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The Lost Ambassador by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Part 6 out of 6

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yet come to pass amongst this tangle of strange circumstances!



The entrance of these two persons into the room, apart from its
astonishing significance to us, seemed to excite a certain amount of
interest amongst the ordinary throng. My lady of the turquoises wore
a dark-blue closely fitting gown, which only a Paris tailor could have
cut, a large and striking hat, and a great bunch of red roses in the
front of her dress. But, after all, it was upon her companion, not
upon her, that our regard was riveted. He was dressed with the neat
exactitude of a Frenchman of fashion. He wore a red ribbon in his
button-hole. His white hair and moustaches were perfectly arranged. He
leaned heavily upon a stick, and he had the appearance of a man
prematurely aged, as though by an illness or some great suffering. His
tone, as he turned to his companion, was courteous enough but

"My dear," he said, "this place is full of draughts. We must find a
table over there by the palm."

He pointed with his stick, and it was just at this moment that Louis,
rounding the corner from a distant part of the room, came face to face
with them. Once before during the last twenty-four hours I had been
struck with the pallor of Louis' expression. This time he stood quite
still in the middle of the floor, as though he had seen a ghost! He
was close to a pillar, and I saw his hand suddenly go out to it as
though in search of support. His breath was coming quickly. From where
I sat I could see the little beads of sweat breaking out upon his

"Monsieur!" he exclaimed.

The newcomer turned to look at him. For a moment he seemed puzzled. It
was as though some old memory were striving to reassert itself.

"My man," he said to Louis, "surely I know your face? You have been
here a long time, haven't you?"

"Ten years, sir," Louis answered. "Permit me!"

He gave them a table not far away from mine. The memory of his face as
he preceded them down the room never left me. I glanced instinctively
towards Delora. His back was turned towards the entrance of the
restaurant, and he had apparently seen nothing. Felicia, on the
contrary, sat as though she were turned to stone. I saw her lean over
and whisper to her companion. A little murmur of excitement broke from
my companion's lips.

"This," he murmured, "is amazing! The girl is a fool to bring him
here. She must know that Louis is in it!"

"Who is the man?" I asked.

Lamartine looked at me with a curious expression in his dark eyes.

"Do you mean to say that you cannot guess?" he asked.

I shook my head.

"Only that he must be some relation to Delora," I declared. "There has
been no time, though, for his brother to get across from South

Lamartine smiled.

"You are dull," he said. "But watch! What is going to happen now, I

Delora had risen to his feet. He had the look of a man who has
received a shock. He brushed past some people who were taking their
places at a table without remark or apology. He passed my companion
and myself without even, I believe, being conscious of our presence.
He walked straight to the table where the two newcomers sat. I saw his
hand fall upon the shoulder of the other man.

"Ferdinand!" he said.

The lady of the turquoises was leaning forward in her place as though
to push Delora away. A few feet in the background Louis was hovering.

"Ferdinand," I heard Delora repeat, "what are you doing here? Who is
this person? You know that you are not well enough to travel."

The older man looked at him with a slightly puzzled air. There was a
certain vacuity in his expression, for which one found it hard to

"You!" he murmured, as though perplexed. "Why, this is not Paris,

Louis had glided a little nearer to the table. My lady of the
turquoises half rose to her feet. Her blue eyes were fierce with
anger. She looked as though she would have struck Delora.

"You shall not take him away!" she cried. "Don't have anything to say
to them!" she added, bending downwards to her companion. "You are not
safe with any one else except me!"

Delora turned towards her with an angry exclamation.

"Madame," he said, "this gentleman is my relation, and he is ill. He
is certainly not in a condition to be travelling about the country
with--with you!"

Her self-control was beginning to evaporate. She addressed him
shrilly. People at the surrounding tables were beginning to observe
this unusual conversation.

"What, then?" she cried. "Is he not safer with me than you? How about
Henri--Henri who came over here because we had been deceived, he and
I,--poor Henri who died?"

