Part 4 out of 6
some surprise, but I explained that I had been obliged to postpone my
visit into the country.
"Miss Delora has asked twice about you this morning, sir," he
announced. "I gave her your country address."
"Quite right," I answered. "By the bye, is Mr. Delora visible yet?"
"Not yet, sir," the man answered. "Rather a curious thing about his
return, sir," he added. "Not a soul has even seen him yet."
I nodded, but made no remark. Presently the boy who had taken my card
"Miss Delora would be glad if you would step upstairs, sir," he
I followed him into the lift and up to number 157. Felicia was there
alone. She rose from the couch as I entered, and waited until the door
had closed behind the disappearing page. Then she held out her hands,
and there was something in her eyes which I could not resist. I was
suddenly ashamed of all my suspicions.
"So you have come back," she said softly. "That is very kind of you,
Capitaine Rotherby. I have been lonely--very lonely, indeed."
"I have come back," I answered, taking her hands into mine and holding
them for a moment.
"I am nervous all the time, and afraid," she continued, standing close
by my side and looking up. "Only think of it, Capitaine Rotherby,--it
is this journey to London to which I have been looking forward for so
many, many years, and now that it has come I am miserable!"
"Your uncle--" I asked.
"They told me what was not true!" she exclaimed. "He is not back. I am
here all alone. He does not come to me, and he will not let me go to
him. But you will sit down, Capitaine Rotherby?" she added. "You are
not in a hurry? You are not going away again?"
"Not just yet, at any rate," I admitted. "Do you know that after all
this is a very small world! I have come to pay you a formal call on
behalf of my brother who is an invalid."
Her eyes grew round with surprise.
"But I do not understand!" she said.
I told her of my brother's letter from South America. She listened
with interest which seemed mingled with anxiety.
"It is very strange," she said, when I had finished,--"very
delightful, too, of course!" she added hurriedly. "Tell me, is it my
uncle Maurice or my uncle Ferdinand of whom your brother spoke most in
"He did not mention the Christian names of either," I told her. "He
simply said that one of the Mr. Deloras and his niece were coming to
London, and he begged us to do all we could to make their visit
pleasant. Do you know," I continued, "that as I came along I had an
"Yes?" she exclaimed.
"Why shouldn't you come down into the country," I said, "to my aunt's?
She will send you a telegram at once if I tell her to, and we could
all stay together down at Feltham,--my brother's house in Norfolk. You
are out of place here. You are not enjoying yourself, and you are
worried to death. Beside which," I added more slowly, "you are mixed
up with people with whom you should have nothing whatever to do."
"If only I could!" she murmured. "If only I could!"
"Why not?" I said. "Mr. Delora comes here with an introduction which
precludes my criticising his friends or his connections, however
strange they may be, but it is very certain that you ought not to be
left here alone to rely upon the advice of a head-waiter, to be
practically at the beck and call of men of whose existence you should
be unconscious. I want you to make up your mind and come away with
A little flush of color stole into her cheeks, and her eyes danced
"I do no good here!" she exclaimed. "Why not? You, too, Capitaine
Rotherby,--you would come?"
"I would take you there," I answered, "and I would do my best, my very
best, to keep you entertained."
"I shall ask!" she exclaimed. "To-night I shall ask."
"Ask whom?" I inquired. "Louis?"
She shook her head.
"My uncle," she answered.
"You will not see him!" I exclaimed.
"He will telephone," she answered. "He has promised."
I reached over towards her and took her hands into mine.
"Felicia," I said boldly, "I am your friend. The letter I have told
you of should prove that. I am only anxious for your good. Tell me
what reason your uncle can have for behaving in this extraordinary
way, for allowing himself to be associated even for a moment with such
people as Louis and his friends?"
Everything that it had made me so happy to see in her face died
away. She was once more wan and anxious.
"I cannot tell you," she said,--"I cannot, because I dare not! I have
promised! Only remember this. My uncle has lived in Paris for so many
"But I thought that he had just come from South America!" I
"Yes, but before that," she explained breathlessly,--"before that! He
loves the mysterious. He likes to be associated with strange people,
and I do believe, too," she continued, "that he has business just now
which must be kept secret for the sake of other people. Oh, I know it
must all seem so strange to you! Won't you believe, Capitaine
Rotherby, that I am grateful for your kindness, and that I would tell
you if I could?"
"I must," I answered, with a sigh. "I must believe what you tell
me. Listen, then. I shall wait until you hear from your uncle."
"Have you come back to your rooms?" she asked timidly.
"I shall do so," I announced, "but I hope that it will be only for the
night. To-morrow, if all goes well, we may be on our way to Norfolk."
There was a knock at the door. She started, and looked at me a little
uneasily. Almost immediately the door was pushed open. It was Louis
who entered, bearing a menu card. He addressed me with a little air of
surprise. I was at once certain that he had known of my visit, and had
come to see what it might mean.
"Monsieur has returned very soon," he remarked, bowing pleasantly.
"My journey was not a long one, Louis," I answered. "What have you
brought that thing for?" I continued, pointing to the menu card. "Do
you want an order for dinner? Miss Delora is dining elsewhere with
My tone was purposely aggressive. Louis' manners, however, remained
"Miss Delora has engaged a table in the cafe," he said. "I have come
myself to suggest a little dinner. I trust she will not disappoint us."
She looked at me pathetically. There was something which I could not
understand in her face. Only I knew that whatever she might ask me I
was prepared to grant.
"Will you not stay and dine here with me?" she said. "Louis will give
us a very good dinner, and afterwards I shall have my message, and I
shall know whether I may go or not."
The humor of the idea appealed to me. There was suddenly something
fantastic, unbelievable, in the events of last night.
"With pleasure!" I answered.
Louis bowed, and for a moment or two seemed entirely engrossed in the
few additions he was making to the menu he carried. Then he handed it
to me with a little bow.
"There, monsieur," he said. "I think that you will find that
"I have no doubt that we shall, Louis," I answered. "I will only ask
you to remember one thing."
"And that, monsieur?" he asked.
"I dine with mademoiselle," I said, "and our appetites are identical!"
Louis smiled. There were times when I suspected him of a sense of
"Monsieur has not the thick neck of Bartot!" he murmured, as he
It seemed to me that Felicia that night was in her most charming
mood. She wore a dress of some soft white material, and a large black
hat, under which her face--a little paler even than usual--wore almost
a pathetic aspect. Her fingers touched my arm as we entered the
restaurant together. She seemed, in a way, to have lost some of her
self-control,--the exclusiveness with which she had surrounded
herself,--and to have become at once more natural and more girlish. I
noticed that she chose a seat with her back to the room, and I
understood her reason even before she told me.
"I think," she said, "that to-night it would be pleasant to forget
that there is any one here who disturbs me. I think it would be
pleasant to remember only that this great holiday of mine, which I
have looked forward to so long, has really begun."
"You have looked forward to coming to London so much?" I asked.
"Yes!" she answered. "I have lived a very quiet life, Capitaine
Rotherby. After the Sisters had finished with me--and I stayed at the
school longer than any of the others--I went straight to the house of
a friend of my uncle's, where I had only a _dame de compagnie_.
My uncle--he was so long coming, and the life was very dull. But
always he wrote to me, 'Some day I will take you to London!' Even
when we were in Paris together he would tell me that."
"Tell me," I asked, "what is your uncle's Christian name?"
"I have three uncles," she said, after a moment's
hesitation,--"Maurice, Ferdinand, and Nicholas. Nicholas lives all the
time in South America. Maurice and Ferdinand are often in Paris."
"And the uncle with whom you are now?" I asked.
I seemed to have been unfortunate in my choice of a conversation. Her
eyes had grown larger. The quivering of her lips was almost pitiful.
"I am a clumsy ass!" I interrupted quickly. "I am asking you questions
which you do not wish to answer. A little later on, perhaps, you will
tell me everything of your own accord. But to-night I shall ask you
nothing. We will remember only that the holiday has begun."
She drew a little sigh of relief.
"You are so kind," she murmured, "so very kind. Indeed I do not want
to think of these things, which I do not understand, and which only
puzzle me all the time. We will let them alone, is it not so? We will
let them alone and talk about foolish things. Or you shall tell me
about London, and the country--tell me what we will do. Indeed, I may
go down to your home in Norfolk."
