Part 2 out of 7
"Mrs. Vernon, thoroughly exhausted with irregular living, announced
that she was about to resort once more to the healing breezes of
the heather-land"--Mr. Debnam was thoroughly warming to his
discourse and thoroughly enjoying his own dusty phrases.
"Interrupting you for a moment," said the inspector, "at what
intervals did these visits take place?"
"At remarkably regular intervals, Inspector: something like six
times a year."
"For how long had Mrs. Vernon made a custom of these visits?"
"Roughly, for two years."
"Thank you. Will you go on, sir?"
"She requested Mr. Vernon, then, on the last occasion to give her a
check for eighty pounds; and this he did, unquestioningly. On
Thursday, the second of September, she left for Scotland" . . .
"Did she take her maid?"
"Her maid always received a holiday on these occasions; Mrs. Vernon
wired her respecting the date of her return."
"Did any one actually see her off?"
"No, not that I am aware of, Inspector."
"To put the whole thing quite bluntly, Mr. Debnam," said Dunbar,
fixing his tawny eyes upon the solicitor, "Mr. Vernon was
thoroughly glad to get rid of her for a week?"
Mr. Debnam shifted uneasily in his chair; the truculent directness
of the detective was unpleasing to his tortuous mind. However:--
"I fear you have hit upon the truth," he confessed, "and I must
admit that we have no legal evidence of her leaving for Scotland on
this, or on any other occasion. Letters were received from Perth,
and letters sent to Auchterander from London were answered. But
the truth, the painful truth came to light, unexpectedly,
dramatically, on Monday last" . . .
"Four days ago?"
"Exactly; three days before the death of my client." Mr. Debnam
wagged his finger at the inspector again. "I maintain," he said,
"that this painful discovery, which I am about to mention,
precipitated my client's end; although it is a fact that there was--
hereditary heart trouble. But I admit that his neglect of his
wife (to give it no harsher name) contributed to the catastrophe."
He paused to give dramatic point to the revelation.
"Walking homeward at a late hour on Monday evening from a flat in
Victoria Street--the flat of--shall I employ the term a particular
friend?--Mr. Vernon was horrified--horrified beyond measure, to
perceive, in a large and well-appointed car--a limousine--his
wife!" . . .
"The inside lights of the car were on, then?"
"No; but the light from a street lamp shone directly into the car.
A temporary block in the traffic compelled the driver of the car,
whom my client described to me as an Asiatic--to pull up for a
moment. There, within a few yards of her husband, Mrs. Vernon
reclined in the car--or rather in the arms of a male companion!"
"Positively!" Mr. Debnam was sedately enjoying himself. "Positively,
my dear Inspector, in the arms of a man of extremely dark
complexion. Mr. Vernon was unable to perceive more than this,
for the man had his back toward him. But the light shone fully
upon the face of Mrs. Vernon, who appeared pale and exhausted. She
wore a conspicuous motor-coat of civet fur, and it was this which
first attracted Mr. Vernon' s attention. The blow was a very
severe one to a man in my client's state of health; and although I
cannot claim that his own conscience was clear, this open violation
of the marriage vows outraged the husband--outraged him. In fact
he was so perturbed, that he stood there shaking, quivering, unable
to speak or act, and the car drove away before he had recovered
sufficient presence of mind to note the number."
"In which direction did the car proceed?"
"Toward Victoria Station."
"Any other particulars?"
"Not regarding the car, its driver, or its occupants; but early on
the following morning, Mr. Vernon, very much shaken, called upon me
and instructed me to despatch an agent to Perth immediately. My
agent's report reached me at practically the same time as the news
of my client's death" . . .
"And his report was?" . . .
"His report, Inspector, telegraphic, of course, was this: that no
sister of Mrs. Vernon resided at the address; that the place was a
cottage occupied by a certain Mrs. Fry and her husband; that the
husband was of no occupation, and had no visible means of support"--
he ticked off the points on the long forefinger--"that the Frys
lived better than any of their neighbors; and--most important of
all--that Mrs. Fry's maiden name, which my agent discovered by
recourse to the parish register of marriages--was Ann Fairchild."
"What of that?"
"Ann Fairchild was a former maid of Mrs. Vernon!"
"In short, it amounts to this, then: Mrs. Vernon, during these
various absences, never went to Scotland at all? It was a
"Exactly--exactly, Inspector! I wired instructing my agent to
extort from the woman, Fry, the address to which she forwarded
letters received by her for Mrs. Vernon. The lady's death, news of
which will now have reached him, will no doubt be a lever, enabling
my representative to obtain the desired information."
"When do you expect to hear from him?"
"At any moment. Failing a full confession by the Frys, you will of
course know how to act, Inspector?"
"Damme!" cried Dunbar, "can your man be relied upon to watch them?
They mustn't slip away! Shall I instruct Perth to arrest the
"I wired my agent this morning, Inspector, to communicate with the
local police respecting the Frys."
Inspector Dunbar tapped his small, widely-separated teeth with the
end of his fountain-pen.
"I have had one priceless witness slip through my fingers," he
muttered. "I'll hand in my resignation if the Frys go!"
"To whom do you refer?"
Inspector Dunbar rose.
"It is a point with which I need not trouble you, sir," he said.
"It was not included in the extract of report sent to you. This is
going to be the biggest case of my professional career, or my name
is not Robert Dunbar!"
Closing his notebook, he thrust it into his pocket, and replaced
his fountain-pen in the little leather wallet.
"Of course," said the solicitor, rising in turn, and adjusting the
troublesome pince-nez, "there was some intrigue with Leroux? So
much is evident."
"You will be thinking that, eh?"
"My dear Inspector"--Mr. Debnam, the wily, was seeking information--
"my dear Inspector, Leroux's own wife was absent in Paris--quite a
safe distance; and Mrs. Vernon (now proven to be a woman conducting
a love intrigue) is found dead under most compromising
circumstances--MOST compromising circumstances--in his flat! His
servants, even, are got safely out of the way for the evening" . . .
"Quite so," said Dunbar, shortly, "quite so, Mr. Debnam." He
opened the door. "Might I see the late Mrs. Vernon's maid?"
"She is at her home. As I told you, Mrs. Vernon habitually
released her for the period of these absences."
The notebook reappeared.
"The young woman's address?"
"You can get it from the housekeeper. Is there anything else you
wish to know?"
"Nothing beyond that, thank you."
Three minutes later, Inspector Dunbar had written in his book:--
Clarice Goodstone, c/o Mrs. Herne, 134a Robert Street, Hampstead
Road, N. W.
He departed from the house whereat Death the Gleaner had twice
knocked with his Scythe.
Returning to Scotland Yard, Inspector Dunbar walked straight up to
his own room. There he found Sowerby, very red faced and humid,
and a taximan who sat stolidly surveying the Embankment from the
"Hullo!" cried Dunbar; "he's turned up, then?"
"No, he hasn't," replied Sowerby with a mild irritation. "But we
know where to find him, and he ought to lose his license."
The taximan turned hurriedly. He wore a muffler so tightly packed
between his neck and the collar of his uniform jacket, that it
appeared materially to impair his respiration. His face possessed
a bluish tinge, suggestive of asphyxia, and his watery eyes
protruded remarkably; his breathing was noisily audible.
"No, chuck it, mister!" he exclaimed. "I'm only tellin' you 'cause
it ain't my line to play tricks on the police. You'll find my name
in the books downstairs more'n any other driver in London! I
reckon I've brought enough umbrellas, cameras, walkin' sticks,
hopera cloaks, watches and sicklike in 'ere, to set up a blarsted
"That's all right, my lad!" said Dunbar, holding up his hand to
silence the voluble speaker. "There's going to be no license-
losing. You did not hear that you were wanted before?"
The watery eyes of the cabman protruded painfully; he respired like
"ME, guv'nor!" he exclaimed. "Gor'blime! I ain't the bloke! I
was drivin' back from takin' the Honorable 'Erbert 'Arding 'ome--
same as I does almost every night, when the 'ouse is a-sittin'--
when I see old Tom Brian drawin' away from the door o' Palace Man--"
Again Dunbar held up his hand.
"No doubt you mean well," he said; "but damme! begin at the
beginning! Who are you, and what have you come to tell us?"
"'Oo are I?--'Ere's 'oo I ham!" Wheezed the cabman, proffering a
greasy license. "Richard 'Amper, number 3 Breams Mews, Dulwich
Village" . . .
"That's all right," said Dunbar, thrusting back the proffered
document; "and last night you had taken Mr. Harding the member of
Parliament, to his residence in?"--
"In Peers' Chambers, Westminister--that's it, guv'nor! Comin'
back, I 'ave to pass along the north side o' the Square, an' just
a'ead o' me, I see old Tom Brian a-pullin' round the Johnny
'Orner,--'im comin' from Palace Mansions."
