“London agrees with you. I believe you are a little stouter.”
“And you are looking half a dozen years younger, my dear uncle. How is the liver?”
“It ought to be pretty well shaken to pieces, from the way I’ve trotted it about. It hasn’t troubled me for months, I am glad to say. I’ve had a most enjoyable holiday, and a longer one than I intended to take. I stopped in Norway seven weeks, and then went to the Continent. I did the German baths, Vienna and a lot of other big cities, and came to Paris. There I met an old Anglo-Indian friend, and he dragged me down to the Riviera for a month. But there is no place like home. I’ve been in town only a couple of hours—crossed this morning. And to-morrow I’m off to Priory Court.”
“Yes; I can’t endure your fogs.”
There was an awkward pause. Nevill struck a match and put it to his cigar, though it did not need relighting. Sir Lucius coughed, and stirred nervously in his chair.
“You remember that little matter I wrote you about,” he began. “Have you done anything?”
“My dear uncle, I have left nothing undone that I could think of,” Nevill replied; “but I am sorry to say that I have met with no success whatever. It was a most difficult undertaking, after so many years.”
“I feared it would be. You didn’t advertise?”
“No; you told me not to do that.”
“Quite right. I wished to avoid all publicity. But what steps did you take?”
“I made careful inquiries, interviewed some of the older school of artists, and searched London and provincial directories for some years back. Then I consulted a private detective. I put the matter in his hands. He worked on it for a couple of months, and finally said that it was too much for him. He could not discover a trace of either your sister or her husband, and he suggested that they probably emigrated to America or Australia years ago.”
“That is more than possible,” assented Sir Lucius; “and it is likely that they are both dead. But they may have left children, and for their sakes—“. He broke off abruptly, and sighed. “I should like to have a talk with your private detective, if he is a clever fellow,” he added.
“He is clever enough,” Nevill replied slowly, “but I am afraid you would have to go a long distance to find him. He went to America a week ago to collect evidence for a divorce case in one of the Western States.”
“Then he will hardly be back for months,” said Sir Lucius. “No matter. I think sometimes that it is foolish of me to take the thing up. But when a man gets to my age, my boy, he is apt to regret many episodes in his past life that seemed proper and well-advised at the time. I am convinced that I was too harsh with your aunt. Poor Mary, she was my favorite sister until—”
He stopped, and his face hardened a little at the recollection.
“I wish I could find her,” said Nevill.