"'Do you promise, then?' said he at last.
"'Yes, I promise.'
"'Absolute and complete silence before, during, and after? No reference to the matter at all, either in word or writing?'
"'I have already given you my word.'
"'Very good.' He suddenly sprang up, and darting like lightning across the room he flung open the door. The passage outside was empty.
"'That's all right,' said he, coming back. 'I know that clerks are sometimes curious as to their master's affairs. Now we can talk in safety.' He drew up his chair very close to mine and began to stare at me again with the same questioning and thoughtful look.
"A feeling of repulsion, and of something akin to fear had begun to rise within me at the strange antics of this fleshless man. Even my dread of losing a client could not restrain me from showing my impatience.
"'I beg that you will state your business, sir,' said I; 'my time is of value.' Heaven forgive me for that last sentence, but the words came to my lips.
"'How would fifty guineas for a night's work suit you?' he asked.
"'I say a night's work, but an hour's would be nearer the mark. I simply want your opinion about a hydraulic stamping machine which has got out of gear. If you show us what is wrong we shall soon set it right ourselves. What do you think of such a commission as that?'
"'The work appears to be light and the pay munificent.'
"'Precisely so. We shall want you to come to-night by the last train.'
"'To Eyford, in Berkshire. It is a little place near the borders of Oxfordshire, and within seven miles of Reading. There is a train from Paddington which would bring you there at about 11:15.'
"'I shall come down in a carriage to meet you.'