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Five days had passed, days of raging fever and delirium so violent that already the powerful frame seemed nearly exhausted; the sufferer calling almost incessantly for the loved ones of his old home, but oftenest for his mother. Some faint glimmer of recognition must occasionally have reached those darkened chambers of the brain, since when attended by Mr. Cameron, Houston or Lyle, he rested more quietly, though never calling Lyle by her own name, but always by that of his sister, Edna.
The fever had subsided, and he was now rapidly passing into a death-like stupor, hovering between life and death, unconscious of skilled physicians and trained nurses that came and went, unconscious of loving friends bending above him, their prayers and efforts combined with the skill of the former, in the terrible combat against the mighty foe.
The physicians watching by the bedside, shook their heads, as they felt the pulse, fluttering more and more faintly.
“He is sinking, failing rapidly,” they said, “to-night will be the crisis, the turning point; unless there is a change then for the better, he will never see the dawning of another day.”
To Mrs. Cameron, journeying westward with Morton Rutherford, the moments had seemed like hours, the hours like days, since learning for whose sake had come the summons to that distant country. Only the speed of the lightning could have satisfied the heart of the mother hastening to her long-lost son.
They had been kept informed along the route of Guy’s condition, and now, upon their arrival at Silver City, on the noon train, they found a special car awaiting them, to convey them at once to the Y, which had been ordered by telegraphic dispatch from Mr. Cameron.
The watchers by the bedside heard the sound of swiftly approaching wheels; Mr. Cameron and Houston stepped quickly out to greet the sweet-faced woman hastening toward the house on the arm of Morton Rutherford.
“Am I in time? Is our boy still living?” were her first words, as her husband met her with outstretched arms, his face working with deep emotion.
“Just in time, thank God!” was the broken reply.
“Oh, Walter, is there no hope?” she queried, understanding his words only too well.
“I must not deceive you, Marjorie, there is the barest possibility that he may live, no more.”
“He must live, and he will,” replied the mother, in tones that reminded both Houston and Morton Rutherford wonderfully of Lyle.
Turning toward Houston, Mrs. Cameron greeted him affectionately, and gently touching the wounded arm, exclaimed:
“My poor, dear boy, what a terrible risk you have run!”
To which he replied, “I would go through it all again, Aunt Marjorie, for the joy I believe it will bring you and yours.”
A few moments later, Mr. Cameron led his wife into the sick-room. Lyle had already left the room, and there remained only Leslie Gladden, sitting quietly near the foot of the bed, and the nurse, who respectfully withdrew from his place beside the patient, as Mrs. Cameron approached.
Calmly, though through fast-falling tears, the mother gazed for a moment upon her son; then dropping upon her knees beside the bed, she slipped one arm underneath the pillows, and gently drew the wounded head upon her own breast, tenderly kissing the brow and cheeks; then taking his hand within her own, she stroked and caressed it, meanwhile crooning over him in low, murmuring tones, as though he had been an infant.
There were no dry eyes in that little room, not excepting even the nurse, while from the door-way of the adjoining room, Morton Rutherford, Lyle and Everard Houston watched the scene with hearts too full for utterance. Something in that gentle touch must have carried the troubled mind of the sufferer back to the days of his childhood; gradually the faint moaning ceased, the drawn, tense features relaxed, and a sweet, child-like smile stole over his face now assuming a death-like pallor.
For hours the mother knelt there, her husband by her side, Everard and Leslie standing near, while in the background, in the dim light, was Lyle with Morton Rutherford.
At last, Mr. Cameron, bending over his wife, entreated her to take a few moments’ rest and a little food. She hesitated, but Everard spoke:
“You must take some refreshment, Aunt Marjorie, you have had no food for hours; Leslie and I will watch here, and if there should be the slightest change, I will call you.”
