Abruptly the pen fell from his fingers; his head dropped back. His face was drawn and ghastly as he uttered a few gasping whispers. “Tawny, give me something—quick! This pain is—killing me!”
The man lowered him again, and took a bottle from a side-table. As he measured some drops into a glass the only sound in the room was his master’s agonised breathing.
Yet he knew without turning that someone had entered, and he betrayed no surprise when Nap’s hand suddenly whisked the glass from his hold and held it to the panting lips.
The first words Lucas uttered when utterance became possible to him were, “No morphia!”
Nap was deftly drawing away the pillows to ease his position. “All right, old fellow,” he made answer. “But you know you can’t sit up when you are like this. What possessed you to try?”
“Business,” murmured Lucas. “Don’t go again, Boney. I want you.”
“So I’ve been told. I am quite at your service. Don’t speak till you feel better.”
“Ah! I am better now. There’s magic about you, I believe. Or is it electricity?” Lucas’s eyes rested on the grim face above him with a certain wistfulness.
Nap only smiled cynically. “Is Hudson to take this note? Can I address it for you?”
If he expected to cause any discomfiture by the suggestion he was disappointed. Lucas answered him with absolute composure.
“Yes; to Lady Carfax at the Manor. It is to go at once.”
Nap thrust it into an envelope with a perfectly inscrutable countenance, scrawled the address, and handed it to the valet. “You needn’t come back till you are rung for,” he said.
And with that he calmly seated himself by his brother’s side with the air of a man with ample leisure at his disposal.
As the door closed he spoke. “Hadn’t you better have a smoke?”
“No. I must talk first. I wish you would sit where I can see you.”
Nap pulled his chair round at once and sat in the full glare of the noonday sun. “Is that enough lime-light for you? Now, what ails the great chief? Does he think his brother will run away while he sleeps?”
There was a hint of tenderness underlying the banter in his voice. He stooped with the words and picked up a letter that lay on the floor. “This yours?”
Lucas’s half-extended hand fell. “And you may read it,” he said.
“Many thanks! I don’t read women’s letters unless they chance to be addressed to me—no, not even if they concern me very nearly.” Nap’s teeth gleamed for a moment. “I’m afraid you must play off your own bat, my worthy brother, though if you take my advice you’ll postpone it. You’re about used up, and I’m deuced thirsty. It’s not a peaceful combination.”
Again, despite the nonchalance of his speech, it was not without a certain gentleness. He laid the letter on the bed within reach of his brother’s hand.