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Michael Bell
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Posted By Michael Bell

The tale, “Quick Consumption,” continues:

    “How is she, doctor!” I asked, expectantly. “And what can be the matter? Grief, I suppose—the old lady was very fond of her husband.” Dr. Bloupil shook his head ominously. Poor man! as Mr. Dickens would say; it was all that could be done under the circumstances, and he did it well. An odor of drugs exhaled from the person of the Galen of the little town, as he shook himself, like a great shaggy dog, and sat down.

    “Hopeless case, I’m afraid,” grumbled the oracular Bloupil. “Seems to be something like a rapid consumption.” Dr. Bloupil picked up his well-worn saddlebags, and went out. For once, he had guessed right. In less than two weeks from that time, Mrs. Calhoun was dead and buried. I remember the exact date when word was brought into my little office that Mrs. Calhoun was dead. It was October 31st, 1851.

    “Exactly three weeks,” I muttered to myself as I counted up the days. A vague terror, as I remembered the legend of the Dunbar family, made my knees shake with apprehension for—for—Florence.

    The funeral was over, and the three lonesome girls moped and moaned in the old house on the hill. Hetty had been the one to take care of her mother, and was the more wearied-out-looking of the three. As to Hannah and Florry, they were still strong and rosy and hale.

    “I’m so tired—so tired!” moaned pallid Hetty—it had been two weeks since the death of her mother—“I’ll just lie down on the bed in the old bedroom, and rest.” Poor Hetty, she did lie down, but she never got up again. She simply wasted, wasted, wasted away, until there was nothing left for vitality to feed upon; and then the candle of vitality flickered and flickered in its poor, pale socket, and finally went out. Poor Hetty, she wasted and wasted—so fast you could almost see her waste—for a whole week; and then she died. In the press of business, I had not been up there at the old house on the hill for four days.The date I remember as distinctly as though it had been yesterday: it was November 20th, 1851, when word was left at my office that Hetty was dead. Hetty Calhoun dead—it was not two months before that she was the happiest and most girlish of all the little party at the September picnic. I ran into the office of Dr. Bloupil, breathlessly. I think I looked my questions, instead of asking them.

    “Yes, yes!” grunted old Bloupil, “very strange—very—same symptoms in mother and daughter. Simply a wasting, wasting, wasting away; and no help for it. I tell you, Mr. Merrick,” blurted the doctor, suddenly, “drugs have had no more effect than water on those two women; and I’ve given them both drugs enough to have stocked the medical box of a regiment.

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