Part 4 out of 6
was effectively dislocated, he rose, picked up the lamp, replaced it on
the desk with scrupulous care to leave no sign that it had been moved,
and looked round to the girl.
She was where he had left her, a small, tense, vibrant figure among the
shadows, her eyes dark pools of wonder in a face of blazing pallor.
With a high head and his shoulders well back he made a gesture
signifying more eloquently than any words: "All that is ended!"
"And now...?" she asked breathlessly.
"Now for our get-away," he replied with assumed lightness. "Before
dawn we must be out of Paris.... Two minutes, while I straighten this
place up and leave it as I found it."
He moved back to the safe, restored the wing of the screen to the spot
from which he had moved it, and after an instant's close examination of
the rug, began to explore his pockets.
"What are you looking for?" the girl enquired.
"My memoranda of the combination--"
"I have it." She indicated its place in a pocket of her coat. "You left
it on the floor, and I was afraid you might forget--"
"No fear!" he laughed. "No"--as she offered him the folded paper--"keep
it and destroy it, once we're out of this. Now those portieres..."
Extinguishing the desk-light, he turned attention to the draperies at
doors and windows....
Within five minutes, they were once more in the silent streets of Passy.
They had to walk as far as the Trocadero before Lanyard found a fiacre,
which he later dismissed at the corner in the Faubourg St. Germain.
Another brief walk brought them to a gate in the garden wall of a
residence at the junction of two quiet streets.
"This, I think, ends our Parisian wanderings," Lanyard announced. "If
you'll be good enough to keep an eye out for busybodies--and yourself
as inconspicuous as possible in this doorway..."
And he walked back to the curb, measuring the wall with his eye.
"What are you going to do?"
He responded by doing it so swiftly that she gasped with surprise:
pausing momentarily within a yard of the wall, he gathered himself
together, shot lithely into the air, caught the top curbing with both
She heard the soft thud of his feet on the earth of the enclosure; the
latch grated behind her; the door opened.
"For the last time," Lanyard laughed quietly, "permit me to invite you
to break the law by committing an act of trespass!"
Securing the door, he led her to a garden bench secluded amid
"If you'll wait here," he suggested--"well, it will be best. I'll be
back as soon as possible, though I may be detained some time. Still,
inasmuch as I'm about to break into this hotel, my motives, which are
most commendable, may be misinterpreted, and I'd rather you'd stop
here, with the street at hand. If you hear a noise like trouble, you've
only to unlatch the gate.... But let's hope my purely benevolent
intentions toward the French Republic won't be misconstrued!"
"I'll wait," she assured him bravely; "but won't you tell me--?"
With a gesture, he indicated the mansion back of the garden.
"I'm going to break in there to pay an early morning call and impart
some interesting information to a person of considerable
consequence--nobody less, in fact, than Monsieur Ducroy."
"And who is that?"
"The present Minister of War.... We haven't as yet the pleasure of each
other's acquaintance; still, I think he won't be sorry to see me....
In brief, I mean to make him a present of the Huysman plans and bargain
for our safe-conduct from France."
Impulsively she offered her hand and, when he, surprised, somewhat
diffidently took it, "Be careful!" she whispered brokenly, her pale
sweet face upturned to his. "Oh, do be careful! I am afraid for
And for a little the temptation to take her in his arms was stronger
than any he had ever known....
But remembering his stipulated year of probation, he released her hand
with an incoherent mumble, turned, and disappeared in the direction of
THE FORLORN HOPE
Established behind his splendid mahogany desk in his office at the
Ministere de la Guerre, or moving majestically abroad attired in frock
coat and glossy topper, or lending the dignity of his presence to some
formal ceremony in that beautiful uniform which appertained unto his
office, Monsieur Hector Ducroy cut an imposing figure.
Abed ... it was sadly otherwise.
Lanyard switched on the bedside light, turning it so that it struck
full upon the face of the sleeper; and as he sat down, smiled.
The Minister of War lay upon his back, his distinguished corpulence
severely dislocating the chaste simplicity of the bed-clothing. Athwart
his shelving chest, fat hands were folded in a gesture affectingly
naive. His face was red, a noble high-light shone upon the promontory
of his bald pate, his mouth was open. To the best of his unconscious
ability he was giving a protracted imitation of a dog-fight; and he was
really exhibiting sublime virtuosity: one readily distinguished
individual howls, growls, yelps, against an undertone of blended voices
of excited non-combatants...
As suddenly as though some one, wearying of the entertainment, had
lifted the needle from that record, it was discontinued. The Minister
of War stirred uneasily in his sleep, muttered a naughty word, opened
one eye, scowled, opened the other.
He blinked furiously, half-blinded but still able to make out the
disconcerting silhouette of a man seated just beyond the glare: a quiet
presence that moved not but eyed him steadfastly; an apparition the
more arresting because of its very immobility.
Rapidly the face of the Minister of War lost several shades of purple.
He moistened his lips nervously with a thick, dry tongue, and
convulsively he clutched the bed-clothing high and tight about his
neck, as though labouring under the erroneous impression that the
sanctity of his person was threatened.
"What do you want, monsieur?" he stuttered in a still, small voice
which he would have been the last to acknowledge his own.
"I desire to discuss a matter of business with monsieur," replied the
intruder after a small pause. "If you will be good enough to calm
"I am perfectly calm--"
But here the Minister of War verified with one swift glance an earlier
impression, to the effect that the trespasser was holding something
that shone with metallic lustre; and his soul began to curl up round
"There are eighteen hundred francs in my pocketbook--about," he managed
to articulate. "My watch is on the stand here. You will find the family
plate in the dining-room safe, behind the buffet--the key is on my
ring--and the jewels of madame my wife are in a small strong-box
beneath the head of her bed. The combination--"
"Pardon: monsieur labours under a misapprehension," the housebreaker
interposed drily. "Had one desired these valuables, one would readily
have taken them without going to the trouble of disturbing the repose of
monsieur.... I have, however, already mentioned the nature of my
"Eh?" demanded the Minister of War. "What is that? But give me of your
mercy one chance to explain! I have never wittingly harmed you,
monsieur, and if I have done so without my knowledge, rest assured you
have but to petition me through the proper channels and I will be only
too glad to make amends!"
"_Still_ you do not listen!" the other insisted. "Come, Monsieur
Ducroy--calm yourself. I have not robbed you, because I have no wish to
rob you. I have not harmed you, for I have no wish to harm you. Nor
have I any wish other than to lay before you, as representing
Government, a certain matter of State business."
There was silence while the Minister of War permitted this exhortation
to sink in. Then, apparently reassured, he sat up in bed and eyed his
untimely visitor with a glare little short of truculent.
"Eh? What's that?" he demanded. "Business? What sort of business? If
you wish to submit to my consideration any matter of business, how is
it you break into my home at dead of night and rouse me in this brutal
fashion"--here his voice faltered--"with a lethal weapon pointed at my
"Monsieur will admit he speaks under an error," returned the burglar.
"I have yet to point this pistol at him. I should be very sorry to feel
obliged to do so. I display it, in fact, simply that monsieur may not
forget himself and attempt to summon servants in his resentment of this
(I admit) unusual method of introducing one's self to his attention.
When we understand each other better there will be no need for such
precautions, and then I shall put my pistol away, so that the sight of
it may no longer annoy monsieur."
"It is true, I do not understand you," grumbled the Minister of War.
"Why--if your errand be peaceable--break into my house?"
"Because it was urgently necessary to see monsieur instantly. Monsieur
will reflect upon the reception one would receive did one ring the front
door-bell and demand audience at three o'clock in the morning!"
"Well ..." Monsieur Ducroy conceded dubiously. Then, on reflection, he
iterated the monosyllable testily: "Well! What is it you want, then?"
"I can best explain by asking monsieur to examine--what
I have to show him."
With this Lanyard dropped the pistol into his coat-pocket, from another
produced a gold cigarette-case, and from the store of this last with
meticulous care selected a single cigarette.
Regarding the Minister of War in a mystifying manner, he began to roll
the cigarette briskly between his palms. A small shower of tobacco
sifted to the floor: the rice-paper cracked and came away; and with the
bland smile and gesture of a professional conjurer, Lanyard exhibited a
small cylinder of stiff paper between his thumb and index-finger.
Goggling resentfully, Monsieur Ducroy spluttered:
"Eh--what impudence is this?"
His smile unchanged, Lanyard bent forward and silently dropped the
cylinder into the Frenchman's hand. At the same time he offered him a
pocket magnifying-glass. "What is this?" Ducroy persisted stupidly.
"If monsieur will be good enough to unroll the papers and examine them
with the aid of this glass--"
With a wondering grunt, the other complied, unrolling several small
sheets of photographer's printing-out paper, to which several
extraordinarily complicated and minute designs had been
transferred--strongly resembling laborious efforts to conventionalize a
But no sooner had Monsieur Ducroy viewed these through the glass, than
he started violently, uttered an excited exclamation, and subjected them
to an examination both prolonged and exacting.
