Part 1 out of 6
Produced by Suzanne Shell, Jayam Subramanian and PG Distributed Proofreaders
THE LONE WOLF
LOUIS JOSEPH VANCE
III. A POINT OF INTERROGATION
IV. A STRATAGEM
VI. THE PACK GIVES TONGUE
VIII. THE HIGH HAND
X. TURN ABOUT
XIV. RIVE DROIT
XV. SHEER IMPUDENCE
XVII. THE FORLORN HOPE
XXIII. MADAME OMBER
XXV. WINGS OF THE MORNING
XXVI. THE FLYING DEATH
THE LONE WOLF
It must have been Bourke who first said that even if you knew your way
about Paris you had to lose it in order to find it to Troyon's. But
then Bourke was proud to be Irish.
Troyon's occupied a corner in a jungle of side-streets, well withdrawn
from the bustle of the adjacent boulevards of St. Germain and St.
Michel, and in its day was a restaurant famous with a fame jealously
guarded by a select circle of patrons. Its cooking was the best in
Paris, its cellar second to none, its rates ridiculously reasonable;
yet Baedeker knew it not. And in the wisdom of the cognoscenti this
was well: it had been a pity to loose upon so excellent an
establishment the swarms of tourists that profaned every temple of
gastronomy on the Rive Droit.
The building was of three storeys, painted a dingy drab and trimmed
with dull green shutters. The restaurant occupied almost all of the
street front of the ground floor, a blank, non-committal double doorway
at one extreme of its plate-glass windows was seldom open and even more
This doorway was squat and broad and closed the mouth of a wide,
stone-walled passageway. In one of its two substantial wings of oak a
smaller door had been cut for the convenience of Troyon's guests, who
by this route gained the courtyard, a semi-roofed and shadowy place,
cool on the hottest day. From the court a staircase, with an air of
leading nowhere in particular, climbed lazily to the second storey and
thereby justified its modest pretensions; for the two upper floors of
Troyon's might have been plotted by a nightmare-ridden architect after
witnessing one of the first of the Palais Royal farces.
Above stairs, a mediaeval maze of corridors long and short, complicated
by many unexpected steps and staircases and turns and enigmatic doors,
ran every-which-way and as a rule landed one in the wrong room, linking
together, in all, some two-score bed-chambers. There were no salons or
reception-rooms, there was never a bath-room, there wasn't even running
water aside from two hallway taps, one to each storey. The honoured
guest and the exacting went to bed by lamplight: others put up with
candlesticks: gas burned only in the corridors and the restaurant--
asthmatic jets that, spluttering blue within globes obese, semi-opaque,
and yellowish, went well with furnishings and decorations of the Second
Empire to which years had lent a mellow and somehow rakish dinginess;
since nothing was ever refurbished.
With such accommodations the guests of Troyon's were well content. They
were not many, to begin with, and they were almost all middle-aged
bourgeois, a caste that resents innovations. They took Troyon's as they
found it: the rooms suited them admirably, and the tariff was modest.
Why do anything to disturb the perennial peace of so discreet and
confidential an establishment? One did much as one pleased there,
providing one's bill was paid with tolerable regularity and the hand
kept supple that operated the cordon in the small hours of the night.
Papa Troyon came from a tribe of inn-keepers and was liberal-minded;
while as for Madame his wife, she cared for nothing but pieces of
To Troyon's on a wet winter night in the year 1893 came the child who
as a man was to call himself Michael Lanyard.
He must have been four or five years old at that time: an age at which
consciousness is just beginning to recognize its individuality and
memory registers with capricious irregularity. He arrived at the hotel
in a state of excitement involving an almost abnormal sensitiveness to
impressions; but that was soon drowned deep in dreamless slumbers of
healthy exhaustion; and when he came to look back through a haze of
days, of which each had made its separate and imperative demand upon
his budding emotions, he found his store of memories strangely dulled
The earliest definite picture was that of himself, a small but vastly
important figure, nursing a heavy heart in a dark corner of a fiacre.
Beside him sat a man who swore fretfully into his moustache whenever
the whimpering of the boy threatened to develop into honest bawls: a
strange creature, with pockets full of candy and a way with little boys
in public surly and domineering, in private timid and propitiatory. It
was raining monotonously, with that melancholy persistence which is the
genius of Parisian winters; and the paving of the interminable strange
streets was as black glass shot with coloured lights. Some of the
streets roared like famished beasts, others again were silent, if with
a silence no less sinister. The rain made incessant crepitation on the
roof of the fiacre, and the windows wept without respite. Within the
cab a smell of mustiness contended feebly with the sickening reek of a
cigar which the man was forever relighting and which as often turned
cold between his teeth. Outside, unwearying hoofs were beating their
deadly rhythm, _cloppetty-clop_....
Back of all this lurked something formlessly alluring, something sad
and sweet and momentous, which belonged very personally to the child
but which he could never realize. Memory crept blindly toward it over
a sword-wide bridge that had no end. There had been (or the boy had
dreamed it) a long, weariful journey by railroad, the sequel to one by
boat more brief but wholly loathsome. Beyond this point memory failed
though sick with yearning. And the child gave over his instinctive but
rather inconsecutive efforts to retrace his history: his daily life at
Troyon's furnished compelling and obliterating interests.
Madame saw to that.
It was Madame who took charge of him when the strange man dragged him
crying from the cab, through a cold, damp place gloomy with shadows,
and up stairs to a warm bright bedroom: a formidable body, this Madame,
with cold eyes and many hairy moles, who made odd noises in her throat
while she undressed the little boy with the man standing by, noises
meant to sound compassionate and maternal but, to the child at least,
Then drowsiness stealing upon one over a pillow wet with tears ...
And Madame it was who ruled with iron hand the strange
new world to which the boy awakened.
The man was gone by morning, and the child never saw him again; but
inasmuch as those about him understood no English and he no French,
it was some time before he could grasp the false assurances of Madame
that his father had gone on a journey but would presently return. The
child knew positively that the man was not his father, but when he was
able to make this correction the matter had faded into insignificance:
life had become too painful to leave time or inclination for the
adjustment of such minor and incidental questions as one's parentage.
The little boy soon learned to know himself as Marcel, which wasn't his
name, and before long was unaware he had ever had another. As he grew
older he passed as Marcel Troyon; but by then he had forgotten how to
A few days after his arrival the warm, bright bed-chamber was exchanged
for a cold dark closet opening off Madame's boudoir, a cupboard
furnished with a rickety cot and a broken chair, lacking any provision
for heat or light, and ventilated solely by a transom over the door;
and inasmuch as Madame shared the French horror of draughts and so kept
her boudoir hermetically sealed nine months of the year, the transom
didn't mend matters much. But that closet formed the boy's sole refuge,
if a precarious one, through several years; there alone was he ever
safe from kicks and cuffs and scoldings for faults beyond his
comprehension; but he was never permitted a candle, and the darkness
and loneliness made the place one of haunted terror to the sensitive
and imaginative nature of a growing child.
He was, however, never insufficiently fed; and the luxury of forgetting
misery in sleep could not well be denied him.
By day, until of age to go to school, he played apprehensively in the
hallways with makeshift toys, a miserable, dejected little body with
his heart in his mouth at every sudden footfall, very much in the way
of femmes-de-chambre who had nothing in common with the warm-hearted,
impulsive, pitiful serving women of fiction. They complained of him to
Madame, and Madame came promptly to cuff him. He soon learned an almost
uncanny cunning in the art of effacing himself, when she was imminent,
to be as still as death and to move with the silence of a wraith. Not
infrequently his huddled immobility in a shadowy corner escaped her
notice as she passed. But it always exasperated her beyond measure to
look up, when she fancied herself alone, and become aware of the
wide-eyed, terrified stare of the transfixed boy....
That he was privileged to attend school at all was wholly due to a
great fear that obsessed Madame of doing anything to invite the
interest of the authorities. She was an honest woman, according to her
lights, an honest wife, and kept an honest house; but she feared the
gendarmerie more than the Wrath of God. And by ukase of Government a
certain amount of education was compulsory. So Marcel learned among
other things to read, and thereby took his first blind step toward
Reading being the one pastime which could be practiced without making a
noise of any sort to attract undesirable attentions, the boy took to it
in self-defence. But before long it had become his passion. He read, by
stealth, everything that fell into his hands, a weird melange of
newspapers, illustrated Parisian weeklies, magazines, novels:
cullings from the debris of guest-chambers.
Before Marcel was eleven he had read "Les Miserables" with intense
His reading, however, was not long confined to works in the French
language. Now and again some departing guest would leave an English
novel in his room, and these Marcel treasured beyond all other books;
they seemed to him, in a way, part of his birthright. Secretly he
called himself English in those days, because he knew he wasn't French:
that much, at least, he remembered. And he spent long hours poring over
the strange words until; at length, they came to seem less strange in
his eyes. And then some accident threw his way a small English-French
He was able to read English before he could speak it.
Out of school hours a drudge and scullion, the associate of scullions
and their immediate betters, drawn from that caste of loose tongues and
looser morals which breeds servants for small hotels, Marcel at eleven
(as nearly as his age can be computed) possessed a comprehension of
life at once exact, exhaustive and appalling.
Perhaps it was fortunate that he lived without friendship. His concept
of womanhood was incarnate in Madame Troyon; so he gave all the hotel
women a wide berth.
The men-servants he suffered in silence when they would permit it; but
his nature was so thoroughly disassociated from anything within their
experience that they resented him: a circumstance which exposed him to
a certain amount of baiting not unlike that which the village idiot
receives at the hands of rustic boors--until Marcel learned to defend
himself with a tongue which could distil vitriol from the vernacular,
and with fists and feet as well. Thereafter he was left severely to
himself and glad of it, since it furnished him with just so much more
time for reading and dreaming over what he read.
