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Peter Ruff and the Double Four by E. Phillips Oppenheim

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"Put up a notice," he said - "'Back on Friday.' Pack up your books
and take them round to the Bank before you leave. The lift man will
call you a taxi-cab."

He watched her preparations with a sort of gloomy calm.

"I wish you'd tell me what is the matter with you?" she asked, as
she turned to follow her belongings.

"I do not know," Peter Ruff said. "I, suppose I am suffering from
what you would call presentiments. Be at Charing-Cross punctually."

"Why do you go at all?" she asked. "These people are of no further
use to you. Only the other day, you were saying that you should
not accept any more outside cases."

"I must go," Peter Ruff answered. "I am not afraid of many things,
but I should be afraid of disobeying this letter."

They had a comfortable journey down, a cool, bright crossing, and
found their places duly reserved for them in the French train.
Miss Brown, in her neat traveling clothes and furs, was conscious
of looking her best, and she did all that was possible to entertain
her traveling companion. But Peter Ruff seemed like a man who labors
under some sense of apprehension. He had faced death more than once
during the last few years - faced it without flinching, and with a
certain cool disregard which can only come from the highest sort of
courage. Yet he knew, when he read over again in the train that
brief summons which he was on his way to obey, that he had passed
under the shadow of some new and indefinable fear. He was perfectly
well aware, too, that both on the steamer and on the French train
he was carefully shadowed. This fact, however, did not surprise him.
He even went out of his way to enter into conversation with one of
the two men whose furtive glances into their compartment and whose
constant proximity had first attracted his attention. The man was
civil but vague. Nevertheless, when they took their places in the
dining-car, they found the two men at the next table. Peter Ruff
pointed them out to his companion.

"'Double-Fours'!" he whispered. "Don't you feel like a criminal?"

She laughed, and they took no more notice of the men. But as the
train drew near Paris, he felt some return of the depression which
had troubled him during the earlier part of the day. He felt a
sense of comfort in his companion's presence which was a thing
utterly strange to him. On the other hand, he was conscious of a
certain regret that he had brought her with him into an adventure
of which he could not foresee the end.

The lights of Paris flashed around them - the train was gradually
slackening speed. Peter Ruff, with a sigh, began to collect their

"Violet," he said, "I ought not to have brought you." Something
in his voice puzzled her. There had been every few times, during
all the years she had known him, when she had been able to detect
anything approaching sentiment in his tone - and those few times
had been when he had spoken of another woman.

"Why not?" she asked, eagerly.

Peter Ruff looked out into the blackness, through the glittering
arc of lights, and perhaps for once he suffered his fancy to build
for him visions of things that were not of earth. If so, however,
it was a moment which swiftly passed. His reply was in a tone as
matter of fact as his usual speech.

"Because," he said, "I do not exactly see the end of my present
expedition - I do not understand its object."

"You have some apprehension?" she asked.

"None at all," he answered. "Why should I? There is an unwritten
bargain," he added, a little more slowly, "to which I subscribed
with our friends here, and I have certainly kept it. In fact, the
balance is on my side. There is nothing for me to fear."

The train crept into the Gare du Nord, and they passed through the
usual routine of the Customs House. Then, in an omnibus, they
rumbled slowly over the cobblestones, through the region of barely
lit streets and untidy cafes, down the Rue Lafayette, across the
famous Square and into the Rue de Rivoli.

"Our movements," Peter Ruff remarked dryly, "are too well known for
us to attempt to conceal them. We may as well stop at one of the
large hotels. It will be more cheerful for you while I am away."

They engaged rooms at the Continental. Miss Brown, whose apartments
were in the wing of the hotel overlooking the gardens, ascended at
once to her room. Peter Ruff, who had chosen a small suite on the
other side, went into the bar for a whiskey and soda. A man touched
him on the elbow.

"For Monsieur," he murmured, and vanished.

Peter Ruff turned and opened the note. It bore a faint perfume, it
had a coronet upon the flap of the envelope, and it was written in
a delicate feminine handwriting.

If you are not too tired with your journey, will you call soon after
one o'clock to meet some old friends?

Peter Ruff drank his whiskey and soda, went up to his rooms, and
made a careful toilet. Then he sent a page up for Violet, who came
down within a few minutes. She was dressed with apparent simplicity
in a high-necked gown, a large hat, and a single rope of pearls. In
place of the usual gold purse, she carried a small white satin bag,
exquisitely hand-painted. Everything about her bespoke that elegant
restraint so much a feature of the Parisian woman of fashion herself.
Peter Ruff, who had told her to prepare for supping out, was at first
struck by the simplicity of her attire. Afterwards, he came to
appreciate its perfection.

They went to the Caf=82 de Paris, where they were the first arrivals.
People, however, began to stream in before they had finished their
meal, and Peter Ruff, comparing his companion's appearance with the
more flamboyant charms of these ladies from the Opera and the
theatres, began to understand the numerous glances of admiration
which the impressionable Frenchmen so often turned in their direction.
There was between them, toward the end of the meal, something which
amounted almost to nervousness.

"You are going to keep your appointment to-night, Peter?" his
companion asked.

Peter Ruff nodded.

"As soon as I have taken you home," he said. "I shall probably
return late, so we will breakfast here to-morrow morning, if you
like, at half-past twelve. I will send a note to your room when I
am ready."

She looked him in the eyes.

"Peter," she said, "supposing that note doesn't come!"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"My dear Violet," he said, "you and I - or rather I, for you are
not concerned in this - live a life which is a little different
from the lives of most of the people around us. The million pay
their taxes, and they expect police protection in times of danger.
For me there is no such resource. My life has its own splendid
compensations. I have weapons with which to fight any ordinary
danger. What I want to explain to you is this - that if you hear
no more of me, you can do nothing. If that note does not come to
you in the morning, you can do nothing. Wait here for three days,
and after that go back to England. You will find a letter on your
desk, telling you there exactly what to do."

"You have something in your mind," she said, "of which you have not
told me."

"I have nothing," he answered, firmly. "Upon my honor, I know of
no possible cause of offense which our friends could have against
me. Their summons is, I will admit, somewhat extraordinary, but I
go to obey it absolutely without fear. You can sleep well, Violet.
We lunch here to-morrow, without a doubt."

They drove back to the hotel almost in silence. Violet was looking
fixedly out of the window of the taxicab, as though interested in
watching the crowds upon the street. Peter Ruff appeared to be
absorbed in his own thoughts. Yet perhaps they were both of them
nearer to one another than either surmised. Their parting in the
hall of the Continental Hotel was unemotional enough. For a moment
Peter Ruff had hesitated while her hand had lain in his. He had
opened his lips as though he had something to say. Her eyes grew
suddenly softer - seemed to seek his as though begging for those
unspoken words. But Peter Ruff did not say them then.

"I shall be back all right," he said. "Good night, Violet! Sleep

He turned back towards the waiting taxicab.

"Number 16, Rue de St. Quintaine," he told the man. It was not a
long ride. In less than a quarter of an hour, Peter Ruff presented
himself before a handsome white house in a quiet, aristocratic-looking
street. At his summons, the postern door flew open, and a man-servant
in plain livery stood at the second entrance.

"Madame Ia Marquise?" Peter Ruff asked.

The man bowed in silence, and took the visitor's hat and overcoat.
He passed along a spacious hall and into a delightfully furnished
reception room, where an old lady with gray hair sat in the midst
of a little circle of men. Peter Ruff stood, for a moment, upon
the threshold, looking around him. She held out her hands.

"It is Monsieur Peter Ruff, is it not? At last, then, I am
gratified. I have wished for so long to see one who has become so

Peter Ruff took her hands in his and raised them gallantly to his

"Madame," he said, "this is a pleasure indeed. At my last visit
here, you were in Italy."

"I grow old," she answered. "I leave Paris but little now. Where
one has lived, one should at least be content to die."

"Madame speaks a philosophy," Peter Ruff answered, "which as yet she
has no need to learn."

The old lady turned to a man who stood upon her right:

"And this from an Englishman!" she exclaimed.

There were others who took Peter Ruff by the hand then. The servants
were handing round coffee in little Sevres cups. On the sideboard
was a choice of liqueurs and bottles of wine. Peter Ruff found
himself hospitably entertained with both small talk and refreshments.
But every now and then his eyes wandered back to where Madame sat in
her chair, her hair as white as snow - beautiful still, in spite of
the cruel mouth and the narrow eyes.

"She is wonderful!" he murmured to a man who stood by his side.

"She is eighty-six," was the answer in a whisper, "and she knows

As the clock struck two, a tall footman entered the room and wheeled
Madame's chair away. Several of the guests left at the same time.
Ruff, when the door was closed, counted those who remained. As he
had imagined would be the case, he found that there were eight.

A tall, gray-bearded man, who from the first had attached himself to
Ruff, and who seemed to act as a sort of master of ceremonies, now
approached him once more and laid his hand upon his shoulder.

"Mon ami," he said, " we will now discuss, if it pleases you, the
little matter concerning which we took the liberty of asking you to
favor us with a visit."

"What, here?" Peter Ruff asked, in some surprise.

