Out of it arose old Dimsdale, wiping his forehead with a shaking hand.
“He didn’t hurt your ladyship?” he questioned anxiously.
But she could not take her eyes from the motionless figure upon the floor or answer him.
He drew nearer. “My lady,” he said, “come away from here!”
But Anne never stirred.
He laid a very humble hand upon her arm. “Let me take you downstairs,” he urged gently. “There’s a friend there waiting for your ladyship—a friend as will understand.”
“A—friend?” She turned her head stiffly, her eyes still striving to remain fixed upon that mighty, inert form.
“Yes, my lady. He only came a few minutes back. He is waiting in the drawing-room. It was Sir Giles he asked to see, said it was very particular. It was West here took the message to Sir Giles, and I think it was that as made him come up here so mad like. I came after him as soon as I heard. But the gentleman is still waiting, my lady. Will you see him and—explain?”
“Who is the gentleman?” Anne heard the question, but not as if she herself had uttered it. The voice that spoke seemed to come from an immense distance.
And from equally far seemed to come Dimsdale’s answer, though it reached and pierced her understanding in an instant.
“It’s Mr. Errol, my lady,—the crippled one. Mr. Lucas, I think his name is.”
Anne turned then as sharply as though a voice had called her.
“Lucas Errol! Is he here? Ah, take me to him! Take me to him!”
And the old butler led her thankfully from the scene.
THE CITY OF REFUGE
The moment Lucas Errol’s hand closed upon hers it was to Anne as if an immense and suffocating weight had been lifted from her, and with it all her remaining strength crumbled away as if her burden alone had sustained her.
She looked at him, meeting the kind, searching eyes without effort, trying piteously to speak, but her white lips only moved soundlessly, her throat seemed paralysed.
“Her ladyship has had a shock, sir,” explained Dimsdale.
“Won’t you sit down?” said Lucas gently. In a moment she found herself sitting on a sofa with this stanch friend of hers beside her, holding her hand. A few words passed between him and Dimsdale, which she scarcely heard and was too weak to comprehend, and then they were alone together, she and Lucas in a silence she felt powerless to break.
“You mustn’t mind me, Lady Carfax,” he said. “I know what you have come through. I understand.”
Dimly she heard the words, but she could not respond to them. She was shivering, shivering with a violence that she was utterly unable to repress.
He did not speak again till Dimsdale came back with a tray, then again he exchanged a few murmured sentences with the old butler, who presently said, “Very good, sir,” and went softly away.