Part 4 out of 6
"And a meeting place, perhaps?" she inquired. "It would probably
be a meeting place. One might leave there and walk down this
passage naturally enough."
Laverick inclined his head.
"As a matter of fact," he declared, "I think that the evidence went
to prove that there were no visitors in the restaurant that night.
You see, all these offices round here close at six or seven o'clock,
and the whole neighborhood becomes deserted."
She shrugged her shoulders impatiently.
"Your English police, they do not know how to collect evidence. In
the hands of Frenchmen, this mystery would have been solved long
before now. The guilty person would be in the hands of the law.
As it is, I suppose that he will go free."
"Well, we must give the police a chance, at any rate," answered
Laverick. "They haven't had much time so far."
"No," she admitted, "they have not had much time. I wonder - " She
hesitated for a moment and did not conclude her sentence. "Come,"
she exclaimed, with a little shiver, "let us go back to your office!
This place is not cheerful. All the time I think of that poor man.
It does make me frightened."
Laverick escorted his visitor back to the electric brougham which
was waiting before his door.
"A list of stocks purchased on your behalf will reach you by
to-night's post," he promised her. "We shall do our best in your
He held out his hand, but she seemed in no hurry to let him go.
"You are very kind, Mr. Laverick. I would like to see you again
very soon. You have heard me sing in Samson and Delilah?"
"Not yet, but I am hoping to very shortly."
"To-night," she declared, "you must come to the Opera House. I
leave a box for you at the door. Send me round a note that you
are there, and it is possible that I may see you. It is against
the rules, but for me there are no rules."
Laverick hesitating, she leaned forward and looked into his face.
"You are doing something else?" she protested. "You were, perhaps,
thinking of taking out again the little girl with whom you were
sitting last night?"
"I had half promised - "
"No, no!" she exclaimed, holding his hand tighter. "She is not for
you - that child. She is too young. She knows nothing. Better to
leave her alone. She is not for a man of the world like you. Soon
she would cease to amuse you. You would be dull and she would still
care. Oh, there is so much tragedy in these things, Mr. Laverick
- so much tragedy for the woman! It is she always who suffers. You
will take my advice. You will leave that little girl alone."
"I am afraid," said he, "that I cannot promise that so quickly. You
see, I have not known her long, but she has very few friends and I
think that she would miss me. Perhaps," he added, after a second's
pause, "I care for her too much."
"It is not for you," she answered scornfully, "to care too much.
An Englishman, he cares never enough. A woman to him is something
amusing, - his companion for a little of his spare time, something
to be pleased about, to show off to his friends, - to share, even,
the passion of the moment. But an Englishman he does not care too
much. He never cares enough. He does not know what it is to care
"Mademoiselle, there may be truth in what you say, and again there
may not. We have the name, I know, of being cold lovers, but at
least we are faithful."
She held up her hand with a little grimace.
"Oh, how I do hate that word!" she exclaimed. "Who is there, indeed,
who wishes that you would be faithful? How much we poor women do
suffer from that! Why can you never understand that a woman would
be cared for very, very much, with all the strength and all the
passion you can conceive, but let it not last for too long. It gets
weary. It gets stale. It is as you say, - the Englishman he cares
very little, perhaps, but he cares always; and the woman, if she be
an artiste and a woman, she tires. But good afternoon, Mr. Laverick!
I must not keep you here on the pavement talking of these frivolous
matters. You come to-night?"
"You are very kind," Laverick said. "If I may come until eleven
o'clock, it would give me the greatest pleasure."
"As you will," she declared. "We shall see. I expect you, then.
You ask for your box."
"If you wish it, certainly."
She smiled and waved her hand.
"You will tell him, please," she directed, "to drive to Bond Street."
Laverick re-entered his office, pausing for a minute to give his
clerk instructions for the purchase of stocks for Mademoiselle
Idiale. He had scarcely reached his own room when he was told that
Mr. James Shepherd wished to speak to him for a moment upon the
telephone. He took up the receiver.
"Who is it?" he asked.
"It is Shepherd," was the answer. "Is that Mr. Laverick?"
"You were outside the restaurant here a few minutes ago," Shepherd
continued. "You had with you a lady - a young, tall lady with a
"That's right," Laverick admitted. "What about her?"
"One of the two men who watch always here was reading the paper in
the window," Shepherd went on hoarsely. "He saw her with you and
I heard him mutter something as though he had received a shock. He
dropped his glass and his paper. He watched you every second of
the time you were there until you had disappeared. Then he, too,
put on his hat and went out."
"Nothing else," was the reply. "I thought you might like to know
this, sir. The man recognized the lady right enough."
"It seems queer," Laverick admitted. "Thank you for ringing me up,
Shepherd. Good morning!"
Laverick leaned back in his chair. There was no doubt whatever now
in his mind but that Mademoiselle Idiale, for some reason or other,
was interested in this crime. Her wish to see the place, her
introduction to him last night and her purchase of stocks, were all
part of a scheme. He was suddenly and absolutely convinced of it.
As friend or foe, she was very certainly about to take her place
amongst the few people over whom this tragedy loomed.
ACTIVITY OF AUSTRIAN SPIES
Louise left her brougham in Piccadilly and walked across the Green
Park. Bellamy, who was waiting, rose up from a seat, hat in hand.
She took his arm in foreign fashion. They walked together towards
Buckingham Palace - a strangely distinguished-looking couple.
"My dear David," she said, "the man perplexes me. To look at him,
to hear him speak, one would swear that he was honest. He has just
those clear blue eyes and the stolid face, half stupid and half
splendid, of your athletic Englishman. One would imagine him doing
a foolishly honorable thing, but he is not my conception of a
criminal at all."
Bellamy kicked a pebble from the path. His forehead wore a perplexed
"He didn't give himself away, then?"
"Not in the least."
"He took you out and showed you the spot where it happened?"
"Without an instant's hesitation."
"As a matter of curiosity," asked Bellamy, "did he try to make
love to you?"
She shook her head.
"I even gave him an opening," she said. "Of flirtation he has no
more idea than the average stupid Englishman one meets."
Bellamy was silent for several moments.
"I can't believe," he said, "that there is the least doubt but that
he has the money and the portfolio. I have made one or two other
inquiries, and I find that his firm was in very low water indeed
only a week ago. They were spoken of, in fact, as being hopelessly
insolvent. No one can imagine how they tided over the crisis."
"The man who was watching for you?" she inquired.
"He makes no mistakes," Bellamy assured her. "He saw Laverick enter
that passage and come out. Afterwards he went back to his office,
although he had closed up there and had been on his homeward way.
The thing could not have been accidental."
"Why do you not go to him openly?" she suggested. "He is, after
all, an Englishman, and when you tell him what you know he will be
very much in your power. Tell him of the value of that document.
Tell him that you must have it."
"It could be done," Bellamy admitted. "I think that one of us must
talk plainly to him. Listen, Louise, - are you seeing him again?"
"I have invited him to come to the Opera House to-night."
"See what you can do," he begged. "I would rather keep away from
him myself, if I can. Have you heard anything of Streuss?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Nothing directly," she replied, "but my rooms have been searched
- even my dressing-room at the Opera House. That man's spies are
simply wonderful. He seems able to plant them everywhere. And,
David! - "
"He has got hold of Lassen," she continued. "I am perfectly
certain of it."
Then the sooner you get rid of Lassen, the better," Bellamy
"It is so difficult," she murmured, in a perplexed tone. "The man
has all my affairs in his hands. Up till now, although he is
uncomely, and a brute in many ways, he has served me well."
"If he is Streuss's creature he must go," Bellamy insisted.
"Let us sit down for a few minutes," she said. "I am tired."
She sank on to a seat and Bellamy sat by her side. In full view
of them was Buckingham Palace with its flag flying. She looked
thoughtfully at it and across to Westminster.
"Do they know, I wonder, your country-people?" she asked.
"Half-a-dozen of them, perhaps," he answered gloomily, no more.
"To-day," she declared, "I seem to have lost confidence. I seem to
feel the sense of impending calamity, to hear the guns as I walk,
to see the terror fall upon the faces of all these great crowds who
throng your streets. They are a stolid, unbelieving people - these.
The blow, when it comes, will be the harder."
"You are right," he said. "When one comes to think of it, it is
amazing. How long the prophets of woe have preached, and how
completely their teachings have been ignored! The invasion bogey
has been so long among us that it has become nothing but a jest.
Even I, in a way, am one of the unbelievers."
"You are not serious, David!" she exclaimed.
