She shot a glance over her shoulder; her eyes were glad; but to the man they were bright merely with the joy of youth that drops glances like sunshine for all alike. Perhaps he would have found pleasure in thinking she appeared gayer for sight of him; but if the thought came, bitterly, peremptorily it was dismissed. Sir Charles’ words rang through his mind; Lord Ronsdale!—John Steele’s hat shaded his eyes; he stopped to pick a small flower from the hedge. When he looked up he saw her face no longer; only the golden hair seemed to flash in his eyes, the beautiful, bright meshes, and the light, slender figure, so graceful, so buoyant, so near he could almost touch it, but moving away, moving from him—
It may be, amid other thoughts, at that moment, he asked himself why he had come. What had driven him to this folly? Why was he stepping on blindly, oblivious of definite plan or policy, like a man walking in the dark? No, not in the dark; all was too bright. He could see but too plainly—her!—felt impelled to draw nearer—
But at that instant, she stepped quickly from the byway into the main road. “There it is,” she said, pointing with a small white finger.
He held himself abruptly back. “What?” fell from his lips.
“The way in, of course,” said the girl.
He moved now at her side; at the entrance, broad, imposing, she paused; a thousand perfumes seemed wafted from the garden; the rustling of myriad wings fell on the senses, like faint cadences of music. The girl made a courtesy; her red lips curved. “Welcome to Strathorn House, Mr. John Steele!” she said gaily.
Within the stately house, near a recessed window at the front, a man stood at that moment, reading a letter handed to him but a short time before. This document, though brief, was absorbing:
“Shall be down to see you soon. Am sending this by private messenger who may be trusted. Case coming on; links nearly all complete. Involve a new and bewildering possibility that I must impart to you personally. Have discovered the purpose of S.’s visit to the continent. It was—”
Lord Ronsdale perused the words more rapidly; paused, on his face an expression of eagerness, expectancy.
“So that was it,” he said to himself slowly. “I might have known—”
Voices without caught his attention; he glanced quickly through the window. Jocelyn Wray and some one else had drawn near, were walking up the marble steps.
“John Steele!” He, Lord Ronsdale, crumpled the paper in his hand. “Here!”
* * * * *
A few days passed; the usual round of pastimes inseparable from house parties served to while away the hours; other guests arrived, one or two went. Lord Ronsdale had greeted John Steele perfunctorily; the other’s manner was likewise mechanically courteous. It could not very well have been otherwise; a number of people were near.