Chapter 12 | The Dreams of a Fever | The Bag of Diamonds

A dreamy sensation of cold and thick darkness and stumbling on and on, with a dull light glowing about his head and fading away directly, then more darkness and stumbling on, and once more a dull yellow glow, and this fading away, with the darkness increasing. Then a slight struggle, and a few petulant remonstrances.

Why wouldn’t the doctor let him sleep?

Then another feeble struggle, a sensation of passing through the air, a sudden plunge into the icy water, and then utter darkness, and a noise, as if of thunder, in his ears.

But the sudden immersion was electric in its effect, sending a thrill through nerve and muscle, though the brain remained still drowsily inert, while the natural instinct of desire for life chased away the helpless state of collapse; and Mark Heath, old athlete, expert swimmer, man hardened by his life in the southern colony, rose to the surface, and struck out, swimming slowly and mechanically, as if it were the natural action of his muscles. On and on, breasting the icy water, keeping just afloat, but progressing blindly where the tide willed; on and on through the darkness, with the yellow fog hanging like a solid bank a few feet above his head, as if the rushing of the water were cutting the lower stratum away.

Now a yellow light shone weirdly through the mist, came into sight, and after glowing for a moment on the murky current, died away.

On still, as if it were the tide—that last tide which sweeps away the parting spirit—stroke after stroke, given mechanically; and then there was another light—a dull red light, then an angry glow—a stain as of blood upon the black water; and it, too, died away, but not till it had bathed the upturned face with its crimson hue.

Onward still, the icy water thrilling the swimmer through and through, but seeming to bring with it no dread, no sense of horror, no recollection of the past, no fear of what was to come: the sensation was that he was swimming as one swims without effort in a dream.

A blow from some dark slimy object along whose side he glided, and then on once more.

Another blow against something which checked him for a time, and turned him face downward, so that the thundering recommenced in his ears; there was the sense of strangulation; and then he was steadily swimming on once more, past moored barge with its lights, past steamboat pontoon; and then with a rush he was driven against a stone pier; his hands grasped at the slimy stones without avail, he was turned in an eddy around and around, sucked under, and rose again, to swim on and on, till at last, in the darkness, his hands touched the muddy pebbles of the river shore, his knees struck heavily, and he crawled through a pool, and then staggered to his feet, with the water streaming from him.

What next? It was all as in a dream, in which, in the gloom of the thick night, he stumbled upon a flight of slippery steps, and walked up and up, and then along a road which he crossed again and again, and always walking on and on.

At times he guided himself by mechanically touching a cold rough stony wall, till somehow it was different and felt slippery, and his hand glided over the side.

Then darkness, and a sense of wandering. How long? Where? Why was he wandering on?

It was all a dream, but changed to a time when his head was as it were on fire, and he was climbing mountains where diamonds glistened at the top, but which he could not reach, though he was ever climbing, with the sun burning into his brain, and the diamonds that he must find farther and farther away.

And so on, and so on, in one long weary journey, to reach that which he could not attain, and at last oblivion—soft, sweet, restful oblivion—with nothing wrong, nothing a trouble, no weariness or care: it was rest, sweet rest, after that toilsome climb.

The next sensation was of a cool soft hand upon his brow, and Mark Heath opened his eyes, to gaze into those of a pale, grave-looking woman in white, curiously-shaped cap; and she smiled at the look of intelligence in his face as he said softly.

“Who are you?”

“Your nurse,” was the reply.


One word only, but a chapter in its inquiring tone. “Yes,” she said gently; “you have been ill. Don’t try to talk. Take this, and lie quite still.”

Another long, dreamy time, during which there were noises about his head—the gentle, pleasant voice of his nurse, and the firm, decisive voice of the doctor. It might have been hours, it might have been days or weeks, he did not know; and then came the morning when he seemed to awaken from a long disturbed sleep, full of terrible dreams, with a full realisation of his position.

He looked about him, and there were people in beds on either side, while a row of windows started from opposite to him, and went on right and left.

At last he saw the face of the woman whom he felt that he had seen leaning over him in his dream.

She came to his bedside.

“Well?” she said, with a pleasant smile.

“Is this a hospital?” he said eagerly.


“And I have met with some accident—hurt?”

“No,” was the reply; “not an accident. You have been ill.”

“Ill? How came I here?”

