It seemed but another sign of the death of joy.
‘But it’s very beautiful,’ she thought, ’the blossoms are like stars. I am not going to pull it up. I will leave it; perhaps it will spread all through the garden; and if it does I do not care, for now things are not like they used to be and I do not, think they ever shall be again.’
The days went by; those long, hot days, when the heat haze swims up about ten of the forenoon, and, as the sun sinks level with the mountains, melts into golden ether which sets the world quivering with sparkles.
At the lighting of the stars those sparkles die, vanishing one by one off the hillsides; evening comes flying down the valleys, and life rests under her cool wings. The night falls; and the hundred little voices of the night arise.
It was near grape-gathering, and in the heat the fight for Nicholas Treffry’s life went on, day in, day out, with gleams of hope and moments of despair. Doctors came, but after the first he refused to see them.
“No,” he said to Dawney—“throwing away money. If I pull through it won’t be because of them.”
For days together he would allow no one but Dawney, Dominique, and the paid nurse in the room.
“I can stand it better,” he said to Christian, “when I don’t see any of you; keep away, old girl, and let me get on with it!”
To have been able to help would have eased the tension of her nerves, and the aching of her heart. At his own request they had moved his bed into a corner so that he might face the wall. There he would lie for hours together, not speaking a word, except to ask for drink.
Sometimes Christian crept in unnoticed, and sat watching, with her arms tightly folded across her breast. At night, after Greta was asleep, she would toss from side to side, muttering feverish prayers. She spent hours at her little table in the schoolroom, writing letters to Harz that were never sent. Once she wrote these words: “I am the most wicked of all creatures—I have even wished that he may die!” A few minutes afterwards Miss Naylor found her with her head buried on her arms. Christian sprang up; tears were streaming down her cheeks. “Don’t touch me!” she cried, and rushed away. Later, she stole into her uncle’s room, and sank down on the floor beside the bed. She sat there silently, unnoticed all the evening. When night came she could hardly be persuaded to leave the room.
One day Mr. Treffry expressed a wish to see Herr Paul; it was a long while before the latter could summon courage to go in.
“There’s a few dozen of the Gordon sherry at my Chambers, in London, Paul,” Mr. Treffry said; “I’d be glad to think you had ’em. And my man, Dominique, I’ve made him all right in my will, but keep your eye on him; he’s a good sort for a foreigner, and no chicken, but sooner or later, the women’ll get hold of him. That’s all I had to say. Send Chris to me.”