He picked up a large Roman locket of beaten silver that lay open on the table. It held two exquisitely painted miniatures on ivory. One was the same sweet face that looked out at him from each of the photographs, the other was his father’s. It showed a handsome young fellow with strong, clean-shaven face, with eyes like Keith’s, and the same lordly poise of the fine head that Malcolm had.
“Good night, papa, good night, mamma!” whispered Keith, touching his lips hastily to each picture while Malcolm’s back was turned. There were tears in his eyes. Somehow he was so miserably homesick.
Next morning, although Keith’s throat was not so sore, he was burning with fever by the time his lessons were over. Before his grandmother saw him he was off on his wheel for a long ride, and then, because he was so hot when he came back, he slipped away to the pond with the pink bathing-suit under his coat, and took the swim that he had been looking forward to so long. Nobody knew where he was, and he stayed in the water until his lips and finger-nails were blue. The morning after that he was too ill to get up, and Mrs. Maclntyre sent for a doctor.
“He has always been so perfectly well, and seemed to have such a strong constitution, that I cannot allow myself to believe this will be anything serious,” said Mrs. Maclntyre, but at the end of the third day he was so much worse that she sent to the city for a trained nurse, and telegraphed for his father and mother.
They had already left Florida, and were yachting up the Atlantic coast on their way home when the message reached them.
Malcolm did his best to atone to Virginia for what she had suffered from the forgetfulness of the two little Indians, but poor Keith was too ill to remember anything about it. He did not know his father and mother when they came, and tossed restlessly about, talking wildly of things they could not understand. It was the first time he had ever been so ill, and as they watched him lying there day after day, burning with fever, and growing white and thin, a great fear came upon them that he would never be any better.
No one put that fear into words, but little by little it crept from heart to heart like a wintry fog, until the whole house felt its chill. The sweet spring sounds and odours came rushing in at every window from the sunny world outside, but it might as well have been mid-winter. No one paid any heed while that little life hung in the balance. The servants went through the house on tiptoe. Malcolm and Virginia haunted the halls to discover from the grave faces of the older people what they were afraid to ask, and Mrs. Maclntyre was kept busy answering the inquiries of the neighbours. Scarcely an hour passed that some one did not come to ask about Keith, to leave flowers, or to proffer kindly services. Everybody who knew the little fellow loved him. His bright smile and winning manner had made him a host of friends.