“Come down for a little sport?” the nobleman, his hands carelessly thrust into the pockets of his shooting trousers, had asked with a frosty smile.
“Perhaps—if there is any!” Steele allowed his glance for the fraction of a moment to linger on Lord Ronsdale’s face.
“I’ll answer for that.” A slight pause ensued. “Decided rather suddenly to run down, didn’t you?”
“Heard you were on the continent. From Sir Charles, don’t you know. Pleasant time, I trust?” he drawled.
“Thank you!” John Steele did not answer directly. “Your solicitude,” he laughed, “honors me—my Lord!”
And that had been all, all the words spoken, at least. To the others there had been nothing beneath the surface between them; for the time the two men constituted but two figures in a social gathering.
A rainy spell put a stop to outdoor diversions; for twenty-four hours now the party had been thrown upon their own resources, to devise such indoor amusement as occurred to them. Strathorn House, however, was large; it had its concert stage, a modern innovation; its armory hall and its ball-room. Pleasure seekers could and did find here ample facilities for entertaining themselves.
The second morning of the dark weather discovered two of the guests in the oak-paneled smoking-room of Strathorn House. One of them brushed the ash from his cigar meditatively and then stretched himself more comfortably in the great leather chair.
“No fox-hunt or fishing for any of us to-day,” he remarked with a yawn.
The other, who had been gazing through a window at a prospect of dripping leaves and leaden sky, answered absently; then his attention centered itself on the small figure of a boy coming up through the avenue of trees toward a side entrance.
“Believe I shall run over to Germany very soon, Steele,” went on the first speaker.
“Indeed?” John Steele’s brows drew together; the appearance of the lad was vaguely familiar. He remembered him now, the hostler boy at the Golden Lion.
“Yes; capital case coming on in the criminal courts there.”
“And you don’t want to miss it, Forsythe?”
“Not I! Weakness of mine, as you know. Most people look to novels or plays for entertainment; I find mine in the real drama, unfolded every day in the courts of justice.”
Forsythe paused as if waiting for some comment from his companion, but none came. John Steele watched the boy; he waved a paper in his hand and called with easy familiarity to a housemaid in an open window above:
“Telegram from London, Miss. My master at the Golden Lion said there’d be a sixpence here for delivering it!”
“Well, I’ll be down in a moment, Impudence.”
The silence that followed was again broken by Captain Forsythe’s voice: “There are one or two features in this German affair that remind me of another case, some years back—one of our own—that interested me.”