“The people are angry and they will become desperate. Their interests are mine, of course. I am perfectly sincere in saying to you, Lady Deppingham, and to you, Mr. Browne, that in time they will win out against you in the courts. But they are impatient; they are not the kind who can wait and be content. It is impossible for you to carry out the provisions of the will, and they know it. That is why they resent the delays that are impending.”
Deppingham told him of the scheme proposed by Saunders, treating it as a vast joke. Chase showed a momentary sign of uneasiness, but covered it instantly by laughing with the others. Strange to say, he had been instructed from London to look out for just such a coup on the part of the heirs. Not that the marriage could be legally established, but that it might create a complication worth avoiding.
He could not help looking from Lady Deppingham to Bobby Browne, a calculating gleam in his grey eyes. How very dangerous she could be! He was quite ready to feel very sorry for pretty Mrs. Browne. Browne, of course, revealed no present symptom of surrender to the charms of his co-legatee. Later on, he was to recall this bit of calculation and to enlarge upon it from divers points of view.
Just now he was enjoying himself for the first time since his arrival in Japat. He sat opposite to the Princess; his eyes were refreshing themselves after months of fatigue; his blood was coursing through new veins. And yet, his head was calling his heart a fool.
THE PRINCESS GOES GALLOPING
A week passed—an interesting week in which few things happened openly, but in which the entire situation underwent a subtle but complete change. The mail steamer had come and gone. It brought disconcerting news from London. Chase was obliged to tell the islanders that notice of a contest had been filed. The lineal heirs had pooled their issues and were now fighting side by side. The matter would be in chancery for months, even years. He could almost feel the gust of rage and disappointment that swept over the island—although not a word came from the lips of the sullen population. The very silence was foreboding.
He did not visit the chateau during that perplexing week. It was hard, but he resolutely kept to the path of duty, disdaining the pleasures that beckoned to him. Every day he saw and talked with Britt and Saunders. They, as well as the brisk Miss Pelham, gave him the “family news” from the chateau. Saunders, when he was not moping with the ague of love, indulged in rare exhibitions of joy over the turn affairs were taking with his client and Bobby Browne. It did not require extraordinary keenness on Chase’s part to gather that her ladyship and Browne had suddenly decided to engage in what he would call a mild flirtation, but what Saunders looked upon as a real attack of love.