His friend, who had introduced himself as Monsieur de Founcelles,

"But why not?" he asked. "Ah, but I think I understand!" he added,
almost immediately. " You are English, Monsieur Peter Ruff, and in
some respects you have not moved with the times. Confess, now, that
your idea of a secret society is a collection of strangely attired
men who meet in a cellar, and build subterranean passages in case of
surprise. In Paris, I think, we have gone beyond that sort of thing.
We of the 'Double-Four' have no headquarters save the drawing-room
of Madame; no hiding-places whatsoever; no meeting-places save the
fashionable cafes or our own reception rooms. The police follow us
- what can they discover? - nothing! What is there to discover?
- nothing! Our lives are lived before the eyes of all Paris. There
is never any suspicion of mystery about any of our movements. We
have our hobbies, and we indulge in them. Monsieur the Marquis de
Sogrange here is a great sportsman. Monsieur le Comte owns many
racehorses. I myself am an authority on pictures, and own a
collection which I have bequeathed to the State. Paris knows us
well as men of fashion and mark - Paris does not guess that we have
perfected an organization so wonderful that the whole criminal world
pays toll to us."

"Dear me," Peter Ruff said, "this is very interesting!"

"We have a trained army at our disposal," Monsieur de Founcelles
continued, "who numerically, as well as in intelligence, outnumber
the whole force of gendarmes in Paris. No criminal from any other
country can settle down here and hope for success, unless he joins
us. An exploit which is inspired by us cannot fail. Our agents
may count on our protection, and receive it without question."

"I am bewildered," Peter Ruff said, frankly. "I do not understand
how you gentlemen - whom one knows by name so well as patrons of
sport and society, can spare the time for affairs of such importance."

Monsieur de Founcelles nodded.

"We have very valuable aid," he said. "There is below us - the
'Double-Four'- the eight gentlemen now present, an executive council
composed of five of the shrewdest men in France. They take their
orders from us. We plan, and they obey. We have imagination, and
special sources of knowledge. They have the most perfect machinery
for carrying out our schemes that it is possible to imagine. I do
not wish to boast, Mr. Ruff, but if I take a directory of Paris and
place after any man's name, whatever his standing or estate, a black
cross, that man dies before seven days have passed. You buy your
evening paper - a man has committed suicide! You read of a letter
found by his side: an unfortunate love affair - a tale of jealousy or
reckless speculation. Mr. Ruff, the majority of these explanations
are false. They are invented and arranged for by us. This year
alone, five men in Paris, of position, have been found dead, and
accounted, for excellent reasons, suicides. In each one of these
cases, Monsieur Ruff, although not a soul has a suspicion of it,
the removal of these men was arranged for by the' Double-Four.'"

"I trust," Peter Ruff said, "that it may never be my ill-fortune to
incur the displeasure of so marvelous an

"On the contrary, Monsieur Ruff," the other answered, "the attention
of the association has been directed towards certain incidents of
your career in a most favorable manner. We have spoken of you often
lately, Mr. Ruff, between ourselves. We arrive now at the object for
which we begged the honor of your visit. It is to offer you the
Presidency of our Executive Council."

Peter Ruff had thought of many things, but he had not thought of
this! He gasped, recovered himself, and realized at once the
dangers of the position in which he stood.

"The Council of Five!" he said thoughtfully.

"Precisely," Monsieur de Founcelles replied. "The salary - forgive
me for giving such prominence to a matter which you doubtless
consider of secondary importance - is ten thousand pounds a year,
with a residence here and in London - also servants."

"It is princely!" Peter Ruff declared. "I cannot imagine, Monsieur,
how you could have believed me capable of filling such a position."

"There is not much about you, Mr. Ruff, which we do not know,"
Monsieur de Founcelles answered. "There are points about your career
which we have marked with admiration. Your work over here was rapid
and comprehensive. We know all about your checkmating the Count von
Hern and the Comtesse de Pilitz. We have appealed to you for aid
once only - your response was prompt and brilliant. You have all the
qualifications we desire. You are still young, physically you are
sound, you speak all languages, and you are unmarried."

"I am what?" Peter Ruff asked, with a start.

"A bachelor," Monsieur de Founcelles answered. "We who have made
crime and its detection a life-long study, have reduced many matters
concerning it to almost mathematical exactitude. Of one thing we
have become absolutely convinced - it is that the great majority of
cases in which the police triumph are due to the treachery of women.
The criminal who steers clear of the other sex escapes a greater
danger than the detectives who dog his heels. It is for that reason
that we choose only unmarried men for our executive council."

Peter Ruff made a gesture of despair. "And I am to be married in a
month!" he exclaimed.

There was a murmur of dismay. If those other seven men had not once
intervened, it was because=20the conduct of the affair had been voted
into the hands of Monsieur de Founcelles, and there was little which
he had left unsaid. Nevertheless, they had formed a little circle
around the two men. Every word passing between them had been
listened to eagerly. Gestures and murmured exclamations had been
frequent enough. There arose now a chorus of voices which their
leader had some difficulty in silencing.

"It must be arranged!"

"But it is impossible - this!"

"Monsieur Ruff amuses himself with us!"

"Gentlemen," Peter Ruff said, "I can assure you that I do nothing of
the sort. The affair was arranged some months ago, and the young
lady is even now in Paris, purchasing her trousseau."

Monsieur de Founcelles, with a wave of the hand, commanded silence.
There was probably a way out. In any case, one must be found.

"Monsieur Ruff," he said, "putting aside, for one moment, your sense
of honor, which of course forbids you even to consider the possibility
of breaking your word - supposing that the young lady herself should
withdraw - "

"You don't know Miss Brown!" Peter Ruff interrupted. "It is a
pleasure to which I hope to attain," Monsieur de Founcelles declared,
smoothly. "Let us consider once more my proposition. I take it for
granted that, apart from this threatened complication, you find it

"I am deeply honored by it," Peter Ruff declared.

"Well, that being so," Monsieur de Founcelles said, more cheerfully,
"we must see whether we cannot help you. Tell me, who is this
fortunate young lady - this Miss Brown?"

"She is a young person of good birth and some means," Peter Ruff
declared. "She is, in a small way, an actress; she has also been my
secretary from the first." Monsieur de Founcelles nodded his head

"Ah!" he said." She knows your secrets, then, I presume?"

"She does," Peter Ruff assented. "She knows a great deal!"

"A young person to be conciliated by all means," Monsieur de
Founcelles declared. "Well, we must see. When, Monsieur Ruff, may
I have the opportunity of making the acquaintance of this young lady?"

"To-morrow morning, or rather this morning, if you will," Peter Ruff
answered. "We are taking breakfast together at the caf=82 de Paris.
It will give me great pleasure if you will join us."

"On the contrary," Monsieur de Founcelles declared, "I must beg of
you slightly to alter your plans. I will ask you and Mademoiselle
to do me the honor of breakfasting at the Ritz with the Marquis de
Sogrange and myself, at the same hour. We shall find there more
opportunity for a short discussion."

"I am entirely at your service," Peter Ruff answered. There were
signs now of a breaking-up of the little party.

"We must all regret, dear Monsieur Ruff," Monsieur de Founcelles
said, as he made his adieux, "this temporary obstruction to the
consummation of our hopes. Let us pray that Mademoiselle will not
be unreasonable."

"You are very kind," Peter Ruff murmured.

Peter Ruff drove through the gray dawn to his hotel, in the splendid
automobile of Monsieur de Founcelles, whose homeward route lay in
that direction. It was four o'clock when he accepted his key from
a sleepy-looking clerk, and turned towards the staircase. The hotel
was wrapped in semi-gloom. Sweepers and cleaners were at work. The
palms had been turned out into the courtyard. Dust sheets lay over
the furniture. One person only, save himself and the untidy-looking
servants, was astir. From a distant corner which commanded the
entrance, he saw Violet stealing away to the corridor which led to
her part of the hotel. She had sat there all through the night to
see him come in - to be assured of his safety! Peter Ruff stared
after her disappearing figure as one might have watched a ghost.

The luncheon-party was a great success. Peter Ruff was human
enough to be proud of his companion - proud of her smartness, which
was indubitable even here, surrounded as they were by Frenchwomen
of the best class; proud of her accent, of the admiration which she
obviously excited in the two Frenchmen. His earlier enjoyment of
the meal was a little clouded from the fact that he felt himself
utterly outshone in the matter of general appearance. No tailor had
ever suggested to him a coat so daring and yet so perfect as that
which adorned the person of the Marquis de Sogrange. The deep violet
of his tie was a shade unknown in Bond Street - inimitable - a true
education in color. They had the bearing, too, these Frenchmen! He
watched Monsieur de Founcelles bending over Violet, and he was
suddenly conscious of a wholly new sensation. He did not recognize
- could not even classify it. He only knew that it was not
altogether pleasant, and that it set the warm blood tingling through
his veins.

It was not until they were sitting out in the winter garden, taking
their coffee and liqueurs, that the object of their meeting was
referred to. Then Monsieur de Founcelles drew Violet a little away
from the others, and the Marquis, with a meaning smile, took Peter
Ruff's arm and led him on one side. Monsieur de Founcelles wasted
no words at all.

"Mademoiselle," he said, "Monsieur Ruff has doubtless told you that
last night I made him the offer of a great position among us."

