“You may go!” said the Baron curtly.
There had been no word of the scribbled cuff, Themar remembered. And surely one may steal away one’s own.
The sun had set. Back from his flight over the hills with Sherrill, Philip had bathed and shaved, whistling thoughtfully to himself. Now as he descended the steep Sherrill lane to the valley, ravine and hollow were already dark with twilight. From the rustling trees arching the lane overhead came the occasional sleepy chirp and flutter of a bird. Off somewhere in the gathering dusk a lonely owl hooted eerily. Still there was storm in the warm, sweet air to-night and back yonder over the hills to the north, the sky brightened fitfully with lightning.
Slipping his hand carelessly into his coat pocket for a pipe, Philip laughed.
“My Lord!” said he lightly. “The hieroglyphical cuff! I should have given that to the Baron. . . . Themar,” added Philip, packing his pipe, “is an infernal bounder!”
Diane’s camp lay barely two miles to the west. Homing at sunset Philip had veered and circled over it. Now as he turned westward toward the river, the nature of his errand chafed him sorely.
“Nor can I see,” mused Philip, puffing uncomfortably at his pipe, “why in the devil he wants to know!”
A soft, warm nose suddenly insinuated itself into his hand with a frank bid for attention and Philip turned. A shaggy, soft-footed shadow was waggling along at his heels, Dick’s favorite setter.
“Hello, old top!” exclaimed Philip cheerfully. “When did you hit the trail?”
Old Top barked joyously but didn’t appear to remember.
“Well,” said Philip, lazily patting the dog’s head, “you’re welcome anyway. I’m a diplomat to-night,” he added humorously, “bound upon a ‘mission of exceeding delicacy’ and only a companion of your extraordinary reticence and discretion would be welcome.”
Man and dog turned aside into a crossroad. It was very dark now, the only spot of cheer save for the lightning behind the hills, the coal of Philip’s pipe.
“Tell me, old man,” begged Philip whimsically, “what would you do? May we not wander casually into camp and look at my beautiful gypsy lady without fussing unduly about this infernal mission? More and more do we dislike it. And in the morning we may respectfully rebel. Ah, an excellent point, Nero. To be sure our chief will be very smooth and insistent but we ourselves, you recall, have possibilities of extreme firmness. And the lady is Diane, though we only call her that, old top, among ourselves.
“Splendid decision!” exclaimed Philip presently with intense satisfaction. “Nero, you’ve been an umpire. We’ll rebel. Nevertheless, we must assure ourselves that the camp of our lady is ready for storm.”