‘Oh, it is all right, thank you, Clayton,’ I returned quickly, and I went out into the hall.
Joe Muggins looked decidedly nervous. He was in his working dress, having, as he said, ’come straight to me, without waiting to clean himself.’
‘I made so bold, miss,’ went on Joe, ’because you seemed anxious about Jack, and I would not lose time. Well, Jack has been and given the governor the sack,—says he has colic too; but we know that is a sham. My mate saw him in Lisson Grove last night. He was walking along, his hands in his pockets, when Ned pounces on him. “What are you up to, Jack?” he says. “Why haven’t you turned up at our place? The governor’s in a precious wax, I can tell you. They want him to put on more men, as there’s a press for time.”—“Well, I am not coming there any more,” says Jack, looking as black as possible. “The work doesn’t suit my complaint, and I have written to tell Page so.” And he stuck to that, and Ned could not get another word out of him: but he says he is shamming, and is not ill a bit. It is my belief, and Ned’s too, that he has got into some trouble with the governor.’
‘No, I am sure you are wrong,’ I returned, with a sigh; ’but I am very much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken. If you hear anything more about Jack Poynter, or can find out where he lives, will you communicate with me at this address?’ And I handed Joe my card and a half-sovereign.
‘Yes, I’ll do it, sure and certain,’ he replied, with alacrity. ’Some of us will come across him again, one of these days, and we will follow him for a bit. You may trust me for that, miss. We will find him, sure enough.’ And then I thanked him, and bade him good-night.
There was only one thing now that I could do before taking counsel with Gladys, and that was to advertise in some of the London papers. I wrote out some of these advertisements that evening:
’Jack Poynter is earnestly requested to communicate with Ursula G. He may possibly hear of something to his advantage.’ And I gave the address of an old lawyer who managed my business, writing a note to Mr. Berkeley at the same time, begging him to forward any answer to Ursula G.
Another advertisement was of a different character:
’For Gladys’s sake, please write to me, or give me a chance of speaking to you. An unknown but most sincere friend, U. G.’
The third advertisement was still more pressing:
’Jack Poynter’s friends believe him dead, and are in great trouble: he is entreated to undeceive them. One word to the old address will be a comfort to his poor sister.’
As soon as I had despatched these advertisements to the paper offices, I sat down and wrote to Gladys. It was not my intention to tell her about Eric, but I must say some word to her that would induce her to come home. I told her that I was going back to Heathfield the following afternoon, and that I was beginning to feel impatient for her return.