Jezebel's Daughter HTML version

Chapter I.18
The breakfast-room proved to be empty when I entered it the next morning. It was the
first time in my experience that I had failed to find Mr. Keller established at the table. He
had hitherto set the example of early rising to his partner and to myself. I had barely
noticed his absence, when Mr. Engelman followed me into the room with a grave and
anxious face, which proclaimed that something was amiss.
"Where is Mr. Keller?" I asked.
"In bed, David."
"Not ill, I hope?"
"I don't know what is the matter with him, my dear boy. He says he has passed a bad
night, and he can't leave his bed and attend to business as usual. Is it the close air of the
theater, do you think?"
"Suppose I make him a comfortable English cup of tea?" I suggested.
"Yes, yes! And take it up yourself. I should like to know what you think of him."
Mr. Keller alarmed me in the first moment when I looked at him. A dreadful apathy had
possessed itself of this naturally restless and energetic man. He lay quite motionless,
except an intermittent trembling of his hands as they rested on the counterpane. His eyes
opened for a moment when I spoke to him--then closed again as if the effort of looking at
anything wearied him. He feebly shook his head when I offered him the cup of tea, and
said in a fretful whisper, "Let me be!" I looked at his night-drink. The jug and glass were
both completely empty. "Were you thirsty in the night?" In the same fretful whisper he
answered, "Horribly!" "Are you not thirsty now?" He only repeated the words he had first
spoken--"Let me be!" There he lay, wanting nothing, caring for nothing; his face looking
pinched and wan already, and the intermittent trembling still at regular intervals shaking
his helpless hands.
We sent at once for the physician who had attended him in trifling illnesses at former
The doctor who is not honest enough to confess it when he is puzzled, is a well-known
member of the medical profession in all countries. Our present physician was one of that
sort. He pronounced the patient to be suffering from low (or nervous) fever--but it struck
Mr. Engelman, as it struck me, that he found himself obliged to say something, and said it
without feeling sure of the correctness of his own statement. He prescribed, and promised
to pay us a second visit later in the day. Mother Barbara, the housekeeper, was already
installed as nurse. Always a domestic despot, she made her tyranny felt even in the sick-
room. She declared that she would leave the house if any other woman presumed to enter
it as nurse. "When my master is ill," said Mother Barbara, "my master is my property." It
was plainly impossible that a woman, at her advanced age, could keep watch at the