“Thank goodness!” said Barbara.
“Should a lady come, don’t allow her to enter the flat,” said I.
[Illustration: And there, in a wilderness of ransacked drawers and strewn papers, . . . lay a tiny, black, moaning heap of a woman.]
“I shouldn’t give a strange lady entrance in any case,” said the porter.
“Good!” said I, and I was about to go. But Barbara, with her ready common-sense, took me aside and whispered:
“Why not take all these compromising manuscripts home with us?”
In my letter case I had the half-forgotten power of attorney that Jaffery had given me at Havre. I shewed it to the porter.
“I want to get some things out of Mr. Chayne’s flat.”
“Certainly, sir,” said the porter. “I’ll take you up.”
We ascended in the lift. The porter opened Jaffery’s door. We entered the sitting-room. And there, in a wilderness of ransacked drawers and strewn papers, with her head against the cannon-ball on the hearthrug, lay a tiny, black, moaning heap of a woman.
If a ministering angel walks abroad through this world of many sorrows, it is my wife Barbara. To her and to her alone did the soul-stricken little creature owe her life and her reason. For a fortnight she scarcely left Doria’s room, sleeping for odd hours anywhere, and snatching meals with the casual swiftness of a swallow. For a whole fortnight she wrestled with the powers of darkness, which like Apollyon straddled quite over all the breadth of the way, and by sheer valiancy and beauty of heart, she made them spread forth their dragon’s wings and speed them away so that Doria for a season saw them no more. How she fought and with what weapons, who am I to tell you? These things are written down; but in a Book which no human eye can see.
We carried her moaning and distraught from that room of awful revelation, put her into the car, and brought her back to Northlands. It was the only thing to be done. Barbara’s instinct foresaw madness if we took her to the flat in St. John’s Wood. Her father’s house, her natural refuge, was equally impossible. For what explanation could we have given to the worthy but uncomprehending man? He would have called in doctors to minister to a mind afflicted with a disease beyond their power of diagnosis. Unless, of course, we made public the facts of the tragedy; which was unthinkable. Barbara’s instinct pierced surely through the gloom. The first coherent words that Doria said were:
“Let me stay with you for a little. I’ve nowhere in the world to go. I can’t ask father—and I can’t go back home. It would drive me mad.”