“Oh, forgive me, I did not know that you were engaged. I was looking for you, Doctor Winchester, to ask you if I might go to bed tonight with safety, as you will be here. I feel so tired and worn-out that I fear I may break down; and tonight I would certainly not be of any use.” Doctor Winchester answered heartily:
“Do! Do go to bed by all means, and get a good night’s sleep. God knows! you want it. I am more than glad you have made the suggestion, for I feared when I saw you tonight that I might have you on my hands a patient next.”
She gave a sigh of relief, and the tired look seemed to melt from her face. Never shall I forget the deep, earnest look in her great, beautiful black eyes as she said to me:
“You will guard Father tonight, won’t you, with Doctor Winchester? I am so anxious about him that every second brings new fears. But I am really worn-out; and if I don’t get a good sleep, I think I shall go mad. I will change my room for tonight. I’m afraid that if I stay so close to Father’s room I shall multiply every sound into a new terror. But, of course, you will have me waked if there be any cause. I shall be in the bedroom of the little suite next the boudoir off the hall. I had those rooms when first I came to live with Father, and I had no care then. . . . It will be easier to rest there; and perhaps for a few hours I may forget. I shall be all right in the morning. Good-night!”
When I had closed the door behind her and come back to the little table at which we had been sitting, Doctor Winchester said:
“That poor girl is overwrought to a terrible degree. I am delighted that she is to get a rest. It will be life to her; and in the morning she will be all right. Her nervous system is on the verge of a breakdown. Did you notice how fearfully disturbed she was, and how red she got when she came in and found us talking? An ordinary thing like that, in her own house with her own guests, wouldn’t under normal circumstances disturb her!”
I was about to tell him, as an explanation in her defence, how her entrance was a repetition of her finding the Detective and myself alone together earlier in the day, when I remembered that that conversation was so private that even an allusion to it might be awkward in evoking curiosity. So I remained silent.
We stood up to go to the sick-room; but as we took our way through the dimly-lighted corridor I could not help thinking, again and again, and again—ay, and for many a day after—how strange it was that she had interrupted me on two such occasions when touching on such a theme.
There was certainly some strange web of accidents, in whose meshes we were all involved.