"Mr. Exel only mentioned seeing ONE cab," muttered Dunbar, glancing
keenly aside at Sowerby.
"Wotcher say, guv'nor?" asked the cabman.
"I say--did you see a gentleman approaching from the corner?" asked
"Yus," declared the man; "I see 'im, but 'e 'adn't got as far as
the Johnny 'Orner. As I passed outside old Tom Brian, wot's
changin' 'is gear, I see a bloke blowin' along on the pavement--a
bloke in a high 'at, an' wearin' a heye-glass."
"At this time, then," pursued Dunbar, "you had actually passed the
other cab, and the gentleman on the pavement had not come up with
"'E couldn't see it, guv'nor! I'm tellin' you 'e 'adn't got to the
"I see," muttered Sowerby. "It's possible that Mr. Exel took no
notice of the first cab--especially as it did not come out of the
"Wotcher say, guv'nor?" queried the cabman again, turning his
bleared eyes upon Sergeant Sowerby.
"He said," interrupted Dunbar, "was Brian's cab empty?"
"'Course it was," rapped Mr. Hamper, "'e 'd just dropped 'is fare
at Palace Mansions." . . .
"How do you know?" snapped Dunbar, suddenly, fixing his fierce eyes
upon the face of the speaker.
The cabman glared in beery truculence.
"I got me blarsted senses, ain't I?" he inquired. "There's only two
lots o' flats on that side o' the Square--Palace Mansions, an' St.
"St. Andrew's Mansions," continued Hamper, "is all away!"
"All away! I know, 'cause I used to have a reg'lar fare there.
'E's in Egyp'; flat shut up. Top floor's to let. Bottom floor's
two old unmarried maiden ladies what always travels by 'bus. So
does all their blarsted friends an' relations. Where can old Tom
Brian 'ave been comin' from, if it wasn't Palace Mansions?"
"H'm!" said Dunbar, "you are a loss to the detective service, my
lad! And how do you account for the fact that Brian has not got to
hear of the inquiry?"
Hamper bent to Dunbar and whispered, beerily, in his ear: "P'r'aps
'e don't want to 'ear, guv'nor!"
"Oh! Why not?"
"Well, 'e knows there's something up there!"
"Therefore it's his plain duty to assist the police."
"Same as what I does?" cried Hamper, raising his eyebrows. "Course
it is! but 'ow d'you know 'e ain't been got at?"
"Our friend, here, evidently has one up against Mr. Tom Brian!"
muttered Dunbar aside to Sowerby.
"Wotcher say, guv'nor?" inquired the cabman, looking from one to
"I say, no doubt you can save us the trouble of looking out Brian's
license, and give us his private address?" replied Dunbar.
"Course I can. 'E lives hat num'er 36 Forth Street, Brixton, and
'e's out o' the big Brixton depot."
"Oh!" said Dunbar, dryly. "Does he owe you anything?"
"Wotcher say, guv'nor?"
"I say, it's very good of you to take all this trouble and whatever
it has cost you in time, we shall be pleased to put right."
Mr. Hamper spat in his right palm, and rubbed his hands together,
"Make it five bob!" he said.
"Wait downstairs," directed Dunbar, pressing a bell-push beside the
door. "I'll get it put through for you."
"Right 'o!" rumbled the cabman, and went lurching from the room as
a constable in uniform appeared at the door. "Good mornin',
guv'nor. Good mornin'!"
The cabman having departed, leaving in his wake a fragrant odor of
"Here you are, Sowerby!" cried Dunbar. "We are moving at last!
This is the address of the late Mrs. Vernon's maid. See her; feel
your ground, carefully, of course; get to know what clothes Mrs.
Vernon took with her on her periodical visits to Scotland."
"That's the idea; it is important. I don't think the girl was in
her mistress's confidence, but I leave it to you to find out. If
circumstances point to my surmise being inaccurate--you know how to
"Just let me glance over your notes, bearing on the matter," said
Sowerby, "and I'll be off."
Dunbar handed him the bulging notebook, and Sergeant Sowerby
lowered his inadequate eyebrows, thoughtfully, whilst he scanned
the evidence of Mr. Debnam. Then, returning the book to his
superior, and adjusting the peculiar bowler firmly upon his head,
he set out.
Dunbar glanced through some papers--apparently reports--which lay
upon the table, penciled comments upon two of them, and then,
consulting his notebook once more in order to refresh his memory,
started off for Forth Street, Brixton.
Forth Street, Brixton, is a depressing thoroughfare. It contains
small, cheap flats, and a number of frowsy looking houses which
give one the impression of having run to seed. A hostelry of sad
aspect occupies a commanding position midway along the street, but
inspires the traveler not with cheer, but with lugubrious
reflections upon the horrors of inebriety. The odors, unpleasantly
mingled, of fried bacon and paraffin oil, are wafted to the
wayfarer from the porches of these family residences.
Number 36 proved to be such a villa, and Inspector Dunbar
contemplated it from a distance, thoughtfully. As he stood by the
door of the public house, gazing across the street, a tired looking
woman, lean and anxious-eyed, a poor, dried up bean-pod of a woman,
appeared from the door of number 36, carrying a basket. She walked
along in the direction of the neighboring highroad, and Dunbar
casually followed her.
For some ten minutes he studied her activities, noting that she
went from shop to shop until her basket was laden with provisions
of all sorts. When she entered a wine-and-spirit merchant's, the
detective entered close behind her, for the place was also a post-
office. Whilst he purchased a penny stamp and fumbled in his
pocket for an imaginary letter, he observed, with interest, that
the woman had purchased, and was loading into the hospitable
basket, a bottle of whisky, a bottle of rum, and a bottle of gin.
He left the shop ahead of her, sure, now, of his ground, always
provided that the woman proved to be Mrs. Brian. Dunbar walked
along Forth Street slowly enough to enable the woman to overtake
him. At the door of number 36, he glanced up at the number,
questioningly, and turned in the gate as she was about to enter.
He raised his hat.
"Have I the pleasure of addressing Mrs. Brian?"
Momentarily, a hard look came into the tired eyes, but Dunbar's
gentleness of manner and voice, together with the kindly expression
upon his face, turned the scales favorably.
"I am Mrs. Brian," she said; "yes. Did you want to see me?"
"On a matter of some importance. May I come in?"
She nodded and led the way into the house; the door was not closed.
In a living-room whereon was written a pathetic history--a history
of decline from easy circumstance and respectability to poverty and
utter disregard of appearances--she confronted him, setting down
her basket on a table from which the remains of a fish breakfast
were not yet removed.
"Is your husband in?" inquired Dunbar with a subtle change of
"He's lying down."
The hard look was creeping again into the woman's eyes.
"Will you please awake him, and tell him that I have called in
regard to his license?"
He thrust a card into her hand:--
C. I. D.
NEW SCOTLAND YARD. S. W.
THE MAN IN BLACK
Mrs. Brian started back, with a wild look, a trapped look, in her
"What's he done?" she inquired. "What's he done? Tom's not done
"Be good enough to waken him," persisted the inspector. "I wish to
speak to him."
Mrs. Brian walked slowly from the room and could be heard entering
one further along the passage. An angry snarling, suggesting that
of a wild animal disturbed in its lair, proclaimed the arousing of
Taximan Thomas Brian. A thick voice inquired, brutally, why the
sanguinary hell he (Mr. Brian) had had his bloodstained slumbers
disturbed in this gory manner and who was the vermilion blighter
Then Mrs. Brian's voice mingled with that of her husband, and both
became subdued. Finally, a slim man, who wore a short beard, or
had omitted to shave for some days, appeared at the door of the
living-room. His face was another history upon the same subject as
that which might be studied from the walls, the floor, and the
appointments of the room. Inspector Dunbar perceived that the
shadow of the neighboring hostelry overlay this home.
"What's up?" inquired the new arrival.
The tone of his voice, thickened by excess, was yet eloquent of the
gentleman. The barriers passed, your pariah gentleman can be the
completest blackguard of them all. He spoke coarsely, and the
infectious Cockney accent showed itself in his vowels; but Dunbar,
a trained observer, summed up his man in a moment and acted
"Come in and shut the door!" he directed. "No"--as Mrs. Brian
sought to enter behind her husband--"I wish to speak with you,
"Hop it!" instructed Brian, jerking his thumb over his shoulder--
and Mrs. Brian obediently disappeared, closing the door.
"Now," said Dunbar, looking the man up and down, "have you been
into the depot, to-day?"
"But you have heard that there's an inquiry?"
"I've heard nothing. I've been in bed."
"We won't argue about that. I'll simply put a question to you:
Where did you pick up the fare that you dropped at Palace Mansions
at twelve o'clock last night?"
"Palace Mansions!" muttered Brian, shifting uneasily beneath the
unflinching stare of the tawny eyes. "What d'you mean? What
"Don't quibble!" warned Dunbar, thrusting out a finger at him.
