‘No, came in fourth, the most irritating thing a horse can do when you’ve hacked it win or place. Anyhow, I know now that I’m not Lady Befnal.’

‘It seems to me that the knowledge was rather dearly bought,’ commented Jerton.

‘Well, yes, it has rather cleared me out,’ admitted the identity seeker; ‘a florin is about all I’ve got left on me. The lobster Newburg made my lunch rather an expensive one, and, of course, I had to tip that boy for what he did to the Kestrel-Smith locks. I’ve got rather a useful idea, though. I feel certain that I belong to the Pivot Club; I’ll go back to town and ask the hall porter there if there are any letters for me. He knows all the members by sight, and if there are any letters or telephone messages waiting for me, of course that will solve the problem. If he says there aren’t any, I shall say: “You know who I am, don’t you?” so I’ll find out anyway.’

The plan seemed a sound one; a difficulty in its execution suggested itself to Jerton.

‘Of course,’ said the lady, when he hinted at the obstacle, ‘there’s my fare back to town, and my bill here and cabs and things. If you lend me three pounds that ought to see me through comfortably. Thanks ever so. Then there is the question of that luggage: I don’t want to be saddled with that for the rest of my life. I’ll have it brought down to the hall and you can pretend to mount guard over it while I’m writing a letter. Then I shall just slip away to the station, and you can wander off to the smoking-room, and they can do what they like with the things. They’ll advertise them after a bit and the owner can claim them.’

Jerton acquiesced in the manœuvre, and duly mounted guard over the luggage while its temporary owner slipped unobtrusively out of the hotel. Her departure was not, however, altogether unnoticed. Two gentlemen were strolling past Jerton, and one of them remarked to the other:

‘Did you see that tall young woman in grey who went out just now? She is the Lady—’

His promenade carried him out of earshot at the critical moment when he was about to disclose the elusive identity. The Lady Who? Jerton could scarcely run after a total stranger, break into his conversation, and ask him for information concerning a chance passerby. Besides, it was desirable that he should keep up the appearance of looking after the luggage. In a minute or two, however, the important personage, the man who knew, came strolling back alone. Jerton summoned up all his courage and waylaid him.

‘I think I heard you say you knew the lady who went out of the hotel a few minutes ago, a tall lady, dressed in grey. Excuse me for asking if you could tell me her name; I’ve been talking to her for half an hour; she—er—she knows all my people and seems to know me, so I suppose I’ve met her somewhere before, but I’m blest if I can put a name to her. Could you—?’

‘Certainly. She’s a Mrs Stroope.’

‘Mrs?’ queried Jerton.

‘Yes, she’s the Lady Champion at golf in my part of the world. An awful good sort, and goes about a good deal in Society, but she has an awkward habit of losing her memory every now and then, and gets into all sorts of fixes. She’s furious, too, if you make any allusion to it afterwards. Good day, sir.’

The stranger passed on his way, and before Jerton had had time to assimilate his information he found his whole attention centred on an angry-looking lady who was making loud and fretful seeming inquiries of the hotel clerks.

‘Has any luggage been brought here from the station by mistake, a dress-basket and dressing-case, with the name Kestrel-Smith? It can’t be traced anywhere. I saw it put in at Victoria, that I’ll swear. Why—there is my luggage! and the locks have been tampered with!’

Jerton heard no more. He fled down to the Turkish bath, and stayed there for hours.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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