Reggie grew more cheerful. At least he had an answer for that.
“Can’t be done, I’m afraid. I’ve got to motor into town to meet Percy. He’s arriving from Oxford this morning. I promised to meet him in town and tool him back in the car.”
“I see. Well, then, why couldn’t you—?”
“I say, mater, dear old soul,” said Reggie hastily, “I think you’d better tear yourself away and what not. If you’re catching the twelve-fifteen, you ought to be staggering round to see you haven’t forgotten anything. There’s the car coming round now.”
“I wish now I had decided to go by a later train.”
“No, no, mustn’t miss the twelve-fifteen. Good, fruity train. Everybody speaks well of it. Well, see you anon, mater. I think you’d better run like a hare.”
“You will remember what I said?”
“Good-bye, then. I shall be back tomorrow.”
Reggie returned slowly to his stone seat. He breathed a little heavily as he felt for his cigarette case. He felt like a hunted fawn.
Maud came out of the house as the car disappeared down the long avenue of elms. She crossed the terrace to where Reggie sat brooding on life and its problem.
“Hullo, Maud, dear old thing. Take a seat.”
Maud sat down beside him. There was a flush on her pretty face, and when she spoke her voice quivered with suppressed excitement.
“Reggie,” she said, laying a small hand on his arm. “We’re friends, aren’t we?”
Reggie patted her back paternally. There were few people he liked better than Maud.
“Always have been since the dear old days of childhood, what!”
“I can trust you, can’t I?”
“There’s something I want you to do for me, Reggie. You’ll have to keep it a dead secret of course.”
“The strong, silent man. That’s me. What is it?”
“You’re driving into town in your car this afternoon, aren’t you, to meet Percy?”
“That was the idea.”
“Could you go this morning instead—and take me?”
Maud shook her head.
“You don’t know what you are letting yourself in for, Reggie, or I’m sure you wouldn’t agree so lightly. I’m not allowed to leave the castle, you know, because of what I was telling you about.”
“Yes. So there would be terrible scenes if anybody found out.”
“Never mind, dear old soul. I’ll risk it. None shall learn your secret from these lips.”
“You’re a darling, Reggie.”
“But what’s the idea? Why do you want to go today particularly?”
Maud looked over her shoulder.
“Because—” She lowered her voice, though there was no one near. “Because he is back in London! He’s a sort of secretary, you know, Reggie, to his uncle, and I saw in the paper this morning that the uncle returned yesterday after a long voyage in his yacht. So—he must have come back, too. He has to go everywhere his uncle goes.”