Grandfather might be going to die.
And yet what was there for us to do but to go quietly back into the brown room and sit down?
There was nothing to say even. There never is anything to say about the greatest things. People can only name the bare, grand, awful fact, and say, “It was tremendous,” or “startling,” or “magnificent,” or “terrible,” or “sad.” How little we could really say about the gale, even now that it was over! We could repeat that this and that tree were blown down, and such a barn or house unroofed; but we could not get the real wonder of it—the thing that moved us to try to talk it over—into any words.
“He seemed so well this afternoon,” said Rosamond.
“I don’t think he was quite well,” said Ruth. “His hands trembled so when he was folding up his papers; and he was very slow.”
“O, men always are with their fingers. I don’t think that was anything,” said Barbara. “But I think he seemed rather nervous when he came over. And he would not sit in the house, though the wind was coming up then. He said he liked the air; and he and father got the shaker chairs up there by the front door; and he sat and pinched his knees together to make a lap to hold his papers; it was as much as he could manage; no wonder his hands trembled.”
“I wonder what they were talking about,” said Rosamond.
“I’m glad Uncle Stephen went home with him,” said Ruth.
“I wonder if we shall have this house to live in if grandfather should die,” said Stephen, suddenly. It could not have been his first thought; he had sat soberly silent a good while.
“O Stevie! don’t let’s think anything about that!” said Ruth; and nobody else answered at all.
We sent Stephen off to bed, and we girls sat round the fire, which we had made up in the great open fireplace, till twelve o’clock; then we all went up stairs, leaving the side door unfastened. Ruth brought some pillows and comfortables into Rosamond and Barbara’s room, made up a couch for herself on the box-sofa, and gave her little white one to Leslie. We kept the door open between. We could see the light in grandfather’s northwest chamber; and the lamp was still burning in the porch below. We could not possibly know anything; whether Robert had got back, and the doctor had come,—whether he was better or worse,—whether father would come home to-night. We could only guess.
“O Leslie, it is so good you are here!” we said.
There was something eerie in the night, in the wreck and confusion of the storm, in our loneliness without father and mother, and in the possible awfulness and change that were so near,—over there in Grandfather Holabird’s lighted room.
Breakfast was late the next morning. It had been nearly two o’clock when father had come home. He told us that grandfather was better; that it was what the doctor called a premonitory attack; that he might have another and more serious one any day, or that he might live on for years without a repetition. For the present he was to be kept as easy and quiet as possible, and gradually allowed to resume his old habits as his strength permitted.