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We arrived at Feltham at a few minutes past ten o'clock, having seen nothing of the car which had left Newcastle a few minutes before ours. Several times we asked on the road and heard news of it, but we could find no sign of it having stopped even for a moment. Apparently it had been driven, without pause for rest or refreshment, at top speed, and we learned that two summonses would probably be issued against its owners. Jacky, who was delighted with the whole expedition, sat with his watch in his hands for the last few miles, and made elaborate calculations as to our average speed, the distance we had traversed, and other matters interesting to the owner of a powerful car.
We were greeted, when we arrived, with all sorts of inquiries as to our expedition, but we declined to say a word until we had dined. We had scarcely commenced our meal before the butler came hurrying in.
"His Lordship is ringing up from London, sir," he said. "He wishes to speak to you particularly. The telephone is through into the library."
I made my way there and took up the receiver without any special interest. Ralph was fidgety these days, and I had no doubt that he had something to say to me about the shooting. His first words, however, riveted my attention.
"Is that you, Austen?" he asked.
"I am here," I answered. "How are you, Ralph?"
"I am all right," he said. "Rather better than usual, in fact. Where on earth have you been to all day? I have rung up four times."
"I have been motoring with Jacky," I told him. "We have been for rather a long run. Have you been wanting me?"
"Yes!" he answered. "I have had a very curious cable from Dicky which I can't understand. I am sorry to bother you, but I think you had better come up to town by the first train in the morning. It's something to do with these Deloras."
"The devil it is!" I exclaimed. "I'll come, Ralph. I shall motor to Norwich, and catch the eight o'clock. Could you give me an idea of what it is?"
"I think I'd rather not over the telephone," Ralph declared, after a moment's hesitation.
"Don't be an idiot!" I answered. "I am really very much interested."
"It's a queer business," Ralph said, "but it will keep until to-morrow. I shall send the car for you to Liverpool Street, and you had better come straight to me."
"Dicky is all right, I hope?" I asked.
"Dicky's all right," Ralph answered. "What sort of sport are you having there?"
"Very fair," I answered. "Heggs sends you the figures every day, I suppose?"
"Yes!" Ralph answered. "You seem to have done very well at the birds. Till to-morrow, Austen!"
"Till to-morrow," I replied. "Good night, old chap!"
I put down the receiver and went back to my dinner more than ever puzzled. Ralph's summons, I felt, absolved me from any promise I might have made to Delora, and I was looking eagerly forward to the morrow, when I should be once more in London. What puzzled me, however, more even than Dicky's message, was the extreme interest Ralph's tone seemed to denote. His voice sounded quite like his old self.
"Jacky," I said, as we finished dinner, "will you lend me your car to take me into Norwich to-morrow? I have to catch the eight o'clock train to town."
"I'll lend it you with pleasure," Jacky said, looking at me in amazement, "but what on earth's up?"
"Nothing," I answered. "Simply Ralph wants to see me. He isn't particularly communicative himself, but he is very anxious that I should go to town to-morrow. Somehow or other I have more confidence in your Napier than in either of our cars when it comes to catching a train at that time in the morning."
"I'll run you up to town, if you like," Jacky declared, in a burst of good-nature.
"It isn't necessary," I answered. "I shall get up quicker by train, and Ralph's going to meet me at Liverpool Street. Thanks, all the same!"
Jacky lit a cigar.
"I'll go out and tell Ferris myself," he said.
Once more Jacky's car did not fail me. Punctually at a quarter to eight we drove into Norwich Station yard. I breakfasted on the train, and reached Liverpool Street a few minutes after eleven. I found Ralph's big Panhard there, but Ralph himself had not come.
"His Lordship is expecting you at the hotel, sir," the chauffeur told me. "He would have come down himself, but he was expecting a caller."
In less than half an hour I was in my brother's sitting-room. Ralph greeted me cordially.
"Austen," he said, "I am not at all sure that I have not brought you up on rather a fool's errand, but you seemed rather mystified yourself about these Deloras. Here's the cable from Dicky. What do you make of it? Must have cost him something, extravagant young beggar!"
He passed it across to me. I read it out aloud.
DELORA HERE PUZZLED NOT HEARING FROM BROTHER SHOULD BE IN LONDON IMPORTANT BUSINESS FEARS SOMETHING WRONG ALL CODED CABLES REMAIN UNANSWERED INQUIRE MILAN HOTEL IF POSSIBLE FIND DELORA BEG HIM CABLE AT ONCE IN CHALDEAN CODE.
