The Vanished Messenger HTML version

Chapter 18
The beautiful but somewhat austere front of St. David's Hall seemed, in a sense,
transformed, as Hamel and his companion climbed the worn grey steps which led on to
the broad sweep of terrace. Evidently visitors had recently arrived. A dark, rather good-
looking woman, with pleasant round face and a ceaseless flow of conversation, was
chattering away to Mr. Fentolin. By her side stood another woman who was a stranger to
Hamel - thin, still elegant, with tired, worn face, and the shadow of something in her eyes
which reminded him at once of Esther. She wore a large picture hat and carried a little
Pomeranian dog under her arm. In the background, an insignificant-looking man with
grey side-whiskers and spectacles was beaming upon everybody. Mr. Fentolin waved his
hand and beckoned to Hamel and Esther as they somewhat hesitatingly approached.
"This is one of my fortunate mornings, you see, Esther!" he exclaimed, smiling. "Lady
Saxthorpe has brought her husband over to lunch. Lady Saxthorpe," he added, turning to
the woman at his side, "let me present to you the son of one of the first men to realise the
elusive beauty of our coast. This is Mr. Hamel, son of Peter Hamel, R.A. - the Countess
of Saxthorpe."
Lady Saxthorpe, who had been engaged in greeting Esther, held out her hand and smiled
good-humour- edly at Hamel.
"I know your father's work quite well," she declared, "and I don't wonder that you have
made a pilgrimage here. They tell me that he painted nineteen pictures - pictures of
importance, that is to say - within this little area of ten miles. Do you paint, Mr. Hamel?"
"Not at all," Hamel answered.
"Our friend Hamel," Mr. Fentolin intervened, "woos other and sterner muses. He fights
nature in distant countries, spans her gorges with iron bridges, stems the fury of her
rivers, and carries to the boundary of the world that little twin line of metal which brings
men like ants to the work-heaps of the universe. My dear Florence," he added, suddenly
turning to the woman at his other side, "for the moment I had forgotten. You have not
met our guest yet. Hamel, this is my sister-in-law, Mrs. Seymour Fentolin."
She held out her hand to him, unnaturally thin and white, covered with jewels. Again he
saw something in her eyes which stirred him vaguely.
"It is so nice that you are able to spend a few days: with us, Mr. Hamel," she said quietly.
"I am sorry that I have been too indisposed to make your acquaintance earlier."
"And, Mr. Fentolin continued, "you must know my young friend here, too. Mr. Hamel -
Lord Saxthorpe."
The latter shook hands heartily with the young man.
"I knew your father quite well," he announced. "Queer thing, he used to hang out for
months at a time at that little shanty on the beach there. Hardest work in the world to get
him away. He came over to dine with us once or twice, but we saw scarcely anything of
him. I hope his son will not prove so obdurate."
"You are very kind," Hamel murmured.