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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lighted Way - Chapter 25. Mr. Weatherley's Disappearance
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The Lighted Way - Chapter 25. Mr. Weatherley's Disappearance Post by :markbc Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :3225

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The Lighted Way - Chapter 25. Mr. Weatherley's Disappearance

CHAPTER XXV. MR. WEATHERLEY'S DISAPPEARANCE

Arnold arrived at Tooley Street only a few minutes after his usual time. He made his way at once into the private office and commenced his work. At ten o'clock Mr. Jarvis came in. The pile of letters upon Mr. Weatherley's desk was as yet untouched.

"Any idea where the governor is?" the cashier asked. "He's nearly half an hour late."

Arnold glanced at the clock.

"Mr. Weatherley is spending the week-end down the river," he said. "I dare say the trains up are a little awkward."

Mr. Jarvis looked at him curiously.

"How do you happen to know that?"

"I was there yesterday for a short time," Arnold told him.

Mr. Jarvis whistled softly.

"Seems to me you're getting pretty chummy with the governor," he remarked; "or is it Mrs. Weatherley, eh?"

Arnold lifted his head and looked fixedly at Mr. Jarvis. The latter suddenly remembered that he had come in to search among the letters for some invoices. He busied himself for a moment or two, sorting them out.

"Well, well," he said, "I hope the governor will soon be here, anyway. There are a lot of things I want to ask him about this morning."

A telephone bell at Arnold's desk began to ring. Arnold lifted the receiver to his ear.

"Is that Mr. Weatherley's office?" a familiar voice inquired.

"Good morning, Mrs. Weatherley," he replied. "This is the office, and I am Arnold Chetwode. We were just wondering what had become of Mr. Weatherley."

"What had become of him?" the voice repeated. "But is he not there?"

"No sign of him at present," Arnold answered.

There was a short silence. Then Mrs. Weatherley spoke again.

"He left here," she said, "absurdly early--soon after seven, I think it was--to motor up."

"Has the car returned?" Arnold asked.

"More than an hour ago," was the prompt reply.

"I can assure you that he has not been here," Arnold declared. "You're speaking from Bourne End, I suppose?"

"Yes!"

"Will you please ask the chauffeur," Arnold suggested, "where he left Mr. Weatherley?"

"Of course I will," she replied. "That is very sensible. You must hold the line until I come back."

Arnold withdrew the receiver for a few minutes from his ear. Mr. Jarvis had been listening to the conversation, his mouth open with curiosity.

"Is that about the governor?" he asked.

Arnold nodded.

"It was Mrs. Weatherley speaking," he said. "It seems Mr. Weatherley left Bourne End soon after seven o'clock this morning."

"Soon after seven o'clock?" Mr. Jarvis repeated.

"The car has been back there quite a long time," Arnold continued. "Mrs. Weatherley has gone to make inquiries of the chauffeur."

"Most extraordinary thing," Mr. Jarvis muttered. "I can't say that I've ever known the governor as late as this, unless he was ill."

Arnold put the receiver once more to his ear. In a moment or two Mrs. Weatherley returned. Her voice was a little graver.

"I have spoken to the chauffeur," she announced. "He says that they called first up in Hampstead to see if there were any letters, and that afterwards he drove Mr. Weatherley over London Bridge and put him down at the usual spot, just opposite to the London & Westminster Bank. For some reason or other, as I dare say you know," she went on, "Mr. Weatherley never likes to bring the car into Tooley Street. It was ten minutes past nine when he set him down and left him there."

Arnold glanced at the clock.

"It is now," he said, "a quarter to eleven. The spot you speak of is only two hundred yards away, but I can assure you that Mr. Weatherley has not yet arrived."

Mrs. Weatherley began to laugh softly. Even down the wires, that laugh seemed to bring with it some flavor of her own wonderful personality.

"Will there be a paragraph in the evening papers?" she asked, mockingly. "I think I can see it now upon all the placards: 'Mysterious disappearance of a city merchant.' Poor Samuel!"

Arnold found it quite impossible to answer her lightly. The fingers, indeed, which held the receiver to his ear, were shaking a little.

"Mrs. Weatherley," he said, "can I see you to-day--as soon as possible?"

"Why, of course you can, you silly boy," she laughed back. "I am here all alone and I weary myself. Come by the next train or take a taxicab. You can leave word for Mr, Weatherley, when he arrives, that you have come by my special wish. He will not mind then."

"There is no sign of Mr. Weatherley at present," Arnold replied, "and I could not leave here until I had seen him. I thought that perhaps you might be coming up to town for something."

He could almost hear her yawn.

"Really," she declared, after a slight pause, "it is not a bad idea. The sun will not shine to-day; there is a gray mist everywhere and it depresses me. You will lunch with me if I come up?"

"If you please."

"I do please," she declared. "I think we will go to our own little place--the Cafe Andre, and I will be there at half-past twelve. You will be waiting for me?"

"Without a doubt," Arnold promised.

She began to laugh again.

"Without a doubt!" she mocked him. "You are a very stolid young man, Arnold."

"To tell you the truth," he admitted, "I am a little bothered just now. We want Mr. Weatherley badly, and I don't understand his having been within a few hundred yards of the office nearly two hours ago and not having turned up here."

"He will arrive," she replied confidently. "Have no fear of that. There are others to whom accidents and adventures might happen, but not, I think, to Mr. Samuel Weatherley. I am sorry that you are bothered, though, Mr. Chetwode. I think that to console you I shall wear one of my two new muslin gowns which have just arrived from Paris."

