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An Amiable Charlatan by E. Phillips Oppenheim

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away from it. I like adventures--I adore excitement; in fact I must have
it."

"You shall," I promised. "I'll take you to Paris and Monte Carlo. We'll go
up to Khartum and take a caravan beyond. You shall go big-game shooting
with me in Africa. I'll take you where very few women have been before.
I'll take you where you can gamble with life and death instead of this
sordid business of freedom or prison. We'll start for Abyssinia in three
weeks if you like. I'll find you excitement--the right sort. I'll take you
into the big places, where one feels--and the empty places, where one
suffers."

Her eyes flashed sympathetically for a moment.

"It sounds good," she admitted, "and yet--am I ungrateful, I wonder?--
there's no excitement for me except where men and women are. I'm afraid
I'm a daughter of Babylon."

"Doomed from her infancy to a life of crime, I fear," Mr. Parker declared,
pinching a cigar he had just taken out of a box. "She loves the rapier
play--the struggle with men and women. Takes risks every moment of the
time and thrives on it. All the same, Mr. Walmsley, there's something very
attractive about the way you are talking. I am not going to let my little
girl decide too hastily. Our sort of life's all very well when we are
number one and Mr. Cullen's number two. We can't have the luck all the
time, though."

"I haven't dared to mention it in plain words," I answered, "because the
thought, the mere thought, of what might happen to Miss Eve is too
horrible! But the risk is there all the time. One doesn't deal in forged
notes or steal pearl necklaces for nothing; and you've an enemy in Cullen
if ever any one had. He means to get you both, and if you give him the
least chance he'll have no mercy."

I looked at them anxiously. The whole thing seemed to me so momentous.
Neither of them showed the slightest signs of fear or apprehension. Mr.
Parker, with his newly lit cigar in the corner of his mouth, was smiling a
smile of pleasant contentment. Eve, leaning back in her chair, with her
hands clasped round the back of her head, was gazing at me with a
bewitching little smile on her lips.

"I am not a bit afraid of Mr. Cullen," she declared softly.

"Between you and me," her father remarked, knocking the ash from his
cigar, "there's only one darned thing in this world we are afraid of and
that, thank the Lord, isn't this side of the Atlantic!"

The smile faded from Eve's lips. For a moment she closed her eyes--a
shiver passed through her frame.

"Don't!" she begged weakly.

"I guess I'll leave it at that," her father agreed. "Now this little
proposition of yours, Mr. Walmsley, has just got to lie by for a little
time--perhaps only for a very short time. It's a kind of business for us
to make up our minds to part with our liberty or any portion of it.
Meanwhile, if you'd like to take Eve for a motor ride round and meet me
for luncheon, why, the car's outside, and if Eve's agreeable I can pass
the time all right."

I looked at her eagerly. She rose at once to her feet.

"Why, it would be charming, if you have nothing to do, Mr. Walmsley," she
assented. "I'll put my hat on at once."

"I have nothing to do at any time now but to respect your wishes," I
answered firmly, "and wait until you are sensible enough to say Yes to my
little proposition."

She looked back at me from the door with a twinkle in her eyes.

"You know," she said, "before I came over I was told that Englishmen were
rather slow. I shall begin to doubt it. You wouldn't describe yourself
exactly as shy, would you, Mr. Walmsley?"

"I don't know about that," I replied; "but we have other traits as well.
We know what we want; very often we get it."

Mr. Parker rose to his feet. He put his hand on my shoulder. He was the
very prototype of the self-respecting, conscientious, prospective father-
in-law.

"Young fellow," he confessed, "I shall end by liking you!" I drove with
Eve for about two hours. We went out nearly as far as Kingston and wound
up in the heart of the West End. I tried to persuade her to walk down Bond
Street, but she shook her head.

"To tell you the truth," she confided, "I am not very fond of being seen
upon the streets. You know how marvelously clever dad is; still we have
been talked about once or twice, and there are several people whom I
shouldn't care about meeting."

I sighed as I looked out of the window toward the jewelers' shops.

"I should very much like," I said, "to buy you an engagement ring."

She laughed at me.

"You absurd person! Why, I am not engaged to you yet!"

"You are very near it," I assured her. "Anyhow, it would be an awfully
good opportunity for you to show me the sort of ring you like."

She shook her head.

"Not to-day," she decided. "Somehow or other I feel that if ever I do let
you, you'll choose just the sort of ring I shall love, without my
interfering. Where did we say we'd pick father up?"

"Here," I answered, as the car came to a standstill outside the Cafe
Royal. "I'll go in and fetch him."

I found Mr. Parker seated at a table with two of the most villainous
specimens of humanity I had ever beheld. They were of the same class as
the men with whom he had been talking at the Milan, but still more
disreputable. He welcomed me, however, without embarrassment.

"Just passing the time, my dear fellow!" he remarked airily. "Met a couple
of acquaintances of mine. Will you join us?"

"Miss Parker is outside in the car," I explained. "If you don't mind I
will go out and wait with her. You can join us when you are ready."

"Five minutes--not a moment longer, I promise!" he called out after me.
"Sorry you won't join us."

I took my place once more by Eve's side. Perhaps my tone was a little
annoyed.

"Your father is in there," I said, "with two of the most disreputable-
looking ruffians I have ever seen crawling upon the face of the earth.
What in the world induces him to sit at the same table with them I cannot
imagine."

"Necessity, perhaps," she remarked. "Very likely they are highly useful
members of our industry."

Mr. Parker came out almost immediately afterward. I suggested the Ritz for
luncheon. They looked at each other dubiously.

"To be perfectly frank with you, my dear fellow," Mr. Parker explained, as
he clambered into the car and took the place I had vacated by his
daughter's side, "it would give us no pleasure to go to the Ritz. We have
courage, both of us--my daughter and I--as you may have observed for
yourself; but courage is a different thing from rashness. We have been
enjoying a very pleasant and not unlucrative time for the last six weeks,
with the--er--natural result that there are several ladies and gentlemen
in London whom I would just as soon avoid. The Ritz is one of those places
where one might easily come across them."

"The Carlton? Prince's? Claridge's? Berkeley?" I suggested. "Or what do
you say to Jules' or the Milan grill-room?"

Mr. Parker shook his head slowly.

"If you really mean that you wish me to choose," he said, "I say
Stephano's."

"As you will," I agreed. "I only suggested the other places because I
thought Miss Parker might like a change."

We drove to Stephano's. It struck me that Luigi's greeting was scarcely so
cordial as usual. He piloted us, however, to the table usually occupied by
Mr. Parker. On the way he took the opportunity of drawing me a little
apart.

"Mr. Walmsley, sir," he said, "can you tell me anything about Mr. Parker
and his daughter?"

"Anything about them?" I repeated.

"That they are Americans I know," he continued, "and that the young lady
is beautiful--well, one has eyes! It is not my business to be too
particular as to the character of those who frequent my restaurant; but
twice Mr. Parker has been followed here by a detective, and last night, as
you know, they left practically under arrest. It is not good for my
restaurant, Mr. Walmsley, to have the police so often about, and if Mr.
Parker and his daughter are really of the order of those who pass their
life under police supervision, I would rather they patronized another
restaurant."

I only laughed at him.

"My dear Luigi," I protested, "be careful how you turn away custom. Mr.
Parker is, I should think, no better or any worse than a great many of
your clients."

"If one could but keep the police out of it!" Luigi observed. "Could you
drop a word to the gentleman, sir? Since I have seen them in your company
I have naturally more confidence, but it is not good for my restaurant to
have it watched by the police all the time."

"I'll see what can be done, Luigi," I promised him.

Mr. Parker was twice called up on the telephone during luncheon time. He
seemed throughout the meal preoccupied; and more than once, with a word of
apology to me, he and Eve exchanged confidential whispers. I felt certain
that something was in the air, some new adventure from which I was
excluded, and my heart sank as I thought of all the grim possibilities
overshadowing it.

I watched them with their heads close together, Mr. Parker apparently
unfolding the details of some scheme; and it seemed to me that, after all,
the wisest thing I could do was to bid this strange pair farewell after
luncheon and return either to the country or cross over to Paris for a few
days. And then a chance word, a little look from Eve, a little touch from
her fingers, as it occurred to her that I was being neglected, made me
realize the absolute impossibility of doing anything of the sort.

For a person of my habits of life and temperament I had certainly fallen
into a strange adventure. Not only had Eve herself come to mean for me
everything that was real and vital in life, but I was most curiously
attracted by her terrible father. I liked him.

I liked being with him. He was a type of person I had never met before
in my life and one whom I thoroughly appreciated. I sat and watched him
during an interval of the conversation.

Geniality and humor were stamped upon his expression. "I am enjoying
life!" he seemed to say to everybody. "Come and enjoy it with me!" What
a man to be walking the tight rope all the time--to be risking his
character and his freedom day by day!

"If there is anything more on hand," I said, trying to make my tone as
little dejected as possible, "I should like to be in it."

Mr. Parker scratched his chin.

"I am not sure that you really enjoy these little episodes."

"Of course I don't enjoy them," I admitted indignantly. "You know that. I
hate them. I am miserable all the time, simply because of what may happen
to you and to Miss Eve."

Mr. Parker sighed.

"There you are, you see!" he declared. "That's the one kink in your
disposition, sir, which places you irrevocably outside the class to which
Eve and I belong. Now let me ask you this, young man," he went on: "What
is the most dangerous thing you've ever done?"

"I've played some tough polo," I remembered.

"That'll do," Mr. Parker declared. "Now tell me: When you turned out you
knew perfectly well that a broken leg or a broken arm--perhaps a cracked
skull--was a distinct possibility. Did you think about this when you went
into the game? Did you think about it while you were playing?"

