"Go away, I will be with you directly," he replied, his heart sinking within him.
In a very short time he was standing with Mrs. Hughes by Ruth's bedside. She lay as still as if she were dead, her eyes shut, her wan face numbed into a fixed anguish of expression. She did not speak when they spoke, though after a while they thought she strove to do so. But all power of motion and utterance had left her. She was dressed in everything, except her bonnet, as she had been the day before; although sweet, thoughtful Mrs. Hughes had provided her with nightgear, which lay on the little chest of drawers that served as a dressing-table. Mr. Benson lifted up her arm to feel her feeble, fluttering pulse; and when he let go her hand, it fell upon the bed in a dull, heavy way, as if she were already dead.
"You gave her some food?" said he anxiously, to Mrs. Hughes.
"Indeed, and I offered her the best in the house, but she shook her poor pretty head, and only asked if I would please to get her a cup of water. I brought her some milk though; and, 'deed, I think she'd rather have had the water; but, not to seem sour and cross, she took some milk." By this time Mrs. Hughes was fairly crying.
"When does the doctor come up here?"
"Indeed, sir, and he's up nearly every day now, the inn is so full."
"I'll go for him. And can you manage to undress her and lay her in bed? Open the window too, and let in the air; if her feet are cold, put bottles of hot water to them."
It was a proof of the true love, which was the nature of both, that it never crossed their minds to regret that this poor young creature had been thus thrown upon their hands. On the contrary, Mrs. Hughes called it "a blessing."