"This is not a matter of a loss of license; it's a life job!"
"Life job!" whispered the man, and his weak face suddenly relaxed,
so that, oddly, the old refinement shone out through the new,
"Answer my questions straight and square and I'll take your word
that you have not seen the inquiry!" said Dunbar.
"Dick Hamper's done this for me!" muttered Brian. "He's a dirty,
low swine! Somebody'll do for him one night!"
"Leave Hamper out of the question," snapped Dunbar. "You put down
a fare at Palace Mansions at twelve o'clock last night?"
For one tremendous moment, Brian hesitated, but the good that was
in him, or the evil--a consciousness of wrongdoing, or of
retribution pending--respect for the law, or fear of its might--
decided his course.
"It was a man?"
Again Brian, with furtive glance, sought to test his opponent; but
his opponent was too strong for him. With Dunbar's eyes upon his
face, he chose not to lie.
"It was a woman."
"How was she dressed?"
"In a fur motor-coat--civet fur."
The man of culture spoke in those two words, "civet fur"; and
Dunbar nodded quickly, his eyes ablaze at the importance of the
"Was she alone?"
"What fare did she pay you?"
"The meter only registered eightpence, but she gave me half-a-
"Did she appear to be ill?"
"Very ill. She wore no hat, and I supposed her to be in evening
dress. She almost fell as she got out of the cab, but managed to
get into the hall of Palace Mansions quickly enough, looking behind
her all the time."
Inspector Dunbar shot out the hypnotic finger again.
"She told you to wait!" he asserted, positively. Brian looked to
right and left, up and down, thrusting his hands into his coat
pockets, and taking them out again to stroke his collarless neck.
"She did--yes," he admitted.
"But you were bribed to drive away? Don't deny it! Don't dare to
trifle with me, or by God! you'll spend the night in Brixton Jail!"
"It was made worth my while," muttered Brian, his voice beginning
to break, "to hop it."
"Who paid you to do it?"
"A man who had followed all the way in a big car."
"That's it! Describe him!"
"I can't! No, no! you can threaten as much as you like, but I
can't describe him. I never saw his face. He stood behind me on
the near side of the cab, and just reached forward and pushed a
flyer under my nose."
Inspector Dunbar searched the speaker's face closely--and concluded
that he was respecting the verity.
"How was he dressed?"
"In black, and that's all I can tell you about him."
"You took the money?"
"I took the money, yes" . . .
"What did he say to you?"
"Simply: 'Drive off.'"
"Did you take him to be an Englishman from his speech?"
"No; he was not an Englishman. He had a foreign accent."
"No," said Brian, looking up and meeting the glance of the fierce
Inspector Dunbar, closely as he held himself in hand, started
"Are you sure?"
"Certainly. Before I--when I was younger--I traveled in the East,
and I know the voice and intonation of the cultured Oriental."
"Can you place him any closer than that?"
"No, I can't venture to do so." Brian's manner was becoming,
momentarily, more nearly that of a gentleman. "I might be leading
you astray if I ventured a guess, but if you asked me to do so, I
should say he was a Chinaman."
"A CHINAMAN?" Dunbar's voice rose excitedly.
"I think so."
"What occurred next?"
"I turned my cab and drove off out of the Square."
"Did you see where the man went?"
"I didn't. I saw nothing of him beyond his hand."
"And his hand?"
"He wore a glove."
"And now," said Dunbar, speaking very slowly, "where did you pick
up your fare?"
"In Gillingham Street, near Victoria Station."
"From a house?"
"Yes, from Nurse Proctor's."
"Nurse Proctor's! Who is Nurse Proctor?"
Brian shrugged his shoulders in a nonchalant manner, which
obviously belonged to an earlier phase of existence.
"She keeps a nursing home," he said--"for ladies."
"Do you mean a maternity home?"
"Not exactly; at least I don't think so. Most of her clients are
society ladies, who stay there periodically."
"What are you driving at?" demanded Dunbar. "I have asked you if
it is a maternity home."
"And I have replied that it isn't. I am only giving you facts; you
don't want my surmises."
"Who hailed you?"
"The woman did--the woman in the fur coat. I was just passing the
door very slowly when it was flung open with a bang, and she rushed
out as though hell were after her. Before I had time to pull up,
she threw herself into my cab and screamed: 'Palace Mansions!
Westminster!' I reached back and shut the door, and drove right
"When did you see that you were followed?"
"We were held up just outside the music hall, and looking back, I
saw that my fare was dreadfully excited. It didn't take me long to
find out that the cause of her excitement was a big limousine,
three or four back in the block of traffic. The driver was some
kind of an Oriental, too, although I couldn't make him out very
"Good!" snapped Dunbar; "that's important! But you saw nothing
more of this car?" . . .
"I saw it follow me into the Square."
"Then where did it wait?"
"I don't know; I didn't see it again."
Inspector Dunbar nodded rapidly.
"Have you ever driven women to or from this Nurse Proctor's
"On two other occasions, I have driven ladies who came from there.
I knew they came from there, because it got about amongst us that
the tall woman in nurse's uniform who accompanied them was Nurse
"You mean that you didn't take these women actually from the door
of the house in Gillingham Street, but from somewhere adjacent?"
"Yes; they never take a cab from the door. They always walk to the
corner of the street with a nurse, and a porter belonging to the
house brings their luggage along."
"The idea is secrecy?"
"No doubt. But as I have said, the word was passed round."
"Did you know either of these other women?"
"No; but they were obviously members of good society."
"And you drove them?"
"One to St. Pancras, and one to Waterloo," said Brian, dropping
back somewhat into his coarser style, and permitting a slow grin to
overspread his countenance.
"To catch trains, no doubt?"
"Not a bit of it! To MEET trains!"
"I mean that their own private cars were waiting for them at the
ARRIVAL platform as I drove 'em up to the DEPARTURE platform, and
that they simply marched through the station and pretended to have
arrived by train!"
Inspector Dunbar took out his notebook and fountain-pen, and began
to tap his teeth with the latter, nodding his head at the same
"You are sure of the accuracy of your last statement?" he said,
raising his eyes to the other.
"I followed one of them," was the reply, "and saw her footman
gravely take charge of the luggage which I had just brought from
Victoria; and a pal of mine followed the other--the Waterloo one,
Inspector Dunbar scribbled busily. Then:--
"You have done well to make a clean breast of it," he said. "Take
a straight tip from me. Keep off the drink!"
THE GREAT UNDERSTANDING
It was in the afternoon of this same day--a day so momentous in the
lives of more than one of London's millions--that two travelers
might have been seen to descend from a first-class compartment of
the Dover boat-train at Charing Cross.
They had been the sole occupants of the compartment, and, despite
the wide dissimilarity of character to be read upon their
countenances, seemed to have struck up an acquaintance based upon
mutual amiability and worldly common sense. The traveler first to
descend and gallantly to offer his hand to his companion in order
to assist her to the platform, was the one whom a casual observer
would first have noted.
He was a man built largely, but on good lines; a man past his
youth, and somewhat too fleshy; but for all his bulk, there was
nothing unwieldy, and nothing ungraceful in his bearing or
carriage. He wore a French traveling-coat, conceived in a style
violently Parisian, and composed of a wonderful check calculated to
have blinded any cutter in Savile Row. From beneath its gorgeous
folds protruded the extremities of severely creased cashmere
trousers, turned up over white spats which nestled coyly about a
pair of glossy black boots. The traveler's hat was of velour,
silver gray and boasting a partridge feather thrust in its silken
band. One glimpse of the outfit must have brought the entire staff
of the Tailor and Cutter to an untimely grave.
But if ever man was born who could carry such a make-up, this
traveler was he. The face was cut on massive lines, on fleshy
lines, clean-shaven, and inclined to pallor. The hirsute blue
tinge about the jaw and lips helped to accentuate the virile
strength of the long, flexible mouth, which could be humorous,
which could be sorrowful, which could be grim. In the dark eyes of
the man lay a wealth of experience, acquired in a lifelong
pilgrimage among many peoples, and to many lands. His dark brows
were heavily marked, and his close-cut hair was splashed with gray.
Let us glance at the lady who accepted his white-gloved hand, and
who sprang alertly onto the platform beside him.
She was a woman bordering on the forties, with a face of masculine
vigor, redeemed and effeminized, by splendid hazel eyes, the
kindliest imaginable. Obviously, the lady was one who had never
married, who despised, or affected to despise, members of the other
sex, but who had never learned to hate them; who had never grown
soured, but who found the world a garden of heedless children--of
children who called for mothering. Her athletic figure was clothed
in a "sensible" tweed traveling dress, and she wore a tweed hat
pressed well on to her head, and brown boots with the flattest
heels conceivable. Add to this a Scotch woolen muffler, and a pair
of woolen gloves, and you have a mental picture of the second
traveler--a truly incongruous companion for the first.
