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The Man

34. Waiting
Mr. Hilton telegraphed at once countermanding, for the present, the nurse for whom he
had sent.
That night, when the household had all retired, he came quietly to his patient's room, and
entering noiselessly, sat silent in a far corner. There was no artificial right; the patient had
to be kept in darkness. There was, however, a bright moonlight; sufficient light stole in
through the edges of the blinds to allow him, when his eyes grew accustomed, to see what
might happen.
Harold lay quite still till the house was quiet. He had been thinking, ever since he had
ascertained the identity of Stephen. In his weakness and the paralysing despair of his
blindness all his former grief and apprehension had come bank upon him in a great wave;
veritably the tide of circumstances seemed to run hard against him. He had had no idea of
forcing himself upon Stephen; and yet here he was a guest in her house, without her
knowledge or his own. She had saved his life by her energy and resource. Fortunately she
did not as yet know him; the bandages, and his act in suppressing his voice, had so far
protected him. But such could not last for long. He could not see to protect himself, and
take precautions as need arose. And he knew well that Stephen's nature would not allow
her to be satisfied without doing all that was possible to help one who had under her eyes
made a great effort on behalf of others, and to whom there was the added bond that his
life was due to her. In but a little time she must find out to whom she ministered.
What then would happen? Her kindness was such that when she realised the blindness of
her old friend she might so pity him that out of the depths of her pity she would forgive.
She would take back all the past; and now that she knew of his old love for her, would
perhaps be willing to marry him. Back flooded the old memory of her independence and
her theory of sexual equality. If out of any selfish or mistaken idea she did not hesitate to
ask a man to marry her, would it be likely that when the nobler and more heroic side of
her nature spoke she would hesitate to a similar act in pursuance of her self-sacrifice?
So it might be that she would either find herself once again flouted, or else married to a
man she did not love.
Such a catastrophe should not happen, whatever the cost to him. He would, blind as he
was, steal away in the night and take himself out of her life; this time for ever. Better the
ingratitude of an unknown man, the saving of whose life was due to her, than the long
dull routine of a spoiled life, which would otherwise be her unhappy lot.
When once this idea had taken root in his mind he had taken such steps as had been open
to him without endangering the secrecy of his motive. Thanks to his subtle questioning of
the Doctor, he now knew that his room was close to the ground, so that he would easily
drop from the window and steal away with out immediate danger of any restraining
accident. If he could once get away he would be all right. There was a large sum to his
 
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