She looked at him with twinkling eyes.

"Go on, please," she said.

"I offered him a position of great dignity - of great responsibility,"
Monsieur de Founcelles continued. "I cannot explain to you its exact
nature, but it is in connection with the most wonderful organization
of its sort which the world has ever known."

"The 'Double-Four,'" she murmured.

"Attached to the post is a princely salary and but one condition,"
Monsieur de Founcelles said, watching the girl's face. "The condition
is that Mr. Ruff remains a bachelor."

Violet nodded.

"Peter 's told me all this," she remarked. "He wants me to give
him up."

Monsieur de Founcelles drew a little closer to his companion. There
was a peculiar smile upon his lips.

"My dear young lady," he said softly, "forgive me if I point out to
you that with your appearance and gifts a marriage with our excellent
friend is surely not the summit of your ambitions! Here in Paris, I
promise you, here - we can do much better than that for you. You
have not, perhaps, a dot? Good! That is our affair. Give up our
friend here, and we deposit in any bank you like to name the sum of
two hundred and fifty thousand francs."

"Two hundred and fifty thousand francs!" Violet repeated, slowly.

Monsieur de Founcelles nodded.

"It is enough?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"It is not enough," she answered.

Monsieur de Founcelles raised his eyebrows.

"We do not bargain," he said coldly, "and money is not the chief
thing in the world. It is for you, then, to name a sum."

"Monsieur de Founcelles," she said, "can you tell me the amount of
the national debt of France?"

"Somewhere about nine hundred million francs, I believe," he answered.

She nodded.

"That is exactly my price," she declared.

"For giving up Peter Ruff?" he gasped.

She looked at her employer thoughtfully.

"He doesn't look worth it, does he?" she said, with a queer little
smile. "I happen to care for him, though - that's all."

Monsieur de Founcelles shrugged his shoulders. He knew men and
women, and for the present he accepted defeat. He sighed heavily.

"I congratulate our friend, and I envy him," he said. "If ever you
should change your mind, Mademoiselle - "

"It is our privilege, isn't it?" she remarked, with a brilliant
smile. "If I do, I shall certainly let you know."

On the way home, Peter Ruff was genial - Miss Brown silent. He had
escaped from a difficult position, and his sense of gratitude toward
his companion was strong. He showed her many little attentions on
the voyage which sometimes escaped him. From Dover, they had a
carriage to themselves.

"Peter," Miss Brown said, after he had made her comfortable, "when
is it to be?"

"When is what to be?" he asked, puzzled.

"Our marriage," she answered, looking at him for a moment in most
bewildering fashion and then suddenly dropping her eyes.

Peter Ruff returned her gaze in blank amazement.

"What do you mean, Violet?" he exclaimed.

"Just what I say," she answered, composedly. "When are we going to
be married?"

Peter Ruff frowned.

"What nonsense!" he said. "We are not going to be married. You
know that quite well."

"Oh, no, I don't!" she declared, smiling at him in a heavenly fashion.
"At your request I have told Monsieur de Founcelles that we were
engaged. Incidentally, I have refused two hundred and fifty thousand
francs and, I believe, an admirer, for your sake. I declared that I
was going to marry you, and I must keep my word."

Peter Ruff began to feel giddy.

"Look here, Violet," he said, " you know very well that we arranged
all that between ourselves."

"Arranged all that?" she repeated, with a little laugh. "Perhaps
we did. You asked me to marry you, and you posed as my fiancee.
You kept it up just as long as you - it suits me to keep it up a
little longer."

"Do you mean to say - do you seriously mean that you expect me to
marry you?" he asked, aghast.

"I do," she admitted. "I have meant you to for some time, Peter!"

She was very alluring, and Peter Ruff hesitated. She held out her
hands and leaned towards him. Her muff fell to the floor. She had
raised her veil, and a faint perfume of violets stole into the
carriage. Her lips were a little parted, her eyes were saying
unutterable things.

"You don't want me to sue you, do you, Peter?" she murmured.

Peter Ruff sighed - and yielded.



The woman who had been Peter Ruff's first love had fallen upon evil
days. Her prettiness was on the wane - powder and rouge, late hours,
and excesses of many kinds, had played havoc with it, even in these
few months. Her clothes were showy but cheap. Her boots themselves,
unclean and down at heel, told the story. She stood upon the
threshold of Peter Ruff's office, and looked half defiantly, half
doubtfully at Violet, who was its sole occupant.

"Can I do anything for you?" the latter asked, noticing the woman's

"I want to see Mr. Ruff," the visitor said.

"Mr. Ruff is out at present," Violet answered.

"When will he be in?"

"I cannot tell you," Violet said. "Perhaps you had better leave a
message. Or will you call again? Mr. Ruff is very uncertain in
his movements."

Maud sank into a chair.

"I'll wait," she declared.

"I am not sure," Violet remarked, raising her eyebrows, "whether
that will be convenient. There may be other clients in. Mr.
Ruff himself may not be back for several hours."

"Are you his secretary?" Maud asked, without moving.

"I am his secretary and also his wife," Violet declared. The woman
raised herself a little in her chair.

"Some people have all the luck," she muttered. "It's only a few
months ago that Mr. Ruff was glad enough to take me out. You
remember when I used to come here?"

"I remember," Violet assented.

"I was all right then," the woman continued, "and now - now I'm
down and out," she added, with a little sob. "You see what I am
like. You look as though you didn't care to have me in the
office, and I don't wonder at it. You look as though you were

afraid I'd come to beg, and you are right - I have come to beg."

"I am sure Mr. Ruff will do what he can for you," Violet said,
"although - "

"I see you know all about it," Maud interrupted, with a hard little
laugh. "I came once to wheedle information out of him. I came to
try and betray the only man who ever really cared for me. Mr. Ruff
was too clever, and I am thankful for it. I have been as big a fool
as a woman can be, but I am paying - oh, I am paying for it right

She swayed in her chair, and Violet was only just in time to catch
her. She led the fainting woman to an inner room, made her
comfortable upon a sofa, and sent out for some food and a bottle of
wine. Down in the street below, John Dory, who had tracked his wife
to the building, was walking away with face as black as night. He
knew that Maud had lost her position, that she was in need of money
- almost penniless. He had waited to see to whom she would turn,
hoping - poor fool as he called himself - that she would come back
to him. And it was his enemy to whom she had gone! He had seen
her enter the building; he knew that she had not left it. In the
morning they brought him another report - she was still within. It
was the end, this, he told himself! There must be a settlement
between him and Peter Ruff!

Mr. John Dory, who had arrived at Clenarvon Court in a four-wheel
cab from the nearest railway station, was ushered by the butler to
the door of one of the rooms on the ground floor, overlooking the
Park. A policeman was there on guard - a policeman by his attitude
and salute, although he was in plain clothes. John Dory nodded,
and turned to the butler.

"You see, the man knows me," he said. "Here is my card. I am John
Dory from Scotland Yard. I want to have a few words with the

The butler hesitated.

"Our orders are very strict, sir," he said. "I am afraid that I
cannot allow you to enter the room without a special permit from
his lordship. You see, we have had no advice of your coming."

John Dory nodded.

"Quite right," he answered." If every one were to obey his orders
as literally, there would be fewer robberies. However, you see that
this man recognizes me."

The butler turned toward an elderly gentleman in a pink coat and
riding-breeches, who had just descended into the hall.

"His lordship is here," he said. "He will give you permission,
without a doubt. There is a gentleman from Scotland Yard, your
lordship," he explained, "who wishes to enter the morning-room to
speak with the sergeant."

"Inspector John Dory, at your lordship's service," saluting. "I
have been sent down from town to help in this little business."

Lord Clenarvon smiled.

"I should have thought that, under the circumstances," he said,
"two of you would have been enough. Still, it is not for me to
complain. Pray go in and speak to the sergeant. You will find him
inside. Rather dull work for him, I'm afraid, and quite unnecessary."

"I am not so sure, your lordship," Dory answered. "The Clenarvon
diamonds are known all over the world, and I suppose there isn't a
thieves' den in Europe that does not know that they will remain here
exposed with your daughter's other wedding presents."

Lord Clenarvon smiled once more and shrugged his shoulders. He was
a man who had unbounded faith in his fellow-creatures.

"I suppose," he said, "it is the penalty one has to pay for historical
possessions. Go in and talk to the sergeant, by all means, Mr. Dory.
I hope that Graves will succeed in making you comfortable during your
stay here."

John Dory was accordingly admitted into the room which was so
jealously guarded. At first sight, it possessed a somewhat singular
appearance. The windows had every one of them been boarded up, and
the electric lights consequently fully turned on. A long table
stood in the middle of the apartment, serving as support for a long
glass showcase, open at the top. Within this, from end to end,
stretched the presents which a large circle of acquaintances were
presenting to one of the most popular young women in society, on
the occasion of her approaching marriage to the Duke of Rochester.
In the middle, the wonderful Clenarvon diamonds, set in the form of
a tiara, flashed strange lights into the somberly lit apartment. At
the end of the table a police sergeant was sitting, with a little
pile of newspapers and illustrated journals before him. He rose to
his feet with alacrity at his superior's entrance.