Joining the crowd pouring in the direction of the exit gates, the
two chatted together animatedly, both speaking English, and the man
employing that language with a perfect ease and command of words
which nevertheless failed to disguise his French nationality. He
spoke with an American accent; a phenomenon sometimes observable in
one who has learned his English in Paris.
The irritating formalities which beset the returning traveler--and
the lady distinctly was of the readily irritated type--were
smoothed away by the magic personality of her companion. Porters
came at the beck of his gloved hand; guards, catching his eye,
saluted and were completely his servants; ticket inspectors yielded
to him the deference ordinarily reserved for directors of the line.
Outside the station, then, her luggage having been stacked upon a
cab, the lady parted from her companion with assurances, which were
returned, that she should hope to improve the acquaintance.
The address to which the French gentleman politely requested the
cabman to drive, was that of a sound and old-established hotel in
the neighborhood of the Strand, and at no great distance from the
Then, having stood bareheaded until the cab turned out into the
traffic stream of that busy thoroughfare, the first traveler, whose
baggage consisted of a large suitcase, hailed a second cab and
drove to the Hotel Astoria--the usual objective of Americans.
Taking leave of him for the moment, let us follow the lady.
Her arrangements were very soon made at the hotel, and having
removed some of the travel-stains from her person and partaken of
one cup of China tea, respecting the quality whereof she delivered
herself of some caustic comments, she walked down into the Strand
and mounted to the top of a Victoria bound 'bus.
That she was not intimately acquainted with London, was a fact
readily observable by her fellow passengers; for as the 'bus went
rolling westward, from the large pocket of her Norfolk jacket she
took out a guide-book provided with numerous maps, and began
composedly to consult its complexities.
When the conductor came to collect her fare, she had made up her
mind, and was replacing the guidebook in her pocket.
"Put me down by the Storis, Victoria Street, conductor," she
directed, and handed him a penny--the correct fare.
It chanced that at about the time, within a minute or so, of the
American lady's leaving the hotel, and just as red rays, the
harbingers of dusk, came creeping in at the latticed widow of her
cozy work-room, Helen Cumberly laid down her pen with a sigh. She
stood up, mechanically rearranging her hair as she did so, and
crossed the corridor to her bedroom, the window whereof overlooked
She peered down into the central garden. A common-looking man sat
upon a bench, apparently watching the labors of the gardener, which
consisted at the moment of the spiking of scraps of paper which
disfigured the green carpet of the lawn.
Helen returned to her writing-table and reseated herself. Kindly
twilight veiled her, and a chatty sparrow who perched upon the
window-ledge pretended that he had not noticed two tears which
trembled, quivering, upon the girl's lashes. Almost unconsciously,
for it was an established custom, she sprinkled crumbs from the
tea-tray beside her upon the ledge, whilst the tears dropped upon a
written page and two more appeared in turn upon her lashes.
The sparrow supped enthusiastically, being joined in his repast by
two talkative companions. As the last fragments dropped from the
girl's white fingers, she withdrew her hand, and slowly--very
slowly--her head sank down, pillowed upon her arms.
For some five minutes she cried silently; the sparrows, unheeded,
bade her good night, and flew to their nests in the trees of the
Square. Then, very resolutely, as if inspired by a settled
purpose, she stood up and recrossed the corridor to her bedroom.
She turned on the lamp above the dressing-table and rapidly removed
the traces of her tears, contemplating in dismay a redness of her
pretty nose which did not prove entirely amenable to treatment with
the powder-puff. Finally, however, she switched off the light,
and, going out on to the landing, descended to the door of Henry
In reply to her ring, the maid, Ferris, opened the door. She wore
her hat and coat, and beside her on the floor stood a tin trunk.
"Why, Ferris!" cried Helen--"are you leaving?"
"I am indeed, miss!" said the girl, independently.
"But why? whatever will Mr. Leroux do?"
"He'll have to do the best he can. Cook's goin' too!"
"What! cook is going?"
"I am!" announced a deep, female voice.
And the cook appeared beside the maid.
"But whatever--" began Helen; then, realizing that she could
achieve no good end by such an attitude: "Tell Mr. Leroux," she
instructed the maid, quietly, "that I wish to see him."
Ferris glanced rapidly at her companion, as a man appeared on the
landing, to inquire in an abysmal tone, if "them boxes was ready to
be took?" Helen Cumberly forestalled an insolent refusal which the
cook, by furtive wink, counseled to the housemaid.
"Don't trouble," she said, with an easy dignity reminiscent of her
father. "I will announce myself."
She passed the servants, crossed the lobby, and rapped upon the
"Come in," said the voice of Henry Leroux.
Helen opened the door. The place was in semidarkness, objects
being but dimly discernible. Leroux sat in his usual seat at the
writing-table. The room was in the utmost disorder, evidently
having received no attention since its overhauling by the police.
Helen pressed the switch, lighting the two lamps.
Leroux, at last, seemed in his proper element: he exhibited an
unhealthy pallor, and it was obvious that no razor had touched his
chin for at least three days. His dark blue eyes the eyes of a
dreamer--were heavy and dull, with shadows pooled below them. A
biscuit-jar, a decanter and a syphon stood half buried in papers on
"Why, Mr. Leroux!" said Helen, with a deep note of sympathy in her
voice--"you don't mean to say" . . .
Leroux rose, forcing a smile to his haggard face.
"You see--much too good," he said. "Altogether--too good." . . .
"I thought I should find you here," continued the girl, firmly;
"but I did not anticipate--"she indicated the chaos about--"this!
The insolence, the disgraceful, ungrateful insolence, of those
"Dear, dear, dear!" murmured Leroux, waving his hand vaguely;
"never mind--never mind! They--er--they . . . I don't want them to
stop . . . and, believe me, I am--er--perfectly comfortable!"
"You should not be in--THIS room, at all. In fact, you should go
right away." . . .
"I cannot . . . my wife may--return--at any moment." His voice
shook. "I--am expecting her return--hourly." . . .
His gaze sought the table-clock; and he drew his lips very tightly
together when the pitiless hands forced upon his mind the fact that
the day was marching to its end.
Helen turned her head aside, inhaling deeply, and striving for
"Garnham shall come down and tidy up for you," she said, quietly;
"and you must dine with us."
The outer door was noisily closed by the departing servants.
"You are much too good," whispered Leroux, again; and the weary
eyes glistened with a sudden moisture. "Thank you! Thank you!
But--er--I could not dream of disturbing" . . .
"Mr. Leroux," said Helen, with all her old firmness--"Garnham is
coming down IMMEDIATELY to put the place in order! And, whilst he
is doing so, you are going to prepare yourself for a decent,
Henry Leroux rested one hand upon the table, looking down at the
carpet. He had known for a long time, in a vague fashion, that he
lacked something; that his success--a wholly inartistic one--had
yielded him little gratification; that the comfort of his home was
a purely monetary product and not in any sense atmospheric. He had
schooled himself to believe that he liked loneliness--loneliness
physical and mental, and that in marrying a pretty, but pleasure-
loving girl, he had insured an ideal menage. Furthermore, he
honestly believed that he worshiped his wife; and with his present
grief at her unaccountable silence was mingled no atom of reproach.
But latterly he had begun to wonder--in his peculiarly indefinite
way he had begun to doubt his own philosophy. Was the void in his
soul a product of thwarted ambition?--for, whilst he slaved,
scrupulously, upon "Martin Zeda," he loathed every deed and every
word of that Old Man of the Sea. Or could it be that his own
being--his nature of Adam--lacked something which wealth, social
position, and Mira, his wife, could not yield to him?
Now, a new tone in the voice of Helen Cumberly--a tone different
from that compound of good-fellowship and raillery, which he knew--
a tone which had entered into it when she had exclaimed upon the
state of the room--set his poor, anxious heart thrumming like a
lute. He felt a hot flush creeping upon him; his forehead grew
damp. He feared to raise his eyes.
"Is that a bargain?" asked Helen, sweetly.
Henry Leroux found a lump in his throat; but he lifted his untidy
head and took the hand which the girl had extended to him. She
smiled a bit unnaturally; then every tinge of color faded from her
cheeks, and Henry Leroux, unconsciously holding the white hand in a
vice-like grip, looked hungrily into the eyes grown suddenly tragic
whilst into his own came the light of a great and sorrowful
"God bless you," he said. "I will do anything you wish."
Helen released her hand, turned, and ran from the study. Not until
she was on the landing did she dare to speak. Then:--
"Garnham shall come down immediately. Don't be late for dinner!"
she called--and there was a hint of laughter and of tears in her
voice, of the restraint of culture struggling with rebellious
PRESENTING M. GASTON MAX
Not venturing to turn on the light, not daring to look upon her own
face in the mirror, Helen Cumberly sat before her dressing-table,
trembling wildly. She wanted to laugh, and wanted to cry; but the
daughter of Seton Cumberly knew what those symptoms meant and knew
how to deal with them. At the end of an interval of some four or
five minutes, she rang.