"I am," he affirmed. "I think that if we could read that document
we should see that there is no plan there for the immediate invasion
of England. I think you would find that the blow would be struck
simultaneously at our Colonies. We should either have to submit or
send a considerable fleet away from home waters. Then, I presume,
the question of invasion would come again. All the time, of course,
the gage would be flung down, treaties would be defied, we should be
scorned as though we were a nation of weaklings. Austria would
gather in what she wanted, and there would be no one to interfere."
Louise was very pale but her eyes were flashing fire.
"It is the most terrible thing which has happened in history," she
said, "this decadence of your country. Once England held the scales
of justice for the world. Now she is no longer strong enough, and
there is none to take her place. David, even if you know what that
document contains, even then will it help very much?"
"Very much indeed. Don't you see that there is one hope left to
us - one hope - and that is Russia? The Czar must be made to
withdraw from that compact. We want to know his share in it. When
we know that, there will be a secret mission sent to Russia. Germany
and Austria are strong, but they are not all the world. With Russia
behind and France and England westward, the struggle is at least an
equal one. They have to face both directions, they have to face two
great armies working from the east and from the west."
She nodded, and they sat there in silence for several moments.
Bellamy was thinking deeply.
"You say, Louise," he asked, looking up quickly, "that your rooms
have been searched. When was this?"
"Only last night," she replied.
Bellamy drew a little sigh of relief.
"At any rate," he said, "Streuss has no idea that the document is
not in our possession. He knows nothing about Laverick. How are
we going to deal with him, Louise, when he comes for his answer?"
"You have a plan?" she asked.
"There is only one thing to be done," Bellamy declared. "I shall
say that we have already handed over the document to the English
Government. It will be a bluff, pure and simple. He may believe
it or he may not."
"You will break your compact then," she reminded him.
"I shall call myself justified," he continued. "He has attempted
to rob us of the document. You are sure of what you say - that your
rooms and dressing-room have been searched?"
"Absolutely certain," she declared.
"That will be sufficient," Bellamy decided. "If Streuss comes to
me, I shall meet him frankly. I shall tell him that he has tried
to play the burglar and that it must be war. I shall tell him that
the compact is in the hands of the Prime Minister, and that he and
his spies had better clear out."
She looked at him questioningly.
"Of course, you understand," he added, "there is one thing we can
do, and one thing only. We must send a mission to Russia and another
to France, and before the German fleet can pass down the North Sea
we must declare war. It is the only thing left to us - a bold front.
Without that packet we have no casus belli. With it, we can strike,
and strike hard. I still believe that if we declare war within seven
days, we shall save ourselves."
Streuss and Kahn looked, too, across the panorama of London, across
the dingy Adelphi Gardens, the turbid Thames, the smoke-hung world
beyond. They were together in Streuss's sitting-room on the seventh
floor of one of the great Strand hotels.
"Our enterprise is a failure!" Kahn exclaimed gloomily. "We cannot
doubt it any longer. I think, Streuss, that the best course you
and I could adopt would be to realize it and to get back. We do no
good here. We only run needless risks."
The face of the other man was dark with anger. His tone, when he
spoke, shook with passion.
"You don't know what you say, Kahn!" he cried hoarsely. "I tell you
that we must succeed. If that document reaches the hands of any one
in authority here, it would be the worst disaster which has fallen
upon our country since you or I were born. You don't understand,
Kahn! You keep your eyes closed!"
"What men can do we have done," the other answered. "Von Behrling
played us false. He has died a traitor's death, but it is very
certain that he parted with his document before he received that
twenty thousand pounds."
"Once and for all, I do not believe it!" Streuss declared. "At
mid-day, I can swear to it that the contents of that envelope were
unknown to the Ministers of the King here. Now if Von Behrling
had parted with that document last Monday night, don't you suppose
that everything would be known by now? He did not part with it.
Bellamy and Mademoiselle lie when they say that they possess it.
That document remains in the possession of Von Behrling's murderer,
and it is for us to find him."
"It is outside our sphere - that. What can we do against the police
of this country working in their own land?"
Streuss struck the table before which they were standing. The veins
in his temples were like whipcord.
"Adolf," he muttered, "you talk like a fool! Can't you see what it
means? If that document reaches its destination, what do you suppose
"They will know our plans, of course," Kahn answered. "They will
have time to make preparation."
Streuss laughed bitterly.
"Worse than that!" he exclaimed. "They are not all fools, these
English statesmen, though one would think so to read their speeches.
Can't you see what the result would be if that document reaches
Downing Street? War at a moment's notice, war six months too soon!
Don't you know that every shipbuilding yard in Germany is working
night and day? Don't you know that every nerve is being strained,
that the muscles of the country are hammering the rivets into our
new battleships? There is but one chance for this country, and if
her statesmen read that document they will know what it is. It is
open to them to destroy the German navy utterly, to render themselves
secure against attack."
"They would never have the courage," Kahn declared. "They might
make a show of defending themselves if they were attacked, but to
take the initiative - no! I do not believe it."
"There is one man who has wit enough to do it," Streuss said. "He
may not be in the Cabinet, but he commands it. Kahn, wake up, man!
You and I together have never known what failure means. I tell you
that that document is still to be bought or fought for, and we must
find it. This morning Mademoiselle drove into the city and called
at the offices of a stockbroker within a dozen yards of Crooked
Friars' Alley. She was there a long time. The stockbroker himself
came out with her into the street, took her to see the entry, stood
with her there and returned. What was her interest in him, Kahn?
His name is Laverick. Four days ago he was on the brink of ruin.
To the amazement of every one, he met all his engagements. Why did
Mademoiselle go to the city to see him? He was at his office late
that Tuesday night. He had a partner who has disappeared."
Kahn looked at his companion with admiration.
"You have found all this out!" he exclaimed.
"And more," Streuss declared. "For twenty-four hours, this man
Laverick has not moved without my spies at his heels."
"Why not approach him boldly?" Kahn suggested. "If he has the
document, let us outbid Mademoiselle Louise, and do it quickly."
Streuss shook his head.
"You don't know the man. He is an Englishman, and if he had any
idea what that document contained, our chances of buying it would
be small indeed. This is what I think will happen. Mademoiselle
will try to obtain it, and try in vain. Then Bellamy will tell him
the truth, and he will part with it willingly. In the meantime, I
believe that it is in his possession.
"The evidence is slender enough," objected Kahn.
"What if it is!" Streuss exclaimed. "If it is only a hundred to one
chance, we have to take it. I have no fancy for disgrace, Adolf,
and I know very well what will happen if we go back empty-handed."
The telephone bell rang. Streuss took off the receiver and held it
to his ear. The words which he spoke were few, but when he laid
the instrument down there was a certain amount of satisfaction in
"At any rate," he announced, "this man Laverick did not part with
the document to-day. Mademoiselle Louise and Bellamy have been
sitting in the Park for an hour. When they separated, she drove
home and dropped him at his club. Up till now, then, they have not
the document. We shall see what Mr. Laverick does when he leaves
business this evening; if he goes straight home, either the document
has never been in his possession, or else it is in the safe in his
office; if he goes to Mademoiselle Idiale's - "
"Well?" Kahn asked eagerly.
"If he goes to Mademoiselle Idiale's," Streuss repeated slowly,
"there is still a chance for us!"
LAVERICK AT THE OPERA
Laverick, in presenting his card at the box office at Covent Garden
that evening, did so without the slightest misconception of the
reasons which had prompted Mademoiselle Idiale to beg him to become
her guest. It was sheer curiosity which prompted him to pursue this
adventure. He was perfectly convinced that personally he had no
interest for her. In some way or other he had become connected in
her mind with the murder which had taken place within a few yards of
his office, and in some other equally mysterious manner that murder
had become a subject of interest to her. Either that, or this was
one of the whims of a spoiled and pleasure-surfeited woman.
He found an excellent box reserved for him, and a measure of
courtesy from the attendants not often vouchsafed to an ordinary
visitor. The opera was Samson and Delilah, and even before her
wonderful voice thrilled the house, it seemed to Laverick that no
person more lovely than the woman he had come to see had ever moved
upon any stage. It appeared impossible that movement so graceful
and passionate should remain so absolutely effortless. There
seemed to be some strange power inside the woman. Surely her will
guided her feet! The necessity for physical effort never once
appeared. Notwithstanding the slight prejudice which he had felt
against her, it was impossible to keep his admiration altogether
in check. The fascination of her wonderful presence, and then her
glorious voice, moved him with the rest of the audience. He
clapped as the others did at the end of the first act, and he
leaned forward just as eagerly to catch a glimpse of her when she
reappeared and stood there with that marvelous smile upon her lips,
accepting with faint, deprecating gratitude the homage of the
Just before the curtain rose upon the second act, there was a knock
at his box door. One of the attendants ushered in a short man of
somewhat remarkable personality. He was barely five feet in height,
and an extremely fat neck and a corpulent body gave him almost the
appearance of a hunchback. He had black, beady eyes, a black
moustache fiercely turned up, and sallow skin. His white gloves
had curious stitchings on the back not common in England, and his
silk hat, exceedingly glossy, had wider brims than are usually
associated with Bond Street.