"Good morning, Saunders," John Dory said. "I see you've got it
pretty snug in here."

"Pretty well, thank you, sir," Saunders answered. "Is there
anything stirring?"

John Dory looked behind to be sure that the door was closed. Then he
stopped for a moment to gaze at the wonderful diamonds, and finally
sat on the table by his subordinate's side.

"Not exactly that, Saunders," he said. "To tell you the truth, I
came down here because of that list of guests you sent me up."

Saunders smiled.

"I think I can guess the name you singled out, sir," he said. =20

"It was Peter Ruff, of course," Dory said. "What is he doing here
in the house, under his own name, and as a guest?"

"I have asked no questions, sir," Saunders answered. "I underlined
the name in case it might seem worth your while to make inquiries."

John Dory nodded.

"Nothing has happened, of course?" he asked.

"Nothing," Saunders answered. "You see, with the windows all boarded
up, there is practically only the ordinary door to guard, so we feel
fairly secure."

"No one hanging about?" the detective asked. "Mr. Ruff himself, for
instance, hasn't been trying to make your acquaintance?"

"No sign of it, sir," the man answered. "I saw him pass through the
hall yesterday afternoon, as I went off duty, and he was in riding
clothes all splashed with mud. I think he has been hunting every day."

John Dory muttered something between his lips, and turned on his heel.

"How many men have you here, Saunders?" he asked.

"Only two, sir, beside myself," the man replied.

The detective went round the boarded windows, examining the work
carefully until he reached the door.

"I am going to see if I can have a word with his lordship," he said.

He caught Lord Clenarvon in the act of mounting his horse in the
great courtyard.

"What is it, Mr. Dory?" the Earl asked, stooping down.

"There is one name, your lordship, among your list of guests,
concerning which I wish to have a word with you," the detective said
- "the name of Mr. Peter Ruff."
"Don't know anything about him," Lord Clenarvon answered, cheerfully.
"You must see my daughter, Lady Mary. It was she who sent him his
invitation. Seems a decent little fellow, and rides as well as the
best. you'll find Lady Mary about somewhere, if you'd like to ask

Lord Clenarvon hurried off, with a little farewell wave of his crop,
and John Dory returned into the house to make inquiries respecting
Lady Mary. In a very few minutes he was shown into her presence.
She smiled at him cheerfully.

"Another detective!" she exclaimed. "I am sure I ought to feel
quite safe now. What can I do for you, Mr. Dory?"

"I have had a list of the guests sent to me," Dory answered, "in
which I notice the name of Mr. Peter Ruff."

Lady Mary nodded.

"Well?" she asked.

"I have just spoken to his lordship," the detective continued, "and
he referred me to you."

"Do you want to know all about Mr. Ruff?" Lady Mary asked, smiling.

"If your ladyship will pardon my saying so, I think that neither
you nor any one else could tell me that. What I wished to say was
that I understood that we at Scotland Yard were placed in charge of
your jewels until after the wedding. Mr. Peter Ruff is, as you may
be aware, a private detective himself."

"I understand perfectly," Lady Mary said. "I can assure you, Mr.
Dory, that Mr. Ruff is here entirely as a personal and very valued
friend of my own. On two occasions he has rendered very signal
service to my family - services which I am quite unable to requite."

"In that case, your ladyship, there is nothing more to be said. I
conceive it, however, to be my duty to tell you that in our opinion
- the opinion of Scotland Yard=20- there are things about the career
of Mr. Peter Ruff which need explanation. He is a person whom we
seldom let altogether out of our sight."

Lady Mary laughed frankly.

"My dear Mr. Dory," she said, "this is one of the cases, then, in
which I can assure you that I know more than Scotland Yard. There
is no person in the world in whom I have more confidence, and with
more reason, than Mr. Peter Ruff."

John Dory bowed.

"I thank your ladyship," he said. "I trust that your confidence
will never be misplaced. May I ask one more question?"

"Certainly," Lady Mary replied, "so long as you make no insinuations
whatever against my friend."

"I should be very sorry to do so," John Dory declared. "I simply
wish to know whether Mr. Ruff has any instructions from you with
reference to the care of your jewels?"

"Certainly not," Lady Mary replied, decidedly. "Mr. Ruff is here
entirely as my guest. He has been in the room with the rest of us,
to look at them, and it was he, by the bye, who discovered a much
more satisfactory way of boarding the windows. Anything else, Mr.

"I thank your ladyship, nothing!" the detective answered. "With
your permission, I propose to remain here until after the ceremony."

"Just as you like, of course," Lady Mary said. "I hope you will be

John Dory bowed, and returned to confer with his sergeant.
Afterwards, finding the morning still fine, he took his hat and went
for a walk in the park.

As a matter of fact, this, in some respects the most remarkable of
the adventures which had ever befallen Mr. Peter Ruff, came to him
by accident. Lady Mary had read the announcement of his marriage
in the paper, had driven at once to his office with a magnificent
present, and insisted upon his coming with his wife to the party
which was assembling at Clenarvon Court in honor of her own
approaching wedding. Peter Ruff had taken few holidays of late
years, and for several days had thoroughly enjoyed himself. The
matter of the Clenarvon jewels he considered, perhaps, with a
slight professional interest; but so far as he could see, the
precautions for guarding them were so adequate that the subject
did not remain in his memory. He had, however, a very distinct and
disagreeable shock when, on the night of John Dory's appearance,
he recognized among a few newly-arrived guests the Marquis de
Sogrange. He took the opportunity, as soon as possible, of
withdrawing his wife from a little circle among whom they had been
talking, to a more retired corner of the room. She saw at once
that something had happened to disturb him.

"Violet," he said, "don't look behind now - "

"I recognized him at once," she interrupted. "It is the Marquis
de Sogrange."

Peter Ruff nodded.

"It will be best for you," he said, "not to notice him. Of course,
his presence here may be accidental. He has a perfect right to
enter any society he chooses. At the same time, I am uneasy."'

She understood in a moment.

"The Clenarvon diamonds!" she whispered. He nodded.

"It is just the sort of affair which would appeal to the
'Double-Four,' " he said. "They are worth anything up to a quarter
of a million, and it is an enterprise which could scarcely be
attempted except by some one in a peculiar position. Violet, if
I were not sure that he had seen me, I should leave the house this

"Why?" she asked, wonderingly.

"Don't you understand," Peter Ruff continued, softly, "that I myself
am still what they call a corresponding member of the 'Double-Four,'
and they have a right to appeal to me for help in this country, as
I have a right to appeal to them for help or information in France?
We have both made use of one another, to some extent. No doubt, if
the Marquis has any scheme in his mind, he would look upon me as a
valuable ally."

She turned slowly pale.

"Peter," she said, "you wouldn't dream - you wouldn't dare to be so

He shook his head firmly.

"My dear girl," he said, "we talked that all out long ago. A few
years since, I felt that I had been treated badly, that I was an
alien, and that the hand of the law was against me. I talked wildly
then, perhaps. When I put up my sign and sat down for clients, I
meant to cheat the law, if I could. Things have changed, Violet.
I want nothing of that sort. I have kept my hands clean and I mean
to do so. Why, years ago," he continued, "when I was feeling at
my wildest, these very jewels were within my grasp one foggy night,
and I never touched them."

"What would happen if you refused to help?"

"I do not know," Peter Ruff answered. "The conditions are a little
severe. But, after all, there are no hard and fast rules. It
rests with the Marquis himself to shrug his shoulders and appreciate
my position. Perhaps he may not even exchange a word with me. Here
is Lord Sotherst coming to talk to you, and Captain Hamilton is
waiting for me to tell him an address. Remember, don't recognize

Dinner that night was an unusually cheerful meal. Peter Ruff, who
was an excellent raconteur, told many stories. The Marquis de
Sogrange was perhaps the next successful in his efforts to entertain
his neighbors. Violet found him upon her left hand, and although
he showed not the slightest signs of having ever seen her before,
they were very soon excellent friends. After dinner, Sogrange and
Peter Ruff drifted together on their way to the billiard-room.
Sogrange, however, continued to talk courteously of trifles until,
having decided to watch the first game, they found themselves alone
on the leather divan surrounding the room.

"This is an unexpected pleasure, my friend," Sogrange said, watching
the ash of his cigar. "Professional?"

Peter Ruff shook his head. "Not in the least," he answered. "I
have had the good fortune to render Lady Mary and her brother, at
different times, services which they are pleased to value highly.
We are here as ordinary guests - my wife and I." The Marquis sighed.

"Ah, that wife of yours, Ruff " he said. "She is charming, I admit,
and you are a lucky man; but it was a price - a very great price
to pay."

" You, perhaps, are ambitious, Marquis," Peter Ruff answered. "I
have not done so badly. A little contents me."

Sogrange looked at him as though he were some strange creature.

"I see!" he murmured. "I see! With you, of course, the commercial
side comes uppermost. Mr. Ruff, what do you suppose the income from
my estate amounts to?" Peter Ruff shook his head. He did not even
know that the Marquis was possessed of estates!

"Somewhere about seven millions of francs," Sogrange declared.
"There are few men in Paris more extravagant than I, and I think
that we Frenchmen know what extravagance means. But I cannot spend
my income. Do you think that it is for the sake of gain that I have
come across the Channel to add the Clenarvon diamonds to our coffers?"

