Having descended a staircase, traversed a portion of the house below, and
succeeded in opening and shutting, without noise, two doors, I reached
another flight of steps; these I mounted, and then just opposite to me
was Miss Temple's room. A light shone through the keyhole and from under
the door; a profound stillness pervaded the vicinity. Coming near, I
found the door slightly ajar; probably to admit some fresh air into the
close abode of sickness. Indisposed to hesitate, and full of impatient
impulses--soul and senses quivering with keen throes--I put it back and
looked in. My eye sought Helen, and feared to find death.
Close by Miss Temple's bed, and half covered with its white curtains,
there stood a little crib. I saw the outline of a form under the
clothes, but the face was hid by the hangings: the nurse I had spoken to
in the garden sat in an easy-chair asleep; an unsnuffed candle burnt
dimly on the table. Miss Temple was not to be seen: I knew afterwards
that she had been called to a delirious patient in the fever-room. I
advanced; then paused by the crib side: my hand was on the curtain, but I
preferred speaking before I withdrew it. I still recoiled at the dread
of seeing a corpse.
"Helen!" I whispered softly, "are you awake?"