’Get along, you lame brute!—sc—sc—sc! that’s it! there you go! They think they’ve outwitted me, do they? The sneaking idiots! I’ll be up with them by-and-by. I’ll make them say the Lord’s Prayer backwards ... I’ll pepper them so that the devil shall eat them raw ... sc—sc—sc—we shall see who’ll be the winner yet ... get along, you damned limping beast ... I’ll lay your back open ... I’ll ...’
He raised himself with a stronger effort than ever to flog the bed-clothes, and fell back in convulsions. Janet gave a scream, and sank on her knees again. She thought he was dead.
As soon as Mr. Pilgrim was able to give her a moment’s attention, he came to her, and, taking her by the arm, attempted to draw her gently out of the room.
’Now, my dear Mrs. Dempster, let me persuade you not to remain in the room at present. We shall soon relieve these symptoms, I hope: it is nothing but the delirium that ordinarily attends such cases.’
‘Oh, what is the matter? what brought it on?’
’He fell out of the gig; the right leg is broken. It is a terrible accident, and I don’t disguise that there is considerable danger attending it, owing to the state of the brain. But Mr. Dempster has a strong constitution, you know; in a few days these symptoms may be allayed, and he may do well. Let me beg of you to keep out of the room at present: you can do no good until Mr. Dempster is better, and able to know you. But you ought not to be alone; let me advise you to have Mrs. Raynor with you.’
’Yes, I will send for mother. But you must not object to my being in the room. I shall be very quiet now, only just at first the shock was so great; I knew nothing about it. I can help the nurses a great deal; I can put the cold things to his head. He may be sensible for a moment and know me. Pray do not say any more against it: my heart is set on being with him.’
Mr. Pilgrim gave way, and Janet, having sent for her mother and put off her bonnet and shawl, returned to take her place by the side of her husband’s bed.
Day after day, with only short intervals of rest, Janet kept her place in that sad chamber. No wonder the sick-room and the lazaretto have so often been a refuge from the tossings of intellectual doubt—a place of repose for the worn and wounded spirit. Here is a duty about which all creeds and all philosophies are at one: here, at least, the conscience will not be dogged by doubt, the benign impulse will not be checked by adverse theory: here you may begin to act without settling one preliminary question. To moisten the sufferer’s parched lips through the long night-watches, to bear up the drooping head, to lift the helpless limbs, to divine the want that can find no utterance beyond the feeble motion of the hand or beseeching glance of the eye—these are offices that demand no self-questionings, no casuistry,