“I have merely supposed so,” corrected the Baron coldly. And rising he inspected the curious scars upon his valet’s throat with interest. “Odd!” he purred, “that an aeroplane may simulate the marks of tearing fingers.” Swept by a sudden gust of terrible anger, he gripped Themar’s shoulders and shook him until the valet’s face was dark with fear.
“Why,” hissed the Baron, “did you lie? Why did you go to the Westfall camp and attack Poynter? Why did you swear these scars came from a disastrous flight in a stolen aeroplane? Why have you been spying upon Miss Westfall when I expressly forbade it?”
“Excellency,” choked Themar, horrified by the Baron’s unprecedented display of passion, “there was a blunder—I dared not tell.”
“Who blundered?” thundered his chief.
“I. Granberry, I thought, was to go to his cousin’s camp,” panted Themar quaking. “I heard Sherrill telephone—later he told some men—”
“You took the car—” prompted the Baron icily.
“I—I did not know it was Poynter until he fell,” urged Themar trembling. “Granberry and he are similar in build.”
“Who attempted to kill Miss Westfall?” blazed the Baron, shaking his valet into chattering subjection.
“Excellency, I know not!” protested Themar swallowing painfully. “There was still another man—he dashed ahead and stole the car.”
After all, reflected the Baron wryly, in this damnable muddle he must still use Themar. To antagonize him now would be foolhardy. Wherefore, with a civil expression of regret at his loss of temper and certain curt instructions, he dismissed Themar, sullen and chastened, and betook himself to an open window, where he sat smoking thoughtfully until the house grew quiet and one by one the lights in the valley faded out. In the web which had engulfed one by one, himself, Themar, Granberry, Miss Westfall and Poynter, a murderous stranger was floundering. Who and what he was, it behooved His Excellency to discover.
“It would seem,” reflected the Baron with grim humor as he thought of his car and his secretary, “that I am paying heavily for my part in a task not greatly to my liking.”
In the adjoining room behind locked doors, Themar worked feverishly upon a cipher inscribed upon a soiled linen cuff.
“Johnny!” said Diane in crisp, distinct tones, “Mr. Poynter has slept long enough. You’d better call him.”
Now it is a regrettable fact that ordinarily this attack would have provoked a reply of mild impudence from Mr. Poynter’s tent, but this morning a surprising silence lay behind the flapping canvas. Diane began to hum. When presently investigation proved that Mr. Poynter’s tent was in exemplary order—that Mr. Poynter and his mended shirt were missing—she went on humming—but to Johnny’s amazement, burned her fingers on the coffeepot; sharply reproved Johnny for staring, and then curtly suggested that he prepare to break camp that morning, as it was high time they were on the road.