His wife was of course spared much of this. That worst fear could not occur to her; she had no room for any thought but for him as he was in the sight of Heaven, and each hour that his life was prolonged was to her a boon and a blessing. She trusted that there was true sorrow for the past--not merely dread of the consequences, as she traced the shades upon his face, while he listened to the hymns that she encouraged Johnnie to repeat. In that clear, sweet enunciation, and simple, reverent manner, they evidently had a great effect. He listened for the first time with his heart, and the caresses, at which Johnnie glowed with pleasure as a high favour, were, she knew, given with a species of wondering veneration. It was Johnnie's presence that most soothed him; his distressing, careworn expression passed away at the first sight of the innocent, pensive face, and returned not while the child was before him, bending over a book, or watching the baby, or delighted at having some small service to perform. Johnnie, on his side, was never so well satisfied as in the room, and nothing but Violet's fears for his health prevented the chief part of his time from being spent there.
Her own strength was just sufficient for the day. She could sit by Arthur's side, comprehend his wishes by his face, and do more to relieve and sustain him than all the rest; and, though she looked wretchedly weak and worn, her power of doing all that was needed, and looking upon him with comforting refreshing smiles, did not desert her. The night watch she was forced to leave to be divided between his father and sister, with the assistance alternately of Sarah and the regular nurse, and she was too much exhausted when she went to bed, for Theodora to venture on disturbing her by an unnecessary word.
Theodora's longing was to be continually with her brother, but this could only be for a few hours at night; and then the sight of his suffering, and the difficulty of understanding his restlessness of mind, made her so wretched, that it took all the force of her strong resolution to conceal her unhappiness; and she marvelled the more at the calmness with which the feeble frame of Violet endured the same scene. The day was still more trying to her, for her task was the care of the children, and little Helen was so entirely a copy of her own untamed self, as to be a burdensome charge for a desponding heart and sinking spirits.
On the fifth morning the doctors perceived a shade of improvement; but to his attendants Arthur appeared worse, from being less passive and returning more to the struggle and manifestation of oppression and suffering. He made attempts at questions, insisting on being assured that no letter nor call had been kept from him; he even sent for the cards that had been left, and examined them, and he wanted to renew the conversation with his father; but Lord Martindale silenced him at once, and left the room. He looked so much disappointed that Violet was grieved, and thought, in spite of the doctors, that it might have been better to have run the risk of letting him speak, for the sake of setting his mind at rest.
Lord Martindale, however, saw so much peril in permitting a word to be uttered, that he deemed it safer to absent himself, and went out to try to trace out Mr. Fotheringham, and ask whether he could throw any light on Arthur's trouble.
The children were out of doors, and Theodora was profiting by the interval of quiet to write to her mother, when she heard James announce, 'Mr. Fotheringham.'
She looked up, then down. Her first thought was of her brother; the next brought the whole flood of remembrances, and she could not meet his eye.
He advanced, but there was no friendly greeting. As to a stranger, he said, 'I hope Colonel Martindale is better?'