Part 3 out of 6
"I took you there," Louis continued, "because I knew that some time
during the night Tapilow would come. Already I knew what would happen
if you two met."
"You wished it to happen, then?" I exclaimed.
"Monsieur," he said, "I did wish it to happen! The person of whom we
have spoken is no friend of mine, or of my friends. He had entered
into a scheme with certain of them, and it was known that he meant to
play them false. He deserved punishment, and I was content that he
should meet it at your hands."
"Is that all, Louis?" I asked.
"Not all, monsieur," he continued. "I said to myself that if monsieur
quarrels with his enemy, and trouble comes of it, it will be I--I and
my friends--who can assist monsieur. Monsieur will owe us something
for this, and the time may come--the time, indeed, may be very close
at hand--when the services of monsieur might be useful."
"Come, Louis," I said, "this is better. Now I am beginning to
understand. Go on a little further, if you please. I acknowledge your
claim upon me. What can I do?"
"Monsieur likes excitement," Louis murmured.
"Indeed I do!" I answered fervently.
"If there were some plot against this man Delora," he said, "to
prevent his carrying out some undertaking, monsieur would help to
"With all my heart," I answered. "There is only one thing I would
ask. What is Mr. Delora's undertaking?--To sell his coffee?"
Louis' inimitable smile spread over his face.
"Ah!" he said, "monsieur is pleased to be facetious!"
Then I knew that I was on the point of learning a little, at any rate,
of the truth.
"Mr. Delora has other schemes," Louis said slowly.
"So I imagined," I answered.
I saw Louis half turn his head. There was no change in his tone nor in
his expression. Naturally, therefore, his words sounded a little
"My conversation with monsieur, for the moment, is finished," he
said. "There is some one quite close who would give a great deal to
overhear. It follows, therefore, that one says nothing. If monsieur
will grant me a quarter of an hour at any time, in his room, after
"At half-past four, Louis," I answered.
Louis gave a final little twist to my tablecloth and departed with a
bow. I saw then that at the table next to mine, hidden from me, for
the moment, by Louis himself, was seated the man who had stood by our
side at Charing Cross!
After luncheon I took a taxicab, called on my tailor, looked in at the
club, and bought some cigarettes. The whole of London seemed covered
with dust sheets, to smell of paint. My club was in the hands of
furbishers. My tobacconist was in his house-boat on the Thames. I met
only one or two acquaintances, who seemed so sorry for themselves that
their depression was only heightened by recognizing me. The streets
were given over to a strangely clad crowd of pilgrims from other
lands,--American women with short coats, _pince nez_, and
Baedekers, dragging along their mankind in neat suits and outrageous
hats. One seemed to recognize nothing familiar even in the
shop-windows. I was glad enough to get back to the Milan, especially
so as in the lift I came upon Felicia. She started a little at seeing
me, and seemed a little nervous. When the lift stopped at her floor I
got out too.
"Let me walk with you to your room," I said. "It is nearly four
"If you please," she answered. "I wanted to speak to you, Capitaine
Rotherby. There was something I forgot to say before I went out this
"There is always a good deal that I forget to say when I am with you!"
"You, too!" she exclaimed. "You are beginning to say the foolish
things! But never mind, we do not joke now. I speak seriously.
Louis--Louis is back, eh?"
"Certainly," I answered. "He was in the cafe at luncheon time."
"Capitaine Rotherby," she said, as we passed into her room together,
"Louis is a very strange person. I think that he has some idea in his
head about you just now. Will you promise me this,--that you will be
"Careful?" I repeated. "I don't quite understand; but I'll promise all
She took hold of the lapels of my coat as though to pull me down a
little towards her. I felt my heart beat quickly, for the deep blue
light was in her eyes.
"Ah, Capitaine Rotherby," she said, "you do not understand! This man
Louis--he is not only what he seems! I think that he took you to the
Cafe des Deux Epingles that night with a purpose. He thinks, perhaps,
that you are in his power, eh, because you did fight with the other
man and hurt him badly? And Louis knows!"
"Please go on," I said.
"I want you to be careful," she said. "If he asks you to do anything
for him, be sure that it is something which you ought to do,--which
you may do honorably! You see, Capitaine Rotherby," she went on,
"Louis and his friends are not men like you. They are more
subtle,--they have, perhaps, more brain,--but I do not think that they
are honest! Louis may try to frighten you into becoming like them. He
may try very many inducements," she went on, looking up at me. "You
must not listen. You must promise me that you will not listen."
"I promise with all my heart," I answered, "that neither Louis nor any
one else in the world shall make me do anything which I feel to be
"Louis is very crafty," she whispered. "He may make a thing seem as
though it were all right when it is not, you understand?"
"Yes, I understand!" I answered. "But tell me, how did you get to know
so much about Louis?"
"It does not matter--that," she answered, a little impatiently. "I
have heard of Louis from others. I know the sort of man he is. I think
that he will make some proposal to you. Will you be careful?"
"I promise," I answered "May I see you again to-day? Remember," I
pleaded, "that I am staying here only for your sake. I ought to have
gone to Norfolk this afternoon."
She drew a little sigh.
"I wonder!" she said, half to herself. "I think, perhaps,--yes, we
will dine together, monsieur, you and I!" she said. "You must take me
somewhere where it is quite quiet--where no one will see us!"
"Not down in the cafe, then?" I asked smiling.
She held up her hands in horror.
"But no!" she declared. "If it is possible, let us get away somewhere
without Louis knowing."
"It can be arranged," I assured her. "May I come in and see you later
on, and you shall tell me where to meet you?"
She thought for a minute.
"At seven o'clock," she answered. "Please go away now. I have a
dressmaker coming to see me."
I turned away, but I had scarcely gone half a dozen paces before she
called me back.
"Capitaine Rotherby," she said, "there is something to tell you."
I waited expectantly.
"Yes?" I murmured.
She avoided meeting my eyes.
"You need not trouble any further about my uncle," she said. "He has
"Returned!" I exclaimed. "When?"
"A very short time ago," she answered. "He is very unwell. It will not
be possible for any one to see him for a short time. But he has
"I am very glad indeed," I assured her.
Her face showed no signs of exultation or relief. I could not help
being puzzled at her demeanor. She gave me no further explanation.
There was a ring at the door, and she motioned me away.
"The dressmaker!" she exclaimed.
I went upstairs to my rooms to wait for Louis.
A DANGEROUS IMPERSONATION
Louis appeared, as ever, punctual to the moment. He carried a menu
card in his hand. He had the air of having come to take my orders for
some projected feast. I closed the door of the outer hall and the door
of my sitting-room.
"Now, Louis," I said, "we are not only alone, but we are secure from
interruption. Tell me exactly what it is that you have in your mind."
Louis declined the chair to which I waved him. He leaned slightly back
against the table, facing me.
"Captain Rotherby," he said, "I have sometimes thought that men like
yourself, of spirit, who have seen something of the world, must find
it very wearisome to settle down to lead the life of an English farmer
"I am not proposing to do anything of the sort," I answered.
"For you," he said, "perhaps it would be impossible. But tell me,
then, what is there that you care to do? I will tell you. You will
give half your time to sport. The rest of the time you will eat and
drink and grow fat. You will go to Marienbad and Carlsbad, and you
will begin to wonder about your digestion, find yourself growing
bald,--you will realize that nothing in the world ages a man so much
as lack of excitement."
"I grant you everything, Louis," I said. "What excitement have you to
"Three nights ago," Louis said, "I saw you myself take a man into your
hands with the intention of killing him. You broke the law!"
"I did," I admitted, "and I would do it again."
"Would you break the law in other ways?" Louis asked.
"Under similar circumstances, yes!" I answered.
"Listen, monsieur," Louis continued. "It is our pleasure to save you
from the unpleasant consequences which would certainly have befallen
you in any other place than the Cafe des Deux Epingles after
your--shall we say misunderstanding?--with James Tapilow."
"I admit my indebtedness, Louis," I answered.
"Will you do something to repay it?" Louis asked, raising his eyes to
"You will have to tell me what it is first," I said.
"It is concerned with the disappearance of Mr. Delora," Louis said.
"But Mr. Delora has returned!" I exclaimed. "His niece told me so
herself. He has returned, but he is very unwell--confined to his room,
"It is the story which has been agreed upon," Louis answered. "We were
obliged to protect ourselves against the police and the newspaper
people, but, nevertheless, it is not the truth. Mr. Delora has not
"Does mademoiselle know that?" I asked quickly.
"She does not," Louis admitted. "She has been told exactly what she
told you,--that her uncle had returned, but that he was ill and must
be kept quiet for a little time. It was necessary that she should
believe his room occupied, for reasons which you will understand
later. She shall be told the truth very soon."
I was conscious of a distinct sense of relief. The thought that she
might have told me a falsehood had given me a sudden stab.
"Where is Mr. Delora, then?" I asked.
"That we can guess," Louis said. "We want you to go to him."
"Very well, Louis," I said. "I am perfectly agreeable, only you must
tell me who this Mr. Delora is, why he is in hiding, and who you mean
when you say 'we'."
"Monsieur," Louis said, "if it rested with me alone I would tell you
all these things. I would give you our confidence freely, because we
are a little company who trust freely when we are sure. The others,
however, do not know you as I know you, and I have the right to
divulge only certain things to you. Mr. Delora has come to this
country on a mission of peculiar danger. He has a secret in his
possession which is of immense value, and there are others who are not
our friends who know of it. Mr. Delora had a signal at Charing Cross
that there was danger in taking up his residence here. That is why he
slipped away quietly and is lying now in hiding. If monsieur indeed
desires an adventure, I could propose one to him."
"Go ahead, Louis," I said.
"Let it be understood that Mr. Delora has returned.--As I have already
told you, he has not returned. The door of his room is locked, and no
one is permitted to enter. It is believed that to-night an attempt
will be made to force a way into that room and to rob its occupant."
"The room is empty, you say? There is no one there?" I interrupted.
"Precisely, monsieur," Louis said, "but if some one were there who was
strong and brave it might be possible to teach a lesson to those who
have played us false, and who have planned evil things! If that some
one were you, Captain Rotherby, we should consider--Monsieur Decresson
and the others would consider--that your debt to them was paid!"
I whistled softly to myself. I began to see Louis' idea. I was to
enter, somehow or other, the room in which Mr. Delora was supposed to
be, to remain there concealed, and to await this attack which, for
some reason or other, they were expecting. And then, as the
possibilities connected with such an event spread themselves out
before me, my sense of humor suddenly asserted itself, and, to Louis'
amazement, I laughed in his face. I came back from this world of
fanciful figures, of mysterious robberies, of attempted
assassinations, to the world of every-day things. It was Louis--the
_maitre d'hotel,_ the man who had ordered my _Plat du Jour_
and selected my Moselle--who spoke of these things so calmly in my own
sitting-room, with a menu card in his hand, and a morocco-bound wine
list sticking out of his breast pocket. I was not in any imaginary
city but in London,--city of tragedies, indeed, but tragedies of a
homelier sort. It was not possible that such things could be happening
here, in an atmosphere which, through familiarity, had become almost
commonplace. Was I to believe that Louis, my favorite _maitre
d'hotel_, my fellow schemer in many luncheon and dinner parties, my
authority upon vintages, my gastronomic good angel, was one of a band
of conspirators, who played with life and death as though they had
been the balls of a juggler? Was I to believe that there existed even
in this very hotel, which for years had been my home, the seeds of
these real tragical happenings which sometimes, though only half
disclosed, blaze out upon the world as a revelation of the great
underground world of crime? I found it almost impossible to take Louis
seriously. I could not focus my thoughts.
"Louis," I said, "is this a great joke, or are you talking to me in
sober, serious earnest?"
"I am talking in earnest, monsieur," Louis said slowly. "I have not
exaggerated or spoken a word to you which is not the truth."
"Let me understand this thing a little more clearly," I said. "What
has Ferdinand Delora done that he need fear a murderous assault? What
has he done to make enemies? Is he a criminal, or are those who seek
"He carries with him," Louis said slowly, "a secret which will produce
a great fortune. There are others who think that they have a right to
share in it. It is those others who are his enemies. It is those
others who hope to attain by force what they could gain by no other
A sudden inspiration prompted my next question.
"Was Tapilow one of those?" I demanded.
Louis nodded gravely.
"Monsieur Tapilow was one of those who claimed a share, but he was not
willing to run the smallest risk," he assented.
"And for that reason," I remarked, "he is well out of the way! I
understand. There is one more question, Louis, and it is one which you
must answer me truthfully. You can imagine what it is when I tell you
that it concerns mademoiselle!"
"Mademoiselle is innocent of the knowledge of any of these things,"
Louis declared earnestly. "She is a very charming and a very beautiful
young lady, but if ever a young lady needed friends, she does!"
"Why is she here at all?" I demanded. "Why was she not left behind in
Paris? If there is no part for her to play in this little comedy, it
seems to me that she would have been much better out of the way."
"Captain Rotherby," Louis said, "there was a reason, and some day you
will understand it--why it was necessary that she should come to
London with her uncle. I can tell you no more. You must not ask me any
I looked into Louis' impenetrable face. I could learn nothing
there. His words had left me partly unconvinced. Somehow I felt that
the only time he had spoken the entire truth was when he had spoken of
Felicia. Yet it was certainly true that I owed these people something,
and I had no wish to shrink from paying my debt.
"Tell me," I said, "if I take Delora's place to-night, and if your
scheme is successful, does that free him? Will he be able to come
back? Will it be for the benefit of mademoiselle?"
"But most certainly!" Louis answered earnestly. "It is not an
organization against which we fight. It is one or two desperate men
who believe themselves robbed. Once they are out of the way, Delora
can walk the streets a free man. There would be nothing," he added,
"to prevent your seeking his friendship or the friendship of his
"Very well," I agreed. "I will spend the night in Mr. Delora's
rooms. I shall leave it to you to make all the arrangements."
Louis looked at me with a curious expression in his face.
"You understand, monsieur," he said slowly, "that there may be
"Naturally I understand," I said. "If it comes to a fight, I shall be
prepared, and I have had a little experience."
"However well armed you may be," Louis said, "there will be a risk.
Our enemies are swift and silent. One of them, at any rate, is an
accomplished criminal. They are too clever for us unaided. I could
take Mademoiselle Delora to Scotland Yard to-day, and I could tell
them what we fear. They might patrol the hotel with the police, and
even then you would wake in the night and find some one by your
"By the bye, Louis," I said, "why all this mystery? According to you,
Delora is an honest man. Why don't you go to the police?"
Louis shook his head.
"We are not free to do that," he said. "Delora is honest, but it is a
great secret which he controls, and the only chance of using it
successfully is to keep it a secret from the whole world!"
"How am I to be introduced into the room, Louis?" I asked.
"That," he answered, "will be easy. There are two lifts, as you
know,--one from the smoking-room and one from the entrance hall. The
number of Mr. Delora's apartment is 157. Here, by the bye, monsieur,
is a key."
I took it and put it in my waistcoat pocket.
"You will ascend by the lift from the smoking-room to the top floor,"
Louis continued. "You can then descend by the other lift to the fifth
floor, and walk boldly into the sitting-room. The door on the right
will be Mr. Delora's bedroom, and of that there will be, after
midnight, a key upon the mantelpiece in the sitting-room."
"But Miss Delora?" I asked. "What of her? The sitting-room connects,
also, with her apartments."
"Mademoiselle will be told something of this during the evening,"
Louis answered. "It will be better. She will have retired and be
locked in her room long before it will be necessary for you to
"Very well," I said. "But now for the practical side of it. If
anything really happens, what is to be my excuse for occupying those
"I will provide you with a sufficient one later on," Louis
promised. "You will dine downstairs?"
"Possibly," I answered.
"In which case we can have a little conversation," Louis remarked.
"Louis," I said, "what sort of an affair is this, really, in which I
am mixing myself up? Am I one of a gang of magnificent criminals, a
political conspirator, or a fool?"
"Monsieur," he said, "I found you very weary of life. I will put you
in the way of finding excitement. Monsieur should ask no more than
that. There are many men of his temperament who would give years of
their life for the chance."
He left me with his usual polite bow. I strolled after him down the
corridor a moment or so later, but I just missed the lift in which he
descended. Looking down, I saw that it had stopped at the fifth
floor. It seemed as though Louis had gone to visit number 157!
TWO OF A TRADE
I smoked two pipes, one after the other, in a vain attempt to draw out
some definite sequence of facts from the tangled web of happenings
into which I seemed to have strayed. I came to the conclusion that
Fate, which had bestowed on me a physique of more than ordinary size,
a sound constitution, and muscles which had filled my study with
various kinds of trophies, had not been equally generous in her
dispensation of brains. Try as I would, I could make nothing of the
situation in which I found myself. The most reasonable thing seemed to
be to conclude that Louis was one of a gang of thieves, that I was
about to become their accomplice, and that Felicia was simply the
Delilah with whom these people had summoned me to their aid. Such a
conclusion, however, was not flattering, nor did it please me in any
way. Directly I allowed myself to think of Felicia, I believed in her.
There were none of the arts of the adventuress about her methods, her
glances, or her words. She did not, for instance, in the least
resemble the young lady with the turquoises, who had also been good
enough to take an interest in me! I gave the whole thing up at
last. Perhaps by the morrow I should know more,--if, indeed, I
thought, a little grimly, I knew anything! I could not help feeling
that this little enterprise to which I had committed myself might turn
out to be a serious affair. Even Louis had not tried to minimize the
risks. I felt, however, that if it led me to any better understanding
of the situation, I could welcome whatever danger it involved.
A little before six o'clock I turned to look at the weather, which had
been threatening all day, meaning to take a stroll. The rain, however,
was coming down in sheets, so I descended instead to the little
smoking-room, thinking that I might find there some one whom I knew. I
had already ensconced myself in an easy-chair and ordered a whiskey
and soda, when I became conscious that the very person with whom my
thoughts were occupied was in the room and within a few feet of me.
Felicia was sitting on a couch, and by her side a man whom I
recognized at once. It was the companion of my lady of the turquoises!
Apparently they had not noticed my entrance. They continued for
several moments to be unaware of it. Felicia was paler than ever. She
seemed to be struggling, as she sat there, to conceal her fear and
aversion for the man who leaned toward her, talking in rapid French,
with many gesticulations. He was badly dressed in a travelling suit of
French cut, with a waistcoat buttoned almost to the chin. A floppy
black tie hung down over the lapels of his coat. His black moustache,
which seemed to have suffered from the crossing, was drooping, and
gave to his mouth a particularly sinister expression. He had a neck
of unusual size, and the fat ran in ridges to the back of his scalp,
worked up by his collar as he moved his head rapidly with every
sentence. He seemed altogether unable to sit still or control himself.
His boots--brown tops with narrow patent vamps--beat a tattoo upon the
floor. No wonder that Felicia shrunk into the corner of her lounge! I
felt that it was impossible for me to sit and watch them any longer. I
rose to my feet.
Felicia saw me first,--then her companion. Felicia's first expression,
to my intense joy, was one of relief. Her companion, on the other
hand, darted towards me a perfectly murderous glance. I advanced
toward them, and Felicia half rose.
"Capitaine Rotherby," she said, "oh, I am very glad to see you! This
man here who sits by my side--he does not speak one word of English.
Listen, I beg. Go and find some one in the cafe--you know whom I mean,
I will not mention his name. Go and find him, and bring him here. Tell
him that Bartot is here and is terrifying me, that he threatens all
the time. Please bring him."
"I will go at once," I answered.
I bowed and turned away. Of Bartot I took no notice, though he rose at
once and seemed about to address me. I hurried into the cafe, but it
was a slack hour and there were no signs of Louis.
"Can you tell me where to find Louis?" I asked one of the waiters.
The man glanced at the clock and shrugged his shoulders.
"Perhaps in his office," he said, "but Monsieur Louis often goes out
for an hour about this time."
"Where is his office?" I asked.
The man led me into the service room and turned to the left. He
knocked at a closed door, and I heard a sleepy voice say--
I entered, and found Louis in a tiny little sitting-room, curled up on
a sofa. In his hand was a pocket-book and a pencil. He appeared to
have been making memoranda. He sprang to his feet as I entered.
"Monsieur!" he exclaimed, putting away the pocket-book and rising to
"Sorry to disturb you, Louis," I said. "Miss Delora is in the little
smoking-room, and Bartot is there,--just arrived, I suppose, from
Paris. He is terrifying her. She sent me to fetch you."
I saw Louis' lips curl into something which I can only describe as a
snarl. After that moment I never even partially trusted him again. He
looked like a wild animal, one of those who creep through the hidden
places and love to spring upon their prey unseen!
"So!" he muttered. "I come, monsieur. I come."
He followed me out and into the restaurant. As he passed along his
features composed themselves. He bent courteously toward me. He even
opened the door of the little smoking-room and insisted that I should
precede him. I stood on one side then while he went up to the pair. I
heard Felicia give a little murmur of relief. Bartot turned round
fiercely. The two faced one another, and it seemed to me that
unutterable things passed between them. They were like wild animals,
indeed,--Louis silent, composed, serene, yet with a jaguar-like glare
in his eyes, his body poised, as though to spring or defend himself,
as circumstances might dictate. Bartot, who had risen to his feet, was
like a clumsy but powerful beast, showing his fierce primitivism
through the disguise of clothes and his falsely human form. To me
those few seconds were absolutely thrilling! There was another man in
the room, who continued writing as though nothing were happening. A
couple of strangers passed through on their way to the bar, and seemed
to see nothing except the meeting of Louis--the _maitre d'hotel_--with
a possible client. Felicia had let fall her veil, so that her terror
was no longer written in her face. She had separated herself now from
Bartot, and with an involuntary movement I came over to her side. Then
the tension was suddenly broken. It was Louis who showed his teeth,
but it was with the razor-edge of civility.
"Monsieur Bartot is very welcome," he said, speaking in French.
"Monsieur Bartot has promised so often to make this visit, and has
always disappointed us."
Bartot was no match for this sort of thing. His few muttered words at
first were scarcely coherent. Louis bent towards him, always with the
same attitude of polite attention.
"If there is anything I can do," he said softly. "Monsieur has
already, without doubt, selected his rooms. It will give us great
pleasure to see him in the cafe this evening."
Bartot commenced to talk, but his voice was almost inaudible, it was
so thick with passion.
"I come to know what it means! It is not for pleasure that I come to
this villainous country! I come to know what the game is! I will be
told! Mademoiselle here--she tells me that her uncle has been lost,
and now that he is ill. She will not let me see him!"
Louis shrugged his shoulders.
"Alas!" he said. "That, I know, is quite impossible. Monsieur Delora
was taken ill on the voyage over. This gentleman," he added, turning
to me, "will bear me out when I say this. He is now in bed, and a
doctor is with him. I am sorry, but it would not be possible to have
"Then I wait!" Bartot declared, folding his arms. "I wait till
"Why not?" Louis asked. "It is what we most desire. We will do our
best to make monsieur comfortable here."
I felt Felicia's fingers press my arm. I glanced towards her, and she
made a motion toward the door. We moved off, unnoticed, and I rang the
bell for the lift.
"Oh! Capitaine Rotherby," she exclaimed, "once more you have come to
my help! I was so frightened at that man! He did speak to me so
angrily, and he did not believe anything I told him. Indeed, it is
true that my uncle is ill. You do not disbelieve that, do you,
The lift arrived a little opportunely for me. Then it stopped at the
"We must walk softly," she said. "My uncle is asleep, and the doctor
says that he must not be wakened."
"You are going to have dinner with me?" I asked.
"I think so," she answered. "Yes, I think so! Let us go somewhere a
long way off. Take me somewhere quiet, Capitaine Rotherby, where I
shall not see any one I know."
"I will," I promised her. "Put on a high-necked gown and a hat. I will
take you where there is plenty of music but few people. We will get a
quiet table and talk. Indeed," I continued, "there are several things
which I want to say to you, Miss Delora."
"And I," she murmured. "It will be delightful. But step gently,
monsieur. He must not be awakened."
She pointed to that closed door, and I looked steadfastly into her
eyes. It was not possible that she was acting. I was convinced that
she believed that her uncle was really in the next room.
"I call for you here," I whispered, "at half-past seven."
"I shall be ready," she answered, "quite ready. You must not be late
or I shall be impatient. Oh!" she added, with a little impulsive
gesture, "I am beginning to hate this place. I begin to long to escape
from it forever. I look forward so much to going away,--the further
the better, Capitaine Rotherby! I shall be ready when you come.
A VERY SPECIAL DINNER
At seven o'clock that evening I passed through the cafe on my way to
the American bar. There was already a good sprinkling of early diners
there, and Louis was busy as usual. Directly he saw me, however, he
came forward with his usual suave bow.
"The table in the left-hand corner," he said, "is engaged for
monsieur. I have also taken the liberty of commanding a little
"But I am not dining here, Louis!" I protested.
Louis' expression was one of honest surprise.
"Monsieur is serious?" he inquired. "It is only a short time ago that
I was talking with Mademoiselle Delora, and she told me that she was
dining with you here."
"I am dining with Miss Delora," I answered, "but I certainly did not
understand that it was to be here."
"Perhaps," he remarked, "mademoiselle had, for the moment, the idea of
going away for dinner. If so, believe me, she has changed her
mind. Monsieur will see when he calls for her."
I passed on thoughtfully. There was something about this which I
scarcely understood. It seemed almost as though Louis had but to
direct, and every one obeyed. Was I, too, becoming one of his
myrmidons? Was I, too, to dine at his cafe because he had spoken the
I made my way to number 157 precisely at half-past seven. Felicia
was waiting for me, and for a moment I forgot to ask any
questions,--forgot everything except the pleasure of looking at
her. She wore a black lace gown,--beautifully cut, and modelled to
perfection to reveal the delicate outline of her figure,--a rope of
pearls, and a large hat and veil, arranged as only those can arrange
them who have learnt how to dress in Paris. She looked at me a little
"You like me?" she asked. "I will do?"
"You are charming," I answered, "You take my breath away. Indeed,
mademoiselle, I have never dined with any one so charming."
She dropped me a little curtsey. Then her face clouded over.
"There is something I have to ask," she said, looking at me
ruefully. "Do you mind if we dine downstairs?"
"Louis has already told me that it is your wish," I answered.
She picked up the train of her gown. I fancied that she turned away in
order that I should not see her face.
"He was so disappointed," she murmured, "and he has been so kind, I
did not like to disappoint him."
"How is your uncle?" I asked.
"I have not yet been allowed to see him," she answered, "but they tell
me that he is better. If he has a good night to-night, to-morrow
morning I may go to him."
"I certainly hope that he will have a good night!" I remarked. "Shall
we go down?"
"If you are ready," she answered. "There, you shall carry my purse and
handkerchief while I put on my gloves. To put them on is foolish, is
it not, when one does not leave the place? Still, one must do these
"Your purse is heavy," I remarked, swinging it on my finger.
"I carry always with me much money," she answered. "It is my uncle's
idea. Some day, I tell him, one of us will be robbed. He has always
one or two hundred pounds in his pocket. I have there fifty or sixty
pounds. It is foolish, you think?"
"I do," I answered. "It rather seems like asking people to rob you."
"Ah, well, they do not know!" she answered, stepping into the lift. "I
am hungry, Capitaine Rotherby. I have eaten so little to-day."
"Louis has chosen the dinner himself," I remarked, "so we shall
probably find it everything that it should be."
We found our way to the table which had been reserved for us, escorted
by one of Louis' subordinates. Louis himself was busy in the distance,
arranging the seating of a small dinner-party. He came up to us
directly, however. The waiter was serving us with caviare.
"I hope you will enjoy very much your dinner," he said, bowing. "I
have taken special pains with everything. Two dinners to-night I have
ordered with my own lips from the chef. One is yours, and the other
the dinner of our friend Monsieur Bartot."
He pointed to a table a little distance away, where Monsieur Bartot
was already dining. His back was towards us--broad and ugly, with its
rolls of fat flesh around the neck, almost concealing the low collar.
"Some day," I remarked, "our friend Monsieur Bartot will suffer from
"It would not be surprising," Louis answered. "He is looking very
flushed to-night. The chef has prepared for him a wonderful
dinner. They say that he is never satisfied. We shall see to-night."
I looked away with a little gesture of disgust. Louis was summoned
elsewhere, a fact for which I was duly grateful.
"Tell me, Miss Delora," I said, "how long have you known Louis?"
"Oh! for a very long time," she answered, a little evasively. "He is
wonderful, they all say. There is no one quite like him. A rich man
has built a great restaurant in New York, and he offered him his own
price if he would go and manage it. But Monsieur Louis said 'No!' He
loves the Continent. He loves London. He will not go so far away."
"Monsieur Louis has perhaps, too, other ties here," I remarked dryly.
She looked at me across the table meaningly.
"Ah!" she said, "Louis--he does interest himself in many things. He
and my uncle always have had much to say to one another. What it is
all about I do not know, but I heard my uncle say once that Louis very
soon would be as rich as he himself."
"Tell me how long you thought of staying in London?" I asked.
"It is not sure," she answered. "My uncle's business may be settled in
a few hours, or it may take him weeks."
"The selling of his coffee?" I asked dryly.
"But certainly!" she answered.
"And from here you go to where?" I asked.
"Back to Paris," she answered, "and then, alas, to South America. It
is to be buried!"
"You have lived long in Paris?" I asked.
"Since I came there first to boarding-school," she answered. "A little
child I was, with my hair in pigtails and frocks to my knees. I have
learned to think, somehow, that Paris is my home. What I have heard of
South America I do not love. I wish very much that my uncle would stay
"There is no chance of that, I suppose?" I asked.
"I think not," she answered. "In South America he is a very important
man. They speak of him one day as President."
"Had you any idea," I asked, "that he had enemies over here?"
She shook her head.
"It is not that," she said. "We will not talk of it just now. It is
not that he has enemies, but he has very, very important business to
arrange, and there are some who do not think as he thinks about
it. Shall we talk about something else, Capitaine Rotherby? Tell me
about your friends or relations, and where you live? I would like so
much to know everything."
"I am afraid there is not much to tell," I answered. "You see I am
what is called over here a younger son. I have a brother who owns the
house in which I was born, and all that sort of thing, and I have had
to go out into the world and look for my fortune. So far," I
continued, "I can't say that I have been very successful."
"You are poor, then?" she asked timidly.
"I am not rich," I answered. "Still, on the whole, I suppose for a
bachelor I am comfortably off. Then my brother has no sons, and his
health is always delicate. I do not count on that, of course, but I
might have to succeed him."
"Tell me his name?" she asked.
"Lord Welmington," I answered,--"the Earl of Welmington he is called."
"And you would be that," she asked naively, "if he died?"
"I should," I answered, "but I should be very sorry to think that
there was any chance of it. I am going to find something to do very
soon, probably at one of the embassies on the Continent. The army at
home, with no chance of a war, is dull work."
"You play games and shoot, of course," she asked, "like all your
"I am afraid I do," I admitted. "I have wasted a good deal of time the
last few years. I have made up my mind definitely now, though, that I
will get something to do. Ralph--that's my brother--wants me to stand
for Parliament for the division of Norfolk, where we live, and has
offered to pay all my expenses, but I am afraid I do not fancy myself
as a politician."
"I would come and hear you speak," she murmured.
"Thank you," I answered, "but I have other accomplishments at which I
shine more. I would rather--"
I broke off in the middle of my sentence, attracted by a sudden little
exclamation from my companion. There was the sound of a heavy fall
close at hand. I sprang to my feet.
"By Jove, it's Bartot!" I exclaimed.
The man was leaning half across the table, his arms stretched out in
an unnatural fashion,--the wine which he had overturned streaming on
to the floor. His face was flushed and blotchy. His eyes were
closed. He was groaning quite audibly, and gasping.
"_Empoisonne!"_ he muttered. "_Empoisonne!"_
"Poisoned?" I repeated. "What does the fellow mean?"
I stopped short. A sudden realization of what he did mean assailed me!
He was desperately ill, there was no doubt about that. The word which
he had uttered seemed likely to be his last for some time to come.
They formed a sort of stretcher and carried him from the room. Felicia
was sitting back in her chair, white to the lips. I was feeling a
little queer myself. I called Louis, who had been superintending the
"Louis," I whispered in his ear, "there were two dinners which you
prepared yourself to-night!"
Louis smiled very quietly.
"You need have no anxiety, monsieur," he assured me,--"no anxiety at
We sat out in the foyer and took our coffee. I did not suggest a visit
to any place of entertainment, as I knew it was better for Felicia to
retire early, in order that I might pass through the sitting-room to
her uncle's room, unheard. The orchestra was playing delightful music;
the rooms were thronged with a gay and fashionable crowd.
Nevertheless, my companion's spirits, which had been high enough
during dinner, now seemed to fail her. More than once during the
momentary silence I saw the absent look come into her eyes,--saw her
shiver as though she were recalling the little tragedy of a few
minutes ago. I had hitherto avoided mentioning it, but I tried now to
make light of the matter.
"I spoke to Louis coming out," I remarked. "The man Bartot has only
had a slight stroke. With a neck like that, I wonder he has not had it
She found no consolation in my words. She only shook her head sadly.
"You do not understand," she said. "It is part of the game. So it goes
on, Capitaine Rotherby," she said, looking at me with her sad
eyes. "So it will go on to the end."
"Come," I said, "you must not get morbid."
"Morbid," she repeated. "It is not that. It is because I know."
"Do you believe, then," I asked, "that Bartot was poisoned?"
She looked at me as though in surprise. Her eyes were like the eyes of
"I know it!" she answered simply. "There is not any question about it
I listened to the music for several moments in silence. Once or twice
I stole a glance at her. Notwithstanding a certain perfection of
outline, and a toilette which removed her wholly from any suggestion
of immaturity, there was yet something childish in the pale, drawn
face,--in the eyes with their look of fear. My heart was full of
sympathy for her. Such adventures as this one into which I seemed to
have stumbled were well enough for men. She, at any rate, was wholly
out of place in her present position! I had wild dreams at that
moment. The wine and the music, and the absolute trustfulness with
which she seemed, for the moment, to have committed herself to my
keeping, fired my blood. I had thoughts of taking her hand in mine, of
bidding her leave the hotel that night, that minute, with me,--of
taking her away into the country, into some quiet place where we could
be married, and where none of these things which terrified her could
throw their shadows across her life! Yet barely had the thought come
to me before I realized how impossible it all was. I, too, was an
adventurer! If I were not actually in the power of these men, it was
to them that I owed my liberty! My own spirits began to fall. It was a
queer maze this into which I had been drawn.
The music changed its note. Even as we sat there its languorous,
passionate rhythm passed away, to be succeeded by the quicker, cleaner
notes of some old martial music. It came to me like a cold douche. I
remembered that I had been--was still--a soldier. I remembered that my
word was pledged to certain undertakings, and that after all I was
fighting on her side. The momentary depression passed away. I found
myself able to talk more lightly, until something of the old gayety
came back to her also.
"Tell me," she said, as at last we rose to vacate our places,--"you
spoke the other day of going down into the country."
"I am not leaving London just yet," I said decidedly.
If I had indeed made some great sacrifice, I should have been rewarded
by the brilliant look which she flashed up at me. Her eyes for a
moment were absolutely the color of violets. I heard people whisper as
we passed by. We said very little more to one another. I left her at
the lift, and she gave me both her hands with a little impulsive
gesture which I had already learned to look for. Then one of those
inexplicable moods seemed to take possession of her. As the lift shot
away from me I saw that her eyes were full of tears.
I made my way back to the cafe. It was now almost deserted. All but
one or two very late diners had gone, and the tables were being
prepared for supper. Louis, however, was still there, sitting at the
desk by the side of the cashier, and apparently making calculations.
He came forward when he saw me enter, and we met by chance just as one
of the under-managers of the hotel passed by.
"What can I do for you this evening, Captain Rotherby?" he asked,
with his usual bow. "A table for supper, perhaps?"
"I want some coffee," I asked. "I want you to see that it is strong,
and well made."
Louis turned and gave an order to a waiter. I sat down, and he stood
by my side.
"Mademoiselle has gone to her room?" he asked.
"Five minutes ago," I answered.
"In an hour," he said, "it will be safe for monsieur to go to Mr.
Delora's room. You need not pass through the sitting-room at all.
There is a door into the bedroom connecting with the corridor. If
mademoiselle hears anything, she will think that it is the doctor."
"I shall be quite ready," I answered. "There are only one or two
things I want to ask you. One is this, what explanation is to be given
of my occupying that room, if there is a row?"
"There will not be a row," Louis answered coolly. "If monsieur is
hurt, I shall see to it that he is conveyed to his own apartment. If
any one who attacks him, or tries to search the apartment, should be
hurt by monsieur, I shall see, too, that they are removed quietly.
These things are easy enough. The service through the night is almost
abandoned. Monsieur may not know it, but on the floor on which he
sleeps there is not a single servant."
"Supposing I ring my bell?" I asked.
"If it were answered at all," Louis said, "it would be by the lift
"On the whole," I remarked, "it seems to me that the residential side
of the hotel is admirably suited to the nocturnal adjustment of small
"There has never been any trouble, sir," he said. "You see," he
added, pointing to the clock, "it is now ten o'clock. In one hour
monsieur should be there. I have ordered whiskey and soda to be put in
"Shall I see anything of you, Louis?" I asked.
"It is not possible, monsieur," he answered. "I must be here until
half-past twelve or one o'clock to attend to my supper guests."
I leaned back in my chair and laughed silently. It seemed to me a
strange thing to speak so calmly of the service of the restaurant,
while upstairs I was to lie quiet, my senses strained all the time,
and the chances of life and death dependent, perhaps, on the quickness
of my right arm, or some chance inspiration. I saw the usual throng
come strolling in--I myself had often been one of them--actresses who
had not time to make a toilette for the restaurant proper, actors,
managers, agents, performers from all the hundreds of pleasure houses
which London boasts, Americans who had not troubled to dress,
Frenchwomen who objected to the order prohibiting their appearance in
hats elsewhere,--a heterogeneous, light-hearted crowd, not afraid to
laugh, to make jokes, certain to outstay their time, supping frugally
or _au prince_, according to the caprice of the moment. And
upstairs I saw myself waiting in a darkened room for what? I felt a
thrill of something which I had felt just before the final assault
upon Ladysmith, when we had drunk our last whiskey and soda, thrown
away our cigarettes, and it had been possible to wonder, for a moment,
whether ever again our lips would hold another. Only this was a very
different matter. I might be ending my days, for all I knew, on behalf
of a gang of swindlers!
"Louis," I said, "it would make me much more comfortable if you could
be a little more candid. You might tell me in plain words what these
men want from Delora. How am I to know that he is not the thief, and
these others are seeking only their own?"
Louis was silent for a moment. He glanced carelessly around the room
to assure himself that there were no listeners.
"I can tell you no more, sir," he said, "for if I told you more, I
should tell you lies. I will only remind you that you owe us a debt
which I am asking you to pay, and that it is the uncle of mademoiselle
whose place you are taking."
"I am not in the least convinced," I said, "that I am aiding the uncle
of mademoiselle in allowing myself to be attacked in his place."
"As for that," Louis answered, "you shall be assured to-morrow, and,
if you will, there is another adventure still to be undertaken. You
shall go to see Mr. Delora, and be thanked with his own lips."
"There is some sense in that, Louis," I allowed, lighting another
cigarette, "but I warn you I shall make him tell me the truth."
Louis smiled inscrutably.
"Why not, monsieur?" he said.
"Tell me this, at any rate, Louis," I asked. "What is it that you hope
for from this evening? You believe that some one will break in with
the idea of robbing or else murdering Mr. Delora. They will find me
there instead. What is it you hope,--that they will kill me, or that
I shall kill them, or what?"
"That is a very reasonable question," Louis admitted. "I will answer
it. In the first place, I would have them know that they have not all
the wits on their side, and if they plot, we, too, can counterplot. In
the second place, I wish you to see the man or the men face to face
who make this attempt, and be prepared, if necessary, to recognize
them hereafter. And in the third place, there is one man to whom, if
he should himself make the attempt, I should be very glad indeed if
harm came of it."
"Thank you, Louis," I said, "I am not proposing to do murder if I can
"One must defend one's self," Louis said.
"Naturally," I answered, "up to a certain point. You have nothing more
to tell me, then?"
"Nothing, sir," Louis answered calmly. "I wish you once more _bonne
I nodded, and left the cafe. Of the hall-porter I made an inquiry as
to the man who had had a fit in the cafe earlier in the evening.
"The doctor has been to see him twice, sir," the man told me. "It was
a sort of apoplectic stroke, brought on by something which he had
"Will he recover?" I asked.
"The doctor says it is serious," the man answered, "but that with
careful nursing he will pull round. We have just sent a telegram to a
lady in Paris to come over."
I smiled as I rang the bell for the lift. So I might see my lady of
the turquoises again.
WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS
Arrived in my room, I changed my dress-coat for a smoking-jacket, and
my patent shoes for loose slippers. Then I suddenly discovered that I
had no cigarettes. I glanced at the clock. It was only half-past
ten. I had still half an hour to spare.
I locked up my room and descended by the lift to the entrance hall. My
friend the hall-porter was standing behind his counter, doing nothing.
"I wish you would send a boy into the cafe," I said, "and ask Louis to
send me a box of my cigarettes."
"With pleasure, sir," the man answered. "By the bye," he added, "Louis
is not there himself, but I suppose any of the others would know the
sort you smoke, sir?"
"Not there?" I answered, glancing at the clock. "Ah! I suppose it is
a little early for him."
"He will not be there at all this evening," the porter answered. "The
second _maitre d'hotel_ was here a few minutes ago, and told me
"Not there at all!" I repeated. "Do you mean to say that Louis has a
"Certainly, sir," the man answered. "He has just gone out in his
For a moment I was so surprised that I said nothing. Only a few
minutes ago Louis had gone out of his way to tell me that he would be
on duty that night in the cafe. All the time it was obviously a lie!
He would not have deceived me without a reason. What was it? I walked
to the door and back again. The hall-porter watched me a little
"Did you wish for Monsieur Louis particularly," he said, "or shall I
send to Antoine for the cigarettes?"
I pulled myself together.
"Send to Antoine, by all means," I answered. "He knows what I want."
I took up an evening paper and glanced at the news. Somehow or other
I was conscious, although I had had no exercise, of feeling unusually
sleepy. When the boy returned with the cigarettes I thrust the box
into my pocket, unopened. Then I went to the smoking-room on my way
upstairs and drank a stiff brandy and soda. Of one of the junior
waiters whom I met I asked a question.
"Do you know if Monsieur Louis will be here to-night?" I asked.
"No, sir!" he answered. "He has just left."
"Very well," I answered. "You need not mention my inquiry."
I gave the boy half-a-crown, and ascended once more to my room. I was
feeling a little more awake, but, incomprehensible though it might
seem, I began to have a curious idea concerning the coffee with which
Louis had served me. I even remembered--or thought that I
remembered--some curious taste about it. Yet what object could Louis
have in drugging me just as I was on the point of entering into an
enterprise on his behalf?
I had a spirit-lamp in my room, and I made myself rapidly a cup of
strong tea. Even after I had drunk it, I still felt the remains of the
drowsy feeling hanging around me. It was now ten minutes to eleven,
and I opened my wardrobe to find the only weapon with which I proposed
to arm myself,--a heavily loaded Malacca cane, which had more than
once done me good service. To my surprise it was not in its accustomed
corner. I was perfectly certain that I had seen it since my return
from Paris, and I proceeded to make a thoroughly methodical search. I
left scarcely an inch of space in my rooms undisturbed. At last I was
forced to come to the conclusion that the stick had gone. Either the
valet or some one else must have borrowed it.
It was eleven o'clock by the time I had concluded my search, and there
was no time for me to make any further inquiries. I locked up my rooms
and descended to the fifth floor. The corridor was empty, and with the
key which Louis had given me I opened the door of Mr. Delora's bedroom
without difficulty. The room was in darkness, but the electric-light
knob was against the wall. I turned it on quickly. There was neither
any one in the room, nor any evidence of it having been recently
occupied t satisfied with my first inspection, I looked into the
wardrobe and lifted the curtains of the bed. Very soon I was assured
that there was no one in hiding. I sat down on the edge of the bed and
began to consider how to pass the time for the next hour or so. The
whiskey and soda set out upon the table attracted my attention. I went
over to it, struck by a sudden thought! First I poured out a little
of the whiskey. It smelt harmless enough. I tried it upon my tongue.
There was no distinctive flavor. Then I looked at the soda-water
syphon. The top was screwed up tightly enough, and it easily came
undone with the application of a little force. I examined the screw. I
felt certain at once, for some reason or other, that it had been
tampered with recently. I poured a little of the soda-water into a
glass. It was quite flat, and when I tasted it it had a peculiar
flavor. Something seemed to have been added to it which destroyed
altogether its buoyancy. I screwed on the top again and whistled
softly to myself. The whiskey and soda had been placed there by
Louis. He had even gone so far as to call my particular attention to
it. The coffee which I had drunk a little before had also been
prepared by Louis. He was evidently taking no chances! It was his
intention that I should be asleep when the intruder, whoever he might
be, should enter the room. After all, it seemed that I was in for
something a little more complicated in the way of adventures than I
had imagined. I examined the lock of the door by which I had
entered. It worked easily, and there was also a bolt on the inside.
The door was by its side which led into the sitting-room. I also
examined it, and I saw with satisfaction that there was at the top a
narrow glass transept, which I carefully opened. The sitting-room was
in darkness, so Felicia had evidently retired for the night. I sat
down to wait!
The time dragged on slowly enough, as it might well have done under
the circumstances. I was waiting for something,--I had not the least
idea what, or in what form it would arrive. I heard the quarters chime
one after the other until one o'clock. Then at last I heard the sound
of a key in the outer door of the suite. I had already poured half the
syphon of soda and a fair quantity of the whiskey out of the window. I
now threw myself upon the bed, closed my eyes, and did my best to
simulate a heavy sleep. The person who entered the apartments came up
the little outer passage until he reached the door leading into my
room. I heard that softly opened. Then there was a pause, broken only
by my heavy breathing. Some one was in the room, and it was some one
who had learned the art of absolute noiselessness. I heard no
footsteps,--not even a man's breathing. Suddenly there was the click
of the electric light, and although I still heard nothing, I felt that
some one had approached a little way towards the bed. I dared not open
my eyes, but in a restless movement, which I felt I might safely make,
I raised my hand to shield me, and caught a momentary glimpse of the
person who was standing between me and the door. As I expected, it
was Louis! He held the soda-water syphon in his hand, as though
measuring its contents. I believe that he afterwards came and stood
over me. I dared not open my eyes again, for I was none too good an
actor, and I feared that he might not be deceived. The quantity of
whiskey and soda, however, which I had apparently drunk, must have
satisfied him, for he only stayed altogether about a minute in the
room. Then he passed out into the sitting-room, closing the door
behind him, and without noticing the open transept. I lay quite still,
expecting that before long he would return. There were no signs of his
coming, however, though through the transept I could see that the
light in the sitting-room had been turned on. I rose softly from the
bed and bolted both doors. If Louis were to make up his mind to
return, it was better, after all, for him to discover that I had been
deceiving him than to have him come upon me unawares!
From the top of a chair I was easily able to see through the transept
into the sitting-room. At my first glance I thought that it was
empty. Then, however, I saw Louis come in from the outer hall, as
though from the door of Felicia's room. He came into the centre of the
sitting-room and stood there waiting. He was in dark morning clothes,
and there was no sign of that charming expression which his patrons
found so attractive. His brows were contracted. His mouth seemed
screwed together. His peculiar-colored eyes shone like gimlets. He
seemed to be waiting impatiently--waiting for what? Once he moved a
little, and glanced expectantly toward the open door of the
sitting-room. For the first time a horrible fear gripped me. I could
scarcely stand in my place. With both hands I held the cornice. My
heart began to thump against my ribs. If it should be true! Then all
of a sudden a little cry came to my lips, which Heaven knows how I
stifled! My eyes were suddenly hot. There was a mist before them. I
could see nothing, nothing save Felicia, who had entered the room in a
dressing-jacket, with her hair still down her back. It was nothing to
me, at that moment, that her eyes were round with fear, that she came
as one comes who obeys the call of her master. I was so furious with
anger that I had hard work to battle with the impulse which prompted
me to throw open the door and confront them both.
"Louis, is this wise?" she murmured.
"There are times," he answered softly, "when one has to dare
everything! Listen, Felicia."
"Yes?" she murmured.
"In a short time you will hear a soft knocking on the outside
door. Take no notice. I shall open it. It will be some one to see your
uncle. We shall talk in this sitting-room. I hope that nothing will
happen, but if you hear the sound of blows or voices take no notice.
Remain in your room till everything is quiet. Presently, if all is
well, I shall knock three times on your door. I may need your help."
"Very well," she answered. "And if you do not knock?"
He handed her a slip of paper.
"You have a telephone in your room," he said. "Ring up the number you
will find there, and simply repeat the words which I have written."
"Is that all?" she asked.
"That is all."
"Louis," she said,--then she pointed in my direction,--"may I not go
in just for one minute?"
"No!" he answered. "It is not wise."
"It seems unkind," she said, "to keep away from him all this time if
he is ill."
"I did not know that you had so much affection for him!" Louis
"Why not?" she answered. "He was always kind to me, in his way."
There was a moment's pause. Then she spoke again, and her voice had in
it a note of sharp inquiry.
"Louis, whose stick is that?" she demanded.
I raised myself a little higher. Upon the table, close to where Louis
was standing, was a thick Malacca cane which I recognized at once.
"Mine!" Louis answered shortly.
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"Whose did you suppose that it was?" he demanded.
"Capitaine Rotherby was carrying one just like it," she declared. "I
noticed it in the railway carriage."
"They are common enough," Louis answered. "This one, at any rate, is
They both, for a moment, seemed to be listening intently. Then Louis
pointed to the door.
"Go back to your room," he said, in a low whisper. "Go back at once,
and turn your key."
She stole away. When she was no longer in the room I could see more
clearly,--I could take account of other things! Distinctly I could
hear now the soft knocking upon the outer door!
A TERRIBLE NIGHT
Louis disappeared from the room for the moment. I heard the outer door
softly opened and closed. Then he came back into the sitting-room,
followed by the man who had stood by our side at Charing Cross
Station. The latter looked around the room quickly, and seemed
disappointed to find it empty.
"I understood that Mr. Delora was here," he said.
"Mr. Delora is in his bedroom," Louis answered. "He is here, and
perfectly willing to see you. But it is against the doctor's orders,
and my instructions were that I was to warn you not to excite him. You
must speak slowly, and you may have to repeat anything which you wish
him to understand."
"Who are you?" the newcomer asked.
"I am Mr. Delora's servant," Louis answered.
The newcomer looked a little puzzled.
"Surely I have seen you before somewhere!" he exclaimed.
"It is very possible," Louis answered. "I am also a waiter in the cafe
below, but I come from South America, and Mr. Delora, when he is over,
is always kind to me. I spend most of my time, now that he is ill, up
here looking after him."
The newcomer shook his head thoughtfully.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"Louis," was the quiet answer.
"Then, my friend Louis," the newcomer said, "understand me plainly. I
am not here to be bamboozled, or to give you an opportunity for
exercising any ability you may possess in the art of lying. I am here
to see Delora, and if he is here, see him I will and must! If he is
not here, well, it will come later. There is no roof nor any walls in
London which will enclose that man and keep him from me!"
