The man retreated silently. The woman sat down upon a stool and waited. Gerald sat opposite to her, the battered dressing-case upon his knees. Between them was stretched the body of the unconscious man.
“Are you used to prayer, young sir?” the woman asked.
Gerald shook his head, and the woman did not pursue the subject. Only once her eyes were half closed and her words drifted across the room.
“The Lord have mercy on this man, a sinner!”
“My advice to you, sir, is to chuck it!”
Gerald turned towards the chauffeur by whose side he was seated a little stiffly, for his limbs were numbed with the cold and exhaustion. The morning had broken with a grey and uncertain light. A vaporous veil of mist seemed to have taken the place of the darkness. Even from the top of the hill where the car had come to a standstill, there was little to be seen.
“We must have come forty miles already,” the chauffeur continued, “what with going out of our way all the time because of the broken bridges. I’m pretty well frozen through, and as for him,” he added, jerking his thumb across his shoulder, “it seems to me you’re taking a bit of a risk.”
“The doctor said he would remain in exactly the same condition for twenty-four hours,” Gerald declared.
“Yes, but he didn’t say anything about shaking him up over forty miles of rough road,” the other protested. “You’ll excuse me, sir,” he continued, in a slightly changed tone; “it isn’t my business, of course, but I’m fairly done. It don’t seem reasonable to stick at it like this. There’s Holt village not a mile away, and a comfortable inn and a fire waiting. I thought that was as far as you wanted to come. We might lie up there for a few hours, at any rate.”
His passenger slipped down from his place, and, lifting the rug, peered into the tonneau of the car, over which they had tied a hood. To all appearance, the condition of the man who lay there was unchanged. There was a slightly added blueness about the lips but his breathing was still perceptible. It seemed even a little stronger. Gerald resumed his seat.
“It isn’t worth while to stay at Holt,” he said quietly. “We are scarcely seven miles from home now. Sit still for a few minutes and get your wind.”
“Only seven miles,” the chauffeur repeated more cheerfully. “That’s something, anyway.”
“And all downhill.”
“Towards the sea, then?”
“Straight to the sea,” Gerald told him. “The place we are making for is St. David’s Hall, near Salthouse.”
The chauffeur seemed a little startled.
“Why, that’s Squire Fentolin’s house!”
“That is where we are going. You follow this road almost straight ahead.”
The chauffeur slipped in the clutch.