Chapter VII

The water was barely up to her knees, but she stumbled among slippery stones as she fled round the corner of the boat-house, and twice she nearly fell. There were reeds growing by the bank; she struggled through them, frantically fighting her way.

She was drenched nearly to the waist when at last she climbed up the grassy slope. She heard the seekers laughing down among the ruins some distance away as she did so, and for a few seconds she thought she might escape to the house unobserved. She turned in that direction, her wet skirts clinging round her. And then, simultaneously, two things happened.

The key ground in the lock of the boat-house, and, ere Wentworth could emerge, a man walked out from the shadow of some trees and met her on the path. She stopped short in the moonlight, standing as one transfixed. It was her husband.

He came to her, moving more quickly than was his won't. "My dear child!" he ejaculated.

Feverishly she sought to make explanation. "I--I was hiding--down on the bank. I slipped into the lake. It was very foolish of me. But--but--really I couldn't help it."

Her teeth were chattering. He took her by the arm.

"Come up to the house at once!" he said.

She looked towards the boat-house. The door was ajar, but Wentworth had not shown himself. With a gasp of relief she yielded to Field's insistent hand.

Her knees were shaking under her, but she made a valiant effort to control them. He did not speak further, and something in his silence dismayed her. She trembled more and more as she walked. Her wet clothes impeded her. She remembered with consternation that she had left her cloak in the boat-house. In her horror at this discovery she stopped.

As she did so a sudden tumult behind them told her that Wentworth had been sighted by his pursuers.

In the same moment Field very quietly turned and lifted her in his arms. She gave a gasp of astonishment.

"I think we shall get on quicker this way," he said. "Put your arm over my shoulder, won't you?"

He spoke as gently as if she had been a child, and instinctively she obeyed. He bore her very steadily straight to the house.