She regained command of herself with an effort, and whispered, rather than spoke, with twitching lips;
“What does the presence of these men mean?”
“It means that Crewe has already communicated with Scotland Yard.”
“And that you will be arrested for his murder?” Her trembling lips could hardly frame the words.
“I think so—it’s almost certain. But apparently the warrant is not yet issued, or those men would come here and arrest me. But they are watching to prevent my escape—if I thought of escaping. We may yet have a few hours to arrange something, but you must come to a prompt decision.”
“Tell me what to do, and I will do it. Oh, let me help you if I can. What is the best thing to do? To see Crewe?”
“No. I forbid you to see Crewe,” he said harshly. “If we decide on that course I will see him myself.”
“And you may be arrested the moment you go out of these chambers,” she returned. “Oh, no, no; that is not a good plan—we have not the time. I will go to Mabel Fewbanks at once, and beg her, for all our sakes, not to allow this to go any further.”
He shook his head.
“You must not sacrifice yourself,” he said. “That would be foolish.”
“I will not sacrifice myself. I would tell her just what you have told me—that her father came from Scotland to discuss an urgent matter with you, and that he was murdered after you left. I feel certain this man Crewe is going to extremes without her knowledge or consent, and that she will be the first to bury this awful thing when she learns that you have been implicated. Is not this the best thing to do?”
“It is,” he reluctantly admitted. “But I do not wish you to be mixed up in it at all.”
“I am not mixing myself up in it—I am too selfish for that. But I swear to you if you do not let me do this I will confess everything. I know Mabel Fewbanks, and I repeat, she is not aware of what this man Crewe has done. She would not—will not, permit it. I shall go down to Dellmere at once.” Her face was pale, and her eyes glittered as she looked at her husband, but she spoke with unnatural self-possession. With feverish energy she pulled on a glove she had taken off when she entered, and buttoned it. “I will—I shall—arrive in time. In two hours—in three at most—you will hear from me.”
She passed out into the outer office before her husband could reply, and closed the door behind her. Mr. Mattingford dashed to open the outer door of his room leading into the main staircase. He thought Mrs. Holymead looked strange as she passed him and descended the stairs, and he rubbed his hands gleefully. He came to the conclusion that she had come in for a cheque for L50 as an advance of her dress allowance, and that her request had been refused.
She left her husband’s chambers with her brain in a whirl, hardly knowing where she was going until she found herself held up with a stream of pedestrians at the island intersection of Waterloo Bridge and the Strand. She thought the policeman who was regulating the traffic eyed her curiously, and, more with the object of evading his eye than with any set plan in her mind, she stepped into an empty taxi-cab which was waiting to cross the street.