Part 7 out of 8
"My sister seems surprised," said Nap. "I hope I haven't come at an
He did not even glance towards the silent figure in the doorway. It was
as if he had not observed it.
"I am surprised," said Dot. "Hugely surprised. But I'm very glad to see
you," she added. "When did you come?"
"I have been here about half an hour," he told her coolly. "I went to the
Rectory first, where I learned for the first time of your marriage. You
forgot to mention that detail when you wrote. Hence my brotherly salute,
which you must have missed on your wedding-day!"
At this point Dot remembered her other guest, and turned with flushed
cheeks. "Lady Carfax--Anne--you--you know my brother-in-law Nap?"
The pleading in her voice was unmistakable. She was evidently agitated,
wholly at a loss how to manage a most difficult situation.
But Nap hastened to relieve her of the responsibility. He had dealt
with difficult situations before. He went straight to Anne and stood
"Are you going to know me, Lady Carfax?" he asked.
There was no arrogance in voice or bearing as he uttered the question. He
looked as if he expected to be dismissed, as if he were ready at a word
to turn and go. His eyes were lowered. His foot was already on the
But Anne stood speechless and rigid. For those few seconds she was as one
stricken with paralysis. She knew that if she moved or tried to speak she
She wondered desperately how long it would be before he looked up, if
perhaps he would go without looking at her, or if--ah, he was speaking
again! His words reached her as from an immense distance. At the same
instant his hands came to her out of a surging darkness that hid all
things, grasping, sustaining, compelling. She yielded to them, scarcely
knowing what she did.
"Lady Carfax has been overtiring herself," she heard him say. "Have you
any brandy at hand?"
"Oh, dear Lady Carfax!" cried Dot in distress. "Make her sit down, Nap.
Here is a cushion. Yes, I'll go and get some."
Guided by those steady hands, Anne sank into a chair, and there
the constriction that bound her began to pass. She shivered from
head to foot.
Nap stooped over her and chafed her icy hands. He did not look at her or
speak. When Dot came back, he took the glass from her and held it very
quietly to the quivering lips.
She drank, responsive to his unspoken insistence, and as she did so, for
a single instant she met his eyes. They were darkly inscrutable and gave
her no message of any sort. She might have been accepting help from a
"No more, please!" she whispered, and he took the glass away.
The front door was still open. He drew it wider, and the evening air blew
in across her face. Somewhere away in the darkness a thrush was warbling
softly. Nap stood against the door and waited. Dot knelt beside her,
holding her hand very tightly.
"I am better," Anne said at last. "Forgive me, dear child. I suppose it
has been--too much for me."
"My dear, dear Anne!" said Dot impulsively. "Would you like to come into
the drawing-room? There is tea there. But of course we will have it here
if you prefer it."
"No," Anne said. "No. We will go to the drawing-room."
She prepared to rise, and instantly Nap stepped forward. But he did not
offer to touch her. He only stood ready.
When he saw that she had so far recovered herself as to be able to move
with Dot's assistance, he dropped back.
"I am going, Dot," he said. "You will do better without me. I will look
in again later."
And before Dot could agree or protest he had stepped out into the
deepening twilight and was gone.
THE HEART OF A SAVAGE
It had certainly been a successful afternoon. Mrs. Errol smiled to
herself as she drove back to Baronmead. Everything had gone well. Dear
Anne had looked lovely, and she for one was thankful that she had
discarded her widow's weeds. Had not her husband been virtually dead to
her for nearly a year? Besides--here Mrs. Errol's thoughts merged into a
smile again--dear Anne was young, not much more than a girl in years.
Doubtless she would marry again ere long.
At this point Mrs. Errol floated happily away upon a voyage of day-dreams
that lasted till the car stopped. So engrossed was she that she did not
move for a moment even then. Not until the door was opened from outside
did she bestir herself. Then, still smiling, she prepared to descend.
But the next instant she checked herself with a violent start that nearly
threw her backwards. The man at the step who stood waiting to assist her
was no servant.
"My!" she gasped. "Is it you, Nap, or your ghost?"
"It's me," said Nap.
Very coolly he reached out a hand and helped her to descend. "We have
arrived at the same moment," he said. "I've just walked across the park.
How are you, alma mater?"
She did not answer him or make response of any sort to his greeting. She
walked up the steps and into the house with leaden feet. The smile had
died utterly from her face. She looked suddenly old.
He followed her with the utmost composure, and when she stopped proceeded
to divest her of her furs with the deftness of movement habitual to him.
Abruptly she spoke, in her voice a ring of something that was almost
ferocity. "What have you come back for anyway?"
He raised his eyebrows slightly without replying.
But Mrs. Errol was not to be so silenced. Her hands fastened with
determination upon the front of his coat. "You face me, Napoleon Errol,"
she said. "And answer me honestly. What have you come back for? Weren't
there enough women on the other side to keep you amused?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "Women in plenty--amusement none. Moreover, I
didn't go to be amused. Where is Lucas?"
"Don't you go to Lucas till I've done with you," said Mrs. Errol. "You
come right along to my room first."
"What for?" He stood motionless, suffering her restraining hands, the
beginning of a smile about his lips.
"There's something I've got to tell you," she said.
"Lead the way then, alma mater!" he said. "I am very much at your
Mrs. Errol turned without further words, and he, with her sables
flung across his shoulder, prepared to follow. She moved up the
stairs as if she were very weary. The man behind her walked with the
elasticity of a cat.
But there was no lack of resolution about her when in her own room she
turned and faced him. There was rather something suggestive of a mother
animal at bay.
"Nap," she said, and her deep voice quivered, "if there's any right
feeling in you, if you are capable of a single spark of affection, of
gratitude, you'll turn around right now and go back to the place you
Nap deposited his burden on the back of a chair. His dark face was devoid
of the faintest shadow of expression. "That so?" he drawled. "I thought
you seemed mighty pleased to see me."
"Lock that door!" said Mrs. Errol. "Now come and sit here where you can
see my face and know whether I am telling the truth."
He smiled at that. "I don't require ocular evidence, alma mater. I have
always been able to read you with my eyes shut."
"I believe you have, Nap," she said, with a touch of wistfulness.
"It isn't your fault," he said, "that you weren't made subtle enough.
You've done your best."
He came and sat down facing her as she desired. The strong electric light
beat upon his face also, but it revealed nothing to her anxious
eyes--nothing save that faint, cynical smile that masked so much.
She shook her head. She was clasping and unclasping her hands restlessly.
"A very poor best, Nap," she said. "I know only too well how badly I've
failed. It never seemed to matter till lately, and now I would give the
eyes out of my head to have a little influence with you."
"That so?" he said again.
She made a desperate gesture. "Yes, you sit there and smile. It doesn't
matter to you who suffers so long as you can grab what you want."
"How do you know what I want?" he said.
"I don't know," said Mrs. Errol. "I only surmise."
"And you think that wise? You are not afraid of tripping up in the dark?"
She stretched out her hands to him in sudden earnest entreaty. "Nap, tell
me that it isn't Anne Carfax, and I'll bless you with my dying breath!"
But he looked at her without emotion. He took her hands after a moment,
but it was the merest act of courtesy. He did not hold them.
"And if it were?" he said slowly, his hard eyes fixed on hers.
She choked back her agitation with the tears running down her face. "Then
God help Lucas--and me too--for it will be his death-blow!"
"Lucas?" said Nap.
He did not speak as if vitally interested, yet she answered as if
"He loves her. He can't do without her. She has been his mainstay all
through the winter. He would have died without her."
Nap passed over the information as though it were of no importance. "He
is no better then?" he asked.
"Yes, he is better. But he has been real sick. No one knows what he has
come through, and there is that other operation still to be faced. I'm
scared to think of it. He hasn't the strength of a mouse. It's only the
thought of Anne that makes him able to hold on. I can see it in his eyes
day after day--the thought of winning out and making her his wife."
Again he passed the matter over. "When does Capper come again?"
"Very soon now. In two or three weeks. There was a letter from him
to-day, Lucas was quite excited about it, but I fancy it upset dear Anne
some. You see--she loves him too."
There fell a silence. Mrs. Errol wiped her eyes and strove to compose
herself. Somehow he had made her aware of the futility of tears. She
wondered what was passing in his mind as he sat there sphinx-like,
staring straight before him. Had she managed to reach his heart, she
wondered? Or was there perchance no heart behind that inscrutable mask to
reach? Yet she had always believed that after his own savage fashion he
had loved Lucas.
Suddenly he rose. "If you have quite done with me, alma mater, I'll go."
She looked up at him apprehensively. "What are you going to do?"
He smiled abruptly. "I am going to get a drink."
"And what then?" she asked feverishly. "Nap, oh, Nap, she is staying in
the house. Won't you go without seeing her?"
"I have seen her already," drawled Nap.
"You have seen her?"
His smile became contemptuous. "What of it? Do you seriously suppose she
is the only woman in the world I care to look at?"
"I don't know what to think," cried Mrs. Errol. "I only know that you
hold Luke's fate between your hands."
