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- What's Bred In the Bone - 4/56 -
even began by removing a little of the sand at the side of the line with a piece of shattered board from the broken carriage in front; but that was clearly no use. More sand tumbled in as fast as he removed it. He saw there was nothing left for it but patience or despair. And of the two, his own temperament dictated rather patience.
He returned at last, wearied out, to Elma's side. Elma, still sitting disconsolate on the footboard, rocking herself up and down, and moaning low and piteously, looked up as he came with a mute glance of inquiry. She was very pretty. That struck him even now. It made his heart bleed to think she should be so cowed and terrified.
"I'm sorry to bother you," he said, after a pause, half afraid to speak, "but there are four lamps all burning hard in these four compartments, and using up the air we may need by-and-by for our own breathing. If I were to climb to the top of the carriage--which I can easily do--I could put them all out, and economize our oxygen. It would leave us in the dark, but it'd give us one more chance of life. Don't you think I'd better get up and turn them off, or squash them?"
Elma clasped her hands in horror at the bare suggestion.
"Oh dear, no!" she cried hastily. "Please, PLEASE don't do that. It's bad enough to choke slowly, like this, in the gloom. But to die in the dark--that would be ten times more terrible. Why, it's a perfect Black Hole of Calcutta, even now. If you were to turn out the lights I could never stand it."
Cyril gave a respectful little nod of assent.
"Very well," he answered, as calm as ever. "That's just as you will. I only meant to suggest it to you. My one wish is to do the best I can for you. Perhaps"--and he hesitated--"perhaps I'd better let it go on for an hour or two more, and then, whenever the air begins to get very oppressive--I mean when one begins to feel it's really failing us--one person, you know, could live on so much longer than two... it would be a pity not to let you stand every chance. Perhaps I might---"
Elma gazed at him aghast in the utmost horror. She knew what he meant at once. She didn't even need that he should finish his sentence.
"Never!" she said, firmly clenching her small hand hard. "It's so wrong of you to think of it, even. I could never permit it. It's your duty to keep yourself alive at all hazards as long as ever you can. You should remember your mother, your sisters, your family."
"Why, that's just it," Cyril answered, a little crestfallen, and feeling he had done quite a wicked thing in venturing to suggest that his companion should have every chance for her own life. "I've got no mother, you see, no sisters, no family. Nobody on earth would ever be one penny the worse if _I_ were to die, except my twin brother; he's the only relation I ever had in my life; and even HE, I dare say, would very soon get over it. Whereas YOU"--he paused and glanced at her compassionately--"there are probably many to whom the loss would be a very serious one. If I could do anything to save you---" He broke off suddenly, for Elma looked up at him once more with a little burst of despair.
"If you talk like that," she cried, with a familiarity that comes of association in a very great danger, "I don't know what I shall do; I don't know what I shall say to you. Why, I couldn't bear to be left alone here to die by myself. If only for MY sake, now we're boxed up here together, I think you ought to wait and do the best you can for yourself."
"Very well," Cyril answered once more, in a most obedient tone. "If you wish me to live to keep you company in the tunnel, I'll live while I may. You have only to say what you wish. I'm here to wait upon you."
In any other circumstances, such a phrase would have been a mere piece of conversational politeness. At that critical moment, Elma knew it for just what it was--a simple expression of his real feeling.
CYRIL WARING'S BROTHER.
It was nine o'clock that self-same night, and two men sat together in a comfortable sitting-room under the gabled roofs of Staple Inn, Holborn. It was as cosy a nook as any to be found within the four-mile radius, and artistic withal in its furniture and decorations.
In the biggest arm-chair by the empty grate, a young man with a flute paused for a moment, irresolute. He was a handsome young man, expressive eyes, and a neatly-cut brown beard--for all the world like Cyril Waring's. Indeed, if Elma Clifford could that moment have been transported from her gloomy prison in the Lavington tunnel to that cosy room at Staple Inn, Holborn, she would have started with surprise to find the young man who sat in the arm-chair was to all outer appearance the self-same person as the painter she had just left at the scene of the accident. For the two Warings were truly "as like as two peas"; a photograph of one might almost have done duty for the photograph of the other.
