As soon as it was light I heard Mr. Hamilton stirring in the room below. He came up for a moment to tell me that he was going home to breakfast; he looked quite fresh and brisk, and declared that he had had a capital night’s sleep.
’I am going to find some one to take your place while you go home and have a good seven hours’ rest,’ he said, in his decided way. ’I suppose you are aware that you have not slept for forty-eight hours? Kitty is going to make you some tea.’ And with this he took himself off.
I went into Phoebe’s room presently. Kitty told me that she was awake at last. As soon as she saw me she put up her hands as though to ward off my approach.
‘Wait a moment,’ she said huskily. ’You need not tell me; I know what you have come to say; I have no longer a sister: Susan is a saint in heaven.’
For a moment I hesitated, afraid to speak. She had nerved herself to bear the worst, and I feared the revulsion of feeling would be too great. As I stood there silently looking down at her drawn, haggard face, I felt she would not have had strength to bear a fresh trial. If Susan had died Phoebe would not have long survived her.
‘You are wrong,’ I said, very gently. ’I have no bad news for you this morning. The inflammation has diminished. Susan breathes more easily: each breath is no longer acute agony.’
‘Do you mean that she is better?’ staring at me incredulously.
’Most certainly she is better. The danger is over; but we must be very careful, for she will be ill for some time yet. Yes, indeed, Phoebe, you may believe me. Do you think I would deceive you? God has heard your prayers, and Susan is spared to you.’
I never saw a human countenance so transformed as Phoebe’s was that moment; every feature seemed to quiver with ecstasy; she could not speak, only she folded her hands as though in prayer. Presently she looked up, and said, as simply as a child,—
’Oh, I am so happy! I never thought I should be happy again. You may leave me now, Miss Garston, for I want to thank God, for the first time in my life. I feel as though I must love Him now for giving Susan back to me.’ And then again she begged me to leave her.
Mr. Hamilton did not forget me. I had just put the sick-room in order when a respectable young woman made her appearance. She told me that her name was Carron, that she was a married woman and a friend of Miss Locke’s, and she would willingly take my place until evening.
I was thankful to accept this timely offer of help, and went home and enjoyed a deep dreamless sleep for some hours. When I woke it was evening. Jill was standing by my bedside with a tray in her hands. The room was bright with firelight. Jill’s big eyes looked at me affectionately.
’How you have slept, Ursie dear! just like a baby! I have been in and out half-a-dozen times; but no, you never stirred. I told Mr. Hamilton so, when he inquired an hour ago. Now, you are to drink this coffee, and when you are quite awake I will give you his message.’