“Yes; I mailed one letter to Uncle Harry before I left Chicago, you know, but I forgot something important, so I had to write again to-day.”
“What did you forget?”
“I forgot to tell him you were coming out on the same ship and would look after me as if I were your own sister, Hugh.”
Strange to say, neither of them smiled as their hands met in a warm, confident clasp.
THE FIRST OBSTACLE
A drizzling rain began to fall and an overcast sky, cold and bleak, dropped lower and lower until it covered the dripping park like a sombre mantle. The glass in the hood of the hansom kept out the biting rain, but the drear approach of a wet evening was not to be denied. For nearly three hours Hugh and Grace had been driven through the park and up the Riverside, killing time with a nervous energy that was beginning to tell. The electric lights were coming on; pavements glistened with the glare from the globes; tiny volcanoes leaped up by thousands as the patting, swishing raindrops flounced to the sidewalks.
“Isn’t it dismal?” murmured Grace, huddling closer to his side. “I thought the weather man said it was to be nice? It’s horrid!”
“I think it’s lovely!” said he beamingly. “Just the sort of weather for a mystery like this. It begins like a novel.”
“I hope it ends as most of them do, commonplace as they are. Anyhow, it will be fun to dine at Sherry’s. If any one that we know should see us, we can say—”
“No, dear; we’ll not attempt to explain. In the face of what is to follow, I don’t believe an accounting is necessary. This is to be our last dinner in good old America for many a day, dear. We’ll have a good one, just for history’s sake. What kind of a bird will you have?”
“A lark, I think,” she said with a bright smile.
“Oh, one doesn’t eat the lark for dinner. He’s a breakfast bird, you know. One rises with him. Bedsides, we should try to keep our lark in fine feather instead of subjecting it to the discomforts of a gridiron in some—”
His observations came to an abrupt close as both he and his companion pitched forward violently, barely saving themselves from projection through the glass. The hansom had come to a sudden stop, and outside there was a confused sound of shouting with the crunching of wood and the scraping of wheels. The horse plunged, the cab rocked sharply and then came to a standstill.
“What is it?” gasped Grace, trying to straighten her hat and find her bag at the same time. Hugh managed to raise the glass and peer dazedly forth into the gathering night. A sweep of fine rain blew into their faces. He saw a jumble of high vehicles, a small knot of men on the sidewalk, gesticulating hands on every side, and then came the oaths and sharp commands.
“We’ve smashed into something!” he said to her.