“My lady,” he said, “I went quickly to the street, and indeed to the corner of it, but Sir John was not within sight.”
“Fool, you were not swift enough!” she said angrily. “Wait, you must go to his lodgings with a note. The matter is of importance.”
She went to a table—’twas close to the divan, so close that if she had thrust forth her foot she could have touched what lay beneath it—and wrote hastily a few lines. They were to request That which was stiffening within three feet of her to return to her as quickly as possible that she might make inquiries of an important nature which she had forgotten at his departure.
“Take this to Sir John’s lodgings,” she said. “Let there be no loitering by the way. Deliver into his own hands, and bring back at once his answer.”
Then she was left alone again, and being so left, paced the room slowly, her gaze upon the floor.
“That was well done,” she said. “When he returns and has not found him, I will be angered, and send him again to wait.”
She stayed her pacing, and passed her hand across her face.
“’Tis like a nightmare,” she said—“as if one dreamed, and choked, and panted, and would scream aloud, but could not. I cannot! I must not! Would that I might shriek, and dash myself upon the floor, and beat my head upon it until I lay—as he does.”
She stood a moment, breathing fast, her eyes widening, that part of her which was weak woman for the moment putting her in parlous danger, realising the which she pressed her sides with hands that were of steel.
“Wait! wait!” she said to herself. “This is going mad. This is loosening hold, and being beaten by that One who hates me and laughs to see what I have come to.”
Naught but that unnatural engine of will could have held her within bounds and restrained the mounting female weakness that beset her; but this engine being stronger than all else, it beat her womanish and swooning terrors down.
“Through this one day I must live,” she said, “and plan, and guard each moment that doth pass. My face must tell no tale, my voice must hint none. He will be still—God knows he will be still enough.”
Upon the divan itself there had been lying a little dog; ’twas a King Charles’ spaniel, a delicate pampered thing, which attached itself to her, and was not easily driven away. Once during the last hour the fierce, ill-hushed voices had disturbed it, and it had given vent to a fretted bark, but being a luxurious little beast, it had soon curled up among its cushions and gone to sleep again. But as its mistress walked about muttering low words and ofttimes breathing sharp breaths, it became disturbed again. Perhaps through some instinct of which naught is known by human creatures, it felt the strange presence of a thing which roused it. It stirred, at first drowsily, and lifted its head and sniffed;