“Of course it is. That’s what I came for, and to keep you out of mischief, you infantile law-breaker.”
Graeme’s two minutes were each set with considerably more than the regulation sixty seconds—diamond seconds of glowing anticipation, every one of them. And, to his credit, be it recorded that he allotted several of them to the invocation of most fervent blessings on Miss Penny, who, at the moment, was vigorously disclaiming any pretension thereto.
But, quite soon enough for his hosts, as he considered them,—his guests, according to Miss Penny,—he appeared at the cottage, bodily and mentally prepared for the feast, and showing both in manner and attire due sense of the honour conferred upon him.
It was a festive, and for one of them at all events, a never-to-be-forgotten meal. The strong Sark air had got into all their heads, and whatever prudish notions might have been working in Margaret, she had bidden them to heel and took her pleasure as it came.
Her mood, however, for the moment was receptive rather than expressive. Miss Penny and Graeme still did most of the talking, and Margaret sat and listened and laughed, not a little astonished at finding herself in that galley.
“What is the penalty for aiding and abetting a criminal in an evasion of the law, Mr. Graeme?” chirped Miss Penny one time, and took Margaret’s energetic below-table expostulation without a wince.
“It would depend, I should say, on the particular dye of criminal. What has your friend been up to, Miss Penny? Is he a particularly black specimen?”
“In the first place he’s a she, and in the next place her complexion has a decided tendency towards blonde. As to dye—I am in a position to state on oath that she does not.”
For a moment he was mystified, then his eye fell on Margaret’s face, full of glorious confusion at this base betrayal by her bosom friend.
“The Sark air does get into people’s heads like that at times,” he said diplomatically. “It’s just in the first few days. But you soon get used to it. I felt just the same myself—losing faith in things and thinking ill of my friends, and so on. You’ll be quite all right in a day or two, Miss Penny,”—with a touch of sympathetic commiseration in his voice.
“Oh, I’m quite all right now,” said Miss Penny enjoyably. “I thought it only right and proper to let you know where you stand. At the present moment you are as likely as not aiding and abetting a breaker of the British laws and her accomplice. You may become involved in serious complications, you see.”
“If that means that I can be of any service in the matter I shall be only too delighted,—if you will not look upon me as an intruder.” He spoke to Miss Penny but looked at Margaret.
“Ah-ha! Qualms of conscience——”
“Hennie is a little raised, Mr. Graeme,” broke in Margaret. “Please excuse her. A good night’s rest will make her all right.”