Part 5 out of 6
"To Newcastle, sir," the man answered.
He turned then to answer the whistle, and I re-entered my own car. We
started first, but they passed us in a few minutes travelling at a
great rate, and with a cloud of dust behind them. Delora threw an evil
glance at me from his place. For once I had stolen a march upon him.
They had both been too ignorant of their route to keep their final
destination concealed from the chauffeur, and they certainly had not
expected to meet any one on the way with whom he would be likely to
talk! But why to Newcastle? I asked myself that question so often
during the morning that my shooting became purely a mechanical thing.
Newcastle,--the Tyne, coals, and shipbuilding! I could think of
nothing else in connection with the place.
Late that evening I sat with a whiskey and soda and final cigar in the
smoking-room. The evening papers had just arrived, brought by
motor-bicycle from Norwich. I found nothing to interest me in them,
but, glancing down the columns, my attention was attracted by some
mention of Brazil. I looked to see what the paragraph might be. It
concerned some new battleships, and was headed,--
LARGEST BATTLESHIPS IN THE WORLD!
It is not generally known, that there will be launched from the
works of Messrs. Halliday & Co. on the Tyne, within the next three
or four weeks, two of the most powerful battleships of the
"Dreadnought" type, which have yet been built.
There followed some specifications, in which I was not particularly
interested, an account of their armament, and a final remark,--
One is tempted to ask how a country, in the financial position of
Brazil, can possibly reconcile it with her ideas of national
economy, to spend something like three millions in battleships,
which there does not seem to be the slightest chance of her ever
being called upon to use!
Somehow or other this paragraph fascinated me. I read it over and over
again. I could see no connection between it and the visit of Delora to
Newcastle, especially accompanied as he was by the Chinese ambassador.
Yet the more I thought of it, the more I felt convinced that in some
way the two were connected. I put down the paper at last, and called
out of the room to a motoring friend.
"How far is it to Newcastle from here, Jacky?"
Jacky Dalton, a fair-haired young giant, one of the keenest sportsmen
whom I had ever met, and whose mind and soul was now entirely
dominated by the craze for motoring, told me with only a few moments'
"Between two hundred and two hundred and twenty miles, Austen," he
said, "and a magnificent road. With my new Napier, I reckon that I
could get there in six hours, or less at night, with this moon."
I walked to the window. Across the park the outline of the trees and
even the bracken stood out with extraordinary distinctness in the
brilliant moonlight. There was not a breath of air, although every
window in the house was open. We were having a few days of record
"Jove, what a gorgeous run it would be to-night!" Dalton said, with a
little sigh, looking out over my shoulder. "Empty roads, as light as
day, and a breeze like midsummer! You don't want to go, do you,
"Will you take me?" I asked.
"Like a shot!" he answered. "I only wish you were in earnest!"
"But I am," I declared. "If you don't mind missing the day's shooting
to-morrow I'd love to run up there. It's impossible to sleep with this
"It's a great idea," Dalton declared enthusiastically. "I'd love a day
off from shooting."
I turned to a younger cousin of mine, who had just come in from the
"Dick," I said, "will you run things to-morrow if I go off motoring
"Of course I will," he answered. "It's only home shooting, anyway. I'd
rather like a day off because of the cricket match in the afternoon."
"Jacky, I'm your man!" I declared.
"We'll have Ferris in at once," he declared. "Bet you what you like
he's ready to start in a quarter of an hour. I always have her kept
ready tuned right up."
I rang the bell and sent for Jacky's chauffeur. He appeared after a
few minutes' delay,--a short, hard-faced young man, who before Jacky
had engaged him had driven a racing car.
"Ferris," his master said, "we want to start for Newcastle in half an
"To-night, sir?" the man asked.
"Certainly," Dalton answered. "I shall drive some of the way
myself. Everything is in order, I suppose?"
"Everything, sir," the man answered. "You can start in ten minutes if
"Any trouble about petrol?" I asked.
"We carry enough for the whole journey, sir," the man answered. "I'll
have the car round at the front, sir, in a few minutes."
"Let's go up and change our clothes," Dalton said. "Remember we are
going to travel, Austen, especially up the north road. You will want
some thickish tweeds and an overcoat, although it seems so stifling
"Right, Jacky!" I answered. "I'll be down in a quarter of an hour, or
twenty minutes at the most."
In less than half an hour we were off. It was only when the great car
swung from the avenue into the country lane that Jacky, who was
driving, turned toward me.
"By the bye," he asked, "what the devil are we going to Newcastle
"We are going to look at those new battleships, Jacky," I answered.
He stared at me.
"Are you in earnest?"
"Partly," I answered. "Let's say we are going for the ride. It's worth
Dalton drew a long breath. We were rushing now through the silent
night, with a delicious wind, strong and cool, blowing in our faces.
"By Jove, it is!" he assented.
AN INTERESTING DAY
It was a little after seven o'clock the next morning when we turned
into the courtyard of the County Hotel in Newcastle. Immediately in
front of us was the car in which we had seen Delora on the previous
afternoon. The chauffeur was at work upon it, and although he looked
up at our entrance, he paid no particular attention to us.
I blew through the whistle to Ferris.
"Back out of the yard at once," I said, "and go to another hotel."
Dalton looked at me in surprise.
"Forgive my ordering your chauffeur about," I said, as we glided
backwards into the street. "That's the car we've come up after, and I
don't want the people who travelled in it to know that we are on their
Dalton whistled softly.
"So we are on a chase, are we?" he asked. "You might tell me about it,
"I can't," I answered. "It's altogether too indefinite. I shouldn't
tell you anything which would sound like common sense except
this,--that I am exceedingly curious, for several reasons, to know
what those two men who came up in that car have to do in Newcastle."
"Who are they?" Dalton asked.
"One is a rich Brazilian named Delora, and the other the Chinese
ambassador," I answered.
The names seemed to convey nothing to my companion, who merely
nodded. We had now arrived at the other hotel, and the prospects of
breakfast were already claiming our attention. We sat down in the
coffee-room and attacked our bacon and eggs and coffee with zest.
"How long do you want to stay here?" Dalton asked.
"I am not quite sure," I answered. "Look here, Jacky," I continued,
"supposing I wanted to stay all day and to go back to-night, so that
we got home to breakfast to-morrow morning, would that be too long for
"That would do me splendidly," Dalton declared. "I have never been in
this part of the world, and I should like to look round. We must be
back for to-morrow morning, you know, because all those fellows are
coming to shoot from Horington's."
"We will make that the latest," I said.
Jacky left me, a few minutes later, to visit the local garage. Without
any clear idea as to what was best to be done, I still felt that I was
justified in making a few inquiries as to the cause of Delora's
presence in Newcastle with that particular companion. I went to the
telephone, therefore, and rang up the County Hotel. I asked to speak
to the manager, who came at once to the instrument.
"I understand," I said, "that the Chinese ambassador has just arrived
at your hotel. Would you be so kind as to ask him whether he would
consent to be interviewed as to the reasons of his visit?"
I waited several minutes for a reply. When it came it was at least
emphatic. The visit of the ambassador, the manager told me, was
entirely a private one. He was simply on a motor tour with a friend,
and they had called at Newcastle as it was an interesting city which
the ambassador had never seen. He declined most firmly to have
anything to do with any interviewer.
The reply being exactly what I had expected, I was not in the least
"Perhaps," I said to the manager, "you can tell me how long he is
"I have no idea, sir," the manager answered. "They have just ordered a
carriage to make a call in the town."
I thanked him, and left the hotel at once on foot. When I arrived near
the County Hotel a four-wheel cab was drawn up at the entrance. From a
safe distance I stood watching it, and in a few minutes I saw the
ambassador and Delora come swiftly out of the hotel and step inside.
I waited till they had driven off, and then crossed the road to where
the hall-porter was still standing on the pavement. I put five
shillings into his hand.
"I am a reporter," I said. "Can you tell me where the ambassador has
He smiled, and touched his hat.
"They are going to the offices of Messrs. Halliday & Co., the great
shipbuilders, in Corporation Street," he answered.
