“What do you want, Kate?” Cecil asked at last. “What do you mean by coming here like this? If you want to see me you know how, without arousing the whole household at this time of night.”
“You are not fool enough,” Kate said calmly, “to imagine that I came to-night to listen to your lies. I came to know whom it is that you are keeping hidden away in the smugglers’ room.”
Neither man answered. They looked at one another, and Cecil’s face grew once more as pale as death.
“What do you mean?” he exclaimed. “What rubbish is this you are talking, Kate?” he added, in a sharper tone. “There is no one there that I know of.”
“You lie,” she answered calmly. “You lie, as you always do whenever it answers your purpose. Only an hour ago I lay upon the turf in the plantation there, and I heard a man moaning down in the store-room. Now tell me the truth, Cecil de la Borne. I do not wish to bring any harm upon you, although God knows you deserve it, but if you do not bring me the man whom you have down there, and set him free before my eyes at once, I’ll bring half the village up to the mound there and dig him out.”
Forrest stepped forward. His manner was suave and his tone was smooth, but there was a dangerous glitter in his eyes.
“This is rather absurd, Cecil,” he said. “I do not know whom this young lady is, but I feel sure that she will listen to reason. There is no one down in the smugglers’ store-room. If she heard anything, it was probably the rabbits.”
“Lies!” Kate answered calmly. “You are another of the breed; I can see it in your face. I would not trust the word of either of you.”
Forrest shrugged his shoulders. He glanced towards Cecil with a slight uplifting of the eyebrows.
“Your friend, my dear Cecil,” he remarked, “is like most of her sex, a trifle unreasonable. However, since she says that she will believe no evidence save the evidence of her eyes, show her the smugglers’ room. It would be a quaint excursion to take at this time of night, but I will go with you for the sake of the proprieties,” he added, with a little laugh.
Cecil looked at him for a moment steadily, and then turned away. There was fear now upon his face, a new fear. What was this thing which Forrest could propose?
“She can come if she insists,” he said slowly, “but the place has not been opened for a long time. The air is bad. It really is not fit for any human being.”
The girl faced them both without shrinking.
“Perhaps you think that I should be afraid,” she answered. “Perhaps you think that when I am there it would be very easy to dispose of me, so that I shall ask no more inconvenient questions. Never mind. I am not afraid. I will go with you.”
Cecil shrugged his shoulders as he led the way across the hall.
“There is nothing to fear,” he said, “except the bad air and the ghosts of smugglers, if you are superstitious enough to fear them. Only, when you are perfectly satisfied, and you are convinced that your errand here has been fruitless, perhaps I may have something to say.”