Part 2 out of 6
are concerned. As you know, they have refused. If you see any hope
in that direction, why don't you try some of your own friends? For
every one man I know in the House, you have seemed to be bosom
friends with at least twenty."
"Those I know are not that sort of friend," he answered. "They will
drink with you and spend a night out or a week-end at Brighton, but
they do not lend money. If they would, do you think I would mind
asking? Why, I would go on my knees to any man who would lend us
the money. I would even kiss his feet. I cannot bear it, Laverick!
I cannot! I cannot!"
Laverick said nothing. Words were useless things, wasted upon such
a creature. He eyed his partner with a contempt which he took no
pains to conceal. This, then, was the smart young fellow recommended
to him on all sides, a few years ago, as one of the shrewdest young
men in his own particular department, a person bound to succeed, a
money-maker if ever there was one! Laverick thought of him as he
appeared at the office day by day, glossy and immaculately dressed,
with a flower in his buttonhole, boots that were a trifle too shiny,
hat and coat, gloves and manner, all imitation but all very near the
real thing. What a collapse!
"You're going to stay and see it through?" he whined across the table.
"Certainly," Laverick answered.
The young man buried his face in his hands.
"I can't! I can't!" he moaned. "I couldn't bear seeing all the
fellows, hearing them whisper things - oh, Lord! Oh, Lord! . . .
Laverick, we've a few hundreds left. Give me something and let me
out of it. You're a stronger sort of man than I am. You can face
it, - I can't! Give me enough to get abroad with, and if ever I
do any good I'll remember it, I will indeed."
Laverick was silent for a moment. His companion watched his face
eagerly. After all, why not let him go? He was no help, no comfort.
The very sight of him was contemptible.
"I have paid no money into the bank for several days," Laverick said
slowly. "When they refused to help us, it was, of course, obvious
that they guessed how things were."
"Quite right, quite right!" the young man interrupted feverishly.
"They would have stuck to it against the overdraft. How much have
we got in the safe?"
"This afternoon," Laverick continued, "I changed all our cheques.
You can count the proceeds for yourself. There are, I think, eleven
hundred pounds. You can take two hundred and fifty, and you can take
them with you - to any place you like."
The young man was already at the safe. The notes were between them,
on the table. He counted quickly with the fingers of a born
manipulator of money. When he had gathered up two hundred and fifty
pounds, Laverick's hand fell upon his.
"No more," he ordered sternly.
"But, my dear fellow," Morrison protested, "half of eleven hundred
is five hundred and fifty. Why should we not go halves? That is
only fair, Laverick. It is little enough. We ought to have had a
great deal more."
Laverick pushed him contemptuously away and locked up the remainder
of the notes.
"I am letting you take two hundred and fifty pounds of this money,"
he said, "for various reasons. For one, I can bear this thing
better alone. As for the rest of the money, it remains there for
the accountant who liquidates our affairs. I do not propose to
touch a penny of it."
The young man buttoned up his coat with an hysterical little laugh.
Such ways were not his ways. They were not, indeed, within the
limit of his understanding. But of his partner he had learned one
thing, at least. The word of Stephen Laverick was the word of truth.
He shambled toward the door. On the whole, he was lucky to have
got the two hundred and fifty pounds.
"So long, Laverick," he said from the door. "I'm - I'm sorry."
It was characteristic of him that he did not venture to offer his
hand. Laverick nodded, not unkindly. After all, this young man was
as he had been made.
"I wish you good luck, Morrison," he said. "Try South Africa."
ROBBING THE DEAD
The roar of the day was long since over. The rattle of vehicles,
the tinkling of hansom bells, the tooting of horns from motor-cars
and cabs, the ceaseless tramp of footsteps, all had died away.
Outside, the streets were almost deserted. An occasional wayfarer
passed along the flagged pavement with speedy footsteps. Here and
there a few lights glimmered at the windows of some of the larger
blocks of offices. The bustle of the day was finished. There is
no place in London so strangely quiet as the narrow thoroughfares
of the city proper when the hour approaches midnight.
Laverick, who since his partner's departure had been studying with
infinite care his private ledger, closed it at last with a little
snap and leaned back in his chair. After all, save that he had got
rid of Morrison, it had been a wasted evening. Not even he, whose
financial astuteness no man had ever questioned, could raise from
those piles of figures any other answer save the one inevitable
one, the knowledge of which had been like a black nightmare stalking
by his side for the last thirty-six hours. One by one during the
evening his clerks had left him, and it was a proof not only of his
wonderful self-control but also of the confidence which he invariably
inspired, that not a single one of them had the slightest idea how
things were. Not a soul knew that the firm of Laverick & Morrison
was already practically derelict, that they had on the morrow
twenty-five thousand pounds to find, neither credit nor balance at
their bankers, and eight hundred and fifty pounds in the safe.
Laverick, haggard from his long vigil, locked up his books at last,
turned out the lights, and locking the doors behind him walked into
the silent street. Instinctively he turned his steps westwards.
This might well be the last night on which he would care to show
himself in his accustomed haunts, the last night on which he could
mix with his fellows freely, and without that terrible sense of
consciousness which follows upon disaster. Already there was little
enough left of it. It was too late to change and go to his club.
The places of amusement were already closed. To-morrow night, both
club and theatres would lie outside his world. He walked slowly,
yet he had scarcely taken, in fact, a dozen steps when, with a
purely mechanical impulse, he paused by a stone-flagged entry to
light a cigarette. It was a passage, almost a tunnel for a few
yards, leading to an open space, on one side of which was an old
churchyard - strange survival in such a part - and on the other
the offices of several firms of stockbrokers, a Russian banker,
an actuary. It was the barest of impulses which led him to glance
up the entry before he blew out the match. Then he gave a quick
start and became for a moment paralyzed. Within a few feet of him
something was lying on the ground - a dark mass, black and soft -
the body of a man, perhaps. Just above it, a pair of eyes gleamed
at him through the, semi-darkness.
Laverick at first had no thought of tragedy. It might be a tramp
or a drunkard, perhaps, - a fight, or a man taken ill. Then
something sinister about the light of those burning eyes set his
heart beating faster. He struck another match with firm fingers,
and bent forward. What he saw upon the ground made him feel a
little sick. What he saw racing away down the passage prompted him
to swift pursuit. Down the arched court into the open space he ran,
himself an athlete, but mocked by the swiftness of the shadowlike
form which he pursued. At the end was another street - empty. He
looked up and down, seeking in vain for any signs of life. There
was nothing to tell him which way to turn. Opposite was a very
labyrinth of courts and turnings. There was not even the sound of
a footfall to guide him. Slowly he retraced his steps, lit another
match, and leaned over the prostrate figure. Then he knew that it
was a tragedy indeed upon which he had stumbled.
The man was dead, and he had met with his death by unusual means.
These were the first two things of which Laverick assured himself.
Without any doubt, a savage and a terrible crime had been committed.
A hornhandled knife of unusual length had been driven up to the hilt
through the heart of the murdered man. There had been other blows,
notably about the head. There was not much blood, but the position
of the knife alone told its ugly story. Laverick, though his nerves
were of the strongest, felt his head swim as he looked. He rose to
his feet and walked to the opening of the passage, gasping. The
street was no longer empty.
About thirty yards away, looking westwards, a man was standing in
the middle of the road. The light from the lamp-post escaped his
face. Laverick could only see that he was slim, of medium height,
dressed in dark clothes, with his hands in the pockets of his
overcoat. To all appearance, he was watching the entry. Laverick
took a step towards him - the man as deliberately took a step further
away. Laverick held up his hand.
"Hullo!" he called out, and beckoned.
The person addressed took no notice. Laverick advanced another two
or three steps - the man retreated a similar distance. Laverick
changed his tactics and made a sudden spring forward. The man
hesitated no longer - he turned and ran as though for his life. In
a few minutes he was round the corner of the street and out of sight.
Laverick returned slowly to the entry.
A distant clock struck midnight. A couple of clerks came along the
pavement on the other side, their hands and arms full of letters.
Laverick hesitated. He was never afterwards able to account for the
impulse which prevented his calling out to them. Instead he lurked
in the shadows and watched them go by. When he was sure that they
had disappeared, he bent once more over the body of the murdered
man. Already that huddled-up heap was beginning to exercise a
nameless and terrible fascination for him. His first feelings of
horror were mingled now with an insatiable curiosity. What manner
of man was he? He was tall and strongly built; fair - of almost
florid complexion. His clothes were very shabby and apparently
ready-made. His moustache was upturned, and his hair was trimmed
closer than is the custom amongst Englishmen. Laverick stooped
lower and lower until he found himself almost on his knees. There
was something projecting from the man's pocket as though it had been
half snatched out - a large portfolio of brown leather, almost the
size of a satchel. Laverick drew it out, holding it in one hand
whilst with firm fingers he struck another match. Then, for the
first time, a little cry broke from his lips. Both sides of the
pocket-book were filled with bank-notes. As his match flickered
out, he caught a glimpse of the figures in the left-hand corner -
500 pounds! - great rolls of them! Laverick rose gasping to his
feet. It was a new Arabian Nights, this! - a dream! - a
continuation of the nightmare which had threatened him all day!
