Then, “Good-night,” Lucas said again gravely, and let him go.
Yet for an instant longer Nap lingered as one on the verge of speech. But nothing came of it. He apparently thought better—or worse—of the impulse, and departed light-footed in silence.
THE HAND OF A FRIEND
What had happened to her? Slowly, with a sensation of doubt that seemed to weigh her down, Anne rose to the surface of things, and looked once more upon the world that had rushed so giddily away from her and left her spinning through space.
She was horribly afraid during those first few minutes, afraid with a physical, overwhelming dread. She seemed to be yet falling, falling through emptiness to annihilation. And as she fell she caught the sounds of other worlds, vague whisperings in the dark. She was sinking, sinking fast into a depth unfathomable, where no worlds were.
And then—how it came to her she knew not, for she was powerless to help herself—out of the chaos and the awful darkness a hand reached out and grasped her own; a hand strong and vital that gripped and held, that lifted her up, that guided her, that sustained her, through all the terror that girt her round.
The light dawned gradually in her eyes. She found herself gazing up into a face she knew, a lean, brown face, alert and keen, that watched her steadfastly.
With an effort she clasped her nerveless fingers upon the sustaining hand.
“Hold me!” she whispered weakly. “I’m falling!”
“Don’t be afraid!” he made answer with infinite gentleness. “I have you safe.”
Someone whom she saw but vaguely came behind him and whispered in a vigorous undertone. A large white hand, on which flashed many rings, rested upon his shoulder.
He moved slightly, took something into his free hand and held it to her lips. Submissively, in answer to an influence that seemed to fold her about and gently to compel, she drank.
Slowly the mist of dread cleared from her brain. Slowly she awoke to full consciousness, and found Nap Errol bending over her, her hand fast clasped in his.
“What happened?” she asked him faintly. “Where am I?”
“You are at Baronmead,” he said. “You were thrown and we brought you here.”
“Ah!” Her brows contracted a little. “Am I much hurt?” she asked.
“Nothing to worry about,” Nap said with quiet confidence. “You will soon be all right again. I will leave you to get a good sleep, shall I? If you are wanting anything my mother will be here.”
She looked at him doubtfully. Her hand still clung to his, half-mechanically it seemed.
“Mr. Errol,” she faltered, “my husband—does he know?”
“Yes, he knows.” Very softly Nap made answer, as though he were soothing a child. “Don’t trouble about that. Don’t trouble about anything. Just lie still and rest.”