Presently, Lady FitzAlmont, marshaling her forces anew, carries them all away to their rooms, soundly rating the sobbing Lady Gertrude for her want of self-control.
The men too, shortly afterward disperse, and one by one drift away to their rooms. Captain Ringwood and Maitland the surgeon being the last to go.
“Who is the next heir to the castle?” asks the latter musingly, drumming his fingers idly on a table near him.
“Dynecourt, the fellow who nearly did for Sir Adrian this evening!” replies Ringwood quietly.
“It would have meant a very good thing for Arthur if the shot had taken effect,” says Ringwood, eying his companion curiously.
“It would have meant murder, sir!” rejoins the surgeon shortly.
“Dear Sir Adrian,” says Dora Talbot, laying down her bat upon a garden-chair, and forsaking the game of tennis then proceeding to go forward and greet her host, “where have you been? We have missed you so much. Florence”—turning to her cousin—“will you take my bat, dearest? I am quite tired of trying to defeat Lord Lisle.”
Lord Lisle, a middle-aged gentleman of sunburned appearance, looks unmistakably delighted at the prospect of a change in the game. He is married; has a large family of promising young Lisles, and a fervent passion for tennis. Mrs. Talbot having proved a very contemptible adversary, he is charmed at this chance of getting rid of her.
So Florence, vice Dora retired, joins the game, and the play continues with unabated vigor. When however Lord Lisle has scored a grand victory, and all the players declare themselves thoroughly exhausted and in need of refreshment, Sir Adrian comes forward, and walks straight up to Miss Delmaine, to Dora’s intense chagrin and the secret rage of Arthur Dynecourt.
“You have often asked to see the ‘haunted chamber,’” he says; “why not come and visit it now? It isn’t much to see, you know; but still, in a ghostly sense, it is, I suppose, interesting.”
“Let us make a party and go together,” suggests Dora, enthusiastically clasping her hands—her favorite method of showing false emotion of any kind. She is determined to have her part in the programme, and is equally determined that Florence shall go nowhere alone with Sir Adrian.
“What a capital idea!” puts in Arthur Dynecourt, coming up to Miss Delmaine, and specially addressing her with all the air of a rightful owner.
“Charming,” murmurs a young lady standing by; and so the question is settled.
“It will be rather a fatiguing journey, you know,” says Captain Ringwood, confidentially, to Ethel Villiers. “It’s an awful lot of stairs; I’ve been there, so I know all about it—it’s worse than the treadmill.”
“Have you been there too?” demands Miss Ethel saucily, glancing at him from under her long lashes.