The key was in her pocket, and she could slip out of the small gate for an hour, and get back again without Alpenny being any the wiser. Already a light gleamed from the solitary window of the dungeon, as it had gleamed ever since she could remember when the darkness came on. Behind the discoloured blind the miser laboured at his books, and counted his gains. So far as she knew all his money was banked and invested, and he kept no gold in the dungeon. Perhaps he feared robbery; and it really was remarkable that, seeing he was supposed to be a millionaire, The Camp had never been marked by the fraternity of London thieves. A visit there would surely have proved successful, if all the tales of Alpenny were to be believed. But perhaps the thieves had heard, as the miser had vaguely hinted, of his cleverness in keeping no specie in his retirement. But be this as it may, Alpenny, all these years, had never hinted at a possible burglary.
After a glance at the Downs and at Alpenny's lighted window, behind which he would sit until midnight, Beatrice entered one of the winding paths in the little wood and took her way to the gate. The large gates were locked, and Alpenny alone possessed the key; but she could open the smaller gate, and now proceeded to do so.
The lock was freshly oiled, and the postern swung open noiselessly. Standing on the threshold within The Camp, Beatrice paused for a moment. Some feeling seemed to hold her back. Into her mind flashed the sudden thought that if she went out, she would leave behind her not only The Camp, but the old serene life. It was like crossing the Rubicon; but with an impatient ejaculation at her own weakness, she shook herself and passed out, leaving the gate locked behind her. Then she stole through the glimmering wood, fully committed to the adventure. As she did so, a distant growl of thunder seemed to her agitated mind like the voice of the angel thrusting her out of Paradise. Truly, she had never before felt in this strange mood.
By a narrow path she gained the lane, and here the light was a trifle stronger, although it was rapidly dying out of the hot, close sky. It was close upon half-past six, so Beatrice knew that if she ' Oak almost at the time appointed. Owing to the late hour of starting she had quite given up the idea of going to Convent Grange, which was two miles away. She would meet Vivian, as she now arranged in her own mind, at the Witches' Oak, and would ask for an explanation. When he gave it, she could return rapidly to The Camp escorted by him; then slipping in, she would be able to say good-night to Alpenny at ten o'clock, and go to bed. For a moment, she wondered if Durban would return that night, or stop in town. If he came back, he would be angry if he found that she had left The Camp unattended and in the twilight. But she would be in bed even if Durban did return, and then she could decide whether to tell him or not. Also, the chances were that as he had gone to town so late he would remain there till the next morning to execute Alpenny's business, whatever that might be.