The whole day, succeeding Courtier’s visit, was spent by her in the National Gallery, whose roof, alone of all in London, seemed to offer her protection. She had found one painting, by an Italian master, the subject of which reminded her of Miltoun; and before this she sat for a very long time, attracting at last the gouty stare of an official. The still figure of this lady, with the oval face and grave beauty, both piqued his curiosity, and stimulated certain moral qualms. She, was undoubtedly waiting for her lover. No woman, in his experience, had ever sat so long before a picture without ulterior motive; and he kept his eyes well opened to see what this motive would be like. It gave him, therefore, a sensation almost amounting to chagrin when coming round once more, he found they had eluded him and gone off together without coming under his inspection. Feeling his feet a good deal, for he had been on them all day, he sat down in the hollow which she had left behind her; and against his will found himself also looking at the picture. It was painted in a style he did not care for; the face of the subject, too, gave him the queer feeling that the gentleman was being roasted inside. He had not been sitting there long, however, before he perceived the lady standing by the picture, and the lips of the gentleman in the picture moving. It seemed to him against the rules, and he got up at once, and went towards it; but as he did so, he found that his eyes were shut, and opened them hastily. There was no one there.
From the National Gallery, Audrey had gone into an A.B.C. for tea, and then home. Before the Mansions was a taxi-cab, and the maid met her with the news that ‘Lady Caradoc’ was in the sitting-room.
Barbara was indeed standing in the middle of the room with a look on her face such as her father wore sometimes on the racecourse, in the hunting field, or at stormy Cabinet Meetings, a look both resolute and sharp. She spoke at once:
“I got your address from Mr. Courtier. My brother is ill. I’m afraid it’ll be brain fever, I think you had better go and see him at his rooms in the Temple; there’s no time to be lost.”
To Audrey everything in the room seemed to go round; yet all her senses were preternaturally acute, so that she could distinctly smell the mud of the river at low tide. She said, with a shudder:
“Oh! I will go; yes, I will go at once.”
“He’s quite alone. He hasn’t asked for you; but I think your going is the only chance. He took me for you. You told me once you were a good nurse.”