“Creech, was there anythin’ left in thet boat?” began Brackton, with intense but pondering curiosity. “Anythin’ on the ropes—or so—thet might give an idee who cut her loose?”
Creech made no reply to that. The gloom burned darker in his eyes. He seemed a man with a secret. He trusted no one there. These men were all friends of his, but friends under strange conditions. His silence was tragic, and all about the man breathed vengeance.
No moon showed that night, and few stars twinkled between the slow-moving clouds. The air was thick and oppressive, full of the day’s heat that had not blown away. A dry storm moved in dry majesty across the horizon, and the sheets and ropes of lightning, blazing white behind the black monuments, gave weird and beautiful grandeur to the desert.
Lucy Bostil had to evade her aunt to get out of the house, and the window, that had not been the means of exit since Bostil left, once more came into use. Aunt Jane had grown suspicious of late, and Lucy, much as she wanted to trust her with her secret, dared not do it. For some reason unknown to Lucy, Holley had also been hard to manage, particularly to-day. Lucy certainly did not want Holley to accompany her on her nightly rendezvous with Slone. She changed her light gown to the darker and thicker riding-habit.
There was a longed-for, all-satisfying flavor in this night adventure —something that had not all to do with love. The stealth, the outwitting of guardians, the darkness, the silence, the risk—all these called to some deep, undeveloped instinct in her, and thrilled along her veins, cool, keen, exciting. She had the blood in her of the greatest adventurer of his day.
Lucy feared she was a little late. Allaying the suspicions of Aunt Jane and changing her dress had taken time. Lucy burned with less cautious steps. Still she had only used caution in the grove because she had promised Slone to do so. This night she forgot or disregarded it. And the shadows were thick—darker than at any other time when she had undertaken this venture. She had always been a little afraid of the dark—a fact that made her contemptuous of herself. Nevertheless, she did not peer into the deeper pits of gloom. She knew her way and could slip swiftly along with only a rustle of leaves she touched.
Suddenly she imagined she heard a step and she halted, still as a tree-trunk. There was no reason to be afraid of a step. It had been a surprise to her that she had never encountered a rider walking and smoking under the trees. Listening, she assured herself she had been mistaken, and then went on. But she looked back. Did she see a shadow—darker than others—moving? It was only her imagination. Yet she sustained a slight chill. The air seemed more oppressive, or else there was some intangible and strange thing hovering in it. She went on—reached the lane that divided the grove. But she did not cross at once. It was lighter in this lane; she could see quite far.