"This," Delora muttered, "is your revenge, then!"

"It is my revenge, and I mean to have it," she answered, "This
afternoon you will see."

Louis advanced and bowed to the man who still sat at the table,
looking a little puzzled, and with his eyes still fixed upon Delora.

"Monsieur," he said, "shall I serve luncheon?"

There was an instant's pause. I fancied that I saw something pass
between Louis and Delora. The latter turned away with a little shrug
of the shoulders.

"Presently will be time," he said. "We will speak together, all three
of us, before you leave."

The woman struck the table with the palm of her hand.

"There is nothing which you need say!" she exclaimed. "It is
finished, this fine scheme of yours! See, he is here himself. This
afternoon we go to warn those whom you would rob!"

Once more that look flashed between Louis and Delora, and this time
there was borne in upon me the swift consciousness of what it might
mean. Delora returned to his place opposite Felicia. I bent across the
table to Lamartine.

"Lamartine," I said, "there was a man who came here once--a companion
of that woman--Bartot. He came to make trouble with Louis, and he
dined here once. He dined nowhere else on earth!"

Lamartine was suddenly grave.

"Would Louis dare!" he muttered.

"Why not?" I answered. "See, Louis is watching us even now!"

Lamartine half rose from his seat. I pushed him back.

"No!" I said. "It is not for you! It is I who will arrange this

I left my place and walked towards the table where the two were
sitting. I saw Delora lay down his knife and fork and watch me with
fixed, intent gaze. I saw Louis' lips twist into a snarl. He glided to
the table even as I did. I held out my hand to the woman.

"You have not forgotten me, I hope?" I asked. "I am very glad indeed
to see you in London."

She gave me her hand, and smiled her most bewitching smile. I turned
and stared at Louis. He had no alternative but to fall back a pace or

"Madame," I said, bending towards her, "it was here that Bartot came
and dined. I have heard it whispered that it is not safe to eat here
if you are not a friend of Louis'!"

For a moment she failed to grasp the significance of my words. Then
the color died slowly out of her cheeks. Her face was like the face
of an old woman. Fear had come suddenly, and she was haggard.

"You mean that he would dare, monsieur?" she said--

"It is easy," I answered. "A dozen or more of these waiters are his
creatures. From what I have heard I gather that your visit here with
this gentleman is for a purpose inimical to some scheme in which
Delora and Louis are interested. I warn you that if it is so, you had
better change your mind about lunching."

"We will go at once!" she answered. "You are very kind. I came to
confront Louis and that other with me," she declared, nodding
vigorously at her companion. "I came because I would have them
understand who it was that had ruined their plans, because they made
use of me--of Bartot and me--and threw us aside like gloves that were
finished with. But it was a foolish thing to do, monsieur. I see that,
and I thank you now for your warning."

She gathered her things together for her departure, and leaned across
towards her companion. What she said to him I do not know, for I
returned to my place.

"They will not eat," I whispered to Lamartine. "Tell me, who is the

"Hush!" Lamartine said. "Look there!"

Apparently angry words had been passing between Felicia and
Delora. She had risen to her feet, notwithstanding his efforts to
detain her, swept past my table with scarcely a glance, and made her
way towards where the two latest arrivals were sitting. She stooped
down towards the man, and talked to him earnestly for several moments.
All the time he looked at her with the puzzled, half-vacant expression
of a child who is confronted with something which it does not
understand. Delora had risen to his feet, and stood nervously
clutching the serviette in his hand. Louis hurried up to him, and they
talked together for a moment.

"At all costs," I heard Louis say, "she must be fetched away. They
will not remain here to eat. Rotherby has warned them. See how he is
looking at her! It is not safe!"

Something more passed between them in a low tone. Delora glanced at
his watch, and then at the clock. Finally he crossed the room to where
his niece was standing, and laid his hand upon the man's shoulder.