"I think you will like it there," I said. "It is too stuffy for London
these months. My brother's house is not far from the sea. There is a
great park which stretches down to some marshes, and beyond that the
"Can one bathe?" she asked breathlessly.
"Of course," I answered. "There is a private beach, and when we have
people in the house at this time of the year we always have the
motor-car ready to take them down and back. That is for those who
bathe early. Later on it is only a pleasant walk. Then you can learn
games if you like,--golf and tennis, cricket and croquet."
"I should be so stupid," she said, with a little regretful sigh. "In
France they did not teach me those things. I can play tennis a little,
but oh! so badly; and in England," she continued, "you think so much
of your games. Tell me, Capitaine Rotherby, will you think me very
stupid in the country if I can do nothing but swim a little and play
tennis very badly?"
"Rather not!" I answered. "There is the motor, you know. I could take
you for some delightful drives. We should find plenty to do, I am
sure, and I promise you that if only you will be as amiable as you are
here I shall not find any fault."
"You will like to have me there?" she asked.
Her question came with the simplicity of a child. She laughed softly
with pleasure when I leaned over the table and whispered to her,--
"Better than anything else in the world!"
"I am not sure, Capitaine Rotherby," she said, looking at me out of
her great eyes, "whether you are behaving nicely."
"If I am not," I declared, "it is your fault! You should not look so
She laughed softly.
"And you should not make such speeches to a poor little foreign girl,"
she said, "who knows so little of your London ways."
Louis stood suddenly before us. We felt his presence like a cold
shadow. The laughter died away from her eyes, and I found it difficult
enough to address him civilly.
"Monsieur is well served?" he asked. "Everything all right, eh?"
"Everything is very good, as usual, Louis," I answered. "The only
thing that is amiss you cannot alter."
"For example?" he asked.
"The atmosphere," I answered. "It is no weather for London."
"Monsieur is right," he admitted. "He is thinking of departing for the
"It depends a little upon mademoiselle," I answered.
Louis shook his head very slowly. He had the air of a man who
discusses something with infinite regret.
"It would be very delightful indeed," he said, "if it were possible
for mademoiselle to go into Norfolk to your brother's house. It would
be very good for mademoiselle, but I am not sure--I fear that her
"How the mischief did you know anything about it?" I asked in
Louis smiled--that subtle, half-concealed smile which seemed scarcely
to part his lips.
"Why should not mademoiselle have told me?" he asked.
"But I have not!" she declared suddenly. "I have not seen Louis since
you were here this afternoon, Capitaine Rotherby."
Louis extended his hands.
"It is true," he admitted. "It is not from mademoiselle that I had the
news. But there, one cannot tell. Things may alter at any moment. It
may be very pleasant for Monsieur Delora that his niece is able to
accept this charming invitation."
"So you have been in communication with Mr. Delora, Louis?" I asked.
"Naturally," Louis answered. "He told me of mademoiselle's request. He
told me that he had promised to reply at ten o'clock this evening."
"Perhaps you can tell us," I remarked, "what that reply will be?"
Louis' face remained absolutely expressionless. He only shook his
"Mr. Delora is his own master," he said. "It may suit him to be
without mademoiselle, or it may not. Pardon, monsieur!"
Louis was gone, but he had left his shadow behind.
"He does not think," she murmured, "that I may come!"
"Felicia,--" I said.
"But I did not say that you might call me Felicia!" she interrupted.
"Then do say so," I begged.
"For this evening, then," she assented.
"For this evening, then, Felicia," I continued. "I do not wish to
worry you by talking about certain things, but do you not think
yourself that your uncle is very inconsiderate to leave you here alone
on your first visit to London,--not to come near the place, or provide
you with any means of amusement? Why should he hesitate to let you
come to us?"
"We will not talk of it," she begged, a little nervously. "I must do
as he wishes. We will hope that he says yes, will we not?"
"He must say yes!" I declared. "If he doesn't I'll find out where he
is, somehow, and go and talk to him!"
She shook her head.
"He is very much engaged," she said. "He would not like you to find
him out, nor would he have any time to talk to you."
"Selling his coffee?" I could not help saying.
"To-night, Capitaine Rotherby," she answered softly, "we do not talk
of those things. Tell me what else we shall do down at your brother's
"We shall go for long walks," I told her. "There are beautiful gardens
there--a rose garden more than a hundred years old, and at the end of
it a footpath which leads through a pine plantation and then down to
the sea marshes. We can sit and watch the sea and talk, and when you
find it dull we will fill the house with young people, and play games
and dance--dance by moonlight, if you like. Or we can go fishing," I
continued. "There is a small yacht there and a couple of
She listened as though afraid of losing a single word.
"Tell me," I asked, "have you been lonely all your life, child?"
"All my life," she answered, and somehow or other her voice seemed to
me full of tears, so that I was almost surprised to find her eyes
dry. "Yes, I have always been lonely!" she murmured. "My uncle has
been kind to me, but he has always some great scheme on hand, and
Madame Muller--she would be kind if she knew how, I think, but she is
as though she were made of wood. She has no sympathy, she does not
"I wonder," I said reflectively, "what made your uncle bring you
"It was a promise," she said hurriedly,--"a promise of long ago. You
yourself must know that. Your letter from your brother in South
America said, 'Mr. Delora and his niece.'"
"It is true," I admitted. "But why he should want to bring you and
then neglect you like this--But I forgot," I interrupted. "We must not
talk so. Tell me, you have been often to the theatre in Paris?"
"Very seldom," she answered, "and I love it so much. Madame Muller and
I go sometimes, but where we live is some distance from Paris, and it
is difficult to get home afterwards, especially for us two alone. My
uncle takes us sometimes, but he is generally so occupied."
"He is often in Paris, then?" I asked.
She started a little.
"Yes!" she said hurriedly. "He is often there, of course. But please
do not forget,--to-night we do not talk about my uncle. We talk about
ourselves. May I ask you something?"
"Certainly!" I answered.
"If my uncle says 'No!'--that I may not come--do you go away
altogether, then, to-morrow?"
"No," I answered, "I do not! I shall not leave you alone here. So long
as you stay, I shall remain in London."
She drew a little breath, and with a quick, impetuous movement her
hand stole across the table and pressed mine.
"It is so good of you!" she murmured.
"I am afraid that it is selfishness, Felicia," I answered. "I should
not care to go away and leave you here. I am beginning to find," I
added, "that the pleasures in life which do not include you count for
"You will turn my head," she declared, with a delightful little laugh.
"It is the truth," I assured her.
"I am quite sure now," she murmured, "that my great holiday has
A TANTALIZING GLIMPSE
Felicia laid down the receiver and looked at me. There was scarcely
any need for words. Her disappointment was written into her white
"You are not to come!" I said.
"I am not--to come," she repeated. "After all, my holiday is not yet."
"Will you tell me," I asked, "where I can find your uncle?"
She shook her head.
"You must not ask me such a thing," she declared.
"Remember," I said, "that I have really called to make his
acquaintance as a matter of courtesy on behalf of my brother. What
excuse do you give me for his absence? Tell me what it is that you
are supposed to say in such a case?"
"Simply that he is away for a few days, engaged in the most important
business," she answered. "He will rejoin me here directly it is
"And in the meantime," I said thoughtfully, "you are left in a strange
hotel without friends, without a chaperon, absolutely unprotected, and
with only a head-waiter in your confidence. Felicia, there is
something very wrong here. I am not sure," I continued, "that it is
not my duty to run away with you."
She clasped her hands.
"Delightful!" she murmured. "But I mustn't think of it," she added,
with a sudden gravity, "nor must you talk to me like that. What my
uncle says is best to be done. He knows and understands. If he has had
to leave me here alone, it is because it is necessary."
"You have a great deal of faith in him," I remarked.
"He has always been kind to me," she answered, "and I know that the
business upon which he is engaged just now is hazardous and
difficult. There are men who do not wish it to go through, and they
watch for him. If they knew his whereabouts they would try to stop
"Felicia, do you know what that business is?" I asked.
"I have some idea of it," she answered.
Her answer puzzled me. If Felicia really had any idea as to the nature
of it, and was content to play the part she was playing, it certainly
could not be anything of an illicit nature. Yet everything else which
had come under my notice pointed to Delora's being associated with a
criminal undertaking. I paced the room, deep in thought. Felicia all
the time was watching me anxiously.
"You are not going to leave me?" she asked very softly.
I came to a standstill before her.
"No, Felicia," I said, "I am not going to leave you! But I want to
tell you this. I am going to try and find out for myself the things
which you will not tell me. No, you must not try to stop me!" I said,
anticipating the words which indeed had trembled upon her lips. "It
must be either that or farewell, Felicia. I cannot remain here and do
absolutely nothing. I want to find your uncle, and to have some sort
of an explanation from him, and I mean to do it."
She shook her head.
"There are others who are trying to find him," she said, "but I do not
think that they will succeed. The young man who was here the other
night, for instance."
"If I fail, I fail," I answered. "At any rate, I shall be doing
something. I must go back to my brother's to-night, Felicia, because I
have promised to stay with him. In a day or two I shall return to my
rooms here, and I shall do my best to find out the meaning of your
uncle's mysterious movements. It may seem impertinent to you to
interfere in anybody else's concerns. I cannot help it. It is for
your sake. The present position is impossible!"
"You are not staying here to-night?" she asked.
"To-night, no!" I answered. "I will let you know directly I return."
"There is one thing else, Capitaine Rotherby. Could you promise it to
me, I wonder?"
"I will try," I answered.
"Do not quarrel any more, if you can help it," she begged, "with
Her question forced a laugh from my lips. Quarrel with Louis, indeed!
What more could I do in that direction? Then I frowned, in temporary
annoyance. I hated to hear her speak of him as a person to be
"Louis is a venomous little person," I said, "but I certainly should
not quarrel with him more than I can help. I am, unfortunately, in his
debt, or I should have dealt with him before now."
I glanced at the clock and jumped up. It was very much later than I
had thought. She gave me her hands a little wistfully.
"I do not like to think of you here alone," I said. "I wish that I
could persuade you to engage a maid."
She shook her head.
"My uncle would not allow it," she said simply. "He says that servants
are always prying into one's concerns. Good night, Capitaine
Rotherby! Thank you so much for taking me out this evening. After all,
I cannot help feeling that it has been rather like the beginning of
I held her hands tightly in mine.
"When it really begins," I answered, "I shall try and make it a little
I declined a taxicab and turned to walk back to my brother's hotel.
Certainly in the problem of these two people who had come so curiously
into my life there was very much to give me matter for thought. I
believed in the girl, and trusted her. More than that I did not dare
to ask myself! I should have believed in her, even if her uncle were
proved to be a criminal of the most dangerous type. But none the less
I could not help realizing that her present position was a singularly
unfortunate one. To be alone in a big hotel, without maid or chaperon,
herself caught up in this web of mystery which Louis and those others
seemed to have woven around her, was in itself undesirable and
unnatural. Whatever was transpiring, I was quite certain that her
share in it was a passive one. She had been told to be silent, and
she was silent. Nothing would ever make me believe that she was a
party to any wrong-doing. And yet the more I thought of Delora the
less I trusted him. At Charing Cross Station, for instance, his had
not been the anxiety of a man intrusted with a difficult mission. His
agitation had been due to fear,--fear abject and absolute. I had seen
the symptoms more than once in my life, and there was no mistaking
them. I told myself that no man could be so shaken who was engaged in
honest dealings. Even now he was in hiding,--it could not be called
anything else,--and the one person with whom I had come in touch who
was searching for him was, without a doubt, on the side of law and
justice, with at least some settled position behind him. Delora's
deportment was more the deportment of a fugitive from justice than of
a man in the confidence of his government.
Walking a little carelessly, I took a turn too far northward, and
found myself in one of the streets leading out of Shaftesbury
Avenue. I was on the point of taking a passage which would lead me
more in my proper direction, when my attention was attracted by a
large motor-car standing outside one of the small foreign restaurants
which abound in this district. I was always interested in cars, but I
noticed this one more particularly from the fact of its utter
incompatibility with its surroundings. It was one of the handsomest
cars I had ever seen,--a sixty to eighty horse-power Daimler,--fitted
up inside with the utmost luxury. The panels were plain, and the
chauffeur, who sat motionless in his place, wore dark livery and was
apparently a foreigner. I slackened my pace to glance for a moment at
the non-skidding device on the back tire, and as I passed on I saw the
door of the little restaurant open, and a tall _commissionnaire_
hurried out. He held open the door of the car and stood at attention.
Two men issued from the restaurant and crossed the pavement. I turned
deliberately round to watch them--vulgar curiosity, perhaps, but a
curiosity which I never regretted. The first man--tall and
powerful--wore the splendid dress and black silk cap of a Chinese of
high rank. The man who followed him was Delora. I knew him in a
second, although he wore a white silk scarf around his neck,
concealing the lower part of his face, and a silk hat pushed down
almost over his eyes. I saw his little nervous glance up and down the
street, I saw him push past the _commissionnaire_ as though in a
hurry to gain the semi-obscurity of the car. I stopped short upon the
pavement, motionless for one brief and fatal moment. Then I turned
back and hastened to the side of the car. I knocked at the window.
"Delora," I said, "I must speak to you."
The car had begun to move. I wrenched at the handle, but I found it
held on the inside with a grip which even I could not move. I looked
into the broad, expressionless face of the Chinaman, who, leaning
forward, completely shielded the person of the man with whom I sought
"One moment," I called out. "I must speak with Mr. Delora. I have a
message for him."
The car was going faster now. I tried to jump on to the step, but the
first time I missed it. Then the window was suddenly let down. The
Chinaman's arm flashed out and struck me on the chest, so that I was
forced to relinquish my grasp of the handle. I reeled back, preserving
my balance only by a desperate effort. Before I could start in
pursuit, the car had turned into the more crowded thoroughfare, and
when I reached the spot where it had disappeared a few seconds later,
it was lost amongst the stream of vehicles.
I went back to the restaurant. It was like a hundred others of its
class--stuffy, smelly, reminiscent of the poorer business quarters of
a foreign city. A waiter in a greasy dress-suit flicked some crumbs
from a vacant table and motioned me to sit down. I ordered a Fin
Champagne, and put half-a-crown into his hand.
"Tell me," I said, "five minutes ago a Chinaman and another man were
The man laid the half-crown down on the table. His manner had
undergone a complete change.
"Perhaps so, sir," he answered. "We have been busy to-night. I noticed
I called the proprietor to me--a little pale-faced man with a black
moustache, who had been hovering in the background. He hastened to my
side, smiling and bowing. This time I did not ask him a direct
"I am interested in the restaurants of this quarter," I said. "Some
one has told me that your dinner is marvellous!"
He smiled a little suspiciously. The word was perhaps unfortunate!
"I am bringing some friends to try it very soon," I said.
The waiter brought my Fin Champagne. I drank it and ordered a cigar.
"You have all sorts of people here," I remarked. "I noticed a
Chinaman--he was very much like the Chinese ambassador, by the
bye--leaving as I came in."
The proprietor extended his hands.
"We have people of every class, monsieur," he assured me. "One comes
and tells his friends, and they come, and so on. I believe that there
was a Chinese gentleman here to-night. One does not notice. We were
I paid my bill and departed. The _commissionnaire_ pushed open
the door, whistle in hand. He looked at me a little curiously. Without
doubt he had watched my attempt to speak to Delora. I drew a
half-sovereign from my pocket.
"Tell me," I said, "do you want to earn that?"
He was a German, with a large pasty face and a yellow moustache. His
eyes were small, and they seemed to contract with greed as they looked
upon the coin.
"Sir!" he answered, with a bow.
"Who was the Chinese gentleman with the splendid motor-car?" I asked.
The man spread out his hands.
"Who can tell?" he said. "He dined here to-night in a private room."
A private room! Well, that was something, at any rate!
"You do not know his name or where he comes from?" I asked.
The man shook his head, glancing nervously towards the interior of the
"The other gentleman?" I asked.
"I do not know his name, sir," the man declared with emphasis. "He has
been here once or twice, but always alone."
I put the half-sovereign in my pocket and drew out a sovereign. The
man stretched out an eager hand which he suddenly dropped. He pointed
down the street. The swing door of the restaurant remained closed, but
over the soiled white curtain I also could see the face of the
proprietor peering out.
"It is the second turn to the left," the man said to me.
"And if you want that sovereign made into five," I said carelessly,
"my name is Captain Rotherby, and I am going from here to Claridge's
I walked down the street and left him looking after me. At the corner
I glanced around. The proprietor and the _commissionnaire_ were
talking together on the pavement.
PRIVATE AND DIPLOMATIC
The following evening I dined alone with my brother, who was, for him,
in an unusually cheerful frame of mind. He talked with more interest
of life and his share in it than he had done--to me, at any
rate--since the tragedy which had deprived him of a home. Toward the
end of dinner I asked him a question.
"Ralph," I said, "how could I meet the Chinese ambassador here?"
He stared at me for a moment.
"Why, at any of the diplomatic receptions, I suppose," he said, seeing
that I was in earnest. "He is rather a pal of Freddy's. Why don't you
ring up and ask him?"
"I will, the moment after dinner," I answered.
"Why this sudden interest in Orientalism?" Ralph asked curiously.
"Curiously enough, it is apropos of these Deloras," I answered. "I
called to-day, but only found the girl in. The man I saw later with a
Chinaman whom I believe to be the ambassador."
"What is the girl like?" my brother asked.
"Charming!" I answered. "I am writing Aunt Mary to invite her down to
Feltham. The difficulty seems to be to get hold of Delora."
"So you've written Aunt Mary, eh?" Ralph remarked, looking up at
me. "Austen, I believe you're gone on the girl!"
"I believe I am," I admitted equably. "So would you be if you saw
Ralph half closed his eyes for a moment. It was a clumsy speech of
"Seriously, Austen," he continued, a few moments later, "have you ever
thought of marrying?"
"Equally seriously, Ralph," I answered, "not until I met Felicia
"Felicia Delora!" my brother repeated. "It's a pretty name, at any
rate. I suppose I must go and see her myself."
"Wait for a day or two, Ralph," I begged. "She is a little upset just
now. Her uncle seems to be neglecting her for some precious scheme of
"I wonder if, by any chance, you are in earnest, Austen?" my brother
"I should not be surprised," I admitted.
"It's an interesting subject, you know," Ralph continued gravely.
"Considering my accident, and other things which we need not allude
to, I think we may take it for granted that there's no chance of my
ever having an heir. It's our duty to look ahead a little, you know,
Austen. There isn't any manner of doubt that some time between now and
the next ten years you will have to take up my place. I only hope you
won't make such a hash of it."
"Don't talk rubbish, Ralph!" I answered.
"It isn't rubbish," he said firmly. "You go and talk to my doctor if
you don't believe me. However, I hadn't meant to say anything about
this to-night. Your mentioning the girl put it into my head.
I want you, of course, to know that I am not forgetful of my
responsibilities. Your two thousand a year may do you very well as a
bachelor, but you are heir apparent to the title now, and if you
should think of marrying, the Fakenham estates are yours, and the
house. They bring in between six and seven thousand a year, I
"It's very good of you, Ralph,--" I began.
"It's nothing of the sort," he answered. "It's your rightful position.
The Fakenham estates have been held by the heir apparent for
generations. Tell me a little about this Miss Delora."
"I'll bring her to see you presently, Ralph," I answered.
"You are in earnest, then?" he remarked, with a smile.
"I believe so," I answered.
He looked at me once more, searchingly.
"There is something on your mind, Austen," he said,--"something
bothering you. I believe it is about these Deloras, too. Is there
something about them which you can't understand, eh?"
"There is, Ralph," I admitted. "You saw what Dicky said. They are
people of consequence in their own country, at any rate, yet over here
the man seems to behave like a hunted criminal."
"Dicky also said," Ralph remarked, "that the man was intrusted with
some business over here for his government. Nasty underhand lot, those
republics of the Southern Hemisphere. I dare say he is driven to be a
bit mysterious to carry the thing through."
"I shall know more about it soon, I hope," I answered. "I'll go and
ring Freddy up, if you don't mind, now."
"I'm off to my room, at any rate, old chap," he said. "Groves is going
abroad for a month's holiday, and he has brought some papers for me to
look through. See you some time to-morrow."
I made my way into the little sitting-room which belonged to the suite
of rooms my brother had placed at my disposal. There I rang up Lord
Frederic Maynard, my first cousin, and a junior member of the
government. The butler told me that Lord Frederic was dining, but
would doubtless speak to me for a moment. In a minute or two I heard
his familiar voice.
"Freddy," I said, "I want to meet the Chinese ambassador."
"Eleven till one to-night here," he answered. "What the devil do you
want with him?"
"Do you mean that he is coming to your house to-night?" I asked.
"Exactly," Freddy answered. "We've a political reception,
semi-diplomatic. I saw our old friend only yesterday, and he reminded
me that he was coming."
"You're a brick, Freddy!" I answered. "I'll be round."
"You have not answered my question," he reminded me.
"I'll tell you later," I answered, and rang off.
I was at Maynard House very soon after eleven, and, after chatting for
a little while with my hostess, I hung around near the entrance,
watching the arrivals. About midnight His Excellency the Chinese
ambassador was announced, and I felt a little thrill of exultation. I
was right! The tall, powerful-looking man whom I saw bowing over my
cousin's hand was indeed the person whom I had seen with Delora a few
hours ago. I ran Freddy to ground, and presently I found myself also
bowing before His Excellency. He regarded me through his horn-rimmed
spectacles with a benign and pleasant expression. I had been in the
East, and I talked for a few moments upon the subjects which I thought
would interest him.
"Your Excellency, I dare say, is well acquainted with London," I
remarked, apropos of something he said.
"I know your great city only indifferently," he answered. "I am
always anxious to take the opportunity of seeing more of it."
"Last evening, for instance," I remarked, "Your Excellency was, I
think, exploring a very interesting neighborhood."
"Last evening," he repeated. "Let me think. No, not last evening,
Captain Rotherby! I was giving a little dinner at my own house."
I looked at him for a moment in silence. There was nothing to be
learned from his expression.
"I thought," I said, "that I saw your Excellency in a street near
Shaftesbury Avenue, leaving a small foreign restaurant,--the Cafe
Universel. Your Excellency was with a man named Delora."
Very slowly the ambassador shook his head.
"Not me!" he said. "Not me! I did dine with the younger members of the
Legation in Langham Place. What name did you say?"
"A man named Delora," I repeated.
Once more the ambassador shook his head, slowly and thoughtfully.
"Delora!" he repeated. "The name is unknown to me. There are many
others of my race in London now," he continued. "The costume, perhaps,
makes one seem like another to those who look and pass by."
I bowed very low. It was the most magnificently told lie to which I
had ever listened in my life! His Excellency smiled at me graciously
as I made my adieux, and passed on. Despite my disappointment, I felt
that I was now becoming profoundly interested in my quest. The
evidence, too, was all in favor of Delora. It seemed, indeed, as
though this undertaking in which he was involved might, after all, be
connected with other things than crime!
It was past one o'clock in the morning when I returned to the hotel,
yet the porter who admitted me pointed toward the figure of a man who
stood waiting in the dimly lit hall.
"There is a person here who has been waiting to see you for some
hours, sir," he said. "His name is Fritz."
"To see me?" I repeated.
The man came a step forward and saluted. I recognized him at once. It
was the _commissionnaire_ at the Cafe Universel.
"It is quite right," I told the porter. "You had better come up to my
rooms," I added, turning to Fritz.
I led the way to the lift and on to my sitting-room. There I turned up
the electric lights and threw myself into an easy-chair.
"Well, Fritz," said I, "I hope that you have brought me some news."
"I have lost my job, sir," the man answered, a little sullenly.
"How much was it worth to you?" I asked.
"It was worth nearly two pounds a week with tips," he declared,
speaking with a strong foreign accent.
"Then I take you into my service at two pounds ten a week from
to-night," I said. "The engagement will not be a long one, but you may
find it lucrative."
The man fingered his hat and looked at me stolidly.
"I am not a valet, sir," he replied.
"If you were I should not employ you," I answered. "You can make
yourself very useful to me in another direction, if you care to."
"I am very willing, sir," the man declared,--"very willing indeed. I
have a wife and children, and I cannot afford to be out of
"Come, then," I said. "The long and short of it is this. I want to
discover the whereabouts of the man who was with the Chinaman at your
restaurant last evening."
The man looked at me with something like surprise in his face.
"You do not know that?" he said.
"I do not," I admitted. "Your business will be to find out."
"And what do I get," the man asked, "if I do discover the staying
place of that gentleman?"
"A ten-pound note," I answered, "down on the nail."
A slow smile suffused Fritz's face.
"I will tell you now," he said. "You have the ten pounds, so?"
"I have it ready," I answered, rising to my feet. "Come on, Fritz, you
are a brave fellow, and I promise you it shall not end at ten pounds."
"You are serious?" Fritz persisted. "This is not a joke?"
"Not in the least," I assured him. "Why should you think so?"
The smile on the man's face broadened.
"Because," he said, "that gentleman--he is staying here, in this very
For a moment I was silent. The thing seemed impossible!
"How on earth do you know that, Fritz?" I asked.
"I will tell you," Fritz answered. "There was a night, not long ago,
when he did come to the restaurant with the Chinese gentleman. They
talked for a long time, and then I was sent for into the private room
where they were taking dinner. The gentleman he wrote a note and he
gave it to me. He said, 'You will take a hansom cab and you will drive
to Claridge's Hotel. You will give this to the cashier, and he will
hand you a small parcel which you will bring here.' I told him that I
could not leave my post, but he had already seen the proprietor. So I
came to this very hotel with that note, and I did take back to the
restaurant a small parcel wrapped in brown paper."
"Fritz," I said, "sit down in that easy-chair and help yourself to
whiskey and soda. I am sorry that I have not beer, but you must do the
best you can with our own national drink. Take a cigar, too. Make
yourself quite comfortable. I am going downstairs to the reception
office. If I find that what you have told me is true, there will be
two five-pound notes in my hand for you when I come back."
"So!" Fritz declared, accepting my hospitality with calm satisfaction.
I descended into the hall of the hotel and made my way to the
reception office. The one clerk on duty was reading a novel, which he
promptly laid aside at my approach. It occurred to me that my task,
perhaps, might not prove so easy, as Delora would scarcely be staying
here under his own name.
"I wanted to ask you," I said, "if you have a gentleman here named
The man shook his head.
"There is no one of that name in the hotel, sir," he answered.
"I scarcely expected that there would be," I remarked. "The fact is,
the gentleman whom I want to find, and whom I know is or was staying
here, is using another name which I have not heard. You know who I
"Certainly, Captain Rotherby!" the man replied. "You are Lord
"You will understand, then," I said, "that if I ask questions which
seem to you impertinent, I do so because the matter is important, and
not from any idle curiosity."
"Quite so, sir," the man answered. "I shall be pleased to tell you
anything I can."
"This gentleman of whom I am in search, then," I answered, "he would
have arrived probably last Wednesday evening from the Continent. I do
not know what name he would give, but it would probably not be the
name of Delora. He is rather tall, pale, thin, and of distinctly
foreign appearance. He has black eyes, black imperial, and looks like
a South American, which, by the bye, I think he is. Does that
description help you to recognize him?"
"I think so, sir," the man answered. "Do you happen to know whether,
by any chance, he would be a friend of the Chinese ambassador?"
"I should think it very likely," I answered. "He is staying here,
"He was staying here until a few hours ago, sir," the man answered.
"He came in about ten o'clock and went at once to his rooms, sent for
his bill, and left the hotel in a great hurry. I remember the
circumstance particularly, because he had said nothing about his
going, and from the manner of his return and his hasty departure it is
quite clear that he had not expected to leave so soon himself."
I was a little staggered. It seemed hard luck to have so nearly
succeeded in my search, only to have failed at the last moment. It was
maddening, too, to think that for all these hours I had been in the
same hotel as the man whom I so greatly desired to find!
"Tell me, did he leave any address?" I asked.
"None whatever, sir," the man answered. "Our junior clerk here asked
him where he would wish letters to be forwarded, and he replied that
there would not be any. I think he said that he was leaving for abroad
almost at once, but would call before he sailed in case there were any
letters or messages for him."
"Tell me under what name he stayed here?" I asked.
"Mr. Vanderpoel," the man told me.
"He was quite alone, I suppose?" I asked.
"Absolutely," the man answered. "He had a few callers at different
times, but he spent most of his time in his rooms. If you are
particularly anxious to discover his whereabouts," the clerk
continued, "the night porter who would have started him off is still
"I should like very much to speak to him," I said.
The clerk touched a bell, and the porter came in from outside.
"You remember Mr. Vanderpoel leaving this evening?" the clerk asked.
"Certainly, sir," the man answered. "He went at about eleven o'clock."
"Did he go in a cab?" the clerk asked.
"In a four-wheeler, sir," the porter answered.
"Do you remember what address he gave?"
The porter looked dubious for a moment.
"I don't absolutely remember, sir," he said, "but I know that it was
one of the big railway stations."
The clerk turned to me.
"Is there anything else you would like to ask?" he inquired.
I shook my head.
"No, thanks!" I answered. "I am afraid there is nothing more to be
The porter went back to his duties, and I bade the clerk good
night. Up in my room Fritz was waiting anxiously.
"You were right and wrong," I announced. "Mr. Delora has been staying
here and left to-night."
"He has gone!" Fritz exclaimed.
"He left at eleven o'clock," I answered. "He saw me, and I suppose he
knew that I was looking for him. Here's half your money, anyhow," I
continued, giving him a five-pound note. "The next thing to do is to
find out where he has gone to. I think you could help here, Fritz."
"What must I do?" the man asked.
"First of all," I said, "go to the big railway hotels and try and find
out from one of the porters--you Germans all stick together--whether
any one arrived in a four-wheel cab at between eleven and twelve this
evening, whose description coincides with that of Mr. Delora. I reckon
that will take you most of to-morrow. When you have finished come to
me at the Milan Court, and let me know how you have got on."
"So!" the man remarked, rising from his seat. "To-morrow morning I will
do that. They will tell me, these fellows. I know many of them."
"Good night, Fritz, then!" I said. "Good luck!"
Early on the following morning I moved back to my rooms in the Milan
Court. Curiously enough I entered the building with a sense of
depression for which I could not account. I went first to my own rooms
and glanced at my letters. There was nothing there of importance. In
other words, there was nothing from Felicia. I descended to the fifth
floor and knocked at the door of her room. As I stood there waiting I
was absolutely certain that somehow or other a change had occurred in
the situation, that the freeness of my intercourse with Felicia was
about to be interfered with. I was not in the least surprised when the
door was at last cautiously opened, and a woman who was a perfect
stranger to me stood on the threshold, with the handle of the door
still in her hand.
"I should like to see Miss Delora," I said. "My name is Captain
The woman shook her head. She was apparently French, and of the
middle-class. She was dressed in black, her eyes and eyebrows were
black, she had even the shadow of a moustache upon her upper lip. To
me her appearance was singularly forbidding.
"Miss Delora cannot see you," she answered, with a strong foreign
"Will you be so good as to inquire if that is so?" I answered. "I
have an appointment with Miss Delora for this morning, and a motor-car
waiting to take her out."
"Miss Delora cannot receive you," answered the woman, almost as though
she had not heard, and closed the door in my face.
There was nothing left for me but to go down and interview my friend
the hall-porter. I commenced my inquiries with the usual question.
"Any news of Mr. Delora, Ashley?" I asked.
"None at all, sir," the man replied. "A companion has arrived for Miss
"So I have discovered for myself," I answered. "Do you know anything
about her, Ashley?"
The man shook his head.
"She arrived here yesterday afternoon," he said, "with a trunk. She
went straight up to Miss Delora's room, and I have not seen them apart
"Do they come down to the cafe?" I asked.
"So far, sir," the man answered, "they have had everything served in
I went back to my room and rang up number 157. The voice which
answered me was the voice of the woman who had denied me admission to
"I wish to speak to Miss Delora," I said.
"Miss Delora is engaged," was the abrupt answer.
"Nonsense!" I answered. "I insist upon speaking to her. Tell her that
it is Captain Rotherby, and she will come to the telephone."
There was a little whirr, but no answer. The person at the other end
had rung off. By this time I was getting angry. In five minutes time I
rang up again. The same voice answered me.
"Look here," I said, "if you do not let me speak to Miss Delora, I
shall ring up every five minutes during the day!"
"Monsieur can do as he pleases," was the answer. "I shall lay the
receiver upon the table. It will not be possible to get connected."
"Do, if you like," I answered, "but how about when Mr. Delora rings
The woman muttered something which I did not catch. A moment
afterwards, however, her voice grew clear.
"That is not your business," she said sharply.
I tried to continue the conversation, but in vain. Nothing came from
the other end but silence. I busied myself for a time glancing at a
few unimportant letters, and afterwards descended to lunch in the
cafe. I fancied, for a moment, that Louis' self-possession was less
perfect than usual. He certainly showed some surprise when he saw me,
and he came to my table with a little less alacrity.
"Louis," I said, "I shall order my lunch from some one else, not from
"Monsieur has lost confidence?" he asked.
"Not in your judgment, Louis," I answered.
Louis looked me straight in the eyes. It was not a practice which he
often indulged in.
"Captain Rotherby," he said, "you should be on our side. It would not
be necessary then to interfere with any of your plans."
He looked at me meaningly, and I understood.
"It is you, Louis, I presume, whom I have to thank for the lady
upstairs?" I remarked.
Louis shrugged his shoulders.
"Why do you seek the man Delora?" he asked. "What concern is it of
yours? If you persist, the consequences are inevitable."
"If you will take the trouble to convince me, Louis,--" I said.
Louis interrupted me; it was unlike him. His little gesture showed
that he was very nearly angry.
"Monsieur," he said, "sometimes you fail to realize that at a word
from us the hand of the gendarme is upon your shoulder. We would make
use of your aid gladly, but it must be on our terms--not yours."
"State them, Louis," I said.
"We will tell you the truth," Louis answered slowly. "You shall
understand the whole business. You shall understand why Delora is
forced to lie hidden here in London, what it is that he is aiming
at. When you know everything, you can be an ally if you will. On the
other hand, if you disapprove, you swear upon your honor as a
gentleman--an English gentleman--that no word of the knowledge which
you have gained shall pass your lips!"
"Louis," I said, "I will have my lunch and think about this."
Louis departed with his customary smile and bow. I ordered something
cold from the sideboard within sight, and a bottle of wine which was
opened before me. There scarcely remained any doubt in my mind now but
that some part of Delora's business, at any rate, in this country, was
criminal. Louis' manner, his emphatic stipulation, made it a matter of
certainty. Again I found myself confronted by the torturing thought
that if this were so Felicia could scarcely be altogether innocent.
Once when Louis passed me I stopped him.
"Louis," I said, "let me ask you this. Presuming things remain as they
are, and I act independently, do you intend to prevent my seeing Miss
"It is nothing to do with me," Louis lied. "It is the wish of her
"Thank you!" I answered. "I wanted to know."
I finished my luncheon. Louis saw me preparing to depart and came up
to me. My table was set in a somewhat obscure corner, and we were
"I will ask you a question, Louis," I said. "There is no reason why
you should not answer it. There are laws from a legal point of view,
and laws from a moral point. From the former, I realize that I am, at
this moment, a criminal--possibly, as you say, in your power. Let that
pass. What I want you to tell me is this,--the undertaking in which
Mr. Delora is now engaged, is it from a legal point of view a criminal
one, or is it merely a matter needing secrecy from other reasons?"
Louis stood thoughtfully silent for some few moments.
"Monsieur," he said at last, "I will not hide the truth from you.
According to the law in this country Mr. Delora is engaged in a
"Political?" I asked.
"No!" Louis answered. "A conspiracy which is to make him and all
others who are concerned in it wealthy for life."
"But the Deloras are already rich," I remarked.
"Our friend," Louis said, "has speculated. He has lost large sums.
Besides, he loves adventures. What shall you answer, Captain
"It is war, Louis," I said. "You should know that. If I have to pay
the penalty for taking the law into my hands over the man Tapilow, I
am ready to answer at any time. As for you and Delora, and the others
of you, whoever they may be, it will be war with you also, if you
will. I intend, for the sake of the little girl upstairs, to solve all
this mystery, to take her away from it if I can."
Louis' eyes had narrowed. The look in his face was almost enough to
make one afraid.
"It is a pity," he said. "Even if you had chosen to remain neutral--"
"I should not do that unless I could see as much of Miss Delora as I
chose," I interrupted.
"If that were arranged," Louis said slowly,--"mind, I make no
promises,--but I say if that were arranged, would it be understood
between us that you stopped your search for Mr. Delora, and abandoned
all your inquiries?"
"No, Louis," I answered, "unless I were convinced that Miss Delora
herself was implicated in these things. Then you could all go to the
devil for anything I cared!"
"Your interest," Louis murmured, "is in the young lady, then?"
"Absolutely and entirely," I answered. "Notwithstanding what you have
told me, and what I have surmised, the fact that you stood by me in
Paris would be sufficient to make me shrug my shoulders and pass on.
I am no policeman, and I would leave the work of exposing Delora to
those whose business it is. But you see I have an idea of my own,
Louis. I believe that Miss Delora is innocent of any knowledge of
wrong-doing. That I remain here is for her sake. If I try to discover
what is going on, it is also for her sake!"
"Monsieur has sentiment," Louis remarked, showing his teeth.
"Too much by far, Louis," I answered. "Never mind, we all have our
weak spots. Some day or other somebody may even put their finger upon
"Why not, monsieur?" he said.
In my rooms a surprise awaited me. Felicia was there, walking
nervously up and down my little sitting-room She stopped short as I
entered and came swiftly towards me. In the joy of seeing her so
unexpectedly I would have taken her into my arms, but she shrank back.
"Felicia!" I exclaimed. "How did you come here?"
"Madame Muller went down for lunch," Felicia answered. "I said that I
had a headache, and stole up here on the chance of seeing you."
"They are making a prisoner of you!" I exclaimed.
"It is your fault," she answered.
I looked at her in surprise. Her face was stained with tears. Her
voice shook with nervousness.
"You have been making secret inquiries about my uncle," she said. "You
have been seen talking to those who wish him ill."
"How do you know this, Felicia?" I asked calmly.
"Oh, I know!" she answered. "They have told me."
"Who?" I asked. "Who has told you?"
"Never mind," she answered, wringing her hands. "I know. It is
enough. Capitaine Rotherby, I have come to ask you something."
"Please go on," I said.
"I want you to go away. I do not wish you to interest yourself any
more in me or in any of us."
"Do you mean that, Felicia?" I asked.
"I mean it," she answered. "My uncle has a great mission to carry out
here. You are making it more difficult for him."
"Felicia," I said, "I do not trust your uncle. I do not believe in his
great mission. I think that you yourself are deceived."
She held her head up. Her eyes flashed angrily.
"As to that," she said, "I am the best judge. If my uncle is an
adventurer, I am his niece. I am one with him. Please understand
that. It seems to me that you are working against him, thinking that
you are helping me. That is a mistake."
"Felicia," I said, "give me a little more of your confidence, and the
rest will be easy."
"What is it that you wish to know?" she asked.
"For one thing," I answered, "tell me when your uncle left South
America and when he arrived in Paris?"
"He had been in Paris ten days when you saw us first," she said, after
a moment's hesitation.
"And are you sure that he came to you from South America?" I demanded.
"Certainly!" she answered.
"To me," I said slowly, "he seems to have the manners of a
Parisian. Two months ago I lunched at Henry's with some old
friends. Can you tell me, Felicia, that he was not in Paris then?"
"Of course not!" she answered, shivering a little.
"Then he has a wonderful double," I declared.
"What is this that is in your mind about him?" she asked.
"I believe," I answered, "that he is personating some one, or rather I
have believed it. I believe that he is personating some one else, and
is afraid of being recognized by those who know."
"Will it satisfy you," she said slowly, "if I tell you, upon my honor,
Capitaine Rotherby, that he is indeed my uncle?"
"I should believe you, Felicia," I answered. "I should then feel
disposed to give the whole affair up as insoluble."
"That is just what I want you to do," she said. "Now, listen. I tell
you this upon my honor. He is my uncle, and his name is truly Delora!"
"Then why does he leave you here alone and skulk about from
hiding-place to hiding-place like a criminal?" I asked.
"It is not your business to ask those questions," she answered. "I
have told you the truth. Will you do as I ask or not?"
I hesitated for a moment. She was driving me back into a corner!
"Felicia," I said, "I must do as you ask me. If you tell me to go
away, I will go away; but do you think it is quite kind to leave me so
mystified? For instance," I added slowly, "on the night when that
beast Louis planned to knock that young Brazilian on the head, and
leave me to bear the brunt of it; he was up here talking to you,
alone, as though you were equals."