At the name of Leslie, Mrs. Cameron looked up, with a sweet, motherly smile, into the beautiful but tear-stained face beside her, and gently withdrawing from the bedside, she turned and clasped Miss Gladden in her arms, saying:
“My dear Leslie, I did not think we would meet for the first time under such circumstances as these, but I am more than glad to find you here. Everard has always been, and still is as our own son, and I welcome you, my dear, as a daughter.”
On entering the dining-room, Mr. and Mrs. Cameron found a most tempting luncheon prepared for them, but no one in the room, Lyle having judged they would prefer to be by themselves for awhile.
As Mrs. Cameron, having partaken of some slight refreshment, was preparing to return to the sick-room, her husband said:
“Wait a moment, my dear; there is another joy in store for you, Marjorie, in that, through Everard’s coming out into this country, we have received back from the dead, as it were, not only our son, but also a daughter. I want you to meet her now, my dear, so prepare yourself for a great surprise, and perhaps, something of a shock.”
“I do not understand you, dear,” replied Mrs. Cameron, looking bewildered, “you certainly do not refer to Leslie, I have met her.”
“No, my love, Leslie is a beautiful girl, and will be to us a lovely daughter, but I refer to a daughter of our own flesh and blood.”
Stepping to an adjoining room, Mr. Cameron called in a low tone, “Lyle, my dear,” returning immediately to his wife’s side to support her in case the shock should prove too much in her present agitated condition.
Lyle glided into the room, slowly approaching Mrs. Cameron, who sat speechless, pale as death, but controlling herself by a visible effort.
“Edna, my child! my own Edna!” she cried, rising with outstretched arms, and clasping Lyle to her breast; then turning toward her husband, she asked:
“What does this mean, Walter? Can this be Edna’s child?”
“Yes, my love,” he replied, “this is the little Marjorie we have mourned as dead for so many years.”
For a while they sat clasped in each other’s arms, their tears commingling, while Mr. Cameron briefly explained to his wife the main facts in Lyle’s strange history.
“She shall be our own daughter, shall she not, Walter? She shall be to us just what Edna was?”
“Certainly,” was the response, “she is our own daughter, Marjorie Lyle Cameron.”
They returned to Guy’s room, Mrs. Cameron resuming her old place, with Guy’s head upon her breast, his hand in hers, only that now Lyle knelt beside her. At their side, and very near his son, was Mr. Cameron, while just back of them were Everard, Leslie and Morton Rutherford. Ned Rutherford and Van Dorn lingered in the door-way watching, while at the foot of the bed stood Mike, the tears coursing down his rugged face. On the other side of the bed stood the physicians and nurse, their keen eyes watching the subtle changes passing over the face, now white as marble, and almost as motionless.
Fainter and shorter grew the gasping breaths, more and more feeble the pulse, until at last it was evident to every one within that little room, that life had very nearly ebbed away.
But there was one who did not, for one instant, lose faith or hope. The sublime faith which had upheld her through all those years of a sorrow greater than death, did not desert her now. Lyle seemed to share her faith, and they alone remained calm and tearless, the saint-like face of the mother shining with love and trust.
Suddenly, upon that death-like stillness, her voice rang out, with startling clearness:
“Guy! oh, Guy, my darling!”
And to that soul, slipping through the fast-darkening shadows, almost within the grasp of the great enemy, there seemed to have come some echo of those tones, with their piercing sweetness, recalling him to life; for, with a long, quivering breath, Guy slowly opened his eyes, gazing, for an instant, with a dreamy smile, upon the faces surrounding him. His eyes closed with a gentle sigh, but while those about him anxiously awaited the next breath, they again opened, full of the light of recognition, while a rapturous smile grew and deepened upon his face, irradiating his features with joy, his lips moving in a whisper so faint that only the mother’s ear could catch the words:
“I thought––it was––all––a dream,––but––it––is true,” then, exhausted, he sank into a deep sleep like a child’s, his breathing growing more and more regular and natural, moment by moment.
The physicians withdrew from the bedside, their vigil was over; “He will live,” they said briefly, while in response, there rose from all parts of the room, deep sobs of joy.
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