They whispered together for a while over the baby’s head, but he never remembered afterwards what passed or how long he knelt there. Only at last there came a silence that drifted on and on and he knew that Stella was asleep.
Later Mrs. Ralston stooped over him and took the baby away, and he laid his head down upon the pillow by Stella’s and wished with all his soul that the Gate before which her feet had halted would open to them both.
Someone came up behind them, and stood for a few seconds looking down upon them. He was aware of a presence, but he knelt on without stirring—as one kneeling entranced in a sacred place. Then two hands he knew grasped him firmly by the shoulders, raising him; he looked up half-dazed into his brother’s face.
“Come along, old chap!” Bernard whispered. “You mustn’t faint in here.”
The words roused him. The old sardonic smile showed for a moment about his lips. He faint! But he had not slept for two nights. That would account for that curious top-heavy feeling that possessed him. He suffered Bernard to help him up,—good old Bernard who had watched over him like a mother refusing flatly to remain behind, waiting upon him hand and foot at every turn.
“You come into the next room!” he whispered. “You shall be called immediately if she wakes and wants you. But you’ll crumple up if you don’t rest.”
There was truth in the words. Everard realized it as he went from the room, leaning blindly upon the stout, supporting arm. His weariness hung upon him like an overwhelming weight.
He submitted himself almost mechanically to his brother’s ordering, feeling as if he moved in a dream. As in a dream also he saw Peter at the door move, noiseless as a shadow, to assist him on the other side. And he tried to laugh off his weakness, but the laugh stuck in his throat.
Then he found himself in a chair drinking a stiff mixture of brandy and water, again at Bernard’s behest, while Bernard stood over him, watching with the utmost kindness in his blue eyes.
The spirit steadied him. He came to himself, sat up slowly, and motioned Peter from the room. He was his own master again. He turned to his brother with a smile.
“You’re a friend in need, St. Bernard. That dose has done me good. Open the window, old fellow, will you? Let’s have some air!”
Bernard flung the window wide, and the warm wet air blew in laden with the fragrance of the teeming earth. Everard turned his face to it, drawing in great breaths. The dawn was breaking.
“She is better?” Bernard questioned, after a few moments.
“Yes. I believe she has turned the corner.” Everard spoke without turning. His eyes were fixed.
“Thank God!” said Bernard gently.
Everard’s right hand made a curious movement. It was as if it closed upon a weapon. “You can do that part,” he said, and he spoke with constraint. “But you’d do it in any case. It’s a way you’ve got. See the light breaking over there? It’s like a sword—turning all ways.” He rose with an obvious effort and passed his hand across his eyes. “What of you, man?” he said. “Have they been looking after you?”