“Out of the conservatory,” I interrupted, smiling.
He nodded, and took up the lantern. To my surprise, he did not offer to shake hands. Without another word he passed out into the darkness.
In my dreams that night I fancied that a strange cry came ringing to my ears from the marshes—a long-drawn-out cry of terror, ending in a sob. I was weary, and I turned on my side again and slept.
THE CRY IN THE NIGHT
“You’d be having company last night, sir?” Mrs. Hollings remarked inquisitively. Mrs. Hollings was an elderly widow, who devoted two hours of her morning to cleaning my rooms and preparing my breakfast.
“Some friends did call,” I answered, pouring out the coffee.
“Friends! Good Samaritans I should call ’em,” Mrs. Hollings declared, “if so be as they left all the things I found here this morning. Why, there’s a whole chicken, to say nothing of tongue and biscuits, and butter, and relishes, and savouries, the names of which isn’t often heard in this part of the world. There’s wine, too, with gold paper round the top, champagne wine, I do believe.”
“Is the tide up this morning?” I asked.
“None to speak of,” Mrs. Hollings answered, “though the road’s been washed dry, and the creeks are brimming. I’ve scarcely set foot in the village this morning, but they’re all a-talking about the soldier gentleman the Duke brought down to the village hall last night. Might you have seen him, sir?”
“Yes, I saw him,” I answered.
“A sad shame as it was the night of your lecture, sir,” the woman babbled on, “for they were all crazy to hear him. My! the hall was packed.”
“Would you mind seeing to my room now, Mrs. Hollings?” I asked. “I am going out early this morning.”
Mrs. Hollings ascended my frail little staircase. I finished my breakfast in haste, and catching up my hat escaped out of doors.
I shall never forget the glory of that morning. The sky was blue and cloudless, the sun was as hot as though this were indeed a midsummer morning. The whole land, saturated still with the fast receding sea, seemed to gleam and glitter with a strange iridescence. Great pools in unaccustomed places shone like burnished silver, the wet sands were sparkling and brilliant, the creeks had become swollen rivers full of huge masses of emerald seaweed, running far up into the marshland and spreading themselves out over the meadows beyond. There was salt in the very atmosphere. I felt it on my tongue, and my cheeks were rough with it. Overhead the seagulls in great flocks were returning from shelter, screaming as though with joy as they dived down to the sea. It was a wonderful morning.