"Of course I didn't," I admitted.

"Just so!" Mr. Parker concluded triumphantly. "That's where the sporting
instinct comes in. You know a thing is going to amuse and excite you.
Beyond that you do not think."

"But in this case," I persisted, "I think it is your duty to think for
your daughter's sake."

Eve flashed upon me the first angry glance I had seen from her.

"I think," she decided coldly, "it is not worth while discussing this
matter with Mr. Walmsley. We are too far apart in our ideas. He has been
brought up among a different class of people and in a different way.
Besides, he misses the chief point. If I weren't an adventuress, Mr.
Walmsley, I might have to become a typist and daddy might have to serve in
a shop. Don't you think that we'd rather live--really live, mind--even for
a week or two of our lives, than spend dull years, as we have done, upon
the treadmill?"

"I give it up," I said. "There is only one argument left. You know quite
well that the pecuniary excuse exists no longer."

She looked at me and her face softened.

"You are a queer person!" she murmured. "You are so very English, so very
set in your views, so very respectable; and yet you are willing to take us
both--"

"I am only thinking of marrying you," I interrupted.

"Well, you were going to make daddy an allowance, weren't you?"

"With great pleasure," I assured her vigorously; "and I only wish you'd
take my hand now and we'd fix up everything to-morrow. We could go down
and see my house in the country, Eve--I think you'd love it--and there are
such things, even in England, you know, as special licenses."

"You dear person!" she laughed. "I can't be rushed into respectability
like this."

Perhaps that was really my first moment of genuine encouragement, for
there had been a little break in her voice, something in her tone not
altogether natural. If only we had been alone--if even another summons to
the telephone had come just then for her father! Fortune, however, was not
on my side. Instead, the waiter appeared with the bill and diverted my
attention. Eve and her father whispered together. The moment had passed.

"Anything particular on this afternoon, Walmsley? "Mr. Parker asked as he
rose to his feet.

"Not a thing," I replied.

"I have just got to hurry off," he explained; "a little matter of
business. Eve has nothing to do for an hour or so--"

"I'll look after her if I may," I interposed eagerly.

"Don't be later than half past five, Eve," her father directed as he went
off, "and don't be tired."

We followed him a few minutes later into the street. A threatening shower
had passed away. The sky overhead was wonderfully soft and blue; the air
was filled with sunlight, fragrant with the perfume of barrows of lilac
drawn up in the gutter. Eve walked by my side, her head a little thrown
back, her eyes for a moment half closed.

"But London is delicious on days like this!" she exclaimed. "What are you
going to do with me, Mr. Walmsley?"

"Take you down to the Archbishop of Canterbury and marry you!" I
threatened.

She shook her head.

"I couldn't be married on a Friday! Let us go and see some pictures
instead."

We went into the National Gallery and wandered round for an hour. She knew
a great deal more about the pictures than I did, and more than once made
me sit down by her side to look at one of her favorite masterpieces.

"I want to go to Bond Street now," she said when we left, "I think it will
be quite all right at this time in the afternoon, and there are some weird
things to be seen there. Do you mind?"

We walked again along Pall Mall. Passing the Carlton she suddenly clutched
at my arm. A little stifled cry escaped her; the color left her cheeks. We
increased our speed. Presently she breathed a sigh of relief.

"Heavens, what an escape!" she exclaimed. "Do you think he saw me?"

"Do you mean the young man who was getting out of the taxicab?"

She nodded.

"One of our victims," she murmured; "daddy's victim, rather. I didn't do a
thing to him."

"I am quite sure he didn't see you," I told her. "He was struggling to
find change."

She sighed once more. The incident seemed to have shaken her.

"The worst of our sort of life is," she confided, "that it must soon come
to an end. We have victims all over the place! One of them is bound to
turn up and be disagreeable sooner or later."

"I should say, then," I remarked, "that the moment is opportune for a
registrar's office and a trip to Abyssinia."

"And leave daddy to face the music alone?" she objected. "It couldn't be
done."

We turned into a tea shop and sat in a remote corner of the place. I had
made up my mind to say no more to her that day, but the opportunity was
irresistible.

There was a little desultory music, a hum of distant conversation, and Eve
herself was thoughtful. I pleaded with her earnestly.

"Eve," I begged, "if only you would listen to me seriously! I simply
cannot bear the thought of the danger you are in all the time. Give it up,
dear, this moment--to-day! We'll lead any sort of life you like. We'll
wander all over Europe--America, if you say the word. I am quite well
enough off to take you anywhere you choose to go and still see that your
father is quite comfortable. You've made such a difference in such a short
time!"

She was certainly quieter and her tone was softer. She avoided looking at
me.

"Perhaps," she said very gently, "this feeling you speak of would pass
away just as quickly."

"There isn't any fear of that!" I assured her. "As I care for you now,
Eve, I must care for you always; and you know it's torture for me to think
of you in trouble--perhaps in disgrace. As my wife you shall be safe.
You'll have me always there to protect you. I should like to take you even
farther afield for a time--to India or Japan, if you like--and then come
back and start life all over again."

"You're rather a dear!" she murmured softly. "I will tell you something at
any rate. I do care for you--a little--better than I've ever cared for any
one else; but I can't decide quite so quickly."

"Give up this adventure to-night!" I begged. "I hate to mention it, Eve,
but if money--I put my checkbook in my pocket to-day. If your father would
only--"

She stopped me firmly.

"After the things you have told me," she said, "I don't think I could bear
to have him take your money to-day. I can't quite do as you wish; but what
you have said shall make a difference, I promise you. I can't say more.
Please drive me home now."

CHAPTER V--MR. SAMUELSON

The moment I opened my paper the next morning the very announcement I had
dreaded to find was there in large type! I read the particulars
breathlessly: DARING BURGLARY IN HAMPSTEAD--LADY LOSES TWO THOUSAND
POUNDS' WORTH OF JEWELRY. The burglary had taken place at the house of a
Mr. and Mrs. Samuelson, in Wood Grove, Hampstead. It appeared that a
dinner party had been given at the house during the evening, which had
engaged the attention of the whole of the staff of four servants, and that
for an hour or so the upper premises were untenanted.

Upon retiring to rest Mrs. Samuelson found that her jewel case and the
whole of her jewelry, except what she was wearing, had been stolen. As no
arrest had yet been made the references to the affair were naturally
guarded. The paragraph even concluded without the usual formula as to the
police having a clew. On the whole, I put the paper down with a slight
feeling of relief. I felt that it might have been worse.

I breakfasted at nine o'clock, after having read the announcement through
again, trying to see whether there was any possible connection between it
and my friends. Then I lit a pipe and sat down to wait until I could ring
up 3771A Gerrard. About ten o'clock, however, my own telephone bell rang,
and I was informed that a gentleman who desired to see me was waiting
below. I told the man to send him up, and in a moment or two there was a
knock at my door. In response to my invitation to enter a short, dark,
Jewish-looking person, with olive complexion, shiny black hair and black
mustache, presented himself. He carried a very immaculate silk hat and was
dressed with great neatness. He had the air, however, of a man who is
suffering from some agitation.

"Mr. Walmsley, I believe?" he asked. "Mr. Paul Walmsley?"

"That is my name."

"Know you by hearsay quite well, sir," my visitor assured me, with a flash
of his white teeth. "Very glad to meet you indeed. I have done business
once or twice with your sister, the Countess of Aynesley--business in
curios. You know my place, I dare say, in St. James Street. My name is
Samuelson." I could scarcely repress a little start, which he was quick to
notice. "Perhaps you've been reading about that affair at my house last
night?" he asked.

"That is precisely what I have been doing," I admitted. "Please sit down,
Mr. Samuelson." I wheeled an easy-chair up for him and placed a box of
cigarettes at his elbow. "Quite a mysterious affair!" I continued. "It is
almost the first burglary I have ever read of in which the police have not
been said to possess a clew."

Mr. Samuelson, who seemed gratified by his reception, lit a cigarette and
crossed his legs, displaying a very nice pair of patent boots, with gray
suède tops.

"It is a very queer affair, indeed," he told me confidentially. "The
police have been taking a lot of trouble about it, and a very intelligent
sort of fellow from Scotland Yard has been in and out of the house ever
since."

"Any clew at all?" I asked.

"Rather hard to say," Mr. Samuelson replied. "You'll be wondering what
I've come to see you about. Well, I'll just explain. Of course there's
always the chance that some one may have entered the house while we were
all at dinner--crept upstairs quietly and got away with the jewel case;
but this Johnny I was telling you about, from Scotland Yard, seems to have
got hold of a theory that has rather knocked me of a heap. Very delicate
matter," Mr. Samuelson continued, "as you will understand when I tell you
that he thinks it may have been one of my guests who was in the show."

"Seems a little far-fetched to me," I remarked; "but one never knows."

"You see," Mr. Samuelson explained, "there's no back exit from my house
without climbing walls and that sort of thing, and it happened to be a
particularly light evening, as you may remember. There are policemen at
both ends of the road, who seem unusually confident that no one carrying a
parcel of any sort passed at anything like the time when the thing was
probably done. This is where the Johnny from Scotland Yard comes in. He
has got the idea into his head that the jewels might have been taken away
in the carriage of one of my guests."

"Well," I remarked, "I should have thought you would have been the best
judge as to the probability of that. You hadn't any strangers with you, I
suppose?"

