"Don't be afraid, dear; I'm a friend come to take care of you. Would you like some tea now, my love ?"
The very utterance of these gentle words was unlocking Miss Benson's heart. Her brother was surprised to see her so full of interest when he came to inquire later on in the morning. It required Mrs. Hughes's persuasions, as well as his own, to induce her to go to bed for an hour or two after breakfast; and, before she went, she made them promise that she should be called when the doctor came. He did not come until late in the afternoon. The invalid was rallying fast, though rallying to a consciousness of sorrow, as was evinced by the tears which came slowly rolling down her pale sad cheeks--tears which she had not the power to wipe away.
Mr. Benson had remained in the house all day to hear the doctor's opinion; and, now that he was relieved from the charge of Ruth by his sister's presence, he had the more time to dwell upon the circumstances of her case--so far as they were known to him. He remembered his first sight of her; her lithe figure swaying to and fro as she balanced herself on the slippery stones, half smiling at her own dilemma, with a bright, happy light in the eyes, that seemed like a reflection from the glancing waters sparkling below. Then he recalled the changed, affrighted look of those eyes as they met his, after the child's rebuff of her advances; how that little incident filled up the tale at which Mrs. Hughes had hinted, in a kind of sorrowful way, as if loath (as a Christian should be) to believe evil. Then that fearful evening, when he had only just saved her from committing suicide, and that nightmare sleep! And now--lost, forsaken, and but just delivered from the jaws of death, she lay dependent for everything on his sister and him--utter strangers a few weeks ago. Where was her lover? Could he be easy and happy? Could he grow into perfect health, with these great sins pressing on his conscience with a strong and hard pain? Or had he a conscience?"
Into whole labyrinths of social ethics Mr. Benson's thoughts wandered, when his sister entered suddenly and abruptly.
"What does the doctor say? Is she better?"
"Oh, yes! she's better," answered Miss Benson, sharp and short. Her brother looked at her in dismay. She bumped down into a chair in a cross, disconcerted manner. They were both silent for a few minutes, only Miss Benson whistled and clucked alternately.