"Monsieur is, no doubt, now satisfied?" Lanyard enquired when his
patience would endure no longer.
"These are genuine?" the Minister of War demanded sharply, without
"Monsieur can readily discern notations made upon the drawings by the
inventor, Georges Huysman, in his own hand. Furthermore, each plan has
been marked in the lower left-hand corner with the word '_accepted_'
followed by the initials of the German Minister of War. I think this
establishes beyond dispute the authenticity of these photographs of the
plan for Huysman's invention."
"Yes," the Minister of War agreed breathlessly. "You have the negatives
from which these prints were made?"
"Here," Lanyard said, indicating a second cigarette.
And then, with a movement so leisurely and careless that his purpose
was accomplished before the other in his preoccupation was aware of it,
the adventurer leaned forward and swept up the prints from the
counterpane in front of Monsieur Ducroy.
"Here!" the Frenchman exclaimed. "Why do you do that?"
"Monsieur no longer questions their authenticity?"
"I grant you that."
"Then I return to myself these prints, pending negotiations for their
transfer to France."
"How did you come by them?" demanded Monsieur Ducroy, after a moment's
"Need monsieur ask? Is France so ill-served by her spies that you do
not already know of the misfortune one Captain Ekstrom recently
suffered in London?"
Ducroy shook his head. Lanyard received this indication with impatience.
It seemed hardly possible that the French Minister of War could be
either so stupid or so ignorant....
But with a patient shrug, he proceeded to elucidate.
"Captain Ekstrom," he said, "but recently succeeded in photographing
these plans and took them to London to sell to the English.
Unfortunately for himself--unhappily for perfidious Albion!--Captain
Ekstrom fell in with me and mistook me for Downing Street's
representative. And here are the plans."
"You are--the Lone Wolf--then?"
"I am, as far as concerns you, monsieur, merely the person in possession
of these plans, who offers them through you, to France, for a price."
"But why introduce yourself to me in this extraordinary
fashion, for a transaction for which the customary channels
--with which you must be familiar--are entirely adequate?"
"Simply because Ekstrom has followed me to Paris," Lanyard explained
indulgently. "Did I venture to approach you in the usual way, my chances
of rounding out a useful life thereafter would be practically nil.
Furthermore, my circumstances are such that it has become necessary
for me to leave France immediately--without an hour's delay--also
secretly; else I might as well remain here to be butchered.... Now you
command the only means I know of, to accomplish my purpose. And that
is the price, the only price, you will have to pay me for these plans."
"I don't understand you."
"It is on schedule, is it not, that Captain Vauquelin of the Aviation
Corps is to attempt a non-stop flight from Paris to London this morning,
with two passengers, in a new Parrott biplane?"
"That is so.... Well?"
"I must be one of those passengers; and I have a companion, a young
lady, who will take the place of the other."
"It isn't possible, monsieur. Those arrangements are already fixed."
"You will countermand them."
"There is no time--"
"You can get into telephonic communication with Port Aviation in two
"But the passengers have been promised--"
"You will disappoint them."
"The start is to be made in the first flush of daylight. How could you
reach Port Aviation in time?"
"In your motor-car, monsieur."
"It cannot be done."
"It must! If the start must be delayed till we arrive, you will give
orders that it shall be so delayed."
For a minute the Minister of War hesitated; then he shook his head
"The difficulties are insuperable--"
"There is no such thing, monsieur."
"I am sorry: it can't be done."
"That is your answer?"
"It is regrettable, monsieur..."
"Very well!" Lanyard bent forward again, took a match from the stand on
the bedside table, and struck it. Very calmly he advanced the flame
toward the cigarette containing the roll of inflammable films.
"Monsieur!" Ducroy cried in horror. "What are you doing?"
Lanyard favoured him with a look of surprise.
"I am about to destroy these films and prints."
"You must never do that!"
"Why not? They are mine, to do with as I like. If I cannot dispose of
them at my price, I shall destroy them!"
"But--my God!--what you demand is impossible! Stay, monsieur! Think
what your action means to France!"
"I have already thought of that. Now I must think of myself."
Ducroy sat up in bed and dangled hairy fat legs over the side.
"But one moment only, monsieur. Don't make me waste your matches!"
"Monsieur, it shall be as you desire, if it lies in my power to
With this the Minister of War stood up and made for the telephone, in
his agitation forgetful of dressing-gown and slippers.
"You must accomplish it, Monsieur Ducroy," Lanyard advised him gravely,
puffing out the flame; "for if you fail, you make yourself the
instrument of my death. Here are the plans."
"You trust them to me?" Ducroy asked in astonishment.
"But naturally: that makes it an affair of your honour," Lanyard
With a gesture of graceful capitulation the Frenchman accepted the
little roll of film.
"Permit me," he said, "to acknowledge the honour of monsieur's
Lanyard bowed low: "One knows with whom one deals, monsieur!... And now,
if you will be good enough to excuse me...."
He turned to the door.
"But--eh--where are you going?" Ducroy demanded.
"Mademoiselle," Lanyard said, pausing on the threshold--"that is, the
young lady who is to accompany me--is waiting anxiously in the garden,
out yonder. I go to find and reassure her and--with your permission--to
bring her in to the library, where we will await monsieur when he has
finished telephoning and--ah--repaired the deficiencies in his attire;
which one trusts he will forgive one's mentioning!"
He bowed again, impudently, gaily, and--when the Minister of War looked
up again sheepishly from contemplation of his naked shanks--had
In high feather Lanyard made his way to a door at the rear of the house
which gave upon the garden--in his new social status of Governmental
protege disdaining any such a commonplace avenue as that conservatory
window whose fastenings he had forced on entering. And boldly unbolting
the door, he ran out into the night, to rejoin his beloved, like a man
waking to new life.
But she was no more there: the bench was vacant, the garden deserted,
the gateway yawning on the street.
With a low, stifled cry, Lanyard turned from the bench and stumbled out
to the junction of the cross-street. But nowhere in their several
perspectives could he see anything that moved.
After some time he returned to the garden and quartered it with the
thoroughness of a pointer beating a covert. But he did this hopelessly,
bitterly aware that the outcome would be precisely what it eventually
was, that is to say, nothing....
He was kneeling beside the bench--scrutinizing the turf with
microscopic attention by aid of his flash-lamp, seeking some sign of
struggle to prove she had not left him willingly, and finding
none--when a voice brought him momentarily out of his distraction.
He looked up wildly, to discover Ducroy standing over him, his stout
person chastely swathed in a quilted dressing-gown and trousers, his
expression one of stupefaction.
"Well, monsieur--well?" the Minister of War demanded irritably. "What--I
repeat--what are you doing there?"
Lanyard essayed response, choked up, and gulped. He rose and stood
swaying, showing a stricken face.
"Eh?" Ducroy insisted with an accent of exasperation. "Why do you stand
glaring at me like that--eh? Come, monsieur: what ails you? I have
arranged everything, I say. Where is mademoiselle?"
Lanyard made a broken gesture.
"Gone!" he muttered forlornly.
Instantly the countenance of the stout Frenchman was lightened with a
gleam of eager interest--inveterate romantic that he was!--and he
stepped nearer, peering closely into the face of the adventurer.
"Gone?" he echoed. "Mademoiselle? Your sweetheart,
Lanyard assented with a disconsolate nod and sigh.
Impatiently Ducroy caught him by the sleeve.
"Come!" he insisted, tugging--"but come at once into the house. Now,
monsieur--now at length you enlist all one's sympathies! Come, I say!
Is it your desire that I catch my death of cold?"
Indifferently Lanyard suffered himself to be led away.
He was, indeed, barely conscious of what was happening. All his being
was possessed by the thought that she had forsaken him. And he could
well guess why: impossible for such an one as she to contemplate
without a shudder association with the man who had been what he had
been! Infatuate!--to have dreamed that she would tolerate the devotion
of a criminal, that she could ever forget his identity with the Lone
Wolf. Inevitably--soon or late--she must have fled that ignominious
thought in dread and horror, daring whatever consequences to escape
and forget both it and him. And better now, perhaps, than later....
He found no reason to believe she had left him other than voluntarily,
or that their adventures since the escape from the impasse Stanislas
had been attended upon by spies of the Pack. He could have sworn they
hadn't been followed either to or from the rue des Acacias; their way
had been too long and purposely too roundabout, his vigilance too
lively, for any sort of surveillance to have been practised without his
remarking some indication thereof, at one time or another.
On the other hand (he told himself) there was every reason to believe
she hadn't left him to go back to Bannon; concerning whom she had
expressed herself too forcibly to excuse a surmise that she had
preferred his protection to the Lone Wolf's.
Reasoning thus, he admitted, one couldn't blame her. He could readily
see how, illuded at first by a certain romantic glamour, she had not,
until left to herself in the garden, come to clear perception of the
fact that she was casting her lot with a common criminal's. Then,
horror overmastering her of a sudden she had fled--wildly, blindly, he
didn't doubt. But whither? He looked in vain for her at their agreed
rendezvous, the Sacre Coeur. She had neither money nor friends in
True: she had mentioned some personal jewellery she planned to
hypothecate. Her first move, then, would be to seek the mont-de-piete--
not to force himself again upon her, but to follow at a distance and
ward off interference on Bannon's part.
