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Title: Swirling Waters
Author: Rittenberg, Max, 1880-
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 "Swirling Waters" ***

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



SWIRLING WATERS


BY THE SAME AUTHOR

THE MIND-READER, BEING SOME PAGES FROM THE LIFE OF DR XAVIER WYCHERLEY,
PSYCHOLOGIST AND MENTAL HEALER.

THE COCKATOO.



SWIRLING WATERS

BY

MAX RITTENBERG

AUTHOR OF
"THE MIND-READER," "THE COCKATOO," ETC.

SECOND EDITION

METHUEN & CO. LTD.
36 ESSEX STREET W.C.
LONDON



First Published    July 3rd 1913
Second Edition     August   1913



TO

MY DEAR MOTHER

WHOSE ADVICE AND CRITICISM HAVE HELPED SO
GREATLY IN MY WORK, AND ESPECIALLY IN THE
MAKING OF THIS BOOK; WHOSE COMPANIONSHIP
HAS BEEN A CONSTANT INSPIRATION TO ME



CONTENTS


CHAP.                                                               PAGE

     I. The Whirlpool                                                  1

    II. A £5,000,000 Deal                                              7

   III. Shadowed                                                      17

    IV. On the Scent of a Mystery                                     19

     V. The First Move in the Game                                    29

    VI. The Beginning of a New Life                                   42

   VII. A Seat by the Arena                                           50

  VIII. Who and where is Rivière?                                     61

    IX. At Monte Carlo                                                69

     X. Larssen turns another Corner                                  73

    XI. A Letter From Rivière                                         83

   XII. The Second Meeting                                            87

  XIII. At the Maison Carrée                                         100

   XIV. By the Druids' Tower                                         107

    XV. Waiting the Verdict                                          111

   XVI. Only Pity!                                                   123

  XVII. Rivière is Called Back                                       127

 XVIII. Not Wanted!                                                  138

   XIX. A Throne-Room                                                148

    XX. Beaten to Earth                                              153

   XXI. The Bolted Door                                              171

  XXII. The Chameleon Mind                                           184

 XXIII. Larssen's Man Once Again                                     197

  XXIV. Confession                                                   205

   XXV. White Lilac                                                  216

  XXVI. A Challenge                                                  221

 XXVII. Women's Weapons                                              225

XXVIII. The Counter-Move                                             235

  XXIX. The Parting                                                  247

   XXX. Heir to a Throne                                             254

  XXXI. The Reins had Slipped                                        264

 XXXII. The New Scheme                                               273

XXXIII. Larssen's Appeal                                             278

 XXXIV. On Board the "Starlight"                                     285

  XXXV. Intervention                                                 297

 XXXVI. Finality                                                     304

        Epilogue                                                     311



SWIRLING WATERS



CHAPTER I

THE WHIRLPOOL


On the crucial night of his career, 14 March, 191-, Clifford Matheson,
financier, was speeding in a taxi-cab to the Gare de Lyon.

He was a clean-limbed man of thirty-seven. There was usually a look of
masterfulness in the firm lines of his face, the straight, direct
glance, the stiff, close-cut moustache. But to-night his eyes were
tired, very tired. He leant back in a corner of the cab with drooping
shoulders as though utterly world-weary.

At the station his wife and father-in-law were looking impatiently for
his arrival. They stood at the door of their _wagon-lit_ in the Côte
d'Azur Rapide, searching the crowded platform for him. It was now ten to
eight, and the express was timed to pull out of the Gare de Lyon at
eight o'clock sharp.

"Late again!" growled Sir Francis Letchmere. "Clifford makes a deuced
casual sort of husband. Bad form, you know!"

Good form and bad form were the foot-rules by which he measured mankind.

Olive bit her lip. It galled her pride that Clifford should not be
early on the platform to see to her comforts. The attentions of her
father and maid did not satisfy her; she wanted Clifford to be there to
fetch and carry for her.

Pride was the keynote of her character. It was pride and not love that
had decided her, five years before, to marry the financier. She had
admired the way in which he had slashed out for himself his place in the
world of London and Paris finance, from his humble beginning as a clerk
in a Montreal broker's office. It ministered to her pride to be the wife
of a man who had plucked success from the whirlpool of life. As to the
methods by which he had amassed his money, with these she was not
concerned. She knew, of course, that there were many who had bitter
things to say about his methods.

"Probably it's his brother who's delayed him," said Olive, looking for
an explanation which would salve her _amour propre_. "They both seem to
be crazy over their rubbishy scientific experiments."

"Who's this brother?"

"I know scarcely anything about him. His name's Rivière--he's a
half-brother. He turns up unexpectedly from the wilds of Canada, and
lives like a hermit, so Clifford tells me, in some tumbledown villa
outside Paris."

"What's he like?"

"I've never seen him."

"What's the scientific experiment?"

"Clifford told me something about it, but I forgot. I wasn't interested
in the slightest. No money in it, I could see at once. I told Clifford
so."

Sir Francis tugged at his watch impatiently. "He'll miss this train for
certain!"

"No; there he is!"

Matheson was striding rapidly through the press of people on the
platform. He quickly caught sight of his wife and father-in-law, and
came up with a gesture of apology.

"Sorry I'm so late. Very sorry, too, I shan't be able to travel with you
to-night."

"Experiment to finish?" queried Olive, with an unconcealed note of
contempt in her voice.

"A very important business engagement for this evening. Will you excuse
me? I can follow to-morrow."

"Can't it wait?"

"It's highly important."

"There's the 'phone to speak over."

"I have to come face to face with my man. Surely, Olive, you can spare
me for a day? Have you everything you want for the journey?"

"Who is the man?"

"Lars Larssen," answered Matheson. He lowered his voice slightly, though
on the bustling railway platform there was no likelihood of anyone
listening to the conversation.

Sir Francis nodded his head. He was heavily interested in
company-promoting himself, as a means of swelling an inadequate property
income, and Lars Larssen was a magic name.

"Hudson Bay scheme?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Well, business before pleasure," he remarked sententiously.

Olive cut in with a question. "Have you finished your experiments with
your brother?"

"No," answered Matheson evenly.

"When will they be finished?"

"I can't say. There's a great deal to be discussed and planned."

"Then bring him with you to-morrow. You can plan together whatever it is
you have to plan at Monte. Besides, I want to see him."

"John is a busy man," protested Matheson. "I don't think he can leave
his laboratory."

"Give him my invitation, and make it a pressing one," pursued Olive,
careless of anything but her own whim. "Tell him--tell him I
particularly want him to explain his experiments to me himself."

At this moment the little horn of departure sounded its quaint note from
the end of the platform, and a porter hurried to lock the door of the
_wagon-lit_.

"Have you everything you want for the journey?" asked Matheson.

"I have everything I want," replied his wife coldly. "My father has seen
to that.... Good-bye."

She did not offer to kiss him, and he for his part drew back into a
shell of reserve. Many thoughts were buzzing through his mind as they
exchanged the commonplaces of a railway station good-bye from either
side of a compartment window.

Olive's last words were: "Remember, I'm expecting you to bring your
brother with you to-morrow."

A very tired look was in Matheson's eyes, and a weary droop on his
shoulders, as the train pulled out and he was left alone on the
platform.

Two Frenchmen whispered to one another about him. "The milord Matheson,
see you! The very rich milord Matheson."

"Ah, if I were only a rich man too!"

"What would you do?"

"I should _spend_. How I should spend!" He licked his lips at the
thought of the pleasures of body that money could buy him.

"I should _save_," said the other. "I should make myself the richest man
in the world. That would be glorious!"

These last words reached the ears of Matheson, and set up a curious
train of thought as he drove in his cab to his office in the Rue
Laffitte. The words carried him back to a forest-clearing in the
backwoods of Ontario, where he and his half-brother had made holiday
camp some eighteen years before. They were comparing ambitions--two
young men unusually alike in features but very different in temperament
and will-power. John Rivière, the elder of the two, was dreaming of fame
in the paths of science--he had worked his way through M'Gill University
and was hoping for a demonstratorship to keep him in living expenses.
Clifford Matheson, a clerk in a broker's office, planned his life in
terms of cities and money. "To make big money--that's what I call
success."

In the rapids of the stream by their feet was a swirl of waters covering
a sunken rock, and Rivière had thrown on to it a chip of wood. The chip
was whirled round and round, nearer and nearer to the centre, until
finally it was sucked under with a sudden extinguishment.

"There's the life you plan," he had said to Clifford....



CHAPTER II

A £5,000,000 DEAL


When Matheson reached his office, he was told by a clerk that Mr Lars
Larssen was already waiting to see him. He threw off his gloves and
fur-lined coat and adjusted the lights before he answered that his
visitor could be shown in. He added that the clerk could lock up his own
rooms and leave, as he would not be wanted any longer that evening.

There was a quiet simplicity in Matheson's office that one would
scarcely associate with the operations of high finance. One might have
looked for costly furnishings and an atmosphere redolent of big money.
Yet here was a simple rosewood desk with a bowl of mimosa on it, and
around the walls were a few simple landscapes from recent _salons_.

If Lars Larssen were a magic name to Sir Francis Letchmere, it was a
magic name also to many other men of affairs. From cabin-boy to
millionaire shipowner was his story in brief. But that does not tell one
quarter. The son of Scandinavian immigrants to the States,
factory-workers, he had run away to sea at the age of fourteen, with the
call of the ocean ringing in his ears from the Viking inheritance that
was his. But on this was superposed the fierce desire for success that
formed the psychical atmosphere of the new American environment. As a
boy in the smoke-blackened factory town, he had breathed in the longing
to make money--big money--to use men to his own ends, to be a master of
masters.

With precocious insight he quickly learnt that money is made not by
those who go out upon the waters, but by those who stay on land and send
them hither and thither. He soon gave up the seafaring life and entered
a shipbroker's office. He starved himself in order to save money to
speculate in shipping reinsurance. An uncanny insight had guided him to
rush in when shrewdly prudent business men held aloof.

He had emphatically "made good." Each fresh success had given him new
confidence in himself and his judgment and his powers. He would allow
nothing to stand in his path. Scruples were to him the burden of fools.

A fair-haired giant in build, with inscrutable eyes and mouth set grim
and straight--such was Lars Larssen.

Though Matheson was in no way a small man, yet he seemed somehow dwarfed
when Larssen entered the room. The financier was a self-made master, but
the shipowner was a _born_ master of men--perhaps one's instinctive
contrast lay there. The one had the strength of finished steel, but the
other was rugged granite.

Lars Larssen said quietly: "Your letter brought me over to Paris. I
don't usually waste time in railway trains myself when I have men I can
pay to do it for me. So you can judge that I consider your letter
mighty important."

"I'm sorry if you have given yourself an unnecessary journey," returned
Matheson. "I had intended my letter to make my attitude clear to you."

"Then you missed fire."

"My attitude is simply this: I want to call the deal off."

"Not enough in it for you?" cut in Larssen.

"Not enough in it for the public."

The shipowner surveyed the other man through half-closed lids, weighing
up how far this declaration might be a genuine expression of opinion and
how far a mere excuse to cover some hidden motive.

"Talk it longer," he said.

For reply Matheson drew out a large-scale map of Canada from a drawer
and unfolded it with a decisive deliberation. He laid a finger on the
south-western corner of Hudson Bay. "Here is Fanning trading station,
the terminus of your five-hundred-mile railway. The land you run it over
is mostly lakes, rivers, and frozen swamps for three-quarters of the
year. The line is useless except for your own purpose--to carry wheat
for the Hudson Bay steamship route to England. You agree?"

"Agreed." Larssen was not the man to waste argument over minor points
when a vital matter was under discussion.

"Then the scheme centres on the practicability of making the arctic
Hudson Bay passage a commercial highway. It means the creating of a
modern port at Fanning. It means the lighting of a whole
coast-line"--his finger travelled to the north of Hudson Bay and the
northern coast of Labrador--"before a cargo of wheat leaves Port
Fanning."

"I'll build lighthouses myself by the dozen if the Canadian Government
won't. I'll equip every one with long-range wireless."

"The cost will be tremendous."

"There will be a differential of sixpence a bushel on wheat over my
route. That talks down fifty lighthouses."

"But it makes no allowance for rate-cutting by the big men on the
present routes. Further, if the Canadian Government are not with you on
this scheme, they'll be against you. There are a dozen ways in which you
might be frozen out. In that case the Hudson Bay Route will be the
biggest fiasco that ever happened."

"Nothing I've yet touched has been a fiasco," answered Lars Larssen with
a grim tightening of jaw. "Leave that end to me.... Now your end is to
get the money."

"From the English and Canadian public."

"Naturally."

"You came to me because the English and Canadian public are prejudiced
against 'Yankee propositions.' You yourself couldn't float it in
England. On the other hand, I'm Canadian-born, and my name carries
weight both in England and in Canada."

"With the public," added Larssen, and there was a subtle emphasis on the
word "public," which carried a world of hidden meaning. Matheson had
been associated with other schemes which had a bad odour in the nostrils
of City men.

"With the public who provide the capital," answered the financier, and
his emphasis was on the word "capital." He continued. "With myself and
Sir Francis Letchmere and a few titled dummies on the Board--which is
what you want from me--the public will tumble over one another to take
up stock."

"Agreed."

"The capitalization you propose is £5,000,000 in Ordinary £1 Shares,
which the public will mostly take up. Also £200,000 in Deferred Shares
of the nominal value of one shilling each, which are to be allotted to
yourself as vendor. That gives you four million votes out of a total of
nine million, and for practical purposes means control."

"The Deferred Shares are not to get a cent of dividend until a fifteen
per cent. dividend is paid on the Ordinary Shares. That's the squarest
deal for the public that ever was," retorted Larssen.

"But _you_ hold _control_."

Both men knew the tremendous import of that word. The fortunes of the
world's financial giants have all been built up on "control." Dwarfing
"capital" and "credit" it stands--that word "control." If the wild
gamble of the Hudson Bay scheme were to rush through to commercial
success--if the limitless wheat-lands of Canada were to pour their
mighty torrent of life into Europe through the channel of Hudson Bay--it
would be Lars Larssen who would hold the key of the sluice-gate.
Directly, he would be master of the wheat of Canada. Indirectly, he
could turn his master-position to financial gain in scores of ways. The
£200,000 to be allotted him as vendor was a bagatelle; but to hold four
million votes out of nine million was to control an empire.

He replied evenly: "I keep control on any proposition I touch. That's
creed with me. _Creed._"

"We split on that," answered Matheson.

"You want control for yourself?"

"No."

"Then what is it you do want?"

"I want half the Deferred Shares in the hands of Lord ----." He named a
Canadian statesman and empire-builder whose integrity was beyond all
suspicion. "I want him to hold them as trustee for the ordinary
shareholders. He will consent if I ask him."

"No doubt he will!" commented Larssen ironically. He drew up his chair
closer to the other man. There was a dangerous gleam in his eye as he
said: "Now see here. All the points you've put up were known to you
months ago. What's happened to make you switch at the last moment?"

He had put his finger on the very core of the matter, but Matheson met
his searching gaze without flinching. "What's happened is an entirely
private matter. I've reasons for not wishing to be associated with your
scheme unless you agree to half the Deferred Shares being held by Lord
---- as trustee. These reasons of mine have only arisen during the last
few weeks. Circumstances are different with me from what they were when
you first broached the plan. If you don't care to agree to my
suggestion, I call the deal off. As regards the expenses you've
incurred, I'll go halves."

For comment, the shipowner flicked thumb and forefinger together.

"No, I'll do more," pursued Matheson. "I'll make you a more than fair
offer--shoulder the whole expenses myself."

Larssen ignored the offer. "I went into the preliminaries of the scheme
on the understanding that we were to pull together."

"I know."

"It means big money for you--enough to retire on."

"I know."

"Then what the hell's the reason for this sudden attack of scruples?"

For a moment Matheson's eyes blazed black anger, but the anger died out
of them and the tired look of the platform of the Gare de Lyon took its
place. "You wouldn't understand," he answered. "The whirlpool."

"What's that?"

"It would be useless to explain. I have private reasons.... I've made
you a thoroughly fair offer, and I don't think there's anything more to
be said." Matheson rose and walked to the window, pulling up the blind
and gazing out on the sombre splendour of the big banking houses of the
Rue Laffitte and the Rue Pillet-Will.

Larssen looked at the silhouette of his antagonist with a tense set of
his jaws. Many plans were revolving in his mind. Moralists might have
labelled them "blackmail," but Lars Larssen was utterly free from
scruples where his own interests were concerned. Honesty with him was a
mere matter of policy. To a man with the average sense of honour, such
an attitude of mind is scarcely realisable, but Lars Larssen was no
normal man. In him the Napoleonic madness--or genius--burned fiercely.
He had ambitions colossal in scale--he regarded his present wealth and
power as a mere stepping-stone to the realisation of his Great Idea.

That great ultimate purpose of his life he had never revealed to man or
woman--save only to his dead wife. He aimed to be controlling owner of
the world's carrying trade; to hold decision on peace and war between
nation and nation because of that control of the vital food supply. To
be Emperor of the Seven Seas.

He had one child only--his boy Olaf, now aged twelve, at school in the
States. Olaf was to hold the seat of power after him and perpetuate his
dynasty.

That was Larssen's life-dream.

Any man or woman who stood between him and his great goal was to be
thrust aside or used as a stepping-stone. Matheson, for instance--he was
to be _used_. There must be something underlying Matheson's sudden
access of scruples--what was it? A case of _cherchez la femme_? Or
political ambitions, perhaps? If he could arrive at the motive, it might
open up a new avenue for persuasion.

He searched the silhouette of the man at the window for an answer to the
riddle. But Matheson's face was set, and the answer to the riddle was
such as Lars Larssen could never have guessed. It lay outside the
shipowner's pale of thought--beyond the limitations of his mind.

For Matheson also had his big life-scheme, and it now filled his mind
with a blaze of light as he stood by the window, silent.

Larssen resolved to play for time while he set to work to ferret out his
antagonist's motive for the sudden change of plan. He did not dream for
a moment of relinquishing control on the Hudson Bay scheme. As he had
stated openly, control was _creed_ to him.

He broke the long silence with a conciliatory remark. "Let's think
matters over for a day or two. My scheme might be modified on the
financial side. I'm prepared to make concessions to what you think is
fair to the shareholders. We shall find some common ground of
agreement."

The smooth words did not deceive Matheson. So his answer came with
deliberate finality: "I've said my last word."

"Well, I'll consider it carefully. Meanwhile, doing anything to-night? I
hear that Polaire is on at the Folies Bergères with her opium-den scene.
A thriller, I'm told."

Theatres and music-halls were nothing to the shipowner; his idea was to
keep Matheson under observation if possible, and try to solve the
riddle.

"Thanks, but I've got to get away from Paris," answered Matheson with
his tired droop of the shoulders. "I have to join my wife and
father-in-law at Monte Carlo."

"Very well, then, I'll say good-bye for the present."

When Larssen had left the office, he hurried into a taxi and was whirled
to the Grand Hotel near at hand. Here he found his secretary turning
over the illustrated papers in the hall lounge, and gave a few curt
directions. "Drive round to the Rue Laffitte--a hurry case. On the
second floor of No. 8 is the office of Clifford Matheson. He may be
still there--you'll know by the light in the window. Wait till he comes
out, and follow him. Find out where he goes. If it's to a woman's
house--good. In any case shadow him to-night wherever he goes."



CHAPTER III

SHADOWED


Matheson, alone in his office, thought deeply for a long while, pacing
to and fro, grappling with a life-decision. To and fro, from door to
windows, from windows to door, he paced, until the narrow confines of
the office thrust at him subconsciously and drove him to the open
streets.

At his desk he made out a cheque in favour of Lars Larssen to the amount
of twenty thousand pounds, enclosed it with a brief note in an addressed
envelope, and put it away in a drawer. It was shortly after eleven when
he took up his hat, fur-lined coat and heavy gold-mounted stick, clicked
out the lights, and made his way down to the Rue Laffitte.

At the corner of the Rue Laffitte he passed a young man lounging in the
shadows, who presently turned and followed him at a sober distance.
Matheson made up towards the heights of Montmartre, crowned by the white
Basilique of the Sacred Heart. The great church stood out in cold white
beauty--serene and pure--above the feverish glitter of Paris. Up there a
man might attune himself to the message of the stars--might weigh duty
against duty in the balance of the infinite.

He walked deep in thought, with shoulders drooping.

Beyond the clamorous glitter of the Place Pigalle, with its garish
entertainment halls and all-night restaurants, there is a dark, narrow,
winding lane ascending steeply to the great white sentinel church on the
heights. Up this Matheson strode, still deep in thought, and his
shadower followed. But, half-way up, a new factor cut sharply into the
situation. Out of a _ruelle_ crept two _apaches_ with the stealthy glide
of their class. One followed close behind Clifford Matheson, while the
other stopped to watch the lane against the possible arrival of an
_agent de police_.

The young man who had followed from the Rue Laffitte paused irresolute.
On the one hand were his orders to shadow Matheson wherever he might go
that night; on the other hand was his personal safety. He was keenly
alive to the merciless ferocity of the Parisian _apache_, and he was
unarmed. The wicked curved knife doubtless concealed under the belt of
the _apache_ turned the scale decisively in the mind of the shadower. He
saw no call to risk his own life.

He gave up and retraced his steps, leaving Matheson to his fate.



CHAPTER IV

ON THE SCENT OF A MYSTERY


The name of the young man who had shadowed Matheson was Arthur Dean, and
his position in life was that of a clerk in the Leadenhall Street office
of Lars Larssen. The latter had brought him over to Paris as temporary
secretary because the confidential secretary had happened to be ill and
away from business at the moment when Matheson's letter arrived.

Young Dean bitterly repented his cowardice before he was five minutes
distant from the narrow lane on the heights of Montmartre.

Not only had he left a fellow-countryman to possible violence and
robbery, but his action would inevitably recoil on himself. To be even a
temporary secretary to the great shipowner was a chance, an opportunity
that most young business men of twenty-four would eagerly grasp at. He
was throwing away his chance by this cowardly disobedience to
orders--Lars Larssen was not the man to forgive an offence of that kind.

Dean turned on his tracks and again crossed the Place Pigalle. The lane
behind was deserted. He mounted it and searched eagerly. His search was
fruitless. Matheson was nowhere visible--nor the two _apaches_. To what
had happened in that interval of ten minutes there was no clue.

The young fellow did not dare to go back to the Grand Hotel and report
his failure. He wandered about aimlessly and miserably, until a
flaunting poster outside an all-night _café chantant_ caught his eye and
decided him to enter and kill time until some plan for retrieving his
failure might occur to him.

As he entered the swinging doors a cheery hand was laid on his
shoulders. "Hullo, old man! Hail and thrice hail!"

"Jimmy!" There was a note of pleasure in the young man's voice.

"The same," confirmed Jimmy Martin. He was a tubby, clean-shaven,
rosy-faced little fellow of thirty odd, with an inexhaustible fund of
good spirits. Everyone called him "Jimmy." Dean had known him as a
reporter on a London daily paper and a fellow-member of a local dramatic
society in Streatham.

"Why are you here?" asked Dean.

"Strictly on business, my gay young spark. My present owners, the
_Europe Chronicle_, bless their dear hearts, want to know if La Belle
Ariola"--he waved his hand towards a poster which showed chiefly a
toreador hat, a pair of flashing eyes, and a whirl of white
draperies--"is engaged or no to the Prince of Sardinia. I find the
maiden coy, not to say secretive----"

"I wish you could help me," interrupted Dean eagerly.

"If four francs seventy will do it--my worldly possessions until next
pay-day----"

"No, no, this is quite different." He drew Martin outside into the
street and whispered. "To-night, as I happen to know, an Englishman
walking along a back street by the Place Pigalle was followed by two
_apaches_."

"A week-end tripper, or somebody with a flourish at each end of his
name?"

"Somebody worth while. Now I want to know particularly if anything
happened."

Martin nodded in full understanding. "Come along to the office about ten
to-morrow morning, and I'll tell you if anything's been fired in from
the _gendarmeries_ or the hospitals. What did you say the man's name
was?"

Dean shook his head.

"Imitaciong oyster?" commented Martin cheerfully. "Very well, see you
to-morrow. Meanwhile, be good. Flee the giddy lure. Go home to your
little bed and sleep sweet." There was seriousness under his
good-natured banter. "Come along and I'll see you as far as the
bullyvards."

Arthur Dean went with him, but did not return to the Grand Hotel. He
found a small hotel for the night, and next morning at ten o'clock he
was at the office of the _Europe Chronicle_, an important daily paper
published simultaneously in Paris, Frankfort, and Florence.

Martin came out from the news room into the adjoining ante-room with a
slip of "flimsy" in his hand.

"Was your man hefty with the shillelagh?" he asked.

"He carried a big, gold-mounted stick."

"Then here's your bird." He read out from the slip of paper: "Last
night, shortly after twelve, a certain Gaspard P---- was brought to the
Hôpital Malesherbes suffering from a fractured skull. This morning, on
recovering consciousness, he states that he was attacked without cause
by a drunken Englishman, and struck over the head with a heavy stick.
His state is grave."

Dean felt a warm wave of relief. He thanked the journalist cordially and
was about to leave, when the telephone bell rang sharply in the
adjoining news room. The sub-editor in charge took up the receiver.

"_Ullo, ullo! C'est ici le Chronicle_," said the sub-editor, and after
listening for a moment signed imperatively to Martin to come in and shut
the door.

Presently Martin came out from the news room bustling with energy and
took Dean by the arm. "You specified two _apaches_, didn't you?" he
asked, and hurried on without waiting for an answer. "One was probably
the injured innocence now at the Malesherbes and cursing those _sacrés
Angliches_, but the other lies low and says nuffink. That's the one that
interests me. Come along in my taxi and watch me chase a story."

Stopping only to borrow fifty francs for expenses from the cashier's
wicket, Martin hurried his friend into a taximeter cab and gave the
brief direction: "Pont de Neuilly."

Three-quarters of an hour later they had reached the bridge at the end
of the long avenue of the suburb of Neuilly and had dismissed the cab.

"Now for our imitaciong Sherlock Holmes," said Martin. "The 'phone
message was that a man had found a fur coat and a gold-mounted stick
under some bushes by the left bank of the Seine four hundred metres down
stream. He was apparently some sort of workman, and explained that he
had no wish to be mixed up with the police. On the other hand, he felt
he had to do his duty by the civilization that provides him with a blue
blouse, bread, and bock, so he 'phoned the news to us.... Wish everyone
was as sensible," he added, viewing the matter from a professional
standpoint.

Three hundred yards down, they began to look very carefully amongst the
bushes that line the water's edge. It was not long before they came to
the object of their search. Under an alder-bush they found it--a heavy
fur-lined coat sodden with the river water, and a gold-mounted stick.

The maker's name had been cut out of the overcoat; its pockets were
empty.

Martin held it up. "Did this belong to your man?" he asked, as though
sure of the answer.

"No," answered Dean decisively.

The journalist whisked around in complete surprise and looked at him
keenly. "_Sure?_"

"Positive. There was astrakhan on the collar and cuffs of the coat my
man was wearing."

"And this stick?"

"It looks much the same kind, but then there are thousands of sticks
like this in use."

The stout little journalist looked pathetically disappointed. For the
moment he had no thought beyond the professional aspect of the
matter--the unearthing of a "good story"--and the human significance of
what he had found was entirely out of mind. He turned over the coat and
stick in obvious perplexity, as though they ought somehow to contain the
key to the puzzle if only he could see it. Then he examined the traces
of footsteps on the damp earth by the water-side. There was another set
of footprints beside their own--no doubt the footprints of the man who
had first found the objects and 'phoned to the _Chronicle_.

"What are you going to do next?" asked the young clerk.

"Take them to the police?"

Martin looked up and down the river bank. That part of the Seine is
usually deserted except for nursemaids and children and an occasional
workman. At the moment there was apparently no one in sight.

"You don't know the Paris police--that's evident," returned the
journalist. "They would throw fits on the floor if I were so much as to
carry off a coat-button. No, we must hide the coat and stick in the
bushes again, and tell them to-morrow."

"Why to-morrow?"

"Twenty-four hours' start is due to my owners, bless their sensational
little hearts. If nothing further comes to light, then the press steps
aside and allows the law to take its course. Meanwhile to the Morgue
and the Malesherbes. We'll pick up a cab on the Avenue de Neuilly.
Newspaper life, my young friend, is one dam taxi after another."

The Morgue is, of course, no longer the public peep-show that it used to
be, but Martin's card procured him instant admission. On the inclined
marble slabs, down which ice water gently trickles, were two ghastly
white figures of women which had been waiting identification for some
days. The object of their search was not at the Morgue.

They proceeded across Paris to the Hôpital Malesherbes, but at the Place
de l'Opera Dean asked to be put down. The journalist promised to 'phone
to the Grand Hotel if anything of interest came to light, and Arthur
Dean went to make his report to Lars Larssen. It was already past
mid-day, and without doubt the shipowner would be impatient to hear
news.

Only stopping at a telephone call office for a few minutes, Dean hurried
to his employer's suite of rooms.

"Well?" asked Lars Larssen.

"To begin at the beginning, sir, I waited last night in the Rue Laffitte
until Mr Matheson came out of his office. It was not long before he
appeared, and then----"

The shipowner interrupted curtly. "I want the heart of the matter."

Dean gulped and answered: "I believe Mr Matheson has been murdered."

"Believe! Do you _know_?"

"Of course I don't know for certain, sir; but this morning I assisted
at the finding of his coat and stick on the banks of the Seine."

"Sure they were his?"

"Yes, quite sure. I was with a journalist friend of mine, but I didn't
let him know that I recognized the coat and stick. I thought perhaps you
would like me to tell you before the matter was made public."

"Good! Now give me the full story."

Arthur Dean summoned up his nerve to tell the connected tale he had
thought out during the long cab rides that morning. It was essential
that he should disguise his cowardice and his failure to carry out
orders of the night before. With that exception, his account was a
truthful and detailed story of all that had happened. He concluded
with:--

"I 'phoned up Mr Matheson's office--without telling my name--and asked
if he was in or had been to the office this morning. They said no. I got
his hotel address from them and 'phoned the hotel. They also could tell
me nothing about Mr Matheson."

Lars Larssen paced the room in silence for some time. Finally he shot
out a question.

"Your salary is?"

"£100 a year, sir."

"Engaged, or likely to be?"

The young man blushed deeply as he replied: "I hope to be shortly."

"You can't marry on two pound a week."

"I am hoping to get promotion in the office, and then----"

"Do you understand how to get promotion?"

"Of course, sir. I intend to work hard and study the details of the
business outside my own department, and learn Spanish as well as
French----"

Lars Larssen flicked thumb and finger together contemptuously. "The men
I pay real money to are not that kind of men."

Arthur Dean looked in surprise.

"Now see here," pursued the shipowner, fixing his eyes deep into the
young man's, "why did you lie to me just now?"

Dean went deathly white, and began to falter a denial.

"Don't lie any further! Something happened last night that you haven't
told me of. I know, because you brought in no report last night. Out
with it!"

Under that merciless look the young clerk made a clean breast of the
matter. His voice shook as he realized that it probably meant instant
dismissal for him. Here was the end of all his hopes.

Lars Larssen made no comment until the last details had been faltered
out. Then he said abruptly: "I propose to raise you £300 a year."

Dean stared at him in silent amazement.

"£300 a year is good salary for a young man. If I pay it, I want it
earned. Now understand this: what I want in my men is absolute loyalty,
absolute obedience to orders, and absolute truthfulness to me. Lie to
others if you like--that's no concern of mine--but not to me. Further,
understand what orders mean. If I tell you to do a thing, I am wholly
responsible for its outcome. The responsibility is not yours--it's
mine. Got that?"

"It's very generous of you to give me such a chance, sir. It's much more
than I have the right to expect. You can count on my loyalty and
obedience to the utmost--of course, provided that----"

"The men I want to raise in my employ, and the men I have raised, leave
fine scruples to me. That's my end. Your end is to carry out orders. If
you're going to set store on niceties of truthfulness when business
interests demand otherwise, you'll remain a two-pound-a-week clerk all
your life."

Dean's weakness of moral fibre had been shrewdly weighed up by Larssen.
The young man was plastic clay to be moulded by a firm grasp. £300 a
year opened out to him a vista of roseate possibilities. £300 a year was
his price.

The colour came and went in his face as he thought out the meaning of
what his employer had just said. At length he answered: "I owe you many
thanks, sir. What do you want me to do?"

"Understand this: £300 a year is your starting salary. If I find you
after trial to be the man I think you are, you can look forward to
bigger money.... Now my point lies here; Mr Matheson was engaged with me
in a large-scale enterprise. Alive, he would have been useful to me. I
intend to keep him alive!"



CHAPTER V

THE FIRST MOVE IN THE GAME


At the great Leadenhall Street office of the shipowner, an office which
bore outside the simple sign--ostentatious in its simplicity--of "Lars
Larssen--Shipping," Arthur Dean had looked upon his employer from afar
as some demi-god raised above other business men by mysterious gifts
from heaven. A modern Midas with the power of turning what he touched to
gold.

Now he was granted an intimate glimpse into the workings of his
employer's mind that came to him as a positive revelation. Larssen's
were no mysterious powers, but the powers that every man possessed
worked at white heat and with an extraordinary swiftness and exactitude.
The revelation did not sweep away the glamour; on the contrary, it
increased it. Lars Larssen was a craftsman taking up the commonest tools
of his craft and using them to create a work of art of consummate build.

His present work was to keep alive the personality of Clifford Matheson
until the Hudson Bay scheme should be launched. To use Matheson's name
on the prospectus, and to use his influence with Sir Francis Letchmere
and others. Dead, Matheson was to serve him better than alive.

But the shipowner did not build his edifice on the foundation merely of
what Arthur Dean had told him. He had to satisfy himself more
accurately.

A string of rapid, apparently unconnected orders almost bewildered the
young secretary:--

"First, get a list of the big hotels at Monte Carlo. Engage the trunk
telephone and call up each hotel until you find where Sir Francis
Letchmere is staying. Give no name.... Buy a pair of workman's boots to
fit you. Get them in some side street shop. Bring them with you--don't
ask them to send.... Take this typewriting"--he took a letter from his
pocket and carefully clipped off a small portion--"and match it with a
portable travelling machine. Can you recognize the make of machine
off-hand?"

Dean examined the portion of typed matter, and shook his head.

"You must train yourself to observe detail. Looks to me like the type on
a 'Thor' machine. Try the Thor Co. first. If not there, go to every
typewriter firm in Paris until it matches.... Go to the offices of the
Compagnie Transatlantique and get a list of sailings on the
Cherbourg-Quebec route. Give no name.... Meanwhile, 'phone your
journalist friend and have him call on me."

"What reason shall I give him, sir?"

"Anything that will pull him here. Tell him I'm willing to be
interviewed on the proposed international agreement about maritime
contraband in time of war. Quite sure you remember all my orders?"

"I think so, sir."

"Repeat them."

The young man did so.

"Good!"

Dean flushed with pleasure at the commendation.

"Had lunch yet?"

"Not yet."

Lars Larssen smiled as he said: "Well, postpone lunch till to-night, or
eat while you're hustling around in cabs. This is a hurry case. Here's
an advance fifty pounds to keep you in expense money."

As the crisp notes were put into his hand, Arthur Dean felt that he was
indeed on the ladder which led to business status and wealth. His
thoughts went out to a little girl in Streatham who was waiting, he
knew, till he could ask her to be his wife. If Daisy could see how he
was being taken into his employer's confidence!

Lars Larssen startled him with a remark that savoured of
thought-reading. "My three-hundred-a-year men," he said, "don't write
home about business matters."

"I quite understand, sir."

Later in the afternoon, Jimmy Martin of the _Europe Chronicle_ sent in
his card at the Grand Hotel, and Lars Larssen did not keep him waiting
beyond a few moments.

The tubby little journalist was no hero-worshipper. Few journalists can
be--they see too intimately the strings which work the affairs of the
world for the edification of a trustful public. Consequently, Martin's
attitude in the presence of the millionaire shipowner was as free from
constraint or subservience as it would be in the dressing-room of La
Belle Ariola, who danced the bolero at a _café chantant_, or in the ward
of the Malesherbes Hôpital, interviewing an _apache_ with a cracked
skull.

Lars Larssen summed him up with lightning rapidity of thought, and
adjusted his own attitude to a friendly, confidential basis.

Said Martin: "You want to talk about contraband of war? I'd better tell
you the _Chronicle_'s red-hot against the olive-branch merchants, so I
hope you're not one of them. Say you agree with us, and I can spread you
over half a column."

The shipowner smiled. "That's the talk I like. Make a policy and set the
buzzer going. Now see here...."

At the end of half an hour he had established a link of easy friendship,
and had brought the conversation round without difficulty to the matter
which was the real object of the interview.

"Dean was telling me about the help you gave him on his wild-goose chase
to-day. Many thanks. He's a steady young fellow and will get on--but a
little too ready to jump at conclusions. Of course you found nothing at
the hospital?"

On the answer much depended, but no one could have guessed it from the
shipowner's face, which was smilingly confident.

"Nothing doing!" answered Martin. "Our young friend with the cracked
skull met the holy Tartar last night. He's raving sore--wants to
prosecute him for assault, if he can find out who he is."

"Exactly. But there's a disappointment in store for him. I met my friend
to-day going off to Canada. What are you going to do about the coat and
stick at Neuilly?"

"Hunt around for a few more clues before turning it over to the police."
There was a tired disappointment in the journalist's voice that Lars
Larssen noted with keen satisfaction. "I doubt if the police'll do much
unless the relations kick up a shindy. Paris is the finest place in
Europe to get murdered in peacefully and without a lot of silly fuss.
You see, it might be a hoax. Your Parisian hoaxer likes a dash of Grand
Guignol horrors in his jokelet. The police have been had several times,
and they're very much hoax-shy. I could tell you some pretty tales about
mysterious disappearances that never get into the papers."

A little later the journalist took his departure. As the great shipowner
shook hands at the door, he said cordially: "If you want news from me
when I'm in Paris any time, come straight to me. I like your paper; I
like your methods."

Martin left without a suspicion that he had been "pumped" for vital
information.

Now the shipowner had to wait patiently for nightfall before the first
definite move of his game could be played. One of his secrets of success
was that he never allowed his mind to worry him. He shut the matter
completely out of his conscious thoughts; got a trunk telephone call to
his London office; sent off some cables to his New York office; and
generally immersed himself on business matters quite unrelated to the
Matheson case.

It was nearly ten o'clock that night before Arthur Dean returned from an
errand on which he had been sent. In his arms was a bulky brown-paper
parcel.

He opened it in the privacy of his employer's sitting-room, and
remembering the advice given him that morning as to the way to present a
business report, pointed silently to a small slit in the side of the
fur-lined coat, where it would cover a man's ribs. On the inner lining
of the coat there was a dark stain around the slit, though the immersion
in the river had of course washed away any definite blood-clot.

Lars Larssen nodded appreciation of the young fellow's method of going
straight to the heart of the subject. "Good!" said he. "Now for
details."

"I carried out your orders exactly, sir. Took a cab to Neuilly,
dismissed it, put on the pair of workman's boots when I was in the
darkness of the river bank, and found the coat and stick just where
Martin and I had hidden them in the bushes. The trees make it quite dark
along that part of the Seine, and I am certain no one saw me taking them
and wrapping them in my brown paper. The coat was nearly dry."

"Did you find the stick broken?"

"No. I broke it in two so that it could be wrapped in the same parcel as
the coat."

"Did you examine footprints?"

"Yes. The only ones around the bushes were Martin's and mine made this
morning, and the prints of the man who first discovered them. Of course
my own prints this time were made by the boots you told me to buy and
put on."

"What next?"

"I went along the river bank for a couple of miles with my parcel until
I came to some other suburb, and then I caught a cab to the Arc de
Triomphe, and there I took another cab to here."

"The workman's boots?"

"After I changed back to my ordinary boots, I threw them in the river,
as you told me to."

"They sank?"

"Yes, sir."

"Anything else?"

"Nothing else worth reporting, I think.... Do you recognize this coat
and stick as belonging to Mr Matheson, sir?"

Lars Larssen nodded non-committally, and ordered the young fellow to get
a trunk telephone call through to Sir Francis Letchmere at Monte Carlo.
Dean had already found out that he was staying at the Hotel des
Hespérides.

But when the telephone connexion had been made, it was Olive who
answered from the other end of the wire:--

"This is Mrs Matheson. Who is speaking?"

"Mr Larssen. I want Sir Francis Letchmere."

"He's out just now. Shall I take your message?"

"Have you heard yet from your husband?"

"No. Why?"

"He's off to Canada. I thought he would have wired you."

"That's just like Clifford!" There was an angry sharpness in the voice
over the wire.

"I reckon he was in too much of a hurry. It's in connexion with the
Hudson Bay scheme--you know about that?"

"Yes. Has anything gone wrong with it?" Now there was anxiety in the
voice.

"A new situation has arisen. Your husband suggested to me that he had
better hurry across the pond and straighten up matters." Larssen lowered
his voice. "Somebody in the Canadian Government wants oiling. Of course
he will have to work the affair very quietly."

"It's too annoying! Clifford had promised me faithfully to come on to
Monte by to-night's train. I wanted him here."

"That's rough on you!"

"What message did you wish to give to my father?"

"About the Hudson Bay deal. I want to meet Sir Francis and talk
business."

"You're not going to drag him back to Paris!"

Again there was annoyance in her voice, and Lars Larssen made a quick
resolution. He answered: "Certainly not, if you don't wish it. Rather
than that, I'll come myself to Monte."

"That's charming of you!"

"The least I can do. I'll wire later when to expect me."

"Many thanks."

When the conversation had concluded, the shipowner called the young
secretary and asked him to bring in the new "Thor" travelling typewriter
he had purchased that afternoon. Larssen had proved right in his guess
of the make of machine with which his scrap of typing had been done.

"Take a letter. Envelope first," said Larssen.

"You want me to take it direct on the machine, sir?"

"Yes." The shipowner began to dictate. "Monsieur G. R. Coulter, Rue
Laffitte, 8, Paris.... Now for the letter.... Cherbourg, March 15th."

"Any address above Cherbourg?"

"Not at present. 'Cherbourg, March 15th. Dear Coulter, I am called away
to Canada on business. The matter is very private, and I want my trip
kept very quiet. I leave affairs in your hands until my return. Get my
luggage from my hotel and keep it in the office. If anything urgent
arises, my name and address will be Arthur Dean, Hotel Ritz-Carlton,
Montreal.'"

The young secretary went white, and his fingers dropped from the keys of
the typewriter.

"Sir!"

It was a moment of crisis.

"Well?" asked Lars Larssen sharply.

"A letter like that, sir...!"

"You don't care to go to Canada?"

"It's not that, but----" He stammered, and stopped short.

Lars Larssen allowed a moment of silence to give weight to his coming
words. He drew out a cheque-book from his breast-pocket and very
deliberately said: "Make yourself out a cheque for a usual month's
wages, and bring it to me to sign. That will be in lieu of notice."

Arthur Dean took the cheque-book with shaking fingers and went to the
adjoining room.

When at length he came back, he found the shipowner making out a
telegram. He stood in silence until the telegram was given into his
hand, open, with an order to send it off to London. His glance fell
involuntarily on the writing, and he could see that the wire was to call
over somebody to replace him.

"I don't think this will be necessary, sir," said Dean, with a tremor in
his voice which told of the mental struggle he had been through in the
adjoining room, when his career lay staked on the issue of a single
decision.

It was not without definite purpose that Lars Larssen had put the
cheque-book into his hands. He knew well the power of suggestion, and
used it with a master-hand. He could almost see the young secretary torn
between the thoughts of a miserable £8 on the one hand, and the
illimitable wealth suggested by a blank cheque-book on the other.

"Understand this," answered Larssen. "Whichever way you decide matters
nothing to me from the business point of view. I can get a dozen, twenty
men to replace you at a moment's notice. If you don't care to go to
Canada, you're perfectly free to say so. Then we part, because you're
useless to me. Aside from the purely business point of view, I should
be sorry. I like you; I see possibilities in you; I could help you up
the business ladder."

"That's very good of you, sir."

"Wait. I want you to see this matter in the proper light. You have an
idea that what that letter represents could get you into trouble with
the law. That's it, isn't it?"

Dean coloured.

"Now see here. I stand behind that letter. My reputation is worth about
ten thousand times yours in hard cash. Would I be mad enough to risk my
reputation unless I had looked at every move on the board?"

"I didn't think of that at the time."

"Exactly. Now you see the other side of the picture. If you want half an
hour to make up your mind once and for all, take it. Consider carefully
what you'd like to be in the future: clerk or business man. Two pound a
week; or six, ten, twenty, fifty a week. That represents the difference
between the clerk and the business man in cold cash."

"I've made up my mind, sir," answered Dean firmly.

"Good!" said Lars Larssen, and held out his hand to his young employee.
"There's the right stuff in you!"

To have his hand shaken in friendship by the millionaire shipowner was
as strong wine to Arthur Dean. He flushed with pleasure as he stammered
out his thanks.

A couple of hours packed with feverish activity followed. Lars Larssen
knew that Clifford Matheson had the habit of carrying a small typewriter
with him on his journeys, in order to get through correspondence while
on trains and steamers. Many busy men carry them. This habit of
Matheson's was exceedingly useful for his present purpose. The letter
that Arthur Dean was to post off at Cherbourg--one to the Paris office
of Clifford Matheson and one of similar purport to the London
office--would only need the signature in holograph. Larssen had several
of Matheson's signatures on various letters that had passed between
them, and these he cut off and gave to his employee to copy.

He criticised the spacing and the general lay-out of the letter already
typed, showed Dean how to imitate Matheson's little habits of typing,
and arranged that the letters dictated should be retyped on hotel paper
at Cherbourg and posted there. Dean was to catch a night train to
Cherbourg, take steamer ticket there for Quebec, and proceed to
Montreal. There were a host of directions as to his conduct while in
Canada, and as Larssen poured out a stream of detailed orders, searching
into every cranny and crevice of the situation, the young clerk felt
once more the glamour of the master-mind.

Here was an employer worth working for!

Early next morning Dean was at grimy Cherbourg, and after posting off
his letters he sent the following telegram to Mrs Matheson at Monte
Carlo:--

"Sailing this morning for Canada on 'La Bretagne.' Urgent and very
private business. Larssen, Grand Hotel, Paris, will explain. Sailing as
Arthur Dean to avoid Canadian reporters. Good-bye. Much love."

As the liner lay by the quayside with smoke pouring from her funnels and
the bustle of near departure on her decks, a telegram in reply was
brought to Arthur Dean. He opened and read:--

"Most annoying. Cannot understand why business could not have been given
to somebody else. However, expect nothing from you nowadays. Where is
Rivière? Not arrived, and no line from him."

Rivière? Who was this man? Lars Larssen had made no mention of this
name. It was the one facet of the situation of which the shipowner knew
nothing--the one unknown link in the chain of circumstance.

Arthur Dean could only send a frantic wire to Lars Larssen, and the
liner had cast off from her moorings before an answer came. This is what
the shipowner found awaiting him at his hotel:--

"Mrs M. wants to know where is Rivière. Reply urgent. Who is Rivière?"



CHAPTER VI

THE BEGINNING OF A NEW LIFE


On the morning of March 15th, Clifford Matheson lit a blazing fire in
the laboratory of a tumbledown villa in Neuilly in order to destroy the
clothes and other identity marks of the financier.

For some months past he had been leading a double life--as Clifford
Matheson the financier, and as John Rivière the recluse scientist. He
had chosen to take up the name of his dead half-brother because he had
been taking up the latter's life-work.

The motives that had urged him to this strange double life were such as
a Lars Larssen could scarcely comprehend. Every man has his mental as
well as his physical limitations. The keenest brain, if trained on some
specialized line, will fail to understand what to the dabbler in many
lines seems perfectly natural and reasonable. Larssen, a master-mind,
had his peculiar limitations as well as smaller men. His brain had been
trained to see the world as an ant-heap into which some Power External
had stamped an iron heel. The ants fought blindly with one another to
reach the surface--to live. That was the law of life as he saw it--to
fight one's way to the open.

The world he looked upon breathed in money through eager nostrils.
Money was the oxygen of civilization. Without money a man slowly
asphyxiated. It must be every man's ambition to own big money--to
breathe it in himself with full-lunged, lustful, intoxicating gulps, and
to dole it out as master to dependents pleading for their ration of
life. That was the meaning of power: to give or withhold the essentials
of life at one's pleasure.

Consequently he had failed to read the riddle of Matheson's motive at
that crucial interview in the financier's office on the Rue Laffitte. He
had failed to realize that a man might be as eager to give as to grasp.
He had failed to reckon on altruism as a possible dominating factor in
the decisions of a successful man of business.

Further than that, it lay entirely outside Lars Larssen's plane of
thought that a man who had fought his way up to worldly success from a
clerk's stool in a Montreal broker's office, who had made himself a
power in the world of London and Paris finance, could voluntarily give
up money and power and bury himself in obscurity.

Larssen judged that Matheson had been murdered and robbed by the
_apaches_. It was possible, though extremely improbable, that he might
have committed suicide. Which it was, mattered nothing to the shipowner.
But he did not dream for one instant that Matheson might have thrown up
place and power to disappear into voluntary exile.

       *       *       *       *       *

Clifford Matheson had set himself from the age of eighteen to achieve a
money success. At thirty-seven, he had achieved it. He had slashed out
for himself a path to power in the financial world. He was rich enough
to satisfy the desires of most men.

Five years ago he had married into a well-known English family, and the
doors of society had been opened wide to him. But his marriage had been
a ghastly mistake. Olive, after marriage, had showed herself entirely
out of sympathy with the idealism that formed so large a part of the
complex character of her husband. She wanted money and power, and she
drove spurs into her husband that he might obtain for her more and more
money, more and more power. Any other ambition in Clifford she tried to
sneer down with the ruthlessness of an utterly mercenary woman.

He had come to loathe the sensuous artificiality of his life. He had
come to loathe the ruthless selfishness of finance. He was sick with the
callousness of that stratum of the world in which he moved.

In the last couple of years he had found himself drawn powerfully
towards the calm, passionless atmosphere of science in which his elder
brother, John Rivière, had found his life-work. Rivière had made no
worldly success for himself. The scientific researches he had undertaken
made no stir when they found light in the pages of obscure quarterlies
circulating amongst a few dozen other men engaged in similar research.
Rivière had not the temperament to push himself or the children of his
brain. He had settled into a solitary bachelor life in a small Canadian
college--an unknown, unrecognized man--and yet the calm, steady purpose
and the calm, passionless happiness of the life had made a deep
impression on Clifford Matheson.

Rivière had come to an accidental death on a holiday with his brother in
the wilds of northern Canada. Few knew of it beyond Matheson.

The financier had been drawn towards one special problem of science, and
on this he had studied deeply the last few years. From his studies, an
idea had developed which could only be worked out by experiments. Many
years of patient research would be needed, for this thought-child of
Matheson's was a master-idea, an idea which meant the exploring of a
practically uncharted sea of knowledge.

In brief, it was an attack of root-problem of human disease. Doctors and
pathologists had hitherto been viewing disease from the aspect of its
myriad effects on the highly complex human being. It was as though one
were to attempt to understand the subtleties of some full-grown language
without first learning its elementary grammar--the foundations on which
its super-structure is reared.

Now Matheson, coming to the problem with a strong, fresh mind unhampered
by the swaddling clothes of a college training, saw it from a view-point
entirely different to that of the doctors. He wanted to know the
elementary grammar of human disease. He found that no book dealt with
it--nor attempted to deal with it. No recognized department of a medical
course took as its province the root-causes of disease. Pathology was a
study of effects. Bacteriology--that again was merely a study of
effects.

He had read widely amongst a variety of scientific research-matter, and
had found that here and there an isolated attack was being made on the
problem of causes. But nothing strong-planned--as any one of his
financial schemes would be planned--nothing co-ordinated. The researches
of the day were starting at points too complex, before the basic
conditions of the problem were known.

He wanted to learn, and to give to the world, the basic facts.

Disease, as he viewed it, was primarily the result of abnormal
conditions of living. His idea was to study it in its simplest possible
form. To study the effects of abnormal conditions of life on the lowest
living organisms--the microscopic blobs of life whose structure is
elemental. From his wide reading of the last couple of years, he knew
what little was already known and the vast field that was unexplored
territory. He need not waste time over what others had already dealt
with--the new territory offered sufficient field for a life-work.

Once he could get at the basic facts of disease as it related to the
very simplest organisms, he could progress upwards to the higher
organisms, and so eventually to man. What could be learnt from the
pathological condition of an amoeba might lay the foundations for the
conquering of cancer in man, and a hundred other diseases as well.
Matheson's idea was a revolutionary one--a master-idea like a
master-patent. It held limitless possibilities for the alleviation of
human pain and suffering.

It was an idea to which a man might well devote his whole intellect and
energies.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some months before, the financier had bought, in the name of John
Rivière, a tumbledown villa on the outskirts of Neuilly. In it he had
fitted up a research laboratory in which to pursue the experimental end
of the problem which had such vital interest for him.

A high wall surrounded a garden overgrown with weeds and a villa falling
to decay. At one time, no doubt, the house had formed a nest for the
_petite amie_ of some rich Parisian, but now the owner of the property
was only too glad to sell it at any price, and without asking any but
the most perfunctory questions of the man who had offered to buy. In the
solitude of the ruined villa, Matheson had been pursuing his scientific
research at such times as he could snatch from his financial business.
He had been leading a "double life"--from a motive far different to the
double life of other married men. There was no woman in the case. There
was no secret scheme of money-making. There was no solitary pandering to
the senses with drink or drugs.

But the financier had been finding that the leading of a double life
bristled with practical difficulties. Apart from the calls of his
business, there were the insistent demands of his wife. The position
was becoming an intolerable one. He had to choose between the life of
the money-maker or that of the creator of a new field of knowledge.

On the night of 14th March the conversation on the platform of the Gare
de Lyon and the fight with Lars Larssen had brought the question of
decision to a head. He had grappled with it in his office, pacing to and
fro long after the shipowner had left. He had turned his steps towards
the heights of Montmartre so that he might carry his problem up to the
solitude of a high place, in the peace of the eternal stars.

He was deep in the question of decision when the two apaches had
attacked him in the narrow lane leading to the Basilique of the Sacred
Heart. Matheson was a man of considerable strength and alertness. He had
felled one of the two _apaches_ with his heavy gold-mounted stick; the
other one had sent through the fur-lined coat a knife-thrust which had
grazed his ribs. Matheson had beaten him off, and had then continued his
path to the Basilique.

But the attack had brought a vivid inspiration for the solution of his
personal problem.

He would slip off the personality of Clifford Matheson and take up
completely that of John Rivière. He would leave his overcoat and stick
by the riverside at Neuilly, and 'phone information about them to the
police or to a newspaper. That knife-slit in his overcoat would be taken
as evidence of murder. They would judge him murdered, with robbery as
motive. The courts would give leave for Olive to presume death. She
would be freed; she would come into her husband's fortune; she could
marry again if she chose to.

Surely that was the solution of his personal problem!

For his part he could live his life unshackled, and there was sufficient
money already standing in the name of Rivière at a Paris bank to give
him a modest income on which to keep himself and pay for the materials
of research.

No one would be the worse for his disappearance; his wife would be the
gainer; and mankind, he hoped, would be the gainer through the research
to which he could henceforth devote his life.

Yes, that was assuredly _the_ solution.



CHAPTER VII

A SEAT BY THE ARENA


Rivière had bought fresh clothes and other necessities at the suburban
shops of Neuilly. He had shaved off his moustache; arranged his hair
differently; put on a new shape of collar. It is curious how the shape
of a collar is associated in most minds with the impression of a man's
features. To change into another shape is to make a very noticeable
difference to one's appearance.

He had also bought travelling necessities. His intention was to wander
for a couple of months. It would help him to clear his brain from the
tangle of financial matters which still obsessed it against his will. He
wanted to sweep out the Hudson Bay scheme, Lars Larssen, Olive, and many
other matters from the living-room of his mind. He wanted a couple of
months in which to settle himself in the new personality; plan out his
future work in detail; set the mental fly-wheel turning, so as to
concentrate his energies undividedly on the work to come.

In the afternoon, old Mme Dromet entered the villa to scrub and clean.
She had a standing arrangement to come two or three afternoons a week.

"Are you going away from Paris?" shouted old Mme Dromet to her employer,
seeing the portmanteau and the other signs of departure. She was
stone-deaf, and in the manner of deaf people always shouted what she had
to say.

Rivière nodded assent, and produced a paper of written instructions.
These he read through with her, so as to make sure that she thoroughly
understood. Then he gave her a generous allowance to cover the next few
months.

Later in the afternoon, he was seated with his modest travelling
equipment in a cab, driving to No. 8, Rue Laffitte. He mounted to the
offices of the financier and, in order to test the efficacy of his
changed appearance, asked to see Mr Clifford Matheson.

For a moment the clerk stared at the visitor. The resemblance to his
employer was certainly very striking. Yet there were differences. Mr
Matheson wore a close-cut moustache, while this man was clean-shaven.
The commanding look, the hard-set mask of the financier were softened
away; there was joy of life, there was freedom of soul in the features
and in the attitude of this visitor.

"I am Mr John Rivière, his half-brother. Will you tell him that I am
here?"

The clerk felt somehow relieved. That of course explained the striking
resemblance. He replied: "Mr Matheson has not been at the office to-day,
sir. I fancy he has left for Monte Carlo. I am not sure, but I believe
that was his intention."

"Has he left no message for me?"

"I will see, sir. Please take a seat."

Presently the clerk returned. "I am sorry, sir, but there doesn't seem
to be any message left for you."

"Tell him I called," said Rivière, and went back to his cab. In it he
was driven to the Gare de Lyon. At the booking-office he asked for a
ticket for Arles. His intention was to travel amongst the old cities of
Provence, and then make his way to the Pyrenees and into Spain. There
was no definite plan of journey; he wanted only some atmosphere which
would help him to clear his mind for the work to come. In the Midi the
early Spring would be breathing new life over the earth.

About midnight the southern express stopped at some big station. The
rhythmic sway and clatter of a moving train had given place to a
comparative stillness that awoke John Rivière from sleep. He murmured
"Dijon," and composed himself to a fresh position for rest. Some hours
later there was again a stoppage, and instinctively he murmured
"Lyon-Perrache." The phases of the journey along the main P.L.M. route
had been burnt into him from the visits with Olive to Monte Carlo.

In the morning the strange land of Provence opened out under mist which
presently cleared away beneath the steady drive of the sun. The low
hills that border the valley of the Rhone cantered past him--quaint,
treeless hills here scarped and sun-scorched, there covered with low
balsam shrubs. Now and again they passed a straggling white village
roofed with big, curved, sun-mellowed tiles. Around the village there
would be a few trees, and on these the early Spring of the Midi had laid
her fingers in tender caress.

The air was keen and yet strangely soft; to Rivière it was wine of life.
He drew it in thirstily; let the wind of the train blow his hair as it
listed; watched greedily the ever-changing landscape. The strange bare
beauty of this land of sunshine and romance brought him a keen thrill of
happiness.

It was as though he had loosed himself from prison chains and had
emerged into a new life of freedom.

In full morning they reached Arles, the old Roman city in the delta of
the Rhone. It clusters, huddles around the stately Roman arena on the
hill in the centre of the town--a place of narrow, tortuous _ruelles_
where every stone cries out a message from the past. In the lanes, going
about the business of the day, were women and girls moulded in the
strange dark beauty of the district--the "belles Arlésiennes" famous in
prose and verse.

Yet chiefly it was the arena that fascinated him. All through the
afternoon he wandered about the great stone tiers, flooded in sunlight,
and reconstructed for himself a picture of the days when gladiators down
below had striven with one another for success--or death. The arena was
the archetype of civilized life.

Now he was a spectator, one of the multitude who look on. It was good to
sit in the flooding sunlight and know that he was no longer a gladiator
in the arena. There was higher work for him to do, away from the
merciless stabbing sword and the cunning of net and trident.

At intervals during the afternoon a few tourists--mostly
Americans--rushed up in high-powered, panting cars to the gateway of the
arena; gave a hurried ten minutes to the interior; and then whirled away
across the white roads of the Rhone delta in a scurry of dust.

Only one visitor seemed to realize, like himself, the glamour of the
past and to steep the mind in it. This was a woman. Her age was perhaps
twenty-five, in her bearing was that subtle, scarcely definable,
sureness of self which marks off womanhood from girlhood. She climbed
from tier to tier of the amphitheatre with firm confident step; stood
gazing down on her dream pictures of the scene in the arena; moved on to
a fresh vantage-point. She wore a short tailored skirt which ignored the
ugly, skin-tight convention of the current fashion. Her cheeks were
fresh with a healthy English colour; her eyes were deep blue, toning
almost to violet; her hair was burnished chestnut under the soft felt
hat curled upwards in front; a faint odour of healthy womanhood formed
as it were an aura around her.

All this John Rivière had noticed subconsciously as she passed close by
him on the ledge where he sat, walking with her firm, confident step.
Though he noted it appreciatively, yet it disturbed him. He did not want
to notice any woman. He had big work to do, and on that he wanted to
concentrate all his faculties. He had had no thought of a woman in his
life when he broke the chains that shackled him to the Clifford Matheson
existence. He purposed to have no call of sex to divert him from the
realization of his big idea.

Presently she had climbed to the topmost ledge of the amphitheatre, and
stood out against the sky-line of the sunset-to-be, deep-chested,
straight, clean-limbed, a very perfect figure of a modern Diana.

It is a dangerous place on which to stand, that topmost ledge of the
amphitheatre, with no parapet and a sheer drop to the street below.
Almost against his will, Rivière mounted there.

But there was no occasion for his help, and they two stood there, some
yards apart, silent, watching the red ball of the sun sink down into the
limitless flats of the Camargue, and the grey mist rising from the
marshes to wrap its ghostly fingers round this city of the ghostly past.

Twice she looked towards him as though she must speak out the thoughts
conjured up by this splendid scene. It wanted only some tiny excuse of
convention to bridge over the silence between them, but Rivière on his
side would not seek it, and the woman hesitated to ask him to take up
the thread that lay waiting to his hand.

A cold wind sprang up, and she descended and made her way to her hotel
on the Place du Forum.

At dinner in the deserted dining-room of his hotel, Rivière found
himself seated at the next table to her. There are only two hotels
worthy of the name in Arles, and the coincidence of meeting again was of
the very slightest. Yet somehow he felt subconsciously that the arm of
Fate was bringing their two lives together, and he resented it.

The silence between them remained unbroken.

In the evening he wrapped himself in a cloak against the bitter wind
rushing down the valley of the Rhone and spreading itself as an
invisible fan across the delta, and wandered about the dark alleys of
the town, twisting like rabbit-burrows, lighted only here and there with
a stray lamp socketed to a stone wall. Now he had left the big-thoughted
age of the Romans, and was carried forward to the crafty, treacherous
Middle Ages. In such an alley as this, bravos had lurked with daggers
ready to thrust between the shoulder-blades of their victims. Now he was
in a wider lane through which an army had swept pell-mell to slay and
sack, while from the overhanging windows above desperate men and women
shot wildly in fruitless resistance. Now he was in another of the
lightless rabbit-burrows....

A sudden sharp cry of fear cut out like a whip-lash into the blackness.
A woman's cry. There were sounds of angry struggle as Rivière made
swiftly to the aid of that woman who cried out in fear.

Stumbling round a corner of the twisting alley, he came to where a gleam
from a shuttered window showed a slatted glimpse of a woman struggling
in the arms of a lean, wiry peasant of the Camargue. Rivière seized him
by the collar and shook him off as one shakes a dog from the midst of a
fray. The man loosed his grip of the woman, and snarling like a dog,
writhed himself free of Rivière. Then, whipping out a knife from his
belt, he struck again and again. Rivière tried to ward with his left
arm, but one blow of the knife went past the guard and ripped his cheek
from forehead to jawbone.

At that moment a shutter thrown open shot as it were a search-light into
the blackness of the alley, full on to the man with the knife, and
Rivière, putting his whole strength into the blow, sent a smashing
right-hander straight into the face of his adversary. Thrown back
against the alley-wall, the man rebounded forward, and fell, a huddled,
nerveless mass, on the ground.

From doorways near men came out with lights ... there was a hubbub of
noise ... excited questions eddied around Rivière.

But the latter made no answer. He turned to find the woman who had been
attacked.

"Mr Rivière!"

It was the woman who had stood by him on the topmost ledge of the
amphitheatre, drinking in that glorious fiery sunset over the grey
Camargue. She was flushed, but very straight and erect.

"That brute was attacking me. Oh, if only I had had some weapon!" Then
she noticed the blood dripping from the gash in his forehead, and cried
out: "You're hurt! Take this."

Her handkerchief was pressed into his hand. He answered as he took it:
"It's nothing. Fortunately it missed the eye. And you?"

"I'm not hurt, thanks. Oh, you were splendid! It makes one feel proud to
be an Englishwoman."

"Come to the hotel," he said, and ignoring the excited questioning of
the knot of men, took her arm and led her rapidly to their hotel on the
Place du Forum.

"Let me dress your wound until the doctor can come."

"I don't want a doctor," he replied coldly. A sudden aloofness had come
into his voice.

Her eye sought his with a piqued curiosity. For a moment, forgetting
that here was a man who had rescued her from insult at considerable
bodily risk, she saw him only as a man of curious, almost boorish
brusqueness. Why this sudden cold reserve?

Then, with a reddening of cheek at her momentary lapse from gratitude,
she began to thank him for his timely help.

Rivière cut her short. "There is nothing to thank me for. I didn't even
know it was you. I heard a woman's cry--that was all. You ought not to
go about these dark _ruelles_ alone at night-time."

They were at the door of their hotel by now.

"Can't I dress the wound for you?" she asked. "I've had practice in
first aid, Mr Rivière."

He paused suddenly in the doorway and asked her abruptly: "How do you
know my name?"

"I know more than your name. When your cut has been dressed, I'll
explain in full."

"Thank you, but I can manage quite well myself. Let us meet again in the
_salon_ in, say, half an hour's time."

They parted in the corridor and went to their respective rooms.

When they met again, he had his head bound up with swathes of linen. His
face was white with the loss of blood, and she gave a little cry of
alarm.

"You were badly hurt!"

"No; merely a surface cut. But please tell me what you know about me."

There was a quick change in her to a smiling gaiety. The man was human
again--he had at all events a very human curiosity.

"The name was from the hotel register, naturally," she answered. "But I
know also that you are on your way to Monte Carlo, which certainly can't
come from the register."

Rivière's face became coldly impassive as he waited for her to explain
further.

"You are a scientist," she continued slowly, watching him to note the
effect of her words. "You are to meet a lady for the first time at Monte
Carlo. Yet she knows you by your first name, John. You see that I know a
good deal about you."

She waited for him to question her further, but he remained silent, deep
in thought.

More than a little piqued that he would not question further, she gave
him abruptly the solution of the riddle.

"Two nights ago I travelled here from Paris in the same train with an
Englishwoman and her father. They took breakfast at the table near to
mine in the restaurant car, and I could scarcely help overhearing what
they were saying. They chatted about you. Then I found your name in the
hotel register."

"But why did you look it up?" he challenged abruptly.

She parried the question. "The name caught my eye by accident. Naturally
I was interested by the coincidence."

Rivière turned the conversation to the impersonal subject of Arles and
its Roman remains, and soon after they said good-night.

"Shall I see you at breakfast?"

"I hope so," he answered.

As she moved out of the room, a splendidly graceful figure radiating
health and energy and life full-tide, Rivière could not help following
her with his eyes. His innermost being thrilled despite himself to the
magic of her splendid womanhood.

It plucked at the strings of the primitive man within him.

In his room that evening he took up the blood-drenched handkerchief. In
the corner was the name "Elaine Verney." The name conveyed nothing to
him. He threw the handkerchief away, and shut her from his thoughts. He
wanted no woman in this new life of his.

With the morning came a resolution to avoid her altogether. He rose very
early and took the first train out of Arles.

It took him to Nîmes.



CHAPTER VIII

WHO AND WHERE IS RIVIÈRE?


"Who is Rivière?"

Here was a new factor in the situation. Lars Larssen mentally docketed
it as a matter to be dealt with immediately. After sending off a reply
telegram to Cherbourg (which reached the quayside too late and was
afterwards returned to him), the shipowner got a telephone call through
to Olive at the Hotel des Hespérides.

"This is Mr Larssen speaking. Are you Mrs Matheson?"

"Yes. Good morning."

"Good morning. I called you up to say that your husband has sailed for
Canada on 'La Bretagne.' I had a line from Cherbourg this morning."

"So had I."

"I suppose he explained matters to you?"

"No, he referred me to you for explanations. Just like Clifford!... What
about Rivière--is he coming to Monte?"

Lars Larssen had to tread warily here. So he answered: "I didn't quite
catch that name."

"John Rivière, my husband's half-brother. He lives in some suburb of
Paris, I forget where, and Clifford was to bring him along to Monte."

The shipowner decided that he must find this man and discover if he knew
anything. The words of Jimmy Martin flashed through his brain: "I doubt
if the police'll do much unless the relatives kick up a shindy."
Meanwhile, there was nothing to do but tell the truth, which was his
usual resource when in an unforeseen difficulty.

"Don't know anything about him. If you give me his Paris address I'll
dig him out."

"We don't know his address."

"Then I'll find it at the office. As soon as I get a line on him I'll
wire you. Rivière? The name sounds French."

"French-Canadian. He's a couple of years older than Clifford, I
believe.... When are you coming yourself?"

"To-night's train or to-morrow. I'm not sure if I can get away
to-night."

"Do you play roulette?"

"No. Never been at the tables."

"Then I must teach you," said Olive gaily.

"Delighted!"

After the telephone conversation, Larssen went straight to No. 8, Rue
Laffitte. He had wired the night before to London to have a secretary
sent over--Sylvester, his usual confidential man, if the latter were
back at business; if not, another subordinate he named. Catching the
nine o'clock train from Charing Cross, the secretary would arrive in
Paris about five in the afternoon. Meanwhile, Larssen, had to make his
search for Rivière in person.

The business of a financier differs radically from a mercantile
business on the point of staff. The main work of negotiation can only be
carried out by the head of the firm himself, as a rule, and the routine
work for subordinates is small, except when a public company flotation
is being made. Matheson had found that his Paris office needed only a
manager, Coulter, and a couple of clerks, one English and one French.
Coulter was a steady-going, reliable man of forty odd, extremely
trustworthy and not too imaginative.

He knew Lars Larssen, of course, and received him deferentially.

"What can I have the pleasure of doing for you, sir?"

"I want the address of Mr John Rivière. Or rather, Mrs Matheson wants
it."

"Who is Mr John Rivière?"

This came as a fresh surprise to Lars Larssen, and made him doubly
anxious to discover the man. Why all this mystery surrounding him?

"I understand from Mrs Matheson that Mr Rivière is her husband's
half-brother. Lives somewhere around Paris."

"Strange! I've never heard of him myself. I'll make enquiries if you'll
wait a moment."

Presently Coulter returned with the young English clerk of the office.

"It seems that Mr Rivière called here yesterday afternoon and enquired
for Mr Matheson," explained Coulter.

Lars Larssen turned to the young clerk with a questioning look. "It was
the first time I had ever seen him, sir," said the clerk. "He came in
and asked quite naturally for Mr Matheson. There was an astonishing
likeness between them, but that was explained at once when he told me
they were half-brothers."

"An astonishing likeness?"

"When I say a likeness, sir, I mean of course in a general way. Mr
Rivière is younger and different in many ways."

"Describe him."

The clerk did so to the best of his ability.

"Did he leave an address?"

"No, sir."

"Or a message?"

"No."

"Or say where he was going?"

The clerk could offer no clue to the whereabouts or intentions of John
Rivière. Repeated questioning added little to the meagre information
already given.

"Mr Matheson has not been at the office to-day or yesterday. Have you
seen anything of him?" asked Coulter of the shipowner.

"I know. He's away to Canada."

"To Canada!"

"Yes. We discussed the matter the night I was here. Hasn't he written
you?"

"We've heard nothing."

"Reckon you will to-day.... Say, couldn't you look in Mr Matheson's desk
to find the address of this Mr Rivière?"

Coulter was the financier's confidential man. He had full power to go
over his employer's desk except for certain drawers labelled "Private,"
and he did so now.

When he came back from the search, he had an envelope in his hand
addressed "Lars Larssen, Esq."

"All I could find was this envelope for you, sir. There seems to be no
record of Mr Rivière's address."

The shipowner slit open the letter and read it with a countenance that
gave no clue whatever to what was passing in his mind.

"My dear Larssen," it ran, "I estimate your expenses on the Hudson Bay
scheme at roughly £20,000, and I enclose cheque for that amount. If this
is right, please let me have a formal receipt and quittance. I want you
to understand that my decision on the matter is final. I regret that I
am obliged to back out at the last moment, but no doubt you will be able
to proceed without my help."

The letter was in handwriting, and had not been press-copied. Larssen
noted that point at once with satisfaction. But the letter itself gave
him uneasiness. It explained nothing of Matheson's motives. From the
'phone conversation with Olive, it was clear that she had no suspicion
that her husband wanted to withdraw from the Hudson Bay deal. In fact,
she had asked anxiously if anything had gone wrong with the scheme. Sir
Francis Letchmere might of course be closer in Matheson's business
confidence, and that was one of the reasons for travelling to Monte
Carlo and talking to him face to face.

But with his keen intuitive sense, Lars Larssen felt that the
explanation was in some way connected with this mysterious John Rivière.
It was imperative to get in touch with the man.

Where was Rivière? Was there nobody who could throw light on his
whereabouts? His jaw tightened as he began to chew on the problem. Paris
is too big a city in which to hunt for a mere name.

After thanking the manager, Larssen withdrew from the room. Passing
through the outer office, he was addressed by the other of the two
clerks, a young Frenchman.

"Monsieur," said he in French, "here is a point which perhaps will be of
service. I am at the window when Monsieur Rivière arrives _en
taxi-auto_. On the _impériale_ I see a portmanteau. Doubtless Monsieur
Rivière journeys away from Paris."

"Did you note the number of the cab?"

The young Frenchman made a gesture of sympathetic negation. There had
been no reason to look at the number, even if he could have read it from
a window on the second story.

"Thanks," said Larssen, but the information seemed at first sight
valueless. A man takes an unknown cab from an unknown house in an
unknown suburb to an unknown terminus, when he buys a ticket for an
unknown destination. Sheer waste of energy to hunt for a needle in that
haystack!

Yet his bulldog mind would not let go of the problem. Presently he had
found a new avenue of approach to it. If Rivière had travelled away from
Paris on the evening of the 15th, probably he stayed that night or the
next day at some hotel. There he would have to fill in his name, etc.,
in the hotel register according to the strict requirements of the French
law.

Advertise in the papers for one John Rivière from Paris, age
thirty-seven, staying at a hotel in the provinces on the 15th or 16th.
Offer a reward for information. The average Frenchman is very keen on
money; without a doubt he would answer the advertisement if he knew
anything of John Rivière. Advertise in _Le Petit Journal_, _Le Petit
Parisien_ and a few other dailies which cover France from end to end, as
no English or American journals do in their respective countries.

That was the right solution!

Larssen did not pay the cheque for £20,000 into his bank. He was after
big game, and a mere £20,000 was a jack-rabbit. It would be safer, he
felt, to let it lie amongst his secret papers.

When Sylvester, his private secretary, arrived by the afternoon train
from London, Lars Larssen placed him in touch with only so much of the
situation as he considered desirable. This was little. Sylvester was to
stay in Paris while the shipowner went on to Monte Carlo. If the various
advertisements brought a reply, Sylvester was to hunt out John Rivière
in whatever part of France he might be, and then communicate with Lars
Larssen for further orders.

The secretary was a quiet, self-contained, silent man of thirty or
thirty-one. A heavy dark moustache curtained expression from his lips.
Not only could he carry out orders to the letter, but he was to be
trusted to keep his head in any unforeseen emergency and act on his own
responsibility in a sound, common-sense way. But Lars Larssen trusted no
man beyond the essentials of any situation. His was the brain to plan
and direct. He preferred obedient tools to brilliant, independent
helpers.

At the train-side, Larssen gave a final direction to his subordinate:
"Keep me in touch with every move."

Back at his hotel, Sylvester occupied himself with the development of
some films he had taken on the Channel passage. In his hours of leisure
he was a devoted amateur photographer. At the present time there was
nothing to be done but wait the possible answer to the advertisement.



CHAPTER IX

AT MONTE CARLO


Next day, the wonderful panorama of the Riviera was unfolding itself
before the eyes of the shipowner. The red rocks and the dwarf pines of
the Esterel coves, against which an azure sea lapped in soft caress....
Cannes with its far-flung draperies of white villas.... The proud
solemnity of the Alpes Maritimes thrusting up to the snow-line and
glinting white against the sun.... Fairy bungalows nesting in tropic
gardens and waving welcome with their palm-fronds to the rushing
train.... The Baie des Anges laughing with sky and hills.... The
many-tunnelled cliff-route from Villefranche to Cap D'Ail, where moments
of darkness tease one to longing for the sight of the azure coves dotted
with white-winged yachts and foam-slashed motor-boats.... Europe's
silken, jewelled fringe!

But scenery made no appeal to Lars Larssen. Scenery would not help him
to the attainment of his great ambitions. Scenery was _no use_ to him.
His delight lay in men and women and the using of them. Business--the
turning of other men's energies to his own ends--was the very breath of
his being.

He was glad to reach the hectic crowdedness of the tiny principality of
Monaco--that triple essence of civilization and sensuous luxury. He felt
at home with the big idea that drew the whole world to the gaming tables
to pay homage to the goddess Fortune. For a moment the suggestion came
to him to buy up some beautiful islet and build a pleasure city on it
which should be a wonder of the world. He was making a note of it for
future consideration, when Olive and her father met him on the platform
at Monte Carlo.

"I thought perhaps you would bring John Rivière with you," said Olive
after they had exchanged greetings. A strong desire had sprung up to see
this mysterious relation of Clifford's, and to be balked of any passing
whim was keen annoyance to her.

"Bring a will-o'-the-wisp," answered Larssen.

"Can't you find him?" asked Sir Francis. Larssen shook his head. "Gad,
that's curious. Why doesn't he write? Bad form, you know. But when a
man's lived all his life in the backwoods of Canada, I suppose one can't
expect him to know what's what."

Olive studied the shipowner keenly as they drove to their hotel. His
massive strength of body and masterful purpose of mind, showing in every
line of his face, attracted her strongly. Olive worshipped power, money,
and all that breathed of them. Here was the living embodiment of money
and power.

After dinner that evening all three went to the Casino. The order had
been given to Sir Francis Letchmere's valet that he was to bring over to
the Salle de Jeux any telegram or 'phone message that might arrive.

Larssen was keenly interested in the throng of smart men and women
clustered around the tables. Here was the raw material of his
craft--human nature. Moths around a candle--well, he himself had lit
many candles. The process of singeing their wings intrigued him vastly.

Olive explained the game to him with a flush of excitement on her
cheeks. He noted that flush and made a mental note to use it for his own
ends. She took a seat at a roulette table and asked him to advise her
where to stake her money. Sir Francis preferred _trente-et-quarante_,
and went off to another table.

"I can see you've been born lucky," she whispered to Larssen.

"I'll try to share it with you," he answered, and suggested some numbers
with firm, decisive confidence. Though he had keen pride in his
intellect and his will, he had also firm reliance on his intuitive
sense. With Lars Larssen, all three worked hand in hand.

Olive began to win. Her eyes sparkled, and she exchanged little gay
pleasantries and compliments with the shipowner.

"We've made all the loose hay out of _this_ sunshine," said Larssen
after an hour or so, when a spell of losing set in. "Now we'll move to
another table."

Olive obeyed him with alacrity. She liked his masterful orders. Here was
a man to whom one could give confidence.

"Five louis on _carré_ 16-20," he advised suddenly when they had found
place at another table.

Without hesitation she placed a gold hundred-franc piece on the
intersecting point of the four squares 16, 17, 19, 20. The croupier
flicked the white marble between thumb and second finger, and it whizzed
round the roulette board like an echo round the whispering gallery of St
Paul's. At length it slowed down, hit against a metal deflector, and
dropped sharply into one of the thirty-seven compartments of the
roulette board. A croupier silently touched the square of 16 with his
rake to indicate that this number had won, and the other croupier
proceeded to gather in the stakes.

Forty louis in notes were pushed over to Olive.

At this moment Sir Francis' valet came up to Larssen with a telegram in
his hand. The latter opened and scanned it quickly.

"What is it?" asked Olive.

"A tip to gamble the limit on number 14," replied Larssen smilingly.

Olive placed nine louis, the limit stake, on number 14, and two minutes
later a pile of bank-notes aggregating 6300 francs came to her from the
croupier's metal box.

"You're Midas!" she whispered exultantly.

"Midas has a hurry call to the 'phone," he answered.

For the telegram was from Sylvester, and it read:--

"Fourteen replies to hand. Fourteen J. Rivière's scattered about
France."



CHAPTER X

LARSSEN TURNS ANOTHER CORNER


"Clifford is a very shrewd man of business," remarked Larssen, drinking
his third cognac at Ciro's at the end of a dinner which was a
masterpiece even for Monte Carlo, where dining is taken _au grand
sérieux_. He did not sip cognac, but took it neat in liqueur glassfuls
at a time. There was a clean-cut forcefulness even in his drinking,
typical of the human dynamo of will-power within.

Sir Francis puffed out a cloud of cigar-smoke with an air of reflected
glory. He had helped to capture Matheson as a son-in-law, and a
compliment of this kind was therefore an indirect compliment to himself.

The capture of Matheson was, in fact, the most notable achievement of
his career. Beyond that, he had done little but ornament the Boards of
companies with his name; manage his estate (through an agent) with a
mixture of cross conservatism and despotic benevolence; and shoot, hunt
and fish with impeccable "good form." He was typical of that very large
class of leisured landowner in whose creed good form is next above
godliness.

"Yes, Clifford has his head screwed on right," he said.

"Before he left for Canada," continued Larssen, "he managed to gouge me
for a tidy extra in shares for you and for Mrs Matheson."

Olive had been markedly listless, heavy-eyed and abstracted during the
course of the dinner, a point which Larssen had noted with some
puzzlement. His mind had worked over the reasons for it without arriving
at any definite conclusion. But now, at this unexpected announcement,
her eyes lighted up greedily.

"For me!" she exclaimed. "That's more than I expected from Clifford."

The shipowner reached to take out some papers from his breast-pocket,
then stopped. "I was forgetting. I oughtn't to be talking shop over the
dinner-table."

Sir Francis made an inarticulate noise which was a kind of tribute to
the fetish of good form. He wanted to hear more, but did not want to ask
to hear more.

"Please go on," said Olive. "Talk business now just as much as you like.
Unless, of course, you'd rather not discuss details while I'm here."

"I'd sooner talk business with you present, Mrs Matheson. I think a wife
has every right to be her husband's business partner. I think it's good
for both sides. When my dear wife was with me, we were share-and-share
partners." He paused for a moment, then continued: "Here's the draft
scheme for the flotation."

He held out a paper between Sir Francis and Olive, and Sir Francis took
it and read it over with an air of concentrated, conscious wisdom--the
air he carefully donned at Board meetings, together with a pair of
gold-rimmed pince-nez.

"Clifford will be Chairman," explained Larssen. "You and Lord St Aubyn
and Carleton-Wingate are the men I want for the other Directors. I, as
vendor, join the Board after allotment."

"Where's the point about shares for me?" asked Sir Francis, reading on.

"That doesn't appear in the prospectus, of course. A private arrangement
between Clifford and myself. Here's the memorandum."

This he handed to Olive, who nodded her head with pleasure as she read
it through, her father looking over her shoulder.

"Keep it," said Larssen as she made to hand it back. "Keep it till your
husband returns from Canada."

"When did he say he will be back?"

"It's very uncertain. He doesn't know himself. It's a delicate matter to
handle--very delicate. That's why he went himself to Montreal."

"He wired me that he's travelling under an assumed name."

"Very prudent," commented Larssen.

"I don't quite like it," murmured Sir Francis. "Not the right thing, you
know."

Larssen did not answer, but Olive rejoined sharply: "What does it matter
if it helps to get the flotation off and make money?"

"Well, perhaps so. Still----"

"Can you fix up St Aubyn and Carleton-Wingate?" asked Larssen.
"Quickly?"

"Yes, I expect so. But has Clifford approved this scheme?"

"Of course."

"Have you it with you?"

"Have I what?"

"I mean the agreement Clifford signed."

Sir Francis, without knowing it, had stumbled upon the crucial weakness
of Larssen's daring scheme. But it would have taken a far shrewder man
than he to realize the vital import of the point from Larssen's easy,
almost causal answer:

"There's no signed agreement. We agreed the scheme in principle at the
interview in Clifford's office, and he left details to you and me. His
last words were: 'Tell my father-in-law to go ahead as quickly as he can
manage.'"

"But when I put this before St Aubyn and Carleton-Wingate, they'll be
expecting me to--I mean to say, isn't it deuced irregular, you know?"

Larssen did not answer this for a moment. He had a keen appreciation of
the value of silence in business negotiations. He poured himself out
another glass of cognac and drank it off. His attitude conveyed a
contempt for Letchmere's cautiousness which he would be too polite to
put into words.

"If you'd sooner write to Clifford and have his agreement to the scheme
in black and white ..." was his studiously, chilly reply.

Olive put in a word: "I dislike all those niggling formalities."

"Business is business," quoted her father sententiously.

"Besides, Clifford will be back before the prospectus goes to the
public."

"Probably," agreed Larssen. "But in case he is not back in time, we're
to go ahead just as if he were here. That's what he told me before he
left Paris. Didn't he write you to that effect, Sir Francis?"

"I heard nothing from him."

"But I showed you my telegram," answered Olive. "Clifford said to refer
to Mr Larssen for all details."

"I must think matters over," said the baronet obstinately.

Lars Larssen had been studying his man through half-closed eyelids, and
he now summed him up with penetrating accuracy. It was not suspicion
that made Sir Francis hesitate, but petty dignity. He had become huffed.
He felt that his dignity had not been sufficiently studied in the
transaction. Matters had been arranged over his head without formally
consulting him. It was "not the thing"--"not good form."

To attempt to force matters would merely drive him into deeper
obstinacy.

And yet it was _vital_ to Larssen's plan that Sir Francis should go
ahead with the work of the flotation quickly--should go ahead with it in
the full belief that Clifford Matheson had agreed to the scheme and to
the use of his name. It was vital that Sir Francis should take the whole
responsibility of the flotation on to his own shoulders. He was to make
use of his son-in-law's name with the other prospective Directors and on
the printed prospectus just as though Matheson were personally
sanctioning it.

Larssen himself planned to remain in the background and pull the wires
unseen. When the revelation of Matheson's death came to light--as it
inevitably must in the course of time--Letchmere would be so far
involved that he would be forced to shoulder responsibility for the use
of Matheson's name.

To try to rush matters with Sir Francis would perhaps wreck the whole
delicate machinery of the scheme. Larssen quickly resolved to get at him
in indirect fashion through Olive, and accordingly he answered evenly:

"Think it over by all means. There's plenty to consider. Take the draft
scheme and look it through at your leisure.... Now what's the plan of
amusement for to-night?"

Before going to the Casino, Olive made an excuse to return to her rooms
at the Hespérides. Alone in her bedroom, she took out from a locked
drawer a hypodermic syringe in silver and glass, and a phial of
colourless liquid. She held the phial in her hands with a curious look
of furtive tenderness, fondling it softly. For many months past this had
been her cherished secret--the drug that unlocked for her new realms of
fancy and exquisite sensation.

To herself she called it by a pet name, as though it were a lover.

In the course of the evening's play at the tables, Larssen was struck
with her increasing animation and gaiety. The heavy, listless look had
left her eyes, and they now glittered with life and fire. When they
left the tables to stroll by the milk-white terraces of the Casino,
there was a flush in her cheeks and iridescence in her speech very
different from a couple of hours before.

A spirit of caustic, impish brilliance was in her. She turned it upon
the people they had rubbed shoulders with at the tables; upon the people
walking past them on the terraces; even upon her husband:

"Clifford is a 90 per cent. success. There are men who can never achieve
full success in any field whatever. They climb up to 70, 80, 90 per
cent., and then the grade is too steep for them."

"They stick."

"Or run backwards downhill. I'm a passenger in a car of that kind. Near
to the top, but not reaching it. So I get out to walk on myself."

"There are mighty few men who have the 100 per cent. in them."

"Tell me this, Mr Larssen. Did you know you were a 100 per cent. man
when you started your business life, or did you come to realize it
gradually?"

"I knew it from the first," replied the shipowner steadily. "Knew it
when I was a mere kiddy. Set myself apart from the other boys. Told
myself I was to be their master. Made myself master. Fought for it.
Fought every boy who wouldn't acknowledge it.... When I went to sea as
cabin-boy on the "Mary R." of Gloucester, the men on the trawler tried
to "lick me into shape," as they called it. They didn't know what they
were up against. I used those men as whet-stones--used them to kick
fear out of myself. You notice that I limp a little? That's a legacy
from the days of the 'Mary R.'"

Olive looked at him with open admiration. "That's epic!" she exclaimed.
"How far are you going to climb?"

Larssen had never revealed to any man or woman--save only to his
wife--the great ultimate purpose of his life. He did not tell it to
Olive. She was to be used as a pawn in the great game, just as he was
using Sir Francis and the dead Clifford Matheson. It came upon him that
she was now a widow. He would fan her open admiration so as to make use
of it when she awoke to the fact of her widowhood.

So he answered: "How far I climb depends on the help of my best friends.
I don't hide that. When my dear wife was with me, she was an inspiration
to me. No man can drive his car to the summit without a woman to spur
him on."

"Did marriage change you much?"

"Strengthened me. Bolted me to my foundations.... But here I'm
monopolizing the conversation with talk about myself. Let's switch. What
are _your_ ambitions?"

Olive laughed--a laugh with a bitter taste in it. "I wanted to help a
man to drive his car to the summit, and the car has stuck. I could
inspire, but my inspiring goes to waste. I'm an engine racing without a
shaft to take up its energy. Clifford is developing scruples. I don't
know where he caught them. I can't stand sick people. That's my
temperament--I must have energy and action around me."

"I understand that. Felt it myself at times," he answered
sympathetically.

Without apparent reason her thoughts skipped to a woman who had sat near
them at the roulette table. "Wasn't she the image of a disappointed
vulture? I mean the woman in green. Swooping down from a distance to
gorge herself with a tasty feast, and then finding a man with a rake to
chase her off. I chuckled to myself as I watched her. Do men and women
look to you like animals? They do to me. Monte Carlo's a Zoo, only the
animals aren't caged."

"That's right! You're an extraordinarily keen observer, Mrs Matheson."

Sir Francis Letchmere approached them beamingly from the direction of
the Casino. He had won money at _trente-et-quarante_, and was feeling
very pleased with his own judgment and powers of intellect generally.

"Leave him to me," whispered Olive to Larssen. "I'll see that my father
gets busy on the Hudson Bay Scheme. But on one condition."

"What's that?"

"That you stay on at Monte for a few days. I don't want to be left here
alone. I hate being alone."

"I'm due back in London. Urgent business matters."

"Leave them for a few days. Leave them to your managers. Stay here and
amuse me."

Larssen knew when to give way--or seem to give way--and how to do so
gracefully.

"I'll stay on without asking any conditions," he answered with
flattering cordiality. "It's not often I get a command so pleasant to
carry out!"



CHAPTER XI

A LETTER FROM RIVIÈRE


Olive made good her promise at once. She packed her father back to
England the very next day, to get to work on the Hudson Bay flotation,
and Lars Larssen remained on at Monte Carlo.

Though he had led Olive to believe that he had given in merely to please
her, yet his true motive was very different. His feelings towards her
held no scrap of passion in them. He knew her as vain, shallow,
feverishly pleasure-seeking--a glittering dragon-fly. As a woman she
made no appeal to him. But as a tool to serve in the attaining of his
ambitions, she might conceivably be highly useful.

His true motive in remaining at Monte Carlo was double-edged--to bring
Olive into the orbit of his fascination, and to mark time until the
mystery of John Rivière had been set at rest.

John Rivière worried him. Deep down in his being was a keen intuitive
feeling that this mysterious half-brother of the dead man was in some
way linked up with the attainment of his ambitions--to help or to
hinder.

Why had he not come to Monte Carlo as arranged? Why had he sent no line
to Olive to excuse himself? Why had he made no further inquiry about
Clifford Matheson--or had he indeed made some inquiry which might set
him on the track of his brother's disappearance?

It was vital to know how matters stood with this John Rivière before he
could march forward unhesitatingly with the Hudson Bay flotation.

The result of the advertisements in the Paris newspapers was annoying.
Where the shipowner had hoped for one answer--or perhaps a couple
pointing in the same direction--over a dozen had been received. This
meant waste of precious time while Sylvester unravelled them. Over the
'phone Larssen and his secretary had discussed the various answers;
rejected some of them; wired for confirmatory details in respect of
others. Provincial hotel-keepers and railway guards were so keenly "on
the make" that they were ready to swear to identity on the slenderest
basis of fact.

In pursuit of two of the clues, Sylvester travelled as far north as
Valognes in the Cotentin, and as far east as Gérardmer in the
Hautes-Vosges. Both journeys were fruitless, and worse than
fruitless--waste of precious time and energy.

While Larssen waited eagerly for definite news from his secretary with
whom he kept constantly in touch by telegram, news came in unexpected
fashion through Olive.

"I've just heard from Rivière," she announced. "He's at Arles--down with
a touch of fever. That's the reason he hadn't written before. Those
scientist people are terribly casual in social matters."

"May I see the letter?" asked Lars Larssen. His reason for asking was a
desire to study the man's handwriting and draw conclusions from it. He
was a keen student of handwriting.

After he had read through the note he remarked drily: "I guess I can
give you another reason."

"For his not writing?"

"Yes.... _Cherchez la femme._"

"Why do you say that?"

"This note was written by a woman."

"It's a very decided hand for a woman."

"Yes it is. I'd stake big on that. Look at the long crossings to the
t's. Look at the way the date is written. Look at the way words run into
one another."

Olive examined the letter carefully, and laughed. "You're right," said
she. "He's travelling with some woman. Those men who are supposed to be
wrapped up in their scientific experiments--you can't trust them far!"

Then she added with a curious touch of conscious virtue: "But he'd no
right to get that woman to send a letter to _me_."

Larssen had noted the printed heading to the letter, "Hotel du Forum,
Arles," and he wired at once to Morris Sylvester to proceed to Arles and
hunt out further details. It seemed an unnecessary precaution, but the
shipowner never neglected the tiniest detail when he had a big scheme to
engineer.

His relief at the letter proved short-lived. Late that night came a
message from Sylvester:--

"Rivière not at Arles and not down with fever. Am following up further
clues. Will wire again in the morning."

Larssen did not show this wire to Olive. He had told her nothing of his
search for Rivière--had not even appeared specially interested in him.
But in point of fact his interest in the mysterious half-brother of the
dead man was steadily growing with every fresh check to the search. The
intuition on which he placed such firm faith told him insistently that
John Rivière was a factor vital to the fulfilment of his ambitions.

All the morning he looked for the telegram his secretary was to send
him. It came in the early afternoon:--

"Have found Rivière under extraordinary circumstances. Letter and
photograph follow."



CHAPTER XII

THE SECOND MEETING


Europe's beauty-spots of to-day were the beauty-spots of the Roman
Empire two thousand years ago. Wherever the traveller around Europe now
reaches a place that makes instant appeal; where harsh winds are
screened away and blazing sunshine filters through feathery foliage;
where all Nature beckons one to halt and rest awhile--there he is
practically certain to find Roman remains. The wealthy Romans wintered
at Nice and Cannes and St Raphael; took the waters at Baden-Baden and
Aix in Savoy; made sporting centres of Treves on the Moselle and Ronda
in Andalusia; dallied by the marble baths of Nîmes.

Nîmes had captured Rivière at sight. His first day in that leisured,
peaceful, fragrant town, nestling amongst the hills against the keen
_mistral_, had decided him to settle there for some weeks. He had taken
a couple of furnished rooms in a villa with a delightful old-world
garden. For a lengthy stay he much preferred his own rooms to the
transiency and restlessness of a hotel, and at the Villa Clémentine he
had found exactly what he required. The living-room opened wide to the
sun. One stepped out from its French windows into the garden, where a
little pebbly path led one wandering amongst oleanders and dwarf
oranges and flaming cannas, to a corner where a tiny fountain made a
home for lazy goldfish floating in placid contentment under the hot sun.
Here there was an arbour wreathed in gentle wisteria, where Rivière took
breakfast and the mid-day meal. At nightfall a chill snapped down with
the suddenness of the impetuousness Midi, and his evening meal was
accordingly taken indoors.

Besides this little private preserve of his own, there was the beautiful
public garden of Nîmes--called the Jardin de la Fontaine--draping a
hillside that looks down upon the marble baths of the Romans, almost as
freshly new to-day as two thousand years ago. A thick battalion of trees
at the summit of the hillside makes stubborn insistence to the northern
_mistral_, so that even when the wind tears over the plains of Provence
like a wild fury, scourging and freezing, the Jardin de la Fontaine is
serene and windless. The _mistral_ goes always with a cloudless sky, as
though the clouds were fleeing from its icy keenness, and the sun pours
full upon the semi-circle of the Jardin de la Fontaine, turning it to a
hothouse where the most delicate plants and shrubs can find a home.

Here men and women in toga and flowing draperies have whiled away
leisure hours, spun day-dreams, made love, or schemed affairs of state
and personal ambition. To-day, it is still the resort of Nîmes where
everyone meets everyone else, either by design or by the chance
intercourse of a small town.

On a morning of _mistral_, Rivière was seated in the pleasant warmth of
the Jardin, planning out a special piece of apparatus for his coming
research-work. He was concentrating intently--so intently that he did
not notice Miss Verney passing him with a very professional-looking
campstool, easel and sketch-book.

This second encounter was pure accident. Elaine had no intentions
whatever of following the man who had left Arles with such boorish
brusqueness, without even the conventional good-bye at the
breakfast-table. She had come to Nîmes because she was a worker, because
this town contained special material necessary to her bread-winning.

She had guessed that Rivière's hurried departure from Arles was made in
order to avoid meeting her. It hurt. Woman-like, she set more value on a
few pleasant words of farewell over a breakfast-table and a warm
handshake than on a defence from assault at the risk of a man's life.
The seeming illogicality of woman is of course a mere surface illusion.
It hides a train of reasoning very different to a man's. It is a mental
short-cut like an Irishman's "bull," which condenses a whole chain of
thought into a single link.

In this case Elaine knew that Rivière's rescue held no personal
significance. He did not know at the time that it was _she_ who was
being attacked. He would have gone to the defence of any woman under
similar circumstances. While altruism appealed to her strongly in a
broad, general way, it did not appeal when it came home in such a
specific, individual fashion.

On the other hand, a warm handshake at the breakfast-table would have
its personal significance. It would be a homage to herself, and not to
women in general. Its value would lie in its personal meaning.

While she knew this thought was ungenerous, yet at the same time she
knew that behind it there lay a sound basis of reason.

Her pride--that form of pride which is a very wholesome
self-respect--made her flush at the thought that Rivière would see her
and imagine, in a man's way, that she had followed him to Nîmes. She
hurried on past him with a rapid side-glance. The situation was an
awkward one. She had her work to do by the old Roman baths and the
Druid's Tower on the hillside, and she could not leave Nîmes without
doing it.

When he came face to face with her, perhaps it would be best to give a
cold bow of formal recognition--the kind of bow that says "Good morning.
I'm busy. You're not wanted."

And yet, there was news for him in her possession of which he ought to
be informed. It was only fair to the man who had defended her at
considerable personal risk that she should do him this small service in
return. In her pocket was a cutting of an advertisement in a Parisian
paper, several days old, asking for the whereabouts of John Rivière.
Very possibly he had not seen it himself. It was only fair to let him
know of it. The stitches in his forehead, which she had noted as she
hurried past--these called mutely for the small service in return.

Elaine decided to wait until he recognized her, to give him the
advertisement, and then to conclude their acquaintanceship with a few
formal words of which the meaning would be unmistakable. Accordingly she
set her campstool not far away from him, and began her sketching in a
vigorous, characteristic fashion.

It was an hour or more before her intuition warned her that Rivière was
approaching from behind. As he passed, she raised her eyes quite
naturally as though to look at the subject she was finishing. Their eyes
met. Rivière raised his hat politely but without any special
significance. His attitude conveyed no desire to renew their
acquaintance. He did not stop to exchange a few words, as she expected.

Elaine was hurt. She felt that he should at least have given her the
opportunity to refuse acquaintanceship. And a sudden resolve fired up
within her to humble this man of ice--to melt him, and bring him to her
feet, and then to dismiss him.

"Mr Rivière," she called.

He stopped, and answered with a formal "Good morning."

"I have something for you--some news."

"Yes?"

"Do you know that your friends are getting anxious about you?"

Rivière's attention concentrated. "Which friends?" he asked.

"I don't know which friends. But there's an advertisement in a Paris
paper asking for your whereabouts."

"Thank you for letting me know. What does it say?"

She produced the cutting and handed it to him. He studied it in silence.
There was no hint in its wording as to who was making inquiry--the
advertisement merely asked for replies to be sent to a box number care
of the journal. It struck Rivière that it must have been inserted by
Olive.

"Thank you," he said. "I hadn't seen it before."

"I'm going to ask something in return," said Elaine, and smiled at him
frankly. "I want to know why you're running away from your Monte Carlo
friends."

Most women of Rivière's world would have cloaked their curiosity under
some conventional, indirect form of question. Her frank directness
struck him as refreshing, and he answered readily: "The lady you saw in
the Côte d'Azur Rapide was my sister-in-law, Mrs Matheson. Mrs Clifford
Matheson."

"The wife of that man!" she interrupted. There was anger and contempt in
her voice.

"You know him?"

"My father lost the last remains of his money in one of that man's
companies. It hastened his death."

"Which company?"

"The Saskatchewan Land Development Co. My father bought during the early
boom in the shares."

Rivière remembered that he himself had cleared £50,000 over the
flotation, and the remembrance jarred on him. The company was a
moderately successful one, but in its early days the shares had been
"rigged" to an unreal figure. Still, he felt compelled, almost against
his will, to defend his past action.

"Did he buy for investment or merely for speculation?" asked Rivière.

"I know very little about such matters."

"As an investment, it would to-day be paying a moderate dividend."

"My father had to sell again at a big loss."

"It sounds very like speculation."

"Possibly."

"I'm very sorry to hear of the loss; but a man who speculates in the
stock market must look out for himself. It's a risky game for the
outsider to play."

Elaine silently recognized the truth of his words. Then it came to her
suddenly that Rivière had, a few moments ago, used the word
"sister-in-law," and she said: "I was forgetting that Mr Matheson must
be a relative of yours."

"My half-brother."

She looked at him with a searching frankness that was in its way a tacit
compliment. He was radically different to the mental picture she had
formed of the financier.

He continued: "The lady you saw in the train was my sister-in-law. As
you already know, she expects me to join her at Monte Carlo. I don't
want to be drawn into that kind of life. I want to remain quiet. I have
important work to do."

"Scientific work, isn't it?"

"Yes. And there's a big stretch of it in front of me. That's why I'm not
travelling on to Monte Carlo. You understand my position now, Miss
Verney?"

"Quite."

"I'm right in calling you _Miss_ Verney?"

"Yes." Then she added: "And you're wondering why an unmarried woman
should be wandering alone amongst the by-ways of France?"

"I can see that you also have work to do."

Rivière looked towards her almost finished sketch of the Roman baths.
She removed it and passed him the rest of the book. He found the book
filled with curiously formal sketches and paintings of scenery--woodland
glades, open heaths, temples, arenas, and so on. These sketches caught
boldly at the high-lights of what they pictured, and ignored detail. The
colouring was also very noticeably simplified--"impressionistic" would
better express it.

"They look like stage scenes," he commented.

"They are. Sketches for stage scenes. I'm a scene painter. Just now I'm
gathering material for the staging of a Roman drama with a setting in
Roman Provence. Barrèze is to produce it at the Odéon. It's my first big
chance."

Rivière pointed to one of her sketches. "Wasn't this worked into a scene
for 'Ames Nues,' at the Chatelet?"

"Quite right!"

"I remember being very much impressed by it at the time.... Yours must
be particularly interesting work?"

"The work one likes best is always peculiarly interesting. That's
happiness--to have the work one likes best."

Seeing that Rivière was genuinely interested, she began to dilate on her
work, explaining something of its technique, telling of its peculiar
difficulties. She showed him her sketches taken at Arles; mentioned
Orange, for its Roman arch and theatre, as a stopping-place on her
return journey to Paris. There was a glow in her voice that told clearly
of her absorption in her chosen work.

Rivière was enjoying the frank camaraderie of their conversation.
Suddenly the thought of the newspaper cutting came back to him sharply.
If Olive had inserted that advertisement, she must have some special
reason for it. Perhaps she wanted to communicate with him in reference
to the "death" of Matheson. Some hotel-keeper or railway-guard would no
doubt have seen the advertisement and answered it, letting her know of
Rivière's stay at Arles.

It would be prudent to write and allay suspicion. But he could not pen
the letter himself, because his handwriting would be recognized by
Olive.

Rivière solved the difficulty in his usual decisive fashion. "Miss
Verney," he said, "I wonder if you would do me a very big favour without
asking for my reasons in detail? It's a most unusual request I'm going
to make."

Elaine remembered her resolve to thaw this man of ice, and bring him to
her feet, and then dismiss him. She had thawed him already. To do him
some special favour would be a most excellent means of attaining the
second end. She answered:

"Anything in reason I'll do gladly."

"You know that I want to avoid Monte Carlo. I don't even want my
sister-in-law to know that I'm at Nîmes."

"Yes?"

"Will you write a letter for me to say that I'm unwell and can't travel
away from Arles?"

Elaine looked at him searchingly. "It's certainly a most unusual request
to make of a mere acquaintance," she remarked.

"I have good reasons for asking it."

"Then I'll do what you ask."

"Would you mind coming round to my rooms?"

"Certainly; if you'll wait until I've finished this sketch."

She worked on in silence for another quarter of an hour, completing her
picture with rapid, vigorous brush-strokes. Then he took up her
campstool and easel, and they walked together alongside the Roman
aqueduct to the centre of the town, under an avenue of tall, spreading
plane trees, yellow with the first delicate leaves of Spring like the
feathers of a newborn chick.

The sunshine caressed the little garden of the Villa Clémentine,
coquetting with the flaming cannas, twinkling amongst the pebbles of the
paths, stroking the backs of the lazy goldfish. Seating Elaine in the
arbour, Rivière brought out pen and ink and a sheet of paper headed
"Hotel du Forum, Place du Forum, Arles," which he happened to have kept
by accident from his visit to the town. Then he dictated a formal letter
to Mrs Matheson, explaining that he was laid up with a touch of fever
and would not be able to join her at Monte Carlo. The illness was not
serious, and there was no cause for anxiety. Nevertheless it kept him
tied. He hoped she would excuse him.

"There will be a Nîmes postmark on the envelope," commented Elaine as
she wrote the address.

"No; I shall go over to Arles this afternoon and post it there. As you
know, it's scarcely an hour away by train." He glanced at his watch.
"Past twelve o'clock already! Won't you stay and take lunch with me?
Madame Giras is famous in Nîmes for her _bouillabaisse_."

She agreed readily, and a dainty lunch was soon served them in the
covered arbour. Over the olives and _bouillabaisse_ and the _oeufs
provençals_ they chatted in easy, friendly fashion about impersonal
matters--the strange charm of Provence, art, music, the theatre.

From that the conversation passed imperceptibly to more personal
matters. Elaine, keeping to her resolve of the morning, led it in that
direction. He learnt that she was an orphan; that her nearest relatives
were entirely out of sympathy with her ideas and aspirations, and
profoundly distasteful to her; that she took full pride in her
independence and the position she was carving out for herself in the
world of theatrical art.

"To be free; to be independent; to live your own life; to know that you
buy your bread and bed with the money you've earned yourself--it's fine,
it's splendid!" said Elaine, with flushed cheek. "I wonder if men ever
have that feeling as strongly as we women do?"

"'To be free, sire, is only to change one's master,'" quoted Rivière.

"'Master' is a word I should rule out of the dictionary," she replied.

"And if ever your present freedom were suddenly denied to you by Fate?"

She shivered, and moved a little into the full blaze of the sunshine.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the afternoon Rivière took train to Arles. The way lies by vineyards
and olive orchards alternating with open, wind-swept heathland. The
stunted olive trees, twisted and gnarled, pictured themselves to him as
little old men worn and weary with their fight against the winds. Here
the _mistral_ was master and the olive trees his slaves.

At Arles Rivière posted his letter in a box on the platform of the
station, and asked of a porter when the next train would take him back
to Nîmes. Standing close by as he asked this question was a lean, wiry,
crafty-looking peasant of the Camargue--a hard-bit youth toughened by
his work on the soil. The most prominent feature of the face was the
nose smashed out of shape. Rivière did not know that it was he himself
who had left that life-mark on the young man only a few days before--he
had almost forgotten the incident--but the latter recognized Rivière at
once and went white with anger under the tanned skin.

Whilst he would have taken a blow from the knife as "all in the game," a
smash from a bare fist that made a permanent disfigurement was
completely outside his code of sportsmanship. He resented it with the
white-hot passion of the Midi.

The meeting was pure chance. Crau, the young Provençal, was on the
station to take train back to his home village in the marshes. Now he
made a sudden resolution, and going to the booking-office, asked for a
ticket for Nîmes. He had relations in that town--small tradespeople--and
he would pay a visit to them for a few days.

"Our game is not yet finished, Mr Englishman," he muttered to himself.
"No, not yet finished!"

When the train reached Nîmes, Rivière alighted from a first-class
compartment, quite unconscious of being followed by the young Provençal
from a third-class compartment. Outside the station, in the broad Avenue
de la Gare that leads to the heart of the town, Rivière hailed a cab and
gave the address, Villa Clémentine.

Crau was near enough to overhear.

"Villa Clémentine," he repeated to himself, and again "Villa
Clémentine," to fit it securely in his memory. Then his lips worked with
passionate revenge as he thought: "You have spoilt my looks, Mr
Englishman; and now, _sangredieu_, to spoil yours!"

Before going to his relations, he went first to a chemist's.



CHAPTER XIII

AT THE MAISON CARRÉE


The mystery of John Rivière intrigued Elaine. There was certainly a
mysterious something about this man which she had not fathomed. His most
open confidences held deep reserves. If he had not avowed himself a
scientist, she would have classed him as a man of business. In those
brief comments on Stock Exchange speculation, he had spoken in a tone of
easy authority which goes only with intimate knowledge. He was no
recluse, but a man of the world--a man who had clearly moved amongst men
and women and held his place with ease.

The idea that he was a boor had been entirely shelved. But why that
brusque, boorish disappearance from Arles?

Elaine, thinking matters over in the solitude of her room on the evening
of the second encounter, was beginning to regret her resolve to humble
John Rivière. It began to appear petty and unworthy. She had no doubt
now that she could bring him to her feet if she wished, by skilful
acting. Or even--in her thoughts she whispered it to herself--or even
without acting a part.

But that thought she thrust aside. She had her work to do in the
world--the work that she loved. It called imperiously for all her
energies. She was free, she was independent, her daily bread was of her
own buying; and she wished circumstances to remain as they were.

Elaine decided to give up her petty resolve. She would avoid meeting him
intentionally, and if they met, she would bring the plane of
conversation down again to the superficiality of mere tourist
acquaintanceship--"meet to-day and part to-morrow."

For his part, Rivière had found keen enjoyment in this frank
camaraderie. They met as equals on the mental plane. Both were
profoundly interested in their respective life-work. They held ideas in
common on a score of impersonal topics. He told himself that he had
behaved very boorishly in his abrupt departure from Arles. It had been
unnecessary, as Chance had now pointed out to him by this second
accidental encounter. This acquaintanceship was the merest passing of
"ships that pass in the night"--in a day or two she would be away and
back to Paris, and in all human probability they would never meet again.

It was generous of her to have greeted him as though she had not noticed
the abruptness of his departure from Arles. It was generous of her to
have clipped out the newspaper advertisement and to have called his
attention to it. He mentally apologized to her for his curt behaviour.

The next morning, Rivière did not find Elaine at the Jardin de la
Fontaine. He wanted to meet her. He wanted to let her know indirectly
what he was feeling. And so, almost unconsciously, he found himself
walking away from the Jardin towards the centre of the town, towards the
ruined arena and the Roman temple known as the Maison Carrée. Most
probably she would be sketching at one or other of them.

He found her at the Maison Carrée--a square Roman temple on which Time
has laid no rougher hand than on a white-haired mother still rosy of
cheek and young of heart. Elaine was sketching it in her book with the
bold lines of the scene-painter, ignoring detail and working only for
the high-lights and deep shadows. Round her, peeking over her shoulders
and chattering shrilly, were a group of children. In the background
lounged a young Provençal peasant with a nose twisted out of shape.

"Shall I lure the children away?" asked Rivière as he raised his soft
felt hat.

"Thanks--it would be a relief," answered Elaine, but with a coldness in
her greeting that struck him as curious.

A few coppers scattered the children; the peasant slunk sullenly away.
His eye and Rivière's met, but there was no recognition on the part of
the latter.

"Are you working this morning?" asked Elaine presently.

"No, I'm learning." He nodded towards her sketch-book. "May I continue
the lesson?"

"Compliments are barred," she replied stiffly. "I neither give nor take
them."

Rivière groped mentally for the reason of this curious change of
attitude. Yesterday she had been frankly friendly; to-day she held
herself distinctly aloof. Had he offended her in some way?

He continued soberly. "I'm not paying insincere compliments. It isn't
your sketch which interests me so much as your method of sketching. The
directness of it. The way you get to the heart of the subject without
worrying over detail. The incisiveness. I'm mentally applying your
method to the problems of my own work.... To stand here and watch you
sketching is pure selfishness on my part."

"Like other men, you imagine that women can't get beyond detail." A
flush had come into her voice. "All through the ages men have been
learning from women and refusing to acknowledge it."

"In which sphere?"

"In every sphere."

"Particularize."

"Take novel-writing. Men sneer at the woman-novelist--say that she
cannot draw a man to the life."

"It's largely true."

"What's the reason? Because one can't draw to any satisfaction without
models to base on. Because a man never lets a woman into his innermost
thoughts."

"That argument ought to cut both ways."

"It doesn't. Women give up their innermost secrets to men
because----Well, because woman is the sex that gives and man the sex
that takes. It's been bred in and in through the whole history of
civilization."

"Woman the sex that gives? That reverses the usual idea."

"You're thinking of the things that don't matter--money, jewels, dress,
mansions, servants. Those are the cheap things that man gives in return
for the gifts that are priceless."

Rivière shook his head. "You argue only from a limited knowledge of the
world. There are plenty of women who take everything--_everything_--and
give nothing in return. Perhaps you don't know such women. I do."

"You mean women of the underworld? They are as men make them."

"No, I'm thinking of _femmes du monde_. There are plenty of virtuous
married women who are as grasping as the most soulless underworlder.
Probably you don't see them. You look at the world in a magic crystal
that mirrors back your own thoughts and your own personality in
different guises. You see a thousand YOU's, dressed up as other people."

Elaine had become very thoughtful. "My magic crystal--yes." she mused.
"But surely everyone has his or her crystal to look into."

"Some can keep crystal-vision and reality apart. That's 'balance' ...
And there lies the failure of the feminists--in 'balance.' They make up
a bundle of all the iniquities of human nature, and try to dump it on
man's side of the fence."

"I love argument, but art is long and my stay at Nîmes very brief.
To-morrow I must move on to Orange."

"Then I'll not disturb you further. I expect you have a good deal to get
through."

"Yes. This afternoon it's the Pont du Gard; this evening the Druids'
Tower."

"This evening! The place is very lonely at night-time."

"I know. But I must sketch it in moonlight. That's essential."

"Remember Arles," warned Rivière. "You ought not to be alone."

She nodded. "I know. But I have my work to do."

Rivière felt uneasy over the matter. He did not wish to urge an
undesired escort upon her, but he did not like to think of her working
alone by the solitude of the Druids' Tower at night-time.

"If I can be of any service to you while you are here at Nîmes," he
said, "you have only to send a note to the Villa Clémentine."

With that he said good-bye and left her. It seemed evident that he had
offended her in some way. Possibly, he thought, it was by asking her to
write that letter to Olive. Though she had agreed willingly enough at
the time, it was possible that afterwards she had regretted it. It had
offended against her sense of right. Rivière felt distressed.

Then the remembrance came to him that this was the merest tourist
acquaintanceship. To-morrow she would be leaving Nîmes, and the episode
would pass out of her thoughts. Probably they would never meet again. It
was not worth further thought on either side.

Resolutely he banished all thoughts of Elaine from his mind, and
concentrated on his own work-problems.

From the corner of a lane near the Maison Carrée, Crau, the young
Provençal, had been watching them keenly as they talked together.



CHAPTER XIV

BY THE DRUIDS' TOWER


Mme Giras, the proprietress of the Villa Clémentine, was a rosy, smiling
body, plumped and rounded in almost every aspect, and with a heart of
gold. Yesterday it had been plain to her shrewd, twinkling eyes that
monsieur and mademoiselle were soon to make a match of it. Of course it
was very shocking that mademoiselle should be travelling about alone at
her age, but much could be forgiven in so charming a young lady.

When Rivière returned to the villa for lunch, he found the table in the
arbour laid for two, and by one plate a rose had been placed.

"I have prepared for two," said Mme Giras, smilingly. "Is it not right?"

"Thank you; but it will not be necessary," answered Rivière.

"After all my preparations! And the lunch that was to be my _chef
d'oeuvre_!" There was keen disappointment in her voice. "But perhaps
mademoiselle will be coming to dine this evening?"

"No, nor this evening. Mademoiselle is very busy with her work. She is
to leave Nîmes to-morrow."

"And monsieur also?" There was tragedy in her tone. It must mean that
monsieur would give up his rooms to follow the young lady.

"I shall probably remain here for a month or more," answered Rivière
somewhat stiffly: and then to salve her feelings: "You are making me
wonderfully comfortable. I shall always associate the Midi with Mme
Giras."

"_Monsieur est bien amiable!_" replied the little old lady, much
pleased. She hurried off to the kitchen to see that Marie was making no
error of judgment in the mixing of the sauces.

Rivière felt glad that the acquaintanceship with Elaine had progressed
no further. It was decidedly for the best that it had ended where it
had. Both of them had their life-work to call for all their energies.
Further companionship would only divert them from it. In his innermost
being he knew that, and now he acknowledged it frankly to himself. From
every point of view, it was best that their acquaintanceship should end.

But late that afternoon a brief note came from Elaine. "Dear Mr
Rivière," it said, "I have considered your warning. If you will be so
kind as to accompany me this evening while I am sketching the Druids'
Tower, I shall be glad. I propose to leave the hotel about eight."

Rivière was at her hotel punctually at eight. He helped her into her
warm travelling cloak, and taking up her campstool and easel they walked
briskly, with healthy, swinging strides, out by the avenue of plane
trees bordering the Roman aqueduct.

They ascended the now deserted garden on the hillside till they came to
the ruined tower which was grey with age when Roman legions first swept
in triumph over the country of the barbarians of Gaul. A chill wind set
the pines and the olives whispering mournfully together. The windowless
tower brooded over its memories of the past, like an aged seer blind
with years. The moonlight touched it tentatively as though it feared to
disturb its dreaming.

It was a perfect stage scene for a secret meeting of conspirators. In
the daylight, the tower was ugly with its rubble of fallen
stones--unkempt like a ragged tramp--but in the moonlight there was a
glamour of ages in its mournful brooding. Elaine was right to make her
sketch at night-time. Rivière placed the campstool for her, and watched
her in silence as she plied her pencil with swift, decisive lines.

With lithe, catlike softness, the youth Crau had followed them up the
hillside, padding noiselessly in the shadows of the pines and olives.
Crouching behind a tree, he felt in his breast-pocket and drew out a
small package which he quietly unwrapped from its foldings. Then he
waited his moment with every muscle tensed for action.

The night wind was chill. Rivière started to pace up and down a few
steps away from Elaine. He approached nearer to the tree behind which
Crau was crouching in shadow.

The lithe, wiry figure of the young Provençal sprang out upon him.

"Now you'll pay me what you owe!" he cried out in Provençal. "You cursed
pig of an Englishman!"

Rivière did not understand the words, but the menace in the voice left
no doubt as to the meaning. And the voice brought back to him the narrow
_ruelle_ at Arles where he had defended Elaine from the insult of the
half-drunken peasant.

He was about to step forward to grapple with him, when a warning cry
from Elaine stopped him for one crucial instant.

"Look out! There's something in his hand!" she called, and rushed
impetuously forward to make her warning clear.

As she came within range, Crau raised his arm to throw his vitriol into
Rivière's face, but in a fraction of a second a sudden thought changed
the direction of his aim.

"Your beautiful mistress! that will serve me better!" he hissed out
venomously as he flung it full upon Elaine; then fled at top speed.

"My eyes! Oh God, my eyes!" she cried, as she staggered to the ground.

Rivière sprang to her side, white with alarm. "The beast!"

"My eyes! Oh God, my eyes!" she moaned. "My eyes--my livelihood!"



CHAPTER XV

WAITING THE VERDICT


Elaine lay in Rivière's room in the Villa Clémentine. The doctor was
injecting morphine, and a sister of mercy, grave-eyed under her spotless
white coif like a Madonna of Francia, spoke soft words of comfort to
soothe the agony of the blinded girl.

In the adjoining room Rivière waited the decision of the doctor--waited
in tense, straining anxiety.

From that moment by the Druids' Tower when the vitriol had been flung
upon Elaine, he had lived through a nightmare. Up on the hillside he was
impotent to relieve her agony. No house around to take her to. Without a
moment's delay he must get her into the hands of a doctor.

At first he had tried to lead her down the hillside, along the winding
paths of the gardens, his hands around her shoulders. It was too slow.
Twice the moaning girl had tripped over unseen obstacles. Then he caught
her up in his arms and ran with her, the shadows of the trees and the
undergrowth clutching at him like mocking shapes in a Dantesque vision
of the nether world.

Even when down below the hillside, by the aqueduct, they were still far
from the Villa Clémentine and yet farther from Elaine's hotel by the
station. Some conveyance was imperative. But in a quiet country town
like Nîmes there are no cabs to be found wandering around at night-time.
Nor was there carriage or motor-car in sight.

A peasant's cart drawn by a tiny donkey came providentially to solve the
problem. Rivière laid Elaine on the straw of the cart; snatched the
reins from the owner; drove home at frantic speed; had her put to bed in
his own room by Mme Giras; 'phoned imperatively for a doctor and a
nurse.

And now he waited in straining anxiety for the verdict. The waiting was
more horrible than the nightmare flight through the shadows of the
garden on the hillside. That at all events had been action; now he was
being stretched in passive helplessness on the rack of Time.

After an æon of waiting, the doctor left the sick-room and closed the
door noiselessly behind him. Rivière looked him square in the eye.

"I want the truth," he said in French. The words sounded as though his
throat had closed in tight around them.

"We must wait until the morning before it will be possible that we may
say definitely," replied the doctor.

"To say if----?"

"If we can save the right eye."

"The left?"

"I greatly fear----" A slight gesture of his two hands completed the
sentence.

"It's ghastly! That _beast_----!"

"But you must not despair," continued the doctor in an endeavour to be
optimistic. "Madame is strong and healthy. She has a very sound
constitution, and in such a case as this it is a most important factor
in the recovery. You may rely on me to do my utmost. I have great hopes
that we may save the right eye of madame, your wife."

"Mademoiselle," corrected Rivière mechanically.

"Mademoiselle," amended the doctor with a formal little bow.

"You will come again later to-night?"

"That would serve no useful purpose. I have injected a large dose of
morphine, and mademoiselle is on the point of sleep. I have left full
instructions with the Sister, and if anything unforeseen occurs, she
will communicate with me by telephone."

"I have a further question to ask you, doctor. Mademoiselle Verney is
alone in Nîmes. She has no friends here beyond myself, and she has been
staying at the Hotel de Provence while passing through the town. Would
it be better for her to be at the hotel, or at the town hospital, or
here?"

"Here--decidedly!" answered the doctor. "Mme Giras is kindness itself--I
know her well. I recommend that mademoiselle stay here."

Rivière could do nothing but wait the verdict of the morning, tortured
by hopes and fears. The doctor had spoken of saving the right eye, but
was this mere professional optimism?

Suppose Elaine were blinded for life--blinded on his account. What was
she to do for her livelihood? He knew that she was an orphan; that her
relations were repellant to her; and her pride could scarcely let her
throw herself for long on the hospitality of her friends in Paris. Her
slender means would soon be exhausted--what was she to do then?

With overwhelming conviction Rivière saw the inevitable solution. She
had been blinded while trying to save him. The debt, the overwhelming
debt, lay on him. He must provide for her, guard over her.

If she would accept such help....

In the cold grey of a mist-shrouded morning he woke with a new insistent
thought hammering into his brain. For the first time since he had taken
up the personality of John Rivière, doubt surged upon him in wave after
wave of icy, sullen surf. Had he had the right to cut loose from the
life of Clifford Matheson? Had one alone of a married couple the right
to decide on such a separation? Had he violated some unwritten law of
Fate, and was this the hand of Fate punishing him through the woman he
cared for more deeply than he had yet confessed to himself?

He knew now that from the first moment of their meeting by the arena of
Arles she had opened within him--against his volition--a whole realm of
inner feelings which up till then had lain dormant. He had wanted no
woman in this new life of his, and both at Arles and at Nîmes he had
tried to shut and bolt the gate of the secret realm. Sincerely he had
wanted to give his whole thoughts and energies to his future work, but
here was something which persisted in his inner consciousness against
his will. It was like curtaining the windows and shutting one's eyes
against a storm--in spite of barriers the lightning slashes through to
the retina of the eye.

Was Fate to punish him through the woman he loved?

Rivière rose with determination and flung the thought aside. "Fate" was
only a bogey to frighten children with. "Fate" was a coward's master.
Every man had the right to rough-hew his own life. He, Rivière, had
chosen his new life with eyes open, and, right or wrong, he would stick
by his choice and hew out his life on his own lines. If "Fate" were
indeed a reality, then he would fight it as he had fought Lars Larssen.
He would unknot the tangled threads at whatever cost to himself.

The doctor looked very grave when he had left Elaine's bedside the next
morning.

"The injuries are very serious," he told Rivière. "The cornea of the
right eye has almost been destroyed by the acid. It will heal over, but
the sight will not be as it was before."

"You mean blinded for life--in both eyes?" asked Rivière, ruthless for
his own feelings.

"We must not hope for too much," hedged the doctor. "A great deal
depends on the course of the recovery. I wish not to raise false
hopes...."

"You must pardon what I am going to say, doctor. I have every confidence
in your skill, but is it not possible that the help of an eye specialist
from Paris or Lyons might be of service?"

The doctor put false dignity aside and answered sympathetically: "You
are right, monsieur, a specialist _is_ needed. As soon as mademoiselle
can stand the long journey, I would advise that she be taken to
Wiesbaden, to the very greatest specialist in the world."

"You mean Hegelmann?"

"None other."

"It would not be possible for him to travel to here?"

The doctor shook his head decisively. "Only for kings does he travel. He
has too many patients in his surgical home at Wiesbaden who need him
daily."

"When will mademoiselle be able to make the journey?"

"Within the week, I hope."

       *       *       *       *       *

Information of the attack had of course been given to the police, who
were hot on the trail of the youth Crau. Meanwhile the local papers sent
their reporters to interview Rivière. He was too well accustomed to the
ways of pressmen to refuse an interview. He received them and replied
with the very briefest facts of the case, explaining that he wished to
avoid publicity so far as it was possible. He asked them at all events
to leave out names, as French journals will sometimes do, on request.

Amongst the callers was an Englishman who sent in word that he was a
local correspondent for the _Europe Chronicle_. Rivière had him shown
into the garden of the villa, to the arbour. The would-be interviewer
was a man of thirty, quiet and secretive looking, with a heavy dark
moustache curtaining the expression of his lips. "Morris Sylvester" was
the name on his card.

He carried a hand-camera, which he placed on a seat beside him and
pointed it towards the path from the house. As Rivière approached,
Sylvester's left hand was fingering the silent release of the
instantaneous shutter. He had made a practice of working his camera
surreptitiously while his eyes held the eyes of his subject.

"Mr Sylvester," began Rivière, "I want to ask you a favour, as one
Englishman to another. Publicity is extremely distasteful to the lady
who has been so terribly injured. To have her story spread broadcast for
the satisfaction of idle curiosity would only add to her sufferings.
Isn't it possible for you to suppress this story?"

Sylvester looked hesitant. "I am sincerely sorry for the lady," he said.
"But of course I have my duty to my journal. I had intended to wire a
full column, and take a picture of the scene of the attack by the
Druids' Tower." He took up his camera from the seat beside him, as
though to show his purpose.

After a moment of reflection he added: "Would it satisfy you if I were
to suppress names?"

"I would much rather you wrote nothing at all," replied Rivière. "I know
that I can't insist. I appeal to your generosity in the matter."

"Very well. Under the circumstances, in deference to the feelings of
your friend, I'll take it on myself to suppress the story."

"That's very kind of you. Is there no form of _quid pro quo_...?"
suggested Rivière tentatively.

"Thanks--nothing."

"You'll take something with me before you go?"

"Thanks--yes."

Over the glasses Sylvester chatted pleasantly about matter of no
import, and then brought the conversation round to the real object of
his visit--to get certain information for Lars Larssen.

"Your name seems familiar to me, somehow," he ventured. "Aren't you a
scientist, Mr Rivière?"

"I do a little private research work," was the guarded admission.

"I seem to associate your name with that of Clifford Matheson, the
financier."

"My half-brother."

"Ah, that's it.... A very remarkable man. I had the pleasure of
interviewing him once, at his office in the Rue Lafitte."

Rivière knew that for a lie. He had never seen Sylvester before, to his
knowledge, and he had a keen memory for faces. What was the man driving
at? He must try and discover. With his long years of business training
behind him, Rivière became suddenly expansive, talking with apparent
frankness without in reality saying anything of import.

"As you say, a remarkable man. That is, as a financier. Personally I
have no interests in that direction. My brother and I have very little
in common. He is the man of affairs, and I am buried in my work. What
was the subject of your interview with him?"

"Canada's future. He gave me a splendid interview--first-rate copy,"
lied Sylvester. "Have you seen your brother lately? Is he engaged on any
big scheme just now? Perhaps you could put me on to a news story in that
direction? I should be glad if you could."

Rivière knew that Sylvester was fishing for information of some kind,
but what it was puzzled him completely, unless the man were now speaking
the truth in his statement that he was on the look-out for financial
news. That seemed the only solution of the puzzle.

"I've seen nothing of my brother lately," answered Rivière. "He's at
Monte Carlo, I believe. I'm sorry not to be able to help you in the
matter, but, as I said before, I'm very little interested in my
brother's movements or plans. His ways and mine lie apart. If I hear of
anything that might be of service to you, I'll let you know. Will you
give me your address?"

"Hotel de la Poste will find me. I travel about the Midi for the
_Chronicle_. They'll send on any message for me at the hotel."

"Many thanks for your kindness in the matter of suppressing the story of
the attack," said Rivière, and his tone intimated that it was now time
for the visitor to leave.

Sylvester, having gained the objects of his visit, rose and took his
departure. Inside half-an-hour he had developed an excellent snap-shot
of Rivière walking along the garden path towards him. He wrote a long
letter to Lars Larssen explaining that John Rivière apparently knew
nothing of the disappearance of Clifford Matheson, and detailing the
story of Elaine and the vitriol outrage.

With the letter he enclosed a bromide print of the snapshot.

       *       *       *       *       *

Inside a room, closely shuttered to keep out the light, Rivière was
talking earnestly with Elaine a few days later. The agony of the first
days had died down, but she was absolutely helpless. Her eyes were
bandaged, and she was dependent on the sister of mercy and Mme Giras for
everything.

"Crau is in prison," said he. "I've given formal evidence against him,
and he is remanded for trial a month hence. When you are well again,
they will take your evidence on commission. He will undoubtedly be
sentenced to hard labour for some years."

"What does it matter to me--now?" There was despair in her voice.

"The doctor is very hopeful for you, if you will put yourself under
Hegelmann's care."

"He can do nothing for me, I feel it. Only useless expense. No man can
give me back the sight I want for my work."

"In time," said Rivière gently, but he could not force conviction into
his voice. It went hard with him to lie to the woman he cared for most
in the world, even to bring temporary comfort to her.

"My work. Barrèze and the Odéon," she murmured slowly, speaking to
herself rather than to him. "My work was my life. I remember your saying
to me in the garden, by the arbour, only a few days ago: 'If Fate were
to deny you your freedom!' I shivered even at the words.... Do you
believe in Fate?"

Rivière's fist was clenched as he answered: "I'll fight Fate for both of
us."

She was silent for a few moments. Then she asked: "Will you write a
letter for me?"

He brought pen and ink, and waited for her dictation.

"My dear Barrèze," she dictated slowly, "you must find someone else to
paint your scenes of Provence. I am blinded for life----"

"Don't ask me to write that!"

"I am blinded for life," she continued with the clear tones of one whose
mental vision sees the future unveiled. "They want me to go to Hegelmann
at Wiesbaden. He is a great man, and will do for me all that surgical
skill can do. There will be an operation--several, perhaps. It may
perhaps give me a faint gleam of light--enough to tell light from
darkness and to realize more keenly all that I have lost. I shall never
see the theatre again--never paint again. I shall live on the memories
of the past and the bitter thoughts of what might have been----"

"I can't write it!" he cried, torn with the pathos of the words she bade
him put to paper.

"----of what might have been. My friends of the theatre must pass out of
my life. They can have no use for a crippled, helpless woman, nor do I
wish to cloud their happiness with my unwanted presence. Say good-bye to
them for me. And you, my dear Barrèze, I would thank for the chance you
gave me. Your encouragement would have had its reward if I had kept my
sight. But it is gone--gone for always--and I am wreckage on the
rocks...."

"Elaine, Elaine!" he cried. "You have me by your side! I ask you to let
me devote my life to you!"

The answer came gently: "I must not accept such a sacrifice. You offer
it out of pity for me. Later, you would repent of it. You have your work
to do and your life to live in the open sunshine.... Yet don't think me
ungrateful. I am deeply grateful. I shall remember what you said out of
pity for me, and treasure it amongst my dearest thoughts."

"It's not pity, Elaine, but----"

He stopped abruptly. The accusing hand of memory had touched him on the
shoulder. He had no right to make any such offer--it had come from his
heart in passionate sincerity, but it was not his to give. Olive was
still his wife. Disguise it as he would, he was still Clifford Matheson.

He must leave Elaine to think that pity alone had moulded his words. To
explain to her now the shackles of circumstance that bound him fast
would be sheer cruelty, for if she knew the whole truth, she would send
him away from her and refuse even the temporary help he could give her.

For Elaine's sake he must keep silent.

A pause of bitter reflection raised a barrier of stone between them.
When he spoke again, it was from the other side of the barrier. "At
least you will let me stay by you until you leave Hegelmann's charge?
That I claim.... And I believe he will be able to do for you much more
than you imagine. He has worked wonders before. He will do so again. He
is the foremost specialist in the world. All that money can command
shall be yours."

"Money is terribly useless," said Elaine sadly.



CHAPTER XVI

ONLY PITY!


What was Elaine to do with her life?

In those weary days of the sick-room at Nîmes, and on the long railway
journey through Lyons, Besançon and Strasburg to Wiesbaden, Elaine had
turned over and over, in feverishly restless search for hope, the
possibilities that lay before her.

Her total capital was comprised in a few hundred pounds and the
furniture of the flat she shared in Paris with a girl friend--a student
at the Conservatoire. The money would see her through the expenses of Dr
Hegelmann's nursing home and for a few months afterwards--a year at the
outside. After that she must inevitably be dependent on the charity of
friends or on some charitable institution.

The thought of the time when her capital would be gone was like an icy
hand gripping at her heart. "Money is terribly useless," she had said to
Rivière, but there were times when she wished passionately that she had
the money with which to buy comforts for a life of blindness. Those were
craven moments, however--moments which she despised when they were past.
Of what use to her would be the silken-padded cage she had longed to
buy, when life held for her no work, no love?

Rivière she had thought of a thousand times. His every action and word
in the days of their first acquaintanceship came back to her with the
wonderful inner clarity of sight and hearing that belongs to those who
have no outer vision.

She saw him at the arena of Arles, standing on the topmost tier a few
yards distant from her, watching the red ball of the sun sink down into
the mists of the grey Camargue. He was aloof and cold--icy,
unapproachable, masked in reserve.

She saw him in the _ruelle_ of Arles, with the light from the shuttered
window falling on him in bars of yellow and black, fighting with Berserk
fury against the bare knife of the Provençal youth. Here he was
primitive man unchained--a Rodin figure with muscles knotted in a riot
of hot-blooded passion. He was battling for her.

No, not for her, but for the duty that a man owes to womankind. "I
didn't even know it was you," he had said curtly. That had hurt her at
the time, but now it seared into her. The rescue had meant nothing--it
had brought him no nearer to her. He was still cold and aloof.

She saw him in the Jardin de la Fontaine, lifting his hat with formal
politeness and making to move on. Still aloof, still encased in cold
reserve.

With deliberate intent she had set herself to melt him, and she had
succeeded. By the arbour of the Villa Clémentine she saw him, chatting
animatedly in keen enjoyment of her frank camaraderie. But that was only
casual friendship. Still aloof in what now mattered vitally to her.

She saw him seeking her out by the Maison Carrée, standing to watch her
sketch and passing to her the compliment of candid praise. Then he had
come nearer, but by such a little!

She saw him silvered in the moonlight by the Druids' Tower, standing at
her easel. Here he would surely have revealed himself if he had had
thoughts to utter of inner feelings. But he had remained silent.

Then there rang in her ears his passionate declaration of the sick-room:
"Elaine! Elaine! You have me by your side! I ask you to let me devote my
life to you!"

She weighed it scrupulously in the balance of reason, and judged it
Pity. It was the hasty word of a chivalrous man torn by the sight of her
helplessness. If it had been love, he would not have been stopped by her
refusal. Love is insistent, headstrong, ruthless of obstacles. Love
would have forced his offer upon her again and again. Love would have
divined the doubt in her mind. Love would have drowned it in kisses.

It was not Love but Pity that Rivière felt for her. And while she
silently thanked him for it, it was not enough. She would not encumber
the life of a man who felt merely Pity for her. That would be
degradation worse than the acceptance of public charity.

Out of all the turmoil of her fevered thoughts there came this one
conclusion: when her last money had been spent, when there only remained
for her the bitter bread of charity, she would pass quietly out of life
to a world where the outer sight would matter nothing.

Meanwhile, every casual word of Rivière's was weighed and re-weighed,
tested and assayed by her for the gold that might be hidden within.



CHAPTER XVII

RIVIÈRE IS CALLED BACK


There are two sides to Wiesbaden. The one is with the gay, cosmopolitan
life that saunters along the Wilhelmstrasse and dallies with the
allurements of the most enticing shops in Germany; suns itself in the
gardens of the Kursaal or on the wind-sheltered slopes of the Neroberg;
listens to an orchestra of master-artists in the open or to a prima
donna in the brilliance of the opera-house; dines, wines, gambles,
dissipates, burns the lamp of life under forced draught.

The other side is with the life behind the curtains of the nursing
homes, where dim flickers of life and health are jealously watched and
tended. Wiesbaden is both a Bond Street and a Harley Street. Specialists
in medicine and surgery have their consulting rooms a few doors away
from those of specialists in jewellery, flowers or confectionery. Their
names and their specialities are prominent on door-plates almost as
though they were competing against the lures of the traders.

But Dr Hegelmann had no need to cry his services in the market-place.
His consulting rooms and nursing home were hidden amongst the evergreens
of a cool, restful garden well away from the flaunting life of the
Wilhelmstrasse. By the door his name and titles were inscribed in
inconspicuous lettering on a small black marble tablet. His specialty
needed no proclaiming.

Rivière found the great surgeon curiously uncouth in appearance. His
brown, grey-streaked beard was longer than customary and ragged in
outline; his eyebrows projected like a sea-captain's; his almost bald
head seemed to be stretched tight over a framework of knobs and bumps;
his clothes were baggy and shapeless. But all these unessentials faded
away from sight when Dr Hegelmann spoke. His voice was wonderfully
compelling--a voice tuned to a sympathy all-embracing. His voice could
make even German sound musical. And his hands were the hands of a
musician.

Before bringing Elaine into the consulting-room, Rivière explained the
facts of the vitriol outrage, gave into his hands the letter of advice
from the doctor at Nîmes, and then broached the subject of payment. They
spoke in German, because Dr Hegelmann had steadfastly refused to learn
any language beyond his own. All his energies of learning had been
focused on his one specialty.

"I want to explain," said Rivière, "that Fraülein Verney is not
well-to-do. She is, I believe, practically dependent on her profession."

"Then we shall adjust the scale of payment to whatever she can afford,"
answered the doctor readily. "I value my rich patients only because they
can pay me for my poorer patients."

"Many thanks. But that was not quite my meaning. I want to ask you to
charge her at the lowest rate, and allow me to make up the difference."

"Without letting her know it."

"Precisely."

"That shall be as you wish. I appreciate your motives." His voice was
full of sympathy, giving a treble value to the most ordinary words.
"That is the action of a true friend."

Rivière brought Elaine into the consulting-room, and left her in the
great specialist's gentle hands. An assistant surgeon was there to act
as interpreter.

The verdict came quickly. For a week Elaine was to be in the surgical
home receiving preliminary treatment, and then Dr Hegelmann was to
operate on her right eye. For the left eye there was no hope.

During the week of waiting, Rivière came twice a day to Elaine's
bedside, to chat and read to her.

One day he told her that he had arranged for the use of a bench at a
private biological laboratory at Wiesbaden belonging to one of the
medical specialists.

"That will enable me to begin my research while you're recovering from
the operation. You'll have no need to think that you might be keeping me
here away from my work."

"I'm glad. It's very good to have a friend by one, but I should have
worried at keeping you from your work. Now I'm relieved.... Is the
laboratory here well equipped?"

"Quite sufficiently for my purposes. Of course I'm sending to Paris for
my own microscope--it's a Zeiss, with a one-twelfth oil immersion--and
I'll have my own rocker microtome sent over also. There's a microtome
in the laboratory here, but I might take weeks to get on terms with it.
If you'd ever worked with the instrument, you'd know how curiously human
it is in its moods and whims. If a microtome takes a liking to you,
she'll work herself to the bone while you merely rest your hand on the
lever. But if she has some secret objection to you, she'll pout and
sulk, and jib and rear, and generally try to drive you distracted."

Elaine smiled. "I notice that man always applies the feminine gender to
anything unreliable in the way of machinery. If it's sober and
steady-going, you label it masculine, like Big Ben. But if it's
uncertain in action, like a motor-boat, you call it Fifi or Lolo or
Vivienne."

"That's a true bill," confessed Rivière. "Henceforth I'll keep to the
strictly neutral 'it' when I mention a microtome."

"I want to know the nature of your research work. You've never yet told
me except in vague, general terms."

Rivière hesitated. It seemed to him scarcely a subject to discuss with
one who herself was in the hands of the surgeon.

"Wouldn't you prefer a more cheerful topic?" he ventured.

Elaine appreciated the reason for his hesitation, and answered: "I want
to hear of the spirit behind your technicalities. It won't depress me in
the least. Please go on."

Rivière began to explain to her the big idea which he was hoping to
develop in the coming years. He avoided any details that might seem to
have even a remote personal bearing. He spoke with enthusiasm--his
voice became aglow with inner fire. And it was clear from her attitude
and from the questions she interjected from time to time that she
realized the value of his idea, appreciated his motives, and was
whole-heartedly interested in what he was telling her.

As Elaine listened, a tiny voice within her was whispering: "Here is
your rival." And she felt glad that her rival was one of high purpose.
The call of science and a high, impersonal aim, touched her as something
sacred.

Rivière had brought with him a daily paper--the Frankfort edition of the
_Europe Chronicle_--in order to read it to her. Thinking that she might
be getting wearied of his personal affairs, he broke off presently, and
with her agreement, opened the paper at the news pages, calling out the
headlines until she intimated a wish to hear a fuller reading.

He had finished the news pages for her, and was about to put the paper
aside, when the instinct of long habit made him glance at the headlines
of the financial page.

Elaine heard a sudden decisive rustle of the paper as he folded it
quickly, and then came a minute of silence which carried to her
sensitive brain a strange sensation of tenseness.

"What is it?" she asked. "Won't you read it out?"

Rivière's voice had altered completely when he answered her. There was
now a reserved, constrained note in it. "An item of news which touches
me personally," he said.

"Am I not to hear it?"

"I would rather you didn't ask me."

There was silence again. Rivière sat stiff with rigid muscles while he
thought out the bearings of the news item he had just read. Then he
asked her to excuse him on a matter of immediate urgency.

At the post office he managed after some waiting to get telephonic
communication with the Frankfort office of the _Europe Chronicle_.

"Tell the financial editor that Mr John Rivière wants to speak to him,"
he said authoritatively. "Please put me through quickly. I'm on a trunk
wire."

After a pause the stereotyped reply came that the financial editor was
out. His assistant was now speaking, and would take any message.
Clifford Matheson would not have had such an answer made to him, but
Rivière was an unknown name. He realized that he must now cool his heels
in anterooms, and communicate with chiefs through the medium of their
subordinates.

"You have an item in to-day's paper regarding the forthcoming notation
of Hudson Bay Transport, Ltd. Mr Clifford Matheson's name is mentioned
as Chairman. I should very much like to know if you have had
confirmation of that item, and from where it was obtained."

"Hold the line, please. I'll make enquiries."

Presently the answer came. "Why do you wish to know?"

"Mr Matheson is my half-brother, and though I'm in close touch with him,
I've had no intimation of any such move on his part."

"Hold the line, please."

Another pause ensued, followed by the formal statement. "The news came
to us last night from our Paris office. We believe it to be correct. Do
we understand that you wish to deny it?"

"No; I want to get confirmation of it. Thanks--good-bye."

Then he asked the post-office for a trunk call to Paris, and after an
hour's wait he was put in touch with the headquarters of the _Europe
Chronicle_. The second 'phone conversation proved as unsatisfactory as
the first. A financial editor of a responsible journal does not talk
freely with any unknown man who rings him up on a hasty trunk call. The
reply came that the information in question reached the paper from a
perfectly reliable source. If Mr Rivière cared to call at the office,
they would give him proof of the accuracy of their statement. They could
not discuss such a matter over the 'phone.

Rivière urged that he was speaking from Wiesbaden.

They were sorry, but they did not care to discuss the matter over the
'phone. He must either take their word for it that the information was
correct, or else call in person at the Paris office.

It was clear to Rivière that he must make the journey to Paris if he
were to unravel the mystery of that astounding statement. The dead
Clifford Matheson mentioned authoritatively as Chairman of the new
company! Why should such an impossible story be set afloat, and what was
the "reliable source" spoken of? He knew that the _Europe Chronicle_
though a sensational paper, would not print self-invented fiction on its
financial page.

"I have an urgent call to Paris," he told Elaine. "I hope you will
excuse my running away so brusquely? I'll be back before the day of your
operation."

"Of course, I excuse you," she replied readily. "I know that something
very important is calling you. And in any case, what right would I have
to say yes or no to a private decision of your own?"

There leapt in her a sudden hope that he would answer from the heart.
But his reply held nothing beyond a bare statement. "This matter is
extremely urgent. I propose to catch a night train to Paris and be back
by to-morrow evening. Is there anything I can do for you before I go?"

"I have everything ... but my sight."

"And that, Dr Hegelmann will give you within the month!" he affirmed.

In Paris early the next morning, Rivière sought out the financial editor
of the _Europe Chronicle_. At a face-to-face interview, Rivière's
personality impressed, and the newspaper man showed himself quite
willing to prove the _bona fides_ of his journal.

"If you will step into the adjoining room," he said, "I'll send you the
reporter who brought us the information. Ask him any questions you like.
I've perfect confidence in him, and I stand by any statement of his we
print. I don't think people realize how careful we are on financial
matters--they seem to think that a popular paper will print any sort of
_canard_ offhand."

There followed Rivière into the next room a tubby rosy-faced little man,
brisk and smiling. "Well, sir, what can I do for you?" he rattled off
cheerfully. "The financial editor tells me that I'm to preach to you the
gospel of the infallibility of the _Chronicle_. What's the particular
text you're heaving bricks at?"

Jimmy Martin's infectious good-humour brought an answering smile from
Rivière. "I'm not casting doubts on the modern-day Bible," he replied.
"I'm seeking information. I want to know who told you that Clifford
Matheson, my half-brother, is to head the Board of Hudson Bay Transport,
Ltd."

"I have it straight from the stable--from Lars Larssen."

Rivière's face did not move a muscle--he was still smiling pleasantly.

"Larssen and I are old pals," continued Martin briskly. "So when he was
passing through Paris the other day he 'phoned me to the effect of come
and crack a bottle with me, come and let's reminisce together over the
good old days. I went; and he gave me the juicy little piece of news you
saw in yesterday's rag. We saved up some of it for to-day--have you
seen? Clifford Matheson heads the festal board, and the other revellers
at the guinea-feast are the Right Hon. Lord St Aubyn, Sir Francis
Letchmere, Bart., and G. Lowndes Hawley Carleton-Wingate, M.P. Lars
Larssen sits below the salt--to wit, joins the Board after allotment.
The capital is to be a cool five million, and if I were a prophet I'd
tell you whether they'll get it or not."

"Thanks--that's just what I wanted to know."

"You withdraw the bricks?"

"Unreservedly.... By the way, do you know where my brother is at the
moment?"

"Vague idea he's in Canada. Don't know where I get it from. Those sort
of things are floating in the air."

"Where is Larssen?"

"He was going on to London--dear old foggy, fried-fishy London! Ever
notice that London is ringed around with the smell of fried fish and
naphtha of an evening? The City smells of caretakers; and Piccadilly of
patchouli; and the West End of petrol; but the smell of fish fried in
tenth-rate oil in little side-streets rings them around and bottles them
up. In Paris it's wood-smoke and roast coffee, and I daresay heaps
healthier, but I sigh me for the downright odours of old England!
Imitaciong poetry--excuse this display of emotion."

When Rivière left the office of the journal on the Boulevard des
Italiens, he made his way rapidly to No. 8 Rue Laffitte, second floor.
There he inquired for Clifford Matheson, and was informed that the
financier was in Winnipeg.

"You're certain of that?" asked Rivière.

"Quite, sir!" answered the clerk in surprise. "We get cables from him
giving addresses to send letters to. If you'd like anything forwarded,
sir, leave it here and we shall attend to it."

It was now clear beyond doubt that Lars Larssen was playing a game of
unparalleled audacity. He had somehow arranged to impersonate the "dead"
Clifford Matheson, and was using the impersonation to float the Hudson
Bay scheme on his own lines.

Rivière flushed with anger at the realization of how Lars Larssen was
using his name.

But that was a trifle compared with the main issue. When he had fought
Lars Larssen, it was not a mere petty squabble over a division of loot.
The Hudson Bay scheme was no mere commercial machine for grinding out a
ten per cent. profit. If successful, it meant an entire re-organization
of the wheat traffic between Canada and Great Britain. It meant, in
kernel, the control of Britain's bread-supply. It affected directly
fifty millions of his fellow-countrymen.

For that reason Rivière had refused to lend his name to a scheme under
which Lars Larssen would hold the reins of control. He knew the
ruthlessness of the man and his overweening lust of power, which had
passed the bounds of ordinary ambition and had become a Napoleonic
egomania.

In refusing to act on the Board, Rivière had made an altruistic
decision. But now the same problem confronted him again in a different
guise. If he remained silent, the scheme would in all probability be
floated in his name to a successful issue. If he remained silent, he
would be betraying fifty millions of his fellow-countrymen.

He had thought to strike out from the whirlpool into peaceful waters,
but the whirlpool was sucking him back.

Weighing duty against duty, he saw clearly that he must at once confront
Larssen and crumple up his daring scheme. And so he wired to Elaine:

"An urgent affair calls me to London. Shall return to you at the
earliest possible moment. Address, Avon Hotel, Lincoln's Inn Fields."



CHAPTER XVIII

NOT WANTED!


In the train Calaiswards, Rivière felt as though he had just plunged
into an ice-cold lake fed by torrents from the snow-peaks, and had
emerged tingling in every fibre with the glow of health.

The course before him was straight; the issue clean-cut. He had only to
confront Lars Larssen to bring the latter to his knees. If there were
opposition, the threat of a public prosecution would brush it aside.

He must resume the personality of Clifford Matheson; return to Olive;
settle a generous income on Elaine. He must wind up his financial
affairs and devote himself to the scientific research he had planned.

A straight, clean course.

He looked forward eagerly to the moment when he would walk into
Larssen's private office and smash a fist through his hoped-for control
of Hudson Bay. Until that moment, he would keep outwardly to the
identity of John Rivière. But already he was feeling himself back in the
personality of Clifford Matheson--the hard, firm lines had set again
around his mouth, the look of masterfulness was in his eye.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Channel was in its sullen mood.

Overhead, skies were grey with ragged, shapeless cloud; below, the
waters were the colour of slag and slapping angrily against the plates
of the starboard bow under the drive of a wind from the north-east. The
ashen cliffs of Dover came to meet the packet reluctant and
inhospitable. By the harbour-entrance, a petulant squall of rain beat
upon them as though to shoo them away. The landing-stage was slippery
and slimy with rain, soot, and petrol drippings from the motor-cars
shipped to and fro. Customs-house officers eyed them with tired
suspicion; porters took their money and hastened away with the curtest
of acknowledgments; an engine panted sullenly as it waited for
never-ending mail-bags to be hauled up from the bowels of the packets
and dumped into the mail-van.

England had no welcome for Rivière at her front door.

Through the Weald of Kent, where spring comes early, this April
afternoon showed the land still naked and cold. On the coppices,
dispirited catkins drooped their tassels from the wet branches of the
undergrowth, but the young leaves lurked within their brown coverings as
though they shivered at the thought of venturing out into the bleak air.
On the oaks, dead leaves from the past autumn clung obstinately to their
mother-branches. The hop-lands were a dreary drab; hop-poles huddled
against one another for warmth; streams ran swollen and muddy and
rebellious.

"The Garden of England" had no welcome for Rivière.

They swerved through Tonbridge Junction, glistening sootily under a
drizzle of rain, and dived into the yawning tunnel of River Hill as
though into refuge from the bleakness of the open country. Two
fellow-travellers with Rivière were discussing the gloomy outlook of a
threatened railway strike which rumbled through the daily papers like
distant thunder. Fragment of talk came to his ears:--

"Minimum wage.... Damned insolence.... Tie up the whole country.... Have
them all flogged to work.... Not a statesman in the House.... Weak-kneed
set of vote-snatchers.... If I had my way...."

The train ran them roof-high through endless vistas of the mean grey
streets of south-east London, where the street-lamps were beginning to
throw out a yellow haze against the murky drizzle of the late afternoon;
slowed to a crawl in obedience to the raised arms of imperious signals;
stopped over viaducts for long wearisome minutes while flaunting
sky-signs drummed into the passengers the superabundant merits of
Somebody's Whisky or Somebodyelse's Soap.

Half-an-hour late at the terminus, Rivière had his valise sent to the
Avon Hotel, hailed a taxi, and told the man to drive as fast as possible
to Leadenhall Street. In that narrow canon of commerce was a large,
substantial building bearing the simple sign--a sign ostentatious in its
simplicity--of "Lars Larssen--Shipping."

"Tell Mr Larssen that Mr John Rivière wishes to see him," he said to a
clerk at the inquiry desk.

"I'm sorry, sir, but Mr Larssen left the office not ten minutes ago."

"Can you tell me where he went to?"

"If you'll wait a moment, sir, I'll send up an inquiry to his secretary.
What name did you say?"

"Rivière--John Rivière. The brother of Mr Clifford Matheson."

Presently the answer came down the house 'phone that Mr Larssen had gone
to his home in Hampstead.

Rivière re-entered the taxi and gave an address on the Heath. He wanted
to thrash out the matter with Larssen with the least possible delay. He
would have preferred to confront the shipowner in his office, but since
that plan had miscarried, he would seek him out in his private house.

Near King's Cross another taxi coming out from a cross-street skidded as
it swerved around the corner, and jolted into his own with a crash of
glass and a crumple of mudguards. Delay followed while the two
chauffeurs upbraided one another with crimson epithets, and gave rival
versions of the incident to a gravely impartial policeman. When Rivière
at length reached Hampstead Heath, it was to find that the shipowner had
just left the house.

Rivière explained to the butler that it was very important he should
reach Larssen without delay, and his personality impressed the servant
as that of a visitor of standing. He therefore told Rivière what he
knew.

"Mr Larssen changed into evening dress, sir, and went off in his small
covered car. I don't know where he's gone, sir, but he told me if
anything important arose I was to ring him up at P. O. Richmond, 2882."

That telephone number happened to be quite familiar to Rivière. It was
the number of his own house at Roehampton.

He jumped into the waiting taxi once again, and ordered the chauffeur to
drive across London to Barnes Common and Roehampton. If he could not
confront Larssen at office or house, he would run him to earth that
evening in his own home. No doubt Larssen was going there to talk
business with Sir Francis.

Roehampton is a country village held within the octopus arms of Greater
London. Round it are a number of large houses with fine, spacious
grounds--country estates they were when Queen Victoria ascended the
throne of England. At Olive's special choice, her husband had purchased
one of the mansions and had it re-decorated for her in modern style. She
liked its nearness to London proper--it gave her touch with Bond Street
and theatreland in half-an-hour by fast car. She liked its spacious
lawns and its terraced Italian garden--they were so admirable for garden
parties and open-air theatricals. She liked the useless size of the
house--it ministered to her love of opulence.

Rivière had grown to hate it in the last few years.

The name of the estate was "Thornton Chase." The approach lay through a
winding drive bordered by giant beeches, and passed one of the
box-hedged lawns to curl before a front door on the further side of the
house.

When at the very gates another delay in that evening of delays occurred.
This time it was a tyre-burst. Rivière, impatient of further waste of
time, paid off the chauffeur and started on foot along the entrance
drive. The drizzle of the afternoon had ceased, and a few stars shone
halfheartedly through rents in the ragged curtain of cloud, as though
performing a duty against their will.

When passing through the box-hedged lawn as a short cut to the front
door, one of the curtains of the lighted drawing-room was suddenly
thrown back, and the broad figure of man stood framed in a golden panel
of light. It was Lars Larssen.

Rivière stopped involuntarily. It was as though his antagonist had
divined his presence and had come boldly forward to meet him. And,
indeed, that was not far from the fact. Larssen, waiting alone in the
drawing-room, had had one of his strange intuitive impulses to throw
wide the curtain and look out into the night. Such an impulse he never
opposed. He had learnt by long experience that there were centres of
perception within him, uncharted by science, which gathered impressions
too vague to put a name to, and yet vitally real. He always gave rein to
his intuition and let it lead him where it chose.

Looking out into the night, the shipowner could not see Rivière, who had
stopped motionless in the shadow of a giant box clipped to the shape of
a peacock standing on a broad pedestal.

Rivière waited.

Presently Larssen turned abruptly as though someone had entered the
room. A smile of welcome was on his lips. Olive swept in, close-gowned
in black with silvery scales. She offered her hand with a radiant smile,
and Larssen took it masterfully and raised it to his lips. Rivière noted
that it was not the shipowner who had moved forward to meet Olive, but
Olive who had come gladly to him.

They stood by the fireplace, and Olive chatted animatedly to her guest.
Rivière scarcely recognized his wife in this transformation of spirit.
With him she was cold and abrupt, and captious, eyes half-lidded and
cheeks white and mask-like. Now her eyes flashed and sparkled, and there
was warm colour in her cheeks.

Of what Olive and Larssen said to one another, no word came to Rivière.
But attitude and gesture told him more than words could have done. It
was as though he were a spectator of a bioscope drama, standing in
darkness while a scene was being pictured for him in remorseless detail
behind the lighted window. That Olive's feeling for Larssen had grown
beyond mere friendship was plain beyond question. She was infatuated
with the man; and he was playing with her infatuation.

For a moment Rivière's fist clenched; then his fingers loosened, and he
watched without stirring. Larssen must, in view of his action on the
Hudson Bay coup, believe Matheson to be dead. To him, Olive was now a
widow. Therefore Rivière had no quarrel with the shipowner on the ground
of what he was now witnessing. His desire to crumple Larssen in the
hollow of his hand and fling him into the mud at his feet was based on
very different grounds.

On the other hand, Olive must believe Matheson to be alive. Larssen
would have told her that her husband was away in Canada on business for
a few weeks, and he would keep up the fiction until the Hudson Bay
scheme were floated to a public issue.

That Rivière could watch the scene pictured before him without
stirring--could watch in silence the spectacle of his wife's infatuation
for another man--might seem superficially as the height of cynical
cold-bloodedness. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth. Rivière
was a man of very deep and very strong feelings held habitually under a
rigid control. Self-control is very often mistaken superficially for
cold-bloodedness, just as heartiness is mistaken for big-heartedness.

He was balanced enough to hold no blame for Olive. Within two years of
marriage he had plumbed her to the depths. It was not in her to be more
than a reckless spender of other people's money and other people's
lives. She was born to waste just as another is born to create. The way
in which she was throwing herself at Larssen during his absence for a
few weeks was typical of her inborn character, which nothing could
uproot.

It was clear beyond doubt that Olive did not want him back. She
preferred him out of her way. If he could disappear for ever, leaving
his fortune in her hands, she would unquestionably be glad of it. What
he had in fact brought about by taking up the personality of John
Rivière was what she seemed most to desire.

He was coming home as an intruder. Even in his own house there would be
no welcome for him. _He was not wanted._

There was a sudden stiffening on the part of Olive, as though she heard
someone about to enter the room. Sir Francis came in, shook hands
cordially with Larssen, and all three made their way to dinner.

Rivière was left looking into an empty room. With sudden decision he
made his way out of the grounds of Thornton Chase. He would see the
shipowner to-morrow in his office at Leadenhall Street rather than
thrash out the coming quarrel in front of Olive and Sir Francis.

His duty lay in taking up once more the role of Clifford Matheson and
returning to Olive's side. Though what he had seen that evening made the
duty trebly distasteful, he must carry it out to the end. Yet to himself
he was glad of the short respite. For one night more he would breathe
freedom as John Rivière.

Only one night more!

For the moment, time was no object to him, and he proceeded on foot
through Roehampton village and by the sodden coppices of Putney Heath to
the Portsmouth high road and the railway station of East Putney.

He waited at the station until an underground train snaked its way in
like a giant blindworm, and went with it to the Temple and so to the
quiet hotel he had chosen in Lincoln's Inn Fields. On his way, he sent
off a telegram to the shipowner stating that John Rivière would call at
Leadenhall Street at eleven o'clock in the morning.

In the coffee-room of the Avon Hotel he sat down to write a long letter
to Elaine which would explain all that had been hidden from her. Without
sparing himself one jot he told her of the circumstances of his life
since the crucial night of March 14th, and of the deception he carried
out with her as well as with the rest of the world. It was long past
midnight before he put to the letter the signature of "Clifford
Matheson."

And then with a stab of pain he remembered that Elaine could not read
it. There were passages in the letter which must not be read to her by
any outside person. It was evident that what he had to tell her would
have to be said by word of mouth.

Rivière tore up his letter into small fragments and burnt them carefully
in the grate.



CHAPTER XIX

A THRONE-ROOM


Dinner was over at Thornton Chase, and the three were back in the
drawing-room--Olive, Larssen, and Sir Francis. The men smoked at Olive's
request; and she herself lighted one of a special brand of cigarettes
which she had made for her by Antonides.

"I hate to have my drawing-room smelling of afternoon-tea and feminine
chit-chat," she explained. "The two Carleton-Wingate frumps called on me
this afternoon for a couple of solid hours' boring, which they dignify
to themselves as a duty call. Please smoke away the remembrance of
them."

"The Carleton-Wingates are a useful crowd," said Larssen. "There's an
M.P., a major-general and a minister plenipotentiary amongst them."

"Give me those to deal with, and you entertain the twin frumps,"
answered Olive. "Twins are always hateful in a room, because they sit
together and chorus their comments together, just as if they were one
mind with two bodies. You feel as if you ought to split yourself in two
and devote half to each, so as not to cause jealousy. But twin old maids
are especially hateful."

"A very old family," was Letchmere's comment. "They go back to Henry
VII."

"What's the entertainment for to-night?" asked Olive of Larssen.

"I propose to take you to the new Cabaret," said he.

"First-rate!"

"But it doesn't start until ten-thirty. We've plenty of time. First, I
want you to play to me."

Olive went over to the piano, and Larssen followed to light the candles
and turn back the case of polished rosewood inlaid with ivory.

She laid her fingers on the keys and looked up at him expectantly.

"Something lively," he ordered, and she rattled into the latest success
of the musical comedy stage. Such as it was, she played it brilliantly.
To-night she was in that morphia mood of the terrace of Monte Carlo when
she had first told him of her contempt for her husband.

Under cover of the playing, while Sir Francis was reading a novel of
turf life, Olive whispered: "Can't we have a few moments together by
ourselves?"

"I'll arrange it," answered Larssen.

"How?"

"Suppose we drop your father at the Cabaret while we go on to see my
offices?"

"Offices--at night-time!" she exclaimed.

"My staff work all night there--I have a night-shift as well as a
day-shift. In fact, the offices are busier at night-time than in the
day-time."

"Isn't that a very unusual arrangement?"

"Yes. It enables me to deal with routine-work while the other fellow's
asleep. That's always been one of my business principles: get
to-morrow's work done to-day; get a twelve hours' start of the other
man."

"How typical of you!"

"My place is thoroughly worth seeing. Suppose I show you over it?"

Larssen's pride in his office was fully justified. There was nothing in
London, nothing in England to match it as a perfect business machine.
And there was no private office in Europe which could compare in
impressiveness with Larssen's own.

Things went as he arranged, and from the busy hive of industry on the
ground and first floors he took Olive to his private room on the second.
It was a room some thirty yards long and broad in proportion, with a
central dome reaching above the roof. A few broad tables were almost
lost in its immensity. Round the walls were maps dotted with flag-pins
telling of the position of ships. At the further end was Larssen's own
work-table--a horseshoe-shaped desk. Above and behind it hung a portrait
of his little boy by Sargent.

"It's almost a throne-room!" was Olive's exclamation of wonder.

Larssen smiled his pleasure. It _was_ a throne-room. He had designed it
as such. His private house at Hampstead mattered little to him. His
house on Riverside Drive, New York, and his great forest estate in the
Adirondacks mattered almost as little. His real home was at the office.

"In my New York office, and in every one of my other offices round the
world, there's a room like this. I alone use it. When I'm away, it
stands for me. It's my sign."

"Above there," he continued, pointing to the central dome, "is the
wireless apparatus which keeps me in touch with my ships. From ship to
ship and office to office I can send my orders round the world. I'm
independent of the wires and the cables."

"That's epic!" she said, using the word she had used before when he
spoke to her of his early career. No other word fitted Lars Larssen so
closely.

"Heard from Clifford lately?" he queried.

"Only a brief cable from Winnipeg."

"I had a letter telling me things are going well, but not as quickly as
he expected. That letter would be a week old by now. Every moment I'm
expecting to hear that his work is put through and sealed up tight."

"I'm not anxious to have him back. If you only could realize how he
bores me to extinction."

She waited for an expression of sympathy.

"You've borne with it very bravely," he said, knowing that to a woman
like Olive no compliment is dearer than to be called "brave."

"Not that I want to say a word against Clifford," he added quickly.
"He's a very clever man of business, and I admire him for it. But a
woman wants more than cleverness."

"How well you understand!" said Olive. "So few know me as I really am.
If only we had met before----"

She stopped abruptly as a door opened at the farther end of the room.
Morris Sylvester entered briskly with a telegram in his hand. As
confidential secretary, it was his duty to open all telegrams and most
of the letters addressed to his chief. Sylvester passed the open
telegram to Larssen, saying:

"Excuse my interruption. This telegram just arrived seems important. I
thought you would like to see it."

"Thanks." Larssen glanced over it. "No answer necessary."

Sylvester withdrew.

"It's a wire from your gay brother-in-law," said Larssen to Olive.

"From John Rivière! Where is he?"

"In London. He proposes to call on me to-morrow morning at eleven."

"I wonder what he has to say."

"I'm completely in the dark."

"I'd like to meet him."

"Shall I send him on to Roehampton after he's seen me?"

Olive reflected that Rivière might not want to see her, in view of the
way he had avoided her so far. She answered: "Ring me up on the 'phone
when he's in your office. I'll speak to him over the wire."

"Right--I'll remember.... By the way, about the Hudson Bay company, did
I tell you that the underwriting negotiations are going through fine?
Inside a week we ought to be ready for flotation."

Larssen proceeded to enlarge on the subject, and the broken thread of
Olive's avowal was not taken up again. They left the offices, and drove
back to the Cabaret to rejoin Sir Francis.



CHAPTER XX

BEATEN TO EARTH


At eleven o'clock the next morning, the shipowner was at the horseshoe
desk in his throne-room, fingering the snapshot of Rivière which
Sylvester had secured at Nîmes. He had seen in it the picture of a man
very like Clifford Matheson, but not for a moment had he thought of it
as the portrait of the financier himself. The shaven lip, the scar
across the forehead, the differences of hair and collar and tie and
dress had combined to make a thorough disguise.

Yet when the visitor entered by the farther door of the throne-room and
came striding resolutely down the thirty yards of carpet, Lars Larssen
knew him. The carriage and walk were Matheson's.

For a moment hot rage possessed him. Not at Matheson, but at himself. He
ought to have guessed before. This was the one possibility he had
completely overlooked. Matheson had tricked him by shamming death. He
ought not to have let himself be tricked. That was inexcusable.

A moment later he had regained mastery of himself, and a succession of
plans flashed past his mental vision, to be considered with lightning
speed. The financier held the whip-hand--and the whip must be torn from
him ... somehow.

"Sit down, Matheson," said the shipowner calmly, when his antagonist had
reached the horseshoe desk.

Neither man offered to shake hands.

Matheson took the seat indicated, and waited for Larssen to begin.

Larssen knew the value of silence, however, and Matheson was forced to
open.

"You thought me dead?" he asked.

"I knew you had disappeared for private reasons of your own. I
discovered those reasons, and so I respected your privacy," was the calm
reply.

"You had the cool intention of using my name in the Hudson Bay
prospectus as though I had given you sanction for it."

"You did give me sanction."

"Written?"

"No; your word."

"When?"

"At our last interview at your Paris office. You passed your word--an
Englishman's word--and I took it."

Matheson ignored the cool lie. "Let's get down to business," he said.

"With pleasure. What do you want?"

"When we last met," continued Matheson slowly, "I wanted you to assign
half of your four million Deferred Shares to Lord ----, to be held in
trust for the general body of shareholders. Well, now--_now_--I want the
whole four million assigned."

"And you propose that I should give them up for nothing?" queried
Larssen ironically.

"For £200,000 in ordinary shares. The monetary value is the same. The
difference would be that you'll have two hundred thousand with your own
money, not the British public's."

There was silence while the two men eyed one another relentlessly. At
the side of Larssen's forehead, under the temple, a tiny vein throbbed
and jerked. That was the only outward sign of the feelings of murder
which lay in his heart.

"You have your nerve!" he commented.

"I'm offering you easy terms."

"Offer _me_ terms!"

"Easy terms," repeated Matheson. "I could, if I chose, step from here to
my lawyers' and have you indicted for conspiracy. I could get you seven
to ten years. I could have you breaking stones at Portland."

"Then why don't you?"

"I have my private reasons."

"One of them being that you haven't a shred of evidence," was the cool
reply.

"Who sends cables in my name to my managers?" demanded Matheson.

"I know nothing of that."

"You _do_ know it. One of your employees sends them."

"Have you such a cable with you?"

Matheson ignored the retort. "You've told my wife and my father-in-law
that I was alive."

"I knew you _were_ alive. Is that your idea of fraud?"

"I'm not going to quibble over words. Believing me to be dead, you had
me impersonated, planning to use my name on the Hudson Bay scheme."

"I've not used your name."

"You used it to induce St Aubyn and Carleton-Wingate to come on the
Board."

"If you're thinking to prove that, you merely waste your time. The
negotiations were carried out by your father-in-law."

"You used my name to a reporter on the _Europe Chronicle_."

"Have you written evidence of that?"

"Martin will swear to it, if necessary."

Larssen laughed harshly. "An out-of-elbows reporter on a sensational
yellow journal! Do you dream for one instant that his word would stand
against mine in a court of law? See here, Matheson, you'd better go back
and read over your brief with the man who's instructing you. He's
muddled up the facts."

"Then what are the facts?" challenged Matheson.

Lars Larssen took a deep breath before he leaned forward across the
horseshoe desk to answer. At the same time he moved a hidden lever under
the desk. This was a device allowing any conversation of his to be heard
telephonically in the adjoining room where his private secretary worked.
It was useful occasionally when he needed an unseen listener to a
business interview of his; and now he particularly wanted Sylvester to
hear what he and Matheson were saying to one another. It would give
Sylvester his cue if he were to be called in at any point.

"Matheson," said the shipowner, "the facts of your case don't make a
very edifying story. If you're sure you want to hear them as you'd hear
them in a court of law, I'll spare another five minutes to tell you.
You're quite certain you'd like to hear the outside view of your actions
this past three weeks?"

"I'm listening."

With brutal directness Larssen proceeded: "On the night of March 14th,
you decided you were tired of your wife. Thought you'd like a change of
bedfellow. You left your coat and stick about a quarter-mile down the
left bank of the Seine from Neuilly bridge, so that people would think
you dead. You cut a knife-slit in the ribs of your coat to make a neater
story of it. Then, as I guessed you would, you went honeymooning with
the other woman. Away to the sunny South. I had you followed.

"You registered together at the Hotel du Forum at Arles, taking the
names of John Rivière and Elaine Verney. A man doesn't change his name
unless he's got some shady reason for it. Every court of law knows that.
You dallied for a day or two at Arles, getting this woman to write a
lying letter to your wife saying that you were down with fever. We have
that letter."

"We!"

"Yes, _we_. We have that letter. I advised your wife to let me keep it
for possible emergencies. I have it in this office along with the other
evidence. I don't bluff--shall I ring and have my secretary show it to
you?"

"Get on."

"Then you moved to Nîmes, staying for shame's sake at different houses.
Hers was the Hotel de Provence, and yours was the Villa Clémentine. You
went lovemaking with this woman in the moonlight, up to a quiet place on
the hillside, and there you nearly got what was coming to you from a
peasant called Crau. Then you had this Verney woman stay with you in
your Villa Clémentine, and finally you took her off to Wiesbaden."

Larssen ostentatiously pressed an electric bell.

"I'll give you chapter and verse," he said.

Morris Sylvester came in quietly from his room close by, a slow smile
under his heavy dark moustache, and nodded greeting to Matheson. He had
heard by the telephone device all of his chief's case against Matheson,
and was quite ready to take up his cue.

"Sylvester, you recognize this man?" said Larssen.

"Yes. He is the Mr John Rivière I shadowed at Arles and Nîmes."

Larssen turned to the financier. "Want to ask him any questions? Ask
anything you like."

"No."

"Sure?"

"Quite," answered Matheson. There was nothing to be gained at this stage
by cross-examining the secretary.

"That will do, Sylvester."

The secretary left the room.

Larssen leant forward across the desk once more and snarled: "There's
the facts of the case as they'll go before the divorce court."

"Do you know that Miss Verney is blind?" There was a hoarseness in
Matheson's voice; he cleared his throat to relieve it.

"That's no defence in a divorce court."

"Blind and undergoing an operation this very morning? Do you know that
it's doubtful if she will ever recover any of her sight?"

Larssen's mouth tightened a shade more. At last he found the heel of
Achilles. He could get at Matheson through Elaine. Ruthlessly he
answered: "That's no concern of mine. I'm stating facts to you. These
facts are not all in your wife's possession. Do you want me to put them
there?"

"Your facts are a chain of lies. There's one sound link: that I changed
my name. The rest are poisonous lies--provable lies."

"Whatever they may be, do you want them put before your wife?" He
reached for a swinging telephone by his desk and called to the house
operator: "Get me P. O. Richmond, 2822. Name, Mrs Matheson."

While he was waiting for the connection to be made, Sylvester entered
the room and silently showed a visiting-card to his chief. It was
Olive's card. Acting on a sudden impulse, she had motored to the office
to see this mysterious John Rivière before he should evade her. She knew
that the interview was to be at eleven o'clock, and by thus calling in
person, she would make certain of meeting him.

Larssen said aloud to his secretary: "Show her up when I ring next."

Then to Matheson: "There's no need to 'phone. Your wife is waiting
below."

Sylvester left the room.

As the shipowner's hand hovered over the button of the electric bell,
waiting for a yes or no from his antagonist, a great temptation lay
before Matheson.

The recital of the events of the past three weeks, as given in the
brutal wording of the shipowner, had torn at his nerves like the pincers
of an inquisitor. He saw now how the world would judge the relations
between Elaine and himself. The change of name, the meeting at the same
hotel at Arles, the second meeting, the companionship of that fateful
week at Nîmes--the world would put only one interpretation on it all.
Elaine, lying helpless in her close-curtained room at the nursing home
in Wiesbaden, would be fouled with the imaginings of the prurient. Not
only had he brought blindness to her, but now he was to bring her to the
pillory with the scarlet letter fixed upon her.

Yet he could avoid it if he chose. A choice lay open to him. Larssen
would be ready to exchange silence for silence. If Matheson would stand
aside and let the Hudson Bay scheme go through, no doubt Larssen would
play fair in the matter of Elaine. That in effect was what he offered as
his hand hovered over the electric bell.

The shipowner, though an easy smile of triumph masked his feelings as he
lay back in his chair, knew that he was at the critical point of his
career. If Matheson decided to let Olive be shown in, then Olive would
have in her hands the judgment between the two men. To be dependent on a
woman's mood, a woman's whim, would be Larssen's position. It galled him
to the quick. The seconds that slipped by while Matheson considered
were minute-long to him.

If only Matheson would weaken and propose compromise!

Larssen uttered no word of persuasion one way or another. He knew that,
if his desire could be attained, it would be attained through silence.

Presently Matheson stirred in his chair.

"Ring!" said he firmly.

The fight had begun again.

Larssen pressed the bell without a moment's hesitation. His bluff had to
be carried through with absolute decisiveness. He could not gauge how
far his threat of the divorce court had intimidated Matheson. Beyond
that, he was not at all sure that Olive would side with him in the
matter. She was unstable, unreliable.

But on the outside no trace of his doubts appeared. He was perfectly
cool, entirely master of himself. As he waited for Sylvester to fetch
Mrs Matheson, he took out a pocket-knife and began to trim his nails
lightly.

Olive's appearance as she entered the throne-room was greatly changed
from that of the evening before. The transient effect of the drug had
worn off. Her features were now heavy and listless, and there were dark
shadows under the eyes.

Both men rose to offer a seat.

"I came along to catch Mr Rivière before he left you," she explained to
Larssen, and turned with a set smile towards the visitor.

For a moment or two she stared at Matheson in amazement. Then:

"Why, it's Clifford! What have you been doing to yourself? Why have you
changed your appearance? Why are you here? What's the meaning of all
this?"

"It's a long story," cut in Larssen, and "there are two versions to it.
Which will you hear first, your husband's or mine?"

She hesitated to answer, her mind buzzing with surprise, resentment, and
anger. She hated to be caught at a disadvantage, as in this case. She
was uncertain as to what her attitude ought to be.

Had Clifford, suspecting her feelings towards Larssen, returned
hurriedly in order to trap her? What did he know? What did he guess?

Evidently she ought to be on her guard.

"Of course I will hear my husband first," she answered coldly, and
Larssen took it as an ill omen. He offered her a chair again, and seated
himself so as to command them both.

Matheson, who remained standing, waved his hand towards the shipowner.
"Let him speak first."

"I'm not anxious to," countered Larssen. "Fire away with your own
version."

"I hate all this mystery!" snapped Olive irritably. "Mr Larssen, you
tell me what it all means."

"Very well. _This_ is Mr John Rivière."

"Rivière?"

"Yes; that's your husband's _nom de discrétion_."

"I thought it was Dean."

"No--Rivière."

"Why is he back from Canada so soon?"

"He never went to Canada."

"You don't mean to say that the letter I received from Arles was written
by Clifford himself?"

"At his dictation."

"Who wrote it?"

Larssen turned to Matheson. "Do you wish me to explain who wrote it, or
will you do it yourself?"

"It was written at my dictation by a Miss Verney--a lady whom I met for
the first time on my visit to Arles. Her relation to myself is that of a
mere tourist acquaintanceship."

"Why were you at Arles? Why was she at Arles?"

"Miss Verney is--was--a professional scene-painter. She was making a
brief tour in Provence to collect material for a Roman drama for which
she was commissioned to design the scenery."

"How old is she?"

"I don't know--what does it matter?"

"I want to know."

"About twenty-five, I should say."

"And what were you doing at Arles?"

Matheson found it very difficult to frame his reasons under this
remorseless cross-examination. He felt as though he were in the
witness-box at a divorce trial, replying to hostile counsel.

"When I left Paris," he answered, "it was to take a quiet holiday for a
couple of months before settling down to my new work."

"What new work?"

"I'll explain in detail later. Scientific research, in brief."

Larssen scraped his chair scornfully. He would not comment with words at
the present juncture. Matheson was convicting himself out of his own
mouth--the revelation was unfolding excellently.

"You went to Arles for research?" pursued Olive.

"No; for a holiday."

"A holiday from what--from whom?"

"From financial matters."

"Why did you take the name of John Rivière?"

"Because I intended to take that name permanently."

Olive was startled. "You meant to leave me!" she exclaimed.

"I meant to disappear and give you your freedom and the greater part of
my property," answered Matheson steadily.

"How freedom?"

"On the night of March 14th, the night I said good-bye to you at the
Gare de Lyon, I made a sudden decision to take up my brother's work and
live his life. He has been dead a couple of years. I happened to be
attacked by a couple of _apaches_, and that gave me the opportunity. I
contrived evidence of a violent death, and then cut loose entirely from
the name of Clifford Matheson. You would be given leave by the courts to
presume death, on the evidence of my coat and stick left by the
river-bank at Neuilly. You would come into my money and property, and
you would be free to marry again if you chose."

Olive had become very thoughtful. Her chin was buried in her hand. When
she spoke again after a few moments' pause, it was in a strangely
altered tone.

"Why did you come back?" she said.

"Because Larssen was using my name in a way I won't countenance. I was
forced to return in order to put a stop to it."

"Was that the only reason that made you return?"

"Yes, that was it."

"You came back because Mr Larssen called you back?"

"Because I found that he was having me impersonated, and using my name
illicitly."

Olive turned on the shipowner with a sudden wild fury, her eyes shooting
fire and her lips quivering. "Why did you have Clifford impersonated?"
she hissed out.

Larssen was taken aback at this utterly unexpected onslaught. "That's
_his_ version!" he retorted.

"My husband says so--that's sufficient for me!"

"Then I can't argue."

"Do you deny it?"

"Emphatically!"

"You told me Clifford was in Canada, when all the time you knew he was
at Arles. Didn't you tell me that?"

"To save his face."

"How?"

"Obviously because I knew he was dallying at Arles and Nîmes with this
Verney woman. You haven't heard one-tenth of the facts yet. You haven't
heard that he stayed in the same hotel with her at Arles. Went with her
to Nîmes when the hotel people began to object. At Nîmes, for decency's
sake, they stayed at different houses, but he had her hanging around his
villa. Went lovemaking with her in the moonlight up to a quiet place on
the hillside. Then, had her live with him in the Villa Clémentine.
Finally, took her to Wiesbaden. These are all facts for which I can
bring you irrefutable evidence. I had my secretary shadowing him from
the moment he left Paris."

Olive turned on her husband with another lightning change of mood.

"Is she so very beautiful, this enchantress of yours?" she queried with
the velvety softness of a cat.

"She is blind," answered Matheson with a quiver in his words. "Blinded
for life while trying to warn me of a vitriol attack. Olive, I want you
to listen without interruption while I tell you on my word of honour
what are the facts underneath that vile story of Larssen's. I want you
to believe and have pity.

"We had never seen one another before Arles. There we met as casual
tourists. It happened that I was able to defend her from the assault of
a half-drunken peasant. After that we parted as the merest
acquaintances. By pure chance we met again at Nîmes. She came to Nîmes
to gather further material for her scene-painting. For scene purposes
she had to make a sketch at night-time, and I went with her as escort as
I would have done with any other woman. We were followed by the peasant
Crau. He was about to throw vitriol on me when Miss Verney intervened.
She received the acid full in her eyes. She is, I believe, blinded for
life. Even now, as I speak, she lies on the operating table.... Olive,
there has been nothing between us!"

His voice rang out in passionate sincerity.

"I don't believe it," she replied icily.

"You _must_ believe it! I give you my word of honour!"

"I don't believe it! It's against human nature. You're in love with
her--that's plain. You had opportunity enough. I know sufficient of
human nature to put two and two together. I shall certainly sue for a
divorce!"

"Against a blind girl?"

"I don't care a straw whether she's blinded or not!"

And then, for the first time in all that long interview, Matheson blazed
into open anger.

"You know human nature?" he cried. "By God, you know your own, and you
measure every other woman by yourself! Behind my back you throw yourself
at this damned scoundrel!" He flung out his hand toward Larssen.

There was no answering anger in Larssen. He knew too well the value of
keeping cool. He merely put in a word to egg Matheson on to a further
outburst.

"That's a chivalrous accusation to make," said he.

"It's true as everything else I've said! Last night, at Thornton Chase,
in the drawing-room before dinner, I saw through, the uncurtained
window...."

Too late he pulled himself up short. The irrevocable word had been said.

Olive was now implacable. Her voice was steely as she answered:

"I wish to Heaven you were dead!"

Larssen saw his supreme moment. "Why not?" he suggested.

"I don't understand."

"Let him disappear. Let him become John Rivière for good and all."

"But my divorce?"

"Give it up--on conditions. You'll have your freedom just the same."

"What conditions?"

"Ask your husband to sign approval of my Hudson Bay prospectus as it
stands."

"Doesn't he approve it?"

"No," answered Matheson. "That's why I came back."

"What's wrong with it?"

"It gives Larssen control. It's greatly unfair to the public."

"And just for that you came back? What a reason!" Scorn lashed from her.
"Yes, Mr Larssen is right! I owe it to my self-respect to be
magnanimous. You can return to your mistress--I'll forego my divorce.
Sign the papers he wants you to, and you can live out your life as John
Rivière. Your money, of course, comes to me."

The shipowner, grimly triumphant, said nothing. Matheson, in his blaze
of anger, had turned Olive definitely and finally against himself. There
was no call for Larssen to add to the command of her words.

Matheson's anger was spent. A great tiredness crept over his will. He
could fight no more. Larssen and Olive had beaten him down--beaten him
down through his anxiety to shield Elaine. Why should he sacrifice her
for the sake of an altruistic ideal? The public he had striven to
protect would not thank him for intervening in their interests. He would
be merely a quixotic fool.

He felt will-tired, soul-tired, more tired even than on the night of
March 14th. He could fight no more.

He sank down into a chair, and presently he said dully: "Show me the
prospectus."

Larssen unhurriedly produced from a drawer in his desk a private draft
prospectus such as is offered to the underwriters. On it was a list of
names--the firms to whom it was being shown confidentially before public
issue.

He reached for the electric bell to summon Sylvester as a witness to
Matheson's signature, but at that very moment the secretary knocked and
entered quickly with an open cablegram, which he passed to his chief.

Larssen's face grew white as he read it, but he said nothing beyond:
"Wait to witness a signature."

Matheson took the prospectus and read it through mechanically. The
shipowner, with an appearance of casualness, turned to a map on the wall
behind him and studied the position of his Atlantic liners as indicated
by the flag-pins.

Olive remained seated, her eyes fixed remorselessly on her husband.

Presently Matheson reached for a pen. "What do you want on it?" he
asked.

"Simply 'O.K., Clifford Matheson,'" answered the shipowner without
turning round. "No date."

Matheson wrote across the printed document the formal letters "O.K.,"
and signed below.

Sylvester witnessed the signature, and passed the document to his
chief.



CHAPTER XXI

THE BOLTED DOOR


The moment he had that vital document safe in his breast-pocket, Lars
Larssen was a changed man. His mask of cool indifference and his
assumption of perfect leisure were thrown aside. His face was drawn with
lines of anxiety as he snapped a rapid stream of orders at Sylvester:

"Send a wireless to the 'Aurelia' to put back at once to Plymouth.
'Phone Paddington to have a special ready for me in half-an-hour. 'Phone
my house to pack me a portmanteau and send it to Paddington by fast car
to catch the special. Get my office car round at once. Tell Bates and
Carew and Grasemann I'd like them to travel with me to Plymouth to talk
business. Let me know when all that's moving. Hurry!"

Sylvester sped away to execute his orders.

Larssen looked up at the portrait of his little boy, and the cablegram
fluttered to the ground.

"What's the matter?" asked Olive.

"Pneumonia. Dangerously ill."

"Poor little chap!"

"My only child!"

"He'll get over it, I'm sure."

"He's never been strong and hardy."

"Still, with the best doctors...."

"If money can pull him through, I'll pour it out like water. I'm off to
the States to look after those fool doctors. The 'Aurelia' is one of my
fastest boats, and she'll take me across in five days. I'll give treble
pay to every engineer and stoker."

"How long will you be away?"

"Can't say exactly."

"How unfortunate, just at this time!"

"I can finish off the Hudson Bay deal by wireless. My ordinary business
on this side will run on in the hands of Bates, Carew, and Grasemann,
who form my executive committee for London."

They had both ignored Matheson through this conversation. He was
squeezed dry and done with. Larssen had no further use for him at
present, and Olive had no sympathy to waste on a beaten man.

He had been sitting brokenly in a chair at the desk where he had signed
away his independence, gazing into a new-spilt ink-blot on the polished
surface of the desk, seeing visions in its glistening, blue-black pool.

But now he pushed back his chair with a rasping noise and rose
decisively to face Larssen.

"We'll call it a month's truce!" he flung out.

"What d'you mean?"

"For a month from now neither you nor I will move further in the Hudson
Bay scheme. For a month it'll be hung up."

"Who's to hang it up?"

"I."

"But I've got your signed approval in my pocket. Signed and witnessed!"

"The issue is not yet underwritten." It was a sheer guess, but in
Larssen's face Matheson could read that his guess was correct.

"Well?" snapped Larssen.

"Either you or I will tell the underwriters that the scheme goes no
further until a month from date--until May 3rd. Which is it to be--you
or I?"

Sylvester came in rapidly. "All your orders are being carried out, and
the car's on the way here from the garage."

For a few tense moments Larssen hesitated. The underwriting of the
five-million issue was an absolute essential to a successful flotation,
and the negotiations were not yet completed. If Matheson were to
interfere in them during his absence from London, big difficulties might
develop. Before that cablegram arrived, the shipowner could have beaten
down any such threat on Matheson's part, but now, with his little son
calling for his presence, with the special train at Paddington coupling
up to speed him to Plymouth, with the "Aurelia" turning back, against
the protest of its thousand passengers, to take him on board, the
situation was radically changed.

Matheson had realised the altered situation, and putting aside any
over-fine scruples, had gripped advantage from it.

Larssen's eyes blazed anger at the financier. Then he held out his hand
to Olive.

"Good-bye!" he said.

"Good-bye!" she answered, taking his hand.

"You or I?" repeated Matheson.

The shipowner turned at the door through which he was hurrying out.

"I," he conceded.

"Then sign on it."

"Don't sign!" cried Olive.

"He _must_ sign!"

Larssen rushed back to his desk and scribbled on a sheet of paper:
"Until May 3rd, I fix up nothing with the underwriters."

He scrawled his signature under it, and without further word hurried
from the throne-room.

Matheson and his wife were left alone.

When Larssen had closed the door behind him, Olive felt as if a big
strong arm of support had suddenly been taken away from her. Larssen's
mere presence, even if he remained silent, gave her a fictitious sense
of her own power, which now was crumbling away and leaving her with a
feeling of insecurity and self-distrust.

Openly it expressed itself in peevish annoyance.

"Why couldn't you have stayed away altogether?" she muttered fretfully.
"Nobody wanted you back. Your scruples, indeed! I must say you have a
pretty mixed set of them. If you had had any consideration for me, you'd
have stayed away altogether, instead of coming back and making scenes of
this kind. I hate scenes! And why did you force that month's wait at the
last moment? Now things are complicated worse than ever!"

Matheson waited patiently for his wife to finish the recital of her
complaints. He wondered if it were possible to appeal once more to her
better feelings. At all events he would make the attempt. The signature
he had forced out of Larssen had given him back some of his
self-respect, and he felt his brain as it were cleared for action once
more.

When Olive had finished, Matheson asked her quietly: "Why did you marry
me?"

"Why did you marry _me_?" she retorted.

"Because I honestly believed at the time that I loved you."

"I suppose you found out afterwards that you'd made a mistake, and then
blamed it on to me?"

"I'm not blaming you--I'm trying to get the right perspective on to our
marriage. I'm wondering if the woman I loved was yourself, or merely my
idealization of you."

"I can't help it if I'm not the incarnation of all the virtues you
imagined me to be!" Olive sat down and played nervously with a
penholder, jabbing meaningless lines and dots on to a loose sheet of
paper.

"When I married you, I thought you were in sympathy with me over the big
things of life--the things that matter. But you turned them aside with a
laugh. That put a barrier between us."

"I never could stand prigs. I thought I was marrying a man of the
world."

"We seemed to be radically opposed in ideas. We drifted farther and
farther away from one another. At the end of five years, our marriage
was empty even of tepid affection. If there had been children,
perhaps...."

"No doubt you'd have wanted to wheel them out in the perambulator!"

Matheson let the flippancy pass. He continued steadily: "I felt I could
not do my big work under the constant friction of our married life, and
my life in the financial world. I felt you longed for complete liberty."

"I did, and I do so still."

"So, when opportunity came to me on the night of March 14th, I made the
sudden decision you know of. I thought I had cut myself loose. If it had
not been for that one unthought-of thread--Larssen's scheme to use me
dead or alive--I should never have come back.... My sudden decision was
wrong. I realise now that no man can cut himself utterly loose from the
life he has woven for himself. He is part of the pattern of the great
web of humanity. He is joined to the world around him by a thousand
threads. If he tries to cut loose, there will always be some one
unnoticed thread linking him to the old life."

"That sort of thing may be interesting to people who're interested in
it. It merely bores me."

"Olive, I want to say this: I'm ready to try once more. I'm ready to
take up our married life as we started it on our wedding day. I'll try
to forget the past and start afresh. I'll make allowances for you--will
_you_ make allowances for me?"

Olive laughed mirthlessly. "In plain words, that means you want me to be
somebody I've never pretended to be and never want to be. The idea is
fatuous."

"Won't you believe me when I say that I'm genuinely anxious to do the
right thing by you, and clear up the tangle I've made of your life and
mine? I'm sorry for what I said in Larssen's presence a little while
ago. I was angry and carried beyond myself."

"No apology can wipe out that sort of thing."

"I'll do my best to make amends.... You're not looking at all well.
There's a big change in you. Monte Carlo does you no good--the reverse
in fact. Why not see a doctor and get him to prescribe you a tonic and a
quiet place to build up your health in? We'll go there together and
start our married life afresh."

"You've had your say--now let me have mine!" flung out Olive. "When we
married, I was mistaken too. I thought at the time you were a man who
could do things. I judged on your previous career. After we were
married, I found I was utterly misled. It isn't in you to climb to the
top. You've too many sides to your nature. First one thing pulls you one
way, and then another thing pulls you another way. To succeed, a man has
to run in blinkers--straight on without minding the side issues. I
imagined you a hundred per center, and I found you only a ninety per
center. You can't climb to the top--it isn't in you!"

"Climb to where?"

Olive looked around at the vast throne-room of the shipowner, and her
meaning was conveyed in the glance.

"Larssen has that final ten per cent.," admitted Matheson. "But do you
know what it means in plain language?"

"What?"

"Utter unscrupulousness. Utter ruthlessness. Napoleon had that extra ten
per cent. Bismarck had it. You're right when you say I haven't it."

Olive moved irritably in her chair. "Sour grapes," she commented.

"Call it that if you wish."

She dug her pen viciously into the polished surface of the desk, leaving
the holder quivering at the outrage.

"Larssen has been merely playing with you," continued Matheson. "I don't
want to blame, but to warn. I know the man far better than you do. He
thinks you might be useful to him."

"What are you going to do when the month is up?" she asked abruptly.

"What do you want me to do?"

She looked him straight in the eye, her pupils narrowed with hate. "Go
out of my life!"

"A legal separation?"

"No use at all. That ties me indefinitely."

"What then?"

"One of two things: divorce or disappearance."

"You mean a framed-up divorce? The usual arranged affair?"

"No, I don't. I mean a divorce with that Verney woman as co-respondent."

"I'll not have you insult her by calling her 'that Verney woman!'"

"Miss Verney, then.... It's either divorce or total disappearance."

"Larssen spoke glibly enough of disappearance, but the circumstances are
very different now from what they were on the night of March 14th.
Then, not a soul outside myself knew of my intention. You'd have
claimed leave from the Courts to presume death, and it would certainly
have been granted you. You would legally have been a widow, and I--as
Clifford Matheson--should legally have been dead.... But now, both you
and Larssen, and his secretary as well, know that Clifford Matheson is
alive."

"Does anyone else know?"

"No one."

"Larssen will certainly keep the secret. So will his secretary. So shall
I. That's no difficulty."

"You mean to apply to the courts for a certificate of my death, knowing
that it will be fraudulent."

"That, or divorce against you and Miss Verney." The lines of obstinacy
were hard-set around her mouth.

"Why are you so bitter against her?"

Olive remained contemptuously silent. Her reason, as she saw it, should
be obvious enough. If Clifford was so dense as not to see it, she was
certainly not going to enlighten him.

Even in face of what had gone before, Matheson was still hoping to
soften his wife towards Elaine. He tried again. "Her life is ruined. Her
work was her happiness as well as her livelihood. Now, both are snatched
away from her. She is an orphan; she has no relatives in sympathy with
her; her means are very limited; she has heavy expenses to face over the
operation and the convalescence. She is under Hegelmann's care at
Wiesbaden. This very morning he is operating on her. I must go back to
Wiesbaden at once to hear how things are going."

"You can wire and find out."

"I prefer to go personally."

"Is she so very attractive to you?"

Matheson, sick at heart, reached for his hat and stick preparatory to
taking his leave.

A sudden thought struck Olive. "You swear to me that you've told no one
you're Clifford Matheson?"

"No one knows beyond yourself, Larssen, and Sylvester."

"And you'll tell no one else?"

"I must reserve that right."

"It's not in our bargain!" protested Olive. "You were to disappear
completely."

"It won't affect our bargain," he retorted.

"That's for me to say."

"Heaven knows that I've given up to you enough already!"

"I ask you to swear to me you'll never tell anyone else! Not even hint
at it!"

"I can't promise it."

"That's your last word?"

"Yes."

Olive flashed hate at him. Her hands were quivering when she answered,
as though she could have torn him in pieces.

"Very well, then! I'll reserve my right of action too!" Her fingers
reached for the electric bell and pressed it imperatively.

When Sylvester appeared, she said decisively: "Have a cab called for Mr
Rivière."

"Certainly," he answered.

The financier took up hat and stick, and with a cold "good-bye" passed
out of the open door, Sylvester following him.

Presently the secretary returned to confer with Olive. Larssen had told
him to keep in touch with her.

       *       *       *       *       *

Clifford Matheson was once more John Rivière. He picked up his valise at
the Avon Hotel and caught the first boat train for Germany. It took him
to the Continent via Queenboro'--Flushing.

His thoughts on the railway journey to Queenboro' were very different to
those which had filled his mind when he sped Calaiswards on his way to
England. Then, he had felt as if he had just plunged into an ice-cold
lake, and emerged tingling in every limb with the vigour of health
renewed. The course before him had seemed straight; the issue clean-cut.

Now, he felt as if he had been tripped up and pushed bodily into a pool
of mire.

Circumstances seemed more tangled than ever. Finality had not been
reached either in regard to his relations towards his wife, towards
Elaine, or towards Larssen; in regard to the Hudson Bay scheme, or in
his regard to his future freedom for work on the lines he so earnestly
desired. The whirlpool had sucked him back, and he was once more
battling with swirling waters.

Out of all the welter of his thoughts one course became clearer and
clearer. He must tell Elaine. He must put her in possession of the main
facts of the situation which had developed in Larssen's office. That he
could tell her without violating the spirit of his bargain with Olive
was certain. He knew he could trust absolutely in Elaine's silence.

Till then--till he had told her--there was no definite line of action he
could see as the one inevitable solution.

If the elements had seemed to bar his passage to London the day before,
to-day they seemed to be calling welcome to him as train and boat sped
him eastwards. The marshes of the Swale were almost a joyous emerald
green under the sparkle of the sun in the early afternoon; the estuary
of the Thames was alive with white and brown sail swelling
full-bloodedly to the drive of a care-free, joyful breeze; torpedo-boats
and destroyers sped in and out from Sheerness with the supple strength
of greyhounds unleashed, tossing the blue waters in curling locks of
foam from their bows; the open sea sparkled and glinted and danced with
the joy of life in its veins.

At sundown, the sky behind the foaming wake of the packet was a blaze of
glory. The sinking sun wove a cloth of gold on the halo of cloud about
it, and circled the horizon with a belt of rose and opal. Gradually the
gold faded into fiery purple, with arms of unbelievable green stretching
out to clasp the round cup of ocean; the purple died away reluctantly
like the drums of a triumphant march receding to a distance; night took
sea and sky into her arms, and crooned to them a mother-song of rest.

On the railway station at Flushing a telegram was handed to Rivière--the
reply to a telegram of inquiry sent by him from London. It was from
Elaine herself:

"Operation well over. Doctor hopeful. Little pain. Glad when you are
back," it ran, and he had almost worn through its creases, by reason of
folding and unfolding, before he fell asleep that night in the train for
Wiesbaden.



CHAPTER XXII

THE CHAMELEON MIND


Many men are chameleons. They take their mental colour from the
surroundings of the moment. They are swayed by every fresh change of
circumstance, influenced by every strong mind with whom they come in
contact. If such a man goes on from year to year in the same even groove
of work, the chameleon mind may not be apparent on the surface; but if
by any chance he is suddenly jolted from his accustomed groove, the
mental instability becomes plain to read.

Arthur Dean was of this class.

When a clerk at £2 per week he had looked forward to promotion to £3 a
week as something dazzling in its opulence, while £4 a week represented
the pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow. Now a sudden turn of
Fortune's wheel had lifted him to a salary of £6 a week and all expenses
paid, and the work he was required to do for his money was so trifling
in amount as to be almost ludicrous. He had merely to read over a few
letters and send off a few brief cablegrams saying nothing in
particular.

As Lars Larssen had tersely phrased it, he was no longer a "clerk"--he
was a "business man."

And he knew that if he carried out orders faithfully and intelligently,
his future with his employer was assured. Larssen had a strong
reputation for loyalty to his employees. He exacted much, but he gave
much in return. As his own fortunes grew, so did those of his right-hand
men. If a man after faithful service was stricken down by illness,
Larssen allowed him a liberal pension.

That was "business" as the shipowner viewed it in his broad, far-sighted
way. He saw business not as the mere handling of goods, but as the
handling of _men_. In the attainment of his ambitions he was dependent
on faithful service from his employees, and accordingly he made it worth
their while to be faithful. He was liberal to them because liberality
paid him. His position in the world was somewhat like that of a robber
baron in the Middle Ages, carving out a kingdom with the help of loyal
followers. The people he plundered were the outsiders, and a certain
share of the spoils went to his men.

So Dean knew that if he carried out thoroughly the work entrusted to
him, Larssen would stand by his spoken promise. He resolved to obey
orders as faithfully and as intelligently as he possibly could. He did
not write home what form his new work was taking. In his letters to
Daisy he explained simply that he was being sent to Canada on a
confidential mission, at a big increase of salary, and that he was
having a regal time of it. At Quebec and Montreal and Ottawa and
Winnipeg he scoured the shops to find presents which would carry to her
a realisation of his new position.

Dean began to feel his importance growing rapidly as he journeyed across
the Atlantic and around the principal cities of Canada. He thought he
realised the meaning of "business" as it was viewed by the men up above,
the men at the roll-top desks. He saw now that it was not hard, plugging
work that earned them their big salaries. In a short fortnight he had
begun to look a little contemptuously on the grinders and plodders. Why
couldn't they realise how little their patient, plodding service could
ever bring them? But some men, he reflected, were born to be merely
clerks all their days. He was different--out of the common ruck. He
could see largely, like Lars Larssen did. He was a man of importance.

Canada pressed a broad thumb on his plastic mind without his conscious
knowledge. Canada with her young, red-blooded vigour swept into him like
a tidal wave of open sea into a sluggish, marshy creek. Canada thrust
her vastness and her limitless potentialities at him with a careless
hand, as though to say: "Here's opportunity for the taking." Canada
taught him in ten days what at home he would never have learnt in a
lifetime: that London is not the British Empire.

The clerk who lives out his life in the rabbit-warren of the city of
London by day, and in a cheap, pretentious, red-brick suburb by night,
believes firmly that outside London not much matters. He lumps together
the Canadian, the South African, the Australian, and the New Zealander
under the slighting category of "colonials." He imagines them bowing
themselves humbly before the majesty of the Londoner, taking their cues
from London and reverencing it as the fount of all wisdom and might and
wealth.

There is no one more "provincial" than the Cockney born and bred.

After ten days of Canada, Dean with his chameleon mind felt himself
almost a Canadian. He was beginning to pity the limitations of the
Londoner. He considered himself raised above that level.

Winnipeg, the new "wheat pit" of North America, impressed him most
strongly. He could feel the bursting strength of the young city--a David
amongst cities. He could feel it growing under his feet to its kingdom
of the granary of Britain. The epic of the wheat pulsed its stately
poetry into him--thrilled him with the majestic chords of its mighty
song.

He had a half-idea that Lars Larssen's big scheme was in some way
connected with the epic of the wheat, and it gave him fresh importance
to think that he was serving such a man in so confidential a position.

He tried a little gamble in "May wheat" with a Winnipeg bucket-shop,
plunging what was to him the important sum of twenty dollars. Luck was
with him full-tide. From the moment he bought, May wheat shot upwards,
and in a few days he had closed the deal with fifty dollars to his
credit.

That evening he wandered around the city with money jingling in his
trouser-pockets. He bought himself a good seat at a music-hall, and at
the bar boldly ordered cocktails with weird names of which the contents
were wonderful mysteries to him.

On his way home to his hotel about midnight, a flaming placard outside a
tin-roofed chapel caught his eye and stopped him for a moment. The
wording was crudely sensational:

             THE WICKED FLOURISH!
              BUT FOR HOW LONG?
A LIFETIME OF EASE FOR AN ETERNITY OF HELL-FIRE!
             DO YOU CHOOSE HELL?
         MAKE YOUR CHOICE TO-NIGHT!

The meeting inside the chapel was in full swing. A roar of voices raised
in a marching hymn swept out to the deserted street. Dean's lips curved
contemptuously for a moment. Then the whim came to him to finish his
night's amusement by a sarcastic enjoyment of the revivalist service. He
would go inside and watch other people making fools of themselves.

He entered the swinging doors of the chapel into a room hot with the
odour of packed humanity, and found a place for himself at the rear.

Presently the hymn ended on a shout of triumph and a deep, solemn
"Amen." There was a shuffling and scraping of feet as the congregation
sat down and prepared itself to listen to the preacher.

He was a tall, lean man of fifty-five, with a thin grey beard and a hawk
nose, and eyes that burnt with the intensity of inner fire. He was the
ascetic, the fanatic, the man with a burning message to deliver. His
eyes sought round his congregation before he gave out his text, seeking
for the souls that might be ready for the saving.

"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the
angels into Abraham's bosom; the rich man also died, and was buried. And
in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar
off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham,
have mercy on me and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger
in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But
Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy
good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted,
and thou art tormented."

The preacher read out the words with a slow, even intensity, making them
carry the weight of the inevitable. He paused for them to sink in before
he began the delivery of his own message.

"My friends," he said, "listen to this story from life. Many years ago
there was a young man in this very city who had a great temptation
placed before him. He was a clerk in an office, as many of you are. He
was ambitious, as many of you are. He was hoping for riches and power,
as many of you are.

"One day the devil tempted him. He could become rich if he chose to
sacrifice his conscience. The devil promised him riches and power and
all that his heart could desire. And he fell.

"My friends, the devil kept his literal promise. He always does. When he
comes to you in the watches of the night, and offers you all that you
desire on earth in return for your soul, you can know that he will keep
his promise.

"The young man is now rich and famous, and if I told you his name, you
would say that he is a man to be envied. You see his portraits in the
papers; you hear of his mansions and his motor-cars, his yachts and his
splendid entertainments; and you would never dream that he is the most
unhappy man in Canada.

"The devil has given him everything he lusted for. And yet, not ten days
ago, he came to me in secret and begged for help and counsel. His riches
and power have turned to wormwood in his mouth. His wife and children
hate him. His friends are only friends because he has money. He is the
most lonely, the most miserable of men."

The preacher leant forward over the pulpit and half whispered: "The
wicked flourish like the green bay tree, but who knows what secret
canker eats into their hearts? The devil stands beside them and whispers
mockingly: 'I have given you everything your heart lusted for; does it
taste sweet? Does it taste sweet?' So much for this world; and now, my
friends, what of the next world?"

The preacher straightened himself and with passionate sincerity flung
out a torrent of warning and exhortation to his congregation--a
lava-stream of burning words that bit into their very souls. Dean, who
had come to mock, listened with a clutch at his heart that made him
first shiver and then turn burning hot and faint. He passed his
handkerchief over his forehead nervously, gripped at the seat to steady
himself.

At length he could stand the strain no longer As he rose and stumbled
his way towards the door, towards the fresh air, the preacher stopped in
his discourse to send an individual message to him.

"Stay, my friend!" he cried. "To-night is the hour for you to choose.
To-morrow I shall be gone. To-morrow will be too late. Choose now!"

But Dean had thrust open the swinging doors and had disappeared into the
night.

At his hotel the porter handed him a telegram just arrived. It was from
Lars Larssen--an order to proceed to New York and wait the shipowner's
arrival there. It had been despatched by wireless from on board the s.s.
"Aurelia."

That scrap of paper came as a bracing tonic to Arthur Dean. It was an
order, and just now he ached to be ordered. The curt message out-weighed
all the burning words of the preacher. Even from three thousand miles
away Lars Larssen could grip hold of the mind of the young fellow and
bend it to his purpose.

The next morning Dean was smiling scornfully at his weakness of the
night before. He paid for a train ticket for New York via Toronto in a
newly confident frame of mind. He was Larssen's man again.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the beginning of the journey Dean read papers and magazines and
smoked away the long hours. Tiring of that eventually, he sauntered to
the observation platform at the rear of the train.

And there he found the preacher.

There was an embarrassing silence. The minister knew him at once for
the young man who had left his chapel the night before in the middle of
the discourse. Dean knew that he was recognized, but did not wish to
appear cognizant of it. He tried to look indifferent, but with poor
success.

The minister broke the silence by offering his card and saying: "One day
you may need my help. If it please the Lord that I am alive then, come
to me and I will help you."

Dean took the card and read the name, the Rev. Enoch Stephen Way, and a
Toronto address. He pocketed the card and murmured a conventional
thanks.

"You are an Englishman?" said the minister.

"Yes."

"Travelling on business?"

"Yes."

The answer was curt, and the minister saw that the young man resented
any cross-examination of his private affairs. He therefore turned the
conversation at once to impersonal matters.

"How do you like Canada? How does it strike you?"

"Fine!" answered Dean, relieved at the turn of the conversation. "So
big."

"You mean the extent of the country?"

"It's not that, quite. I mean that people seem to think in a bigger way.
I suppose it comes from having so much space around one."

The train was now passing through the endless miles of forest-land and
tangled hills on the route to Fort William, with scarcely a sign of
human habitation except by the occasional wayside stations. Now and
again the train would thunder over a high trestle bridge above a leaping
torrent-river. Dean waved his hand vaguely to include the primeval
vastnesses around them.

"That's right," answered the minister. "There's no cramping here. Room
for everyone. Room for spiritual growth as well as material growth. I
know the feeling you have. When I was a young man about your age I came
to Canada from the slums of Liverpool. I had been twice in jail in
Liverpool. It was for theft. In England I should probably have developed
into a chronic thief. There's little chance for a man who has once been
in prison.... But Canada gave me my chance. Canada didn't bother about
my past. Canada only wanted to know what I could do in the future."

Dean's eyes widened at this frank avowal. He had never seen or heard of
a man--and especially a man in the ministry--who would openly confess to
a prison-brand upon him.

"No wonder you like Canada," was his lame answer.

"Tell me, my friend, why you left my chapel so hurriedly last night."

Dean flushed. "I was feeling a bit faint," he returned.

"That's conscience."

"Oh, I don't know. The chapel was very packed and hot."

"It was conscience. Why won't you be frank with me?"

"There's nothing to be frank about."

The minister looked steadily at him, and Dean flushed still further and
fidgetted uncomfortably.

"I must be getting back to my carriage," he murmured.

"The Lord has brought you to me a second time. There may never be a
third time. The Lord has----"

A sudden jerk of the car threw them both off their feet. They were
passing now over a high trestle bridge above a foaming torrent. There
was a horrible grinding and jarring and crashing. The tail-car of the
train flicked out sideways and hung half over the river, dragging with
it the cars in front. For an age-long second it seemed as if the whole
train would be precipitated into the water.

Then the couplings parted.

The end car, turning over and over, struck the river a hundred feet
below and impaled itself on a jagged spur of rock hidden under the swirl
of waters.

Dean had been battered to insensibility before the car reached the
rocks.

He awoke to consciousness through the agonized dream that fiends were
staking him down under water and torturing him by letting the water rise
higher and higher, until finally he would be drowned by inches.

He awoke, struggling frantically, to the reality which had dictated the
dream.

Waters were swirling around him, and his legs were pinned fast in the
wreckage of the car tilted up on end amongst the sunken rocks. Burning
pains shot through him. Far up above on the bridge men were shouting and
rushing wildly.

He screamed out for help. A wave dashed at him and choked the scream on
his lips. He struggled to free himself from the wreckage that pinned him
fast, and blinding pain drove him to unconsciousness again.

As he awoke for the second time, a groan near by made him twist his head
to see who it might come from. It was the minister, held fast amongst
the splintered wreckage of the car, his face streaming red from a jagged
gash in his grey head.

"I can't get to you! I'm helpless!" cried Dean.

The minister answered very simply: "My friend, see to yourself. The Lord
has called me to his side."

With a sudden jerk the car settled deeper in the torrent. Only by
straining to the uttermost could Dean keep his mouth to the air above
the swirl of waters.

"Help!" he screamed to the bridge above. "I'll be drowned! Help!"

The minister began to pray aloud: "Lord, Thou hast been pleased to call
me, and I come. Receive my soul in pity, and forgive me my many sins.
And, oh Lord God, grant that this my young friend may live to see the
light and to worship Thee. Let this be his hour of repentance. Start him
upon a new path, and keep his feet from straying. In thy mercy save him
that he might live to Thy glory. Show him what Thou hast shown me,
and----"

The minister's hand dropped suddenly forward, and the waters closed over
him with a snarl.

From the bridge far above a man was being lowered on a rope, like a
spider hanging from a thread.

Dean watched him with paralyzed tongue. The strain to keep his head
above the waters was racking him like a torment of the Inquisition. The
horror of the situation grew with every second. Why did they lower so
slowly? Would release ever come in time to save him?

His hour of repentance! Yes, the preacher was right. This was his
punishment for the part he had taken in the fraudulent personation of
Clifford Matheson. It came to Dean like a blinding flash of light that
God was demanding of him whether he would repent or no--whether he would
vow to run straight for the future.

The man on the rope was growing larger. His face held the solemnity of
an Eternal Judge. In his two hands were scrolls marked Riches and
Poverty. He held them out towards Dean, demanding his instant choice.
The young man begged for a moment to consider. He shut his eyes against
the decision thrust upon him. A voice thundered in his ears....



CHAPTER XXIII

LARSSEN'S MAN ONCE AGAIN


Of the eleven passengers in the car that plunged over the bridge, Arthur
Dean was the only one saved. Nine had been drowned in the interior of
the car when it crashed amongst the rocks of the torrent. Only Dean and
the minister, standing in the observation platform at the rear of the
car, had had a chance of life, and the minister had died before help had
reached him. The shock affected Dean more seriously than his injuries,
which were nothing worse than severe bruises and cuts. He knew that he
had had a miraculous escape, and the horror of the peril wove in and out
of his thoughts as he lay in hospital at Fort William, haunting dreams
and waking thoughts alike.

When he left the hospital he was a changed man--white and gaunt of face,
and resolved in purpose to tell Lars Larssen at once that he would serve
him no longer.

He made for New York, and went straight to the shipowner's offices.
These were situated at the very beginning of Broadway, overlooking
Battery Park, on the tip of the tongue of Manhattan Island. Inside, they
were very much on the same lines of the London offices--in fact, the
latter were modelled on them. Above the dome of the building stretched
the antennæ of Larssen's wireless.

To his intense disappointment, Dean was informed that the chief was away
from New York, by the bedside of his little son at his school in
Florida.

The young fellow had worked himself up to the point of handing in his
resignation; he had fixed on just what he would say to his employer; and
this check threw him back on his haunches. To travel down to Florida
would cost money, and he did not feel justified in paying for the
journey out of the expenses allowance given him by Larssen. To explain
by letter was too difficult. After some thought he decided to take a
return ticket by day coach, and to pay for it out of his own pocket.

Golden Beach, where the school was situated, was a fashionable winter
resort on the Florida coast. In one of its several palatial hotels,
Larssen had engaged a suite of rooms and had made himself a temporary
office. Dean carried his modest portmanteau to the hotel, and waited in
the piazza until Larssen should return from a visit to his boy.

It was late in the afternoon when the shipowner came striding along the
white, palm-shaded road, purpose and masterfulness in every movement.
When he caught sight of Dean waiting on the piazza, he came up with a
hand outstretched in cordial greeting.

"Well, Dean, how are you feeling now? The accident must have given you a
terrific shake-up."

"Much better, thank you, sir."

"Looks to me you could do with a fortnight's complete holiday," said
Larssen, surveying critically the gaunt white face of the young man.
"Say so, and it's yours."

Dean stammered some words of thanks. This cordial greeting threw him
into confusion--made it so much more difficult to say what he had come
to say. For a moment's respite, he asked after Larssen's little boy.

"He'll pull round. The crisis is over. His constitution's weak, but
he'll pull round. Money saved him. On the 'Aurelia' I got hold of all
the facts of the case by wireless, and took a grip of the situation. I
sized up the doctors here as a couple of well-meaning fools. I wired to
Chicago for a man who's made a speciality of opsonic treatment for
pneumonia. His own invention--something the other doctors sneer at. I
had him packed from Chicago to Golden Beach by special train, with full
authority to boss the case.... Yes, it's money that saved my boy. Money,
Dean, holds the power of life and death. Money is the mightiest thing in
this world. I expect you've come to realise that lately, now you've left
off being a clerk."

Dean gulped and answered: "That's what I've come to speak to you about,
sir."

The shipowner shot a swift glance at him. "Come to my office," he said,
and led the way.

When he had the young fellow seated with the light full on him, Larssen
asked coldly: "What's your song? Looking for a raise already?"

"No, it's not that. I don't feel I can carry out this work."

"What work?"

"Your work."

"Talk it longer."

"It's like this, sir. When I was in Winnipeg, I went one night to a
music-hall, and on my way home I went by chance into a chapel meeting."

"Music-hall or chapel--it's all one to me, so long as you're not a
drinker. You're free to spend your evenings as you like, provided it
doesn't interfere with your work."

"There was a preacher there, a Mr Enoch Way, who impressed me very
strongly, sir. So much so that I had to leave the meeting. When I got
back to my hotel, I found a wire from you telling me to travel to New
York. I caught the morning train, and on the train I met Mr Way again.
We were on the observation platform together when the railway-car went
over the bridge. He died not a yard away from me, down in the river! He
was a fine man--a great man! and if I could die like he died, with a
prayer on his lips for someone who was only a stranger----" Dean choked
and stopped.

Presently he resumed: "And when I lay in hospital at Fort William, I
thought things over and over. I began to see clearly that I ought never
to have taken on the work you asked me to do."

"Why not?"

"It's not right, sir! You know what you asked me to do wasn't right!
It's fraud!" The words came clear and strong now.

If Larssen had been a man of ordinary passions, he would have kicked
Dean out of the door and told him to go to the devil. But the shipowner
had not reached his present power by giving way to ordinary feelings.

He answered very quietly: "I should have liked to meet that Mr Way. He
must have been a man of personality. What did you tell him?"

"I didn't tell him anything. I think he guessed. He was that kind of
man--he could read right into you."

"What did he tell you?"

"The story of his life. He had been in prison twice when he was a young
man."

"I mean, what did he tell you to do?"

"He told me it was my hour for repentance. That was when we were in the
observation platform together. The next moment we were thrown over the
bridge."

"And then?"

"He died praying God to help me to repent and live straight!"

"Repent of what?"

"Of taking part in a fraud. Of pretending a dead man was still
alive--going to Canada and sending letters in his name so that his
friends would think he was still alive. I don't know how I could have
brought myself to do such a thing! I was tempted, I suppose, and I fell.
But temptation is nothing--it's falling to temptation that matters!
That's what he said in his sermon."

"Anything else to repent of?"

"Nothing very much, sir. Of course I've not been all I should have been,
but I'd never done anything radically wrong until then."

The shipowner rose and laid a hand on the young man's shoulder. "I
appreciate your feelings," he said. "They do you credit, Dean. You're
sound and straight, and that's what I want in my young men."

Dean looked up in surprise. "I don't think you quite understand, sir.
I've come here to-day--come at my own expense--to hand you in my
resignation."

"Well, there's no need for it. You've been worrying yourself over a
bogey."

"A bogey!"

"Yes. There's been no 'fraud' at all. Clifford Matheson is as alive as
you are. He knows perfectly well that you've been in Canada for him."

"But the overcoat and stick! They were his--I'll swear to it!"

"Yes, they were his right enough. He laid them by the river-bank at
Neuilly himself."

"Why?"

"That's complicated to answer. I don't know that I ought to tell you
without Mr Matheson's express permission. In fact, I want you to keep
what I've just told you entirely to yourself."

Dean felt bewildered. There was suspicion in his eyes.

Larssen saw the suspicion and continued rapidly. "You think I'm trying
to bluff you? I never bluff with my staff, whatever I may do outside.
I'll give you proof. Have you got those signatures of Clifford
Matheson's?"

Dean produced them from his pocket-book.

The shipowner rapidly unlocked his desk and drew out a printed document
which he placed in the young man's hands.

"Now see here. This prospectus was printed off a week after you left for
Canada. You can know that by the printed date. Now what is the wording
written over it in ink?"

"'O.K., Clifford Matheson,'" read out Dean.

"Compare it with your two signatures."

"It's the same."

"Exactly. That prospectus was passed by Mr Matheson some time after you
imagined him dead and buried."

Dean could answer nothing. The world had turned upside down for him.
Larssen took the prospectus and the two specimen signatures, and locked
them away in his desk.

"Well?" he asked smilingly. "Am I the devil tempting you to run
crooked?"

"I must apologize, sir--apologize sincerely! I didn't know of all this.
I thought----I thought----"

"That's all over now. We'll forget it. You've proved to me you're sound
and straight. You've carried out orders well. Carry out future orders in
the same way, and I'll do everything I've promised for you. You know
that I never break a promise to my staff?"

"Yes, indeed, sir. That's well known."

"Well, my next order is this: take a fortnight's holiday and get strong
again.... Do you fish?"

"I'd like to."

"I'll put you in the way of some splendid fishing. Tarpon! After that
you'll return to England with me. Sound good to you?"

"You're too generous, sir!" answered the young fellow with deep feeling.

He was Larssen's man once again.



CHAPTER XXIV

CONFESSION


Rivière was at his glass-topped, bevel-edged bench in the private
biological laboratory at Wiesbaden, surrounded by his apparatus of
experiment. At the moment he was looking down with one eye through the
high-power immersion lens of his microscope at two tiny blobs of life in
a drop of water. From day to day the salinity of the water was being
slowly altered, and this was only one of thousands of experiments he had
planned on the effect of changing conditions of life on the elemental
organisms.

Every day he was passing in review scores of slides on which the
elemental reaction to abnormal conditions was unfolding itself for his
observation. Each drop of water was a world where the vital spark was
struggling against the harshness of nature. Each drop of water embodied
a fight of primitive protoplasm against disease. Each drop of water was
contributing its tiny quota to the new book of knowledge he hoped one
day to give to his fellow-men.

Like all trained microscopists, Rivière worked with both eyes open. The
amateur observer has to screw one eye tight in order to avoid a
confusion of impressions, and quickly tires himself. The trained man
keeps both eyes open, and schools his brain to concentrate on the one
vision and ignore the other. He sees only the miniature world at the
further end of his complex of lenses.

But Rivière, self-controlled as he was, could not keep attention on his
experimental slide. The vision of the miniature world faded out, and
through the other eye came the impression of the outside of the polished
brass tube of the microscope; the glass slide beyond, lit up by the
reflector as though with a searchlight; and the plate-glass bench
mirroring the cases of specimens and the shelves of chemical reagents.

And then the material vision of both eyes faded away, and he saw only
the inner vision of Elaine lying with bandaged eyes in the darkened room
of the Dr Hegelmann's surgical home. The great specialist, pulling at
his beard with his long, delicately-chiselled fingers, so out of keeping
with the shapelessness of his bulky, untidy figure, had taken Rivière
aside and had given him orders in that wonderfully musical voice of his.

"Fraulein is worrying--that is bad for the recovery. I will not have her
worried. You must tell her that everything will come right--you must
make her smile again."

"But I'm only a casual acquaintance. We met by mere chance a few days
before the attack at Nîmes," Rivière had said.

"Nevertheless, you can do much for her. She will listen to you gladly.
You are no longer casual acquaintances. I am an observer of human nature
as well as a surgeon, and I know that the mind is the key to the bodily
health. I know that _you_ can influence her. Talk to her freely--it will
not tire her. That is my order."

But Rivière had not been able to carry out the spirit of the old man's
shrewd command. When he was by her bedside, a great constraint had come
upon him. What had been easy to embody in a letter, was terribly
difficult to frame in spoken speech. Several times he had tried to open
the way to a confession. He knew it must scarify Elaine, and he shrank
from it. But yet it was plain her mind was not at rest, and that was
worse for her than the knowledge of the truth.

He, too, must act the surgeon.

With sudden resolution, Rivière put away his microscope and placed his
experimental slides in their air-tight incubating chamber. He changed
from his laboratory coat to his outdoor coat, and made his way rapidly
towards the surgical home.

As he crossed the Wilhelmstrasse--gay with its alluring shops and its
crowd of well-dressed, leisured saunterers--a man came up with
outstretched hand to Rivière and then hesitated visibly.

"Excuse me, sir, but I thought for the moment you were a friend of mine,
a Mr Clifford Matheson. I see now that I was mistaken by a very striking
resemblance."

"My half-brother."

"Ah, that's it!" said the man, visibly relieved. "Well, remember me to
him when you see him. Warren is my name--Major Warren."

"I'll certainly do so."

"Thanks--good afternoon."

It was not the first proof Rivière had had of the safety of his new
identity. Though Larssen and Olive had penetrated the disguise, others
who knew him well, even his own clerks, had been perfectly satisfied
with the explanation of the "half-brother."

When he was ushered into the darkened room at the surgical home, Elaine
smiled greeting to him, and the smile stabbed him with self-reproach. He
had come to wound her. There must be no further delay. He must act the
surgeon _now_.

Elaine half-sat, half-lay in a _chaise longue_. His white lilac and
fuchsia--those were her favourite flowers he had discovered--were on a
small table by her side, scenting the room faintly but definitely. She
had a letter in her hands, which she asked him to open and read to her.

"The nurse doesn't read English well," she explained.

Rivière looked first at the signature. "It's from your friend Madge in
Paris."

"Then it will be good reading."

As he read it out to her, he kept glancing now and again at her face to
note the effect of the words. The letter was mostly a gay account of the
girl's doings in Paris--the amusements of the past week, little scraps
about mutual friends, theatrical gossip, and so on. It was meant to
cheer, but it did not cheer. Rivière could see that Elaine was reading
into every sentence the might-have-been of her own wrecked life. He
hurried through it as quickly as possible, and then they chatted for
some time of impersonal matters.

His words began to come from him with a curious husky abruptness.
Elaine felt the tension, and knew that he had something important to
tell her. She sought to help him to it.

"Your journey to London," she said. "Did it effect your purpose? You
haven't told me much."

"I had the hardest fight of my life," he replied, taking up her opening
with relief. This would lead him to what he had come to tell her.

"And you won?"

"I was beaten to my knees."

"That doesn't sound like you as I knew you at Arles."

"The fight's not over yet. I managed to stumble up again for a final
round."

"May I know what the fight was about?"

"I want you to know every detail of it," he answered swiftly. "I want
your advice--your help."

"My help?" There was a faint flush in her cheeks below the bandages.
"What can _I_ do?"

He paused a moment before replying, seeking the right beginning to his
story.

"You remember at Nîmes telling me that your father had lost the last
remnant of his fortune speculating in one of the Clifford Matheson
companies?"

"Yes. And I was surprised to find how different you were to my
conception of your brother."

"I am Clifford Matheson."

"I don't understand!" she gasped.

"I am Clifford Matheson. I took the name of John Rivière because ...
well, the reason for that is one part of the story I have to tell you."

The pain, so evident in the drawn lines about her mouth, made him pause.
It was the first stroke of the scalpel.

From outside the window came the care-free chirping of the birds making
their Spring nests and telling the whole world of their happiness.

Presently she whispered "Go on," as though she had steeled herself to
bear the next stroke of the knife.

"My reason was that I wanted to cut myself loose--completely--from my
life in the financial world and from my married life. A sudden
opportunity came to me two days before I first met you at Arles. I
seized the opportunity and planned to disappear entirely from my world.
I arranged evidence of a violent death, in the belief that it would be
accepted by my friends and by the Courts. My wife would be freed; she
would come into my property; and I myself should be free to carry out in
quiet the scientific work I'd planned."

"Which was _the_ reason?"

"The last."

"Your wife, then, is the woman I saw in the Côte d'Azur Rapide?"

"Yes."

Elaine considered this in silence for some moments. A question framed
itself on her lips; she hesitated; finally it came out:

"Then you were not happy together?"

"My marriage was a ghastly mistake. I was quite unsuited to my wife....
But I made a bigger mistake when I thought to cut loose from the life
I'd woven for myself. One thread pulled me back inexorably. I had half
committed myself to a deal involving five millions of the public's money
with Lars Larssen, the shipowner----"

"Larssen!" she exclaimed.

"You know him?"

"No; but he was once pointed out to me at the Academy, the year the
portrait of his little boy was exhibited there. I could feel at once the
tremendous strength of will behind the man. Something beyond the human.
I was fascinated and repelled at the one time. So that is the man
who----"

"Who wants to drag you into a divorce court."

Elaine sat up rigid with shock. "A divorce court! How--why? What
possible----?"

"Larssen doesn't stick at possibilities."

"I realise that, but----"

"I'll not let him drag you into court. Be quite sure in your mind of
that. But listen, Elaine!" Her name came from him unconsciously.
"Listen, I want you to know every detail. It's your right."

Elaine flushed. Her voice held a delicate softness as she answered:
"I'll listen without interruption."

Then Rivière told her of what had happened since the crucial night of
March 14th, omitting nothing that she ought to know, sparing nothing of
himself. She listened quietly to his account of the interview at the Rue
Laffitte when he had, as he thought, made the final settlement with
Larssen; and to the recital of what had occurred from the moment of his
seeing the notice in the _Europe Chronicle_ of the coming flotation of
Hudson Bay Transport, Ltd.

He did not tell her of what he had seen through the lighted window of
Thornton Chase, but passed on to the interview at Larssen's office.

She shuddered as he spoke of the shipowner's brutal insinuations, and
burst out: "It was blackmail."

"Yes, but legalized blackmail."

"You never gave in to him on that ground?"

"Listen further."

Rivière spoke of his wife's unexpected entry into the office at
Leadenhall Street, and the scene that had followed when Olive and
Larssen together had bent their joint wills to the task of forcing him
to his knees. When he concluded on the signature wrung out of the
shipowner at the last moment, Elaine cried her relief:

"Then you're not beaten down! I'm glad--I'm glad!"

On his further conversation with Olive, Rivière touched very briefly,
merely indicating the terms his wife had rigidly demanded.

"And that's how the matter rests at present," he ended bitterly. "I've
taken away your livelihood; and dragged your name into this unsavoury
mire; and there's no finality reached.... But I'll get this tangle
straightened out somehow, if I have to choke Larssen to do it!"

Rivière had strode over to the window--not to look out, because the
curtains were close-drawn, but from sheer force of habit. He turned
round sharply as a half-whispered question--an utterly unexpected
question--came from Elaine.

"Why did you leave me so abruptly at Arles?"

Rivière's blood leapt hot in his veins and he answered recklessly:
"Because I loved you! Loved you from the first moment we met! And I
hadn't the right to love you. I wasn't running away from _you_--I was
running away from _myself_."

"Now I see. I thought then.... And when you offered to devote your life
to me? You remember that, don't you?" She was trembling as she spoke.

"I meant every word of it!"

"It was not pity for me? I want the truth--nothing but the truth! Oh, if
I could only see you now, to know if it were the truth!" Her hands went
up impulsively to the bandages over her eyes, then dropped helplessly to
her side as she remembered they must on no account be touched.

"As God hears me, it was not pity but love!" he answered with passionate
sincerity.

"Then you give me something to live for!"

Her meaning thundered upon him.

"You intended to----?"

"Yes."

"When?"

"When my money was exhausted."

"I never dreamt!"

"What else was left for me?"

"Surely you knew that I'd provide for you?"

"I couldn't accept it--then."

"You'll accept it now?"

"I must think."

"I insist! I claim it as my right! You wouldn't torture me all my life
with the thought that I'd driven you to----"

"Don't say it."

Rivière took her hand and bent to kiss it reverently. There was silence
for many moments--a silence of deep sympathy. Elaine's flushed cheeks
told Rivière more plainly than words what she was feeling.

"I'm so glad," she said at length. "So glad to know."

"And I'm glad to have told you."

"I shall get my sight back now. I have something to live for."

"Please God, you will."

"I feel it. I have something to live for.... Dear John!"

She sought to take his hand in hers, but he rose abruptly from beside
her couch and strode away.

"We're forgetting!" he exclaimed bitterly. "I'm still Clifford
Matheson."

"Not to me."

"Nothing can alter the fact."

"Let us live in dreamland awhile," she pleaded gently.

"But the awakening must come."

"We have till May 3rd."

"Till May 3rd.... And then?"

"And then you will go back to the fight."

"Yes. But Larssen won't relent. Nor will my wife."

"Something may happen before then."

"We must make things happen."

"We?"

"Yes--you and I."

There was silence again for some moments. He came back to her side. She
sought for his hand, and he let her take it in hers.

Gradually the glow of an idea lit up her cheeks.

"I think I see the way out!" she exclaimed.

"What's the plan?"

"Will you trust to me--trust to me implicitly without asking for
reasons?"

"I'd trust you to the world's end!"

"Then write to your wife for me."

"To say----?"

"To say that I want to meet her."

"But she'd never come!"

"I know her better than you do. I saw her in the train that
morning--heard her speak. It told me a great deal. We women know one
another's springs of actions. If you write the letter I dictate, she'll
come!"

"If she came, it would only exhaust you and hinder your recovery. Dr
Hegelmann would certainly not allow it if he knew. He's given me strict
orders to chase away worry from you."

"It would worry me still more not to write that letter.... I shall be
fighting for you, and that will help me to get back my sight. Please!"

"Then I'll fetch pen and paper and write for you. But we must let a week
go by before posting. Every day will give you new strength."

"Through your love," she whispered.



CHAPTER XXV

WHITE LILAC


Happiness is a veil of iridescent gossamer draped over the ugliness of
reality. Happiness is rooted in illusion--in the ignoring of harsh fact
and jarring circumstance, and the perception only of what is beautiful
and joyous.

Happiness is an impressionist painting. One takes a muddy, sullen river
flanked by rotting wharves and grimy factories and huddled, festering
slums, and under the mantle of evening and the veil of illusion one
creates a "Nocturne in Silver." The eye of the artist finds equal beauty
in the Thames by sordid Southwark and the Adriatic lapping Venice in her
soft caress. The common phrase has it as "the seeing eye"--but more
justly it is the ignoring eye. The artist ignores the harsh and the
ugly, and transfers to his canvas only the harmonious and the poetic. He
epitomises happiness.

Little children know this truth instinctively. They find their highest
happiness in make-believe. A child of the slums with a rag-doll and a
few beads and a scrap of faded finery can make for herself a world of
fairyland. She is a princess clothed in shimmering silk and hung about
with pearls and diamonds. She is courted by a knight in golden armour.
She is married amidst the acclamations of a loyal populace. She is the
mother of a king-to-be. She is radiantly happy.

And in her self-created world of make-believe she is far wiser than
these grown-ups who insist with obstinate complacency on "seeing things
as they are." They take pride in being disillusioned.

Not realising that happiness is bowered in illusion.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Let us live in dreamland awhile," Elaine had said with the wisdom of a
little child.

It was tacitly agreed to by Rivière. When together, they combined to
ignore the tangle of ugly circumstance and the harsh struggle to come.
For the time being they were in fancy two lovers with no barrier between
and the world smiling joyously upon them.

After a full day's work in his laboratory, he would come to her side and
answer her questions with the tenderness of a lover.

"You've brought me white lilac again," she said one day as he entered.
"How did you first guess that white lilac is my favourite flower?"

"White lilac is yourself," he answered.

"Why?"

"Every woman suggests a flower. One sees many roses--little bud roses,
and big, buxom, full-blown roses, and wild, free-blowing roses. One sees
many white camellias, and heavy-scented tuberoses, and opulent Parma
violets, and gorgeous tiger-lilies--those have been the women of my
world. One sees many marigolds and cornflowers and poppies. But I've
seen only one white lilac--you. White lilac is the fresh young Spring.
And yet it is a woman grown. White lilac is sweet and tender and
gracious. White lilac is so faint in perfume that any other scented
flower would smother it, and yet its fragrance lives in my memory beyond
any other. White lilac is yourself."

"How many-sided you are! Financier, and scientist, and now ... and now
poet."

"No--lover."

"Then love must be living poetry."

"That many-sidedness is my weakness."

"I don't want it otherwise."

"The success race has to be run in blinkers. One must see only the goal
ahead. There must be no looking to right or left."

"If success means that, then success is bought too dearly.... Dear John,
I don't want you otherwise than you are. I love you for your weakness
and not your strength. That's the mother-love in a woman."

"I can do so little for you."

"So little? You've made this sick-room an enchanted castle for me! I
dread the time when I shall have to leave it. But we won't speak of
that--that's forbidden ground."

"We'll speak only of the world we've created for ourselves. It's a whole
planet with only you and I for its sole inhabitants. The planet Earth is
far away in space--just a cold white star amongst a wilderness of
others."

"I used to think you cold and bloodless--that was at Arles and Nîmes."

"We were far apart then. We were next to one another in the physical
plane, and yet a million miles away in the plane of reality. Only the
invisible things are the realities of life.... You were to leave Nîmes
the next day, and I never expected to see you again."

"You remember the arena at Arles, at sunset, when you climbed up to
stand beside me. Did you know then that I wanted you to speak to me?

"Yes, I knew that. But there was the barrier between us."

"Were we destined to meet, do you think?"

"_Quien sabe?_"

There was a long silence between them--a silence which held no
constraint, a silence that exists only between those in deep sympathy.
Silence is the test of true friendship.

"I was so glad to know," she said at length. "It outweighed everything
else."

There was no need to put her thoughts more explicitly.

"Didn't you guess before?" he answered gently.

"I couldn't be sure, and the doubt tortured me. I thought it might only
be pity. Such a world of difference!"

"You're sure now?"

"Yes; your voice has told me more than your words. Even the notes of the
birds soften when they...." She left the sentence uncompleted.

"It was Larssen who brought us together," he meditated.

"Larssen! He dominates us both. He seems to hold us in his hands. He's
like ... like Fate. Pitiless, relentless."

"And, like Fate, to be fought to the end."

"I love you for your weakness, and yet I love you as the fighter. How
contradictory it sounds!"

"Such seeming contradiction comes from elision. One leaves out the train
of thought in between. Between you and me there's no need for the
lengthy explanation. There's scarcely need for words at all."

"But yet I love to hear you speak. Your words heal."

"Dr Hegelmann is shrewd as well as marvellously skilful. He said to me
to-day: 'I can see you are obeying orders. Fraülein needs your doctoring
as much as my surgery.'"

"He's a dear man as well as a great man."

Rivière burst out impulsively: "But the days fly by and my Cinderella's
midnight rushes nearer!"

"Not yours alone. Mine too!"

"And when our fairy garments turn back to rags?"

"We'll have had our hour--_our hour_! No one can take that away from us.
Its memories----"

"To me it will be the memory of white lilac."

Elaine felt for the flowers in the tall vase by her side, and broke off
a small spray.

"Keep this in symbol."

She kissed it before she gave it into his hands.



CHAPTER XXVI

A CHALLENGE


Olive was at her dressing-table at Thornton Chase, looking searchingly
into a mirror.

That afternoon she had been dragged unwillingly to the consulting-room
of a Cavendish Square physician by her father, who had insisted on
having "a tonic or something" prescribed for her. The physician was one
of those men who achieve a fashionable practice by an outrageous
bluntness--a calculatedly outrageous bluntness. He had found that women
like to be bullied by their doctors.

"You're drugging yourself to a lunatic asylum," he had told her after a
very brief examination.

"Drugs? I, doctor?" she had replied with a little surprised raising of
her eyebrows.

"Don't prevaricate! Don't try to deceive _me_. You look a perfect wreck.
All the signs of it. Come, which is it--morphia, hashish or what?"

"You're mistaken, doctor. I'm run down, that's all. I want a tonic."

"And I'm a busy man." He rose brusquely and strode to the door to open
it for her. "I must wish you good afternoon!"

Olive caved in. "Well, perhaps now and again, when I feel absolutely in
need of it, I do take a little stimulant," she conceded.

The physician cross-examined her ruthlessly. Finally he prescribed an
absolute cessation of drug-taking, and gave her a special dietary and
mixture of his own which would help to create a distaste for the
morphia.

"Remember," he warned her as they parted, "you're looking an absolute
wreck. Everyone can see it. Three months more of the same pace would
make you a hag."

Olive was searching her mirror for refutation of his words, trying to
stroke away the flabbiness of her cheek and chin muscles and the heavy
strained shadows under the eyes. Yes, it was true--the drug was stamping
its mastery on her face, grinning from behind her eyelids.

She must fight it down!

The resolution came hot upon the thought that Clifford had noticed the
change in her. No doubt he would like her to drug herself to death. That
would suit his plans to perfection. Then he would be free to marry that
Verney woman. She must fight down her craving for the drug if only to
spite Clifford.

With a curious vindictive satisfaction, Olive took out her hypodermic
syringe from its secret place and smashed it to pieces with the bedroom
poker. She gathered up the fragments of glass and silver and threw them
into the fire, heaping coals over them.

As she was poking the fire, her maid knocked and entered with a letter.
The postmark was Wiesbaden; the handwriting was her husband's. No doubt
a further appeal to her feelings, she reflected contemptuously. But the
letter proved to be from Elaine--written at the invalid's dictation by
Rivière.

Olive read it with a mixture of indignation and very lively curiosity.
The letter was no appeal to her feelings--rather, a challenge:--

"I think we ought to meet," it said. "I have many things to tell you of
which you know nothing at present--unless you have guessed. They affect
your husband's position very materially. Unfortunately I am confined to
a sick-room, else I should have come to London before this in order to
call upon you."

That was all.

Olive's indignation was based on the obvious deduction that Rivière had
confided completely in the girl. Her curiosity was roused by the
thoughts of what she could be like to exert such a fascination, and what
she could have to say. Perhaps the letter was a ruse to see Olive and
then make another appeal for pity. Well, in that case there would be a
very delicious pleasure in giving an absolute refusal--a pleasure one
could taste in anticipation and linger over in execution. One could play
with the girl a little--pretend to be influenced, hesitate, ask for time
to consider, raise hopes, fan them, and then administer the _coup de
grace_.

To see Elaine promised an exciting diversion, very welcome just now when
Olive had to give up the customary stimulation of the drug.

These considerations united in deciding her to travel to Wiesbaden. She
would cross to the Continent alone, her father and her maid being left
at home. Sir Francis knew nothing as yet of Rivière--for Olive had told
him nothing. She had an unlimited capacity for keeping her own counsel
when it suited her purpose.

The next day saw her _en route_ for Wiesbaden, following a letter to
that effect to Elaine.



CHAPTER XXVII

WOMEN'S WEAPONS


Olive had a genius for dress. Her gowns had not only style, which might
be due to the costumier, but also effect, which is entirely personal.
They invariably harmonized with the occasion, or with the way she sought
to mould the occasion. Sometimes she had snapped her fingers at fashion,
taken matters with the high hand--and carried the occasion triumphantly.
The illustrated weeklies published portraits of her when the theatrical
market was dull.

It was characteristic of Olive that although she was going to visit a
blinded girl with bandaged eyes, yet when she left the Hotel Quisisana
at Wiesbaden for the surgical home she had dressed studiously for the
occasion. The part to be dressed was that of "the outraged wife." The
gown was of clinging grey cashmere, cut with simplicity and dignity,
with touches of soft violet to suggest sensitive inner feelings. The hat
was of grey straw with willowy feathers drooping softly from it. She
wore no jewellery beyond a simple pearl brooch and her wedding-ring.

Dressed thus, she felt ready for any cruelty.

A nurse showed her into the room where Elaine lay on her _chaise
longue_ with bandages hiding the upper part of her face.

"Do you suffer much?" asked Olive softly, when the nurse had left them
alone.

"Thank you--there is no pain now. Only waiting for the day of release,
when my bandages are to be removed."

"It must be terrible to know that one's sight can never be restored."

"I don't expect it. But I shall have a fair measure of sight. Dr.
Hegelmann promises it."

"Still, it's best not to raise one's hopes too high. Doctors have to be
optimistic as part of their trade. I remember one very sad case
where----" Olive stopped herself abruptly as though her tongue had run
away with her. "Pardon me--I was forgetting."

"I know," affirmed Elaine happily.

"You know what?"

"That I shall have a fair measure of sight. The doctor tells me recovery
depends largely on the mental condition. I was worrying myself up till a
few days ago, but now I'm supremely happy. So I shall recover--I've
something to live for, you see!" Elaine reached for the vase by her side
and raised a spray of white lilac to breathe in its fragrance.

The happiness so evident on Elaine's lips stirred Olive uneasily.

"Then you've had good news from outside? I'm very glad to hear it," she
said.

"Good news? Why, yes, thanks to you! I want first to thank you for your
generosity. I was worrying so until I heard the news from John."

"From whom?"

"Your husband. You see, he will always be John Rivière to me. That's how
I knew him during these wonderful days at Arles and Nîmes." Her voice
became dreamy with memories. "I met him first, you know, at the arena at
Arles. We sat for hours in the flooding sunlight reconstructing our
pictures of the past. The stone tiers were vivid orange in the sunlight
and deep purple in the shadows. A deep, greyish purple. We sat apart, I
longing for him to speak to me and exchange thoughts. But there was no
one to introduce us. How stupid convention is! At sunset we climbed up
to the topmost tier and stood together as though on an island tower in
the midst of a sea of marshland. I ached to speak to him, and still we
remained silent and apart. That night came the introduction I longed
for. I was wandering about the dark, narrow lanes of Arles when a
half-drunken peasant tried to attack me. I cried out for help, and John
came to my defence with his strong arm and his clenched fist. There was
no need for formal introduction after that. We found we were staying at
the same hotel...."

Olive made no comment.

Elaine continued: "Nîmes is fragrant with its memories for me. The
Jardin de la Fontaine, the Maison Carrée, the Druids' Tower, the dear
Villa Clémentine! There was a little pebbly garden and a fountain by
which we used to sit for lunch--there were two lazy old goldfish I used
to feed with crumbs. Darby and Joan!... Those memories of Nîmes wash
away the burn of the vitriol, now that you've been so kind and
generous."

"I fail to understand," said Olive coldly. The interview was shaping
itself very differently to what she had expected.

Elaine turned her bandaged head towards her in surprise. "But John tells
me you've offered to release him!"

"Offered to release him! My dear Miss Verney, Clifford must have been
saying pretty things to soothe you. I'm sorry to pour cold water on your
dreams, but you'll have to learn the truth some time, and it's kinder to
tell you now. Release him! My husband is not an employee to be handed
over to somebody else at a moment's notice. There are such things as
marriage laws ... and divorce laws."

"Aren't we talking at cross-purposes, Mrs Matheson? I quite understand
all that. John tells me that you have promised to divorce him. That's
very generous of you."

"You seem to ignore the point that a divorce suit involves a
co-respondent."

"No; not at all. I wanted to see you in order to thank you; and then to
arrange the details so that the matter can go through with as little
trouble as possible. Of course, after your kindness, I shall let the
suit go undefended."

Olive searched the bandaged face of her rival with merciless scrutiny.
But the blinded girl seemed unconscious of that look of stabbing hatred
and suspicion. She was apparently smiling happily--weaving day-dreams.
Her hand went out to the vase of white lilac caressingly.

For that was the part Elaine had set herself to play for the sake of the
man she loved. He had been beaten down to his knees by Larssen and Olive
in the shipowner's office because he had had Elaine to protect. To save
her from the mire of the divorce court he had had to give in and sign at
Larssen's dictation.

Now she was determined to release him for free action. Whatever it might
cost her in self-respect, she was going to make Olive believe that a
divorce suit was the one thing she most ardently desired.

"I shall let the divorce suit go undefended," she had said, smiling
happily.

Olive made a decisive effort to regain the whip-hand. "Divorce by
collusion is out of the question!" she retorted sharply. "The King's
Proctor sees to that. You don't imagine that it's sufficient merely to
say you don't defend the suit? There must be evidence before the Court."

Elaine bowed her head.

"There is evidence," she said in a low voice.

"At Arles, Nîmes, or here?"

"At Nîmes."

"Then my husband lied to me! He swore to me on his word of honour that
there was nothing between you!"

"John is very chivalrous."

"You tell me he lied?"

"I don't know just what he said to you.... And I want you to realise
this: the fault was on my side. I loved him. I love him still. I shall
love him always. Always, whatever happens."

Then she added, because in the playing of her part she had determined to
spare herself no degradation: "I care nothing for what people say. They
may sneer and point at me, but nothing shall keep us apart."

Olive went chalk-white with anger. She had not travelled the long
journey to Wiesbaden to be fooled in this way. The ground had been cut
from under her feet by Elaine's most unexpected attitude, and the
situation needed some drastic counter-move on her part.

"A pretty story!" she retorted. "If you imagine your childish bluffing
would deceive me, you've a lot to learn yet! Clifford was not lying, and
you are! That's the long and short of it!"

"Then call him here and ask him before me!"

Olive saw her opportunity. She could find out Rivière's address from Dr.
Hegelmann or from one of the staff of the nursing home, and go to
confront him before Elaine could see and warn him of the new
development. It would be strategic to allay suspicion of her coming
move, however.

"I want to see nothing more of Clifford," she replied. "We've agreed to
part. He's to go on with his life as John Rivière. If you like to marry
him as John Rivière, you're quite welcome to do so as far as I'm
concerned."

"You mean that you want to get permission from the Courts to presume
death, and then take possession of his property?"

"Any such arrangement is entirely a private matter between my husband
and myself."

"I doubt if John would agree to that arrangement now. He would make you
a suitable allowance, of course."

Olive could have choked this girl lying helpless in her chair, and yet
holding the whip-hand in their triangle of conflicting interests. She
felt as if she had been tripped and thrown without a word of warning. To
have travelled to Wiesbaden to play the outraged wife sitting in
judgment on the woman who had sinned, and now----!

If only Larssen were here to advise her!

She tried another move, altering her voice to as much sweetness as she
could command under her white-hot anger.

"My dear, I appreciate your feelings," she said. "You want to fight for
the man you love. You'd even blacken your character for his sake. You'd
face the sneers of the world for his sake. I admire you for it. It
brings us nearer together. I admit that I had misjudged you a little.
That was because I hadn't seen you and spoken to you. Now I know what a
fine character you are, and I want you not to bring unnecessary
suffering on yourself. I'm older than you, and I've seen very much more
of the world. I know that a good woman can't live with a married man for
long. The situation becomes intolerable after a time. One can't ignore
the conventions of the world one lives in."

"I'm ready to face all that. I've counted the cost."

"But is Clifford ready to? Think of him. Think of his work. He would not
only be ostracised socially, but also scientifically. His work would be
ignored. You would destroy his life-work. You would kill his ambition!"

Olive's thrust went home, though not to the exact point she aimed at.
Elaine remained silent as the thought raced through her of how Olive, if
she deemed it to her own interests, might kill Rivière's work.

"So you see, dear," pursued Olive, "that our interests are really very
much the same. We both care deeply for Clifford. We both want to help
him in his life-work. We both want to do our best for him. That means
that we must pull together and not against one another. We must each of
us think matters out coolly and dispassionately. Isn't that what you
think as well as I?"

"Yes," admitted Elaine.

"Then I'll say good-bye for the present. I mustn't stay longer or Dr.
Hegelmann will call me over the coals. I have to remember that you're
not altogether strong again yet. So I'll say good-bye now and call again
to-morrow morning."

"Good-bye."

"Do you like lilies? I must send you some. As I passed a florist's in
the Wilhelmstrasse I saw some splendid tiger-lilies. Good-bye, my dear."

Elaine waited with feverish impatience for three minutes to elapse, when
she judged Olive would be clear of the house. Then she rang a bell by
her side. She must get a message through to Rivière to let him know of
the new development in the situation before Olive could reach him with
_her_ story. Rivière knew nothing beforehand of Elaine's plan of
self-accusation; it was vital that he should know of it now, when it had
been carried to so effective an end.

The nurse came to answer the call.

"I want to telephone," said Elaine in her halting German.

"But the telephone is downstairs!"

"You must lead me there, nurse."

"No; I cannot do that. It is against orders. The doctor has forbidden
you to leave this room, Fraülein."

"I must! I tell you I must! It's----It's--oh, what is the German for
'vital?'"

The nurse shook her head uncomprehendingly.

Elaine rose from her couch and stumbled with outstretched arms against
the nurse.

"Please lead me to the telephone and get me my number!" she cried in an
agony of anxiety.

"It is against orders. Come, you must lie down again and keep quiet."

There was a brisk rap at the door, and Dr. Hegelmann came in to see how
his patient was progressing.

"What's this?" he exclaimed, seeing Elaine standing up and the nurse
trying to persuade her to return to her couch.

"Doctor, please let me telephone!"

"To whom?"

"To Mr Rivière. I must speak to him quickly--I _must_!"

"Nurse, do as Fraülein asks," he ordered briefly.

The nurse made no comment, but led her patient downstairs at once,
found the telephone number of the laboratory at which Rivière had his
research-bench, and called for the connection.

"What do they say?" asked Elaine after a torturing wait.

"They ask me to hold the line."

Again a very long wait.

"What do they say?" asked Elaine again.

"Wait a little.... Yes, I'm here." ... "Mr Rivière has just left the
laboratory."

"Where has he gone?" prompted Elaine.

"Where has he gone?" ... "They do not know."

"But I _must_ find him!" cried Elaine. "Try his hotel, please."

The hotel people knew nothing of Rivière's whereabouts.

"Say to them to give him the message to telephone me the moment he
arrives."

The nurse gave the message and the telephone number of the home.
Suddenly she felt her patient sway heavily against her. The reaction had
set in from the feverish tension of the last hour--Elaine had fainted
away.



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE COUNTER-MOVE


Olive, as Elaine had guessed, went straight to Rivière's laboratory to
confront him. Not finding him there, she made her way to his hotel and
again drew blank.

This left her uncertain as to her next movements. Should she return to
the nursing home, and wait about in its neighbourhood in the hope of
meeting her husband on his way to see Elaine? That course seemed
undignified. Should she try the laboratory once more? That seemed a mere
waste of precious time. Should she walk the length of the Wilhelmstrasse
on the chance of crossing him there? That seemed a very long shot.

On the whole she judged it advisable to return to the Hotel Quisisana,
and from there to hold her husband by telephone. Accordingly she said to
the hotel porter at Rivière's hotel:

"When Mr Rivière comes in, tell him to 'phone up at once No. 352."

"Already haf I taken zat message, lady."

"To 'phone up No. 352?" asked Olive in surprise.

The porter referred to a slate by his side.

"Your pardon, lady, I am wrong. Ze number gifen me before is 392."

Olive opened her purse, took out a gold piece, and passed it into his
hand.

"Alter it to 352," she said.

The porter hesitated, looked at the 20-mark piece, looked around the
hall to see if anyone were observing him, and then said in a very low
voice: "Very goot. Vat name shall I say?"

"Mrs Matheson." She then left for the Quisisana.

And that was why Rivière never received Elaine's message, and why he
went first to call on his wife.

Olive received him in her private sitting-room. She was horribly
uncertain what line of action she ought to take, now that Elaine had so
completely reversed the situation. Her nerves, weakened by the almost
continuous drugging of the last few months, were all a-quiver. The
threat of the "suitable allowance" drove her to frenzy. She wanted
somebody to vent her rage upon, and there was nobody to serve the
purpose. For a moment she regretted she had not brought her maid with
her to Wiesbaden.

Her attitude must depend on Clifford's attitude. But, whatever line of
action was to be taken, one point seemed clear. She must be calm with
Clifford--forgiving. She must play for the quixotic side of his nature.
She had better be even cordial.

Accordingly she gave him a wifely kiss when he entered.

Rivière wondered how Elaine could have worked this miracle for him.

"You've seen Miss Verney, I suppose?" he suggested.

"Yes; and I must admit I was very pleasantly surprised. I had formed an
altogether wrong opinion of her."

"Then I'm glad you met.... You see now that your suspicions of her were
absolutely unfounded."

Olive knew the sincerity in Rivière's tone. So it was just as she had
guessed--the girl had been attempting a daring bluff by her
self-accusation.

"Absolutely unfounded," agreed Olive. "That's why I want to forgive and
forget."

She gave him one of her sweetest smiles.

Rivière was puzzled. He had an uneasy feeling that something very vital
was being kept from him. He noticed his wife's hands all a-quiver, and
that fact jarred against the calm of her words.

He answered: "You've changed your attitude towards me very quickly. I
take it you only arrived in Wiesbaden to-day?"

"Yes; but it's more than a fortnight since that scene in Larssen's
office. I've had time to reflect over things. I was too hasty in what I
said then. You must remember that you sprang a surprise on me when you
returned in that secret way, and naturally I was put out. I always hate
to be taken at a disadvantage, as you ought to know by now.... Clifford,
when _will_ you learn to read women as well as you read men? If you'd
approached me a little differently; if you hadn't assumed I was hostile
to you; if you'd only taken me a little more patiently and pressed your
point more insistently----" Olive paused significantly.

"Which point?"

"Surely you remember?"

"There were many points we discussed."

"_The_ point--when you were generous enough to offer to start our life
afresh."

Rivière looked keenly at his wife. Her eyes were downcast, as though it
hurt her modesty to have to make overtures. There was a faint blush on
her cheeks.

He began to feel he had been a brute.

She continued: "You ought to have given me a day to think it over,
instead of rushing away as you did. You ought to have known that a
woman's pride won't let her yield without being pressed to yield. I
wanted you to press me; I wanted to make a fresh start with you; I
wanted to help you with your big work! Clifford when _will_ you learn to
read a woman?"

"What's your suggestion now?" he asked.

"My suggestion is your own--to wipe out the past, and start our married
life afresh. A few days ago I went to see a doctor--a man in Cavendish
Square who has a big reputation for women's ailments. Father insisted on
my going to consult him, and he was right. I ought to have gone to him
months ago."

"What did he tell you?"

"The long and short of it is that I must give up society engagements and
all excitements of that kind, and lead a very quiet life. I ought to go
to some quiet place away from people, with someone with me whom I care
for and who cares for me. That was the gist of his prescription. Of
course I have a special dietary and medicine to take, but that's only
incidental!"

Her voice held a pathetic braveness, and Rivière was touched by it.

"I'm awfully sorry," he murmured.

"It's hard on me, to give up all that."

"I know."

"It's meant a big fight with myself. Look at me--you can see it in my
face. I'm looking a wreck."

"The kind of life you've been leading would crack up any constitution.
I'm glad you've taken advice in time."

"It was the turning-point for me."

"Where are you going for your rest-cure?"

"Isn't that for you to decide, Clifford dear?"

Rivière roused himself with an effort akin to that of Ulysses in the
house of Circe.

"I'd better be quite frank with you," he answered. "I can't live with
you again as man and wife."

"I realise your feeling so well. I admire you for it. It brings us
nearer together. You feel yourself under an obligation to Miss Verney
because of her intervention between you and that vitriol-thrower. You
don't know just how you can repay it. Obviously you can't offer her
money. A girl of her finely-strung feelings couldn't take a pension from
you.... Now I have a suggestion that clears away the difficulty
completely."

"What is it?" asked Rivière non-committally.

"Let _me_ make her an allowance. Let the money pass through my hands to
her. It needn't be a large allowance. I daresay she could live nicely on
three or four pounds a week. If you agree, I'll go and arrange it
myself, so as not to hurt her feelings."

That would be indeed revenge on Elaine! To buy back Clifford for a
paltry four pounds a week--to have the delicate pleasure of doling out
the money in the role of Lady Bountiful! She had a mental vision of the
sweet little letters she could write to Elaine when she enclosed the
monthly cheque--letters so sweet that they would sear.

But Rivière answered abruptly: "What did Miss Verney say to you to make
such a complete change in your attitude towards her?"

"We chatted together this afternoon and came to realise one another's
point of view--that was all. It was perfectly natural. A blind girl ...
helpless ... without resources of her own.... Do you think I'm flint?"

"Then she made some appeal to you?"

"Clifford, dear, I don't think you and I ought to discuss what passed
between Miss Verney and myself in the sick-room this afternoon. Some
things are sacred."

"I must know this: did she suggest the idea of the allowance or did
you?"

Olive hesitated as to how she should answer that question. It was very
tempting to say that Elaine had suggested it--but decidedly risky.
Rivière might ask the girl point-blank. It was better to be prudent in
this game of strategy, and accordingly she replied:

"I don't think you ought to ask me that question."

"I must see Miss Verney at once," said Rivière decisively.

"But we must think of her feelings. She's very sensitive, very
highly-strung. Wouldn't it be kinder to let _me_ arrange it?"

"I don't think so."

"I ask you this for her sake!"

"Still, I must see her at once."

"As your wife, I ask you to let me end the matter once and for all.
Clifford dear, I must speak out frankly, though I hate to have to do it.
Listen to me quietly while I try to put the situation to you in the
proper light.... You're in love with Miss Verney--I know it. It's hard
for you to have to cut loose--very hard. But for her sake you _must_ cut
loose. _Now, at once._ Matters can't go on as they are. I know perfectly
well that the relations between you are absolutely innocent--I haven't a
word to breathe against her character now that I've seen her and really
know her. But things can't go on as they are. You must put yourself
aside and consider her alone. You must think of her reputation. People
will begin to talk."

"What people?" asked Rivière uneasily.

"At the nursing home I can see that they regard you as lovers. A woman
realises a point like that instinctively. No word was said, but I
_know_.... Things can't remain stationary in a situation of that kind.
You know it as well as I do. You are a man of strong passions.... Miss
Verney is highly-strung, very impressionable."

And then Olive made her one big mistake. She added: "She confessed to me
that--how shall I put it?--that it would be dangerous for her to see
more of you."

"Miss Verney told you that?"

"In effect."

"I don't believe it!"

"It's as true as I sit here!"

"I don't believe it for a moment!"

"She said even more than that."

"What?"

"That she would be ready to live with you, divorce or no divorce. Don't
you see the danger now? Clifford, I appeal to your chivalry! For her
sake cut loose now, at once, before it's too late! Say good-bye to her
by letter; leave me to arrange the allowance----"

"I tell you I must see her!"

"No!"

"I _must_!"

Olive lost control of herself. "I'm your wife! I forbid you to!" she
ordered sharply.

Rivière stiffened. "You told me a fortnight ago you never wanted to see
me again."

"I've changed my mind!"

"There's a reason for the change."

"I've told you the reasons!"

"Not all the reasons."

"D'you doubt my word?"

Rivière's business training made him recognize the true meaning of that
phrase. He had heard it so many times before from men who were planning
some shady trick. He answered decisively: "I've the right to hear from
Miss Verney herself what she said to you this afternoon, and I'm going
to hear it. That's final!"

Olive was now chalk-white with rage. Every nerve of her body was
quivering, but by a supreme effort she regained control over her words.

"You're insulting me!" she returned. "You doubt my word when I tell you
that Miss Verney is ready to become your mistress. Very well, come with
me and I'll repeat it in front of her."

"No."

"You're afraid of the test!"

"I'll not discuss such a matter."

"You're afraid of the test!"

"I'll not have that insult put upon her."

"It's true! I'll swear to it on the Bible! If it's not true, let her
deny it before me. There's the challenge. You owe it to her as well as
to me to accept. At least give her the opportunity of denying it, if you
think you know her. But you don't know women--you never have, and you
never will. I tell you you're living on a volcano. You've no right to
compromise her as you're doing now. It's currish! At least I thought you
had some spark of chivalry in you! But you won't make the test because
you know I've spoken truth. You're afraid. If you want to prove to
yourself she's the angel you think her, then make the test. Ask her
before me in any form of words you like. Either that or take my word!"

"I'll not ask her that."

"Then at least come with me to see her, and satisfy yourself indirectly
that I've spoken the truth when I tell you you're living on a volcano.
Play the game, Clifford, play the game!"

Rivière took up his hat and stick.

"We'll go to see Miss Verney now," he answered.

Husband and wife drove together to the nursing home to see Elaine. But a
nurse informed them decisively that Fraulein Verney could receive no
visitors; the excitement of the afternoon had been too much for her
slowly returning strength, and Dr Hegelmann had ordered her absolute
quietude. To-morrow, perhaps, she might be allowed to receive her
friends--or perhaps the day after to-morrow.

"I intend to call to-morrow morning," said Olive to her husband.

"I too."

"Shall we say 10.30?"

"If you wish."

"Then call for me at the Quisisana at ten o'clock.... In the meantime, I
leave it to your sense of honour not to communicate with Miss Verney."

"Agreed."

"You needn't trouble to see me to my hotel. I'll go back in the taxi."

It was a night of very troubled thought for all three. To Rivière, with
his complex, many-layered nature, especially so. The one inevitable,
clean-cut solution to all this tangle of circumstance seemed farther off
than ever.

If Rivière had been a man of Larssen's temperament, difficulties would
have been smoothed away like hills under the drive of a high-powered
car. Lars Larssen would have said to himself: "Which woman do I want?"
and having settled that point, would have jammed on the levers and shot
his car straight forward without the slightest regard for any other
vehicle or pedestrian on his road. Were any obstacle in his path, so
much the worse for the obstacle.

If Larssen under similar circumstances had wanted Elaine he would have
taken her then and there and left Olive to do whatever she pleased. If
he had wanted Olive, he would have thrown Elaine in the discard without
a moment's remorse. Decisions are easy for such a man as Larssen,
because the burden of scruples has been pitched aside.

Rivière, on the other hand, was cursed with scruples--as Olive had
phrased it, "a pretty mixed set of scruples." He felt he had to do the
square thing by his wife, by Elaine, and by the public who were being
called upon to invest their savings under the guarantee of his name. He
had to smash the shipowner's scheme, and he had to get back to his own
scientific work in peace and quietude.

For Olive, as for Larssen, decisions were far simpler. Her objective was
her own gratification; the only point in doubt was the most prudent way
to attain it. Her present dominant wish was to revenge herself on
Elaine, and to do that she was ready to make any sacrifice of other
desires. Even her infatuation for Larssen paled against the white-hot
light of this new passion.

Elaine, exhausted by the tension of her interview with Olive, slept that
night in a succession of heavy-dreamed dozes punctuated by violent
starts of waking, like a train creeping into a London terminus through
an irregular detonation of fog-signals. Why had Rivière sent no answer
to her message? What had Olive said to him? Had she done the best
possible thing to free Rivière? That was the never-ceasing anxiety. In
her great love for him, the one thing she most desired was to _give_.



CHAPTER XXIX

THE PARTING


At the breakfast-table the next morning, Rivière found a letter with an
official seal awaiting him. It was a call to Nîmes to give evidence in
the coming trial of the peasant Crau. He was asked to be there on a date
a few days later.

Olive was already waiting for him in the palm-lounge of the Quisisana
when he reached there at ten-o'clock. She was smilingly gracious--had
seemingly forgiven him his doubting of her word the evening before. They
took a taxi to the nursing home, and on the way Olive stopped at a
florist's to buy a bunch of tiger-lilies. Her choice of flower struck
Rivière as very characteristic of her own temperament.

They received permission to visit the patient, and were shown to her
room by a nurse.

"I have brought you a few flowers, dear," said Olive.

Elaine murmured some words of thanks and felt the flowers to see what
they might be. When she recognized them, they conveyed to her the same
impression as they had done to Rivière. She drew her vase of white lilac
nearer to her, and that trifling action seemed to Rivière as though she
were calling upon him for protection.

"We've come to talk matters over calmly and dispassionately," said
Olive, taking the reins of conversation into her own hands. "My husband
and myself are both anxious to make some arrangement which will be for
your happiness. Clifford feels, and I entirely agree with him, that he's
under a distinct obligation to you."

"There is no obligation," answered Elaine.

"It's very generous of you to say so, but both Clifford and I feel it
deeply. Your livelihood has been taken away from you, and it's our bare
duty to make you some form of compensation. The suggestion of letting it
come through me would be a very suitable way of solving a delicate
problem." She turned to her husband. "Don't you think so, Clifford?"

"I want to hear what Miss Verney has to say."

"Very well."

Elaine paused before she replied, so that her words might carry a fuller
significance. "Mrs Matheson," she said, "I don't wish to accept anything
from you."

"That means, I take it, that you are ready to accept from my husband?"

"Accept what?"

"Well, financial assistance."

"No."

"Then what are you going to do when you leave the home?"

"I shall return to my relations until I've learnt a new trade and can
manage to support myself."

"But surely you will let us help you with the expenses of the first few
months?"

"I prefer not."

"Clifford, can't you persuade Miss Verney?"

"I don't wish to persuade her."

Olive tried a fresh avenue of attack. "Very well, then, let's leave that
point. What I want to say now is still more delicate. I don't want to
wound your feelings, but now that all three of us are together the
matter ought to be discussed calmly and dispassionately and settled once
and for all."

Rivière interrupted. "You promised me that this matter should not be
mentioned."

"Promised?"

"In effect."

"But we _must_ discuss it!"

Elaine put in a word: "I'd sooner the whole situation were threshed out
now. Please!"

"As you will," answered Rivière. "But remember that you're perfectly
free to close the discussion at any moment."

Olive resumed: "Yesterday, when we had our chat together, I was forced
to draw certain inferences. And I had to tell Clifford that it would be
only right for him to avoid compromising you further."

"What inferences?"

"Must I speak more definitely?"

"I prefer plain speaking."

"Well, that people would begin to talk malicious gossip about yourself
and my husband."

Rivière interrupted again. "This discussion is an insult to Miss
Verney."

But Elaine answered: "I prefer to thresh it out.... What people say
matters nothing to me. In any case, nobody knows that Mr Rivière is your
husband."

"But they will."

"You mean that you'll tell them?"

"It must come out."

"You mean that you want Mr Rivière to return to you openly as your
husband?"

"Naturally."

"Then why did you tell me yesterday that you had cut definitely loose
from him? That you never wanted to see him again? That he was free to
live out his life as John Rivière?"

"Why did you say that you had lived with my husband at Nîmes?" retorted
Olive sharply. "That you'd let the divorce suit go undefended?"

It thundered upon Rivière what Elaine had done for him--how she had
wrought her miracle--and that moment cleared his mind of all doubt and
hesitancy.

"I've heard sufficient," he cut in.

"You've not heard all I've got to say!" pursued Olive vindictively, and
a torrent of words poured out from her: "It was a pretty scheme your
Miss Verney had planned! She was to egg me on to divorce you, so that
she could get a clutch on your feelings and marry you and your money!
Your money--that puts it in a nutshell! That's the kind of woman a man
like you falls in love with! A woman who's too shrewd and too cunning to
commit herself. Who provokes and tantalizes and lures on a man, and then
stops him short at the very last moment. The musical-comedy type. The
'mind the paint' girl. A hundred times worse than the frankly vicious. A
woman who knows that a week of living with a man would sicken him of
her. Who's shrewd enough to tantalize him into hand-and-feet marriage.
That's your Miss Verney. You're welcome to her as Miss Verney! So long
as I live, you'll never have her as your wife! That's my last word--my
absolute final last word!"

Olive rose from her chair, quivering in every limb, and swept out of the
room.

Elaine bowed her head in the shame of those bitter words.

Rivière came to her side and kissed her hand reverently.

"You did this for me. I understand all. Elaine, dear, I understand it
all. There's no need for you to explain."

"You don't believe----?"

"Not a word of it! You're the sweetest, bravest----" Words failed him,
and he could only take her hand tenderly in his and let his welter of
unspoken thoughts go silently to her.

"The things she said--you don't believe they're true?" she faltered.

"Don't speak of them.... You've piled up a debt on me more than I can
ever repay. You've freed my hands to fight down Larssen, but at what a
cost to yourself?"

"Then it's freed you?"

"Absolutely. The divorce was Larssen's trump-card. You've fought for me
far better than I could ever have fought for myself. To think of you
lying there helpless, and yet battling for me! My God, but at what a
cost to yourself!"

"If it's freed you, dear John, nothing else matters."

"It has. Now I can smash Larssen's scheme.... But what of you, what of
you?"

"We must part--now," she murmured.

"Why now?"

"Don't ask me to explain."

Rivière clenched his hand. "Yes, you're right," he said after a pause.
"We must part--for a time."

"It will be best for both of us. You must go back to your world."

"I'm wanted at Nîmes a few days hence, to give evidence at the trial."

"Then leave Wiesbaden to-day."

"Give me till to-morrow near you."

"No, you must go to-day.... We'll say good-bye now."

She held out her hand, but he took her in his arms and kissed her
passionately.

"No--don't!"

"Forgive me--I'm a brute!"

"Dear John, go now. Don't stay. Go back to your world and fight your
battle. I shall recover my sight--I feel that more strongly than ever. I
shall need it if only to read your letters. Go now, and take with you my
wishes for all happiness and all success in your life-work!"

Rivière tried to answer, but the words choked in his throat.

"Elaine!" was all he could utter.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night he took train for Paris, to call on Barrèze the manager of
the Odéon Theatre.

There he fixed up an arrangement by which Barrèze would send to Elaine,
in the guise of payment for the uncompleted work she had done for him, a
substantial sum of money. It was a temporary expedient only, but it
would serve Rivière's purpose.

Then he proceeded to Nîmes to attend the trial of the youth Crau.



CHAPTER XXX

HEIR TO A THRONE


The liner "Claudia" was ripping her way eastwards through a calm
Atlantic, like shears through an endless length of blue muslin.

An unclouded morning sun beat full upon the pale cheeks and delicate
frame of Larssen's little twelve-year-old son, alone with his father on
their private promenade deck. The contrast between the broad frame of
the shipowner and the delicate, nervous, under-sized physique of his boy
was striking in its irony. Here was the strong man carving out an empire
for his descendants, and here was his only son, the inheritor-to-be.
Neither physically nor mentally could Olaf ever be more than the palest
shadow of his father, and yet Larssen was the only person who could not
see this. He was trying to train his boy to hold an empire as though he
were born to rule.

"How clever Mr Dean is!" Olaf was saying.

"Why?"

"Look at the set of wheels he's rigged up for me so as I can sail my
boat on deck." He held up a beautiful model yacht, perfect in line and
rig, with which he was playing. Underneath it was a crudely-made
contrivance of wood and wire, with four corks for wheels--the handiwork
of Arthur Dean.

"Was that your idea?" inquired Larssen.

"No, Dad.... Now, watch me sail her up to windward."

"Wait. You ought to have thought out that idea for yourself."

"I haven't any tools on board, Dad."

"Then go and make friends with the carpenter." Larssen took up the crude
contrivance and looked it over contemptuously. "I want you to think out
a better device; pitch this overboard; then find out where Mr Chips
lives, make friends with him, and get him to construct you a proper set
of wheels to your own design."

The boy looked troubled. "I don't want to throw it overboard!" he
protested. "I want to sail my boat on deck now."

"Sonny, there are heaps of things that are good for you to do which you
won't want to do. It's like being told by the doctor to take medicine.
It's nasty to take, but very good for you.... I want to see you one day
a big strong fellow able to handle men and things--a great big strong
fellow men will be afraid of. That's to be your ambition. You've got to
learn to handle men and things. Here's one way to do it."

"But Mr Dean wouldn't like it if he knew I'd thrown his wheels
overboard."

"Dean is a servant. He's paid to do things for you. His feelings don't
matter.... But you needn't tell him you threw his wheels away. Say they
slipped over the side. Now, get a pencil and paper, and let me see you
work out a better contrivance."

Olaf obeyed, though reluctantly, and presently he was deep amongst the
problems of the inventor. Lars Larssen watched the boy with a tenderness
that few would have given him credit for.

"I've got it! Look, Dad!" cried the boy excitedly, and began to explain
his idea and his tangled drawing.

"Good! That's what I want from you. Now, don't you feel better at having
worked out the idea all on your own?"

"Yes, Dad. I'll go to Mr Chips at once and get it made. In which part of
the ship does he live?"

"You must find that out yourself."

"How much shall I offer him?"

"Don't offer him anything. Make friends with him, and he'll do it for
you for nothing."

"But I always give people money to do things for me."

"That's a bad habit. Drop it. Get things done for you for nothing."

"Why?"

"Because I want you to be a business man when you grow up, and not
merely a spender of money."

"What does a business man mean exactly?"

"A ruler of men."

The boy looked troubled again. His confusion of thoughts sorted
themselves into his declaration: "I don't want to be a ruler of men; I
want people to like me."

"That's a poor ambition."

"Why?"

"Mostly anyone wants that. It's a sign of weakness. Drop it."

"What ought I to want?"

"People to fear you."

"Why should they be afraid of me, Dad?"

"For one thing, because some day you'll have all my money and all my
power. Just how big that is you can't realise yet. That's one reason.
The other reason must lie with yourself--you must make yourself strong
and afraid of nothing. How many fights did you have this term, before
you got ill?"

"Only one."

It was clear from the boy's downcast eyes that he had been beaten in his
fight.

"That's bad. That's disobeying my orders. Didn't I tell you to fight
every boy in the school until they acknowledged you master?"

"I'm not strong enough."

"You must make yourself strong enough. It's not a question of muscle,
but will-power. When you're properly over this illness, I'll pick you
out a school in England with about thirty or forty boys of your own age.
They're soft, these English boys, softer than Americans. I want you to
lick your way through them, and then I'll take you back to the States to
polish up on Americans."

After a pause came this question: "Dad, must I have all your money when
I grow up? Couldn't some one else have some of it?"

"Sonny, don't look at it that way. You're born to an empire; try and
make yourself fit for it. I'm building it for you. It'll be a glorious
inheritance.... Now throw those wheels overboard, and run along and find
Mr Chips."

Presently Arthur Dean came to the private deck to ask if Larssen had any
orders for him. He was acting as interim private secretary.

The shipowner dictated a few messages to be sent by wireless, and then
remarked:

"When you're back in London, I suppose you'll be going to see your young
lady as well as your parents?"

Dean blushed.

"Taking her back any presents?"

"Yes, sir."

"A ring?"

"Not yet, sir."

"Well, I don't doubt that'll come in its own good time."

"You don't think I ought to----?" began Dean tentatively.

"I don't interfere in that. It's your own private affair and no concern
of mine. You can afford to marry her on your present salary. If she's a
girl likely to make a good wife, I hope you _will_ marry her. I like my
employees to be married. It's healthy for them and makes them better
business men. Is she an ambitious girl?"

"I hardly know that."

"Well, my advice to you is this: marry someone ambitious. You'll need
it. You're inclined to weaken."

"It's very good of you to take such an interest in me."

"I like you. I want to make you one of my right-hand men eventually. Now
I want to say this in particular: keep business affairs to yourself."

"I'll certainly do so, sir."

"Don't talk about them even to your parents, even to your young lady.
I'm paying you a very good salary for a man of your age, and I expect a
closed mouth about my affairs."

"Of course."

"Get the reason for it. This deal I'm engaged on is a big thing, and
there are plenty of City people in London who'd like to know just what
I'm planning, and just why Matheson and I sent you to Canada. I want you
to keep them guessing until the scheme's floated. D'you get that?"

"Certainly, sir! You may rely on me not to say anything about your
business affairs to anybody. I know how things leak around once
anybody's told."

"That's right! Now send off those wireless messages, and then go and
amuse yourself for the rest of the morning. Cabin and all quite
comfortable?"

"Quite, thank you, sir," answered Dean, and went off buoyantly.

In the afternoon Olaf was sailing his yacht on deck on the new set of
wheels made for him by the ship's carpenter, while his father sat
stretched in a long deck-chair watching him tenderly and weaving dreams
for his future. The thought crossed his mind--not for the first
time--whether it wouldn't be advisable to get a stepmother for the boy.
Larssen had a strong intuitive feeling that he would not live to old
age, and he wanted to know that the boy would have someone to care for
him and to stand behind him while he was seating himself firmly on his
father's throne.

Specifically, the shipowner was reviewing Olive as a possible
stepmother. There was no scrap of passion in his thoughts. He was
viewing the matter as a business proposition, weighing the pros and cons
calmly and cool-bloodedly. Would Olive be the right stepmother for the
boy? She was of good family, with influential connections. She made a
fine presence as a hostess. Her ambition was undoubted. Even the
trifling point of the similarity between Olive's name and that of his
boy impressed him, by some curious twist of mind, as favourable.

"Dad, look at me!" called out Olaf. "I've made some buoys, and now I'm
going to sail her round a racing course."

He had run needles through three corks, and planted them in the
pitch-seams of the deck to form the three points of a large triangle, in
imitation of the buoys of a yacht-race course.

"This buoy is Sandy Hook, and this one is the Fastnet, and that one over
there is Gibraltar."

"Good!" said the shipowner. "I'll time the race." He took out his watch.
"Are you ready?... Go!"

When the course was completed and the yacht lay at anchor again at Sandy
Hook, Larssen called his son to the seat at his side.

"Do you remember much of your mother?" he asked.

The boy's face clouded over. "I don't know. Sometimes I seem to see her
very plainly, and sometimes again I don't seem to see her at all when I
try to. Was mother very beautiful?"

"Very beautiful, to me," assented the shipowner.

"I think I should have loved her very much."

"How would you like to have a new mother?"

Olaf thought this over in silence for some time.

"It depends," he ventured at length.

"Depends on what?"

"I don't know. I must see her. Then I could tell you."

"You care for the idea?"

"I must see her first."

"Yes, that's right. Well, Sonny, as soon as we're in London I'll take
you to see her. But remember this: don't breathe a word of it to anyone.
Keep a tight mouth. That's what a business man has always got to learn."

"Why?"

"Because silence in the right place means big money."

Olaf reflected over the new problem for some time.

"Dad," he said presently, "I'd like her to like me very much. And I'd
like her to be a good sailor."

Larssen smiled at the naïve requirement.

"Is that very important?"

"Yes. You see, I want her to live with us on a yacht, and some women are
so ill whenever they go on board a boat."

"Which do you like best: the country, or a big city, or the sea?"

"The sea--the sea! I hate a big city. The crowds of people make me
feel...." He groped about for a word which would express his feeling
" ... make me feel so lonely."

"You'll have to overcome that. One day your work will lie in controlling
crowds of people."

"Dad, let me stay on a yacht till I get quite well again!"

Larssen considered for a moment. "Well, if it will help you to get your
fighting muscle, I'll arrange it. There's a small cruising yacht of
mine--the 'Starlight'--lying in Southampton Water. I might have her
cruise about the Channel for you."

"Thank you, Dad, I'd like that immensely."

"Yes, I'll see to that. We must go up to London for a few days, and
meanwhile I'll arrange to have the 'Starlight' put in order for you."

"Can I be captain of the yacht?"

"That's the spirit I want! But you can't be captain at a jump. You must
work your way up. First you'll have to work for your mate's ticket. I'll
tell the captain to put you through your paces--give you your trick at
the wheel and so on. But see here, Sonny, it'll be work and not play.
You'll have to obey orders just as if you were a new apprentice."

"I love the sea! I'll work right enough."

Larssen grew grave with memories. "Work? You'll never know work as I
knew it. At fourteen I was a drudge on a Banks trawler. Kicked and
punched and fed on the leavings of the fo'castle. Hands skinned raw with
hauling on the dredge-ropes----"

A deck steward bearing a wireless telegram came to interrupt them. The
message was from Olive, and it read:

"Important developments. Come to see me as soon as you arrive."

Larssen scribbled an answer and handed it to the steward for despatch.

The boy was thinking over the coming cruise of the "Starlight." Suddenly
he exclaimed: "I've got an idea! Invite her on board my yacht!"

Larssen smiled. "That's a very practical test for her!" he said.



CHAPTER XXXI

THE REINS HAD SLIPPED


The Italian garden at Thornton Chase was perfect in its artificiality.
It sloped down towards Richmond Park in a series of stately terraces
with box-hedge borders trimmed so evenly that not a twig or leaf
offended against the canons of symmetry. They were groomed like a
racehorse. Centred in a square of barbered lawn was a fountain where
Neptune drove his chariot of sea-horses. The Apollo Belvedere, the
Capitoline Venus, Minerva, and Flora had their niches against a
greenhouse of which the roof formed the terrace above--a greenhouse
where patrician exotics held formal court.

Olive was feeding a calm-eyed Borzoi from the tea-table when Larssen and
his little boy arrived. The pose was that of a Gainsborough
portrait--she had dressed the part as closely as modern dress would
allow. Sir Francis was leaning back in an easy-chair with one leg
crossed squarely over the other knee, and in spite of country tweeds and
Homburg hat, he was somehow well within the picture. But Lars Larssen,
with his broad frame and his masterful step, was markedly out of harmony
with that atmosphere of leisured artificiality.

A lesser man would have been conscious of his incongruity--not so with
Larssen. He forced his personality on his environment. He made the
Italian garden seem out of place in his presence. A sensitive would
almost have felt the resentment of the trimly correct hedges and shrubs
and the classic statues at being thrust out of the picture on Larssen's
arrival.

For some time the conversation progressed on very ordinary tea-table
lines. Olive made much of the little boy--petted him, sent in for
special cakes to tempt him with, showered a host of questions on him
about school and games and hobbies. Sir Francis exchanged views on
weather, politics, and the coming cricket season with his guest. The
latter subject mostly resolved itself into a monologue on the part of
the baronet, since cricket held no more interest for Larssen than
ninepins; but he listened with polite attention while Sir Francis
expounded the chances of the Australian Team (he had been to Lord's that
morning to watch them at preliminary practice), and his own pet theory
of how the googly ought to be bowled.

Then, having offered libation on the altars of weather, politics, and
cricket, the baronet felt himself at liberty to touch on business
matters.

"Have you heard when Clifford will be back?" he asked.

"Let me see. To-day's the 26th. I expect him not later than May 3rd.
Probably sooner."

"Everything going smooth?"

"Yes; fine. I'm glad we delayed the issue until May. Canada's getting
well in the public eye just now. When the leaves spread out on the
park-trees, town-dwellers begin to remember that the country grows
crops. They recollect that there's 40 million acres of cropland in
Canada--250 million bushels of wheat to move. They awake to the notion
that the wheat will need transport to Europe. Yes, early May is the time
for our Hudson Bay issue--Clifford was right in suggesting the
postponement."

Olive caught the new drift of conversation between her father and her
guest, and turned to cut in.

"Olaf would like to see the aviary," she said to her father. "Especially
the new owl. It's so amusing to look at in the daytime. Will you take
him round and show him everything?"

The boy jumped up gleefully, and Sir Francis roused himself from his
easy-chair to obey his daughter's order. He had grown accustomed to
obeying--experience had shown him it was more comfortable in the long
run to do as she wished.

"Bring some cake along, and we'll feed the birds," he said to the boy,
and the two moved off together to the aviary, which lay sheltered under
the south wall of the house.

When the two were out of earshot, Larssen turned smilingly to Olive, and
his tone was that of one who finds himself at home again.

"It's good to be back," he said.

Olive did not smile welcome to him, as he expected. There was an
unlooked-for constraint in her voice as she inquired: "Another cup?"

"Thanks."

She took the cup from him.

"I've missed you," he added.

"I've had a worrying time," began Olive as she poured out tea and cream
for him.

"Clifford?"

"Ye-es."

Larssen read through the slight hesitancy of her answer. "That means the
Verney girl, does it?"

"I've seen her."

"Where?"

"At Wiesbaden."

"What made you travel to there?"

"She wrote me a letter."

"Which roused your curiosity."

"Yes."

"Did you satisfy yourself?"

"I satisfied myself that so far there's nothing to take hold of between
her and Clifford."

"If she managed to give you that impression, she must be clever as well
as attractive."

"I know I'm right.... Though of course they're in love with one another.
Both admit it."

Olive was ill at ease--a most unusual frame of mind for her. Larssen
guessed she had some confession to make, and prepared himself for an
outwardly sympathetic attitude.

"No doubt she's got the hooks into Clifford tight enough," he answered.
"It'll be merely a question of time. No cause for you to worry. Wait
quietly. Have them watched."

"I intend to do nothing of the kind!" said Olive sharply.

Larssen at once adjusted himself to her mood. "Well, that's as you
please. The affair is yours and not mine. I don't doubt you have good
reasons."

Olive played nervously with a spoon. "I've decided to drop the matter."

"Which?"

"Divorce."

Larssen had the sudden feeling that during his absence in the States the
reins had slipped from his hands. He would have to play very warily for
their recovery.

"No doubt you're right," he answered tacitly, inviting explanation.

"I want my husband back."

"Very natural."

"I want you to get him back for me."

"That's a large order. I don't know the circumstances yet."

"There's nothing much to tell. I saw this Miss Verney and I saw
Clifford, and I've changed my mind--that's all."

"What did she say to you."

"She tried to make me believe that she wanted a divorce and would let
the suit go undefended."

"Bluff?"

"Yes."

"You saw through it at once?"

"Yes."

"Then what's made you switch?"

"Why shouldn't I change my mind?" countered Olive coldly.

Larssen summed her up now with pin-point accuracy. Jealousy had worked
this transformation. She wanted her husband because the other woman
wanted him. And he, Larssen, was dependent on Olive's whims! The
flotation of his Hudson Bay scheme hinging on her momentary fancies!

The fighting instinct surged up within him. He could look for no help
from Olive--it was to be a single-handed battle with Clifford Matheson.
Well, he'd give no quarter to anyone--man or woman!

Aloud he said, with a perfect assumption of resignation: "What do you
wish me to do?"

"I don't know. I want you to suggest."

"I suppose Sir Francis knows all about everything?"

"No; I've told him nothing. He still believes Clifford went to Canada."

"That simplifies matters."

"How?"

"I've got the glimmering of a plan. Let me work out details before I put
it before you for the O.K.... As I see the problem, it's this. You want
Clifford to cut loose from Miss Verney. You want him to return to you.
You want me to use that signature to my Hudson Bay prospectus to induce
him to return."

"Well?"

"You're making a mistake."

"In what?"

"Never try to force a man's feelings in such a matter. Get him to
persuade himself. Let him return of his own free will or not at all. Now
my plan, if it works out right, will do that."

"What _is_ the plan?"

"Give me time to get details settled. Is Clifford in London?"

"I don't know where he is."

"I suppose I could get his address through Miss Verney?"

"No doubt."

"Where is she in Wiesbaden?"

"With Dr Hegelmann."

"Just one more question: are you a good sailor?"

"Yes; but why? What a curious question!"

Larssen smiled at her reassuringly. "You'll have to trust me a little.
Naturally I want my Hudson Bay scheme to go through smoothly, and if at
the same time I can bring husband and wife together, why, it'll be the
best day's work done in my life! It'll make me feel good all over!"

"Thanks; that's kind of you!" returned Olive, thawed by the cordial ring
of his words.

"No need for thanks--wait till I've worked the _deus ex machinâ_
stunt.... What do you think of my boy?"

"A dear little fellow! But he needs care."

"He looks weak now, but that's the after-effect of the illness. He'll
put on muscle presently. He'll be a match for any boy of his age in six
months' time."

"I hope so."

"Sure. Let's come and join them at the aviary."

They rose and walked to the house, chatting of impersonal matters, and
nothing affecting the Hudson Bay scheme passed between Larssen and Olive
or Sir Francis until the moment of leaving.

The baronet was at the door of the motor, seeing his guests depart, when
Larssen said in a low voice:

"Important matter to see you about. Could you come to the office?"

"When?"

"To-night?"

"To-night I'm due at the banquet to the Australian Team."

"Couldn't you come on afterwards? I shall be at the office till
midnight. It's about the Hudson Bay deal."

"Very well--I'll come about eleven."

"Right! I'll expect you."

As they drove home in the car, Larssen said to his boy:

"Tell me your impressions."

"I think the garden is fine, and the birds are bully little fellows."

"Mrs Matheson--do you like her?"

"Is she----Is she the lady you meant when you said on board ship you
were going to marry someone?"

"I want to know what you think of her."

A troubled look came into Olaf's sensitive eyes. "I don't like her very
much, Dad."

"Why not?"

"I don't think she means what she says."

"You're mistaken. Mrs Matheson has taken a great liking to you, and I
want you to be very nice to her. You must meet her again and get better
acquainted. Now see here, I'd like you to invite her on your yacht.
That's the big test, isn't it?"

Olaf's eyes brightened at the mention of the yacht. "Very well, Dad," he
answered. "If you want me to, of course, I'll try and be nice to her."

"I'll send you down to Southampton Water with Dean, and from the yacht I
want you to write a letter to Mrs Matheson. I'll give you the gist of
what to say, and you'll put it in your own words."

"Are you going to marry Mrs Matheson, Dad?"

"Not if you don't like her after better acquaintance. I promise you
that."



CHAPTER XXXII

THE NEW SCHEME


Larssen had spoken part truth when he told Olive over the tea-table that
he had the glimmering of a plan in his mind. But its object was by no
means what he had led her to believe. It was a scheme of an audacity in
keeping with his previous impersonations of the "dead" Clifford
Matheson, and its single objective was the attainment of his personal
ambitions. Even his own son was to be used to help in the gaining of
that one end.

The new scheme, in its essential, held the simplicity of genius. He
would, single-handed, float the Hudson Bay company with Matheson's name
at the head of the prospectus, whether Matheson assented or not.

The first move was to evade the spirit of his own written compact:
"Until May 3rd, I fix up nothing with the underwriters." To get round
this obstacle, he decided on the audacious plan of underwriting the
entire issue _himself_. That is to say, he would give an absolute
guarantee that if any portion of the five million pounds were not
subscribed for by the general public, he himself would pay cash for and
take up those shares. It was a huge risk. In the ordinary course of
business no single finance house in London, the world's financial
centre, would take on its shoulders the guaranteeing of a five million
pound issue. Lars Larssen proposed to do it. In order to provide the
requisite security, he would have to mortgage his ships and his private
investments. He would be dicing with nine-tenths of his entire fortune.

The second move was to prevent interference, while the issue was being
offered to the public, from those who knew anything of the inner history
of the flotation--Matheson, Olive, Elaine, and Dean. Arthur Dean could
easily be kept out of the way. Elaine would no doubt be still confined
to the surgical home at Wiesbaden. Matheson and his wife were problems
of much more difficulty. In whatever part of Europe Matheson might be,
he would be certain to hear of the flotation. The point was to delay his
knowledge of it for two or three days. After that, interference on his
part could not undo what had been done. "One cannot unscramble an egg."

For the success of the first move, it was essential to have the willing
co-operation of Sir Francis. Consequently Larssen was particularly
cordial and gracious to him that evening at the Leadenhall Street
offices, passing him compliments about his business abilities, which
found their mark unerringly.

Presently the shipowner got down to the crux of the matter, taking out
the draft prospectus from the drawer in his desk and smoothing it out to
show the signature of Clifford Matheson.

"As you see, I sent it to Clifford to O.K.," he said.

Sir Francis looked at the signature through his pair of business
eyeglasses, and nodded an official confirmation.

Larssen continued: "There's no alteration necessary--Clifford passes it
as it stands. But I've thought of one point which I reckon would add
very considerable weight in its appeal to the public."

"What's that?"

"The underwriting. There are a few blank lines here"--he turned over to
a page of small type--"where the details of the underwriting
arrangements were to be filled in. We were negotiating on a 4 per cent.
basis, you remember. On some of it we should have had to offer an
overriding commission of another 1 per cent. Say 4-1/2 per cent. on the
average--that's £225,000 on the round five million shares. A big sum for
the company to pay out!"

"I don't see how we can avoid it."

"We might cut it out altogether and state that 'No part of this issue
has been underwritten.' That sounds like confidence on our part."

Sir Francis shook his head emphatically. "It might do in the States, but
it won't do over here. Our public wouldn't like it. It's not the thing."

Larssen knew this latter was an overwhelming reason to the baronet's
mind.

"Very well; pass that suggestion," said he. "Here's a far better one.
Suppose we could get the underwriting done at 3 per cent. straight. That
would save the company £75,000."

"What house would take it on at that?"

"_I_ would."

"_You!_" exclaimed the amazed Sir Francis.

"Why not?" quietly replied the shipowner.

"But----!" The baronet paused in perplexity.

"Well, what's the particular 'but'?"

"We--the company--would have to ask you for the fullest security."

"Of course."

"Security up to the whole five million pounds."

"Of course."

"But----But I don't quite see your reason for the suggestion."

"My reason is just this," answered Larssen earnestly. "I want that
prospectus to breathe out confidence in every line and every word. I
want the whole five millions taken up by the public, and not left partly
on the underwriters' shoulders. I want to do everything I can to make
the public realise that they're being offered the squarest deal that
ever was. What better plan could you have than getting the
vendor--myself--to guarantee the whole issue at a mere 3 per cent.
cover? No financial house of any standing would look at it for a trifle
of 3 per cent. But I stand in and take the whole risk--the whole five
million risk--and give you securities on my ships that bears looking
into with a microscope."

Sir Francis gasped his admiration of the daring offer.

"That's pluck!" he exclaimed.

"Well, what do you say? Are you agreeable, for one?"

"Certainly--certainly!"

"Then will you bring St Aubyn and Carleton-Wingate here, and get their
consent? Say to-morrow morning?"

"That's very short notice."

"You can get them on the telephone. If they're here to-morrow morning
and consent--there ought to be no difficulty about that--you three
Directors can sick the lawyers on to me at once and fix up the security
deeds in a day or so."

"You ought to have been born an Englishman!" said the baronet
admiringly.

"One point occurs to me. Let's keep this matter close until the
prospectus is actually launched. I don't want any Stock Exchange
'wreckers!' trying to stick a knife into my back. You know some of their
tricks?"

"Certainly--certainly!"

"I don't think I'd even mention it to your daughter. Women--even the
best of them--can't help talking."

"Women are not meant for business," agreed the baronet sententiously.



CHAPTER XXXIII

LARSSEN'S APPEAL


In pursuance of his second move, Larssen had to see Miss Verney. To
write to her would probably be fruitless waste of time; and it was
emphatically not the kind of interview to delegate to a subordinate. He
had to seek her in person.

It was curious to reflect that, in this tangle of four lives, the
balance of power had shifted successively from one to the other. At
first it was with Matheson. A letter of his had brought the shipowner
hastening to Paris to see him. Later, it was Larssen who sat still and
Matheson who hurried to find him. Later again, it was Olive who held
decision between the two men. And now Elaine.

As soon as he had settled the underwriting affair with Sir Francis and
his two co-Directors, Larssen went straight to Wiesbaden to the surgical
home, and had his card sent in to Elaine.

Elaine received him in the garden of the home, under the soft shade of a
spreading linden, where she had been chatting with another patient. Near
by, a laburnum drooped in shower of gold over a bush of delicate white
guelder-rose as Zeus over Danæ. Upon the wall of the home wistaria hung
her pastel-shaded pendants of flower, like the notes of some beautiful
melody, sweet and sad, along the giant staves of her stem. A Chopin
could have harmonized the melody, weaving in little trills and silvery
treble notes from the joy-song of the nesting birds.

The bandages had been removed from the patient's eyes, and she wore a
pair of wide dark glasses side-curtained from the light.

After a few conventional words of greeting and inquiry, Larssen drew up
a chair beside hers. "You're wondering why I've called on you," he
began. "You're thinking that a stranger--and a busy man at
that--wouldn't have travelled to Wiesbaden merely to inquire after you.
You're thinking that I want something."

"What is it you want from me?" asked Elaine with frank directness.

"I want your help," returned Larssen with an assumption of equal
frankness.

"My help! For what?"

"For Matheson."

"And what is this help you want from me?"

"It's simple enough, but first let me spread out the situation as I see
it. If I'm wrong, you'll correct me.... To begin with, Matheson is a man
of complex character and high ideals. The latter have been snowed under
in his business career. He's like an Alpine peak. From the distance, it
looks cold and aloof, but underneath there's a carpet of blue gentian
waiting to spring out into blossom when the sun melts off the
snow-layer. I don't pay idle compliments when I say that I haven't far
to look for the sun that's melting off the snow."

He paused.

Elaine remained silent, but Larssen's vivid metaphor went home to her.

"I used to admire Matheson as a financier," pursued the shipowner. "Now
I respect him as a man. He's put up the fists to me over what he
believes to be his duty to the British public, and I like him all the
better for it."

"You threatened Mr Matheson that you would have me dragged into a
divorce court if he didn't sign agreement to your prospectus."

It was a definite statement and not a question, and from it Larssen
judged that the financier had told her everything from start to finish.

"I did, and there's where my mistake lay. One mustn't threaten a man of
Matheson's calibre. Please understand this, Miss Verney, all question of
divorce is dead."

"It would make no difference to me."

"It was fine of you to say so to Mrs Matheson. You've pluck."

"Then you've been talking matters over with Mrs Matheson?"

"Certainly. I want to arrive at a final settlement for all of us."

"How?"

"That's where I want your help. First let me complete my lay-out of the
situation.... Matheson is a man of high ideals. But he tangled up his
life pretty badly on the night of March 14th, when he tried to cut loose
from his old career. It was a mistake. We've both made mistakes, he and
I. The unfortunate part is that the consequences don't fall on us. They
fall on Mrs Matheson and yourself. You note that I place Mrs Matheson
before yourself? That's deliberate."

Again he paused, but Elaine did not make any comment. She guessed now
what Larssen had come to say to her, and a shiver of fear went through
her. Not fear of Larssen as a man, but as a spokesman for Fate. In the
deliberate unfolding of his statement, there was the passionless gravity
of Fate.

Guessing her thoughts, Larssen's voice deepened as he continued: "I
definitely place Mrs Matheson before yourself. She is his wife. He
married her for better or worse. However mistaken he may have been in
his estimate of her, he must keep to his promise of the altar-side. She
is his wife. As a man of honour, Matheson's first duty is to stand by
his wife. I don't want to wound your feelings, believe me. But I have to
say this: you must realise Mrs Matheson's point of view."

"I think I do."

"Do you realise that she is eating her heart out in loneliness?"

"I didn't know."

"I do know. I went to see her a couple of days ago at Thornton Chase.
The change in her these last few weeks startled me. I deliberately say
this: you have, unknowingly, dealt her a blow from which she will never
recover. She is naturally far from strong, and though I'm not a doctor,
I venture to make this prophecy: within three years, Mrs Matheson will
be dead."

A low cry of expostulation came from Elaine.

"It's an ugly, brutal fact," pursued Larssen, pressing home his
advantage to the fullest extent. Now that he had probed for and reached
the raw nerve of feeling, he intended to keep it tight gripped in the
forceps of his words. "It's brutal, but it's true. Unwittingly, you have
shortened her life."

"I've sent Mr Matheson away," faltered Elaine.

"I guessed that. But will he stay away from you?"

"Yes."

"I doubt it."

"We've said good-bye!"

"But he writes to you?"

There was an answer in her silence.

"He writes to you. That means a great deal--a very great deal."

"What do you want from me?" cried the tortured girl.

"Reparation," was the grave answer.

"To----?"

"To Mrs Matheson--to his wife."

"What more can I do than I have done?"

"Doesn't your heart tell you?"

"I'm torn with----"

"With love for him. I know. I know. I'm asking from you the biggest
sacrifice of all--for his sake and for her sake. While she lives, give
her back what happiness you can," Larssen's voice had lowered almost to
a whisper.

"What more can I do than I have done?"

"Much more. Write to Matheson definitely and finally. Send him back to
his wife. She is to cruise on board the 'Starlight'--a yacht of
mine--with my little son. Send Matheson to meet her on the yacht."

"And then?"

"Then they will come together again. I'm certain of it. I've seen Mrs
Matheson and read the change in her feelings. She'll be a different
woman now.... Can you see to write?"

"Yes--faintly."

"Then write to Matheson what your heart will dictate to you," said
Larssen gently.

Presently he resumed: "Where is he now?"

"At Nîmes."

"Ah, yes--the trial."

"It should be finished to-day."

"Then Matheson will probably be returning to London to see me. There's
no need for him to hurry back. He could board the 'Starlight' at
Boulogne or any other port he might prefer."

"Isn't May 3rd the day that ends your agreement?" asked Elaine.

"It is; but I'll extend that date." Larssen took from his pockets a
fountain-pen and a scrap of paper and scribbled a few words on it,
signing his name underneath. "Suppose you enclose this when you're
writing to Matheson? It extends our agreement until May 20th."

He passed the paper to her.

The power of the human word, of the human voice--how limitless it is!
Larssen, master of word and voice, had Elaine convinced through and
through of his sincerity in the matter of reconciling husband and wife.
He had appealed with unerring judgment to her finest feelings, and she
read her own altruism into his words.

Larssen knew that his point was won, and long experience had taught him
to close an interview as soon as he had carried conviction.

"I won't tire you any longer," he said, rising. "I just want to say
this: you're _big_. You're the finer woman by far, but she is his
wife."



CHAPTER XXXIV

ON BOARD THE "STARLIGHT"


The trial at Nîmes proved a wearisome, sordid affair, and its result was
a foregone conclusion. If there had been some motive of romantic
jealousy on the part of the youth Crau, a French jury might have
returned a sentimental verdict of acquittal. As it was, they found him
guilty, and the judge sentenced him to three years penal servitude.

Rivière was heartily glad when the trial was over. It was now the end of
April--close to the date of May 3rd, when the truce between Larssen and
himself would expire. The shipowner would be back in London, and no
doubt would have heard from Olive something of the changed situation.
Force of circumstance would make him readjust his attitude, and he would
probably be ready to offer compromise.

Rivière judged it advisable to return to England, and there to wait for
overtures on the part of Larssen. He had taken ticket for London, and
was preparing for travel, when two letters reached him, from Olive and
Elaine.

The latter gave him a keen thrill of pleasure. It was written by Elaine
herself, and this was proof indeed of the miracle of surgery wrought by
Dr Hegelmann. But its contents made him very thoughtful. She was asking
him to go back to his wife. She was pointing out to him a path of duty
exceedingly hard to tread.

Olive's letter added further pressure on his feelings. She was advised
to try a sea-voyage for her health, she told him; Larssen had placed his
yacht at her disposal; she begged her husband to meet her at Boulogne
and once more to give her a chance to explain. It was an appeal utterly
different to the attitude she had taken at Wiesbaden--there was now a
sincerity in it which Rivière could not mistake.

The enclosure in Elaine's letter did not surprise him. If Larssen of his
own accord offered to extend the truce until May 20th, it must mean that
the shipowner was aware of his shaky position and ready to suggest
compromise.

The effect of those three communications on Rivière's mind was what
Larssen had so shrewdly planned. Rivière wired to his wife that he would
meet her at Boulogne Harbour.

That evening he caught a Paris express with a through P.L.M. carriage
for Boulogne. At the Gare de Lyon, in the early morning, they shunted
him round the slow and tedious Girdle Railway to the Gare du Nord,
clanked him on the boat train, and sped him northwards again in a
revigorated burst of railway energy. North of Paris, a P.L.M. carriage
undergoes a marked change of character. It deferentially subdues its
nationality, and takes on an Anglo-American aspect. Harris-tweeded young
men pitch golf-bags and ice-axes on the rack, and smoke bulldog pipes
in its corridors with an air of easy proprietorship. American spinsters,
scouring Europe in couples, order lunch in high-pitched American without
troubling to translate. The few Frenchmen who find themselves in the
train have almost the apologetic air of intruders.

While passing through the corridor of a second-class carriage, Rivière
happened on the tubby little figure and rosy smiling countenance of
Jimmy Martin the journalist. Martin never forgot a face or a name--it
was part of his profession to make an unlimited acquaintanceship with
everyone who might possibly "have a story to tell."

"Hail, sir!" said he cheerily. "You haven't forgotten the little sermon
I had to preach to you on the infallibility of my owners, the _Europe
Chronicle_?"

Rivière shook hands cordially. "I remember perfectly. You're going home
on holiday, I expect?"

"I'm going home for good, praise be. I've sacked my owners. I told them
that they were a set of unmitigated liars, scoundrels and bloodsuckers,
and that I couldn't reconcile it with my conscience to work for them any
longer without a 20 per cent. increase in pay. They demurred, and I
promptly sacked them--having in my pocket an offer from a London paper.
Thus we combine valour with prudence--a mixture which is more
colloquially known as 'business.'"

"What's your new post?"

"Reporter for the _London Daily Truth_. If you've a story to tell at
any time, and want a platform to speak from, 'phone me up."

"Thanks; I will."

"I've been turning my think-tank on to the Hudson Bay Transport
flotation. You certainly had some inside information on that deal. Why
did it shut up with a snap, I ask myself. Who banged the lid down?"

Martin's effort to pump information was very transparent, but his
infectious good humour made it impossible to take offence.

Rivière was a keen judge of men, and he felt instinctive confidence in
the honesty of the whimsical little journalist. One could trust this
man. There was nobody within hearing along the corridor of the railway
carriage. Accordingly he answered:

"If you'll keep the information strictly to yourself until I want
publication, I'll tell you."

Martin sobered instantly. "Mr Rivière," said he, "you can trust me
absolutely. I play square."

"So I judge.... You ask me who banged the lid down. I did."

"Phew! You must have landed Larssen a hefty one on the solar plexus."

"The matter is not finally settled yet. It's just possible that I might
need the platform you offered me. Then I'll talk further."

"Exclusive?" asked Martin, with the journalist part of him on top.

"I can't promise that. It depends."

"Well, first call at any rate. We might get out a special edition in
front of the other fellows. We've started a new evening paper at the
_Daily Truth_ office, and I'd like to secure a scoop for one of the
two.... My stars, if I could have seen the scrap between you and
Larssen! There must have been some juicy copy in that!"

"No doubt," commented Rivière drily. "Well, I'll say good-bye now."

"Anyhow, thanks for your promise. I'll look forward to the next meeting.
_Au revoir_, as they say in this whisker-ridden country."

Boulogne harbour was crowded with grimy tramp steamers, fishing boats,
and a rabble of plebeian harbour craft, but the yacht "Starlight" was
not in view. Rivière inquired at the office of the harbour-master, and
was informed that a telegram promised the yacht's arrival by nightfall.

She arrived true to promise, and lay out beyond the twin piers of the
harbour-mouth in the quiet of sunset of the evening of April 30th--a
trim-lined, quietly capable, three-masted craft. Larssen had referred to
her as a "small cruising yacht," but in reality the "Starlight" was much
more than that casual description would convey. In addition to her
extensive sailing power, she had a set of marine oil engines for use in
light winds or special emergency, and her cabins and saloons were roomy
and comfortable. She could carry a party of a dozen passengers with
comfort if there were need, and had four life-boats as well as a shore
dinghy. The kitchen equipment was admirable. Altogether, a trim,
well-found yacht which might have voyaged round the world without
mishap.

The dinghy was sent off with the mate and a couple of seamen, and
entered the harbour to enquire for Rivière at the harbour-master's
office, according to arrangement.

"Pleased to meet you, sir," said the mate. "Mrs Matheson's compliments,
and will you come aboard?"

"Is Mr Larssen on the yacht?"

"No. Mrs Matheson, her maid, and Master Olaf--that's all. We're giving
the little chap a training in seamanship.... Jim, take the gentleman's
luggage."

They rowed out to the "Starlight," lying trimly at anchor like a
capable, self-possessed hostess awaiting the arrival of a week-end guest
at a country-house. Olive waved greeting to her husband as he came near.
By her side was Larssen's little son, holding her hand. He might have
almost been posed there by the shipowner to inspire confidence in the
peaceful intentions of the yachting cruise.

Olive thoroughly believed that Larssen's sole object in placing the
yacht at her disposal was to reconcile husband and wife, and so
indirectly to smooth over the quarrel between himself and Clifford. She
had no suspicion that his real objective was to get Matheson on the high
seas, the only region where he could not hear of the coming flotation of
the Hudson Bay Transport, Ltd. Larssen had told her that she was free to
order the yacht's movements as she pleased--he merely suggested in a
perfectly casual way that a cruise to the Norwegian fjords might prove
enjoyable.

"It was good of you to come!" said Olive as her husband mounted the
gangway to the white-railed deck. There was unmistakable sincerity in
her greeting.

"I'm to be captain of the 'Starlight' as soon as I get my skipper's
ticket," confided the little boy as he shook hands.

Matheson had made up his mind to carry out Elaine's wish. He had come
back to his wife; and he was prepared to fall in with any plan that she
might propose. Accordingly, when she suggested the alternatives of a
cruise down the Channel and up to the Hebrides, or a cruise to Norway,
he left the decision to her. She chose Norway. Matheson, with the
shipowner's agreement in his pocket to extend their truce to May 20th,
raised no objection. There was ample time to be back in England before
that date.

Olive gave her orders to the captain. Before weighing anchor, the latter
sent on shore for further provisions. At the same time he dispatched a
telegram to Larssen stating that they were bound for Norway that
evening.

A smooth deft dinner was served to Matheson and his wife in the
comfortable saloon as the yacht weighed anchor, slung round to a light
wind from the south-east, and made gently towards the outer edge of the
Goodwins. Through the starboard portholes Wimereux Plage twinkled gaily
to them from its string of lights on esplanade and summer villas; Cap
Grisnez flashed its calm white light of guardianship; Calais town sent a
message of kindly greeting from the far distance; only the Varne Sands
whispered a wordless warning as they swirled the waters above them and
sent a flock of shivering wavelets to beat against the smooth hull of
the "Starlight."

       *       *       *       *       *

On that night of April 30th, while Clifford Matheson slept on board the
yacht, the presses of Fleet Street thundered off millions of newspapers
which bore on their financial page the impressive prospectus of Hudson
Bay Transport, Ltd. The post bore off to every town and village in the
United Kingdom hundreds of thousands of copies of the issue in its full
legal detail.

Heading the prospectus were these names on the Board of Directors:--

Clifford Matheson, Esq. (Chairman).
The Right Hon. Lord St Aubyn, P.C., K.C.V.O.
Sir Francis Letchmere, Bart.
Gervase Lowndes Hawley Carleton-Wingate, Esq., M.P.
Lars Larssen, Esq. (Managing Director). To join the Board after allotment.

The capital was divided into 5,000,000 Ordinary £1 Shares, and 4,000,000
Deferred Shares of 1s. The latter were assigned to the vendor, Lars
Larssen, in payment for various considerations. He had also underwritten
the entire issue of Ordinary Shares for a commission of 3 per cent. The
lists for subscription were to open on May 1st and close at midday on
May 3rd. The London and United Kingdom Bank, in which Lord St. Aubyn was
a Director, was receiving subscriptions and carrying out the routine of
issuing allotment letters.

Such in essence was the prospectus of Hudson Bay Transport, Ltd. It
embodied every point that Larssen aimed for. It was entirely legal,
since Matheson had O.K.'d a copy of the prospectus, and the further
agreement between the two men had been technically evaded by the fact of
Larssen underwriting the entire issue himself.

By the time the "Starlight" reached Norway, the subscription lists would
be closed and Matheson would be impotent to veto the issue. If he were
three days on the high seas between France and Norway, Larssen would
have gained the control of Britain's wheat-supply.

And Matheson had no knowledge of the daring game that his adversary was
venturing. Not even a suspicion of it. In his pocket was the shipowner's
agreement to extend their truce to May 20th. His mind was at rest
regarding the Hudson Bay Scheme.

His thoughts were now centred on Olive and the strange _volte face_ in
her feelings towards him. The change in her was scarcely understandable.
Yet it was entirely a normal outcome of her essential character. Olive
had never appreciated Clifford's value to herself until that day at
Wiesbaden when she had realised his value to the woman who was ready to
sacrifice her reputation and her happiness in order to free his hands.
The torrent of bitter words she had poured on Elaine was the reflex
action of that sudden realisation. It was born of uncontrollable
jealousy.

Now she wanted to win Clifford back. It was not sufficient that he had
returned to her side. She wanted his regard, his esteem, his affection,
his love. She wanted a child by him to bind them together. The
tenderness with which she was looking after Larssen's little son was an
outward expression of that inner hope. It was a prophecy of the future.
Olaf stood for what might be. If she should have a child of her own, she
felt convinced that Clifford would remain with her.

Those feelings were now the focus of Olive's thoughts. The sincerity of
her greeting to Clifford was not an assumed emotion. It was inner-real.
And yet it might not last for long. The effect of her drug-taking was to
make every momentary feeling seem an eternal, ineradicable mainspring of
action. Her many moods were each at the moment vitally important to her.
They obsessed her. The morphia had not only undermined her physical
health, but had made her mind the prey of every passing emotion.

For his part, Matheson was trying to weigh up the essential value of
this sudden change in his wife. He admitted the sincerity; he doubted
the permanency. He realised that she ardently desired a child of her
own--that was plain to read from her attitude towards Larssen's son. But
in the past she had always been impatient with children, and he
questioned whether her present feeling was more than transitory.

The morning of May 1st brought grey sky, grey waters, and a tumbling
sea. The yacht was beating north-east, close-hauled, into a stiff breeze
from eastwards. No land was in sight--only a few trawler sails and a
squat, ugly tramp steamer flinging a pennant of black smoke to
westwards. As the day wore on the wind rose steadily, and in the
afternoon the watch turned out to reef sails. Matheson was an excellent
sailor, and this tussle with the elements exhilarated him. Olive, too,
was quite at home on board a yacht, and the two marched the decks
together in keen enjoyment of the bite of the wind and the whip of the
salt spray.

By nightfall the wind had increased to a half-gale but the "Starlight"
rode through the sea in splendid defiance, sure of her staunchness and
steady in her purpose.

       *       *       *       *       *

In this fight for the control of Britain's wheat-supply, Larssen had
played to the highest his powers of intellect, his foresight, and his
ruthless determination. He had forced the signature of Clifford Matheson
to the draft prospectus, thus sanctioning its issue. He had evaded by
one daring stroke the spirit of his own signed agreement. He had most
carefully and minutely arranged for the flotation of the company at the
time when Matheson would be on the high seas and out of touch with
London news.

The "Starlight" was a well-found yacht, capable of weathering any North
Sea gale. She had oil-engines to supplement her sailing power. She was
provisioned for a month. Rough weather would not drive her back to
harbour. She could fight through any wind or sea to Norway. Nothing had
been overlooked to carry Larssen's scheme to perfect success.

Save only the hand of Providence.... Fate....

For such a man as Lars Larssen there is no other antagonist he need
fear.

But Fate, with its little finger, can squeeze him to nothingness.

Out in the North Sea, wallowing sullenly in the trough of the waves, her
masts gone by the board and her deck awash, lay the derelict schooner
"Valkyrie" of Bergen. She would have been at the bottom of the sea had
it not been for her cargo of Norway pine, keeping her painfully afloat
against her will. Fate, with its little finger, moved this uncharted
peril right in the track of the "Starlight," beating close-reefed
through the buffeting waves on the night of May 1st, while Larssen, in
his London home, satisfied that his plans had foreseen every human
eventuality, slept the easy sleep of the successful.



CHAPTER XXXV

INTERVENTION


The "Starlight" struck the sodden derelict shortly before midnight, with
a crash that jarred the yacht to her innermost fibres.

She struck it full abeam, like a motor-car smashing in the dark into an
unlighted farm-waggon drawn across a country lane. Bows crumpled up;
bowsprit snapped away; foremast, loosed from its stay, and forced back
by the pressure of a half-gale on the close-hauled foresail, carried
over to port in a tangle of rope and wire and canvas.

Thrown back on her haunches, the "Starlight" gasped and shivered and
began to settle by the head from the rush of water into the forecastle.

"All on deck with lifebelts!"

A seaman rushed through the saloons, throwing wide the cabin doors, and
shouting the captain's order.

Up above, men were ripping the canvas covers off the life-boats,
flinging oilskins and rugs and provisions into them, slewing round the
davits, hauling on the fall-ropes--a furious medley of energies.

Matheson rushed to his wife's cabin, helped her on with some clothes,
tied her lifebelt, wrapped a rug around her, and hurried her on deck.

"What have we hit?" he snapped at the captain.

"Derelict."

"How long d'you give her?"

"Ten minutes at the outside!" flung back the captain, and then into his
megaphone: "Lower away there with No. 4!"

Lifeboat No. 4 was the second boat on the port side--the leeward side.
No. 3 was buried under the tangle of wreckage from the collapse of the
foremast, and therefore useless. The boat was already in the water, with
the mate and four seamen aboard, when Matheson, who had hurried below,
came again on deck with Olaf in his arms. Behind him panted the
stewardess and Olive's maid, terrified and clutching some worthless
finery of hers.

"Women and children to No. 4!" shouted the captain.

"I won't go without you!" cried Olive to her husband, clinging tight to
him.

The captain wasted no precious moments on argument. He thrust the
stewardess and the trembling maid before him, and stout arms bundled
them down to the plunging boat. Then he passed down the little boy.

"Is there room for all of us?" cried Olive.

"No!"

The mate cast off, and lifeboat No. 4 disappeared into the black night.

"Haul on the main and mizzen sheets!" ordered the captain, to bring the
yacht round and get a leeward launch for Nos. 1 and 2.

Presently the two crackling sails gybed over with a thud, and the
"Starlight" lay on the starboard tack, head down and filling rapidly.

"Hurry like hell!" shouted the captain.

Into No. 1, with the boatswain in charge and four seamen, went Olive and
her husband and the cook; and into No. 2 crowded the carpenter, the two
stewards, and the rest of the crew. For the captain was left the frail
dinghy, slung from the stern. True to the tradition of the sea, he had
refused a place in any of the lifeboats.

Lifeboat No. 2 got away first of the two. It was being tossed dizzily
amongst the inky combers twenty yards distant, the men rowing feverishly
to get clear of the yacht before she sank and sucked them under. But
with No. 1 there was some hitch. The boatswain had unshackled the
fall-ropes aft, and the boat slewed off with the jerk of a heavy wave.

"Clear away there forward, blast you!"

Two seamen were tugging at the fall-block. Something had fouled. The
"Starlight" was rearing head stern up; her shattered bows were already
under the waves; her life was now a matter of seconds only.

"Cut the ropes, you blasted idiots!"

Before the two men could get their knives through the tough rope, the
"Starlight" reared like a bucking mare and plunged to her grave,
dragging with her lifeboat No. 1 and its eight occupants.

"Jump for it!" yelled the boatswain.

Matheson, one foot caught under a seat, was dragged down and down until
his heart hammered like a piston and his lungs were bursting with the
fierce effort to hold his breath.

To the drowning man there comes a moment when he perforce gives up the
fight and abandons himself to the blessed peace of unconsciousness, like
a wanderer in a snowstorm lying down to rest. That moment had come to
Matheson, when suddenly the half-severed rope that shackled the lifeboat
to the doomed yacht gave way, and with a mutinous jerk the boat rushed
itself to the surface, bottom upwards, flinging Matheson clear.

His craving lungs opened to the free air; he lay back on his cork-jacket
gulping it in greedily as the whirlpool formed by the sinking yacht
carried him round and round in dizzy circles.

The moments of recuperation past, his first thought was for his wife. He
caught sight of a shapeless something at the further side of the
whirlpool, and with all his strength beat round towards it. It was
Olive, clinging to an oar.

He reached her; shouted some words of hope above the roar of the wind;
searched around the blackness of the night for a place of safety. Thirty
yards away, tossed upwards on a giant wave as though in signal to them,
there showed for a brief moment the silhouette of an upturned boat, with
two men clinging to it.

"Our boat--over there!" he cried to Olive, and clutching her by the arm,
fought the combers towards the hope of refuge.

Straddled across the upturned lifeboat were the boatswain and a seaman.
The others had disappeared. On such a night it was impossible to rescue
them unless by the accident of chance.

Matheson, buffeted and blinded by the thrash of the waves, just managed
to drag Olive to the boat's side. The boatswain, Fraser by name, lent
him a hand while he recuperated sufficiently to hoist Olive across the
keel of the storm-tossed boat.

"Where are the other boats?" he asked of Fraser, when he had recovered
speech.

The boatswain made a gesture of helplessness. In that inky night, who
could say where lifeboats No. 2 and 4 might be?

Presently a rocket flung a rain of white stars across the black curtain
of the sky. It must be from one of their own boats. But it was far away
across the waters. They shouted with all their might. The wind hurled
their words away in disdain of the puny effort.

Matheson had pocketed a flask of brandy when the call of all hands on
deck had sent him tumbling out of his berth. He now poured some of the
spirit down Olive's throat, and passed the flask on to the men.

"Be sparing with it," he warned.

Then he set to work to make his moaning wife as comfortable as the
terrible circumstances of their plight would permit. He took off his
coat and got her into it, binding her cork jacket around. A rope was
trailing from the stern and he secured this and tied it round her waist,
giving one end to Fraser to hold and keeping tight hold of the other
himself.

Very little was said as the endless hours of the night dragged their
leaden length to a sullen dawn.

"Give me the morphia!" Olive had moaned at intervals, in a delirium of
fever.

The seaman, who had been the man on watch when the "Starlight" struck
the unlighted derelict, had cursed intermittently at the cause of the
disaster. "Why didn't they show a blasted light?" he kept on repeating
with obstinate illogicality. "Why didn't the fools show a blasted
light?"

"Old man Larssen will give you hell when we get to shore."

Olive, in her delirium, caught at the words. "I can see the shore!" she
cried. "Over there--over there! Why don't you row? You want to kill me
first!"

Matheson tried to soothe her.

"We'll soon be on shore. A boat will pick us up at daybreak."

"Why didn't they show a blasted light?" cursed the seaman.

The sullen dawn uncurtained a waste of slag-coloured, heaving waters.
The gale had spent its sudden fury, as though its work were now
accomplished, but the sky was grey and inhospitable. Matheson raised
himself on his knees on the keel of the boat again and again to search
around, but no sail or steamer-smoke gave hope of rescue.

It was not until ten o'clock that a trawler came within distance of
seeing them, but apparently their signals of distress were not noticed,
for the fishing vessel passed on to its work and disappeared over the
horizon.

A few fitful gleams of sunlight mocked their shiverings with promise of
warmth--promise unfulfilled. Their brandy was now exhausted, and some
ship's biscuits in the boatswain's pocket were sodden and uneatable.
Thirst began to add to the horrors of the situation. Olive was moaning
for water, and they had none to give her.

The afternoon was far advanced before a Copenhagen-Hull packet ran
across them, taking on board three exhausted men and a woman in
delirium.



CHAPTER XXXVI

FINALITY


At Hull, prepared by wireless, doctors and nurses were waiting for Olive
when the vessel reached port late at night. As Matheson hurried with the
ambulance along the quayside, a tubby little figure of a man came up to
him.

"You remember me--Martin?" he asked. "I'm covering this story for the
_Daily Truth_."

"Come with me," answered Matheson. "I'll give you the information you
want presently."

He had first to see Olive safely in hospital. It was all that he could
do for her. Then he returned to the journalist.

"I suppose that you know that the other two boats were picked up early
this morning?" said Martin.

"Good! and Larssen's little boy?"

"Quite sound. I made a special interview with him.... By the way, you
know that the Hudson Bay flotation is going strong on the wing?"

He held out a newspaper folded back to the financial page. A few
moments' glance was sufficient to tell Matheson all that he needed to
know--that the issue had been launched in his name on the night of
April 30th; that to-morrow at twelve o'clock the lists were to be
closed.

If he were to act at all, he must act now--_at once_. His jaw squared
and his mouth tightened as he thought out the situation.

Then to the journalist: "We've got to smash this--you and I."

From the wallet in his breast-pocket Matheson took out Larssen's two
agreements--blurred with sea-water, but now dried and fit for his
purpose. He handed the agreements to Martin, who whistled surprise as he
read them.

"He's underwritten it himself," was the latter's comment.

"Yes. That evades his agreement with me.... What's the price of a
full-page advertisement in your paper?"

"First, what's the idea?" returned the journalist.

Matheson led the way to a hotel near at hand, and on a sheet of hotel
note-paper wrote these words:--

     "The use of my name on the Hudson Bay prospectus is
     absolutely unauthorized. I earnestly advise all
     investors to cancel their applications by wire--at
     once.

     (Signed) "Clifford Matheson"

"I want that on a full page," he said decisively.

The journalist read the words, and then looked up suspiciously.

"I knew you as a Mr John Rivière," he objected.

"I know, but I'm Clifford Matheson. I'll prove it to you. I'll bring you
the two survivors from the 'Starlight' to testify."

"That's not much evidence."

"In town I could take you to my bankers, but to-night it's impossible.
Martin, you've _got_ to believe me! Hear what those two men have to
say!"

The journalist considered the matter in sober silence.

"An advertisement like this is sheer libel," he answered presently.
"Larssen could rook you for goodness knows what damages if you got it
published."

"I know. That goes."

"But my owners wouldn't stand for the damages. They'd be equally liable,
you know."

"I'll guarantee them up to my last shilling. Get your editor on the
trunk wire, and find out how much guarantee he'll want me to put up."

Martin looked at him half in admiration and half in doubtfulness.

"It would be a tremendous risk for me to take!"

Matheson looked him square in the eye.

"If you want a scoop that will make your career," he answered slowly,
"it's here. Waiting for you to pick it up. I promised you first call on
my news--here it is. Have you the pluck to take your opportunity?"

"Exclusive?" asked Martin, the magic word "scoop" setting him aflame.

"Exclusive," agreed Matheson.

"You'll prove to me that you're Clifford Matheson right enough?"

"Within half an hour. And give you a full interview, explaining my
reasons for the announcement."

"Well, I'm on!"

Martin had a well-deserved newspaper reputation for accuracy and good
judgment. On his urgent recommendation, therefore, the managing editor
of the _Daily Truth_ consented to run Clifford Matheson's full-page
advertisement and to insert the interview, contingent on his depositing
with Martin a cheque for £250,000 to indemnify the paper against a
possible libel action on the part of Lars Larssen.

Matheson also prepared letters to Sir Francis Letchmere, Lord St Aubyn,
and Carleton-Wingate, giving a statement of his reasons for the
announcement in the _Daily Truth_ of the next morning, and asking them
to send telegrams to all those who had made applications for shares. The
telegram to be sent out was worded:--

"I strongly advise all investors to cancel by wire their applications
for shares in Hudson Bay Transport. See explanation in Daily Truth of
May 3rd.--Clifford Matheson."

Martin, who was leaving for London by a midnight train, took charge of
the three letters and promised to have them safely delivered to the
three Directors of the company early in the morning.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two days later, Matheson had to leave his wife in the hands of the
doctors in order to attend a brief meeting of the Board of Directors of
Hudson Bay Transport, Ltd.

They were seated in the stately board-room of the London and United
Kingdom Bank in Lombard Street, at one end of the huge oval table over
which the affairs of nations are settled. Clifford Matheson was in the
chair.

The routine business of the meeting had been cleared when a clerk
announced that Mr Larssen wished to enter. Until the allotments had been
made by the other four Directors, he had no legal right to sit at the
board of the company or to take part in any discussion. He now asked
formal permission to enter, and the Directors formally agreed to receive
him.

If they thought to find in Lars Larssen a beaten man, they were greatly
mistaken. He came in with his usual masterful stride, and his eyes met
theirs surely and squarely.

"I've come to hear what's been fixed between you," he said, and took a
seat at the table.

Matheson took up a paper from the bundle before him on the table, and
replied with studied formality: "The applications for shares totalled
£6,714,000 in round figures. Of these, all but £8200 were cancelled by
telegram or letter on the morning of May 3rd."

"As a consequence of your advertisement in the newspaper?"

"Yes. The Board decided to proceed to allotment, and we have accordingly
allotted the applications for 8200 shares. The remainder of the
5,000,000 ordinary shares will have to be taken up and paid for by
yourself under the terms of your underwriting agreement."

"I expected that. I'm ready to carry out my bond."

"As you will see," continued Matheson with the same studied formality
cloaking the irony of his words, "you gain control."

Larssen smiled tolerantly. "That's turned the trick right enough, but
don't flatter yourself that _you_ did it. If it hadn't been for a sheer
accident that no man alive could foresee or prevent, I'd have won hands
down. I haven't been beaten by _you_, and so I don't bear grudge. And
I've no intention of bringing a libel action to gratify your longing for
the limelight. I'll just sit tight and let the Hudson Bay scheme flatten
out to nothing."

He flicked thumb and forefinger together contemptuously. "That Hudson
Bay scheme was chicken-feed. I've bigger than that up my sleeve. What
you've done won't put the stopper on me. Let me tell you, Matheson, that
it will take a better man than you to down Lars Larssen."

When he left the board-room, all four Directors remained silent. They
knew that he had spoken truth. Even in defeat Lars Larssen was a bigger
man than any of the four.

       *       *       *       *       *

From the first, the doctors had little hope of saving Olive. Her
constitution, never a strong one, had been undermined by the luxurious
pleasure-seeking of her life and the deadly nerve-poison of the morphia.
That night and day on the upturned boat--drenched with the waves,
chilled, famished, tortured with thirst--had been an ordeal to shatter
even a woman with big reserves of strength, and Olive had no such
reserves.

When Matheson and his father-in-law hurried back to Hull, it was to find
that life was slowly ebbing. Towards the end her mind cleared of
delirium, and she spoke rationally.

"Perhaps it is all for the best, Clifford," she murmured. "You came back
to me, but could I have held you?"

"You had come to care for me again," he answered gently.

"Yes, but I am so uncertain. It's my nature. I might have held you for a
little while ... and then."

"You must think only of getting well again," he urged.

"Don't try to buoy me up with false hopes. It is kind of you, dear; but
I see things clearly now.... You came back to me, and I am content. I
want rest now--just rest."

Presently her eyelids closed in sleep. Matheson sat watching by her
bedside for a long while, holding her hand. She stirred once and
murmured drowsily, "You came back to me." And in her sleep she passed
away so gradually that none could say when mortal life had ended and the
life eternal had begun.



EPILOGUE


In the spring of the following year, Clifford and Elaine were on their
wedding journey to Italy. He had rented a sea-coast villa on the
Ligurian Riviera, and they were travelling to there from Paris.

It was late at night when the Rome express set them down at their
destination. The sea was booming eerily against the rock-wall of the
tiny harbour of Santa Margherita, crowded with lateen-sailed fishing
craft silhouetted as a tangle of masts and ropes.

But the morning showed a cloudless sky and sunshine dancing on the blue
waters of the Gulf of Tigullio. They walked together to the tiny fishing
village of Portofino, along the most beautiful road in Italy. To the one
side the azure sea was lapping to their feet soft messages of welcome,
and to the other the olives and the pastel pines were crowding down the
hillsides to wish them joy and happiness.

They climbed together through a grey-green veil of olive-orchards, past
the little white Noah's Ark houses of the olive farmers and their quaint
little Noah's ark cypresses, to the full height of Portofino Kulm, where
the whole enchanted coast-line of the Riviera from Genoa to Sestri
Levante lay spread out as a jewelled fringe of ocean. Elaine stood
hatless while the wanton breeze caressed her glorious hair and caught at
her skirts with careless familiarity.

She threw her arms wide as she cried joyously to Clifford: "Just to be
able to _see_ all this!"

"Thanks to Dr Hegelmann."

"I'm glad your work is for science. Some day you'll be able to give to
others in return for what science has given to me."

"Indeed I hope so."

"For a month I claim you for myself," continued Elaine. "You and I
alone.... Then I'll share you with your work--your big work. You and I
and your work!"

       *       *       *       *       *

TURNBULL AND SPEARS, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH



A SELECTION OF BOOKS PUBLISHED BY METHUEN AND CO. LTD., LONDON
36 ESSEX STREET
W.C.



CONTENTS

                                                                    PAGE
General Literature                                                     2
  Ancient Cities                                                      13
  Antiquary's Books                                                   13
  Arden Shakespeare                                                   14
  Classics of Art                                                     14
  'Complete' Series                                                   15
  Connoisseur's Library                                               15
  Handbooks of English Church History                                 16
  Handbooks of Theology                                               16
  'Home Life' Series                                                  16
  Illustrated Pocket Library of Plain and Coloured Books.             16
  Leaders of Religion                                                 17
  Library of Devotion                                                 17
  Little Books on Art                                                 18
  Little Galleries                                                    18
  Little Guides                                                       18
  Little Library                                                      19
  Little Quarto Shakespeare                                           20
  Miniature Library                                                   20
  New Library of Medicine                                             21
  New Library of Music                                                21
  Oxford Biographies                                                  21
  Four Plays                                                          21
  States of Italy                                                     21
  Westminster Commentaries                                            22
  'Young' Series                                                      22
  Shilling Library                                                    22
  Books for Travellers                                                23
  Some Books on Art                                                   23
  Some Books on Italy                                                 24

Fiction                                                               25
  Books for Boys and Girls                                            30
  Shilling Novels                                                     30
  Sevenpenny Novels                                                   31

       *       *       *       *       *

A SELECTION OF MESSRS. METHUEN'S PUBLICATIONS


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       *       *       *       *       *



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       *       *       *       *       *

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       *       *       *       *       *

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=Barnett (Annie).= A LITTLE BOOK OF ENGLISH PROSE.


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=Blake (William).= SELECTIONS FROM THE WORKS OF WILLIAM BLAKE.


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=Browning (Robert).= SELECTIONS FROM THE EARLY POEMS OF ROBERT BROWNING.


=Canning (George).= SELECTIONS FROM THE ANTI-JACOBIN: With some later
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=Cowley (Abraham).= THE ESSAYS OF ABRAHAM COWLEY.


=Crabbe (George).= SELECTIONS FROM THE POEMS OF GEORGE CRABBE.


=Craik (Mrs.).= JOHN HALIFAX, GENTLEMAN. _Two Volumes._


=Crashaw (Richard).= THE ENGLISH POEMS OF RICHARD CRASHAW.


=Dante Alighieri.= THE INFERNO OF DANTE. Translated by H. F. CARY.

THE PURGATORIO OF DANTE. Translated by H. F. CARY.

THE PARADISO OF DANTE. Translated by H. F. CARY.


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=Nichols (Bowyer).= A LITTLE BOOK OF ENGLISH SONNETS.


=Smith (Horace and James).= REJECTED ADDRESSES.


=Sterne (Laurence).= A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY.


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IN MEMORIAM.

THE PRINCESS.

MAUD.


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SAVONAROLA, GIROLAMO. E. L. S. Horsburgh. Illustrated. _Cr. 8vo. 5s.
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SHELLEY AND HIS FRIENDS IN ITALY. Helen R. Angeli. Illustrated. _Demy
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SKIES ITALIAN: A Little Breviary for Travellers in Italy. Ruth S.
Phelps. _Fcap. 8vo. 5s. net._

UNITED ITALY. F. M. Underwood. _Demy 8vo. 10s. 6d. net._

WOMAN IN ITALY. W. Boulting. Illustrated. _Demy 8vo. 10s. 6d. net._

       *       *       *       *       *



PART III.--A SELECTION OF WORKS OF FICTION


=Albanesi (E. Maria).= SUSANNAH AND ONE OTHER. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo.
6s._

I KNOW A MAIDEN. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE INVINCIBLE AMELIA; OR, THE POLITE ADVENTURESS. _Third Edition. Cr.
8vo. 3s. 6d._

THE GLAD HEART. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

OLIVIA MARY. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE BELOVED ENEMY. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Bagot (Richard).= A ROMAN MYSTERY. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE PASSPORT. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

ANTHONY CUTHBERT. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

LOVE'S PROXY. _Cr. 8vo. 6s._

DONNA DIANA. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE HOUSE OF SERRAVALLE. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

DARNELEY PLACE. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Bailey (H. C.).= STORM AND TREASURE. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE LONELY QUEEN. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE SEA CAPTAIN. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Baring-Gould (S.).= IN THE ROAR OF THE SEA. _Eighth Edition. Cr. 8vo.
6s._

MARGERY OF QUETHER. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE QUEEN OF LOVE. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

NOEMI. Illustrated. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE BROOM-SQUIRE. Illustrated. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

BLADYS OF THE STEWPONEY. Illustrated. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

PABO THE PRIEST. _Cr. 8vo. 6s._

WINEFRED. Illustrated. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

IN DEWISLAND. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

MRS. CURGENVEN OF CURGENVEN. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Barr (Robert).= IN THE MIDST OF ALARMS. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE COUNTESS TEKLA. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE MUTABLE MANY. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Begbie (Harold).= THE CURIOUS AND DIVERTING ADVENTURES OF SIR JOHN
SPARROW, BART.; OR, THE PROGRESS OF AN OPEN MIND. _Second Edition. Cr.
8vo. 6s._


=Belloc (H.).= EMMANUEL BURDEN, MERCHANT. Illustrated. _Second Edition.
Cr. 8vo. 6s._

A CHANGE IN THE CABINET. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Bennett (Arnold).= CLAYHANGER. _Eleventh Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE CARD. _Sixth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

HILDA LESSWAYS. _Eighth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

BURIED ALIVE. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

A MAN FROM THE NORTH. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE MATADOR OF THE FIVE TOWNS. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE REGENT: A FIVE TOWNS STORY OF ADVENTURE IN LONDON. _Third Edition.
Cr. 8vo. 6s._

ANNA OF THE FIVE TOWNS. _Fcap. 8vo. 1s. net._

TERESA OF WATLING STREET. _Fcap. 8vo. 1s. net._


=Benson (E. F.).= DODO: A DETAIL OF THE DAY. _Sixteenth Edition. Cr.
8vo. 6s._


=Birmingham (George A.).= SPANISH GOLD. _Seventeenth Edition. Cr. 8vo.
6s. Also Fcap. 8vo. 1s. net._

THE SEARCH PARTY. _Tenth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s. Also Fcap. 8vo. 1s. net._

LALAGE'S LOVERS. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE ADVENTURES OF DR. WHITTY. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Bowen (Marjorie).= I WILL MAINTAIN. _Ninth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

DEFENDER OF THE FAITH. _Seventh Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

A KNIGHT OF SPAIN. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE QUEST OF GLORY. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

GOD AND THE KING. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE GOVERNOR OF ENGLAND. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Castle (Agnes and Egerton).= THE GOLDEN BARRIER. _Third Edition. Cr.
8vo. 6s._


=Chesterton (G. K.).= THE FLYING INN. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Clifford (Mrs. W. K.).= THE GETTING WELL OF DOROTHY. Illustrated.
_Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d._


=Conrad (Joseph).= THE SECRET AGENT: A SIMPLE TALE. _Fourth Edition. Cr.
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A SET OF SIX. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

UNDER WESTERN EYES. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

CHANCE. _Eighth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Conyers (Dorothea).= SALLY. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

SANDY MARRIED. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Corelli (Marie).= A ROMANCE OF TWO WORLDS. _Thirty-Second Edition. Cr.
8vo. 6s._

VENDETTA; OR, THE STORY OF ONE FORGOTTEN. _Thirty-first Edition. Cr.
8vo. 6s._

THELMA: A NORWEGIAN PRINCESS. _Forty-fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

ARDATH: THE STORY OF A DEAD SELF. _Twenty-first Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE SOUL OF LILITH. _Eighteenth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

WORMWOOD: A DRAMA OF PARIS. _Nineteenth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

BARABBAS: A DREAM OF THE WORLD'S TRAGEDY. _Forty-seventh Edition. Cr.
8vo. 6s._

THE SORROWS OF SATAN. _Fifty-eighth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE MASTER-CHRISTIAN. _Fifteenth Edition. 179th Thousand. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

TEMPORAL POWER: A STUDY IN SUPREMACY. _Second Edition. 150th Thousand.
Cr. 8vo. 6s._

GOD'S GOOD MAN: A SIMPLE LOVE STORY. _Sixteenth Edition. 154th Thousand.
Cr. 8vo. 6s._

HOLY ORDERS: THE TRAGEDY OF A QUIET LIFE. _Second Edition. 120th
Thousand. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE MIGHTY ATOM. _Twenty-ninth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s. Also Fcap. 8vo. 1s.
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BOY: A SKETCH. _Thirteenth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s. Also Fcap. 8vo. 1s.
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CAMEOS. _Fourteenth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE LIFE EVERLASTING. _Sixth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

JANE: A SOCIAL INCIDENT. _Fcap. 8vo. 1s. net._


=Crockett (S. R.).= LOCHINVAR. Illustrated. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo.
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THE STANDARD BEARER. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Croker (B. M.).= THE OLD CANTONMENT. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

JOHANNA. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

A NINE DAYS' WONDER. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

ANGEL. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

KATHERINE THE ARROGANT. _Seventh Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

BABES IN THE WOOD. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Danby (Frank).= JOSEPH IN JEOPARDY. _Fcap. 8vo. 1s. net._


=Doyle (Sir A. Conan).= ROUND THE RED LAMP. _Twelfth Edition. Cr. 8vo.
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=Drake (Maurice).= WO_2. _Sixth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Findlater (J. H.).= THE GREEN GRAVES OF BALGOWRIE. _Fifth Edition. Cr.
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THE LADDER TO THE STARS. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Findlater (Mary).= A NARROW WAY. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE ROSE OF JOY. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

A BLIND BIRD'S NEST. Illustrated. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Fry (B. and C. B.).= A MOTHER'S SON. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Harraden (Beatrice).= IN VARYING MOODS. _Fourteenth Edition. Cr. 8vo.
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HILDA STRAFFORD and THE REMITTANCE MAN. _Twelfth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

INTERPLAY. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Hauptmann (Gerhart).= THE FOOL IN CHRIST: EMMANUEL QUINT. Translated by
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=Hichens (Robert).= THE PROPHET OF BERKELEY SQUARE. _Second Edition. Cr.
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TONGUES OF CONSCIENCE. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

FELIX: THREE YEARS IN A LIFE. _Tenth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE WOMAN WITH THE FAN. _Eighth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s. Also Fcap. 8vo.
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BYEWAYS. _Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE GARDEN OF ALLAH. _Twenty-third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE BLACK SPANIEL. _Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE CALL OF THE BLOOD. _Ninth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

BARBARY SHEEP. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d.
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THE DWELLER ON THE THRESHOLD. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE WAY OF AMBITION. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Hope (Anthony).= A CHANGE OF AIR. _Sixth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

A MAN OF MARK. _Seventh Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE CHRONICLES OF COUNT ANTONIO. _Sixth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

PHROSO. Illustrated. _Ninth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

SIMON DALE. Illustrated. _Ninth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE KING'S MIRROR. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

QUISANTÉ. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

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TALES OF TWO PEOPLE. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

A SERVANT OF THE PUBLIC. Illustrated. _Sixth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE GREAT MISS DRIVER. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

MRS. MAXON PROTESTS. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Hutten (Baroness von).= THE HALO. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s. Also
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='The Inner Shrine' (Author of).= THE WILD OLIVE. _Third Edition. Cr.
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THE STREET CALLED STRAIGHT. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE WAY HOME. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Jacobs (W. W.).= MANY CARGOES. _Thirty-third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d._
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SEA URCHINS. _Seventeenth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d._

A MASTER OF CRAFT. Illustrated. _Tenth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d._

LIGHT FREIGHTS. Illustrated. _Eleventh Edition. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d. Also
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THE SKIPPER'S WOOING. _Eleventh Edition. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d._

AT SUNWICH PORT. Illustrated. _Eleventh Edition. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d._

DIALSTONE LANE. Illustrated. _Eighth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d._

ODD CRAFT. Illustrated. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d._

THE LADY OF THE BARGE. Illustrated. _Ninth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d._

SALTHAVEN. Illustrated. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d._

SAILORS' KNOTS. Illustrated. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d._

SHORT CRUISES. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 3s. 6d._


=James (Henry).= THE GOLDEN BOWL. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Le Queux (William).= THE CLOSED BOOK. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW. Illustrated. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

BEHIND THE THRONE. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=London (Jack).= WHITE FANG. _Ninth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Lowndes (Mrs. Belloc).= THE CHINK IN THE ARMOUR. _Fourth Edition. Cr.
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MARY PECHELL. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

STUDIES IN LOVE AND IN TERROR. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

THE LODGER. _Fourth Edition. Crown 8vo. 6s._


=Lucas (E. V.).= LISTENER'S LURE: AN OBLIQUE NARRATION. _Tenth Edition.
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OVER BEMERTON'S: AN EASY-GOING CHRONICLE. _Eleventh Edition. Fcap. 8vo.
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MR. INGLESIDE. _Tenth Edition. Fcap. 8vo. 5s._

LONDON LAVENDER. _Eighth Edition. Fcap. 8vo. 5s._


=Lyall (Edna).= DERRICK VAUGHAN, NOVELIST. _44th Thousand. Cr. 8vo. 3s.
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=Macnaughtan (S.).= THE FORTUNE OF CHRISTINA M'NAB. _Sixth Edition. Cr.
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PETER AND JANE. _Fourth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._


=Malet (Lucas).= A COUNSEL OF PERFECTION. _Second Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

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THE HISTORY OF SIR RICHARD CALMADY: A ROMANCE. _Seventh Edition. Cr.
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THE CARISSIMA. _Fifth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

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=Mason (A. E. W.).= CLEMENTINA. Illustrated. _Eighth Edition. Cr. 8vo.
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=Maxwell (W. B.).= THE RAGGED MESSENGER. _Third Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

VIVIEN. _Thirteenth Edition. Cr. 8vo. 6s._

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GETTING WELL OF DOROTHY, THE. Mrs. W. K. Clifford.
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=Methuen's Shilling Novels=

_Fcap. 8vo. 1s. net_

ANNA OF THE FIVE TOWNS. Arnold Bennett.
BARBARY SHEEP. Robert Hichens.
BOTOR CHAPERON, THE. C. N. & A. M. Williamson.
BOY. Marie Corelli.
CHARM, THE. Alice Perrin.
DAN RUSSEL THE FOX. E. OE. Somerville and Martin Ross.
DEMON, THE. C. N. and A. M. Williamson.
FIRE IN STUBBLE. Baroness Orczy.
GATE OF DESERT, THE. John Oxenham.
GUARDED FLAME, THE. W. B. Maxwell.
HALO, THE. Baroness von Hutten.
HILL RISE. W. B. Maxwell.
JANE, Marie Corelli.
JOSEPH. Frank Danby.
LADY BETTY ACROSS THE WATER. C. N. and A. M. Williamson.
LIGHT FREIGHTS. W. W. Jacobs.
LONG ROAD, THE. John Oxenham.
MIGHTY ATOM, THE. Marie Corelli.
MIRAGE. E. Temple Thurston.
MISSING DELORA, THE. E. Phillips Oppenheim.
ROUND THE RED LAMP. Sir A. Conan Doyle.
SAÏD, THE FISHERMAN. Marmaduke Pickthall.
SEARCH PARTY, THE. G. A. Birmingham.
SECRET WOMAN, THE. Eden Phillpotts.
SEVERINS, THE. Mrs. Alfred Sidgwick.
SPANISH GOLD. G. A. Birmingham.
SPLENDID BROTHER. W. Pett Ridge.
TALES OF MEAN STREETS. Arthur Morrison.
TERESA OF WATLING STREET. Arnold Bennett.
TYRANT, THE. Mrs. Henry de la Pasture.
UNDER THE RED ROBE. Stanley J. Weyman.
VIRGINIA PERFECT. Peggy Webling.
WOMAN WITH THE FAN, THE. Robert Hichens.


=Methuen's Sevenpenny Novels=

_Fcap. 8vo. 7d. net_

ANGEL. B. M. Croker.
BROOM SQUIRE, THE. S. Baring-Gould.
BY STROKE OF SWORD. Andrew Balfour.
HOUSE OF WHISPERS, THE. William Le Queux.
HUMAN BOY, THE. Eden Phillpotts.
I CROWN THEE KING. Max Pemberton.
LATE IN LIFE. Alice Perrin.
LONE PINE. R. B. Townshend.
MASTER OF MEN. E. Phillips Oppenheim.
MIXED MARRIAGE, A. Mr. F. E. Penny.
PETER, A PARASITE. E. Maria Albanesi.
POMP OF THE LAVILETTES, THE. Sir Gilbert Parker.
PRINCE RUPERT THE BUCCANEER. C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne.
PRINCESS VIRGINIA, THE. C. N. & A. M. Williamson.
PROFIT AND LOSS. John Oxenham.
RED HOUSE, THE. E. Nesbit.
SIGN OF THE SPIDER, THE. Bertram Mitford.
SON OF THE STATE, A. W. Pett Ridge.



_Printed by_ MORRISON & GIBB LIMITED, _Edinburgh_





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