He looked wildly in the calm soft face before him, and behind it there seemed to be a dense mental mist which he could not penetrate. There was the nurse; and as he lay, it seemed to him that he could think as far as their presence there, and no further.

“You had better wait till the doctor has been round.”

“If you don’t tell me what all this means,” he said impetuously, “you will make me worse.”

She laid her hand upon his forehead, to find that it was perfectly cool, and he caught her fingers in his as she was drawing them away. “Don’t keep me in suspense,” he said piteously.

“Well, I will tell you. The police brought you here a fortnight ago. They found you lying in a doorway, drenched with water and fast asleep. You were quite delirious, and you have been very ill.”

“Ill? Yes, I feel so weak,” he muttered, as he struggled to penetrate the mist which seemed to shut him in, till the nurse’s next words gave him a clue to the way out.

“We do not even know who you are; only that they suppose you to be a sailor who has just left his ship.”

“Heath—Mark Heath,” he said quickly.

“Ah! And your friends? We want to communicate with them.”

“My friends! No; it would frighten her, poor little girl!”

“The cause for alarm is passed,” said the nurse gravely.

“Yes. Ah! I begin to recollect now,” he said. “Send to Miss Heath—my sister—19 Upper Brunswick Avenue, Bloomsbury.”

“Yes; and now lie still.”

The nurse left him, and he lay thinking, and gradually finding in the mist the pieces of the puzzle of his past adventure, till he seemed to have them nearly all there.

Then came the doctor with a few words of encouragement.

“You’ll do now,” he said. “Narrow escape of losing your hair, young fellow. Next time you come from sea don’t touch the drink.”

Mark Heath lay back thinking, and with the puzzle pretty well fitted together now all but what had happened since, half wild with exhaustion and excitement, he had taken refuge at Doctor Chartley’s.

“Don’t touch the drink!” he muttered. “He thinks I have had D.T. Well, I did drink—brandy. I had some. Yes; I remember now—at the doctor’s, and—Great Heavens!”

He paused, with his hands pressed to his forehead; and now the light had come back clearly.

He lay waiting till the nurse passed round again, and he signed to her to come to his side.

“You have sent to my sister?”

“Yes; a messenger has been sent.”

“My clothes?” he said, in an eager whisper. “Where are they?”

“They have been taken care of quite safely.”

“And the bag, and the belt—the cash-belt I had strapped round my waist?”

“I will make inquiries.”

The nurse went away, and Mark Heath lay in an agony of spirit which he could hardly control till her return, to announce that he had nothing whatever upon him in the way of bag or money when found by the police.

Mark lay as if stunned till the messenger returned with the intelligence that Miss Heath had left the lodgings indicated; that the people there were new, and could give no information whatever.

“But you have other friends,” said the nurse, as she looked down pityingly in the patient’s agitated face.

“Yes,” he said, “I have friends. Write for me to—”

He paused for a few moments, with a hysterical sob rising to his lips as he recalled how he had struggled to return to her wealthy, and had come back a beggar.

“Yes, to—”

The gently-spoken inquiry roused him, and he went on. “To Miss Richmond—”

“Richmond?” said the nurse, looking up inquiringly as she took down the name in a little memorandum-book.

“Miss Richmond Chartley, 27 Ramillies Street, Queen’s Square, Bloomsbury, to beg her to find and send my sister here.”

The nurse smiled, and left him to his thoughts, which now came freely enough—too freely to help him to convalescence.

It was late in the evening when the nurse came to announce that there were visitors; and after a few grave firm words, bidding him be calm, she left him, and returned with Janet and Richmond, both trembling and agitated, to grasp his hands, and fight hard against the desire to throw themselves sobbing upon his breast.

The nurse remained, not from curiosity, but to watch over her patient, whom she had literally dragged from the grasp of death, while, after the first loving words, Mark Heath gazed at Richmond in a troubled way, and proceeded to tell of his adventures.

“But did you really bring back a bag of diamonds, Mark, or is it—”

“Fancy,” he said bitterly. “No; it is no fancy. I have been delirious, Jenny; but I am sane enough now. I had the bag of diamonds, and over a hundred pounds in gold, in a belt about my waist. Rich, darling, I was silent during these past two years; for I vowed that I would not write again till I could come back to you and say I have fulfilled my promise, and now I have come to you a beggar.”

