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43. CHAPTER XLIII.
She re-entered the hut, flung off her bonnet and cloak, and approached the sufferer. He had begun anew those terrible mutterings, and his hands were cold. As soon as she saw him there returned to her that agony of mind which the stimulus of her journey had thrown off for a time.
Could he really be dying? She bathed him, kissed him, forgot all things but the fact that lying there before her was he who had loved her more than the mere lover would have loved; had martyred himself for her comfort, cared more for her self-respect than she had thought of caring. This mood continued till she heard quick, smart footsteps without; she knew whose footsteps they were.
Grace sat on the inside of the bed against the wall, holding Giles's hand, so that when her husband entered the patient lay between herself and him. He stood transfixed at first, noticing Grace only. Slowly he dropped his glance and discerned who the prostrate man was. Strangely enough, though Grace's distaste for her husband's company had amounted almost to dread, and culminated in actual flight, at this moment her last and least feeling was personal. Sensitive femininity was eclipsed by self-effacing purpose, and that it was a husband who stood there was forgotten. The first look that possessed her face was relief; satisfaction at the presence of the physician obliterated thought of the man, which only returned in the form of a sub-consciousness that did not interfere with her words.
"Is he dying--is there any hope?" she cried.
"Grace!" said Fitzpiers, in an indescribable whisper--more than invocating, if not quite deprecatory.
He was arrested by the spectacle, not so much in its intrinsic character--though that was striking enough to a man who called himself the husband of the sufferer's friend and nurse--but in its character as the counterpart of one that had its hour many months before, in which he had figured as the patient, and the woman had been Felice Charmond.
"Is he in great danger--can you save him?" she cried again.
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