The Vanished Messenger
Mr. Fentolin raised to his lips the little gold whistle which hung from his neck and blew
it. He seemed to devote very little effort to the operation, yet the strength of the note was
wonderful. As the echoes died away, he let it fall by his side and waited with a pleased
smile upon his lips. In a few seconds there was the hurried flutter of skirts and the sound
of footsteps. The girl who had just completed her railway journey entered, followed by
her brother. They were both a little out of breath, they both approached the chair without
a smile, the girl in advance, with a certain expression of apprehension in her eyes. Mr.
Fentolin sighed. He appeared to notice these things and regret them.
"My child," he said, holding out his hands, "my dear Esther, welcome home again! I
heard the car outside. I am grieved that you did not at once hurry to my side."
"I have not been in the house two minutes," Esther replied, "and I haven't seen mother
yet. Forgive me."
She had come to a standstill a few yards away. She moved now very slowly towards the
chair, with the air of one fulfilling a hateful task. The fingers which accepted his hands
were extended almost hesitatingly. He drew her closer to him and held her there.
"Your mother, my dear Esther, is, I regret to say, suffering from a slight indisposition,"
he remarked. "She has been confined to her room for the last few days. Just a trifling
affair of the nerves; nothing more, Doctor Sarson assures me. But my dear child," he
went on, "your fingers are as cold as ice. You look at me so strangely, too. Alas! you
have not the affectionate disposition of your dear mother. One would scarcely believe
that we have been parted for more than a week."
"For more than a week," she repeated, under her breath.
"Stoop down, my dear. I must kiss your forehead - there! Now bring up a chair to my
side. You seem frightened - alarmed. Have you ill news for me?"
"I have no news," she answered, gradually recovering herself.
"The gaieties of London, I fear," he protested gently, "have proved a little unsettling."
"There were no gaieties for me," the girl replied bitterly. "Mrs. Sargent obeyed your
orders very faithfully. I was not allowed to move out except with her."
"My dear child, you would not go about London unchaperoned!"
"There is a difference," she retorted, "between a chaperon and a jailer."
Mr. Fentolin sighed. He shook his head slowly. He seemed pained.
"I am not sure that you repay my care as it deserves, Esther," he declared. "There is
something in your deportment which disappoints me. Never mind, your brother has made
some atonement. I entrusted him with a little mission in which I am glad to say that he
has been brilliantly successful."
"I cannot say that I am glad to hear it," Esther replied quietly.