By fifteen he had developed into a long, lank, loutish youth, with a
face of extraordinary pallor, a sullen mouth, hot black eyes, and dark
hair like a mane, so seldom was it trimmed. He looked considerably
older than he was and the slightness of his body was deceptive,
disguising a power of sinewy strength. More than this, he could care
very handily for himself in a scrimmage: la savate had no secrets from
him, and he had picked up tricks from the Apaches quite as effectual as
any in the manual of jiu-jitsu. Paris he knew as you and I know the
palms of our hands, and he could converse with the precision of the
native-born in any one of the city's several odd argots.
To these accomplishments he added that of a thoroughly practised petty
His duties were by day those of valet-de-chambre on the third floor;
by night he acted as omnibus in the restaurant. For these services he
received no pay and less consideration from his employers (who would
have been horrified by the suggestion that they countenanced slavery)
only his board and a bed in a room scarcely larger, if somewhat better
ventilated, than the boudoir-closet from which he had long since been
ousted. This room was on the ground floor, at the back of the house,
and boasted a small window overlooking a narrow alley.
He was routed out before daylight, and his working day ended as a rule
at ten in the evening--though when there were performances on at the
Odeon, the restaurant remained open until an indeterminate hour for the
accommodation of the supper trade.
Once back in his kennel, its door closed and bolted, Marcel was free to
squirm out of the window and roam and range Paris at will. And it was
thus that he came by most of his knowledge of the city.
But for the most part Marcel preferred to lie abed and read himself
half-blind by the light of purloined candle-ends. Books he borrowed as
of old from the rooms of guests or else pilfered from quai-side stalls
and later sold to dealers in more distant quarters of the city. Now and
again, when he needed some work not to be acquired save through
outright purchase, the guests would pay further if unconscious tribute
through the sly abstraction of small coins. Your true Parisian,
however, keeps track of his money to the ultimate sou, an idiosyncrasy
which obliged the boy to practise most of his peculations on the
fugitive guest of foreign extraction.
In the number of these, perhaps the one best known to Troyon's was
He was a quick, compact, dangerous little Irishman who had fallen into
the habit of "resting" at Troyon's whenever a vacation from London
seemed a prescription apt to prove wholesome for a gentleman of his
kidney; which was rather frequently, arguing that Bourke's professional
activities were fairly onerous.
Having received most of his education in Dublin University, Bourke
spoke the purest English known, or could when so minded, while his
facile Irish tongue had caught the trick of an accent which passed
unchallenged on the Boulevardes. He had an alert eye for pretty women,
a heart as big as all out-doors, no scruples worth mentioning, a secret
sorrow, and a pet superstition.
The colour of his hair, a clamorous red, was the spring of his secret
sorrow. By that token he was a marked man. At irregular intervals he
made frantic attempts to disguise it; but the only dye that would serve
at all was a jet-black and looked like the devil in contrast with his
high colouring. Moreover, before a week passed, the red would crop up
again wherever the hair grew thin, lending him the appearance of a
His pet superstition was that, as long as he refrained from practising
his profession in Paris, Paris would remain his impregnable Tower of
Refuge. The world owed Bourke a living, or he so considered; and it must
be allowed that he made collections on account with tolerable regularity
and success; but Paris was tax-exempt as long as Paris offered him
immunity from molestation.
Not only did Paris suit his tastes excellently, but there was no place,
in Bourke's esteem, comparable with Troyon's for peace and quiet.
Hence, the continuity of his patronage was never broken by trials of
rival hostelries; and Troyon's was always expecting Bourke for the
simple reason that he invariably arrived unexpectedly, with neither
warning nor ostentation, to stop as long as he liked, whether a day or
a week or a month, and depart in the same manner.
His daily routine, as Troyon's came to know it, varied but slightly: he
breakfasted abed, about half after ten, lounged in his room or the cafe
all day if the weather were bad, or strolled peacefully in the gardens
of the Luxembourg if it were good, dined early and well but always
alone, and shortly afterward departed by cab for some well-known bar
on the Rive Droit; whence, it is to be presumed, he moved on to other
resorts, for he never was home when the house was officially closed for
the night, the hours of his return remaining a secret between himself
and the concierge.
On retiring, Bourke would empty his pockets upon the dressing-table,
where the boy Marcel, bringing up Bourke's petit dejeuner the next
morning, would see displayed a tempting confusion of gold and silver
and copper, with a wad of bank-notes, and the customary assortment of
Now inasmuch as Bourke was never wide-awake at that hour, and always
after acknowledging Marcel's "bon jour" rolled over and snored for
Glory and the Saints, it was against human nature to resist the allure
of that dressing-table. Marcel seldom departed without a coin or two.
He had yet to learn that Bourke's habits were those of an Englishman,
who never goes to bed without leaving all his pocket-money in plain
sight and--carefully catalogued in his memory....
One morning in the spring of 1904 Marcel served Bourke his last
breakfast at Troyon's.
The Irishman had been on the prowl the previous night, and his rasping
snore was audible even through the closed door when Marcel knocked and,
receiving no answer, used the pass-key and entered.
At this the snore was briefly interrupted; Bourke, visible at first
only as a flaming shock of hair protruding from the bedclothes,
squirmed an eye above his artificial horizon, opened it, mumbled
inarticulate acknowledgment of Marcel's salutation, and passed
blatantly into further slumbers.
Marcel deposited his tray on a table beside the bed, moved quietly to
the windows, closed them, and drew the lace curtains together. The
dressing-table between the windows displayed, amid the silver and
copper, more gold coins than it commonly did--some eighteen or twenty
louis altogether. Adroitly abstracting en passant a piece of ten francs,
Marcel went on his way rejoicing, touched a match to the fire all
ready-laid in the grate, and was nearing the door when, casting one
casual parting glance at the bed, he became aware of a notable
phenomenon: the snoring was going on lustily, but Bourke was watching
him with both eyes wide and filled with interest.
Startled and, to tell the truth, a bit indignant, the boy stopped as
though at word of command. But after the first flash of astonishment
his young face hardened to immobility. Only his eyes remained constant
The Irishman, sitting up in bed, demanded and received the piece of ten
francs, and went on to indict the boy for the embezzlement of several
sums running into a number of louis.
Marcel, reflecting that Bourke's reckoning was still some louis shy,
made no bones about pleading guilty. Interrogated, the culprit deposed
that he had taken the money because he needed it to buy books. No, he
wasn't sorry. Yes, it was probable that, granted further opportunity,
he would do it again. Advised that he was apparently a case-hardened
young criminal, he replied that youth was not his fault; with years and
experience he would certainly improve.
Puzzled by the boy's attitude, Bourke agitated his hair and wondered
aloud how Marcel would like it if his employers were informed of his
Marcel looked pained and pointed out that such a course on the part of
Bourke would be obviously unfair; the only real difference between
them, he explained, was that where he filched a louis Bourke filched
thousands; and if Bourke insisted on turning him over to the mercy of
Madame and Papa Troyon, who would certainly summon a sergent de ville,
he, Marcel, would be quite justified in retaliating by telling the
Prefecture de Police all he knew about Bourke.
This was no chance shot, and took the Irishman between wind and water;
and when, dismayed, he blustered, demanding to know what the boy meant
by his damned impudence, Marcel quietly advised him that one knew what
one knew: if one read the English newspaper in the cafe, as Marcel did,
one could hardly fail to remark that monsieur always came to Paris
after some notable burglary had been committed in London; and if one
troubled to follow monsieur by night, as Marcel had, it became evident
that monsieur's first calls in Paris were invariably made at the
establishment of a famous fence in the rue des Trois Freres; and,
finally, one drew one's own conclusions when strangers dining in the
restaurant--as on the night before, by way of illustration--strangers
who wore all the hall-marks of police detectives from England--catechised
one about a person whose description was the portrait of Bourke, and
promised a hundred-franc note for information concerning the habits and
whereabouts of that person, if seen.
Marcel added, while Bourke gasped for breath, that the gentleman in
question had spoken to him alone, in the absence of other waiters, and
had been fobbed off with a lie.
But why--Bourke wanted to know--had Marcel lied to save him, when the
truth would have earned him a hundred francs?
"Because," Marcel explained coolly, "I, too, am a thief. Monsieur will
perceive it was a matter of professional honour."
Now the Irish have their faults, but ingratitude is not of their number.
Bourke, packing hastily to leave Paris, France and Europe by the
fastest feasible route, still found time to question Marcel briefly;
and what he learned from the boy about his antecedents so worked with
gratitude upon the sentimental nature of the Celt, that when on the
third day following the Cunarder Carpathia left Naples for New York,
she carried not only a gentleman whose brilliant black hair and glowing
pink complexion rendered him a bit too conspicuous among her
first-cabin passengers for his own comfort, but also in the second
cabin his valet--a boy of sixteen who looked eighteen.
The gentleman's name on the passenger-list didn't, of course, in the
least resemble Bourke. His valet's was given as Michael Lanyard.
The origin of this name is obscure; Michael being easily corrupted into
good Irish Mickey may safely be attributed to Bourke; Lanyard has a
tang of the sea which suggests a reminiscence of some sea-tale prized
by the pseudo Marcel Troyon.
In New York began the second stage in the education of a professional
criminal. The boy must have searched far for a preceptor of more sound
attainments than Bourke. It is, however, only fair to say that Bourke
must have looked as far for an apter pupil. Under his tutelage, Michael
Lanyard learned many things; he became a mathematician of considerable
promise, an expert mechanician, a connoisseur of armour-plate and
explosives in their more pacific applications, and he learned to grade
precious stones with a glance. Also, because Bourke was born of
gentlefolk, he learned to speak English, what clothes to wear and when
to wear them, and the civilized practice with knife and fork at table.
