“I’m going to see if he’s been for the rents as usual. Would you care to come with me?”
Julian looked surprised, but assented. They got into the cab together, and alighted at the end of Litany Lane, having scarcely spoken on the way. Inquiries here showed that the collector had gone his rounds, and departed, it was said, in the ordinary way.
“Have you an hour to spare, Mr. Casti?” asked the old gentleman, turning suddenly after a moment’s reflection.
“Then I wish you’d just come on with me to St. John’s Street Road. It’s possible you may have it in your power to do me a great service, if Waymark doesn’t turn up. And yet, ten to one, I shall find him waiting for me. Never mind, come along if you can spare the time; you’ll find him the sooner.”
Mr. Woodstock tried to pooh-pooh his own uneasiness; yet, totally improbable as it seemed that Waymark should disappear at such a juncture, the impatience of the afternoon had worked him into a most unwonted fit of nervousness. Doubts and suspicions which would ordinarily never have occurred to him filled his mind. He was again quite silent till his office was reached.
Waymark had not been. They walked upstairs together, and Mr. Woodstock asked his companion to be seated. He himself stood, and began to poke the fire.
“Do you live in Chelsea still?” he suddenly asked.
“I have left word at Waymark’s lodgings that he is to come straight here whenever he returns. If he’s not here by midnight, should I find you up if I called—say at half-past twelve or so?”
“I would in any case wait up for you, with pleasure?”
“Really,” said Mr. Woodstock, who could behave with much courtesy when he chose, “I must apologise for taking such liberties. Our acquaintance is so slight. And yet I believe you would willingly serve me in the matter in hand. Perhaps you guess what it is. Never mind; I could speak of that when I came to you, if I have to come.”
Julian’s pale cheek had flushed with a sudden warmth. He looked at the other, and faced steadily the gaze that met his own.
“I am absolutely at your disposal,” he said, in a voice which he tried to make firm, though with small success.
“I am obliged to you. And now you will come and have something to eat with me; it is my usual time.”
Julian declined, however, and almost immediately took his leave. He walked all the way to Chelsea, regarding nothing that he passed. When he found himself in his lodgings he put a match to the ready-laid fire, and presently made himself some tea. Then he sat idly through the evening, for the most part staring into the glowing coals, occasionally taking up a book for a few minutes, and throwing it aside again with a sigh of weariness. As it got late he shivered so with cold, in spite of the fire, that he had to sit in his overcoat. When it was past midnight he began to pace the room, making impatient gestures, and often resting his head upon his hands as if it ached. It must have been about a quarter to one when there was the sound of a vehicle pulling up in the street below, followed by a knock at the door. Julian went down himself, and admitted Mr. Woodstock.