He knew that any word from him to her would only call forth more malicious sneers from that strange man, who seemed to be pursuing Lady Sue and also himself—Lambert—with a tenacious and incomprehensible hatred.
Richard remained, therefore, beside his dead brother’s coffin, supporting and anon gently raising the old woman from the ground.
Mat—the foreman—had joined his comrades and after a word of explanation, they once more gathered round the wooden box. Stooping to their task, their sinews cracking under the effort, the perspiration streaming from their foreheads, they raised the mortal remains of Adam Lambert from the ground and hoisted the burden upon their shoulders.
Then they turned into the tiny gate and slowly walked with it along the little flagged path to the cottage. The men had to stoop as they crossed the threshold, and the heavy box swayed above their powerful shoulders.
The Quakeress and Richard followed, going within in the wake of the six men. The parlor was then empty, and thus it was that Adam Lambert finally came home.
The others—Squire Boatfield and Mistress de Chavasse, Lady Sue and Sir Marmaduke—had stood aside in the small fore-court, to enable the small cortege to pass. Directly Richard Lambert and the old woman disappeared within the gloom of the cottage interior, these four people—each individually the prey of harrowing thoughts—once more turned their steps towards the open road.
There was nothing more to be done here at this cottage, where the veil of mystery which had fallen over the gruesome murder had been so unexpectedly lifted by a septuagenarian’s hand.
Squire Boatfield was vastly perturbed. Never had his position as magistrate seemed so onerous to him, nor his duties as major-general quite so arduous. A vague and haunting fear had seized him, a fear that—if he did do his duty, if he did continue his investigations of the mysterious crime—he would learn something vastly horrible and awesome, something he had best never know.
He tried to take indifferent leave of the ladies, yet he quite dreaded to meet Lady Sue’s eyes. If all the misery, the terror which she must feel, were expressed in them, then indeed, would her young face be a heart-breaking sight for any man to see.
He kissed the hand of Editha de Chavasse, and bowed in mute and deferential sympathy to the young girl-wife, who of a truth had this day quaffed at one draught the brimful cup of sorrow and of shame.
An inexplicable instinct restrained him from taking de Chavasse’s hand; he was quite glad indeed that the latter seemingly absorbed in thoughts was not heeding his going.
The squire in his turn now passed out of the little gate. The evening was drawing in over-rapidly now, and it would be a long and dismal ride from here to Sarre.