Booth Tarkington (18381918). The Magnificent Ambersons. 1918.
LET her was correct; but the time cameand it came in the spring of the next yearwhen it was no longer a question of Georges letting his mother come home. He had to bring her, and to bring her quickly if she was to see her father again; and Amberson had been right: her danger of never seeing him again lay not in the Majors feebleness of heart but in her own. As it was, George telegraphed his uncle to have a wheeled chair at the station, for the journey had been disastrous, and to this hybrid vehicle, placed close to the car platform, her son carried her in his arms when she arrived. She was unable to speak, but patted her brothers and Frannys hands and looked very sweet, Fanny found the desperate courage to tell her. She was lifted from the chair into a carriage, and seemed a little stronger as they drove home; for once she took her hand from Georges, and waved it feebly toward the carriage window.
When the carriage stopped, her son carried her into the house, and up the stairs to her own room. where a nurse was waiting; and he came out a moment later, as the doctor went in. At the end of the hall a stricken group was clustered: Amberson, and Fanny, and the Major. George, deathly pale and speechless, took his grandfathers hand, but the old gentleman did not seem to notice his action.
When are they going to let me see my daughter? he asked querulously. They told me to keep out of the way while they carried her in, because it might upset her. I wish theyd let me go in and speak to my daughter. I think she wants to see me.
He was rightpresently the doctor came out and beckoned to him; and the Major shuffled forward, leaning on a shaking cane; his figure, after all its years of proud soldierliness, had grown stooping at last, and his untrimmed white hair straggled over the back of his collar. He looked oldold and divested of the worldas he crept toward his daughters room. Her voice was stronger, for the waiting group heard a low cry of tenderness and welcome as the old man reached the open doorway. Then the door was closed.
Fanny touched her nephews arm. George, you must need something to eatI know shed want you to. Ive had things ready; I knew shed want me to. Youd better go down to the dining room; theres plenty on the table, waiting for you. Shed want you to eat something.
He turned a ghastly face to her, it was so panic-stricken. I dont want anything to eat! he said savagely. And he began to pace the floor, taking care not to go near Isabels door, and that his footsteps were muffled by the long, thick hall rug. After a while he went to where Amberson, with folded arms and bowed head, had seated himself near the front window. Uncle George, he said hoarsely. I didnt
...Isabel lived through the night. At eleven oclock Fanny came timidly to George in his room. Eugene is here, she whispered. Hes downstairs. He wants She gulped. He wants to know if he cant see her. I didnt know what to say. I said Id see. I didnt knowthe doctor said
The doctor said we must keep her peaceful, George said sharply. Do you think that mans coming would be very soothing? My God! if it hadnt been for him this mightnt have happened: we could have gone on living here quietly, andwhy, it would be like taking a stranger into her room! She hasnt even spoken of him more than twice in all the time weve been away. Doesnt he know how sick she is? You tell him the doctor said she had to be quiet and peaceful. Thats what he did say, isnt it?
Isabels eyes were closed, and she did not open them or move her head, but she smiled and edged her hand toward him as he sat on a stool beside the bed. He took that slender, cold hand, and put it to his cheek.
But this frightened him horriblythat she seemed so glad she could feel it, like a child proud of some miraculous seeming thing accomplished. It frightened him so that he could not speak, and he feared that she would know how he trembled; but she was unaware, and again was silent. Finally she spoke again:
She seemed to have fallen asleep, and George moved to go, but a faint pressure upon his fingers detained him, and he remained, with her hand still pressed against his cheek. After a while he made sure she was asleep, and moved again, to let the nurse come in, and this time there was no pressure of the fingers to keep him. She was not asleep, but, thinking that if he went he might get some rest, and be better prepared for what she knew was coming, she commanded those longing fingers of hersand let him go.
He found the doctor standing with the nurse in the hall; and, telling them that his mother was drowsing now, George went back to his own room, where he was startled to find his grandfather lying on the bed, and his uncle leaning against the wall. They had gone home two hours before, and he did not know they had returned.
The doctor thought wed better come over, Amberson said, then was silent, and George, shaking violently, sat down on the edge of the bed. His shaking continued, and from time to time he wiped heavy sweat from his forehead.
The hours passed, and sometimes the old man upon the bed would snore a little, stop suddenly, and move as if to rise, but George Amberson would set a hand upon his shoulder, and murmur a reassuring word or two. Now and then, either uncle or nephew would tiptoe into the hall and look toward Isabels room, then come tiptoeing back, the other watching him haggardly.
Dawn had been murking through the smoky windows, growing stronger for half an hour, when both men started violently at a sound in the hall; and the Major sat up on the bed, unchecked. It was the voice of the nurse speaking to Fanny Minafer, and the next moment, Fanny appeared in the doorway, making contorted efforts to speak.