“Carry her into her room,” directed Io.
Banneker picked up the tall, strong-built form without effort and deposited it on the bed in the inner room.
“Open all the windows,” commanded the girl. “See if you can find me some ammonia or camphor. Quick! She looks as if she were dying.”
One after another Banneker tried the bottles on the dresser. “Here it is. Ammonia,” he said.
In his eagerness he knocked a silver-mounted photograph to the floor. He thrust the drug into the girl’s hand and watched her helplessly as she worked over the limp figure on the bed. Mechanically he picked up the fallen picture to replace it. There looked out at him the face of a man of early middle age, a face of manifest intellectual power, high-boned, long-lined, and of the austere, almost ascetic beauty which the Florentine coins have preserved for us in clear fidelity. Across the bottom was written in a peculiarly rhythmic script, the legend:
“Toujours a toi. W.”
“She’s coming back,” said Io’s voice. “No. Don’t come nearer. You’ll shut off the air. Find me a fan.”
He ran to the outer room and came back with a palm-leaf.
“She wants something,” said Io in an agonized half-voice. “She wants it so badly. What is it? Help me, Ban! She can’t speak. Look at her eyes—so imploring. Is it medicine?... No! Ban, can’t you help?”
Banneker took the silver-framed portrait and placed it in the flaccid hand. The fingers closed over it. The filmiest wraith of a smile played about the blue lips.
An hour later, Io came out to Banneker waiting fearfully in the big room.
“She won’t have a doctor. I’ve given her the strychnia and she insists she’ll be all right.”
“Don’t you think I ought to go for the doctor, anyway?”
“She wouldn’t see him. She’s very strong-willed.... That’s a wonderful woman, Ban.” Io’s voice shook a little.
“How did you know about the picture?”
“I saw it on the dresser. And when I saw her eyes, I guessed.”
“Yes; there’s only one thing a woman wants like that, when she’s dying. You’re rather a wonderful person, yourself, to have known. That’s her other secret, Ban. The one I said I couldn’t tell you.”
“I’ve forgotten it,” replied Banneker gravely.
Attendance upon the sick-room occupied Io’s time for several days thereafter. Morning and afternoon Banneker rode over from the station to make anxious inquiry. The self-appointed nurse reported progress as rapid as could be expected, but was constantly kept on the alert because of the patient’s rebellion against enforced idleness. Seizures of the same sort she had suffered before, it appeared, but none hitherto so severe. Nothing could be done, she told Io, beyond the administration of the medicine, for which she had full directions. One day an attack would finish it all; meantime, in spite of her power of self-repression, she chafed at the monotony of her imprisonment.