Deb was at Redford once more.

In her own room too, surrounded by familiar objects—the six-foot dressing-table and the nine-foot wardrobe, and the Aspinalled book-case that was a fixture, amongst other things. She had not taken them to her suburban villa, nor sent for them afterwards. Meanwhile, Mr Thornycroft had bought them with the place, and taken care of them, as of everything that she had left behind. They had been in his possession now for several years.

The strange thing in the room was Mr Thornycroft himself—Mr Thornycroft on the little white bed that Deb used to sleep on, his hair white, his once stalwart frame reduced to a pale wreck of skin and bone.

"You will forgive me for coming here," he apologised. "I have not been using the things. But they had me moved for coolness—the south-east aspect, and being able to get a current through—"

"I am thankful they did. It is the best place for you this weather. But there's one thing I shall never forgive you—that you didn't let me know before."

She was sitting at his bedside, holding his hand—she, too, much changed, thinner, sadder, shabbier, or rather, less splendidly turned out than had been her wont in earlier days; beautiful as ever, notwithstanding—infinitely more so, in the sick man's eyes.

"Why should I bother you? I haven't been very bad—just the old asthma off and on. It is only lately that I have felt it upsetting my heart. And you know I am used to being alone."

He spoke with the asthma pant, and a throb of the lean throat that she could not bear to see. His head was propped high, so that they squarely faced each other. His eyes were full of tenderness and content—hers of tears.

"You have been pretty lonely yourself, by all accounts," said he, stroking her hand. "It's odd to think of you in that case, Debbie."

"I've felt it odd myself," she smiled, with a whisk of her handkerchief. "But, like you, I am getting used to it."

"Where's Dalzell all this time?" "Don't know. Don't care. Please don't talk of him."

"Nobody else—?"

"Oh, dear, no! Never will be. I am going to take up nursing or something."

"YOU!" he mocked.

"Do you suppose I can't? Wait till I have got you over this attack, and then tell me if I can't. I am going to stay with you, godpapa, until you are better. I have spoken to your housekeeper, and she is quite agreeable—if you are."

He did not think it necessary to reply to that hint, but just smiled and closed his eyes. She took up a palm-leaf fan and fanned him, watching him anxiously. It was a roasting February day, and he was breathing very badly.

"Have you given up your house?" he asked, when he could speak.

"Long ago. No use my staying there alone. Besides, I could not afford it."

"Francie not much good to you, I suppose?"

"Oh, I don't want her to be good to me."

"Keziah Moon hasn't deserted you, of course?"

"Oh, Keziah—she was moped to death, poor old woman—I found her a nuisance. And then those babies of Rose's were so irresistible. I thought she'd better go. As Rose's head-nurse, I believe she is in her element."

"Is Rose happy with her draper?"

"I don't know—I suppose so."

"You don't see much of her?"

"Not much."

"And Mary?"

"I haven't seen her for months. Her husband and I don't hit it off, somehow."

"Deb, how much have you to live on?"

"That's my business, sir."

"Not the business of a doting godfather—in the absence of nearer male relatives?"

"No. His business is only to see that I learn the catechism and present myself to be confirmed; and I've done both."

"That all?"

"Except to let his doting godchild take care of him when he is ill. Now—don't talk any more."

He was too exhausted to do so. And while he lay feebly fighting for breath, the trained nurse came in and took command.

In the evening that functionary gave a professional opinion.

"He is worried about something," she said to Deb, "and it is very bad for him. Do you know what it is?"

"Not in the least," said Deb promptly. "I have not been seeing him for years, I am sorry to say, and have not the slightest knowledge of his affairs."

But next day she seemed to get an inkling of what the worry was. Mr Thornycroft, when they were alone together, begged her to tell him if she had any money difficulties—debts, she supposed—and to be frank with him for old times' and her father's sake.

"What! are you bothering your mind about that?" she gently scolded him. "I assure you I am all right. I haven't any difficulties—or hardly any—not now. I have no rent, you see."

"They don't charge you anything where you board?" "No. Redford never has charged folks for board. Seriously," she hastened to add, in earnest tones, "I have all I want. And if I try presently to earn more, it will be because I think everybody ought to earn his living or hers. You earned yours. I despise people who just batten on the earnings of others, and never do a hand's turn for themselves."

"Batten!" he murmured ironically, with a troubled smile. "You look as if you had been battening, don't you? Debbie, I'm a business man, and I know you can't get behindhand in money matters and pull up again just when you want to; you can't get straight merely by anticipating income, when there's nothing extra coming in. Tell me, if you don't mind, how you managed?" She flushed, and her eyes dropped; then she faced him honestly.

"I will tell you," she declared. "I've wanted to confess it, though I'm horribly ashamed to—and I'm afraid you'll think I did not value it. I did indeed—I hated to part with it; but I was so hard up, and I didn't know which way to turn, or what else to do—"

"And never came to me!"

"Well, I did—in a way. I—I sold your pearls."

"That's right, Debbie. That's a load off my mind. It is the best thing you could have done with them."

"No, indeed! I have regretted it ever since."

"How much did they give you?" "A tremendous lot—three hundred and fifty guineas."

"The swindlers! They were worth two thousand."

"What!" She was thunderstruck. "You gave me a necklace worth two thousand guineas?"

