doubt of that," he replied. "After all, what would happen if I gave you away to the Fountains? You would merely be shown the door. That wouldn't help me in the least."
She prepared to leave him, but paused to say: "All right! But if you think you're going to find out anything about me you're wrong."
"Would you like to take a bet on it?" he inquired.
But she had gone. Mr. Amberley gave a laugh under his breath, stooped to pick up the handkerchief she had dropped, and began to stroll away towards the hall.
Mr. Amberley, with a sloth his cousin found disgusting, spent most of the next morning in a somnolent state in the garden. A burst of hot sunshine induced Felicity, always optimistic, to put up the hammock. Mr. Amberley observed this, and approved. Felicity found him stretched in it an hour after breakfast, tried to turn him out, failed, and went off very scornfully to play hard-court tennis.
But Mr. Amberley was not destined to be left for long in peace. Shortly after twelve o'clock his aunt came out and poked him with her sunshade. He opened his eyes, surveyed her in silent indignation, and closed them again.
"Dear Frank — so sylvan. But you must wake up. The most tiresome thing."
Without opening his eyes Mr. Amberley murmured a sentence he knew by heart. "Bridges haven't sent the fish, and unless I will be an angel and run into Upper Nettlefold for it there won't be any lunch."
"No, nothing like that. At least, I trust not. That man who annoys your uncle."
"Which one?" inquired Mr. Amberley.
"Colonel Watson. In the drawing room. Must I invite him to lunch?"
Mr. Amberley was at last roused. He sat up and swung his long legs out of the hammock. "I forgive you, Aunt Marion," he said. "It was very nice of you to come and warn me. I shall take my book into the woodshed. On no account ask him to lunch."
Lady Matthews smiled. "I do sympathise, my dear. Of course I do. But not a warning. He has been talking to your uncle for half an hour. The gold standard, you know. So incomprehensible and unsuitable. He came on business. Something very legal, but he wouldn't go. If he had only told Humphrey that he wanted to see you! We have only just discovered it. Not that he said so. It was sheer intuition on my part. Do come, my dear. Be very rude, and then he will not want to stay to lunch."
"All right, I will be. Very rude," said Mr. Amberley, and descended from the hammock.
"So sweet of you, Frank, but perhaps better not," said his aunt dubiously.
The chief constable's manner when Mr. Amberley lounged in through the long window in the drawing room was an admirable mixture of casual surprise and friendly gratification. "Ah, hullo, Amberley!" he said, getting up and shaking hands. "So you are still here! This is a pleasant surprise. How are you?"
"Sunk in apathy," said Mr. Amberley. "Just about half awake. Certainly not more."
This seemed to provide the colonel with the opening he wanted. He laughed and said: "Sunk in apathy! Surely that can't mean bored?"
"Not yet," said Mr. Amberley.
His uncle gave a sudden snort of laughter which he managed to turn into a cough.
"You want something to occupy your mind," said the colonel in a jocular way. "Perhaps you'd like to try your hand at our little murder case!"
Mr. Amberley saw fit to treat this as a joke. Colonel Watson abandoned the facetious vein. "Seriously, my dear fellow, I should be delighted if you cared to give us a hand with it. It's a most interesting problem. Quite in your line."
"Very kind of you, sir, but you don't want an amateur dabbling in these professional matters."
The colonel realised that he did not like Mr. Amberley. Looking back, he could not remember that he ever had liked him. Those hard eyes had a way of staring contemptuously through one, and that ironic smile was the most irritating thing he had ever seen. The fact was the fellow was too damned conceited. Obviously he wasn't going to beg, as a favour, to be allowed to
Bella Love-Wins, Bella Wild