‘Is he better?’ I asked, tremblingly.
’Not as I’m aweer on, Miss; he lay at God’s mercy two hours agone; ’appen he’s in heaven be this time.’
‘Drive on—drive fast,’ I said to the driver. ’Don’t be frightened, Milly; please Heaven we shall find all going well.’
After some delay, during which my heart sank, and I quite gave up Uncle Silas, the aged little servant-man opened the door, and trotted shakily down the steps to the carriage side.
Uncle Silas had been at death’s door for hours; the question of life had trembled in the scale; but now the doctor said ‘he might do.’
‘Where was the doctor?’
‘In master’s room; he blooded him three hours agone.’
I don’t think that Milly was so frightened as I. My heart beat, and I was trembling so that I could hardly get upstairs.
A FRIEND ARISES
At the top of the great staircase I was glad to see the friendly face of Mary Quince, who stood, candle in hand, greeting us with many little courtesies, and a very haggard and pallid smile.
‘Very welcome, Miss, hoping you are very well.’
’All well, and you are well, Mary? and oh! tell us quickly how is Uncle Silas?’
’We thought he was gone, Miss, this morning, but doing fairly now; doctor says in a trance like. I was helping old Wyat most of the day, and was there when doctor blooded him, an’ he spoke at last; but he must be awful weak, he took a deal o’ blood from his arm, Miss; I held the basin.’
‘And he’s better—decidedly better?’ I asked.
’Well, he’s better, doctor says; he talked some, and doctor says if he goes off asleep again, and begins a-snoring like he did before, we’re to loose the bandage, and let him bleed till he comes to his self again; which, it seems to me and Wyat, is the same thing a’most as saying he’s to be killed off-hand, for I don’t believe he has a drop to spare, as you’ll say likewise, Miss, if you’ll please look in the basin.’
This was not an invitation with which I cared to comply. I thought I was going to faint. I sat on the stairs and sipped a little water, and Quince sprinkled a little in my face, and my strength returned.
Milly must have felt her father’s danger more than I, for she was affectionate, and loved him from habit and relation, although he was not kind to her. But I was more nervous and more impetuous, and my feelings both stimulated and overpowered me more easily. The moment I was able to stand I said—thinking of nothing but the one idea—
‘We must see him—come, Milly.’
I entered his sitting-room; a common ‘dip’ candle hanging like the tower of Pisa all to one side, with a dim, long wick, in a greasy candlestick, profaned the table of the fastidious invalid. The light was little better than darkness, and I crossed the room swiftly, still transfixed by the one idea of seeing my uncle.