Part 5 out of 6
lose control of his temper. And now, even before the threatening words
were well out of his mouth, he suddenly felt a vigorous onslaught from
the rear, and his own throat clutched by strong and sinewy fingers.
"And I'll break every bone in thy accursed body!" shouted a hoarse voice
close to his ear, "if thou darest so much as lay a finger on the old
The struggle was violent and brief. Sir Marmaduke already felt himself
overmastered. Adam Lambert had taken him unawares. He was rough and very
powerful. Sir Marmaduke was no weakling, yet encumbered by his fantastic
clothes he was no match for the smith. Adam turned him about in his
nervy hands like a puppet.
Now he was in front and above him, glaring down at the man he hated with
eyes which would have searched the very depths of his enemy's soul.
"Thou damned foreigner!" he growled between clenched teeth, "thou
vermin! ... Thou toad! Thou ... on thy knees! ... on thy knees, I say
... beg her pardon for thy foul language ... now at once ... dost hear?
... ere I squeeze the breath out of thee...."
Sir Marmaduke felt his knees giving way under him, the smith's grasp on
his throat had in no way relaxed. Mistress Martha vainly tried to
interpose. She was all for peace, and knew that the Lord liked not a
fiery temper. But the look in Adam's face frightened her, and she had
always been in terror of the foreigner. Without thought, and imagining
that 'twas her presence which irritated the lodger, she beat a hasty
retreat to her room upstairs, even as Adam Lambert finally succeeded in
forcing Sir Marmaduke down on his knees, not ceasing to repeat the
"Her pardon ... beg her pardon, my fine prince ... lick the dust in an
English cottage, thou foreign devil ... or, by God, I will kill thee!
"Let me go!" gasped Sir Marmaduke, whom the icy fear of imminent
discovery gripped more effectually even than did the village
blacksmith's muscular fingers, "let me go ... damn you!"
"Not before I have made thee lick the dust," said Adam grimly, bringing
one huge palm down on the elaborate perruque, and forcing Sir
Marmaduke's head down, down towards the ground, "lick it ... lick it
... Prince of Orleans...."
He burst out laughing in the midst of his fury, at sight of this
disdainful gentleman, with the proud title, about to come in violent
contact with a cottage floor. But Sir Marmaduke struggled violently
still. He had been wiser no doubt, to take the humiliation quietly, to
lick the dust and to pacify the smith: but what man is there who would
submit to brute force without using his own to protect himself?
Then Fate at last worked her wanton will.
In the struggle the fantastic perruque and heavy mustache of Prince
Amede d'Orleans remained in the smith's hand whilst it was the round
head and clean-shaven face of Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse which came in
contact with the floor.
In an instant, stricken at first dumb with surprise and horror, but
quickly recovering the power of speech, Adam Lambert murmured:
"You? ... You? ... Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse! ... Oh! my God! ..."
His grip on his enemy had, of course, relaxed. Sir Marmaduke was able to
struggle to his feet. Fate had dealt him a blow as unexpected as it was
violent. But he had not been the daring schemer that he was, if
throughout the past six months, the possibility of such a moment as this
had not lurked at the back of his mind.
The blow, therefore, did not find him quite unprepared. It had been
stunning but not absolutely crushing. Even whilst Adam Lambert was
staring with almost senseless amazement alternately at him and at the
bundle of false hair which he was still clutching, Sir Marmaduke had
struggled to his feet.
He had recovered his outward composure at any rate, and the next moment
was busy re-adjusting his doublet and bands before the mirror over the
"Yes! my violent friend!" he said coolly, speaking over his shoulder,
"of a truth it is mine own self! Your landlord you see, to whom that
worthy woman upstairs owes this nice cottage which she has had rent free
for over ten years ... not the foreign vermin, you see," he added with a
pleasant laugh, "which maketh your actions of just now, somewhat
unpleasant to explain. Is that not so?"
"Nay! but by the Lord!" quoth Adam Lambert, still somewhat dazed,
vaguely frightened himself now at the magnitude, the importance of what
he had done, "meseems that 'tis thine actions, friend, which will be
unpleasant to explain. Thou didst not put on these play-actor's robes
for a good purpose, I'll warrant! ... I cannot guess what is thy game,
but methinks her young ladyship would wish to know something of its
rules ... or mayhap, my brother Richard who is no friend of thine,
Gradually his voice had become steadier, his manner more assured. A
glimmer of light on the Squire's strange doings had begun to penetrate
his simple, dull brain. Vaguely he guessed the purport of the disguise
and of the lies, and the mention of Lady Sue's name was not an arrow
shot thoughtlessly into the air. At the same time he had not perceived
the slightest quiver of fear or even of anxiety on Sir Marmaduke's face.
The latter had in the meanwhile put his crumpled toilet in order and now
turned with an urbane smile to his glowering antagonist.
"I will not deny, kind master," he said pleasantly, "that you might
cause me a vast amount of unpleasantness just now ... although of a
truth, I do not perceive that you would benefit yourself overmuch
thereby. On the contrary, you would vastly lose. Your worthy aunt,
Mistress Lambert, would lose a pleasant home, and you would never know
what you and your brother Richard have vainly striven to find out these
past ten years."
"What may that be, pray?" queried the smith sullenly.
"Who you both are," rejoined Sir Marmaduke blandly, as he calmly sat
down in one of the stiff-backed elm chairs beside the hearth, "and why
worthy Mistress Lambert never speaks to you of your parentage."
"Who we both are?" retorted Lambert with obvious bitterness, "two poor
castaways, who, but for the old woman would have been left to starve,
and who have tried, therefore, to be a bit grateful to her, and to earn
an honest livelihood. That is what we are, Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse;
and now prithee tell me, who the devil art thou?"
"You are overfond of swearing, worthy master," quoth Sir Marmaduke
lightly, "'tis sinful so I'm told, for one of your creed. But that is no
matter to me. You are, believe me, somewhat more interesting than you
imagine. Though I doubt if to a Quaker, being heir to title and vast
estates hath more than a fleeting interest."
But the smith had shrugged his broad shoulders and uttered an
exclamation of contempt.
"Title and vast estates?" he said with an ironical laugh. "Nay! Sir
Marmaduke de Chavasse, the bait is passing clumsy. An you wish me to
hold my tongue about you and your affairs, you'll have to be vastly
sharper than that."
"You mistake me, friend smith, I am not endeavoring to purchase your
silence. I hold certain information relating to your parentage. This I
would be willing to impart to a friend, yet loath to do so to an enemy.
A man doth not like to see his enemy in possession of fifteen thousand
pounds a year. Does he?"
And Sir Marmaduke appeared absorbed in the contemplation of his left
shoe, whilst Adam Lambert repeated stupidly and vaguely:
"Fifteen thousand pounds a year? I?"
"Even you, my friend."
This was said so simply, and with such conviction-carrying
certainty--that in spite of himself Lambert's sulkiness vanished. He
drew nearer to Sir Marmaduke, looked clown on him silently for a second
or two, then muttered through his teeth:
"You have the proofs?"
"They will be at your service, my choleric friend," replied the other
suavely, "in exchange for your silence."
Adam Lambert drew a chair close to his whilom enemy, sat down opposite
to him, with elbows resting on his knee, his clenched fists supporting
his chin, and his eyes--anxious, eager, glowing, fixed resolutely on de
"I'll hold my tongue, never fear," he said curtly. "Show me the proofs."
Sir Marmaduke gave a pleasant little laugh.
"Not so fast, my friend," he said, "I do not carry such important papers
about in my breeches' pocket."
And he rose from his chair, picked up the perruque and false mustache
which the other man had dropped upon the floor, and adjusting these on
his head and face he once more presented the appearance of the exiled
"But thou'lt show them to me to-night," insisted the smith roughly.
"How can I, mine impatient friend?" quoth de Chavasse lightly, "the hour
is late already."
"Nay! what matter the lateness of the hour? I am oft abroad at night,
early and late, and thou, methinks, hast oft had the midnight hour for
company. When and where wilt meet me?" added Lambert peremptorily, "I
must see those proofs to-night, before many hours are over, lest the
blood in my veins burn my body to ashes with impatience. When wilt meet
me? Eleven? ... Midnight? ... or the small hours of the morn?"
He spoke quickly, jerking out his words through closed teeth, his eyes
burning with inward fever, his fists closing and unclosing with rapid
febrile movements of the fingers.
The pent-up disappointment and rebellion of a whole lifetime against
Fate, was expressed in the man's attitude, the agonizing eagerness which
indeed seemed to be consuming him.
De Chavasse, on the other hand, had become singularly calm. The black
shade as usual hid one of his eyes, masking and distorting the
expression of his face; the false mustache, too, concealed the movements
of his lips, and the more his opponent's eyes tried to search the
schemer's face, the more inscrutable and bland did the latter become.
"Nay, my friend," he said at last, "I do not know that the thought of a
midnight excursion with you appeals to my sense of personal security. I
But with a violent oath, Adam had jumped to his feet, and kicked the
chair away from under him so that it fell backwards with a loud clatter.
"Thou'lt meet me to-night," he said loudly and threateningly now,
"thou'lt meet me on the path near the cliffs of Epple Bay half an hour
before midnight, and if thou hast lied to me, I'll throw thee over and
Thanet then will be rid of thee ... but if thou dost not come, I'll to
my brother Richard even before the church clock of Acol hath sounded the
hour of midnight."
De Chavasse watched him silently for the space of three seconds,
realizing, of course, that he was completely in that man's power, and
also that the smith meant every word that he said. The discovery of the
monstrous fraud by Richard Lambert within the next few hours was a
contingency which he could not even contemplate without shuddering. He
certainly would much prefer to give up to this uncouth laborer the
proofs of his parentage which eventually might mean an earldom and a
fortune to a village blacksmith.
