From the dungeon came the sound of a shrill voice indulging in abusive language. A few moments later and the narrow door was flung violently open. Vivian Paslow came out quietly enough, and was followed by a bent, dried-up ape of a man who was purple with fury. The contrast between the money-lender and his client was most marked. Alpenny was the missing link itself, and Vivian appeared beside him like one of a higher and more human race. Without taking any notice of the furious old creature, he walked towards the startled Beatrice and shook her by the hand.
"Good-bye, Miss Hedge," he said loudly; then suddenly sank his voice to a hurried whisper. "Meet me to-night at seven, under the Witches' Oak."
"Leave my place!" cried Alpenny, hobbling up, to interrupt this leave-taking; "you shall not speak to her."The little one she knew to be the key of the postern gate, and without hesitation she took it down and slipped it into her pocket. As and no very pleasant expression of countenance, she felt that she would at least be able to see Vivian Paslow on that evening without arousing the suspicions of her stepfather. It was unlikely that any one would come that night, and he would not miss the key, which she could get Durban to replace the next day. As this thought flashed into her mind, she saw the face of the servant at the door. He looked puzzled, but probably that was because he beheld her in the sanctum of his master, hitherto forbidden ground both to him and to her. The next moment Alpenny had closed the door, and Durban went away.
"This telegram is from Major Ruck," said Alpenny. "He is coming down on Saturday, so be ready to receive him."
"I shall leave the place if he comes."
"You won't: you'll wait and see him--and accept him also. If you don't, I'll make things hot for Vivian Paslow."
This was, as Beatrice conceived, a game of bluff; so she replied boldly enough, "Mr. Paslow is able to look after himself. I decline to speak to Major Ruck, whosoever he may be, or even to see him."
"Saturday! Saturday!" said Alpenny coldly, and opened the door. "Now you can go. If you leave The Camp, or if you refuse Ruck as your husband, Vivian Paslow will reap the reward of his crimes." And he pushed her out, locking the door after her with a sharp click.
Crimes! Beatrice stood in the sunlight, stunned and dazed. What did Alpenny mean? What crimes could the man she loved have committed? Almost before she could collect her thoughts she felt a light touch on her shoulder, and turned to behold Durban.
"Wasn't master in his counting-house all this afternoon?" asked the servant. "You should know, missy, as the parlour is opposite."