He met her look steadily. “No, I can’t forget,” he said. “But I shan’t pester you. I don’t believe in pestering any one. I shouldn’t have done it now, only—” he broke off faintly smiling—“it’s all Tommy’s fault, confound him!” he said, and rose, giving her shoulder a pat that was somehow more reassuring to her than any words.
She laughed rather tremulously. “Poor Tommy! Now please sit down and have a rational meal! You are looking positively gaunt. It will be Tommy’s and my turn to nurse you next if you are not careful.”
He pulled up a chair and seated himself. “What a pleasing suggestion! But I doubt if Tommy’s assistance will be very valuable to any one for some little time to come. No milk in that coffee, please. I will have some brandy.”
Looking back upon that early breakfast, Stella smiled to herself though not without misgiving. For somehow, in spite of what had preceded it, it was a very light-hearted affair. She had never seen Monck in so genial a mood. She had not believed him capable of it. For though he looked wretchedly ill, his spirits were those of a conqueror.
Doubtless he regarded the turn in Tommy’s illness as a distinct and personal victory. But was that his only cause for triumph? She wished she knew.
When Stella saw Tommy again, he greeted her with a smile of welcome that told her that for him the worst was over. He had returned. But his weakness was great, greater than he himself realized, and she very quickly comprehended the reason for Major Ralston’s evident anxiety. Sickness was rife everywhere, and now that the most imminent danger was past he was able to spare but little time for Tommy’s needs. He placed him in Stella’s care with many repeated injunctions that she did her utmost to fulfil.
For the first two days Monck helped her. His management of Tommy was supremely arbitrary, and Tommy submitted himself with a meekness that sometimes struck Stella as excessive. But it was so evident that the boy loved to have his friend near him, whatever his mood, that she made no comments since Monck was not arbitrary with her. She saw but little of him after their early morning meal together, for when he could spare the time to be with Tommy, she took his advice and went to her room for the rest she so sorely needed.
She hoped that Monck rested too during the hours that she was on duty in the sick-room. She concluded that he did so, though his appearance gave small testimony to the truth of her supposition. Once or twice coming upon him suddenly she was positively startled by the haggardness of his look. But upon this also she made no comment. It seemed advisable to avoid all personal matters in her dealings with him. She was aware that he suffered no interference from Major Ralston whose time was in fact so fully occupied at the hospital and elsewhere that he was little likely to wish to add him to his sick list.