Peter Ruff sat very still.

"You mean that?" he said.

"Of course!" Sogrange answered. "Didn't you realize it directly you
saw me? What is there, do you think, in a dull English house-party
to attract a man like myself? Don't you understand that it is the
gambler's instinct - the restless desire to be playing pitch-and-toss
with fate, with honor, with life and death, if you will - that brings
such as myself into the ranks of the 'Double-Four'? It is the
weariness which kills, Peter Ruff. One must needs keep it from one's

"Marquis," Peter Ruff answered, "I do not profess to understand you.
I am not weary of life, in fact I love it. I am looking forward to
the years when I have enough money - and it seems as though that
time is not far off - when I can buy a little place in the country,
and hunt a little and shoot a little, and live a simple out-of-door
life. You see, Marquis, we are as far removed as the poles."

"Obviously!" Sogrange answered.

"Your confidence," Peter Ruff continued, "the confidence with which
you have honored me, inspires me to make you one request. I am here,
indeed, as a friend of the family. You will not ask me to help in
any designs you may have against the Clenarvon jewels?"

Sogrange leaned back in his chair and laughed softly. His lips, when
they parted from his white teeth, resolved themselves into lines
which at that moment seemed to Peter Ruff more menacing than mirthful.
Sogrange was, in many ways, a man of remarkable appearance.

"Oh, Peter Ruff," he said, "you are a bourgeois little person! You
should have been the burgomaster in a little German town, or a
French mayor with a chain about your neck. We will see. I make no
promises. All that I insist upon, for the present, is that you do
not leave this house-party without advising me - that is to say, if
you are really looking forward to that pleasant life in the country,
where you will hunt a little and shoot a little, and grow into the
likeness of a vegetable. You, with your charming wife! Peter Ruff,
you should be ashamed to talk like that! Come, I must play bridge
with the Countess. I am engaged for a table."

The two men parted. Peter Ruff was uneasy. On his way from the
room, Lord Sotherst insisted upon his joining a pool.

"Charming fellow, Sogrange," the latter remarked, as he chalked his
cue. "He has been a great friend of the governor's - he and his
father before him. Our families have intermarried once or twice."

"He seems very agreeable," Peter Ruff answered, devoting himself to
the game.

The following night, being the last but one before the wedding
itself, a large dinner-party had been arranged for, and the
resources of even so princely a mansion as Clenarvon Court were
strained to their utmost by the entertainment of something like
one hundred guests in the great banqueting-hall. The meal was
about half-way through when those who were not too entirely
engrossed in conversation were startled by hearing a dull, rumbling
sound, like the moving of a number of pieces of heavy furniture.
People looked doubtfully at one another. Peter Ruff and the
Marquis de Sogrange were among the first to spring to their feet.

"it's an explosion somewhere," the latter cried. "Sounds close at
hand, too."

They made their way out into the hall. Exactly opposite now was
the room in which the wedding presents had been placed, and where
for days nothing had been seen but a closed door and a man on duty
outside. The door now stood wide open, and in place of the single
electric light which was left burning through the evening, the
place seemed almost aflame.

Ruff, Sogrange and Lord Sotherst were the first three to cross the
threshold. They were met by a rush of cold wind. Opposite to them,
two of the windows, with their boardings, had been blown away.
Sergeant Saunders was still sitting in his usual place at the end
of the table, his head bent upon his folded arms. The man who had
been on duty outside was standing over him, white with horror.
Far away in the distance, down the park, one could faintly hear
the throbbing of an engine, and Peter Ruff, through the chasm, saw
the lights of a great motor-car flashing in and out amongst the
trees. The room itself - the whole glittering array of presents
- seemed untouched. Only the great center-piece - the Clenarvon
diamonds - had gone. Even as they stood there, the rest of the
guests crowding into the open door, John Dory tore through, his
face white with excitement. Peter Ruff's calm voice penetrated
the din of tongues.

"Lord Sotherst," he said, "you have telephones in the keepers'
lodges. There is a motor-car being driven southwards at full speed.
Telephone down, and have your gates secured. Dory, I should keep
every one out of the room. Some one must telephone for a doctor.
I suppose your man has been hurt."

The guests were wild with curiosity, but Lord Clenarvon, with an

insistent gesture, led the way back to the diningroom.

"Whatever has happened," he said, "the people who are in charge
there know best how to deal with the situation. There is a
detective from Scotland Yard and his subordinates, and a gentleman
in whom I also have most implicit confidence. We will resume our
dinner, if you please, ladies and gentlemen."

Unwillingly, the people were led away. John Dory was already in
his great-coat, ready to spring into the powerful motor-car which
had been ordered out from the garage. A doctor, who had been among
the guests, was examining the man Saunders, who sat in that still,
unnatural position at the head of the table.

"The poor fellow has been shot in the back of the head with some
peculiar implement," he said. "The bullet is very long - almost
like a needle - and it seems to have penetrated very nearly to the
base of the brain."

"Is he dead?" Peter Ruff asked.

The doctor shook his head.

"No!" he answered. "An inch higher up and he must have died at
once. I want some of the men-servants to help me carry him to a
bedroom, and plenty of hot water. Some one else must go for my
instrument case."

Lord Sotherst took these things in charge, and John Dory turned to
the man whom they had found standing over him.

"Tell us exactly what happened," he said, briefly.

"I was standing outside the door," the man answered. "I heard no
sound inside - there was nothing to excite suspicion in any way.
Suddenly there was this explosion. It took me, perhaps, thirty or
forty seconds to get the key out of my pocket and unlock the door.
When I entered, the side of the room was blown in like that, the
diamonds were gone, Saunders was leaning forward just in the
position he is in now, and there wasn't another soul in sight.
Then you and the others came."

John Dory rushed from the room; they had brought him word that the
car was waiting. At such a moment, he was ready even to forget his
ancient enmity. He turned towards Peter Ruff, whose calm bearing
somehow or other impressed even the detective with a sense of power.

"Will you come along?" he asked.

Peter Ruff shook his head.

"Thank you, Dory, no!" he said. "I am glad you have asked me, but
I think you had better go alone."

A few seconds later, the pursuit was started. Saunders was carried
out of the room, followed by the doctor. There remained only Peter
Ruff and the man who had been on duty outside. Peter Ruff seated
himself where Saunders had been sitting, and seemed to be closely
examining the table all round for some moments. Once he took up
something from between the pages of the book which the Sergeant had
apparently been reading, and put it carefully into his own
pocketbook. Then he leaned back in the chair, with his hands
clasped behind his head and his eyes fixed upon the ceiling, as
though thinking intently.

"Hastings," he said to the policeman, who all the time was pursuing
a stream of garrulous, inconsequent remarks, "I wonder whether
you'd step outside and see Mr. Richards, the butler. Ask him if
he would be so good as to spare me a moment."

"I'll do it, sir," the man answered, with one more glance through
the open space. "Lord!" he added, "they must have been in through
there and out again like cats!"

"It was quick work, certainly," Peter Ruff answered, genially, "but
then, an enterprise like this would, of course, only be attempted
by experts."

Peter Ruff was not left alone long. Mr. Richards came hurrying in.

"This is a terrible business, sir!" he said. "His lordship has
excused me from superintending the service of the dinner. Anything
that I can do for you I am to give my whole attention to. These
were my orders."

"Very good of you, Richards," Peter Ruff answered, "very thoughtful
of his lordship. In the first place, then, I think, we will have
the rest of this jewelry packed in cases at once. Not that anything
further is likely to happen," he continued, "but still, it would be
just as well out of the way. I will remain here and superintend this,
if you will send a couple of careful servants, In the meantime, I
want you to do something else for me."

"Certainly, sir," the man answered.

"I want a plan of the house," Peter Ruff said, "with the names of
the guests who occupy this wing."
The butler nodded gravely.

"I can supply you with it very shortly, sir," he said. "There is no
difficulty at all about the plan, as I have several in my room; but
it will take me some minutes to pencil in the names."

Peter Ruff nodded.

"I will superintend things here until you return," he said.

"It is to be hoped, sir," the man said, as he retreated, "that the
gentleman from Scotland Yard will catch the thieves. After all,
they had n't more than ten minutes' start, and our Daimler is a

"I'm sure I hope so," Peter Ruff answered, heartily.

But, alas! no such fortune was in store for Mr. John Dory. At
daybreak he returned in a borrowed trap from a neighboring railway

"Our tires had been cut," he said, in reply to a storm of questions."
They began to go, one after the other, as soon as we had any speed
on. We traced the car to Salisbury, and there isn't a village
within forty miles that isn't looking out for it."

Peter Ruff, who had just returned from an early morning walk, nodded

"Shall you be here all day, Mr. Dory?" he asked. "There's just a
word or two I should like to have with you."

Dory turned away. He had forced himself, in the excitement of the
moment, to speak to his ancient enemy, but in this hour of his
humility the man's presence was distasteful to him.

"I am not sure," he said, shortly. "It depends on how things may
turn out."

