What was there about this strange girl that had made so deep an impression on me? That was the question that I propounded to myself, and not for the first time. Of the fact itself there was no doubt. But what was the explanation? Was it her unusual surroundings? Her occupation and rather recondite learning? Her striking personality and exceptional good looks? Or her connection with the dramatic mystery of her lost uncle?
I concluded that it was all of these. Everything connected with her was unusual and arresting; but over and above these circumstances there was a certain sympathy and personal affinity of which I was strongly conscious and of which I dimly hoped that she, perhaps, was a little conscious, too. At any rate, I was deeply interested in her; of that there was no doubt whatever. Short as our acquaintance had been, she held a place in my thoughts that had never been held by any other woman.
From Ruth Bellingham my reflections passed by a natural transition to the curious story that her father had told me. It was a queer affair, that ill-drawn will, with the baffled lawyer protesting in the background. It almost seemed as if there must be something behind it all, especially when I remembered Mr. Hurst’s very singular proposal. But it was out of my depth; it was a case for a lawyer, and to a lawyer it should go. This very night, I resolved, I would go to Thorndyke and give him the whole story as it had been told to me.
And then there happened one of those coincidences at which we all wonder when they occur, but which are so frequent as to have become enshrined in a proverb. For, even as I formed the resolution, I observed two men approaching from the direction of Blackfriars, and recognised in them my quondam teacher and his junior.
“I was just thinking about you,” I said as they came up.
“Very flattering,” replied Jervis; “but I thought you had to talk of the devil.”
“Perhaps,” suggested Thorndyke, “he was talking to himself. But why were you thinking of us, and what was the nature of your thoughts?”
“My thoughts had reference to the Bellingham case. I spent the whole of last evening at Nevill’s Court.”
“Ha! And are there any fresh developments?”
“Yes, by Jove! there are. Bellingham gave me a full and detailed description of the will; and a pretty document it seems to be.”
“Did he give you permission to repeat the details to me?”
“Yes. I asked specifically if I might and he had no objection whatever.”
“Good. We are lunching at Soho to-day as Polton has his hands full. Come with us and share our table and tell us your story as we go. Will that suit you?”
It suited me admirably in the present state of the practice, and I accepted the invitation with undissembled glee.
“Very well,” said Thorndyke; “then let us walk slowly and finish with matters confidential before we plunge into the madding crowd.”