"Only two," Mr. Samuelson replied. "We were ten, altogether," he went on,
counting upon his fingers--"and a very nice little party too. First of
all my wife and myself. Then Mr. and Mrs. Max Solomon--Solomon, the great
fruiterers in Covent Garden, you know; man worth a quarter of a million of
money and a distant connection of my wife--very distant, worse luck! Then
there was Mr. Sidney Hollingworth, a young man in my office; but he
doesn't count, because he stayed on chatting with me about business after
the others had gone, and he was with us when the theft was discovered.
Then there was my wife's widowed sister, Mrs. Rosenthal. We can leave her
out. That's six. Then there was Alderman Sir Henry Dabbs and his wife. You
may know the name--large portmanteau manufacturers in Spitalfields and
certain to be Lord Mayor before long. His wife was wearing jewelry herself
last night worth, I should say, from twenty to twenty-five thousand
pounds; so my wife's little bit wouldn't do them much good, eh?"

"It certainly doesn't seem like it," I admitted. "So far, your list of
guests seems to have been entirely reputable."

"The only two left," Mr. Samuelson concluded, "are an American gentleman
and his daughter, a Mr. and Miss Parker whom we met on the train coming up
from Brighton--a very delightful gentleman and most popular he was with
all of us. The young lady, too, was perfectly charming. To hear him talk I
should have put him down myself as a man worth all the money he needed,
and more; and the young lady had got that trick of wearing her clothes and
talking as though she were born a princess. Real style, I should have
said--both of them. Still, the fact remains that they came in a motor car
with two men-servants; that it waited for them; and that this detective
from Scotland Yard--Mr. Cullen, I think his name is--has fairly got his
knife into them."

"And now," I remarked, smiling, "you are perhaps coming to the object of
your visit to me?"

"Exactly!" Mr. Samuelson admitted. "The fact of it is that in the course
of conversation your name was mentioned. I forget exactly how it cropped
up, but it did crop up. Mr. Parker, it seems, has the privilege of your
acquaintance--at any rate he claims it. Now if his claim is a just one,
and if you can tell me Mr. Parker is a friend of yours--why, that ends the
matter, so far as I am concerned. I am not going to have my guests worried
and annoyed by detectives for the sake of a handful of jewels. I thank
goodness I can afford to lose them, if they must be lost, and I can
replace them this afternoon without feeling it. Now you know where we are,
Mr. Walmsley. You understand exactly why I have come to see you, eh?"

I pressed another cigarette upon him and lit one myself.

"I do understand, Mr. Samuelson," I told him, "and I appreciate your visit
very much indeed. I am exceedingly glad you came. Mr. Parker told you the
truth. He is a gentleman for whom I have the utmost respect and esteem. I
consider his daughter, too, one of the most charming young ladies I have
ever met. I am planning to give a dinner party, within the course of the
next few evenings, purposely to introduce them to some of my friends with
whom they are as yet unacquainted; and I am hoping that almost immediately
afterward they will be staying with my sister at her place down in
Suffolk."

"With the Countess of Aynesley?" Mr. Samuelson said slowly.

"Certainly!" I agreed. "I am quite sure my sister will be as charmed with
them as I and many other of my friends are."

Mr. Samuelson rose to his feet, brushed the cigarette ash from his
trousers and took up his hat.

"Mr. Walmsley," he said, holding out his hand, "I am glad I came. You have
treated me frankly and in a most gentlemanly manner. I can assure you I
appreciate it. Not under any circumstances would I allow friends of yours
to be irritated by the indiscriminate inquiries of detectives. The jewels
can go hang, sir!"

He shook hands with me and permitted me to show him out, after which he
marched down the corridor, humming gayly to himself, determined to have me
understand that a trifling loss of two thousand pounds' worth of jewelry
was in reality nothing. I stood for some time with my back to the fire,
smoking thoughtfully. Then the telephone bell rang. My gloomier
reflections were at once forgotten. It was Eve who spoke.

"Good morning, Mr. Walmsley!"

"Good morning, Miss Eve!" I replied.

"Are you very busy this morning?" she asked.

"Nothing in the world to do!" I answered promptly.

"Then please come round," she directed, ringing off almost at once.

I was there in ten minutes. The hall porter, who had not yet completed his
morning toilet, conducted me upstairs. In the morning sunlight the whole
appearance of the place seemed shabbier and dirtier than ever. Inside the
sitting room, however, everything was different. My own flowers had
apparently been supplemented by many others. Mr. Parker, as pink-and-white
as usual, looking the very picture of content and good digestion, was
smoking a large cigar and reading a newspaper. Eve was seated at the
writing table, but she swung round at my entrance and held out both her
hands.

"The flowers are lovely!" she murmured. "Do go and sit down--and talk to
daddy while I finish this letter."

I shook hands with Mr. Parker. He laid down the newspaper and smiled at
me.

"A pleasant dinner last night, I trust?" I inquired.

His eyes twinkled.

"Most humorous affair!" he declared. "I wouldn't have missed it for
worlds."

"From a business point of view----" I began dryly.

Mr. Parker shook his head.

"Mr. Samuelson's jewels," he complained, "were like his wines, all sparkle
and outside--no body to them. Two thousand pounds indeed! Why, we shall be
lucky if we clear four hundred!" The man's coolness absolutely took me
aback. For a moment I simply stared at him. "He'll be round to see you
this morning, sometime, about my character," Mr. Parker proceeded.

"He has already paid me a visit," I said grimly. "He was round at ten
o'clock this morning."

"You don't say!" Mr. Parker murmured.

He looked at me hopefully. His expression was like nothing else but the
wistful smile of a fat boy expecting good news.

"Oh, of course I told him the usual thing!" I admitted. "I told him you
were a close personal friend; a sort of amateur millionaire; a person of
the highest respectability--everything you ought to be, in fact. He went
away perfectly satisfied and determined to have nothing to do with the
guest theory."

Mr. Parker patted me on the shoulder.

"My boy," he said, "I knew I could rely on you."

"I propose," I continued, elaborating upon the scheme that had come into
my head on the way, "to do more than this for you. I am asking some
friends to dine to-night whom I wish you and your daughter to meet. You
will then be able to refer to other reputable acquaintances in London
besides myself."

Eve turned round in her chair to listen. Mr. Parker, whose first
expression had been one of unfeigned delight, suddenly paused.

"My boy," he expostulated, "I don't want to take advantage of you. Do you
think it's quite playing the game on your friends to introduce to them two
people like ourselves? You know what it means."

"I know perfectly well," I agreed; "but, as some day or other I'm going to
marry Eve, it seems to me the thing might as well be done."

They were both perfectly silent for several moments. They looked at each
other. There were questions in his face--other things in hers. I strolled
across to the window.

"If you'd like to talk it over," I suggested, "don't mind me. All the same
I insist upon the party."

"It's uncommonly kind of you, sure!" Mr. Parker said thoughtfully. "The
more I think it over, the more I feel impressed by it; but, do you know,
there's something about the proposition I can't quite cotton to! Seems to
me you've some little scheme of your own at the back of your head. You
haven't got it in your mind, have you, that you're sort of putting us on
our honor?"

"I have no ulterior motive at all," I declared mendaciously.

Eve rose to her feet and came across to me. She was wearing a charming
morning gown of some light blue material, with large buttons, tight-
fitting, alluring; and there was a little quiver of her lips, a
provocative gleam in her eyes, which I found perfectly maddening.

"I think we won't come, thank you," she decided.

"Why not?"

"You see," she explained, "I am rather afraid. We might get you into no
end of trouble with some of your most particular friends. There are one or
two people, you know, in London, especially among the Americans, who might
say the unkindest things about us."

"No one, my dear Eve," I assured her stolidly, "shall say anything to me
or to any one else about my future wife."

For a moment her expression was almost hopeless. She shook her head.

"I don't know what to do with him, daddy!" she exclaimed, turning toward
her father in despair.

"I'm afraid you'll have to marry him if he goes on," Mr. Parker declared
gloomily; "that is," he added, as though he had suddenly perceived a ray
of hope about the matter, "unless we should by any chance get into trouble
first."

"Meantime," I ventured, "we will dine at eight o'clock at the Milan."

Mr. Parker groaned.

"At the Milan!" he echoed. "Worse and worse! We shall be recognized for
certain! There's a man lives there whom I did out of a hundred pounds--
just a little variation of the confidence trick. Nothing he can get hold
of, you understand; but he knows very well that I had him. Look here,
Walmsley, be reasonable! Hadn't you better drop this chivalrous scheme of
yours, young fellow?"

"The dinner is a fixture," I replied firmly. "Can I borrow Miss Eve,
please? I want to take her for a motor ride."

"You cannot, sir," Mr. Parker told me. "Eve has a little business of her
own--or, rather, mine--to attend to this morning."

"You are not going to let her run any more risks, are you?"

Mr. Parker frowned at me.

"Look here, young man," he said; "she is my daughter, remember! I am
looking after her for the present. You leave that to me."

Eve touched me on the arm.

"Really, I am busy to-day," she assured me. "I have to do something for
daddy this morning--something quite harmless; and this afternoon I have to
go to my dressmaker's. We'll come at eight o'clock."

"We'll come on this condition," Mr. Parker suddenly determined: "My name
is getting a little too well known, and it isn't my own, anyway. We'll
come as Mr. and Miss Bundercombe or not at all."

"Why on earth Bundercombe?" I demanded.

"For the reason I have just stated," Mr. Parker said obstinately. "Parker
isn't my name at all; and, between you and me, I think I have made it a
bit notorious. Now there is a Mr. Bundercombe and his daughter, who live
out in a far-western State of America, who've never been out of their own
country, and who are never likely to set foot on this side. She's a pretty
little girl--just like Eve might be; and he's a big, handsome fellow--just
like me. So we'll borrow their names if you don't mind."

"You can come without a name at all, so long as you come," was my final
decision as I took my leave.

