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   Chapter 28 No.28

A Mummer's Wife By George Moore Characters: 40506

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The hope Dick expressed that his wife would soon be well enough to return home was, of course, untrue, his hope being that she would never cross the doors of the house in Bloomsbury whither he was taking her. The empty bed awaiting him was so great a relief that he fell on his knees before it and prayed that the doctors might judge her to be insane, unsafe to be at large. To wake up in the morning alone in his bed, and to be free to go forth to his business without question seemed to him like Heaven. But the pleasures of Heaven last for eternity, and Dick's delight lasted but for two days. Two days after Kate had gone into the asylum a letter came from one of the doctors saying that Mrs. Lennox was not insane, and would have to be discharged.

Dick sank into a chair and lay there almost stunned, plunged in despair that was like a thick fog, and it did not lift until the door opened and Kate stood before him again.

He raised his head and looked at her stupidly, and interpreting his vacant face, she said:

'Dick, you're sorry to have me back again.'

'Sorry, Kate? Well, if things were different I shouldn't be sorry. But you see the blow you struck me with the poker very nearly did for me; I haven't been the same man since.'

'Well,' she said, 'I must go back to the asylum or the home, whatever you call it, and tell them that I am mad.'

'There's no use in doing that, Kate, they wouldn't believe you. Here is the letter I've just received; read it.'

'But, Dick, there must be some way out of this dreadful trouble, and yet there doesn't seem to be any. Try to think, dear, try to think. Can you think of anything, dear? I don't think I shall give way again. If I only had something to do; it's because I'm always alone; because I love you; because I'm jealous of that woman.'

'But, Kate, if I stop here with you all day we shall starve. I must go to business.'

'Ah, business! Business! If I could go to business too. The days when we used to rehearse went merrily enough.'

'You were the best Clairette I ever saw,' Dick answered; 'better than Paola

Mariee, and I ought to know, for I rehearsed you both.'

'I shall never play Clairette again,' Kate said sadly. 'I've lost my figure and the part requires a waist.'

'You might get your waist again,' Dick said, and the words seemed to him extraordinarily silly, but he had to say something.

'If I could only get to work again,' she muttered to herself, and then turning to Dick-

'Dick, if I could get to work again; any part would do; it doesn't matter how small, just to give me something to think about, that's all, to keep my mind off it. If the baby had not died I should have had her to look after and that would have done just as well as a part. But I've disgraced you in company; I don't blame you, you couldn't have me in it, and I couldn't bring myself to sing in that opera.'

'Yes, you would only break out again, Kate. Those jealous fits are terrible. You think you could restrain yourself, but you couldn't; and all that would come of a row between you and Mrs. Forest would be that I should lose my job.'

'I know, Dick, I know,' Kate cried painfully, 'but I promise you that I never will again. You may go where you please and do what you please. I will never say a word to you again.'

'I'm sure you believe all that you say, Kate, but I cannot get you a job. I may hear of something. Meanwhile--'

'Meanwhile I shall have to stay here and alone and no way of escaping from the hours, those long dreary hours, no way but one. Dick, I'm sorry they did not keep me in the asylum, it would have been better for both of us if they had; and if I could go back there again, if you will take me back, I will try to deceive the doctors.'

'You mean, Kate, that you would play the mad woman? I doubt if any woman could do it sufficiently well to deceive the doctors. There was an Italian woman,' and they talked of the great Italian actress for some time and then Dick said: 'Well, Kate, I must be about my business. I'm sorry to leave you.'

'No, Dick, you're not.'

'I am, dear, in a way. But if I hear of anything--' and he left the house knowing that there was no further hope for himself. He was tied to her and might be killed by her in his sleep, but that would not matter. What did matter was the thought that was always at the back of his mind, that she was alone in that Islington lodging-house craving for drink, striving to resist it, falling back into drink and might be coming down raving to the theatre to insult him before the company. Insult him before the company! That had been done, she had done her worst, and he was indifferent whether she came again, only she must not meet Mrs. Forest. On the whole he felt that his sorrow was with Kate herself rather than himself or with Mrs. Forest. 'God only knows,' he said as he rushed down the stairs, 'what will become of her.'