Laverick half rose, but the little man spread out one hand and
commenced to speak. His accent was foreign, but, if not an
Englishman, he at any rate spoke the language with confidence.
"My dear sir," he began, "I owe you many apologies. It was
Mademoiselle Idiale's wish that I should make your acquaintance.
My name is Lassen. I have the fortune to be Mademoiselle's business
"I am very glad to meet you, Mr. Lassen," said Laverick. "Will
you sit down?"
Mr. Lassen thereupon hung his hat upon a peg, removed his overcoat,
straightened his white tie with the aid of a looking-glass, brushed
back his glossy black hair with the palms of his hands, and took
the seat opposite Laverick. His first question was inevitable.
"What do you think of the opera, sir?"
"It is like Mademoiselle Idiale herself," Laverick answered. "It
is above criticism."
"She is," Mr. Lassen said firmly, "the loveliest woman in Europe
and her voice is the most wonderful. It is a great combination,
this. I myself have managed for many stars, I have brought to
England most of those whose names are known during the last ten
years; but there has never been another Louise Idiale, - never will
I can believe it," Laverick admitted.
She has wonderful qualities, too," continued Mr. Lassen. "Your
acquaintance with her, I believe, sir, is of the shortest."
"That is so," Laverick answered, a little coldly. He was not
particularly taken with his visitor.
"Mademoiselle has spoken to me of you," the latter proceeded.
"She desired that I should pay my respects during the performance."
"It is very kind of you," Laverick answered. "As a matter of fact,
it is exceedingly kind, also, of Mademoiselle Idiale to insist
upon my coming here to-night. She did me the honor, as you may
know, of paying me a visit in the city this morning."
"So she did tell me," Mr. Lassen declared. "Mademoiselle is a
great woman of business. Most of her investments she controls
herself. She has whims, however, and it never does to contradict
her. She has also, curiously enough, a preference for the men of
Laverick had reached that stage when he felt indisposed to discuss
Mademoiselle any longer with a stranger, even though that stranger
should be her manager. He nodded and took up his programme. As
he did so, the curtain rang up upon the next act. Laverick turned
deliberately towards the stage. The little man had paid his respects,
as he put it. Laverick felt disinclined for further conversation
with him. Yet, though his head was turned, he knew very well that
his companion's eyes were fixed upon him. He had an uncomfortable
sense that he was an object of more than ordinary interest to this
visitor, that he had come for some specific object which as yet he
had not declared.
"You will like to go round and see Mademoiselle," the latter
remarked, some time afterwards.
Laverick shook his head.
"I shall find another opportunity, I hope, to congratulate her."
"But, my dear sir, she expects to see you," Mr. Lassen protested.
"You are here at her invitation. It is usual, I can assure you."
"Mademoiselle Idiale will perhaps excuse me," Laverick said. "I
have an engagement immediately after the performance is over."
His companion muttered something which Laverick could not catch,
and made some excuse to leave the box a few minutes later. When
he returned, he carried a little, note which he presented to
Laverick with an air of triumph.
"It is as I said!" he exclaimed. "Mademoiselle expects you."
Laverick read the few lines which she had written.
I wish to see you after the performance. If you cannot come
round or escort me yourself, will you come later to the restaurant
of Luigi, where, as always, I shall sup. Do not fail.
Laverick placed the note in his waistcoat pocket without immediate
remark. Later on he turned to his companion.
"Will you tell Mademoiselle Idiale," he said, "that I will do myself
the honor of coming to her at Luigi's restaurant. I have an
engagement after the performance which I must keep."
"You will certainly come?" Lassen asked anxiously.
"Without a doubt," Laverick promised.
Mr. Lassen took up his hat...
"I will go and tell Mademoiselle. For some reason or other she
seemed particularly desirous of seeing you this evening. She has
her whims, and those who have most to do with her, like myself,
find it well to keep them gratified. If I do not see you again,
sir, permit me to wish you good evening."
He disappeared with several bows of his pudgy little person, and
Laverick was left with another puzzle to solve. He was not in the
least conceited, and he did not for a moment misinterpret this
woman's interest in him. Her invitation, he knew very well, was
one which half London would have coveted. Yet it meant nothing
personal, he was sure of that. It simply meant that for some
mysterious reason, the same reason which had prompted her to visit
him in the city he was of interest to her.
At a few minutes before eleven Laverick left the place and drove
to the stage-door of the Universal Theatre. Zoe came out among the
first and paused upon the threshold, looking up and down the street
eagerly. When she recognized him, her smile was heavenly.
"Oh, how nice of you!" she exclaimed, stepping at once into his
taxicab. "You don't know how different it feels to hope that there
is some one waiting for you and then to find your hope come true.
To-night I was not sure. You had said nothing about it, and yet I
could not help believing that you would be here."
"I was hoping," he said, "that we might have another supper together.
Unfortunately, I have an engagement."
"An engagement?" she repeated, her face falling.
Laverick loved the truth and he seldom hesitated to tell it.
"It is rather an odd thing," he declared. "You remember that woman
at Luigi's last night - Mademoiselle Idiale?"
"She came to my office to-day and gave me six thousand pounds to
invest for her. She made me take her out and show her where the
murder was committed, and asked a great many questions about it.
Then she insisted that I should go and hear her sing this evening,
and I find that I was expected to take her on to supper afterwards.
I excused myself for a little while, but I have promised to go to
Luigi's, where she will be."
The girl was silent for a moment.
"Where are we going now, then?" she asked.
"Wherever you like. I can take you home first, or I can leave you
She looked at him with a piteous little smile.
"The last two nights you have spoiled me," she said. "I have so
many evil thoughts and I am afraid to go home."
"I am sorry. If I could think of anything or anywhere - "
"No, you must take me home, please," said she. "It was selfish of
me. Only Mademoiselle Idiale is such a wonderful person. Do you
think that she will want you every night?"
"Of course not," he laughed. "Come, I will make an engagement with
you. We will have supper together to-morrow evening."
She brightened up at once.
"I wonder," she asked timidly, a few minutes afterwards, "have you
heard anything from Arthur? He promised to send a telegram from
Laverick shook his head. He said nothing about the marconigram he
had sent, or the answer which he had received informing him that
there was no such person on board. It seemed scarcely worth while
to worry her.
"I have heard nothing," he replied. "Of course, he must be half-way
to America by now."
"There have been no more inquiries about him?" she asked.
"No more than the usual ones from his friends, and a few creditors.
The latter I am paying as they come. But there is one thing you
ought to do with me. I think we ought to go to his rooms and lock
up his papers and letters. He never even went back, you know, after
She nodded thoughtfully.
"When would you like to do this?"
"I am so busy just now that I am afraid I can spare no time until
Monday afternoon. Would you go with me then?"
"Of course... My time is my own. We have no matinee, and I have
nothing to do except in the evening."
They had reached her home. It looked very dark and very uninviting.
She shivered as she took her latchkey from the bag which she was
"Come in with me, please, while I light the gas," she begged. "It
looks so dreary, doesn't it?"
"You ought to have some one with you," he declared, "especially in
a part like this."
"Oh, I am not really afraid," she answered. "I am only lonely."
He stood in the passage while she felt for a box of matches and lit
the gas jet. In the parlor there was a bowl of milk standing waiting
for her, and some bread.
"Thank you so much," she said. "Now I am going to make up the fire
and read for a short time. I hope that you will enjoy your supper
- well, moderately," she added, with a little laugh.
"I can promise you," he answered, "that I shall enjoy it no more than
last night's or to-morrow night's."
"Poor little me!" she exclaimed. "It is not fair to have to compete
with Mademoiselle Idiale. Good night!"
Something he saw in her eyes moved him strangely as he turned away.
"Would you like me," he asked hesitatingly, "supposing I get away
early - would you like me to come in and say good night to you
Her face was suddenly flushed with joy.
"Oh, do!" she begged. "Do!"
He turned away with a smile.
"Very well," he said. "Don't shut up just yet and I will try."
"I shall stay here until three o'clock," she declared, - "until
four, even. You must come. Remember, you must come. See."
She held out to him her key.
"I can knock at the door," he protested. "You would hear me."
"But I might fall asleep," she answered. "I am afraid. If you have
the key, I am sure that you will come."
He put it in his waistcoat pocket with a laugh.
"Very well," he said, "if it is only for five minutes, I will come."
