The story of that night’s search she told later—of their long, slow drive over the bleak roads in the teeth of a high wind and a driving rain; of their close examination of every yard of the way, one walking while the other drove; and of their hopelessness when they looked at the gateways and fields, into any of which Anna might have turned, and the lanes down which she might have wandered. But of her own feelings she could not speak—the awful anxiety and remorse; the sense of responsibility and blameworthiness that filled her; her remembrance of Anna’s sacrifice for Dan the night she saved his life; her dread of what they might see or hear—those were feelings too deep for words. So, too, was her agony of joy and relief when at last, almost by a miracle, they came on her lying in a linhay down a lane they had very nearly overlooked in the darkness.
How she had wandered there no one would ever know, and Anna could never tell. She must have doubled back when she found she had taken the wrong road, and then, in her fright and confusion, have gone round, and up and down, until she had lost herself far more effectually than if she had tried to. That she had met no one to ask her way of was not wonderful on such a night and in a neighbourhood where there were only half a dozen cottages altogether, and at long distances apart.
She had recognized Kitty and Jabez when they roused her, but in her relief had had a fit of hysterics which frightened them both nearly out of their wits, and then had fainted.
Poor Kitty did her best to keep calm, and she and Jabez carried Anna to the carriage, and there, wrapped in all the rugs and shawls they could muster, she lay in Kitty’s arms while Jabez drove quickly home.
Their shortest and best way now was the road they had travelled so happily in the morning, so once again Kitty had a dim glimpse of the tors, standing up so lonely and desolate in the black night, lashed by the rain and swept by the wind, but she turned her eyes away, half shuddering. They were nearly home when they met Dan crawling along, hopeless and dead beat. He was soaked to the skin, his feet were galled and raw with walking in wet boots, but, worst of all, his search had been fruitless. Crawling painfully, miserably homewards, with a mind full of the fate that might have overtaken Anna—Anna, who had saved his life—was it any wonder that he broke down and cried when, on hearing wheels, and turning to ask for a lift, he recognized first old Prue, then Jabez and Kitty, and, best of all, Anna, and knew that his search was ended?
Kitty was to be sent away to school. That was what that unlucky day had done for Kitty. The fiat had gone forth, and there was no escape.
Aunt Pike had been very frightened indeed when she was summoned home, and learned all about Anna’s Helbarrow Tors experience, and found her seriously ill with pneumonia as a result of it. She was very angry and very indignant, and angry fright, or fright and anger combined, make the worst form of anger as a rule.