“‘Peace—perfect peace!’ as Adam Black used to sigh,” he said. “And by the way”—turning to Margaret—“speaking of letters, I have often wondered at times if you ever received two that I sent you concerning Lady Elspeth—just about the time she was called away to Scotland?”
She looked back at him with surprise, and his question was answered and his doubt solved before ever she opened her lips.
“About Lady Elspeth? No,—I certainly never got them.”
“H’m!” he nodded thoughtfully. “The first I feared might have gone astray through some stupidity of the post-office. But the second I dropped into your letter-box myself. Moreover—”
“I never got them,”—with a charming touch of colour.
“Moreover——?” said Miss Penny expectantly, with a dancing light in her eyes.
“Well,” he said, after a pause, “to tell you the whole story, Mr. Pixley assured me that you had had them and had handed them on to him.”
“Mr. Pixley said that?” and Margaret sat up, with very much more than a touch of colour in her face now. In fact it was militantly red and vastly indignant.
“Yes. I—well, I called upon him at his office just to find out if—well, if you were ill or anything like that, you know. And among other interesting information he told me that, and cut off my head with his glasses and threw my remains out into the street;” at which Margaret smiled through her indignation.
“Mr. Pixley,” said Miss Penny emphatically, “is a—a Johnnie Vautrin on a larger scale. Had he any other interesting items of information for you, Mr. Graeme?”
“Well—yes, he had. But I can estimate them now at their proper value, and it can rest there.”
“It was Mr. Black’s enthusiasm for Sark at that Whitefriars’ dinner that put it into my head when—when we were wondering where to go. I remember now,” said Margaret.
“It was Black’s enthusiasm for Sark that put it into my head when I was wondering where to go,” said Graeme.
“There you are, you see,” said Miss Penny. “I knew you must have had some common inspiration.”
“I am greatly indebted to Black. He’s one of the finest fellows I know. He’s done me more than one good turn, but I shall always count Sark his chiefest achievement,” said Graeme heartily.
The wind howled round the house, and whuffled in the chimney, and sent spurts of sweet-scented smoke to mingle with the fuller flavour of Graeme’s tobacco. The walls were bare plaster, discoloured with age and careless usage. The chairs were common kitchen chairs, and the table a plain deal one. But the driftwood burned with flames whose forked tongues sang silently but eloquently of wanderings under many skies, of rainbow isles in sunny seas, of vivid golden days and the black wonders of tropic nights, of storms and calms, and all the untold mysteries of the pitiless sea.