A SUPPER PARTY AT LUIGI'S
Laverick walked into Luigi's Restaurant at about a quarter to
twelve, and found the place crowded with many little supper-parties
on their way to a fancy dress ball. The demand for tables was far
in excess of the supply, but he had scarcely shown himself before
the head maitre d'hotel came hurrying up.
"Mademoiselle Idiale is waiting for you, sir," he announced at once.
"Will you be so good as to come this way?"
Laverick followed him. She was sitting at the same table as last
night, but she was alone, and it was laid, he noticed with surprise,
only for two.
"You have treated me," she said, as she held out her fingers, "to
a new sensation. I have waited for you alone here for a quarter of
an hour - I! Such a thing has never happened to me before."
"You do me too much honor," Laverick declared, seating himself and
taking up the carte.
"Then, too," she continued, "I sup alone with you. That is what I
seldom do with any man. Not that I care for the appearance," she
added, with a contemptuous wave of the hand. "Nothing troubles me
less. It is simply that one man alone wearies me. Almost always
he will make love, and that I do not like. You, Mr. Laverick, I am
not afraid of. I do not think that you will make love to me."
"Any intentions I may have had," Laverick remarked, with a sigh, "I
forthwith banish. You ask a hard task of your cavaliers, though,
She smiled and looked at him from under her eyelids.
"Not of you, I fancy, Mr. Laverick," she said. "I do not think that
you are one of those who make love to every woman because she is
good-looking or famous."
"To tell you the truth," Laverick admitted, "I find it hard to make
love to any one. I often feel the most profound admiration for
individual members of your sex, but to express one's self is
difficult - sometimes it is even embarrassing. For supper?"
"It is ordered," she declared. "You are my guest."
"Impossible!" Laverick asserted firmly. "I have been your guest
at the Opera. You at least owe me the honor of being mine for
She frowned a little. She was obviously unused to being contradicted.
"I sup with you, then, another night," she insisted. "No," she
continued, "If you are going to look like that, I take it back. I
sup with you to-night. This is an ill omen for our future
acquaintance. I have given in to you already - I, who give in to
no man. Give me some champagne, please."
Laverick took the bottle from the ice-pail by his side, but the
sommelier darted forward and served them.
"I drink to our better understanding of one another, Mr. Laverick,"
she said, raising her glass, "and, if you would like a double toast,
I drink also to the early gratification of the curiosity which is
"The curiosity? "
"Yes! You are wondering all the time why it is that I chose last
night to send and have you presented to me, why I came to your
office in the city to-day with the excuse of investing money with
you, why I invited you to the Opera to-night, why I commanded you
to supper here and am supping with you alone. Now confess the
truth; you are full of curiosity, is it not so?"
"Frankly, I am."
She smiled good-humoredly.
"I knew it quite well. You are not conceited. You do not believe,
as so many men would, that I have fallen in love with you. You
think that there must be some object, and you ask yourself all the
time, 'What is it?' in your heart, Mr. Laverick, I wonder whether
you have any idea."
Her voice had fallen almost to a whisper. She looked at him with a
suggestion of stealthiness from under her eyelids, a look which only
needed the slightest softening of her face to have made it something
"I can assure you," Laverick said firmly, "that I have no idea."
"Do you remember almost my first question to you?" she asked.
"It was about the murder. You seemed interested in the fact that
my office was within a few yards of the passage where it occurred."
"Quite right," she admitted. "I see that your memory is very good.
There, then, Mr. Laverick, you have the secret of my desire to meet
Laverick drank his wine slowly. The woman knew! Impossible! Her
eyes were watching his face, but he held himself bravely. What
could she know? How could she guess?
"Frankly," he said, "I do not understand. Your interest in me
arises from the fact that my offices are near the scene of that
murder. Well, to begin with, what concern have you in that?"
"The murdered man," she declared thoughtfully, "was an acquaintance
"An acquaintance of yours!" Laverick exclaimed. "Why, he has not
been identified. No one knows who he was."
She raised her eyebrows very slightly.
"Mr. Laverick," she murmured, "the newspapers do not tell you
everything. I repeat that the murdered man was an acquaintance of
mine. Only three days ago I traveled part of the way from Vienna
Laverick was intensely interested.
"You could, perhaps, throw some light, then, upon his death?"
"Perhaps I could," she answered. "I can tell you one thing, at any
rate, Mr. Laverick, if it is news to you. At the time when he was
murdered, he was carrying a very large sum of money with him. This
is a fact which has not been spoken of in the Press."
Once again Laverick was thankful for those nerves of his. He sat
quite still. His face exhibited nothing more than the blank
amazement which he certainly felt.
"This is marvelous," he said. "Have you told the police?"
"I have not," she answered. "I wish, if I can, to avoid telling
"But the money? To whom did it belong?"
"Not to the murdered man."
"To any one whom you know of?" he inquired.
"I wonder," she said, after a moment of hesitation, "whether I am
telling you too much."
"You are telling me a good deal," he admitted frankly.
"I wonder how far," she asked, "you will be inclined to reciprocate?"
"I reciprocate!" he exclaimed. "But what can I do? What do I know
of these things?"
She stretched out her hand lazily, and drew towards her a wonderful
gold purse set with emeralds. Carefully opening it, she drew from
the interior a small flat pocketbook, also of gold, with a great
uncut emerald set into its centre. This, too, she opened, and drew
out several sheets of foreign note-paper pinned together at the top.
These she glanced through until she came to the third or fourth.
Then she bent it down and passed it across the table to Laverick.
"You may read that," she said. "It is part of a report which I have
had in my pos session since Wednesday morning."
Laverick drew the sheet towards him and read, in thin, angular
characters, very distinct and plain:
Some ten minutes after the assault, a policeman passed down
the street but did not glance toward the passage. The next
person to appear was a gentleman who left some offices on the
same side as the passage, and walked down evidently on his
homeward way. He glanced up the passage and saw the body
lying there. He disappeared for a moment and struck a match.
A minute afterwards he emerged from the passage, looked up and
down the street, and finding it empty returned to the office
from which he had issued, let himself in with his latchkey,
and closed the door behind him. He was there for about ten
minutes. When he reappeared, he walked quickly down the street
and for obvious reasons I was unable to follow him.
The address of the offices which he left and re-entered was
Messrs. Laverick & Morrison, Stockbrokers.
"That interests you, Mr. Laverick?" she asked softly.
He handed it back to her.
"It interests me very much," he answered. "Who was this unseen
person who wrote from the clouds?"
"I may not tell you all my secrets, Mr. Laverick," she declared.
"What have you done with that twenty thousand pounds?"
Laverick helped himself to champagne. He listened for a moment to
the music, and looked into the wonderful eyes which shone from that
beautiful face a few feet away. Her lips were slightly parted, her
forehead wrinkled. There was nothing of the accuser in her
countenance; a gentle irony was its most poignant expression.
"Is this a fairy tale, Mademoiselle Idiale?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"It might seem so," she answered. "Sometimes I think that all the
time we live two lives, - the life of which the world sees the
outside, and the life inside of which no one save ourselves knows
anything at all. Look, for instance, at all these people - these
chorus girls and young men about town - the older ones, too - all
hungry for pleasure, all drinking at the cup of life as though they
had indeed but to-day and to-morrow in which to live and enjoy.
Have they no shadows, too, no secrets? They seem so harmless, yet
if the great white truth shone down, might one not find a murderer
there, a dying man who knew his terrible secret, yonder a Croesus
on the verge of bankruptcy, a strong man playing with dishonor? But
those are the things of the other world which we do not see. The
men look at us to-night and they envy you because you are with me.
The women envy me more because I have emeralds upon my neck and
shoulders for which they would give their souls, and a fame
throughout Europe which would turn their foolish heads in a very
few minutes. But they do not know. There are the shadows across
my path, and I think that there are the shadows across yours. What
do you say, Mr. Laverick?"
He looked at her, curiously moved. Now at last he began to believe
that it was true what they said of her, that she was indeed a
marvelous woman. She had a fame which would have contented nine
hundred and ninety-nine women out of a thousand. She had beauty,
and, more wonderful still, the grace, the fascination which are
irresistible. She had but to lift a finger and there were few
who would not kneel to do her bidding. And yet, behind it all there
were other things in her life. Had she sought them, or had they
come to her?
"You are one of those wise people, Mr. Laverick," she said, "who
realize the danger of words. You believe in silence. Well, silence
is often good. You do not choose to admit anything."
"What is there for me to admit? Do you want to know whether I am
the man who left those offices, who disappeared into the passage,
who reappeared again - "
"With a pocket-book containing twenty thousand pounds," she murmured
across the flowers.
"At least tell me this?" he demanded. "Was the money yours?"
"I am not like you," she replied. "I have talked a great deal and
I have reached the limit of the things which I may tell you."