Or was it, perhaps, the madness coming - the madness which he had
begun only an hour or so ago to fear!
He walked into the gaslit streets and looked up and down. The
mysterious stranger had vanished. There was not a soul in sight.
He clutched the rough stone wall with his hands, he kicked the
pavement with his heels. There was no doubt about it - everything
around him was real. Most real of all was the fact that within a
few feet of him lay a murdered man, and that in his hands was that
brown leather pocket-book with its miraculous contents. For the
last time Laverick retraced his steps and bent over that huddled-up
shape. One by one he went through the other pockets. There was a
packet of Russian cigarettes; an empty card-case of chased silver,
and obviously of foreign workmanship; a cigarette holder stained
with much use, but of the finest amber, with rich gold mountings.
There was nothing else upon the dead man, no means of identification
of any sort. Laverick stood up, giddy, half terrified with the
thoughts that went tearing through his brain. The pocket-book began
to burn his hand; he felt the perspiration breaking out anew upon
his forehead. Yet he never hesitated. He walked like a man in a
dream, but his footsteps were steady and short. Deliberately, and
without any sign of hurry, he made his way towards his offices. If
a policeman had come in sight up or down the street, he had decided
to call him and to acquaint him with what had happened. It was the
one chance he held against himself, - the gambler's method of
decision, perhaps, unconsciously arrived at. As it turned out, there
was still not a soul in sight. Laverick opened the outer door with
his latchkey, let himself in and closed it. Then he groped his way
through the clerk's office into his own room, switched on the
electric light and once more sat down before his desk.
He drew his shaded writing lamp towards him and looked around with
a nervousness wholly unfamiliar. Then he opened the pocket-book,
drew out the roll of bank-notes and counted them. It was curious
that he felt no surprise at their value. Bank-notes for five
hundred pounds are not exactly common, and yet he proceeded with
his task without the slightest instinct of surprise. Then he leaned
back in his chair. Twenty thousand pounds in Bank of England notes!
There they lay on the table before him. A man had died for their
sake, - another must go through all the days with the price of blood
upon his head - a murderer - a haunted creature for the rest of his
life. And there on the table were the spoils. Laverick tried to
think the matter out dispassionately. He was a man of average moral
fibre - that is to say, he was honest in his dealings with other
men because his father and his grandfather before him had been
honest, and because the penalty for dishonesty was shameful. Here,
however, he was face to face with an altogether unusual problem.
These notes belonged, without a doubt, to the dead man. Save for
his own interference, they would have been in the hands of his
murderer. The use of them for a few days could do no one any harm.
Such risk as there was he took himself. That it was a risk he knew
and fully realized. Laverick had sat in his place unmoved when his
partner had poured out his wail of fear and misery. Yet of the two
men it was probable that Laverick himself had felt their position
the more keenly. He was a man of some social standing, with a
large circle of friends; a sportsman, and with many interests
outside the daily routine of his city life. To him failure meant
more than the loss of money; it would rob him of everything in life
worth having. The days to come had been emptied of all promise.
He had held himself stubbornly because he was a man, because he had
strength enough to refuse to let his mind dwell upon the indignities
and humiliation to come. And here before him was possible salvation.
There was a price to be paid, of course, a risk to be run in making
use even for an hour of this money. Yet from the first he had known
that he meant to do it.
Quite cool now, he opened his private safe, thrust the pocket-book
into one of the drawers, and locked it up. Then he lit a cigarette,
finally shut up the office and walked down the street. As he passed
the entry he turned his head slowly. Apparently no one had been
there, nothing had been disturbed. Straining his eyes through the
darkness, he could even see that dark shape still lying huddled up
on the ground. Then he walked on. He had burned his boats now and
was prepared for all emergencies. At the corner he met a policeman,
to whom he wished a cheery good-night. He told himself that the
thing which he had done was for the best. He owed it to himself.
He owed it to those who had trusted him. After all, it was the
chief part of his life - his city career. It was here that his
friends lived. It was here that his ambitions flourished. Disgrace
here was eternal disgrace. His father and his grandfather before
him had been men honored and respected in this same circle. Disgrace
to him, such disgrace as that with which he had stood face to face a
few hours ago, would have been, in a certain sense, a reflection
upon their memories. The names upon the brass plates to right and
to left of him were the names of men he knew, men with whom he
desired to stand well, whose friendship or contempt made life worth
living or the reverse. It was worth a great risk - this effort of
his to keep his place. His one mistake - this association with
Morrison - had been such an unparalleled stroke of bad luck. He
was rid of the fellow now. For the future there should be no more
partners. He had his life to live. It was not reasonable that he
should allow himself to be dragged down into the mire by such a
creature. He found an empty taxicab at the corner of Queen Victoria
Street, and hailed it.
"Whitehall Court," he told the driver.
BELLAMY IS OUTWITTED
Bellamy was a man used to all hazards, whose supreme effort of life
it was to meet success and disaster with unvarying mien. But this
was disaster too appalling even for his self-control. He felt his
knees shake so that he caught at the edge of the table before which
he was standing. There was no possible doubt about it, he had been
tricked. Von Behrling, after all, - Von Behrling, whom he had
looked upon merely as a stupid, infatuated Austrian, ready to sell
his country for the sake of a woman, had fooled him utterly!
The man who sat at the head of the table - the only other occupant
of the room - was in Court dress, with many orders upon his coat.
He had just been attending a Court function, from which Bellamy's
message had summoned him. Before him on the table was an envelope,
hastily torn open, and several sheets of blank paper. It was upon
these that Bellamy's eyes were fixed with an expression of mingled
horror and amazement. The Cabinet Minister had already pushed them
away with a little gesture of contempt.
"Bellamy," he said gravely, "it is not like you to make so serious
"I hope not, sir," Bellamy answered. "I - yes, I have been deceived."
The Minister glanced at the clock.
"What is to be done?" he asked.
Bellamy, with an effort, pulled himself together. He caught up the
envelope, looked once more inside, held up the blank sheets of paper
to the lamp and laid them down. Then with clenched fists he walked
to the other side of the room and returned. He was himself again.
"Sir James, I will not waste your time by saying that I am sorry.
Only an hour ago I met Von Behrling in a little restaurant in the
city, and gave him twenty thousand pounds for that envelope."
"You paid him the money," the Minister remarked slowly, "without
opening the envelope."
Bellamy admitted it.
"In such transactions as these," he declared, "great risks are
almost inevitable. I took what must seem to you now to be an absurd
risk. To tell you the honest truth, sir, and I have had experience
in these things, I thought it no risk at all when I handed over the
money. Von Behrling was there in disguise. The men with whom he
came to this country are furious with him. To all appearance, he
seemed to have broken with them absolutely. Even now -
"Even now," Bellamy said slowly, with his eyes fixed upon the wall
of the room, and a dawning light growing stronger every moment in
his face, "even now I believe that Von Behrling made a mistake. An
envelope such as this had been arranged for him to show the others
or leave at the Austrian Embassy in case of emergency. He had it
with him in his pocket-book. He even told me so. God in Heaven,
he gave me the wrong one!"
The Minister glanced once more at the clock.
"In that case," he said, "perhaps he would not go to the Embassy
to-night, especially if he was in disguise. You may still be able
to find him and repair the error.
"I will try," answered Bellamy. "Thank Heaven!" he added, with a
sudden gleam of satisfaction, "my watchers are still dogging his
footsteps. I can find out before morning where he went when he
left our rendezvous. There is another way, too. Mademoiselle -
this man Von Behrling believed that she was leaving the country
with him. She was to have had a message within the next few hours.
The Minister nodded thoughtfully.
"Bellamy, I have been your friend and you have done us good service
often. The Secret Service estimates, as you know, are above
supervision, but twenty thousand pounds is a great deal of money to
have paid for this."
He touched the sheets of blank paper with his forefinger. Bellamy's
teeth were clenched.
"The money shall be returned, sir.
"Do not misunderstand me," Sir James went on, speaking a little more
kindly. "The money, after all, in comparison with what it was
destined to purchase, is nothing. We might even count it a fair
risk if it was lost."
"It shall not be lost," Bellamy promised. "If Von Behrling has
played the traitor to us, then he will go back to his country. In
that case, I will have the money from him without a doubt. If, on
the other hand, he was honest to us and a traitor to his country,
as I firmly believe, it may not yet be too late."
"Let us hope not," Sir James declared. "Bellamy," he continued, a
note of agitation trembling in his tone, "I need not tell you, I
am sure, how important this matter is. You work like a mole in the
dark, yet you have brains, - you understand. Let me tell you how
things are with us. A certain amount of confidence is due to you,
if to any one. I may tell you that at the Cabinet Council to-day a
very serious tone prevailed. We do not understand in the least the
attitude of several of the European Powers. It can be understood
only under certain assumptions. A note of ours sent through the
Ambassador to Vienna has remained unanswered for two days. The
German Ambassador has left unexpectedly for Berlin on urgent
business. We have just heard, too, that a secret mission from
Russia left St. Petersburg last night for Paris. Side by side with
all this," Sir James continued, "the Czar is trying to evade his
promised visit here. The note we have received speaks of his
health. Well, we know all about that. We know, I may tell you,
that his health has never been better than at the present moment."
