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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Knave Of Diamonds - Part 3 - Chapter 17. The Transforming Magic
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The Knave Of Diamonds - Part 3 - Chapter 17. The Transforming Magic Post by :jgcraft Category :Long Stories Author :Ethel May Dell Date :May 2012 Read :1369

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The Knave Of Diamonds - Part 3 - Chapter 17. The Transforming Magic

PART III CHAPTER XVII. THE TRANSFORMING MAGIC

No clamour of mourning broke the spell of silence that lay upon Baronmead. Those who wept hid their grief behind closed doors. But those to whom Lucas was dearest shed the fewest tears. His mother went about with a calmness of aspect that never faltered. She and Anne were very close to each other in those days though but few words passed between them. A hush that was like a benediction brooded upon the silent house. They could not weep.

Once, standing in the hallowed stillness beside her dead, Mrs. Errol turned to Anne, saying softly: "The dear Lord knows best, dear. We wouldn't call him back. He wouldn't want to come."

And later she told her gently that she had known ever since the operation that the end was near.

"It was in his eyes," she said. "I know that look so well. Dr. Capper knew it too. And so, I'm sure, did the dear boy himself. That waiting, far-off look as if the soul were listening, didn't you see it, dear? I only wondered that he stayed so long."

Yes, Anne had seen it. She knew it now. Though he had smiled upon her, though he had held her hand, she knew that all human longing had died in Lucas Errol's soul on the night that he had gone down to the Gate of Death and Nap had drawn him back. He had slackened his hold upon things earthly that night, and though he had come back a little way, it had been as a spectator only that he lingered, no more as one who took an active part in the drama of mortal life. His _role was played; she realised now that he must have known it, and that he had not wished it otherwise. He had not died with that kingly smile upon his lips if he had not been content to die. That was why grief seemed to her impossible. That was why the peace in which he lay, wrapped tenderly around her tired heart also and gave her rest.

Of Nap during those days of silence she saw nothing whatever. He had risen from his brother's death-bed with a face of stony aloofness, and had gone swiftly out, she knew not whither. Since that moment she had scarcely seen him. He spent his time out of the house, somewhere away in the woods she believed, out of reach of any human observation, not even returning at night. Once only in the early morning she saw him cross the stretch of lawn in front of the lake and enter by a side door. But her glimpse of him was of the briefest. She did not see his face.

Upon Bertie devolved all the duties of the head of the household, but his mother was ready at every turn to help him. She was more to him during those few days than she had ever been before. Capper also, remaining for the funeral, placed himself at his disposal and did much to lighten the burden.

Capper indeed helped everyone, and Anne always remembered with gratitude a few moments that she had alone with him on the evening before the funeral, when he laid a fatherly hand upon her shoulder to say: "My dear, I don't know if you're fretting any, but you've no cause to fret. I know now that it couldn't have been otherwise. If you'd been his wife you couldn't have kept him."

She thanked him with a look. She believed that Capper understood, and she was glad that it should be so. She fancied also that his opinion regarding Nap had undergone a change, but she hesitated to touch upon the subject, and the moment passed.

Up to the last minute she was doubtful as to whether Nap would attend his brother's funeral. She herself went because Mrs. Errol desired to go. She walked with Capper immediately behind Bertie and his mother. Neither of them seemed to expect Nap, or even to think of him. His movements were always sudden and generally unaccountable. But she knew that his absence would cause comment in the neighbourhood, and though she also knew that Nap would care nothing for that, she earnestly hoped that he would not give occasion for it.

Nevertheless the procession started without him, and she had almost ceased to hope when he suddenly appeared from nowhere as it seemed to her, and walked on her other side.

She heard Capper give a grunt, whether of approval or otherwise she did not know, but not a word was said. She glanced once at Nap, but his face was sphinx-like, utterly unresponsive. He stared straight ahead, with eyes that never varied, at the coffin that was being borne upon men's shoulders to its quiet resting-place in the village churchyard, and throughout the journey thither his expression remained unaltered.

At the gate Bertie suddenly turned and motioned him forward, and they entered the church together. Later, by the open grave, Anne saw that Bertie was leaning on Nap's shoulder, while his mother stood apart with her face to the sky; and she knew that the feud between them had been laid at last and for ever by the man who had ruled supreme in the hearts of all who knew him.

When all was over, Nap disappeared, and she saw no more of him till the evening when for the first time he came to the dinner-table. Capper was leaving early on the following day, and it was to this fact that Anne attributed his appearance.

Bertie dined at home, but he walked over later to take leave of Capper. They sat together in the hall, with the door wide open, for the night was as warm as summer.

