“It came a short time ago, my Lord!”
John Steele heard; his glance flashed toward Ronsdale. The telegram, then, had been for—? He saw an inscrutable smile cross the nobleman’s face.
“Any more aspirants?” the military man called out.
“Only myself left,” observed Sir Charles. “And I resign the privilege!”
“Then,” said the girl, standing somewhat apart with John Steele, near one of the great open windows, “must you, Mr. Steele, be proclaimed victor?”
“Victor!” He looked down. Between them bright colors danced, reflections of hues from the old stained glass above; they shone like red roses fallen from her lap at his feet. For a moment he continued to regard them; then slowly gazed up to the soft colored gown, to the beautiful young face, the hair that shone brightly against the background of branches and twigs, gleaming with watery drops like thousands of gems. “Victor!” He—
A door closed quietly as Lord Ronsdale went out.
* * * * *
WAYS AND MEANS
The afternoon of that same day there arrived at the village of Strathorn from London a discreet-looking little man who, descending at the Golden Lion, was shown to a private sitting-room on the second story. Calling for a half-pint from the best tap and casually surveying the room, he settled himself in a chair with an air of nonchalance, which a certain eagerness in his eyes seemed to belie.
“Any mail or message for me, landlord?” he inquired, giving his name, when that worthy reappeared with the tankard.
“Nor any callers?”
“None that I’ve heard of—” A sound of wheels at that moment interrupted; the landlord went to the window. “Why, it’s his lordship,” he remarked. “And such weather to be out in!” as a sudden gust of rain beat against the pane. “Lord Ronsdale who is staying at Strathorn House,” he explained for the stranger’s benefit. “And he’s coming in!”
The host hurried to the door but already a footstep was heard on the stairway and the voice of the nobleman inquiring for the new-comer’s room.
“Right up this way! The gentleman is in here, your Lordship,” called down the landlord. Lord Ronsdale mounted leisurely and entered the room.
“I didn’t expect to have the honor of a call from your lordship,” said the guest of the Golden Lion, bowing low. “If your lordship had indicated to me his pleasure—”
The nobleman whipped a greatcoat from his shoulders and tossed it to the landlord. “Was coming to the village on another little matter, and thought I might as well drop in and see you,” he observed to the guest, “instead of waiting for you to come to Strathorn House. You have the stock-lists and market prices with you?” he queried meaningly. The other answered in the affirmative. “Very good, we will consider the matter, and—you may go, landlord.”