“Major Burton?” questioned Monck.
“I sent him for some brandy to steady your nerves,” Sir Reginald said.
“You’re very good,” Monck said again. He leaned his head on his hand and sat silent.
Major Burton returned with Tommy hovering anxiously behind him. The boy hesitated a little upon entering, but the Colonel called him in.
“You had better see the message too,” he said. “Your sister is ill. Captain Monck is going to her.”
Tommy read the message with one eye upon Monck, who drank the brandy Burton brought and in a moment stood up.
“I am sorry to have made such a fool of myself, sir,” he said to Sir Reginald, with a faint, grim smile. “I shall not forget your kindness, though I hope you will forget my idiocy.”
Sir Reginald looked at him closely for a second. His grizzled face was stern. Yet he held out his hand.
“Good-bye, Captain Monck!” was all he said.
Monck stiffened. The smile passed from his face, leaving it inscrutable, granite-like in its composure. It was as the donning of a mask.
“Good-bye, sir!” he said briefly, as he shook hands.
Tommy moved to his side impulsively. He did not utter a word, but as they went out his hand was pushed through Monck’s arm in the old confidential fashion, the old eager affection was shining in his eyes.
“He has one staunch friend, anyhow,” Sir Reginald muttered to the Colonel.
“Yes,” the Colonel answered gravely. “He has done a good deal for young Denvers. It’s the boy’s turn to make good now. There isn’t much left him besides.”
“Poor devil!” said Sir Reginald.
OUT OF THE DARKNESS
“You said Everard was coming. Why doesn’t he come? It’s very dark—it’s very dark! Can he have missed the way?”
Feebly, haltingly, the words seemed to wander through the room, breaking a great silence as it were with immense effort. Mrs. Ralston bent over the bed and whispered hushingly that it was all right, all right, Everard would be there soon.
“But why does he take so long?” murmured Stella. “It’s getting darker every minute. And it’s so steep. I keep slipping—slipping. I know he would hold me up.” And then after a moment, “Oh, Mary, am I dying? I believe I am. But—he—wouldn’t let me die.”
Mrs. Ralston’s hand closed comfortingly upon hers. “You’re quite safe, dearest,” she said. “Don’t be afraid!”
“But it’s so dreadfully dark,” Stella said restlessly. “I shouldn’t mind if I could see the way. But I can’t—I can’t.”
“Be patient, darling!” said Mrs. Ralston very tenderly. “It will be lighter presently.”
It was growing very late. She herself was listening for every sound, hoping against hope to hear the firm quiet step of the man who alone could still her charge’s growing distress.