He released her slowly and turned to open the door. Then, seeing that she moved unsteadily, he put his arm about her, supporting her. So, side by side and linked together, they went out into the driving snow.
Doris was nearly fainting with cold and misery when they stopped at last before the Mill House door. All the previous night she had sat up listening with nerves on edge, and had finally taken her departure in the early morning without food.
When Jeff turned to help her down she looked at him helplessly, seeing him through a drifting mist that obscured all besides. He saw her weakness at a single glance, and, mounting the step, took her in his arms.
She sank down against his shoulder. “Oh, Jeff, I can’t help it,” she whispered, through lips that were stiff and blue with cold.
“All right. I know,” he said, and for the first time in many days she heard a note of kindness in his voice.
He bore her straight through to the kitchen, and laid her down upon the old oak settle, just as he had done on that day in September when first he had brought her to his home.
Granny Grimshaw, full of tender solicitude, came hastening to her, but Jeff intervened.
“Hot milk and brandy—quick!” he ordered, and fell himself to chafing the icy fingers.
When Granny Grimshaw brought the cup, he took it from her, and held it for Doris to drink; and then, when she had swallowed a little and the blood was creeping back into her face, he took off her boots and chafed her feet also.
Granny Grimshaw put some bread into the milk while this was in progress and coaxed Doris to finish it. She asked no questions, simply treating her as she might have treated a lost child who had strayed away. There was a vast fund of wisdom in the old grey head that was so often shaken over the follies of youth.
And, finally, when Doris had a little recovered, she went with her to her room, and helped her to bed, where she tucked her up with her own hot-water bottle and left her.
From sheer exhaustion Doris slept, though her sleep was not a happy one. Long, tangled dreams wound in a ceaseless procession through her brain, and through them all she was persistently and fruitlessly striving to persuade Jeff to let her go.
In the late afternoon she awoke suddenly to the sound of men’s voices in the room below her, and started up in nameless fear.
“Were you wanting anything, my dearie?” asked Granny Grimshaw, from a chair by the fire.
“Who is that talking?” she asked nervously.
“It’s Master Jeff and a visitor,” said the old woman. “Now, don’t you bother your head about them! I’m going along to get you some tea.”
She bustled away with the words, and Doris lay back, listening with every nerve stretched. Her husband’s deep voice was unmistakable, but the other she could not distinguish. Only after a while there came the sounds of movement, the opening of a door.