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HATTER'S CASTLE (by A. Cronin)
The doctor took the matches from Matthew's useless fingers and, having lit the gas in the bedroom, guided him quietly out of the room then closing the door, he turned and seated himself beside the figure upon the bed. His dark, sombre eyes fixed themselves upon the outlines of her ravaged figure, and as he gently felt the quick, compressible pulse and noted the sunken hollows where emaciation had already touched her, his face shadowed slightly and the suspicion already forming in his mind. Then he laid his palm upon her body softly, with a sensitive touch which registered immediately the abnormal resistance of her rigid muscles, and simultaneously the concern of his face deepened. At this moment she opened her eyes and fastened them appealingly upon his, then whispered, slowly:
'You've come!' Her words and her regard recognised him as her deliverer. He altered his expression, adapting his features, the instant she looked at him, to an air of kind and reassuring confidence.
'It hurts you here,' he indicated gently, by a pressure of his hand, 'This is the place.'
She nodded her head. It was wonderful to her that he should immediately divine the seat of her pain; it invested him with a miraculous and awe-inspiring power; his touch at once seemed healing and his gently moving hand became a talisman which would discover and infallibly reveal the morbid secrete of her distress. Willingly she submitted her racked body to his examination, feeling that here was one in whom lay an almost divine power to make her well.
'That's better,' he encouraged, as he felt her relax. 'Can you let me go a little deeper — just once?' he queried. Again she nodded her head, and following whispered injunction, tried to breathe quietly, whilst his long, firm fingers sent shivers of pain pulsating through her 'That was splendid!' He thanked her with a calm consideration. 'You are very brave.' Not by so much as the flicker of his eyelids could she have discerned that, deep in the tissues of her body, he had discovered nodules of a wide rooted growth which he knew to have progressed far beyond the aid of any human skill. 'How long have you had trouble?' he asked casually. 'Surely this is not the first attack you've had?'
With difficulty she spoke.
'No! I've had it for a long time, off and on, doctor, but never for such a spell as this. The pain used to go away at once, but this one is a long time in easin'. It's better, mind you, but it hasna gone.'
'You've had other symptoms — surely, Mrs. Brodie,' he exclaimed his speaking eye conveying a meaning beyond his simple words. 'You must have known you were not right. Why did you not see about it sooner?'
'I knew well enough,' she answered,' but I seemed never to have the time to bother about myself.' She made no mention of her husband's intolerance as she added: 'I just let it gang on. I thought that in time it would go away.'
He shook his head slowly in a faint reproof, saying:
'You've neglected yourself sadly, I'm afraid, Mrs. Brodie. It may mean that you'll be laid up in bed for a little. You must make up your mind for a rest — that's what you've needed for a long time. Rest and no worry!'
'What's wrong with me, then,' she whispered. 'It's — it's nothing serious?'
He raised himself from the bed and surveyed her kindly. 'What did I say about worrying,' he replied. 'I'm coming again tomorrow for a fuller examination, when you have no pain. Just now you are going to have a good sleep. I've something here to give you relief.'
'Can you easy me?' she murmured weakly. 'I couldna bear you again.'
'You'll have no more of that,' he comforted her. 'I'll see to it.' She watched him silently as he picked up his bag, opened it and produced a small phial from which he measured some drops carefully into a glass; then, as he added some water and turned to her again, she placed her worn hand on his and said; movingly:
'You're so kind to me.