On ahead the swaying lights of the lanterns were rapidly becoming more and more indistinguishable in the distance. Apparently Editha’s departure from out the little group had not been noticed by the others. The men were ahead, and Sue, mayhap, was too deeply absorbed in thought to pay much heed as to what was going on round her.
Sir Marmaduke still hesitated. Editha was not returning, and the cottage door was once more closed. Courtesy demanded that he should wait so as to escort her home.
But the fact that she had gone back to the cottage, at risk of having to walk back all alone and along a dark and dreary road, bore a weird significance to this man’s tortuous mind. Editha, troubled with a mass of vague fears and horrible conjectures, had, mayhap, desired to have them set at rest, or else to hear their final and terrible confirmation.
In either case Marmaduke de Chavasse had no wish now for a slow amble homewards in company with the one being in the world who knew him for what he was.
That thought and also the mad desire to get away at last, to cease with this fateful procrastination and to fly from this country with the golden booty, which he had gained at such awful risks, these caused him finally to turn the mare’s head towards home, leaving Editha to follow as best she might, in the company of one of the serving-men whom he would send back to meet her.
The mare was ready to go. He spurred her to a sharp trot. Then having joined the little group on ahead, he sent Master Courage Toogood back with his lantern, with orders to inquire at the cottage for Mistress de Chavasse and there to await her pleasure.
He asked Lady Sue to mount behind him, but this she refused to do. So he put his nag back to foot space, and thus the much-diminished little party slowly walked back to Acol Court.
What had prompted Editha de Chavasse to return thus alone to the Quakeress’s cottage, she herself could not exactly have told.
It must have been a passionate and irresistible desire to heap certainty upon a tangle of horrible surmises.
With Adam Lambert lying dead—obviously murdered—and in the clothes affected by de Chavasse when masquerading as the French hero, there could be only one conclusion. But this to Editha—who throughout had given a helping hand in the management of the monstrous comedy—was so awful a solution of the puzzle that she could not but recoil from it, and strive to deny it while she had one sane thought left in her madly whirling brain.
But though she fought against the conclusion with all her might, she did not succeed in driving it from her thoughts: and through it all there was a vein of uncertainty, that slender thread of hope that after all she might be the prey of some awful delusion, which a word from someone who really knew would anon easily dissipate.