“I am so!” declared Mr. Lindsey. “That’s a fact, Portlethorpe.”
“Then what follows?” asked Mr. Portlethorpe. “If Mr. Smeaton there is the true and lawful son of the late Michael Carstairs, his name is not Smeaton at all, but Carstairs, and he’s the true holder of the baronetcy, and, as his grandfather died intestate, the legal owner of the property! D’you follow that?”
“I should be a fool if I didn’t!” retorted Mr. Lindsey. “I’ve been thinking of it for thirty-six hours.”
“Well—it’ll have to be proved,” muttered Mr. Portlethorpe. He had been staring hard at Mr. Gavin Smeaton ever since he came in, and suddenly he let out a frank exclamation. “There’s no denying you’ve a strong Carstairs look on you!” said he. “Bless and save me!—this is the strangest affair!”
Smeaton put his hand into his pocket, and drew out a little package which he began to unwrap.
“I wonder if this has anything to do with it,” he said. “I remembered, thinking things over last night, that I had something which, so the Watsons used to tell me, was round my neck when I first came to them. It’s a bit of gold ornament, with a motto on it. I’ve had it carefully locked away for many a long year!”
He took out of his package a heart-shaped pendant, with a much-worn gold chain attached to it, and turned it over to show an engraved inscription on the reverse side.
“There’s the motto,” he said. “You see—Who Will, Shall. Whose is it?”
“God bless us!” exclaimed Mr. Portlethorpe. “The Carstairs motto! Aye!—their motto for many a hundred years! Lindsey, this is an extraordinary thing!—I’m inclined to think you may have some right in your notions. We must—”
But before Mr. Portlethorpe could say what they must do, there was a diversion in our proceedings which took all interest in them clean away from me, and made me forget whatever mystery there was about Carstairs, Smeaton, or anybody else. A page lad came along with a telegram in his hand asking was there any gentleman there of the name of Moneylaws? I took the envelope from him in a whirl of wonder, and tore it open, feeling an unaccountable sense of coming trouble. And in another minute the room was spinning round me; but the wording of the telegram was clear enough:
“Come home first train Maisie Dunlop been unaccountably missing since last evening and no trace of her. Murray.”
I flung the bit of paper on the table before the other three, and, feeling like my head was on fire, was out of the room and the hotel, and in the street and racing into the station, before one of them could find a word to put on his tongue.