Unformatted text preview: alacrity. They bent over it together.
I was afraid Mrs Ackroyd would begin talking about settlements again, so I made a few hurried remarks
about the new sweet pea. I knew there was a new sweet pea because the Daily Mail had told me so that
morning. Mrs Ackroyd knows nothing about horticulture, but she is the kind of woman who likes to
appear well-informed about the topics of the day, and she, too, reads the Daily Mail. We were able to
converse quite intelligently until Ackroyd and his secretary joined us, and immediately afterwards Parker
My place at table was between Mrs Ackroyd and Flora.
Blunt was on Mrs Ackroyd's other side, and Geoffrey Raymond next to him.
Dinner was not a cheerful affair. Ackroyd was visibly preoccupied. He looked wretched, and ate next to
Mrs Ackroyd, Raymond, and I kept the conversation going.
Flora seemed affected by her uncle's depression, and Blunt relapsed into his usual taciturnity. Immediately after dinner Ackroyd slipped his arm through mine and led me off to his study.
'Once we've had coffee, we shan't be disturbed again,' he explained. 'I told Raymond to see to it that we
shouldn't be interrupted.' I studied him quietly without appearing to do so. He was clearly under the
influence of some strong excitement. For a minute or two he paced up and down the room, then, as
Parker entered with the coffee tray, he sank into an armchair in front of the fire.
The study was a comfortable apartment. Bookshelves lined one wall of it. The chairs were big and
covered in dark blue leather. A large desk stood by the window and was covered with papers neatly
docketed and filed. On a round table were various magazines and sporting papers.
'I've had a return of that pain after food lately,' remarked Ackroyd calmly, as he helped himself to coffee.
'You must give me some more of those tablets of yours.' It struck me that he was anxious to convey the
impression that our conference was a medical one. I played up accordingly.
'I thought as much. I brought some up with me.' 'Good man. Hand them over now.' 'They're in my bag in
the hall. I'll get them.' Ackroyd arrested me.
'Don't you trouble. Parker will get them. Bring in the doctor's bag, will you, Parker?' 'Very good, sir.'
Parker withdrew. As I was about to speak, Ackroyd threw up his hand.
'Not yet. Wait. Don't you see I'm in such a state of nerves that I can hardly contain myself?' I saw that
plainly enough. And I was very uneasy. All sorts of forebodings assailed me.
Ackroyd spoke again almost immediately.
'Make certain that window's closed, will you,' he asked.
Somewhat surprised, I got up and went to it. It was not a french window, but one of the ordinary sash
type. The heavy blue velvet curtains were drawn in front of it, but the window itself was open at the top.
Parker re-entered the room with my bag while I was still at the window.
'That's all right,' I said, emerging again into the room.
'You've put the latch across?' 'Yes, yes. What's the matter with you,...
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