Kate was asking herself the same question-what was to become of her? Would it be possible for her to find work to do that would keep her mind away from the drink? She seemed for the moment free from all craving, but she knew what the craving is, how overpowering in the throat it is, and how when one has got one mouthful one must go on and on, so intense is the delight of alcohol in the throat of the drunkard. But there was no craving upon her, and it might never come again. Every morning she awoke in great fear, but was glad to find that there was no craving in her throat, and when she went out she rejoiced that the public-houses offered no attraction to her. She became brave; and fear turned to contempt, and at the bottom of her heart she began to jeer at the demon which had conquered and brought her to ruin and which she had in turn conquered. But there was a last mockery she did not dare, for she knew that the demon was but biding his time. He seemed, however, to go on biding it, and Dick, finding Kate reasonable every evening, came home to dinner earlier so that the day should not appear to her intolerably long. But his business often detained him, and one night coming home late he noticed that she looked more sullen than usual, that her eyes drooped as if she had been drinking. A month of scenes of violence followed; 'not a single day as far as I can remember for a fortnight' he said one day on leaving the house and running to catch his bus to the Strand, 'have we had a quiet evening.' When he returned that night she ran at him with a knife, and he had only just time to ward off the blow. The house rang with shrieks and cries of all sorts, and the Lennoxes were driven from one lodging-house to another. Trousers, dresses, hats, boots and shoes, were all pawned. The comic and the pitiful are but two sides of the same thing, and it was at once comic and pitiful to see Dick, with one of the tails of his coat lost in the scrimmage, talking at one o'clock in the morning to a dispassionate policeman, while from the top windows the high treble voice of a woman disturbed the sullen tranquillity of the London night.

And yet Dick continued with her-continued to allow himself to be beaten, scratched, torn to pieces almost as he would be by a wild beast. Human nature can habituate itself even to pain, and it was so with him. He knew that his present life was as a Nessus shirt on his back, and yet he couldn't make up his mind to have done with it. In the first place, he pitied his wife; in the second, he did not know how to leave her; and it was not until after another row with Kate for having been down to the theatre that he summoned up courage to walk out of the house with a fixed determination never to return again. Kate was too tipsy at the time to pay much attention to the announcement he made to her as he left the room. Besides, 'Wolf!' had been cried so often that it had now lost its terror in her ears, and it was not until next day that she began to experience any very certain fear that Dick and she had at last parted for ever. But when, with a clammy, thirsty mouth, she sat rocking herself wearily, and the long idleness of the morning hours became haunted with irritating remembrances of her shameful conduct, of the cruel life she led the man she loved, the black gulf of eternal separation became, as it were, etched upon her mind; and she heard the cold depths reverberating with vain words and foolish prayers. Then her thin hands trembled on her black dress, and waves of shivering passed over her. She thought involuntarily that a little brandy might give her strength, and as soon hated herself for the thought. It was brandy that had brought her to this. She would never touch it again. But Dick had not left her for ever; he would come back to her; she could not live without him. It was terrible! She would go to him, and on her knees beg his pardon for all she had done. He would forgive her. He must forgive her. Such were the fugitive thoughts that flashed through Kate's mind as she hurried to and fro, seeking for her bonnet and shawl. She would go down to the theatre and find him; she would be sure to hear news of him there, she said, as she strove to brush away the mist that obscured her eyes. She could see nothing; things seemed to change their places, and so terrible were the palpitations of her heart that she was forced to cling to any piece of furniture within reach. But by walking very slowly she contrived to reach the stage-door of the Opéra Comique, feeling very weak and ill.

'Is Mr. Lennox in?' she asked, at the same time trying to look conciliatingly at the hard-faced hall-keeper.

'No, ma'am, he ain't,' was the reply.

'Who attended the rehearsal to-day, then?'

'There was no rehearsal to-day, ma'am-leastways Mr. Lennox dismissed the rehearsal at half-past twelve.'

'And why?'

'Ah! that I cannot tell you.'

'Could you tell me where Mr. Lennox would be likely to be found?'

'Indeed I couldn't, ma'am; I believe he's gone into the country.'

'Gone into the country!' echoed Kate.

'But may I ask, ma'am, if you be Mrs. Lennox? Because if you be, Mr. Lennox left a letter to be given to you in case you called.'

