“It isn’t very long,” Josephine remarked drily, “since we were rather glad that America didn’t mind her own business.”
“Bosh!” her husband scoffed. “If English people are to be bullied and their liberty interfered with in this manner, we might as well have lost the war and become a German Colony.”
“Don’t agree with you, sir,” Jimmy declared, with most unusual seriousness. “I don’t like the way you are talking, and I’m dead off the B. & I. myself. I’d cut my connection with it, if I were you. Been looking for trouble for a long time—and, great Scot, I believe they’re going to get it!”
“Damned rubbish!” Lord Dredlinton muttered angrily.
“Heavens! Jimmy’s in earnest!” Sarah exclaimed, rising. “I am sure it’s time we went. We are overdue at his mother’s, and one of my cylinders is missing. Come on, Jimmy.—Good-by, Josephine dear! You’ll forgive us if we hurry off? I did tell you we had to go directly after dinner, didn’t I?”
“You did, dear,” Josephine assented, walking towards the door with her friend. “Come in and see me again soon.”
There was the sound of voices in the hall. Lord Dredlinton started eagerly.
“That’s the fellow from Scotland Yard, I hope,” he said. “Promised to come round to-night. Perhaps they’ve news of Stanley.”
The door was thrown open, and the new butler ushered in a tall, thin man dressed in morning clothes of somewhat severe cut.
“Inspector Shields, my lord,” he announced.
Lord Dredlinton’s impatience was almost feverish. One would have imagined that Stanley Rees had been one of his dearest friends, instead of a young man whom he rather disliked.
“Come in. Inspector,” he invited. “Come in. Glad to see you. Any news?”
“None whatever, my lord,” was the laconic reply.
Dredlinton’s face fell. He looked at his visitor, speechless for a moment. The inspector gravely saluted Josephine and accepted the chair to which she waved him.
“Upon my word,” Dredlinton declared, “this is most unsatisfactory! Most disappointing!”
“I was afraid that you might find it so,” the inspector assented.
Josephine turned in her chair and contemplated the latter with some interest. He was quietly dressed in well-cut but unobtrusive clothes. His long, narrow face had features of sensibility. His hair was grizzled a little at the temples. His composure seemed part of the man, passive and imperturbable.
“Isn’t a disappearance of this sort rather unusual?” she enquired.
“Most unusual, your ladyship,” the man admitted. “I scarcely remember a similar case.”
“‘Unusual’ seems to me a mild word!” Dredlinton exclaimed angrily. “Here is a well-known young man, with friends in every circle of life and engagements at every hour, a partner in an important commercial undertaking, who is absolutely removed from his rooms in one of the best-known hotels in London, and at the end of three days the police are powerless to find out what has become of him!”