“Never fear! They’ll get the fellow yet,” my lord had said.
Jocelyn answered mechanically; the door opened; the maid caught a glimpse of Ronsdale’s face, of the cold eyes that looked the least bit annoyed.
“Although it was most bungling on their part to have permitted him to get away!” he went on. “I hope, however, this little unexpected episode won’t disturb your rest.” An instant the steely eyes seemed to contemplate her closer. “Many going away to-morrow?” he asked, as if to divert her thoughts from the exciting experience of the evening before leaving her.
“Only Captain Forsythe and—Mr. Steele.”
Did he notice the slightest hesitation, on her part, before speaking the last name? My lord’s eyes fell; an odd expression appeared on his face. He murmured a few last perfunctory words; then—“They’ll get him yet. He can’t get away,” he repeated. The words had a singular, a sibilant sound; he bowed deferentially and strode off, not toward his own chamber, however, but toward the great stairway leading down to the first story.
As the door closed behind her young mistress, the maid came quickly forward. “Did you learn anything more, Miss Jocelyn, if I may be so bold as to ask, from the police agent? Who the criminal was, or—”
“The police agent only said he was an ex-convict, no ordinary one, who had escaped from London and was making for the sea. They got word he was at the village and followed him there but he managed to elude them and they traced him to Strathorn House park, where he had taken refuge. The police did not acquaint Sir Charles, Lord Ronsdale or any one with their purpose, thinking not to alarm us needlessly beforehand. And—I believe that is all.”
A moment the woman waited. “I—shall I—”
The girl looked before her; tiny flames from the grate heightened the sheen on her gown; they threw passing lights on the somewhat tired, proud face. “I shall not need you, Dobson,” she said. “You may go. A moment.” The woman, who had half-turned, waited; Jocelyn’s glance had lowered to the fire; in its reflection her slim, delicate fingers were rosy. She unclasped them, smoothed the brocade absently with one hand. “One or two are leaving early to-morrow. You will see—you will give instructions that everything is provided for their comfort.”
The maid responded and left the room; Jocelyn stood as if wrapped in reverie. At length she stirred suddenly and extinguishing all but one dim light, sank back into a chair. Her eyes half closed, then shut entirely. One might have thought her sleeping, except that her breathing was not deep enough; the golden head remained motionless against the soft pink of the dressing-gown; the hand that dropped limply from the white wrist over the arm of the chair did not stir. Around, all was stillness; time passed; then a faint shout from somewhere in the gardens, far off, aroused her. The girl looked around; but immediately silence again reigned; she got up.