"It all means one thing and one thing only," Bellamy affirmed. "In
Vienna and Berlin to-day they look at an Englishman and smile. Even
the man in the street seems to know what is coming."
Sir James leaned a little back in his seat. His hands were tightly
clenched, and there was a fierce light in his hollow eyes. Those
who were intimate with him knew that he had aged many years during
the last few weeks.
"The cruel part is," he said softly, "that it should have come in
my administration, when for ten years I have prayed from the
Opposition benches for the one thing which would have made us safe
"An army," murmured Bellamy.
"The days are coming," Sir James continued, "when those who prated
of militarism and the security of our island walls will see with
their own eyes the ruin they have brought upon us. Secretly we are
mobilizing all that we have to mobilize," he added, with a little
sigh. "At the very best, however, our position is pitiful. Even
if we are prepared to defend, I am afraid that we shall see things
on the Continent in which we shall be driven to interfere, or else
suffer the greatest blow which our prestige has ever known. If we
could only tell what was coming!" he wound up, looking once more at
those empty sheets of paper. "It is this darkness which is so
Bellamy turned toward the door.
"You have the telephone in your bedroom, sir?" he asked.
"Yes, ring me up at any time in the night or morning, if you have
Bellamy drove at once to Dover Street. It was half-past one, but
he had no fear of not being admitted. Louise's French maid answered
"Madame has not retired?" Bellamy inquired.
"But no, sir," the woman assured him, with a welcoming smile. "It
is only a few minutes ago that she has returned."
Bellamy was ushered at once into her room. She was gorgeous in blue
satin and pearls. Her other maid was taking off her jewels. She
dismissed both the women abruptly.
"I absolutely couldn't avoid a supper-party," she said, holding out
her hands. "You expected that, of course. You were not at the
He shook his head, and walking to the door tried the handle. It
was securely closed. He came back slowly to her side. Her eyes
were questioning him fiercely.
"Well?" she exclaimed. "Well?"
"Have you heard from Von Behrling?"
"No," she answered. "He knew that I must sing to-night. I have
been expecting him to telephone every moment since I got home. You
have seen him?"
"I have seen him," Bellamy admitted. "Either he has deceived us
both, or the most unfortunate mistake in the world has happened.
Listen. I met him where he appointed. He was there, disguised,
almost unrecognizable. He was nervous and desperate; he had the air
of a man who has cut himself adrift from the world. I gave him the
money, - twenty thousand pounds in Bank of England notes, Louise,
- and he gave me the papers, or what we thought were the papers.
He told me that he was keeping a false duplicate upon him for a
little time, in case he was seized, but that he was going to
Liverpool Street station to wait, and would telephone you from the
hotel there later on. You have not heard yet, then?"
She shook her head.
"There has been no message, but go on."
"He gave me the wrong document - the wrong envelope," continued
Bellamy. "When I took it to - to Downing Street, it was full of
The color slowly left her cheeks. She looked at him with horror in
"Do you think that he meant to do it?" she exclaimed.
"We cannot tell," Bellamy answered. "My own impression is that he
did not. We must find out at once what has become of him. He might
even, if he fancies himself safe, destroy the envelope he has,
believing it to be the duplicate. He is sure to telephone you. The
moment you hear you must let me know."
"You had better stay here," she declared. "There are plenty of
rooms. You will be on the spot then."
Bellamy shook his head.
"The joke of it is that I, too, am being watched whereever I go.
That fellow Streuss has spies everywhere. That is one reason why
I believe that Von Behrling was serious.
"Oh, he was serious!" Louise repeated.
"You are sure?" Bellamy asked. "You have never had even any doubt
"Never," she answered firmly. "David, I had not meant to tell you
this. You know that I saw him for a moment this morning. He was
in deadly earnest. He gave me a ring - a trifle - but it had
belonged to his mother. He would not have done this if he had been
playing us false."
Bellamy sprang to his feet.
"You are right, Louise!" he exclaimed. "I shall go back to my rooms
at once. Fortunately, I had a man shadowing Von Behrling, and there
may be a report for me. If anything comes here, you will telephone
"Of course," she assented.
"You do not think it possible," he asked slowly, "that he would
attempt to see you here?"
Louise shuddered for a moment.
"I absolutely forbade it, so I am sure there is no chance of that."
"Very well, then," he decided, "we will wait. Dear," he added, in
an altered tone, "how splendid you look!"
Her face suddenly softened.
"Ah, David!" she murmured, "to hear you speak naturally even for a
moment - it makes everything seem so different!"
He held out his arms and she came to him with a little sigh of
"Louise," he said, "some day the time may come when we shall be able
to give up this life of anxiety and terrors. But it cannot be yet
- not for your country's sake or mine.
She kissed him fondly.
"So long as there is hope!" she whispered.
VON BEHRLING'S FATE
It seemed to Louise that she had scarcely been in bed an hour when
the more confidential of her maids - Annette, the Frenchwoman - woke
her with a light touch of the arm. She sat up in bed sleepily.
"What is it, Annette?" she asked. "Surely it is not mid-day yet?
Why do you disturb me?"
"It is barely nine o'clock, Mademoiselle, but Monsieur Bellamy -
Mademoiselle told me that she wished to receive him whenever he came.
He is in the boudoir now, and very impatient."
"Did he send any message?"
"Only that his business was of the most urgent," the maid replied.
Louise sighed, - she was really very sleepy. Then, as the thoughts
began to crowd into her brain, she began also to remember. Some
part of the excitement of a few hours ago returned.
"My bath, Annette, and a dressing-gown," she ordered. "Tell Monsieur
Bellamy that I hurry. I will be with him in twenty minutes."
To Bellamy, the twenty minutes were minutes of purgatory. She came
at last, however, fresh and eager; her hair tied up with ribbon, she
herself clad in a pink dressing-gown and pink slippers.
"David!" she cried, - "my dear David -!"
Then she broke off.
"What is it?" she asked, in a different tone.
He showed her the headlines of the newspaper he was carrying.
"Tragedy!" he answered hoarsely. "Von Behrling was true, after all,
- at least, it seems so."
"What has happened?" she demanded.
Bellamy pointed once more to the newspaper.
"He was murdered last night, within fifty yards of the place of our
A little exclamation broke from Louise's lips. She sat down
suddenly. The color called into her cheeks by the exercise of her
bath was rapidly fading away.
"David," she murmured, "is this true?"
"It is indeed," Bellamy assured her. "Not only that, but there is
no mention of his pocket-book in the account of his murder. It must
have been engineered by Streuss and the others, and they have got
away with the pocket-book and the money."
"What can we do?" she asked.
"There is nothing to be done," Bellamy declared calmly. "We are
defeated. The thing is quite apparent. Von Behrling never
succeeded, after all, in shaking off the espionage of the men who
were watching him. They tracked him to our rendezvous, they waited
about while I met him. Afterwards, he had to pass along a narrow
passage. It was there that he was found murdered."
"But, David, I don't understand! Why did they wait until after he
had seen you? How did they know that he had not parted with the
paper in the restaurant? To all intents and purposes he ought to
have done so."
"I cannot understand that myself," Bellamy admitted. "In fact, it
She took up the newspaper and glanced at the report. Then, "You
are sure, I suppose, that this does refer to Von Behrling? He is
quite unidentified, you see."
"There is no doubt about it," Bellamy declared. "I have been to
the Mortuary. It is certainly he. All our work has been in vain
- just as I thought, too, that we had made a splendid success of
She looked at him compassionately.
"It is hard lines, dear," she admitted. "You are tired, too. You
look as though you had been up all night."
"Yes, I am tired," he answered, sinking into a chair. "I am worse
than tired. This has been the grossest failure of my career, and I
am afraid that it is the end of everything. I have lost twenty
thousand pounds of Secret Service money; I have lost the one chance
which might have saved England. They will never trust me again."
"You did your best," she said, coming over and sitting on the arm
of his chair. "You did your best, David."
She laid her hands upon his forehead, her cheek against his - smooth
and cold - exquisitely refreshing it seemed to his jaded nerves.
"Ah, Louise!" he murmured, "life is getting a little too strenuous.
Perhaps we have given too much of it up to others. What do you
She shook her head.
"Dear, I have felt like that sometimes, yet what can we do? Could
we be happy, you and I, in exile, if the things which we dread were
coming to pass? Could I go away and hide while my countrymen were
being butchered out of existence? - And you - you are not the sort
of man to be content with an ignoble peace. No, it isn't possible.
Our work may not be over yet - "
There was a knock at the door, and Annette entered with many
"Mademoiselle," she explained, "a thousand pardons, and to Monsieur
also, but there is a gentleman here who says that his business is
of the most urgent importance, and that he must see you at once. I
have done all that I can, but he will not go away. He knows that
Monsieur Bellamy is here, too," she added, turning to him, "and
he says his business has to do with Monsieur as well as Mademoiselle."
Bellamy almost snatched the card from the girl's fingers. He read
out the name in blank amazement.
"Baron de Streuss!"
There was a moment's silence. Louise and he exchanged wondering
"What can this mean?" she asked hoarsely.
"Heaven knows!" he answered. "Let us see him together. After all
- after all - "
"You can show the gentleman in, Annette," her mistress ordered.