The maid opened the door.
"Don't light up, Merton," she said, composedly. "I want you to
tell Garnham to go down to Mr. Leroux's and put the place in order.
Mr. Leroux is dining with us."
The girl withdrew; and Helen, as the door closed, pressed the
electric switch. She stared at her reflection in the mirror as if
it were the face of an enemy, then, turning her head aside, sat
deep in reflection, biting her lip and toying with the edge of the
"You little traitor!" she whispered, through clenched teeth. "You
little traitor--and hypocrite"--sobs began to rise in her throat--
Five more minutes passed in a silent conflict. A knock announced
the return of the maid; and the girl reentered, placing upon the
table a visiting-card:--
ATELIER 4, RUE DU COQ D'OR,
Helen Cumberly started to her feet with a stifled exclamation and
turned to the maid; her face, to which the color slowly had been
returning, suddenly blanched anew.
"Denise Ryland!" she muttered, still holding the card in her hand,
"why--that's Mrs. Leroux's friend, with whom she had been staying
in Paris! Whatever can it mean?"
"Shall I show her in here, please?" asked the maid.
"Yes, in here," replied Helen, absently; and, scarcely aware that
she had given instructions to that effect, she presently found
herself confronted by the lady of the boat-train!
"Miss Cumberly?" said the new arrival in a pleasant American voice.
"Yes--I am Helen Cumberly. Oh! I am so glad to know you at last!
I have often pictured you; for Mira--Mrs. Leroux--is always talking
about you, and about the glorious times you have together! I have
sometimes longed to join you in beautiful Paris. How good of you
to come back with her!"
Miss Ryland unrolled the Scotch muffler from her throat, swinging
her head from side to side in a sort of spuriously truculent
manner, quite peculiarly her own. Her keen hazel eyes were fixed
upon the face of the girl before her. Instinctively and
immediately she liked Helen Cumberly; and Helen felt that this
strong-looking, vaguely masculine woman, was an old, intimate
friend, although she had never before set eyes upon her.
"H'm!" said Miss Ryland. "I have come from Paris"--she punctuated
many of her sentences with wags of the head as if carefully
weighing her words--"especially" (pause) "to see you" (pause and
wag of head) "I am glad . . . to find that . . . you are the
thoroughly sensible . . . kind of girl that I . . . had imagined,
from the accounts which . . . I have had of you." . . .
She seated herself in an armchair.
"Had of me from Mira?" asked Helen.
"Yes . . . from Mrs. Leroux."
"How delightful it must be for you to have her with you so often!
Marriage, as a rule, puts an end to that particular sort of good-
time, doesn't it?"
"It does . . . very properly . . . too. No MAN . . . no MAN in his
. . . right senses . . . would permit . . . his wife . . . to gad
about in Paris with another . . . girl" (she presumably referred to
herself) whom HE had only met . . . casually . . . and did not
like" . . .
"What! do you mean that Mr. Leroux doesn't like you? I can't
"Then the sooner . . . you believe it . . . the better."
"It can only be that he does not know you, properly?"
"He has no wish . . . to know me . . . properly; and I have no
desire . . . to cultivate . . . the . . . friendship of such . . .
a silly being."
Helen Cumberly was conscious that a flush was rising from her face
to her brow, and tingling in the very roots of her hair. She was
indignant with herself and turned, aside, bending over her table in
order to conceal this ill-timed embarrassment from her visitor.
"Poor Mr. Leroux!" she said, speaking very rapidly; "I think it
awfully good of him, and sporty, to allow his wife so much
"Sporty!" said Miss Ryland, head wagging and nostrils distended in
scorn. "Idi-otic . . . I should call it."
Helen Cumberly, perfectly composed again, raised her clear eyes to
"You seem so . . . thoroughly sensible, except in regard to . . .
Harry Leroux;--and ALL women, with a few . . . exceptions, are
FOOLS where the true . . . character of a MAN is concerned--that I
will take you right into my confidence."
Her speech lost its quality of syncopation; the whole expression of
her face changed; and in the hazel eyes a deep concern might be
"My dear," she stood up, crossed to Helen's side, and rested her
artistic looking hands upon the girl's shoulder. "Harry Leroux
stands upon the brink of a great tragedy--a life's tragedy!"
Helen was trembling slightly again.
"Oh, I know!" she whispered--"I know--"
There was surprise in Miss Ryland's voice.
"Yes, I have seen them--watched them--and I know that the police
think" . . .
"Police! What are you talking about--the police?"
Helen looked up with a troubled face.
"The murder!" she began . . .
Miss Ryland dropped into a chair which, fortunately, stood close
behind her, with a face suddenly set in an expression of horror.
She began to understand, now, a certain restraint, a certain
ominous shadow, which she had perceived, or thought she had
perceived, in the atmosphere of this home, and in the manner of its
"My dear girl," she began, and the old nervous, jerky manner showed
itself again, momentarily,--"remember that . . . I left Paris by
. . . the first train, this morning, and have simply been . . .
traveling right up to the present moment." . . .
"Then you have not heard? You don't know that a--murder--has been
"MURDER! Not--not" . . .
"Not any one connected with Mr. Leroux; no, thank God! but it was
done in his flat." . . .
Miss Ryland brushed a whisk of straight hair back from her brow
with a rough and ungraceful movement.
"My dear," she began, taking a French telegraphic form from her
pocket, "you see this message? It's one which reached me at an
unearthly hour this morning from Harry Leroux. It was addressed to
his wife at my studio; therefore, as her friend, I opened it. Mira
Leroux has actually visited me there twice since her marriage--"
"Twice!" Helen rose slowly to her feet, with horrified eyes fixed
upon the speaker.
"Twice I said! I have not seen her, and have rarely heard from
her, for nearly twelve months, now! Therefore I packed up post-
haste and here I am! I came to you, because, from what little I
have heard of you, and of your father, I judged you to be the right
kind of friends to consult." . . .
"You have not seen her for twelve months?"
Helen's voice was almost inaudible, and she was trembling
"That's a fact, my dear. And now, what are we going to tell Harry
It was a question, the answer to which was by no means evident at a
glance; and leaving Helen Cumberly face to face with this new and
horrible truth which had brought Denise Ryland hotfoot from Paris
to London, let us glance, for a moment, into the now familiar room
of Detective-Inspector Dunbar at Scotland Yard.
He had returned from his interrogation of Brian; and he received
the report of Sowerby, respecting the late Mrs. Vernon's maid. The
girl, Sergeant Sowerby declared, was innocent of complicity, and
could only depose to the fact that her late mistress took very
little luggage with her on the occasions of her trips to Scotland.
With his notebook open before him upon the table, Dunbar was adding
this slight item to his notes upon the case, when the door opened,
and the uniformed constable entered, saluted, and placed an
envelope in the Inspector's hand.
"From the commissioner!" said Sowerby, significantly.
With puzzled face, Dunbar opened the envelope and withdrew the
commissioner's note. It was very brief:--
"M. Gaston Max, of the Paris Police, is joining you in the Palace
Mansions murder case. You will cooperate with him from date
"MAX!" said Dunbar, gazing astoundedly at his subordinate.
Certainly it was a name which might well account for the amazement
written upon the inspector's face; for it was the name of
admittedly the greatest criminal investigator in Europe!
"What the devil has the case to do with the French police?"
muttered Sowerby, his ruddy countenance exhibiting a whole history
The constable, who had withdrawn, now reappeared, knocking
deferentially upon the door, throwing it open, and announcing:
"Mr. Gaston Max, to see Detective-Inspector Dunbar."
Bowing courteously upon the threshold, appeared a figure in a
dazzling check traveling-coat--a figure very novel, and wholly
"I am honored to meet a distinguished London colleague," he said in
perfect English, with a faint American accent.
Dunbar stepped across the room with outstretched hand, and
cordially shook that of the famous Frenchman.
"I am the more honored," he declared, gallantly playing up to the
other's courtesy. "This is Detective-Sergeant Sowerby, who is
acting with me in the case."
M. Gaston Max bowed low in acknowledgment of the introduction.
"It is a pleasure to meet Detective-Sergeant Sowerby," he declared.
These polite overtures being concluded then, and the door being
closed, the three detectives stood looking at one another in
momentary silence. Then Dunbar spoke with blunt directness:
"I am very pleased to have you with us, Mr. Max," he said; "but
might I ask what your presence in London means?"
M. Gaston Max shrugged in true Gallic fashion.
"It means, monsieur," he said, "--murder--and MR. KING!"
It will prove of interest at this place to avail ourselves of an
opportunity denied to the police, and to inquire into the
activities of Mr. Soames, whilom employee of Henry Leroux.
