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At the sound of his cry, Helène, who had been crossing the hall, threw open the door just as Mr. Sabin’s fingers were upon the key. Seeing that he was powerless to keep from her the knowledge of what had happened, he did not oppose her entrance. She glided into the centre of the room with a stifled cry of terror. Together, she and Mr. Sabin bent over Wolfenden’s motionless figure. Mr. Sabin unfastened the waistcoat and felt his heart. She did not speak until he had held his hand there for several seconds, then she asked a question.
“Have you killed him?”
Mr. Sabin shook his head and smiled gently.
“Too tough a skull by far,” he said. “Can you get a basin and a towel without any one seeing you?”
She nodded, and fetched them from her own room. The water was fresh and cold, and the towel was of fine linen daintily hemmed, and fragrant with the perfume of violets. Yet neither of these things, nor the soft warmth of her breathing upon his cheek, seemed to revive him in the least. He lay quite still in the same heavy stupor. Mr. Sabin stood upright and looked at him thoughtfully. His face had grown almost haggard.
“We had better send for a doctor,” she whispered fiercely. “I shall fetch one myself if you do not!”
Mr. Sabin gently dissented.
“I know quite as much as any doctor,” he said; “the man is not dead, or dying, or likely to die. I wonder if we could move him on to that sofa!”
Together they managed it somehow. Mr. Sabin, in the course of his movements to and fro about the room, was attracted by the sight of the dogcart still waiting outside. He frowned, and stood for a moment looking thoughtfully at it. Then he went outside.
“Are you waiting for Lord Wolfenden?” he asked the groom.
The man looked up in surprise.
“Yes, sir. I set him down here nearly an hour ago. I had no orders to go home.”
“Lord Wolfenden has evidently forgotten all about you,” Mr. Sabin said. “He left by the back way for the golf course, and I am going to join him there directly. He is not coming back here at all. You had better go home, I should think.”
The man touched his hat.
“Very good, sir.”
There was a little trampling up of the gravel, and Wolfenden’s dogcart rapidly disappeared in the distance. Mr. Sabin, with set face and a hard glitter in his eyes went back into the morning room. Helène was still on her knees by Wolfenden’s prostrate figure when he entered. She spoke to him without looking up.
“He is a little better, I think; he opened his eyes just now.”
“He is not seriously hurt,” Mr. Sabin said; “there may be some slight concussion, nothing more. The question is, first, what to do with him, and secondly, how to make the best use of the time which must elapse before he will be well enough to go home.”
She looked at him now in horror. He was always like this, unappalled by anything which might happen, eager only to turn every trick of fortune to his own ends. Surely his nerves were of steel and his heart of iron.
“I think,” she said, “that I should first make sure that he is likely to recover at all.”
Mr. Sabin answered mechanically, his thoughts seemed far away.
“His recovery is a thing already assured,” he said. “His skull was too hard to crack; he will be laid up for an hour or two. What I have to decide is how to use that hour or two to the best possible advantage.”
She looked away from him and shuddered. This passionate absorption of all his energies into one channel had made a fiend of the man. Her slowly growing purpose took to itself root and branch, as she knelt by the side of the young Englishman, who only a few moments ago had seemed the very embodiment of all manly vigour.
Mr. Sabin stood up. He had arrived at a determination.
“Helène,” he said, “I am going away for an hour, perhaps two. Will you take care of him until I return?”
“You will promise not to leave him, or to send for a doctor?”
“I will promise, unless he seems to grow worse.”
“He will not get worse, he will be conscious in less than an hour. Keep him with you as long as you can, he will be safer here. Remember that!”
“I will remember,” she said.
He left the room, and soon she heard the sound of carriage wheels rolling down the avenue. His departure was an intense relief to her. She watched the carriage, furiously driven, disappear along the road. Then she returned to Wolfenden’s side. For nearly an hour she remained there, bathing his head, forcing now and then a little brandy between his teeth, and watching his breathing become more regular and the ghastly whiteness leaving his face. And all the while she was thoughtful. Once or twice her hands touched his hair tenderly, almost caressingly. There was a certain wistfulness in her regard of him. She bent close over his face; he was still apparently as unconscious as ever. She hesitated for a moment; the red colour burned in one bright spot on her cheeks. She stooped down and kissed him on the forehead, whispering something under her breath. Almost before she could draw back, he opened his eyes. She was overwhelmed with confusion, but seeing that he had no clear knowledge of what had happened, she rapidly recovered herself. He looked around him and then up into her face.
