And yet what could have taken Mrs. Clephane from the hotel at such an hour, and without apprising her maid; and why was she driving up Sixteenth Street? Or was Spencer’s talk just a lie; intended to throw a scare into him and give him a bad quarter of an hour—until he would venture to call up Mrs. Clephane’s apartment? And if he did not venture, the bad quarter would last the balance of the night. At all events and whatever her idea Madeline Spencer had succeeded in disturbing him to an unusual degree—and all because of Mrs. Clephane.
At last he sprang up, threw on a light top-coat, grabbed a hat, and made for the door. He would go down to the Chateau and investigate. Anything was preferable to this miserable waiting.
The corridor door was swinging shut behind him, when his telephone buzzed. He flung back the door and reached the receiver in a bound.
“Yes!” he exclaimed.
“I forgot to say, Guy,” came Madeline Spencer’s purring voice, “that I’ll tell you in the morning, if you care to pay me a visit, how my alter ego came to be on Sixteenth Street at so unusual an hour. It’s rather interesting as to details. By the way, you must be sitting beside the receiver expecting a call; you answered with such amazing promptness!” and she laughed softly. “Shall I expect you at eleven, or will you be content to wait until we go to the Department at four?”
“I had just finished talking with Mrs. Clephane when you called,” Harleston replied imperturbably, then laughed mockingly. “I’ll be at the Chateau for you at half-after-three; you can give me the details then. I shall be delighted, Madeline, to compare your details with hers.”
“I wonder!” said she.
“What do you wonder?” said he.
“Whether you are—well, no matter; we’ll take it up this afternoon. Tout a l’heure, Monsieur Harleston!”
He was turning once more toward the door, when the telephone rang again.
“Is that Mr. Harleston?” said Mrs. Clephane’s lovely voice—and Harleston’s grin almost flowed into the transmitter.
“It is indeed!” he responded—then severely: “Where have you been, my lady? You have given me a most horrible fright.”
“I cry your pardon, my lord; I’ll not transgress again,” she laughed. “And if you don’t scold me I’ll tell you something—something I’m sure will be worth even a diplomat’s hearing.”
“Anything you would tell would be well worth any diplomat’s hearing,” said he; “only I shall always prefer to be the diplomat on duty when you are doing the telling!”
“That’s deliciously nice, Mr. Harleston; I—”
“Where are you now?” he demanded.
“At the Chateau—in my apartment. Anything more?”
“Nothing; except to pray you to be prudent and not do it again.”
“I’ll promise—until I see you.” She lowered her voice—“Are you there, Mr. Harleston?”