They had left the main part of the flood behind them. There were still great pools in the side of the road, and huge masses of seaweed had been carried up and were lying in their track. There was no more water, however. At every moment they drew nearer to the strangely-shaped hill with its crown of trees.
“The house is on the other side,” Gerald pointed out. “We can go through the lodge gates at the back here. The ascent isn’t so steep.”
They turned sharply to the right, along another stretch of straight road set with white posts, ending before a red brick lodge and a closed gate. They blew the horn and a gardener came out. He gazed at them in amazement.
“It’s all right,” Gerald cried. “Let us through quickly, Foulds. We’ve a gentleman in behind who’s ill.”
The man swung open the gate with a respectful salute. They made their way up a winding drive of considerable length, and at last they came to a broad, open space almost like a platform. On their left were the marshes, and beyond, the sea. Along their right stretched the long front of an Elizabethan mansion. They drew up in front of the hail door. Their coming had been observed, and servants were already waiting. Gerald sprang to the ground.
“There’s a gentleman in behind who’s ill,” he explained to the butler. “He has met with an accident on the way. Three or four of you had better carry him up to a bedroom—any one that is ready. And you, George,” he added, turning to a boy, “get into the car and show this man the way round to the garage, and then take him to the servants’ hall.”
Several of the servants hastened to do his bidding, and Gerald did his best to answer the eager but respectful stream of questions. And then, just as they were in the act of lifting the still unconscious man on to the floor of the hall, came a queer sound—a shrill, reverberating whistle. They all looked up the stairs.
“The master is awake,” Henderson, the butler, remarked, dropping his voice a little.
“I will go to him at once,” he said.
Accustomed though he was to the sight which he was about to face, Gerald shivered slightly as he opened the door of Mr. Fentolin’s room. A strange sort of fear seemed to have crept into his bearing and expression, a fear of which there had been no traces whatever during those terrible hours through which he had passed—not even during that last reckless journey across the marshes. He walked with hesitating footsteps across the spacious and lofty room. He had the air of some frightened creature approaching his master. Yet all that was visible of the despot who ruled his whole household in deadly fear was the kindly and beautiful face of an elderly man, whose stunted limbs and body were mercifully concealed. He sat in a little carriage, with a rug drawn closely