The drawling insolence of the words made Dot quiver all over. She knew by Bertie’s rigidity of pose that he was furious too, but she did not dare to look at him. She tried to attend to some remark that Lucas made to her, but she only answered at random. She could not take in what he said.
Perhaps he saw her perturbation, for after a moment he turned from her to Nap and very deliberately engaged him in conversation, while Bertie, very pale but quite collected, sat down by her and began to talk also.
She did her best to second his efforts, but with Nap’s eyes openly mocking her from the other side of the hearth, she found it impossible to divert her thoughts.
So they thought that of her, did they? They thought—that! She felt as if she had been publicly weighed in the balances and found wanting. She told herself passionately that she would never, as long as she lived, speak to Nap Errol again. Everyone said he was a bounder, and everyone was right.
“Come right in!” said Mrs. Errol. “Anne, my dear, here is little Miss Waring come to see you. I’m real pleased to meet you, child. I’ve watched you in church many a time when I ought to have been saying my prayers, and so has someone else I know.”
Dot’s cheeks were scarlet as she came forward to Anne’s couch. She was still telling herself with fierce emphasis that never, never again would she voluntarily venture herself within the walls of Baronmead.
But when Anne stretched out a hand to her and smiled, all her perturbation vanished at a breath. She went impulsively forward and knelt down by her side. For some reason she did not feel her customary awe of the lady of the Manor. This sad-faced woman with the deeply shadowed eyes aroused within her something that was stronger, something that carried her completely out of herself.
“Oh, are you better?” she said. “I have been so sorry about you.”
“It was good of you to come up to see me,” Anne said gently. “Yes, Dot, I am better. I am allowed to walk again, and I am going home to-morrow.”
“Not if I know it,” said Mrs. Errol stoutly. “Or if you do, I go too, to take care of you.”
Anne smiled at her without replying. “Sit down, Dot,” she said, “and tell me all the news. I know you hear everything.”
“But nothing has happened,” said Dot. “Everybody is squabbling as usual about the Town Hall, why we want one, why there isn’t one, and when we are going to have one. Really, there’s nothing else.”
“My dear,” said Mrs. Errol, “everybody wants a sound spanking, and I should like to administer it. Every township ought to have a public building, and there’s my son Lucas wanting nothing so much as to build one and they won’t let him.”
“I am afraid my husband is the main obstacle,” said Anne.