“Yes,” said Richmond, laying her hand in his, as an ineffably sweet look of content beamed from her eyes in his, and there was tender yearning love in every tone of her sweet deep voice; “but you have come back alive after we had long mourned you as dead.”

“Better that I had been,” he said bitterly. “Better that that dark night’s work had been completed than I should have come back a beggar.”

Janet and Richmond exchanged glances; which with a sick man’s suspicion he noted, and his brow contracted.

“They doubt me,” he thought.

“But you have come back, Mark. We are young; and there is our life before us. I do not complain,” said Richmond gently. “We must wait.”

“Wait!” he said bitterly; and he uttered a low groan, which made the nurse approach. “No, no,” he said, “I will be quite calm.” The nurse drew back.

“Tell me, Mark,” said Janet, with her pretty little earnest face puckered up. “Why did you not come straight to me? How stupid? Of course you didn’t know where, as you did not get my last letters?”

“No, I have had no letters for a year. How could I, out in that desert?”

“But, Mark, you recollect being pursued by those men!”

“Yes, yes.”

“You are sure it was not a dream?”

He looked at her almost fiercely.

“Dream? Could a man dream a thing like that?”

“Don’t be cross with me, dear Mark,” she said, laying her cheek against his. “It seems so strange, and you have been very, very ill. My own darling brother!”

It was not jealousy, but something very near akin, that troubled Rich as she stood there, with an intense longing to take her friend’s place, after the long parting. But there was the recollection that their parting had not been the warm passionate embracing of lovers, only calm and full of the hope of what might be.

Janet continued:

“And you went late at night through a dreadful fog, and took refuge with a friend?”

“Yes,” he said, with his features contracting, and a shudder passing through him, as he gazed furtively at Rich.

“And what can you recollect besides? Are you sure you had what you say—diamonds and money?”

“Yes, I am certain.”

“I never wore diamonds,” said Janet, with her pretty white forehead growing more puckered, “and I don’t want any; but after being so poor, and with one’s dearest friends so poor, and when it would make every one so happy, I should like you to find them again.”

Mark uttered a low groan.

“But tell me, Mark, what else can you recollect?”

“Very little,” he said. “It all seems misty; but I recollect drinking something.”

“Brandy, Mark?”

“Yes; and afterwards a medicine that was to calm him, for I was half mad with excitement.”

“Yes; go on.”

“Then everything is confused: I seemed to fall asleep—a long restful sleep, that was broken by my taking a long journey.”

“Yes, but that was dreaming, dear.”

“Maybe,” he said, “and then I was swimming—swimming for life—and then toiling on and on, a long weary journey under a hot sun to get my diamonds.”

“Yes, dear, fever,” said Janet, with the tears streaming down her cheeks. “Oh, Mark, what you have suffered! Rich, love, do you hear?”

“Yes—yes,” cried Rich, who seemed to be roused from a strange dream, in which she was fighting to recall another of which she had a misty recollection—a dream that troubled her on the night she took the chloral, when half mad with pain.

“You have seen and borne so much, dear,” said Janet piteously. “Was not all this about the bag of diamonds and those people a feverish dream?”

“Jenny, do you want to drive me mad?”

“My own dear old darling brother, no,” she whispered caressingly; and once more that strange half-jealous feeling swept like a hot breath of wind across Rich, making her pale face flush. “I only want to make you see things rightly, and not fret about a fancy.”

“I tell you it was no fancy,” he said angrily; and then, as the nurse held up a warning hand. “All right,” he added, “I’ll be calm.”

“Say something to him, Rich,” said Janet piteously.

Rich started, and then took Mark’s hand. “You say that you went to the house of a friend?” she whispered.

“Ye–es,” he replied hesitatingly.

“And that you partook of some medicine that was to make you sleep?”

He bowed his head slowly.

“And that your next clear recollection is of lying here, where you were brought after being found delirious by the police?”

“Yes, yes,” he said impatiently.


“Stripped of everything,” he said bitterly.

“It could not have been a friend, then, with whom you took refuge,” said Rich.

Mark was silent.

“Must it not have been a dream?” said Janet in a whisper to her companion.

“No,” said Rich aloud. “I think that all Mark recollects before he took this medicine must be true, and that this friend must have drugged him.”

Mark drew a long, catching breath between his teeth.

“And robbed him while he slept.”