CHAPTER VI--THE PARTY AT THE MILAN

The dinner party, which I arranged for in the Milan restaurant, was, on
the whole, a great success. My sister played hostess for me and confessed
herself charmed with Eve, as indeed was every one else. Mr. Parker's
stories kept his end of the table in continual bursts of merriment. One
little incident, too, was in its way exceedingly satisfactory. Mr. and
Mrs. Samuelson were being entertained by some friends close at hand, and
they appeared very much gratified at the cordiality of our greeting. I
talked with Mr. Samuelson during the evening, and I felt that, so far as
he was concerned at any rate, not a shadow of suspicion remained in his
mind as to my two guests.

We sat a long time over dinner. Eve was between a cousin of mine--who was
a member of Parliament, a master of foxhounds, and in his way quite a
distinguished person--and the old Earl of Enterdean, my godfather; and
they were both of them obviously her abject slaves. No one seemed in the
least inclined to move and it was nearly eleven o'clock before we passed
into the private room I had engaged, where coffee and some bridge tables
awaited us. We broke up there into little groups. I left Eve talking to my
sister and was on my way to try to get near her father when the Countess
of Enterdean, a perfectly charming old lady who had known me from boyhood,
intercepted me.

"My dear Paul," she said, "I cannot thank you enough for having given us
the opportunity of meeting these most delightful Americans, and I really
must tell you this--I had meant to keep it a secret, but from you I
cannot; I knew all the time that the name of Bundercombe was familiar to
me, and suddenly it came over me like a flash! Directly I asked Mr.
Bundercombe in what part of America his home was, of course it was all
clear to me. What a small world it is! Do you know," she concluded
impressively, "that it was just these two people, Mr. Bundercombe and his
daughter, who were so amazingly kind to Reggie when he was out in the
States on his way to Dicky's ranch!"

I was for a moment absolutely thunderstruck.

"Did you--er--remind Mr. Bundercombe of this?" I asked.

She shook her head. She had the pleased smile of a benevolent conspirator.

"I will tell you why I did not, Paul," she explained. "Reggie is in town--
just for a few days. I have sent him a telephone message and he is wild
with delight. He has only just arrived from Scotland; but I told him Mr.
Bundercombe and his daughter were here, and he is rushing into his clothes
as fast as he can and is coming round. It will be so delightful for him to
meet them again, and I really must try to think myself what I can do to
repay all their kindness to Reggie."

I felt completely at my wit's end! I saw the whole of my little scheme,
which up to now had proved so successful, threatened with instant
destruction. Lady Enterdean passed on, probably to take some one else into
her confidence. I crossed the room to the little group surrounding my
friend, and as soon as I got near him I touched him on the shoulder.

"Just one word with you, Mr. Bundercombe," I begged.

The little circle of men let him through with reluctance. I passed my arm
through his and led him out toward the foyer.

"You seem," I declared bitterly, "to have chosen the most unfortunate
personality! I wish to goodness you had remained Mr. Parker! This infernal
name of yours, Bundercombe, has got us into trouble."

"In what way?" he asked quickly.

"Lady Enterdean has just been to me," I told him. "She has a son who has
been traveling in the States and who was wonderfully entertained by two
people of the name of Bundercombe in the very place you told me to say you
came from."

"Well, that goes all right!" Mr. Parker remarked complacently. "We're
getting the credit for it."

"Precisely," I admitted. "The only trouble is that Lady Enterdean has just
telephoned to her son to come down at once and renew his acquaintance with
you and Eve."

Mr. Parker whistled softly. His face had become a blank.

"My! We do seem to be up against it!" he confessed uneasily.

"The young man," I continued, "will be here in ten minutes--perhaps
sooner--prepared to grasp you both by the hand and exchange
reminiscences."

Mr. Parker shook out a white silk handkerchief from his pocket and mopped
his forehead.

"Kind of warm out here!" he remarked. "I'll just have to talk to Eve for a
minute or two."

He had no sooner left me than I found I was absolutely compelled to devote
myself to one or two of my guests who wished to play bridge, and others of
whom I had seen little at dinner time. I kept looking anxiously round and
at last the blow fell! The door opened and Lord Reginald Sidley was
announced. He looked eagerly round the room.

"Hope you don't mind my butting in, old chap!" he said as he shook hands
with me. "The mater telephoned that old Bundercombe and his daughter were
here, so I just rushed round as quick as I could. Regular bricks they were
to me out West! I don't see them anywhere."

I glanced round the room. Just at that moment a waiter from the restaurant
presented himself. He brought me a card upon a salver.

"The gentleman asked me to give you this, sir," he announced.

I picked it up. On the back of a plain visiting card were a few hasty
words, scrawled in pencil:

"So sorry--but Eve is not feeling quite herself and begged me to take her
home at once quietly. My respects and apologies to you and all your
delightful guests."

I read it out and passed it to Reggie. His face fell.

"If that isn't a sell!" he exclaimed. "Fancy your knowing them! Isn't Miss
Bundercombe a topper!"

"She is certainly one of the most charming young women I ever met in my
life," I admitted.

"I am glad, at any rate," Lady Enterdean declared, "that they have found
their way to London. I shall make a point of calling on them myself
tomorrow. Now, Paul, you must go and play bridge. They are waiting for
you. Don't bother about me --I'll amuse myself quite well strolling round
and talking to my friends." I made up a rubber of bridge, chiefly with the
idea of distracting my thoughts. Presently, while my partner was playing
the hand, I rose and crossed the room to the sideboard for some
cigarettes. I found Lady Enterdean peering about with her lorgnette fixed
to her eyes, apparently searching for something.

"Lost anything, Lady Enterdean?" I asked.

"A most extraordinary thing has happened, my dear Paul!" she declared,
resting her hand on the bosom of her gown. "I am perfectly certain it was
there a quarter of an hour ago--my cameo brooch, you know, the one that
old Sir Henry brought home from Italy."

"Too large to lose anyway," I remarked cheerfully as I joined in the
search.

We pulled aside a table and I almost collided with one of my most
distinguished guests--Sir Blaydon Harrison, K.C.B. Sir Blaydon also, with
an eyeglass in his eye, was moving discontentedly backward and forward,
kicking the carpet.

"Silly thing!" he observed as he glanced up for a moment. "That little
diamond charm of mine has slipped off my fob. I saw it as we crossed the
foyer from the restaurant."

"Why, what has happened to us all!" my sister joined in. "Look at me--I've
lost my pendant! Paul, did you give us too much to drink, or what?"

I am not sure that this was not the most awful moment of my life! A cold
shiver of fear suddenly seized me. I looked from one to the other,
speechless. If appearances had gone for anything at that moment I must
indeed have looked guilty.

"Most extraordinary!" I mumbled.

"Oh! the things will turn up all right, without a doubt," Lady Enterdean
declared good-humoredly. "Could we have a couple of waiters in and search
properly, Paul? My knees are a little too old for this stooping."

"If you'll please all wait a few minutes," I begged earnestly, "I'll go
out and make inquiries. Sir Blaydon, take my place in that rubber of
bridge--there's a good fellow. I'll have the restaurant searched too.
Don't mind if I am away a few minutes."

I hurried out. As soon as the door of the private room was closed I made
for the entrance of the restaurant as fast as I could sprint. Without hat
or coat I jumped into a taxi, and in less than ten minutes I was mounting
the stairs of Number 17, Banton Street, with the hall porter blinking at
me from his office. I scarcely went through the formality of knocking at
the door. Mr. Parker and Eve were both standing at the table, their heads
close together. At the sound of my footsteps and precipitate entrance Mr.
Parker swung round. One hand was still behind him. Upon the table a white
silk handkerchief was lying.

"My dear fellow!" he exclaimed. "My dear Walmsley! What has happened?"

I opened my lips and closed them again. It really seemed impossible to say
anything! Mr. Parker's expression had never been so boyish, so earnest,
and yet so wistful. Eve was quivering with some emotion the nature of
which I could not at once divine. I felt very certain, however, that she
had been remonstrating with her father.

"Don't keep us in suspense, my dear fellow!" Mr. Parker implored. "What
has gone wrong? Eve and I were just--just talking over your delightful
party."

"And looking over the spoils!" I said grimly.

I went a little farther into the room, Mr. Parker, with a sigh, abandoned
his position. He unclosed the fingers of his hand and removed the silk
handkerchief. I saw upon the table my aunt's brooch, my sister's pendant
and Sir Blaydon Harrison's diamond pig. I said not a word. I looked at
them and I looked at Mr. Parker. He smiled weakly and scratched his chin.

"I didn't do so badly," he essayed apologetically. "To tell you the truth,
I really hadn't meant--"

"Never mind what you meant!" I interrupted. "Please give me those things
back again at once!"

Eve dropped them into the handkerchief, twisted them up and passed them
across to me.

"I told daddy it was rather a mean trick," she sighed; "but really, you
know, no people ought to carry about their valuables like that! It was
trying us a little too high, wasn't it? And dear Reggie--did he arrive?"

For the first time I was really angry with Eve.

"If you will allow me," I said, "I will pursue this conversation to-morrow
morning."

I tore downstairs, jumped into the waiting taxi and returned to the Milan.
I entered the private room with a grave face. Evidently I was only just in
time. The rubber of bridge had been broken up and my guests were standing
about in little groups talking. I closed the door behind me and held up my
hand.

"Blanche," I announced--"Lady Enterdean--I am delighted to say I have
recovered everything."

"My dear boy, how wonderfully clever of you!"

Lady Enterdean exclaimed. "How relieved I feel! Most satisfactory, I am
sure."

She sat down promptly. There was a little murmur of voices. My guests
gathered round me. I drew a long breath and continued on my mendacious
career.