I thanked him, and walked slowly away. I found plenty of material for
thought, but it seemed to me that there was nothing more which I could
do. Nevertheless, I walked along towards the address which the porter
had given me, and found, as I had expected, that the cab was standing
empty outside. Opposite was a small public-house. I went in, ordered
a whiskey and soda, and lit a cigarette. Then I sat down facing the
window. Half an hour passed, and then an hour. It was one o'clock
before the two men reappeared. They were accompanied by a third
person, whom I judged to be a member of the firm, and who entered the
cab with them. On the pavement they were accosted by a young man in
spectacles, who look off his hat and said a few words to the
ambassador. The latter, however, shaking his head, stepped into the
cab. The young man pushed forward once more, but the cab drove off. As
soon as it had turned the corner I hurried out and addressed him.
"His Excellency does not care to be spoken to," I remarked.
The reporter--his profession was quite obvious--shook his head.
"I only wanted a word or two," he said, "but he would not have
anything to say to me."
"I wonder if he is going to look over any of the ships that are
building," I remarked.
"There is nothing much in the yards," the young man said, "except the
two Brazilian battleships. I don't think that Hallidays are allowed to
show any one over them unless they have a special permit from the
"Fine ships, aren't they?" I asked.
"The finest that have ever left the Tyne," the young man answered
enthusiastically. "What a little country like Brazil can possibly want
with the most powerful warships in the world no one can guess. Are you
on a London paper?" he asked me.
"I have followed them all the way down here," I said, "but they have
not a word to say. By the bye," I added, "did you know that the
gentleman with the Chinese ambassador was a very prominent Brazilian?"
The reporter whistled softly.
"I wonder what that means!" he said. "It sounds interesting, somehow."
"Come and have a drink," I said.
He accepted at once.
"What paper are you on?" he asked, as we crossed the street.
"To be honest with you," I replied, "I am not on a paper at all. I am
not even a reporter. I am interested in the visit of these two men to
Newcastle for more serious reasons."
The young man looked at me thoughtfully. He slipped his arm through
mine as though he intended never to let me go. Evidently he scented a
"I suppose," he said, "you mean that you are a detective?"
"No!" I answered, "scarcely that. I can only tell you that it is my
business to watch the movements of those two men."
I could see from his manner that he believed me to be a government
spy, or something of the sort. We ordered our drinks and then turned,
as though by common consent, once more to the window. A motor-car was
drawn up in front of the place, and an elderly man was descending
"Hullo!" the reporter exclaimed. "That's Mr. Halliday, the head of the
firm! They must have telephoned for him. He never comes down except on
a Thursday. Let's watch and see what happens."
The shipbuilder entered his offices, and was gone for about a quarter
of an hour. When he reappeared he was followed by two clerks, one of
whom was carrying a great padlocked portfolio under each arm, and the
other a huge roll of plans. They entered the motor-car and drove off.
"Come on," I said, finishing my drink hurriedly, "they are off to the
We took a hansom at the corner of the street, and, sure enough, when
we arrived at the hotel Mr. Halliday's motor-car was waiting outside.
We went at once into the office, where my companion was quite at home.
"Who's with the Chinaman?" he asked the manager, who greeted him
"A whole crowd," he answered. "First of all, Dickinson--Halliday's
manager--came back with him, and the old man himself has just arrived
with a couple of clerks."
"What's the game, do you suppose?" the reporter asked.
The hotel manager shrugged his shoulders.
"We're hoping it means orders," he said. "We can do with
them. Hallidays could put on another twelve hundred men and not be
crowded, and China's about the most likely customer they could get
hold of just now."
"Which sitting-room are they in?" my friend asked.
"Number 12," the manager answered. "I can't do anything for you,
though, Charlie," he added. "I'd do anything I could, but they have
given special orders that no one is to interrupt them, and they
decline to be interviewed by or communicate with any strangers."
"I shall see the thing out, nevertheless," my friend announced.
"And I," I answered. "Let's have lunch together. Is there a smart boy
in the place who could let us know directly any one leaves the
The manager smiled.
"Mr. Sinclair knows all about that, sir," he said, pointing to my
friend. "I have nothing to say about it, of course."
Sinclair left the room for a minute or two. When he came back he
"I have a boy watching the door," he said. "The moment any one leaves
we shall hear of it."
We went into the restaurant and ordered lunch. In about half an hour a
small boy came hastily in and addressed Sinclair.
"They have ordered luncheon up in the sitting-room, sir," he said. "I
thought I'd better let you know."
"For how many?" Sinclair asked quickly.
"For four, sir," he answered. "I fancy the two clerks are coming
out. The door opened once, and they had their hats on."
"Run along," Sinclair said, "and let us know again directly anything
The boy returned almost at once.
"The clerks have left," he said. "The other four are going to lunch
"Did the clerks take the plans with them?" I asked.
"Not all," the boy answered. "They left two portfolios behind."
We finished our luncheon and returned to the bar. It was more than two
hours before anything else happened. Then the boy entered a little
"Mr. Halliday has telephoned for his car, and is just leaving, sir,"
he said. "The two gentlemen from London have just ordered theirs, and
I believe it looks as though Mr. Dickinson were going with them. He
has telephoned for a bag from his house."
I shook hands with my friend the reporter, and we parted company. I
left the hotel quickly and returned to the King's Arms, where we were
staying. I was lucky enough to find Jack just finishing lunch.
"I say, old man," I exclaimed, "I wish you'd start for home at once!"
"Right away!" he answered. "We'll ring for Ferris."
The chauffeur came in and received his orders. We got into our coats
and walked out toward the front door. Suddenly I drew Jacky back and
stood behind a pillar. A great touring car had turned the corner and
was passing down the street. In it were three men,--the Chinese
ambassador, Delora, and the man who had left the offices of
Messrs. Halliday with them.
"Is that the road to London?" I asked the porter.
"It is the way into the main road, sir," he answered,--"two hundred
and sixty-five miles."
They swung round the corner and disappeared. Our own car was just
drawing up. I turned to Jacky.
"We'd better wait a few minutes," I said, "and tell your man not to
overtake that car!"
Jacky looked at me in surprise. He was by no means a curious person,
but he was obviously puzzled.
"What a mysterious person you have become, Austen!" he said. "What's
it all about?"
"You will know some day," I answered, as we made ourselves
comfortable,--"perhaps before many hours are past!"
We arrived at Feltham at a few minutes past ten o'clock, having seen
nothing of the car which had left Newcastle a few minutes before
ours. Several times we asked on the road and heard news of it, but we
could find no sign of it having stopped even for a moment. Apparently
it had been driven, without pause for rest or refreshment, at top
speed, and we learned that two summonses would probably be issued
against its owners. Jacky, who was delighted with the whole
expedition, sat with his watch in his hands for the last few miles,
and made elaborate calculations as to our average speed, the distance
we had traversed, and other matters interesting to the owner of a
We were greeted, when we arrived, with all sorts of inquiries as to
our expedition, but we declined to say a word until we had dined. We
had scarcely commenced our meal before the butler came hurrying in.
"His Lordship is ringing up from London, sir," he said. "He wishes to
speak to you particularly. The telephone is through into the library."
I made my way there and took up the receiver without any special
interest. Ralph was fidgety these days, and I had no doubt that he had
something to say to me about the shooting. His first words, however,
riveted my attention.
"Is that you, Austen?" he asked.
"I am here," I answered. "How are you, Ralph?"
"I am all right," he said. "Rather better than usual, in fact. Where
on earth have you been to all day? I have rung up four times."
"I have been motoring with Jacky," I told him. "We have been for
rather a long run. Have you been wanting me?"
"Yes!" he answered. "I have had a very curious cable from Dicky which
I can't understand. I am sorry to bother you, but I think you had
better come up to town by the first train in the morning. It's
something to do with these Deloras."
"The devil it is!" I exclaimed. "I'll come, Ralph. I shall motor to
Norwich, and catch the eight o'clock. Could you give me an idea of
what it is?"
"I think I'd rather not over the telephone," Ralph declared, after a
"Don't be an idiot!" I answered. "I am really very much interested."
"It's a queer business," Ralph said, "but it will keep until
to-morrow. I shall send the car for you to Liverpool Street, and you
had better come straight to me."
"Dicky is all right, I hope?" I asked.
"Dicky's all right," Ralph answered. "What sort of sport are you
"Very fair," I answered. "Heggs sends you the figures every day, I
"Yes!" Ralph answered. "You seem to have done very well at the
birds. Till to-morrow, Austen!"
"Till to-morrow," I replied. "Good night, old chap!"
