(three months later)
“Sir Anthony Fanshawe, I collect?” greeted Dan warily.
“Indeed, and you will be Mr Carne! I bear a commission for Carne and Tremaine from my good-father, Milord Barham!”
“What? Why should Tremaine’s father ….?”
“Why-ever not?” responded Sir Anthony doucely, “This premises, I take it, houses a venture entered into by his son, and he is naturally anxious to see it thrive!”
“Really?” queried Dan incredulously.
“Truly! Therefore we bring you a commission of peculiar delicacy, which is of vital interest to the House of Tremaine. Milord will require you to travel abroad with the utmost urgency (please make use of the yacht at anchor beyond Catherine’s Dock) and locate his cousin Rensley with the aim of … erm …. nullifying a renewed threat to Milord’s tranquillity. Robin will meet you at Calais with all particulars. Put up at the Coq d’Or and enquire for The Countess!”
“And Honest John too, I suppose?” ventured Dan, resorting to hard-edged sarcasm to hide his astoundedness.
“John Burton – if t’is he you mean – is currently at Barham Court,” replied Fanshawe serenely, “At the sole disposal of Mistress Letty and the Succession! As Milord Barham is given to understand, it will now be your task, Mr Carne, to take thought and care for the heir himself!” he paused, then added a trifle pensively, “I should, of course, have known that poor little Letty alone, would be insufficient to hold that scamp to his duty, lineage and indeed, life!”
Dan regarded Sir Anthony’s reminiscent smile with disfavour, and blurted his acidic accusation without due forethought.
“Ye’d a mind to him yourself!”
“Devil a bit, I swear! Ye must bear in mind that I made first acquaintance with Mistress Kate Merriot – a most flirtatious jade, in truth! But recall – I found myself drawn more to his sister, my dearest Prue!”
“Of course!” Dan blushed, “Y’r pardon, sir!”
“Granted! Now - ye may, of course, draw on Milord Barham for any expenses. Present this draft to Hoare’s before ye leave! As to the fee, half may be claimed from Milord’s men of law, Brent and Clapperly; payment of the rest to be dependent upon a successful outcome! Do the terms suffice?”
“I … suppose so ….!” said Dan, too dumbfounded to chaffer.
“Excellent! Then ye should be at the Coq d’Or three days from now! A pleasure doing business with so outspoken a gentleman! Good fortune, Mr Carne! Ye’ll need it an ye contemplate a lifetime with that scamp! Good day t’ ye!”
Left alone, Dan regarded his future with rueful humour, whilst his hands busied themselves with the necessities for a hasty departure.
There would be neither let or stay; and nothing of the humdrum about serving Tremaine!