Cecil struck out his underjaw to reply: ’Oh! good. You sleep here to-night. You are a fortunate man. I congratulate you. I shall not disturb you. I have just entered on my occupation of the house. I have my key. Allow me to recommend you to go straight to the drawing-room. And I may inform you that the Earl of Romfrey is at the point of death. My lord is at the castle.’
Cecil accompanied his descent of the steps with the humming of an opera melody: Beauchamp tripped into the hall-passage. A young maid-servant held the door open, and she accosted him: ’If you please, there is a lady up-stairs in the drawing-room; she speaks foreign English, sir.’
Beauchamp asked if the lady was alone, and not waiting for the answer, though he listened while writing, and heard that she was heavily veiled, he tore a strip from his notebook, and carefully traced half-a-dozen telegraphic words to Mrs. Culling at Steynham. His rarely failing promptness, which was like an inspiration, to conceive and execute measures for averting peril, set him on the thought of possibly counteracting his cousin Cecil’s malignant tongue by means of a message to Rosamund, summoning her by telegraph to come to town by the next train that night. He despatched the old woman keeping the house, as trustier than the young one, to the nearest office, and went up to the drawing-room, with a quick thumping heart that was nevertheless as little apprehensive of an especial trial and danger as if he had done nothing at all to obviate it. Indeed he forgot that he had done anything when he turned the handle of the drawing-room door.
A TRIAL OF HIM
A low-burning lamp and fire cast a narrow ring on the shadows of the dusky London room. One of the window-blinds was drawn up. Beauchamp discerned a shape at that window, and the fear seized him that it might be Madame d’Auffray with evil news of Renee: but it was Renee’s name he called. She rose from her chair, saying, ‘I!’
She was trembling.
Beauchamp asked her whisperingly if she had come alone.
‘Alone; without even a maid,’ she murmured.