The Government pawn-shop had its invitation for Lanyard himself: he was
there before the doors were open for the day; and fortified by loans
negotiated on his watch, cigarette-case, and a ring or two, retired to
a cafe commanding a view of the entrance on the rue des
Blancs-Manteaux, and settled himself against a day-long vigil.
It wasn't easy; drowsiness buzzed in his brain and weighted his eyelids;
now and again, involuntarily, he nodded over his glass of black coffee.
And when evening came and the mont-de-piete closed for the night, he
rose and stumbled off, wondering if possibly he had napped a little
without his knowledge and so missed her visit.
Engaging obscure lodgings close by the rue des Acacias, he slept till
nearly noon of the following day, then rose to put into execution a
design which had sprung full-winged from his brain at the instant of
He had not only his car but a chauffeur's license of long standing in
the name of Pierre Lamier--was free, in short, to range at will the
streets of Paris. And when he had levied on the stock of a second-hand
clothing shop and a chemist's, he felt tolerably satisfied it would
need sharp eyes--whether the Pack's or the Prefecture's--to identify
"Pierre Lamier" with either Michael Lanyard or the Lone Wolf.
His face, ears and neck he stained a weather-beaten brown, a discreet
application of rouge along his cheekbones enhancing the effect of daily
exposure to the winter winds and rains of Paris; and he gave his hands
an even darker shade, with the added verisimilitude of finger-nails
inked into permanent mourning. Also, he refrained from shaving: a
stubble of two days' neglect bristled upon his chin and jowls. A
rusty brown ulster with cap to match, shoddy trousers boasting
conspicuous stripes of leaden colour, and patched boots completed the
Monsieur and madame of the conciergerie he deceived with a yarn of
selling his all to purchase the motor-car and embark in business for
himself; and with their blessing, sallied forth to scout Paris
diligently for sight or sign of the woman to whom his every heart-beat
By the close of the third day he was ready to concede that she had
managed to escape without his aid.
And he began to suspect that Bannon had fled the town as well; for the
most diligent enquiries failed to educe the least clue to the movements
of the American following the fire at Troyon's.
As for Troyon's, it was now nothing more than a gaping excavation
choked with ashes and charred timbers; and though still rumours of
police interest in the origin of the fire persisted, nothing in the
papers linked the name of Michael Lanyard with their activities. His
disappearance and Lucy Shannon's seemed to be accepted as due to
death in the holocaust; the fact that their bodies hadn't
been recovered was no longer a matter for comment.
In short, Paris had already lost interest in the affair.
Even so, it seemed, had the Pack lost interest in the Lone Wolf; or
else his disguise was impenetrable. Twice he saw De Morbihan "flanning"
elegantly on the Boulevards, and once he passed close by Popinot; but
neither noticed him.
Toward midnight of the third day, Lanyard, driving slowly westward on
the boulevard de la Madeleine, noticed a limousine of familiar aspect
round a corner half a block ahead and, drawing up in front of Viel's,
discharge four passengers.
The first was Wertheimer; and at sight of his rather striking figure,
decked out in evening apparel from Conduit street and Bond, Lanyard
Turning as he alighted, the Englishman offered his hand to a young
woman. She jumped down to the sidewalk in radiant attire and a laughing
Involuntarily Lanyard stopped his car; and one immediately to the rear,
swerving out to escape collision, shot past, its driver cursing him
freely; while a sergent de ville scowled darkly and uttered an
He pulled himself together, somehow, and drove on.
The girl was entering the restaurant by way of the revolving door,
Wertheimer in attendance; while De Morbihan, having alighted, was
lending a solicitous arm to Bannon.
Quite automatically the adventurer drove on, rounded the Madeleine, and
turned up the boulevard Malesherbes. Paris and all its brisk midnight
traffic swung by without claiming a tithe of his interest: he was
mainly conscious of lights that reeled dizzily round him like a
multitude of malicious, mocking eyes....
At the junction with the boulevard Haussmann a second sergent de ville
roused him with a warning about careless driving. He went more sanely
thereafter, but bore a heart of utter misery; his eyes still wore a
dazed expression, and now and again he shook his head impatiently as
though to rid it of a swarm of tormenting thoughts.
So, it seemed, he had all along been her dupe; all the while that he
had been ostentatiously shielding her from harm and diffidently
discovering every evidence of devotion, she had been laughing in her
sleeve and planning to return to the service she pretended to despise,
with her report of a fool self-duped.
A great anger welled in his bosom.
Turning round, he made back to the boulevard de la Madeleine, and on
one pretext and another contrived to haunt the neighbourhood of Viel's
until the party reappeared, something after one o'clock.
It was plain that they had supped merrily; the girl seemed in the
gayest humour, Wertheimer a bit exhilarated, De Morbihan much amused;
even Bannon--bearing heavily on the Frenchman's arm--was chuckling
contentedly. The party piled back into De Morbihan's limousine and was
driven up the avenue des Champs Elysees, pausing at the Elysee Palace
Hotel to drop Bannon and the girl--his daughter?--whoever she was!
Whither it went thereafter, Lanyard didn't trouble to ascertain. He
drove morosely home and went to bed, though not to sleep for many hours:
bitterness of disillusion ate like an acid in his heart.
But for all his anguish, he continued in an uncertain temper. He had
turned his back on the craft of which he was acknowledged master--for a
woman's sake; for nothing else (he argued) had he dedicated himself to
poverty and honest effort; and what little privation he had already
endured was hopelessly distasteful to him. The art of the Lone Wolf,
his consummate cunning and subtlety, was still at his command; with only
himself to think of, he was profoundly contemptuous of the antagonism of
the Pack; while none knew better than he with what ease the riches of
careless Paris might be diverted to his own pockets. A single step aside
from the path he had chosen--and tomorrow night he might dine at the
Ritz instead of in some sordid cochers' cabaret!
And since no one cared--since _she_ had betrayed his faith--what
Yet he could not come to a decision; the next day saw him obstinately,
even a little stupidly, pursuing the course he had planned before his
Because his money was fast ebbing and motives of prudence alone--if
none more worthy--forbade an attempt to replenish his pocketbook by
revisiting the little rez-de-chaussee in the rue Roget and realizing on
its treasures, he had determined to have a taximeter fitted to his car
and ply for hire until time or chance should settle the question of his
Already, indeed, he had complied with the police regulations, and
received permission to convert his voiture de remise into a taxicab;
and leaving it before noon at the designated depot, he was told it
would be ready for him at four with the "clock" installed. Returning at
that hour, he learned that it couldn't be ready before six; and too
bored and restless to while away two idle hours in a cafe, he wandered
listlessly through the streets and boulevards--indifferent, in the
black melancholy oppressing him, whether or not he were recognized--and
eventually found himself turning from the rue St. Honore through the
place Vendome to the rue de la Paix.
This was not wise, a perilous business, a course he had no right to
pursue. And Lanyard knew it. None the less, he persisted.
It was past five o'clock--deep twilight beneath a cloudless sky--the
life of that street of streets fluent at its swiftest. All that Paris
knew of wealth and beauty, fashion and high estate, moved between the
curbs. One needed the temper of a Stoic to maintain indifference to the
allure of its pageant.
Trudging steadily, he of the rusty brown ulster all but touched
shoulders with men who were all that he had been but a few days since--
hale, hearty, well-fed, well-dressed symbols of prosperity--and with
exquisite women, exquisitely gowned, extravagantly be-furred and
be-jewelled, of glowing faces and eyes dark with mystery and promise:
spirited creatures whose laughter was soft music, whose gesture was
pride and arrogance.
One and all looked past, over, and through him, unaffectedly unaware
that he existed.
The roadway, its paving worn as smooth as glass, and tonight by grace
of frost no less hard, rang with a clatter of hoofs high and clear
above the resonance of motors. A myriad lights filled the wide channel
with diffused radiance. Two endless ranks of shop-windows, facing one
another--across the tide, flaunted treasures that kings might
pardonably have coveted--and would.
Before one corner window, Lanyard paused instinctively.
The shop was that of a famous jeweller. Separated from him by only the
thickness of plate-glass was the wealth of princes. Looking beyond that
display, his attention focussed on the interior of an immense safe, to
which a dapper French salesman was restoring velvet-lined trays of
valuables. Lanyard studied the intricate, ponderous mechanism of the
safe-door with a thoughtful gaze not altogether innocent of sardonic
bias. It wore all the grim appearance of a strong-box that, once locked,
would prove impregnable to everything save acquaintance with the
combination and the consent of the time-lock. But give the Lone Wolf
twenty minutes alone with it, twenty minutes free from interruption--he,
the one man living who could seduce a time-lock and leave it apparently
To one side of that window stood a mirror, set at an angle, and
suddenly Lanyard caught its presentment of himself--a gaunt and hungry
apparition, with a wolfish air he had never worn when rejoicing in his
sobriquet, staring with eyes of predaceous lustre.
