“Traitor!” cries Dora, raising her pale face and looking at him with horror and defiance. “You triumph now, because, as yet, I have no evidence to support my belief, but”—she hesitates.
“Ah, brazen it out to the last!” says Dynecourt insolently. “Defy me while you can. To-day I shall set the blood-hounds of the law upon your track, so beware—beware!”
“You refuse to tell me anything?” exclaims Dora, ignoring his words, and treating them as though they are unheard. “So much the worse for you.”
She turns from him, and leaves the room as she finishes speaking; but, though her words have been defiant there is no kindred feeling in her heart to bear her up.
When the door closes between them, the flush dies out of her face, and she looks even more wan and hopeless than she did before seeking his presence. She can not deny to herself that her mission has been a failure. He has openly scoffed at her threats, and she is aware that she has not a shred of actual evidence wherewith to support her suspicion; the bravado with which he has sought to turn the tables upon herself both frightens and disheartens her, and now she confesses to herself that she knows not where to turn for counsel.
In the meantime the daylight dwindles, and twilight descends. Even that too departs, and now darkness falls upon the distressed household, and still there is no news of Sir Adrian.
Arthur Dynecourt, who is already beginning to be treated with due respect as the next heir to the baronetcy, has quietly hinted to old Lady FitzAlmont that perhaps it will be as well, in the extraordinary circumstances, if they all take their departure. This the old lady, though strongly disinclined to quit the castle, is debating in her own mind, and, being swayed by Lady Gertrude, who is secretly rather bored by the dullness that has ensued on the strange absence of their host, decides to leave on the morrow, to the great distress of both Dora and Florence Delmaine, who shrink from deserting the castle while its master’s fate is undecided. But they are also sensible that, to remain the only female guests, would be to outrage the conventionalities.
Henry Villiers, Ethel’s father, is also of opinion that they should all quit the castle without delay. He is a hunting man, an M.F.H. in his own county, and is naturally anxious to get back to his own quarters some time before the hunting-season commences. Some others have already gone, and altogether it seems to Florence that there is no other course open to her but to pack up and desert him, whom she loves, in the hour of his direst need. For there are moments even now when she tells herself that he is still living, and only waiting for a saving hand to drag him into smooth waters once again!
A silence has fallen upon the house more melancholy than the loudest expression of grief. The servants are conversing over their supper in frightened whispers, and conjecturing moodily as to the fate of their late master. To them Sir Adrian is indeed dead, if not buried.