The rain came down in a deluge, and scarcely had it struck when the door opened and Cardigan hurried in to close the window. He remained for half an hour, and after that young Mercer, one of his two assistants, came in at intervals. Late in the afternoon it began to clear up, and Father Layonne returned with papers properly made out for Kent’s signature. He was with Kent until sundown, when Mercer came in with supper.
Between that hour and ten o’clock Kent observed a vigilance on the part of Dr. Cardigan which struck him as being unusual. Four times he listened with the stethoscope at his chest, but when Kent asked the question which was in his mind, Cardigan shook his head.
“It’s no worse, Kent. I don’t think it will happen tonight.”
In spite of this assurance Kent was positive there was in Cardigan’s manner an anxiety of a different quality than he had perceived earlier in the day. The thought was a definite and convincing one. He believed that Cardigan was smoothing the way with a professional lie.
He had no desire to sleep. His light was turned low, and his window was open again, for the night had cleared. Never had air tasted sweeter to him than that which came in through his window. The little bell in his watch tinkled the hour of eleven, when he heard Cardigan’s door close for a last time across the hall. After that everything was quiet. He drew himself nearer to the window, so that by leaning forward he could rest himself partly on the sill. He loved the night. The mystery and lure of those still hours of darkness when the world slept had never ceased to hold their fascination for him. Night and he were friends. He had discovered many of its secrets. A thousand times he had walked hand in hand with the spirit of it, approaching each time a little nearer to the heart of it, mastering its life, its sound, the whispering languages of that “other side of life” which rises quietly and as if in fear to live and breathe long after the sun has gone out. To him it was more wonderful than day.
And this night that lay outside his window now was magnificent. Storm had washed the atmosphere between earth and sky, and it seemed as though the stars had descended nearer to his forests, shining in golden constellations. The moon was coming up late, and he watched the ruddy glow of it as it rode up over the wilderness, a splendid queen entering upon a stage already prepared by the lesser satellites for her coming. No longer was Kent oppressed or afraid. In still deeper inhalations he drank the night air into his lungs, and in him there seemed to grow slowly a new strength. His eyes and ears were wide open and attentive. The town was asleep, but a few lights burned dimly here and there along the river’s edge, and occasionally a lazy sound came up to him—the clink of a scow chain, the bark of a dog, the rooster crowing. In spite of himself he smiled at that. Old Duperow’s