It was then that I heard the whirr of the electric bell again, but more softly this time, and followed by breathless whispered words in the corridor (as of some one who had been running) and once more . . . I knew, I knew, I knew!
After a moment Mildred came to ask me in a whisper if I was quite sure that I could control myself, and though my heart was thumping against my breast, I answered Yes.
Then I called for a hand-glass and made my hair a shade neater, and after that I closed my eyes (God knows why) and waited.
There was a moment of silence, dead silence, and then—then I opened my eyes and saw him standing in the open doorway.
His big, strong, bronzed face—stronger than ever now, and marked with a certain change from the struggles he had gone through—was utterly broken up. For some moments he did not speak, but I could see that he saw the change that life had made in me also. Then in a low voice, so low that it was like the breath of his soul, he said:
“Forgive me! Forgive me!”
And stepping forward he dropped to his knees by the side of my bed, and kissed the arms and hands I was stretching out to him.
That was more than I could bear, and the next thing I heard was my darling’s great voice crying:
“Sister! Sister! Some brandy! Quick! She has fainted.”
But my poor little fit of hysterics was soon at an end, and though Martin was not permitted to stay more than a moment longer, a mighty wave of happiness flowed over me, such as I had never known before and may never know again.
I had such a beautiful convalescence. For the major operations of the Great Surgeon an anaesthetic has not yet been found, but within a week I was sitting up again, mutilated, perhaps, but gloriously alive and without the whisper of a cry.
By this time Father Dan had gone back to Ellan (parting from me with a solemn face as he said, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace"), and Sister Mildred had obtained permission to give up one of her rooms to me as long as I should need it.
Martin came to see me every day, first for five minutes, then ten, and finally for a quarter and even half an hour. He brought such an atmosphere of health with him, that merely to hold his hand seemed to give me new strength—being so pale and bloodless now that I thought the sun might have shone through me as through a sea-gull.
I could scarcely believe it was not a dream that he was sitting by my side, and sometimes I felt as if I had to touch him to make sure he was there.
How he talked to keep up my spirits! It was nearly always about his expedition (never about me or my experiences, for that seemed a dark scene from which he would not draw the curtain), and I was all a-tremble as I listened to the story of his hair-breadth escapes, though he laughed and made so light of them.