“Thank you!” he said brusquely. “I shall never dare to come near you after that.”
“Except by moonlight?” she suggested, with the impudent audacity of a child.
What reply he would have made to that piece of nonsense he sometimes wondered afterward, but circumstances prevented his making any. The words had only just passed her lips when she sprang to her feet with a wild shriek of horror, shaking her arm with frantic violence.
“A snake!” she cried. “Take it away! Take it away! It’s on my wrist!”
Phil Turner, though young, was accustomed to keep his wits about him, and, luckily for the girl, her agony did not scare them away. He had seized her arm in a fierce grip almost before her frenzied appeal was uttered. A small snake was coiled round her wrist, and he tore it away with his free hand, not caring how he grasped it. He tried to fling the thing from him, but somehow his hold upon it was not sufficient. Before he knew it the creature had shot up his sleeve.
The next instant he had shaken it down again with a muffled curse and was trampling it savagely and vindictively into the stones at his feet.
“Are you hurt?” he asked, wheeling sharply.
“No,” gasped Audrey, “no! But you—”
“Yes, the little beast’s bitten me,” he returned. “You see—”
“Oh, where, where?” she cried. “Let me see! Quick, quick! Something must be done. Can’t you suck it?”
He pushed up his sleeve.
“No; can’t get at it,” he said. “It’s just below the elbow. Never mind; it isn’t serious!”
He would have tweaked his sleeve down again, though he was pale under his sunburn. But Audrey stopped him, holding his bare arm between her hands.
“Don’t be a fool!” she gasped vehemently. “If you can’t, I can—and I will!”
Before he could stop her she had stooped, still holding him fast, and put her lips to the tiny puncture in his flesh, on which scarcely more than a speck of blood was visible.
Phil stiffened and stood still, every nerve rigid, as if something had transfixed him. At last, hurriedly, jerkily, he spoke:
“Mrs. Tudor—for Heaven’s sake! I can’t let you do this. It wasn’t poisonous, ten to one. Don’t! I say, Audrey—please don’t!”
His voice was imploring, but she paid no heed. Her lips continued to draw at the wound, while he, half-distracted, bent over her, protesting, scarcely conscious of what he said, yet submitting in spite of himself.
There came the sound of running feet, and he guessed that her scream had given the alarm. He stood up with mingled agitation and relief, and an instant later was face to face with her husband.
“I—couldn’t help it!” he stammered. “It was a snake-bite.”
People were crowding round them with questions and exclamations. But Tudor gave utterance to neither. He only put his hand on his wife’s shoulder and spoke to her.