Mr. Fordyce rose from his chair and fired his last shot.
“And now a female spider is going to paralyze the last Arranstoun, and rule him for the rest of his days, sapping his vitality.”
But Michael protested.
“By heaven, no!”
“Well, I’ll leave you to think about it. I am going for another stroll on this lovely day.” He had got to the window by this time, which looked into the courtyard on the opposite side to the balcony. “Goodness! what a party of tourists! It is a bore for you to have them all over the place like this! To own a castle with state rooms to be shown to the public has its disadvantages.”
Michael looked at them, too, a large party of Americans, mostly of that class which compose the tourists of all countries, and which no nation feels proud to own. He had seen hundreds of such, and turned away indifferently.
“They only come here twice a week, and it has been allowed for such ages—they are generally quiet, and fortunately their perambulations close at the end of the gallery. They don’t intrude upon my own suite. They get to the chapel by the outside door.”
Henry crossed the room and went on to the balcony.
“Mrs. Hatfield will alter all that,” he laughed, as he disappeared from view.
Michael flashed a rageful glance at his back, and then flung himself into his great armchair again, and pulled the wrinkled mass, which called itself a prize bulldog, on to his lap.
“I believe he’s right and we are caught, Binko. If we fled to the Rocky Mountains, she would track us. If we stay and face it, she’ll make an almighty scandal and force us to marry her. What in the devil’s name are we to do——!”
Binko licked his master’s hands, and made noises, so full of gurgling, slobbering sympathy, no heart could have remained uncomforted. Who knows! His canine common sense may have telepathically transmitted a thought, for Michael suddenly plopped him on the floor, and stalked toward the fireplace to ring the bell, while he exclaimed, as though answering a suggestion. “Yes, we’ll send for old Bessie—that’s the only way.”
But before he could reach his goal, the picture of Mary, Queen of Scots, landing fell forward with a crash, and through the aperture of a secret door which it concealed, there tumbled a very young and pretty girl right into the room.
Mr. Arranstoun was extremely startled and annoyed, too, and before he took in the situation, he had exclaimed, while Binko gave an ominous growl of displeasure:
“Confound it—who is that! These are private rooms!” Then, seeing it was a girl on the floor, he said in another voice: “Quiet, Binko—” and the dog retired to his own basket under a distant table. “Oh, I beg your pardon—but——”
The creature on the floor blinked at Michael with large, round, violet eyes, but did not move, while she answered aggrievedly—with a very faint accent, whether a little French or a little American, or a little of both, he was not sure, only that it had something attractive about it.