* * * * *
When I looked up again, I saw, standing against the light in the door opposite, at the head of the steps, the woman that had played the Queen with that mock-blood still on her arm and breast.
“Mr. Mallock,” said the page, “the King is heartily sorry, and wishes to tell you so himself.”
I said nothing.
Of all that happened, after Dolly’s death in the theatre-yard, I think now as of a kind of dream, though it changed my whole life and has made me what I am. I have, too, scarcely the heart to write of it; and what I say of it now is gathered partly from what I can remember and partly from what other folks told me.
It must have been a terrible sight that they all saw as they ran in from the lane, my man James first among them all. There lay, bloodying all the ice about him, the fellow whom I had run through the throat, as dead as the rat he was, but still jerking blood from beneath his ear; and there in my arms, as I kneeled on the stones, lay Dolly, her head fallen back and out of her hood, as white as a lily, dead too in an instant, for she was stabbed through her heart, with her life-blood in a great smear down her side, and all over my hands and clothes.
My man James proved again as faithful a friend as he had always been to me; for the affair had been no fault of his: I had sent him for the coach, and he was bringing it up to the yard-entrance from the lane, as Anne had run out screaming. Then he had run in, and my other man with him, and the crowd after him, in time to see the two living assassins make off into the dark entrance on the other side. A number had run after them, but to no purpose, for we never heard of them again; and my Dolly’s murderer, I suppose, is still breathing God’s air, unless he has been hanged long ago for some other crime.
The next matter was to get us home again; for James has told me that I would allow no one to touch either her or me, until a physician came out of the crowd and told me the truth. Then I had gathered her up in my arms like a child without a word to any; and went out, the crowd falling back as I came, to where the coach waited in Little Russell Street. Still carrying her I went into the coach, and would allow no one else within; and so we drove back to Covent Garden.
When we came there a part of the crowd had already run on before and was waiting. When the coach drew up, I came out of the coach, with my dear love still in my arms, and went upstairs with her to her own chamber and laid her on her bed; and it was a great while before I would let the women come at her to wash her and make all sweet and clean again. I lay all that night in the outer parlour that had been my own so long ago, or, rather, I went up and down it till daybreak; and no one dared to speak to me or to move away the supper-things from the table where she and I had supped the night before.