"But where are we?" he asked. "Are you seriously accusing me of
having robbed this murdered man?"
"Be thankful," she declared, "that I am not accusing you of having
"But seriously," he insisted, "am I on my defence have I to account
for my movements that night as against the written word of your
mysterious informant? Is it you who are charging me with being a
thief? Is it to you I am to account for my actions, to defend myself
or to plead guilty?"
She shook her head.
"No," she answered. "I have said almost my last word to you upon
this subject. All that I have to ask of you is this. If that
pocket-book is in your possession, empty it first of its contents,
then go over it carefully with your fingers and see if there is not
a secret pocket. If you discover that, I think that you will find
in it a sealed document. If you find that document, you must bring
it to me."
The lights went down. The voice of the waiter murmured something
in his ears.
"It is after hours," Mademoiselle Idiale said, "but Luigi does not
wish to disturb us. Still, perhaps we had better go."
They passed down the room. To Laverick it was all - like a dream -
the laughing crowd, the flushed men and bright-eyed women, the
lowered lights, the air of voluptuousness which somehow seemed to
have enfolded the place. In the hall her maid came up. A small
motor-brougham, with two servants on the box, was standing at the
doorway. Mademoiselle turned suddenly and gave him her hand.
"Our supper-party, I think, Mr. Laverick," she said, "has been quite
a success. We shall before long, I hope, meet again."
He handed her into the carriage. Her maid walked with them. The
footman stood erect by his side. There were no further words to be
spoken. A little crowd in the doorway envied him as he stood
bareheaded upon the pavement.
JIM SHEPHERD'S SCARE
It was, in its way, a pathetic sight upon which Laverick gazed when
he stole into that shabby little sitting-room. Zoe had fallen
asleep in a small, uncomfortable easy-chair with its back to the
window. Her supper of bread and milk was half finished, her hat
lay upon the table. A book was upon her lap as though she had
started to read only to find it slip through her fingers. He stood
with his elbow upon the mantelpiece, looking down at her. Her
eyelashes, long and silky, were more beautiful than ever now that
her eyes were closed. Her complexion, pale though she was, seemed
more the creamy pallor of some southern race than the whiteness of
ill-health. The bodice of her dress was open a few inches at the
neck, showing the faint white smoothness of her flawless skin.
Not even her shabby shoes could conceal the perfect shape of her
feet and ankles. Once more he remembered his first simile, his
first thought of her. She seemed, indeed, like some dainty
statuette, uncouthly clad, who had strayed from a world of her
own upon rough days and found herself ill-equipped indeed for the
struggle. His heart grew hot with anger against Morrison as he
stood and watched her. Supposing she had been different! It
would have been his fault, leaving her alone to battle her way
through the most difficult of all lives. Brute!
He had muttered the word half aloud and she suddenly opened her
eyes. At first she seemed bewildered. Then she smiled and sat up.
"I have been asleep!" she exclaimed.
"A most unnecessary statement," he answered, smiling. "I have
been standing looking at you for five minutes at least."
"How fortunate that I gave you the key!" she declared. "I don't
suppose I should ever have heard you. Now please stand there in
the light and let me look at you."
"I want to look at a man who has had supper with Mademoiselle
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Am I supposed to be a wanderer out of Paradise, then?"
She looked at him doubtfully.
"They tell strange stories about her," she said; "but oh, she is so
beautiful! If I were a man, I should fall in love with her if she
even looked my way."
"Then I am glad," he answered, "that I am less impressionable."
"And you are not in love with her?" she asked eagerly.
"Why should I be?" he laughed. "She is like a wonderful picture, a
marvelous statue, if you will. Everything about her is faultless.
But one looks at these things calmly enough, you know. It is life
which stirs life."
"Do you think that there is no life in her veins, then?" Zoe asked.
"If there is," he answered, "I do not think that I am the man to stir
She drew a little sigh of content.
"You see," she said, "you are my first admirer, and I haven't the
least desire to let you go."
"Incredible!" he declared.
"But it is true," she answered earnestly. "You would not have me
talk to these boys who come and hang on at the stage-door. The men
to whom I have been introduced by the other girls have been very
few, and they have not been very nice, and they have not cared for
me and I have not cared for them. I think," she said, disconsolately,
"I am too small. Every one to-day seems to like big women. Cora
Sinclair, who is just behind me in the chorus, gets bouquets every
night, and simply chooses with whom she should go out to supper."
Laverick looked grave.
"You are not envying her?" he asked.
"Not in the least, as long as I too am taken out sometimes."
Laverick smiled and sat on the arm of her chair.
"Miss Zoe," he said, "I have come because you told me to, just to
prove, you see, that I am not in the toils of Mademoiselle Idiale.
But do you know that it is half past one? I must not stay here any
She sighed once more.
"You are right," she admitted, "but it is so lonely. I have never
been here without May and her mother. I have never slept alone in
the house before the other night. If I had known that they were
going away, I should never have dared to come here."
"It is too bad," he declared. "Couldn't you get one of the other
girls to stay with you?"
She shook her head.
"There are one or two whom I would like to have," she said, "but
they are all living either at home or with relatives. The others I
am afraid about. They seem to like to sit up so late and - "
"You are quite right," he interrupted hastily, - "quite right. You
are better alone. But you ought to have a servant."
"On two pounds fifteen a week?" she asked. "You must remember that
I could not even live here, only I have practically no rent to pay."
He fidgeted for a moment.
"Miss Zoe," he said, "I am perfectly serious when I tell you that I
have money which should go to your brother. Why will you not let me
alter your arrangements just a little ? I cannot bear to think of
you here all alone."
"It is very kind of you," she answered doubtfully; "but please, no.
Somehow, I think that it would spoil everything if I accepted that
sort of help from you. If you have any money of Arthur's, keep it
for a time and I think when you write him - I do not want to seem
grasping - but I think if he has any to spare you might suggest that
he does give me just a little. I have never had anything from him
at all. Perhaps he does not quite understand how hard it is for me.
"I will do that, of course," Laverick answered, "but I wish you
would let me at least pay over a little of what I consider due to
you. I will take the responsibility for it. It will come from him
and not from me."
She remained unconvinced.
"I would rather wait," she said. "If you really want to give me
something, I will let you - out of my brother's money, of course,
I mean," she added. "I haven't anything saved at all, or I wouldn't
have that. But one day you shall take me out and buy me a dress and
hat. You can tell Arthur directly you write to him. I don't mind
that, for sometimes I do feel ashamed - I did the other night to
have you sit with me there, and to feel that I was dressed so very
differently from all of them."
He laughed reassuringly.
"I don't think men notice those things. To me you seemed just as
you should seem. I only know that I was glad enough to be there
"Were you?" - rather wistfully.
"Of course I was. Now I am going, but before I go, don't forget
Monday afternoon. We'll have lunch and then go to your brother's
She glanced at the clock.
"Is it really so late?" she asked.
"It is. Don't you notice how quiet it is outside?"
They stood hand in hand for a moment. A strange silence seemed to
have fallen upon the streets. Laverick was suddenly conscious of
something which he had never felt when Mademoiselle Idiale had
smiled upon him - a quickening of the pulses, a sense of gathering
excitement which almost took his breath away. His eyes were fixed
upon hers, and he seemed to see the reflection of that same wave
of feeling in her own expressive face. Her lips trembled, her eyes
were deeper and softer than ever. They seemed to be asking him a
question, asking and asking till every fibre of his body was
concentrated in the desperate effort with, which he kept her at
"Is it so very late?" she whispered, coming just a little closer,
so that she was indeed almost within the shelter of his arms.
He clutched her hands almost roughly and raised them to his lips.
"Much too late for me to stay here, child," he said, and his voice
even to himself sounded hard and unnatural.
"Run along to bed. To-morrow night - to-morrow night, then, I will
fetch you. Good-bye!"
He let himself out. He did not even look behind to the spot where
he had left her. He closed the front door and walked with swift,
almost savage footsteps down the quiet Street, across the Square,
and into New Oxford Street. Here he seemed to breathe more freely.
He called a hansom and drove to his rooms.
The hall-porter had left his post in the front hall, and there was
no one to inform Laverick that a visitor was awaiting him. When he
entered his sitting-room, however, he gave a little start of surprise.
Mr. James Shepherd was reclining in his easy-chair with his hands
upon his knees - Mr. James Shepherd with his face more pasty even
than usual, his eyes a trifle greener, his whole demeanor one of
unconcealed and unaffected terror.
"Hullo!" Laverick exclaimed. "What the dickens - what do you want
"Upon my word, sir, I'm not sure that I know," the man replied,
"but I'm scared. I've brought you back the certificates of them
shares. I want you to keep them for me. I'm terrified lest they
come and search my room. I am, I tell you fair. I'm terrified to
order a pint of beer for myself. They're watching me all the time."
