« AnteriorContinuar »
unnoticed, then stood and watched ; for she saw this poor soul kneel down and bury her face within her hands and weep. Why should she weep, if Great-heart were better, as she implied he were, if nothing but patience were needed for the children to see him again in health ? Once more the dull chill struck at the child's heart. She whispered to herself,
“Courage, courage, thou silly child. Will weakness aid thee in a time like this ? "
Then she crept softly to the lady, who knelt there so overcome and cried and prayed, and stood over her for a while. Presently the woman rose, and started as she saw the child standing there, looking
Dot motioned her to silence. Then, in a voice which filled the listener with awe, with the pale face set in a dreadful calm, the maiden spoke thus,
“For days, which have now reached themselves out into weeks, nay, months, have you kept my sister and myself beneath your roof, tending and watching over us with every fond motherly care.
During that time we have been within view of the house where lies in sickness one who has been, and is, to us all and everything, one in whom we are bound up heart and soul. Day after day you have gone to him and brought back the same answer to us, waiting
here limb and tongue-tied, that we must have ' patience, patience' until we can again see this man we love so dearly. From what you tell us, my sister thinks, and I have thought until just now, you can mean but one thing, that when the message comes to us to go across this street, it will be to find our friend better, if not well, in health once more. For all you have done for us, and are now doing, Trixie and myself thank you most deeply, most sincerely. Excepting with our united love, now, at least, we can offer you naught else in return. That love you have from our inmost hearts. But mark well what I say!”
Here the child paused. Then, as she continued, her face became so solemn, her voice so still, that the woman trembled as she listened.
Mark well ! If it should result that you, in what you think your wisdom, your experience, as opposed to our weakness, are stooping to deceive (I doubt not as you think in all Christian kindness for our good); if, instead of that poor man recovering day by day, as you imply, he be but slowly sinking away from life, not holding fast thereto; if, in a word, the hand of death should be upon him, and you, knowing it, yet lead us on to hope, disguise the truth from us, then does this child before you say this,—that you are acting a cruel and wicked part, and one which that suffering creature would not sanction, could he know of it ; innocently it may be, yet none the less one which only these strong words of mine can condemn; with the best intentions, perchance, yet oh, how cruelly, how wickedly!”
The woman, who listened to this strange talk from her but treated as a baby up till now, was stricken almost dumb with surprised emotion. Still the child stood there, wrapped in that terrible self-command, and held her hand aloft.
Therefore, to be in time to stop this pure children's love from turning into hate—a thing you would not like-ere it be too late to prevent your heart and theirs being filled with an endless remorse, answer me now, upon this spot, truly and faithfully. This man we speak of ; does he grow better, or worse? Speak, woman, and quickly!”
The lady found only such words ready to her lips as framed a consoling sentence of evasion. Dot groaned under this torture. The calm began to leave her face, the patient look to fade away from the eyes; an angry light shone forth, as she clenched her little hands and cried,
“ Tell me ! For mercy's sake try not to evade ! I am strong enough to bear all you have to say !
The returning presence of mind of her listener pointed to but one course open : to tell the truth, or it might go ill with this overwrought child. So she said at once, in her turn calm,
“ Little Dot, I will answer you as you desire. But try, love, to keep composed.” (The maiden was so.) “ Your dear friend—ah! and mine toois very, very ill ; dangerously so, it is to be feared, sick unto death.”
“ And unconscious ? ” was the quiet rejoinder. “Yes; but it is hoped not for long."
“ Before that, delirious ? I mean he did not know what happened ; he could not have seen us, for instance, because his senses had for a while gone from him?"
“ After the first seizure, yes. But when he knew the virulence of the fever, his whole thoughts were to keep you away from him.” “Ah, dear heart !” murmured the child.
" Yet he has spoken of us often?"
“ Always, without ceasing; of few else, whether in his lucid moods or in delirium.”
There was a long and awful pause. But Dot gave way under the strain at last, now she knew all the worst. She fell upon her friend's bosom, as the welcome tears rained down. She cried aloud and moaned, as she clung to her she had so lately railed at.
In time the storm passed away, and left the brain the clearer for its coming. Judgment could now better guide the child's actions.
“ When he is ready, you promise I may go to him instantly, without delay?” she asked after a while, looking up with pale, tear-stained face.
“Yes, I promise, but solemnly urge you to keep your feelings in check; to be surprised at nothing, or needlessly excite yourself or him.”
Then those two knelt down and joined their prayers together : prayed with open hearts to Him who held this good man's life within His hand. How surely had his righteous teaching been learnt by little Dot!
"And Trixie, shall she know?" pondered the child.
“Will you trust me, darling, in that matter ? If I know aught of your sister's character, great care and caution will be needed in speaking to her.”
“ Willingly," replied Dot, as she pressed the woman's hand. “ Most willingly.
But I should like to be by when you tell her. Poor sister !"
The elder child had been getting every day more and more impatient as to when they should be allowed to visit the sick man across the way. But as the others thought, it had never occurred to her