On the next evening but one, the fatal symptom showed itself. There was nothing violent in the delirium. Unconscious of past events in the family life, the poor child supposed that her governess was living in the house as usual. She piteously wondered why Sydney remained downstairs in the schoolroom. “Oh, don’t keep her away from me! I want Syd! I want Syd!” That was her one cry. When exhaustion silenced her, they hoped that the sad delusion was at an end. No! As the slow fire of the fever flamed up again, the same words were on the child’s lips, the same fond hope was in her sinking heart.
The doctor led Mrs. Linley out of the room. “Is this the governess?” he asked.
“Is she within easy reach?”
“She is employed in the family of a friend of ours, living five miles away from us.”
“Send for her instantly!”
Mrs. Linley looked at him with a wildly-mingled expression of hope and fear. She was not thinking of herself—she was not even thinking, for that one moment, of the child. What would her husband say, if she (who had extorted his promise never to see the governess again) brought Sydney Westerfield back to the house?
The doctor spoke to her more strongly still.
“I don’t presume to inquire into your private reasons for hesitating to follow my advice,” he said; “but I am bound to tell you the truth. My poor little patient is in serious danger—every hour of delay is an hour gained by death. Bring that lady to the bedside as fast as your carriage can fetch her, and let us see the result. If Kitty recognizes her governess—there, I tell you plainly, is the one chance of saving the child’s life.”
Mrs. Linley’s resolution flashed on him in her weary eyes—the eyes which, by day and night alike, had known so little rest. She rang for her maid. “Tell your master I want to speak to him.”
The woman answered: “My master has gone out.”
The doctor watched the mother’s face. No sign of hesitation appeared in it—the one thought in her mind now was the thought of the child. She called the maid back.
“Order the carriage.”
“At what time do you want it, ma’am?”
Mrs. Linley’s first impulse in ordering the carriage was to use it herself. One look at the child reminded her that her freedom of action began and ended at the bedside. More than an hour must elapse before Sydney Westerfield could be brought back to Mount Morven; the bare thought of what might happen in that interval, if she was absent, filled the mother with horror. She wrote to Mrs. MacEdwin, and sent her maid with the letter.
Of the result of this proceeding it was not possible to entertain a doubt.
Sydney’s love for Kitty would hesitate at no sacrifice; and Mrs. MacEdwin’s conduct had already answered for her. She had received the governess with the utmost kindness, and she had generously and delicately refrained from asking any questions. But one person at Mount Morven thought it necessary to investigate the motives under which she had acted. Mrs. Presty’s inquiring mind arrived at discoveries; and Mrs. Presty’s sense of duty communicated them to her daughter.