“You have something to tell me about last night?” she asked gravely.
“No!” he answered, “I did not come here to talk about that.”
“Did you know,” she asked, “who your lodger really was?”
“Yes,” he said, “I guessed! I will be frank with you, Miss Jeanne, if you will allow me. I do not like your stepmother and I do not like Major Forrest, but I think that the Duke is going altogether too far when he suspects them of having anything to do with the disappearance of his brother.”
She drew a little sigh of relief.
“Oh! I am glad to hear you say that,” she declared. “It is all so horrible. I could not sleep last night for thinking about it.”
“Lord Ronald will probably turn up in a day or two,” Andrew said gravely. “We will not talk any more about him.”
She settled herself a little more comfortably, and smoothed out her skirts. Then she looked up at him with faintly parted lips.
“What shall we talk about, Mr. Andrew?” she said softly.
“About ourselves,” he answered, “or rather about you. It seems to me that we both stand a little outside the game of life, as your friends up there understand it.”
He waved his large brown hand in the direction of the Hall.
“You are a child, fresh from boarding-school, too young to understand, too young to know where to look for your friends, or discriminate against your enemies. I am a rough sort of fellow, also, outside their lives, from necessity, from every reason which the brain of man could evolve. Sometimes we outsiders see more than is intended. Is the Princess of Strurm really your stepmother?”
“Of course she is,” Jeanne answered. “She was married to my father when I was quite a little girl, and she has visited me at the convent where I was at school, all my life, and when I left last year it was she who came for me. Why do you ask so strange a question?”
“Because,” he said, “I should consider her about the worst possible guardian that a child like you could have. Tell me, what is it that goes on all day up at the Hall there—or rather what was it that did go on before Engleton went away?—eating and drinking, cards, and God knows what sort of foolishness! Nothing else, nothing worth doing, not a thing said worth listening to! It’s a rotten life for a child like you. They tell me you’re an heiress. Are you?”
She smoothed her crumpled skirts, and looked steadily at the tip of her brown shoe.
“One of the greatest in Europe,” she answered. “No one knows how rich I am. You see all the money was left to me when I was six years old, and it is so strictly tied up that no one has had power to touch a single penny until I am of age. That is why it has gone on increasing and increasing.”
“And when are you of age?” he asked.
“Next year,” she answered.
“By that time, I imagine,” Andrew continued, “your stepmother will have sold you to some broken-down hanger-on of hers. Haven’t you any other relations, Miss Jeanne?”