"If he has the papers," Bellamy continued slowly, "why does he come
to us? It is not like these men to be vindictive. Diplomacy to
them is nothing - a game of chess. I do not understand."
The door opened. Annette announced their visitor. Streuss bowed
low to Louise - he bowed, also, to Bellamy.
"I need not introduce myself," he said. "With Mr. Bellamy I have
the honor to be well acquainted. Madame is known to all the world."
Louise nodded, somewhat coldly.
"We can dispense with an introduction, I think, Monsieur le Baron,"
she said. "At the same time, you will perhaps explain to what I
owe this somewhat unexpected pleasure?"
"Mademoiselle, an explanation there must certainly be. I know that
it is an impossible hour. I know, too, that to have forced my
presence upon you in this manner may seem discourteous. Yet the
urgency of the matter, I am convinced, justifies me.
Louise motioned him to a chair, but he declined with a little bow
"Mademoiselle," he said, "and you, Mr. Bellamy, we need not waste
words. We have played a game of chess together. You, Mademoiselle,
and Mr. Bellamy on the one side - I and my friends upon the other.
The honor of Rudolph Von Behrling was the pawn for which we fought.
The victory remains with you."
Bellamy never moved a muscle. Louise, on the contrary, could not
help a slight start.
"Under the circumstances," the Baron continued smoothly, "the
struggle was uneven. I do myself the justice to remember that from
the first I realized that we played a losing game. Mademoiselle,"
he added, "from the days of Cleopatra - ay, and throughout those
shadowy days which lie beyond - the diplomats of the world have been
powerless when matched against your sex. Rudolph Von Behrling was
an honest fellow enough until he looked into your eyes. Mademoiselle,
you have gifts which might, perhaps, have driven from his senses a
Louise smiled, but there was no suggestion of mirth in the curl of
her lips. Her eyes all the time sought his questioningly. She did
"You flatter me, Baron," she murmured.
"No, I do not flatter you, I speak the truth. This plain talking
is pleasant enough when the time comes that one may indulge in it.
That time, I think, is now. Rudolph Von Behrling, against my advice,
but because he was the Chancellor's nephew, was associated with me
in a certain enterprise, the nature of which is no secret to you,
Mademoiselle, or to Mr. Bellamy here. We followed a man who, by
some strange chance, was in possession of a few sheets of foolscap,
the contents of which were alike priceless to my country and
priceless to yours. The subsequent history of those papers should
have been automatic. The first step was fulfilled readily enough.
The man disappeared - the papers were ours. Von Behrling was the
man who secured them, and Von Behrling it was who retained them.
If my advice had been followed, I admit frankly that we should have
ignored all possible comment and returned with them at once to
Vienna. The others thought differently. They ruled that we should
come on to London and deposit the packet with our Ambassador here.
In a weak moment I consented. It was your opportunity, Mademoiselle,
an opportunity of which you have splendidly availed yourself."
This time Louise held herself with composure. Bellamy's brain was
in a whirl but he remained silent.
"I come to you both," the Baron continued, "with my hands open. I
come - I make no secret of it - I come to make terms. But first of
all I must know whether I am in time. There is one question which
I must ask. I address it, sir, to you," he added, turning to
Bellamy. "Have you yet placed in the hands of your Government the
papers which you obtained from Von Behrling?"
Bellamy shook his head.
The Baron drew a long breath of relief. Though he had maintained
his savoir faire perfectly, the fingers which for a moment played
with his tie, as though to rearrange it, were trembling.
"Well, then, I am in time. Will you see my hand?"
"Mademoiselle and I," answered Bellamy, "are at least ready to
listen to anything you may have to say."
"You know quite well," the Baron continued, "what it is that I have
come to say, yet I want you to remember this. I do not come to
bribe you in any ordinary manner. The things which are to come will
happen; they must happen, if not this year, next, - if not next year,
within half a decade of years. History is an absolute science. The
future as well as the past can be read by those who know the signs.
The thing which has been resolved upon is certain. The knowledge
of the contents of those papers by your Government might delay the
final catastrophe for a short while; it could do no more. In the
long run, it would be better for your country, Mr. Bellamy, in every
way, that the end come soon. Therefore, I ask you to perform no
traitorous deed. I ask you to do that which is simply reasonable
for all of us, which is, indeed, for the advantage of all of us.
restore those papers to me instead of handing them to your Government,
and I will pay you for them the sum of one hundred thousand pounds!"
"One hundred thousand pounds " Bellamy repeated.
"One hundred thousand pounds!" murmured Louise.
There was a brief, intense pause. Louise waited, warned by the
expression in Bellamy's face. Silence, she felt, was safest, and it
was Bellamy who spoke.
"Baron," said he, "your visit and your proposal are both a little
amazing. Forgive me if I speak alone with Mademoiselle for a moment."
"Most certainly," the Baron agreed. "I go away and leave you - out
of the room, if you will."
"It is not necessary," Bellamy replied. "Louise!" The Baron
withdrew to the window, and Bellamy led Louise into the furthest
corner of the room.
"What can it mean?" he whispered. "What do you suppose has happened?"
"I cannot imagine. My brain is in a whirl."
"If they have not got the pocket-book," Bellamy muttered, "it must
have gone with Von Behrling to the Mortuary. If so, there is a
chance. Louise, say nothing; leave this to me."
"As you will," she assented. "I have no wish to interfere. I only
hope that he does not ask me any questions."
They came once more into the middle of the room, and the Baron
turned to meet them.
"You must forgive Mademoiselle," said Bellamy, "if she is a little
upset this morning. She knows, of course, as I know and you know,
that Von Behrling was playing a desperate game, and that he carried
his life in his hands. Yet his death has been a shock - has been a
shock, I may say, to both of us. From your point of view," Bellamy
went on, "it was doubtless deserved, but - "
"What, in God's name, is this that you say?" the Baron interrupted.
"I do not understand at all! You speak of Von Behrling's death!
What do you mean?"
Bellamy looked at him as one who listens to strange words.
"Baron," he said, "between us who know so much there is surely no
need for you to play a part. Von Behrling knew that you were
watching him. Your spies were shadowing him as they have done me.
He knew that he was running terrible risks. He was not unprepared
and he has paid. It is not for us - "
"Now, in God's name, tell me the truth!" Baron de Streuss interrupted
once more. "What is it that you are saying about Von Behrling's
Bellamy drew a little breath between his teeth. He leaned forward
with his hands resting upon the table.
"Do you mean to say that you do not know?"
"Upon my soul, no!" replied the Baron.
Bellamy threw open the newspaper before him.
"Von Behrling was murdered last night, ten minutes after our
BARON DE STREUSS' PROPOSAL
The Baron adjusted his eyeglass with shaking fingers. His face now
was waxen-white as he spread out the newspaper upon the table and
read the paragraph word by word.
TERRIBLE CRIME IN THE CITY
Early this morning the body of a man was discovered
in a narrow passageway leading from Crooked Friars to
Royal Street, under circumstances which leave little
doubt but that the man's death was owing to foul play.
The deceased had apparently been stabbed, and had
received several severe blows about the head. He was
shabbily dressed but was well supplied with money, and
he was wearing a gold watch and chain when he was found.
There appears to be no further doubt but that the man
found in the entry leading from Crooked Friars had been
the victim of a particularly murderous assault. Neither
his clothes nor his linen bore any mark by means of which
he could be identified. The body has been removed to the
nearest mortuary, and an inquest will shortly be held.
Streuss looked up from the newspaper and the reality of his surprise
was apparent. He had all the appearance of a man shaken with emotion.
While he looked at his two companions wonderingly, strange thoughts
were forming in his mind.
"Von Behrling dead!" he muttered. "But who - who could have done
"Until this moment," Bellamy answered dryly, "it was not a matter
concerning which we had any doubt. The only wonder to us was that
it should have been done too late."
"You mean," Streuss said slowly, "that he was murdered after he had
completed his bargain with you?"
"I suppose," the Baron continued, "there is no question but that it
was done afterwards? You smile," he exclaimed, "but what am I to
think? Neither I nor my people had any hand in this deed. How about
Bellamy shook his head.
"We do not fight that way," he replied. "I had bought Von Behrling.
He was of no further interest to me. I did not care whether he
lived or died."
"There is something very strange about this," the Baron said. "If
neither you nor I were responsible for his death, who was?"
"That I can't tell you. Perhaps later in the day we shall hear from
the police. It is scarcely the sort of murder which would remain
long undetected, especially as he was robbed of a large sum in
"Supplied by His Majesty's Government, I presume?" Streuss remarked.
"Precisely," Bellamy assented, "and paid to him by me."
"At any rate," Streuss said grimly, "we have now no more secrets
from one another. I will ask you one last question. Where is that
packet at the present moment?"
Bellamy raised his eyebrows.
"It is a question," he declared, "which you could scarcely expect me
"I will put it another way," Streuss continued. "Supposing you
decide to accept my offer, how long will it be before the packet can
be placed in my hands?"
"If we decide to accept," Bellamy answered, "there is no reason why
there should be any delay at all."
Streuss was silent for several moments. His hands were thrust deep
down into the pockets of his overcoat. With eyes fixed upon the
tablecloth, he seemed to be thinking deeply, till presently he raised
his head and looked steadily at Bellamy.