He was already at the door. He turned and briefly bowed. "You flatter me,
alma mater!" he said.
And with the smile still upon his lips he left her.
THE DIVINE SPARK
"Boney, old chap, you're the very man I want!" Such was Lucas Errol's
greeting to the man who had shot like a thunderbolt into the peaceful
atmosphere that surrounded him, to the general disturbance of all others
who dwelt therein.
"I guess you must have known it," he said, the sinewy hand fast gripped
in his. "You've come like an answer to prayer. Where have you been all
this time? And why didn't you write? It's worried me some not hearing."
"Great Lucifer!" said Nap.
He sat down, leaving his hand in his brother's grasp. The cynicism had
gone utterly from his face, but he did not answer either question.
"So you are winning out?" he said. "It's been a long trail, I'll wager."
"Oh, damnably long, Boney." Lucas uttered a weary sigh. "I was nearly
down and out in the winter. But I'm better, you know. I'm better." He
met the open criticism of Nap's eyes with a smile. "What's the
verdict?" he asked.
"I'll tell you presently. You're not looking overfed anyway." Nap's
fingers began to feel along his wrist. "Did Capper say he wanted a
skeleton to work on?"
"Shucks, dear fellow! There's more than enough of me. Tell me about
yourself. What have you been doing? I want to know."
"I?" Nap jerked back his head. "I've nothing to tell," he declared.
"You know what I went to do. Well, I've done it, and that's all there
is to it."
"I'm not quite clear as to what you went to do," Lucas answered. "You
didn't turn up in Arizona. I was puzzled what to think."
"You never expected me to go to Arizona," said Nap with conviction. "You
were shrewd enough for that."
"Thanks, Boney! P'r'aps I was. But I've been hoping all this while,
nevertheless, that you might have the grit to keep the devil at
Nap laughed, stretched his arms above his head, and made a vehement
gesture as if flinging something from him--something that writhed
"Will it interest you to know that the devil has ceased to provide me
with distractions?" he asked suddenly.
A certain eagerness came into the blue eyes. "That so, Boney?"
Nap leaned back and stared at the ceiling. "It's no virtue of mine," he
said. "I found I wanted solitude, so I went to the Rockies and stayed
there till I was tired. That's all."
Again the skeleton hand of the man on the bed sought and pressed his.
"Old chap, I'm real glad," the tired voice drawled. "You've found
yourself at last. I always felt you would--sooner or later."
Nap's lips twitched a little. "Don't be too sure of that. Anyway it
doesn't follow that I shall sit at home and practise the domestic
virtues. I've got to wander a bit first and find my own level."
"Not yet, dear fellow. I'm wanting you myself."
"You!" The thin lips began to smile. "That's real magnanimous of you.
But--thanks all the same--I'm not taking any. You have the mater and
Bertie and Anne Carfax to bolster you up. I guess I'm not essential."
"And I guess you can do more for me than any one of them," Lucas made
quiet reply. "P'r'aps you'll think me a selfish brute to say so, but I
need you badly. You're like a stimulating drug to me. You pick me up when
I'm down. There is no one can help me in the same way."
"You wouldn't get Capper to say 'Amen' to that," remarked Nap.
"Capper is no oracle out of his own sphere. Besides," there was almost a
note of pleading in Lucas's voice, "I know what I want better than he
can tell me."
"True, very true!" Nap was smiling somewhat grimly. "And doubtless your
wish is law. But it doesn't follow that you always desire what is best
for yourself. Hadn't you better consult the queen before you admit the
wasp to the hive?"
"You're too fond of talking in parables, my son," protested Lucas,
frowning slightly. "My intelligence won't stretch to it."
"We'll try another," said Nap imperturbably. "Do you think Anne Carfax
would thank you for asking me to pull in the same boat? Do you think she
would second that request? Because, if so, I beg to differ."
He looked his brother full in the face as he said it, without the flicker
of an eyelid. Lucas's frown deepened. He lay in silence.
After a moment Nap went on. "She may be ready to put up with it for your
sake. There's nothing some women won't do for a man they care for, and I
take it she has your welfare next her heart. But it's rather much to ask
of her. You wouldn't want to run the risk of frightening her away."
Lucas was watching him gravely, his brows still drawn. "Boney," he said
slowly at length, "I'd give a good deal to see into your soul."
Nap smiled with a faint return of cynicism. "Who's talking in parables
now? Afraid I can't show you what I haven't got."
Lucas passed the rejoinder by. "What makes you conclude that I am more
to her than--any other man?"
"Circumstances," said Nap.
"Finding her installed here as one of the family for one. Finding you
pulling off the biggest deal of your life for another. And other
signs--crowds of them--that I can't explain but that I can't fail to
notice when I've got my nose to the trail. You needn't be shy about it.
I'm just as pleased as you are."
But Lucas's face did not clear. There followed a very decided pause.
Then, with an effort, very earnestly, he spoke.
"Nap, I don't believe you'll lie to me when I tell you that I'd rather
die than be deceived. I know you cared for her once."
"I care for most women," said Nap indifferently. "What of that? It's the
way I'm made, and I must say they don't most of 'em seem to mind."
"But, Boney--Anne Carfax?"
Nap threw up his head with a brief laugh. "Oh, I'm cured of that--quite
cured. The paths of perpetual virtue are not for me. I prefer more rapid
travelling and a surer goal."
He stood up, his arms stretched up above his head. "I make you a present
of Anne Carfax," he said lightly. "Not that she is mine to give. But I
wouldn't keep her if she were. We belong to different spheres."
"And yet--" Lucas said.
"My dear fellow, that's an old story." Impulsively Nap cut in, almost
fierily. "Do you think the woman is living who could hold me after
all this time? I tell you that fire is burnt out. Why rake over the
"I am looking for the Divine Spark," Lucas answered quietly.
"And if you found it?" Nap's words came through smiling lips, and yet
they sounded savage.
"If I found it," very steadily came the answer, "I would blow it to a
flame, Boney, for your sake--and hers."
"For hers?" Something fierce showed in Nap's eyes. It was as if a goaded
animal suddenly looked out of them.
Lucas must have seen it, for on the instant his manner changed.
"We won't go any further," he said. "Only, dear fellow, I can't part with
you yet. Let that be understood. I want you."
"So be it!" said Nap. "I will stay and see you married."
And with the words he stooped and grasped his brother's hand for a
"Go on and prosper, Luke," he said. "It's high time that you came into
THE QUEEN'S PARDON
As soon as Anne entered Baronmead that evening she was aware of a
difference. Bertie, with a thunderous countenance, came forward to
meet her. She had not seen him wear that look in all the months of
"The prodigal has returned," he told her briefly. "P'r'aps you know."
She did not pretend to misunderstand him. She had schooled herself to
face the situation without shrinking.
"Yes, I know," she said. "I met him at your house an hour ago."
"At my house!" For a single instant Bertie looked downright murderous,
and then the sight of Anne's pale face made him restrain himself.
"He didn't stay," she said rather wearily. "What of Luke? Has he
"Can't understand Luke," muttered Bertie. "He's actually pleased. Say,
Lady Carfax, would it help any if I were to stop and dine?"
"No," Anne said, smiling a little. "Go back to Dot, won't you? She is
She saw that he was glad to follow her suggestion, and she was
undoubtedly glad to see him go. He was plainly in an explosive mood.
Mrs. Errol came to her room while she was dressing. But Mrs. Errol had
had ample time to compose herself. She showed no agitation, and spoke of
Nap's unexpected arrival as if she were quite indifferent to his comings
and goings; but she hovered about Anne with a protecting motherliness
that did not need to express itself in words. When they went downstairs
she held Anne's arm very closely.
But the ordeal that both were mutely dreading did not take place that
night. Nap did not present himself at the dinner-table, and they dined
alone in unspoken relief.
Anne went to Lucas as usual when the meal was over, but she thought he
seemed tired and she did not remain with him long.
He kept her hand for a moment when she stooped to bid him good-night.
"Anne," he said gently, "I just want you to know, dear, that Nap will be
all right. Don't be anxious any. There is no need."
He desired to reassure her, she saw; and she bent and kissed him. And
then for a moment a queer gust of passion possessed her, shook her from
head to foot.
"Oh, Luke," she whispered, "can't you send him away again?"
He looked up at her oddly, with eyes that seemed to see beyond her. And
then, "Good-night, dear," he said, as if he had not heard.
She turned from him in silence. It was the first time she had ever
appealed to Lucas Errol in vain.
She went to her room early that night. She told herself she must leave on
the morrow. She was urged by a deep unrest. She could not remain under
the same roof with this man who had once so cruelly tortured her. She
could not. Lucas must understand this. He must never ask it of her,
She did not in the least understand the latter's attitude. The more she
thought of it, the more it troubled her. She felt as if he had suddenly
ceased to be on her side, had, as it were, shut off his sympathy and left
her groping and alone. It was not like him to treat her thus. It hurt her
subtly, wounding her as she had never expected to be wounded, shaking her
faith in what she had ever believed to be immutable. And then she
remembered the physical weakness with which he had wrestled so long, and
a great pity flooded her heart. She would not let herself be hurt any
longer. Was he not reserving his strength for her sake? And could she
not, for his, face bravely this sudden obstacle that had arisen in her
path? Moreover, had he not told her that all would be well? And he had
said it as one who knew. Why, then, was she harbouring this wild dismay?
