the disease. "Say nothing to Mrs. Linley just yet. There is no absolute
danger so far, unless delirium sets in." "Do you think it likely?" Linley asked. The doctor
shook his head, and said "God knows."
On the next evening but one, the fatal symptom showed itself. There was nothing violent
in the delirium. Unconscious of past events in the family life, the poor child supposed
that her governess was living in the house as usual. She piteously wondered why Sydney
remained downstairs in the schoolroom. "Oh, don't keep her away from me! I want Syd! I
want Syd!" That was her one cry. When exhaustion silenced her, they hoped that the sad
delusion was at an end. No! As the slow fire of the fever flamed up again, the same words
were on the child's lips, the same fond hope was in her sinking heart.
The doctor led Mrs. Linley out of the room. "Is this the governess?" he asked.