Monday 23 Emily is no better. The Dr calls her
disease congestion of the brain About ten Oclock she
was in great distress & I sent for the Doctor. He was
just stepping into his chaise to go to Taunton
He came up immediately found her asleep and easier.
Mrs James Mitchell & Miss Sarah Mitchell from
Freeport came to spend the day. they passed the
afternoon in Olivers.
Twelve year old Emily Witherell, only daughter of widowed Sarah Witherell, had been taken suddenly and seriously ill. Her symptoms seemed to worsen this morning, so much so that Evelina sent someone for the doctor, perhaps Dr. Samuel Deans who had stopped in yesterday. He or Dr. Caleb Swan, the two doctors who usually tended to the Ames family, diagnosed the illness as “congestion of the brain.”
Congestion of the brain was, by some modern accounts, a 19th century catch-all phrase for any number of illnesses that caused swelling of the brain. Known in the medical world as encephalaemia, it could be caused by a head injury or an infection. Symptoms would include headache, fever and confusion. Emily certainly seemed to be confused.
Why did Evelina send for the doctor, and not Sarah Witherell herself? Who went for the doctor on a Monday morning, when everyone was at work? Perhaps Michael Burns, who worked for Old Oliver? Good that the doctor was caught before he had left in his chaise for Taunton, and even better that he found Emily marginally better.