“Steady, partner; we’ll soon be across,” he said in a quiet, reassuring voice, and Lawrence’s slack pose stiffened, as if he had gathered confidence.
Lucy thought he did not know who had spoken, but the horrible tension did not slacken yet, though Lawrence began to move forward. Walters came close behind, rather guiding than supporting him, and in a few moments they stepped down on the other side. Then Lucy gasped and logs and pines got blurred and indistinct. She conquered the faintness and went resolutely towards the log.
“Wait and let me help you,” somebody said.
“No,” she answered in a strained voice; “I’m quite steady.”
She crossed the log without a tremor and running to where Lawrence sat put her arm round him. Lawrence said nothing, but took and held her hand.
When Lucy looked up, the others had gathered round and Walters smiled sympathetically.
“Are you better?” he asked Lawrence.
“Yes; we’ll go on in a minute. I don’t know what was the matter; felt dizzy and couldn’t keep my balance. Think I needed a rest.”
“The thing’s obvious,” Walters agreed. “After seeing you on the glaciers, I reckon your nerve’s all right, but you’re not well yet and we brought you up the last hill too fast. The exertion disturbed the beating of your heart and a few drops too much blood sent to the brain makes a big difference. That’s what happened; it’s our fault.”
Lucy was grateful for the explanation, and thought it correct, but she noted with some concern that Lawrence did not show the embarrassment she had expected, which indicated that he had not recovered yet. In the meantime, Walters gave her a look of ironical amusement. She could not resent this and it seemed ridiculous to doubt him, but she did.
“Thank you; you were very quick and cool,” she said with an effort.
Walters tactfully bowed his acknowledgment, as if he did not want to press his claim on her gratitude, and Lucy turned to one of the others.
“Was it you who held me back?” she asked, and when the man nodded, resumed: “Of course, you were right. I might have startled him and we would both have fallen.”
“That’s what I was afraid of. Anyhow, Mr. Walters deserves your thanks most. He saw what was needed and did it smartly.”
Then Lawrence got up, with some color in his face, and gave Walters his hand. “I expect I would have fallen if you hadn’t come along,” he said and turned to the rest. “I feel I must apologize for frightening you. My best excuse is that I wasn’t as fit as I thought.”
They urged him to rest and one offered to run to the hotel for brandy, but he declared he was able to go on, and they tactfully began to talk about something else and after a few minutes let him drop behind. He was grateful and went slowly, with his hand on Lucy’s arm. Sometimes he pressed it gently and she gave him a tender look, but said nothing. She could not talk; her relief was too great. When they reached the hotel Lawrence went to his room, and soon afterwards Lucy met Walters on the veranda.