As they pulled him on to the beach, he had but one idea. Whatever happened, he must not lose consciousness. The packet was still there against the calf of his leg. It must be his own hands which removed his clothes. It seemed to him that those few bronzed faces, those half a dozen rude lanterns, had become magnified and multiplied a hundredfold. It was an army of blue-jerseyed fishermen which patted him on the back and welcomed him, lanterns like the stars flashing everywhere around. He set his teeth and fought against the buzzing in his ears. He tried to speak, and his voice sounded like a weak, far away whisper.
“I am all right,” he kept on saying.
Then he felt himself leaning on two brawny arms. His feet followed the mesmeric influence of their movement. Was he going into the clouds, he wondered? They stopped to open a gate, the gate leading to the gardens of Mainsail Haul. How did he get there? He had no idea. More movements of his feet, and then unexpected warmth. He looked around him. There were voices. He listened. The one voice? The one face bending over his, her eyes wet with tears, her whispers an incoherent stream of broken words. Then the warmth seemed to come back to his veins. He sat up and found himself on the couch in the library, the rain dripping from him in little pools, and he knew that he had succeeded. He had not fainted.
“I am all right,” he repeated. “What a mess I am making!”
The voices around him were still a little tangled, but the hand which held a steaming tumbler to his lips was Philippa’s.
“Drink it all,” she begged.
He felt the tears come into his eyes, felt the warm blood streaming through his body, felt a little wet patch at the back of the calf of his leg, and the hand which set down the empty tumbler was almost steady.
“There’s a hot bath ready,” Philippa told him; “some dry clothes, and a bedroom with a fire in. Do let Mills show you the way.”
He rose at once, prepared to follow her. His feet were not quite so steady as he would have wished, but he made a very presentable show. Mills, with a little apology, held out his arm. Philippa walked by his other side.
“As soon as you have finished your bath and got into some dry clothes,” Philippa whispered, “please ring, or send Mills to let us know.”
He was even able to smile at her.
“I am quite all right,” he assured her once more.
Philippa, unusually early on the following morning, glanced at the empty breakfast table with a little air of disappointment, and rang the bell.
“Mills,” she enquired, “is no one down?”
“Sir Henry is, I believe, on the beach, your ladyship,” the man answered, “and Miss Helen and Miss Nora are with him.”
“And Mr. Lessingham?”
“Mr. Lessingham, your ladyship,” Mills continued, looking carefully behind him as though to be sure that the door was closed, “has disappeared.”