‘What is it, Mary? what can it be?’ I ejaculated, not knowing what horror to suppose. And now, with a counterpane about my shoulders, I called loudly and imploringly, in my horror, to know what had happened.
But I heard only the subdued and eager talk of men engaged in some absorbing task, and the dull sounds of some heavy body being moved.
Mrs. Rusk came towards us looking half wild, and pale as a spectre, and putting her thin hands to my shoulders, she said—’Now, Miss Maud, darling, you must go back again; ’tisn’t no place for you; you’ll see all, my darling, time enough—you will. There now, there, like a dear, do get into your room.’
What was that dreadful sound? Who had entered my father’s chamber? It was the visitor whom we had so long expected, with whom he was to make the unknown journey, leaving me alone. The intruder was Death!
My father was dead—as suddenly as if he had been murdered. One of those fearful aneurisms that lie close to the heart, showing no outward sign of giving way in a moment, had been detected a good time since by Dr. Bryerly. My father knew what must happen, and that it could not be long deferred. He feared to tell me that he was soon to die. He hinted it only in the allegory of his journey, and left in that sad enigma some words of true consolation that remained with me ever after. Under his rugged ways was hidden a wonderful tenderness. I could not believe that he was actually dead. Most people for a minute or two, in the wild tumult of such a shock, have experienced the same skepticism. I insisted that the doctor should be instantly sent for from the village.
’Well, Miss Maud, dear, I will send to please you, but it is all to no use. If only you saw him yourself you’d know that. Mary Quince, run you down and tell Thomas, Miss Maud desires he’ll go down this minute to the village for Dr. Elweys.’
Every minute of the interval seemed to me like an hour. I don’t know what I said, but I fancied that if he were not already dead, he would lose his life by the delay. I suppose I was speaking very wildly, for Mrs. Rusk said—
’My dear child, you ought to come in and see him; indeed but you should, Miss Maud. He’s quite dead an hour ago. You’d wonder all the blood that’s come from him—you would indeed; it’s soaked through the bed already.’
‘Oh, don’t, don’t, don’t, Mrs. Rusk.’
’Will you come in and see him, just?
‘Oh, no, no, no, no!’
’Well, then, my dear, don’t of course, if you don’t like; there’s no need. Would not you like to lie down, Miss Maud? Mary Quince, attend to her. I must go into the room for a minute or two.’
I was walking up and down the room in distraction. It was a cool night; but I did not feel it. I could only cry:—’Oh, Mary, Mary! what shall I do? Oh, Mary Quince! what shall I do?’