"I have been closeted with the manager," I explained. "It was one of the
underwaiters--the little dark one who brought in the coffee. The
temptation seems to have been too much for him. He confessed directly he
was questioned. He has restored everything and I thought it best to have
him simply turned off without any fuss. Here is your pig, Sir Blaydon;
your pendant, Blanche; your brooch, Lady Enterdean. I am exceedingly sorry
you should have had any anxiety--but all's well that ends well!" I wound
up weakly.

Every one was talking cheerfully. The great topic now was one of ethics:
Had I acted properly in not charging the waiter? Fortunately some one
discovered a little later that it was twelve o'clock and my little party
broke up.

CHAPTER VII--"ONE OF US"

I was not altogether surprised to receive, on the following morning before
I had finished breakfast, a visit from Reggie.

"Cheero!" he said brightly as he seated himself in my easy-chair and
tapped the end of one of my cigarettes upon the tablecloth. "I haven't
been up so early for months, but I had to find you before you went out--
about these Bundercombes."

"What about them?"

"I want their address, of course," Reggie continued. "The mater wants to
call this afternoon and I'm all for seeing Miss Bundercombe again. Ripping
girl, isn't she?"

"Then prepare yourself for a disappointment, my friend," I advised,
glancing at the clock. "They left for Paris by the nine o'clock train this
morning."

Reggie stared at me blankly.

"Gone already?"

I nodded and invented a little difficulty with my coffee pot.

"Theirs was only a flying visit," I explained. "I was lucky to get hold of
them for my dinner."

"I'm hanged if I understand this!" Reggie remarked, looking at me
suspiciously. "Why, I spent the best part of three weeks with them in that
Godforsaken hole out West, and they were as keen as mustard on my taking
them round London. How long have they been here?"

"Not long," I answered. "Sure you won't have some coffee?"

Reggie ignored the invitation.

"They've got my address and there are the directories," he continued. "The
funny part of it is, too, that I heard from Mrs. Bundercombe a week or so
ago, and she never said a word about any of them coming over."

"They seem to have made their minds up all of a sudden," I explained.
"They spoke of it as quite a flying trip."

Reggie coughed and stared for a moment at the end of his boot.

"Can't understand it at all!" he repeated. "Devilish queer thing, anyway!
I say, Paul, you're sure it's all right, I suppose?"

"All right? What do you mean?"

"Between you and me," he went on--"don't give it away outside this room,
you know--but there have been rumors going about concerning an American
and his pretty daughter over here--regular wrong 'uns! They've been up to
all sorts of tricks and only kept out of prison by a fluke."

"You're not associating these people, whoever they may be, with Mr. and
Miss Bundercombe?" I asked sternly.

Reggie gazed once more at the point of his boot.

"The thing is," he remarked, "are your friends Mr. and Miss Bundercombe at
all?"

"Don't talk rot!"

"It may be rot," Reggie admitted slowly, "or it may not. By the by, where
did you meet them?"

"If you don't mind," I answered, "we won't discuss them any longer."

"At least," Reggie insisted, "will you tell me this: Where have they been
staying in London? I shall go there and see whether they have left any
address for letters to be forwarded."

"I shall tell you nothing," I decided. "As a matter of fact I am finding
you rather a nuisance."

Reggie picked up his hat.

"There is something more in this," he said didactically, "than meets the
eye!"

"Machiavellian!" I scoffed. "Be off, Reggie!"

I had tea with Eve that afternoon and broached the subject of Reggie's
visit as delicately as I could.

"You remember Lord Reggie Sidley?" I asked.

"Lord Reggie what!" Eve exclaimed.

"Sidley," I repeated firmly. "He spent three weeks with you out at your
home in Okata. His threatened arrival last night was the cause of your
father's precipitate retreat, and yours."

"Oh, that young man!" Eve remarked airily. "Well, what about him?"

"He has been round to see me this morning," I told her--"wanted your
address."

She sighed.

"London will be getting too hot for us soon!" she murmured. "Am I engaged
to him or anything?"

"Eve," I said, "when are you going to let me announce our engagement?"

"Our what?" she demanded.

"Engagement," I repeated. "I have proposed to you two or three times. I
will do it again if you like."

"Pray don't!" she begged. "You are not going to tell me, are you," she
added, looking at me with wide-open eyes, "that I have accepted you?"

"You haven't refused me," I pointed out.

"If I haven't," she assured me, "it has been simply to save your
feelings."

I gulped down a little rising storm of indignation.

"You must marry sometime. Eve," I said. "There isn't any one in America,
is there?"

"There are a great many," she assured me. "It was to get away from them,
as much as anything, that I came over with father on this business trip."

"Business trip!" I groaned.

"Oh! I dare say it all seems very disgraceful to any one like you--you who
were born with plenty of money and have never been obliged to earn any,
and have mixed with respectable people all your life!" she exclaimed. "All
the same, let me tell you there are plenty of charming and delightful
people going about the world earning their living by their wits--simply
because they are forced to. There is more than one code of morals, you
know."

I flatter myself that at this point I was tactful.

"My dear Eve," I reminded her, "you forget that I have joined the gang--I
mean," I corrected myself hastily, "that I have offered to associate
myself with you and your father in any of your enterprises. I am perfectly
willing to give up anything in life you may consider too respectable. At
the same time I must say there are limits so far as you are concerned."

She pouted a little.

"I hate being out of things," she said.

"No need for you to be, altogether!" I continued.

"Now if I could institute a real big affair in the shape of a bucketshop
swindle, in which your father and I could play the principal parts and you
become merely a subordinate, such as a typist or something--what about
that, eh?"

"It doesn't sound very amusing for me," she objected. "How much should we
make?"

"Thousands," I assured her, "if it were properly engineered."

"I think," she said reflectively, "that father would be very glad of a few
thousands just now. He says the market over here, for such little trifles
as we have come across, is very restricted."

I groaned under my breath. In imagination I could see Mr. Parker bartering
with some shady individual for Lady Enterdean's cameo brooch! I reverted
to our previous subject of conversation.

"Eve," I went on, "I hate to seem tedious--but the question of our
engagement still hangs fire."

"You persistent person!" she sighed, "Tell me, if I married you would all
those people we met last night be nice to me?"

"Of course they would," I assured her. "They are only waiting for a word
from you. I think they must have an idea already. I am not in the habit of
giving dinner parties with a young lady as guest of honor."

She was thoughtful for a few moments, and her eyes lit up with reminiscent
humor.

"Dear me!" she murmured. "If only they knew! They hadn't any suspicions, I
suppose, about those--those little trifles?"

"None," I replied. "I put it all on to a waiter."

"How clever of you! You really do seem to be a most capable person--and so
masterful! I begin to fear that some day you'll have your own way."

Her eyes laughed at me. There was something softly provocative in them--a
new and kinder light. I bent over her and kissed her. She sat quite still.

"Mr. Walmsley!"

"It's usual among engaged couples," I pleaded.

"Is it!" she remarked coldly. "Doesn't the man, as a rule, wait to be
quite sure he is engaged?"

"Not in this country," I declared: "I have heard that Americans are rather
shy about that sort of thing. Englishmen----"

"Oh, bother Englishmen!" she exclaimed, stamping her foot. "I don't
believe a word I've ever heard about them. I suppose now I shall have to
marry you!"

"I don't see any way out of it," I agreed readily.

She held up her finger. The door was quietly opened. Mr. Parker entered.

He was followed by the most utterly objectionable and repulsive-looking
person I have ever set eyes on in my life--a young man, thin, and of less
than medium height, flashily dressed in cheap clothes, with patent boots
and brilliant necktie. His cheeks were sallow; and his eyes, deeply inset,
were closer together than any I have ever seen.

"My dear," Mr. Parker exclaimed, "let me present Mr. Moss--my daughter,
sir; Mr. Walmsley--also one of us. I have been privileged," Mr. Parker
continued, dropping his voice a little, "to watch Mr. Moss at work this
afternoon; and I can assure you that a more consummate artist I have never
seen--in Wall Street, at a racetrack meeting, or anywhere else."

Mr. Moss smiled deprecatingly and jerked his head sideways.

"The old un's pretty fly!" he remarked, as he laid his hat on the table.

"I am very glad to know Mr. Moss, of course," Eve said; "but I am not in
the least in sympathy with the--er--branch of our industry he represents.
You know, daddy, it's much too dangerous and not a bit remunerative."

"To a certain extent, my dear," her father admitted, "I am with you. Not
all the way, though. One needs, of course, to discriminate. Personally I
must admit that the nerve and actual genius required in finger
manipulation have always attracted me."

Mr. Moss paused, with his glass halfway to his lips. He jerked his head in
the direction of Mr. Parker.

"He is one for the gab, ain't he?" he remarked confidentially to me.

For the life of me, at that moment I could not tell whether to leave the
room in a fit of angry disgust or to accept the ludicrous side of the
situation and laugh. Fortunately for me, perhaps, I caught Eve's eye, in
which there was more than the suspicion of a twinkle. I chose, therefore,
the latter alternative. Mr. Moss watched us for a moment curiously.

"What might your line be, guvnor?" he asked as he set down his glass.

"Oh, anything that's going," I replied carelessly. "City work is rather my
specialty."

"I know!" Mr. Moss exclaimed quickly. "Slap-up offices; thousands of
letters a day full of postal orders; shutters up suddenly--and bunco! Fine
appearance for the job!" he added admiringly.

Eve sat down and began to laugh softly to herself. She had a habit of
laughing almost altogether with her eyes in a way that expressed more
genuine enjoyment than anything I have ever realized. She rocked herself
gently backward and forward. Mr. Moss looked at us both a little
suspiciously.

"Seem to be missing the joke a bit--I do!" he remarked.

Eve sat up and was instantly grave.

"It is your clear-sighted way of putting things," she explained softly.
"You seem to understand people so thoroughly."

