Words flicked rapidly into being under her pen: “I shall be behind the tamarisks to-night.”
THE BROAD ROAD
Bernard Monck never forgot the day of Scooter’s death. It was as indelibly fixed in his memory as in that of Tessa.
The child’s wild agony of grief was of so utterly abandoned a nature as to be almost Oriental in its violence. The passionate force of her resentment against her mother also was not easy to cope with though he quelled it eventually. But when that was over, when she had wept herself exhausted in his arms at last, there followed a period of numbness that made him seriously uneasy.
Mrs. Ralston had gone out before the tragedy had occurred, but Major Ralston presently came to his relief. He stooped over Tessa with a few kindly words, but when he saw the child’s face his own changed somewhat.
“This won’t do,” he said to Bernard, holding the slender wrist. “We must get her to bed. Where’s her ayah?”
Tessa’s little hand hung limply in his hold. She seemed to be half-asleep. Yet when Bernard moved to lift her, she roused herself to cling around his neck.
“Please keep me with you, dear Uncle St. Bernard! Oh, please don’t go away!”
“I won’t, sweetheart,” he promised her.
The ayah was nowhere to be found, but it was doubtful if her presence would have made much difference, since Tessa would not stir from her friend’s sheltering arms, and wept again weakly even at the doctor’s touch.
So it was Bernard who carried her to her room, and eventually put her to bed under Major Ralston’s directions. The latter’s face was very grave over the whole proceeding and he presently fetched something in a medicine-glass and gave it to Bernard to administer.
Tessa tried to refuse it, but her opposition broke down before Bernard’s very gentle insistence. She would do anything, she told him piteously, if only—if only—he would stay with her.
So Bernard stayed, sending a message to The Green Bungalow to explain his absence, which found Mrs. Ralston as well as Stella and brought the former back in haste.
Tessa was in a deep sleep by the time she arrived, but, hearing that Stella did not need him, Bernard still maintained his watch, only permitting Mrs. Ralston to relieve him while he partook of luncheon with her husband.
Netta did not appear for the meal to the unspoken satisfaction of them both. They ate almost in silence, Major Ralston being sunk in a species of moody abstraction which Bernard did not disturb until the meal was over.
Then at length, ere he rose to go, he deliberately broke into his host’s gloomy reflections. “Will you tell me,” he said courteously, “exactly what it is that you fear with regard to the child?”
Major Ralston continued to be abstracted for fully thirty seconds after the quiet question; then, as Bernard did not repeat it but merely waited, he replied to it.