A Man's Woman HTML version

Chapter VI.
Two days after Dr. Pitts had brought Ferriss to his country house in the outskirts
of Medford he had been able to diagnose his sickness as typhoid fever, and at
once had set about telegraphing the fact to Bennett. Then it had occurred to him
that he did not know where Bennett had gone. Bennett had omitted notifying him
of his present whereabouts, and, acting upon Dr. Pitts' advice, had hidden
himself away from everybody. Neither at his club nor at his hotel, where his mail
accumulated in extraordinary quantities, had any forwarding address been left.
Bennett would not even know that Ferriss had been moved to Medford. So much
the worse. It could not be helped. There was nothing for the doctor to do but to
leave Bennett in ignorance and go ahead and fight for the life of Ferriss as best
he could. Pitts arranged for a brother physician to take over his practice, and
devoted himself entirely to Ferriss. And Ferriss sickened and sickened, and went
steadily from bad to worse. The fever advanced regularly to a certain stage, a
stage of imminent danger, and there paused. Rarely had Pitts been called upon
to fight a more virulent form of the disease.
What made matters worse was that Ferriss hung on for so long a time without
change one way or another. Pitts had long since been convinced of ulceration in
the membrane of the intestines, but it astonished him that this symptom persisted
so long without signs either of progressing or diminishing. The course of the
disease was unusually slow. The first nurse had already had time to sicken and
die; a second had been infected, and yet Ferriss "hung on," neither sinking nor
improving, yet at every hour lying perilously near death. It was not often that
death and life locked horns for so long, not often that the chance was so even.
Many was the hour, many was the moment, when a hair would have turned the
balance, and yet the balance was preserved.
At her abrupt recognition of Ferriss, in this patient whom she had been
summoned to nurse, and whose hold upon life was so pitifully weak, Lloyd's heart
gave a great leap and then sank ominously in her breast. Her first emotion was
one of boundless self-reproach. Why had she not known of this? Why had she
not questioned Bennett more closely as to his friend's sickness? Might she not
have expected something like this? Was not typhoid the one evil to be feared and
foreseen after experiences such as Ferriss had undergone—the fatigue and
privations of the march over the ice, and the subsequent months aboard the
steam whaler, with its bad food, its dirt, and its inevitable overcrowding?
And while she had been idling in the country, this man, whom she had known
since her girlhood better and longer than any of her few acquaintances, had been
struck down, and day by day had weakened and sickened and wasted, until now,
at any hour, at any moment, the life might be snuffed out like the fight of a spent
candle. What a miserable incompetent had she been! That day in the park when
she had come upon him, so weak and broken and far spent, why had she not,
with all her training and experience, known that even then the flame was