"I don't generally make no mistake about the number of beans in the game,"
Mr. Moss observed in a self-congratulatory tone. "I can tell a crook from
a mug a bit quicker than most."

"I have suggested to Mr. Moss, my dear," Mr. Parker intervened, turning
toward us with beaming face, "just a little early dinner--say, at
Stephano's--just as we are, you know. Will this be agreeable to you?"

"Certainly!" Eve assented promptly.

"Mr. Moss will tell us some of his little adventures," Mr. Parker
continued, with satisfaction. "Considering that he has had twelve years'
continual work, I think you'll all agree with me that his is a wonderful
record. He has been compelled to enter into a little involuntary--er--
retirement only once during the whole of that time."

Mr. Moss looked a little puzzled.

"He means lagged, don't he?" he remarked, a light breaking in on him.
"Only once in my life--and that for a trifling beano--a lady's bag and a
couple of wipes. I tell you it's no joke nowadays, though. They do watch
you! The profession ain't what it was."

"You will come with us, won't you, Mr. Walmsley?" Eve begged, turning to
me.

"I shall be delighted," I answered, with strenuous mendacity. "Did you say
Stephano's, or what do you think of one of these places closer at hand? I
was told of a little restaurant in Soho the other day, where the cooking
is remarkable."

"I'm all for Stephano's," Mr. Moss declared, grinning; "and the sooner the
better. One of the neatest pieces of business I ever did in my life I
brought off there in the old bar. To tell you the truth, I'm getting a bit
peckish."

"There is no reason," Mr. Parker agreed, "why we should not dine at once.
It is very nearly seven o'clock. What do you say?"

"Yoicks! Tally-ho, for the Strand!" Mr. Moss exclaimed, with spirit.

We started off--four in a taxi. It was Mr. Moss who, with florid
politeness, handed Eve to her seat; and it was Mr. Moss who entertained us
on the way with light conversation.

CHAPTER VIII--AT THE ALHAMBRA

Luigi's face, when he met the Parkers and myself at the entrance of the
restaurant, was a study. His polite bow and smile of welcome seemed
suddenly frozen on his face as his eyes fell upon Mr. Moss. Mr. Moss was
still wearing his hat, which was a black bowler with a small brim, set at
a jaunty angle a little on one side and affording a liberal view of his
black curls underneath. His linen failed completely to stand the test of
the clear, soft light of the restaurant, and one might have been excused
for entertaining certain doubts with regard to the diamond pin in his
mauve tie and the ring that flashed from his not overwhite hand as he
tardily removed his headgear.

"Bit of all right--this place!" Mr. Moss remarked, handing his hat to
Luigi. "Who'll have a short one with me before we feed?"

Luigi passed the hat from the tips of his fingers to a subordinate. He
showed us a table quite silently, handed the menu over to a _maître
d'hôtel_ and promptly departed. Looking round a little nervously I could
see him gazing at us from his sanctum over the top of the blind!

"Mr. Moss, I see, has American tastes," Mr. Parker declared. "He likes an
_apéritif_ before dinner. Leave it to me, please."

Mr. Parker ordered a somewhat extensive dinner. Throughout the meal we
listened to a series of adventures in which the hero was always Mr. Moss.
We heard of wonderful hauls and wonderful escapes; detectives outwitted--
exploits that reminded me more of the motor bandits of Paris than of our
own sober capital.

Mr. Parker's attention never flagged. Halfway through the meal Mr. Moss
suddenly put down his knife and fork. He broke off in the middle of a
fascinating narration of an episode during which he had ju-jutsued one
detective, knocked another down, locked them both in an empty room, and
strolled away with a cigar abstracted from the case of one of them and his
pockets full of uncut emeralds. With his mouth open he was gazing fixedly
across the room. There was a considerable change in his tone.

"'Ware 'tec'!" he said sharply.

We all looked in the direction he indicated, and we all recognized Mr.
Cullen, who was apparently returning with interest our observation. I saw
a grim smile upon his lips as he disappeared for a moment behind the menu
card. For a man who had in his time treated detectives in such a cavalier
way, Mr. Moss' change of color and subdued manner was a little
extraordinary. He cheered up, however, after a little while.

"Our friend Cullen," Mr. Parker murmured, "seems to have taken quite a
fancy to this restaurant."

"Used to be on my lay," Mr. Moss remarked. "He's much too big a duke now
for the street, though. They say he gets nearly all the high-class forgery
and swindling cases."

"We have come into contact with him ourselves," Mr. Parker observed
genially. "Seems to me there's a kind of want of snap about him compared
with our American detectives; but I dare say he knows his business."

"Is your father really enjoying this?" I asked Eve.

"He absolutely loves it!" she replied.

I sighed.

"And I think," she added suddenly, "you are behaving beautifully--I almost
love you for it."

I looked at her quickly and I felt rewarded for all I had gone through.
Her attitude toward me was subtly different. Somehow I felt that I was
being permitted a glimpse of the real Eve. Her eyes were soft; she patted
my hand under the table. I could almost have shaken hands with Mr. Moss!

"What about a music hall afterward?" I proposed in the fullness of my
heart. "Shall I send for stalls at the Alhambra?"

My proposal was received with unanimous approval. Our departure from the
restaurant a few minutes later evoked almost as much comment as our
arrival. Mr. Moss led the way, his hands in his trousers pockets and a
large cigar, pointing toward the ceiling, protruding from the corner of
his mouth. His slight uneasiness with regard to the whereabouts of his hat
having been dispelled by its appearance before we finished our meal, he
placed it on his head at its usual angle before we left the room.

Mr. Parker took his arm as they passed out, and I saw Mr. Cullen's eyes
follow them from behind his newspaper. The two got into a taxi and Eve and
I followed them in another, an arrangement that Mr. Moss appeared to
regard with disfavor. Eve's hand stole into mine as we drove off.

"Do you know," she said seriously, "I think it's perfectly horrid to drag
you about in such company! It's all very well for us, because we belong
and we are in a strange city; but I saw some of your friends look at you
and whisper. They must think you are mad!"

"So long as you are in it, dear," I assured her, "I don't care where I go
or with whom."

"You don't look like that a bit, you know!" she sighed.

"As for the rest," I went on, "if you are really sorry for me--why, then,
end it! Your father could spare us for a little time."

I could see she was becoming serious again. Lights flashed upon her face.
I felt a sudden wave of pity mingled with my love for her. After all,
there were times when her anxiety must have been almost insupportable.

"Eve, dearest," I whispered, "you must let me take you away from this. You
must! You are too good and sweet ever to mix with these people--to live
this life."

She half closed her eyes for a moment. When she looked at me again she was
laughing.

"You're a dear boy!" she said. "Now help me out, please. We have arrived."
We found four stalls reserved for us near the front at the music hall;
and, after settling a slight preliminary difficulty, owing to Mr. Moss'
reluctance to parting with his hat, we sat down to enjoy the performance.
Mr. Moss seemed a little disappointed, too, that his bright and snappy
order for drinks to the powdered official who showed us to our places was
not at once executed; but otherwise he made himself very much at home.

We had been there perhaps half an hour when I saw a sudden change in his
demeanor, which was almost at once reflected in the serious expression
that had stolen into Mr. Parker's benign countenance. An old gentleman,
white-haired, with rubicund face and a jovial air, had taken the seat next
to them. He had the appearance of having come from the country and of
having spent a happy day in town. Even from where I sat I could see
protruding from his breast-pocket a brown leather pocketbook.

I watched them as though fascinated. The change in Mr. Moss was amazing.
His reckless air of enjoyment had departed. He was still smoking, but he
was all alert, like a cat ready to spring. Mr. Parker, too, was
interested. I saw him whisper something in Mr. Moss' ear and I felt a cold
foreboding of what was going to happen.

"I'm for a drink !" Mr. Moss declared in a rather loud tone. "Come on,
guv'nor!"

They both rose. The old gentleman drew in his legs to let them pass.
Though I watched with fixed eyes I was absolutely unable to follow their
movements, but when they had passed the old gentleman I could see from
where I sat that his pocketbook was gone.

"Did you see that?" I whispered to Eve.

She shook her head.

"The old gentleman's pocketbook," I groaned; "they've got it!"

Eve for a moment sat quite still; she, too, seemed nervous. I was looking
away again at the retreating figures of Mr. Parker and Mr. Moss. Suddenly
my heart sank. I saw the old gentleman spring to his feet and hurry after
them; and I saw, too, at the end of the line of stalls, Mr. Cullen and a
companion standing, waiting. I rose quickly to my feet.

"I'm afraid there's going to be some trouble," I said to Eve. "Let me go
and see if I can help. It looks as though the whole thing were a trap."

I followed quickly. It is only fair to Mr. Cullen to say that he conducted
the affair with great discretion and with every consideration for the
feelings of the management. He stopped Mr. Parker and Mr. Moss as they
reached the end of the line of stalls.

"Please come with me," he said. "I have something to say to you outside."

Mr. Moss showed signs of an attempt to escape. He stooped for a minute as
though to run, but a kick from Mr. Parker induced him to alter his mind.

"Wotcher want?" he asked belligerently.

The old gentleman had now reached them, red-faced and incoherent. He
addressed himself to Mr. Cullen, and I no longer had any doubt whatever
that the affair was a plant of the detective.

"I've been robbed of my pocketbook!" he exclaimed. "One of these two has
got it--brushed up against me just now on the way out of the stalls.
Where's the manager?"

Only a few people in the immediate vicinity were conscious that anything
at all unusual was happening. The promenade just at that particular spot
was almost deserted.

"This gentleman is certainly mistaken," Mr. Parker declared with dignity.
"Neither my friend nor myself knows anything about his pocketbook."

