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The old sinister look settled back on his face. that's settled," said he, throwing wide open the door," and I shall be near enough to see how the promise is kept. Not that I doubt your word," with a half bow.
Mrs. Warren had listened to this conversation with a pained and anxious look; now she seized the opportunity to say,
"Will you come into Maggie's room, now, Miss Frost?" -pointing to an open door, where I had already caught a glimpse of a bed, and a young, fever-flushed face.
"I shall be glad to do so. And you had better give me your directions for the night, and go to bed at once,-you look thoroughly tired out. As I am here to watch, the sooner I am made of use, the better."
I followed her into the little room-so small that there was barely a passage-way between the walls and the bed. Here lay Maggie, a fine-looking girl of fifteen or sixteen; whose hectic cheek, and large, restless black eyes, lit up with the unnatural brightness of fever, gave her a strange, wild beauty. She looked at me curiously and intently, letting her eyes rest with evident pleasure on the bright tints of my wrapper; but she said nothing, not even in answer to my greeting. The few necessary directions were given, the whereabouts of pills, drops, and refreshment tray, pointed out, and then the mother bade us good night, and withdrew.
HAVE received your letter, Francesca mia, but do not ask me yet, to enter upon the details of the separation of Paul and myself. Thank you for your offer of friendly service, but the break is past mending; neither explanation nor mediation could avail aught. The parting is finallet that suffice for the present. Not until grief has become subdued and softened by time, can we stand by the grave where hope and faith lie buried, and talk calmly of our loss. Before then, sobs or silence must speak for us. I scorn to give way to the sobs; you must try to understand the silence.
"Forgetting the things which are behind "--or doing my best to that end,-I continue the narrative of my strange vigil with Maggie Warren. Seated by her bedside, fan in hand, I heard the slow footsteps of the weary mother ascend the creaking staircase, move about overhead, for a brief space, and then cease; conjecturing, meanwhile, what curious links of circumstance had bound that gentle, refined woman to that morose, sneering, repulsive hulk of a man. I wasted no wonder on the union itself,-the story of Titania and Bottom has been so often acted on the stage of life, since Shakespeare's time, as to have grown commonplace. But I began to wonder, ere long, what Mr. Warren was about, in the kitchen, and when he would
withdraw, and leave me to myself and the sick maiden?
The query was soon answered. I heard him rise, open a door, drag something forth, with a soft, rushing sound, and then he presented himself before me.
"Are you ready, now, for the argument about the di vinity of Christ, Miss Frost?"
"No, sir, I am content to let it rest where we left it just now."
"I see you have no taste for argument. dom have," with a sneer.
I was foolish enough to be stung by the imputation. "I am not averse to argument," I retorted, "when there is anything to be gained by it. But I know you can do me no harm, and I suspect I can do you no good."
"You might, at least, try,"-arching his eyebrows.
I kept silent. The man repelled me so, that I would not enter upon a discussion with him.
"Miss Frost," he persisted, "you are afraid that your faith will be shaken."
"Not at all, sir. I am already tolerably well acquainted with the infidel writings from which you must needs draw your arguments, since in infidelity—as in the earth-there is nothing new under the sun."
"Which means, I suppose," said he, looking at me keenly, "that you are a little better provided with counter arguments than most young women. I am glad of it; I like a 'foeman worthy of my steel." Here Maggie turned her head with an uneasy and peevish movement. The symptom of weariness caught the father's eye, and his love for his child proved more potent, even, than his love of discussion. "I see that my talk worries Maggie," he said, hastily, "and we will leave the subject till another time. Miss Frost, I hope you will excuse it, if I quarter in the kitchen, to-night. Our sleeping accommodations are scant enough, at best; but now, with Sam taking the
whole of one bed, and Maggie in another, there is nothing left for me but a buffalo skin, and the kitchen floor. You need not mind me any more than an old log,-I'm a sound sleeper."
And to my surprise, and almost horror, he wrapped a coarse, shaggy buffalo skin around him, stretched himself upon the floor, in a position to command the small interior of the sick-room, and was soon, to all appearance, sound asleep. This was what he meant when he said he "should be near enough to see how my promise was kept!" I recalled the words with exceeding indignation, and Mala made them the text upon which she discoursed furiously for the next five minutes.
At first, his presence was an annoyance and a restraint to me. I moved carefully, and almost held my breath when it was necessary to pass him, so exceedingly reluct ant was I to bring upon myself the keen, merciless scrutiny of his deep-set eyes. Finding, however, that his sleep was heavy and unbroken, I came gradually to feel more at my ease, and moved about with greater freedom. In one of my visits to the fireplace, where certain broths and decoctions were kept hot for the sick ones, I encountered my fellow watcher-the William Herman before mentioneda tall, light-haired, light-eyed man, of a whimsical and humorous cast of countenance; and with a noiseless, almost womanish, way of handling cups and saucepans, that testified strongly to his fitness for his office. He nodded to me familiarly, with an evident understanding of the "situation,” asked after my patient, told me that his own was "coming along bravely;" and went on tiptoe back to his post.
The slow moments crept on for an hour. The sick girl turned her head restlessly on her pillow, the clock ticked noisily, the firelight gleamed and flickered on the walls, the tallow candle burned dim, and a great, black accumu lation of cinder hung to its wick. By and by, I found myself observing the scene in the most abstract manner,
with a keen appreciation of its artistic effects of light, and shade, and color. I perceived what an effective picture it would make in the hands of a skilful artist,-the dingy, low, bare rooms, lit up with the fitful glow of the fire,the youthful, fever-intensified beauty of the sick maiden on her coarse pillow,-the prostrate figure of the father-a mixture of the grotesque and the demoniae-in its uncouth shaggy wrappings, with its strongly marked features seen half in red glow, half in deep shadow. I even regarded myself in a purely objective way, as a mere accessory of the picture, well pleased to see what a spot of warm, bright color that deprecated wrapper would make amid the prevailing sombreness, and how effectively the soft richness of its material, and the general refinement of my dress and figure would contrast with the rudeness and squalor of my surroundings.
But while I looked around, Maggie gazed at me with a curious intentness that I could only account for by the supposition that strange faces were rare to her. She took her medicines from my hand, at the stated moments, without demur, but replied to the questions I addressed to her only by gestures. Finally, after a long, unwinking scrutiny of my face, she suddenly flung herself on one side and said, pettishly, "I want mother."
"My dear child," I answered, gently, "your mother has great need of rest, let us not disturb her. I can do for you all that she could, I think,—at least, let me try. What is you want?"
Nothing, only I'm so tired,"—with a wailing intonation, pitiful to hear.
I had already exhausted my invention in ringing the changes upon a thin bolster and two small pillows, to afford her some little change of position. There was nothing
more to be done with that material. So I lifted her light form, pillows and all, and sitting down on the bed, laid her on my lap, with her head resting on my bosom. She