In the hubbub which immediately followed Lord Walterton’s tirade, Editha de Chavasse beckoned to the florid woman—who seemed to be her henchwoman—and drew her aside to a distant corner of the room, where there were no tables nigh and where the now subdued hum of the voices, mingling with the sound of music on virginal and stringed instruments, made a murmuring noise which effectually drowned the talk between the two women.
“Have you arranged everything, Mistress Endicott?” asked Editha, speaking in a whisper.
“Everything, mistress,” replied the other.
“Perfectly,” said the woman, with perceptible hesitation, “but ...”
“What ails you, mistress?” asked Editha haughtily, noting the hesitation, and frowning with impatience thereat.
“My husband thinks the game too dangerous.”
“I was not aware,” retorted Mistress de Chavasse dryly, “that I had desired Master Endicott’s opinion on the subject.”
“Mayhap not,” rejoined the other, equally dryly, “but you did desire his help in the matter ... and he seems unmindful to give it.”
“I have explained ... the game is too dangerous.”
“Or the payment insufficient?” sneered Editha. “Which is it?”
“Both, mayhap,” assented Mistress Endicott with a careless shrug of her fat shoulders, “the risks are very great. To-night especially....”
“Why especially to-night?”
“Because ever since you have been away from it, this house—though we did our best to make it seem deserted—hath been watched—of that I feel very sure.... My Lord Protector’s watchmen have a suspicion of our ... our evening entertainments ... and I doubt not but that they desire to see for themselves how our guests enjoy themselves these nights.”
“Well?” rejoined Editha lightly. “What of that?”
“As you know, we did not play for nigh on twelve months now.... Endicott thought it too dangerous ... and to-night ...”
She checked herself abruptly, for Editha had turned an angry face and flashing eyes upon her.
“To-night?” said Mistress de Chavasse curtly, but peremptorily, “what of to-night? ... I sent you orders from Thanet that I wished the house opened to-night ... Lord Walterton, Sir James Overbury and as many of our usual friends as were in the town, apprised that play would be in full progress.... Meseems,” she added, casting a searching look all round the room, “that we have singularly few players.”