No doubt he, too, thought of this as the weird flicker of the candle-light showed him her unflinching face, for the next moment, with another muttered curse, and a careless shrug of the shoulders, he turned on his heel, and slowly went upstairs, candle in hand.
Editha watched him until his massive figure was merged in the gloom of the heavy oak stairway. Then she went into the withdrawing-room and waited.
THE SANDS OF EPPLE
Five minutes later Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse, clad in thick dark doublet and breeches and wearing a heavy cloak, once more descended the stairs of Acol Court. He saw the light in the withdrawing-room and knew that Editha was there, mutely watching his departure.
But he did not care to speak to her again. His mind had been quickly made up, nay! his actions in the immediate future should of a truth have been accomplished two days ago, ere the meddlesomeness of women had well-nigh jeopardized his own safety.
All that he meant to do now was to go quickly to the pavilion, find the leather wallet then return to his own stableyard, saddle one of his nags and start forthwith for Dover. Eighteen miles would soon be covered, and though the night was dark, the road was straight and broad. De Chavasse knew it well, and had little fear of losing his way.
With plenty of money in his purse, he would have no difficulty in chartering a boat which, with a favorable tide on the morrow, should soon take him over to France.
All that he ought to have done two days ago! Of a truth, he had been a cowardly fool.
He did not cross the hall this time but went out through the dining-room by the garden entrance. Not a glimmer of light came from above, but as he descended the few stone steps he felt that a few soft flakes of snow tossed by the hurricane were beginning to fall. Of course he knew every inch of his own garden and park and had oft wandered about on the further side of the ha-ha whilst indulging in lengthy sweetly-spoken farewells with his love-sick Sue.
Absorbed in the thoughts of his immediate future plans, he nevertheless walked along cautiously, for the paths had become slippery with the snow, which froze quickly even as it fell.
He did not pause, however, for he wished to lose no time. If he was to ride to Dover this night, he would have to go at foot-pace, for the road would be like glass if this snow and ice continued. Moreover, he was burning to feel that wallet once more between his fingers and to hear the welcome sound of the crushing of crisp papers.
He had plunged resolutely into the thickness of the wood. Here he could have gone blindfolded, so oft had he trodden this path which leads under the overhanging elms straight to the pavilion, walking with Sue’s little hand held tightly clasped in his own.
The spiritual presence of the young girl seemed even now to pervade the thicket, her sweet fragrance to fill the frost-laden air.