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CHAPTER IX._A Girl in Ten Thousand

 From the first it was a bad case. The throat was not so particularly affected, but the weakness was extreme. All imaginable devices were resorted to, to keep up the patient's strength. Notwithstanding all human precautions, however, that strength failed and failed.

In a few days the strong man was like an infant. He could not lift a finger, he could scarcely turn his head, his voice was completely gone. His stricken soul could only look dumbly into the world through his eyes. Those honest eyes were pathetic. Dorothy was unremitting in her attentions. She took complete charge from the very first. Dr. Edwards came and went, but he gave the nursing to Dorothy. She had prepared herself for a great fight. She had hoped to conquer, but on the third day of the doctor's illness she knew that the battle was not to the strong nor the race to the swift—in short, the good doctor was called to render up his account, his short span of mortal life was over.

One evening he had lain perfectly still and in a state of apparent stupor for several hours. Dorothy stood at the foot of the bed. Her eyes were fixed on the patient.

"It is strange how much I admire him," she said to herself. "I never met a nobler, truer-hearted man."72

"Dorothy, come here," said the doctor.

She went at once, and bent over him.

"I am going," he said, looking at her.

"Yes, Dr. Staunton," she answered.

He closed his eyes again for a moment.

"The wife," he murmured—"does she know?"

"I am not sure," said Dorothy in her quiet, clear voice, which never for a moment sank to a whisper. "I think she must guess—I have not told her."

"She had better know," said the doctor. "Will you bring her here?"

"Yes, I'll go and fetch her at once."

Dorothy left the room. She stood for a moment on the landing.

The task which lay immediately before her made her spirits sink. She knew just as well as Dr. Staunton did how precarious was Mrs. Staunton's tenure of life. She knew that a sudden shock might be fatal. Were those children to lose both parents? The doctor was going,—no mortal aid now could avail for him,—but must the mother also leave the children?

"I do not know what to do," thought Dorothy. "She must see her husband—they must meet. He is the bravest man I know, but can he suppress his own feelings now—now that he is dying? No, no, it is too much to ask; but I greatly, greatly fear that if he does not, the shock will kill her."

Dorothy went slowly downstairs. She was generally decisive in her actions. Now, she trembled, and a terrible nervousness seized her.

When she reached the little entrance hall, and was about to open the door of the parlor where she expected to find Mrs. Staunton, she was surprised to come face to face with a tall, bronzed young man, who was taking off his hat and hanging it on one of the pegs in the hat-rack. He turned, and started73 when, he saw her. He was evidently unfamiliar with nurses and sickness. His face flushed up, and he said in a sort of apologetic way:

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