Having witnessed the whole manoeuvre with comic wonder and curiosity, Mr. Norton burst into a loud and hearty peal of laughter, that was still resounding in the room when he became suddenly aware of the presence of Mrs. McNab. There she stood in the centre of the apartment, her firm, square figure apparently rooted to the floor, her head enveloped in innumerable folds of white cotton, a tower of strength and defiance.
Her unexpected appearance changed in a moment the mood of the good man, and he inquired anxiously, “Is the gentleman more ill? Can I assist you?”
“He’s just this minnut closed his eyes to sleep, and naw I expect he’s wide awake again, with the dreadfu’ racket you were just a makin’ O! my! wadna you hae made a good nuss?”
Mr. Norton truly grieved at his inadvertency in disturbing the household at this late hour of the night, begged pardon, and told Mrs. McNab he would not be guilty of a like offence.
“How has the gentleman been during the evening?” he asked.
“O! he’s been ravin’ crazy a’maist, and obstacled everything I’ve done for him. He’s a very sick pusson naw. I cam’ down to get a bottle of muddeson”, and Mrs. McNab went to a closet and took from it the identical bottle of brandy from which Mrs. Dubois had poured when preparing the stimulating dose for the invalid. Mr. Norton observed this performance with a twinkle of the eye, but making no comment, the worthy woman retired from the room.
That night Mr. Norton slept indifferently, being disturbed by exciting and bewildering dreams. In his slumbers he saw an immense cathedral, lighted only by what seemed some great conflagration without, which, glaring in, with horrid, crimson hue upon the pictured walls, gave the place the strange, lurid aspect of Pandemonium. The effect was heightened by the appearance of thousands of small, grotesque beings, all bearing more or less resemblance to the little man of the clock, who were flying and bobbing, jerking and grinning through the air, beneath the great vault, as if madly revelling in the scene. Yet the good man all the while had a vague sense of some awful, impending calamity, which increased as he wandered around in great perplexity, exploring the countenances of the various groups scattered over the place.
Once he stumbled over a dead body and found it the corpse of the invalid in the room above. He seemed to himself to be lifting it carefully, when a lady, fair and stately, in rich, sweeping garments, took the burden from his arms, and, sinking with it on the floor, kissed it tenderly and then bent over it with a look of intense sorrow.