She went straight up to him and passed her arm through his. He greeted me stiffly, but not unkindly.
“I am so glad that you have come,” she said. “If I had not heard I should have telegraphed to you. I’ve seen it in all the papers.”
“You approve?” I heard him ask quietly.
“Approve is not the word,” she declared eagerly. “It is magnificent.”
“I wonder,” he asked, “if you realize what it means?”
“It simply doesn’t matter,” she answered, with a delightful smile. “I can make my own dresses, if you like. Annette is a shocking nuisance to me.”
“I am afraid,” he remarked, with an odd little smile, “that Blenavon will scarcely regard the matter in the same light.”
“Bother Blenavon!” she answered lightly. “I suppose you know that he’s gone off abroad somewhere?”
“I had a hurried line from him with information to that effect,” the Duke answered. “I think that it would have been more respectful if he had called to see me on his way through London.”
I heard her sigh of relief.
“Now, tell me,” she begged, “where shall we begin? Cowes, Homburg, town house, or Annette? I’m ready.”
The Duke looked at her for a moment as I had never seen him look at any living person.
“You must not exaggerate to yourself the importance of this affair, Angela,” he said. “I do not think we need interfere for the present with any existing arrangements.”
She took his arm, and they walked on ahead to the clearing in front of my. cottage, talking earnestly together. I had no clue to the meaning of those first few sentences which had passed between them. And needless to say, I now lingered far enough behind to be out of earshot. When they reached the turn in the path they halted and waited for me.
“I am anxious for a few minutes’ conversation inside with you, Ducaine,” the Duke said. “Angela, you had better perhaps not wait for me.”
She nodded her farewell, a brief imperious little gesture, it seemed to me, with very little of kindliness in it. Then the Duke followed me into my sitting-room. I waited anxiously to hear what he had to say.
The Duke selected my most comfortable easy chair and remained silent for several minutes, looking thoughtfully out of the window. Notwithstanding the fresh colour, which he seldom lost, and the trim perfection of his dress, I could see at once that there was a change in him. The lines about his mouth were deeper, his eyes had lost much of their keen brightness. I found myself wondering whether, after all, some suspicion of Lord Blenavon’s doings had found its way to him.
“You are well forward with your work, I trust, Mr. Ducaine?” he said at last.
“It is completed, your Grace,” I answered.
“The proposed subway fortifications as well as the new battery stations?”