“You seem strangely apprehensive.”
“I am. I believe that The Sparrow, while making pretence of supporting our little affair, is in favour of Hugh’s marriage with Dorise Ranscomb.”
The woman looked him straight in the face.
“He could never go back on his word!” she declared.
“The Sparrow is a curious combination of the crook—chivalrous and philanthropic—as you already know.”
“But surely, he wouldn’t let us down?”
Benton paused. He was thinking deeply. A certain fact had suddenly occurred to him.
“If he does, then we must, I suppose, do our best to expose him. I happen to know that he has quarrelled with Henri Michaux, the under-secretary of the Surete in Paris, who has declared that his payment is not sufficient. Michaux is anxious to get even with him. A word from us would result in The Sparrow’s arrest.”
“Excellent!” exclaimed Molly. “If we fail we can, after all, have our revenge. But,” she added, “would not he suspect us both, and, in turn, give us away?”
“No. He will never suspect, my dear Molly. Leave it to me. Are we not his dearest and most trusted friends?” and the man, who was as keenly sought by the police of Europe, grinned sardonically and took a cigarette from the big silver box on the little table at his elbow.
Week after week passed.
Spring was slowly developing into summer and the woods around Blairglas, the fine estate in Perthshire which old Sir Richard Ranscomb had left to his wife, were delightful.
Blairglas Castle, a grand old turreted pile, was perched on the edge of a wooded glen through which flowed a picturesque burn well known to tourists in Scotland. Once Blairglas Burn had been a mighty river which had, in the bygone ages, worn its way deep through the grey granite down to the broad Tay and onward to the sea. On the estate was some excellent salmon-fishing, as well as grouse on Blairglas Moor, and trout in Blairglas Loch. Here Lady Ranscomb entertained her wealthy Society friends, and certainly she did so lavishly and well. Twice each year she went up for the fishing and for the shooting. Old Sir Richard, notwithstanding his gout, had been fond of sport, and for that reason he had given a fabulous price for the place, which had belonged to a certain Duke who, like others, had become impoverished by excessive taxation and the death duties.
Built in the fifteenth century as a fortress, it was, for a time, the home of James V. after his marriage with Mary of Guise. It was to Blairglas that, after his defeat on Solway Moss, he retired, subsequently dying of a broken heart. Twenty years later Darnley, the elegant husband of Mary Stuart, had lived there, and on the level bowling green he used to indulge in his favourite sport.
The grim old place, with its towers, its dimly-lit long stone corridors, cyclopean ivy-clad walls, narrow windows, and great panelled chambers, breathed an atmosphere of the long ago. So extensive was it that only one wing—that which looked far down the glen to the blue distant mountains—had been modernised; yet that, in itself, was sufficiently spacious for the entertainment of large house-parties.