He paused before closing the door. Ruth’s kiss came wafted to him from the shadows where her great eyes were burning like stars. Her uncle had turned his back upon him. The word he muttered sounded like a malediction, but Arnold Chetwode went down the stone steps blithely. It was an untrodden land, this, into which he was to pass.
ARNOLD SCENTS MYSTERY
From the first, nothing about that evening was as Arnold had expected. He took the tube to Hampstead station, and, the night being dry, he walked to Pelham Lodge without detriment to his carefully polished patent shoes. The neighborhood was entirely strange to him and he was surprised to find that the house which was pointed out to him by a policeman was situated in grounds of not inconsiderable extent, and approached by a short drive. Directly he rang the bell he was admitted not by a flamboyant parlormaid but by a quiet, sad-faced butler in plain, dark livery, who might have been major-domo to a duke. The house was even larger than he had expected, and was handsomely furnished in an extremely subdued style. It was dimly, almost insufficiently lit, and there was a faint but not unpleasant odor in the drawing-room which reminded him of incense. The room itself almost took his breath away. It was entirely French. The hangings, carpet and upholstery were all of a subdued rose color and white. Arnold, who was, for a young man, exceedingly susceptible to impressions, looked around him with an air almost of wonder. It was fortunate, perhaps, that the room was empty.
“Mr. and Mrs. Weatherley will be downstairs in one moment, sir,” the man announced. “Mr. Weatherley was a little late home from the city.”
Arnold nodded and stood upon the hearthrug, looking around him. He was quite content to spend a few moments alone, to admire the drooping clusters of roses, the elegance with which every article of furniture and appointment of the room seemed to fit into its place. Somehow or other, too, nothing appeared new. Everything seemed subdued by time into its proper tone. He began to wonder what sort of woman the presiding genius over such perfection could be. Then, with a quaint transition of thought, he remembered the little counting-house in Tooley Street, the smell of cheeses, and Mr. Weatherley’s half-nervous invitation. His lips twitched and he began to smile. These things seemed to belong to a world so far away.
Presently he heard footsteps outside and voices. The door was opened but the person outside did not immediately enter. Apparently she had turned round to listen to the man who was still some distance behind. Arnold recognized his employer’s voice.
“I am sorry that you are displeased, my dear Fenella, but I assure you that I did the best I could. It is true that the young man is in my office, but I am convinced that you will find him presentable.”