The daily life at Clenarvon Court proceeded exactly as usual.
Breakfast was served early, as there was to be big day's shoot.
The Marquis de Sogrange and Peter Ruff smoked their cigarettes
together afterwards in the great hall. Then it was that Peter
Ruff took the plunge.

"Marquis," he said, "I should like to know exactly how I stand with
you - the 'Double-Four,' that is to say - supposing I range myself
for an hour or so on the side of the law?"

Sogrange smiled.

"You amuse yourself, Mr. Ruff," he remarked genially.

"Not in the least," Peter Ruff answered. "I am serious."

Sogrange watched the blue cigarette smoke come down his nose.

"My dear friend," he said, "I am no amateur at this game. When I
choose to play it, I am not afraid of Scotland Yard. I am not
afraid," he concluded, with a little bow, "even of you!"

"Do you ever bet, Marquis?" Peter Ruff asked.

"Twenty-five thousand francs," Sogrange said, smiling, "that your
efforts to aid Mr. John Dory are unavailing."

Peter Ruff entered the amount in his pocketbook. "It is a bargain,"
he declared. "Our bet, I presume, carries immunity for me?"

"By all means," Sogrange answered, with a little bow.

The Marquis beckoned to Lord Sotherst, who was crossing the hall.

"My dear fellow," he said, "do tell me the name of your hatter in
London. Delions failed me at the last moment, and I have not a hat
fit for the ceremony to-morrow."

"I'll lend you half-a-dozen, if you can wear them," Lord Sotherst
answered, smiling." The governor's sure to have plenty, too."

Sogrange touched his head with a smile.

"Alas!" he said. "My head is small, even for a Frenchman's.
Imagine me - otherwise, I trust, suitably attired - walking to the
church to-morrow in a hat which came to my ears!"

Lord Sotherst laughed.

"Scotts will do you all right," he said. "You can telephone."

"I shall send my man up," Sogrange determined. "He can bring me
back a selection. Tell me, at what hour is the first drive this
morning, and are the places drawn yet?"

"Come into the gun-room and we'll see," Lord Sotherst answered.

Peter Ruff made his way to the back quarters of the house. In a
little sitting-room he found the man he sought, sitting alone.
Peter Ruff closed the door behind him.

"John Dory," he said, "I have come to have a few words with you."

The detective rose to his feet. He was in no pleasant mood.
Though the telephone wires had been flashing their news every few
minutes, it seemed, indeed, as though the car which they had chased
had vanished into space.

"What do you want to say to me?" he asked gruffly.

"I want, if I can," Peter Ruff said earnestly, "to do you a service."

Dory's eyes glittered.

"I think," he said, "that I can do without your services."

"Don't be foolish," Peter Ruff said. "You are harboring a grievance
against me which is purely an imaginary one. Now listen to the
facts. You employ your wife - which after all, Dory, I think, was
not quite the straight thing - to try and track down a young man
named Spencer Fitzgerald, who was formerly, in a small way, a client
of mine. I find your wife an agreeable companion - we become
friends. Then I discover her object, and know that I am being
fooled. The end of that little episode you remember. But tell me
why should you bear me ill-will for defending my friend and myself?"

The detective came slowly up to Peter Ruff. He took hold of the
lapel of the other's coat with his left hand, and his right hand
was clenched. But Peter Ruff did not falter.

"Listen to me," said Dory. "I will tell you what grudge I bear
against you. It was your entertainment of my wife which gave her
the taste for luxury and for gadding about. Mind, I don't blame
you for that altogether, but there the fact remains. She left me.
She went on the stage."

"Stop!" Peter Ruff said. "You must still hold me blameless. She
wrote to me. I went out with her once. The only advice I gave her
was to return to you. So far as I am concerned, I have treated
her with the respect that I would have shown my own sister."

"You lie!" Dory cried, fiercely. "A month ago, I saw her come to
your fiat. I watched for hours. She did not leave it - she did
not leave it all that night!"

"If you object to her visit," Peter Ruff said quietly, "it is my
wife whom you must blame."

John Dory relaxed his hand and took a quick step backwards.

"Your wife?" he muttered.

"Exactly!" Peter Ruff answered. "Maud - Mrs. Dory - called to see
me; she was ill - she had lost her situation - she was even, I
believe, faint and hungry. I was not present. My wife talked to
her and was sorry for her. While the two women were there together,
your wife fainted. She was put to bed in our one spare room, and
she has been shown every attention and care. Tell me, how long
is it since you were at home?"

"Not for ten days," Dory answered, bitterly." Why?"

"Because when you go back, you will find your wife there," Peter
Ruff answered. "She has given up the stage. Her one desire is to
settle down and repay you for the trouble she has caused you. You
needn't believe me unless you like. Ask my wife. She is here.
She will tell you."

Dory was overcome. He went back to his seat by the window, and he
buried his face for a moment in his hands.

"Ruff," he said, "I don't deserve this. I've had bad times lately,
though. Everything has gone against me. I think I have been a
bit careless, with the troubles at home and that."

"Stop!" Peter Ruff insisted. "Now I come to the immediate object
of my visit to you. You have had some bad luck at headquarters.
I know of it. I am going to help you to reinstate yourself
brilliantly. With that, let us shake hands and bury all the
soreness that there may be between us."

John Dory stared at his visitor.

"Do you mean this?" he asked.

"I do," answered Peter. "Please do not think that I mean to make
any reflection upon your skill. It is just a chance that I was
able to see what you were not able to see. In an hour's time, you
shall restore the Clenarvon diamonds to Lord Clenarvon. You shall
take the reward which he has just offered, of a thousand pounds.
And I promise you that the manner in which you shall recover the
jewels shall be such that you will be famous for a long time to

"You are a wonderful man!" said Dory, hoarsely. "Do you mean,
then, that the jewels were not with those men in the motor-car?"

"Of course not!" Peter Ruff answered. "But come along. The
story will develop."

At half-past ten that morning, a motor-car turned out from the
garage at Clenarvon Court, and made its way down the avenue. In
it was a single passenger - the dark-faced Parisian valet of the
Marquis de Sogrange. As the car left the avenue and struck into
the main road, it was hailed by Peter Ruff and John Dory, who were
walking together along the lane.

"Say, my man," Peter Ruff said, addressing the chauffeur, "are you
going to the station?"

"Yes, sir!" the man answered. "I am taking down the Marquis de
Sogrange's servant to catch the eleven o'clock train to town."

"You don't mind giving us a lift?" Peter Ruff asked, already
opening the door.

"Certainly not, sir," the man answered, touching his hat.

Peter Ruff and John Dory stepped into the tonneau of the car. The
man civilly lifted the hatbox from the seat, and made room for his
enforced companions. Nevertheless, it was easy to see that he was
not pleased.

"There's plenty of room here for three," Peter Ruff said, cheerfully,
as they sat on either side of him. "Drive slowly, please, chauffeur.
Now, Mr. Lemprise," Peter Ruff added, " we will trouble you to
change places."

"What do you mean?" the man called out, suddenly pale as death.

He was held as though in a vice. John Dory's arm was through his
on one side, and Peter Ruff's on the other. Apart from that, the
muzzle of a revolver was pressed to his forehead.

"On second thoughts," Peter Ruff said, "I think we will keep you
like this. Driver," he called out, "please return to the Court at

The man hesitated.

"You recognize the gentleman who is with me?" Peter Ruff said. "He
is the detective from Scotland Yard. I have full authority from
Lord Clenarvon over all his servants. Please do as I say."

The man hesitated no more. The car was backed and turned, the
Frenchman struggling all the way like a wild cat. Once he tried
to kick the hatbox into the road, but John Dory was too quick for
him. So they drove up to the front door of the Court, to be
welcomed with cries of astonishment from the whole of the shooting
party, who were just starting. Foremost among them was Sogrange.
They crowded around the car. Peter Ruff touched the hatbox with
his foot.

"If we could trouble your Lordship," he said, "to open that hatbox,
you will find something that will interest you. Mr. Dory has
planned a little surprise for you, in which I have been permitted
to help."

The women, who gathered that something was happening, came hastening
out from the hall. They all crowded round Lord Clenarvon, who was
cutting through the leather strap of the hatbox. Inside the silk
hat which reposed there, were the Clenarvon diamonds. Monsieur le
Marquis de Sogrange was one of the foremost to give vent to an
exclamation of delight.

"Monsieur le Marquis," Peter Ruff said, "this should be a lesson to
you, I hope, to have the characters of your servants more rigidly
verified. Mr. Dory tells me that this man came into your employ at
the last moment with a forged recommendation. He is, in effect, a
dangerous thief."

"You amaze me!" Sogrange exclaimed.

"We are all interested in this affair," Peter Ruff said, "and my
friend John Dory here is, perhaps, too modest properly to explain
the matter. If you care to come with me, we can reconstruct, in a
minute, the theft."

John Dory and Peter Ruff first of all handed over their captive, who
was now calm and apparently resigned, to the two policemen who were
still on duty in the Court. Afterwards, Peter Ruff led the way up
one flight of stairs, and turned the handle of the door of an
apartment exactly over the morning-room. It was the bedroom of
the Marquis de Sogrange.

"Mr. Dory's chase in the motor-car," he said, "was, as you have
doubtless gathered now, merely a blind. It was obvious to his
intelligence that the blowing away of the window was merely a ruse
to cover the real method of the theft. If you will allow me, I will
show you how it was done."

