Adele’s heart gave one bound, and then for a moment stood still. She uttered a sigh of relief, but sank back in her chair, wearied by excess of emotion. She felt instinctively, that the crisis had been safely passed, that there was hope for the invalid.
Then, for a long time, her mind was occupied with thoughts respecting death and the beyond.
Suddenly a shadow, flitting across the curtained window recalled her to the present scene.
Ah! what a mercy, she thought, that Aunt Patty did not kill him, before I discovered her beautiful mode of nursing sick people. No wonder he has been crazed all this time, with those strange manoeuvres of hers!
On the previous, night, Adele had been the last of the family to retire. Stealing noiselessly past the door of the sick-room, which was somewhat ajar, her steps were arrested by hearing Aunt Patty, whose voice was pitched on a very high key, singing some old Scotch song. Thinking this rather a strange method of composing the nervous system of a delirious patient, she stood and listened. Up, far up, into the loftiest regions of sound, went Aunt Patty’s cracked and quavering voice, and then it came down with a heavy, precipitous fall into a loud grumble and tumble below. She repeated again and again, in a most hilarious tone, the words—
“Let us go, lassie, go,
To the braes of Balquhither,
Where the blaebarries grow.
’Mang the bonnie Highland heather”.
In the midst of this, Adele heard a deep groan. Then she heard the invalid say in a feeble, deprecating tone—
“Ah! why do you mock me? Am I not miserable enough?”
Mrs. McNab stopped a moment, then replied in a sharp voice, “Mockin’ ye! indeed, it’s na such thing. If ye had an atom o’ moosic in ye, ye wad ken at ance, its a sweet Scotch sang I’m singin’ to ye. I’ve sung mony a bairn to sleep wi’ it”.
There was no reply to this remark. All was quiet for a moment, when Adele, fancying she heard the clinking of a spoon against the side of a tumbler, leaned forward a little and looked through the aperture made by the partially opened door. The nurse was sitting by the fire, in her huge headgear, wrapped in a shawl and carefully stirring, what seemed, by the odor exhaled, to be whiskey. Her face was very red and her eyes wide open, staring at the coals.
The sufferer uttered some words, which Adele could not distinguish, in an excited voice.
“I tell ye, there isna ony hope for ye”, said Mrs. McNab, who, for some reason, not apparent, seemed to be greatly irritated by whatever remarks her patient made.