ON THE EDGE OF THE PIT
It was a very cheery Dot Waring who ran across the wet fields that afternoon to the Manor to acquaint Lady Carfax with the gratifying intelligence that the proceeds of the great entertainment at which she had so kindly assisted actually amounted to close upon thirty pounds. Baronford had done its humble best towards providing itself with a Town Hall, had in fact transcended all expectations, and Dot was in high spirits in consequence.
It was something of a disappointment to be met by old Dimsdale with the intelligence that her ladyship was very tired and resting. He added, seeing Dot’s face fall, that Mrs. Errol was spending a few days at the Manor and would no doubt be very pleased to see her.
So Dot entered, and was presently embraced by Mrs. Errol and invited to take tea with her in the conservatory.
“Yes, dear Anne’s in bed,” she said. “She and Nap went for a motor ride yesterday, and broke down and were benighted. Nap always was sort of reckless. We had a message late last night telling us what had happened, and I went off at once in the big car and brought Anne back. Nap had to wait for his own car, but I guess he’s back by this time. And poor Anne was so worn out when we got back that I persuaded her to go to bed right away. And I stopped to take care of her.”
In view of the fact that Mrs. Errol was never happier than when she had someone to take care of, this seemed but natural, and Dot’s straightforward mind found nothing unusual in the story.
She remained for nearly an hour, chattering gaily upon a thousand topics. She was always at her ease with Mrs. Errol.
At parting, the latter held her for a moment very closely. “Happy, dearie?” she asked.
“Oh, ever so happy,” said Dot, with warm arms round her friend’s neck.
Mrs. Errol sighed a little, smiled and kissed her. “God keep you so, child!” she said.
And Dot went forth again into the hazy summer sunshine with a vague wonder if dear Mrs. Errol were quite happy too. Somehow she had not liked to ask.
Her way lay over the shoulder of a hill, that same hill on which Sir Giles Carfax had once wreaked his mad vengeance upon his enemy.
A mist lay along the valley, and Dot kept on the ridge as long as she could. She was essentially a creature of sunshine.
She was obliged, however, at last to strike downwards, and with regret she left the sunshine behind.
The moment it was out of her eyes she caught sight of something she had not expected to see in the valley below her. It was not a hundred yards away, but the mist rising from the marshy ground partially obscured it. A dark object, curiously shapeless, that yet had the look of an animal, was lying in a hollow, and over it bent the figure of a man.
Dot’s heart quickened a little. Had there been an accident, she asked herself? She hastened her steps and drew near.