E. Philips Oppenheim
Part 5 out of 6
your possession, you walk the narrow way, your life hangs upon a
thread. Better surrender it and attend to your stocks and shares.
Heaven knows how you first came into our affairs, but the sooner
you are out of them the better. What do you say now to my offer?"
"It is refused," Laverick declared. "I regret; to add," he
continued, "that I have already spared you all the time I have at
my disposal. Forgive me."
He pressed a button with his finger. His visitor rose up in anger.
"You are not such a fool!" he exclaimed. "You are not going to
send me away without it? Why, I tell you that there won't be a
safe corner in the World for you!"
Halsey opened the door. Laverick nodded toward his visitor.
"Show this gentleman out, Halsey," he ordered.
Halsey started. The noise of the revolver shot had evidently been
muffled by the heavy connecting doors, but there was a smell of
gunpowder in the room, and a little wreath of smoke. The man rose
slowly to his feet, still blinking.
"It must be as you will, of course. I wonder if you would be so
good as to let your clerk direct me to an oculist? I am,
unfortunately, a helpless man in this condition."
"There is one a few yards off," Laverick answered. "Put on your
hat, Halsey, and show this gentleman where he can get some glasses."
His visitor leaned towards Laverick.
"It is your life which is in question, not my eyesight," he muttered.
"Do you accept my offer? Will you give me the document?"
"I do not and I will not," Laverick replied. "I shall not part with
anything until I know more than I know at present."
The man stood motionless for a moment. His fingers seemed to be
twitching. Laverick had a fancy that he was about to spring, but
if ever he had had any thoughts of the kind, Halsey's reappearance
"I am much obliged to you, Mr. Laverick," he said quietly. "We
shall, perhaps, resume this discussion at some future date."
With that he turned and followed Halsey out of the room. Laverick
went to the window and threw it wide open. The smoke floated out,
the smell of gunpowder was gradually dispersed. Then he walked
back to his seat. Once more he locked up the notes. The document
was safe in his pocket. There was a slight mark by the side of his
temple, and his ear, he discovered, was bleeding. He rang the bell
and Halsey entered.
"Has our friend gone, Halsey?"
"I left him in the optician's, sir," the clerk answered. "He was
buying some spectacles."
Laverick glanced at the floor, where the remains of those
gold-rimmed glasses were scattered.
"You had better send for a locksmith at once," he said. "The
gentleman who has been here had a skeleton key to my safe. We'll
have a combination put on."
"Very good, sir," Halsey answered.
"And, Halsey," his master continued, "be careful about one thing,
for your own sake as well as mine. If that man presents himself
again, don't let him come into my room unannounced. If you can
help it, don't let him come in at all. I have an idea that he
might be dangerous."
The clerk's face was a study.
"If he presents himself here, sir," he announced stiffly, "I shall
take the liberty of sending for the police."
Laverick made no reply.
LAVERICK'S NARROW ESCAPE
At precisely a quarter past four, nothing having happened in the
meantime but a steady rush of business, Laverick ordered a taxicab
to be summoned. He then unlocked his safe, placed the pocket-book
securely in his breast pocket, walked through the office, and
directed the man to drive to Chancery Lane. Here at the headquarters
of the Safe Deposit Company he engaged a compartment, and down in
the strong-room locked up the pocket-book. There was only now the
document left. Stepping once more into the street, he found that
his taxicab had vanished. He looked up and down in vain. The man
had not been paid and there seemed to be no reason for his
departure. A policeman who was standing by touched his hat and
"Were you looking for that taxi you stepped out of a few minutes ago,
sir?" he asked.
"I was," Laverick answered. "I hadn't paid him and I told him to
"I thought there was something queer about it," the policeman
remarked. "Soon after you had gone inside, two gentlemen drove up
in a hansom. They got out here and one of them spoke to your driver,
who shook his head and pointed to his flag. The gent then said
something else to him - can't say as I heard what it was, but it
was probably offering him double fare. Anyway, they both got in
and off went your taxi, sir."
"Thank you," Laverick said thoughtfully. "It sounds a little
He hesitated for a moment.
"Constable," he continued, "I have just made a very valuable deposit
in there, and I had an idea that I might be followed. I have still
in my pocket a document of great importance. I have no doubt
whatever but that the object of the men who have taken my taxicab is
to leave me in the street here alone under circumstances which will
render a quick attack upon me likely to be successful."
The policeman turned his head and looked at Laverick incredulously.
He was more than half inclined to believe that this was a practical
joke. Were they not standing on the pavement in Chancery Lane, and
was not he an able-bodied policeman of great bulk and immense muscle!
Yet his companion did not look by any means a man of the nervous
order. Laverick was broad-shouldered, his skin was tanned a
wholesome color, his bearing was the bearing of a man prepared to
defend himself at any time. The constable smiled in a non-committal
"If you'll excuse my saying so, sir," he remarked, "I don't think
this is exactly the spot any one would choose for an assault."
"I agree with you," Laverick answered, "but, on the other hand, you
must remember that these gentlemen have had no choice. I stepped
from my office direct into the taxi, and I proposed to drive straight
from here to the place where I shall probably leave the other
document I am carrying with me. Why I have taken you into my
confidence is to ask you this. Can you walk with me to the corner
of the street, or until we meet a taxicab? it sounds cowardly, but,
as a matter of fact, I am not afraid. I simply want to make sure
of delivering this document to the person to whom it belongs."
The constable stood still, a little perplexed.
"My beat, sir," he said, "only goes about twenty-five yards further
on. I will walk to the corner of Holborn with you, if you desire
it. At the same time, I may say that I am breaking regulations.
How do I know that it is not your scheme to get me away from this
neighborhood for some purpose of your own?"
"You don't believe anything of the sort," Laverick declared, with
"I do not, sir," the policeman admitted. "Keep by my side, and I
think that nothing will happen to you before we reach Holborn."
Laverick was a man of more than medium height, but by the side of
the policeman he seemed short. Both scanned the faces of the
passers-by closely - the police-man with mild interest, Laverick
with almost feverish anxiety. It was a gray afternoon, pleasant
but close. There seemed to be nothing whatever to account for the
feeling of nervousness which had suddenly come over Laverick. He
felt himself in danger - he had no idea how, or in what way - but
the conviction was there. He took every step fully alert,
absolutely on his guard.
They were almost within sight of Holborn when a cry from the
bystanders caused them to look away into the middle of the road.
Laverick only cast one glance there and abandoned every instinct
of curiosity, thinking once more only of himself and his own
position. With the constable, however, it was naturally different.
He saw something which called at once for his intervention, and
he immediately forgot the somewhat singular task upon which he
was engaged. A man had fallen in the middle of the street, either
knocked down by the shaft of a passing vehicle or in some sort of
fit. There was a tangle of rearing horses, an omnibus was making
desperate efforts to avoid the prostrate body. The constable
sprang to the rescue. Laverick, instantly suspicious and realizing
that there was no one in front of him, turned swiftly around. He
was just in time to receive upon his left arm the blow which had
been meant for the back of his head. He was confronted by a man
dressed exactly as he himself was, in morning coat and silk hat,
a man with long, lean face and legal appearance, such a person as
would have passed anywhere without attracting a moment's suspicion.
Yet, in the space of a few seconds he had whipped out from one
pocket, with the skill almost of a juggler, a vicious-looking
life-preserver, and from the other a pocket-handkerchief soaked
with chloroform. Laverick, quick and resourceful, feeling his
left arm sink helpless, struck at the man with his right and sent
him staggering against the wall. The handkerchief, with its load
of sickening odor, fell to the pavement. The man was obviously
worsted. Laverick sprang at him. They were almost unobserved,
for the crowd was all intent upon the accident in the roadway.
With wonderful skill, his assailant eluded his attempt to close,
and tore at his coat. Laverick struck at him again but met only
the air. The man's fingers now were upon his pocket, but this
time Laverick made no mistake. He struck downward so hard that
with a fierce cry of pain the man relaxed his hold. Before he
could recover, Laverick had struck him again. He reeled into the
crowd that was fast gathering around them, attracted by what
seemed to be a fight between two men of unexceptionable appearance.
But there was to be no more fight. Through the people,
swift-footed, cunning, resourceful, his assailant seemed to
find some hidden way. Laverick glared fiercely around him, but
the man had gone. His left hand crept to his chest. The victory
was with him; the document was still there.
At the outside of the double crowd he perceived a taxi. Ignoring
the storm of questions with which he was assailed, and the advancing
helmet of his friend the policeman at the back of the crowd,
Laverick hailed it and stepped quickly inside.
"Back out of this and drive to Dover Street," he directed. The
man obeyed him. People raced to look through the window at him.
The other commotion had died away, - the man in the road had got up
and walked off. A policeman came hurrying along but he was just
too late. Very soon they were on their way down Holborn. Once
more Laverick had escaped.
