and, receiving a little silent shake of the head, went
away again. At eleven o’clock, when once
more she changed the ice-cap, his eyes had still
no lustre, and for a moment her courage failed her
utterly. It seemed to her that he could never
win back, that death possessed the room already, possessed
those candle-flames, the ticking of the clock, the
dark, dripping night, possessed her heart. Could
he be gone before she had been his! Gone!
Where? She sank down on her knees, covering
her eyes. What good to watch, if he were never
coming back! A long time—it seemed
hours—passed thus, with the feeling growing
deeper in her that no good would come while she was
watching. And behind the barrier of her hands
she tried desperately to rally courage. If things
were—they were! One must look them
in the face! She took her hands away.
His eyes! Was it light in them? Was it?
They were seeing—surely they saw.
And his lips made the tiniest movement. In
that turmoil of exultation she never knew how she
managed to continue kneeling there, with her hands
on his. But all her soul shone down to him out
of her eyes, and drew and drew at his spirit struggling
back from the depths of him. For many minutes
that struggle lasted; then he smiled. It was
the feeblest smile that ever was on lips, but it made
the tears pour down Nedda’s cheeks and trickle
off on to his hands. Then, with a stoicism that
she could not believe in, so hopelessly unreal it
seemed, so utterly the negation of the tumult within
her, she settled back again at his feet to watch and
not excite him. And still his lips smiled that
faint smile, and his opened eyes grew dark and darker
So at midnight Kirsteen found them.
In the early hours of his all-night sitting Felix
had first only memories, and then Kirsteen for companion.
“I worry most about Tod,” she said.
“He had that look in his face when he went
off from Marrow Farm. He might do something terrible
if they ill-treat Sheila. If only she has sense
enough to see and not provoke them.”
“Surely she will,” Felix murmured.
“Yes, if she realizes. But she won’t,
I’m afraid. Even I have only known him
look like that three times. Tod is so gentle—
passion stores itself in him; and when it comes, it’s
awful. If he sees cruelty, he goes almost mad.
Once he would have killed a man if I hadn’t
got between them. He doesn’t know what
he’s doing at such moments. I wish—I
wish he were back. It’s hard one can’t
pierce through, and see him.”
Gazing at her eyes so dark and intent, Felix thought:
’If you can’t pierce through—none
He learned the story of the disaster.