"I am sorry," Mr. Cullen said politely, "but I shall have to trouble you
to come with me to Bow Street at once--and you, too, sir," he added,
addressing the old gentleman. "I am a police officer and we will go into
the matter there. You will agree with me that it is well not to make a
disturbance here. I have two assistants with me."

He indicated by a little gesture two men who had emerged from somewhere in
the background.

"I will go with the utmost pleasure," Mr. Parker consented. "At the same
time this gentleman has obviously been drinking and his charge is absurd."

It was precisely at this moment that I felt something hard pressed against
my hand. With a dexterity that was nothing short of miraculous, Mr.
Parker, who apparently was standing with his hands in his pockets, had
suddenly forced one of them through some secret opening in his coat.

In those few seconds it seemed to me I lived a year. I had no time to
think--no time to realize that if I failed nothing could save my
appearance at Bow Street on the following morning as a common pickpocket.
I gripped the pocketbook from his hand and, without changing a muscle,
dropped it into the yawning overcoat pocket of the bucolic gentleman.

The moment was over and passed. Mr. Parker, with a movement forward, had
covered my proceedings. I had been face to face with death years before,
but I had never felt quite the same thrill.

"This way, gentlemen, if you please," Mr. Cullen directed softly.

"You will not object to my accompanying you?" I asked.

"Certainly not," Mr. Cullen replied; "I, in fact, am not sure that it
would not be my duty to ask you to come."

"One moment!" I begged.

Mr. Cullen paused.

"The gentleman who made this charge," I went on, "seems to me to be in a
very uncertain condition. Might I suggest that, before you commit yourself
to taking these people to the police station, you just make sure he really
has been robbed of his pocketbook?"

"Had it here," the old gentleman declared; "right in this pocket! Look for
yourself--gone!"

"The old gentleman scarcely seems to me," I remarked, "to be in a fit
condition to know which pocket it was in."

Mr. Cullen, who had been walking carefully between him and the other two,
smiled in a superior way.

"Please feel in all your pockets," he told his accomplice.

The old gentleman obeyed. Suddenly he stopped short. A blank expression
came into his face.

"What have you got there?" I asked.

He brought it out with ill-concealed reluctance. It was, without doubt,
the pocketbook. I shall never forget Mr. Cullen's face! He was bereft of
words. He stared at it as though he had seen it come up through the floor.
Mr. Moss simply stood with his mouth open. Mr. Parker alone appeared
unmoved by any emotion of surprise. His manner was serious--almost
dignified.

"I want you to take this from me straight, Mr. Cullen," he said. "I am not
a man who loses his temper easily, but you're trying us a bit high."

Mr. Cullen remained for a moment or two speechless. He looked at me and
drew a long breath. I knew perfectly well what he was thinking. He had had
a man on either side of Mr. Parker and Mr. Moss. The only person who could
have transferred that pocketbook was myself. I could see him readjusting
his ideas as to my moral character.

"Mr. Parker--gentlemen," he said, removing his hat, "pray accept my
apologies. You are free to return to your seats whenever you choose. This
gentleman was evidently mistaken," he added, speaking with withering
sarcasm and turning sharply toward his coadjutor. "You oughtn't to come to
these places in your present condition, sir. Take my advice and get along
home at once."

The bucolic gentleman, who had completely lost his appearance of
inebriety, mumbled a few incoherent words and departed. After his
departure Mr. Parker assumed a more genial attitude.

"Well, well! I suppose you only did your duty, sir," he remarked, with a
resigned sigh. "We were on our way to the bar. Will you join us, Mr.
Cullen?"

I did not hear the detective's reply, but somehow or other we all drifted
there. Mr. Moss at once found an easy-chair, which he pronounced to be "a
bit of all right" and in which he assumed an easy and elegant attitude.
Mr. Parker, Mr. Cullen, and I completed the circle, which now included a
professional gutter-thief, a disappointed detective, Mr. Parker and
myself. It was a unique moment in my life!

The wine affected the spirits of no one except, perhaps, Mr. Moss; and
him, when we finally broke up our party, we thought it advisable to get
rid of in quick order. To my surprise Mr. Parker seemed in a particularly
despondent frame of mind. He needed pressing even to come to supper.

"You were quick-witted, Walmsley," he admitted as we rolled away in the
car, "quick-witted, I'll admit that; but you were dead clumsy with your
fingers! I could see what you were doing from the back of my head."

"Really!" I murmured. "Well, I suppose that sort of thing is a gift. I
only know that I hope I may never have to do it again."

Mr. Parker sighed.

"I fear," he said, "that your troubles with us will soon be over. Eve has
been telling me about that young idiot of an Englishman who visited the
Bundercombes out in Okata. If there was one man whose name I thought I was
safe to make use of it was Joe Bundercombe!"

"It seems," I admitted, "to have been an unfortunate choice. What do you
think of doing about it?"

Mr. Parker apparently had no immediate answer ready for me. During our
brief ride in the motor and in the early stages of supper he was afflicted
by a taciturnity that made him almost negligible as a companion. And then
suddenly a light broke over his face. He had the appearance of a
shipwrecked mariner who suddenly catches sight of land in the offing. His
lips were a little parted, his boyish face all aglow.

"Walmsley, my dear fellow!" he exclaimed. "Eve, dear! The problem is
solved! Raise your glasses and drink with me. Here's farewell to Mr.
Joseph H. Parker and Miss Parker. And a welcome to Mr. and Miss
Bundercombe, of Okata!"

"That's all very well," I said; "but Reggie will be on your track."

Mr. Parker beamed on Eve and me.

"We shall see!" he declared didactically.

CHAPTER IX--THE EXPOSURE

The next morning at twelve o'clock I took a taxi-cab round to Banton
Street. The hall porter, who was beginning to know me well, seemed a
little surprised at my appearance.

"Is the young lady upstairs?" I asked.

He was distinctly taken aback.

"Mr. Parker and his daughter have gone," he told me. I stopped on my way
to the stairs.

"Gone?" I repeated.

"Went off this morning," he continued; "two taxi-cabs full of luggage."

"Aren't they coming back?"

"No signs of it."

"Did they leave any address?"

"None!"

"Are you sure?" I persisted. "Please ask at the office."

The porter left me for a moment, but returned shaking his head.

"Mr. Parker said there would be no messages or letters, and accordingly he
left no address."

I turned slowly away. The hall porter followed me. He was drawing
something from his waistcoat pocket.

"I wouldn't do a thing," he declared, "to get Mr. Parker into any trouble
--for a nicer, freer-handed gentleman never came inside the hotel; but I
don't know as there's much harm in showing you this, being as you're a
friend. I picked it up in the sitting room after they'd gone."

He held out a cablegram. Before I realized what I was doing, I had read
it. It was handed in at New York:

"Look out! H----sailed last Saturday!"

"Pretty badly scared of H----he was!" the hall porter remarked. "Ten
minutes after that cablegram came they were hard at it, packing."

I gave the man a tip and drove back to my rooms, where I spent a restless
morning, then lunched at my club and returned to the Milan afterward, only
in the hope that I might find there a note or a message. There was
nothing, however. Just as I was starting to go out the telephone bell
rang. I took up the receiver. It was Eve's voice.

"Is that Mr. Walmsley?"

"It is," I admitted. "How are you, Eve?"

"Quite well, thank you."

"Still in London?"

"Certainly. Would you like to come and have tea with me?"

"Rather!" I replied enthusiastically. "Where are you?"

"Hiding!"

"That's all right," I replied. "I shan't give it away. Where shall I find
you?"

"Well," she said, "we talked it over and decided that the best hiding
place was one of the larger hotels. We are at the Ritz."

"I'll come right along if I may."

"Very well," she agreed. "Ask for Mr. Bundercombe."

I groaned under my breath, but I made no further comment; and in a very
few minutes I presented myself at the Ritz Hotel. I was escorted upstairs
and ushered into a very delightful suite on the second floor. Eve rose to
meet me from behind a little tea-table. She was charmingly dressed and
looking exceedingly well. Mr. Bundercombe, on the other hand, who was
walking up and down the apartment with his hands behind his back, was
distinctly nervous. He nodded at my entrance.

"How are you, Walmsley?" he said. "How are you?"

"I am quite well, sir, thank you," I replied, a little stupefied.

"Say, I'm afraid we are making a great mistake here," he went on
anxiously. "We've slipped a point too near to the wind this time."

"If you'll allow me to tell you exactly what I think," I ventured,
"frankly I think you have made a mistake. There's that matter of Reggie
Sidley. He was worrying me all yesterday morning to find out where you
were, and when I evaded the point he told me straight that he didn't
believe you were the Bundercombes at all. He is always in and out of this
place, and if he sees your name on the register--or his mother, Lady
Enterdean, sees it--it seems to me it's about all up!"

"A piece of bravado, I must admit," Mr. Parker muttered--"a piece of
absolute bravado! But there's the young woman who's responsible!" he
added, shaking his fist at Eve. "I may have suggested our coming to your
party as the Bundercombes, but it was Eve's idea that we put up this
little piece of bluff. Now I'm all for Paris!" he went on insinuatingly.

At that precise moment I felt that there was nothing I wanted so much as
to get Eve away from the Ritz, and I fell in with the scheme.

"We'll all go," I suggested. "I haven't had a week in Paris for a long
time."

Eve handed me my tea.

"Don't count me in!" she begged. "I never felt less inclined to move from
anywhere. If being Eve Bundercombe means living at the Ritz I think I'd
rather go on. The life of an adventuress is, after all, just a little
strenuous and I am tired of living on the thin edge of nothing."

"Perhaps, before you know where you are," Mr. Bundercombe remarked
gloomily, "you'll be living on the thin edge of a little less than
nothing!"

