“Mr. Errol, I have had news of—my husband. He wants to come home. No, he is not well yet, but decidedly better, well enough to be at liberty in the charge of an attendant. And so—and so—”
The whispered words failed. She became silent, waiting for the steady sympathy for which she knew she would never wait in vain.
But he did not speak at once. It almost seemed as if he were at a loss. It almost seemed as if he realised too fully for speech that leaden weight of despair which had for a space so terribly overwhelmed her.
And then at last his voice came to her, slow and gentle, yet with a vital note in it that was like a bugle-call to her tired spirit. “Stick to it, Lady Carfax! You’ll win out. You’re through the worst already.”
Desperately, as one half-ashamed, she answered him. “I wish with all my heart I could think so. But—I am still asking myself if—if there is no way of escape.”
He turned his head in the dim light and looked at her, and shame stabbed her deeper still. Yet she would not recall the words. It was better that he should know, better that he should not deem her any greater or worthier than she was.
Then, “Thank you for telling me,” he said very simply. “But you’ll win out all the same. I have always known that you were on the winning side.”
The words touched her in a fashion not wholly accountable. Her eyes filled with sudden tears.
“What makes you have such faith in me?” she said.
The light was too dim for her so see his face, but she knew that he was smiling as he made reply.
“That’s just one of the things I can’t explain,” he said. “But I think God made you for a spar for drowning men to cling to.”
She smiled with him in spite of the tears. “May the spar never fail you!” she said.
“I am not afraid,” he answered very steadily.
It was long before Anne slept that night, but yet though restless she was not wholly miserable. Neither was she perplexed. Her duty lay before her clearly defined, and she meant to fulfil it. Those few words with Lucas Errol had decided her beyond all hesitancy, so completely was she in sympathy with this strong friend of hers. Perhaps her wavering had only been the result of a moment’s weakness, following upon sudden strain. But the strain had slackened, and the weakness was over. She knew that even Nap had not the power to move her now. With the memory of his firm hand-grip came the conviction that he would not seek to do so. Like herself he had been momentarily dismayed it might be, but he had taken his place among her friends, not even asking to be foremost, and remembering this, she resolutely expelled any lingering doubt of him. Had she not already proved that she had but to trust him to find him trustworthy? What tangible reason had he given her for withdrawing her trust even for a moment? She reproached herself for it, and determined that she would never doubt him again.