His little carriage moved towards the door. The brother and sister passed out. Esther led Gerald into the great dining-room, and from there, through the open windows, out on to the terrace. She gripped his shoulder and pointed down to the Tower.
“Something,” she whispered in his ear, “is going to happen there.”
The little station at which Hamel alighted was like an oasis in the middle of a flat stretch of sand and marsh. It consisted only of a few raised planks and a rude shelter—built, indeed, for the convenience of St. David’s Hall alone, for the nearest village was two miles away. The station-master, on his return from escorting the young lady to her car, stared at this other passenger in some surprise.
“Which way to the sea?” Hamel asked.
The man pointed to the white gates of the crossing.
“You can take any of those paths you like, sir,” he said. “If you want to get to Salthouse, though, you should have got out at the next station.”
“This will do for me,” Hamel replied cheerfully.
“Be careful of the dikes,” the station-master advised him. “Some of them are pretty deep.”
Hamel nodded, and passing through the white gates, made his way by a raised cattle track towards the sea. On either side of him flowed a narrow dike filled with salt-water. Beyond stretched the flat marshland, its mossy turf leavened with cracks and creeks of all widths, filled also with sea-slime and sea-water. A slight grey mist rested upon the more distant parts of the wilderness which he was crossing, a mist which seemed to be blown in from the sea in little puffs, resting for a time upon the earth, and then drifting up and fading away like soap bubbles.
More than once where the dikes had overflown he was compelled to change his course, but he arrived at last at the little ridge of pebbled beach bordering the sea. Straight ahead of him now was that strange-looking building towards which he had all the time been directing his footsteps. As he approached it, his forehead slightly contracted. There was ample confirmation before him of the truth of his fellow-passenger’s words. The place, left to itself for so many years, without any attention from its actual owner, was neither deserted nor in ruins. Its solid grey stone walls were sea-stained and a trifle worn, but the arched wooden doors leading into the lifeboat shelter, which occupied one side of the building, had been newly painted, and in the front the window was hung with a curtain, now closely drawn, of some dark red material. The lock from the door had been removed altogether, and in its place was the aperture for a Yale latch-key. The last note of modernity was supplied by the telephone wire attached to the roof of the lifeboat shelter. He walked all round the building, seeking in vain for some other means of ingress. Then he stood