Why? Why? She asked the question, but she did not seek the answer. She
And yet in the morning she went down with a calm aspect, resolute and
unafraid. Once more she was compelling herself to do simply that which
lay nearest to her hand.
Nap came out of a room near the foot of the stairs as she descended.
He scarcely looked at her, but quite obviously he had been awaiting
"May I have two words with you before you join the mater?" he asked.
With her whole soul she wanted to refuse. Yet without visible hesitation
she yielded. She turned aside into the room he had just quitted.
He followed, and, closing the door, came forward to the table. It was
littered with guns and cleaning apparatus. He had evidently been
employing himself while he waited, and he at once took up an oily rag and
resumed operations, his swarthy face bent over his task, his lips very
Anne waited for a moment or two. His attitude puzzled her. She had become
so accustomed to the fierce directness of his stare that its absence
"What is it you wish to say to me?" she asked at length.
At the first sound of her voice he ceased to work, but still he did not
raise his eyes.
"On my own account--nothing," he said, speaking very deliberately. "But
as my sojourn here may be an offence to you, I think it advisable to
explain at the outset that I am not a free agent. My brother has
decreed it, and as you know"--a hint of irony crept into his voice--"his
will is my law."
"I understand," said Anne gravely, but even as she spoke she was asking
herself what possible motive had prompted this explanation.
He jerked up his head and she caught the glint of his fiery eyes for an
instant. "You--care for Lucas, Lady Carfax?" he said.
Her heart gave a sudden throb that hurt her intolerably. For a moment she
could not speak.
Then, "Yes," she said. "I love him."
Nap was pulling mechanically at the rag he held. It began to tear between
his hands. She watched him ripping it to shreds.
Suddenly he seemed to realise what he was doing, and tossed it from him.
He looked her straight in the eyes.
"Have you fixed the date for your coronation?" he asked.
Her eyes fell instantly. "Will you tell me what you mean?" she said.
"Is my meaning obscure?"
She compelled herself to answer him steadily. "If you mean our marriage,
it will not take place for some time, possibly not this year."
"Why not?" said Nap. "Are you a slave to etiquette?"
The thing sounded preposterous on his lips. She faintly smiled. "The
decision does not lie with me."
"Ah!" he said shrewdly. "The privilege of kings! You will still be a
queen before you are thirty. And your first act will be to expel the
court jester--if he waits to be expelled."
She saw his grim smile for an instant, and knew that he was playing his
old fencing game with her, but at the same time she knew that there was
no antagonism behind his point. How the knowledge came to her she could
not have said, but she realised afterwards that it was at that moment
that she began to perceive that the devil had gone out of Nap Errol. The
conviction was slow in growing, but it was then that it first took root;
it was then that her fear of the man began to die away.
She raised her eyes. "Why should I do that, Nap?"
He made her a deep bow. "Because I have been unfortunate enough to incur
There was a moment of silence, then, in obedience to that instinct to
which in rare moments she yielded herself and which never played her
false, Anne held out her hand to him. "I forgive you," she said.
He started. He evidently had not expected that from her. Perhaps he had
not wanted it. Later she wondered. But he showed no awkwardness of
indecision. Only once had she ever seen him at a loss, and of that once
she would never voluntarily think again.
He took her hand upon his sleeve and bent over it. She thought he was
going to kiss it, and a sharp dread went through her. But he only touched
it for a single instant with his forehead.
"For Luke's sake?" he said, not looking at her.
"For your own," she made answer, almost as if she could not help herself.
"Because?" he questioned.
"Because I know you love him," she said. "Because I know that you will be
loyal to him."
"Though I may be false to you?" he said.
She bent her head. "I am only a woman. I am afraid your experience of
women has not taught you to respect them."
He picked up the gun again and fell to work upon it. "My experience of
one woman at least," he said, "has taught me--something different,
something I am not likely to forget."
It was the end of the interview. In silence Anne turned to go. He wheeled
round and opened the door for her, but he did not look at her again, nor
she at him. When the door closed between them she felt as if a great
silence had fallen in her life.
On the day succeeding Nap's return Dot went to tea at Baronmead. She was
a very constant visitor there. Lucas always enjoyed her bright presence
and welcomed her with warmth. But Dot was not feeling very bright that
day. She looked preoccupied, almost worried.
She found that Mrs. Errol and Anne had gone out, and, as her custom was
when she found the house deserted, she went straight to her
Tawny Hudson answered her knock at the outer door, and she was struck by
the lowering look the great half-breed wore. His expression was
positively villainous, and sharp as a pin-prick there darted through her
the memory of her first visit to Baronmead, and the hatred of Nap Errol
she had that day seen revealed in the man's eyes. She had never given the
matter a thought since. To-day it awoke to life, stirring within her a
"How is your master, Tawny?" she asked.
"He is not so well, madam," said Tawny Hudson, but he opened the door
wide notwithstanding, inviting her to enter.
She went in. The room adjoined that in which Lucas lay, and Hudson was
always there when not actually in attendance upon his master, except in
his off hours, which were as few as Lucas would permit.
"May I see him?" said Dot. "Or would he rather not be disturbed?"
Hudson stepped to the closed door and listened, his great red head bent
almost to the keyhole.
After a few moments he stood up and softly turned the handle. He made a
brief sign to her and passed noiselessly into the room.
Dot remained where she was. She heard Lucas accost him at once, and
caught the murmur of the man's low-spoken reply. And then in a moment
Hudson came back to her.
"Will you go in, madam?" he said, in his careful English that always made
her think of an animal that had been taught to speak.
She went in, treading lightly, relieved to leave the man's heavy scowling
visage behind her.
"Come right in," said Lucas hospitably. "It's real good of you to come
and see me like this."
She took his outstretched hand, looking at him anxiously. She saw that he
had not slept for many hours. Though he smiled at her, there was a grey
look about his lips that made her wonder if he were in pain.
"Sit down," he said gently. "It's nothing. Only another bad night. I
can't expect to sleep soundly always."
"How disappointing!" Dot murmured.
"Not surprising though. I had an exciting day yesterday. You heard of
"Yes." There was a very decided cloud upon Dot's face. "I saw him."
"Well?" said Lucas.
She turned to him impulsively. "Isn't it horrid when the thing you've
been planning for and wanting ever so long happens and everyone else
The blue eyes looked quizzical. "Very, I should say," said Lucas. "Would
it be presumptuous to ask what has been happening and who is cross?"
Dot's answering smile held more of pathos than mirth. Her lips took a
quivering, downward droop. "It's Nap," she said.
He raised his brows a little. "Nap seems the general pivot on which all
grievances turn," he remarked.
Dot leaned her chin on her hand. "I do so hate making mistakes," she
"We all do it," said Lucas.
"Oh, you don't!" She turned and gravely regarded him. "You are always
wise," she said, "never headlong."
"Which only demonstrates your ignorance and the kindness of your heart,"
said Lucas. "But go on, won't you? What has Nap been doing?"
"Oh, nothing. Nap is all right. It isn't Nap I mind." Again that doleful
droop of the lips became apparent, together with a little quiver of the
voice undeniably piteous. "It--it's Bertie," whispered Dot. "I--I--it's
very ridiculous, isn't it? I'm a wee bit afraid of Bertie, do you know?"
"St. Christopher!" said Lucas, in astonishment.
"Yes. But you won't ever tell him, will you?" she pleaded anxiously.
"If--if he knew or guessed--all my prestige would be gone. I shouldn't
be able to manage him at all. He--he is rather difficult to manage
sometimes, don't you think?"
Lucas was frowning slightly. "I guess I can manage him," he said.
"No doubt you could. I expect you always have. He respects you," said
Dot, with unwitting wistfulness.
Lucas turned his head and looked at her very steadily. "Will you tell me
something, Dot?" he said.
"Why are you afraid of Bertie?"
"Come!" he said. "Surely you're not afraid of me too!"
The banter in his voice was touched with a tenderness that went straight
to Dot's young heart. She leaned down impetuously and held his hand.
"No," she said tremulously. "I'm not such a little idiot as that, Luke.
I'm afraid of Bertie because I've done something he wouldn't like. It's
a very little thing, Luke. It is, really. But--but it's bothered me off
and on all the winter. And now that Nap is home, I feel much worse--as
if--as if it had been really wrong. And--and"--she broke down
suddenly--"I know I ought to tell him. But--I can't."
"Tell me," said Lucas gently.
"And you will tell him for me?"
"If you wish me to do so."
"I don't like it," sobbed Dot. "It's so despicable of me. I've wanted to
tell him for ever so long. But he has been so good to me all this time,
and--and somehow I couldn't face it. We haven't even squabbled for months
now. It--it seemed such a pity to spoil everything when it really didn't
make any difference to anyone if he knew or not."
