A beautiful starlit night had followed on the day of incessant rain: a cool, balmy, late summers night, essentially English in its suggestion of moisture and scent of wet earth and dripping leaves.
The magnificent coach, drawn by four of the finest thoroughbreds in England, had driven off along the London road, with Sir Percy Blakeney on the box, holding the reins in his slender feminine hands, and beside him Lady Blakeney wrapped in costly furs. A fifty-mile drive on a starlit summers night! Marguerite had hailed the notion of it with delight . Sir Percy was an enthusiastic whip; his four thoroughbreds, which had been sent down to Dover a couple of days before, were just sufficiently fresh and restive to add zest to the expedition, and Marguerite revelled in anticipation of the few hours of solitude, with the soft night breeze fanning her cheeks, her thoughts wandering, whither away? She knew from old experience that Sir Percy would speak little, if at all: he had often driven her on his beautiful coach for hours at night, from point to point, without making more than one or two casual remarks upon the weather or the state of the roads. He was very fond of driving by night, and she had very quickly adopted his fancy: as she sat next to him hour after hour, admiring the dexterous, certain way in which he handled the reins, she often wondered what went on in that slow-going head of his. He never told her, and she had never cared to ask.
At The Fishermans Rest Mr. Jellyband was going the round, putting out the lights. His bar customers had all gone, but upstairs in the snug little bedrooms, Mr. Jellyband had quite a few important guests: the Comtesse de Tournay, with Suzanne, and the Vicomte, and there were two more bedrooms ready for Sir Andrew Ffoulkes and Lord Antony Dewhurst, if the two young men should elect to honour the ancient hostelry and stay the night.
For the moment these two young gallants were comfortably installed in the coffee-room, before the huge log-fire, which, in spite of the mildness of the evening, had been allowed to burn merrily.
I say, Jelly, has everyone gone? asked Lord Tony, as the worthy landlord still busied himself clearing away glasses and mugs.
Everyone, as you see, my lord.
And all your servants gone to bed?
All except the boy on duty in the bar, and, added Mr. Jellyband with a laugh, I expect hell be asleep afore long, the rascal.
Then we can talk here undisturbed for half an hour?
At your service, my lord . Ill leave your candles on the dresser and your rooms are quite ready I sleep at the top of the house myself, but if your lordshipll only call loudly enough, I daresay I shall hear.
All right, Jelly and I say, put the lamp outthe firell give us all the light we needand we dont want to attract the passer-by.
All ri, my lord.
Mr. Jellyband did as he was bidhe turned out the quaint old lamp that hung from the raftered ceiling and blew out all the candles.
Lets have a bottle of wine, Jelly, suggested Sir Andrew.
All ri, sir!
Jellyband went off to fetch the wine. The room now was quite dark, save for the circle of ruddy and fitful light formed by the brightly blazing logs in the hearth.
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