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Title: Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo
Author: Oppenheim, E. Phillips (Edward Phillips), 1866-1946
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                         MR. GREX OF MONTE CARLO

                        BY E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM

AUTHOR OF "THE VANISHED MESSENGER," "A PEOPLE'S MAN," "THE MISCHIEF
MAKER"



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
WILL GREFÉ

BOSTON
LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
1915

THE COLONIAL PRESS
C. H. SIMONDS CO., BOSTON, U. S. A.



[Illustration: She leaned across and with trembling fingers backed
number fourteen _en plein_.]



CONTENTS


      I. An Unexpected Meeting

     II. By Accident or Design

    III. A Warning

     IV. Enter the American

      V. "Who is Mr. Grex?"

     VI. Cakes and Counsels

    VII. The Effrontery of Richard

   VIII. Up the Mountain

     IX. In the Mists

      X. Signs of Trouble

     XI. Hints to Hunterleys

    XII. "I Cannot Go!"

   XIII. Miss Grex at Home

    XIV. Dinner for Two

     XV. International Politics

    XVI. A Bargain with Jean Coulois

   XVII. Duty Interferes Again

  XVIII. A Midnight Conference

    XIX. "Take Me Away!"

     XX. Wily Mr. Draconmeyer

    XXI. Assassination!

   XXII. The Wrong Man

  XXIII. Trouble Brewing

   XXIV. Hunterleys Scents Murder

    XXV. Draconmeyer is Desperate

   XXVI. Extraordinary Love-Making

  XXVII. Playing for High Stakes

 XXVIII. To the Villa Mimosa

   XXIX. For His Country

    XXX. "Supposing I Take This Money"

   XXXI. Nearing a Crisis

  XXXII. An Interesting Meeting

 XXXIII. The Fates Are Kind

  XXXIV. Coffee for One Only

   XXXV. A New Map of the Earth

  XXXVI. Checkmate!

 XXXVII. An Amazing Elopement

XXXVIII. Honeymooning



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


She leaned across and with trembling fingers backed number fourteen _en
plein_

"For the last time, then--to Monte Carlo!"

"Come on, you fellows!" he shouted

"What we ask of France is that she looks the other way"

"That two hundred shall be five hundred, but it must be a cemetery to
which they take him!"

Mr. Grex, with his daughter and Lady Hunterleys on one side and Monsieur
Douaille on the other, were in the van.



MR. GREX OF MONTE CARLO



CHAPTER I

AN UNEXPECTED MEETING


The eyes of the man who had looked in upon a scene inordinately,
fantastically brilliant, underwent, after those first few moments of
comparative indifference, a curious transformation. He was contemplating
one of the sights of the world. Crowded around the two roulette tables,
promenading or lounging on the heavily cushioned divans against the
wall, he took note of a conglomeration of people representing, perhaps,
every grade of society, every nationality of importance, yet with a
curious common likeness by reason of their tribute paid to fashion. He
glanced unmoved at a beautiful Englishwoman who was a duchess but looked
otherwise; at an equally beautiful Frenchwoman, who looked like a
duchess but was--otherwise. On every side of him were women gowned by
the great artists of the day, women like flowers, all perfume and
softness and colour. His eyes passed them over almost carelessly. A
little tired with many weeks' travel in countries where the luxuries of
life were few, his senses were dulled to the magnificence of the scene,
his pulses as yet had not responded to its charm and wonder. And then
the change came. He saw a woman standing almost exactly opposite to him
at the nearest roulette table, and he gave a noticeable start. For a
moment his pale, expressionless face was transformed, his secret was at
any one's mercy. That, however, was the affair of an instant only. He
was used to shocks and he survived this one. He moved a little on one
side from his prominent place in the centre of the wide-flung doorway.
He stood by one of the divans and watched.

She was tall and fair and slight. She wore a high-necked gown of
shimmering grey, a black hat, under which her many coils of hair shone
like gold, and a necklace of pearls around her throat, pearls on which
his eyes had rested with a curious expression. She played, unlike many
of her neighbours, with restraint, yet with interest, almost enthusiasm.
There was none of the strain of the gambler about her smooth, beautiful
face. Her delicately curved lips were free from the grim lines of
concentrated acquisitiveness. She was thirty-two years old but she
looked much younger as she stood there, her lips a little parted in a
pleased smile of anticipation. She was leaning a little over the table
and her eyes were fixed with humorous intentness upon the spinning
wheel. Even amongst that crowd of beautiful women she possessed a
certain individual distinction. She not only looked what she was--an
Englishwoman of good birth--but there was a certain delicate aloofness
about her expression and bearing which gave an added charm to a
personality which seemed to combine the two extremes of provocativeness
and reserve. One would have hesitated to address to her even the chance
remarks which pass so easily between strangers around the tables.

"Violet here!" the man murmured under his breath. "Violet!"

There was tragedy in the whisper, a gleam of something like tragedy,
too, in the look which passed between the man and the woman a few
moments later. With her hands full of plaques which she had just won,
she raised her eyes at last from the board. The smile upon her lips was
the delighted smile of a girl. And then, as she was in the act of
sweeping her winnings into her gold bag, she saw the man opposite. The
smile seemed to die from her lips; it appeared, indeed, to pass with all
else of expression from her face. The plaques dropped one by one through
her fingers, into the satchel. Her eyes remained fixed upon him as
though she were looking upon a ghost. The seconds seemed drawn out into
a grim hiatus of time. The croupier's voice, the muttered imprecation of
a loser by her side, the necessity of making some slight movement in
order to allow the passage of an arm from some one in search of
change--some such trifle at last brought her back from the shadows. Her
expression became at once more normal. She did not remove her eyes but
she very slightly inclined her head towards the man. He, in return,
bowed very gravely and without a smile.

The table in front of her was cleared now. People were beginning to
consider their next coup. The voice of the croupier, with his
parrot-like cry, travelled down the board.

_"Faites vos jeux, mesdames et messieurs."_

The woman made no effort to stake. After a moment's hesitation she
yielded up her place, and moving backwards, seated herself upon an empty
divan. Rapidly the thoughts began to form themselves in her mind. Her
delicate eyebrows drew closer together in a distinct frown. After that
first shock, that queer turmoil of feeling, beyond analysis, yet having
within it some entirely unexpected constituent, she found herself
disposed to be angry. The sensation had not subsided when a moment or
two later she was conscious that the man whose coming had proved so
disturbing was standing before her.

"Good afternoon," he said, a little stiffly.

She raised her eyes. The frown was still upon her forehead, although to
a certain extent it was contradicted by a slight tremulousness of the
lips.

"Good afternoon, Henry!"

For some reason or other, further speech seemed to him a difficult
matter. He moved towards the vacant place.

"If you have no objection," he observed, as he seated himself.

She unfurled her fan--an ancient but wonderful weapon of defence. It
gave her a brief respite. Then she looked at him calmly.

"Of all places in the world," she murmured, "to meet you here!"

"Is it so extraordinary?"

"I find it so," she admitted. "You don't at all fit in, you know. A
scene like this," she added, glancing around, "would scarcely ever be
likely to attract you for its own sake, would it?"

"It doesn't particularly," he admitted.

"Then why have you come?"

He remained silent. The frown upon her forehead deepened.

"Perhaps," she went on coldly, "I can help you with your reply. You have
come because you are not satisfied with the reports of the private
detective whom you have engaged to watch me. You have come to supplement
them by your own investigation."

His frown matched hers. The coldness of his tone was rendered even more
bitter by its note of anger.

"I am surprised that you should have thought me capable of such an
action," he declared. "All I can say is that it is thoroughly in keeping
with your other suspicions of me, and that I find it absolutely
unworthy."

She laughed a little incredulously, not altogether naturally.

"My dear Henry," she protested, "I cannot flatter myself that there is
any other person in the world sufficiently interested in my movements to
have me watched."

"Are you really under the impression that that is the case?" he enquired
grimly.

"It isn't a matter of impression at all," she retorted. "It is the
truth. I was followed from London, I was watched at Cannes, I am watched
here day by day--by a little man in a brown suit and a Homburg hat, and
with a habit of lounging. He lounges under my windows, he is probably
lounging across the way now. He has lounged within fifty yards of me for
the last three weeks, and to tell you the truth I am tired of him.
Couldn't I have a week's holiday? I'll keep a diary and tell you all
that you want to know."

"Is it sufficient," he asked, "for me to assure you, upon my word of
honour, that I know nothing of this?"

She was somewhat startled. She turned and looked at him. His tone was
convincing. He had not the face of a man whose word of honour was a
negligible thing.

"But, Henry," she protested, "I tell you that there is no doubt about
the matter. I am watched day and night--I, an insignificant person whose
doings can be of no possible interest save to you and you only."

The man did not at once reply. His thoughts seemed to have wandered off
for a moment. When he spoke again, his tone had lost its note of
resentment.

"I do not blame you for your suspicion," he said calmly, "although I can
assure you that I have never had any idea of having you watched. It is
not a course which could possibly have suggested itself to me, even in
my most unhappy moments."

She was puzzled--at once puzzled and interested.

"I am so glad to hear this," she said, "and of course I believe you, but
there the fact is. I think that you will agree with me that it is
curious."

"Isn't it possible," he ventured to suggest, "that it is your companions
who are the object of this man's vigilance? You are not, I presume,
alone here?"

She eyed him a little defiantly.

"I am here," she announced, "with Mr. and Mrs. Draconmeyer."

He heard her without any change of expression, but somehow or other it
was easy to see that her news, although more than half expected, had
stung him.

"Mr. and Mrs. Draconmeyer," he repeated, with slight emphasis on the
latter portion of the sentence.

"Certainly! I am sorry," she went on, a moment late, "that my companions
do not meet with your approval. That, however, I could scarcely expect,
considering--"

"Considering what?" he insisted, watching her steadfastly.

"Considering all things," she replied, after a moment's pause.

"Mrs. Draconmeyer is still an invalid?"

"She is still an invalid."

The slightly satirical note in his question seemed to provoke a certain
defiance in her manner as she turned a little sideways towards him. She
moved her fan slowly backwards and forwards, her head was thrown back,
her manner was almost belligerent. He took up the challenge. He asked
her in plain words the question which his eyes had already demanded.

"I find myself constrained to ask you," he said, in a studiously
measured tone, "by what means you became possessed of the pearls you are
wearing? I do not seem to remember them as your property."

Her eyes flashed.

"Don't you think," she returned, "that you are a little outstepping your
privileges?"

"Not in the least," he declared. "You are my wife, and although you have
defied me in a certain matter, you are still subject to my authority. I
see you wearing jewels in public of which you were certainly not
possessed a few months ago, and which neither your fortune nor mine--"

"Let me set your mind at rest," she interrupted icily. "The pearls are
not mine. They belong to Mrs. Draconmeyer."

"Mrs. Draconmeyer!"

"I am wearing them," she continued, "at Linda's special request. She is
too unwell to appear in public and she is very seldom able to wear any
of her wonderful jewelry. It gives her pleasure to see them sometimes
upon other people."

He remained quite silent for several moments. He was, in reality,
passionately angry. Self-restraint, however, had become such a habit of
his that there were no indications of his condition save in the slight
twitchings of his long fingers and a tightening at the corners of his
lips. She, however, recognised the symptoms without difficulty.

"Since you defy my authority," he said, "may I ask whether my wishes
have any weight with you?"

"That depends," she replied.

"It is my earnest wish," he went on, "that you do not wear another
woman's jewelry, either in public or privately."

She appeared to reflect for a moment. In effect she was struggling
against a conviction that his request was reasonable.

"I am sorry," she said at last. "I see no harm whatever in my doing so
in this particular instance. It gives great pleasure to poor Mrs.
Draconmeyer to see her jewels and admire them, even if she is unable to
wear them herself. It gives me an intense joy which even a normal man
could scarcely be expected to understand; certainly not you. I am sorry
that I cannot humour you."

He leaned towards her.

"Not if I beg you?"

She looked at him fixedly, looked at him as though she searched for
something in his face, or was pondering over something in his tone. It
was a moment which might have meant much. If she could have seen into
his heart and understood the fierce jealousy which prompted his words,
it might have meant a very great deal. As it was, her contemplation
appeared to be unsatisfactory.

"I am sorry that you should lay so much stress upon so small a thing,"
she said. "You were always unreasonable. Your present request is another
instance of it. I was enjoying myself very much indeed until you came,
and now you wish to deprive me of one of my chief pleasures. I cannot
humour you."

He turned away. Even then chance might have intervened. The moment her
words had been spoken she realised a certain injustice in them, realised
a little, perhaps, the point of view of this man who was still her
husband. She watched him almost eagerly, hoping to find some sign in his
face that it was not only his stubborn pride which spoke. She failed,
however. He was one of those men who know too well how to wear the mask.

"May I ask where you are staying here?" he enquired presently.

"At the Hotel de Paris."

"It is unfortunate," he observed. "I will move my quarters to-morrow."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"Monte Carlo is full of hotels," she remarked, "but it seems a pity that
you should move. The place is large enough for both of us."

"It is not long," he retorted, "since you found London itself too small.
I should be very sorry to spoil your holiday."

Her eyes seemed to dwell for a moment upon the Spanish dancer who sat at
the table opposite them, a woman whose name had once been a household
word, dethroned now, yet still insistent for notice and homage;
commanding them, even, with the wreck of her beauty and the splendour of
her clothes.

"It seems a queer place, this," she observed, "for domestic
disagreements. Let us try to avoid disputable subjects. Shall I be too
inquisitive if I ask you once more what in the name of all that is
unsuitable brought you to such a place as Monte Carlo?"

He fenced with her question. Perhaps he resented the slightly ironical
note in her tone. Perhaps there were other reasons.

"Why should I not come to Monte Carlo?" he enquired. "Parliament is not
particularly amusing when one is in opposition, and I do not hunt. The
whole world amuses itself here."

"But not you," she replied quickly. "I know you better than that, my
dear Henry. There is nothing here or in this atmosphere which could
possibly attract you for long. There is no work for you to do--work, the
very breath of your body; work, the one thing you live for and were made
for; work, you man of sawdust and red tape."

"Am I as bad as all that?" he asked quietly.

She fingered her pearls for a moment.

"Perhaps I haven't the right to complain," she acknowledged. "I have
gone my own way always. But if one is permitted to look for a moment
into the past, can you tell me a single hour when work was not the
prominent thought in your brain, the idol before which you worshipped?
Why, even our honeymoon was spent canvassing!"

"The election was an unexpected one," he reminded her.

"It would have been the same thing," she declared. "The only literature
which you really understand is a Blue Book, and the only music you hear
is the chiming of Big Ben."

"You speak," he remarked, "as though you resented these things. Yet you
knew before you married me that I had ambitions, that I did not propose
to lead an idle life."

"Oh, yes, I knew!" she assented drily. "But we are wandering from the
point. I am still wondering what has brought you here. Have you come
direct from England?"

He shook his head.

"I came to-day from Bordighera."

"More and more mysterious," she murmured. "Bordighera, indeed! I thought
you once told me that you hated the Riviera."

"So I do," he agreed.

"And yet you are here?"

"Yet I am here."

"And you have not come to look after me," she went on, "and the mystery
of the little brown man who watches me is still unexplained."

"I know nothing about that person," he asserted, "and I had no idea that
you were here."

"Or you would not have come?" she challenged him.

"Your presence," he retorted, nettled into forgetting himself for a
moment, "would not have altered my plans in the slightest."

"Then you have a reason for coming!" she exclaimed quickly.

He gave no sign of annoyance but his lips were firmly closed. She
watched him steadfastly.

"I wonder at myself no longer," she continued. "I do not think that any
woman in the world could ever live with a man to whom secrecy is as
great a necessity as the very air he breathes. No wonder, my dear Henry,
the politicians speak so well of you, and so confidently of your
brilliant future!"

"I am not aware," he observed calmly, "that I have ever been unduly
secretive so far as you are concerned. During the last few months,
however, of our life together, you must remember that you chose to
receive on terms of friendship a person whom I regard--"

Her eyes suddenly flashed him a warning. He dropped his voice almost to
a whisper. A man was approaching them.

"As an enemy," he concluded, under his breath.



CHAPTER II

BY ACCIDENT OR DESIGN


The newcomer, who had presented himself now before Hunterleys and his
wife, was a man of somewhat unusual appearance. He was tall,
thickly-built, his black beard and closely-cropped hair were streaked
with grey, he wore gold-rimmed spectacles, and he carried his head a
little thrust forward, as though, even with the aid of his glasses, he
was still short-sighted. He had the air of a foreigner, although his
tone, when he spoke, was without accent. He held out his hand a little
tentatively, an action, however, which Hunterleys appeared to ignore.

"My dear Sir Henry!" he exclaimed. "This is a surprise, indeed! Monte
Carlo is absolutely the last place in the world in which I should have
expected to come across you. The Sporting Club, too! Well, well, well!"

Hunterleys, standing easily with his hands behind his back, raised his
eyebrows. The two men were of curiously contrasting types. Hunterleys,
slim and distinguished, had still the frame of an athlete,
notwithstanding his colourless cheeks and the worn lines about his eyes.
He was dressed with extreme simplicity. His deep-set eyes and sensitive
mouth were in marked contrast to the other's coarser mould of features
and rather full lips. Yet there was about both men an air of strength,
strength developed, perhaps, in a different manner, but still an
appreciable quality.

"They say that the whole world is here," Hunterleys remarked. "Why may
not I form a harmless unit of it?"

"Why not, indeed?" Draconmeyer assented heartily. "The most serious of
us must have our frivolous moments. I hope that you will dine with us
to-night? We shall be quite alone."

Hunterleys shook his head.

"Thank you," he said, "I have another engagement pending."

Mr. Draconmeyer was filled with polite regrets, but he did not renew the
invitation.

"When did you arrive?" he asked.

"A few hours ago," Hunterleys replied.

"By the Luxe? How strange! I went down to meet it."

"I came from the other side."

"Ah!"

Mr. Draconmeyer's ejaculation was interrogative, Hunterleys hesitated
for a moment. Then he continued with a little shrug of the shoulders.

"I have been staying at San Remo and Bordighera."

Mr. Draconmeyer was much interested.

"So that is where you have been burying yourself," he remarked. "I saw
from the papers that you had accepted a six months' pair. Surely,
though, you don't find the Italian Riviera very amusing?"

"I am abroad for a rest," Hunterleys replied.

Mr. Draconmeyer smiled curiously.

"A rest?" he repeated. "That rather belies your reputation, you know.
They say that you are tireless, even when you are out of office."

Hunterleys turned from the speaker towards his wife.

"I have not tempted fortune myself yet," he observed. "I think that I
shall have a look into the baccarat room. Do you care to stroll that
way?"

Lady Hunterleys rose at once to her feet. Mr. Draconmeyer, however,
intervened. He laid his fingers upon Hunterleys' arm.

"Sir Henry," he begged, "our meeting has been quite unexpected, but in a
sense it is opportune. Will you be good enough to give me five minutes'
conversation?"

"With pleasure," Hunterleys replied. "My time is quite at your disposal,
if you have anything to say."

Draconmeyer led the way out of the crowded room, along the passage and
into the little bar. They found a quiet corner and two easy-chairs.
Draconmeyer gave an order to a waiter. For a few moments their
conversation was conventional.

"I trust that you think your wife looking better for the change?"
Draconmeyer began. "Her companionship is a source of great pleasure and
relief to my poor wife."

"Does the conversation you wish to have with me refer to Lady
Hunterleys?" her husband asked quietly. "If so, I should like to say a
few preliminary words which would, I hope, place the matter at once
beyond the possibility of any misunderstanding."

Draconmeyer moved a little uneasily in his place.

"I have other things to say," he declared, "yet I would gladly hear what
is in your mind at the present moment. You do not, I fear, approve of
this friendship between my wife and Lady Hunterleys."

Hunterleys was uncompromising, almost curt.

"I do not," he agreed. "It is probably no secret to you that my wife and
I are temporarily estranged," he continued. "The chief reason for that
estrangement is that I forbade her your house or your acquaintance."

Draconmeyer was a little taken back. Such extreme directness of speech
was difficult to deal with.

"My dear Sir Henry," he protested, "you distress me. I do not understand
your attitude in this matter at all."

"There is no necessity for you to understand it," Hunterleys retorted
coolly. "I claim the right to regulate my wife's visiting list. She
denies that right."

"Apart from the question of marital control," Mr. Draconmeyer persisted,
"will you tell me why you consider my wife and myself unfit persons to
find a place amongst Lady Hunterleys' acquaintances?"

"No man is bound to give the reason for his dislikes," Hunterleys
replied. "Of your wife I know nothing. Nobody does. I have every
sympathy with her unfortunate condition, and that is all. You personally
I dislike. I dislike my wife to be seen with you, I dislike having her
name associated with yours in any manner whatsoever. I dislike sitting
with you here myself. I only hope that the five minutes' conversation
which you have asked for will not be exceeded."

Mr. Draconmeyer had the air of a benevolent person who is deeply pained.

"Sir Henry," he sighed, "it is not possible for me to disregard such
plain speaking. Forgive me if I am a little taken aback by it. You are
known to be a very skilful diplomatist and you have many weapons in your
armoury. One scarcely expected, however--one's breath is a little taken
away by such candour."

"I am not aware," Hunterleys said calmly, "that the question of
diplomacy need come in when one's only idea is to regulate the personal
acquaintances of oneself and one's wife."

Mr. Draconmeyer sat quite still for a moment, stroking his black beard.
His eyes were fixed upon the carpet. He seemed to be struggling with a
problem.

"You have taken the ground from beneath my feet," he declared. "Your
opinion of me is such that I hesitate to proceed at all in the matter
which I desired to discuss with you."

"That," Hunterleys replied, "is entirely for you to decide. I am
perfectly willing to listen to anything you have to say--all the more
ready because now there can be no possibility of any misunderstanding
between us."

"Very well," Mr. Draconmeyer assented, "I will proceed. After all, I am
not sure that the personal element enters into what I was about to say.
I was going to propose not exactly an alliance--that, of course, would
not be possible--but I was certainly going to suggest that you and I
might be of some service to one another."

"In what way?"

"I call myself an Englishman," Mr. Draconmeyer went on. "I have made
large sums of money in England, I have grown to love England and English
ways. Yet I came, as you know, from Berlin. The position which I hold in
your city is still the position of president of the greatest German bank
in the world. It is German finance which I have directed, and with
German money I have made my fortune. To be frank with you, however,
after these many years in London I have grown to feel myself very much
of an Englishman."

Hunterleys was sitting perfectly still. His face was rigid but
expressionless. He was listening intently.

"On the other hand," Mr. Draconmeyer proceeded slowly, "I wish to be
wholly frank with you. At heart I must remain always a German. The
interests of my country must always be paramount. But listen. In Germany
there are, as you know, two parties, and year by year they are drawing
further apart. I will not allude to factions. I will speak broadly.
There is the war party and there is the peace party. I belong to the
peace party. I belong to it as a German, and I belong to it as a devoted
friend of England, and if the threatened conflict between the two should
come, I should take my stand as a peace-loving German-cum-Englishman
against the war party even of my own country."

Hunterleys still made no sign. Yet for one who knew him it was easy to
realise that he was listening and thinking with absorbed interest.

"So far," Draconmeyer pointed out, "I have laid my cards on the table. I
have told you the solemn truth. I regret that it did not occur to me to
do so many months ago in London. Now to proceed. I ask you to emulate my
frankness, and in return I will give you information which should enable
us to work hand in hand for the peace which we both desire."

"You ask me," Hunterleys said thoughtfully, "to be perfectly frank with
you. In what respect? What is it that you wish from me?"

"Not political information," Mr. Draconmeyer declared, his eyes blinking
behind his glasses. "For that I certainly should not come to you. I only
wish to ask you a question, and I must ask it so that we may meet on a
common ground of confidence. Are you here in Monte Carlo to look after
your wife, or in search of change of air and scene? Is that your honest
motive for being here? Or is there any other reason in the world which
has prompted you to come to Monte Carlo during this particular month--I
might almost say this particular week?"

Hunterleys' attitude was that of a man who holds in his hand a puzzle
and is doubtful where to commence in his efforts to solve it.

"Are you not a little mysterious this afternoon, Mr. Draconmeyer?" he
asked coldly. "Or are you trying to incite a supposititious curiosity? I
really cannot see the drift of your question."

"Answer it," Mr. Draconmeyer insisted.

Hunterleys took a cigarette from his case, tapped it upon the table and
lit it in leisurely fashion.

"If you have any idea," he said, "that I came here to confront my wife,
or to interfere in any way with her movements, let me assure you that
you are mistaken. I had no idea that Lady Hunterleys was in Monte Carlo.
I am here because I have a six months' holiday, and a holiday for the
average Englishman between January and April generally means, as you
must be aware, the Riviera. I have tried Bordighera and San Remo. I have
found them, as I no doubt shall find this place, wearisome. In the end I
suppose I shall drift back to London."

Mr. Draconmeyer frowned.

"You left London," he remarked tersely, "on December first. It is to-day
February twentieth. Do you wish me to understand that you have been at
Bordighera and San Remo all that time?"

"How did you know when I left London?" Hunterleys demanded.

Mr. Draconmeyer pursed his lips.

"I heard of your departure from London entirely by accident," he said.
"Your wife, for some reason or other, declined to discuss your
movements. I imagine that she was acting in accordance with your
wishes."

"I see," Hunterleys observed coolly. "And your present anxiety is to
know where I spent the intervening time, and why I am here in Monte
Carlo? Frankly, Mr. Draconmeyer, I look upon this close interest in my
movements as an impertinence. My travels have been of no importance, but
they concern myself only. I have no confidence to offer respecting them.
If I had, it would not be to you that I should unburden myself."

"You suspect me, then? You doubt my integrity?"

"Not at all," Hunterleys assured his questioner. "For anything I know to
the contrary, you are, outside the world of finance, one of the dullest
and most harmless men existing. My own position is simply as I explained
it during the first few sentences we exchanged. I do not like you, I
detest my wife's name being associated with yours, and for that reason,
the less I see of you the better I am pleased."

Mr. Draconmeyer nodded thoughtfully. He was, to all appearance, studying
the pattern of the carpet. For once in his life he was genuinely
puzzled. Was this man by his side merely a jealous husband, or had he
any idea of the greater game which was being played around them? Had he,
by any chance, arrived to take part in it? Was it wise, in any case, to
pursue the subject further? Yet if he abandoned it at this juncture, it
must be with a sense of failure, and failure was a thing to which he was
not accustomed.

"Your frankness," he admitted grimly, "is almost exhilarating. Our
personal relations being so clearly defined, I am inclined to go further
even than I had intended. We cannot now possibly misunderstand one
another. Supposing I were to tell you that your arrival in Monte Carlo,
accidental though it may be, is in a sense opportune; that you may, in a
short time meet here one or two politicians, friends of mine, with whom
an interchange of views might be agreeable? Supposing I were to offer my
services as an intermediary? You would like to bring about better
relations with my country, would you not, Sir Henry? You are admittedly
a statesman and an influential man in your Party. I am only a banker, it
is true, but I have been taken into the confidence of those who direct
the destinies of my country."

Hunterleys' face reflected none of the other's earnestness. He seemed,
indeed, a little bored, and he answered almost irritably.

"I am much obliged to you," he said, "but Monte Carlo seems scarcely the
place to me for political discussions, added to which I have no official
position. I could not receive or exchange confidences. While my Party is
out of power, there is nothing left for us but to mark time. I dare say
you mean well, Mr. Draconmeyer," he added, rising to his feet, "but I am
here to forget politics altogether, if I can. If you will excuse me, I
think I will look in at the baccarat rooms."

He was on the point of departure when through the open doorway which
communicated with the baccarat rooms beyond came a man of sufficiently
arresting personality, a man remarkably fat, with close-cropped grey
hair which stuck up like bristles all over his head; a huge,
clean-shaven face which seemed concentrated at that moment in one
tremendous smile of overwhelming good-humour. He held by the hand a
little French girl, dark, small, looking almost like a marionette in her
slim tailor-made costume. He recognised Draconmeyer with enthusiasm.

"My friend Draconmeyer," he exclaimed, in stentorian tones, "baccarat is
the greatest game in the world. I have won--I, who know nothing about
it, have won a hundred louis. It is amazing! There is no place like this
in the world. We are here to drink a bottle of wine together,
mademoiselle and I, mademoiselle who was at once my instructress and my
mascot. Afterwards we go to the jeweler's. Why not? A fair division of
the spoils--fifty louis for myself, fifty louis for a bracelet for
mademoiselle. And then--"

He broke off suddenly. His gesture was almost dramatic.

"I am forgotten!" he cried, holding out his hand to
Hunterleys,--"forgotten already! Sir Henry, there are many who forget me
as a humble Minister of my master, but there are few who forget me
physically. I am Selingman. We met in Berlin, six years ago. You came
with your great Foreign Secretary."

"I remember you perfectly," Hunterleys assured him, as he submitted to
the newcomer's vigorous handshake. "We shall meet again, I trust."

Selingman thrust his arm through Hunterleys' as though to prevent his
departure.

"You shall not run away!" he declared. "I introduce both of you--Mr.
Draconmeyer, the great Anglo-German banker; Sir Henry Hunterleys, the
English politician--to Mademoiselle Estelle Nipon, of the Opera House.
Now we all know one another. We shall be good friends. We will share
that bottle of champagne."

"One bottle between four!" mademoiselle laughed, poutingly. "And I am
parched! I have taught monsieur baccarat. I am exhausted."

"A magnum!" Selingman ordered in a voice of thunder, shaking his fist at
the startled waiter. "We seat ourselves here at the round table.
Mademoiselle, we will drink champagne together until the eyes of all of
us sparkle as yours do. We will drink champagne until we do not believe
that there is such a thing as losing at games or in life. We will drink
champagne until we all four believe that we have been brought up
together, that we are bosom friends of a lifetime. See, this is how we
will place ourselves. Mademoiselle, if the others make love to you, take
no notice. It is I who have put fifty louis in one pocket for that
bracelet. Do not trust Sir Henry there; he has a reputation."

As usual, the overpowering Selingman had his way. Neither Draconmeyer
nor Hunterleys attempted to escape. They took their places at the table.
They drank champagne and they listened to Selingman. All the time he
talked, save when mademoiselle interrupted him. Seated upon a chair
which seemed absurdly inadequate, his great stomach with its vast
expanse of white waistcoat in full view, his short legs doubled up
beneath him, he beamed upon them all with a smile which never failed.

"It is a wonderful place," he declared, as he lifted his glass for the
fifth time. "We will drink to it, this Monte Carlo. It is here that they
come from all quarters of the world--the ladies who charm away our
hearts," he added, bowing to mademoiselle, "the financiers whose word
can shake the money-markets of the world, and the politicians who
unbend, perhaps, just a little in the sunshine here, however cold and
inflexible they may be under their own austere skies. For the last time,
then--to Monte Carlo! To Monte Carlo, dear mademoiselle!--messieurs!"

[Illustration: "For the last time, then--to Monte Carlo!"]

They drank the toast and a few minutes later Hunterleys slipped away.
The two men looked after him. The smile seemed gradually to leave
Selingman's lips, his face was large and impressive.

"Run and fetch your cloak, dear," he said to the girl.

She obeyed at once. Selingman leaned across the table towards his
companion.

"What does Hunterleys do here?" he asked.

Draconmeyer shook his head.

"Who knows?" he answered. "Perhaps he has come to look after his wife.
He has been to Bordighera and San Remo."

"Is that all he told you of his movements?"

"That is all," Draconmeyer admitted. "He was suspicious. I made no
progress."

"Bordighera and San Remo!" Selingman muttered under his breath. "For a
day, perhaps, or two."

"What do you know about him?" Draconmeyer asked, his eyes suddenly
bright beneath his spectacles. "I have been suspicious ever since I met
him, an hour ago. He left England on December first."

"It is true," Selingman assented. "He crossed to Paris, and--mark the
cunning of it--he returned to England. That same night he travelled to
Germany. We lost him in Vienna and found him again in Sofia. What does
it mean, I wonder? What does it mean?"

"I have been talking to him for twenty minutes in here before you came,"
Draconmeyer said. "I tried to gain his confidence. He told me nothing.
He never even mentioned that journey of his."

Selingman was sitting drumming upon the table with his broad fingertips.

"Sofia!" he murmured. "And now--here! Draconmeyer, there is work before
us. I know men, I tell you. I know Hunterleys. I watched him, I listened
to him in Berlin six years ago. He was with his master then but he had
nothing to learn from him. He is of the stuff diplomats are fashioned
of. He has it in his blood. There is work before us, Draconmeyer."

"If monsieur is ready!" mademoiselle interposed, a little petulantly,
letting the tip of her boa play for a moment on his cheek.

Selingman finished his wine and rose to his feet. Once more the smile
encompassed his face. Of what account, after all, were the wanderings of
this melancholy Englishman! There was mademoiselle's bracelet to be
bought, and perhaps a few flowers. Selingman pulled down his waistcoat
and accepted his grey Homburg hat from the vestiaire. He held
mademoiselle's fingers as they descended the stairs. He looked like a
school-boy of enormous proportions on his way to a feast.

"We drank to Monte Carlo in champagne," he declared, as they turned on
to the terrace and descended the stone steps, "but, dear Estelle, we
drink to it from our hearts with every breath we draw of this wonderful
air, every time our feet touch the buoyant ground. Believe me, little
one, the other things are of no account. The true philosophy of life and
living is here in Monte Carlo. You and I will solve it."



CHAPTER III

A WARNING


Hunterleys dined alone at a small round table, set in a remote corner of
the great restaurant attached to the Hotel de Paris. The scene around
him was full of colour and interest. A scarlet-coated band made
wonderful music. The toilettes of the women who kept passing backwards
and forwards, on their way to the various tables, were marvellous; in
their way unique. The lights and flowers of the room, its appointments
and adornments, all represented the last word in luxury. Everywhere was
colour, everywhere an almost strained attempt to impress upon the
passerby the fact that this was no ordinary holiday resort but the giant
pleasure-ground of all in the world who had money to throw away and the
capacity for enjoyment. Only once a more somber note seemed struck when
Mrs. Draconmeyer, leaning on her husband's arm and accompanied by a
nurse and Lady Hunterleys, passed to their table. Hunterleys' eyes
followed the little party until they had reached their destination and
taken their places. His wife was wearing black and she had discarded the
pearls which had hung around her neck during the afternoon. She wore
only a collar of diamonds, his gift. Her hair was far less elaborately
coiffured and her toilette less magnificent than the toilettes of the
women by whom she was surrounded. Yet as he looked from his corner
across the room at her, Hunterleys realised as he had realised instantly
twelve years ago when he had first met her, that she was incomparable.
There was no other woman in the whole of that great restaurant with her
air of quiet elegance; no other woman so faultless in the smaller
details of her toilette and person. Hunterleys watched with
expressionless face but with anger growing in his heart, as he saw
Draconmeyer bending towards her, accepting her suggestions about the
dinner, laughing when she laughed, watching almost humbly for her
pleasure or displeasure. It was a cursed mischance which had brought him
to Monte Carlo!

Hunterleys hurried over his dinner, and without even going to his room
for a hat or coat, walked across the square in the soft twilight of an
unusually warm February evening and took a table outside the Café de
Paris, where he ordered coffee. Around him was a far more cosmopolitan
crowd, increasing every moment in volume. Every language was being
spoken, mostly German. As a rule, such a gathering of people was, in its
way, interesting to Hunterleys. To-night his thoughts were truant. He
forgot his strenuous life of the last three months, the dangers and
discomforts through which he had passed, the curious sequence of events
which had brought him, full of anticipation, nerved for a crisis, to
Monte Carlo of all places in the world. He forgot that he was in the
midst of great events, himself likely to take a hand in them. His
thoughts took, rarely enough for him, a purely personal and sentimental
turn. He thought of the earliest days of his marriage, when he and his
wife had wandered about the gardens of his old home in Wiltshire on
spring evenings such as these, and had talked sometimes lightly,
sometimes seriously, of the future. Almost as he sat there in the midst
of that noisy crowd, he could catch the faint perfume of hyacinths from
the borders along which they had passed and the trimly-cut flower-beds
which fringed the deep green lawn. Almost he could hear the chiming of
the old stable clock, the clear note of a thrush singing. A puff of wind
brought them a waft of fainter odour from the wild violets which
carpeted the woods. Then the darkness crept around them, a star came
out. Hand in hand they turned towards the house and into the library,
where a wood fire was burning on the grate. His thoughts travelled on. A
wave of tenderness had assailed him. Then he was awakened by the
waiter's voice at his elbow.

"Le café, monsieur."

He sat up in his chair. His dreaming moments were few and this one had
passed. He set his heel upon that tide of weakening memories, sipped his
coffee and looked out upon the crowd. Three or four times he glanced at
his watch impatiently. Precisely at nine o'clock, a man moved from
somewhere in the throng behind and took the vacant chair by his side.

"If one could trouble monsieur for a match!"

Hunterleys turned towards the newcomer as he handed his matchbox. He was
a young man of medium height, with sandy complexion, a little freckled,
and with a straggling fair moustache. He had keen grey eyes and the
faintest trace of a Scotch accent. He edged his chair a little nearer to
Hunterleys.

"Much obliged," he said. "Wonderful evening, isn't it?"

Hunterleys nodded.

"Have you anything to tell me, David?" he asked.

"We are right in the thick of it," the other replied, his tone a little
lowered. "There is more to tell than I like."

"Shall we stroll along the Terrace?" Hunterleys suggested.

"Don't move from your seat," the young man enjoined. "You are watched
here, and so am I, in a way, although it's more my news they want to
censor than anything personal. This crowd of Germans around us, without
a single vacant chair, is the best barrier we can have. Listen.
Selingman is here."

"I saw him this afternoon at the Sporting Club," Hunterleys murmured.

"Douaille will be here the day after to-morrow, if he has not already
arrived," the newcomer continued. "It was given out in Paris that he was
going down to Marseilles and from there to Toulon, to spend three days
with the fleet. They sent a paragraph into our office there. As a matter
of fact, he's coming straight on here. I can't learn how, exactly, but I
fancy by motor-car."

"You're sure that Douaille is coming himself?" Hunterleys asked
anxiously.

"Absolutely! His wife and family have been bustled down to Mentone, so
as to afford a pretext for his presence here if the papers get hold of
it. I have found out for certain that they came at a moment's notice and
were not expecting to leave home at all. Douaille will have full powers,
and the conference will take place at the Villa Mimosa. That will be the
headquarters of the whole thing.... Look out, Sir Henry. They've got
their eyes on us. The little fellow in brown, close behind, is hand in
glove with the police. They tried to get me into a row last night. It's
only my journalism they suspect, but they'd shove me over the frontier
at the least excuse. They're certain to try something of the sort with
you, if they get any idea that we are on the scent. Sit tight, sir, and
watch. I'm off. You know where to find me."

The young man raised his hat and left Hunterleys with the polite
farewell of a stranger. His seat was almost immediately seized by a
small man dressed in brown, a man with a black imperial and moustache
curled upwards. As Hunterleys glanced towards him, he raised his Hamburg
hat politely and smiled.

"Monsieur's friend has departed?" he enquired. "This seat is
disengaged?"

"As you see," Hunterleys replied.

The little man smiled his thanks, seated himself with a sigh of content
and ordered coffee from a passing waiter.

"Monsieur is doubtless a stranger to Monte Carlo?"

"It is my second visit only," Hunterleys admitted.

"For myself I am an habitué," the little man continued, "I might almost
say a resident. Therefore, all faces soon become familiar to me.
Directly I saw monsieur, I knew that he was not a frequenter."

Hunterleys turned a little in his chair and surveyed his neighbour
curiously. The man was neatly dressed and he spoke English with scarcely
any accent. His shoulders and upturned moustache gave him a military
appearance.

"There is nothing I envy any one so much in life," he proceeded, "as
coming to Monte Carlo for the first or second time. There is so much to
know, to see, to understand."

Hunterleys made no effort to discourage his companion's obvious attempts
to be friendly. The latter talked with spirit for some time.

"If it would not be regarded as a liberty," he said at last, as
Hunterleys rose to move off, "may I be permitted to present myself? My
name is Hugot? I am half English, half French. Years ago my health broke
down and I accepted a position in a bank here. Since then I have come in
to money. If I have a hobby in life, it is to show my beloved Monte
Carlo to strangers. If monsieur would do me the honour to spare me a few
hours to-night, later on, I would endeavour to see that he was amused."

Hunterleys shook his head. He remained, however, perfectly courteous. He
had a conviction that this was the man who had been watching his wife.

"You are very kind, sir," he replied. "I am here only for a few days and
for the benefit of my health. I dare not risk late hours. We shall meet
again, I trust."

He strolled off and as he hesitated upon the steps of the Casino he
glanced across towards the Hotel de Paris. At that moment a woman came
out, a light cloak over her evening gown. She was followed by an
attendant. Hunterleys recognised his wife and watched them with a
curious little thrill. They turned towards the Terrace. Very slowly he,
too, moved in the same direction. They passed through the gardens of the
Hotel de Paris, and Hunterleys, keeping to the left, met them upon the
Terrace as they emerged. As they came near he accosted them.

"Violet," he began.

She started.

"I beg your pardon," she said. "I did not recognise you."

"Haven't you been told," he asked stiffly, "that the Terrace is unsafe
for women after twilight?"

"Very often," she assented, with that little smile at the corners of her
lips which once he had found so charming and which now half maddened
him. "Unfortunately, I have a propensity for doing things which are
dangerous. Besides, I have my maid."

"Another woman is no protection," he declared.

"Susanne can shriek," Lady Hunterleys assured him. "She has wonderful
lungs and she loves to use them. She would shriek at the least
provocation."

"And meanwhile," Hunterleys observed drily, "while she is indulging in
her vocal exercises, things happen. If you wish to promenade here,
permit me to be your escort."

She hesitated for a moment, frowning. Then she continued her walk.

"You are very kind," she assented. "Perhaps you are like me, though, and
feel the restfulness of a quiet place after these throngs and throngs of
people."

They passed slowly down the broad promenade, deserted now save for one
or two loungers like themselves, and a few other furtive, hurrying
figures. In front of them stretched an arc of glittering lights--the
wonderful Bay of Mentone, with Bordighera on the distant sea-board;
higher up, the twinkling lights from the villas built on the rocky
hills. And at their feet the sea, calm, deep, blue, lapping the narrow
belt of hard sand, scintillating with the reflection of a thousand
lights; on the horizon a blood-red moon, only half emerged from the sea.

"Since we have met, Henry," Lady Hunterleys said at last, "there is
something which I should like to say to you."

"Certainly!"

She glanced behind. Susanne had fallen discreetly into the rear. She was
a new importation and she had no idea as to the identity of the tall,
severe-looking Englishman who walked by her mistress's side.

"There is something going on in Monte Carlo," Lady Hunterleys went on,
"which I cannot understand. Mr. Draconmeyer knows about it, I believe,
although he is not personally concerned in it. But he will tell me
nothing. I only know that for some reason or other your presence here
seems to be an annoyance to certain people. Why it should be I don't
know, but I want to ask you about it. Will you tell me the truth? Are
you sure that you did not come here to spy upon me?"

"I certainly did not," Hunterleys answered firmly. "I had no idea that
you were near the place. If I had--"

She turned her head. The smile was there once more and a queer, soft
light in her eyes.

"If you had?" she murmured.

"My visit here, under the present circumstances, would have been more
distasteful than it is," Hunterleys replied stiffly.

She bit her lip and turned away. When she resumed the conversation, her
tone was completely changed.

"I speak to you now," she said, "in your own interests. Mr. Draconmeyer
is, of course, not personally connected with this affair, whatever it
may be, but he is a wonderful man and he hears many things. To-night,
before dinner, he gave me a few words of warning. He did not tell me to
pass them on to you but I feel sure that he hoped I would. You would not
listen to them from him because you do not like him. I am afraid that
you will take very little more heed of what I say, but at least you will
believe that I speak in your own interests. Mr. Draconmeyer believes
that your presence here is misunderstood. A person whom he describes as
being utterly without principle and of great power is incensed by it. To
speak plainly, you are in danger."

"I am flattered," Hunterleys remarked, "by this interest on my behalf."

She turned her head and looked at him. His face, in this cold light
before the moon came up, was almost like the face of some marble statue,
lifeless, set, of almost stonelike severity. She knew the look so well
and she sighed.

"You need not be," she replied bitterly. "Mine is merely the ordinary
feeling of one human creature for another. In a sense it seems absurd, I
suppose, to speak to you as I am doing. Yet I do know that this place
which looks so beautiful has strange undercurrents. People pass away
here in the most orthodox fashion in the world, outwardly, but their
real ending is often never known at all. Everything is possible here,
and Mr. Draconmeyer honestly believes that you are in danger."

They had reached the end of the Terrace and they turned back.

"I thank you very much, Violet," Hunterleys said earnestly. "In return,
may I say something to you? If there is any danger threatening me or
those interests which I guard, the man whom you have chosen to make your
intimate friend is more deeply concerned in it than you think. I told
you once before that Draconmeyer was something more than the great
banker, the king of commerce, as he calls himself. He is ambitious
beyond your imaginings, a schemer in ways you know nothing of, and his
residence in London during the last fifteen years has been the worst
thing that ever happened for England. To me it is a bitter thing that
you should have ignored my warning and accepted his friendship--"

"It is not Mr. Draconmeyer who is my friend, Henry," she interrupted.
"You continually ignore that fact. It is Mrs. Draconmeyer whom I cannot
desert. I knew her long before I did her husband. We were at school
together, and there was a time before her last illness when we were
inseparable."

"That may have been so at first," Hunterleys agreed, "but how about
since then? You cannot deny, Violet, that this man Draconmeyer has in
some way impressed or fascinated you. You admire him. You find great
pleasure in his society. Isn't that the truth, now, honestly?"

Her face was a little troubled.

"I do certainly find pleasure in his society," she admitted. "I cannot
conceive any one who would not. He is a brilliant, a wonderful musician,
a delightful talker, a generous host and companion. He has treated me
always with the most scrupulous regard, and I feel that I am entirely
reasonable in resenting your mistrust of him."

"You do resent it still, then?"

"I do," she asserted emphatically.

"And if I told you," Hunterleys went on, "that the man was in love with
you. What then?"

"I should say that you were a fool!"

Hunterleys shrugged his shoulders.

"There is no more to be said," he declared, "only, for a clever woman,
Violet, you are sometimes woefully or wilfully blind. I tell you that I
know the type. Sooner or later--before very long, I should think--you
will have the usual scene. I warn you of it now. If you are wise, you
will go back to England."

"Absurd!" she scoffed. "Why, we have only just come! I want to win some
money--not that your allowance isn't liberal enough," she added hastily,
"but there is a fascination in winning, you know. And besides, I could
not possibly desert Mrs. Draconmeyer. She would not have come at all if
I had not joined them."

"You are the mistress of your own ways," Hunterleys said. "According to
my promise, I shall attempt to exercise no authority over you in any
way, but I tell you that Draconmeyer is my enemy, and the enemy of all
the things I represent, and I tell you, too, that he is in love with
you. When you realise that these things are firmly established in my
brain, you can perhaps understand how thoroughly distasteful I find your
association with him here. It is all very well to talk about Mrs.
Draconmeyer, but she goes nowhere. The consequence is that he is your
escort on every occasion. I am quite aware that a great many people in
society accept him. I personally am not disposed to. I look upon him as
an unfit companion for my wife and I resent your appearance with him in
public."

"We will discuss this subject no further," she decided. "From the moment
of our first disagreement, it has been your object to break off my
friendship with the Draconmeyers. Until I have something more than words
to go by, I shall continue to give him my confidence."

They crossed the stone flags in front of the Opera together, and turned
up towards the Rooms.

"I think, perhaps, then," he said, "that we may consider the subject
closed. Only," he added, "you will forgive me if I still--"

He hesitated. She turned her head quickly. Her eyes sought his but
unfortunately he was looking straight ahead and seeing gloomy things. If
he had happened to turn at that moment, he might have concluded his
speech differently.

"If I still exhibit some interest in your doings."

"I shall always think it most kind of you," she replied, her face
suddenly hardening. "Have I not done my best to reciprocate? I have even
passed on to you a word of warning, which I think you are very unwise to
ignore."

They were outside the hotel. Hunterleys paused.

"I have nothing to fear from the mysterious source you have spoken of,"
he assured her. "The only enemy I have in Monte Carlo is Draconmeyer
himself."

"Enemy!" she repeated scornfully. "Mr. Draconmeyer is much too wrapped
up in his finance, and too big a man, in his way, to have enemies. Oh,
Henry, if only you could get rid of a few of your prejudices, how much
more civilised a human being you would be!"

He raised his hat. His expression was a little grim.

"The man without prejudices, my dear Violet," he retorted, "is a man
without instincts.... I wish you luck."

She ran lightly up the steps and waved her hand. He watched her pass
through the doors into the hotel.



CHAPTER IV

ENTER THE AMERICAN


Lady Weybourne was lunching on the terrace of Ciro's restaurant with her
brother. She was small, dark, vivacious. Her friends, of whom she had
thousands, all called her Flossie, and she was probably the most popular
American woman who had ever married into the English peerage. Her
brother, Richard Lane, on the other hand, was tall, very
broad-shouldered, with a strong, clean-shaven face, inclined by
disposition to be taciturn. On this particular morning he had less even
than usual to say, and although Lady Weybourne, who was a great
chatterbox, was content as a rule to do most of the talking for herself,
his inattention became at last a little too obvious. He glanced up
eagerly as every newcomer appeared, and his answers to his sister's
criticisms were sometimes almost at random.

"Dicky, I'm not at all sure that I'm liking you this morning," she
observed finally, looking across at him with a critically questioning
smile. "A certain amount of non-responsiveness to my advances I can put
up with--from a brother--but this morning you are positively
inattentive. Tell me your troubles at once. Has Harris been bothering
you, or did you lose a lot of money last night?"

Considering that the young man's income was derived from an exceedingly
well-invested capital of nine million dollars, and that Harris was the
all too perfect captain of his yacht lying then in the harbour, whose
worst complaint was that he had never enough work to do, Lady
Weybourne's enquiries might have been considered as merely tentative.
Richard shook his head a little gloomily.

"Those things aren't likely to trouble me," he remarked. "Harris is all
right, and I've promised him we'll make up a little party and go over to
Cannes in a day or two."

"What a ripping idea!" Lady Weybourne declared, breaking up her thin
toast between her fingers. "I'd love it, and so would Harry. We could
easily get together a delightful party. The Pelhams are here and simply
dying for a change, and there's Captain Gardner and Frank Clowes, and
lots of nice girls. Couldn't we fix a date, Dick?"

"Not just yet," her brother replied.

"And why not?"

"I am waiting," he told her, "until I can ask the girl I want to go."

"And why can't you now?" she demanded, with upraised eyebrows. "I'll be
hostess and chaperone all in one."

"I can't ask her because I don't know her yet," the young man explained
doggedly.

Lady Weybourne leaned back in her chair and laughed.

"So that's it!" she exclaimed. "Now I know why you're sitting there like
an owl this morning! In love with a fair unknown, are you, Dick? Be
careful. Monte Carlo is full of young ladies whom it would be just as
well to know a little about before you thought of taking them yachting."

"This one isn't that sort," the young man said.

"How do you know that?" she asked, leaning across the table, her head
resting on her clasped hands.

He looked at her almost contemptuously.

"How do I know!" he repeated. "There are just one or two things that
happen in this world which a man can be utterly and entirely sure of.
She is one of them. Say, Flossie," he added, the enthusiasm creeping at
last into his tone, "you never saw any one quite like her in all your
life!"

"Do I know her, I wonder?" Lady Weybourne enquired.

"That's just what I've asked you here to find out," her brother replied
ingenuously. "I heard her tell the man she was with this morning--her
father, I believe--about an hour ago, that she would be at Ciro's at
half-past one. It's twenty minutes to two now."

Lady Weybourne laughed heartily.

"So that's why you dragged me out of bed and made me come to lunch with
you! Dick, what a fraud you are! I was thinking what a dear,
affectionate brother you were, and all the time you were just making use
of me."

"Sorry," the young man said briskly, "but, after all, we needn't stand
on ceremony, need we? I've always been your pal; gave you a leg up with
the old man, you know, when he wasn't keen on the British alliance."

She nodded.

"Oh, I'll do what I can for you," she promised. "If she is any one in
particular I expect I shall know her. What's happening, Dick?"

The young man's face was almost transformed. His eyes were bright and
very fixed. His lips had come together in a firm, straight line, as
though he were renewing some promise to himself. Lady Weybourne followed
the direction of his gaze. A man and a girl had reached the entrance to
the restaurant and were looking around them as though to select a table.
The chief maître d'hôtel had hastened out to receive them. They were,
without doubt, people of importance. The man was of medium height, with
iron-grey hair and moustache, and a small imperial. He wore light
clothes of perfect cut; patent shoes with white linen gaiters; a black
tie fastened with a pin of opals. He carried himself with an air which
was unmistakable and convincing. The girl by his side was beautiful. She
was simply dressed in a tailor-made gown of white serge. Her black hat
was a miracle of smartness. Her hair was of a very light shade of
golden-brown, her complexion wonderfully fair. Lady Weybourne glanced at
her shoes and gloves, at the bag which she was carrying, and the handle
of her parasol. Then she nodded approvingly.

"You don't know her?" Richard asked, in a disappointed whisper.

She shook her head.

"Sorry," she admitted, "but I don't. They've probably only just
arrived."

With great ceremony the newcomers were conducted to the best table upon
the terrace. The man was evidently an habitué. He had scarcely taken his
seat before, with a very low bow, the sommelier brought him a small
wine-glass filled with what seemed to be vermouth. While he sipped it he
smoked a Russian cigarette and with a gold pencil wrote out the menu of
his luncheon. In a few minutes the manager himself came hurrying out
from the restaurant. His salute was almost reverential. When, after a
few moments' conversation, he departed, he did so with the air of one
taking leave of royalty. Lady Weybourne, who was an inquisitive little
person, was puzzled.

"I don't know who they are, Dick," she confessed, "but I know the ways
of this place well, and I can tell you one thing--they are people of
importance. You can tell that by the way they are received. These
restaurant people don't make mistakes."

"Of course they are people of importance," the young man declared. "Any
one can see that by a glance at the girl. I am sorry you don't know
them," he went on, "but you've got to find out who they are, and pretty
quickly, too. Look here, Flossie. I am a bit useful to you now and then,
aren't I?"

"Without you, my dear Dick," she murmured, "I should never be able to
manage those awful trustees. You are invaluable, a perfect jewel of a
brother."

"Well, I'll give you that little electric coupé you were so keen on last
time we were in London, if you'll get me an introduction to that girl
within twenty-four hours."

Lady Weybourne gasped.

"What a whirlwind!" she exclaimed. "Dicky, are you, by any chance, in
earnest?"

"In earnest for the first time in my life," he assured her. "Something
has got hold of me which I'm not going to part with."

She considered him reflectively. He was twenty-seven years of age, and
notwithstanding the boundless opportunities of his youth and great
wealth he had so far shown an almost singular indifference to the whole
of the opposite sex, from the fascinating chorus girls of London and New
York to the no less enterprising young women of his own order. As she
sat there studying his features, she felt a sensation almost of awe.
There was something entirely different, something stronger in his face.
She thought for a moment of their father as she had known him in her
childhood, the founder of their fortunes, a man who had risen from a
moderate position to immense wealth through sheer force of will, of
pertinacity. For the first time she saw the same look upon her brother's
face.

"Well," she sighed, "I shall do my best to earn it. I only hope, Dick,
that she is--"

"She is what?" he demanded, looking at her steadfastly.

"Oh! not engaged or anything, I mean," Lady Weybourne explained hastily.
"I must admit, Dick, although I don't suppose any sister is particularly
keen upon her brother's young women, that I think you've shown excellent
taste. She is absolutely the best style of any one I've seen in Monte
Carlo."

"How are you going to manage that introduction?" he asked bluntly. "Have
you made any plans?"

"I don't suppose it will be difficult," she assured him, lighting a
cigarette and shaking her head at the tray of liqueurs which the
sommelier was offering. "Get me some cream for my coffee, Dick. Now I'll
tell you," she continued, as the waiter disappeared. "You will have to
call that under-maître d'hôtel. You had better give him a substantial
tip and ask him quietly for their names. Then I'll see about the rest."

"That seems sensible enough," he admitted.

"And look here, Dick," she went on, "I know how impetuous you are. Don't
do anything foolish. Remember this isn't an ordinary adventure. If you
go rushing in upon it you'll come to grief."

"I know," he answered shortly. "I was fool enough to hang about the
flower shops and that milliner's this morning. I couldn't help it. I
don't know whether she noticed. I believe she did. Once our eyes did
meet, and although I'll swear she never changed her expression, I felt
that the whole world didn't hold so small a creature as I. Here comes
Charles. I'll ask him."

He beckoned to the maître d'hôtel and talked for a moment about the
luncheon. Then he ordered a table for the next day, and slipping a louis
into the man's hand, leaned over and whispered in his ear.

"I want you to tell me the name of the gentleman and young lady who are
sitting over there at the corner table?"

The maître d'hôtel glanced covertly in the direction indicated. He did
not at once reply. His face was perplexed, almost troubled.

"I am very sorry, sir," he said hesitatingly, "but our orders are very
strict. Monsieur Ciro does not like anything in the way of gossip about
our clients, and the gentleman is a very honoured patron. The young lady
is his daughter."

"Quite right," the young man agreed bluntly. "This isn't an ordinary
case, Charles. You go over to the desk there, write me down the name and
bring it, and there's a hundred franc note waiting here for you. No need
for the name to pass your lips."

The man bowed and retreated. In a few minutes he came back again and
laid a small card upon the table.

"Monsieur will pardon my reminding him," he begged earnestly, "but if he
will be so good as to never mention this little matter--"

Richard nodded and waved him away.

"Sure!" he promised.

He drew the card towards him and looked at it in a puzzled manner. Then
he passed it to his sister. Her expression, too, was blank.

"Who in the name of mischief," he exclaimed softly, "is Mr. Grex!"



CHAPTER V

"WHO IS MR. GREX?"


Lady Weybourne insisted, after a reasonable amount of time spent over
their coffee, that her brother should pay the bill and leave the
restaurant. They walked slowly across the square.

"What are you going to do about it?" he asked.

"There is only one thing to be done," she replied. "I shall speak to
every one I meet this afternoon--I shall be, in fact, most sociable--and
sooner or later in our conversation I shall ask every one if they know
Mr. Grex and his daughter. When I arrive at some one who does, that will
be the first step, won't it?"

"I wonder whether we shall see some one soon!" he grumbled, looking
around. "Where are all the people to-day!"

She laughed softly.

"Just a little impetuous, aren't you?"

"I should say so," he admitted. "I'd like to be introduced to her before
four o'clock, propose to her this evening, and--and--"

"And what?"

"Never mind," he concluded, marching on with his head turned towards the
clouds. "Let's go and sit down upon the Terrace and talk about her."

"But, my dear Dicky," his sister protested, "I don't want to sit upon
the Terrace. I am going to my dressmaker's across the way there, and
afterwards to Lucie's to try on some hats. Then I am going back to the
hotel for an hour's rest and to prink, and afterwards into the Sporting
Club at four o'clock. That's my programme. I shall be doing what I can
the whole of the time. I shall make discreet enquiries of my dressmaker,
who knows everybody, and I sha'n't let a single acquaintance go by. You
will have to amuse yourself till four o'clock, at any rate. There's Sir
Henry Hunterleys over there, having coffee. Go and talk to him. He may
put you out of your misery. Thanks ever so much for my luncheon, and au
revoir!"

She turned away with a little nod. Her brother, after a moment's
hesitation, approached the table where Hunterleys was sitting alone.

"How do you do, Sir Henry?"

Hunterleys returned his greeting, a little blankly at first. Then he
remembered the young man and held out his hand.

"Of course! You are Richard Lane, aren't you? Sit down and have some
coffee. What are you doing here?"

"I've got a little boat in the harbour," Richard replied, as he drew up
a chair. "I've been at Algiers for a time with some friends, and I've
brought them on here. Just been lunching with my sister. Are you alone?"

Hunterleys hesitated.

"Yes, I am alone."

"Wonderful place," the young man went on. "Wonderful crowd of people
here, too. I suppose you know everybody?" he added, warming up as he
approached his subject.

"On the contrary," Hunterleys answered, "I am almost a stranger here. I
have been staying further down the coast."

"Happen to know any one of the name of Grex?" Lane asked, with elaborate
carelessness.

Hunterleys made no immediate reply. He seemed to be considering the
name.

"Grex," he repeated, knocking the ash from his cigarette. "Rather an
uncommon name, isn't it? Why do you ask?"

"Oh, I've seen an elderly man and a young lady about once or twice,"
Lane explained. "Very interesting-looking people. Some one told me that
their name was Grex."

"There is a person living under that name, I think," Hunterleys said,
"who has taken the Villa Mimosa for the season."

"Do you know him personally?" the young man asked eagerly.

"Personally? No, I can scarcely say that I do."

Richard Lane sighed. It was disappointment number one. For some reason
or other, too, Hunterleys seemed disposed to change the conversation.

"The young lady who is always with him," Richard persisted, "would that
be his daughter?"

Hunterleys turned a little in his seat and surveyed his questioner. He
had met Lane once or twice and rather liked him.

"Look here, young fellow," he said, good humouredly, "let me ask you a
question for a change. What is the nature of these enquiries of yours?"

Lane hesitated. Something in Hunterleys' face and manner induced him to
tell the truth.

"I have fallen head over heels in love with the young lady," he
confessed. "Don't think I am a confounded jackass. I am not in the habit
of doing such things. I'm twenty-seven and I have never gone out of my
way to meet a girl yet. This is something--different. I want to find out
about them and get an introduction."

Hunterleys shook his head regretfully.

"I am afraid," he said, "that I can be of no use to you--no practical
use, that is. I can only give you one little piece of advice."

"Well, what is it?" Richard asked eagerly.

"If you are in earnest," Hunterleys continued, "and I will do you the
credit to believe that you are, you had better pack up your things,
return to your yacht and take a cruise somewhere."

"Take a cruise somewhere!"

Hunterleys nodded.

"Get out of Monte Carlo as quickly as you can, and, above all, don't
think anything more of that young lady. Get the idea out of your head as
quickly as you can."

The young man was sitting upright in his chair. His manner was half
minatory.

"Say, what do you mean by this?" he demanded.

"Exactly what I said just now," Hunterleys rejoined. "If you are in
earnest, and I have no doubt that you are, I should clear out."

"What is it you are trying to make me understand?" Richard asked
bluntly.

"That you have about as much chance with that young lady," Hunterleys
assured him, "as with that very graceful statue in the square yonder."

Richard sat for a moment with knitted brows.

"Then you know who she is, any way?"

"Whether I do or whether I do not," the older man said gravely, "so far
as I am concerned, the subject is exhausted. I have given you the best
advice you ever had in your life. It's up to you to follow it."

Richard looked at him blankly.

"Well, you've got me puzzled," he confessed.

Hunterleys rose to his feet, and, summoning a waiter, paid his bill.

"You'll excuse me, won't you?" he begged. "I have an appointment in a
few minutes. If you are wise, young man," he added, patting him on the
shoulder as he turned to go, "you will take my advice."

Left to himself, Richard Lane strolled around the place towards the
Terrace. He had no fancy for the Rooms and he found a seat as far
removed as possible from the Tir du Pigeons. He sat there with folded
arms, looking out across the sun-dappled sea. His matter-of-fact brain
offered him but one explanation as to the meaning of Hunterleys' words,
and against that explanation his whole being was in passionate revolt.
He represented a type of young man who possesses morals by reason of a
certain unsuspected idealism, mingled with perfect physical sanity. It
seemed to him, as he sat there, that he had been waiting for this day
for years. The old nights in New York and Paris and London floated
before his memory. He pushed them on one side with a shiver, and yet
with a curious feeling of exultation. He recalled a certain sensation
which had been drawn through his life like a thin golden thread, a
sensation which had a habit of especially asserting itself in the midst
of these youthful orgies, a curious sense of waiting for something to
happen, a sensation which had been responsible very often for what his
friends had looked upon as eccentricity. He knew now that this thing had
arrived, and everything else in life seemed to pale by the side of it.
Hunterleys' words had thrown him temporarily into a strange turmoil.
Solitude for a few moments he had felt to be entirely necessary. Yet
directly he was alone, directly he was free to listen to his
convictions, he could have laughed at that first mad surging of his
blood, the fierce, instinctive rebellion against the conclusion to which
Hunterleys' words seemed to point. Now that he was alone, he was not
even angry. No one else could possibly understand!

Before long he was once more upon his feet, starting out upon his quest
with renewed energy. He had scarcely taken a dozen steps, however, when
he came face to face with Lady Hunterleys and Mr. Draconmeyer. Quite
oblivious of the fact that they seemed inclined to avoid him, he greeted
them both with unusual warmth.

"Saw your husband just now, Lady Hunterleys," he remarked, a little
puzzled. "I fancied he said he was alone here."

She smiled.

"We did not come together," she explained; "in fact, our meeting was
almost accidental. Henry had been at Bordighera and San Remo and I came
out with Mr. and Mrs. Draconmeyer."

The young man nodded and turned towards Draconmeyer, who was standing a
little on one side as though anxious to proceed.

"Mr. Draconmeyer doesn't remember me, perhaps. I met him at my sister's,
Lady Weybourne's, just before Christmas."

"I remember you perfectly," Mr. Draconmeyer assured him courteously. "We
have all been admiring your beautiful yacht in the harbour there."

"I was thinking of getting up a little cruise before long," Richard
continued. "If so, I hope you'll all join us. Flossie is going to be
hostess, and the Montressors are passengers already."

They murmured something non-committal. Lady Hunterleys seemed as though
about to pass on but Lane blocked the way.

"I only arrived the other day from Algiers," he went on, making frantic
efforts to continue the conversation. "I brought Freddy Montressor and
his sister, and Fothergill."

"Mr. Montressor has come to the Hotel de Paris," Lady Hunterleys
remarked. "What sort of weather did you have in Algiers?"

"Ripping!" the young man replied absently, entirely oblivious of the
fact that they had been driven away by incessant rain. "This place is
much more fun, though," he added, with sudden inspiration. "Crowds of
interesting people. I suppose you know every one?"

Lady Hunterleys shook her head.

"Indeed I do not. Mr. Draconmeyer here is my guide. He is as good as a
walking directory."

"I wonder if either of you know some people named Grex?" Richard asked,
with studious indifference.

Mr. Draconmeyer for the first time showed some signs of interest. He
looked at their questioner steadfastly.

"Grex," he repeated. "A very uncommon name."

"Very uncommon-looking people," Richard declared. "The man is elderly,
and looks as though he took great care of himself--awfully well turned
out and all that. The daughter is--good-looking."

Mr. Draconmeyer took off his gold-rimmed spectacles and rubbed them with
his handkerchief.

"Why do you ask?" he enquired. "Is this just curiosity?"

"Rather more than that," Richard said boldly. "It's interest."

Mr. Draconmeyer readjusted his spectacles.

"Mr. Grex," he announced, "is a gentleman of great wealth and
illustrious birth, who has taken a very magnificent villa and desires
for a time to lead a life of seclusion. That is as much as I or any one
else knows."

"What about the young lady?" Richard persisted.

"The young lady," Mr. Draconmeyer answered, "is, as you surmised, his
daughter.... Shall we finish our promenade, Lady Hunterleys?"

Richard stood grudgingly a little on one side.

"Mr. Draconmeyer," he said desperately, "do you think there'd be any
chance of my getting an introduction to the young lady?"

Mr. Draconmeyer at first smiled and then began to laugh, as though
something in the idea tickled him. He looked at the young man and
Richard hated him.

"Not the slightest in the world, I should think," he declared. "Good
afternoon!"

Lady Hunterleys joined in her companion's amusement as they continued
their promenade.

"Is the young man in love, do you suppose?" she enquired lightly.

"If so," her companion replied, "he has made a somewhat unfortunate
choice. However, it really doesn't matter. Love at his age is nothing
more than a mood. It will pass as all moods pass."

She turned and looked at him.

"Do you mean," she asked incredulously, "that youth is incapable of
love?"

They had paused for a moment, looking out across the bay towards the
glittering white front of Bordighera. Mr. Draconmeyer took off his hat.
Somehow, without it, in that clear light, one realised, notwithstanding
his spectacles, his grizzled black beard of unfashionable shape, his
over-massive forehead and shaggy eyebrows, that his, too, was the face
of one whose feet were not always upon the earth.

"Perhaps," he answered, "it is a matter of degree, yet I am almost
tempted to answer your question absolutely. I do not believe that youth
can love, because from the first it misapprehends the meaning of the
term. I believe that the gift of loving comes only to those who have
reached the hills."

She looked at him, a little surprised. Always thoughtful, always
sympathetic, generally stimulating, it was very seldom that she had
heard him speak with so much real feeling. Suddenly he turned his head
from the sea. His eyes seemed to challenge hers.

"Your question," he continued, "touches upon one of the great tragedies
of life. Upon those who are free from their youth there is a great tax
levied. Nature has decreed that they should feel something which they
call love. They marry, and in this small world of ours they give a
hostage as heavy as a millstone of their chances of happiness. For it is
only in later life, when a man has knowledge as well as passion, when
unless he is fortunate it is too late, that he can know what love is."

She moved a little uneasily. She felt that something was coming which
she desired to avoid, some confidence, something from which she must
escape. The memory of her husband's warning was vividly present with
her. She felt the magnetism of her companion's words, his compelling
gaze.

"It is so with me," he went on, leaning a little towards her, "only in
my case--"

Providence was intervening. Never had the swish of a woman's skirt
sounded so sweet to her before.

"Here's Dolly Montressor," she interrupted, "coming up to speak to us."



CHAPTER VI

CAKES AND COUNSELS


The Sporting Club seemed to fill up that afternoon almost as soon as the
doors were opened. At half-past four, people were standing two or three
deep around the roulette tables. Selingman, very warm, and looking
somewhat annoyed, withdrew himself from the front row of the lower
table, and taking Mr. Grex and Draconmeyer by the arm, led them towards
the tea-room.

"I have lost six louis!" he exclaimed, fretfully. "I have had the
devil's own luck. I shall play no more for the present. We will have tea
together."

They appropriated a round table in a distant corner of the restaurant.

"History," Selingman continued, heaping his plate with rich cakes, "has
been made before now in strange places. Why not here? We sit here in
close touch with one of the most interesting phases of modern life. We
can even hear the voice of fate, the click of the little ball as it
finishes its momentous journey and sinks to rest. Why should we, too,
not speak of fateful things?"

Mr. Draconmeyer glanced around.

"For myself," he muttered, "I must say that I prefer a smaller room and
a locked door."

Selingman demolished a chocolate éclair and shook his head vigorously.

"The public places for me," he declared. "Now look around. There is no
one, as you will admit, within ear-shot. Very well. What will they say,
those who suspect us, if they see us drinking tea and eating many cakes
together? Certainly not that we conspire, that we make mischief here. On
the other hand, they will say 'There are three great men at play, come
to Monte Carlo to rest from their labours, to throw aside for a time the
burden from their shoulders; to flirt, to play, to eat cakes.' It is a
good place to talk, this, and I have something in my mind which must be
said."

Mr. Grex sipped his pale, lemon-flavoured tea and toyed with his
cigarette-case. He was eating nothing.

"Assuming you to be a man of sense, my dear Selingman," he remarked, "I
think that what you have to say is easily surmised. The Englishman!"

Selingman agreed with ponderous emphasis.

"We have before us," he declared, "a task of unusual delicacy. Our
friend from Paris may be here at any moment. How we shall fare with him,
heaven only knows! But there is one thing very certain. At the sight of
Hunterleys he will take alarm. He will be like a frightened bird, all
ruffled feathers. He will never settle down to a serious discussion.
Hunterleys knows this. That is why he presents himself without reserve
in public, why he is surrounded with Secret Service men of his own
country, all on the _qui vive_ for the coming of Douaille."

"It appears tolerably certain," Mr. Draconmeyer said calmly, "that we
must get rid of Hunterleys."

Mr. Grex looked out of the window for a moment.

"To some extent," he observed, "I am a stranger here. I come as a guest
to this conference, as our other friend from Paris comes, too. Any small
task which may arise from the necessities of the situation, devolves, I
think I may say without unfairness, upon you, my friend."

Selingman assented gloomily.

"That is true," he admitted, "but in Hunterleys we have to do with no
ordinary man. He does not gamble. To the ordinary attractions of Monte
Carlo he is indifferent. He is one of these thin-blooded men with
principles. Cromwell would have made a lay preacher of him."

"You find difficulties?" Mr. Grex queried, with slightly uplifted
eyebrows.

"Not difficulties," Selingman continued quickly. "Or if indeed we do
call them difficulties, let us say at once that they are very minor
ones. Only the thing must be done neatly and without ostentation, for
the sake of our friend who comes."

"My own position," Mr. Draconmeyer intervened, "is, in a way, delicate.
The unexplained disappearance of Sir Henry Hunterleys might, by some
people, be connected with the great friendship which exists between my
wife and his."

Mr. Grex polished his horn-rimmed eyeglass. Selingman nodded
sympathetically. Neither of them looked at Draconmeyer. Finally
Selingman heaved a sigh and brushed the crumbs from his waistcoat.

"If one were assured," he murmured thoughtfully, "that Hunterleys'
presence here had a real significance--"

Draconmeyer pushed his chair forward and leaned across the table. The
heads of the three men were close together. His tone was stealthily
lowered.

"Let me tell you something, my friend Selingman, which I think should
strengthen any half-formed intention you may have in your brain.
Hunterleys is no ordinary sojourner here. You were quite right when you
told me that his stay at Bordighera and San Remo was a matter of days
only. Now I will tell you something. Three weeks ago he was at
Bukharest. He spent two days with Novisko. From there he went to Sofia.
He was heard of in Athens and Constantinople. My own agent wrote me that
he was in Belgrade. Hunterleys is the bosom friend of the English
Foreign Secretary. That I know for myself. You have your reports. You
can read between the lines. I tell you that Hunterleys is the man who
has paralysed our action amongst the Balkan States. He has played a neat
little game out there. It is he who was the inspiration of Roumania. It
is he who drafted the secret understanding with Turkey. The war which we
hoped for will not take place. From there Hunterleys came in a gunboat
and landed on the Italian coast. He lingered at Bordighera for
appearances only. He is here, if he can, to break up our conference. I
tell you that you none of you appreciate this man. Hunterleys is the
most dangerous Englishman living--"

"One moment," Selingman interrupted. "To some extent I follow you, but
when you speak of Hunterleys as a power in the present tense, doesn't it
occur to you that his Party is not in office? He is simply a member of
the Opposition. If his Party get in again at the next election, I grant
you that he will be Foreign Minister and a dangerous one, but to-day he
is simply a private person."

"It is not every one," Mr. Draconmeyer said slowly, "who bows his knee
to the shibboleth of party politics. Remember that I come to you from
London and I have information of which few others are possessed.
Hunterleys is of the stuff of which patriots are made. Party is no
concern of his. He and the present Foreign Secretary are the greatest of
personal friends. I know for a fact that Hunterleys has actually been
consulted and has helped in one or two recent crises. The very
circumstance that he is not of the ruling Party makes a free lance of
him. When his people are in power, he will have to take office and wear
the shackles. To-day, with every quality which would make him the
greatest Foreign Minister England has ever had since Disraeli, he is
nothing more nor less than a roving diplomatist, Emperor of his
country's Secret Service, if you like to put it so. Furthermore, look a
little into that future of which I have spoken. The present English
Government will last, at the most, another two years. I tell you that
when they go out of power, whoever comes in, Hunterleys will go to the
Foreign Office. We shall have to deal with a man who knows, a man--"

"I am not wholly satisfied with these éclairs," Selingman interrupted,
gazing into the dish. "Maître d'hôtel, come and listen to an awful
complaint," he went on, and, addressing one of the head-waiters. "Your
éclairs are too small, your cream-cakes too irresistible. I eat too much
here. How, I ask you in the name of common sense, can a man dine who
takes tea here! Bring the bill."

The man, smiling, hastened away. Not a word had passed between the
three, yet the other two understood the situation perfectly. Hunterleys
and Richard Lane had entered the room together and were seated at an
adjoining table. Selingman plunged into a fresh tirade, pointing to the
half-demolished plateful of cakes.

"I will eat one more," he declared. "We will bilk the management. The
bill is made out. I shall not be observed. Our friend," he continued,
under his breath, "has secured a valuable bodyguard, something very
large and exceedingly powerful."

Draconmeyer hesitated for a moment. Then he turned to Mr. Grex.

"You have perhaps observed," he said, "the young man who is seated at
the next table. It may amuse you to hear of a very extraordinary piece
of impertinence of which, only this afternoon, he was guilty. He
accosted me upon the Terrace--he is a young American whom I have met in
London--and asked me for information respecting a Mr. and Miss Grex."

Mr. Grex looked slowly towards the speaker. There was very little change
in his face, yet Draconmeyer seemed in some way confused.

"You will understand, I am sure, sir," he continued, a little hastily,
"that I was in no way to blame for the question which the young man
addressed to me. He had the presumption to enquire whether I could
procure for him an introduction to the young lady whom he knew as Miss
Grex. Even at this moment," Draconmeyer went on, lowering his voice, "he
is trying to persuade Hunterleys to let him come over to us."

"The young man," Mr. Grex said deliberately, "is ignorant. If necessary,
he must be taught his lesson."

Selingman intervened. He breathed a heavy sigh.

"Well," he observed, "I perceive that the task at which we have hinted
is to fall upon my shoulders. We must do what we can. I am a
tender-hearted man, and if extremes can be avoided, I shall like my task
better.... And now I have changed my mind. The loss of that six louis
weighs upon me. I shall endeavour to regain it. Let us go."

They rose and passed out into the roulette rooms. Richard Lane, who
remained in his seat with an effort, watched them pass with a frown upon
his face.

"Say, Sir Henry," he complained, "I don't quite understand this. Why,
I'd only got to go over to Draconmeyer there and stand and talk for a
moment, and he must have introduced me."

Hunterleys shook his head.

"Let me assure you," he said, "that Draconmeyer would have done nothing
of the sort. For one thing, we don't introduce over here as a matter of
course, as you do in America. And for another--well, I won't trouble you
with the other reason.... Look here, Lane, take my advice, there's a
sensible fellow. I am a man of the world, you know, and there are
certain situations in which one can make no mistake. If you are as hard
hit as you say you are, go for a cruise and get over it. Don't hang
around here. No good will come of it."

The young man set his teeth. He was looking very determined indeed.

"There isn't anything in this world, short of a bomb," he declared,
"which is going to blow me out of Monte Carlo before I have made the
acquaintance of Miss Grex!"



CHAPTER VII

THE EFFRONTERY OF RICHARD


Hunterleys took leave of his companion as soon as they arrived at the
roulette rooms.

"Take my advice, Lane," he said seriously. "Find something to occupy
your thoughts. Throw a few hundred thousand of your dollars away at the
tables, if you must do something foolish. You'll get into far less
trouble."

Richard made no direct reply. He watched Hunterleys depart and took up
his place opposite the door to await his sister's arrival. It was a
quarter to five before she appeared and found him waiting for her in the
doorway.

"Say, you're late, Flossie!" he grumbled. "I thought you were going to
be here soon after four."

She glanced at the little watch upon her wrist.

"How the time does slip away!" she sighed. "But really, Dicky, I am late
in your interests as much as anything. I have been paying a few calls. I
went out to the Villa Rosa to see some people who almost live here, and
then I met Lady Crawley and she made me go in and have some tea."

"Well?" he asked impatiently. "Well?"

She laid her fingers upon his arm and drew him into a less crowded part
of the room.

"Dicky," she confessed, "I don't seem to have had a bit of luck. The
Comtesse d'Hausson, who lives at the Villa Rosa, knows them and showed
me from the window the Villa Mimosa, where they live, but she would tell
me absolutely nothing about them. The villa is the finest in Monte
Carlo, and has always been taken before by some one of note. She
declares that they do not mix in the society of the place, but she
admits that she has heard a rumour that Grex is only an assumed name."

"I begin to believe that myself," he said doggedly. "Hunterleys knows
who they are and won't tell me. So does that fellow Draconmeyer."

"Sir Henry and Mr. Draconmeyer!" she repeated, raising her eyes. "My
dear Dick, that doesn't sound very reasonable, does it?"

"I tell you that they do," he persisted. "They as good as told me so.
Hunterleys, especially, left me here only half-an-hour ago, and his last
words were advising me to chuck it. He's a sensible chap enough but he
won't even tell me why. I've had enough of it. I've a good mind to take
the bull by the horns myself. Mr. Grex is here now, somewhere about. He
was sitting with Mr. Draconmeyer and a fat old German a few minutes ago,
at the next table to ours. If I had been alone I should have gone up and
chanced being introduced, but Hunterleys wouldn't let me."

"Well, so far," Lady Weybourne admitted, "I fear that I haven't done
much towards that electric coupé; but," she added, in a changed tone,
looking across the tables, "there is just one thing, Dicky. Fate
sometimes has a great deal to do with these little affairs. Look over
there."

Richard left his sister precipitately, without even a word of farewell.
She watched him cross the room, and smiled at the fury of a little
Frenchman whom he nearly knocked over in his hurry to get round to the
other side of the table. A moment later he was standing a few feet away
from the girl who had taken so strange a hold upon his affections. He
himself was conscious of a curious and unfamiliar nervousness.
Physically he felt as though he had been running hard. He set his teeth
and tried to keep cool. He found some plaques in his pocket and began to
stake. Then he became aware that the girl was holding in her hand a note
and endeavouring to attract the attention of the man who was giving
change.

"_Petite monnaie, s'il vous plaît_," he heard her say, stretching out
the note.

The man took no notice. Richard held out his hand.

"Will you allow me to get it changed for you?" he asked.

Her first impulse at the sound of his voice was evidently one of
resentment. She seemed, indeed, in the act of returning some chilling
reply. Then she glanced half carelessly towards him and her eyes rested
upon his face. Richard was good-looking enough, but the chief
characteristic of his face was a certain honesty, which seemed
accentuated at that moment by his undoubted earnestness. The type was
perhaps strange to her. She was almost startled by what she saw.
Scarcely knowing what she did, she allowed him to take the note from her
fingers.

"Thank you very much," she murmured.

Richard procured the change. He would have lifted every one out of the
way if she had been in a hurry. Then he turned round and counted it very
slowly into her hands. From the left one she had removed the glove and
he saw, to his relief, that there was no engagement ring there. He
counted so slowly that towards the end she seemed to become a little
impatient.

"That is quite all right," she said. "It was very kind of you to
trouble."

She spoke very correct English with the slightest of foreign accents. He
looked once more into her eyes.

"It was a pleasure," he declared.

She smiled faintly, an act of graciousness which absolutely turned his
head. With her hand full of plaques, she moved away and found a place a
little lower down the table. Richard fought with his first instinct and
conquered it. He remained where he was, and when he moved it was in
another direction. He went into the bar and ordered a whisky and soda.
He was as excited as he had been in the old days when he had rowed
stroke in a winning race for his college boat. He felt, somehow or
other, that the first step had been a success. She had been inclined at
first to resent his offer. She had looked at him and changed her mind.
Even when she had turned away, she had smiled. It was ridiculous, but he
felt as though he had taken a great step. Presently Lady Weybourne, on
her way to the baccarat rooms, saw him sitting there and looked in.

"Well, Dicky," she exclaimed, "what luck?"

"Sit down, Flossie," he begged. "I've spoken to her."

"You don't mean,--" she began, horrified.

"Oh, no, no! Nothing of that sort!" he interrupted. "Don't think I'm
such a blundering ass. She was trying to get change and couldn't reach.
I took the note from her, got the change and gave it to her. She said,
'Thank you.' When she went away, she smiled."

Lady Weybourne flopped down upon the divan and screamed with laughter.

"Dicky," she murmured, wiping her eyes, "tell me, is that why you are
sitting there, looking as though you could see right into Heaven? Do you
know that your face was one great beam when I came in?"

"Can't help it," he answered contentedly. "I've spoken to her and she
smiled."

Lady Weybourne opened her gold bag and produced a card.

"Well," she said, "here is another chance for you. Of course, I don't
know that it will come to anything, but you may as well try your luck."

"What is it?" he asked.

She thrust a square of gilt-edged cardboard into his hand.

"It's an invitation," she told him, "from the directors, to attend a
dinner at La Turbie Golf Club-house, up in the mountains, to-night. It
isn't entirely a joke, I can tell you. It takes at least an hour to get
there, climbing all the way, and the place is as likely as not to be
wrapped in clouds, but a great many of the important people are going,
and as I happened to see Mr. Grex's name amongst the list of members,
the other night, there is always a chance that they may be there. If
not, you see, you can soon come back."

"I'm on," Richard decided. "Give me the ticket. I am awfully obliged to
you, Flossie."

"If she is there," Lady Weybourne declared, rising, "I shall consider
that it is equivalent to one wheel of the coupé."

"Have a cocktail instead," he suggested.

She shook her head.

"Too early. If we meet later on, I'll have one. What are you going to
do?"

"Same as I've been doing ever since lunch," he answered,--"hang around
and see if I can meet any one who knows them."

She laughed and hurried off into the baccarat room, and Richard
presently returned to the table at which the girl was still playing. He
took particular care not to approach her, but he found a place on the
opposite side of the room, from which he could watch her unobserved. She
was still standing and apparently she was losing her money. Once, with a
little petulant frown, she turned away and moved a few yards lower down
the room. The first time she staked in her new position, she won, and a
smile which it seemed to him was the most brilliant he had ever seen,
parted her lips. He stood there looking at her, and in the midst of a
scene where money seemed god of all things, he realised all manner of
strange and pleasant sensations. The fact that he had twenty thousand
francs in his pocket to play with, scarcely occurred to him. He was
watching a little wisp of golden hair by her ear, watching her slightly
wrinkled forehead as she leaned over the table, her little grimace as
she lost and her stake was swept away. She seemed indifferent to all
bystanders. It was obvious that she had very few acquaintances. Where he
stood it was not likely that she would notice him, and he abandoned
himself wholly to the luxury of gazing at her. Then some instinct caused
him to turn his head. He felt that he in his turn was being watched. He
glanced towards the divan set against the wall, by the side of which he
was standing. Mr. Grex was seated there, only a few feet away, smoking a
cigarette. Their eyes met and Richard was conscious of a sudden
embarrassment. He felt like a detected thief, and he acted at that
moment as he often did--entirely on impulse. He leaned down and
resolutely addressed Mr. Grex.

"I should be glad, sir, if you would allow me to speak to you for a
moment."

Mr. Grex's expression was one of cold surprise, unmixed with any
curiosity.

"Do you address me?" he asked.

His tone was vastly discouraging but it was too late to draw back.

"I should like to speak to you, if I may," Richard continued.

"I am not aware," Mr. Grex said, "that I have the privilege of your
acquaintance."

"You haven't," Richard admitted, "but all the same I want to speak to
you, if I may."

"Since you have gone so far," Mr. Grex conceded, "you had better finish,
but you must allow me to tell you in advance that I look upon any
address from a perfect stranger as an impertinence."

"You'll think worse of me before I've finished, then," Richard declared
desperately. "You don't mind if I sit down?"

"These seats," Mr. Grex replied coldly, "are free to all."

The young man took his place upon the divan with a sinking heart. There
was something in Mr. Grex's tone which seemed to destroy all his
confidence, a note of something almost alien in the measured contempt of
his speech.

"I am sorry to give you any offence," Richard began. "I happened to
notice that you were watching me. I was looking at your
daughter--staring at her. I am afraid you thought me impertinent."

"Your perspicuity," Mr. Grex observed, "seems to be of a higher order
than your manners. You are, perhaps, a stranger to civilised society?"

"I don't know about that," Richard went on doggedly. "I have been to
college and mixed with the usual sort of people. My birth isn't much to
speak of, perhaps, if you count that for anything."

Something which was almost like the ghost of a smile, devoid of any
trace of humour, parted Mr. Grex's lips.

"If I count that for anything!" he repeated, half closing his eyes for a
moment. "Pray proceed, young man."

"I am an American," Richard continued. "My name is Richard Lane. My
father was very wealthy and I am his heir. My sister is Lady Weybourne.
I was lunching with her at Ciro's to-day when I saw you and your
daughter. I think I can say that I am a respectable person. I have a
great many friends to whom I can refer you."

"I am not thinking of engaging anybody, that I know of," Mr. Grex
murmured.

"I want to marry your daughter," Richard declared desperately, feeling
that any further form of explanation would only lead him into greater
trouble.

Mr. Grex knocked the ash from his cigarette.

"Is your keeper anywhere in the vicinity?" he asked.

"I am perfectly sane," Richard assured him. "I know that it sounds
foolish but it isn't really. I am twenty-seven years old and I have
never asked a girl to marry me yet. I have been waiting until--"

The words died away upon his lips. It was impossible for him to
continue, the cold enmity of this man was too chilling.

"I am absolutely in earnest," he insisted. "I have been endeavouring all
day to find some mutual friend to introduce me to your daughter. Will
you do so? Will you give me a chance?"

"I will not," Mr. Grex replied firmly.

"Why not? Please tell me why not?" Richard begged. "I am not asking for
anything more now than just an opportunity to talk with her."

"It is not a matter which admits of discussion," Mr. Grex pronounced. "I
have permitted you to say what you wished, notwithstanding the colossal,
the unimaginable impertinence of your suggestion. I request you to leave
me now and I advise you most heartily to indulge no more in the most
preposterous and idiotic idea which ever entered into the head of an
apparently sane young man."

Richard rose slowly to his feet.

"Very well, sir," he replied, "I'll go. All the same, what you have said
doesn't make any difference."

"Does not make any difference?" Mr. Grex repeated, with arched eyebrows.

"None at all," Richard declared. "I don't know what your objection to me
is, but I hope you'll get over it some day. I'd like to make friends
with you. Perhaps, later on, you may look at the matter differently."

"Later on?" Mr. Grex murmured.

"When I have married your daughter," Richard concluded, marching
defiantly away.

Mr. Grex watched the young man until he had disappeared in the crowd.
Then he leaned hack amongst the cushions of the divan with folded arms.
Little lines had become visible around his eyes, there was a slight
twitching at the corners of his lips. He looked like a man who was
inwardly enjoying some huge joke.



CHAPTER VIII

UP THE MOUNTAIN


Richard, passing the Hotel de Paris that evening in his wicked-looking
grey racing car, saw Hunterleys standing on the steps and pulled up.

"Not going up to La Turbie, by any chance?" he enquired.

Hunterleys nodded.

"I'm going up to the dinner," he replied. "The hotel motor is starting
from here in a few minutes."

"Come with me," Richard invited.

Hunterleys looked a little doubtfully at the long, low machine.

"Are you going to shoot up?" he asked. "It's rather a dangerous road."

"I'll take care of you," the young man promised. "That hotel 'bus will
be crammed."

They glided through the streets on to the broad, hard road, and crept
upwards with scarcely a sound, through the blue-black twilight. Around
and in front of them little lights shone out from the villas and small
houses dotted away in the mountains. Almost imperceptibly they passed
into a different atmosphere. The air became cold and exhilarating. The
flavour of the mountain snows gave life to the breeze. Hunterleys
buttoned up his coat but bared his head.

"My young friend," he said, "this is wonderful."

"It's a great climb," Richard assented, "and doesn't she just eat it
up!"

They paused for a moment at La Turbie. Below them was a chain of
glittering lights fringing the Bay of Mentone, and at their feet the
lights of the Casino and Monte Carlo flared up through the scented
darkness. Once more they swung upwards. The road now had become narrower
and the turnings more frequent. They were up above the region of villas
and farmhouses, in a country which seemed to consist only of bleak
hill-side, open to the winds, wrapped in shadows. Now and then they
heard the tinkling of a goat bell; far below they saw the twin lights of
other ascending cars. They reached the plateau at last and drew up
before the club-house, ablaze with cheerful lights.

"I'll just leave the car under the trees," Richard declared. "No one
will be staying late."

Hunterleys unwound his scarf and handed his coat and hat to a page-boy.
Then he stood suddenly rigid. He bit his lip. His wife had just issued
from the cloak-room and was drawing on her gloves. She saw him and
hesitated. She, too, turned a little paler. Slowly Hunterleys approached
her.

"An unexpected pleasure," he murmured.

"I am here with Mr. Draconmeyer," she told him, almost bluntly.

Hunterleys bowed.

"And a party?" he enquired.

"No," she replied. "I really did not want to come. Mr. Draconmeyer had
promised Monsieur Pericot, the director here, to come and bring Mrs.
Draconmeyer. At the last moment, however, she was not well enough, and
he almost insisted upon my taking her place."

"Is it necessary to explain?" Hunterleys asked quietly. "You know very
well how I regard this friendship of yours."

"I am sorry," she said. "If I had known that we were likely to
meet--well, I would not have come here to-night."

"You were at least considerate," he remarked bitterly. "May I be
permitted to compliment you upon your toilette?"

"As you pay for my frocks," she answered, "there is certainly no reason
why you shouldn't admire them."

He bit his lip. There was a certain challenge in her expression which
made him, for a moment, feel weak. She was a very beautiful woman and
she was looking her best. He spoke quickly on another subject.

"Are you still," he asked, "troubled by the attentions of the person you
spoke to me about?"

"I am still watched," she replied drily.

"I have made some enquiries," Hunterleys continued, "and I have come to
the conclusion that you are right."

"And you still tell me that you have nothing to do with it?"

"I assure you, upon my honour, that I have nothing whatever to do with
it."

It was obvious that she was puzzled, but at that moment Mr. Draconmeyer
presented himself. The newcomer simply bowed to Hunterleys and addressed
some remark about the room to Violet. Then Richard came up and they all
passed on into the reception room, where two or three very fussy but
very suave and charming Frenchmen were receiving the guests. A few
minutes afterwards dinner was announced. A black frown was upon
Richard's forehead.

"She isn't coming!" he muttered. "I say, Sir Henry, you won't mind if we
leave early?"

"I shall be jolly glad to get away," Hunterleys assented heartily.

Then he suddenly felt a grip of iron upon his arm.

"She's come!" Richard murmured ecstatically. "Look at her, all in white!
Just look at the colour of her hair! There she is, going into the
reception room. Jove! I'm glad we are here, after all!"

Hunterleys smiled a little wearily. They passed on into the _salle à
manger_. The seats at the long dining-tables were not reserved, and they
found a little table for two in a corner, which they annexed. Hunterleys
was in a grim humour, but his companion was in the wildest spirits.
Considering that he was placed where he could see Mr. Grex and his
daughter nearly the whole of the time, he really did contrive to keep
his eyes away from them to a wonderful extent, but he talked of her
unceasingly.

"Say, I'm sorry for you, Sir Henry!" he declared. "It's just your bad
luck, being here with me while I've got this fit on, but I've got to
talk to some one, so you may as well make up your mind to it. There
never was anything like that girl upon the earth. There never was
anything like the feeling you get," he went on, "when you're absolutely
and entirely convinced, when you know--that there's just one girl who
counts for you in the whole universe. Gee whiz! It does get hold of you!
I suppose you've been through it all, though."

"Yes, I've been through it!" Hunterleys admitted, with a sigh.

The young man bit his lip. The story of Hunterleys' matrimonial
differences was already being whispered about. Richard talked polo
vigorously for the next quarter of an hour. It was not until the coffee
and liqueurs arrived that they returned to the subject of Miss Grex.
Then it was Hunterleys himself who introduced it. He was beginning to
rather like this big, self-confident young man, so full of his simple
love affair, so absolutely honest in his purpose, in his outlook upon
life.

"Lane," he said, "I have given you several hints during the day, haven't
I?"

"That's so," Richard agreed. "You've done your best to head me off. So
did my future father-in-law. Sort of hopeless task, I can assure you."

Hunterleys shook his head.

"Honestly," he continued, "I wouldn't let myself think too much about
her, Lane. I don't want to explain exactly what I mean. There's no real
reason why I shouldn't tell you what I know about Mr. Grex, but for a
good many people's sakes, it's just as well that those few of us who
know keep quiet. I am sure you trust me, and it's just the same,
therefore, if I tell you straight, as man to man, that you're only
laying up for yourself a store of unhappiness by fixing your thoughts so
entirely upon that young woman."

Richard, for all his sublime confidence, was a little staggered by the
other's earnestness.

"Look here," he said, "the girl isn't married, to start with?"

"Not that I know of," Hunterleys confessed.

"And she's not engaged because I've seen her left hand," Richard
proceeded. "I'm not one of those Americans who go shouting all over the
world that because I've got a few million dollars I am the equal of
anybody, but honestly, Sir Henry, there are a good many prejudices over
this side that you fellows lay too much store by. Grex may be a nobleman
in disguise. I don't care. I am a man. I can give her everything she
needs in life and I am not going to admit, even if she is an aristocrat,
that you croakers are right when you shake your heads and advise me to
give her up. I don't care who she is, Hunterleys. I am going to marry
her."

Hunterleys helped himself to a liqueur.

"Young man," he said, "in a sense I admire your independence. In
another, I think you've got all the conceit a man needs for this world.
Let us presume, for a moment, that she is, as you surmise, the daughter
of a nobleman. When it suits her father to throw off his incognito, she
is probably in touch with young men in the highest circles of many
countries. Why should you suppose that you can come along and cut them
all out?"

"Because I love her," the young man answered simply. "They don't."

"You must remember," Hunterleys resumed, "that all foreign noblemen are
not what they are represented to be in your comic papers. Austrian and
Russian men of high rank are most of them very highly cultivated, very
accomplished, and very good-looking. You don't know much of the world,
do you? It's a pretty formidable enterprise to come from a New York
office, with only Harvard behind you, and a year or so's travel as a
tourist, and enter the list against men who have had twice your
opportunities. I am talking to you like this, young fellow, for your
good. I hope you realise that. You're used to getting what you want.
That's because you've been brought up in a country where money can do
almost anything. I am behind the scenes here and I can assure you that
your money won't count for much with Mr. Grex."

"I never thought it would," Richard admitted. "I think when I talk to
her she'll understand that I care more than any of the others. If you
want to know the reason, that's why I'm so hopeful."

Monsieur le Directeur had risen to his feet. Some one had proposed his
health and he made a graceful little speech of acknowledgment. He
remained standing for a few minutes after the cheers which had greeted
his neat oratorical display had died away. The conclusion of his remarks
came as rather a surprise to his guests.

"I have to ask you, ladies and gentlemen," he announced, "with many,
many regrets, and begging you to forgive my apparent inhospitality, to
make your arrangements for leaving us as speedily as may be possible.
Our magnificent situation, with which I believe that most of you are
familiar, has but one drawback. We are subject to very dense mountain
mists, and alas! I have to tell you that one of these has come on most
unexpectedly and the descent must be made with the utmost care. Believe
me, there is no risk or any danger," he went on earnestly, "so long as
you instruct your chauffeurs to proceed with all possible caution. At
the same time, as there is very little chance of the mist becoming
absolutely dispelled before daylight, in your own interests I would
suggest that a start be made as soon as possible."

Every one rose at once, Richard and Hunterleys amongst them.

"This will test your skill to-night, young man," Hunterleys remarked.
"How's the nerve, eh?"

Richard smiled almost beatifically. For once he had allowed his eyes to
wander and he was watching the girl with golden hair who was at that
moment receiving the respectful homage of the director.

"Lunatics, and men who are head over heels in love," he declared, "never
come to any harm. You'll be perfectly safe with me."



CHAPTER IX

IN THE MISTS


Their first glimpse of the night, as Hunterleys and Lane passed out
through the grudgingly opened door, was sufficiently disconcerting. A
little murmur of dismay broke from the assembled crowd. Nothing was to
be seen but a dense bank of white mist, through which shone the
brilliant lights of the automobiles waiting at the door. Monsieur le
Directeur hastened about, doing his best to reassure everybody.

"If I thought it was of the slightest use," he declared, "I would ask
you all to stay, but when the clouds once stoop like this, there is not
likely to be any change for twenty-four hours, and we have not, alas!
sleeping accommodation. If the cars are slowly driven and kept to the
inside, it is only a matter of a mile or two before you will drop below
the level of the clouds."

Hunterleys and Lane made their way out to the front, and with their coat
collars turned up, groped their way to the turf on the other side of the
avenue. From where they stood, looking downwards, the whole world seemed
wrapped in mysterious and somber silence. There was nothing to be seen
but the grey, driving clouds. In less than a minute their hair and
eyebrows were dripping. A slight breeze had sprung up, the cold was
intense.

"Cheerful sort of place, this," Lane remarked gloomily. "Shall we make a
start?"

Hunterleys hesitated.

"Not just yet. Look!"

He pointed downwards. For a moment the clouds had parted. Thousands of
feet below, like little pinpricks of red fire, they saw the lights of
Monte Carlo. Almost as they looked, the clouds closed up again. It was
as though they had peered into another world.

"Jove, that was queer!" Lane muttered. "Look! What's that?"

A long ray of sickly yellow light shone for a moment and was then
suddenly blotted out by a rolling mass of vapour. The clouds had closed
in again once more. The obscurity was denser than ever.

"The lighthouse," Hunterleys replied. "Do you think it's any use
waiting?"

"We'll go inside and put on our coats," Lane suggested. "My car is by
the side of the avenue there. I covered it over and left it."

They found their coats in the hall, wrapped themselves up and lit
cigarettes. Already many of the cars had started and vanished cautiously
into obscurity. Every now and then one could hear the tooting of their
horns from far away below. The chief steward was directing the
departures and insisting upon an interval of three minutes between each.
The two men stood on one side and watched him. He was holding open the
door of a large, exceptionally handsome car. On the other side was a
servant in white livery. Lane gripped his companion's arm.

"There she goes!" he exclaimed.

The girl, followed by Mr. Grex, stepped into the landaulette, which was
brilliantly illuminated inside with electric light. Almost immediately
the car glided noiselessly off. The two men watched it until it
disappeared. Then they crossed the road.

"Now then, Sir Henry," Richard observed grimly, as he turned the handle
of the car and they took their places in the little well-shaped space,
"better say your prayers. I'm going to drive slowly enough but it's an
awful job, this, crawling down the side of a mountain in the dark, with
nothing between you and eternity but your brakes."

They crept off. As far as the first turn the lights from the club-house
helped them. Immediately afterwards, however, the obscurity was
enveloping. Their faces were wet and shiny with moisture. Even the
fingers of Lane's gloves which gripped the wheel were sodden. He
proceeded at a snail's pace, keeping always on the inside of the road
and only a few inches from the wall or bank. Once he lost his way and
his front wheel struck a small stump, but they were going too slowly for
disaster. Another time he failed to follow the turn of the road and
found himself in a rough cart track. They backed with difficulty and got
right once more. At the fourth turn they came suddenly upon a huge car
which had left the road as they had done and was standing amongst the
pine trees, its lights flaring through the mist.

"Hullo!" Lane called out, coming to a standstill. "You've missed the
turn."

"My master is going to stay here all night," the chauffeur shouted back.

A man put his head from the window and began to talk in rapid French.

"It is inconceivable," he exclaimed, "that any one should attempt the
descent! We have rugs, my wife and I. We stay here till the clouds
pass."

"Good night, then!" Lane cried cheerfully.

"Not sure that you're not wise," Hunterleys added, with a shiver.

Twice they stopped while Lane rubbed the moisture from his gloves and
lit a fresh cigarette.

"This is a test for your nerve, young fellow," Hunterleys remarked. "Are
you feeling it?"

"Not in the least," Lane replied. "I can't make out, though, why that
steward made us all start at intervals of three minutes. Seems to me we
should have been better going together at this pace. Save any one from
getting lost, anyhow."

They crawled on for another twenty minutes. The routine was always the
same--a hundred yards or perhaps two, an abrupt turn and then a similar
distance the other way. They had one or two slight misadventures but
they made progress. Once, through a rift, they caught a momentary vision
of a carpet of lights at a giddy distance below.

"We'll make it all right," Lane declared, crawling around another
corner. "Gee! but this is the toughest thing in driving I've ever known!
I can do ninety with this car easier than I can do this three. Hullo,
some one else in trouble!"

Before them, in the middle of the road, a light was being slowly swung
backwards and forwards. Lane brought the car to a standstill. He had
scarcely done so when they were conscious of the sound of footsteps all
around them. The arms of both men were seized from behind. They were
addressed in guttural French.

"Messieurs will be pleased to descend."

"What the--what's wrong?" Lane demanded.

"Descend at once," was the prompt order.

By the light of the lantern which the speaker was holding, they caught a
glimpse of a dozen white faces and the dull gleam of metal from the
firearms which his companions were carrying. Hunterleys stepped out. An
escort of two men was at once formed on either side of him.

"Tell us what it's all about, anyhow?" he asked coolly.

"Nothing serious," the same guttural voice answered,--"a little affair
which will be settled in a few minutes. As for you, monsieur," the man
continued, turning to Lane, "you will drive your car slowly to the next
turn, and leave it there. Afterwards you will return with me."

Richard set his teeth and leaned over his wheel. Then it suddenly
flashed into his mind that Mr. Grex and his daughter were already
amongst the captured. He quickly abandoned his first instinct.

"With pleasure, monsieur," he assented. "Tell me when to stop."

He drove the car a few yards round the corner, past a line of others.
Their lights were all extinguished and the chauffeurs absent.

"This is a pleasant sort of picnic!" he grumbled, as he brought his car
to a standstill. "Now what do I do, monsieur?"

"You return with me, if you please," was the reply.

Richard stood, for a moment, irresolute. The idea of giving in without a
struggle was most distasteful to this self-reliant young American. Then
he realised that not only was his captor armed but that there were men
behind him and one on either side.

"Lead the way," he decided tersely.

They marched him up the hill, a little way across some short turf and
round the back of a rock to a long building which he remembered to have
noticed on his way up. His guide threw open the door and Richard looked
in upon a curious scene. Ranged up against the further wall were about a
dozen of the guests who had preceded him in his departure from the
Club-house. One man only had his hands tied behind him. The others,
apparently, were considered harmless. Mr. Grex was the one man, and
there was a little blood dripping from his right hand. The girl stood by
his side. She was no paler than usual--she showed, indeed, no signs of
terror at all--but her eyes were bright with indignation. One man was
busy stripping the jewels from the women and throwing them into a bag.
In the far corner the little group of chauffeurs was being watched by
two more men, also carrying firearms. Lane looked down the line of
faces. Lady Hunterleys was there, and by her side Draconmeyer.
Hunterleys was a little apart from the others. Freddy Montressor, who
was leaning against the wall, chuckled as Lane came in.

"So they've got you, too, Dicky, have they?" he remarked. "It's a
hold-up--a bully one, too. Makes one feel quite homesick, eh? How much
have you got on you?"

"Precious little, thank heavens!" Richard muttered.

His eyes were fixed upon the brigand who was collecting the jewels, and
who was now approaching Miss Grex. He felt something tingling in his
blood. One of the guests began to talk excitedly. The man who was
apparently the leader, and who was standing at the door with an electric
torch in one hand and a revolver in the other, stepped a little forward.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "once more I beg you not to be alarmed.
So long as you part with your valuables peaceably, you will be at
liberty to depart as soon as every one has been dealt with. If there is
no resistance, there will be no trouble. We do not wish to hurt any
one."

The collector of jewels had arrived in front of the girl. She unfastened
her necklace and handed it to him.

"The little pendant around my neck," she remarked calmly, "is valueless.
I desire to keep it."

"Impossible!" the man replied. "Off with it."

"But I insist!" she exclaimed. "It is an heirloom."

The man laughed brutally. His filthy hand was raised to her neck. Even
as he touched her, Lane, with a roar of anger, sent one of his guards
flying on to the floor of the barn, and, snatching the gun from his
hand, sprang forward.

"Come on, you fellows!" he shouted, bringing it down suddenly upon the
hand of the robber. "These things aren't loaded. There's only one of
these blackguards with a revolver."

[Illustration: "Come on, you fellows!" he shouted.]

"And I've got him!" Hunterleys, who had been watching Lane closely,
cried, suddenly swinging his arm around the man's neck and knocking his
revolver up.

There was a yell of pain from the man with the jewels, whose wrist Lane
had broken, a howl of dismay from the others--pandemonium.

"At 'em, Freddy!" Lane shouted, seizing the nearest of his assailants by
the neck and throwing him out into the darkness. "To hell with you!" he
added, just escaping a murderous blow and driving his fist into the face
of the man who had aimed it. "Good for you, Hunterleys! There isn't one
of those old guns of theirs that'll go off. They aren't even loaded."

The barn seemed suddenly to become half empty. Into the darkness the
little band of brigands crept away like rats. In less than half a minute
they had all fled, excepting the one who lay on the ground unconscious
from the effects of Richard's blow, and the leader of the gang, whom
Hunterleys still held by the throat. Richard, with a clasp-knife which
he had drawn from his pocket, cut the cord which they had tied around
Mr. Grex's wrists. His action, however, was altogether mechanical. He
scarcely glanced at what he was doing. Somehow or other, he found the
girl's hands in his.

"That brute--didn't touch you, did he?" he asked.

She looked at him. Whether the clouds were still outside or not, Lane
felt that he had passed into Heaven.

"He did not, thanks to you," she murmured. "But do you mean really that
those guns all the time weren't loaded?"

"I don't believe they were," Richard declared stoutly. "That chap kept
on playing about with the lock of his old musket and I felt sure that it
was of no use, loaded or not. Anyway, when I saw that brute try to
handle you--well--"

He stopped, with an awkward little laugh. Mr. Grex tapped a cigarette
upon his case and lit it.

"I am sure, my young friend, we are all very much indebted to you. The
methods which sometimes are scarcely politic in the ordinary affairs of
life," he continued drily, "are admirable enough in a case like this. We
will just help Hunterleys tie up the leader of the gang. A very plucky
stroke, that of his."

He crossed the barn. One of the women had fainted, others were busy
collecting their jewelry. The chauffeurs had hurried off to relight the
lamps of the cars.

"I must tell you this," Richard said, drawing a a little nearer to the
girl. "Please don't be angry with me. I went to your father this
afternoon. I made an idiot of myself--I couldn't help it. I was staring
at you and he noticed it. I didn't want him to think that I was such an
ill-mannered brute as I seemed. I tried to make him understand but he
wouldn't listen to me. I'd like to tell you now--now that I have the
opportunity--that I think you're just--"

She smiled very faintly.

"What is it that you wish to tell me?" she asked patiently.

"That I love you," he wound up abruptly.

There was a moment's silence, a silence with a background of strange
noises. People were talking, almost shouting to one another with
excitement. Newcomers were being told the news. The man whom Hunterleys
had captured was shrieking and cursing. From beyond came the tooting of
motor-horns as the cars returned. Lane heard nothing. He saw nothing but
the white face of the girl as she stood in the shadows of the barn, with
its walls of roughly threaded pine trunks.

"But I have scarcely ever spoken to you in my life!" she protested,
looking at him in astonishment.

"It doesn't make any difference," he replied. "You know I am speaking
the truth. I think, in your heart, that you, too, know that these things
don't matter, now and then. Of course, you don't--you couldn't feel
anything of what I feel, but with me it's there now and for always, and
I want to have a chance, just a chance to make you understand. I'm not
really mad. I'm just--in love with you."

She smiled at him, still in a friendly manner, but her face had clouded.
There was a look in her eyes almost of trouble, perhaps of regret.

"I am so sorry," she murmured. "It is only a sudden feeling on your
part, isn't it? You have been so splendid to-night that I can do no more
than thank you very, very much. And as for what you have told me, I
think it is an honour, but I wish you to forget it. It is not wise for
you to think of me in that way. I fear that I cannot even offer you my
friendship."

Again there was a brief silence. The clamour of exclamations from the
little groups of people still filled the air outside. They could hear
cars coming and going. The man whom Hunterleys and Mr. Grex were tying
up was still groaning and cursing.

"Are you married?" Richard asked abruptly.

She shook her head.

"Engaged?"

"No!"

"Do you care very much for any one else?"

"No!" she told him softly.

He drew her away.

"Come outside for one moment," he begged. "I hate to see you in the
place where that beast tried to lay hands upon you. Here is your
necklace."

He picked it up from her feet and she followed him obediently outside.
People were standing about, shadowy figures in little groups. Some of
the cars had already left, others were being prepared for a start.
Below, once more the clouds had parted and the lights twinkled like
fireflies through the trees. This time they could even see the lights
from the village of La Turbie, less brilliant but almost at their feet.
Richard glanced upwards. There was a star clearly visible.

"The clouds are lifting," he said. "Listen. If there is no one else,
tell me, why there shouldn't be the slightest chance for me? I am not
clever, I am nobody of any account, but I care for you so wonderfully. I
love you, I always shall love you, more than any one else could. I never
understood before, but I understand now. Just this caring means so
much."

She stood close to his side. Her manner at the same time seemed to
depress him and yet to fill him with hope.

"What is your name?" she enquired.

"Richard Lane," he told her. "I am an American."

"Then, Mr. Richard Lane," she continued softly, "I shall always think of
you and think of to-night and think of what you have said, and perhaps I
shall be a little sorry that what you have asked me cannot be."

"Cannot?" he muttered.

She shook her head almost sadly.

"Some day," she went on, "as soon as our stay in Monte Carlo is
finished, if you like, I will write and tell you the real reason, in
case you do not find it out before."

He was silent, looking downwards to where the gathering wind was driving
the clouds before it, to where the lights grew clearer and clearer at
every moment.

"Does it matter," he asked abruptly, "that I am rich--very rich?"

"It does not matter at all," she answered.

"Doesn't it matter," he demanded, turning suddenly upon her and speaking
with a new passion, almost a passion of resentment, "doesn't it matter
that without you life doesn't exist for me any longer? Doesn't it matter
that a man has given you his whole heart, however slight a thing it may
seem to you? What am I to do if you send me away? There isn't anything
left in life."

"There is what you have always found in it," she reminded him.

"There isn't," he replied fiercely. "That's just what there isn't. I
should go back to a world that was like a dead city."

He suddenly felt her hand upon his.

"Dear Mr. Lane," she begged, "wait for a little time before you nurse
these sad thoughts, and when you know how impossible what you ask is, it
will seem easier. But if you really care to hear something, if it would
really please you sometimes to think of it when you are alone and you
remember this little foolishness of yours, let me tell you, if I may,
that I am sorry--I am very sorry."

His hand was suddenly pressed, and then, before he could stop her, she
had glided away. He moved a step to follow her and almost at once he was
surrounded. Lady Hunterleys patted him on the shoulder.

"Really," she exclaimed, "you and Henry were our salvation. I haven't
felt so thrilled for ages. I only wish," she added, dropping her voice a
little, "that it might bring you the luck you deserve."

He answered vaguely. She turned back to Hunterleys. She was busy tearing
up her handkerchief.

"I am going to tie up your head," she said. "Please stoop down."

He obeyed at once. The side of his forehead was bleeding where a bullet
from the revolver of the man he had captured had grazed his temple.

"Too bad to trouble you," he muttered.

"It's the least we can do," she declared, laughing nervously. "Forgive
me if my fingers tremble. It is the excitement of the last few minutes."

Hunterleys stood quite still. Words seemed difficult to him just then.

"You were very brave, Henry," she said quietly. "Whom--whom are you
going down with?"

"I am with Richard Lane," he answered, "in his two-seated racer."

She bit her lip.

"I did not mean to come alone with Mr. Draconmeyer, really," she
explained. "He thought, up to the last moment, that his wife would be
well enough to come."

"Did he really believe so, do you think?" Hunterleys asked.

A voice intervened. Mr. Draconmeyer was standing by their side.

"Well," he said, "we might as well resume our journey. We all look and
feel, I think, as though we had been taking part in a scene from some
opéra bouffe."

Lady Hunterleys shivered. She had drawn a little closer to her husband.
Her coat was unfastened. Hunterleys leaned towards her and buttoned it
with strong fingers up to her throat.

"Thank you," she whispered. "You wouldn't--you couldn't drive down with
us, could you?"

"Have you plenty of room?" he enquired.

"Plenty," she declared eagerly. "Mr. Draconmeyer and I are alone."

For a moment Hunterleys hesitated. Then he caught the smile upon the
face of the man he detested.

"Thank you," he said, "I don't think I can desert Lane."

She stiffened at once. Her good night was almost formal. Hunterleys
stepped into the car which Richard had brought up. There was just a
slight mist around them, but the whole country below, though chaotic,
was visible, and the lights on the hill-side, from La Turbie down to the
sea-board, were in plain sight.

"Our troubles," Hunterleys remarked, as they glided off, "seem to be
over."

"Maybe," Lane replied grimly. "Mine seem to be only just beginning!"



CHAPTER X

SIGNS OF TROUBLE


At ten o'clock the next morning, Hunterleys crossed the sunlit gardens
towards the English bank, to receive what was, perhaps, the greatest
shock of his life. A few minutes later he stood before the mahogany
counter, his eyes fixed upon the half sheet of notepaper which the
manager had laid before him. The words were few enough and simple
enough, yet they constituted for him a message written in the very ink
of tragedy. The notepaper was the notepaper of the Hotel de Paris, the
date the night before, the words few and unmistakable:

     To the Manager of the English Bank. Please hand my letters to
     bearer.

     HENRY HUNTERLEYS.

He read it over, letter by letter, word by word. Then at last he looked
up. His voice sounded, even to himself, unnatural.

"You were quite right," he said. "This order is a forgery."

The manager was greatly disturbed. He threw open the door of his private
office.

"Come and sit down for a moment, will you, Sir Henry?" he invited. "This
is a very serious matter, and I should like to discuss it with you."

They passed behind into the comfortable little sitting-room, smelling of
morocco leather and roses, with its single high window, its broad
writing-table, its carefully placed easy-chairs. Men had pleaded in here
with all the eloquence at their command, men of every rank and walk in
life, thieves, nobles, ruined men and pseudo-millionaires, always with
the same cry--money; money for the great pleasure-mill which day and
night drew in its own. Hunterleys sank heavily into a chair. The manager
seated himself in an official attitude before his desk.

"I am sorry to have distressed you with this letter, Sir Henry," he
said. "However, you must admit that things might have been worse. It is
fortunately our invariable custom, when letters are addressed to one of
our clients in our care, to deliver them to no one else under any
circumstances. If you had been ill, for instance, I should have brought
you your correspondence across to the hotel, but I should not have
delivered it to your own secretary. That, as I say, is our invariable
rule, and we find that it has saved many of our clients from
inconvenience. In your case," the manager concluded impressively, "your
communications being, in a sense, official, any such attempt as has been
made would not stand the slightest chance of success. We should be even
more particular than in any ordinary case to see that by no possible
chance could any correspondence addressed to you, fall into other
hands."

Hunterleys began to recover himself a little. He drew towards himself
the heap of letters which the manager had laid by his side.

"Please make yourself quite comfortable here," the latter begged. "Read
your letters and answer them, if you like, before you go out. I always
call this," he added, with a smile, "the one inviolable sanctuary of
Monte Carlo."

"You are very kind," Hunterleys replied. "Are you sure that I am not
detaining you?"

"Not in the least. Personally, I am not at all busy. Three-quarters of
our business, you see, is merely a matter of routine. I was just going
to shut myself up here and read the _Times_. Have a cigarette? Here's an
envelope opener and a waste-paper basket. Make yourself comfortable."

Hunterleys glanced through his correspondence, rapidly reading and
destroying the greater portion of it. He came at last to two parchment
envelopes marked "On His Majesty's Service." These he opened and read
their contents slowly and with great care. When he had finished, he
produced a pair of scissors from his waistcoat pocket and cut the
letters into minute fragments. He drew a little sigh of relief when at
last their final destruction was assured, and rose shortly afterwards to
his feet.

"I shall have to go on to the telegraph office," he said, "to send these
few messages. Thank you very much, Mr. Harrison, for your kindness. If
you do not mind, I should like to take this forged order away with me."

The manager hesitated.

"I am not sure that I ought to part with it," he observed doubtfully.

"Could you recognise the person who presented it--you or your clerk?"

The manager shook his head.

"Not a chance," he replied. "It was brought in, unfortunately, before I
arrived. Young Parsons, who was the only one in the bank, explained that
letters were never delivered to an order, and turned away to attend to
some one else who was in a hurry. He simply remembers that it was a man,
and that is all."

"Then the document is useless to you," Hunterleys pointed out. "You
could never do anything in the matter without evidence of
identification, and that being so, if you don't mind I should like to
have it."

Mr. Harrison yielded it up.

"As you wish," he agreed. "It is interesting, if only as a curiosity.
The imitation of your signature is almost perfect."

Hunterleys took up his hat. Then for a moment, with his hand upon the
door, he hesitated.

"Mr. Harrison," he said, "I am engaged just now, as you have doubtless
surmised, in certain investigations on behalf of the usual third party
whom we need not name. Those investigations have reached a pitch which
might possibly lead me into a position of some--well, I might almost say
danger. You and I both know that there are weapons in this place which
can be made use of by persons wholly without scruples, which are
scarcely available at home. I want you to keep your eyes open. I have
very few friends here whom I can wholly trust. It is my purpose to call
in here every morning at ten o'clock for my letters, and if I fail to
arrive within half-an-hour of that time without having given you verbal
notice, something will have happened to me. You understand what I mean?"

"You mean that you are threatened with assassination?" the manager asked
gravely.

"Practically it amounts to that," Hunterleys admitted. "I received a
warning letter this morning. There is a very important matter on foot
here, Mr. Harrison, a matter so important that to bring it to a
successful conclusion I fancy that those who are engaged in it would not
hesitate to face any risk. I have wired to England for help. If anything
happens that it comes too late, I want you, when you find that I have
disappeared, even if my disappearance is only a temporary matter, to let
them know in London--you know how--at once."

The manager nodded.

"I will do so," he promised. "I trust, however," he went on, "that you
are exaggerating the danger. Mr. Billson lived here for many years
without any trouble."

Hunterleys smiled slightly.

"I am not a Secret Service man," he explained. "Billson's successor
lives here now, of course, and is working with me, under the usual guise
of newspaper correspondent. I don't think that he will come to any harm.
But I am here in a somewhat different position, and my negotiations in
the east, during the last few weeks, have made me exceedingly unpopular
with some very powerful people. However, it is only an outside chance,
of course, that I wish to guard against. I rely upon you, if I should
fail to come to the bank any one morning without giving you notice, to
do as I have asked."

Hunterleys left the bank and walked out once more into the sunlight. He
first of all made his way down to the Post Office, where he rapidly
dispatched several cablegrams which he had coded and written out in Mr.
Harrison's private office. Afterwards he went on to the Terrace, and
finding a retired seat at the further end, sat down. Then he drew the
forged order once more from his pocket. Word by word, line by line, he
studied it, and the more he studied it, the more hopeless the whole
thing seemed. The handwriting, with the exception of the signature,
which was a wonderful imitation of his own, was the handwriting of his
wife. She had done this thing at Draconmeyer's instigation, done this
thing against her husband, taken sides absolutely with the man whom he
had come to look upon as his enemy! What inference was he to draw? He
sat there, looking out over the Mediterranean, soft and blue, glittering
with sunlight, breaking upon the yellow stretch of sand in little
foam-flecked waves no higher than his hand. He watched the sunlight
glitter on the white houses which fringed the bay. He looked idly up at
the trim little vineyards on the brown hill-side. It was the beauty spot
of the world. There was no object upon which his eyes could rest, which
was not beautiful. The whole place was like a feast of colour and form
and sunshine. Yet for him the light seemed suddenly to have faded from
life. Danger had only stimulated him, had helped him to cope with the
dull pain which he had carried about with him during the last few
months. He was face to face now with something else. It was worse, this,
than anything he had dreamed. Somehow or other, notwithstanding the
growing estrangement with his wife which had ended in their virtual
separation, he had still believed in her, still had faith in her, still
had hope of an ultimate reconciliation. And behind it all, he had loved
her. It seemed at that moment that a nightmare was being formed around
him. A new horror was creeping into his thoughts. He had felt from the
first a bitter dislike of Draconmeyer. Now, however, he realised that
this feeling had developed into an actual and harrowing jealousy. He
realised that the man was no passive agent. It was Draconmeyer who, with
subtle purpose, was drawing his wife away! Hunterleys sprang to his feet
and walked angrily backwards and forwards along the few yards of
Terrace, which happened at that moment to be almost deserted. Vague
plans of instant revenge upon Draconmeyer floated into his mind. It was
simple enough to take the law into his own hands, to thrash him
publicly, to make Monte Carlo impossible for him. And then, suddenly, he
remembered his duty. They were trusting him in Downing Street. Chance
had put into his hands so many threads of this diabolical plot. It was
for him to checkmate it. He was the only person who could checkmate it.
This was no time for him to think of personal revenge, no time for him
to brood over his own broken life. There was work still to be done--his
country's work....

He felt the need of change of scene. The sight of the place with its
placid, enervating beauty, its constant appeal to the senses, was
beginning to have a curious effect upon his nerves. He turned back upon
the Terrace, and by means of the least frequented streets he passed
through the town and up towards the hills. He walked steadily, reckless
of time or direction. He had lunch at a small inn high above the road
from Cannes, and it was past three o'clock when he turned homewards. He
had found his way into the main road now and he trudged along heedless
of the dust with which the constant procession of automobiles covered
him all the while. The exercise had done him good. He was able to keep
his thoughts focussed upon his mission. So far, at any rate, he had held
his own. His dispatches to London had been clear and vivid. He had told
them exactly what he had feared, he had shown them the inside of this
scheme as instinct had revealed it to him, and he had begged for aid.
One man alone, surrounded by enemies, and in a country where all things
were possible, was in a parlous position if once the extent of his
knowledge were surmised. So far, the plot had not yet matured. So far,
though the clouds had gathered and the thunder was muttering, the storm
had not broken. The reason for that he knew--the one person needed, the
one person for whose coming all these plans had been made, had not yet
arrived. There was no telling, however, how long the respite might last.
At any moment might commence this conference, whose avowed purpose was
to break at a single blow, a single treacherous but deadly blow, the
Empire whose downfall Selingman had once publicly declared was the one
great necessity involved by his country's expansion....

Hunterleys quenched his thirst at a roadside café, sitting out upon the
pavement and drinking coarse red wine and soda-water. Then he bought a
packet of black cigarettes and continued his journey. He was within
sight of Monte Carlo when for the twentieth time he had to step to the
far side of the pathway to avoid being smothered in dust by an advancing
automobile. This time, by some chance, he glanced around, attracted by
the piercing character of its long-distance whistle. A high-powered grey
touring car came by, travelling at a great pace. Hunterleys stood
perfectly rigid, one hand grasping the wall by the side of which he
stood. Notwithstanding his spectacles and the thick coating of dust upon
his clothes, the solitary passenger of the car was familiar enough to
him. It was the man for whom this plot had been prepared. It was Paul
Douaille, the great Foreign Minister into whose hands even the most
cautious of Premiers had declared himself willing to place the destinies
of his country!

Hunterleys pursued the road no longer. He took a ticket at the next
station and hurried back to Monte Carlo. He went first to his room,
bathed and changed, and, passing along the private passage, made his way
into the Sporting Club. The first person whom he saw, seated in her
accustomed place at her favourite table, was his wife. She beckoned him
to come over to her. There was a vacant chair by her side to which she
pointed.

"Thank you," he said, "I won't sit down. I don't think that I care to
play just now. You are fortunate this afternoon, I trust?"

Something in his face and tone checked that rush of altered feeling of
which she had been more than once passionately conscious since the night
before.

"I am hideously out of luck," she confessed slowly. "I have been losing
all day. I think that I shall give it up."

She rose wearily to her feet and he felt a sudden compassion for her.
She was certainly looking tired. Her eyes were weary, she had the air of
an unhappy woman. After all, perhaps she too sometimes knew what
loneliness was.

"I should like some tea so much," she added, a little piteously.

He opened his lips to invite her to pass through into the restaurant
with him. Then the memory of that forged order still in his pocket,
flashed into his mind. He hesitated. A cold, familiar voice at his elbow
intervened.

"Are you quite ready for tea, Lady Hunterleys? I have been in and taken
a table near the window."

Hunterleys moved at once on one side. Draconmeyer bowed pleasantly.

"Cheerful time we had last night, hadn't we?" he remarked. "Glad to see
your knock didn't lay you up."

Hunterleys disregarded his wife's glance. He was suddenly furious.

"All Monte Carlo seems to be gossiping about that little contretemps,"
Draconmeyer continued. "It was a crude sort of hold-up for a
neighbourhood of criminals, but it very nearly came off. Will you have
some tea with us?"

"Do, Henry," his wife begged.

Once again he hesitated. Somehow or other, he felt that the moment was
critical. Then a hand was laid quietly upon his arm, a man's voice
whispered in his ear.

"Monsieur will be so kind as to step this way for a moment--a little
matter of business."

"Who are you?" Hunterleys demanded.

"The Commissioner of Police, at monsieur's service."



CHAPTER XI

HINTS TO HUNTERLEYS


Hunterleys, in accordance with his request, followed the Commissioner
downstairs into one of the small private rooms on the ground floor. The
latter was very polite but very official.

"Now what is it that you want?" Hunterleys asked, a little brusquely, as
soon as they were alone.

The representative of the law was distinctly mysterious. He had a brown
moustache which he continually twirled, and he was all the time dropping
his voice to a whisper.

"My first introduction to you should explain my mission, Sir Henry," he
said. "I hold a high position in the police here. My business with you,
however, is on behalf of a person whom I will not name, but whose
identity you will doubtless guess."

"Very well," Hunterleys replied. "Now what is the nature of this
mission, please? In plain words, what do you want with me?"

"I am here with reference to the affair of last night," the other
declared.

"The affair of last night?" Hunterleys repeated, frowning. "Well, we all
have to appear or be represented before the magistrates to-morrow
morning. I shall send a lawyer."

"Quite so! Quite so! But in the meantime, something has transpired. You
and the young American, Mr. Richard Lane, were the only two who offered
any resistance. It was owing to you two, in fact, that the plot was
frustrated. I am quite sure, Sir Henry, that every one agrees with me in
appreciating your courage and presence of mind."

"Thank you," Hunterleys replied. "Is that what you came to say?"

The other shook his head.

"Unfortunately, no, monsieur! I am here to bring you certain
information. The chief of the gang, Armand Martin, the man whom you
attacked, became suddenly worse a few hours ago. The doctors suspect
internal injuries, injuries inflicted during his struggle with you."

"I am very sorry to hear it," Hunterleys said coolly. "On the other
hand, he asked for anything he got."

"Unfortunately," the Commissioner continued, "the law of the State is
curiously framed in such matters. If the man should die, as seems more
than likely, your legal position, Sir Henry, would be most
uncomfortable. Your arrest would be a necessity, and there is no law
granting what I believe you call bail to a person directly or indirectly
responsible for the death of another. I am here, therefore, to give you
what I may term an official warning. Your absence as a witness to-morrow
morning will not be commented upon--events of importance have called you
back to England. You will thereby be saved a very large amount of
annoyance, and the authorities here will be spared the most regrettable
necessity of having to deal with you in a manner unbefitting your rank."

Hunterleys became at once thoughtful. The whole matter was becoming
clear to him.

"I see," he observed. "This is a warning to me to take my departure. Is
that so?"

The Commissioner beamed and nodded many times.

"You have a quick understanding, Sir Henry," he declared. "Your
departure to-night, or early to-morrow morning, would save a good deal
of unpleasantness. I have fulfilled my mission, and I trust that you
will reflect seriously upon the matter. It is the wish of the high
personage whom I represent, that no inconvenience whatever should befall
so distinguished a visitor to the Principality. Good day, monsieur!"

The official took his leave with a sweep of the hat and many bows.
Hunterleys, after a brief hesitation, walked out into the sun-dappled
street. It was the most fashionable hour of the afternoon. Up in the
square a band was playing. Outside, two or three smart automobiles were
discharging their freight of wonderfully-dressed women and debonair men
from the villas outside. Suddenly a hand fell upon his arm. It was
Richard Lane who greeted him.

"Say, where are you off to, Sir Henry?" he inquired.

Hunterleys laughed a little shortly.

"Really, I scarcely know," he replied. "Back to London, if I am wise, I
suppose."

"Come into the Club," Richard begged.

"I have just left," Hunterleys told him. "Besides, I hate the place."

"Did you happen to notice whether Mr. Grex was in there?" Richard
enquired.

"I didn't see him," Hunterleys answered. "Neither," he added
significantly, "did I see Miss Grex."

"Well, I am going in to have a look round, anyway," Richard decided.
"You might come along. There's nothing else to do in this place until
dinner-time."

Hunterleys suffered himself to be persuaded and remounted the steps.

"Tell me, Lane," he asked curiously, "have you heard anything about any
of the victims of our little struggle last night--I mean the two men we
tackled?"

Richard shook his head.

"I hear that mine has a broken wrist," he said. "Can't say I am feeling
very badly about that!"

"I've just been told that mine is going to die," Hunterleys continued.

The young man laughed incredulously.

"Why, I went over the prison this morning," he declared. "I never saw
such a healthy lot of ruffians in my life. That chap whom you
tackled--the one with the revolver--was smoking cigarettes and using
language--well, I couldn't understand it all, but what I did understand
was enough to melt the bars of his prison."

"That's odd," Hunterleys remarked drily. "According to the police
commissioner who has just left me, the man is on his death-bed, and my
only chance of escaping serious trouble is to get out of Monte Carlo
to-night."

"Are you going?"

Hunterleys shook his head.

"It would take a great deal more than that to move me just now," he
said, "even if I had not suspected from the first that the man was
lying."

Richard glanced at his companion a little curiously.

"I shouldn't have said that you were having such a good time, Sir
Henry," he observed; "in fact I should have thought you would have been
rather glad of an opportunity to slip away."

Hunterleys looked around them. They had reached the top of the staircase
and were in sight of the dense crowd in the rooms.

"Come and have a drink," he suggested. "A great many of these people
will have cleared off presently."

"I'll have a drink, with pleasure," Richard answered, "but I still can't
see why you're stuck on this place."

They strolled into the bar and found two vacant places.

"My dear young friend," Hunterleys said, as he ordered their drinks, "if
you were an Englishman instead of an American, I think that I would give
you a hint as to the reason why I do not wish to leave Monte Carlo just
at present."

"Can't see what difference that makes," Richard declared. "You know I'm
all for the old country."

"I wonder whether you are," Hunterleys remarked thoughtfully. "I tell
you frankly that if I thought you meant it, I should probably come to
you before long for a little help."

"If ever you do, I'm your man," Richard assured him heartily. "Any more
scraps going?"

Hunterleys sipped his whisky and soda thoughtfully. There had been an
exodus from the room to watch some heavy gambling at _Trente et
Quarante_, and for a moment they were almost alone.

"Lane," he said, "I am going to take you a little into my confidence. In
a way I suppose it is foolish, but to tell you the truth, I am almost
driven to it. You know that I am a Member of Parliament, and you may
have heard that if our Party hadn't gone out a few years ago, I was to
have been Foreign Minister."

"I've heard that often enough," Lane assented. "I've heard you quoted,
too, as an example of the curse of party politics. Just because you are
forced to call yourself a member of one Party you are debarred from
serving your country in any capacity until that Party is in power."

"That's quite true," Hunterleys admitted, "and to tell you the truth,
ridiculous though it seems, I don't see how you're to get away from it
in a practical manner. Anyhow, when my people came out I made up my mind
that I wasn't going to just sit still in Opposition and find fault all
the time, especially as we've a real good man at the Foreign Office. I
was quite content to leave things in his hands, but then, you see,
politically that meant that there was nothing for me to do. I thought
matters over and eventually I paired for six months and was supposed to
go off for the benefit of my health. As a matter of fact, I have been in
the Balkan States since Christmas," he added, dropping his voice a
little.

"What the dickens have you been doing there?"

"I can't tell you that exactly," Hunterleys replied. "Unfortunately, my
enemies are suspicious and they have taken to watching me closely. They
pretty well know what I am going to tell you--that I have been out there
at the urgent request of the Secret Service Department of the present
Government. I have been in Greece and Servia and Roumania, and, although
I don't think there's a soul in the world knows, I have also been in St.
Petersburg."

"But what's it all about?" Richard persisted. "What have you been doing
in all these places?"

"I can only answer you broadly," Hunterleys went on. "There is a
perfectly devilish scheme afloat, directed against the old country. I
have been doing what I can to counteract it. At the last moment, just as
I was leaving Sofia for London, by the merest chance I discovered that
the scene for the culmination of this little plot was to be Monte Carlo,
so I made my way round by Trieste, stayed at Bordighera and San Remo for
a few days to put people off, and finally turned up here."

"Well, I'm jiggered!" Lane muttered. "And I thought you were just
hanging about for your health or because your wife was here, and were
bored to death for want of something to do."

"On the contrary," Hunterleys assured him, "I was up all night sending
reports home--very interesting reports, too. I got them away all right,
but there's no denying the fact that there are certain people in Monte
Carlo at the present moment who suspect my presence here, and who would
go to any lengths whatever to get rid of me. It isn't the actual harm I
might do, but they have to deal with a very delicate problem and to make
a bargain with a very sensitive person, and they are terribly afraid
that my presence here, and a meeting between me and that person, might
render all their schemes abortive."

Richard's face was a study in astonishment.

"Well," he exclaimed, "this beats everything! I've read of such things,
of course, but one only half believes them. Right under our very noses,
too! Say, what are you going to do about it, Sir Henry?"

"There is only one thing I can do," Hunterleys replied grimly. "I am
bound to keep my place here. They'll drive me out if they can. I am
convinced that the polite warning I have received to leave Monaco this
afternoon because of last night's affair, is part of the conspiracy. In
plain words, I've got to stick it out."

"But what good are you doing here, anyway?"

Hunterleys smiled and glanced carefully around the room. They were still
free from any risk of being overheard.

"Well," he said, "perhaps you will understand my meaning more clearly if
I tell you that I am the brains of a counterplot. The English Secret
Service has a permanent agent here under the guise of a newspaper
correspondent, who is in daily touch with me, and he in his turn has
several spies at work. I am, however, the dangerous person. The others
are only servants. They make their reports, but they don't understand
their true significance. If these people could remove me before any one
else could arrive to take my place, their chances of bringing off their
coup here would be immensely improved."

"I suppose it's useless for me to ask if there's anything I can do to
help?" Richard enquired.

"You've helped already," Hunterleys replied. "I have been nearly three
months without being able to open my lips to a soul. People call me
secretive, but I feel very human sometimes. I know that not a word of
what I have said will pass your lips."

"Not a chance of it," Richard promised earnestly. "But look here, can't
I do something? If I am not an Englishman, I'm all for the Anglo-Saxons.
I hate these foreigners--that is to say the men," he corrected himself
hastily.

Hunterleys smiled.

"Well, I was coming to that," he said. "I do feel hideously alone here,
and what I would like you to do is just this. I would like you to call
at my room at the Hotel de Paris, number 189, every morning at a certain
fixed hour--say half-past ten. Just shake hands with me--that's all.
Nothing shall prevent my being visible to you at that hour. Under no
consideration whatever will I leave any message that I am engaged or
have gone out. If I am not to be seen when you make your call, something
has happened to me."

"And what am I to do then?"

"That is the point," Hunterleys continued. "I don't want to bring you
too deeply into this matter. All that you need do is to make your way to
the English Bank, see Mr. Harrison, the manager, and tell him of your
fruitless visit to me. He will give you a letter to my wife and will
know what other steps to take."

"Is that all?" Richard asked, a little disappointed. "You don't
anticipate any scrapping, or anything of that sort?"

"I don't know what to anticipate," Hunterleys confessed, a little
wearily. "Things are moving fast now towards the climax. I promise I'll
come to you for help if I need it. You can but refuse."

"No fear of my refusing," Richard declared heartily. "Not on your life,
sir!"

Hunterleys rose to his feet with an appreciative little nod. It was
astonishing how cordially he had come to feel towards this young man,
during the last few hours.

"I'll let you off now," he said. "I know you want to look around the
tables and see if any of our friends of last night are to be found. I,
too, have a little affair which I ought to have treated differently a
few minutes ago. We'll meet later."

Hunterleys strolled back into the rooms. He came almost at once face to
face with Draconmeyer, whom he was passing with unseeing eyes.
Draconmeyer, however, detained him.

"I was looking for you, Sir Henry!" he exclaimed. "Can you spare me one
moment?"

They stood a little on one side, out of the way of the moving throng of
people. Draconmeyer was fingering nervously his tie of somewhat vivid
purple. His manner was important.

"Do you happen, Sir Henry," he asked, "to have had any word from the
prison authorities to-day?"

Hunterleys nodded.

"I have just received a message," he replied. "I understand that the man
with whom I had a struggle last night has received some internal
injuries and is likely to die."

Draconmeyer's manner became more mysterious. He glanced around the room
as though to be sure that they were not overheard.

"I trust, Sir Henry," he said, "that you will not think me in any way
presumptuous if I speak to you intimately. I have never had the
privilege of your friendship, and in this unfortunate disagreement
between your wife and yourself I have been compelled to accept your
wife's point of view, owing to the friendship between Mrs. Draconmeyer
and herself. I trust you will believe, however, that I have no feelings
of hostility towards you."

"You are very kind," Hunterleys murmured.

His face seemed set in graven lines. For all the effect the other's
words had upon him, he might have been wearing a mask.

"The law here in some respects is very curious," Draconmeyer continued.
"Some of the statutes have been unaltered for a thousand years. I have
been given to understand by a person who knows, that if this man should
die, notwithstanding the circumstances of the case, you might find
yourself in an exceedingly awkward position. If I might venture,
therefore, to give you a word of disinterested advice, I would suggest
that you return to England at once, if only for a week or so."

His eyes had narrowed. Through his spectacles he was watching intently
for the effect of his words. Hunterleys, however, only nodded
thoughtfully, as though to some extent impressed by the advice he had
received.

"Very likely you are right," he admitted. "I will discuss the matter
with my wife."

"She is playing over there," Draconmeyer pointed out. "And while we are
talking in a more or less friendly fashion," he went on earnestly,
"might I give you just one more word of counsel? For the sake of the
friendship which exists between our wives, I feel sure you will believe
that I am disinterested."

He paused. Hunterleys' expression was now one of polite interest. He
waited, however, for the other to continue.

"I wish that you could persuade Lady Hunterleys to play for somewhat
lower stakes."

Hunterleys was genuinely startled for a moment.

"Do you mean that my wife is gambling beyond her means?" he asked.

Draconmeyer shrugged his shoulders.

"How can I tell that? I don't know what her means are, or yours. I only
know that she changes mille notes more often than I change louis, and it
seems to me that her luck is invariably bad. I think, perhaps, just a
word or two from you, who have the right to speak, might be of service."

"I am very much obliged to you for the hint," Hunterleys said smoothly.
"I will certainly mention the matter to her."

"And if I don't see you again," Draconmeyer concluded, watching him
closely, "good-bye!"

Hunterleys did not appear to notice the tentative movement of the
other's hand. He was already on his way to the spot where his wife was
sitting. Draconmeyer watched his progress with inscrutable face.
Selingman, who had been sitting near, rose and joined him.

"Will he go?" he whispered. "Will our friend take this very reasonable
hint and depart?"

Draconmeyer's eyes were still fixed upon Hunterleys' slim,
self-possessed figure. His forehead was contorted into a frown. Somehow
or other, he felt that during their brief interview he had failed to
score; he had felt a subtle, underlying note of contempt in Hunterleys'
manner, in his whole attitude.

"I do not know," he replied grimly. "I only hope that if he stays, we
shall find the means to make him regret it!"



CHAPTER XII

"I CANNOT GO!"


Hunterleys stood for several minutes, watching his wife's play from a
new point of view. She was certainly playing high and with continued
ill-fortune. For the first time, too, he noticed symptoms which
disturbed him. She sat quite motionless, but there was an unfamiliar
glitter in her eyes and a hardness about her mouth. It was not until he
had stood within a few feet of her for nearly a quarter of an hour, that
she chanced to see him.

"Did you want me?" she asked, with a little start.

"There is no hurry," he replied. "If you could spare me a few moments
later, I should be glad."

She rose at once, thrusting her notes and gold into the satchel which
she was carrying, and stood by his side. She was very elegantly dressed
in black and white, but she was pale, and, watching her with a new
intentness, he discovered faint violet lines under her eyes, as though
she had been sleeping ill.

"I am rather glad you came," she said. "I was having an abominable run
of bad luck, and yet I hated to give up my seat without an excuse. What
did you want, Henry?"

"I should like," he explained, "to talk to you for a quarter of an hour.
This place is rather crowded and it is getting on my nerves. We seem to
live here, night and day. Would you object to driving with me--say as
far as Mentone and back?"

"I will come if you wish it," she answered, looking a little surprised.
"Wait while I get my cloak."

Hunterleys hired an automobile below and they drove off. As soon as they
were out of the main street, he thrust his hand into the breast-pocket
of his coat and smoothed out that half-sheet of notepaper upon his knee.

"Violet," he said, "please read that."

She read the few lines instructing the English Bank to hand over Sir
Henry Hunterleys' letters to the bearer. Then she looked up at him with
a puzzled frown.

"I don't understand."

"Did you write that?" he enquired.

She looked at him indignantly.

"What an absurd question!" she exclaimed. "Your correspondence has no
interest for me."

Her denial, so natural, so obviously truthful, was a surprise to him. He
felt a sudden impulse of joy, mingled with shame. Perhaps, after all, he
had been altogether too censorious. Once more he directed her attention
to the sheet of paper. There was a marked change in his voice and
manner.

"Violet," he begged, "please look at it. Accepting without hesitation
your word that you did not write it, doesn't it occur to you that the
body of the letter is a distinct imitation of your handwriting, and the
signature a very clever forgery of mine?"

"It is rather like my handwriting," she admitted, "and as for the
signature, do you mean to say really that that is not yours?"

"Certainly not," he assured her. "The whole thing is a forgery."

"But who in the world should want to get your letters?" she asked
incredulously. "And why should you have them addressed to the bank?"

He folded up the paper then and put it in his pocket.

"Violet," he said earnestly, "for the disagreements which have resulted
in our separation I may myself have been to some extent responsible, but
we have promised one another not to refer to them again and I will not
break our compact. All I can say is that there is much in my life which
you know little of, and for which you do not, therefore, make sufficient
allowance."

"Then you might have treated me," she declared, "with more confidence."

"It was not possible," he reminded her, "so long as you chose to make an
intimate friend of a man whose every interest in life is in direct
antagonism to mine."

"Mr. Draconmeyer?"

"Mr. Draconmeyer," he assented.

She smiled contemptuously.

"You misunderstand Mr. Draconmeyer completely," she insisted. "He is
your well-wisher and he is more than half an Englishman. It was he who
started the league between English and German commercial men for the
propagation of peace. He formed one of the deputation who went over to
see the Emperor. He has done more, both by his speeches and letters to
the newspaper, to promote a good understanding between Germany and
England, than any other person. You are very much mistaken about Mr.
Draconmeyer, Henry. Why you cannot realise that he is simply an ordinary
commercial man of high intelligence and most agreeable manners, I cannot
imagine."

"The fact remains, my dear Violet," Hunterleys said emphatically, "that
it is not possible for me to treat you with the confidence I might
otherwise have done, on account of your friendship with Mr.
Draconmeyer."

"You are incorrigible!" she exclaimed. "Can we change the subject,
please? I want to know why you showed me that forged letter?"

"I am coming to that," he told her. "Please be patient. I want to remind
you of something else. So far as I remember, my only request, when I
gave you your liberty and half my income, was that your friendship with
the Draconmeyers should decrease. Almost the first persons I see on my
arrival in Monte Carlo are you and Mr. Draconmeyer. I learn that you
came out with them and that you are staying at the same hotel."

"Your wish was an unreasonable one," she protested. "Linda and I were
school-girls together. She is my dearest friend and she is a hopeless
invalid. I think that if I were to desert her she would die."

"I have every sympathy with Mrs. Draconmeyer," he said slowly, "but you
are my wife. I am going to make one more effort--please don't be
uneasy--not to re-establish any relationship between us, but to open
your eyes as to the truth concerning Mr. Draconmeyer. You asked me a
moment ago why I had shown you that forged letter. I will tell you now.
It was Draconmeyer who was the forger."

She leaned back in her seat. She was looking at him incredulously.

"You mean to say that Mr. Draconmeyer wrote that order--that he wanted
to get possession of your letters?"

"Not only that," Hunterleys continued, "but he carried out the business
in such a devilish manner as to make me for a moment believe that it was
you who had helped him. You are wrong about Draconmeyer. The man is a
great schemer, who under the pretence of occupying an important
commercial position in the City of London, is all the time a secret
agent of Germany. He is there in her interests. He studies the public
opinion of the country. He dissects our weaknesses. He is there to point
out the best methods and the opportune time for the inevitable struggle.
He is the worst enemy to-day England has. You think that he is here in
Monte Carlo on a visit of pleasure--for the sake of his wife, perhaps.
Nothing of the sort! He is here at this moment associated with an
iniquitous scheme, the particulars of which I can tell you nothing of.
Furthermore, I repeat what I told you on our first meeting here--that in
his still, cold way he is in love with you."

"Henry!" she cried.

"I cannot see how you can remain so wilfully blind," Hunterleys
continued. "I know the man inside out. I warned you against him in
London, I warn you against him now. This forged letter was designed to
draw us further apart. The little brown man who has dogged your
footsteps is a spy employed by him to make you believe that I was having
you watched. You are free still to act as you will, Violet, but if you
have a spark of regard for me or yourself, you will go back to London at
once and drop this odious friendship."

She leaned back in the car. They had turned round now and were on the
way back to Monte Carlo by the higher road. She sat with her eyes fixed
upon the mountains. Her heart, in a way, had been touched, her
imagination stirred by her husband's words. She felt a return of that
glow of admiration which had thrilled her on the previous night, when he
and Richard Lane alone amongst that motley company had played the part
of men. A curious, almost pathetic wistfulness crept into her heart. If
only he would lean towards her at that moment, if she could see once
more the light in his eyes that had shone there during the days of their
courtship! If only he could remember that it was still his part to play
the lover! If he could be a little less grave, a little less hopelessly
correct and fair! Despite her efforts to disbelieve, there was something
convincing about his words. At any moment during that brief space of
time, a single tremulous word, even a warm clasp of the hand, would have
brought her into his arms. But so much of inspiration was denied him. He
sat waiting for her decision with an eagerness of which he gave no sign.
Nevertheless, the fates were fighting for him. She thought gratefully,
even at that moment, yet with less enthusiasm than ever before, of the
devout homage, the delightful care for her happiness and comfort, the
atmosphere of security with which Draconmeyer seemed always to surround
her. Yet all this was cold and unsatisfying, a poor substitute for the
other things. Henry had been different once. Perhaps it was jealousy
which had altered him. Perhaps his misconception of Draconmeyer's
character had affected his whole outlook. She turned towards him, and
her voice, when she spoke, was no longer querulous.

"Henry," she said, "I cannot admit the truth of all that you say
concerning Mr. Draconmeyer, but tell me this. If I were willing to leave
this place to-night--"

She paused. For some reason a sudden embarrassment had seized her. The
words seemed to come with difficulty. She turned ever so slightly away
from him. There was a tinge of colour at last in her pale cheeks. She
seemed to him now, as she leaned a little forward in her seat,
completely beautiful.

"If I make my excuses and leave Monte Carlo to-night," she went on,
"will you come with me?"

He gave a little start. Something in his eyes flashed an answer into her
face. And then the flood of memory came. There was his mission. He was
tied hand and foot.

"It is good of you to offer that, Violet," he declared. "If I could--if
only I could!"

Already her manner began to change. The fear of his refusal was hateful,
her lips were trembling.

"You mean," she faltered, "that you will not come? Listen. Don't
misunderstand me. I will order my boxes packed, I will catch the eight
o'clock train either through to London or to Paris--anywhere. I will do
that if you will come. There is my offer. That is my reply to all that
you have said about Mr. Draconmeyer. I shall lose a friend who has been
gentleness and kindness and consideration itself. I will risk that. What
do you say? Will you come?"

"Violet, I cannot," he replied hoarsely. "No, don't turn away like
that!" he begged. "Don't change so quickly, please! It isn't fair.
Listen. I am not my own master."

"Not your own master?" she repeated incredulously. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that I am here in Monte Carlo not for my own pleasure. I mean
that I have work, a purpose--"

"Absurd!" she interrupted him, almost harshly. "There is nobody who has
any better claim upon you than I have. You are over-conscientious about
other things. For once remember your duty as a husband."

He caught her wrist.

"You must trust me a little," he pleaded. "Believe me that I really
appreciate your offer. If I were free to go, I should not hesitate for a
single second.... Can't you trust me, Violet?" he implored, his voice
softening.

The woman within her was fighting on his side. She stifled her wounded
feelings, crushed down her disappointment that he had not taken her at
once into his arms and answered her upon her lips.

"Trust me, then," she replied. "If you refuse my offer, don't hint at
things you have to do. Tell me in plain words why. It is not enough for
you to say that you cannot leave Monte Carlo. Tell me why you cannot. I
have invited you to escort me anywhere you will--I, your wife.... Shall
we go?"

The woman had wholly triumphed. Her voice had dropped, the light was in
her eyes. She swayed a little towards him. His brain reeled. She was
once more the only woman in the world for him. Once more he fancied that
he could feel the clinging of her arms, the touch of her lips. These
things were promised in her face.

"I tell you that I cannot go!" he cried sharply. "Believe me--do believe
me, Violet!"

She pulled down her veil suddenly. He caught at her hand. It lay
passively in his. He pleaded for her confidence, but the moment of
inspiration had gone. She heard him with the air of one who listens no
longer. Presently she stopped him.

"Don't speak to me for several minutes, please," she begged. "Tell him
to put me down at the hotel. I can't go back to the Club just yet."

"You mustn't leave me like this," he insisted.

"Will you tell me why you refuse my offer?" she asked.

"I have a trust!"

The automobile had come to a standstill. She rose to her feet.

"I was once your trust," she reminded him, as she passed into the hotel.



CHAPTER XIII

MISS GREX AT HOME


Richard Lane, as he made his way up the avenue towards the Villa Mimosa,
wondered whether he was not indeed finding his way into fairyland. On
either side of him were drooping mimosa trees, heavy with the snaky,
orange-coloured blossom whose perfumes hung heavy upon the windless air.
In the background, bordering the gardens which were themselves a maze of
colour, were great clumps of glorious purple rhododendrons, drooping
clusters of red and white roses. A sudden turn revealed a long pergola,
smothered in pink blossoms and leading to the edge of the terrace which
overhung the sea. The villa itself, which seemed, indeed, more like a
palace, was covered with vivid purple clematis, and from the open door
of the winter-garden, which was built out from the front of the place in
a great curve, there came, as he drew near, a bewildering breath of
exotic odours. The front-door was wide open, and before he could reach
the bell a butler had appeared.

"Is Mr. Grex at home?" Richard enquired.

"Mr. Grex is not at home, sir," was the immediate reply.

"I should like to see Miss Grex, then," Richard proceeded.

The man's face was curiously expressionless, but a momentary silence
perhaps betrayed as much surprise as he was capable of showing.

"Miss Grex is not at home, sir," he announced.

Richard hesitated and just then she came out from the winter-garden. She
was wearing a pink linen morning gown and a floppy pink hat. She had a
book under her arm and a parasol swinging from her fingers. When she saw
Lane, she stared at him in amazement. He advanced a step or two towards
her, his hat in his hand.

"I took the liberty of calling to see your father, Miss Grex," he
explained. "As he was not at home, I ventured to enquire for you."

She was absolutely helpless. It was impossible to ignore his
outstretched hand. Very hesitatingly she held out her fingers, which
Richard grasped and seemed in no hurry at all to release.

"This is quite the most beautiful place I have seen anywhere near Monte
Carlo," he remarked enthusiastically.

"I am glad," she murmured, "that you find it attractive."

He was standing by her side now, his hat under his arm. The butler had
withdrawn a little into the background. She glanced around.

"Did my father ask you to call, Mr. Lane?" she enquired, dropping her
voice a little.

"He did not," Richard confessed. "I must say that I gave him plenty of
opportunities but he did not seem to be what I should call hospitably
inclined. In any case, it really doesn't matter. I came to see you."

She bit her lip, struggling hard to repress a smile.

"But I did not ask you to call upon me either," she reminded him
gravely.

"Well, that's true," Lane admitted, a little hesitatingly. "I don't
quite know how things are done over here. Say, are you English, or
French, or what?" he asked, point blank. "I have been puzzling about
that ever since I saw you."

"I am not sure that my nationality matters," she observed.

"Well, over on the other side," he continued,--"I mean America, of
course--if we make up our minds that we want to see something of a girl
and there isn't any real reason why one shouldn't, then the initiative
generally rests with the man. Of course, if you are an only daughter, I
can quite understand your father being a bit particular, not caring for
men callers and that sort of thing, but that can't go on for ever, you
know, can it?"

"Can't it?" she murmured, a little dazed.

"I have a habit," he confided, "of making up my mind quickly, and when I
decide about a thing, I am rather hard to turn. Well, I made up my mind
about you the first moment we met."

"About me?" she repeated.

"About you."

She turned and looked at him almost wonderingly. He was very big and
very confident; good to look upon, less because of his actual good looks
than because of a certain honesty and tenacity of purpose in his
expression; a strength of jaw, modified and rendered even pleasant by
the kindness and humour of his clear grey eyes. He returned her gaze
without embarrassment and he wondered less than ever at finding himself
there. Her complexion in this clear light seemed more beautiful than
ever. Her rich golden-brown hair was waved becomingly over her forehead.
Her eyebrows were silky and delicately straight, her mouth delightful.
Her figure was girlish, but unusually dignified for her years.

"You know," he said suddenly, "you look to me just like one of those
beautiful plants you have in the conservatory there, just as though
you'd stepped out of your little glass home and blossomed right here. I
am almost afraid of you."

She laughed outright this time--a low, musical laugh which had in it
something of foreign intonation.

"Well, really," she exclaimed, "I had not noticed your fear! I was just
thinking that you were quite the boldest young man I have ever met."

"Come, that's something!" he declared. "Couldn't we sit down somewhere
in these wonderful gardens of yours and talk?"

She shook her head.

"But have I not told you already," she protested, "that I do not receive
callers? Neither does my father. Really, your coming here is quite
unwarrantable. If he should return at this moment and find you here, he
would be very angry indeed. I am afraid that he would even be rude, and
I, too, should suffer for having allowed you to talk with me."

"Let's hope that he doesn't return just yet, then," Richard observed,
smiling easily. "I am very good-tempered as a rule, but I do not like
people to be rude to me."

"Fortunately, he cannot return for at least an hour--" she began.

"Then we'll sit down on that terrace, if you please, for just a quarter
of that time," he begged.

She opened her lips and closed them again. He was certainly a very
stubborn young man!

"Well," she sighed, "perhaps it will be the easiest way of getting rid
of you."

She motioned him to follow her. The butler, from a discreet distance,
watched her as though he were looking at a strange thing. Round the
corner of the villa remote from the winter-garden, was a long stone
terrace upon which many windows opened. Screened from the wind, the sun
here was of almost midsummer strength. There was no sound. The great
house seemed asleep. There was nothing but the droning of a few insects.
Even the birds were songless. The walls were covered with drooping
clematis and roses, roses that twined over the balustrades. Below them
was a tangle of mimosa trees and rhododendrons, and further below still
the blue Mediterranean. She sank into a chair.

"You may sit here," she said, "just long enough for me to convince you
that your coming was a mistake. Indeed that is so. I do not wish to seem
foolish or unkind, but my father and I are living here with one
unbreakable rule, and that is that we make no acquaintances whatsoever."

"That sounds rather queer," he remarked. "Don't you find it dull?"

"If I do," she went on, "it is only for a little time. My father is here
for a certain purpose, and as soon as that is accomplished we shall go
away. For him to accomplish that purpose in a satisfactory manner, it is
necessary that we should live as far apart as possible from the ordinary
visitors here."

"Sounds like a riddle," he admitted. "Do you mind telling me of what
nationality you are?"

"I see no reason why I should tell you anything."

"You speak such correct English," he continued, "but there is just a
little touch of accent. You don't know how attractive it sounds. You
don't know--"

He hesitated, suddenly losing some part of his immense confidence.

"What else is there that I do not know?" she asked, with a faintly
amused smile.

"I have lost my courage," he confessed simply. "I do not want to offend
you, I do not want you to think that I am hopelessly foolish, but you
see I have the misfortune to be in love with you."

She laughed at him, leaning back in her chair with half-closed eyes.

"Do people talk like this to casual acquaintances in your country?" she
asked.

"They speak sometimes a language which is common to all countries," he
replied quickly. "The only thing that is peculiar to my people is that
when we say it, it is the sober and the solemn truth."

She was silent for a moment. She had plucked one of the blossoms from
the wall and was pulling to pieces its purple petals.

"Do you know," she said, "that no young man has ever dared to talk to me
as you have done?"

"That is because no one yet has cared so much as I do," he assured her.
"I can quite understand their being frightened. I am terribly afraid of
you myself. I am afraid of the things I say to you, but I have to say
them because they are in my heart, and if I am only to have a quarter of
an hour with you now, you see I must make the best use of my time. I
must tell you that there isn't any other girl in the world I could ever
look at again, and if you won't promise to marry me some day, I shall be
the most wretched person on earth."

"I can never, never marry you," she told him emphatically. "There is
nothing which is so impossible as that."

"Well, that's a pretty bad start," he admitted.

"It is the end," she said firmly.

He shook his head. There was a terrible obstinacy in his face. She
frowned at him.

"You do not mean that you will persist after what I have told you?"

He looked at her, almost surprised.

"There isn't anything else for me to do, that I know of," he declared,
"so long as you don't care for any one else. Tell me again, you are sure
that there is no one?"

"Certainly not," she replied stiffly. "The subject has not yet been made
acceptable to me. You must forgive my adding that in my country it is
not usual for a girl to discuss these matters with a man before her
betrothal."

"Say, I don't understand that," he murmured, looking at her
thoughtfully. "She can't get engaged before she is asked."

"The preliminaries," she explained, "are always arranged by one's
parents."

He smiled pityingly.

"That sort of thing's no use," he asserted confidently. "You must be
getting past that, in whatever corner of Europe you live. What you mean
to say, then, is that your father has some one up his sleeve whom he'll
trot out for you before long?"

"Without doubt, some arrangement will be proposed," she agreed.

"And you'll have to be amiable to some one you've never seen in your
life before, I suppose?" he persisted.

"Not necessarily. It sometimes happens, in my position," she went on,
raising her head, "that certain sacrifices are necessary."

"In your position," he repeated quickly. "What does that mean? You
aren't a queen, are you, or anything of that sort?"

She laughed.

"No," she confessed, "I am not a queen, and yet--"

"And yet?"

"You must go back," she insisted, rising abruptly to her feet. "The
quarter of an hour is up. I do not feel happy, sitting here talking with
you. Really, if my father were to return he would be more angry with me
than he has ever been in his life. This sort of thing is not done
amongst my people."

"Little lady," he said, gently forcing her back into her place, "believe
me, it's done all the world over, and there isn't any girl can come to
any harm by being told that a man is fond of her when it's the truth,
when he'd give his life for her willingly. It's just like that I feel
about you. I've never felt it before. I could never feel it for any one
else. And I am not going to give you up."

She was looking at him half fearfully. There was a little colour in her
cheeks, her eyes were suddenly moist.

"I think," she murmured, "that you talk very nicely. I think I might
even say that I like to hear you talk. But it is so useless. Won't you
go now? Won't you please go now?"

"When may I come again?" he begged.

"Never," she replied firmly. "You must never come again. You must not
even think of it. But indeed you would not be admitted. They will
probably tell my father of your visit, as it is, and he will be very
angry."

"Well, when can I see you, then, and where?" he demanded. "I hope you
understand that I am not in the least disheartened by anything you have
said."

"I think," she declared, "that you are the most persistent person I ever
met."

"It is only," he whispered, leaning a little towards her, "because I
care for you so much."

She was suddenly confused, conscious of a swift desire to get rid of
him. It was as though some one were speaking a new language. All her old
habits and prejudices seemed falling away.

"I cannot make appointments with you," she protested, her voice shaking.
"I cannot encourage you in any way. It is really quite impossible."

"If I go now, will you be at the Club to-morrow afternoon?" he pleaded.

"I am not sure," she replied. "It is very likely that I may be there. I
make no promise."

He took her hand abruptly, and, stooping down, forced her to look into
his eyes.

"You will be there to-morrow afternoon, please," he begged, "and you
will give me the rose from your waistband."

She laughed uneasily.

"If the rose will buy your departure--" she began.

"It may do that," he interrupted, as he drew it through his buttonhole,
"but it will assuredly bring me back again."

       *       *       *       *       *

Richard walked down the hill, whistling softly to himself and with a
curious light in his eyes. As he reached the square in front of the
Casino, he was accosted by a stranger who stood in the middle of the
pavement and respectfully removed his hat.

"You are Mr. Richard Lane, is it not so, monsieur?"

"You've guessed it in one," Richard admitted. "Have I ever seen you
before?"

"Never, monsieur, unless you happened to notice me on your visit to the
prison. I have an official position in the Principality. I am
commissioned to speak to you with respect to the little affair in which
you were concerned at La Turbie."

"Well, I thought we'd thrashed all that out," Lane replied. "Anyway, Sir
Henry Hunterleys and I have engaged a lawyer to look after our
interests."

"Just so," the little man murmured. "A very clever man indeed is
Monsieur Grisson. Still, there is a view of the matter," he continued,
"which is perhaps hard for you Englishmen and Americans to understand.
Assault of any description is very severely punished here, especially
when it results in bodily injury. Theft of all sorts, on the other hand,
is very common indeed. The man whom you injured is a native of Monte
Carlo. To a certain extent, the Principality is bound to protect him."

"Why, the fellow was engaged in a flagrant attempt at highway robbery!"
Richard declared, genuinely astonished.

His companion stretched out his hands.

"Monsieur," he replied, "every one robs here, whether they are
shop-keepers, restaurant keepers, or loafers upon the streets. The
people expect it. At the adjourned trial next week there will be many
witnesses who are also natives of Monte Carlo. I have been commissioned
to warn monsieur. It would be best, on the whole, if he left Monte Carlo
by the next train."

"Why in the name of mischief should I do that?" Richard demanded.

"In the first place," the other pointed out, "because this man, whom you
treated a little roughly, has many friends and associates. They have
sworn revenge. You are even now being followed about, and the police of
the Principality have enough to do without sparing an escort to protect
you against violence. In the second place, I am not at all sure that the
finding of the court next week will be altogether to your satisfaction."

"Do you mean this?" Richard asked incredulously.

"Without a doubt, monsieur."

"Then all I can say," Richard declared, "is that your magistrate or
judge, or whatever he calls himself, is a rotter, and your laws absurd.
I sha'n't budge."

"It is in your own interests, monsieur, this warning," the other
persisted. "Even if you escape these desperadoes, you still run some
risk of discovering what the inside of a prison in Monaco is like."

"I think not," Lane answered grimly. "If there's anything of that sort
going about, I shall board my yacht yonder and hoist the Stars and
Stripes. I shall take some getting into prison, I can tell you, and if I
once get there, you'll hear about it."

"Monsieur will be much wiser to avoid trouble," the official advised.

Lane placed his hand upon the other's shoulder.

"My friend," he said, "not you or a dozen like you could make me stir
from this place until I am ready, and just now I am very far from ready.
See? You can go and tell those who sent you, what I say."

The emissary of the law shrugged his shoulders. His manner was stiff but
resigned.

"I have delivered my message, monsieur," he announced. "Monsieur
naturally must decide for himself."

He disappeared with a bow. Richard continued on his way and a few
minutes later ran into Hunterleys.

"Say, did you ever hear such cheek!" he exclaimed, passing his arm
through the latter's. "A little bounder stopped me in the street and has
been trying to frighten me into leaving Monte Carlo, just because I
broke that robber's wrist. Same Johnny that came to you, I expect. What
are they up to, anyway? What do they want to get rid of us for? They
ought to be jolly grateful."

Hunterleys shook his head.

"So far as I am concerned," he said, "their reasons for wanting to get
rid of me are fairly obvious, I am afraid, but I must say I don't know
where you come in, unless--"

He stopped short.

"Well, unless what?" Richard interposed. "I should just like to know who
it is trying to get me kicked out."

"Can't you guess?" Hunterleys asked. "There is one person who I think
would be quite as well pleased to see the back of you."

"Here in Monte Carlo?"

"Absolutely!"

Richard was mystified.

"You are not very bright, I am afraid," Hunterleys observed. "What about
your friend Mr. Grex?"

Richard whistled softly.

"Are you serious?"

"Of course I am," Hunterleys assured him.

"But has he any pull here, this Mr. Grex?"

Hunterleys' eyes twinkled for a moment.

"Yes," he replied, "I think that Mr. Grex has very considerable
influence in this part of the world, and he is a man who, I should say,
was rather used to having his own way."

"I gathered that I wasn't exactly popular with him this afternoon,"
Richard remarked meditatively. "I've been out there to call."

Hunterleys stopped short upon the pavement.

"What?" he exclaimed.

"I have been out to call at the Villa Mimosa," Richard repeated. "I
don't see anything extraordinary in that."

"Did you see--Miss Fedora?"

"Rather! And thank you for telling me her name, at any rate. We sat on
the terrace and chatted for a quarter of an hour. She gave me to
understand, though, that the old man was dead against me. It all seems
very mysterious. Anyway, she gave me this rose I am wearing, and I think
she'll be at the Club to-morrow afternoon."

Hunterleys was silent for a moment. He seemed much impressed.

"You know, Richard," he declared, "there is something akin to genius in
your methods."

"That's all very well," the young man protested, "but can you give me a
single solid reason why, considering I am in love with the girl, I
shouldn't go and call upon her? Who is this Mr. Grex, anyway?"

"I've a good mind to tell you," Hunterleys said meditatively.

"I don't care whether you do or not," Lane pronounced firmly, as they
parted. "I don't care whether Mr. Grex is the Sultan of Turkey or the
Czar of Russia. I'm going to marry his daughter. That's settled."



CHAPTER XIV

DINNER FOR TWO


At a few minutes before eight o'clock that evening Lady Hunterleys
descended the steps of the Casino and crossed the square towards the
Hotel de Paris. She walked very slowly and she looked neither to the
right nor to the left. She had the air of seeing no one. She
acknowledged mechanically the low bow of the commissionaire who opened
the door for her. A reception clerk who stood on one side to let her
pass, she ignored altogether. She crossed the hall to the lift and
pressed the bell. Draconmeyer, who had been lounging in an easy-chair
waiting for her, watched her entrance and noticed her abstracted manner
with kindling eyes. He threw away his newspaper and, hastily approaching
her, touched her arm.

"You are late," he remarked.

She started.

"Yes, I am late."

"I did not see you at the Club."

"I have been to the Casino instead," she told him. "I thought that it
might change my luck."

"Successful, I trust?"

She shook her head. Then she opened her gold satchel and showed him. It
was empty.

"The luck must turn sometime," he reminded her soothingly. "How long
will you be changing?"

"I am tired," she confessed. "I thought that to-night I would not dine.
I will have something sent up to my room."

He was obviously disappointed.

"Couldn't you dine as you are?" he begged. "You could change later, if
you wished to. It is always such a disappointment when you do not
appear--and to-night," he added, "especially."

Violet hesitated. She was really longing only to be alone and to rest.
She thought, however, of the poor invalid to whom their meeting at
dinner-time was the one break of the day.

"Very well," she promised, "I will be down in ten minutes."

Draconmeyer, as the lift bore her upwards, strolled away. Although the
custom was a strange one to him, he sought out the American bar and
drank a cocktail. Then he lit a cigarette and made his way back into the
lounge, moving restlessly about, his hands behind his back, his forehead
knitted. In his way he had been a great schemer, and in the crowded hall
of the hotel that night, surrounded by a wonderfully cosmopolitan throng
of loungers and passers-by, he lived again through the birth and
development of many of the schemes which his brain had conceived since
he had left his mother-country. One and all they had been successful. He
seemed, indeed, to have been imbued with the gift of success. He had
floated immense loans where other men had failed; he had sustained the
credit of his country on a high level through more than one serious
financial crisis; he had pulled down or built up as his judgment or
fancy had dictated; and all the time the man's relaxations, apart from
the actual trend of great affairs, had been few and slight. Then had
come his acquaintance with Linda's school-friend. He looked back through
the years. At first he had scarcely noticed her visits. Gradually he had
become conscious of a dim feeling of thankfulness to the woman who
always seemed able to soothe his invalid wife. Then, scarcely more than
a year or so ago, he had found himself watching her at unexpected
moments, admiring the soft grace of her movements, the pleasant cadence
of her voice, the turn of her head, the colour of her hair, the elegance
of her clothes, her thin, fashionable figure. Gradually he had begun to
look for her, to welcome her at his table--and from that, the rest.
Finally the birth of this last scheme of his. He had very nearly made a
fatal mistake at the very commencement, had pulled himself right again
only with a supreme effort. His heart beat quicker even now as he
thought of that moment. They had been alone together one evening. She
had sat talking with him after Linda had gone to bed worse than usual,
and in the dim light he had almost lost his head, he had almost said
those words, let her see the things in his eyes for which the time was
not yet ripe. She had kept away for a while after that. He had treated
it as a mistake but he had been very careful not to err again. By
degrees she forgot. The estrangement between husband and wife was part
of his scheme, largely his doing. He was all the time working to make
the breach wider. The visit to Monte Carlo, rather a difficult
accomplishment, he had arranged. He had seen with delight the necessity
for some form of excitement growing up in her, had watched her losses
and only wished that they had been larger. He had encouraged her to play
for higher stakes and found that she needed very little encouragement
indeed. To-night he felt that a crisis was at hand. There was a new look
upon her face. She had probably lost everything. He knew exactly how she
would feel about asking her husband for help. His eyes grew brighter as
he waited for the lift.

She came at last and they walked together into the dining-room. When she
reached their accustomed table, it was empty, and only their two places
were laid. She looked at him in surprise.

"But I thought you said that Linda would be so disappointed!" she
reminded him.

He shook his head.

"I do not think that I mentioned Linda's name," he protested. "She went
to bed soon after tea in an absolutely hopeless state. I am afraid that
to-night I was selfish. I was thinking of myself. I have had nothing in
the shape of companionship all day. I came and looked at the table, and
the thought of dining alone wearied me. I have to spend a great deal of
time alone, unfortunately. You and I are, perhaps, a little alike in
that respect."

She seated herself after a moment's hesitation. He moved his chair a
little closer to hers. The pink-shaded lamp seemed to shut them off from
the rest of the room. A waiter poured wine into their glasses.

"I ordered champagne to-night," he remarked. "You looked so tired when
you came in. Drink a glass at once."

She obeyed him, smiling faintly. She was, as a matter of fact, craving
for something of the sort.

"It was thoughtful of you," she declared. "I am tired. I have been
losing all day, and altogether I have had a most depressing time."

"It is not as it should be, that," he observed, smiling. "This is a city
of pleasure. One was meant to leave one's cares behind here. If any one
in this world," he added, "should be without them, it should be you."

He looked at her respectfully yet with an admiration which he made no
effort to conceal. There was nothing in the look over-personal. She
accepted it with gratitude.

"You are always kind," she murmured.

"This reminds me of some of our evenings in London," he went on, "when
we used to talk music before we went to the Opera. I always found those
evenings so restful and pleasant. Won't you try and forget that you have
lost a few pennies; forget, also, your other worries, whatever they may
be? I have had a letter to-day from the one great writer whom we both
admire. I shall read it to you. And I have a list of the operas for next
week. I see that your husband's little protégée, Felicia Roche, is
here."

"My husband's protégée?" she repeated. "I don't quite understand."

He seemed, for a moment, embarrassed.

"I am sorry," he said. "I had no idea. But your husband will tell you if
you ask him. It was he who paid for her singing education, and her
triumph is his. But the name must be known to you."

"I have never heard it in connection with my husband," she declared,
frowning slightly. "Henry does not always take me into his confidence."

"Then I am sorry," he continued penitently, "that I mentioned the
matter. It was clumsy of me. I had an idea that he must have told you
all about her.... Another glass of wine, please, and you will find your
appetite comes. Jules has prepared that salmon trout specially. I'll
read you the letter from Maurice, if you like, and afterwards there is a
story I must tell you."

The earlier stages of dinner slipped pleasantly away. Draconmeyer was a
born conversationalist,--a good talker and a keen tactician. The food
and the wine, too, did their part. Presently Violet lifted her head, the
colour came back to her cheeks, she too began to talk and laugh. All the
time he was careful not to press home his advantage. He remembered that
one night in the library at Grosvenor Square, when she had turned her
head and looked at him for a moment before leaving. She must be
different now, he told himself fiercely. It was impossible that she
could continue to love a husband who neglected her, a man whose mistaken
sense of dignity kept him away from her!

"I want you," he begged, as they drew towards the close of the meal, "to
treat me, if you will, just a little more confidentially."

She glanced up at him quickly, almost suspiciously.

"What do you mean?"

"You have troubles of which you do not speak," he went on. "If my
friendship is worth anything, it ought to enable me to share those
troubles with you. You have had a little further disagreement with your
husband, I think, and bad luck at the tables. You ought not to let
either of these things depress you too much. Tell me, do you think that
I could help with Sir Henry?"

"No one could help," she replied, her tone unconsciously hardening.
"Henry is obstinate, and it is my firm conviction that he has ceased to
care for me at all. This afternoon--this very afternoon," she went on,
leaning across the table, her voice trembling a little, her eyes very
bright, "I offered to go away with him."

"To leave Monte Carlo?"

"Yes! He refused. He said that he must stay here, for some mysterious
reason. I begged him to tell me what that reason was, and he was silent.
It was the end. He gives me no confidence. He has refused the one effort
I made at reconciliation. I am convinced that it is useless. We have
parted finally."

Draconmeyer tried hard to keep the light from his eyes as he leaned
towards her.

"Dear lady," he said, "if I do not admit that I am sorry--well, there
are reasons. Your husband did well to be mysterious. I can tell you the
reason why he will not leave Monte Carlo. It is because Felicia Roche
makes her début at the Opera House to-morrow night. There! I didn't mean
to tell you but the whole world knows it. Even now I would not have told
you but for other things. It is best that you know the truth. It is my
firm belief that your husband does not deserve your interest, much more
your affection. If only I dared--"

He paused for a moment. Every word he was compelled to measure.

"Sometimes," he continued, "your condition reminds me so much of my own.
I think that there is no one so lonely in life as I am. For the last few
years Linda has been fading away, physically and mentally. I touch her
fingers at morning and night, we speak of the slight happenings of the
day. She has no longer any mind or any power of sympathy. Her lips are
as cold as her understanding. For that I know she is not to blame, yet
it has left me very lonely. If I had had a child," he went on, "even if
there were one single soul of whom I was fond, to whom I might look for
sympathy; even if you, my dear friend--you see, I am bold, and I venture
to call you my dear friend--could be a little kinder sometimes, it would
make all the difference in the world."

She turned her head and looked at him. His teeth came together hastily.
It seemed to him that already she was on her guard.

"You have something more to say, haven't you?" she asked.

He hesitated. Her tone was non-committal. It was a moment when he might
have risked everything, but he feared to make a mistake.

"This is what I mean," he declared, with the appearance of great
frankness. "I am going to speak to you upon the absurd question of
money. I have an income of which, even if I were boundlessly
extravagant, I could not hope to spend half. A speculation, the week
before I left England, brought me a profit of a million marks. But for
the banking interests of my country and the feeling that I am the
trustee for thousands of other people, it would weary me to look for
investments. And you--you came in to-night, looking worn out just
because you had lost a handful or so of those wretched plaques. There,
you see it is coming now. I should like permission to do more than call
myself your friend. I should like permission to be also your banker."

She looked at him quietly and searchingly. His heart began to beat
faster. At least she was in doubt. He had not wholly lost. His chance,
even, was good.

"My friend," she said, "I believe that you are honest. I do indeed
recognise your point of view. The thing is an absurdity, but, you know,
all conventions, even the most foolish, have some human and natural
right beneath them. I think that the convention which forbids a woman
accepting money from a man, however close a friend, is like that.
Frankly, my first impulse, a few minutes ago, was to ask you to lend me
a thousand pounds. Now I know that I cannot do it."

"Do you really mean that?" he asked, in a tone of deep disappointment.
"If you do, I am hurt. It proves that the friendship which to me is so
dear, is to you a very slight thing."

"You mustn't think that," she pleaded. "And please, Mr. Draconmeyer,
don't think that I don't appreciate all your kindness. Short of
accepting your money, I would do anything to prove it."

"There need be no question of a gift," he reminded her, in a low tone.
"If I were a perfect stranger, I might still be your banker. You must
have money from somewhere. Are you going to ask your husband?"

She bit her lip for a moment. If indeed he had known her actual
position, his hopes would have been higher still.

"I cannot possibly ask Henry for anything," she confessed. "I had made
up my mind to ask him to authorise the lawyers to advance me my next
quarter's allowance. After--what has passed between us, though,
and--considering everything, I don't feel that I can do it."

"Then may I ask how you really mean to get more money?" he went on
gently.

She looked at him a little piteously.

"Honestly, I don't know," she admitted. "I will be quite frank with you.
Henry allows me two thousand, five hundred a year. I brought nine
hundred pounds out with me, and I have nothing more to come until June."

"And how much have you left of the nine hundred pounds?" he asked.

"Not enough to pay my hotel bill," she groaned.

He smiled.

"Circumstances are too strong for you," he declared. "You must go to a
banker. I claim the right of being that banker. I shall draw up a
promissory note--no, we needn't do that--two or three cheques, perhaps,
dated June, August and October. I shall charge you five per cent.
interest and I shall lend you a thousand pounds."

Her eyes sparkled. The thought of the money was wonderful to her. A
thousand pounds in mille notes that very night! She thought it all over
rapidly. She would never run such risks again. She would play for small
amounts each day--just enough to amuse herself. Then, if she were lucky,
she would plunge, only she would choose the right moment. Very likely
she would be able to pay the whole amount back in a day or two. If Henry
minded, well, it was his own fault. He should have been different.

"You put it so kindly," she said gratefully, "that I am afraid I cannot
refuse. You are very, very considerate, Mr. Draconmeyer. It certainly
will be nicer to owe you the money than a stranger."

"I am only glad that you are going to be reasonable," he
remarked,--"glad, really, for both our sakes. And remember," he went on
cheerfully, "that one isn't young and at Monte Carlo too many times in
one's life. Make up your mind to enjoy yourself. If the luck goes
against you for a little longer, come again. You are bound to win in the
end. Now, if you like, we'll have our coffee outside. I'll go and fetch
the money and you shall make out your cheques."

He scribbled hastily on a piece of paper for a moment.

"These are the amounts," he pointed out. "I have charged you five per
cent. per annum interest. As I can deal with money at something under
four, I shall make quite a respectable profit--more than enough," he
added good-naturedly, "to pay for our dinner!"

She seemed suddenly years younger. The prospect of the evening before
her was enchanting.

"You really are delightful!" she exclaimed. "You can't think how
differently I shall feel when I go into the Club to-night. I am
perfectly certain that it's having plenty of money that helps one to
win."

He smiled.

"And plenty of courage," he added. "Don't waste your time trifling with
small stakes. Bid up for the big things. It is the only way in gambling
and in life."

He rose to his feet and their eyes met for a moment. Once more she felt
vaguely troubled. She put that disturbing thought away from her,
however. It was foolish to think of drawing back now. If he admired
her--well, so did most men!



CHAPTER XV

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS


The Villa Mimosa flamed with lights from the top story to the
ground-floor. The entrance gates stood wide-open. All along the drive,
lamps flashed from unsuspected places beneath the yellow-flowering
trees. One room only seemed shrouded in darkness and mystery, and around
that one room was concentrated the tense life of the villa. Thick
curtains had been drawn with careful hands. The heavy door had been
securely closed. The French-windows which led out on to the balcony had
been almost barricaded. The four men who were seated around the oval
table had certainly secured for themselves what seemed to be a complete
and absolute isolation. Yet there was, nevertheless, a sense of
uneasiness, an indescribable air of tension in the atmosphere. The
quartette had somehow the appearance of conspirators who had not settled
down to their work. It was the last arrival, the man who sat at Mr.
Grex's right hand, who was responsible for the general unrest.

Mr. Grex moved a little nervously in the chair which he had just drawn
up to the table. He looked towards Draconmeyer as he opened the
proceedings.

"Monsieur Douaille," he said, "has come to see us this evening at my own
urgent request. Before we commence any sort of discussion, he has asked
me to make it distinctly understood to you both--to you, Mr.
Draconmeyer, and to you, Herr Selingman--that this is not in any sense
of the word a formal meeting or convention. We are all here, as it
happens, by accident. Our friend Selingman, for instance, who is a past
master in the arts of pleasant living, has not missed a season here for
many years. Draconmeyer is also an habitué. I myself, it is true, have
spent my winters elsewhere, for various reasons, and am comparatively a
stranger, but my visit here was arranged many months ago. You yourself,
Monsieur Douaille, are a good Parisian, and no good Parisian should miss
his yearly pilgrimages to the Mecca of the pleasure-seeker. We meet
together this evening, therefore, purely as friends who have a common
interest at heart."

The man from whom this atmosphere of nervousness radiated--a man of
medium height, inclined towards corpulence, with small grey imperial, a
thin red ribbon in his buttonhole, and slightly prominent
features--promptly intervened. He had the air of a man wholly
ill-at-ease. All the time Mr. Grex had been speaking, he had been
drumming upon the table with his forefinger.

"Precisely! Precisely!" he exclaimed. "Above all things, that must be
understood. Ours is a chance meeting. My visit in these parts is in no
way connected with the correspondence I have had with one of our friends
here. Further," Monsieur Douaille continued impressively, "it must be
distinctly understood that any word I may be disposed to utter, either
in the way of statement or criticism, is wholly and entirely unofficial.
I do not even know what the subject of our discussion is to be. I
approach it with the more hesitation because I gather, from some slight
hint which has fallen from our friend here, that it deals with a scheme
which, if ever it should be carried into effect, is to the disadvantage
of a nation with whom we are at present on terms of the greatest
friendship. My presence here, except on the terms I have stated," he
concluded, his voice shaking a little, "would be an unpardonable offence
to that country."

Monsieur Douaille's somewhat laboured explanation did little to lighten
the atmosphere. It was the genius of Herr Selingman which intervened. He
leaned back in his chair and he patted his waistcoat thoughtfully.

"I have things to say," he declared, "but I cannot say them. I have
nothing to smoke--no cigarette, no cigar. I arrive here choked with
dust. As yet, the circumstance seems to have escaped our host's notice.
Ah! what is that I see?" he added, rising suddenly to his feet. "My
host, you are acquitted. I look around the table here at which I am
invited to seat myself, and I perceive nothing but a few stumpy pens and
unappetising blotting-paper. By chance I lift my eyes. I see the parting
of the curtains yonder, and behold!"

He rose and crossed the room, throwing back a curtain at the further
end. In the recess stood a sideboard, laden with all manner of liqueurs
and wines, glasses of every size and shape, sandwiches, pasties, and
fruit. Herr Selingman stood on one side with outstretched hand, in the
manner of a showman. He himself was wrapped for a moment in admiration.

"For you others I cannot speak," he observed, surveying the label upon a
bottle of hock. "For myself, here is nectar."

With careful fingers he drew the cork. At a murmured word of invitation
from Mr. Grex, the others rose from their places and also helped
themselves from the sideboard. Selingman took up his position in the
centre of the hearth-rug, with a long tumbler of yellow wine in one hand
and a sandwich in the other.

"For myself," he continued, taking a huge bite, "I wage war against all
formality. I have been through this sort of thing in Berlin. I have been
through it in Vienna, I have been through it in Rome. I have sat at long
tables with politicians, have drawn little pictures upon the
blotting-paper and been bored to death. In wearisome fashion we have
drafted agreements, we have quarrelled and bickered, we have yawned and
made of ourselves men of parchment. But to-night," he added, taking
another huge bite from his sandwich, "to-night nothing of that sort is
intended. Draconmeyer and I have an idea. Mr. Grex is favourably
inclined towards it. That idea isn't a bit of good to ourselves or any
one else unless Monsieur Douaille here shares our point of view. Here we
are, then, all met together--let us hope for a week or two's enjoyment.
Little by little we must try and see what we can do towards instilling
that idea into the mind of Monsieur Douaille. We may succeed, we may
fail, but let us always remember that our conversations are the
conversations of four friends, met together upon what is nothing more or
less than a holiday. I hate the sight of those sheets of blotting-paper
and clean pens. Who wants to make notes, especially of what we are going
to talk about! The man who cannot carry notes in his head is no
statesman."

Monsieur Douaille, who had chosen champagne and was smoking a cigarette,
beamed approval. Much of his nervousness had departed.

"I agree," he declared, "I like well the attitude of our friend
Selingman. There is something much too formal about this table. I am not
here to talk treaties or to upset them. To exchange views, if you
will--no more. Meanwhile, I appreciate this very excellent champagne,
the cigarettes are delicious, and I remove myself to this easy-chair. If
any one would talk world politics, I am ready. Why not? Why should we
pretend that there is any more interesting subject to men like
ourselves, in whom is placed the trust of our country?"

Mr. Grex nodded his head in assent.

"The fault is mine," he declared, "but, believe me, it was not
intentional. It was never my wish to give too formal an air to our
little meeting--in fact I never intended to do more than dwell on the
outside edge of great subjects to-night. Unfortunately, Monsieur
Douaille, neither you nor I, whatever our power or influence may be, are
directly responsible for the foreign affairs of our countries. We can,
therefore, speak with entire frankness. Our countries--your country and
mine--are to-day bound together by an alliance. You have something which
almost approaches an alliance with another country. I am going to tell
you in plain words what I think you have been given to understand
indirectly many times during the last few years--that understanding is
not approved of in St. Petersburg."

Monsieur Douaille knocked the ash from his cigarette. He gazed
thoughtfully into the fire of pine logs which was burning upon the open
hearth.

"Mr. Grex," he said, "that is plainer speaking than we have ever
received from any official source."

"I admit it," Mr. Grex replied. "Such a statement on my part may sound a
little startling, but I make it advisedly. I know the feeling--you will
grant that my position entitles me to know the feeling--of the men who
count for anything in Russian politics. Perhaps I do not mean the
titular heads of my Government. There are others who have even more
responsibilities, who count for more. I honestly and truthfully assure
you that I speak for the powers that are behind the Government of Russia
when I tell you that the English dream of a triple alliance between
Russia, England, and France will never be accepted by my country."

Monsieur Douaille sipped his champagne.

"This is candour," he remarked, "absolute candour. One speaks quite
plainly, I imagine, before our friend the enemy?" he added, smiling
towards Selingman.

"Why not?" Selingman demanded. "Why not, indeed? We are not fools here."

"Then I would ask you, Mr. Grex," Monsieur Douaille continued, "where in
the name of all that is equitable are you to find an alliance more
likely to preserve the status quo in Europe? Both logically and
geographically it absolutely dovetails. Russia is in a position to
absorb the whole attention of Austria and even to invade the north coast
of Germany. The hundred thousand troops or so upon which we could rely
from Great Britain, would be invaluable for many reasons--first, because
a mixture of blood is always good; secondly, because the regular army
which perforce they would have to send us, is of very fine fighting
material; and thirdly, because they could land, to give away a very open
secret to you, my friend Selingman, in a westerly position, and would
very likely succeed thereby in making an outflanking movement towards
the north. I presume that at present the German fleet would not come out
to battle, in which case the English would certainly be able to do great
execution upon the northern coast of Germany. All this, of course, has
been discussed and written about, and the next war been mapped out in a
dozen different ways. I must confess, however, that taking every known
consideration into account, I can find no other distribution of powers
so reasonable or so favourable to my country."

Mr. Grex nodded.

"I find no fault with any word of what you have said," he declared,
"except that yours is simply the superficial and obvious idea of the man
in the street as to the course of the next probable war. Now let us go a
little further. I grant all the points which you urge in favour of your
suggested triple alliance. I will even admit that your forecast of a war
taking place under such conditions, is a fairly faithful one. We
proceed, then. The war, if it came to pass, could never be decisive. An
immense amount of blood would be shed, treasure recklessly poured out,
Europe be rendered desolate, for the sake most largely of whom?--of
Japan and America. That is the weakness of the whole thing. A war
carried out on the lines you suggest would be playing the game of these
two countries. Even the victors would be placed at a huge disadvantage
with them, to say nothing of the losers, who must see slipping away from
them forever their place under the sun. It is my opinion--and I have
studied this matter most scientifically and with the help of the Secret
Service of every country, not excepting your own, Herr Selingman--it is
my opinion that this war must be indecisive. The German fleet would be
crippled and not destroyed. The English fleet would retain its
proportionate strength. No French advance into Germany would be
successful, no German advance into France is likely. The war would
languish for lack of funds, through sheer inanition it would flicker
out, and the money of the world would flow into the treasuries of
America. Russia would not be fighting for her living. With her it could
be at best but a half-hearted war. She would do her duty to the
alliance. Nothing more could be hoped from her. You could not expect,
for instance, that she would call up all her reserves, leave the whole
of her eastern frontier unprotected, and throw into mid-Europe such a
force as would in time subjugate Germany. This could be done but it will
not be done. We all know that."

Monsieur Douaille smoked thoughtfully for several moments.

"Very well," he pronounced at last, "I am rather inclined to agree with
all that you have said. Yet it seems to me that you evade the great
point. The status quo is what we desire, peace is what the world wants.
If, before such a war as you have spoken of is begun, people realise
what the end of it must be, don't you think that that itself is the
greatest help towards peace? My own opinion is, I tell you frankly, that
for many years to come, at any rate, there will be no war."

Herr Selingman set down his glass and turned slowly around.

"Then let me tell you that you are mistaken," he declared solemnly.
"Listen to me, my friend Douaille--my friend, mind, and not the
statesman Douaille. I am a German citizen and you are a French one, and
I tell you that if in three years' time your country does not make up
its mind to strike a blow for Alsace and Lorraine, then in three years'
time Germany will declare war upon you."

Monsieur Douaille had the expression of a man who doubts. Selingman
frowned. He was suddenly immensely serious. He struck the palm of one
hand a great blow with his clenched fist.

"Why is it that no one in the world understands," he cried, "what
Germany wants? I tell you, Monsieur Douaille, that we don't hate your
country. We love it. We crowd to Paris. We expand there. It is the
holiday place of every good German. Who wants a ruined France? Not we!
Yet, unless there is a change in the international situation, we shall
go to war with you and I will tell you why. There are no secrets about
this sort of thing. Every politician who is worth his salt knows them.
The only difficulty is to know when a country is in earnest, and how far
it will go. That is the value of our meeting. That is what I am here to
say. We shall go to war with you, Monsieur Douaille, to get Calais, and
when we've got Calais--oh, my God!" Selingman almost reverently
concluded, "then our solemn task will be begun."

"England!" Monsieur Douaille murmured.

There was a brief pause. Selingman had seemed, for a moment, to have
passed into the clouds. There was a sort of gloomy rapture upon his
face. He caught up Douaille's last word and repeated it.

"England! England, and through her...."

He moved to the sideboard and filled his tumbler with wine. When he came
back to his place, his expression had lightened.

"Ah, well! dear Monsieur Douaille," he exclaimed, patting the other's
shoulder in friendly fashion, "to-night we merely chatter. To-night we
are here to make friends, to gain each the confidence of the other. To
ourselves let us pretend that we are little boys, playing the game of
our nation--France, Germany, and Russia. Germany and Russia, to be frank
with you, are waiting for one last word from Germany's father, something
splendid and definite to offer. What we would like France to do, while
France loses its money at roulette and flirts with the pretty ladies at
Ciro's, is to try and accustom itself not to an alliance with
Germany--no! Nothing so utopian as that. The lion and the lamb may
remain apart. They may agree to be friends, they may even wave paws at
one another, but I do not suggest that they march side by side. What we
ask of France is that she looks the other way. It is very easy to look
the other way. She might look, for instance--towards Egypt."

[Illustration: "What we ask of France is that she looks the other way."]

There was a sudden glitter in the eyes of Monsieur Douaille. Selingman
saw it and pressed on.

"There are laurels to be won which will never fade," he continued,
setting down his empty tumbler, "laurels to be won by that statesman of
your country, the little boy France, who is big enough and strong enough
to stand with his feet upon the earth and proclaim--'I am for France and
my own people, and my own people only, and I will make them great
through all the centuries by seeing the truth and leading them towards
it, single-purposed, single-minded.' ... But these things are not to be
disposed of so readily as this wonderful Berncastler--I beg its pardon,
Berncastler Doctor--of our host. For to-night I have said my say. I have
whims, perhaps, but with me serious affairs are finished for the night.
I go to the Sporting Club. Mademoiselle keeps my place at the baccarat
table. I feel in the vein. It is a small place, Monte Carlo. Let us make
no appointments. We shall drift together. And, monsieur," he concluded,
laying his hand for a moment upon Douaille's shoulder, "let the thought
sink into your brain. Wipe out that geographical and logical map of
Europe from your mind; see things, if you can, in the new daylight.
Then, when the idea has been there for just a little time--well, we
speak again.... Come, Draconmeyer. I am relying upon your car to get me
into Monte Carlo. My bounteous host, Mr. Grex, good night! I touch your
hand with reverence. The man who possesses such wine and offers it to
his friends, is indeed a prince."

Mr. Grex rose a little unwillingly from his chair.

"It is of no use to protest," he remarked, smiling. "Our friend
Selingman will have his way. Besides, as he reminded us, there is one
last word to arrive. Come and breathe the odours of the Riviera,
Monsieur Douaille. This is when I realise that I am not at my villa on
the Black Sea."

They passed out into the hall and stood on the terrace while the cars
drew up. The light outside seemed faintly violet. The perfume of mimosa
and roses and oleander came to him in long waves, subtle and yet
invigorating. Below, the lights of Monte Carlo, clear and brilliant,
with no northern fog or mist to dull their radiance, shone like gems in
the mantle of night. Selingman sighed as he stepped into the automobile.

"We are men who deserve well from history," he declared, "who, in the
midst of a present so wonderful, can spare time to plan for the
generations to come!"



CHAPTER XVI

A BARGAIN WITH JEAN COULOIS


Selingman drew out his watch and held it underneath the electric light
set in the back of the automobile.

"Good!" he declared. "It is not yet half-past eleven."

"Too early for the Austria," Draconmeyer murmured, a little absently.

Selingman returned the watch to his pocket.

"By no means," he objected. "Mademoiselle is doubtless amusing herself
well enough, but if I go now and leave in an hour, she will be peevish.
She might want to accompany us. To-night it would not be convenient.
Tell your chauffeur, Draconmeyer, to take us direct to the rendezvous.
We can at least watch the people there. One is always amused. We will
forget our nervous friend. These little touches, Draconmeyer, my man,
they mark the man of genius, mind you. Did you notice how his eyes lit
up when I whispered that one word 'Egypt'? It is a great game when you
bait your hook with men and fish for empires!"

Draconmeyer gave an instruction to his chauffeur and leaned back.

"If we succeed,--" he began.

"Succeed?" Selingman interrupted. "Why, man alive, he is on our hooks
already! Be at rest, my friend. The affair is half arranged. It remains
only with us to deal with one man."

Draconmeyer's eyes sparkled beneath his spectacles. A slow smile crept
over his white face.

"You are right," he agreed. "That man is best out of the way. If he and
Douaille should meet--"

"They shall not meet," Selingman thundered. "I, Selingman, declare it.
We are here already. Good! The aspect of the place pleases me."

The two men, arriving so early, received the distinguished consideration
of a bowing maître d'hôtel as they entered the Austria. They were
ushered at once to a round table in a favourable position. Selingman
surrendered his hat and coat to the obsequious vestiaire, pulled down
his waistcoat with a familiar gesture, spread his pudgy hands upon the
table and looked around him with a smile of benevolent approval.

"I shall amuse myself here," he declared confidently. "Pass the menu to
me, Draconmeyer. You have no more idea how to eat than a rabbit. That is
why you suffer from indigestion. At this hour--why, it is not midnight
yet--one needs sustenance--sustenance, mark you, intelligently selected,
something nourishing yet not heavy. A sheet of paper, waiter. You see, I
like to write out my dishes. It saves trouble and there are no
disappointments, nothing is forgotten. As to the wine, show me the
vintage champagnes.... So! You need not hurry with the meal. We shall
spend some time here."

Draconmeyer arrested the much impressed maître d'hôtel as he was
hurrying away.

"Is there dancing here to-night?" he enquired.

"But certainly, monsieur," the man replied. "A Spanish lady, altogether
ravishing, the equal of Otéro at her best--Signorina Melita."

"She dances alone?"

"By no means. There is the young Frenchman, Jean Coulois, who is engaged
for the season. A wonderful pair, indeed! When May comes, they go to the
music-halls in Paris and London."

Draconmeyer nodded approval.

"Coulois was the name," he whispered to Selingman, as the man moved
away.

The place filled up slowly. Presently the supper was served. Selingman
ate with appetite, Draconmeyer only sparingly. The latter, however,
drank more freely than usual. The wine had, nevertheless, curiously
little effect upon him, save for a slight additional brightness of the
eyes. His cheeks remained pale, his manner distrait. He watched the
people enter and pass to their places, without any apparent interest.
Selingman, on the other hand, easily absorbed the spirit of his
surroundings. As the night wore on he drank healths with his neighbours,
beamed upon the pretty little Frenchwoman who was selling flowers, ate
and drank what was set before him with obvious enjoyment. Both men,
however, showed at least an equal interest when Mademoiselle Melita, in
Spanish costume, accompanied by a slim, dark-visaged man, began to
dance. Draconmeyer was no longer restless. He sat with folded arms,
watching the performance with a strangely absorbed air. One thing,
however, was singular. Although Selingman was confessedly a ladies' man,
his eyes, after her first few movements, scarcely rested for a moment
upon the girl. Both Draconmeyer and he watched her companion
steadfastly. When the dance was over they applauded with spirit.
Selingman sat up in his place, a champagne bottle in his hand. He
beckoned to the man, who, with a little deprecating shrug of the
shoulders, swaggered up to their table with some show of condescension.

"A chair for Monsieur Jean Coulois, the great dancer," Selingman
ordered, "a glass, and another bottle of wine. Monsieur Jean, my
congratulations! But a word in your ear. Her steps do not match yours.
It is you who make the dance. She has no initiative. She can do nothing
but imitate," he added.

The dancer looked at his host a little curiously. He was slightly built
and without an atom of colour. His black hair was closely cropped, his
eyes of sombre darkness, his demeanour almost sullen. At Selingman's
words, however, he nodded rapidly and seated himself more firmly upon
his chair. It was apparent that although his face remained
expressionless, he was gratified.

"They notice nothing, these others," he remarked, with a little wave of
the hand. "It is always the woman who counts. You are right, monsieur.
She dances like a stick. She has good calves and she rolls her eyes. The
_canaille_ applaud. It is always like that. Your health, monsieur!"

He drank his wine without apparent enjoyment, but he drank it like
water. Selingman leaned across the table.

"Coulois," he whispered, "the wolves bay loudest at night, is it not
so?"

The man sat quite still. If such a thing had been possible, he might
have grown a shade paler. His eyes glittered. He looked steadfastly at
Selingman.

"Who are you?" he muttered.

"The wolves sleep in the daytime," Selingman replied.

The dancer shrugged his shoulders. He held out his glass to be
replenished. The double password had reassured him.

"Pardon, monsieur," he said, "these have been anxious hours."

"The little affair at La Turbie?" Selingman suggested.

Coulois set down his glass for the first time half finished. His mouth
had taken an evil turn. He leaned across the table.

"See you," he exclaimed in a hoarse whisper, "what happened, happened
justly! Martin is responsible. The whole thing was conducted in the
spirit of a pantomime, a great joke. Who are we, the Wolves, to brandish
empty firearms, to shrink from letting a little blood! Bah!"

He finished his wine. Selingman nodded approvingly as he refilled his
glass.

"My friend and I," he confided, "were amongst those who were held up.
Imagine it! We stood against the wall like a row of dummies. Such
treasure as I have never before seen was poured into that sack. Jewels,
my friend, such as only the women of Monte Carlo wear! Packet after
packet of mille notes! Wealth immeasurable! Oh, Coulois, Coulois, it was
an opportunity lost!"

"Lost!" the dancer echoed fiercely. "It was thrown into the gutter! It
was madness! It was hellish, such ill-fortune! Yet what could I do? If I
had been absent from here--I, Coulois, whom men know of--even the police
would have had no excuse. So it was Martin who must lead. Our armoury
had never been fuller. There were revolvers for every one, ammunition
for a thousand.... Pardon, monsieur, but I cannot talk of this affair.
The anger rises so hot in my heart that I fear to betray myself to those
who may be listening. And besides, you have not come here to talk with
me of it."

"It is true," Selingman confessed.

There was a brief silence. The dancer was studying them both. There was
uneasiness in his expression.

"I do not understand," he enquired hoarsely, "how you came by the
passwords?"

"Make yourself wholly at ease, my young friend," Selingman begged him
reassuringly. "We are men of the world, my friend and I. We seek our own
ends in life and we have often to make use of the nearest and the best
means for the purpose of securing them. Martin has served me before. A
week ago I should have gone to him. To-night, as you know, he lies in
prison."

"Martin, indeed!" the dancer jeered. "You would have gone, then, to a
man of sawdust, a chicken-livered bungler! What is it that you want
done? Speak to me. I am a man."

The leader of the orchestra was essaying upon his violin the tentative
strains of a popular air. The girl had reappeared and was poising
herself upon her toes. The leader of the orchestra summoned Coulois.

"I must dance," he announced. "Afterwards I will return."

He leapt lightly to his feet and swung into the room with extended arms.
Draconmeyer looked down at his plate.

"It is a risk, this, we are running," he muttered. "I do not see,
Selingman, why you could not have hired this fellow through Allen or one
of the others."

Selingman shook his head.

"See here, Draconmeyer," he explained, "this is one of the cases where
agents are dangerous. For Allen to have been seen with Jean Coulois here
would have been the same as though I had been seen with him myself. I
cannot, alas! in this place, with my personality, keep my identity
concealed. They know that I am Selingman. They know well that wherever I
move, I have with me men of my Secret Service. I cannot use them against
Hunterleys. Too many are in the know. Here we are simply two visitors
who talk to a dancer. We depart. We do not see him again until
afterwards. Besides, this is where fate is with us. What more natural
than that the Wolves should revenge themselves upon the man who captured
one of their leaders? It was the young American, Richard Lane, who
really started the debacle, but it was Hunterleys who seized Martin.
What more natural than revenge? These fellows hang by one another
always."

Draconmeyer nodded with grim approval.

"It was devilish work he did in Sofia," he said softly. "But for him,
much of this would have been unnecessary."

The dance was over. Both men joined enthusiastically in the applause.
Coulois, with an insolent nod to his admirers, returned to his seat. He
threw himself back in his chair, crossed his legs and held out his empty
glass. Though he had been dancing furiously, there was not a single bead
of perspiration upon his forehead.

"You are in good condition, my friend," Selingman observed admiringly.

"I need to be for my work," Coulois replied. "Let us get to business.
There is no need to mince words. What do you want with me? Who is the
quarry?"

"The man who ruined your little affair at La Turbie and captured your
comrade Martin," Selingman whispered. "You see, you have every
provocation to start with."

Coulois' eyes glittered.

"He was an Englishman," he muttered.

"Quite true," Selingman assented. "His name is Hunterleys--Sir Henry
Hunterleys. He lives at the Hotel de Paris. His room is number 189. He
spends his time upon the Terrace, at the Café de Paris, and in the
Sporting Club. Every morning he goes to the English Bank for his
letters, deals with them in his room, calls at the post-office and takes
a walk, often up into the hills."

"Come, come, this is not so bad!" Coulois exclaimed. "They laugh at us
in the cafés and down in the wine shops of Monaco, those who know," he
went on, frowning. "They say that the Wolves have become sheep. We shall
see! It is an affair, this, worth considering. What do you pay, Monsieur
le Gros, and for how long do you wish him out of the way?"

"The pay," Selingman announced, "is two hundred louis, and the man must
be in hospital for at least a fortnight."

Draconmeyer leaned suddenly forward. His eyes were bright, his hands
gripped the table.

"Listen!" he whispered in Coulois' ear. "Are the Wolves sheep, indeed,
that they can do no more than twist ankles and break heads? That two
hundred shall be five hundred, Jean Coulois, but it must be a cemetery
to which they take him, and not a hospital!"

[Illustration: "That two hundred shall be five hundred, but it must be a
cemetery to which they take him!"]

There was a moment's silence. Selingman sat back in his place. He was
staring at his companion with wide-open eyes. Jean Coulois was
moistening his lips with his tongue, his eyes were brilliant.

"Five hundred louis!" he repeated under his breath.

"Is it not enough?" Draconmeyer asked coldly. "I do not believe in half
measures. The man who is wounded may be well before he is welcome. If
five hundred louis is not enough, name your price, but let there be no
doubt. Let me see what the Wolves can do when it is their leader who
handles the knife!"

The face of the dancer was curiously impassive. He lifted his glass and
drained it.

"An affair of death!" he exclaimed softly. "We Wolves--we bite, we
wound, we rob. But death--ugh! There are ugly things to be thought of."

"And pleasant ones," Draconmeyer reminded him. "Five hundred louis is
not enough. It shall be six hundred. A man may do much with six hundred
golden louis."

Selingman sat forward once more in his place.

"Look here," he intervened, "you go too far, my friend. You never spoke
to me of this. What have you against Hunterleys?"

"His nationality," Draconmeyer answered coolly. "I hate all Englishmen!"

The gaiety had left Selingman's face. He gazed at his companion with a
curious expression.

"My friend," he murmured, "I fear that you are vindictive."

"Perhaps," Draconmeyer replied quietly. "In these matters I like to be
on the safe side."

Jean Coulois struck the table lightly with his small, feminine hand. He
showed all his teeth as though he had been listening to an excellent
joke.

"It is to be done," he decided. "There is no more to be said."

Some visitors had taken the next table. Coulois drew his chair a little
closer to Draconmeyer.

"I accept the engagement," he continued. "We will talk no more. Monsieur
desires my address? It is here,"--scribbling on a piece of paper. "But
monsieur may be warned," he added, with a lightning-like flash in his
eyes as he became conscious of the observation of some passers-by. "I
will not dance in England. I will not leave Monte Carlo before May. Half
that sum--three hundred louis, mind--must come to me on trust; the other
three hundred afterwards. Never fear but that I will give satisfaction.
Keep your part of the bargain," he added, under his breath, "and the
Wolves' fangs are already in this man's throat."

He danced again. The two men watched him. Draconmeyer's face was as
still and colourless as ever. In Selingman's there was a shade of
something almost like repulsion. He poured himself out a glass of
champagne.

"Draconmeyer," he exclaimed, "you are a cold-blooded fish, indeed! You
can sit there without blinking and think of this thing which we have
done. Now as for me, I have a heart. I can never see the passing out of
the game of even a bitter opponent, without a shiver. Talk philosophy to
me, Draconmeyer. My nerves are shaken."

Draconmeyer turned his head. He, too, raised his wine to his lips and
drank deliberately.

"My friend," he said, "there is no philosophy save one. A child cries
for the star he may not have; the weak man comforts himself in privation
by repeating to himself the dry-as-dust axioms conceived in an alien
brain, and weaving from them the miserable comfort of empty words. The
man who knows life and has found wisdom, pays the price for the thing he
desires, and obtains it!"



CHAPTER XVII

DUTY INTERFERES AGAIN


Hunterleys sat that night alone in a seat at the Opera for a time and
lost himself in a maze of recollections. He seemed to find himself
growing younger as he listened to the music. The days of a more vivid
and ardent sentimentality seemed to reassert themselves. He thought of
the hours when he had sat side by side with his wife, the only woman to
whom he had ever given a thought; of the thrill which even the touch of
her fingers had given him, of the drive home together, the little
confidences and endearments, the glamour which seemed to have been
thrown over life before those unhappy misunderstandings. He remembered
so well the beginning of them all--the terrible pressure of work which
was thrown upon his shoulders, his engrossed days, his disturbed nights;
her patience at first, her subsequent petulance, her final anger. He was
engaged often in departmental work which he could not even explain. She
had taken up with unhappy facility the rôle of a neglected wife. She
declared that he had ceased to care for the lighter ways. There had
certainly been a time when her complaints had been apparently justified,
when the Opera had been banned, theatres were impossible, when she could
not even rely upon his escort to a dinner or to a reception. He had
argued with her very patiently at first but very unsuccessfully. It was
then that her friendship with Linda Draconmeyer had been so vigorously
renewed, a friendship which seemed from the first to have threatened his
happiness. Had it been his fault? he wondered. Had he really been too
much engrossed in his work? His country had made large demands upon him
in those days. Had he ever explained the matter fully and carefully
enough to her? Perhaps not. At any rate, he was the sufferer. He
realised more than ever, as the throbbing of the music stole into his
blood, the loneliness of his life. And yet it seemed so hopeless.
Supposing he threw up his work and let things take their course? The
bare thought chilled him. He recognised it as unworthy. The great song
of mortification from the broken hero rang in his ears. Must every woman
bring to every man the curse of Delilah!...

He passed out of the building into the cool, starlit night. People were
strolling about in evening clothes, hatless, the women in white opera
cloaks and filmy gowns, their silk-stockinged feet very much in
evidence, resembling almost some strange kind of tropical birds with
their little shrill laughter and graceful movements, as they made their
way towards the Club or round to the Rooms, or to one of the restaurants
for supper. Whilst Hunterleys hesitated, there was a touch upon his arm.
He glanced around.

"Hullo, David!" he exclaimed. "Were you waiting for me?"

The young man fell into step by his side.

"I have been to the hotel," he said, in a low tone. "They thought you
might be here. Can you come up later--say at one o'clock?"

"Certainly," Hunterleys answered. "Where's Sidney?"

"He's working now. He'll be home by half-past twelve unless anything
goes wrong. He thinks he'll have something to tell you."

"I'll come," Hunterleys agreed. "How's Felicia?"

"All right, but working herself to death," the young man replied. "She
is getting anxious, too. Give her a word of encouragement if you see her
to-night. She was hoping you might have been up to see her."

"I won't forget," Hunterleys promised.

The young man drifted silently away, and Hunterleys, after a moment's
hesitation and a glance at his watch, turned towards the Club. He
climbed the broad staircase, surrendered his hat and turned in at the
roulette room. The magic of the music was still in his veins, and he
looked around him almost eagerly. There was no sign of Violet. He
strolled into the baccarat room but she was not there. Perhaps she, too,
had been at the Opera. In the bar he found Richard Lane, sitting moodily
alone. The young man greeted him warmly.

"Come and have a drink, Sir Henry," he begged. "I've got the hump."

Hunterleys sat down by his side.

"Whiskey and apollinaris," he ordered. "What's the matter with you,
Richard?"

"She isn't here," the young man declared. "I've been to the Rooms and
she isn't there either."

"What about the Opera?" Hunterleys asked.

"I started at the Opera," Lane confessed, "took a box so as to be able
to see the whole house. I sat through the first act but there wasn't a
sign of her. Then I took a spin out and had another look at the villa.
It was all lit up as though there were a party. I very nearly marched
in."

"Just as well you didn't, I think," Hunterleys remarked, smiling. "I see
you're feeling just the same about it."

The young man did not even vouchsafe an answer.

"Then you're not going to take advantage of your little warning and
clear out?" Hunterleys continued.

"Don't you think I'm big enough to take care of myself?" Lane asked,
with a little laugh. "Besides, there's an American Consul here, and
plenty of English witnesses who saw the whole thing. Can't think why
they're trying on such a silly game."

"Mr. Grex may have influence," Hunterleys suggested.

"Who the mischief is my prospective father-in-law?" Richard demanded,
almost testily. "There's an atmosphere about that house and the servants
I can't understand a bit."

"You wouldn't," Hunterleys observed drily. "Well, in a day or two I'll
tell you who Mr. Grex is. I'd rather not to-night."

"By the way," Lane continued, "your wife was asking if you were here, a
few minutes ago."

Hunterleys rose quickly to his feet.

"Where is she?"

"She was at her usual place at the top roulette table, but she gave it
up just as I passed, said she was going to walk about," the young man
replied. "I don't think she has left yet."

Hunterleys excused himself hastily. In the little space between the
restaurant and the roulette rooms he came suddenly upon Violet. She was
leaning back in an obscure corner, with her hands clasped helplessly in
her lap before her. She was sitting quite still and his heart sank when
he saw her. The lines under her eyes were unmistakable now; her cheeks,
too, seemed to have grown hollow. Her first look at him almost made him
forget all their differences. There was something piteous in the tremble
of her lips. He drew a chair to her side.

"Richard told me that you wished to speak to me," he began, as lightly
as he could.

"I asked if he had seen you, a few minutes ago," she admitted. "I am
afraid that my interest was rather mercenary."

"You want to borrow some money?" he enquired, taking out his
pocket-book.

She looked at it, and though her eyes at first were listless, they still
seemed fascinated.

"I don't think I can play any more to-night," she sighed.

"You have been losing?"

"Yes!"

"Come and have something," he invited. "You look tired."

She rose willingly enough. They passed out, side by side, into the
little bar.

"Some champagne?" he suggested.

She shook her head quickly. The memory of the champagne at dinner-time
came back to her with a sudden sickening insistence. She thought of the
loan, she thought of Draconmeyer with a new uneasiness. It was as though
she had admitted some new complication into her life.

"Could I have some tea?" she begged.

He ordered some and sat with her while she drank it.

"You know," he declared, "if I might be permitted to say so, I think you
are taking the gaming here a little too seriously. If you have been
unlucky, it is very easy to arrange an advance for you. Would you like
some money? If so, I will see to it when I go to the bank to-morrow. I
can let you have a hundred pounds at once, if you like."

A hundred pounds! If only she dared tell him that she had lost a
thousand within the last two hours! Once more he was fingering his
pocket-book.

"Come," he went on pleasantly, "you had better have a hundred from me,
for luck."

He counted out the notes. Her fingers began to shake.

"I didn't mean to play any more to-night," she faltered, irresolutely.

"Nor should I," he agreed. "Take my advice, Violet, and go home now.
This will do for you to-morrow."

She took the money and dropped it into her jewelled bag.

"Very well," she said, "I won't play any more, but I don't want to go
home yet. It is early, and I can never sleep here if I go to bed. Sit
with me for half-an-hour, and then perhaps you could give me some
supper?"

He shook his head.

"I am so sorry," he answered, "but at one o'clock I have an
appointment."

"An appointment?"

"Such bad luck," he continued. "It would have given me very great
pleasure to have had supper with you, Violet."

"An appointment at one o'clock," she repeated slowly. "Isn't that just a
little--unusual?"

"Perhaps so," he assented. "I can assure you that I am very sorry."

She leaned suddenly towards him. The aloofness had gone from her manner.
The barrier seemed for a moment to have fallen down. Once more she was
the Violet he remembered. She smiled into his face, and smiled with her
eyes as well as her lips, just the smile he had been thinking of an hour
ago in the Opera House.

"Don't go, please," she begged. "I am feeling lonely to-night and I am
so tired of everybody and everything. Take me to supper at the Café de
Paris. Then, if you like, we might come back here for half-an-hour.
Or--"

She hesitated.

"I am horribly sorry," he declared, in a tone which was full of real
regret. "Indeed, Violet, I am. But I have an appointment which I must
keep, and I can't tell exactly how long it may take me."

The very fact that the nature of that appointment concerned things which
from the first he had made up his mind must be kept entirely secret,
stiffened his tone. Her manner changed instantly. She had drawn herself
a little away. She considered for a moment.

"Are you inclined to tell me with whom your appointment is, and for what
purpose?" she asked coldly. "I don't want to be exacting, but after the
request I have made, and your refusal--"

"I cannot tell you," he interrupted. "I can only ask you to take my word
for it that it is one which I must keep."

She rose suddenly to her feet.

"I forgot!" she exclaimed. "I haven't the slightest right to your
confidence. Besides, when I come to think of it, I don't believe that I
am hungry at all. I shall try my luck with your money?"

"Violet!--"

She swept away with a little farewell nod, half insolent, half angry.
Hunterleys watched her take her place at the table. For several moments
he stood by her side. She neither looked up nor addressed him. Then he
turned and left the place.



CHAPTER XVIII

A MIDNIGHT CONFERENCE


Hunterleys remained in the hotel only long enough to change his straw
hat for a cap, put on a long, light overcoat and take an ash stick from
his wardrobe. He left the place by an unfrequented entrance and
commenced at once to climb to the back part of the town. Once or twice
he paused and looked around, to be sure that he was not followed. When
he had arrived as far as the Hotel de Prince de Galles, he crossed the
road. From here he walked very quickly and took three turns in rapid
succession. Finally he pushed open a little gate and passed up a tiled
walk which led between a little border of rose trees to a small white
villa, covered with creepers. A slim, girlish figure came suddenly out
from the porch and danced towards him with outstretched hands.

"At last!" she exclaimed. "At last! Tell me, my co-guardian, how you are
going to excuse yourself?"

He took her outstretched hands and looked down into her face. She was
very small and dark, with lustrous brown eyes and a very sensitive
mouth, which just now was quivering with excitement.

"All the excuses have gone out of my head, Felicia," he declared. "You
look such a little elf in the moonlight that I can't do more than say
that I am sorry. But I have been busy."

She was suddenly serious. She clasped his arm with both her hands and
turned towards the house.

"Of course you have," she sighed. "It seems too bad, though, in Monte
Carlo. Sidney and David are like ghouls. I don't ask what it is all
about--I know better--but I wish it were all over, whatever it is."

"Is Sidney back?" Hunterleys asked eagerly.

She nodded.

"He came in half-an-hour ago, looking like a tramp. David is writing as
though he hadn't a moment to spare in life. They are both waiting for
you, I think."

"And you?" he enquired. "How do the rehearsals go?"

"The rehearsals are all right," she admitted, looking up at him almost
pathetically. "It's the night itself that seems so awful. I know every
word, I know every note, and yet I can't feel sure. I can't sleep for
thinking about it. Only last night I had a nightmare. I saw all those
rows and rows of faces, and the lights, and my voice went, my tongue was
dry and hard, not a word would come. And you were there--and the
others!"

He laughed at her.

"Little girl," he said solemnly, "I shall have to speak to Sidney. One
of those two young men must take you out for a day in the country
to-morrow."

"They seem so busy," she complained. "They don't seem to have time to
think of me. I suppose I had better let you go in. They'd be furious if
they thought I was keeping you."

They passed into the villa, and with a farewell pat of the hand
Hunterleys left her and opened a door on the left-hand side of the hall.
The young man who had met him coming out of the Opera was standing with
his hands in his pockets, upon the hearth-rug of an exceedingly
untidy-looking apartment. There was a table covered with papers, another
piled with newspapers. There were books upon the floor, pipes and
tobacco laid about haphazard. A space had been swept clear upon the
larger table for a typewriter, a telephone instrument stood against the
wall. A man whose likeness to Felicia was at once apparent, swung round
in his chair as Hunterleys entered. He had taken off his coat and
waistcoat and his trousers seemed smothered with dust.

"Regular newspaper correspondent's den," Hunterleys remarked, as he
looked around him. "I never saw such a mess in my life. I wonder Felicia
allows it."

"We don't let her come in," her brother chuckled. "Is the door closed?"

"Fast," Hunterleys replied, moving away from it.

"Things are moving," the other went on. "I took the small car out to-day
on the road to Cannes and I expect I was the first to see Douaille."

"I saw him myself," Hunterleys announced. "I was out on that road,
walking."

"Douaille," Roche continued, "went direct to the Villa Mimosa. Grex was
there, waiting for him. Draconmeyer and Selingman both kept out of the
way."

Hunterleys nodded.

"Reasonable enough, that. Grex was the man to pave the way. Well?"

"At ten o'clock, Draconmeyer and Selingman arrived. The Villa Mimosa
gets more difficult every day. I have only one friend in the house,
although it is filled with servants. Three-quarters of them only speak
Russian. My man's reliable but he is in a terrible minority. The
conference took place in the library. It lasted about an hour and a
half. Selingman and Draconmeyer came out looking fairly well satisfied.
Half-an-hour later Douaille went on to Mentone, to the Hotel Splendide,
where his wife and daughters are staying. No writing at all was done in
the room."

"The conference has really begun, then," Hunterleys observed moodily.

"Without a doubt," Roche declared. "I imagine, though, that the meeting
this evening was devoted to preliminaries. I am hoping next time," he
went on, "to be able to pass on a little of what is said."

"If we could only get the barest idea as to the nature of the
proposals," Hunterleys said earnestly. "Of course, one can surmise. Our
people are already warned as to the long conferences which have taken
place between Grex and Selingman. They mean something--there's no doubt
about that. And then this invitation to Douaille, and his coming here so
furtively. Everything points the same way, but a few spoken words are
better than all the surmises in the world. It isn't that they are
unreasonable at home, but they must be convinced."

"It's the devil's own risk," Roche sighed, "but I am hard at it. I was
about the place yesterday as much as I dared. My plans are all ready now
but things looked pretty awkward at the villa to-night. If they are
going to have the grounds patrolled by servants every time they meet,
I'm done. I've cut a pane of glass out of the dome over the library, and
I've got a window-cleaning apparatus round at the back, and a ladder.
The passage along the roof is quite easy and there's a good deal of
cover amongst the chimneys, but if they get a hint, it will be touch and
go."

Hunterleys nodded. He was busy now, going through the long sheets of
writing which the other young man had silently passed across to him. For
half-an-hour he read, making pencil notes now and then in the margin.
When at last he had finished, he returned them and, sitting down at the
table, drew a packet of press cable sheets towards him and wrote for
some time steadily. When he had finished, he read through the result of
his labours and leaned back thoughtfully in his chair.

"You will send this off from Cannes with your own, Briston?" he asked.

The young man assented.

"The car will be here at three," he announced. "They'll be on their way
by eight."

"Press message, mind, to the _Daily Post_. If the operator wants to know
what 'Number 1' means after '_Daily Post_,' you can tell him that it
simply indicates to which editorial room the message is to be
delivered."

"That's a clever idea," Roche mused. "Code dispatches to Downing Street
might cause a little comment."

"They wouldn't do from here," Hunterleys declared. "They might be safe
enough from Cannes but it's better to run no risks. These will be passed
on to Downing Street, unopened. Be careful to-morrow, Sidney."

"I can't see that they can do anything but throw me out, Sir Henry,"
Roche remarked. "I have my _Daily Post_ authority in my pocket, and my
passport. Besides, I got the man here to announce in the _Monte Carlo
News_ that I was the accredited correspondent for the district, and that
David Briston had been appointed by a syndicate of illustrated papers to
represent them out here. That's in case we get a chance of taking
photographs. I had some idea of going out to interview Monsieur
Douaille."

Hunterleys shook his head.

"I shouldn't. The man's as nervous as he can be now, I am pretty sure of
that. Don't do anything that might put him on his guard. Mind, for all
we know he may be an honest man. To listen to what these fellows have to
say doesn't mean that he's prepared to fall in with their schemes. By
the by, you've nothing about the place, I suppose, if you should be
raided?"

"Not a thing," was the confident reply. "We are two English newspaper
correspondents, and there isn't a thing to be found anywhere that's not
in keeping, except my rather large make-up outfit and my somewhat mixed
wardrobe. I am not the only newspaper correspondent who goes in for
that, though. Then there's Felicia. They all know who she is and they
all know that she's my sister. Anyhow, even if I do get into trouble up
at the Villa Mimosa, I can't see that I shall be looked upon as anything
more than a prying newspaper correspondent. They can't hang me for
that."

Hunterleys accepted a cigarette and lit it.

"I needn't tell you fellows," he said gravely, "that this place is a
little unlike any other in Europe. You may think you're safe enough, but
all the same I wouldn't trust a living soul. By-the-by, I saw Felicia as
I came in. You don't want her to break down, do you?"

"Good heavens, no!" her brother exclaimed.

"Break down?" David repeated. "Don't suggest such a thing!"

"It struck me that she was rather nervy," Hunterleys told them. "One of
you ought to look after her for an hour or two to-morrow."

"I can't spare a moment," her brother sighed.

"I'll take her out," Briston declared eagerly. "There's nothing for me
to do to-morrow till Sidney gets back."

"Well, between you, keep an eye on her," Hunterleys advised. "And,
Sidney, I don't want to make a coward of you, and you and I both know
that if there's danger ahead it's our job to face it, but have a care up
at the Villa Mimosa. I don't fancy the law of this Principality would
see you out of any trouble if they got an idea that you were an English
Secret Service man."

Roche laughed shortly.

"Exactly my own idea," he admitted. "However, we've got to see it
through. I sha'n't consider I've done my work unless I hear something of
what Grex and the others have to say to Douaille the next time they
meet."

Hunterleys found Felicia waiting for him outside. He shook his head
reproachfully.

"A future prima donna," he said, "should go to bed at ten o'clock."

She opened the door for him and walked down the path, her hands clasped
in his arm.

"A future prima donna," she retorted, "can't do always what she likes.
If I go to bed too early I cannot sleep. To-night I am excited and
nervous. There isn't anything likely to bring trouble upon--them, is
there?"

"Certainly not," he replied promptly. "Your brother is full of
enterprise, as you know. He runs a certain amount of risk in his
eagerness to acquire news, but I never knew a man so well able to take
care of himself."

"And--and Mr. Briston?"

"Oh, he's all right, anyway," Hunterleys assured her. "His is the
smaller part."

She breathed a little sigh of relief. They had reached the gate. She
still had something to say. Below them flared the lights of Monte Carlo.
She looked down at them almost wistfully.

"Very soon," she murmured, "I shall know my fate. Sir Henry," she added
suddenly, "did I see Lady Hunterleys to-day on the Terrace?"

"Lady Hunterleys is here," he replied.

"Am I--ought I to go and see her?" she enquired. "You see, you have done
so much for me, I should like to do what you thought best."

"Just as you like, child," he replied, a little carelessly.

She clung to his arm. She seemed unwilling to let him go.

"Dear co-guardian," she murmured, "to-night I felt for a little time so
happy, as though all the good things in life were close at hand. Then I
watched you come up, and your step seemed so heavy, and you stooped as
though you had a load on your shoulders."

He patted her hand.

"Little girl," he advised, "run away in and take care of your throat.
Remember that everything depends upon the next few hours. As for me,
perhaps I am getting a little old."

"Oh, la, la!" she laughed. "That's what Sidney says when I tease him. I
know I am only the mouse, but I could gnaw through very strong cords.
Look!"

Her teeth gleamed white in the moonlight. He swung open the gate.

"Sing your way into the hearts of all these strange people," he bade
her, smiling. "Sing the envy and malice away from them. Sing so that
they believe that England, after all, is the one desirable country."

"But I am going to sing in French," she pouted.

"Your name," he reminded her, "that is English. 'The little English
prima donna,' that is what they will be calling you."

She kissed his hands suddenly as he parted from her and swung off down
the hill. Then she stood at the gate, looking down at the glittering
lights. Would they shine as brightly for her, she wondered, in
twenty-four hours' time? It was so much to strive for, so much to lose,
so wonderfully much to gain. Slowly her eyes travelled upwards. The
symbolism of those higher lights calmed her fear. She drew a great sigh
of happiness.

"Felicia!"

She turned around with a soft little laugh.

"David!"



CHAPTER XIX

"TAKE ME AWAY!"


Richard presented himself the next morning at the Hotel de Paris.

"Cheero!" he exclaimed, on being shown into Hunterleys' sitting-room.
"All right up to date, I see."

Hunterleys nodded. He had just come in from the bank and held his
letters in his hand. Richard seated himself on the edge of the table.

"I slept out on the yacht last night," he said. "Got up at six o'clock
and had a swim. What about a round of golf at La Turbie? We can get down
again by luncheon-time, before the people are about."

"Afraid I can't," Hunterleys replied. "I have rather an important letter
to go through carefully, and a reply to think out."

"You're a queer chap, you know," Richard went on. "You always seem to
have something on but I'm hanged if I can see how you pass your time
here in Monte Carlo. This political business, even if you do have to put
in a bit of time at it now and then, can't be going on all the while.
Monte Carlo, too! So far as the women are concerned, they might as well
be off the face of the earth, and I don't think I've ever seen you make
a bet at the tables. How did your wife do last night? I thought she
seemed to be dropping it rather."

"I think that she lost," Hunterleys replied indifferently. "Her
gambling, however, is like mine, I imagine, on a fairly negligible
scale."

Richard whistled softly.

"Well, I don't know," he observed. "I saw her going for maximums
yesterday pretty steadily. A few thousands doesn't last very long at
that little game."

Hunterleys smiled.

"A few thousands!" he repeated. "I don't suppose Violet has ever lost or
won a hundred pounds in her life."

Richard abandoned the subject quickly. He was obliged to tell himself
that it was not his business to interfere between husband and wife.

"Say, Hunterleys," he suggested, "do you think I could do something for
the crowd on my little boat--a luncheon party or a cruise, eh?"

"I should think every one would enjoy it immensely," Hunterleys
answered.

"I can count on you, of course, if I arrange anything?"

"I am afraid not," Hunterleys regretted. "I am too much engrossed now to
make any arrangements."

"I'm hanged if you don't get more mysterious every moment!" Richard
exclaimed vigorously. "What's it all about? Can't you even be safe in
your room for five minutes without keeping one of those little articles
under your newspaper while you read your letters?" he added, lifting
with his stick the sheet which Hunterleys had hastily thrown over a
small revolver. "What's it all about, eh? Are you plotting to dethrone
the Prince of Monaco and take his place?"

"Not exactly that," Hunterleys replied, a little wearily. "Lane, old
fellow, you're much better off not to know too much. I have told you
that there's a kind of international conference going on about here and
I've sort of been pitchforked into the affair. Over in your country you
don't know much about this sort of thing, but since I've been out of
harness I've done a good deal of what really amounts to Secret Service
work. One must serve one's country somehow or other, you know, if one
gets the chance."

Richard was impressed.

"Gee!" he exclaimed. "The sort of thing that one reads about, eh, and
only half believes. Who's the French Johnny who arrived last night?"

"Douaille. He's the coming President, they say. I'm thinking of paying
him a visit of ceremony this afternoon."

There was a knock at the door. A waiter entered with a note upon a
salver.

"From Madame, monsieur," he announced, presenting it to Hunterleys.

The latter tore it open and read the few lines hastily:

     _Dear Henry_,

     If you could spare a few minutes, I should be glad if you would
     come round to my apartment.

     Yours,
     VIOLET.

Hunterleys twisted the note up in his fingers.

"Tell Lady Hunterleys that I will be round in a few moments," he
instructed the servant.

Richard took up his stick and hat.

"If you have an opportunity," he said, "ask Lady Hunterleys what she
thinks about a little party on the yacht. If one could get the proper
people together--"

"I'll tell her," Hunterleys promised. "You'd better wait till I get
back."

He made his way to the other wing of the hotel. For the first time since
he had been staying there, he knocked at the door of his wife's
apartments. Her maid admitted him with a smile. He found Violet sitting
in the little salon before a writing-table. The apartment was
luxuriously furnished and filled with roses. Somehow or other, their
odour irritated him. She rose from her place and hastened towards him.

"How nice of you to come so promptly!" she exclaimed. "You're sure it
didn't inconvenience you?"

"Not in the least," he replied. "I was only talking to Richard Lane."

"You seem to have taken a great fancy to that young man all at once,"
she remarked.

Hunterleys was sitting upon the arm of an easy-chair. He had picked up
one of Violet's slippers and was balancing it in his hand.

"Oh, I don't know. He is rather refreshing after some of these people.
He still has enthusiasms, and his love affair is quite a poem. Aren't
you up rather early this morning?"

"I couldn't sleep," she sighed. "I think it has come to me in the night
that I am sick of this place. I wondered--"

She hesitated. He bent the slipper slowly back, waiting for her to
proceed.

"The Draconmeyers don't want to go," she went on. "They are here for
another month, at least. Linda would miss me terribly, I suppose, but I
have really given her a lot of my time. I have spent several hours with
her every day since we arrived, and I don't know what it is--perhaps my
bad luck, for one thing--but I have suddenly taken a dislike to the
place. I wondered--"

She had picked up one of the roses from a vase close at hand, and was
twirling it between her fingers. For some reason or other she seemed ill
at ease. Hunterleys watched her silently. She was very pale, but since
his coming a slight tinge of pink colour had stolen into her cheeks. She
had received him in a very fascinating garment of blue silk, which was
really only a dressing-gown. It seemed to him a long time since he had
seen her in so intimate a fashion.

"I wondered," she concluded at last, almost abruptly, "whether you would
care to take me away."

He was, for a moment, bereft of words. Somehow or other, he had been so
certain that she had sent to him to ask for more money, that he had
never even considered any other eventuality.

"Take you away," he repeated. "Do you really mean take you back to
London, Violet?"

"Just anywhere you like," she replied. "I am sick of this place and of
everything. I am weary to death of trying to keep Linda cheerful--you
don't realise how depressing it is to be with her; and--and every one
seems to have got a little on my nerves. Mr. Draconmeyer," she added, a
little defiantly, raising her eyes to his, "has been most kind and
delightful, but--somehow I want to get away."

He sat down on the edge of a couch. She seated herself at the further
end of it.

"Violet," he said, "you have taken me rather by surprise."

"Well, you don't mind being taken by surprise once in a while, do you?"
she asked, a little petulantly. "You know I am capricious--you have told
me so often enough. Here is a proof of it. Take me back to London or to
Paris, or wherever you like."

He was almost overwhelmed. It was unfortunate that she had chosen that
moment to look away and could not see, therefore, the light which glowed
in his eyes.

"Violet," he assured her earnestly, "there is nothing in the world I
should like so much. I would beg you to have your trunks packed this
morning, but unfortunately I cannot leave Monte Carlo just now."

"Cannot leave Monte Carlo?" she repeated derisively. "Why, my dear man,
you are a fish out of water here! You don't gamble, you do nothing but
moon about and go to the Opera and worry about your silly politics. What
on earth do you mean when you say that you cannot leave Monte Carlo?"

"I mean just what I say," he replied. "I cannot leave Monte Carlo for
several days, at any rate."

She looked at him blankly, a little incredulously.

"You have talked like this before, Henry," she said, "and it is all too
absurd. You must tell me the truth now. You can have no business here.
You are travelling for pleasure. You can surely leave a place or not at
your own will?"

"It happens," he sighed, "that I cannot. Will you please be very kind,
Violet, and not ask me too much about this? If there is anything else I
can do," he went on, hesitatingly, "if you will give me a little more of
your time, if you will wait with me for a few days longer--"

"Can't you understand," she interrupted impatiently, "that it is just
this very moment, this instant, that I want to get away? Something has
gone wrong. I want to leave Monte Carlo. I am not sure that I ever want
to see it again. And I want you to take me.... Please!"

She held out her hands, swaying a little towards him. He gripped them in
his. She yielded to their pressure until their lips almost met.

"You'll take me away this morning?" she whispered.

"I cannot do that," he replied, "but, Violet--"

She snatched herself away from him. An ungovernable fit of fury seemed
to have seized her. She stood in the centre of the room and stamped her
foot.

"You cannot!" she repeated. "And you will not give me a reason? Very
well, I have done my best, I have made my appeal. I will stay in Monte
Carlo, then. I will--"

There was a knock at the door.

"Come in," she cried. "Who is it?"

The door was softly opened. Draconmeyer stood upon the threshold. He
looked from one to the other in some surprise.

"I am sorry," he murmured. "Please excuse me."

"Come in, Mr. Draconmeyer," she called out to his retreating figure.
"Come in, please. How is Linda this morning?"

Draconmeyer smiled a little ruefully as he returned.

"Complaining," he replied, "as usual. I am afraid that she has had
rather a bad night. She is going to try and sleep for an hour or two. I
came to see if you felt disposed for a motor ride this morning?"

"I should love it," she assented. "I should like to start as soon as
possible. Henry was just going, weren't you?" she added, turning to her
husband.

He stood his ground.

"There was something else I wished to say," he declared, glancing at
Draconmeyer.

The latter moved at once towards the door but Violet stopped him.

"Not now," she begged. "If there is really anything else, Henry, you can
send up a note, or I dare say we shall meet at the Club to-night. Now,
please, both of you go away. I must change my clothes for motoring. In
half an hour, Mr. Draconmeyer."

"The car will be ready," he answered.

Hunterleys hesitated. He looked for a moment at Violet. She returned his
glance of appeal with a hard, fixed stare. Then she turned away.

"Susanne," she called to her maid, who was in the inner room, "I am
dressing at once. I will show you what to put out."

She disappeared, closing the connecting door behind her. The two men
walked out to the lift in silence. Draconmeyer rang the bell.

"You are not leaving Monte Carlo at present, then, Sir Henry?" he
remarked.

"Not at present," Hunterleys replied calmly.

They parted without further speech. Hunterleys returned to his room,
where Richard was still waiting.

"Say, have you got a valet here with you?" the young man enquired.

Hunterleys shook his head.

"Never possessed such a luxury in my life," he declared.

"Chap came in here directly you were gone--mumbled something about doing
something for you. I didn't altogether like the look of him, so I sat on
the table and watched. He hung around for a moment, and then, when he
saw that I was sticking it out, he went off."

"Was he wearing the hotel livery?" Hunterleys asked quickly.

"Plain black clothes," Richard replied. "He looked the valet, right
enough."

Hunterleys rang the bell. It was answered by a servant in grey livery.

"Are you the valet on this floor?" Hunterleys enquired.

"Yes, sir!"

"There was a man in here just now, said he was my valet or something of
the sort, hung around for a minute or two and then went away. Who was
he?"

The servant shook his head. He was apparently a German, and stupid.

"There are no valets on this floor except myself," he declared.

"Then who could this person have been?" Hunterleys demanded.

"A tailor, perhaps," the man suggested, "but he would not come unless
you had ordered him. I have been on duty all the time. I have seen no
one about."

"Very well," Hunterleys said, "I'll report the matter in the office."

"Some hotel thief, I suppose," Lane remarked, as soon as the door was
closed. "He didn't look like it exactly, though."

Hunterleys frowned.

"Not much here to satisfy any one's curiosity," he observed. "Just as
well you were in the room, though."

"Surrounded by mysteries, aren't you, old chap?" Richard yawned,
lighting a cigarette.

"I don't know exactly about that," Hunterleys replied, "but I'll tell
you one thing, Lane. There are things going on in Monte Carlo at the
present moment which would bring out the black headlines on the
halfpenny papers if they had an inkling of them. There are people here
who are trying to draw up a new map of Europe, a new map of the world."

Richard shook his head.

"I can't get interested in anything, Hunterleys," he declared. "You
could tell me the most amazing things in the world and they'd pass in at
one ear and out at the other. Kind of a blithering idiot, eh? You know
what I did last night after dinner. If you'll believe me, when I got to
the villa, I found the place patrolled as though they were afraid of
dynamiters. I skulked round to the back, got on the beach, and climbed a
little way up towards the rock garden. I hid there and waited to see if
she'd come out on the terrace. She never came, but I caught a glimpse of
her passing from one room to another, and I tell you I'm such a poor
sort of an idiot that I felt repaid for waiting there all that time. I
shall go there again to-night. The boys wanted me to dine--Eddy
Lanchester and Montressor and that lot--a jolly party, too. I sha'n't do
it. I shall have a mouthful alone somewhere and spend the rest of the
evening on those rocks. Something's got to come of this, Hunterleys."

"Let's go into the lounge for a few moments," Hunterleys suggested. "I
may as well hear all about it."

They made their way downstairs, and sat there talking, or rather
Hunterleys listened while Richard talked. Then Draconmeyer strolled
across the hall and waited by the lift. Presently he returned with
Violet by his side, followed by her maid, carrying rugs. As they
approached, Hunterleys rose slowly to his feet. Violet was looking up
into her companion's face, talking and laughing. She either did not see
Hunterleys, or affected not to. He stood, for a moment, irresolute.
Then, as she passed, she glanced at him quite blankly and waved her hand
to Richard. The two disappeared. Hunterleys resumed his seat. He had,
somehow or other, the depressing feeling of a man who has lost a great
opportunity.

"Lady Hunterleys looks well this morning," Lane remarked, absolutely
unconscious of anything unusual.

Hunterleys watched the car drive off before he answered.

"She looks very well," he assented gloomily.



CHAPTER XX

WILY MR. DRACONMEYER


They had skirted the wonderful bay and climbed the mountainous hill to
the frontier before Violet spoke. All the time Draconmeyer leaned back
by her side, perfectly content. A man of varied subtleties, he
understood and fully appreciated the intrinsic value of silence. Whilst
the Customs officer, however, was making out the deposit note for the
car, she turned to him.

"Will you tell me something, Mr. Draconmeyer?"

"Of course!"

"It is about my husband," she went on. "Henry isn't your friend--you
dislike one another, I know. You men seem to have a sort of freemasonry
which compels you to tell falsehoods about one another, but in this case
I am going to remind you that I have the greater claim, and I am going
to ask you for the sober truth. Henry has once or twice, during the last
few days, hinted to me that his presence in Monte Carlo just now has
some sort of political significance. He is very vague about it all, but
he evidently wants me to believe that he is staying here against his own
inclinations. Now I want to ask you a plain question. Is it likely that
he could have any business whatever to transact for the Government in
Monte Carlo? What I mean is, could there possibly be anything to keep
him in this place which for political reasons he couldn't tell me
about?"

"I can answer your question finally so far as regards any Government
business," Mr. Draconmeyer assured her. "Your husband's Party is in
Opposition. As a keen politician, he would not be likely to interest
himself in the work of his rival."

"You are quite sure," she persisted, "you are quite sure that he could
not have a mission of any sort?--that there isn't any meeting of
diplomatists here in which he might be interested?"

Mr. Draconmeyer smiled with the air of one listening to a child's
prattle.

"If I were not sure that you are in earnest--!" he began. "However, I
will just answer your question. Nothing of the sort is possible.
Besides, people don't come to Monte Carlo for serious affairs, you
know."

Her face hardened a little.

"I suppose," she said, "that you are quite sure of what you told me the
other evening about this young singer--Felicia Roche?"

"I should not allude to a matter of that sort," he declared, "unless I
had satisfied myself as to the facts. It is true that I owe nothing to
your husband and everything to you, or I should have probably remained
silent. As it is, all that I know is at your service. Felicia Roche is
to make her début at the Opera House to-night. Your husband has been
seen with her repeatedly. He was at her villa at one o'clock this
morning. I have heard it said that he is a little infatuated."

"Thank you," she murmured, "that is quite enough."

The formalities were concluded and the car drove on. They paused at the
last turn to gaze downward at the wonderful view--the gorgeous Bay of
Mentone, a thousand feet below, with its wealth of mimosa-embosomed
villas; Monte Carlo glittering on the sea-board; the sweep of Monaco,
red-roofed, picturesque. And behind, the mountains, further away still,
the dim, snow-capped heights. Violet looked, as she was bidden, but her
eyes seemed incapable of appreciation. When the car moved on, she leaned
back in her seat and dropped her veil. She was paler even than when they
had started.

"I am going to talk to you very little," he said gravely. "I want you
just to rest and breathe this wonderful air. If my reply to your
question troubles you, I am sorry, but you had to know it some day. It
is a wrench, of course, but you must have guessed it. Your husband is a
man of peculiar temperament, but no man could have refused such an offer
as you made him, unless there had been some special reason for it--no
man in the world."

There was a little tremble in his tone, artistic and not overdone.
Somehow, she felt that his admiration ministered to her self-respect.
She permitted his hand to remain upon hers. The touch of her fingers
very nearly brought the torrent from his lips. He crushed the words
down, however. It was too great a risk. Very soon things would be
different; he could afford to wait.

They drove on to San Remo and turned into the hotel.

"You are better away from Monte Carlo for a few hours," he decided. "We
will lunch here and drive back afterwards. You will feel greatly
refreshed."

She accepted his suggestion without enthusiasm and with very little show
of pleasure. They found a table on the terrace in a retired corner,
surrounded with flowering cactus plants and drooping mimosa, and
overhung by a giant oleander tree. He talked to her easily but in
gossiping fashion only, and always with the greatest respect. It was not
until the arrival of their coffee that he ventured to become at all
personal.

"Will you forgive me if I talk without reserve for a few moments?" he
began, leaning a little towards her. "You have your troubles, I know.
May I not remind you that you are not alone in your sorrows? Linda, as
you know, has no companionship whatever to offer. She does nothing but
indulge in fretful regrets over her broken health. When I remember, too,
how lonely your days are, and think of your husband and what he might
make of them, then I cannot help realising with absolute vividness the
supreme irony of fate. Here am I, craving for nothing so much on earth
as the sympathy, the affection of--shall I say such a woman as you? And
your husband, who might have the best, remains utterly indifferent,
content with something far below the second best. And there is so much
in life, too," he went on, regretfully. "I cannot tell you how difficult
it is for me to sit still and see you worried about such a trifle as
money. Fancy the joy of giving you money!"

She awoke a little from her lethargy. She looked at him, startled.

"You haven't told me yet," he added, "how the game went last night?"

"I lost every penny of that thousand pounds," she declared. "That is why
I sent for my husband this morning and asked him to take me back to
England. I am getting afraid of the place. My luck seems to have gone
for ever."

He laughed softly.

"That doesn't sound like you," he observed. "Besides, what does it
matter? Write me out some more cheques when we get back. Date them this
year or next, or the year after--it really doesn't matter a bit. My
fortune is at your disposal. If it amuses you to lose a thousand pounds
in the afternoon, and twice as much at night, pray do."

She laughed at him. There was a certain glamour about his words which
appealed to her fancy.

"Why, you talk like a prince," she murmured, "and yet you know how
impossible it is."

"Is it?" he asked quietly.

She rose abruptly from her place. There was something wrong--she felt it
in the atmosphere--something that was almost choking her.

"Let us go back," she insisted.

He ordered the car without another word and they started off homewards.
It was not until they were nearing Monte Carlo that he spoke of anything
save the slightest topics.

"You must have a little more money," he told her, in a matter-of-fact
tone. "That is a necessity. There is no need to worry your husband. I
shall go and bring you a thousand pounds. You can give me the cheques
later."

She sat looking steadfastly ahead of her. She seemed to see her numbers
spread out before her, to hear the click of the ball, the croupier's
voice, the thrill of victory.

"I have taken more money from you than I meant to, already, Mr.
Draconmeyer," she protested. "Does Linda know how much you have lent
me?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"What is the use of telling her? She does not understand. She has never
felt the gambling fever, the joy of it, the excitement. She would not be
strong enough. You and I understand. I have felt it in the money-markets
of the world, where one plays with millions, where a mistake might mean
ruin. That is why the tables seem dull for me, but all the same it comes
home to me."

She felt the fierce stimulus of anxious thought. She knew very well that
notwithstanding his quiet manner, she had reason to fear the man who sat
by her side. She feared his self-restraint, she feared the light which
sometimes gleamed in his eyes when he fancied himself unobserved. He
gave her no cause for complaint. All the time his behaviour had been
irreproachable. And yet she felt, somehow or other, like a bird who is
being hunted by a trapper, a trapper who knows his business, who goes
about it with quiet confidence, with absolute certainty. There was
something like despair in her heart.

"Well, I suppose I shall have to stay here," she said, "and I can't stay
here without playing. I will take a thousand more, if you will lend it
to me."

"You shall have it directly we get to the hotel," he told her. "Don't
hurry with the cheques, and don't date them too soon. Remember that you
must have something to live on when you get back."

"I am going to win," she declared confidently. "I am going to win enough
to pay you back every penny."

"I won't say that I hope not," he observed, "for your sake, but it will
certainly give me no pleasure to have the money back again. You are such
a wonderful person," he added, dropping his voice, "that I rather like
to feel that I can be a little useful to you."

They had neared the end of their journey and Mr. Draconmeyer touched her
arm. A faint smile was playing about his lips. Certainly the fates were
befriending him! He said nothing, but her eyes followed the slight
motion of his head. Coming down the steps from Ciro's were her husband
and Felicia Roche. Violet looked at them for a moment. Then she turned
her head away.

"Most inopportune," she sighed, with a little attempt at gaiety. "Shall
we meet later at the Club?"

"Assuredly," Mr. Draconmeyer replied. "I will send the money to your
room."

"Thank you once more," she said, "and thank you, too, for my drive. I
have enjoyed it very much. I am very glad indeed that I had the courage
to make you tell me the truth."

"I hope," he whispered, as he handed her out, "that you will never lack
the courage to ask me anything."



CHAPTER XXI

ASSASSINATION!


Selingman, a large cigar between his lips and a happy smile upon his
face, stood in the square before the Casino, watching the pigeons. He
had just enjoyed an excellent lunch, he was exceedingly pleased with a
new light grey suit which he was wearing, and his one unsatisfied desire
was for companionship. Draconmeyer was away motoring with Lady
Hunterleys, Mr. Grex was spending the early part of the day in conclave
with their visitor from France, and Mademoiselle Nipon had gone to Nice
for the day. Selingman had been left to his own devices and was
beginning to find time hang upon his hands. Conversation and
companionship were almost as great necessities with him as wine. He
beamed upon the pigeons and looked around at the people dotted about in
chairs outside the Café de Paris, hoping to find an acquaintance. It
chanced, however, that he saw nothing but strangers. Then his eyes fell
upon a man who was seated with folded arms a short distance away, a man
of respectable but somewhat gloomy appearance, dressed in dark clothes,
with pale cheeks and cavernous eyes. Selingman strolled towards him.

"How go things, friend Allen?" he enquired, dropping his voice a little.

The man glanced uneasily around. There was, however, no one in his
immediate vicinity.

"Badly," he admitted.

"Still no success, eh?" Selingman asked, drawing up a chair and seating
himself.

"The man is secretive by nature," was the gloomy reply. "One would
imagine that he knew he was being watched. Everything which he receives
in the way of a written communication is at once torn up. He is the most
difficult order of person to deal with--he is methodical. He has only
the hotel valet to look after his things but everything is always in its
place. Yesterday I went through his waste-paper basket. I took home the
contents but the pieces were no larger than sixpences. I was able to put
together one envelope which he received yesterday morning, which was
franked 'On His Majesty's Service,' and the post-mark of which was
Downing Street."

Selingman shook his head ponderously and then replied seriously:

"You must do better than that, my Sherlock Holmes--much better."

"I can't make bricks without straw," Allen retorted sullenly.

"There is always straw if one looks in the right place," Selingman
insisted, puffing away at his cigar. "What we want to discover is,
exactly how much does Hunterleys know of certain operations of ours
which are going on here? He is on the watch--that I am sure of. There is
one known agent in the place, and another suspected one, and I am pretty
certain that they are both working at his instigation. What we want to
get hold of is one of his letters to London."

"I have been in and out of his rooms at all hours," the other said. "I
have gone into the matter thoroughly, so thoroughly that I have taken a
situation with a firm of English tailors here, and I am supposed to go
out and tout for orders. That gives me a free entrée to the hotel. I
have even had a commission from Sir Henry himself. He gave me a coat to
get some buttons sewn on. I am practically free of his room but what's
the good? He doesn't even lead the Monte Carlo life. He doesn't give one
a chance of getting at him through a third person. No notes from ladies,
no flower or jewelry bills, not the shadow of an assignation. The only
photograph upon his table is a photograph of Lady Hunterleys."

"Better not tell our friend Draconmeyer that," Selingman observed,
smiling to himself. "Well, well, you can do nothing but persevere,
Allen. We are not niggardly masters. If a man fails through no fault of
his own, well, we don't throw him into the street. Nothing parsimonious
about us. No need for you to sit about with a face as long as a fiddle
because you can't succeed all at once. We are the people to kick at it,
not you. Drink a little more wine, my friend. Give yourself a liqueur
after luncheon. Stick a cigar in your mouth and go and sit in the
sunshine. Make friends with some of the ladies. Remember, the sun will
still shine and the music play in fifty years' time, but not for you.
Come and see me when you want some more money."

"You are very kind, sir," the man replied. "I am going across to the
hotel now. Sir Henry has been about there most of the morning but he has
just gone in to Ciro's to lunch, so I shall have at least half-an-hour."

"Good luck to you!" Selingman exclaimed heartily. "Who knows but that
the big things may come, even this afternoon? Cheer up, and try and make
yourself believe that a letter may be lying on the table, a letter he
forgot to post, or one sent round from the bank since he left. I am
hopeful for you this afternoon, Allen. I believe you are going to do
well. Come up and see me afterwards, if you will. I am going to my hotel
to lie down for half-an-hour. I am not really tired but I have no friend
here to talk with or anything to do, and it is a wise economy of the
human frame. To-night, mademoiselle will have returned. Just now every
one has deserted me. I will rest until six o'clock. Au revoir, friend
Allen! Au revoir!"

Selingman climbed the hill and entered the hotel where he was staying.
He mounted to his room, took off his coat, at which he glanced
admiringly for a moment and then hung up behind the door. Finally he
pulled down the blinds and lay down to rest. Very soon he was asleep....

The drowsy afternoon wore on. Through the open windows came the sound of
carriages driven along the dusty way, the shouts of the coachmen to
their horses, the jingling of bells, the hooting of motor horns. A lime
tree, whose leaves were stirred by the languorous breeze, kept tapping
against the window. From a further distance came the faint, muffled
voices of promenaders, and the echo of the guns from the Tir du Pigeons.
But through it all, Selingman, lying on his back and snoring loudly,
slept. He was awakened at last by the feeling that some one had entered
the room. He sat up and blinked.

"Hullo!" he exclaimed.

A man in the weird disguise of a motor-cyclist was standing at the foot
of the bed. Selingman continued to blink. He was not wholly awake and
his visitor's appearance was unpleasant.

"Who the devil are you?" he enquired.

The visitor took off his disfiguring spectacles.

"Jean Coulois--behold!" was the soft reply.

Selingman raised himself and slid off the bed. It had seemed rather like
a dream. He was wide-awake now, however.

"What do you want?" he asked. "What are you here for?"

Jean Coulois said nothing. Then very slowly from the inside pocket of
his coat he drew a newspaper parcel. It was long and narrow, and in
places there was a stain upon the paper. Selingman stared at it and
stared back at Jean Coulois.

"What the mischief have you got there?" he demanded.

Coulois touched the parcel with his yellow forefinger. Selingman saw
then that the stains were of blood.

"Give me a towel," his visitor directed. "I do not want this upon my
clothes."

Selingman took a towel from the stand and threw it across the room.

"You mean," he asked, dropping his voice a little, "that it is
finished?"

"A quarter of an hour ago," Jean Coulois answered triumphantly. "He had
just come in from luncheon and was sitting at his writing-table. It was
cleverly done--wonderfully. It was all over in a moment--not a cry. You
came to the right place, indeed! And now I go to the country," Coulois
continued. "I have a motor-bicycle outside. I make my way up into the
hills to bury this little memento. There is a farmhouse up in the
mountains, a lonely spot enough, and a girl there who says what I tell
her. It may be as well to be able to say that I have been there for
déjeuner. These little things, monsieur--ah, well! we who understand
think of them. And since I am here," he added, holding out his hand--

Selingman nodded and took out his pocket-book. He counted out the notes
in silence and passed them over. The assassin dropped them into his
pocket.

"Au revoir, Monsieur le Gros!" he exclaimed, waving his hand. "We meet
to-night, I trust. I will show you a new dance--the Dance of Death, I
shall call it. I seem calm, but I am on fire with excitement. To-night I
shall dance as though quicksilver were in my feet. You must not miss it.
You must come, monsieur."

He closed the door behind him and swaggered off down the passage.
Selingman stood, for a moment, perfectly still. It was a strange thing,
but two big tears were in his eyes. Then he heaved a great sigh and
shook his head.

"It is part of the game," he said softly to himself, "all part of the
game."



CHAPTER XXII

THE WRONG MAN


Selingman came out into the sunlit streets very much as a man who leaves
a dark and shrouded room. The shock of tragedy was still upon him. There
was a little choke in his throat as he mingled with the careless,
pleasure-loving throng, mostly wending their way now towards the Rooms
or the Terrace. As he crossed the square towards the Hotel de Paris, his
steps grew slower and slower. He looked at the building half-fearfully.
Beautifully dressed women, men of every nationality, were passing in and
out all the time. The commissionaire, with his little group of
satellites, stood sunning himself on the lowest step, a splendid,
complacent figure. There was no sign there of the horror that was hidden
within. Even while he looked up at the windows he felt a hand upon his
arm. Draconmeyer had caught him up and had fallen into step with him.

"Well, dear philosopher," he exclaimed, "why this subdued aspect? Has
your solitary day depressed you?"

Selingman turned slowly around. Draconmeyer's eyes beneath his
gold-rimmed spectacles were bright. He was carrying himself with less
than his usual stoop, he wore a red carnation in his buttonhole. He was
in spirits which for him were almost boisterous.

"Have you been in there?" Selingman asked, in a low tone.

Draconmeyer glanced at the hotel and back again at his companion.

"In where?" he demanded. "In the hotel? I left Lady Hunterleys there a
short time ago. I have been up to the bank since."

"You don't know yet, then?"

"Know what?"

There was a momentary silence. Draconmeyer suddenly gripped his
companion by the arm.

"Go on," he insisted. "Tell me?"

"It's all over!" Selingman exclaimed hoarsely. "Jean Coulois came to me
a quarter of an hour ago. It is finished. Damnation, Draconmeyer, let go
my arm!"

Draconmeyer withdrew his fingers. There was no longer any stoop about
him at all. He stood tall and straight, his lips parted, his face turned
upwards, upwards as though he would gaze over the roof of the hotel
before which they were standing, up to the skies.

"My God, Selingman!" he cried. "My God!"

The seconds passed. Then Draconmeyer suddenly took his companion by the
arm.

"Come," he said, "let us take that first seat in the gardens there. Let
us talk. Somehow or other, although I half counted upon this, I scarcely
believed.... Let us sit down. Do you think it is known yet?"

"Very likely not," Selingman answered, as they crossed the road and
entered the gardens. "Coulois found him in his rooms, seated at the
writing-table. It was all over, he declares, in ten seconds. He came to
me--with the knife. He was on his way to the mountains to hide it."

They found a seat under a drooping lime tree. They could still see the
hotel and the level stretch of road that led past the post-office and
the Club to Monaco. Draconmeyer sat with his eyes fixed upon the hotel,
through which streams of people were still passing. One of the
under-managers was welcoming the newcomers from a recently arrived
train.

"You are right," he murmured. "Nothing is known yet. Very likely
they will not know until the valet goes to lay out his clothes for
dinner.... Dead!"

Selingman, with one hand gripping the iron arm of the seat, watched his
companion's face with a sort of fascinated curiosity. There were beads
of perspiration upon Draconmeyer's forehead, but his expression, in its
way, was curious. There was no horror in his face, no fear, no shadow of
remorse. Some wholly different sentiment seemed to have transformed the
man. He was younger, more virile. He seemed as though he could scarcely
sit still.

"My friend," Selingman said, "I know that you are one of our children,
that you are one of those who have seen the truth and worked steadfastly
for the great cause with the heart of a patriot and the unswerving
fidelity of a strong man. But tell me the honest truth. There is
something else in your life--you have some other feeling about this man
Hunterleys' death?"

Draconmeyer removed his eyes from the front of the hotel and turned
slowly towards his companion. There was a transfiguring smile upon his
lips. Again he gave Selingman the impression of complete rejuvenation,
of an elderly man suddenly transformed into something young and
vigorous.

"There is something else, Selingman," he confessed. "This is the moment
when I dare speak of it. I will tell you first of any living person.
There is a woman over there whom I have set up as an idol, and before
whose shrine I have worshipped. There is a woman over there who has
turned the dull paths of my life into a flowery way. I am a patriot, and
I have worked for my country, Selingman, as you have worked. But I have
worked, also, that I might taste for once before I die the great
passion. Don't stare at me, man! Remember I am not like you. You can
laugh your way through the world, with a kiss here and a bow there, a
ribbon to your lips at night, thrown to the winds in the morning. I
haven't that sort of philosophy. Love doesn't come to me like that. It's
set in my heart amongst the great things. It's set there side by side
with the greatest of all."

"His wife!" Selingman muttered.

"Are you so colossal a fool as only to have guessed it at this moment?"
Draconmeyer continued contemptuously. "If he hadn't blundered across our
path here, if he hadn't been my political enemy, I should still some day
have taken him by the throat and killed him. You don't know what risks I
have been running," he went on, with a sudden hoarseness. "In her heart
she half loves him still. If he hadn't been a fool, a prejudiced,
over-conscientious, stiff-necked fool, I should have lost her within the
last twenty-four hours. I have had to fight and scheme as I have never
fought and schemed before, to keep them apart. I have had to pick my way
through shoals innumerable, hold myself down when I have been burning to
grip her by the wrists and tell her that all that a man could offer a
woman was hers. Selingman, this sounds like nonsense, I suppose."

"No," Selingman murmured, "not nonsense, but it doesn't sound like
Draconmeyer."

"Well, it's finished," Draconmeyer declared, with a great sigh of
content. "You know now. I enter upon the final stage. I had only one
fear. Jean Coulois has settled that for me. I wonder whether they know.
It seems peaceful enough. No! Look over there," he added, gripping his
companion's arm. "Peter, the concierge, is whispering with the others.
That is one of the managers there, out on the pavement, talking to
them."

Selingman pointed down the road towards Monaco.

"See!" he exclaimed. "There is a motor-car coming in a hurry. I fancy
that the alarm must have been given."

A grey, heavily-built car came along at a great pace and swung round in
front of the Hotel de Paris. The two men stood on the pavement and
watched. A tall, official-looking person, with black, upturned
moustache, in somber uniform and a peaked cap, descended.

"The Commissioner of Police," Selingman whispered, "and that is a doctor
who has just gone in. He has been found!"

They crossed the road to the hotel. The concierge removed his hat as
they turned to enter. To all appearances he was unchanged--fat, florid,
splendid. Draconmeyer stepped close to him.

"Has anything happened here, Peter?" he asked. "I saw the Commissioner
of Police arrive in a great hurry."

The man hesitated. It was obvious then that he was disturbed. He looked
to the right and to the left. Finally, with a sigh of resignation, he
seemed to make up his mind to tell the truth.

"It is the English gentleman, Sir Henry Hunterleys," he whispered. "He
has been found stabbed to death in his room."

"Dead?" Draconmeyer demanded, insistently.

"Stone dead, sir," the concierge replied. "He was stabbed by some one
who stole in through the bathroom--they say that he couldn't ever have
moved again. The Commissioner of Police is upstairs. The ambulance is
round at the back to take him off to the Mortuary."

Selingman suddenly seized the man by the arm. His eyes were fixed upon
the topmost step. Violet stood there, smiling down upon them. She was
wearing a black and white gown, and a black hat with white ospreys. It
was the hour of five o'clock tea and many people were passing in and
out. She came gracefully down the steps. The two men remained
speechless.

"I have been waiting for you, Mr. Draconmeyer," she remarked, smiling.

Draconmeyer remembered suddenly the packet of notes which he had been to
fetch from the bank. He tried to speak but only faltered. Selingman had
removed his hat but he, too, seemed incapable of coherent speech. She
looked at them both, astonished.

"Whatever is the matter with you both?" she exclaimed. "Who is coming
with me to the Club? I decided to come this way round to see if I could
change my luck. That underground passage depresses me."

Draconmeyer moved up a couple of steps. He was quite himself now, grave
but solicitous.

"Lady Hunterleys," he said, "I am sorry, but there has been a little
accident. I am afraid that your husband has been hurt. If you will come
back to your room for a minute I will tell you about it."

All the colour died slowly from her face. She swayed a little, but when
Draconmeyer would have supported her she pushed him away.

"An accident?" she muttered. "I must go and see for myself."

She turned and re-entered the hotel swiftly. Draconmeyer caught her up
in the hall.

"Lady Hunterleys," he begged earnestly, "please take my advice. I am
your friend, you know. I want you to go straight to your room. I will
come with you. I will explain to you then--"

"I am going to Henry," she interrupted, without even a glance towards
him. "I am going to my husband at once. I must see what has happened."

She rang the bell for the lift, which appeared almost immediately.
Draconmeyer stepped in with her.

"Lady Hunterleys," he persisted, "I beg of you to do as I ask. Let me
take you to your rooms. I will tell you all that has happened. Your
husband will not be able to see you or speak with you."

"I shall not get out," she declared, when the lift boy, in obedience to
Draconmeyer's imperative order, stopped at her floor. "If I may not go
on in the lift, I shall walk up the stairs. I am going to my husband."

"He will not recognise you," Draconmeyer warned her. "I am very sorry
indeed, Lady Hunterleys--I would spare you this shock if I could--but
you must be prepared for very serious things."

They had reached the next floor now. The boy opened the gate of the lift
and she stepped out. She looked pitifully at Draconmeyer.

"You aren't going to tell me that he is dead?" she moaned.

"I am afraid he is," Draconmeyer assented.

She staggered across the landing, pushing him away from her. There were
four or five people standing outside the door of Hunterleys' apartment.
She appealed to them.

"Let me go in at once," she ordered. "I am Lady Hunterleys."

"The door is locked," one of the men declared.

"Let me go in," she insisted.

She pushed them on one side and hammered at the door. They could hear
voices inside. In a moment it was opened. It was the Commissioner of the
Police who stood there--tall, severe, official.

"Madame?" he exclaimed.

"I am his wife!" she cried. "Let me in--let me in at once!"

She forced her way into the room. Something was lying on the bed,
covered with a sheet. She looked at it and shrieked.

"Madame," the Commissioner begged, "pray compose yourself. A tragedy has
happened in this room--but we are not sure. Can you be brave, madame?"

"I can," she answered. "Of what are you not sure?"

The Commissioner turned down the sheet a few inches. A man's face was
visible, a ghastly sight. She looked at it and shrieked hysterically.

"Is that your husband, madame?" the Commissioner asked quickly.

"Thank God, no!" she cried. "You are sure this is the man?" she went on,
her voice shaking with fierce excitement. "There is no one else--hurt?
No one else stabbed? This is the man they told me was my husband?"

"He was found there, sitting at your husband's table, madame," the
Commissioner of Police assured her. "There is no one else."

She suddenly began to cry.

"It isn't Henry!" she sobbed, groping her way from the room. "Take me
downstairs, please, some one."



CHAPTER XXIII

TROUBLE BREWING


The maître d'hôtel had presented his bill. The little luncheon party was
almost over.

"So I take leave," Hunterleys remarked, as he sat down his empty liqueur
glass, "of one of my responsibilities in life."

"I think I'd like to remain a sort of half ward, please," Felicia
objected, "in case David doesn't treat me properly."

"If he doesn't," Hunterleys declared, "he will have me to answer to.
Seriously, I think you young people are very wise and very foolish and
very much to be envied. What does Sidney say about it?"

Felicia made a little grimace. She glanced around but the tables near
them were unoccupied.

"Sidney is much too engrossed in his mysterious work to concern himself
very much about anything," she replied. "Do you know that he has been
out all night two nights this week already, and he is making no end of
preparations for to-day?"

Hunterleys nodded.

"I know that he is very busy just now," he assented gravely. "I must
come up and talk to him this afternoon."

"We left him writing," Felicia said. "Of course, he declares that it is
for his beloved newspaper, but I am not sure. He scarcely ever goes out
in the daytime. What can he have to write about? David's work is
strenuous enough, and I have told him that if he turns war correspondent
again, I shall break it off."

"We all have our work to do in life," Hunterleys reminded her. "You have
to sing in _Aïda_ to-night, and you have to do yourself justice for the
sake of a great many people. Your brother has his work to do, also.
Whatever the nature of it may be, he has taken it up and he must go
through with it. It would be of no use his worrying for fear that you
should forget your words or your notes to-night, and there is no purpose
in your fretting because there may be danger in what he has to do. I
promise you that so far as I can prevent it, he shall take no
unnecessary risks. Now, if you like, I will walk home with you young
people, if I sha'n't be terribly in the way. I know that Sidney wants to
see me."

They left the restaurant, a few minutes later, and strolled up towards
the town. Hunterleys paused outside a jeweler's shop.

"And now for the important business of the day!" he declared. "I must
buy you an engagement present, on behalf of myself and all your
guardians. Come in and help me choose, both of you. A girl who carries
her gloves in her hand to show her engagement ring, should have a better
bag to hang from that little finger."

"You really are the most perfect person that ever breathed!" she sighed.
"You know I don't deserve anything of the sort."

They paid their visit to the jeweler and afterwards drove up to the
villa in a little victoria. Sidney Roche was hard at work in his
shirt-sleeves. He greeted Hunterleys warmly.

"Glad you've come up!" he exclaimed. "The little girl's told you the
news, I suppose?"

"Rather!" Hunterleys replied. "I have been lunching with them on the
strength of it."

"And look!" Felicia cried, holding out the gold bag which hung from her
finger. "Look how I am being spoiled."

Her brother sighed.

"Awful nuisance for me," he grumbled, "having to live with an engaged
couple. You couldn't clear out for a little time," he suggested, "both
of you? I want to talk to Hunterleys."

"We'll go and sit in the garden," Felicia assented. "I suppose I ought
to rest. David shall read my score to me."

They passed out and Roche closed the door behind them carefully.

"Anything fresh?" Hunterleys asked.

"Nothing particular," was the somewhat guarded reply. "That fellow
Frenhofer has been up here."

"Frenhofer?" Hunterleys repeated, interrogatively.

"He is the only man I can rely upon at the Villa Mimosa," Roche
explained. "I am afraid to-night it's going to be rather a difficult
job."

"I always feared it would be," Hunterleys agreed.

"Frenhofer tells me," Roche continued, "that for some reason or other
their suspicions have been aroused up there. They are all on edge. You
know, the house is cram-full of men-servants and there are to be a dozen
of them on duty in the grounds. Two or three of these fellows are
nothing more or less than private detectives, and they all of them know
what they're about or Grex wouldn't have them."

Hunterleys looked grave.

"It sounds awkward," he admitted.

"The general idea of the plot," Roche went on, walking restlessly up and
down the room, "you and I have already solved, and by this time they
know it in London. But there are two things which I feel they may
discuss to-night, which are of vital importance. The first is the date,
the second is the terms of the offer to Douaille. Then, of course, more
important, perhaps, than either of these, is the matter of Douaille's
general attitude towards the scheme."

"So far," Hunterleys remarked reflectively, "we haven't the slightest
indication of what that may be. Douaille came pledged to nothing. He
may, after all, stand firm."

"For the honour of his country, let us hope so," Roche said solemnly.
"Yet I am sure of one thing. They are going to make him a wonderful
offer. He may find himself confronted with a problem which some of the
greatest statesmen in the world have had to face in their time--shall he
study the material benefit of his country, or shall he stand firm for
her honour?"

"It's a great ethical question," Hunterleys declared, "too great for us
to discuss now, Sidney. Tell me, do you really mean to go on with this
attempt of yours to-night?"

"I must," Roche replied. "Frenhofer wants me to give up the roof idea,
but there is nothing else worth trying. He brought a fresh plan of the
room with him. There it lies on the table. As you see, the apartment
where the meeting will take place is almost isolated from the rest of
the house. There is only one approach to it, by a corridor leading from
the hall. The east and west sides will be patrolled. On the south there
is a little terrace, but the approach to it is absolutely impossible.
There is a sheer drop of fifty feet on to the beach."

"You think they have no suspicion about the roof?" Hunterleys asked
doubtfully.

"Not yet. The pane of glass is cut out and my entrance to the house is
arranged for. Frenhofer will tamper with the electric lights in the
kitchen premises and I shall arrive in response to his telephonic
message, in the clothes of a working-man and with a bag of tools. Then
he smuggles me on to the spiral stairway which leads out on to the roof
where the flag-staff is. I can crawl the rest of the way to my place.
The trouble is that notwithstanding the ledge around, if it is a
perfectly clear night, just a fraction of my body, however flat I lie,
might be seen from the ground."

Hunterleys studied the plan for a moment and shook his head.

"It's a terrible risk, this, Roche," he said seriously.

"I know it," the other admitted, "but what am I to do? They keep sending
me cipher messages from home to spare no effort to send further news, as
you know very well, and two other fellows will be here the day after
to-morrow, to relieve me. I must do what I can. There's one thing,
Felicia's off my mind now. Briston's a good fellow and he'll look after
her."

"In the event of your capture--" Hunterleys began.

"The tools I shall take with me," Roche interrupted, "are common
housebreaker's tools. Every shred of clothing I shall be wearing will be
in keeping, the ordinary garments of an _ouvrier_ of the district. If I
am trapped, it will be as a burglar and not as a spy. Of course, if
Douaille opens the proceedings by declaring himself against the scheme,
I shall make myself scarce as quickly as I can."

"You were quite right when you said just now," Hunterleys observed,
"that Douaille will find himself in a difficult position. There is no
doubt but that he is an honest man. On the other hand, it is a political
axiom that the first duty of any statesman is to his own people. If they
can make Douaille believe that he is going to restore her lost provinces
to France without the shedding of a drop of French blood, simply at
England's expense, he will be confronted with a problem over which any
man might hesitate. He has had all day to think it over. What he may
decide is simply on the knees of the gods."

Roche sealed up the letter he had been writing, and handed it to
Hunterleys.

"Well," he said, "I have left everything in order. If there's any
mysterious disappearance from here, it will be the mysterious
disappearance of a newspaper correspondent, and nothing else."

"Good luck, then, old chap!" Hunterleys wished him. "If you pull through
this time, I think our job will be done. I'll tell them at headquarters
that you deserve a year's holiday."

Roche smiled a little queerly.

"Don't forget," he pointed out, "that it was you who scented out the
whole plot. I've simply done the Scotland Yard work. The worst of our
job is," he added, as he opened the door, "that we don't want holidays.
We are like drugged beings. The thing gets hold of us. I suppose if they
gave me a holiday I should spend it in St. Petersburg. That's where we
ought to send our best men just now. So long, Sir Henry."

They shook hands once more. Roche's face was set in grim lines. They
were both silent for a moment. It was the farewell of men whose eyes are
fixed upon the great things.

"Good luck to you!" Hunterleys repeated fervently, as he turned and
walked down the tiled way.



CHAPTER XXIV

HUNTERLEYS SCENTS MURDER


The concierge of the Hotel de Paris was a man of great stature and
imposing appearance. Nevertheless, when Hunterleys crossed the road and
climbed the steps to the hotel, he seemed for a moment like a man
reduced to pulp. He absolutely forgot his usual dignified but courteous
greeting. With mouth a little open and knees which seemed to have
collapsed, he stared at this unexpected apparition as he came into sight
and stared at him as he entered the hotel. Hunterleys glanced behind
with a slight frown. The incident, inexplicable though it was, would
have passed at once from his memory, but that directly he entered the
hotel he was conscious of the very similar behaviour and attitude
towards him of the chief reception clerk. He paused on his way, a little
bewildered, and called the man to him. The clerk, however, was already
rushing towards the office with his coat-tails flying behind him.
Hunterleys crossed the floor and rang the bell for the lift. Directly he
stepped in, the lift man vacated his place, and with his eyes nearly
starting out of his head, seemed about to make a rush for his life.

"Come back here," Hunterleys ordered sternly. "Take me up to my room at
once."

The man returned unsteadily and with marked reluctance. He closed the
gate, touched the handle and the lift commenced to ascend.

"What's the matter with you all here?" Hunterleys demanded, irritably.
"Is there anything wrong with my appearance? Has anything happened?"

The man made a gesture but said absolutely nothing. The lift had
stopped. He pushed open the door.

"Monsieur's floor," he faltered.

Hunterleys stepped out and made his way towards his room. Arrived there,
he was brought to a sudden standstill. A gendarme was stationed outside.

"What the mischief are you doing here?" Hunterleys demanded.

The man saluted.

"By orders of the Director of Police, monsieur."

"But that is my room," Hunterleys protested. "I wish to enter."

"No one is permitted to enter, monsieur," the man replied.

Hunterleys stared blankly at the gendarme.

"Can't you tell me at least what has happened?" he persisted. "I am Sir
Henry Hunterleys. That is my apartment. Why do I find it locked against
me?"

"By order of the Director of the Police, monsieur," was the parrot-like
reply.

Hunterleys turned away impatiently. At that moment the reception clerk
who downstairs had fled at his approach, returned, bringing with him the
manager of the hotel. Hunterleys welcomed the latter with an air of
relief.

"Monsieur Picard," he exclaimed, "what on earth is the meaning of this?
Why do I find my room closed and this gendarme outside?"

Monsieur Picard was a tall man, black-bearded, immaculate in appearance
and deportment, with manners and voice of velvet. Yet he, too, had lost
his wonderful imperturbability. He waved away the floor waiter, who had
drawn near. His manner was almost agitated.

"Monsieur Sir Henry," he explained, "an affair the most regrettable has
happened in your room. I have allotted to you another apartment upon the
same floor. Your things have been removed there. If you will come with
me I will show it to you. It is an apartment better by far than the one
you have been occupying, and the price is the same."

"But what on earth has happened in my room?" Hunterleys demanded.

"Monsieur," the hotel manager replied, "some poor demented creature who
has doubtless lost his all, in your absence found his way there and
committed suicide."

"Found his way into my room?" Hunterleys repeated. "But I locked the
door before I went out. I have the key in my pocket."

"He entered possibly through the bathroom," the manager went on,
soothingly. "I am deeply grieved that monsieur should be inconvenienced
in any way. This is the apartment I have reserved for monsieur," he
added, throwing open the door of a room at the end of the corridor. "It
is more spacious and in every way more desirable. Monsieur's clothes are
already being put away."

Hunterleys glanced around the apartment. It was certainly of a far
better type than the one he had been occupying, and two of the floor
valets were already busy with his clothes.

"Monsieur will be well satisfied here, I am sure," the hotel manager
continued. "May I be permitted to offer my felicitations and to assure
you of my immense relief. There was a rumour--the affair occurring in
monsieur's apartment--that the unfortunate man was yourself, Sir Henry."

Hunterleys was thoughtful for a moment. He began to understand the
sensation which his appearance had caused. Other ideas, too, were
crowding into his brain.

"Look here, Monsieur Picard," he said, "of course, I have no objection
to the change of rooms--that's all right--but I should like to know a
little more about the man who you say committed suicide in my apartment.
I should like to see him."

Monsieur Picard shook his head.

"It would be a very difficult matter, that, monsieur," he declared. "The
laws of Monaco are stringent in such affairs."

"That is all very well," Hunterleys protested, "but I cannot understand
what he was doing in my apartment. Can't I go in just for a moment?"

"Impossible, monsieur! Without the permission of the Commissioner of
Police no one can enter that room."

"Then I should like," Hunterleys persisted, "to see the Commissioner of
Police."

Monsieur Picard bowed.

"Monsieur the Commissioner is on the premises, without a doubt. I will
instruct him of Monsieur Sir Henry's desire."

"I shall be glad if you will do so at once," Hunterleys said firmly. "I
will wait for him here."

The manager made his escape and his relief was obvious. Hunterleys sat
on the edge of the bed.

"Do you know anything about this affair?" he asked the nearer of the two
valets.

The man shook his head.

"Nothing at all, monsieur," he answered, without pausing from his
labours.

"How did the fellow get into my room?"

"One knows nothing," the other man muttered.

Hunterleys watched them for a few minutes at their labours.

"A nice, intelligent couple of fellows you are," he remarked pleasantly.
"Come, here's a louis each. Now can't you tell me something about the
affair?"

They came forward. Both looked longingly at the coins.

"Monsieur," the one he had first addressed regretted, "there is indeed
nothing to be known. At this hotel the wages are good. It is the finest
situation a man may gain in Monte Carlo or elsewhere, but if anything
like this happens, there is to be silence. One dares not break the
rule."

Hunterleys shrugged his shoulders.

"All right," he said. "I shall find out what I want to know, in time."

The men returned unwillingly to their tasks. In a moment or two there
was a knock at the door. The Commissioner of Police entered, accompanied
by the hotel manager, who at once introduced him.

"The Commissioner of Police is here, Sir Henry," he announced. "He will
speak with you immediately."

The official saluted.

"Monsieur desires some information?"

"I do," Hunterleys admitted. "I am told that a man has committed suicide
in my room, and I have heard no plausible explanation as to how he got
there. I want to see him. It is possible that I may recognise him."

"The fellow is already identified," the Director of Police declared. "I
can satisfy monsieur's curiosity. He was connected with a firm of
English tailors here, who sought business from the gentlemen in the
hotel. He had accordingly sometimes the entrée to their apartments. The
fellow is reported to have saved a little money and to have visited the
tables. He lost everything. He came this morning about his business as
usual, but, overcome by despair, stabbed himself, most regrettably in
the apartments of monsieur."

"Since you know all about him, perhaps you can tell me his name?"
Hunterleys asked.

"James Allen. Monsieur may recall him to his memory. He was tall and of
pale complexion, respectable-looking, but a man of discontented
appearance. The intention had probably been in his mind for some time."

"Is there any objection to my seeing the body?" Hunterleys enquired.

The official shrugged his shoulders.

"But, monsieur, all is finished with the poor fellow. The doctor has
given his certificate. He is to be removed at once. He will be buried at
nightfall."

"A very admirable arrangement, without a doubt," Hunterleys observed,
"and yet, I should like, as I remarked before, to see the body. You know
who I am--Sir Henry Hunterleys. I had a message from your department a
day or two ago which I thought a little unfair."

The Commissioner sighed. He ignored altogether the conclusion of
Hunterleys' sentence.

"It is against the rules, monsieur," he regretted.

"Then to whom shall I apply?" Hunterleys asked, "because I may as well
tell you at once that I am going to insist upon my request being
granted. I will tell you frankly my reason. It is not a matter of
curiosity at all. I should like to feel assured of the fact that this
man Allen really committed suicide."

"But he is dead, monsieur," the Commissioner protested.

"Doubtless," Hunterleys agreed, "but there is also the chance that he
was murdered, isn't there?"

"Murdered!"

Monsieur Picard held up his hands in horror. The Commissioner of Police
smiled in derision.

"But, monsieur," the latter pointed out, "who would take the trouble to
murder a poverty-stricken tailor's assistant!"

"And in my hotel, too!" Monsieur Picard intervened.

"The thing is impossible," the Commissioner declared.

"Beyond which it is ridiculous!" Monsieur Picard added.

Hunterleys sat quite silent for a moment.

"Monsieur the Commissioner," he said presently, "and Monsieur Picard, I
recognise your point of view. Believe me that I appreciate it and that I
am willing, to a certain extent, to acquiesce in it. At the same time,
there are considerations in this matter which I cannot ignore. I do not
wish to create any disturbance or to make any statements likely to
militate against the popularity of your wonderful hotel, Monsieur
Picard. Nevertheless, for personal reasons only, notwithstanding the
verdict of your doctor, I should like for one moment to examine the
body."

The Commissioner of Police was thoughtful for a moment.

"It shall be as monsieur desires," he consented gravely, "bearing in
mind what monsieur has said," he added with emphasis.

The three men left the room and passed down the corridor. The gendarme
in front of the closed door stood on one side. The Commissioner produced
a key. They all three entered the room and Monsieur Picard closed the
door behind them. Underneath a sheet upon the bed was stretched the
figure of a man. Hunterleys stepped up to it, turned down the sheet and
examined the prostrate figure. Then he replaced the covering reverently.

"Yes," he said, "that is the man who has called upon me for orders from
the English tailors. His name, I believe, was, as you say, Allen. But
can you tell me, Monsieur the Commissioner, how it was possible for a
man to stab himself from the shoulder downwards through the heart?"

The Official extended his hands.

"Monsieur," he declared, "it is not for us. The doctor has given his
certificate."

Hunterleys smiled a little grimly.

"I have always understood," he observed, "that things were managed like
this. You may have confidence in me, Monsieur the Commissioner, and you,
Monsieur Picard. I shall not tell the world what I suspect. But for your
private information I will tell you that this man was probably murdered
by an assassin who sought my life. You observe that there is a certain
resemblance."

The hotel proprietor turned pale.

"Murdered!" he exclaimed. "Impossible! A murder here--unheard of!"

The Commissioner dismissed the whole thing airily with a wave of his
hand.

"The doctor has signed the certificate," he repeated.

"And I," Hunterleys added, as he led the way out of the room, "am more
than satisfied--I am grateful. So there is nothing more to be said."



CHAPTER XXV

DRACONMEYER IS DESPERATE


Draconmeyer stood before the window of his room, looking out over the
Mediterranean. There was no finer view to be obtained from any suite in
the hotel, and Monte Carlo had revelled all that day in the golden,
transfiguring sunshine. Yet he looked as a blind man. His eyes saw
nothing of the blue sea or the brown-sailed fishing boats, nor did he
once glance towards the picturesque harbour. He saw only his own future,
the shattered pieces of his carefully-thought-out scheme. The first fury
had passed. His brain was working now. In her room below, Lady
Hunterleys was lying on the couch, half hysterical. Three times she had
sent for her husband. If he should return at that moment, Draconmeyer
knew that the game was up. There would be no bandying words between
them, no involved explanations, no possibility of any further
misunderstanding. All his little tissue of lies and misrepresentations
would crumble hopelessly to pieces. The one feeling in her heart would
be thankfulness. She would open her arms. He saw the end with fatal,
unerring truthfulness.

His servant returned. Draconmeyer waited eagerly for his message.

"Lady Hunterleys is lying down, sir," the man announced. "She is very
much upset and begs you to excuse her."

Draconmeyer waved the man away and walked up and down the apartment, his
hands behind his back, his lips hard-set. He was face to face with a
crisis which baffled him completely, and yet which he felt to be wholly
unworthy of his powers. His brain had never been keener, his sense of
power more inspiring. Yet he had never felt more impotent. It was
woman's hysteria against which he had to fight. The ordinary weapons
were useless. He realised quite well her condition and the dangers
resulting from it. The heart of the woman was once more beating to its
own natural tune. If Hunterleys should present himself within the next
few minutes, not all his ingenuity nor the power of his millions could
save the situation.

Plans shaped themselves almost automatically in his mind. He passed from
his own apartments, through a connecting door into a large and
beautifully-furnished salon. A woman with grey hair and white face was
lying on a couch by the window. She turned her head as he entered and
looked at him questioningly. Her face was fragile and her features were
sharpened by suffering. She looked at her husband almost as a cowed but
still affectionate animal might look towards a stern master.

"Do you feel well enough to walk as far as Lady Hunterleys' apartment
with the aid of my arm?" he asked.

"Of course," she replied. "Does Violet want me?"

"She is still feeling the shock," Draconmeyer said. "I think that she is
inclined to be hysterical. It would do her good to have you talk with
her."

The nurse, who had been sitting by her side, assisted her patient to
rise. She leaned on her husband's arm. In her other hand she carried a
black ebony walking-stick. They traversed the corridor, knocked at the
door of Lady Hunterleys' apartment, and in response to a somewhat
hesitating invitation, entered. Violet was lying upon the sofa. She
looked up eagerly at their coming.

"Linda!" she exclaimed. "How dear of you! I thought that it might have
been Henry," she added, as though to explain the disappointment in her
tone.

Draconmeyer turned away to hide his expression.

"Talk to her as lightly as possible," he whispered to his wife, "but
don't leave her alone. I will come back for you in ten minutes."

He left the two women together and descended into the hall. He found
several of the reception clerks whispering together. The concierge had
only just recovered himself, but the place was beginning to wear its
normal aspect. He whispered an enquiry at the desk. Sir Henry Hunterleys
had just come in and had gone upstairs, he was told. His new room was
number 148.

"There was a note from his wife," Draconmeyer said, trying hard to
control his voice. "Has he had it?"

"It is here still, sir," the clerk replied. "I tried to catch Sir Henry
as he passed through, but he was too quick for me. To tell you the
truth," he went on, "there has been a rumour through the hotel that it
was Sir Henry himself who had been found dead in his room, and seeing
him come in was rather a shock for all of us."

"Naturally," Draconmeyer agreed. "If you will give me the note I will
take it up to him."

The clerk handed it over without hesitation. Draconmeyer returned
immediately to his own apartments and torn open the envelope. There were
only a few words scrawled across the half-sheet of notepaper:

     Henry, come to me, dear, at once. I have had such a shock. I want
     to see you.

     Vi.

He tore the note viciously into small pieces. Then he went back to Lady
Hunterleys' apartments. She was sitting up now in an easy-chair. Once
more, at the sound of the knock, she looked towards the door eagerly.
Her face fell when Draconmeyer entered.

"Have you heard anything about Henry?" she asked anxiously.

"He came back a few minutes ago," Draconmeyer replied, "and has gone out
again."

"Gone out again?"

Draconmeyer nodded.

"I think that he has gone round to the Club. He is a man of splendid
nerve, your husband. He seemed to treat the whole affair as an excellent
joke."

"A joke!" she repeated blankly.

"This sort of thing happens so often in Monte Carlo," he observed, in a
matter-of-fact tone. "The hotel people seem all to look upon it as in
the day's work."

"I wonder if Henry had my note?" she faltered.

"He was reading one in the hall when I saw him," Draconmeyer told her.
"That would be yours, I should think. He left a message at the desk
which was doubtless meant for you. He has gone on to the Sporting Club
for an hour and will probably be back in time to change for dinner."

Violet sat quite still for several moments. Something seemed to die
slowly out of her face. Presently she rose to her feet.

"I suppose," she said, "that I am very foolish to allow myself to be
upset like this."

"It is quite natural," Draconmeyer assured her soothingly. "What you
should try to do is to forget the whole circumstance. You sit here
brooding about it until it becomes a tragedy. Let us go down to the Club
together. We shall probably see your husband there."

She hesitated. She seemed still perplexed.

"I wonder," she murmured, "could I send another message to him? Perhaps
he didn't quite understand."

"Much better come along to the Club," Draconmeyer advised,
good-humouredly. "You can be there yourself before a message could reach
him."

"Very well," she assented. "I will be ready in ten minutes...."

Draconmeyer took his wife back to her room.

"Did I do as you wished, dear?" she asked him anxiously.

"Absolutely," he replied.

He helped her back to her couch and stooped and kissed her. She leaned
back wearily. It was obvious that she had found the exertion of moving
even so far exhausting. Then he returned to his own apartments. Rapidly
he unlocked his dispatch box and took out one or two notes from Violet.
They were all of no importance--answers to invitations, or appointments.
He spread them out, took a sheet of paper and a broad pen. Without
hesitation he wrote:

     Congratulations on your escape, but why do you run such risks! I
     wish you would go back to England.

     VIOLET.

He held the sheet of notepaper a little away from him and looked at it
critically. The imitation was excellent. He thrust the few lines into an
envelope, addressed them to Hunterleys and descended to the hall. He
left the note at the office.

"Send this up to Sir Henry, will you?" he instructed. "Let him have it
as quickly as possible."

Once more he crossed the hall and waited close to the lift by which she
would descend. All the time he kept on glancing nervously around. Things
were going his way, but the great danger remained--if they should meet
first by chance in the corridor, or in the lift! Hunterleys might think
it his duty to go at once to his wife's apartment in case she had heard
the rumour of his death. The minutes dragged by. He had climbed the
great ladder slowly. More than once he had felt it sway beneath his
feet. Yet to him those moments seemed almost the longest of his life.
Then at last she came. She was looking very pale, but to his relief he
saw that she was dressed for the Club. She was wearing a grey dress and
black hat. He remembered with a pang of fury that grey was her husband's
favourite colour.

"I suppose there is no doubt that Henry is at the Club?" she asked,
looking eagerly around the hall.

"Not the slightest," he assured her. "We can have some tea there and we
are certain to come across him somewhere."

She made no further difficulty. As they turned into the long passage he
gave a sigh of relief. Every step they took meant safety. He talked to
her as lightly as possible, ignoring the fact that she scarcely replied
to him. They mounted the stairs and entered the Club. She looked
anxiously up and down the crowded rooms.

"I shall stroll about and look for Henry," she announced.

"Very well," he agreed. "I will go over to your place and see how the
numbers are going."

He stood by the roulette table, but he watched her covertly. She passed
through the baccarat room, came out again and walked the whole length of
the larger apartment. She even looked into the restaurant beyond. Then
she came slowly back to where Draconmeyer was standing. She seemed
tired. She scarcely even glanced at the table.

"Lady Hunterleys," he exclaimed impressively, "this is positively
wicked! Your twenty-nine has turned up twice within the last few
minutes. Do sit down and try your luck and I will go and see if I can
find your husband."

He pushed a handful of plaques and a bundle of notes into her hand. At
that moment the croupier's voice was heard.

_"Quatorze rouge, pair et manque."_

"Another of my numbers!" she murmured, with a faint show of interest. "I
don't think I want to play, though."

"Try just a few coups," he begged. "You see, there is a chair here. You
may not have a chance again for hours."

He was using all his will power. Somehow or other, she found herself
seated in front of the table. The sight of the pile of plaques and the
roll of notes was inspiring. She leaned across and with trembling
fingers backed number fourteen _en plein_, with all the _carrés_ and
_chevaux_. She was playing the game at which she had lost so
persistently. He walked slowly away. Every now and then from a distance
he watched her. She was winning and losing alternately, but she had
settled down now in earnest. He breathed a great sigh of relief and took
a seat upon a divan, whence he could see if she moved. Richard Lane, who
had been standing at the other side of the table, crossed the room and
came over to him.

"Say, do you know where Sir Henry is?" he enquired.

Draconmeyer shook his head.

"I have scarcely seen him all day."

"I think I'll go round to the hotel and look him up," Lane decided
carelessly. "I'm fed up with this--"

He stopped short. He was no longer an exceedingly bored and
discontented-looking young man. Draconmeyer glanced at him curiously. He
felt a thrill of sympathy. This stolid young man, then, was capable of
feeling something of the same emotion as was tearing at his own
heart-strings. Lane was gazing with transfigured face towards the open
doorway.



CHAPTER XXVI

EXTRAORDINARY LOVE-MAKING


Fedora sauntered slowly around the rooms, leaning over and staking a
gold plaque here and there. She was dressed as usual in white, with an
ermine turban hat and stole and an enormous muff. Her hair seemed more
golden than ever beneath its snow-white setting, and her complexion more
dazzling. She seemed utterly unconscious of the admiration which her
appearance evoked, and she passed Lane without apparently observing him.
A moment afterwards, however, he moved to her side and addressed her.

"Quite a lucky coup of yours, that last, Miss Grex. Are you used to
winning _en plein_ like that?"

She turned her head and looked at him. Her eyebrows were ever so
slightly uplifted. Her expression was chilling. He remained, however,
absolutely unconscious of any impending trouble.

"I was sorry not to find you at home this morning," he continued. "I
brought my little racing car round for you to see. I thought you might
have liked to try her."

"How absurd you are!" she murmured. "You must know perfectly well that
it would have been quite impossible for me to come out with you alone."

"But why?"

She sighed.

"You are quite hopeless, or you pretend to be!"

"If I am," he replied, "it is because you won't explain things to me
properly. The tables are much too crowded to play comfortably. Won't you
come and sit down for a few minutes?"

She hesitated. Lane watched her anxiously. He felt, somehow, that a
great deal depended upon her reply. Presently, with the slightest
possible shrug of the shoulders, she turned around and suffered him to
walk by her side to the little antechamber which divided the gambling
rooms from the restaurant.

"Very well," she decided, "I suppose, after all, one must remember that
you did save us from a great deal of inconvenience the other night. I
will talk to you for a few minutes."

He found her an easy-chair and he sat by her side.

"This is bully," he declared.

"Is what?" she asked, once more raising her eyebrows.

"American slang," he explained penitently. "I am sorry. I meant that it
was very pleasant to be here alone with you for a few minutes."

"You may not find it so, after all," she said severely. "I feel that I
have a duty to perform."

"Well, don't let's bother about that yet, if it means a lecture," he
begged. "You shall tell me how much better the young women of your
country behave than the young women of mine."

"Thank you," she replied, "I am never interested in the doings of a
democracy. Your country makes no appeal to me at all."

"Come," he protested, "that's a little too bad. Why, Russia may be a
democracy some day, you know. You very nearly had a republic foisted
upon you after the Japanese war."

"You are quite mistaken," she assured him. "Russia would never tolerate
a republic."

"Russia will some day have to do like many other countries," he answered
firmly,--"obey the will of the people."

"Russia has nothing in common with other countries," she asserted.
"There was never a nation yet in which the aristocracy was so powerful."

"It's only a matter of time," he declared, nonchalantly.

She shrugged her shoulders.

"You represent ideas of which I do not approve," she told him.

"I don't care a fig about any ideas," he replied. "I don't care much
about anything in the world except you."

She turned her head slowly and looked at him. Its angle was
supercilious, her tone frigid.

"That sort of a speech may pass for polite conversation in your country,
Mr. Lane. We do not understand it in mine."

"Don't your men ever tell your women that they love them?" he asked
bluntly.

"If they are of the same order," she said, "if the thing is at all
possible, it may sometimes be done. Marriage, however, is more a matter
of alliance with us. Our servants, I believe, are quite promiscuous in
their love-making."

He was silent for a moment. She may, perhaps, have felt some
compunction. She spoke to him a little more kindly.

"We cannot help the ideas of the country in which we are brought up, you
know, Mr. Lane."

"Of course not," he agreed. "I understand that perfectly. I was just
thinking, though, what a lot I shall have to teach you."

She was momentarily aghast. She recovered herself quickly, however.

"Are all the men of your nation so self-confident?"

"We have to be," he told her. "It's the only way we can get what we
want."

"And do you always succeed in getting what you want?"

"Always!"

"Then unless you wish to be an exception," she advised, "let me beg you
not to try for anything beyond your reach."

"There is nothing," he declared firmly, "beyond my reach. You are trying
to discourage me. It isn't any use. I am not a prince or a duke or
anything like that, although my ancestors were honest enough, I believe.
I haven't any trappings of that sort to offer you. If you are as
sensible as I think you are, you won't mind that when you come to think
it over. The only thing I am ashamed of is my money, because I didn't
earn it for myself. You can live in palaces still, if you want to, and
if you want to be a queen I'll ferret out a kingdom somewhere and buy
it, but I am afraid you'll have to be Mrs. Lane behind it all, you
know."

"You really are the most intolerable person," she exclaimed, biting her
lip. "How can I get these absurd ideas out of your mind?"

"By telling me honestly, looking in my eyes all the time, that you could
never care for me a little bit, however devoted I was," he answered
promptly. "You won't be able to do it. I've only one belief in life
about these things, and that is that when any one cares for a girl as I
care for you, it's absolutely impossible for her to be wholly
indifferent. It isn't much to start with, I know, but the rest will
come. Be honest with me. Is there any one of the men of your country
whom you have met, whom you want to marry?"

She frowned slightly. She found herself, at that moment, comparing him
with certain young men of her acquaintance. She was astonished to
realise that the comparison was all in his favour. It was for her an
extraordinary moment. She had indeed been brought up in palaces and the
men whom she had known had been reckoned the salt of the earth. Yet, at
that crisis, she was most profoundly conscious that not all the glamour
of those high-sounding names, the picturesque interest of those gorgeous
uniforms, nor the men themselves, magnificent in their way, were able to
make the slightest appeal to her. She remembered some of her own bitter
words when an alliance with one of them had been suggested to her. It
was she, then, who had been the first to ignore the divine heritage of
birth, who had spoken of their drinking habits, pointed to their life of
idle luxury and worse than luxury. The man who was at the present moment
her suitor forced himself upon her recollection. She knew quite well
that he represented a type. They were of the nobility, and they seemed
to her in that one poignant but unwelcome moment, hatefully degenerate,
men no self-respecting girl could ever think of. Family influence, stern
parental words, the call of her order, had half crushed these thoughts.
They came back now, however, with persistent force.

"You see," Richard Lane went on, "it mayn't be much that I have to offer
you, but in your heart I know you feel what it means to be offered the
love of a man who doesn't want you just because you are of his order, or
because you are the daughter of a Personage, or for any other reason
than because he cares for you as he has cared for no other woman on
earth, and because, without knowing it, he has waited for you."

She moved restlessly in her chair. Their conversation was not going in
the least along the lines which she had intended. She suddenly
remembered her own disquiet of the day before, her curious longing to
steal off on some excuse to-day. A week ago she would have been content
to have dawdled away the afternoon in the grounds of the villa.
Something different had come. From the moment she had entered the rooms,
although she had never acknowledged it, she had been conscious,
pleasurably conscious of his presence. She was suddenly uneasy.

"I am afraid," she murmured, "that you are quite hopeless."

"If you mean that I am without hope, you are wrong," he answered
sturdily. "From the moment I met you I have had but one thought, and
until the last day of my life I shall have but one thought, and that
thought is of you. There may be no end of difficulties, but I come of an
obstinate race. I have patience as well as other things."

She was avoiding looking at him now. She looked instead at her clasped
hands.

"I wish I could make you understand," she said, in a low tone, "how
impossible all this is. In England and America I know that it is
different. There, marriages of a certain sort are freely made between
different classes. But in Russia these things are not thought of.
Supposing that all you said were true. Supposing, even, that I had the
slightest disposition to listen to you. Do you realise that there isn't
one of my family who wouldn't cry out in horror at the thought of my
marrying--forgive me--marrying a commoner of your rank in life?"

"They can cry themselves hoarse, as they'll have to some day," he
replied cheerfully. "As for you, Miss Fedora--you don't mind my calling
you Miss Fedora, do you?--you'll be glad some day that you were born at
the beginning of a new era. You may be a pioneer in the new ways, but
you may take my word for it that you won't be the last. Please have
courage. Please try and be yourself, won't you?"

"But how do you know what I am?" she protested. "Or even what I am like?
We have spoken only a few words. Nothing has passed between us which
could possibly have inspired you with such feelings as you speak of,"
she added, colouring slightly. "It is a fancy of yours, quite too absurd
a fancy. Now that I find myself discussing it with you as though,
indeed, we were talking of it seriously, I am inclined to laugh. You are
just a very foolish young man, Mr. Lane."

He shook his head.

"Look here," he said, "I am very good at meaning things, but it's
awfully hard for me to put my thoughts into words. I can't explain how
it's all come about. I don't know why, amongst all the girls I've seen
in my own country, or England, or Paris, or anywhere, there hasn't been
one who could bring me the things which you bring, who could fill my
mind with the thoughts you fill it with, who could make my days stand
still and start again, who could upset the whole machinery of my life so
that when you come I want to dance with happiness, and when you go the
day is over with me. There is no chance of my being able to explain this
to you, because other fellows, much cleverer than I, have been in the
same box, and they've had to come to the conclusion, too, that there
isn't any explanation. I have accepted it. I want you to. I love you,
Fedora, and I will be faithful to you all my life. You shall live where
you choose and how you choose, but you must be my wife. There isn't any
way out of it for either of us."

She sat quite still for several moments. They were a little behind the
curtain and it chanced that there was no one in their immediate
vicinity. She felt her fingers suddenly gripped. They were released
again almost at once, but a queer sensation of something overmastering
seemed to creep through her whole being at the touch of his hand. She
rose to her feet.

"I am going away," she declared.

"I haven't offended you?" he begged. "Please sit down. We haven't half
talked over things yet."

"We have talked too much," she answered. "I don't know really what has
come over me that I have let you--that I listen to you--"

"It is because you feel the truth of what I say," he insisted. "Don't
get up, Fedora. Don't go away, dear. Let us have at least these few
minutes together. I'll do exactly as you tell me. I'll come to your
father or I'll carry you off. I have a sister here. She'll be your
friend--"

"Don't!" the girl stopped him. "Please don't!"

She sat down in her chair again. Her fingers were twisted together, her
slim form was tense with stifled emotions.

"Have I been a brute?" he asked softly. "You must forgive me, Fedora. I
am not much used to girls and I am sort of carried away myself, only I
want you to believe that there's the real thing in my heart. I'll make
you just as happy as a woman can be. Don't shake your head, dear. I want
you to trust me and believe in me."

"I think you're a most extraordinary person," she said at last. "Do you
know, I'm beginning to be really afraid of you."

"You're not," he insisted. "You're afraid of yourself. You're afraid
because you see the downfall of the old ideas. You're afraid because you
know that you're going to be a renegade. You can see nothing but trouble
ahead just now. I'll take you right away from that."

There was the rustle of skirts, a soft little laugh. Richard rose to his
feet promptly. He had never been so pleased in all his life to welcome
his sister.

"Flossie," he exclaimed, "I'm ever so glad you came along! I want to
present Miss Grex to you. This is my sister, Miss Fedora--Lady
Weybourne. I was just going to ask Miss Grex to have some tea with me,"
he went on, "but I am not sure that she would have considered it proper.
Do come along and be chaperone."

Lady Weybourne laughed.

"I shall be delighted," she declared. "I have seen you here once or
twice before, haven't I, Miss Grex, and some one told me that you were
Russian. I suppose you are not in the least used to the free and easy
ways of us Westerners, but you'll come and have some tea with us, won't
you?"

The girl hesitated. Fate was too strong for her.

"I shall be very pleased," she agreed.

They found a window table and Lane ordered tea. Fedora was inclined to
be silent at first, but Lady Weybourne was quite content to chatter. By
degrees Fedora, too, came back to earth and they had a very gay little
tea-party. At the end of it they all strolled back into the rooms
together. Fedora glanced at the watch upon her wrist and held out her
hand to Lady Weybourne.

"I am sorry," she said, "but I must hurry away now. It is very kind of
you to ask me to come and see you, Lady Weybourne. I shall be charmed."

Richard ignored her fingers.

"I am going to see you down to your car, if I may," he begged.

They left the room together. She looked at him as they descended the
stairs, almost tremulously.

"This doesn't mean, you know," she said, "that I--that I agree to all
you have been saying."

"It needn't mean anything at all, dear," he replied. "This is only the
beginning. I don't expect you to realise all that I have realised quite
so quickly, but I do want you to keep it in your mind that this thing
has come and that it can't be got rid of. I won't do anything foolish.
If it is necessary I will wait, but I am your lover now, as I always
must be."

He handed her into the car, the footman, in his long white livery,
standing somberly on one side. As they drove off she gave him her
fingers, and he walked back up the steps with the smile upon his lips
that comes to a man only once or twice in his lifetime.



CHAPTER XXVII

PLAYING FOR HIGH STAKES


Violet glanced at her watch with an exclamation of dismayed annoyance.
She leaned appealingly towards the croupier.

"But one coup more, monsieur," she pleaded. "Indeed your clock is fast."

The croupier shook his head. He was a man of gallantry so far as his
profession permitted, and he was a great admirer of the beautiful
Englishwoman, but the rules of the Club were strict.

"Madame," he pointed out, "it is already five minutes past eight. It is
absolutely prohibited that we start another coup after eight o'clock. If
madame will return at ten o'clock, the good fortune will without doubt
be hers."

She looked up at Draconmeyer, who was standing at her elbow.

"Did you ever know anything more hatefully provoking!" she complained.
"For two hours the luck has been dead against me. But for a few of my
_carrés_ turning up, I don't know what would have happened. And now at
last my numbers arrive. I win _en plein_ and with all the _carrés_ and
_chevaux_. This time it was twenty-seven. I win two _carrés_ and I move
to twenty, and he will not go on."

"It is the rule," Draconmeyer reminded her. "It is bad fortune, though.
I have been watching the run of the table. Things have been coming more
your way all the time. I think that the end of your ill-luck has
arrived. Tell me, are you hungry?"

"Not in the least," she answered pettishly. "I hate the very thought of
dinner."

"Then why do we not go on to the Casino?" Draconmeyer suggested. "We can
have a sandwich and a glass of wine there, and you can continue your
vein."

She rose to her feet with alacrity. Her face was beaming.

"My friend," she exclaimed, "you are inspired! It is a brilliant idea. I
know that it will bring me fortune. To the Cercle Privé, by all means. I
am so glad that you are one of those men who are not dependent upon
dinner. But what about Linda?"

"She is not expecting me, as it happens," Draconmeyer lied smoothly. "I
told her that I might be dining at the Villa Mimosa. I have to be there
later on."

Violet gathered up her money, stuffed it into her gold bag and hurried
off for her cloak. She reappeared in a few moments and smiled very
graciously at Draconmeyer.

"It is quite a wonderful idea of yours, this," she declared. "I am
looking forward immensely to my next few coups. I feel in a winning
vein. Very soon," she added, as they stepped out on to the pavement and
she gathered up her skirts, "very soon I am quite sure that I shall be
asking you for my cheques back again."

He laughed, as though she had been a child speaking of playthings.

"I am not sure that I shall wish you luck," he said. "I think that I
like to feel that you are a little--just a very little in my debt. Do
you think that I should be a severe creditor?"

Something in his voice disturbed her vaguely, but she brushed the
thought away. Of course he admired her, but then every woman must have
admirers. It only remained for her to be clever enough to keep him at
arm's length. She had no fear for herself.

"I haven't thought about the matter at all," she answered carelessly,
"but to me all creditors would be the same, whether they were kind or
unkind. I hate the feeling of owing anything."

"It is a question," he observed, "how far one can be said to owe
anything to those who are really friends. A husband, for instance. One
can't keep a ledger account with him."

"A husband is a different matter altogether," she asserted coldly. "Now
I wonder whether we shall find my favourite table full. Anyhow, I am
going to play at the one nearest the entrance on the right-hand side.
There is a little croupier there whom I like."

They passed up through the entrance and across the floor of the first
suite of rooms to the Cercle Privé. Violet looked eagerly towards the
table of which she had spoken. To her joy there was plenty of room.

"My favourite seat is empty!" she exclaimed. "I know that I am going to
be lucky."

"I think that I shall play myself, for a change," Draconmeyer announced,
producing a great roll of notes.

"Whenever you feel that you would like to go down and have something,
don't mind me, will you?" she begged. "You can come back and talk to me
at any time. I am not in the least hungry yet."

"Very well," he agreed. "Good luck to you!" They played at opposite
sides of the table. For an hour she won and he lost. Once she called him
over to her side.

"I scarcely dare to tell you," she whispered, her eyes gleaming, "but I
have won back the first thousand pounds. I shall give it to you
to-night. Here, take it now."

He shook his head and waved it away. "I haven't the cheques with me," he
protested. "Besides, it is bad luck to part with any of your winnings
while you are still playing."

He watched her for a minute or two. She still won.

"Take my advice," he said earnestly. "Play higher. You have had a most
unusual run of bad luck. The tide has turned. Make the most of it. I
have lost ten mille. I am going to have a try your side of the table."

He found a vacant chair a few places lower down, and commenced playing
in maximums. From the moment of his arrival he began to win, and
simultaneously Violet began to lose. Her good-fortune deserted her
absolutely, and for the first time she showed signs of losing her
self-control. She gave vent to little exclamations of disgust as stake
after stake was swept away. Her eyes were much too bright, there was a
spot of colour in her cheeks. She spoke angrily to a croupier who
delayed handing her some change. Draconmeyer, although he knew perfectly
well what was happening, never seemed to glance in her direction. He
played with absolute recklessness for half-an-hour. When at last he rose
from his seat and joined her, his hands were full of notes. He smiled
ever so faintly as he saw the covetous gleam in her eyes.

"I'm nearly broken," she gasped. "Leave off playing, please, for a
little time. You've changed my luck."

He obeyed, standing behind her chair. Three more coups she played and
lost. Then she thrust her hand into her bag and drew it out, empty. She
was suddenly pale.

"I have lost my last louis," she declared. "I don't understand it. It
seemed as though I must win here."

"So you will in time," he assured her confidently. "How much will you
have--ten mille or twenty?"

She shrank back, but the sight of the notes in his hand fascinated her.
She glanced up at him. His pallor was unchanged, there was no sign of
exultation in his face. Only his eyes seemed a little brighter than
usual beneath his gold-rimmed spectacles.

"No, give me ten," she said.

She took them from his hand and changed them quickly into plaques. Her
first coup was partially successful. He leaned closer over her.

"Remember," he pointed out, "that you only need to win once in a dozen
times and you do well. Don't be in such a hurry."

"Of course," she murmured. "Of course! One forgets that. It is all a
matter of capital."

He strolled away to another table. When he came back, she was sitting
idle in her place, restless and excited, but still full of confidence.

"I am a little to the good," she told him, "but I have left off for a
few minutes. The very low numbers are turning up and they are no use to
me."

"Come and have that sandwich," he begged. "You really ought to take
something."

"The place shall be kept for madame," the croupier whispered. "I shall
be here for another two hours."

She nodded and rose. They made their way out of the Rooms and down into
the restaurant on the ground-floor. They found a little table near the
wall and he ordered some pâté sandwiches and champagne. Whilst they
waited she counted up her money, making calculations on a slip of paper.
Draconmeyer leaned back in his chair, watching her. His back was towards
the door and they were at the end table. He permitted himself the luxury
of looking at her almost greedily; of dropping, for a few moments, the
mask which he placed always upon his features in her presence. In his
way the man was an artist, a great collector of pictures and bronzes, a
real lover and seeker after perfection. Often he found himself wandering
towards his little gallery, content to stand about and gloat over some
of his most treasured possessions. Yet the man's personality clashed
often with his artistic pretensions. He scarcely ever found himself
amongst his belongings without realising the existence of a curious
feeling, wholly removed from the pure artistic pleasure of their
contemplation. It was the sense of ownership which thrilled him.
Something of the same sensation was upon him now. She was the sort of
woman he had craved for always--slim, elegant, and what to him, with his
quick powers of observation, counted for so much, she was modish,
reflecting in her presence, her dress and carriage, even her speech, the
best type of the prevailing fashion. She excited comment wherever she
appeared. People, as he knew very well even now, were envying him his
companion. And beneath it all--she, the woman, was there. All his life
he had fought for the big things--political power, immense wealth, the
confidence of his great master--all these had come to him easily. And at
that moment they were like baubles!

She looked up at last and there was a slight frown upon her forehead.

"I am still a little down, starting from where I had the ten mille," she
sighed. "I thought--"

She stopped short. There was a curious change in her face. Her eyes were
fixed upon some person approaching. Draconmeyer turned quickly in his
chair. Almost as he did so, Hunterleys paused before their table. Violet
looked up at him with quivering lips. For a moment it seemed as though
she were stepping out of her sordid surroundings.

"Henry!" she exclaimed. "Did you come to look for me? Did you know that
we were here?"

"How should I?" he answered calmly. "I was strolling around with David
Briston. We are at the Opera."

"At the Opera," she repeated.

"My little protégée, Felicia Roche, is singing," he went on, "in _Aïda_.
If she does as well in the next act as she has done in this, her future
is made."

He was on the point of adding the news of Felicia's engagement to the
young man who had momentarily deserted him. Some evil chance changed his
intention.

"Why do you call her your little protégée?" she demanded.

"It isn't quite correct, is it?" he answered, a little absently. "There
are three or four of us who are doing what we can to look after her. Her
father was a prominent member of the Wigwam Club. The girl won the
musical scholarship we have there. She has more than repaid us for our
trouble, I am glad to say."

"I have no doubt that she has," Violet replied, lifting her eyes.

There was a moment's silence. The significance of her words was entirely
lost upon Hunterleys.

"Isn't this rather a new departure of yours?" he asked, glancing
disdainfully towards Draconmeyer. "I thought that you so much preferred
to play at the Club."

"So I do," she assented, "but I was just beginning to win when the Club
closed at eight o'clock, and so we came on here."

"Your good fortune continues, I hope?"

"It varies," she answered hurriedly, "but it will come, I am sure. I
have been very near a big win more than once."

He seemed on the point of departure. She leaned a little forward.

"You had my note, Henry?"

Her tone was almost beseeching. Draconmeyer, who was listening with
stony face, shivered imperceptibly.

"Thank you, yes," Hunterleys replied, frowning slightly. "I am sorry,
but I am not at liberty to do what you suggest just at present. I wish
you good fortune."

He turned around and walked back to the other end of the room, where
Briston was standing at the bar. She looked after him for a moment as
though she failed to understand his words. Then her face hardened.
Draconmeyer leaned towards her.

"Shall we go?" he suggested.

She rose with alacrity. Side by side they strolled through the rooms
towards the Cercle Privé.

"I am sorry," Draconmeyer said regretfully, "but I am forced to leave
you now. I will take you back to your place and after that I must go to
the hotel and change. I have a reception to attend. I wish you would
take the rest of my winnings and see what you can do with them."

She shook her head vigorously.

"No, thank you," she declared. "I have enough."

He shrugged his shoulders.

"I have twenty-five mille here in my pocket," he continued, "besides
some smaller change. I don't think it is quite fair to leave so much
money about in one's room or to carry it out into the country. Keep it
for me. You won't need to play with it--I can see that your luck is
in--but it always gives one confidence to feel that one has a reserve
stock, something to fall back upon if necessary."

He drew the notes from his pocket and held them towards her. Her eyes
were fixed upon them covetously. The thought of all that money actually
in her possession was wildly exhilarating.

"I will take care of them for you, if you like," she said. "I shall not
play with them, though. I owe you quite enough already and my losing
days are over."

He stuffed the notes carelessly into her bag.

"Twenty-five mille," he told her. "Remember my advice. If the luck stays
with you, stake maximums. Go for the big things."

She looked at him curiously as she closed her gold bag with a snap.

"After all," she declared, with a little laugh, "I am not sure that you
are not the greater gambler of the two to trust me with all this money!"



CHAPTER XXVIII

TO THE VILLA MIMOSA


With feet that seemed to touch nothing more substantial than air, her
eyes brilliant, a wonderful colour in her cheeks, Violet passed through
the heavy, dingy rooms and out through the motley crowd into the portico
of the Casino. She was right! She knew that she had been right! How wise
she had been to borrow that money from Mr. Draconmeyer instead of
sitting down and confessing herself vanquished! The last few hours had
been hours of ecstatic happiness. With calm confidence she had sat in
her place and watched her numbers coming up with marvellous persistence.
It was the most wonderful thing in the world, this. She had had no time
to count her winnings, but at least she knew that she could pay back
every penny she owed. Her little gold satchel was stuffed with notes and
plaques. She felt suddenly younger, curiously light-hearted; hungry,
too, and thirsty. She was, in short, experiencing almost a delirium of
pleasure. And just then, on the steps of the Casino, she came face to
face with her husband.

"Henry!" she called out. "Henry!"

He turned abruptly around. He was looking troubled, and in his hand were
the fragments of a crushed up note.

"Come across to the hotel with me," she begged, forgetful of everything
except her own immense relief. "Come and help me count. I have been
winning. I have won back everything."

He accepted the information with only a polite show of interest. After
all, as she reflected afterwards, he had no idea upon what scale she had
been gambling!

"I am delighted to hear it," he answered. "I'll see you across the road,
if I may, but I have only a few minutes to spare. I have an
appointment."

She was acutely disappointed; unreasonably, furiously angry.

"An appointment!" she exclaimed. "At half-past eleven o'clock at night!
Are you waiting for Felicia Roche?"

"Is there any reason why I should not?" he asked her gravely.

She bit her lips hard. They were crossing the road now. After all, it
was only a few months since she had bidden him go his own way and leave
her to regulate her own friendships.

"No reason at all," she admitted, "only I cannot see why you choose to
advertise yourself with an opera singer--you, an ambitious politician,
who moves with his head in the clouds, and to whom women are no more
than a pastime. Why have you waited all these years to commence a
flirtation under my very nose!"

He looked at her sternly.

"I think that you are a little excited, Violet," he said. "You surely
don't realise what you are saying."

"Excited! Tell me once more--you got my note, the one I wrote this
evening?"

"Certainly."

His brief reply was convincing. She remembered the few impulsive lines
which she had written from her heart in that moment of glad relief.
There was no sign in his face that he had been touched. Even at that
moment he had drawn out his watch and was looking at it.

"Thank you for bringing me here," she said, as they stood upon the steps
of the hotel. "Don't let me keep you."

"After all," he decided, "I think that I shall go up to my room for a
minute. Good night!"

She looked after him, a little amazed. She was conscious of a feeling of
slow anger. His aloofness repelled her, was utterly inexplicable. For
once it was she who was being badly treated. Her moment of exhilaration
had passed. She sat down in the lounge; her satchel, filled with mille
franc notes, lay upon her lap unheeded. She sat there thinking, seeing
nothing of the crowds of fashionably dressed women and men passing in
and out of the hotel; of the gaily-lit square outside, the cool green of
the gardens, the café opposite, the brilliantly-lit Casino. She was back
again for a moment in England. The strain of all this life, whipped into
an artificial froth of pleasure by the constant excitement of the one
accepted vice of the world, had suddenly lost its hold upon her. The
inevitable question had presented itself. She was counting values and
realising....

When at last she rose wearily to her feet, Hunterleys was passing
through the hall of the hotel, on his way out. She looked at him with
aching heart but she made no effort to stop him. He had changed his
clothes for a dark suit and he was also wearing a long travelling coat
and tweed cap. She watched him wistfully until he had disappeared. Then
she turned away, summoned the lift and went up to her rooms. She rang at
once for her maid. She would take a bath, she decided, and go to bed
early. She would wash all the dust of these places away from her, abjure
all manner of excitement and for once sleep peacefully. In the morning
she would see Henry once more. Deep in her heart there still lingered
some faint shadow of doubt as to Draconmeyer and his attitude towards
her. It was scarcely possible that he could have interfered in any way,
and yet.... She would talk to her husband face to face, she would tell
him the things that were in her heart.

She rang the bell for the second time. Only the _femme de chambre_
answered the summons. Madame's maid was not to be found. Madame had not
once retired so early. It was possible that Susanne had gone out. Could
she be of any service? Violet looked at her and hesitated. The woman was
clumsy-fingered and none too tidy. She shook her head and sent her away.
For a moment she thought of undressing herself. Then instead she opened
her satchel and counted the notes. Her breath came more quickly as she
looked at the shower of gold and counted the many oblong strips of paper
with their magic lettering. At last she had it all in heaps. There were
the twenty-five mille he had left with her, and the seventy-five mille
she had borrowed from him. Then towards her own losses there was another
mille, and a matter of five hundred francs in gold. And all this
success, her wonderful recovery, had been done so easily! It was just
because she had had the pluck to go on, because she had followed her
vein. She looked at the money and she walked to the window. Somewhere a
band was playing in the distance. Little parties of men and women in
evening dress were strolling by on their way to the Club. A woman was
laughing as she clung to her escort on the opposite side of the road, by
the gardens. Across at the Café de Paris the people were going in to
supper. The spirit of enjoyment seemed to be in the air--the
light-hearted, fascinating, devil-may-care atmosphere she knew so well.
Violet looked back into the bedroom and she no longer had the impulse to
sleep. Her face had hardened a little. Every one was so happy and she
was so lonely. She stuffed the notes and gold back into her bag, looked
at her hat in the glass and touched her face for a moment with a
powder-puff. Then she left the room, rang for the lift and descended.

"I am going into the Club for an hour or so, if I am wanted," she told
the concierge as she passed out.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hunterleys, on leaving the hotel, walked rapidly across the square and
found David waiting for him on the opposite side.

"Felicia will be late," the latter explained. "She has to get all that
beastly black stuff off her face. She is horribly nervous about Sidney
and she doesn't want you to wait. I think perhaps she is right, too. She
told me to tell you that Monsieur Lafont himself came to her room and
congratulated her after the curtain had gone down. She is almost
hysterical between happiness and anxiety about Sidney. Where's your
man?"

"I asked him to be a little higher up," Hunterleys replied. "There he
is."

They walked a few steps up the hill and found Richard Lane waiting for
them in his car. The long, grey racer looked almost like some submarine
monster, with its flaring head-lights and torpedo-shaped body which
scarcely cleared the ground.

"Ready for orders, sir," the young man announced, touching his cap.

"Is there room for three of us, in case of an emergency?" Hunterleys
asked.

"The third man has to sit on the floor," Richard pointed out, "but it
isn't so comfortable as it looks."

Hunterleys clambered in and took the vacant place. David Briston
lingered by a little wistfully.

"I feel rather a skunk," he grumbled. "I don't see why I shouldn't come
along."

Hunterleys shook his head.

"There isn't the slightest need for it," he declared firmly. "You go
back and look after Felicia. Tell her we'll get Sidney out of this all
right. Get away with you, Lane, now."

"Where to?"

"To the Villa Mimosa!"

Richard whistled as he thrust in his clutch.

"So that's the game, is it?" he murmured, as they glided off.

Hunterleys leaned towards him.

"Lane," he said, "don't forget that I warned you there might be a little
trouble about to-night. If you feel the slightest hesitation about
involving yourself--"

"Shut up!" Richard interrupted. "Whatever trouble you're ready to face,
I'm all for it, too. Darned queer thing that we should be going to the
Villa Mimosa, though! I am not exactly a popular person with Mr. Grex, I
think."

Hunterleys smiled.

"I saw your sister this afternoon," he remarked. "You are rather a
wonderful young man."

"I knew it was all up with me," Richard replied simply, "when I first
saw that girl. Now look here, Hunterleys, we are almost there. Tell me
exactly what it is you want me to do?"

"I want you," Hunterleys explained, "to risk a smash, if you don't mind.
I want you to run up to the boundaries of the villa gardens, head your
car back for Monte Carlo, and while you are waiting there turn out all
your lights."

"That's easy enough," Richard assented. "I'll turn out the search-light
altogether, and my others are electric, worked by a button. Is this an
elopement act or what?"

"There's a meeting going on in that villa," Hunterleys told him,
"between prominent politicians of three countries. You don't have to
bother much about Secret Service over in the States, although there's
more goes on than you know of in that direction. But over here we have
to make regular use of Secret Service men--spies, if you like to call
them so. The meeting to-night is inimical to England. It is part of a
conspiracy against which I am working. Sidney Roche--Felicia Roche's
brother--who lives here as a newspaper correspondent, is in reality one
of our best Secret Service men. He is taking terrible chances to-night
to learn a little more about the plans which these fellows are
discussing. We are here in case he needs our help to get away. We've
cleared the shrubs away, close to the spot at which I am going to ask
you to wait, and taken the spikes off the fence. It's just a thousand to
one chance that if he's hard pressed for it and heads this way, they may
think that they have him in a trap and take it quietly. That is to say,
they'll wait to capture him instead of shooting."

"Say, you don't mean this seriously?" Richard exclaimed. "They can't do
more than arrest him as a trespasser, or something of that sort,
surely?"

Hunterleys laughed grimly.

"These men wouldn't stick at much," he told his companion. "They're hand
in glove with the authorities here. Anything they did would be hushed up
in the name of the law. These things are never allowed to come out. It
doesn't do any one any good to have them gossiped about. If they caught
Sidney and shot him, we should never make a protest. It's all part of
the game, you know. Now that is the spot I want you to stop at, exactly
where the mimosa tree leans over the path. But first of all, I'd turn
out your head-light."

They slowed down and stopped. Richard extinguished the acetylene
gas-lamp and mounted again to his place. Then he swung the car round and
crawled back upon the reverse until he reached the spot to which
Hunterleys had pointed.

"You're a good fellow, Richard," Hunterleys said softly. "We may have to
wait an hour or two, and it may be that nothing will happen, but it's
giving the fellow a chance, and it gives him confidence, too, to know
that friends are at hand."

"I'm in the game for all it's worth, anyway," Lane declared heartily.

He touched a button and the lights faded away. The two men sat in
silence, both turned a little in their seats towards the villa.



CHAPTER XXIX

FOR HIS COUNTRY


The minutes glided by as the two men sat together in the perfumed,
shadowy darkness. From their feet the glittering canopy of lights swept
upwards to the mountain-sides, even to the stars, but a chain of slowly
drifting black clouds hung down in front of the moon, and until their
eyes became accustomed to their surroundings it seemed to both of them
as though they were sitting in a very pit of darkness.

"It is possible," Hunterleys whispered, after some time, "that we may
have to wait for another hour yet."

Richard was suddenly tense. He sat up, and his foot reached for the
self-starter.

"I don't think you will," he muttered. "Listen!"

Almost immediately they were conscious of some commotion in the
direction of the villa, followed by a shot and then a cry.

"Start the engine," Hunterleys directed hoarsely, standing up in his
place. "I'm afraid they've got him."

There were two more shots but no further cry. Then they heard the sound
of excited voices and immediately afterwards rapidly approaching
footsteps. A man came crashing through the shrubbery, but when he
reached the fence over which, for a moment, his white face gleamed, he
sank down as though powerless to climb. Hunterleys leapt to the ground
and rushed to the fence.

"Hold up, Sidney, old fellow," he called softly. "We're here all right.
Hold up for a moment and let me lift you."

Roche struggled to his feet. His face was ghastly white, the sweat stood
out upon his forehead, his lips moved but no words came. Hunterleys got
him by the arms, set his teeth and lifted. The task would have been too
much for him, but Richard, springing from the car, came to his help.
With an effort they hoisted him over the fence. Almost as they did so
there was the sound of footsteps dashing through the shrubs, and a shot,
the bullet of which tore the bark from the trunk of a tree close at
hand. The car leapt off in fourth speed, Sidney supported in Hunterleys'
arms. A loud shout from behind only brought Richard's foot down upon the
accelerator.

"Stoop low!" he cried to Hunterleys. "Get your legs in, if you can."

A bullet struck the back of the car and another whistled over their
heads. Then they dashed around the corner, and Richard, turning on the
lights, jammed down his accelerator.

"Gee whiz! that's a bloodthirsty crew!" the young man exclaimed, his
eyes fixed upon the road. "Is he hurt?"

Roche was lying back on the seat. Hunterleys was on his knees, holding
on to the framework of the car.

"They've got me all right, Hunterleys," Roche faltered. "Listen.
Everything went well with me at first. I could hear--nearly everything.
The Frenchman kept his mouth shut--tight as wax. Grex did most of the
talking. Russia sees nothing in the entente--England has nothing to
offer her. She'd rather keep friends with Germany. Russia wants to move
eastward--all Persia--India. She's only lukewarm, any way, about the
French alliance as things stand at present, and dead off any truck with
England. There's talk of Constantinople, and Germany to march three army
corps through a weak French resistance to Calais. They talked of France
acting to her pledges, putting her recruits in the front, taking a
slight defeat, making a peace on her own account, with Alsace and
Lorraine restored. She can pay. Germany wants the money.
Germany--Germany--"

The words died away in a little groan. The wounded man's head fell back.
Hunterleys passed his arm around the limp figure.

"Take the first turn to the right and second to the left, Richard," he
directed. "We'll drive straight to the hospital. I made friends with the
English doctor last night. He promised to be there till three. I paid
him a fee on purpose."

"First to the right," Richard muttered, swinging around. "Second to the
left, eh?"

Hunterleys was holding his brandy flask to Roche's lips as they swung
through the white gates and pulled up outside the hospital. The doctor
was faithful to his promise, and Roche, who was now unconscious, was
carried in. In the hall he was laid upon an ambulance and borne off by
two attendants. Hunterleys and Lane sat down to wait in the hall. After
what seemed to them an interminable half-hour, the doctor reappeared. He
came over to them at once.

"Your friend may live," he announced, "but in any case he will be
unconscious for the next twenty-four hours. There is no need for you to
stay, or for you to fetch the young lady you spoke of, at present. If he
dies, he will die unconscious. I can tell you nothing more until the
afternoon."

Hunterleys rose slowly to his feet.

"You'll do everything you can, doctor?" he begged. "Money doesn't
count."

"Money never counts here," the doctor replied gravely. "We shall save
him if it is possible. You've nothing to tell me, I suppose, as to how
he met with his wound?"

"Nothing."

They walked out together into the night. The bank of clouds had drifted
away now and the moon was shining. Below them, barely a quarter of a
mile away, they could see the flare of lights from the Casino. A woman
was laughing hysterically through the open windows of a house on the
other side of the way. Some one was playing a violin in a café at the
corner of the street.

"Richard," Hunterleys said, "will you see me through? I have to get to
Cannes as fast as I can to send a cable. I daren't send it from here,
even in code."

"I'll drive you to Cannes like a shot," Richard assented heartily. "Just
a brandy and soda on our way out, and I'll show you some pretty
driving."

They stopped at the Café de Paris and left the car under the trees. Both
men took a long drink and Richard filled his pocket with cigarettes.
Then they re-entered the car, lit up, and glided off on the road for
Cannes. Richard had become more serious. His boyish manner and
appearance had temporarily gone. He drove, even, with less than his
usual recklessness.

"That was a fine fellow," he remarked enthusiastically, after a long
pause, "that fellow Roche!"

"And we've many more like him," Hunterleys declared. "We've men in every
part of the world doing what seems like dirty work, ill-paid work, too,
doing it partly, perhaps, because the excitement grows on them and they
love it, but always, they have to start in cold blood. The papers don't
always tell the truth, you know. There's many a death in foreign cities
you read of as a suicide, or the result of an accident, when it's really
the sacrifice of a hero for his country. It's great work, Richard."

"Makes me feel kind of ashamed," Richard muttered. "I've never done
anything but play around all my life. Anyway, those sort of things don't
come to us in our country. America's too powerful and too isolated to
need help of that description. We shouldn't have any use for politicians
of your class, or for Secret Service men."

"If you're in earnest," Hunterleys advised, "you go to Washington and
ask them about it some day. The time's coming, if it hasn't already
arrived, when your country will have to develop a different class of
politicians. You see, whether she wants it or not, she is coming into
touch, through Asia and South America, with European interests, and if
she does, she'll have to adopt their methods more or less. Poor old
Roche! There was something more he wanted to say, and if it's what I've
been expecting, your country was in it."

"I guess I'll take Fedora over for our honeymoon," Richard decided
softly. "Don't see why I shouldn't come into one of the Embassies. I'm a
bit of a hulk to go about the world doing nothing."

Hunterleys laughed quietly.

"My young friend," he said, "aren't you taking your marriage prospects a
little for granted? May I be there when you ask Augustus Nicholas Ivan
Peter, Grand Duke of Vassura, Prince of Melinkoff, cousin of His
Imperial Majesty the Czar, for the hand of his daughter in marriage!"

"So that's it, is it?" Lane murmured. "Why didn't you tell me before?"

Hunterleys shook his head. He gazed steadfastly along the road in front
of him.

"It wasn't to my interest to have it known too generally," he said, "and
I am afraid your little love affair didn't strike me as being of much
importance by the side of the other things. But you've earned the truth,
if it's any use to you."

"Well," Richard observed, "I wasn't counting on having any witnesses,
but you can come along if you like. I suppose," he added, "I shall have
to do him the courtesy of asking his permission, but--"

"But what?" Hunterleys asked curiously.

They were on a long stretch of straight, white road. Richard looked for
a moment up to the sky, and Hunterleys, watching him, was amazed at the
transformation.

"There isn't a Grand Duke or a Prince or an Imperial Majesty alive," he
said, "who could rob me of Fedora!"



CHAPTER XXX

"SUPPOSING I TAKE THIS MONEY"


There was a momentary commotion in the Club. A woman had fainted at one
of the roulette tables. Her chair was quickly drawn back. She was helped
out to the open space at the top of the stairs and placed in an
easy-chair there. Lady Weybourne, who was on the point of leaving with
her husband, hastened back. She stood there while the usual restoratives
were being administered, fanning the unconscious woman with a white
ostrich fan which hung from her waist. Presently Violet opened her eyes.
She recognised Lady Weybourne and smiled weakly.

"I am so sorry," she murmured. "It was silly of me to stay in here so
long. I went without my dinner, too, which was rather idiotic."

A man who had announced himself a doctor, bent over her pulse and turned
away.

"The lady will be quite all right now," he said. "You can give her
brandy and soda if she feels like it. Pardon!"

He hastened back to his place at the baccarat table. Lady Hunterleys sat
up.

"It was quite absurd of me," she declared. "I don't know what--"

She stopped suddenly. The weight was once more upon her heart, the
blankness before her eyes. She remembered!

"I am quite able to go home now," she added.

Her gold bag lay upon her lap. It was almost empty. She looked at it
vacantly and then closed the snap.

"We'll see you back to the hotel," Lady Weybourne said soothingly. "Here
comes Harry with the brandy and soda."

Lord Weybourne came hurrying from the bar, a tumbler in his hand.

"How nice of you!" Violet exclaimed gratefully. "Really, I feel that
this is just what I need. I wonder what time it is?"

"Half past four," Lord Weybourne announced, glancing at his watch.

She laughed weakly.

"How stupid of me! I have been between here and the Casino for nearly
twelve hours, and had nothing to eat. No, I won't have anything here,
thanks," she added, as Lord Weybourne started back again for the bar,
muttering something about a sandwich. "I'll have something in my room.
If you are going back to the hotel, perhaps I could come with you."

They all three left the place together, passing along the private way.

"I haven't seen your brother all day," Violet remarked to Lady
Weybourne.

"Richard's gone off somewhere in the car to-night, a most mysterious
expedition," his sister declared. "I began to think that it must be an
elopement, but I see the yacht's there still, and he would surely choose
the yacht in preference to a motor-car, if he were running off with
anybody! Your husband doesn't come into the rooms much?"

Violet shook her head.

"He hasn't the gambling instinct," she said quietly. "Perhaps he is just
as well without it. One gets a lot of amusement out of this playing for
small stakes, but it is irritating to lose. Thank you so much for
looking after me," she added, as they reached the hall of the hotel. "I
am quite all right now and my woman will be sitting up for me."

She passed into the lift. Lady Weybourne looked after her admiringly.

"Say, she's got some pluck, Harry!" she murmured. "They say she lost
nearly a hundred mille to-night and she never even mentioned her
losings. Irritating, indeed! I wonder what Sir Henry thinks of it. They
are only moderately well off."

Her husband shrugged his shoulders, after the fashion of his sex.

"Let us hope," he said, "that it is Sir Henry who suffers."

       *       *       *       *       *

Violet slipped out of her gown and dismissed her maid. In her
dressing-gown she sat before the open window. Everywhere the place
seemed steeped in the faint violet and purple light preceding the dawn.
Away eastwards she could catch a glimpse of the mountains, their peaks
cut sharply against the soft, deep sky; a crystalline glow, the first
herald of the hidden sunrise, hanging about their summits. The gentle
breeze from the Mediterranean was cool and sweet. There were many lights
still gleaming upon the sea, but their effect now seemed tawdry. She sat
there, her head resting upon her hands. She had the feeling of being
somehow detached from the whole world of visible objects, as though,
indeed, she were on her death-bed. Surely it was not possible to pass
any further through life than this! In her thoughts she went back to the
first days of estrangement between her husband and herself. Almost
before she realised it, she found herself struggling against the
tenderness which still survived, which seemed at that moment to be
tearing at her heart-strings. He had ceased to care, she told herself.
It was all too apparent that he had ceased to care. He was amusing
himself elsewhere. Her little impulsive note had not won even a kind
word from him. Her appeals, on one excuse or another, had been
disregarded. She had lost her place in his life, thrown it away, she
told herself bitterly. And in its stead--what! A new fear of Draconmeyer
was stealing over her. He presented himself suddenly as an evil genius.
She went back through the last few days. Her brain seemed unexpectedly
clear, her perceptions unerring. She saw with hateful distinctness how
he had forced this money upon her, how he had encouraged her all the
time to play beyond her means. She realised the cunning with which he
had left that last bundle of notes in her keeping. Well, there the facts
were. She owed him now four thousand pounds. She had no money of her
own, she was already overdrawn with her allowance. There was no chance
of paying him. She realised, with a little shudder, that he did not want
payment, a realisation which had come to her dimly from the first, but
which she had pushed away simply because she had felt sure of winning.
Now there was the price to be paid! She leaned further out of the
window. Away to her left the glow over the mountains was becoming
stained with the faintest of pinks. She looked at it long, with mute and
critical appreciation. She swept with her eyes the line of violet
shadows from the mountain-tops to the sea-board, where the pale lights
of Bordighera still flickered. She looked up again from the dark blue
sea to the paling stars. It was all wonderful--theatrical, perhaps, but
wonderful--and how she hated it! She stood up before the window and with
her clenched fists she beat against the sills. Those long days and
feverish nights through which she had passed slowly unfolded themselves.
In those few moments she seemed to taste again the dull pain of constant
disappointment, the hectic thrills of occasional winnings, the strange,
dull inertia which had taken the place of resignation. She looked into
the street below. How long would she live afterwards, she wondered, if
she threw herself down! She began even to realise the state of mind
which breeds suicides, the brooding over a morrow too hateful to be
faced.

As she still stood there, the silence of the street below was broken. A
motor-car swung round the corner and swept past the side of the hotel.
She caught at the curtain as she recognised its occupants. Richard Lane
was driving, and by his side sat her husband. The car was covered with
dust, both men seemed weary as though they had been out all night. She
gazed after them with fast-beating heart. She had pictured her husband
at the villa on the hill! Where had he been with Richard Lane? Perhaps,
after all, the things which she had imagined were not true. The car had
stopped now at the front door. It returned a moment later on its way to
the garage, with only Lane driving. She opened her door and stood there
silently. Hunterleys would have to pass the end of the corridor if he
came up by the main lift. She waited with fast beating heart. The
seconds passed. Then she heard the rattle of the lift ascending, its
click as it stopped, and soon afterwards the footsteps of a man. He was
coming--coming past the corner! At that moment she felt that the sound
of his footsteps was like the beating of fate. They came nearer and she
shrank a little back. There was something unfamiliar about them. Whoever
it might be, it was not Henry! And then suddenly Draconmeyer came into
sight. He saw her standing there and stopped short. Then he came rapidly
near.

"Lady Hunterleys!" he exclaimed softly. "You still up?"

She hesitated. Then she stood on one side, still grasping the handle of
the door.

"Do you want to come in?" she asked. "You may. I have something to say
to you. Perhaps I shall sleep better if I say it now."

He stepped quickly past her.

"Close the door," he whispered cautiously.

She obeyed him deliberately.

"There is no hurry," she said. "This is my sitting-room. I receive whom
I choose here."

"But it is nearly six o'clock!" he exclaimed.

"That does not affect me," she answered, shrugging her shoulders. "Sit
down."

He obeyed. There was something changed about her, something which he did
not recognise. She thrust her hands into a box of cigarettes, took one
out and lit it. She leaned against the table, facing him.

"Listen," she continued, "I have borrowed from you three thousand
pounds. You left with me to-night--I don't know whether you meant to
lend it to me or whether I had it on trust, but you left it in my
charge--another thousand pounds. I have lost it all--all, you
understand--the four thousand pounds and every penny I have of my own."

He sat quite still. He was watching her through his gold-rimmed
spectacles. There was the slightest possible frown upon his forehead.
The time for talking of money as though it were a trifle had passed.

"That is a great deal," he said.

"It is a great deal," she admitted. "I owe it to you and I cannot pay.
What are you going to do?"

He watched her eagerly. There was a new note in her voice. He paused to
consider what it might mean. A single false step now and he might lose
all that he had striven for.

"How am I to answer that?" he asked softly. "I will answer it first in
the way that seems most natural. I will beg you to accept your losings
as a little gift from me--as a proof, if you will, of my friendship."

He had saved the situation. If he had obeyed his first impulse, the
affair would have been finished. He realised it as he watched her face,
and he shuddered at the thought of his escape. His words obviously
disturbed her.

"It is not possible for me," she protested, "to accept money from you."

"Not from Linda's husband?"

She threw her cigarette into the grate and stood looking at him.

"Do you offer it to me as Linda's husband?" she demanded.

It was a crisis for which Draconmeyer was scarcely prepared. He was
driven out of his pusillanimous compromise. She was pressing him hard
for the truth. Again the fear of losing her altogether terrified him.

"If I have other feelings of which I have not spoken," he said quietly,
"have I not kept them to myself? Do I obtrude them upon you even now? I
am content to wait."

"To wait for what?" she insisted.

All that had been in his mind seemed suddenly miraged before him--the
removal of Hunterleys, his own wife's failing health. The way had seemed
so clear only a little time ago, and now the clouds were back again.

"Until you appreciate the fact," he told her, "that you have no more
sincere friend, that there is no one who values your happiness more than
I do."

"Supposing I take this money from you," she asked, after a moment's
pause. "Are there any conditions?"

"None whatever," he answered.

She turned away with a little sigh. The tragedy which a few minutes ago
she had seen looming up, eluded her. She had courted a dénouement in
vain. He was too clever.

"You are very generous," she said. "We will speak of this to-morrow. I
called you in because I could not bear the uncertainty of it all. Please
go now."

He rose slowly to his feet. She gave him her hand lifelessly. He kept it
for a moment. She drew it away and looked at the place where his lips
had touched it, wonderingly. It was as though her fingers had been
scorched with fire.

"It shall be to-morrow," he whispered, as he passed out.



CHAPTER XXXI

NEARING A CRISIS


From the wilds of Scotland to Monte Carlo, as fast as motor-cars and
train de luxe could bring him, came the right Honourable Meredith
Simpson, a very distinguished member of His Majesty's Government.
Hunterleys, advised of his coming by telegram from Marseilles, met him
at the station, and together the two men made their way at once to
Hunterleys' room across at the Hotel de Paris. Behind locked doors they
spoke for the first time of important matters.

"It's a great find, this of yours, Hunterleys," the Minister
acknowledged, "and it is corroborated, too, by what we know is happening
around us. We have had all the warning in the world just lately. The
Russian Ambassador is in St. Petersburg on leave of absence--in fact for
the last six months he has been taking his duties remarkably lightly.
Tell me how you first heard of the affair?"

"I got wind of it in Sofia," Hunterleys explained. "I travelled from
there quite quietly, loitered about the Italian Riviera, and came on
here as a tourist. The only help I could get hold of here was from
Sidney Roche, who, as you know, is one of our Secret Service men. Roche,
I am sorry to say, was shot last night. He may live but he won't be well
enough to take any further hand in the game here, and I have no one to
take his place."

"Roche shot!" Mr. Simpson exclaimed, in a shocked tone. "How did it
happen?"

"They found him lying on the roof of the Villa Mimosa, just over the
room where the meeting was taking place," Hunterleys replied. "They
chased him round the grounds and we just got him off in a motor-car, but
not before he'd been hit twice. He was just able to tell me a little.
The first meeting was quite informal and very guarded. Douaille was most
cautious--he was there only to listen. The second meeting was last
night. Grex was in the chair, representing Russia."

"You mean the Grand Duke Augustus?" Mr. Simpson interrupted.

Hunterleys nodded.

"Grex is the name he is living under here. He explained Russia's
position. Poor Roche was only able to falter a few words, but what he
said was enough to give us the key-note to the whole thing. The long and
short of it all is that Russia turned her face westward so long as
Constantinople was possible. Now that this war has come about and ended
as it has done, Russia's chance has gone. There is no longer any _quid
pro quo_ for her alliance with France. There is no friendship, of
course, between Russia and Germany, but at any rate Russia has nothing
to fear from Germany, and she knows it. Grex is quite frank. They must
look eastward, he said, and when he says eastward, he means Manchuria,
China, Persia, even India. At the same time, Russia has a conscience,
even though it be a diplomatic conscience. Hence this conference. She
doesn't want France crushed. Germany has a proposition. It has been
enunciated up to a certain point. She confers Alsace and Lorraine and
possibly Egypt upon France, for her neutrality whilst she destroys the
British Fleet. Or failing her neutrality, she wants her to place a weak
army on the frontier, which can fall back without much loss before a
German advance. Germany's objective then will be Calais and not Paris,
and from there she will command the Straits and deal with the British
Fleet at her leisure. Meanwhile, she will conclude peace with France on
highly advantageous terms. Don't you see what it means, Simpson? The
elementary part of the thing is as simple as A B C. Germany has nothing
to gain from Russia, she has nothing to gain from France. England is the
only country who can give her what she wants. That is about as far as
they have got, up to now, but there is something further behind it all.
That, Selingman is to tell them to-night."

"The most important point about the whole matter, so far as we are
concerned," Mr. Simpson declared, "is Douaille's attitude. You have
received no indication of that, I suppose?"

"None whatever," Hunterleys answered. "I thought of paying my respects,
but after all, you know, I have no official standing, and personally we
are almost strangers."

The Minister nodded.

"It's a difficult position," he confessed. "Have you copies of your
reports to London?"

"I have copies of them, and full notes of everything that has transpired
so far, in a strong box up at the bank," Hunterleys assented. "We can
stroll up there after lunch and I will place all the documents in your
hands. You can look them through then and decide what is best to be
done."

The Minister rose to his feet.

"I shall go round to my rooms, change my clothes," he announced, "and
meet you presently. We'll lunch across at Ciro's, eh? I didn't mean to
come to Monte Carlo this year, but so long as I am here, I may as well
make the best of it. You are not looking as though the change had done
you much good, Hunterleys."

"The last few days," Hunterleys remarked, a little drily, "have not been
exactly in the nature of a holiday."

"Are you here alone?"

"I came alone. I found my wife here by accident. She came through with
the Draconmeyers. They were supposed to stay at Cannes, but altered
their plans. Of course, Draconmeyer meant to come here all the time."

The Minister frowned.

"Draconmeyer's one man I should be glad to see out of London," he
declared. "Under the pretext of fostering good-will, and that sort of
thing, between the mercantile classes of our two countries, I think that
that fellow has done about as much mischief as it is possible for any
single man to have accomplished. We'll meet in an hour, Hunterleys. My
man is putting out some things for me and I must have a bath."

Hunterleys walked up to the hospital, and to his surprise met Selingman
coming away. The latter saluted him with a wave of the hat and a genial
smile.

"Calling to see our poor invalid?" he enquired blandly.

Hunterleys, although he knew his man, was a little taken aback.

"What share in him do you claim?" he asked.

Selingman sighed.

"Alas!" he confessed, "I fear that my claim would sound a little
cold-blooded. I think that I was the only man who held his gun straight.
Yet, after all, Roche would be the last to bear me any grudge. He was
playing the game, taking his risks. Uncommonly bad marksmen Grex's
private police were, or he'd be in the morgue instead of the hospital."

"I gather that our friend is still alive?" Hunterleys remarked.

"Going on as well as could be expected," Selingman replied.

"Conscious?"

Selingman smiled.

"You see through my little visit of sympathy at once!" he exclaimed.
"Unable to converse, I am assured, and unable to share with his friends
any little information he may have picked up last night. By the way,
whom shall you send to report our little conference to-night? You
wouldn't care to come yourself, would you?"

"I should like to exceedingly," Hunterleys assured him, "if you'd give
me a safe conduct."

Selingman withdrew his cigar from his mouth and laid his hand upon the
other's shoulder.

"My dear friend," he said earnestly, "your safe conduct, if ever I
signed it, would be to the other world. Frankly, we find you rather a
nuisance. We would be better pleased if your Party were in office, and
you with your knees tucked under a desk at Downing Street, attending to
your official business in your official place. Who gave you this roving
commission, eh? Who sent you to talk common sense to the Balkan States,
and how the mischief did you get wind of our little meeting here?"

"Ah!" Hunterleys replied, "I expect you really know all these things."

Selingman, with his feet planted firmly upon the pavement, took a fresh
cigar from his waistcoat pocket, bit off the end and lit it.

"My friend Hunterleys," he continued, "I am enjoying this brief
interchange of confidences. Circumstances have made me, as you see, a
politician, a schemer if you like. Nature meant me to be one of the
frankest, the most truthful, the best-hearted of men. I detest the
tortuous ways of the old diplomacy. The spoken word pleases me best.
That is why I like a few minutes' conversation with the enemy, why I
love to stand here and talk to you with the buttons off our foils. We
are scheming against you and your country, and you know it, and we shall
win. We can't help but win--if not to-day, to-morrow. Your country has
had a marvellously long run of good luck, but it can't last for ever."

Hunterleys smiled.

"Well," he observed, "there's nothing like confidence. If you are so
sure of success, why couldn't you choose a cleaner way to it than by
tampering with our ally?"

Selingman patted his companion on the shoulder.

"Listen, my friend," he said, "there are no such things as allies. An
alliance between two countries is a dead letter so soon as their
interests cease to be identical. Now Austria is our ally because she is
practically Germany. We are both mid-Continental Powers. We both need
the same protection. But England and France! Go back only fifty years,
my dear Hunterleys, and ask yourself--would any living person, living
now and alive then, believe in the lasting nature of such an unnatural
alliance? Wherever you look, in every quarter of the globe, your
interests are opposed. You robbed France of Egypt. She can't have wholly
forgotten. You dominate the Mediterranean through Gibraltar, Malta, and
Cyprus. What does she think of that, I wonder? Isn't a humiliation for
her when she does stop to think of it? You've a thousand years of
quarrels, of fighting and rapine behind you. You can't call yourselves
allies because the thing isn't natural. It never could be. It was only
your mutual, hysterical fear of Germany which drove you into one
another's arms. We fought France once to prove ourselves, and for money.
Just now we don't want either money or territory from France. Perhaps we
don't even want, my dear Englishman, what you think we want, but all the
same, don't blame us for trying to dissolve an unnatural alliance. Was
that Simpson who came by the Luxe this morning?"

"It was," Hunterleys admitted.

"The Right Honourable John William Meredith Simpson!" Selingman recited,
waving his cigar. "Well, well, we certainly have made a stir with our
little meetings here. An inspired English Cabinet Minister,
travel-stained and dusty, arrives with his valet and a black
dispatch-box, to foil our schemes. Send him along, my friend. We are not
at all afraid of Mr. Simpson. Perhaps we may even ask him to join us
this evening."

"I fancy," Hunterleys remarked grimly, "that the Englishman who joins
you this evening will find a home up on the hill here."

"Or down in the morgue there," Selingman grunted, pointing down to
Monaco. "Take care, Hunterleys--take care, man. One of us hates you. It
isn't I. You are fighting a brave fight and a losing fight, but you are
good metal. Try and remember, when you find that you are beaten, that
life has many consolations for the philosopher."

He passed on and Hunterleys entered the hospital. Whilst he was waiting
in the little reception-room, Felicia came in. Her face showed signs of
her night's anxiety.

"Sidney is still unconscious," she announced, her voice shaking a
little. "The doctors seem hopeful--but oh! Sir Henry, it is terrible to
see him lying there just as though he were dead!"

"Sidney will pull through all right," Hunterleys declared,
encouragingly. "He has a wonderful constitution and he is the luckiest
fellow born. He always gets out of trouble, somehow or other."

She came slowly up to him.

"Sir Henry," she said piteously, "I know quite well that Sidney was
willing to take his risks. He went into this thing, knowing it was
dangerous. I want to be brave. What happens must be. But listen. You
won't--you won't rob me of everything in life, will you? You won't send
David after him?"

Hunterleys smiled reassuringly.

"I can promise you that," he told her. "This isn't David's job at all.
He has to stick to his post and help out the bluff as a press
correspondent. Don't be afraid, Felicia. You shall have your David."

She seized his hand and kissed it.

"You have been so kind to me always, Sir Henry," she sighed. "I can't
tell you how thankful I am to think that you don't want David to go and
run these horrible risks."

"No fear of that, I promise you," he assured her once more. "David will
be busy enough pulling the strings another way."

The doctor entered the room and shook hands with Hunterleys. There was
no news, he declared, nothing to be done. The patient must continue in
his present condition for several more hours at least. The symptoms
were, in their way, favourable. Beyond that, nothing could be said.
Felicia and Hunterleys left the hospital together.

"I wonder," she began, as they turned out of the white gates, "whether
you would mind very much if I told you something?"

"Of course not!"

"Yesterday," she continued slowly, "I met Lady Hunterleys. You know, I
have seen her twice when I have been to your house to sing for your
guests. She recognised me, I feel sure, but she didn't seem to want to
see me. She looked surprised when I bowed. I worried about it at first
and then I wondered. You are so very, very secretive just now. Whatever
this affair may be in which you three are all concerned, you never open
your lips about it. Lady Hunterleys probably doesn't know that you have
had to come up to the villa at all hours of the night just to see
Sidney. You don't suppose that by any chance she imagined--that you came
to see me?"

Hunterleys was struck by the thought. He remembered several chance
remarks of his wife. He remembered, too, the coincidence of his recent
visits to the villa having prevented him in each case from acceding to
some request of Violet's.

"I am glad you've mentioned this, child," he said frankly. "Now I come
to think of it, my wife certainly did know that I came up to the villa
very late one night, and she seemed upset about it. Of course, she
hasn't the faintest idea about your brother."

"Well," Felicia declared, with a sigh of relief, "I felt that I had to
tell you. It sounded horribly conceited, in a way, but then she wouldn't
know that you came to see Sidney, or that I was engaged to David.
Misunderstandings do come about so easily, you know, sometimes."

"This one shall be put right, at any rate," he promised her. "Now, if
you will take my advice, you will go home and lie down until the
evening. You are going to sing again, aren't you?"

"If there is no change," she replied. "I know that he would like me to.
You haven't minded--what I've said?"

"Not a bit, child," he assured her; "in fact I think it was very good of
you. Now I'll put you in this carriage and send you home. Think of
nothing except that Sidney is getting better every hour, and sing
to-night as though your voice could reach his bedside. Au revoir!"

He waved his hand to her as she drove off, and returned to the Hotel de
Paris. He found a refreshed and rejuvenated Simpson smoking a cigarette
upon the steps.

"To lunch!" the latter exclaimed. "Afterwards I will tell you my plans."



CHAPTER XXXII

AN INTERESTING MEETING


Hunterleys leaned suddenly forward across the little round table.

"The question of whether or no you shall pay your respects to Monsieur
Douaille," he remarked, "is solved. Unless I am very much mistaken, we
are going to have an exceedingly interesting luncheon-party on our
right."

"Monsieur Douaille----" Mr. Simpson began, a little eagerly.

"And the others," Hunterleys interrupted. "Don't look around for a
moment. This is almost historical."

Monsieur Ciro himself, bowing and smiling, was ushering a party of
guests to a round table upon the terrace, in the immediate vicinity of
the two men. Mr. Grex, with his daughter and Lady Hunterleys on one side
and Monsieur Douaille on the other, were in the van. Draconmeyer
followed with Lady Weybourne, and Selingman brought up the rear with the
Comtesse d'Hausson, one of the most prominent leaders of the French
colony in Monte Carlo, and a connection by marriage of Monsieur
Douaille.

[Illustration: Mr. Grex, with his daughter and Lady Hunterleys on one
side and Monsieur Douaille on the other, were in the van.]

"A luncheon-party for Douaille," Hunterleys murmured, as he bowed, to
his wife and exchanged greetings with some of the others. "I wonder what
they think of their neighbours! A little embarrassing for the chief
guest, I am afraid."

"I see your wife is in the enemy's camp," his companion observed.
"Draconmeyer is coming to speak to me. This promises to be interesting."

Draconmeyer and Selingman both came over to greet the English Minister.
Selingman's blue eyes were twinkling with humour, his smile was broad
and irresistible.

"This should send funds up in every capital of Europe," he declared, as
he shook hands. "When Mr. Meredith Simpson takes a holiday, then the
political barometer points to 'set fair'!"

"A tribute to my conscientiousness," the Minister replied, smiling. "I
am glad to see that I am not the only hard-worked statesman who feels
able to take a few days' holiday."

Selingman glanced at the round table and beamed.

"It is true," he admitted. "Every country seems to have sent its
statesmen holiday-making. And what a playground, too!" he added,
glancing towards Hunterleys with something which was almost a wink.
"Here, political crises seem of little account by the side of the
turning wheel. This is where the world unbends and it is well that there
should be such a place. Shall we see you at the Club or in the rooms
later?"

"Without a doubt," Mr. Simpson assented. "For what else does one live in
Monte Carlo?"

"How did you leave things in town?" Mr. Draconmeyer enquired.

"So-so!" the Minister answered. "A little flat, but then it is a dull
season of the year."

"Markets about the same, I suppose?" Mr. Draconmeyer asked.

"I am afraid," Mr. Simpson confessed, "that I only study the city column
from the point of view of what Herr Selingman has just called the
political barometer. Things were a little unsteady when I left. Consols
fell several points yesterday."

Mr. Draconmeyer frowned.

"It is incomprehensible," he declared. "A few months ago there was real
danger, one is forced to believe, of a European war. To-day the crisis
is passed, yet the money-markets which bore up so well through the
critical period seem now all the time on the point of collapse. It is
hard for a banker to know how to operate these days. I wish you
gentlemen in Downing Street, Mr. Simpson, would make it easier for us."

Mr. Simpson shrugged his shoulders.

"The real truth of the matter is," he said, "that you allow your
money-market to become too sensitive an affair. A whisper will depress
it. A threatening word spoken in the Reichstag or in the House of
Parliament, magnified a hundred-fold before it reaches its destination,
has sometimes a most unwarranted effect upon markets. You mustn't blame
us so much, Mr. Draconmeyer. You jump at conclusions too easily in the
city."

"Sound common sense," Mr. Draconmeyer agreed. "You are perfectly right
when you say that we are over-sensitive. The banker deplores it as much
as the politician. It's the money-kings, I suppose, who find it
profitable."

They returned to their table a moment later. As he passed Douaille,
Selingman whispered in his ear. Monsieur Douaille turned around at once
and bowed to Simpson. As he caught the latter's eye he, too, left his
place and came across. Mr. Simpson rose to his feet. The two men bowed
formally before shaking hands.

"Monsieur Simpson," the Frenchman exclaimed, "it is a pleasure to find
that I am remembered!"

"Without a doubt, monsieur," was the prompt reply. "Your last visit to
London, on the occasion when we had the pleasure of entertaining you at
the Guildhall, is too recent, and was too memorable an event altogether
for us to have forgotten. Permit me to assure you that your speech on
that occasion was one which no patriotic Englishman is likely to
forget."

Monsieur Douaille inclined his head in thanks. His manner was not
altogether free from embarrassment.

"I trust that you are enjoying your holiday here?" he asked.

"I have only this moment arrived," Mr. Simpson explained. "I am looking
forward to a few days' rest immensely. I trust that I shall have the
pleasure of seeing something of you, Monsieur Douaille. A little
conversation would be most agreeable."

"In Monte Carlo one meets one's friends all the time," Monsieur Douaille
replied. "I lunch to-day with my friend--our mutual friend, without a
doubt--who calls himself here Mr. Grex."

Mr. Simpson nodded.

"If it is permitted," he suggested, "I should like to do myself the
honour of paying my respects to you."

Monsieur Douaille was flattered.

"My stay here is short," he regretted, "but your visit will be most
acceptable. I am at the Riviera Palace Hotel."

"It is one of my theories," Mr. Simpson remarked, "that politicians are
at a serious disadvantage compared with business men, inasmuch as, with
important affairs under their control, they have few opportunities of
meeting those with whom they have dealings. It would be a great pleasure
to me to discuss one or two matters with you."

Monsieur Douaille departed, with a few charming words of assent. Simpson
looked after him with kindling eyes.

"This," he murmured, leaning across the table, "is a most extraordinary
meeting. There they sit, those very men whom you suspect of this
devilish scheme, within a few feet of us! Positively thrilling,
Hunterleys!"

Hunterleys, too, seemed to feel the stimulating effect of a situation so
dramatic. As the meal progressed, he drew his chair a little closer to
the table and leaned over towards his companion.

"I think," he said, "that we shall both of us remember the coincidence
of this meeting as long as we live. At that luncheon-table, within a few
yards of us, sits Russia, the new Russia, raising his head after a
thousand years' sleep, watching the times, weighing them, realising his
own immeasurable strength, pointing his inevitable finger along the road
which the Russia of to-morrow must tread. There isn't a man in that
great country so much to be feared to-day, from our point of view, as
the Grand Duke Augustus. And look, too, at the same table, within a few
feet, Simpson, of you and of me--Selingman, Selingman who represents the
real Germany; not the war party alone, intoxicated with the clash of
arms, filled with bombastic desires for German triumphs on sea and land,
ever ready to spout in flowery and grandiloquent phrases the glory of
Germany and the Heaven-sent genius of her leaders. I tell you, Simpson,
Selingman is a more dangerous man than that. He sits with folded arms,
in realms of thought above these people. He sits with a map of the world
before him, and he places his finger upon the inevitable spots which
Germany must possess to keep time with the march of the world, to find
new homes for her overflowing millions. He has no military fervour, no
tinselly patriotism. He knows what Germany needs and he will carve her
way towards it. Look at him with his napkin tucked under his chin,
broad-visaged, podgy, a slave, you might think, to the joys of the table
and the grosser things of life. You should see his eyes sometimes when
the right note is struck, watch his mouth when he sits and thinks. He
uses words for an ambush and a barricade. He talks often like a gay
fool, a flood of empty verbiage streams from his lips, and behind, all
the time his brain works."

"You seem to have studied these people, Hunterleys," Simpson remarked
appreciatively.

Hunterleys smiled as he continued his luncheon.

"Forgive me if I was a little prolix," he said, "but, after all, what
would you have? I am out of office but I remain a servant of my country.
My interest is just as keen as though I were in a responsible position."

"You are well out of it," Simpson sighed. "If half what you suspect is
true, it's the worst fix we've been in for some time."

"I am afraid there isn't any doubt about it," Hunterleys declared. "Of
course, we've been at a fearful disadvantage. Roche was the only man out
here upon whom I could rely. Now they've accounted for him, we've
scarcely a chance of getting at the truth."

Mr. Simpson was gloomily silent for some moments. He was thinking of the
time when he had struck his pencil through a recent Secret Service
estimate.

"Anyhow," Hunterleys went on, "it will be all over in twenty-four hours.
Something will be decided upon--what, I am afraid there is very little
chance of our getting to know. These men will separate--Grex to St.
Petersburg, Selingman to Berlin, Douaille to Paris. Then I think we
shall begin to hear the mutterings of the storm."

"I think," Mr. Simpson intervened, his eyes fixed upon an approaching
figure, "that there is a young lady talking to the maître d'hôtel, who
is trying to attract your attention."

Hunterleys turned around in his chair. It was Felicia who was making her
way towards him. He rose at once to his feet. There was a little murmur
of interest amongst the lunchers as she threaded her way past the
tables. It was not often that an English singer in opera had met with so
great a success. Lady Hunterleys, recognising her as she passed, paused
in the middle of a sentence. Her face hardened. Hunterleys had risen
from his place and was watching Felicia's approach anxiously.

"Is there any news of Sidney?" he asked quickly, as he took her hand.

"Nothing fresh," she answered in a low voice. "I have brought you a
message--from some one else."

He held his chair for her but she shook her head.

"I mustn't stay," she continued. "This is what I wanted to tell you. As
I was crossing the square just now, I recognised the man Frenhofer, from
the Villa Mimosa. Directly he saw me he came across the road. He was
looking for one of us. He dared not come to the villa, he declares, for
fear of being watched. He has something to tell you."

"Where can I find him?" Hunterleys asked.

"He has gone to a little bar in the Rue de Chaussures, the Bar de
Montmartre it is called. He is waiting there for you now."

"You must stay and have some lunch," Hunterleys begged. "I will come
back."

She shook her head.

"I have just been across to the Opera House," she explained, "to enquire
about some properties for to-night. I have had all the lunch I want and
I am on my way to the hospital now again. I came here on the chance of
finding you. They told me at the Hotel de Paris that you were lunching
out."

Hunterleys turned and whispered to Simpson.

"This is very important," he said. "It concerns the affair in which we
are interested. Linger over your coffee and I will return."

Mr. Simpson nodded and Hunterleys left the restaurant with Felicia. His
wife, at whom he glanced for a moment, kept her head averted. She was
whispering in the ear of the gallant Monsieur Douaille. Selingman,
catching Draconmeyer's eye, winked at him solemnly.

"You have all the luck, my silent friend," he murmured.



CHAPTER XXXIII

THE FATES ARE KIND


The Bar de Montmartre was many steps under the level of the street,
dark, smelly, and dilapidated. Its only occupants were a handful of
drivers from the carriage-stand opposite, who stared at Hunterleys in
amazement as he entered, and then rushed forward, almost in a body, to
offer their services. The man behind the bar, however, who had evidently
been forewarned, intervened with a few sharp words, and, lifting the
flap of the counter, ushered Hunterleys into a little room beyond.
Frenhofer was engaged there in amiable badinage with a young lady who
promptly disappeared at Hunterleys' entrance. Frenhofer bowed
respectfully.

"I must apologise," he said, "for bringing monsieur to such a place. It
is near the end now, and with Monsieur Roche in the hospital I ventured
to address myself to monsieur direct. Here I have the right to enter. I
make my suit to the daughter of the proprietor in order to have a safe
rendezvous when necessary. It is well that monsieur has come quickly. I
have tidings. I can disclose to monsieur the meeting-place for to-night.
If monsieur has fortune and the wit to make use of it, the opportunity I
shall give him is a great one. But pardon me. Before we talk business we
must order something."

He touched the bell. The proprietor himself thrust in his head,
bullet-shaped, with black moustache and unshaven chin. He wore no
collar, and the remainder of his apparel was negligible.

"A bottle of your best brandy," Frenhofer ordered. "The best, mind, Père
Hanaut."

The man's acquiescence was as amiable as nature would permit.

"Monsieur will excuse me," Frenhofer went on, as the door was once more
closed, "but these people have their little ways. To sell a whole bottle
of brandy at five times its value, is to Monsieur le Propriétaire more
agreeable than to offer him rent for the hire of his room. He is outside
all the things in which we are concerned. He believes--pardon me,
monsieur--that we are engaged in a little smuggling transaction.
Monsieur Roche and I have used this place frequently."

"He can believe what he likes," Hunterleys replied, "so long as he keeps
his mouth shut."

The brandy was brought--and three glasses. Frenhofer promptly took the
hint and, filling one to the brim, held it out to the landlord.

"You will drink our health, Père Hanaut--my health and the health of
monsieur here, and the health of the fair Annette. Incidentally, you
will drink also to the success of the little scheme which monsieur and I
are planning."

"In such brandy," the proprietor declared hoarsely, "I would drink to
the devil himself!"

He threw back his head and the contents of his glass vanished. He set it
down with a little smack of the lips. Once more he looked at the bottle.
Frenhofer filled up his glass, but motioned to the door with his head.

"You will excuse us, dear friend," he begged, laying his hand
persuasively upon the other's shoulder. "Monsieur and I have little
enough of time."

The landlord withdrew. Frenhofer walked around the little apartment.
Their privacy was certainly assured.

"Monsieur," he announced, turning to Hunterleys, "there has been a great
discussion as to the next meeting-place between our friends--the next,
which will be also the last. They are safe enough in reality at the
villa, but Monsieur Douaille is nervous. The affair of last night
terrified him. The reason for these things I, of course, know nothing
of, but it seems that Monsieur Douaille is very anxious indeed to keep
his association with my august master and Herr Selingman as secret as
possible. He has declined most positively to set foot again within the
Villa Mimosa. Many plans have been suggested. This is the one adopted.
For some weeks a German down in Monaco, a shipping agent, has had a
yacht in the harbour for hire. He has approached Mr. Grex several times,
not knowing his identity; ignorant, indeed, of the fact that the Grand
Duke himself possesses one of the finest yachts afloat. However, that is
nothing. Mr. Grex thought suddenly of the yacht. He suggested it to the
others. They were enthusiastic. The yacht is to be hired for a week, or
longer if necessary, and used only to-night. Behold the wonderful
good-fortune of the affair! It is I who have been selected by my master
to proceed to Monaco to make arrangements with the German, Herr Schwann.
I am on my way there at the moment."

"A yacht?" Hunterleys repeated.

"There are wonderful things to be thought of," Frenhofer asserted
eagerly. "Consider, monsieur! The yacht of this man Schwann has never
been seen by my master. Consider, too, that aboard her there must be a
dozen hiding-places. The crew has been brought together from anywhere.
They can be bought to a man. There is only one point, monsieur, which
should be arranged before I enter upon this last and, for me, most
troublesome and dangerous enterprise."

"And that?" Hunterleys enquired.

"My own position," Frenhofer declared solemnly. "I am not greedy or
covetous. My ambitions have long been fixed. To serve an Imperial
Russian nobleman has been no pleasure for me. St. Petersburg has been a
prison. I have been moved to the right or to the left as a machine. It
is as a machine only I have lived. Always I have longed for Paris. So
month by month I have saved. After to-night I must leave my master's
employ. The risk will be too great if monsieur indeed accepts my
proposition and carries it out. I need but a matter of ten thousand
francs to complete my savings."

The man's white face shone eagerly in the dim light of the gloomy little
apartment. His eyes glittered. He waited almost breathlessly.

"Frenhofer," Hunterleys said slowly, "so far as I have been concerned
indirectly in these negotiations with you, my instructions to my agent
have been simple and definite. We have never haggled. Your name was
known to me eight years ago, when you served us in St. Petersburg and
served us well. You have done the same thing now and you have behaved
with rare intelligence. Within the course of an hour I shall transfer
ten thousand francs to the account of François Frenhofer at the English
Bank here."

The eyes of the man seemed suddenly like pinpricks of fire.

"Monsieur is a prince," he murmured. "And now for the further details.
If monsieur would run the risk, I would suggest that he accompanies me
to the office of this man Schwann."

Hunterleys made no immediate reply. He was walking up and down the
narrow apartment. A brilliant idea had taken possession of him. The more
he thought of it, the more feasible it became.

"Frenhofer," he said at last, "I have a scheme of my own. You are sure
that Mr. Grex has never seen this yacht?"

"He has never set eyes upon it, monsieur, save to try and single it out
with his field-glasses from the balcony of the villa."

"And he is to board it to-night?"

"At ten o'clock to-night, monsieur, it is to lie off the Villa Mimosa. A
pinnace is to fetch Mr. Grex and his friends on board from the private
landing-stage of the Villa Mimosa."

Hunterleys nodded thoughtfully.

"Frenhofer," he explained, "my scheme is this. A friend of mine has a
yacht in the harbour. I believe that he would lend it to me. Why should
we not substitute it for the yacht your master imagines that he is
hiring? If so, all difficulties as to placing whom I desire on board and
secreting them are over."

"It is a great scheme," Frenhofer assented, "but supposing my master
should choose to telephone some small detail to the office of the man
Schwann?"

"You must hire the yacht of Schwann, just as you were instructed,"
Hunterleys pointed out. "You must give orders, though, that it is not to
leave the harbour until telephoned for. Then it will be the yacht which
I shall borrow which will lie off the Villa Mimosa to-night."

"It is admirable," Frenhofer declared. "The more one thinks of it, the
more one appreciates. This yacht of Schwann's--the _Christable_, he
calls it--was fitted out by a millionaire. My master will be surprised
at nothing in the way of luxury."

"Tell me again," Hunterleys asked, "at what hour is it to be off the
Villa Mimosa?"

"At ten o'clock," Frenhofer replied. "A pinnace is to be at the
landing-stage of the villa at that time. Mr. Grex, Monsieur Douaille,
Herr Selingman, and Mr. Draconmeyer will come on board."

"Very good! Now go on your errand to the man Schwann. You had better
meet me here later in the afternoon--say at four o'clock--and let me
know that all is in order. I will bring you some particulars about my
friend's boat, so that you will know how to answer any questions your
master may put to you."

"It is admirable," Frenhofer repeated enthusiastically. "Monsieur had
better, perhaps, precede me."

Hunterleys walked through the streets back to Ciro's Restaurant, filled
with a new exhilaration. His eyes were bright, his brain was working all
the time. The luncheon-party at the next table were still in the midst
of their meal. Mr. Simpson was smoking a meditative cigarette with his
coffee. Hunterleys resumed his place and ordered coffee for himself.

"I have been to see a poor friend who met with an accident last night,"
he announced, speaking as clearly as possible. "I fear that he is very
ill. That was his sister who fetched me away."

Mr. Simpson nodded sympathetically. Their conversation for a few minutes
was desultory. Then Hunterleys asked for the bill and rose.

"I will take you round to the Club and get your _carte_," he suggested.
"Afterwards, we can spend the afternoon as you choose."

The two men strolled out of the place. It was not until after they had
left the arcade and were actually in the street, that Hunterleys gripped
his companion's arm.

"Simpson," he declared, "the fates have been kind to us. Douaille has a
fit of the nerves. He will go no more to the Villa Mimosa. Seeking about
for the safest meeting-place, Grex has given us a chance. The only one
of his servants who belongs to us is commissioned to hire a yacht on
which they meet to-night."

"A yacht," Mr. Simpson replied, emptily.

"I have a friend," Hunterleys continued, "an American. I am convinced
that he will lend me his yacht, which is lying in the harbour here. We
are going to try and exchange. If we succeed, I shall have the run of
the boat. The crew will be at our command, and I shall get to that
conference myself, somehow or other."

Mr. Simpson felt himself left behind. He could only stare at his
companion.

"Tell me, Sir Henry," he begged, almost pathetically, "have I walked
into an artificial world? Do you mean to tell me seriously that you, a
Member of Parliament, an ex-Minister, are engaged upon a scheme to get
the Grand Duke Augustus and Douaille and Selingman on board a yacht, and
that you are going to be there, concealed, turned into a spy? I can't
keep up with it. As fiction it seems to me to be in the clouds. As
truth, why, my understanding turns and mocks me. You are talking
fairy-tales."

Hunterleys smiled tolerantly.

"The man in the street knows very little of the real happenings in
life," he pronounced. "The truth has a queer way sometimes of spreading
itself out into the realms of fiction. Come across here with me to the
hotel. I have got to move heaven and earth to find my friend."

"Do with me as you like," Mr. Simpson sighed resignedly. "In a plain
political discussion, or an argument with Monsieur Douaille--well, I am
ready to bear my part. But this sort of thing lifts me off my feet. I
can only trot along at your heels."

They entered the Hotel de Paris. Hunterleys made a few breathless
enquiries. Nothing, alas! was known of Mr. Richard Lane. He came back,
frowning, to the steps of the hotel.

"If he is up playing golf at La Turbie," Hunterleys muttered, "we shall
barely have time."

A reception clerk tapped him on the shoulder. He turned abruptly around.

"I have just made an enquiry of the floor waiter," the clerk announced.
"He believes that Mr. Lane is still in his room."

Hunterleys thanked the man and hurried to the lift. In a few moments he
was knocking at the door of Lane's rooms. His heart gave a great jump as
a familiar voice bade him enter. He stepped inside and closed the door
behind him. Richard, in light blue pyjamas, sat up in bed and looked at
his visitor with a huge yawn.

"Say, old chap, are you in a hurry or anything?" he demanded.

"Do you know the time?" Hunterleys asked.

"No idea," the other replied. "The valet called me at eight. I told him
I'd shoot him if he disturbed me again."

"It's nearly three o'clock!" Hunterleys declared impressively.

"Can't help it," Richard yawned, throwing off the bed-clothes and
sitting on the edge of the bed. "I am young and delicate and I need my
rest. Seriously, Hunterleys," he added, "you take a chap out and make
him drive you at sixty miles an hour all through the night, you keep him
at it till nearly six in the morning, and you seem to think it a tragedy
to find him in bed at three o'clock in the afternoon. Hang it, I've only
had eight hours' sleep!"

"I don't care how long you've had," Hunterleys rejoined. "I am only too
thankful to find you. Now listen. Is your brain working? Can you talk
seriously?"

"I guess so."

"You remember our talk last night?"

"Every word of it."

"The time has come," Hunterleys continued,--"your time, I mean. You said
that if you could take a hand, you'd do it. I am here to beg for your
help."

"You needn't waste your breath doing that," Richard answered firmly.
"I'm your man. Go on."

"Listen," Hunterleys proceeded. "Is your yacht in commission?"

"Ready to sail at ten minutes' notice," the young man assured him
emphatically, "victualled and coaled to the eyelids. To tell you the
truth, I have some idea of abducting Fedora to-day or to-morrow."

"You'll have to postpone that," Hunterleys told him. "I want to borrow
the yacht."

"She's yours," Richard assented promptly. "I'll give you a note to the
captain."

"Look here, I want you to understand this clearly," Hunterleys went on.
"If you lend me the _Minnehaha_, well, you commit yourself a bit. You
see, it's like this. I've one man of my own in Grex's household. He came
to me this morning. Monsieur Douaille objects to cross again the
threshold of the Villa Mimosa. He fears the English newspapers. There
has been a long discussion as to the next meeting-place. Grex suggested
a yacht. To that they all agreed. There is a man named Schwann down in
Monaco has a yacht for hire. Mr. Grex knows about it and he has sent the
man I spoke of into Monaco this afternoon to hire it. They are all going
to embark at ten o'clock to-night. They are going to hold their meeting
in the cabin."

Lane whistled softly. He was wide awake now.

"Go on," he murmured. "Go on. Say, this is great!"

"I want," Hunterleys explained, "your yacht to take the place of the
other. I want it to be off the Villa Mimosa at ten o'clock to-night,
your pinnace to be at the landing-stage of the villa to bring Mr. Grex
and his friends on board. I want you to haul down your American flag,
keep your American sailors out of sight, cover up the Stars and Stripes
in your cabin, have only your foreign stewards on show. Schwann's yacht
is a costly one. No one will know the difference. You must get up now
and show me over the boat. I have to scheme, somehow or other, how we
can hide ourselves on it so that I can overhear the end of this plot."

The face of Richard Lane was like the face of an ingenuous boy who sees
suddenly a Paradise of sport stretched out before him. His mouth was
open, his eyes gleaming.

"Gee, but this is glorious!" he exclaimed. "I'm with you all the way.
Why, it's wonderful, man! It's a chapter from the Arabian Nights over
again!"

He leapt to his feet and rang the bell furiously. Then he rushed to the
telephone.

"Blue serge clothes," he ordered the valet. "Get my bath ready."

"Any breakfast, monsieur?"

"Oh, breakfast be hanged! No, wait a moment. Get me some coffee and a
roll. I'll take it while I dress. Hurry up!... Yes, is that the enquiry
office? This is Mr. Lane. Send round to my chauffeur at the garage at
once and tell him that I want the car at the door in a quarter of an
hour. Righto! ... Sit down, Hunterleys. Smoke or do whatever you want
to. We'll be off to the yacht in no time."

Hunterleys clapped the young giant on the shoulders as he rushed through
to the bathroom.

"You're a brick, Richard," he declared. "I'll wait for you down in the
hall. I've a pal there."

"I'll be down in twenty minutes or earlier," Lane promised. "What a
lark!"



CHAPTER XXXIV

COFFEE FOR ONE ONLY


The breaking up of Mr. Grex's luncheon-party was the signal for a
certain amount of man[oe]uvring on the part of one or two of his guests.
Monsieur Douaille, for instance, was anxious to remain the escort of
Lady Hunterleys, whose plans for the afternoon he had ascertained were
unformed. Mr. Grex was anxious to keep apart his daughter and Lady
Weybourne, whose relationship to Richard Lane he had only just
apprehended; while he himself desired a little quiet conversation with
Monsieur Douaille before they paid the visit which had been arranged for
to the Club and the Casino. In the end, Mr. Grex was both successful and
unsuccessful. He carried off Monsieur Douaille for a short ride in his
automobile, but was forced to leave his daughter and Lady Weybourne
alone. Draconmeyer, who had been awaiting his opportunity, remained by
Lady Hunterleys' side.

"I wonder," he asked, "whether you would step in for a few minutes and
see Linda?"

She had been looking at the table where her husband and his companion
had been seated. Draconmeyer's voice seemed to bring her back to a
present not altogether agreeable.

"I am going back to my room for a little time," she replied. "I will
call in and see Linda first, if you like."

They left the restaurant together and strolled across the Square to the
Hotel de Paris, ascended in the lift, and made their way to
Draconmeyer's suite of rooms in a silence which was almost unbroken.
When they entered the large salon with its French-windows and balcony,
they found the apartment deserted. Violet looked questioningly at her
companion. He closed the door behind him and nodded.

"Yes," he admitted, "my message was a subterfuge. I have sent Linda over
to Mentone with her nurse. She will not be back until late in the
afternoon. This is the opportunity for which I have been waiting."

She showed no signs of anger or, indeed, disturbance of any sort. She
laid her tiny white silk parasol upon the table and glanced at him
coolly.

"Well," she said, "you have your way, then. I am here."

Draconmeyer looked at her long and anxiously. Skilled though he was in
physiognomy, closely though he had watched, for many months, the lights
and shades, the emotional changes in her expression, he was yet, at that
moment, completely puzzled. She was not angry. Her attitude seemed to
be, in a sense, passive. Yet what did passivity mean? Was it
resignation, consent, or was it simply the armour of normal resistance
in which she had clothed herself? Was he wise, after all, to risk
everything? Then, as he looked at her, as he realised her close and
wonderful presence, he suddenly told himself that it was worth while
risking even Heaven in the future for the joy of holding her for once in
his arms. She had never seemed to him so maddeningly beautiful as at
that moment. It was one of the hottest days of the season and she was
wearing a gown of white muslin, curiously simple, enhancing, somehow or
other, her fascinating slimness, a slimness which had nothing to do with
angularity but possessed its own soft and graceful curves. Her eyes were
bluer even than her turquoise brooch or the gentians in her hat. And
while his heart was aching and throbbing with doubts and hopes, she
suddenly smiled at him.

"I am going to sit down," she announced carelessly. "Please say to me
just what is in your mind, without reserve. It will be better."

She threw herself into a low chair near the window. Her hands were
folded in her lap. Her eyes, for some reason, were fixed upon her
wedding ring. Swift to notice even her slightest action, he frowned as
he discerned the direction of her gaze.

"Violet," he said, "I think that you are right. I think that the time
has come when I must tell you what is in my mind."

She raised her eyebrows slightly at the sound of her Christian name. He
moved over and stood by her chair.

"For a good many years," he began slowly, "I have been a man with a
purpose. When it first came into my mind--not willingly--its
accomplishment seemed utterly hopeless. Still, it was there. Strong man
though I am, I could not root it out. I waited. There was nothing else
to do but wait. From that moment my life was divided. My whole-soul
devotion to worldly affairs was severed. I had one dream that was more
wonderful to me, even, than complete success in the great undertaking
which brought me to London. That dream was connected with you, Violet."

She moved a little uneasily, as though the repetition of her Christian
name grated. This time, however, he was rapt in his subject.

"I won't make excuses," he went on. "You know what Linda is--what she
has been for ten years. I have tried to be kind to her. As to love, I
never had any. Ours was an alliance between two great monied families,
arranged for us, acquiesced in by both of us as a matter of course. It
seemed to me in those days the most natural and satisfactory form of
marriage. I looked upon myself as others have thought me--a cold,
bloodless man of figures and ambition. It is you who have taught me that
I have as much sentiment and more than other men, a heart and desires
which have made life sometimes hell and sometimes paradise. For two
years I have struggled. Life with me has been a sort of passionate
compromise. For the joy of seeing you sometimes, of listening to you and
watching you, I have borne the agony of having you leave me to take your
place with another man. You don't quite know what that meant, and I am
not going to tell you, but always I have hoped and hoped."

"And now," she said, looking at him, "I owe you four thousand pounds and
you think, perhaps, that your time has come to speak?"

He shivered as though she had struck him a blow.

"You think," he exclaimed, "that I am a man of pounds, shillings, and
pence! Is it my fault that you owe me money?"

He snatched her cheques from his inner pocket and ripped them in pieces,
lit a match and watched them while they smouldered away. She, too,
watched with emotionless face.

"Do you think that I want to buy you?" he demanded. "There! You are free
from your money claims. You can leave my room this moment, if you will,
and owe me nothing."

She made no movement, yet he was vaguely disturbed by a sense of having
made but little progress, a terrible sense of impending failure. His
fingers began to tremble, his face was the face of a man stretched upon
the rack.

"Perhaps those words of mine were false," he went on. "Perhaps, in a
sense, I do want to buy you, buy the little kindnesses that go with
affection, buy your kind words, the touch sometimes of your fingers, the
pleasant sense of companionship I feel when I am with you. I know how
proud you are. I know how virtuous you are. I know that it's there in
your blood, the Puritan instinct, the craving for the one man to whom
you have given yourself, the involuntary shrinking from the touch of any
other. Good women are like that--wives or mistresses. Mind, in a sense
it's narrow; in a sense it's splendid. Listen to me. I don't want to
declare war against that instinct--yet. I can't. Perhaps, even now, I
have spoken too soon, craved too soon for the little I do ask. Yet God
knows I can keep the seal upon my lips no longer! Don't let us
misunderstand one another for the sake of using plain words. I am not
asking you to be my mistress. I ask you, on my knees, to take from me
what makes life brighter for you. I ask you for the other things
only--for your confidence, for your affection, your companionship. I ask
to see you every day that it is possible, to know that you are wearing
my gifts, surrounded by my flowers, the rough places in your life made
smooth by my efforts. I am your suppliant, Violet. I ask only for the
crumbs that fall from your table, so long as no other man sits by your
side. Violet, can't you give me as much as this?"

His hand, hot and trembling, sought hers, touched and gripped it. She
drew her fingers away. It was curious how in those few moments she
seemed to be gifted with an immense clear-sightedness. She knew very
well that nothing about the man was honest save the passion of which he
did not speak. She rose to her feet.

"Well," she said, "I have listened to you very patiently. If I owe you
any excuse for having appeared to encourage any one of those thoughts of
which you speak, here it is. I am like thousands of other women. I
absolutely don't know until the time comes what sort of a creature I am,
how I shall be moved to act under certain circumstances. I tried to
think last night. I couldn't. I felt that I had gone half-way. I had
taken your money. I had taken it, too, understanding what it means to be
in a man's debt. And still I waited. And now I know. I won't even
question your sincerity. I won't even suggest that you would not be
content with what you ask for--"

"I have sworn it!" he interrupted hoarsely. "To be your favoured friend,
to be allowed near you--your guardian, if you will--"

The words failed him. Something in her face checked his eloquence.

"I can tell you this now and for always," she continued. "I have nothing
to give you. What you ask for is just as impossible as though you were
to walk in your picture gallery and kneel before your great masterpiece
and beg Beatrice herself to step down from the canvas. I began to wonder
yesterday," she went on, rising abruptly and moving across the room,
"whether I really was that sort of woman. With your money in my pocket
and the gambling fever in my pulses, I began even to believe it. And now
I know that I am not. Good-bye, Mr. Draconmeyer. I don't blame you. On
the whole, perhaps, you have behaved quite well. I think that you have
chosen to behave well because that wonderful brain of yours told you
that it gave you the best chance. That doesn't really matter, though."

He took a quick, almost a threatening step towards her. His face was
dark with all the passions which had preyed upon the man.

"There is a man's last resource," he muttered thickly.

"And there is a woman's answer to it," she replied, her finger suddenly
resting upon an unsuspected bell in the wall.

They both heard its summons. Footsteps came hurrying along the corridor.
Draconmeyer turned his head away, struggling to compose himself. A
waiter entered. Lady Hunterleys picked up her parasol and moved towards
the door. The man stood on one side with a bow.

"Here is the waiter you rang for, Mr. Draconmeyer," she remarked,
looking over his shoulder. "Wasn't it coffee you wanted? Tell Linda I'll
hope to see her sometime this evening."

She strolled away. The waiter remained patiently upon the threshold.

"Coffee for one or two, sir?" he enquired.

Mr. Draconmeyer struggled for a moment against a torrent of words which
scorched his lips. In the end, however, he triumphed.

"For one, with cream," he ordered.



CHAPTER XXXV

A NEW MAP OF THE EARTH


Selingman, who was leaning back in a leather-padded chair and smoking a
very excellent cigar, looked around at his companions with a smile of
complete approval.

"Our host," he declared, bowing to Mr. Grex, "has surpassed himself. For
a hired yacht I have seen nothing more magnificent. A Cabinet Moselle,
Flor de Cuba cigars, the best of company, and an isolation beyond all
question. What place could suit us better?"

There was a little murmur of assent. The four men were seated together
in the wonderfully decorated saloon of what was, beyond doubt, a most
luxurious yacht. Through the open porthole were visible, every few
moments, as the yacht rose and sank on the swell, the long line of
lights which fringed the shore between Monte Carlo and Mentone; the
mountains beyond, with tiny lights flickering like spangles in a black
mantle of darkness; and further round still, the stream of light from
the Casino, reflected far and wide upon the black waters.

"None," Mr. Grex asserted confidently. "We are at least beyond reach of
these bungling English spies. There is no further fear of eavesdroppers.
We are entirely alone. Each may speak his own mind. There is nothing to
be feared in the way of interruption. I trust, Monsieur Douaille, that
you appreciate the altered circumstances."

Monsieur Douaille, who was looking very much more at his ease, assented
without hesitation.

"I must confess," he agreed, "that the isolation we now enjoy is, to a
certain extent, reassuring. Here we need no longer whisper. One may
listen carefully. One may weigh well what is said. Sooner or later we
must come to the crucial point. This, if you like, is a game of
make-believe. Then, in make-believe, Germany has offered to restore
Alsace and Lorraine, has offered to hold all French territory as sacred,
provided France allows her to occupy Calais for one year. What is your
object, Herr Selingman? Do you indeed wish to invade England?"

Selingman poured himself out a glass of wine from the bottle which stood
at his elbow.

"Good!" he said. "We have come to plain questions. I answer in plain
speech. I will tell you now, in a few words, all that remains to be
told. Germany has no desire to invade Great Britain. If one may believe
the newspapers, there is scarcely an Englishman alive who would credit
this simple fact, but it is nevertheless true. Commercially, England,
and a certain measure of English prosperity, are necessary to Germany.
Geographically, there are certain risks to be run in an invasion of that
country, which we do not consider worth while. Besides, an invasion,
even a successful one, would result in making an everlasting and a
bitter enemy of Great Britain. We learnt our lesson when we took
territory from France. We do not need to repeat it. Several hundred
thousands of our most worthy citizens are finding an honest and
prosperous living in London. Several thousands of our merchants are in
business there, and prospering. Several hundreds of our shrewdest men of
affairs are making fortunes upon the London Stock Exchange. Therefore,
we do not wish to conquer England. Commercially, that conquest is
already affected. I want you, Monsieur Douaille, to absolutely
understand this, because it may affect your views. What we do require is
to strike a long and lasting blow at the navy of Great Britain. As a
somewhat larger Holland, Great Britain is welcome to a peaceful
existence. When she lords it over the world, talks of an Empire upon
which the sun never sets, then the time arrives when we are forced to
interfere. Great Britain has possessions which she is not strong enough
to hold. Germany is strong enough to wrest them from her, and means to
do so. The English fleet must be destroyed. South Africa, then, will
come to Germany, India to Russia, Egypt to France. The rest follows as a
matter of course."

"And what is the rest?" Monsieur Douaille asked.

Herr Selingman was content no longer to sit in his place. He rose to his
feet. His face had fallen into different lines. His eyes flashed, his
words were inspired.

"The rest," he declared, "is the crux of the whole matter. It is the one
great and settled goal towards which we who have understood have schemed
and fought our way. With the British Navy destroyed, the Monroe Doctrine
is not worth a sheet of writing-paper. South America is Germany's
natural heritage, by every right worth considering. It is our people's
gold which founded the Argentine Republic, the brains of our people
which control its destinies. Our Eldorado is there, Monsieur Douaille.
That is the country which, sooner or later, Germany must possess. We
look nowhere else. We covet no other of our neighbours' possessions.
Only I say that the sooner America makes up her mind to the sacrifice,
the better. Her Monroe Doctrine is all very well for the Northern
States. When she presumes to quote it as a pretext for keeping Germany
from her natural place in South America, she crosses swords with us. Now
you know the truth, and the whole truth. You know, Monsieur Douaille,
what we require from you, and you know your reward. Our host has already
told you, and will tell you again as often as you like, the feeling of
his own country. The Franco-Russian alliance is already doomed. It falls
to pieces through sheer lack of common interests. The entente cordiale
is simply a fetter and a dead weight upon you. Monsieur Douaille, I put
it to you as a man of common sense. Do you think that you, as a
statesman--you see, I will put the burden upon your shoulders, because,
if you choose, you can speak for your country--do you think that you
have a right to refuse from Germany the return of Alsace and Lorraine?
Do you think that you can look your country in the face if you refuse on
her behalf the greatest gift which has ever yet been offered to any
nation--the gift of Egypt? The old alliances are out of date. The
balance of power has shifted. I ask you, Monsieur Douaille, as you value
the prosperity and welfare of your country, to weigh what I have said
and what our great Russian friend has said, word by word. England has
made no sacrifices for you. Why should you sacrifice yourself for her?"

Monsieur Douaille stroked his little grey imperial.

"That is well enough," he muttered, "but without the English Navy the
balance of power upon the Continent is entirely upset."

"The balance of power only according to the present grouping of
interests," Mr. Grex pointed out. "Selingman has shown us how these must
change. Frankly, although no one can fail to realise the immense
importance of South America as a colonising centre, it is my honest
opinion that the nation who scores most by my friend Selingman's plans,
is not Germany but France. Think what it means to her. Instead of being
a secondary Power, she will of her own might absolutely control the
Mediterranean. Egypt, with its vast possibilities, its ever-elastic
boundary, falls to her hand. Malta and Cyprus follow. It is a great
price that Germany is prepared to pay."

Monsieur Douaille was silent for several moments. It was obvious that he
was deeply impressed.

"This is a matter," he said, "which must be considered from many points
of view. Supposing that France were willing to bury the hatchet with
Germany, to remain neutral or to place Calais at Germany's disposal.
Even then, do you suppose, Herr Selingman, that it would be an easy
matter to destroy the British Navy?"

"We have our plans," Selingman declared solemnly. "We know very well
that they can be carried out only at a great loss both of men and ships.
It is a gloomy and terrible task that lies before us, but at the other
end of it is the glory that never fades."

"If America," Douaille remarked, "were to have an inkling of your real
objective, her own fleet would come to the rescue."

"Why should America know of our ultimate aims?" Selingman rejoined. "Her
politicians to-day choose to play the part of the ostrich in the desert.
They take no account, or profess to take no account of European
happenings. They have no Secret Service. Their country is governed from
within for herself only. As for the rest, the bogey of a German invasion
has been flaunted so long in England that few people stop to realise the
absolute futility of such a course. London is already colonised by
Germans--colonised, that is to say, in urban and money-making fashion.
English gold is flowing in a never-ending stream into our country. It
would be the most foolish dream an ambitious statesman could conceive to
lay violent hands upon a land teeming with one's own children. Germany
sees further than this. There are richer prizes across the Atlantic,
richer prizes from every point of view."

"You mentioned South Africa," Monsieur Douaille murmured.

Selingman shrugged his shoulders.

"South Africa will make no nation rich," he replied. "Her own people are
too stubborn and powerful, too rooted to the soil."

Monsieur Douaille for the first time stretched out his hand and drank
some of the wine which stood by his side. His cheeks were very pale. He
had the appearance of a man tortured by conflicting thoughts.

"I should like to ask you, Selingman," he said, "whether you have made
any definite plans for your conflict with the British Navy? I admit that
the days of England's unique greatness are over. She may not be in a
position to-day, as she has been in former years, to fight the world. At
the same time, her one indomitable power is still, whatever people may
say or think, her navy. Only last month the Cabinet of my country were
considering reports from their secret agents and placing them side by
side with known facts, as to the relative strength of your navy and the
navy of Great Britain. On paper it would seem that a German success was
impossible."

Selingman smiled--the convincing smile of a man who sees further than
most men.

"Not under the terms I should propose to you, Monsieur Douaille," he
declared. "Remember that we should hold Calais, and we should be assured
at least of the amiable neutrality of your fleet. We have spoken of
matters so intimate that I do not know whether in this absolute privacy
I should not be justified in going further and disclosing to you our
whole scheme for an attack upon the English Navy. It would need only an
expression of your sympathy with those views which we have discussed, to
induce me to do so."

Monsieur Douaille hesitated for several moments before he replied.

"I am a citizen of France," he said, "an envoy without powers to treat.
My own province is to listen."

"But your personal sympathies?" Selingman persisted.

"I have sometimes thought," Monsieur Douaille confessed, "that the
present grouping of European Powers must gradually change. If your
country, for instance," he added, turning to Mr. Grex, "indeed embraces
the proposals of Herr Selingman, France must of necessity be driven to
reconsider her position towards England. The Anglo-Saxon race may have
to battle then for her very existence. Yet it is always to be remembered
that in the background are the United States of America, possessing
resources and wealth greater than any other country in the universe."

"And it must also be remembered," Selingman proclaimed, in a tone of
ponderous conviction, "that she possesses no adequate means of guarding
them, that she is not a military nation, that she has not the strength
to enforce the carrying out of the Monroe Doctrine. Things were all very
well for her before the days of wireless telegraphy, of aeroplanes and
airships, of super-dreadnoughts, and cruisers with the speed of express
trains. She was too far away to be concerned in European turmoils.
To-day science is annihilating distance. America, leaving out of account
altogether her military impotence, would need a fleet three times her
present strength to enforce the Monroe Doctrine for the remainder--not
of this century but of this decade."

Then the bombshell fell. A strange voice suddenly intervened, a voice
whose American accent seemed more marked than usual. The four men turned
their heads. Selingman sprang to his feet. Mr. Grex's face was marble in
its whiteness. Monsieur Douaille, with a nervous sweep of his right arm,
sent his glass crashing to the floor. They all looked in the same
direction, up to the little music gallery. Leaning over in a careless
attitude, with his arms folded upon the rail, was Richard Lane.

"Say," he begged, "can I take a hand in this little discussion?"



CHAPTER XXXVI

CHECKMATE!


Of the four men, Selingman was the first to recover himself.

"Who the hell are you, and how did you get up there?" he roared.

"I am Richard Lane," the young man explained affably, "and there's a way
up from the music-room. You probably didn't notice it. And there's a way
down, as you may perceive," he added, pointing to the spiral staircase.
"I'll join you, if I may."

There was a dead silence as for a moment Richard disappeared and was
seen immediately afterwards descending the round staircase. Mr. Grex
touched Selingman on the arm and whispered in his ear. Selingman nodded.
There were evil things in the faces of both men as Lane approached them.

"Will you kindly explain your presence here at once, sir?" Mr. Grex
ordered.

"I say!" Richard protested. "A joke's a joke, but when you ask a man to
explain his presence on his own boat, you're coming it just a little
thick, eh? To tell you the truth, I had some sort of an idea of asking
you the same question."

"What do you mean--your own boat?" Draconmeyer demanded.

He was, perhaps, the first to realise the situation. Richard thrust his
hands into his pockets and sat upon the edge of the table.

"Seems to me," he remarked, "that you gentlemen have made some sort of a
mistake. Where do you think you are, anyway?"

"On board Schwann's yacht, the _Christabel_," Selingman replied.

Richard shook his head.

"Not a bit of it," he assured them. "This is the steam-yacht,
_Minnehaha_, which brought me over from New York, and of which I am most
assuredly the owner. Now I come to think of it," he went on, "there was
another yacht leaving the harbour at the same time. Can't have happened
that you boarded the wrong boat, eh?"

Mr. Grex was icily calm, but there was menace of the most dangerous sort
in his look and manner.

"Nothing of that sort was possible," he declared, "as you are, without
doubt, perfectly well aware. It appears to me that this is a deliberate
plot. The yacht which I and my friends thought that we were boarding
to-night was the _Christabel_, which my servant had instructions to hire
from Schwann of Monaco. I await some explanation from you, sir, as to
your purpose in sending your pinnace to the landing-stage of the Villa
Mimosa and deliberately misleading us as to our destination?"

"Well, I don't know that I've got much to say about that," Richard
replied easily.

"You are offering us no explanation?" Selingman demanded.

"None," Richard assented coolly.

Selingman suddenly struck the table with his clenched fist.

"You were not alone up in that gallery!"

"Getting warm, aren't you?" Richard murmured.

Selingman turned to Grex.

"This young man is Hunterleys' friend. They've fixed this up between
them. Listen!"

A door slammed above their heads. Some one had left the music gallery.

"Hunterleys himself!" Selingman cried.

"Sure!" Richard assented. "Bright fellow, Selingman," he continued
amiably. "I wouldn't try that on, if I were you," he added, turning to
Mr. Grex, whose hand was slowly stealing from the back of his coat.
"That sort of thing doesn't do, nowadays. Revolvers belong to the last
decade of intrigue. You're a bit out of date with that little weapon.
Don't be foolish. I am not angry with any of you. I am willing to take
this little joke pleasantly, but----"

He raised a whistle to his lips and blew it. The door at the further end
of the saloon was opened as though by magic. A steward in the yacht's
uniform appeared. From outside was visible a very formidable line of
sailors. Grex, with a swift gesture, slipped something back into his
pocket, something which glittered like silver.

"Serve some champagne, Reynolds," Richard ordered the steward who had
come hurrying in, "and bring some cigars."

The man withdrew. Richard seated himself once more upon the table,
clasping one knee.

"Look here," he said, "I'll be frank with you. I came into this little
affair for the sake of a pal. It was only by accident that I found my
way up yonder--more to look after him than anything. I never imagined
that you would have anything to say that was interesting to me. Seems I
was wrong, though. You've got things very nicely worked out, Mr.
Selingman."

Selingman glared at the young man but said nothing. The others, too,
were all remarkably bereft of words.

"Don't mind my staying for a little chat, do you?" Richard continued
pleasantly. "You see, I am an American and I am kind of interested in
the latter portion of what you had to say. I dare say you're quite right
in some respects. We are a trifle too commercial and a trifle too
cocksure. You see, things have always gone our way. All the same, we've
got the stuff, you know. Just consider this. If I thought there was any
real need for it, and I begin to think that perhaps there may be, I
should be ready to present the United States with a Dreadnought
to-morrow, and I don't know that I should need to spend very much less
myself. And," he went on, "there are thirty or forty others who could
and would do the same. Tidy little fleet we should soon have, you see,
without a penny of taxation. Of course, I know we would need the men,
but we've a grand reserve to draw upon in the West. They are not
bothering about the navy in times of peace, but they'd stream into it
fast enough if there were any real need."

The chief steward appeared, followed by two or three of his
subordinates. A tray of wine was placed upon the table. Bottles were
opened, but no one made any attempt to drink. Richard filled his own
glass and motioned the men to withdraw.

"Prefer your own wine?" he remarked. "Well, now, that's too bad. Hope
I'm not boring you?"

No one spoke or moved. Richard settled himself a little more comfortably
upon the table.

"I can't tell you all," he proceeded, "how interested I have been,
listening up there. Quite a gift of putting things clearly, if I may be
allowed to say so, you seem to possess, Mr. Selingman. Now here's my
reply as one of the poor Anglo-Saxons from the West who've got to make
room in the best parts of the world for your lubberly German colonists.
If you make a move in the game you've been talking so glibly about, if
my word counts for anything, if my persuasions count for anything--and
I've facts to go on, you know--you'll have the American fleet to deal
with at the same time as the English, and I fancy that will be a trifle
more than you can chew up, eh? I'm going back to America a little
earlier than I anticipated. Of course, they'll laugh at me at first in
Washington. They don't believe much in these round-table conferences and
European plots. But all the same I've got some friends there. We'll try
and remember this amiable little statement of policy of yours, Mr.
Selingman. Nothing like being warned, you know."

Mr. Grex rose from his place.

"Sir," he said, "since we have been and are your unwilling guests, will
you be so good as to arrange for us at once to relieve you of our
presence?"

"Well, I'm not so sure about that," Richard remarked, meditatively. "I
think I'd contribute a good deal to the comfort and happiness of this
generation if I took you all out to sea and dropped you overboard, one
by one."

"As I presume you have no such intention," Mr. Grex persisted, "I repeat
that we should be glad to be allowed to land."

Richard abandoned his indolent posture and stood facing them.

"You came on board, gentlemen, without my invitation," he reminded them.
"You will leave my ship when I choose--and that," he added, "is not just
at present."

"Do you mean that we are to consider ourselves your prisoners?"
Draconmeyer asked, with an acid smile.

"Certainly not--my guests," Richard replied, with a bow. "I can assure
you that it will only be a matter of a few hours."

Monsieur Douaille hammered the table with his fist.

"Young man," he exclaimed, "I leave with you! I insist upon it that I am
permitted to leave. I am not a party to this conference. I am merely a
guest, a listener, here wholly in my private capacity. I will not be
associated with whatever political scandal may arise from this affair. I
demand permission to leave at once."

"Seems to me there's something in what you say," Richard admitted. "Very
well, you can come along. I dare say Hunterleys will be glad to have a
chat with you. As for the rest of you," he concluded, as Monsieur
Douaille rose promptly to his feet, "I have a little business to arrange
on land which I think I could manage better whilst you are at sea. I
shall therefore, gentlemen, wish you good evening. Pray consider my
yacht entirely at your disposal. My stewards will be only too happy to
execute any orders--supper, breakfast, or dinner. You have merely to say
the word."

He turned towards the door, closely followed by Douaille, who, in a
state of great excitement, refused to listen to Selingman's entreaties.

"No, no!" the former objected, shaking his head. "I will not stay. I
will not be associated with this meeting. You are bunglers, all of you.
I came only to listen, on your solemn assurance of entire secrecy. We
are spied upon at the Villa Mimosa, we are made fools of on board this
yacht. No more unofficial meetings for me!"

"Quite right, old fellow," Richard declared, as they passed out and on
to the deck. "Set of wrong 'uns, those chaps, even though Mr. Grex is a
Grand Duke. You know Sir Henry Hunterleys, don't you?"

Hunterleys came forward from the gangway, at the foot of which the
pinnace was waiting.

"We are taking Monsieur Douaille ashore," Richard explained, as the two
men shook hands. "He really doesn't belong to that gang and he wants to
cut adrift. You understand my orders exactly, captain?" he asked, as
they stepped down the iron gangway.

"Perfectly, sir," was the prompt reply. "You may rely upon me. I am
afraid they are beginning to make a noise downstairs already!"

The little pinnace shot out a stream of light across the dark, placid
sea. Douaille was talking earnestly to Hunterleys.

"Pleasantest few minutes I ever spent in my life," Richard murmured, as
he took out his cigarette case.



CHAPTER XXXVII

AN AMAZING ELOPEMENT


The sun was shining brilliantly and the sky was cloudless as Richard
turned his automobile into the grounds of the Villa Mimosa, soon after
nine o'clock on the following morning. The yellow-blossomed trees,
slightly stirred by the west wind, formed a golden arch across the
winding avenue. The air was sweet, almost faint with perfume. On the
terrace, holding a pair of field-glasses in her hand and gazing intently
out to sea, was Fedora. At the sound of the motor-horn she turned
quickly. She looked at the visitor in surprise. A shade of pink was in
her face. Lane brought the car to a standstill, jumped out and climbed
the steps of the terrace.

"What has brought you here?" she asked, in surprise.

"I have just come to pay you a little visit," he remarked easily. "I was
only afraid you mightn't be up so early."

She bit her lip.

"You have no right to come here at all," she said severely, "and to
present yourself at this hour is unheard of."

"I came early entirely out of consideration for your father," he assured
her.

She frowned.

"My father?" she repeated. "Please explain at once what you mean. My
father is on that yacht and I cannot imagine why he does not return."

"I can tell you," he answered, standing by her side and looking out
seawards. "They are waiting for my orders before they let him off."

She turned her head and looked at him incredulously.

"Explain yourself, please," she insisted.

"With pleasure," he assented. "You see, I just had to make sure of being
allowed to have a few minutes' conversation with you, free from any
interruption. Somehow or other," he added thoughtfully, "I don't believe
your father likes me."

"I do not think," she replied coldly, "that my father has any feelings
about you at all, except that he thinks you are abominably
presumptuous."

"Because I want to marry you?"

She stamped with her foot upon the ground.

"Please do not say such absurd things! Explain to me at once what you
mean by saying that my father is being kept there by your orders."

"I'll try," Lane answered. "He boarded that yacht last night in mistake.
He thought that it was a hired one, but it isn't. It's mine. I found him
there last night, entertaining a little party of his friends in the
saloon. They seemed quite comfortable, so I begged them to remain on as
my guests for a short time."

"To remain?" she murmured, bewildered. "For how long?"

"Until you've just read this through and thought it over."

He passed her a document which he had drawn from his pocket. She took it
from him wonderingly. When she had read a few lines, the colour came
streaming into her cheeks. She threw it to the ground. He picked it up
and replaced it in his pocket.

"But it is preposterous!" she cried. "That is a marriage license!"

"That's precisely what it is," he admitted. "I thought we'd be married
at Nice. My sister is waiting to go along with us. I said we'd pick her
up at the Hotel de Paris."

Severe critics of her undoubted beauty had ventured at times to say that
Fedora's face lacked expression. There was, at that moment, no room for
any such criticism. Amazement struggled with indignation in her eyes.
Her lips were quivering, her breath was coming quickly.

"Do you mean--have you given her or any one to understand that there was
any likelihood of my consenting to such an absurd scheme?"

"I only told her what I hoped," he said quietly. "That is all I dared
say even to myself. But I want you to listen to me."

His voice had grown softer. She turned her head and looked at him. He
was much taller than she was, and in his grey tweed suit, his head a
little thrown back, his straw hat clasped in his hands behind him, his
clear grey eyes full of serious purpose, he was certainly not an
unattractive figure to look upon. Unconsciously she found herself
comparing him once more with the men of her world, found herself
realising, even against her will, the charm of his naïve and dogged
honesty, his youth, his tenacity of purpose. She had never been made
love to like this before.

"Please listen," he begged. "I am afraid that your father must be in a
tearing rage by now, but it can't be helped. He is out there and he
hasn't got an earthly chance of getting back until I give the word.
We've got plenty of time to reach Nice before he can land. I just want
you to realise, Fedora, that you are your own mistress. You can make or
spoil your own life. No one else has any right to interfere. Have you
ever seen any one yet, back in your own country, amongst your own
people, whom you really felt that you cared for--who you really believed
would be willing to lay down his life to make you happy?"

"No," she confessed simply, "I do not know that I have. Our men are not
like that."

"It is because," he went on, "there is no one back there who cares as I
do. I have spent some years of my life looking--quite unconsciously, but
looking all the same--for some one like you. Now I have found you I am
glad I have waited. There couldn't be any one else. There never could
be, Fedora. I love you just in the way a man does love once in his life,
if he's lucky. It's a queer sort of feeling, you know," he continued,
leaning a little towards her. "It makes me quite sure that I could make
you happy. It makes me quite sure that if you'll give me your hand and
trust me, and leave everything to me, you'll have just the things in
life that women want. Won't you be brave, Fedora? There are some things
to break through, I know, but they don't amount to much--they don't,
really. And I love you, you know. You can't imagine yet what a wonderful
difference that makes. You'll find out and you'll be glad."

She stood quite still. Her eyes were still fixed seawards, but she was
looking beyond the yacht, now, to the dim line where sky and sea seemed
to meet. The vision of her past days seemed to be drawn out before her,
a little monotonous, a little wearisome even in their splendour, more
than a little empty. And underneath it all she was listening to the new
music, and her heart was telling her the truth.

"You don't need to make any plans," he said softly. "Go and put on your
hat and something to wear motoring. Bring a dressing-bag, if you like.
Flossie is waiting for us and she is rather a dear. You can leave
everything else to me."

She looked timidly into his eyes. A new feeling was upon her. She gave
him her hand almost shyly. Her voice trembled.

"If I come," she whispered, "you are quite sure that you mean it all?
You are quite sure that you will not change?"

He raised her hand to his lips.

"Not in this world, dear," he answered, with sublime confidence, "nor
any other!"

She stole away from him. He was left alone upon the terrace, alone, but
with the exquisite conviction of her return, promised in that last
half-tremulous, half-smiling look over her shoulder. Then suddenly life
seemed to come to him with a rush, a new life, filled with a new
splendour. He was almost humbly conscious of bigger things than he had
ever realised, a nearness to the clouds, a wonderful, thrilling sense of
complete and absolute happiness.... Reluctantly he came back to earth.
His thoughts became practical. He went to the back of his car, drew out
a rocket on a stick and thrust it firmly into the lawn. Then he started
his engine and almost immediately afterwards she came. She was wearing a
white silk motor-coat and a thick veil. Behind her came a bewildered
French maid, carrying wraps, and a man-servant with a heavy
dressing-case. In silence these things were stowed away. She took her
place in the car. Lane struck a match and stepped on to the lawn.

"Don't be frightened," he said. "Here goes!"

A rocket soared up into the sky. Then he seated himself beside her and
they glided off.

"That means," he explained, "that they'll let your father and the others
off in two hours. Give us plenty of time to get to Nice. Have you--left
any word for him?"

"I have left a very short message," she answered, "to say that I was
going to marry you. He will never forgive me, and I feel very wicked and
very ungrateful."

"Anything else?" he whispered, leaning a little towards her.

She sighed.

"And very happy," she murmured.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

HONEYMOONING


Hunterleys saw the Right Honourable Meredith Simpson and Monsieur
Douaille off to Paris early that morning. Then he called round at the
hospital to find that Sidney Roche was out of danger, and went on to the
villa with the good news. On his way back he stayed chatting with the
bank manager until rather later than usual, and afterwards strolled on
to the Terrace, where he looked with some eagerness towards a certain
point in the bay. The _Minnehaha_ had departed. Mr. Grex and his
friends, then, had been set free. Hunterleys returned to the hotel
thoughtfully. At the entrance he came across two or three trunks being
wheeled out, which seemed to him somehow familiar. He stopped to look at
the initials. They were his wife's.

"Is Lady Hunterleys leaving to-day?" he asked the luggage-porter.

"By the evening train, sir," the man announced. "She would have caught
the _Côte d'Azur_ this morning but there was no place on the train."

Hunterleys was perplexed. Some time after luncheon he enquired for Lady
Hunterleys and found that she was not in the hotel. A reception clerk
thought that he had seen her go through on her way to the Sporting Club.
Hunterleys, after some moments of indecision, followed her. He was
puzzled at her impending departure, unable to account for it. The
Draconmeyers, he knew, proposed to stay for another month. He walked
thoughtfully along the private way and climbed the stairs into the Club.
He looked for his wife in her usual place. She was not there. He made a
little promenade of the rooms and eventually he found her amongst the
spectators around the baccarat table. He approached her at once.

"You are not playing?"

She started at the sound of his voice. She was dressed very simply in
travelling clothes, and there were lines under her eyes, as though she
were fatigued.

"No," she admitted, "I am not playing."

"I understood in the hotel," he continued, "that you were leaving
to-day."

"I am going back to England," she announced. "It does not amuse me here
any longer."

He realised at once that something had happened. A curious sense of
excitement stole into his blood.

"If you are not playing here, will you come and sit down for a few
moments?" he invited. "I should like to talk to you."

She followed him without a word. He led the way to one of the divans in
the roulette room.

"Your favourite place," he remarked, "is occupied."

She nodded.

"I have given up playing," she told him.

He looked at her in some surprise. She drew a little breath and kept her
eyes steadily averted.

"You will probably know sometime or other," she continued, "so I will
tell you now. I have lost four thousand pounds to Mr. Draconmeyer. I am
going back to England to realise my own money, so as to be able to pay
him at once."

"You borrowed four thousand pounds from Mr. Draconmeyer?" he repeated
incredulously.

"Yes! It was very foolish, I know, and I have lost every penny of it. I
am not the first woman, I suppose, who has lost her head at Monte
Carlo," she added, a little defiantly.

"Does Mr. Draconmeyer know that you are leaving?" he asked.

"Not yet," she answered, after a moment's hesitation. "I had an
interview with him yesterday and I realised at once that the money must
be paid, and without delay. I realised, too, that it was better I should
leave Monte Carlo and break off my association with these people for the
present."

In a sense it was a sordid story, yet to Hunterleys her words sounded
like music.

"I am very pleased indeed," he said quietly, "that you feel like that.
Draconmeyer is not a man to whom I should like my wife to owe money for
a moment longer than was absolutely necessary."

"Your estimate of him was correct," she confessed slowly. "I am sorry,
Henry."

He rose suddenly to his feet. An inspiration had seized him.

"Come," he declared, "we will pay Draconmeyer back without sending you
home to sell your securities. Come and stand with me."

She looked at him in amazement.

"Henry!" she exclaimed. "You are not going to play? Don't! Take my
advice and don't!"

He laughed.

"We'll see," he replied confidently. "You wouldn't believe that I was a
fatalist, would you? I am, though. Everything that I had hoped for seems
to be happening to-day. You have found out Draconmeyer, we have
checkmated Mr. Grex, I have drunk the health of Felicia and David
Briston--"

"Felicia and David Briston?" she interrupted quickly. "What do you
mean?"

"You knew, of course, that they were engaged?" he explained. "I called
round at the villa this morning, after I had been to the hospital, and
found them busy fixing the wedding day."

She looked at him vaguely.

"Engaged?" she murmured. "Why, I thought--"

A spot of colour suddenly burned in her cheeks. She was beginning to
understand. It was Draconmeyer who had put those ideas into her head.
Her heart gave a little leap.

"Henry!" she whispered.

He was already at the table, however. He changed five mille notes
deliberately, counted his plaques and turned to her.

"I am going to play on your principle," he declared. "I have always
thought it an interesting one. See, the last number was twenty-two. I am
going to back twenty and all the _carrés_."

He covered the board around number twenty. There were a few minutes of
suspense, then the click as the ball fell into the little space.

"_Vingt-huit, noir, passe et pair!_" the croupier announced.

Hunterleys' stake was swept away. He only smiled.

"Our numbers are going to turn up," he insisted cheerfully. "I am
certain of it now. Do you know that this is the first time I have played
since I have been in Monte Carlo?"

She watched him half in fear. This time he staked on twenty-nine, with
the maximum _en plein_ and all the _carrés_ and _chevaux_. Again the few
moments of suspense, the click of the ball, the croupier's voice.

_"Vingt-neuf, noir, impair et passe!"_

She clutched at his arm.

"Henry!" she gasped.

He laughed.

"Open your bag," he directed. "We'll soon fill it."

He left his stake untouched. Thirty-one turned up. He won two _carrés_
and let the table go once without staking. Ten was the next number.
Immediately he placed the maximum on number fourteen, _carrés_ and
_chevaux_. Again the pause, again the croupier's voice.

_"Quatorze rouge, pair et manque!"_

Hunterleys showed no exultation and scarcely any surprise. He gathered
in his winnings and repeated his stake. This time he won one of his
_carrés_. The next time _quatorze_ turned up again. For half-an-hour he
continued, following his few chosen numbers according to the run of the
table. At the end of that time Violet's satchel was full and he was
beginning to collect mille notes for his plaques. He made a little
calculation in his mind and decided that he must already have won more
than the necessary amount.

"Our last stake," he remarked coolly.

The preceding number had been twenty-six. He placed the maximum on
twenty-nine, the _carrés_, _chevaux_, the column, colour and last dozen.
He felt Violet's fingers clutching his arm. There was a little buzz of
excitement all round the table as the croupier announced the number.

_"Vingt-neuf noir, impair et passe!..."_

They took their winnings into the anteroom beyond, where Hunterleys
ordered tea. There was a little flush in Violet's cheeks. They counted
the money. There was nearly five thousand pounds.

"Henry!" she exclaimed. "I think that that last coup was the most
marvellous win I ever saw!"

"A most opportune one, at any rate," he replied grimly. "Look who is
coming."

Draconmeyer had entered the room, and was peering everywhere as though
in search of some one. He suddenly caught sight of them, hesitated for a
moment and then approached. He addressed himself to Violet.

"I have just seen Linda," he said. "She is broken-hearted at the thought
of your departure."

"I am sorry to leave her," Violet replied, "but I feel that I have
stayed quite long enough in Monte Carlo. By the bye, Mr. Draconmeyer,
there is that little affair of the money you were kind enough to advance
to me."

Draconmeyer stood quite still. He looked from husband to wife.

"Four thousand pounds, my wife tells me," Hunterleys remarked coolly, as
he began to count out the notes. "It is very good of you indeed to have
acted as my wife's banker. Do you mind being paid now? Our movements are
a little uncertain and it will save the trouble of sending you a
cheque."

Draconmeyer laughed. It was not a pleasant laugh, nor was it in the
least mirthful.

"Dear me!" he exclaimed. "I had forgotten that little matter. As you
will, certainly."

He accepted the notes and stuffed them into his pocket.

"By the bye," he continued, "I think that I ought to congratulate you,
Sir Henry. That last little affair of yours was wonderfully
stage-managed. Your country owes you more than it is ever likely to pay.
You have succeeded, at any rate, in delaying the inevitable."

"I trust," Hunterleys enquired politely, "that you were not detained
upon the yacht for very long?"

"We landed at the Villa at twelve o'clock this morning," Draconmeyer
replied. "You know, of course, of the little surprise our young American
friend had prepared for Mr. Grex?"

Hunterleys shook his head.

"I have heard nothing definite."

"He was married to the daughter of the Grand Duke Augustus at midday at
Nice," Draconmeyer announced. "His Serene Highness received a telephone
message only a short time ago."

Violet gave a little cry. She leaned across the table eagerly.

"You mean that they have eloped?"

Draconmeyer assented.

"All Monte Carlo will be talking about it to-morrow," he declared. "The
Grand Duke has been doing all he can to get it hushed up, but it is
useless. I will not detain you any longer. I see that you are about to
have tea."

"We shall meet, perhaps, in London?" Hunterleys remarked, as Draconmeyer
prepared to depart.

Draconmeyer shook his head.

"I think not," he replied. "The doctors have advised me that the climate
of England is bad for my wife's health, and I feel that my own work
there is finished. I have received an offer to go out to South America
for a time. Very likely I shall accept."

He passed on with a final bow. Violet looked across their table and her
eyes shone.

"It seems like a fairy tale, Henry," she whispered. "You don't know what
a load on my mind that money has been, and how I was growing to detest
Mr. Draconmeyer."

He smiled.

"I was rather hating the beast myself," he admitted. "Tell me, what are
your plans, really?"

"I hadn't made any," she confessed, "except to get away as quickly as I
could."

He leaned a little across the table.

"Elopements are rather in the fashion," he said. "What do you think?
Couldn't we have a little dinner at Ciro's and catch the last train to
Nice; have a look at Richard and his wife and then go on to Cannes, and
make our way back to England later?"

She looked at him and his face grew younger. There was something in her
eyes which reminded him of the days which for so many weary months he
had been striving to forget.

"Henry," she murmured, "I have been very foolish. If you can trust me
once more, I think I can promise that I'll never be half so idiotic
again."

He rose to his feet blithely.

"It has been my fault just as much," he declared, "and the fault of
circumstances. I couldn't tell you the whole truth, but there has been a
villainous conspiracy going on here. Draconmeyer, Selingman, and the
Grand Duke were all in it and I have been working like a slave. Now it's
all over, finished this morning on Richard's yacht. We've done what we
could. I'm a free lance now and we'll spend the holidays together."

She gave him her fingers across the table and he held them firmly in
his. Then she, too, rose and they passed out together. There was a
wonderful change in Hunterleys. He seemed to have grown years younger.

"Come," he exclaimed, "they call this the City of Pleasure, but these
are the first happy moments I have spent in it. We'll gamble in
five-franc pieces for an hour or so. Then we'll go back to the hotel and
have our trunks sent down to the station, dine at Ciro's and wire
Richard. Where are you going to stake your money?"

"I think I shall begin with number twenty-nine," she laughed.

       *       *       *       *       *

They lunched with Richard and his wife, a few days later, at the Casino
at Cannes. The change in the two young people was most impressive.
Fedora had lost the dignified aloofness of Monte Carlo. She seemed as
though she had found her girlhood. She was brilliantly, supremely happy.
Richard, on the other hand, was more serious. He took Hunterleys on one
side as they waited for the cars.

"We are on our way to Biarritz," he said, "by easy stages. The yacht
will meet us there and we are going to sail at once for America."

"Fedora doesn't mind?" Hunterleys asked.

"Not in the least," Richard declared exultantly. "She knows what my duty
is, and, Hunterleys, I am going to try and do it. The people over there
may need a lot of convincing, but they are going to hear the truth from
me and have it drummed into them. It's going to be 'Wake up, America!'
as well as 'Wake up, England!'"

"Stick at it, Richard," Hunterleys advised. "Don't mind a little
discouragement. Men who see the truth and aren't afraid to keep on
calling attention to it, get laughed at a great deal. People speak of
them tolerantly, listen to what they say, doubt its reasonableness and
put it at the back of their heads, but in the end it does good. Your
people and mine are slow to believe and slow to understand, but the
truth sinks in if one proclaims it often enough and loudly enough. We
are going through it in our own country just now, with regard to
National Service, for one thing. Here come your cars. You travel in
state, Richard."

The young man laughed good-naturedly.

"There's nothing in life which I could give her that Fedora sha'n't
have," he asserted. "We spent the first two days absolutely alone. Now
her maid and my man come along with the luggage in the heavy car, and we
take the little racer. Jolly hard work they have to keep anywhere near
us, I can tell you. Say, may I make a rather impertinent remark, Sir
Henry?"

"You have earned the right to say anything to me you choose," Hunterleys
replied. "Go ahead."

"Why, it's only this," Richard continued, a little awkwardly. "I have
never seen Lady Hunterleys look half so ripping, and you seem years
younger."

Hunterleys smiled.

"To tell you the truth, I feel it. You see, years ago, when we started
out for our honeymoon, there was a crisis after the first week and we
had to rush back to England. We seem to have forgotten to ever finish
that honeymoon of ours. We are doing it now."

The two women came down the steps, the cynosure of a good many eyes, the
two most beautiful women in the Casino. Richard helped his wife into her
place, wrapped her up and took the steering wheel.

"Hyères to-night and Marseilles to-morrow," he announced, "Biarritz on
Saturday. We shall stay there for a week, and then--'Wake up, America!'"

The cars glided off. Hunterleys and his wife stood on the steps, waving
their hands.

"Something about those children," Hunterleys declared, as they vanished,
"makes me feel absurdly young. Let's go shopping, Violet. I want to buy
you some flowers and chocolates."

She smiled happily as she took his arm for a moment.

"And then?"

"What would you like to do afterwards?" he asked.

"I think," she replied, leaning towards him, "that I should like to go
to that nice Englishman who lets villas, and find one right at the edge
of the sea, quite hidden, and lock the gates, and give no one our
address, and have you forget for just one month that there was any work
to do in the world, or any one else in it except me."

"Just to make up," he laughed softly.

"Women are like that, you know," she murmured.

"The man's office is this way," Hunterleys said, turning off the main
street.


THE END



       *       *       *       *       *



E. Phillips Oppenheim's Novels

We do not stop to inquire into the measure of his art any more than we
inquire into that of Alexander Dumas. We only realize that here is a
benefactor of tired men and women seeking relaxation.--_Independent_,
New York.

    Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo
    An amazing revelation of war in the making.

    The Vanished Messenger
    What resulted when the Powers conspired against England.

    A People's Man
    How a socialistic leader became involved in international affairs.

    The Double Life of Mr. Alfred Burton
    Oppenheim in a new vein--a pure comedy.

    The Mischief-Maker
    A blending of love, romance, and international intrigue.

    The Lighted Way
    A mystery story that involves the revolution in Portugal.

    Havoc
    An engrossing story of love, mystery, and international intrigue.

    Peter Ruff and the Double-Four
    Deals with a shrewd detective and a mysterious secret society.

    The Moving Finger
    A mystifying story dealing with a wealthy M. P.'s experiment.

    Berenice
    A masterly tale of a strong love that is tragic in its outcome.

    The Prince of Sinners
    An engrossing story of English social and political life.

    Anna the Adventuress
    A surprising tale of a bold deception.

    The Master Mummer
    The strange romance of beautiful Isobel de Sorrens.

    The Mysterious Mr. Sabin
    The ingenious story of a bold international intrigue.

    The Yellow Crayon
    Mr. Sabin's exciting experiences with a powerful secret society.

    A Millionaire of Yesterday
    A gripping story of a wealthy West African miner.

    The Man and His Kingdom
    A dramatic tale of adventure in South America.

    The Traitors
    A capital romance of love, adventure, and Russian intrigue.

    The Betrayal
    A thrilling story of treachery in high diplomatic circles.

    A Sleeping Memory
    The story of an unhappy girl who was deprived of her memory.

    Enoch Strone: A Master of Men
    A tremendously strong story of a self-made man.

    A Maker of History
    A daring tale that "explains" a great historical event.

    The Malefactor
    An amazing story of a strange revenge.

    A Lost Leader
    A realistic romance woven around a striking personality.

    The Great Secret
    Unfolds a stupendous international conspiracy.

    The Avenger
    Unravels the deepest of mysteries with consummate power.

    The Long Arm of Mannister
    Deals with a wronged man's ingenious revenge.

    The Tempting of Tavernake
    In which an unromantic Englishman falls in love and learns something
    about women.

    The Governors
    A romance of the intrigues of American finance.

    Jeanne of the Marshes
    Strange doings at an English house party are here set forth.

    As a Man Lives
    Discloses the mystery surrounding the fair occupant of a yellow house.

    The Illustrious Prince
    Exposes a Japanese political intrigue in London.

    The Lost Ambassador
    A straightforward mystery tale of Paris and London.

    A Daughter of the Marionis
    A tale of a beautiful Sicilian whose love interfered with her revenge.

    The Mystery of Mr. Bernard Brown
    An ingenious solution of a murder mystery.

    The Survivor
    A striking story of a young Englishman's uphill fight.

    The World's Great Snare
    The love romance of a pretty American girl and an English prospector.

    Those Other Days
    A collection of gripping and vivid stories.

    For the Queen
    Remarkable stories of diplomatic scandals and political intrigue.





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