“Eh? That you, Ronsdale?” he said, reaching for a steaming glass of hot beverage at his elbow. “What do you think of it, this talk of an invasion by the Monseers?”
“Don’t think anything of it.”
“Answered in the true spirit of a Briton!” laughed the other. “I fancy, too, it’ll be a long time before John Bull ceases to stamp around, master of his own shores, or Britannia no longer rules the deep. But how is your friend, Sir Charles Wray? I had the pleasure of meeting him the other morning in the court room.”
“Same as usual, I imagine, Judge Beeson.”
“And his fair niece, she takes kindly to the town and its gaieties?”
“Very kindly,” dryly.
“A beautiful girl, our young Australian!” The elder man toyed with his glass, stirred the contents and sipped. “By the way, didn’t I see John Steele in their box at the opera the other night?”
“It is possible,” shortly.
“Rising man, that!” observed the other lightly. “Combination of brains and force! Did you ever notice his fist? It might belong to a prize-fighter, except that the hands are perfectly kept! You’d know at once he was a man accustomed to fighting, who would sweep aside obstacles, get what he wanted!”
“Think so?” Lord Ronsdale smoked steadily. “You, as a magistrate, I suppose, know him well?”
“Should hardly go that far; taciturn chap, don’t you know! I don’t believe any one really knows him.”
“Or about him?” suggested the other, crossing his legs nonchalantly.
“Not much; only that he is an alien.”
“An alien?” quickly. “Not a colonial?”
“No; he has lived in the colonies—Tasmania, and so on. But by birth he’s an American.”
“An American, eh? And practising at the British bar?”
“Not the first case of the kind; exceptions have been made before, and aliens ‘called,’ as we express it. Steele’s hobby of criminology brought him to London, and his earnestness and ability in that line procured for him the privilege he sought. As member of the incorporated society that passes upon the qualifications of candidates it was my pleasure to sit in judgment on him; we raked him fore and aft but, bless you, he stood squarely on his feet and refused to be tripped.”
“So he came to England to pursue a certain line?” said Lord Ronsdale half to himself.
“A man with a partiality for criminal work would naturally look to the modern Babylon. Steele apparently works more to gratify that predilection than for any reward in pounds and pence. Must have private means; have known him to spend a deal of time and money on cases there couldn’t have been a sixpence in.”
“How’d he happen to get down in Tasmania? Odd place for a Yankee!”
“That’s one of the questions he wasn’t asked,” laughingly. “Perhaps what our Teutonic friends would call the Wander-lust took him there.” Rising, “My compliments to Sir Charles when you see him.”