“Drive him quickly home,” she said. “And then go for a doctor.”
Not till the car was out of sight did she realise that her knees were shaking and refusing to support her. She tottered to a gate by the roadside, and there, clinging weakly with her head bowed upon her arms, she remained for a very long time.
It was growing dusk when Anne at length came to the Manor. She was utterly weary and faint from lack of food. The servant who admitted her looked at her strangely, as if half afraid.
“Please have tea taken to my sitting-room,” she said quietly, as she passed him.
And with that she went straight to her room. Standing before a mirror to remove her hat, she caught sight of something that seemed to stab her heart. The cream cloth coat she wore was all spattered with blood.
She stood rigid, not breathing, staring into the white face above it—the white face of a woman she hardly knew, with compressed lips and wild, tragic eyes. What was it those eyes held? Was it hatred? Was it madness? Was it—?
She broke away horror-stricken, and stripped the coat from her with hands like ice. Again through her mind, with feverish insistence, ran those words that had startled her earlier in the day. She found herself repeating them deliriously, under her breath: “I beheld Satan—as lightning—fall from heaven!”
Why did they haunt her so? What was it in the utterance that frightened her? What meaning did they hold for her? What hidden terror lay behind it? What had happened to her? What nightmare horror was this clawing at her heart, lacerating, devouring, destroying? It was something she had never felt before, something too terrible to face, too overwhelming to ignore.
Was she going mad, she asked herself? And like a dreadful answer to a riddle inscrutable her white lips whispered those haunting unforgettable words: “I beheld Satan—as lightning—fall from heaven.”
Mechanically she bathed her face and hands and passed into her sitting-room, where her tea awaited her. A bright fire crackled there, and her favourite chair was drawn up to it. The kettle hissed merrily on a spirit-lamp.
Entering, she found, somewhat to her surprise, old Dimsdale waiting to serve her.
“Thank you,” she said. “I can help myself.”
“If your ladyship will allow me,” he said deferentially.
She sat down, conscious of a physical weakness she could not control. And the old butler, quiet and courteous and very grave, proceeded to make the tea and wait upon her in silence.
Anne lay back in her chair with her eyes upon the fire, and accepted his ministrations without further speech. There was a very thorough understanding between herself and Dimsdale, an understanding established and maintained without words.