“Why not?” she protested. “I am sure I thought it a beautiful lecture, and I’m not keen on churches and ruins myself,” she added, with a laugh which somehow grated upon me. “What are you doing here?”
“Watching the dead,” I answered grimly.
She looked at me for an explanation. I pointed to the dark object by the side of the creek. She gave a violent start. Then she screamed and caught hold of my arm.
“Mr. Ducaine!” she cried. “What is it?”
“A dead man!” I answered.
Her face was a strange study. There was fear mingled with unwholesome curiosity, the heritage of her natural lack of refinement. She leaned over the palings.
“Oh, how horrible!” she exclaimed. “I don’t know whether I want to look or not. I’ve never seen any one dead.”
“I should advise you,” I said, “to go away.”
It was apparently the last thing she desired to do. Of the various emotions which had possessed her, curiosity was the one which survived.
“You are sure he is dead?” she asked.
“Quite,” I answered.
“Was he drowned, then?”
“I think,” I replied, “that he has been washed up by the tide. There has probably been a shipwreck.”
“Gracious!” she exclaimed. “It is just a sailor, then?”
“I have not looked at his face,” I answered, “and I should not advise you to. He has been tossed about and injured. His clothes, though, are not a seaman’s.”
She passed through a gap in the palings.
“I must look just a little closer,” she exclaimed. “Do come with me, Mr. Ducaine. I’m horribly afraid.”
“Then don’t go near him,” I advised. “A dead man is surely not a pleasant spectacle for you. Come away, Miss Moyat.”
But she had advanced to within a couple of yards of him. Then she stopped short, and a little exclamation escaped from her lips.
“Why, Mr. Ducaine,” she cried out, “this is the very man who stopped me last night outside our house, and asked the way to your cottage.”
MISS MOYAT’S PROMISE
We stood looking at one another on the edge of the marsh. In the clear morning sunlight I had no chance of escape or subterfuge. There was terror in my face, and she could see it.
“You—you cannot be sure!” I exclaimed. “It may not be the same man.”
“It is the same man,” she answered confidently. “He stopped me and asked if I could direct him to your house. It was about half an hour after you had gone. He spoke very softly and almost like a foreigner. I told him exactly where your cottage was. Didn’t he come to you?”
“No,” I answered. “I have never seen him before in my life.”
“Why do you look—so terrified?” she asked. “You are as pale as a ghost.”
I clutched hold of the railings. She came over to my side. Up the road I heard in the distance the crunching of heavy wheels. A wagon was passing through the lodge gates. John, the woodman, was walking with unaccustomed briskness by the horses’ heads, cracking his whip as he came. I looked into the girl’s face by my side.