"You are sure that Von Behrling has not fooled you? You are sure
that you have that identical packet?"
"I am absolutely certain that I have," Bellamy answered, without
"Then accept my price and have done with this matter," Streuss
begged. "I will sign a draft for you here, and I will undertake
to bring you the money, or honor it wherever you say, within
"I cannot decide so quickly," said Bellamy, shaking his head.
"Mademoiselle Idiale and I must talk together first. I am not sure,"
he added, "whether I might not find a higher bidder."
Streuss laughed mirthlessly.
"There is little fear of that," he said. "The papers are of no
use except to us and to England. To England, I will admit that the
foreknowledge of what is to come would be worth much, although the
eventful result would be the same. It is for that reason that I am
here, for that reason that I have made you this offer."
"Mademoiselle and I must discuss it," Bellamy declared. "It is not
a matter to be decided upon off-hand. Remember that it is not only
the packet which you are offering to buy, but also my career and my
"One hundred thousand pounds," Streuss said slowly. "From your own
side you get nothing - nothing but your beggarly salary and an
occasional reprimand. One hundred thousand pounds is not immense
wealth, but it is something."
"Your offer is a generous one," admitted Bellamy, "there is no doubt
about that. On the other hand, I cannot decide without further
consideration. It is a big thing for us, remember. I have worked
very hard for the contents of that packet."
Once more Streuss felt an uneasy pang of incredulity. After all,
was this Englishman playing with him? So he asked: "You are quite
sure that you have it?"
"There is no means of convincing you of which I care to make use.
You must be content with my word. I have the packet. I paid Von
Behrling for it and he gave it to me with his own hands."
"I must accept your word," Streuss declared. "I give you three days
for reflection. Before I go, Mr. Bellamy, forgive me if I refer
once more to this," - touching the newspaper which still lay upon
the table. "Remember that Rudolph Von Behrling moved about a marked
man. Your spies and mine were most of the time upon his heels. Yet
in the end some third person seems to have intervened. Are you
quite sure that you know nothing of this?"
"Upon my honor," Bellamy replied, "I have not the slightest
information concerning Von Behrling's death beyond what you can read
there. It was as great a surprise to me as to you."
"It is incomprehensible," Streuss murmured.
"One can only conclude," Bellamy remarked thoughtfully, "that someone
must have seen him with those notes. There were people moving about
in the little restaurant where we met. The rustle of bank-notes has
cost more than one man his life.
"For the present," Streuss said, "we must believe that it was so.
Listen to me, both of you. You will be wiser if you do not delay.
You are young people, and the world is before you. With money one
can do everything. Without it, life is but a slavery. The world
is full of beautiful dwelling-places for those who have the means
to choose. Remember, too, that not a soul will ever know of this
transaction, if you should decide to accept my offer."
"We shall remember all those things," Bellamy assured him.
Streuss took up his hat and gloves.
"With your permission, then, Mademoiselle," he concluded, turning to
Louise, "I go. I must try and understand for myself the meaning of
this thing which has happened to Von Behrling."
"Do not forget," Bellamy said, "that if you discover anything, we
are equally interested." . . .
They heard him go out. Bellamy purposely held the door open until
he saw the lift descend. Then he closed it firmly and came back
into the room. Louise and he looked at each other, their faces full
of anxious questioning.
"What does it mean?" Louise cried. "What can it mean?"
"Heaven alone knows!" Bellamy answered. "There is not a gleam of
daylight. My people are absolutely innocent of any attempt upon Von
Behrling. If Streuss tells the truth, and I believe he does, his
people are in the same position. Who, then, in the name of all that
is miraculous, can have murdered and robbed Von Behrling?"
"In London, too," Louise murmured. "It is not Vienna, this, or
"You are right," Bellamy agreed. "London is one of the most
law-abiding cities in Europe. Besides, the quarter where the murder
occurred is entirely unfrequented by the criminal classes. It is
simply a region of great banks and the offices of merchant princes.
"Is it possible that there is some one else who knew about that
document?" Louise asked, - "some one else who has been watching Von
Bellamy shook his head.
"How can that be? Besides, if any one else were really on his track,
they must have believed that he had parted with it to me. I shall
go back now to Downing Street to ask for a letter to the Chief of
Scotland Yard. If anything comes out, I must have plenty of warning."
"And I," she said, with an approving nod, "shall go back to bed
again. These days are too strenuous for me. Won't you stay and take
your coffee with me?"
Bellamy held her hand for a moment in his.
"Dear," he said, "I would stay, but you understand, don't you, what
a maze this is into which we have wandered. Von Behrling has been
murdered by some person who seems to have dropped from the skies.
Whoever they may be, they have in their possession my twenty
thousand pounds and the packet which should have been mine. I must
trace them if I can, Louise. It is a poor chance, but I must do
my best. I myself am of the opinion that Von Behrling was murdered
for the money, and for the money only. If so, that packet may be
in the hands of people who have no idea what use to make of it.
They may even destroy it. If Streuss returns and you are forced to
see him, be careful. Remember, we have the document - we are
hesitating. So long as he believes that it is in our possession,
he will not look elsewhere."
"I will be careful," Louise promised, with her arms around his neck.
"And, dear, take care. When I think of poor Rudolph Von Behrling,
I tremble, also, for you. It seems to me that your danger is no
less than his."
"I do not go about with twenty thousand pounds in my pocket-book,"
with a smile.
She shook her head.
"No, but Streuss believes that you have the document which he is
pledged to recover. Be careful that they do not lead you into a
trap. They are not above anything, these men. I heard once of a
Bulgarian in Vienna who was tortured - tortured almost to death
- before he spoke. Then they thrust him into a lunatic asylum.
Remember, dear, they have no consciences and no pity."
"We are in London," he reminded her.
"So was Von Behrling," she answered quickly, - "not only in London
but in a safe part of London. Yet he is dead."
"It was not their doing," he declared. "In their own country, they
have the whole machinery of their wonderful police system at their
backs, and no fear of the law in their hearts. Here they must needs
go cautiously. I don't think you need be afraid," he added, smiling,
as he opened the door. "I think I can promise you that if you will
do me the honor we will sup together to-night."
"You must fetch me from the Opera House," Louise insisted. "It is
a bargain. I have suffered enough neglect at your hands. One thing,
David, - where do you go first from here?"
"To find the man," Bellamy answered gravely, "who was watching Von
Behrling when he left me. If any man in England knows anything of
the murder, it must be he. He should be at my rooms by now."
STEPHEN LAVERICK'S CONSCIENCE
Stephen Laverick was a bachelor - his friends called him an
incorrigible one. He had a small but pleasantly situated suite of
rooms in Whitehall Court, looking out upon the river. His habits
were almost monotonous in their regularity, and the morning
following his late night in the city was no exception to the
general rule. At eight o'clock, the valet attached to the suite
knocked at his door and informed him that his bath was ready. He
awoke at once from a sound sleep, sat up in bed, and remembered the
events of the preceding evening.
At first he was inclined to doubt that slowly stirring effort of
memory. He was a man of unromantic temperament, unimaginative, and
by no means of an adventurous turn of mind. He sought naturally
for the most reasonable explanation of this strange picture, which
no effort of his will could dismiss from his memory. It was a dream,
of course. But the dream did not fade. Slowly it spread itself out
so that he could no longer doubt. He knew very well as he sat there
on the edge of his bed that the thing was truth. He, Stephen
Laverick, a man hitherto of upright character, with a reputation of
which unconsciously he was proud, had robbed a dead man, had looked
into the burning eyes of his murderer, had stolen away with twenty
thousand pounds of someone else's money. Morally, at any rate, -
probably legally as well, - he was a thief. A glimpse inside his
safe on the part of an astute detective might very easily bring him
under the grave suspicion of being a criminal of altogether deeper
Stephen Laverick was, in his way, something of a philosopher. In
the cold daylight, with the sound of the water running into his bath,
this deed which he had done seemed to him foolish and reprehensible.
Nevertheless, he realized the absolute finality of his action. The
thing was done; he must make the best of it. Behaving in every way
like a sensible man, he did not send for the newspapers and search
hysterically for their account of last night's tragedy, but took his
bath as usual, dressed with more than ordinary care, and sat down
to his breakfast before he even unfolded the paper. The item for
which he searched occupied by no means so prominent a position as
he had expected. It appeared under one of the leading headlines,
but it consisted of only a few words. He read them with interest
but without emotion. Afterwards he turned to the Stock Exchange
quotations and made notes of a few prices in which he was interested.
He completed in leisurely fashion an excellent breakfast and followed
his usual custom of walking along the Embankment as far as the Royal
Hotel, where he called a taxicab and drove to his offices. A little
crowd had gathered around the end of the passage which led from
Crooked Friars, and Laverick himself leaned forward and looked
curiously at the spot where the body of the murdered man had lain.
It seemed hard to him to reconstruct last night's scene in his mind
now that the narrow street was filled with hurrying men and a stream
of vehicles blocked every inch of the roadway. In his early morning
mood the thing was impossible. In a moment or two he paid his driver
and dismissed him.
