She looked at him in speechless amazement. He certainly looked strangely weird in the semi-darkness with his lanky hair plastered against his cheeks, his collar half torn from round his neck, the dripping, oily substance flowing in rivulets from his garments down upon the ground.
The girl had no longer any desire to laugh, and when Master Busy strode majestically across the rustic bridge, then over the garden paths to the kitchen quarter of the house, she followed him without a word, awed by his extraordinary utterances, vaguely feeling that in his dripping garments he somehow reminded her of Jonah and the whale.
The pavilion had been built some fifty years ago, by one of the Spantons of Acol who had a taste for fanciful architecture.
It had been proudly held by several deceased representatives of the family to be the reproduction of a Greek temple. It certainly had columns supporting the portico, and steps leading thence to the ground. It was also circular in shape and was innocent of windows, deriving its sole light from the door, when it was open.
The late Sir Jeremy, I believe, had been very fond of the place. Being of a somewhat morose and taciturn disposition, he liked the seclusion of this lonely corner of the park. He had a chair or two put into the pavilion and ’twas said that he indulged there in the smoking of that fragrant weed which of late had been more generously imported into this country.
After Sir Jeremy’s death, the pavilion fell into disuse. Sir Marmaduke openly expressed his dislike of the forlorn hole, as he was wont to call it. He caused the door to be locked, and since then no one had entered the little building. The key, it was presumed, had been lost; the lock certainly looked rusty. The roof, too, soon fell into disrepair, and no doubt within, the place soon became the prey of damp and mildew, the nest of homing birds, or the lair of timid beasts. Very soon the proud copy of an archaic temple took on that miserable and forlorn look peculiar to uninhabited spots.
From an air of abandonment to that of eeriness was but a step, and now the building towered in splendid isolation, in this remote corner of the park, at the confines of the wood, with a reputation for being the abode of ghosts, of bats and witches, and other evil things.
When Master Busy sought for tracks of imaginary criminals bent on abducting the heiress he naturally drifted to this lonely spot; when Master Courage was bent on whispering sweet nothings into the ear of the other man’s betrothed, he enticed her to that corner of the park where he was least like to meet the heavy-booted saint.
Thus it was that these three met on the one spot where as a rule at a late hour of the evening Prince Amede d’Orleans was wont to commence his wanderings, sure of being undisturbed, and with the final disappearance of Master Busy and Mistress Charity the place was once more deserted.