“What’s all this, Lindsey?” asked Mr. Portlethorpe, as soon as he walked in, and without any preliminaries. “Your wire says Sir Gilbert and Lady Carstairs have disappeared. Does that mean—”
“Did you read your newspaper yesterday?” interrupted Mr. Lindsey, who knew that what we had read in the Dundee Advertiser had also appeared in the Newcastle Daily Chronicle. “Evidently not, Portlethorpe, or you’d have known, in part at any rate, what my wire meant. But I’ll tell you in a hundred words—and then I’ll ask you a couple of questions before we go any further.”
He gave Mr. Portlethorpe an epitomized account of the situation, and Mr. Portlethorpe listened attentively to the end. And without making any comment he said three words:
“The first,” answered Mr. Lindsey, “is this—How long is it since you saw or heard from Sir Gilbert Carstairs?”
“A week—by letter,” replied Mr. Portlethorpe.
“The second,” continued Mr. Lindsey, “is much more important—much! What, Portlethorpe, do you know of Sir Gilbert Carstairs?”
Mr. Portlethorpe hesitated a moment. Then he replied, frankly and with evident candour.
“To tell you the truth, Lindsey,” he said, “beyond knowing that he is Sir Gilbert Carstairs—nothing!”
MRS. RALSTON OF CRAIG
Mr. Lindsey made no remark on this answer, and for a minute or two he and Mr. Portlethorpe sat looking at each other. Then Mr. Portlethorpe bent forward a little, his hands on his knees, and gave Mr. Lindsey a sort of quizzical but earnest glance.
“Now, why do you ask that last question?” he said quietly. “You’ve some object?”
“It’s like this,” answered Mr. Lindsey. “Here’s a man comes into these parts to take up a title and estates, who certainly had been out of them for thirty years. His recent conduct is something more than suspicious—no one can deny that he left my clerk there to drown, without possibility of help! That’s intended murder! And so I ask, What do you, his solicitor, know of him—his character, his doings during the thirty years he was away? And you answer—nothing!”
“Just so!” assented Mr. Portlethorpe. “And nobody does hereabouts. Except that he is Sir Gilbert Carstairs, nobody in these parts knows anything about him—how should they? We, I suppose, know more than anybody—and we know just a few bare facts.”
“I think you’ll have to let me know what these bare facts are,” remarked Mr. Lindsey. “And Moneylaws, too. Moneylaws has a definite charge to bring against this man—and he’ll bring it, if I’ve anything to do with it! He shall press it!—if he can find Carstairs. And I think you’d better tell us what you know, Portlethorpe. Things have got to come out.”