I put down the receiver and went back to my dinner more than ever
puzzled. Ralph's summons, I felt, absolved me from any promise I might
have made to Delora, and I was looking eagerly forward to the morrow,
when I should be once more in London. What puzzled me, however, more
even than Dicky's message, was the extreme interest Ralph's tone
seemed to denote. His voice sounded quite like his old self.
"Jacky," I said, as we finished dinner, "will you lend me your car to
take me into Norwich to-morrow? I have to catch the eight o'clock
train to town."
"I'll lend it you with pleasure," Jacky said, looking at me in
amazement, "but what on earth's up?"
"Nothing," I answered. "Simply Ralph wants to see me. He isn't
particularly communicative himself, but he is very anxious that I
should go to town to-morrow. Somehow or other I have more confidence
in your Napier than in either of our cars when it comes to catching a
train at that time in the morning."
"I'll run you up to town, if you like," Jacky declared, in a burst of
"It isn't necessary," I answered. "I shall get up quicker by train,
and Ralph's going to meet me at Liverpool Street. Thanks, all the
Jacky lit a cigar.
"I'll go out and tell Ferris myself," he said.
Once more Jacky's car did not fail me. Punctually at a quarter to
eight we drove into Norwich Station yard. I breakfasted on the train,
and reached Liverpool Street a few minutes after eleven. I found
Ralph's big Panhard there, but Ralph himself had not come.
"His Lordship is expecting you at the hotel, sir," the chauffeur told
me. "He would have come down himself, but he was expecting a caller."
In less than half an hour I was in my brother's sitting-room. Ralph
greeted me cordially.
"Austen," he said, "I am not at all sure that I have not brought you
up on rather a fool's errand, but you seemed rather mystified yourself
about these Deloras. Here's the cable from Dicky. What do you make of
it? Must have cost him something, extravagant young beggar!"
He passed it across to me. I read it out aloud.
DELORA HERE PUZZLED NOT HEARING FROM BROTHER
SHOULD BE IN LONDON IMPORTANT BUSINESS FEARS
SOMETHING WRONG ALL CODED CABLES REMAIN UNANSWERED
INQUIRE MILAN HOTEL IF POSSIBLE FIND
DELORA BEG HIM CABLE AT ONCE IN CHALDEAN CODE.
I read the cable through three times.
"May I take this, Ralph?" I said. "I will go round to the Milan at
"Certainly," Ralph answered. "I will leave the matter entirely in your
hands. It seems as though there were something queer about it."
"There is something queer going on, Ralph," I assured him. "I have
found out as much as that myself. Exactly what it means I can't
fathom. To tell you the truth, it has been taking a lot of my time
lately, and I know very little more than when I started."
"It's the young lady, I suppose," Ralph remarked thoughtfully.
"I am not over keen about interfering in other people's concerns,
Ralph," I said. "You know that. It's the girl, of course, and I am
afraid, I am very much afraid, that there is something wrong."
"Anyhow," Ralph said, "it doesn't follow that the girl's in it."
"I am jolly certain she isn't!" I said. "What bothers me, of course,
is that I hate to think of her being mixed up with anything shady. The
Deloras may be great people in their own country, but I'll swear that
our friend here is a wrong 'un."
"I suppose you are sure," Ralph said thoughtfully, "that he is
Delora--that he is not an impostor, I mean?"
"I thought of that," I answered, "but you see there's the girl. She'd
know her own uncle, wouldn't she? And she told me that she had seen
him on and off for years. No, he is Delora right enough! One can't
tell," I continued. "Perhaps the whole thing's crooked. Perhaps the
Deloras who seem to Dicky such charming people in their own country
are a different sort of people on this side. At any rate, I'm off,
Ralph, with that cable. I'll look you up as soon as I have found out
"I don't believe," he said, "you are sorry to have an excuse for
having another turn at this affair."
"Perhaps not," I answered.
"Take the car," Ralph called out after me. "You may find it useful."
I drove first to the small hotel where I had last seen Delora. Here,
however, I was confronted with a certain difficulty. The name of
Delora was quite unknown to the people. I described him carefully,
however, to the landlady, and she appeared to recognize him.
"The gentleman you mean was, I think, a Mr. Henriquois. He left us the
day before yesterday."
"You know where he went to?" I asked.
She shook her head.
"He asked for a Continental time-table," she said, "but he gave no
address, nor did he tell any one of his intentions. He was a
gentleman that kept himself to himself," she remarked, looking at me a
I thanked the woman and departed. Delora was scarcely likely to have
left behind any reliable details of his intentions at such a place. I
drove on to the Milan, and entered the Court with a curious little
thrill of interest. The hall-porter welcomed me with a smile.
"Glad to see you back again, Captain Rotherby," he said. "Have you any
"None," I answered. "I am not sure whether I shall be staying."
"This morning's letters are in your room, sir," he announced.
I nodded. I was not particularly interested in my letters! I drew
Ashley a little on one side.
"Tell me," I said, "is Miss Delora still here?"
"She is still here, sir," Ashley announced.
"The companion also?" I asked.
"Yes, sir!" he answered. "I am not sure whether they are in, sir, but
they are still staying here."
"And Mr. Delora?" I asked,--"has he ever turned up yet?"
"Not yet, sir. The young lady said that they were expecting him now
"Telephone up and see if Miss Delora is in, Ashley," I asked.
He disappeared for a moment into his office.
"No answer, sir," he announced presently. "I believe that they are
Almost as he spoke I saw through the windows of the hair-dresser's
shop a familiar figure entering the hotel. I left Ashley hurriedly,
and in a moment I was face to face with Felicia. She gave a little cry
when she saw me, and it was a joy to me to realize that it was a cry
"Capitaine Rotherby!" she exclaimed. "You!"
She gave me her hands with an impetuous little movement. I held them
tightly in mine.
"I want to speak to you at once," I said. "Where can we go?"
"Madame is out for an hour," she said. "We could go in the little
smoking-room. But have you forgotten your promise?"
"Never mind about that, Felicia," I whispered. "Something has
happened. I went first to see your uncle, but I could not find him. I
must talk with you. Come!"
We walked together across the hall, through the end of the cafe, down
which she threw one long, anxious glance, and entered the little
smoking-room. It was empty except for one man writing letters. I led
the way into the most remote corner, and wheeled out an easy-chair.
"Felicia," I said, "if I can get a special license, will you marry me
Felicia looked at me for a moment with wide-open eyes. Then a little
stream of color rushed into her cheeks, her lips slowly parted, and
she laughed, not altogether without embarrassment.
"Capitaine Rotherby," she said, "you must not say such things--so
"Last time we met," I reminded her, "you called me Austen."
"Austen, then, if I must," she said. "You know very well that you
should not be here. You are breaking a promise. It is very, very nice
to see you," she continued. "Indeed, I do feel that. But I am
"I have sufficient reasons for breaking my promise, dear," I said,
taking her hand in mine. "I will explain them to you by and by. In the
meantime, please answer my question."
"You are serious, then?" she asked, looking at me with wide-open eyes,
and lips which quivered a little--whether with laughter or emotion I
could not tell.
"I am serious," I answered. "You want taking care of, Felicia, and I
am quite sure that I should be the best person in the world to do it."
Her eyes fell before mine. She seemed to be studying the point of her
long patent shoe. As usual she was dressed delightfully, in a light
fawn-colored tailor-made gown and a large black hat. Nevertheless she
seemed to me to be thinner and frailer than when I had first seen
her--too girlish, almost, for her fashionable clothes.
"Do you think that you would take care of me?" she said softly. "I am
afraid I am a very ignorant little person. I do not know much about
England or English ways, and every one says that things are so
"There is one thing," I declared, "which is the same all the world
over, and that is that when two people care for one another, the world
becomes not such a very difficult place to live in, Felicia. I wonder
if you could not try and care a little for me?"
"I do," she murmured, without looking up.
"Enough?" I asked.
She sighed. Suddenly she raised her eyes, and I saw things there which
amazed me. They were no longer the eyes of a frightened child. I was
thrilled with the passion which seemed somehow or other to have been
born in their deep blue depths.
"Dear Austen," she said, "I think that I care quite enough. But
listen. How can I say, 'Yes,' to you? Always my uncle has been kind,
in his way. I know now that he is worried, harassed to death, afraid,
even, of what may happen hour by hour. I could not leave him. He would
think that I had lost faith, that I had gone over to his enemies."
"Felicia dear," I said, "I do not wish to be the enemy of any one who
is your friend. Indeed, your uncle and his doings mean so little to
me. If they are honest, I might be able to help him. If he is engaged
in transactions of which he is ashamed, then it is time that you were
"I will never believe that," she declared.
"Felicia," I said, "I will tell you why I have broken my promise and
come to London. I believe I told you that I had a brother out in
"Yes!" she answered,--"Dicky, you called him."
"He wrote, you know, and said that he had been staying with the
Deloras on their estate, and he begged that I should call upon your
uncle here. Now I have had a cable from him. Felicia, there is
something wrong. You shall read the cable for yourself."
I gave it to her. She read it word by word. Then she read it again,
aloud, very softly to herself, and finally gave it back to me.
"I do not understand," she whispered. "I do not know why my uncle has
not communicated with his brother."
"I am beginning to believe, Felicia," I said, "that I know more than
you. I tell you frankly I believe that your uncle has kept silence
because he is not honestly carrying out the business on which he was
sent to England. Tell me exactly, will you? When did he arrive from
She shook her head.
"Austen," she said, "you know there were some things which I promised
to keep silent about, and this is one."
"At any rate," I said, half to myself, "he could not have been in
Paris more than three weeks. I do not understand how in that three
weeks he could have obtained such a hold upon you that you should come
here and do his bidding blindly, although you must know that some of
the things he does are extraordinary and mysterious."
She was obviously distressed.
"There is something," she said, "of course, which I am not telling
you,--something which I promised to keep secret. But, Austen," she
went on, laying her fingers upon my coat sleeve, "let me tell you
this. I am getting more and more worried every day. I understand
nothing. The explanations which I have had from my uncle grow more and
more extraordinary. Why we are here, why he is still in hiding, why he
lives in the shadow of such fear day by day, I cannot imagine. I am
beginning to lose heart. Through the telephone last night I told him
that I must see him. He has half promised that I shall, to-day or
to-morrow. I shall tell him, Austen, that I must know more about the
reasons for all this mystery, or I will go back to Madame
Quintaine's. I wrote to her soon after I came here, when I was
frightened, and she told me that she would gladly have me back. My
uncles have always paid her a good deal of money," she went on, "for
taking care of me."
I drew a long breath of relief.
"Felicia," I said, "you are talking like a dear, sensible little
woman. But," I added, "you have not answered my question!"
She looked away, laughing.
"Of course you are not in earnest!" she exclaimed.
"Of course I am!" I persisted.
"You must know," she said softly, "that I could not do a thing like
that. My uncle has always been so kind to me--"
"But you have only seen him three weeks," I interrupted. "Before that
he was in Brazil!"
She was silent for several moments.
"Well," she said, "even if it were so, he could be very kind to me,
couldn't he, even if he was in Brazil and I was in Paris? You see, my
father was the poor one of the family, who died without any money at
all, yet I have always had everything in the world I want, and when I
come of age they are going to give me a great sum of money. It is not
that I think about," she went on, "but they write to me always, and
they treat me as though I were their own daughter. Often they have
said how they would love to have had me out in Brazil. I think that it
is really their own kindness that they let me stay in Paris."
"Felicia," I said, "tell me really how much you do know of your
uncle--the one who is with you now?"
She shook her head.
"No!" she said. "I cannot do that. I made a promise and I must keep
it. But I will promise you this, if you like. If I find that it is not
the truth which I have been told I will come to you if you want me."
I held her hands tightly in mine.
"You are beginning to have doubts, are you not?" I asked.
"Oh, I don't know!" she answered. "I don't know! There are times when
I am frightened. Austen, I must go now."
I looked at the clock. It was almost two o'clock.
"We couldn't have lunch together, I suppose?" I asked.
She shook her head, laughing.
"I had lunch more than an hour ago," she said, "and I have to meet
madame at a dress-maker's. I must go, really, Austen."
"Can't I see you again, dear?"
"I will come into this room, if I can, about five," she said. "Don't
come out with me now. It is the luncheon time in the cafe, and I am
afraid of Louis."
She flitted away, leaving behind a faint odor of violets shaken from
the skirts she had lifted so daintily as she had hurried down the few
steps. I watched her out of sight. Then I opened the door myself and
passed out into the cafe....
Louis, for the first few minutes, was not visible, but one of the
other _maitres d'hotel_ procured for me a table in a somewhat
retired corner of the room. My luncheon was already served before
Louis appeared before me. For the second time his impassive
countenance seemed to be disturbed.
"Back in London, Captain Rotherby," he remarked, with the ghost of his
usual welcoming smile.
"Back again, Louis," I answered cheerfully.
Louis bent over my table.
"I thought," he said, "that an English gentleman never broke his
"Nor does he, Louis," I answered, "unless the circumstances under
which it was given themselves change. I came up from the country this
"Upon private business?" Louis asked.
"No!" I answered. "Upon the business in which you and Mr. Delora are
both interested. Did you know, Louis, that I had a brother in Brazil?"
"What of it, monsieur?" Louis asked sharply.
For once I had the best of matters. Louis was evidently in a highly
nervous state, from which I imagined that things connected with their
undertaking, whatever it might be, had reached a critical stage. There
were lines underneath his eyes, and he looked about him every now and
"My brother," I remarked, "first wrote to me to be sure and look up
Mr. Delora, and to be civil to him. I have done this to the best of my
"Go on," he said.
"Last night," I continued, speaking very deliberately, "my brother who
is in London rang me up in Norfolk. He told me that he had just
received a cable from Dicky concerning Mr. Delora. It was at his
earnest request that I came to London this morning. By the bye,
Louis," I added, "I think that I should like some _Riz Diane_."
Louis looked for a moment as though he were about to consign my
innocent desire for _Riz Diane_ to the bottommost depths. The
effort with which he recovered himself was really magnificent. He drew
a long breath, and bowed his acquiescence.
"By all means, monsieur!"
He called to a waiter, and was particular in his instructions as to my
order. Then he turned back to me.
"Monsieur," he said, "you will tell me what was in that cable?"
"I think not, Louis," I answered. "You see I really cannot recognize
you in this matter at all. I must find Mr. Delora at once. It is
"But if he cannot be found?" Louis asked quickly.
"Then I think that the best thing I can do," I continued, after a
moment's pause, "is to call at the Brazilian embassy."
I had a feeling, the feeling for a moment that, notwithstanding the
crowded room and Louis' attitude of polite attention, my life was in
danger. There flashed something in his eyes indescribably venomous. I
seemed to see there his intense and passionate desire to sweep me from
the face of the earth.
"Of course," I continued, "if I can find Mr. Delora, that is what I
would really prefer. There is a certain matter upon which I must have
an explanation from him."
"Monsieur will not have finished his luncheon for twenty minutes or
so," Louis said calmly. "At the end of that time I will return."
"Always glad to have a chat with you, Louis," I declared.
"You will not leave," he asked, "before I come back?"
"Not if you return in a reasonable time," I answered.
Louis bowed and hurried off. I saw him disappear for a moment into the
service room. When he came out into the restaurant he was once more
discharging his duties, moving about amongst his clients, supervising,
suggesting, bidding farewell to departing guests, and welcoming new
arrivals. A very busy man, Louis, for the cafe was crowded that day. I
wondered, as I saw him pass backwards and forwards, with that eternal
and yet not displeasing smile upon his lips, what lay at the back of
his head concerning me!
AN APPOINTMENT WITH DELORA
My _Riz Diane_ duly arrived, but was served, I noticed, by a
different waiter. It looked very tempting, and it was indeed a dish of
which I was particularly fond, but I realized that it had been
specially ordered by Louis, and with a sigh I pushed it on one side. I
finished my luncheon with rolls and butter, and took care to procure
my coffee before Louis returned.
"Well," I asked, as he stopped once more before me, "what is it to be?
Are you going to give me Delora's address?"
"That is not the trouble, monsieur," Louis declared. "Mr. Delora is
away from London."
"I think you will find that he is back again, Louis," I answered. "It
was a very interesting trip to Newcastle, but it was soon over. He
arrived in London with his illustrious companion last night."
This time I had really astonished Louis! He looked at me with a
genuine expression of profound surprise.
"You are under the impression," he said slowly, "that Mr. Delora has
been to Newcastle!"
"That is scarcely the way I look at it, Louis," I answered. "You see I
was in Newcastle myself and saw him."
I fancy that Louis' manner toward me, from this time onward, acquired
a new respect, but I recognized the fact that there was danger greater
than ever before under his increasing suaveness.
