“About her. What?”
Bloomberg drew at his cigar. “Of course you know she’s come into money, a pot of money and a fine place down in the country. Uncle died, left a will—that sort of thing. Rankin acts for me, a sound man. I was talking to him the other day, and your name cropped up.”
“Go on!” said Slotman. The cigar shook between, his finger and thumb. “My name cropped up?”
“And Rankin was interested, as a young lady he was acting for had just come into a pot of money and a fine place down in Kent, and he had heard that she used to be employed by you. Ah, ha!” Bloomberg laughed. “You oughtn’t to have let her slip away, old man. She was as pretty as a peach, and now with some hundreds of thousands she will be worth while, eh?”
“I suppose so,” Slotman said, apparently indifferently. “And did you hear the name of the place she had come into?”
“I did. Something—Den—all places in Kent are something or other—Den. Oh, Starden! That’s it! Well, I must go. But tell me, what’s your opinion about those Calbary Reef Preferentials?”
Ten minutes later Slotman was alone, frowning at thought. If it were true, then indeed the luck had been against him. Even without money he had been willing, more than willing to marry Joan, in spite of the past, of which he knew nothing, but suspected much. Yes, he would have married her.
“She got hold of me,” he muttered, “and I can’t leave off thinking of her, and now she is an heiress, and Heaven knows I want money. If I had a chance, if—” He paused.
For a long while Mr. Philip Slotman sat in deep thought. About Joan Meredyth there was a mystery, and it was a mystery that might be well worth solving.
“I’ll hunt it out,” he muttered. “I’ll have to work back. Let me see, there was that old General—General—?”
He frowned, Ah! he had it now, for his memory was a good one.
“General Bartholomew! That was the name,” Slotman muttered. “And that is where I commence my hunt!”
“To the manner born”
Starden Hall was one of those half-timbered houses in the possession of which Kent and Sussex are rich. It was no great mansion, but a comfortable, rambling old house, that had been built many a generation ago, and had been added to as occasion required by thoughtful owners, who had always borne in mind the architecture and the atmosphere of the original, and so to-day it covered a vast quantity of ground, being but one storey high, and about it spread flower gardens and noble park-land that were delights to the eye.
And this place was hers. It belonged to her, the girl who a few short weeks ago had been earning three pounds a week in a City office, and whose nightmare had been worklessness and starvation.
Helen Everard watched the girl closely. “To the manner born,” she thought. And yet there was that about Joan that she would have altered, a coldness, an aloofness. Too often the beautiful mouth was set and hard, never cruel, yet scornful. Too often those lustrous eyes looked coldly out on to a world that was surely smiling on her now.