Sir Marmaduke had reflected on all this, of course, before broaching the
subject to Adam Lambert at all. Now he was prepared to go through with
the scheme to the end if need be. His uncle, the Earl of Northallerton,
might live another twenty years, whilst he himself--if pursued for
fraud, might have to spend those years in jail.
On the whole it was simpler to purchase the smith's silence ... this way
or another. Sir Marmaduke's reflections at this moment would have
delighted those evil spirits who are supposed to revel in the misdoings
The thought of the lonely path near the cliffs of Epple Bay tickled his
fancy in a manner for which perhaps at this moment he himself could not
have accounted. He certainly did not fear Adam Lambert and now said
"Very well, my friend, an you wish it, I'll come."
"Half an hour before midnight," insisted Lambert, "on the cliffs at
"Half an hour before midnight: on the cliffs of Epple Bay," assented the
He picked up his hat.
"Where art going?" queried the smith suspiciously.
"To change my clothing," replied Sir Marmaduke, who was fingering that
fateful tinder-box which alone had brought about the present crisis,
"and to fetch those proofs which you are so anxious to see."
"Thou'lt not fail me?"
"Surely not," quoth de Chavasse, as he finally went out of the room.
THE PATH NEAR THE CLIFFS
The mist had not lifted. Over the sea it hung heavy and dank like a huge
sheet of gray thrown over things secret and unavowable. It was thickest
down in the bay lurking in the crevices of the chalk, in the great
caverns and mighty architecture carved by the patient toil of the
billows in the solid mass of the cliffs.
Up above it was slightly less dense: allowing distinct peeps of the
rough carpet of coarse grass, of the downtrodden path winding towards
Acol, of the edge of the cliff, abrupt, precipitous, with a drop of some
ninety feet into that gray pall of mist to the sands below.
And higher up still, above the mist itself, a deep blue sky dotted with
stars, and a full moon, pale and circled with luminous vapors. A gentle
breeze had risen about half an hour ago and was blowing the mist hither
and thither, striving to disperse it, but not yet succeeding in
mastering it, for it only shifted restlessly to and fro, like the giant
garments of titanic ghosts, revealing now a distant peep of sea, anon
the interior of a colonnaded cavern, abode of mysterious ghouls, or
again a nest of gulls in a deep crevice of the chalk: revealing and
hiding again:--a shroud dragged listlessly over monstrous dead things.
Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse had some difficulty in keeping to the footpath
which leads from the woods of Acol straight toward the cliffs. Unlike
Adam Lambert, his eyes were unaccustomed to pierce the moist pall which
hid the distance from his view.
Strangely enough he had not cast aside the fantastic accouterments of
the French prince, and though these must have been as singularly
uncomfortable, as they were inappropriate, for a midnight walk,
nevertheless, he still wore the heavy perruque, the dark mustache,
broad-brimmed hat, and black shade which were so characteristic of the
He had heard the church clock at Acol village strike half an hour after
eleven and knew that the smith would already be waiting for him.
The acrid smell of seaweed struck forcibly now upon his nostrils. The
grass beneath his feet had become more sparse and more coarse. The
moisture which clung to his face had a taste of salt in it. Obviously he
was quite close to the edge of the cliffs.
The next moment and without any warning a black outline appeared in the
moon-illumined density. It was Adam Lambert pacing up and down with the
impatience of an imprisoned beast of prey.
A second or two later the febrile hand of the smith had gripped Sir
"You have brought those proofs?" he queried hoarsely.
His face was wet with the mist, and he had apparently oft wiped it with
his hand or sleeve, for great streaks of dirt marked his cheeks and
forehead, giving him a curious satanic expression, whilst his short lank
hair obviously roughed up by impatient fingers, bristled above his
square-built head like the coat of a shaggy dog.
In absolute contrast to him, Sir Marmaduke looked wonderfully calm and
tidy. In answer to the other man's eager look of inquiry, he made
pretense of fumbling in his pockets, as he said quietly:
"Yes! all of them!"
As if idly musing, he continued to walk along the path, whilst the smith
first stooped to pick up a small lantern which he had obviously brought
with him in order to examine the papers by its light, and then strode in
the wake of Sir Marmaduke.
The breeze was getting a bother hold on the mist, and was tossing it
about from sea to cliff and upwards with more persistence and more
The pale, cold moon glistened visibly on the moist atmosphere, and far
below and far beyond weird streaks of shimmering silver edged the
surface of the sea. The breeze itself had scarcely stirred the water;
or,--the soft sound of tiny billows lapping the outstanding boulders was
wafted upwards as the tide drew in.
The two men had reached the edge of the cliff. With a slight laugh,
indicative of nervousness, Sir Marmaduke had quickly stepped back a
pace or two.
"I have brought the proofs," he said, as if wishing to conciliate a
dangerous enemy, "we need not stand so near the edge, need we?"
But Adam Lambert shrugged his shoulders in token of contempt at the
"I'll not harm thee," he said, "an thou hast not lied to me...."
He deposited his lantern by the side of a heap of white chalk, which
had, no doubt, been collected at some time or other by idle or childish
hands, and stood close to the edge of the cliff. Sir Marmaduke now took
his stand beside it, one foot placed higher than the other. Close to him
Adam in a frenzy of restlessness had thrown himself down on the heap;
below them a drop of ninety feet to the seaweed covered beach.
"Let me see the papers," quoth Adam impatiently.
"Gently, gently, kind sir," said de Chavasse lightly. "Did you think
that you could dictate your own terms quite so easily?"
"What dost thou mean?" queried the other.
"I mean that I am about to place in your hands the proof that you are
heir to a title and fifteen thousand pounds a year, but at the same time
I wish to assure myself that you will be pleasant over certain matters
which concern me."
"Have I not said that I would hold my tongue."
"Of a truth you did say so my friend, and therefore, I am convinced
that you will not refuse to give me a written promise to that effect."
"I cannot write," said Adam moodily.
"Oh! just your signature!" said de Chavasse pleasantly. "You can write
"The initials A. and L. They would satisfy me,"
"Why dost thou want written promises," objected the smith, looking up
with sullen wrath at Sir Marmaduke. "Is not the word of an honest man
sufficient for thee?"
"Quite sufficient," rejoined de Chavasse blandly, "those initials are a
mere matter of form. You cannot object if your intentions are honest."
"I do not object. Hast brought ink or paper?"
"Yes, and the form to which you only need to affix your initials."
Sir Marmaduke now drew a packet of papers from the inner lining of his
"These are the proofs of your parentage," he said lightly.
Then he took out another single sheet of paper from his pocket, unfolded
it and handed it to Lambert. "Can you read it?" he asked.
He stooped and picked up the lantern, whilst handing the paper to Adam.
The smith took the document from him, and Sir Marmaduke held the lantern
so that he might read.
Adam Lambert was no scholar. The reading of printed matter was oft a
difficulty to him, written characters were a vast deal more trouble,
but suspicion lurked in the smith's mind, and though his very sinews
ached with the desire to handle the proofs, he would not put his
initials to any writing which he did not fully comprehend.
It was all done in a moment. Adam was absorbed in deciphering the
contents of the paper. De Chavasse held the lantern up with one hand,
but at such an angle that Lambert was obliged to step back in order to
get its full light.
Then with the other hand, the right, Sir Marmaduke drew a double-edged
Italian knife from his girdle, and with a rapid and vigorous gesture,
drove it straight between the smith's shoulder blades.
Adam uttered a groan:
"My God ... I am ..."
Then he staggered and fell.
Fell backwards down the edge of the cliff into the mist-enveloped abyss
Sir Marmaduke had fallen on one knee and his trembling fingers clutched
at the thick short grass, sharp as the blade of a knife, to stop himself
from swooning--from falling backwards in the wake of Adam the smith.
A gust of wind wafted the mist upwards, covering him with its humid
embrace. But he remained quite still, crouching on his stomach now, his
hands clutching the grass for support, whilst great drops of
perspiration mingled with the moisture of the mist on his face.
Anon he raised his head a little and turned to look at the edge of the
cliff. On hands and knees, like a gigantic reptile, he crawled, then lay
flat on the ground, on the extreme edge, his eyes peering down into
those depths wherein floating vapors lolled and stirred, with subtle
movements like spirits in unrest.
As far as the murderer's eye could reach and could penetrate the density
of the fog, white crag succeeded white crag, with innumerable
projections which should have helped to toss a falling and inert mass as
easily as if it had been an air bubble.
Sir Marmaduke tried to penetrate the secrets which the gray and shifting
veil still hid from his view. Beside him lay the Italian knife, its
steely surface shimmering in the vaporous light, there where a dull and
ruddy stain had not dimmed its brilliant polish. The murderer gazed at
his tool and shuddered feebly. But he picked up the knife and
mechanically wiped it in the grass, before he restored it to his belt.
Then he gazed downwards again, straining his eyes to pierce the mist,
his ears to hear a sound.
But nothing came upwards from that mighty abyss save the now more
distinct lapping of the billows round the boulders, for the tide was
rapidly setting in.
Down the white sides of the cliff the projections seemed ready to afford
a foothold bearing somewhat toward the right, the descent was not so
abrupt as it was immediately in front. The chalk of a truth looked slimy
and green, and might cause the unwary to trip, but there was that to
see down below and that to do, which would make any danger of a fall
well worth the risking.
Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse slowly rose to his feet. His knees were still
shaking under him, and there was a nervous tremor in his jaw and in his
wrists which he tried vainly to conquer.
Nevertheless he managed to readjust his clothes, his perruque, his
broad-brimmed hat. The papers he slipped back into his pocket together
with the black silk shade and false mustache, then, with the lantern in
his left hand he took the first steps towards the perilous descent.
There was something down below that he must see, something that he
wished to do.
He walked sidewise at times, bent nearly double, looking like some
gigantic and unwieldy crab, as the feeble rays of the mist-hidden moon
caught his rounded back in its cloth doublet of a dull reddish hue. At
other times he was forced to sit, and to work his way downwards with his
hands and heels, tearing his clothes, bruising his elbows and his
shoulders against the projections of the titanic masonry. Lumps of chalk
detached themselves from beneath and around him and slipped down the
precipitous sides in advance of him, with a dull reverberating sound
which seemed to rouse the echoes of this silent night.
