“It would be so dreadful to miss him,” moaned Stella. “I have waited so long. Mary, why don’t they light a lamp?”
A shaded lamp was burning on the table by the bed. Mrs. Ralston turned and lifted the shade. But Stella shook her head with a weary discontent.
“That doesn’t help. It’s in the desert that I mean—so that he shan’t miss me when he comes.”
“He cannot miss you, darling,” Mrs. Ralston assured her; but in her own heart she doubted. For the doctor had told her that he did not think she would live through the night.
Again she strained her ears to listen. She had certainly heard a sound outside the door; but it might be only Peter who, she knew, crouched there, alert for any service.
It was Peter; but it was not Peter only, for even as she listened, the handle of the door turned softly and someone entered. She looked up eagerly and saw the doctor.
He was a thin, grey man for whom she entertained privately a certain feeling of contempt. She was so sure her own husband would have somehow managed the case better. He came to the bedside, and looked at Stella, looked closely; then turned to her friend watching beside her.
“I wonder if it would disturb her to see her husband for a moment,” he said.
Mrs. Ralston suppressed a start with difficulty. “Is he here?” she whispered.
“Just arrived,” he murmured back, and turned again to look at Stella who lay motionless with closed eyes, scarcely seeming to breathe.
Mrs. Ralston’s whisper smote the silence, and it was the doctor’s turn to start. “Send him in at once!” she said.
So insistent was her command that he stood up as if he had been prodded into action. Mrs. Ralston was on her feet. She waved an urgent hand.
“Go and get him!” she ordered almost fiercely. “It’s the only chance left. Go and fetch him!”
He looked at her doubtfully for a second, then, impelled by an authority that overrode every scruple, he turned in silence and tiptoed from the room.
Mrs. Ralston’s eyes followed him with scorn. How was it some doctors managed—notwithstanding all their experience—to be such hopeless idiots?
The soft opening of the door again a few seconds later banished her irritation. She turned with shining welcome in her look, and met Monck with outstretched hands.
“You’re in time,” she said.
He gripped her hands hard, but he scarcely looked at her. In a moment he was bending over the bed.
“Stella girl! Stella!” he said.
“Everard!” The weak voice thrilled like a loosened harp-string, and the man’s dark face flashed into sudden passionate tenderness.
He went down upon his knees beside the bed and gathered her to his breast. She clung to him feebly, her lips turned to his.
“My darling—oh, my darling—have you come at last?” she whispered. “Hold me—hold me!—Don’t let me die!”