The clerk pointed to the open door of a small private office.
“If you will step this way for one moment, madam,” he begged.
She tapped the floor with her foot and looked at him curiously. Certainly the people around seemed to be taking some interest in their conversation.
“Why should I?” she asked. “Cannot you answer my question here?”
“If madam will be so good,” he persisted.
She shrugged her shoulders and followed him. Something in the man’s earnest tone and almost pleading look convinced her, at least, of his good intentions. Besides, the interest which her question had undoubtedly aroused amongst the bystanders was, to say the least of it, embarrassing. He pulled the door to after them.
“Madam,” he said, “there was a Mr. Hamilton Fynes who came over by the Lusitania, and who had certainly engaged rooms in this hotel, but he unfortunately, it seems, met with an accident on his way from Liverpool.”
Her manner changed at once. She began to understand what it all meant. Her lips parted, her eyes were wide open.
“An accident?” she faltered.
He gently rolled a chair up to her. She sank obediently into it.
“Madam,” he said, “it was a very bad accident indeed. I trust that Mr. Hamilton Fynes was not a very intimate friend or a relative of yours. It would perhaps be better for you to read the account for yourself.”
He placed a newspaper in her hands. She read the first few lines and suddenly turned upon him. She was white to the lips now, and there was real terror in her tone. Yet if he had been in a position to have analyzed the emotion she displayed, he might have remarked that there was none of the surprise, the blank, unbelieving amazement which might have been expected from one hearing for the first time of such a calamity.
“Murdered!” she exclaimed. “Is this true?”
“It appears to be perfectly true, madam, I regret to say,” the clerk answered. “Even the earlier editions were able to supply the man’s name, and I am afraid that there is no doubt about his identity. The captain of the Lusitania confirmed it, and many of the passengers who saw him leave the ship last night have been interviewed.”
“Murdered!” she repeated to herself with trembling lips. “It seems such a horrible death! Have they any idea who did it?” she asked. “Has any one been arrested?”
“At present, no, madam,” the clerk answered. “The affair, as you will see if you read further, is an exceedingly mysterious one.”
She rocked a little in her chair, but she showed no signs of fainting. She picked up the paper and found the place once more. There were two columns filled with particulars of the tragedy.
“Where can I be alone and read this?” she asked.
“Here, if you please, madam,” the clerk answered. “I must go back to my desk. There are many arrivals just now. Will you allow me to send you something—a little brandy, perhaps?”