Part 1 out of 6
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Cori Samuel, Ryan Waldron and PG
THE LOST AMBASSADOR
THE SEARCH FOR THE MISSING DELORA
E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM
AUTHOR OF "THE ILLUSTRIOUS PRINCE," "THE MISSIONER,"
"JEANNE OF THE MARSHES," ETC.
With Illustrations in Color by
HOWARD CHANDLER CHRISTY
BROWN, AND COMPANY
I. A RENCONTRE
II. A CAFE IN PARIS
IV. DANGEROUS PLAY
VI. AN INFORMAL TRIBUNAL
VII. A DOUBLE ASSIGNATION
VIII. LOUIS INSISTS
IX. A TRAVELLING ACQUAINTANCE
X. DELORA DISAPPEARS
XI. THROUGH THE TELEPHONE
XII. FELICIA DELORA
XIII. LOUIS, MAITRE D'HOTEL
XIV. LOUIS EXPLAINS
XV. A DANGEROUS IMPERSONATION
XVI. TWO OF A TRADE
XVII. A VERY SPECIAL DINNER
XIX. WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS
XX. A TERRIBLE NIGHT
XXI. A CHANGE OF PLANS
XXII. FORMAL CALL
XXIV. A TANTALIZING GLIMPSE
XXV. PRIVATE AND DIPLOMATIC
XXIX. AN UNSATISFACTORY INTERVIEW
XXX. TO NEWCASTLE BY ROAD
XXXI. AN INTERESTING DAY
XXXII. A PROPOSAL
XXXIII. FELICIA HESITATES
XXXIV. AN APPOINTMENT WITH DELORA
XXXV. A NARROW ESCAPE
XXXVI. AN ABORTIVE ATTEMPT
XXXVII. DELORA RETURNS
XXXVIII. AT BAY
XXXIX. THE UNEXPECTED
"If monsieur is ready," he suggested, "perhaps
we had better go" Frontispiece
She took up a magazine and turned away
with a shrug of the shoulders Page 66
"By Jove, it's Bartot!" I exclaimed " 135
I raised her fingers to my lips, and I smiled
into her face " 275
THE LOST AMBASSADOR
There was no particular reason why, after having left the Opera House,
I should have retraced my steps and taken my place once more amongst
the throng of people who stood about in the _entresol_, exchanging
greetings and waiting for their carriages. A backward glance as I had
been about to turn into the Place de l'Opera had arrested my somewhat
hurried departure. The night was young, and where else was such a
sight to be seen? Besides, was it not amongst some such throng as this
that the end of my search might come?
I took up my place just inside, close to one of the pillars, and, with
an unlit cigarette still in my mouth, watched the flying
_chausseurs_, the medley of vehicles outside, the soft flow of
women in their white opera cloaks and jewels, who with their escorts
came streaming down the stairs and out of the great building, to enter
the waiting carriages and motor-cars drawn up in the privileged space
within the enclosure, or stretching right down into the Boulevard. I
stood there, watching them drive off one by one. I was borne a little
nearer to the door by the rush of people, and I was able, in most
cases, to hear the directions of the men as they followed their
womankind into the waiting vehicles. In nearly every case their
destination was one of the famous restaurants. Music begets hunger in
most capitals, and the cafes of Paris are never so full as after a
great night at the Opera. To-night there had been a wonderful
performance. The flow of people down the stairs seemed interminable.
Young women and old,--sleepy-looking beauties of the Southern type,
whose dark eyes seemed half closed with a languor partly passionate,
partly of pride; women of the truer French type,--brilliant, smiling,
vivacious, mostly pale, seldom good-looking, always attractive. A few
Germans, a fair sprinkling of Englishwomen, and a larger proportion
still of Americans, whose women were the best dressed of the whole
company. I was not sorry that I had returned. It was worth watching,
this endless stream of varying types.
Towards the end there came out two people who were becoming almost
familiar figures to me. The man was one of those whose nationality was
not so easily surmised. He was tall and thin, with iron-gray hair,
complexion so sallow as to be almost yellow, black moustache and
imperial, handsome in his way, distinguished, indescribable. By his
side was a girl who had the air of wearing her first long skirt, whose
hair was arranged in somewhat juvenile fashion, and whose dark eyes
were still glowing with the joy of the music. Her figure, though very
slim, was delightful, and she walked as though her feet touched the
clouds. Her laugh, which I heard distinctly as she brushed by me only
a few feet away, was like music. Of all the people who had passed me,
or whom I had come across during my fortnight's stay in Paris, there
was no one half so attractive. The girl was absolutely charming; the
man, remarkable not only in himself, but for a certain air of
repressed emotion, which, while it robbed his features of the dignity
of repose, was still, in a way, fascinating. They entered a waiting
motor-car splendidly appointed, and I heard the man tell the tall,
liveried footman to drive to the Ritz. I leaned forward a little
eagerly as they went. I watched the car glide off and disappear,
watched it until it was out of sight, and afterwards, even, watched
the spot where it had vanished. Then, with a little sigh, I turned
back once more into the great hall. There seemed to be no one left
now of any interest. The women had become ordinary, the men
impossible. With a little sigh I too aimlessly descended the steps,
and stood for a moment uncertain which way to turn.
"Monsieur is looking for a light?" a quiet voice said in my ear.
I turned, and found myself confronted by a Frenchman, who had also
just issued from the building and was himself lighting a cigarette. He
was clean-shaven and pale, so pale that his complexion was almost
olive. He had soft, curious-looking eyes. He was of medium height,
dark, correctly dressed according to the fashion of his country,
although his tie was black and his studs of unusual size. Something
about his face struck me from the first as familiar, but for the
moment I could not recall having seen him before.
"Thank you very much," I answered, accepting the match which he
The night was clear, and breathlessly still. The full yellow moon was
shining in an absolutely cloudless sky. The match--an English wax
one, by the way--burned without a flicker. I lit my cigarette, and
turning around found my companion still standing by my side.
"Monsieur does not do me the honor to recollect me," he remarked, with
a faint smile.
I looked at him steadfastly.
"I am sorry," I said. "Your face is perfectly familiar to me, and
yet--No, by Jove, I have it!" I broke off, with a little laugh. "It's
Louis, isn't it, from the Milan?"
"Monsieur's memory has soon returned," he answered, smiling. "I have
been chief _maitre d'hotel_ in the cafe there for some years. The
last time I had the honor of serving monsieur there was only a few
I remembered him perfectly now. I remembered, even, the occasion of my
last visit to the cafe. Louis, with upraised hat, seemed as though he
would have passed on, but, curiously enough, I felt a desire to
continue the conversation. I had not as yet admitted the fact even to
myself; but I was bored, weary of my search, weary to death of my own
company and the company of my own acquaintances. I was reluctant to
let this little man go.
"You visit Paris often?" I asked.
"But naturally, monsieur," Louis answered, accepting my unspoken
invitation by keeping pace with me as we strolled towards the
Boulevard. "Once every six weeks I come over here. I go to the Ritz,
Paillard's, the Cafe de Paris,--to the others also. It is an affair of
business, of course. One must learn how the Frenchman eats and what he
eats, that one may teach the art."
"But you are a Frenchman yourself, Louis," I remarked.
"But, monsieur," he answered, "I live in London. _Voila
tout._ One cannot write menus there for long, and succeed. One
"And you find it here?" I asked.
Louis shrugged his shoulders.
"Paris, monsieur," he answered, "is my home. It is always a pleasure
to me to see smiling faces, to see men and women who walk as though
every footstep were taking them nearer to happiness. Have you never
noticed, monsieur," he continued, "the difference? They do not plod
here as do your English people. There is a buoyancy in their
footsteps, a mirth in their laughter, an expectancy in the way they
look around, as though adventures were everywhere. I cannot understand
it, but one feels it directly one sets foot in Paris."
I nodded--a little bitterly, perhaps.
"It is temperament," I answered. "We may envy, but we cannot acquire
"It seems strange to see monsieur alone here," Louis remarked. "In
London, it is always so different. Monsieur has so many
I was silent for a moment.
"I am here in search of some one," I told Louis. "It isn't a very
pleasant mission, and the memory of it is always with me."
"A search!" Louis repeated thoughtfully. "Paris is a large place,
"On the contrary," I answered, "it is small enough if a man will but
play the game. A man, who knows his Paris, must be in one of
half-a-dozen places some time during the day."
"It is true," Louis admitted. "Yet monsieur has not been successful."
"It has been because some one has warned the man of whom I am in
search!" I declared.
"There are worse places," he remarked, "in which one might be forced
to spend one's time."
"In theory, excellent, Louis," I said. "In practice, I am afraid I
cannot agree with you. So far," I declared, gloomily, "my pilgrimage
has been an utter failure. I cannot meet, I cannot hear of, the man
who I know was flaunting it before the world three weeks ago."
Louis shrugged his shoulders.
"Monsieur can do no more than seek," he remarked. "For the rest, one
may leave many burdens behind in the train at the Gare du Nord."
I shook my head.
"One cannot acquire gayety by only watching other people who are gay,"
I declared. "Paris is not for those who have anxieties, Louis. If ever
I were suffering from melancholia, for instance, I should choose some
other place for a visit."
Louis laughed softly.
"Ah! Monsieur," he answered, "you could not choose better. There is no
place so gay as this, no place so full of distractions."
I shrugged my shoulders.
"It is your native city," I reminded him.
"That goes for nothing," Louis answered. "Where I live, there always I
make my native city. I have lived in Vienna and Berlin, Budapest and
Palermo, Florence and London. It is not an affair of the place. Yet of
all these, if one seeks it, there is most distraction to be found
here. Monsieur does not agree with me," he added, glancing into my
face. "There is one thing more which I would tell him. Perhaps it is
the explanation. Paris, the very home of happiness and gayety, is also
the loneliest and the saddest city in the world for those who go
"There is truth in what you say, Louis," I admitted.
"The very fact," he continued slowly, "that all the world amuses
itself, all the world is gay here, makes the solitude of the
unfortunate who has no companion a thing more _triste_, more
keenly to be felt. Monsieur is alone?"
"I am alone," I admitted, "except for the companions of chance whom
one meets everywhere."
We had been walking for some time slowly side by side, and we came now
to a standstill. Louis held up his hand and called a taximeter.
"Monsieur goes somewhere to sup, without a doubt," he remarked.
I remained upon the pavement.
"Really, I don't know," I answered undecidedly. "There is a great deal
of truth in what you have been saying. A man alone here, especially at
night, seems to be looked upon as a sort of pariah. Women laugh at
him, men pity him. It is only the Englishman, they think, who would do
so foolish a thing."
Louis hesitated. There was a peculiar smile at the corners of his lips
which I did not quite understand.
"If monsieur would honor me," he said apologetically, "I am going
to-night to visit one or perhaps two of the smallest restaurants up in
the Montmartre. They are by way of being fashionable now, and they
tell me that there is an _Homard Speciale_ with a new sauce which
must be tasted at the Abbaye."
All the apology in Louis' tone was wasted. It troubled me not in the
least that my companion should be a _maitre d'hotel_. I did not
hesitate for a second.
"I'll come with pleasure, Louis," I said, "on condition that I am
host. It is very good of you to take pity upon me. We will take this
taximeter, shall we?"
Louis bowed. Once more I fancied that there was something in his face
which I did not altogether understand.
"It is an honor, monsieur," he said. "We will start, then, with the
A CAFE IN PARIS
The Paris taximeters are good, and our progress was rapid. We passed
through the crowded streets, where the women spread themselves out
like beautiful butterflies, where the electric lights were deadened by
the brilliance of the moon, where men, bent double over the handles of
their bicycles, shot hither and thither with great paper lanterns
alight in front of them. We passed into the quieter streets, though
even here the wayfarers whom we met were obviously bent on pleasure,
up the hill, till at last we pulled up at one of the best-known
restaurants in the locality. Here Louis was welcomed as a prince. The
manager, with many exclamations and gesticulations, shook hands with
him like a long-lost brother. The _maitres d'hotel_ all came
crowding up for a word of greeting. A table in the best part of the
room, which was marked _reserve_, was immediately made ready.
Champagne, already in its pail of ice, was by our side almost before
we had taken our places.
I had been here a few nights before, alone, and had found the place
uninspiring enough. To-night, except that Louis told me the names of
many of the people, and that the supper was the best meal which I had
eaten in Paris, I was very little more amused. The nigger, the Spanish
dancing-girl with her rolling eyes, the English music-hall singer with
her unmistakable Lancashire accent, went through the same
performance. The gowns of the women were wonderful,--more wonderful
still their hats, their gold purses, the costly trifles which they
carried. A woman by our side sat looking into a tiny pocket-mirror of
gold studded with emeralds, powdering her face the while with a
powder-puff to match, in the centre of which were more emeralds, large
and beautifully cut. Louis noticed my scrutiny.
"The wealth of France," he whispered in my ear, "is spent upon its
women. What the Englishman spends at his club or on his sports the
Frenchman spends upon his womankind. Even the _bourgeoisie_, who
hold their money with clenched fists like that," he gesticulated,
striking the table, "for their women they spend, spend freely. They
do all this, and the great thing which they ask in return is that they
are amused. After all, monsieur," he continued, "they are
logical. What a man wants most in life, in the intervals between his
work, is amusement. It is amusement that keeps him young, keeps him in
health. It is his womankind who provide that amusement."
"And if one does not happen to be married to a Frenchwoman?"
Louis nodded sympathetically.
"Monsieur is feeling like that," he said, as he sipped his wine
thoughtfully. "Yes, it is very plain! Yet monsieur is not always
sad. I have seen him often at my restaurant, the guest or the host of
many pleasant parties. There is a change since those days, a change
indeed. I noticed it when I ventured to address monsieur on the steps
of the Opera House."
I remained gloomily silent. It was one thing to avail myself of the
society of a very popular little _maitre d'hotel_, holiday
making in his own capital, and quite another to take him even a few
steps into my confidence. So I said nothing, but my eyes, which
travelled around the room, were weary.
"After all," Louis continued, helping himself to a cigarette, "what is
there in a place like this to amuse? We are not Americans or
tourists. The Montmartre is finished. The novelists and the
story-tellers have killed it. The women come here because they love
to show their jewelry, to flirt with the men. The men come because
their womankind desire it, and because it is their habit. But for the
rest there is nothing. The true Parisian may come here, perhaps, once
or twice a year,--no more. For the man of the world--such as you and
I, monsieur,--these places do not exist."
I glanced at my companion a little curiously. There was something in
his manner distinctly puzzling. With his lips he was smiling approval
at the little _danseuse_ who was pirouetting near our table, but
it seemed to me that his mind was busy with other thoughts. Suddenly
he turned his head toward mine.
"Monsieur must remember," he said quietly, "that a place like this is
as the froth on our champagne. It is all show. It exists and it passes
away. This very restaurant may be unknown in a year's time,--a beer
palace for the Germans, a den of absinthe and fiery brandy for the
_cochers_. It is for the tourists, for the happy ladies of the
world, that such a place exists. For those who need other
things--other things exist."
"Go on, Louis," I said quietly. "You have something in your mind. What
He shrugged his shoulders.
"I think," he said slowly, "that I could take monsieur somewhere where
he would be more entertained. There is nothing to do there, nothing to
see, little music. But it is a place,--it has an atmosphere. It is
different. I cannot explain. Monsieur would understand if he were
"Then, for Heaven's sake, let us pay our bill and go!" I
exclaimed. "We have both had enough of this, at any rate."
Louis did not immediately reply. I turned around--we were sitting side
by side--wondering at his lack of response. What I saw startled
me. The man's whole expression had changed. His mouth had come
together with a new firmness. A frown which I had never seen before
had darkened his forehead. His eyes had become little points of
light. I realized then, perhaps for the first time, their peculiar
color,--a sort of green tinged with gray. He presented the appearance
of a man of intelligence and acumen who is thinking deeply over some
matter of vital importance.
"Well, what is it, Louis?" I asked. "Are you repenting of your offer
already? Don't you want to take me to this other place?"
"It is not that, monsieur," Louis answered softly, "only I was
wondering if I had been a little rash."
"Rash?" I repeated.
Louis nodded his head slowly, but he paused for several moments before
"I was only wondering," said he, "whether, after all, it would amuse
you. There is nothing to be seen, not so much as here. Afterwards,
perhaps, you might regret--you might think that I had done wrong in
not telling you certain things about the place which must remain
"We will risk that," I answered, rising. "Let me come with you and I
will judge for myself."
Louis followed my example, but I fancied that I still detected a
slight unwillingness in his movements. My request for the bill had
been met with a smile and a polite shake of the head. Louis whispered
in my ear that we were the guests of the management,--that it would
not be correct to offer the money for our entertainment. So I was
forced to content myself with tipping the head-waiter and the
_vestiaire_, the _chausseur_ who opened the door, and the
tall _commissionnaire_ who welcomed us upon the pavement and
whistled for a _petite voiture_.
"Where to, messieurs?" the man asked, as the carriage drew up.
Even then Louis hesitated. He was sitting on the side of the carriage
nearest to the pavement, and he rose to his feet as the question was
asked. It seemed to me that he almost whispered the address into the
ear of the coachman. At any rate, I heard nothing of it. The man
nodded, and turned eastward.
"_Bon soir_, messieurs!" the _commissionnaire_ called out,
with his hat in his hand.
"_Bon soir_!" I answered, with my eyes fixed upon the flaring
lights of the Boulevard, towards which we had turned.
I found Louis, during that short drive, most unaccountably
silent. Several times I made casual remarks. Once or twice I tried to
learn from him what sort of a place this was to which we were
bound. He answered me only in monosyllables. I was conscious all the
time of a certain subtle but unmistakable change in his manner. Up to
the moment of his suggesting this expedition he had remained the
suave, perfectly mannered superior servant, accepted into equality for
a time by one of his clients, and very careful not to presume in any
way upon his position. It is not snobbish to say this, because it was
the truth. Louis was chief _maitre d'hotel_ at one of the best
restaurants in London. I was an ex-officer in a cavalry regiment,
brother of the Earl of Welmington, with a moderate income, and a more
than moderate idea of how to spend it. Louis was servant and I was
master. It had pleased me to make a companion of him for a short time,
and his manner had been a perfect acknowledgment of our relative
positions. And now it seemed to me that there was a change. Louis had
become more like a man, less like a waiter. There was a strength in
his face which I had not previously observed, a darkening anxiety
which puzzled me. He treated my few remarks with scant courtesy. He
was obviously thinking about something else. It seemed as though, for
some inexplicable reason, he had already repented of his suggestion.
"Look here, Louis," I said, "you seem a little bothered about taking
me to this place. Perhaps they do not care about strangers there. I am
not at all keen, really, and I am afraid I am not fit company for
anybody. Better drop me here and go on by yourself. I can amuse myself
all right at some of these little out-of-the-way places until I feel
inclined to go home."
Louis turned and looked at me. For a moment I thought that he was
going to accept my offer. He opened his mouth but said nothing. He
looked away into the darkness once more, and then back into my
face. By this time I knew that he had made up his mind. He was more
like himself again.
"Monsieur Rotherby," he said, "if I have hesitated at all, it was for
your sake. You are a gentleman of great position. Afterwards you might
feel sorry to think that you had been in such a place, or in such
I patted him on the shoulder reassuringly.
"My dear Louis," said I, "you need have no such fears about me. I am a
little of an adventurer, a little of a Bohemian. There is no one else
who has a claim upon my life, and I do as I please. Can't you tell me
a little more about this mysterious cafe?"
"There is so little to tell," Louis said. "Of one thing I can assure
you,--you will be disappointed. There is no music, no dancing. The
interest is only in the people who go there, and their lives. It may
be," he continued thoughtfully, "that you will not find them much
different from all the others."
"But there is a difference, Louis?" I asked.
"Wait," he answered. "You shall see."
The cab pulled up in front of a very ordinary-looking cafe in a side
street leading from one of the boulevards. Louis dismissed the man
and looked for a moment or two up and down the pavement. His caution
appeared to be quite needless, for the thoroughfare was none too well
lit, and it was almost empty. Then he entered the cafe, motioning me
to follow him.
"Don't look around too much," he whispered. "There are many people
here who do not care to be spied upon."
My first glance into the place was disappointing. I was beginning to
lose faith in Louis. After all, it seemed to me that the end of our
adventure would be ordinary enough, that I should find myself in one
of those places which the touting guides of the Boulevard speak of in
bated breath, which one needs to be very young indeed to find
interesting even for a moment. The ground floor of the cafe through
which we passed was like a thousand others in different parts of
Paris. The floor was sanded, the people were of the lower
orders,--rough-looking men drinking beer or sipping cordials; women
from whom one instinctively looked away, and whose shrill laughter was
devoid of a single note of music. It was all very flat, very
uninteresting. But Louis led the way through a swing door to a
staircase, and then, pushing his way through some curtains, along a
short passage to another door, against which he softly knocked with
his knuckles. It was opened at once, and a _commissionnaire_
stood gazing stolidly out at us, a _commissionnaire_ in the usual
sort of uniform, but one of the most powerful-looking men whom I had
ever seen in my life.
"There are no tables, monsieur, in the restaurant," he said at
once. "There is no place at all."
Louis looked at him steadily for a moment. It seemed to me that,
although I was unable to discern anything of the sort, some sign must
have passed between them. At any rate, without any protest or speech
of any sort from Louis the _commissionnaire_ saluted and stood
"But your friend, monsieur?" he asked.
"It will be arranged," Louis answered, in a low tone. "We shall speak
to Monsieur Carvin."
We were in a dark sort of _entresol_, and at that moment a
further door was opened, and one caught the gleam of lights and the
babel of voices. A man came out of the room and walked rapidly toward
us. He was of middle height, and dressed in ordinary morning clothes,
wearing a black tie with a diamond pin. His lips were thick. He had a
slight tawny moustache, and a cast in one eye. He held out both his
hands to Louis.
"Dear Louis," he exclaimed, "it is good to see you!"
Louis drew him to one side, and they talked for a few moments in a
rapid undertone. More than once the manager of the restaurant, for
such I imagined him to be, glanced towards me, and I was fairly
certain that I formed the subject of their conversation. When it was
finished Louis beckoned, and we all three turned towards the door
together, Louis in the centre.
"This," he said to me, "is Monsieur Carvin, the manager of the Cafe
des Deux Epingles. He has been explaining to me how difficult it is to
find even a corner in his restaurant, but there will be a small table
Monsieur Carvin bowed.
"For any friend of Louis," he said, "one would do much. But indeed,
monsieur, people seem to find my little restaurant interesting, and it
is, alas, so very small."
We entered the room almost as he spoke. It was larger than I had
expected to find it, and the style of its decorations and general
appearance were absolutely different from the cafe below. The coloring
was a little sombre for a French restaurant, and the illuminations a
little less vivid. The walls, however, were panelled with what seemed
to be a sort of dark mahogany, and on the ceiling was painted a great
allegorical picture, the nature of which I could not at first
surmise. The guests, of whom the room was almost full, were all
well-dressed and apparently of the smart world. The tourist element
was lacking. There were a few men there in morning clothes, but these
were dressed with the rigid exactness of the Frenchman, who often,
from choice, affects this style of toilet. From the first I felt that
the place possessed an atmosphere. I could not describe it, but,
quite apart from Louis' few words concerning it, I knew that it had a
clientele of its own, and that within its four walls were gathered
together people who were in some way different from the butterfly
crowd who haunt the night cafes in Paris. Monsieur Carvin himself led
us to a small table against the wall, and not far inside the room. The
_vestiaire_ relieved us of our coats and hats. A suave _maitre
d'hotel_ bent over us with suggestions for supper, and an attendant
_sommelier_ waited by his side. Monsieur Carvin waved them away.
"The gentlemen have probably supped," he remarked. "A bottle of the
Pommery, Gout Anglais, and some biscuits. Is that right, Louis?"
We both hastened to express our approval. Monsieur Carvin was called
by some one at the other end of the room and hurried away. Louis
turned to me. There was a curious expression in his eyes.
"You are disappointed?" he asked. "You see nothing here different? It
is all the same to you."
"Not in the least," I answered. "For one thing, it seems strange to
find a restaurant de luxe up here, when below there is only a cafe of
the worst. Are they of the same management?"
"Up here," he said, "come the masters, and down there the
servants. Look around at these people, monsieur. Look around
carefully. Tell me whether you do not see something different here
from the other places."
I followed Louis' advice. I looked around at the people with an
interest which grew rather than abated, and for which I could not at
first account. Soon, however, I began to realize that although this
was, at first appearance, merely a crowd of fashionably dressed men
and women, yet they differed from the ordinary restaurant crowd in
that there was something a little out of the common in the faces of
nearly every one of them. The loiterers through life seemed absent.
These people were relaxing freely enough,--laughing, talking, and
making love,--but behind it all there seemed a note of seriousness, an
intentness in their faces which seemed to speak of a career, of things
to be done in the future, or something accomplished in the past. The
woman who sat at the opposite table to me--tall, with yellow hair, and
face as pale as alabaster--was a striking personality anywhere. Her
blue eyes were deep-set, and she seemed to have made no effort to
conceal the dark rings underneath, which only increased their
luminosity. A magnificent string of turquoises hung from her bare
neck, a curious star shone in her hair. Her dress was of the newest
mode. Her voice, languid but elegant, had in it that hidden quality
which makes it one of a woman's most attractive gifts. By her side was
a great black-moustached giant, a pale-faced man, with little puffs of
flesh underneath his eyes, whose dress was a little too perfect and
his jewelry a little too obvious.
"Tell me," I asked, "who is that man?"
Louis leaned towards me, and his voice sunk to the merest whisper.
"That, monsieur," said he, "is one of the most important persons in
the room. He is the man whom they call the uncrowned king. He was a
saddler once by profession. Look at him now."
"How has he made his money?" I asked.
Louis smiled--a queer little contraction of his thin lips.