I read the cable through three times.
"May I take this, Ralph?" I said. "I will go round to the Milan at once."
"Certainly," Ralph answered. "I will leave the matter entirely in your hands. It seems as though there were something queer about it."
"There is something queer going on, Ralph," I assured him. "I have found out as much as that myself. Exactly what it means I can't fathom. To tell you the truth, it has been taking a lot of my time lately, and I know very little more than when I started."
"It's the young lady, I suppose," Ralph remarked thoughtfully.
"I am not over keen about interfering in other people's concerns, Ralph," I said. "You know that. It's the girl, of course, and I am afraid, I am very much afraid, that there is something wrong."
"Anyhow," Ralph said, "it doesn't follow that the girl's in it."
"I am jolly certain she isn't!" I said. "What bothers me, of course, is that I hate to think of her being mixed up with anything shady. The Deloras may be great people in their own country, but I'll swear that our friend here is a wrong 'un."
"I suppose you are sure," Ralph said thoughtfully, "that he is Delora--that he is not an impostor, I mean?"
"I thought of that," I answered, "but you see there's the girl. She'd know her own uncle, wouldn't she? And she told me that she had seen him on and off for years. No, he is Delora right enough! One can't tell," I continued. "Perhaps the whole thing's crooked. Perhaps the Deloras who seem to Dicky such charming people in their own country are a different sort of people on this side. At any rate, I'm off, Ralph, with that cable. I'll look you up as soon as I have found out anything."
"I don't believe," he said, "you are sorry to have an excuse for having another turn at this affair."
"Perhaps not," I answered.
"Take the car," Ralph called out after me. "You may find it useful."
I drove first to the small hotel where I had last seen Delora. Here, however, I was confronted with a certain difficulty. The name of Delora was quite unknown to the people. I described him carefully, however, to the landlady, and she appeared to recognize him.
"The gentleman you mean was, I think, a Mr. Henriquois. He left us the day before yesterday."
"You know where he went to?" I asked.
She shook her head.
"He asked for a Continental time-table," she said, "but he gave no address, nor did he tell any one of his intentions. He was a gentleman that kept himself to himself," she remarked, looking at me a little curiously.
I thanked the woman and departed. Delora was scarcely likely to have left behind any reliable details of his intentions at such a place. I drove on to the Milan, and entered the Court with a curious little thrill of interest. The hall-porter welcomed me with a smile.
"Glad to see you back again, Captain Rotherby," he said. "Have you any luggage?"
"None," I answered. "I am not sure whether I shall be staying."
"This morning's letters are in your room, sir," he announced.
I nodded. I was not particularly interested in my letters! I drew Ashley a little on one side.
"Tell me," I said, "is Miss Delora still here?"
"She is still here, sir," Ashley announced.
"The companion also?" I asked.
"Yes, sir!" he answered. "I am not sure whether they are in, sir, but they are still staying here."
"And Mr. Delora?" I asked,--"has he ever turned up yet?"
"Not yet, sir. The young lady said that they were expecting him now every day."
"Telephone up and see if Miss Delora is in, Ashley," I asked.
He disappeared for a moment into his office.
"No answer, sir," he announced presently. "I believe that they are out."
Almost as he spoke I saw through the windows of the hair-dresser's shop a familiar figure entering the hotel. I left Ashley hurriedly, and in a moment I was face to face with Felicia. She gave a little cry when she saw me, and it was a joy to me to realize that it was a cry of pleasure.
"Capitaine Rotherby!" she exclaimed. "You!"
She gave me her hands with an impetuous little movement. I held them tightly in mine.
"I want to speak to you at once," I said. "Where can we go?"
"Madame is out for an hour," she said. "We could go in the little smoking-room. But have you forgotten your promise?"
"Never mind about that, Felicia," I whispered. "Something has happened. I went first to see your uncle, but I could not find him. I must talk with you. Come!"
We walked together across the hall, through the end of the cafe, down which she threw one long, anxious glance, and entered the little smoking-room. It was empty except for one man writing letters. I led the way into the most remote corner, and wheeled out an easy-chair.
"Felicia," I said, "if I can get a special license, will you marry me to-morrow?"
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