"Ferdinand," he said, "I am glad to see that you are better. Come up
to my rooms for a few minutes. We must have a talk."

At the sound of his voice something seemed to come back to the face of
the older man. He rose slowly to his feet. I could see his white
fingers trembling, but I could see his eyes suddenly fill with a new
and stronger light.

"You!" he exclaimed. "Yes, I am here to talk to you! It had better be
at once! Lead the way!"

I saw Delora look towards the lady of the turquoises. Apparently he
made some remark which I failed to overhear.

"This lady is my companion," I heard the other say. "She has been
very kind to me--kinder, I am afraid, as a stranger, than others have
been on whom I should have relied. She will accompany us. She does not
leave me."

Then the four of them turned towards the door. Lamartine jogged my
shoulder and I too rose. Behind, Louis was hovering, watching their
departure with a nervous anxiety which he could not conceal. Lamartine
and I went out close upon their heels.

"A new move, Louis?" I asked, as I passed.

"The last, monsieur," Louis answered, with a bow.



The entrance to the Milan Court was small and unimposing, compared
with the entrance to the hotel proper. I reached it to find some
confusion reigning. A tall, gray-bearded man was talking anxiously to
the hall-porter, Felicia, standing a little apart, was looking around
with an air of bewilderment. My lady of the turquoises was standing by
the side of the lift, with her arm drawn through her companion's.
Lamartine no sooner saw the face of the man who was in conversation
with the hall-porter than he sprang forward.

"Your Excellency!" he exclaimed.

The ambassador turned quickly towards him.

"Where is Delora?" he asked.

"He was here but five seconds ago," Lamartine answered. "He must have
left the door as you entered it!"

The man who was standing with my lady of the turquoises turned
suddenly round.

"Delora!" he exclaimed. "That is my name! I am Ferdinand Delora! My
brother Maurice was here a moment ago. You are Signor Vanhallon, are
you not?" he continued. "You must remember me!"

The ambassador grasped him by the hand.

"My dear Delora," he said, "of course I do! What has been the meaning
of all this mystery?"

Lamartine stepped quickly forward.

"Can't you see what it all means?" he exclaimed. "Ferdinand Delora
here arrives in Paris on a secret mission to England. There, through
some reason or through some cause,--who knows?--he falls ill. There
comes to London Maurice Delora with some papers, playing his part.
Maurice Delora was here a moment ago. His game is up and he is
evidently gone. The one thing to be feared is that we are too late!"

The ambassador turned swiftly to the new Delora, who was looking from
one to the other with the pained, half-vacant expression of a child.

"Delora," he exclaimed, "how comes it that you have let your brother
intervene? Did you not understand how secret your mission was to
be?--how important?"

The man shook his head slowly.

"I am sorry," he said, "I have been ill. I know nothing. There was an
accident in Paris. I have no papers any longer. Maurice has them all."

My lady of the turquoises plunged into the conversation.

"But it has been a wicked conspiracy!" she cried. "Monsieur here," she
added, clutching his arm, "was drugged and poisoned. Since then he has
been like a child. He was left to die, but I found him, I brought him
here And meanwhile, that wicked brother has been playing his
part,--using even his name."

I went to Felicia.

"Felicia," I said, "it is you who can clear this up. The time has come
when you must speak."

Felicia was standing with her hands clasped to her head, looking from
one to the other of the speakers as though she were trying in vain to
follow the sense of what they said. At my words she turned to me a
little piteously. She was beginning to understand, but she had not
realized the whole truth yet.

"The lady over there," she said, pointing to my lady of the
turquoises, "has spoken the truth. Uncle Ferdinand was ill when he
arrived in Paris. He stayed with us--that is, my uncle Maurice and
I--in the Rue d'Hauteville. He seemed to get worse all the time, and
he was worried because of some business in London which he could not
attend to. Then it was arranged that my Uncle Maurice should take his
place and come over here, only no one was to know that it was not
Ferdinand himself. It was secret business for the Brazilian
Government. I do not know what it was about, but it was very

"Your Uncle Maurice, then," I said, "was the uncle who lived in
Paris--whom you knew best?"