"I only wish you'd let me give you a score or two at the same price, on condition that you sold them for three-fifty whenever you needed a little cash."

She was quite upset by this remark, and what had given rise to it. Impulsively—too impulsively, considering how weak he was—she kissed his damp forehead, and rushed weeping from his sight.

In the hot evening, while the trained nurse had her tea at grateful leisure in the housekeeper's room, Deb again took that nurse's place. She sat by the pillow of the patient, leaning against it, holding his hand in hers. Only the sound of the cruel north wind and his more cruel breathing disturbed the stillness that enveloped them. She hoped he was sleeping, until he spoke suddenly in a way that showed him only too wide awake.

"Debbie," he said, "if I was quite sure I would not get well this time, I should put that question to you again."

"What question, dear?" she queried softly.

"The question I asked you just before you left Redford."

"I don't remember—Oh!"

"Yes—that one. But if you consented, I might recover—it would be enough to make me; then you would repent."

She was silent, agitated in every fibre of her, but thinking hard.

"What put that idea into your head?" she whispered, still holding his hand.

"It was never put in; it was there always—since you were a kiddie."

"It seems so strange! I thought I was always a kiddie to you." "That does seem the natural relationship, doesn't it?" There fell another long silence, and, listening to his dragging breath, her heart smote her. She squeezed his bony hand.

"I will stay with you, anyway," she comforted him.

He turned his head on the pillow. "Kiss me," he sighed, with eyes closed.

She did, again and again.

The night was suffocating. She could not sleep for the heat and her thoughts, and when, towards morning, she heard the nurse stirring, she got up to inquire how he was.

"Pretty bad," the nurse said. "It's this awful weather. I can't cool the room, though I've got all the doors and windows open, and the wet sheets hanging up. It's air he wants, and there isn't any. If it don't change soon, I'm afraid his strength won't hold out."

It did not change, and consequently grew worse to bear, the parching and scorching of each day being carried over into the next. What the newspapers call a heat-wave was drawing to its culmination, which generally reaches the verge of the unbearable, even to the well and strong, just before the "change"—that lightning change to coolness, and even coldness, which comes while one draws a breath. How many a life has hung upon the chance of the blessed moment coming in time!

The nurse looked at the thermometer in despair. Darkness had not taken 10 degrees from yesterday's temperature of 102 degrees when another blazing sun arose. The fierce wind had raved and calmed, and raved and calmed, but it had not shifted. She wetted and she fanned, turn and turn about with Deb, the livelong day, without freshening the dead air that soaked the house and seemed to soak the world. The fagged and perspiring doctor (a great friend of the patient's), who came twice daily, came again, too tired to care very much even for this special case. He looked at it, and shook his head, and begged for a cool drink for the Lord's sake; and then, having muddled the wits he had tried to stimulate with quarts of whisky-and-soda, went away, saying: "I can do nothing. Send for me at once if you see a change."

At sunset the sick man was very low, his weak heart and his distressed lungs labouring heavily, while the sweat of agony glistened on his forehead and plastered his white hair to his backward-tossed head. Deb was frantic with fear and grief. She summoned the doctor again, sending commands to him to summon more doctors—the best in Melbourne, and any number of them—in defiance of Mr Thornycroft's known wishes to the contrary. At the same time she sent for the clergyman.

"Dear," she crooned in the patient's ear, when he seemed a little easier, "Mr Bentley will be here presently."

Mr Thornycroft's brows seemed to gather a momentary frown over his closed eyes.

"I'd rather not, Deb—"

"Oh, not for THAT! But—the wind will change soon, and then you will feel better; and then—you said it would help you to get well—I will—if you like—"

He opened his eyes and gazed at her. It took him a few seconds to understand.

"Ah—darling!" he breathed, between his pants, and with an effort drew her hand to his lips. Then—they were his last words, whispered very low—"Never mind now, Debbie—so long as you are here."

He seemed to drowse into a kind of half-sleep, in spite of his too obvious and audible suffering. She sat beside him, sponging and fanning him, listening to his shallow, jerky, wheezy respiration, watching for the subtle something in the stifling room that should announce a change of wind, thinking of Mr Bentley's coming, and many other things. The weary nurse came back from her brief rest and cup of tea, and sat down at the foot of the bed. She studied the patient's face intently for some time, and felt his feet; then she took the fan from Deborah's hand.

"You go and lie down, Miss Pennycuick. Mrs Dobson will come and sit with me for a while."

"No, no," said Deb. "He wants me to be here. I cannot leave him."

After a few more minutes of silence, the nurse said again: "You had better go, Miss Pennycuick." When Deb repeated her refusal, the nurse went out to fetch the housekeeper to persuade her.

A minute afterwards, Deb lifted her head with a jerk, and sniffed eagerly. At the same instant she heard a distant door bang.

"Thank God!" she ejaculated, and flew to the windows that all day had had to be shut tight against the furnace blast outside, and flung them wide, one after the other. The trees in the old garden were bending and rustling; the sweet, cool air came pouring in.

"The wind has changed," she whispered, almost hysterically, to the nurse and the housekeeper, as they stealthily crept in. "And"—as they all gathered round the bed—"he is better already. His breathing is easier."

The nurse bent over the long figure on the bed. "He is not breathing at all," said she.

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