The descent seemed interminable. His flesh ached, his sinews creaked,
his senses reeled with the pain, the mind-agony, the horror of it all.
At last he caught a glimmer of the wet sand, less than ten feet below.
He had just landed on a bit of white tableland wantonly carved in the
naked cliff. The rough gradients which up to now had guided him in his
descent ceased abruptly. Behind him the cliff rose upwards, in front
and, to his right, and left a concave wall, straight down to the beach.
Exhausted and half-paralyzed, de Chavasse perforce had to throw himself
down these last ten feet, hardly pausing to think whether his head would
or would not come in violent contact with one of the chalk boulders
which stand out here and there in the flat sandy beach.
He threw down the lantern first, which was extinguished as it fell. Then
he took the final jump, and soon lay half-unconscious, numbed and aching
in every limb in the wet sand.
Anon he tried to move. His limbs were painful, his shoulders ached, and
he had some difficulty in struggling to his feet. An unusually large
boulder close by afforded a resting place. He reached it and sat down.
His head was still swimming but his limbs were apparently sound. He sat
quietly for a while, recouping his strength, gathering his wandering
senses. The lantern lay close to his feet, extinguished but not broken.
He groped for his tinder-box, and having found it, proceeded to relight
the tiny tallow dip. It was a difficult proceeding for the tinder was
damp, and the breeze, though very slight in this hollow portion of the
cliffs, nevertheless was an enemy to a trembling little flame.
But Sir Marmaduke noted with satisfaction that his nerves were already
under his control. He succeeded in relighting the lantern, which he
could not have done if his hands had been as unsteady as they were
He rose once more to his feet, stamped them against the boulders,
stretched out his arms, giving his elbows and shoulders full play.
Mayhap he had spent a quarter of an hour thus resting since that final
jump, mayhap it had been an hour or two; he could not say for time had
ceased to be.
But the mist had penetrated to his very bones and he did not remember
ever having felt quite so cold.
Now he seized his lantern and began his search, trying to ascertain the
exact position of the portion of the cliff's edge where he and Lambert
the smith had been standing a while ago.
It was not a difficult matter, nor was the search a long one. Soon he
saw a huddled mass lying in the sand.
He went up to it and placed the lantern down upon a boulder.
Horror had entirely left him. The crisis of terror at his own fell deed
had been terrible but brief. His was not a nature to shrink from
unpleasant sights, nor at such times do men have cause to recoil from
contact with the dead.
In the murderer's heart there was no real remorse for the crime which
he had committed.
"Bah! why did the fool get in my way?" was the first mental comment
which he made when he caught sight of Lambert's body.
Then with a final shrug of the shoulders he dismissed pity, horror or
remorse, entirely from his thoughts.
What he now did was to raise the smith's body from the ground and to
strip it of its clothing. 'Twas a grim task, on which his chroniclers
have never cared to dwell. His purpose was fixed. He had planned and
thought it all out minutely, and he was surely not the man to flinch at
the execution of a project once he had conceived it.
The death of Adam Lambert should serve a double purpose: the silencing
of an avowed enemy and the wiping out of the personality of Prince Amede
The latter was as important as the first. It would facilitate the
realizing of the fortune and, above all, clear the way for Sir
Marmaduke's future life.
Therefore, however gruesome the task, which was necessary in order to
attain that great goal, the schemer accomplished it, with set teeth and
an unwavering hand.
What he did do on that lonely fog-ridden beach and in the silence of
that dank and misty night, was to dress up the body of Adam Lambert, the
smith, in the fantastic clothing of Prince Amede d'Orleans: the red
cloth doublet, the lace collars and cuffs, the bunches of ribbon at knee
and waist, and the black silk shade over the left eye. All he omitted
were the perruque and the false mustache.
Having accomplished this work, he himself donned the clothes of Adam
This part of his task being done, he had to rest for a while. 'Tis no
easy matter to undress and redress an inert mass.
The smith, dressed in the elaborate accouterments of the mysterious
French prince, now lay face upwards on the sand.
The tide was rapidly setting in. In less than half an hour it would
reach this portion of the beach.
Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse, however, had not yet accomplished all that he
meant to do. He knew that the sea-waves had a habit of returning that
which they took away. Therefore, his purpose was not fully accomplished
when he had dressed the dead smith in the clothes of the Orleans prince.
Else had he wished it, he could have consigned his victim to the tide.
But Adam--dead--had now to play a part in the grim comedy which Sir
Marmaduke de Chavasse had designed for his own safety, and the more
assured success of all his frauds and plans.
Therefore, after a brief rest, the murderer set to work again. A more
grim task yet! one from which of a truth more than one evil-doer would
Not so this bold schemer, this mad worshiper of money and of self.
Everything! anything for the safety of Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse, for
the peaceful possession of L500,000.
Everything! Even the desecration of the dead!
The murderer was powerful, and there is a strength which madness gives.
Heavy boulders pushed by vigorous arms had to help in the monstrous
Heavy boulders thrown and rolled over the face of the dead, so as to
obliterate all identity!
Nay! had a sound now disturbed the silence of this awesome night, surely
it had been the laughter of demons aghast at such a deed!
The moon indeed hid her face, retreating once more behind the veils of
mist. The breeze itself was lulled and the fog gathered itself together
and wrapped the unavowable horrors of the night in a gray and ghoul-like
Madness lurked in the eyes of the sacrilegious murderer. Madness which
helped him not only to carry his grim task to the end, but, having
accomplished it, to see that it was well done.
And his hand did not tremble, as he raised the lantern and looked down
on _that_ which had once been Adam Lambert, the smith.
Nay, had those laughing demons looked on it, they would have veiled
their faces in awe!
The gentle wavelets of the torpid tide were creeping round that thing in
red doublet and breeches, in high top boots, lace cuffs and collar.
Sir Marmaduke looked down calmly upon his work, and did not even shudder
Madness had been upon him and had numbed his brain.
But the elemental instinct of self-preservation whispered to him that
his work was well done.
When the sea gave up the dead, only the clothes, the doublet, the
ribands, the lace, the black shade, mayhap, would reveal his identity,
as the mysterious French prince who for a brief while had lodged in a
cottage at Acol.
But the face was unrecognizable.
THE DAY AFTER
The feeling which prevailed in Thanet with regard to the murder of the
mysterious foreigner on the sands of Epple Bay was chiefly one of sullen
Here was a man who had come from goodness knows where, whose strange
wanderings and secret appearances in the neighborhood had oft roused the
anger of the village folk, just as his fantastic clothes, his silken
doublet and befrilled shirt had excited their scorn; here was a man, I
say, who came from nowhere, and now he chose--the yokels of the
neighborhood declared it that he chose--to make his exit from the world
in as weird a manner as he had effected his entrance into this remote
and law-abiding little island.
The farmhands and laborers who dwelt in the cottages dotted about around
St. Nicholas-at-Wade, Epple or Acol were really angry with the stranger
for allowing himself to be murdered on their shores. Thanet itself had
up to now enjoyed a fair reputation for orderliness and temperance, and
that one of her inhabitants should have been tempted to do away with
that interloping foreigner in such a violent manner was obviously the
fault of that foreigner himself.
The watches had found him on the sands at low tide. One of them walking
along the brow of the cliff had seen the dark object lying prone amongst
the boulders, a black mass in the midst of the whiteness of the chalk.
The whole thing was shocking, no doubt, gruesome in the extreme, but the
mystery which surrounded this strange death had roused ire rather than
Of course the news had traveled slowly from cottage to cottage, although
Petty Constable Pyot, who resided at St. Nicholas, had immediately
apprised Squire Boatfield and Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse of the awesome
discovery made by the watches on the sands of Epple Bay.
Squire Boatfield was major-general of the district and rode over from
Sarre directly he heard the news. The body in the meanwhile had been
placed under the shelter of one of the titanic caves which giant hands
have carved in the acclivities of the chalk. Squire Boatfield ordered it
to be removed. It was not fitting that birds of prey should be allowed
to peck at the dead, nor that some unusually high tide should once more
carry him out to sea, ere his murderer had been brought to justice.
Therefore, the foreigner with the high-sounding name was conveyed by the
watches at the squire's bidding to the cottage of the Lamberts over at
Acol, the only place in Thanet which he had ever called his home.
The old Quakeress, wrathful and sullen, had scarce understood what the
whole pother was about. She was hard of hearing, and Petty Constable
Pyot was at great pains to explain to her that by the major-general's
orders the body of the murdered man should be laid decently under
shelter, until such time as proper burial could be arranged for it.
Fortunately before the small cortege bearing the gruesome burden had
arrived at the cottage, young Richard Lambert had succeeded in making
the old woman understand what was expected of her.
Even then she flatly and obstinately refused to have the stranger
brought into her house.
"He was a heathen," she declared emphatically, "his soul hath mayhap
gone to hell. His thoughts were evil, and God had him not in His
keeping. 'Tis not fit that the mortal hulk of a damned soul should
pollute the saintliness of mine own abode."
Pyot thought that the old woman was raving, but Master Lambert very
peremptorily forbade him to interfere with her. The young man, though
quite calm, looked dangerous--so thought the petty constable--and
between them, the old Quakeress and the young student defied the
constables and the watches and barred the cottage to the entrance of the
Unfortunately, the smith was from home. Pyot thought that the latter had
been more reasonable, that he would have understood the weight of
authority, and also of seemliness, which was of equally grave
There was a good deal of parleying before it was finally decided to
place the body in the forge, which was a wooden lean-to, resting against
the north wall of the cottage. There was no direct access from the
cottage to the forge, and old Mistress Lambert seemed satisfied that the
foreigner should rest there, at any rate until the smith came home,
when, mayhap, he would decide otherwise.
