We went down into the street together, and after he had asked if there was anything he could do for me that night, and I had assured him there was not, we parted with an agreement that Mr. Lindsey and I should call at his office early next morning. When he had left me, I sought out a place where I could get some supper, and, that over, I idled about the town until it was time for the train from the south to get in. And I was on the platform when it came, and there was my mother and Maisie and Mr. Lindsey, and I saw at a glance that all that was filling each was sheer and infinite surprise. My mother gripped me on the instant.
“Hugh!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing here, and what does all this mean? Such a fright as you’ve given us! What’s the meaning of it?”
I was so taken aback, having been certain that Carstairs would have gone home and told them I was accidentally drowned, that all I could do was to stare from one to the other. As for Maisie, she only looked wonderingly at me; as for Mr. Lindsey, he gazed at me as scrutinizingly as my mother was doing.
“Aye!” said he, “what’s the meaning of it, young man? We’ve done your bidding and more—but—why?”
I found my tongue at that.
“What!” I exclaimed. “Haven’t you seen Sir Gilbert Carstairs? Didn’t you hear from him that—”
“We know nothing about Sir Gilbert Carstairs,” he interrupted. “The fact is, my lad, that until your wire arrived this afternoon, nobody had even heard of you and Sir Gilbert Carstairs since you went off in his yacht yesterday. Neither he nor the yacht have ever returned to Berwick. Where are they?”
I READ MY OWN OBITUARY
It was my turn to stare again—and stare I did, from one to the other in silence, and being far too much amazed to find ready speech. And before I could get my tongue once more, my mother, who was always remarkably sharp of eye, got her word in.
“What’re you doing in that new suit of clothes?” she demanded. “And where’s your own good clothes that you went away in yesterday noon? I misdoubt this stewardship’s leading you into some strange ways!”
“My own good clothes, mother, are somewhere in the North Sea,” retorted I. “Top or bottom, sunk or afloat, it’s there you’ll find them, if you’re more anxious about them than me! Do you tell me that Carstairs has never been home?” I went on, turning to Mr. Lindsey, “Then I don’t know where he is, nor his yacht either. All I know is that he left me to drown last night, a good twenty miles from land, and that it’s only by a special mercy of Providence that I’m here. Wherever he is, yon man’s a murderer—I’ve settled that, Mr. Lindsey!”
The women began to tremble and to exclaim at this news, and to ask one question after another, and Mr. Lindsey shook his head impatiently.
“We can’t stand talking our affairs in the station all night,” said he. “Let’s get to an hotel, my lad—we’re all wanting our suppers. You don’t seem as if you were in very bad spirits, yourself.”