Her eyes brightened at the idea of a letter. To know the worst would be better than a horrible uncertainty, and she said eagerly:

'Yes, I'm Mrs. Lennox; give me the letter.'

The hall-keeper handed it to her, and she walked out of the narrow passage into the street, so as to be free from observation. With anxious fingers she tore open the envelope, and read,

'MY DEAR KATE,

'It must be now as clear to you as it is to me that it is quite impossible for us to go on living together. There is no use in our again discussing the whys and the wherefores; we had much better accept the facts of the case in silence, and mutually save each other the pain of trying to alter what cannot be altered.

'I have arranged to allow you two pounds a week. This sum will be paid to you every Saturday, by applying to Messrs. Jackson and Co., Solicitors, Arundel Street, Strand.

'Yours very affectionately,

'RICHARD LENNOX.'

Kate mechanically repeated the last words as she walked gloomily through the glare of the day. 'Two pounds a week.' she said, and with nothing else; not a friend, and the thought passed through her mind that she could not have a friend, she had fallen too low, yet from no fault of her own nor Dick's, and it was that that frightened her. A terrible sense of loneliness, of desolation, was created in her heart. For her the world seemed to have ended, and she saw the streets and passers-by with the same vague, irresponsible gaze as a solitary figure would the universal ruin caused by an earthquake. She had no friends, no occupation, no interest of any kind in life; everything had slipped from her, and she shivered with a sense of nakedness, of moral destitution. Nothing was left to her, and yet she felt, she lived, she was conscious. Oh yes, horribly conscious. And that was the worst; and she asked herself why she could not pass out of sight, out of hearing and feeling of all the crying misery with which she was surrounded, and in a state of emotive somnambulism she walked through the crowds till she was startled from her dreams by hearing a voice calling after her, 'Kate! Kate!-Mrs. Lennox!'

It was Montgomery.

'I'm so glad to have met you-so glad, indeed, for we have not seen much of each other. I don't know how it was, but somehow it seemed to me that Dick did not want me to go and see you. I never could make out why, for he couldn't have been jealous of me,' he added a little bitterly. 'But perhaps you've not heard that it's all up as regards my piece at the Opéra Comique,' he continued, not noticing Kate's dejection in his excitement.

'No, I haven't heard,' she answered mechanically.

'It doesn't matter much, though, for I've just been down to the Gaiety, and pretty well settled that it's to be done in Manchester, at the Prince's; so you see I don't let the grass grow under my feet, for my row with Mrs. Forest only occurred this morning. But what's the matter, Kate? What has happened?'

'Oh, nothing, nothing. Tell me about Mrs. Forest first; I want to know.'

'Well, it's the funniest thing you ever heard in your life; but you won't tell Dick, because he forbade me ever to speak to you about Mrs. Forest-not that there is anything but business between them; that I swear to you. But do tell me, Kate, what is the matter? I never saw you look so sad in my life. Have you had any bad news?'

'No, no. Tell me about Mrs. Forest and your piece; I want to hear,' she exclaimed excitedly.

'Well, this is it,' said Montgomery, who saw in a glance that she was not to be contradicted, and that he had better get on with his story. 'In the first place, you know that the old creature has gone in for writing librettos herself, and has finished one about Buddhism, an absurdity; the opening chorus is fifty lines long, but she won't cut one; but I'll tell you about that after. I was to get one hundred for setting this blessed production to music, and it was to follow my own piece, which was in rehearsal. Well, like a great fool, I was explaining to Dubois the bosh I was writing by the yard for this infernal opera of hers. I couldn't help it; she wouldn't take advice on any point. She has written the song of the Sun-god in hexameters. I don't know what hexameters are, but I would as soon set Bradshaw-leaving St. Pancras nine twenty-five, arriving at-ha! ha! ha!-with a puff, puff accompaniment on the trombone.'

'Go on with the story,' cried Kate.

'Well, I was explaining all this,' said Montgomery, suddenly growing serious, 'when out she darted from behind the other wing-I never knew she was there. She called me a thief, and said she wouldn't have me another five minutes in her theatre. Monti, the Italian composer, was sent for. I was shoved out, bag and baggage, and there will be no more rehearsals till the new music is ready. That's all.'

