“And I suppose,” said I, “you will leave her in charge of it when you join the Morays?”
“Ah!” he broke in, with a voice which betrayed his relief: “you are in earnest about that? Yes Elspeth will look after the castle, as she does already. I am just a child in her hand. When a man has one only servant it’s well to have her devoted.” Seeing my look of surprise, he added, “I don’t count old Duncan, her husband; for he’s half-witted, and only serves to break the plates. Does it surprise you to learn that, barring him, Elspeth is my only retainer?”
“H’m,” said I, considerably puzzled—I must explain why.
* * * * *
I am by training an extraordinarily light sleeper; yet nothing had disturbed me during the night until at dawn my brother knocked at the door and entered, ready dressed.
“Hullo!” he exclaimed, “are you responsible for this?” and he pointed to a chair at the foot of the bed where lay, folded in a neat pile, not only the clothes I had tossed down carelessly overnight, but the suit in which I had arrived. He picked up this latter, felt it, and handed it to me. It was dry, and had been carefully brushed.
“Our friend keeps a good valet,” said I; “but the queer thing is that, in a strange room, I didn’t wake. I see he has brought hot water too.”
“Look here,” my brother asked: “did you lock your door?”
“Why, of course not—the more by token that it hasn’t a key.”
“Well,” said he, “mine has, and I’ll swear I used it; but the same thing has happened to me!”
This, I tried to persuade him, was impossible; and for the while he seemed convinced. “It must be,” he owned; “but if I didn’t lock that door I’ll never swear to a thing again in all my life.”
* * * * *
The young Laird’s remark set me thinking of this, and I answered after a pause, “In one of the pair, then, you possess a remarkably clever valet.”
It so happened that, while I said it, my eyes rested, without the least intention, on the sleeve of his shooting-coat; and the words were scarcely out before he flushed hotly and made a motion as if to hide a neatly mended rent in its cuff. In another moment he would have retorted, and was indeed drawing himself up in anger, when I prevented him by adding—
“I mean that I am indebted to him or to her this morning for a neatly brushed suit; and I suppose to your freeness in plying me with wine last night that it arrived in my room without waking me. But for that I could almost set it down to the supernatural.”
I said this in all simplicity, and was quite unprepared for its effect upon him, or for his extraordinary reply. He turned as white in the face as, a moment before, he had been red. “Good God!” he said eagerly, “you haven’t missed anything, have you?”
“Certainly not,” I assured him. “My dear sir—”