“Lady Kirton? You have some one in the house, then!”
“The Dowager Lady Kirton’s here, sir. One of her sons also—Captain Kirton; but he is confined to his room.”
“Then I would rather not go in,” said the stranger quickly. “I’m very disappointed to have come all this way and not find Lord Hartledon.”
“Can I forward any letter for you, sir? If you’d like to intrust one to me, I’ll send it as soon as we know of any certain address.”
“No—no, I think not,” said the stranger, musingly. “There might be danger,” he muttered to himself, but Hedges caught the words.
He stood swaying the umbrella-handle about, looking down at it, as if that would assist his decision. Then he looked at Hedges.
“My business with Lord Hartledon is quite private, and I would rather not write. I’ll wait until he is back in England: and see him then.”
“What name, sir?” asked Hedges, as the stranger turned away.
“I would prefer not to leave my name,” was the candid answer. “Good evening.”
He walked briskly down the avenue, and Hedges stood looking after him, slightly puzzled in his mind.
“I don’t believe it’s a creditor; that I don’t. He looks like a parson to me. But it’s some trouble though, if it’s not debt. ‘Danger’ was the word: ‘there might be danger.’ Danger in writing, he meant. Any way, I’m glad he didn’t go in to that ferreting old dowager. And whatever it may be, his lordship’s able to pay it now.”
A CHANCE MEETING.
Some few weeks went by. On a fine June morning Lord and Lady Hartledon were breakfasting at their hotel in the Rue Rivoli. She was listlessly playing with her cup; he was glancing over Galignani’s.
“Maude,” he suddenly exclaimed, “the fountains are to play on Sunday at Versailles. Will you go to see them?”
“I am tired of sight-seeing, and tired of Paris too,” was Lady Hartledon’s answer, spoken with apathy.
“Are you?” he returned, with animation, as though not sorry to hear the avowal. “Then we won’t stay in Paris any longer. When shall we leave?”
“Are the letters not late this morning?” she asked, allowing the question to pass.
Lord Hartledon glanced at the clock. “Very late: and we are late also. Are you expecting any in particular?”
“I don’t know. This chocolate is cold.”
“That is easily remedied,” said he, rising to ring the bell. “They can bring in some fresh.”
“And keep us waiting half-an-hour!” she grumbled.
“The hotel is crammed up to the mansarde,” said good-natured Lord Hartledon, who was easily pleased, and rather tolerant of neglect in French hotels. “Is not that the right word, Maude? You took me to task yesterday for saying garret. The servants are run off their legs.”
“Then the hotel should keep more servants. I am quite sick of having to ring twice. A week ago I wished I was out of the place.”