“What do you intend to do?” inquired Holcomb, staring grimly at the ground.
“I’m going to give madame a chance—she’s a fool, but she’s not crooked; that is, I don’t think she is,” Blakeman replied. “Then I’ll speak out.”
“Do you think Mr. Thayor suspects anything?” asked Holcomb, after a moment’s hesitation.
“He’s not that kind. I dare not tell him—never in the world would tell him. You might—he would listen to you. Butlers are seldom believed—I’ve tried it.”
He gathered up the pair of fat partridges and stuffed them in his pocket.
“And you advise me to tell him?” asked Holcomb slowly.
“No,” returned Blakeman, “I don’t. It would go hard with him and Miss Margaret; he’s had hell enough in his life already; he’s happy now—so is Miss Margaret. It’s not always you find two people happy in the same family.” He buttoned the collar of his shooting coat about his neck, for the sun was burning below the edge of the forest and with its last rays the woods grew still and cold. “I propose to watch madame and find out whether she is bad or whether she’s only losing her head,” said Blakeman, as he rose to go. “Mind you do the same—mind you promise me you will.”
Blakeman had lifted his mask. Holcomb saw in him no longer the suave, trained domestic, but a man of intelligence—a man with a heart and a wide experience in a world which he as yet knew but little of.
“You can count on me,” said Holcomb, as he straightened to his feet.
Blakeman rested his gun in the hollow of his arm.
“We must be going,” he said, “or I shall be late for my table. Have you a short cut home in your memory?”
“Come on,” said Holcomb, and the two disappeared in the thick timber.
The next morning Thayor handed Alice a telegram. It was from Jack Randall, accepting Sam’s invitation to visit him.
“I am so glad he’s coming!” he exclaimed, rubbing his hands in delight. “Jack is a host in himself. Ah, that was a good idea of mine, dear—splendid idea! I want Holcomb to dine with us, of course, while Randall is here over Sunday; it’s a pity he can’t stay longer.” Thayor had not said a word to her about his “idea” until he had shown her Randall’s acceptance.
Alice said nothing, except to remark that she would be glad to see Mr. Randall again—he was always so amusing; she did not relish the idea of Holcomb sharing their table during his visit. She wondered whether Thayor was paying her back for the many she had given without consulting him.
“Who do you think is coming?” exclaimed Margaret, who had run over to Holcomb’s cabin to tell him the news that afternoon; “nice Jack Randall!” she cried before he could even begin to think.
Holcomb opened his eyes in surprise.
“Father said you had met him at The Players,” added Margaret.