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"Do you think they could make me go back to him?" she asked anxiously.
"To Mr. Pixley? Certainly not--that is if your reasons for leaving him seemed adequate to the Court, as I am sure they would."
She offered no explanation on this point. All that she left unsaid, and that he would have given much to hear, seemed dancing just inside Miss Penny's sparkling eyes, and as like as not to come dancing out at any moment.
"You see," said Graeme, "I happen to have been making some enquiries from a legal friend on that very point----"
"Oh!" said Margaret, and Miss Penny's eyes danced carmagnoles.
"In connection with a story, you know. One likes to get one's legal points all right. In any case, as I was just about to tell Miss Penny for the benefit of her criminal friend, there would be lots of red tape to unwind before they could do anything, and this little isle of Sark is the quaintest place in the world in the matter of its own old observances and their integrity, and the rejection of new ideas. Mr.
Pixley does not know you are here, of course?"
"Not much, or he'd have been over by special boat long since," said Miss Penny. "We managed it splendidly."
"And how long?" began Graeme, in pursuance of his train of thought, but stopped short at sound of the words, since they bore distant resemblance to a curiosity which seemed to himself impertinent.
But Miss Penny knew no such compunctions. She did not want to miss one jot or t.i.ttle of her enjoyment of the situation.
"About six months," said she quickly.
"Well, I should think we"--how delightful to him that "we," and how Miss Penny rejoiced in it!--"could hold them at bay for that length of time. The machinery of the law is slow and c.u.mbersome at best, and in this case, I imagine, it would not be difficult to put a few additional spokes in its wheels."
If his face was anything to go by there were many more questions he would have liked to put--judicial questions, you understand, for a fuller comprehension of the case. But he would not venture them yet.
He had got ample food for reflection for the moment, and his hopes stood high.
Never for him had there been a dinner equal to that one. Better ones he had partaken of in plenty. But the full board and the quality of the faring are not the only things, nor by any means the chief things, that go to the making of a feast.
The nearest approach to it had been that dinner with the Whitefriars, at which he first met Margaret Brandt, and that did not come within measurable distance of this one.
"Will you be pleased to tek your dinner with the leddies again to-night?" asked Mrs. Carre, as she gave Graeme his breakfast next morning.
"I would be delighted," he said doubtfully. "But are you quite sure they would wish it, Mrs. Carre."
"But you did get on all right with them," she said, eyeing him wonderingly. "They are very nice leddies, I am sure."
"Oh, we got on first rate. We didn't quarrel over the food or fall out in any way. But----"
"Will it be any easier for you?" he asked thoughtfully.
"Well, of course, it will be once setting instead of twice, and that iss easier----"
"Then suppose you put it to them on that ground, Mrs. Carre, solely on that ground, you understand. And if they are agreeable, I--well, I shall not raise any objections."
And so, presently, Mrs. Carre said to the ladies, "You did get on all right with the gentleman last night, yes?"
"Oh, quite, Mrs. Carre," sparkled Miss Penny.
"I wa.s.s wondering if it would please you to dine all at once together again each night. You see, it would save me the trouble of setting twice. I did ask him and he said he didn't mind if you didn't. He iss a very nice quiet gentleman, I am sure."
"I'm sure it's very good of him," said Miss Penny. "By all means serve us all at once together, Mrs. Carre. I guess we can stand it if he can."
"That iss all right then," said Mrs. Carre, and the common evening meal became an inst.i.tution--to Graeme's vast enjoyment.
When the girls went into their room after breakfast to put on their hats and scrambling shoes, they saw Graeme sitting on the low stone wall, as usual, smoking his after-breakfast pipe, and they caught a part of the conversation in progress between him and Johnny Vautrin.
"I see five crows 's mawnin'," they heard in Johnnie's sepulchral voice.
"Really, now! Catch any?"
"There wuss five crows."
"Ah--five? That's an odd number! And what special ill-luck do you infer from five crows, Johnnie?"
"Someone's goan to be sick," said Johnnie, with joyous antic.i.p.ation.
"Dear me! That's what five crows mean, is it?"
"They didn't go into particulars, I suppose,--as to who it is likely to be, for instance, and the exact nature of the seizure?"
"They flew over to church there and settled in black trees."
"Vicar, maybe, since they went that way."
"Well, well! Perhaps if we gave him a hint he might take some precautions."
"Couldn' tek nauthen 'd be any use 'gainst crows. Go'zamin, they knows!"
"You're just a confirmed old croaker, Johnnie."
"A'n't!" said Johnnie.
"Where's our old friend Marielihou?"
"She's a-busy," said Johnnie, wriggling uncomfortably.
"Ah,--killing something, I presume. Is it going to keep fine for the next three or four weeks?"