At the instance of the petty constable she even brought out a sheet,
which smelt sweetly of lavender, and gave it to the watchmen, so that
they might decently cover up the dead; she also gave them three elm
chairs on which to lay him down.
Across those three chairs the body now lay, covered over with the
lavender-scented sheet, in the corner of the blacksmith's forge, over by
the furnace. A watchman stayed beside it, to ward off sacrilege: anyone
who desired could come, and could--if his nerves were strong
enough--view the body and state if, indeed, it was that of the foreigner
who all through last summer had haunted the woods and park of Acol.
Of a truth there was no doubt at all as to the identity of the dead. His
fantastic clothes were unmistakable. Many there were who had seen him
wandering in the woods of nights, and several could swear to the black
silk shade and the broad-brimmed hat which the watchmen had found--high
and dry--on a chalk boulder close to where the body lay.
Mistress Lambert had refused to look on the dead. 'Twas, of course, no
fit sight for females, and the constable had not insisted thereon: but
she knew the black silk shade again, and young Master Lambert had
caught sight of the murdered man's legs and feet, and had thereupon
recognized the breeches and the quaint boots with their overwide tops
filled with frills of lace.
Master Hymn-of-Praise Busy, too, though unwilling to see a corpse,
thought it his duty to help the law in investigating this mysterious
crime. He had oft seen the foreigner of nights in the park, and never
doubted for a moment that the body which lay across the elm chairs in
the smith's forge was indeed that of the stranger.
Squire Boatfield was now quite satisfied that the identity of the victim
was firmly established, and anon he did his best--being a humane man--to
obtain Christian burial for the stranger. After some demur, the parson
at Minster declared himself willing to do the pious deed.
Heathen or not, 'twas not for Christian folk to pass judgment on him who
no longer now could give an explanation of his own mysterious doings,
and had of a truth carried his secrets with him in silence to the grave.
Was it not strange that anyone should have risked the gallows for the
sake of putting out of the way a man who of a surety was not worth
powder or shot?
And the nerve and strength which the murderer had shown! ... displacing
great boulders with which to batter in his victim's face so that not
even his own kith and kin could recognize that now!
Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse cursed the weather and cursed himself for
being a fool.
He had started from Acol Court on horseback, riding an old nag, for the
roads were heavy with mud, and the short cut through the woods quite
The icy downpour beat against his face and lashed the poor mare's ears
and mane until she tossed her head about blindly and impatiently, scarce
heeding where she placed her feet. The rider's cloak was already soaked
through, and soon even his shirt clung dank and cold to his aching back;
the bridle was slippery with the wet, and his numbed fingers could
hardly feel its resistance as the mare went stumbling on her way.
Beside horse and rider, Master Hymn-of-Praise Busy and Master Courage
Toogood walked ankle-deep in mud--one on each side of the mare, and
lantern in hand, for the shades of evening would have drawn in ere the
return journey could be undertaken. The two men had taken off their
shoes and stockings and had slung them over their shoulders, for 'twas
better to walk barefoot than to feel the icy moisture soaking through
leather and worsted.
It was then close on two o'clock of an unusually bleak November
afternoon. The winds of Heaven, which of a truth do oft use the isle of
Thanet as a meeting place, wherein to discuss the mischief which they
severally intend to accomplish in sundry quarters later on, had been
exceptionally active this day. The southwesterly hurricane had brought,
a deluge of rain with it a couple of hours ago, then--satisfied with
this prowess--had handed the downpour over to his brother of the
northeast, who breathing on it with his icy breath, had soon converted
it into sleet: whereupon he turned his back on the mainland altogether,
and wandered out towards the ocean, determined to worry the deep-sea
fishermen who were out with their nets: but not before he had deputed
his brother of the northeast to marshal his army of snow-laden cloud on
This the northeast, was over-ready to do, and in answer to his whim a
leaden, inky pall now lay over Thanet, whilst the gale continued its
mighty, wanton frolic, lashing the sleet against the tiny window-panes
of the cottage, or sending it down the chimneys, upon the burning logs
below, causing them to splutter and to hiss ere they changed their glow
to black and smoking embers.
'Twere impossible to imagine a more discomforting atmosphere in which to
be abroad: yet Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse was trudging through the mire,
and getting wet to the skin, even when he might just as well be sitting
beside the fire in the withdrawing-room at the Court.
He was on his way to the smith's forge at Acol and had ordered his
serving-men to accompany him thither: and of a truth neither of them
were loath to go. They cared naught about the weather, and the
excitement which centered round the Quakeress's cottage at Acol more
than counterbalanced the discomfort of a tramp through the mud.
A rumor had reached the Court that the funeral of the murdered man
would, mayhap, take place this day, and Master Busy would not have
missed such an event for the world, not though the roads lay thick with
snow and the drifts rendered progress impossible to all save to the
keenest enthusiast. He for one was glad enough that his master had
seemed so unaccountably anxious for the company of his own serving men.
Sir Marmaduke had ever been overfond of wandering about the lonely woods
of Thanet alone.
But since that gruesome murder on the beach forty-eight hours ago and
more, both the quality and the yokels preferred to venture abroad in
At the same time neither Master Busy nor young Courage Toogood could
imagine why Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse should endure such amazing
discomfort in order to attend the funeral of an obscure adventurer, who
of a truth was as naught to him.
Nor, if the truth were known, could Sir Marmaduke himself have accounted
for his presence here on this lonely road, and on one of the most
dismal, bleak and unpleasant afternoons that had ever been experienced
in Thanet of late.
He should at this moment have been on the other side of the North Sea.
The most elemental prudence should indeed have counseled an immediate
journey to Amsterdam and a prompt negotiation of all marketable
securities which Lady Sue Aldmarshe had placed in his hands.
Yet twice twenty-four hours had gone by since that awful night, when,
having finally relinquished his victim to the embrace of the tide, he
had picked his way up the chalk cliffs and through the terror-haunted
woods to his own room in Acol Court.
He should have left for abroad the next day, ere the news of the
discovery of a mysterious murder had reached the precincts of his own
park. But he had remained in England. Something seemed to have rooted
him to the spot, something to be holding him back whenever he was ready
At first it had been a mere desire to know. On the morning following his
crime he made a vigorous effort to rally his scattered senses, to walk,
to move, and to breathe as if nothing had happened, as if nothing lay
out there on the sands of Epple, high and dry now, for the tide would
have gone out.
Whether he had slept or not since the moment when he had crept
stealthily into his own house, silently as the bird of prey when
returning to its nest--he could not have said. Undoubtedly he had
stripped off the dead man's clothes, the rough shirt and cord breeches
which had belonged to Lambert, the smith. Undoubtedly, too, he had made
a bundle of these things, hiding them in a dark recess at the bottom of
an old oak cupboard which stood in his room. With these clothes he had
placed the leather wallet which contained securities worth half a
million of solid money.
All this he had done, preparatory to destroying the clothes by fire, and
to converting the securities into money abroad. After that he had thrown
himself on the bed, without thought, without sensations save those of
bodily ache and of numbing fatigue.
Vaguely, as the morning roused him to consciousness, he realized that he
must leave for Dover as soon as may be and cross over to France by the
first packet available, or, better still, by boat specially chartered.
And yet, when anon he rose and dressed, he felt at once that he would
not go just yet; that he could not go until certain queries which had
formed in his brain had been answered by events.
How soon would the watches find the body? Having found it, what would
they do? Would the body be immediately identified by the clothes upon
it? or would doubt on that score arise in the minds of the neighboring
folk? Would the disappearance of Adam Lambert be known at once and
commented upon in connection with the crime?
Curiosity soon became an obsession; he wandered down into the hall where
the serving-wench was plying her duster. Ho searched her face,
wondering if she had heard the news.
The mist of the night had yielded to an icy drizzle, but Sir Marmaduke
could not remain within. His footsteps guided him in the direction of
Acol, on towards Epple Bay. On the path which leads to the edge of the
cliffs he met the watches who were tramping on towards the beach.
The men saluted him and went on their way, but he turned and fled as
quickly as he dared.
In the afternoon Master Busy brought the news down from Prospect Inn.
The body of the man who had called himself a French prince had been
found murdered and shockingly mutilated on the sands at Epple. Sir
Marmaduke was vastly interested. He, usually so reserved and ill-humored
with his servants, had kept Hymn-of-Praise in close converse for nigh
upon an hour, asking many questions about the crime, about the petty
constables' action in the matter and the comments made by the village
At the same time he gave strict injunctions to Master Busy not to
breathe a word of the gruesome subject to the ladies, nor yet to the
serving-wench; 'twas not a matter fit for women's ears.
Sir Marmaduke then bade his butler push on as far as Acol, to glean
further information about the mysterious event.
That evening he collected all the clothes which had belonged to Lambert,
the smith, and wrapping up the leather wallet with them which contained
the securities, he carried this bundle to the lonely pavilion on the
outskirts of the park.
He was not yet ready to go abroad.
Master Busy returned from his visit to Acol full of what he had seen. He
had been allowed to view the body, and to swear before Squire Boatfield
that he recognized the clothes as being those usually worn by the
mysterious foreigner who used to haunt the woods and park of Acol all
Hymn-of-Praise had his full meed of pleasure that evening, and the next
day, too, for Sir Marmaduke seemed never tired of hearing him recount
all the gossip which obtained at Acol and at St. Nicholas: the surmises
as to the motive of the horrible crime, the talk about the stranger and
his doings, the resentment caused by his weird demise, and the
conjectures as to what could have led a miscreant to do away with so
insignificant a personage.
All that day--the second since the crime--Sir Marmaduke still lingered
in Thanet. Prudence whispered urgent counsels that he should go, and yet
he stayed, watching the progress of events with that same morbid and
And now it was the thought of what folk would say when they heard that
Adam Lambert had disappeared, and was, of a truth, not returning home,
which kept Sir Marmaduke still lingering in England.
