The Patrician eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 339 pages of information about The Patrician.
her now that she was at the door; and she suddenly realized that it was issuing from a bookcase in the centre of the wall.  Barbara had her father’s nerve, and walking up to the bookcase she perceived that it had been affixed to, and covered, a door that was not quite closed.  She pulled it towards her, and passed through.  Across the centre of an unkempt bedroom Miltoun was striding, dressed only in his shirt and trousers.  His feet were bare, and his head and hair dripping wet; the look on his thin dark face went to Barbara’s heart.  She ran forward, and took his hand.  This was burning hot, but the sight of her seemed to have frozen his tongue and eyes.  And the contrast of his burning hand with this frozen silence, frightened Barbara horribly.  She could think of nothing but to put her other hand to his forehead.  That too was burning hot!

“What brought you here?” he said.

She could only murmur: 

“Oh!  Eusty!  Are you ill?”

Miltoun took hold of her wrists.

“It’s all right, I’ve been working too hard; got a touch of fever.”

“So I can feel,” murmured Barbara.  “You ought to be in bed.  Come home with me.”

Miltoun smiled.  “It’s not a case for leeches.”

The look of his smile, the sound of his voice, sent a shudder through her.

“I’m not going to leave you here alone.”

But Miltoun’s grasp tightened on her wrists.

“My dear Babs, you will do what I tell you.  Go home, hold your tongue, and leave me to burn out in peace.”

Barbara sustained that painful grip without wincing; she had regained her calmness.

“You must come!  You haven’t anything here, not even a cool drink.”

“My God!  Barley water!”

The scorn he put into those two words was more withering than a whole philippic against redemption by creature comforts.  And feeling it dart into her, Barbara closed her lips tight.  He had dropped her wrists, and again, begun pacing up and down; suddenly he stopped: 

        “’The stars, sun, moon all shrink away,
               A desert vast, without a bound,
          And nothing left to eat or drink,

“And a dark desert all around.’

“You should read your Blake, Audrey.”

Barbara turned quickly, and went out frightened.  She passed through the sitting-room and corridor on to the staircase.  He was ill-raving!  The fever in Miltoun’s veins seemed to have stolen through the clutch of his hands into her own veins.  Her face was burning, she thought confusedly, breathed unevenly.  She felt sore, and at the same time terribly sorry; and withal there kept rising in her the gusty memory of Harbingers kiss.

She hurried down the stairs, turned by instinct down-hill and found herself on the Embankment.  And suddenly, with her inherent power of swift decision, she hailed a cab, and drove to the nearest telephone office.

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The Patrician from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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