Alarmed and fearing lest some passer-by be struck by this betrayal, he
turned and moved on hastily.
But his mind was poisoned by this brutal revelation of the wide, deep
gulf that yawned between the Lone Wolf of yesterday and Pierre Lamier
of today; between Michael Lanyard the debonnaire, the amateur of fine
arts and fine clothing, the beau sabreur of gentlemen-cracksmen and
that lean, worn, shabby and dispirited animal who had glared back at
him from the jeweller's mirror.
He quickened his pace, with something of that same instinct of
self-preservation that bids the dipsomaniac avert his eyes and hurry
past the corner gin-mill, and turned blindly off into the rue Danou,
toward the avenue de l'Opera.
But this only made it worse for him, for he could not avoid recognition
of the softly glowing windows of the Cafe de Paris that knew him so
well, or forget the memory of its shining rich linen, its silver and
crystal, its perfumed atmosphere and luxury of warmth and music and
shaded lights, its cuisine that even Paris cannot duplicate.
And the truth came home to him, that he was hungry not with that brute
appetite he had money enough in his pocket to satisfy, but with the
lust of flesh-pots, for rare viands and old vintage wines, to know once
more the snug embrace of a dress-coat and to breathe again the
atmosphere of ease and station.
In sudden panic he darted across the avenue and hurried north,
determined to tantalize himself no longer with sights and sounds so
provocative and so disturbing.
Half-way across the boulevard des Capucines, to the east of the Opera,
he leapt for his life from a man-killing taxi, found himself
temporarily marooned upon one of those isles of safety which Paris has
christened "thank-Gods," and stood waiting for an opening in the
congestion of traffic to permit passage to the farther sidewalk.
And presently the policeman in the middle of the boulevard signalled
with his little white wand; the stream of east-bound vehicles checked
and began to close up to the right of the crossing, upon which they
encroached jealously; and a taxi on the outside, next the island,
overshot the mark, pulled up sharply, and began to back into place.
Before Lanyard could stir, its window was opposite him, and he was
looking in, transfixed.
There was sufficient light to enable him to see clearly the face of the
passenger--its pale oval and the darkness of eyes whose gaze clung to
his with an effect of confused fascination....
She sat quite motionless until one white-gloved hand moved uncertainly
toward her bosom.
That brought him to; unconsciously lifting his cap, he stepped back a
pace and started to move on.
At this, she bent quickly forward and unlatched the door. It swung wide
Hardly knowing what he was doing, he accepted the dumb invitation,
stepped in, took the empty seat, and closed the door.
Almost at once the car moved on with a jerk, the girl sinking back into
her corner with a suggestion of breathlessness, as though her effort to
seem composed had been almost too much for her strength.
Her face, turned toward Lanyard, seemed wan in the half light, but
immobile, expressionless; only her eyes were darkly quick with
On his part, Lanyard felt himself hopelessly confounded, in the grasp
of emotions that would scarce suffer him to speak. A great wonder
obsessed him that she should have opened that door to him no less than
that he should have entered through it. Dimly he understood that each
had acted without premeditation; and asked himself, was she already
regretting that momentary weakness.
"Why did you do that?" he heard himself demand abruptly, his voice
harsh, strained, and unnatural.
She stiffened slightly, with a nervous movement of her shoulders.
"Because I saw you... I was surprised; I had hoped--believed--you had
"Without you? Hardly!"
"But you must," she insisted--"you _must_ go, as quickly as possible.
It isn't safe--"
"I'm all right," he insisted--"able-bodied--in full possession of my
"But any moment you may be recognized--"
"In this rig? It isn't likely.... Not that I care."
She surveyed his costume curiously, perplexed.
"Why are you dressed that way? Is it a disguise?"
"A pretty good one. But in point of fact, it's the national livery of
my present station in life."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Simply that, out of my old job, I've turned to the first resort of the
incompetent: I'm driving a taxi."
"Isn't it awfully--risky?"
"You'd think so; but it isn't. Few people ever bother to look at a
chauffeur. When they hail a taxi they're in a hurry, as a rule--
preoccupied with business or pleasure. And then our uniforms are a
disguise in themselves: to the public eye we look like so many
"But you're mistaken: I knew you instantly, didn't I? And those
others--they're as keen-witted as I--certainly. Oh, you should
not have stopped on in Paris!"
"I couldn't go without knowing what had become of you."
"I was afraid of that," she confessed.
"Oh, I know what you're going to say! Why did I run away from you?"
And then, since he said nothing, she continued unhappily: "I can't
tell you... I mean, I don't know how to tell you!"
She kept her face averted, sat gazing blankly out of the window; but
when he sat on, mute and unresponsive--in point of fact not knowing
what to say--she turned to look at him, and the glare of a passing lamp
showed her countenance profoundly distressed, mouth tense, brows
knotted, eyes clouded with perplexity and appeal.
And of a sudden, seeing her so tormented and so piteous, his
indignation ebbed, and with it all his doubts of her were dissipated;
dimly he divined that something behind this dark fabric of mystery and
inconsistency, no matter how inexplicable to him, excused all her
apparent faithlessness and instability of character and purpose. He
could not look upon this girl and hear her voice and believe that she
was not at heart as sound and sweet, tender and loyal, as any that ever
A wave of tenderness and compassion brimmed his heart; he realized that
he didn't matter, that his amour propre was of no account--that nothing
mattered so long as she were spared one little pang of self-reproach.
He said, gently: "I wouldn't have you distress yourself on my account,
Miss Shannon... I quite understand there must be things I _can't_
understand--that you must have had your reasons for acting as you did."
"Yes," she said unevenly, but again with eyes averted--"I had; but
they're not easy, they're impossible to explain--to you."
"Yet--when all's said and done--I've no right to exact any explanation."
"Ah, but how can you say that, remembering what we've been through
"You owe me nothing," he insisted; "whereas I owe you everything, even
unquestioning faith. Even though I fail, I have this to thank you
for--this one not-ignoble impulse my life has known."
"You mustn't say that, you mustn't think it. I don't deserve it. You
wouldn't say it--if you knew--"
"Perhaps I can guess enough to satisfy myself."
She gave him a swift, sidelong look of challenge, instinctively on the
"Why," she almost gasped--"what do you think--?"
"Does it matter what I think?"
"It does, to me: I wish to know!"
"Well," he conceded reluctantly, "I think that, when you had a chance
to consider things calmly, waiting back there in the garden, you made
up your mind it would be better to--to use your best judgment
and--extricate yourself from an embarrassing position--"
"You think that!" she interrupted bitterly. "You think that, after you
had confided in me; after you'd confessed--when I made you, led you on
to it--that you cared for me; after you'd told me how much my faith
meant to you--you think that, after all that, I deliberately abandoned
you because I suddenly realized you had been the Lone Wolf--!"
"I'm sorry if I hurt you. But what can I think?"
"But you are wrong!" she protested vehemently--"quite, quite wrong! I
ran away from myself--not from you--and with another motive, too, that
I can't explain."
"You ran away from yourself--not from me?" he repeated, puzzled.
"Don't you understand? Why make it so hard for me? Why make me say
outright what pains me so?"
"Oh, I beg of you--"
"But if you won't understand otherwise--I must tell you, I suppose."
She checked, breathless, flushed, trembling. "You recall our talk after
dinner, that night--how I asked what if you found out you'd been
mistaken in me, that I had deceived you; and how I told you it would be
impossible for me ever to marry you?"
"It was because of that," she said--"I ran away; because I hadn't been
talking idly; because you _were_ mistaken in me, because I _was_
deceiving you, because I could never marry you, and because--suddenly--
I came to know that, if I didn't go then and there, I might never find
the strength to leave you, and only suffering and unhappiness could
come of it all. I had to go, as much for your sake as for my own."
"You mean me to understand, you found you were beginning to--to care a
little for me?"
She made an effort to speak, but in the end answered only with a dumb
inclination of her head.
"And ran away because love wasn't possible between us?"
Again she nodded silently.
"Because I had been a criminal, I presume!"
"You've no right to say that--"
"What else can I think? You tell me you were afraid I might persuade
you to become my wife--something which, for some inexplicable reason,
you claim is impossible. What other explanation can I infer? What
other explanation is needed? It's ample, it covers everything, and
I've no warrant to complain--God knows!"
She tried to protest, but he cut her short.
"There's one thing I don't understand at all! If that is so, if your
repugnance for criminal associations made you run away from me--why
did you go back to Bannon?"
She started and gave him a furtive, frightened glance.
"You knew that?"
"I saw you--last night--followed you from Viel's to your hotel."
"And you thought," she flashed in a vibrant voice--"you thought I was
in his company of my own choice!"
"You didn't seem altogether downcast," he countered, "Do you wish me to
understand you were with him against your will?"