"Don't cry," interposed Lucas. "It would hurt Bertie if he knew."
"Dear Bertie!" whispered Dot. "Isn't it horrid of me to be such a coward?
I haven't done anything really wrong either. In fact at the time it
seemed almost right."
"Almost!" said Lucas, faintly smiling.
She smiled also through her tears. "Why don't you call me a humbug? Well,
listen! It was like this. One night in the beginning of the winter Bertie
and I had a disagreement about Nap. It wasn't at all important. But I had
to stick up for him, because I had chanced to see him just before he
left in the summer--you remember--when he was very, very miserable?"
"I remember," said Lucas.
He spoke rather wearily, but his eyes never left her face. He was
"And I was frightfully sorry for him," proceeded Dot, "though at the
time I didn't know what was the matter. And I couldn't let Bertie say
horrid things about him. So I fired up. And then Bertie told me"--she
faltered a little--"about Nap caring for Lady Carfax. And that was where
the trouble began. He didn't give him credit for really loving her,
whereas I knew he did."
Strong conviction sounded in Dot's voice. The blue eyes that watched her
opened a little.
"That so?" said Lucas.
"Oh, I was sure," she said. "I was sure. There are some things a woman
can't help knowing. It was the key to what I knew before. I
"And then?" said Lucas.
"Then, of course, I remembered that Lady Carfax was free. And I asked
Bertie if he knew. You see, I thought it possible that in her heart she
might be caring for him too. I knew they had always been friends. And Sir
Giles was such a brute to her. No woman could ever have loved him. I
think most people couldn't help knowing that. And it seemed only fair
that Nap should know that Sir Giles was dead. I told Bertie so. He didn't
agree with me." Dot paused and vigorously dried her eyes. "I still don't
think he was right," she said.
"P'r'aps not." Lucas spoke meditatively. "There's a good deal to be said
for woman's intuition," he said.
"It seemed to me a matter of fair play," maintained Dot. "He didn't know
where Nap was, only his club address. And he wouldn't write himself, so
I just wrote a single line telling Nap that Sir Giles was dead, and sent
it off that night. I didn't tell Bertie. It didn't seem to matter much
then, and I knew it might be ages before Nap got it. But now that that
line has brought him back, I feel as if he ought to know--particularly
as Bertie is so angry with him for returning. And Anne too--Anne nearly
fainted when she saw him. I felt as if I had landed everybody in a
hopeless muddle." Again Dot wiped her eyes. "And I had so wanted him to
come," she ended.
"Don't fret," said Lucas very kindly. "I wanted him too."
She looked at him eagerly. "You think as I do? You think he cares
"I guess so," he answered, "since your letter brought him back."
"And--and Anne? Do you think--do you really think--?"
"I guess so," he said again.
He lay silent for a while, his eyes drooping heavily, till she even began
to wonder if he were falling asleep.
At length, "Dot," he said, "have I your permission to make what use I
like of this?"
She gave a slight start. "You are going to tell Bertie?"
He looked at her. "My dear," he said, "I think Bertie had better know."
She nodded. "I know he ought. But he will be furious with me."
"Not if I talk to him," said Lucas, with his quiet smile.
"But it's so mean of me," she protested. "And I'm sure it's bad for you."
He reached out his hand to her. "No, it isn't bad for me, Dot. It's just
the best thing possible. You've put me in the way of something great."
She squeezed his hand. "Do you really think you can make things go
"Under God," said Lucas gravely.
A FRIENDLY UNDERSTANDING
Notwithstanding Lucas's assurance, Dot awaited her husband's coming in
undisguised trepidation that night.
She had not seen Nap since that brief glimpse of him in the hall when
Anne had so nearly swooned. She did not so much as know if Bertie had
seen him at all. They had not met on the previous evening, but Bertie's
aspect had been so thunderous ever since he had heard of his return that
she had been on thorns lest he should present himself again at the Dower
House. That he would come sooner or later she knew, but she hoped with
all her heart that it might not be when Bertie was at home.
She was convinced, moreover, that Bertie was going to be very angry with
her, and her heart sank the more she thought of it. Bertie's anger had
become a hard thing to face since he had made her know the depths of his
The night was chilly, and her suspense made her cold. She sat very close
to the fire in the cosy curtained hall, shivering, and straining her
ears to catch the sound of his feet on the gravel. She had worked herself
into a state of anxiety that made her start at the faintest noise.
It was nearing the dinner-hour, and she was beginning to wonder if
perhaps he were staying at Baronmead to dine, though he had never done so
before without sending her word, when there came the sudden hoot of a
motor and the rush of wheels upon the drive.
She sat up, every pulse beating. It must be one of the Baronmead motors.
But Bertie always walked.
She heard the car stop at the door, and she rose to her feet, scarcely
knowing what to expect. The next moment the door opened and she heard
"The car will be all right," he said. "It's a fine night. Go in, won't
you? I expect Dot is waiting."
And with amazement Dot saw Nap enter the hall in front of her husband.
He came straight to her just as he had come on the previous day, and she
had a moment of sheer panic lest he should have the effrontery to kiss
her; but he spared her this, though the smile with which he greeted her
told her that he was quite aware of her embarrassment and its cause.
"Bertie has taken upon himself to ask me to dine," he said, as he held
her hand. "I hope that is quite agreeable to Mrs. Bertie?"
"Of course I am delighted," she said, but her eyes sought Bertie's
somewhat anxiously notwithstanding.
She saw with relief that the cloud had gone from his face. He came
forward, bent, and kissed her. His hand lay upon her shoulder for an
instant with a quick, reassuring touch, and she knew that all was well.
"Heavens, child! How cold you are!" he said. "I'll bring you down a
shawl, shall I? Come along, Nap. We are late."
They went upstairs together, and Dot waited below, listening to their
voices in careless converse and wondering by what means Lucas had wrought
so amazing a change.
She wondered still more during dinner, for Nap was plainly upon his best
behaviour. He seemed determined that Bertie should be on easy terms with
him, and he was in a great measure successful. Though reticent, Bertie
was undoubtedly cordial.
At the appearance of dessert Nap rose. "I must be getting back to
Lucas," he said.
"Oh, skittles! He won't be wanting you," Bertie protested. "Sit down
again, man. You haven't been here an hour."
But Nap was not to be persuaded. "Many thanks, but I'm going all the
same. I want to secure him a good night if possible. Good-bye, Mrs.
Bertie!" He bent and kissed her hand. "I am going to be pretty busy for
the next week or two, but I shall call on you when I have time."
He took a cigarette from Bertie's case, and went out without stopping
to light it.
Bertie followed him into the hall. "Shall I come?" he asked.
"No," said Nap.
He found a paper spill on the mantelpiece and lighted it. As he held it
to his cigarette he looked at Bertie with a smile.
"Remember that day I baited you? It must be about a year ago."
Bertie looked uncomfortable. "I remember," he said shortly.
Abruptly Nap thrust out his hand. "I've eaten your salt now," he said.
"I'll never bait you again."
Bertie gave his hand. "Is that what you wanted to dine for?"
"Partly." Nap's fingers gripped and held. "Also I wanted to persuade you
that we are fighting for the same thing, only maybe with different
weapons. You'll bear it in mind, eh, friend Bertie?"
Bertie looked at him hard for an instant. "I will," he said impulsively.
"Good!" said Nap laconically. "It isn't going to be a walk over, but I
guess we'll pull it off between us."
"Amen!" said Bertie fervently.
And Nap wrung his hand and departed. For the first time in their
lives there was a friendly understanding between them. For the first
time Bertie was aware of a human heart throbbing behind that
THE FINAL DEFEAT
It was growing late that night when Lucas opened his eyes after a
prolonged and fruitless attempt to sleep, and found Nap standing at the
foot of the bed watching him. A lamp was burning in the room, but it was
turned very low. For a few seconds he lay wondering if the motionless
figure he saw had been conjured there by some trick of the shadows. Then
as he stirred he saw it move and at once he spoke.
"Hullo, dear fellow! You! I never heard you come in."
Nap stepped noiselessly to his side. "Don't talk!" he said. "Sleep!"
"I can't sleep. It's no use. I was only pretending." Lucas stifled a sigh
of weariness. "Sit down," he said.
But Nap stood over him and laid steady hands upon his wrists. His hold
was close and vital; it pressed upon the pulses as if to give them new
life. "You can sleep if you try," he said.
Lucas shook his head with a smile. "I'm not a good subject, Boney. Thanks
all the same!"
"Try!" Nap said insistently.
But the blue eyes remained wide. "No, old chap. It's too high a price to
pay--even for sleep."
"What do you mean?" There was a fierce note in the query, low as it was;
it was almost a challenge.
Lucas answered it very quietly. "I mean that I'm afraid of you, Boney."
"Skittles!" said Nap.
"Yes, it may seem so to you; but, you see, I know what you are
trying to do."
"What am I trying to do?" demanded Nap.
