“I said, ‘anything in the world,’” I returned, perhaps a little huskily. “I meant all of that. If there is anything she wants me to do, I shall do it.”
She gave a low cry of triumph, but immediately checked it. Then she leaned far over the table, her face close above the book, and, tracing the outline of an uncertain lily with her small, brown-gloved forefinger, as though she were consulting me on the drawing, “I wasn’t afraid to come through the woods alone,” she said, in a very low voice, “because I wasn’t alone. Louise came with me.”
“What?” I gasped. “Where is she?”
“At the Baudry cottage down the road. They won’t miss her at the chateau until morning; I locked her door on the outside, and if they go to bother her again—though I don’t think they will—they’ll believe she’s fastened it on the inside and is asleep. She managed to get a note to Keredec late this afternoon; it explained everything, and he had some trunks carried out the rear gate of the inn and carted over to Lisieux to be shipped to Paris from there. It is to be supposed—or hoped, at least—that this woman and her people will believe that means Professor Keredec and Mr. Harman will try to get to Paris in the same way.”
“So,” I said, “that’s what Percy meant about the trunks. I didn’t understand.”
“He’s on watch, you see,” she continued, turning a page to another drawing. “He means to sit up all night, or he wouldn’t have slept this afternoon. He’s not precisely the kind to be in the habit of afternoon naps—Mr. Percy!” She laughed nervously. “That’s why it’s almost absolutely necessary for us to have you. If we have—the thing is so simple that it’s certain.”
“If you have me for what?” I asked.
“If you’ll help”—and, as she looked up, her eyes, now very close to mine, were dazzling indeed—“I’ll adore you for ever and ever! Oh, much longer than you’d like me to!”
“You mean she’s going to—”
“I mean that she’s going to run away with him again,” she whispered.
At midnight there was no mistaking the palpable uneasiness with which Mr. Percy, faithful sentry, regarded the behaviour of Miss Elliott and myself as we sat conversing upon the veranda of the pavilion. It was not fear for the security of his prisoner which troubled him, but the unseemliness of the young woman’s persistence in remaining to this hour under an espionage no more matronly than that of a sketch-book abandoned on the table when we had come out to the open. The youth had veiled his splendours with more splendour: a long overcoat of so glorious a plaid it paled the planets above us; and he wandered restlessly about the garden in this refulgence, glancing at us now and then with what, in spite of the insufficient revelation of the starlight, we both recognised as a chilling disapproval. The lights of the inn were all out;