“Can you tell me if there’s a Mr. Graham in this building?” Foster asked.
“Yes, he’s here,” said the other. “What do you want?”
Foster said he had brought a packet from Canada, and the old man, who looked rather hard at him, lifted a flap in the counter and told him to pass through. A door in the partition opened as he advanced and another man beckoned him to come in. It looked as if the latter had heard what had passed, but this saved an explanation and Foster, who asked if he was Graham, put the packet on a table. There was not much else in the small, dusty room, except a cupboard fitted with pigeon-holes, a desk, and a safe.
“This is from Miss Austin of Gardner’s Crossing,” he remarked.
Graham glanced at the packet carelessly, as if he did not consider it of much importance, and Foster felt puzzled. The fellow was not as old as Carmen’s father, but Foster thought there was nothing about him that would attract a girl used to admiration, as Carmen was. He was certainly not handsome and had, on the whole, a commonplace look, while he was obviously in a small way of business.
“Thank you,” he said. “It seems you have been to Edinburgh. We had a branch there, but closed it recently. Newcastle has more facilities for importing our goods. I’m afraid you have been put to some trouble.”
Foster replied that he did not mind this, since he had promised Miss Austin to bring the packet and she was a friend of his, but although he studied the man’s face saw nothing to indicate that he was interested.
“Are you staying here?” he asked, and when Foster told him that he was going back as soon as he could, resumed: “If you had been staying, I would have been glad to take you about the town; but, after all, there’s nothing much in the way of amusement going on. I might arrange to meet you in the afternoon, but must now finish some letters for the Continental mail.”
Foster said he could not wait and went out, feeling that the other was pleased to get rid of him. Graham was obviously a small importer of provisions, and he could not see why the girl in Edinburgh had warned him to post the packet. Carmen’s reason for sending such a man something she valued was impossible to discern.
This, however, was not Foster’s business, and after lunch he caught a train to Hexham and, finding he could get no farther, spent the night in the old Border town.
AN OFFER OF HELP
It rained and the light was going when Foster sat in a window seat of the library at the Garth. He was alone, but did not mind this. The Featherstones treated him as one of the family; he was free to do what he liked, and Alice had just gone away, after talking to him for half an hour. Lighting a cigarette, he mused and looked about.