'Percy's Athenian owl!' cried Theodora.
'Was Fotheringham the name?' said Lord Martindale.
'Yes, it was the name like Aunt Helen's,' said Johnnie.
'He called to inquire yesterday morning. I am not sure,' said the exact little boy, 'but I think he said he met papa in the steamer.'
It seemed mystery on mystery, and James could only confirm his young master's statement. After the little boy had answered all the questions in his power he slid down from his grandfather's knee, saying that it was bed-time, and wished them good night in a grave, sorrowful, yet childlike manner, that went to their hearts. He returned, in a short time, with a message that mamma thought papa a little better and ready to see them. Theodora went up first; Johnnie led her to the door, and then went away, while Violet said, almost inaudibly,
'Here is Theodora come to see you.'
Prepared as Theodora was, she was startled by the bloodlessness of the face, and the hand that lay without movement on the coverlet, while the gaze of the great black eyes met her with an almost spectral effect; and the stillness was only broken by the painful heaving of the chest, which seemed to shake even the bed-curtains. But for Violet's looks and gesture, Theodora would not have dared to go up to him, take his hand, and, on finding it feebly return her pressure, bend over and kiss his forehead.
'His breath is certainly relieved, and there is less fever,' repeated Violet; but to Theodora this seemed to make it only more shocking. If this was better, what must it not have been? Her tongue positively refused to speak, and she only stood looking from her brother to his wife, who reclined, sunk back in her chair beside him, looking utterly spent and worn out, her cheeks perfectly white, her eyes half-closed, her whole frame as if all strength and energy were gone. That terrible hour had completely exhausted her powers; and when Theodora had recollected herself, and summoned Lord Martindale, who undertook the night watch, Violet had not voice to speak; she only hoarsely whispered a few directions, and gave a sickly submissive smile as her thanks.