“Then I’ll ask you a question at once,” said Mr. Lindsey. “And I’m sure you’ll be good enough to answer it. When did you last see Sir Gilbert Carstairs?”
Mr. Paley immediately turned to a diary which lay on his desk, and gave one glance at it. “Three days ago,” he answered promptly. “Wednesday—eleven o’clock.”
THE CARSTAIRS MOTTO
Mr. Lindsey reflected a moment after getting that precise answer, and he glanced at me as if trying to recollect something.
“That would be the very morning after the affair of the yacht?” he asked of me.
But before I could speak, Mr. Paley took the words out of my mouth.
“Quite right.” he said quietly. “I knew nothing of it at the time, of course, but I have read a good deal in the newspapers since. It was the morning after Sir Gilbert left Berwick in his yacht.”
“Did he mention anything about the yacht to you?” inquired Mr. Lindsey.
“Not a word! I took it that he had come in to see me in the ordinary way,” replied the stockbroker. “He wasn’t here ten minutes. I had no idea whatever that anything had happened.”
“Before we go any further,” said Mr. Lindsey, “may I ask you to tell us what he came for? You know that Mr. Portlethorpe is his solicitor?—I am asking the question on his behalf as well as my own.”
“I don’t know why I shouldn’t tell you,” answered Mr. Paley. “He came on perfectly legitimate business. It was to call for some scrip which I held—scrip of his own, of course.”
“Which he took away with him?” suggested Mr. Lindsey.
“Naturally!” replied the stockbroker. “That was what he came for.”
“Did he give you any hint as to where he was going?” asked Mr. Lindsey. “Did he, for instance, happen to mention that he was leaving home for a time?”
“Not at all,” answered Mr. Paley. “He spoke of nothing but the business that had brought him. As I said just now, he wasn’t here ten minutes.”
It was evident to me that Mr. Lindsey was still more taken aback. What we had learned during the last half-hour seemed to surprise him. And Mr. Portlethorpe, who was sharp enough of observation, saw this, and made haste to step into the arena.
“Mr. Lindsey,” he said, “has been much upset by the apparently extraordinary circumstances of Sir Gilbert Carstairs’ disappearance—and so, I may say, has Sir Gilbert’s sister, Mrs. Ralston. I have pointed out that Sir Gilbert himself may have—probably has—a quite proper explanation of his movements. Wait a minute, Lindsey!” he went on, as Mr. Lindsey showed signs of restiveness. “It’s my turn, I think.” He looked at Mr. Paley again. “Your transactions with Sir Gilbert have been quite in order, all through, I suppose—and quite ordinary?”