That and the inexplicable enigma which ever confronts the searcher of
human motives: the overwhelming desire of the murderer to look once
again upon his victim.
Master Busy had on that second morning brought home the news from Acol,
that Squire Boatfield had caused a rough deal coffin to be made by the
village carpenter at the expense of the county, and that mayhap the
stranger would be laid therein this very afternoon and conveyed down to
Minster, where he would be accorded Christian burial.
Then Sir Marmaduke realized that it would be impossible for him to leave
England until after he had gazed once more on the dead body of the
After that he would go. He would shake the sand of Thanet from his heels
When he had learned all that he wished to know he would be free from the
present feeling of terrible obsession which paralyzed his movements to
the extent of endangering his own safely.
He was bound to look upon his victim once again: an inexplicable and
titanic force compelled him to that. Mayhap, that same force would
enable him to keep his nerves under control when, presently, he should
be face to face with the dead.
Face to face? ... Good God! ...
Yet neither fear nor remorse haunted him. It was only curosity, and, at
one thought, a nameless horror! ... Not at the thought of murder ...
there he had no compunction, but at that of the terrible deed which from
instinct of self-protection had perforce to succeed the graver crime.
The weight of those chalk boulders seemed still to weigh against the
muscles of his back. He felt that Sisyphus-like he was forever rolling,
rolling a gigantic stone which, failing of its purpose--recoiled on him,
rolling back down a precipitous incline, and crushing him beneath its
weight ... only to release him again ... to leave him free to endure the
same torture over and over again ... and yet again ... forever the same
weight ... forever the self-same, intolerable agony....
THE SMITH'S FORGE
Up to the hour of his departure from Acol Court, Sir Marmaduke had been
convinced that neither his sister-in-law nor Lady Sue had heard of the
news which had set the whole of Thanet in commotion. Acol Court lies
very isolated, well off the main Canterbury Road, and just for two days
and a half Master Hymn-of-Praise Busy had contrived to hold his tongue.
Most of the village gossips, too, met at the local public bars, and had
had up to now no time to wander as far as the Court, nor any reason to
do so, seeing that Master Busy was always to be found at Prospect Inn
and always ready to discuss the mystery in all its bearings, with anyone
who would share a pint of ale with him.
Sir Marmaduke had taken jealous care only to meet the ladies at
meal-time, and under penalty of immediate dismissal had forbidden
Hymn-of-Praise to speak to the serving-wench of the all-absorbing topic.
So far Master Busy had obeyed, but at the last moment, just before
starting for Acol village, Sir Marmaduke had caught sight of Mistress
Charity talking to the stableman in the yard. Something in the wench's
eyes told him--with absolute certainty that she had just heard of the
That morbid and tenacious curiosity once more got hold of him. He would
have given all he possessed at this moment--the entire fruits of his
crime perhaps--to know what that ignorant girl thought of it all, and it
caused him acute, almost physical pain, to refrain from questioning her.
There was enough of the sense of self-protection in him, however, to
check himself from betraying such extraordinary interest in the matter:
but he turned on his heel and went quickly back to the house. He wanted
to catch sight of Editha's face, if only for a moment; he wanted to see
for himself, then and there, if she had also heard the news.
As he entered the hall, she was coming down the stairs. She had on her
cloak and hood as if preparing to go out. Their eyes met and he saw that
Knew what? He broke into a loud and fierce laugh as he met her wildly
questioning gaze. There was a look almost of madness in the hopeless
puzzlement of her expression.
Of course Editha must be hopelessly puzzled. The very thought of her
vague conjecturings had caused him to laugh as maniacs laugh at times.
The mysterious French prince had been found on the sands murdered and
mutilated.... But then ...
Still laughing, Sir Marmaduke once more turned, running away from the
house now and never pausing until his foot had touched the stirrup and
his fingers were entangled in the damp mane of the mare. Even whilst he
settled himself into the saddle as comfortably as he could, the grim
humor of Editha's bewilderment caused him to laugh, within himself.
The nag stepped slowly along in the mud at first, then broke into a
short trot. The two serving-men had started on ahead with their
lanterns; they would, of course, be walking all the way.
The icy rain mingled with tiny flakes of snow was insufferably cutting
and paralyzing: yet Sir Marmaduke scarcely heeded it, until the mare
became unpleasantly uncertain in her gait. Once she stumbled and nearly
pitched her rider forward into the mud: whereupon, lashing into her, he
paid more heed to her doings.
Once just past the crossroad toward St. Nicholas, he all but turned his
horse's head back towards Acol Court. It seemed as if he must find out
now at once whether Editha had spoken to Lady Sue and what the young
girl had done and said when she heard, in effect, that her husband had
Nothing but the fear of missing the last look at the body of Adam
Lambert ere the lid of the coffin was nailed down stopped him from
Anon he came upon Busy and Toogood painfully trudging in the mire, and
singing lustily to keep themselves cheerful and warm.
Sir Marmaduke drew the mare in, so as to keep pace with his men. On the
whole, the road had been more lonely than he liked and he was glad of
Outside the Lamberts' cottage a small crowd had collected. From the
crest of the hill the tiny bell of Acol church struck the hour of two.
Squire Boatfield had ridden over from Sarre, and Sir Marmaduke--as he
dismounted--caught sight of the heels and crupper of the squire's
well-known cob. The little crowd had gathered in the immediate
neighborhood of the forge, and de Chavasse, from where he now stood,
could not see the entrance of the lean-to, only the blank side wall of
the shed, and the front of the Lamberts' cottage, the doors and windows
of which were hermetically closed.
Up against the angle formed by the wall of the forge and that of the
cottage, the enterprising landlord of the local inn had erected a small
trestle table, from behind which he was dispensing spiced ale, and
bottled Spanish wines.
Squire Boatfield was standing beside that improvised bar, and at sight
of Sir Marmaduke he put down the pewter mug which he was in the act of
conveying to his lips, and came forward to greet his friend.
"What is the pother about this foreigner, eh, Boatfield?" queried de
Chavasse with gruff good-nature as he shook hands with the squire and
allowed himself to be led towards that tempting array of bottles and
mugs on the trestle table.
The yokels who were assembled at the entrance of the forge turned to
gaze with some curiosity at the squire of Acol. De Chavasse was not
often seen even in this village: he seldom went beyond the boundary of
his own park.
All the men touched their forelocks with deferential respect. Master
Jeremy Mounce humbly whispered a query as to what His Honor would
condescend to take.
Sir Marmaduke desired a mug of buttered ale or of lamb's wool, which
Master Mounce soon held ready for him. He emptied the mug at one
draught. The spiced liquor went coursing through his body, and he felt
better and more sure of himself. He desired a second mug.
"With more substance in it, Master Landlord," he said pleasantly. "Nay,
man! ye are not giving milk to children, but something warm to cheer a
"I have a half bottle of brandy here, good Sir Marmaduke," suggested
Master Mounce with some diffidence, for brandy was an over-expensive
commodity which not many Kentish squires cared to afford.
"Brandy, of course, good master!" quoth de Chavasse lustily, "brandy is
the nectar of the gods. Here!" he added, drawing a piece of gold from a
tiny pocket concealed in the lining of his doublet, "will this pay for
thy half-bottle of nectar."
"Over well, good Sir Marmaduke," said Master Mounce, as he stooped to
the ground. From underneath the table he now drew forth a glass and a
bottle: the latter he uncorked with slow and deliberate care, and then
filled the glass with its contents, whilst Sir Marmaduke watched him
with impatient eyes.
"Will you join me, squire?" asked de Chavasse, as he lifted the small
tumbler and gazed with marked appreciation at the glistening and
"Nay, thanks," replied Boatfield with a laugh, "I care naught for these
foreign decoctions. Another mug, or even two, of buttered ale, good
landlord," he added, turning to Master Mounce.
In the meanwhile petty constable Pyot had stood respectfully at
attention ready to relate for the hundredth time, mayhap, all that he
knew and all that he meant to know about the mysterious crime.
Sir Marmaduke would of a surety ask many questions, for it was passing
strange that he had taken but little outward interest in the matter up
"Well, Pyot," he now said, beckoning to the man to approach, "tell us
what you know. By Gad, 'tis not often we indulge in a genuine murder in
Thanet! Where was it done? Not on my land, I hope."
"The watches found the body on the beach, your Honor," replied Pyot,
"the head was mutilated past all recognition ... the heavy chalk
boulders, your Honor ... and a determined maniac methinks, sir, who
wanted revenge against a personal enemy.... Else how to account for such
a brutal act? ..."
"I suppose," quoth Sir Marmaduke lightly, as he sipped the brandy,
"that the identity of the man has been quite absolutely determined."
"Aye! aye! your Honor," rejoined Pyot gravely, "the opinion of all those
who have seen the body is that it is that of a foreigner ... Prince of
Orleans he called himself, who has been lodging these past months at
this place here!"
And the petty constable gave a quick nod in the direction of the
"Ah! I know but little about him," now said Sir Marmaduke, turning to
speak to Squire Boatfield, "although he lived here, on what is my own
property, and haunted my park, too ... so I've been told. There was a
good deal of talk about him among the wenches in the village."
"Aye! I had heard all about that prince," said Squire Boatfield
meditatively, "lodging in this cottage ... 'twas passing strange."
"He was a curious sort of man, your Honor," here interposed Pyot. "We
got what information about him we could, seeing that the smith is from
home, and that Mistress Lambert, his aunt, I think, is hard of hearing,
and gave us many crooked answers. But she told us that the stranger paid
for his lodging regularly, and would arrive at the cottage unawares of
an evening and stay part of the night ... then he would go off again at
cock-crow, and depart she knew not whither."
The man paused in his narrative. Something apparently had caused Sir
Marmaduke to turn giddy.
