Other voices, loud, merry, coming from one of the open French windows interrupted.
“Jocelyn!” They called to her; faces looked out. “Jocelyn!”
“Yes!” She was walking rapidly from him now, a laugh, a little forced, on her lips.
On the balcony a number of persons appeared. “A cotillion! We’re going to have a cotillion; that is, if you—”
“Of course, if you wish.” The gay group surrounded her; light, heedless voices mingled; then she, all of them, vanished into the ball-room.
John Steele moved slowly down the stone steps leading to the garden below. One thought vibrated in his mind. Sir Charles had erred when he told him that day in the park of his niece and Ronsdale. Perhaps because the wish was father to the thought—But the girl’s own assurance dispelled all doubts and fears. He, John Steele, had been mistaken. Those were her words, “Mistaken!”
He could go away now, gladly, gladly! No; not that, perhaps; but he could go. If need be,—far from England; never to be seen, heard of, more by her. He could go, and she would never know she had honored by her friendship, had sheltered beneath her roof, one who—As he walked down the dimly lighted path somebody—a man—standing under the trees, at one side, at that moment touched his arm.
“I should like to speak with you, sir!” said a voice, and turning with a quick jerk, Steele saw the familiar features of Gillett, the former police agent; behind him, other men.
“What do you want?”
The Scotland Yard man coughed significantly. “Out here is a nice, quiet place for a word, or so,” he said in his blandest manner. “And if you will be so good—”
John Steele’s reply was as emphatic as it was sudden; he had been dreaming; the awakening had come. A glint like lightning flashed from his eyes; well, here was something tangible to be grappled with! A laugh burst from his throat; with the quickness of thought he launched himself forward.
* * * * *
THE PRINCESS SUITE
A House maid, some time later that night, moved noiselessly over the heavy rugs in the boudoir of the princess suite, next to armory hall on the second story of Strathorn House. Glancing nervously about her from time to time, the woman trimmed a candle here and set another there; then lifted with ponderous brass tongs a few coals and placed them on the smoldering bed in the delicately tinted fireplace. After which she stood before it in the attitude of one who is waiting though not with stolid and undisturbed patience.
A clock ticked loudly on the mantel; she looked at it, around her at the shadows of two beautiful marbles on pedestals of malachite. Moving into the bedroom beyond, she took from a wardrobe of old French workmanship a rose dressing-gown; this, and a pair of slippers of like color she brought out and placed near the fire. As she did so, she started, straightened suddenly; then her expression changed; the voice of Lord Ronsdale without was followed by that of Jocelyn Wray.