Luke Soames was a man of unpleasant character; a man ever seeking
advancement--advancement to what he believed to be an ideal state,
viz.: the possession of a competency; and to this ambition he
subjugated all conflicting interests--especially the interests of
others. From narrow but honest beginnings, he had developed along
lines ever growing narrower until gradually honesty became squeezed
out. He formed the opinion that wealth was unobtainable by dint of
hard work; and indeed in a man of his limited intellectual
attainments, this was no more than true.
At the period when he becomes of interest, he had just discovered
himself a gentleman-at-large by reason of his dismissal from the
services of a wealthy bachelor, to whose establishment in
Piccadilly he had been attached in the capacity of valet. There
was nothing definite against his character at this time, save that
he had never remained for long in any one situation.
His experience was varied, if his references were limited; he had
served not only as valet, but also as chauffeur, as steward on an
ocean liner, and, for a limited period, as temporary butler in an
American household at Nice.
Soames' banking account had increased steadily, but not at a rate
commensurate with his ambitions; therefore, when entering his name
and qualifications in the books of a certain exclusive employment
agency in Mayfair he determined to avail himself, upon this
occasion, of his comparative independence by waiting until kindly
Fate should cast something really satisfactory in his path.
Such an opening occurred very shortly after his first visit to the
agent. He received a card instructing him to call at the office in
order to meet a certain Mr. Gianapolis. Quitting his rooms in
Kennington, Mr. Soames, attired in discreet black, set out to make
the acquaintance of his hypothetical employer.
He found Mr. Gianapolis to be a little and very swarthy man, who
held his head so low as to convey the impression of having a
pronounced stoop; a man whose well-cut clothes and immaculate linen
could not redeem his appearance from a constitutional dirtiness. A
jet black mustache, small, aquiline features, an engaging smile,
and very dark brown eyes, viciously crossed, made up a personality
incongruous with his sheltering silk hat, and calling aloud for a
tarboosh and a linen suit, a shop in a bazaar, or a part in the
campaign of commercial brigandage which, based in the Levant,
spreads its ramifications throughout the Orient, Near and Far.
Mr. Gianapolis had the suave speech and smiling manner. He greeted
Soames not as one greets a prospective servant, but as one welcomes
an esteemed acquaintance. Following a brief chat, he proposed an
adjournment to a neighboring saloon bar; and there, over cocktails,
he conversed with Mr. Soames as one crook with another.
Soames was charmed, fascinated, yet vaguely horrified; for this man
smilingly threw off the cloak of hypocrisy from his companion's
shoulders, and pretended, with the skill of his race, equally to
nudify his own villainy.
"My dear Mr. Soames!" he said, speaking almost perfect English, but
with the sing-song intonation of the Greek, and giving all his
syllables an equal value--"you are the man I am looking for; and I
can make your fortune."
This was entirely in accordance with Mr. Soames' own views, and he
"I know," continued Gianapolis, proffering an excellent Egyptian
cigarette, "that you were cramped in your last situation--that you
were misunderstood" . . .
Soames, cigarette in hand, suppressed a start, and wondered if he
were turning pale. He selected a match with nervous care.
"The little matter of the silver spoons," continued Gianapolis,
smiling fraternally, "was perhaps an error of judgment. Although"--
patting the startled Soames upon the shoulder--"they were a
legitimate perquisite; I am not blaming you. But it takes so long
to accumulate a really useful balance in that petty way. Now"--he
glanced cautiously about him--"I can offer you a post under
conditions which will place you above the consideration of silver
Soames, hastily finishing his cocktail, sought for words; but
Gianapolis, finishing his own, blandly ordered two more, and,
tapping Soames upon the knee, continued:
"Then that matter of the petty cash, and those trifling
irregularities in the wine-bill, you remember?--when you were with
Colonel Hewett in Nice?" . . .
Soames gripped the counter hard, staring at the newly arrived
cocktail as though it were hypnotizing him.
"These little matters," added Gianapolis, appreciatively sipping
from his own glass, "which would weigh heavily against your other
references, in the event of their being mentioned to any
prospective employer" . . .
Soames knew beyond doubt that his face was very pale indeed.
"These little matters, then," pursued Gianapolis, "all go to prove
to ME that you are a man of enterprise and spirit--that you are the
very man I require. Now I can offer you a post in the
establishment of Mr. Henry Leroux, the novelist. The service will
be easy. You will be required to attend to callers and to wait at
table upon special occasions. There will be no valeting, and you
will have undisputed charge of the pantry and wine-cellar. In
short, you will enjoy unusual liberty. The salary, you would say?
It will be the same as that which you received from Mr. Mapleson" . . .
Soames raised his head drearily; he felt himself in the toils; he
felt himself a mined man.
"It isn't a salary," he began, "which" . . .
"My dear Mr. Soames," said Gianapolis, tapping him confidentially
upon the knee again--"my dear Soames, it isn't the salary, I admit,
which you enjoyed whilst in the services of Colonel Hewett in a
similar capacity. But this is not a large establishment, and the
duties are light. Furthermore, there will be--extras."
Mr. Soames' eye brightened, and under the benignant influence of
the cocktails his courage began to return.
"I do not refer," smiled Mr. Gianapolis, "to perquisites! The
extras will be monetary. Another two pounds per week" . . .
"Bringing your salary up to a nice round figure; the additional
amount will be paid to you from another source. You will receive
the latter payment quarterly" . . .
"From--from" . . .
"From me!" said Mr. Gianapolis, smiling radiantly. "Now, I know
you are going to accept; that is understood between us. I will
give you the address--Palace Mansions, Westminster--at which you
must apply; and I will tell you what little services will be
required from you in return for this additional emolument."
Mr. Soames hurriedly finished his second cocktail. Mr. Gianapolis,
in true sporting fashion, kept pace with him and repeated the
"You will take charge of the mail!" he whispered softly, one
irregular eye following the movements of the barmaid, and the other
fixed almost fiercely upon the face of Soames. "At certain times--
of which you will be notified in advance--Mrs. Leroux will pay
visits to Paris. At such times, all letters addressed to her, or
re-addressed to her, will not be posted! You will ring me up when
such letters come into your possession--they must ALL come into
your possession!--and I will arrange to meet you, say at the corner
of Victoria Street, to receive them. You understand?"
Mr. Soames understood, and thus far found his plastic conscience
marching in step with his inclinations.
"Then," resumed Gianapolis, "prior to her departure on these
occasions, Mrs. Leroux will hand you a parcel. This also you will
bring to me at the place arranged. Do you find anything onerous in
"Not at all," muttered Soames, a trifle unsteadily; "it seems all
right"--the cocktails were beginning to speak now, and his voice
was a duet--"simply perfectly all right--all square."
"Good!" said Mr. Gianapolis with his radiant smile; and the gaze of
his left eye, crossing that of its neighbor, observed the entrance
of a stranger into the bar. He drew his stool closer and lowered
"Mrs. Leroux," he continued, "will be in your confidence. Mr.
Leroux and every one else--EVERY ONE else--must not suspect the
arrangement" . . .
"Certainly--I quite understand" . . .
"Mrs. Leroux will engage you this afternoon--her husband is a mere
cipher in the household--and you will commence your duties on
Monday. Later in the week, Wednesday or Thursday, we will meet by
appointment, and discuss further details."
"Where can I see you?"
"Ring up this number: 18642 East, and ask for Mr. King. No! don't
write it down; remember it! I will come to the telephone, and
arrange a meeting."
Shortly after this, then, the interview concluded; and later in the
afternoon of that day Mr. Soames presented himself at Palace
He was received by Mrs. Leroux--a pretty woman with a pathetically
weak mouth. She had fair hair, not very abundant, and large eyes;
which, since they exhibited the unusual phenomenon, in a blonde, of
long dark lashes (Mr. Soames judged their blackness to be natural),
would have been beautiful had they not been of too light a color,
too small in the pupils, and utterly expressionless. Indeed, her
whole face lacked color, as did her personality, and the exquisite
tea-gown which she wore conveyed that odd impression of
slovenliness, which is often an indication of secret vice. She was
quite young and indisputably pretty, but this malproprete, together
with a certain aimlessness of manner, struck an incongruous note;
for essentially she was of a type which for its complement needs
Mr. Soames, a man of experience, scented an intrigue and a
neglectful husband. Since he was engaged on the spot without
reference to the invisible Leroux, he was immediately confirmed in
the latter part of his surmise. He departed well satisfied with
his affairs, and with the promise of the future, over which Mr.
Gianapolis, the cherubic, radiantly presided.
THE DRAFT ON PARIS
For close upon a month Soames performed the duties imposed upon him
in the household of Henry Leroux. He was unable to discover,
despite a careful course of inquiry from the cook and the
housemaid, that Mrs. Leroux frequently absented herself. But the
servants were newly engaged, for the flat in Palace Mansions had
only recently been leased by the Leroux. He gathered that they had
formerly lived much abroad, and that their marriage had taken place
in Paris. Mrs. Leroux had been to visit a friend in the French
capital once, he understood, since the housemaid had been in her
The mistress (said the housemaid) did not care twopence-ha'penny
for her husband; she had married him for his money, and for nothing
else. She had had an earlier love (declared the cook) and was
pining away to a mere shadow because of her painful memories.
