But if Karslake translated Victor’s message, as edited by the hand of Nogam, it was to a wire as deaf as it was dumb.
VENTRE A TERRE
With exceeding care to avoid noise, Sofia unlocked the door and for the second time since midnight let herself stealthily out into the darkened corridor; but now with the difference that she did what she did in full command of all her wits and faculties, with no subjective war of wills to hinder and confuse her, and with a definite object clearly visioned—a goal no less distant than the railway station.
Lanyard had promised that Karslake should come for her within an hour or two and take her away with him, back to London and the arms of the father whom, although so recently revealed and accepted, she had already begun to love; if indeed it were not true that she had in filial sense fallen in love with Lanyard at first sight, through intuition, that afternoon in the Cafe des Exiles so long, so very long ago!
Well: she might as well await Karslake at the station. It would be simpler, she would be more at ease there, would breathe more freely once she turned her back on Frampton Court and all its hateful associations. Where Victor was, she could not rest.
If she had feared the man before, now she hated him; but hatred had added to her fear instead of replacing it, she remained afraid, desperately afraid, so that even the thought of continuing under the same roof with him was enough to make her prefer to tramp unknown roads alone in the mirk of that storm-swept night.
Though she went in trembling, she felt sure nobody spied upon her going; and in this confidence crept to the great staircase, down to the entrance hall, and on to the front doors; and a good omen it seemed to find these not locked, but simply on the latch. And if the night into which she peered was dark and loud with wind and rain, its countenance seemed kindlier, more friendly far than that of the world she was putting behind her. Without misgivings Sofia stepped out.
It was like stepping over the edge of the universe into the eternal night that bides beyond the stars. Neither did waiting seem to habituate her vision to the lack of light.
Still, the feel of gravel underfoot ought to guide her down the drive to the great gateway; and once outside the park, clear of its overshadowing trees, one would surely find mitigation of darkness sufficient to show the public road.
She took one tentative step out of the recessed doorway and into Victor’s arms.
That they were Victor’s she knew instantly, as much by the crawling of her flesh as by the choking terror that stifled the scream in her throat and froze body and limbs with its paralyzing touch.
And then his ironic accents:
“So good of you to spare me the trouble of coming for you!”