Her voice broke. Dominey’s reply was swift and not unkind. He pointed to the window above.
“If Lady Dominey recovers, you and your son are forgiven. If she never recovers, I wish you both the blackest corner of hell.”
The car drove off. Doctor Harrison met Dominey on the threshold as he turned towards the house.
“Her ladyship is unconscious now,” he announced. “Perhaps that is a good sign. I never liked that unnatural calm. She’ll be unconscious, I think, for a great many hours. For God’s sake, come and get a whisky and soda and give me one!”
The early morning sunshine lay upon the park when the two men at last separated. They stood for a moment looking out. From the Black Wood came the whirr of a saw. The little troop of men had left their tents. The crash of a fallen tree heralded their morning’s work.
“You are still going on with that?” the doctor asked.
“To the very last stump of a tree, to the last bush, to the last cluster of weeds,” Dominey replied, with a sudden passion in his tone. “I will have that place razed to the bare level of the earth, and I will have its poisonous swamps sucked dry. I have hated that foul spot,” he went on, “ever since I realised what suffering it meant to her. My reign here may not be long, Doctor—I have my own tragedy to deal with—but those who come after me will never feel the blight of that accursed place.”
The doctor grunted. His inner thoughts he kept to himself.
“Maybe you’re right,” he conceded.
The heat of a sulphurous afternoon—a curious parallel in its presage of coming storm to the fast-approaching crisis in Dominey’s own affairs—had driven Dominey from his study on to the terrace. In a chair by his side lounged Eddy Pelham, immaculate in a suit of white flannels. It was the fifth day since the mystery of the Black Wood had been solved.
“Ripping, old chap, of you to have me down here,” the young man remarked amiably, his hand stretching out to a tumbler which stood by his side. “The country, when you can get ice, is a paradise in this weather, especially when London’s so full of ghastly rumours and all that sort of thing. What’s the latest news of her ladyship?”
“Still unconscious,” Dominey replied. “The doctors, however, seem perfectly satisfied. Everything depends on her waking moments.”
The young man abandoned the subject with a murmur of hopeful sympathy. His eyes were fixed upon a little cloud of dust in the distance.
“Expecting visitors to-day?” he asked.
“Should not be surprised,” was the somewhat laconic answer.
The young man stood up, yawned and stretched himself.
“I’ll make myself scarce,” he said. “Jove!” he added approvingly, lingering for a moment. “Jolly well cut, the tunic of your uniform, Dominey! If a country in peril ever decides to waive the matter of my indifferent physique and send me out to the rescue, I shall go to your man.”