Thursday, 22 October 2009

Part Two - A Midnight Adventure

...cont'd from previous post.......

Sunny tried to raise her, but in vain. she flew into Mildred's room.

"Mildred! Mildred! come at once. Godwyn is fearfully ill. I don't know what to do. she stood up by herself for a few minutes, and then fell down. She seems in dreadful pain."

"Was she in bed?" asked Mildred, hurrying on her dressing gown.

"No," answered Sunny, as they ran back to Godwyn's room. "I asked her once if she would go, but she said, 'No, she was resting so comfortably on the couch, she would not go yet.'"

The two girls raised the slight, convulsed form, and laid it gently on the bed.

"Sunny, run and ask Mrs. Brown to go, or send for the doctor," said Mildred, as with trembling hands she endeavoured to force a little brandy between Godwyn's white lips and clenched teeth.

Sunny hesitated but a moment, "Mrs Brown and Maria are both out, I must go myself."

It needed no little courage for the delicately-nurtured girl to go out alone after midnight - in London too. But necessity knows no law. Sunny snatched up a fur-lined cloak, and without any covering on her head ran swiftly downstairs, opened the door, and out into the street.

The rain had passed away, and it was a clear, cold, moonlight night. The doctor who had attended Godwyn upon several occasions before, lived only two or three streets away, and Sunny, as she sped swiftly along, devoutly hoped no one would meet her, as with her sunny-brown hair hanging round her, she looked somewhat remarkable. But she reached the door in safety, and giving a hasty pull at the bell stood back in the shadow of the doorway, and twisted her bright hair into a great knot.

She waited a moment, and then rang again. Would they never come, she thought, standing there alone in the night, the minutes seeming hours, and a terrible fear knocking at her heart lest Godwyn should die before she could bring assistance. At that moment a party of half drunken young men turned the corner of the street.

Sunny shrank back as far as she could, and drew the dark cloak closely round her. But in vain - a gleam of moonlight caught her white gown, and one of the party springing forward, seized her roughly by the arm.

"Hallo! my pretty one. I must have a kiss from those ripe lips," he cried, drawing her towards him.

"Let me go, I beseech you," implored the terrified girl. "I am waiting for the doctor. I am on an errand of life or death."

If they had been sober, her words would have carried conviction; but as it was, they were met with a jeering laugh, and again her persecutor nearly touched her blanched cheek with his lips. With a cry for help, Sunny desperately wrenched herself free, and, forgetful of all else, fled away down the street, pursued by one or two of the men. Flying round a corner, Sunny ran against a stalwart policeman.

"Oh, save me! save me!" she gasped, clinging to his arm. The man put her behind him, and without any very great difficulty dispersed her pursuers.

"Why, bless my heart and soul, it's Miss Sunny Haverford!" he exclaimed, in an astonished tone, as the light from a gas lamp fell full on her white face and disordered hair.

"Yes," answered Sunny, when she had somewhat regained her composure, and feeling it incumbent upon her to give some explanation of her appearance at that time of night. "My eldest sister has been taken dreadfully ill, and as our landlady and her servant are both out, I had to come for the doctor myself. I rang and rang, but could make no one hear, and while I was waiting at the door those men came by. Will you come back with me, please, I am afraid to go alone, and - and -" Sunny fairly broke down.

"Of course I'll come, Miss; don't take on so. I'll rouse the Doctor up in no time, I warrant," said the man, quite melted at the sight of Sunny's tears. He pulled at the bell with such a hearty good will that a window was instantly thrown open, and a voice demanded, "What the devil he meant by ringing like that!"

"The doctor's wanted at once. That's what I mean. There's been a young lady ringing here for twenty minutes and more."

"I'm the Doctor. Who wants me?"

"The Miss Haverfords, at Mrs. Brown's, 20, East Crescent, Bulkedy Road," was the concise answer.

"I will be there immediately." The head was withdrawn, and the window slammed down.

"Now I'll see you safely home, Miss. How did I know you? Why, you see I'm a friend of your landlady's, and so, of course, I know all her lodgers."

Sunny parted from her friendly policeman at the door, and again thanking him for his timely aid, hurried upstairs.

The man walked away, muttering to himself, "Well! Well now, to think of that pretty young creetur being out alone at this time of night. If I hadn't happened to know Mrs. Brown as well as I do, I might have taken her for - goodness knows what." So saying, the honest man drew himself up and walked briskly away on his interrupted beat.

"Sunny, what a time you have been, it has seemed hours," said Mildred. "Why, dear, you are as white as a ghost and shaking like a leaf.""I was detained," said Sunny, trying to smile reassuringly. "I'll tell you about it by and bye. How is Godwyn now?"

"I don't know," answered Mildred, in a distressed tone. "she is unconscious still, and I cannot - There's the doctor I suppose. I will open the door, you don't look fit to stand."

Mildred returned immediately, ushering in the doctor, a handsome grave looking man of thirty four or five.

"Will you call your servant to get some hot water ready," he said after a few moments, during which the girls watched him anxiously.

"She is out for a holiday," explained Sunny. "There are only ourselves in the house. I will see about the water."

"If you will show me the way to the kitchen I will light the fire," said the doctor, with a half smile. "It won't be the first time I have done so, I assure you."

Sunny led the way in silence, and then fetched wood and paper, while the doctor quickly raked out dead ashes and re lit the fire, and soon a bright blaze was roaring up the chimney. Sunny filled the kettle and put it on, and then they returned to the room above.