During the last six months (the period of the cook's service) Mrs.
Leroux had altered out of all recognition. The cook was of opinion
that she drank secretly.
Of Mr. Leroux, Soames formed the poorest opinion. He counted him a
spiritless being, whose world was bounded by his book-shelves, and
whose wife would be a fool if she did not avail herself of the
liberty which his neglect invited her to enjoy. Soames felt
himself, not a snake in the grass, but a benefactor--a friend in
need--a champion come to the defense of an unhappy and persecuted
He wondered when an opportunity should arise which would enable him
to commence his chivalrous operations; almost daily he anticipated
instructions to the effect that Mrs. Leroux would be leaving for
Paris immediately. But the days glided by and the weeks glided by,
without anything occurring to break the monotony of the Leroux
Mr. Soames sought an opportunity to express his respectful
readiness to Mrs. Leroux; but the lady was rarely visible outside
her own apartments until late in the day, when she would be engaged
in preparing for the serious business of the evening: one night a
dance, another, a bridge-party; so it went. Mr. Leroux rarely
joined her upon these festive expeditions, but clung to his study
like Diogenes to his tub.
Great was Mr. Soames' contempt; bitter were the reproaches of the
cook; dark were the predictions of the housemaid.
At last, however, Soames, feeling himself neglected, seized an
opportunity which offered to cement the secret bond (the TOO secret
bond) existing between himself and the mistress of the house.
Meeting her one afternoon in the lobby, which she was crossing on
the way from her bedroom to the drawing-room, he stood aside to let
her pass, whispering:
"At your service, whenever you are ready, madam!"
It was a non-committal remark, which, if she chose to keep up the
comedy, he could explain away by claiming it to refer to the
summoning of the car from the garage--for Mrs. Leroux was driving
out that afternoon.
She did not endeavor to evade the occult meaning of the words,
however. In the wearily dreamy manner which, when first he had
seen her, had aroused Soames' respectful interest, she raised her
thin hand to her hair, slowly pressing it back from her brow, and
directed her big eyes vacantly upon him.
"Yes, Soames," she said (her voice had a faraway quality in keeping
with the rest of her personality), "Mr. King speaks well of you.
But please do not refer again to"--she glanced in a manner at once
furtive and sorrowful, in the direction of the study-door--"to the
. . . little arrangement of" . . .
She passed on, with the slow, gliding gait, which, together with
her fragility, sometimes lent her an almost phantomesque
This was comforting, in its degree; since it proved that the
smiling Gianapolis had in no way misled him (Soames). But as a man
of business, Mr. Soames was not fully satisfied. He selected an
evening when Mrs. Leroux was absent--and indeed she was absent
almost every evening, for Leroux entertained but little. The cook
and the housemaid were absent, also; therefore, to all intents and
purposes, Soames had the flat to himself; since Henry Leroux
counted in that establishment, not as an entity, but rather as a
necessary, if unornamental, portion of the fittings.
Standing in the lobby, Soames raised the telephone receiver, and
having paused with closed eyes preparing the exact form of words in
which he should address his invisible employer, he gave the number:
Following a brief delay:--
"Yes," came a nasal voice, "who is it?"
"Soames! I want to speak to Mr. King!"
The words apparently surprised the man at the other end of the
wire, for he hesitated ere inquiring:--
"What did you say your name was?"
Soames, with closed eyes, and holding the receiver to his ear,
silently rehearsed again the exact wording of his speech. Then:--
"Hullo!" came another voice--"is that Mr. Soames?"
"Yes! Is that Mr. Gianapolis speaking?"
"It is, my dear Soames!" replied the sing-song voice; and Soames,
closing his eyes again, had before him a mental picture of the
radiantly smiling Greek.
"Yes, my dear Soames," continued Gianapolis; "here I am. I hope
you are quite well--perfectly well?"
"I am perfectly well, thank you; but as a man of business, it has
occurred to me that failing a proper agreement--which in this case
I know would be impossible--a trifling advance on the first
quarter's" . . .
"On your salary, my dear Soames! On your salary? Payment for the
first quarter shall be made to you to-morrow, my dear Soames! Why
ever did you not express the wish before? Certainly, certainly!" . . .
"Will it be sent to me?"
"My dear fellow! How absurd you are! Can you get out to-morrow
evening about nine o'clock?"
"Then I will meet you at the corner of Victoria Street, by the
hotel, and hand you your first quarter's salary. Will that be
"Perfectly," said Soames, his small eyes sparkling with avarice.
"Most decidedly, Mr. Gianapolis. Many thanks." . . .
"And by the way," continued the other, "it is rather fortunate that
you rang me up this evening, because it has saved me the trouble of
ringing you up."
"What?"--Soames' eyes half closed, from the bottom lids upwards:--
"there is something" . . .
"There is a trifling service which I require of you--yes, my dear
"Is it?" . . .
"We will discuss the matter to-morrow evening. Oh! it is a mere
trifle. So good-by for the present."
Soames, with the fingers of his two hands interlocked before him,
and his thumbs twirling rapidly around one another, stood in the
lobby, gazing reflectively at the rug-strewn floor. He was working
out in his mind how handsomely this first payment would show up on
the welcome side of his passbook. Truly, he was fortunate in
having met the generous Gianapolis. . . .
He thought of a trifling indiscretion committed at the expense of
one Mr. Mapleson, and of the wine-bill of Colonel Hewett; and he
thought of the apparently clairvoyant knowledge of the Greek. A
cloud momentarily came between his perceptive and the rosy horizon.
But nearer to the foreground of the mental picture, uprose a left-
hand page of his pass book; and its tidings of great joy, written
in clerkly hand, served to dispel the cloud.
Soames sighed in gentle rapture, and, soft-footed, passed into his
Certainly his duties were neither difficult nor unpleasant. The
mistress of the house lived apparently in a hazy dream-world of her
own, and Mr. Leroux was the ultimate expression of the non-
commercial. Mr. Soames could have robbed him every day had he
desired to do so; but he had refrained from availing himself even
of those perquisites which he considered justly his; for it was
evident, to his limited intelligence, that greater profit was to be
gained by establishing himself in this household than by weeding-
out five shillings here, and half-a-sovereign there, at the risk of
Yet--it was a struggle! All Mr. Soames' commercial instincts were
up in arms against this voice of a greater avarice which counseled
abstention. For instance: he could have added half-a-sovereign a
week to his earnings by means of a simple arrangement with the
local wine merchant. Leroux's cigars he could have sold by the
hundreds; for Leroux, when a friend called, would absently open a
new box, entirely forgetful of the fact that a box from which but
two--or at most three--cigars had been taken, lay already on the
Mr. Soames, in order to put his theories to the test, had
temporarily abstracted half-a-dozen such boxes from the study and
the dining-room and had hidden them. Leroux, finding, as he
supposed, that he was out of cigars, had simply ordered Soames to
get him some more.
"Er--about a dozen boxes--er--Soames," he had said; "of the same
Was ever a man of business submitted to such an ordeal? After
receiving those instructions, Soames had sat for close upon an hour
in his own room, contemplating the six broken boxes, containing in
all some five hundred and ninety cigars; but the voice within
prevailed; he must court no chance of losing his situation;
therefore, he "discovered" these six boxes in a cupboard--much to
Henry Leroux's surprise!
Then, Leroux regularly sent him to the Charing Cross branch of the
London County and Suburban Bank with open checks! Sometimes, he
would be sent to pay in, at other times to withdraw; the amounts
involved varying from one guinea to 150 pounds! But, as he told
himself, on almost every occasion that he went to Leroux's bank, he
was deliberately throwing money away, deliberately closing his eyes
to the good fortune which this careless and gullible man cast in
his path. He observed a scrupulous honesty in all these dealings,
with the result that the bank manager came to regard him as a
valuable and trustworthy servant, and said as much to the assistant
manager, expressing his wonder that Leroux--whose account
occasioned the bank more anxiety, and gave it more work, than that
of any other two depositors--had at last engaged a man who would
keep his business affairs in order!
And these were but a few of the golden apples which Mr. Soames
permitted to slip through his fingers, so steadfast was he in his
belief that Gianapolis would be as good as his word, and make his
Leroux employed no secretary; and his MSS. were typed at his
agent's office. A most slovenly man in all things, and in business
matters especially, he was the despair, not only of his banker, but
of his broker; he was a man who, in professional parlance,
"deserved to be robbed." It is improbable that he had any but the
haziest ideas, at any particular time, respecting the state of his
bank balance and investments. He detested the writing of business
letters, and was always at great pains to avoid anything in the
nature of a commercial rendezvous. He would sign any document
which his lawyer or his broker cared to send him, with simple,
His bank he never visited, and his appearance was entirely
unfamiliar to the staff. True, the manager knew him slightly,
having had two interviews with him: one when the account was
opened, and the second when Leroux introduced his solicitor and
broker--in order that in the future he might not be troubled in any
way with business affairs.