He fancied that a certain relief was visible among his clerks when
he opened the door at precisely his usual time and with a cheerful
"Good-morning!" made his way into the private office. He lit his
customary cigarette and dealt rapidly with the correspondence which
was brought in to him by his head-clerk. Afterwards, as soon as he
was alone, he opened the safe, thrust the contents of that inner
drawer into his breast-pocket, and took up once more his hat and
"I am going around to the bank," he told his clerk as he passed out.
"I shall be back in half-an-hour - perhaps less."
"Very good, sir," the man answered. "Will Mr. Morrison be here this
"No, Mr. Morrison will not be here to-day."
It was only a few steps to his bankers, and his request for an
interview with the manager was immediately granted. The latter
received him kindly but with a certain restraint. There are not
many secrets in the city, and Morrison's big plunge on a particular
mining share, notwithstanding its steady drop, had been freely
"What can I do for you, Mr. Laverick?" the banker asked.
"I am not sure," answered Laverick. "To tell you the truth, I am
in a somewhat singular position."
The banker nodded. He had not a doubt but that he understood
exactly what that position was.
"You have perhaps heard," Laverick continued slowly, "that my late
partner, Mr. Morrison, - "
"Late partner?" the manager interrupted.
"We had a few words last night," he explained "and Mr. Morrison
left the office with an understanding between us that he should not
return. You will receive a formal intimation of that during the
course of the next day or so. We will revert to the matter
presently, if you wish. My immediate business with you is to
discuss the fact that I have to provide something like twenty
thousand pounds to-day if I decide to take up the purchases of stock
which Morrison has made."
"You understand the position, of course, Mr. Laverick, if you fail
to do so?" the manager remarked gravely.
"Naturally," Laverick answered. "I am quite aware of the fact that
Morrison acted on behalf of the firm and that I am responsible for
his transactions. He has plunged pretty deeply, though, a great
deal more deeply than our capital warranted. I may add that I had
not the slightest idea as to the extent of his dealings."
The bank manager adopted a sympathetic but serious attitude.
"Twenty thousand pounds," he declared, "is a great deal of money,
"It is a great deal of money," Laverick admitted. "I am here to
ask you to lend it to me.
The bank manager raised his eyebrows.
"My dear Mr. Laverick!" he exclaimed reproachfully.
"Upon unimpeachable security," Laverick continued. The bank manager
was conscious that he had allowed a little start of surprise to
escape him, and bit his lip with annoyance. It was entirely contrary
to his tenets to display at any time during office hours any sort of
"Unimpeachable security," he repeated. "Of course, if you have that
to offer, Mr. Laverick, although the sum is a large one, it is our
business to see what we can do for you."
"My security is of the best," Laverick declared grimly. "I have
bank-notes here, Mr. Fenwick, for twenty thousand pounds."
The bank manager was again guilty of an unprofessional action. He
whistled softly under his breath. A very respectable client he
had always considered Mr. Stephen Laverick, but he had certainly
never suspected him of being able to produce at a pinch such evidence
of means. Laverick smoothed out the notes and laid them upon the
"Mr. Fenwick," he said, "I believe I am right in assuming that when
one comes to one's bankers, one enters, as it were, into a
confessional. I feel convinced that nothing which I say to you will
be repeated outside this office, or will be allowed to dwell in your
own mind except with reference to this particular transaction between
you and me. I have the right, have I not, to take that for granted?"
"Most certainly," the banker agreed.
"From a strictly ethical point of view," Laverick went on, "this
money is not mine. I hold it in trust for its owner, but I hold it
without any conditions . I have power to make what use I wish of
it, and I choose to-day to use it on my own behalf. Whether I am
justified or not is scarcely a matter, I presume, which concerns
this excellent banking establishment over which you preside so ably.
I do not pay these bank-notes in to my account and ask you to
credit me with twenty thousand pounds. I ask you to allow me to
deposit them here for seven days as security against an overdraft.
You can then advance me enough money to meet my engagements of
The banker took up the notes and looked them through, one by one.
They were very crisp, very new, and absolutely genuine.
"This is somewhat an extraordinary proceeding, Mr. Laverick," he
"I have no doubt that it must seem so to you," Laverick admitted.
"At the same time, there the money is. You can run no risk. If I
am exceeding my moral right in making use of these notes, it is I
who will have to pay. Will you do as I ask?"
The banker hesitated. The transaction was somewhat a peculiar one,
but on the face of it there could be no possible risk. At the same
time, there was something about it which he could not understand.
"Your wish, Mr. Laverick," he remarked, looking at him thoughtfully,
"seems to be to keep these notes out of circulation."
Laverick returned his gaze without flinching.
"In a sense, that is so," he assented.
"On the whole," the banker declared, "I should prefer to credit
them to your account in the usual way."
"I am sorry," Laverick answered, "but I have a sentimental feeling
about it. I prefer to keep the notes intact. If you cannot follow
out my suggestion, I must remove my account at once. This isn't a
threat, Mr. Fenwick, - you will understand that, I am sure. It is
simply a matter of business, and owing to Morrison's speculations
I have no time for arguments. I am quite satisfied to remain in
your hands, but my feeling in the matter is exactly as I have stated,
and I cannot change. If you are to retain my account, my
engagements for to-day must be met precisely in the way I have
The banker excused himself and left the room for a few moments.
When he returned, he shrugged his shoulders with the air of one who
is giving in to an unreasonable client.
"It shall be as you say, Mr. Laverick," he announced. "The notes
are placed upon deposit. Your engagements to-day up to twenty
thousand pounds shall be duly honored."
Laverick shook hands with him, talked for a moment or two about
indifferent matters, and strolled back towards his office. He had
rather the sense of a man who moves in a dream, who is living,
somehow, in a life which doesn't belong to him. He was doing the
impossible. He knew very well that his name was in every one's
mouth. People were looking at him sympathetically, wondering how
he could have been such a fool as to become the victim of an
irresponsible speculator. No one ever imagined that he would be
able to keep his engagements. And he had done it. The price
might be a great one, but he was prepared to pay. At any moment
the sensational news might be upon the placards, and the whole
world might know that the man who had been murdered in Crooked
Friars last night had first been robbed of twenty thousand pounds.
So far he had felt himself curiously free from anything in the
shape of direct apprehensions. Already, however, the shadow was
beginning to fall. Even as he entered his office, the sight of a
stranger offering office files for sale made him start. He half
expected to feel a hand upon his shoulder, a few words whispered in
his ear. He set his teeth tight. This was his risk and he must
For several hours he remained in his office, engaged in a scheme
for the redirection of its policy. With the absence of Morrison,
too, there were other changes to be made, - changes in the nature
of the business they were prepared to handle, limits to be fixed.
It was not until nearly luncheon time that the telephone, the
simultaneous arrival of several clients, and the breathless entry
of his own head-clerk rushing in from the house, told him what was
"'Unions' have taken their turn at last!" the clerk announced, in
an excited tone. "They sagged a little this morning, but since
eleven they have been going steadily up. Just now there seems to
be a boom. Listen."
Laverick heard the roar of voices in the street, and nodded. He
was prepared to be surprised at nothing.
"They were bound to go within a day or two," he remarked. "Morrison
wasn't an absolute idiot."
The luncheon hour passed. The excitement in the city grew. By
three o'clock, ten thousand pounds would have covered all of
Laverick's engagements. Just before closing-time, it was even
doubtful whether he might not have borrowed every penny without
security at all. He took it all quite calmly and as a matter of
course. He left the office a little earlier than usual, and every
man whom he met stopped to slap him on the back and chaff him. He
escaped as soon as he could, bought the evening papers, found a
taxicab, and as soon as he had started spread them open. It was
a remarkable proof of the man's self-restraint that at no time
during the afternoon had he sent out for one of these early editions.
He turned them over now with firm fingers. There was absolutely no
fresh news. No one had come forward with any suggestion as to the
identity of the murdered man. All day long the body had lain in
the Mortuary, visited by a constant stream of the curious, but
presumably unrecognized. Laverick could scarcely believe the words
he read. The thing seemed ludicrously impossible. The twenty
thousand pounds must have come from some one. Why did they keep
silence? What was the mystery about it? Could it be that they were
not in a position to disclose the fact? Curiously enough, this
unnatural absence of news inspired him with something which was
almost fear. He had taken his risks boldly enough. Now that Fate
was playing him this unexpectedly good turn, he was conscious of a
growing nervousness. Who could he have been, this man? Whence
could he have derived this great sum? One person at least must
know that he had been robbed - the man who murdered him must know
it. A cold shiver passed through Laverick's veins at the thought.
Somewhere in London there must be a man thirsting for his blood,
a man who had committed a murder in vain and been robbed of his
Laverick had no engagements for that evening, but instead of going
to his club he drove straight to his rooms, meaning to change a
little early for dinner and go to a theatre, lie found there,
however, a small boy waiting for him with a note in his hand. It
was addressed in pencil only, and his name was printed upon it.
Laverick tore it open with a haste which he only imperfectly
concealed. There was something ominous to him in those printed
characters. Its contents, however, were short enough.
I must see you. Come the moment you get this. Come without fail,
for your own sake and mine. A. M.
Laverick looked at the boy. His fingers were trembling, but it
was with relief. The note was from Morrison.
