“You are not doing anything rash, Miss Jeanne, I hope?” she asked timidly.
Jeanne shook her head.
“What I am doing is not rash at all,” she said softly. “It is necessary.”
Five minutes later Jeanne walked unnoticed down the back stairs of the house, and out into the street. She turned into Piccadilly and entered a bus.
“Where to, miss?” the man asked, as he came for his fare.
“I do not know,” Jeanne said. “I will tell you presently.”
The man stared at her and passed on. Jeanne had spoken the truth. She had no idea where she was going. Her one idea was to get away from every one whom she knew, or who had known her, as the Princess’ ward and a great heiress. She sat in a corner of the bus, and she watched the stream of people pass by. Even there she shrank from any face or figure which seemed to her familiar. She almost forgot that she, too, had been a victim of her stepmother’s deception. She remembered only that she had been the principal figure in it, and that to the whole world she must seem an object for derision and contempt. It was not her fault that she had played a false part in life. But nevertheless she had played it, and it was not likely that many would believe her innocent. The thought of appealing to the Duke, or to Andrew de la Borne, for help, made her cheeks burn with shame. In any ordinary trouble she would have gone to them. This, however, was something too humiliating, too impossible. She felt that it was a blow which she could ask no one to share.
The omnibus rolled on eastwards and reached Liverpool Street. A sudden overwhelming impulse decided Jeanne as to her destination. She remembered that peculiar sense of freedom, that first escape from her cramped surroundings, which had come to her walking upon the marshes of Salthouse. She would go there again, if it was only for a day or two; find rooms somewhere in the village, and write to Monsieur Laplanche from there. Visitors she knew were not uncommon in the little seaside village, and she would easily be able to keep out of the way of Cecil, if he were still there. The idea seemed to her like an inspiration. She went up to the ticket-office and asked for a ticket for Salthouse. The man stared at her.
“Never heard of the place, miss,” he said. “It’s not on our line.”
“It is near Wells on the east coast,” she said. “Now I think of it, I remember one has to drive from Wells. Can I have a ticket to there?”
He glanced at the clock.
“The train goes in ten minutes, miss,” he said.