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Chapter 6 THE MASTER OF GRIFF
ADELE did not speak to him for a long time. Resentment that he should force his company upon her, and nervousness at the coming ordeal-a nervousness which became sheer panic as they drew nearer and nearer to their destination-made conversation impossible.
"I see your Mr. Lawley Foss is with us," said Michael, glancing over his shoulder, and by way of making conversation.
"He always goes on location," she said shortly. "A story has sometimes to be amended while it's being shot."
"Where are we going now?" he asked.
"Griff Towers first," she replied. She found it difficult to be uncivil to anybody. "It is a big place owned by Sir Gregory Penne."
"But I thought we were going to the Dower House?"
She looked at him with a little frown.
"Why did you ask if you knew?" she demanded, almost in a tone of asperity.
"Because I like to hear you speak," said the young man calmly. "Sir Gregory Penne? I seem to know the name."
She did not answer.
"He was in Borneo for many years, wasn't he?"
"He's hateful," she said vehemently. "I detest him!" She did not explain the cause of her detestation, and Michael thought it discreet not to press the question, but presently she relieved him of responsibility.
"I've been to his house twice. He has a very fine garden, which Mr. Knebworth has used before-of course, I only went as an extra and was very much in the background. I wish I had been more so. He has queer ideas about women, and especially actresses-not that I'm an actress," she added hastily, "but I mean people who play for a living. Thank heaven there's only one scene to be shot at Griff, and perhaps he will not be at home, but that's unlikely. He's always there when I go."
Michael glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. His first impression of her beauty was more than confirmed. There was a certain wistfulness in her face which was very appealing; an honesty in the dark eyes that told him all he wanted to know about her attitude toward the admiration of the unknown Sir Gregory.
"It's queer how all baronets are villains in stories," he said, "and queerer still that most of the baronets I've known have been men of singular morals. I'm bothering you, being here, aren't I?" he asked, dropping his tone of banter.
She looked round at him.
"You are a little," she said frankly. "You see, Mr. Brixan, this is my big chance. It's a chance that really never comes to an extra except in stories, and I'm frightened to death of what is going to happen. You make me nervous, but what makes me more panic-stricken is that the first scene is to be shot at Griff. I hate it! I hate it!" she said almost savagely. "big, hard-looking house, with its hideous stuffed tigers and its awful-looking swords-"
"Swords?" he asked quickly. "What do you mean?"
"The walls are covered with them-Eastern swords. They make me shiver to see them. But Sir Gregory takes a delight in them. He told Mr. Knebworth, the last time we were there, that the swords were as sharp now as they were when they came from the hands of their makers, and some of them were three hundred years old. He's an extraordinary man: he can cut an apple in half on your hand and never so much as scratch you. That is one of his favourite stunts-do you know what 'stunt' means?"
"I seem to have heard the expression," said Michael absently.
"There is the house," she pointed. "Ugh! It makes me shiver."
Griff Towers was one of those bleak-looking buildings that it had been the delight of the early Victorian architects to erect. Its one grey tower, placed on the left wing, gave it a lop-sided appearance, but even this distortion did not distract attention from its rectangular unloveliness. The place seemed all the more bare since the walls were innocent of greenery and i