'I'm very sorry for you-very sorry,' said Kate very quietly, and she raised her hand to brush away a tear.

'Oh, I don't care; I'd sooner have the piece done in Manchester. Of course it's a bore, losing a hundred pounds. But, oh, Kate! do tell me what's the matter; you know you can confide in me; you know I'm your friend.'

At these kind words the cold deadly grief that encircled Kate's heart like a band of steel melted, and she wept profusely. Montgomery drew her arm into his and pleaded and begged to be told the reason of these tears; but she could make no answer, and pressed Dick's letter into his hand with a passionate gesture. He read it at a glance, and then hesitated, unable to make up his mind as to what he should do. No words seemed to him adequate wherewith to console her, and she was sobbing so bitterly that it was beginning to attract attention in the streets. They walked on without speaking for a few yards, Kate leaning upon Montgomery, until a hackney coachman, guessing that something was wrong signed to them with his whip.

'Where are you living, dear?'

Kate told him with some difficulty, and having directed the driver, he lapsed again into considering what course he should adopt. To put off the journey was impossible; Dick had promised to meet him there. It was now three o'clock. He had therefore three hours to spend with Kate-with the woman whom he had loved steadfastly throughout a loveless life. He had no word of blame for Dick; he had heard stories that had made his blood run cold; and yet, knowing her faults as he did, he would have opened his arms had it been possible, and crying through the fervour of years of waiting, said to her, 'Yes, I will believe in you; believe in me and you shall be happy.' There had never been a secret between them; their souls had been for ever as if in communication; and the love, unacknowledged in words, had long been as sunlight and moonlight, lighting the spaces of their dream-life. To the woman it had been as a distant star whose pale light was a presage of quietude in hours of vexation; to the man it seemed as a far Elysium radiant with sweet longing, large hopes that waxed but never waned, and where the sweet breezes of eternal felicity blew in musical cadence.

And yet he was deceived in nothing. He knew now as he had known before, that although this dream might haunt him for ever, he should never hold it in his arms nor press it to his lips; and in the midst of this surging tide of misery there arose a desire that, glad in its own anguish, bade him increase the bitterness of these last hours by making a confession of his suffering; and, exulting savagely in the martyrdom he was preparing for himself, he said:

'You know, Kate-I know you must know-you must have guessed that I care for you. I may as well tell you the truth now-you are the only woman I ever loved.'

'Yes,' she said, 'I always thought you cared for me. You have been very kind-oh! very kind, and I often think of it. Ah! everybody has, all my life long, been very good to me; it is I alone who am to blame, who am in fault. I have, I know I have, been very wicked, and I don't know why. I did not mean it; I know I didn't, for I'm not at heart a wicked woman. I suppose things must have gone against me; that's about all.'

Montgomery pushed his glasses higher on his nose, and after a long silence he said:

'I've often thought that had you met me before you knew Dick, things might have been different. We should have got on better, although you might never have loved me so well.'

Kate raised her eyes, and she said:

'No one will ever know how I have loved, how I still love that man.

Oftentimes I think that had I loved him less I should have been a better

wife. I think he loved me, but it was not the love I dreamed of. Like you,

I was always sentimental, and Dick never cared for that sort of thing.'

'I think I should have understood you better,' said Montgomery; and the conversation came to a pause. A vision of the life of devotion spent at the feet of an ideal lover, that life of sacrifice and tenderness which had been her dream, and which she had so utterly failed to attain, again rose up to tantalize her like a glittering mirage: and she could not help wondering whether she would have realized this beautiful, this wonderful might-have-been if she had chosen this other man.

'But I suppose you'll make it up with Dick,' said Montgomery somewhat harshly.

Kate awoke from her reverie with a start, and answered sorrowfully that she did not know, that she was afraid Dick would never forgive her again.

'I don't remember if I told you that I'm going to see him in Manchester; he promised to go up there to make some arrangements about my piece.'

'No, you didn't tell me.'

'Well, I'll speak to him. I'll tell him I've seen you. I fancy I shall be able to make it all right,' he added, with a feeble smile.