"It is not wise," he said, "to ask that question of any whom you meet
here. Henri Bartot was one of the wildest youths in Paris. It was he
who started the first band of thieves, from which developed the
present hoard of _apaches_."
"And now?" I asked.
"He is their unrecognized, unspoken-of leader," Louis whispered. "The
man who offends him to-night would be lucky to find himself alive
I looked across the room curiously. There was not a single redeeming
feature in the man's face except, perhaps, the suggestion of brute,
passionate force which still lingered about his thick, straight lips
and heavy jaw. The woman by his side seemed incomprehensible. I saw
now that she had eyes of turquoise blue and a complexion almost
waxenlike. She lifted her arms, and I saw that they, too, were covered
with bracelets of light-blue stones. Louis, following my eyes,
touched me on the arm.
"Don't look at her," he said warningly. "She belongs to
him--Bartot. It is not safe to flirt with her even at this distance."
I laughed softly and sipped my wine.
"Louis," I said, "it is time you got back to London. You are living
here in too imaginative an atmosphere."
"I speak the truth, monsieur," he answered grimly. "She, too,--she is
not safe. She finds pleasure in making fools of men. The suffering
which comes to them appeals to her vanity. There was a young
Englishman once, he sent a note to her--not here, but at the Cafe de
Paris--at luncheon time one morning. He was to have left Paris the
next day. He did not leave. He has never been heard of since!"
There was no doubt that Louis himself, at any rate, believed what he
was saying. I looked away from the young lady a little reluctantly. As
though she understood Louis' warning, her lips parted for a moment in
a faint, contemptuous smile. She leaned over and touched the man
Bartot on the shoulder and whispered something in his ear. When I next
looked in their direction I found his eyes fixed upon mine in a
steady, malignant stare.
"Monsieur will remember," Louis whispered in my ear softly, "that I am
responsible for his coming here."
"Of course," I answered reassuringly. "I have not the slightest wish
to run up against any of these people. I will not look at them any
more. She knew what she was doing, though, Louis, when she hung blue
stones about her with eyes like that, eh?"
"She is beautiful," Louis admitted. "There are very many who admire
her. But after all, what is the use? One has little pleasure of the
things which one may not touch."
We were silent for several minutes. Suddenly my fingers gripped Louis'
arm. Had I been blind all this time that they had escaped my notice?
Then I saw that they were sitting at an extra table which had been
hastily arranged, and I knew that they could have only just arrived.
"Tell me, Louis," I demanded eagerly, "who are those two at the small
round table on the left,--the two who seem to have just come in,--a
man and a girl?"
Louis turned his head, and I saw his lips come together--saw the quick
change in his face from indifference to seriousness. For some reason
or other my interest in these two seemed to be a matter of some import
"Why does monsieur ask?" he said.
"The idlest curiosity," I assured him. "I know nothing about them
except that they are distinctive, and one cannot fail, of course, to
admire the young lady."
"You have seen them often?" Louis asked, in a low tone.
"I told you, Louis," I answered, "that my mission in Paris is of the
nature of a search. For ten days I have haunted all the places where
one goes,--the Race Course, the Bois, the Armenonville and Pre
Catelan, the Rue de la Paix, the theatres. I have seen them nearly
every day. To-night they were at the Opera."
"You know nothing of them beyond that?" Louis persisted.
"Nothing whatever," I declared. "I am not a boulevarder, Louis," I
continued slowly, "and in England, you know, it is not the custom to
stare at women as these Frenchmen seem to do with impunity. But I must
confess that I have watched that girl."
"You find her attractive," murmured Louis.
"I find her delightful," I assented, "only she seems scarcely old
enough to be about in such places as these."
"The man," Louis said slowly, "is a Brazilian. His name is Delora."
"Does he live in Paris?" I asked.
"By no means," Louis answered. "He is a very rich coffee-planter, and
has immense estates somewhere in his own country. He comes over here
every year to sell his produce on the London market. I believe that he
is on his way there now."
"And the girl?" I asked.
"She is his niece," Louis answered. "She has been brought up in France
at a convent somewhere in the south, I believe. I think I heard that
this time she was to return to Brazil with her uncle."
"I wonder," I asked, "if she is going to London with him?"
"Probably," Louis answered, "and if monsieur continues to patronize
me," he continued, "he will certainly see more of them, for Monsieur
Delora is a client who is always faithful to me."
Notwithstanding its somewhat subdued air, there was all the time going
on around us a cheerful murmur of conversation, the popping of corks,
the laughter of women, the hurrying to and fro of waiters,--all the
pleasant disturbance of an ordinary restaurant at the most festive
hour of the night. But there came, just at this moment, a curious
interruption, an interruption curious not only on its own account, but
on account of the effect which it produced. From somewhere in the
centre of the room there commenced ringing, softly at first, and
afterwards with a greater volume, a gong, something like the siren of
a motor-car, but much softer and more musical. Instantly a dead silence
seemed to fall upon the place. Conversation was broken off, laughter
was checked, even the waiters stood still in their places. The eyes of
every one seemed turned towards the door. One or two of the men rose,
and in the faces of these was manifest a sudden expression in which
was present more or less of absolute terror. Bartot for a moment
shrank back in his chair as though he had been struck, only to recover
himself the next second; and the lady with the turquoises bent over
and whispered in his ear. One person only left his place,--a young man
who had been sitting at a table at the other end of the room with one
of the gayest parties. At the very first note of alarm he had sprung
to his feet. A few seconds later, with swift, silent movements and
face as pale as a ghost, he had vanished into the little service room
from which the waiters issued and returned. With his disappearance the
curious spell which seemed to have fallen upon these other people
passed away. The waiters resumed their tasks. The room was once more
hilariously gay. Upon the threshold a newcomer was standing, a tall
man in correct morning dress, with a short gray beard and a tiny red
ribbon in his button-hole. He stood there smiling slightly--an
unobtrusive entrance, such as might have befitted any habitue of the
place. Yet all the time his eyes were travelling restlessly up and
down the room. As he stood there, one could fancy there was not a face
into which he did not look during those few minutes.
I leaned towards Louis, but he anticipated my question. His hand had
caught my wrist and was pinning it down to the table.
"Wait!" he muttered--"wait! You perceive that we are drinking wine of
the vintage of '98. I will tell you of my trip to the vineyards. Do
not look at that man as though his appearance was anything
remarkable. You are not an habitue here, and he will take notice of
As one who speaks upon the subject most interesting to him, Louis,
with the gestures and swift, nervous diction of his race, talked to me
of the vineyards and the cellars of the famous champagne house whose
wine we were drinking. I did my best to listen intelligently, but
every moment I found my eyes straying towards this new arrival, now
deep in apparently pleasant conversation with Monsieur Carvin.
The newcomer had the air of one who has looked in to smile around at
his acquaintances and pass on. He accepted a cigarette from Carvin,
but he did not sit down, and I saw him smile a polite refusal as a
small table was pointed out to him. He strolled a little into the
place and he bowed pleasantly to several with whom he seemed to be
acquainted, amongst whom was the man Bartot. He waved his hand to
others further down the room. His circle of acquaintances, indeed,
seemed unlimited. Then, with a long hand-shake and some parting jest,
he took leave of Monsieur Carvin and disappeared. Somehow or other one
seemed to feel the breath of relief which went shivering through the
room as he departed. Louis answered then my unspoken question.
"That," he said, "is a very great man. His name is Monsieur Myers."
"The head of the police!" I exclaimed.
"The most famous," he said, "whom France has ever possessed, Monsieur
Myers is absolutely marvellous," he declared. "The man has
genius,--genius as well as executive ability. It is a terrible war
that goes on between him and the _haute ecole_ of crime in this
"Tell me, Louis," I asked, "is Monsieur Myers' visit here to-night
"Monsieur has observation," Louis answered. "Why not?"
"You mean," I asked, "that there are criminals--people under
"I mean," Louis interrupted, "that in this room, at the present
moment, are some of the most famous criminals in the world."
A question half framed died away upon my lips. Louis, however, divined
"You were about to ask," he said, "how I obtained my entry
here. Monsieur, one had better not ask. It is one thing to be a
thief. It is quite another to see something of the wonderful life
which those live who are at war with society."
I looked around the room once more. Again I realized the difference
between this gathering of well-dressed men and women and any similar
gathering which I had seen in Paris. The faces of all somehow lacked
that tiredness of expression which seems to be the heritage of those
who drink the cup of pleasure without spice, simply because the hand
of Fate presses it to their lips. These people had found something
else. Were they not, after all, a little to be envied? They must know
what it was to feel the throb of life, to test the true flavor of its
luxuries when there was no certainty of the morrow. I felt the
fascination, felt it almost in my blood, as I looked around.
"You could not specify, I suppose?" I said to Louis.
"How could monsieur ask it?" he replied, a little reproachfully. "You
will be one of the only people who do not belong who have been
admitted here, and you will notice," he continued, "that I have asked
for no pledge--I rely simply upon the honor of monsieur."
"There is crime and crime, Louis," said I. "I have never been able to
believe myself that it is the same thing to rob the widow and the
millionaire. I know that I must not ask you any questions," I
continued, "but the girl with Delora,--the man whom you call
Delora,--she, at least, is innocent of any knowledge of these things?"
"Monsieur is susceptible," he remarked. "I cannot answer that
question. Mademoiselle is a stranger. She is but a child."
"And Monsieur Delora himself?" I asked. "He comes here when he
chooses? He is not merely a sightseer?"
"No," Louis repeated, "he is not merely a sightseer!"
"A privileged person," I remarked.
"He is a wonderful man," Louis answered calmly. "He has travelled all
over the world. He knows a little of every capital, of every side of
life,--perhaps," he added, "of the underneath side."
"His niece is very beautiful," I remarked, looking at her
thoughtfully. "It seems almost a shame, does it not, to bring her
into such a place as this?"
"If she were going to stay in Paris--yes!" he said. "If she is really
going to Brazil, it matters little what she does. A Parisian, of
course, would never bring his womankind here."
"She is very beautiful," I remarked. "Yes, I agree with you, Louis. It
is no place for girls of her age."
"Monsieur may make her acquaintance some day," he remarked. "Monsieur
Delora is on his way to England."
"She is a safer person to admire," I remarked, "than the lady
"Much," Louis answered emphatically. "Monsieur has already," he
whispered, "been a little indiscreet. The lady of the turquoises has
spoken once or twice to Bartot and looked this way. I feel sure that
it was of you she spoke. See how she continually looks over the top of
her fan at this table. Monsieur would do well to take no notice."
I laughed. I was thirty years old, and the love of adventure was
always in my blood. For the first time for many days the weariness
seemed to have passed away. My heart was beating. I was ready for any
"Do not be afraid, Louis," I said. "I shall come to no harm. If
mademoiselle looks at me, it is not gallant to look away."
Louis' face was puckered up with anxiety. He saw, too, what I had
seen. Bartot had walked to the other end of the room to speak to some
friends. The girl had taken a gold and jewelled pencil from the mass
of costly trifles which lay with her purse upon the table, and was
writing on a piece of paper which the waiter had brought. I could see
her delicately manicured fingers, the blue veins at the back of her
hands, as she wrote, slowly and apparently without hesitation. Both
Louis and myself watched the writing of that note as though Fate
itself were guiding the pencil.
"It is for you," Louis whispered in my ear. "Take no notice. It would
be madness even to look at her."
"Louis!" I exclaimed protestingly.
"I mean what I say, monsieur," Louis declared, leaning toward me, and
speaking in a low, earnest whisper. "The cafe below, the streets
throughout this region, are peopled by his creatures. In an hour he
could lead an army which would defy the whole of the gendarmes in
Paris. This quarter of the city is his absolutely to do with what he
wills. Do you believe that you would have a chance if he thought that
she had looked twice at you,--she--Susette--the only woman who has
ever led him? I tell you that he is mad with love and jealousy for
her. The whole world knows of it."
"My dear Louis," I said, "you know me only in London, where I come and
sit in your restaurant and eat and drink there. To you I am simply
like all those others who come to you day by day,--idlers and pleasure
seekers. Let me assure you, Louis, that there are other things in my
life. Just now I should welcome anything in the world which meant
adventure, which could teach me to forget."
"But monsieur need not seek the suicide," Louis said. "There are
hundreds of adventures to be had without that."
I shrugged my shoulders.
"If mademoiselle should send me the note," I said, "surely it would
not be gallant of me to refuse to accept it."
"There are other ways of seeking adventures," Louis said, "than by
ending one's days in the Seine."
The girl by this time had finished her note and rolled it up. She
looked behind her to the other end of the room, where only Bartot's
broad back was visible. Then she raised her eyes to mine,--turquoise
blue as the color of her gown,--and very faintly but very deliberately
she smiled. I was not in the least in love with her. The affair to me
was simply interesting because it promised a moment's distraction.
But, nevertheless, as she smiled I felt my heart beat faster, and I
reached a little eagerly forward as though for the note. She called a
waiter to her side. I watched her whisper to him; I watched his
expression--anxious and perturbed at first, doubtful, even, after her
reassuring words. He looked down the room to where Bartot was
standing. It seemed to me, even then, that he ventured to protest, but
mademoiselle frowned and spoke to him sharply. He caught up a wine
list and came to our table. Once more, before he spoke, he looked
behind to where Bartot's back was still turned.
"For monsieur," he whispered, setting the wine list upon the table,
and under it the note.
I nodded, and he hastened away. At that moment Bartot turned and came
down the room. As he approached he looked at me once more, as though,
for some reason or other, he was more than ordinarily interested in my
presence. It may have been my fancy, but I thought, also, that he
looked at the wine card stretched out before me.
"Be careful!" Louis whispered. "Be careful! And, for God's sake,
destroy that note!"
I laughed, and as Bartot was compelled to turn his back to me to
regain his seat, this time at the table with his companion, I raised
my glass, looking her full in the face, and drank. Then I slipped the
note from underneath the wine card into my pocket. She made the
slightest of signs, but I understood. I was not to read it until I was
"Go outside," Louis whispered to me. "Read your letter and get rid of
I obeyed him. A watchful waiter pulled the table away, and I walked
out into the anteroom. Here, with a freshly lit cigarette in my mouth,
I unclenched my fingers, and looked at the few words written very
faintly, in long, delicate characters, across the torn sheet of paper:
Monsieur is in bad company. It would be well for him to lunch
to-morrow at the Cafe de Paris, and to ask for Leon.
That was all. I tore it into small pieces and returned to my seat,
altogether puzzled. It seemed to me that Louis watched me with an
incomprehensible anxiety as I resumed my place by his side.
"If monsieur is ready," he suggested, "perhaps we had better go."
I rose to my feet reluctantly.
"As you will, Louis," I said.
But the time for our departure had not yet come!
During the whole of the time people had been coming and going from the
restaurant, not, perhaps, in a continual stream, but still at fairly
regular intervals. It seemed to me, who had watched them all with
interest, that scarcely a person had entered who was not worthy of
observation. I saw faces, it is true, which I had seen before at the
fashionable haunts of Paris, upon the polo ground, at Longchamps, or
in the Bois, yet somehow it seemed to me that they came to this place
as different beings. There was a tense look in their faces, a look
almost of apprehension, as they entered and passed out,--as of people
who have found their way a little further into life than their
associates. Louis was right. There was something different about the
place, something at which I could only dimly guess, which at that time
I did not understand. Only I realized that I watched always with a
little thrill of interest whenever the hurrying forward of Monsieur
Carvin indicated the arrival of a new visitor.
We had already risen to go, and the _vestiaire_ was on his way
towards us, bearing my hat and coat, when Monsieur Carvin, who had
hurried out a moment before, reappeared, ushering in a new
arrival. The events that followed have always seemed a little confused
to me. My first thought was that this was indeed a nightmare into
which I had wandered. The slight unreality which had hung like a cloud
over the whole of the evening, the strangeness of my being there with
such a companion, the curious atmosphere of the place, which so far
had completely puzzled me,--these things may all have served to
heighten the illusion. Yet it seemed to me then that, dreaming or
waking, this thing with which I was confronted was the last
impossibility. I suppose that I must have stared at him like some
wild creature, for the conversation around us suddenly stopped.
Standing upon the threshold, looking around him with the happy air of
an habitue, I saw this man to whom I owed my presence in Paris, this
man concerning whom I had sworn that if ever I should meet him face to
face my hand should be upon his throat. I remember nothing of my
progress, but I know that I stood before him before he was conscious
even of my presence. I addressed him by name. I believe that even my
voice was not upraised.
"Tapilow!" I said.
He turned sharply towards me. I saw him suddenly stiffen, and I saw
his right hand dart as though by instinct to his trousers pocket. But
I was too quick for him. The blood was surging into my ears. Nothing
in the whole room was visible to me but that pale, handsome face with
the thin lips and dark, full eyes. I saw those eyes contract as though
my hand upon his throat were indeed the touch of Death. I shook him
until his collar broke away and his shirt-front flew open, shook him
until from his limp body there seemed no longer any shadow of
resistance. Then I flung him a little away from me, watching all the
time, though, to see that his hand did not move towards that pocket.
"Tapilow," I cried, "defend yourself, you coward! Do you want me to
strangle you where you stand?"
