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CHAPTER IX., AND LAST.
GREAT-HEART SAYS GOOD-BYE TO HIS LITTLE
RETURNED once more to Lowther Street,
during this dull season there was little for Misses Trixie and Dot to do. Besides, the period was very near at hand when the children must change back again into their normal state, and await below that all-important visit which was to turn them into full-grown fairies.
In those latter days how closely knit became the bond of affection between the man and these little ones who had brought so much blessing into his saddened life! with what quiet sorrow did he look forward to that parting which was to come so inevitably! How earnestly did he strive that those few short days yet remaining should be turned to every good account within his power.
They spent most of their time indoors now, going seldom abroad (what more was there for them to see indeed ?) in loving talkings over all they had
done, with much earnest, heartfelt counsel to guide the children, as fairies, in their future.
But in the midst of all this happy time there came a terrible shock : Great-heart fell ill! Of course, it could not be much; he would soon be himself again. Then he would take them back to their parents. Still Great-heart was sick. That was enough to fill the children's hearts with grief; to make them pour forth their anxious prayers for his quick recovery. It seemed incredible that that man, always so strong and well, to whom all changes of place or climate seemed as nothing, that he, so brave and good, could be thus laid low upon a bed of sickness. Still it could not be for long. He would be up and about again directly. The children must have patience, that was all. - Think, too, of the joy of meeting him again after the separation. This is how that kind lady, she who had equipped them for their travels, comforted the children. Much was needed ; for, bitterest trial of all, the little ones were kept from him they loved so dearly, forbidden to enter his room. Not that only; but taken away across the street to stay at the good woman's house. For Great-heart had something they might take, fever. Of course, it could not last long; it would soon be past, and he be well again. But oh, those dull hours of waiting and suspense !
From where they stayed they could see the house, his house, where all those happy hours had been spent Day after day did they sit and watch ; hour after hour did they gaze across that West-end street, upon the room they knew he was in; at the tightened blind behind which Great-heart lay, perchance in pain or agony. Two, three, four times a day did they see a carriage dash up to the door over the straw with which the road was strewn to kill the noise, and noted the solemn doctor enter, Oh, how long he stayed! And as he came out how grave his face, as he drove swiftly off, often but to return again at nightfall. Sometimes he would bring a friend with him, and as those two came down the steps, how thoughtful both!
Yet they could not go to him ; to that one so bound up with their lives, whose every pain should find an echo in their hearts; to him, over there, ill, it must be very ill, tended truly with all kindness; yet who, like they, could comfort Great-heart? No, they must sit there helpless, and wait with patience until it would be safe for them to go. Safe! What mockery! Had they been sick, would he have sat there idle? If, instead of that human being, those two had been struck down, would he have waited until it was "safe" to go? Might they not write to him ? No. Or send him messages ? No. They must wait, and wait, and wait " with patience” until the fever had passed away, until Great-heart should send for them, until he was well enough to be disturbed. This was all their hostess could say to them. It was too sad. If they could only bring themselves to believe that it was his desire, as this kind lady told them again and again it was! How could it be so? What risk was there? What fear could he have for them? The good soul could only pity and console her little guests, entreat them to have faith, to pray that the time might be near at hand when they could see the man once more, and see him recovering.
But by degrees, as the days stretched themselves out into weeks, and every evening the sun went down earlier, to make the nights only longer and more dreary, dull despair seized upon Dot's heart, as no summons came to her. This suspense was too dreadful ; it would kill her, she knew. She must and would go to that suffering man yonder. What was the risk compared to the torture she was enduring? Death itself would have charms, this silly child fancied. And then, too, there flashed across her a sudden thought that seemed to freeze her blood. What if he were dangerously ill ? What if the cruel malady should kill him ? if it were but - the beginning of the end ? If these people were deceiving her, and the hand of death were upon her love ? As that thought seized the child, it almost paralyzed her senses. She flung herself upon her little bed and moaned. Then with an effort she roused herself, to scorn away the dread fancy. How could it be? It was impossible. He, Greatheart, sick unto death, destined to leave them without one word ; perhaps raving, unconscious. It could, it should not be! But she must find out how matters stood. She would not now be put off with that oft-repeated cry of “ Patience, patience." Trixie should not be her confidante. For Trixie, with all her boldness in many things, when real action or counsel was needed, was weak and helpless. The lady where they stayed should tell her all, hide no single fact from her; or, failing that, she, the docile, tractable Dot, would defy them all. She would go across alone, if need be, and seek that chamber of sickness, see for herself, throw herself upon that bosom which had so often sheltered her. Thus did Dot decide.