She nodded.

"Yes! I have had to call him Ferdinand over here. It was hateful, but
they all said that it was necessary."

A motor drew up outside. The Chinese ambassador stepped out with more
haste than I had ever seen him use, and by his side a man in dark
clothes and silk hat, who from the first I suspected to be a bank
manager. The Brazilian minister welcomed them on the threshold.

"You are looking for Delora?" he exclaimed.

The Chinese ambassador looked around at the little circle. His face
was emotionless, yet he spoke with a haste which was unusual.

"It is true that I seek him," he said. "This morning he has cashed a
cheque for two hundred thousand pounds. I do not understand. There is
a part of our bargain which he has not kept."

A gleam of intelligence flitted into the face of the newly discovered
Delora. He stepped forward.

"It is in order," he said. "You have taken over from my brother, who
represents the Brazilian Government, two new battleships."

"That is so," His Excellency answered, "but I want the indemnity of
your ambassador."

"I cannot give it you," the ambassador declared, "until I have
received the money."

"Where is Delora?" some one asked.

We looked around. The same suspicion was in the minds of all of
us. Delora had fled! I drew my arm through Felicia's, and led her to
the lift.

"Dear," I said, "you must come upstairs with me."

She clung to me a little hysterically.

"What do they mean?" she said. "It is not true that my uncle has been
working for the Government?"

"It is true enough," I answered. "The only point for doubt is what he
has done with the money he received on their account. Your Uncle
Ferdinand there was the person who was intrusted with the plans and
commission. For some reason or other your Uncle Maurice has carried it
through, and to tell you the truth, I believe he has gone off with the
money. If you take my advice you will bring your Uncle Ferdinand
upstairs, and the lady who is with him, if you like, and let the
others fight it out."

She took my advice. The new Delora was exhausted, and without any
complete comprehension of what had taken place. Felicia busied herself
attending to him. Then a sudden idea struck me. I opened the door of
the further bedchamber softly and stood face to face with Delora.
There was a quick flash, and I looked into the muzzle of a
revolver. Delora was apparently preparing for flight. He had changed
his clothes, and a small handbag, ready packed, was upon the bed.

"So it's you, you d--d interfering Englishman!" he said. "There's no
one I'd sooner send to perdition!"

I stood quite still. I could not exactly see what was best to be done,
for the man's hand was steady, and I scarcely saw how I could escape
if indeed he pressed the trigger.

"They are looking for you everywhere," I said. "The sound of that
revolver would fill your room."

"Do you think I don't know it?" he answered. "Do you think you would
not have had a bullet through your forehead before now if I was not
sure of it?"

"Put your revolver down and talk sense!" I said. "I am interested in
no one except your niece."

"It's a lie!" he answered. "It's through you I'm in this hole!"

"Well, here's a chance for you," I said. "They are all of them down at
the Court entrance. Probably some of them are on their way up now.
Turn to the left and take the other lift. Leave the hotel by the
Embankment entrance."

"And walk into a trap!" he snarled.

"Upon my honor I know of none," I answered. "It is exactly as I have

I knew from his face that he had forgotten the other lift. He snatched
up his hat and disappeared. I returned to the sitting-room, and,
although I had made no promise, the consciousness of my escape kept me
silent as to having seen him. Felicia was sitting on the sofa, talking
to her uncle. My lady of the turquoises, with a triumphant smile upon
her lips, was occupying the easy-chair.

Felicia rose at once and drew me to the window.

