He swung back the door and a full-bearded, tightly-knit, well-built man in rough clothes stepped in. In the dim light of the overhead lamp he caught the flash of a pair of determined eyes set in a strong, forceful face.
“I want Mr. Temple,” said the man, who had now removed his cap and stood looking about him, as if making an inventory of the scanty furniture.
“He is not here,” replied Pawson, rummaging the intruder’s face for some clew to his identity and purpose in calling at so late an hour.
“Are you sure?” There was doubt as well as marked surprise in the man’s tone. He evidently did not believe a word of the statement.
“Very sure,” rejoined the attorney in a more positive tone, his eyes still on the stranger. “He left town some weeks ago.”
The intruder turned sharply, and with a brisk inquisitive movement strode past him and pushed open the dining-room door. There he stood for a moment, his eyes roaming over the meagre appointments of the interior—the sideboard, bare of everything but a pitcher and some tumblers—the old mahogany table littered with law books and papers—the mantel stripped of its clock and candelabras. Then he stepped inside, and without explanation of any kind, crossed the room, opened the door of St. George’s bedroom, and swept a comprehensive glance around the despoiled interior. Once he stopped and peered into the gloom as if expecting to find the object of his search concealed in its shadows.
“What has happened here?” he demanded in a voice which plainly showed his disappointment.
“Do you mean what has become of the rest of the furniture?” asked the attorney in reply, gaining time to decide upon his course.
“Yes, who is responsible for this business?” he exclaimed angrily. “Has it been done during his absence?”
Pawson hesitated. That the intruder was one of Gorsuch’s men, and that he had been sent in advance on an errand of investigation, was no longer to be doubted. He, however, did not want to add any fuel to his increasing heat, so he answered simply:
“Mr. Temple got caught in the Patapsco failure and it went pretty hard with him, and so what he didn’t actually need he sold.”
The man gave a start, his features hardening; but whether of surprise or dissatisfaction Pawson could not tell.
“And when it was all gone he went away—is that what you mean?” This came in a softened tone.
“Yes—that seems to be the size of it. I suppose you come about—some”— again he hesitated, not knowing exactly where the man stood—“about some money due you?—Am I right?”
“No, I came to see Mr. Temple, and I must see him, and at once. How long will he be gone?”
“All winter—perhaps longer.” The attorney had begun to breathe again. The situation might not be as serious as he had supposed. If he wanted to see Mr. Temple himself, and no one else would do, there was still chance of delay in the wiping out of the property.