The members of the family felt a peculiar interest in the stranger. Mr. Dubois had described him, as a man of intelligence, refined and elegant in his deportment and tastes. He had noticed in him, an air of melancholy, which even ludicrous events on the journey had dissipated, but for the moment. The wild words he had uttered on the night of his arrival, revealed some deep disquiet of mind. Away from home, hovering between life and death, and thrown on the tender mercies of strangers, Mrs. Dubois was filled with compassion and solicitude in his behalf.
Having confidence in Mrs. McNab’s skill as a nurse, she had not suspected that her partiality for a hot dose at night, would interfere with her faithfulness to her charge. Not having communicated with Adele, she did not yet know why it had been deemed important to dispose of her so summarily, and she secretly wondered how it had been accomplished with so little ado. When informed, she approved Adele’s decisive action.
Mr. Norton had fully shared the interest felt by the family in the stranger, and was happy to relieve Mrs. Dubois in the evening and to remain by his bedside during the night. Since his first interview with Mr. Brown, on the day of his arrival, he had felt that, in accordance-with the vows by which he had bound himself to the great Master, the unfortunate stranger had a claim on him, which he resolved to fulfil at the earliest moment possible. He had had no opportunity as yet, of executing his purpose, Mrs. McNab having guarded the door of the sick-room like a lioness watching her cubs. When she had by chance permitted him to enter, he had found her patient wandering in mind and entirely incapable of coherent conversation.
Meantime, he had prayed earnestly for his recovery and secretly felicitated himself with the hope of leading him to a rock of refuge,—a tower of defence, which would secure him from sin and sorrow.
Mr. Brown continued to sleep so peacefully during the night, that Mr. Norton, whose hopes for his recovery had been increasing every hour, was not surprised at the dawn of day to perceive his eyes open, examining the objects in the room, with the air of a person just awakened from a bewildering dream.
He gazed curiously at the heavy, carved bureau of dark wood, at the grotesque little table, covered with vials and cups, at the cabinet filled with specimens of foreign skill and art, at the Venetian carpet and at last, his eyes remained fixed upon a black crucifix, placed in the centre of the mantle. He uttered a deep sigh.
Mr. Norton, convinced that he had fully collected his scattered thoughts and become aware of the realities of his situation, stepped gently forward from his station behind the bed and taking Mr. Brown’s hand, said, in a cheerful tone, “How do you find yourself, my dear sir?”
After a momentary surprise, Mr. Brown replied—
“Better, I think, sir, better”.