“I’m damned if I do!” roared the perspiring obstacle. “I’m not so obliging as that, let me tell you. If it comes to that, what sort of an ass do they think I’d be to come away out here to pass away? London’s good enough for any man to die in.”
“You are not going to die, Deppy,” said his wife consolingly. “Unless you starve to death,” she supplemented with an expressive moue.
“I daresay you’ll find a quantity of tinned meats and vegetables in the storehouse, my lady. You can’t starve until the supply gives out. American tinned meats,” vouchsafed Mr. Bowles with his best English grimace.
“Come along, Aggy,” said her liege lord resignedly. “Let’s have a look about the place.”
Mr. Saunders met them at the grand entrance. He announced that four of the native servants had been found, dead drunk, in the wine cellar.
“They can’t move, sir. We thought they were dead.”
“Keep ’em in that condition, for the good Lord’s sake,” exclaimed Deppingham. “We’ll make sure of four servants, even if we have to keep ’em drunk for six months.”
“Good day, your lordship—my lady,” said Bowles, edging away. “Perhaps I can intercede for you when their solicitor comes on. He’s due to-morrow, I hear. It is possible that he may advise at least a score of the servants to return.”
“Send him up to me as soon as he lands,” commanded Deppingham calmly.
“Very good, sir,” said Mr. Bowles.
THE BROWNES ARRIVE
Contrary to all expectations, the Brownes arrived the next morning. The Deppinghams and their miserably frightened servants were scarcely out of bed when Saunders came in with the news that a steamer was standing off the shallow harbour. Bowles had telephoned up that the American claimant was on board.
Lady Agnes and her husband had not slept well. They heard noises from one end of the night to the other, and they were most unusual noises at that. The maids had flatly refused to sleep in the servants’ wing, fully a block away, so they were given the next best suite of rooms on the floor, quite cutting off every chance the Brownes may have had for choice of apartments. Pong howled all night long, but his howls were as nothing compared to the screams of night birds in the trees close by.
The deepest gloom pervaded the household when Lady Deppingham discovered that not one of their retinue knew how to make coffee or broil bacon. Not that she cared for bacon, but that his lordship always asked for it when they did not have it. The evening before they had philosophically dined on tinned food. She brewed a delightful tea, and Antoine opened three or four kinds of wine. Altogether it was not so bad. But in the morning! Everything looked different in the morning. Everything always does, one way or another.
Bromley upset the last peg of endurance by hoping that the Americans were bringing a cook and a housemaid with them.