He came for me then with the frenzy of a man who is in a desperate
strait. He was as strong as I, and he had the advantage in height. For
a moment I was borne back. He struck me heavily upon the face, and I
made no attempt to defend myself. I waited my time. When it came, I
dealt him such a blow that he reeled away, and before he could recover
I took him by the back of his neck and flung him from me across the
table which our struggle had already half upset. He lay there, a
shapeless mass, surrounded by broken glass, streaming wine, a little
heap of flowers from the overturned vase. Then the hubbub of the room
was suddenly stilled. A dozen hands were laid upon me.
"For God's sake, monsieur!" I heard Louis cry.
Monsieur Carvin led me away. I looked back once more at the prostrate
figure and then followed him.
"This is not my fault," I said calmly. "He knew quite well that it was
bound to happen. I told him that wherever we next met, whether it was
in a street or a drawing-room, or any place whatsoever upon the face
of the earth, I would deal out his punishment with my own hands, even
though it should spell death. Perhaps," I continued, "you would like
to send for the police. You can have my card, if you like."
"We do not send for the police here," Monsieur Carvin said
hoarsely. "Louis will take you away at once. Where do you stay?"
"At the Ritz," I answered.
"Keep quiet to-morrow!" he exclaimed. "Louis will come to you. This
I shrugged my shoulders. At that moment it mattered little to me
whether I paid the penalty for what had happened or not. I even looked
back for a last time into the restaurant. I saw the strained, eager
faces of the people bent forward to watch me. Some of the men had left
their seats and come out into the body of the hall to get a better
view. The man Delora was among them. The girl was leaning forward in
her place, with her fingers upon the table, and her dark eyes
riveted with horrible intensity upon the fallen figure. I saw
mademoiselle--the turquoise-covered friend of Bartot. She, too, was
leaning forward, but her eyes ignored the man upon the floor, and were
seeking to meet mine. There was something unreal about the whole
scene, something which I was never able afterwards to focus absolutely
in my mind as a whole, although disjointed parts of it were always
present in my thoughts. But I know that as I looked back she rose a
little to her feet and leaned over the table, and heedless of Bartot,
who was now by her side, she waved her hand almost as though in
approbation. I was within a few feet of her, upon the threshold of the
door, and I heard her words, spoken, perhaps, to her companion,--
"It is so that men should deal with their enemies!"
A moment later, Louis and I were driving through the streets toward my
hotel. It was already light, and we passed a great train of market
wagons coming in from the country. Along the Boulevard, into which we
turned, was sprinkled a curious medley of wastrels of the night, and
men and women on their way to work. It had been raining a little time
before, but as we turned to descend the hill a weak sunshine flickered
out from behind the clouds.
"It is later than I thought," I remarked calmly.
"It is half-past five o'clock," answered Louis.
He accompanied me all the way to the hotel. He asked for no
explanation, nor did I volunteer any. As we drove into the Place
Vendome, however, he leaned towards me.
"Monsieur is aware," he said, "that he has run a great risk to-night?"
"Very likely," I answered, "but, Louis, there are some things which
one is forced to do, whatever the risk may be. This was one of them."
"You have courage," Louis whispered. "Let me tell you this. There were
men there to-night, men on every side of you, to whom courage is as
the breath of life. They have seen a man whom nobody loved treated as
he probably deserved. Let me tell you that there is no place in the
world where you could have struck so safely as to-night. Remain in
the hotel to-morrow until you hear from some of us. I may not promise
too much, but I think--I believe--that we can save you."
At that moment Louis' words meant little to me. I was still under the
spell of those few wonderful moments, still mad with the joy of having
taken the vengeance for which every nerve in my body had craved. It
was not until afterwards that their practical import came home to me.
AN INFORMAL TRIBUNAL
I was awakened about midday by the _valet de chambre_, who
informed me that a gentleman was waiting below to see me--a gentleman
who had given the name of Monsieur Louis. I ordered him to prepare my
bath and bring my coffee. When Louis was shown upstairs I was seated
on the edge of my bed in my dressing-gown, smoking my first cigarette.
Louis had the appearance of a man who had not slept. As for myself, I
had never opened my eyes from the moment when my head had touched the
pillow. I had no nerves, and I had done nothing which I regretted. I
fancy, therefore, that my general appearance and reception of him
somewhat astonished my early visitor. He seemed, indeed, to take my
nonchalance almost as an affront, and he proceeded at once to try and
"Monsieur was expecting, perhaps, another sort of visitor?" he asked.
I shook my head.
"I really hadn't thought about it," I said. "After what you told me
last night I have been feeling quite comfortable."
"Do you know that it is doubtful whether Monsieur Tapilow will live?"
"It was the just payment of a just debt," I answered.
"The law," he objected, "does not permit such adjustments."
"The law," I answered, "can do what it pleases with me."
Louis regarded me steadily for a moment or two, and I fancied that
there was something of that admiration in his gaze which a cautious
man sometimes feels for the foolhardy.
"Monsieur has slept well?" he asked.
"Excellently," I answered.
He glanced at the watch which he had taken from his waistcoat pocket.
"In twenty minutes," he announced, "we must be at the Cafe Normandy."
I raised my eyebrows.
"Indeed!" I said dryly. "I don't exactly follow you."
Louis shrugged his shoulders.
"Monsieur," he said, "it is no time, this, for the choice of words.
There is a man who lies very near to death up there in the Cafe des
Deux Epingles, and it must be decided within the next few hours what
is to be done with him."
"I am not sure that I understand, Louis," I said, lighting a
"You will understand at the Cafe Normandy in half an hour's time,"
Louis answered. "In the meanwhile, have you a servant? If not, summon
the _valet de chambre_. You must dress quickly. It is important,
"I will dress in ten minutes," I replied, "but I must shave before I
go out. That will take me another ten. In the meantime, perhaps you
will kindly tell me what it all means?"
"What it all means!" Louis repeated, with upraised hands. "Is it not
clear? Have you forgotten what happened only a few hours ago? It rests
with one or two people as to whether you shall be given up to the
police for what you did last night,--does monsieur understand
"To tell you the truth, Louis," I answered, "I never dreamed of
escaping from them. It did not seem possible."
"In which case?" Louis asked slowly.
I pointed to the revolver upon my mantelpiece.
"We all," I remarked, "make the mistake of overestimating the actual
importance of life."
Louis shivered a little. I noticed both then and afterwards that he
was never comfortable in the presence of firearms.
"A last resource, of course," I said, "but one should always be
"In this city," Louis said, "it is not as in London. In London there
are no corners which are not swept bare by your police. In London, by
this time you would have been sitting in a prison cell."
"That," I remarked, "is doubtless true. So much the more fortunate for
me that I should have met Monsieur Tapilow in Paris and not in London.
But will you tell me, Louis, why you want me to go with you to the
Cafe Normandy, and how you think it will help me?"
"It would take too long," Louis answered. "We will talk in the
carriage, perhaps. You must not delay now--not one moment."
I humored him by hastening my preparations, and we left the place
together a few minutes later. There were many things which I desired
to ask him with regard to the events of last night and the place to
which he had taken me, but as though by mutual consent neither of us
spoke of these things. When we were already, however, about half way
towards the famous restaurant which was our destination I could not
keep silence any longer.
"Louis," I said, "tell me about this little excursion of ours. Who are
these men whom we are going to meet?"
He turned towards me. The last few hours seemed to have brought us
into a greater intimacy. He addressed me by name, and his manner,
although it was still respectful enough, was somehow altered.
"Captain Rotherby," he said, "you do not seem to appreciate the
position in which you stand. You are young, and life is hot in your
veins, and yet to-day, as you sit there, your liberty is
forfeit,--perhaps even, if Tapilow should die, your life! Have you
ever heard any stories, I wonder," he added, leaning a little toward
me, "about French prisons?"
"Are you trying to frighten me, Louis?" I asked.
"No!" he answered, "but I want you to realize that you are in a very
"I know that," I answered. "Don't think, Louis," I continued, "that
what I did last night was the result of a rash impulse. I had sworn
since a certain day in the autumn of last year that the first time I
came face to face with that man, whether it was in the daytime or the
nighttime, in a friend's house or on the street, I would punish him.
Well, I have kept my word. I had to. I have had my fill of vengeance.
He can go through the rest of his life, so far as I am concerned,
unharmed. But what I did, I was bound to do, and I am ready to face
the consequences, if necessary."
Louis nodded sympathetically.
"Monsieur," said he, "you have but to talk like that to convince the
men whom you will meet in a few moments that you had a real grievance
against Tapilow, and all may yet be well."
"Who are these men?" I asked. "Is it a police court to which you are
"Monsieur," Louis answered, "there are things which I cannot any
longer conceal from you. I myself, believe me, am merely an
outsider. I am, as you know, a hardworking man with a responsible
position and a family to support. But here in Paris I come on to the
fringe of a circle of life with which I have no direct connection, and
yet whose happenings sometimes touch upon the lives of my friends and
intimates. It is a circle of life into which is drawn much that is
splendid, much that is brilliant; but, monsieur, it is life outside
the law, life which does as it thinks fit, which lives its own way,
and recognizes no laws save its own interests."