"Mr. Delora has no desire to hide himself from any one," Louis
"That is a statement which I may be permitted to doubt!" the visitor
answered. "Is that the door of his sleeping chamber? If so, I am going
He pointed to the door, through the transept of which I was looking
into the sitting-room. Louis moved on one side.
"That is Mr. Delora's room," he said softly. "Perhaps you had better
let me be sure that he is awake."
"You need not trouble," the other answered. "If he is asleep I shall
wake him. If he is awake he will know very well that there is no
He turned away from Louis. His hand was already outstretched toward
the handle of my door. Then I saw Louis snatch the Malacca cane from
its place and swing it behind his body. He was already poised for the
blow--a blow which would have killed any man breathing--when I sprang
to the ground and flung open the door.
"Look out!" I cried.
The newcomer sprang on one side. Louis, disturbed by my cry, lost his
nerve, and the blow fell upon a small side table, smashing it through,
and sending splinters flying into the air. Both men looked at me in
the blankest of amazement. I came out into the sitting-room.
"You coward!" I said to Louis.
He shrank back against the wall. He still held the stick in his hand,
but he showed not a sign of fight. The other man stood with clenched
fists, as though about to spring upon him, but I stepped between them.
"In the first place," I said to the newcomer, "you had better look
into that room. You will see that Mr. Delora is not there. I can
assure you, from my own knowledge, that he has never been there. When
you have finished, come back and tell me what you want with him."
Louis was still staring at me in amazement. The idea that I had
discovered his attempt to make a cat's-paw of me was dawning upon him
slowly, but knowing nothing of the transept, he could not account for
my unexpected appearance. For once, at any rate, he had lost his
nerve. I could see that he was shaking with fear.
"Come, Louis," I said, "put my stick down and talk like a man, if you
The stick fell from his fingers. He had scarcely strength enough left
to hold it. Then the man who had been examining Delora's room came
back and stepped past Louis up to me.
"I do not know why you are here, sir," he said. "You may be mixed up
in this affair or you may not be. But if you are, let me warn you that
you are on the wrong side. You saw his attempt?" he added, pointing
to Louis. "I am going to wring the life out of him. He deserves it."
"No!" I answered, holding him back. "We will have no violence
here. Louis has a little account to settle with me yet."
"He has a more serious one with me," the other muttered.
"Settle it when and where you will," I said, "but not here. As for me,
I have no longer any interest in or concern with any of you. I came
into this thing by accident, and to-night I go out of it. You, sir,
must leave the hotel at once. I do not know your name or anything
about you. It is not my concern. If you have anything to say to
Louis, choose another time."
He looked at me curiously. I could see that with every nerve in his
body he was longing to spring upon Louis.
"You seem to be a masterful person, sir," he said. "Why should I obey
"Because I saved your life, for one thing," I answered, "and because I
will allow no violence in this room, for another. And if you need a
third reason," I added, "because I have the advantage of you in
strength. You need not be afraid of my further interference," I
continued. "I shall leave London to-morrow, and I hope that I may
never see one of you again. Now will you go?"
"Yes, I will go!" he said. "Let me tell you this, sir," he added, as
he neared the door. "Your decision is a wise one. If you knew whose
cause you had been aiding, whose tool you had very nearly become, I
think that your manner would be a little more apologetic."
"I have your word, sir, that you will leave the hotel?" I asked.
"At once," the other answered.
We heard him close the outer door and depart. Then I turned to Louis.
"Louis," I said, "so this is your adventure! This is the way you
proposed to make use of me! You got me into that room and drugged
me. I was to lie there while you murdered that man with my weapon.
Then you would creep away, and in the morning there was I and the dead
man! I was to be the tool,--the girl there the lure. It was well
worked out, Louis, but it was a coward's plan and a coward's trick!"
I reached out my hand and took him by the collar. I felt as though I
were grasping some unclean insect, from whom the sting might shoot out
at any moment.
"Have you anything to say?" I asked.
"You do not understand," he said, in a low tone. "I did not mean to
put this thing upon you. I meant, perhaps, to disable that man who has
just left. If you knew his history and mine, you would not wonder at
it. But I meant to see that he was safely removed."
"Then why did you bring me down into that room," I asked, "under a
false pretence? Why did you use that murderous cane of mine for your
crime? Why did you insist upon it that I should be seen dining with
the girl--God knows who she is!--who is in that room?"
"I can explain everything," Louis said. "I am confused! I cannot help
it--you came so unexpectedly!"
"Unexpectedly indeed," I answered, "because I poured your whiskey and
soda out of the window, and because I took an antidote to your coffee!"
"You speak of things which I do not understand," Louis declared.
"Oh! tell me no more lies!" I exclaimed. "Listen! You see I have you
by the collar, and I have my cane. Now I am going to beat you till
every bone in your body aches, till you will not be able to crawl
about, until you tell me the real history of these things. For every
lie--if I know it to be a lie--I shall strike you. Tell me who that
man Delora is? Tell me who the girl is, posing as his niece, who meets
you here after midnight? Tell me the name of that man who has just
left us? Tell me how you are all bound together, and what your quarrel
is? And tell me where Delora is now?"
"I have no strength," he gasped. "You are too rough. Let me sit down
quietly. I must think."
"No!" I answered. "Speak! Speak now!"
I raised the stick as though to strike him. Then I saw a sudden change
in his face. I looked toward the door. Almost as I did so I heard the
faint flutter of moving draperies. Felicia stood there looking in upon
us, her hands uplifted, her face full of terror.
"It is Capitaine Rotherby!" she cried. "Tell me, then, what has
happened? Capitaine Rotherby!"
She came a little toward us, but I think that she read in my face
something of what I was feeling, for she stopped suddenly and her lips
"What has happened?" she demanded. "Will neither of you tell me? Is my
uncle worse? Has any one--any one tried to do him an injury?"
"Nothing is the matter," I answered, "except that we have come to an
end of this tissue of lies and plots and counterplots. There is no
uncle of yours in that room, nor ever has been. The man who was to
have been murdered here has gone. And for the rest, I saw you here
with Louis and I heard your conversation less than an hour ago."
"You saw us?" she gasped.
"From the transept there," I answered, pointing towards it. "I was
brought into that room to personate your uncle, to receive an attack
which was meant for him--a very clever scheme! I was drugged, and was
to have lain there to cover this fellow's crime. But there, I don't
suppose that I need tell you any of these things!" I added brutally.
She looked at me with horror.
"You do not believe--" she gasped.
"Oh! I believe nothing," I answered,--"nothing at all! Every word I
have been told by both of you is a lie! Your lives are lies! God
knows why I should ever have believed otherwise!" I said, looking at
"Let me go," Louis pleaded, "and you shall hear the truth."
"I shall be more likely to feel the knife you have in your pocket," I
answered contemptuously, for I had seen his left hand struggling
downward for the last few moments. "Oh! I'll let you go! I have no
interest in any of you,--no interest in your cursed conspiracy,
whatever it may be! Keep your story. I don't care to hear it. Lie
there and talk to your accomplice!"
I sent him reeling across the room till he fell in the corner. Then I
walked out, closing the sitting-room door behind me,--out into the
corridor and up the stairs into my own room. Then I locked and bolted
my own door and looked at my watch. It was a quarter to three. I took
a Bradshaw from my bookcase, packed a few clothes myself, set an alarm
clock for seven o'clock in the morning, and turned into bed. I told
myself that I would not think. I told myself that there was no such
person in the world as Felicia, that she had never lived, that she was
only part of this nightmare from which I was freeing myself! I told
myself that I would go to sleep, and I stayed awake until
daylight. All the time there was only one thought in my brain!
A CHANGE OF PLANS
At a few minutes past nine on the following morning, I was standing
outside the front door of the Court watching the piling of my luggage
on to a four-wheel cab. The hall-porter stood by my side,
superintending the efforts of his myrmidons.
"You had better send my letters on," I told him. "I am going down into
Norfolk for several weeks,--perhaps longer."
"Very good, sir," he answered. "By the bye," he added, turning away,
"this morning's letters have just arrived. There was one for you, I
He handed it to me, and I tore it open as I stepped on to the
pavement. It was written from Feltham Court, Norfolk, and dated the
My Dear Austen,
I send you a hurried line in case you should be thinking of coming
down here. I have decided to come up to London for a few weeks,
and have lent the Court to Lady Mary, with the exception of the
shooting, which is reserved for you. If you are in town, do look
me up at Claridge's.
I was on the point of having the cab unloaded and reconsidering my
plans. Suddenly, however, like an inspiration there flashed into my
mind the thought that it would not, perhaps, be such a very bad thing
if, under the circumstances, I kept my altered plans to myself. So I
stuffed the letter into my pocket and stepped into the four-wheeler.
"You understand, Ashley?" I said. "Send everything on to Feltham
Court,--cards, letters, or anything."
