Not finding them disposed to converse, the doorkeeper resumed the newspaper he was reading when they entered, and was soon deeply engrossed in a horrible steam-boat accident.
The sound of wheels in the courtyard attracting his attention, he looked up, and remarked: “Here’s the doctor—as soon as he has walked the wards you’ll be admitted.”
Mrs. Ellis and her daughters turned round as the door opened, and, to their great joy, recognized Doctor Burdett.
“How d’ye do?” said he, extending his hand to Mrs. Ellis—“what’s the matter? Crying!” he continued, looking at their tearful faces; “what has happened?”
“Oh, doctor,” said Esther, “father’s lying here, very much injured; and they think he’ll die,” said she, giving way to a fresh burst of grief.
“Very much injured—die—how is this?—I knew nothing of it—I haven’t been here before this week.”
Esther hereupon briefly related the misfortunes that had befallen her father.
“Dear me—dear me,” repeated the kind old doctor.
“There, my dear; don’t fret—he’ll get better, my child—I’ll take him in hand at once. My dear Mrs. Ellis, weeping won’t do the least good, and only make you sick yourself. Stop, do now—I’ll go and see him immediately, and as soon as possible you shall be admitted.”
They had not long to wait before a message came from Doctor Burdett, informing them that they could now be permitted to see the sufferer.
“You must control yourselves,” said the doctor to the sobbing women, as he met them at the door; “you mustn’t do anything to agitate him—his situation is extremely critical.”
The girls and their mother followed him to the bedside of Mr. Ellis, who, ghastly pale, lay before them, apparently unconscious.
Mrs. Ellis gave but one look at her husband, and, with a faint cry, sank fainting upon the floor. The noise partially aroused him; he turned his head, and, after an apparent effort, recognized his daughters standing beside him: he made a feeble attempt to raise his mutilated hands, and murmured faintly, “You’ve come at last!” then closing his eyes, he dropped his arms, as if exhausted by the effort.
Esther knelt beside him, and pressed a kiss on his pale face. “Father!—father!” said she, softly. He opened his eyes again, and a smile of pleasure broke over his wan face, and lighted up his eyes, as he feebly said, “God bless you, darlings! I thought you’d never come. Where’s mother and Caddy?”
“Here,” answered Esther, “here, by me; your looks frightened her so, that she’s fainted.” Doctor Burdett here interposed, and said: “You must all go now; he’s too weak to bear more at present.”
“Let me stay with him a little longer,” pleaded Esther.
“No, my child, it’s impossible,” he continued; “besides, your mother will need your attention;” and, whilst he spoke, he led her into an adjoining room, where the others had preceded her.