Heartsease or Brother's Wife HTML version

Chapter II.2
What is so shrill as silent tears?--GEORGE HERBERT
Arthur came home late in the afternoon of the following day. The door was
opened to him by his brother, who abruptly said, 'She is dying. You must not lose
a moment if you would see her alive.'
Arthur turned pale, and gave an inarticulate exclamation of horror- stricken
'Half-an-hour ago. She was taken ill yesterday morning immediately after you left
her. She is insensible, but you may find her still living.'
Nothing but strong indignation could have made John Martindale thus
communicate such tidings. He had arrived that day at noon to find that the
creature he had left in the height of her bright loveliness was in the extremity of
suffering and peril--her husband gone no one knew whither; and the servants,
too angry not to speak plainly, reporting that he had left her in hysterics. John
tried not to believe the half, but as time went on, bringing despair of the poor
young mother's life, and no tidings of Arthur; while he became more and more
certain that there had been cruel neglect, the very gentleness and compassion of
his nature fired and glowed against him who had taken her from her home,
vowed to cherish her, and forsaken her at such a time. However, he was
softened by seeing him stagger against the wall, perfectly stunned, then
gathering breath, rush up- stairs without a word.
As Arthur pushed open the door, there was a whisper that it was he, too late, and
room was made for him. All he knew was, that those around watched as if it was
not yet death, but what else did he see on those ashy senseless features?
With a cry of despair he threw himself almost over her, and implored her but
once to speak, or look at him. No one thought her capable even of hearing, but at
his voice the eyelids and lips slightly moved, and a look of relief came over the
face. A hand pressed his shoulder, and a spoon containing a drop of liquid was
placed in his fingers, while some one said, 'Try to get her to take this.'
Scarcely conscious he obeyed, and calling her by every endearing name, beyond
hope succeeded in putting it between her lips. Her eyes opened and were turned
on him, her hand closed on his, and her features assumed a look of peace. The
spark of life was for a moment detained by the power of affection, but in a short
space the breath must cease, the clasp of the hand relax.
Once more he was interrupted by a touch, and this time it was Sarah's whisper--
'The minister is come, sir. What name shall it be!'
'Anything--John,' said he, without turning his head or taking in what she said.
The clergyman and John Martindale were waiting in the dressing-room, with poor
Violet's cathedral cup filled with water.
'She does not know him?' asked John, anxiously, as Sarah entered.
'Yes, sir, she does,' said Sarah, contorting her face to keep back the tears. 'She
looked at him, and has hold of his hand. I think she will die easier for it, poor
'And at least the poor child is alive to be baptized?'