Lucas paused for a moment; he was looking straight up into the harsh face
above his own. Then, "I know you," he said. "I know that you'll get the
whip hand of me if you can, and you'll clap blinkers on me and drive me
according to your own judgment. I never had much faith in your judgment,
Boney. And it is not my intention to be driven by you."
There was no resentment in the tired voice, only unflagging
Nap's hold slowly relaxed. "You don't trust me then?"
"It's your methods I don't trust, dear fellow, not your motives. I'd
trust them to perdition."
"But not my--honour?" Nap's lips twisted over the word.
Lucas hesitated. "I believe you would be faithful to your own code," he
said at length.
"But you don't consider that to trick a man who trusted me would be
against that code?"
Again Lucas hesitated, and in the silence Nap straightened himself and
stood waiting, stern, implacable, hard as granite.
"Don't do violence to yourself," he said cynically.
On the instant Lucas spoke, in his voice a tremor that was almost
passionate. "Boney--Boney, old chap, have I wronged you? God knows I've
tried to be just. But are you straight? Are you honest? I'd give my soul
to be able to trust you. Only--dear fellow, forgive me--I can't!"
Nap's hands clenched. "Why not?" he said.
"Because," very slowly and painfully Lucas made reply, "I know that you
are trying to blind me. I know that you are sacrificing yourself--and
another--in order to deceive me. You are doing it to save me pain,
but--before God, Boney--you are torturing me in the doing far more than
you realise. I'd sooner die ten times over than endure it. I can bear
most things, but not this--not this!"
Silence followed the words, a silence that was vital with many emotions.
Nap stood upright against the lamplight. He scarcely seemed to breathe,
and yet in his very stillness there was almost a hint of violence. He did
not attempt to utter a word.
Lucas also lay awhile without speaking, as if exhausted. Then at length
he braced himself for further effort. "It seems to me there's only one
way out, Boney," he said gently. "It's no manner of use your trying to
deceive me any longer. I happen to know what brought you back, and I'm
thankful to know it. After all, her happiness comes first with both of
us, I guess. That's why I was so almighty pleased to see you in the first
place. That's why it won't hurt me any to let her go to you."
Nap made a sharp movement and came out of his silence. "Luke,
"No, Boney, no! I'm saner than you are. When a fellow spends his life as
I do, he has time to look all round things. He can't help knowing. And
I'm not a skunk. It never was my intention to stand between her and
"Happiness!" Harshly Nap echoed the word; he almost laughed over it.
"Don't you know that she only tolerates me for your sake? She wouldn't
stay within a hundred miles of me if it weren't for you."
"Oh, shucks, Boney!" A faint smile touched the worn face on the pillow.
"I know you hurt her infernally. But she will forgive you that--women do,
you know--though I guess she would have forgiven you easier if she hadn't
"Man, you're wrong!" Fiercely Nap flung the words. "I tell you there is
no love between us. I killed her love long ago. And as for myself--"
"Love doesn't die," broke in Lucas Errol quietly. "I know all about it,
Boney. Guess I've always known. And if you tell me that your love for
Anne Carfax is dead, I tell you that you lie!" Again he faintly smiled.
"But I don't like insulting you, old chap. It's poor sport anyway.
Besides, I'm wanting you. That's why--"
He stopped abruptly. A curious change had come over Nap, a change so
unexpected, so foreign to the man's grim nature, that even he, who knew
him as did none other, was momentarily taken by surprise. For suddenly,
inexplicably, Nap's hardness had gone from him. It was like the crumbling
of a rock that had withstood the clash of many tempests and yielded at
last to the ripple of a summer tide.
With a sudden fierce movement he dropped down upon his knees beside the
bed, flinging his arms wide over his brother's body in such an agony of
despair as Lucas had never before witnessed.
"I wish I were dead!" he cried out passionately. "I wish to Heaven I had
It was a cry wrung from the very depths of the soul, a revelation of
suffering of which Lucas had scarcely believed him capable. It opened his
eyes to much that he had before but vaguely suspected.
He laid a hand instantly and very tenderly upon the bowed head. "Shucks,
Boney!" he remonstrated gently. "Just when you are wanted most!"
A great sob shook Nap. "Who wants me? I'm nothing but a blot on the face
of creation, an outrage, an abomination--a curse!"
"You're just the biggest thing in that woman's life, dear fellow,"
answered the tired voice. "You hang on to that. It'll hold you up, as God
always meant it should."
Nap made an inarticulate sound of dissent, but the quiet restraint of his
brother's touch seemed to help him. He became still under it, as if some
spell were upon him.
After a time Lucas went on in the weary drawl that yet held such an
infinite amount of human kindness. "Did you think I'd cut you out, Boney?
Mighty lot you seem to know of me! It's true that for a time I thought
myself necessary to her. Maybe, for a time I was. She hadn't much to live
for anyway. It's true that when you didn't turn up in Arizona I left off
expecting you to be faithful to yourself or to her. And so it seemed best
to take what she gave and to try to make her as happy as circumstances
would allow. But I never imagined that I ruled supreme. I know too well
that what a woman has given once she can never give again. I didn't
expect it of her. I never asked it. She gave me what she could, and I--I
did the same for her. But that bargain wouldn't satisfy either of us now.
No--no! We'll play the game like men--like brothers. And you must do your
part. Believe me, Boney, I desire nothing so earnestly as her happiness,
and if when I come to die I have helped to make this one woman happy,
then I shall not have lived in vain."
Nap turned his head sharply. "Don't talk of dying! You couldn't die! And
do you seriously imagine for a single instant that I could ever give her
"I imagine so, dear fellow, since she loves you."
"I tell you she wouldn't have me if I asked her."
"You don't know. Anyway, she must have the chance. If she doesn't take
it, well, she isn't the woman I imagine her to be."
"She's a saint," Nap said, with vehemence. "And you, Luke,--you're
another. You were made for each other. She would be ten million times
happier with you. Why do you want her to marry a blackguard?"
A shadow touched Lucas Errol's face, but it was only for an instant; the
next he smiled. "You are not a blackguard, Boney. I always said so. And
the love of a good woman will be your salvation. No, you're wrong. I
couldn't give her real happiness. There is only one man in the world can
give her that. And I--am not that man." He paused; his eyelids had begun
to droop, heavily. "Say, Nap, I believe I could sleep now," he said.
"Yes, yes, old chap, you shall." Nap raised himself abruptly, banishing
his weakness in a breath; only a certain unwonted gentleness remained.
"You shall," he said again. "Guess you won't be afraid now you have got
your own way. But just one thing more. You'll be wanting all your
strength for yourself for the next few weeks. Will you--for my sake if
you like--put all this by till you are winning out on the other side? She
would say the same, if she knew."
Lucas opened his eyes again, opened them wide, and fixed them steadily,
searchingly, upon his brother's face.
"You'll play the straight game with me, Boney?" he questioned. "You won't
try to back out?" Then, in a different tone, "No, don't, answer! Forgive
me for asking! I know you."
"I guess you do," Nap said, with the ghost of a smile, "better even than
I know myself. You know just how little I am to be trusted."
"I trust you, Boney, absolutely, implicitly, from the bottom of my soul."
The words left Lucas Errol's lips with something of the solemnity of an
oath. He held out a quiet hand.
"Now let me sleep," he said.
Nap rose. He stood for a moment in silence, holding the friendly hand, as
if he wished to speak, but could not. Then suddenly he bent.
"Good-night, dear chap!" he said in a whisper, and with the words he
stooped and kissed the lined forehead of the man who trusted him....
Half an hour later the door of the adjoining room opened noiselessly and
Tawny Hudson peered in.
One brother was sleeping, the quiet, refreshing sleep of a mind at rest.
The other sat watching by his side with fixed inscrutable eyes.
The latter did not stir, though in some indefinable way he made Tawny
Hudson know that he was aware of his presence, and did not desire his
closer proximity. Obedient to the unspoken command, the man did not come
beyond the threshold; but he stood there for many seconds, glowering with
the eyes of a monstrous, malignant baboon.
When at length he retired he left the door ajar, and a very curious smile
flickered across Nap's face.
But still he did not turn his head.
AT THE GATE OF DEATH
The second time that Tawny Hudson was driven from his master's side was
on a day of splendid spring--English April at its best.
Till the very last moment he lingered, and it was Lucas himself with his
final "Go, Tawny!" who sent him from the room. They would not even let
him wait, as Nap was waiting, till the anaesthetic had done its work.
Black hatred gripped the man's heart as he crept away. What was Nap
anyway that he should be thus honoured? The cloud that had attended his
coming had made a deep impression upon Hudson. He had watched the lines
upon his master's face till he knew them by heart. He knew when anxiety
kept the weary eyes from closing. He knew when the effort of the mind was
more than the body could endure. Of Lucas's pleasure at his brother's
return he raised no question, but that it would have been infinitely
better for him had Nap remained away he was firmly convinced. And he knew
with the sure intuition that unceasing vigilance had developed in him
that Capper thought the same.