"No," she said slowly.... "No: I returned to him voluntarily, knowing
perfectly what I was about."
"Through fear of him--?"
"No. I can't claim that."
"Rather than me--?"
"You'll never understand," she told him a little wearily--"never. It
was a matter of duty. I had to go back--I had to!"
Her voice trailed off into a broken little sob. But as, moved beyond
his strength to resist, Lanyard put forth a hand to take the
white-gloved one resting on the cushion beside her, she withdrew it
with a swift gesture of denial.
"No!" she cried. "Please! You mustn't do that... You only make it
"But you love me!"
"I can't. It's impossible. I would--but I may not!"
"I can't tell you."
"If you love me, you must tell me."
She was silent, the white hands working nervously with her
"Lucy!" he insisted--"you must say what stands between you and my love.
It's true, I've no right to ask, as I had no right to speak to you of
love. But when we've said as much as we have said--we can't stop there.
You will tell me, dear?"
She shook her head: "It--it's impossible."
"But you can't ask me to be content with that answer!"
"Oh!" she cried--"_how_ can I make you understand?... When you said
what you did, that night--it seemed as if a new day were dawning in my
life. You made me believe it was because of me. You put me above
you--where I'd no right to be; but the fact that you thought me worthy
to be there, made me proud and happy: and for a little, in my blindness,
I believed I could be worthy of your love and your respect. I thought
that, if I could be as strong as you during that year you asked in
which to prove your strength, I might listen to you, tell you
everything, and be forgiven.... But I was wrong, how wrong I soon
learned.... So I had to leave you at whatever cost!"
She ceased to speak, and for several minutes there was silence. But for
her quick, convulsive breathing, the girl sat like a woman of stone,
staring dry-eyed out of the window. And Lanyard sat as moveless, the
heart in his bosom as heavy and cold as a stone.
At length, lifting his head, "You leave me no alternative," he said in a
voice dull and hollow even in his own hearing: "I can only think one
"Think what you must," she said lifelessly: "it doesn't matter, so long
as you renounce me, put me out of your heart and--leave me."
Without other response, he leaned forward and tapped the glass; and as
the cab swung in toward the curb, he laid hold of the door-latch.
"Lucy," he pleaded, "don't let me go believing--"
She seemed suddenly infused with implacable hostility. "I tell you,"
she said cruelly--"I don't care what you think, so long as you go!"
The face she now showed him was ashen; its mouth was hard; her eyes
And then, as still he hesitated, the cab pulled up and the driver,
leaning back, unlatched the door and threw it open. With a curt,
resigned nod, Lanyard rose and got out.
Immediately the girl bent forward and grasped the speaking-tube; the
door slammed; the cab drew away and left him standing with the pose,
with the gesture of one who has just heard his sentence of death
When he roused to know his surroundings, he found himself standing on a
corner of the avenue du Bois.
It was bitter cold in the wind sweeping down from the west, and it had
grown very dark. Only in the sky above the Bois a long reef of crimson
light hung motionless, against which leafless trees lifted gnarled,
While he watched, the pushing crimson ebbed swiftly and gave way to
mauve, to violet, to black.
When there was no more light in the sky, a profound sigh escaped
Lanyard's lips; and with the gesture of one signifying submission to an
omen, he turned and tramped heavily back across-town.
More automaton than sentient being, he plodded on along the second
enceinte of flaring, noisy boulevards, now and again narrowly escaping
annihilation beneath the wheels of some coursing motor-cab or ponderous,
Barely conscious of such escapes, he was altogether indifferent to them:
it would have required a mortal hurt to match the dumb, sick anguish of
his soul; more than merely a sunset sky had turned black for him within
The cold was now intense, and he none too warmly clothed; yet there was
sweat upon his brows.
Dully there recurred to him a figure he had employed in one of his talks
with Lucy Shannon: that, lacking his faith in her, there would be only
emptiness beneath his feet.
And now that faith was wanting in him, had been taken from him for all
his struggles to retain it; and now indeed he danced on emptiness, the
rope of temptation tightening round his neck, the weight of criminal
instincts pulling it taut--strangling every right aspiration in him,
robbing him of the very breath of that new life to which he had thought
to give himself.
If she were not worthy, of what worth the fight?...
At one stage of his journey, he turned aside and, more through habit
than desire or design, entered a cheap eating-place and consumed his
customary evening meal without the slightest comprehension of what he
ate or whether the food were good or poor.
When he had finished, he hurried away like a haunted man. There was
little room in his mood for sustained thought: his wits were fathoming
a bottomless pit of black despair. He felt like a man born blind,
through skilful surgery given the boon of sight for a day or two, and
suddenly and without any warning thrust back again into darkness.
He knew only that his brief struggle had been all wasted, that behind
the flimsy barrier of his honourable ambition, the Lone Wolf was
ravening. And he felt that, once he permitted that barrier to be broken
down, it could never be repaired.
He had set it up by main strength of will, for love of a woman. He must
maintain it now for no incentive other than to retain his own good
will--or resign himself utterly to that darkness out of which he had
fought his way, to its powers that now beset his soul.
And ... he didn't care.
Quite without purpose he sought the machine-shop where he had left his
He had no plans; but it was in his mind, a murderous thought, that
before another dawn he might encounter Bannon.
Interim, he would go to work. He could think out his problem while
driving as readily as in seclusion; whatever he might ultimately elect
to do, he could accomplish little before midnight.
Toward seven o'clock, with his machine in perfect running order, he
took the seat and to the streets in a reckless humour, in the temper of
a beast of prey.
The barrier was down: once more the Lone Wolf was on the prowl.
But for the present he controlled himself and acted perfectly his
temporary role of taxi-bandit, fellow to those thousands who infest
Paris. Half a dozen times in the course of the next three hours people
hailed him from sidewalks and restaurants; he took them up, carried
them to their several destinations, received payment, and acknowledged
their gratuities with perfunctory thanks--thoroughly in character--but
all with little conscious thought.
He saw but one thing, the face of Lucy Shannon, white, tense,
glimmering wanly in shadow--the countenance with which she had
He had but one thought, the wish to read the riddle of her bondage. To
accomplish this he was prepared to go to any extreme; if Bannon and his
crew came between him and his purpose, so much the worse for them--and,
incidentally, so much the better for society. What might befall himself
was of no moment.
He entertained but one design, to become again what he had been, the
supreme adventurer, the prince of plunderers, to lose himself once more
in the delirium of adventurous days and peril-haunted nights, to
reincarnate the Lone Wolf and in his guise loot the world anew, to
court forgetfulness even at the prison's gates....
It was after ten when, cruising purposelessly, without a fare, he swung
through the rue Auber into the place de l'Opera and, approaching the
Cafe de la Paix, was hailed by a door-boy of that restaurant.
Drawing in to the curb with the careless address that had distinguished
his every action of that evening, he waited, with a throbbing motor,
and with mind detached and gaze remote from the streams of foot and
wheeled traffic that brawled past on either hand.
After a moment two men issued from the revolving door of the cafe, and
approached the cab. Lanyard paid them no attention. His thoughts were
now engaged with a certain hotel particulier in the neighbourhood of
La Muette and, in his preoccupation, he would need only the name of a
destination and the sound of the cab-door slammed, to send him off like
Then he heard one of the men cough heavily, and in a twinkling
stiffened to rigidity in his seat. If he had heard that cough but once
before, that once had been too often. Without a glance aside,
hardening his features to perfect immobility, he knew that the cough
was shaking the slighter of those two figures.
And of a sudden he was acutely conscious of the clearness of the
frosty atmosphere, of the merciless glare of electricity beating upon
him from every side from the numberless street lamps and cafe lights.
And poignantly he regretted neglecting to mask himself with his
He wasn't left long in suspense. The coughing died away by spasms;
followed the unmistakable, sonorous accents of Bannon.
"Well, my dear boy! I have to thank you for an excellent dinner and a
most interesting evening. Pity to break it up so early. Still, les
affaires--you know! Sorry you're not going my way--but that's a
handsome taxi you've drawn. What's its number--eh?"
"Haven't the faintest notion," a British voice drawled in response.
"Never fret about a taxi's number until it has run over me."
"Great mistake," Bannon rejoined cheerfully. "Always take the number
before entering. Then, if anything happens ... However, that's a
good-looking chap at the wheel--doesn't look as if he'd run you into
"Oh, I fancy not," said the Englishman, bored.
"Well, you never can tell. The number's on the lamp. Make a note of it
and be on the safe side. Or trust me--I never forget numbers."
With this speech Bannon ranged alongside Lanyard and looked him over,
keenly malicious enjoyment gleaming in his evil old eyes.
"You are an honest-looking chap," he observed with a mocking smile but
in a tone of the most inoffensive admiration--"honest and--ah--what
shall I say?--what's the word we're all using now-a-days?--efficient!
Honest and efficient-looking, capable of better things, or I'm no
judge! Forgive an old man's candour, my friend--and take good care of
our British cousin here. He doesn't know his way around Paris very
well. Still, I feel confident he'll come to no harm in _your_ company.
