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Chapter 21 HOW PHEBE EARNED HER WELCOME
Dr. Alec had not arrived, but bad tidings had, as Rose guessed the
instant her eyes fell upon Aunt Plenty, hobbling downstairs with
her cap awry, her face pale, and a letter flapping wildly in her hand
as she cried distractedly: "Oh, my boy! My boy! Sick, and I not
there to nurse him! Malignant fever, so far away. What can those
children do? Why did I let Alec go?"
Rose got her into the parlor, and while the poor old lady lamented,
she read the letter which Phebe had sent to her that she might
"break the news carefully to Rose."
DEAR MISS PLENTY, Please read this to yourself first, and tell
my little mistress as you think best. The dear doctor is very ill, but
I am with him, and shall not leave him day or night till he is safe.
So trust me, and do not be anxious, for everything shall be done
that care and skill and entire devotion can do. He would not let us
tell you before, fearing you would try to come at the risk of your
health. Indeed it would be useless, for only one nurse is needed,
and I came first, so do not let Rose or anybody else rob me of my
right to the danger and the duty. Mac has written to his father, for
Dr. Alec is now too ill to know what we do, and we both felt that
you ought to be told without further delay. He has a bad malignant
fever, caught no one can tell how, unless among some poor
emigrants whom he met wandering about quite forlorn in a strange
city. He understood Portuguese and sent them to a proper place
when they had told their story. But I fear he has suffered for his
kindness, for this fever came on rapidly, and before he knew what
it was I was there, and it was too late to send me away.
Now I can show you how grateful I am, and if need be give my life
so gladly for this friend who has been a father to me. Tell Rose his
last conscious word and thought were for her. "Don't let her come;
keep my darling safe." Oh, do obey him! Stay safely at home and,
God helping me, I'll bring Uncle Alec back in time. Mac does all I
will let him. We have the best physicians, and everything is going
as well as can be hoped till the fever turns.
Dear Miss Plenty, pray for him and for me, that I may do this one
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