He bowed and left her standing there in the shadows, the expression of her face veiled, but there seemed no response, no softening in the rigid attitude of her figure. She did not care; was only interested in his immediate departure. The change had occurred with such abruptness, West was unable as yet to realize its full significance, but, with no attempt to combat her decision, left the room, closing the door behind him. In that moment his mood changed. The dismissal had been so curt, his pride rose in rebellion. Finding Sexton in the front hall, he addressed him crisply.
“My bag will be ready in ten minutes.”
“Yes, sir; you are going away, sir?”
“Immediately. A call to return to the city at once.”
“I am very sorry, sir,” he said respectfully, yet in a tone of such earnestness, as to cause West to glance toward him sharply. For an instant it was upon the lips of the younger man to ask a question, but Sexton turned away, and it remained unasked. Promptly at the time mentioned came the servant’s soft rap on the door.
“I came for the bag, sir.”
West handed it over with a glance at the rather expressionless face.
“You said you regretted to see me leave, Sexton,” he remarked jovially. “I presume you meant nothing in particular by that remark?”
“Oh, no, sir,” standing motionless, bag in hand. “Only you have been very kind, sir, and—and—of course, it is none of my business, but I hope there is no quarrel, sir?”
“Quarrel! With Miss Natalie, you mean? Why should you suspect that?”
“I—I spoke, sir, very thoughtlessly, sir,” he stammered. “You will pardon me, sir.”
“Yes, but you must have had a reason, Sexton?”
“Only that she has seemed very much out of humour, sir, since her trip to town,” he explained rather lamely. “I have never known her to be so hard to please, sir. I’m sure something is wrong, but that is no reason why I should say what I did, sir.”
THE BODY OF A SUICIDE
As the car whirled West down the circling driveway, the only sign of life visible about the house was the motionless figure of Sexton on the steps. If either Miss Natalie, or Percival Coolidge, took interest enough in the proceedings to witness his departure, they chose to remain carefully concealed within. His glance searched the front of the mansion vainly; no window revealed an occupant. From behind where the guests were at play, sounded a distant murmur of voices, and laughter, but the house itself expressed only calm indifference. There was no pretence even at speeding the parting guest. He had simply been dismissed, turned out, decently enough, perhaps, considering his status, yet with a certain measure of contempt which rankled nevertheless.