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The Heir of Redclyffe

Chapter 34
Sir,
It is your fault I have loved Posthumus;
You bred him as my playfellow; and he is
A man worth any woman, over-buys me
Almost the sum he pays.--CYMBELINE
The first tidings of Philip's illness arrived at Hollywell one morning at breakfast, and
were thus announced by Charles--
'There! So he has been and gone and done it.'
'What? Who? Not Guy?'
'Here has the Captain gone and caught a regular bad fever, in some malaria hole;
delirious, and all that sort of thing, and of course our wise brother and sister must needs
go and nurse him, by way of a pretty little interlude in their wedding tour!'
Laura's voice alone was unheard in the chorus of inquiry. She sat cold, stiff, and silent,
devouring with her ears each reply, that fell like a death-blow, while she was
mechanically continuing the occupations of breakfast. When all was told, she hurried to
her own room, but the want of sympathy was becoming intolerable. If Amabel had been
at home, she must have told her all. There was no one else; and the misery to be endured
in silence was dreadful. Her dearest--her whole joy and hope--suffering, dying, and to
hear all round her speaking of him with kindness, indeed, but what to her seemed
indifference; blaming him for wilfulness, saying he had drawn it on himself,--it seemed
to drive her wild. She conjured up pictures of his sufferings, and dreaded Guy's
inexperience, the want of medical advice, imagining everything that was terrible. Her
idol, to whom her whole soul was devoted, was passing from her, and no one pitied her;
while the latent consciousness of disobedience debarred her from gaining solace from the
only true source. All was blank desolation--a, wild agony, untempered by resignation,
uncheered by prayer; for though she did pray, it was without trust, without hope, while
her wretchedness was rendered more overwhelming by her efforts to conceal it. These
were so far ineffectual that no one could help perceiving that she was extremely unhappy,
but then all the family knew she was very fond of Philip, and neither her mother nor
brother could be surprised at her distress, though it certainly appeared to them excessive.
Mrs. Edmonstone was very sorry for her, and very affectionate and considerate; but
Laura was too much absorbed, in her own feelings to perceive or to be grateful for her
kindness; and as each day brought a no better report, her despair became so engrossing
that she could not attempt any employment. She wandered in the garden, sat in dreamy
fits of silence in the house, and at last, after receiving one of the worst accounts, sat up in
her dressing-gown the whole of one night, in one dull, heavy, motionless trance of
misery.
 
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