“Of course Howland’s known all over the world as the interpreter of Pellerinism, and the Aga Gautch, who had absolutely declined to speak anywhere in public, wrote to Isabella that he could not refuse anything that Mr. Wade asked. Did you know that Howland’s lecture, ‘What Pellerinism Means,’ has been translated into twenty-two languages, and gone into a fifth edition in Icelandic? Why, that reminds me,” Miss Fosdick broke off—“I’ve never heard what became of your queer friend—what was his name?—whom you and Bob Wade accused me of spiriting away after that very lecture. And I’ve never seen you since you rushed into the house the next morning, and dragged me out of bed to know what I’d done with him!”
With a sharp effort Bernald gathered himself together to have it out. “Well, what did you do with him?” he retorted.
She laughed her appreciation of his humour. “Just what I told you, of course. I said good-bye to him on Isabella’s door-step.”
Bernald looked at her. “It’s really true, then, that he didn’t go home with you?”
She bantered back: “Have you suspected me, all this time, of hiding his remains in the cellar?” And with a droop of her fine lids she added: “I wish he had come home with me, for he was rather interesting, and there were things I think I could have explained to him.”
Bernald helped himself to a nectarine, and Miss Fosdick continued on a note of amused curiosity: “So you’ve really never had any news of him since that night?”
“No—I’ve never had any news of him.”
“Not the least little message?”
“Not the least little message.”
“Or a rumour or report of any kind?”
“Or a rumour or report of any kind.”
Miss Fosdick’s interest seemed to be revived by the strangeness of the case. “It’s rather creepy, isn’t it? What could have happened? You don’t suppose he could have been waylaid and murdered?” she asked with brightening eyes.
Bernald shook his head serenely. “No. I’m sure he’s safe—quite safe.”
“But if you’re sure, you must know something.”
“No. I know nothing,” he repeated.
She scanned him incredulously. “But what’s your theory—for you must have a theory? What in the world can have become of him?”
Bernald returned her look and hesitated. “Do you happen to remember the last thing he said to you—the very last, on the door-step, when he left you?”
“The last thing?” She poised her fork above the peach on her plate. “I don’t think he said anything. Oh, yes—when I reminded him that he’d solemnly promised to come back with me and have a little talk he said he couldn’t because he was going home.”
“Well, then, I suppose,” said Bernald, “he went home.”
She glanced at him as if suspecting a trap. “Dear me, how flat! I always inclined to a mysterious murder. But of course you know more of him than you say.”