"It is my uncle who makes use of Louis," she said.
"I'm hanged if I can see how he can make use of a fellow like that if
his business is an honest one," I answered.
"It is not for you to understand," she answered. "You are not a
policeman. You are not concerned in these things."
"I am concerned in you!" I answered passionately. "Felicia, you drive
me almost wild when you talk like this. You know very well that it is
not curiosity which has made me set my teeth, and swear that I will
discover the truth of these things. It is because I see you implicated
in them, because I believe in you, Felicia, because I love you!"
She was in my arms for one long, delicious moment. Then she tore
"You mean it, Austen?" she whispered.
"I mean it!" I answered solemnly. "Felicia, I think you know that I
"Then you must be patient," she said, "for just a little time. You
must wait until my uncle has finished his business. It will take a
very short time now. Then you may come and call again, and remind us
of your brother. You will understand everything then, and I believe
that you will be still willing to ask us down to your country home."
"And if I am, Felicia?" I asked.
"We shall come," she murmured. "You know that. Good-bye, Austen! I
must fly. If Madame Muller finds that I have left the room I shall be
a prisoner for a week."
I opened the door. Even then I would have kept her, if only for a
moment; but just as I bent down we heard the sound of footsteps
outside, and she hurried away. I sat down and lit a cigarette. So it
was over, then, my little attempt at espionage! My word was pledged. I
could do no more.
I walked round to Claridge's later in the evening and saw my brother.
"Ralph," I said, "if your offer of the shooting is still good, I think
I will take a few men down to Feltham."
"Do, Austen," he answered. "Old Heggs will be ever so pleased. It
seems a shame not to have a gun upon the place. I shall come down
myself later on. What about those people, the Deloras?"
"The uncle is away," I answered, "and the girl cannot very well come
by herself. Perhaps we may see something of them later on."
Ralph looked at me a little curiously, but he made no remark.
"You won't be lonely up here alone?" I asked.
He shook his head.
"I have plenty to do," he answered. "I shall probably be down myself
before the end of the month. Whom shall you ask?"
I made a list of a few of the men whom I knew, and who I believed were
still in town, but when I sat down to write to them I felt curiously
reluctant to commit myself to staying at Feltham. Even if I were not
to interfere, even if I were to stand aside while the game was being
played, I could not believe that the scheming of Louis and the
acquiescence of Felicia went for the same thing, and I had an
uncomfortable but a very persistent conviction to the effect that she
was being deceived. Everything from her point of view seemed
reasonable enough. What she had told me, even, seemed almost to
preclude the fear of any wrong-doing. Yet I could not escape from the
conviction of it. Some way or other there was trouble brewing, either
between Delora and Louis, or Delora and the arbiters of right and
wrong. In the end I wrote to no one. I determined to go down alone, to
shoot zealously from early in the morning till late at night, but to
have no house-party at Feltham,--to invite a few of the neighbors, and
to be free myself to depart for London any time, at a moment's notice.
It would come! somehow or other I felt sure of it. I should receive a
summons from her, and I must be prepared at any moment to come to her
I went into the club after I had left Claridge's, and stayed playing
bridge till unusually late. It was early in the morning when I reached
the Milan, and the hotel had that dimly lit, somewhat sepulchral
appearance which seems to possess a large building at that hour in the
morning. As I stood for a moment inside the main doors, four men
stepped out of the lift on my right, carrying a long wooden chest.
They slunk away into the shadows on tiptoe. I watched them curiously.
"What is that?" I asked the reception clerk who was on duty.
He shrugged his shoulders.
"It was a man who died here the day before yesterday," he whispered in
"Died here?" I repeated. "Why are they taking his coffin down at such
"It is always done," the man assured me. "In hotels such as this,
where all is life and gayety, our clients do not care to be reminded
of such an ugly thing as death. Half the people on that floor would
have left if they had known that the dead body of a man has been lying
there. We keep these things very secret. The coffin has been taken to
the undertaker's. The funeral will be from there."
"Who is the man?" I asked. "Had he been ill long?"
The clerk shook his head.
"He was a Frenchman," he said; "Bartot was his name. He had an
apoplectic stroke in the cafe one day last week, and since then
complications set in."
I turned away with a little shiver. It was not pleasant to reflect
upon--this man's death!
AN UNSATISFACTORY INTERVIEW
Before I was up the next morning I was informed that Fritz was waiting
outside the door of my room. I had him shown in, and he stood
respectfully by my bedside.
"Sir," he said, "I have once more discovered Mr. Delora."
"Fritz," I answered, "you are a genius! Tell me where he is?"
"He is at a small private hotel in Bloomsbury," Fritz declared. "It is
really a boarding-house, frequented by Australians and Colonials. The
number is 17, and the street is Montague Street."
I sat up in bed.
"This is very interesting," I said.
"I trusted that you would find it so, sir," he admitted.
I thought for several moments. Then I sprang out of bed.
"Fritz," I said, "our engagement comes to an end this morning. I am
going to pay you for two months' service."
I went to my drawer and counted out some notes, which Fritz pocketed
with a smile of contentment.
"I am obliged to give up my interest in this affair," I said, "so I
cannot find any more work for you. But that money will enable you to
take a little holiday, and I have no doubt that you will soon succeed
in obtaining another situation."
Fritz made me a magnificent bow.
"I am greatly obliged to you, sir," he announced. "I shall take
another situation at once. Holidays--they will come later in life. At
my age, and with a family, one must work. But your generosity, sir,"
he wound up, with another bow, "I shall never forget."
I dressed, and walked to the address which Fritz had given me. As I
stood on the doorstep, with the bell handle still in my hand, the door
was suddenly opened. It was Delora himself who appeared! He shrank
away from me as though I were something poisonous. I laid my hand on
his shoulder, firmly determined that this time there should be no
"Mr. Delora," I said, "I want a few words with you. Can I have them
"I am busy!" he answered. "At any other time!"
"No other time will do," I answered. "It is only a few words I need
say, but those few words must be spoken."
He led the way reluctantly into a sitting-room. There were red plush
chairs set at regular intervals against the wall, and a table in the
middle covered by papers--mostly out of date. Delora closed the door
and turned toward me sternly.
"Captain Rotherby," he said, "I am quite aware that there are certain
people in London who are very much interested in me and my
doings. Their interests and mine clash, and it is only natural that
they should plot against me. But where the devil you come in I cannot
tell! Tell me what you mean by playing the spy upon me? What business
is it of yours?"
"You misunderstand the situation, sir," I answered. "More than ten
days ago you left me in charge of your niece at Charing Cross, while
you drove on, according to your own statement, to the Milan Hotel. You
never went to that hotel. You never, apparently, meant to. You have
never been near it since. You have left your niece in the centre of
what seems to be a very nest of intrigue. I have the right to ask you
for an explanation of these things. This morning I have a special
right, because to-day I have promised to go away into the country, and
to take no further interest in your doings."
"Let us suppose," Delora said dryly, "that it is already to-morrow
"No!" I answered. "There is something which I mean to say to you. You
need not be alarmed. The few words I have to say to you are not
questions. I do not want to understand your secrets,--to penetrate the
mystery which surrounds you and your doings. I will not ask you a
single question. I will not even ask you why you left your niece in
such a fit of terror, and have never yet dared to show your face at
"A child would understand these things!" Delora exclaimed. "The Milan
Hotel is one of the most public spots in London. It is open to any one
who cares to cross the threshold. It is the last place in the world
likely to be a suitable home for a man like myself, who is in touch
with great affairs."
"Then why did you choose to go there?" I asked.
"It was not my choice at all," Delora answered. "Besides, it was not
until I arrived in London that I understood exactly the nature of the
intrigues against me."
"At least," I protested, "you should never have brought your niece
with you. Frankly, your concerns don't interest me a snap of the
fingers. It is of your niece only that I think. You have no right to
leave her alone in such anxiety!"
"Nor can I see, sir," Delora answered, "that you have any better right
to reproach me with it. Still, if it will shorten this discussion, I
admit that if I had known how much trouble there was ahead of me I
should not have brought her. I simply disliked having to disappoint
her. It was a long-standing promise."