He tugged at his neckbands and his hand fell heavily against the
"Nay! 'tis nothing," he said with a harsh laugh as Master Mounce with an
ejaculation of deep concern ran round to him with a chair, whilst Squire
Boatfield quickly put out an arm as if he were afraid that his friend
would fall. "'Tis nothing," he repeated, "the tramp in the cold, then
this heady draught.... I am well I assure you."
He drank half a glass of brandy at a draught, and now the hand which
replaced the glass upon the table had not the slightest tremor in it.
"'Tis all vastly interesting," he remarked lightly. "Have you seen the
"Aye! aye!" quoth the squire, speaking with obvious reluctance, for he
hated this gruesome subject. "'Tis no pleasant sight. And were I in your
shoes, de Chavasse, I would not go in there," and he nodded
significantly towards the forge.
"Nay! 'tis my duty as a magistrate," said Sir Marmaduke airily.
He had to steady himself against the table again for a moment or two,
ere he turned his back on the hospitable board, and started to walk
round towards the forge: no doubt the shaking of his knees was
attributable to the strong liquor which he had consumed.
The little crowd parted and dispersed at his approach. The lean-to
wherein Adam Lambert was wont to do his work consisted of four walls,
one of which was that of the cottage, whilst the other immediately
facing it, had a wide opening which formed the only entrance to the
shed. A man standing in that entrance would have the furnace on his
left: and now in addition to that furnace also the three elm chairs,
whereon rested a rough deal case, without a lid, but partly covered with
To anyone coming from the outside, this angle of the forge would always
seem weird and even mysterious even when the furnace was blazing and the
sparks flying from the anvil, beneath the smith's powerful blows, or
when--as at present--the fires were extinguished and this part of the
shed, innocent of windows, was in absolute darkness.
Sir Marmaduke paused a moment under the lintel which dominated the broad
entrance. His eyes had some difficulty in penetrating the density which
seemed drawn across the place on his left like some ink-smeared and
The men assembled outside, watched him from a distance with silent
respect. In these days the fact of a gentleman drinking more liquor than
was good for him was certes not to his discredit.
The fact that Sir Marmaduke seemed to sway visibly on his legs, as he
thus stood for a moment outlined against the dark interior beyond,
roused no astonishment in the minds of those who saw him.
Presently he turned deliberately to his left and the next moment his
figure was merged in the gloom.
Round the angle of the wall Squire Boatfield was still standing, sipping
Less than two minutes later, Sir Marmaduke reappeared in the doorway.
His face was a curious color, and there were beads of perspiration on
his forehead, and as he came forward he would have fallen, had not one
of the men stepped quickly up to him and offered a steadying arm. But
there was nothing strange in that.
The sight of that which lay in Adam Lambert's forge had unmanned a good
many ere this.
"I am inclined to believe, my good Boatfield," quoth Sir Marmaduke, as
he went back to the trestle-table, and poured himself out another
half-glass full of brandy, "I am inclined to believe that when you
advised me not to go in there, you spoke words of wisdom which I had
done well to follow."
But the effort of the past few moments had been almost more than
Marmaduke de Chavasse could bear.
Anon when the church bell over at Acol began a slow and monotonous toll
he felt as if his every nerve must give way: as if he must laugh, laugh
loudly and long at the idiocy, the ignorance of all these people who
thought that they were confronted by an impenetrable mystery, whereas it
was all so simple ... so very, very simple.
He had a curious feeling as if he must grip every one of these men here
by the throat and demand from each one separately an account of what he
thought and felt, what he surmised and what he guessed when standing
face to face with the weird enigma presented by that mutilated thing in
its rough deal case. He would have given worlds to know what his friend
Boatfield thought of it all, or what had been the petty constable's
A haunting and devilish desire seized him to break open the skulls of
all these yokels and to look into their brains. Above all now the
silence of the cottage close to him had become unendurable torment. That
closed door, the tiny railing which surrounded the bit of front garden,
that little gate the latch of which he himself so oft had lifted, all
seemed to hold the key to some terrible mystery, the answer to some
fearful riddle which he felt would drive him mad if he could not hit
upon it now at once.
The brandy had fired his veins: he no longer felt numb with the cold. A
passion of rage was seething in him, and he longed to attack with fists
and heels those curtained windows which now looked like eyes turned
mutely and inquiringly upon him.
But there was enough sanity in him yet to prevent his doing anything
rash: an uncontrolled act might cause astonishment, suspicion mayhap, in
the minds of those who witnessed it. He made a violent effort to steady
himself even now, above all to steady his voice and to veil that excited
glitter which he knew must be apparent in his eyes.
"Meseems that 'tis somewhat strange," he said quite calmly, even
lightly, to Squire Boatfield who seemed to be preparing to go, "that
these people--the Lamberts--who alone knew the ... the murdered man
intimately, should keep so persistently, so determinedly out of the
Even while the words escaped his mouth--certes involuntarily--he knew
that the most elementary prudence should have dictated silence on this
score, and at this juncture. The man was about to be buried, the
disappearance of the smith had passed off so far without comment. Peace,
the eternal peace of the grave, would soon descend on the weird events
which occupied everyone's mind for the present.
What the old Quakeress thought and felt, what Richard--the
brother--feared and conjectured was easy for Sir Marmaduke to guess: for
him, but for no one else. To these others the silence of the cottage,
the absence of the Lamberts from this gathering was simple enough of
explanation, seeing that they themselves felt such bitter resentment
against the dead man. They quite felt with the old woman's sullenness,
her hatred of the foreigner who had disturbed the serenity of her life.
Everyone else was willing to let her be, not to drag her and young
Lambert into the unpleasant vortex of these proceedings. Their home was
an abode of mourning: it was proper and seemly for them to remain
concealed and silent within their cottage; seemly, too, to have
curtained their windows and closed their doors.
No one wished to disturb them; no one but Sir Marmaduke, and with him it
was once again that morbid access of curiosity, the passionate, intense
desire to know and to probe every tiny detail in connection with his own
"The old woman Lambert should be made to identify the body, before it is
buried," he now repeated with angry emphasis, seeing that a look of
disapproval had crossed Squire Boatfield's pleasant face.
"We are satisfied as to the man's identity," rejoined the squire
impatiently, "and the sight is not fit for women's eyes."
"Nay, then she should be shown the clothes and effects.... And, if I
mistake not, there's Richard Lambert, my late secretary, has he laid
sworn information about the man?"
"Yes, I believe so," said Boatfield with some hesitation.
"Nay, Boatfield, an you are so reluctant to do your duty in this matter,
I'll speak to these people myself.... You are chief constable of the
district ... indeed, 'tis you should do it ... and in the meanwhile I
pray you, at least to give orders that the coffin be not nailed down."
The kindly squire would have entered a further protest. He did not see
the necessity of confronting an old woman with the gruesome sight of a
mutilated corpse, nor did he perceive justifiable cause for further
formalities of identification.
But Sir Marmaduke having spoken very peremptorily, had already turned on
his heel without waiting for his friend's protest, and was striding
across the patch of rough stubble, which bordered the railing round the
front of the cottage. Squire Boatfield reluctantly followed him. The
next moment de Chavasse had lifted the latch of the gate, crossed the
short flagged path and now knocked loudly against the front door.
Apparently there was no desire for secrecy or rebellion on the part of
the dwellers of the cottage, for hardly had Sir Marmaduke's imperious
knock echoed against the timbered walls, than the door was opened from
within by Richard Lambert who, seeing the two gentlemen standing on the
threshold, stepped back immediately, allowing them to pass.
The old Quakeress and Richard were seemingly not alone. Two ladies sat
in those same straight-backed chairs, wherein, some fifty hours ago Adam
Lambert and the French prince had agreed upon that fateful meeting on
the brow of the cliff.
Sir Marmaduke's restless eyes took in at a glance every detail of that
little parlor, which he had known so intimately. The low lintel of the
door, which had always forced him to stoop as he entered, the central
table with the pewter candlesticks upon it, the elm chairs shining like
mirrors in response to the Quakeress' maddening passion for cleanliness.
Everything was just as it had been those few hours ago, when last he had
picked up his broad-brimmed hat from the table and walked out of the
cottage into the night. Everything was the same as it had been when his
young girl-wife pushed a leather wallet across the table to him: the
wallet which contained the fortune that he had not yet dared to turn
fully to his own account.
Aye! it was all just the same: for even at this moment as he stood there
in the room, Sue, pale and still, faced him from across the table. For a
moment he was silent, nor did anybody speak. Squire Boatfield felt
unaccountably embarrassed, certain that he was intruding, vaguely
wondering why the atmosphere in the cottage was so heavy and
Behind him, Richard Lambert had quietly closed the front door; the old
woman stood in the background; the dusting-cloth which she had been
plying so vigorously had dropped out of her hand when the two gentlemen
had appeared in her little parlor so unexpectedly.
Sir Marmaduke was the first to break the silence.
"My dear Sue," he said curtly, "this is a strange place indeed wherein
to find your ladyship."
He cast a sharp, inquiring glance at her, then at his sister-in-law, who
was still sitting by the hearth.
"She insisted on coming," said Mistress de Chavasse with a shrug of the
shoulders, "and I had not the power to stop her; I thought it best,
therefore, to accompany her."
She was wearing the cloak and hood which Sir Marmaduke had seen round
her shoulders when awhile ago he had met her in the hall of the Court.
Apparently she had started out with Sue in his immediate wake, and now
he had a distinct recollection that while the mare was slowly ambling
along, he had looked back once or twice and seen two dark figures
walking some fifty yards behind him on the road which he himself had
At the moment he had imagined that they were some village folk, wending
their way towards Acol: now he was conscious of nerve-racking irritation
at the thought that if he had only turned the mare's head back toward
the Court--as he had at one time intended to do--he could have averted
this present meeting--it almost seemed like a confrontation--here, in
this cottage on the self-same spot, where thought of murder had first
struck upon his brain.
