Lord Stranleigh was about to proceed down another step when the other answered “No” so brusquely that his lordship paused once more, with a scarcely perceptible elevation of the eyebrows, for, as a rule, people did not say “No” to Lord Stranleigh of Wychwood, who was known to enjoy thirty thousand pounds a year.

“Then what do you propose?” asked his lordship, as though his own suggestion had exhausted all the possibilities of action.

“I propose that you open the door, invite me in, and give me ten minutes of your valuable time.”

The smile on his lordship’s countenance visibly increased.

“That’s not a bad idea,” he said, with the air of one listening to unexpected originality. “Won’t you come in, Mr. Mackeller?” and with his latchkey he opened the door, politely motioning the other to precede him.

Young Mackeller was ushered into a small room to the left of the hall. It was most severely plain, paneled somberly in old oak, lit by one window, and furnished with several heavy leather-covered chairs. In the center stood a small table, carrying a huge bottle of ink, like a great dab of black metal which had been flung while soft on its surface, and now, hardened, sat broad and squat as if it were part of the table itself. On a mat lay several pens, and at one end of the table stood a rack such as holds paper and envelopes, but in this case of most minute proportions, displaying three tiers, one above the other, of what appeared to be visiting cards; twelve minute compact packs all in all, four in each row.