The Vanished Messenger
During the next half-hour, Hamel was introduced to luxuries to which, in a general way,
he was entirely unaccustomed. One man-servant was busy preparing his bath in a room
leading out of his sleeping apartment, while another brought him a choice of evening
clothes and superintended his disrobing. Hamel, always observant, studied his
surroundings with keen interest. He found himself in a queerly mixed atmosphere of
luxurious modernity and stately antiquity. His four-poster, the huge couch at the foot of
his bed, and all the furniture about the room, was of the Queen Anne period. The
bathroom which communicated with his apartment was the latest triumph of the
plumber's art - a room with floor and walls of white tiles, the bath itself a little sunken
and twice the ordinary size. He dispensed so far as he could with the services of the men
and descended, as soon as he was dressed, into the hall. Meekins was waiting at the
bottom of the stairs, dressed now in somber black.
"Mr. Fentolin will be glad if you will step into his room, sir," he announced, leading the
Mr. Fentolin was seated in his chair, reading the Times in a corner of his library. Shaped
blocks had been placed behind and in front of the wheels of his little vehicle, to prevent it
from moving. A shaded reading-lamp stood on the table by his side. He did not at once
look up, and Hamel glanced around with genuine admiration. The shelves which lined the
walls and the winged cases which protruded into the room were filled with books. There
was a large oak table with beautifully carved legs, piled with all sorts of modern reviews
and magazines. A log fire was burning in the big oaken grate. The perfume from a great
bowl of lavender seemed to mingle curiously yet pleasantly with the half musty odour of
the old leather-hound volumes. The massive chimneypiece was of black oak, and above it
were carved the arms of the House of Fentolin. The walls were oak-panelled to the
"Refreshed, I hope, by your bath and change, my dear visitor?" the head of the house
remarked, as he laid down his paper. "Draw a chair up here and join me in a glass of
vermouth. You need not be afraid of it. It comes to me from the maker as a special
Hamel accepted a quaintly-cut wine-glass full of the amber liquid. Mr. Fentolin sipped
his with the air of a connoisseur.
"This," he continued, "is one of our informal days. There is no one in the house save my
sister-in-law, niece, and nephew, and a poor invalid gentleman who, I am sorry to say, is
confined to his bed. My sister-in-law is also, I regret to say, indisposed. She desired me to
present her excuses to you and say how greatly she is looking forward to making your
acquaintance during the next few days."
"It is very kind of Mrs. Fentolin," he murmured.
"On these occasions," Mr. Fentolin continued, "we do not make use of a drawing-room.
My niece will come in here presently. You are looking at my books, I see. Are you, by
any chance, a bibliophile? I have a case of manuscripts here which might interest you.
Hamel shook his head.