‘The manuscripts are the first thing, of course,’ he said, and, as he spoke, Logan and Lord Embleton re-entered the room.
Merton presented the Earl to the ladies, and Miss Blossom soon retired to her own apartment, and wrestled with the correspondence of the Society and with her typewriting-machine.
The Earl proved not to be nearly so shy where ladies were concerned. He had not expected to find in his remote and long-lost cousin, Miss Willoughby, a magnificent being like Persephone on a coin of Syracuse, but it was plain that he was prepossessed in her favour, and there was a touch of the affectionate in his courtesy. After congratulating himself on recovering a kinswoman of a long-separated branch of his family, and after a good deal of genealogical disquisition, he explained the nature of the lady’s historical tasks, and engaged her to visit him in the country at an early date. Miss Willoughby then said farewell, having an engagement at the Record Office, where, as the Earl gallantly observed, she would ‘make a sunshine in a shady place.’
When she had gone, the Earl observed, ’Bon sang ne peut pas mentir! To think of that beautiful creature condemned to waste her lovely eyes on faded ink and yellow papers! Why, she is, as the modern poet says, “a sight to make an old man young."’
He then asked Logan to acquaint Merton with the new and favourable aspect of his affairs, and, after fixing Logan’s visit to Rookchester for the same date as Miss Willoughby’s, he went off with a juvenile alertness.
‘I say,’ said Logan, ’I don’t know what will come of this, but something will come of it. I had no idea that girl was such a paragon.’
‘Take care, Logan,’ said Merton. ’You ought only to have eyes for Miss Markham.’
Miss Markham, the precise student may remember, was the lady once known as the Venus of Milo to her young companions at St. Ursula’s. Now mantles were draped on her stately shoulders at Madame Claudine’s, and Logan and she were somewhat hopelessly attached to each other.
‘Take care of yourself at Rookchester,’ Merton went on, ’or the Disentangler may be entangled.’
‘I am not a viscount and I am not an earl,’ said Logan, with a reminiscence of an old popular song, ’nor I am not a prince, but a shade or two wuss; and I think that Miss Willoughby will find other marks for the artillery of her eyes.’
‘We shall have news of it,’ said Merton.
Trains do not stop at the little Rookchester station except when the high and puissant prince the Earl of Embleton or his visitors, or his ministers, servants, solicitors, and agents of all kinds, are bound for that haven. When Logan arrived at the station, a bowery, flowery, amateur-looking depot, like one of the ‘model villages’ that we sometimes see off the stage, he was met by the Earl, his son Lord Scremerston, and Miss Willoughby. Logan’s baggage was spirited away by menials, who doubtless bore it to the house in some ordinary conveyance, and by the vulgar road. But Lord Embleton explained that as the evening was warm, and the woodland path by the river was cool, they had walked down to welcome the coming guest.