"Captain Rotherby," he said, "you were not meant to be an idle
man. You have gifts of which you should make use!"
"In the meantime," I said, "when can I see Mr. Delora?"
"This afternoon, if you like," Louis answered. "Here is his address."
He scribbled a few words down on a piece of paper and passed it to
me. When I had received it I did not like it. It was an
out-of-the-way street in Bermondsey, in a quarter of which I was
absolutely ignorant except by repute.
"Couldn't we arrange, don't you think, Louis," I asked, "to have
Mr. Delora come up here?"
"You could send down a note and ask him," Louis answered. "He is
staying at that address under the name of Hoffmeyer."
"I will write him a letter," I decided, signing my bill.
"You will let me know the result?" Louis asked, looking at me
"Certainly," I answered.
I rose to my feet, but Louis did not immediately stand aside.
"Captain Rotherby," he said, "there is one thing I should like to ask
you. How did you know of Mr. Delora's projected visit to Newcastle?"
"Why should I give away my methods, Louis?" I said. "You know very
well that the movements of Mr. Delora have become very interesting to
me. You and I are on opposite sides. I certainly do not feel called
upon to disclose my sources of information."
I passed out of the restaurant, and ascended to my own room. There I
drew a sheet of paper toward me and wrote.
I trust you will recognize the fact that although I am writing to
you from London, and from the Milan Hotel, I have not
intentionally broken the compact I made with you. The fact is, a
somewhat singular thing has occurred. My brother--Mr. Richard
Rotherby--whom you will doubtless remember, and who speaks most
gratefully of your hospitality in Brazil, has sent me a cable on
behalf of your brother--Mr. Nicholas Delora. It seems that you
have not kept him acquainted with your doings here, and that you
have failed to make use of a certain cipher that was agreed
upon. He is, therefore, exceedingly anxious to know of your
doings, and has begged me to see you at once and report. Will you,
for that purpose, be good enough to grant me a five minutes'
I sealed this letter, and addressed it to the very obscure street in
Bermondsey which Louis had designated. Then I procured a messenger boy
and sent it off, with instructions that the bearer must wait for an
answer. Afterwards there was little for me to do but wait. I tried to
see Felicia, but I only succeeded in having the door of her rooms
practically slammed in my face by Madame Muller. I was too anxious
for a reply to my letter to go round to the club, so I simply hung
about the place, smoking and waiting. When at last the messenger boy
came back, however, it was only to report a certain amount of failure.
He had found the right address and delivered the note, but the
gentleman was out, and not expected in till the evening. After this, I
went round to my club, leaving an order that any note or message was
to be sent after me. I cut into a rubber of bridge, but I had
scarcely finished my second game before a telegram was brought in for
me, sent on from the Milan. I tore it open. It was from Delora.
Have received your note. Will see you at this address ten o'clock
I thrust the telegram into my waistcoat pocket and finished the
rubber. Soon afterwards I cut out and took a hansom round to
Claridge's Hotel. I found my brother in and expecting to hear from me.
"Ralph," I said, "I can't bring you any news just now. If you must
cable Dicky, you had better just cable that we are making inquiries. I
have an appointment to see Delora at ten o'clock to-night."
"Where is he?" Ralph asked, with interest.
"The address he has sent me is some low street in Bermondsey," I
answered. "It is absolutely impossible that he should have chosen such
a place to stop in except as a hiding-place. I don't like the look of
"Then don't go," Ralph said quickly. "There is no need for you to run
into danger for nothing at all."
"I am not afraid of that," I answered. "What really bothers me is that
I am up against a problem which seems insoluble. Frankly, I don't
believe a snap of the fingers in Delora. No man, however secret or
important his business might be, would descend to such subterfuges.
The only point in his favor is that this dodging about may be all due
to political reasons. I cannot understand his friendship with the
"Can't you?" Ralph answered. "I have been thinking over what you told
me, Austen, and I fancy, perhaps, I can give you a hint. Do you know
that at the present moment the two most powerful battleships in the
world are being built on the Tyne for Brazil?"
"I know that," I admitted. "Go on."
"What does Brazil want with battleships of that class?" my brother
continued. "Obviously they would be useless to her. She could not man
them. It would be a severe strain to her finances even to put them
into commission. I am of opinion that the order to build them was
given as a speculation by a few shrewd men in the Brazilian Government
who foresaw unsettled times ahead, and they are there to be disposed
of to the highest European or Asiatic bidder!"
I saw Ralph's point at once.
"By Jove!" I exclaimed. "You think, then, that Delora is over here to
arrange for the sale of them to some other Government--presumably to
"Why not?" Ralph asked. "It is feasible, and to some extent it
explains a good deal of what has seemed to you so mysterious. There
could be no more possible purchaser of the battleships than China,
except, perhaps, Russia, and transactions of that sort are always
attended with a large amount of secrecy."
"Of course, if you are on the right track," I admitted, "everything is
explained, and Delora is justified. There is just one thing which I do
not understand, and that is why he should have associated with such a
pack of thieves as the people at the Cafe des Deux Epingles, and why
he should be forced to make an ally--I had almost said accomplice--of
"Well, you can't understand everything all at once," Ralph
answered. "At the same time, if I were you, I would try and see if the
hint I have given you fits in with the rest of the puzzle."
"I'll get the truth out of Delora to-night!" I declared. "And, Ralph!"
"Well?" he asked.
"I have asked Felicia Delora to marry me," I continued.
Ralph looked at me for a moment, doubtfully.
"Wouldn't it have been better to have had this matter cleared up
first?" he asked.
"I couldn't help it," I answered. "The child is all alone, and it
makes my heart ache to think what a poor little pawn she is in the
game these men are playing. I'd like to take her right away from it,
Ralph, but she is staunch. She fancies that she is indebted to her
uncle, and she will obey his orders."
"You can't think any the worse of her for that," Ralph remarked.
"I don't," I answered, sighing, "but it makes the position a little
"Come and see me to-morrow morning," Ralph said, "and tell me exactly
what passes between you and Delora. We must cable Dicky some time
"I will," I promised, taking up my hat. "Good-day, Ralph!"
A NARROW ESCAPE
I felt that night an unusual desire to take all possible precautions
before leaving the Milan for Bermondsey. I wrote a letter explaining
my visit and my suspicions, and placed it in Ashley's hands.
"Look here, Ashley," I said, "I am going off on an errand which I
don't feel quite comfortable about. Between you and me, it is
connected with the disappearance of Miss Delora's uncle. I feel that
it is likely, even probable, that I shall get into trouble, and I want
you to promise me this. If I am not back here by half-past eleven, I
want you to take this letter, which contains a full statement of
everything, to Scotland Yard. Either take it yourself," I continued,
"or send some one absolutely trustworthy with it."
The man looked a little serious.
"Very good, sir," he said. "I'll attend to it. At the same time, if I
might make the suggestion, I should take a couple of plain-clothes
policemen with me. It's a pretty low part where you are going, and one
hears of queer doings, nowadays."
"I am bound to go, Ashley," I answered, "but I am not likely to come
to much grief. I have a revolver in my pocket, and I have not studied
boxing with Baxter for nothing. I don't fancy there's anything in
Bermondsey going to hurt me."
"I hope not, sir," Ashley answered civilly. "At half-past eleven, if I
do not hear from you, I shall go myself to Scotland Yard."
"And in the meantime," I said, "a taxicab, if you please."
I drove to the address given me on the paper. It was an odd,
half-forgotten street, terminating in a _cul-de-sac,_ and not far
from the river. The few houses it contained were larger than the
majority of those in the neighborhood, but were in a shocking state of
repair. The one at which I eventually stopped had a timber yard
adjoining, or rather attached to it. I left the taxicab outside, and
made my somewhat uncertain way up to the front door. Only a few yards
from me a great black dog was straining at his collar and barking
furiously. I was somewhat relieved when the door was opened
immediately at my knock.
"Is Mr. Hoffmeyer staying here?" I asked.
A little old man carrying a tallow candle stuck into a cheap
candlestick nodded assent, and closed the door after me. I noticed,
without any particular pleasure, that he also drew the bolts.
"What do you do that for?" I asked sharply. "I shall only be here a
few minutes. It is not worth while locking up."
The man looked at me but said nothing. He seemed to show neither any
desire nor any ability for speech. Only as I repeated my question he
nodded slowly as one who barely understands.