And because Bourke was a diplomatist of sorts, Marcel acquired the
knack of being at ease in every grade of society: he came to know that
a self-made millionaire, taken the right way, is as approachable as one
whose millions date back even unto the third generation; he could order
a dinner at Sherry's as readily as drinks at Sharkey's. Most valuable
accomplishment of all, he learned to laugh. In the way of by-products
he picked up a working acquaintance with American, English and German
slang--French slang he already knew as a mother-tongue--considerable
geographical knowledge of the capitals of Europe, America and Illinois,
a taste that discriminated between tobacco and the stuff sold as such
in France, and a genuine passion for good paintings.
Finally Bourke drilled into his apprentice the three cardinal
principles of successful cracksmanship: to know his ground thoroughly
before venturing upon it; to strike and retreat with the swift
precision of a hawk; to be friendless.
And the last of these was the greatest.
"You're a promising lad," he said--so often that Lanyard would almost
wince from that formula of introduction--"a promising lad, though it's
sad I should be to say it, instead of proud as I am. For I've made you:
but for me you'd long since have matriculated at La Tour Pointue and
graduated with the canaille of the Sante. And in time you may become a
first-chop operator, which I'm not and never will be; but if you do,
'twill be through fighting shy of two things. The first of them's
Woman, and the second is Man. To make a friend of a man you must lower
your guard. Ordinarily 'tis fatal. As for Woman, remember this, m'lad:
to let love into your life you must open a door no mortal hand can
close. And God only knows what'll follow in. If ever you find you've
fallen in love and can't fall out, cut the game on the instant, or
you'll end wearing stripes or broad arrows--the same as myself would,
if this cursed cough wasn't going to be the death of me.... No, m'lad:
take a fool's advice (you'll never get better) and when you're shut of
me, which will be soon, I'm thinking, take the Lonesome Road and stick
to the middle of it. 'He travels the fastest that travels alone' is a
true saying, but 'tis only half the truth: he travels the farthest into
the bargain.... Yet the Lonesome Road has its drawbacks, lad--it's
Bourke died in Switzerland, of consumption, in the winter of
1910--Lanyard at his side till the end.
Then the boy set his face against the world: alone, lonely, and
His return to Troyon's, whereas an enterprise which Lanyard had been
contemplating for several years--in fact, ever since the death of
Bourke--came to pass at length almost purely as an affair of impulse.
He had come through from London by the afternoon service--via
Boulogne--travelling light, with nothing but a brace of handbags and
his life in his hands. Two coups to his credit since the previous
midnight had made the shift advisable, though only one of them, the
later, rendered it urgent.
Scotland Yard would, he reckoned, require at least twenty-four hours to
unlimber for action on the Omber affair; but the other, the theft of
the Huysman plans, though not consummated before noon, must have set
the Chancelleries of at least three Powers by the ears before Lanyard
was fairly entrained at Charing Cross.
Now his opinion of Scotland Yard was low; its emissaries must operate
gingerly to keep within the laws they serve. But the agents of the
various Continental secret services have a way of making their own laws
as they go along: and for these Lanyard entertained a respect little
short of profound.
He would not have been surprised had he ran foul of trouble on the pier
at Folkestone. Boulogne, as well, figured in his imagination as a
crucial point: its harbour lights, heaving up over the grim grey waste,
peered through the deepening violet dusk to find him on the packet's
deck, responding to their curious stare with one no less insistently
inquiring.... But it wasn't until in the gauntlet of the Gare du Nord
itself that he found anything to shy at.
Dropping from train to platform, he surrendered his luggage to a ready
facteur, and followed the man through the crush, elbowed and
shouldered, offended by the pervasive reek of chilled steam and
coal-gas, and dazzled by the brilliant glare of the overhanging
Almost the first face he saw turned his way was that of Roddy.
The man from Scotland Yard was stationed at one side of the platform
gates. Opposite him stood another known by sight to Lanyard--a highly
decorative official from the Prefecture de Police. Both were scanning
narrowly every face in the tide that churned between them.
Wondering if through some fatal freak of fortuity these were acting
under late telegraphic advice from London, Lanyard held himself well in
hand: the first sign of intent to hinder him would prove the signal for
a spectacular demonstration of the ungentle art of not getting caught
with the goods on. And for twenty seconds, while the crowd milled
slowly through the narrow exit, he was as near to betraying himself as
he had ever been--nearer, for he had marked down the point on Roddy's
jaw where his first blow would fall, and just where to plant a
coup-de-savate most surely to incapacitate the minion of the
Prefecture; and all the while was looking the two over with a manner of
the most calm and impersonal curiosity.
But beyond an almost imperceptible narrowing of Roddy's eyes when they
met his own, as if the Englishman were struggling with a faulty memory,
neither police agent betrayed the least recognition.
And then Lanyard was outside the station, his facteur introducing him
to a ramshackle taxicab.
No need to speculate whether or not Roddy were gazing after him; in the
ragged animal who held the door while Lanyard fumbled for his facteur's
tip, he recognized a runner for the Prefecture; and beyond question
there were many such about. If any lingering doubt should trouble
Roddy's mind he need only ask, "Such-and-such an one took what cab and
for what destination?" to be instantly and accurately informed.
In such case to go directly to his apartment, that handy little
rez-de-chaussee near the Trocadero, was obviously inadvisable. Without
apparent hesitation Lanyard directed the driver to the Hotel Lutetia,
tossed the ragged spy a sou, and was off to the tune of a slammed door
and a motor that sorely needed overhauling....
The rain, which had welcomed the train a few miles from Paris, was in
the city torrential. Few wayfarers braved the swimming sidewalks, and
the little clusters of chairs and tables beneath permanent cafe
awnings were one and all neglected. But in the roadways an amazing
concourse of vehicles, mostly motor-driven, skimmed, skidded, and shot
over burnished asphalting all, of course, at top-speed--else this were
not Paris. Lanyard thought of insects on the surface of some dark
The roof of the cab rang like a drumhead; the driver blinked through
the back-splatter from his rubber apron; now and again the tyres lost
grip on the treacherous going and provided instants of lively suspense.
Lanyard lowered a window to release the musty odour peculiar to French
taxis, got well peppered with moisture, and promptly put it up again.
Then insensibly he relaxed, in the toils of memories roused by the
reflection that this night fairly duplicated that which had welcomed
him to Paris, twenty years ago.
It was then that, for the first time in several months, he thought
definitely of Troyon's.
And it was then that Chance ordained that his taxicab should skid. On
the point of leaving the Ile de la Cite by way of the Pont St. Michel,
it suddenly (one might pardonably have believed) went mad, darting
crabwise from the middle of the road to the right-hand footway with
evident design to climb the rail and make an end to everything in the
Seine. The driver regained control barely in time to avert a tragedy,
and had no more than accomplished this much when a bit of broken glass
gutted one of the rear tyres, which promptly gave up the ghost with a
roar like that of a lusty young cannon.
At this the driver (apparently a person of religious bias) said
something heartfelt about the sacred name of his pipe and, crawling
from under the apron, turned aft to assess damages.
On his own part Lanyard swore in sound Saxon, opened the door, and
delivered himself to the pelting shower.
"Well?" he enquired after watching the driver muzzle the eviscerated
tyre for some eloquent moments.
Turning up a distorted face, the other gesticulated with profane
abandon, by way of good measure interpolating a few disconnected words
and phrases. Lanyard gathered that this was the second accident of the
same nature since noon that the cab consequently lacked a spare tyre,
and that short of a trip to the garage the accident was irremediable.
So he said (intelligently) it couldn't be helped, paid the man and over
tipped precisely as though their journey had been successfully
consummated, and standing over his luggage watched the maimed vehicle
limp miserably off through the teeming mists.
Now in normal course his plight should have been relieved within two
minutes. But it wasn't. For some time all such taxis as did pass
displayed scornfully inverted flags. Also, their drivers jeered in
their pleasing Parisian way at the lonely outlander occupying a
position of such uncommon distinction in the heart of the storm and the
precise middle of the Pont St. Michel.
Over to the left, on the Quai de Marche Neuf, the facade of the
Prefecture frowned portentously--"La Tour Pointue," as the Parisian
loves to term it. Lanyard forgot his annoyance long enough to salute
that grim pile with a mocking bow, thinking of the men therein who
would give half their possessions to lay hands on him who was only a
few hundred yards distant, marooned in the rain!...
In its own good time a night-prowling fiacre ambled up and veered over
to his hail. He viewed this stroke of good-fortune with intense
disgust: the shambling, weather-beaten animal between the shafts
promised a long, damp crawl to the Lutetia.
And on this reflection he yielded to impulse.
Heaving in his luggage--"Troyon's!" he told the
The fiacre lumbered off into that dark maze of streets, narrow and
tortuous, which backs up from the Seine to the Luxembourg, while its
fare reflected that Fate had not served him so hardly after all: if
Roddy had really been watching for him at the Gare du Nord, with a mind
to follow and wait for his prey to make some incriminating move, this
chance-contrived change of vehicles and destination would throw the
detective off the scent and gain the adventurer, at worst, several
When at length his conveyance drew up at the historic corner, Lanyard
alighting could have rubbed his eyes to see the windows of Troyon's all
bright with electric light.
Somehow, and most unreasonably, he had always believed the place would
go to the hands of the house-wrecker unchanged.
A smart portier ducked out, seized his luggage, and offered an
umbrella. Lanyard composed his features to immobility as he entered the
hotel, of no mind to let the least flicker of recognition be detected
in his eyes when they should re-encounter familiar faces.
And this was quite as well: for--again--the first he saw was Roddy.
