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Chapter Thirty-Seven

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Author Topic: Chapter Thirty-Seven  (Read 33 times)
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« on: June 13, 2023, 12:29:43 pm »

THE car ran smoothly down the dark road. Loveday watched the darkness flow past. She felt as if she were flying, as if the excitement which possessed her were bearing her up like wings, up and on to some place which she couldn’t see. She had never felt so thrilled in her life.

The suitcase was on the seat beside her, and Hélène’s book was in the suitcase, and the plans---Minstrel’s plans---Hugo’s plans---were in the book. She had carried them off under their very noses---yes, under Hélène’s very own powdered nose; and she was getting away with them in Hélène’s own car, specially provided because Hélène wanted to get rid of her before Hugo came. It was frightfully funny.

What was she going to do about the plans? Hugo must have hidden them in the flute---and he wouldn’t have done that if they hadn’t been simply frightfully important. She wanted terribly to know what had been happening. Hélène had gone off---to London---no, of course it wasn’t London really---Hélène had gone off to the place that horrid Hacker had told her to go to when he had said she must be sure to be punctual. Well, anyway Hélène had gone---and she had been away for hours---and when she came back she had Hugo’s flute---and she was making pretty sure that Hugo would follow her---that was why she had sent Loveday away.

Loveday sat up quivering with impatience. At first she had only thought of getting away with the papers; now she began to think about Hugo arriving at Torring House---he might be getting there at this very minute---he might be there now. Every moment she and the plans were being carried farther away.

All the bubbling pleasure went out of her. If Hugo had had the papers and lost them, that horrid Hacker might be able to hurt him. She must give the papers back to him before anything dreadful happened---she simply must.

They had run about two miles, when the car slowed down and stopped. Loveday looked out. There was a red lamp ahead of them, and from away on the right came the chuffing sound of a train.

The chauffeur looked round.

“It’s the level crossing, miss. The train’s just coming in---we shan’t be long.”

Loveday sat back again. An idea had come into her mind like a flash of light. It wasn’t there just before she saw the red lamp, but it was there quite bright and clear by the time Albert Green was saying “miss.” She sat back and pulled the suitcase towards her. Thank goodness it was Albert who was driving, and not the thin, dark foreign chauffeur who had taken Hélène to London; he had sharp eyes that frightened her a little. But Albert was just a bun-faced Ledlington boy. Loveday wasn’t the least bit afraid of Albert.

She felt for the book that held the plans, folded the papers up as tight as they would go, and pushed them well down inside the pocket of her coat. Then she turned the handle of the door on her left and waited.

The train puffed into the station and left the crossing clear. The gates began to move, and just as Albert let in the clutch, Loveday opened the door and slipped out into the road.

She watched the red tail-light get smaller and smaller as the car receded, and then, turning, began to run back along the road by which she had just come. When she had run a little way she walked, and when she had walked a little she ran again.

Two miles is a long way at night on a lightless road. Loveday didn’t like the dark; the trees made rustling noises overhead, things creaked in the hedgerows, and the sound of her own feet frightened her. She stopped running because she felt as if everyone must hear the sound of her feet. And then she laughed, because there wasn’t anyone to hear. There were empty woods, and empty fields, and an empty lonely road. She stopped laughing. It was very dark and very lonely, and she didn’t like it.

She was panting a little when she came into the drive that led up to Torring House. It was even darker here than it had been on the road, because the trees hung over it and blotted out the moonless sky. She thought she heard a footstep, and stood still to listen. Then, in a panic, she ran on again. She could see the lights of the house, and she wanted to get closer to them.

Her heart was beating so fast when she stopped that she couldn’t hear anything else, and the more she strained to listen, the less she could hear. From where she stood she could see the fanlight over the hall door. She looked at it, and all at once the door was opened wide.

Antoine had opened it. She could see him with the light shining down on him from the globe immediately over the door. He had opened the door to let someone in. Loveday saw a man’s back, and then she very nearly called out, because just before Antoine shut the door the man turned and she saw his face. And it was Hugo. It was Hugo whose footsteps had frightened her. It was Hugo---and she had missed him.

Albert Green drove on from the level-crossing in a thoroughly pleasant and contented frame of mind. His home was in Ledlington, and as soon as he had dropped Miss Leigh he meant to go round and see his young lady, who lived in the same street. Her name was Maudie Tillett, and she was a very superior young lady. She worked in a milliner’s shop, and it was only since Albert had become second chauffeur at Torring House that Miss Tillett had so far condescended as to accept from him a lady’s dress ring set with pearls and turquoise.

Albert toyed with the idea of taking Maudie for a spin. Maudie hadn’t seen him with the Bentley; and he had a feeling that he would like Maudie see him with the Bentley---Maudie was rather high in her notions. Pleasant thoughts of showing off before Maudie continued to occupy him until he drew up at the gate of Mr. Brown’s villa on the outskirts of Ledlington.

He got down, opened the door, and received a severe shock. The rug was on the floor, and Miss Leigh’s suitcase was on the seat; but Miss Leigh wasn’t anywhere at all. He moved the rug and he moved the suitcase, he walked round the car and returned to the open door and the prospect of a seat occupied only by a suitcase.

When he told Maudie about it a little later, he said he was struck all of a heap. He pushed back his cap and scratched his head. He was not a quick thinker, but when put to it he could “do a bit of thinking.” He told Maudie so. “I dunno where she gave me the slip, and I dunno how she gave me the slip, and if you ask me why she gave me the slip, well, you’re asking me something I can’t tell you. But I can do a bit of thinking if I like, and the longer I got thinking about it, the clearer I could see that I was going to get into trouble over it. And what I said to myself was, ‘Now why should I get into trouble for the like of her? It’s everyone for himself when it comes to a row, and I didn’t ask her to give me the slip.’ So I made up my mind what to do, and I done it, and I’m not telling anyone what I done---only you, Maudie, because I know you’re safe, and it stands to reason you wouldn’t want to get me into a row.”

“That’s right,” said Miss Tillett.

When Albert had finished thinking, he picked up Miss Leigh’s suitcase, tiptoed up the steps with it, and deposited it in the porch just outside the hall door. He then went back to the Bentley and drove away to see Maudie. As far as he was concerned, he had taken Miss Leigh to Laburnum Lodge and left her on the front door step. What had happened to her after that was no concern of his.

He took Maudie for a very pleasant spin.

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