Stop, he must not give way—perhaps she was not dead—perhaps that horrible presage of evil which had struck him like a storm was but a dream. Could he telegraph? No, it was too late; the office at Bryngelly would be closed—it was past eight now. But he could go. There was a train leaving a little after nine—he should be there by half-past six to-morrow. And Effie was ill—well, surely they could look after her for twenty-four hours; she was in no danger, and he must go—he could not bear this torturing suspense. Great God! how had she done the deed!
Geoffrey snatched a sheet of paper and tried to write. He could not, his hand shook so. With a groan he rose, and going to the refreshment room swallowed two glasses of brandy one after another. The spirit took effect on him; he could write now. Rapidly he scribbled on a sheet of paper:
“I have been called away upon important business and shall probably not be back till Thursday morning. See that Effie is properly attended to. If I am not back you must not go to the duchess’s ball.—Geoffrey Bingham.”
Then he addressed the letter to Lady Honoria and dispatched a commissionaire with it. This done, he called a cab and bade the cabman drive to Euston as fast as his horse could go.
AVE ATQUE VALE
That frightful journey—no nightmare was ever half so awful! But it came to an end at last—there was the Bryngelly Station. Geoffrey sprang from the train, and gave his ticket to the porter, glancing in his face as he did so. Surely if there had been a tragedy the man would know of it, and show signs of half-joyous emotion as is the fashion of such people when something awful and mysterious has happened to somebody else. But he showed no such symptoms, and a glimmer of hope found its way into Geoffrey’s tormented breast.
He left the station and walked rapidly towards the Vicarage. Those who know what a pitch of horror suspense can reach may imagine his feelings as he did so. But it was soon to be put an end to now. As he drew near the Vicarage gate he met the fat Welsh servant girl Betty running towards him. Then hope left Geoffrey.
The girl recognised him, and in her confusion did not seem in the least astonished to see him walking there at a quarter to seven on a summer morning. Indeed, even she vaguely connected Geoffrey with Beatrice in her mind, for she at once said in her thick English:
“Oh, sir, do you know where Miss Beatrice is?”
“No,” he answered, catching at a railing for support. “Why do you ask? I have not seen her for weeks.”
Then the girl plunged into a long story. Mr. Granger and Miss Granger were away from home, and would not be back for another two hours. Miss Beatrice had gone out yesterday afternoon, and had not come back to tea. She, Betty, had not thought much of it, believing that she had stopped to spend the evening somewhere, and, being very tired, had gone to bed about eight, leaving the door unlocked. This morning, when she woke, it was to find that Miss Beatrice had not slept in the house that night, and she came out to see if she could find her.