Capper resented as he did the intrusion of the black sheep of the
family. But Capper was obviously powerless--even Capper, who so
ruthlessly expelled him from his master's presence, had proved impotent
when it came to removing Nap.
There was a mysterious force about Nap that no one seemed able to
resist. He, Hudson, had felt it a hundred times, had bowed to it in
spite of himself. He called it black magic in his own dark heart, and
because of it his hatred almost amounted to a mania. He regarded him
with superstition, as a devilish being endowed with hellish powers that
might at any moment be directed against his enemies. And he feared his
influence over Lucas, even though with all his monstrous imaginings he
recognised the fact of Lucas's ascendency. He had a morbid dread lest
some day his master should be taken unawares, for in Nap's devotion he
placed not a particle of faith. And mingled with his fears was a
burning jealousy that kept hatred perpetually alive. There was not one
of the duties that he performed for his master that Nap had not at one
time or another performed, more swiftly, more satisfactorily, with that
devilish deftness of his that even Capper had to admire and Hudson
could never hope to achieve. And in his inner soul the man knew that
the master he idolised preferred Nap's ministrations, Nap's sure and
dexterous touch, to his.
And so on that day of riotous spring he waited with murder in his heart
to see his enemy emerge from the closed room.
But he waited in vain. No hand touched the door against which he stood.
Within the room he heard only vague movements, and now and then Capper's
voice, sharp and distinct, giving a curt order. Two doctors and two
nurses were there to do his bidding, to aid him in the working of his
miracle; two doctors, two nurses, and Nap.
Gradually as the minutes passed the truth dawned upon the great
half-breed waiting outside. Against Capper's wish, probably in defiance
of it, Nap was remaining for the operation itself. Suspicion deepened
swiftly to conviction, and a spasm of indignation akin to frenzy took
possession of the man. Doubtless Capper had remonstrated without result,
but he--he, Tawny Hudson--could compel. Fiercely he turned and pulled the
handle of the door.
It resisted him. He had not heard the key turned upon him, yet undeniably
the door was locked. Fury entered into him. Doubtless this also was the
work of his enemy. He seized the handle, twisted, dragged, wrenched, till
it broke in his hand and he was powerless.
No one within the room paid any attention to him. No one came to open;
and this fact served to inflame him further. For a few lurid moments
Tawny Hudson saw red. He gathered his huge bull-frame together and flung
the whole weight of it against the resisting wood. He was powerless to
force the lock, as the door opened towards him, but this fact did not
discourage him. It scarcely entered into his reckoning. He was nothing at
the moment but a savage beast beyond all reasoning and beyond control.
The panels resisted his violent onslaught, but he was undaunted. With
scarcely a pause he drew off and prepared for another. But at the very
instant that he was about to hurl himself the second time, a voice spoke
on the other side of the door.
Tawny stood as if transfixed, his eyes starting, bestial foam upon his
"Tawny!" said the voice again--the voice of his enemy, curt and
imperious. "Go and find Mr. Bertie, and tell him he is wanted."
Through the closed door the magic reached the frenzied man. He remained
motionless for a few seconds, but the order was not repeated. At the end
of the interval the magic had done its work. He turned and slunk away.
A minute later Bertie, very pale and stern, presented himself at the
"What is it, Nap?"
Contemptuously clear came the answer. "Nothing here. Stay where you are,
that's all, and keep that all-fired fool Hudson from spoiling his
Bertie turned to look at the man who had come up behind him, and in
turning saw the door-handle at his feet.
He pointed to it. "Your doing?"
Hudson shrank under the accusing blue eyes so like his master's. He began
to whimper like a beaten dog.
Bertie picked up the knob. "Poor devil!" he muttered; and then aloud:
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Do you call this a man's game?"
Tawny cringed in abject misery. He was completely subdued. With the
smallest encouragement he would have grovelled at Bertie's feet.
Bertie came away from the door and sat down. His own anxiety was almost
insupportable, but he cloaked it with determined resolution. "Sit down
there!" he said, pointing to a distant chair. "And don't move until I
give you leave."
Meekly the man obeyed him, sitting crouched, his head between his hands.
Bertie regarded him with a severity more assumed than actual. He had not
the heart to send him away. He knew it would have been sheer cruelty.
A long time passed. Neither of the two watchers stirred. Tawny Hudson did
not even seem to breathe. He sat like a human image of despair.
Noon came and passed. Somewhere in the distance church bells began to
peal. Bertie started a little. He had forgotten it was Sunday. Dot would
be just driving home from church. She would not come to Baronmead, he
knew. It had been her original intention, but he had dissuaded her. He
knew that she was very anxious, but he would not have her run the risk of
a shock. If the operation failed, if Luke were to die, he would tell her
himself. He knew that he could soften the blow as none other could.
It was nearly one when at last the closed door opened. Bertie was on his
feet in an instant. Dr. Randal came quietly out, glanced round, stopped.
"It is over. We have taken him into the inner room, and he is recovering
consciousness. No, don't go to him. His man mustn't go either. We want
all these doors open, wide open, the windows too. But no one is to go
near. He must have absolute quiet."
He propped open the door as he spoke. His face was very grave.
"Remember," he said, "that the banging of this door or any sudden sound
may mean the end."
"Is he so bad then?" said Bertie, speaking with effort.
"He is very bad indeed," the doctor answered. "The operation has been a
protracted one. If he lives, it will be a success. But there is great
weakness of the heart's action. Any moment may be the last. Dr. Capper
will not leave him at present. Your brother is there too." He paused a
moment. "Your brother is a wonderful man," he said, with the air of a man
bestowing praise against his will. "If you will be good enough to order
some refreshment I will take it in. On no account is Mr. Errol's servant
to go near."
Slowly the hours of a day that seemed endless dragged away. Bertie went
home to his wife in the afternoon, taking Tawny Hudson, subdued and
wretched, with him.
In the evening he returned, the man still following him like a pariah
dog, to find the situation unaltered. Capper and Nap were still with
Lucas, whose life hung by a thread.
Bertie decided to remain for the night, and at a late hour he saw Capper
for a moment. The great man's face was drawn and haggard.
"He won't last through the night," he said. "Tell the ladies to be in
readiness. I will send for them if there is time."
"No hope whatever?" said Bertie.
Capper shook his head. "I fear--none. He is just running down--sinking. I
think you had better not come in, but stay within call."
He was gone again, and Bertie was left to give his message, and then to
wait in anguish of spirit for the final call.
The night was still. Only the draught from the wide-flung doors and
windows stirred through the quiet rooms. Mrs. Errol and Anne shared
Bertie's vigil in the room that opened out of that in which Lucas Errol
was making his last stand. Humbly, in a corner, huddled Tawny Hudson,
rocking himself, but making no sound.
Within the room Capper sat at the foot of the bed, motionless, alert as
a sentry. A nurse stood like a statue, holding back the bellying
window-curtain. And on his knees beside the bed, the inert wrists gripped
close in his sinewy fingers, was Nap.
The light of a shaded lamp shone upon his dusky face, showing the gleam
of his watchful eyes, the crude lines of jaw and cheek-bone. He looked
like a figure carved in bronze.
For hours he had knelt so in unceasing vigilance, gazing unblinking
and tireless at the exhausted face upon the pillow. It might have been
the face of a dead man upon which he gazed, but the pulses that
fluttered in his hold told him otherwise. Lucas still held feebly,
feebly, to his chain.
It was nearly an hour after midnight that a voice spoke in the
"I'm here, old chap."
"Good-bye, dear fellow!" It was scarcely more than a whisper. It seemed
to come from closed lips.
"Open your eyes," said Nap.
Slowly the heavy lids opened. The blue eyes met the deep, mysterious gaze
focussed upon them.
Silent as a ghost Capper glided forward. The nurse left the window, and
the curtain floated out into the room, fluttering like an imprisoned
thing seeking to escape.
"Ah, but, Boney--" the tired voice said, as though in protest.
And Nap's voice, thrilled through and through with a tenderness that was
more than human, made answer. "Just a little longer, dear old man! Only a
little longer! See! I'm holding you up. Turn up the lamp, doctor. Take
off the shade. He can't see me. There, old chap! Look at me now. Grip
hold of me. You can't go yet. I'm with you. I'm holding you back."
Capper trickled something out of a spoon between the pale lips, and for a
little there was silence.
But the blue eyes remained wide, fixed upon those other fiery eyes that
held them by some mysterious magic from falling into sightlessness.
Three figures had come in through the open door, moving wraith-like,
silently. The room seemed full of shadows.
After a while Lucas spoke again, and this time his lips moved
perceptibly. "It's such a long way back, Boney,--no end of a trail--and
all up hill."
The flare of the lamp was full upon Nap's face; it threw the harsh lines
into strong relief, and it seemed to Anne, watching, that she looked upon
the face of a man in extremity. His voice too--was that Nap's voice
pleading so desperately?
"Don't be faint-hearted, old chap! I'll haul you up. It won't be so tough
presently. You're through the worst already. Hold on, Luke, hold on!"
