Then Michael answered with a cynical note in his voice:
“It is left for me—I, who am the last of them, to put up some expiatory offering, I expect. Rapine and violence are in the blood,” and then he laughed lightly, and led her back through the gloom to his sitting-room. There was a strange, fierce light in his bright blue eyes, which the child-woman did not see, and which, if she had perceived, she would not have understood any more than he understood it himself—for no concrete thought had yet come to him about the future. Only, there underneath was that mighty force, relentless, inexorable, of heredity, causing the instinct which had dominated the Arranstouns for eleven hundred years.
He did not seek to detain his guest and promised bride—but, with great courtesy, he showed her the way down the stairs of the lawn, and so through the postern into the park, and he watched her slender form trip off towards the gate which was opposite the Inn, her last words ringing in his ears in answer to his final question.
“No, I shall not fail—I will leave the Crown at nine o’clock exactly on Thursday.”
Then turning, he retraced his steps to his sitting-room, and there found Henry Fordyce returned.
“Well, old boy!” Mr. Fordyce greeted him with. “You should have been with me and had a good round of golf—but perhaps, though, you have made up your mind!”
Michael flung himself into his great chair.
“Yes—I have—and I have got a fiancee.”
Mr. Fordyce was not disturbed; he did not even answer this absurd remark, he just puffed his cigar—cigarettes were beneath his notice.
“You don’t seem very interested,” his host ejaculated, rather aggrievedly.
“I tell you, it is true. I have got a fiancee.”
“My dear fellow, you are mad!”
“No, I assure you I am quite sane—I have found a way out of the difficulty—an angel has dropped from the clouds to save me from Violet Hatfield.”
Henry Fordyce was actually startled. Michael looked as though he were talking seriously.
“But where did she come from? What the—Oh! I have no patience with you, you old fool! You are playing some comedy upon me!”
“Henry, I give you my word, I’m not—I am going to marry a most presentable young person at nine o’clock on Thursday night in the chapel here—and you are going to stay and be best man.” Then his excitement began to rise again, and he got up from his chair and paced up and down restlessly. “It is the very thing. She wants her money and I want my freedom. She gets hers by marriage, and I get mine. I don’t care a rush for domestic bliss, it has never appealed to me; and the fellow in Australia who’ll come after me has got a boy who will do all right, no doubt, for the old place by and by. I shall have a perfectly free time and no responsibilities—and, thank the Lord! no more women for me for the future. I have done with the snakes. I shall be happy and free for the first time for a whole year!”