And Jeb Hart and his comrade saw the tall white figure from their hiding-place in the low overgrown brushwood, and Gubbs crossed himself again, for whether she were living or some wraith they were never really sure.
At the moment when Halcyone opened the secret door, John Derringham was just recovering consciousness in a luxurious bed at Wendover Park, whither he had been carried when accidentally found by the keepers in their rounds about eight o’clock. It was several days since they had visited this part of the park, and they had lit upon him by a fortunate chance. He had lain there in the haw-haw, unconscious all that day, while his poor little lady-love waited for him at the oak gate, and was now in a sorry plight indeed, as Arabella Clinker bent over him, awaiting anxiously the verdict of the doctors who had been fetched by motor from Upminster. Would he live or die?
Her employer had had a bad attack of nerves upon hearing of the accident, and was now reclining upon her boudoir sofa, quite prostrated and in a high state of agitation until she should know the worst—or best.
Arabella listened intently. Surely the patient was whispering something? Yes, she caught the words.
“Halcyone!” he murmured, and again, “Halcyone—my love!” and then he closed his eyes once more.
He would live, the physicians said after some hours of doubt—with very careful nursing. But the long exposure in the wet, twenty-four hours at least, with that wound in the head and the broken ankle, was a very serious matter, and absolute quiet and the most highly skilled attention would be necessary.
It was Arabella who made all the sensible, kind arrangements that night, and herself sat up with the poor suffering patient until the nurses could come. But it was Mrs. Cricklander who, dignified and composed, received the doctors after the consultation with Sir Benjamin Grant next day, before the celebrated surgeon left for London, and she made her usual good impression upon the great man.
That the local lights thought far more highly of Arabella did not matter. Mrs. Cricklander was wise enough to know, it is upon the exalted that a good effect must be produced.
“And, you are sure, Sir Benjamin, that he will get quite well?” she said tenderly, allowing her handsome eyes to melt upon the surgeon’s face. “It matters enormously to me, you know.” Then she looked down.
Thus appealed to, Sir Benjamin felt he must give her all the assurance he could.
“Perfectly, dear lady,” he said, pressing her soft hand in sympathy. “He is young and strong, and fortunately it has not touched his brain. But it will take time and gentlest nursing, which you will see, of course, that he gets.”
“Indeed, yes,” the fair Cecilia said. And when they were all gone, she summoned Arabella.
“You will let me know, Arabella, every minute change in him,” she commanded, “especially when he seems conscious. And you will tell him how I am watching over him and doing everything for him. I can’t bear sick people—they upset my nerves, and I just can’t stand them. But the moment he is all right enough to see me so that it won’t bore me, I’ll come. You understand? Now I must really have a trional and get some rest.”