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Title: The Affair at the Semiramis Hotel
Author: Mason, A. E. W. (Alfred Edward Woodley), 1865-1948
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.

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Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/affairatsemirami00maso



                            THE AFFAIR AT

                         THE SEMIRAMIS HOTEL



                                  BY

                            A. E. W. MASON



                       CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

                        NEW YORK :: :: :: 1917



                         Copyright, 1917, by

                            A. E. W. MASON



                              THE AFFAIR

                        AT THE SEMIRAMIS HOTEL



                              THE AFFAIR
                        AT THE SEMIRAMIS HOTEL



                                  I


Mr. Ricardo, when the excitements of the Villa Rose were done with,
returned to Grosvenor Square and resumed the busy, unnecessary life of
an amateur. But the studios had lost their savour, artists their
attractiveness, and even the Russian opera seemed a trifle flat. Life
was altogether a disappointment; Fate, like an actress at a
restaurant, had taken the wooden pestle in her hand and stirred all
the sparkle out of the champagne; Mr. Ricardo languished--until one
unforgettable morning.

He was sitting disconsolately at his breakfast-table when the door was
burst open and a square, stout man, with the blue, shaven face of a
French comedian, flung himself into the room. Ricardo sprang towards
the new-comer with a cry of delight.

"My dear Hanaud!"

He seized his visitor by the arm, feeling it to make sure that here,
in flesh and blood, stood the man who had introduced him to the
acutest sensations of his life. He turned towards his butler, who was
still bleating expostulations in the doorway at the unceremonious
irruption of the French detective.

"Another place, Burton, at once," he cried, and as soon as he and
Hanaud were alone: "What good wind blows you to London?"

"Business, my friend. The disappearance of bullion somewhere on the
line between Paris and London. But it is finished. Yes, I take a
holiday."

A light had suddenly flashed in Mr. Ricardo's eyes, and was now no
less suddenly extinguished. Hanaud paid no attention whatever to his
friend's disappointment. He pounced upon a piece of silver which
adorned the tablecloth and took it over to the window.

"Everything is as it should be, my friend," he exclaimed, with a grin.
"Grosvenor Square, the _Times_ open at the money column, and a false
antique upon the table. Thus I have dreamed of you. All Mr. Ricardo is
in that sentence."

Ricardo laughed nervously. Recollection made him wary of Hanaud's
sarcasms. He was shy even to protest the genuineness of his silver.
But, indeed, he had not the time. For the door opened again and once
more the butler appeared. On this occasion, however, he was alone.

"Mr. Calladine would like to speak to you, sir," he said.

"Calladine!" cried Ricardo in an extreme surprise. "That is the most
extraordinary thing." He looked at the clock upon his mantelpiece. It
was barely half-past eight. "At this hour, too?"

"Mr. Calladine is still wearing evening dress," the butler remarked.

Ricardo started in his chair. He began to dream of possibilities; and
here was Hanaud miraculously at his side.

"Where is Mr. Calladine?" he asked.

"I have shown him into the library."

"Good," said Mr. Ricardo. "I will come to him."

But he was in no hurry. He sat and let his thoughts play with this
incident of Calladine's early visit.

"It is very odd," he said. "I have not seen Calladine for months--no,
nor has anyone. Yet, a little while ago, no one was more often seen."

He fell apparently into a muse, but he was merely seeking to provoke
Hanaud's curiosity. In this attempt, however, he failed. Hanaud
continued placidly to eat his breakfast, so that Mr. Ricardo was
compelled to volunteer the story which he was burning to tell.

"Drink your coffee, Hanaud, and you shall hear about Calladine."

Hanaud grunted with resignation, and Mr. Ricardo flowed on:

"Calladine was one of England's young men. Everybody said so. He was
going to do very wonderful things as soon as he had made up his mind
exactly what sort of wonderful things he was going to do. Meanwhile,
you met him in Scotland, at Newmarket, at Ascot, at Cowes, in the box
of some great lady at the Opera--not before half-past ten in the
evening _there_--in any fine house where the candles that night
happened to be lit. He went everywhere, and then a day came and he
went nowhere. There was no scandal, no trouble, not a whisper against
his good name. He simply vanished. For a little while a few people
asked: 'What has become of Calladine?' But there never was any answer,
and London has no time for unanswered questions. Other promising young
men dined in his place. Calladine had joined the huge legion of the
Come-to-nothings. No one even seemed to pass him in the street. Now
unexpectedly, at half-past eight in the morning, and in evening dress,
he calls upon me. 'Why?' I ask myself."

Mr. Ricardo sank once more into a reverie. Hanaud watched him with a
broadening smile of pure enjoyment.

"And in time, I suppose," he remarked casually, "you will perhaps ask
him?"

Mr. Ricardo sprang out of his pose to his feet.

"Before I discuss serious things with an acquaintance," he said with a
scathing dignity, "I make it a rule to revive my impressions of his
personality. The cigarettes are in the crystal box."

"They would be," said Hanaud, unabashed, as Ricardo stalked from the
room. But in five minutes Mr. Ricardo came running back, all his
composure gone.

"It is the greatest good fortune that you, my friend, should have
chosen this morning to visit me," he cried, and Hanaud nodded with a
little grimace of resignation.

"There goes my holiday. You shall command me now and always. I will
make the acquaintance of your young friend."

He rose up and followed Ricardo into his study, where a young man was
nervously pacing the floor.

"Mr. Calladine," said Ricardo. "This is Mr. Hanaud."

The young man turned eagerly. He was tall, with a noticeable elegance
and distinction, and the face which he showed to Hanaud was, in spite
of its agitation, remarkably handsome.

"I am very glad," he said. "You are not an official of this country.
You can advise--without yourself taking action, if you'll be so good."

Hanaud frowned. He bent his eyes uncompromisingly upon Calladine.

"What does that mean?" he asked, with a note of sternness in his
voice.

"It means that I must tell someone," Calladine burst out in quivering
tones. "That I don't know what to do. I am in a difficulty too big for
me. That's the truth."

Hanaud looked at the young man keenly. It seemed to Ricardo that he
took in every excited gesture, every twitching feature, in one
comprehensive glance. Then he said in a friendlier voice:

"Sit down and tell me"--and he himself drew up a chair to the table.

"I was at the Semiramis last night," said Calladine, naming one of the
great hotels upon the Embankment. "There was a fancy-dress ball."

All this happened, by the way, in those far-off days before the
war--nearly, in fact, three years ago today--when London, flinging
aside its reticence, its shy self-consciousness, had become a city of
carnivals and masquerades, rivalling its neighbours on the Continent
in the spirit of its gaiety, and exceeding them by its stupendous
luxury. "I went by the merest chance. My rooms are in the Adelphi
Terrace."

"There!" cried Mr. Ricardo in surprise, and Hanaud lifted a hand to
check his interruptions.

"Yes," continued Calladine. "The night was warm, the music floated
through my open windows and stirred old memories. I happened to have a
ticket. I went."

Calladine drew up a chair opposite to Hanaud and, seating himself,
told, with many nervous starts and in troubled tones, a story which,
to Mr. Ricardo's thinking, was as fabulous as any out of the "Arabian
Nights."

"I had a ticket," he began, "but no domino. I was consequently stopped
by an attendant in the lounge at the top of the staircase leading down
to the ballroom.

"'You can hire a domino in the cloakroom, Mr. Calladine,' he said to
me. I had already begun to regret the impulse which had brought me,
and I welcomed the excuse with which the absence of a costume provided
me. I was, indeed, turning back to the door, when a girl who had at
that moment run down from the stairs of the hotel into the lounge,
cried gaily: 'That's not necessary'; and at the same moment she flung
to me a long scarlet cloak which she had been wearing over her own
dress. She was young, fair, rather tall, slim, and very pretty; her
hair was drawn back from her face with a ribbon, and rippled down her
shoulders in heavy curls; and she was dressed in a satin coat and
knee-breeches of pale green and gold, with a white waistcoat and
silk stockings and scarlet heels to her satin shoes. She was as
straight-limbed as a boy, and exquisite like a figure in Dresden
china. I caught the cloak and turned to thank her. But she did not
wait. With a laugh she ran down the stairs a supple and shining
figure, and was lost in the throng at the doorway of the ballroom. I
was stirred by the prospect of an adventure. I ran down after her. She
was standing just inside the room alone, and she was gazing at the
scene with parted lips and dancing eyes. She laughed again as she saw
the cloak about my shoulders, a delicious gurgle of amusement, and I
said to her:

"'May I dance with you?'

"'Oh, do!' she cried, with a little jump, and clasping her hands. She
was of a high and joyous spirit and not difficult in the matter of an
introduction. 'This gentleman will do very well to present us,' she
said, leading me in front of a bust of the God Pan which stood in a
niche of the wall. 'I am, as you see, straight out of an opera. My
name is Celymène or anything with an eighteenth century sound to it.
You are--what you will. For this evening we are friends.'

"'And for to-morrow?' I asked.

"'I will tell you about that later on,' she replied, and she began to
dance with a light step and a passion in her dancing which earned me
many an envious glance from the other men. I was in luck, for Celymène
knew no one, and though, of course, I saw the faces of a great many
people whom I remembered, I kept them all at a distance. We had been
dancing for about half an hour when the first queerish thing happened.
She stopped suddenly in the midst of a sentence with a little gasp. I
spoke to her, but she did not hear. She was gazing past me, her eyes
wide open, and such a rapt look upon her face as I had never seen. She
was lost in a miraculous vision. I followed the direction of her eyes
and, to my astonishment, I saw nothing more than a stout, short,
middle-aged woman, egregiously over-dressed as Marie Antoinette.

"'So you do know someone here?' I said, and I had to repeat the words
sharply before my friend withdrew her eyes. But even then she was not
aware of me. It was as if a voice had spoken to her whilst she was
asleep and had disturbed, but not wakened her. Then she came
to--there's really no other word I can think of which describes her at
that moment--she came to with a deep sigh.

"'No,' she answered. 'She is a Mrs. Blumenstein from Chicago, a widow
with ambitions and a great deal of money. But I don't know her.'

"'Yet you know all about her,' I remarked.

"'She crossed in the same boat with me,' Celymène replied. 'Did I tell
you that I landed at Liverpool this morning? She is staying at the
Semiramis too. Oh, let us dance!'

"She twitched my sleeve impatiently, and danced with a kind of
violence and wildness as if she wished to banish some sinister
thought. And she did undoubtedly banish it. We supped together and
grew confidential, as under such conditions people will. She told me
her real name. It was Joan Carew.

"'I have come over to get an engagement if I can at Covent Garden. I
am supposed to sing all right. But I don't know anyone. I have been
brought up in Italy.'

"'You have some letters of introduction, I suppose?' I asked.

"'Oh, yes. One from my teacher in Milan. One from an American
manager.'

"In my turn I told her my name and where I lived, and I gave her my
card. I thought, you see, that since I used to know a good many
operatic people, I might be able to help her.

"'Thank you,' she said, and at that moment Mrs. Blumenstein, followed
by a party, chiefly those lap-dog young men who always seem to gather
about that kind of person, came into the supper-room and took a table
close to us. There was at once an end of all confidences--indeed, of
all conversation. Joan Carew lost all the lightness of her spirit; she
talked at random, and her eyes were drawn again and again to the
grotesque slander on Marie Antoinette. Finally I became annoyed.

"'Shall we go?' I suggested impatiently, and to my surprise she
whispered passionately:

"'Yes. Please! Let us go.'

"Her voice was actually shaking, her small hands clenched. We went
back to the ballroom, but Joan Carew did not recover her gaiety, and
half-way through a dance, when we were near to the door, she stopped
abruptly--extraordinarily abruptly.

"'I shall go,' she said abruptly. 'I am tired. I have grown dull.'

"I protested, but she made a little grimace.

"'You'll hate me in half an hour. Let's be wise and stop now while we
are friends,' she said, and whilst I removed the domino from my
shoulders she stooped very quickly. It seemed to me that she picked up
something which had lain hidden beneath the sole of her slipper. She
certainly moved her foot, and I certainly saw something small and
bright flash in the palm of her glove as she raised herself again. But
I imagined merely that it was some object which she had dropped.

"'Yes, we'll go,' she said, and we went up the stairs into the lobby.
Certainly all the sparkle had gone out of our adventure. I recognized
her wisdom.

"'But I shall meet you again?' I asked.

"'Yes. I have your address. I'll write and fix a time when you will be
sure to find me in. Good-night, and a thousand thanks. I should have
been bored to tears if you hadn't come without a domino.'

"She was speaking lightly as she held out her hand, but her grip
tightened a little and--clung. Her eyes darkened and grew troubled,
her mouth trembled. The shadow of a great trouble had suddenly closed
about her. She shivered.

"'I am half inclined to ask you to stay, however dull I am; and dance
with me till daylight--the safe daylight,' she said.

"It was an extraordinary phrase for her to use, and it moved me.

"'Let us go back then!' I urged. She gave me an impression suddenly of
someone quite forlorn. But Joan Carew recovered her courage. 'No, no,'
she answered quickly. She snatched her hand away and ran lightly up
the staircase, turning at the corner to wave her hand and smile. It
was then half-past one in the morning."

So far Calladine had spoken without an interruption. Mr. Ricardo, it
is true, was bursting to break in with the most important questions,
but a salutary fear of Hanaud restrained him. Now, however, he had an
opportunity, for Calladine paused.

"Half-past one," he said sagely. "Ah!"

"And when did you go home?" Hanaud asked of Calladine.

"True," said Mr. Ricardo. "It is of the greatest consequence."

Calladine was not sure. His partner had left behind her the strangest
medley of sensations in his breast. He was puzzled, haunted, and
charmed. He had to think about her; he was a trifle uplifted; sleep
was impossible. He wandered for a while about the ballroom. Then he
walked to his chambers along the echoing streets and sat at his
window; and some time afterwards the hoot of a motor-horn broke the
silence and a car stopped and whirred in the street below. A moment
later his bell rang.

He ran down the stairs in a queer excitement, unlocked the street door
and opened it. Joan Carew, still in her masquerade dress with her
scarlet cloak about her shoulders, slipped through the opening.

"Shut the door," she whispered, drawing herself apart in a corner.

"Your cab?" asked Calladine.

"It has gone."

Calladine latched the door. Above, in the well of the stairs, the
light spread out from the open door of his flat. Down here all was
dark. He could just see the glimmer of her white face, the glitter of
her dress, but she drew her breath like one who has run far. They
mounted the stairs cautiously. He did not say a word until they were
both safely in his parlour; and even then it was in a low voice.

"What has happened?"

"You remember the woman I stared at? You didn't know why I stared, but
any girl would have understood. She was wearing the loveliest pearls I
ever saw in my life."

Joan was standing by the edge of the table. She was tracing with her
finger a pattern on the cloth as she spoke. Calladine started with a
horrible presentiment.

"Yes," she said. "I worship pearls. I always have done. For one thing,
they improve on me. I haven't got any, of course. I have no money. But
friends of mine who do own pearls have sometimes given theirs to me to
wear when they were going sick, and they have always got back their
lustre. I think that has had a little to do with my love of them. Oh,
I have always longed for them--just a little string. Sometimes I have
felt that I would have given my soul for them."

She was speaking in a dull, monotonous voice. But Calladine recalled
the ecstasy which had shone in her face when her eyes first had fallen
on the pearls, the longing which had swept her quite into another
world, the passion with which she had danced to throw the obsession
off.

"And I never noticed them at all," he said.

"Yet they were wonderful. The colour! The lustre! All the evening they
tempted me. I was furious that a fat, coarse creature like that should
have such exquisite things. Oh, I was mad."

She covered her face suddenly with her hands and swayed. Calladine
sprang towards her. But she held out her hand.

"No, I am all right." And though he asked her to sit down she would
not. "You remember when I stopped dancing suddenly?"

"Yes. You had something hidden under your foot?"

The girl nodded.

"Her key!" And under his breath Calladine uttered a startled cry.

For the first time since she had entered the room Joan Carew raised
her head and looked at him. Her eyes were full of terror, and with the
terror was mixed an incredulity as though she could not possibly
believe that that had happened which she knew had happened.

"A little Yale key," the girl continued. "I saw Mrs. Blumenstein
looking on the floor for something, and then I saw it shining on the
very spot. Mrs. Blumenstein's suite was on the same floor as mine, and
her maid slept above. All the maids do. I knew that. Oh, it seemed to
me as if I had sold my soul and was being paid."

Now Calladine understood what she had meant by her strange
phrase--"the safe daylight."

"I went up to my little suite," Joan Carew continued. "I sat there
with the key burning through my glove until I had given her time
enough to fall asleep"--and though she hesitated before she spoke the
words, she did speak them, not looking at Calladine, and with a
shudder of remorse making her confession complete. "Then I crept out.
The corridor was dimly lit. Far away below the music was throbbing. Up
here it was as silent as the grave. I opened the door--her door. I
found myself in a lobby. The suite, though bigger, was arranged like
mine. I slipped in and closed the door behind me. I listened in the
darkness. I couldn't hear a sound. I crept forward to the door in
front of me. I stood with my fingers on the handle and my heart
beating fast enough to choke me. I had still time to turn back. But I
couldn't. There were those pearls in front of my eyes, lustrous and
wonderful. I opened the door gently an inch or so--and then--it all
happened in a second."

Joan Carew faltered. The night was too near to her, its memory too
poignant with terror. She shut her eyes tightly and cowered down in a
chair. With the movement her cloak slipped from her shoulders and
dropped on to the ground. Calladine leaned forward with an exclamation
of horror; Joan Carew started up.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Nothing. Go on."

"I found myself inside the room with the door shut behind me. I had
shut it myself in a spasm of terror. And I dared not turn round to
open it. I was helpless."

"What do you mean? She was awake?"

Joan Carew shook her head.

"There were others in the room before me, and on the same
errand--men!"

Calladine drew back, his eyes searching the girl's face.

"Yes?" he said slowly.

"I didn't see them at first. I didn't hear them. The room was quite
dark except for one jet of fierce white light which beat upon the door
of a safe. And as I shut the door the jet moved swiftly and the light
reached me and stopped. I was blinded. I stood in the full glare of
it, drawn up against the panels of the door, shivering, sick with
fear. Then I heard a quiet laugh, and someone moved softly towards me.
Oh, it was terrible! I recovered the use of my limbs; in a panic I
turned to the door, but I was too late. Whilst I fumbled with the
handle I was seized; a hand covered my mouth. I was lifted to the
centre of the room. The jet went out, the electric lights were turned
on. There were two men dressed as apaches in velvet trousers and red
scarves, like a hundred others in the ballroom below, and both were
masked. I struggled furiously; but, of course, I was like a child in
their grasp. 'Tie her legs,' the man whispered who was holding me;
'she's making too much noise.' I kicked and fought, but the other man
stooped and tied my ankles, and I fainted."

Calladine nodded his head.

"Yes?" he said.

"When I came to, the lights were still burning, the door of the safe
was open, the room empty; I had been flung on to a couch at the foot
of the bed. I was lying there quite free."

"Was the safe empty?" asked Calladine suddenly.

"I didn't look," she answered. "Oh!"--and she covered her face
spasmodically with her hands. "I looked at the bed. Someone was lying
there--under a sheet and quite still. There was a clock ticking in the
room; it was the only sound. I was terrified. I was going mad with
fear. If I didn't get out of the room at once I felt that I should
go mad, that I should scream and bring everyone to find me alone
with--what was under the sheet in the bed. I ran to the door and
looked out through a slit into the corridor. It was still quite empty,
and below the music still throbbed in the ballroom. I crept down the
stairs, meeting no one until I reached the hall. I looked into the
ballroom as if I was searching for someone. I stayed long enough to
show myself. Then I got a cab and came to you."

A short silence followed. Joan Carew looked at her companion in
appeal. "You are the only one I could come to," she added. "I know no
one else."

Calladine sat watching the girl in silence. Then he asked, and his
voice was hard:

"And is that all you have to tell me?"

"Yes."

"You are quite sure?"

Joan Carew looked at him perplexed by the urgency of his question. She
reflected for a moment or two.

"Quite."

Calladine rose to his feet and stood beside her.

"Then how do you come to be wearing this?" he asked, and he lifted a
chain of platinum and diamonds which she was wearing about her
shoulders. "You weren't wearing it when you danced with me."

Joan Carew stared at the chain.

"No. It's not mine. I have never seen it before." Then a light came
into her eyes. "The two men--they must have thrown it over my head
when I was on the couch--before they went." She looked at it more
closely. "That's it. The chain's not very valuable. They could spare
it, and--it would accuse me--of what they did."

"Yes, that's very good reasoning," said Calladine coldly.

Joan Carew looked quickly up into his face.

"Oh, you don't believe me," she cried. "You think--oh, it's
impossible." And, holding him by the edge of his coat, she burst into
a storm of passionate denials.

"But you went to steal, you know," he said gently, and she answered
him at once:

"Yes, I did, but not this." And she held up the necklace. "Should I
have stolen this, should I have come to you wearing it, if I had
stolen the pearls, if I had"--and she stopped--"if my story were not
true?"

Calladine weighed her argument, and it affected him.

"No, I think you wouldn't," he said frankly.

Most crimes, no doubt, were brought home because the criminal had made
some incomprehensibly stupid mistake; incomprehensibly stupid, that
is, by the standards of normal life. Nevertheless, Calladine was
inclined to believe her. He looked at her. That she should have
murdered was absurd. Moreover, she was not making a parade of remorse,
she was not playing the unctuous penitent; she had yielded to a
temptation, had got herself into desperate straits, and was at her
wits' ends how to escape from them. She was frank about herself.

Calladine looked at the clock. It was nearly five o'clock in the
morning, and though the music could still be heard from the ballroom
in the Semiramis, the night had begun to wane upon the river.

"You must go back," he said. "I'll walk with you."

They crept silently down the stairs and into the street. It was only a
step to the Semiramis. They met no one until they reached the Strand.
There many, like Joan Carew in masquerade, were standing about, or
walking hither and thither in search of carriages and cabs. The whole
street was in a bustle, what with drivers shouting and people coming
away.

"You can slip in unnoticed," said Calladine as he looked into the
thronged courtyard. "I'll telephone to you in the morning."

"You will?" she cried eagerly, clinging for a moment to his arm.

"Yes, for certain," he replied. "Wait in until you hear from me. I'll
think it over. I'll do what I can."

"Thank you," she said fervently.

He watched her scarlet cloak flitting here and there in the crowd
until it vanished through the doorway. Then, for the second time, he
walked back to his chambers, while the morning crept up the river from
the sea.


                          *   *   *   *   *


This was the story which Calladine told in Mr. Ricardo's library. Mr.
Ricardo heard it out with varying emotions. He began with a thrill of
expectation like a man on a dark threshold of great excitements. The
setting of the story appealed to him, too, by a sort of brilliant
bizarrerie which he found in it. But, as it went on, he grew puzzled
and a trifle disheartened. There were flaws and chinks; he began to
bubble with unspoken criticisms, then swift and clever thrusts which
he dared not deliver. He looked upon the young man with disfavour, as
upon one who had half opened a door upon a theatre of great promise
and shown him a spectacle not up to the mark. Hanaud, on the other
hand, listened imperturbably, without an expression upon his face,
until the end. Then he pointed a finger at Calladine and asked him
what to Ricardo's mind was a most irrelevant question.

"You got back to your rooms, then, before five, Mr. Calladine, and it
is now nine o'clock less a few minutes."

"Yes."

"Yet you have not changed your clothes. Explain to me that. What did
you do between five and half-past eight?"

Calladine looked down at his rumpled shirt front.

"Upon my word, I never thought of it," he cried. "I was worried out of
my mind. I couldn't decide what to do. Finally, I determined to talk
to Mr. Ricardo, and after I had come to that conclusion I just waited
impatiently until I could come round with decency."

Hanaud rose from his chair. His manner was grave, but conveyed no
single hint of an opinion. He turned to Ricardo.

"Let us go round to your young friend's rooms in the Adelphi," he
said; and the three men drove thither at once.



                                  II


Calladine lodged in a corner house and upon the first floor. His
rooms, large and square and lofty, with Adams mantelpieces and a
delicate tracery upon their ceilings, breathed the grace of the
eighteenth century. Broad high windows, embrasured in thick walls,
overlooked the river and took in all the sunshine and the air which
the river had to give. And they were furnished fittingly. When the
three men entered the parlour, Mr. Ricardo was astounded. He had
expected the untidy litter of a man run to seed, the neglect and the
dust of the recluse. But the room was as clean as the deck of a yacht;
an Aubusson carpet made the floor luxurious underfoot; a few coloured
prints of real value decorated the walls; and the mahogany furniture
was polished so that a lady could have used it as a mirror. There was
even by the newspapers upon the round table a china bowl full of fresh
red roses. If Calladine had turned hermit, he was a hermit of an
unusually fastidious type. Indeed, as he stood with his two companions
in his dishevelled dress he seemed quite out of keeping with his
rooms.

"So you live here, Mr. Calladine?" said Hanaud, taking off his hat and
laying it down.

"Yes."

"With your servants, of course?"

"They come in during the day," said Calladine, and Hanaud looked at
him curiously.

"Do you mean that you sleep here alone?"

"Yes."

"But your valet?"

"I don't keep a valet," said Calladine; and again the curious look
came into Hanaud's eyes.

"Yet," he suggested gently, "there are rooms enough in your set of
chambers to house a family."

Calladine coloured and shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the
other.

"I prefer at night not to be disturbed," he said, stumbling a little
over the words. "I mean, I have a liking for quiet."

Gabriel Hanaud nodded his head with sympathy.

"Yes, yes. And it is a difficult thing to get--as difficult as
my holiday," he said ruefully, with a smile for Mr. Ricardo.
"However"--he turned towards Calladine--"no doubt, now that you are at
home, you would like a bath and a change of clothes. And when you are
dressed, perhaps you will telephone to the Semiramis and ask Miss
Carew to come round here. Meanwhile, we will read your newspapers and
smoke your cigarettes."

Hanaud shut the door upon Calladine, but he turned neither to the
papers nor the cigarettes. He crossed the room to Mr. Ricardo, who,
seated at the open window, was plunged deep in reflections.

"You have an idea, my friend," cried Hanaud. "It demands to express
itself. That sees itself in your face. Let me hear it, I pray."

Mr. Ricardo started out of an absorption which was altogether assumed.

"I was thinking," he said, with a faraway smile, "that you might
disappear in the forests of Africa, and at once everyone would be very
busy about your disappearance. You might leave your village in
Leicestershire and live in the fogs of Glasgow, and within a week the
whole village would know your postal address. But London--what a city!
How different! How indifferent! Turn out of St. James's into the
Adelphi Terrace and not a soul will say to you: 'Dr. Livingstone, I
presume?'"

"But why should they," asked Hanaud, "if your name isn't Dr.
Livingstone?"

Mr. Ricardo smiled indulgently.

"Scoffer!" he said. "You understand me very well," and he sought to
turn the tables on his companion. "And you--does this room suggest
nothing to you? Have you no ideas?" But he knew very well that Hanaud
had. Ever since Hanaud had crossed the threshold he had been like a
man stimulated by a drug. His eyes were bright and active, his body
alert.

"Yes," he said, "I have."

He was standing now by Ricardo's side with his hands in his pockets,
looking out at the trees on the Embankment and the barges swinging
down the river.

"You are thinking of the strange scene which took place in this room
such a very few hours ago," said Ricardo. "The girl in her masquerade
dress making her confession with the stolen chain about her
throat----"

Hanaud looked backwards carelessly. "No, I wasn't giving it a
thought," he said, and in a moment or two he began to walk about the
room with that curiously light step which Ricardo was never able to
reconcile with his cumbersome figure. With the heaviness of a bear he
still padded. He went from corner to corner, opened a cupboard here, a
drawer of the bureau there, and--stooped suddenly. He stood erect
again with a small box of morocco leather in his hand. His body from
head to foot seemed to Ricardo to be expressing the question, "Have I
found it?" He pressed a spring and the lid of the box flew open.
Hanaud emptied its contents into the palm of his hand. There were two
or three sticks of sealing-wax and a seal. With a shrug of the
shoulders he replaced them and shut the box.

"You are looking for something," Ricardo announced with sagacity.

"I am," replied Hanaud; and it seemed that in a second or two he found
it. Yet--yet--he found it with his hands in his pockets, if he had
found it. Mr. Ricardo saw him stop in that attitude in front of the
mantelshelf, and heard him utter a long, low whistle. Upon the
mantelshelf some photographs were arranged, a box of cigars stood at
one end, a book or two lay between some delicate ornaments of china,
and a small engraving in a thin gilt frame was propped at the back
against the wall. Ricardo surveyed the shelf from his seat in the
window, but he could not imagine which it was of these objects that so
drew and held Hanaud's eyes.

Hanaud, however, stepped forward. He looked into a vase and turned it
upside down. Then he removed the lid of a porcelain cup, and from the
very look of his great shoulders Ricardo knew that he had discovered
what he sought. He was holding something in his hands, turning it
over, examining it. When he was satisfied he moved swiftly to the door
and opened it cautiously. Both men could hear the splashing of water
in a bath. Hanaud closed the door again with a nod of contentment and
crossed once more to the window.

"Yes, it is all very strange and curious," he said, "and I do not
regret that you dragged me into the affair. You were quite right, my
friend, this morning. It is the personality of your young Mr.
Calladine which is the interesting thing. For instance, here we are in
London in the early summer. The trees out, freshly green, lilac and
flowers in the gardens, and I don't know what tingle of hope and
expectation in the sunlight and the air. I am middle-aged--yet there's
a riot in my blood, a recapture of youth, a belief that just round the
corner, beyond the reach of my eyes, wonders wait for me. Don't you,
too, feel something like that? Well, then--" and he heaved his
shoulders in astonishment.

"Can you understand a young man with money, with fastidious tastes,
good-looking, hiding himself in a corner at such a time--except for
some overpowering reason? No. Nor can I. There is another thing--I put
a question or two to Calladine."

"Yes," said Ricardo.

"He has no servants here at night. He is quite alone and--here is what
I find interesting--he has no valet. That seems a small thing to you?"
Hanaud asked at a movement from Ricardo. "Well, it is no doubt a
trifle, but it's a significant trifle in the case of a young rich man.
It is generally a sign that there is something strange, perhaps even
something sinister, in his life. Mr. Calladine, some months ago,
turned out of St. James's into the Adelphi. Can you tell me why?"

"No," replied Mr. Ricardo. "Can you?"

Hanaud stretched out a hand. In his open palm lay a small round hairy
bulb about the size of a big button and of a colour between green and
brown.

"Look!" he said. "What is that?"

Mr. Ricardo took the bulb wonderingly.

"It looks to me like the fruit of some kind of cactus."

Hanaud nodded.

"It is. You will see some pots of it in the hothouses of any really
good botanical gardens. Kew has them, I have no doubt. Paris certainly
has. They are labelled. 'Anhalonium Luinii.' But amongst the Indians
of Yucatan the plant has a simpler name."

"What name?" asked Ricardo.

"Mescal."

Mr. Ricardo repeated the name. It conveyed nothing to him whatever.

"There are a good many bulbs just like that in the cup upon the
mantelshelf," said Hanaud.

Ricardo looked quickly up.

"Why?" he asked.

"Mescal is a drug."

Ricardo started.

"Yes, you are beginning to understand now," Hanaud continued, "why
your young friend Calladine turned out of St. James's into the Adelphi
Terrace."

Ricardo turned the little bulb over in his fingers.

"You make a decoction of it, I suppose?" he said.

"Or you can use it as the Indians do in Yucatan," replied Hanaud.
"Mescal enters into their religious ceremonies. They sit at night in a
circle about a fire built in the forest and chew it, whilst one of
their number beats perpetually upon a drum."

Hanaud looked round the room and took notes of its luxurious carpet,
its delicate appointments. Outside the window there was a thunder in
the streets, a clamour of voices. Boats went swiftly down the river on
the ebb. Beyond the mass of the Semiramis rose the great grey-white
dome of St. Paul's. Opposite, upon the Southwark bank, the giant
sky-signs, the big Highlander drinking whisky, and the rest of them
waited, gaunt skeletons, for the night to limn them in fire and give
them life. Below the trees in the gardens rustled and waved. In the
air were the uplift and the sparkle of the young summer.

"It's a long way from the forests of Yucatan to the Adelphi Terrace of
London," said Hanaud. "Yet here, I think, in these rooms, when the
servants are all gone and the house is very quiet, there is a little
corner of wild Mexico."

A look of pity came into Mr. Ricardo's face. He had seen more than one
young man of great promise slacken his hold and let go, just for this
reason. Calladine, it seemed, was another.

"It's like bhang and kieff and the rest of the devilish things, I
suppose," he said, indignantly tossing the button upon the table.

Hanaud picked it up.

"No," he replied. "It's not quite like any other drug. It has a
quality of its own which just now is of particular importance to you
and me. Yes, my friend"--and he nodded his head very seriously--"we
must watch that we do not make the big fools of ourselves in this
affair."

"There," Mr. Ricardo agreed with an ineffable air of wisdom, "I am
entirely with you."

"Now, why?" Hanaud asked. Mr. Ricardo was at a loss for a reason, but
Hanaud did not wait. "I will tell you. Mescal intoxicates, yes--but it
does more--it gives to the man who eats of it colour-dreams."

"Colour-dreams?" Mr. Ricardo repeated in a wondering voice.

"Yes, strange heated charms, in which violent things happen vividly
amongst bright colours. Colour is the gift of this little prosaic
brown button." He spun the bulb in the air like a coin, and catching
it again, took it over to the mantelpiece and dropped it into the
porcelain cup.

"Are you sure of this?" Ricardo cried excitedly, and Hanuad raised his
hand in warning. He went to the door, opened it for an inch or so, and
closed it again.

"I am quite sure," he returned. "I have for a friend a very learned
chemist in the Collège de France. He is one of those enthusiasts who
must experiment upon themselves. He tried this drug."

"Yes," Ricardo said in a quieter voice. "And what did he see?"

"He had a vision of a wonderful garden bathed in sunlight, an old
garden of gorgeous flowers and emerald lawns, ponds with golden lilies
and thick yew hedges--a garden where peacocks stepped indolently and
groups of gay people fantastically dressed quarrelled and fought with
swords. That is what he saw. And he saw it so vividly that, when the
vapours of the drug passed from his brain and he waked, he seemed to
be coming out of the real world into a world of shifting illusions."

Hanaud's strong quiet voice stopped, and for a while there was a
complete silence in the room. Neither of the two men stirred so much
as a finger. Mr. Ricardo once more was conscious of the thrill of
strange sensations. He looked round the room. He could hardly believe
that a room which had been--nay was--the home and shrine of mysteries
in the dark hours could wear so bright and innocent a freshness in the
sunlight of the morning. There should be something sinister which
leaped to the eyes as you crossed the threshold.

"Out of the real world," Mr. Ricardo quoted. "I begin to see."

"Yes, you begin to see, my friend, that we must be very careful not to
make the big fools of ourselves. My friend of the Collège de France
saw a garden. But had he been sitting alone in the window-seat where
you are, listening through a summer night to the music of the
masquerade at the Semiramis, might he not have seen the ballroom, the
dancers, the scarlet cloak, and the rest of this story?"

"You mean," cried Ricardo, now fairly startled, "that Calladine came
to us with the fumes of mescal still working in his brain, that the
false world was the real one still for him."

"I do not know," said Hanaud. "At present I only put questions. I ask
them of you. I wish to hear how they sound. Let us reason this problem
out. Calladine, let us say, takes a great deal more of the drug than
my professor. It will have on him a more powerful effect while it
lasts, and it will last longer. Fancy dress balls are familiar things
to Calladine. The music floating from the Semiramis will revive old
memories. He sits here, the pageant takes shape before him, he sees
himself taking his part in it. Oh, he is happier here sitting quietly
in his window-seat than if he was actually at the Semiramis. For he is
there more intensely, more vividly, more really, than if he had
actually descended this staircase. He lives his story through, the
story of a heated brain, the scene of it changes in the way dreams
have, it becomes tragic and sinister, it oppresses him with horror,
and in the morning, so obsessed with it that he does not think to
change his clothes, he is knocking at your door."

Mr. Ricardo raised his eyebrows and moved.

"Ah! You see a flaw in my argument," said Hanaud. But Mr. Ricardo was
wary. Too often in other days he had been leaped upon and trounced for
a careless remark.

"Let me hear the end of your argument," he said. "There was then to
your thinking no temptation of jewels, no theft, no murder--in a word,
no Celymène? She was born of recollections and the music of the
Semiramis."

"No!" cried Hanaud. "Come with me, my friend. I am not so sure that
there was no Celymène."

With a smile upon his face, Hanaud led the way across the room. He had
the dramatic instinct, and rejoiced in it. He was going to produce a
surprise for his companion and, savouring the moment in advance, he
managed his effects. He walked towards the mantelpiece and stopped a
few paces away from it.

"Look!"

Mr. Ricardo looked and saw a broad Adams mantelpiece. He turned a
bewildered face to his friend.

"You see nothing?" Hanaud asked.

"Nothing!"

"Look again! I am not sure--but is it not that Celymène is posing
before you?"

Mr. Ricardo looked again. There was nothing to fix his eyes. He saw a
book or two, a cup, a vase or two, and nothing else really expect a
very pretty and apparently valuable piece of--and suddenly Mr. Ricardo
understood. Straight in front of him, in the very centre of the
mantelpiece, a figure in painted china was leaning against a china
stile. It was the figure of a perfectly impossible courtier, feminine
and exquisite as could be, and apparelled also even to the scarlet
heels exactly as Calladine had described Joan Carew.

Hanaud chuckled with satisfaction when he saw the expression upon Mr.
Ricardo's face.

"Ah, you understand," he said. "Do you dream, my friend? At
times--yes, like the rest of us. Then recollect your dreams? Things,
people, which you have seen perhaps that day, perhaps months ago, pop
in and out of them without making themselves prayed for. You cannot
understand why. Yet sometimes they cut their strange capers there,
logically, too, through subtle associations which the dreamer, once
awake, does not apprehend. Thus, our friend here sits in the window,
intoxicated by his drug, the music plays in the Semiramis, the curtain
goes up in the heated theatre of his brain. He sees himself step upon
the stage, and who else meets him but the china figure from his
mantelpiece?"

Mr. Ricardo for a moment was all enthusiasm. Then his doubt returned
to him.

"What you say, my dear Hanaud, is very ingenious. The figure upon the
mantelpiece is also extremely convincing. And I should be absolutely
convinced but for one thing."

"Yes?" said Hanaud, watching his friend closely.

"I am--I may say it, I think, a man of the world. And I ask
myself"--Mr. Ricardo never could ask himself anything without assuming
a manner of extreme pomposity--"I ask myself, whether a young man who
has given up his social ties, who has become a hermit, and still more
who has become the slave of a drug, would retain that scrupulous
carefulness of his body which is indicated by dressing for dinner when
alone?"

Hanaud struck the table with the palm of his hand and sat down in a
chair.

"Yes. That is the weak point in my theory. You have hit it. I knew it
was there--that weak point, and I wondered whether you would seize it.
Yes, the consumers of drugs are careless, untidy--even unclean as a
rule. But not always. We must be careful. We must wait."

"For what?" asked Ricardo, beaming with pride.

"For the answer to a telephone message," replied Hanaud, with a nod
towards the door.

Both men waited impatiently until Calladine came into the room. He
wore now a suit of blue serge, he had a clearer eye, his skin a
healthier look; he was altogether a more reputable person. But he was
plainly very ill at ease. He offered his visitors cigarettes, he
proposed refreshments, he avoided entirely and awkwardly the object of
their visit. Hanaud smiled. His theory was working out. Sobered by his
bath, Calladine had realised the foolishness of which he had been
guilty.

"You telephone, to the Semiramis, of course?" said Hanaud cheerfully.

Calladine grew red.

"Yes," he stammered.

"Yet I did not hear that volume of 'Hallos' which precedes telephonic
connection in your country of leisure," Hanaud continued.

"I telephoned from my bedroom. You would not hear anything in this
room."

"Yes, yes; the walls of these old houses are solid." Hanaud was
playing with his victim. "And when may we expect Miss Carew?"

"I can't say," replied Calladine. "It's very strange. She is not in
the hotel. I am afraid that she has gone away, fled."

Mr. Ricardo and Hanaud exchanged a look. They were both satisfied now.
There was no word of truth in Calladine's story.

"Then there is no reason for us to wait," said Hanaud. "I shall have
my holiday after all." And while he was yet speaking the voice of a
newsboy calling out the first edition of an evening paper became
distantly audible. Hanaud broke off his farewell. For a moment he
listened, with his head bent. Then the voice was heard again,
confused, indistinct; Hanaud picked up his hat and cane and, without
another word to Calladine, raced down the stairs. Mr. Ricardo followed
him, but when he reached the pavement, Hanaud was half down the little
street. At the corner, however, he stopped, and Ricardo joined him,
coughing and out of breath.

"What's the matter?" he gasped.

"Listen," said Hanaud.

At the bottom of Duke Street, by Charing Cross Station, the newsboy
was shouting his wares. Both men listened, and now the words came to
them mispronounced but decipherable.

"Mysterious crime at the Semiramis Hotel."

Ricardo stared at his companion.

"You were wrong then!" he cried. "Calladine's story was true."

For once in a way Hanaud was quite disconcerted.

"I don't know yet," he said. "We will buy a paper."

But before he could move a step a taxi-cab turned into the Adelphi
from the Strand, and wheeling in front of their faces, stopped at
Calladine's door. From the cab a girl descended.

"Let us go back," said Hanaud.



                                 III


Mr. Ricardo could no longer complain. It was half-past eight when
Calladine had first disturbed the formalities of his house in
Grosvenor Square. It was barely ten now, and during that short time he
had been flung from surprise to surprise, he had looked underground on
a morning of fresh summer, and had been thrilled by the contrast
between the queer, sinister life below and within and the open call to
joy of the green world above. He had passed from incredulity to
belief, from belief to incredulity, and when at last incredulity was
firmly established, and the story to which he had listened proved the
emanation of a drugged and heated brain, lo! the facts buffeted him in
the face, and the story was shown to be true.

"I am alive once more," Mr. Ricardo thought as he turned back with
Hanaud, and in his excitement he cried his thought aloud.

"Are you?" said Hanaud. "And what is life without a newspaper? If you
will buy one from that remarkably raucous boy at the bottom of the
street I will keep an eye upon Calladine's house till you come back."

Mr. Ricardo sped down to Charing Cross and brought back a copy of the
fourth edition of the _Star_. He handed it to Hanaud, who stared at it
doubtfully, folded as it was.

"Shall we see what it says?" Ricardo asked impatiently.

"By no means," Hanaud answered, waking from his reverie and tucking
briskly away the paper into the tail pocket of his coat. "We will hear
what Miss Joan Carew has to say, with our minds undisturbed by any
discoveries. I was wondering about something totally different."

"Yes?" Mr. Ricardo encouraged him. "What was it?"

"I was wondering, since it is only ten o'clock, at what hour the first
editions of the evening papers appear."

"It is a question," Mr. Ricardo replied sententiously, "which the
greatest minds have failed to answer."

And they walked along the street to the house. The front door stood
open during the day like the front door of any other house which is
let off in sets of rooms. Hanaud and Ricardo went up the staircase and
rang the bell of Calladine's door. A middle-aged woman opened it.

"Mr. Calladine is in?" said Hanaud.

"I will ask," replied the woman. "What name shall I say?"

"It does not matter. I will go straight in," said Hanaud quietly. "I
was here with my friend but a minute ago."

He went straight forward and into Calladine's parlour. Mr. Ricardo
looked over his shoulder as he opened the door and saw a girl turn to
them suddenly a white face of terror, and flinch as though already she
felt the hand of a constable upon her shoulder. Calladine, on the
other hand, uttered a cry of relief.

"These are my friends," he exclaimed to the girl, "the friends of whom
I spoke to you"; and to Hanaud he said: "This is Miss Carew."

Hanaud bowed.

"You shall tell me your story, mademoiselle," he said very gently, and
a little colour returned to the girl's cheeks, a little courage
revived in her.

"But you have heard it," she answered.

"Not from you," said Hanaud.

So for a second time in that room she told the history of that night.
Only this time the sunlight was warm upon the world, the comfortable
sounds of life's routine were borne through the windows, and the girl
herself wore the inconspicuous blue serge of a thousand other girls
afoot that morning. These trifles of circumstance took the edge of
sheer horror off her narrative, so that, to tell the truth, Mr.
Ricardo was a trifle disappointed. He wanted a crescendo motive in his
music, whereas it had begun at its fortissimo. Hanaud, however, was
the perfect listener. He listened without stirring and with most
compassionate eyes, so that Joan Carew spoke only to him, and to him,
each moment that passed, with greater confidence. The life and sparkle
of her had gone altogether. There was nothing in her manner now to
suggest the waywardness, the gay irresponsibility, the radiance, which
had attracted Calladine the night before. She was just a very young
and very pretty girl, telling in a low and remorseful voice of the
tragic dilemma to which she had brought herself. Of Celymène all that
remained was something exquisite and fragile in her beauty, in the
slimness of her figure, in her daintiness of hand and foot--something
almost of the hot-house. But the story she told was, detail for
detail, the same which Calladine had already related.

"Thank you," said Hanaud when she had done. "Now I must ask you two
questions."

"I will answer them."

Mr. Ricardo sat up. He began to think of a third question which he
might put himself, something uncommonly subtle and searching, which
Hanaud would never have thought of. But Hanaud put his questions, and
Ricardo almost jumped out of his chair.

"You will forgive me. Miss Carew. But have you ever stolen before?"

Joan Carew turned upon Hanaud with spirit. Then a change swept over
her face.

"You have a right to ask," she answered. "Never." She looked into his
eyes as she answered. Hanaud did not move. He sat with a hand upon
each knee and led to his second question.

"Early this morning, when you left this room, you told Mr. Calladine
that you would wait at the Semiramis until he telephoned to you?"

"Yes."

"Yet when he telephoned, you had gone out?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"I will tell you," said Joan Carew. "I could not bear to keep the
little diamond chain in my room."

For a moment even Hanaud was surprised. He had lost sight of that
complication. Now he leaned forward anxiously; indeed, with a greater
anxiety than he had yet shown in all this affair.

"I was terrified," continued Joan Carew. "I kept thinking: 'They must
have found out by now. They will search everywhere.' I didn't reason.
I lay in bed expecting to hear every moment a loud knocking on the
door. Besides--the chain itself being there in my bedroom--her
chain--the dead woman's chain--no, I couldn't endure it. I felt as if
I had stolen it. Then my maid brought in my tea."

"You had locked it away?" cried Hanaud.

"Yes. My maid did not see it."

Joan Carew explained how she had risen, dressed, wrapped the chain in
a pad of cotton-wool and enclosed it in an envelope. The envelope had
not the stamp of the hotel upon it. It was a rather large envelope,
one of a packet which she had bought in a crowded shop in Oxford
Street on her way from Euston to the Semiramis. She had bought the
envelopes of that particular size in order that when she sent her
letter of introduction to the Director of the Opera at Covent Garden
she might enclose with it a photograph.

"And to whom did you send it?" asked Mr. Ricardo.

"To Mrs. Blumenstein at the Semiramis. I printed the address
carefully. Then I went out and posted it."

"Where?" Hanaud inquired.

"In the big letter-box of the Post Office at the corner of Trafalgar
Square."

Hanaud looked at the girl sharply.

"You had your wits about you, I see," he said.

"What if the envelope gets lost?" said Ricardo.

Hanuad laughed grimly.

"If one envelope is delivered at its address in London to-day, it will
be that one," he said. "The news of the crime is published, you see,"
and he swung round to Joan.

"Did you know that, Miss Carew?"

"No," she answered in an awe-stricken voice.

"Well, then, it is. Let us see what the special investigator has to
say about it." And Hanaud, with a deliberation which Mr. Ricardo found
quite excruciating, spread out the newspaper on the table in front of
him.



                                  IV


There was only one new fact in the couple of columns devoted to the
mystery. Mrs. Blumenstein had died from chloroform poisoning. She was
of a stout habit, and the thieves were not skilled in the
administration of the anæsthetic.

"It's murder none the less," said Hanaud, and he gazed straight at
Joan, asking her by the direct summons of his eyes what she was going
to do.

"I must tell my story to the police," she replied painfully and
slowly. But she did not hesitate; she was announcing a meditated plan.

Hanaud neither agreed nor differed. His face was blank, and when he
spoke there was no cordiality in his voice. "Well," he asked, "and
what is it that you have to say to the police, miss? That you went
into the room to steal, and that you were attacked by two strangers,
dressed as apaches, and masked? That is all?"

"Yes."

"And how many men at the Semiramis ball were dressed as apaches and
wore masks? Come! Make a guess. A hundred at the least?"

"I should think so."

"Then what will your confession do beyond--I quote your English
idiom--putting you in the coach?"

Mr. Ricardo now smiled with relief. Hanaud was taking a definite line.
His knowledge of idiomatic English might be incomplete, but his heart
was in the right place. The girl traced a vague pattern on the
tablecloth with her fingers.

"Yet I think I must tell the police," she repeated, looking up and
dropping her eyes again. Mr. Ricardo noticed that her eyelashes were
very long. For the first time Hanaud's face relaxed.

"And I think you are quite right," he cried heartily, to Mr. Ricardo's
surprise. "Tell them the truth before they suspect it, and they will
help you out of the affair if they can. Not a doubt of it. Come, I
will go with you myself to Scotland Yard."

"Thank you," said Joan, and the pair drove away in a cab together.

Hanaud returned to Grosvenor Square alone and lunched with Ricardo.

"It was all right," he said. "The police were very kind. Miss Joan
Carew told her story to them as she had told it to us. Fortunately,
the envelope with the aluminium chain had already been delivered, and
was in their hands. They were much mystified about it, but Miss Joan's
story gave them a reasonable explanation. I think they are inclined to
believe her; and, if she is speaking the truth, they will keep her out
of the witness-box if they can."

"She is to stay here in London, then?" asked Ricardo.

"Oh, yes; she is not to go. She will present her letters at the Opera
House and secure an engagement, if she can. The criminals might be
lulled thereby into a belief that the girl had kept the whole strange
incident to herself, and that there was nowhere even a knowledge of
the disguise which they had used." Hanaud spoke as carelessly as if
the matter was not very important; and Ricardo, with an unusual flash
of shrewdness, said:

"It is clear, my friend, that you do not think those two men will ever
be caught at all."

Hanaud shrugged his shoulders.

"There is always a chance. But listen. There is a room with a
hundred guns, one of which is loaded. Outside the room there are a
hundred pigeons, one of which is white. You are taken into the room
blind-fold. You choose the loaded gun and you shoot the one white
pigeon. That is the value of the chance."

"But," exclaimed Ricardo, "those pearls were of great value, and I
have heard at a trial expert evidence given by pearl merchants. All
agree that the pearls of great value are known; so, when they come
upon the market----"

"That is true," Hanaud interrupted imperturbably. "But how are they
known?"

"By their weight," said Mr. Ricardo.

"Exactly," replied Hanaud. "But did you not also hear at this trial of
yours that pearls can be peeled like an onion? No? It is true. Remove
a skin, two skins, the weight is altered, the pearl is a trifle
smaller. It has lost a little of its value, yes--but you can no longer
identify it as the so-and-so pearl which belonged to this or that
sultan, was stolen by the vizier, bought by Messrs. Lustre and
Steinopolis, of Hatton Garden, and subsequently sold to the wealthy
Mrs. Blumenstein. No, your pearl has vanished altogether. There is a
new pearl which can be traded." He looked at Ricardo. "Who shall say
that those pearls are not already in one of the queer little back
streets of Amsterdam, undergoing their transformation?"

Mr. Ricardo was not persuaded because he would not be. "I have some
experience in these matters," he said loftily to Hanaud. "I am sure
that we shall lay our hands upon the criminals. We have never failed."

Hanaud grinned from ear to ear. The only experience which Mr. Ricardo
had ever had was gained on the shores of Geneva and at Aix under
Hanaud's tuition. But Hanaud did not argue, and there the matter
rested.

The days flew by. It was London's play-time. The green and gold of
early summer deepened and darkened; wondrous warm nights under
England's pale blue sky, when the streets rang with the joyous feet of
youth, led in clear dawns and lovely glowing days. Hanaud made
acquaintance with the wooded reaches of the Thames; Joan Carew sang
"Louise" at Covent Garden with notable success; and the affair of the
Semiramis Hotel, in the minds of the few who remembered it, was
already added to the long list of unfathomed mysteries.

But towards the end of May there occurred a startling development.
Joan Carew wrote to Mr. Ricardo that she would call upon him in
the afternoon, and she begged him to secure the presence of Hanaud.
She came as the clock struck; she was pale and agitated; and in the
room where Calladine had first told the story of her visit she told
another story which, to Mr. Ricardo's thinking, was yet more strange
and--yes--yet more suspicious.

"It has been going on for some time," she began. "I thought of coming
to you at once. Then I wondered whether, if I waited--oh, you'll never
believe me!"

"Let us hear!" said Hanaud patiently.

"I began to dream of that room, the two men disguised and masked, the
still figure in the bed. Night after night! I was terrified to go to
sleep. I felt the hand upon my mouth. I used to catch myself falling
asleep, and walk about the room with all the lights up to keep myself
awake."

"But you couldn't," said Hanaud with a smile. "Only the old can do
that."

"No, I couldn't," she admitted; "and--oh, my nights were horrible
until"--she paused and looked at her companions doubtfully--"until one
night the mask slipped."

"What--?" cried Hanaud, and a note of sternness rang suddenly in his
voice. "What are you saying?"

With a desperate rush of words, and the colour staining her forehead
and cheeks, Joan Carew continued:

"It is true. The mask slipped on the face of one of the men--of
the man who held me. Only a little way; it just left his forehead
visible--no more."

"Well?" asked Hanaud, and Mr. Ricardo leaned forward, swaying between
the austerity of criticism and the desire to believe so thrilling a
revelation.

"I waked up," the girl continued, "in the darkness, and for a moment
the whole scene remained vividly with me--for just long enough for me
to fix clearly in my mind the figure of the apache with the white
forehead showing above the mask."

"When was that?" asked Ricardo.

"A fortnight ago."

"Why didn't you come with your story then?"

"I waited," said Joan. "What I had to tell wasn't yet helpful. I
thought that another night the mask might slip lower still. Besides,
I--it is difficult to describe just what I felt. I felt it important
just to keep that photograph in my mind, not to think about it, not to
talk about it, not even to look at it too often lest I should begin to
imagine the rest of the face and find something familiar in the man's
carriage and shape when there was nothing really familiar to me at
all. Do you understand that?" she asked, with her eyes fixed in appeal
on Hanaud's face.

"Yes," replied Hanaud. "I follow your thought."

"I thought there was a chance now--the strangest chance--that the
truth might be reached. I did not wish to spoil it," and she turned
eagerly to Ricardo, as if, having persuaded Hanaud, she would now turn
her batteries on his companion. "My whole point of view was changed. I
was no longer afraid of falling asleep lest I should dream. I wished
to dream, but----"

"But you could not," suggested Hanaud.

"No, that is the truth," replied Joan Carew. "Whereas before I was
anxious to keep awake and yet must sleep from sheer fatigue, now that
I tried consciously to put myself to sleep I remained awake all
through the night, and only towards morning, when the light was coming
through the blinds, dropped off into a heavy, dreamless slumber."

Hanaud nodded.

"It is a very perverse world, Miss Carew, and things go by
contraries."

Ricardo listened for some note of irony in Hanaud's voice, some look
of disbelief in his face. But there was neither the one nor the other.
Hanaud was listening patiently.

"Then came my rehearsals," Joan Carew continued, "and that wonderful
opera drove everything else out of my head. I had such a chance, if
only I could make use of it! When I went to bed now, I went with that
haunting music in my ears--the call of Paris--oh, you must remember
it. But can you realise what it must mean to a girl who is going to
sing it for the first time in Covent Garden?"

Mr. Ricardo saw his opportunity. He, the connoisseur, to whom the
psychology of the green room was as an open book, could answer that
question.

"It is true, my friend," he informed Hanaud with quiet authority. "The
great march of events leaves the artist cold. He lives aloof. While
the tumbrils thunder in the streets he adds a delicate tint to the
picture he is engaged upon or recalls his triumph in his last great
part."

"Thank you," said Hanaud gravely. "And now Miss Carew may perhaps
resume her story."

"It was the very night of my début," she continued. "I had supper with
some friends. A great artist. Carmen Valeri, honoured me with her
presence. I went home excited, and that night I dreamed again."

"Yes?"

"This time the chin, the lips, the eyes were visible. There was only a
black strip across the middle of the face. And I thought--nay, I was
sure--that if that strip vanished I should know the man."

"And it did vanish?"

"Three nights afterwards."

"And you did know the man?"

The girl's face became troubled. She frowned.

"I knew the face, that was all," she answered. "I was disappointed. I
had never spoken to the man. I am sure of that still. But somewhere I
have seen him."

"You don't even remember when?" asked Hanaud.

"No." Joan Carew reflected for a moment with her eyes upon the carpet,
and then flung up her head with a gesture of despair. "No. I try all
the time to remember. But it is no good."

Mr. Ricardo could not restrain a movement of indignation. He was being
played with. The girl with her fantastic story had worked him up to a
real pitch of excitement only to make a fool of him. All his earlier
suspicions flowed back into his mind. What if, after all, she was
implicated in the murder and the theft? What if, with a perverse
cunning, she had told Hanaud and himself just enough of what she knew,
just enough of the truth, to persuade them to protect her? What if her
frank confession of her own overpowering impulse to steal the necklace
was nothing more than a subtle appeal to the sentimental pity of men,
an appeal based upon a wider knowledge of men's weaknesses than a girl
of nineteen or twenty ought to have? Mr. Ricardo cleared his throat
and sat forward in his chair. He was girding himself for a singularly
searching interrogatory when Hanaud asked the most irrelevant of
questions:

"How did you pass the evening of that night when you first dreamed
complete the face of your assailant?"

Joan Carew reflected. Then her face cleared.

"I know," she exclaimed. "I was at the opera."

"And what was being given?"

"_The Jewels of the Madonna_."

Hanaud nodded his head. To Ricardo it seemed that he had expected
precisely that answer.

"Now," he continued, "you are sure that you have seen this man?"

"Yes."

"Very well," said Hanaud. "There is a game you play at children's
parties--is there not?--animal, vegetable, or mineral, and always you
get the answer. Let us play that game for a few minutes, you and I."

Joan Carew drew up her chair to the table and sat with her chin
propped upon her hands and her eyes fixed on Hanaud's face. As he put
each question she pondered on it and answered. If she answered
doubtfully he pressed it.

"You crossed on the _Lucania_ from New York?"

"Yes."

"Picture to yourself the dining-room, the tables. You have the picture
quite clear?"

"Yes."

"Was it at breakfast that you saw him?"

"No."

"At luncheon?"

"No."

"At dinner?"

She paused for a moment, summoning before her eyes the travellers at
the tables.

"No."

"Not in the dining-table at all, then?"

"No."

"In the library, when you were writing letters, did you not one day
lift your head and see him?"

"No."

"On the promenade deck? Did he pass you when you sat in your
deck-chair, or did you pass him when he sat in his chair?"

"No."

Step by step Hanaud took her back to New York to her hotel, to
journeys in the train. Then he carried her to Milan where she had
studied. It was extraordinary to Ricardo to realise how much Hanaud
knew of the curriculum of a student aspiring to grand opera. From
Milan he brought her again to New York, and at the last, with a start
of joy, she cried: "Yes, it was there."

Hanaud took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his forehead.

"Ouf!" he grunted. "To concentrate the mind on a day like this, it
makes one hot, I can tell you. Now, Miss Carew, let us hear."

It was at a concert at the house of a Mrs. Starlingshield in Fifth
Avenue and in the afternoon. Joan Carew sang. She was a stranger to
New York and very nervous. She saw nothing but a mist of faces whilst
she sang, but when she had finished the mist cleared, and as she left
the improvised stage she saw the man. He was standing against the wall
in a line of men. There was no particular reason why her eyes should
single him out, except that he was paying no attention to her singing,
and, indeed, she forgot him altogether afterwards.

"I just happened to see him clearly and distinctly," she said. "He was
tall, clean-shaven, rather dark, not particularly young--thirty-five
or so, I should say--a man with a heavy face and beginning to grow
stout. He moved away whilst I was bowing to the audience, and I
noticed him afterwards walking about, talking to people."

"Do you remember to whom?"

"No."

"Did he notice you, do you think?"

"I am sure he didn't," the girl replied emphatically. "He never looked
at the stage where I was singing, and he never looked towards me
afterwards."

She gave, so far as she could remember, the names of such guests and
singers as she knew at that party. "And that is all," she said.

"Thank you," said Hanaud. "It is perhaps a good deal. But it is
perhaps nothing at all."

"You will let me hear from you?" she cried, as she rose to her feet.

"Miss Carew, I am at your service," he returned. She gave him her hand
timidly and he took it cordially. For Mr. Ricardo she had merely a
bow, a bow which recognised that he distrusted her and that she had no
right to be offended. Then she went, and Hanaud smiled across the
table at Ricardo.

"Yes," he said, "all that you are thinking is true enough. A man who
slips out of society to indulge a passion for a drug in greater peace,
a girl who, on her own confession, tried to steal, and, to crown all,
this fantastic story. It is natural to disbelieve every word of it.
But we disbelieved before, when we left Calladine's lodging in the
Adelphi, and we were wrong. Let us be warned."

"You have an idea?" exclaimed Ricardo.

"Perhaps!" said Hanaud. And he looked down the theatre column of the
_Times_. "Let us distract ourselves by going to the theatre."

"You are the most irritating man!" Mr. Ricardo broke out impulsively.
"If I had to paint your portrait, I should paint you with your finger
against the side of your nose, saying mysteriously: '_I_ know,' when
you know nothing at all."

Hanaud made a schoolboy's grimace. "We will go and sit in your box at
the opera to-night," he said, "and you shall explain to me all through
the beautiful music the theory of the tonic sol-fa."

They reached Covent Garden before the curtain rose. Mr. Ricardo's box
was on the lowest tier and next to the omnibus box.

"We are near the stage," said Hanaud, as he took his seat in the
corner and so arranged the curtain that he could see and yet was
hidden from view. "I like that."

The theatre was full; stalls and boxes shimmered with jewels and
satin, and all that was famous that season for beauty and distinction
had made its tryst there that night.

"Yes, this is wonderful," said Hanaud. "What opera do they play?" He
glanced at his programme and cried, with a little start of surprise:
"We are in luck. It is _The Jewels of the Madonna_."

"Do you believe in omens?" Mr. Ricardo asked coldly. He had not yet
recovered from his rebuff of the afternoon.

"No, but I believe that Carmen Valeri is at her best in this part,"
said Hanaud.

Mr. Ricardo belonged to that body of critics which must needs spoil
your enjoyment by comparisons and recollections of other great
artists. He was at a disadvantage certainly to-night, for the opera
was new. But he did his best. He imagined others in the part, and when
the great scene came at the end of the second act, and Carmen Valeri,
on obtaining from her lover the jewels stolen from the sacred image,
gave such a display of passion as fairly enthralled that audience, Mr.
Ricardo sighed quietly and patiently.

"How Calvé would have brought out the psychological value of that
scene!" he murmured; and he was quite vexed with Hanaud, who sat with
his opera glasses held to his eyes, and every sense apparently
concentrated on the stage. The curtains rose and rose again when the
act was concluded, and still Hanaud sat motionless as the Sphynx,
staring through his glasses.

"That is all," said Ricardo when the curtains fell for the fifth time.

"They will come out," said Hanaud. "Wait!" And from between the
curtains Carmen Valeri was led out into the full glare of the
footlights with the panoply of jewels flashing on her breast. Then at
last Hanaud put down his glasses and turned to Ricardo with a look of
exultation and genuine delight upon his face which filled that
season-worn dilettante with envy.

"What a night!" said Hanaud. "What a wonderful night!" And he
applauded until he split his gloves. At the end of the opera he cried:
"We will go and take supper at the Semiramis. Yes, my friend, we will
finish our evening like gallant gentlemen. Come! Let us not think of
the morning." And boisterously he slapped Ricardo in the small of the
back.

In spite of his boast, however, Hanaud hardly touched his supper, and
he played with, rather than drank, his brandy and soda. He had a
little table to which he was accustomed beside a glass screen in the
depths of the room, and he sat with his back to the wall watching the
groups which poured in. Suddenly his face lighted up.

"Here is Carmen Valeri!" he cried. "Once more we are in luck. Is it
not that she is beautiful?"

Mr. Ricardo turned languidly about in his chair and put up his
eyeglass.

"So, so," he said.

"Ah!" returned Hanaud. "Then her companion will interest you still
more. For he is the man who murdered Mrs. Blumenstein."

Mr. Ricardo jumped so that his eyeglass fell down and tinkled on its
cord against the buttons of his waistcoat.

"What!" he exclaimed. "It's impossible!" He looked again. "Certainly
the man fits Joan Carew's description. But--" He turned back to Hanaud
utterly astounded. And as he looked at the Frenchman all his earlier
recollections of him, of his swift deductions, of the subtle
imagination which his heavy body so well concealed, crowded in upon
Ricardo and convinced him.

"How long have you known?" he asked in a whisper of awe.

"Since ten o'clock to-night."

"But you will have to find the necklace before you can prove it."

"The necklace!" said Hanaud carelessly. "That is already found."

Mr. Ricardo had been longing for a thrill. He had it now. He felt it
in his very spine.

"It's found?" he said in a startled whisper.

"Yes."

Ricardo turned again, with as much indifference as he could assume,
towards the couple who were settling down at their table, the man with
a surly indifference, Carmen Valeri with the radiance of a woman who
has just achieved a triumph and is now free to enjoy the fruits of it.
Confusedly, recollections returned to Ricardo of questions put that
afternoon by Hanaud to Joan Carew--subtle questions into which the
name of Carmen Valeri was continually entering. She was a woman of
thirty, certainly beautiful, with a clear, pale face and eyes like the
night.

"Then she is implicated too!" he said. What a change for her, he
thought, from the stage of Covent Garden to the felon's cell, from the
gay supper-room of the Semiramis, with its bright frocks and its babel
of laughter, to the silence and the ignominious garb of the workrooms
in Aylesbury Prison!

"She!" exclaimed Hanaud; and in his passion for the contrasts of drama
Ricardo was almost disappointed. "She has nothing whatever to do with
it. She knows nothing. André Favart there--yes. But Carmen Valeri!
She's as stupid as an owl, and loves him beyond words. Do you want to
know how stupid she is? You shall know. I asked Mr. Clements, the
director of the opera house, to take supper with us, and here he is."

Hanaud stood up and shook hands with the director. He was of the world
of business rather than of art, and long experience of the ways of
tenors and prima-donnas had given him a good-humoured cynicism.

"They are spoilt children, all tantrums and vanity," he said, "and
they would ruin you to keep a rival out of the theatre."

He told them anecdote upon anecdote.

"And Carmen Valeri," Hanaud asked in a pause; "is she troublesome this
season?"

"Has been," replied Clements dryly. "At present she is playing at
being good. But she gave me a turn some weeks ago." He turned to
Ricardo. "Superstition's her trouble, and André Favart knows it. She
left him behind in America this spring."

"America!" suddenly cried Ricardo; so suddenly that Clements looked at
him in surprise.

"She was singing in New York, of course, during the winter," he
returned. "Well, she left him behind, and I was shaking hands with
myself when he began to deal the cards over there. She came to me in a
panic. She had just had a cable. She couldn't sing on Friday night.
There was a black knave next to the nine of diamonds. She wouldn't
sing for worlds. And it was the first night of _The Jewels of the
Madonna!_ Imagine the fix I was in!"

"What did you do?" asked Ricardo.

"The only thing there was to do," replied Clements with a shrug of the
shoulders. "I cabled Favart some money and he dealt the cards again.
She came to me beaming. Oh, she had been so distressed to put me in
the cart! But what could she do? Now there was a red queen next to the
ace of hearts, so she could sing without a scruple so long, of course,
as she didn't pass a funeral on the way down to the opera house.
Luckily she didn't. But my money brought Favart over here, and now I'm
living on a volcano. For he's the greatest scoundrel unhung. He never
has a farthing, however much she gives him; he's a blackmailer, he's a
swindler, he has no manners and no graces, he looks like a butcher and
treats her as if she were dirt, he never goes near the opera except
when she is singing in this part, and she worships the ground he walks
on. Well, I suppose it's time to go."

The lights had been turned off, the great room was emptying. Mr.
Ricardo and his friends rose to go, but at the door Hanaud detained
Mr. Clements, and they talked together alone for some little while,
greatly to Mr. Ricardo's annoyance. Hanaud's good humour, however,
when he rejoined his friend, was enough for two.

"I apologise, my friend, with my hand on my heart. But it was for your
sake that I stayed behind. You have a meretricious taste for melodrama
which I deeply deplore, but which I mean to gratify. I ought to leave
for Paris to-morrow, but I shall not. I shall stay until Thursday."
And he skipped upon the pavement as they walked home to Grosvenor
Square.

Mr. Ricardo bubbled with questions, but he knew his man. He would get
no answer to any one of them to-night. So he worked out the problem
for himself as he lay awake in his bed, and he came down to breakfast
next morning fatigued but triumphant. Hanaud was already chipping off
the top of his egg at the table.

"So I see you have found it all out, my friend," he said.

"Not all," replied Ricardo modestly, "and you will not mind, I am
sure, if I follow the usual custom and wish you a good morning."

"Not at all," said Hanaud. "I am all for good manners myself."

He dipped his spoon into his egg.

"But I am longing to hear the line of your reasoning."

Mr. Ricardo did not need much pressing.

"Joan Carew saw André Favart at Mrs. Starlingshield's party, and saw
him with Carmen Valeri. For Carmen Valeri was there. I remember that
you asked Joan for the names of the artists who sang, and Carmen
Valeri was amongst them."

Hanaud nodded his head.

"Exactly."

"No doubt Joan Carew noticed Carmen Valeri particularly, and so took
unconsciously into her mind an impression of the man who was with her,
André Favart--of his build, of his walk, of his type."

Again Hanaud agreed.

"She forgets the man altogether, but the picture remains latent in her
mind--an undeveloped film."

Hanaud looked up in surprise, and the surprise flattered Mr. Ricardo.
Not for nothing had he tossed about in his bed for the greater part of
the night.

"Then came the tragic night at the Semiramis. She does not consciously
recognise her assailant, but she dreams the scene again and again, and
by a process of unconscious cerebration the figure of the man becomes
familiar. Finally she makes her début, is entertained at supper
afterwards, and meets once more Carmen Valeri."

"Yes, for the first time since Mrs. Starlingshield's party,"
interjected Hanaud.

"She dreams again, she remembers asleep more than she remembers when
awake. The presence of Carmen Valeri at her supper-party has its
effect. By a process of association, she recalls Favart, and the mask
slips on the face of her assailant. Some days later she goes to the
opera. She hears Carmen Valeri sing in _The Jewels of the Madonna_. No
doubt the passion of her acting, which I am more prepared to
acknowledge this morning than I was last night, affects Joan Carew
powerfully, emotionally. She goes to bed with her head full of Carmen
Valeri, and she dreams not of Carmen Valeri, but of the man who is
unconsciously associated with Carmen Valeri in her thoughts. The mask
vanishes altogether. She sees her assailant now, has his portrait
limned in her mind, would know him if she met him in the street,
though she does not know by what means she identified him."

"Yes," said Hanaud. "It is curious the brain working while the body
sleeps, the dream revealing what thought cannot recall."

Mr. Ricardo was delighted. He was taken seriously.

"But of course," he said, "I could not have worked the problem out but
for you. You knew of André Favart and the kind of man he was."

Hanaud laughed.

"Yes. That is always my one little advantage. I know all the
cosmopolitan blackguards of Europe." His laughter ceased suddenly, and
he brought his clenched fist heavily down upon the table. "Here is one
of them who will be very well out of the world, my friend," he said
very quietly, but there was a look of force in his face and a hard
light in his eyes which made Mr. Ricardo shiver.

For a few moments there was silence. Then Ricardo asked: "But have you
evidence enough?"

"Yes."

"Your two chief witnesses, Calladine and Joan Carew--you said it
yourself--there are facts to discredit them. Will they be believed?"

"But they won't appear in the case at all," Hanaud said. "Wait, wait!"
and once more he smiled. "By the way, what is the number of
Calladine's house?"

Ricardo gave it, and Hanaud therefore wrote a letter. "It is all for
your sake, my friend," he said with a chuckle.

"Nonsense," said Ricardo. "You have the spirit of the theatre in your
bones."

"Well, I shall not deny it," said Hanaud, and he sent out the letter
to the nearest pillar-box.

Mr. Ricardo waited in a fever of impatience until Thursday came. At
breakfast Hanaud would talk of nothing but the news of the day. At
luncheon he was no better. The affair of the Semiramis Hotel seemed a
thousand miles from any of his thoughts. But at five o'clock he said
as he drank his tea:

"You know, of course, that we go to the opera to-night?"

"Yes. Do we?"

"Yes. Your young friend Calladine, by the way, will join us in your
box."

"That is very kind of him, I am sure," said Mr. Ricardo.

The two men arrived before the rising of the curtain, and in the
crowded lobby a stranger spoke a few words to Hanaud, but what he said
Ricardo could not hear. They took their seats in the box, and Hanaud
looked at his programme.

"Ah! It is _Il Ballo de Maschera_ to-night. We always seem to hit upon
something appropriate, don't we?"

Then he raised his eyebrows.

"Oh-o! Do you see that our pretty young friend, Joan Carew, is singing
in the rôle of the page? It is a showy part. There is a particular
melody with a long-sustained trill in it, as far as I remember."

Mr. Ricardo was not deceived by Hanaud's apparent ignorance of the
opera to be given that night and of the part Joan Carew was to take.
He was, therefore, not surprised when Hanaud added:

"By the way, I should let Calladine find it all out for himself."

Mr. Ricardo nodded sagely.

"Yes. That is wise. I had thought of it myself." But he had
done nothing of the kind. He was only aware that the elaborate
stage-management in which Hanaud delighted was working out to the
desired climax, whatever that climax might be. Calladine entered the
box a few minutes later and shook hands with them awkwardly.

"It was kind of you to invite me," he said and, very ill at ease, he
took a seat between them and concentrated his attention on the house
as it filled up.

"There's the overture," said Hanaud. The curtains divided and were
festooned on either side of the stage. The singers came on in their
turn; the page appeared to a burst of delicate applause (Joan Carew
had made a small name for herself that season), and with a stifled cry
Calladine shot back in the box as if he had been struck. Even then Mr.
Ricardo did not understand. He only realised that Joan Carew was
looking extraordinarily trim and smart in her boy's dress. He had to
look from his programme to the stage and back again several times
before the reason of Calladine's exclamation dawned on him. When it
did, he was horrified. Hanaud, in his craving for dramatic effects,
must have lost his head altogether. Joan Carew was wearing, from the
ribbon in her hair to the scarlet heels of her buckled satin shoes,
the same dress as she had worn on the tragic night at the Semiramis
Hotel. He leaned forward in his agitation to Hanaud.

"You must be mad. Suppose Favart is in the theatre and sees her. He'll
be over on the Continent by one in the morning."

"No, he won't," replied Hanaud. "For one thing, he never comes to
Covent Garden unless one opera, with Carmen Valeri in the chief part,
is being played, as you heard the other night at supper. For a second
thing, he isn't in the house. I know where he is. He is gambling in
Dean Street, Soho. For a third thing, my friend, he couldn't leave by
the nine o'clock train for the Continent if he wanted to. Arrangements
have been made. For a fourth thing, he wouldn't wish to. He has really
remarkable reasons for desiring to stay in London. But he will come to
the theatre later. Clements will send him an urgent message, with the
result that he will go straight to Clements' office. Meanwhile, we can
enjoy ourselves, eh?"

Never was the difference between the amateur dilettante and the
genuine professional more clearly exhibited than by the behaviour of
the two men during the rest of the performance. Mr. Ricardo might have
been sitting on a coal fire from his jumps and twistings; Hanaud
stolidly enjoyed the music, and when Joan Carew sang her famous solo
his hands clamoured for an encore louder than anyone's in the boxes.
Certainly, whether excitement was keeping her up or no, Joan Carew had
never sung better in her life. Her voice was clear and fresh as a
bird's--a bird with a soul inspiring its song. Even Calladine drew his
chair forward again and sat with his eyes fixed upon the stage and
quite carried out of himself. He drew a deep breath at the end.

"She is wonderful," he said, like a man waking up.

"She is very good," replied Mr. Ricardo, correcting Calladine's
transports.

"We will go round to the back of the stage," said Hanaud.

They passed through the iron door and across the stage to a long
corridor with a row of doors on one side. There were two or three men
standing about in evening dress, as if waiting for friends in the
dressing-rooms. At the third door Hanaud stopped and knocked. The door
was opened by Joan Carew, still dressed in her green and gold. Her
face was troubled, her eyes afraid.

"Courage, little one," said Hanaud, and he slipped past her into the
room. "It is as well that my ugly, familiar face should not be seen
too soon."

The door closed and one of the strangers loitered along the corridor
and spoke to a call-boy. The call-boy ran off. For five minutes more
Mr. Ricardo waited with a beating heart. He had the joy of a man in
the centre of things. All those people driving homewards in their
motor-cars along the Strand--how he pitied them! Then, at the end of
the corridor, he saw Clements and André Favart. They approached,
discussing the possibility of Carmen Valeri's appearance in London
opera during the next season.

"We have to look ahead, my dear friend," said Clements, "and though I
should be extremely sorry----"

At that moment they were exactly opposite Joan Carew's door. It
opened, she came out; with a nervous movement she shut the door behind
her. At the sound André Favart turned, and he saw drawn up against the
panels of the door, with a look of terror in her face, the same gay
figure which had interrupted him in Mrs. Blumenstein's bedroom. There
was no need for Joan to act. In the presence of this man her fear was
as real as it had been on the night of the Semiramis ball. She
trembled from head to foot. Her eyes closed; she seemed about to
swoon.

Favart stared and uttered an oath. His face turned white; he staggered
back as if he had seen a ghost. Then he made a wild dash along the
corridor, and was seized and held by two of the men in evening dress.
Favart recovered his wits. He ceased to struggle.

"What does this outrage mean?" he asked, and one of the men drew a
warrant and notebook from his pocket.

"You are arrested for the murder of Mrs. Blumenstein in the Semiramis
Hotel," he said, "and I have to warn you that anything you may say
will be taken down and may be used in evidence against you."

"Preposterous!" exclaimed Favart. "There's a mistake. We will go along
to the police and put it right. Where's your evidence against me?"

Hanaud stepped out of the doorway of the dressing-room.

"In the property-room of the theatre," he said.

At the sight of him Favart uttered a violent cry of rage. "You are
here, too, are you?" he screamed, and he sprang at Hanaud's throat.
Hanaud stepped lightly aside. Favart was borne down to the ground, and
when he stood up again the handcuffs were on his wrists.

Favart was led away, and Hanaud turned to Mr. Ricardo and Clements.

"Let us go to the property-room," he said. They passed along the
corridor, and Ricardo noticed that Calladine was no longer with them.
He turned and saw him standing outside Joan Carew's dressing-room.

"He would like to come, of course," said Ricardo.

"Would he?" asked Hanaud. "Then why doesn't he? He's quite grown up,
you know," and he slipped his arm through Ricardo's and led him back
across the stage. In the property-room there was already a detective
in plain clothes. Mr. Ricardo had still not as yet guessed the truth.

"What is it you really want, sir?" the property-master asked of the
director.

"Only the jewels of the Madonna," Hanaud answered.

The property-master unlocked a cupboard and took from it the sparkling
cuirass. Hanaud pointed to it, and there, lost amongst the huge
glittering stones of paste and false pearls, Mrs. Blumenstein's
necklace was entwined.

"Then that is why Favart came always to Covent Garden when _The Jewels
of the Madonna_ was being performed!" exclaimed Ricardo.

Hanaud nodded.

"He came to watch over his treasure."

Ricardo was piecing together the sections of the puzzle.

"No doubt he knew of the necklace in America. No doubt he followed it
to England."

Hanaud agreed.

"Mrs. Blumenstein's jewels were quite famous in New York."

"But to hide them here!" cried Mr. Clements. "He must have been mad."

"Why?" asked Hanaud. "Can you imagine a safer hiding-place? Who is
going to burgle the property-room of Covent Garden? Who is going to
look for a priceless string of pearls amongst the stage jewels of an
opera house?"

"You did," said Mr. Ricardo.

"I?" replied Hanaud, shrugging his shoulders. "Joan Carew's dreams led
me to André Favart. The first time we came here and saw the pearls of
the Madonna, I was on the look-out, naturally. I noticed Favart at the
back of the stalls. But it was a stroke of luck that I noticed those
pearls through my opera glasses."

"At the end of the second act?" cried Ricardo suddenly. "I remember
now."

"Yes," replied Hanaud. "But for that second act the pearls would have
stayed comfortably here all through the season. Carmen Valeri--a fool
as I told you--would have tossed them about in her dressing-room
without a notion of their value, and at the end of July, when the
murder at the Semiramis Hotel had been forgotten, Favart would have
taken them to Amsterdam and made his bargain."

"Shall we go?"

They left the theatre together and walked down to the grill-room of
the Semiramis. But as Hanaud looked through the glass door he drew
back.

"We will not go in, I think, eh?"

"Why?" asked Ricardo.

Hanaud pointed to a table. Calladine and Joan Carew were seated at it
taking their supper.

"Perhaps," said Hanaud with a smile, "perhaps, my friend--what? Who
shall say that the rooms in the Adelphi will not be given up?"

They turned away from the hotel. But Hanaud was right, and before the
season was over Mr. Ricardo had to put his hand in his pocket for a
wedding present.





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