'Oh! how good you are-how good you are,' cried Kate, clasping her hands. 'If he will only forgive me once again, I'll promise, I'll swear to him never to-to-'

Here Kate stopped abashed, and burying her face in her hands, she wept bitterly. The tenderness, the melancholy serenity of their i

nterview, had somehow suddenly come to an end. Each was too much occupied with his or her thoughts to talk much, and the effort to find phrases grew more and more irritating. Both were very sad, and although they sighed when the clock struck the hour of farewell, they felt that to pass from one pain to another was in itself an assuagement. Kate accompanied Montgomery to the station. He seemed to her to be out of temper; she to him to be further away than ever. The explanation that had taken place between them had, if not broken, at least altered the old bonds of sympathy, without creating new ones; and they were discontented, even like children who remember for the first time that to-day is not yesterday.

They felt lonely watching the parallel lines of platforms; and when Montgomery waved his hand for the last time, and the train rolled into the luminous arch of sky that lay beyond the glass roofing, Kate turned away overpowered by grief and cruel recollections. When she got home, the solitude of her room became unbearable; she wanted someone to see, someone to console her. She had a few shillings in her pocket, but she remembered her resolutions and for some time resented the impervious clutch of the temptation. But the sorrow that hung about her, that penetrated like a corrosive acid into the very marrow of her bones, grew momentarily more burning, more unendurable. Twenty times she tried to wrench it out of her heart. The landlady brought her up some tea; she could not drink it; it tasted like soapsuds in her mouth. Then, knowing well what the results would be, she resolved to go out for a walk.

Next day she was ill, and to pull herself together it was necessary to have a drink. It would not do to look too great a sight in the Solicitor's office where Dick had told her in his letter to go to get her money. There she found not two, but five pounds awaiting her, and this enabled her to keep up a stage of semi intoxication until the end of the week.

She at last woke up speechless, suffering terrible palpitations of the heart, but she had strength enough to ring her bell, and when the landlady came to her she nearly lost her balance and fell to the ground, so strenuously did Kate lean and cling to her for support. After gasping painfully for some moments Kate muttered: 'I'm dying. These palpitations and the pain in my side.'

The landlady asked if she would like to see the doctor, and with difficulty obtained her consent that the doctor should be sent for.

'I'll send at once,' she said.

'No, not at once,' Kate cried. 'Pour me out a little brandy and water, and

I'll see how I am in the course of the day.'

The woman did as was desired, and Kate told her that she felt better, and that if it wasn't for the pains in her side she'd be all right.

The landlady looked a little incredulous; but her lodger had only been with her a fortnight, and so carefully had the brandy been hidden, and the inebriety concealed, that although she had her doubts, she was not yet satisfied that Kate was an habitual drunkard. Certainly appearances were against Mrs. Lennox; but as regards the brandy-bottle, she had watched it very carefully, and was convinced that scarcely more than sixpennyworth of liquor went out of it daily. The good woman did not know how it was replenished from another bottle that came sometimes from under the mattress, sometimes out of the chimney. And the disappearance of the husband was satisfactorily accounted for by the announcement that he had gone to Manchester to produce a new piece. Besides, Mrs. Lennox was a very nice person; it was a pleasure to attend to her, and during the course of the afternoon Mrs. White called several times at the second floor to inquire after her lodger's health.

But there was no change for the better. Looking the picture of wretchedness, Kate lay back in her chair, declaring in low moans that she never felt so ill in her life-that the pain in her side was killing her. At first, Mrs. White seemed inclined to make light of all this complaining, but towards evening she began to grow alarmed, and urged that the doctor should be sent for.

'I assure you, ma'am,' she said, 'it's always better to see a doctor. The money is never thrown away; for even if there's nothing serious the matter, it eases one's mind to be told so.'

Kate was generally easy to persuade, but fearing that her secret drinking would be discovered, she declined for a long time to take medical advice. At last she was obliged to give way, and the die having been cast, she commenced to think how she might conceal part of the truth. Something of the coquetry of the actress returned to her, and, getting up from her chair, she went over to the glass to examine herself, and brushing back her hair, she said sorrowfully:

'I'm a complete wreck. I can't think what's the matter with me, and I've lost all my hair. You've no idea, Mrs. White, of the beautiful hair I used to have; it used to fall in armfuls over my shoulders; now, it's no more than a wisp.'

