“It seems amazing to think that you spent last night at The Sanctuary,” she reflected.
“And that you and I were in a punt,” he reminded her, “in the pool of darkness where the trees met, and the lilies leaned over to us.”
“And you nearly upset the punt.”
“Nothing of the sort! As a matter of fact, I was very careful. But,” he proceeded, with a sudden wave of memory, “I don’t think my heart will ever beat normally again. It seemed as though it would tear its way out of my side when I leaned towards you, and you knew, and you lay still.”
“You surely didn’t expect I was going to get up? It was quite encouragement enough to remain passive. As a matter of fact,” she went on, “I couldn’t have moved. I couldn’t have uttered a sound. I suppose I must have been like one of those poor birds you read about, when some devouring animal crouches for its last spring.”
“Compliments already!” he remarked. “You won’t forget that my name is Francis, will you? Try and practise it while I carve the chicken.”
“You carve very badly, Francis,” she told him demurely.
“My dear,” he said, “thank heavens we shall be able to afford a butler! By-the-bye, I told your father this morning that I was going to marry you, and he didn’t seem to think it possible because he had two million pounds.”
“Braggart!” she murmured. “When did you see my father?”
“He came to my rooms in the Temple soon after I arrived this morning. He seemed to think I might know where you were. I dare say he won’t like me for a son-in-law,” Francis continued with a smile. “I can’t help that. He shouldn’t have let me go out with you in a punt.”
There was a discreet knock at the door. Brooks made his apologetic and somewhat troubled entrance.
“Sir Timothy Brast is here to see you, sir,” he announced. “I ventured to say that you were not at home—”
“But I happened to know otherwise,” a still voice remarked from outside. “May I come in, Mr. Ledsam?”
Sir Timothy stepped past the servant, who at a sign from Francis disappeared, closing the door behind him.
After his first glance at Sir Timothy, Francis’ only thought was for Margaret. To his intense relief, she showed no signs whatever of terror, or of any relapse to her former state. She was entirely mistress of herself and the occasion. Sir Timothy’s face was cold and terrible.
“I must apologise for this second intrusion, Mr. Ledsam,” he said cuttingly. “I think you will admit that the circumstances warrant it. Am I to understand that you lied to me this morning?”
“You are to understand nothing of the sort,” Francis answered. “I told you everything I knew at that time of your daughter’s movements.”
“Indeed!” Sir Timothy murmured. “This little banquet, then, was unpremeditated?”