“What has happened?” he asked. “Where am I?”
“You are at the Lodge,” she said quietly. “You called to see Mr. Sabin this morning, you know, and I am afraid you must have quarrelled.”
“Ah! it was that beastly stick,” he said slowly. “He struck at me suddenly. Where is he now?”
She did not answer him at once. It was certainly better not to say that she had seen him driven rapidly away only a short time ago, with his horses’ heads turned to Deringham Hall.
“He will be back soon,” she said. “Do not think about him, please. I cannot tell you how sorry I am.”
He was recovering himself rapidly. Something in her eyes was sending the blood warmly through his veins; he felt better every instant.
“I do not want to think about him,” he murmured, “I do not want to think about any one else but you.”
She looked down at him with a half pathetic, half humorous twitching of her lips.
“You must please not make love to me, or I shall have to leave you,” she said. “The idea of thinking about such a thing in your condition! You don’t want to send me away, do you?”
“On the contrary,” he answered, “I want to keep you always with me.”
“That,” she said briefly, “is impossible.”
“Nothing,” he declared, “is impossible, if only we make up our minds to it. I have made up mine!”
“You are very masterful! Are all Englishmen as confident as you?”
“I know nothing about other men,” he declared. “But I love you, Helène, and I am not sure that you do not care a little for me.”
She drew her hand away from his tightening clasp.
“I am going,” she said; “it is your own fault—you have driven me away.”
Her draperies rustled as she moved towards the door, but she did not go far.
“I do not feel so well,” he said quietly; “I believe that I am going to faint.”
She was on her knees by his side again in a moment. For a fainting man, the clasp of his fingers around hers was wonderfully strong.
“I feel better now,” he announced calmly. “I shall be all right if you stay quietly here, and don’t move about.”
She looked at him doubtfully.
“I do not believe,” she said, “that you felt ill at all; you are taking advantage of me!”
“I can assure you that I am not,” he answered; “when you are here I feel a different man.”
“I am quite willing to stay if you will behave yourself,” she said.
“Will you please define good behaviour?” he begged.
“In the present instance,” she laughed, “it consists in not saying silly things.”
“A thing which is true cannot be silly,” he protested. “It is true that I am never happy without you. That is why I shall never give you up.”
She looked down at him with bright eyes, and a frown which did not come easily.
“If you persist in making love to me,” she said, “I am going away. It is not permitted, understand that!”
“I am afraid,” he answered softly, “that I shall always be indulging in the luxury of the forbidden. For I love you, and I shall never weary of telling you so.”
“Then I must see,” she declared, making a subtle but unsuccessful attempt to disengage her hand, “that you have fewer opportunities.”
“If you mean that,” he said, “I must certainly make the most of this one. Helène, you could care for me, I know, and I could make you happy. You say ‘No’ to me because there is some vague entanglement—I will not call it an engagement—with some one else. You do not care for him, I am sure. Don’t marry him! It will be for your sorrow. So many women’s lives are spoilt like that. Dearest,” he added, gaining courage from her averted face, “I can make you happy, I am sure of it! I do not know who you are or who your people are, but they shall be my people—nothing matters, except that I love you. I don’t know what to say to you, Helène. There is something shadowy in your mind which seems to you to come between us. I don’t know what it is, or I would dispel it. Tell me, dear, won’t you give me a chance?”
She yielded her other hand to his impatient fingers, and looked down at him wistfully. Yet there was something in her gaze which he could not fathom. Of one thing he was very sure, there was a little tenderness shining out of her dark, brilliant eyes, a little regret, a little indecision. On the whole he was hopeful.