There was something inexplicable, strangely puzzling now in Sue's
When de Chavasse had entered, she had risen from her chair and, as if
deliberately, had walked over to the spot where she had stood during
that momentous interview, when she relinquished her fortune entirely and
without protest, into the hands of the man whom she had married, and
whom she believed to be her lord.
Her gaze now--calm and fixed, and withal vaguely searching--rested on
her guardian's face. The fixity of her look increased his nerve-tension.
The others, too, were regarding him with varying feelings which were
freely expressed in their eyes. Boatfield seemed upset and somewhat
resentful, the old woman sullen, despite the deference in her attitude,
Lambert defiant, wrathful, nay! full of an incipient desire to avenge
And dominating all, there was Editha's look of bewilderment, of
puzzledom in her face at a mystery whereat her senses were beginning to
reel, that mute questioning of the eyes, which speaks of turbulent
Sir Marmaduke uttered an exclamation of impatience.
"You must return to the Court and at once," he said, avoiding Sue's
gaze and speaking directly to Editha, "the men are outside, with
lanterns. You'll have to walk quickly an you wish to reach home before
But even while he spoke, Sue--not heeding him--had turned to Squire
Boatfield. She went up to him, holding out her hands as if in
instinctive childlike appeal for protection, to a kindly man.
"This mystery is horrible!" she murmured.
Boatfield took her small hands in his, patting them gently the while,
desiring to soothe and comfort her, for she seemed deeply agitated and
there was a wild look of fear from time to time in her pale face.
"Sir Marmaduke is right," said the squire gently, "this is indeed no
place for your ladyship. I did not see you arrive or I had at once
persuaded you to go."
De Chavasse would again have interposed. He stooped and picked up Sue's
cloak which had fallen to the ground, and as he went up to her with the
obvious intention of replacing it around her shoulders, she checked him,
with a slight motion of her hand.
"I only heard of this terrible crime an hour ago," she said, speaking
once more to Boatfield, "and as I methinks, am the only person in the
world who can throw light upon this awesome mystery, I thought it my
duty to come."
"Of a truth 'twas brave of your ladyship," quoth the squire, feeling a
little bewildered at this strange announcement, "but surely ... you
did not know this man?"
"If the rumor which hath reached me be correct," she replied quietly,
"then indeed did I know the murdered man intimately. Prince Amede
d'Orleans was my husband."
THE OLD WOMAN
There was silence in the tiny cottage parlor as the young girl made this
extraordinary announcement in a firm if toneless voice, without
flinching and meeting with a sort of stubborn pride the five pairs of
eyes which were now riveted upon her.
From outside came the hum of many voices, dull and subdued, like the
buzzing of a swarm of bees, and against the small window panes the
incessant patter of icy rain driven and lashed by the gale. Anon the
wind moaned in the wide chimney, ... it seemed like the loud sigh of the
Fates, satisfied at the tangle wrought by their relentless fingers in
the threads of all these lives.
Sir Marmaduke, after a slight pause, had contrived to utter an
oath--indicative of the wrath he, as Lady Sue's guardian, should have
felt at her statement. Squire Boatfield frowned at the oath. He had
never liked de Chavasse and disapproved more than ever of the man's
attitude towards his womenkind now.
The girl was in obvious, terrible distress: what she was feeling at this
moment when she was taking those around her into her confidence could be
as nothing compared to what she must have endured when she first heard
the news that her strange bridegroom had been murdered.
The kindly squire, though admitting the guardian's wrath, thought that
its violent expression was certainly ill-timed. He allowed Sue to
recover herself, for the more calm was her attitude outwardly, the more
terrible must be the effort which she was making at self-control.
Sue's eyes were fixed steadily upon her guardian, and Richard Lambert's
upon her. Both these young people who had carved their own Fate in the
very rock which now had shattered their lives, seemed to be searching
for something vague, unavowed and mysterious which instinct told them
was there, but which was so elusive, so intangible that the soul of each
recoiled, even whilst it tried to probe.
Entirely against her will Sue--whilst she looked on her guardian--could
think of nothing save of that day in Dover, the lonely church, the
gloomy vestry, and that weird patter of the rain against the window
She was not ashamed of what she had done, only of what she had felt for
him, whom she now believed to be dead; that she gave him her fortune was
nothing, she neither regretted nor cared about that. What, in the mind
of a young and romantic girl, was the value of a fortune squandered,
when that priceless treasure--her first love--had already been thrown
away? But now she would no longer judge the dead. The money which he had
filched from her, Fate and a murderous hand had quickly taken back from
him, crushing beneath those chalk boulders his many desires, his vast
ambitions, a worthless life and incomparable greed.
Her love, which he had stolen ... that he could not give back: not that
ardent, whole-souled, enthusiastic love; not the romantic idealism, the
hero-worship, that veil of fantasy behind which first love is wont to
hide its ephemerality. But she would not now judge the dead. Her
romantic love lay buried in the lonely church at Dover, and she was
striving not to think even of its grave.
Squire Boatfield's kindly voice recalled her to her immediate
surroundings and to the duty--self-imposed--which had brought her
"My dear child," he said, speaking with unwonted solemnity, "if what you
have just stated be, alas! the truth, then indeed, you and you only can
throw some light on the terrible mystery which has been puzzling us all
... you may be the means which God hath chosen for bringing an evildoer
to justice.... Will you, therefore, try ... though it may be very
painful to you ... will you try and tell us everything that is in your
mind ... everything which may draw the finger of God and our poor eyes
to the miscreant who hath committed such an awful crime."
"I fear me I have not much to tell," replied Sue simply, "but I feel
that it is my duty to suggest to the two magistrates here present what I
think was the motive which prompted this horrible crime."
"You can suggest a motive for the crime?" interposed Sir Marmaduke,
striving to sneer, although his voice sounded quite toneless, for his
throat was parched and his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, "by
Gad! 'twere vastly interesting to hear your ladyship's views."
He tried to speak flippantly, at which Squire Boatfield frowned
deprecation. Lambert, without a word, had brought a chair near to Lady
Sue, and with a certain gentle authority, he forced her to sit down.
"It was a crime, of that I feel sure," said Sue, "nathless, that can be
easily proven ... when ... when it has been discovered whether money and
securities contained in a wallet of leather have been found among Prince
"Money and securities?" ejaculated Sir Marmaduke with a loud oath, which
he contrived to bring forth with the violence of genuine wrath, "Money
and securities? ... Forsooth, I trust ..."
"My money and my securities, sir," she interposed with obvious hauteur,
"which I had last night and in this self-same room placed in the hands
of Prince Amede d'Orleans, my husband."
She said this with conscious pride. Whatever change her feelings may
have undergone towards the man who had at one time been the embodiment
of her most cherished dreams, she would not let her sneering guardian
see that she had repented of her choice.
Death had endowed her exiled prince with a dignity which had never been
his in life, and the veil of tragedy which now lay over the mysterious
stranger and his still more mysterious life, had called forth to its
uttermost the young wife's sense of loyalty to him.
"Not your entire fortune, my dear, dear child, I hope ..." ejaculated
Squire Boatfield, more horror-struck this time than he had been when
first he had heard of the terrible murder.
"The wallet contained my entire fortune," rejoined Sue calmly, "all that
Master Skyffington had placed in my hands on the day that my father
willed that it should be given me."
"Such folly is nothing short of criminal," said Sir Marmaduke roughly,
"nathless, had not the gentleman been murdered that night he would have
shown Thanet and you a clean pair of heels, taking your money with him,
"Aye! aye! but he was murdered," said Squire Boatfield firmly, "the
question only is by whom?"
"Some footpad who haunts the cliffs," rejoined de Chavasse lightly,
"'tis simple enough."
"Simple, mayhap ..." mused the squire, "yet ..."
He paused a moment and once more silence fell on all those assembled in
the small cottage parlor. Sir Marmaduke felt as if every vein in his
body was gradually being turned to stone.
The sense of expectancy was so overwhelming that it completely paralyzed
every other faculty within him, and Editha's searching eyes seemed like
a corroding acid touching an aching wound. Yet for the moment there was
no danger. He had so surrounded himself and his crimes with mystery that
it would take more than a country squire's slowly moving brain to draw
aside that weird and ghostlike curtain which hid his evil deeds.
No! there was no danger--as yet!
But he cursed himself for a fool and a coward, not to have gone
away--abroad--long ere such a possible confrontation threatened him. He
cursed himself for being here at all--and above all for having left the
smith's clothes and the leather wallet in that lonely pavilion in the
Squire Boatfield's kind eyes now rested on the old woman, who, awed and
silent--shut out by her infirmities from this strange drama which was
being enacted in her cottage--had stood calm and impassive by, trying to
read with that wonderful quickness of intuition which the poverty of one
sense gives to the others--what was going on round her, since she could
Her eyes--pale and dim, heavy-lidded and deeply-lined--rested often on
the face of Richard Lambert, who, leaning against the corner of the
hearth, had watched the proceedings silently and intently. When the
Quakeress's faded gaze met that of the young man, there was a quick and
anxious look which passed from her to him: a look of entreaty for
comfort, one of fear and of growing horror.
"And so the exiled prince lodged in your cottage, mistress?" said
Squire Boatfield, after a while, turning to Mistress Lambert.
The old woman's eyes wandered from Richard to the squire. The look of
fear in them vanished, giving place to good-natured placidity. She
shuffled forward, in the manner which had so oft irritated her lodger.
"Eh? ... what?" she queried, approaching the squire, "I am somewhat hard
of hearing these times."
"We were speaking of your lodger, mistress," rejoined Boatfield, raising
his voice, "harm hath come to him, you know."
"Aye! aye!" she replied blandly, "harm hath come to our lodger.... Nay!
the Lord hath willed it so.... The stranger was queer in his ways.... I
don't wonder that harm hath come to him...."
"You remember him well, mistress?--him and the clothes he used to wear?"
asked Squire Boatfield.
