As he clattered into the stable-yard on that dark November evening, his face was sparkling with excitement as though he had drunk strong wine. The animal he rode was covered with foam, and danced a springy war-dance on the stones. Caesar trotted in behind them with tail erect and a large smile of satisfaction on his spotty face despite the gory streak upon his neck.
“Confound it! I’m late!” said Piers, throwing his leg over his horse’s neck. “It’s all that brute’s fault. Look at him grinning! Better wash him one of you! He can’t come in in that state.” He slipped to the ground and stamped his sodden feet. “I’m not much better off myself. What a beastly night, to be sure!”
“Yes, you’re wet, sir!” remarked the groom at Pompey’s head. “Had a tumble, sir?”
“No. Had a jug of water thrown over me,” laughed Piers. “Caesar will tell you all about it. He’s been sniggering all the way home.” He snapped his fingers in the dog’s complacent face. “By Jove!” he said to him, “I couldn’t grin like that if I’d had the thrashing you’ve had. And I couldn’t kiss the hand that did it either. You’re a gentleman, Caesar, and I humbly apologize. Look after him, Phipps! He’s been a bit mauled. Good-night! Good-night, Pompey lad! You’ve carried me well.” He patted the horse’s foam-flecked neck, and turned away.
As he left the stable-yard, he was whistling light-heartedly, and Phipps glanced at a colleague with a slight flicker of one eyelid.
“Wonder who chucked that jug of water!” he said.
In the huge, oak-panelled hall of the Abbey, Sir Beverley Evesham sat alone.
A splendid fire of logs blazed before him on the open hearth, and the light from a great chandelier beat mercilessly down upon him. His hair was thick still and silvery white. He had the shoulders of a strong man, albeit they were slightly bowed. His face, clean-shaven, aristocratic, was the colour of old ivory. The thin lips were quite bloodless. They had a downward, bitter curve, as though they often sneered at life. The eyes were keen as a bird’s, stone-grey under overhanging black brows.
He held a newspaper in one bony hand, but he was not apparently reading, for his eyes were fixed. The shining suits of armour standing like sentinels on each side of the fireplace were not more rigid than he.
There came a slight sound from the other end of the hall, and instantly and very sharply Sir Beverley turned his head.