After the removal of Rose from the neighborhood of Ivy Cliff, the health of Mr. Delancy failed still more rapidly, and in a few months the brief visits of Irene to her friend in New York had to be intermitted. She could no longer venture to leave her father, even under the care of their faithful Margaret. A sad winter for Irene succeeded. Mr. Delancy drooped about until after Christmas, in a weary, listless way, taking little interest in anything, and bearing both physical and mental consciousness as a burden it would be pleasant to lay down. Early in January he had to give up and go to bed; and now the truth of his condition startled the mind of Irene and filled her with alarm. By slow, insidious encroachments, that dangerous enemy, typhoid fever, had gained a lodgment in the very citadel of life, and boldly revealed itself, defying the healer’s art. For weeks the dim light of mortal existence burned with a low, wavering flame, that any sudden breath of air might extinguish; then it grew steady again, increased, and sent a few brighter rays into the darkness which had gathered around Ivy Cliff.
Spring found Mr. Delancy strong enough to sit, propped up with pillows, by the window of his chamber, and look out upon the newly-mantled trees, the green fields, and the bright river flashing in the sunshine. The heart of Irene took courage again. The cloud which had lain upon it all winter like a funereal pall dissolved, and went floating away and wasting itself in dim expanses.
Alas, that all this sweet promise was but a mockery of hope! A sudden cold, how taken it was almost impossible to tell—for Irene guarded her father as tenderly as if he were a new-born infant—disturbed life’s delicate equipoise, and the scale turned fatally the wrong way.
Poor Irene! She had only staggered under former blows—this one struck her down. Had life anything to offer now? “Nothing! nothing!” she said in her heart, and prayed that she might die and be at rest with her father.
Months of stupor followed this great sorrow; then her heart began to beat again with some interest in life. There was one friend, almost her only friend—for she now repelled nearly every one who approached her—who never failed in hopeful, comforting, stimulating words and offices, who visited her frequently in her recluse life at Ivy Cliff, and sought with untiring assiduity to win her once more away from its dead seclusion. And she was at last successful. In the winter after Mr. Delancy’s death, Irene, after much earnest persuasion, consented to pass a few weeks in the city with Mrs. Everet. This gained, her friend was certain of all the rest.
THE HAUNTED VISION.