WHOSO DIGGETH A PIT
If Thomas Gordon, opening his eyes to consciousness on the mid-week morning, felt the surprise which might naturally grow out of the sight of Ardea sitting in a low rocker at his bedside, he did not evince it, possibly because there were other and more perplexing things for the tired brain to grapple with first.
For the moment he did not stir or try to speak. There was a long dream somewhere in the past in which he had been lost in the darkness, stumbling and groping and calling for her to come and lead him out to life and light. It must have been a dream, he argued, and perhaps this was only a continuation of it. Yet, no; she was there in visible presence, bending over a tiny embroidery frame; and they were alone together.
“Ardea!” he said tremulously.
She looked up, and her eyes were like cooling well-springs to quench the fever fires in his.
“You are better,” she said, rising. “I’ll go and call your mother.”
“Wait a minute,” he pleaded; then his hand found the bandage on his head. “What happened to me?”
“Don’t you remember? Two men tried to rob you last Saturday evening as you were coming home. One of them struck you.”
“Saturday? And this is—”
“This is Wednesday.”
The cool preciseness of her replies cut him to the heart. He did not need to ask why she had come. It was mere neighborliness, and not for him, but for his mother. He remembered the Saturday evening quite clearly now: Japheth’s shout; the two men springing on him; the instant just preceding the crash of the blow when he had recognized one of his assailants and guessed the identity of the other.
“It was no more than right that you should come,” he said bitterly. “It was the least you could do, since your—”
She was moving toward the door, and his ungrateful outburst had the effect of stopping her. But she did not go back to him.
“I owe your mother anything she likes to ask,” she affirmed, in the same colorless tone.
“And you owe me nothing at all, you would say. I might controvert that. But no matter; we have passed the Saturday and have come to the Wednesday. Where is Norman? Hasn’t he been here?”
“He has been with you almost constantly from the first. He was here less than an hour ago.”
“Where is he now?”
She hesitated. “There is urgency of some kind in your business affairs. Your father spent the night in South Tredegar; and a little while ago he telephoned for Mr. Norman—from the iron-works, I think.” She had moved away again, and her hand was on the door-knob.
He raised himself on one elbow.
“You are in a desperate hurry, aren’t you?” he gritted; though the teeth-grinding was from the pain it cost him to move. “Would you mind handing me that desk telephone before you go?”