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- A SIMPLETON - 6/84 -
"Very well," said she softly.
He gently detained the hand, and put his finger lightly to her pulse; it was palpitating, and a fallacious test. Oh, how that beating pulse, by love's electric current, set his own heart throbbing in a moment!
He put her hand gently, reluctantly down, and said, "Oblige me by turning this way." She turned, and he winced internally at the change in her; but his face betrayed nothing. He looked at her full; and, after a pause, put her some questions: one was as to the color of the hemorrhage. She said it was bright red.
"Not a tinge of purple?"
"No," said she hopefully, mistaking him.
He suppressed a sigh.
Then he listened at her shoulder-blade and at her chest, and made her draw her breath while he was listening. The acts were simple, and usual in medicine, but there was a deep, patient, silent intensity about his way of doing them.
Mr. Lusignan crept nearer, and stood with both hands on a table, and his old head bowed, awaiting yet dreading the verdict.
Up to this time, Dr. Staines, instead of tapping and squeezing, and pulling the patient about, had never touched her with his hand, and only grazed her with his ear; but now he said "Allow me," and put both hands to her waist, more lightly and reverently than I can describe; "Now draw a deep breath, if you please."
"If you could draw a deeper still," said he, insinuatingly.
"There, then!" said she, a little pettishly.
Dr. Staines's eye kindled.
"Hum!" said he. Then, after a considerable pause, "Are you better or worse after each hemorrhage?"
"La!" said Rosa; "they never asked me that. Why, better."
"Not a bit."
"Rather a sense of relief, perhaps?"
"Yes; I feel lighter and better."
The examination was concluded.
Dr. Staines looked at Rosa, and then at her father. The agony in that aged face, and the love that agony implied, won him, and it was to the parent he turned to give his verdict.
"The hemorrhage is from the lungs"--
Lusignan interrupted him: "From the lungs!" cried he, in dismay.
"Yes; a slight congestion of the lungs."
"But not incurable! Oh, not incurable, doctor!"
"Heaven forbid! It is curable--easily--by removing the cause."
"And what is the cause?"
"The cause?"--he hesitated, and looked rather uneasy.--"Well, the cause, sir, is--tight stays."
The tranquillity of the meeting was instantly disturbed. "Tight stays! Me!" cried Rosa. "Why, I am the loosest girl in England. Look, papa!" And, without any apparent effort, she drew herself in, and poked her little fist between her sash and her gown. "There!"
Dr. Staines smiled sadly and a little sarcastically: he was evidently shy of encountering the lady in this argument; but he was more at his ease with her father; so he turned towards him and lectured him freely.
"That is wonderful, sir; and the first four or five female patients that favored me with it, made me disbelieve my other senses; but Miss Lusignan is now about the thirtieth who has shown me that marvellous feat, with a calm countenance that belies the herculean effort. Nature has her every-day miracles: a boa-constrictor, diameter seventeen inches, can swallow a buffalo; a woman, with her stays bisecting her almost, and lacerating her skin, can yet for one moment make herself seem slack, to deceive a juvenile physician. The snake is the miracle of expansion; the woman is the prodigy of contraction."
"Highly grateful for the comparison!" cried Rosa. "Women and snakes!"
Dr. Staines blushed and looked uncomfortable. "I did not mean to be offensive; it certainly was a very clumsy comparison."
"What does that matter?" said Mr. Lusignan, impatiently. "Be quiet, Rosa, and let Dr. Staines and me talk sense."
"Oh, then I am nobody in the business!" said this wise young lady.
"You are everybody," said Staines, soothingly. "But," suggested he, obsequiously, "if you don't mind, I would rather explain my views to your father--on this one subject."
"And a pretty subject it is!"
Dr. Staines then invited Mr. Lusignan to his lodgings, and promised to explain the matter anatomically. "Meantime," said he, "would you be good enough to put your hands to my waist, as I did to the patient's."
Mr. Lusignan complied; and the patient began to titter directly, to put them out of countenance.
"Please observe what takes place when I draw a full breath.
"Now apply the same test to the patient. Breathe your best, please, Miss Lusignan."
The patient put on a face full of saucy mutiny.
"To oblige us both."
"Oh, how tiresome!"
"I am aware it is rather laborious," said Staines, a little dryly; "but to oblige your father!"
"Oh, anything to oblige papa," said she, spitefully. "There! And I do hope it will be the last--la! no; I don't hope that, neither."
Dr. Staines politely ignored her little attempts to interrupt the argument. "You found, sir, that the muscles of my waist, and my intercostal ribs themselves, rose and fell with each inhalation and exhalation of air by the lungs."
"I did; but my daughter's waist was like dead wood, and so were her lower ribs."
At this volunteer statement, Rosa colored to her temples. "Thanks, papa! Pack me off to London, and sell me for a big doll!"
"In other words," said the lecturer, mild and pertinacious, "with us the lungs have room to blow, and the whole bony frame expands elastic with them, like the woodwork of a blacksmith's bellows; but with this patient, and many of her sex, that noble and divinely framed bellows is crippled and confined by a powerful machine of human construction; so it works lamely and feebly: consequently too little air, and of course too little oxygen, passes through that spongy organ whose very life is air. Now mark the special result in this case: being otherwise healthy and vigorous, our patient's system sends into the lungs more blood than that one crippled organ can deal with; a small quantity becomes extravasated at odd times; it accumulates, and would become dangerous; then Nature, strengthened by sleep, and by some hours' relief from the diabolical engine, makes an effort and flings it off: that is why the hemorrhage comes in the morning, and why she is the better for it, feeling neither faint nor sick, but relieved of a weight. This, sir, is the rationale of the complaint; and it is to you I must look for the cure. To judge from my other female patients, and from the few words Miss Lusignan has let fall, I fear we must not count on any very hearty co-operation from her: but you are her father, and have great authority; I conjure you to use it to the full, as you once used it--to my sorrow--in this very room. I am forgetting my character. I was asked here only as her physician. Good-evening."
He gave a little gulp, and hurried away, with an abruptness that touched the father and offended the sapient daughter.
However, Mr. Lusignan followed him, and stopped him before he left the house, and thanked him warmly; and to his surprise, begged him to call again in a day or two.
"Well, Rosa, what do you say?"
"I say that I am very unfortunate in my doctors. Mr. Wyman is a chatterbox and knows nothing. Dr. Snell is Mr. Wyman's echo. Christopher is a genius, and they are always full of crotchets. A pretty doctor! Gone away, and not prescribed for me!"
Mr. Lusignan admitted it was odd. "But, after all," said he, "if medicine does you no good?"
"Ah! but any medicine HE had prescribed would have done me good, and that makes it all the unkinder."
"If you think so highly of his skill, why not take his advice? It can do no harm."
"No harm? Why, if I was to leave them off I should catch a dreadful cold; and that would be sure to settle on my chest, and
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