Again Capper poured something between the parted lips, and a quiver ran
through the powerless body.
"Hold on!" Nap repeated. "You promised you would. You mustn't go yet, old
boy. You can't be spared. I shall go to the devil without you."
"Not you, Boney!" Lucas's lips quivered into a smile. "That's all over,"
he said. "You're playing--the straight game--now."
"You must stay and see it through," said Nap. "I can't win out
"Ah!" A long sigh came pantingly with the word. "That so, Boney? Guess
I'm--a selfish brute--always was--always was."
A choked sob came through the stillness. Bertie suddenly covered his
face. Mrs. Errol put her arm round him as one who comforted a child.
"Is that--someone--crying?" gasped Lucas.
"It's that ass Bertie," answered Nap, without stirring so much as
"Bertie? Poor old chap! Tell him he mustn't. Tell him--I'll hang on--a
little longer--God willing; but only a little longer, Boney, only--a
There was pleading in the voice, the pleading of a man unutterably tired
and longing to be at rest.
Anne, standing apart, was cut to the heart with the pathos of it. But Nap
did not seem to feel it. He knelt on, inflexible, determined, all his
iron will, all his fiery vitality, concentrated upon holding a man in
life. It was not all magnetism, it was not all strength of purpose, it
was his whole being grappling, striving, compelling, till inch by inch he
gained a desperate victory.
In the morning the fight was over. In the morning Lucas Errol had turned,
reluctantly as it seemed to Anne, from the Gate of Death.
And while he lay sleeping quietly, the spring air, pure and life-giving,
blowing across his face, the man who had brought him back rose up from
his bedside, crept with a noiseless, swaying motion from the room, and
sank senseless on the further side of the door.
THE KING'S DECREE
For three weeks after the operation Capper said nothing good or bad of
his patient's condition, and during those weeks he scarcely went beyond
the terrace. He moved about like a man absorbed, and it seemed to Anne
whenever they met that he looked at her without seeing her.
Nap was even closer in his attendance, and Tawny Hudson found himself
more than ever supplanted and ignored. For night and day he was at hand,
sleeping when and how he could, always alert at the briefest notice,
always ready with unfailing nerve and steady hand.
And Capper suffered him without the smallest remonstrance. He seemed to
take it for granted that Nap's powers were illimitable.
"That young man will kill himself," Dr. Randal said once. "He is living
at perpetual high pressure."
"Leave him alone," growled Capper. "He is the force that drives the
engine. The wheels won't go round without him."
And this seemed true; for the wheels went round very, very slowly in
those days. Lucas Errol came back to life, urged by a vitality not his
own, and the Shadow of Death still lingered in his eyes.
He did not suffer very greatly, and he slept as he had not slept for
years, but his progress was slow, sometimes imperceptible. The languor of
intense weakness hung like a leaden weight upon him. The old brave
cheeriness had given place to a certain curious wistfulness. He seemed
too weary for effort, content at all times to sleep the hours away.
Yet when Capper demanded effort he yielded without protest. He did his
best, and he smiled at each evidence of returning powers.
"I guess it's just an almighty success, doctor," he would say. "And
you've given me sleep into the bargain. It's blessed to be able to sleep.
I've a good many years of arrears to make up."
On the day that Capper and Nap set him on his feet for the first time,
his weakness was such that he fainted; but he recovered and apologised,
and would even have faced the ordeal again had Capper permitted it. On
the following day he went through it without a tremor, and slept
thereafter for hours, scarcely rousing himself for nourishment.
It was during that sleep that Nap left him, went out into the spring
woods, and remained absent for some time. Lucas was still sleeping when
he returned, and after a brief look at him he moved away into the
adjoining room and prowled to and fro there waiting.
At the first sound of his brother's voice he was back by the bedside.
Lucas smiled a welcome. "I'm better," he said, and held up a weak hand.
It was the first time he had made the assertion. Nap took the hand and
laid it gently down.
"You'll get well now," he said.
The heavy drowsiness was less apparent than usual on Lucas's face. "I
don't know where I'd be without you, Boney," he said. "Do you know you're
looking awfully ill?"
"Shucks!" said Nap.
But Lucas continued his criticism undeterred.
"You've spent too much of yourself on me, and I've been too damned
selfish to notice. I'm going to wake up now, Boney. I'm going to play the
game. You've been playing my hand as well as your own till now. I'm going
to relieve you of that."
"Hear, hear!" said Nap.
"You'll go to bed in your own room to-night," said Lucas, "go to bed and
to sleep. In the morning we'll have a talk."
But when the morning came, his energy had flagged a little. He had not
slept as well as usual, and though he had no pain he seemed disinclined
for physical effort.
"I want a holiday to-day," he said to Capper. "Just let in the sunshine
and leave me to bask."
There had been a spell of cold and sunless weather, but that day the sun
shone gloriously. The genial warmth of it came in through the open
window and flooded the room with the very essence of spring.
"I'm going to take a day off and enjoy it," smiled Lucas. "You take a day
off too, doctor. Make the mater go out in the car. I shall do wonders
to-morrow after a good laze to-day."
Capper looked him over keenly, pulled his beard, cracked his fingers, and
yielded. "Guess a rest won't do you any harm. There's no reason to hustle
you any that I can see."
And Lucas spent the whole morning basking in the sunshine in almost
unbroken silence. He did not sleep at all. His eyes, remote and
thoughtful, were for the most part watching the specks that danced and
floated in the rays of light that streamed across his bed.
Nap forebore to disturb him, but he remained within call. He knew with
sure intuition that sooner or later Lucas would summon him. Almost he
knew what he would say.
The call came at last, very quiet and deliberate. "Boney!"
Instantly Nap presented himself.
"Come here a minute, old chap. No, I'm not wanting anything--only a word
in private. Say, Boney, is Anne still stopping here?"
He had seen her nearly every day since the operation, but he had been too
drowsy to ask any questions. He had only smiled upon her, and sometimes
for a little had held her hand.
"She is backwards and forwards," said Nap. "I believe she is spending
"Ah! Then, Boney, I want you to speak to her--to-night." He looked up at
his brother with his old, kindly smile. "It's for my own sake, old chap,"
he said. "You know, I didn't sleep last night. I was thinking about
her--about you both. And I want her to know everything to-night. I shall
sleep the easier when she knows."
Nap stood silent. His face was set in hard lines.
"Will you tell her, Boney?"
"What am I to tell her?" said Nap,
"Tell her the truth, dear fellow, so that she understands it. Make her
realise that the dearest wish of my life is her happiness--and yours." He
reached up a hand to the motionless figure beside him. "Just this one
thing, Boney," he pleaded gently. "Remember--I came back because of it.
It will be my happiness too. I want to feel that all is well between you.
God knows I want it more than anything else on earth."
Nap gripped the proffered hand and held it fast.
"But she won't have me, you know," he said, after a moment. "She only
forgave me because of you."
"Shucks, dear fellow! I guess that wasn't the reason."
"I wish to heaven you'd let me off," Nap said, with sudden
vehemence. "Let me shunt first instead of last. It's more than I
can face--even for you."
"But I guess you'll face it all the same," said Lucas gently. "And when
it's over, come--both of you--and tell me."
He closed his eyes and turned his face to the sunshine. "So long, old
chap!" he said. "Don't stay indoors. I'm not wanting you. Think I'll get
to sleep presently. Don't let them wake me if I do."
But Nap lingered, still holding his hand. "Luke!" he said.
There was a note of entreaty in his voice, but, for the second time in
his life, Lucas turned a deaf ear. The smile was still on his lips, but
his eyes remained closed.
"Go, dear fellow!" he said softly. "And God bless you!"
And Nap turned with a set face and went straight from the room.
THE STRAIGHT GAME
It was drawing towards evening on that same day when Anne, who had been
spending the afternoon at the Dower House, walked back across the park.
She went by way of the stream along which she and Nap had once skated
hand in hand in the moonlight, and as she went she stooped now and then
to gather the flowers that grew in the grass beside her path. But her
face as she did it was grave and thoughtful. She did not seem to notice
As she neared the lake she moved more slowly, and reaching a rustic seat
beneath a cedar that shadowed the entrance to the gardens she sat down,
her grey eyes fixed upon the water that gurgled at her feet.
A brilliant green dragon-fly, darting meteor-like across her vision, came
presently to disturb her reverie. With a slight start she awoke, and
leaned forward with an odd eagerness to mark its progress. As it flashed
away through the shadows a quick sigh came to her lips. It was so fair a
thing, so swiftly gone.
She gathered up her flowers and rose. And in that moment she knew that
she was not alone.
How she knew it she could not have said. No sound or shadow told her. No
hand touched her. Yet she knew.
For a few seconds she stood motionless on the edge of the stream. Then
without turning she spoke.
"Were you looking for me?"
"Yes," he said.
He came to her side. They were close--close to that spot where once he
had so arrogantly claimed her friendship. To-day it seemed he had no
word to utter.
For a space she waited, then, finding in his silence something that
disquieted her, she spoke again.