Here's a franc for you." With matchless effrontery, he produced a
coin from the pocket of his fur-lined coat.
Unhesitatingly, permitting no expression to colour his features,
Lanyard extended his palm, received the money, dropped it into his
own pocket, and carried two fingers to the visor of his cap.
"Merci, monsieur," he said evenly.
"Ah, that's the right spirit!" the deep voice jeered. "Never be above
your station, my man--never hesitate to take a tip! Here, I'll give
you another, gratis: get out of this business: you're too good for
it. Don't ask me how I know; I can tell by your face--Hello! Why do
you turn down the flag? You haven't started yet!"
"Conversation goes up on the clock," Lanyard replied stolidly in
French. He turned and faced Bannon squarely, loosing a glance of
venomous hatred into the other's eyes. "The longer I have to stop
here listening to your senile monologue, the more you'll have to pay.
What address, please?" he added, turning back to get a glimpse of his
"Hotel Astoria," the porter supplied.
The porter closed the door.
"But remember my advice," Bannon counselled coolly, stepping back and
waving his hand to the man in the cab. "Good night."
Lanyard took his car smartly away from the curb, wheeled round the
corner into the boulevard des Capucines, and toward the rue Royale.
He had gone but a block when the window at his back was lowered and his
fare observed pleasantly:
"That you, Lanyard?"
The adventurer hesitated an instant; then, without looking round,
"Right-O! The old man had me puzzled for a minute with his silly
chaffing. Stupid of me, too, because we'd just been talking about you."
"Had you, though!"
"Rather. Hadn't you better take me where we can have a quiet little
"I'm not conscious of the necessity--"
"Oh, I say!" Wertheimer protested amiably--"don't be shirty, old top.
Give a chap a chance. Besides, I have a bit of news from Antwerp that I
guarantee will interest you."
"Antwerp?" Lanyard iterated, mystified.
"Antwerp, where the ships sail from," Wertheimer laughed: "not
Amsterdam, where the diamonds flock together, as you may know."
"I don't follow you, I'm afraid."
"I shan't elucidate until we're under cover."
"All right. Where shall I take you?"
"Any quiet cafe will do. You must know one--"
"Thanks--no," said Lanyard dryly. "If I must confabulate with gentlemen
of your kidney, I prefer to keep it dark. Even dressed as I am, I might
be recognized, you know."
But it was evident that Wertheimer didn't mean to permit himself to be
"Then will my modest diggings do?" he suggested pleasantly. "I've taken
a suite in the rue Vernet, just back of the Hotel Astoria, where we can
be as private as you please, if you've no objection."
Wertheimer gave him the number and replaced the window....
His rooms in the rue Vernet proved to be a small ground-floor apartment
with private entrance to the street.
"Took the tip from you," he told Lanyard as he unlocked the door. "I
daresay you'd be glad to get back to that rez-de-chaussee of yours.
Ripping place, that.... By the way--judging from your apparently robust
state of health, you haven't been trying to live at home of late."
"Indeed yes, monsieur! If I may presume to advise--I'd pull wide of the
rue Roget for a while--for as long, at least, as you remain in your
present intractable temper."
"Daresay you're right," Lanyard assented carelessly, following, as
Wertheimer turned up the lights, into a modest salon cosily furnished.
"You live here alone, I understand?"
"Quite: make yourself perfectly at ease; nobody can hear us. And," the
Englishman added with a laugh, "do forget your pistol, Mr. Lanyard. I'm
not Popinot, nor is this Troyon's."
"Still," Lanyard countered, "you've just been dining with Bannon."
Wertheimer laughed easily. "Had me there!" he admitted, unabashed. "I
take it you know a bit more about the Old Man than you did a week ago?"
"But sit down: take that chair there, which commands both doors, if you
don't trust me."
"Do you think I ought to?"
"Hardly. Otherwise I'd ask you to take my word that you're safe for the
time being. As it is, I shan't be offended if you keep your gun handy
and your sense of self-preservation running under forced draught. But
you won't refuse to join me in a whiskey and soda?"
"No," said Lanyard slowly--"not if you drink from the same bottle."
Again the Englishman laughed unaffectedly as he fetched a decanter,
glasses, bottled soda, and a box of cigarettes, and placed them within
The adventurer eyed him narrowly, puzzled. He knew nothing of this man,
beyond his reputation--something unsavoury enough, in all conscience!--
had seen him only once, and then from a distance, before that
conference in the rue Chaptal. And now he was becoming sensitive to a
personality uncommonly insinuating: Wertheimer was displaying all the
poise of an Englishman of the better caste More than anybody in the
underworld that Lanyard had ever known this blackmailer had an air of
one acquainted with his own respect. And his nonchalance, the good
nature with which he accepted Lanyard's pardonable distrust, his genial
assumption of fellowship and a common footing, attracted even as it
With the easy courtesy of a practised host, he measured whiskey into
Lanyard's glass till checked by a "Thank you," then helped himself
generously, and opened the soda.
"I'll not ask you to drink with me," he said with a twinkle, "but--
chin-chin!"--and tilting his glass, half-emptied it at a draught.
Muttering formally, at a disadvantage and resenting it, Lanyard drank
with less enthusiasm if without misgivings.
Wertheimer selected a cigarette and lighted it at leisure.
"Well," he laughed through a cloud of smoke--"I think we're fairly on
our way to an understanding, considering you told me to go to hell when
last we met!"
His spirit was irresistible: in spite of himself Lanyard returned the
smile. "I never knew a man to take it with better grace," he admitted,
lighting his own cigarette.
"Why not! I _liked_ it: you gave us precisely what we asked for."
"Then," Lanyard demanded gravely, "if that's your viewpoint, if you're
decent enough to see it that way--what the devil are you doing in that
"Mischief makes strange bed-fellows, you'll admit. And if you think
that a fair question--what are you doing here, with me?"
"Same excuse as before--trying to find out what your game is."
Wertheimer eyed the ceiling with an intimate grin. "My dear fellow!" he
protested--"all _you_ want to know is everything!"
"More or less," Lanyard admitted gracelessly. "One gathers that you
mean to stop this side the Channel for some time."
"There's a settled, personal atmosphere about this establishment. It
doesn't look as if half your things were still in trunks."
"Oh, these digs! Yes, they are comfy."
"You don't miss London?"
"Rather! But I shall appreciate it all the more when I go back."
"Then you can go back, if you like?"
"Meaning your impression is, I made it too hot for me?"
Wertheimer interposed with a quizzical glance. "I shan't tell you
about that. But I'm hoping to be able to run home for an occasional
week-end without vexing Scotland Yard. Why not come with me some
Lanyard shook his head.
"Come!" the Englishman rallied him. "Don't put on so much side. I'm not
bad company. Why not be sociable, since we're bound to be thrown
together more or less in the way of business."
"Oh, I think not."
"But, my dear chap, you can't keep this up. Playing taxi-way man is
hardly your shop. And of course you understand you won't be permitted
to engage in any more profitable pursuit until you make terms with the
powers that be--or leave Paris."
"Terms with Bannon, De Morbihan, Popinot and yourself--eh?"
"With the same."
"Mr. Wertheimer," Lanyard told him quietly, "none of you will stop me
if ever I make up my mind to take the field again."
"You haven't been thinking of quitting it--what?" Wertheimer demanded
innocently, opening his eyes wide.
"Ah, now I begin to see a light! So that's the reason you've come down
to tooling a taxi. I wondered! But somehow, Mr. Lanyard"--Wertheimer's
eyes narrowed thoughtfully--"I can hardly see you content with that
line... even if this reform notion isn't simple swank!"
"Well, what do you think?"
"I think," the Englishman laughed--"_I_ think this conference doesn't
get anywhere in particular. Our simple, trusting natures don't seem to
fraternize as spontaneously as they might. We may as well cut the
sparring and go, down to business--don't you think? But before we do,
I'd like your leave to offer one word of friendly advice."
"And that is--?"
Lanyard nodded. "Thanks," he said simply.
"I say that in all sincerity," Wertheimer declared. "God knows you're
nothing to me, but at least you've played the game like a man; and I
won't see you butchered to make an Apache holiday for want of warning."
"Bannon's as vindictive as that, you think?"
"Holds you in the most poisonous regard, if you ask me. Perhaps you
know why: I don't. Anyway, it was rotten luck that brought your car to
the door tonight. He named you during dinner, and while apparently he
doesn't know where to look for you, it is plain he's got no use for
you--not, at least, until your attitude towards the organization
"It hasn't. But I'm obliged."
"Sure you can't see your way to work with us?"
"Mind you, I'll have to report to the Old Man. I've got to tell him
"I don't think I need tell you what to tell him," said Lanyard with
"Still, it's worth thinking over. I know the Old Man's mind well enough
to feel safe in offering you any inducement you can name, in reason, if
you'll come to us. Ten thousand francs in your pocket before morning,
if you like, and freedom to chuck this filthy job of yours--"
"Please stop there!" Lanyard interrupted hotly. "I was beginning to
like you, too... Why persist in reminding me you're intimate with the
brute who had Roddy butchered in his sleep?"