"Oh, yes! I remember the clothes," she rejoined. "I saw them again on
the dead who now lieth in Adam's forge ... the same curious clothes of a
truth ... clothes the Lord would condemn as wantonness and vanity.... I
saw them again on the dead man," she reiterated garrulously, "the frills
and furbelows ... things the Lord hateth ... and which no Christian
should place upon his person ... yet the foreigner wore them ... he had
none other ... and went out with them on him that night that the Lord
sent him down into perdition...."
"Did you see him go out that night, mistress?" asked the squire.
"Eh? ... what? ..."
"Did he go out alone?"
The dimmed eyes of the old woman roamed restlessly from face to face. It
seemed as if that look of horror and of fear once more struggled to
appear within the pale orbs. Yet the squire looked on her with kindness,
and Lady Sue's tear-veiled eyes expressed boundless sympathy. Richard,
on the other hand, did not look at her, his gaze was riveted on Sir
Marmaduke de Chavasse with an intensity which caused the latter to meet
that look, trying to defy it, and then to flinch before its expression
of passionate wrath.
"We wish to know where your nephew Adam is, mistress," now broke in de
Chavasse roughly, "the squire and I would wish to ask him a few
Then as the Quakeress did not reply, he added almost savagely:
"Why don't you answer, woman? Are ye still hard of hearing?"
"Your pardon, Sir Marmaduke," interposed Lambert firmly, "my aunt is old
and feeble. She hath been much upset and over anxious ... seeing that my
brother Adam is still from home."
Sir Marmaduke broke into a loud and prolonged laugh.
"Ha! ha! ha! good master ... so I understand ... your brother is from
home ... whilst the wallet containing her ladyship's fortune has
disappeared along with him, eh?"
"What are they saying, lad?" queried the old woman in her trembling
voice, "what are they saying? I am fearful lest there's something wrong
"Nay, nay, dear ... there's naught amiss," said Lambert soothingly,
"there's naught amiss...."
Instinctively now Sue had risen. Sir Marmaduke's cruel laugh had grated
horribly on her ear, rousing an echo in her memory which she could not
understand but which caused her to encircle the trembling figure of the
old Quakeress with young, protecting arms.
"Are Squire Boatfield and I to understand, Lambert," continued Sir
Marmaduke, speaking to the young man, "that your brother Adam has
unaccountably disappeared since the night on which the foreigner met
with his tragic fate? Nay, Boatfield," he added, turning to the squire,
as Lambert had remained silent, "methinks you, as chief magistrate,
should see your duty clearly. 'Tis a warrant you should sign and
quickly, too, ere a scoundrel slip through the noose of justice. I can
on the morrow to Dover, there to see the chief constable, but Pyot and
his men should not be idle the while."
"What is he saying, my dear?" murmured Mistress Lambert, timorously, as
she clung with pathetic fervor to the young girl beside her, "what is
"Where is your nephew Adam?" said de Chavasse roughly.
"I do not know," she retorted with amazing strength of voice, as she
gently but firmly disengaged herself from the restraining arms that
would have kept her back. "I do not know," she repeated, "what is it to
thee, where he is? Art accusing him perchance of doing away with that
Her voice rose shrill and resonant, echoing in the low-ceilinged room;
her pale eyes, dimmed with many tears, with hard work, and harder piety
were fixed upon the man who had dared to accuse her lad.
He tried not to flinch before that gaze, to keep up the air of mockery,
the sound of a sneer. Outside the murmur of voices had become somewhat
louder, the shuffling of bare feet on the flag-stones could now be
THE VOICE OF THE DEAD
The next moment a timid knock against the front door caused everyone to
start. A strange eerie feeling descended on the hearts of all, of
innocent and of guilty, of accuser and of defender. The knock seemed to
have come from spectral hands, for 'twas followed by no further sound.
Then again the knock.
Lambert went to the door and opened it.
"Be the quality here?" queried a timid voice.
"Squire Boatfield is here and Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse," replied
Lambert, "what is it, Mat? Come in."
The squire had risen at sound of his name, and now went to the door,
glad enough to shake himself free from that awful oppression which hung
on the cottage like a weight of evil.
"What is it, Mat?" he asked.
A man in rough shirt and coarse breeches and with high boots reaching up
to the thigh was standing humbly in the doorway. He was bareheaded and
his lanky hair, wet with rain and glittering with icy moisture, was
blown about by the gale. At sight of the squire he touched his forelock.
"The hour is getting late, squire," he said hesitatingly, "we carriers
be ready.... 'Tis an hour or more down to Minster ... walking with a
heavy burden I mean.... If your Honor would give the order, mayhap we
might nail down the coffin lid now and make a start."
Marmaduke de Chavasse, too, had turned towards the doorway. Both men
looked out on the little crowd which had congregated beyond the little
gate. It was long past three o'clock now, and the heavy snow clouds
overhead obscured the scanty winter light, and precipitated the approach
of evening. In the gray twilight, a group of men could be seen standing
somewhat apart from the others. All were bareheaded, and all wore rough
shirts and breeches of coarse worsted, drab or brown in color, toning in
with the dull monochrome of the background.
Between them in the muddy road stood the long deal coffin. The sheet
which covered it, rendered heavy with persistent wet, flapped dismally
against the wooden sides of the box. Overhead a group of rooks were
circling whilst uttering their monotonous call.
A few women had joined their men-folk, attracted by the novelty of the
proceedings, yielding their momentary comfort to their feeling of
curiosity. They had drawn their kirtles over their heads and looked like
gigantic oval balls, gray or black, with small mud-stained feet peeping
Sue had thrown an appealing look at Squire Boatfield, when she saw that
dismal cortege. Her husband, her prince! the descendant of the Bourbons,
the regenerator of France lying there--unrecognizable, horrible and
loathsome--in a rough wooden coffin hastily nailed together by a village
She did not wish to look on him: and with mute eyes begged the squire to
spare her and to spare the old woman, who, through the doorway had
caught sight of the drabby little crowd, and of the deal box on the
Lambert, too, at sight of the cortege had gone to the Quakeress, the
kind soul who had cared for him and his brother, two nameless lads,
without home save the one she had provided for them. He trusted in
Squire Boatfield's sense of humanity not to force this septuagenarian to
an effort of nerve and will altogether beyond her powers.
Together the two young people were using gentle persuasion to get the
old woman to the back room, whence she could not see the dreary scene
now or presently, the slow winding of the dismal little procession down
the road which leads to Minster, and whence she could not hear that
weird flapping of the wet sheet against the side of the coffin, an echo
to the slow and muffled tolling of the church bell some little distance
But the old woman was obstinate. She struggled against the persuasion of
young arms. Things had been said in her cottage just now, which she must
hear more distinctly: vague accusations had been framed, a cruel and
sneering laugh had echoed through the house from whence one of her
"No! no!" she said with quiet firmness, as Lambert urged her to
withdraw, "let be, lad ... let be ... ye cannot deceive the old woman
all of ye.... The Lord hath put wool in my ears, so I cannot hear ...
but my eyes are good.... I can see your faces.... I can read them....
Speak man!" she said, as she suddenly disengaged herself from Richard's
restraining arms and walked deliberately up to Marmaduke de Chavasse,
"speak man.... Didst thou accuse Adam?"
An involuntary "No!" escaped from the squire's kindly heart and lips.
But Sir Marmaduke shrugged his shoulders.
The crisis which by his own acts, by his own cowardice, he himself had
precipitated, was here now. Fatality had overtaken him. Whether the
whole truth would come to light he did not know. Truly at this moment he
hardly cared. He did not feel as if he were himself, but another being
before whom stood another Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse, on whom he--a
specter, a ghoul, a dream figure--was about to pass judgment.
He knew that he need do nothing now, for without his help or any effort
on his part, that morbid curiosity which had racked his brain for two
days would be fully satisfied. He would know absolutely now, exactly
what everyone thought of the mysterious French prince and of his
terrible fate on Epple sands.
Thank Satan and all his hordes of devils that heavy chalk boulders had
done so complete a work of obliteration.
But whilst he looked down with complete indifference on the old woman,
she looked about from one face to the other, trying to read what cruel
thoughts of Adam lurked behind those obvious expressions of sympathy.
"So that foreign devil hath done mischief at last," she now said loudly,
her tremulous voice gaining in strength as she spoke, "the Lord would
not allow him to do it living ... so the devil hath helped him to it now
that he is dead.... But I tell you that Adam is innocent.... There was
no harm in the lad ... a little rough at times ... but no harm ... he'd
no father to bring him up ... and his mother was a wanton ... so there
was only the foolish old woman to look after the boys ... but there's no
harm in the lad ... there's no harm!"
Her voice broke down now in a sob, her throat seemed choked, but with an
effort which seemed indeed amazing in one of her years, she controlled
her tears, and for a moment was silent. The gray twilight crept in
through the door of the cottage, where Mat, bareheaded and humble, still
waited for the order to go.
Sir Marmaduke would have interrupted the old woman's talk ere this, but
his limbs were now completely paralyzed: he might have been made of
stone, so rigid did he feel himself to be: a marble image, or else a
specter, a shadow-figure that existed yet could not move.
There was such passionate earnestness in the old woman's words that
everyone else remained dumb. Richard, whose heart was filled with dread,
who had endured agonies of anxiety since the disappearance of his
brother, had but one great desire, which was to spare to the kind soul a
knowledge which would mean death or worse to her.
As for Editha de Chavasse, she was a mere spectator still: so puzzled,
so bewildered that she was quite convinced at this moment, that she must
be mad. She could not encounter Marmaduke's eyes, try how she might. The
look in his face horrified her less than it mystified her. She
alone--save the murderer himself--knew that the man who lay in that deal
coffin out there was not the mysterious foreigner who had never existed.
But if not the stranger, then who was it, who was dead? and what had
Adam Lambert to do with the whole terrible deed?
Sue once more tried to lead Mistress Lambert gently away, but she pushed
the young girl aside quite firmly: