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 their fragrance.
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 inevitable.
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.