A French man-servant, with the sad face and immaculate dress of a
High-Church cleric, took possession of him as soon as he had asked
for Mademoiselle Idiale. He was shown into one of the most
delightful little rooms he had ever even dreamed of. The walls
were hung with that peculiar shade of blue satin which Mademoiselle
so often affected in her clothes. Laverick, who was something of
a connoisseur, saw nowhere any object which was not, of its sort,
priceless, - French furniture of the best and choicest period, a
statuette which made him, for a moment, almost forget the scene
from which he had just arrived. The air in the room seemed as
though it had passed through a grove of lemon trees, - it was fresh
and sweet yet curiously fragrant. Laverick sank down into one of
the luxurious blue-brocaded chairs, conscious for the first time
that he was out of breath. Then the door opened silently and
there entered not the woman whom he had been expecting, but Mr.
Lassen. Laverick rose to his feet half doubtfully. Lassen's
small, queerly-shaped face seemed to have become one huge
"I am very glad to see you, Mr. Laverick," he said, - "very glad
"I have come to call upon Mademoiselle Idiale," Laverick answered,
somewhat curtly. He had disliked this man from the first moment
he had seen him, and he saw no particular reason why he should
conceal his feelings.
"I am here to explain," Mr. Lassen continued, seating himself
opposite to Laverick. "Mademoiselle Idiale is unfortunately
prevented from seeing you. She has a severe nervous headache,
and her only chance of appearing tonight is to remain perfectly
undisturbed. Women of her position, as you may understand, have
to be exceptionally careful. It would be a very serious matter
indeed if she were unable to sing to-night."
"I am exceedingly sorry to hear it," Laverick answered. "In that
case, I will call again when Mademoiselle Idiale has recovered."
"By all means, my dear sir!" Mr. Lassen exclaimed. "Many times,
let us hope. But in the meantime, there is a little affair of a
document which you were going to deliver to Mademoiselle. She is
most anxious that you should hand it to me - most anxious. She
will tender you her thanks personally, tomorrow or the next day,
if she is well enough to receive."
Laverick shook his head firmly.
"Under no circumstances," he declared, "should I think of delivering
the document into any other hands save those of Mademoiselle Idiale.
To tell you the truth, I had not fully decided whether to part with
it even to her. I was simply prepared to hear what she had to say.
But it may save time if I assure you, Mr. Lassen, that nothing would
induce me to part with it to any one else."
There was no trace left of that ingratiating smile upon Mr. Lassen's
face. He had the appearance now of an ugly animal about to show
its teeth. Laverick was suddenly on his guard. More adventures,
he thought, casting a somewhat contemptuous glance at the physique
of the other man. He laid his fingers as though carelessly upon a
small bronze ornament which reposed amongst others on a table by
his side. If Mr. Lassen's fat and ugly hand should steal toward
his pocket, Laverick was prepared to hurl the ornament at his head.
"I am very sorry to hear you say that, Mr. Laverick," Lassen said
slowly. "I hope very much that you will see your way clear to
change your mind. I can assure you that I have as much right to
the document as Mademoiselle Idiale, and that it is her earnest
wish that you should hand it over to me. Further, I may inform you
that the document itself is a most incriminating one. Its possession
upon your person, or upon the person of any one who was not upon his
guard, might be a very serious matter indeed."
Laverick shrugged his shoulders.
"As a matter of fact," he declared, "I certainly have no idea of
carrying it about with me. On the other hand, I shall part with it
to no one. I might discuss the matter with Mademoiselle Idiale
as soon as she is recovered. I am not disposed - I mean no offence,
sir - but I may say frankly that I am not disposed even to do as
much with you."
Laverick rose to his feet with the obvious intention of leaving.
Lassen followed his example and confronted him.
"Mr. Laverick," he said, "in your own interests you must not talk
like that, - in your own interests, I say."
"At any rate," Laverick remarked, "my interests are better looked
after by myself than by strangers. You must forgive my adding,
Mr. Lassen, that you are a stranger to me."
"No more so than Mademoiselle Idiale!" the little man exclaimed.
"Mademoiselle Idiale has given me certain proof that she knew at
least of the existence of this document," Laverick answered. "She
has established, therefore, a certain claim to my consideration.
You announce yourself as Mademoiselle Idiale's deputy, but you
bring me no proof of the fact, nor, in any case, am I disposed to
treat with you. You must allow me to wish you good afternoon."
Lassen shook his head.
"Mr. Laverick," he declared, "you are too impetuous. You force me
to remind you that your own position as holder of that document is
not a very secure one. All the police in this capital are searching
to-day for the man who killed that unfortunate creature who was
found murdered in Crooked Friars' Alley. If they could find the
man who was in possession of his pocket-book, who was in possession
of twenty thousand pounds taken from the dead man's body and with
it had saved his business and his credit, how then, do you think?
I say nothing of the document."
Laverick was silent for a moment. He realized, however, that to
make terms with this man was impossible. Besides, he did not trust
him. He did not even trust him so far as to believe him the
accredited envoy of Mademoiselle.
"My unfortunate position," Laverick said, "has nothing whatever to
do with the matter. Where you got your information from I cannot
say. I neither accept nor deny it. But I can assure you that I
am not to be intimidated. This document will remain in my possession
until some one can show me a very good reason for parting with it."
Lassen beat the back of the chair against which he was standing with
his clenched fist.
"A reason why you should part with it!" he exclaimed fiercely. "Man,
it stares you there in the face! If you do not part with it, you will
be arrested within twenty-four hours for the murder or complicity in
the murder of Rudolph Von Behrling! That I swear! That I shall
see to myself!"
"In which case," Laverick remarked, "the document will fall into the
hands of the English police."
The shot told. Laverick could have laughed as he watched its effect
upon his listener. Mr. Lassen's face was black with unuttered
curses. He looked as though he would have fallen upon Laverick
"What do you know about its contents?" he hissed. "Why do you
suppose it would not suit my purpose to have it fall into the hands
of the English police?"
"I can see no reason whatever," Laverick answered, "why I should
take you into my confidence as to how much I know and how much I do
not know. I wish you good afternoon, Mr. Lassen! I shall be ready
to wait upon Mademoiselle Idiale at any time she sends for me. But
in case it should interest you to be made aware of the fact," he
added, with a little bow, "I am not going round with this terrible
document in my possession."
He moved to the door. Already his hand was upon the knob when he
saw the movement for which he had watched. Laverick, with a single
bound, was upon his would-be assailant. The hand which had already
closed upon the butt of the small revolver was gripped as though
in a vice. With a scream of pain Lassen dropped the weapon upon
the floor. Laverick picked it up, thrust it into his coat pocket
and, taking the man's collar with both hands, he shook him till
the eyes seemed starting from his head and his shrieks of fear were
changed into moans. Then he flung him into a corner of the room.
"You cowardly brute!" he exclaimed. "You come of the breed of men
who shoot from behind. If ever I lay my hands upon you again,
you'll be lucky if you live to whimper about it."
He left the room and rang for the lift. He saw no trace of any
servants in the hall, nor heard any sound of any one moving. From
Dover Street he drove straight to Zoe's house. Keeping the cab
waiting, he knocked at the door. She opened it herself at once,
and her eyes glowed with pleasure.
"How delightful!" she cried. "Please come in. Have you come to
take me to the theatre?"
He followed her into the parlor and closed the door behind them.
"Zoe," he said, "I am going to ask you a favor."
"Me a favor?" she repeated. "I think you know how happy it will
make me if there is anything - anything at all in the world that I
"A week ago," Laverick continued, "I was an honest but not very
successful stockbroker, with a natural longing for adventures which
never came my way. Since then things have altered. I have stumbled
in upon the most curious little chain of happenings which ever
became entwined with the life of a commonplace being like myself.
The net result, for the moment, is this. Every one is trying to
steal from me a certain document which I have in my pocket. I want
to hide it for the night. I cannot go to the police, it is too
late to go back to Chancery Lane, and I have an instinctive feeling
that my flat is absolutely at the mercy of my enemies. May I hide
my document in your room ? I do not believe for a moment that any
one would think of searching here."
"Of course you may," she answered. "But listen. Can you see out
into the street without moving very much?"
He turned his head. He had been standing with his back to the
window, and Zoe had been facing it.
"Yes, I can see into the street," he assented.
"Tell me - you see that taxi on the other side of the way?" she
"It wasn't there when I drove up," he remarked.
"I was at the window, looking out, when you came, she said. "It
followed you out from the Square into this street. Directly you
stopped, I saw the man put on the brake and pull up his cab. It
seemed to me so strange, just as though some one were watching you
all the time."
Laverick stood still, looking out of the window.
"Who lives in the house opposite?" he asked.
"I am afraid," she answered, "that there are no very nice people
who live round here. The people whom I see coming in and out of
that house are not nice people at all."
"I understand," he said. "Thank you, Zoe. You are right. Whatever
I do with my precious document, I will not leave it here. To tell
you the truth, I thought, for certain reasons, that after I had paid
my last call this afternoon I should not be followed any more. Come
back with me and I will give you some dinner before you go to the
She clapped her hands.
"I shall love it," she declared. "But what shall you do with the
"I shall take a room at the Milan Hotel," he said, "and give it to
the cashier. They have a wonderful safe there. It is the best
thing I can think of. Can you suggest anything?"
She considered for a moment.
"Do you know what is inside?" she asked.
He shook his head.
"I have no idea. It is the most mysterious document in the world,
so far as I am concerned."
"Why not open it and read it?" she suggested; "then you will know
exactly what it is all about. You can learn it by heart and tear
"I must think that over," he said. "One second before we go out."
He took from his pocket the revolver which Lassen had dropped. It
was a perfect little weapon, and fully charged. He replaced it in
his pocket, keeping his finger upon the trigger.
"Now, Zoe, if you are ready," he said, "come along."
They stepped out and entered the taxi, unmolested, and Laverick
"To the Milan Hotel."
LASSEN'S TREACHERY DISCOVERED
About twenty minutes past six on the same evening, Bellamy, his
clothes thick with dust, his face dark with anger, jumped lightly
from a sixty horse-power car and rang the bell of the lift at number
15, Dover Street. Arrived on the first floor, he was confronted
almost immediately by the sad-faced man-servant of Mademoiselle
"Mademoiselle is in?" Bellamy asked quickly.
The man's expression was one of sombre regret.
"Mademoiselle is spending the day in the country, sir. Bellamy
took him by the shoulders and flung him against the wall.
"Thank you," he said, "I've heard that before."
He walked down the passage and knocked softly at the door of Louise's
sleeping apartment. There was no answer. He knocked again and
listened at the key-hole. There was some movement inside but no
"Louise," he cried softly, "let me in. It is I - David."
Again the only reply was the strangest of sounds. Almost it seemed
as though a woman were trying to speak with a hand over her mouth.
Then Bellamy suddenly stiffened into rigid attention. There were
voices in the small reception room, - the voice of Henri, the butler,
and another. Reluctantly he turned away from the closed door and
walked swiftly down the passage. He entered the reception room and
looked around him in amazement. It was still in disorder. Lassen
sat in an easy-chair with a tumbler of brandy by his side. Henri
was tying a bandage around his head, his collar was torn, there
were marks of blood about his shirt. Bellamy's eyes sparkled. He
closed the door behind him.
"Come," he exclaimed, "after all, I fancy that my arrival is
Henri turned towards him with a reproachful gesture.
"Monsieur Lassen has been unwell, Monsieur," he said. "He has had
a fit and fallen down."
Bellamy laughed contemptuously.
"I think I can reconstruct the scene a little better than that," he
declared. "What do you say, Mr. Lassen?"
The man glared at him viciously.
"I do not know what you are talking about," he said. "I do not
wish to speak to you. I am ill. You had better go and persuade
Mademoiselle to return. She is at Dover, waiting."
"You are a liar!" Bellamy answered. "She is in her room now,
locked up - guarded, perhaps, by one of your creatures. I have been
half-way to Dover, but I tumbled to your scheme in time, Mr. Lassen.
You found our friend Laverick a trifle awkward, I fancy."
Lassen swore through his teeth but said nothing.
"From your somewhat dishevelled appearance," Bellamy continued, "I
think I may conclude that you were not able to come to any amicable
arrangement with Mademoiselle's visitor. He declined to accept you
as her proxy, I imagine. Still, one must make sure."
He advanced quickly. Lassen shrank back in his chair.
"What do you mean?" he asked gruffly. "Keep him away from me,
Henri. Ring the bell for your other man. This fellow will do me
"Not I," Bellamy answered scornfully. "Stay where you are, Henri.
To your other accomplishments I have no doubt you include that of
valeting. Take off his coat."
"But, Monsieur!" Henri protested.
"I'm d-d if he shall!" the man in the chair snarled.
Bellamy turned to the door, locked it, and put the key in his pocket.
"Look here," he said, "I do not for one moment believe that Laverick
handed over to you the document you were so anxious to obtain. On
the other hand, I imagine that your somewhat battered appearance is
the result of fruitless argument on your part with a view to inducing
him to do so. Nevertheless, I can afford to run no risks. The coat
first, please, Henri. It is necessary that I search it thoroughly."
There was a brief hesitation. Bellamy's hand went reluctantly into
"I hate to seem melodramatic," he declared, "and I never carry
firearms, but I have a little life-preserver here which I have
learned how to use pretty effectively. Come, you know, it isn't a
fair fight. You've had all you want, Lassen, and Henri there hasn't
the muscle of a chicken."
Lassen rose, groaning, to his feet and allowed his coat to be
removed. Bellamy glanced through the pockets, holding one letter
for a moment in his hands as he glanced at the address.
"The writing of our friend Streuss," he remarked, with a smile.
"No, you need not fear, Lassen! I am not going to read it. There
is plenty of proof of your treachery without this."
Lassen's face was livid and his eyes seemed like beads. Bellamy
handed back the coat.
"That's all right," he said. "Nothing there, I am glad to see - or
in the waistcoat," he added, passing his hands over it. "I'll
trouble you to stand up for a moment, Mr. Lassen."
The man did as he was bid and Bellamy felt him all over. When he
had finished, he held in his hand a key.
"The key of Mademoiselle's chamber, I have no doubt," he announced,
"I will leave you, then, while I see what deviltry you have been
He walked calmly to the table which stood by the window and
deliberately cut the telephone wire. With the instrument under his
arm, he left the room. Lassen blundered to his feet as though to
intercept him, but Bellamy's eyes suddenly flashed red fury, and
the life-preserver of which he had spoken glittered above his head.
Lassen staggered away.
"I'm a long-suffering man," Bellamy said, "and if you don't remember
now that you're the beaten dog, I may lose my temper."
He locked them in, walked down the passage and opened the door of
Louise's bedchamber with fingers that trembled a little. With a
smothered oath he cut the cord from the arms of the maid and the
gag from her mouth. Louise, clad in a loose afternoon gown, was
lying upon the bed, as though asleep. Bellamy saw with an impulse
of relief that she was breathing regularly.
"This is Lassen's work, of course!" he exclaimed. "What have they
done to her?"
The maid spoke thickly. She was very pale, and unsteady upon her
"It was something they put in her wine," she faltered. "I heard Mr.
Lassen say that it would keep her quiet for three or four hours. I
think - I think that she is waking now."
Louise opened her eyes and looked at them with amazement. Bellamy
sat by the side of the bed and supported her with his arm.
"It is only a skirmish, dear," he whispered, "and it is a drawn
battle, although you got the worst of it."
She put her hand to her head, struggling to remember.
"Mr. Laverick has been here?" she asked.
"He has. Your friend Lassen has been taking a hand in the game. I
came here to find you like this and Annette tied up. Henri is in
with him. What has become of your other servants I don't know."
"Henri asked for a holiday for them," she said, the color slowly
returning to her cheeks. "I begin to understand. But tell me, what
happened when Mr. Laverick came?"
"I can only guess," Bellamy answered, "but it seems that Lassen must
have received him as though with your authority."
"And what then?" she asked quickly.
"I am almost certain," Bellamy declared, "that Laverick refused to
have anything to do with him. I received a wire from Dover to say
that you were on your way home, and asking me to meet you at the
Lord Warden Hotel. I borrowed Montresor's racing-car, but I sent
telegrams, and I was pretty soon on my way back. When I arrived
here, I found Lassen in your little room with a broken head.
Evidently Laverick and he had a scrimmage and he got the worst of
it. I have searched him to his bones and he has no paper. Laverick
brought it here, without a doubt, and has taken it away again."
She rose to her feet.
"Go and let Lassen out," she said. "Tell him he must never come
here again. I will see him at the Opera House to-night or to-morrow
night - that is, if I can get there. I do not know whether I shall
feel fit to sing."
"I shall take the liberty, also," remarked Bellamy, "of kicking
"He was such a good servant. I think it must have cost our friend
Streuss a good deal to buy Henri. You will come back to me when
you have finished with them?"
Bellamy made short work of his discomfited prisoners. Lassen was
surly but only eager to depart Henri was resigned but tearful.
Almost as they went the other servants began to return from their
various missions. Bellamy went back to Louise, who was lying down
again and drinking some tea. She motioned Bellamy to come over to
"Tell me," she asked, "what are you going to do now?"
"I am going to do what I ought to have done before," Bellamy answered.
"Laverick's connection with this affair is suspicious enough, but
after all he is a sportsman and an Englishman. I am going to tell
him what that envelope contains - tell him the truth."
"You are right!" she exclaimed. "Whatever he may have done, if you
tell him the truth he will give you that document. I am sure of it.
Do you know where to find him?"
"I shall go to his rooms," Bellamy declared. "I must be quick, too,
for Lassen is free - they will know that he has failed."
"Come back to me, David," she begged, and he kissed her fingers and
THE CONTEST FOR THE PAPERS
Laverick, sitting with Zoe at dinner, caught his companion looking
around the restaurant with an expression in her face which he did
not wholly understand.
"Something is the matter with you this evening, Zoe," he said
anxiously. "Tell me what it is. You don't like this place, perhaps?"
"Of course I do."
"It is your dinner, then, or me?" he persisted. "Come, out with it.
Haven't we promised to tell each other the truth always?"
The pink color came slowly into her cheeks. Her eyes, raised for a
moment to his, were almost reproachful.
"You know very well that it is not anything to do with you," she
whispered. "You are too kind to me all the time. Only," she went
on, a little hesitatingly, "don't you realize - can't you see how
differently most of the girls here are dressed? I don't mind so
much for myself - but you - you have so many friends. You keep on
seeing people whom you know. I am afraid they will think that I
ought not to be here."
He looked at her in surprise, mingled, perhaps, with compunction.
For the first time he appreciated the actual shabbiness of her
clothes. Everything about her was so neat - pathetically neat, as
it seemed to him in one illuminating moment of realization. The
white linen collar, notwithstanding its frayed edges, was spotlessly
clean. The black bow was carefully tied to conceal its worn parts.
Her gloves had been stitched a good many times. Her gown, although
it was tidy, was old-fashioned and had distinctly seen its best days.
He suddenly recognized the effort - the almost despairing effort -
which her toilette had cost her.
"I don't think that men notice these things," he said simply. "To
me you look just as you should look - and I wouldn't change places
with any other man in the room for a great deal."
Her eyes were soft - perilously soft - as she looked at him with
uplifted eyebrows and a faint smile struggling at the corners of her
lips. A wave of tenderness crept into his heart. What a brave
little child she was!
"You will quite spoil me if you make such nice speeches," she
"Anyhow," he went on, speaking with decision, "so long as you feel
like that, you are going to have a new gown - or two - and a new
hat, and you are going to have them at once. They are going to be
bought with your brother's money, mind. Shall I come shopping with
She shook her head.
"Mind, it is partly for your sake that I give in," she said. "It
would be lovely to have you come, but you would spend far too much
money. You really mean it all?"
"Absolutely," he answered. "I insist upon it."
She leaned towards him with dancing eyes. After all, she was very
much of a child. The prospect of a new gown, now that she permitted
herself to think of it, was enthralling.
"I might get a coat and skirt," she remarked thoughtfully, "and a
simple white dress. A black hat would do for both of them, then."
"Don't you study your brother too much," Laverick declared. "His
stock is going up all the time."
"Tell me your favorite color," she begged confidentially.
"I can't conceive your looking nicer than you do in black," he
She made a wry face.
"I suppose it must be black," she murmured doubtfully. "It is much
more economical than anything - "
She broke off to bow to a stout, red-faced man who, after a rude
stare, had greeted her with a patronizing nod. Laverick frowned.
"Who is that fellow?" he asked.
"Mr. Heepman, our stage-manager," Zoe answered, a little timidly.
"Is there any particular reason why he should behave like a boor?"
Laverick continued, raising his voice a little.
She caught at his arm in terror. The man was sitting at the next
"Don't, please!" she implored. "He might hear you. He is just
Laverick half turned in his chair. She guessed what he was about
to say, and went on rapidly.
"He has been so foolish," she whispered. "He has asked me so often
to go out with him. And he could get me sent away, if he wanted,
any time. He almost threatened it, the last time I refused. Now
that he has seen me with you, he will be worse than ever."
Laverick's face darkened, and there was a peculiar flash in his eyes.
The man was certainly looking at them in a rude manner.
"There are so many of the girls who would only be too pleased to go
with him," Zoe continued, in a terrified undertone. "I can't think
why he bothers me."
"I can," Laverick muttered. "Let's forget about the brute."
But the dinner was already spoiled for Zoe, so Laverick paid the
bill a few minutes later, and walked across to the stage-door of the
theatre with her. Her little hand, when she gave it to him at
parting, was quite cold.
"I'm as nervous as I can be," she confessed. "Mr. Heepman will be
watching all the night for something to find fault with me about."
"Don't you let him bully you," Laverick begged.
"I won't," she promised. "Good-bye! Thanks so much for my dinner."
She turned away with a brave attempt at a smile, but it was only an
attempt. Laverick walked on to his club. There was no one in the
dining-room whom he knew, and the card-room was empty. He played
one game of billiards, but he played badly. He was upset. His
nerves were wrong he told himself, and little wonder. There seemed
to be no chance of a rubber at bridge, so he sallied out again and
walked aimlessly towards Covent Garden. Outside the Opera House he
hesitated and finally entered, yielding to an impulse the nature of
which he scarcely recognized. While he was inquiring about a stall,
a small printed notice was thrust into his hand. He read it with
a slight start.
We regret to announce that owing to indisposition Mademoiselle
Idiale will not be able to appear this evening. The part of Delilah
will be taken by Mademoiselle Blanche Temoigne, late of the Royal
Opera House, St. Petersburg.
Ten minutes later, Laverick rang the bell of her flat in Dover Street.
A strange man-servant answered him.
"I came to inquire after Mademoiselle Idiale," Laverick said.
The man held out a tray on which was already a small heap of cards.
Laverick, however, retained his.
"I should be glad if you would take mine in to her," he said. "I
think it is just likely that she may see me for a moment."
The servant's attitude was one of civil but unconcealed hostility.
He would have closed the door had not Laverick already passed over
"Madame is not well enough to receive visitors, sir," the man
declared. "She shall have your card as soon as possible."
"I should like her to have it now," Laverick persisted, drawing a
five-pound note from his pocket.
The man looked at the note longingly.
"It would be only waste of time, sir," he declared. "Mademoiselle
is confined to her bedroom and my orders are absolute."
"You are not the man who was here earlier in the day," Laverick
remarked. "I wonder," he continued, with a sudden inspiration,
"whether you are not Mr. Bellamy's servant?"
"That is so, sir. Mr. Bellamy has sent me here to see that no one
has access to Mademoiselle Idiale."
"Then there is no harm whatever in taking in my card," Laverick
declared convincingly. "You can put that note in your pocket. I
am perfectly certain that Mademoiselle Idiale will see me, and
that your master would wish her to do so."
"I will take the risk, sir," the man decided, "but the orders I have
received were stringent."
He disappeared and was gone for several moments. When he came back
he was accompanied by a pale-faced woman dressed in black, obviously
"Monsieur Laverick," she said, "Mademoiselle Idiale will receive
you. If you will come this way?"
She opened the door of the little reception-room, and Laverick
followed her. The man returned to his place in the hall.
"Madame will be here in a moment," the maid said. "She will be glad
to see you, but she has been very badly frightened."
Laverick bowed sympathetically. The woman herself was gray-faced,
"It is Monsieur Lassen, the manager of Madame, who has caused a
great deal of trouble here," she said. "Madame never trusted him
and now we have discovered that he is a spy."
The woman seemed to fade away. The door of the inner room was
opened and Louise came out. She was still exceedingly pale, and
there were dark rims under her eyes. She came across the room with
outstretched hands. There was no doubt whatever as to her pleasure.
"You have seen Mr. Bellamy?" she asked.
Laverick shook his head.
"No, I have seen nothing of Bellamy to-day. I came to call upon
you this afternoon."
She wrung her hands.
"You understand, of course!" she exclaimed. "I did not trust
Lassen, but I never imagined anything like this. He is an Austrian.
Only a few hours ago I learned that he is one of their most heavily
paid spies. Streuss got hold of him. But there, I forgot - you do
not understand this. It is enough that he laid a plot to get that
document from you. Where is it, Mr. Laverick? You have brought it
"Why, no," Laverick answered, "I have not."
Her eyes were round with terror. She held out her hands as though
to keep away some tormenting thought.
"Where is it?" she cried. "You have not parted with it?
"I have not," Laverick replied gravely. "It is in the safe deposit
of a hotel to which I have moved."
She closed her eyes and drew a long breath of relief.
"You are not well," Laverick said. "Let me help you to a chair."
She sat down wearily.
"Why have you moved to a hotel?" she asked.