The floor was of hardwood, covered with rugs. One of these, near
the fireplace, Peter Ruff brushed aside. The seventh square of
hardwood from the mantelpiece had evidently been tampered with.
With very little difficulty, he removed it.

"You see," he explained, "the ceiling of the room below is also of
paneled wood. Having removed this, it is easy to lift the second
one, especially as light screws have been driven in and string
threaded about them. There is now a hole through which you can see
into the room below. Has Dory returned? Ah, here he is!"

The detective came hurrying into the room, bearing in his hand a
peculiar-shaped weapon, a handful of little darts like those which
had been found in the wounded man's head, and an ordinary
fishing-rod in a linen case.

"There is the weapon," Peter Ruff said, "which it was easy enough
to fire from here upon the man who was leaning forward exactly
below. Then here, you will see, is a somewhat peculiar instrument,
which shows a great deal of ingenuity in its details."

He opened the linen case, which was, by the bye, secured by a
padlock, and drew out what was, to all appearance, an ordinary
fishing-rod, fitted at the end with something that looked like an
iron hand. Peter Ruff dropped it through the hole until it reached
the table, moved it backwards and forwards, and turned round with
a smile.

"You see," he said, " the theft, after all, was very simple.
Personally, I must admit that it took me a great deal by surprise,
but my friend Mr. Dory has been on the right track from the first.
I congratulate him most heartily."

Dory was a little overcome. Lady Mary shook him heartily by the
hand, but as they trooped downstairs she stooped and whispered in
Peter Ruff's ear.

"I wonder how much of this was John Dory," she said, smiling.

Peter Ruff said nothing. The detective was already on the telephone,
wiring his report to London. Every one was standing about in little
knots, discussing this wonderful event. Sogrange sought Lord
Clenarvon, and walked with him, arm in arm, down the stairs.

"I cannot tell you, Clenarvon," he said, "how sorry I am that I
should have been the means of introducing a person like this to the
house. I had the most excellent references from the Prince of
Strelitz. No doubt they were forged. My own man was taken ill
just before I left, and I had to bring some one."

"My dear Sogrange," Lord Clenarvon said, "don't think of it. What
we must be thankful for is that we had so brilliant a detective in
the house."

"As John Dory?" Sogrange remarked, with a smile. Lord Clenarvon

"Come," he said, " I don't see why we should lose a day's sport
because the diamonds have been recovered. I always felt that they
would turn up again some day or other. You are keen, I know,

"Rather!" the Marquis answered. "But excuse me for one moment.
There is Mrs. Ruff looking charming there in the corner. I must
have just a word with her."

He crossed the room and bowed before Violet.

"My dear lady," he said, "I have come to congratulate you. You
have a clever husband - a little cleverer, even, than I thought.
I have just had the misfortune to lose to him a bet of twenty-five
thousand francs."

Violet smiled, a little uneasily.

"Peter doesn't gamble as a rule," she remarked.

Sogrange sighed.

"This, alas, was no gamble!" he said. "He was betting upon
certainties, but he won. Will you tell him from me, when you see
him, that although I have not the money in my pocket at the moment,
I shall pay my debts. Tell him that we are as careful to do that
in France as we are to keep our word!"

He bowed, and passed out with the shooting-party on to the terrace.
Peter Ruff came up, a few minutes later, and his wife gave him the

"I did that man an injustice," Peter Ruff said with a sigh of relief.
"I can't explain now, dear. I'll tell you all about it later in the

"There's nothing wrong, is there?" she asked him, pleadingly.

"On the contrary," Peter Ruff declared, "everything is right. I
have made friends with Dory, and I have won a thousand pounds. When
we leave here, I am going to look out for that little estate in the
country. If you come out with the lunch, dear, I want you to watch
that man Hamilton's coat. It's exactly what I should like to wear
myself at my own shooting parties. See if you can make a sketch of
it when he isn't looking."

Violet laughed.

"I'll try," she promised.




It is the desire of Madame that you should join our circle here
on Thursday evening next at ten o'clock.

The man looked up from the sheet of note-paper which he held in
his hand, and gazed through the open French-windows before which
he was standing. It was a very pleasant and very peaceful prospect.
There was his croquet lawn, smooth-shaven, the hoops neatly arranged,
the chalk-mark firm and distinct upon the boundary. Beyond, the
tennis court, the flower gardens, and, to the left, the walled fruit
garden. A little farther away was the paddock and orchard, and a
little farther still, the farm, which for the last four years had
been the joy of his life. His meadows were yellow with buttercups;
a thin line of willows showed where the brook wound its lazy way
through the bottom fields. It was a home, this, in which a man
could well lead a peaceful life, could dream away his days to the
music of the west wind, the gurgling stream, the song of birds, and
the low murmuring of insects. Peter Ruff stood like a man turned
to stone, for, even as he looked, these things passed away from
before his eyes, the roar of the world beat in his ears - the world
of intrigue, of crime, the world where the strong man hewed his way
to power, and the weaklings fell like corn before the sickle.

"It is the desire of Madame!"

Peter Ruff clenched his fists as he stood there. It was a message
from a world every memory of which had been deliberately crushed,
a world, indeed, in which he had seemed no longer to hold any place.
Scarcely yet of middle age, well-preserved, upright, with neat
figure dressed in the conventional tweeds and gaiters of an English
country gentleman, he not only had loved his life, but he looked
the part. He was Peter Ruff, Esquire, of Aynesford Manor, in the
county of Somerset. It could not be for him, this strange summons.

The rustle of a woman's soft draperies broke in upon his reverie.
He turned around with his usual morning greeting upon his lips. If
country life had agreed with Peter Ruff, it had transformed his wife.
Her cheeks were no longer pale; the extreme slimness of her figure
was no longer apparent. She was just a little more matronly, perhaps,
but without doubt a most beautiful woman. She came smiling across
the room - a dream of white muslin and pink ribbons.

"Another forage bill, my dear Peter?" she demanded, passing her arm
through his. "Put it away and admire my new morning gown. It came
straight from Paris, and you will have to pay a great deal of money
for it."

He pulled himself together - he had no secrets from his wife.

"Listen," he said, and read aloud:

It is a long time since we had the pleasure of a visit from you.
It is the desire of Madame that you should join our circle here on
Thursday evening next at ten o'clock. =20

Violet was a little perplexed. She failed, somehow, to recognize
the sinister note underlying those few sentences, "It sounds
friendly enough," she remarked. "You are not obliged to go, of

Peter Ruff smiled grimly.

"Yes, it sounds all right," he admitted.

"They won't expect you to take any notice of it, surely?" she
continued. "When you bought this place, Peter, and left your
London offices, you gave them definitely to understand that you
had retired into private life, that all these things were finished
with you."

"There are some things," Peter Ruff said, slowly, "which are never

"But you resigned," she reminded him. "I remember your letter

"From the Double-Four," he answered, "no resignation is recognized
save death. I did what I could and they accepted my explanations,
gracefully and without comment. Now that the time has come, however,
when they think they need my help, you see they do not hesitate to
claim it."

"You will not go, Peter? You will not think of going?" she begged.

He twisted the letter between his fingers and sat down to his

"No," he said, "I shall not go."

That morning Peter Ruff spent upon his farm, looking over his stock,
examining some new machinery, and talking crops with his bailiff.
In the afternoon he played his customary round of golf. It was the
sort of day which, as a rule, he found completely satisfactory, yet,
somehow or other, a certain sense of weariness crept in upon him
toward its close.

Two days later he received another letter. This time it was couched
in different terms. On a square card, at the top of which was
stamped a small coronet, he read as follows:

Madame de Maupassim at home, Saturday evening, May 2nd, at ten

In small letters at the bottom left-hand corner were added the words:

To meet friends.

Peter Ruff put the card upon the fire and went out for a morning's
rabbit shooting with his keeper. When he returned luncheon was
ready, but Violet was absent. He rang the bell

"Where is your mistress, Jane?" he asked the parlor-maid.

The girl had no idea. Mrs. Ruff had left for the village several
hours before; since then she had not been seen. Peter Ruff ate his
luncheon alone, and understood. The afternoon wore on, and at
night he traveled up to London. He knew better than to waste time
by purposeless inquiries. Instead he took the nine o'clock train
the next morning to Paris.

It was a chamber of death into which he was ushered, dismal - yet,
of its sort, unique, marvelous. The room itself might have been
the sleeping apartment of an empress - lofty, with white paneled
walls, adorned simply with gilded lines; with high windows, closely
curtained now, so that neither sound nor the light of day might
penetrate into the room. In the middle of the apartment upon a
canopy bedside, which had once adorned a king's palace, lay Madame
de Maupassim. Her face was already touched with the finger of
death, yet her eyes were undimmed and her lips unquivering. Her
hands, covered with rings, lay out before her upon the lace coverlid.
Supported by many pillows, she was issuing her last instructions
with the cold precision of the man of affairs who makes the necessary
arrangements for a few days, absence from his business.
Peter Ruff, who had not even been allowed sufficient time to change
his traveling clothes, was brought without hesitation to her bedside.
She looked at him in silence for a moment, with a cold glitter in
her eyes,
"You are four days late, Monsieur Peter Ruff," she remarked. "Why
did you not obey your first summons?

