“May I come in and say good night for two minutes?”
He smiled—a wonderfully kind smile—but shook his head.
“Not to-night, dear,” he replied. “The Prince loves to sit up late, and I shall be downstairs with him. Besides, that bully of a doctor of yours insists upon ten hours’ sleep.”
She sighed like a disappointed child.
“Very well.” She paused for a moment to listen. “Wasn’t that a car?” she asked.
“Some of our guests going early, I dare say,” he replied, as he turned away.
Seaman did not at once start on his mission to the Princess. He made his way instead to the servants’ quarters and knocked at the door of the butler’s sitting-room. There was no reply. He tried the handle in vain. The door was locked. A tall, grave-faced man in sombre black came out from an adjoining apartment.
“You are looking for the person who arrived this evening from abroad, sir?” he enquired.
“I am,” Seaman replied. “Has he locked himself in?”
“He has left the Hall, sir!”
“Left!” Seaman repeated. “Do you mean gone away for good?”
“Apparently, sir. I do not understand his language myself, but I believe he considered his reception here, for some reason or other, unfavourable. He took advantage of the car which went down to the station for the evening papers and caught the last train.”
Seaman was silent for a moment. The news was a shock to him.
“What is your position here?” he asked his informant.
“My name is Reynolds, sir,” was the respectful reply. “I am Mr. Pelham’s servant.”
“Can you tell me why, if this man has left the door here is locked?”
“Mr. Parkins locked it before he went out, sir. He accompanied—Mr. Miller, I think his name was—to the station.”
Seaman had the air of a man not wholly satisfied.
“Is it usual to lock up a sitting-room in this fashion?” he asked.
“Mr. Parkins always does it, sir. The cabinets of cigars are kept there, also the wine-cellar key and the key of the plate chest. None of the other servants use the room except at Mr. Parkins’ invitation.”
“I understand,” Seaman said, as he turned away. “Much obliged for your information, Reynolds. I will speak to Mr. Parkins later.”
“I will let him know that you desire to see him, sir.”
“Good night, Reynolds!”
“Good night, sir!”
Seaman passed back again to the crowded hall and billiard-room, exchanged a few remarks here and there, and made his way up the southern flight of stairs toward the west wing. Stephanie consented without hesitation to receive him. She was seated in front of the fire, reading a novel, in a boudoir opening out of her bedroom.
“Princess,” Seaman declared, with a low bow, “we are in despair at your desertion.”