“And Adela,” she said. “She was with Mr. Harley. What has become of her?”
“He will take care of her for his own sake. Leave her to him!” Warden spoke with a hint of disdain. “She’ll get nothing worse than a fright,” he said, “possibly not even that—if he gets her to the manager’s house in time.”
“In time!” she echoed. “In time for what? What is going to happen? What do you mean?”
His hold tightened upon her. “Well,” he said, “there’s going to be a row. But I’m boss of this show, and I reckon I can deal with it. Only—I’ll have you safe first, little new chum. I’m not taking any chances where you are concerned.”
She gasped a little. The steady assurance of his voice stirred her strangely.
She tried to release herself from his hold. “I don’t like this place,” she said. “Let me go back to Mr. Hill.”
“That’s just what I can’t do.” He bent suddenly down to her. “Won’t you trust me?” he said. “I didn’t fail you last time, did I?”
She thrilled in answer to those words. It was as if thereby he had flung down all barriers between them. She stood for a moment in indecision, then impulsively she turned and grasped his arms.
“I trust you—absolutely,” she told him, tremulously. “But—but—though I know you don’t like him—promise me—you won’t let—Fletcher be hurt!”
He, too, was silent for a moment before responding. She fancied that he flinched a little at her words. Then: “All right, I promise,” he said.
“Then I will go—wherever you like,” she said, bravely, and put her hand into his.
He took it into a strong grasp. “That’s like you,” he said, with simplicity.
THE GREATER LOVE
Through a labyrinth of many passages he led her, over ground that was often rough and slimy with that sound of running water in their ears, sometimes near, sometimes distant, but never wholly absent. Now and then a gleam of light would come from some distant crevice, and Dot would catch a glimpse of the rocky corridor through which they moved—catch a glimpse also of her companion walking with his free stride beside her, though occasionally he had to stoop when the roof was low. He did not look at her, seldom spoke to her, but the grasp of his hand held her up and kept all fear at bay. Somehow fear in this man’s presence seemed impossible.
A long time passed, and she was sure that they had traversed a considerable distance before, very far ahead of them at the end of a steep upward slope, she discerned a patch of sky.
“Is that where we are going?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said.
She gazed before her, puzzled. “But where are we? Are we still in the mine?”
“No. This is the smugglers’ warren.” She caught a hint of humour in his voice. “The stream flows underground all through here—and very useful we have found it.”