“Yes! Yes!” said he under his breath, and turned toward the corner where he had left Mrs. Clephane.
Mrs. Clephane was gone.
Harleston faced about and surveyed the entire room. Then not content with surveying, he deliberately walked through it, and satisfied himself that Mrs. Clephane was not there—nor Madeline Spencer, nor her bald-headed companion.
He took a turn up and down the corridor, and up and down again. They were not there.
He even walked through the dining-rooms.
“Hum!” said he, at length—and returned to the red-room, and to his chair. It was quite possible that Mrs. Clephane would be back in a moment—yet somehow he doubted.
He waited for a quarter of an hour, and she did not come. He made another tour of Peacock Alley, the lobby, the dining-rooms, and back to the red-room.
He looked at his watch—it was half-after-seven o’clock. He would wait fifteen minutes longer. Then, if she had not come, he would go about his business—which, at present, was to dine.
He sat with his watch in his hand, looking down the room and at those who entered.
The fifteen minutes passed. He put up his watch and arose; the wait was ended.
He crossed the corridor to the dining-room.
“The table in yonder corner, Philippe,” he said, to the bowing head-waiter.
“One, Monsieur Harleston?” the man replied; and himself escorted him over and placed him, and took his order for dinner. From which facts it can be inferred that Harleston was something of a personage at the big caravansary.
The clams had just been placed before him, and he was dipping the first one in the cocktail, when Madeline Spencer and the bald-headed man entered and passed to a table—reserved for them—at the far side of the room. Harleston knew that she saw him, though apparently she had not glanced his way. Here was another move in the game; but what the game, and what the immediate object?
His waiter whisked away the clam cocktail and put down the clear turtle.
As Harleston took up his spoon, a page spoke a word to Philippe, who motioned him to Harleston’s corner. The next instant the boy was there, a letter on the extended salver—then he faded away.
Harleston put aside the letter until he had finished his soup; then he picked it up and turned it over. It was a hotel envelope, and addressed simply: “Mr. Harleston,” in a woman’s handwriting—full and free, and, unusual to relate, quite legible. He ran his knife under the flap and drew out the letter. It was in the same hand that wrote the address.
“DEAR MR. HARLESTON:
“I’ve just seen someone whom I wish to avoid, so won’t you be good enough to dine with me in my apartment. It’s No. 972, and cosy and quiet—and please come at once. I’m waiting for you—with an explanation for my disappearance.