A POINT OF INTERROGATION
The man from Scotland Yard had just surrendered hat, coat, and umbrella
to the vestiaire and was turning through swinging doors to the
dining-room. Again, embracing Lanyard, his glance seemed devoid of any
sort of intelligible expression; and if its object needed all his
self-possession in that moment, it was to dissemble relief rather than
dismay. An accent of the fortuitous distinguished this second encounter
too persuasively to excuse further misgivings. What the adventurer
himself hadn't known till within the last ten minutes, that he was
coming to Troyon's, Roddy couldn't possibly have anticipated; ergo,
whatever the detective's business, it had nothing to do with Lanyard.
Furthermore, before quitting the lobby, Roddy paused long enough to
instruct the vestiaire to have a fire laid in his room.
So he was stopping at Troyon's--and didn't care who knew it!
His doubts altogether dissipated by this incident, Lanyard followed his
natural enemy into the dining-room with an air as devil-may-care as one
could wish and so impressive that the maitre-d'hotel abandoned the
detective to the mercies of one of his captains and himself hastened to
seat Lanyard and take his order.
This last disposed of; Lanyard surrendered himself to new
impressions--of which the first proved a bit disheartening.
However impulsively, he hadn't resought Troyon's without definite
intent, to wit, to gain some clue, however slender, to the mystery of
that wretched child, Marcel. But now it appeared he had procrastinated
fatally: Time and Change had left little other than the shell of the
Troyon's he remembered. Papa Troyon was gone; Madame no longer occupied
the desk of the caisse; enquiries, so discreetly worded as to be
uncompromising, elicited from the maitre-d'hotel the information that
the house had been under new management these eighteen months; the old
proprietor was dead, and his widow had sold out lock, stock and barrel,
and retired to the country--it was not known exactly where. And with
the new administration had come fresh decorations and furnishings as
well as a complete change of personnel: not even one of the old waiters
"'All, all are gone, the old familiar faces,'" Lanyard quoted in
vindictive melancholy--"damn 'em!"
Happily, it was soon demonstrated that the cuisine was being maintained
on its erstwhile plane of excellence: one still had that comfort....
Other impressions, less ultimate, proved puzzling, disconcerting, and
Lanyard commanded a fair view of Roddy across the waist of the room.
The detective had ordered a meal that matched his aspect well--both
of true British simplicity. He was a square-set man with a square jaw,
cold blue eyes, a fat nose, a thin-lipped trap of a mouth, a face as
red as rare beefsteak. His dinner comprised a cut from the joint,
boiled potatoes, brussels sprouts, a bit of cheese, a bottle of Bass.
He ate slowly, chewing with the doggedness of a strong character
hampered by a weak digestion, and all the while kept eyes fixed to an
issue of the Paris edition of the London Daily Mail, with an effect of
concentration quite too convincing.
Now one doesn't read the Paris edition of the London Daily Mail with
tense excitement. Humanly speaking, it can't be done.
Where, then, was the object of this so sedulously dissembled interest?
Lanyard wasn't slow to read this riddle to his satisfaction--in as far,
that is, as it was satisfactory to feel still more certain that Roddy's
quarry was another than himself.
Despite the lateness of the hour, which had by now turned ten o'clock,
the restaurant had a dozen tables or so in the service of guests
pleasantly engaged in lengthening out an agreeable evening with
dessert, coffee, liqueurs and cigarettes. The majority of these were in
couples, but at a table one removed from Roddy's sat a party of three;
and Lanyard noticed, or fancied, that the man from Scotland Yard turned
his newspaper only during lulls in the conversation in this quarter.
Of the three, one might pass for an American of position and wealth: a
man of something more than sixty years, with an execrable accent, a
racking cough, and a thin, patrician cast of features clouded darkly by
the expression of a soul in torment, furrowed, seamed, twisted--a mask
of mortal anguish. And once, when this one looked up and casually
encountered Lanyard's gaze, the adventurer was shocked to find himself
staring into eyes like those of a dead man: eyes of a grey so light
that at a little distance the colour of the irises blended
indistinguishably with their whites, leaving visible only the round
black points of pupils abnormally distended and staring, blank, fixed,
passionless, beneath lashless lids.
For the instant they seemed to explore Lanyard's very soul with a look
of remote and impersonal curiosity; then they fell away; and when next
the adventurer looked, the man had turned to attend to some observation
of one of his companions.
On his right sat a girl who might be his daughter; for not only was
she, too, hall-marked American, but she was far too young to be the
other's wife. A demure, old-fashioned type; well-poised but unassuming;
fetchingly gowned and with sufficient individuality of taste but not
conspicuously; a girl with soft brown hair and soft brown eyes; pretty,
not extravagantly so when her face was in repose, but with a slow smile
that rendered her little less than beautiful: in all (Lanyard thought)
the kind of woman that is predestined to comfort mankind, whose
strongest instinct is the maternal.
She took little part in the conversation, seldom interrupting what was
practically a duologue between her putative father and the third of
This last was one, whom Lanyard was sure he knew, though he could see
no more than the back of Monsieur le Comte Remy de Morbihan.
And he wondered with a thrill of amusement if it were possible that
Roddy was on the trail of that tremendous buck. If so, it would be a
chase worth following--a diversion rendered the more exquisite to
Lanyard by the spice of novelty, since for once he would figure as a
The name of Comte Remy de Morbihan, although unrecorded in the Almanach
de Gotha, was one to conjure with in the Paris of his day and
generation. He claimed the distinction of being at once the homeliest,
one of the wealthiest, and the most-liked man in France.
As to his looks, good or bad, they were said to prove infallibly fatal
with women, while not a few men, perhaps for that reason, did their
possessor the honour to imitate them. The revues burlesqued him; Sem
caricatured him; Forain counterfeited him extensively in that
inimitable series of Monday morning cartoons for Le Figaro: one said
"De Morbihan" instinctively at sight of that stocky figure, short and
broad, topped by a chubby, moon-like mask with waxed moustaches,
womanish eyes, and never-failing grin.
A creature of proverbial good-nature and exhaustless vitality, his
extraordinary popularity was due to the equally extraordinary
extravagance with which he supported that latest Gallic fad,
"le Sport." The Parisian Rugby team was his pampered protege, he was an
active member of the Tennis Club, maintained not only a flock of
automobiles but a famous racing stable, rode to hounds, was a good
field gun, patronized aviation and motor-boat racing, risked as many
maximums during the Monte Carlo season as the Grand Duke Michael
himself, and was always ready to whet rapiers or burn a little harmless
powder of an early morning in the Parc aux Princes.
But there were ugly whispers current with respect to the sources of his
fabulous wealth. Lanyard, for one, wouldn't have thought him the
properest company or the best Parisian cicerone for an ailing American
gentleman blessed with independent means and an attractive daughter.
Paris, on the other hand--Paris who forgives everything to him who
contributes to her amusement--adored Comte Remy de Morbihan ...
But perhaps Lanyard was prejudiced by his partiality for Americans, a
sentiment the outgrowth of the years spent in New York with Bourke. He
even fancied that between his spirit and theirs existed some subtle
bond of sympathy. For all he knew he might himself be American...
For some time Lanyard strained to catch something of the conversation
that seemed to hold so much of interest for Roddy, but without success
because of the hum of voices that filled the room. In time, however,
the gathering began to thin out, until at length there remained only
this party of three, Lanyard enjoying a most delectable salad, and
Roddy puffing a cigar (with such a show of enjoyment that Lanyard
suspected him of the sin of smuggling) and slowly gulping down a second
bottle of Bass.
Under these conditions the talk between De Morbihan and the Americans
became public property.
The first remark overheard by Lanyard came from the elderly American,
following a pause and a consultation of his watch.
"Quarter to eleven," he announced.
"Plenty of time," said De Morbihan cheerfully. "That is," he amended,
"if mademoiselle isn't bored ..."
The girl's reply, accompanied by a pretty inclination of her head
toward the Frenchman, was lost in the accents of the first speaker--a
strong and sonorous voice, in strange contrast with his ravaged
appearance and distressing cough.
"Don't let that worry you," he advised cheerfully. "Lucia's accustomed
to keeping late hours with me; and who ever heard of a young and
pretty woman being bored on the third day of her first visit to Paris?"
He pronounced the name with the hard C of the Italian tongue, as though
it were spelled Luchia.
"To be sure," laughed the Frenchman; "one suspects it will be long
before mademoiselle loses interest in the rue de la Paix."
"You may well, when such beautiful things come from it," said the girl.
"See what we found there to-day."
She slipped a ring from her hand and passed it to De Morbihan.
There followed silence for an instant, then an exclamation from the
"But it is superb! Accept, mademoiselle, my compliments. It is worthy
even of you."
She flushed prettily as she nodded smiling acknowledgement.
"Ah, you Americans!" De Morbihan sighed. "You fill us with envy: you
have the souls of poets and the wealth of princes!"
"But we must come to Paris to find beautiful things for our
"Take care, though, lest you go too far, Monsieur Bannon."
"How so--too far?"
"You might attract the attention of the Lone Wolf. They say he's on
the prowl once more."
The American laughed a trace contemptuously. Lanyard's fingers
tightened on his knife and fork; otherwise he made no sign. A sidelong
glance into a mirror at his elbow showed Roddy still absorbed in the
The girl bent forward with a look of eager interest.
"The Lone Wolf? Who is that?"
"You don't know him in America, mademoiselle?"
"The Lone Wolf, my dear Lucia," the valetudinarian explained in a dryly
humourous tone, "is the sobriquet fastened by some imaginative French
reporter upon a celebrated criminal who seems to have made himself
something of a pest over here, these last few years. Nobody knows
anything definite about him, apparently, but he operates in a most
individual way and keeps the police busy trying to guess where he'll
The girl breathed an incredulous exclamation.
"But I assure you!" De Morbihan protested. "The rogue has had a
wonderfully successful career, thanks to his dispensing with
confederates and confining his depredations to jewels and similar
valuables, portable and easy to convert into cash. Yet," he added,
nodding sagely, "one isn't afraid to predict his race is almost run."