'I think you've a great deal yet,' replied Mrs. White, not wishing to discourage her.

'And how yellow I am too!'

To this Mrs. White mumbled something that was inaudible, and Kate thought suddenly of her rouge-pot and hare's-foot. Her 'make-up,' and all her little souvenirs of Dick, lay securely packed away in an old band-box.

'Mrs. White,' she said, 'might I ask you to get me a jug of hot water?'

When the woman left the room, everything was spread hurriedly over the toilet-table. To see her, one would have thought that the call-boy had knocked at the door for the second time. A thin coating of cold cream was passed over the face and neck; then the powder-puff changed what was yellow into white, and the hare's-foot gave a bloom to the cheeks. The pencil was not necessary, her eyebrows being by nature dark and well-defined. Then all disappeared again into the band-box, a drain was taken out of the bottle whilst she listened to steps on the stairs, and she had just time to get back to her chair when the doctor entered. She felt quite prepared to receive him. Mrs. White, who had come up at the same time, locked uneasily around; and, after hesitating about the confines of the room, she put the water-jug on the rosewood cabinet, and said:

'I think I'll leave you alone with the doctor, ma'am; if you want me you'll ring.'

Mr. Hooper was a short, stout man, with a large bald forehead, and long black hair; his small eyes were watchful as a ferret's, and his fat chubby hands were constantly laid on his knee-caps.

'I met Mrs. White's servant in the street,' he said, looking at Kate as if he were trying to read through the rouge on her face, 'so I came at once. Mrs. White, with whom I was speaking downstairs, tells me that you're suffering from a pain in your side.'

'Yes, doctor, on the right side; and I've not been feeling very well lately.'

'Is your appetite good? Will you let me feel your pulse?'

'No, I've scarcely any appetite at all-particularly in the morning. I can't touch anything for breakfast.'

'Don't you care to drink anything? Aren't you thirsty?'

Kate would have liked to have told a lie, but fearing that she might endanger her life by doing so, she answered:

'Oh yes! I'm constantly very thirsty.'

'Especially at night-time?'

It was irritating to have your life read thus; and Kate felt angry when she saw this dispassionate man watching the brandy-bottle, which she had forgotten to put away.

'Do you ever find it necessary to take any stimulant?'

Grasping at the word 'necessary,' she replied:

'Yes, doctor; my life isn't a very happy one, and I often feel so low, so depressed as it were, that if I didn't take a little something to keep me up I think I should do away with myself.'

'Your husband is an actor, I believe?'

'Yes; but he's at present up in Manchester, producing a new piece. I'm on the stage, too. I've been playing a round of leading parts in the provinces, but since I've been in London I've been out of an engagement.'

'I just asked you because I noticed you used a little powder, you know, on the face. Of course, I can't judge at present what your complexion is; but have you noticed any yellowness about the skin lately?'

The first instinct of a woman who drinks is to conceal her vice, and although she was talking to a doctor, Kate was again conscious of a feeling of resentment against the merciless eyes which saw through all the secrets of her life. But, cowed, as it were, by the certitude expressed by the doctor's looks and words, she strove to equivocate, and answered humbly that she noticed her skin was not looking as clear as it used to. Dr. Hooper then questioned her further. He asked if she suffered from a sense of uncomfortable tension, fullness, weight, especially after meals; if she felt any pain in her right shoulder? and she confessed that he was right in all his surmises.

'Do tell me, doctor, what is the matter with me. I assure you I'd really much sooner know the worst.'

But the doctor did not seem inclined to be communicative, and in reply to her question he merely mumbled something to the effect that the liver was out of order.

'I will send you over some medicine this evening,' he said, 'and if you don't feel better to-morrow send round for me, and don't attempt to get up. I think,' he added, as he took up his hat to go, 'I shall be able to put you all right. But you must follow my instructions; you mustn't frighten yourself, and take as little of that stimulant as possible.'