"Madame," he answered, "I thought there must be a misunderstanding.
Four years ago, I gave notice to the council that I had married and
retired into private life. A country farmer is of no further use
to the world."

The woman's thin lip curled.

"From death and the Double Four ," she said, "there is no resignation
which counts. You are as much our creature to-day, as I am the
creature of the disease which is carrying me across the threshold of

Peter Ruff remained silent. The woman's words seemed full of dread
significance. Besides, how was it possible to contradict the dying?
"It is upon the unwilling of the world" she continued, speaking
slowly, yet with extraordinary distinctness, "that its greatest
honors are often conferred. The name of my successor has been
balloted for, secretly. It is you, Peter Ruff, who have been

This time he was silent because he was literally bereft of words.
This woman was dying and fancying strange things! He looked from
one to the other of the stern, pale faces of those who were gathered
around her bedside. Seven of them there were - the same seven. At
that moment their eyes were all focused upon him. Peter Ruff shrank

"Madame," he murmured, "this cannot be."

Her lips twitched as though she would have smiled. "What we have
decided," she said, "we have decided. Nothing can alter that, not
even the will of Mr. Peter Ruff."

"I have been out of the world for four years," Peter Ruff protested.
"I have no longer ambitions, no longer any desire - "

"You lie!" the woman interrupted. "You lie or you do yourself an
injustice. We gave you four years, and looking into your face, I
think that it has been enough. I think that the weariness is there
already. In any case, the charge which I lay upon you in these my
last moments, is one which you can escape by death only."

A low murmur of voices from those others repeated her words.

"By death only!"

Peter Ruff opened his lips, but closed them again without speech.
A wave of emotion seemed passing through the room. Something
strange was happening. It was Death itself, which had come among

A morning journalist wrote of the death of Madame eloquently, and
with feeling. She had been a broad-minded aristocrat, a woman of
brilliant intellect and great friendships, a woman of whose inner
life during the last ten or fifteen years little was known, yet who,
in happier times, might well have played a great part in the history
of her country.

Peter Ruff drove back from the cemetery with the Marquis de Sogrange,
and, for the first time since the death of Madame, serious subjects
were spoken of.

"I have waited here patiently," he declared, "but there are limits.
I want my wife."

Sogrange took him by the arm and led him into the library of the
house in the Rue de St. Quintaine. The six men who were already
there waiting rose to their feet.

"Gentlemen," the Marquis said, "is it your will that I should be

There was a murmur of assent. Then Sogrange turned toward his
companion, and something new seemed to have crept into his manner
- a solemn, almost a threatening note.

"Peter Ruff," he continued, "you have trifled with the one
organization in this world which has never allowed liberties to be
taken with it. Men who have done greater service than you have
died, for the disobedience of a day. You have been treated
leniently, according to the will of Madame. According to her will,
and in deference to the position which you must now take up among
us, we will treat you as no other has ever been treated by us. The
Double-Four admits your leadership and claims you for its own."

"I am not prepared to discuss anything of the sort," Peter Ruff
declared, doggedly, "until my wife is restored to me."

The Marquis smiled.

"The traditions of your race, Mr. Ruff," he said, "are easily
manifest in you. Now hear our decision. Your wife shall be
restored to you on the day when you take up this position to which
you have become entitled. Sit down and listen."

Peter Ruff was a rebel at heart, but he felt the grip of iron.

"During these four years when you, my friend, have been growing
turnips and shooting your game, events in the great world have
marched, new powers have come into being, a new page of history
has been opened. As everything which has good at the heart evolves
toward the good, so we of the Double-Four have lifted our great
enterprise onto a higher plane. The world of criminals is still at
our beck and call, we still claim the right to draw the line between
moral theft and immoral honesty, but to-day the Double-Four is
concerned with greater things. Within the four walls of this room,
within the hearing of these my brothers, whose fidelity is as sure
as the stones of Paris, I tell you a great secret. The government
of our country has craved for our aid and the aid of our organization.
It is no longer the wealth of the world alone, which we may control,
but the actual destinies of nations."

"What I suppose you mean to say is," Peter Ruff remarked, "that
you've been going in for politics?"

"You put it crudely, my English bull-dog," Sogrange answered, "but
you are right. We are occupied now by affairs of international
importance. More than once, during the last few month, ours has
been the hand which has changed the policy of an empire."

"Most interesting," Peter Ruff declared, "but so far as I,
personally, am concerned - "

"Listen," interrupted the Marquis. "Not a hundred yards from the
French Embassy, in London, there is waiting for you a house and
servants no less magnificent than the Embassy itself. You will
become the ambassador in London of the Double-Four, titular head of
our association, a personage whose power is second to none in your
great city. I do not address words of caution to you, my friend,
because we have satisfied ourselves as to your character and
capacity before we consented that you should occupy your present
position. But I ask you to remember this. The will of Madame
lives even beyond the grave. The spirit which animated her when
alive breathes still in all of us. In London you will wield a great
power. Use it for the common good. And, remember this - the
Double-Four has never failed, the Double-Four never can fail."

"I am glad to hear you are so confident," Peter Ruff said. "Of
course, if I have to take this thing on, I shall do my best, but if
I might venture to allude, for a moment, to anything so trifling as
my own domestic affairs, I am very anxious to know about my wife."

Sogrange smiled.

"You will find Mrs. Ruff awaiting you in London," he announced.
"Your address is Porchester House, Porchester Square."

"When do I go there?" Peter Ruff asked.

"To-night," was the answer.

"And what do I do when I get there?" he persisted.

"For three days," the Marquis told him, "you will remain indoors,
and give audience to whoever may come to you. At the end of that
time, you will understand a little more of our purpose and our
objects - perhaps, even, of our power."

"I see difficulties," Peter Ruff remarked. "There will be a good
many people who will remember me when I had offices in Southampton
Row. My name, you see, is uncommon."

Sogrange drew a document from the breast pocket of his coat.

"When you leave this house to-night," he proclaimed, "we bid good-by
forever to Mr. Peter Ruff. You will find in this envelope the title
deeds of a small property which is our gift to you. Henceforth you
will be known by the name and title of your estates."

"Title!" Peter Ruff gasped.

"You will reappear in London," Sogrange continued, "as the Baron de

Peter Ruff shook his head.

"It won't do," he declared, "people will find me out."

"There is nothing to be found out," the Marquis went on, a little
wearily. "Your country life has dulled your wits, Baron. The title
and the name are justly yours - they go with the property. For the
rest, the history of your family, and of your career up to the moment
when you enter Porchester House to-night, will be inside this packet.
You can peruse it upon the journey, and remember that we can, at all
times, bring a hundred witnesses, if necessary, to prove that you
are who you declare yourself to be. When you get to Charing-Cross,
do not forget that it will be the carriage and servants of the Baron
de Grost which await you."

Peter Ruff shrugged his shoulders.

"Well," he said, thoughtfully, "I suppose I shall get used to it."

"Naturally," Sogrange answered. "For the moment, we are passing
through a quiet time, necessitated by the mortal illness of Madame.
You will be able to spend the next few weeks in getting used to your
new position. You will have a great many callers, inspired by us,
who will see that you make the right acquaintances and that you join
the right clubs. At the same time, let me warn you always to be
ready. There is trouble brewing just now all over Europe. In one
way or another, we may become involved at any moment. The whole
machinery of our society will be explained to you by your secretary.
You will find him already installed at Porchester House. A glass
of wine, Baron, before you leave."

Peter Ruff glanced at the clock.

"There are my things to pack," he began -

Sogrange smiled.

"Your valet is already on the front seat of the automobile which is
waiting," he remarked. "You will find him attentive and trustworthy.
The clothes which you brought with you we have taken the liberty
of dispensing with. You will find others in your trunk, and at
Porchester House you can send for any tailor you choose. One toast,
Baron. We drink to the Double-Four - to the great cause!"

There was a murmur of voices. Sogrange lifted once more his glass.

"May Peter Ruff rest in peace!" he said. "We drink to his ashes.
We drink long life and prosperity to the Baron de Groat!"



It was half past twelve, and every table at the Berkeley Bridge
Club was occupied. On the threshold of the principal room a
visitor, who was being shown around, was asking questions of the

"Is there any gambling here?" he inquired.

The secretary shrugged his shoulders.

"I am afraid that some of them go a little beyond the club points,"
he answered. "You see that table against the wall? They are
playing shilling auction there."

The table near the wall was, perhaps, the most silent. The visitor
looked at it last and most curiously.

"Who is the dissipated-looking boy playing there?" he asked.

"Prince Albert of Trent," the secretary answered.

"And who is the little man, rather like Napoleon, who sits in the
easy-chair and watches?"

"The Baron de Grost."

"Never heard of him," the visitor declared.

"He is a very rich financier who has recently blossomed out in
London," the secretary said. "One sees him everywhere. He has a
good-looking wife, who is playing in the other room."

"A good-looking wife," the visitor remarked, thoughtfully. "But, yes!
I thank you very much, Mr. Courtledge for showing me round. I will
find my friends now."

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