Mrs. Anderton, it appeared, thinking she would be tired from her unaccustomed journey, had suggested she should breakfast in bed, which Halcyone, thankful to be alone, had gratefully agreed to; and when on her breakfast tray which came up at eight o’clock she saw a daily paper, she had eagerly opened it, and after searching the unfamiliar sheets for the political news, her eye had caught the paragraph about John Derringham’s accident. In this particular journal the notice was merely the brief one of the evening before, but it was enough to wring Halcyone’s heart.
She bounded from bed and got Priscilla to dress her in the shortest possible time, and the faithful nurse, seeing that her beloved lamb was in some deep distress, forbore to question her.
Nothing would have stopped Halcyone from going out, but she hoped to do so unperceived.
“Look if the way is clear to the door,” she implored Priscilla, “while I put on my hat. I must go to the Professor at once—something dreadful has happened.”
So Priscilla went and contrived so that she got Halcyone out of the front door while the servants were busy in the dining-room about the breakfast. She hailed a passing hansom, and in this, to the poor child, novel conveyance, she was whirled safely to Cheiron’s little hotel in Jermyn Street, and Priscilla returned to her room, to make believe that her nursling was still sleeping.
“Halcyone! My child!” the Professor exclaimed, to gain time, and then he decided to help her out, so he went on: “I am glad to see you, but am very distressed at the news in the paper this morning about John Derringham—you may have seen it—and I am sure will sympathize with me.”
Halcyone’s piteous eyes thanked him.
“Yes, indeed,” she said. “What does it mean? Ought not—we—you to go to him?”
Mr. Carlyon avoided looking at her.
“I cannot very well do that in Mrs. Cricklander’s house,” he said, tugging at his beard, to hide the emotion he felt. “But I will telegraph this minute and ask for news, if you will give me the forms—they are over there,” and he pointed to his writing-table.
She handed them immediately, and as he adjusted his spectacles she rang the bell; no time must be lost, and the waiter could be there before the words were completed.
“When can you get the answer?” she asked a little breathlessly.
“In two hours, I should think, or perhaps three,” the Professor returned. “But there is a telephone downstairs—it has just been put in. We might telephone to his rooms, or to the Foreign Office, and find out if they have heard any further news there. That would relieve my mind a little.”
“Yes—do,” responded Halcyone eagerly.
The tone of repressed anguish in her soft voice stabbed Cheiron’s heart, but they understood each other too well for any unnecessary words to pass between them. The kindest thing he could do for her was to show her he did not mean to perceive her trouble.