He regarded him as a person of unsound intellect, who believed himself a member and the victim of some secret society. If he were to hazard an opinion, he would say deceased had died of fear.'
'And the doctor would be right,' cried Somerset; 'and my dear Challoner, I am so relieved to hear of his demise, that I will-- Well, after all,' he added, 'poor devil, he was well served.'
The door at this moment opened, and Desborough appeared upon the threshold. He was wrapped in a long waterproof, imperfectly supplied with buttons; his boots were full of water, his hat greasy with service; and yet he wore the air of one exceeding well content with life. He was hailed by the two others with exclamations of surprise and welcome.
'And did you try the detective business?' inquired Paul.
'No,' returned Harry. 'Oh yes, by the way, I did though: twice, and got caught out both times. But I thought I should find my--my wife here?' he added, with a kind of proud confusion.
'What? are you married?' cried Somerset.
'Oh yes,' said Harry, 'quite a long time: a month at least.'
'Money?' asked Challoner.
'That's the worst of it,' Desborough admitted. 'We are deadly hard up. But the Pri--- Mr. Godall is going to do something for us. That is what brings us here.'
'Who was Mrs. Desborough?' said Challoner, in the tone of a man of society.
'She was a Miss Luxmore,' returned Harry. 'You fellows will be sure to like her, for she is much cleverer than I. She tells wonderful stories, too; better than a book.'
And just then the door opened, and Mrs. Desborough entered. Somerset cried out aloud to recognise the young lady of the Superfluous Mansion, and Challoner fell back a step and dropped his cigar as he beheld the sorceress of Chelsea.
'What!' cried Harry, 'do you both know my wife?'
'I believe I have seen her,' said Somerset, a little wildly.
'I think I have met the gentleman,' said Mrs. Desborough sweetly; 'but I cannot imagine where it was.'
'Oh no,' cried Somerset fervently: 'I have no notion--I cannot conceive--where it could have been. Indeed,' he continued, growing in emphasis, 'I think it highly probable that it's a mistake.'
'And you, Challoner?' asked Harry, 'you seemed to recognise her too.'
'These are both friends of yours, Harry?' said the lady. 'Delighted, I am sure. I do not remember to have met Mr. Challoner.'
Challoner was very red in the face, perhaps from having groped after his cigar. 'I do not remember to have had the pleasure,' he responded huskily.
'Well, and Mr. Godall?' asked Mrs. Desborough.
'Are you the lady that has an appointment with old--' began Somerset, and paused blushing. 'Because if so,' he resumed, 'I was to announce you at once.'
And the shopman raised a curtain, opened a door, and passed into a small pavilion which had been added to the back of the house. On the roof, the rain resounded musically. The walls were lined with maps and prints and a few works of reference. Upon a table was a large-scale map of Egypt and the Soudan, and another of Tonkin, on which, by the aid of coloured pins, the progress of the different wars was being followed day by day. A light, refreshing odour of the most delicate tobacco hung upon the air; and a fire, not of foul coal, but of clear-flaming resinous billets, chattered upon silver dogs. In this elegant and plain apartment, Mr. Godall sat in a morning muse, placidly gazing at the fire and hearkening to the rain upon the roof.
'Ha, my dear Mr. Somerset,' said he, 'and have you since last night adopted any fresh political principle?'
'The lady, sir,' said Somerset, with another blush.
'You have seen her, I believe?' returned Mr. Godall; and on Somerset's replying in the affirmative, 'You will excuse me, my dear sir,' he resumed, 'if I offer you a hint. I think it not improbable this lady may desire entirely to forget the past. From one gentleman to another, no more words are necessary.'
A moment after, he had received Mrs. Desborough with that grave and touching urbanity that so well became him.