Mark’s breast rose and fell as if he were suffering some great emotion, and he stared at Rich wildly, his hand twitching and his lip quivering as he waited for her next speech, which seemed to crush him, as she asked in a clear firm voice.

“Who was the friend to whose house you went?”

He looked at her wildly, with the thoughts of the consequences of telling her that which he believed to be the truth—that Dr Chartley—her father—the father of the woman he passionately loved—had drugged him—taken the treasure for which he had fought so hard, and then cast him forth feverish and delirious into the river to die. For he realised it now: he had been swimming; he could even recall the very plunge; he had been cast into the river to drown, and somehow he must have struggled out.

“Who was the friend, Mark?” she said again, in her calm firm way.

“Yes, who was it?” cried Janet, with her little lips compressed. “You are right, Rich. Some one did do this dreadful thing. Who was it, Mark?”

The sick man turned from her with a shudder, while she, all excitement now, pressed his hard hand.

“Tell us, Mark dear, that he may be punished, and made to restore what he has stolen.”

“No, no!” he said excitedly; “I cannot tell you—I do not know.”

“Try and recollect, Mark,” said Rich gently; and she looked in his face with an appealing smile.

“No, no!” he gasped, as he shuddered again; “it is impossible. I—I do not know. And Heaven forgive me for my lie!” he muttered, as he sharply withdrew his hands, sank back upon his pillow, and covered his face.

“He must be left now,” said the nurse firmly, “He is very weak, and your visit is proving painful. Say good-night to him. You can come to-morrow. He will be stronger after a night’s rest.”

“But—there is no danger?” whispered Rich, as she caught the sister’s hand.

“No; the danger is past, but he must be kept quiet. Say good-night.”

Janet bent down and kissed her brother lovingly; and as she drew back from his pallid drawn face, Rich took her place and held out her hand.

Mark caught it in both his, and there was an agonised look in his eyes.

“Rich,” he whispered passionately, “I have come back to you a beggar, after fighting so hard. Heaven knows how hard, and what I am suffering for your sake. I cannot tell you more. I only say, believe in me and trust in me. Kiss me, my love—my love.”

Richmond Chartley’s pale face deepened, but she did not hesitate. There were patients here and there who lay witnessing the scene, and there were others present; but at that moment the world seemed very small, and they two the only living creatures it contained, as she bent down, passed her arm beneath his neck, and for the first time her lips met his.

“Rich—poor—what does it matter, Mark?” she whispered, with her warm breath seeming to caress his cheek. “You have come back to me, as it were, from the dead.”

She drew down her veil as she rose from the parting, and the nurse’s quick experienced eyes noted the restful happy look that had come over her patient’s face.

“Good-bye,” she said to the two visitors. “May I?”

Rich leaned forward, and the two women kissed.

“I had some one once whom I dearly loved. It pleased God that he should die—for his country—trying to save a brother officer’s life. Good-bye, dear. You are the best physician for him now. Come back soon.”

Janet impulsively threw her arms about the sister’s neck and kissed her.

“And I never thanked you for your care of my poor brother,” she said. “But tell me, he is still a little wandering, is he not?”

“I could not help hearing all that passed,” was the reply. “It was my duty to be present. I have, of course, had some experience of such cases, and I fear that he must have been drinking heavily in riotous company, and these ideas have become impressed upon his brain.”

“And they are fancies?”

“I think so, but as he grows stronger these ideas will weaken, and you, his sister—and you— Ah, men are sometimes very weak, but to whom should they come for forgiveness when weak and repentant, if not to us?”

“But I won’t believe my Mark has been going on as she hinted,” said Janet, through her tears, as she walked away, weeping bitterly, and clinging tightly to Rich’s arm.

“No; it is impossible,” replied Rich; and with the feeling upon her that it was her duty to suffer for all in turn, and be calm and patient, she fought down her own longing to burst into a passionate fit of weeping, and walked on to resume her watch by her father’s side, where he lay still insensible, as if in a sleep which must end in death.

“Rich dear, if it is true, and poor Mark was drugged and robbed, the wretch who did it shall be brought to justice, shall he not?”

“Yes,” said Rich, as she clasped the weeping girl to her breast.

And as she sat there in the silent chamber, through the dark watches of the night, at times a feeling of exultation and joy filled her breast, while at others a hot pang of rage shot through her, and she felt that she could slay the wretch who had raised a hand against him who had returned to her as from the dead.