“‘Hermy!’” he said softly. “‘Hermione’ is so much prettier. ’All shall be explained.’ A little trite, perhaps! Oh, well—” So saying, he folded up the telegrams, switched off the lights and went to bed.
It was close on the hour of sunset when Ravenslee stopped his car before a quiet hotel in Englewood and sprang out.
“Will you be long, sir?” enquired Joe, seating himself at the wheel and preparing to turn into the garage.
“Probably an hour, Joe.”
“Very good, sir.”
But as the big car turned, Ravenslee spoke over his shoulder.
“By the way, if I shouldn’t be back in an hour, come and meet me.” Then, having given Joe full and particular directions as to the little wood, he turned and went upon his way.
It had been a stifling day, and even now, though a soft air was abroad tempering the humid heat, when this light wind languished there was over all things a brooding stillness, foreboding storm. But Ravenslee strode on, unheeding dust and heat, hastening on to that which awaited him, full of strength and life and the zest of life, glad-hearted, and with pulses that throbbed in expectation. Thus, as the sun sank in fiery splendour, he reached the little wood. Evening was falling, and already, among the trees, shadows were deepening to twilight, but in the west was a flaming glory; and, upon the edge of the wood he turned to glance back at this radiance, splashes of gold and pink flushing to an ominous red. For a long moment he stood to stare around about the solitary countryside, joying in life and the glory of it. Then he turned, with a smile on his lips, and stepped into the gloom of the wood. On he went, forcing his way through the under-brush until, reaching the clearing, he halted suddenly and faced about, fancying he had heard a rustle in the leaves hard by. Spike, cowering behind a bush with M’Ginnis’s fingers gripping his arm, shivered and sweated and held his breath until Ravenslee moved on again, and, coming to a fallen tree, seated himself there and sat chin on fist, expectation in every tense line of him.
“Now!” whispered M’Ginnis hoarsely, “get him now—before Hermy comes t’ him!” Shuddering, Spike levelled the weapon he held, but at that moment Ravenslee was filling his pipe, and something in this homely action checked the lad, paralysed finger on trigger, and shrinking, he cowered down upon the grass despite the fierce hand that gripped him. “Get him now, Kid—get him now! Aim f’r his chest—y’ can’t miss at this distance—”
“I—I can’t, Bud!” gasped the boy, writhing, “I can’t do it—I can’t!” Dropping the revolver, he hid his face in sweating hands and shivered.
From somewhere near by a woodpecker was tapping busily, but save for this no sound broke the pervading stillness, for the gentle wind had died away. But suddenly the quiet was rent and shivered, and Spike, deafened by the report, glanced up to see Ravenslee rise to his feet, stagger forward blindly, then, with arms outflung, pitch forward upon his face and lie there.