“Mr. Coulson, isn’t it?” the young man asked, accepting the other’s outstretched hand. “We are awfully sorry to disturb you, so soon after your arrival, too, but the fact is that this young lady, Miss Penelope Morse,”—Mr. Coulson bowed,—“was exceedingly anxious to make your acquaintance. You Americans are such birds of passage that she was afraid you might have moved on if she didn’t look you up at once.”
Penelope herself intervened.
“I’m afraid you’re going to think me a terrible nuisance, Mr. Coulson!” she exclaimed. Mr. Coulson, although he did not call himself a lady’s man, was nevertheless human enough to appreciate the fact that the young lady’s face was piquant and her smile delightful. She was dressed with quiet but elegant simplicity. The perfume of the violets at her waistband seemed to remind him of his return to civilization.
“Well, I’ll take my risks of that, Miss Morse,” he declared. “If you’ll only let me know what I can do for you—”
“It’s about poor Mr. Hamilton Fynes,” she explained. “I took up the evening paper only half an hour ago, and read your interview with the reporter. I simply couldn’t help stopping to ask whether you could give me any further particulars about that horrible affair. I didn’t dare to come here all alone, so I asked Sir Charles to come along with me.”
Mr. Coulson, being invited to do so, seated himself on the lounge by the young lady’s side. He leaned a little forward with a hand on either knee.
“I don’t exactly know what I can tell you,” he remarked. “I take it, then, that you were well acquainted with Mr. Fynes?”
“I used to know him quite well,” Penelope answered, “and naturally I am very much upset. When I read in the paper an account of your interview with the reporter, I could see at once that you were not telling him everything. Why should you, indeed? A man does not want every detail of his life set out in the newspapers just because he has become connected with a terrible tragedy.”
“You’re a very sensible young lady, Miss Morse, if you will allow me to say so,” Mr. Coulson declared. “You were expecting to see something of Mr. Fynes over here, then?”
“I had an appointment to lunch with him today,” she answered. “He sent me a marconigram before he arrived at Queenstown.”
“Is that so?” Mr. Coulson exclaimed. “Well, well!”
“I actually went to the restaurant,” Penelope continued, “without knowing anything of this. I can’t understand it at all, even now. Mr. Fynes always seemed to me such a harmless sort of person, so unlikely to have enemies, or anything of that sort. Don’t you think so, Mr. Coulson?”