Soon she heard his deliberate footfalls returning. In a moment he had reached the door, his hand was upon it. She turned stiffly towards him as it opened.
He spoke at once in his calm, unmoved voice:
“A very old friend of mine lives here. She will put you up for the night and see to your comfort. Will you get out?”
Mutely she did so, feeling curiously weak and unstrung. He put his arm around her, and led her into the dim cottage garden.
They went up a tiled path to an open door from which the light of a single candle gleamed fitfully in the draught. She stumbled at the doorstep, but he held her up. He was almost carrying her.
As they entered, an old woman, bent and indescribably wrinkled, rose from her knees before a deep old-fashioned fireplace on the other side of the little kitchen, and came to meet them. She had evidently just coaxed a dying fire back to life.
“Ah, poor dear,” she said at sight of the girl’s exhausted face. “She looks more dead than alive. Bring her to the fire, Master Vivian. I’ll soon have some hot milk for the poor lamb.”
Caryl led her to an arm-chair that stood on one side of the blaze, and made her sit down. Then, stooping, he took one of her nerveless hands and held it closely in his own.
He did not speak to her, and she was relieved by his forbearance. As the warmth of his grasp gradually communicated itself to her numbed fingers, she felt her racing pulses grow steadier; but she was glad when he laid her hand down quietly in her lap and turned away.
He bent over her again in a few minutes with a cup of steaming milk. She took it from him, tasted it, and shuddered.
“There is brandy in it.”
“Yes,” said Caryl.
She turned her head away.
“I don’t want it. I hate brandy.”
He put his hand on her shoulder.
“You had better drink it all the same,” he said.
She glanced at him, caught her breath sharply, then dumbly gave way. He kept his hand upon her while she drank, and only removed it to take the empty cup.
After that, standing gravely before her, he spoke again.
“I am going on into the town now with the motor, and I shall put up there. My old nurse will take care of you. I shall come back in the morning.”
THE SURRENDER OF THE CITADEL
Old Mrs. Maynard, sweeping her brick floor with wide-open door through which the April sunlight streamed gloriously, nodded to herself a good many times over the doings of the night. A very discreet creature was Mrs. Maynard, faithful to the very heart of her, but she would not have been mortal had she not been intensely curious to know what were the circumstances that had led Vivian Caryl to bring to her door that shrinking, exhausted girl who still lay sleeping in the room above.