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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,
'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:
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