"Mr. Hoffmeyer is in his room," he said. "He will be glad to see you."
I followed him along as miserable a passage as ever I saw in my
life. The walls were damp, and the paper hung down here and there in
long, untidy patches. The ceiling was barely whitewashed; the stairs
by which we passed were uncarpeted. The whole place had a most
dejected and weary appearance. Then he showed me into a small
sitting-room, in which one man sat writing at a table. He looked up as
I entered. It was Delora.
"Well," he said, "so this is how you keep your promise!"
"Something has happened since then," I answered. "I have received a
cable from my brother which we do not understand."
"A cable from your brother in Brazil?" he asked slowly.
"Yes!" I answered.
Delora turned slowly in his chair and rose to his feet. He was tall
and gaunt. His face was lined. He had somehow or other the appearance
of a man who is driven to bay. Yet there was something splendid about
the way he nerved himself to listen to me with indifference.
"What does he say--your brother?"
"The cable is inspired by Nicholas Delora," I answered. "Listen, and
I will read it to you."
I read it to him word by word. When I had finished he simply nodded.
"Is that all?" he asked.
"That is all," I answered. "You will see that what makes your brother
anxious is that not only have you failed to keep your word so far as
regards communicating with him, but you have not made use of a certain
private code arranged between you."
"The business upon which I am engaged," Delora said calmly, "is of
great importance, but I do not care to be rushing all the time to the
telegraph office. Nicholas is a nervous person. In a case like this he
should be content to wait. However, since he has sought the
interference of outsiders, I will cable him to-morrow morning."
"Very well," I answered. "I can ask no more than that. I shall go
myself to the cable office and send my brother a message."
"What shall you tell him?" Delora asked.
"I shall tell him that I have seen you," I answered, "that you are
well, and that he will hear from you to-morrow morning."
"Why cable at all?" Delora asked. "Surely to-morrow morning will be
"From your point of view, yes!" I said. "But there is one other thing
which I am going to do. I am going to say in my cable, that if the
news he receives from you to-morrow morning is not satisfactory, I
shall lay the matter before the Brazilian legation here, and I shall
Delora's eyes were like points of fire. Nevertheless, his
self-restraint was admirable. He contented himself, indeed, with a low
"You will tell our friends there," he said slowly, "that you have seen
me? That I am--you see I admit that--living practically in hiding,
apart from my niece? You will also, perhaps, inform them of various
other little episodes with which, owing to your unfortunate habit of
looking into other people's business, you have become acquainted?"
"Naturally," I answered.
"I think not!" Delora said.
There was an instant's silence. I looked at Delora and wondered what
he meant. He looked at me as a man looks at his enemy.
"May I ask how you intend to prevent me?" I inquired.
"Easily!" he answered, with a slight sneer. "There are four men in
this house who will obey my bidding. There are also five modes of
exit, two of which lead into the river."
"I congratulate you," I said, "upon the possession of such a unique
"I can assure you," he said, "that it is more expensive than the
finest suite in the Milan. Still, what would you have? When one has
friends who are too curious, one must receive them in a fitting
"You are a very brave man, Mr. Delora," I said.
"Indeed!" he answered dryly. "I should have thought that the bravery
had lain in another direction!"
I shook my head.
"I," I said, "am, I fear, a coward. Even when to-night I started out
to keep my appointment with you I had fears. I was so afraid," I
continued, "that I even went so far as to insure my safety."
"To insure your safety!" he repeated softly, like a man who repeats
words of whose significance he is not assured.
"I admit it," I answered. "It was cowardly, and, I am sure,
unnecessary. But I did it."
His face darkened with anger.
"You have brought an escort with you, perhaps?" he said. "You have the
I shook my head.
"Nothing so clumsy," I answered. "There is just my taxicab, which
won't go away unless it is I who says to go, and a little note I left
with the hall-porter of the Milan, to be opened in case I was not back
in an hour and a half. You see," I continued, apologetically, "my
nerve has been a little shaken lately, and I did not know the
"You are discretion itself," Delora said. "Some day I will remember
this as a joke against you. Have you been reading Gaboriau, my young
friend, or his English disciples? This is your own city--London--the
most law-abiding place on God's earth."
"I know it," I answered, "and yet a place is so much what the people
who live in it may make it. I must confess that your five exits, two
on to the river, would have given me a little shiver if I had not
known for certain that I had made my visit to you safe."
Delora tried to smile. As a matter of fact, I could see that the man
was shaking with fury.
"You are a strange person, Captain Rotherby," he said. "If I had not
seen you bear yourself as a man of courage I should have been tempted
to congratulate your army upon its freedom from your active
services. You have no more to say to me?"
"Nothing more," I answered.
"To-morrow morning at eleven o'clock," Delora said, "you will be
arrested for the attempted murder of Stephen Tapilow."
"It is exceedingly kind of you," I answered, "to give me this
warning. I will make my arrangements accordingly."
"One thing," Delora said, "would change the course of Fate."
"That one thing," I remarked, "being that I should not send this
"Exactly!" Delora answered, "in which case you will find your banking
account the richer by ten thousand pounds."
I looked at him steadfastly.
"What manner of a swindle is this," I asked, "In which you, Louis,
poor Bartot, the Chinese ambassador, and Heaven knows how many more,
"You are an ignorant person to use such words!" Delora replied.
"Tell me, at least," I begged, "whether your niece is implicated in
"Why do you ask?" Delora exclaimed.
"Because I want to marry her," I answered.
"Do nothing until the day after to-morrow, Captain Rotherby, and you
shall marry her and have a dowry of fifty thousand pounds, besides
what her Uncle Nicholas will leave her."
"You overwhelm me!" I answered, turning toward the door.
He made no movement to arrest my departure. Suddenly I turned towards
him. Why should I not give him the benefit of this one chance!
"Delora," I said, "from the moment when you disappeared from Charing
Cross I have had but one idea concerning you, and that is that you are
engaged in some nefarious if not criminal undertaking. I believe so at
this minute. On the other hand, there is, of course, the chance that
you may be, as you say, engaged in carrying out some enterprise,
political or otherwise, which necessitates these mysterious doings on
your part. I have no wish to be your enemy, or to interfere in any
legitimate operation. If you care to take me into your confidence you
will not find me unreasonable."
Delora bowed. I caught the gleam of his white teeth underneath his
black moustache. I knew that he had made up his mind to fight.
"Captain Rotherby," he said, "I am much obliged for your offer, but I
am not in need of allies. Send your cable as soon as you will. You
will only make a little mischief of which you will afterwards be
I shrugged my shoulders and turned away. No one came to let me out,
but I undid the bolts myself, and stepped into my taxicab with a
little breath of relief. Somehow or other I felt as though I had
escaped from a danger which I could not define, and yet which I had
felt with every breath I had drawn in that damp, unwholesome-looking
AN ABORTIVE ATTEMPT
Immediately I arrived at my brother's hotel I rang up the hall-porter
of the Milan and informed him of my whereabouts. Afterwards Ralph and
I between us concocted a cable to Dicky, for which I was thankful that
I had not to pay. I had now taken Ralph into my entire confidence, and
I found that he took very much the same view of Delora's behavior as I
did. This is what we said,--
Have seen Delora. Behavior very mysterious. Is living apart from
niece in secrecy. Seen several times with Chinese ambassador.
Offered me large bribe refrain cabling you till Thursday. Fear
"Do you think that you could give me a bed here to-night, Ralph?" I
"By all means, old fellow," my brother answered. "To tell you the
truth, I think you are better here than at the Milan. You can have the
rooms you had the other night."
I had had a tiring day, and I dropped off to sleep almost as soon as
my head touched the pillow. I was awakened by the sound of the
telephone bell close to my head. I had no idea as to the time, but
from the silence everywhere I judged that I had been asleep for
several hours. I took up the receiver and held it to my ear.
"Hullo!" I exclaimed.
"Is that Captain Rotherby?" a familiar voice asked.
"Yes!" I said. "That's Ashley, isn't it?"
"Yes, sir!" the man answered. "I am on night duty here. Will you
excuse my asking you, sir, if you have lent your room to any one?"
"Certainly not!" I replied. "Why?"
"It's a very odd thing, sir," he continued. "A person arrived here
with a small bag a little time ago and presented your card,--said that
you had given him permission to sleep in your room. I let him go up,
but I didn't feel altogether comfortable about it, so I took the
liberty of ringing up Claridge's to see if you were there. I thought
that as you were here this evening, you would have told us if you had
proposed lending it."
"You are quite right, Ashley," I declared. "I have lent the room to no
one. You had better go and see who it is at once. Shall I come round?"
"I will ring you up again, sir," the man answered, "as soon as I have
"By the bye," I asked, "he didn't look like a Frenchman, did he?"
"I could not say so," Ashley replied. "I will ring you up in a few
minutes. I shall go up and inquire into this myself."
I sat on the edge of the bed, waiting. In less than ten minutes the
telephone bell rang again. Once more I heard Ashley's voice.
"I am ringing up from your sitting-room, sir," he said. "There is no
one here at all, but the room has been opened. So far as I can see,
nothing has been taken, but a bottle of chloroform has been dropped
and broken upon the floor in your bedroom, and I have a strong idea
that some one left the room by the other door as I entered the
"I'll come along at once, Ashley," I said,--"that is, as soon as I can
"I was wondering, sir," was the quiet reply, "whether I would advise
you to do so. I did not like the look of the man who came, and I am
afraid he was not up to any good here. He is somewhere in the hotel
"You say that nothing has been disturbed?" I asked.
"Nothing at all, sir. It wasn't for robbery he came!"
"I think I can guess what he wanted, Ashley," said I. "Perhaps you are
right. I won't come round till the morning."
"If anything fresh happens, sir, I will let you know," the man
said. "Good night, sir!"
"Good night, Ashley!" I answered.
I got back into bed, but I did not immediately fall off to sleep
again. There was no doubt at all that my visitor had come at the
instigation of Delora, and that his object had been to prevent my
sending that cable, which was already on its way. I got up and saw
that my door was securely fastened. I am ashamed to confess that at
that moment I felt a tremor of fear! I no longer had the slightest
doubt that Delora, if not an impostor, was engaged in some great
criminal operation. And Felicia! I thought of the matter in every
way. It was impossible that Delora could be an impostor pure and
simple. Felicia was content to travel with him. She knew him for her
uncle. He must be her uncle, unless she herself had deceived me! I
felt my blood run cold at the thought. I flung it from me. I would
have no more of it. Felicia, at least, was above suspicion! Delora
had, perhaps, been led into this enterprise, whatever it might be, by
Louis and his friends. At any rate, the morrow was likely to clear
things up. I was the more convinced of that when I remembered that it
was one day's grace only that Delora had begged of me. I went off to
sleep again soon, and only woke when my brother's servant called me
for my bath. At half-past ten, after a consultation with my brother, I
drove to the Brazilian Embassy. I sent in my card, and asked to see
Mr. Lamartine. He came to me in a few minutes.
"Captain Rotherby!" he exclaimed, holding out his hand. "You have some
"I am not sure whether you will call it news," I answered. "I came to
see you about this man Delora."
"Sit down," Lamartine said. "I only wish that you had given me all
your confidence the other day."
"To tell you the truth, I am not sure whether I have any to give now,"
I answered. "There are just one or two facts which seem to me so
peculiar that I decided to look you up."
"I am very glad indeed to see you, Captain Rotherby," Lamartine
said. "Something is happening in connection with this person which I
am afraid may lead to very serious trouble. I know now more than I did
when I hung around you and Miss Delora at Charing Cross Station, and
in the course of the day I hope to know more."
"I should have washed my hands of the whole affair," I told him,
"before now, but from the fact that I have received a cable from my
brother, who is in Rio, concerning these very people. He had first of
all, in a letter, asked me to be civil and to look them up. His cable
begged me, on behalf of an elder brother out there, to look after
Delora, find out what he was doing, and report. I gathered that he was
over here on some special mission as to the progress of which he
should have made reports to his brother in Brazil. He has not done so,
nor has he used the private code agreed upon between those two."
"This is very interesting," Lamartine said,--"very interesting
"I came to you," I said, "because, since the receipt of this cable, I
have convinced myself that Delora is engaged in some sort of
underground work the crisis of which must be very close at hand. I
found him last night in a miserable, deserted sort of building down
near the river in Bermondsey. He offered me ten thousand pounds not to
reply to his brother's cable, I think that he would have done his best
to have detained me there but for the fact that I had taken
precautions before I started."
"Have you any idea," Lamartine asked, "what the nature of this
underground business is?"
"I cannot imagine," I answered. "In some way it seems to me that it is
connected with the Chinese ambassador, because I have seen them
several times together. That, however, is only surmise. I can give
you one more piece of information," I added, "and that is that the
Chinese ambassador and Delora have recently visited Newcastle."
"I know everything except one thing," he said, "and that we shall both
of us know before the day is out. Our friend Delora has played a great
game. Even now I cannot tell you whether he has played to win or to
lose. Since you have been so kind as to look me up, Captain
Rotherby," he went on, "let us spend a little time together. Do me,
for instance, the honor to lunch with me at the Milan at one o'clock."
"With Louis?" I asked grimly.
"I do not think that Louis will hurt us," Lamartine answered. "There
is just a chance, even, that we may not find him on duty to-day."
"I will lunch with you with pleasure," I said, "but there is one thing
which I must do first."
Lamartine looked at me narrowly.
"You want to see Miss Delora?" he asked.
It was foolish to be offended. I admitted the fact.
"Well," he said, "it is natural. Miss Delora is a very charming young
lady, and, so far as I know, she believes in her uncle. At the same
time, I am not sure, Captain Rotherby, that the neighborhood of the
Milan is very safe for you just now."
"At this hour of the morning," I said, "one should be able to protect
"It is true," Lamartine answered. "Tell me, Captain Rotherby, at what
hour did you send that cable last night?"
"At midnight," I answered.
Lamartine glanced at the clock.
"Soon," he said, "we shall have an official cable here, and then
things will be interesting. Shall we meet, then, at the Milan?"
"Precisely," I answered. "You don't feel inclined," I added, "to be a
little more candid with me? My head has ached for a good many days
over this business."
"A few hours longer won't hurt you," Lamartine answered, laughing. "I
can promise you that it will be worth waiting for."
At a few minutes before twelve I entered the Milan by the Court
entrance, and received at once some astonishing news. Ashley, who came
out to meet me, drew me at once upon one side with a little gesture of
"Mr. Delora has returned, sir," he said.
For the moment I had forgotten the sensation which Delora's
non-arrival on that first evening had made, and which had always left
behind it a flavor of mystery. I could see from Ashley's face that he
"Is Mr. Delora with his niece?" I asked.
"They have moved into Number 35, sir," Ashley told me. "Mr. Delora
complained very much of his rooms, said they were too small, and
threatened to move to Claridge's. Number 35 is the best suite we
I stood, for a moment, thinking. Ashley, meanwhile, had retreated to
his place behind the counter. I approached him slowly.
"Ashley," I said, "ring up and tell Mr. Delora that I have called."
Ashley went at once to the telephone.
"Don't be surprised," I said, "if his reply isn't exactly polite. I
don't think he is very well pleased with me just now."
I strolled away for a few minutes to look into the cafe, where the
waiters were preparing for luncheon. There was no sign of Louis. When
I returned, Ashley leaned forward to me from the other side of the
"Mr. Delora wishes you to step up, sir," he said.
I was a little surprised, but I moved promptly to the lift.
"On the third floor, isn't it?" I asked.
"Exactly, sir," Ashley answered. "Shall I send a page with you?"
I shook my head.
"I can find it all right," I said.
My knock at the door was answered by a dark-faced valet. He ushered me
into a large and very handsome sitting-room. Felicia and Delora were
standing talking together near the mantelpiece. They both ceased at my
entrance, but I had an instinctive feeling that I had been the subject
of their conversation. Felicia greeted me timidly. There were signs of
tears in her face, and I felt that by some means or other this man had
been able to reassert his influence over her. Delora himself was a
changed being. He was dressed with the almost painful exactness of the
French man of fashion. His slight black imperial was trimmed to a
point, his moustache upturned with a distinctly foreign air. He wore a
wonderful pin in his carefully arranged tie, and a tiny piece of red
ribbon in his button-hole. The manicurist whom I had met in the
passage had evidently just left him, for as I entered he was regarding
his nails thoughtfully. He did not offer me his hand. He stared at me
instead with a certain restrained insolence.
"I should be glad to know, Captain Rotherby," he said calmly, "to what
I owe this intrusion?"
