“But what about your own dinner, sir?”
“I’ll have a tray in the gun room,” his master decided, “say in twenty minutes’ time. And, Mills, who did you say were dining?”
“Two of the young officers from the Depot, sir—Mr. Harrison and Mr. Sinclair—and Mr. Hamar Lessingham.”
“Lessingham, eh?” Sir Henry repeated, as he seated himself before his writing-table. “Mills,” he added, in a confidential whisper, “what port did you serve?”
The butler’s expression was one of conscious rectitude.
“Not the vintage, sir,” he announced with emphasis. “Some very excellent wood port, which we procured for shooting luncheons. The young gentlemen like it.”
“You’re a jewel, Mills,” his master declared. “Now you understand —an aperitif for me now, some whisky for Jimmy in your room, and not a word about my being here. Good night, Jimmy. Sorry we were too late for the mackerel, but we had some grand sport, all the same. You’ll have a day or two’s rest ashore now.”
“Aye, aye, sir!” Dumble replied. “We got in just in time. There’s something more than a squall coming up nor’ards.”
Sir Henry listened for a moment. The French windows shook, the rain beat against the panes, and a dull booming of wind was clearly audible from outside.
“We timed that excellently,” he agreed. “Come up and have a chat to-morrow, Jimmy, if your wife will spare you.”
“I’ll be round before eleven, sir,” the fisherman promised, with a grin.
Sir Henry waited for the closing of the door. Then he leaned forward for several moments. He had scarcely the appearance of a man returned from a week or two of open-air life and indulgence in the sport he loved best. The healthy tan of his complexion was lessened rather than increased. There were black lines under his eyes which seemed to speak of sleepless nights, and a beard of several days’ growth was upon his chin. He drank the cocktail which Mills presently brought him, at a gulp, and watched with satisfaction while the mixer was vigorously shaken and a second one poured out.
“We’ve had a rough time, Mills,” he observed, as he set down the glass. “Until this morning it scarcely left off blowing.”
“I’m sorry to hear it, sir,” was the respectful reply. “If I may be allowed to say so, sir, you’re looking tired.”
“I am tired,” Sir Henry admitted. “I think, if I tried, I could go to sleep now for twenty-four hours.”
“You will pardon my reminding you, so far as regards your letters, that there is no post out tonight, sir,” Mills proceeded. “I have prepared a warm bath and laid out your clothes for a change.”
“Capital!” Sir Henry exclaimed. “It isn’t a letter that’s bothering me, though, Mills. There are just a few geographical notes I want to make. You know, I’m trying to improve the fishermen’s chart of the coast round here. That fellow Groocock—Jimmy Dumble’s uncle —very nearly lost his motor boat last week through trusting to the old one.”