“I think I do understand, Mrs, Embury. I know how hard it must have been for a proud woman to have that annoyance. Did Mr, Embury object to the lady who was your hostess that evening?”
“Yes, he did. Mrs, Desternay is an old school friend of mine, but Mr. Embury never liked her, and he objected more strenuously because she had the bridge games.”
“And the lady’s attitude toward you?”
“Fifi? Oh, I don’t know. We’ve always been friends, generally speaking, but we’ve had quarrels now and then—sometimes we’d be really intimate, and then again, we wouldn’t speak for six weeks at a time. Just petty tiffs, you know, but they seemed serious at the time.”
“I see. Hello, here’s McGuire!”
Ferdinand, with a half-apologetic look, ushered in a boy, with red hair, and a very red face. He was a freckled youth, and his bright eyes showed quick perception as they darted round the room, and came to rest on Miss Ames, on whom he smiled broadly. “This is my assistant,” Stone said, casually; “his name is Terence McGuire, and he is an invaluable help. Anything doing, son?”
“Not partickler. Kin I sit and listen?”
Clearly the lad was embarrassed, probably at the unaccustomed luxury of his surroundings and the presence of so many high-bred strangers. For Terence, or Fibsy, as he was nicknamed, was a child of the streets, and though a clever assistant to Fleming Stone in his career, the boy seldom accompanied his employer to the homes of the aristocracy. When he did do so, he was seized with a shyness that was by no means evident when he was in his more congenial surroundings.
He glanced bashfully at Eunice, attracted by her beauty, but afraid to look at her attentively. He gazed at Mason Elliott with a more frank curiosity; and then he cast a furtive look at Aunt Abby, who was herself smiling at him.
It was a genial, whole-souled smile, for the old lady had a soft spot in her heart for boys, and was already longing to give him some fruit and nuts from the sideboard.
Fibsy seemed to divine her attitude, and he grinned affably, and was more at his ease.
But he sat quietly while the others went on discussing the details of the case.
Eunice was amazed at such a strange partner for the great man, but she quickly thought that a street urchin like that could go to places and learn of side issues in ways which the older man could not compass so conveniently.
Presently Fibsy slipped from his seat, and quietly went into the bedrooms.
Eunice raise her eyebrows slightly, but Fleming Stone, observing, said, “Don’t mind, Mrs, Embury. The lad is all right. I’ll vouch for him.”
“A queer helper,” remarked Elliott.
“Yes; but very worth-while. I rely on him in many ways, and he almost never fails to help me. He’s now looking over the bedrooms, just as I did, and he’ll disturb nothing.”