“No,” I answered with a shudder.
“At the inquest it was not mentioned, I think, that he had been seen in the village?”
“It was not,” I admitted. “Most of the people were at Colonel Ray’s lecture. He spoke to one girl, a Miss Moyat.”
“She did not give evidence.”
“I thought,” I said in a low tone, “that she had better not.”
“Did you hear anything after Ray left?” he asked suddenly.
I could have cried out, but my tongue seemed dry in my throat.
“There was a sound,” I muttered, “I fancied that it was a cry. But I could not tell. The wind was blowing, and the sea and rain! No, I could not tell.”
He rose up.
“You appear,” he said drily, “to have discretion. Cultivate it! It is a great gift. I shall look for you at eleven o’clock in the morning. I am having a large house party this week, and amongst them will be our friends.”
He left me without any further farewell, and turned slowly homewards. When he reached the bend in the road he paused, and remained there for several moments motionless. His eyes were fixed upon the small creek. He seemed to be measuring the distance between it and the road. He was still lingering there when I closed the door.
The sunlight was streaming through the window when at last my pen ceased to move. I rubbed my eyes and looked out in momentary amazement. Morning had already broken across the sea. My green-shaded lamp was burning with a sickly light. The moon had turned pale and colourless whilst I sat at my desk.
I stretched myself and, lighting a cigarette, commenced to collect my papers. Immediately a dark figure rose from a couch in the farther corner of the room and approached me.
“Can I get you anything, sir?”
I turned in my chair. The man-servant whom the Duke had put in charge of the “Brand,” my present habitation, and who remained with me always in the room while I worked, stood at my elbow.
“I would like some coffee, Grooton,” I said. “I am going to walk up to the house with these papers, and I shall want a bath and some breakfast directly I get back.”
“Very good, sir. It shall be ready.”
I folded up the sheets and maps, and placing them in an oilskin case, tied them round my body under my waistcoat. Then I withdrew all the cartridges save one from the revolver which had lain all night within easy reach of my right hand, and slipped it into my pocket.
“Coffee ready, Grooton?”
“In one moment, sir.”
I watched him bending over the stove, pale, dark-visaged, with the subdued manners and voice which mark the aristocracy of servitude. My employer’s confidence in him must be immense, for while he watched over me I was practically in his power.
“Have you been long with the Duke, Grooton?” I asked him.