"Is all well? Why are you not with Lucas?"
"All's well," he said, but he left her second question unanswered. He was
gazing down intently into the clear water.
Seconds passed. She glanced at him once or twice, but he seemed unaware
of her scrutiny. He made no movement to meet it. His dark face brooded
over the stream, almost as if she were not there.
Her heart began to throb with thick, uneven strokes. What had he come to
say to her? And why did he stand thus silent? There was something tragic
about him, something almost terrible.
She waited beside him in wordless foreboding. Whatever was coming she
felt powerless to avert. She could only brace herself to meet the
In some fashion, though he never glanced her way, he must have been aware
of her agitation, for when he spoke again there was some measure of
reassurance in his voice, emotionless though it was.
"I shan't alarm you," he said. "I shan't even ask you to answer me, much
less to treat me kindly. But you've got to hear me, that's all. I'm not
telling you for my own sake, only because Luke has ordained that you must
know. I daresay you thought it strange that I should have come back so
soon. It probably made you wonder."
"It did," said Anne, in a low voice.
"I knew it would." A note of grim satisfaction sounded in the rejoinder.
He jerked his head a little with a touch of the old arrogance. "Well, I
am here to explain. I knew the odds were dead against me when I
started--as they are to-day. All the same you are to understand that I
came back when I did because I had just heard that you were free and I
was mad enough to dream that in spite of everything I should one day
persuade you to marry me."
He paused an instant, but he kept his eyes upon the water as if he were
reading something in the crystal depths.
Anne still waited beside him, her hands clasped tightly upon her
He continued very rapidly, as though he wished to have done. "That was
my true reason for coming back. I don't know if I deceived you any on
that point. I tried to. But anyway I didn't manage to deceive Lucas. He
sees most things. He knows for instance that I--care for you"--almost
angrily he flung the words--"and he thinks you ought to know it, in
case"--his lips twisted into a queer smile--"you care for me. It's a
preposterous idea anyway. I've told him so. But he won't be easy till
I've given you the chance to trample on me. Guess he thinks I owe you
that. Maybe I do. Well--you have your opportunity."
"Do you think I want--that?" Anne said, her voice very low.
His hands clenched. "I can't say," he said. "Most women would. But--if
you want to know--I'd sooner be trampled. I've promised I'll play the
straight game, and I'm playing it. I'm telling you the raw truth. I love
you. I have it in me to make you know it. But--"
"But you love Lucas better" she said.
He nodded. "Just that. Also, Lucas is a good man. He will set your
happiness first all his life. While I--while I"--he stooped a little,
still staring downwards as if he watched something--"while I, Lady
Carfax," he said, speaking very quietly, "might possibly succeed in
making you happy, but it wouldn't be the same thing. You would have to
live my life--not I yours. I am not like Lucas. I shouldn't be satisfied
"And you think that is all I can offer him?" she said.
He made a sharp gesture of repudiation. "I have no theories on that
subject. I believe you would satisfy him. I believe--ultimately--you
would both find the happiness we are all hunting for."
"And you?" Anne said, her voice very low.
He straightened himself with a backward fling of the shoulders, but still
he did not look at her. "I, Lady Carfax!" he said grimly. "I don't fit
into the scheme of things anyway. I was just pitchforked into your life
by an accident. It's for you to toss me out again."
Anne was silent. She stood with her face to the sinking sun. She seemed
to be gathering her strength.
At last, "What will you do?" she asked in the same hushed voice. "Where
will you go?"
He turned slowly towards her. "I really don't know. I haven't begun
His eyes looked deeply into hers, but they held no passion, no emotion of
any sort. They made her think with a sudden intolerable stab of pain of
that night when he had put out the fire of his passion to receive her
kiss. He had told her once that that kiss was the greatest thing that had
ever happened to him. Did he remember it now, she wondered, as she met
those brooding eyes, still and dark and lonely as they had been then,
unfathomable as a mountain pool. She did not fear to meet them. Only a
vast, surging pity filled her soul. She understood him so well--so well.
"Nap," she said tremulously, "what can I say to you? What can I do?"
He put out a quiet, unfaltering hand and took hers. "Don't be too good to
me," he said. "Don't worry any on my account. If you do, maybe Luke will
notice and misunderstand. He's so damnably shrewd." A brief smile crossed
his face. "I'll tell you what to do, Lady Carfax, and when it's done
you'll feel better. Come with me now to Lucas--it's his own idea--and
tell him you've no use for me. Put it how you like. Women can always do
these things. Make him know that he comes first with you still and always
will. Tell him you know all the truth and it hasn't made you change your
mind. Tell him you'd rather belong to a man you can trust. He'll believe
you, Anne. We all do."
He spoke insistently. He had begun to draw her towards the path. But as
they reached it, his hand fell from hers. He walked beside her, close
beside her, but not by word or touch did he seek further to persuade her.
And Anne walked steadily forward as one in a dream. It was the only thing
to do, since he had told her plainly that he desired it, since with both
of them Luke must for ever come first. He had drawn them together, he had
linked their hands, but he stood between them to do it, and neither of
them would suffer him to go.
She supposed they would be friends again, she and Nap. She did not fear
that he would ever again cross the boundary line. His love for his
brother ran like a purifying current through his veins. It was the one
streak of greatness in him. Its very selflessness made it stronger than
his love for her. She knew with a certainty that nought could ever shake
that he would be true to Lucas, that never again by word or sign would he
betray that for which he had not scrupled to play her false.
And because she was a woman and understood him she forgave him this. For
she knew that the greater loyalty had done for him that which she had
failed to do. She knew that in uttermost self-sacrifice Nap Errol, the
savage, the merciless, the treacherous, had found his soul.
So side by side in silence they went back to the house.
The evening was very still; passing in from the terrace they seemed to
enter an enchanted palace wherein nothing stirred.
"He may be asleep," Nap said. "Shall I go first?"
She assented without speaking. Somehow the spell of silence seemed to
hold her also.
Tawny Hudson was on guard as usual in the outer room. He looked up with
resentful eyes as they entered, but he said nothing. The door into his
master's room stood half open. Nap paused at it a moment to listen. He
turned to Anne, and she fancied just for a second that there was a
shade of anxiety on his face. But it was gone instantly, if indeed it
had been there.
"Follow me in a minute," he said, "if I don't come back."
And with that he glided through the narrow space and passed from sight.
A minute later, absolute silence reigning, Anne softly pushed back the
door and entered.
She found Nap crouched motionless with outflung arms across the foot
of the bed.
And drawing nearer, she saw that Lucas Errol was lying asleep with his
face to the sky, all the lines of pain smoothed utterly away, and on his
lips that smile which some call the Stamp of Death, and others the
shining reflection of the Resurrection Glory which the passing soul has
THE TRANSFORMING MAGIC
No clamour of mourning broke the spell of silence that lay upon
Baronmead. Those who wept hid their grief behind closed doors. But those
to whom Lucas was dearest shed the fewest tears. His mother went about
with a calmness of aspect that never faltered. She and Anne were very
close to each other in those days though but few words passed between
them. A hush that was like a benediction brooded upon the silent house.
They could not weep.
Once, standing in the hallowed stillness beside her dead, Mrs. Errol
turned to Anne, saying softly: "The dear Lord knows best, dear. We
wouldn't call him back. He wouldn't want to come."
And later she told her gently that she had known ever since the operation
that the end was near.
"It was in his eyes," she said. "I know that look so well. Dr. Capper
knew it too. And so, I'm sure, did the dear boy himself. That waiting,
far-off look as if the soul were listening, didn't you see it, dear? I
only wondered that he stayed so long."
Yes, Anne had seen it. She knew it now. Though he had smiled upon her,
though he had held her hand, she knew that all human longing had died in
Lucas Errol's soul on the night that he had gone down to the Gate of
Death and Nap had drawn him back. He had slackened his hold upon things
earthly that night, and though he had come back a little way, it had been
as a spectator only that he lingered, no more as one who took an active
part in the drama of mortal life. His _role_ was played; she realised now
that he must have known it, and that he had not wished it otherwise. He
had not died with that kingly smile upon his lips if he had not been
content to die. That was why grief seemed to her impossible. That was why
the peace in which he lay, wrapped tenderly around her tired heart also
and gave her rest.
Of Nap during those days of silence she saw nothing whatever. He had
risen from his brother's death-bed with a face of stony aloofness, and
had gone swiftly out, she knew not whither. Since that moment she had
scarcely seen him. He spent his time out of the house, somewhere away in
the woods she believed, out of reach of any human observation, not even
returning at night. Once only in the early morning she saw him cross the
stretch of lawn in front of the lake and enter by a side door. But her
glimpse of him was of the briefest. She did not see his face.
Upon Bertie devolved all the duties of the head of the household, but
his mother was ready at every turn to help him. She was more to him
during those few days than she had ever been before. Capper also,
remaining for the funeral, placed himself at his disposal and did much to
lighten the burden.
Capper indeed helped everyone, and Anne always remembered with gratitude
a few moments that she had alone with him on the evening before the