“Come,” he continued, “couldn’t we clear this matter up sensibly? Do you believe that there is anybody in there? Do you believe the place is being used in any way for a wrong purpose? If so, we will insist upon having the keys from Mr. Fentolin. He cannot refuse. The place is mine.”
“Mr. Fentolin would not give you the keys, sir,” she replied. “If he did, it would be useless.”
“Would you like me to break the door in?” Hamel asked.
“You could not do it, sir,” she told him, “not you nor anybody else. The door is thicker than my fist, of solid oak. It was a mechanic from New York who fitted the locks. I have heard it said in the village—Bill Hamas, the carpenter, declares that there are double doors. The workmen who were employed here were housed in a tent upon the beach and sent home the day they finished their job. They were never allowed in the village. They were foreigners, most of them. They came from nobody knows where, and when they had finished they disappeared. Why was that, sir? What is there inside which Mr. Fentolin needs to guard so carefully?”
“Mr. Fentolin has invented something,” Hamel explained. “He keeps the model in there. Inventors are very jealous of their work.”
She looked down upon the floor for a moment.
“I shall be here at seven o’clock in the morning, sir. I will give you your breakfast at the usual time.”
Hamel opened the door for her.
“Good night, Mrs. Cox,” he said. “Would you like me to walk a little way with you? It’s a lonely path to the village, and the dikes are full.”
“Thank you, no, sir,” she replied. “It’s a lonely way, right enough, but it isn’t loneliness that frightens me. I am less afraid out with the winds and the darkness than under this roof. If I lose my way and wander all night upon the marsh, I’ll be safer out there than you, sir.”
She passed away, and Hamel watched her disappear into the darkness. Then he dragged out a bowl of tobacco and filled a pipe. Although he was half ashamed of himself, he strolled back once more into the kitchen, and, drawing up a stool, he sat down just where he had discovered Hannah Cox, sat still and listened. No sound of any sort reached him. He sat there for ten minutes. Then he scrambled to his feet.
“She is mad, of course!” he muttered.
He mixed himself a whisky and soda, relit his pipe, which had gone out, and drew up an easy-chair to the fire which she had left him in the sitting-room. The wind had increased in violence, and the panes of his window rattled continually. He yawned and tried to fancy that he was sleepy. It was useless. He was compelled to admit the truth—that his nerves were all on edge. In a sense he was afraid. The thought of bed repelled him. He had not a single impulse towards repose. Outside, the wind all the time was gathering force. More than once his window was splashed with the spray