The day after he had delivered his address to his workmen, Colonel Halket suffered a collapse from which he never rallied. A paralysis seized him, and he lay helpless in his bed, able to move his arms, able to torn his head and speak; but beyond that motionless.
"I am not going to get well," he said to the doctor. "Shall I be like this for long?"
There was a consultation of doctors, and when they told him that it would not be long, he seemed relieved.
They said to Floyd, more definitely, that the end was near.
"It's like counting off the minutes on a clock that has almost run down. It's not a bad way to die—peaceful and painless," said one of the doctors to Floyd.
Every morning Colonel Halket was moved to a couch in his sitting-room, where he could recline on pillows close by the window and look down the steep slope of his grounds upon the city park. There was an orchard of apple-trees on this slope, much frequented by birds; and the ivy that was massed against all that side of the house was a nesting-place for sparrows; for a week or two Colonel Halket amused himself arranging morsels of food along the window-sill with which to tempt the little creatures; day by day, having spread out his crumbs, he would watch and wait patiently.
"They never come," he said one day to Floyd rather wistfully. "I think I should feel quite a good deal better if only one would come.—I never cared before about birds."