Mr. Soames perceived more and more clearly that the mild deception
projected was unlikely to be discovered by its victim; and, at the
appointed time, he hastened to the corner of Victoria Street, to
his appointment with Gianapolis. The latter was prompt, for Soames
perceived his radiant smile afar off.
The saloon bar of the Red Lion was affably proposed by Mr.
Gianapolis as a suitable spot to discuss the business. Soames
agreed, not without certain inward qualms; for the proximity of the
hostelry to New Scotland Yard was a disquieting circumstance.
However, since Gianapolis affected to treat their negotiations in
the light of perfectly legitimate business, he put up no protest,
and presently found himself seated in a very cozy corner of the
saloon bar, with a glass of whisky-and-soda on a little table
before him, bubbling in a manner which rendered it an agreeable and
refreshing sight in the eyes of Mr. Soames.
"You know," said Gianapolis, the gaze of his left eye bisecting
that of his right in a most bewildering manner, "they call this
'the 'tec's tabernacle!'"
"Indeed," said Soames, without enthusiasm; "I suppose some of the
Scotland Yard men do drop in now and then?"
"Beyond doubt, my dear Soames."
Soames responded to his companion's radiant smile with a smile of
his own by no means so pleasant to look upon. Soames had the type
of face which, in repose, might be the face of an honest man; but
his smile would have led to his instant arrest on any racecourse in
Europe: it was the smile of a pick-pocket.
"Now," continued Gianapolis, "here is a quarter's salary in
From a pocket-book, he took a little brown paper envelope and from
the brown paper envelope counted out four five-pound notes, five
golden sovereigns, one half-sovereign, and ten shillings' worth of
silver. Soames' eyes glittered, delightedly.
"A little informal receipt?" smiled Gianapolis, raising his
eyebrows, satanically. "Here on this page of my notebook I have
written: 'Received from Mr. King for service rendered, 26 pounds,
being payment, in advance, of amount due on 31st October 19--' I
have attached a stamp to the page, as you will see," continued
Gianapolis, "and here is a fountain-pen. Just sign across the
stamp, adding to-day's date."
Soames complied with willing alacrity; and Gianapolis having
carefully blotted the signature, replaced the notebook in his
pocket, and politely acknowledged the return of the fountain-pen.
Soames, glancing furtively about him, replaced the money in the
envelope, and thrust the latter carefully into a trouser pocket.
"Now," resumed Gianapolis, "we must not permit our affairs of
business to interfere with our amusements."
He stepped up to the bar and ordered two more whiskies with soda.
These being sampled, business was resumed.
"To-morrow," said Gianapolis, leaning forward across the table so
that his face almost touched that of his companion, "you will be
entrusted by Mr. Leroux with a commission." . . .
Soames nodded eagerly, his eyes upon the speaker's face.
"You will accompany Mrs. Leroux to the bank," continued Gianapolis,
"in order that she may write a specimen signature, in the presence
of the manager, for transmission to the Credit Lyonnais in
Paris." . . .
Soames nearly closed his little eyes in his effort to comprehend.
"A draft in her favor," continued the Greek, "has been purchased by
Mr. Leroux's bank from the Paris bank, and, on presentation of
this, a checkbook will be issued to Mrs. Leroux by the Credit
Lyonnais in Paris to enable her to draw at her convenience upon
that establishment against the said order. Do you follow me?"
Soames nodded rapidly, eager to exhibit an intelligent grasp of the
"Now"--Gianapolis lowered his voice impressively--"no one at the
Charing Cross branch of the London County and Suburban Bank has
ever seen Mrs. Leroux!--Oh! we have been careful of that, and we
shall be careful in the future. You are known already as an
accredited agent of Leroux; therefore"--he bent yet closer to
Soames' ear--"you will direct the chauffeur to drop you, not at the
Strand entrance, but at the side entrance. You follow?"
Soames, almost holding his breath, nodded again.
"At the end of the court, in which the latter entrance is situated,
a lady dressed in the same manner as Mrs. Leroux (this is arranged)
will be waiting. Mrs. Leroux will walk straight up the court, into
the corridor of Bank Chambers by the back entrance, and from thence
out into the Strand. YOU will escort the second lady into the
manager's office, and she will sign 'Mira Leroux' instead of the
real Mira Leroux." . . .
Soames became aware that he was changing color. This was a
superior felony, and as such it awed his little mind. It was
tantamount to burning his boats. Missing silver spoons and cooked
petty cash were trivialities usually expiable at the price of a
boot-assisted dismissal; but this--!
"You understand?" Gianapolis was not smiling, now. "There is not
the slightest danger. The signature of the lady whom you will meet
will be an exact duplicate of the real one; that is, exact enough
to deceive a man who is not looking for a forgery. But it would
not be exact enough to deceive the French banker--he WILL be
looking for a forgery. You follow me? The signature on the checks
drawn against the Credit Lyonnais will be the SAME as the specimen
forwarded by the London County and Suburban, since they will be
written by the same lady--the duplicate Mrs. Leroux. Therefore,
the French bank will have no means of detecting the harmless little
deception practised upon them, and the English bank, if it should
ever see those checks, will raise no question, since the checks
will have been honored by the Credit Lyonnais."
Soames finished his whisky-and-soda at a gulp.
"Finally," concluded Gianapolis, "you will escort the lady out by
the front entrance to the Strand. She will leave you and walk in
an easterly direction--making some suitable excuse if the manager
should insist upon seeing her to the door; and the real Mrs. Leroux
will come out by the Strand end of Bank Chambers' corridor, and
walk back with you around the corner to where the car will be
"Quite," said Soames, huskily. . . .
But when, some twenty minutes later, he returned to Palace
Mansions, he was a man lost in thought; and he did not entirely
regain his wonted composure, and did not entirely shake off the
incubus, Doubt, until in his own room he had re-counted the
contents of the brown paper envelope. Then:--
"It's safe enough," he muttered; "and it's worth it!"
Thus it came about that, on the following morning, Leroux called
him into the study and gave him just such instructions as
Gianapolis had outlined the evening before.
"I am--er--too busy to go myself, Soames," said Leroux, "and--er--
Mrs. Leroux will shortly be paying a visit to friends in--er--in
Paris. So that I am opening a credit there for her. Save so much
trouble--and--such a lot of--correspondence--international money
orders--and such worrying things. Mr. Smith, the manager, knows
you and you will take this letter of authority. The draft I
understand has already been purchased."
Mr. Soames was bursting with anxiety to learn the amount of this
draft, but could find no suitable opportunity to inquire. The
astonishing deception, then, was carried out without anything
resembling a hitch. Mrs. Leroux went through with her part in the
comedy, in the dreamy manner of a somnambulist; and the duplicate
Mrs. Leroux, who waited at the appointed spot, had achieved so
startling a resemblance to her prototype, that Mr. Soames became
conscious of a craving for a peg of brandy at the moment of setting
eyes upon her. However, he braced himself up and saw the business
As was to be expected, no questions were raised and no doubts
entertained. The bank manager was very courteous and very
reserved, and the fictitious Mrs. Leroux equally reserved, indeed,
cold. She avoided raising her motor veil, and, immediately the
business was concluded, took her departure, Mr. Smith escorting her
as far as the door.
She walked away toward Fleet Street, and the respectful attendant,
Soames, toward Charing Cross; he rejoined Mrs. Leroux at the door
of Bank Chambers, and the two turned the corner and entered the
waiting car. Soames was rather nervous; Mrs. Leroux quite
Shortly after this event, Soames learnt that the date of Mrs.
Leroux's departure to Paris was definitely fixed. He received from
her hands a large envelope.
"For Mr. King," she said, in her dreamy fashion; and he noticed
that she seemed to be in poorer health than usual. Her mouth
twitched strangely; she was a nervous wreck.
Then came her departure, attended by a certain bustle, an
appointment with Mr. Gianapolis; and the delivery of the parcel
into that gentleman's keeping.
Mrs. Leroux was away for six days on this occasion. Leroux sent
her three postcards during that time, and re-addressed some ten or
twelve letters which arrived for her. The address in all cases
c/o Miss Denise Ryland,
Atelier 4, Rue du Coq d'Or,
East 18642 was much in demand that week; and there were numerous
meetings between Soames and Gianapolis at the corner of Victoria
Street, and numerous whiskies-and-sodas in the Red Lion; for
Gianapolis persisted in his patronage of that establishment,
apparently for no other reason than because it was dangerously near
to Scotland Yard, and an occasional house of call for members of
the Criminal Investigation Department.