Oliver, who watched the old lady anxiously, observed that she was alarmed by these appearances; and so in truth, was he; but seeing that she affected to make light of them, he endeavoured to do the same, and they so far succeeded, that when Rose was persuaded by her aunt to retire for the night, she was in better spirits; and appeared even in better health: assuring them that she felt certain she should rise in the morning, quite well.
I hope, said Oliver, when Mrs. Maylie returned, that nothing is the matter? She don't look well to- night, but
The old lady motioned to him not to speak; and sitting herself down in a dark corner of the room, remained silent for some time. At length, she said, in a trembling voice:
I hope not, Oliver. I have been very happy with her for some years: too happy, perhaps. It may be time that I should meet with some misfortune; but I hope it is not this.
What? inquired Oliver.
The heavy blow, said the old lady, of losing the dear girl who has so long been my comfort and happiness.
Oh! God forbid! exclaimed Oliver, hastily.
Amen to that, my child! said the old lady, wringing her hands.
Surely there is no danger of anything so dreadful? said Oliver. Two hours ago, she was quite well.
She is very ill now, rejoined Mrs. Maylie; and will be worse, I am sure. My dear, dear Rose! Oh, what should I do without her!
She gave way to such great grief, that Oliver, suppressing his own emotion, ventured to remonstrate with her; and to beg, earnestly, that, for the sake of the dear young lady herself, she would be more calm.
And consider, ma'am, said Oliver, as the tears forced themselves into his eyes, despite of his efforts to the contrary. Oh! consider how young and good she is, and what pleasure and comfort she gives to all about her. I am sure certain quite certain that, for your sake, who are so good yourself; and for her own; and for the sake of all she makes so happy; she will not die. Heaven will never let her die so young.
Hush! said Mrs. Maylie, laying her hand on Oliver's head. You think like a child, poor boy. But you teach me my duty, notwithstanding. I had forgotten it for a moment, Oliver, but I hope I may be pardoned, for I am old, and have seen enough of illness and death to know the agony of separation from the objects of our love. I have seen enough, too, to know that it is not always the youngest and best who are spared to those that love them; but this should give us comfort in our sorrow; for Heaven is just; and such things teach us, impressively, that there is a brighter world than this; and that the passage to it is speedy. God's will be done! I love her; and He knows how well!
Oliver was surprised to see that as Mrs. Maylie said these words, she checked her lamentations as though by one effort; and drawing herself up as she spoke, became composed and firm. He was still more astonished to find that this firmness lasted; and that, under all the care and watching which ensued, Mrs. Maylie was ever ready and collected: performing all the duties which devolved upon her, steadily, and, to all external appearance, even cheerfully. But he was young, and did not know what strong minds are capable of, under trying circumstances. How should he, when their possessors so seldom know themselves?
An anxious night ensued. When morning came, Mrs. Maylies's predictions were but too well verified. Rose was in the first stage of a high and dangerous fever.
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