“Dear,” she said softly, “perhaps I do care for you a little. Perhaps—well, some time in the future—what you are thinking of might be possible; I cannot say. Something, apart from you, has happened, which has changed my life. You must let me go for a little while. But I will promise you this. The entanglement of which you spoke shall be broken off. I will have no more to do with that man!”
He sat upright.
“Helène,” he said, “you are making me very happy, but there is one thing which I must ask you, and which you must forgive me for asking. This entanglement of which you speak has nothing to do with Mr. Sabin?”
“Nothing whatever,” she answered promptly. “How I should like to tell you everything! But I have made a solemn promise, and I must keep it. My lips are sealed. But one thing I should like you to understand, in case you have ever had any doubt about it. Mr. Sabin is really my uncle, my mother’s brother. He is engaged in a great enterprise in which I am a necessary figure. He has suddenly become very much afraid of you.”
“Afraid of me!” Wolfenden repeated.
“I ought to tell you, perhaps, that my marriage with some one else is necessary to insure the full success of his plans. So you see he has set himself to keep us apart.”
“The more you tell me, the more bewildered I get,” Wolfenden declared. “What made him attack me just now without any warning? Surely he did not wish to kill me?”
Her hand within his seemed to grow colder.
“You were imprudent,” she said.
“Imprudent! In what way?”
“You told him that you had sent for Mr. C. to come and go through your father’s papers.”
“What of it?”
“I cannot tell you any more!”
Wolfenden rose to his feet; he was still giddy, but he was able to stand.
“All that he told me here was a tissue of lies then! Helène, I will not leave you with such a man. You cannot continue to live with him.”
“I do not intend to,” she answered; “I want to get away. What has happened to-day is more than I can pardon, even from him. Yet you must not judge him too harshly. In his way he is a great man, and he is planning great things which are not wholly for his advantage. But he is unscrupulous! So long as the end is great, he believes himself justified in stooping to any means.”
“You must not live another day with him,” he exclaimed; “you will come to Deringham Hall. My mother will be only too glad to come and fetch you. It is not very cheerful there just now, but anything is better than leaving you with this man.”
She looked at him curiously. Her eyes were soft with something which suggested pity, but resembled tears.
“No,” she said, “that would not do at all. You must not think because I have been living with Mr. Sabin that I have no other relations or friends. I have a very great many of both, only it was arranged that I should leave them for a while. I can go back at any time; I am altogether my own mistress.”
“Then go back at once,” he begged her feverishly. “I could not bear to think of you living here with this man another hour. Have your things put together now and tell your maid. Let me take you to the station. I want to see you leave this infernal house, and this atmosphere of cheating and lies, when I do!”
Her lips parted into the ghost of a smile.
“I have not found so much to regret in my stay here,” she said softly.
He held out his arms, but she eluded him gently.
“I hope,” he said, “nay, I know that you will never regret it. Never! Tell me what you are going to do now?”
“I shall leave here this afternoon,” she said, “and go straight to some friends in London. Then I shall make new plans, or rather set myself to the remaking of old ones. When I am ready, I will write to you. But remember again—I make no promise!”
He held out his hands.
“But you will write to me?”
“No, I shall not write to you. I am not going to give you my address even; you must be patient for a little while.”
“You will not go away? You will not at least leave England without seeing me?”
“Not unless I am compelled,” she promised, “and then, if I go, I will come back again, or let you know where I am. You need not fear; I am not going to slip away and be lost! You shall see me again.”
Wolfenden was dissatisfied.
“I hate letting you go,” he said. “I hate all this mystery. When one comes to think of it, I do not even know your name! It is ridiculous! Why cannot I take you to London, and we can be married to-morrow. Then I should have the right to protect you against this blackguard.”
She laughed softly. Her lips were parted in dainty curves, and her eyes were lit with merriment.
“How delightful you are,” she exclaimed. “And to think that the women of my country call you Englishmen slow wooers!”
“Won’t you prove the contrary?” he begged.
She shook her head.
“It is already proved. But if you are sure you feel well enough to walk, please go now. I want to catch the afternoon train to London.”
He held out his hands and tried once more to draw her to him. But she stepped backwards laughing.
“You must please be patient,” she said, “and remember that to-day I am betrothed to—somebody else! Goodbye!”
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