The Illustrious Prince HTML version

7. A Fatal Despatch
Mr. Coulson found his two visitors in the lounge of the hotel. He had removed all traces
of his journey, and was attired in a Tuxedo dinner coat, a soft-fronted shirt, and a neatly
arranged black tie. He wore broad-toed patent boots and double lines of braid down the
outsides of his trousers. The page boy, who was on the lookout for him, conducted him to
the corner where Miss Penelope Morse and her companion were sitting talking together.
The latter rose at his approach, and Mr. Coulson summed him up quickly,--a well-bred,
pleasant-mannered, exceedingly athletic young Englishman, who was probably not such a
fool as he looked,--that is, from Mr. Coulson's standpoint, who was not used to the single
eyeglass and somewhat drawling enunciation.
"Mr. Coulson, isn't it?" the young man asked, accepting the other's outstretched hand.
"We are awfully sorry to disturb you, so soon after your arrival, too, but the fact is that
this young lady, Miss Penelope Morse,"--Mr. Coulson bowed,--"was exceedingly anxious
to make your acquaintance. You Americans are such birds of passage that she was afraid
you might have moved on if she didn't look you up at once."
Penelope herself intervened.
"I'm afraid you're going to think me a terrible nuisance, Mr. Coulson!" she exclaimed.
Mr. Coulson, although he did not call himself a lady's man, was nevertheless human
enough to appreciate the fact that the young lady's face was piquant and her smile
delightful. She was dressed with quiet but elegant simplicity. The perfume of the violets
at her waistband seemed to remind him of his return to civilization.
"Well, I'll take my risks of that, Miss Morse," he declared. "If you'll only let me know
what I can do for you--"
"It's about poor Mr. Hamilton Fynes," she explained. "I took up the evening paper only
half an hour ago, and read your interview with the reporter. I simply couldn't help
stopping to ask whether you could give me any further particulars about that horrible
affair. I didn't dare to come here all alone, so I asked Sir Charles to come along with me."
Mr. Coulson, being invited to do so, seated himself on the lounge by the young lady's
side. He leaned a little forward with a hand on either knee.
"I don't exactly know what I can tell you," he remarked. "I take it, then, that you were
well acquainted with Mr. Fynes?"
"I used to know him quite well," Penelope answered, "and naturally I am very much
upset. When I read in the paper an account of your interview with the reporter, I could
see at once that you were not telling him everything. Why should you, indeed? A man
does not want every detail of his life set out in the newspapers just because he has
become connected with a terrible tragedy."