The other occupant of the room, who leaned carelessly against the mantelshelf, was taller and older; though he, too, was handsome, but with the somewhat cynical and unprepossessing handsomeness of a man of the world. His forehead was high; his lips were thin; his nose inclined toward the Roman pattern; his black moustache was carefully curled and twisted at the extremities. Moreover, he was musical; for he held in one hand the bow of a violin, having just laid down the instrument itself on the sofa after a plaintive duet with Guy Waring.
"Seen this evening's paper, by the way, Guy?" he asked, after a pause, in a voice that was all honeyed charm and seductiveness. "I brought the St. James's Gazette for you, but forgot to give you it; I was so full of this new piece of mine. Been an accident this morning, I see, on the Great Southern line. Somewhere down Cyril's way, too; he's painting near Chetwood; wonder whether he could possibly, by any chance, have been in it?"
He drew the paper carelessly from his pocket as he spoke, and handed it with a graceful air of inborn courtesy to his younger companion. Everything that Montague Nevitt did, indeed, was naturally graceful and courteous.
Guy Waring took the printed sheet from his hands without attaching much importance to his words, and glanced over it lightly.
"At ten o'clock this morning," the telegram said, "a singular catastrophe occurred in a portion of the Lavington tunnel on the Great Southern Railway. As the 9.15 way-train from Tilgate Junction to Guildford was passing through, a segment of the roof of the tunnel collapsed, under pressure of the dislocated rock on top, and bore down with enormous weight upon the carriages beneath it. The engine, tender, and four front waggons escaped unhurt; but the two hindmost, it is feared, were crushed by the falling mass of earth. It is not yet known how many passengers, if any, may have been occupying the wrecked compartments; but every effort is now being made to dig out the débris."
Guy read the paragraph through unmoved, to the outer eye, though with a whitening face, and then took up the dog-eared "Bradshaw" that lay close by upon the little oak writing-table. His hand trembled. One glance at the map, however, set his mind at rest.
"I thought so," he said quietly. "Cyril wouldn't be there. It's beyond his beat. Lavington's the fourth station this way on the up-line from Chetwood. Cyril's stopping at Tilgate town, you know--I heard from him on Saturday--and the bit he's now working at's in Chetwood Forest. He couldn't get lodgings at Chetwood itself, so he's put up for the present at the White Lion, at Tilgate, and runs over by train every day to Warnworth. It's three stations away--four off Lavington. He'd have been daubing for an hour in the wood by that time."
"Well, I didn't attach any great importance to it myself," Nevitt went on, unconcerned. "I thought most likely Cyril wouldn't be there. But still I felt you'd like, at any rate, to know about it."
"Oh, of course," Guy answered, still scanning the map in "Bradshaw" close. "He couldn't have been there; but one likes to know. I think, indeed, to make sure, I'll telegraph to Tilgate. Naturally, when a man's got only one relation in the whole wide world--without being a sentimentalist--that one relation means a good deal in life to him. And Cyril and I are more to one another, of course, than most ordinary brothers." He bit his thumb. "Still, I can't imagine how he could possibly be there," he went on, glancing at "Bradshaw" once more. "You see, if he went to work, he'd have got out at Warnworth; and if he meant to come to town to consult his dentist, he'd have taken the 9.30 express straight through from Tilgate, which gets up to London twenty-five minutes earlier."
"Well, but why to consult his dentist in particular?" Nevitt asked with a smile. He had very white teeth, and he smiled accordingly perhaps a little oftener than was quite inevitable. "You Warings are so absolute. I never knew any such fellows in my life as you are. You decide things so beforehand. Why mightn't he have been coming up to town, for example, to see a friend, or get himself fresh colours?"
"Oh, I said 'to consult his dentist,'" Guy answered, in the most matter-of-fact voice on earth, suppressing a tremor, "because you know I've had toothache off and on myself, one day with another, for the whole last fortnight. And it's a tooth that never ached with either of us before-this one, you see"--he lifted his lip with his forefinger--"the second on the left after the one we've lost. If Cyril was coming up to town at all, I'm pretty sure it'd be his tooth he was coming up to see about. I went to Eskell about mine myself last Wednesday."
The elder man seated himself and leaned back in his chair, with his violin in his lap; then he surveyed his friend long and curiously.
"It must be awfully odd, Guy," he said at last, after a good hard
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