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pots was ranged, with wide intervals between
each pot; the whole being protected from falling,
in high winds, by an ornamental iron railing
along the edge of the roof.

The plan which had now occurred to me was
to get out, at my sitting-room window, on to
this roof; to creep along noiselessly, till I
reached that part of it which was immediately
over the library window; and to crouch down
between the flower-pots, with my ear against the
outer railing. If Sir Percival and the Count
sat and smoked to-night, as I had seen them
sitting and smoking many nights before, with
their chairs close at the open window, and their
feet stretched on the zinc garden seats which
were placed under the verandah, every word they
said to each other above a whisper (and no long
conversation, as we all know by experience, can
be carried on in a whisper) must inevitably reach
my ears. If, on the other hand, they chose,
tonight, to sit far back inside the room, then, the
chances were, that I should hear little or nothing;
and, in that case, I must run the far more
serious risk of trying to outwit them down stairs.

Strongly as I was fortified in my resolution
by the desperate nature of our situation, I
hoped most fervently that I might escape this
last emergency. My courage was only a
woman's courage, after all; and it was very near to
failing me, when I thought of trusting myself on
the ground floor, at the dead of night, within
reach of Sir Percival and the Count.

I went softly back to my bedroom, to try
the safer experiment of the verandah roof, first.

A complete change in my dress was imperatively
necessary, for many reasons. I took off
my silk gown to begin with, because the slightest
noise from it, on that still night, might have
betrayed me. I next removed the white and
cumbersome parts of my underclothing, and replaced
them by a petticoat of dark flannel. Over this,
I put my black travelling cloak and pulled the
hood on to my head. In my ordinary evening
costume, I took up the room of three men at
least. In my present dress, when it was held close
about me, no man could have passed through the
narrowest spaces more easily than I. The little
breadth left on the roof of the verandah,
between the flower-pots on one side, and the wall
and windows of the house on the other, made
this a serious consideration. If I knocked
anything down, if I made the least noise, who could
say what the consequences might be?

I only waited to put the matches near the
candle, before I extinguished it, and groped my
way back into the sitting-room. I locked that
door, as I had locked my bedroom door- then
quietly got out of the window, and cautiously
set my feet on the leaden roof of the verandah.
My two rooms were at the inner extremity of
the new wing of the house in which we all lived;
and I had five windows to pass, before I could
reach the position it was necessary to take up
immediately over the library. The first window
belonged to a spare room, which was empty.
The second and third windows belonged to
Laura's room. The fourth window belonged to
Sir Percival's room. The fifth, belonged to the
Countess's room. The others, by which it was
not necessary for me to pass, were the windows
of the Count's dressing-room, of the bath-room,
and of the second empty spare-room.

No sound reached my ears- the black blinding
darkness of the night was all round me when I
first stood on the verandah, except at that part
of it which Madame Fosco's window overlooked.
There, at the very place above the library, to
which my course was directed- there, I saw a
gleam of light! The Countess was not yet in bed.

It was too late to draw back; it was no
time to wait. I determined to go on at all
hazards, and trust for security to my own caution
and to the darkness of the night. " For Laura's
sake!" I thought to myself, as I took the first
step forward on the roof, with one hand holding
my cloak close round me, and the other groping
against the wall of the house. It was better to
brush close by the wall, than to risk striking my
feet against the flower-pots within a few inches
of me, on the other side.

I passed the dark window of the spare-room,
trying the leaden roof, at each step, with my foot,
before I risked resting my weight on it. I passed
the dark windows of Laura's room (" God bless
her and keep her to-night!"). I passed the dark
window of Sir Percival's room. Then, I waited a
moment, knelt down, with my hands to support
me; and so crept to my position, under the
protection of the low wall between the bottom of
the lighted window and the verandah roof.

When I ventured to look up at the window
itself, I found that the top of it only was open,
and that the blind inside was drawn down. While
I was looking, I saw the shadow of Madame
Fosco pass across the white field of the blind-
then pass slowly back again. Thus far, she
could not have heard me- or the shadow would
surely have stopped at the blind, even if she
had wanted courage enough to open the window,
and look out?

I placed myself sideways against the railing of
the verandah; first ascertaining, by touching
them, the position of the flower-pots on either
side of me. There was room enough for me to
sit between them, and no more. The sweet-
scented leaves of the flower on my left hand,
just brushed my cheek as I lightly rested my
head against the railing.

The first sounds that reached me from below
were caused by the opening or closing (most
probably the latter) of three doors in succession
- the doors, no doubt, leading into the hall,
and into the rooms on each side of the library,
which the Count had pledged himself to examine.
The first object that I saw was the red spark
again travelling out into the night, from under
the verandah; moving away towards my
window; waiting a moment; and then returning
to the place from which it had set out.

"The devil take your restlessness! When
do you mean to sit down?" growled Sir
Percival's voice beneath me.

"Ouf! how hot it is!" said the Count, sighing
and puffing wearily.