"Who are?" Laverick demanded.
"Lord knows who;" Shepherd answered, "but there's two of them at it.
I told you about them as asked questions, and I thought there we'd
done and finished with it. Not a bit of it ! There was another one
there this afternoon, said he was a journalist, making sketches of
the passage and asking me no end of questions. He wasn't no
journalist, I'll swear to that. I asked him about his paper.
'Half-a-dozen,' he declared. 'They're all glad to have what I send
them.' Journalist! Lord knows who the other chap was and what he
was asking questions for, but this one was a 'tec, straight. Joe
Forman, he was in to-day looking after my place, for I'd given a
month's notice, and he says to me, "You see that big chap?' - meaning
him as had been asking me the questions - and I says "Yes!' and he
says, 'That's a 'tee. I've seed him in a police court, giving
evidence.' I went all of a shiver so that you could have knocked me
"Come, come!" said Laverick. "There's no need for you to be feeling
like this about it. All that you've done is not to have remembered
those two customers who were in your restaurant late one night.
There's nothing criminal in that."
"There's something criminal in having two hundred and fifty pounds'
worth of shares in one's pocket - something suspicious, anyway,"
Shepherd declared, plumping them down on the table. "I ain't giving
you these back, mind, but you must keep 'em for me. I wish I'd never
given notice. I think I'll ask the boss to keep me on."
"Why do you suppose that this man is particularly interested in you?"
"Ain't I told you?" Shepherd exclaimed, sitting up. "Why, he's
been to my place down in 'Ammersmith, asking questions about me.
My landlady swears he didn't go into my room, but who can tell
whether he did or not? Those sort of chaps can get in anywhere.
Then I went out for a bit of an airing after the one o'clock rush
was over to-day, and I'm danged if he wasn't at my 'eels. I seed
him coming round by Liverpool Street just as I went in a bar to get
a drop of something."
"If there is anything in this Story, Shepherd," he said, "if you
are really being followed, what a thundering fool you were to come
here! All the world knows that Arthur Morrison was my partner."
"I couldn't help it, sir," the man declared. "I couldn't, indeed.
I was so scared, I felt I must speak about it to some one. And then
there were these shares. There was nowhere I could keep 'em safe."
"Look here," Laverick went on, "you're alarming yourself about
nothing. In any case, there is only one thing for you to do. Pull
yourself together and put a bold face upon it. I'll keep these
certificates for you, and when you want some money you can come
to me for it. Go back to your place, and if your master is willing
to keep you on perhaps it would be a good thing to stay there for
another month or so. But don't let any one see that you're
frightened. Remember, there's nothing that you can get into trouble
for. No one's obliged to answer such questions as you've been asked,
except in a court and under oath. Stick to your story, and if you
take my advice," Laverick added, glancing at his visitor's shaking
fingers, "you will keep away from the drink."
"It's little enough I've had, sir," Shepherd assured him. "A drop
now and then just to keep up one's spirits - nothing that amounts
"Make it as little as possible," Laverick said. "Remember, I'm back
of you, I'll see that you get into no trouble. And don't come here
again. Come to my office, if you like - there's nothing in that -
but don't come here, you understand?"
Shepherd took up his hat.
"I understand, sir. I'm sorry to have troubled you, but the sight
of that man following me about fairly gave me the shivers."
"Come into the office as often as you like, in reason, Laverick said,
showing him out, "but not here again. Keep your eyes open, and let
me know if you think you've been followed here."
"There's no more news in the papers, sir? Nothing turned up?"
"Nothing," replied Laverick. "If the police have found out anything
at all, they will keep it until after the inquest."
"And you've heard. nothing, sir," Shepherd asked, speaking in a
hoarse whisper, "of Mr. Morrison?"
"Nothing," Laverick answered. "Mr. Morrison is abroad."
The man wiped his forehead with his hand.
"Of course!" he muttered. "A good job, too, for him!"
THE DOCUMENT DISCOVERED
On the following morning, Laverick surprised his office cleaner and
one errand-boy by appearing at about a quarter to nine. He found
a woman busy brushing out his room and a man Cleaning the windows.
They stared at him in amazement. His arrival at such an hour was
"You can leave the office just as it is, if you please," he told
them. "I have a few things to attend to at once."
He was accordingly left alone. He had reckoned upon this as being
the one period during the day when he could rely upon not being
disturbed. Nevertheless, he locked the door so as to be secure
against any possible intruder. Then he went to his safe, unlocked
it, and drew from its secret drawer the worn brown-leather
First of all he took out the notes and laid them upon the table.
Then he felt the pocket-book all over and his heart gave a little
leap. It was true what Mademoiselle Idiale had told him. On one
side there was distinctly a rustling as of paper. He opened the
case quite flat and passed his fingers carefully over the lining.
Very soon he found the opening - it was simply a matter of drawing
down the stiff silk lining from underneath the overlapping edge.
Thrusting in his fingers, he drew out a long foreign envelope,
securely sealed. Scarcely stopping to glance at it, he rearranged
the pocket-book, replaced the notes, and locked it up again. Then
he unbolted his door and sat down at his desk, with the document
which he had discovered, on the pad in front of him.
There was not much to be made of it. There was no address, but the
black seal at the end bore the impression of a foreign coat of arms,
and a motto which to him was indecipherable. He held it up to the
light, but the outside sheet had not been written on, and he gained
no idea as to its contents. He leaned back in his chair for a
moment, and looked at it. So this was the document which would
probably reveal the secret of the murder in Crooked Friars' Alley!
This was the document which Mademoiselle Idiale considered of so
much more importance than the fortune represented by that packet of
bank-notes! What did it all mean? Was this man, who had either
expiated a crime or been the victim of a terrible vengeance, - was
he a politician, a dealer in trade secrets, a member of a secret
society, an informer? Or was he one of the underground criminals
of the world, one of those who crawl beneath the surface of known
things - a creature of the dark places? Perhaps during those few
minutes, when his brain was cool and active, with the great city
awakening all around him, Laverick realized more completely than
ever before exactly how he stood. Without doubt he was walking on
the brink of a precipice. Four days ago there had been nothing for
him but ruin. The means of salvation had suddenly presented
themselves in this startling and dramatic manner, and without
hesitation he had embraced them. What did it all amount to? How
far was he guilty, and of what? Was he a thief? The law would
probably call him so. The law might have even more to say. It
would say that by keeping his mouth closed as to his adventure on
that night he had ranged himself on the side of the criminals, - he
was guilty not only of technical theft, but of a criminal knowledge
of this terrible crime. Events had followed upon one another so
rapidly during these last few days that he had little enough time
for reflection, little time to realize exactly how he stood. The
long-expected boom in" Unions," the coming of Zoe, the strange
advances made to him by Mademoiselle Idiale, her incomprehensible
connection with this tragedy across which he had stumbled, and her
apparent knowledge of his share in it, - these things were sufficient,
indeed, to give him food for thought. Laverick was not by nature a
pessimist. Other things being equal, he would have made, without
doubt, a magnificent soldier, for he had courage of a rare and high
order. It never occurred to him to sit and brood upon his own danger.
He rather welcomed the opportunity of occupying his mind with other
thoughts. Yet in those few minutes, while he waited for the business
of the: day to commence, he looked his exact position in the face
and he realized more thoroughly how grave it really was. How was he
to find a way out - to set himself right with the law? What could
he do with those notes? They were there untouched. He had only
made use of them in an indirect way. They were there intact, as
he had picked them up upon that fateful night. Was there any
possible chance by means of which he might discover the owner and
restore them in such a way that his name might never be mentioned?
His eyes repeatedly sought that envelope which lay before him.
Inside it must lie the secret of the whole tragedy. Should he risk
everything and break the seal, or should he risk perhaps as much
and tell the whole truth to Mademoiselle Idiale? It was a strange
dilemma for a man to find himself in.
Then, as he sat there, the business of the day commenced. A pile
of letters was brought in, the telephones in the outer office began
to ring. He thrust the sealed envelope into the breast-pocket of
his coat and buttoned it up. There, for the present, it must remain.
He owed it to himself to devote every energy he possessed to make
the most of this great tide of business. With set face he closed
the doors upon the unreal world, and took hold of the levers which
were to guide his passage through the one in which he was an actual
Her visit was not altogether unexpected, and yet, when they told him
that Mademoiselle Idiale was outside, he hesitated.
"It is the lady who was here the other day," his head clerk reminded
him. "We made a remarkably good choice of stocks for her. They
must be showing nearly sixteen hundred pounds profit. Perhaps she
wants to realize."