"What is she talking about all this time?" Mr. Jarvis, who was itching with curiosity, broke in.

"I am called away now," Arnold declared down the telephone. "I shall be quite punctual. Good-bye!"

He heard her laugh again as he hung up the receiver.

"Well, well," Mr. Jarvis demanded, "what is it all about? Have you heard anything?"

"Nothing of any importance, I am afraid," Arnold admitted. "Mrs. Weatherley laughs at the idea of anything having happened to her husband."

"If nothing has happened to him," Mr. Jarvis protested, "where is he?"

"Is there any call he could have paid on the way?" Arnold suggested.

"I have never known him to do such a thing in his life," Mr. Jarvis replied. "Besides, there is no business call which could take two hours at this time of the morning."

They rang up the few business friends whom Mr. Weatherley had in the vicinity, Guy's Hospital, the bank, and the police station. The reply was the same in all cases. Nobody had seen or heard anything of Mr. Weatherley. Arnold even took down his hat and walked aimlessly up the street to the spot where Mr. Weatherley had left the motor car. The policeman on duty had heard nothing of any accident. The shoe-black, at the top of the steps leading down to the wharves, remembered distinctly Mr. Weatherley's alighting at the usual hour. Arnold returned to the office and sat down facing the little safe which Mr. Weatherley had made over to him. After all, it might be true, then, this thing which he had sometimes dimly suspected. Beneath his very commonplace exterior, Mr. Weatherley had carried with him a secret....

At half-past twelve precisely, Arnold stood upon the threshold of the passage leading into Andre's Cafe. Already the people were beginning to crowd into the lower room, a curious, cosmopolitan mixture, mostly foreigners, and nearly all arriving in twos and threes from the neighboring business houses. At twenty minutes to one, Mr. Weatherley's beautiful car turned slowly into the narrow street and drove up to the entrance. Arnold hurried forward to open the door and Fenella descended. She came to him with radiant face, a wonderful vision in her spotless white gown and French hat with its drooping veil. Arnold, notwithstanding his anxieties, found it impossible not to be carried away for the moment by a wave of admiration. She laughed with pleasure as she looked into his eyes.

"There!" she exclaimed. "I told you that for a moment I would make you forget everything."

"There is a good deal to forget, too," he answered.

She shrugged her shoulders.

"You are always so gloomy, my young friend," she said. "We will have luncheon together, you and I, and I will try and teach you how to be gay. Tell me, then," she went on, as they reached the landing and she waited for Arnold to open the door leading into the private room, "how is the little invalid girl this morning?"

"The little invalid girl is well," Arnold replied.

"She was not too tired yesterday, I hope?" Fenella asked.

"Not in the least," Arnold assured her. "We both of us felt that we did not thank you half enough for our wonderful day."

"Oh, la, la!" Fenella exclaimed. "It was a whim of mine, that is all. I liked having you both there. Some day you must come again, and, if you are very good, I may let you bring the young lady, though I'm not so sure of that. Do you know that my brother was asking me questions about her until I thought my head would swim last night?" she continued, curiously.

"Count Sabatini was very kind to her," Arnold remarked. "Poor little girl, I am afraid she is going to have rather a rough time. She had quite an alarming experience last night after our return."

"You must tell me all about it presently," Fenella declared. "Shall we take this little round table near the window? It will be delightful, that, for when we are tired with one another we can watch the people in the street. Have you ever sat and watched the people in the street, Arnold?"

"Not often," he answered, giving his hat to a waiter and following her across the little room. "You see, there are not many people to watch from the windows of where I live, but there is always the river."

"A terribly dreary place," Fenella declared.

Arnold shook his head.

"Don't believe it," he replied. "Only a short time ago, the days were very dark indeed. Ruth and I together did little else except watch the barges come up, and the slowly moving vessels, and the lights, and the swarms of people on Blackfriars Bridge. Life was all watching then."

"One would weary soon," she murmured, "of being a spectator. You are scarcely that now."

"There has been a great change," he answered simply. "In those days I was very near starvation. I had no idea how I was going to find work. Yet even then I found myself longing for adventures of any sort,--anything to quicken the blood, to feel the earth swell beneath my feet."

She was watching him with that curious look in her eyes which he never wholly understood--half mocking, half tender.

"And after all," she murmured, "you found your way to Tooley Street and the office of Mr. Samuel Weatherley."

She threw herself back in her chair and laughed so irresistibly that Arnold, in a moment or two, found himself sharing her merriment.

"It is all very well," he said presently, "but I am not at all sure that adventures do not sometimes come even to Tooley Street."

She shook her head.

"I shall never believe it. Tell me now about Mr. Weatherley? Was he very sorry when he arrived for having caused you so much anxiety?"

"I have not yet seen Mr. Weatherley," Arnold replied. "Up till the time when I left the office, he had not arrived."

She set down the glass which she had been in the act of raising to her lips. For the first time she seemed to take this matter seriously.

"What time was that?" she asked.

"Ten minutes past twelve."

She frowned.

"It certainly does begin to look a little queer," she admitted. "Do you think that he has met with an accident?"

"We have already tried the hospitals and the police station," he told her.

She looked at him steadfastly.

"You have an idea--you have some idea of what has happened," she said.

"Nothing definite," Arnold replied, gravely. "I cannot imagine what it all means, but I believe that Mr. Weatherley has disappeared."

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