"You don't tell me!" the older man exclaimed. "Have they picked up the
"The man is known," De Morbihan affirmed.
By now the conversation had caught the interest of several loitering
waiters, who were listening open-mouthed. Even Roddy seemed a bit
startled, and for once forgot to make business with his newspaper; but
his wondering stare was exclusively for De Morbihan.
Lanyard put down knife and fork, swallowed a final mouthful of Haut
Brion, and lighted a cigarette with the hand of a man who knew not the
meaning of nerves.
"Garcon!" he called quietly; and ordered coffee and cigars, with a
liqueur to follow....
"Known!" the American exclaimed. "They've caught him, eh?"
"I didn't say that," De Morbihan laughed; "but the mystery is no
more--in certain quarters."
"Who is he, then?"
"That--monsieur will pardon me--I'm not yet free to state. Indeed, I
may be indiscreet in saying as much as I do. Yet, among friends..."
His shrug implied that, as far as _he_ was concerned, waiters were
unhuman and the other guests of the establishment non-existent.
"But," the American persisted, "perhaps you can tell us how they got on
"It wasn't difficult," said De Morbihan: "indeed, quite simple. This
tone of depreciation is becoming, for it was my part to suggest the
solution to my friend, the Chief of the Surete. He had been annoyed and
distressed, had even spoken of handing in his resignation because of
his inability to cope with this gentleman, the Lone Wolf. And since he
is my friend, I too was distressed on his behalf, and badgered my poor
wits until they chanced upon an idea which led us to the light."
"You won't tell us?" the girl protested, with a little moue of
disappointment, as the Frenchman paused provokingly.
"Perhaps I shouldn't. And yet--why not? As I say, it was elementary
reasoning--a mere matter of logical deduction and elimination. One made
up one's mind the Lone Wolf must be a certain sort of man; the rest was
simply sifting France for the man to fit the theory, and then watching
him until he gave himself away."
"You don't imagine we're going to let you stop there?" The American
demanded in an aggrieved tone.
"No? I must continue? Very well: I confess to some little pride. It was
a feat. He is cunning, that one!"
De Morbihan paused and shifted sideways in his chair, grinning like a
By this manoeuvre, thanks to the arrangement of mirrors lining the
walls, he commanded an indirect view of Lanyard; a fact of which the
latter was not unaware, though his expression remained unchanged as he
sat--with a corner of his eye reserved for Roddy--speculating whether
De Morbihan were telling the truth or only boasting for his own
"Do go on--please!" the girl begged prettily.
"I can deny you nothing, mademoiselle.... Well, then! From what little
was known of this mysterious creature, one readily inferred he must be
a bachelor, with no close friends. That is clear, I trust?"
"Too deep for me, my friend," the elderly man confessed.
"Impenetrable reticence," the Count expounded, sententious--and
enjoying himself hugely--"isn't possible in the human relations. Sooner
or later one is doomed to share one's secrets, however reluctantly,
even unconsciously, with a wife, a mistress, a child, or with some
trusted friend. And a secret between two is--a prolific breeder of
platitudes! Granted this line of reasoning, the Lone Wolf is of
necessity not only unmarried but practically friendless. Other
attributes of his will obviously comprise youth, courage, imagination,
a rather high order of intelligence, and a social position--let us say,
rather, an ostensible business--enabling him to travel at will hither
and yon without exciting comment. So far, good! My friend the Chief of
the Surete forthwith commissioned his agents to seek such an one, and
by this means several fine fish were enmeshed in the net of suspicion,
carefully scrutinized, and one by one let go--all except one, the
veritable man. Him they sedulously watched, shadowing him across Europe
and back again. He was in Berlin at the time of the famous Rheinart
robbery, though he compassed that coup without detection; he was in
Vienna when the British embassy there was looted, but escaped by a
clever ruse and managed to dispose of his plunder before the agents of
the Surete could lay hands on him; recently he has been in London, and
there he made love to, and ran away with, the diamonds of a certain
lady of some eminence. You have heard of Madame Omber, eh?" Now by
Roddy's expression it was plain that, if Madame Omber's name wasn't
strange in his hearing, at least he found this news about her most
surprising. He was frankly staring, with a slackened jaw and with
stupefaction in his blank blue eyes.
Lanyard gently pinched the small end of a cigar, dipped it into his
coffee, and lighted it with not so much as a suspicion of tremor. His
brain, however, was working rapidly in effort to determine whether De
Morbihan meant this for warning, or was simply narrating an amusing
yarn founded on advance information and amplified by an ingenious
imagination. For by now the news of the Omber affair must have thrilled
many a Continental telegraph-wire....
"Madame Omber--of course!" the American agreed thoughtfully.
"Everyone has heard of her wonderful jewels. The real marvel is that
the Lone Wolf neglected so shining a mark as long as he did."
"But truly so, monsieur!"
"And they caught him at it, eh?"
"Not precisely: but he left a clue--and London, to boot--with such
haste as would seem to indicate he knew his cunning hand had, for once,
"Then they'll nab him soon?"
"Ah, monsieur, one must say no more!" De Morbihan protested. "Rest
assured the Chief of the Surete has laid his plans: his web is spun,
and so artfully that I think our unsociable outlaw will soon be making
friends in the Prison of the Sante.... But now we must adjourn. One is
sorry. It has been so very pleasant...."
A waiter conjured the bill from some recess of his waistcoat and served
it on a clean plate to the American. Another ran bawling for the
vestiaire. Roddy glued his gaze afresh to the Daily Mail. The party
Lanyard noticed that the American signed instead of settling the bill
with cash, indicating that he resided at Troyon's as well as dined
there. And the adventurer found time to reflect that it was odd for
such as he to seek that particular establishment in preference to the
palatial modern hostelries of the Rive Droit--before De Morbihan,
ostensibly for the first time espying Lanyard, plunged across the room
with both hands outstretched and a cry of joyous surprise not really
justified by their rather slight acquaintanceship.
"Ah! Ah!" he clamoured vivaciously. "It is Monsieur Lanyard, who knows
all about paintings! But this is delightful, my friend--one grand
pleasure! You must know my friends.... But come!"
And seizing Lanyard's hands, when that one somewhat reluctantly rose in
response to this surprisingly over-exuberant greeting, he dragged him
willy-nilly from behind his table.
"And you are American, too. Certainly you must know one another.
Mademoiselle Bannon--with your permission--my friend, Monsieur Lanyard.
And Monsieur Bannon--an old, dear friend, with whom you will share a
passion for the beauties of art."
The hand of the American, when Lanyard clasped it, was cold, as cold as
ice; and as their eyes met that abominable cough laid hold of the man,
as it were by the nape of his neck, and shook him viciously. Before it
had finished with him, his sensitively coloured face was purple, and he
was gasping, breathless--and infuriated.
"Monsieur Bannon," De Morbihan explained disconnectedly--"it is most
distressing--I tell him he should not stop in Paris at this season--"
"It is nothing!" the American interposed brusquely between paroxysms.
"But our winter climate, monsieur--it is not fit for those in the prime
"It is I who am unfit!" Bannon snapped, pressing a handkerchief to his
lips--"unfit to live!" he amended venomously.
Lanyard murmured some conventional expression of sympathy. Through it
all he was conscious of the regard of the girl. Her soft brown eyes
met his candidly, with a look cool in its composure, straightforward in
its enquiry, neither bold nor mock-demure. And if they were the first
to fall, it was with an effect of curiosity sated, without hint of
discomfiture.... And somehow the adventurer felt himself measured,
classified, filed away.
Between amusement and pique he continued to stare while the elderly
American recovered his breath and De Morbihan jabbered on with
unfailing vivacity; and he thought that this closer scrutiny discovered
in her face contours suggesting maturity of thought beyond her apparent
years--which were somewhat less than the sum of Lanyard's--and with
this the suggestion of an elusive, provoking quality of wistful
languor, a hint of patient melancholy....
"We are off for a glimpse of Montmartre," De Morbihan was
explaining--"Monsieur Bannon and I. He has not seen Paris in twenty
years, he tells me. Well, it will be amusing to show him what changes
have taken place in all that time. One regrets mademoiselle is too
fatigued to accompany us. But you, my friend--now if you would consent
to make our third, it would be most amiable of you."
"I'm sorry," Lanyard excused himself; "but as you see, I am only just
in from the railroad, a long and tiresome journey. You are very good,
"Good!" De Morbihan exclaimed with violence. "I? On the contrary, I am
a very selfish man; I seek but to afford myself the pleasure of your
company. You lead such a busy life, my friend, romping about Europe,
here one day, God-knows-where the next, that one must make one's best
of your spare moments. You will join us, surely?"
"Really I cannot to-night. Another time perhaps, if you'll excuse me."
"But it is always this way!" De Morbihan explained to his friends with
a vast show of mock indignation. "'Another time, perhaps'--his
invariable excuse! I tell you, not two men in all Paris have any real
acquaintance with this gentleman whom all Paris knows! His reserve is
proverbial--'as distant as Lanyard,' we say on the boulevards!" And
turning again to the adventurer, meeting his cold stare with the De
Morbihan grin of quenchless effrontery--"As you will, my friend!" he
granted. "But should you change your mind--well, you'll have no trouble
finding us. Ask any place along the regular route. We see far too
little of one another, monsieur--and I am most anxious to have a
little chat with you."
"It will be an honour," Lanyard returned formally....
In his heart he was pondering several most excruciating methods of
murdering the man. What did he mean? How much did he know? If he knew
anything, he must mean ill, for assuredly he could not be ignorant of
Roddy's business, or that every other word he uttered was rivetting
suspicion on Lanyard of identity with the Lone Wolf, or that Roddy was
listening with all his ears and staring into the bargain!
Decidedly something must be done to silence this animal, should it turn
out he really did know anything!