"Poor devil!" Wertheimer said gently. "That was a sickening business,
I admit. But who told you--?"
"Never mind. It's true, isn't it?"
"Yes," the Englishman admitted gravely--"it's true. It lies at Bannon's
door, when all's said.... Perhaps you won't believe me, but it's a fact
I didn't know positively who was responsible till to-night."
"You don't really expect me to swallow that? You were hand-in-glove--"
"Ah, but on probation only! When they voted Roddy out, I wasn't
consulted. They kept me in the dark--mostly, I flatter myself, because
I draw the line at murder. If I had known--this you won't believe, of
course--Roddy would be alive to-day."
"I'd like to believe you," Lanyard admitted. "But when you ask me to
sign articles with that damned assassin--!"
"You can't play our game with clean hands," Wertheimer retorted.
Lanyard found no answer to that.
"If you've said all you wished to," he suggested, rising, "I can assure
you my answer is final--and go about my business."
"What's your hurry? Sit down. There's more to say--much more."
"As for instance--?"
"I had a fancy you might like to put a question or two."
Lanyard shook his head; it was plain that Wertheimer designed to draw
him out through his interest in Lucy Shannon.
"I haven't the slightest curiosity concerning your affairs," he
"But you should have; I could tell you a great many interesting things
that intimately affect your affairs, if I liked. You must understand
that I shall hold the balance of power here, from now on."
"Congratulations!" Lanyard laughed derisively.
"No joke, my dear chap: I've been promoted over the heads of your
friends, De Morbihan and Popinot, and shall henceforth be--as they say
in America--the whole works."
"By what warrant?"
"The illustrious Bannon's. I've been appointed his lieutenant--vice
Greggs, deposed for bungling."
"Do you mean to tell me Bannon controls De Morbihan and Popinot?"
The Englishman smiled indulgently. "If you didn't know it, he's
commander-in-chief of our allied forces, presiding genius of the
International Underworld Unlimited."
"Bosh!" cried Lanyard contemptuously. "Why talk to me as if I were a
child, to be frightened by a bogey-tale like that?"
"Take it or leave it: the fact remains.... I know, if you don't. I
confess I didn't till to-night; but I've learned some things that have
opened my eyes.... You see, we had a table in a quiet corner of the
Cafe de la Paix, and since the Old Man's sailing for home before long
it was time for him to unbosom rather thoroughly to the man he leaves
to represent him in London and Paris. I never suspected our power
before he began to talk...."
Lanyard, watching the man closely, would have sworn he had never seen
one more sober. He was indescribably perplexed by this ostensible
candour--mystified and mistrustful.
"And then there's this to be considered, from your side," Wertheimer
resumed with the most business-like manner: "you can work with us
without being obliged to deal in any way with the Old Man or De
Morbihan, or Popinot. Bannon will never cross the Atlantic again, and
you can do pretty much as you like, within reason--subject to my
approval, that is."
"One of us is mad," Lanyard commented profoundly.
"One of us is blind to his best interests," Wertheimer amended with
"Perhaps... Let it go at that. I'm not interested--never did care for
"Don't go yet. There is still much to be said on both sides of the
"Has there been one?"
"Besides, I promised you news from Antwerp."
"To be sure," Lanyard said, and paused, his curiosity at length engaged.
Wertheimer delved into the breast-pocket of his dress-coat and produced
a blue telegraph-form, handing it to the adventurer.
Of even date, from Antwerp, it read:
"_Underworld--Paris--Greggs arrested today boarding
steamer for America after desperate struggle killed himself
immediately afterward poison no confession--Q-2._"
"_Underworld?_" Lanyard queried blankly.
"Our telegraphic address, of course. 'Q-2' is our chief factor in
"So they got Greggs!"
"Stupid oaf," Wertheimer observed; "I've no sympathy for him. The whole
affair was a blunder, from first to last."
"But you got Greggs out and burned Troyon's--!"
"Still our friends at the Prefecture weren't satisfied. Something must
have roused their suspicions."
"You don't know what?"
"There must have been a leak somewhere--"
"If so, it would certainly have led the police to me, after all the
pains you were at to saddle me with the crime. There's something more
than simple treachery in this, Mr. Wertheimer."
"Perhaps you're right," said the other thoughtfully.
"And it doesn't speak well for the discipline of your precious
organization--granting, for the sake of the argument, the possibility
of such nonsense."
"Well, well, have your own way about that. I don't insist, so long as
you agree to join forces with me."
"Oh, it's with you alone, now--is it? Not with that insane fiction,
the International Underworld Unlimited?"
"With me alone. I offer you a clear field. Go where you like, do what
you will--I wouldn't have the cheek to attempt to guide or influence
Lanyard kept himself in hand with considerable difficulty.
"But you?" he asked. "Where do you come in?"
Wertheimer lounged back in his chair and laughed quietly. "Need you
ask? Must I recall to you the foundations of my prosperity? You had the
name of it glib enough on your tongue the other night in the rue
Chaptal.... When you've done your work, you'll come to me and split the
proceeds fairly--and as long as you do that, never a word will pass my
"Oh, if you insist! Odd, how I dislike that word!"
Abruptly the adventurer got to his feet. "By God!" he cried, "I'd
better get out of this before I do you an injury!"
The door slammed behind him on a room ringing with Wertheimer's
But why?--he asked himself as he swung his cab aimlessly away--why that
blind rage with which he had welcomed Wertheimer's overtures?
Unquestionably the business of blackmailing was despicable enough; and
as a master cracksman, of the highest caste of the criminal world, the
Lone Wolf had warrantably treated with scorn and contempt the advances
of a pariah like Wertheimer. But in no such spirit had he comprehended
the Englishman's meaning, when finally that one came to the point; no
cool disdain had coloured his attitude, but in the beginning hot
indignation, in the end insensate rage....
He puzzled himself. That fit of passion had all the aspect of a
psychical inconsistency impossible to reconcile with reason.
He recalled in perplexity how, toward the last, the face of the
Englishman had swum in haze before his eyes; with what disfavour,
approaching hatred, he had regarded its fixed, false smirk; with what
loathing he had suffered the intimacy of Wertheimer's tone; how he had
been tempted to fly at the man's throat and shake him senseless in
reward of his effrontery: emotions that had suited better a man of
unblemished honour and integrity subjected to the insolent addresses of
a contemptible blackguard, emotions that might well have been expected
of the man Lanyard had once dreamed to become.
But now, since he had resigned that infatuate ambition and turned
apostate to all his vows, his part in character had been to laugh in
Wertheimer's face and bid him go to the devil ere a worse thing befall
him. Instead of which, he had flown into fury. And as he sat brooding
over the wheel, he knew that, were the circumstances to be duplicated,
his demeanour would be the same.
Was it possible he had changed so absolutely in the course of that
short-lived spasm of reform?
He cried no to that: knowing well what he contemplated, that all his
plans were laid and serious mischance alone could prevent him from
putting them into effect, feeling himself once more quick with the
wanton, ruthless spirit of the Lone Wolf, invincibly self-sufficient,
strong and cunning.
When at length he roused from his reverie, it was to discover that his
haphazard course had taken him back toward the heart of Paris; and
presently, weary with futile cruising and being in the neighbourhood
of the Madeleine, he sought the cab-rank there, silenced his motor,
and relapsed into morose reflections so profound that nothing objective
had any place in his consciousness.
Thus it was that without his knowledge a brace of furtive thugs were
able to slouch down the rank, scrutinizing it covertly but in detail,
pause opposite Lanyard's car under pretext of lighting cigarettes,
identify him to their satisfaction, and hastily take themselves off.
Not until they were quite disappeared did the driver of the cab ahead
dare warn him.
Lounging back, this last looked the adventurer over inquisitively.
"Is it, then," he enquired civilly, when Lanyard at length looked
round, "that you are in the bad books of the good General Popinot, my
"Eh--what's that you say?" Lanyard asked, with a stare of blank
The man nodded wisely. "He who is at odds with Popinot," he observed,
sententious, "does well not to sleep in public. You did not see those
two who passed just now and took your number--rats of Montmartre, if I
know my Paris! You were dreaming, my friend, and it is my impression
that only the presence of those two flies over the way prevented your
immediate assassination. If I were you, I should go away very quickly,
and never stop till I had put stout walls between myself and Popinot."
A chill of apprehension sent a shiver stealing down Lanyard's spine.
"But of a certainty, my old one!"
"A thousand thanks!"
Jumping down, the adventurer cranked the motor, sprang back to his
seat, and was off like a hunted hare....
And when, more than an hour later, he brought his panting car to a
pause in a quiet and empty back-street of the Auteuil quarter, after
a course that had involved the better part of Paris, it was with the
conviction that he had beyond question shaken off pursuit--had there
in fact been any attempt to follow him.
