It had been a hot day at the Law Courts, but a faint breeze had sprung up with the later hours, blowing softly over the river. It caught the tassel of the blind by which Field sat and tapped it against the window-frame, at first gently like a child at play, then with gathering force and insistence till at last he looked up with a frown and rose to fasten it back.
It was growing late. The rose of the afterglow lay upon the water, tipping the silvery ripples with soft colour. It was a magic night. But the wonder of it did not apparently reach him. A table littered with papers stood in front of him bearing a portable electric lamp. He was obviously too engrossed to think of exterior things.
For a space he sat again in silence by the open window, only the faint rustling of the lace curtain being audible. His somewhat hard, clean-shaven face was bent over his work with rigid concentration. His eyelids scarcely stirred.
Then again there came a tapping, this time at the door. The frown returned to his face. He looked up.
The door opened. A small, sharp-faced boy poked in his head. “A lady to see you, sir.”
“What?” said Field. His frown deepened. “I can’t see any one. I told you so.”
“Says she won’t go away till she’s seen you, sir,” returned the boy glibly. “Can’t get her to budge, sir.”
“Oh, tell her–” said Field, and stopped as if arrested by a sudden thought. “Who is it?” he asked.
A grin so brief that it might have been a mere twitch of the features passed over the boy’s face.
“Wouldn’t give no name, sir. But she’s a nob of some sort,” he said. “Got a shiny satin dress on under her cloak.”
Field’s eyes went for a moment to his littered papers. Then he picked up a newspaper from a chair and threw it over them.
“Show her in!” he said briefly.
He got up with the words, and stood with his back to the window, watching the half-open door.
There came a slight rustle in the passage outside. The small boy reappeared and threw the door wide with a flourish. A woman in a dark cloak and hat with a thick veil over her face entered.
The door closed behind her. Field stood motionless. She advanced with slight hesitation.
“I hope you will forgive me,” she said, “for intruding upon you.”
Her voice was rich and deep. It held a throb of nervousness. Field came deliberately forward.
“I presume I can be of use to you,” he said.
His tone was dry. There was scant encouragement about him as he drew forward a chair.
She hesitated momentarily before accepting it, but finally sat down with a gesture that seemed to indicate physical weakness of some sort.
“Yes, I want your help,” she said.
Field said nothing. His face was the face of the trained man of law. It expressed naught beyond a steady, impersonal attention.
He drew up another chair and seated himself facing her.
She looked at him through her veil for several seconds in silence. Finally, with manifest effort, she spoke.
“It was so good of you to admit me–especially not knowing who I was. You recognise me now, of course? I am Lady Violet Calcott.”
“I should recognise you more easily,” he said in his emotionless voice, “if you would be good enough to put up your veil.”
His tone was perfectly quiet and courteous, yet she made a rapid movement to comply, as if he had definitely required it of her. She threw back the obscuring veil and showed him the face of one of the most beautiful women in London.
There was an instant’s pause before he said.
“Yes, I recognise you, of course. And–you wanted to consult me?”
“No!” She leaned forward in her chair with white hands clasped. “I wanted to beg you to tell me–why you have refused to undertake Burleigh Wentworth’s defence!”