"To tell you the truth," Laverick answered, "I seem to have
wandered into a sort of modern Arabian Nights. Three times to-day
attempts have been made to get that document from me by force. I
have been followed whereever I went. I felt that it was not safe
in my chambers, so I moved to a hotel and deposited it in their
strong-room. I have come to the conclusion that the best thing I
can do is to open it to-morrow morning, and decide for myself
as to its destination."
Louise sat quite still for several moments. Then she opened her
"What you say is an immense relief to me, Mr. Laverick," she
declared. "I perceive now that we have made a mistake. We should
have told you the whole truth from the first. This afternoon when
Mr. Bellamy left me, it was to come to you and tell you everything."
Laverick listened gravely.
"Really," he said, "it seems to me the wisest course. I haven't
the least desire to keep the document. I cannot think why Bellamy
did not treat me with confidence from the first - "
He stopped short. Suddenly he understood. Something in Louise's
face gave him the hint.
"Of course!" he murmured to himself.
"Mr. Laverick," Louise said quietly, "in this matter I am no man's
judge, yet, as you and I know well, that paper could have come into
your hands in one way, and one way only. There may be some
explanation. If so, it is for you to offer it or not, as you think
best. Mr. Bellamy and I are allies in this matter. It is not our
business to interfere with the course of justice. You will run no
risk in parting with that paper.
"Where can I see Bellamy?" Laverick Inquired, rising and taking up
"He would go straight to your rooms," she answered. "Did you leave
word there where you had gone?"
"Purposely I did not," Laverick replied. "I had better try and find
"It is not necessary," she announced. "No wonder that you feel
yourself to have wandered into the Arabian Nights, Mr. Laverick.
There are two sets of spies who follow you everywhere - two sets that
I know of. There may be another."
"You think that Bellamy will find me?" he asked.
"I am sure of it."
"Then I'll go back to the hotel and wait."
She hurried him away, but at the door she detained him for a moment.
"Mr. Laverick," she said, looking at him earnestly, "somehow or
other I cannot help believing that you are an honest man.
Laverick sighed. He opened his lips but closed them again.
"You are very kind, Mademoiselle," he declared simply.
Laverick, as he entered the reception hall at the Milan Hotel,
noticed a man leaning over the cashier's desk talking confidentially
to the clerk in charge. The latter recognized Laverick with obvious
relief, and at once directed his questioner's attention to him. Kahn
turned swiftly around and without a moment's hesitation came smiling
towards Laverick with the apparent intention of accosting him. He
was correctly garbed, tall and fair, with every appearance of being
a man of breeding. He glanced at Laverick carelessly as he passed,
but, as though changing his original purpose, made no attempt to
address him. The cashier, who had been watching, gave vent to a
little exclamation of surprise and sprang over the counter. He
approached Laverick hastily.
"Do you know that gentleman just going out, sir?" he asked.
"I never saw him before in my life," Laverick answered. "Why?"
"Is this your handwriting, sir?" the man inquired, touching with
his forefinger the half sheet of note-paper which he had been
Laverick read quickly, -
To the Cashier at the Milan Hotel, - Deliver to bearer document
deposited with you. STEPHEN LAVERICK.
"It is not," he declared promptly. "It is an impudent forgery.
Good God! You don't mean to say that you parted with my property
to - "
The cashier stopped his breathless question.
"I haven't parted with anything, sir," he said. "I was just
wondering what to do when you came in. I'd no reason to believe
that the signature was a forgery, but I didn't like the look of it,
somehow. We'd better be after him. Come along, sir."
They hurried outside. The man was nowhere in sight. The cashier
summoned the head porter.
"A gentleman has just come out," he exclaimed, - "tall and fair, very
carefully dressed, with a single eyeglass! Which way did he go?"
"He's just driven off in a big Daimler car, sir," the porter
answered. "I noticed him particularly. He spoke to the chauffeur
Laverick looked out into the Strand.
"Can't we stop him?" he asked rapidly.
The porter smiled as he shook his head.
"Not the ghost of a chance, sir. He shot round the corner there as
though he were in a desperate hurry, and went the wrong side of the
island. I heard the police calling to him. I hope there's nothing
wrong, Mr. Dean?"
The cashier hesitated and glanced at Laverick.
"Nothing much," Laverick answered. "We should have liked to have
asked him a question - that is all."
Bellamy came out from the hotel and paused to light a cigarette.
"How are you, Laverick?" he said quietly. "Nothing the matter, I
"Nothing worth mentioning," Laverick replied.
The cashier returned to his duties. The two men were alone.
Bellamy, most carefully dressed, with his silver-headed cane under
his arm, and his silk hat at precisely the correct angle, seemed
very far removed from the work of intrigue into which Laverick
felt himself to have blundered. He looked down for a moment at the
tips of his patent shoes and up again at the sky, as though anxious
about the weather.
"What about a drink, Laverick?" he asked nonchalantly.
"Delighted!" Laverick assented.
MISS LENEVEU 'S MESSAGE
The two men stepped back into the hotel. The cashier had returned
to his desk, and the incident which had just transpired seemed to
have passed unnoticed. Nevertheless, Laverick felt that the studied
indifference of his companion's manner had its significance, and he
endeavored to imitate it.
"Shall we go through into the bar?" he asked. "There's very seldom
any one there at this time."
"Anywhere you say, Bellamy answered. "It's years since we had a
They passed into the inner room and, finding it empty, drew two
chairs into the further corner. Bellamy summoned the waiter.
"Two whiskies and sodas quick, Tim," he ordered. "Now, Laverick,
listen to me," he added, as the waiter turned away. "We are alone
for the moment but it won't be for long. You know very well that
it wasn't to renew our schoolboy acquaintance that I've asked you
to come in here with me."
Laverick drew a little breath.
"Please go on," he said. "I am as anxious as you can be to grasp
this affair properly."
"When we left school," Bellamy remarked, "you were destined for
the Stock Exchange. I went first to Magdalen. Did you ever hear
what became of me afterwards?"
"I always understood," Laverick answered, "that you went into one
of the Government offices."
"Quite right," Bellamy assented. "I did. At this moment I have
the honor to serve His Majesty."
"Two thousand a year and two hours work a day," Laverick laughed.
"I know the sort of thing."
"You evidently don't," Bellamy answered. "I often work twenty
hours a day, I don't get half two thousand a year, and most of
the time I carry my life in my hands. When I am working - and I
am working now - I am never sure of the morrow."
Laverick looked at him incredulously.
"You're not joking, Bellamy?" he asked.
"Not by any manner of means. I have the honor to be a humble member
of His Majesty's Secret Service."
Laverick glanced at his companion wonderingly.
"I really didn't know," he said, "that such a service had any actual
existence except in novels."
"I am a proof to the contrary," Bellamy declared grimly. "Abroad,
I run always the risk of being dubbed a spy and treated like one.
At home, I am simply the head of the A2 Branch of the Secret Service.
Here come our drinks."
Laverick raised his whiskey and soda to his lips mechanically.
"Here's luck!" he exclaimed. "Now go on, Bellamy," he continued.
"The waiter can't overhear."
"Tim is one of the few persons in the place," he said, "whom one can
trust. As a matter of fact, he has been very useful to me more than
once. Now listen to me attentively, Laverick. I am going to speak
to you as one man to another."
"I am ready," he said.
"Last Monday," Bellamy went on, leaning forward and speaking in a
soft but very distinct undertone, "a man was murdered late at night
in the heart of the city - within one hundred yards of the Stock
Exchange. The papers called it a mysterious murder. No one knows
who the man was, or who committed the crime, or why. You and I,
Laverick, both know a little more than the rest of the world."
"The murder," Bellamy continued, with a strange light in his eyes,
"was accomplished only a stone's throw from your office."
Laverick lit a cigarette and threw the match away.
"Horrible affair it was," he remarked.
Bellamy glanced toward the door, - a man had looked in and departed.
"Enough of this fencing, Laverick," he said. "A theft was committed
from the person of that murdered man, of which the general public
knows nothing. A pocketbook was stolen from him containing twenty
thousand pounds and a sealed document. As to who murdered the man,
I want you to understand that that is not my affair. As to what has
become of that twenty thousand pounds, I have not the slightest
curiosity. I want the document."
"What claim have you to it?" Laverick asked quickly.
"I might retort, but I will not," Bellamy replied. "Time is too
short. I will answer you by explaining who the man was and what
that document consists of. The man's name was Von Behrling, and he
was a trusted agent of the Austrian Secret Service. The document
of which he was robbed contains a verbatim report of the conference
which recently took place at Vienna between the Emperor of Germany,
the Emperor of Austria, and the Czar of Russia. It contains the
details of a plot against this country and the undertakings entered
into by those several Powers. I want that document, Laverick. Have
I established my claim?"
"You have," Laverick answered. "Why on earth Didn't you come to me
before? Don't you believe that I should have listened to you as
readily as to Mademoiselle Idiale?"
"I wish that I had come," Bellamy admitted, "and yet, here is the
truth, Laverick, because the truth is best. Twenty-two years lie
between us and the time when we knew anything of one another. To
me, therefore, you are a stranger. I had my spies following Von
Behrling that night. I know that you took the pocket-book from his
dead body. If you did not murder him yourself, the deed was done
by an accomplice of yours. How was I to trust you? We are speaking
naked words, my friend. We are dealing with naked truths. To me
you were a murderer and a thief. A word from me and you would have
realized the value of that document. I tell you frankly that
Austria would give you almost any sum for it to-day."
Laverick, strong man though he was, was conscious of a sudden
weakness. He raised his hand to his forehead and drew it away - wet.
He struggled desperately for self-control.
"Bellamy," he said, "here's truth for truth. I am not on my trial
before you. Believe me, man, for God's sake!"
"I'll try," Bellamy promised. "Go on."
"That night I stayed at my office late because I saw ruin before me
on the morrow. I left it meaning to go straight home. I lit a
cigarette near that entry, and by the light of a match, as I was
throwing it away, I saw the murdered man. I think for a time I was
paralyzed. The pocket-book was half dragged out from his pocket.
Why I looked inside it I don't know. I had some sort of wild idea
that I must find out who he was. Mind you, though, I should have
given the alarm at once, but there wasn't a soul in the street.
There was a man lurking in the entry and I chased him, unsuccessfully.
When I came back, the body was still there and the street empty. I
looked inside that pocket-book, which would have been in the
possession of his murderer but for my unexpected appearance. I saw
the notes there. Once more I went out into the street. I gave no
alarm, - I am not attempting to explain why. I was like a man made
suddenly mad. I went back to my office and shut myself in."
Bellamy pointed to the glasses silently. The waiter came forward
and refilled them.
"Bellamy," Laverick continued, "your career and mine lie far apart,
and yet, at their backbone, as there is at the backbone of every
man's life, there must be something of the same sort of ambition.
My grandfather lived and died a member of the Stock Exchange, honored
and well thought of. My father followed in his footsteps. I, too,
was there. Without becoming wealthy, the name I bear has become
known and respected. Failure, whatever one may say, means a broken
life and a broken honor. I sat in my office and I knew that the use
of those notes for a few days might save me from disgrace, might
keep the name, which my father and grandfather had guarded so
jealously, free from shame. I would have paid any price for the use
of them. I would have paid with my life, if that had been possible.
Think of the risk I ran - the danger I am now in. I deposited those
notes on the morrow as security at my bank, and I met all my
engagements. The crisis is over! Those notes are in a safe deposit
vault in Chancery Lane! I only wish to Heaven that I could find
"And the document?" Bellamy asked. "The document?"
"It is in the hotel safe," Laverick answered.
Bellamy drew a long sigh of relief. Then he emptied his tumbler
and lit a cigarette.
"Laverick," he declared, "I believe you."
"Thank God!" Laverick muttered.
"I am no crime investigator," Bellamy went on thoughtfully. "As to
who killed Von Behrling, or why, I cannot now form the slightest
idea. That twenty thousand pounds, Laverick, is Secret Service
money, paid by me to Von Behrling only half-an-hour before he was
murdered, in a small restaurant there, for what I supposed to be
the document. He deceived me by making up a false packet. The real
one he kept. He deserved to die, and I am glad he is dead."
Laverick's face was suddenly hopeful.
"Then you can take these notes!" he exclaimed.
"In a few days," he said, "I shall take you with me to a friend of
mine - a Cabinet Minister. You shall tell him the story exactly as
you've told it to me, and restore the money."
Laverick laughed like a child.
"Don't think I'm mad," he apologized, "but I am not a person like
you, Bellamy, - used to adventures and this sort of wild happenings.
I'm a steady-going, matter-of-fact Englishman, and this thing has
been like a hateful nightmare to me. I can't believe that I'm going
to get rid of it."
"It's a great adventure," he declared, "to come to any one like you.
To tell you the truth, I can't imagine how you had the pluck - don't
misunderstand me, I mean the moral pluck - to run such a risk. Why,
at the moment you used those notes," Bellamy continued, "the odds
must have been about twenty to one against your not being found out."
"One doesn't stop to count the odds," Laverick said grimly. "I saw
a chance of salvation and I went for it. And now about this letter."
Bellamy rose to his feet.
"On the King's service!" he whispered softly.
They walked once more to the cashier's desk. A stranger greeted them.
Laverick produced his receipt.
"I should like the packet I deposited here this evening," he said.
"I am sorry to trouble you, but I find that I require it unexpectedly."
The clerk glanced at the receipt and up at the clock. "I am afraid,
sir," he answered, "that we cannot get at it before the morning."
"Why not?" Laverick demanded, frowning.
"Mr. Dean has just gone home," the man declared, "and he is the only
one who knows the combination on the 'L' safe. You see, sir," he
continued, "we keep this particular safe for documents, and we did
not expect that anything would be required from it to-night."
Bellamy drew Laverick away.
"After all," he said, "perhaps to-morrow morning would be better.
There's no need to get shirty with these fellows. As a matter of
fact, I don't think that I should have dared to receive it without
making some special preparations. I can get some plain clothes
men here upon whom I can rely, at nine o'clock."
They strolled back into the hall.
"Tell me," Laverick asked, "do you know who the man was who forged
my name to the order a few hours ago?"
"It was Adolf Kahn, an Austrian spy. I have been watching him for
days. If they'd given him the paper I had four men at the door, but
it would have been touch and go. He is a very prince of conspirators,
that fellow. To tell you the truth, I think I might as well go home."
Bellamy was drawing on his gloves when the hall-porter brought a note
"A messenger has just left this for you, sir," he explained.
Laverick tore open the envelope. The contents consisted of a few
words only, written on plain note-paper and in a handwriting which
was strange to him.
"Ring up 1232 Gerrard."
Laverick frowned, turned over the half sheet of paper and looked
once more at the envelope. Then he passed it on to his companion.
"What do you make of that, Bellamy?" he asked.
Bellamy smiled as he perused and returned it.
"What could any one make of it?" he remarked, laconically. "Do you
know the handwriting?"
"Never saw it before, to my knowledge," Laverick answered. "What
should you do about it?"
"I think," Bellamy suggested, "that I should ring up number 1232
They crossed the hall and Laverick entered one of the telephone booths.
"1232 Gerrard," he said.
The connection was made almost at once.
"Who are you?" Laverick asked.
"I am speaking for Miss Zoe Leneven," was the reply. "Are you Mr.
"I am," Laverick answered. "Is Miss Leneveu there? Can she speak
to me herself?"
"She is not here," the voice continued. "She was fetched away in
a hurry from the theatre - we understood by her brother. She left
two and sixpence with the doorkeeper here to ring you up and explain
that she had been summoned to her brother's rooms, 25, Jermyn Street,
and would you kindly go on there."
"Who are you?" Laverick demanded.
There was no reply. Laverick remained speechless, listening
intently. He stood still with the receiver pressed to his ear. Was
it his fancy, or was that really Zoe's protesting voice which he
heard in the background? It was a woman or a child who was speaking
- he was almost sure that it was Zoe.
"Who are you?" he asked fiercely. "Miss Leneveu is there with you.
Why does she not speak for herself?"
"Miss Leneveu is not here," was the answer. "I have done what she
desired. You can please yourself whether you go or not. The address
is 25, Jermyn Street. Ring off."
The connection was gone. Laverick laid down the receiver and
stepped out of the booth.
"I must be off at once," he said to Bellamy. "You'll be round in
"After all," he remarked, "I have changed my plans. I shall not
leave the hotel. I am going to telephone round to my man to bring
me some clothes. By the bye, do you mind telling me whether this
message which you have just received had anything to do with the
little affair in which we are interested?"
"Not directly," Laverick answered, after a moment's hesitation.
"The message was from a young lady. I have to go and meet her."
"A young lady whom you can trust?" Bellamy inquired quietly.
"Implicitly," Laverick assured him.
"She spoke herself?"
"No, she sent a message. Excuse me, Bellamy, won't you, but I
must really go."
"By all means," Bellamy answered.
They stood at the entrance to the hotel together while a taxicab
was summoned. Laverick stepped quickly in.
"25, Jermyn Street," he ordered.
Bellamy watched him drive off. Then he sighed.
"I think, my friend Laverick," he said softly, "that you will need
some one to look after you to-night."
MORRISON IS DESPERATE
Certainly it was a strange little gathering that waited in Morrison's
room for the coming of Laverick. There was Lassen -flushed, ugly,
breathing heavily, and watching the door with fixed, beady eyes.
