3. CHAPTER III
The prominent personage among the guests at the dinner party
I found to be Mr. Murthwaite.
On his appearance in England, after his wanderings, society had been
greatly interested in the traveller, as a man who had passed through
many dangerous adventures, and who had escaped to tell the tale.
He had now announced his intention of returning to the scene of
his exploits, and of penetrating into regions left still unexplored.
This magnificent indifference to placing his safety in peril for the
second time, revived the flagging interest of the worshippers in the hero.
The law of chances was clearly against his escaping on this occasion.
It is not every day that we can meet an eminent person at dinner,
and feel that there is a reasonable prospect of the news of his murder
being the news that we hear of him next.
When the gentlemen were left by themselves in the dining-room, I found myself
sitting next to Mr. Murthwaite. The guests present being all English,
it is needless to say that, as soon as the wholesome check exercised by
the presence of the ladies was removed, the conversation turned on politics
as a necessary result.
In respect to this all-absorbing national topic, I happen to be one of
the most un-English Englishmen living. As a general rule, political talk
appears to me to be of all talk the most dreary and the most profitless.
Glancing at Mr. Murthwaite, when the bottles had made their first round
of the table, I found that he was apparently of my way of thinking.
He was doing it very dexterously--with all possible consideration
for the feelings of his host--but it is not the less certain that he was
composing himself for a nap. It struck me as an experiment worth attempting,
to try whether a judicious allusion to the subject of the Moonstone would
keep him awake, and, if it did, to see what HE thought of the last new
complication in the Indian conspiracy, as revealed in the prosaic precincts
of my office.
"If I am not mistaken, Mr. Murthwaite," I began, "you were acquainted
with the late Lady Verinder, and you took some interest in the strange
succession of events which ended in the loss of the Moonstone?"