I opened my eyes again, cautiously, little by little. The Doctor was filling Plinny’s glass. Having filled it, he pushed the decanters towards Mr. Rogers, and turned to say a word to Miss Belcher, on his right. No; there was time. It had not happened—yet.
I wanted to start up and scream aloud. But some power, stronger than my will, held me down against the sofa-cushion. I had lost all grip of myself—of my voice and limbs alike. I could neither stir nor speak, but lay watching with half-closed eyes, while the room swam and in my ears I heard a thin voice buzzing: “Tell your friends-the ice—he never touches the ice. But it will not save them. He will find some other way.”
The door opened, and its opening broke the spell. On the threshold stood the tall negress with a tray of coffee-cups, and on the tray a salver with a number of little glasses and a glass bowl—a bowl of ice. Her master pushed back the decanters to make room for the tray before him. She set it down, and the little glasses jingled softly.
“Upon my word, sir,” said Miss Belcher, “what wonder upon wonders is this? Ice? And in Mortallone?”
“It is Rosa’s little surprise, madame, and she will be gratified by your—”
He pushed back his chair and, leaving the sentence unfinished, rose swiftly and came to me as I staggered up from the sofa. A cry worked in my throat, but before I could utter it his two hands were on my shoulders, and he had appealed to the company with a triumphant little laugh.
“Did I not tell you the child would come to himself all right? A simple sedative—after the fright he had. He’s trembling now, poor boy. No, ma’am”—he turned to Plinny, who had risen, and was coming forward solicitously; “let him sit upright for a moment, while he comes to his bearings. Or, better still, when you have finished your coffee—if Miss Belcher will be kind enough to pour it out for me— we will take him out into the fresh air. Yes, yes, and the sooner the better, for I see that Mr. Rogers is fidgeting to be out and assure himself that the treasure has not taken wings.”
He forced me gently back to my seat, and walked to the table.
“What were we saying? Ah, yes—to be sure—about the ice.” He lifted his coffee-cup with a steady hand, and, his eyes travelling over it, fixed themselves on me, as though to make sure I was recovering. “The ice is a surprise of Rosa’s, and I assure you she is proud of it. But (you may go, Rosa) I advise you to content yourselves with wondering; for the water on these hills, strange to say, is not healthy.”
They voted the Doctor’s advice to be good, and, having finished their coffee, wandered out into the fresh air. Plinny took my arm, and, leading me to the verandah, found me a comfortable seat, where I could recline and compose myself, for I was trembling yet.