The House of Gremot: part four
“You get on out!” the cabby told Anne, and forced his way past her. He had a good look at Jerome. He gave Jerome a vigorous shake. He started and knocked his head on the inside roof, when the corpse opened its eyes. Jerome mumbled a name, or called for his mother, the cabby couldn’t have said…and closed his eyes again. Rose was gone. The cabby twigged, before he’d backed onto the street, there to be assaulted by a chorus of hoots and cruel epithets, that madam had gone with him.
Jerome had no admission papers, no Mrs. Jerome, no friend Maier.
(It had of course been Maier, committing against the reputation of his rival Jacques, a posthumous outrage).
Until this abandonment, Honoré had never been treated at a hospital. He would not have had to do with one. Mme Rose, dying, had on this point been adamant, begged that she not be carried from her bed, on the day she must take to it.
“That place. They would be happy with more bones to sell. Honoré, you would never hear of me again!”
No, he told himself. They could not have cut something away, something that had been inside. He had not understood the doctor. When he’d grown well enough to be raised on a stack of pillows, remembering where the pain had been, Honoré traced a fingertip over the skin of his throat. He could not find a scar. He did not know what a tonsil was. He felt his eyes widen with the horror of it. By some means, they had disguised their butchery; with an instrument called a “probang” (which might, Honoré supposed, be a sort of firearm) they had given vile drugs.
“I am perfectly able to reason,” he told himself. “I have always, in the past, recovered from these fevers. I have never been so weak as I have been since all this was done to me.”
He thought it again, waiting on the empty staircase, either for help or punishment…the choice was not his. Always, a gang of men sat around the common room fire; and wherever there was a gang, there was sport. He would only make a joke of himself if he tried the courtyard door and found it locked.
He wanted to see Anne.
The knob of another door, one that opened onto the basement steps, bumped into its cratered niche in the plaster; and up came a cloud of unpleasant steam, smelling like the boiling of befouled sheets (it was), filling the passage. The billow preceded a man, who called out, “Jerome!” and bounded up the stairs. “McCutcheon put his head in at the window. Will you hurry along, Jerome?”
The House of Gremot
(2017, Stephanie Foster)