But the day came at last and shed a ghastly grey tinge upon the sick-room, revealing as it were the outlines of all that was bad to look at, which the warm yellow candle-light had softened with a kindlier touch. John accidentally looked at himself in the mirror as he passed and was startled at his own pale face; but the convict, labouring in the ravings of his fever, seemed unconscious of the dawning day; he was not yet exhausted and his harsh voice never ceased its jarring gibber. John wondered whether he should ever spend such a night again, and shuddered at the recollection of each moment.
The daylight waked the squire from his slumbers, however, and before the sun was up he came out of the dressing-room, looking almost as fresh as though nothing had happened to him in the night. Accustomed for years to rise at all hours, in all weathers, unimpressionable, calm and strong, he seemed superior to the course of events.
“Well, Mr. Short, you allowed me a long nap. You must be quite worn out, I should think. How is the patient?”
John told what had occurred.
“Took you for the hangman, did he?” said the squire. “I wonder why—but you say he asked after me very sensibly?”
“Quite so. It was when I asked him his own name, that he began raving again,” answered John innocently.
“What made you ask him that?” asked Mr. Juxon, who did not seem pleased.
“Curiosity,” was John’s laconic answer.
“Yes—but I fancy it frightened him. If I were you I would not do it again, if he has a lucid moment. I imagine it was fright that made him delirious in the first instance.”
“All right,” quoth John. “I won’t.” But he made his own deductions. The squire evidently knew who he was, and did not want John to know, for some unexplained reason. The young man wondered what the reason could be; the mere name of the wretched man was not likely to convey any idea to his mind, for it was highly improbable that he had ever met him before his conviction. So John departed to his own room and refreshed himself with a tub, while the squire kept watch by daylight.
It was not yet eight o’clock when Holmes brought a note from the vicar, which Mr. Juxon tore open and read with anxious interest.
“MY DEAR MR. JUXON—I received your note late last night, but I judged it better to answer this morning, not wishing to excite suspicion by sending to you at so late an hour. The intelligence is indeed alarming and you will, I daresay, understand me, when I tell you that I found it necessary to communicate it to Mrs. Ambrose—”
The squire could not refrain from smiling at the vicar’s way of putting the point; but he read quickly on.
“She however—and I confess my surprise and gratification—desires to accompany me to the Hall this morning, volunteering to take all possible care of the unfortunate man. As she has had much experience in visiting the sick, I fancy that she will render us very valuable assistance in saving his life. Pray let me know if the plan has your approval, as it may be dangerous to lose time.—Yours sincerely,