Sir Marmaduke had reflected on all this, of course, before broaching the subject to Adam Lambert at all. Now he was prepared to go through with the scheme to the end if need be. His uncle, the Earl of Northallerton, might live another twenty years, whilst he himself—if pursued for fraud, might have to spend those years in jail.
On the whole it was simpler to purchase the smith’s silence ... this way or another. Sir Marmaduke’s reflections at this moment would have delighted those evil spirits who are supposed to revel in the misdoings of mankind.
The thought of the lonely path near the cliffs of Epple Bay tickled his fancy in a manner for which perhaps at this moment he himself could not have accounted. He certainly did not fear Adam Lambert and now said decisively:
“Very well, my friend, an you wish it, I’ll come.”
“Half an hour before midnight,” insisted Lambert, “on the cliffs at Epple Bay.”
“Half an hour before midnight: on the cliffs of Epple Bay,” assented the other.
He picked up his hat.
“Where art going?” queried the smith suspiciously.
“To change my clothing,” replied Sir Marmaduke, who was fingering that fateful tinder-box which alone had brought about the present crisis, “and to fetch those proofs which you are so anxious to see.”
“Thou’lt not fail me?”
“Surely not,” quoth de Chavasse, as he finally went out of the room.
THE PATH NEAR THE CLIFFS
The mist had not lifted. Over the sea it hung heavy and dank like a huge sheet of gray thrown over things secret and unavowable. It was thickest down in the bay lurking in the crevices of the chalk, in the great caverns and mighty architecture carved by the patient toil of the billows in the solid mass of the cliffs.
Up above it was slightly less dense: allowing distinct peeps of the rough carpet of coarse grass, of the downtrodden path winding towards Acol, of the edge of the cliff, abrupt, precipitous, with a drop of some ninety feet into that gray pall of mist to the sands below.
And higher up still, above the mist itself, a deep blue sky dotted with stars, and a full moon, pale and circled with luminous vapors. A gentle breeze had risen about half an hour ago and was blowing the mist hither and thither, striving to disperse it, but not yet succeeding in mastering it, for it only shifted restlessly to and fro, like the giant garments of titanic ghosts, revealing now a distant peep of sea, anon the interior of a colonnaded cavern, abode of mysterious ghouls, or again a nest of gulls in a deep crevice of the chalk: revealing and hiding again:—a shroud dragged listlessly over monstrous dead things.
Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse had some difficulty in keeping to the footpath which leads from the woods of Acol straight toward the cliffs. Unlike Adam Lambert, his eyes were unaccustomed to pierce the moist pall which hid the distance from his view.