“Interest?” The nobleman looked at him. “Oh, yes!”
“If I might be so bold, may I ask, does your lordship expect to find anything that would—ahem!—cast any reflection on the high standing John Steele is building up for himself in the community, or—–”
A shadow seemed to darken the mask-like features of the visitor; his gaze at once glittering, vaguely questioning, was fastened on the wall; then slowly, without answering, he got up. “Surmises are not to enter into this matter,” he said shortly. “It is facts, I want—facts!”
“And your lordship shall have them. The case appears simple; not hard to get at the bottom of!” An odd expression shone from the visitor’s eyes. “Which reminds me he has left town,” added Gillett.
“Left town!” Lord Ronsdale wheeled abruptly. “You mean—”
“For a little trip to the continent I should imagine; heard of it because he got some unimportant court matter put over.”
“Gone away!” The nobleman, his back to the other, lifted a hand to his brow. “When?”
“It was only yesterday morning I was riding with him!”
“And he didn’t mention the matter?”
The visitor did not answer. “Why should he have gone away?” he murmured, half aloud. “Was it because—” He walked to the door; at the threshold stopped and looked back. “You might begin your inquiry by learning all you can about this little trip,” he suggested. “And by the by, whatever you may find out, if anything, you will regard as belonging to me exclusively; to be mentioned, under no circumstances, without my permission, to any one whosoever—”
“Your lordship!” Mr. Gillett’s hurt voice implied the little need for such admonition. “In my profession absolute integrity toward one’s client demands that secrecy should be the first con—”
“It is understood then. Let me hear from you from time to time,” and the nobleman went out.
Mr. Gillett looked after him, then, reflectively, at the closed door. Outside the sound of shuffling feet alone broke the stillness; before the book-stand the bibliomaniac buried his face deeper in the musty pages of an old tragedy.
* * * * *
Several months went by and John Steele saw nothing further, although he heard often, of Miss Jocelyn Wray. His business to the continent, whatever its nature, had seemed sufficiently important to authorize from him to her, in due process of time, a short perfunctory message regretting his inability to present himself at the appointed hour at Strathorn House. Whether the young girl found in the letter a vagueness warranting a suspicion that John Steele preferred the heavy duties of the city to the light frivolities of the country matters not; suffice it the weeks passed and no further invitations, in the ponderous script of the wife of Sir Charles, arrived to tempt him from his accustomed ways. But the days of this long interim had not passed altogether uneventfully; a few incidents, apart from the routine of his work, obtruded themselves upon his attention.