And dominating all, there was Editha’s look of bewilderment, of puzzledom in her face at a mystery whereat her senses were beginning to reel, that mute questioning of the eyes, which speaks of turbulent thoughts within.
Sir Marmaduke uttered an exclamation of impatience.
“You must return to the Court and at once,” he said, avoiding Sue’s gaze and speaking directly to Editha, “the men are outside, with lanterns. You’ll have to walk quickly an you wish to reach home before twilight.”
But even while he spoke, Sue—not heeding him—had turned to Squire Boatfield. She went up to him, holding out her hands as if in instinctive childlike appeal for protection, to a kindly man.
“This mystery is horrible!” she murmured.
Boatfield took her small hands in his, patting them gently the while, desiring to soothe and comfort her, for she seemed deeply agitated and there was a wild look of fear from time to time in her pale face.
“Sir Marmaduke is right,” said the squire gently, “this is indeed no place for your ladyship. I did not see you arrive or I had at once persuaded you to go.”
De Chavasse would again have interposed. He stooped and picked up Sue’s cloak which had fallen to the ground, and as he went up to her with the obvious intention of replacing it around her shoulders, she checked him, with a slight motion of her hand.
“I only heard of this terrible crime an hour ago,” she said, speaking once more to Boatfield, “and as I methinks, am the only person in the world who can throw light upon this awesome mystery, I thought it my duty to come.”
“Of a truth ’twas brave of your ladyship,” quoth the squire, feeling a little bewildered at this strange announcement, “but surely ... you did not know this man?”
“If the rumor which hath reached me be correct,” she replied quietly, “then indeed did I know the murdered man intimately. Prince Amede d’Orleans was my husband.”
THE OLD WOMAN
There was silence in the tiny cottage parlor as the young girl made this extraordinary announcement in a firm if toneless voice, without flinching and meeting with a sort of stubborn pride the five pairs of eyes which were now riveted upon her.
From outside came the hum of many voices, dull and subdued, like the buzzing of a swarm of bees, and against the small window panes the incessant patter of icy rain driven and lashed by the gale. Anon the wind moaned in the wide chimney, ... it seemed like the loud sigh of the Fates, satisfied at the tangle wrought by their relentless fingers in the threads of all these lives.
Sir Marmaduke, after a slight pause, had contrived to utter an oath—indicative of the wrath he, as Lady Sue’s guardian, should have felt at her statement. Squire Boatfield frowned at the oath. He had never liked de Chavasse and disapproved more than ever of the man’s attitude towards his womenkind now.