“I don’t! An’ I don’t care! Piccadilly they had on ’em, which was good enough for me.”
“Have you her picture?”
“Did she receive a letter on the day of her disappearance?”
“Good day!” said Harley. “And let me add that the atmosphere of her home was hardly conducive to ideal conduct!”
Leaving Bramber to digest this rebuke, we came out of the cottage. Dusk was falling now, and by the time that we regained the Manor the place was lighted up. Inspector Wessex was waiting for us in the library, and:
“Well?” he said, smiling slightly as we entered.
“Nothing much,” replied Harley dryly, “except that I don’t wonder at the girl’s leaving such a home.”
“What’s that! What!” roared a big voice, and Sir Howard came into the room. “I tell you, Bramber only had one fault as a stepfather; he wasn’t heavy-handed enough. A bad lot, sir, a bad lot!”
“Well, sir,” said Inspector Wessex, looking from one to another, “personally, beyond the usual inquiries at railway stations, etc., I cannot see that we can do much here. Don’t you agree with me, Mr. Harley?”
“Quite,” he replied. “There is a late train to town which I think we could catch if we started at once.”
“Eh?” roared Sir Howard; “you’re not going back to-night? Your rooms are ready for you, damn it!”
“I quite appreciate the kindness, Sir Howard,” replied Harley; “but I have urgent business to attend to in London. Believe me, my departure is unavoidable.”
The blue eyes of the baronet gleamed with the simple cunning of his kind.
“You’ve got something up your sleeve,” he roared. “I know you have, I know you have!”
Inspector Wessex looked at me significantly, but I could only shrug my shoulders in reply; for in these moods Harley was as inscrutable as the Sphinx.
However, he had his way, and Sir Howard hurriedly putting a car in commission, we raced for the local station and just succeeded in picking up the express at Claybury.
Wessex was rather silent throughout the journey, often glancing in my friend’s direction, but Harley made no further reference to the case beyond outlining the interview with Bramber, until, as we were parting at the London terminus, Wessex to report to Scotland Yard and I to go to Harley’s rooms:
“How long do you think it will take you to find that photographer, Wessex?” he asked. “Piccadilly is a sufficient clue.”
“Well,” replied the Inspector, “nothing can be done to-night, of course, but I should think by mid-day tomorrow the matter should be settled.”
“Right,” said Harley shortly. “May I ask you to report the result to me, Wessex?”
“I will report without fail.”
ALI OF CAIRO