"There is no address here," he remarked.
"The gent said as I was to take you back with me," the boy answered.
"Is it far?" Laverick asked.
"Close to Red Lion Square," the boy declared. "Not more nor five
minutes in one of them taxicabs. The gent said we was to take
one. He is in a great hurry to see you."
Laverick did not hesitate a moment."
"Very well," he said, "we'll start at once.
He put on his hat again and waited while the commissionaire called
them a taxicab.
"What address?" he asked.
"Number 7, Theobald Square," the boy said. Laverick nodded and
repeated the address to the driver.
"What the dickens can Morrison be doing in a part like that!" he
thought, as they passed up Northumberland Avenue.
ARTHUR MORRISON'S COLLAPSE
The Square was a small one, and in a particularly unsavory
neighborhood. Laverick, who had once visited his partner's somewhat
extensive suite of rooms in Jermyn Street, rang the bell doubtfully.
The door was opened almost at once, not by a servant but by a young
lady who was obviously expecting him. Before he could open his lips
to frame an inquiry, she had closed the door behind him.
"Will you please come this way?" she said timidly.
Laverick found himself in a small sitting-room, unexpectedly neat,
and with the plainness of its furniture relieved by certain
undeniable traces of some cultured presence. The girl who had
followed him stood with her back to the door, a little out of breath.
Laverick contemplated her in surprise. She was under medium height,
with small pale face and wonderful dark eyes. Her brown hair was
parted in the middle and arranged low down, so that at first, taking
into account her obvious nervousness, he thought that she was a
child. When she spoke, however, he knew that for some reason she
was afraid. Her voice was soft and low, but it was the voice of a
"It is Mr. Laverick, is it not?" she asked, looking at him eagerly.
"My name is Stephen Laverick," he admitted. "I understood that I
should find Mr. Arthur Morrison here."
"Yes," the girl answered, "he sent for you. The note was from him.
He is here."
She made no movement to summon him. She still stood, in fact, with
her back to the door. Laverick was distinctly puzzled. He felt
himself unable to place this timid, childlike woman, with her
terrified face and beautiful eyes. He had never heard Morrison
speak of having any relations. His presence in such a locality,
indeed, was hard to understand unless he had met with an accident.
Morrison was one of those young men who would have chosen Hell with
a "W" rather than Heaven E. C.
"I am afraid," Laverick said, "that for some reason or other you
are afraid of me. I can assure you that I am quite harmless," he
added smiling. "Won't you sit down and tell me what is the matter?
Is Mr. Morrison in any trouble?"
"Yes," she answered, "he is. As for me, I am terrified."
She came a little away from the door. Laverick was a man who
inspired trust. His tone, too, was unusually kind. He had the
protective instinct of a big man toward a small woman.
"Come and tell me all about it," he suggested. "I expected to hear
that he had gone abroad."
"Mr. Laverick," she said, looking up at him tremulously. "I was
hoping that you could have told me what it was that had come to him."
"Well, that rather depends," Laverick answered. "We certainly had
a terribly anxious time yesterday. Our business has been most
unfortunate - "
"Yes, yes!" the girl interrupted. "Please go on. There have been
business troubles, then."
"Rather," Laverick continued. "Last night they reached such a
pitch that I gave Morrison some money and it was agreed that he
should leave the firm and try his luck somewhere else. I quite
understood that he was going abroad."
The girl seemed, for some reason, relieved.
"There was something, then," she said, half to herself. "There was
something. Oh, I am glad of that! You were angry with him, perhaps,
Laverick stood with his back to the little fireplace and with his
hands behind him - a commanding figure in the tiny room full of
feminine trifles. He looked a great deal more at his ease than
he really was.
"Perhaps I was inclined to be short-tempered," he admitted. "You
see, to be frank with you, the department of our business that was
going wrong was the one over which Morrison has had sole control.
He had entered into certain speculations which I considered
unjustifiable. To-day, however, matters took an unexpected turn
for the better."
Almost as he spoke his face clouded. Morrison, of course, would be
triumphant. Perhaps he would even expect to be reinstated. For
many reasons, this was a thing which Laverick did not desire.
"Now tell me," he continued, "what is the matter with Morrison, and
why has he sent for me, and, if you will pardon my saying so, why
is he here instead of in his own rooms?"
"I will explain," she began softly.
"You will please explain sitting down," he said firmly. "And don't
look so terrified," he added, with a little laugh. "I can assure
you that I am not going to eat you, or anything of that sort. You
make me feel quite uncomfortable."
She smiled for the first time, and Laverick thought that he had
never seen anything so wonderful as the change in her features. The
strained rigidity passed away. An altogether softer light gleamed
in her wonderful eyes. She was certainly by far the prettiest child
he had ever seen. As yet he could not take her altogether seriously.
"Thank you," she said, sinking down upon the arm of an easy-chair.
"first of all, then, Arthur is here because he is my brother."
"Your brother!" Laverick repeated wonderingly.
Somehow or other, he had never associated Morrison with relations.
Besides, this meant that she must be of his race. There was nothing
in her face to denote it except the darkness of her eyes, and that
nameless charm of manner, a sort of ultra-sensitiveness, which
belongs sometimes to the highest type of Jews. It was not a quality,
Laverick thought, which he should have associated with Morrison's
"My brother, in a way," she resumed. "Arthur's father was a widower
and my mother was a widow when they were married. You are surprised?"
"There is no reason why I should be," he answered, curiously relieved
at her last statement. "Your brother and I have been connected in
business for some years. We have seen very little of one another
"I dare say," she continued, still timidly, "that Arthur's friends
would not be your friends, and that he wouldn't care for the same
sort of things. You see, my mother is dead and also his father, and
as we aren't really related at all, I cannot expect that he would
come to see me very often. Last night, though, quite late - long
after I had gone to bed - he rang the bell here. I was frightened,
for just now I am all alone, and my servant only comes in the
morning. So I looked out of the window and I saw him on the
pavement, huddled up against the door. I hurried down and let him
in. Mr. Laverick," she went on, with an appealing glance at him,
"I have never seen any one look like it. He was terrified to death.
Something seemed to have happened which had taken away from him
even the power of speech. He pushed past me into this room, threw
himself into that chair," she added, pointing across the room, "and
he sobbed and beat his hands upon his knees as though he were a
woman in a fit of hysterics. His clothes were all untidy, he was
as pale as death, and his eyes looked as though they were ready
to start out of his head."
"You must indeed have been frightened," Laverick said softly.
"Frightened! I shall never forget it! I did not sleep all night.
He would tell me nothing - he has scarcely spoken a sensible word.
Early this morning I persuaded him to go upstairs, and made him
lie down. He has taken two draughts which I bought from the chemist,
but he has not slept. Every now and then he tries to get up, but
in a minute or two he throws himself down on the bed again and hides
his face. If any one rings at the bell, he shrieks. If he hears a
footfall in the street, even, he calls out for me. Mr. Laverick, I
have never been so frightened in my life. I didn't know whom to
send for or what to do. When he wrote that note to you I was so
relieved. You can't imagine how glad I am to think you have come!"
Laverick's eyes were full of sympathy. One could see that the
scene of last night had risen up again before her eyes. She was
shrinking back, and the terror was upon her once more. He moved
over to her side, and with an impulse which, when he thought of it
afterwards, amazed him, laid his hand gently upon her shoulder.
"Don't worry yourself thinking about it," he said. "I will talk to
your brother. We did have words, I'll admit, last night, but there
wasn't the slightest reason why it should have upset him in this
way. Things in the city were shocking yesterday, but they have
improved a great deal to-day. Let me go upstairs and I'll try and
pump some courage into him."
"You are so kind," she murmured, suddenly dropping her hands from
before her face and looking up at him with shining eyes, "so very
kind. Will you come, then?"
She rose and he followed her out of the room, up the stairs, and
into a tiny bedroom. Laverick had no time to look around, but it
seemed to him, notwithstanding the cheap white furniture and very
ordinary appointments, that the same note of dainty femininity
pervaded this little apartment as the one below.
"It is my room," she said shyly. "There is no other properly
furnished, and I thought that he might sleep upon the bed."
"Perhaps he is asleep now," Laverick whispered.
Even as he spoke, the dark figure stretched upon the sheets sprang
into a sitting posture. Laverick was conscious of a distinct shock.
It was Morrison, still wearing the clothes in which he had left the
office, his collar crushed out of all shape, his tie vanished. His
black hair, usually so shiny and perfectly arranged, was all
disordered. Out of his staring eyes flashed an expression which one
sees seldom in life, - an expression of real and mortal terror.
"Who is it?" he cried out, and even his voice was unrecognizable.
"Who is that? What do you want?"
"It is I - Laverick," Laverick answered. "What on earth is the
matter with you, man?"
Morrison drew a quick breath. Some part of the terror seemed to
leave his face, but he was still an alarming-looking object.
Laverick quietly opened the door and laid his hand upon the girl's
"Will you leave us alone?" he asked. "I will come and talk to
you afterwards, if I may."
She nodded understandingly, and passed out. Laverick closed the
door and came up to the bedside.
"What in the name of thunder has come over you, Morrison?" he said.
"Are you ill, or what is it?"