"Capitaine Rotherby," she said, "I fear that you will never forgive me
nor believe me,--perhaps it does not matter so very much,--but you see
I have seen no one but my Uncle Maurice since I was at school. He used
to visit me there. He was always kind. My Uncle Ferdinand there came
as a stranger. I knew nothing of him except that he was taken ill. How
he met with his illness no one told me. Then my Uncle Maurice came to
me one night and said that his brother had come to Europe on a
wonderful secret mission, and that now he was too ill to go on with
it, it must be carried through for the honor of the family. He meant
to call himself Ferdinand Delora, and to come to England and do his
best, and I was to come with him and hold my peace, and help him where
it was possible. I begin to understand now that, somehow or other,
this poor Ferdinand was ill-treated, and that my Uncle Maurice took
his place, meaning to steal the money he received. But I did not know
that. Indeed, I did not know it!" she said, sobbing.

I passed my arm around her waist.

"Felicia, dear," I said, "who would doubt it? Let them fight this
matter out between them. It is nothing to do with us. You are here,
and you remain!"

She came a little closer into my arms with a sigh of content. My lady
of the turquoises laughed outright.

"You are _infidele_, monsieur!" she exclaimed. "But there, the
poor child is young, and she needs some one to look after her. Listen!
What is that?"

We all heard it,--the sound of a shot in the corridor. I kept Felicia
back for the moment, but the others were already outside. The waiter
and the valet had rushed out of the service room. A chambermaid, with
her apron over her head, ran screaming along the corridor. There in
the middle Delora lay, flat on his back, with his hands thrown out and
a smoking revolver by his side!...

I did then what might seem to be a callous thing. I left them all
crowding around the body of the dead man. I let even Felicia be led
back to her room by her companion. I took the lift downstairs, and I
made my way into the cafe.

"Where is Louis?" I asked the first waiter I saw.

"He is away for a minute or two, sir," the man answered.

Almost as he spoke Louis entered from the further end of the
restaurant. He did not see me, and I noticed that his fingers were
arranging his tie, and that as he passed a mirror he glanced at his
shirt-front. When I came face to face with him he was breathing fast
as though he had been running.

"Louis," I said, "five flights of stairs are trying at our time of

He looked at me blankly, and as one who does not comprehend.

"Five flights of stairs, monsieur!" he repeated.

I nodded.

"I myself came down by the lift," I said. "Louis, Delora is lying in
the corridor outside his rooms with a bullet through his forehead. I
am wondering whether he shot himself, or whether--"

"Or whether what?" Louis asked softly.

I shrugged my shoulders.

"After all," I said, "I suppose the truth will come out. Have you any
idea, I wonder, where those two hundred thousand pounds are?"

"I, monsieur!"--Louis held out his hands. "Delora has had several
hours to dispose of them. If he had taken my advice he would have been
flying to the south coast in his motor by now. As to the money, well,
it may be anywhere"

"It may, Louis!" I admitted.

"Delora was a bungler," Louis said slowly. "The game was in his
hands. Even the reappearance of his brother was not serious. He was
carrying out a perfectly legitimate transaction in which no one could

"Excepting," I remarked, "that he proposed to retain the proceeds of
this sale of his."

"That would have been hard to prove if he had chosen to assert the
contrary," Louis remarked. "Vanhallon would have had little enough to
say if the money had passed into his hands."

"And the Chinese ambassador?" I remarked.

"His documents would have been good enough," Louis replied. "He has
the ships. He has value for his money. There was no need for Delora
to have despaired. His behavior during this last hour has been the
behavior of a child. Monsieur will pardon me!"

Louis glided away, and I saw him smilingly escorting a party of late
guests to their places. I stood where I was and watched him. To me,
the man was something amazing! I firmly believed, even at that
moment, that he had, safely hidden, part, if not the whole, of the
proceeds of this gigantic scheme of fraud. I believed, too, that his
had been the hand which had killed Delora. And there he was, within a
few minutes of the time when the tragedy had happened, waiting upon
his guests, consulted about the vintages of wines, suggesting dishes!
Upstairs Delora lay, with a little blue mark upon his temple! It was
the survival of the fittest, this, in crime as well as in the other
things of life!