It was only after profound reflection over his liqueur (while Roddy
devoured his Daily Mail and washed it down with a third bottle of Bass)
that Lanyard summoned the maitre-d'hotel and asked for a room.
It would never do to fix the doubts of the detective by going elsewhere
that night. But, fortunately, Lanyard knew that warren which was
Troyon's as no one else knew it; Roddy would find it hard to detain
him, should events seem to advise an early departure.
When the maitre-d'hotel had shown him all over the establishment
(innocently enough, en route, furnishing him with a complete list of
his other guests and their rooms: memoranda readily registered by a
retentive memory) Lanyard chose the bed-chamber next that occupied by
Roddy, in the second storey.
The consideration influencing this selection was--of course--that, so
situated, he would be in position not only to keep an eye on the man
from Scotland Yard but also to determine whether or no Roddy were
disposed to keep an eye on him.
In those days Lanyard's faith in himself was a beautiful thing. He
could not have enjoyed the immunity ascribed to the Lone Wolf as long
as he had without gaining a power of sturdy self-confidence in addition
to a certain amount of temperate contempt for spies of the law and all
Against the peril inherent in this last, however, he was self-warned,
esteeming it the most fatal chink in the armour of the lawbreaker, this
disposition to underestimate the acumen of the police: far too many
promising young adventurers like himself were annually laid by the
heels in that snare of their own infatuate weaving. The mouse has every
right, if he likes, to despise the cat for a heavy-handed and
bloodthirsty beast, lacking wit and imagination, a creature of simple
force-majeure; but that mouse will not advisedly swagger in cat-haunted
territory; a blow of the paw is, when all's said and done, a blow of
the paw--something to numb the wits of the wiliest mouse.
Considering Roddy, he believed it to be impossible to gauge the
limitations of that essentially British intelligence--something as
self-contained as a London flat. One thing only was certain: Roddy
didn't always think in terms of beef and Bass; he was nobody's facile
fool; he could make a shrewd inference as well as strike a shrewd blow.
Reviewing the scene in the restaurant, Lanyard felt measurably
warranted in assuming not only that Roddy was interested in De
Morbihan, but that the Frenchman was well aware of that interest. And
he resented sincerely his inability to feel as confident that the
Count, with his gossip about the Lone Wolf, had been merely seeking to
divert Roddy's interest to putatively larger game. It was just possible
that De Morbihan's identification of Lanyard with that mysterious
personage, at least by innuendo, had been unintentional. But somehow
Lanyard didn't believe it had.
The two questions troubled him sorely: Did De Morbihan _know_, did he
merely suspect, or had he only loosed an aimless shot which chance had
sped to the right goal? Had the mind of Roddy proved fallow to that
suggestion, or had it, with its simple national tenacity, been
impatient of such side issues, or incredulous, and persisted in
focusing its processes upon the personality and activities of Monsieur
le Comte Remy de Morbihan? However, one would surely learn something
illuminating before very long. The business of a sleuth is to sleuth,
and sooner or later Roddy must surely make some move to indicate the
quarter wherein his real interest lay.
Just at present, reasoning from noises audible through the bolted door
that communicated with the adjoining bed-chamber, the business of a
sleuth seemed to comprise going to bed. Lanyard, shaving and dressing,
could distinctly hear a tuneless voice contentedly humming "Sally in
our Alley," a rendition punctuated by one heavy thump and then another
and then by a heartfelt sigh of relief--as Roddy kicked off his
boots--and followed by the tapping of a pipe against grate-bars, the
squeal of a window lowered for ventilation, the click of an
electric-light, and the creaking of bed-springs.
Finally, and before Lanyard had finished dressing, the man from
Scotland Yard began placidly to snore.
Of course, he might well be bluffing; for Lanyard had taken pains to
let Roddy know that they were neighbours, by announcing his selection
in loud tones close to the communicating door.
But this was a question which the adventurer meant to have answered
before he went out....
It was hard upon twelve o'clock when the mirror on the dressing-table
assured him that he was at length point-device in the habit and apparel
of a gentleman of elegant nocturnal leisure. But if he approved the
figure he cut, it was mainly because clothes interested him and he
reckoned his own impeccable. Of their tenant he was feeling just then a
bit less sure than he had half-an-hour since; his regard was louring
and mistrustful. He was, in short, suffering reaction from the high
spirits engendered by his cross-Channel exploits, his successful
get-away, and the unusual circumstances attendant upon his return to
this memory-haunted mausoleum of an unhappy childhood. He even shivered
a trifle, as if under premonition of misfortune, and asked himself
heavily: Why not?
For, logically considered, a break in the run of his luck was due. Thus
far he had played, with a success almost too uniform, his dual role, by
day the amiable amateur of art, by night the nameless mystery that
prowled unseen and preyed unhindered. Could such success be reasonably
expected to attend him always? Should he count De Morbihan's yarn a
warning? Black must turn up every so often in a run of red: every
gambler knows as much. And what was Michael Lanyard but a common
gambler, who persistently staked life and liberty against the blindly
impartial casts of Chance?
With one last look round to make certain there was nothing in the
calculated disorder of his room to incriminate him were it to be
searched in his absence, Lanyard enveloped himself in a long
full-skirted coat, clapped on an opera hat, and went out, noisily
locking the door. He might as well have left it wide, but it would
do no harm to pretend he didn't know the bed-chamber keys at
Troyon's were interchangeable--identically the same keys, in fact,
that had been in service in the days of Marcel the wretched.
A single half-power electric bulb now modified the gloom of the
corridor; its fellow made a light blot on the darkness of the
courtyard. Even the windows of the conciergerie were black.
None the less, Lanyard tapped them smartly.
"_Cordon_!" he demanded in a strident voice. "_Cordon, s'il vous
"_Eh? _" A startled grunt from within the lodge was barely audible.
Then the latch clicked loudly at the end of the passageway.
Groping his way in the direction of this last sound, Lanyard found the
small side door ajar. He opened it, and hesitated a moment, looking out
as though questioning the weather; simultaneously his deft fingers
wedged the latch back with a thin slip of steel.
No rain, in fact, had fallen within the hour; but still the sky was
dense with a sullen rack, and still the sidewalks were inky wet.
The street was lonely and indifferently lighted, but a swift searching
reconnaissance discovered nothing that suggested a spy skulking in the
shelter of any of the nearer shadows.
Stepping out, he slammed the door and strode briskly round the corner,
as if making for the cab-rank that lines up along the Luxembourg
Gardens side of the rue de Medicis; his boot-heels made a cheerful
racket in that quiet hour; he was quite audibly going away from
But instead of holding on to the cab-rank, he turned the next corner,
and then the next, rounding the block; and presently, reapproaching the
entrance to Troyon's, paused in the recess of a dark doorway and,
lifting one foot after another, slipped rubber caps over his heels.
Thereafter his progress was practically noiseless.
The smaller door yielded to his touch without a murmur. Inside, he
closed it gently, and stood a moment listening with all his senses--not
with his ears alone but with every nerve and fibre of his being--with
his imagination, to boot. But there was never a sound or movement in
all the house that he could detect.
And no shadow could have made less noise than he, slipping cat-footed
across the courtyard and up the stairs, avoiding with super-developed
sensitiveness every lift that might complain beneath his tread. In a
trice he was again in the corridor leading to his bed-chamber.
It was quite as gloomy and empty as it had been five minutes ago, yet
with a difference, a something in its atmosphere that made him nod
briefly in confirmation of that suspicion which had brought him back so
For one thing, Roddy had stopped snoring. And Lanyard smiled over the
thought that the man from Scotland Yard might profitably have copied
that trick of poor Bourke's, of snoring like the Seven Sleepers when
most completely awake....
It was naturally no surprise to find his bed-chamber door unlocked and
slightly ajar. Lanyard made sure of the readiness of his automatic,
strode into the room, and shut the door quietly but by no means
He had left the shades down and the hangings drawn at both windows; and
since these had not been disturbed, something nearly approaching
complete darkness reigned in the room. But though promptly on entering
his fingers closed upon the wall-switch near the door, he refrained
from turning up the lights immediately, with a fancy of impish
inspiration that it would be amusing to learn what move Roddy would
make when the tension became too much even for his trained nerves.
Several seconds passed without the least sound disturbing the stillness.
Lanyard himself grew a little impatient, finding that his sight failed
to grow accustomed to the darkness because that last was too absolute,
pressing against his staring eyeballs like a black fluid impenetrably
opaque, as unbroken as the hush.
Still, he waited: surely Roddy wouldn't be able much longer to endure
And, surely enough, the silence was abruptly broken by a strange and
moving sound, a hushed cry of alarm that was half a moan and half a sob.
Lanyard himself was startled: for that was never Roddy's voice!
There was a noise of muffled and confused footsteps, as though someone
had started in panic for the door, then stopped in terror.
Words followed, the strangest he could have imagined, words spoken in a
gentle and tremulous voice:
"In pity's name! who are you and what do you want?"
Thunderstruck, Lanyard switched on the lights.
At a distance of some six paces he saw, not Roddy, but a woman, and not
a woman merely, but the girl he had met in the restaurant.
The surprise was complete; none, indeed, was ever more so; but it's a
question which party thereto was the more affected.
Lanyard stared with the eyes of stupefaction. To his fancy, this thing
passed the compass of simple incredulity: it wasn't merely improbable,
it was preposterous; it was anticlimax exaggerated to the proportions
of the grotesque.
He had come prepared to surprise and bully rag the most astute police
detective of whom he had any knowledge; he found himself surprised and
discountenanced by _this_...!
Confusion no less intense informed the girl's expression; her eyes were
fixed to his with a look of blank enquiry; her face, whose colouring
had won his admiration two hours since, was colourless; her lips were
just ajar; the fingers of one hand touched her cheek, indenting it.
