Half-dazed, she listened to that marvellous outpouring of gladness, so wildly rapturous, so weirdly holy. On, ever on, pealed the bird-voice; on to the very Gates of Heaven, and it seemed to the girl who listened as though she heard a child’s spirit singing up the steeps of Paradise. With her heart she followed it till suddenly she heard no more. The voice ceased as it had begun, ceased as a burst of music when an open door is closed—and there fell in its stead a silence that could be felt.
She could not have said for how long she sat motionless, the slight, inert body clasped against her breast. Vaguely she knew that the night passed, and with it the wondrous silence that had lain like a benediction upon the dawn. A thousand living things awoke to rejoice in the crystal splendour of the morning; but within the quiet room the spell remained unlifted, the silence lay untouched. It was as though the presence of Death had turned it into a peaceful sanctuary that no mere earthly tumult could disturb.
She sat in a species of waking stupor for a long, long time, not daring to move lest the peace that enfolded her should be shattered. Higher and higher the sun climbed up the sky till at last it topped the cedar-trees and shone in upon her, throwing a single ray of purest gold across the foot of the bed. Fascinated, she watched it travel slowly upwards, till a silent, one-armed figure arose and softly drew the curtain.
The room grew dim again. The world was shut out. She was not conscious of physical fatigue, only of a certain weariness of waiting, waiting for she knew not what. It seemed interminable, but she would not seek to end it. She was as a soldier waiting for the order to quit his post.
There came a slight movement at last. Someone touched her, whispered to her. She looked up blankly, and saw the nurse. But understanding seemed to have gone from her during those long hours. She could not take in a word. There arose a great surging in her brain, and the woman’s face faded into an indistinct blur. She sat rigid, afraid to move lest she should fall.
She heard vague whisperings over her head, and an arm that was like a steel spring encircled her. Someone lifted her burden gently from her, and a faint murmur reached her, such as a child makes in its sleep.
Then the arm that supported her gradually raised her up till she was on her feet. Mechanically she tried to walk, but was instantly overcome by a sick sense of powerlessness.
“I can’t!” she gasped. “I can’t!”
Nick’s voice answered her in a quick, confident whisper. “Yes, you can, dear. It’s all right. Hang on to me. I won’t let you go.”
She obeyed him blindly. There was nothing else to do. And so, half-led, half-carried, she tottered from the room.
A glare of sunlight smote upon her from a passage-window with a brilliance that almost hurt her. She stood still, clinging to Nick’s shoulder.