There was a knock at the door. We all looked at one another. A magnificent
person with powdered hair, breeches and silk stockings presented himself.

"Lord Reginald Sidley!" he announced.

In walked Reggie. He was correctly attired for calling and he carried a
most immaculate silk hat in his hand. I fully expected to see him drop it
on the floor, but he did nothing of the sort. He laid it upon a small
table, paused for one second to shake his fist at me, and advanced toward
Eve with both hands outstretched.

"At last I have found you, then!" he exclaimed. "Miss Bundercombe! Well, I
am glad to see you!"

"Hello, Reggie!" she answered sweetly. "What a time you've been looking us
up."

He was taken aback.

"Well, I like that!" he gasped. "And--how are you, Mr. Bundercombe?"

"Glad to see you!" Mr. Bundercombe replied cheerlessly.

The meeting had taken place and I seemed to be the only person in the room
who was suffering from any sort of shock. Reggie was still holding one of
Eve's hands and was almost incoherent.

"Come, I like that! I like that!" he exclaimed. "A long time looking you
up indeed! Why didn't you let me know you were here? There hasn't been a
line from you or from your father. We couldn't believe it when we heard
that you had been at the dinner the other evening. I was never so
disappointed in my life!"

I gripped Mr. Bundercombe by the arm and led him firmly to one side.

"Look here," I said, "is your name Bundercombe?"

"It is," he admitted gloomily.

"Are you a millionaire?" I persisted.

"Multi!" he groaned.

"Then what the blazes--what the----"

I stopped short. Once more the door was opened--this time without the
formality of a knock. If Mr. Bundercombe had seemed anxious and depressed
before it was obvious now that the worst had happened. All the cheerful
life seemed to have faded from his good-humored face. He had literally
collapsed in his clothes. Even Eve gave a little shriek.

Upon the threshold stood Mr. Cullen, and by his side a lady who might have
been anywhere between fifty and sixty years old. She was dressed in a
particularly unattractive checked traveling suit, with a little satchel
suspended from a shiny black leather band round her waist. She wore a
small hat that was much too juvenile for her; and from the back of it a
blue veil, which she had pushed on one side, hung nearly to the floor. Her
complexion was very yellow; she had a square jaw; and through her
spectacles her eyes glittered in a most unpleasant fashion. Her greeting
was scarcely conciliatory.

"So I've got you at last, have I? Say, this is a pretty chase you've led
me! Do you know I've had to desert my post as president of the Great
Amalgamated Meeting of the Free Women of the West to come and look after
you two? Do you know that three thousand women had to listen to a
substitute last Thursday?--and after I'd spent two months getting my facts
for them! Do you know that you're the laughing-stock of Okata?"

"No one asked you to come, mother," Eve remarked with a sigh.

"Asked me to come, indeed!" the newcomer retorted. "Look at you both! I've
heard all about your doings. This gentleman by my side has told me a few
things. I'll talk to you presently, young woman. But say, is there
anywhere on the face of this earth such a miserable, addle-headed lunatic
as that man whom it's my misfortune to call my husband?"

She shook her fist at Mr. Bundercombe, who seemed to have become still
smaller. Then she looked at me, and at Reggie, who was standing with his
mouth wide open. She fixed upon us as her audience.

"Look at him!" she went on, stretching out her hands. "There's a
respectable American for you! For thirty years he works as a man should--
for it's what a man's made for--and thanks to his wife's help and advice
he prospers. Look at him, I ask you! A baby can see that he hasn't the
brains of a chicken. Yet there he stands--Joseph H. Bundercombe, of
Bundercombe's Reapers, with eight million dollars' worth of stock to his
name!"

I saw Reggie's eyes go up to the ceiling and I knew he was dividing eight
million dollars by five. An expression almost of reverence passed into his
face as he achieved the result. We none of us felt the slightest
inclination to interrupt. Mrs. Bundercombe's long, skinny forefinger drew
a little nearer to her victim. Then she coughed--the short, dry cough of
the professional speaker--and continued:

"Wouldn't you believe that was success enough for any reasonable mortal?
Wouldn't you say that, with a wife holding an honored and great position
in the State, and his daughter by his side, he'd settle down out there and
live a respectable, decent life? Not he! First of all he wants to travel.

"What does he do, then, but take up what he calls a hobby! He buys and
gloats over every silly detective story that was ever written; practises
disguises and making himself up, as he calls it; takes lessons in
conjuring; haunts the police courts; consorts with criminals--in short,
behaves like a great overgrown child in his own native city, where the
name of Bundercombe--from the feminine standpoint--realizes everything
that stands for freedom and greatness. The time came when it was necessary
for me to put down my foot once and for all. I called him to me.

"'Joseph Henry Bundercombe,' I said,'there must be an end to this!' 'There
shall be,' he promised. The next day he and Eve, my misguided
stepdaughter, were on their way to Europe; and I am credibly informed they
cheated a commercial traveler at cards on the way to New York. That I find
him at liberty now, it seems to me, is entirely owing to the clemency and
kindness of this gentleman, who recognized my description at Scotland Yard
and brought me here."

"Say, all I'm prepared to admit about that is that it was somehow
fortunate," Mr. Bundercombe remarked with a sudden revival of his old
self, "that it fell to my lot to have Mr. Cullen investigate some of my
small adventures!"

"Mr. Bundercombe," said Cullen severely, "I think you will do well to
listen to your wife and to take her advice. There are one or two of these
little affairs, you must remember, that are not entirely closed yet."

Mr. Bundercombe sighed. He adopted an attitude of resignation.

"Well, Cullen," he replied, "if my career of crime is really to come to an
end I don't want to bear you any ill will. We'll just take a stroll
downstairs and talk about it."

Mrs. Bundercombe, with a quick movement to the left, blocked the way.

"That means a visit to the bar!" she declared. "I know you, Mr.
Bundercombe. You'll stay right here and listen to a little more of what
I've got to say. Who this gentleman may be I don't at present know," she
went on, turning suddenly upon me; "but I am agreeable to listen to his
name if any one has the manners to mention it."

"Walmsley, madam," I told her quickly, "Paul Walmsley. I have the honor to
be engaged to marry your stepdaughter."

Mrs. Bundercombe looked at me in stony silence. Twice she opened her lips,
and I am quite sure that if words had come they would have been unkind
ones. Twice apparently, however, her command of language seemed
inadequate.

"So you're going to marry an Englishman," she said, glaring at Eve.

"I am going to marry Mr. Walmsley, mother," Eve agreed sweetly. "He has
been such a kind friend to us during the last few days--and I rather fancy
I shall like living on this side."

"Dear me! Dear me! I hadn't heard of this!" Mr. Bundercombe remarked with
interest. "You and I will go downstairs and have a little chat about it,
Mr. Walmsley."

He made another strategic movement toward the door, which was promptly and
effectually frustrated by his wife.

"No, you don't!" Mrs. Bundercombe prohibited. "I've a good deal more to
say yet. I haven't been dragged over the ocean three thousand miles to
have you all slip away directly I arrive. A nice state of things indeed!
My husband, Joseph H. Bundercombe, a suspect at Scotland Yard, followed
everywhere by detectives; and my daughter----"

"Stepdaughter, please," Eve interrupted.

"Stepdaughter then!--talking about marrying a man she's probably known
about twenty-four hours and met at a bar or in a thieves' kitchen, or
something of the sort! If you must marry an Englishman," she continued
with rising voice, "why don't you marry Lord Reginald Sidley there? His
father is an earl, anyway."

"His uncle's one," Reggie put in gloomily, jerking his head toward me.
"Old Walmsley's all right."

Eve patted his hand.

"Good boy!" she said. "You know I never encouraged you--did I, Reggie?'"

"Encouraged me!" he protested. "I think, on the whole, you said the rudest
things to me I ever heard in my life--from a girl, anyway. I imagine," he
added, taking up his hat, "that it's up to me to leave this little
domestic gathering."

"I'll see you out," Mr. Bundercombe declared with alacrity.

Mrs. Bundercombe, with her eyes steadily fixed upon her husband, stepped
back until she blocked the doorway.

"My dear Hannah!"

"Your dear nothing!" she interrupted ruthlessly.

"You just sit down by the side of your daughter there and let me tell you
both what I think of you and what I'm going to do about it."

"I think," I suggested, "a little taxi drive----Your mother and father no
doubt have a great deal to say to one another, and you can receive your
little lecture later."

Eve assented at once; and Mrs. Bundercombe, for some reason or other, only
entered a faint protest against our departure. It was about five o'clock
in the afternoon and the streets were crowded with every description of
vehicle. The sun was still warm; there was a faint pink light in the sky--
a perfume of lilac in the air from the window-boxes and flower-barrows. I
took Eve's fingers in mine and held them. I think she knew that something
in the nature of an inquisition was coming, for she sat very demure, her
eyes fixed on the road ahead.

"Eve," I asked, "how about Mrs. Samuelson's jewels?"

"They were returned to her from 'a repentant criminal,'" Eve murmured.

"And the forged banknotes made by the young man in the Adelphi?"

"They were all destroyed as fast as father could buy them," she explained.
"He has found the boy a post now with some printer in America."

"And the two thousand pounds at the gaming club--that first night?"

"Daddy made it three and sent it to a hospital. He thought it would do
them more good."

"You know, you're a shocking pair!" I said severely.

"Paul," she sighed, "you never can know how dull it was at Okata."

"I'm jolly glad it was!" I told her. "It gives me a better chance--doesn't
it?"

"And we'll give daddy a good time whenever we can?" she pleaded.

"Always," I promised. "He's one of the best!"

"He's so clever, too!"

"Clever, without a doubt," I admitted, "only I think perhaps we might get

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