“I hope you will not consider it presumption on my part to express the fear that my letter has somehow miscarried—probably through some oversight of my own, or carelessness on the part of the postal authorities.
“You will, I know, be glad to hear that Lady Elspeth accomplished her journey in safety and without undue discomfort. But Lady Assynt’s condition makes it probable that her stay may be somewhat prolonged.
“I venture to hope that
you may regret this as much as I do. All
who enjoyed Lady Elspeth’s friendship and hospitality cannot but
miss her sorely.
“I hope, however, that I may still have the pleasure of meeting you occasionally elsewhere. When one has not the habit of readily making new friendships one clings the more firmly to those already made.—Sincerely yours,
“John C. Graeme.”
That letter he dropped into the Pixley letterbox himself that night, and so was assured of its delivery. But two days passed in waning hope, and the afternoon of the third found him on the doorstep of No. 1 Melgrave Square.
The solemn-faced man-servant eyed him suspiciously as a stranger. He looked, to Graeme, like a superannuated official of the Court of Chancery.
“Miss Brandt is not at home, sir.”
“Mrs. Pixley is not at home, sir.”
Was he right or wrong, he wondered, in thinking he detected a gleam of satisfied anticipation, of gratified understanding, in the solemn one’s otherwise rigid eye—as of one who had been told to expect this and was lugubriously contented that it had duly come to pass?
However, there was nothing more to be done there at the moment. The polite conventions, to say nothing of the law, forbade him the pleasure of hurling the outcast of Chancery into the kennel and forcing his way in. Instead, he hailed a hansom and drove straight to Lincoln’s Inn, boldly demanded audience of Mr. Pixley on pressing private business, and presently found himself in the presence.
Mr. Pixley stood on the hearthrug with his back to the fire, and handled his gold pince-nez defensively.
Here also Graeme had an intuition that he was expected, which was somewhat odd, you know, unless his letters had been handed to Mr. Pixley for perusal, which did not seem likely.
Mr. Pixley bowed formally and he responded—the salute before the click of the foils.
Mr. Pixley stood expectant, but by no means inviting of confidences such as his visitor was about to tender him. Rather he seemed fully armed for the defence, especially in the matter of the heavy gold pince-nez, which he held threateningly, after the manner of the headsman of old towards the victim on whom he was about to operate.
“I have taken the liberty of calling, Mr. Pixley,” said Graeme,—and Mr. Pixley’s manner in subtle fashion conveyed his full recognition of the fact that liberty it undoubtedly was, and that he had no smallest shadow of a right to be there,—“to inquire after Miss Brandt.”