“Must have got there after I left. I never had it—go on!”
“Lady Linden urges you to do something for the young lady, and do all in your power to bring her and Mr. Alston together. She says if you could effect a surprise meeting between them, good may come of it. She is under the impression that they will not meet intentionally. Miss Meredyth’s address is, 7 Bemrose Square, and Mr. Alston is staying at The Northborough Hotel, St. James. Of course, there is a good deal besides in the letter, General—”
“Of course!” the General said. “There always is. Well, Hudson, we must do something. I knew the girl’s father, and the boy’s too. Tom Meredyth was a fine fellow, reckless and a spendthrift, by George! but as straight a man and as true a gentleman as ever walked. And old George Alston was one of my best friends, Hudson. We must do something for these two young idiots.”
“Very good, sir!” said Hudson. “How shall we proceed?”
The General did not answer; he sat deep in thought.
“Hudson, I am getting to be a forgetful old fool,” he said. “I’m getting old, that’s what it is. Before I went to Harrogate I was with Rankin, my solicitor. He was talking to me about the Meredyths. I forget exactly what it was, but there’s some money coming to the girl from Bob Meredyth, who went out to Australia. No, I forget, but some money I know, and now the girl apparently wants it, if she is asking for influence to get work. Go and ring Rankin up on the telephone. Don’t tell him we know where Joan Meredyth is, but give him my compliments, and ask him to repeat what he told me the other day.”
Hudson went out. He was gone ten minutes, while the General dozed in a chair. He was thinking of the past, of those good old days when he and Tom Meredyth, the girl’s father, and George Alston, the lad’s father, were all young fellows together. Ah, good old days, fine old days! When the young blood coursed strong and hot in the veins, when there was no need of Harrogate waters, when the limbs were supple and strong, and the eyes bright and clear. “And they are gone,” the old man muttered—“both of them, and a lot of other good fellows besides; and I am an old, old man, begad, an old fellow sitting here waiting for my call to come and—” He paused, and looked up.
“I have been speaking to Mr. Rankin, sir. He wished me to tell you—” Hudson paused; his face was a little flushed, as with some inward excitement.
“Before his death, which occurred six months ago, Mr. Robert Meredyth, who had made a great deal of money in Australia, re-purchased the old Meredyth family estate at Starden in Kent, Starden Hall, meaning to return to England, and take up his residence there. Unfortunately, he died on board ship. His wife was dead, his only son was killed in the war, and he had left the whole of his fortune, about three hundred thousand pounds, and the Starden Hall Estate, to his niece, Miss Joan Meredyth.”