Madeleine Reardon Dimond: The fever's breaking is worse. Now I have the leisure to contemplate my fate, whether it will be to join my brother in the grave, or to live, a scarred thing, an object of pity and laughter. My child they have rushed away, as they should have, but they tell me nothing, not about him or my husband. Certainly I am willing to suffer in their places, if I could be guaranteed that they be spared, but I wish my fate were sealed quicker.
My head aches so, the very skin. It must be red; like my brother’s. I am afraid to ask for a mirror. The girl who brought me barley water early this morning started as though she did not recognize me.
They tell me I just finished drinking it, but I am so thirsty. I can hardly swallow, but I must have more barley water. My choice is to breathe or to drink; I cannot do both at once.
I cannot remember yesterday, whether they made me hot or cold. The fever was so hot I might not have noticed the roaring fire. The blankets? I remember blankets. I thought I should suffocate. Was that yesterday?.
Dear God, the pox on my arms are enormous! Odd, they do not itch like the others. Oh, they must be leeches, not pustules..
The wet sheets, winding around me like a shroud. Today is a cold day. They are opening the windows. Even such little light from behind the curtains hurts my eyes so, but I try to focus on it because I am shivering so, now with cold instead of fever. Dr. Garth explained the treatment to me when my brother was ill, and it seemed so logical. Logic avails me nothing now. I live only for the time when the windows will be shut and the fire stoked, not because that will bring me comfort, but because it will be a change.
Somewhere in this house is a portrait of a beautiful woman, labeled with my name. Last month, someone carrying my name sparkled with the wits at Court. Last week, that same person agonized over her family’s fate--a sister married to a traitor, husband and child in danger of illness. Now remains only a shivering animal, who, if she be so lucky to survive, tomorrow will be sweating animal, and will so continue until she is purged or dead.
[Six years later Lady Mary would bring the Turkish method of inoculation against small pox to England. She inoculated her own children in 1717.)
(Research notes: Mostly from
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, By Isobel Grundy)