"I am sorry that you look upon it in that light, sir," I answered. "My
visit, as a matter of fact, was intended for your niece."
She took a step towards me, but Delora's outstretched arm barred her
"My niece is very much honored," he answered, "but her friends and her
acquaintances are mine. You were so good as to render me some service
on our arrival at Charing Cross a few days ago, but you have since
then presumed upon that service to an unwarrantable extent."
"I am sorry that you should think so," I answered.
"I did not know," Delora continued, "that the young men of your
country had time enough to spare to devote themselves to other
people's business in the way that you have done. I came to this
country upon a peculiar and complicated mission, intrusted to me by my
own government. The chief condition of success was that it should be
performed in secrecy. You were only a chance acquaintance, and how on
earth you should have had the impertinence to associate yourself with
my doings I cannot imagine! But the fact remains that you made my task
more difficult, and, in fact, at one time seriously endangered its
success. Not only that," Delora continued, "but you have chosen to
ally yourself with those whose object it has been to wreck my
undertaking. Yet, with the full knowledge of these things, you have
had the supreme impudence to force your company upon my niece,--even,
I understand, to pay her your addresses!"
"The dowry of fifty thousand pounds," I began,--
He stretched out his hand with a commanding air.
"We will not allude to that, sir," he declared. "I was forced to make
an attempt to bribe you, I admit, but it was under very difficult
circumstances. As it is, I am only thankful that you declined my
offer. I have arranged matters so that your cable shall do me no
harm. It has precipitated matters by twenty-four hours, but that is no
one's loss and my gain. When I heard your name sent up I could
scarcely believe my ears, but since you are here, since you have
ventured to pay this call, I wish to inform you, on behalf of my niece
and myself, that we consider your further acquaintance undesirable in
The man's deportment was magnificent. But for the fact that I had long
ago lost all faith in him I should have felt, without the shadow of a
doubt, that I had made a supreme fool of myself. But as it was, my
faith was only shaken. The hideous possibility that I had made a
mistake was there like a shadow, but I could not accept it as a
"Mr. Delora," I said, "from one point of view I am very glad to hear
you speak like this. If I have been mistaken in supposing that your
extraordinary behavior in London--"
"But what the devil has my extraordinary behavior got to do with you?"
Delora demanded, with the first note of anger in his tone which he had
"My interest was for your niece, sir," I answered.
"My niece does not require your protection or your interest," Delora
answered. "It seems to me that you have chosen a queer way to return
the hospitality which it was our pleasure to extend to your brother in
Brazil. I have still a busy morning, sir, and I have seen you for
this one reason only: to have you clearly understand that we--my niece
and I--do not find your further acquaintance desirable."
She made another little movement towards me, and by doing so came into
the light. I saw that her eyes were red with weeping, and
notwithstanding an angry exclamation from Delora she held out her
hands to me.
"Capitaine Rotherby," she said, "I believe, I do, indeed, that you
have acted out of kindness to me. My uncle, as you see, is very angry.
What he has said has not been from my heart, but from his. Yet, as you
know, I must obey!"
I raised her fingers to my lips, and I smiled into her face.
"Felicia," I said, "do not be afraid. This is not the end!"
Delora turned to the servant whom he had summoned.
"Show this gentleman out, Francois," he said coldly.
* * * * *
Lamartine was a few minutes late. He drove up in a large motor-car
with an elderly gentleman, who remained inside, and with whom he
talked for a few minutes earnestly before he joined me.
"You forgive me?" he asked, as he handed his hat and stick to an
attendant. "The chief kept me talking. He brought me down here
"It is of no consequence," I said. "I have some news for you."
"Nothing," Lamartine declared, passing his arm through mine, "will
"Delora is here," I said, "with his niece!"
Lamartine stopped short.
"Under his own name?" he asked. "Do you mean that he has thrown off
all disguise? That he is here as Maurice Delora?"
"I never knew his Christian name," I answered, "but he is here as
Delora, right enough. He has taken the largest suite in the Court, and
for the last quarter of an hour he has been dressing me down in great
"He is magnificent!" Lamartine said softly, "If he can keep it up for
twenty-four hours longer, he who has been a beggar practically for ten
years will be worth a great fortune!"
"So that," I remarked, "was the stake!"
"A worthy one, is it not so, my friend?" Lamartine declared.
"Does he win?" I asked.
"Heaven knows!" Lamartine answered. "Even now I cannot tell
you. Unless something turns up, I should say that it was very likely."
We entered the cafe. When Louis saw us arrive together he stood for a
moment motionless upon the floor. His eyes seemed to question us with
swift and fierce curiosity. Had we arrived together? Was this a chance
meeting? How much was either in the other's confidence? These things
and many others he seemed to ask. Then he came slowly towards us. A
ray of sunshine, streaming through the glass roof of the courtyard and
reflected through the window, lay across the floor of the cafe. As
Louis passed over it I saw a change in the man. Always colorless, his
white cheeks were graven now with deep, cob-webbed lines. His eyes
seemed to have receded into his head. His manner lacked that touch of
graceful and not unbecoming confidence which one had grown to admire.
"What can I do for you, messieurs?" he asked, with a little bow. "A
table for two--yes? This way."
We followed him to a small table in the best part of the room.
"Monsieur had good sport in the country?" he asked me.
"Excellent, Louis!" I answered. "How are things in town?"
Louis shrugged his shoulders and glanced around.
"As one sees," he answered, "here we are fortunate. Here we are
always, always busy. We turn people away all the time, because we
prefer to serve well our old customers."
"Louis," I said, "you are wonderful!"
"What will the gentlemen eat?" Louis asked.
I looked at Lamartine, and Lamartine looked at me. The same thought
was in the minds of both of us. Curiously enough we felt a certain
delicacy in letting Louis perceive our dilemma!
"Those cold grouse look excellent," Lamartine said to me, pointing to
"Cold grouse are very good," Louis assented. "I will have one
specially prepared and sent up."
Lamartine shook his head.
"Bring over the dish there, and let us look at them, Louis," he said.
Louis obeyed him. There was no alternative. Lamartine, without
hesitation, coolly took one of the birds on to his own plate.
"Our luncheon is arranged for, Louis," he said. "Let a waiter bring us
a dish and carving-knife. I like to carve myself at the table."
"But certainly!" Louis assented, and, calling a waiter, he glided
away. Lamartine and I exchanged glances.
"I fancy we are pretty safe with this bird," he remarked.
"Absolutely," I answered. "He never had the ghost of a chance to
tamper with it. The question of drinks is a little difficult," I
"And I am very thirsty," Lamartine said. "An unopened bottle of hock,
I shook my head.
"No good," I answered. "I am convinced that Louis has a cellar of his
own. Did you notice the fellow, by the bye?" I went on. "He shows
signs of the worry of this thing. Somehow or other I do not fancy that
Louis will be in this place a week from to-day."
"That may be," Lamartine answered, "but I must drink!"
There was a bottle of whiskey upon the table next to us, from which
its occupant had been helping himself. He rose now to go, and I seized
the opportunity the moment he had left, and before the waiter could
clear the table I had secured the bottle.
"We won't risk soda-water," I said. "Whiskey and water is good
The one waiter whom I disliked--a creature of Louis', as I knew
well--came hurrying forward and endeavored to possess himself of the
"Let me get you another bottle of whiskey, sir," he said.
I shook my head.
"This one will do, thank you," I said.
"Soda-water or Perrier, sir?" he asked.
"Neither, thank you," I answered.
The man moved away, and I saw him in a corner talking to
Louis. Lamartine served the grouse, and leaned across the table to me.
"Captain Rotherby," he said, "I think I will tell you now why,
notwithstanding the risk of Monsieur Louis, I asked you to lunch with
me here at this restaurant. But look! See who comes!"
He laid his fingers upon my coat-sleeve. I turned my head. Felicia was
sailing down the room,--Felicia exquisitely dressed as usual, walking
with a soft rustle of lace,--delightful, alluring; and in her wake
Delora himself, tall, well-groomed, aristocratic, looking around him
with mild but slightly bored interest. Louis was piloting them to a
table, the best in the place. We watched them seat themselves. Delora,
through a horn-rimmed eyeglass, studied the menu. Felicia, drawing off
her gloves, looked a little wearily out into the busy courtyard. So
they were sitting when the thing happened which Lamartine, I believe,
had expected, but which, for me, was the most wonderful thing that had