“You see how it is with me, Anne,” he said very sadly. “Tawny Hudson thinks I’m a devil, and I’m not sure—even now—that he isn’t right. That’s why I’m going away. I won’t have you trust me, for I can’t trust myself. And you have no one to protect you from me. So you won’t blame me for going? You’ll understand?”
His words went straight to her heart. She felt the quick tears rising, but she kept them back. She knew that he needed strength from her just then.
And so, after a moment, she commanded herself, and answered him.
“I think you are quite right to go, Nap. And—yes, I understand. Only—some day—some day—come back again!”
He leaned towards her. His face had flashed into sudden vitality at her words. He made a movement as if he would take her into his arms. And then abruptly, almost with violence, he withdrew himself, and gripped his hands together behind him.
Standing so, with the moonlight shining on his face, he showed her that which her heart ached to see. For though the dusky eyes were fixed and still, unveiled but unrevealing, though the high cheek-bones and lantern jaw were grim as beaten brass, she had a glimpse beyond of the seething, volcanic fires she dreaded, and she knew that he had spoken the truth. It was better for them both that he should go.
“I will come back to you, Anne,” he said, speaking very steadily. “I will come back to you—if I find I can.”
It was final, and she knew it. She held out her hand to him in silence, and he, stooping, pressed it dumbly against his lips.
Thereafter they walked back to the house together, and parted without a word.
OUT OF THE FURNACE
Capper looked round with a certain keenness that was not untouched with curiosity when Nap unexpectedly followed him to his room that night.
“Are you wanting anything?” he demanded, with his customary directness.
“Nothing much,” Nap said. “You might give me a sleeping-draught if you’re disposed to be charitable. I seem to have lost the knack of going to sleep. What I really came to say was that Hudson will go with you to-morrow if you will be good enough to put up with him. He won’t give you any trouble. I would let him go with me next week if his wits would stand the strain of travelling in my company, but I don’t think they will. I don’t want to turn him into a gibbering maniac if I can help it.”
“What have you been doing to him?” said Capper.
Nap smiled, faintly contemptous. “My dear doctor, I never do anything to anybody. If people choose to credit me with possessing unholy powers, you will allow that I am scarcely to be blamed if the temptation to trade now and then upon their fertile imaginations proves too much for me.”
“I allow nothing,” Capper said, “that is not strictly normal and wholesome.”