‘I would rather not speak about it,’ said Merton. ’I had meant to go myself on the Monday. Then came the affair of Sunday night,’ and he sighed.
‘Then the somebody before was another somebody?’
‘Yes,’ said Merton, turning rather red.
‘Men have died and the worms have eaten them, but not for love,’ muttered Logan.
On arriving at the Castle Logan and Merton found poor Mr. Macrae comparatively cheerful. Bude and Lady Bude had told what they had gleaned, and the millionaire, recognising his daughter’s hair-pin, had all but broken down. Lady Bude herself had wept as he thanked her for this first trace, this endearing relic, of the missing girl, and he warmly welcomed Merton, who had detected the probable meaning of the enigmatic ‘Seven Hunters.’
‘It is to you,’ he said, ’Mr. Merton, that I owe the intelligence of my daughter’s life and probable comfort.’
Lady Bude caught Merton’s eye; one of hers was slightly veiled by her long lashes.
The telegrams of the day had only brought the usual stories of the fruitless examination of yachts, and of hopes unfulfilled and clues that led to nothing. The outermost islets were being searched, and a steamer had been sent to St. Kilda. At home Mr. Gianesi had explained to Mr. Macrae that he and his partner were forced, reluctantly, by the nature of the case, to suspect treason within their own establishment in London, a thing hitherto unprecedented. They had therefore installed a new machine in a carefully locked chamber at their place, and Mr. Gianesi was ready at once to set up a corresponding recipient engine at Castle Skrae. Mr. Macrae wished first to remove the machine in the smoking-room, but Blake ventured to suggest that it had better be left where it was.
‘The conspirators,’ he said, ’have made one blunder already, by mentioning “The Seven Hunters,” unless, indeed, that was intentional; they may have meant to lighten our anxiety, without leaving any useful clue. They may make another mistake: in any case it is as well to be in touch with them.’
At this moment the smoking-room machine began to tick and emitted a message. It ran, ’Glad you visited the Hunters. You see we do ourselves very well. Hope you drank our health, we left some bottles of champagne on purpose. No nasty feeling, only a matter of business. Do hurry up and come to terms.’
‘Impudent dogs!’ said Mr. Macrae. ’But I think you are right, Mr. Blake; we had better leave these communications open.’
Mr. Gianesi agreed that Blake had spoken words of wisdom. Merton felt surprised at his practical common sense. It was necessary to get another pole to erect on the roof of the observatory, with another box at top for the new machine, but a flagstaff from the Castle leads was found to serve the purpose, and the rest of the day was passed in arranging the installation, the new machine being placed in Mr. Merton’s own study. Before dinner was over, Mr. Gianesi, who worked like a horse, was able to announce that all was complete, and that a brief message, ’Yours received, all right,’ had passed through from his firm in London.