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CHAPTER II MOXON AND MUDD
Now, Moxon had come up that morning from Framlingham in Kent, where he was taking a holiday, to transact some business. Amongst other things he had to see Simon Pettigrew on a question about some bills.

The apparition he had encountered in the hall of the Charing Cross Hotel pursued him to Plunder's office, where he first went, and, when he left Plunder's for luncheon at Prosser's, in Chancery Lane, it still pursued him.

Though he knew it could not be Pettigrew, some uneasy spirit in his subconsciousness kept insisting that it was Pettigrew.

At two o'clock he called at Old Serjeants' Inn. He saw Brownlow, who had just returned from lunch.

No, Mr. Pettigrew was not in. He had gone out that morning early and had not returned.

"I must see him," said Moxon. "When do you think he will be in?"

Brownlow couldn't say.

"Would he be at his house, do you think?"

"Hardly," said Brownlow; "he might have gone home, but I think it's improbable."

"I must see him," said Moxon again. "It's extraordinary. Why, I wrote to him telling him I was coming this afternoon and he knows the importance of my business."

"Mr. Pettigrew hasn't opened his morning letters yet," said Brownlow.

"Good Lord!" said Moxon.

Then, after a pause:

"Will you telephone to his house to see?"

"Mr. Pettigrew has no telephone," said Brownlow; "he dislikes them, except in business."

Moxon remembered this and other old-fashioned traits in Pettigrew; the remembrance did not ease his irritation.

"Then I'll go to his house myself," said he.

When he arrived at King Charles Street, Mudd opened the door.

Mudd and Moxon were mutually known one to the other, Moxon having often dined there.

"Is your master in, Mudd?" asked Moxon.

"No, sir," answered Mudd; "he's not at home, and mayn't be at home for some time."

"What do you mean?"

"He left me directions that if he wasn't at the office when the brougham called to take him to luncheon I was to tell the office he was called away; the coachman has just come back to say he wasn't there, so I am sending him back to the office to tell them."

"Called away! For how long?"

"Well, it might be a month," said Mudd, remembering.

"Extraordinary!" said Moxon. "Well, I can't help it, and I can't wait; I must take my business elsewhere. I thought I saw Mr. Pettigrew in the Charing Cross Hotel, but he was dressed differently and seemed strange. Well, this is a great nuisance, but it can't be helped, I suppose.... A month...."

Off he went in a huff.

Mudd watched him as he went, then he closed the hall door. Then he sat down on one of the hall chairs.

"Dressed differently and seemed strange." It only wanted those words to start alarm in the mind of Mudd.

The affair of a year ago had always perplexed him, and now this!

"Seemed strange."

Could it be?... H'm.... He got up and went downstairs.

"Why, what's the matter with you, Mr. Mudd?" asked the cook-housekeeper. "Why, you're all of a shake."

"It's my stomach," said Mudd.

He took a glass of ginger wine, then he fetched his hat.

"I'm going out to get the air," said Mudd. "I mayn't be back for some time; don't bother about me if I aren't, and be sure to lock up the plate."

"God bless my soul, what's the matter with the man?" murmured the astonished housekeeper as Mudd vanished. "Blest if he isn't getting as queer as his master!"

Out in the street Mudd paused to blow his nose in a bandanna handkerchief just like Simon's. Then, as though this act had started his mechanism, off he went, hailed an omnibus in the next street, and got off at Charing Cross.

He entered the Charing Cross Hotel.

"Is a Mr. Pettigrew here?" asked Mudd of the hall porter.

The hail porter grinned.

"Yes, there's a Mr. Pettigrew staying here, but he's out."

"Well, I'm his servant," said Mudd.

"Staying here with him?" asked the porter.

"Yes. I've followed him on. What's the number of his room?"

"The office will know," replied the other.

"Well, just go to the office and get his key," said Mudd, "and send a messenger boy to No. 12, King Charles Street—that's our address—to tell Mrs. Jukes, the housekeeper, I won't be able to get back to-night maybe. Here's a shilling for him—but show me his room first."

Mudd carried conviction.

The hall porter went to the office.

"Key of Mr. Pettigrew's room," said he; "his servant has just come."

The superior damsel detached herself from book-keeping, looked up the number and gave the key.

Mudd took it and went up in the lift. He opened the door of the room and went in. The place had not been tidied, clothes lay everywhere.

Mudd, like a cat in a strange house, looked around. Then he shut the door.

Then he took up a coat and looked at the maker's name on the tab.

"Holland and Woolson"—Simon's tailors!

Then he examined all the garments. Such garments! Boating flannels, serge suits! Then the shoes, the patent leather boots. He opened[Pg 65] the chest of drawers and found the bundle of discarded clothes—the old coat with the left elbow "going," and the rest. He held them up, examined them, folded them and put them back.

Then he sat down to recover himself, blew his nose, wondered whether he or Simon were crazy, and then, rising up, began to fold and put away the new things in the wardrobe and chest-of-drawers.

He noticed that one of the portmanteaux was locked. Yet there was something in it that slid up and down as he tilted and lowered it.

Having looked round the room once again, he went downstairs, gave up the key, made arrangements for his room, and started out.

He made for Sackville Street. Meyer, the foreman of Holland and Woolson's, was known to him. He had sometimes called regarding Simon's clothes with directions for this or that.

"That blue serge suit you've just sent for Mr. Pettigrew don't quite rightly fit, Mr. Meyer," said the cunning Mudd. "I had the coat done up in a parcel to bring back to you for the sleeves to be shortened half an inch, but I forgot it; only remembered I'd forgot it at your door."

"We'll send for it," said Meyer.

"Right," said Mudd. Then, "No—on second thoughts, I'll fetch it myself when I have a[Pg 66] moment to spare, for we're going from home for a few days. Mr. Pettigrew has had a good lot of clothes lately, Mr. Meyer."

"He has," said Meyer, with a twinkle in his eye; "suits and suits, almost as if he were going to be married."

"Married!" cried the other. "What put that into your head, Mr. Meyer? He's not a marrying man. Why, I've never seen him as much as glance an eye at a female."

"Oh, it was only my joke," said Meyer.

Now, in Mudd's soul there had lain for years an uneasiness, a crumpled rose-leaf of thought that touched him sometimes as he turned at night in bed. It was the fear that some day............
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