“I say, old man,” I exclaimed, “I wish you’d start for home at once!”
“Right away!” he answered. “We’ll ring for Ferris.”
The chauffeur came in and received his orders. We got into our coats and walked out toward the front door. Suddenly I drew Jacky back and stood behind a pillar. A great touring car had turned the corner and was passing down the street. In it were three men,—the Chinese ambassador, Delora, and the man who had left the offices of Messrs. Halliday with them.
“Is that the road to London?” I asked the porter.
“It is the way into the main road, sir,” he answered,—“two hundred and sixty-five miles.”
They swung round the corner and disappeared. Our own car was just drawing up. I turned to Jacky.
“We’d better wait a few minutes,” I said, “and tell your man not to overtake that car!”
Jacky looked at me in surprise. He was by no means a curious person, but he was obviously puzzled.
“What a mysterious person you have become, Austen!” he said. “What’s it all about?”
“You will know some day,” I answered, as we made ourselves comfortable,—“perhaps before many hours are past!”
We arrived at Feltham at a few minutes past ten o’clock, having seen nothing of the car which had left Newcastle a few minutes before ours. Several times we asked on the road and heard news of it, but we could find no sign of it having stopped even for a moment. Apparently it had been driven, without pause for rest or refreshment, at top speed, and we learned that two summonses would probably be issued against its owners. Jacky, who was delighted with the whole expedition, sat with his watch in his hands for the last few miles, and made elaborate calculations as to our average speed, the distance we had traversed, and other matters interesting to the owner of a powerful car.
We were greeted, when we arrived, with all sorts of inquiries as to our expedition, but we declined to say a word until we had dined. We had scarcely commenced our meal before the butler came hurrying in.
“His Lordship is ringing up from London, sir,” he said. “He wishes to speak to you particularly. The telephone is through into the library.”
I made my way there and took up the receiver without any special interest. Ralph was fidgety these days, and I had no doubt that he had something to say to me about the shooting. His first words, however, riveted my attention.
“Is that you, Austen?” he asked.
“I am here,” I answered. “How are you, Ralph?”
“I am all right,” he said. “Rather better than usual, in fact. Where on earth have you been to all day? I have rung up four times.”
“I have been motoring with Jacky,” I told him. “We have been for rather a long run. Have you been wanting me?”