A TERRIBLE DISCOVERY
I Called softly to Grooton from my room upstairs.
“You are alone?”
“Is Mr. Hill still up at the Court?”
“He will be there until midnight, sir.”
A gust of wind came suddenly roaring through the wood, drowning even the muffled thunder of the sea below. The rain beat upon the window panes. The little house, strongly built though it was, seemed to quiver from its very foundations. I caught up my overcoat, and boldly descended the narrow staircase. Grooton stood at the bottom, holding a lamp in his hand.
“You are quite safe to-night, sir,” he said. “There’ll be no one about in such a storm.”
I stood still for a moment. The raging and tearing of the sea below had momentarily triumphed over the north wind.
“The trees in the spinney are snapping like twigs, sir,” Grooton remarked. “There’s one lying right across the path outside. But you’ll excuse me, sir—you’re not going out!”
“I think so, Grooton,” I answered, “for a few minutes. Remember that I have been a prisoner here for three days. I’m dying for some fresh air.”
“I don’t think it’s hardly safe, sir,” he protested, deprecatingly. “Not that there’s any fear of your being seen: the wind’s enough to carry you over the cliff.”
“I shall risk it, Grooton,” I answered. “I think that the wind is going down, and there won’t be a soul about. It’s too good a chance to miss.”
I waited for a momentary lull, and then I opened the door and slipped out. The first breath of cold strong air was like wine to me after my confinement, but a moment later I felt my breath taken away, and I was lifted almost from my feet by a sudden gust. I linked my arm around the trunk of a swaying pine tree and hung there till the lull came. Up into the darkness from that unseen gulf below came showers of spray, white as snow, falling like rain all about me. It was a night to remember.
Presently I turned inland, and reached the park. I left the footpath so that I should avoid all risk of meeting any one, and followed the wire fencing which divided the park from the belt of fir trees bordering the road. I walked for a few hundred yards, and then stopped short.
I had reached the point where that long straight road from Braster turned sharply away inland for the second time. At a point about a quarter of a mile away, and rapidly approaching me, came a twin pair of flaring eyes. I knew at once what they were—the head lights of a motor car. Without a moment’s hesitation I doubled back to the “Brand.”
“Grooton!” I called sharply.
“Is any one at Braster Grange?” I asked.
“Not that I have heard of, sir,” he answered.