“Was he ever short of money?” Francis asked.
She shook her head.
“Not seriously,” she answered. “He was quite well-off, besides what his people allowed him. I was going to have a wonderful settlement as soon as our engagement was announced. However, to go on with what I was telling you, the very night before—it happened—he came in to see me, looking like nothing on earth. He cried like a baby, behaved like a lunatic, and called himself all manner of names. He had had a great deal too much to drink, and I gathered that he had seen something horrible. It was then he asked me to dine with him the next night, and told me that he was going to break altogether with his new friends. Something in connection with them seemed to have given him a terrible fright.”
Francis nodded. He had the tact to abandon his curiosity at this precise point.
“The old story,” he declared, “bad company and rotten habits. I suppose some one got to know that the young man usually carried a great deal of money about with him.”
“It was so foolish of him,” she assented eagerly: “I warned him about it so often. The police won’t listen to it but I am absolutely certain that he was robbed. I noticed when he paid the bill that he had a great wad of bank-notes which were never discovered afterwards.”
Francis rose to his feet.
“What are you doing to-night?” he enquired.
“Nothing,” she acknowledged eagerly.
“Then let’s dine somewhere and see the show at the Frivolity,” he suggested.
“You dear man!” she assented with enthusiasm. “The one thing I wanted to do, and the one person I wanted to do it with.”
It was after leaving Miss Daisy Hyslop’s flat that the event to which Francis Ledsam had been looking forward more than anything else in the world, happened. It came about entirely by chance. There were no taxis in the Strand. Francis himself had finished work for the day, and feeling disinclined for his usual rubber of bridge, he strolled homewards along the Mall. At the corner of Green Park, he came face to face with the woman who for the last few months had scarcely been out of his thoughts. Even in that first moment he realised to his pain that she would have avoided him if she could. They met, however, where the path narrowed, and he left her no chance to avoid him. That curious impulse of conventionality which opens a conversation always with cut and dried banalities, saved them perhaps from a certain amount of embarrassment. Without any conscious suggestion, they found themselves walking side by side.
“I have been wanting to see you very much indeed,” he said. “I even went so far as to wonder whether I dared call.”
“Why should you?” she asked. “Our acquaintance began and ended in tragedy. There is scarcely any purpose in carrying it further.”