“You do not know!” she murmured.
THROUGH THE TELEPHONE
There was no doubt about it that Delora had disappeared. I followed the reception clerk downstairs myself within the space of a few minutes, and made the most careful inquiries in every part of the hotel. It did not take me very long to ascertain, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he was not upon the premises, nor had he yet been seen by any one connected with the place. I even walked to the corner of the courtyard and looked aimlessly up and down the Strand. Within those few hundred yards which lay between where I was standing and Charing Cross something had happened which had prevented his reaching the hotel. It may have been the slightest of accidents. It might be something more serious. Or it might even be, I was forced to reflect, that he had never intended coming! Presently I returned to the suite of rooms upon the fifth floor to make my report to Miss Delora. I found her calmer than I had expected, but her face fell when I was forced to confess that I had heard no news.
“I am sorry,” I said, “but there is no doubt that up to the present, at any rate, your uncle has not been here. I am quite sure, though,” I added, “that there is no cause for alarm. A hundred slight accidents might have happened to detain him for half an hour or so.”
She glanced at the clock.
“It is more than that,” she said softly.
“Tell me,” I asked, “would you like me to communicate with the police? They are in touch with the hospitals, and if any misfortune has happened to your uncle—which, after all, is scarcely likely—we should hear of it directly.”
She shook her head vigorously. The idea, for some reason, seemed to displease her.
“No!” she said. “Why should we appeal to the police? What have they to do with my uncle? I am quite sure that he would not wish that.”
“I presume,” I said, “that nothing of this sort has ever happened before?—I mean that he has not left you without warning?”
“Not under the same circumstances,” she admitted. “And yet, he has a very queer way of absenting himself every now and then.”
“For long?” I asked.
“It depends,” she answered. “Never for any length of time, though.”
“After all,” I remarked, “you cannot have seen such a great deal of him. He lives in South America, does he not, and you have never been out of France?”
“It is true,” she murmured.
“I noticed,” I continued thoughtfully, “that he seemed disturbed as we neared London.”
She drew out the pins from her hat, and with a little gesture of relief threw it upon the table.
“Please sit down for a minute,” she said. “I want to think.”
She leaned forward upon the couch, her head buried in her hands. I felt that she desired silence, so I said nothing. Several moments passed, then there came a sudden and unexpected interruption. The bell of the telephone instrument, which stood between us upon the table, commenced to ring. Her hands fell from before her face. She looked across at me with parted lips and wide-open eyes. I made a movement towards the instrument, but she checked me.