“Well, dadda,” said Billie amiably, “how are the crops?”
The man straightened himself. He was a nice-looking man of middle age, with the kind eyes of a friendly dog. He smiled genially, and started to put his pipe away.
Billie stopped him.
“Don’t stop smoking on my account,” she said. “I like it. Well, you’ve got the right sort of a job, haven’t you! If I was a man, there’s nothing I’d like better than to put in my eight hours in a rose-garden.” She looked about her. “And this,” she said with approval, “is just what a rose-garden ought to be.”
“Are you fond of roses—missy?”
“You bet I am! You must have every kind here that was ever invented. All the fifty-seven varieties.”
“There are nearly three thousand varieties,” said the man in corduroys tolerantly.
“I was speaking colloquially, dadda. You can’t teach me anything about roses. I’m the guy that invented them. Got any Ayrshires?”
The man in corduroys seemed to have come to the conclusion that Billie was the only thing on earth that mattered. This revelation of a kindred spirit had captured him completely. George was merely among those present.
“Those—them—over there are Ayrshires, missy.”
“We don’t get Ayrshires in America. At least, I never ran across them. I suppose they do have them.”
“You want the right soil.”
“Clay and lots of rain.”
There was an earnest expression on Billie Dore’s face that George had never seen there before.
“Say, listen, dadda, in this matter of rose-beetles, what would you do if—”
George moved away. The conversation was becoming too technical for him, and he had an idea that he would not be missed. There had come to him, moreover, in a flash one of those sudden inspirations which great generals get. He had visited the castle this afternoon without any settled plan other than a vague hope that he might somehow see Maud. He now perceived that there was no chance of doing this. Evidently, on Thursdays, the family went to earth and remained hidden until the sightseers had gone. But there was another avenue of communication open to him. This gardener seemed an exceptionally intelligent man. He could be trusted to deliver a note to Maud.
In his late rambles about Belpher Castle in the company of Keggs and his followers, George had been privileged to inspect the library. It was an easily accessible room, opening off the main hail. He left Billie and her new friend deep in a discussion of slugs and plant-lice, and walked quickly back to the house. The library was unoccupied.
George was a thorough young man. He believed in leaving nothing to chance. The gardener had seemed a trustworthy soul, but you never knew. It was possible that he drank. He might forget or lose the precious note. So, with a wary eye on the door, George hastily scribbled it in duplicate. This took him but a few minutes. He went out into the garden again to find Billie Dore on the point of stepping into a blue automobile.