Stephens stood at the long window of the banqueting hall, staring across the broad expanse of shaven lawn to the river that traced the northern boundary of the Creith acres. It was a glorious morning in early autumn. The trees held to their deep green, but here and there the russet and gold of autumnal foliage showed on the wooded slopes of No Man's Hill. Sunlight sparkled on the sluggish Avon, the last wraith of mist was curling through the pines that crested the hill, and the tremendous silence of the countryside was broken only by the flurry of wings as a hen pheasant flew clumsily from covert to covert.
Stephens turned guiltily as he heard the voice of the man about whom he was at that moment thinking so disrespectfully.
Ralph Hamon had come noiselessly into the panelled hall. He was a fair man of middle height, stockily built, inclined to stou