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Chapter 26
"He beats me and I rail at him: O worthy satisfaction! would it were otherwise--
that I could beat him while he railed at me.--"
--Troilus and Cressida.
But Fred did not go to Stone Court the next day, for reasons that were quite
peremptory. From those visits to unsanitary Houndsley streets in search of
Diamond, he had brought back not only a bad bargain in horse-flesh, but the
further misfortune of some ailment which for a day or two had deemed mere
depression and headache, but which got so much worse when he returned from
his visit to Stone Court that, going into the dining-room, he threw himself on the
sofa, and in answer to his mother's anxious question, said, "I feel very ill: I think
you must send for Wrench."
Wrench came, but did not apprehend anything serious, spoke of a "slight
derangement," and did not speak of coming again on the morrow. He had a due
value for the Vincys' house, but the wariest men are apt to be dulled by routine,
and on worried mornings will sometimes go through their business with the zest
of the daily bell-ringer. Mr. Wrench was a small, neat, bilious man, with a well-
dressed wig: he had a laborious practice, an irascible temper, a lymphatic wife
and seven children; and he was already rather late before setting out on a four-
miles drive to meet Dr. Minchin on the other side of Tipton, the decease of Hicks,
a rural practitioner, having increased Middlemarch practice in that direction.
Great statesmen err, and why not small medical men? Mr. Wrench did not
neglect sending the usual white parcels, which this time had black and drastic
contents. Their effect was not alleviating to poor Fred, who, however, unwilling as
he said to believe that he was "in for an illness," rose at his usual easy hour the
next morning and went down-stairs meaning to breakfast, but succeeded in
nothing but in sitting and shivering by the fire. Mr. Wrench was again sent for, but
was gone on his rounds, and Mrs. Vincy seeing her darling's changed looks and
general misery, began to cry and said she would send for Dr. Sprague.
"Oh, nonsense, mother! It's nothing," said Fred, putting out his hot dry hand to
her, "I shall soon be all right. I must have taken cold in that nasty damp ride."
"Mamma!" said Rosamond, who was seated near the window (the dining-room
windows looked on that highly respectable street called Lowick Gate), "there is
Mr. Lydgate, stopping to speak to some one. If I were you I would call him in. He
has cured Ellen Bulstrode. They say he cures every one."
Mrs. Vincy sprang to the window and opened it in an instant, thinking only of Fred
and not of medical etiquette. Lydgate was only two yards off on the other side of
some iron palisading, and turned round at the sudden sound of the sash, before
she called to him. In two minutes he was in the room, and Rosamond went out,
after waiting just long enough to show a pretty anxiety conflicting with her sense
of what was becoming.
Lydgate had to hear a narrative in which Mrs. Vincy's mind insisted with
remarkable instinct on every point of minor importance, especially on what Mr.
Wrench had said and had not said about coming again. That there might be an
awkward affair with Wrench, Lydgate saw at once; but the ease was serious