"Stay here beside her, major. I shall not he needed for an hour
yet. Meanwhile I'll go downstairs and snatch a bit of sleep, or
talk to old Jane." The night was hot and sultry. Though the windows
of the chamber were wide open, and the muslin curtains looped back,
not a breath of air was stirring. Only the shrill chirp of the
cicada and the muffled croaking of the frogs in some distant marsh
broke the night silence. The heavy scent of magnolias, overpowering
even the strong smell of drugs in the sickroom, suggested death and
funeral wreaths, sorrow and tears, the long home, the last sleep.
The major shivered with apprehension as the slender hand which he
held in his own contracted nervously and in a spasm of pain
clutched his fingers with a viselike grip. Major Carteret, though
dressed in brown linen, had thrown off his coat for greater
comfort. The stifling heat, in spite of the palm-leaf fan which he
plied mechanically, was scarcely less oppressive than his own
thoughts. Long ago, while yet a mere boy in years, he had come back
from Appomattox to find his family, one of the oldest and proudest
in the state, hopelessly impoverished by the war, -even their
ancestral home swallowed up in the common ruin. His elder brother
had sacrificed his life on the bloody altar of the lost cause, and
his father, broken and chagrined, died not many years later,
leaving the major the last of his line. He had tried in various
pursuits to gain a foothold in the new life, but with indifferent
success until he won the hand of Olivia Merkell, whom he had seen
grow from a small girl to glorious womanhood. With her money he had
founded the Morning Chronicle, which he had made the leading organ
of his party and the most influential paper in the State. The fine
old house in which they lived was hers. In this very room she had
first drawn the breath of life; it had been their nuptial chamber;
and here, too, within a few hours, she might die, for it seemed
impossible that one could long endure such frightful agony and
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