“He takes photographs, for instance,” I suggested.
“Yes. But not ordinary amateur photographs; his work is more technical and quite excellent of its kind. For example, he did a most beautiful series of micro-photographs of sections of metalliferous rocks which he reproduced for publication by the collotype process, and even printed off the plates himself.”
“I see. He must be a very capable fellow.”
“He is, very,” she assented, “and very keen on making a position; but I am afraid he is rather too fond of money for its own sake, which is not a pleasant feature in a young man’s character, is it?”
I agreed that it was not.
“Excessive keenness in money affairs,” proceeded Miss Gibson oracularly, “is apt to lead a young man into bad ways—oh, you need not smile, Dr. Jervis, at my wise saws; it is perfectly true, and you know it. The fact is, I sometimes have an uneasy feeling that Walter’s desire to be rich inclines him to try what looks like a quick and easy method of making money. He had a friend—a Mr. Horton—who is a dealer on the Stock Exchange and who ‘operates’ rather largely—’operate’ I believe is the expression used, although it seems to be nothing more than common gambling—and I have more than once suspected Walter of being concerned in what Mr. Horton calls ‘a little flutter.’”
“That doesn’t strike me as a very long-headed proceeding,” I remarked, with the impartial wisdom of the impecunious, and therefore untempted.
“No,” she agreed, “it isn’t. But your gambler always thinks he is going to win—though you mustn’t let me give you the impression that Walter is a gambler. But here is my destination. Thank you for escorting me so far, and I hope you are beginning to feel less like a stranger to the Hornby family. We shall make our appearance to-night at eight punctually.”
She gave me her hand with a frank smile and tripped up the steps leading to the street door; and when I glanced back, after crossing the road, she gave me a little friendly nod as she turned to enter the house.
“So your net has been sweeping the quiet and pleasant waters of feminine conversation,” remarked Thorndyke when we met at the dinner table and I gave him an outline of my afternoon’s adventures.
“Yes,” I answered, “and here is the catch cleaned and ready for the consumer.”
I laid on the table two of my notebooks in which I had entered such facts as I had been able to extract from my talk with Miss Gibson.
“You made your entries as soon as possible after your return, I suppose?” said Thorndyke—“while the matter was still fresh?”
“I wrote down my notes as I sat on a seat in Kensington Gardens within five minutes after leaving Miss Gibson.”
“Good!” said Thorndyke. “And now let us see what you have collected.”