Kate answered that it was not her custom to take too much, and she tried to look surprised at the warning. She nevertheless derived a good deal of comfort from the doctor's visit, and during the course of the evening succeeded in persuading herself that her fears of the morning were ill-founded and, putting the medicine that was sent her away for the present, she helped herself from a bottle that was hidden in the upholstery. The fact of having a long letter to write to Dick explaining her conduct, made it quite necessary that she should take something to keep her up; and sitting in her lonely room, she drank on steadily until midnight, when she could only just drag her clothes from her back and throw herself stupidly into bed. There she passed a night full of livid-hued nightmares, from which she awoke shivering, and suffering from terrible palpitations of the heart. The silence of the house filled her with terrors, cold and obtuse as the dreams from which she awakened. Strength to scream for help she had none; and thinking she was going to die, she sought for relief and consolation in the bottle that lay hidden under the carpet. When the drink took effect upon her she broke out into a profuse perspiration, and she managed to get a little sleep; but when her breakfast was brought up about eleven o'clock in the morning, so ill did she seem that the servant, fearing she was going to drop down dead, begged to be allowed to fetch the doctor. But rejecting all offers of assistance, Kate lay moaning in an armchair, unable even to taste the cup of tea that the maid pressed upon her. She consented to take some of the medicines that were ordered her, but whatever good they might have produced was discounted by the constant nip-drinking she kept up during the afternoon. The next day she was very ill indeed, and Mrs. White, greatly alarmed, insisted on sending for Dr. Hooper.

He did not seem astonished at the change in his patient. Calmly and quietly he watched for some moments in silence.

The bed had curtains of a red and antiquated material, and these contrasted with the paleness of the sheets wherein Kate lay, tossing feverishly. Most of the 'make-up' had been rubbed away from her face; and through patches of red and white the yellow skin started like blisters. She was slightly delirious, and when the doctor took her hand to feel her pulse she gazed at him with her big staring eyes and spoke volubly and excitedly.

'Oh! I'm so glad you've come, for I wanted to speak to you about my husband. I think I told you that he'd gone to Manchester to produce a new piece. I don't know if I led you to suppose that he'd deserted me, but if I did I was wrong to do so, for he has done nothing of the kind. It's true that we aren't very happy together, but I dare say that is my fault. I never was, I know, as good a wife to him as I intended to be; but then, he made me jealous and sometimes I was mad. Yes, I think I must have been mad to have spoken to him in the way I did. Anyhow, it doesn't matter now, does it, doctor? But I don't know what I'm saying. Still, you won't mention that I've told you anything. It's as likely as not that he'll forgive me, just as he did before; and we may yet be as happy as we were at Blackpool. You won't tell him, will you, doctor?'

'No, no, I won't,' said Dr. Hooper, quietly and firmly. 'But you mustn't talk as much as you do; if you want to see your husband, you must get well first.'

'Oh yes! I must get well; but tell me, doctor, how long will that take?'

'Not very long, if you will keep quiet and do what I tell you. I want you to tell me how the pain in your side is?'

'Very bad; far worse than when I saw you last. I feel it now in my right shoulder as well.'

'But your side-is it sore when you touch it? Will you let me feel?'

Without waiting for a reply, he passed his hand under the sheet. 'Is it there that it pains you?'

'Yes, yes. Oh! You're hurting me.'

Then the doctor walked aside with the landlady, who had been watching the examination of the patient with anxious eyes. She said:

'Do you think it's anything very dangerous? Is it contagious? Had I better send her to the hospital?'

'No, I should scarcely think it worth while doing that; she will be well in a week, that is to say if she is properly looked after. She's suffering from acute congestion of the liver, brought on by-'

'By drink,' said Mrs. White. 'I suspected as much.'

'You've too much to do, Mrs. White, with all your children, to give up your time to nursing her; I shall send someone round as soon as possible, but, in the meantime, will you see that her diet is regulated to half a cup of beef-tea, every hour or so. If she complains of thirst, let her have some milk to drink, and you may mix a little brandy with it. To-night I shall send round a sleeping-draught.'

'You're sure, doctor, there is nothing catching, for you know that, with all my children in the house--'

'You need not be alarmed, Mrs. White.'

'But do you think, doctor, it will be an expensive illness? for I know very little about her circumstances.'

'I expect she'll be all right in a week or ten days, but what I fear for is her future. I've had a good deal of experience in such matters, and I've never known a case of a woman who cured herself of the vice of intemperance. A man sometimes, a woman never.'