"In any case, you had better show her in," said Laverick.
She came, bringing with her, notwithstanding her black clothes and
heavy veil, the atmosphere of a strange world into his somewhat
severely furnished office. Her skirts swept his carpet with a
musical swirl. She carried with her a faint, indefinable perfume
of violets, - a perfume altogether peculiar, dedicated to her by a
famous chemist in the Rue Royale, and supplied to no other person
upon earth. Who else was there, indeed, who could have walked those
few yards as she walked?
He rose to his feet and pointed to a chair.
"You have come to ask about your shares?" he asked politely. "So
far, we have nothing but good news for you."
She recognized that he spoke to her in the presence of his clerk,
and she waved her hand.
"Women who will come themselves to look after their poor investments
are a nuisance, I suppose," she said. "But indeed I will not keep
you long. A few minutes are all that I shall ask of you. I am
beginning to find city affairs so interesting."
They were alone by now and Louise raised her veil, raised it so
high that he could see her eyes. She leaned back in her chair,
supporting her chin with the long, exquisite fingers of her right
hand. She looked at him thoughtfully.
"You have examined the pocket-book?" she asked.
"And the document was there?"
"The document was there," he admitted. "Perhaps you can tell me how
it would be addressed?"
Looking at her closely, it came to him that her indifference was
assumed. She was shivering slightly, as though with cold.
"I imagine that there would be no address," she said.
"You are right. That document is in my pocket."
"What are you going to do with it?" she asked.
"What do you advise me to do with it?"
"Give it to me."
"Have you any claim?"
She leaned a little nearer to him.
"At least I have more claim to it," she whispered, "than you to that
twenty thousand pounds."
"I do not claim them," he replied. "They are in my safe at this
moment, untouched. They are there ready to be returned to their
"Why do you not find him?" - with a note of incredulity in her tone.
"How am I to do that?" Laverick demanded.
"We waste words," she continued coldly. "I think that if I leave
you with the contents of your safe, it will be wise for you to hand
me that document."
"I am inclined to do so," Laverick admitted. "The very fact that
you knew of its existence would seem to give you a sort of claim to
it. But, Mademoiselle Idiale, will you answer me a few questions?"
"I think," she said, "that it would be better if you asked me none."
"But listen," he begged. "You are the only person with whom I have
come into touch who seems to know anything about this affair. I
should rather like to tell you exactly how I stumbled in upon it.
Why can we not exchange confidence for confidence? I want neither
the twenty thousand pounds nor the document. I want, to be frank
with you, nothing but to escape from the position I am now in of
being half a thief and half a criminal. Show me some claim to that
document and you shall have it. Tell me to whom that money belongs,
and it shall be restored."
"You are incomprehensible," she declared. "Are you, by any chance,
playing a part with me? Do you think that it is worth while?"
"Mademoiselle Idiale," Laverick protested earnestly, "nothing in the
world is further from my thoughts. There is very little of the
conspirator about me. I am a plain man of business who stumbled in
upon this affair at a critical moment and dared to make temporary
use of his discovery. You can put it, if you like, that I am afraid.
I want to get out. Nothing would give me greater pleasure, if such
a thing were possible, than to send this pocket-book and its contents
anonymously to Scotland Yard, and never hear about them again.
She listened to him with unchanged face. Yet for some moments after
he had finished speaking she was thoughtful.
"You may be speaking the truth," she said. "If so, I have been
deceived. You are not quite the sort of man I did believe you were.
What you tell me is amazing, but it may be true."
"It is the truth," Laverick repeated calmly.
"Listen," she said, after a brief pause. "You were at school, were
you not, with Mr. David Bellamy? You know well who he is?"
"Perfectly well," Laverick admitted.
"You would consider him a person to be trusted?"
"Very well, then," she declared. "You shall come to my fiat at five
o'clock this afternoon and bring that document. If it is possible,
David Bellamy shall be there himself. We will try then and prove
to you that you do no harm in parting with that document to us."
"I will come," Laverick promised, "at five o'clock; but you must
tell me where."
"You will put it down, please," she said. "There must not be any
mistake. You must come, and you must come to-day. I am staying at
number 15, Dover Street. I will leave orders that you are shown
in at once."
She rose to her feet and he walked to the door with her. On the way
"Take care of yourself to-day, Mr. Laverick," she begged. "There
are others beside myself who are interested in that packet you carry
with you. You represent to them things beside which life and death
are trivial happenings."
Laverick laughed shortly. He was a matter-of-fact man, and there
seemed something a little absurd in such a warning.
"I do not think," he declared, "that you need have any fear. London
is, as you doubtless find it, a dull old city, but it is a remarkably
safe one to live in."
"Nevertheless, Mr. Laverick," she repeated earnestly, "be on your
guard to-day, for all our sakes."
He bowed and changed the subject.
"Your investments," he remarked, "you will be content, perhaps, to
leave as they are. It is, no doubt, of some interest to you to
know that they are showing already a profit of considerably over a
She shrugged her shoulders.
"It was an excuse - that investment," she declared. "Yet money is
always good. Keep it for me, Mr. Laverick, and do what you will. I
will trust your judgment. Buy or sell as you please. You will let
nothing prevent your coming this afternoon?"
"Nothing," he promised her.
>From the window of her beautifully appointed little electric brougham
she held out her hand in farewell.
"You think me foolish, I know, that I persist," she said, "but I do
beg that you will remember what I say. Do not be alone to-day more
than you can help. Suspect every one who comes near to you. There
may be a trap before your feet at any moment. Be wary always and do
not forget - at five o'clock I expect you."
Laverick smiled as he bowed his adieux.
"It is a promise, Mademoiselle," he assured her.
PENETRATING A MYSTERY
About an hour after Mademoiselle Idiale's departure a note marked
"Urgent" was brought in and handed to Laverick. He tore it open.
It was dated from the address of a firm of stockbrokers, with two
of the partners of which he was on friendly terms. It ran thus:
MY DEAR LAVERICK, - I want a chat with you, if you can spare
five minutes at lunch time. Come to Lyons' a little earlier
than usual, if you don't mind, - say at a quarter to one.
Laverick read the typewritten note carelessly enough at first. He
had even laid it down and glanced at the clock, with the intention
of starting out, when a thought struck him. He took it up and read
it though again. Then he turned to the telephone.
"Put me on to the office of Henshaw & Allen. I want to speak to Mr.
Two minutes passed. Laverick, meanwhile, had been washing his hands
ready to go out. Then the telephone bell rang. He took up the
"Hullo! Is that Henshaw?"
"I'm Henshaw," was the answer. "That's Laverick, isn't it? How
are you, old fellow?"
"I'm all right," Laverick replied. "What is it that you want to
see me about?"
"Nothing particular that I know of. Who told you that I wanted to?"
Laverick, who had been standing with the instrument in his hand, sat
down in his chair.
"Look here," he said, "Didn't you send me a note a few minutes ago,
asking me to come out to lunch at a quarter to one and meet you at
Henshaw's laugh was sufficient response.
"Delighted to lunch with you there or anywhere, old chap, - you know
that," was the answer, "but some one 's been putting up a practical
joke on you."
"You did not send me a note round this morning, then?" Laverick
"I'll swear I didn't," came the reply. "Do you seriously mean that
you've had one purporting to come from me?"
Laverick pulled himself together.
"Well, the signature's such a scrawl," he said, "that no one could
tell what the name really was. I guessed at you but I seem to have
guessed wrong. Good-bye!"
He set down the receiver and rang off to escape further questioning.
Now indeed the plot was commencing to thicken. This was a deliberate
effort on the part of some one to secure his absence from his offices
at a quarter to one.
With the document in his pocket and the safe securely locked,
Laverick felt at ease as to the result of any attempted burglary of
his premises. At the same time his curiosity was excited. Here,
perhaps, was a chance of finding some clue to this impenetrable
There were thee clerks in the outer office. He put on his hat and
despatched two of them on errands in different directions. The last
he was obliged to take into his confidence.
"Halsey," he said, "I am going out to lunch. At least, I wish it
to be thought that I am going out to lunch. As a matter of fact, I
shall return in about ten minutes by the back way. I do not wish
you, however, to know this. I want you to have it in your mind
that I have gone to lunch and shall not be back until a quarter past
two. If there are visitors for me - Inquirers of any sort - act
exactly as you would have done if you really believed that I was
not in the building."
Halsey appeared a good deal mystified. Laverick took him even
further into his confidence.
"To tell you the truth, Halsey," he said, "I have just received a
bogus letter from Mr. Henshaw, asking me to lunch with him. Some
one was evidently anxious to get me out of my office for an hour
or so. I want to find out for myself what this means, if possible.
