I was staggered. I held my peace, and the two stood watching me. Then I heard footsteps approaching us, and a familiar voice.
“What trio of conspirators is this talking so earnstly in the shadows? Ah!”
The Prince had seen me, and he stood still. I faced him at once.
“Prince,” I said, “it has been suggested to me that my eyesight is probably defective. It is possible in that case that I have not seen you before to-day, that the things with which I charge you are false, that in all probability you were in some other place altogether. If this is so, I apologize for my remarks and behaviour towards you.”
He bowed with a faint mirthless smile.
“It is finished, my young friend,” he declared. “I wipe it from my memory.” It seemed to me that I could hear Blenavon’s sigh of relief, that the shadow had fallen from Lady Angela’s face. There was a little murmur of satisfaction from both of them. But I turned abruptly, and with scarcely even an attempt at a conventional farewell I left the house, and walked homewards across the Park.
TWO FAIR CALLERS
After three days the house party at Rowchester was somewhat unexpectedly broken up. Lord Chelsford departed early one morning by special train, and the Duke himself and the remainder of his guests left for London later on in the day. I remained behind with three weeks’ work, and a fear which never left me by day or by night. Yet the relief of solitude after the mysteries of the last few days was in itself a thing to be thankful for.
For nine days I spoke with no one save Grooton. For an hour every afternoon, and for rather longer at night, I walked on the cliffs or the sands. Here on these lonely stretches of empty land I met no one, saw no living thing save the seagulls. It was almost like a corner of some forgotten land. These walks, and an occasional few hours’ reading, were my sole recreation.
It was late in the afternoon when I saw a shadow pass my window, and immediately afterwards there was a timid knock at the door. Grooton had gone on his daily pilgrimage with letters to the village, so I was obliged to open it myself. To my surprise it was Blanche Moyat who stood upon the threshold. She laughed a little nervously.
“I’m no ghost, Mr. Ducaine,” she said, “and I shan’t bite!”
“Forgive me,” I answered. “I was hard at work and your knock startled me. Please come in.”
I ushered her into my sitting-room. She was wearing what I recognized as her best clothes, and not being entirely at her ease she talked loudly and rapidly.
“Such a stranger as you are, Mr. Ducaine,” she exclaimed. “Fancy, it’s getting on for a month since we any of us saw a sign of you, and I’m sure never a week used to pass but father’d be looking for you to drop in. We heard that you were living here all by yourself, and this morning mother said, perhaps he’s ill. We tried to get father to come up and see, but he’s off to Downham market to-day, and goodness knows when he’d find time if we left it to him. So I thought I’d come and find out for myself.”