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|Part II||Edith Wharton|
|Page 2 of 4||
When the doctor came she left him alone with Evelina, busying herself in the shop that she might have an opportunity of seeing him alone on his way out. To steady herself she began to sort a trayful of buttons, and when the doctor appeared she was reciting under her breath: "Twenty-four horn, two and a half cards fancy pearl . . ." She saw at once that his look was grave.
He sat down on the chair beside the counter, and her mind travelled miles before he spoke.
"Miss Bunner, the best thing you can do is to let me get a bed for your sister at St. Luke's."
"Come now, you're above that sort of prejudice, aren't you?" The doctor spoke in the tone of one who coaxes a spoiled child. "I know how devoted you are--but Mrs. Ramy can be much better cared for there than here. You really haven't time to look after her and attend to your business as well. There'll be no expense, you understand--"
Ann Eliza made no answer. "You think my sister's going to be sick a good while, then?" she asked.
"You think she's very sick?"
"Well, yes. She's very sick."
His face had grown still graver; he sat there as though he had never known what it was to hurry.
Ann Eliza continued to separate the pearl and horn buttons. Suddenly she lifted her eyes and looked at him. "Is she going to die?"
The doctor laid a kindly hand on hers. "We never say that, Miss Bunner. Human skill works wonders--and at the hospital Mrs. Ramy would have every chance."
"What is it? What's she dying of?"
The doctor hesitated, seeking to substitute a popular phrase for the scientific terminology which rose to his lips.
"I want to know," Ann Eliza persisted.
"Yes, of course; I understand. Well, your sister has had a hard time lately, and there is a complication of causes, resulting in consumption--rapid consumption. At the hospital--"
"I'll keep her here," said Ann Eliza quietly.
After the doctor had gone she went on for some time sorting the buttons; then she slipped the tray into its place on a shelf behind the counter and went into the back room. She found Evelina propped upright against the pillows, a flush of agitation on her cheeks. Ann Eliza pulled up the shawl which had slipped from her sister's shoulders.
"How long you've been! What's he been saying?"
"Oh, he went long ago--he on'y stopped to give me a prescription. I was sorting out that tray of buttons. Miss Mellins's girl got them all mixed up."
She felt Evelina's eyes upon her.
"He must have said something: what was it?"
"Why, he said you'd have to be careful--and stay in bed--and take this new medicine he's given you."
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