"Let that go," I answered. "I have told you that I have handed in my
commission. I have nothing more to do with you or your schemes,
whatever they may be. But I came here to find you and to tell you this
one thing. Felicia says that you are her uncle, she scouts the idea
of your being an impostor, she speaks of you as tenderly and
affectionately as a girl well could. That is all very well. Yet, in
the face of it, I am here to impress this upon you. I love your niece,
Mr. Delora,--some day or other I mean to make her my wife,--and I will
not have her dragged into anything which is either disreputable or
against the law."
"Has my niece encouraged you?" Delora asked calmly.
"Not in the least," I answered. "She has been kind enough to give me
to understand that she cares a little, and there the matter ends.
Nothing more could be said between us in this state of uncertainty.
But I came here for this one purpose. I came to tell you that if by
any chance Felicia should be mistaken, if you play her false in any
way, if you seek to embroil her in your schemes, or to do anything by
means of which she could suffer, I shall first of all shake the life
out of your body, and then I shall go to Scotland Yard and tell them
how much I know."
"About Mr. Tapilow, also?" Delora asked, with a sneer.
"Do you think I am afraid to take the punishment for my own follies?"
I asked indignantly. "If I believed that, I would go and give myself
up to-morrow. Louis can give me away if he will, or you. I don't care
a snap of the fingers. But what I want you to understand is this.
Felicia is, I presume, your niece. I should have been inclined to have
doubted it, but I cannot disbelieve her own word. I think myself that
it is brutal to have brought such a child here and to have left her
"She is not alone," Delora interrupted stiffly. "She has a companion."
"Who arrived yesterday," I continued. "She has spent some very bad
days alone, I can promise you that."
"I have telephoned," Delora said, "twice a day--sometimes oftener."
I laughed ironically.
"For your own sake or hers, I wonder," I said. "Anyhow, we can leave
that alone. What I want you to understand is this, that if there is
indeed anything illegal or criminal in your secret doings over here,
you must take care that Felicia is safely provided for if things
should go against you. She is not to be left there to be the butt of a
great criminal action. If I find that you or any of your friends are
making use of her in any way whatever, I swear that you shall suffer
Delora smiled at me grimly. He seemed in his few dry words to have
revealed something of his stronger and less nervous self.
"You terrify me!" he said. "Yet I think that we must go on pretty well
as we are, even if my niece has been fortunate enough to enlist your
sympathies on her behalf. Never mind who I am, or what my business is
in this country, young man. It is not your affair. You should have
enough to think about yourself in this country of easy extradition. My
niece can look after herself. So can I. We do not need your aid, or
welcome your interference."
"You insinuate," I declared indignantly, "that your niece is one of
your helpers! I do not believe it!"
"Helpers in what?" he asked, with upraised eyebrows.
"God knows!" I exclaimed, a little impatiently. "What you do, or what
you try to do, is not my business. Felicia is. That is why I have
"Am I to have the honor, then?" Delora asked, with a curl of his thin
"You are," I interrupted, "if you call it an honor, although to tell
you frankly, as things are at present, I am not inclined to go about
begging too many different people's permission. If it were not that my
brother Dicky has just written over from Brazil to ask me to be civil
to you and your niece, you wouldn't have left this place so easily."
"Your brother!" Delora said, looking at me uneasily. "Say that
"Certainly!" I answered. "My brother Dicky, who is now out in Brazil,
and who has written to me about you. You met him there, of course?" I
added. "He stayed with you at--let me see, what is the name of your
place?" I asked suddenly.
"Menita," Delora answered, without hesitation. "Now you mention it, of
course I remember him! If he has written you to be civil to us, you
can do it best by minding your own business. In a fortnight's time I
shall be free to entertain or to be entertained. At present I am on a
secret mission, and I do not wish my work to be interfered with."
I moved toward the door.
"I have said all that I wish to say," I remarked. "If I hear nothing
from you I shall come back to London in fourteen days."
"You will find me with my niece," Delora said, "and we shall be happy
to see you."
I left him there, feeling somehow or other that I had not had the best
of our interview. Yet my position from the first was hopeless. There
was nothing for me to do but to keep my word to Felicia and let things
I drove to the club on my way to the station, where I had arranged for
my baggage to be sent. As I crossed Pall Mall I met Lamartine. He was
standing on the pavement, on the point of entering a motor-car on
which was piled some luggage.
"So you, too, are leaving London," I remarked, stopping for a moment.
He looked at me curiously.
"I am going to Paris," he said.
"A pleasure trip?" I asked.
He shook his head.
"Not entirely," he said. "Only this morning I made a somewhat
"Concerning our friend?" I asked.
"Concerning our friend," Lamartine echoed.
He seemed dubious, for a moment, whether to take me into his
"You have not found Delora yet?" I asked.
"Not yet," he answered. "And you?"
"I have seen him," I admitted.
"Are you disposed to tell me where?" Lamartine asked softly.
I shook my head.
"I have finished with the affair," I told him. "I finish as I
began,--absolutely bewildered! I know nothing and understand
nothing. I am going down into the country to shoot pheasants."
"I," he remarked, entering the car, "am going after bigger game!"
TO NEWCASTLE BY ROAD
I found several of my brother's friends staying at Feltham, who were
also well known to me, and my aunt, who was playing hostess, had
several women staying with her. We spent the time very much after the
fashion of an ordinary house-party during the first week of October.
We shot until four o'clock, came home and played bridge until
dinner-time, bridge or billiards after dinner, varied by a dance one
night and some amateur theatricals. On the fifth day a singular thing
happened to me.
The whole of the house-party were invited to shoot with my uncle, Lord
Horington, who lived about forty miles from us. We left in two
motor-cars soon after breakfast-time, and for the last few miles of
the way we struck the great north road. It was just after we had
entered it that we came upon a huge travelling car, covered with dust,
and with portmanteaus strapped upon the roof, hung up by the side of
the road. Our chauffeur slowed down to find out if we could be of any
use, and as the reply was scarcely intelligible, we came to a full
stop. He dismounted to speak to the other chauffeur, and I looked
curiously at the two men who were leaning back in the luxurious seats
inside the car. For a moment I could not believe my eyes! Then I
opened the door of my own car and stepped quickly into the road. The
two men who were sitting there, and by whom I was as yet unobserved,
were Delora and the Chinese ambassador!
I walked at once up to the window of their car and knocked at it.
Delora leaned forward and recognized me at once. His face, for a
moment, seemed dark with anger. He let down the sash.
"What does this mean?" he asked. "Have you forgotten our bargain?"
I laughed a little shortly.
"My dear sir," I said, "it is not I who have come to see you, but you
to see me. I am within a few miles of my own estate, on my way to
shoot at a friend's."
He stared at me for a moment incredulously.
"Do you mean to tell me," he said, in a low tone, "that you have not
followed us from London?"
"Why I have not been in London, or near it, for five days," I told
him. "I slept last night within thirty miles from here, and, as I told
you before, am on my way to shoot with my uncle at the present
"I know nothing of the geography of your country," Delora said
shortly. "What you say may be correct. His Excellency and I are having
a few days' holiday."
"May I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you at Feltham?" I
"I am afraid not," Delora answered. "If we had known that we should
have been so near, we might have arranged to pay you a visit. As it
is, we are in a hurry to get on."
"How far north did you think of going?" I asked.
"We have not decided," Delora answered. "Remember our bargain, and ask
"But this is a holiday trip," I reminded him. "Surely I may be
permitted to advise you about the picturesque spots in my own
"You can tell me, at any rate, what it is that has happened to our
car," Delora answered. "Neither His Excellency nor I know anything
about such matters."
I walked round and talked to the two chauffeurs. The accident, it
seemed, was a trivial one, and with the help of a special spanner,
with which we were supplied, was already rectified. I returned and
explained matters to Delora.
"Have you come far this morning?" I asked.
"Not far," Delora answered. "We are taking it easy."
I looked at his tired face, at the car thick with dust, at the Chinese
ambassador already nodding in his corner, and I smiled to myself. It
was very certain to me that they had run from London without stopping,
and I felt an intense curiosity as to their destination. However, I
said no more to them. I made my adieux to Delora, and bowed profoundly
to the Chinese ambassador, who opened his eyes in time solemnly to
return my farewell. The chauffeur was already in his place, and I
stopped to speak to him. I saw Delora spring forward and whistle down
the speaking-tube, but my question was already asked.
"How far north are you going?" I asked.