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She waited for a whole week, and it was at the end of that time that the poor little creature heard from Costigan of the illness under which Arthur was suffering.
It chanced on that very evening after Costigan had visited Pen, that Arthur's uncle the excellent Major arrived in town from Buxton, where his health had been mended, and sent his valet Morgan to make inquiries for Arthur, and to request that gentleman to breakfast with the Major the next morning. The Major was merely passing through London on his way to the Marquis of Steyne's house of Stillbrook, where he was engaged to shoot partridges.
Morgan came back to his master with a very long face. He had seen Mr. Arthur; Mr. Arthur was very bad indeed; Mr. Arthur was in bed with a fever. A doctor ought to be sent to him; and Morgan thought his case most alarming.
Gracious goodness! this was sad news indeed. He had hoped that Arthur could come down to Stillbrook: he had arranged that he should go, and procured an invitation for his nephew from Lord Steyne. He must go himself; he couldn't throw Lord Steyne over: the fever might be catching: it might be measles: he had never himself had the measles; they were dangerous when contracted at his age. Was anybody with Mr. Arthur?
Morgan said there was somebody a nussing of Mr. Arthur.
The Major then asked, had his nephew taken any advice? Morgan said he had asked that question, and had been told that Mr. Pendennis had had no doctor.
Morgan's master was sincerely vexed at hearing of Arthur's calamity. He would have gone to him, but what good could it do Arthur that he the Major should catch a fever? His own ailments rendered it absolutely impossible that he should attend to anybody but himself. But the young man must have advice—the best advice; and Morgan was straightway despatched with a note from Major Pendennis to his friend Doctor Goodenough, who by good luck happened to be in London and at home, and who quitted his dinner instantly, and whose carriage was, in half an hour, in Upper Temple Lane, near Pen's chambers.
The Major had asked the kind-hearted physician to bring him news of his nephew at the Club where he himself was dining, and in the course of the night the Doctor made his appearance. The affair was very serious: the patient was in a high fever: he had had Pen bled instantly: and would see him the first thing in the morning. The Major went disconsolate to bed with this unfortunate news. When Goodenough came to see him according to his promise the next day, the Doctor had to listen for a quarter of an hour to an account of the Major's own maladies, before the latter had leisure to hear about Arthur.
He had had a very bad night—his—his nurse said: at one hour he had been delirious. It might end badly: his mother had better be sent for immediately. The Major wrote the letter to Mrs. Pendennis with the greatest alacrity, and at the same time with the most polite precautions. As for going himself to the lad, in his state it was impossible. "Could I be of any use to him, my dear Doctor?" he asked.
The Doctor, with a peculiar laugh, said, No: he didn't think the Major could be of any use: that his own precious health required the most delicate treatment, and that he had best go into the country and stay: that he himself would take care to see the patient twice a day, and do all in his power for him.
The Major declared, upon his honour, that if he could be of any use he would rush to Pen's chambers. As it was, Morgan should go and see that everything was right. The Doctor must write to him by every post to Stillbrook: it was but forty miles distant from London, and if anything happened he would come up at any sacrifice.
Major Pendennis transacted his benevolence by deputy and by post. "What else could he do?" as he said. "Gad, you know, in these cases, it's best not disturbing a fellow. If a poor fellow goes to the bad, why, Gad, you know he's disposed of. But in order to get well (and in this, my dear Doctor, I'm sure you will agree with me), the best way is to keep him quiet—perfectly quiet."
Thus it was the old gentleman tried to satisfy his conscience: and he went his way that day to Stillbrook by rail