She heard a step upon the stairs. He was coming.
In a frenzy she beat and shook the door to make him hasten. She was ready to fly forth like a whirlwind in the wake of the speeding motor. For she must follow him, she must overtake him; she must—Heaven help her! She must somehow make him understand!
Oh, why was Jerry so slow? Every instant was increasing the distance between her and that buzzing motor. She screamed to him in an agony of impatience to hurry, to hurry, only to hurry.
He did not call in answer, but at last, at last, his hand was on the door.
She stumbled to her feet as the key grated in the lock, and dragged fiercely at the handle. It resisted her, for there was another hand upon it, and with an exclamation of fierce impatience she snatched her own away.
“Oh, be quick!” she cried hysterically. “Be quick! He is miles away by this time. I shall never catch him, and I must, I must!”
The door opened. She dashed forward. But a man’s arm barred her progress, and with a cry she drew back. The next moment she reeled as she stood, reeled gasping till she slipped and slid to the floor at his feet. The man upon the threshold was her husband!
In silence he lifted her and laid her again upon the bed. His touch was perfectly gentle, but there was no kindness in it, no warmth of any sort. And Nan turned her face into the pillow and sobbed convulsively. How could she tell him now?
He began to walk up and down the tiny room, still maintaining that ominous silence. But she sobbed on, utterly unstrung, utterly hopeless, utterly spent.
He paused at last, and poured some water into a glass.
“Drink this,” he said, stopping beside her. “And then lie quiet until I speak to you.”
But she could neither raise herself nor take the glass. He stooped and lifted her, holding the water to her trembling lips. She leaned against him with closed eyes while she drank. She was painfully anxious to avoid his look. And yet when he laid her down, the sobbing began again, though she struggled feebly to repress it.
He fetched a chair at last and sat down beside her, gravely waiting till her breathing became less distressed. Then, finding her calmer, he finally spoke:
“You need not be afraid of me, Anne. I shall not hurt you.”
“I am not afraid,” she whispered back.
He sat silent for a space, not looking at her. At last:
“Can you attend to me now?” he asked her formally.
She raised herself slowly.
“May I say something first?” she said.
He turned his brooding eyes upon her.
“If you can say it quietly,” he said.
She pressed her hand to her throat.
“You—will listen to me, and—and believe me?”
“I shall know if you lie to me,” he said.