Anne Severn and the Fieldings (Chapter 4, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 4

i But when to-morrow came he did not kiss her. He was annoyed with Anne
because she insisted on taking a gloomy view of his father's illness.

The doctors couldn't agree about it. Dr. Ransome of Wyck said it was
gastritis. Dr. Harper of Cheltenham said it was colitis. He had had that
before and had got better. Now he was getting worse, fast. For the last
three days he couldn't keep down his chicken and fish. Yesterday not
even his milk. To-day, not even his ice-water. Then they both said it
was acute gastritis.

"He's never been like this before, Jerrold."

"No. But that doesn't mean he isn't going to get better. People with
acute gastritis do get better. It's enough to make him die, everybody
insisting that he's going to. And it's rot sending for Eliot."

That was what Anne had done.

Eliot had written to her from London:
10 Welbeck St., _Sept. 35th, 1910._ My dear Anne: I wish you'd tell me how Father really is. Nobody but you has
any intelligence that matters. Between Mother's wails and
Jerrold's optimism I don't seem to be getting the truth. If it's
serious I'll come down at once.

Always yours, Eliot.

And Anne had answered: My dear Eliot, It _is_ serious. Dr. Ransome and Dr. Harper say so. They think
now it's acute gastritis. I wish you'd come down. Jerrold is
heart-breaking. He won't see it; because he couldn't bear it if
he did. I know Auntie wants you.

Always very affectionately yours, Anne.

She addressed the letter to Dr. Eliot Fielding, for Eliot had taken his
degree.

And on that to-morrow of Jerrold's Eliot had come. Jerrold told him he
was a perfect idiot, rushing down like that, as if Daddy hadn't an hour
to live.

"You'll simply terrify him," he said. "He hasn't got a chance with all
you people grousing and croaking round him."

And he went off to play in the lawn tennis tournament at Medlicote as a
protest against the general pessimism. His idea seemed to be that if he,
Jerrold, could play in a lawn tennis tournament, his father couldn't be
seriously ill.

"It's perfectly awful of Jerrold," his mother said. "I can't make him
out. He adores his father, yet he behaves as if he hadn't any feeling."

She and Anne were sitting in the lounge after luncheon, waiting for
Eliot to come from his father's room.

"Didn't you _tell_ him, Anne?"

"I did everything I know.... But darling, he isn't unfeeling. He does it
because he can't bear to think Uncle Robert won't get better. He's
trying to make himself believe he will. I think he does believe it. But
if he stayed away from the tournament that would mean he didn't."

"If only _I_ could. But I must. I _must_ believe it if I'm not to go
mad. I don't know what I shall do if he doesn't get better. I can't live
without him. It's been so perfect, Anne. It can't come to an end like
this. It can't happen. It would be too cruel."

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