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- BEATRICE - 6/60 -
dreadful labours, with which most people will have some acquaintance. Hopeless as they seemed, he continued them for hour after hour.
Meanwhile the assistant and some helpers were doing the same service for Geoffrey Bingham, the doctor himself, a thin clever-looking man, occasionally stepping across the passage to direct them and see how things were getting on. Now, although Geoffrey had been in the water the longer, his was by far the better case, for when he was immersed he was already insensible, and a person in this condition is very hard to drown. It is your struggling, fighting, breathing creature who is soonest made an end of in deep waters. Therefore it came to pass that when the scrubbing with hot cloths and the artificial respiration had gone on for somewhere about twenty minutes, Geoffrey suddenly crooked a finger. The doctor's assistant, a buoyant youth fresh from the hospitals, gave a yell of exultation, and scrubbed and pushed away with ever-increasing energy. Presently the subject coughed, and a minute later, as the agony of returning life made itself felt, he swore most heartily.
"He's all right now!" called the assistant to his employer. "He's swearing beautifully."
Dr. Chambers, pursuing his melancholy and unpromising task in the other room, smiled sadly, and called to the assistant to continue the treatment, which he did with much vigour.
Presently Geoffrey came partially to life, still suffering torments. The first thing he grew aware of was that a tall elegant woman was standing over him, looking at him with a half puzzled and half horrified air. Vaguely he wondered who it might be. The tall form and cold handsome face were so familiar to him, and yet he could not recall the name. It was not till she spoke that his numbed brain realized that he was looking on his own wife.
"Well, dear," she said, "I am so glad that you are better. You frightened me out of my wits. I thought you were drowned."
"Thank you, Honoria," he said faintly, and then groaned as a fresh attack of tingling pain shook him through and through.
"I hope nobody said anything to Effie," Geoffrey said presently.
"Yes, the child would not go to bed because you were not back, and when the policeman came she heard him tell Mrs. Jones that you were drowned, and she has been almost in a fit ever since. They had to hold her to prevent her from running here."
Geoffrey's white face assumed an air of the deepest distress. "How could you frighten the child so?" he murmured. "Please go and tell her that I am all right."
"It was not my fault," said Lady Honoria with a shrug of her shapely shoulders. "Besides, I can do nothing with Effie. She goes on like a wild thing about you."
"Please go and tell her, Honoria," said her husband.
"Oh, yes, I'll go," she answered. "Really I shall not be sorry to get out of this; I begin to feel as though I had been drowned myself;" and she looked at the steaming cloths and shuddered. "Good-bye, Geoffrey. It is an immense relief to find you all right. The policeman made me feel quite queer. I can't get down to give you a kiss or I would. Well, good-bye for the present, my dear."
"Good-bye, Honoria," said her husband with a faint smile.
The medical assistant looked a little surprised. He had never, it is true, happened to be present at a meeting between husband and wife, when one of the pair had just been rescued by a hair's-breadth from a violent and sudden death, and therefore wanted experience to go on. But it struck him that there was something missing. The lady did not seem to him quite to fill the part of the Heaven-thanking spouse. It puzzled him very much. Perhaps he showed this in his face. At any rate, Lady Honoria, who was quick enough, read something there.
"He is safe now, is he not?" she asked. "It will not matter if I go away."
"No, my lady," answered the assistant, "he is out of danger, I think; it will not matter at all."
Lady Honoria hesitated a little; she was standing in the passage. Then she glanced through the door into the opposite room, and caught a glimpse of Beatrice's rigid form and of the doctor bending over it. Her head was thrown back and the beautiful brown hair, which was now almost dry again, streamed in masses to the ground, while on her face was stamped the terrifying seal of Death.
Lady Honoria shuddered. She could not bear such sights. "Will it be necessary for me to come back to-night?" she said.
"I do not think so," he answered, "unless you care to hear whether Miss Granger recovers?"
"I shall hear that in the morning," she said. "Poor thing, I cannot help her."
"No, Lady Honoria, you cannot help her. She saved your husband's life, they say."
"She must be a brave girl. Will she recover?"
The assistant shook his head. "She may, possibly. It is not likely now."
"Poor thing, and so young and beautiful! What a lovely face, and what an arm! It is very awful for her," and Lady Honoria shuddered again and went.
Outside the door a small knot of sympathisers was still gathered, notwithstanding the late hour and the badness of the weather.
"That's his wife," said one, and they opened to let her pass.
"Then why don't she stop with him?" asked a woman audibly. "If it had been my husband I'd have sat and hugged him for an hour."
"Ay, you'd have killed him with your hugging, you would," somebody answered.
Lady Honoria passed on. Suddenly a thick-set man emerged from the shadow of the pines. She could not see his face, but he was wrapped in a large cloak.
"Forgive me," he said in the hoarse voice of one struggling with emotions which he was unable to conceal, "but you can tell me. Does she still live?"
"Do you mean Miss Granger?" she asked.
"Yes, of course. Beatrice--Miss Granger?"
"They do not know, but they think----"
"Yes, yes--they think----"
"That she is dead."
The man said never a word. He dropped his head upon his breast and, turning, vanished again into the shadow of the pines.
"How very odd," thought Lady Honoria as she walked rapidly along the cliff towards her lodging. "I suppose that man must be in love with her. Well, I do not wonder at it. I never saw such a face and arm. What a picture that scene in the room would make! She saved Geoffrey and now she's dead. If he had saved her I should not have wondered. It is like a scene in a novel."
From all of which it will be seen that Lady Honoria was not wanting in certain romantic and artistical perceptions.
ELIZABETH IS THANKFUL
Geoffrey, lying before the fire, newly hatched from death, had caught some of the conversation between his wife and the assistant who had recovered him to life. So she was gone, that brave, beautiful atheist girl--gone to test the truth. And she had saved his life!
For some minutes the assistant did not enter. He was helping in another room. At last he came.
"What did you say to Lady Honoria?" Geoffrey asked feebly. "Did you say that Miss Granger had saved me?"
"Yes, Mr. Bingham; at least they tell me so. At any rate, when they pulled her out of the water they pulled you after her. She had hold of your hair."
"Great heavens!" he groaned, "and my weight must have dragged her down. Is she dead, then?"
"We cannot quite say yet, not for certain. We think that she is."
"Pray God she is not dead," he said more to himself than to the other. Then aloud--"Leave me; I am all right. Go and help with her. But stop, come and tell me sometimes how it goes with her."
"Very well. I will send a woman to watch you," and he went.
Meanwhile in the other room the treatment of the drowned went slowly on. Two hours had passed, and as yet Beatrice showed no signs of recovery. The heart did not beat, no pulse stirred; but, as the doctor knew, life might still linger in the tissues. Slowly, very slowly, the body was turned to and fro, the head swaying, and the long hair falling now this way and now that, but still no sign. Every resource known to medical skill, such as hot air, rubbing, artificial respiration, electricity, was applied and applied in vain, but still no sign!
Elizabeth, pale and pinched, stood by handing what might be required. She did not greatly love her sister, they were antagonistic and their interests clashed, or she thought they did, but this sudden death was awful. In a corner, pitiful to see, offering groans and ejaculated prayers to heaven, sat the old clergymen, their father, his white hair about his eyes. He was a weak, coarse-grained man, but in his own way his clever and beautiful girl was dear to him, and this sight wrung
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