Morrison opened his lips - opened them twice - without any sort of
"This is absurd!" Laverick exclaimed protestingly. "I have been
feeling worried myself, but there's nothing so terrifying in losing
one's money, after all. As a matter of fact, things are altogether
better in the city to-day. You made a big mistake in taking us out
of our depth, but we are going to pull through, after all. 'Unions'
have been going up all day."
Laverick's presence, and the sound of his even, matter-of-fact tone,
seemed to act like a tonic upon his late partner. He made no
reference, however, to Laverick's words.
"You got my note?" he asked hoarsely.
"Naturally I got it," Laverick answered impatiently, "and I came at
once. Try and pull yourself together. Sit up and tell me what you
are doing here, frightening your sister out of her life."
"I came here," he muttered, "because I dared not go to my own rooms.
I was afraid!"
Laverick struggled with the contempt he felt.
"Man alive," he exclaimed, "what was there to be afraid of?"
"You don't know!" Morrison faltered. "You don't know!"
Then, for the first time, it occurred to Laverick that perhaps the
financial crisis in their affairs was not the only thing which had
reduced his late partner to this hopeless state. He looked at him
"Where did you go last night," he asked, "when you left me?"
"Nowhere," Morrison gasped. "I came here."
Laverick made a space for himself at the end of the bed, and sat
"Look here," he said," it's no use sending for me unless you mean
to tell me everything. Have you been getting yourself into any
trouble apart from our affairs, or is there anything in connection
with them which I don't know?"
Again Morrison opened his lips, and again, for some reason or other,
he remained speechless. Then a certain fear came also upon Laverick.
There was something in Morrison's state which was in itself
"You had better tell me all about it," Laverick persisted, "whatever
it is. I will help you if I can."
Morrison shook his head. There was a glass of water by his side.
He thrust his finger into it and passed it across his lips. They
were dry, almost cracking.
"Look here," he said, "I've got a breakdown - that's what's the
matter with me. My nerves were never good. I'm afraid of going
mad. The anxiety of the last few weeks has been too much for me.
I want to get out of the country quickly, and I don't know how to
manage it. I can't think. Directly I try to think my head goes
"There is nothing in the world to prevent your going away," Laverick
answered. "It is the simplest matter possible. Even if we had gone
under to-day, no one could have stopped your going wherever you
chose to go. Ruin, even if it had been ruin,- and I told you just
now that business was better,- is not a crime. Pull yourself
together, for Heaven's sake, man! You should be ashamed to come
here and frighten that poor little girl downstairs almost to death."
Morrison gripped his partner's arm.
"You must do as I ask," he declared hoarsely. "It doesn't matter
about prices being better. I want to get away. You must help me."
Laverick looked at him steadily. Morrison was an ordinary young
man of his type, something of a swaggerer, probably at heart a
coward. But this was no ordinary fear - not even the ordinary fear
of a coward. Laverick's face became graver. There was something
"I will get you out of the country if I can," said he. "There is
no difficulty about it at all unless you are concealing something
from me. You can catch a fast steamer to-morrow, either for South
Africa or New York, but before I make any definite plans, hadn't
you better tell me exactly what happened last night?"
Once more Morrison's lips parted without the ability to frame words.
Then a feeble moan escaped him. He threw up his hands and his head
fell back. The ghastliness of his face spread almost to his lips,
and he sank back among the pillows. Laverick strode across the
room to the door.
"Are you anywhere about?" he called out.
The girl was by his side in a moment.
"There is nothing to be alarmed at," he said, "but your brother has
fainted. Bring me some sal volatile if you have it, and I think
that you had better run out and get a doctor. I will stay with him.
I know exactly what to do."
She pointed to the dressing-table, where a little bottle was
standing, and ran downstairs without a word. Laverick mixed some
of the spirit, and moved over to the side of the fainting man.
LAVERICK's PARTNER FLEES
The doctor, a grave, incurious person, arrived within a few minutes
to find Morrison already conscious but absolutely exhausted. He
felt his patient's pulse, prescribed a draught, and followed
Laverick. down into the sitting room.
"An ordinary case of nervous exhaustion," he pronounced. "The
patient appears to have had a very severe shock lately. He will be
all right with proper diet and treatment, and a complete rest. I
will call again to-morrow."
He accepted the fee which Laverick slipped into his hand, and took
his departure. Once more Laverick was alone with the girl, who had
followed them downstairs.
"There is nothing to be alarmed at, you see," he remarked.
"It is not his health which frightens me. I am sure - I am quite
sure that he has something upon his mind. Did he tell you nothing?"
"Nothing at all," Laverick answered, with an inward sense of
thankfulness. "To tell you the truth, though, I am afraid you are
right and that he did get into some sort of trouble last night. He
was just about to tell me something when he fainted."
Upstairs they could hear him moaning. The girl listened with
"What am I to do?" she asked. "I cannot leave him like this, and
if I am not at the theatre in twenty minutes, I shall be fined."
"The theatre?" Laverick repeated.
"I am on the stage," she said, - "only a chorus girl at the
Universal, worse luck. Still, they don't allow us to stay away,
and I can't afford to lose my place."
"Do you mean to say that you have been keeping yourself here, then?"
Laverick asked bluntly.
"Of course," she answered. "I do not like to be a burden on any
one, and after all, you see, Arthur and I are really not related at
all. He has always told me, too, that times have been so bad lately."
Laverick was on the point of telling her that bad though they had
been Arthur Morrison had never drawn less than fifteen hundred a
year, but he checked himself. It was not his business to interfere.
"I think," he said, "that your brother ought to have provided for
you. He could have done so with very little effort."
"But what am I to do now?" she asked him. "If I am absent, I shall
lose my place."
Laverick thought for a moment.
"If you went round there and told them," he suggested, "would that
make any difference? I could stay until you came back."
"Do you mind?" she asked eagerly. "It would be so kind of you."
"Not at all," he answered. "Perhaps you would be good enough to
bring a taxicab back, and I could take it on to my rooms. Take
one from here, if you can find it. There are always some at the
"I'd love to," she answered. "I must run upstairs and get my hat
He watched her go up on tiptoe for fear of disturbing her brother.
Her feet seemed almost unearthly in the lightness of their pressure.
Not a board creaked. She seemed to float down to him in a most
becoming little hat but a shockingly shabby jacket, of whose
deficiencies she seemed wholly unaware. Her lips were parted once
more in a smile.
"He is fast asleep and breathing quite regularly," she announced.
"It is nice of you to stay."
He looked at her almost jealously.
"Do you know," he said, "you ought not to go about alone?"
She laughed, softly but heartily.
"Have you any idea how old I am?"
"I took you for fourteen when I came inside," he answered.
"Afterwards I thought you might be sixteen. Later on, it seemed
to me possible that you were eighteen. I am absolutely certain
that you are not more than nineteen."
"That shows how little you know about it. I am twenty, and I am
quite used to going about alone. Will you sit upstairs or here?
I am so sorry that I have nothing to offer you."
"Thanks, I need nothing. I think I will sit upstairs in case he
She nodded and stole out, closing the door behind her noiselessly.
Laverick watched her from the window until she was out of sight,
moving without any appearance of haste, yet with an incredible
swiftness. When she had turned the corner, he went slowly
upstairs and into the room where Morrison still lay asleep. He
drew a chair to the bedside and leaning forward opened out the
evening paper. The events of the last hour or so had completely
blotted out from his mind, for the time being, his own expedition
into the world of tragical happenings. He glanced at the sleeping
man, then opened his paper. There was very little fresh news
except that this time the fact was mentioned that upon the body
of the murdered man was discovered a sum larger than was at first
supposed. It seemed doubtful, therefore, whether robbery, after
all, was the motive of the crime, especially as it took place in
a neighborhood which was by no means infested with criminals. There
was a suggestion of political motive, a reference to the "Black
Hand," concerning whose doings the papers had been full since the
murder of a well-known detective a few weeks ago. But apart from
this there was nothing fresh.
Laverick folded up the paper and leaned back in his chair. The
strain of the last twenty-four hours was beginning to tell even upon
his robust constitution. The atmosphere of the room, too, was close.
He leaned back in his chair and was suddenly weary. Perhaps he
dozed. At any rate, the whisper which called him back to realization
of where he was, came to him so unexpectedly that he sat up with a
Morrison's eyes were open, he had raised himself on his elbow, his
lips were parted. His manner was quieter, but there were black
lines deep engraven under his eyes, in which there still shone
something of that haunting fear.
"Laverick!" he repeated hoarsely.
Laverick, fully awakened now, leaned towards him.
"Hullo," he said, "are you feeling more like yourself?"
"Yes," he admitted, "I am feeling - better. How did you come here?
I can't remember anything."
"You sent for me," Laverick answered. "I arrived to find you
pretty well in a state of collapse. Your sister has gone round to
the theatre to ask them to excuse her this evening."
"I remember now that I sent for you," Morrison continued. "Tell me,
has any one been around at the office asking after me?"
"No one particular," Laverick answered, - "no one at all that I can
think of. There were one or two inquiries through the telephone,
but they were all ordinary business matters."
The man on the bed drew a little breath which sounded like a sigh
"I have made a fool of myself, Laverick," he said hoarsely .