When Mr. Mandeville entered the house, as related at the close of the first chapter, he found Eveline lying on the floor of her room, in a state of insensibility. All his efforts to arouse her were unavailing, and leaving her in the care of the distracted housemaid, he hastened off for the doctor. When the stunning influence was removed, Eveline was still unconscious. A burning fever was in her veins, and delirium in her brain. All night long the doctor remained by her bedside, and when morning at length compelled him to visit other patients, he left with an expression on his countenance, which caused anything but a hopeful sensation in the father’s breast.
Days of anxiety and nights of sleepless watching passed away, and yet the father, with pale cheeks and heavy heart, sat by the bedside of the afflicted. No mother had she, that kind parent having several years before been laid in the cold grave; and the father strove to make up for the loss as far as he could understand the necessities of a sick-room; and, indeed, he became wonderfully gentle in his attentions. His touch was trained to be light and soft as a woman’s, his step quiet, and his manner subdued. He would leave the room only for a few minutes at a time, and then return with an air of impatience, but it often happened that for hours together he would allow no one to share the duties of nurse with him, though the best of aid was always at hand. And he had a reason for this singular course of conduct. Eveline frequently raved in her delirium, and words would then fall from her lips which he would not have others to hear for the wealth of India. Why? Listen for a few moments:
“Oh, how dark! all dark! Nothing but clouds! No sun, no moon, no stars! When will morning come? Who made it dark? Oh, God! that my father, my own father, should do this!”
Thus would the unconscious child talk into the very ear of her parent, often wringing her hands and manifesting the utmost distress. Then her thoughts would take another direction, on this wise:
“What a load is on my heart; oh, so heavy! It weighs me down to the earth. Who will take it away? Alas, there is no one to pity me! No one will come to me and lift this great burden from my bosom; and it is crushing the life-blood from my heart! Hark! don’t you hear the drops fall as they are pressed out? Patter, patter, patter! Well, it will soon be over; they will see the blood; yes, and he, my once good, dear, kind father; oh, may he never know that his hand wrung it out and wrenched my heart in twain! Poor father! he knew not that he was killing me—me his only daughter. May he never be wiser! Ah, I am going.”
She would sink down exhausted, and lay sometimes for hours in a stupor, after these paroxysms of excitement, and the heavy-hearted father often feared she would never rouse again. But a higher stage of fever would awaken her from the state of lethargy, and then the ears of the agonized parent would be greeted and his heart pierced by words like these: