Infomotions, Inc.Havoc / Oppenheim, E. Phillips (Edward Phillips), 1866-1946



Author: Oppenheim, E. Phillips (Edward Phillips), 1866-1946
Title: Havoc
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): laverick; bellamy; mademoiselle idiale; laverick answered; stephen laverick; laverick asked; bellamy answered; laverick remarked; laverick continued; laverick looked; laverick declared
Contributor(s): Sharp, R. Farquharson (Robert Farquharson), 1864-1945 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 86,674 words (short) Grade range: 6-9 (grade school) Readability score: 71 (easy)
Identifier: etext2287
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Havoc

by E. Philips Oppenheim

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Havoc

by E. Philips Oppenheim




CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I        CROWNED HEADS MEET

II       ARTHUR DORWARD'S "SCOOP"

III      "OURS IS A STRANGE COURTSHIP"

IV       THE NIGHT TRAIN FROM VIENNA

V        "VON BEHRLING HAS THE PACKET"

VI       VON BEHRLING IS TEMPTED

VII      "WE PLAY FOR GREAT STAKES

VIII     THE HAND OF MISFORTUNE

IX       ROBBING THE DEAD

X        BELLAMY IS OUTWITTED

XI       VON BEHRLING'S FATE

XII      BARON DE STREUSS' PROPOSAL

XIII     STEPHEN LAVERICK'S CONSCIENCE

XIV      ARTHUR MORRISON'S COLLAPSE

XV       LAVERICK'S PARTNER FLEES

XVI      THE WAITER AT THE "BLACK POST

XVII     THE PRICE OF SILENCE

XVIII    THE LONELY CHORUS GIRL

XIX      MYSTERIOUS INQUIRIES

XX       LAVERICK IS CROSS EXAMINED

XXI      MADEMOISELLE IDIALE'S VISIT

XXII     ACTIVITY OF AUSTRIAN SPIES

XXIII    LAVERICK AT THE OPERA

XXIV     A SUPPER PARTY AT LUIGI'S

XXV      JIM SHEPHERD'S SCARE

XXVI     THE DOCUMENT DISCOVERED

XXVII    PENETRATING A MYSTERY

XXVIII   LAVERICK'S NARROW ESCAPE

XXIX     LASSEN'S TREACHERY DISCOVERED

XXX      THE CONTEST FOR THE PAPERS

XXXI     MISS LENEVEU'S MESSAGE

XXXII    MORRISON Is DESPERATE

XXXIII   LAVERICK'S ARREST

XXXIV    MORRISON'S DISCLOSURE

XXXV     BELLAMY'S SUCCESS

XXXVI    LAVERICK ACQUITTED

XXXVII   THE PLOT TEAT FAILED

XXXVIII  A FAREWELL APPEARANCE






HAVOC






CHAPTER I

CROWNED HEADS MEET


Bellamy, King's Spy, and Dorward, journalist, known to fame in every
English-speaking country, stood before the double window of their
spacious sitting-room, looking down upon the thoroughfare beneath.
Both men were laboring under a bitter sense of failure.  Bellamy's
face was dark with forebodings; Dorward was irritated and nervous.
Failure was a new thing to him - a thing which those behind the
great journals which he represented understood less, even, than he.
Bellamy loved his country, and fear was gnawing at his heart.

Below, the crowds which had been waiting patiently for many hours
broke into a tumult of welcoming voices.  Down their thickly-packed
lines the volume of sound arose and grew, a faint murmur at first,
swelling and growing to a thunderous roar.  Myriads of hats were
suddenly torn from the heads of the excited multitude, handkerchiefs
waved from every window.  It was a wonderful greeting, this.

"The Czar on his way to the railway station," Bellamy remarked.

The broad avenue was suddenly thronged with a mass of soldiery -
guardsmen of the most famous of Austrian regiments, brilliant in
their white uniforms, their flashing helmets.  The small brougham
with its great black horses was almost hidden within a ring of
naked steel.  Dorward, an American to the backbone and a bitter
democrat, thrust out his under-lip.

"The Anointed of the Lord!" he muttered.

Far away from some other quarter came the same roar of voices,
muffled yet insistent, charged with that faint, exciting timbre
which seems always to live in the cry of the multitude.

"The Emperor," declared Bellamy.  "He goes to the West station."

The commotion had passed.  The crowds in the street below were on
the move, melting away now with a muffled trampling of feet and a
murmur of voices.  The two men turned from their window back into
the room.  Dorward commenced to roll a cigarette with yellow-stained,
nervous fingers, while Bellamy threw himself into an easy-chair with
a gesture of depression.

"So it is over, this long-talked-of meeting," he said, half to
himself, half to Dorward.  "It is over, and Europe is left to wonder."

"They were together for scarcely more than an hour," Dorward murmured.

"Long enough," Bellamy answered.  "That little room in the Palace,
my friend, may yet become famous."

"If you and I could buy its secrets," Dorward remarked, finally
shaping a cigarette and lighting it, "we should be big bidders, I
think.  I'd give fifty thousand dollars myself to be able to cable
even a hundred words of their conversation."

"For the truth," Bellamy said, "the whole truth, there could be no
price sufficient.  We made our effort in different directions, both
of us.  With infinite pains I planted - I may tell you this now that
the thing is over - seven spies in the Palace.  They have been of
as much use as rabbits.  I don't believe that a single one of them
got any further than the kitchens."

Dorward nodded gloomily.

"I guess they weren't taking any chances up there," he remarked.
"There wasn't a secretary in the room.  Carstairs was nearly thrown
out, and he had a permit to enter the Palace.  The great staircase
was held with soldiers, and Dick swore that there were Maxims in the
corridors."

Bellamy sighed.

"We shall hear the roar of bigger guns before we are many months
older, Dorward," he declared.

The journalist glanced at his friend keenly.  "You believe that?"

Bellamy shrugged his shoulders.

"Do you suppose that this meeting is for nothing?" he asked.  "When
Austria, Germany and Russia stand whispering in a corner, can't you
believe it is across the North Sea that they point?  Things have
been shaping that way for years, and the time is almost ripe."

"You English are too nervous to live, nowadays," Dorward declared
impatiently.  "I'd just like to know what they said about America."

Bellamy smiled with faint but delicate irony.

"Without a doubt, the Prince will tell you," he said.  "He can
scarcely do more to show his regard for your country.  He is giving
you a special interview - you alone out of about two hundred
journalists.  Very likely he will give you an exact account of
everything that transpired.  first of all, he will assure you that
this meeting has been brought about in the interests of peace.  He
will tell you that the welfare of your dear country is foremost in
the thoughts of his master.  He will assure you - "

"Say, you're jealous, my friend," Dorward interrupted calmly.  "I
wonder what you'd give me for my ten minutes alone with the
Chancellor, eh?"

"If he told me the truth," Bellamy asserted, "I'd give my life for
it.  For the sort of stuff you're going to hear, I'd give nothing.
Can't you realize that for yourself, Dorward?  You know the man -
false as Hell but with the tongue of a serpent.  He will grasp your
hand; he will declare himself glad to speak through you to the great
Anglo-Saxon races - to England and to his dear friends the Americans.
He is only too pleased to have the opportunity of expressing himself
candidly and openly.  Peace is to be the watchword of the future.
The white doves have hovered over the Palace.  The rulers of the
earth have met that the crash of arms may be stilled and that this
terrible unrest which broods over Europe shall finally be broken up.
They have pledged themselves hand in hand to work together for this
object, - Russia, broken and humiliated, but with an immense army
still available, whose only chance of holding her place among the
nations is another and a successful war; Austria, on fire for the
seaboard - Austria, to whom war would give the desire of her
existence; Germany, with Bismarck's last but secret words written in
letters of fire on the walls of her palaces, in the hearts of her
rulers, in the brain of her great Emperor.  Colonies!  Expansion!
Empire!  Whose colonies, I wonder?  Whose empire?  Will he tell you
that, my friend Dorward?"

The journalist shrugged his shoulders and glanced at the clock.

"I guess he'll tell me what he chooses and I shall print it," he
answered indifferently.  "It's all part of the game, of course.  I
am not exactly chicken enough to expect the truth.  All the same,
my message will come from the lips of the Chancellor immediately
after this wonderful meeting."

"He makes use of you," Bellamy declared, "to throw dust into our
eyes and yours."

"Even so," Dorward admitted, "I don't care so long as I get the
copy.  It's good-bye, I suppose?"

Bellamy nodded.

"I shall go on to Berlin, perhaps, to-morrow," he said.  "I can do
no more good here.  And you?"

"After I've sent my cable I'm off to Belgrade for a week, at any
rate," Dorward answered.  "I hear the women are forming rifle
clubs all through Servia."

Bellamy smiled thoughtfully.

"I know one who'll want a place among the leaders," he murmured.

"Mademoiselle Idiale, I suppose?"

Bellamy assented.

"It's a queer position hers, if you like," he said.  "All Vienna
raves about her.  They throng the Opera House every night to hear
her sing, and they pay her the biggest salary which has ever been
known here.  Three parts of it she sends to Belgrade to the Chief
of the Committee for National Defence.  The jewels that are sent her
anonymously go to the same place, all to buy arms to fight these
people who worship her.  I tell you, Dorward," he added, rising to
his feet and walking to the window, "the patriotism of these people
is something we colder races scarcely understand.  Perhaps it is
because we have never dwelt under the shadow of a conqueror.  If
ever Austria is given a free hand, it will be no mere war upon which
she enters, - it will be a carnage, an extermination!"

Dorward looked once more at the clock and rose slowly to his feet.

"Well," he said, "I mustn't keep His Excellency waiting.  Good-bye,
and cheer up, Bellamy!  Your old country isn't going to turn up
her heels yet."

Out he went - long, lank, uncouth, with yellow-stained fingers and
hatchet-shaped, gray face - a strange figure but yet a power.
Bellamy remained.  For a while he seemed doubtful how to pass the
time.  He stood in front of the window, watching the dispersal of
the crowds and the marching by of a regiment of soldiers, whose
movements he followed with critical interest, for he, too, had been
in the service.  He had still a military bearing, - tall, and with
complexion inclined to be dusky, a small black moustache, dark eyes,
a silent mouth, - a man of many reserves.  Even his intimates knew
little of him.  Nevertheless, his was the reticence which befitted
well his profession.

After a time he sat down and wrote some letters.  He had just
finished when there came a sharp tap at the door.  Before he could
open his lips some one had entered.  He heard the soft swirl of
draperies and turned sharply round, then sprang to his feet and
held out both his hands.  There was expression in his face now - as
much as he ever suffered to appear there.

"Louise!" he exclaimed.  "What good fortune!"

She held his fingers for a moment in a manner which betokened a
more than common intimacy.  Then she threw herself into an
easy-chair and raised her thick veil.  Bellamy looked at her for a
moment in sorrowful silence.  There were violet lines underneath
her beautiful eyes, her cheeks were destitute of any color.  There
was an abandonment of grief about her attitude which moved him.
She sat as one broken-spirited, in whom the power of resistance was
dead.

"It is over, then," she said softly, "this meeting.  The word has
been spoken."

He came and stood by her side.

"As yet," he reminded her, "we do not know what that word may be."

She shook her head mournfully.

"Who can doubt?" she exclaimed.  "For myself, I feel it in the air!
I can see it in the faces of the people who throng the city!  I can
hear it in the peals of those awful bells!  You know nothing?  You
have heard nothing?"

Bellamy shook his head.

"I did all that was humanly possible," he said, dropping his voice.
"An Englishman in Vienna to-day has very little opportunity.  I
filled the Palace with spies, but they hadn't a dog's chance.  There
wasn't even a secretary present.  The Czar, the two Emperors and the
Chancellor, - not another soul was in the room."

"If only Von Behrling had been taken!" she exclaimed.  "He was there
in reserve, I know, as stenographer.  I have but to lift my hand
and it is enough.  I would have had the truth from him, whatever it
cost me."

Bellamy looked at her thoughtfully.  It was not for nothing that
the Press of every European nation had called her the most beautiful
woman in the world.  He frowned slightly at her last words, for he
loved her.

"Von Behrling was not even allowed to cross the threshold," he said
sharply.

She moved her head and looked up at him.  She was leaning a little
forward now, her chin resting upon her hands.  Something about the
lines of her long, supple body suggested to him the savage animal
crouching for a spring.  She was quiet, but her bosom was heaving,
and he could guess at the passion within.  With purpose he spoke to
set it loose.

"You sing to-night?" he asked.

"Before God, no!" she answered, the anger blazing out of her eyes,
shaking in her voice.  "I sing no more in this accursed city!"

"There will be a revolution," Bellamy remarked.  "I see that the
whole city is placarded with notices.  It is to be a gala night at
the Opera.  The royal party is to be present."

Her body seemed to quiver like a tree shaken by the wind.

"What do I care - I - I - for their gala night!  If I were like
Samson, if I could pull down the pillars of their Opera House and
bury them all in its ruins, I would do it!"

He took her hand and smoothed it in his.

"Dear Louise, it is useless, this.  You do everything that can be
done for your country."

Her eyes were streaming and her fingers sought his.

"My friend David," she said, "you do not understand.  None of you
English yet can understand what it is to crouch in the shadow of
this black fear, to feel a tyrant's hand come creeping out, to know
that your life-blood and the life-blood of all your people must be
shed, and shed in vain.  To rob a nation of their liberty, ah! it
is worse, this, than murder, - a worse crime than his who stains
the soul of a poor innocent girl!  It is a sin against nature
herself!"

She was sobbing now, and she clutched his hands passionately.

"Forgive me," she murmured, "I am overwrought.  I have borne up
against this thing so long.  I can do no more good here.  I come
to tell you that I go away till the time comes.  I go to your
London.  They want me to sing for them there.  I shall do it."

"You will break your engagement?"

She laughed at him scornfully.

"I am Idiale," she declared.  "I keep no engagement if I do not
choose.  I will sing no more to this people whom I hate.  My friend
David, I have suffered enough.  Their applause I loathe - their
covetous eyes as they watch me move about the stage - oh, I could
strike them all dead!  They come to me, these young Austrian
noblemen, as though I were already one of a conquered race.  I keep
their diamonds but I destroy their messages.  Their jewels go to
my chorus girls or to arm my people.  But no one of them has had a
kind word from me save where there has been something to be gained.
Even Von Behrling I have fooled with promises.  No Austrian shall
ever touch my lips - I have sworn it!"

Bellamy nodded.

"Yes," he assented, "they call you cold here in the capital!  Even
in the Palace - "

She held out her hand.

"It is finished!" she declared.  "I sing no more.  I have sent word
to the Opera House.  I came here to be in hiding for a while.  They
will search for me everywhere.  To-night or to-morrow I leave for
England."

Bellamy stood thoughtfully silent.

"I am not sure that you are wise," he said.  "You take it too much
for granted that the end has come."

"And do you not yourself believe it?" she demanded.  He hesitated.

"As yet there is no proof," he reminded her.

"Proof!"

She sat upright in her chair.  Her hands thrust him from her, her
bosom heaved, a spot of color flared in her cheeks.

"Proof!" she cried.  "What do you suppose, then, that these wolves
have plotted for?  What else do you suppose could be Austria's share
of the feast?  Couldn't you hear our fate in the thunder of their
voices when that miserable monarch rode back to his captivity?  We
are doomed - betrayed!  You remember the Massacre of St. Bartholomew,
a blood-stained page of history for all time.  The world would tell
you that we have outlived the age of such barbarous doings.  It is
not true.  My friend David, it is not true.  It is a more terrible
thing, this which is coming.  Body and soul we are to perish."

He came over to her side once more and laid his hand soothingly on
hers.  It was heart-rending to witness the agony of the woman he
loved.

"Dear Louise," he said, "after all, this is profitless.  There may
yet be compromises."

She suffered her hand to remain in his, but the bitterness did not
pass out of her face or tone.

"Compromises!" she repeated.  "Do you believe, then, that we are
like those ancient races who felt the presence of a conqueror
because their hosts were scattered in battle, and who suffered
themselves passively to be led into captivity?  My country can be
conquered in one way, and one way only, - not until her sons, ay,
and her daughters too, have perished, can these people rule.  They
will come to an empty and a stricken country - a country red with
blood, desolate, with blackened houses and empty cities.  The
horror of it!  Think, my friend David, the horror of it!"

Bellamy threw his head back with a sudden gesture of impatience.

"You take too much for granted," he declared.  "England, at any
rate, is not yet a conquered race.  And there is France - Italy,
too, if she is wise, will never suffer this thing from her ancient
enemy."

"It is the might of the world which threatens," she murmured.
"Your country may defend herself, but here she is powerless.
Already it has been proved.  Last year you declared yourself our
friend - you and even Russia.  Of what avail was it?  Word came
from Berlin and you were powerless."

Then tragedy broke into the room, tragedy in the shape of a man
demented.  For fifteen years Bellamy had known Arthur Dorward, but
this man was surely a stranger!  He was hatless, dishevelled, wild.
A dull streak of color had mounted almost to his forehead, his eyes
were on fire.

"Bellamy!" he cried.  "Bellamy!"

Words failed him suddenly.  He leaned against the table, breathless,
panting heavily.

"For God's sake, man," Bellamy began, -

"Alone!" Dorward interrupted.  "I must see you alone!  I have news!"

Mademoiselle Idiale rose.  She touched Bellamy on the shoulder.

"You will come to me, or telephone," she whispered.  "So?"

Bellamy opened the door and she passed out, with a farewell pressure
of his fingers.  Then he closed it firmly and came back.




CHAPTER II

ARTHUR DORWARD'S "SCOOP"


"What's wrong, old man?" Bellamy asked quickly.

Dorward from a side table had seized the bottle of whiskey and a
siphon, and was mixing himself a drink with trembling fingers.  He
tossed it off before he spoke a word.  Then he turned around and
faced his companion.  "Bellamy," he ordered, "lock the door."

Bellamy obeyed.  He had no doubt now but that Dorward had lost his
head in the Chancellor's presence - had made some absurd attempt to
gain the knowledge which they both craved, and had failed.

"Bellamy," Dorward exclaimed, speaking hoarsely and still a little
out of breath, "I guess I've had the biggest slice of luck that was
ever dealt out to a human being.  If only I can get safe out of
this city, I tell you I've got the greatest scoop that living man
ever handled."

"You don't mean that - "

Dorward wiped his forehead and interrupted.

"It's the most amazing thing that ever happened," he declared, "but
I've got it here in my pocket, got it in black and white, in the
Chancellor's own handwriting."

"Got what?"

"Why, what you and I, an hour ago, would have given a million for,"
Dorward replied.

Bellamy's expression was one of blank but wondering incredulity.

"You can't mean this, Dorward!" he exclaimed.  "You may have
something - just what the Chancellor wants you to print.  You're
not supposing for an instant that you've got the whole truth?"

Dorward's smile was the smile of certainty, his face that of a
conqueror.

"Here in my pocket," he declared, striking his chest, "in the
Chancellor's own handwriting.  I tell you I've got the original
verbatim copy of everything that passed and was resolved upon this
afternoon between the Czar of Russia, the Emperor of Austria and
the Emperor of Germany.  I've got it word for word as the Chancellor
took it down.  I've got their decision.  I've got their several
undertakings."

Bellamy for a moment was stricken dumb.  He looked toward the door
and back into his friend's face aglow with triumph.  Then his power
of speech returned.

"Do you mean to say that you stole it?"

Dorward struck the table with his fist.

"Not I!  I tell you that the Chancellor gave it to me, gave it to
me with his own hands, willingly, - pressed it upon me.  No, don't
scoff!" he went on quickly.  "Listen!  This is a genuine thing.
The Chancellor's mad.  He was lying in a fit when I left the Palace.
It will be in all the evening papers.  You will hear the boys
shouting it in the streets within a few minutes.  Don't interrupt
and I'll tell you the whole truth.  You can believe me or not, as
you like.  It makes no odds.  I arrived punctually and was shown up
into the anteroom.  Even from there I could hear loud voices in the
inner chamber and I knew that something was up.  Presently a little
fellow came out to me - a dark-bearded chap with gold-rimmed glasses.
He was very polite, introduced himself as the Chancellor's physician,
regretted exceedingly that the Chancellor was unwell and could see
no one, - the excitement and hard work of the last few days had
knocked him out.  Well, I stood there arguing as pleasantly as I
could about it, and then all of a sudden the door of the inner room
was thrown open.  The Chancellor himself stood on the threshold.
There was no doubt about his being ill; his face was as pale as
parchment, his eyes were simply wild, and his hair was all ruffled
as though he had been standing upon his head.  He began to talk to
the physician in German.  I didn't understand him until he began to
swear, - then it was wonderful!  In the end he brushed them all
away and, taking me by the arm, led me right into the inner room.
For a long time he went on jabbering away half to himself, and I
was wondering how on earth to bring the conversation round to the
things I wanted to know about.  Then, all of a sudden, he turned to
me and seemed to remember who I was and what I wanted.  'Ah!' he
said, 'you are Dorward, the American journalist. I remember you now.
Lock the door.'  I obeyed him pretty quick, for I had noticed they
were mighty uneasy outside, and I was afraid they'd be disturbing
us every moment.  'Come and sit down,' he ordered.  I did so at
once.  'You're a sensible fellow,' he declared.  'To-day every one
is worrying me.  They think that I am not well.  It is foolish.  I
am quite well.  Who would not be well on such a day as this?' I
told him that I had never seen him looking better in my life, and
he nodded and seemed pleased.  'You have come to hear the truth
about the meeting of my master with the Czar and the Emperor of
Germany?' he asked.  'That's so,' I told him.  'America 's more
than a little interested in these things, and I want to know what
to tell her.'  Then he leaned across the table.  'My young friend,'
he said, 'I like you.  You are straightforward.  You speak plainly
and you do not worry me.  It is good.  You shall tell your country
what it is that we have planned, what the things are that are
coming.  Yours is a great and wise country.  When they know the
truth, they will remember that Europe is a long way off and that
the things which happen there are really no concern of theirs.'
'You are right,' I assured him, - 'dead right.  Treat us openly,
that's all we ask.' 'Shall I not do that, my young friend?' he
answered.  'Now look, I give you this.'  He fumbled through all his
pockets and at last he drew out a long envelope, sealed at both ends
with black sealing wax on which was printed a coat of arms with two
tigers facing each other.  He looked toward the door cautiously, and
there was just that gleam in his eyes which madmen always have.
'Here it is,' he whispered, 'written with my own hand.  This will
tell you exactly what passed this afternoon.  It will tell you our
plans.  It will tell you of the share which my master and the other
two are taking.  Button it up safely,' he said, 'and, whatever you
do, do not let them know outside that you have got it.  Between
you and me,' he went on, leaning across the table, 'something seems
to have happened to them all to-day.  There's my old doctor there.
He is worrying all the time, but he himself is not well.  I can see
it whenever he comes near me.'  I nodded as though I understood and
the Chancellor tapped his forehead and grinned.  Then I got up as
casually as I could, for I was terribly afraid that he wouldn't let
me go.  We shook hands, and I tell you his fingers were like pieces
of burning coal.  Just as I was moving, some one knocked at the
door.  Then he began to storm again, kicked his chair over, threw a
paperweight at the window, and talked such nonsense that I couldn't
follow him.  I unlocked the door myself and found the doctor there.
I contrived to look as frightened as possible.  'His Highness is not
well enough to talk to me,' I whispered.  'You had better look after
him.'  I heard a shout behind and a heavy fall.  Then I closed the
door and slipped away as quietly as I could - and here I am."

Bellamy drew a long breath.

"My God, but this is wonderful!" he muttered.  "How long is it
since you left the Palace?"

"About ten minutes or a quarter of an hour," Dorward answered.

"They'll find it out at once," declared the other.  "They'll miss
the paper.  Perhaps he'll tell them himself that he has given it to
you.  Don't let us run any risks, Dorward.  Tear it open.  Let us
know the truth, at any rate.  If you have to part with the document,
we can remember its contents.  Out with it, man, quick!.  They may
be here at any moment."

Dorward drew a few steps back.  Then he shook his head.

"I guess not," he said firmly.

Bellamy regarded his friend in blank and uncomprehending amazement.

"What do you mean?" he exclaimed.  "You're not going to keep it to
yourself?  You know what it means to me - to England?"

"Your old country can look after herself pretty well," Dorward
declared.  "Anyhow, she'll have to take her chance.  I am not here
as a philanthropist. I am an American journalist, and I'll part to
nobody with the biggest thing that's ever come into any man's bands."

Bellamy, with a tremendous effort, maintained his self-control.

"What are you going to do with it?" he asked quickly.  "I tell you
I'm off out of the country to-night," Dorward declared.  "I shall
head for England.  Pearce is there himself, and I tell you it will
be just the greatest day of my life when I put this packet in his
hand.  We'll make New York hum, I can promise you, and Europe too."

Bellamy's manner was perfectly quiet - too quiet to be altogether
natural.  His hand was straying towards his pocket.

"Dorward," he said, speaking rapidly, and keeping his back to the
door, "you don't realize what you're up against. This sort of thing
is new to you.  You haven't a dog's chance of leaving Vienna alive
with that in your pocket.  If you trust yourself in the Orient
Express to-night, you'll never be allowed to cross the frontier.
By this time they know that the packet is missing; they know, too,
that you are the only man who could have it, whether the Chancellor
has told them the truth or not.  Open it at once so that we get some
good out of it.  Then we'll go round to the Embassy.  We can slip
out by the back way, perhaps.  Remember I have spent my life in the
service, and I tell you that there's no other place in the city
where your life is worth a snap of the fingers but at your Embassy
or mine.  Open the packet, man."

"I think not," Dorward answered firmly.  "I am an American citizen.
I have broken no laws and done no one any harm.  If there's any
slaughtering about, I guess they'll hesitate before they begin with
Arthur Dorward.  . . .  Don't be a fool, man!"

He took a quick step backward, - he was looking into the muzzle of
Bellamy's revolver.

"Dorward," the latter exclaimed, "I can't help it!  Yours is only
a personal ambition - I stand for my country.  Share the knowledge
of that packet with me or I shall shoot."

"Then shoot and be d--d to you!" Dorward declared fiercely.  "This
s my show, not yours.  You and your country can go to - "

He broke off without finishing his sentence.  There was a thunderous
knocking at the door.  The two men looked at one another for a
moment, speechless.  Then Bellamy, with a smothered oath, replaced
the revolver in his pocket.

"You've thrown away our chance," he said bitterly.

The knocking was repeated.  When Bellamy with a shrug of the
shoulders answered the summons, three men in plain clothes entered.
They saluted Bellamy, but their eyes were traveling around the room.

"We are seeking Herr Dorward, the American journalist!" one exclaimed.
"He was here but a moment ago."

Bellamy pointed to the inner door.  He had had too much experience
in such matters to attempt any prevarication.  The three men crossed
the room quickly and Bellamy followed in the rear.  He heard a cry
of disappointment from the foremost as he opened the door.  The inner
room was empty!




CHAPTER III

"OURS IS A STRANGE COURTSHIP"


Louise looked up eagerly as he entered.

"There is news!" she exclaimed.  "I can see it in your face."

"Yes," Bellamy answered, "there is news!  That is why I have come.
Where can we talk?"

She rose to her feet.  Before them the open French windows led on
to a smooth green lawn.  She took his arm.

"Come outside with me," she said.  "I am shut up here because I
will not see the doctors whom they send, or any one from the Opera
House.  An envoy from the Palace has been and I have sent him away."

"You mean to keep your word, then?"

"Have I ever broken it?  Never again will I sing in this City.  It
is so."

Bellamy looked around.  The garden of the villa was enclosed by
high gray stone walls.  They were secure here, at least, from
eavesdroppers.  She rested her fingers lightly upon his arm, holding
up the skirts of her loose gown with her other hand.

"I have spoken to you," he said, "of Dorward, the American journalist."

She nodded.

"Of course," she assented.  "You told me that the Chancellor had
promised him an interview for to-day."

"Well, he went to the Palace and the Chancellor saw him.".

She looked at him with upraised eyebrows.

"The newspapers are full of lies as usual, then, I suppose.  The
latest telegrams say that the Chancellor is dangerously ill."

"It is quite true," Bellamy declared.  "What I am going to tell you
is surprising, but I had it from Dorward himself.  When he reached
the Palace, the Chancellor was practically insane.  His doctors were
trying to persuade him to go to his room and lie down, but he heard
Dorward's voice and insisted upon seeing him.  The man was mad - on
the verge of a collapse - and he handed over to Dorward his notes,
and a verbatim report of all that passed at the Palace this morning."

She looked at him incredulously.

"My dear David!" she exclaimed.

"It is amazing," he admitted, "but it is the truth.  I know it for
a fact.  The man was absolutely beside himself, he had no idea what
he was doing."

"Where is it?" she asked quickly.  "You have seen it?"

"Dorward would not give it up," he said bitterly.  "While we argued
in our sitting-room at the hotel the police arrived.  Dorward escaped
through the bedroom and down the service stairs.  He spoke of trying
to catch the Orient Express to-night, but I doubt if they will ever
let him leave the city."

"It is wonderful, this," she murmured softly.  "What are you going
to do?"

"Louise, you and I have few secrets from each other.  I would have
killed Dorward to obtain that sealed envelope, because I believe
that the knowledge of its contents in London to-day would save us
from disaster.  To know how far each is pledged, and from which
direction the first blow is to come, would be our salvation."

"I cannot understand," she said, "why he should have refused to
share his knowledge with you.  He is an American - it is almost the
same thing as being an Englishman.  And you are friends, - I am
sure that you have helped him often."

"It was a matter of vanity - simply cursed vanity," Bellamy answered.
"It would have been the greatest journalistic success of modern
times for him to have printed that document, word for word, in his
paper.  He fights for his own hand alone."

"And you?" she whispered.

"He will have to reckon with me," Bellamy declared.  "I know that he
is going to try and leave Vienna to-night, and if he does I shall be
at his heels."

She nodded her head thoughtfully.

"I, too," she announced.  "I come with you, my friend.  I do no
more good here, and they worry my life out all the time.  I come to
sing in London at Covent Garden.  I have agreements there which only
await my signature.  We will go together; is it not so?"

"Very well," he answered, "only remember that my movements must
depend very largely upon Dorward's.  The train leaves at eight
o'clock, station time.  I have already a coupe reserved."

"I come with you," she murmured.  "I am very weary of this city."

They walked on for a few paces in silence.  Bellamy looked around
the gardens, brilliant with flowering shrubs and rose trees, with
here and there some delicate piece of statuary half-hidden amongst
the wealth of foliage.  The villa had once belonged to a royal
favorite, and the grounds had been its chief glory.  They reached
a sheltered seat and sat down.  A few yards away a tiny waterfall
came tumbling over the rocks into a deep pool.  They were hidden
from the windows of the villa by the boughs of a drooping chestnut
tree.  Bellamy stooped and kissed her upon the lips.

"Ours is a strange courtship, Louise," he whispered softly.

She took his hand in hers and smoothed it.  She had returned his
kiss, but she drew a little further away from him.

"Ah! my dear friend," looking at him with sorrow in her eyes,
"courtship is scarcely the word, is it?  For you and me there is
nothing to hope for, nothing beyond."

He leaned towards her.

"Never believe that," he begged.  "These days are dark enough,
Heaven knows, yet the work of every one has its goal.  Even our
turn may come."

Something flickered for a moment in her face, something which seemed
to make a different woman of her.  Bellamy saw it, and hardened
though he was he felt the slow stirring of his own pulses.  He
kissed her hand passionately and she shivered.

"We must not talk of these things," she said.  "We must not think
of them.  At least our friendship has been wonderful.  Now I must
go in.  I must tell my maid and arrange to steal away to-night."

They stood up, and he held her in his arms for a moment.  Though her
lips met his freely enough, he was very conscious of the reserve
with which she yielded herself to him, conscious of it and thankful,
too.  They walked up the path together, and as they went she plucked
a red rose and thrust it through his buttonhole.

"If we had no dreams," she said softly, "life would not be possible.
Perhaps some day even we may pluck roses together."

He raised her fingers to his lips.  It was not often that they
lapsed into sentiment.  When she spoke again it was finished.

"You had better leave," she told him, "by the garden gate.  There
are the usual crowd in my anteroom, and it is well that you and I
are not seen too much together."

"Till this evening," he whispered, as he turned away. "I shall be at
the station early.  If Dorward is taken, I shall still leave Vienna.
If he goes, it may be an eventful journey."




CHAPTER IV

THE NIGHT TRAIN FROM VIENNA


Dorwood, whistling softly to himself, sat in a corner of his coupe
rolling innumerable cigarettes.  He was a man of unbounded courage
and wonderful resource, but with a slightly exaggerated idea as
to the sanctity of an American citizen.  He had served his
apprenticeship in his own country, and his name had become a
household word owing to his brilliant success as war correspondent
in the Russo-Japanese War.  His experience of European countries,
however, was limited.  After the more obvious dangers with which
he had grappled and which he had overcome during his adventurous
career, he was disposed to be a little contemptuous of the subtler
perils at which his friend Bellamy had plainly hinted.  He had made
his escape from the hotel without any very serious difficulty, and
since that time, although he had taken no particular precautions,
he had remained unmolested.  From his own point of view, therefore,
it was perhaps only reasonable that he should no longer have any
misgiving as to his personal safety.  ARREST as a thief was the
worst which he had feared.  Even that he seemed now to have evaded.

The coupe was exceedingly comfortable and, after all, he had had a
somewhat exciting day.  He lit a cigarette and stretched himself
out with a murmur of immense satisfaction.  He was close upon the
great triumph of his life.  He was perfectly content to lie there
and look out upon the flying landscape, upon which the shadows were
now fast descending.  He was safe, absolutely safe, he assured
himself.  Nevertheless, when the door of his coupe was opened, he
started almost like a guilty man.  The relief in his face as he
recognized his visitor was obvious.  It was Bellamy who entered
and dropped into a seat by his side.

"Wasting your time, aren't you?" the latter remarked, pointing to
the growing heap of cigarettes.

"Well, I guess not," Dorward answered.  "I can smoke this lot before
we reach London."

Bellamy smiled enigmatically.

"I don't think that you will," he said.

"Why not?"

"You are such a sanguine person," Bellamy sighed.  "Personally, I
do not think that there is the slightest chance of your reaching
London at all."

Dorward laughed scornfully.

"And why not?" he asked.

Bellamy merely shrugged his shoulders.  Dorward seemed to find the
gesture irritating.

"You've got espionage on the brain, my dear friend," he declared
dryly.  "I suppose it's the result of your profession.  I may not
know so much about Europe as you do, but I am inclined to think
that an American citizen traveling with his passport on a train
like this is moderately safe, especially when he's not above a
scrap by way of taking care of himself."

"You're a plucky fellow," remarked Bellamy.

"I don't see any pluck about it.  In Vienna, I must admit, I
shouldn't have been surprised if they'd tried to fake up some sort
of charge against me, but anyhow they didn't.  Guess they'd find
it a pretty tall order trying to interfere with an American citizen."

Bellamy looked at his friend curiously.

"I suppose you're not bluffing, by any chance, Dorward?" he said.
"You really believe what you say?"

"Why in thunder shouldn't I?" Dorward asked.

Bellamy sighed.

"My dear Dorward," he said, "it is amazing to me that a man of your
experience should talk and behave like a baby.  You've taken some
notice of your fellow-passengers, I suppose?"

"I've seen a few of them," Dorward answered carelessly.  "What about
them?"

"Nothing much," Bellamy declared, "except that there are, to my
certain knowledge, three high officials of the Secret Police of
Austria in the next coupe but one, and at least four or five of
their subordinates somewhere on board the train."

Dorward withdrew his cigarette from his mouth and looked at his
friend keenly.

"I guess you're trying to scare me, Bellamy," he remarked.

But Bellamy was suddenly grave.  There had come into his face an
utterly altered expression.  His tone, when he spoke, was almost
solemn.

"Dorward," he said, "upon my honor, I assure you that what I have
told you is the truth.  I cannot seem to make you realize the
seriousness of your position.  When you left the Palace with that
paper in your pocket, you were, to all intents and purposes, a
doomed man.  Your passport and your American citizenship count for
absolutely nothing.  I have come in to warn you that if you have
any last messages to leave, you had better give them to me now."

"This is a pretty good bluff you're putting up!" Dorward exclaimed
contemptuously.  "The long and short of it is, I suppose, that you
want me to break the seal of this document and let you read it."

Bellamy shook his head.

"It is too late for that, Dorward," he said.  "If the seal were
broken, they'd very soon guess where I came in, and it wouldn't help
the work I have in hand for me to be picked up with a bullet in my
forehead on the railway track."

Dorward frowned uneasily.

"What are you here for, anyway, then?" he asked.

"Well, frankly, not to argue with you," Bellamy answered.  "As a
matter of fact, you are of no use to me any longer.  I am sorry,
old man.  You can't say that I didn't give you good advice.  I am
bound to play for my own hand, though, in this matter, and if I
get any benefit at all out of my journey, it will be after some
regrettable accident has happened to you."

"Say, ring the bell for drinks and chuck this!" Dorward exclaimed.
"I've had about enough of it.  I am not denying anything you say,
but if these fellows really are on board, they'll think twice
before they meddle with me."

"On the contrary," Bellamy assured him, "they will not take the
trouble to think at all.  Their minds are perfectly made up as to
what they are going to do.  However, that's finished.  I have
nothing more to say.

Dorward gazed for a minute or two fixedly out of the window.

"Look here, Bellamy," he said, turning abruptly round, "supposing
I change my mind, supposing I open this precious document and let
you read it over with me?"

Bellamy rose hastily to his feet.

"You must not think of it!" he exclaimed.  "You would simply
write my death-warrant.  Don't allude to that matter again.  I
have risked enough in coming in here to sit with you."

"Then, for Heaven's sake, don't stop any longer!"  Dorward said
irritably.  "You get on my nerves with all this foolish talk.  In
an hour's time I am going to bolt my door and go to sleep.  We'll
breakfast together in the morning, if you like."

Bellamy said nothing.  The steward had brought them the whiskies
and sodas which Dorward had ordered.  Bellamy raised his tumbler
to his lips and set it down again.

"Forgive me," he said, "I do not think that I am thirsty."

Dorward drank his off at a gulp.  Almost immediately he closed his
eyes.  Bellamy, with a little shrug of the shoulders, left him
alone.  As he passed along to his own coupe, he met Louise in the
corridor.

"You have seen Von Behrling?" he whispered.  She nodded.

"He is in that coupe, number 7, alone," she said.  "I invited him
to come in with me but he seemed embarrassed.  It is his companions
who watch him all the time.  He has promised to talk with me later."

In the middle of the night, Louise opened her eyes to find Bellamy
bending over her.

"Louise," he whispered, "it is Von Behrling who will take possession
of the packet.  They have been discussing whether it will not be
safer to go on to London instead of doubling back.  See Von Behrling
again.  Do all you can to persuade him to come to London, - all you
can, Louise, remember."

"So!" she whispered.  "I shall put on my dressing-gown and sit in
the corridor.  It is hot here."

Bellamy glided out, closing the door softly behind him.  The train
was rushing on now through the blackness of an unusually dark night.
For some time he sat in his own compartment, listening.  The voices
whose muttered conversation he had overheard were silent now, but
once he fancied that he heard shuffling footsteps and a little cry.
In his heart he knew well that before morning Dorward would have
disappeared.  The man within him was hard to subdue.  He longed to
make his way to Dorward's side, to interfere in this terribly
unequal struggle, yet he made no movement.  Dorward was a man and a
friend, but what was a life more or less?  It was to a greater cause
that he was pledged.  Towards three o'clock he lay down on his bed
and slept. . . .

The train attendant brought him his coffee soon after daylight.  The
man's hands were trembling.

"Where are we?" Bellamy asked sleepily.

"Near Munich, Monsieur," the man answered.  "Monsieur noticed,
perhaps, that we stopped for some time in the night?"

Bellamy shook his head.

"I sleep soundly," he said.  "I heard nothing."

"There has been an accident," the man declared.  "An American
gentleman who got in at Vienna was drinking whiskey all night and
became very drunk.  In a tunnel he threw himself out upon the line."

Bellamy shuddered a little.  He had been prepared, but none the
less it was an awful thing, this.

"You are sure that he is dead?" he asked.

The man was very sure indeed.

"There is a doctor from Vienna upon the train, sir," he said.  "He
examined him at once, but death must have been instantaneous."

Bellamy drew a long breath and commenced to put on his clothes.
The next move was for him.




CHAPTER V

"VON BEHRLING HAS THE PACKET"


Bellamy stole along the half-lit corridors of the train until he
came to the coup6 which had been reserved for Mademoiselle Idiale.
Assured that he was not watched, he softly turned the handle of
the door and entered.  Louise was sitting up in her dressing-gown,
drinking her coffee.  He held up his finger and she greeted him
only with a nod.

"Forgive me, Louise," he whispered, "I dared not knock, and I was
obliged to see you at once."

She smiled.

"It is of no consequence," she said.  "One is always prepared here.
The porter, the ticket-man, and at the customs - they all enter.
Is anything wrong?"

"It has happened," he answered.

She shivered a little and her face became grave.

"Poor fellow!" she murmured.

"He simply sat still and asked for it," Bellamy declared, still
speaking in a cautious undertone.  "He would not be warned.  I could
have saved him, if any one could, but he would not hear reason."

"He was what you call pig-headed," she remarked.

"He has paid the penalty," Bellamy continued.  "Now listen to me,
Louise.  I got into that small coupe next to Von Behrling's, and I
feel sure, from what I overheard, that they will go on to London,
all three of them."

"Who is there on the train?" she demanded.

"Baron Streuss, who is head of the Secret Police, Von Behrling and
Adolf Kahn," Bellamy answered.  "Then there are four or five Secret
Service men of the rank and file, but they are all traveling
separately.  Von Behrling has the packet.  The others form a sort
of cordon around him."

"But why," she asked, "does he go on to London?  Why not return to
Vienna?"

"For one thing, " Bellamy replied, with a grim smile, "they are
afraid of me.  Then you must remember that this affair of Dorward
will be talked about.  They do not want to seem in any way
implicated.  To return from any one of these stations down the line
would create suspicion."

She nodded.

"Well?"

"I am going to leave the train at the next stop," he continued.  "I
find that I shall just catch the Northern Express to Berlin.  From
there I shall come on to London as quickly as I can.  You know the
address of my rooms?"

She nodded.

"15, Fitzroy Street."

"When I get there, let me have a line waiting to tell me where I
can see you.  While I am on the train you will find Von Behrling
almost inaccessible.  Directly I have gone it will be different.
Play with him carefully.  He should not be difficult.  To tell you
the truth, I am rather surprised that he has been trusted upon a
mission like this.  He was in disgrace with the Chancellor a short
while ago, and I know that he was hurt at not being allowed to
attend the conference.  The others will watch him closely, but
they cannot overhear everything that passes between you two.  Von
Behrling is a poor man.  You will know how to make him wish he were
rich."

Very slowly her eyebrows rose up.  She looked at him doubtfully.

"It is a slender chance, David," she remarked.  "Von Behrling is a
little wild, I know, and he pretends to be very much in love with
me, but I do not think that he would sell his country.  Then, too,
see how he will be watched.  I do not suppose that they will leave
us alone for a moment."

Bellamy took her hands in his, gripping them with almost unnatural
force.

"Louise," he declared earnestly, "you don't quite realize Von
Behrling's special weakness and your extraordinary strength.  You
know that you are beautiful, I suppose, but you do not quite know
what that means.  I have heard men talk about you till one would
think that they were children.  You have something of that art or
guile - call it what you will - which passes from you through a
man's blood to his brain, and carries him indeed to Heaven - but
carries him there mad.  Louise, don't be angry with me for what I
say.  Remember that I know my sex.  I know you, too, and I trust
you, but you can turn Von Behrling from a sane, honorable man into
what you will, without suffering even his lips to touch your
fingers.  Von Behrling has that packet in his possession.  When I
come to see you in London, I will bring you twenty thousand pounds
in Bank of England notes.  With that Von Behrling might fancy
himself on his way to America - with you."

She closed her eyes for a moment.  Perhaps she wished to keep hidden
from him the thoughts which chased one another through her brain.
He wished to make use of her - of her, the woman whom he loved.
Then she remembered that it was for her country and his, and the
anger passed.

"But I am afraid," she said softly, "that the moment they reach
London this document will be taken to the Austrian Embassy."

"Before then," Bellamy declared, "Von Behrling must not know whether
he is in heaven or upon earth.  It will not be opened in London.
He can make up another packet to resemble precisely the one of which
he robbed Dorward.  Oh!  it is a difficult game, I know, but it is
worth playing.  Remember, Louise, that we are not petty conspirators.
It is your country's very existence that is threatened.  It is for
her sake as well as for England."

"I shall do my best," she murmured, looking into his face.  "Oh,
you may be sure that I shall do my best!"

Bellamy raised her fingers to his lips and stole away.  The electric
lamps had been turned out, but the morning was cloudy and the light
dim.  Back in his own berth, he put his things together, ready to
leave at Munich.  Then he rang for the porter.

"I am getting out at the next stop," he announced.

"Very good, Monsieur," the man answered.

Bellamy looked at him closely.

"You are a Frenchman?"

"It is so, Monsieur!"

"I may be wrong," Bellamy continued slowly, "but I believe that if
I asked you a question and it concerned some Germans and Austrians
you would tell me the truth."

The man's gesture was inimitable.  Englishmen to him were obviously
the salt of the earth.  Germans and Austrians - why, they existed
as the cattle in the fields - nothing more.  Bellamy gave him a
sovereign.

"There were three Austrians who got in at Vienna," he said.  "They
are in numbers ten and eleven."

"But yes, Monsieur!" the man assented.  "As yet I think they are
fast asleep.  Not one of them has rung for his coffee."

"Where are they booked for?"

"For London, Monsieur."

"You do not happen," Bellamy continued, "to have heard them say
anything about leaving the train before then?"

"On the contrary, sir," the porter answered, "two of the gentlemen
have been inquiring about the boat across to Dover.  They were very
anxious to travel by a turbine."

Bellamy nodded.

"Thank you very much.  You will be so discreet as to forget that I
have asked you any questions concerning them.  As for me, if one
would know, I am on my way to Berlin."

The bell rang.  The man looked outside and put his head once more
in Bellamy's coupe.

"It is one of the gentleman who has rung," he declared.  "If
anything is said about leaving the train, I shall report it at once
to Monsieur."

"You will do well," Bellamy answered.

The porter returned in a few moments.

"Two of the gentlemen, sir," he announced, "are undressed and in
their pyjamas.  They have ordered their breakfast to be served after
we leave Munich."

Bellamy nodded.

"Further, sir," the man continued, coming a little closer, "one of
them asked me whether the English gentleman - meaning you - was
going through to London or not.  I told them that you were getting
out at the next station and that I thought you were going to Berlin."

"Quite right," Bellamy said.  "If they ask any more questions, let
me know."

Mademoiselle Idiale, with the aid of one of the two maids who were
traveling with her, was able to make a sufficiently effective
toilette.  At a few minutes before the time for luncheon, she walked
down the corridor and recognized Von Behrling, who was sitting with
his companions in one of the compartments.

"Ah, it is indeed you, then!" she exclaimed, smiling at him.

He rose to his feet and came out.  Tall, with a fair moustache and
blue eyes, he was often taken for an Englishman and was inclined to
be proud of the fact.

"You have rested well, I trust, Mademoiselle?" he asked, bowing low
over her fingers.

"Excellently," replied Louise.  "Will you not take me in to luncheon?
The car is full of men and I am not comfortable alone.  It is not
pleasant, either, to eat with one's maids."

"I am honored," he declared.  "Will you permit me for one moment?"

He turned and spoke to his companions.  Louise saw at once that they
were protesting vigorously.  She saw, too, that Von Behrling only
became more obstinate and that he was very nearly angry.  She moved
a few steps on down the corridor, and stood looking out of the
window.  He joined her almost immediately.

"Come," he said, "they will be serving luncheon in five minutes.
We will go and take a good place."

"Your friends, I am afraid," she remarked, "did not like your
leaving them.  They are not very gallant."

"To me it is indifferent," he answered, fiercely twirling his
moustache.  "Streuss there is an old fool.  He has always some
fancy in his brain."

Louise raised her eyebrows slightly.

"You are your own master, I suppose," she said.  "The Baron is
used to command his policemen, and sometimes he forgets.  There are
many people who find him too autocratic."

"He means well," Von Behrling asserted.  "It is his manner only
which is against him."

They found a comfortable table, and she sat smiling at him across
the white cloth.

"If this is not Sachers," she said, "it is at least more pleasant
than lunching alone."

"I can assure you, Mademoiselle," he declared, with a vigorous
twirl of his moustache, "that I find it so."

"Always gallant," she murmured.  "Tell me, is it true of you - the
news which I heard just before I left Vienna?  Have you really
resigned your post with the Chancellor?"

"You heard that?" he asked slowly.

She hesitated for a moment.

"I heard something of the sort," she admitted.  "To be quite candid
with you, I think it was reported that the Chancellor was making a
change on his own account."

"So that is what they say, is it?  What do they know about it - these
gossipers?"

"You were not allowed at the conference yesterday," she remarked.

"No one was allowed there, so that goes for nothing."

"Ah!  well," she said, looking meditatively out upon the landscape,
"a year ago the thought of that conference would have driven me
wild.  I should not have been content until I had learned somehow
or other what had transpired.  Lately, I am afraid, my interest in
my country seems to have grown a trifle cold.  Perhaps because I
have lived in Vienna I have learned to look at things from your
point of view.  Then, too, the world is a selfish place, and our own
little careers are, after all, the most important part of it."

Von Behrling eyed her Curiously.

"It seems strange to hear you talk like this," he remarked.

She looked out of the window for a moment.

"Oh!  I still love my country, in a way," she answered, "and I still
hate all Austrians, in a way, but it is not as it used to be with
me, I must admit.  If we had two lives, I would give one to my
country and keep one for myself.  Since we have only one, I am
afraid, after all, that I am human, and I want to taste some of its
pleasures."

"Some of its pleasures," Von Behrling repeated, a little gloomily.
"Ah, that is easy enough for you, Mademoiselle!"

"Not so easy as it may appear," she answered.  "One needs many
things to get the best out of life.  One needs wealth and one needs
love, and one needs them while one is young, while one can enjoy."

"It is true," Von Behrling admitted, - "quite true."

"If one is not careful," she continued, "one lets the years slip by.
They can never come again.  If one does not live while one is young,
there is no other chance."

Von Behrling assented with renewed gloom.  He was twenty-five years
old, and his income barely paid for his uniforms.  Of late, this
fact had materially interfered with his enjoyments.

"It is strange," he said, "that you should talk like this.  You have
the world at your feet, Mademoiselle.  You have only to throw the
handkerchief."

Her lips parted in a dazzling smile.  The bluest eyes in the world
grew softer as they looked into his.  Von Behrling felt his cheeks
burn.

"My friend, it is not so easy," she murmured.  "Tell me," she
continued, "why it is that you have so little self-confidence.  Is
it because you are poor?"

"I am a beggar," - bitterly.

She shrugged her shoulders.

"Well," she said, glancing down the menu which the waiter had brought,
"if you are poor and content to remain so, one must presume that you
have compensations."

"But I have none!" he declared.  "You should know that - you,
Mademoiselle.  Life for me means one thing and one thing only!"

She looked at him, for a moment, and down upon the tablecloth.  Von
Behrling shook like a man in the throes of some great passion.

"We talk too intimately," she whispered, as the people began to file
in to take their places.  "After luncheon we will take our coffee
in my coupe.  Then, if you like, we will speak of these matters.  I
have a headache.  Will you order me some champagne?  It is a terrible
thing, I know, to drink wine in the morning, but when one travels,
what can one do?  Here come your bodyguard.  They look at me as
though I had stolen you away.  Remember we take our coffee together
afterwards.  I am bored with so much traveling, and I look to you
to amuse me."

Von Behrling's journey was, after all, marked with sharp contrasts.
The kindness of the woman whom he adored was sufficient in itself
to have transported him into a seventh heaven.  On the other hand,
he had trouble with his friends.  Streuss drew him on one side at
Ostend, and talked to him plainly.

"Von Behrling," he said, "I speak to you on behalf of Kahn and
myself.  Wine and women and pleasure are good things.  We two, we
love them, perhaps, as you do, but there is a place and a time for
them, and it is not now.  Our mission is too serious."

"Well, well!" Von Behrling exclaimed impatiently, "what is all this?
What do I do wrong?  What have you to say against me?  If I talk
with Mademoiselle Idiale, it is because it is the natural thing for
me to do.  Would you have us three - you and Kahn and myself - travel
arm in arm and speak never a word to our fellow passengers?  Would
you have us proclaim to all the world that we are on a secret
mission, carrying a secret document, to obtain which we have already
committed a crime?  These are old-fashioned methods, Streuss.  It
is better that we behave like ordinary mortals.  You talk foolishly,
Streuss!"

"It is you," the older man declared, "who play the fool, and we will
not have it!  Mademoiselle Idiale is a Servian and a patriot.  She
is the friend, too, of Bellamy, the Englishman.  She and he were
together last night."

"Bellamy is not even on the train," Von Behrling protested.  "He
went north to Berlin.  That itself is the proof that they know
nothing.  If he had had the merest suspicion, do you not think that
he would have stayed with us?"

"Bellamy is very clever," Streuss answered.  "There are too many of
us to deal with, - he knew that.  Mademoiselle Idiale is clever,
too.  Remember that half the trouble in life has come about through
false women.

"What is it that you want?" Von Behrling demanded.

"That you travel the rest of the way with us, and speak no more with
Mademoiselle."

Von Behrling drew himself up.  After all, it was he who was noble;
Streuss was little more than a policeman.

"I refuse!" he exclaimed.  "Let me remind you, Streuss, that I am
in charge of this expedition.  It was I who planned it.  It was I"
 - he dropped his voice and touched his chest - "who struck the
first blow for its success.  I think that we need talk no more," he
went on.  "I welcome your companionship.  It makes for strength
that we travel together.  But for the rest, the enterprise has been
mine, the success so far has been mine, and the termination of it
shall be mine.  Watch me, if you like.  Stay with me and see that
I am not robbed, if you fear that I am not able to take care of
myself, but do not ask me to behave like an idiot."

Von Behrling stepped away quickly.  The siren was already blowing
from the steamer.




CHAPTER VI

VON BEHRLING IS TEMPTED


The night was dark but fine, and the crossing smooth.  Louise,
wrapped in furs, abandoned her private cabin directly they had left
the harbor, and had a chair placed on the upper deck.  Von Behrling
found her there, but not before they were nearly half-way across.
She beckoned him to her side.  Her eyes glowed at him through the
darkness.

"You are not looking after me, my friend," she declared.  "By myself
I had to find this place."

Von Behrling was ruffled.  He was also humbly apologetic.

"It is those idiots who are with me," he said.  "All the time they
worry."

She laughed and drew him down so that she could whisper in his ear.

"I know what it is," she said.  "You have secrets which you are
taking to London, and they are afraid of me because I am a Servian.
Tell me, is it not so?  Perhaps, even, they think that I am a spy."

Von Behrling hesitated.  She drew him closer towards her.

"Sit down on the deck," she continued, "and lean against the rail.
You are too big to talk to up there.  So!  Now you can come
underneath my rug.  Tell me, are they afraid of me, your friends?"

"Is it without reason?" he asked.  "Would not any one be afraid of
you - if, indeed, they believed that you wished to know our secrets?
I wonder if there is a man alive whom you could not turn round your
little finger."

She laughed at him softly.

"Ah, no!" she said.  "Men are not like that, nowadays.  They talk
and they talk, but it is not much they would do for a woman's sake."

"You believe that?" he asked, in a low tone.

"I do, indeed.  One reads love-stories - no, I do not mean romances,
but memoirs - memoirs of the French and Austrian Courts - memoirs,
even, written by Englishmen.  Men were different a generation ago.
Honor was dear to them then, honor and position and wealth, and yet
there were many, very many then who were willing to give all these
things for the love of a woman.

"And do you think there are none now?" he whispered hoarsely.

"My friend," she answered, looking down at him, "I think that there
are very few."

She heard his breath come fast between his teeth, and she realized
his state of excitement.

"Mademoiselle Louise," he said, "my love for you has made me a
laughing-stock in the clubs of Vienna.  I - the poverty-stricken,
who have nothing but a noble name, nothing to offer you - have dared
to show others what I think, have dared to place you in my heart
above all the women on earth."

"It is very nice of you," she murmured.  "Why do you tell me this
now?"

"Why, indeed?" he answered.  "What have I to hope for?"

She looked along the deck.  Not a dozen yards away, two cigar ends
burned red through the gloom.  She knew very well that those cigar
ends belonged to Streuss and his friend.  She laughed softly and
once more she bent her head.

"How they watch you, those men!" she said.  "Listen, my friend
Rudolph.  Supposing their fears were true, supposing I were really
a spy, supposing I offered you wealth and with it whatever else
you might claim from me, for the secret which you carry to England!"

"How do you know that I am carrying a secret?" he asked hoarsely.

She laughed.

"My friend," she said, "with your two absurd companions shadowing
you all the time and glowering at me, how could one possibly doubt
it?  The Baron Streuss is, I believe, the Chief of your Secret
Service Department, is he not?  To me he seems the most obvious
policeman I ever saw dressed as a gentleman."

"You don't mean it!" he muttered.  "You can't mean what you said
just now!"

She was silent for a few moments.  Some one passing struck a match,
and she caught a glimpse of the white face of the man who sat by
her side - strained now and curiously intense.

"Supposing I did!"

"You must be mad!" he declared.  "You must not talk to me like this,
Mademoiselle.  I have no secret.  It is your humor, I know, but it
is dangerous."

"There is no danger," she murmured, "for we are alone.  I say again,
Rudolph, supposing this were true?"

His hand passed across his forehead.  She fancied that he made a
motion as though to rise to his feet, but she laid her hand upon his.

"Stay here," she whispered.  "No, I do not wish to drive you away.
Now you are here you shall listen to me."

"But you are not in earnest!" he faltered.  "Don't tell me that you
are in earnest.  It is treason.  I am Rudolph Von Behrling,
Secretary to the Chancellor."

Again she leaned towards him so that he could see into her eyes.

"Rudolph," she said, "you are indeed Rudolph Von Behrling, you are
indeed the Chancellor's secretary.  What do you gain from it?  A
pittance!  Many hours work a day and a pittance.  What have you to
look forward to?  A little official life, a stupid official position.
Rudolph, here am I, and there is the world.  Do I not represent
other things?"

"God knows you do!" he muttered.

"I, too, am weary of singing.  I want a long rest - a long rest and
a better name than my own.  Don't shrink away from me.  It isn't so
wonderful, after all.  Bellamy, the Englishman, came to me a few
hours ago.  He was Dorward's friend.  He knew well what Dorward
carried.  It was not his affair, he told me, and interposition from
him was hopeless, but he knew that you and I were friends."

"You must stop!" Von Behrling declared.  "You must stop!  I must
not listen to this!"

"He offered me twenty thousand pounds," she went on, "for the packet
in your pocket.  Think of that, my friend.  It would be a start in
life, would it not?  I am an extravagant woman.  Even if I would, I
dared not think of a poor man.  But twenty thousand pounds is
sufficient.  When I reach London, I am going to a flat which has
been waiting for me for weeks - 15, Dover Street.  If you bring that
packet to me instead of taking it to the Austrian Embassy, there
will be twenty thousand pounds and - "

Her fingers suddenly held his.  She could almost hear his heart
beating.  Her eyes, by now accustomed to the gloom, could see the
tumult which was passing within the man, reflected in his face.
She whispered a warning under her breath.  The two cigar ends had
moved nearer.  The forms of the two men were now distinct.  One was
leaning over the side of the ship by Von Behrling's side.  The other
stood a few feet away, gazing at the lights of Dover.  Von Behrling
staggered to his feet.  He said something in an angry undertone to
Streuss.  Louise rose and shook out her furs.

"My friend," she said, turning to Von Behrling, "if your friends can
spare you so long, will you fetch one of my maids?  You will find
them both in my cabin, number three.  I wish to walk for a few
moments before we arrive."

Von Behrling turned away like a man in a dream.  Mademoiselle Idiale
followed him slowly, and behind her came Von Behrling's companions.


The details of the great singer's journey had been most carefully
planned by an excited manager who had received the telegram
announcing her journey to London.  There was an engaged carriage at
Dover, into which she was duly escorted by a representative of the
Opera Syndicate, who had been sent down from London to receive her.
Von Behrling seemed to be missing.  She had seen nothing of him
since he had descended to summon her maids.  But just as the train
was starting, she heard the sound of angry voices, and a moment
later his white face was pressed through the open window of the
carriage.

"Louise," he muttered, "I am on fire!  I cannot talk to you!  I fear
that they suspect something.  They have told me that if I travel
with you they will force their way in.  Even now, Streuss comes.
Listen for your telephone to-night or whenever I can.  I must think
 - I must think!"

He passed on, and Louise, leaning back in her seat, closed her eyes.




CHAPTER VII

"WE PLAY FOR GREAT STAKES "


Bellamy, travel-stained and weary, arrived at his rooms at two
o'clock on the following afternoon to find amongst a pile of
correspondence a penciled message awaiting him in a handwriting he
knew well.  He tore open the envelope.

DAVID DEAR, - I have just arrived and I am sending you these few
lines at once.  As to what progress I have made, I cannot say for
certain, but there is a chance.  You had better get the money ready
and come to me here.  If R. could only escape from Streuss and
those who watch him all the time, I should be quite sure, but they
are suspicious.  What may happen I cannot tell.  I do my best and
I have hated it.  Get the money ready and come to me.
                                                           LOUISE.


Bellamy drew a little breath and tore the note into pieces.  Then
he rang for his servant.  "A bath and some clean clothes quickly,"
he ordered.  "While I am changing, ring up Downing Street and see
if Sir James is there.  If not, find out exactly where he is.  I
must see him within half an hour.  Afterwards, get me a taxicab."

The man obeyed with the swift efficiency of the thoroughly trained
servant.  In rather less than the time which he had stated, Bellamy
had left his rooms.  Before four o'clock he had arrived at the
address which Louise had given him.  A commissionaire telephoned his
name to the first floor, and in a very few moments a pale-faced
French man-servant, in sombre black livery, descended and bowed to
Bellamy.

"Monsieur will be so good as to come this way," he directed.

Bellamy followed him into the lift, which stopped at the first
floor.  He was ushered into a small boudoir, already smothered with
roses.

"Mademoiselle will be here immediately," the man announced. "She is
engaged with a gentleman from the Opera, but she will leave him to
receive Monsieur."

Bellamy nodded.

"Pray let Mademoiselle understand," he said, "that I am entirely at
her service.  My time is of no consequence."

The man bowed and withdrew.  Louise came to him almost directly from
an inner chamber.  She was wearing a loose gown, but the fatigue of
her journey seemed already to have passed away.  Her eyes were
bright, and a faint color glowed in her cheeks.

"David," she exclaimed, "thank Heaven that you are here!"

She took both his hands and held them for a moment.  Then she walked
to the door, made sure that it was securely fastened, and stood
there listening for a moment.

"I suppose I am foolish," she said, coming back to him, "and yet I
cannot help fancying that I am being watched on every side since we
landed in England.  I detest my new manager, and I don't trust any
of the servants he has engaged for me.  You got my note?"

"Yes," he answered, "I had your note - and I am here."

The restraint of his manner was obvious.  He was standing a little
away from her.  She came suddenly up to him, her hands fell upon
his shoulders, her face was upturned to his.  Even then he made no
motion to embrace her.

"David," she whispered softly, "what I am doing - what I have done
 - was at your suggestion.  I do it for you, I do it for my country,
I do it against every natural feeling I possess.  I hate and loathe
the lies I tell.  Are you remembering that?  Is it in your heart at
this moment?"

He stooped and kissed her.

"Forgive me," he said, "it is I who am to blame, but I am only human.
We play for great stakes, Louise, but sometimes one forgets."

"As I live," she murmured, "the kiss you gave me last is still upon
my lips.  What I have promised goes for nothing.  What he has
promised is this - the papers to-night."

"Unopened?"

"Unopened," she repeated, softly.

"But how is it to be done?" Bellamy asked.  "He must have arrived
in London when you did last night.  How is it they are not already
at the Embassy?"

"The Ambassador was commanded to Cowes," she explained.  "He cannot
be back until late to-night.  No one else has a key to the treaty
safe, and Von Behrling declined to give up the document to any one
save the Ambassador himself."

Bellamy nodded.

"What about Streuss?"

"Streuss and the others are all furious," Louise said.  "Yet, after
all, Behrling has a certain measure of right on his side.  His
orders were to see with his own eyes this envelope deposited in the
safe by the Ambassador himself."

"He returns to-night!" Bellamy exclaimed quickly.

She nodded.

"Before he comes," she declared, "I think that the document will be
in your hands."

"How is it to be done?"

"The report is written," she explained, "on five pages of foolscap.
They are contained in a long envelope, scaled with the Chancellor's
crest. Von Behrling, being one of the family, has the same crest.
He has prepared another envelope, the same size and weight, and
signed it with his seal.  It is this which he will hand over to the
Ambassador if he should return unexpectedly.  The real one he has
concealed."

"Is he here?" Bellamy inquired.

"Thank Heavens, no!" she answered.  "My dear David, what are you
thinking of?  He is not here and he dare not come here.  You are to
go to your rooms," she added, glancing at the clock, "and between
five and six o'clock this evening you will be rung up on the
telephone.  A rendezvous will be given you for later on to-night.
You must take the money there and receive the packet.  Von Behrling
will be disguised and prepared for flight."

Bellamy's eyes glowed.

"You believe this?" he exclaimed.

"I believe it," she replied.  "He is going to do it.  After he has
seen you, he will make his way to Plymouth.  I have promised - don't
look at me, David - I have promised to join him there."

Bellamy was grave.

"There will be trouble," he said.  "He will come back.  He will want
to shoot you.  He may be slow-witted in some things, but he is
passionate."

"Am I a coward?" she asked, with a scornful laugh.  "Have I ever
shown fear of my life?  No, David!  It is not that of which I am
afraid.  It is the memory of the man's touch, it is the look which
was in your face when you came into the room.  These are the things
I fear - not death."

Bellamy drew her into his arms and kissed her.

"Forgive me," he begged.  "At such times a man is a weak thing - a
weak and selfish thing.  I am ashamed of myself.  I should have
known better than to have doubted you for a moment.  I know you so
well, Louise.  I know what you are."

She smiled.

"Dear," she said, "you have made me happy.  And now you must go away.
Remember that these few minutes are only an interlude.  Over here I
am Mademoiselle Idiale who sings to-night at Covent Garden.  See my
roses.  There are two rooms full of reporters and photographers in
the place now.  The leader of the orchestra is in my bedroom, and
two of the directors are drinking whiskies and sodas with this new
manager of mine in the dining-room.  Between five and six o'clock
this afternoon you will get the message.  It is somewhere, I think,
in the city that you will have to go.  There will be no trouble
about the money?  Nothing but notes or gold will be of any use."

"I have it in my pocket," he answered.  "I have it in notes, but he
need never fear that they will be traced.  The numbers of notes
given for Secret Service purposes are expunged from every one's
memory."

She drew a little sigh.

"It is a great sum," she said.  "After all, he should be grateful
to me.  If only he would be sensible and get away to the United
States or to South America!  He could live there like a prince,
poor fellow.  He would be far happier."

"I only hope that he will go," Bellamy agreed.  "There is one thing
to be remembered.  If he does not go, if he stays for twenty-four
hours in this country, I do not believe that he will live to do you
harm.  The men who are with him are not the sort to stop short at
trifles.  Besides Streuss and Kahn, they have a regular army of
spies at their bidding here.  If they find out that he has tricked
them, they will hunt him down, and before long."

Louise shivered.

"Oh, I hope," she exclaimed, "that he gets away!  He is a traitor,
of course, but he is a traitor to a hateful cause, and, after all,
I think it is less for the money than for my sake that he does it.
That sounds very conceited, I suppose," she added, with a faint
smile.  "Ah!  well, you see, for five years so many have been trying
to turn my head.  No wonder if I begin to believe some of their
stories.  David, I must go.  I must not keep Dr. Henschell waiting
any longer."

"To-morrow," he said, "to-morrow early I shall come.  I am afraid
I shall miss your first appearance in England, Louise."

The sound of a violin came floating out from the inner room.

"That is my signal," she declared smiling.  "De. Henschell was
almost beside himself that I came away.  I come, Doctor," she called
out.  "David, good fortune!" she added, giving him her hands.  "Now
go, dear."




CHAPTER VIII

THE HAND OF MISFORTUNE


Between the two men, seated opposite each other in the large but
somewhat barely furnished office, the radical differences, both in
appearance and mannerisms, perhaps, also, in disposition, had never
been more strongly evident.  They were partners in business and face
to face with ruin.  Stephen Laverick, senior member of the firm,
although an air of steadfast gloom had settled upon his clean-cut,
powerful countenance, retained even in despair something of that
dogged composure, temperamental and wholly British, which had served
him well along the road to fortune.  Arthur Morrison, the man who
sat on the other side of the table, a Jew to his finger-tips
notwithstanding his altered name, sat like a broken thing, with
tears in his terrified eyes, disordered hair, and parchment-pale
face.  Words had flown from his lips in a continual stream.  He
floundered in his misery, sobbed about it like a child.  The hand
of misfortune had stripped him naked, and one man, at least, saw
him as he really was.

"I can't stand it, Laverick, - I couldn't face them all.  It's too
cruel - too horrible!  Eighteen thousand pounds gone in one week,
forty thousand in a month!  Forty thousand pounds!  Oh, my God!"

He writhed in agony.  The man on the other side of the table said
nothing.

"If we could only have held on a little longer!  'Unions' must turn!
They will turn!  Laverick, have you tried all your friends?  Think!
Have you tried them all?  Twenty thousand pounds would see us through
it.  We should get our own money back - I am sure of it.  There's
Rendell, Laverick.  He'd do anything for you.  You're always shooting
or playing cricket with him.  Have you asked him, Laverick?  He'd
never miss the money."

"You and I see things differently, Morrison," Laverick answered.
"Nothing would induce me to borrow money from a friend."

"But at a time like this," Morrison pleaded passionately.  "Every
one does it sometimes.  He'd be glad to help you.  I know he would.
Have you ever thought what it will be like, Laverick, to be
hammered?"

"I have," Laverick admitted wearily.  "God knows it seems as
terrible a thing to me as it can to you!  But if we go down, we
must go down with clean hands.  I've no faith in your infernal
market, and not one penny will I borrow from a friend."

The Jew's face was almost piteous.  He stretched himself across the
table.  There were genuine tears in his eyes.

"Laverick," he said, "old man, you're wrong.  I know you think I've
been led away.  I've taken you out of our depth, but the only
trouble has been that we haven't had enough capital, and no backing.
Those who stand up will win.  They will make money."

"Unfortunately," Laverick remarked, "we cannot stand up.  Please
understand that I will not discuss this matter with you in any way.
I will not borrow money from Rendell or any friend.  I have asked
the bank and I have asked Pages, who will be our largest creditors.
To help us would simply be a business proposition, so far as they
are concerned.  As you know, they have refused.  If you see any hope
in that direction, why don't you try some of your own friends?  For
every one man I know in the House, you have seemed to be bosom
friends with at least twenty."

Morrison groaned.

"Those I know are not that sort of friend," he answered.  "They will
drink with you and spend a night out or a week-end at Brighton, but
they do not lend money.  If they would, do you think I would mind
asking?  Why, I would go on my knees to any man who would lend us
the money.  I would even kiss his feet.  I cannot bear it, Laverick!
I cannot!  I cannot!"

Laverick said nothing.  Words were useless things, wasted upon such
a creature.  He eyed his partner with a contempt which he took no
pains to conceal.  This, then, was the smart young fellow recommended
to him on all sides, a few years ago, as one of the shrewdest young
men in his own particular department, a person bound to succeed, a
money-maker if ever there was one!  Laverick thought of him as he
appeared at the office day by day, glossy and immaculately dressed,
with a flower in his buttonhole, boots that were a trifle too shiny,
hat and coat, gloves and manner, all imitation but all very near the
real thing.  What a collapse!

"You're going to stay and see it through?" he whined across the table.

"Certainly," Laverick answered.

The young man buried his face in his hands.

"I can't!  I can't!" he moaned.  "I couldn't bear seeing all the
fellows, hearing them whisper things - oh, Lord!  Oh, Lord!  . . .
Laverick, we've a few hundreds left.  Give me something and let me
out of it.  You're a stronger sort of man than I am.  You can face
it, - I can't!  Give me enough to get abroad with, and if ever I
do any good I'll remember it, I will indeed."

Laverick was silent for a moment.  His companion watched his face
eagerly.  After all, why not let him go?  He was no help, no comfort.
The very sight of him was contemptible.

"I have paid no money into the bank for several days," Laverick said
slowly.  "When they refused to help us, it was, of course, obvious
that they guessed how things were."

"Quite right, quite right!" the young man interrupted feverishly.
"They would have stuck to it against the overdraft.  How much have
we got in the safe?"

"This afternoon," Laverick continued, "I changed all our cheques.
You can count the proceeds for yourself.  There are, I think, eleven
hundred pounds.  You can take two hundred and fifty, and you can take
them with you - to any place you like."

The young man was already at the safe.  The notes were between them,
on the table.  He counted quickly with the fingers of a born
manipulator of money.  When he had gathered up two hundred and fifty
pounds, Laverick's hand fell upon his.

"No more," he ordered sternly.

"But, my dear fellow," Morrison protested, "half of eleven hundred
is five hundred and fifty.  Why should we not go halves?  That is
only fair, Laverick.  It is little enough.  We ought to have had a
great deal more."

Laverick pushed him contemptuously away and locked up the remainder
of the notes.

"I am letting you take two hundred and fifty pounds of this money,"
he said, "for various reasons.  For one, I can bear this thing
better alone.  As for the rest of the money, it remains there for
the accountant who liquidates our affairs.  I do not propose to
touch a penny of it."

The young man buttoned up his coat with an hysterical little laugh.
Such ways were not his ways.  They were not, indeed, within the
limit of his understanding.  But of his partner he had learned one
thing, at least. The word of Stephen Laverick was the word of truth.
He shambled toward the door.  On the whole, he was lucky to have
got the two hundred and fifty pounds.

"So long, Laverick," he said from the door.  "I'm - I'm sorry."

It was characteristic of him that he did not venture to offer his
hand.  Laverick nodded, not unkindly.  After all, this young man was
as he had been made.

"I wish you good luck, Morrison," he said.  "Try South Africa."




CHAPTER IX

ROBBING THE DEAD


The roar of the day was long since over.  The rattle of vehicles,
the tinkling of hansom bells, the tooting of horns from motor-cars
and cabs, the ceaseless tramp of footsteps, all had died away.
Outside, the streets were almost deserted.  An occasional wayfarer
passed along the flagged pavement with speedy footsteps.  Here and
there a few lights glimmered at the windows of some of the larger
blocks of offices.  The bustle of the day was finished.  There is
no place in London so strangely quiet as the narrow thoroughfares
of the city proper when the hour approaches midnight.

Laverick, who since his partner's departure had been studying with
infinite care his private ledger, closed it at last with a little
snap and leaned back in his chair.  After all, save that he had got
rid of Morrison, it had been a wasted evening.  Not even he, whose
financial astuteness no man had ever questioned, could raise from
those piles of figures any other answer save the one inevitable
one, the knowledge of which had been like a black nightmare stalking
by his side for the last thirty-six hours.  One by one during the
evening his clerks had left him, and it was a proof not only of his
wonderful self-control but also of the confidence which he invariably
inspired, that not a single one of them had the slightest idea how
things were.  Not a soul knew that the firm of Laverick & Morrison
was already practically derelict, that they had on the morrow
twenty-five thousand pounds to find, neither credit nor balance at
their bankers, and eight hundred and fifty pounds in the safe.

Laverick, haggard from his long vigil, locked up his books at last,
turned out the lights, and locking the doors behind him walked into
the silent street.  Instinctively he turned his steps westwards.
This might well be the last night on which he would care to show
himself in his accustomed haunts, the last night on which he could
mix with his fellows freely, and without that terrible sense of
consciousness which follows upon disaster.  Already there was little
enough left of it.  It was too late to change and go to his club.
The places of amusement were already closed.  To-morrow night, both
club and theatres would lie outside his world.  He walked slowly,
yet he had scarcely taken, in fact, a dozen steps when, with a
purely mechanical impulse, he paused by a stone-flagged entry to
light a cigarette.  It was a passage, almost a tunnel for a few
yards, leading to an open space, on one side of which was an old
churchyard - strange survival in such a part - and on the other
the offices of several firms of stockbrokers, a Russian banker,
an actuary.  It was the barest of impulses which led him to glance
up the entry before he blew out the match.  Then he gave a quick
start and became for a moment paralyzed.  Within a few feet of him
something was lying on the ground - a dark mass, black and soft -
the body of a man, perhaps.  Just above it, a pair of eyes gleamed
at him through the, semi-darkness.

Laverick at first had no thought of tragedy.  It might be a tramp
or a drunkard, perhaps, - a fight, or a man taken ill.  Then
something sinister about the light of those burning eyes set his
heart beating faster.  He struck another match with firm fingers,
and bent forward.  What he saw upon the ground made him feel a
little sick.  What he saw racing away down the passage prompted him
to swift pursuit.  Down the arched court into the open space he ran,
himself an athlete, but mocked by the swiftness of the shadowlike
form which he pursued.  At the end was another street - empty.  He
looked up and down, seeking in vain for any signs of life.  There
was nothing to tell him which way to turn.  Opposite was a very
labyrinth of courts and turnings.  There was not even the sound of
a footfall to guide him.  Slowly he retraced his steps, lit another
match, and leaned over the prostrate figure.  Then he knew that it
was a tragedy indeed upon which he had stumbled.

The man was dead, and he had met with his death by unusual means.
These were the first two things of which Laverick assured himself.
Without any doubt, a savage and a terrible crime had been committed.
A hornhandled knife of unusual length had been driven up to the hilt
through the heart of the murdered man.  There had been other blows,
notably about the head.  There was not much blood, but the position
of the knife alone told its ugly story.  Laverick, though his nerves
were of the strongest, felt his head swim as he looked.  He rose to
his feet and walked to the opening of the passage, gasping.  The
street was no longer empty.

About thirty yards away, looking westwards, a man was standing in
the middle of the road.  The light from the lamp-post escaped his
face.  Laverick could only see that he was slim, of medium height,
dressed in dark clothes, with his hands in the pockets of his
overcoat.  To all appearance, he was watching the entry.  Laverick
took a step towards him - the man as deliberately took a step further
away.  Laverick held up his hand.

"Hullo!" he called out, and beckoned.

The person addressed took no notice.  Laverick advanced another two
or three steps - the man retreated a similar distance.  Laverick
changed his tactics and made a sudden spring forward.  The man
hesitated no longer - he turned and ran as though for his life.  In
a few minutes he was round the corner of the street and out of sight.
Laverick returned slowly to the entry.

A distant clock struck midnight.  A couple of clerks came along the
pavement on the other side, their hands and arms full of letters.
Laverick hesitated.  He was never afterwards able to account for the
impulse which prevented his calling out to them.  Instead he lurked
in the shadows and watched them go by.  When he was sure that they
had disappeared, he bent once more over the body of the murdered
man.  Already that huddled-up heap was beginning to exercise a
nameless and terrible fascination for him.  His first feelings of
horror were mingled now with an insatiable curiosity.  What manner
of man was he?  He was tall and strongly built; fair - of almost
florid complexion.  His clothes were very shabby and apparently
ready-made.  His moustache was upturned, and his hair was trimmed
closer than is the custom amongst Englishmen.  Laverick stooped
lower and lower until he found himself almost on his knees.  There
was something projecting from the man's pocket as though it had been
half snatched out - a large portfolio of brown leather, almost the
size of a satchel.  Laverick drew it out, holding it in one hand
whilst with firm fingers he struck another match.  Then, for the
first time, a little cry broke from his lips.  Both sides of the
pocket-book were filled with bank-notes.  As his match flickered
out, he caught a glimpse of the figures in the left-hand corner -
500 pounds!  - great rolls of them!  Laverick rose gasping to his
feet.  It was a new Arabian Nights, this!  - a dream!  - a
continuation of the nightmare which had threatened him all day!
Or was it, perhaps, the madness coming - the madness which he had
begun only an hour or so ago to fear!

He walked into the gaslit streets and looked up and down.  The
mysterious stranger had vanished.  There was not a soul in sight.
He clutched the rough stone wall with his hands, he kicked the
pavement with his heels.  There was no doubt about it - everything
around him was real.  Most real of all was the fact that within a
few feet of him lay a murdered man, and that in his hands was that
brown leather pocket-book with its miraculous contents.  For the
last time Laverick retraced his steps and bent over that huddled-up
shape.  One by one he went through the other pockets.  There was a
packet of Russian cigarettes; an empty card-case of chased silver,
and obviously of foreign workmanship; a cigarette holder stained
with much use, but of the finest amber, with rich gold mountings.
There was nothing else upon the dead man, no means of identification
of any sort.  Laverick stood up, giddy, half terrified with the
thoughts that went tearing through his brain.  The pocket-book began
to burn his hand; he felt the perspiration breaking out anew upon
his forehead.  Yet he never hesitated.  He walked like a man in a
dream, but his footsteps were steady and short.  Deliberately, and
without any sign of hurry, he made his way towards his offices.  If
a policeman had come in sight up or down the street, he had decided
to call him and to acquaint him with what had happened.  It was the
one chance he held against himself, - the gambler's method of
decision, perhaps, unconsciously arrived at.  As it turned out, there
was still not a soul in sight.  Laverick opened the outer door with
his latchkey, let himself in and closed it.  Then he groped his way
through the clerk's office into his own room, switched on the
electric light and once more sat down before his desk.

He drew his shaded writing lamp towards him and looked around with
a nervousness wholly unfamiliar.  Then he opened the pocket-book,
drew out the roll of bank-notes and counted them.  It was curious
that he felt no surprise at their value.  Bank-notes for five
hundred pounds are not exactly common, and yet he proceeded with
his task without the slightest instinct of surprise.  Then he leaned
back in his chair.  Twenty thousand pounds in Bank of England notes!
There they lay on the table before him.  A man had died for their
sake, - another must go through all the days with the price of blood
upon his head - a murderer - a haunted creature for the rest of his
life.  And there on the table were the spoils.  Laverick tried to
think the matter out dispassionately.  He was a man of average moral
fibre - that is to say, he was honest in his dealings with other
men because his father and his grandfather before him had been
honest, and because the penalty for dishonesty was shameful.  Here,
however, he was face to face with an altogether unusual problem.
These notes belonged, without a doubt, to the dead man.  Save for
his own interference, they would have been in the hands of his
murderer.  The use of them for a few days could do no one any harm.
Such risk as there was he took himself.  That it was a risk he knew
and fully realized.  Laverick had sat in his place unmoved when his
partner had poured out his wail of fear and misery.  Yet of the two
men it was probable that Laverick himself had felt their position
the more keenly.  He was a man of some social standing, with a
large circle of friends; a sportsman, and with many interests
outside the daily routine of his city life.  To him failure meant
more than the loss of money; it would rob him of everything in life
worth having.  The days to come had been emptied of all promise.
He had held himself stubbornly because he was a man, because he had
strength enough to refuse to let his mind dwell upon the indignities
and humiliation to come.  And here before him was possible salvation.
There was a price to be paid, of course, a risk to be run in making
use even for an hour of this money.  Yet from the first he had known
that he meant to do it.

Quite cool now, he opened his private safe, thrust the pocket-book
into one of the drawers, and locked it up.  Then he lit a cigarette,
finally shut up the office and walked down the street.  As he passed
the entry he turned his head slowly.  Apparently no one had been
there, nothing had been disturbed.  Straining his eyes through the
darkness, he could even see that dark shape still lying huddled up
on the ground.  Then he walked on.  He had burned his boats now and
was prepared for all emergencies.  At the corner he met a policeman,
to whom he wished a cheery good-night.  He told himself that the
thing which he had done was for the best. He owed it to himself.
He owed it to those who had trusted him.  After all, it was the
chief part of his life - his city career.  It was here that his
friends lived.  It was here that his ambitions flourished.  Disgrace
here was eternal disgrace.  His father and his grandfather before
him had been men honored and respected in this same circle.  Disgrace
to him, such disgrace as that with which he had stood face to face a
few hours ago, would have been, in a certain sense, a reflection
upon their memories.  The names upon the brass plates to right and
to left of him were the names of men he knew, men with whom he
desired to stand well, whose friendship or contempt made life worth
living or the reverse.  It was worth a great risk - this effort of
his to keep his place.  His one mistake - this association with
Morrison - had been such an unparalleled stroke of bad luck.  He
was rid of the fellow now.  For the future there should be no more
partners.  He had his life to live.  It was not reasonable that he
should allow himself to be dragged down into the mire by such a
creature.  He found an empty taxicab at the corner of Queen Victoria
Street, and hailed it.

"Whitehall Court," he told the driver.




CHAPTER X

BELLAMY IS OUTWITTED


Bellamy was a man used to all hazards, whose supreme effort of life
it was to meet success and disaster with unvarying mien.  But this
was disaster too appalling even for his self-control.  He felt his
knees shake so that he caught at the edge of the table before which
he was standing.  There was no possible doubt about it, he had been
tricked.  Von Behrling, after all, - Von Behrling, whom he had
looked upon merely as a stupid, infatuated Austrian, ready to sell
his country for the sake of a woman, had fooled him utterly!

The man who sat at the head of the table - the only other occupant
of the room - was in Court dress, with many orders upon his coat.
He had just been attending a Court function, from which Bellamy's
message had summoned him.  Before him on the table was an envelope,
hastily torn open, and several sheets of blank paper.  It was upon
these that Bellamy's eyes were fixed with an expression of mingled
horror and amazement.  The Cabinet Minister had already pushed them
away with a little gesture of contempt.

"Bellamy," he said gravely, "it is not like you to make so serious
an error.

"I hope not, sir," Bellamy answered.  "I - yes, I have been deceived."

The Minister glanced at the clock.

"What is to be done?" he asked.

Bellamy, with an effort, pulled himself together.  He caught up the
envelope, looked once more inside, held up the blank sheets of paper
to the lamp and laid them down.  Then with clenched fists he walked
to the other side of the room and returned.  He was himself again.

"Sir James, I will not waste your time by saying that I am sorry.
Only an hour ago I met Von Behrling in a little restaurant in the
city, and gave him twenty thousand pounds for that envelope."

"You paid him the money," the Minister remarked slowly, "without
opening the envelope."

Bellamy admitted it.

"In such transactions as these," he declared, "great risks are
almost inevitable.  I took what must seem to you now to be an absurd
risk.  To tell you the honest truth, sir, and I have had experience
in these things, I thought it no risk at all when I handed over the
money.  Von Behrling was there in disguise.  The men with whom he
came to this country are furious with him.  To all appearance, he
seemed to have broken with them absolutely.  Even now -

"Well?"

"Even now," Bellamy said slowly, with his eyes fixed upon the wall
of the room, and a dawning light growing stronger every moment in
his face, "even now I believe that Von Behrling made a mistake.  An
envelope such as this had been arranged for him to show the others
or leave at the Austrian Embassy in case of emergency.  He had it
with him in his pocket-book.  He even told me so.  God in Heaven,
he gave me the wrong one!"

The Minister glanced once more at the clock.

"In that case," he said, "perhaps he would not go to the Embassy
to-night, especially if he was in disguise.  You may still be able
to find him and repair the error.

"I will try," answered Bellamy.  "Thank Heaven!" he added, with a
sudden gleam of satisfaction, "my watchers are still dogging his
footsteps.  I can find out before morning where he went when he
left our rendezvous.  There is another way, too.  Mademoiselle -
this man Von Behrling believed that she was leaving the country
with him.  She was to have had a message within the next few hours.

The Minister nodded thoughtfully.

"Bellamy, I have been your friend and you have done us good service
often.  The Secret Service estimates, as you know, are above
supervision, but twenty thousand pounds is a great deal of money to
have paid for this."

He touched the sheets of blank paper with his forefinger.  Bellamy's
teeth were clenched.

"The money shall be returned, sir.

"Do not misunderstand me," Sir James went on, speaking a little more
kindly.  "The money, after all, in comparison with what it was
destined to purchase, is nothing.  We might even count it a fair
risk if it was lost."

"It shall not be lost," Bellamy promised.  "If Von Behrling has
played the traitor to us, then he will go back to his country.  In
that case, I will have the money from him without a doubt.  If, on
the other hand, he was honest to us and a traitor to his country,
as I firmly believe, it may not yet be too late."

"Let us hope not," Sir James declared.  "Bellamy," he continued, a
note of agitation trembling in his tone, "I need not tell you, I
am sure, how important this matter is.  You work like a mole in the
dark, yet you have brains, - you understand.  Let me tell you how
things are with us.  A certain amount of confidence is due to you,
if to any one.  I may tell you that at the Cabinet Council to-day a
very serious tone prevailed.  We do not understand in the least the
attitude of several of the European Powers.  It can be understood
only under certain assumptions.  A note of ours sent through the
Ambassador to Vienna has remained unanswered for two days.  The
German Ambassador has left unexpectedly for Berlin on urgent
business.  We have just heard, too, that a secret mission from
Russia left St. Petersburg last night for Paris.  Side by side with
all this," Sir James continued, "the Czar is trying to evade his
promised visit here.  The note we have received speaks of his
health.  Well, we know all about that.  We know, I may tell you,
that his health has never been better than at the present moment."

"It all means one thing and one thing only," Bellamy affirmed.  "In
Vienna and Berlin to-day they look at an Englishman and smile.  Even
the man in the street seems to know what is coming."

Sir James leaned a little back in his seat.  His hands were tightly
clenched, and there was a fierce light in his hollow eyes.  Those
who were intimate with him knew that he had aged many years during
the last few weeks.

"The cruel part is," he said softly, "that it should have come in
my administration, when for ten years I have prayed from the
Opposition benches for the one thing which would have made us safe
to-day."

"An army," murmured Bellamy.

"The days are coming," Sir James continued, "when those who prated
of militarism and the security of our island walls will see with
their own eyes the ruin they have brought upon us.  Secretly we are
mobilizing all that we have to mobilize," he added, with a little
sigh.  "At the very best, however, our position is pitiful.  Even
if we are prepared to defend, I am afraid that we shall see things
on the Continent in which we shall be driven to interfere, or else
suffer the greatest blow which our prestige has ever known.  If we
could only tell what was coming!" he wound up, looking once more at
those empty sheets of paper.  "It is this darkness which is so
alarming!"

Bellamy turned toward the door.

"You have the telephone in your bedroom, sir?" he asked.

"Yes, ring me up at any time in the night or morning, if you have
news."

Bellamy drove at once to Dover Street.  It was half-past one, but
he had no fear of not being admitted.  Louise's French maid answered
the bell.

"Madame has not retired?" Bellamy inquired.

"But no, sir," the woman assured him, with a welcoming smile.  "It
is only a few minutes ago that she has returned."

Bellamy was ushered at once into her room.  She was gorgeous in blue
satin and pearls.  Her other maid was taking off her jewels.  She
dismissed both the women abruptly.

"I absolutely couldn't avoid a supper-party," she said, holding out
her hands.  "You expected that, of course.  You were not at the
Opera House?"

He shook his head, and walking to the door tried the handle.  It
was securely closed.  He came back slowly to her side.  Her eyes
were questioning him fiercely.

"Well?" she exclaimed.  "Well?"

"Have you heard from Von Behrling?"

"No," she answered.  "He knew that I must sing to-night.  I have
been expecting him to telephone every moment since I got home.  You
have seen him?"

"I have seen him," Bellamy admitted.  "Either he has deceived us
both, or the most unfortunate mistake in the world has happened.
Listen.  I met him where he appointed.  He was there, disguised,
almost unrecognizable.  He was nervous and desperate; he had the air
of a man who has cut himself adrift from the world.  I gave him the
money, - twenty thousand pounds in Bank of England notes, Louise,
 - and he gave me the papers, or what we thought were the papers.
He told me that he was keeping a false duplicate upon him for a
little time, in case he was seized, but that he was going to
Liverpool Street station to wait, and would telephone you from the
hotel there later on.  You have not heard yet, then?"

She shook her head.

"There has been no message, but go on."

"He gave me the wrong document - the wrong envelope," continued
Bellamy.  "When I took it to - to Downing Street, it was full of
blank paper."

The color slowly left her cheeks.  She looked at him with horror in
her face.

"Do you think that he meant to do it?" she exclaimed.

"We cannot tell," Bellamy answered.  "My own impression is that he
did not.  We must find out at once what has become of him.  He might
even, if he fancies himself safe, destroy the envelope he has,
believing it to be the duplicate.  He is sure to telephone you.  The
moment you hear you must let me know."

"You had better stay here," she declared.  "There are plenty of
rooms.  You will be on the spot then."

Bellamy shook his head.

"The joke of it is that I, too, am being watched whereever I go.
That fellow Streuss has spies everywhere.  That is one reason why
I believe that Von Behrling was serious.

"Oh, he was serious!" Louise repeated.

"You are sure?" Bellamy asked.  "You have never had even any doubt
about him?"

"Never," she answered firmly.  "David, I had not meant to tell you
this.  You know that I saw him for a moment this morning.  He was
in deadly earnest.  He gave me a ring - a trifle - but it had
belonged to his mother.  He would not have done this if he had been
playing us false."

Bellamy sprang to his feet.

"You are right, Louise!" he exclaimed.  "I shall go back to my rooms
at once.  Fortunately, I had a man shadowing Von Behrling, and there
may be a report for me.  If anything comes here, you will telephone
at once?"

"Of course," she assented.

"You do not think it possible," he asked slowly, "that he would
attempt to see you here?"

Louise shuddered for a moment.

"I absolutely forbade it, so I am sure there is no chance of that."

"Very well, then," he decided, "we will wait.  Dear," he added, in
an altered tone, "how splendid you look!"

Her face suddenly softened.

"Ah, David!" she murmured, "to hear you speak naturally even for a
moment - it makes everything seem so different!"

He held out his arms and she came to him with a little sigh of
satisfaction.

"Louise," he said, "some day the time may come when we shall be able
to give up this life of anxiety and terrors.  But it cannot be yet
 - not for your country's sake or mine.

She kissed him fondly.

"So long as there is hope!" she whispered.




CHAPTER XI

VON BEHRLING'S FATE


It seemed to Louise that she had scarcely been in bed an hour when
the more confidential of her maids - Annette, the Frenchwoman - woke
her with a light touch of the arm.  She sat up in bed sleepily.

"What is it, Annette?" she asked.  "Surely it is not mid-day yet?
Why do you disturb me?"

"It is barely nine o'clock, Mademoiselle, but Monsieur Bellamy -
Mademoiselle told me that she wished to receive him whenever he came.
He is in the boudoir now, and very impatient."

"Did he send any message?"

"Only that his business was of the most urgent," the maid replied.

Louise sighed, - she was really very sleepy.  Then, as the thoughts
began to crowd into her brain, she began also to remember.  Some
part of the excitement of a few hours ago returned.

"My bath, Annette, and a dressing-gown," she ordered.  "Tell Monsieur
Bellamy that I hurry.  I will be with him in twenty minutes."

To Bellamy, the twenty minutes were minutes of purgatory.  She came
at last, however, fresh and eager; her hair tied up with ribbon, she
herself clad in a pink dressing-gown and pink slippers.

"David!" she cried, - "my dear David -!"

Then she broke off.

"What is it?" she asked, in a different tone.

He showed her the headlines of the newspaper he was carrying.

"Tragedy!" he answered hoarsely.  "Von Behrling was true, after all,
 - at least, it seems so."

"What has happened?" she demanded.

Bellamy pointed once more to the newspaper.

"He was murdered last night, within fifty yards of the place of our
rendezvous."

A little exclamation broke from Louise's lips.  She sat down
suddenly.  The color called into her cheeks by the exercise of her
bath was rapidly fading away.

"David," she murmured, "is this true?"

"It is indeed," Bellamy assured her.  "Not only that, but there is
no mention of his pocket-book in the account of his murder.  It must
have been engineered by Streuss and the others, and they have got
away with the pocket-book and the money."

"What can we do?" she asked.

"There is nothing to be done," Bellamy declared calmly.  "We are
defeated.  The thing is quite apparent.  Von Behrling never
succeeded, after all, in shaking off the espionage of the men who
were watching him.  They tracked him to our rendezvous, they waited
about while I met him.  Afterwards, he had to pass along a narrow
passage.  It was there that he was found murdered."

"But, David, I don't understand!  Why did they wait until after he
had seen you?  How did they know that he had not parted with the
paper in the restaurant?  To all intents and purposes he ought to
have done so."

"I cannot understand that myself," Bellamy admitted.  "In fact, it
is inexplicable."

She took up the newspaper and glanced at the report.  Then, "You
are sure, I suppose, that this does refer to Von Behrling?  He is
quite unidentified, you see."

"There is no doubt about it," Bellamy declared.  "I have been to
the Mortuary.  It is certainly he.  All our work has been in vain
 - just as I thought, too, that we had made a splendid success of
it."

She looked at him compassionately.

"It is hard lines, dear," she admitted.  "You are tired, too.  You
look as though you had been up all night."

"Yes, I am tired," he answered, sinking into a chair.  "I am worse
than tired.  This has been the grossest failure of my career, and I
am afraid that it is the end of everything.  I have lost twenty
thousand pounds of Secret Service money; I have lost the one chance
which might have saved England.  They will never trust me again."

"You did your best," she said, coming over and sitting on the arm
of his chair.  "You did your best, David."

She laid her hands upon his forehead, her cheek against his - smooth
and cold - exquisitely refreshing it seemed to his jaded nerves.

"Ah, Louise!" he murmured, "life is getting a little too strenuous.
Perhaps we have given too much of it up to others.  What do you
think?"

She shook her head.

"Dear, I have felt like that sometimes, yet what can we do?  Could
we be happy, you and I, in exile, if the things which we dread were
coming to pass?  Could I go away and hide while my countrymen were
being butchered out of existence?  - And you - you are not the sort
of man to be content with an ignoble peace.  No, it isn't possible.
Our work may not be over yet - "

There was a knock at the door, and Annette entered with many
apologies.

"Mademoiselle," she explained, "a thousand pardons, and to Monsieur
also, but there is a gentleman here who says that his business is
of the most urgent importance, and that he must see you at once.  I
have done all that I can, but he will not go away.  He knows that
Monsieur Bellamy is here, too," she added, turning to him, "and
he says his business has to do with Monsieur as well as Mademoiselle."

Bellamy almost snatched the card from the girl's fingers.  He read
out the name in blank amazement.

"Baron de Streuss!"

There was a moment's silence.  Louise and he exchanged wondering
glances.

"What can this mean?" she asked hoarsely.

"Heaven knows!" he answered.  "Let us see him together.  After all
 - after all - "

"You can show the gentleman in, Annette," her mistress ordered.

"If he has the papers," Bellamy continued slowly, "why does he come
to us?  It is not like these men to be vindictive.  Diplomacy to
them is nothing - a game of chess.  I do not understand."

The door opened.  Annette announced their visitor.  Streuss bowed
low to Louise - he bowed, also, to Bellamy.

"I need not introduce myself," he said.  "With Mr. Bellamy I have
the honor to be well acquainted.  Madame is known to all the world."

Louise nodded, somewhat coldly.

"We can dispense with an introduction, I think, Monsieur le Baron,"
she said.  "At the same time, you will perhaps explain to what I
owe this somewhat unexpected pleasure?"

"Mademoiselle, an explanation there must certainly be.  I know that
it is an impossible hour.  I know, too, that to have forced my
presence upon you in this manner may seem discourteous.  Yet the
urgency of the matter, I am convinced, justifies me.

Louise motioned him to a chair, but he declined with a little bow
of thanks.

"Mademoiselle," he said, "and you, Mr. Bellamy, we need not waste
words.  We have played a game of chess together.  You, Mademoiselle,
and Mr. Bellamy on the one side - I and my friends upon the other.
The honor of Rudolph Von Behrling was the pawn for which we fought.
The victory remains with you."

Bellamy never moved a muscle.  Louise, on the contrary, could not
help a slight start.

"Under the circumstances," the Baron continued smoothly, "the
struggle was uneven.  I do myself the justice to remember that from
the first I realized that we played a losing game.  Mademoiselle,"
he added, "from the days of Cleopatra - ay, and throughout those
shadowy days which lie beyond - the diplomats of the world have been
powerless when matched against your sex.  Rudolph Von Behrling was
an honest fellow enough until he looked into your eyes.  Mademoiselle,
you have gifts which might, perhaps, have driven from his senses a
stronger man.

Louise smiled, but there was no suggestion of mirth in the curl of
her lips.  Her eyes all the time sought his questioningly.  She did
not understand.

"You flatter me, Baron," she murmured.

"No, I do not flatter you, I speak the truth.  This plain talking
is pleasant enough when the time comes that one may indulge in it.
That time, I think, is now.  Rudolph Von Behrling, against my advice,
but because he was the Chancellor's nephew, was associated with me
in a certain enterprise, the nature of which is no secret to you,
Mademoiselle, or to Mr. Bellamy here.  We followed a man who, by
some strange chance, was in possession of a few sheets of foolscap,
the contents of which were alike priceless to my country and
priceless to yours.  The subsequent history of those papers should
have been automatic.  The first step was fulfilled readily enough.
The man disappeared - the papers were ours.  Von Behrling was the
man who secured them, and Von Behrling it was who retained them.
If my advice had been followed, I admit frankly that we should have
ignored all possible comment and returned with them at once to
Vienna.  The others thought differently.  They ruled that we should
come on to London and deposit the packet with our Ambassador here.
In a weak moment I consented.  It was your opportunity, Mademoiselle,
an opportunity of which you have splendidly availed yourself."

This time Louise held herself with composure.  Bellamy's brain was
in a whirl but he remained silent.

"I come to you both," the Baron continued, "with my hands open.  I
come - I make no secret of it - I come to make terms.  But first of
all I must know whether I am in time.  There is one question which
I must ask.  I address it, sir, to you," he added, turning to
Bellamy.  "Have you yet placed in the hands of your Government the
papers which you obtained from Von Behrling?"

Bellamy shook his head.

The Baron drew a long breath of relief.  Though he had maintained
his savoir faire perfectly, the fingers which for a moment played
with his tie, as though to rearrange it, were trembling.

"Well, then, I am in time.  Will you see my hand?"

"Mademoiselle and I," answered Bellamy, "are at least ready to
listen to anything you may have to say."

"You know quite well," the Baron continued, "what it is that I have
come to say, yet I want you to remember this.  I do not come to
bribe you in any ordinary manner.  The things which are to come will
happen; they must happen, if not this year, next, - if not next year,
within half a decade of years.  History is an absolute science.  The
future as well as the past can be read by those who know the signs.
The thing which has been resolved upon is certain.  The knowledge
of the contents of those papers by your Government might delay the
final catastrophe for a short while; it could do no more.  In the
long run, it would be better for your country, Mr. Bellamy, in every
way, that the end come soon.  Therefore, I ask you to perform no
traitorous deed.  I ask you to do that which is simply reasonable
for all of us, which is, indeed, for the advantage of all of us.
restore those papers to me instead of handing them to your Government,
and I will pay you for them the sum of one hundred thousand pounds!"

"One hundred thousand pounds " Bellamy repeated.

"One hundred thousand pounds!" murmured Louise.

There was a brief, intense pause.  Louise waited, warned by the
expression in Bellamy's face.  Silence, she felt, was safest, and it
was Bellamy who spoke.

"Baron," said he, "your visit and your proposal are both a little
amazing.  Forgive me if I speak alone with Mademoiselle for a moment."

"Most certainly," the Baron agreed.  "I go away and leave you - out
of the room, if you will."

"It is not necessary," Bellamy replied.  "Louise!"  The Baron
withdrew to the window, and Bellamy led Louise into the furthest
corner of the room.

"What can it mean?" he whispered.  "What do you suppose has happened?"

"I cannot imagine.  My brain is in a whirl."

"If they have not got the pocket-book," Bellamy muttered, "it must
have gone with Von Behrling to the Mortuary.  If so, there is a
chance.  Louise, say nothing; leave this to me."

"As you will," she assented.  "I have no wish to interfere.  I only
hope that he does not ask me any questions."

They came once more into the middle of the room, and the Baron
turned to meet them.

"You must forgive Mademoiselle," said Bellamy, "if she is a little
upset this morning.  She knows, of course, as I know and you know,
that Von Behrling was playing a desperate game, and that he carried
his life in his hands.  Yet his death has been a shock - has been a
shock, I may say, to both of us.  From your point of view," Bellamy
went on, "it was doubtless deserved, but - "

"What, in God's name, is this that you say?" the Baron interrupted.
"I do not understand at all!  You speak of Von Behrling's death!
What do you mean?"

Bellamy looked at him as one who listens to strange words.

"Baron," he said, "between us who know so much there is surely no
need for you to play a part.  Von Behrling knew that you were
watching him.  Your spies were shadowing him as they have done me.
He knew that he was running terrible risks.  He was not unprepared
and he has paid.  It is not for us - "

"Now, in God's name, tell me the truth!" Baron de Streuss interrupted
once more.  "What is it that you are saying about Von Behrling's
death?"

Bellamy drew a little breath between his teeth.  He leaned forward
with his hands resting upon the table.

"Do you mean to say that you do not know?"

"Upon my soul, no!" replied the Baron.

Bellamy threw open the newspaper before him.

"Von Behrling was murdered last night, ten minutes after our
interview."




CHAPTER XII

BARON DE STREUSS' PROPOSAL


The Baron adjusted his eyeglass with shaking fingers.  His face now
was waxen-white as he spread out the newspaper upon the table and
read the paragraph word by word.

                     TERRIBLE CRIME IN THE CITY

        Early this morning the body of a man was discovered
        in a narrow passageway leading from Crooked Friars to
        Royal Street, under circumstances which leave little
        doubt but that the man's death was owing to foul play.
        The deceased had apparently been stabbed, and had
        received several severe blows about the head.  He was
        shabbily dressed but was well supplied with money, and
        he was wearing a gold watch and chain when he was found.

                            LATER

        There appears to be no further doubt but that the man
        found in the entry leading from Crooked Friars had been
        the victim of a particularly murderous assault.  Neither
        his clothes nor his linen bore any mark by means of which
        he could be identified.  The body has been removed to the
        nearest mortuary, and an inquest will shortly be held.

Streuss looked up from the newspaper and the reality of his surprise
was apparent.  He had all the appearance of a man shaken with emotion.
While he looked at his two companions wonderingly, strange thoughts
were forming in his mind.

"Von Behrling dead!" he muttered.  "But who - who could have done
this?"

"Until this moment," Bellamy answered dryly, "it was not a matter
concerning which we had any doubt.  The only wonder to us was that
it should have been done too late."

"You mean," Streuss said slowly, "that he was murdered after he had
completed his bargain with you?"

"Naturally."

"I suppose," the Baron continued, "there is no question but that it
was done afterwards?  You smile," he exclaimed, "but what am I to
think?  Neither I nor my people had any hand in this deed.  How about
yours?"

Bellamy shook his head.

"We do not fight that way," he replied.  "I had bought Von Behrling.
He was of no further interest to me.  I did not care whether he
lived or died."

"There is something very strange about this," the Baron said.  "If
neither you nor I were responsible for his death, who was?"

"That I can't tell you.  Perhaps later in the day we shall hear from
the police.  It is scarcely the sort of murder which would remain
long undetected, especially as he was robbed of a large sum in
bank-notes."

"Supplied by His Majesty's Government, I presume?" Streuss remarked.

"Precisely," Bellamy assented, "and paid to him by me."

"At any rate," Streuss said grimly, "we have now no more secrets
from one another.  I will ask you one last question.  Where is that
packet at the present moment?"

Bellamy raised his eyebrows.

"It is a question," he declared, "which you could scarcely expect me
to answer."

"I will put it another way," Streuss continued.  "Supposing you
decide to accept my offer, how long will it be before the packet can
be placed in my hands?"

"If we decide to accept," Bellamy answered, "there is no reason why
there should be any delay at all."

Streuss was silent for several moments.  His hands were thrust deep
down into the pockets of his overcoat.  With eyes fixed upon the
tablecloth, he seemed to be thinking deeply, till presently he raised
his head and looked steadily at Bellamy.

"You are sure that Von Behrling has not fooled you?  You are sure
that you have that identical packet?"

"I am absolutely certain that I have," Bellamy answered, without
flinching.

"Then accept my price and have done with this matter," Streuss
begged.  "I will sign a draft for you here, and I will undertake
to bring you the money, or honor it wherever you say, within
twenty-four hours."

"I cannot decide so quickly," said Bellamy, shaking his head.
"Mademoiselle Idiale and I must talk together first. I am not sure,"
he added, "whether I might not find a higher bidder."

Streuss laughed mirthlessly.

"There is little fear of that," he said.  "The papers are of no
use except to us and to England.  To England, I will admit that the
foreknowledge of what is to come would be worth much, although the
eventful result would be the same.  It is for that reason that I am
here, for that reason that I have made you this offer."

"Mademoiselle and I must discuss it," Bellamy declared.  "It is not
a matter to be decided upon off-hand.  Remember that it is not only
the packet which you are offering to buy, but also my career and my
honor."

"One hundred thousand pounds," Streuss said slowly.  "From your own
side you get nothing - nothing but your beggarly salary and an
occasional reprimand.  One hundred thousand pounds is not immense
wealth, but it is something."

"Your offer is a generous one," admitted Bellamy, "there is no doubt
about that.  On the other hand, I cannot decide without further
consideration.  It is a big thing for us, remember.  I have worked
very hard for the contents of that packet."

Once more Streuss felt an uneasy pang of incredulity.  After all,
was this Englishman playing with him?  So he asked: "You are quite
sure that you have it?"

"There is no means of convincing you of which I care to make use.
You must be content with my word.  I have the packet.  I paid Von
Behrling for it and he gave it to me with his own hands."

"I must accept your word," Streuss declared.  "I give you three days
for reflection.  Before I go, Mr. Bellamy, forgive me if I refer
once more to this," - touching the newspaper which still lay upon
the table.  "Remember that Rudolph Von Behrling moved about a marked
man.  Your spies and mine were most of the time upon his heels.  Yet
in the end some third person seems to have intervened.  Are you
quite sure that you know nothing of this?"

"Upon my honor," Bellamy replied, "I have not the slightest
information concerning Von Behrling's death beyond what you can read
there.  It was as great a surprise to me as to you."

"It is incomprehensible," Streuss murmured.

"One can only conclude," Bellamy remarked thoughtfully, "that someone
must have seen him with those notes.  There were people moving about
in the little restaurant where we met.  The rustle of bank-notes has
cost more than one man his life.

"For the present," Streuss said, "we must believe that it was so.
Listen to me, both of you.  You will be wiser if you do not delay.
You are young people, and the world is before you.  With money one
can do everything.  Without it, life is but a slavery.  The world
is full of beautiful dwelling-places for those who have the means
to choose.  Remember, too, that not a soul will ever know of this
transaction, if you should decide to accept my offer."

"We shall remember all those things," Bellamy assured him.

Streuss took up his hat and gloves.

"With your permission, then, Mademoiselle," he concluded, turning to
Louise, "I go.  I must try and understand for myself the meaning of
this thing which has happened to Von Behrling."

"Do not forget," Bellamy said, "that if you discover anything, we
are equally interested." . . .

They heard him go out.  Bellamy purposely held the door open until
he saw the lift descend.  Then he closed it firmly and came back
into the room.  Louise and he looked at each other, their faces full
of anxious questioning.

"What does it mean?" Louise cried.  "What can it mean?"

"Heaven alone knows!" Bellamy answered.  "There is not a gleam of
daylight.  My people are absolutely innocent of any attempt upon Von
Behrling.  If Streuss tells the truth, and I believe he does, his
people are in the same position.  Who, then, in the name of all that
is miraculous, can have murdered and robbed Von Behrling?"

"In London, too," Louise murmured.  "It is not Vienna, this, or
Belgrade."

"You are right," Bellamy agreed.  "London is one of the most
law-abiding cities in Europe.  Besides, the quarter where the murder
occurred is entirely unfrequented by the criminal classes.  It is
simply a region of great banks and the offices of merchant princes.

"Is it possible that there is some one else who knew about that
document?" Louise asked, - "some one else who has been watching Von
Behrling?"

Bellamy shook his head.

"How can that be?  Besides, if any one else were really on his track,
they must have believed that he had parted with it to me.  I shall
go back now to Downing Street to ask for a letter to the Chief of
Scotland Yard.  If anything comes out, I must have plenty of warning."

"And I," she said, with an approving nod, "shall go back to bed
again.  These days are too strenuous for me.  Won't you stay and take
your coffee with me?"

Bellamy held her hand for a moment in his.

"Dear," he said, "I would stay, but you understand, don't you, what
a maze this is into which we have wandered.  Von Behrling has been
murdered by some person who seems to have dropped from the skies.
Whoever they may be, they have in their possession my twenty
thousand pounds and the packet which should have been mine.  I must
trace them if I can, Louise.  It is a poor chance, but I must do
my best. I myself am of the opinion that Von Behrling was murdered
for the money, and for the money only.  If so, that packet may be
in the hands of people who have no idea what use to make of it.
They may even destroy it.  If Streuss returns and you are forced to
see him, be careful.  Remember, we have the document - we are
hesitating.  So long as he believes that it is in our possession,
he will not look elsewhere."

"I will be careful," Louise promised, with her arms around his neck.
"And, dear, take care.  When I think of poor Rudolph Von Behrling,
I tremble, also, for you.  It seems to me that your danger is no
less than his."

"I do not go about with twenty thousand pounds in my pocket-book,"
with a smile.

She shook her head.

"No, but Streuss believes that you have the document which he is
pledged to recover.  Be careful that they do not lead you into a
trap.  They are not above anything, these men.  I heard once of a
Bulgarian in Vienna who was tortured - tortured almost to death
 - before he spoke.  Then they thrust him into a lunatic asylum.
Remember, dear, they have no consciences and no pity."

"We are in London," he reminded her.

"So was Von Behrling," she answered quickly, - "not only in London
but in a safe part of London.  Yet he is dead."

"It was not their doing," he declared.  "In their own country, they
have the whole machinery of their wonderful police system at their
backs, and no fear of the law in their hearts.  Here they must needs
go cautiously.  I don't think you need be afraid," he added, smiling,
as he opened the door.  "I think I can promise you that if you will
do me the honor we will sup together to-night."

"You must fetch me from the Opera House," Louise insisted.  "It is
a bargain.  I have suffered enough neglect at your hands.  One thing,
David, - where do you go first from here?"

"To find the man," Bellamy answered gravely, "who was watching Von
Behrling when he left me.  If any man in England knows anything of
the murder, it must be he.  He should be at my rooms by now."




CHAPTER XIII

STEPHEN LAVERICK'S CONSCIENCE


Stephen Laverick was a bachelor - his friends called him an
incorrigible one.  He had a small but pleasantly situated suite of
rooms in Whitehall Court, looking out upon the river.  His habits
were almost monotonous in their regularity, and the morning
following his late night in the city was no exception to the
general rule.  At eight o'clock, the valet attached to the suite
knocked at his door and informed him that his bath was ready.  He
awoke at once from a sound sleep, sat up in bed, and remembered the
events of the preceding evening.

At first he was inclined to doubt that slowly stirring effort of
memory.  He was a man of unromantic temperament, unimaginative, and
by no means of an adventurous turn of mind.  He sought naturally
for the most reasonable explanation of this strange picture, which
no effort of his will could dismiss from his memory.  It was a dream,
of course.  But the dream did not fade.  Slowly it spread itself out
so that he could no longer doubt.  He knew very well as he sat there
on the edge of his bed that the thing was truth.  He, Stephen
Laverick, a man hitherto of upright character, with a reputation of
which unconsciously he was proud, had robbed a dead man, had looked
into the burning eyes of his murderer, had stolen away with twenty
thousand pounds of someone else's money.  Morally, at any rate, -
probably legally as well, - he was a thief.  A glimpse inside his
safe on the part of an astute detective might very easily bring him
under the grave suspicion of being a criminal of altogether deeper
dye.

Stephen Laverick was, in his way, something of a philosopher.  In
the cold daylight, with the sound of the water running into his bath,
this deed which he had done seemed to him foolish and reprehensible.
Nevertheless, he realized the absolute finality of his action.  The
thing was done; he must make the best of it.  Behaving in every way
like a sensible man, he did not send for the newspapers and search
hysterically for their account of last night's tragedy, but took his
bath as usual, dressed with more than ordinary care, and sat down
to his breakfast before he even unfolded the paper.  The item for
which he searched occupied by no means so prominent a position as
he had expected.  It appeared under one of the leading headlines,
but it consisted of only a few words.  He read them with interest
but without emotion.  Afterwards he turned to the Stock Exchange
quotations and made notes of a few prices in which he was interested.

He completed in leisurely fashion an excellent breakfast and followed
his usual custom of walking along the Embankment as far as the Royal
Hotel, where he called a taxicab and drove to his offices.  A little
crowd had gathered around the end of the passage which led from
Crooked Friars, and Laverick himself leaned forward and looked
curiously at the spot where the body of the murdered man had lain.
It seemed hard to him to reconstruct last night's scene in his mind
now that the narrow street was filled with hurrying men and a stream
of vehicles blocked every inch of the roadway.  In his early morning
mood the thing was impossible.  In a moment or two he paid his driver
and dismissed him.

He fancied that a certain relief was visible among his clerks when
he opened the door at precisely his usual time and with a cheerful
"Good-morning!" made his way into the private office.  He lit his
customary cigarette and dealt rapidly with the correspondence which
was brought in to him by his head-clerk.  Afterwards, as soon as he
was alone, he opened the safe, thrust the contents of that inner
drawer into his breast-pocket, and took up once more his hat and
gloves.

"I am going around to the bank," he told his clerk as he passed out.
"I shall be back in half-an-hour - perhaps less."

"Very good, sir," the man answered.  "Will Mr. Morrison be here this
morning?"

Laverick hesitated.

"No, Mr. Morrison will not be here to-day."

It was only a few steps to his bankers, and his request for an
interview with the manager was immediately granted.  The latter
received him kindly but with a certain restraint.  There are not
many secrets in the city, and Morrison's big plunge on a particular
mining share, notwithstanding its steady drop, had been freely
commented upon.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Laverick?" the banker asked.

"I am not sure," answered Laverick.  "To tell you the truth, I am
in a somewhat singular position."

The banker nodded.  He had not a doubt but that he understood
exactly what that position was.

"You have perhaps heard," Laverick continued slowly, "that my late
partner, Mr. Morrison, - "

"Late partner?" the manager interrupted.

Laverick assented.

"We had a few words last night," he explained "and Mr. Morrison
left the office with an understanding between us that he should not
return.  You will receive a formal intimation of that during the
course of the next day or so.  We will revert to the matter
presently, if you wish.  My immediate business with you is to
discuss the fact that I have to provide something like twenty
thousand pounds to-day if I decide to take up the purchases of stock
which Morrison has made."

"You understand the position, of course, Mr. Laverick, if you fail
to do so?" the manager remarked gravely.

"Naturally," Laverick answered.  "I am quite aware of the fact that
Morrison acted on behalf of the firm and that I am responsible for
his transactions.  He has plunged pretty deeply, though, a great
deal more deeply than our capital warranted.  I may add that I had
not the slightest idea as to the extent of his dealings."

The bank manager adopted a sympathetic but serious attitude.

"Twenty thousand pounds," he declared, "is a great deal of money,
Mr. Laverick."

"It is a great deal of money," Laverick admitted.  "I am here to
ask you to lend it to me.

The bank manager raised his eyebrows.

"My dear Mr. Laverick!" he exclaimed reproachfully.

"Upon unimpeachable security," Laverick continued.  The bank manager
was conscious that he had allowed a little start of surprise to
escape him, and bit his lip with annoyance.  It was entirely contrary
to his tenets to display at any time during office hours any sort of
emotion.

"Unimpeachable security," he repeated.  "Of course, if you have that
to offer, Mr. Laverick, although the sum is a large one, it is our
business to see what we can do for you."

"My security is of the best," Laverick declared grimly.  "I have
bank-notes here, Mr. Fenwick, for twenty thousand pounds."

The bank manager was again guilty of an unprofessional action.  He
whistled softly under his breath.  A very respectable client he
had always considered Mr. Stephen Laverick, but he had certainly
never suspected him of being able to produce at a pinch such evidence
of means.  Laverick smoothed out the notes and laid them upon the
table.

"Mr. Fenwick," he said, "I believe I am right in assuming that when
one comes to one's bankers, one enters, as it were, into a
confessional.  I feel convinced that nothing which I say to you will
be repeated outside this office, or will be allowed to dwell in your
own mind except with reference to this particular transaction between
you and me.  I have the right, have I not, to take that for granted?"

"Most certainly," the banker agreed.

"From a strictly ethical point of view," Laverick went on, "this
money is not mine.  I hold it in trust for its owner, but I hold it
without any conditions .  I have power to make what use I wish of
it, and I choose to-day to use it on my own behalf.  Whether I am
justified or not is scarcely a matter, I presume, which concerns
this excellent banking establishment over which you preside so ably.
I do not pay these bank-notes in to my account and ask you to
credit me with twenty thousand pounds.  I ask you to allow me to
deposit them here for seven days as security against an overdraft.
You can then advance me enough money to meet my engagements of
to-day."

The banker took up the notes and looked them through, one by one.
They were very crisp, very new, and absolutely genuine.

"This is somewhat an extraordinary proceeding, Mr. Laverick," he
said.

"I have no doubt that it must seem so to you," Laverick admitted.
"At the same time, there the money is.  You can run no risk.  If I
am exceeding my moral right in making use of these notes, it is I
who will have to pay.  Will you do as I ask?"

The banker hesitated.  The transaction was somewhat a peculiar one,
but on the face of it there could be no possible risk.  At the same
time, there was something about it which he could not understand.

"Your wish, Mr. Laverick," he remarked, looking at him thoughtfully,
"seems to be to keep these notes out of circulation."

Laverick returned his gaze without flinching.

"In a sense, that is so," he assented.

"On the whole," the banker declared, "I should prefer to credit
them to your account in the usual way."

"I am sorry," Laverick answered, "but I have a sentimental feeling
about it.  I prefer to keep the notes intact.  If you cannot follow
out my suggestion, I must remove my account at once.  This isn't a
threat, Mr. Fenwick, - you will understand that, I am sure.  It is
simply a matter of business, and owing to Morrison's speculations
I have no time for arguments.  I am quite satisfied to remain in
your hands, but my feeling in the matter is exactly as I have stated,
and I cannot change.  If you are to retain my account, my
engagements for to-day must be met precisely in the way I have
pointed out."

The banker excused himself and left the room for a few moments.
When he returned, he shrugged his shoulders with the air of one who
is giving in to an unreasonable client.

"It shall be as you say, Mr. Laverick," he announced.  "The notes
are placed upon deposit.  Your engagements to-day up to twenty
thousand pounds shall be duly honored."

Laverick shook hands with him, talked for a moment or two about
indifferent matters, and strolled back towards his office.  He had
rather the sense of a man who moves in a dream, who is living,
somehow, in a life which doesn't belong to him.  He was doing the
impossible.  He knew very well that his name was in every one's
mouth.  People were looking at him sympathetically, wondering how
he could have been such a fool as to become the victim of an
irresponsible speculator.  No one ever imagined that he would be
able to keep his engagements.  And he had done it.  The price
might be a great one, but he was prepared to pay.  At any moment
the sensational news might be upon the placards, and the whole
world might know that the man who had been murdered in Crooked
Friars last night had first been robbed of twenty thousand pounds.
So far he had felt himself curiously free from anything in the
shape of direct apprehensions.  Already, however, the shadow was
beginning to fall.  Even as he entered his office, the sight of a
stranger offering office files for sale made him start.  He half
expected to feel a hand upon his shoulder, a few words whispered in
his ear.  He set his teeth tight.  This was his risk and he must
take it.

For several hours he remained in his office, engaged in a scheme
for the redirection of its policy.  With the absence of Morrison,
too, there were other changes to be made, - changes in the nature
of the business they were prepared to handle, limits to be fixed.
It was not until nearly luncheon time that the telephone, the
simultaneous arrival of several clients, and the breathless entry
of his own head-clerk rushing in from the house, told him what was
going on.

"'Unions' have taken their turn at last!" the clerk announced, in
an excited tone.  "They sagged a little this morning, but since
eleven they have been going steadily up.  Just now there seems to
be a boom.  Listen."

Laverick heard the roar of voices in the street, and nodded.  He
was prepared to be surprised at nothing.

"They were bound to go within a day or two," he remarked.  "Morrison
wasn't an absolute idiot."

The luncheon hour passed.  The excitement in the city grew.  By
three o'clock, ten thousand pounds would have covered all of
Laverick's engagements.  Just before closing-time, it was even
doubtful whether he might not have borrowed every penny without
security at all.  He took it all quite calmly and as a matter of
course.  He left the office a little earlier than usual, and every
man whom he met stopped to slap him on the back and chaff him.  He
escaped as soon as he could, bought the evening papers, found a
taxicab, and as soon as he had started spread them open.  It was
a remarkable proof of the man's self-restraint that at no time
during the afternoon had he sent out for one of these early editions.
He turned them over now with firm fingers.  There was absolutely no
fresh news.  No one had come forward with any suggestion as to the
identity of the murdered man.  All day long the body had lain in
the Mortuary, visited by a constant stream of the curious, but
presumably unrecognized.  Laverick could scarcely believe the words
he read.  The thing seemed ludicrously impossible.  The twenty
thousand pounds must have come from some one.  Why did they keep
silence?  What was the mystery about it?  Could it be that they were
not in a position to disclose the fact?  Curiously enough, this
unnatural absence of news inspired him with something which was
almost fear.  He had taken his risks boldly enough.  Now that Fate
was playing him this unexpectedly good turn, he was conscious of a
growing nervousness.  Who could he have been, this man?  Whence
could he have derived this great sum?  One person at least must
know that he had been robbed - the man who murdered him must know
it.  A cold shiver passed through Laverick's veins at the thought.
Somewhere in London there must be a man thirsting for his blood,
a man who had committed a murder in vain and been robbed of his
spoil.

Laverick had no engagements for that evening, but instead of going
to his club he drove straight to his rooms, meaning to change a
little early for dinner and go to a theatre, lie found there,
however, a small boy waiting for him with a note in his hand.  It
was addressed in pencil only, and his name was printed upon it.

Laverick tore it open with a haste which he only imperfectly
concealed.  There was something ominous to him in those printed
characters.  Its contents, however, were short enough.

DEAR LAVERICK,
I must see you.  Come the moment you get this.  Come without fail,
for your own sake and mine.  A.  M.

Laverick looked at the boy.  His fingers were trembling, but it
was with relief.  The note was from Morrison.

"There is no address here," he remarked.

"The gent said as I was to take you back with me," the boy answered.

"Is it far?" Laverick asked.

"Close to Red Lion Square," the boy declared.  "Not more nor five
minutes in one of them taxicabs.  The gent said we was to take
one.  He is in a great hurry to see you."

Laverick did not hesitate a moment."

"Very well," he said, "we'll start at once.

He put on his hat again and waited while the commissionaire called
them a taxicab.

"What address?" he asked.

"Number 7, Theobald Square," the boy said.  Laverick nodded and
repeated the address to the driver.

"What the dickens can Morrison be doing in a part like that!" he
thought, as they passed up Northumberland Avenue.



CHAPTER XIV

ARTHUR MORRISON'S COLLAPSE


The Square was a small one, and in a particularly unsavory
neighborhood.  Laverick, who had once visited his partner's somewhat
extensive suite of rooms in Jermyn Street, rang the bell doubtfully.
The door was opened almost at once, not by a servant but by a young
lady who was obviously expecting him.  Before he could open his lips
to frame an inquiry, she had closed the door behind him.

"Will you please come this way?" she said timidly.

Laverick found himself in a small sitting-room, unexpectedly neat,
and with the plainness of its furniture relieved by certain
undeniable traces of some cultured presence.  The girl who had
followed him stood with her back to the door, a little out of breath.
Laverick contemplated her in surprise.  She was under medium height,
with small pale face and wonderful dark eyes.  Her brown hair was
parted in the middle and arranged low down, so that at first, taking
into account her obvious nervousness, he thought that she was a
child.  When she spoke, however, he knew that for some reason she
was afraid.  Her voice was soft and low, but it was the voice of a
woman.

"It is Mr. Laverick, is it not?" she asked, looking at him eagerly.

"My name is Stephen Laverick," he admitted.  "I understood that I
should find Mr. Arthur Morrison here."

"Yes," the girl answered, "he sent for you.  The note was from him.
He is here."

She made no movement to summon him.  She still stood, in fact, with
her back to the door.  Laverick was distinctly puzzled.  He felt
himself unable to place this timid, childlike woman, with her
terrified face and beautiful eyes.  He had never heard Morrison
speak of having any relations.  His presence in such a locality,
indeed, was hard to understand unless he had met with an accident.
Morrison was one of those young men who would have chosen Hell with
a "W" rather than Heaven E. C.

"I am afraid," Laverick said, "that for some reason or other you
are afraid of me.  I can assure you that I am quite harmless," he
added smiling.  "Won't you sit down and tell me what is the matter?
Is Mr. Morrison in any trouble?"

"Yes," she answered, "he is.  As for me, I am terrified."

She came a little away from the door.  Laverick was a man who
inspired trust. His tone, too, was unusually kind.  He had the
protective instinct of a big man toward a small woman.

"Come and tell me all about it," he suggested.  "I expected to hear
that he had gone abroad."

"Mr. Laverick," she said, looking up at him tremulously.  "I was
hoping that you could have told me what it was that had come to him."

"Well, that rather depends," Laverick answered.  "We certainly had
a terribly anxious time yesterday.  Our business has been most
unfortunate - "

"Yes, yes!" the girl interrupted.  "Please go on.  There have been
business troubles, then."

"Rather," Laverick continued.  "Last night they reached such a
pitch that I gave Morrison some money and it was agreed that he
should leave the firm and try his luck somewhere else.  I quite
understood that he was going abroad."

The girl seemed, for some reason, relieved.

"There was something, then," she said, half to herself.  "There was
something.  Oh, I am glad of that!  You were angry with him, perhaps,
Mr. Laverick?"

Laverick stood with his back to the little fireplace and with his
hands behind him - a commanding figure in the tiny room full of
feminine trifles.  He looked a great deal more at his ease than
he really was.

"Perhaps I was inclined to be short-tempered," he admitted.  "You
see, to be frank with you, the department of our business that was
going wrong was the one over which Morrison has had sole control.
He had entered into certain speculations which I considered
unjustifiable.  To-day, however, matters took an unexpected turn
for the better."

Almost as he spoke his face clouded.  Morrison, of course, would be
triumphant.  Perhaps he would even expect to be reinstated.  For
many reasons, this was a thing which Laverick did not desire.

"Now tell me," he continued, "what is the matter with Morrison, and
why has he sent for me, and, if you will pardon my saying so, why
is he here instead of in his own rooms?"

"I will explain," she began softly.

"You will please explain sitting down," he said firmly.  "And don't
look so terrified," he added, with a little laugh.  "I can assure
you that I am not going to eat you, or anything of that sort.  You
make me feel quite uncomfortable."

She smiled for the first time, and Laverick thought that he had
never seen anything so wonderful as the change in her features.  The
strained rigidity passed away.  An altogether softer light gleamed
in her wonderful eyes.  She was certainly by far the prettiest child
he had ever seen.  As yet he could not take her altogether seriously.

"Thank you," she said, sinking down upon the arm of an easy-chair.
"first of all, then, Arthur is here because he is my brother."

"Your brother!" Laverick repeated wonderingly.

Somehow or other, he had never associated Morrison with relations.
Besides, this meant that she must be of his race.  There was nothing
in her face to denote it except the darkness of her eyes, and that
nameless charm of manner, a sort of ultra-sensitiveness, which
belongs sometimes to the highest type of Jews.  It was not a quality,
Laverick thought, which he should have associated with Morrison's
sister.

"My brother, in a way," she resumed.  "Arthur's father was a widower
and my mother was a widow when they were married.  You are surprised?"

"There is no reason why I should be," he answered, curiously relieved
at her last statement.  "Your brother and I have been connected in
business for some years.  We have seen very little of one another
outside."

"I dare say," she continued, still timidly, "that Arthur's friends
would not be your friends, and that he wouldn't care for the same
sort of things.  You see, my mother is dead and also his father, and
as we aren't really related at all, I cannot expect that he would
come to see me very often.  Last night, though, quite late - long
after I had gone to bed - he rang the bell here.  I was frightened,
for just now I am all alone, and my servant only comes in the
morning.  So I looked out of the window and I saw him on the
pavement, huddled up against the door.  I hurried down and let him
in.  Mr. Laverick," she went on, with an appealing glance at him,
"I have never seen any one look like it.  He was terrified to death.
Something seemed to have happened which had taken away from him
even the power of speech.  He pushed past me into this room, threw
himself into that chair," she added, pointing across the room, "and
he sobbed and beat his hands upon his knees as though he were a
woman in a fit of hysterics.  His clothes were all untidy, he was
as pale as death, and his eyes looked as though they were ready
to start out of his head."

"You must indeed have been frightened," Laverick said softly.

"Frightened!  I shall never forget it!  I did not sleep all night.
He would tell me nothing - he has scarcely spoken a sensible word.
Early this morning I persuaded him to go upstairs, and made him
lie down.  He has taken two draughts which I bought from the chemist,
but he has not slept.  Every now and then he tries to get up, but
in a minute or two he throws himself down on the bed again and hides
his face.  If any one rings at the bell, he shrieks.  If he hears a
footfall in the street, even, he calls out for me.  Mr. Laverick, I
have never been so frightened in my life.  I didn't know whom to
send for or what to do.  When he wrote that note to you I was so
relieved.  You can't imagine how glad I am to think you have come!"

Laverick's eyes were full of sympathy.  One could see that the
scene of last night had risen up again before her eyes.  She was
shrinking back, and the terror was upon her once more.  He moved
over to her side, and with an impulse which, when he thought of it
afterwards, amazed him, laid his hand gently upon her shoulder.

"Don't worry yourself thinking about it," he said.  "I will talk to
your brother.  We did have words, I'll admit, last night, but there
wasn't the slightest reason why it should have upset him in this
way.  Things in the city were shocking yesterday, but they have
improved a great deal to-day.  Let me go upstairs and I'll try and
pump some courage into him."

"You are so kind," she murmured, suddenly dropping her hands from
before her face and looking up at him with shining eyes, "so very
kind.  Will you come, then?"

She rose and he followed her out of the room, up the stairs, and
into a tiny bedroom.  Laverick had no time to look around, but it
seemed to him, notwithstanding the cheap white furniture and very
ordinary appointments, that the same note of dainty femininity
pervaded this little apartment as the one below.

"It is my room," she said shyly.  "There is no other properly
furnished, and I thought that he might sleep upon the bed."

"Perhaps he is asleep now," Laverick whispered.

Even as he spoke, the dark figure stretched upon the sheets sprang
into a sitting posture.  Laverick was conscious of a distinct shock.
It was Morrison, still wearing the clothes in which he had left the
office, his collar crushed out of all shape, his tie vanished.  His
black hair, usually so shiny and perfectly arranged, was all
disordered.  Out of his staring eyes flashed an expression which one
sees seldom in life, - an expression of real and mortal terror.

"Who is it?" he cried out, and even his voice was unrecognizable.
"Who is that?  What do you want?"

"It is I - Laverick," Laverick answered.  "What on earth is the
matter with you, man?"

Morrison drew a quick breath.  Some part of the terror seemed to
leave his face, but he was still an alarming-looking object.
Laverick quietly opened the door and laid his hand upon the girl's
shoulder.

"Will you leave us alone?" he asked.  "I will come and talk to
you afterwards, if I may."

She nodded understandingly, and passed out.  Laverick closed the
door and came up to the bedside.

"What in the name of thunder has come over you, Morrison?" he said.
"Are you ill, or what is it?"

Morrison opened his lips - opened them twice - without any sort of
sound issuing.

"This is absurd!" Laverick exclaimed protestingly.  "I have been
feeling worried myself, but there's nothing so terrifying in losing
one's money, after all.  As a matter of fact, things are altogether
better in the city to-day.  You made a big mistake in taking us out
of our depth, but we are going to pull through, after all.  'Unions'
have been going up all day."

Laverick's presence, and the sound of his even, matter-of-fact tone,
seemed to act like a tonic upon his late partner.  He made no
reference, however, to Laverick's words.

"You got my note?" he asked hoarsely.

"Naturally I got it," Laverick answered impatiently, "and I came at
once.  Try and pull yourself together.  Sit up and tell me what you
are doing here, frightening your sister out of her life."

Morrison groaned.

"I came here," he muttered, "because I dared not go to my own rooms.
I was afraid!"

Laverick struggled with the contempt he felt.

"Man alive," he exclaimed, "what was there to be afraid of?"

"You don't know!" Morrison faltered.  "You don't know!"

Then, for the first time, it occurred to Laverick that perhaps the
financial crisis in their affairs was not the only thing which had
reduced his late partner to this hopeless state.  He looked at him
narrowly.

"Where did you go last night," he asked, "when you left me?"

"Nowhere," Morrison gasped.  "I came here."

Laverick made a space for himself at the end of the bed, and sat
down.

"Look here," he said," it's no use sending for me unless you mean
to tell me everything.  Have you been getting yourself into any
trouble apart from our affairs, or is there anything in connection
with them which I don't know?"

Again Morrison opened his lips, and again, for some reason or other,
he remained speechless.  Then a certain fear came also upon Laverick.
There was something in Morrison's state which was in itself
terrifying.

"You had better tell me all about it," Laverick persisted, "whatever
it is.  I will help you if I can."

Morrison shook his head.  There was a glass of water by his side.
He thrust his finger into it and passed it across his lips.  They
were dry, almost cracking.

"Look here," he said, "I've got a breakdown - that's what's the
matter with me.  My nerves were never good.  I'm afraid of going
mad.  The anxiety of the last few weeks has been too much for me.
I want to get out of the country quickly, and I don't know how to
manage it.  I can't think.  Directly I try to think my head goes
round."

"There is nothing in the world to prevent your going away," Laverick
answered.  "It is the simplest matter possible.  Even if we had gone
under to-day, no one could have stopped your going wherever you
chose to go.  Ruin, even if it had been ruin,- and I told you just
now that business was better,- is not a crime.  Pull yourself
together, for Heaven's sake, man!  You should be ashamed to come
here and frighten that poor little girl downstairs almost to death."

Morrison gripped his partner's arm.

"You must do as I ask," he declared hoarsely.  "It doesn't matter
about prices being better.  I want to get away.  You must help me."

Laverick looked at him steadily.  Morrison was an ordinary young
man of his type, something of a swaggerer, probably at heart a
coward.  But this was no ordinary fear - not even the ordinary fear
of a coward.  Laverick's face became graver.  There was something
else, then!

"I will get you out of the country if I can," said he.  "There is
no difficulty about it at all unless you are concealing something
from me.  You can catch a fast steamer to-morrow, either for South
Africa or New York, but before I make any definite plans, hadn't
you better tell me exactly what happened last night?"

Once more Morrison's lips parted without the ability to frame words.
Then a feeble moan escaped him.  He threw up his hands and his head
fell back.  The ghastliness of his face spread almost to his lips,
and he sank back among the pillows.  Laverick strode across the
room to the door.

"Are you anywhere about?" he called out.

The girl was by his side in a moment.

"There is nothing to be alarmed at," he said, "but your brother has
fainted.  Bring me some sal volatile if you have it, and I think
that you had better run out and get a doctor.  I will stay with him.
I know exactly what to do."

She pointed to the dressing-table, where a little bottle was
standing, and ran downstairs without a word.  Laverick mixed some
of the spirit, and moved over to the side of the fainting man.




CHAPTER XV

LAVERICK's PARTNER FLEES


The doctor, a grave, incurious person, arrived within a few minutes
to find Morrison already conscious but absolutely exhausted.  He
felt his patient's pulse, prescribed a draught, and followed
Laverick.  down into the sitting room.

"An ordinary case of nervous exhaustion," he pronounced.  "The
patient appears to have had a very severe shock lately.  He will be
all right with proper diet and treatment, and a complete rest. I
will call again to-morrow."

He accepted the fee which Laverick slipped into his hand, and took
his departure.  Once more Laverick was alone with the girl, who had
followed them downstairs.


"There is nothing to be alarmed at, you see," he remarked.

"It is not his health which frightens me.  I am sure - I am quite
sure that he has something upon his mind.  Did he tell you nothing?"

"Nothing at all," Laverick answered, with an inward sense of
thankfulness.  "To tell you the truth, though, I am afraid you are
right and that he did get into some sort of trouble last night.  He
was just about to tell me something when he fainted."

Upstairs they could hear him moaning.  The girl listened with
pitiful face.

"What am I to do?" she asked.  "I cannot leave him like this, and
if I am not at the theatre in twenty minutes, I shall be fined."

"The theatre?" Laverick repeated.

She nodded.

"I am on the stage," she said, - "only a chorus girl at the
Universal, worse luck.  Still, they don't allow us to stay away,
and I can't afford to lose my place."

"Do you mean to say that you have been keeping yourself here, then?"
Laverick asked bluntly.

"Of course," she answered.  "I do not like to be a burden on any
one, and after all, you see, Arthur and I are really not related at
all.  He has always told me, too, that times have been so bad lately."

Laverick was on the point of telling her that bad though they had
been Arthur Morrison had never drawn less than fifteen hundred a
year, but he checked himself.  It was not his business to interfere.

"I think," he said, "that your brother ought to have provided for
you.  He could have done so with very little effort."

"But what am I to do now?" she asked him.  "If I am absent, I shall
lose my place."

Laverick thought for a moment.

"If you went round there and told them," he suggested, "would that
make any difference?  I could stay until you came back."

"Do you mind?" she asked eagerly.  "It would be so kind of you."

"Not at all," he answered.  "Perhaps you would be good enough to
bring a taxicab back, and I could take it on to my rooms.  Take
one from here, if you can find it.  There are always some at the
corner."

"I'd love to," she answered.  "I must run upstairs and get my hat
and coat."

He watched her go up on tiptoe for fear of disturbing her brother.
Her feet seemed almost unearthly in the lightness of their pressure.
Not a board creaked.  She seemed to float down to him in a most
becoming little hat but a shockingly shabby jacket, of whose
deficiencies she seemed wholly unaware.  Her lips were parted once
more in a smile.

"He is fast asleep and breathing quite regularly," she announced.
"It is nice of you to stay."

He looked at her almost jealously.

"Do you know," he said, "you ought not to go about alone?"

She laughed, softly but heartily.

"Have you any idea how old I am?"

"I took you for fourteen when I came inside," he answered.
"Afterwards I thought you might be sixteen.  Later on, it seemed
to me possible that you were eighteen.  I am absolutely certain
that you are not more than nineteen."

"That shows how little you know about it.  I am twenty, and I am
quite used to going about alone.  Will you sit upstairs or here?
I am so sorry that I have nothing to offer you."

"Thanks, I need nothing.  I think I will sit upstairs in case he
wakes."

She nodded and stole out, closing the door behind her noiselessly.
Laverick watched her from the window until she was out of sight,
moving without any appearance of haste, yet with an incredible
swiftness.  When she had turned the corner, he went slowly
upstairs and into the room where Morrison still lay asleep.  He
drew a chair to the bedside and leaning forward opened out the
evening paper.  The events of the last hour or so had completely
blotted out from his mind, for the time being, his own expedition
into the world of tragical happenings.  He glanced at the sleeping
man, then opened his paper.  There was very little fresh news
except that this time the fact was mentioned that upon the body
of the murdered man was discovered a sum larger than was at first
supposed.  It seemed doubtful, therefore, whether robbery, after
all, was the motive of the crime, especially as it took place in
a neighborhood which was by no means infested with criminals.  There
was a suggestion of political motive, a reference to the "Black
Hand," concerning whose doings the papers had been full since the
murder of a well-known detective a few weeks ago.  But apart from
this there was nothing fresh.

Laverick folded up the paper and leaned back in his chair.  The
strain of the last twenty-four hours was beginning to tell even upon
his robust constitution.  The atmosphere of the room, too, was close.
He leaned back in his chair and was suddenly weary.  Perhaps he
dozed.  At any rate, the whisper which called him back to realization
of where he was, came to him so unexpectedly that he sat up with a
sudden start.

Morrison's eyes were open, he had raised himself on his elbow, his
lips were parted.  His manner was quieter, but there were black
lines deep engraven under his eyes, in which there still shone
something of that haunting fear.

"Laverick!" he repeated hoarsely.

Laverick, fully awakened now, leaned towards him.

"Hullo," he said, "are you feeling more like yourself?"

Morrison nodded.

"Yes," he admitted, "I am feeling - better.  How did you come here?
I can't remember anything."

"You sent for me," Laverick answered.  "I arrived to find you
pretty well in a state of collapse.  Your sister has gone round to
the theatre to ask them to excuse her this evening."

"I remember now that I sent for you," Morrison continued.  "Tell me,
has any one been around at the office asking after me?"

"No one particular," Laverick answered, - "no one at all that I can
think of.  There were one or two inquiries through the telephone,
but they were all ordinary business matters."

The man on the bed drew a little breath which sounded like a sigh
of relief.

"I have made a fool of myself, Laverick," he said hoarsely .

"You are making a worse one of yourself by lying here and giving
way," Laverick declared, "besides frightening your sister half to
death.

Morrison passed his hand across his forehead.

"We talked - some time ago," he went on, "about my getting away.
You promised that you would help me.  You said that I could get
off to Africa or America to-morrow."

"Not the slightest difficulty about that," Laverick answered.  "There
are half-a-dozen steamers sailing, at least. At the same time, I
suppose I ought to remind you that the firm is going to pull through.
Mind - don't take this unkindly but the truth is best - I will not
have you back again.  There may have to be a more definite
readjustment of our affairs now, but the old business is finished
with."

"I don't want to come back," Morrison murmured.  "I have had enough
of the city for the rest of my life.  I'd rather get away somewhere
and make a fresh start.  You'll help me, Laverick, won't you?"

"Yes, I will help you," Laverick promised.

"You were always a good sort," Morrison continued, "much too good
for me.  It was a rotten partnership for you.  We could never have
pulled together."

"Let that go," Laverick interrupted.  "If you really mean getting
away, that simplifies matters, of course.  Have you made any plans
at all?  Where do you want to go?"

"To New York," answered Morrison; "New York would suit me best.
There is money to be made there if one has something to make a
start with."

"There will be some more money to come to you," Laverick answered,
"probably a great deal more.  I shall place our affairs in the hands
of an accountant, and shall have an estimate drawn up to yesterday.
You shall have every penny that is due to you.  You have quite
enough, however, to get there with.  I will see to your ticket
to-night, if possible.  When you've arrived you can cable me your
address, or you can decide where you will stay before you leave,
and I will send you a further remittance."

"You're a good sort, Laverick," Morrison mumbled.

"You'd better give me the key of your rooms," Laverick continued,
"and I will go back and put together some of your things.  I suppose
you will not want much to go away with.  The rest can be sent on
afterwards.  And what about your letters?"

Morrison, with a sudden movement, threw himself almost out of the
bed.  He clutched at Laverick's shoulder frantically.

"Don't go near my rooms, Laverick!" he begged.  "Promise me that you
won't!  I don't want any letters!  I don't want any of my things!"

Laverick was dumfounded.

"You mean you want to go away without - "

"I mean just what I have said," Morrison continued hysterically.
"If you go there they will watch you, they will follow you, they
will find out where I am.  I should be there now but for that."

Laverick was silent for a moment.  The matter was becoming serious.

"Very well," he said, "I will do as you say.  I will not go near
your rooms.  I will get you a few things somewhere to start with."

Morrison sank back upon his pillow.

"Thank you, Laverick," he said; "thank you.  I wish - I wish - "

His voice seemed to die away.  Laverick glanced towards him,
wondering at the unfinished sentence.  Once again the man's face
seemed to be convulsed with horror.  He flung himself face downward
upon the bed and tore at the sheets with both his hands.

"Don't be a fool," Laverick said sternly.  "If you've anything on
your mind apart from business, tell me about it and I'll do what
I can to help you."

Morrison made no reply.  He was sobbing now like a child.  Laverick
rose to his feet and went to the window.  What was to be done with
such a creature!  When he got back, Morrison had raised himself once
more into a sitting posture.  His appearance was absolutely spectral.

"Laverick," he said feebly, "there is something else, but I cannot
tell you - I cannot tell any one."

"Just as you please, of course," Laverick answered.  "I am simply
anxious to help you."

"You can do that as it is!" Morrison exclaimed feverishly.  "You
must promise me something - promise that if any one asks for me
to-morrow before I get away, you will not tell them where I am.
Say you suppose that I am at my rooms, or that I have gone into
the country for a few days.  Say that you are expecting me back.
Don't let any one know that I have gone abroad, until I am safely
away.  And then don't tell a soul where I have gone."

"Have you been up to any tricks with your friends?" Laverick asked
sternly.

"I haven't - I swear that I haven't," Morrison declared.  "It's
something quite outside business - quite outside business altogether."

"Very well," answered Laverick, "I will promise what you have asked,
then.  Listen - here is your sister back again," he added, as he
heard the taxicab stop outside.  "Pull yourself together and don't
frighten her so much.  I am going down to meet her.  I shall tell
her that you are better.  Try and buck up when she comes in to see
you."

"I'll do my best," Morrison said humbly.  "If you knew!  If you
only knew!"

He began to sob again.  Laverick left the room and, descending the
stairs, met the girl in the hall.  Her white face questioned him
before her lips had time to frame the speech.

"Your brother is very much better," Laverick said.  "I am sure that
you need not be anxious about him."

"I am so glad," she murmured.  "They let me off but I had to pay a
fine.  I had no idea before that I was so important.  Shall I go to
him now?"

"One moment," Laverick answered, holding open the door of the
sitting-room.  "Miss Morrison," he went on, -

"Miss Leneven is my name," she interrupted.

"I beg your pardon.  Your brother evidently has something on his
mind apart from business.  I am afraid that he has been getting
into some sort of trouble.  I don't think there is any object in
bothering him about it, but the great thing is to get him away."

"You will help?" she begged.

"I will help, certainly," Laverick answered.  "I have promised to.
You must see that he is ready to leave here at seven o'clock
to-morrow morning.  He wants to go to New York, and the special
to catch the German boat will leave Waterloo somewhere about eight
to eight-thirty."

"But his clothes!" she cried.  "How can he be ready by then?"

"Your brother does not wish me or any one to go near his rooms or
to send him any of his belongings," Laverick continued quietly.

"But how strange!" the girl exclaimed.  "Do you mean to say, then,
that he is going without anything?"

"I am afraid," Laverick said kindly, "that we must take it for
granted that your brother has got mixed up in some undesirable
business or other.  He is nervously anxious to keep his whereabouts
an entire secret.  He has been asking me whether any one has been
to the office to inquire for him.  Under the circumstances, I think
the best thing we can do is to humor him.  I shall buy him before
to-morrow morning a cheap dressing-case and a ready-made suit of
clothes, and a few things for the voyage.  Then I shall send a cab
for you both at seven o'clock and meet you at the station.

"You are very kind," she murmured.  "What should I have done without
you?  Oh, I cannot think!"

The protective instinct in the man was suddenly strong.  Naturally
unaffectionate, he was conscious of an almost overmastering desire
to take her hands in his, even to lift her up and kiss away the
tears which shone in her deep, childlike eyes.  He reminded himself
that she was a stranger, that her appearance of youth was a delusion,
that she could only construe such an action as a liberty, an
impertinence, offered under circumstances for which there could be
no possible excuse.

He moved away towards the door.

"Naturally," he said, "I am glad to be of use to your brother.  You
see," he explained, a little awkwardly, "after all, we have been
partners in business."

He caught a look upon her face and smiled.

"Naturally, too," he continued, "it has been a great pleasure for
me to do anything to relieve your anxiety."

She gave him her hands then of her own accord.  The gratitude which
shone out of her swimming eyes seemed mingled with something which
was almost invitation.  Laverick was suddenly swept off his feet.
Something had come into his life - something absurd, uncounted upon,
incomprehensible.  The atmosphere of the room seemed electrified.
In a moment, he had done what only a second or two before he had
told himself would be the action of a cad.  He had taken her,
unresisting, up into his arms, kissed her eyes and lips.  Afterwards,
he was never able to remember those few moments clearly, only it
seemed to him that she had accepted his caress almost without
hesitation, with the effortless serenity of a child receiving a
natural consolation in a time of trouble.  But Laverick was conscious
of other feelings as he leaned hard back in the corner of his taxicab
and was driven swiftly away.




CHAPTER XVI

THE WAITER AT THE "BLACK POST"

Laverick, notwithstanding that the hour was becoming late, found an
outfitter's shop in the Strand still open, and made such purchases
as he could on Morrison's behalf.  Then, with the bag ready packed,
he returned to his rooms.  Time had passed quickly during the last
three hours.  It was nearly nine o'clock when he stepped out of the
lift and opened the door of his small suite of rooms with the
latchkey which hung from his chain.  He began to change his clothes
mechanically, and he had nearly finished when the telephone bell
upon his table rang.

"Who's that?" he asked, taking up the receiver.

"Hall-porter, sir," was the answer.  "Person here wishes to see you
particularly."

"A person!" Laverick repeated.  "Man or woman?"

"Man, sir.

"Better send him up," Laverick ordered.

"He's a seedy-looking lot, sir," the porter explained "I told him
that I scarcely thought you'd see him."

"Never mind," Laverick answered.  "I can soon get rid of the fellow
if he's cadging."

He went back to his room and finished fastening his tie.  His own
affairs had sunk a little into the background lately, but the
announcement of this unusual visitor brought them back into his
mind with a rush.  Notwithstanding his iron nerves, his fingers
shook as he drew on his dinner-jacket and walked out to the
passageway to answer the bell which rang a few seconds later.  A
man stood outside, dressed in shabby black clothes, whose face
somehow was familiar to him, although he could not, for the moment,
place it.

"Do you want to see me?" Laverick asked.

"If you please, Mr. Laverick," the man replied, "if you could spare
me just a moment."

"You had better come inside, then," Laverick said, closing the door
and preceding the way into the sitting-room.  At any rate, there
was nothing threatening about the appearance of this visitor - nor
anything official.

"I have taken the liberty of coming, sir," the man announced, "to
ask you if you can tell me where I can find Mr. Arthur Morrison."

Laverick's face showed no sign of his relief.  What he felt he
succeeded in keeping to himself.

"You mean Morrison - my partner, I suppose?" he answered.

"If you please, sir," the man admitted.  "I wanted a word or two
with him most particular.  I found out his address from the
caretaker of your office, but he don't seem to have been home to
his rooms at all last night, and they know nothing about him there."

"Your face seems familiar to me," Laverick remarked.  "Where do you
come from?"

The man hesitated.

"I am the waiter, sir, at the 'Black Post,' - little bar and
restaurant, you know," he added, "just behind your offices, sir,
at the end of Crooked Friars' Alley.  You've been in once or
twice, Mr. Laverick, I think.  Mr. Morrison 's a regular customer.
He comes in for a drink most mornings."

Laverick nodded.


"I knew I'd seen your face somewhere," he said.  "What do you want
with Mr. Morrison?"

The man was silent.  He twirled his hat and looked embarrassed.

"It's a matter I shouldn't like to mention to any one except Mr.
Morrison himself, sir," he declared finally.  "If you could put me
in the way of seeing him, I'd be glad.  I may say that it would be
to his advantage, too."

Laverick was thoughtful for a moment.

"As it happens, that's a little difficult," he explained.  "Mr.
Morrison and I disagreed on a matter of business last night.  I
undertook certain responsibilities which he should have shared,
and he arranged to leave the firm and the country at once.  We
parted - well, not exactly the best of friends.  I am afraid I
cannot give you any information."

"You haven't seen him since then, sir?" the man asked.

Laverick lied promptly but he lied badly.  His visitor was not in
the least convinced.

"I am afraid I haven't made myself quite plain, sir," he said.
"It's to do him a bit o' good that I'm here.  I'm not wishing him
any harm at all.  On the contrary, it's a great deal more to his
advantage to see me than it will be mine to find him."

"I think," Laverick suggested, "that you had better be frank with
me.  Supposing I knew where to catch Morrison before he left the
country, I could easily deal with you on his behalf."

The man looked doubtful.

"You see, sir," he replied awkwardly, "it's a matter I wouldn't
like to breathe a word about to any one but Mr. Morrison himself.
It's - it's a bit serious."

The man's face gave weight to his words.  Curiously enough, the
gleam of terror which Laverick caught in his white face reminded
him of a similar look which he had seen in Morrison's eyes barely
an hour ago.  To gain time, Laverick moved across the room, took
a cigarette from a box and lit it.  A conviction was forming
itself in his mind.  There was something definite behind these
hysterical paroxysms of his late partner, something of which this
man had an inkling.

"Look here," he said, throwing himself into an easychair, "I think
you had better be frank with me.  I must know more than I know at
present before I help you to find Morrison, even if he is to be
found.  We didn't part very good friends, but I'm his friend enough
 - for the sake of others," he added, after a moment's hesitation,
"to do all that I could to help him out of any difficulty he may
have stumbled into.  So you see that so far as anything you may have
to say to him is concerned, I think you might as well say it to me."

"You couldn't see your way, then, sir," the man continued doggedly,
"to tell me where I could find Mr. Morrison himself?"

"No, I couldn't," Laverick decided.  "Even if I knew exactly where
he was - and I'm not admitting that - I couldn't put you in touch
with him unless I knew what your business was.

The man's eyes gleamed.  He was a typical waiter - pasty-faced,
unwholesome-looking - but he had small eyes of a greenish cast, and
they were expressive.

"I think, sir," he said, "you've some idea yourself, then, that Mr.
Morrison has been getting into a bit of trouble."

"We won't discuss that," Laverick answered.  "You must either go
away - it's past nine o'clock and I haven't had my dinner yet - or
you must treat me as you would Mr. Morrison."

The man looked upon the carpet for several moments.

"Very well, sir," he said, "there's no great reason why I should put
myself out about this at all.  The only thing is - "

He hesitated.

"Well, go on," Laverick said encouragingly.

"I think," the man continued, "that Mr. Morrison - knowing, as I
well do, sir, the sort of gent he is - would be more likely to talk
common sense with me about this matter than you, sir."

"I'll imagine I'm Morrison, for the moment," Laverick said smiling,
"especially as I'm acting for him."

The man looked around the room.  The door behind had been left ajar.
He stepped backward and closed it.

"You'll pardon the liberty, sir," he said, "but this is a serious
matter I'm going to speak about.  I'll just tell you a little thing
and you can form your own conclusions.  Last night we was open late
at the 'Black Post.'  We keep open, sir, as you know, when you
gentlemen at the Stock Exchange are busy.  About nine o'clock there
was a strange customer came in.  He had two drinks and he sat as
though he were waiting.  In about 'arf-an-hour another gent came in,
and they went into a corner together and seemed to be doing some sort
of business.  Anyways, there was papers passed between them.  I was
fairly busy about then, as there were one or two more customers in
the place, but I noticed these two talking together, and I noticed
the dark gentleman leave.  The others went out a few minutes
afterwards, and the gent who had come first was alone in the place.
He sat in the corner and he had a pocket-book on the table before
him.  I had a sort of casual glance at it when I brought him a drink,
and it seemed to me that it was full of bank-notes.  He sat there
just like a man extra deep in thought.  Just after eleven, in came
Mr. Morrison.  I could see he was rare and put out, for he was white,
and shaking all over.  'Give me a drink, Jim,' he said, - 'a big
brandy and soda, big as you make 'em."'

The man paused for a moment as though to collect himself.  Laverick
was suddenly conscious of a strange thrill creeping through his
pulses.

"Go on," he said.  "That was after he left me.  Go on."

"He was quite close to the other gent, Mr. Morrison was," the waiter
continued, "but they didn't say nowt to each other.  All of a sudden
I see Mr. Morrison set down his glass and stare at the other chap
as though he'd seen something that had given him a turn.  I leaned
over the counter and had a look, too.  There he sat - this tall,
fair chap who had been in the place so long - with his big
pocket-book on the table in front of him, and even from where I was
I could see that there was a great pile of bank-notes sticking out
from it.  All of a sudden he looks up and sees Mr. Morrison
a-watching him and me from behind the counter.  Back he whisks the
pocket-book into his pocket, calls me for my bill, gives me two
mouldy pennies for a tip, buttons up his coat and walks out."

"You know who he was?" Laverick inquired.

Again the waiter paused for a moment before he answered - paused
and looked nervously around the room.  His voice shook.

"He was the man as was murdered about a hundred yards off the
'Black Post' last night, sir," he said.

"How do you know?" Laverick asked.

"I got an hour off to-day," the waiter continued, "and went down to
the Mortuary.  There was no doubt about it.  There he was - same
chap, same clothes.  I could swear to him anywhere, and I reckon
I '11 have to at the inquest."

Laverick's cigarette burned away between his fingers.  It seemed to
him that he was no longer in the room.  He was listening to Big
Ben striking the hour, he was back again in that tiny little bedroom
with its spotless sheets and lace curtains.  The man on the bed was
looking at him.  Laverick remembered the look and shivered.

"What has this to do with Morrison?" he demanded.

Once more the waiter looked around in that half mysterious, half
terrified way.

"Mr. Morrison, sir," he said, dropping his voice to a hoarse whisper,
"he followed the other chap out within thirty seconds.  A sort of
queer look he'd got in his face too, and he went out without paying
me.  I've read the papers pretty careful, sir," the man went on,
"but I ain't seen no word of that pocket-book of bank-notes being
found on the man as was murdered."

Laverick threw the end of his burning cigarette away.  He walked to
the window, keeping his back deliberately turned on his visitor.
His eyes followed the glittering arc of lights which fringed the
Thames Embankment, were caught by the flaring sky-sign on the other
side of the river.  He felt his heart beating with unaccustomed vigor.
Was this, then, the secret of Morrison's terror?  He wondered no
longer at his collapse.  The terror was upon him, too.  He felt his
forehead, and his hand, when he drew it away, was wet.  It was not
Morrison alone but he himself who might be implicated in this man's
knowledge.  The thoughts flitted through his brain like parts of a
nightmare.  He saw Morrison arrested, he saw the whole story of the
missing pocket-book in the papers, he imagined his bank manager
reading it and thinking of that parcel of mysterious bank-notes
deposited in his keeping on the morning after the tragedy. . .
Laverick was a strong man, and his moment of weakness, poignant
though it had been, passed.  This was no new thing with which he
was confronted.  All the time he had known that the probabilities
were in favor of such a discovery.  He set his teeth and turned to
face his visitor.

"This is a very serious thing which you have told me," he said.
"Have you spoken about it to any one else?"

"Not a soul, sir," the man answered.  "I thought it best to have a
word or two first with Mr. Morrison."

"You were thinking of attending the inquest," Laverick said
thoughtfully.  "The police would thank you for your evidence, and
there, I suppose, the matter would end."

"You've hit it precisely, sir," the man admitted.  "There the matter
would end."

"On the other hand," Laverick continued, speaking as though he were
reasoning this matter out to himself, "supposing you decided not to
meddle in an affair which does not concern you, supposing you were
not sure as to the identity of your customer last night, and being
a little tired you could not rightly remember whether Mr. Morrison
called in for a drink or not, and so, to cut the matter short, you
dismissed the whole matter from your mind and let the inquest take
its own course, - Laverick paused.  His visitor scratched the side
of his chin and nodded.

"You've put this matter plainly, sir," he said, "in what I call an
understandable, straightforward way.  I'm a poor man - I've been a
poor man all my life - and I've never seed a chance before of
getting away from it.  I see one now."

"You want to do the best you can for yourself?"

"So 'elp me God, sir, I do!" the man agreed.

Laverick nodded.

"You have done a remarkably wise thing," he said, "in coming to me
and in telling me about this affair.  The idea of connecting Mr.
Morrison with the murder would, of course, be ridiculous, but, on
the other hand, it would be very disagreeable to him to have his
name mentioned in connection with it.  You have behaved discreetly,
and you have done Mr. Morrison a service in trying to find him out.
You will do him a further service by adopting the second course I
suggested with regard to the inquest.  What do you consider that
service is worth?"

"It depends, sir," the man answered quietly, "at what price Mr.
Morrison values his life!"




CHAPTER XVII

THE PRICE OF SILENCE


The man's manner was expressive.  Laverick repeated his phrase,
frowning.

"His life!"

"Yes, sir!"

Laverick shrugged his shoulders.

"Come," he declared, "you must not go too far with this thing.  I
have admitted, so as to clear the way for anything you have to say,
that Mr. Morrison would not care to have his name mentioned in
connection with this affair.  But because he left your bar a few
minutes after the murdered man, it is sheer folly to assume that
therefore he is necessarily implicated in his death.  I cannot
conceive anything more unlikely."

The man smiled - a slow, uncomfortable smile which suggested mirth
less than anything in the world.

"There are a few other things, sir," he remarked, - "one in especial."

"Well?" Laverick inquired.  "Let's have it.  You had better tell me
everything that is in your mind."

"The man was stabbed with a horn-handled knife."

"I remember reading that," Laverick admitted.

"Well?"

"The knife was mine," his visitor affirmed, dropping his voice once
more to a whisper.  "It lay on the edge of the counter, close to
where Mr. Morrison was leaning, and as soon as he'd gone I missed it."

Laverick was silent.  What was there to be said?

"Horn-handled knives," he muttered, "are not rare not uncommon things."

"One don't possess a knife for a matter of eight or nine years
without being able to swear to it," the other remarked dryly.

"Is there anything more?"

"There don't need to be," was the quiet reply.  "You know that, sir.
So do I.  There don't need to be any more evidence than mine to send
Mr. Morrison to the gallows."

"We will waive that point," Laverick declared.  "The jury sometimes
are very hard to convince by circumstantial evidence alone.  However,
as I have said, let us waive that point.  Your position is clear
enough.  You go to the inquest, you tell all you know, and you get
nothing.  You are a poor man, you have worked hard all your life.
The chance has come in your way to do yourself a little good.  Now
take my advice.  Don't spoil it all by asking for anything ridiculous.
It won't do for you to come into a fortune a few days after this
affair, especially if it ever comes out that the murdered man was in
your place.  I am here to act for Mr. Morrison.  What is it that you
want?"

"You are talking like a gent, sir," the man said, - "like a sensible
gent, too.  I'd have to keep it quiet, of course, that I'd come into
a bit of money, - just at present, at any rate.  I could easy find
an excuse for changing my job - perhaps get away from London
altogether.  I've got a few pounds saved and I've always wanted to
open a banking account.  A gent like you, perhaps, could put me in
the way of doing it."

"How much do you consider would be a satisfactory balance to
commence with?" Laverick asked.

"I was thinking of a thousand pounds, sir."

Laverick was thoughtful for a few moments.

"By the way, what is your name?" he inquired at last.

"James Shepherd, sir," the man answered, - "generally called Jim,
sir."

"Well, you see, Shepherd," Laverick continued, "the difficulty is,
in your case, as in all similar ones, that one never knows where
the thing will end.  A thousand pounds is a considerable sum, but
in four amounts, with three months interval between each, it could
be arranged. This would be better for you, in any case.  Two
hundred and fifty pounds is not an unheard-of sum for you to have
saved or got together.  After that your investments would be my
lookout, and they would produce, as I have said, another seven
hundred and fifty pounds.  But what security have I - has Mr.
Morrison, let us say - that you will be content with this sum?"

"He hasn't any, sir," the man admitted at once.  "He couldn't have
any.  I'm a modest-living man, and I've no desire to go shouting
around that I'm independent all of a sudden.  That wouldn't do
nohow.  A thousand pounds would bring me in near enough a pound a
week if I invested it, or two pounds a week for an annuity, my
health being none too good.  I've no wife or children, sir.  I was
thinking of an annuity.  With two pounds a week I'd have no cause
to trouble any one again."

Laverick considered.

"It shall be done," he said.  "To-morrow I shall buy shares for
you to the extent of two hundred and fifty pounds.  They will be
deposited in a bank.  Some day you can look in and see me, and I
will take you round there.  You are my client who has speculated
under my instructions successfully, and you will sign your name
and become a customer.  After that, you will speculate again.
When your thousand pounds has been made, I will show you how to
buy an annuity.  Keep your mouth shut, and last night will be
the luckiest night of your life.  Do you drink?"

"A drop or two, sir," the man admitted. "If I didn't, I guess
I'd go off my chump."

"Do you talk when you're drunk?" Laverick asked.

"Never, sir," the man declared. "I've a way of getting a drop
too much when I'm by myself.  Then I tumbles off to sleep and
that's the end of it.  I've no fancy for company at such times."

"It's a good thing," Laverick remarked, thrusting his hand into
his pocket.  "Here's a five-pound note on account.  I daresay you
can manage to keep sober to-night, at any rate.  That's all, isn't
it?"

"That's all, sir," the man answered, "unless I might make so bold as
to ask whether Mr. Morrison has really hooked it?"

"Mr. Morrison had decided to hook it, as you graphically say, before
he came in for that drink to your bar, Shepherd," Laverick affirmed.
"Business had been none too good with us, and we had had a
disagreement."

The man nodded.

"I see, sir," he said, taking up his hat. "Good night, sir!"

"Good night!" Laverick answered. "You can find your way down?"

"Quite well, sir, and thank you," declared Mr. Shepherd, closing
the door softly behind him.

Laverick sat down in his chair. He had forgotten that he was hungry.
He was faced now with a new tragedy.




CHAPTER XVIII

THE LONELY CHORUS GIRL


They stood together upon the platform watching the receding train.
The girl's eyes were filled with tears, but Laverick was conscious
of a sense of immense relief.  Morrison had been at the station
some time before the train was due to leave, and, although a
physical wreck, he seemed only too anxious to depart. He had all
the appearance of a broken-spirited man. He looked about him on
the platform, and even from the carriage, in the furtive way of a
criminal expecting apprehension at any moment.  The whistle of the
train had been a relief as great to him as to Laverick.

We'11 write you to New York, care of Barclays," Laverick called out.
"Good luck, Morrison!  Pull yourself tog-ether and make a fresh
start.

"Morrison's only reply was a somewhat feeble nod.  Laverick had not
attempted to shake hands.  He felt himself at the last moment,
stirred almost to anger by the perfunctory farewell which was all
this man had offered to the girl he had treated so inconsiderately.
His thoughts were engrossed upon himself and his own danger.  He
would not even have kissed her if she had not drawn his face down
to hers and whispered a reassuring little message.  Laverick turned
away. For some reason or other he felt himself shuddering.
Conversation during those last few moments had been increasingly
difficult.  The train was off at last, however, and they were alone.

The girl drew a long breath, which might very well have been one of
relief.  They turned silently toward the exit.

"Are you going back home?" Laverick asked.

"Yes," she answered listlessly.  "There is nothing else to do."

"Isn't it rather sad for you there by yourself?"

She nodded.

"It is the first time," she said.  "Another girl and her mother
have lived with me always.  They started off last week, touring.
They are paying a little toward the house or I should have to go
into rooms.  As it is, I think that it would be more comfortable."

Laverick looked at her wonderingly.

"You seem such a child," he said, "to be left all alone in the
world like this."

"But I am not a child actually, you see," she answered, with an
effort at lightness.  "Somehow, though, I do miss Arthur's going.
His father was always very good to me, and made him promise that
he would do what he could.  I didn't see much of him, but one felt
always that there was somebody.  It's different now.  It makes
one feel very lonely."

"I, too," Laverick said, with commendable mendacity, "am rather a
lonely person.  You must let me see something of you now and then."

She looked up at him quickly.  Her gaze was altogether disingenuous,
but her eyes - those wonderful eyes - spoke volumes.

"If you really mean it," she said, "I should be so glad."

"Supposing we start to-day," he suggested, smiling.  "I cannot ask
you to lunch, as I have a busy day before me, but we might have
dinner together quite early.  Then I would take you to the theatre
and meet you afterwards, if you liked."

"If I liked!" she whispered.  "Oh, how good you are."

"I am not at all sure about that.  Now I'll put you in this taxi
and send you home."

She laughed.

"You mustn't do anything so extravagant.  I can get a 'bus just
outside.  I never have taxicabs."

"Just this morning," he insisted, "and I think he won't trouble you
for his fare.  You must let me, please.  Remember that there's a
large account open still between your half-brother and me, so you
needn't mind these trifles.  Till this evening, then.  Shall I
fetch you or will you come to me?"

"Let me fetch you, if I may," she said.  "It isn't nice for you to
come down to where I live.  It's such a horrid part."

"Just as you like," he answered.  "I'd be very glad to fetch you
if you prefer it, but it would give me more time if you came.  Shall
we say seven o'clock?  I've written the address down on this card
so that you can make no mistake."

She laughed gayly.

"You know, all the time," she said, "I feel that you are treating
me as though I were a baby.  I'll be there punctually, and I don't
think I need tie the card around my neck."

The cab glided off.  Laverick caught a glimpse of a wan little face
with a faint smile quivering at the corner of her lips as she
leaned out for a moment to say good-bye.  Then he went back to his
rooms, breakfasted, and made his way to his office.

The morning papers had nothing new to report concerning the murder
in Crooked Friars' Alley.  Evidently what information the police
had obtained they were keeping for the inquest. Laverick, from the
moment when he entered the office, had little or no time to think
of the tragedy under whose shadow he had come.  The long-predicted
boom had arrived at last.  Without lunch, he and all his clerks
worked until after six o'clock.  Even then Laverick found it hard
to leave.  During the day, a dozen people or so had been in to ask
for Morrison.  To all of them he had given the same reply, - Morrison
had gone abroad on private business for the firm.  Very few were
deceived by Laverick's dry statement.  He was quite aware that he
was looked upon either as one of the luckiest men on earth, or as
a financier of consummate skill.  The failure of Laverick & Morrison
had been looked upon as a certainty.  How they had tided over that
twenty-four hours had been known to no one - to no one but Laverick
himself and the manager of his bank.

Just before four o'clock, the telephone rang at his elbow.

"Mr. Fenwick from the bank, sir, is wishing to speak to you for a
moment," his head-clerk announced.

Laverick took up the telephone.

"Yes," he said, "I am Laverick.  Good afternoon, Mr. Fenwick!
Absolutely impossible to spare any time to-day.  What is it?  The
account is all right, isn't it?"

"Quite right, Mr. Laverick," was the answer.  "At the same time,
if you could spare me a moment I should be glad to see you
concerning the deposit you made yesterday."

"I will come in to-morrow," Laverick promised.  "This afternoon it
is quite out of the question.  I have a crowd of people waiting to
see me, and several important engagements for which I am late
already."

The banker seemed scarcely satisfied.

"I may rely upon seeing you to-morrow?" he pressed.

"To-morrow," Laverick repeated, ringing off.

For a time this last message troubled him.  As soon as the day's
work was over, however, and he stepped into his cab, he dismissed
it entirely from his thoughts.  It was curious how, notwithstanding
this new seriousness which had come into his life, notwithstanding
that sensation of walking all the time on the brink of a precipice,
he set his face homeward and looked forward to his evening, with a
pleasure which he had not felt for many months.  The whirl of the
day faded easily from his mind.  He lived no more in an atmosphere
of wild excitement, of changing prices, of feverish anxiety.  How
empty his life must have unconsciously grown that he could find so
much pleasure in being kind to a pretty child!  It was hard to think
of her otherwise - impossible.  A strange heritage, this, to have
been left him by such a person as Arthur Morrison.  How in the world,
he wondered, did he happen to have such a connection.

She was a little shy when she arrived.  Laverick had left special
orders downstairs, and she was brought up into his sitting-room
immediately.  She was very quietly dressed except for her hat,
which was large and wavy.  He found it becoming, but he knew enough
to understand that her clothes were very simple and very inexpensive,
and he was conscious of being curiously glad of the fact.

"I am afraid," she said timidly, with a glance at his evening attire,
"that we must go somewhere very quiet.  You see, I have only one
evening gown and I couldn't wear that.  There wouldn't be time to
change afterwards.  Besides, one's clothes do get so knocked about
in the dressing-rooms."

"There are heaps of places we can go to," he assured her pleasantly.
"Of course you can't, dress for the evening when you have to go on
to work, but you must remember that there are a good many other
smart young ladies in the same position.  I had to change because I
have taken a stall to see your performance.  Tell me, how are you
feeling now?"

"Rather lonely," she admitted, making a pathetic little grimace.
"That is to say I have been feeling lonely," she added softly.  "I
don't now, of course.

"You are a queer little person," he said kindly, as they went down
in the lift.  "Haven't you any friends?"

She shrugged her shoulders.

"What sort of friends could I have?" she asked.  "The girls in the
chorus with me are very nice, some of them, but they know so many
people whom I don't, and they are always out to supper, or something
of the sort."

"And you?"

She shook her head.

"I went to one supper-party with the girl who is near me," she said.
"I liked it very much, but they didn't ask me again."

"I wonder why?" he remarked.

"Oh, I don't know!" she went on drearily.  "You see, I think the
men who take out girls who are in the chorus, generally expect to
be allowed to make love to them.  At any rate, they behaved like
that.  Such a horrid man tried to say nice things to me and I didn't
like it a bit.  So they left me alone afterwards.  The girl I lived
with and her mother are quite nice, and they have a few friends we
go to see sometimes on Sunday or holidays.  It's dull, though, very
dull, especially now they're away."

"What on earth made you think of going on the stage at all?" he
asked.

"What could one do?" she answered.  "My mother's money died with
her - she had only an annuity - and my stepfather, who had promised
to look after me, lost all his money and died quite suddenly.  Arthur
was in a stockbroker's office and he couldn't save anything.  My only
friend was my old music-master, and he had given up teaching and was
director of the orchestra at the Universal.  All he could do for me
was to get me a place in the chorus.  I have been there ever since.
They keep on promising me a little part but I never get it.  It's
always like that in theatres.  You have to be a favorite of the
manager's, for some reason or other, or you never get your chance
unless you are unusually lucky."

"I don't know much about theatres," he admitted.  "I am afraid I am
rather a stupid person.  When I can get away from work I go into
the country and play cricket or golf, or anything that's going.
When I am up in town, I am generally content with looking up a few
friends, or playing bridge at the club.  I never have been a
theatre-goer.

"I wonder," she asked, as they seated themselves at a small round
table in the restaurant which he had chosen, - "I wonder why every
now and then you look so serious."

"I didn't know that I did," he answered.  "We've had thundering
hard times lately in business, though.  I suppose that makes a man
look thoughtful."

"Poor Mr. Laverick," she murmured softly.  "Are things any better
now?"

"Much better."

"Then you have nothing really to bother you?" she persisted.

"I suppose we all have something," he replied, suddenly grave.
"Why do you ask that?"

She leaned across the table.  In the shaded light, her oval face
with its little halo of deep brown hair seemed to him as though
it might have belonged to some old miniature.  She was delightful,
like Watteau-work upon a piece of priceless porcelain - delightful
when the lights played in her eyes and the smile quivered at the
corner of her lips.  Just now, however, she became very much in
earnest.

"I will tell you why I ask that question," she said.  "I cannot
help worrying still about Arthur.  You know you admitted last
night that he had done something.  You saw how terribly frightened
he was this morning, and how he kept on looking around as though
he were afraid that he would see somebody whom he wished to avoid.
Oh!  I don't want to worry you," she went on, "but I feel so
terrified sometimes.  I feel that he must have done something - bad.
It was not an ordinary business trouble which took the life out of
him so completely."

"It was not," Laverick admitted at once.  "He has done something, I
believe, quite foolish; but the matter is in my hands to arrange,
and I think you can assure yourself that nothing will come of it."

"Did you tell him so this morning?" she asked eagerly.

"I did not," he answered.  "I told him nothing.  For many reasons
it was better to keep him ignorant.  He and I might not have seen
things the same way, and I am sure that what I am doing is for the
best. If I were you, Miss Leneveu, I think I wouldn't worry any
more.  Soon you will hear from your brother that he is safe in
New York, and I think I can promise you that the trouble will
never come to anything serious."

"Why have you been so kind to him?" she asked timidly.  "From what
he said, I do not think that he was very useful to you, and, indeed,
you and he are so different."

Laverick was silent for a moment.

"To be honest," he said, "I think that I should not have taken so
much trouble for his sake alone.  You see," he continued, smiling,
"you are rather a delightful young person, and you were very
anxious, weren't you?"

Her hand came across the table - an impulsive little gesture,
which he nevertheless found perfectly natural and delightful.  He
took it into his, and would have raised the fingers to his lips
but for the waiters who were hovering around.

"You are so kind," she said, "and I am so fortunate.  I think that
I wanted a friend."

"You poor child," he answered, "I should think you did.  You are
not drinking your wine."

She shook her head.

"Do you mind?" she asked.  "A very little gets into my head
because I take it so seldom, and the manager is cross if one makes
the least bit of a mistake.  Besides, I do not think that I like
to drink wine.  If one does not take it at all, there is an excuse
for never having anything when the girls ask you."

He nodded sympathetically.

"I believe you are quite right," he said; "in a general way, at any
rate.  Well, I will drink by myself to your brother's safe arrival
in New York.  Are you ready?"

She glanced at the clock.

"I must be there in a quarter of an hour," she told him.

"I will drive you to the theatre," he said, "and then go round and
fetch my ticket."

As he waited for her in the reception hall of the restaurant, he
took an evening paper from the stall.  A brief paragraph at once
attracted his attention.

     Murder in the City.  - We understand that very important
     information has come into the hands of the police.  An
     ARREST is expected to-night or to-morrow at the latest.

He crushed the paper in his hand and threw it on one side.  It was
the usual sort of thing.  There was nothing they could have found
out - nothing, he told himself.




CHAPTER XIX

MYSTERIOUS INQUIRIES


As soon as he had gone through his letters on the following morning,
Laverick, in response to a second and more urgent message, went
round to his bank.  Mr. Fenwick greeted him gravely.  He was feeling
keenly the responsibilities of his position.  Just how much to say
and how much to leave unsaid was a question which called for a full
measure of diplomacy.

"You understand, Mr. Laverick," he began, "that I wished to see you
with regard to the arrangement we came to the day before yesterday."

Laverick nodded.  It suited him to remain monosyllabic.

"Well?" he asked.

"The arrangement, of course, was most unusual," the manager continued.
"I agreed to it as you were an old customer and the matter was an
urgent one."

"I do not quite follow you," Laverick remarked, frowning.  "What is
it you wish me to do?  Withdraw my account?"

"Not in the least," the manager answered hastily.

"You know the position of our market, of course," Laverick went on.
"Three days ago I was in a situation which might have been called
desperate.  I could quite understand that you needed security to
go on making the necessary payments on my behalf.  To-day, things
are entirely different.  I am twenty thousand pounds better off,
and if necessary I could realize sufficient to pay off the whole of
my overdraft within half-an-hour.  That I do not do so is simply a
matter of policy and prices."

"I quite understand that, my dear Mr. Laverick," the bank manager
declared.  "The position is simply this.  We have had a most unusual
and a strictly private inquiry, of a nature which I cannot divulge
to you, asking whether any large sum in five hundred pound banknotes
has been passed through our account during the last few days."

"You have actually had this inquiry?" Laverick asked calmly.

"We have.  I can tell you no more.  The source of the inquiry was,
in a sense, amazing."

"May I ask what your reply was?"

"My reply was," Mr. Fenwick said slowly, "that no such notes had
passed through our account.  We asked them, however, without giving
any reasons, to repeat their question in a few days' time.  Our
reply was perfectly truthful.  Owing to your peculiar stipulations,
we are simply holding a certain packet for you in our security
chamber.  We know it to contain bank-notes, and there is very little
doubt but that it contains the notes which have been the subject of
this inquiry.  I want to ask you, Mr. Laverick, to be so good as to
open that packet, let me credit the notes to your account in the
usual way, and leave me free to reply as I ought to have done in
the first instance to this inquiry."

"The course which you suggest," replied the other, "is one which I
absolutely decline to take.  It is not for me to tell you the nature
of the relations which should exist between a banker and his client.
All that I can say is that those notes are deposited with you and
must remain on deposit, and that the transaction is one which must
be treated entirely as a confidential one.  If you decline to do
this, I must remove my account, in which case I shall, of course,
take the packet away with me.  To be plain with you, Mr. Fenwick,"
he wound up, "I do not intend to make use of those notes, I never
intended to do so.  I simply deposited them as security until the
turn in price of 'Unions' came.

"It is a very nice point, Mr. Laverick," the bank manager remarked.
"I should consider that you had already made use of them."

"Every one to his own conscience," Laverick answered calmly.

"You place me in a very embarrassing position, Mr. Laverick."

"I cannot admit that at all," Laverick replied.  "There is only one
inquiry which you could have had which could justify you in insisting
upon what you have suggested.  It emanated, I presume, from Scotland
Yard?"

"If it had," Mr. Fenwick answered, "no considerations of etiquette
would have intervened at all.  I should have felt it my duty to
have revealed at once the fact of your deposit.  At the same time,
the inquiry comes from an even more important source, - a source
which cannot be ignored."

Laverick thought for a moment.

"After all, the matter is a very simple one," he declared.  "By
four o'clock this afternoon my account shall be within its limits.
You will then automatically restore to me the packet which you hold
on my behalf, and the possession of which seems to embarrass you."

"If you do not mind," the banker answered, "I should be glad if you
would take it with you.  It means, I think, a matter of six or
seven thousand pounds added to your overdraft, but as a temporary
thing we will pass that."

"As you will," Laverick assented carelessly.  "The charge of those
documents is a trust with me as well as with yourself.  I have no
doubt that I can arrange for their being held in a secure place
elsewhere."

The usual formalities were gone through, and Laverick left the bank
with the brown leather pocket-book in his breast-coat pocket.
Arrived at his office, he locked it up at once in his private safe
and proceeded with the usual business of the day.  Even with an
added staff of clerks, the office was almost in an uproar.  Laverick
threw himself into the struggle with a whole-hearted desire to
escape from these unpleasant memories.  He succeeded perfectly.  It
was two hours before he was able to sit down even for a moment.  His
head-clerk, almost as exhausted, followed him into his room.

"I forgot to tell you, sir," he announced, "that there s a man
outside - Mr. Shepherd was his name, I believe - said he had a small
investment to make which you promised to look after personally.  He
would insist on seeing you - said he was a waiter at a restaurant
which you visited sometimes."

"That's all right," Laverick declared.  "You can show him in.  We'll
probably give him American rails."

"Can't we attend to it in the office for you, sir?" the clerk asked.
"I suppose it's only a matter of a few hundreds."

"Less than that, probably, but I promised the fellow I'd look after
it myself.  Send him in, Scropes."

There was a brief delay and then Mr. Shepherd was announced.
Laverick, who was sitting with his coat off, smoking a well-earned
cigarette, looked up and nodded to his visitor as the door was closed.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," he remarked.  "We're having a bit of a
rush."

The man laid down his hat and came up to Laverick's side.

"I guess that, sir," he said, "from the number of people we've had
in the 'Black Post' to-day, and the way they've all been shouting
and talking.  They don't seem to eat much these days, but there's
some of them can shift the drink."

"I've got some sound stocks looked out for you," Laverick remarked,
"two hundred and fifty pounds' worth.  If you'll just approve that
list as a matter of form," he added, pushing a piece of paper across,
"you can come in to-morrow and have the certificates.  I shall tell
them to debit the purchase money to my private account, so that if
any one asks you anything, you can say that you paid me for them."

"I'm sure I'm much obliged, sir," the man said.  "To tell you the
truth," he went on, "I've had a bit of a scare to-day."

Laverick looked up quickly.

"What do you mean?" he demanded.

"May I sit down, sir?  I'm a bit worn out.  I've been on the go
since half-past ten."

Laverick nodded and pointed to a chair.  Shepherd brought it up to
the side of the table and leaned forward.

"There's been two men in to-day," he said, "asking questions.  They
wanted to know how many customers I had there on Monday night, and
could I describe them.  Was there any one I recognized, and so on."

"What did you say?"

"I declared I couldn't remember any one.  To the best of my
recollection, I told them, there was no one served at all after ten
o'clock.  I wouldn't say for certain - it looked as though I might
have had a reason."

"And were they satisfied?"

"I don't think they were," Shepherd admitted.  "Not altogether,
that is to say."

"Did they mention any names?" asked Laverick - "Morrison's, for
instance?  Did they want to know whether he was a regular customer?"

"They didn't mention no names at all, sir," the man answered, "but
they did begin to ask questions about my regular clients.  Fortunate
like, the place was so crowded that I had every excuse for not
paying any too much attention to them.  It was all I could do to
keep on getting orders attended to."

"What sort of men were they?" Laverick asked.  "Do you think that
they came from the police?"

"I shouldn't have said so," Shepherd replied, "but one can't tell,
and these gentlemen from Scotland Yard do make themselves up so
sometimes on purpose to deceive.  I should have said that these two
were foreigners, the same kidney as the poor chap as was murdered.
I heard a word or two pass, and I sort of gathered that they'd a
shrewd idea as to that meeting in the 'Black Post' between the man
who was murdered and the little dark fellow."

Laverick nodded.

"Jim Shepherd," he declared, "you appear to me to be a very
sagacious person."

"I'm sure I'm much obliged, sir; I can tell you, though," he added,
"I don't half like these chaps coming round making inquiries.  My
nerves ain't quite what they were, and it gives me the jumps."

Laverick was thoughtful for a few moments.

"After all, there was no one else in the bar that night," he
remarked, - "no one who could contradict you?"

"Not a soul," Jim Shepherd agreed.

"Then don't you bother," Laverick continued.  "You see, you've been
wise.  You haven't given yourself away altogether.  You've simply
said that you don't recollect any one coming in.  Why should you
recollect?  At the end of a day's work you are not likely to notice
every stray customer.  Stick to it, and, if you take my advice,
don't go throwing any money about, and don't give your notice in
for another week or so.  Pave the way for it a bit.  Ask the governor
for a rise - say you're not making a living out of it."

"I'm on," Jim Shepherd remarked, nodding his head.  "I'm on to it,
sir.  I don't want to get into no trouble, I'm sure."

"You can't," Laverick answered dryly, "unless you chuck yourself in.
You're not obliged to remember anything.  No one can ever prove that
you remembered anything.  Keep your eyes open, and let me hear if
these fellows turn up again."

"I'm pretty certain they will, sir," the man declared.  "They sat
about waiting for me to be disengaged, but when my time off came, I
hopped out the back way.  They'll be there again to-night, sure
enough."

Laverick nodded.

"Well, you must let me know," he said, "what happens."

Jim Shepherd leaned across the corner of the table and dropped his
voice.

"It's an awful thing to think of, sir," he whispered, blinking
rapidly.  "I wouldn't be that young Mr. Morrison for all that great
pocketful of notes.  But my!  there was a sight of money there,
sir!  He'll be a rich man for all his days if nothing comes out."

"We won't talk any more about it," Laverick insisted.  "It isn't a
pleasant thing to think about or talk about.  We won't know anything,
Shepherd.  We shall be better off."

The man took his departure and the whirl of business recommenced.
Laverick turned his back upon the city only a few minutes before
eight and, tired out, he dined at a restaurant on his homeward way.
When at last he reached his sitting-room he threw himself on the
sofa and lit a cigar.  Once more the evening papers had no
particular news.  This time, however, one of them had a leading
article upon the English police system.  The fact that an undetected
murder should take place in a wealthy neighborhood, away from the
slums, a murder which must have been premeditated, was in itself
alarming.  Until the inquest had been held, it was better to make
little comment upon the facts of the case so far as they were known.
At the same time, the circumstance could not fail to incite a
considerable amount of alarm among those who had offices in the
vicinity of the tragedy.  It was rumored that some mysterious
inquiries were being circulated around London banks.  It was
possible that robbery, after all, had been the real motive of the
crime, but robbery on a scale as yet unimagined.  The whole interest
of the case now was centred upon the discovery of the man's identity.
As soon as this was solved, some very startling developments might
be expected.

Laverick threw the paper away.  He tried to rest upon the sofa, but
tried in vain.  He found himself continually glancing at the clock.

"To-night," he muttered to himself, - "no, I will not go to-night!
It is not fair to the child.  It is absurd.  Why, she would think
that I was - "

He stopped short.

"I'll change and go to the club," he decided.

He rose to his feet.  Just then there was a ring at his bell.  He
opened the door and found a messenger boy standing in the vestibule.

"Note, sir, for Mr. Stephen Laverick," the boy announced, opening
his wallet.

Laverick held out his hand.  The boy gave him a large square
envelope, and upon the back of it was "Universal Theatre."
Laverick tried to assure himself that he was not so ridiculously
pleased.  He stepped back into the room, tore open the envelope,
and read the few lines traced in rather faint but delicate
handwriting.

Are you coming to fetch me to-night?  Don't let me be a nuisance,
but do come if you have nothing to do.  I have something to tell
you.
                                                        ZOE.

Laverick gave the boy a shilling for himself and suddenly forgot
that he was tired.  He changed his clothes, whistling softly to
himself all the time.  At eleven o'clock, he was at the stage-door
of the Universal Theatre, waiting in a taxicab.




CHAPTER XX

LAVERICK IS CROSS-EXAMINED


One by one the young ladies of the chorus came out from the
stage-door of the Universal, in most cases to be assisted into a
waiting hansom or taxicab by an attendant cavalier.  Laverick stood
back in the shadows as much as possible, smiling now and then to
himself at this, to him, somewhat novel way of spending the evening.
Zoe was among the last to appear.  She came up to him with a
delightful little gesture of pleasure, and took his arm as a matter
of course as he led her across to the waiting cab.

"This sort of thing is making me feel absurdly young," he declared.
"Luigi's for supper, I suppose?"

"Supper!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands.  "Delightful!  Two
nights following, too!  I did love last night."

"We had better engage a table at Luigi's permanently," he remarked.

"If only you meant it!" she sighed.

He laughed at her, but he was thoughtful for a few minutes.
Afterwards, when they sat at a small round table in the somewhat
Bohemian restaurant which was the fashionable rendezvous of the
moment for ladies of the theatrical profession, he asked her a
question.

"Tell me what you meant in your note," he begged.  "You said that
you had some information for me.

"I'm afraid it wasn't anything very much," she admitted.  "I found
out to-day that some one had been inquiring at the stage-door about
me, and whether I was connected in any way with a Mr. Arthur
Morrison, the stockbroker."

"Do you know who it was?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"The man left no name at all.  I tried to get the doorkeeper to tell
me about him, but he's such a surly old fellow, and he's so used to
that sort of thing, that he pretended he didn't remember anything."

"It seems odd," he remarked thoughtfully, "that any one should have
found you out.  You were so seldom with Morrison.  I dare say," he
added, "it was just some one to whom your brother owes some small
sum of money."

"Very likely," she answered.  "But I was going to tell you.  He came
again to-night while the performance was on, and sent a note round.
I have brought it for you to see."

The note - it was really little more than a message - was written
on the back of a programme and enclosed in an envelope evidently
borrowed from the box-office.  It read as follows:

DEAR MISS LENEVEU,

I believe that Mr. Arthur Morrison is a connection of yours, and I
am venturing to introduce myself to you as a friend of his.  Could
you spare me half-an-hour of your company after the performance of
this evening?  If you could honor me so much, you might perhaps
allow me to give you some supper.
                                               Sincerely,
                                              PHILIP E. MILES.


Laverick felt an absurd pang of jealousy as he handed back the
programme.

"I should say," he declared, "that this was simply some young man
who was trying to scrape an acquaintance with you because he was
or had been a friend of Morrison's."

"In that case," answered Zoe, "he is very soon forgotten."

She tore the programme into two pieces, and Laverick was conscious
of a ridiculous feeling of pleasure at her indifference.

"If you hear anything more about him," he said, "you might let me
know.  You are a brave young lady to dismiss your admirers so
summarily."

"Perhaps I am quite satisfied with one," laughing softly.

Laverick told himself that at his age he was behaving like an idiot,
nevertheless his eyes across the table expressed his appreciation
of her speech.

"Tell me something about yourself, Mr. Laverick," she begged.

"For instance?"

"First of all, then, how old are you?"

He made a grimace.

"Thirty-eight - thirty-nine my next birthday.  Doesn't that seem
grandfatherly to you?"

"You must not be absurd!" she exclaimed.  "It is not even
middle-aged.  Now tell me - how do you spend your time generally?
Do you really mean that you go and play cards at your club most
evenings?"

"I have a good many friends, and I dine out quite a great deal."

"You have no sisters?"

"I have no relatives at all in London," he explained.

"It is to be a real cross-examination," she warned him.

"I am quite content," he answered.  "Go ahead, but remember, though,
that I am a very dull person."

"You look so young for your years," she declared.  "I wonder, have
you ever been in love?"

He laughed heartily.

"About a dozen times, I suppose.  Why?  Do I seem to you like a
misanthrope?"

"I don't know," she admitted, hesitatingly.  "You don't seem to me
as though you cared to make friends very easily.  I just felt I
wanted to ask you.  Have you ever been engaged?"

"Never," he assured her.

"And when was the last time," she asked, "that you felt you cared a
little for any one?"

"It dates from the day before yesterday," he declared, filling her
glass.

She laughed at him.

"Of course, it is nonsense to talk to you like this!" she said.
"You are quite right to make fun of me."

"On the contrary," he insisted.  "I am very much in earnest."

"Very well, then," she answered, "if you are in earnest you shall
be in love with me.  You shall take me about, give me supper every
night, send me some sweets and cigarettes to the theatre - oh, and
there are heaps of things you ought to do if you really mean it!"
she wound up.

"If those things mean being fond of you," he answered, "I'll prove
it with pleasure.  Sweets, cigarettes, suppers, taxicabs at the
stage-door."

"It all sounds very terrible," she sighed.  "It's a horrid little
life."

"Yet I suppose you enjoy it?" he remarked tentatively.

"I hate it, but I must do something.  I could not live on charity.
If I knew any other way I could make money, I would rather, but
there is no other way.  I tried once to give music lessons.  I had
a few pupils, but they never paid - they never do pay.

"I wish I could think of something," Laverick said thoughtfully.
"Of course, it is occupation you want.  So far as regards the
monetary part of it, I still owe your brother a great deal - "

She shook her head, interrupting him with a quick little gesture.

"No, no!" she declared.  "I have never complained about Arthur.
Sometimes he made me suffer, because I know that he was ashamed of
having a relative in the chorus, but I am quite sure that I do not
wish to take any of his money - or of anybody else's," she added.
"I want always to earn my own living."

"For such a child," he remarked, smiling, "you are wonderfully
independent."

"Why not?" she answered softly.  "It is years since I had any one
to do very much for me.  Necessity teaches us a good many things.
Oh, I was helpless enough when it began!" she added, with a little
sigh.  "I got over it.  We all do.  Tell me - who is that woman,
and why does she stare so at you?"

Laverick looked across the room.  Louise and Bellamy were sitting
at the opposite table.  The former was strikingly handsome and very
wonderfully dressed.  Her closely-clinging gown, cut slightly open
in front, displayed her marvelous figure.  She wore long pearl
earrings, and a hat with white feathers which drooped over her fair
hair.  Laverick recognized her at once.

"It is Mademoiselle Idiale," he said, "the most wonderful soprano
in the world."

"Why does she look so at you?" Zoe asked.

Laverick shook his head.

"I do not know her," he said.  "I know who she is, of course, - every
one does.  She is a Servian, and they say that she is devoted to her
country.  She left Vienna at a moment's notice, only a few days ago,
and they say that it was because she had sworn never to sing again
before the enemies of her country.  She had been engaged a long time
to appear at Covent Garden, but no one believed that she would really
come.  She breaks her engagements just when she chooses.  In fact,
she is a very wonderful person altogether."

"I never saw such pearls in my life," Zoe whispered.  "And how
lovely she is!  I do not understand, though, why she is so
interested in you."

"She mistakes me for some one, perhaps."

It certainly seemed probable.  Even at that moment she touched
her escort upon the arm, and he distinctly looked across at
Laverick.  It was obvious that he was the subject of her
conversation.

"I know the man," Laverick said.  "He was at Harrow with me, and I
have played cricket with him since.  But I have certainly never met
Mademoiselle Idiale.  One does not forget that sort of person.

"Her figure is magnificent," Zoe murmured wistfully.  "Do you like
tall women very much, Mr. Laverick?"

"I adore them," he answered, smiling, "but I prefer small ones."

"We are very foolish people, you and I," she laughed.  "We came
together so strangely and yet we talk such frivolous nonsense.


"You are making me young again," he declared.

"Oh, you are quite young enough!" she assured him.  "To tell you
the truth, I am jealous.  Mademoiselle Idiale looks at you all the
time.  Look at her now.  Is she not beautiful?"

There was no doubt about her beauty, but those who were criticising
her - and she was by far the most interesting person in the room -
thought her a little sad.  Though Bellamy was doing his utmost to
be entertaining, her eyes seemed to travel every now and then over
his head and out of the room.  Wherever her thoughts were, one could
be very sure that they were not fixed upon the subject under
discussion.

"She is like that when she sings," Laverick remarked.  "She has none
of the vivacity of the Frenchwomen.  Yet there was never anything
so graceful in the world as the way she moves about the stage."

"If I were a man," Zoe sighed, "that is the sort of woman I would
die for."

"If you were a man," he replied, "you would probably find some one
whom you preferred to live for.  Do you know, you are rather a
morbid sort of person, Miss Zoe?"

"Ah, I like that!" she declared.  "I will not be called Miss Leneveu
any more by you.  You must call me Miss Zoe, please, - Zoe, if you
like."

"Zoe, by all means.  Under the circumstances, I think it is only
fitting."

His eyes wandered across the room again.

"Ah!" she cried softly, "you, too, are coming under the spell, then.
I was reading about her only the other day.  They say that so many
men fall in love with her - so many men to whom she gives no
encouragement at all."

Laverick looked into his companion's face.

"Come," he said, "my heart is not so easily won.  I can assure you
that I never aspire to so mighty a personage as a Covent Garden star.
Don't you know that she gets a salary of five hundred pounds a week,
and wears ropes of pearls which would represent ten times my entire
income?  Heaven alone knows what her gowns cost!"

"After all, though," murmured Zoe, "she is a woman.  See, your
friend is coming to speak to you."

Bellamy was indeed crossing the room.  He nodded to Laverick and
bowed to his companion.

"Forgive my intruding, Laverick," he said.  "You do remember me, I
hope?  Bellamy, you know."

"I remember you quite well.  We used to play together at Lord's,
even after we left school."

Bellamy smiled.

"That is so," he answered.  "I see by the papers that you have kept
up your cricket.  Mine, alas! has had to go.  I have been too much
of a rolling stone lately.  Do you know that I have come to ask you
a favor?"

"Go ahead," Laverick interposed.

"Mademoiselle Idiale has a fancy to meet you," Bellamy explained.
"You know, or I dare say you have heard, what a creature of whims
she is.  If you won't come across and be introduced like a good
fellow, she probably won't speak a word all through supper-time,
go off in a huff, and my evening will be spoiled."

Laverick laughed heartily.  A little smile played at the corner of
Zoe's lips - nevertheless, she was looking slightly anxious.

"Under those circumstances," remarked Laverick, "perhaps I had
better go.  You will understand," he added, with a glance at Zoe,
"that I cannot stay for more than a second."

"Naturally," Bellamy answered.  "If Mademoiselle really has anything
to say to you, I will, if I am permitted, return for a moment."

Laverick introduced him to Zoe.

"I am sure I have seen you at the Universal," he declared.  "You're
in the front row, aren't you?  I have seen you in that clever little
step-dance and song in the second act."

She nodded, evidently pleased.

"Does it seem clever to you?" she asked wistfully.  "You see, we
are all so tired of it."

"I think it is ripping," Bellamy declared.  "I shall have the
pleasure again directly," he added, with a bow.

The two men crossed the room.

"What the dickens does Mademoiselle Idiale want with me?" Laverick
demanded.  "Does she know that I am a poor stockbroker, struggling
against hard times?"

Bellamy shrugged his shoulders.

"She isn't the sort to care who or what you are," he answered.  "And
as for the rest, I suppose she could buy any of us up if she wanted
to.  Her interest in you is rather a curious one.  No time to explain
it now.  She'll tell you."

Louise smiled as he paused before her.  She was certainly exquisitely
beautiful.  Her dress, her carriage, her delicate hands, even her
voice, were all perfection.  She gave him the tips of her fingers as
Bellamy pronounced his name.

"It is so kind of you," she said, "to come and speak to me.  And
indeed you will laugh when I tell you why I thought that I would
like to say one word with you."

Laverick bowed.

"I am thankful, Mademoiselle," he replied, "for anything which
procures me such a pleasure."

She smiled.

"Ah! you, too, are gallant," she said.  "But indeed, then, I fear
you will not be flattered when I tell you why I was so interested.
I read all your newspapers.  I read of that terrible murder in
Crooked Friars' Alley only a few days ago, - is not that how you
call the place?"

Laverick was suddenly grave.  What was this that was coming?

"One of the reports," she continued, "says that the man was a
foreigner.  The maker's name upon his clothes was Austrian.  I,
too, come from that part of Europe - if not from Austria, from a
country very near - and I am always interested in my country-people.
A few moments ago I asked my friend Mr. Bellamy, 'Where is this
Crooked Friars' Alley?'  Just then he bowed to you, and he answered
me, 'It is in the city.  It is within a yard or two of the offices
of the gentleman to whom I just have said good-evening.'  So I
looked across at you and I thought that it was strange."

Laverick scarcely knew what to say.

"It was a terrible affair," he admitted, "and, as Mr. Bellamy has
told you, it occurred within a few steps of my office.  So far, too,
the police seem completely at a loss."

"Ah!" she went on, shaking her head, "your police, I am afraid they
are not very clever.  It is too bad, but I am afraid that it is so.
Tell me, Mr. Laverick, is this, then, a very lonely spot where your
offices are?"

"Not at all," Laverick replied.  "On the contrary, in the daytime
it might be called the heart of the city - of the money-making part
of the city, at any rate.  Only this thing, you see, seems to have
taken place very late at night."

"When all the offices were closed," she remarked.

"Most of them," Laverick answered.  "Mine, as it happened, was open
late that night.  I passed the spot within half-an-hour or so of
the time when the murder must have been committed."

"But that is terrible!" she declared, shaking her head.  "Tell me,
Mr. Laverick, if I drive to your office some morning you will show
me this place, - yes?"

"If you are in earnest, Mademoiselle, I will certainly do so, but
there is nothing there.  It is just a passage."

"You give me your address," she insisted, "and I think that I will
come.  You are a stockbroker, Mr. Bellamy tells me.  Well, sometimes
I have a good deal of money to invest. I come to you and you will
give me your advice.  So!  You have a card!"

Laverick found one and scribbled his city address upon it.  She
thanked him and once more held out the tips of her fingers.

"So I shall see you again some day, Mr. Laverick."

He bowed and recrossed the room.  Bellamy was standing talking to
Zoe.

"Well," he asked,.  as Laverick returned, "are you, too, going to
throw yourself beneath the car?"

Laverick shook his head.

"I do not think so," he answered.  "Our acquaintance promises to be
a business one.  Mademoiselle spoke of investing some money though
me."

Bellamy laughed.

"Then you have kept your heart," he remarked.  "Ah, well, you have
every reason!"

He bowed to Zoe, nodded to Laverick, and returned to his place.
Laverick looked after him a little compassionately.

"Poor fellow," he said.

"Who is he?"

"He has some sort of a Government appointment," Laverick answered.
"They say he is hopelessly in love with Mademoiselle Idiale."

"Why not?" Zoe exclaimed.  "He is nice.  She must care for some
one.  Why do you pity him?"

"They say, too, that she has no more heart than a stone," Laverick
continued, "and that never a man has had even a kind word from her.
She is very patriotic, and all the thoughts and love she has to
spare from herself are given to her country."

Zoe shuddered.

"Ah!" she murmured, "I do not like to think of heartless women.
Perhaps she is not so cruel, after all.  To me she seems only very,
very sad.  Tell me, Mr. Laverick, why did she send for you?"

"I imagine," said he, "that it was a whim.  It must have been a
whim."




CHAPTER XXI

MADEMOISELLE IDIALE'S VISIT


Laverick, on the following morning, found many things to think
about.  He was accustomed to lunch always at the same restaurant,
within a few yards of his office, and with the same little company
of friends.  Just as he was leaving, an outside broker whom he
knew slightly came across the room to him.

"Tell me, Laverick," he asked, "what's become of your partner?"

"He has gone abroad for a few weeks.  As a matter of fact, we shall
be announcing a change in the firm shortly."

"Queer thing," the broker remarked.  "I was in Liverpool yesterday,
and I could have sworn that I saw him hanging around the docks.  I
should never have doubted it, but Morrison was always so careful
about his appearance, and this fellow was such a seedy-looking
individual.  I called out to him and he vanished like a streak."

"It could scarcely have been Morrison," Laverick said.  "He sailed
several days ago for New York."

"That settles it," the man declared, passing on.  "All the same,
it was the most extraordinary likeness I ever saw."

Laverick, on his way back, went into a cable office and wrote out
a marconigram to the Lusitania,

      Have you passenger Arthur Morrison on board?  Reply.

He signed his name and paid for an answer.  Then he went back to
his office.

"Any one to see me?" he inquired.

"Mr. Shepherd is here waiting," his clerk told him, - "queer
looking fellow who paid you two hundred and fifty pounds in cash
for some railway stock."

Laverick nodded.

"I'll see him," he said.  "Anything else?"

"A lady rang up - name sounded like a French one, but we could none
of us catch what it was - to say that she was coming down to see you."

"If it is Mademoiselle Idiale," Laverick directed, "I must see her
directly she arrives.  How are you, Shepherd?" he added, nodding to
the waiter as he passed towards his room.  "Come in, will you?
You've got your certificates all right?"

Mr. James Shepherd had the air of a man with whom prosperity had not
wholly agreed.  He was paler and pastier-looking than ever, and his
little green eyes seemed even more restless.  His attire - a long
rough overcoat over the livery of his profession - scarcely enhanced
the dignity of his appearance.

"Well, what is it?" Laverick asked, as soon as the door was closed.

"Our bar is being watched," the man declared.  "I don't think it's
anything to do with the police.  Seems to be a sort of foreign gang.
They're all round the place, morning, noon, and night.  They've
pumped everybody."

"There isn't very much," Laverick remarked slowly, "for them to find
out except from you."

"They've found out something, anyway," Shepherd continued.  "My
junior waiter, unfortunately, who was asleep in the sitting-room,
told them he was sure there were customers in the place between ten
and twelve on Monday night, because they woke him up twice, talking.
They're beginning to look at me a bit doubtful."

"I shouldn't worry," Laverick advised.  "The inquest's on now and
you haven't been called.  I don't fancy you're running any sort of
risk.  Any one may say they believe there were people in the, bar
between those hours, but there isn't any one who can contradict you
outright.  Besides, you haven't sworn to anything.  You've simply
said, as might be very possible, that you don't remember any one."

"It makes me a bit nervous, though," Shepherd remarked apologetically.
"They're a regular keen-looking tribe, I can tell you.  Their eyes
seem to follow you all over the place."

"I shall come in for a drink presently myself," Laverick declared.
"I should like to see them.  I might get an idea as to their
nationality, at any rate."

"Very good, sir.  I'm sure I'm doing just as you suggested.  I've
said nothing about leaving, but I'm beginning to grumble a bit at
the work, so as to pave the way.  It's a hard job, and no mistake.
I had thirty-nine chops between one and half-past, single-handed,
too, with only a boy to carry the bread and that, and no one to
serve the drinks unless they go to the counter for them.  It's
more than one man's work, Mr. Laverick."

Laverick assented.

"So much the better," he declared.  "All the more excuse for your
leaving.

"You '11 be round sometime to-day, sir, then?" the man asked, taking
up his hat.

"I shall look in for a few moments, for certain," Laverick answered.
"If you get a chance you must point out to me one of those fellows."

Jim Shepherd departed.  There was a shouting of newspaper boys in
the street outside.  Laverick sent out for a paper.  The account of
the inquest was brief enough, and there were no witnesses called
except the men who had found the dead body.  The nature of the
wounds was explained to the jury, also the impossibility of their
having been self-inflicted.  In the absence of any police evidence
or any identification, the discussion as to the manner of the death
was naturally limited.  The jury contented themselves by bringing
in a verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons
unknown." Laverick laid down the paper.  The completion of the
inquest was at least the first definite step toward safety.  The
question now before him was what to do with that twenty thousand
pounds.  He sat at his desk, looking into vacancy.  After all, had
he paid too great a price?  The millstone was gone from around his
neck, something new and incomprehensible had crept into his life.
Yet for a background there was always this secret knowledge.

A clerk announcing Mademoiselle Idiale broke in upon his reflections.
Laverick rose from his seat to greet his visitor.  She was
wonderfully dressed, as usual, yet with the utmost simplicity, - a
white serge gown with a large black hat, but a gown that seemed to
have been moulded on to her slim, faultless figure.  She brought with
her a musical rustle, a slight suggestion of subtle perfumes - a
perfume so thin and ethereal that it was unrecognizable except in its
faint suggestion of hothouse flowers.  She held out her hand to
Laverick, who placed for her at once an easy-chair.

"This is indeed an honor, Mademoiselle."

She inclined her head graciously.

"You are very kind," said she.  "I know that here in the city you
are very busy making money all the time, so I must not stay long.
Will you buy me some stocks, - some good safe stocks, which will
bring me in at least four per cent?"

"I can promise to do that," Laverick answered.  "Have you any
choice?"

"No, I have no choice," Louise told him.  "I bring with me a cheque,
 - see, I give it to you, - it is for six thousand pounds.  I would
like to buy some stocks with this, and to know the names so that I
may watch them in the paper.  I like to see whether they go up or
down, but I do not wish to risk their going down too much.  It is
something like gambling but it is no trouble."

"Your money shall be spent in a few minutes, Mademoiselle," Laverick
assured her, "and I think I can promise you that for a week or two,
at any rate, your stocks will go up.  With regard to selling - "

"I leave everything to you," she interrupted, "only let me know what
you propose."

"We will do our best," Laverick promised.

"It is good," she said.  "Money is a wonderful thing.  Without it
one can do little.  You have not forgotten, Mr. Laverick, that you
were going to show me this passage?"

"Certainly not.  Come with me now, if you will.  It is only a yard
or two away."

He took her out into the street.  Every clerk in the office forgot
his manners and craned his neck.  Outside, Mademoiselle let fall
her veil and passed unrecognized.  Laverick showed her the entry.

"It was just there," he explained, "about half a dozen yards up on
the left, that the body was found."

She looked at the place steadily.  Then she looked along the
passage.

"Where does it lead to - that?" she asked.

"Come and I will show you.  On the left" - as they passed along the
flagged pavement - "is St. Nicholas Church and churchyard.  On the
right here there are just offices.  The street in front of us is
Henschell Street.  All of those buildings are stockbrokers' offices."

"And directly opposite," she asked, - "that is a caf‚, is it not,
 - a restaurant, as you would call it?"

Laverick nodded.

"That is so," he agreed.  "One goes in there sometimes for a drink."

"And a meeting place, perhaps?" she inquired.  "It would probably
be a meeting place.  One might leave there and walk down this
passage naturally enough."

Laverick inclined his head.

"As a matter of fact," he declared, "I think that the evidence went
to prove that there were no visitors in the restaurant that night.
You see, all these offices round here close at six or seven o'clock,
and the whole neighborhood becomes deserted."

She shrugged her shoulders impatiently.

"Your English police, they do not know how to collect evidence.  In
the hands of Frenchmen, this mystery would have been solved long
before now.  The guilty person would be in the hands of the law.
As it is, I suppose that he will go free."

"Well, we must give the police a chance, at any rate," answered
Laverick.  "They haven't had much time so far."

"No," she admitted, "they have not had much time. I wonder - "  She
hesitated for a moment and did not conclude her sentence.  "Come,"
she exclaimed, with a little shiver, "let us go back to your office!
This place is not cheerful.  All the time I think of that poor man.
It does make me frightened."

Laverick escorted his visitor back to the electric brougham which
was waiting before his door.

"A list of stocks purchased on your behalf will reach you by
to-night's post," he promised her.  "We shall do our best in your
interests."

He held out his hand, but she seemed in no hurry to let him go.

"You are very kind, Mr. Laverick.  I would like to see you again
very soon.  You have heard me sing in Samson and Delilah?"

"Not yet, but I am hoping to very shortly."

"To-night," she declared, "you must come to the Opera House.  I
leave a box for you at the door.  Send me round a note that you
are there, and it is possible that I may see you.  It is against
the rules, but for me there are no rules."

Laverick hesitating, she leaned forward and looked into his face.

"You are doing something else?" she protested.  "You were, perhaps,
thinking of taking out again the little girl with whom you were
sitting last night?"

"I had half promised - "

"No, no!" she exclaimed, holding his hand tighter.  "She is not for
you - that child.  She is too young.  She knows nothing.  Better to
leave her alone.  She is not for a man of the world like you.  Soon
she would cease to amuse you.  You would be dull and she would still
care.  Oh, there is so much tragedy in these things, Mr. Laverick
- so much tragedy for the woman!  It is she always who suffers.  You
will take my advice.  You will leave that little girl alone."

Laverick smiled.

"I am afraid," said he, "that I cannot promise that so quickly.  You
see, I have not known her long, but she has very few friends and I
think that she would miss me.  Perhaps," he added, after a second's
pause, "I care for her too much."

"It is not for you," she answered scornfully, "to care too much.
An Englishman, he cares never enough.  A woman to him is something
amusing, - his companion for a little of his spare time, something
to be pleased about, to show off to his friends, - to share, even,
the passion of the moment.  But an Englishman he does not care too
much.  He never cares enough.  He does not know what it is to care
enough."

"Mademoiselle, there may be truth in what you say, and again there
may not.  We have the name, I know, of being cold lovers, but at
least we are faithful."

She held up her hand with a little grimace.

"Oh, how I do hate that word!" she exclaimed.  "Who is there, indeed,
who wishes that you would be faithful?  How much we poor women do
suffer from that!  Why can you never understand that a woman would
be cared for very, very much, with all the strength and all the
passion you can conceive, but let it not last for too long.  It gets
weary.  It gets stale.  It is as you say, - the Englishman he cares
very little, perhaps, but he cares always; and the woman, if she be
an artiste and a woman, she tires.  But good afternoon, Mr. Laverick!
I must not keep you here on the pavement talking of these frivolous
matters.  You come to-night?"

"You are very kind," Laverick said.  "If I may come until eleven
o'clock, it would give me the greatest pleasure."

"As you will," she declared.  "We shall see.  I expect you, then.
You ask for your box."

"If you wish it, certainly."

She smiled and waved her hand.

"You will tell him, please," she directed, "to drive to Bond Street."

Laverick re-entered his office, pausing for a minute to give his
clerk instructions for the purchase of stocks for Mademoiselle
Idiale.  He had scarcely reached his own room when he was told that
Mr. James Shepherd wished to speak to him for a moment upon the
telephone.  He took up the receiver.

"Who is it?" he asked.

"It is Shepherd," was the answer.  "Is that Mr. Laverick?"

"Yes!"

"You were outside the restaurant here a few minutes ago," Shepherd
continued.  "You had with you a lady - a young, tall lady with a
veil."

"That's right," Laverick admitted.  "What about her?"

"One of the two men who watch always here was reading the paper in
the window," Shepherd went on hoarsely.  "He saw her with you and
I heard him mutter something as though he had received a shock.  He
dropped his glass and his paper.  He watched you every second of
the time you were there until you had disappeared.  Then he, too,
put on his hat and went out."

"Anything else?"

"Nothing else," was the reply.  "I thought you might like to know
this, sir.  The man recognized the lady right enough."

"It seems queer," Laverick admitted.  "Thank you for ringing me up,
Shepherd.  Good morning!"

Laverick leaned back in his chair.  There was no doubt whatever now
in his mind but that Mademoiselle Idiale, for some reason or other,
was interested in this crime.  Her wish to see the place, her
introduction to him last night and her purchase of stocks, were all
part of a scheme.  He was suddenly and absolutely convinced of it.
As friend or foe, she was very certainly about to take her place
amongst the few people over whom this tragedy loomed.




CHAPTER XXII

ACTIVITY OF AUSTRIAN SPIES


Louise left her brougham in Piccadilly and walked across the Green
Park.  Bellamy, who was waiting, rose up from a seat, hat in hand.
She took his arm in foreign fashion.  They walked together towards
Buckingham Palace - a strangely distinguished-looking couple.

"My dear David," she said, "the man perplexes me.  To look at him,
to hear him speak, one would swear that he was honest.  He has just
those clear blue eyes and the stolid face, half stupid and half
splendid, of your athletic Englishman.  One would imagine him doing
a foolishly honorable thing, but he is not my conception of a
criminal at all."

Bellamy kicked a pebble from the path.  His forehead wore a perplexed
frown.

"He didn't give himself away, then?"

"Not in the least."

"He took you out and showed you the spot where it happened?"

"Without an instant's hesitation."

"As a matter of curiosity," asked Bellamy, "did he try to make
love to you?"

She shook her head.

"I even gave him an opening," she said.  "Of flirtation he has no
more idea than the average stupid Englishman one meets."

Bellamy was silent for several moments.

"I can't believe," he said, "that there is the least doubt but that
he has the money and the portfolio.  I have made one or two other
inquiries, and I find that his firm was in very low water indeed
only a week ago.  They were spoken of, in fact, as being hopelessly
insolvent.  No one can imagine how they tided over the crisis."

"The man who was watching for you?" she inquired.

"He makes no mistakes," Bellamy assured her.  "He saw Laverick enter
that passage and come out.  Afterwards he went back to his office,
although he had closed up there and had been on his homeward way.
The thing could not have been accidental."

"Why do you not go to him openly?" she suggested.  "He is, after
all, an Englishman, and when you tell him what you know he will be
very much in your power.  Tell him of the value of that document.
Tell him that you must have it."

"It could be done," Bellamy admitted.  "I think that one of us must
talk plainly to him.  Listen, Louise, - are you seeing him again?"

"I have invited him to come to the Opera House to-night."

"See what you can do," he begged.  "I would rather keep away from
him myself, if I can.  Have you heard anything of Streuss?"

She shrugged her shoulders.

"Nothing directly," she replied, "but my rooms have been searched
 - even my dressing-room at the Opera House.  That man's spies are
simply wonderful.  He seems able to plant them everywhere.  And,
David! - "

"Yes, dear?"

"He has got hold of Lassen," she continued.  "I am perfectly
certain of it."

Then the sooner you get rid of Lassen, the better," Bellamy
declared.

"It is so difficult," she murmured, in a perplexed tone.  "The man
has all my affairs in his hands.  Up till now, although he is
uncomely, and a brute in many ways, he has served me well."

"If he is Streuss's creature he must go," Bellamy insisted.

She nodded.

"Let us sit down for a few minutes," she said.  "I am tired."

She sank on to a seat and Bellamy sat by her side.  In full view
of them was Buckingham Palace with its flag flying.  She looked
thoughtfully at it and across to Westminster.

"Do they know, I wonder, your country-people?" she asked.

"Half-a-dozen of them, perhaps," he answered gloomily, no more.

"To-day," she declared, "I seem to have lost confidence.  I seem to
feel the sense of impending calamity, to hear the guns as I walk,
to see the terror fall upon the faces of all these great crowds who
throng your streets.  They are a stolid, unbelieving people - these.
The blow, when it comes, will be the harder."

Bellamy sighed.

"You are right," he said.  "When one comes to think of it, it is
amazing.  How long the prophets of woe have preached, and how
completely their teachings have been ignored!  The invasion bogey
has been so long among us that it has become nothing but a jest.
Even I, in a way, am one of the unbelievers."

"You are not serious, David!" she exclaimed.

"I am," he affirmed.  "I think that if we could read that document
we should see that there is no plan there for the immediate invasion
of England.  I think you would find that the blow would be struck
simultaneously at our Colonies.  We should either have to submit or
send a considerable fleet away from home waters.  Then, I presume,
the question of invasion would come again.  All the time, of course,
the gage would be flung down, treaties would be defied, we should be
scorned as though we were a nation of weaklings.  Austria would
gather in what she wanted, and there would be no one to interfere."

Louise was very pale but her eyes were flashing fire.

"It is the most terrible thing which has happened in history," she
said, "this decadence of your country.  Once England held the scales
of justice for the world.  Now she is no longer strong enough, and
there is none to take her place.  David, even if you know what that
document contains, even then will it help very much?"

"Very much indeed.  Don't you see that there is one hope left to
us - one hope - and that is Russia?  The Czar must be made to
withdraw from that compact.  We want to know his share in it.  When
we know that, there will be a secret mission sent to Russia.  Germany
and Austria are strong, but they are not all the world.  With Russia
behind and France and England westward, the struggle is at least an
equal one.  They have to face both directions, they have to face two
great armies working from the east and from the west."

She nodded, and they sat there in silence for several moments.
Bellamy was thinking deeply.

"You say, Louise," he asked, looking up quickly, "that your rooms
have been searched.  When was this?"

"Only last night," she replied.

Bellamy drew a little sigh of relief.

"At any rate," he said, "Streuss has no idea that the document is
not in our possession.  He knows nothing about Laverick.  How are
we going to deal with him, Louise, when he comes for his answer?"

"You have a plan?" she asked.

"There is only one thing to be done," Bellamy declared.  "I shall
say that we have already handed over the document to the English
Government.  It will be a bluff, pure and simple.  He may believe
it or he may not."

"You will break your compact then," she reminded him.

"I shall call myself justified," he continued.  "He has attempted
to rob us of the document.  You are sure of what you say - that your
rooms and dressing-room have been searched?"

"Absolutely certain," she declared.

"That will be sufficient," Bellamy decided.  "If Streuss comes to
me, I shall meet him frankly.  I shall tell him that he has tried
to play the burglar and that it must be war.  I shall tell him that
the compact is in the hands of the Prime Minister, and that he and
his spies had better clear out."

She looked at him questioningly.

"Of course, you understand," he added, "there is one thing we can
do, and one thing only.  We must send a mission to Russia and another
to France, and before the German fleet can pass down the North Sea
we must declare war.  It is the only thing left to us - a bold front.
Without that packet we have no casus belli.  With it, we can strike,
and strike hard.  I still believe that if we declare war within seven
days, we shall save ourselves."

Streuss and Kahn looked, too, across the panorama of London, across
the dingy Adelphi Gardens, the turbid Thames, the smoke-hung world
beyond.  They were together in Streuss's sitting-room on the seventh
floor of one of the great Strand hotels.

"Our enterprise is a failure!" Kahn exclaimed gloomily.  "We cannot
doubt it any longer.  I think, Streuss, that the best course you
and I could adopt would be to realize it and to get back.  We do no
good here.  We only run needless risks."

The face of the other man was dark with anger.  His tone, when he
spoke, shook with passion.

"You don't know what you say, Kahn!" he cried hoarsely.  "I tell you
that we must succeed.  If that document reaches the hands of any one
in authority here, it would be the worst disaster which has fallen
upon our country since you or I were born.  You don't understand,
Kahn!  You keep your eyes closed!"

"What men can do we have done," the other answered.  "Von Behrling
played us false.  He has died a traitor's death, but it is very
certain that he parted with his document before he received that
twenty thousand pounds."

"Once and for all, I do not believe it!" Streuss declared.  "At
mid-day, I can swear to it that the contents of that envelope were
unknown to the Ministers of the King here.  Now if Von Behrling
had parted with that document last Monday night, don't you suppose
that everything would be known by now?  He did not part with it.
Bellamy and Mademoiselle lie when they say that they possess it.
That document remains in the possession of Von Behrling's murderer,
and it is for us to find him."

Kahn sighed.

"It is outside our sphere - that.  What can we do against the police
of this country working in their own land?"

Streuss struck the table before which they were standing.  The veins
in his temples were like whipcord.

"Adolf," he muttered, "you talk like a fool!  Can't you see what it
means?  If that document reaches its destination, what do you suppose
will happen?"

"They will know our plans, of course," Kahn answered.  "They will
have time to make preparation."

Streuss laughed bitterly.

"Worse than that!" he exclaimed.  "They are not all fools, these
English statesmen, though one would think so to read their speeches.
Can't you see what the result would be if that document reaches
Downing Street?  War at a moment's notice, war six months too soon!
Don't you know that every shipbuilding yard in Germany is working
night and day?  Don't you know that every nerve is being strained,
that the muscles of the country are hammering the rivets into our
new battleships?  There is but one chance for this country, and if
her statesmen read that document they will know what it is.  It is
open to them to destroy the German navy utterly, to render themselves
secure against attack."

"They would never have the courage," Kahn declared.  "They might
make a show of defending themselves if they were attacked, but to
take the initiative - no!  I do not believe it."

"There is one man who has wit enough to do it," Streuss said.  "He
may not be in the Cabinet, but he commands it.  Kahn, wake up, man!
You and I together have never known what failure means.  I tell you
that that document is still to be bought or fought for, and we must
find it.  This morning Mademoiselle drove into the city and called
at the offices of a stockbroker within a dozen yards of Crooked
Friars' Alley.  She was there a long time.  The stockbroker himself
came out with her into the street, took her to see the entry, stood
with her there and returned.  What was her interest in him, Kahn?
His name is Laverick.  Four days ago he was on the brink of ruin.
To the amazement of every one, he met all his engagements.  Why did
Mademoiselle go to the city to see him?  He was at his office late
that Tuesday night.  He had a partner who has disappeared."

Kahn looked at his companion with admiration.

"You have found all this out!" he exclaimed.

"And more," Streuss declared.  "For twenty-four hours, this man
Laverick has not moved without my spies at his heels."

"Why not approach him boldly?" Kahn suggested.  "If he has the
document, let us outbid Mademoiselle Louise, and do it quickly."

Streuss shook his head.

"You don't know the man.  He is an Englishman, and if he had any
idea what that document contained, our chances of buying it would
be small indeed.  This is what I think will happen.  Mademoiselle
will try to obtain it, and try in vain.  Then Bellamy will tell him
the truth, and he will part with it willingly.  In the meantime, I
believe that it is in his possession.

"The evidence is slender enough," objected Kahn.

"What if it is!" Streuss exclaimed.  "If it is only a hundred to one
chance, we have to take it.  I have no fancy for disgrace, Adolf,
and I know very well what will happen if we go back empty-handed."

The telephone bell rang.  Streuss took off the receiver and held it
to his ear.  The words which he spoke were few, but when he laid
the instrument down there was a certain amount of satisfaction in
his face.

"At any rate," he announced, "this man Laverick did not part with
the document to-day.  Mademoiselle Louise and Bellamy have been
sitting in the Park for an hour.  When they separated, she drove
home and dropped him at his club.  Up till now, then, they have not
the document.  We shall see what Mr. Laverick does when he leaves
business this evening; if he goes straight home, either the document
has never been in his possession, or else it is in the safe in his
office; if he goes to Mademoiselle Idiale's - "

"Well?" Kahn asked eagerly.

"If he goes to Mademoiselle Idiale's," Streuss repeated slowly,
"there is still a chance for us!"




CHAPTER XXIII

LAVERICK AT THE OPERA


Laverick, in presenting his card at the box office at Covent Garden
that evening, did so without the slightest misconception of the
reasons which had prompted Mademoiselle Idiale to beg him to become
her guest. It was sheer curiosity which prompted him to pursue this
adventure.  He was perfectly convinced that personally he had no
interest for her.  In some way or other he had become connected in
her mind with the murder which had taken place within a few yards of
his office, and in some other equally mysterious manner that murder
had become a subject of interest to her.  Either that, or this was
one of the whims of a spoiled and pleasure-surfeited woman.

He found an excellent box reserved for him, and a measure of
courtesy from the attendants not often vouchsafed to an ordinary
visitor.  The opera was Samson and Delilah, and even before her
wonderful voice thrilled the house, it seemed to Laverick that no
person more lovely than the woman he had come to see had ever moved
upon any stage.  It appeared impossible that movement so graceful
and passionate should remain so absolutely effortless.  There
seemed to be some strange power inside the woman.  Surely her will
guided her feet!  The necessity for physical effort never once
appeared.  Notwithstanding the slight prejudice which he had felt
against her, it was impossible to keep his admiration altogether
in check.  The fascination of her wonderful presence, and then her
glorious voice, moved him with the rest of the audience.  He
clapped as the others did at the end of the first act, and he
leaned forward just as eagerly to catch a glimpse of her when she
reappeared and stood there with that marvelous smile upon her lips,
accepting with faint, deprecating gratitude the homage of the
packed house.

Just before the curtain rose upon the second act, there was a knock
at his box door.  One of the attendants ushered in a short man of
somewhat remarkable personality.  He was barely five feet in height,
and an extremely fat neck and a corpulent body gave him almost the
appearance of a hunchback.  He had black, beady eyes, a black
moustache fiercely turned up, and sallow skin.  His white gloves
had curious stitchings on the back not common in England, and his
silk hat, exceedingly glossy, had wider brims than are usually
associated with Bond Street.

Laverick half rose, but the little man spread out one hand and
commenced to speak.  His accent was foreign, but, if not an
Englishman, he at any rate spoke the language with confidence.

"My dear sir," he began, "I owe you many apologies.  It was
Mademoiselle Idiale's wish that I should make your acquaintance.
My name is Lassen.  I have the fortune to be Mademoiselle's business
manager.

"I am very glad to meet you, Mr. Lassen," said Laverick.  "Will
you sit down?"

Mr. Lassen thereupon hung his hat upon a peg, removed his overcoat,
straightened his white tie with the aid of a looking-glass, brushed
back his glossy black hair with the palms of his hands, and took
the seat opposite Laverick.  His first question was inevitable.

"What do you think of the opera, sir?"

"It is like Mademoiselle Idiale herself," Laverick answered.  "It
is above criticism."

"She is," Mr. Lassen said firmly, "the loveliest woman in Europe
and her voice is the most wonderful.  It is a great combination,
this.  I myself have managed for many stars, I have brought to
England most of those whose names are known during the last ten
years; but there has never been another Louise Idiale, - never will
be."

I can believe it," Laverick admitted.

She has wonderful qualities, too," continued Mr. Lassen.  "Your
acquaintance with her, I believe, sir, is of the shortest."

"That is so," Laverick answered, a little coldly.  He was not
particularly taken with his visitor.

"Mademoiselle has spoken to me of you," the latter proceeded.
"She desired that I should pay my respects during the performance."

"It is very kind of you," Laverick answered.  "As a matter of fact,
it is exceedingly kind, also, of Mademoiselle Idiale to insist
upon my coming here to-night.  She did me the honor, as you may
know, of paying me a visit in the city this morning."

"So she did tell me," Mr. Lassen declared.  "Mademoiselle is a
great woman of business.  Most of her investments she controls
herself.  She has whims, however, and it never does to contradict
her.  She has also, curiously enough, a preference for the men of
affairs."

Laverick had reached that stage when he felt indisposed to discuss
Mademoiselle any longer with a stranger, even though that stranger
should be her manager.  He nodded and took up his programme.  As
he did so, the curtain rang up upon the next act.  Laverick turned
deliberately towards the stage.  The little man had paid his respects,
as he put it.  Laverick felt disinclined for further conversation
with him.  Yet, though his head was turned, he knew very well that
his companion's eyes were fixed upon him.  He had an uncomfortable
sense that he was an object of more than ordinary interest to this
visitor, that he had come for some specific object which as yet he
had not declared.

"You will like to go round and see Mademoiselle," the latter
remarked, some time afterwards.

Laverick shook his head.

"I shall find another opportunity, I hope, to congratulate her."

"But, my dear sir, she expects to see you," Mr. Lassen protested.
"You are here at her invitation.  It is usual, I can assure you."

"Mademoiselle Idiale will perhaps excuse me," Laverick said.  "I
have an engagement immediately after the performance is over."

His companion muttered something which Laverick could not catch,
and made some excuse to leave the box a few minutes later.  When
he returned, he carried a little, note which he presented to
Laverick with an air of triumph.

"It is as I said!" he exclaimed.  "Mademoiselle expects you."

Laverick read the few lines which she had written.

  I wish to see you after the performance.  If you cannot come
  round or escort me yourself, will you come later to the restaurant
  of Luigi, where, as always, I shall sup.  Do not fail.
                                                   Louise Idiale.

Laverick placed the note in his waistcoat pocket without immediate
remark.  Later on he turned to his companion.

"Will you tell Mademoiselle Idiale," he said, "that I will do myself
the honor of coming to her at Luigi's restaurant.  I have an
engagement after the performance which I must keep."

"You will certainly come?" Lassen asked anxiously.

"Without a doubt," Laverick promised.

Mr. Lassen took up his hat...

"I will go and tell Mademoiselle.  For some reason or other she
seemed particularly desirous of seeing you this evening.  She has
her whims, and those who have most to do with her, like myself,
find it well to keep them gratified.  If I do not see you again,
sir, permit me to wish you good evening."

He disappeared with several bows of his pudgy little person, and
Laverick was left with another puzzle to solve.  He was not in the
least conceited, and he did not for a moment misinterpret this
woman's interest in him.  Her invitation, he knew very well, was
one which half London would have coveted.  Yet it meant nothing
personal, he was sure of that.  It simply meant that for some
mysterious reason, the same reason which had prompted her to visit
him in the city he was of interest to her.

At a few minutes before eleven Laverick left the place and drove
to the stage-door of the Universal Theatre.  Zoe came out among the
first and paused upon the threshold, looking up and down the street
eagerly.  When she recognized him, her smile was heavenly.

"Oh, how nice of you!" she exclaimed, stepping at once into his
taxicab.  "You don't know how different it feels to hope that there
is some one waiting for you and then to find your hope come true.
To-night I was not sure.  You had said nothing about it, and yet I
could not help believing that you would be here."

"I was hoping," he said, "that we might have another supper together.
Unfortunately, I have an engagement."

"An engagement?" she repeated, her face falling.

Laverick loved the truth and he seldom hesitated to tell it.

"It is rather an odd thing," he declared.  "You remember that woman
at Luigi's last night - Mademoiselle Idiale?"

"Of course."

"She came to my office to-day and gave me six thousand pounds to
invest for her.  She made me take her out and show her where the
murder was committed, and asked a great many questions about it.
Then she insisted that I should go and hear her sing this evening,
and I find that I was expected to take her on to supper afterwards.
I excused myself for a little while, but I have promised to go to
Luigi's, where she will be."

The girl was silent for a moment.

"Where are we going now, then?" she asked.

"Wherever you like.  I can take you home first, or I can leave you
anywhere."

She looked at him with a piteous little smile.

"The last two nights you have spoiled me," she said.  "I have so
many evil thoughts and I am afraid to go home."

"I am sorry.  If I could think of anything or anywhere - "

"No, you must take me home, please," said she.  "It was selfish of
me.  Only Mademoiselle Idiale is such a wonderful person.  Do you
think that she will want you every night?"

"Of course not," he laughed.  "Come, I will make an engagement with
you.  We will have supper together to-morrow evening."

She brightened up at once.

"I wonder," she asked timidly, a few minutes afterwards, "have you
heard anything from Arthur?  He promised to send a telegram from
Queenstown."

Laverick shook his head.  He said nothing about the marconigram he
had sent, or the answer which he had received informing him that
there was no such person on board.  It seemed scarcely worth while
to worry her.

"I have heard nothing," he replied.  "Of course, he must be half-way
to America by now."

"There have been no more inquiries about him?" she asked.

"No more than the usual ones from his friends, and a few creditors.
The latter I am paying as they come.  But there is one thing you
ought to do with me.  I think we ought to go to his rooms and lock
up his papers and letters.  He never even went back, you know, after
that night."

She nodded thoughtfully.

"When would you like to do this?"

"I am so busy just now that I am afraid I can spare no time until
Monday afternoon.  Would you go with me then?"

"Of course...  My time is my own.  We have no matinee, and I have
nothing to do except in the evening."

They had reached her home.  It looked very dark and very uninviting.
She shivered as she took her latchkey from the bag which she was
carrying.

"Come in with me, please, while I light the gas," she begged.  "It
looks so dreary, doesn't it?"

"You ought to have some one with you," he declared, "especially in
a part like this."

"Oh, I am not really afraid," she answered.  "I am only lonely."

He stood in the passage while she felt for a box of matches and lit
the gas jet.  In the parlor there was a bowl of milk standing waiting
for her, and some bread.

"Thank you so much," she said.  "Now I am going to make up the fire
and read for a short time.  I hope that you will enjoy your supper
 - well, moderately," she added, with a little laugh.

"I can promise you," he answered, "that I shall enjoy it no more than
last night's or to-morrow night's."

She sighed.

"Poor little me!" she exclaimed.  "It is not fair to have to compete
with Mademoiselle Idiale.  Good night!"

Something he saw in her eyes moved him strangely as he turned away.

"Would you like me," he asked hesitatingly, "supposing I get away
early - would you like me to come in and say good night to you
later on?"

Her face was suddenly flushed with joy.

"Oh, do!" she begged.  "Do!"

He turned away with a smile.

"Very well," he said.  "Don't shut up just yet and I will try."

"I shall stay here until three o'clock," she declared, - "until
four, even.  You must come.  Remember, you must come.  See."

She held out to him her key.

"I can knock at the door," he protested.  "You would hear me."

"But I might fall asleep," she answered.  "I am afraid.  If you have
the key, I am sure that you will come."

He put it in his waistcoat pocket with a laugh.

"Very well," he said, "if it is only for five minutes, I will come."




CHAPTER XXIV

A SUPPER PARTY AT LUIGI'S


Laverick walked into Luigi's Restaurant at about a quarter to
twelve, and found the place crowded with many little supper-parties
on their way to a fancy dress ball.  The demand for tables was far
in excess of the supply, but he had scarcely shown himself before
the head maitre d'hotel came hurrying up.

"Mademoiselle Idiale is waiting for you, sir," he announced at once.
"Will you be so good as to come this way?"

Laverick followed him.  She was sitting at the same table as last
night, but she was alone, and it was laid, he noticed with surprise,
only for two.

"You have treated me," she said, as she held out her fingers, "to
a new sensation.  I have waited for you alone here for a quarter of
an hour - I!  Such a thing has never happened to me before."

"You do me too much honor," Laverick declared, seating himself and
taking up the carte.

"Then, too," she continued, "I sup alone with you.  That is what I
seldom do with any man.  Not that I care for the appearance," she
added, with a contemptuous wave of the hand.  "Nothing troubles me
less.  It is simply that one man alone wearies me.  Almost always
he will make love, and that I do not like.  You, Mr. Laverick, I am
not afraid of.  I do not think that you will make love to me."

"Any intentions I may have had," Laverick remarked, with a sigh, "I
forthwith banish.  You ask a hard task of your cavaliers, though,
Mademoiselle."

She smiled and looked at him from under her eyelids.

"Not of you, I fancy, Mr. Laverick," she said.  "I do not think that
you are one of those who make love to every woman because she is
good-looking or famous."

"To tell you the truth," Laverick admitted, "I find it hard to make
love to any one.  I often feel the most profound admiration for
individual members of your sex, but to express one's self is
difficult - sometimes it is even embarrassing.  For supper?"

"It is ordered," she declared.  "You are my guest."

"Impossible!" Laverick asserted firmly.  "I have been your guest
at the Opera.  You at least owe me the honor of being mine for
supper."

She frowned a little.  She was obviously unused to being contradicted.

"I sup with you, then, another night," she insisted.  "No," she
continued, "If you are going to look like that, I take it back.  I
sup with you to-night.  This is an ill omen for our future
acquaintance.  I have given in to you already - I, who give in to
no man.  Give me some champagne, please."

Laverick took the bottle from the ice-pail by his side, but the
sommelier darted forward and served them.

"I drink to our better understanding of one another, Mr. Laverick,"
she said, raising her glass, "and, if you would like a double toast,
I drink also to the early gratification of the curiosity which is
consuming you."

"The curiosity?  "

"Yes!  You are wondering all the time why it is that I chose last
night to send and have you presented to me, why I came to your
office in the city to-day with the excuse of investing money with
you, why I invited you to the Opera to-night, why I commanded you
to supper here and am supping with you alone.  Now confess the
truth; you are full of curiosity, is it not so?"

"Frankly, I am."

She smiled good-humoredly.

"I knew it quite well.  You are not conceited.  You do not believe,
as so many men would, that I have fallen in love with you.  You
think that there must be some object, and you ask yourself all the
time, 'What is it?' in your heart, Mr. Laverick, I wonder whether
you have any idea."

Her voice had fallen almost to a whisper.  She looked at him with a
suggestion of stealthiness from under her eyelids, a look which only
needed the slightest softening of her face to have made it something
almost irresistible.

"I can assure you," Laverick said firmly, "that I have no idea."

"Do you remember almost my first question to you?" she asked.

"It was about the murder.  You seemed interested in the fact that
my office was within a few yards of the passage where it occurred."

"Quite right," she admitted.  "I see that your memory is very good.
There, then, Mr. Laverick, you have the secret of my desire to meet
you."

Laverick drank his wine slowly.  The woman knew!  Impossible!  Her
eyes were watching his face, but he held himself bravely.  What
could she know?  How could she guess?

"Frankly," he said, "I do not understand.  Your interest in me
arises from the fact that my offices are near the scene of that
murder.  Well, to begin with, what concern have you in that?"

"The murdered man," she declared thoughtfully, "was an acquaintance
of mine."

"An acquaintance of yours!" Laverick exclaimed.  "Why, he has not
been identified.  No one knows who he was."

She raised her eyebrows very slightly.

"Mr. Laverick," she murmured, "the newspapers do not tell you
everything.  I repeat that the murdered man was an acquaintance of
mine.  Only three days ago I traveled part of the way from Vienna
with him."

Laverick was intensely interested.

"You could, perhaps, throw some light, then, upon his death?"

"Perhaps I could," she answered.  "I can tell you one thing, at any
rate, Mr. Laverick, if it is news to you.  At the time when he was
murdered, he was carrying a very large sum of money with him.  This
is a fact which has not been spoken of in the Press."

Once again Laverick was thankful for those nerves of his.  He sat
quite still.  His face exhibited nothing more than the blank
amazement which he certainly felt.

"This is marvelous," he said.  "Have you told the police?"

"I have not," she answered.  "I wish, if I can, to avoid telling
the police."

"But the money?  To whom did it belong?"

"Not to the murdered man."

"To any one whom you know of?" he inquired.

"I wonder," she said, after a moment of hesitation, "whether I am
telling you too much."

"You are telling me a good deal," he admitted frankly.

"I wonder how far," she asked, "you will be inclined to reciprocate?"

"I reciprocate!" he exclaimed.  "But what can I do?  What do I know
of these things?"

She stretched out her hand lazily, and drew towards her a wonderful
gold purse set with emeralds.  Carefully opening it, she drew from
the interior a small flat pocketbook, also of gold, with a great
uncut emerald set into its centre.  This, too, she opened, and drew
out several sheets of foreign note-paper pinned together at the top.
These she glanced through until she came to the third or fourth.
Then she bent it down and passed it across the table to Laverick.

"You may read that," she said.  "It is part of a report which I have
had in my pos session since Wednesday morning."

Laverick drew the sheet towards him and read, in thin, angular
characters, very distinct and plain:

  Some ten minutes after the assault, a policeman passed down
  the street but did not glance toward the passage.  The next
  person to appear was a gentleman who left some offices on the
  same side as the passage, and walked down evidently on his
  homeward way.  He glanced up the passage and saw the body
  lying there.  He disappeared for a moment and struck a match.
  A minute afterwards he emerged from the passage, looked up and
  down the street, and finding it empty returned to the office
  from which he had issued, let himself in with his latchkey,
  and closed the door behind him.  He was there for about ten
  minutes.  When he reappeared, he walked quickly down the street
  and for obvious reasons I was unable to follow him.

  The address of the offices which he left and re-entered was
  Messrs. Laverick & Morrison, Stockbrokers.

"That interests you, Mr. Laverick?" she asked softly.

He handed it back to her.

"It interests me very much," he answered.  "Who was this unseen
person who wrote from the clouds?"

"I may not tell you all my secrets, Mr. Laverick," she declared.
"What have you done with that twenty thousand pounds?"

Laverick helped himself to champagne.  He listened for a moment to
the music, and looked into the wonderful eyes which shone from that
beautiful face a few feet away.  Her lips were slightly parted, her
forehead wrinkled.  There was nothing of the accuser in her
countenance; a gentle irony was its most poignant expression.

"Is this a fairy tale, Mademoiselle Idiale?"

She shrugged her shoulders.

"It might seem so," she answered.  "Sometimes I think that all the
time we live two lives, - the life of which the world sees the
outside, and the life inside of which no one save ourselves knows
anything at all.  Look, for instance, at all these people - these
chorus girls and young men about town - the older ones, too - all
hungry for pleasure, all drinking at the cup of life as though they
had indeed but to-day and to-morrow in which to live and enjoy.
Have they no shadows, too, no secrets?  They seem so harmless, yet
if the great white truth shone down, might one not find a murderer
there, a dying man who knew his terrible secret, yonder a Croesus
on the verge of bankruptcy, a strong man playing with dishonor?  But
those are the things of the other world which we do not see.  The
men look at us to-night and they envy you because you are with me.
The women envy me more because I have emeralds upon my neck and
shoulders for which they would give their souls, and a fame
throughout Europe which would turn their foolish heads in a very
few minutes.  But they do not know.  There are the shadows across
my path, and I think that there are the shadows across yours.  What
do you say, Mr. Laverick?"

He looked at her, curiously moved.  Now at last he began to believe
that it was true what they said of her, that she was indeed a
marvelous woman.  She had a fame which would have contented nine
hundred and ninety-nine women out of a thousand.  She had beauty,
and, more wonderful still, the grace, the fascination which are
irresistible.  She had but to lift a finger and there were few
who would not kneel to do her bidding.  And yet, behind it all there
were other things in her life.  Had she sought them, or had they
come to her?

"You are one of those wise people, Mr. Laverick," she said, "who
realize the danger of words.  You believe in silence.  Well, silence
is often good.  You do not choose to admit anything."

"What is there for me to admit?  Do you want to know whether I am
the man who left those offices, who disappeared into the passage,
who reappeared again - "

"With a pocket-book containing twenty thousand pounds," she murmured
across the flowers.

"At least tell me this?" he demanded.  "Was the money yours?"

"I am not like you," she replied.  "I have talked a great deal and
I have reached the limit of the things which I may tell you."

"But where are we?" he asked.  "Are you seriously accusing me of
having robbed this murdered man?"

"Be thankful," she declared, "that I am not accusing you of having
murdered him."

"But seriously," he insisted, "am I on my defence have I to account
for my movements that night as against the written word of your
mysterious informant?  Is it you who are charging me with being a
thief?  Is it to you I am to account for my actions, to defend myself
or to plead guilty?"

She shook her head.

"No," she answered.  "I have said almost my last word to you upon
this subject.  All that I have to ask of you is this.  If that
pocket-book is in your possession, empty it first of its contents,
then go over it carefully with your fingers and see if there is not
a secret pocket.  If you discover that, I think that you will find
in it a sealed document.  If you find that document, you must bring
it to me."

The lights went down.  The voice of the waiter murmured something
in his ears.

"It is after hours," Mademoiselle Idiale said, "but Luigi does not
wish to disturb us.  Still, perhaps we had better go."

They passed down the room.  To Laverick it was all - like a dream -
the laughing crowd, the flushed men and bright-eyed women, the
lowered lights, the air of voluptuousness which somehow seemed to
have enfolded the place.  In the hall her maid came up.  A small
motor-brougham, with two servants on the box, was standing at the
doorway.  Mademoiselle turned suddenly and gave him her hand.

"Our supper-party, I think, Mr. Laverick," she said, "has been quite
a success.  We shall before long, I hope, meet again."

He handed her into the carriage.  Her maid walked with them.  The
footman stood erect by his side.  There were no further words to be
spoken.  A little crowd in the doorway envied him as he stood
bareheaded upon the pavement.




CHAPTER XXV

JIM SHEPHERD'S SCARE

It was, in its way, a pathetic sight upon which Laverick gazed when
he stole into that shabby little sitting-room.  Zoe had fallen
asleep in a small, uncomfortable easy-chair with its back to the
window.  Her supper of bread and milk was half finished, her hat
lay upon the table.  A book was upon her lap as though she had
started to read only to find it slip through her fingers.  He stood
with his elbow upon the mantelpiece, looking down at her.  Her
eyelashes, long and silky, were more beautiful than ever now that
her eyes were closed.  Her complexion, pale though she was, seemed
more the creamy pallor of some southern race than the whiteness of
ill-health.  The bodice of her dress was open a few inches at the
neck, showing the faint white smoothness of her flawless skin.
Not even her shabby shoes could conceal the perfect shape of her
feet and ankles.  Once more he remembered his first simile, his
first thought of her.  She seemed, indeed, like some dainty
statuette, uncouthly clad, who had strayed from a world of her
own upon rough days and found herself ill-equipped indeed for the
struggle.  His heart grew hot with anger against Morrison as he
stood and watched her.  Supposing she had been different!  It
would have been his fault, leaving her alone to battle her way
through the most difficult of all lives.  Brute!

He had muttered the word half aloud and she suddenly opened her
eyes.  At first she seemed bewildered.  Then she smiled and sat up.

"I have been asleep!" she exclaimed.

"A most unnecessary statement," he answered, smiling.  "I have
been standing looking at you for five minutes at least."

"How fortunate that I gave you the key!" she declared.  "I don't
suppose I should ever have heard you.  Now please stand there in
the light and let me look at you."

"Why?"

"I want to look at a man who has had supper with Mademoiselle
Idiale."

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Am I supposed to be a wanderer out of Paradise, then?"

She looked at him doubtfully.

"They tell strange stories about her," she said; "but oh, she is so
beautiful!  If I were a man, I should fall in love with her if she
even looked my way."

"Then I am glad," he answered, "that I am less impressionable."

"And you are not in love with her?" she asked eagerly.

"Why should I be?" he laughed.  "She is like a wonderful picture, a
marvelous statue, if you will.  Everything about her is faultless.
But one looks at these things calmly enough, you know.  It is life
which stirs life."

"Do you think that there is no life in her veins, then?" Zoe asked.

"If there is," he answered, "I do not think that I am the man to stir
it."

She drew a little sigh of content.

"You see," she said, "you are my first admirer, and I haven't the
least desire to let you go."

"Incredible!" he declared.

"But it is true," she answered earnestly.  "You would not have me
talk to these boys who come and hang on at the stage-door.  The men
to whom I have been introduced by the other girls have been very
few, and they have not been very nice, and they have not cared for
me and I have not cared for them.  I think," she said, disconsolately,
"I am too small.  Every one to-day seems to like big women.  Cora
Sinclair, who is just behind me in the chorus, gets bouquets every
night, and simply chooses with whom she should go out to supper."

Laverick looked grave.

"You are not envying her?" he asked.

"Not in the least, as long as I too am taken out sometimes."

Laverick smiled and sat on the arm of her chair.

"Miss Zoe," he said, "I have come because you told me to, just to
prove, you see, that I am not in the toils of Mademoiselle Idiale.
But do you know that it is half past one?  I must not stay here any
longer."

She sighed once more.

"You are right," she admitted, "but it is so lonely.  I have never
been here without May and her mother.  I have never slept alone in
the house before the other night.  If I had known that they were
going away, I should never have dared to come here."

"It is too bad," he declared.  "Couldn't you get one of the other
girls to stay with you?"

She shook her head.

"There are one or two whom I would like to have," she said, "but
they are all living either at home or with relatives.  The others I
am afraid about.  They seem to like to sit up so late and - "

"You are quite right," he interrupted hastily, - "quite right.  You
are better alone.  But you ought to have a servant."

She laughed.

"On two pounds fifteen a week?" she asked.  "You must remember that
I could not even live here, only I have practically no rent to pay."

He fidgeted for a moment.

"Miss Zoe," he said, "I am perfectly serious when I tell you that I
have money which should go to your brother.  Why will you not let me
alter your arrangements just a little ?  I cannot bear to think of
you here all alone."

"It is very kind of you," she answered doubtfully; "but please, no.
Somehow, I think that it would spoil everything if I accepted that
sort of help from you.  If you have any money of Arthur's, keep it
for a time and I think when you write him - I do not want to seem
grasping - but I think if he has any to spare you might suggest that
he does give me just a little.  I have never had anything from him
at all.  Perhaps he does not quite understand how hard it is for me.

"I will do that, of course," Laverick answered, "but I wish you
would let me at least pay over a little of what I consider due to
you.  I will take the responsibility for it.  It will come from him
and not from me."

She remained unconvinced.

"I would rather wait," she said.  "If you really want to give me
something, I will let you - out of my brother's money, of course,
I mean," she added.  "I haven't anything saved at all, or I wouldn't
have that.  But one day you shall take me out and buy me a dress and
hat.  You can tell Arthur directly you write to him.  I don't mind
that, for sometimes I do feel ashamed - I did the other night to
have you sit with me there, and to feel that I was dressed so very
differently from all of them."

He laughed reassuringly.

"I don't think men notice those things.  To me you seemed just as
you should seem.  I only know that I was glad enough to be there
with you."

"Were you?" - rather wistfully.

"Of course I was.  Now I am going, but before I go, don't forget
Monday afternoon.  We'll have lunch and then go to your brother's
rooms."

She glanced at the clock.

"Is it really so late?" she asked.

"It is.  Don't you notice how quiet it is outside?"

They stood hand in hand for a moment.  A strange silence seemed to
have fallen upon the streets.  Laverick was suddenly conscious of
something which he had never felt when Mademoiselle Idiale had
smiled upon him - a quickening of the pulses, a sense of gathering
excitement which almost took his breath away.  His eyes were fixed
upon hers, and he seemed to see the reflection of that same wave
of feeling in her own expressive face.  Her lips trembled, her eyes
were deeper and softer than ever.  They seemed to be asking him a
question, asking and asking till every fibre of his body was
concentrated in the desperate effort with, which he kept her at
arm's length.

"Is it so very late?" she whispered, coming just a little closer,
so that she was indeed almost within the shelter of his arms.

He clutched her hands almost roughly and raised them to his lips.

"Much too late for me to stay here, child," he said, and his voice
even to himself sounded hard and unnatural.

"Run along to bed.  To-morrow night - to-morrow night, then, I will
fetch you.  Good-bye!"

He let himself out.  He did not even look behind to the spot where
he had left her.  He closed the front door and walked with swift,
almost savage footsteps down the quiet Street, across the Square,
and into New Oxford Street.  Here he seemed to breathe more freely.
He called a hansom and drove to his rooms.

The hall-porter had left his post in the front hall, and there was
no one to inform Laverick that a visitor was awaiting him.  When he
entered his sitting-room, however, he gave a little start of surprise.
Mr. James Shepherd was reclining in his easy-chair with his hands
upon his knees - Mr. James Shepherd with his face more pasty even
than usual, his eyes a trifle greener, his whole demeanor one of
unconcealed and unaffected terror.

"Hullo!" Laverick exclaimed.  "What the dickens - what do you want
here, Shepherd?"

"Upon my word, sir, I'm not sure that I know," the man replied,
"but I'm scared.  I've brought you back the certificates of them
shares.  I want you to keep them for me.  I'm terrified lest they
come and search my room.  I am, I tell you fair.  I'm terrified to
order a pint of beer for myself.  They're watching me all the time."

"Who are?" Laverick demanded.

"Lord knows who;" Shepherd answered, "but there's two of them at it.
I told you about them as asked questions, and I thought there we'd
done and finished with it.  Not a bit of it !  There was another one
there this afternoon, said he was a journalist, making sketches of
the passage and asking me no end of questions.  He wasn't no
journalist, I'll swear to that.  I asked him about his paper.
'Half-a-dozen,' he declared.  'They're all glad to have what I send
them.' Journalist!  Lord knows who the other chap was and what he
was asking questions for, but this one was a 'tec, straight.  Joe
Forman, he was in to-day looking after my place, for I'd given a
month's notice, and he says to me, "You see that big chap?' - meaning
him as had been asking me the questions - and I says "Yes!' and he
says, 'That's a 'tee.  I've seed him in a police court, giving
evidence.' I went all of a shiver so that you could have knocked me
down."

"Come, come!" said Laverick.  "There's no need for you to be feeling
like this about it.  All that you've done is not to have remembered
those two customers who were in your restaurant late one night.
There's nothing criminal in that."

"There's something criminal in having two hundred and fifty pounds'
worth of shares in one's pocket - something suspicious, anyway,"
Shepherd declared, plumping them down on the table.  "I ain't giving
you these back, mind, but you must keep 'em for me.  I wish I'd never
given notice.  I think I'll ask the boss to keep me on."

"Why do you suppose that this man is particularly interested in you?"
Laverick inquired.

"Ain't I told you?" Shepherd exclaimed, sitting up.  "Why, he's
been to my place down in 'Ammersmith, asking questions about me.
My landlady swears he didn't go into my room, but who can tell
whether he did or not?  Those sort of chaps can get in anywhere.
Then I went out for a bit of an airing after the one o'clock rush
was over to-day, and I'm danged if he wasn't at my 'eels.  I seed
him coming round by Liverpool Street just as I went in a bar to get
a drop of something."

Laverick frowned.

"If there is anything in this Story, Shepherd," he said, "if you
are really being followed, what a thundering fool you were to come
here!  All the world knows that Arthur Morrison was my partner."

"I couldn't help it, sir," the man declared.  "I couldn't, indeed.
I was so scared, I felt I must speak about it to some one.  And then
there were these shares.  There was nowhere I could keep 'em safe."

"Look here," Laverick went on, "you're alarming yourself about
nothing.  In any case, there is only one thing for you to do.  Pull
yourself together and put a bold face upon it.  I'll keep these
certificates for you, and when you want some money you can come
to me for it.  Go back to your place, and if your master is willing
to keep you on perhaps it would be a good thing to stay there for
another month or so.  But don't let any one see that you're
frightened.  Remember, there's nothing that you can get into trouble
for.  No one's obliged to answer such questions as you've been asked,
except in a court and under oath.  Stick to your story, and if you
take my advice," Laverick added, glancing at his visitor's shaking
fingers, "you will keep away from the drink."

"It's little enough I've had, sir," Shepherd assured him.  "A drop
now and then just to keep up one's spirits - nothing that amounts
to anything."

"Make it as little as possible," Laverick said.  "Remember, I'm back
of you, I'll see that you get into no trouble.  And don't come here
again.  Come to my office, if you like - there's nothing in that -
but don't come here, you understand?"

Shepherd took up his hat.

"I understand, sir.  I'm sorry to have troubled you, but the sight
of that man following me about fairly gave me the shivers."

"Come into the office as often as you like, in reason, Laverick said,
showing him out, "but not here again.  Keep your eyes open, and let
me know if you think you've been followed here."

"There's no more news in the papers, sir?  Nothing turned up?"

"Nothing," replied Laverick.  "If the police have found out anything
at all, they will keep it until after the inquest."

"And you've heard.  nothing, sir," Shepherd asked, speaking in a
hoarse whisper, "of Mr. Morrison?"

"Nothing," Laverick answered.  "Mr. Morrison is abroad."

The man wiped his forehead with his hand.

"Of course!" he muttered.  "A good job, too, for him!"




CHAPTER XXVI

THE DOCUMENT DISCOVERED


On the following morning, Laverick surprised his office cleaner and
one errand-boy by appearing at about a quarter to nine.  He found
a woman busy brushing out his room and a man Cleaning the windows.
They stared at him in amazement.  His arrival at such an hour was
absolutely unprecedented.

"You can leave the office just as it is, if you please," he told
them.  "I have a few things to attend to at once."

He was accordingly left alone.  He had reckoned upon this as being
the one period during the day when he could rely upon not being
disturbed.  Nevertheless, he locked the door so as to be secure
against any possible intruder.  Then he went to his safe, unlocked
it, and drew from its secret drawer the worn brown-leather
pocket-book.

First of all he took out the notes and laid them upon the table.
Then he felt the pocket-book all over and his heart gave a little
leap.  It was true what Mademoiselle Idiale had told him.  On one
side there was distinctly a rustling as of paper.  He opened the
case quite flat and passed his fingers carefully over the lining.
Very soon he found the opening - it was simply a matter of drawing
down the stiff silk lining from underneath the overlapping edge.
Thrusting in his fingers, he drew out a long foreign envelope,
securely sealed.  Scarcely stopping to glance at it, he rearranged
the pocket-book, replaced the notes, and locked it up again.  Then
he unbolted his door and sat down at his desk, with the document
which he had discovered, on the pad in front of him.

There was not much to be made of it.  There was no address, but the
black seal at the end bore the impression of a foreign coat of arms,
and a motto which to him was indecipherable.  He held it up to the
light, but the outside sheet had not been written on, and he gained
no idea as to its contents.  He leaned back in his chair for a
moment, and looked at it.  So this was the document which would
probably reveal the secret of the murder in Crooked Friars' Alley!
This was the document which Mademoiselle Idiale considered of so
much more importance than the fortune represented by that packet of
bank-notes!  What did it all mean?  Was this man, who had either
expiated a crime or been the victim of a terrible vengeance, - was
he a politician, a dealer in trade secrets, a member of a secret
society, an informer?  Or was he one of the underground criminals
of the world, one of those who crawl beneath the surface of known
things - a creature of the dark places?  Perhaps during those few
minutes, when his brain was cool and active, with the great city
awakening all around him, Laverick realized more completely than
ever before exactly how he stood.  Without doubt he was walking on
the brink of a precipice.  Four days ago there had been nothing for
him but ruin.  The means of salvation had suddenly presented
themselves in this startling and dramatic manner, and without
hesitation he had embraced them.  What did it all amount to?  How
far was he guilty, and of what?  Was he a thief?  The law would
probably call him so.  The law might have even more to say.  It
would say that by keeping his mouth closed as to his adventure on
that night he had ranged himself on the side of the criminals, - he
was guilty not only of technical theft, but of a criminal knowledge
of this terrible crime.  Events had followed upon one another so
rapidly during these last few days that he had little enough time
for reflection, little time to realize exactly how he stood.  The
long-expected boom in" Unions," the coming of Zoe, the strange
advances made to him by Mademoiselle Idiale, her incomprehensible
connection with this tragedy across which he had stumbled, and her
apparent knowledge of his share in it, - these things were sufficient,
indeed, to give him food for thought.  Laverick was not by nature a
pessimist. Other things being equal, he would have made, without
doubt, a magnificent soldier, for he had courage of a rare and high
order.  It never occurred to him to sit and brood upon his own danger.
He rather welcomed the opportunity of occupying his mind with other
thoughts.  Yet in those few minutes, while he waited for the business
of the: day to commence, he looked his exact position in the face
and he realized more thoroughly how grave it really was.  How was he
to find a way out - to set himself right with the law?  What could
he do with those notes?  They were there untouched.  He had only
made use of them in an indirect way.  They were there intact, as
he had picked them up upon that fateful night.  Was there any
possible chance by means of which he might discover the owner and
restore them in such a way that his name might never be mentioned?
His eyes repeatedly sought that envelope which lay before him.
Inside it must lie the secret of the whole tragedy.  Should he risk
everything and break the seal, or should he risk perhaps as much
and tell the whole truth to Mademoiselle Idiale?  It was a strange
dilemma for a man to find himself in.

Then, as he sat there, the business of the day commenced.  A pile
of letters was brought in, the telephones in the outer office began
to ring.  He thrust the sealed envelope into the breast-pocket of
his coat and buttoned it up.  There, for the present, it must remain.
He owed it to himself to devote every energy he possessed to make
the most of this great tide of business.  With set face he closed
the doors upon the unreal world, and took hold of the levers which
were to guide his passage through the one in which he was an actual
figure.

Her visit was not altogether unexpected, and yet, when they told him
that Mademoiselle Idiale was outside, he hesitated.

"It is the lady who was here the other day," his head clerk reminded
him.  "We made a remarkably good choice of stocks for her.  They
must be showing nearly sixteen hundred pounds profit.  Perhaps she
wants to realize."

"In any case, you had better show her in," said Laverick.

She came, bringing with her, notwithstanding her black clothes and
heavy veil, the atmosphere of a strange world into his somewhat
severely furnished office.  Her skirts swept his carpet with a
musical swirl.  She carried with her a faint, indefinable perfume
of violets, - a perfume altogether peculiar, dedicated to her by a
famous chemist in the Rue Royale, and supplied to no other person
upon earth.  Who else was there, indeed, who could have walked those
few yards as she walked?

He rose to his feet and pointed to a chair.

"You have come to ask about your shares?" he asked politely.  "So
far, we have nothing but good news for you."

She recognized that he spoke to her in the presence of his clerk,
and she waved her hand.

"Women who will come themselves to look after their poor investments
are a nuisance, I suppose," she said.  "But indeed I will not keep
you long.  A few minutes are all that I shall ask of you.  I am
beginning to find city affairs so interesting."

They were alone by now and Louise raised her veil, raised it so
high that he could see her eyes.  She leaned back in her chair,
supporting her chin with the long, exquisite fingers of her right
hand.  She looked at him thoughtfully.

"You have examined the pocket-book?" she asked.

"I have."

"And the document was there?"

"The document was there," he admitted.  "Perhaps you can tell me how
it would be addressed?"

Looking at her closely, it came to him that her indifference was
assumed.  She was shivering slightly, as though with cold.

"I imagine that there would be no address," she said.

"You are right.  That document is in my pocket."

"What are you going to do with it?" she asked.

"What do you advise me to do with it?"

"Give it to me."

"Have you any claim?"

She leaned a little nearer to him.

"At least I have more claim to it," she whispered, "than you to that
twenty thousand pounds."

"I do not claim them," he replied.  "They are in my safe at this
moment, untouched.  They are there ready to be returned to their
proper owner."

"Why do you not find him?" - with a note of incredulity in her tone.

"How am I to do that?" Laverick demanded.

"We waste words," she continued coldly.  "I think that if I leave
you with the contents of your safe, it will be wise for you to hand
me that document."

"I am inclined to do so," Laverick admitted.  "The very fact that
you knew of its existence would seem to give you a sort of claim to
it.  But, Mademoiselle Idiale, will you answer me a few questions?"

"I think," she said, "that it would be better if you asked me none."

"But listen," he begged.  "You are the only person with whom I have
come into touch who seems to know anything about this affair.  I
should rather like to tell you exactly how I stumbled in upon it.
Why can we not exchange confidence for confidence?  I want neither
the twenty thousand pounds nor the document.  I want, to be frank
with you, nothing but to escape from the position I am now in of
being half a thief and half a criminal.  Show me some claim to that
document and you shall have it.  Tell me to whom that money belongs,
and it shall be restored."

"You are incomprehensible," she declared.  "Are you, by any chance,
playing a part with me?  Do you think that it is worth while?"

"Mademoiselle Idiale," Laverick protested earnestly, "nothing in the
world is further from my thoughts.  There is very little of the
conspirator about me.  I am a plain man of business who stumbled in
upon this affair at a critical moment and dared to make temporary
use of his discovery.  You can put it, if you like, that I am afraid.
I want to get out.  Nothing would give me greater pleasure, if such
a thing were possible, than to send this pocket-book and its contents
anonymously to Scotland Yard, and never hear about them again.

She listened to him with unchanged face.  Yet for some moments after
he had finished speaking she was thoughtful.

"You may be speaking the truth," she said.  "If so, I have been
deceived.  You are not quite the sort of man I did believe you were.
What you tell me is amazing, but it may be true."

"It is the truth," Laverick repeated calmly.

"Listen," she said, after a brief pause.  "You were at school, were
you not, with Mr. David Bellamy?  You know well who he is?"

"Perfectly well," Laverick admitted.

"You would consider him a person to be trusted?"

"Absolutely."

"Very well, then," she declared.  "You shall come to my fiat at five
o'clock this afternoon and bring that document.  If it is possible,
David Bellamy shall be there himself.  We will try then and prove
to you that you do no harm in parting with that document to us."

"I will come," Laverick promised, "at five o'clock; but you must
tell me where."

"You will put it down, please," she said.  "There must not be any
mistake.  You must come, and you must come to-day.  I am staying at
number 15, Dover Street.  I will leave orders that you are shown
in at once."

She rose to her feet and he walked to the door with her.  On the way
she hesitated.

"Take care of yourself to-day, Mr. Laverick," she begged.  "There
are others beside myself who are interested in that packet you carry
with you.  You represent to them things beside which life and death
are trivial happenings."

Laverick laughed shortly.  He was a matter-of-fact man, and there
seemed something a little absurd in such a warning.

"I do not think," he declared, "that you need have any fear.  London
is, as you doubtless find it, a dull old city, but it is a remarkably
safe one to live in."

"Nevertheless, Mr. Laverick," she repeated earnestly, "be on your
guard to-day, for all our sakes."

He bowed and changed the subject.

"Your investments," he remarked, "you will be content, perhaps, to
leave as they are.  It is, no doubt, of some interest to you to
know that they are showing already a profit of considerably over a
thousand pounds."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"It was an excuse - that investment," she declared.  "Yet money is
always good.  Keep it for me, Mr. Laverick, and do what you will.  I
will trust your judgment.  Buy or sell as you please.  You will let
nothing prevent your coming this afternoon?"

"Nothing," he promised her.

>From the window of her beautifully appointed little electric brougham
she held out her hand in farewell.

"You think me foolish, I know, that I persist," she said, "but I do
beg that you will remember what I say.  Do not be alone to-day more
than you can help.  Suspect every one who comes near to you.  There
may be a trap before your feet at any moment.  Be wary always and do
not forget - at five o'clock I expect you."

Laverick smiled as he bowed his adieux.

"It is a promise, Mademoiselle," he assured her.




CHAPTER XXVII

PENETRATING A MYSTERY


About an hour after Mademoiselle Idiale's departure a note marked
"Urgent" was brought in and handed to Laverick.  He tore it open.
It was dated from the address of a firm of stockbrokers, with two
of the partners of which he was on friendly terms.  It ran thus:

  MY DEAR LAVERICK, - I want a chat with you, if you can spare
  five minutes at lunch time.  Come to Lyons' a little earlier
  than usual, if you don't mind, - say at a quarter to one.
                                                    J.HENSHAW.


Laverick read the typewritten note carelessly enough at first.  He
had even laid it down and glanced at the clock, with the intention
of starting out, when a thought struck him.  He took it up and read
it though again.  Then he turned to the telephone.

"Put me on to the office of Henshaw & Allen.  I want to speak to Mr.
Henshaw particularly."

Two minutes passed.  Laverick, meanwhile, had been washing his hands
ready to go out.  Then the telephone bell rang.  He took up the
receiver.

"Hullo!  Is that Henshaw?"

"I'm Henshaw," was the answer.  "That's Laverick, isn't it?  How
are you, old fellow?"

"I'm all right," Laverick replied.  "What is it that you want to
see me about?"

"Nothing particular that I know of.  Who told you that I wanted to?"

Laverick, who had been standing with the instrument in his hand, sat
down in his chair.

"Look here," he said, "Didn't you send me a note a few minutes ago,
asking me to come out to lunch at a quarter to one and meet you at
Lyons'?"

Henshaw's laugh was sufficient response.

"Delighted to lunch with you there or anywhere, old chap, - you know
that," was the answer, "but some one 's been putting up a practical
joke on you."

"You did not send me a note round this morning, then?" Laverick
insisted.

"I'll swear I didn't," came the reply.  "Do you seriously mean that
you've had one purporting to come from me?"

Laverick pulled himself together.

"Well, the signature's such a scrawl," he said, "that no one could
tell what the name really was.  I guessed at you but I seem to have
guessed wrong.  Good-bye!"

He set down the receiver and rang off to escape further questioning.
Now indeed the plot was commencing to thicken.  This was a deliberate
effort on the part of some one to secure his absence from his offices
at a quarter to one.

With the document in his pocket and the safe securely locked,
Laverick felt at ease as to the result of any attempted burglary of
his premises.  At the same time his curiosity was excited.  Here,
perhaps, was a chance of finding some clue to this impenetrable
mystery.

There were thee clerks in the outer office.  He put on his hat and
despatched two of them on errands in different directions.  The last
he was obliged to take into his confidence.

"Halsey," he said, "I am going out to lunch.  At least, I wish it
to be thought that I am going out to lunch.  As a matter of fact, I
shall return in about ten minutes by the back way.  I do not wish
you, however, to know this.  I want you to have it in your mind
that I have gone to lunch and shall not be back until a quarter past
two.  If there are visitors for me - Inquirers of any sort - act
exactly as you would have done if you really believed that I was
not in the building."

Halsey appeared a good deal mystified.  Laverick took him even
further into his confidence.

"To tell you the truth, Halsey," he said, "I have just received a
bogus letter from Mr. Henshaw, asking me to lunch with him.  Some
one was evidently anxious to get me out of my office for an hour
or so.  I want to find out for myself what this means, if possible.
You understand?"

"I think so, sir," the man replied doubtfully.  "I am not to be
aware that you have returned, then?"

"Certainly not," Laverick answered.  "Please be quite clear about
that.  If you hear any commotion in the office, you can come in,
but do not send for the police unless I tell you to.  I wish to
look into this affair for myself."

Halsey, who had started life as a lawyer's clerk, and was distinctly
formal in his ideas, was a little shocked.

"Would it not be better, sir," he suggested, "for me to communicate
with the police in the first case?  If this should really turn out
to be an attempt at burglary, it would surely be best to leave the
matter to them."

Laverick frowned.

"For certain reasons, Halsey, which I do not think it necessary to
tell you, I have a strong desire to investigate this matter
personally.  Please do exactly as I say."

He left the office and strolled up the street in the direction of
the restaurant which he chiefly frequented.  He reached it in a
moment or two, but left it at once by another entrance.  Within ten
minutes he was back at his office.

"Has any one been, Halsey?"

"No one, sir," the clerk answered.

"You will be so good," Laverick continued, "as to forget that I
have returned."

He passed on quickly into his own room and made his way into the
small closet where he kept his coat and washed his hands.  He had
scarcely been there a minute when he heard voices in the outside
hall.  The door of his office was opened.

"Mr. Laverick said nothing about an appointment at this hour," he
heard Halsey protest in a somewhat deprecating tone.

"He had, perhaps, forgotten," was the answer, in a totally unfamiliar
voice.  "At any rate, I am not in a great hurry.  The matter is of
some importance, however, and I will wait for Mr. Laverick."

The visitor was shown in.  Laverick investigated his appearance
through a crack in the door.  He was a man of medium height,
well-dressed, clean-shaven, and wore gold-rimmed spectacles.  He
made himself comfortable in Laverick's easy-chair, and accepted
the paper which Halsey offered him.

"I shall be quite glad of a rest," he remarked genially.  "I have
been running about all the morning."

"Mr. Laverick is never very long out for lunch, sir," Halsey said.
"I daresay he will not keep you more than a quarter of an hour or
twenty minutes."

The clerk withdrew and closed the door.  The man in the chair waited
for a moment.  Then he laid down his newspaper and looked cautiously
around the room.  Satisfied apparently that he was alone, he rose to
his feet and walked swiftly to Laverick's writing-table.  With fingers
which seemed gifted with a lightning-like capacity for movement, he
swung open the drawers, one by one, and turned over the papers.  His
eyes were everywhere.  Every document seemed to be scanned and as
rapidly discarded.  At last he found something which interested him.
He held it up and paused in his search.  Laverick heard a little
breath come though his teeth, and with a thrill he recognized the
paper as one which he had torn from a memorandum tablet and upon
which he had written down the address which Mademoiselle Idiale had
given him.  The man with the gold-rimmed glasses replaced the paper
where he had found it.  Evidently he had done with the writing-table.
He moved swiftly over to the safe and stood there listening for a
few seconds.  Then from his pocket he drew a bunch of keys.  To
Laverick's surprise, at the stranger's first effort the great door
of the safe swung open.  He saw the man lean forward, saw his hand
reappear almost directly with the pocket-book clenched in his fingers.
Then he stood once more quite still, listening.  Satisfied that no
one was disturbed, he closed the door of the safe softly and moved
once more to the writing-table.  With marvelous swiftness the notes
were laid upon the table, the pocket-book was turned upside down,
the secret place disclosed - the secret place which was empty.  It
seemed to Laverick that from his hiding-place he could hear the little
oath of disappointment which broke from the thin red lips.  The man
replaced the notes and, with the pocket-book in his hand, hesitated.
Laverick, who thought that things had gone far enough, stepped lightly
out from his hiding-place and stood between his unbidden visitor and
the door.

"You had better put down that pocket-book," he ordered quietly.

The man was upon him with a single spring, but Laverick, without
the slightest hesitation, knocked him prone upon the floor, where
he lay, for a moment, motionless.  Then he slowly picked himself up.
His spectacles were broken - he blinked as he stood there.

"Sorry to be so rough," Laverick said.  "Perhaps if you will kindly
realize that of the two I am much the stronger man, you will be so
good as to sit in that chair and tell me the meaning of your
intrusion."

The man obeyed.  He covered his eyes with his hand, for a moment,
as though in pain.

"I imagine," he said - and it seemed to Laverick that his voice had
a slight foreign accent - "I imagine that the motive for my paying
you this visit is fairly clear to you.  People who have compromising
possessions may always expect visits of this sort.  You see, one
runs so little risk."

"So little risk!" Laverick repeated.

"Exactly," the other answered.  "Confess that you are not in the
least inclined to ring your bell and send for a constable to give
me in charge for being in possession of a pocket-book abstracted
from your safe, containing twenty thousand pounds in Bank of
England notes."

"It wouldn't do at all," Laverick admitted.

"You are a man of common sense," declared the other.  "It would not
do.  Now comes the time when I have a question to ask you.  There
was a sealed document in this pocket-book.  Where is it ?  What
have you done with it?"

"Can you tell me," Laverick asked, "why I should answer questions
from a person whom I discover apparently engaged in a nefarious
attempt at burglary?"

The man's hand shot out from his trouser-pocket, and Laverick looked
into the gleaming muzzle of a revolver.

"Because if you don't, you die," was the quick reply.  "Whether
you've read that document or not, I want it.  If you've read it, you
know the sort of men you've got to deal with.  If you haven't, take
my word for it that we waste no time.  The document!  Will you give
it me?"

"Do I understand that you are threatening me?"  Laverick asked,
retreating a few steps.

"You may understand that this is a repeating revolver, and that I
seldom miss a half-crown at twenty paces," his visitor answered.
"If you put out your hand toward that bell, it will be the last
movement you'll ever make on earth."

"London isn't really the place for this sort of thing," Laverick
said.  "If you discharge that revolver, you haven't a dog's chance
of getting clear of the building.  My clerks would rush out after
you into the street.  You'd find yourself surrounded by a crowd of
business men.  You couldn't make your way through anywhere.  You'd
be held up before you'd gone a dozen yards.  Put down your revolver.
We can perhaps settle this little matter without it."

"The document!" the man ordered.  "You've got it!  You must have it!
You took that pocket-book from a dead man, and in that pocket-book
was the document.  We must have it.  We intend to have it."

"And who, may I ask, are we?" Laverick inquired.

"If you do not know, what does it matter?  Will you give it to me?"

Laverick shook his head.

"I have no document."

The man in the chair leaned forward.  The muzzle of his revolver was
very bright, and he held it in fingers which were firm as a rock.

"Give it to me!" he repeated.  "You ought to know that you are not
dealing with men who are unaccustomed to death.  You have it about
you.  Produce it, and I've done with you.  Deny me, and you have not
time to say your prayers!"

Laverick was leaning against a small table which stood near the door.
His fingers suddenly gripped the ledger which lay upon it.  He held
it in front of his face for a single moment, and then dashed it at
his visitor.  He followed behind with one desperate spring.  Once,
twice, the revolver barked out.  Laverick felt the skin of his temple
burn and a flick on the ear which reminded him of his school-days.
Then his hand was upon the other man's throat and the revolver lay
upon the carpet.

"We 'll see about that.  By the Lord, I've a good mind to wring the
life out of you.  That bullet of yours might have been in my temple."

"It was meant to be there," the man gasped.  "Hand over the document,
you pig-headed fool!  It'll cost you your life - if not to-day,
to-morrow."

"I'll be hanged if you get it, anyway!" Laverick answered fiercely.
"You assassin!  Scoundrel!  To come here and make a cold-blooded
effort at murder!  You shall see what you think of the inside of an
English prison."

The man laughed contemptuously.

"And what about the pocket-book?" he asked.

Laverick was silent.  His assailant smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

"Come," he said, "I have made my effort and failed.  You have twenty
thousand pounds.  That's a fair price, but I'll add another twenty
thousand for that document unopened."

"It is possible that we might deal," Laverick remarked, kicking the
revolver a little further away.  "Unfortunately, I am too much in the
dark.  Tell me the real position of the murdered man?  Tell me why he
was murdered?  Tell me the contents of this document and why it was in
his possession?  Perhaps I may then be inclined to treat with you."

"You are either an astonishingly ingenuous person, Mr. Laverick,"
his visitor declared, "or you're too subtle for me.  You do not
expect me to believe that you are in this with your eyes blindfolded?
You do not expect me to believe that you do not know what is in that
sealed envelope?  Bah!  It is a child's game, that, and we play as
men with men."

Laverick shook his head.

"Your offer," he asked, "what is it exactly?"

"Twenty thousand pounds," the man answered.  "The document is worth
no more than that to you.  How you came into this thing is a mystery,
but you are in and, what is more, you have possession.  Twenty
thousand pounds, Mr. Laverick.  It is a large sum of money.  You
find it interesting?"

"I find it interesting," Laverick answered dryly, "but I am not a
seller."

The intruder moved his hand away from his eyes.  His expression was
full of wonder.

"Consider for a moment," he said.  "While that document remains in
your possession, you walk the narrow way, your life hangs upon a
thread.  Better surrender it and attend to your stocks and shares.
Heaven knows how you first came into our affairs, but the sooner
you are out of them the better.  What do you say now to my offer?"

"It is refused," Laverick declared.  "I regret; to add," he
continued, "that I have already spared you all the time I have at
my disposal.  Forgive me."

He pressed a button with his finger.  His visitor rose up in anger.

"You are not such a fool!" he exclaimed.  "You are not going to
send me away without it?  Why, I tell you that there won't be a
safe corner in the World for you!"

Halsey opened the door.  Laverick nodded toward his visitor.

"Show this gentleman out, Halsey," he ordered.

Halsey started.  The noise of the revolver shot had evidently been
muffled by the heavy connecting doors, but there was a smell of
gunpowder in the room, and a little wreath of smoke.  The man rose
slowly to his feet, still blinking.

"It must be as you will, of course.  I wonder if you would be so
good as to let your clerk direct me to an oculist?  I am,
unfortunately, a helpless man in this condition."

"There is one a few yards off," Laverick answered.  "Put on your
hat, Halsey, and show this gentleman where he can get some glasses."

His visitor leaned towards Laverick.

"It is your life which is in question, not my eyesight," he muttered.
"Do you accept my offer?  Will you give me the document?"

"I do not and I will not," Laverick replied.  "I shall not part with
anything until I know more than I know at present."

The man stood motionless for a moment.  His fingers seemed to be
twitching.  Laverick had a fancy that he was about to spring, but
if ever he had had any thoughts of the kind, Halsey's reappearance
checked them.

"I am much obliged to you, Mr. Laverick," he said quietly.  "We
shall, perhaps, resume this discussion at some future date."

With that he turned and followed Halsey out of the room.  Laverick
went to the window and threw it wide open.  The smoke floated out,
the smell of gunpowder was gradually dispersed.  Then he walked
back to his seat.  Once more he locked up the notes.  The document
was safe in his pocket.  There was a slight mark by the side of his
temple, and his ear, he discovered, was bleeding.  He rang the bell
and Halsey entered.

"Has our friend gone, Halsey?"

"I left him in the optician's, sir," the clerk answered.  "He was
buying some spectacles."

Laverick glanced at the floor, where the remains of those
gold-rimmed glasses were scattered.

"You had better send for a locksmith at once," he said.  "The
gentleman who has been here had a skeleton key to my safe.  We'll
have a combination put on."

"Very good, sir," Halsey answered.

"And, Halsey," his master continued, "be careful about one thing,
for your own sake as well as mine.  If that man presents himself
again, don't let him come into my room unannounced.  If you can
help it, don't let him come in at all.  I have an idea that he
might be dangerous."

The clerk's face was a study.

"If he presents himself here, sir," he announced stiffly, "I shall
take the liberty of sending for the police."

Laverick made no reply.




CHAPTER XXVIII

LAVERICK'S NARROW ESCAPE


At precisely a quarter past four, nothing having happened in the
meantime but a steady rush of business, Laverick ordered a taxicab
to be summoned.  He then unlocked his safe, placed the pocket-book
securely in his breast pocket, walked through the office, and
directed the man to drive to Chancery Lane.  Here at the headquarters
of the Safe Deposit Company he engaged a compartment, and down in
the strong-room locked up the pocket-book.  There was only now the
document left.  Stepping once more into the street, he found that
his taxicab had vanished.  He looked up and down in vain.  The man
had not been paid and there seemed to be no reason for his
departure.  A policeman who was standing by touched his hat and
addressed him.

"Were you looking for that taxi you stepped out of a few minutes ago,
sir?" he asked.

"I was," Laverick answered.  "I hadn't paid him and I told him to
wait."

"I thought there was something queer about it," the policeman
remarked.  "Soon after you had gone inside, two gentlemen drove up
in a hansom.  They got out here and one of them spoke to your driver,
who shook his head and pointed to his flag.  The gent then said
something else to him - can't say as I heard what it was, but it
was probably offering him double fare.  Anyway, they both got in
and off went your taxi, sir."

"Thank you," Laverick said thoughtfully.  "It sounds a little
perplexing."

He hesitated for a moment.

"Constable," he continued, "I have just made a very valuable deposit
in there, and I had an idea that I might be followed.  I have still
in my pocket a document of great importance.  I have no doubt
whatever but that the object of the men who have taken my taxicab is
to leave me in the street here alone under circumstances which will
render a quick attack upon me likely to be successful."

The policeman turned his head and looked at Laverick incredulously.
He was more than half inclined to believe that this was a practical
joke.  Were they not standing on the pavement in Chancery Lane, and
was not he an able-bodied policeman of great bulk and immense muscle!
Yet his companion did not look by any means a man of the nervous
order.  Laverick was broad-shouldered, his skin was tanned a
wholesome color, his bearing was the bearing of a man prepared to
defend himself at any time.  The constable smiled in a non-committal
manner.

"If you'll excuse my saying so, sir," he remarked, "I don't think
this is exactly the spot any one would choose for an assault."

"I agree with you," Laverick answered, "but, on the other hand, you
must remember that these gentlemen have had no choice.  I stepped
from my office direct into the taxi, and I proposed to drive straight
from here to the place where I shall probably leave the other
document I am carrying with me.  Why I have taken you into my
confidence is to ask you this.  Can you walk with me to the corner
of the street, or until we meet a taxicab?  it sounds cowardly, but,
as a matter of fact, I am not afraid.  I simply want to make sure
of delivering this document to the person to whom it belongs."

The constable stood still, a little perplexed.

"My beat, sir," he said, "only goes about twenty-five yards further
on.  I will walk to the corner of Holborn with you, if you desire
it.  At the same time, I may say that I am breaking regulations.
How do I know that it is not your scheme to get me away from this
neighborhood for some purpose of your own?"

"You don't believe anything of the sort," Laverick declared, with
a smile.

"I do not, sir," the policeman admitted.  "Keep by my side, and I
think that nothing will happen to you before we reach Holborn."

Laverick was a man of more than medium height, but by the side of
the policeman he seemed short.  Both scanned the faces of the
passers-by closely - the police-man with mild interest, Laverick
with almost feverish anxiety.  It was a gray afternoon, pleasant
but close.  There seemed to be nothing whatever to account for the
feeling of nervousness which had suddenly come over Laverick.  He
felt himself in danger - he had no idea how, or in what way - but
the conviction was there.  He took every step fully alert,
absolutely on his guard.

They were almost within sight of Holborn when a cry from the
bystanders caused them to look away into the middle of the road.
Laverick only cast one glance there and abandoned every instinct
of curiosity, thinking once more only of himself and his own
position.  With the constable, however, it was naturally different.
He saw something which called at once for his intervention, and
he immediately forgot the somewhat singular task upon which he
was engaged.  A man had fallen in the middle of the street, either
knocked down by the shaft of a passing vehicle or in some sort of
fit.  There was a tangle of rearing horses, an omnibus was making
desperate efforts to avoid the prostrate body.  The constable
sprang to the rescue.  Laverick, instantly suspicious and realizing
that there was no one in front of him, turned swiftly around.  He
was just in time to receive upon his left arm the blow which had
been meant for the back of his head.  He was confronted by a man
dressed exactly as he himself was, in morning coat and silk hat,
a man with long, lean face and legal appearance, such a person as
would have passed anywhere without attracting a moment's suspicion.
Yet, in the space of a few seconds he had whipped out from one
pocket, with the skill almost of a juggler, a vicious-looking
life-preserver, and from the other a pocket-handkerchief soaked
with chloroform.  Laverick, quick and resourceful, feeling his
left arm sink helpless, struck at the man with his right and sent
him staggering against the wall.  The handkerchief, with its load
of sickening odor, fell to the pavement.  The man was obviously
worsted.  Laverick sprang at him.  They were almost unobserved,
for the crowd was all intent upon the accident in the roadway.
With wonderful skill, his assailant eluded his attempt to close,
and tore at his coat.  Laverick struck at him again but met only
the air.  The man's fingers now were upon his pocket, but this
time Laverick made no mistake.  He struck downward so hard that
with a fierce cry of pain the man relaxed his hold.  Before he
could recover, Laverick had struck him again.  He reeled into the
crowd that was fast gathering around them, attracted by what
seemed to be a fight between two men of unexceptionable appearance.
But there was to be no more fight.  Through the people,
swift-footed, cunning, resourceful, his assailant seemed to
find some hidden way.  Laverick glared fiercely around him, but
the man had gone.  His left hand crept to his chest. The victory
was with him; the document was still there.

At the outside of the double crowd he perceived a taxi.  Ignoring
the storm of questions with which he was assailed, and the advancing
helmet of his friend the policeman at the back of the crowd,
Laverick hailed it and stepped quickly inside.

"Back out of this and drive to Dover Street," he directed.  The
man obeyed him.  People raced to look through the window at him.
The other commotion had died away, - the man in the road had got up
and walked off.  A policeman came hurrying along but he was just
too late.  Very soon they were on their way down Holborn.  Once
more Laverick had escaped.

A French man-servant, with the sad face and immaculate dress of a
High-Church cleric, took possession of him as soon as he had asked
for Mademoiselle Idiale.  He was shown into one of the most
delightful little rooms he had ever even dreamed of.  The walls
were hung with that peculiar shade of blue satin which Mademoiselle
so often affected in her clothes.  Laverick, who was something of
a connoisseur, saw nowhere any object which was not, of its sort,
priceless, - French furniture of the best and choicest period, a
statuette which made him, for a moment, almost forget the scene
from which he had just arrived.  The air in the room seemed as
though it had passed through a grove of lemon trees, - it was fresh
and sweet yet curiously fragrant.  Laverick sank down into one of
the luxurious blue-brocaded chairs, conscious for the first time
that he was out of breath.  Then the door opened silently and
there entered not the woman whom he had been expecting, but Mr.
Lassen.  Laverick rose to his feet half doubtfully.  Lassen's
small, queerly-shaped face seemed to have become one huge
ingratiating smile.

"I am very glad to see you, Mr. Laverick," he said, - "very glad
indeed."

"I have come to call upon Mademoiselle Idiale," Laverick answered,
somewhat curtly.  He had disliked this man from the first moment
he had seen him, and he saw no particular reason why he should
conceal his feelings.

"I am here to explain," Mr. Lassen continued, seating himself
opposite to Laverick.  "Mademoiselle Idiale is unfortunately
prevented from seeing you.  She has a severe nervous headache,
and her only chance of appearing tonight is to remain perfectly
undisturbed.  Women of her position, as you may understand, have
to be exceptionally careful.  It would be a very serious matter
indeed if she were unable to sing to-night."

"I am exceedingly sorry to hear it," Laverick answered.  "In that
case, I will call again when Mademoiselle Idiale has recovered."

"By all means, my dear sir!" Mr. Lassen exclaimed.  "Many times,
let us hope.  But in the meantime, there is a little affair of a
document which you were going to deliver to Mademoiselle.  She is
most anxious that you should hand it to me - most anxious.  She
will tender you her thanks personally, tomorrow or the next day,
if she is well enough to receive."

Laverick shook his head firmly.

"Under no circumstances," he declared, "should I think of delivering
the document into any other hands save those of Mademoiselle Idiale.
To tell you the truth, I had not fully decided whether to part with
it even to her.  I was simply prepared to hear what she had to say.
But it may save time if I assure you, Mr. Lassen, that nothing would
induce me to part with it to any one else."

There was no trace left of that ingratiating smile upon Mr. Lassen's
face.  He had the appearance now of an ugly animal about to show
its teeth.  Laverick was suddenly on his guard.  More adventures,
he thought, casting a somewhat contemptuous glance at the physique
of the other man.  He laid his fingers as though carelessly upon a
small bronze ornament which reposed amongst others on a table by
his side.  If Mr. Lassen's fat and ugly hand should steal toward
his pocket, Laverick was prepared to hurl the ornament at his head.

"I am very sorry to hear you say that, Mr. Laverick," Lassen said
slowly.  "I hope very much that you will see your way clear to
change your mind.  I can assure you that I have as much right to
the document as Mademoiselle Idiale, and that it is her earnest
wish that you should hand it over to me.  Further, I may inform you
that the document itself is a most incriminating one.  Its possession
upon your person, or upon the person of any one who was not upon his
guard, might be a very serious matter indeed."

Laverick shrugged his shoulders.

"As a matter of fact," he declared, "I certainly have no idea of
carrying it about with me.  On the other hand, I shall part with it
to no one.  I might discuss the matter with Mademoiselle Idiale
as soon as she is recovered.  I am not disposed - I mean no offence,
sir - but I may say frankly that I am not disposed even to do as
much with you."

Laverick rose to his feet with the obvious intention of leaving.
Lassen followed his example and confronted him.

"Mr. Laverick," he said, "in your own interests you must not talk
like that, - in your own interests, I say."

"At any rate," Laverick remarked, "my interests are better looked
after by myself than by strangers.  You must forgive my adding,
Mr. Lassen, that you are a stranger to me."

"No more so than Mademoiselle Idiale!" the little man exclaimed.

"Mademoiselle Idiale has given me certain proof that she knew at
least of the existence of this document," Laverick answered.  "She
has established, therefore, a certain claim to my consideration.
You announce yourself as Mademoiselle Idiale's deputy, but you
bring me no proof of the fact, nor, in any case, am I disposed to
treat with you.  You must allow me to wish you good afternoon."

Lassen shook his head.

"Mr. Laverick," he declared, "you are too impetuous.  You force me
to remind you that your own position as holder of that document is
not a very secure one.  All the police in this capital are searching
to-day for the man who killed that unfortunate creature who was
found murdered in Crooked Friars' Alley.  If they could find the
man who was in possession of his pocket-book, who was in possession
of twenty thousand pounds taken from the dead man's body and with
it had saved his business and his credit, how then, do you think?
I say nothing of the document."

Laverick was silent for a moment.  He realized, however, that to
make terms with this man was impossible.  Besides, he did not trust
him.  He did not even trust him so far as to believe him the
accredited envoy of Mademoiselle.

"My unfortunate position," Laverick said, "has nothing whatever to
do with the matter.  Where you got your information from I cannot
say.  I neither accept nor deny it.  But I can assure you that I
am not to be intimidated.  This document will remain in my possession
until some one can show me a very good reason for parting with it."

Lassen beat the back of the chair against which he was standing with
his clenched fist.

"A reason why you should part with it!" he exclaimed fiercely.  "Man,
it stares you there in the face!  If you do not part with it, you will
be arrested within twenty-four hours for the murder or complicity in
the murder of Rudolph Von Behrling!  That I swear!  That I shall
see to myself!"

"In which case," Laverick remarked, "the document will fall into the
hands of the English police."

The shot told.  Laverick could have laughed as he watched its effect
upon his listener.  Mr. Lassen's face was black with unuttered
curses.  He looked as though he would have fallen upon Laverick
bodily.

"What do you know about its contents?" he hissed.  "Why do you
suppose it would not suit my purpose to have it fall into the hands
of the English police?"

"I can see no reason whatever," Laverick answered, "why I should
take you into my confidence as to how much I know and how much I do
not know.  I wish you good afternoon, Mr. Lassen!  I shall be ready
to wait upon Mademoiselle Idiale at any time she sends for me.  But
in case it should interest you to be made aware of the fact," he
added, with a little bow, "I am not going round with this terrible
document in my possession."

He moved to the door.  Already his hand was upon the knob when he
saw the movement for which he had watched.  Laverick, with a single
bound, was upon his would-be assailant.  The hand which had already
closed upon the butt of the small revolver was gripped as though
in a vice.  With a scream of pain Lassen dropped the weapon upon
the floor.  Laverick picked it up, thrust it into his coat pocket
and, taking the man's collar with both hands, he shook him till
the eyes seemed starting from his head and his shrieks of fear were
changed into moans.  Then he flung him into a corner of the room.

"You cowardly brute!" he exclaimed.  "You come of the breed of men
who shoot from behind.  If ever I lay my hands upon you again,
you'll be lucky if you live to whimper about it."

He left the room and rang for the lift.  He saw no trace of any
servants in the hall, nor heard any sound of any one moving.  From
Dover Street he drove straight to Zoe's house.  Keeping the cab
waiting, he knocked at the door.  She opened it herself at once,
and her eyes glowed with pleasure.

"How delightful!" she cried.  "Please come in.  Have you come to
take me to the theatre?"

He followed her into the parlor and closed the door behind them.

"Zoe," he said, "I am going to ask you a favor."

"Me a favor?" she repeated.  "I think you know how happy it will
make me if there is anything - anything at all in the world that I
could do."

"A week ago," Laverick continued, "I was an honest but not very
successful stockbroker, with a natural longing for adventures which
never came my way.  Since then things have altered.  I have stumbled
in upon the most curious little chain of happenings which ever
became entwined with the life of a commonplace being like myself.
The net result, for the moment, is this.  Every one is trying to
steal from me a certain document which I have in my pocket.  I want
to hide it for the night.  I cannot go to the police, it is too
late to go back to Chancery Lane, and I have an instinctive feeling
that my flat is absolutely at the mercy of my enemies.  May I hide
my document in your room ?  I do not believe for a moment that any
one would think of searching here."

"Of course you may," she answered.  "But listen.  Can you see out
into the street without moving very much?"

He turned his head.  He had been standing with his back to the
window, and Zoe had been facing it.

"Yes, I can see into the street," he assented.

"Tell me - you see that taxi on the other side of the way?" she
asked.

He nodded.

"It wasn't there when I drove up," he remarked.

"I was at the window, looking out, when you came, she said.  "It
followed you out from the Square into this street.  Directly you
stopped, I saw the man put on the brake and pull up his cab.  It
seemed to me so strange, just as though some one were watching you
all the time."

Laverick stood still, looking out of the window.

"Who lives in the house opposite?" he asked.

"I am afraid," she answered, "that there are no very nice people
who live round here.  The people whom I see coming in and out of
that house are not nice people at all."

"I understand," he said.  "Thank you, Zoe.  You are right.  Whatever
I do with my precious document, I will not leave it here.  To tell
you the truth, I thought, for certain reasons, that after I had paid
my last call this afternoon I should not be followed any more.  Come
back with me and I will give you some dinner before you go to the
theatre."

She clapped her hands.

"I shall love it," she declared.  "But what shall you do with the
document?"

"I shall take a room at the Milan Hotel," he said, "and give it to
the cashier.  They have a wonderful safe there.  It is the best
thing I can think of.  Can you suggest anything?"

She considered for a moment.

"Do you know what is inside?" she asked.

He shook his head.

"I have no idea.  It is the most mysterious document in the world,
so far as I am concerned."

"Why not open it and read it?" she suggested; "then you will know
exactly what it is all about.  You can learn it by heart and tear
it up."

"I must think that over," he said.  "One second before we go out."

He took from his pocket the revolver which Lassen had dropped.  It
was a perfect little weapon, and fully charged.  He replaced it in
his pocket, keeping his finger upon the trigger.

"Now, Zoe, if you are ready," he said, "come along."

They stepped out and entered the taxi, unmolested, and Laverick
ordered:

"To the Milan Hotel."




CHAPTER XXIX

LASSEN'S TREACHERY DISCOVERED


About twenty minutes past six on the same evening, Bellamy, his
clothes thick with dust, his face dark with anger, jumped lightly
from a sixty horse-power car and rang the bell of the lift at number
15, Dover Street.  Arrived on the first floor, he was confronted
almost immediately by the sad-faced man-servant of Mademoiselle
Idiale.

"Mademoiselle is in?" Bellamy asked quickly.

The man's expression was one of sombre regret.

"Mademoiselle is spending the day in the country, sir.  Bellamy
took him by the shoulders and flung him against the wall.

"Thank you," he said, "I've heard that before."

He walked down the passage and knocked softly at the door of Louise's
sleeping apartment.  There was no answer.  He knocked again and
listened at the key-hole.  There was some movement inside but no
one spoke.

"Louise," he cried softly, "let me in.  It is I - David."

Again the only reply was the strangest of sounds.  Almost it seemed
as though a woman were trying to speak with a hand over her mouth.
Then Bellamy suddenly stiffened into rigid attention.  There were
voices in the small reception room, - the voice of Henri, the butler,
and another.  Reluctantly he turned away from the closed door and
walked swiftly down the passage.  He entered the reception room and
looked around him in amazement.  It was still in disorder.  Lassen
sat in an easy-chair with a tumbler of brandy by his side.  Henri
was tying a bandage around his head, his collar was torn, there
were marks of blood about his shirt.  Bellamy's eyes sparkled.  He
closed the door behind him.

"Come," he exclaimed, "after all, I fancy that my arrival is
somewhat opportune!"

Henri turned towards him with a reproachful gesture.

"Monsieur Lassen has been unwell, Monsieur," he said.  "He has had
a fit and fallen down."

Bellamy laughed contemptuously.

"I think I can reconstruct the scene a little better than that," he
declared.  "What do you say, Mr. Lassen?"

The man glared at him viciously.

"I do not know what you are talking about," he said.  "I do not
wish to speak to you.  I am ill.  You had better go and persuade
Mademoiselle to return.  She is at Dover, waiting."

"You are a liar!" Bellamy answered.  "She is in her room now,
locked up - guarded, perhaps, by one of your creatures.  I have been
half-way to Dover, but I tumbled to your scheme in time, Mr. Lassen.
You found our friend Laverick a trifle awkward, I fancy."

Lassen swore through his teeth but said nothing.

"From your somewhat dishevelled appearance," Bellamy continued, "I
think I may conclude that you were not able to come to any amicable
arrangement with Mademoiselle's visitor.  He declined to accept you
as her proxy, I imagine.  Still, one must make sure."

He advanced quickly.  Lassen shrank back in his chair.

"What do you mean?" he asked gruffly.  "Keep him away from me,
Henri.  Ring the bell for your other man.  This fellow will do me
a mischief."

"Not I," Bellamy answered scornfully.  "Stay where you are, Henri.
To your other accomplishments I have no doubt you include that of
valeting.  Take off his coat."

"But, Monsieur!" Henri protested.

"I'm d-d if he shall!" the man in the chair snarled.

Bellamy turned to the door, locked it, and put the key in his pocket.

"Look here," he said, "I do not for one moment believe that Laverick
handed over to you the document you were so anxious to obtain.  On
the other hand, I imagine that your somewhat battered appearance is
the result of fruitless argument on your part with a view to inducing
him to do so.  Nevertheless, I can afford to run no risks.  The coat
first, please, Henri.  It is necessary that I search it thoroughly."

There was a brief hesitation.  Bellamy's hand went reluctantly into
his pocket.

"I hate to seem melodramatic," he declared, "and I never carry
firearms, but I have a little life-preserver here which I have
learned how to use pretty effectively.  Come, you know, it isn't a
fair fight.  You've had all you want, Lassen, and Henri there hasn't
the muscle of a chicken."

Lassen rose, groaning, to his feet and allowed his coat to be
removed.  Bellamy glanced through the pockets, holding one letter
for a moment in his hands as he glanced at the address.

"The writing of our friend Streuss," he remarked, with a smile.
"No, you need not fear, Lassen!  I am not going to read it.  There
is plenty of proof of your treachery without this."

Lassen's face was livid and his eyes seemed like beads.  Bellamy
handed back the coat.

"That's all right," he said.  "Nothing there, I am glad to see - or
in the waistcoat," he added, passing his hands over it.  "I'll
trouble you to stand up for a moment, Mr. Lassen."

The man did as he was bid and Bellamy felt him all over.  When he
had finished, he held in his hand a key.

"The key of Mademoiselle's chamber, I have no doubt," he announced,
"I will leave you, then, while I see what deviltry you have been
up to."

He walked calmly to the table which stood by the window and
deliberately cut the telephone wire.  With the instrument under his
arm, he left the room.  Lassen blundered to his feet as though to
intercept him, but Bellamy's eyes suddenly flashed red fury, and
the life-preserver of which he had spoken glittered above his head.
Lassen staggered away.

"I'm a long-suffering man," Bellamy said, "and if you don't remember
now that you're the beaten dog, I may lose my temper."

He locked them in, walked down the passage and opened the door of
Louise's bedchamber with fingers that trembled a little.  With a
smothered oath he cut the cord from the arms of the maid and the
gag from her mouth.  Louise, clad in a loose afternoon gown, was
lying upon the bed, as though asleep.  Bellamy saw with an impulse
of relief that she was breathing regularly.

"This is Lassen's work, of course!" he exclaimed.  "What have they
done to her?"

The maid spoke thickly.  She was very pale, and unsteady upon her
feet.

"It was something they put in her wine," she faltered.  "I heard Mr.
Lassen say that it would keep her quiet for three or four hours.  I
think - I think that she is waking now."

Louise opened her eyes and looked at them with amazement.  Bellamy
sat by the side of the bed and supported her with his arm.

"It is only a skirmish, dear," he whispered, "and it is a drawn
battle, although you got the worst of it."

She put her hand to her head, struggling to remember.

"Mr. Laverick has been here?" she asked.

"He has.  Your friend Lassen has been taking a hand in the game.  I
came here to find you like this and Annette tied up.  Henri is in
with him.  What has become of your other servants I don't know."

"Henri asked for a holiday for them," she said, the color slowly
returning to her cheeks.  "I begin to understand.  But tell me, what
happened when Mr. Laverick came?"

"I can only guess," Bellamy answered, "but it seems that Lassen must
have received him as though with your authority."

"And what then?" she asked quickly.

"I am almost certain," Bellamy declared, "that Laverick refused to
have anything to do with him.  I received a wire from Dover to say
that you were on your way home, and asking me to meet you at the
Lord Warden Hotel.  I borrowed Montresor's racing-car, but I sent
telegrams, and I was pretty soon on my way back.  When I arrived
here, I found Lassen in your little room with a broken head.
Evidently Laverick and he had a scrimmage and he got the worst of
it.  I have searched him to his bones and he has no paper.  Laverick
brought it here, without a doubt, and has taken it away again."

She rose to her feet.

"Go and let Lassen out," she said.  "Tell him he must never come
here again.  I will see him at the Opera House to-night or to-morrow
night - that is, if I can get there.  I do not know whether I shall
feel fit to sing."

"I shall take the liberty, also," remarked Bellamy, "of kicking
Henri out."

Louise sighed.

"He was such a good servant.  I think it must have cost our friend
Streuss a good deal to buy Henri.  You will come back to me when
you have finished with them?"

Bellamy made short work of his discomfited prisoners.  Lassen was
surly but only eager to depart Henri was resigned but tearful.
Almost as they went the other servants began to return from their
various missions.  Bellamy went back to Louise, who was lying down
again and drinking some tea.  She motioned Bellamy to come over to
her side.

"Tell me," she asked, "what are you going to do now?"

"I am going to do what I ought to have done before," Bellamy answered.
"Laverick's connection with this affair is suspicious enough, but
after all he is a sportsman and an Englishman.  I am going to tell
him what that envelope contains - tell him the truth."

"You are right!" she exclaimed.  "Whatever he may have done, if you
tell him the truth he will give you that document.  I am sure of it.
Do you know where to find him?"

"I shall go to his rooms," Bellamy declared.  "I must be quick, too,
for Lassen is free - they will know that he has failed."

"Come back to me, David," she begged, and he kissed her fingers and
hurried out.




CHAPTER XXX

THE CONTEST FOR THE PAPERS

Laverick, sitting with Zoe at dinner, caught his companion looking
around the restaurant with an expression in her face which he did
not wholly understand.

"Something is the matter with you this evening, Zoe," he said
anxiously.  "Tell me what it is.  You don't like this place, perhaps?"

"Of course I do."

"It is your dinner, then, or me?" he persisted.  "Come, out with it.
Haven't we promised to tell each other the truth always?"

The pink color came slowly into her cheeks.  Her eyes, raised for a
moment to his, were almost reproachful.

"You know very well that it is not anything to do with you," she
whispered.  "You are too kind to me all the time.  Only," she went
on, a little hesitatingly, "don't you realize - can't you see how
differently most of the girls here are dressed?  I don't mind so
much for myself - but you - you have so many friends.  You keep on
seeing people whom you know.  I am afraid they will think that I
ought not to be here."

He looked at her in surprise, mingled, perhaps, with compunction.
For the first time he appreciated the actual shabbiness of her
clothes.  Everything about her was so neat - pathetically neat, as
it seemed to him in one illuminating moment of realization.  The
white linen collar, notwithstanding its frayed edges, was spotlessly
clean.  The black bow was carefully tied to conceal its worn parts.
Her gloves had been stitched a good many times.  Her gown, although
it was tidy, was old-fashioned and had distinctly seen its best days.
He suddenly recognized the effort - the almost despairing effort -
which her toilette had cost her.

"I don't think that men notice these things," he said simply.  "To
me you look just as you should look - and I wouldn't change places
with any other man in the room for a great deal."

Her eyes were soft - perilously soft - as she looked at him with
uplifted eyebrows and a faint smile struggling at the corners of her
lips.  A wave of tenderness crept into his heart.  What a brave
little child she was!

"You will quite spoil me if you make such nice speeches," she
murmured.

"Anyhow," he went on, speaking with decision, "so long as you feel
like that, you are going to have a new gown - or two - and a new
hat, and you are going to have them at once.  They are going to be
bought with your brother's money, mind.  Shall I come shopping with
you?"

She shook her head.

"Mind, it is partly for your sake that I give in," she said.  "It
would be lovely to have you come, but you would spend far too much
money.  You really mean it all?"

"Absolutely," he answered.  "I insist upon it."

She leaned towards him with dancing eyes.  After all, she was very
much of a child.  The prospect of a new gown, now that she permitted
herself to think of it, was enthralling.

"I might get a coat and skirt," she remarked thoughtfully, "and a
simple white dress.  A black hat would do for both of them, then."

"Don't you study your brother too much," Laverick declared.  "His
stock is going up all the time."

"Tell me your favorite color," she begged confidentially.

"I can't conceive your looking nicer than you do in black," he
replied.

She made a wry face.

"I suppose it must be black," she murmured doubtfully.  "It is much
more economical than anything - "

She broke off to bow to a stout, red-faced man who, after a rude
stare, had greeted her with a patronizing nod.  Laverick frowned.

"Who is that fellow?" he asked.

"Mr. Heepman, our stage-manager," Zoe answered, a little timidly.

"Is there any particular reason why he should behave like a boor?"
Laverick continued, raising his voice a little.

She caught at his arm in terror.  The man was sitting at the next
table.

"Don't, please!" she implored.  "He might hear you.  He is just
behind there."

Laverick half turned in his chair.  She guessed what he was about
to say, and went on rapidly.

"He has been so foolish," she whispered.  "He has asked me so often
to go out with him.  And he could get me sent away, if he wanted,
any time.  He almost threatened it, the last time I refused.  Now
that he has seen me with you, he will be worse than ever."

Laverick's face darkened, and there was a peculiar flash in his eyes.
The man was certainly looking at them in a rude manner.

"There are so many of the girls who would only be too pleased to go
with him," Zoe continued, in a terrified undertone.  "I can't think
why he bothers me."

"I can," Laverick muttered.  "Let's forget about the brute."

But the dinner was already spoiled for Zoe, so Laverick paid the
bill a few minutes later, and walked across to the stage-door of the
theatre with her.  Her little hand, when she gave it to him at
parting, was quite cold.

"I'm as nervous as I can be," she confessed.  "Mr. Heepman will be
watching all the night for something to find fault with me about."

"Don't you let him bully you," Laverick begged.

"I won't," she promised.  "Good-bye!  Thanks so much for my dinner."

She turned away with a brave attempt at a smile, but it was only an
attempt.  Laverick walked on to his club.  There was no one in the
dining-room whom he knew, and the card-room was empty.  He played
one game of billiards, but he played badly.  He was upset.  His
nerves were wrong he told himself, and little wonder.  There seemed
to be no chance of a rubber at bridge, so he sallied out again and
walked aimlessly towards Covent Garden.  Outside the Opera House he
hesitated and finally entered, yielding to an impulse the nature of
which he scarcely recognized.  While he was inquiring about a stall,
a small printed notice was thrust into his hand.  He read it with
a slight start.

We regret to announce that owing to indisposition Mademoiselle
Idiale will not be able to appear this evening.  The part of Delilah
will be taken by Mademoiselle Blanche Temoigne, late of the Royal
Opera House, St. Petersburg.

Ten minutes later, Laverick rang the bell of her flat in Dover Street.
A strange man-servant answered him.

"I came to inquire after Mademoiselle Idiale," Laverick said.

The man held out a tray on which was already a small heap of cards.
Laverick, however, retained his.

"I should be glad if you would take mine in to her," he said.  "I
think it is just likely that she may see me for a moment."

The servant's attitude was one of civil but unconcealed hostility.
He would have closed the door had not Laverick already passed over
the threshold.

"Madame is not well enough to receive visitors, sir," the man
declared.  "She shall have your card as soon as possible."

"I should like her to have it now," Laverick persisted, drawing a
five-pound note from his pocket.

The man looked at the note longingly.

"It would be only waste of time, sir," he declared.  "Mademoiselle
is confined to her bedroom and my orders are absolute."

"You are not the man who was here earlier in the day," Laverick
remarked.  "I wonder," he continued, with a sudden inspiration,
"whether you are not Mr. Bellamy's servant?"

"That is so, sir.  Mr. Bellamy has sent me here to see that no one
has access to Mademoiselle Idiale."

"Then there is no harm whatever in taking in my card," Laverick
declared convincingly.  "You can put that note in your pocket.  I
am perfectly certain that Mademoiselle Idiale will see me, and
that your master would wish her to do so."

"I will take the risk, sir," the man decided, "but the orders I have
received were stringent."

He disappeared and was gone for several moments.  When he came back
he was accompanied by a pale-faced woman dressed in black, obviously
a maid.

"Monsieur Laverick," she said, "Mademoiselle Idiale will receive
you.  If you will come this way?"

She opened the door of the little reception-room, and Laverick
followed her.  The man returned to his place in the hall.

"Madame will be here in a moment," the maid said.  "She will be glad
to see you, but she has been very badly frightened."

Laverick bowed sympathetically.  The woman herself was gray-faced,
terror-stricken.

"It is Monsieur Lassen, the manager of Madame, who has caused a
great deal of trouble here," she said.  "Madame never trusted him
and now we have discovered that he is a spy."

The woman seemed to fade away.  The door of the inner room was
opened and Louise came out.  She was still exceedingly pale, and
there were dark rims under her eyes.  She came across the room with
outstretched hands.  There was no doubt whatever as to her pleasure.

"You have seen Mr. Bellamy?" she asked.

Laverick shook his head.

"No, I have seen nothing of Bellamy to-day.  I came to call upon
you this afternoon."

She wrung her hands.

"You understand, of course!" she exclaimed.  "I did not trust
Lassen, but I never imagined anything like this.  He is an Austrian.
Only a few hours ago I learned that he is one of their most heavily
paid spies.  Streuss got hold of him.  But there, I forgot - you do
not understand this.  It is enough that he laid a plot to get that
document from you.  Where is it, Mr. Laverick?  You have brought it
now?"

"Why, no," Laverick answered, "I have not."

Her eyes were round with terror.  She held out her hands as though
to keep away some tormenting thought.

"Where is it?" she cried.  "You have not parted with it?

"I have not," Laverick replied gravely.  "It is in the safe deposit
of a hotel to which I have moved."

She closed her eyes and drew a long breath of relief.

"You are not well," Laverick said.  "Let me help you to a chair."

She sat down wearily.

"Why have you moved to a hotel?" she asked.

"To tell you the truth," Laverick answered, "I seem to have
wandered into a sort of modern Arabian Nights.  Three times to-day
attempts have been made to get that document from me by force.  I
have been followed whereever I went.  I felt that it was not safe
in my chambers, so I moved to a hotel and deposited it in their
strong-room.  I have come to the conclusion that the best thing I
can do is to open it to-morrow morning, and decide for myself
as to its destination."

Louise sat quite still for several moments.  Then she opened her
eyes.

"What you say is an immense relief to me, Mr. Laverick," she
declared.  "I perceive now that we have made a mistake.  We should
have told you the whole truth from the first.  This afternoon when
Mr. Bellamy left me, it was to come to you and tell you everything."

Laverick listened gravely.

"Really," he said, "it seems to me the wisest course.  I haven't
the least desire to keep the document.  I cannot think why Bellamy
did not treat me with confidence from the first - "

He stopped short.  Suddenly he understood.  Something in Louise's
face gave him the hint.

"Of course!" he murmured to himself.

"Mr. Laverick," Louise said quietly, "in this matter I am no man's
judge, yet, as you and I know well, that paper could have come into
your hands in one way, and one way only.  There may be some
explanation.  If so, it is for you to offer it or not, as you think
best. Mr. Bellamy and I are allies in this matter.  It is not our
business to interfere with the course of justice.  You will run no
risk in parting with that paper.

"Where can I see Bellamy?" Laverick Inquired, rising and taking up
his hat.

"He would go straight to your rooms," she answered.  "Did you leave
word there where you had gone?"

"Purposely I did not," Laverick replied.  "I had better try and find
him, perhaps."

"It is not necessary," she announced.  "No wonder that you feel
yourself to have wandered into the Arabian Nights, Mr. Laverick.
There are two sets of spies who follow you everywhere - two sets that
I know of.  There may be another."

"You think that Bellamy will find me?" he asked.

"I am sure of it."

"Then I'll go back to the hotel and wait."

She hurried him away, but at the door she detained him for a moment.

"Mr. Laverick," she said, looking at him earnestly, "somehow or
other I cannot help believing that you are an honest man.

Laverick sighed.  He opened his lips but closed them again.

"You are very kind, Mademoiselle," he declared simply.

Laverick, as he entered the reception hall at the Milan Hotel,
noticed a man leaning over the cashier's desk talking confidentially
to the clerk in charge.  The latter recognized Laverick with obvious
relief, and at once directed his questioner's attention to him.  Kahn
turned swiftly around and without a moment's hesitation came smiling
towards Laverick with the apparent intention of accosting him.  He
was correctly garbed, tall and fair, with every appearance of being
a man of breeding.  He glanced at Laverick carelessly as he passed,
but, as though changing his original purpose, made no attempt to
address him.  The cashier, who had been watching, gave vent to a
little exclamation of surprise and sprang over the counter.  He
approached Laverick hastily.

"Do you know that gentleman just going out, sir?" he asked.

"I never saw him before in my life," Laverick answered.  "Why?"

"Is this your handwriting, sir?" the man inquired, touching with
his forefinger the half sheet of note-paper which he had been
carrying.

Laverick read quickly, -

  To the Cashier at the Milan Hotel, - Deliver to bearer document
  deposited with you.                  STEPHEN LAVERICK.

"It is not," he declared promptly.  "It is an impudent forgery.
Good God!  You don't mean to say that you parted with my property
to - "

The cashier stopped his breathless question.

"I haven't parted with anything, sir," he said.  "I was just
wondering what to do when you came in.  I'd no reason to believe
that the signature was a forgery, but I didn't like the look of it,
somehow.  We'd better be after him.  Come along, sir."

They hurried outside.  The man was nowhere in sight.  The cashier
summoned the head porter.

"A gentleman has just come out," he exclaimed, - "tall and fair, very
carefully dressed, with a single eyeglass!  Which way did he go?"

"He's just driven off in a big Daimler car, sir," the porter
answered.  "I noticed him particularly.  He spoke to the chauffeur
in Austrian."

Laverick looked out into the Strand.

"Can't we stop him?" he asked rapidly.

The porter smiled as he shook his head.

"Not the ghost of a chance, sir.  He shot round the corner there as
though he were in a desperate hurry, and went the wrong side of the
island.  I heard the police calling to him.  I hope there's nothing
wrong, Mr. Dean?"

The cashier hesitated and glanced at Laverick.

"Nothing much," Laverick answered.  "We should have liked to have
asked him a question - that is all."

Bellamy came out from the hotel and paused to light a cigarette.

"How are you, Laverick?" he said quietly.  "Nothing the matter, I
hope?"

"Nothing worth mentioning," Laverick replied.

The cashier returned to his duties.  The two men were alone.
Bellamy, most carefully dressed, with his silver-headed cane under
his arm, and his silk hat at precisely the correct angle, seemed
very far removed from the work of intrigue into which Laverick
felt himself to have blundered.  He looked down for a moment at the
tips of his patent shoes and up again at the sky, as though anxious
about the weather.

"What about a drink, Laverick?" he asked nonchalantly.

 "Delighted!" Laverick assented.




CHAPTER XXXI

MISS LENEVEU 'S MESSAGE


The two men stepped back into the hotel.  The cashier had returned
to his desk, and the incident which had just transpired seemed to
have passed unnoticed.  Nevertheless, Laverick felt that the studied
indifference of his companion's manner had its significance, and he
endeavored to imitate it.

"Shall we go through into the bar?" he asked.  "There's very seldom
any one there at this time."

"Anywhere you say, Bellamy answered.  "It's years since we had a
drink together."

They passed into the inner room and, finding it empty, drew two
chairs into the further corner.  Bellamy summoned the waiter.

"Two whiskies and sodas quick, Tim," he ordered.  "Now, Laverick,
listen to me," he added, as the waiter turned away.  "We are alone
for the moment but it won't be for long.  You know very well that
it wasn't to renew our schoolboy acquaintance that I've asked you
to come in here with me."

Laverick drew a little breath.

"Please go on," he said.  "I am as anxious as you can be to grasp
this affair properly."

"When we left school," Bellamy remarked, "you were destined for
the Stock Exchange.  I went first to Magdalen.  Did you ever hear
what became of me afterwards?"

"I always understood," Laverick answered, "that you went into one
of the Government offices."

"Quite right," Bellamy assented.  "I did.  At this moment I have
the honor to serve His Majesty."

"Two thousand a year and two hours work a day," Laverick laughed.
"I know the sort of thing."

"You evidently don't," Bellamy answered.  "I often work twenty
hours a day, I don't get half two thousand a year, and most of
the time I carry my life in my hands.  When I am working - and I
am working now - I am never sure of the morrow."

Laverick looked at him incredulously.

"You're not joking, Bellamy?" he asked.

"Not by any manner of means.  I have the honor to be a humble member
of His Majesty's Secret Service."

Laverick glanced at his companion wonderingly.

"I really didn't know," he said, "that such a service had any actual
existence except in novels."

"I am a proof to the contrary," Bellamy declared grimly.  "Abroad,
I run always the risk of being dubbed a spy and treated like one.
At home, I am simply the head of the A2 Branch of the Secret Service.
Here come our drinks."

Laverick raised his whiskey and soda to his lips mechanically.

"Here's luck!" he exclaimed.  "Now go on, Bellamy," he continued.
"The waiter can't overhear."

Bellamy smiled.

"Tim is one of the few persons in the place," he said, "whom one can
trust.  As a matter of fact, he has been very useful to me more than
once.  Now listen to me attentively, Laverick.  I am going to speak
to you as one man to another."

Laverick nodded.

"I am ready," he said.

"Last Monday," Bellamy went on, leaning forward and speaking in a
soft but very distinct undertone, "a man was murdered late at night
in the heart of the city - within one hundred yards of the Stock
Exchange.  The papers called it a mysterious murder.  No one knows
who the man was, or who committed the crime, or why.  You and I,
Laverick, both know a little more than the rest of the world."

"Well?"

"The murder," Bellamy continued, with a strange light in his eyes,
"was accomplished only a stone's throw from your office."

Laverick lit a cigarette and threw the match away.

"Horrible affair it was," he remarked.

Bellamy glanced toward the door, - a man had looked in and departed.

"Enough of this fencing, Laverick," he said.  "A theft was committed
from the person of that murdered man, of which the general public
knows nothing.  A pocketbook was stolen from him containing twenty
thousand pounds and a sealed document.  As to who murdered the man,
I want you to understand that that is not my affair.  As to what has
become of that twenty thousand pounds, I have not the slightest
curiosity.  I want the document."

"What claim have you to it?" Laverick asked quickly.

"I might retort, but I will not," Bellamy replied.  "Time is too
short.  I will answer you by explaining who the man was and what
that document consists of.  The man's name was Von Behrling, and he
was a trusted agent of the Austrian Secret Service.  The document
of which he was robbed contains a verbatim report of the conference
which recently took place at Vienna between the Emperor of Germany,
the Emperor of Austria, and the Czar of Russia.  It contains the
details of a plot against this country and the undertakings entered
into by those several Powers.  I want that document, Laverick.  Have
I established my claim?"

"You have," Laverick answered.  "Why on earth Didn't you come to me
before?  Don't you believe that I should have listened to you as
readily as to Mademoiselle Idiale?"

"I wish that I had come," Bellamy admitted, "and yet, here is the
truth, Laverick, because the truth is best.  Twenty-two years lie
between us and the time when we knew anything of one another.  To
me, therefore, you are a stranger.  I had my spies following Von
Behrling that night.  I know that you took the pocket-book from his
dead body.  If you did not murder him yourself, the deed was done
by an accomplice of yours.  How was I to trust you?  We are speaking
naked words, my friend.  We are dealing with naked truths.  To me
you were a murderer and a thief.  A word from me and you would have
realized the value of that document.  I tell you frankly that
Austria would give you almost any sum for it to-day."

Laverick, strong man though he was, was conscious of a sudden
weakness.  He raised his hand to his forehead and drew it away - wet.
He struggled desperately for self-control.

"Bellamy," he said, "here's truth for truth.  I am not on my trial
before you.  Believe me, man, for God's sake!"

"I'll try," Bellamy promised.  "Go on."

"That night I stayed at my office late because I saw ruin before me
on the morrow.  I left it meaning to go straight home.  I lit a
cigarette near that entry, and by the light of a match, as I was
throwing it away, I saw the murdered man.  I think for a time I was
paralyzed.  The pocket-book was half dragged out from his pocket.
Why I looked inside it I don't know.  I had some sort of wild idea
that I must find out who he was.  Mind you, though, I should have
given the alarm at once, but there wasn't a soul in the street.
There was a man lurking in the entry and I chased him, unsuccessfully.
When I came back, the body was still there and the street empty.  I
looked inside that pocket-book, which would have been in the
possession of his murderer but for my unexpected appearance.  I saw
the notes there.  Once more I went out into the street.  I gave no
alarm, - I am not attempting to explain why.  I was like a man made
suddenly mad.  I went back to my office and shut myself in."

Bellamy pointed to the glasses silently.  The waiter came forward
and refilled them.

"Bellamy," Laverick continued, "your career and mine lie far apart,
and yet, at their backbone, as there is at the backbone of every
man's life, there must be something of the same sort of ambition.
My grandfather lived and died a member of the Stock Exchange, honored
and well thought of.  My father followed in his footsteps.  I, too,
was there.  Without becoming wealthy, the name I bear has become
known and respected.  Failure, whatever one may say, means a broken
life and a broken honor.  I sat in my office and I knew that the use
of those notes for a few days might save me from disgrace, might
keep the name, which my father and grandfather had guarded so
jealously, free from shame.  I would have paid any price for the use
of them.  I would have paid with my life, if that had been possible.
Think of the risk I ran - the danger I am now in.  I deposited those
notes on the morrow as security at my bank, and I met all my
engagements.  The crisis is over!  Those notes are in a safe deposit
vault in Chancery Lane!  I only wish to Heaven that I could find
the owner!"

"And the document?" Bellamy asked.  "The document?"

"It is in the hotel safe," Laverick answered.

Bellamy drew a long sigh of relief.  Then he emptied his tumbler
and lit a cigarette.

"Laverick," he declared, "I believe you."

"Thank God!" Laverick muttered.

"I am no crime investigator," Bellamy went on thoughtfully.  "As to
who killed Von Behrling, or why, I cannot now form the slightest
idea.  That twenty thousand pounds, Laverick, is Secret Service
money, paid by me to Von Behrling only half-an-hour before he was
murdered, in a small restaurant there, for what I supposed to be
the document.  He deceived me by making up a false packet.  The real
one he kept.  He deserved to die, and I am glad he is dead."

Laverick's face was suddenly hopeful.

"Then you can take these notes!" he exclaimed.

Bellamy nodded.

"In a few days," he said, "I shall take you with me to a friend of
mine - a Cabinet Minister.  You shall tell him the story exactly as
you've told it to me, and restore the money."

Laverick laughed like a child.

"Don't think I'm mad," he apologized, "but I am not a person like
you, Bellamy, - used to adventures and this sort of wild happenings.
I'm a steady-going, matter-of-fact Englishman, and this thing has
been like a hateful nightmare to me.  I can't believe that I'm going
to get rid of it."

Bellamy smiled.

"It's a great adventure," he declared, "to come to any one like you.
To tell you the truth, I can't imagine how you had the pluck - don't
misunderstand me, I mean the moral pluck - to run such a risk.  Why,
at the moment you used those notes," Bellamy continued, "the odds
must have been about twenty to one against your not being found out."

"One doesn't stop to count the odds," Laverick said grimly.  "I saw
a chance of salvation and I went for it.  And now about this letter."

Bellamy rose to his feet.

"On the King's service!" he whispered softly.

They walked once more to the cashier's desk.  A stranger greeted them.
Laverick produced his receipt.

"I should like the packet I deposited here this evening," he said.
"I am sorry to trouble you, but I find that I require it unexpectedly."

The clerk glanced at the receipt and up at the clock.  "I am afraid,
sir," he answered, "that we cannot get at it before the morning."

"Why not?" Laverick demanded, frowning.

"Mr. Dean has just gone home," the man declared, "and he is the only
one who knows the combination on the 'L' safe.  You see, sir," he
continued, "we keep this particular safe for documents, and we did
not expect that anything would be required from it to-night."

Bellamy drew Laverick away.

"After all," he said, "perhaps to-morrow morning would be better.
There's no need to get shirty with these fellows.  As a matter of
fact, I don't think that I should have dared to receive it without
making some special preparations.  I can get some plain clothes
men here upon whom I can rely, at nine o'clock."

They strolled back into the hall.

"Tell me," Laverick asked, "do you know who the man was who forged
my name to the order a few hours ago?"

Bellamy nodded.

"It was Adolf Kahn, an Austrian spy.  I have been watching him for
days.  If they'd given him the paper I had four men at the door, but
it would have been touch and go.  He is a very prince of conspirators,
that fellow.  To tell you the truth, I think I might as well go home."

Bellamy was drawing on his gloves when the hall-porter brought a note
to Laverick.

"A messenger has just left this for you, sir," he explained.

Laverick tore open the envelope.  The contents consisted of a few
words only, written on plain note-paper and in a handwriting which
was strange to him.

  "Ring up 1232 Gerrard."

Laverick frowned, turned over the half sheet of paper and looked
once more at the envelope.  Then he passed it on to his companion.

"What do you make of that, Bellamy?" he asked.

Bellamy smiled as he perused and returned it.

"What could any one make of it?" he remarked, laconically.  "Do you
know the handwriting?"

"Never saw it before, to my knowledge," Laverick answered.  "What
should you do about it?"

"I think," Bellamy suggested, "that I should ring up number 1232
Gerrard."

They crossed the hall and Laverick entered one of the telephone booths.

"1232 Gerrard," he said.

The connection was made almost at once.

"Who are you?" Laverick asked.

"I am speaking for Miss Zoe Leneven," was the reply.  "Are you Mr.
Laverick?"

"I am," Laverick answered.  "Is Miss Leneveu there?  Can she speak
to me herself?"

"She is not here," the voice continued.  "She was fetched away in
a hurry from the theatre - we understood by her brother.  She left
two and sixpence with the doorkeeper here to ring you up and explain
that she had been summoned to her brother's rooms, 25, Jermyn Street,
and would you kindly go on there."

"Who are you?" Laverick demanded.

There was no reply.  Laverick remained speechless, listening
intently.  He stood still with the receiver pressed to his ear.  Was
it his fancy, or was that really Zoe's protesting voice which he
heard in the background?  It was a woman or a child who was speaking
 - he was almost sure that it was Zoe.

"Who are you?" he asked fiercely.  "Miss Leneveu is there with you.
Why does she not speak for herself?"

"Miss Leneveu is not here," was the answer.  "I have done what she
desired.  You can please yourself whether you go or not.  The address
is 25, Jermyn Street.  Ring off."

The connection was gone.  Laverick laid down the receiver and
stepped out of the booth.

"I must be off at once," he said to Bellamy.  "You'll be round in
the morning?"

Bellamy smiled.

"After all," he remarked, "I have changed my plans.  I shall not
leave the hotel.  I am going to telephone round to my man to bring
me some clothes.  By the bye, do you mind telling me whether this
message which you have just received had anything to do with the
little affair in which we are interested?"

"Not directly," Laverick answered, after a moment's hesitation.
"The message was from a young lady.  I have to go and meet her."

"A young lady whom you can trust?" Bellamy inquired quietly.

"Implicitly," Laverick assured him.

"She spoke herself?"

"No, she sent a message.  Excuse me, Bellamy, won't you, but I
must really go."

"By all means," Bellamy answered.

They stood at the entrance to the hotel together while a taxicab
was summoned.  Laverick stepped quickly in.

"25, Jermyn Street," he ordered.

Bellamy watched him drive off.  Then he sighed.

"I think, my friend Laverick," he said softly, "that you will need
some one to look after you to-night."




CHAPTER XXXII

MORRISON IS DESPERATE


Certainly it was a strange little gathering that waited in Morrison's
room for the coming of Laverick.  There was Lassen -flushed, ugly,
breathing heavily, and watching the door with fixed, beady eyes.
There was Adolf Kahn, the man who had strolled out from the Milan
Hotel as Laverick had entered it, leaving the forged order behind
him.  There was Streuss - stern, and desperate with anxiety.  There
was Morrison himself, in the clothes of a workman, worn to a shadow,
with the furtive gleam of terrified guilt shining in his sunken
eyes, and the slouched shoulders and broken mien of the habitual
criminal.  There was Zoe, around whom they were all standing, with
anger burning in her cheeks and gleaming out of her passion-filled
eyes.  She, too, like the others, watched the door.  So they waited.

Streuss, not for the first time, moved to the window and drawing
aside the curtains looked down into the street.

"Will he come - this Englishman?" he muttered.  "Has he courage?"

"More courage than you who keep a girl here against her will!" Zoe
panted, looking at him defiantly.  "More courage than my poor
brother, who stands there like a coward!"

"Shut up, Zoe!" Morrison exclaimed harshly.  "There is nothing for
you to be furious about or frightened.  No one wants to ill-treat
you.  These gentlemen all want to behave kindly to us.  It is
Laverick they want."

"And you," she cried, "are content to stand by and let him walk
into a trap - you let them even use my name to bring him here!
Arthur, be a man!  Have nothing more to do with them.  Help me to
get away from this place.  Call out.  Do something instead of
standing there and wasting the precious minutes."

He came towards her - ugly and threatening.

"I'll do something in a minute," he declared savagely, - "something
you won't like, either.  Keep your mouth shut, I tell you.  It's me
or him, and, by Heavens, he deserves what he'll get!"

Streuss turned away from the window and looked towards Zoe.

"Young lady," he said quietly, "let me beg you not to distress
yourself so.  I sincerely trust that nothing unpleasant will happen.
If it does, I promise you that we will arrange for your temporary
absence.  You shall not be disturbed in any way."

"And as regards your brother, have a care, young lady," Lassen
growled.  "If any one's in danger, it's he.  He'll be lucky if he
saves his own skin."

The young man glowered at her.

"You hear that, you little fool!" he muttered.  Keep still, can't
you?"

Her face was full of defiance.  He came nearer to her and changed
his tone.

"Zoe," he whispered hoarsely, "don't you understand ?  If they can't
get what they want from Laverick, they'll visit it upon me.  They're
desperate, I tell you.  They mean mischief all the time."

"Yet you let him be brought here, your partner who looked after you
when you were ill, and who helped you to get away!" she cried
indignantly.

He laughed unpleasantly.

"When it comes to a matter of life or death, it's every man for
himself.  Besides, if I'd known as much about Laverick as I know
now, I'm not sure that I should have been so ready to go - not
empty-handed, by any manner of means."

"What have you done that you should be so much in the power of
these people?" she demanded, fixing her dark eyes upon him
searchingly.

The terror whitened his face once more.  The perspiration stood out
in beads upon his forehead.

"Don't dare to ask me questions!" he exclaimed nervously.  "I should
like to know what Laverick is to you, eh, that you take so much
interest in him?  Listen here, my fine young lady.  If I've been mug
enough to do the dirty work, he hasn't made any bones about taking
advantage of it.  He's a nice sort of sportsman, I can tell you."

The man at the window suddenly dropped the curtain and spoke across
the room to them all.

"He is here," he announced.

"Alone?" Lassen asked thickly.

"Alone," Streuss echoed.

A little thrill seemed to pass through the room.  Zoe made no attempt
to cry out.  Instead she leaned forward towards the door, as though
listening.  Her attitude seemed harmless enough.  No one took any
more notice of her.  They all watched the entrance to the apartment.
Zoe remembered the two flights of stairs.  She was absorbed in a
breathless calculation.  Now - now he should be coming quite close.
Her whole being was concentrated upon one effort of listening.  At
last she raised her head.  The room resounded with her cries.

"Don't come in!  Don't come in here!" she shrieked.  "Mr. Laverick,
do you hear?  Go away!  Don't come in here alone!"

Her brother was the first to reach her, his hand fell upon her mouth
brutally.  Her little effort was naturally a failure - defeating,
in fact, its own object.  Laverick, hearing her cries, simply
hastened his coming, threw open the door without waiting to knock,
and stepped quickly across the threshold.  He saw a man dressed in
shabby workman's clothes, unshaven, dishevelled, holding Zoe in a
rough grasp, and with a single well-directed blow he sent him reeling
across the room.  Then something in the man's cry, a momentary
glimpse of his white face, revealed his identity.

"Morrison!" he cried.  "Good God, it's Morrison!"

Arthur Morrison was crouching in a corner of the room, his evil face
turned upon his aggressor.  Laverick took quick stock of his
surroundings.  There was the tall, fair young man -Adolf Kahn - whom
he had seen at the Milan a few hours ago - the man who had
unsuccessfully forged his name.  There was Lassen, the man who, under
pretence of being her manager, had been a spy upon Louise.  There was
Streuss, with blanched face and hard features, standing with his back
to the door.  There was Zoe, and, behind, her brother.  She held out
her hands timidly towards him, and her eyes were soft with pleading.

"I did not want you to come here, Mr. Laverick," she cried softly.
"I tried so hard to stop you.  It was not I who sent that message."

He took her cold little fingers and raised them to his lips.

"I know it, dear," he murmured.

Then a movement in the room warned him, and he was suddenly on guard.
Lassen was close to his side, some evil purpose plainly enough
written in his pasty face and unwholesome eyes.  Laverick gave him
his left shoulder and sent him staggering across the floor.  He was
angry at having been outwitted and his eyes gleamed ominously.

"Well, gentlemen," he exclaimed, "you seem to have taken unusual
pains to secure my presence here!  Tell me now, what can I do for
you?"

It was Streuss who became spokesman.  He addressed Laverick with
the consideration of one gentleman addressing another.  His voice
had many agreeable qualities.  His demeanor was entirely amicable.

"Mr. Laverick," he answered, "let us first apologize if we used a
little subterfuge to procure for us the pleasure of your visit.  We
are men who are in earnest, and across whose path you have either
wilfully or accidentally strayed.  An understanding between us has
become a necessity."

"Go on," Laverick interrupted.  "Tell me exactly who you are and
what you want."

"As to who we are," Streuss answered, "does that really matter?  I
repeat that we are men who are in earnest - let that be enough.  As
to what we want, it is a certain document to which we have every
claim, and which has come into your possession - I flatter you
somewhat, Mr. Laverick, if I say by chance."

Laverick shrugged his shoulders.

"Let that go," he said.  "I know all about the document you refer to,
and the notes.  They were contained in a pocket-book which it is
perfectly true has come into my possession.  Prove your claim to
both and you shall have them."

Streuss smiled.

"You will admit that our claim, since we know of its existence," he
asked suavely, "is equal to yours?"

"Certainly," Laverick answered, "but then I never had any idea of
keeping either the document or the money.  That your claim is better
than mine is no guarantee that there is not some one else whose title
is better still."

Streuss frowned.

"Be reasonable, Mr. Laverick," he begged.  "We are men of peace -
when peace is possible.  The money of which you spoke you can
consider as treasure trove, if you will, but it is our intention
to possess ourselves of the document.  It is for that reason that
we are here in London.  I, personally, am committed to the extent
of my life and my honor to its recovery."

A declaration of war, courteously veiled but decisive.  Laverick
looked around him a little defiantly, and shrugged his shoulders.

"You know very well that I do not carry it about with me," he said.
"The gentleman on my left," he added, pointing to Kahn, "can tell
you where it is kept."

"Quite so," Streuss admitted.  "We are not doing you the injustice
to suppose that you would be so foolhardy as to trust yourself
anywhere with that document upon your person.  It is in the safe
at the Milan Hotel.  I may add that probably, if it had not
occurred to you to change your quarters, it would have been in
our possession before now.  We are hoping to persuade you to return
to the hotel with one of our friends here, and procure it."

"As it happens," Laverick remarked, "that is impossible.  The man
who set the combination for that particular safe has gone off duty,
and will not be back again at the hotel till to-morrow morning."

"But he is to be found," Streuss answered easily.  "His present
whereabouts and his address are known to us.  He lives with his
family at Harvard Court, Hampstead.  We shall assist you in making
it worth his while to return to the hotel or to give you the
combination word for the safe."

"You are rather great on detail!" Laverick exclaimed.

"It is our business.  The question for you to decide, and to decide
immediately, is whether you are ready to end this, in some respects,
constrained situation, and give your word to place that document in
our hands."

"You are ready to accept my word, then?" Laverick asked.

"We have a certain hold upon you," Streuss continued slowly.  "Your
partner Mr. Morrison's position in connection with the murder in
Crooked Friars' Alley is, as you may have surmised, a somewhat
unfortunate one.  Your own I will not allude to.  I will simply
suggest that for both your sakes publicity - any measure of
publicity, in fact, as regards this little affair - would not be
desirable."

Laverick hesitated.  He understood all that was implied.  Morrison's
eyes were fixed upon him - the eyes of a craven coward.  He felt the
intensity of the moment.  Then Zoe turned suddenly towards him.

"You are not to give it up!" she cried, with trembling lips.  "They
cannot hurt you, and it is not true - about Arthur."

Kahn, who was nearest, clapped his hand over her mouth and Laverick
knocked him down.  Instantly the pacific atmosphere of the room was
changed.  Lassen and Morrison closed swiftly upon Laverick from
different sides.  Streuss covered him with the shining barrel of a
revolver.

"Mr. Laverick," he said, "we are not here to be trifled with.  Keep
your sister quiet, Morrison, or, by God, you'll swing!"

Laverick looked at the revolver - fascinated, for an instant, by
its unexpected appearance.  The face of the man who held it had
changed.  There was lightning playing about the room.

"It's the dock for you both!" Streuss exclaimed fiercely, - "for
you, Laverick, and you, Morrison, too, if you play with us any
longer!  One of you's a murderer and the other receives the booty.
Who are you to have scruples - criminals, both of you?  Your place
is in the dock, and you shall be there within twenty-four hours if
there are any more evasions.  Now, Laverick, will you fetch that
document?  It is your last chance."

Upon the breathless silence that followed a quiet voice intervened
 - a voice calm and emotionless, tinged with a measure of polite
inquiry.  Yet its level utterance fell like a bomb among the little
company.  The curtain separating this from the inner room had been
drawn a few feet back, and Bellamy was standing there, in black
overcoat and white muffler, his silk hat on the back of his head,
his left hand, carefully gloved, resting still upon the curtain
which he had drawn aside.

"I hope I am not disturbing you at all?" he murmured softly.

For a moment the development of the situation remained uncertain.
The gleaming barrel of Streuss's revolver changed its destination.
Bellamy glanced at it with the pleased curiosity of a child.

"I really ought not to have intruded," he continued amiably.  "I
happened to hear the address my friend Laverick gave to the taxicab
driver, and I was particularly anxious to have a word or two with
him before I left for the Continent."

Streuss was surely something of a charlatan!  His revolver had
disappeared.  The smile upon his lips was both gracious and
unembarrassed.

"One is always only too pleased to welcome Mr. Bellamy anywhere -
anyhow," he declared.  "If apologies are needed at all," he
continued, "it is to our friend and host - Mr. Morrison here.
Permit me - Mr. Arthur Morrison - the Honorable David Bellamy!
These are Mr. Morrison's rooms."

Morrison could do no more than stare.  Bellamy, on the contrary,
with a little bow came further into the apartment, removing his hat
from his head.  Lassen glided round behind him, remaining between
Bellamy and the heavy curtains.  Adolf Kahn moved as though
unconsciously in front of the door of the room in which they were.

Bellamy smiled courteously.

"I am afraid," he said, "that I must not stay for more than a moment.
I have a car full of friends below - we are on our way, in fact, to
the Covent Garden Ball - and one or two of them, I fear," he added
indulgently, "have already reached that stage of exhilaration which
such an entertainment in England seems to demand.  They will
certainly come and rout me out if I am here much longer.  There!" he
 exclaimed, "you hear that?"

There was the sound of a motor horn from the street below.  Streuss,
with an oath trembling upon his lips, lifted the blind.  There were
two motor-cars waiting there - large cars with Limousine bodies,
and apparently full of men.  After all, it was to be expected.
Bellamy was no fool!

"Since we are to lose you, then Mr. Laverick," Streuss remarked with
a gesture of farewell, "let us say good night.  The little matter
of business which we were discussing can be concluded with your
partner."

Laverick turned toward Zoe.  Their eyes met and he read their message
of terror.

"You are coming back to your own rooms, Miss Leneveu," he said.
"You must let me offer you my escort."

She half rose, but in obedience to a gesture from Streuss Morrison
moved near to them.

"If you leave me here, Laverick," he muttered beneath his breath, -
"if you leave me to these hounds, do you know what they will do?
They will hand me over to the police - they have sworn it!"

"Why did you come back?" Laverick asked quickly.

"They stopped me as I was boarding the steamer," Morrison declared.
"I tell you they have eyes everywhere.  You cannot move without their
knowledge.  I had to come.  Now that I am here they have told me
plainly the price of my freedom.  It is that document.  Laverick, it
is my life!  You must give in - you must, indeed!  Remember you're
in it, too."

"Am I?" Laverick asked quietly.

"You fool, of course you are!" Morrison whispered hoarsely.  "Didn't
you come into the entry and take the pocket-book?  Heaven knows what
possessed you to do it!  Heaven knows how you found the pluck to use
the money!  But you did it, and you are a criminal - a criminal as I
am.  Don't be a fool, Laverick.  Make terms with these people.  They
want the document - the document - nothing but the document!  They
will let us keep the money."

"And you?" Laverick asked, turning suddenly to Zoe.  "What do you
say about all this?"

She looked at him fearlessly.

"I trust you," she said.  "I trust you to do what is right.




CHAPTER XXXIII

LAVERICK S ARREST


"At last, David!"

Louise welcomed her visitor eagerly with outstretched hands, which
Bellamy raised for a moment to his lips.  Then she turned toward the
third person, who had also risen at the opening of the door - a
short, somewhat thick-set man, with swarthy complexion, close-cropped
black hair, and upturned black moustache.

"You remember Prince Rosmaran ?" she said to Bellamy.  "He left
Servia only the day before yesterday.  He has come to England on a
special mission to the King."

Bellamy shook hands.

"I think," he remarked, "I had the honor of meeting you once before,
Prince, at the opening of the Servian Parliament two years ago.  It
was just then, I believe, that you were elected to lead the patriotic
party."

Th e Prince bowed sadly.

"My leadership, I fear," he declared, "has brought little good to
my unhappy country."

"It is a terrible crisis through which your nation is passing,"
Bellamy reminded him sympathetically.  "At the same time, we must
not despair.  Austria holds out her clenched hands, but as yet she
has not dared to strike."

The face of the Prince was dark with passion.

"As yet, no!" he answered.  "But how long - how long, I wonder -
before the blow falls?  We in Servia have been blamed for arming
ourselves, but I tell you that to-day the Austrian troops are being
secretly concentrated on the frontier.  Their arsenals are working
night and day.  Her soldiers are manoeuvering almost within sight
of Belgrade.  We have hoped against hope, yet in our hearts we know
that our fate was sealed when the Czar of Russia left Vienna last
week."

"Nothing is certain," Bellamy declared restlessly.  "England has
been ill-governed for a great many years, but we are not yet a
negligible Power."

Louise leaned a little towards him.

"David," she whispered, "the compact!"

He answered her unspoken question.

"It is arranged," he said, - "finished.  To-morrow morning at nine
o'clock I receive it."

"You are sure?" she begged.  "Why need there be any delay?"

"It is locked up in a powerful safe," he explained, "and the clerk
who has the combination will not be on duty again till nine.
Laverick is there simply waiting for the hour.  You were right,
Louise, as usual.  I should have trusted him from the first."

The Prince had been listening to their conversation with undisguised
interest.

"There is a rumor," he said, "that some secret information concerning
the compact of Vienna has found its way to this country."

Bellamy smiled.

"Hence, I presume, your mission, Prince."

"We three have no secrets from one another," the Prince declared.
"Our interests in this matter are absolutely identical.  What you
suggest, Mr. Bellamy, is the truth.  There is a rumor that the
Chancellor, in the first few moments of his illness, gave valuable
information to some one who is likely to have communicated it to the
Government here.  To be forewarned is to be forearmed.  That, I
know, is one of your own mottoes.  So I am here to know if there is
anything to be learned."

Bellamy nodded.

"Your arrival is not inopportune, Prince.  When did you come?"

"I reached Charing Cross at midnight," the Prince answered.  "Our
train was an hour late.  I am presenting my credentials early this
morning, and I am hoping for an interview during the afternoon."

Bellamy considered for a moment.

"It is true!" he said.  "Between us three there is indeed no need
for secrecy.  The information you speak of will be in our hands
within a few hours.  I have no doubt whatever but that your Minister
will share in it."

"You know of what it Consists?" the Prince inquired curiously.

"I think so," Bellamy answered, glancing at the clock.  "For my own
part, although the information itself is invaluable, I see another
and a profounder source of interest in that document.  If, indeed,
it is what we believe it to be, it amounts to a casus belli."

"You mean that you would provoke war?" Prince Rosmaran asked.

Bellamy shrugged his shoulders.

"I," said he, - "I am not even a politician.  But, you know, the
lookers-on see a good deal of the game, and in my opinion there is
only one course open for this country, - to work upon Russia so
that she withdraws from any compact she may have entered into with
Austria and Germany, to accept Germany's cooperation with Austria
in the despoilment of your country as a casus belli, and to declare
war at once while our fleet is invincible and our Colonies free
from danger."

The Prince nodded.

"It is good," he admitted, "to hear man's talk once more.  Wherever
one moves, people bow the head before the might of Germany and
Austria.  Let them alone but a little longer, and they will indeed
rule Europe."

Three o'clock struck.  The Prince rose.

"I go," he announced.

"And I," Bellamy declared.  "Come to my rooms at ten o'clock
tomorrow morning, Prince, and you shall hear the news.

Bellamy lingered behind.  For a moment he held Louise in his arms
and gazed sorrowfully into her weary face.

"Is it worth while, I wonder?" he asked bitterly.

"Worth while," she answered, opening her eyes and looking at him,
"to feel the mother love?  Who can help it who would not be ignoble?"

"But yours, dear," he murmured, "is all grief.  Even now I am afraid."

"We can do no more than toil to the end," she said.  "David, you are
sure this time?"

"I am sure," he replied.  "I am going back now to the hotel where
Laverick is staying.  We are going to sit together and smoke until
the morning.  Nothing short of an army could storm the hotel.  I
was with them all only an hour ago, - Streuss, that blackguard
Lassen, and Adolf Kahn, the police spy.  They are beaten men and
they know it.  They had Laverick, had him by a trick, but I made a
dramatic entrance and the game was up."

"Telephone me directly you have taken it safely to Downing Street,"
she begged.

"I will," he promised.

Bellamy walked from Dover Street to the Strand.  The streets were
almost brilliant with the cold, hard moonlight.  The air seemed
curiously keen.  Once or twice the fall of his feet upon the pavement
was so clear and distinct that he fancied he was being followed and
glanced sharply around.  He reached the Milan Hotel, however,
without adventure, and looked towards the little open space in the
hall where he had expected to find Laverick.  There was no one
there!  He stood still for a moment, troubled with a sudden sense
of apprehension.  The place was deserted except for a couple of
sleepy-looking clerks and a small army of cleaners busy with their
machines down in the restaurant, moving about like mysterious
figures in the dim light.

Bellamy turned back to the hall-porter who had admitted him.

"Do you happen to know what has become of the gentleman whom I was
with about an hour ago?" he asked, - "a tall, fair gentleman - Mr.
Laverick his name was?"

The hall-porter recognized Bellamy and touched his hat.

"Why, yes, sir!" he answered with a somewhat mysterious air.  "Mr.
Laverick was sitting over there in an easy-chair until about
half-an-hour ago.  Then two gentle-men arrived in a taxicab and
inquired for him.  They talked for a little time, and finally Mr.
Laverick went away with them."

Bellamy was puzzled.

"Went away with them?" he repeated.  "I don't understand that,
Reynolds.  He was to have waited here till I returned."

The man hesitated.

"It didn't strike me, sir," he said, "that Mr. Laverick was very
wishful to go.  It seemed as though he hadn't much choice about the
matter."

Bellamy looked at him keenly.

"Tell me what is in your mind?" he asked.

"Mr. Bellamy, sir," the hall-porter replied, "I knew one of those
gentlemen by sight.  He was a detective from Scotland Yard, and the
one who was with him was a policeman in plain clothes."

"Good God!" Bellamy exclaimed.  "You think, then, - "

"I am afraid there was no doubt about it, sir," the man answered.
"Mr. Laverick was arrested on some charge."



CHAPTER XXXIV

MORRISON'S DISCLOSURE


Into New Oxford Street, one of the ceaseless streams of polyglot
humanity, came Zoe from her cheerless day bound for the theatre.
She was a little whiter, a little more tired than usual.  All day
long she had heard nothing of Laverick.  All day long she had sat
in her tiny room with the memory of that horrible night before her.
She had tried in vain to sleep, - she had made no effort whatever
to eat.  She knew now why Arthur Morrison had fled away.  She knew
the cause of that paroxysm of fear in which he had sought her out.
The horror of the whole thing had crept into her blood like poison.
Life was once more a dreary, profitless struggle.  All the wonderful
dreams, which had made existence seem almost like a fairy-tale for
this last week, had faded away.  She was once more a mournful
little waif among the pitiless crowds.

She turned to the left and past the Holborn Tube.  Boys were
shouting everywhere the contents of the evening papers.  Nearly
every one seemed to be carrying one of the pink sheets.  She herself
passed on with unseeing eyes.  News was nothing to her.  Governments
might rise and fall, war might come and go, - she had still life to
support, a friendless little life, too, on two pounds fifteen
shillings a week.  The news they shouted fell upon deaf ears, but
one boy unfurled almost before her eyes the headlines of his sheet.

              SENSATIONAL ARREST OF A WELL-KNOWN
              STOCKBROKER.  CHARGE OF MURDER.

She came to a sudden stop and pulled out her purse.  Her fingers
trembled so that the penny fell on to the pavement.  The boy picked
it up willingly enough, however, and she passed on with the paper in
her hand.  There it was on the front page - staring her in the face:

   Early yesterday morning Mr. Stephen Laverick, of the firm of
   Laverick & Morrison, Stockbrokers, Old Broad Street, was
   arrested at the Milan Hotel on the charge of being concerned
   in the murder of a person unknown, in Crooked Friars' Alley,
   on Monday last. The accused, who made no reply to the charge,
   was removed to Bow Street Police-Station.  Particulars of his
   examination before the magistrates will be found on page 4.

There was a dull singing in her ears.  An electric tram, coming up
from the underground passage, seemed to bring with it some sort of
thunder from an unknown world.  She staggered on, unseeing, gasping
for breath.  If she could find somewhere to sit down!  If she could
only rest for a moment!  Then a sudden wave of strength came to her,
the blood flowed once more in her veins - blood that was hot with
anger, that stained her cheeks with a spot of red.  It was the man
she loved, this, being made to suffer falsely.  It was the fulfilment
of their threat - a deliberate plot against him.  The murderer of
Crooked Friars' Alley - she knew who that was!  - she knew!  Perhaps
she might help!

She had not the slightest recollection of the remainder of that
walk, but she found herself presently sitting in a quiet corner of
the theatre with the paper spread out before her.  She read that
Stephen Laverick had been brought before Mr. Rawson, the magistrate
of Bow Street Police Court, on a warrant charging him with having
been concerned with the murder of a person unknown, and that he had
pleaded "Not Guilty!"  Her eyes glittered as she read that the
first witness called was Mr. Arthur Morrison, late partner of the
accused.  She read his deposition - that he had left Laverick at
their offices at eleven o'clock on the night in question, that they
were at that time absolutely without means, and had no prospect
of meeting their engagements on the morrow.  She read the evidence
of Mr. Fenwick, bank manager, to the effect that Mr. Laverick had,
on the following morning, deposited with him the sum of twenty
thousand pounds in Bank of England notes, by means of which the
engagements of the firm were duly met, that those notes had since
been redeemed, and that he had no idea of their present whereabouts.
She read, too, the evidence of Adolf Kahn, an Austrian visiting
this country upon private business, who deposed that he was in the
vicinity just before midnight, that he saw a person, whom he
identified as the accused, walking down the street and, after
disappearing for a few minutes down the entry, return and re-enter
the offices from which he had issued.  He explained his presence
there by the fact that he was waiting for a clerk employed by the
Goldfields' Corporation, Limited, whose offices were close by.
Further formal evidence was given, and a remand asked for.  The
accused's solicitor was on the point of addressing the court when
Mr. Rawson was unfortunately taken ill.  After waiting for some
time, the case was adjourned until the next day, and the accused
man was removed in custody.

Zoe laid down the paper and rose to her feet.  She made her way to
where the stage-manager was superintending the erection of some new
scenery.

"Mr. Heepman," she exclaimed, "I cannot stay to rehearsal!  I have
to go out."

He turned heavily round and looked at her.

"Rehearsal postponed," he declared solemnly.  "Shall you be back
for the evening performance, or shall we close the theatre?"

His clumsy irony missed its mark.  Her thoughts were too intensely
focussed upon one thing.

"I am sorry," she replied, turning away.  "I will come back as soon
as I can."

He called out after her and she paused.

"Look here," he said, "you were absent from the performance the
other evening, and now you are skipping rehearsal without even
waiting for permission.  It can't be done, young lady.  You must
do your playing around some other time.  If you're not here when
you're called, you needn't trouble to turn up again.  Do you
understand?"

Her lips quivered and the sense of impending disaster which seemed
to be brooding over her life became almost overwhelming.

"I'll come back as soon as I can," she promised, with a little break
in her voice, - "as soon as ever I can, Mr. Heepman."

She hurried out of the theatre and took her place once more among
the hurrying throng of pedestrians.  Several people turned round to
look at her.  Her white face, tight-drawn mouth, and eyes almost
unnaturally large, seemed to have become the abiding-place for
tragedy.  She herself saw no one.  She would have taken a cab, but
a glimpse at the contents of her purse dissuaded her.  She walked
steadily on to Jermyn Street, walked up the stairs to the third
floor, and knocked at her brother's door.  No one answered her at
first. She turned the handle and entered to find the room empty.
There were sounds, however, in the further apartment, and she
called out to him.

"Arthur," she cried, "are you there?"

"Who is it?" he demanded.

"It is I - Zoe!" she exclaimed.

"What do you want?"

"I want to speak to you, Arthur.  I must speak to you.  Please
come as quickly as you can."

He growled something and in a few moments he appeared.  He was
wearing the morning clothes in which he had attended court earlier
in the day, but the change in him was perhaps all the more marked
by reason of this resumption of his old attire.  His cheeks were
hollow, his eyes scarcely for an instant seemed to lose that
feverish gleam of terror with which he had returned from Liverpool.
He knew very well what she had come about, and he began nervously
to try and bully her.

"I wish you wouldn't come to these rooms, Zoe," he said.  "I've
told you before they're bachelors' apartments, and they don't like
women about the place.  What is it?  What do you want?"

"I was brought here last time without any particular desire on my
part," she answered, looking him in the face.  "I've come now to
ask you what accursed plot this is against Stephen Laverick?  What
were you doing in the court this morning, lying?  What is the
meaning of it, Arthur?"

"If you've come to talk rubbish like that," he declared roughly,
"you'd better be off."

"No, it is not rubbish!" she went on fearlessly.  "I think I can
understand what it is that has happened.  They have terrified you
and bribed you until you are willing to do any despicable thing
 - even this.  Your father was good to my mother, Arthur, and I
have tried to feel towards you as though you were indeed a relation.
But nothing of that counts.  I want you to realize that I know the
truth, and that I will not see an innocent man convicted while the
guilty go free."

He moved a step towards her.  They were on opposite sides of the
small round table which stood in the centre of the apartment.

"What do you mean?" he demanded hoarsely.

"Isn't it plain enough?" she exclaimed.  "You came to my rooms a
week or so ago, a terrified, broken-down man.  If ever there was
guilt in a man's face, it was in yours.  You sent for Laverick.  He
pitied you and helped you away.  At Liverpool they would not let
you embark - these men.  They have brought you back here.  You are
their tool.  But you know very well, Arthur, that it was not Stephen
Laverick who killed the man in Crooked Friars' Alley!  You know very
well that it was not Stephen Laverick!"

"Why the devil should I know anything about it?" he asked fiercely.

A note of passion suddenly crept into her voice.  Her little white
hand, with its accusing forefinger, shot out towards him.

"Because it was you, Arthur Morrison, who committed that crime," she
cried, "and sooner than another man should suffer for it, I shall
go to court myself and tell the truth."

He was, for the moment, absolutely speechless, pale as death, with
nervously twitching lips and fingers.  But there was murder in his eyes.

"What do you know about this?" he muttered.

"Never mind," she answered.  "I know and I guess quite enough to
convince me - and I think anybody else - that you are the guilty man.
I would have helped you and shielded you, whatever it cost me, but
I will not do so at Stephen Laverick's expense."

"What is Laverick to you?" he growled.

"He is nothing to me," she replied, "but the best of friends.  Even
were he less than that, do you suppose that I would let an innocent
man suffer?"

He moistened his dry lips rapidly.

"You are talking nonsense, Zoe," he said, - "nonsense!  Even if
there has been some little mistake, what could I do now?  I have
given my evidence.  So far as I am concerned, the case is finished.
I shall not be called again until the trial."

"Then you had better go to the magistrates tomorrow morning and
take back your evidence," she declared boldly, "for if you do not,
I shall be there and I shall tell the truth."

"Zoe," he gasped, "don't try me too high.  This thing has upset me.
I'm ill.  Can't you see it, Zoe?  Look at me.  I haven't slept for
weeks.  Night and day I've had the fear - the fear always with me.
You don't know what it is - you can't imagine.  It's like a terrible
ghost, keeping pace with you wherever you go, laying his icy finger
upon you whenever you would rest, mocking at you when you try to
drown thought even for a moment.  Don't you try me too far, Zoe.
I'm not responsible.  Laverick isn't the man you think him to be.
He isn't the man I believed.  He did have that money - he did,
indeed."

"That," she said, "is to be explained.  But he is not a murderer."

"Listen to me, Zoe," Morrison continued, leaning across the table.
"Come and stay with me for a time and we will go away for a week
 - somewhere to the seaside.  e will talk about this and think it
over.  I want to get away from London.  We will go to Brighton, if
you like.   must do something for you, Zoe.  I'm afraid I've
neglected you a good deal.  Perhaps I could get you a better part
at one of the theatres.  I must make you an allowance.  You ought
to be wearing better clothes."

She drew a little away.

"I want nothing from you, Arthur," she said, "except this - that
you speak the truth."

He wiped his forehead and struck the table before her.

"But, good God, Zoe!" he exclaimed, "do you know what it is that
you are asking me?  Do you want me to go into court and say - 'That
isn't the man...  It is I who am the murderer'?  Do you want me to
feel their hands upon my shoulder, to be put there in the dock and
have all the people staring at me curiously because they know that
before very long I am to stand upon the scaffold and have that rope
around my neck and - "

He broke off with a low cry, wringing his hands like a child in a
fit of impotent terror.  But the girl in front of him never flinched.

"Arthur," she said, "crime is a terrible thing, but nothing in the
world can alter its punishment.  If it is frightful for you to
think of this, what must it be for him?  And you are guilty and he
is not."

"I was mad!" Morrison went on, now almost beside himself.  "Zoe, I
was mad!  I called there to have a drink.  We were broke, - the firm
was broke.  I'd a hundred or so in my pocket and I was going to bolt
the next day.  And there, within a few yards of me, was that man,
with such a roll of notes as I had never seen in my life.  Five
hundred pounds, every one of them, and a wad as thick as my fists.
Zoe, they fascinated me.  I had two drinks quickly and I followed
him out.  Somehow or other, I found that I'd caught up a knife that
was on the counter.  I never meant to hurt him seriously, but I
wanted some of those notes!  I was leaving the next day for Africa
and I hadn't enough money to make a fair start.  I wanted it - my
God, how I wanted money!"

"It couldn't have been worth - that!" she cried, looking at him
wonderingly.

"I was mad," he continued.  "I saw the notes and they went to my
head.  Men do wild things sometimes when they are drunk, or for
love.  I don't drink much, and I'm not over fond of women, but, my
God, money is like the blood of my body to me!  I saw it, and I
wanted it and I wanted it, and I went mad!  Zoe, you won't give me
away?  Say you won't!"

"But what am I to do?" she protested.  "He must not suffer."

"He'll get off," Morrison assured her thickly.  "I tell you he'll
get off.  He's only to part with the document, which never belonged
to him, and the charge will be withdrawn.  They know who the
murdered man was.  They know where the money came from which he was
carrying.  I tell you he can save himself.  You wouldn't dream of
sending me to the gallows, Zoe!"

"Stephen Laverick will never give up that document to those people,"
she declared.  "I am sure of that."

"It's his own lookout," Morrison muttered.  "He has the chance,
anyway."

She turned toward the door.

"I must go away," she said.  "I must go away and think.  It is all
too horrible."

He came round the table swiftly and caught at her wrists.

"Listen," he said, "I can't let you go like this.  You must tell me
that you are not going to give me up.  Do you hear?"

"I can make no promises, Arthur," she answered sadly, "only this -
I shall not let Stephen Laverick suffer in your stead."

He opened his hand and she shrank back, terrified, when she saw what
it was that he was holding.  Then he struck her down and without a
backward glance fled out of the place.




CHAPTER XXXV

BELLAMY'S SUCCESS


Late that afternoon the hall-porter at the Milan Hotel, the
commissionaire, and the chief maitre d'hotel from the Caf‚, who
happened to be in the hall, together with several others around the
place who knew Stephen Laverick by sight, were treated to an
unexpected surprise.  A large closed motor-car drove up to the
front entrance and several men descended, among whom was Laverick
himself.  He nodded to the hall-porter, whose salute was purely
mechanical, and making his way without hesitation to the interior
of the hotel, presented his receipt at the cashier's desk and asked
for his packet.  The clerk looked up at him in amazement.  He did
not, for the moment, notice that the two men standing immediately
behind bore the stamp of plain-clothes policemen.  He had only a
few minutes ago finished reading the report of Laverick's
examination before the magistrates and his remand until the morrow,
upon the charge of murder.  His knowledge of English law was by no
means perfect, but he was at least aware that Laverick's appearance
outside the purlieus of the prison was an unusual happening.

"Your packet, sir!" he repeated, in amazement.  "Why, this is Mr.
Laverick himself, is it not?"

"Certainly," was the quiet reply.  "I am Stephen Laverick."

The clerk called the head cashier, who also stared at Laverick as
though he were a ghost. They whispered together in the background
for a moment, and their faces were a study in perplexity.  Of
Laverick's identity, however, there was no manner of doubt.  Besides,
the presence of what was obviously a very ample escort somewhat
reassured them.  The cashier himself came forward.

"We shall be exceedingly glad, Mr. Laverick," he said dryly, "to
get rid of your packet.  Your instructions were that we should
disregard all orders to hand it over to any person whatsoever, and
I may say that they have been strictly adhered to.  We have,
however, had two applications in your name this morning."

"They were both forgeries," Laverick declared.

The cashier hesitated.  Then he leaned across the broad mahogany
counter towards Laverick.  One of the men who appeared to form part
of the escort detached himself from them and approached a few
steps nearer.

"This gentleman is your friend, sir?" the cashier asked, glancing
towards him.

"He is my solicitor," Laverick answered, "and is entirely in my
confidence.  If you have anything to tell me, I should like Mr.
Bellamy also to hear."

Bellamy, who was standing a little in the background, took his place
by Laverick's side.  The cashier, who knew him by sight, bowed.

"Beside these two forged orders, sir," he said, turning again to
Laverick, "we have had a man who took a room in the hotel leave a
small black bag here, which he insisted upon having deposited in
our document safe.  My assistant had accepted it and was actually
locking it up when he noticed a faint sound inside which he could
not understand.  The bag was opened and found to contain an
infernal machine which would have exploded in a quarter of an hour."

Bellamy drew his breath sharply between his teeth.

"We should have thought of that!" he exclaimed softly.  "That's
Kahn's work!"

"I seem to have given you a great deal of trouble," Laverick
remarked quietly.  "I gather, however, from what you say, that my
packet is still in your possession?"

"It is, sir," the man assented.  "We have two detectives from
Scotland Yard here at the present moment, though, and we had
almost decided to place it in their charge for greater security."

"It will be well taken care of from now, I promise you," Laverick
declared.

The cashier and his clerk led the way into the inner office.  At
their invitation Laverick and his solicitor followed, and a few
yards behind came the two plain-clothes policemen, Bellamy, and
the superintendent.  The safe was opened and the packet placed in
Laverick's hands.  He passed it on at once to Bellamy, and
immediately afterwards the doorway behind was thronged with men,
apparently ordinary loiterers around the hotel.  They made a slow
and exceedingly cautious exit.  Once outside, Bellamy turned to
Laverick with outstretched hand.

"Au revoir and good luck, old chap!" he said heartily.  "I think
you'll find things go your way all right to-morrow morning."

He departed, forming one of a somewhat singular cavalcade - two
of his friends on either side, two in front, and two behind.  It
had almost the appearance of a procession.  The whole party stepped
into a closed motor-car.  Three or four men were lounging on the
pavement and there was some excited whispering, but no one actually
interfered.  As soon as they had left the courtyard, Laverick and
his solicitor, with his own guard, re-entered the motor-car in
which they had arrived, and drove back to Bow Street.  Very few
words were exchanged during the short journey.  His solicitor,
however, bade him good-night cheerfully, and Laverick's bearing
was by no means the bearing of a man in despair.

In Downing Street, within the next half-an-hour, a somewhat
remarkable little gathering took place.  The two men chiefly
responsible for the destinies of the nation - the Prime Minister
and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs - sat side by side
before a small table.  Facing them was Bellamy, and spread out in
front were those few pages of foolscap, released from their
envelope a few minutes ago for the first time since the hand of
the great Chancellor himself had pressed down the seal.  The
Foreign Minister had just finished a translation for the benefit
of his colleague, and the two men were silent, as men are in the
presence of big events.

"Bellamy," the Prime Minister said slowly, "you are willing to
stake, I presume, your reputation upon the authenticity of this
document?"

"My honor and my life, if you will," Bellamy answered earnestly.
"That is no copy which you have there.  On the contrary, the
handwriting is the handwriting of the Chancellor himself."

The Prime Minister turned silently towards his colleague.  The
latter, whose eyes still seemed glued to those fateful words,
looked up.

"All I can say is this," he remarked impressively, "that never in
my time have I seen written words possessed of so much significance.
One moment, if you please."

He touched the bell, and his private secretary entered at once from
an adjoining room.

"Anthony," he said, "telephone to the Great Western Railway Company
at Paddington.  Ask for the station master in my name, and see that
a special train is held ready to depart for Windsor in half-an-hour.
Tell the station-master that all ordinary traffic must be held up,
but that the destination of the special is not to be divulged."

The young man bowed and withdrew.

"The more I consider this matter," the Foreign Minister went on,
"the more miraculous does the appearance of this document seem.
We know now why the Czar is struggling so frantically to curtail
his visit - why he came, as it were, under protest, and seeks
everywhere for an opportunity to leave before the appointed time.
His health is all right.  He has had a hint from Vienna that there
has been a leakage.  His special mission only reached Paris this
morning.  The President is in the country and their audience is not
fixed until to-morrow.  Rawson will go over with a copy of these
papers and a dispatch from His Majesty by the nine o'clock train.
It is not often that we have had the chance of such a 'coup' as
this."

He drew his chief a few steps away.  They whispered together for
several moments.  When they returned, the Foreign Minister rang
the bell again for his secretary.

"Anthony," he said, "Sir James and I will be leaving in a few
minutes for Windsor.  Go round yourself to General Hamilton,
telephone to Aldershot for Lord Neville, and call round at the
Admiralty Board for Sir John Harrison.  Tell them all to be here
at ten o'clock tonight.  If I am not back, they must wait.  If
either of them have royal commands, you need only repeat the
word 'Finisterre.'  They will understand."

The young man once more withdrew.  The Prime Minister turned
back to the papers.

"It will be worth a great deal," he remarked, with a grim smile,
"to see His Majesty's face when he reads this."

"It would be worth a great deal more," his fellow statesman
answered dryly, "to be with his August cousin at the interview
which will follow.  A month ago, the thought that war might come
under our administration was a continual terror to me.  To-day
things are entirely different.  To-day it really seems that if
war does come, it may be the most glorious happening for England
of this century.  You saw the last report from Kiel?"

Sir James nodded.

"There isn't a battleship or a cruiser worth a snap of the fingers
south of the German Ocean," his colleague continued earnestly.
"They are cooped up - safe enough, they think - under the shelter
of their fortifications.  Hamilton has another idea.  Between you
and me, Sir James, so have I.  I tell you," he went on, in a
deeper and more passionate tone, "it's like the passing of a
terrible nightmare - this.  We have had ten years of panic, of
nervous fears of a German invasion, and no one knows more than you
and I, Sir James, how much cause we have had for those fears.  It
will seem strange if, after all, history has to write that chapter
differently."

The secretary re-entered and announced the result of his telephone
interview with the superintendent at Paddington.  The two great
men rose.  The Prime Minister held out his hand to Bellamy.

"Bellamy," he declared, "you've done us one more important service.
There may be work for you within the next few weeks, but you've
earned a rest for a day or two, at any rate.  There is nothing more
we can do?"

"Nothing except a letter to the Home Secretary, Sir James," Bellamy
answered.  "Remember, sir, that although I have worked hard, the
man to whom we really owe those papers is Stephen Laverick."

The Prime Minister frowned thoughtfully.

"It's a difficult situation, Bellamy," he said.  "You are asking a
great deal when you suggest that we should interfere in the
slightest manner with the course of justice.  You are absolutely
convinced, I suppose, that this man Laverick had nothing to do
with the murder?"

"Absolutely and entirely, sir," Bellamy replied.

"The murdered man has never been identified by the police," Sir
James remarked.  "Who was he?"

"His name was Rudolph Von Behrling," Bellamy announced, "and he was
actually the Chancellor's nephew, also his private secretary.  I
have told you the history, sir, of those papers.  It was Von
Behrling who, without a doubt, murdered the American journalist
and secured them.  It was he who insisted upon coming to London
instead of returning with them to Vienna, which would have been the
most obvious course for him to have adopted.  He was a pauper, and
desperately in love with a certain lady who has helped me throughout
this matter.  He agreed to part with the papers for twenty thousand
pounds, and the lady incidentally promised to elope with him the
same night.  I met him by appointment at that little restaurant in
the city, paid him the twenty thousand pounds, and received the
false packet which you remember I brought to you, sir.  As a matter
of fact, Von Behrling, either by accident or design, and no man now
will ever know which, left me with those papers which I was supposed
to have bought in his possession, and also the money.  Within five
minutes he was murdered.  Doubtless we shall know sometime by whom,
but it was not by Stephen Laverick.  Laverick's share in the whole
thing was nothing but this - that he found the pocket-book, and that
he made use of the notes in his business for twenty-four hours to
save himself from ruin.  That was unjustifiable, of course.  He has
made atonement.  The notes at this minute are in a safe deposit
vault and will be returned intact to the fund from which they came.
I want, also, to impress upon you, Sir James, the fact that Baron
de Streuss offered one hundred thousand pounds for that letter."

Sir James nodded thoughtfully.  He stooped down and scrawled a few
lines on half a sheet of note-paper.

"You must take this to Lord Estcourt at once," he said, "and tell
him the whole affair, omitting all specific information as to the
nature of the papers.  The thing must be arranged, of course."

Half-a-dozen reporters, who had somehow got hold of the fact that
the Prime Minister and his colleague from the Foreign Office were
going down to Windsor on a special mission, followed them, but even
they remained altogether in the dark as to the events which were
really transpiring.  They knew nothing of the interview between the
Czar and his August host - an interview which in itself was a
chapter in the history of these times.  They knew nothing of the
reason of their royal visitor's decision to prolong his visit
instead of shortening it, or of his autograph letter to the
President of the French Republic, which reached Paris even before
the special mission from St. Petersburg had presented themselves.
The one thing which they did know, and that alone was significant
enough, was that the Czar's Foreign Minister was cabled for that
night to come to his master by special train from St. Petersburg.
At the Austrian and German Embassies, forewarned by a report from
Baron de Streuss, something like consternation reigned.  The
Russian Ambassador, heckled to death, took refuge at Windsor under
pretence of a command from his royal master.  The happiest man in
London was Prince Rosmaran.




CHAPTER XXXVI

LAVERICK ACQUITTED


At mid-day on the following morning Laverick stepped down from the
dock at Bow Street and, as the evening papers put it, "in company
with his friends left the court."  The proceedings altogether took
scarcely more than half-an-hour.  Laverick's solicitor first put
Shepherd in the box, who gave his account of Morrison's visit to
the restaurant, spoke of his hurried exit, and identified the knife
which he had seen him snatch up.  Cross-examined as to why he had
kept silent, he explained that Mr. Morrison had been a good customer
and he saw no reason why he should give unsolicited evidence which
would cost a man his life.  Directly, however, another man had been
accused, the matter appeared to him to be altogether different.  He
had come forward the moment he had heard of Laverick's ARREST, to
offer his evidence.

While the opinion of the court was still undecided, Laverick's
solicitor called Miss Zoe Leneveu.  A little murmur of interest ran
though the court.  Laverick himself started.  Zoe stepped into the
witness-box, looking exceedingly pale, and with a bandage over the
upper part of her head.  She admitted that she was the half-sister
of Arthur Morrison, although there was no blood relationship.  She
described his sudden visit to her rooms on the night of the murder,
and his state of great alarm.  She declared that he had confessed
to her on the previous afternoon that he had been guilty of the
murder in question.

Her place in the witness-box was taken by the Honorable David
Bellamy.  He declared that the prisoner was an old friend of his,
and that the twenty thousand pounds of which he had been recently
possessed, had come from him for investment in Laverick's business.
The circumstances, he admitted, were somewhat peculiar, and until
negotiations had been concluded Mr. Laverick had doubtless felt
uncertain how to make use of the money.  But he assured the court
that there was no person who had any claim to the sum of money in
question save himself, and that he was perfectly aware of the use
to which Laverick had put it.

Laverick was discharged within a very few minutes, and a warrant
was issued for the apprehension of Morrison.  Laverick found
Bellamy waiting for him, and was hurried into his motor.

"Well, you see," the latter exclaimed, "we kept our word!  That
dear plucky little friend of yours turned the scale, but in any
case I think that there would not have been much trouble about the
matter.  The magistrate had received a communication direct from
the Home Secretary concerning your case."

"I am very grateful indeed," Laverick declared.  "I tell you I
think I am very lucky.  I wish I knew what had become of Miss
Leneveu.  The usher told me she left the court before we came out."

"I asked her to go straight back to her rooms," Bellamy said.  "You
must excuse me for interfering, Laverick, but I found her almost in
a state of collapse last night in Jermyn Street.  I was having
Morrison watched, and my man reported to me that he had left his
rooms in a state of great excitement, and that a young lady was
there who appeared to be seriously injured."

"D-d scamp!" Laverick muttered.

"I did everything I could," Bellamy continued.  "I fetched her at
once and sent her back to her house with a hospital nurse and some
one to look after her.  The wound wasn't serious, but the fellow
must have been a brute indeed to have lifted his hand against such
a child.  I wonder whether he'll get away."

"I should doubt it," Laverick remarked.  "He hasn't the nerve.
He'll probably get drunk and blow his brains out.  He's a
broken-spirited cur, after all."

"You'll have some lunch?" Bellamy asked.

Laverick shook his head.

"If you don't mind, I'd like to go on and see Miss Leneveu."

"Put me down at the club, then, and take my car on, if you will."


Laverick walked up and down the pavement outside Zoe's little
house for nearly half-an-hour.  He had found the door closed and
locked, and a neighbor had informed him that Miss Leneveu had
gone out in a cab with the nurse, some time ago, and had not
returned.  Laverick sent Bellamy's car back and waited.  Presently
a four-wheel cab came round the corner and stopped in front of
her house.  Laverick opened the door and helped Zoe out.  She was
as white as death, and the nurse who was with her was looking
anxious.

"You are safe, then?" she murmured, holding out her hands.

"Quite," he answered.  "You dear little girl!"

Zoe had fainted, however, and Laverick hurried out for the doctor.
Curiously enough, it was the same man who only a week or so ago
had come to see Arthur Morrison.

"She has had a bad scalp wound," he declared, "and her nervous
system is very much run down.  There is nothing serious.  She
seems to have just escaped concussion.  The nurse had better stay
with her for another day, at any rate."

"You are sure that it isn't serious?" Laverick asked eagerly.

"Not in the least," the doctor answered dryly.  "I see worse
wounds every day of my life.  I'll come again to-morrow, if you like,
but it really isn't necessary with the nurse on the spot."

His natural pessimism was for a moment lightened by the fee which
Laverick pressed upon him, and he departed with a few more
encouraging words.  Laverick stayed and talked for a short time
with the nurse.

"She has gone off to sleep now, sir," the latter announced.  "There
isn't anything to worry about.  She seems as though she had been
having a hard time, though.  There was scarcely a thing in the house
but half a packet of tea - and these."

She held up a packet of pawn tickets.

"I found these in a drawer when I came," she said.  "I had to look
round, because there was no money and nothing whatever in the house."

Laverick was suddenly conscious of an absurd mistiness before his
eyes.

"Poor little woman!" he murmured.  "I think she'd sooner have starved
than ask for help."

The nurse smiled.

"I thought at first that she was rather a vain young lady," she
remarked.  "An empty larder and a pile of pawn tickets, and a new
hat with a receipted bill for thirty shillings," she added, pointing
to the sofa.

Laverick placed some notes in her hands.

"Please keep these," he begged, "and see that she has everything she
wants.  I shall be here again later in the day.  There is not the
slightest need for all this.  She will be quite well off for the rest
of her life.  Will you try and engage some one for a day or two to
come in until she is able to be moved?"

"I'll look after her," the nurse promised.

Laverick went reluctantly away.  The events of the last few days were
becoming more and more like a dream to him.  He went to his club
almost from habit.  Presently the excitement which all London seemed
to be sharing drove his own personal feelings a little into the
background.  The air was full of rumors.  The Prime Minister and the
Foreign Secretary were spoken of as one speaks of heroes.  Nothing
was definitely known, but there was a splendid feeling of confidence
that for once in her history England was preparing to justify her
existence as a great Power.




CHAPTER XXXVII

THE PLOT THAT FAILED


The progress of the Czar from Buckingham Palace to the Mansion
House, where he had, after all, consented to lunch with the Lord
Mayor, witnessed a popular outburst of enthusiasm absolutely
inexplicable to the general public.  It was known that affairs in
Central Europe were in a dangerously precarious state, and it was
felt that the Czar's visit here, and the urgent summons which had
brought from St. Petersburg his Foreign Minister, were indications
that the long wished-for entente between Russia and this country
was now actually at hand.  There was in the Press a curious
reticence with regard to the development of the political situation.
One felt everywhere that it was the calm before the storm - that at
any moment the great black headlines might tell of some startling
stroke of diplomacy, some dangerous peril averted or defied.  The
circumstances themselves of the Czar's visit had been a little
peculiar.  On his arrival it was announced that, for reasons of
health, the original period of his stay, namely a week, was to be
cut down to two days.  No sooner had he arrived at Windsor, however,
than a change was announced.  The Czar had so far recovered as to
be able even to extend the period at first fixed for his visit.
Simultaneously with this, the German and Austrian Press were full
of bitter and barely veiled articles, whose meaning was unmistakable.
The Czar had thrown in his lot at first with Austria and Germany.
That he was going deliberately to break away from that arrangement
there seemed now scarcely any manner of doubt.

Bellamy and Louise, from a window in Fleet Street, watched him go
by.  Prince Rosmaran had been specially bidden to the luncheon, but
he, too, had been with them earlier in the morning.  Afterwards
they turned their backs upon the city, and as soon as the crowd had
thinned made their way to one of the west-end restaurants.

"It seems too good to be true," declared Louise.  Bellamy nodded.

"Nevertheless I am convinced that it is true.  The humor of the
whole thing is that it was our friends in Germany themselves who
pressed the Czar not to altogether cancel his visit for fear of
exciting suspicion.  That, of course, was when there seemed to be
no question of the news of the Vienna compact leaking out.  They
would never have dared to expose a man to such a trial as the
Czar must have faced when the resume of the Vienna proceedings, in
the Chancellor's own handwriting, was read to him at Windsor."

"You saw the telegram from Paris?" Louise interposed.  "The
special mission from St. Petersburg has been recalled."

Bellamy smiled.

"It all goes to prove what I say," he went on.  "Any morning you
may expect to hear that Austria and Germany have received an
ultimatum."

"I wonder," she remarked, "what became of Streuss."

"He is hiding somewhere in London, without a doubt," Bellamy
answered.  "There's always plenty of work for spies."

"Don't use that word," she begged.

He made a little grimace.

"You are thinking of my own connection with the profession, are you
not?" he asked.  "Well, that counts for nothing now.  I hope I may
still serve my country for many years, but it must be in a different
way."

"What do you mean?" she demanded.

"I heard from my uncle's solicitors this morning," Bellamy continued,
"that he is very feeble and cannot live more than a few months.
When he dies, of course, I must take my place in the House of Lords.
It is his wish that I should not leave England again now, so I
suppose there is nothing left for me but to give it up.  I have done
my share of traveling and work, after all," he concluded,
thoughtfully.

"Your share, indeed," she murmured.  "Remember that but for that
document which was read to the Czar at Windsor, Servia must have
gone down, and England would have had to take a place among the
second-class Powers.  There may be war now, it is true, but it
will be a glorious war."

"Louise, very soon we shall know.  Until then I will say nothing.
But I do not want you altogether to forget that there has been
something in my life dearer to me even than my career for these
last few years."

Her blue eyes were suddenly soft.  She looked across towards him
wistfully.

"Dear," she whispered, "things will be altered with you now.  I am
not fit to be the wife of an English peer - I am not noble."

He laughed.

"I am afraid," he assured her, "that I am democrat enough to think
you one of the noblest women on earth.  Why should I not?  Your
life itself has been a study in devotion.  The modern virtues seem
almost to ignore patriotism, yet the love of one's country is a
splendid thing.  But don't you think, Louise, that we have done
our work that it is time to think of ourselves?"

She gave him her hand.

"Let us see," she said.  "Let us wait for a little time and see what
comes."

That night another proof of the popular feeling, absolutely
spontaneous, broke out in one of the least expected places.  Louise
was encored for her wonderful solo in a modern opera of bellicose
trend, and instead of repeating it she came alone on the stage after
a few minutes' absence, dressed in Servian national dress.  For a
short time the costume was not recognized.  Then the music - the
national hymn of Servia, and the recollection of her parentage,
brought the thing home to the audience.  They did not even wait for
her to finish.  In the middle of her song the applause broke like a
crash of thunder.  From the packed gallery to the stalls they cheered
her wildly, madly.  A dozen times she came before the curtain.  It
seemed impossible that they would ever let her go.  Directly she
turned to leave the stage, the uproar broke out again.  The manager
at last insisted upon it that she should speak a few words.  She
stood in the centre of the stage amid a silence as complete as the
previous applause had been unanimous.  Her voice reached easily to
every place in the House.

"I thank you all very much," she said.  "I am very happy indeed to
be in London, because it is the capital city of the most generous
country in the world - the country that is always ready to protect
and help her weaker neighbors.  I am a Servian, and I love my
country, and therefore," she added, with a little break in her
voice, - "therefore I love you all."

It was nearly midnight before the audience was got rid of, and the
streets of London had not been so impassable for years.  Crowds
made their way to the front of Buckingham Palace and on to the War
Office, where men were working late.  Everything seemed to denote
that the spirit of the country was roused: The papers next morning
made immense capital of the incident, and for the following
twenty-four hours suspense throughout the country was almost at
fever height.  It was known that the Cabinet Council had been
sitting for six hours.  It was known, too, that without the least
commotion, with scarcely any movements of ships that could be
called directly threatening, the greatest naval force which the
world had ever known was assembling off Dover.  The stock markets
were wildly excited.  Laverick, back again in his office, found
that his return to his accustomed haunts occasioned scarcely any
comment.  More startling events were shaping themselves.  His own
remarkable adventure remained, curiously enough, almost undiscussed.

He left the office shortly before his usual time, notwithstanding
the rush of business, and drove at once to the little house in
Theobald Square.  Zoe was lying on the sofa, still white, but
eager to declare that the pain had gone and that she was no longer
suffering.

"It is too absurd," she declared, smiling, "my having this nurse
here.  Really, there is nothing whatever the matter with me.  I
should have gone to the theatre, but you see it is no use."

She passed him the letter which she had been reading, and which
contained her somewhat curt dismissal.  He laughed as he tore it
into pieces.

"Are you so sorry, Zoe?  Is the stage so wonderful a place that
you could not bear to think of leaving it?"
She shook her head.

"It is not that," she whispered.  "You know that it is not that."

He smiled as he took her confidently into his arms.

"There is a much more arduous life in front of you, dear," he said.
"You have to come and look after me for the rest of your days.  A
bachelor who marries as late in life as I do, you know, is a trying
sort of person."

She shrank away a little.

"You don't mean it," she murmured.

"You know very well that I mean it," he answered, kissing her.  "I
think you knew from the very first that sooner or later you were
doomed to become my wife."

She sighed faintly and half-closed her eyes.  For the moment she
had forgotten everything.  She was absolutely and completely happy.

Later on he made her dress and come out to dinner, and afterwards,
as they sat talking, he laid an evening paper before her.

"Zoe," he declared, "the best thing that could has happened.  You
will not be foolish, dear, about it, I know.  Remember the
alternative - and read that."

She glanced at the few lines which announced the finding of Arthur
Morrison in a house in Bloomsbury Square.  The police had apparently
tracked him down, and he had shot himself at the final moment.  The
details of his last few hours were indescribable.  Zoe shuddered,
and her eyes filled with tears.  She smiled bravely in his face,
however.

"It is terrible," she whispered simply, "but, after all, he was no
relation of mine, and he tried to do you a frightful injury.  When
I think of that, I find it hard even to be sorry.

There was indeed almost a pitiless look in her face as she folded
up the paper, as though she felt something of that common instinct
of her sex which transforms a gentle woman so quickly into a hard,
merciless creature when the being whom she loves is threatened.

Laverick smiled.

"Let us go out into the streets," he said, "and hear what all this
excitement is about."

They bought a late edition, and there it was at last in black and
white.  An ultimatum had been presented at Berlin and Vienna.
Certain treaty rights which had been broken with regard to Austria's
action in the East were insisted upon by Great Britain.  It was
demanded that Austria should cease the mobilization of her troops
upon the Servian frontier, and renounce all rights to a protectorate
over that country, whose independence Great Britain felt called upon,
from that time forward, to guarantee.  It was further announced that
England, France, and Russia were acting in this matter in complete
concert, and that the neutrality of Italy was assured.  Further, it
was known that the great English fleet had left for the North Sea
with sealed orders.

Laverick took Zoe home early and called later at Bellamy's rooms.
Bellamy greeted him heartily.  He was on the point of going out,
and the two men drove off together in the latter's car.

"See, my dear friend," Bellamy exclaimed, "what great things come
from small means!  The document which you preserved for us, and
for which we had to fight so hard, has done all this."

"It is marvelous!" Laverick murmured.

"It is very simple," Bellamy declared.  "That meeting in Vienna was
meant to force our hands.  It is all a question of the balance of
strength.  Germany and Austria together, with Russia friendly, -
even with Russia neutral, - could have defied Europe.  Germany could
have spread out her army westwards while Austria seized upon her
prey.  It was a splendid plot, and it was going very well until the
Czar himself was suddenly confronted by our King and his Ministers
with a revelation of the whole affair.  At Windsor the thing seemed
different to him.  The French Government behaved splendidly, and the
Czar behaved like a man.  Germany and Austria are left plante la.
If they fight, well, it will be no one-sided affair.  They have no
fleet, or rather they will have none in a fortnight's time.  They
have no means of landing an army here.  Austria, perhaps, can hold
Russia, but with a French army in better shape than it has been for
years, and the English landing as many men as they care to do, with
ease, anywhere on the north coast of Germany, the entire scheme
proved abortive.  Come into the club and have a drink, Laverick.
To-day great things have happened to me."

"And to me," Laverick interposed.

"You can guess my news, perhaps," Bellamy said, as they seated
themselves in easy-chairs.  "Mademoiselle Idiale has promised to
be my wife."

Laverick held out his hand.

"I congratulate you heartily!" he exclaimed.  "I have been an
engaged man myself for something like half-an-hour."




CHAPTER XXXVIII

A FAREWELL APPEARANCE


"One thing, at least, these recent adventures should teach whoever
may be responsible for the government of this country," Bellamy
remarked to his wife, as he laid down the morning paper.  "For the
first time in many years we have taken the aggressive against Powers
of equal standing.  We were always rather good at bullying smaller
countries, but the bare idea of an ultimatum to Germany would have
made our late Premier go lightheaded."

"And yet it succeeded," Louise reminded him.

"Absolutely," he affirmed.  "To-day's news makes peace a certainty.
If your country knew everything, Louise, they'd give us a royal
welcome next month."

"You really mean that we are to go there, then?" she asked.

"It isn't exactly one of my privileges," he declared, "to fix upon
the spot where we shall take our belated honeymoon, but I haven't
been in Belgrade for years, and I know you'd like to see your
people."

"It will be more happiness than I ever dreamed of," she murmured.
"Do you think we shall be safe in passing through Vienna?"

Bellamy laughed.

"Remember," he said, "that I am no longer David Bellamy, with a
silver greyhound attached to my watch-chain and an obnoxious
reputation in foreign countries.  I am Lord Denchester of
Denchester, a harmless English peer traveling on his honeymoon.
By the way, I hope you like the title."

"I shall love it when I get used to it," she declared.  "To be an
English Countess is dazzling, but I do think that I ought not to
go on singing at Covent Garden."

"To-morrow will be your last night," he reminded her.  "I have asked
Laverick and the dear little girl he is going to marry to come with
me.  Afterwards we must all have supper together."

"How nice of you!" she exclaimed.

"I don't know about that," Bellamy said, smiling.  "I really like
Laverick.  He is a decent fellow and a good sort.  Incidentally, he
was thundering useful to us, and pretty plucky about it.  He
interests me, too, in another way.  He is a man who, face to face
with a moral problem, acted exactly as I should have done myself!"

"You mean about the twenty thousand pounds?" she asked.

Bellamy assented.

"He was practically dishonest," he pointed out.  "He had no right
to use that money and he ought to have taken the pocket-book to the
police-station.  If he had done so - that is to say, if he had
waited there for the police, if he had been seen to hold out that
pocket-book, to have discussed it with any one, it is ten to one
that there would have been another tragedy that night.  At any
rate, the document would never have come to us."

She smiled.

"My moral judgment is warped," she asserted, "from the fact that
Laverick's decision brought us the document."

He nodded.

"Perhaps so," he agreed, "and yet, there was the man face to face
with ruin.  The use of that money for a few hours did no one any
harm, and saved him.  I say that such a deed is always a matter of
calculation, and in this case that he was justified."

"I wonder what he really thinks about it himself," she remarked.

"Perhaps I'll ask him."

But when the time came, and he sat in the box with Laverick and Zoe,
he forgot everything else in the joy of watching the woman whom he
had loved so long.  She moved about the stage that night as though
her feet indeed fell upon the air.  She appeared to be singing
always with restraint, yet with some new power in her voice, a
quality which even in her simpler notes left the great audience
thrilled.  Already there was a rumor that it was her last appearance.
Her marriage to Bellamy had been that day announced in the Morning
Post. When, in the last act, she sang alone on the stage the famous
love song, it seemed to them all that although her voice trembled
more than once, it was a new thing to which they listened.  Zoe
found herself clasping Laverick's hand in tremulous excitement.
Bellamy sat like a statue, a little back in the box, his clean-cut
face thrown into powerful relief by the shadows beyond.  Yet, as
he listened, his eyes, too, were marvelously soft.  The song grew
and grew till, with the last notes, the whole story of an exquisite
and expectant passion seemed trembling in her voice.  The last note
came from her lips almost as though unwillingly, and was prolonged
for an extraordinary period.  When it died away, its passing seemed
something almost unrealizable.  It quivered away into a silence
which lasted for many seconds before the gathering roar of applause
swept the house.  And in those last few seconds she had turned and
faced Bellamy.  Their eyes met, and the light which flashed from
his seemed answered by the quivering of her throat.  It was her
good-bye.  She was singing a new love-song, singing her way into
the life of the man whom she loved, singing her way into love
itself.  Once more the great house, packed to the ceiling, was worked
up to a state of frenzied excitement.  Bellamy was recognized, and
the significance of her song sent a wave of sentiment through the
house whose only possible form of expression took to itself shape in
the frantic greetings which called her to the front again and again.
But the three in the box were silent.  Bellamy stood back in the
shadows.  Laverick and Zoe seemed suddenly to become immersed in
themselves.  Bellamy threw open the door of the box and pointed
outside.

"At Luigi's in half-an-hour," said he softly.  "You will excuse me
for a few minutes?  I am going to Louise."





End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Havoc, by E. Philips Oppenheim


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