“That,” she said, “is ingenious, but not convincing. So you will please come to-morrow at four o’clock. I shall stay in for you.
“At four o’clock,” he repeated, helplessly.
Lady Caroom waved to them from the path.
“Sybil, come here at once,” she exclaimed, “and bring Mr. Brooks with you. Dear me, what troublesome people you have been to find. I am very glad indeed to see you again.”
She looked Brooks in the face as she held his hand, and With a little start he realized that she knew.
“You most quixotic of young men,” she exclaimed, “come home with us at once, and explain how you dared to avoid us all this time. What a ghost you look. I hope it is your conscience. Don’t pretend you can’t sit with your back to the horse, but get in there, sir, and—James, the little seat—and make yourself as comfortable as you can. Home, James! Upon my word, Mr. Brooks, you look like one of those poor people whom you have been working for in the slums. If starvation was catching, I should think that you had caught it. You must try my muffins.”
Sybil caught his eye, and laughed.
“Mother hasn’t altered much, has she?” she asked.
MR. LAVILETTE INTERFERES
“What is this Kingston Brooks’ affair that Lavilette has hold of now?” yawned a man over his evening papers. “That fellow will get into trouble if he doesn’t mind.”
“Some new sort of charity down in the East End,” one of the little group of club members replied. “Fellow has a lot of branches, and tries to make ’em a sort of family affair. He gets a pile of subscriptions, and declines to publish a balance-sheet. Lavilette seems to think there’s something wrong somewhere.”
“Lavilette’s such a suspicious beggar,” another man remarked. “The thing seems all right. I know people who are interested in it, who say it’s the most comprehensive and common-sense charity scheme of the day.”
“Why doesn’t he pitch into Lavilette, then? Lavilette’s awfully insulting. Brooks the other day inserted an acknowledgment in the papers of the receipt of one thousand pounds anonymous. You saw what Lavilette said about it?”
“Oh, he had a little sarcastic paragraph—declined to believe that Brooks had ever received a thousand pounds anonymously—challenged him to give the number of the note, and said plainly that he considered it a fraud. There’s been no reply from Brooks.”
“How do you know?”
“This week’s Verity. Here it is!”
“We have received no reply from Mr. Kingston Brooks up to going to press with respect to our remark concerning the thousand pounds alleged to have been received by him from an anonymous giver. We may add that we scarcely expected it. Yet there is another long list of acknowledgments of sums received by Mr. Brooks this morning. We are either the most credulous nation in the world, or there are a good many people who don’t know what to do with their money. We should like to direct their attention to half-a-dozen excellent and most deserving charities which we can personally recommend, and whose accounts will always stand the most vigorous examination.”