“Lord Ronald Engleton,” Jeanne said. “Yes, I know all about that, of course.”
“Sometimes,” Kate said slowly, “I have had strange thoughts about him. Mr. Cecil and the other man, Major Forrest they call him, are still at the Hall, and the servants say that they do little but drink and swear at one another. I wonder sometimes why they are there, and why Mr. Andrew stays away.”
Jeanne leaned a little forward in her chair. Something in the other’s words had interested her.
“There is something,” she said, “behind in your thoughts. What is it?”
The girl was silent for a moment.
“To-night,” she said, “if you have the courage to come with me, I will show you what I mean.”
“I am afraid,” Jeanne declared, “that I cannot go on. I have not the eyes of a cat. I cannot see one step before me.”
Her companion laughed softly as she turned round.
“I forgot,” she said. “You are town bred. To us the darkness is nothing. Do not be afraid. I know the way, every inch of it. Give me your hand.”
“But I cannot see at all,” Jeanne declared. “How far is this place?”
“Less than a mile,” Kate answered. “Trust to me. I will see that nothing happens to you. Hold my hand tightly, like that. Now come.”
Jeanne reluctantly trusted herself to her companion’s guidance. They made their way down the rough road which led from the home of the Caynsards, half cottage, half farmhouse, to the lane at the bottom. There was no moon, and though the wind was blowing hard, the sky seemed everywhere covered with black clouds. When Kate opened the wooden gate which led on to the marshes, Jeanne stopped short.
“I am not going any farther,” she declared. “Even you, I am sure, could not find your way on the marshes to-night. Didn’t you hear what the fisherman said, too, that it was a flood tide? Many of the paths are under water. I will not go any farther, Kate. If there is anything you have to tell me, say it now.”
She felt a hand suddenly tighten upon her arm, a hand which was like a vice.
“You must come with me,” Kate said. “As to the other things, do not be foolish. On these marshes I am like a cat in a dark room. I could feel my way across every inch of them on the blackest night that ever was. I know how high the tide is. I measured it but half an hour since by Treadwell’s pole. You come with me, miss. You’ll not miss your way by a foot. I promise you that.”
Even then Jeanne was reluctant. They were on the top of the grass-grown dyke now, and below she could dimly see the dark, swelling water lapping against the gravel bottom.
“But you do not understand,” she declared. “I do not even know where to put my feet. I can see nothing, and the wind is enough to blow us over the sides. Listen! Listen how it comes booming across the sand dunes. It is not safe here. I tell you that I must go back.”