The other hand caught up before her the long skirts of a pretty
robe-de-chambre, beneath whose edge a hand's-breadth of white silk
shimmered and the toe of a silken mule was visible. Thus she stood,
poised for flight, attired only in a dressing-gown over what, one
couldn't help suspecting, was her night-dress: for her hair was down,
and she was unquestionably all ready for her bed....But Bourke's
patient training had been wasted if this man proved one to remain long
at loss. Rallying his wits quickly from their momentary rout, he
reasserted command over them, and if he didn't in the least understand,
made a brave show of accepting this amazing accident as a commonplace.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Bannon--" he began with a formal bow.
She interrupted with a gasp of wondering recognition:
He inclined his head a second time: "Sorry to disturb you--"
"But I don't understand--"
"Unfortunately," he proceeded smoothly, "I forgot something when I went
out, and had to come back for it."
Suddenly her eyes, for the first time detached from his, swept the room
with a glance of wild dismay.
"This room," she breathed--"I don't know it--"
"It is mine."
"That is how I happened to--interrupt you."
The girl shrank back a pace--two paces--uttering a low-toned
monosyllable of understanding, an "_O!_" abruptly gasped.
Simultaneously her face and throat flamed scarlet.
"_Your_ room, Mr. Lanyard!"
Her tone so convincingly voiced shame and horror that his heart misgave
him. Not that alone, but the girl was very good to look upon. "I'm
sure," he began soothingly; "it doesn't matter. You mistook a door--"
"But you don't understand!" She shuddered....
"This dreadful habit! And I was hoping I had outgrown it! How can I ever
"Believe me, Miss Bannon, you need explain nothing."
"But I must...I wish to...I can't bear to let you think...But surely
you can make allowances for sleepwalking!"
To this appeal he could at first return nothing more intelligent than a
dazed repetition of the phrase.
So that was how...Why hadn't he thought of it before? Ever since he had
turned on the lights, he had been subjectively busy trying to invest her
presence there with some plausible excuse. But somnambulism had never
once entered his mind. And in his stupidity, at pains though he had
been to render his words inoffensive, he had been guilty of
In his turn, Lanyard coloured warmly.
"I beg your pardon," he muttered.
The girl paid no attention; she seemed self-absorbed, thinking only of
herself and the anomalous position into which her infirmity had tricked
her. When she did speak, her words came swiftly:
"You see...I was so frightened! I found myself suddenly standing up in
darkness, just as if I had jumped out of bed at some alarm; and then I
heard somebody enter the room and shut the door stealthily...Oh, please
"But I do, Miss Bannon--quite."
"I am so ashamed--"
"Please don't consider it that way."
"But now that you know--you don't think--"
"My dear Miss Bannon!"
"But it must be so hard to credit! Even I... Why, it's more than a year
since this last happened. Of course, as a child, it was almost a habit;
they had to watch me all the time. Once... But that doesn't matter. I
_am_ so sorry."
"You really mustn't worry," Lanyard insisted. "It's all quite
natural--such things do happen--are happening all the time--"
"But I don't want you--"
"I am nobody, Miss Bannon. Besides I shan't mention the matter to a
soul. And if ever I am fortunate enough to meet you again, I shall have
forgotten it completely--believe me."
There was convincing sincerity in his tone. The girl looked down, as
"You are very good," she murmured, moving toward the door.
"I am very fortunate."
Her glance of surprise was question enough.
"To be able to treasure this much of your confidence," he explained
with a tentative smile.
She was near the door; he opened it for her, but cautioned her with a
gesture and a whispered word: "Wait. I'll make sure nobody's about."
He stepped noiselessly into the hall and paused an instant, looking
right and left, listening.
The girl advanced to the threshold and there checked, hesitant, eyeing
He nodded reassurance: "All right--coast's clear!"
But she delayed one moment more.
"It's you who are mistaken," she whispered, colouring again beneath his
regard, in which admiration could not well be lacking, "It is I who am
fortunate--to have met a--gentleman."
Her diffident smile, together with the candour of her eyes, embarrassed
him to such extent that for the moment he was unable to frame a reply.
"Good night," she whispered--"and thank you, thank you!"
Her room was at the far end of the corridor. She gained its threshold
in one swift dash, noiseless save for the silken whisper of her
garments, turned, flashed him a final look that left him with the
thought that novelists did not always exaggerate, that eyes could shine
Her door closed softly.
Lanyard shook his head as if to dissipate a swarm of annoying thoughts,
and went back into his own bed-chamber.
He was quite content with the explanation the girl had given, but being
the slave of a methodical and pertinacious habit of mind, spent five
busy minutes examining his room and all that it contained with a
perseverance that would have done credit to a Frenchman searching for a
If pressed, he would have been put to it to name what he sought or
thought to find. What he did find was that nothing had been tampered
with and nothing more--not even so much as a dainty, lace-trimmed wisp
of sheer linen bearing the lady's monogram and exhaling a faint but
Which, when he came to consider it, seemed hardly playing the game by
As for Roddy, Lanyard wasted several minutes, off and on, listening
attentively at the communicating door; but if the detective had stopped
snoring, his respiration was loud enough in that quiet hour, a sound of
True, that proved nothing; but Lanyard, after the fiasco of his first
attempt to catch his enemy awake, was no more disposed to be
hypercritical; he had his fill of being ingenious and profound. And
when presently he again left Troyon's (this time without troubling the
repose of the concierge) it was with the reflection that, if Roddy were
really playing 'possum, he was welcome to whatever he could find of
interest in the quarters of Michael Lanyard.
THE PACK GIVES TONGUE
Lanyard's first destination was that convenient little rez-de-chaussee
apartment near the Trocadero, at the junction of the rue Roget and the
avenue de l'Alma; but his way thither was so roundabout that the best
part of an hour was required for what might have been less than a
twenty-minute taxicab course direct from Troyon's. It was past one when
he arrived, afoot, at the corner.
Not that he grudged the time; for in Lanyard's esteem Bourke's epigram
had come to have the weight and force of an axiom: "The more trouble
you make for yourself, the less the good public will make for you."
Paradoxically, he hadn't the least intention of attempting to deceive
anybody as to his permanent address in Paris, where Michael Lanyard,
connoisseur of fine paintings, was a figure too conspicuous to permit
his making a secret of his residence. De Morbihan, moreover, through
recognizing him at Troyon's, had rendered it impossible for Lanyard to
adopt a nom-de-guerre there, even had he thought that ruse advisable.
But he had certain businesses to attend to before dawn, affairs
demanding privacy; and while by no means sure he was followed, one can
seldom be sure of anything, especially in Paris, where nothing is
impossible; and it were as well to lose a spy first as last. And his
mind could not be at ease with respect to Roddy, thanks to De
Morbihan's gasconade in the presence of the detective and also to that
hint which the Count had dropped concerning some fatal blunder in the
course of Lanyard's British campaign.
The adventurer could recall leaving no step uncovered. Indeed, he had
prided himself on conducting his operations with a degree of
circumspection unusually thorough-going, even for him. Yet he was
unable to rid himself of those misgivings roused by De Morbihan's
declaration that the theft of the Omber jewels had been accomplished
only at cost of a clue to the thief's identity.
Now the Count's positive information concerning the robbery proved that
the news thereof had anticipated the arrival of its perpetrator in
Paris; yet Roddy unquestionably had known nothing of it prior to its
mention in his presence, after dinner. Or else the detective was a
finer actor than Lanyard credited.
But how could De Morbihan have come by his news?
Lanyard was really and deeply perturbed....
Pestered to distraction by such thoughts, he fitted key to latch and
quietly let himself into his flat by a private street-entrance which,
in addition to the usual door opening on the court and under the eye of
the concierge, distinguished this from the ordinary Parisian apartment
and rendered it doubly suited to the adventurer's uses.
Then he turned on the lights and moved quickly from room to room of the
three comprising his quarters, with comprehensive glances reviewing
But, indeed, he hadn't left the reception-hall for the salon without
recognizing that things were in no respect as they ought to be: a hat
he had left on the hall rack had been moved to another peg; a chair had
been shifted six inches from its ordained position; and the door of a
clothes-press, which he had locked on leaving, now stood ajar.
Furthermore, the state of the salon, which he had furnished as a lounge
and study, and of the tiny dining-room and the bed-chamber adjoining,
bore out these testimonies to the fact that alien hands had thoroughly
ransacked the apartment, leaving no square inch unscrutinized.
Yet the proprietor missed nothing. His rooms were a private gallery of
valuable paintings and antique furniture to poison with envy the mind
of any collector, and housed into the bargain a small museum of rare
books, manuscripts, and articles of exquisite workmanship whose
individuality, aside from intrinsic worth, rendered them priceless. A
burglar of discrimination might have carried off in one coat-pocket
loot enough to foot the bill for a twelve-month of profligate
existence. But nothing had been removed, nothing at least that was
apparent in the first tour of inspection; which, if sweeping, was by no
Before checking off more elaborately his mental inventory, Lanyard
turned attention to the protective device, a simple but exhaustive
system of burglar-alarm wiring so contrived that any attempt to enter
the apartment save by means of a key which fitted both doors and of
which no duplicate existed would alarm both the concierge and the
burglar protective society. Though it seemed to have been in no way
tampered with, to test the apparatus he opened a window on the court.
The lodge of the concierge was within earshot. If the alarm had been in
good order, Lanyard could have heard the bell from his window. He heard
With a shrug, he shut the window. He knew well--none better--how such
protection could be rendered valueless by a thoughtful and fore-handed
Returning to the salon, where the main body of his collection was
assembled, he moved slowly from object to object, ticking off items and
noting their condition; with the sole result of justifying his first
conclusion, that whereas nothing had escaped handling, nothing had been
By way of a final test, he opened his desk (of which the lock had been
deftly picked) and went through its pigeon-holes.