"I think so, sir," the man replied doubtfully. "I am not to be
aware that you have returned, then?"
"Certainly not," Laverick answered. "Please be quite clear about
that. If you hear any commotion in the office, you can come in,
but do not send for the police unless I tell you to. I wish to
look into this affair for myself."
Halsey, who had started life as a lawyer's clerk, and was distinctly
formal in his ideas, was a little shocked.
"Would it not be better, sir," he suggested, "for me to communicate
with the police in the first case? If this should really turn out
to be an attempt at burglary, it would surely be best to leave the
matter to them."
"For certain reasons, Halsey, which I do not think it necessary to
tell you, I have a strong desire to investigate this matter
personally. Please do exactly as I say."
He left the office and strolled up the street in the direction of
the restaurant which he chiefly frequented. He reached it in a
moment or two, but left it at once by another entrance. Within ten
minutes he was back at his office.
"Has any one been, Halsey?"
"No one, sir," the clerk answered.
"You will be so good," Laverick continued, "as to forget that I
He passed on quickly into his own room and made his way into the
small closet where he kept his coat and washed his hands. He had
scarcely been there a minute when he heard voices in the outside
hall. The door of his office was opened.
"Mr. Laverick said nothing about an appointment at this hour," he
heard Halsey protest in a somewhat deprecating tone.
"He had, perhaps, forgotten," was the answer, in a totally unfamiliar
voice. "At any rate, I am not in a great hurry. The matter is of
some importance, however, and I will wait for Mr. Laverick."
The visitor was shown in. Laverick investigated his appearance
through a crack in the door. He was a man of medium height,
well-dressed, clean-shaven, and wore gold-rimmed spectacles. He
made himself comfortable in Laverick's easy-chair, and accepted
the paper which Halsey offered him.
"I shall be quite glad of a rest," he remarked genially. "I have
been running about all the morning."
"Mr. Laverick is never very long out for lunch, sir," Halsey said.
"I daresay he will not keep you more than a quarter of an hour or
The clerk withdrew and closed the door. The man in the chair waited
for a moment. Then he laid down his newspaper and looked cautiously
around the room. Satisfied apparently that he was alone, he rose to
his feet and walked swiftly to Laverick's writing-table. With fingers
which seemed gifted with a lightning-like capacity for movement, he
swung open the drawers, one by one, and turned over the papers. His
eyes were everywhere. Every document seemed to be scanned and as
rapidly discarded. At last he found something which interested him.
He held it up and paused in his search. Laverick heard a little
breath come though his teeth, and with a thrill he recognized the
paper as one which he had torn from a memorandum tablet and upon
which he had written down the address which Mademoiselle Idiale had
given him. The man with the gold-rimmed glasses replaced the paper
where he had found it. Evidently he had done with the writing-table.
He moved swiftly over to the safe and stood there listening for a
few seconds. Then from his pocket he drew a bunch of keys. To
Laverick's surprise, at the stranger's first effort the great door
of the safe swung open. He saw the man lean forward, saw his hand
reappear almost directly with the pocket-book clenched in his fingers.
Then he stood once more quite still, listening. Satisfied that no
one was disturbed, he closed the door of the safe softly and moved
once more to the writing-table. With marvelous swiftness the notes
were laid upon the table, the pocket-book was turned upside down,
the secret place disclosed - the secret place which was empty. It
seemed to Laverick that from his hiding-place he could hear the little
oath of disappointment which broke from the thin red lips. The man
replaced the notes and, with the pocket-book in his hand, hesitated.
Laverick, who thought that things had gone far enough, stepped lightly
out from his hiding-place and stood between his unbidden visitor and
"You had better put down that pocket-book," he ordered quietly.
The man was upon him with a single spring, but Laverick, without
the slightest hesitation, knocked him prone upon the floor, where
he lay, for a moment, motionless. Then he slowly picked himself up.
His spectacles were broken - he blinked as he stood there.
"Sorry to be so rough," Laverick said. "Perhaps if you will kindly
realize that of the two I am much the stronger man, you will be so
good as to sit in that chair and tell me the meaning of your
The man obeyed. He covered his eyes with his hand, for a moment,
as though in pain.
"I imagine," he said - and it seemed to Laverick that his voice had
a slight foreign accent - "I imagine that the motive for my paying
you this visit is fairly clear to you. People who have compromising
possessions may always expect visits of this sort. You see, one
runs so little risk."
"So little risk!" Laverick repeated.
"Exactly," the other answered. "Confess that you are not in the
least inclined to ring your bell and send for a constable to give
me in charge for being in possession of a pocket-book abstracted
from your safe, containing twenty thousand pounds in Bank of
"It wouldn't do at all," Laverick admitted.
"You are a man of common sense," declared the other. "It would not
do. Now comes the time when I have a question to ask you. There
was a sealed document in this pocket-book. Where is it ? What
have you done with it?"
"Can you tell me," Laverick asked, "why I should answer questions
from a person whom I discover apparently engaged in a nefarious
attempt at burglary?"
The man's hand shot out from his trouser-pocket, and Laverick looked
into the gleaming muzzle of a revolver.
"Because if you don't, you die," was the quick reply. "Whether
you've read that document or not, I want it. If you've read it, you
know the sort of men you've got to deal with. If you haven't, take
my word for it that we waste no time. The document! Will you give
"Do I understand that you are threatening me?" Laverick asked,
retreating a few steps.
"You may understand that this is a repeating revolver, and that I
seldom miss a half-crown at twenty paces," his visitor answered.
"If you put out your hand toward that bell, it will be the last
movement you'll ever make on earth."
"London isn't really the place for this sort of thing," Laverick
said. "If you discharge that revolver, you haven't a dog's chance
of getting clear of the building. My clerks would rush out after
you into the street. You'd find yourself surrounded by a crowd of
business men. You couldn't make your way through anywhere. You'd
be held up before you'd gone a dozen yards. Put down your revolver.
We can perhaps settle this little matter without it."
"The document!" the man ordered. "You've got it! You must have it!
You took that pocket-book from a dead man, and in that pocket-book
was the document. We must have it. We intend to have it."
"And who, may I ask, are we?" Laverick inquired.
"If you do not know, what does it matter? Will you give it to me?"
Laverick shook his head.
"I have no document."
The man in the chair leaned forward. The muzzle of his revolver was
very bright, and he held it in fingers which were firm as a rock.
"Give it to me!" he repeated. "You ought to know that you are not
dealing with men who are unaccustomed to death. You have it about
you. Produce it, and I've done with you. Deny me, and you have not
time to say your prayers!"
Laverick was leaning against a small table which stood near the door.
His fingers suddenly gripped the ledger which lay upon it. He held
it in front of his face for a single moment, and then dashed it at
his visitor. He followed behind with one desperate spring. Once,
twice, the revolver barked out. Laverick felt the skin of his temple
burn and a flick on the ear which reminded him of his school-days.
Then his hand was upon the other man's throat and the revolver lay
upon the carpet.
"We 'll see about that. By the Lord, I've a good mind to wring the
life out of you. That bullet of yours might have been in my temple."
"It was meant to be there," the man gasped. "Hand over the document,
you pig-headed fool! It'll cost you your life - if not to-day,
"I'll be hanged if you get it, anyway!" Laverick answered fiercely.
"You assassin! Scoundrel! To come here and make a cold-blooded
effort at murder! You shall see what you think of the inside of an
The man laughed contemptuously.
"And what about the pocket-book?" he asked.
Laverick was silent. His assailant smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
"Come," he said, "I have made my effort and failed. You have twenty
thousand pounds. That's a fair price, but I'll add another twenty
thousand for that document unopened."
"It is possible that we might deal," Laverick remarked, kicking the
revolver a little further away. "Unfortunately, I am too much in the
dark. Tell me the real position of the murdered man? Tell me why he
was murdered? Tell me the contents of this document and why it was in
his possession? Perhaps I may then be inclined to treat with you."
"You are either an astonishingly ingenuous person, Mr. Laverick,"
his visitor declared, "or you're too subtle for me. You do not
expect me to believe that you are in this with your eyes blindfolded?
You do not expect me to believe that you do not know what is in that
sealed envelope? Bah! It is a child's game, that, and we play as
men with men."
Laverick shook his head.
"Your offer," he asked, "what is it exactly?"
"Twenty thousand pounds," the man answered. "The document is worth
no more than that to you. How you came into this thing is a mystery,
but you are in and, what is more, you have possession. Twenty
thousand pounds, Mr. Laverick. It is a large sum of money. You
find it interesting?"
"I find it interesting," Laverick answered dryly, "but I am not a
The intruder moved his hand away from his eyes. His expression was
full of wonder.
"Consider for a moment," he said. "While that document remains in