The landlady sighed and referred to all she had gone through during poor Mr. White's lifetime; the doctor spoke confidingly of a lady who was at present under his charge; and, apparently overcome with pity for suffering humanity, they descended the staircase together. On the doorstep the conversation was continued.

'Very well, then, doctor, I will take your advice; but at the end of a week or so, when she is quite recovered, I shall tell her that I've let her rooms. For, as you say, a woman rarely cures herself, and before the children the example would be dreadful.'

'I expect to see her on her feet in about that time, then you can do as you please. I shall call tomorrow.'

Next day the professional nurse took her place by the bedside. The sinapism which the doctor ordered was applied to the hepatic region, and a small dose of calomel was administered.

Under this treatment she improved rapidly; but unfortunately, as her health returned her taste for drink increased in a like proportion. Indeed, it was almost impossible to keep her from it, and on one occasion she tried very cunningly to outwit the nurse, who had fallen asleep in her chair. Waiting patiently until the woman's snoring had become sufficiently regular to warrant the possibility of a successful attempt being made on the brandy-bottle, Kate slipped noiselessly out of bed. The unseen night-light cast a rosy glow over the convex side of the basin, without, however, disturbing the bare darkness of the wall, Kate knew that all the bottles stood in a line upon the chest of drawers, but it was difficult to distinguish one from the other, and the jingling she made as she fumbled amid them awoke the nurse, who divining at once what was happening, arose quickly from her chair and advancing rapidly towards her, said:

'No, ma'am, I really can't allow it; it's against the doctor's orders.'

'I'm not going to die of thirst to please any doctor. I was only going to take a little milk, I suppose there's no harm in that?'

'Not the least, ma'am, and if you'd called me you should have had it.'

It was owing to this fortuitous intervention that when Dr. Hooper called a couple of days after to see his patient he was able to certify to a remarkable change for the better in her. All the distressing symptoms had disappeared; the pain in her side had died away; the complexion was clearer. He therefore thought himself justified in ordering for her lunch a little fish and some weak brandy and water; and to Kate, who had not eaten any solid food for several days, this first meal took the importance of a very exceptional event. Sitting by her bedside Dr. Hooper spoke to her.

'Now, Mrs. Lennox,' he said, 'I want to give you a word of warning. I've seen you through what I must specify as a serious illness; dangerous I will not call it, although I might do so if I were to look into the future and anticipate the development the disease will most certainly take, unless, indeed, you will be guided by me, and make a vow against all intoxicating liquors.'

At this direct allusion to her vice Kate stopped eating, and putting down the fork looked at the doctor.

'Now, Mrs. Lennox, you mustn't be angry,' he continued in his kind way. 'I'm speaking to you in my capacity as a medical man, and I must warn you against the continuous nip-drinking which, of course, I can see you're in the habit of indulging in, and which was the cause of the illness from which you are recovering. I will not harrow your feelings by referring to all the cases that have come under my notice where shame, disgrace, ruin, and death were the result of that one melancholy failing-drink.'

'Oh, sir!' cried Kate, broken-hearted, 'if you only knew how unhappy I've been, how miserable I am, you would not speak to me so. I've my failing, it is true, but I'm driven to it. I love my husband better than anything in the world, and I see him mixed up always with a lot of girls at the theatre, and it sends me mad, and then I go to drink so as to forget.'

'We've all got our troubles; but it doesn't relieve us of the burden; it only makes us forget it for a short time, and then, when consciousness returns to us, we only remember it all the more bitterly. No, Mrs. Lennox, take my advice. In a few days, when you're well, go to your husband, demand his forgiveness, and resolve then never to touch spirits again.'

'It's very good of you to speak to me in this way,' said Kate, tearfully, 'and I will take your advice, The very first day that I am strong enough to walk down to the Strand I will go and see my husband, and if he will give me another trial, he will not, I swear to you, have cause to repent it. Oh!' she continued, 'you don't know how good he's been to me, how he has borne with me. If it hadn't been that he tried my temper by flirting with other women we might have been happy now.'

Then, as Kate proceeded to speak of her trials and temptations, she grew more and more excited and hysterical, until the doctor, fearing that she would bring on a relapse, was forced to plead an engagement and wish her good-bye.

As he left the room she cried after him, 'The first day I'm well enough to go out I'll go and see my husband.'

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