"Go on, Louis, please," I said, "Tell me, for example, who these men
are whom I am going to meet."
"They are men," Louis answered, "who have great influence in that
world of which I spoke. The law cannot touch them, or if it could it
would not. They wield a power greater than the power which drives the
wheels of government in this country. If they hear your story, and
they think well, you will go free, even though the man Tapilow should
"You believe this, Louis?" I asked curiously.
"I am sure of it," he answered.
It was not for me to dispute what he said. I merely shrugged my
shoulders. Yet, as a matter of fact, I was expecting every moment to
find the hand of a gendarme upon my shoulder. I expected it as the
carriage stopped before the restaurant and we crossed the pavement. I
expected it even when two men who were sitting in the anteroom of the
restaurant rose up to meet us. Louis, standing between, performed an
"Monsieur Decresson and Monsieur Grisson," he said, stretching out his
hand, "permit me to make you acquainted with Monsieur le Capitaine
Rotherby, a retired officer in the English army, and brother of the
Earl of Welmington."
The two men bowed politely and held out their hands. They were both
typical well-dressed, good-looking Frenchmen, apparently of the upper
class. Monsieur Decresson had a narrow black beard, a military
moustache, a high forehead, pale complexion, and thoughtful eyes.
Monsieur Grisson was shorter, with lighter-colored hair, something of
a fop in his attire, and certainly more genial in his manner.
"It is a pleasure," they both declared, "to have the honor of meeting
Monsieur le Capitaine."
The usual inanities followed. Then Monsieur Decresson pointed with his
hand into the restaurant.
"If monsieur will do us the honor to join us," he said, "we will take
luncheon. Afterwards," he continued, "we can talk over our coffee and
liqueurs. It would be well for us to become better acquainted."
I saw no reason to object. I was, in fact, exceedingly hungry. We
lunched at a corner table in the famous restaurant, and I am bound to
admit that we lunched exceedingly well. During the progress of the
meal our conversation was absolutely general. All the events of the
previous night were carefully ignored. When at last, however, we sat
over our coffee and liqueurs, Monsieur Decresson, after a moment's
pause, turned his melancholy gray eyes on me.
"Capitaine Rotherby," he said, "my friend and I represent a little
group of people who have some interest in the place where we met last
night. We are deputed to ask you to explain, if you can, your
conduct,--your attack, which it seemed to us was absolutely
unprovoked, upon an habitue of the place and an associate of our own."
"There is only one explanation which I can make," I answered slowly.
"I went there, as Louis will tell you, absolutely a stranger, and
absolutely by chance. Chance decreed that I should meet face to face
the one man in the world against whom I bear a grudge, the one man
whom I had sworn to punish whenever and wherever I might meet him."
Monsieur Decresson bowed.
"There are situations," he admitted, "which can only be dealt with in
that manner. Do not think me personal or inquisitive, I beg of you,
but--I ask in your own interests--what had you against this man
"Monsieur Decresson," I said, "I will answer you frankly. The man whom
I punished last night, I punished because I have proved him to be
guilty of conduct unbecoming to a gentleman. I punished him because he
broke the one social law which in my country, at any rate, may not be
transgressed with impunity."
"What you are saying now," Monsieur Grisson interrupted, "amounts to
an accusation. Tapilow is known to us. These things must be spoken of
seriously. You speak upon your honor as an English soldier and a
"Messieurs," I answered, turning to both of them, "it is agreed. I
speak to you as I would speak to the judge before whom I should stand
if I had murdered this man, and I tell you both, upon my honor, that
the treatment which he received from me he merited. He borrowed my
money and my brother's money. He accepted the hospitality of my
brother's house, the friendship of his friends. In return, he robbed
him of the woman whom he loved."
"The quarrel," Monsieur Decresson said softly, "seems, then, to have
"Messieurs," I answered, "my brother is an invalid for life. The
quarrel, therefore, was mine."
Decresson and his companion exchanged glances. I leaned back in my
chair. The three of them talked together earnestly for several minutes
in an undertone. Then Louis, with a little sigh of relief, rose to
his feet and came over to my side.
"It is finished," he declared. "Monsieur Decresson and Monsieur
Grisson are of one mind in this matter. The man Tapilow's punishment
I looked from one to the other of them in wonder.
"But I do not understand!" I exclaimed. "You mean to say, then, that
even if Tapilow himself should wish it--"
Monsieur Decresson smiled grimly.
"What happens in the Cafe des Deux Epingles," he said, "happens
outside the world. Without special permission it would not be possible
for Monsieur Tapilow to speak to the police of this assault. Buy your
_Figaro_ every evening," he continued, "and soon you will
read. In the meantime, I recommend you, monsieur, not to stay too long
They took leave of me with some solemnity on the pavement outside the
restaurant, but Monsieur Decresson, before stepping into his
automobile, drew me a little on one side.
"Capitaine Rotherby," he said, "you have been dealt with to-day as a
very privileged person. You were brought to the Cafe des Deux Epingles
a stranger, almost a guest, and your behavior there might very well
have been resented by us."
"If I have not said much," I answered, "please do not believe me any
the less grateful."
"Let that go," Monsieur Decresson said coldly. "Only I would remind
you of this. You are a young man, but your experience has doubtless
told you that in this world one does not often go out of one's way to
serve a stranger for no purpose at all. There is a chance that the
time may come when we shall ask you, perhaps through Louis here,
perhaps through some other person, to repay in some measure your
debt. If that time should come, I trust that you will not prove
"I think," I answered confidently, "that there is no fear of that."
Monsieur Decresson touched Louis on the shoulder and motioned him to
enter the automobile which was waiting. With many bows and solemn
salutes the great car swung off and left me there alone. I watched it
until it disappeared, and then, turning in the opposite direction,
started to walk toward the Ritz. Curiously enough it never occurred to
me to doubt for a moment the assurance which had been given me. I had
no longer the slightest fear of arrest.
On the way I passed the Cafe de Paris. Then I suddenly remembered that
strange little note from the girl with the turquoises. I never stopped
to consider whether or not I was doing a wise thing. I opened the
swing doors and passed into the restaurant. It was almost empty,
except for a few people who had sat late over their luncheon. I called
Leon to me.
"Leon," I said, "you remember me? I am Captain Rotherby."
He held up his hand.
"It is enough, monsieur," he declared. "If monsieur would be so good."
He drew me a little on one side.
"Mademoiselle still waits," he said in an undertone. "If monsieur will
"Upstairs?" I asked.
Leon bowed and smiled.
"Mademoiselle is in one of the smaller rooms," he said. "Will
monsieur follow me?"
"Why, certainly," I answered.
A DOUBLE ASSIGNATION
I followed Leon upstairs to the region of smaller apartments. At the
door of one of these he knocked, and a feminine voice at once bade us
Mademoiselle was sitting upon a lounge, smoking a cigarette. On the
table before her stood an empty coffee-cup and an empty
liqueur-glass. She looked at me with a little grimace.
"At last!" she exclaimed.
"It is the gentleman whom mademoiselle was expecting?" Leon asked
"Certainly," she answered. "You may go, Leon."
We were alone. She gave me her fingers, which I raised to my lips.
"Mademoiselle," I said, "I owe you a thousand apologies. I can assure
you, however, that I have come at the earliest possible moment."
She motioned me to sit down upon the lounge by her side.
"Monsieur had a more interesting engagement, perhaps?" she murmured.
"Impossible!" I answered.
Now I had come here with no idea whatever of making love to this young
lady. My chief interest in her was because she, too, was an habitue of
this mysterious cafe; and because, from the first, I felt that she had
some other than the obvious reason for sending me that little note.
Nevertheless, it was for me to conceal these things, and I did not
hesitate to take her hand in mine as we sat side by side. She did not
draw it away, and she did not encourage me.
"Monsieur," she said, "do not, I beg of you, be rash. It was foolish
of me, perhaps, to meet you here. We can talk for a few minutes, and
afterwards, perhaps, we may meet again, but I am frightened all the
"Monsieur Bartot?" I asked.
"He is very, very jealous," she answered.
"You go with him every night to the restaurant in the Place d'Anjou?"
"I go there very often," she answered. "Monsieur, unless I am
mistaken, is a stranger there."
"Last night," I told her, "I was there for the first time."
"You came," she said, toying with her empty liqueur-glass, "with
"That is so," I admitted.
"Louis brings no one there without a purpose," she remarked.
"You know Louis, then?" I asked.
She raised her eyebrows.
"All the world knows Louis," she continued. "A smoother-tongued rascal
"Louis," I murmured, "would be flattered."
"Louis knows himself," she continued, "and he knows that others know
him. When I saw monsieur with him I was sorry."
