After lingering awhile on the steps of the hotel, and satisfying himself by peeps through the glass doors that the coast was clear, he ventured inside. The great corridor contained many people, coming, going, or standing about, but none of them paid any attention to him. At last he made up his mind, and beckoned a colored boy to him from a group gathered in the shadows of the big central staircase. Explaining that he did not at that moment wish a room, but desired to leave his bag, the boy took him to a cloak-room, and got him a check for the thing. With this in his pocket he felt himself more at his ease, and turned to walk away. Then suddenly he wheeled, and, bending his body over the counter of the cloak-room, astonished the attendant inside by the eagerness with which he scrutinized the piled rows of portmanteaus, trunks, overcoats, and bundles in the little enclosure.
“What is it you want? Here’s your bag, if you’re looking for that,” this man said to him.
“No, thanks; it’s nothing,” replied Theron, straightening himself again. He had had a narrow escape. Father Forbes and Celia, walking side by side, had come down the small passage in which he stood, and had passed him so closely that he had felt her dress brush against him. Fortunately he had seen them in time, and by throwing himself half into the cloak-room, had rendered recognition impossible.
He walked now in the direction they had taken, till he came to the polite colored man at an open door on the left, who was bowing people into the breakfast room. Standing in the doorway, he looked about him till his eye lighted upon his two friends, seated at a small table by a distant window, with a black waiter, card in hand, bending over in consultation with them.
Returning to the corridor, he made bold now to march up to the desk and examine the register. The priest’s name was not there. He found only the brief entry, “Miss Madden, Octavius,” written, not by her, but by Father Forbes. On the line were two numbers in pencil, with an “and” between them. An indirect question to one of the clerks helped him to an explanation of this. When there were two numbers, it meant that the guest in question had a parlor as well as a bedroom.
Here he drew a long, satisfied breath, and turned away. The first half of his quest stood completed—and that much more fully and easily than he had dared to hope. He could not but feel a certain new respect for himself as a man of resource and energy. He had demonstrated that people could not fool with him with impunity.