While the police inquiry was afoot, Banneker was, perforce, often late in reporting for duty, the regular hour being twelve-thirty. Thus the idleness which the city desk had imposed upon him was, in a measure, justified. On a Thursday, when he had been held in conference with Judge Enderby, he did not reach The Ledger office until after two. Mr. Greenough was still out for luncheon. No sooner had Banneker entered the swinging gate than Mallory called to him. On the assistant city editor’s face was a peculiar expression, half humorous, half dubious, as he said:
“Mr. Greenough has left an assignment for you.”
“All right,” said Banneker, stretching out his hand for the clipping or slip. None was forthcoming.
“It’s a tip,” explained Mallory. “It’s from a pretty convincing source. The gist of it is that the Delavan Eyres have separated and a divorce is impending. You know, of course, who the Eyres are.”
“I’ve met Eyre.”
“That so? Ever met his wife?”
“No,” replied Banneker, in good faith.
“No; you wouldn’t have, probably. They travel different paths. Besides, she’s been practically living abroad. She’s a stunner. It’s big society stuff, of course. The best chance of landing the story is from Archie Densmore, her half-brother. The international polo-player, you know. You’ll find him at The Retreat, down on the Jersey coast.”
The Retreat Banneker had heard of as being a bachelor country club whose distinguishing marks were a rather Spartan athleticism, and a more stiffly hedged exclusiveness than any other social institution known to the elite of New York and Philadelphia, between which it stood midway.
“Then I’m to go and ask him,” said Banneker slowly, “whether his sister is suing for divorce?”
“Yes,” confirmed Mallory, a trifle nervously. “Find out who’s to be named, of course. I suppose it’s that new dancer, though there have been others. And there was a quaint story about some previous attachment of Mrs. Eyre’s: that might have some bearing.”
“I’m to ask her brother about that, too?”
“We want the story,” answered Mallory, almost petulantly.
On the trip down into Jersey the reporter had plenty of time to consider his unsavory task. Some one had to do this kind of thing, so long as the public snooped and peeped and eavesdropped through the keyhole of print at the pageant of the socially great: this he appreciated and accepted. But he felt that it ought to be some one other than himself—and, at the same time, was sufficiently just to smile at himself for his illogical attitude.