"Perfectly, sir," the man answered. "I hope you will have a pleasant
"Tell the cabman Liverpool Street," I ordered, and got in.
We rolled out of the courtyard, and I drove all the way to Liverpool
Street as though to catch my train. Arrived there, however, I
deposited my luggage in the cloak-room and drove back to Claridge's in
a hansom. I found that my brother was installed in a suite of rooms
there, and his servant, who came into the sitting-room to me at once,
told me that he believed they were up for at least a month.
"His Lordship has nearly finished dressing, sir," he added. "He will
be in, in a few minutes."
I took up the morning paper, but found nothing of interest there. Then
my brother came in, leaning heavily on two sticks, and moving
slowly. He was not more than ten years older than I was, but the shock
of his accident and subsequent sufferings had aged him terribly. His
hair had gone prematurely gray, and his face was deeply lined. I
stepped forward and took him by the hand.
"My dear Ralph," I said, "this is really first-class. The last time I
saw you, you scarcely expected to be out of your bath-chair in six
"I am getting on, Austen," he answered, "thanks! I am getting on. I
will sit in that easy-chair for a few minutes. Thanks! Then we will
have some breakfast."
"I was starting for Feltham this morning," I told him, "when I got
"When did you get back from Paris?" he asked.
"Three or four days ago," I answered.
He raised his eyebrows.
"I know that I ought to have come at once," I said, "but there were
several things in London. I found it hard to get away."
"Well?" he said.
"I met Tapilow face to face at a little French cafe," I told him.
"They tell me that he will recover, but he is maimed and scarred for
My brother showed no excitement--scarcely, even, any interest in my
information. His face, however, had darkened.
"I am glad that you did not kill him outright," he said. "Tell me,
are you likely to get into any trouble for this?"
"No!" I assured him. "The affair happened in a very dubious sort of
place. I don't think I shall hear anything more about it unless from
"We will close the chapter," he said.
"You have no news--"
"None!" he interrupted me, shortly. "We will close the chapter."
So I spoke to him no more on his own affairs. His servant brought in
the letters and papers, poked the fire, and announced that breakfast
"You will have something, Austen?" he asked.
"I have only had a continental breakfast," I answered. "I dare say I
can manage to eat something."
"I have a letter from Dicky," he remarked, later on. "Asks me to be
civil, if I can, to some people who have been remarkably kind to him
out in Brazil. They have an estate there."
"Dicky doing all right?" I asked.
"Seems to be," Ralph answered.
Dicky was our younger brother, and rather a wanderer.
"What is the name of the people who are coming over?" I asked.
"Some odd name," Ralph answered,--"Delora, I think."
Ralph had drawn the _Times_ towards him, and he did not notice my
start. I sat looking at him in blank amazement.
"Ralph!" I said presently.
My brother looked up.
"Have you got Dicky's letter on you?" I asked.
He passed it over to me. I skimmed through the first part until I came
to the sentence which interested me.
I have been out staying at an awfully fine estate here, right on
the Pampas. It belongs to some people called Delora. One of the
brothers is just off to Europe, on some Government business, and
will be in London for a few days with his niece, I expect. He is
going to stay at the Milan Hotel, and it would be awfully good of
you if you would look him up, or drop him a line. They really have
been very kind to me out here.
I pushed the letter back to Ralph.
"Have you done anything yet," I asked, "about this?"
Ralph shook his head.
"I thought you would not mind calling for me," he remarked. "I would
like to be civil to any one who has done anything for Dicky. If he
shoots, you might take him down to the Court. Mary's there, of course,
but that would not matter. There is the whole of the bachelor wing at
"I will look after it for you," I said. "You can leave it in my
hands. It is rather an odd thing, but I believe that I have met this
man in Paris."
My brother was not much interested. I was glad of the excuse to bury
myself in the pages of the _Daily Telegraph_. Here at last, then,
was something definite. The man Delora was not a fraud. He was
everything that he professed to be--a wealthy man, without a doubt. I
suddenly began to see things differently. What a coward I had been to
think of running away! After all, there might be some explanation,
even, of that meeting between the girl and Louis.
We finished our breakfast, and my brother hobbled over to the
window. For several minutes he remained there, looking out upon the
street with the aimless air of a man who scarcely knows what to do
with his day.
"What are you thinking of doing, Austen?" he asked me.
"I had no plans," I answered. "Some part of the day I thought I would
look up these people--the Deloras."
Ralph nodded and turned to his servant.
"Goreham," he said, "I will have the motor in an hour. Come and dine
with me, will you, Austen?" he said, turning to me. "I don't suppose
you will go down to Feltham for a day or two."
"I will come, with pleasure," I answered. "Where are you going to
Ralph answered a little vaguely. He had some calls to make, and he was
not altogether sure. I left him in a few minutes and descended to the
street. I turned westward and walked for some little distance, when
suddenly I was attracted by the sight of a familiar figure issuing
from the door of a large, gray stone house. We came face to face upon
the pavement. It was the man whose life I had probably saved only a
few hours ago.
He lifted his hat, and his dark eyes sought mine interrogatively.
"You were not, by chance, on the way to call upon me?" he asked.
I shook my head.
"Not only," I answered, "was I ignorant of where you lived, but I do
not even know your name."
"Both matters," he remarked quietly, "are unimportant."
I glanced at the house from which he had issued.
"It would seem," I remarked, "that you have diplomatic connections."
"Why not?" he answered. "Indeed," he continued thoughtfully, "I do not
see, Captain Rotherby, why my name should remain a secret to you."
He drew a card from his pocket, and handed it to me. I read it with
MR. ALFONSE LAMARTINE
12, Porchester Square.
"You are a South American?" I asked quickly.
"By birth," he answered. "I have lived chiefly in Paris, and here in
"You knew Mr. Delora at Brazil, then?" I asked.
"I know the family quite well," he answered. "They are very
influential people. I have told you my name, Captain Rotherby," he
continued, "because I see no reason why we two should not be frank
with one another. I am of necessity interested in the movements and
doings of Mr. Delora and his niece. You," he continued, "appear to
have been drawn a little way into the mesh of intrigue by which they
I drew my arm through his. We were walking now side by side.
"Look here," I said, "you were quite right in what you said. There is
no reason why we should have secrets from one another. Tell me about
these people, and why on earth they have any connections at all with
persons of the class of Louis and those others."
My companion spread out his hand. He stopped short on the pavement,
and gesticulated violently.
"It is you who ask me these things!" he exclaimed. "Yet it is from you
I hoped to obtain information. I know nothing,--absolutely nothing!
Simply my instructions were to meet Mr. Delora on his arrival in
London, to show him every possible civility, and to assist him in any
purpose where my help would be useful. I go to meet him--he has
disappeared! I haunt his rooms--he has not returned! His niece knows
nothing. I try to force my way into his rooms, and my life is
"Wait a moment," I said. "You spoke of instructions. From whom do you
"From my government," he answered a little shortly. "Mr. Delora has
some private business of importance here in England, in which they are
"Do you know anything of his niece?" I asked.
"Nothing whatever," the young man answered, "except that she seems a
very charming young lady, and will, I believe, inherit a great
"Do you know of any enemies that he might have?" I asked. "For
instance, is this business of his connected with any affairs which
might bring him into touch with such people as Louis and his
"I will be frank with you," the young man said. "I do not know what
his business was. Neither, curiously enough, does my chief. My
instructions simply were to meet him, and to see him day by day. You
yourself can judge how well I have succeeded!"
"Have you been to the police?" I asked.
"I have not," Lamartine answered. "We have written out to Brazil
explaining the circumstances, and asking for a cablegram in reply. By
the bye," he continued, a little diffidently, "did it strike you last
night that Miss Delora must have been associated with that blackguard
Louis in his little attempt upon me?"
"I do not believe anything of the sort!" I answered shortly.
The young man smiled cynically.
"It is perhaps natural," he answered.
"You are not seriously suggesting," I asked, "that a young lady in the
position of Miss Delora would descend to scheming with a head-waiter?"
"Captain Rotherby," my companion said, "I do not know anything. I do
not understand anything. I only know that the Delora business has
puzzled me,--has puzzled my chief. We have important communications
for Mr. Delora, and he cannot be found."
"It is not possible," I declared, "for a man to disappear in London."
"A man may disappear anywhere," Lamartine said dryly, "when such
people as Louis are interested in him! However, we do no good by
comparing notes when we neither of us know anything. If I should gain
any information of Mr. Delora's whereabouts--"
I gave him my card quickly.
"We will exchange our news," I assured him. "It is a promise."
He bowed, and left me with a little farewell wave of the hand.
A FORMAL CALL
I changed my mind about calling at the Milan that morning, but toward
five o'clock in the afternoon I presented myself there, and gave the
hall-porter my card to send up to Miss Delora. He received me with