He led Anne into the next room; and, opening the shutter, pointed to the garden.
The clouds had cleared off; the night was fine. The clear starlight showed Geoffrey, stripped to his shirt and drawers, running round and round the garden. He apparently believed himself to be contending at the Fulham foot-race. At times, as the white figure circled round and round in the star-light, they heard him cheering for “the South.” The slackening thump of his feet on the ground, the heavier and heavier gasps in which he drew his breath, as he passed the window, gave warning that his strength was failing him. Exhaustion, if it led to no worse consequences, would force him to return to the house. In the state of his brain at that moment who could say what the result might be, if medical help was not called in?
“I will go for the doctor,” said Julius, “if you don’t mind my leaving you.”
It was impossible for Anne to set any apprehensions of her own against the plain necessity for summoning assistance. They found the key of the gate in the pocket of Geoffrey’s coat up stairs. Anne went with Julius to let him out. “How can I thank you!” she said, gratefully. “What should I have done without you!”
“I won’t be a moment longer than I can help,” he answered, and left her.
She secured the gate again, and went back to the cottage. The servant met her at the door, and proposed calling up Hester Dethridge.
“We don’t know what the master may do while his brother’s away,” said the girl. “And one more of us isn’t one too many, when we are only women in the house.”
“You are quite right,” said Anne. “Wake your mistress.”
After ascending the stairs, they looked out into the garden, through the window at the end of the passage on the upper floor. He was still going round and round, but very slowly: his pace was fast slackening to a walk.
Anne went back to her room, and waited near the open door—ready to close and fasten it instantly if any thing occurred to alarm her. “How changed I am!” she thought to herself. “Every thing frightens me, now.”
The inference was the natural one—but not the true one. The change was not in herself, but in the situation in which she was placed. Her position during the investigation at Lady Lundie’s house had tried her moral courage only. It had exacted from her one of those noble efforts of self-sacrifice which the hidden forces in a woman’s nature are essentially capable of making. Her position at the cottage tried her physical courage: it called on her to rise superior to the sense of actual bodily danger—while that danger was lurking in the dark. There, the woman’s nature sank under the stress laid on it—there, her courage could strike no root in the strength of her love—there, the animal instincts were the instincts appealed to; and the firmness wanted was the firmness of a man.
Hester Dethridge’s door opened. She walked straight into Anne’s room.