'Arthur is very ill, and begs to see you,' was the telegraphic message that filled the cottage at Brogden with consternation. Lady Martindale was too unwell to leave home, but Theodora was thankful to her father for deciding that her presence was necessary for Violet's sake; indeed, as they travelled in doubt and suspense, and she was continually reminded of that hurried journey when her unchastened temper had been the torment of herself and of her brother, she felt it an undeserved privilege to be allowed to go to him at all. Instead of schemes of being important, there was a crashing sense of an impending blow; she hardly had the power to think or speculate in what form, or how heavily it might fall. She had only room for anxiety to get forward.
They arrived; she hurried up the stairs, only catching James's words, declaring his master no better.
She saw in the twilight a slight bending form, coming down, holding by the balusters. Violet was in her arms, clasping her with a trembling, almost convulsive tightness, without speaking.
'O, Violet, what is it? Is he so very ill?'
Lord Martindale hastened up at the same moment, and Violet recovering, in a few words, spoken very low, but clearly, told of his condition, adding, 'He has been watching for you all this time, he heard you come, and wants you directly, but don't let him speak.'
She hung on Theodora's arm, and guided them up, as if hardly able to stand. She opened the outer room door, and there (while the nurse had taken her place) sat Johnnie on the rug, with the baby lying across his lap, and his arms clasped tenderly round it. It was restless, and he looked up to his mother, who bent down and took it in her arms, while Lord Martindale passed on. Theodora stood appalled and overawed. This was beyond even her fears.
'Thank you for coming,' said Violet, who had sunk into a chair.
But a look of horror came over Violet; she started up, almost threw the infant into Theodora's arms, and vanished into the other room. 'Oh! what is it! What is the matter?' exclaimed Theodora.