There was Adolf Kahn, the man who had strolled out from the Milan
Hotel as Laverick had entered it, leaving the forged order behind
him. There was Streuss - stern, and desperate with anxiety. There
was Morrison himself, in the clothes of a workman, worn to a shadow,
with the furtive gleam of terrified guilt shining in his sunken
eyes, and the slouched shoulders and broken mien of the habitual
criminal. There was Zoe, around whom they were all standing, with
anger burning in her cheeks and gleaming out of her passion-filled
eyes. She, too, like the others, watched the door. So they waited.
Streuss, not for the first time, moved to the window and drawing
aside the curtains looked down into the street.
"Will he come - this Englishman?" he muttered. "Has he courage?"
"More courage than you who keep a girl here against her will!" Zoe
panted, looking at him defiantly. "More courage than my poor
brother, who stands there like a coward!"
"Shut up, Zoe!" Morrison exclaimed harshly. "There is nothing for
you to be furious about or frightened. No one wants to ill-treat
you. These gentlemen all want to behave kindly to us. It is
Laverick they want."
"And you," she cried, "are content to stand by and let him walk
into a trap - you let them even use my name to bring him here!
Arthur, be a man! Have nothing more to do with them. Help me to
get away from this place. Call out. Do something instead of
standing there and wasting the precious minutes."
He came towards her - ugly and threatening.
"I'll do something in a minute," he declared savagely, - "something
you won't like, either. Keep your mouth shut, I tell you. It's me
or him, and, by Heavens, he deserves what he'll get!"
Streuss turned away from the window and looked towards Zoe.
"Young lady," he said quietly, "let me beg you not to distress
yourself so. I sincerely trust that nothing unpleasant will happen.
If it does, I promise you that we will arrange for your temporary
absence. You shall not be disturbed in any way."
"And as regards your brother, have a care, young lady," Lassen
growled. "If any one's in danger, it's he. He'll be lucky if he
saves his own skin."
The young man glowered at her.
"You hear that, you little fool!" he muttered. Keep still, can't
Her face was full of defiance. He came nearer to her and changed
"Zoe," he whispered hoarsely, "don't you understand ? If they can't
get what they want from Laverick, they'll visit it upon me. They're
desperate, I tell you. They mean mischief all the time."
"Yet you let him be brought here, your partner who looked after you
when you were ill, and who helped you to get away!" she cried
He laughed unpleasantly.
"When it comes to a matter of life or death, it's every man for
himself. Besides, if I'd known as much about Laverick as I know
now, I'm not sure that I should have been so ready to go - not
empty-handed, by any manner of means."
"What have you done that you should be so much in the power of
these people?" she demanded, fixing her dark eyes upon him
The terror whitened his face once more. The perspiration stood out
in beads upon his forehead.
"Don't dare to ask me questions!" he exclaimed nervously. "I should
like to know what Laverick is to you, eh, that you take so much
interest in him? Listen here, my fine young lady. If I've been mug
enough to do the dirty work, he hasn't made any bones about taking
advantage of it. He's a nice sort of sportsman, I can tell you."
The man at the window suddenly dropped the curtain and spoke across
the room to them all.
"He is here," he announced.
"Alone?" Lassen asked thickly.
"Alone," Streuss echoed.
A little thrill seemed to pass through the room. Zoe made no attempt
to cry out. Instead she leaned forward towards the door, as though
listening. Her attitude seemed harmless enough. No one took any
more notice of her. They all watched the entrance to the apartment.
Zoe remembered the two flights of stairs. She was absorbed in a
breathless calculation. Now - now he should be coming quite close.
Her whole being was concentrated upon one effort of listening. At
last she raised her head. The room resounded with her cries.
"Don't come in! Don't come in here!" she shrieked. "Mr. Laverick,
do you hear? Go away! Don't come in here alone!"
Her brother was the first to reach her, his hand fell upon her mouth
brutally. Her little effort was naturally a failure - defeating,
in fact, its own object. Laverick, hearing her cries, simply
hastened his coming, threw open the door without waiting to knock,
and stepped quickly across the threshold. He saw a man dressed in
shabby workman's clothes, unshaven, dishevelled, holding Zoe in a
rough grasp, and with a single well-directed blow he sent him reeling
across the room. Then something in the man's cry, a momentary
glimpse of his white face, revealed his identity.
"Morrison!" he cried. "Good God, it's Morrison!"
Arthur Morrison was crouching in a corner of the room, his evil face
turned upon his aggressor. Laverick took quick stock of his
surroundings. There was the tall, fair young man -Adolf Kahn - whom
he had seen at the Milan a few hours ago - the man who had
unsuccessfully forged his name. There was Lassen, the man who, under
pretence of being her manager, had been a spy upon Louise. There was
Streuss, with blanched face and hard features, standing with his back
to the door. There was Zoe, and, behind, her brother. She held out
her hands timidly towards him, and her eyes were soft with pleading.
"I did not want you to come here, Mr. Laverick," she cried softly.
"I tried so hard to stop you. It was not I who sent that message."
He took her cold little fingers and raised them to his lips.
"I know it, dear," he murmured.
Then a movement in the room warned him, and he was suddenly on guard.
Lassen was close to his side, some evil purpose plainly enough
written in his pasty face and unwholesome eyes. Laverick gave him
his left shoulder and sent him staggering across the floor. He was
angry at having been outwitted and his eyes gleamed ominously.
"Well, gentlemen," he exclaimed, "you seem to have taken unusual
pains to secure my presence here! Tell me now, what can I do for
It was Streuss who became spokesman. He addressed Laverick with
the consideration of one gentleman addressing another. His voice
had many agreeable qualities. His demeanor was entirely amicable.
"Mr. Laverick," he answered, "let us first apologize if we used a
little subterfuge to procure for us the pleasure of your visit. We
are men who are in earnest, and across whose path you have either
wilfully or accidentally strayed. An understanding between us has
become a necessity."
"Go on," Laverick interrupted. "Tell me exactly who you are and
what you want."
"As to who we are," Streuss answered, "does that really matter? I
repeat that we are men who are in earnest - let that be enough. As
to what we want, it is a certain document to which we have every
claim, and which has come into your possession - I flatter you
somewhat, Mr. Laverick, if I say by chance."
Laverick shrugged his shoulders.
"Let that go," he said. "I know all about the document you refer to,
and the notes. They were contained in a pocket-book which it is
perfectly true has come into my possession. Prove your claim to
both and you shall have them."
"You will admit that our claim, since we know of its existence," he
asked suavely, "is equal to yours?"
"Certainly," Laverick answered, "but then I never had any idea of
keeping either the document or the money. That your claim is better
than mine is no guarantee that there is not some one else whose title
is better still."
"Be reasonable, Mr. Laverick," he begged. "We are men of peace -
when peace is possible. The money of which you spoke you can
consider as treasure trove, if you will, but it is our intention
to possess ourselves of the document. It is for that reason that
we are here in London. I, personally, am committed to the extent
of my life and my honor to its recovery."
A declaration of war, courteously veiled but decisive. Laverick
looked around him a little defiantly, and shrugged his shoulders.
"You know very well that I do not carry it about with me," he said.
"The gentleman on my left," he added, pointing to Kahn, "can tell
you where it is kept."
"Quite so," Streuss admitted. "We are not doing you the injustice
to suppose that you would be so foolhardy as to trust yourself
anywhere with that document upon your person. It is in the safe
at the Milan Hotel. I may add that probably, if it had not
occurred to you to change your quarters, it would have been in
our possession before now. We are hoping to persuade you to return
to the hotel with one of our friends here, and procure it."
"As it happens," Laverick remarked, "that is impossible. The man
who set the combination for that particular safe has gone off duty,
and will not be back again at the hotel till to-morrow morning."
"But he is to be found," Streuss answered easily. "His present
whereabouts and his address are known to us. He lives with his
family at Harvard Court, Hampstead. We shall assist you in making
it worth his while to return to the hotel or to give you the
combination word for the safe."
"You are rather great on detail!" Laverick exclaimed.
"It is our business. The question for you to decide, and to decide
immediately, is whether you are ready to end this, in some respects,
constrained situation, and give your word to place that document in
"You are ready to accept my word, then?" Laverick asked.
"We have a certain hold upon you," Streuss continued slowly. "Your
partner Mr. Morrison's position in connection with the murder in
Crooked Friars' Alley is, as you may have surmised, a somewhat
unfortunate one. Your own I will not allude to. I will simply
suggest that for both your sakes publicity - any measure of
publicity, in fact, as regards this little affair - would not be
Laverick hesitated. He understood all that was implied. Morrison's
eyes were fixed upon him - the eyes of a craven coward. He felt the
intensity of the moment. Then Zoe turned suddenly towards him.
"You are not to give it up!" she cried, with trembling lips. "They
cannot hurt you, and it is not true - about Arthur."
