The hall gong, growing in a clamant intensity, rang out on the quiet air. With the lightness of a fawn she released herself from his grip, and gathering her skirts in her hand, moved towards the path. ’Come along,’ she cried; ‘we shall be late for dinner.’
He followed her slowly, his hands in his pockets and his mind besieged with countless thoughts. As he crossed the lawn he looked up.
From a window in the tower of Roselawn there was shining an angry, blood-red reflection of the sun’s dying moments.
It was a few minutes after midnight when the party at Roselawn retired to their rooms. There had been an impromptu dance, following some spirited bridge, and there was more than the usual chaffing and laughter as the guests dispersed to the various wings of the house.
Tired with the many events of the day, the American quickly undressed, and soothed by the comfort of cool sheets, lay in that relaxation of mind and body which prefaces the panacea of sleep. With half-closed eyes and drowsy semi-consciousness he heard the sounds of life growing less and less in the roomy passages of Roselawn, as his mind lingered over the burning memory of Elise’s proximity a few hours before. He felt again the perfume of her hair and the radiant freshness of her womanhood, with its inexplicable sense of spring-time. And memory, with its power of exquisite torture, recalled to his mind the questioning eyes and the trembling, beckoning lips.
The soft chime of a clock downstairs sounded the passing of another hour. Its murmuring echo died to a silence unbroken by any sound save that of the summer breeze playing about the eaves and towers of the house.
Minutes passed. His thoughts blurred into the gathering shadows of sleep.
Of a sudden he was awake, his eyes staring into the dark, his whole body nervously, acutely, on the alert. He had heard a cry—of a nightjar—but so strange and eerie that it made him hold his breath.
The call was repeated. An owl answered with a creepy cry of alarm. Selwyn muttered impatiently at the trick played upon him by his nerves, and turning over, was about to settle again to slumber, when he heard a door softly opening. Light footsteps passed in the hall, stopping at each creaking board as though suspicious that some one might hear; then their sound was lost in the thick carpet of the stairway.
For a minute there was complete silence. He heard from below the cautious opening of the side-door leading to the lawn.
Wondering what mischief was on foot, he rose from his bed, and peering through the window, tried to penetrate the gloom. A sullen sky kept the stars imprisoned behind deep banks of clouds, and only the trees, by reason of their solid blackness, were discernible in the darkness of the night. Slipping on a dressing-gown, he stealthily left his room, and creeping downstairs, found the open door. Emerging on the lawn, he looked quickly about.