I retraced my steps upstairs. The Chinese ambassador, Vanhallon, and
Lamartine were deep in conversation in the dead man's sitting-room. I
was admitted to their confidence after a few minutes' hesitation. A
draft for one hundred and sixty thousand pounds had been found upon
the dead man, but notes to the value of forty thousand pounds were
missing! They looked at me a little curiously as I entered, and
Lamartine explained the situation to me.

"We were wondering about the young lady," he said.

"Then you need wonder no longer!" I said dryly. "I give my word for it
that she is ignorant altogether of this scheme. She believed that her
uncle was honestly attempting to carry out the plans for which his
brother came to Europe, and as for searching for the money amongst her
belongings, you might as well fly!"

"Where, then," Vanhallon demanded, "has it gone to? He has had so
little time."

I opened my lips and closed them. After all, I had gained my end, and
I had realized a little the folly of meddling with things which did
not concern me. So I held my peace. I went and sat down by the side of
my lady of the turquoises.

"Tell me," I said, "how did you find him?--and where? Has he been ill,
or what is it that is the matter?"

I moved my head towards where Delora was sitting. The placid,
child-like expression still remained with him. The tragedy which had
happened only a few yards away had left him unmoved.

"I heard all about him from Henri," she said. "The scheme originally
was his. Then they tried to hurry things through without us--without
my man Henri, of whom they had made use. Henri came to London, and he
died here! That much I know. How much more there is to be told, who
can say? But I said to myself, 'I will be revenged!' I knew the
hospital to which he had been taken--a private hospital from which few
ever come out! But I went there, and I swore that I was his daughter.
I frightened them all, for I knew that he had been drugged and
poisoned till his brain had nearly given way. They thought him
harmless, and they let him come with me. I brought him to England. I
brought him here."

"And now?" I asked.

"Now I must go back," she answered, "but at least Henri is avenged!"

She leaned towards me.

"Tell whoever takes care of him," she whispered in my ear, "that he
cannot live long. The doctors have assured me. It is a matter of

I walked with her to the door.

"It was an expensive journey for you," I remarked.

She laughed.

"Henri did leave me everything," she said. "I have no need of
money. If monsieur--"

She sighed, and looked towards the door of Felicia's room. Then she
fluttered away down the corridor, and I slowly retraced my
steps. Felicia came out in a few minutes and sat by her uncle's
side. The others had all departed, and we were left alone.

"Dear," I said, "this is no place for you any longer. You must come
with me, and bring your uncle."

She held out both her hands.

"Wherever you say, Austen!" she murmured.

A year afterwards I persuaded Felicia to lunch at the Milan. She was
no longer nervous, for we were intensely curious to know if Louis were
still there.

"There is no doubt," I reminded her, "that your Uncle Maurice received
the sum of forty thousand pounds in notes. When he was found shot,
there was in his pocket-book a draft to the amount of one hundred and
sixty thousand pounds. The notes had vanished. I wonder where!"

"I wonder!" she answered.

A waiter whom I knew came up to greet us. I asked him about Louis. He
held out his hands.

"Monsieur Louis," he declared, "had the great good-fortune. A
relative who died left him a great sum of money. The hotel of Benzoli
in St. James' Street was for sale, and Louis he has bought it. He
makes much money now."

"Lucky Louis!" I murmured. "How much was this legacy? Do you know?"

"I have heard, sir," the man said, bending down, "that it was as much
as forty thousand pounds!"

"So do the wicked flourish!" I murmured to Felicia.

"Monsieur will doubtless pay a visit to the Cafe Benzoli?" the man
continued. "The _cuisine_ is excellent, and many of Louis'
friends have followed him there."

Felicia and I exchanged smiling glances.

"Somehow or other--" she murmured.

"I think the Milan will be good enough for us!" I said decidedly.


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