“You’ll have to keep a sharp look-out all the time and be on your guard to frustrate any murderous attack,” said Jane, adding in a tone of weak obstinacy: “It’s a dreadful situation to be in, with a mad butler dangling over you like the sword of What’s-his-name, but I’m certainly not going to cut my visit short.”
Clovis swore horribly under his breath; the miracle was an obvious misfire.
It was in the hall the next morning after a late breakfast that Clovis had his final inspiration as he stood engaged in coaxing rust spots from an old putter.
“Where is Miss Martlet?” he asked the butler, who was at that moment crossing the hall.
“Writing letters in the morning-room, sir,” said Sturridge, announcing a fact of which his questioner was already aware.
“She wants to copy the inscription on that old basket-hilted sabre,” said Clovis, pointing to a venerable weapon hanging on the wall. “I wish you’d take it to her; my hands are all over oil. Take it without the sheath, it will be less trouble.”
The butler drew the blade, still keen and bright in its well-cared for old age, and carried it into the morning-room. There was a door near the writing-table leading to a back stairway; Jane vanished through it with such lightning rapidity that the butler doubted whether she had seen him come in. Half an hour later Clovis was driving her and her hastily-packed luggage to the station.
“Mother will be awfully vexed when she comes back from her ride and finds you have gone,” he observed to the departing guest, “but I’ll make up some story about an urgent wire having called you away. It wouldn’t do to alarm her unnecessarily about Sturridge.”
Jane sniffed slightly at Clovis’ ideas of unnecessary alarm, and was almost rude to the young man who came round with thoughtful inquiries as to luncheon-baskets.
The miracle lost some of its usefulness from the fact that Dora wrote the same day postponing the date of her visit, but, at any rate, Clovis holds the record as the only human being who ever hustled Jane Martlet out of the time-table of her migrations.
“My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel,” said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen; “in the meantime you must try and put up with me.”
Framton Nuttel endeavoured to say the correct something which should duly flatter the niece of the moment without unduly discounting the aunt that was to come. Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.
“I know how it will be,” his sister had said when he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat; “you will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be worse than ever from moping. I shall just give you letters of introduction to all the people I know there. Some of them, as far as I can remember, were quite nice.”