And now it was the thought of what folk would say when they heard that Adam Lambert had disappeared, and was, of a truth, not returning home, which kept Sir Marmaduke still lingering in England.
That and the inexplicable enigma which ever confronts the searcher of human motives: the overwhelming desire of the murderer to look once again upon his victim.
Master Busy had on that second morning brought home the news from Acol, that Squire Boatfield had caused a rough deal coffin to be made by the village carpenter at the expense of the county, and that mayhap the stranger would be laid therein this very afternoon and conveyed down to Minster, where he would be accorded Christian burial.
Then Sir Marmaduke realized that it would be impossible for him to leave England until after he had gazed once more on the dead body of the smith.
After that he would go. He would shake the sand of Thanet from his heels forever.
When he had learned all that he wished to know he would be free from the present feeling of terrible obsession which paralyzed his movements to the extent of endangering his own safely.
He was bound to look upon his victim once again: an inexplicable and titanic force compelled him to that. Mayhap, that same force would enable him to keep his nerves under control when, presently, he should be face to face with the dead.
Face to face? ... Good God! ...
Yet neither fear nor remorse haunted him. It was only curosity, and, at one thought, a nameless horror! ... Not at the thought of murder ... there he had no compunction, but at that of the terrible deed which from instinct of self-protection had perforce to succeed the graver crime.
The weight of those chalk boulders seemed still to weigh against the muscles of his back. He felt that Sisyphus-like he was forever rolling, rolling a gigantic stone which, failing of its purpose—recoiled on him, rolling back down a precipitous incline, and crushing him beneath its weight ... only to release him again ... to leave him free to endure the same torture over and over again ... and yet again ... forever the same weight ... forever the self-same, intolerable agony....
THE SMITH’S FORGE
Up to the hour of his departure from Acol Court, Sir Marmaduke had been convinced that neither his sister-in-law nor Lady Sue had heard of the news which had set the whole of Thanet in commotion. Acol Court lies very isolated, well off the main Canterbury Road, and just for two days and a half Master Hymn-of-Praise Busy had contrived to hold his tongue.
Most of the village gossips, too, met at the local public bars, and had had up to now no time to wander as far as the Court, nor any reason to do so, seeing that Master Busy was always to be found at Prospect Inn and always ready to discuss the mystery in all its bearings, with anyone who would share a pint of ale with him.