“You’re very strong,” she murmured, as the unknown owner of the arms swung her down from the tilted car.
“You’re not very heavy,” came the answer. There was a kind of laughter in the voice.
As the man spoke he set her down on her feet, and then, just as Magda was opening her lips to thank him, the fog seemed to grow suddenly denser, swirling round her in great murky waves and surging in her ears with a noise like the boom of the ocean. Higher and higher rose the waves, a resistless sea of blackness, and at last they swept right over her head and she sank into the utter darkness of oblivion.
Someone was holding a glass to her lips and the pungent smell of sal volatile pricked her nostrils. Magda shrank back, her eyes still shut, and pressed her head further into the cushions against which it rested. She detested the smell of sal volatile.
“Drink it! Do you hear?”
The voice seemed to drive at her with its ring of command. She opened her eyes and looked straight up into other eyes—dark-grey ones, these—that were bent on her intently. To her confused consciousness they appeared to blaze down at her.
“No,” she muttered, feebly trying to push the glass away.
The effort of moving her arm seemed stupendous. Her head swam with it. The sea of fog came rolling back again, and this time she sank under it at once.
Then—after an immensity of time, she was sure—she felt herself struggling up to the surface once more. She was lying rocking gently on the top of the waves now; the sensation was very peaceful and pleasant. A little breeze played across her face. She drew in deep breaths of the cool air, but she did not open her eyes. Presently a murmur of voices penetrated her consciousness.
“She’s coming round again.” A man was speaking. “Go on fanning her.”
“Poor young thing! She’s had a shaking up and no mistake!” This in a woman’s voice, very kindly and commiserating. A hand lightly smoothed the fur of her coat-sleeve. “Looks as if she was a rich young lady. Her people must be anxious about her.”
Someone laughed a little, softly.
“Oh, yes, she’s a rich enough young lady, Mrs. Braithwaite. Don’t you know who it is we’ve rescued?”
“I, sir? No. How should I?”
“Then I’ll tell you. This is Mademoiselle Wielitzska, the famous dancer.”
“Never, sir! Well, I do declare——”
“Now, drink this at once, please.” The man’s voice cut sharply across the impending flow of garrulous interest, and Magda, who had not gathered the actual sense of the murmured conversation, felt an arm pass behind her head, raising it a little, while once more that hateful glass of sal volatile was held to her lips.
Her eyes unclosed fretfully.
“Take it away,” she was beginning.
“Drink it! Do you hear? Do as you’re told!”