Having carried on, somehow, through four years of war, he knew precisely how much of casual, dogged pluck was enshrined in that soldierly phrase. It struck the note of courage and command. It was Lance incarnate. It steadied him, automatically, at a crisis when his shaken nerves might not have responded to any abstract ethical appeal. He closed his eyes a moment to collect himself; swayed, the merest fraction—then deliberately stepped back a pace....
The danger had passed.
Through his lids he felt the glare of lightning: the first flash of the storm.
And as the heel of his retreating boot came firmly down on the path behind, there rose an injured yelp that jerked him very completely out of the clouds.
“Poor Terry—poor old man!” he murmured, caressing the faithful creature; always too close by, always getting trodden on—the common guerdon of the faithful. And the whimsical thought intruded, “If I’d gone over, the good little beggar would have jumped after me. Not fair play.”
The fact that Terry had been saved from involuntary suicide seemed somehow the more important consideration of the two.
A rumbling growl overhead reminded him that there were other considerations—urgent ones.
“You’re not hurt, you little hypocrite. Come on. We must leg it.”
And they legged it to some purpose; Terry—idiotically vociferous—leaping on before....
[Footnote 37: Crude arrangement.]
[Footnote 38: Sound arrangement.]
[Footnote 39: Shameful talk.]
“I seek what I cannot get;
I get what I do not seek.”
Then the storm broke in earnest....
Crash on flash, crash on flash—at ever-lessening intervals—the tearless heavens raged and clattered round his unprotected head. Thunder toppled about him like falling timber stacks. Fiery serpents darted all ways at once among black boughs that swayed and moaned funereally. The gloom of the forest enhanced the weird magnificence of it all: and Roy—who had just been within an ace of flinging away his life—felt irrationally anxious on account of thronging trees and the absence of rain.
He had recovered sufficiently to chuckle at the ignominious anti-climax. But, as usual, it was the creepsomeness rather than the danger that got on his nerves and forced his legs to hurry of their own accord....
In the deep of a gloomy indent, the thought assailed him—“Why do I know it all so well? Where...? When...?”
An inner flash lit the dim recesses of memory. Of course—it was that other day of summer, in the far beginning of things; the day of the Golden Tusks and the gloom and the growling thunder; his legs, as now, in a fearful hurry of their own accord; and Tara waiting for him—his High-Tower Princess. With a pang he recalled how she had seemed the point of safety—because she was never afraid.