"Do either of you know much of illness?" asked the doctor, abruptly.

"Hardly anything," replied Mildred. "Godwyn has always been an invalid, but never like this before. Is she very ill?"

"I can't tell yet," answered the doctor, with a grave, kindly, sympathy in his tones. "I will return home, and send my sister, who is an experienced nurse, in my place. I can do nothing in this case, at present, that she cannot. I will come again myself in the morning."

"Thank you so very much," said Mildred, with tears in her eyes. "If your sister will come we shall be so much obliged. But I am afraid it is too much to ask her, as we are perfect strangers to her."

"You will not feel strange with her long, and I assure you she will think herself the obliged one; she likes nursing. Good night, Miss Haverford. Good night, Miss Sunny. No! don't trouble to come down. I shall find my way out all right."

In less than ten minutes after his departure, they heard a sharp knock at the door, and Sunny, opening it, ushered in a bright active little woman of sever or eight and thirty.

"Now, my dears, the first thing is to get this poor girl to bed," she said, and between them they tenderly undressed poor Godwyn and laid her in bed. The doctor's sister, Miss Harcourt, seemed at home at once, and gave confidence to the girls, who were terrified at Godwyn's prolonged unconsciousness.

"Have you any flannels handy?" she asked cheerfully. "Get them out then, while Sunny and I go for the hot water. This is Sunny isn't it?" Ah! I thought so." And talking thus the little lady bustled away. It was wonderful to see her quick, quiet, deft ways about the invalid girl.

"So! That's better," she said quietly, when Godwyn opened her dark eyes languidly, at last. "Now, I suppose one of you two girls will want to sit up with me, and the other must go to bed. There is not the slightest reason for both to be up, or even one, as far as that goes. But you would not be happy to leave her entirely with me, I suppose."

"I should like to stay up, if you do not mind," said Mildred pleadingly; "Sunny must go to bed. She sat up with Godwyn the first part of the night, while I was asleep."

So it was settled, and Sunny left the two watchers beside the patient sufferer.

Miss Harcourt poured a little claret and water into a glass, and carefully measured a few drops of a dark coloured liquid into it.

Now my dear, give this to your sister. It is a sleeping draught that John said she was to have when she recovered consciousness. I daresay she will like to take it from you better than from me."

Mildred gently raised Godwyn's head, and put the glass to her lips. She drank the contents obediently, and in less than half an hour her nurses had the satisfaction of seeing her in a quiet sleep. Before morning, kindly Miss Harcourt had gleaned some particulars of the Haverford girls' troubles, and in her own bright way had done not a little towards smoothing them. Her brother knew, she told Mildred, of a lady who wanted a finished musician to improve her three daughters, and that he would gladly introduce Sunny to her. She also gave Mildred some kindly sensible advice about herself, and gave her the name of a large firm of china-painters. "You are more likely to succeed there, my dear, if you can adapt your designs to the style of work. There are so many who could design a mantel border, or curtain, who would be all at sea if you asked them to design a group for a vase."

The bright genial woman spent her time in doing good and petting her brother, spoiling him, he said. Her sympathy was always so delicately expressed that the proudest did not rebel against it. Her heart warmed towards these motherless girls fighting so bravely against fate. True - she did not know the extent of their poverty, but she guessed enough to enlist her warmest sympathy.

When Mrs Brown returned in the morning, great was her consternation at the events of the previous night, and as there was nothing else for her to do, she set about preparing a prodigious breakfast that could not have been eaten by a dozen people. Great also was her disappointment when Miss Harcourt declared she must go home to hers, and to see that her brother had his properly. As for the two girls they hardly ate anything.

"I don't know what we are to do, Sunny," said Mildred, choking back her tears. "Miss Harcourt says Godwyn must have plenty of nourishing food. I could not tell her we have only elevenpence in the world. I think we have sold everything we have that is saleable. Even if you get those pupils, I do not suppose they will pay in advance."

"I must ask for it, that's all," said Sunny, despondingly. To see Sunny lose heart, was dreadful. She pushed away the plate she had been toying with, and rose. She left the room, and for about an hour Mildred saw no more of her. When she came back her face looked a little brighter, although Mildred saw she had been crying.

"I have been having a long talk with nursie," she said, "and she has lent us this. I thought I would rather ask her than a stranger." Sunny opened her hand and displayed five sovereigns.

"She was very kind," said the girl, with a little tremor in her voice.

"And I think she was pleased to lend it. She has got three more lodgers coming, and she hinted delicately that she shouldn't miss the money at all, that in fact she had not known quite what to do with it."

At this juncture Dr. Harcourt and his sister returned.

"Mildred, will you take John up to see your sister. Can you spare time, Sunny, to go out now? for if so, John will take you at once to see about getting Lady Stanton's daughters."

"Oh! thank you so much," cried Sunny brightening. "I hope it will not be putting Dr Harcourt out."

"I don't think he will find it so," said Miss Harcourt smiling, and looking admiringly at the girl's fair sweet face.

Sunny did not keep Dr Harcourt waiting, and by the time he came down from Godwyn's room she was ready.

"That is very good of you, Miss Sunny," he said approvingly. "I thought ladies took about half an hour to get ready."

"I never take so long as that," said Sunny with a faint smile.

Dr Harcourt handed her into his phaeton which was waiting at the door, and they drove away.

to be continued.... check back soon for the next and final part of this story.

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