“Was the man who was shot a foreigner?” the Earl asked. “I trust that he was not one of my tenants?”
“He was a stranger,” was the prompt assurance.
“And his companion?” Julian ventured.
“His companion is believed to have been quite a youth. There is a suggestion that he escaped in a motor-car, but he is probably hiding in the neighbourhood.”
Lord Maltenby frowned. There seemed to him something incongruous in the fact that a deed of this sort should have been committed in his domain without his knowledge. He rose to his feet.
“The Countess is probably relying upon some of us for bridge,” he said. “I hope, Colonel, that you will take a hand.”
The men rose and filed slowly out of the room. The Colonel, however, detained his host, and Julian also lingered.
“I hope, Lord Maltenby,” the former said, “that you will excuse my men, but they tell me that they find it necessary to search your garage for a car which has been seen in the neighbourhood.”
“Search my garage?” Lord Maltenby repeated, frowning.
“There is no doubt,” the Colonel explained, “that a car was made use of last night by the man who is still at large, and it is very possible that it was stolen. You will understand, I am sure, that any enquiries which my men may feel it their duty to make are actuated entirely by military necessity.”
“Quite so,” the Earl acceded, still a little puzzled. “You will find my head chauffeur a most responsible man. He will, I am sure, give them every possible information. So far as I am aware, however, there is no strange car in the garage. Do you know of any, Julian?”
“Only Miss Abbeway’s,” his son replied. “Her little Panhard was out in the avenue all night, waiting for her to put some plugs in. Every one else seems to have come by train.”
The Colonel raised his eyebrows very slightly and moved slowly towards the door.
“The matter is in the hands of my police,” he said, “but if you could excuse me for half a moment, Lord Maltenby, I should like to speak to your head chauffeur.”
“By all means,” the Earl replied. “I will take you round to the garage myself.”
Julian entered the drawing-room hurriedly a few minutes later. He glanced around quickly, conscious of a distinct feeling of disappointment. His mother, who was arranging a bridge table, called him over to her side.
“You have the air, my dear boy, of missing some one,” she remarked with a smile.
“I want particularly to speak to Miss Abbeway,” he confided.
Lady Maltenby smiled tolerantly.
“After nearly two hours of conversation at dinner! Well, I won’t keep you in suspense. She wanted a quiet place to write some letters, so I sent her into the boudoir.”