Kahn, who was nearest, clapped his hand over her mouth and Laverick
knocked him down. Instantly the pacific atmosphere of the room was
changed. Lassen and Morrison closed swiftly upon Laverick from
different sides. Streuss covered him with the shining barrel of a
"Mr. Laverick," he said, "we are not here to be trifled with. Keep
your sister quiet, Morrison, or, by God, you'll swing!"
Laverick looked at the revolver - fascinated, for an instant, by
its unexpected appearance. The face of the man who held it had
changed. There was lightning playing about the room.
"It's the dock for you both!" Streuss exclaimed fiercely, - "for
you, Laverick, and you, Morrison, too, if you play with us any
longer! One of you's a murderer and the other receives the booty.
Who are you to have scruples - criminals, both of you? Your place
is in the dock, and you shall be there within twenty-four hours if
there are any more evasions. Now, Laverick, will you fetch that
document? It is your last chance."
Upon the breathless silence that followed a quiet voice intervened
- a voice calm and emotionless, tinged with a measure of polite
inquiry. Yet its level utterance fell like a bomb among the little
company. The curtain separating this from the inner room had been
drawn a few feet back, and Bellamy was standing there, in black
overcoat and white muffler, his silk hat on the back of his head,
his left hand, carefully gloved, resting still upon the curtain
which he had drawn aside.
"I hope I am not disturbing you at all?" he murmured softly.
For a moment the development of the situation remained uncertain.
The gleaming barrel of Streuss's revolver changed its destination.
Bellamy glanced at it with the pleased curiosity of a child.
"I really ought not to have intruded," he continued amiably. "I
happened to hear the address my friend Laverick gave to the taxicab
driver, and I was particularly anxious to have a word or two with
him before I left for the Continent."
Streuss was surely something of a charlatan! His revolver had
disappeared. The smile upon his lips was both gracious and
"One is always only too pleased to welcome Mr. Bellamy anywhere -
anyhow," he declared. "If apologies are needed at all," he
continued, "it is to our friend and host - Mr. Morrison here.
Permit me - Mr. Arthur Morrison - the Honorable David Bellamy!
These are Mr. Morrison's rooms."
Morrison could do no more than stare. Bellamy, on the contrary,
with a little bow came further into the apartment, removing his hat
from his head. Lassen glided round behind him, remaining between
Bellamy and the heavy curtains. Adolf Kahn moved as though
unconsciously in front of the door of the room in which they were.
Bellamy smiled courteously.
"I am afraid," he said, "that I must not stay for more than a moment.
I have a car full of friends below - we are on our way, in fact, to
the Covent Garden Ball - and one or two of them, I fear," he added
indulgently, "have already reached that stage of exhilaration which
such an entertainment in England seems to demand. They will
certainly come and rout me out if I am here much longer. There!" he
exclaimed, "you hear that?"
There was the sound of a motor horn from the street below. Streuss,
with an oath trembling upon his lips, lifted the blind. There were
two motor-cars waiting there - large cars with Limousine bodies,
and apparently full of men. After all, it was to be expected.
Bellamy was no fool!
"Since we are to lose you, then Mr. Laverick," Streuss remarked with
a gesture of farewell, "let us say good night. The little matter
of business which we were discussing can be concluded with your
Laverick turned toward Zoe. Their eyes met and he read their message
"You are coming back to your own rooms, Miss Leneveu," he said.
"You must let me offer you my escort."
She half rose, but in obedience to a gesture from Streuss Morrison
moved near to them.
"If you leave me here, Laverick," he muttered beneath his breath, -
"if you leave me to these hounds, do you know what they will do?
They will hand me over to the police - they have sworn it!"
"Why did you come back?" Laverick asked quickly.
"They stopped me as I was boarding the steamer," Morrison declared.
"I tell you they have eyes everywhere. You cannot move without their
knowledge. I had to come. Now that I am here they have told me
plainly the price of my freedom. It is that document. Laverick, it
is my life! You must give in - you must, indeed! Remember you're
in it, too."
"Am I?" Laverick asked quietly.
"You fool, of course you are!" Morrison whispered hoarsely. "Didn't
you come into the entry and take the pocket-book? Heaven knows what
possessed you to do it! Heaven knows how you found the pluck to use
the money! But you did it, and you are a criminal - a criminal as I
am. Don't be a fool, Laverick. Make terms with these people. They
want the document - the document - nothing but the document! They
will let us keep the money."
"And you?" Laverick asked, turning suddenly to Zoe. "What do you
say about all this?"
She looked at him fearlessly.
"I trust you," she said. "I trust you to do what is right.
LAVERICK S ARREST
"At last, David!"
Louise welcomed her visitor eagerly with outstretched hands, which
Bellamy raised for a moment to his lips. Then she turned toward the
third person, who had also risen at the opening of the door - a
short, somewhat thick-set man, with swarthy complexion, close-cropped
black hair, and upturned black moustache.
"You remember Prince Rosmaran ?" she said to Bellamy. "He left
Servia only the day before yesterday. He has come to England on a
special mission to the King."
Bellamy shook hands.
"I think," he remarked, "I had the honor of meeting you once before,
Prince, at the opening of the Servian Parliament two years ago. It
was just then, I believe, that you were elected to lead the patriotic
Th e Prince bowed sadly.
"My leadership, I fear," he declared, "has brought little good to
my unhappy country."
"It is a terrible crisis through which your nation is passing,"
Bellamy reminded him sympathetically. "At the same time, we must
not despair. Austria holds out her clenched hands, but as yet she
has not dared to strike."
The face of the Prince was dark with passion.
"As yet, no!" he answered. "But how long - how long, I wonder -
before the blow falls? We in Servia have been blamed for arming
ourselves, but I tell you that to-day the Austrian troops are being
secretly concentrated on the frontier. Their arsenals are working
night and day. Her soldiers are manoeuvering almost within sight
of Belgrade. We have hoped against hope, yet in our hearts we know
that our fate was sealed when the Czar of Russia left Vienna last
"Nothing is certain," Bellamy declared restlessly. "England has
been ill-governed for a great many years, but we are not yet a
Louise leaned a little towards him.
"David," she whispered, "the compact!"
He answered her unspoken question.
"It is arranged," he said, - "finished. To-morrow morning at nine
o'clock I receive it."
"You are sure?" she begged. "Why need there be any delay?"
"It is locked up in a powerful safe," he explained, "and the clerk
who has the combination will not be on duty again till nine.
Laverick is there simply waiting for the hour. You were right,
Louise, as usual. I should have trusted him from the first."
The Prince had been listening to their conversation with undisguised
"There is a rumor," he said, "that some secret information concerning
the compact of Vienna has found its way to this country."
"Hence, I presume, your mission, Prince."
"We three have no secrets from one another," the Prince declared.
"Our interests in this matter are absolutely identical. What you
suggest, Mr. Bellamy, is the truth. There is a rumor that the
Chancellor, in the first few moments of his illness, gave valuable
information to some one who is likely to have communicated it to the
Government here. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. That, I
know, is one of your own mottoes. So I am here to know if there is
anything to be learned."
"Your arrival is not inopportune, Prince. When did you come?"
"I reached Charing Cross at midnight," the Prince answered. "Our
train was an hour late. I am presenting my credentials early this
morning, and I am hoping for an interview during the afternoon."
Bellamy considered for a moment.
"It is true!" he said. "Between us three there is indeed no need
for secrecy. The information you speak of will be in our hands
within a few hours. I have no doubt whatever but that your Minister
will share in it."
"You know of what it Consists?" the Prince inquired curiously.
"I think so," Bellamy answered, glancing at the clock. "For my own
part, although the information itself is invaluable, I see another
and a profounder source of interest in that document. If, indeed,
it is what we believe it to be, it amounts to a casus belli."
"You mean that you would provoke war?" Prince Rosmaran asked.
Bellamy shrugged his shoulders.
"I," said he, - "I am not even a politician. But, you know, the
lookers-on see a good deal of the game, and in my opinion there is
only one course open for this country, - to work upon Russia so
that she withdraws from any compact she may have entered into with
Austria and Germany, to accept Germany's cooperation with Austria
in the despoilment of your country as a casus belli, and to declare
war at once while our fleet is invincible and our Colonies free
The Prince nodded.
"It is good," he admitted, "to hear man's talk once more. Wherever
one moves, people bow the head before the might of Germany and
Austria. Let them alone but a little longer, and they will indeed
Three o'clock struck. The Prince rose.
"I go," he announced.
"And I," Bellamy declared. "Come to my rooms at ten o'clock
tomorrow morning, Prince, and you shall hear the news.
Bellamy lingered behind. For a moment he held Louise in his arms
and gazed sorrowfully into her weary face.
"Is it worth while, I wonder?" he asked bitterly.
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