Life out Of Death
THE sound of kicking, or knocking, grew louder every moment: and at last a door opened somewhere near us. `Did you say "come in!" Sir?' my landlady asked timidly.
`Oh yes, come in!' I replied. `What's the matter?'
`A note has just been left for you, Sir, by the baker's boy. He said he was passing the Hall, and they asked him to come round and leave it here.'
The note contained five words only. `Please come at once. Muriel.'
A sudden terror seemed to chill my very heart. `The Earl is ill!' I said to myself. `Dying, perhaps!' And I hastily prepared to leave the house.
`No bad news, Sir, I hope?' my landlady said, as she saw me out. `The boy said as some one had arrived unexpectedly--'
`I hope that is it!' I said. But my feelings were those of fear rather than of hope: though, on entering the house, I was somewhat reassured by finding luggage lying in the entrance, bearing the initials `E.L.'
`It's only Eric Lindon after all!' I thought, half relieved and half annoyed. `Surely she need not have sent for me for that!'
Lady Muriel met me in the passage. Her eyes were gleaming--but it was the excitement of joy, rather than of grief. `I have a surprise for you!' she whispered.
`You mean that Eric Lindon is here?' I said, vainly trying to disguise the involuntary bitterness of my tone. `"The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage-tables,"' I could not help repeating to myself. How cruelly I was misjudging her!
`No, no!' she eagerly replied. `At least--Eric is here. But--' her voice quivered, `but there is another!'
No need for further question. I eagerly followed her in. There on the bed, he lay--pale and worn--the mere shadow of his old self--my old friend come back again from the dead!
`Arthur!' I exclaimed. I could not say another word.
`Yes, back again, old boy!' he murmured, smiling as I grasped his hand. `He,' indicating Eric, who stood near, `saved my life--He brought me back. Next to God, we must thank him, Muriel, my wife!'
Silently I shook hands with Eric, and with the Earl: and with one consent we moved into the shaded side of the room, where we could talk without disturbing the invalid, who lay, silent and happy, holding his wife's hand in his, and watching her with eyes that shone with the deep steady light of Love.
`He has been delirious till to-day,' Eric explained in a low voice: `and even to-day he has been wandering more than once. But the sight of her has been new life to him.' And then he went on to tell us, in would- be careless tones--I knew how he hated any display of feeling--how he had insisted on going back to the plague-stricken town, to bring away a man whom the doctor had abandoned as dying, but who might, he fancied, recover if brought to the hospital: how he had seen nothing in the wasted features to remind him of Arthur, and only recognized him when he visited the hospital a month after: how the doctor had forbidden him to announce the discovery, saying that any shock to the over-taxed brain might kill him at once: how he had stayed on at the hospital, and nursed the sick man by night and day--all this with the studied indifference of one who is relating the commonplace acts of some chance acquaintance!
`And this was his rival!' I thought. `The man who had won from him the heart of the woman he loved!'
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