He stopped. Sir Giles said nothing whatever.
“The messenger is waiting, Sir Giles.”
Still no response of any sort.
Dimsdale waited a moment, then very respectfully he bent and touched his master’s shoulder.
Sir Giles turned slowly at last, with immense effort it seemed. He glowered at Dimsdale for a space. Then, “Bring some brandy and water,” he said, “hot!”
“But the messenger, Sir Giles!”
“What?” Sir Giles glared a moment longer, then as anger came uppermost, the smouldering furnace leapt into sudden seething flame. “Tell him to go to the devil!” he thundered. “And when you’ve done that, bring me some brandy and water—hot!”
As Dimsdale departed upon his double errand he dropped back into his former position, staring dully before him, under scowling brows.
When Dimsdale returned he was sunk in the chair asleep.
THE HEAD OF THE HOUSE
“Hullo, Lucas! Can I come in?”
Nap Errol stood outside his brother’s door, an impatient frown on his face, his hand already fidgeting at the handle.
“Come in, old chap,” drawled back a kindly voice.
He entered with an abruptness that seemed to denote agitation.
The room was large and brilliantly lighted. In an easy chair by the fire the eldest Errol was reclining, while his valet, a huge man with the features of an American Indian half-breed and fiery red hair, put the finishing touches to his evening dress.
Nap approached the fire with his usual noiseless tread despite the fact that he was still in riding boots.
“Be quick, Hudson!” he said. “We don’t want you.”
Hudson rolled a nervous eye at him and became clumsily hasty.
“Take your time,” his master said quietly. “Nap, my friend, hadn’t you better dress?”
Nap stopped before the fire and pushed it with his foot. “I am not going to dine,” he said.
Lucas Errol said no more. He lay still in his chair with his head back and eyes half-closed, a passive, pathetic figure with the shoulders of a strong man and the weak, shrunken limbs of a cripple. His face was quite smooth. It might have belonged to a boy of seventeen save for the eyes, which were deeply sunken and possessed the shrewd, quizzical intelligence of age.
He lay quite motionless as though he were accustomed to remain for hours in one position. Hudson the valet tended him with the reverence of a slave. Nap fell to pacing soundlessly to and fro, awaiting the man’s exit with what patience he could muster.
“You can go now, Tawny,” the elder Errol drawled at last. “I will ring when I want you. Now, Boney, what is it? I wish you would sit down.”
There was no impatience in the words, but his brows were slightly drawn as he uttered them,