"You are very kind," I said, "to take so much interest."
She looked at me, for the first time, with some spice of coquetry in
"I think that I show my interest," she murmured, "in meeting monsieur
here. Tell me," she continued, "why were you there with Louis?"
"A chance affair," I answered. "I met him coming out of the Opera. I
was bored, and we went together to the Montmartre. There I think that
I was more bored still. It was Louis who proposed a visit to the Cafe
des Deux Epingles."
"Did you know," she asked, "that you would meet that man--the man with
whom you quarrelled?"
I shook my head.
"I had no idea of it," I answered.
She leaned just a little towards me.
"Monsieur," she said, "if you seek adventures over here, do not seek
them with Louis. He knows no friends, he thinks of nothing but of
himself. He is a very dangerous companion. There are others whom it
would be better for monsieur to make companions of."
"Mademoiselle," I answered, looking into her eyes, "these things are
not so interesting. You sent me last night a little note. When may I
see you once more in that wonderful blue gown, and take you myself to
the theatre, to supper,--where you will?"
She shot a glance at me from under her eyelids. The blind was not
drawn, and the weak sunlight played upon her features. She was
over-powdered and over-rouged, made up like all the smart women of her
world, but her features were still good and her eyes delightful.
"Ah, monsieur," she said, "but that would be doubly imprudent. It is
not, surely, well for monsieur to be seen too much in Paris to-day? He
was badly hurt, that poor Monsieur Tapilow."
"Mademoiselle," I assured her, "there are times when the risk counts
"Are all Englishmen so gallant?" she murmured.
"Mademoiselle," I answered, "with the same inducement, yes!"
"Monsieur has learned how to flatter," she remarked.
"It is an accomplishment which I never mastered," I declared.
She sighed. All the time I knew quite well that she carried on this
little war of words impatiently. There were other things of which she
desired to speak.
"Tell me, monsieur," she said, "what had he done to you, this man
I shook my head.
"You must forgive me," I said. "That is between him and me."
"And Monsieur Louis," she murmured.
"Louis knew nothing about it," I declared.
She seemed perplexed. She had evidently made up her mind that Louis
had taken me there with the object of meeting Tapilow, and for some
reason the truth was interesting to her.
"It was a quarrel about a woman, of course," she murmured,--"the
friend of monsieur, or perhaps a relation. I am jealous! Tell me,
then, that it was a relation."
"Mademoiselle," I answered gravely, "I cannot discuss with you the
cause of the quarrel between that man and myself. Forgive me if I
remind you that it is a very painful subject. Forgive me if I remind
you, too," I added, taking her other hand in mine for a moment, "that
when I saw you scribble those few lines and send them across to me,
and when I read what you said and came here, it was not to answer
questions about any other person."
She raised her eyes to mine. They were curiously and wonderfully
blue. Then she shook her head and withdrew her hands, sighing.
"But, monsieur," she said, "since then many things have happened. You
must not show yourself about in Paris. It is better for you to go back
"I am quite safe here," I declared.
"Then it has been arranged!" she exclaimed quickly. "Louis is, after
all, monsieur's friend. He has perhaps seen--"
"We will not talk of these things," I begged. "I would rather--"
She started, and drew a little away, glancing nervously toward the
"I am terrified," she said. "Monsieur must come to my apartments one
afternoon, where we can talk without fear. There is one more question,
though," she continued rapidly. "Louis looked often at us. Tell me,
did he say anything to you about Monsieur Bartot and myself?"
"Nothing," I answered, "except that Monsieur Bartot held a somewhat
unique position in a certain corner of Paris, and that he was a person
whom it was not well to offend."
"No more?" she asked.
"No more," I answered.
"I saw him point us out to you," she remarked.
"I asked him to show me the most beautiful woman in the room," I
She shook her head.
"You are too much of a courtier for an Englishman," she said. "You do
not mean what you say."
"Even an Englishman," I answered, "can find words when he is
I made a feint again to hold her hands, but she drew away.
"When are you going back to England?" she asked abruptly.
"To-morrow, I think," I answered, "if I am still free."
"Free!" she repeated scornfully. "If you are protected, who is there
who will dare to touch you? Monsieur Decresson has all the police
dancing to his bidding, and if that were not sufficient, Monsieur
Bartot could rescue you even from prison. No, you are safe enough,
monsieur, even if you remain here! It is Louis, eh, who is anxious for
you to return to England?"
"My time was nearly up anyhow," I told her. "It is not until this
moment that I have felt inclined to stay."
"Nevertheless," she murmured, "Monsieur goes to London to-morrow. Is
it permitted to ask--"
"Anything," I murmured.
"If monsieur goes alone?"
"I fear so," I answered, "unless mademoiselle--"
She laid her fingers upon my lips.
"Monsieur does not know the elderly gentleman and the very beautiful
girl who sat opposite him last night?" she asked,--"Monsieur Delora
and his niece?"
Somehow I felt convinced, the moment that the question had left her
lips, that her whole interest in me was centred upon my reply. She
concealed her impatience very well, but I realized that, for some
reason or other, I was sitting there by her side solely that I might
answer that question.
"I heard their names last night for the first time," I declared. "It
was Louis who told me about them."
She looked at me for several moments as though anxious to be sure that
I had spoken the truth.
"Mademoiselle!" I said reproachfully. "Let us leave these topics. I am
not interested in the Deloras, or Louis, or Monsieur Bartot. Last
night is finished, and to-morrow I leave. Let us talk for a few
moments of ourselves."
She held up her finger suddenly.
"Listen!" she exclaimed, in a voice of terror.
Footsteps had halted outside the door. She ran to the window and
looked down. In the street below was standing an automobile with
yellow wheels. I was looking over her shoulder, and she clutched my
"It is he--Bartot!" she cried. "He is here at the private
entrance. Some one has told him that I am here. Mon Dieu! It is he
It was bad acting, and I laughed.
"Mademoiselle," I said, "if Monsieur Bartot is your lover, be thankful
that you have nothing with which to reproach yourself."
I rang the bell. She looked at me for a moment with eyes filled with a
genuine fear. Obviously she did not understand my attitude. From my
trousers pocket I drew a little revolver, whose settings and mechanism
I carefully examined. There was a loud knock at the door and the sound
of voices outside. Monsieur Bartot entered, in a frock-coat too small
for him and a tie too large. When he saw us he fell back with a
"Susette!" he exclaimed. "Susette! And you, sir!" he added, turning
He slammed the door and stood with his back to it.
"What the devil is the meaning of this?" he asked, looking from one to
the other of us.
I shrugged my shoulders.
"You had better ask mademoiselle," I answered.
"She is, I believe, an acquaintance of yours. As for me--"
"My name is Bartot, sir," he cried fiercely.
"An excellent name," I answered, "but unknown to me. I do not yet
understand by what right you intrude into a private room here."
He laughed hardly.
"'Intrude'!" he cried. "One does not call it that. 'Intrude,' when I
find you two together, eh?"
I turned to the girl, who, with her handkerchief dabbed to her eyes,
was still affecting a perfect frenzy of fear.
"Has this person any claims upon you?" I asked. "He seems to me to be
an exceedingly disagreeable fellow."
Bartot's face grew purple. His cheeks seemed to distend and his eyes
grow smaller. It was no longer necessary for him to play a part. He
was becoming angry indeed.
"Monsieur," he said, "I remember you now. It was you who tried to
flirt with this lady last night in the Cafe des Deux Epingles. You
have not even the excuse of ignorance. All the world knows that I have
claims upon this lady."
"Claims," I answered, "which I can assure you I am not in a position
"How is it, then," he asked fiercely, "that I find you two, strangers
last night, together to-day here?"
I altered one of the cartridges in my revolver and let it go with a
snap. Bartot took a quick step backwards.
"It is a long story," I said softly, "and I doubt whether it would
interest you, Monsieur Bartot. Still, if you are really curious,
mademoiselle will satisfy you later."
I saw a look pass between the two, and I no longer had any doubt
whatever. I knew that they were in collusion, that I had been brought
here to be pumped by mademoiselle.
"Monsieur," Bartot said, "you are apparently armed, and you can leave
this room if you will, but I warn you that you will not leave Paris so
The situation was quite plain to me. However little flattering it
might be to my vanity, I should not have been in the least surprised
if Monsieur Bartot had held out his hands, begged my pardon, and
ordered a bottle of wine.
"Be reasonable, monsieur," I begged. "It is open to every one, surely,
to admire mademoiselle? For the rest, I have been here only a few
moments. So far as I am concerned," I added, glancing at the table,
"mademoiselle has lunched alone."
"If I could believe that!" Bartot muttered, with a look of coming
friendship in his eyes.
"Mademoiselle will assure you," I continued.
"Then what are you doing here?" he asked.
I raised my eyebrows.