Then Lucas turned again to Anne. “Drink this,” he said. “It will revive you.”
She groped for the glass he held towards her, but trembled so much that she could not take it.
“Let me,” he said, and put it himself to her lips.
She drank slowly, shuddering, her teeth chattering against the glass.
“Lay your head down upon the cushion,” he said then, “and shut your eyes. You will be better soon.”
“You—you won’t go?” she managed to whisper.
“Why, no,” he said. “It’s for your sake I’ve come. I guess I’m a fixture for so long as you want me.”
She breathed a sigh of relief and lay back.
A long time passed. Anne lay motionless with closed eyes, too crushed for thought. And Lucas Errol watched beside her, grave and patient and still.
Suddenly there came a sound, piercing the silence, a sound that made Anne start upright in wild terror.
“What is it? What is it?”
Instantly and reassuringly Lucas’s hand clasped hers. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “They are moving him to another room, that’s all.”
She sank back, shuddering, her face hidden. The sound continued, seeming to come nearer—the sound of a man’s voice shrieking horribly for help, in piercing accents of terror that might have come from a torture-chamber. Suddenly the yells became articulate, resolved into words: “Anne! Anne! Anne!” in terrible crescendo.
She sprang up with a sharp cry.
But on the instant the man beside her spoke. “Anne, you are not to go.”
She paused irresolute. “I must! I must! He is calling me!”
“You are not to go,” he reiterated, and for the first time she heard the dominant note in his voice. “Come here, child! Come close to me! It will soon be over.”
Her irresolution passed like a cloud. She looked down, saw his blue eyes shining straight up at her, kind still, but compelling. And she dropped upon her knees beside him and hid her face upon his shoulder, with the cry of, “Help me! Help me! I can’t bear it!”
He folded his arms about her as though he had been a woman, and held her fast.
Long after the awful sounds had died away Anne knelt there, sobbing, utterly unstrung, all her pride laid low, herself no more than a broken, agonised woman. But gradually, from sheer exhaustion, her sobs became less anguished, till at length they ceased. A strange peace, wholly unaccountable, fell gently upon her torn spirit. But even then it was long before she moved. She felt an overwhelming reluctance to withdraw herself from the shelter of those quiet arms.
“What must you think of me?” she whispered at last, her face still hidden.
“My dear,” he said, “I understand.”
He did not offer to release her, but as she moved she found herself free, she found herself able to look into his face.
“I shall never forget your goodness to me,” she said very earnestly.