“It is dreadful, Hugh. I never knew how dreadful until now. I cannot bear to see you go out there to-night, perhaps never to come back. I shall die if you go!”
“But I must go, Tennys,” he said firmly. “I’d rather die than be a coward. Your fears are utterly ridiculous.”
His rather petulant speech caused her to withdraw her hands, her wide eyes sending a glance of wounded pride up into his. That look of reproach haunted him the whole night long. Even in the next moment he sought to withdraw the unintentional sting from his words by the gentle reminder that he would come back to her a victor and that she would be proud of him. Still the hurt eyes looked into his.
“I—I did not mean to interfere, Hugh. You must pay no attention to me. I was selfish and absurdly afraid,” she said, a trace of coldness in her voice, her manner entirely altered.
“Any woman might well be afraid at such a time,” he said quickly.
“I am not afraid for myself. It is not the kind of cowardice you think it is.”
“You just now wondered what would become of you if I were killed,” he ventured.
“I know what will become of me if the worst should come. But I must not keep you standing here. There is much for you to do and much for me to do. You shall never again say that I am not brave. Go and fight, Hugh, and when you bring home the wounded I shall have a place to care for them all.” All this was spoken rapidly and in high-pitched tones. He moved slowly toward the door, not knowing what to say or how to act at parting.
“I’ll be back all right, Tennys,” he said at last. “Would you care very much if—if I never came back?”
“Oh, Hugh!” was her wail. “How can you ask? What would it mean to me to be left here all alone? If you would have me brave, do not ask such questions. Go, Hugh. Good-by!”
He grasped her hand, wrung it spasmodically, glanced once in her eyes and was off toward the horde of warriors congregating in the field.
Lady Tennys steadied her swaying figure against the doorpost and looked out upon the preparations for departure. The light in her eyes had died.
ON THE EVE OF BATTLE
Ridgeway looked at his watch as he drew up to the torch bearers. It was then ten minutes after ten o’clock. In all probability the entire force of the enemy had landed upon the coast and was already on its way toward the village. He realized that these savages, friend and foe, knew nothing of the finer stratagems of warfare. Their style of fighting was of the cruel kind that knows no science, no quarter. A new commander had come to revolutionize the method of warfare for at least one of the armies. It was to be a case of strategy and a new intelligence against superior forces and a surprised ferocity.