He took advantage of that secluded spot to substitute false numbers for
those he was licensed to display; then at a more sedate pace followed
the line of the fortifications northward as far as La Muette, where,
branching off, he sought and made a circuit of two sides of the private
park enclosing the hotel of Madame Omber.
But the mansion showed no lights, and there was nothing in the aspect
of the property to lead him to believe that the chatelaine had as yet
returned to Paris.
Now the night was still young, but Lanyard had his cab to dispose of
and not a few other essential details to arrange before he could take
definite steps toward the reincarnation of the Lone Wolf.
Picking a most circumspect route across the river--via the Pont
Mirabeau--to the all-night telegraph bureau in the rue de Grenelle he
despatched a cryptic message to the Minister of War, then with the
same pains to avoid notice made back toward the rue des Acacias. But
it wasn't possible to recross the Seine secretly--in effect, at least
--without returning the way he had come--a long detour that irked his
impatient spirit to contemplate.
Unwisely he elected to cross by way of the Pont des Invalides--how
unwisely was borne in upon him almost as soon as he turned from the
brilliant Quai de la Conference into the darkling rue Francois
Premier. He had won scarcely twenty yards from the corner when, with
a rush, its motor purring like some great tiger-cat, a powerful
touring-car swept up from behind, drew abreast, but instead of passing
checked speed until its pace was even with his own.
Struck by the strangeness of this manoeuvre, he looked quickly round,
to recognize the moon-like mask of De Morbihan grinning sardonically
at him over the steering-wheel of the black car.
A second hasty glance discovered four men in the tonneau. Lacking time
to identify them, Lanyard questioned their character as little as their
malign intent: Belleville bullies, beyond doubt, drafted from Popinot's
batallions, with orders to bring in the Lone Wolf, dead or alive.
He had instant proof that his apprehensions were not exaggerated. Of a
sudden De Morbihan cut out the muffler and turned loose, full strength,
the electric horn. Between the harsh detonations of the exhaust and the
mad, blatant shrieks of the warning, a hideous clamour echoed and
re-echoed in that quiet street--a din in which the report of a
revolver-shot was drowned out and went unnoticed. Lanyard himself might
have been unaware of it, had he not caught out of the corner of his eye
a flash that spat out at him like a fiery serpent's tongue, and heard
the crash of the window behind him as it fell inward, shattered.
That the shot had no immediate successor was due almost wholly to
Lanyard's instant and instinctive action.
Even before the clash of broken glass registered on his consciousness,
he threw in the high-speed and shot away like a frightened greyhound.
So sudden was this move that it caught De Morbihan himself unprepared.
In an instant Lanyard had ten yards' lead. In another he was spinning
on two wheels round an acute corner, into the rue Jean Goujon; and in
a third, as he shot through that short block to the avenue d'Antin,
had increased his lead to fifteen yards. But he could never hope to
better that: rather, the contrary. The pursuit had the more powerful
car, and it was captained by one said to be the most daring and
skilful motorist in France.
The considerations that dictated Lanyard's simple strategy were sound
if unformulated: barring interference on the part of the
police--something he dared not count upon--his sole hope lay in open
flight and in keeping persistently to the better-lighted,
main-travelled thoroughfares, where a repetition of the attempt would
be inadvisable--at least, less probable. There was always a bare chance
of an accident--that De Morbihan's car would burst a tire or be
pocketed by the traffic, enabling Lanyard to strike off into some maze
of dark side-streets, abandon the cab, and take to cover in good earnest.
But that was a forlorn hope at best, and he knew it. Moreover, an
accident was as apt to happen to him as to De Morbihan: given an
unsound tire or a puncture, or let him be delayed two seconds by
some traffic hindrance, and nothing short of a miracle could save
As he swung from the avenue d'Antin into Rond Point des Champs Elysees,
the nose of the pursuing car inched up on his right, effectually
blocking any attempt to strike off toward the east, to the Boulevards
and the centre of the city's life by night. He had no choice but to fly
He cut an arc round the sexpartite circle of the Rond Point that lost
no inch of advantage, and straightened out, ventre-a-terre, up the avenue
for the place de l'Etoile, shooting madly in and out of the tide of more
leisurely traffic--and ever the motor of the touring-car purred
contentedly just at his elbow.
If there were police about, Lanyard saw nothing of them: not that he
would have dreamed of stopping or even of checking speed for anything
less than an immovable obstacle....
But as minutes sped it became apparent that there was to be no renewed
attempt upon his life for the time being. The pursuers could afford to
wait. They could afford to ape the patience of Death itself.
And it came then to Lanyard that he drove no more alone: Death was his
Absorbed though he was with the control of his machine and the
ever-shifting problems of the road, he still found time to think quite
clearly of himself, to recognize the fact that he was very likely
looking his last on Paris ... on life....
But a little longer, and the name of Michael Lanyard would be not even
a memory to those whose lives composed the untiring life of this broad
Before him the Arc de Triomphe loomed ever larger and more darkly
beautiful against the field of midnight stars He wondered, would he
reach it alive....
He did: still the pursuit bided its time. But the hood of the
touring-car nosed him inexorably round the arch, away from the avenue
de la Grande Armee and into the avenue du Bois.
Only when in full course for Porte Dauphine did he appreciate De
Morbihan's design. He was to be rushed out into the midnight
solitudes of the Bois de Boulogne and there run down and slain.
But now he began to nurse a feeble thrill of hope.
Once inside the park enclosure, he reckoned vaguely on some
opportunity to make sudden halt, abandon the car and, taking refuge
in the friendly obscurity of trees and shrubbery, either make good
his escape afoot or stand off the Apaches until police came to his
aid. With night to cloak his movements and with a clump of trees to
shelter in, he dared believe he would have a chance for his
life--whereas in naked streets any such attempt would prove simply
Infrequent glances over-shoulder showed no change in the gap between
his own and the car of the assassins. But his motor ran sweet and true:
humouring it, coaxing it, he contrived a little longer to hold his own.
Approaching the Porte Dauphine he became aware of two sergents de ville
standing in the middle of the way and wildly brandishing their arms. He
held on toward them relentlessly--it was their lives or his--and they
leaped aside barely in time to save themselves.
And as he slipped into the park like a hunted shadow, he fancied that
he heard a pistol-shot--whether directed at himself by the Apaches, or
fired by the police to emphasize their indignation, he couldn't say.
But he was grateful enough it was a taxicab he drove, not a touring-car:
lacking the body of his vehicle to shield him, he little doubted that
a bullet would long since have found him.
In that dead hour the drives of the Bois were almost deserted. Between
the porte and the first carrefour he passed only one motor-car, a
limousine whose driver shouted something inarticulate as Lanyard
hummed past. The freedom from traffic dangers was a relief: but the
pursuit was creeping up, inch by inch, as he swung down the road-way
along the eastern border of the lake; and still he had found no
opening, had recognized no invitation in the lay of the land to attempt
his one plan; as matters stood, the Apaches would be upon him before
he could jump from his seat.
Bending low over the wheel, searching with anxious eyes the shadowed
reaches of that winding drive, he steered for a time with one hand,
while the other tore open his ulster and brought his pistol into
Then, as he topped the brow of the incline, above the whine of his
motor, the crackle of road-metal beneath the tires, and the boom of the
rushing air in his ears, he heard the sharp clatter of hoofs, and
surmised that the gendarmerie had given chase.
And then, on a slight down-grade, though he took it at perilous speed
and seemed veritably to ride the wind, the following machine, aided by
its greater weight, began to close in still more rapidly. Momentarily
the hoarse snoring of its motor sounded more loud and menacing. It was
now a mere question of seconds....
Inspiration of despair came to him, as wild as any ever conceived by
mind of man.
They approached a point where, on the left, a dense plantation walled
the road. To the right a wide foot walk separated the drive from a
gentle declivity sown with saplings, running down to the water.
Rising in his place, Lanyard slipped from under him the heavy
Then edging over to the left of the middle of the road, abruptly he
shut off power and applied the brakes with all his might.
From its terrific speed the cab came to a stop within twice its length.
Lanyard was thrown forward against the wheel, but having braced in
anticipation, escaped injury and effected instant recovery.
The car of the Apaches was upon him in a pulse-beat. With no least
warning of his intention, De Morbihan had no time to employ brakes.
Lanyard saw its dark shape flash past the windows of his cab and heard
a shout of triumph. Then with all his might he flung the heavy cushion
across that scant space, directly into the face of De Morbihan.
His aim was straight and true.
In alarm, unable to comprehend the nature of that large, dark, whirling
mass, De Morbihan attempted to lift a warding elbow. He was too slow:
the cushion caught him in the face, full-force, and before he could
recover or guess what he was doing, he had twisted the wheel sharply to
The car, running a little less than locomotive speed, shot across the
strip of sidewalk, caught its right forewheel against a sapling, swung
heavily broadside to the drive, and turned completely over as it shot
down the slope to the lake.
A terrific crash was followed by a hideous chorus of oaths, shrieks,
cries and groans. Promptly Lanyard started his motor anew and, trembling