Mrs. Errol had gone to her room immediately after dinner, but Anne remained at Capper's request.

"I shan't see much more of you," he said.

They talked but little however. Nap sat smoking in a corner and hardly opened his lips. Bertie came in late, looking worn and miserable.

"I wish you would tell me what to do with Tawny Hudson," he said. "I believe the fellow's crazy; and he's pining too. I don't believe he has eaten anything for days."

Since Lucas's death Tawny Hudson had attached himself to Bertie, following him to and fro like a lost dog, somewhat to Dot's dismay; for, deeply though she pitied the great half-breed, there was something about him that frightened her.

"I don't know what to do with him," Bertie said. "He's as gaunt as a wolf. He's hanging about somewhere outside now. Wish you'd take him along to America with you, Doctor."

"Call him in," said Capper, "and let me have a look at him."

Bertie went to the door and whistled.

There was no reply.

"Hudson!" he called. "Tawny! where are you?"

But there came no answer out of the shadows. The only voice which Tawny would obey was still.

Bertie came back baffled. "Confound the fellow! I know he's within hail."

"Leave the brute alone!" said Nap. "He isn't worth much anyway."

"But I can't let him die," said Bertie.

Nap looked contemptuous, and relapsed into silence.

"I'll take him back with me if you're wanting to be rid of him," said Capper. "Tell him so if you get the chance."

"Thanks!" said Bertie. "But I don't believe he'll budge. Nap will be crossing next week. P'r'aps I shall persuade him to go then." He looked across at Nap. "I know you don't like the fellow, but it wouldn't be for long."

"Probably not," said Nap, staring fixedly at the end of his cigar.

Something in his tone made Anne glance at him, but as usual his face told her nothing. She saw only that his eyes were drawn as if with long watching, and that the cynical lines about his mouth were more grimly pronounced than she had ever seen them before.

Not long after, Bertie got up to go. His farewell to Capper was spoken almost in a whisper, and Anne saw that his self-control was precarious. When he shook hands with her he was beyond speech. She was glad to see Nap rise and accompany him, with a friendly hand pushed through his arm.

For nearly half an hour longer she sat on with Capper; then at length she rose to go.

"I shall see you in the morning," she said, pausing.

"I am making an early start," said Capper.

She smiled. "I shall see you all the same. Good-night."

Capper kept her hand in his, his green eyes running over her with elusive intentness. "Wonder what you'll do," he said abruptly.

She met his look quite simply. "For the present," she said, "I must be with Mrs. Errol. Later on--next month--she will no doubt go to the Dower House, and I shall go back to the Manor."

"Don't mope!" he said.

She smiled again with a short sigh. "I shall be too busy for that."

"That so?" Capper drew his brows together. "Lady Carfax, at risk of offending you, I've something to say."

"You will not offend me," she answered. "And I think I know what it is."

"Very possibly you do, but I guess I'd better say it all the same. You may remember a talk we had at the commencement of our acquaintance, regarding Nap. I told you he was just a wild animal, untamable, untrustworthy. Well, you have proved me wrong. You have worked a miracle, and you have tamed him. Lucas himself told me about it the day before he died."

"Oh, no!" Anne said quickly and earnestly. "It was Lucas who worked the miracle, Doctor. The magic was his."

"Guess he wouldn't have done it single-handed," said Capper. "He'd been trying as long as I had known him, and he hadn't succeeded." He paused, looking at her with great kindness. Then: "My dear," he said, "you needn't be afraid to trust yourself to him. He will never let you down again."

Anne stood silent, but under his look a deep flush rose and overspread her face. She turned her eyes away.

Very gently Capper patted her shoulder. "You've made a man of him between you," he said. "Lucas has left the developing process to you."

"Ah!" she said wistfully, and that was all, for her eyes were suddenly full of tears.

She went to the door and stood there for several seconds. The voice of a nightingale thrilled through the silence. Was it only a year--only a year--since the veil had been rent from her eyes? Only a year since first her heart had throbbed to "the everlasting Wonder Song"? She felt as if eons had passed over her, as if the solitude of ages wrapped her round; and yet afar off, like dream music in her soul, she still heard its echoes pulsing across the desert. It held her like a charm.

Slowly her tears passed. There came again to her that curious sense of something drawing her, almost as of a voice that called. The garden lay still and mysterious in the moonlight. She caught its gleam upon a corner of the lake where it shone like a wedge of silver.

A few seconds she stood irresolute; then without word or backward glance she stepped down into the magic silence.

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