His scanty correspondence, composed chiefly of letters exchanged with
art dealers, had been scrutinized and replaced carelessly, in disorder:
and here again he missed nothing; but in the end, removing a small
drawer and inserting a hand in its socket, he dislodged a rack of
pigeon-holes and exposed the secret cabinet that is almost inevitably
an attribute of such pieces of period furniture.
A shallow box, this secret space contained one thing only, but that one
of considerable value, being the leather bill-fold in which the
adventurer kept a store of ready money against emergencies.
It was mostly for this, indeed, that he had come to his apartment; his
London campaign having demanded an expenditure far beyond his
calculations, so that he had landed in Paris with less than one hundred
francs in pocket. And Lanyard, for all his pride of spirit,
acknowledged one haunting fear that of finding himself strapped in the
face of emergency.
The fold yielded up its hoard to a sou: Lanyard counted out five notes
of one thousand francs and ten of twenty pounds: their sum, upwards of
two thousand dollars.
But if nothing had been abstracted, something had been added: the back
of one of the Bank of England notes had been used as a blank for
Lanyard spread it out and studied it attentively.
The handwriting had been traced with no discernible attempt at disguise,
but was quite strange to him. The pen employed had been one of those
needle-pointed nibs so popular in France; the hand was that of an
educated Frenchman. The import of the memorandum translated
substantially as follows:
_"To the Lone Wolf--
"The Pack sends Greetings
"and extends its invitation
"to participate in the benefits
"of its Fraternity.
"One awaits him always at
A date was added, the date of that very day...
Deliberately, having conned this communication, Lanyard produced his
cigarette-case, selected a cigarette, found his briquet, struck a
light, twisted the note of twenty pounds into a rude spill, set it
afire, lighted his cigarette there from and, rising, conveyed the
burning paper to a cold and empty fire-place wherein he permitted it to
burn to a crisp black ash.
When this was done, his smile broke through his clouding scowl.
"Well, my friend!" he apostrophized the author of that document which
now could never prove incriminating--"at all events, I have you to thank
for a new sensation. It has long been my ambition to feel warranted in
lighting a cigarette with a twenty-pound note, if the whim should ever
His smile faded slowly; the frown replaced it: something far more
valuable to him than a hundred dollars had just gone up in smoke ...
His secret uncovered, that essential incognito of his punctured, his
vanity touched to the quick--all that laboriously constructed edifice
of art and chicane which yesterday had seemed so substantial, so
impregnable a wall between the Lone Wolf and the World, to-day rent,
torn asunder, and cast down in ruins about his feet--Lanyard wasted
time neither in profitless lamentation or any other sort of repining.
He had much to do before morning: to determine, as definitely as might
in discretion be possible, who had fathomed his secret and how; to
calculate what chance he still had of pursuing his career without
exposure and disaster; and to arrange, if investigation verified his
expectations, which were of the gloomiest, to withdraw in good order,
with all honours of war, from that dangerous field.
Delaying only long enough to revise plans disarranged by the
discoveries of this last bad quarter of an hour, he put out the lights
and went out by the courtyard door; for it was just possible that those
whose sardonic whim it had been to name themselves "the Pack" might
have stationed agents in the street to follow their dissocial brother
in crime. And now more than ever Lanyard was firmly bent on going his
own way unwatched. His own way first led him stealthily past the door
of the conciergerie and through the court to the public hall in the
main body of the building. Happily, there were no lights to betray him
had anyone been awake to notice. For thanks to Parisian notions of
economy even the best apartment houses dispense with elevator-boys and
with lights that burn up real money every hour of the night. By
pressing a button beside the door on entering, however, Lanyard could
have obtained light in the hallways for five minutes, or long enough to
enable any tenant to find his front-door and the key-hole therein; at
the end of which period the lamps would automatically have extinguished
themselves. Or by entering a narrow-chested box of about the dimensions
of a generous coffin, and pressing a button bearing the number of the
floor at which he wished to alight, he could have been comfortably
wafted aloft without sign of more human agency. But he prudently
availed himself of neither of these conveniences. Afoot and in complete
darkness he made the ascent of five flights of winding stairs to the
door of an apartment on the sixth floor. Here a flash from a pocket
lamp located the key-hole; the key turned without sound; the door swung
on silent hinges.
Once inside, the adventurer moved more freely, with less precaution
against noise. He was on known ground, and alone; the apartment, though
furnished, was untenanted, and would so remain as long as Lanyard
continued to pay the rent from London under an assumed name.
It was the convenience of this refuge and avenue of retreat, indeed
which had dictated his choice of the rez-de-chaussee; for the
sixth-floor flat possessed one invaluable advantage--a window on a
level with the roof of the adjoining building.
Two minutes' examination sufficed to prove that here at least the Pack
had not trespassed....
Five minutes later Lanyard picked the common lock of a door opening
from the roof of an apartment house on the farthest corner of the
block, found his way downstairs, tapped the door of the conciergerie,
chanted that venerable Open Sesame of Paris, "_Cordon, s'il vous
plait!_" and was made free of the street by a worthy guardian too
sleepy to challenge the identity of this late-departing guest.
He walked three blocks, picked up a taxicab, and in ten minutes more
was set down at the Gare des Invalides.
Passing through the station without pause, he took to the streets
afoot, following the boulevard St. Germain to the rue du Bac; a brief
walk up this time-worn thoroughfare brought him to the ample, open and
unguarded porte-cochere of a court walled with beetling ancient
When he had made sure that the courtyard was deserted, Lanyard
addressed himself to a door on the right; which to his knock swung
promptly ajar with a clicking latch. At the same time the adventurer
whipped from beneath his cloak a small black velvet visor and adjusted
it to mask the upper half of his face. Then entering a narrow and
odorous corridor, whose obscurity was emphasized by a lonely guttering
candle, he turned the knob of the first door and walked into a small,
A spare-bodied young man, who had been reading at a desk by the light
of an oil-lamp with a heavy green shade, rose and bowed courteously.
"Good morning, monsieur," he said with the cordiality of one who greets
an acquaintance of old standing. "Be seated," he added, indicating an
arm-chair beside the desk. "It seems long since one has had the honour
of a call from monsieur."
"That is so," Lanyard admitted, sitting down.
The young man followed suit. The lamplight, striking across his face
beneath the greenish penumbra of the shade, discovered a countenance of
"Monsieur has something to show me, eh?"
Lanyard's reply just escaped a suspicion of curtness: as who should
say, what did you expect? He was puzzled by something strange and new
in the attitude of this young man, a trace of reserve and
They had been meeting from time to time for several years, conducting
their secret and lawless business according to a formula invented by
Bourke and religiously observed by Lanyard. A note or telegram of
innocent superficial intent, addressed to a certain member of a leading
firm of jewellers in Amsterdam, was the invariable signal for
conferences such as this; which were invariably held in the same place,
at an hour indeterminate between midnight and dawn, between on the one
hand this intelligent, cultivated and well-mannered young Jew, and on
the other hand the thief in his mask.
In such wise did the Lone Wolf dispose of his loot, at all events of
the bulk thereof; other channels were, of course, open to him, but none
so safe; and with no other receiver of stolen goods could he hope to
make such fair and profitable deals.
Now inevitably in the course of this long association, though each
remained in ignorance of his confederate's identity, these two had come
to feel that they knew each other fairly well. Not infrequently, when
their business had been transacted, Lanyard would linger an hour with
the agent, chatting over cigarettes: both, perhaps, a little thrilled
by the piquancy of the situation; for the young Jew was the only man
who had ever wittingly met the Lone Wolf face to face....
Why then this sudden awkwardness and embarrassment on the part of the
Lanyard's eyes narrowed with suspicion.
In silence he produced a jewel-case of morocco leather and handed it
over to the Jew, then settled back in his chair, his attitude one of
lounging, but his mind as quick with distrust as the fingers that,
under cover of his cloak, rested close to a pocket containing his
Accepting the box with a little bow, the Jew pressed the catch and
discovered its contents. But the richness of the treasure thus
disclosed did not seem to surprise him; and, indeed, he had more than
once been introduced with no more formality to plunder of far greater
value. Fitting a jeweller's glass to his eye, he took up one after
another of the pieces and examined them under the lamplight. Presently
he replaced the last, shut down the cover of the box, turned a
thoughtful countenance to Lanyard, and made as if to speak, but
"Well?" the adventurer demanded impatiently.
"This, I take it," said the Jew absently, tapping the box, "is the
jewellery of Madame Omber."
"_I_ took it," Lanyard retorted good-naturedly--"not to put too fine a
point upon it!"
"I am sorry," the other said slowly.
"It is most unfortunate..."
"May one enquire what is most unfortunate?"
The Jew shrugged and with the tips of his fingers gently pushed the box
toward his customer. "This makes me very unhappy," he admitted: "but I
have no choice in the matter, monsieur. As the agent of my principals I
am instructed to refuse you an offer for these valuables."
Again the shrug, accompanied by a deprecatory grimace: "That is
difficult to say. No explanation was made me. My instructions were
simply to keep this appointment as usual, but to advise you it will be
impossible for my principals to continue their relations with you as
long as your affairs remain in their present status."
"Their present status?" Lanyard repeated. "What does that mean, if you
"I cannot say monsieur. I can only repeat that which was said to me."
After a moment Lanyard rose, took the box, and replaced it in his
pocket. "Very well," he said quietly. "Your principals, of course,
understand that this action on their part definitely ends our
relations, rather than merely interrupts them at their whim?"
"I am desolated, monsieur, but ... one must assume that they have
considered everything. You understand, it is a matter in which I am
wholly without discretion, I trust?"
"O quite!" Lanyard assented carelessly. He held out his hand.
"Good-bye, my friend."
The Jew shook hands warmly.