Peter Ruff and the Double Four
E. Phillips Oppenheim

Part 2 out of 8

"It's been a silly game, all along," he muttered. "We'd better have
brought the young ass up here and jostled him!"=20

"Not so easy," Marnstam answered. "These young fools have a way of
turning obstinate. He'd have chucked us, sure. Anyhow, he's safer
where he is."=20

They relapsed once more into silence. A storm of rain beat upon the
window. Rounceby glanced up. It was as black out there as were the
waters of that silent tarn! The man shivered as the thought struck
him. Marnstam, who had no nerves, twirled his moustache and watched
his companion with wonder. =20

"You look as though you saw a ghost," he remarked. =20

"Perhaps I do!" Rounceby growled. =20

"You had better finish your drink, my dear fellow," Marnstam advised.
"Afterwards - "=20

Suddenly he stiffened into attention. He laid his hand upon his
companion's knee. =20

"Listen!" he said. "There is some one coming."=20

They leaned a little forward. The swing doors were opened. A girl's
musical laugh rang out from the corridor. Tall and elegant, with
her black lace skirt trailing upon the floor, her left hand resting
upon the shoulder of the man into whose ear she was whispering, and
whom she led straight to one of the writing tables, Miss Violet
Brown swept into the room. On her right, and nearest to the two
men, was Mr. Vincent Cawdor. =20

"Now you can go and talk to your friends!" she exclaimed, lightly.
"I am going to make Victor listen to me."=20

Cawdor left his two companions and sank on to the couch by Rounceby's
side. The young man, with his opera hat still on his head, and the
light overcoat which he had been carrying on the floor by his side,
was seated before the writing table with his back to them. Miss
Brown was leaning over him, with her hand upon the back of his chair.
They were out of hearing of the other three men. =20

"Well, Rounceby, my friend," Mr. Vincent Cawdor remarked, cheerfully,
"you're having a late sitting, eh?"=20

"We've been waiting for you, you fool!" Rounceby answered. "What
on earth are you thinking about, bringing a crowd like this about
with you, eh?"=20

Cawdor smiled, reassuringly. =20

"Don't you worry," he said, in a lower tone. "I know my way in and
out of the ropes here better than you can teach me. A big hotel
like this is the safest and the most dangerous place in the world
- just how you choose to make it. You've got to bluff 'em all the
time. That's why I brought the young lady - particular friend of
mine - real nice girl, too!"=20

"And the young man?" Rounceby asked, suspiciously. =20

Cawdor grew more serious. =20

"That's Captain Lowther," he said softly - "private secretary to
Colonel Dean, who's the chief of the aeronaut department at
Aldershot. He has a draft in his pocket for twenty thousand pounds.
It is yours if he is satisfied with the plans."=20

"Twenty thousand pounds!" Marnstam said, thoughtfully. "It is very
little - very little indeed for the risks which we have run!"=20

Cawdor moved his place and sat between the men. He laid a hand upon=20
Marnstam's shoulder - another on Rounceby's knee. =20

"My dear friends," he said, impressively, "if you could have built
a model, or conducted these negotiations in the usual way, you might
have asked a million. As it is, I think I am the only man in
England who could have dealt with this matter - so satisfactorily."=20

Rounceby glanced suspiciously at the young man to whom Miss Brown
was still devoting the whole of her attention. =20

"Why don't he come out and talk like a man?" he asked. "What's the
idea of his sitting over there with his back to us?"=20

"I want him never to see your faces - to deal only with me," Cawdor
explained. "Remember that he is in an official position. The money
he is going to part with is secret service money."=20

The two men were beginning to be more reassured. Rounceby slowly
produced a roll of oilskin from his pocket. =20

"He'll look at them as he sits there," he insisted. "There must be
no copying or making notes, mind."=20

Cawdor smiled in a superior fashion. =20

"My dear fellow," he said, "you are dealing with the emissary of a
government - not one of your own sort."=20

Rounceby glanced at his companion, who nodded. Then he handed over
the plans. =20

"Tell him to look sharp," he said. "It's not so late but that there
may be people in here yet."=20

Cawdor crossed the room with the plans, and laid them down before
the writing table. Rounceby rose to his feet and lit a cigar.
Marnstam walked to the further window and back again. They stood
side by side. Rounceby's whole frame seemed to have stiffened with
some new emotion. =20

"There's something wrong, Jim," Marnstam whispered softly in his ear.
"You've got the old lady in your pocket?"=20

"Yes!" Rounceby answered thickly, "and, by Heavens, I'm going to
use it!"=20

"Don't shoot unless it's the worst," Marnstam counselled. "I shall
go out of that window, into the tree, and run for the river. But
bluff first, Jim - bluff for your life!"=20

There were swinging doors leading into the room from the hotel side,
and a small door exactly opposite which led to the residential part
of the place. Both of these doors were opened at precisely the
same moment. Through the former stepped two strong looking men in
long overcoats, and with the unmistakable appearance of policemen
in plain clothes. Through the latter came John Dory! He walked
straight up to the two men. It spoke volumes for his courage that,
knowing their characters and believing them to be in desperate
straits, he came unarmed. =20

"Gentlemen," he said, "I hold warrants for your arrest. I will not
trouble you with your aliases. You are known to-day, I believe,
as James Rounceby and Richard Marnstam. Will you come quietly?"=20

Marnstam's expression was one of bland and beautiful surprise. =20

"My dear sir," he said, edging, however, a little toward the
window - "you must be joking! What is the charge?"=20

"You are charged with the wilful murder of a young man named Victor
Franklin," answered Dory. "His body was recovered from Longthorp
Tarn this afternoon. You had better say nothing. Also with the
theft of certain papers known to have been in his possession."=20

Now it is possible that at this precise moment Marnstam would have
made his spring for the window and Rounceby his running fight for
liberty. The hands of both men were upon their revolvers, and John
Dory's life was a thing of no account. But at this juncture a
thing happened. There were in the room the two policemen guarding
the swing doors, and behind them the pale faces of a couple of night
porters looking anxiously in. Vincent Cawdor and Miss Brown were
standing side by side, a little in the background, and the young
man who had been their companion had risen also to his feet. As
though with some intention of intervening, he moved a step forward,
almost in line with Dory. Rounceby saw him, and a new fear gripped
him by the heart. He shrank back, his fingers relaxed their hold
of his weapon, the sweat was hot upon his forehead. Marnstam,
though he seemed for a moment stupefied, realised the miracle
which had happened and struck boldly for his own. =20

"If this is a joke," he said, "it strikes me as being a particularly
bad one. I should like to know, sir, how you dare to come into
this room and charge me and my friend - Mr. Rounceby - with being
concerned in the murder of a young man who is even now actually
standing by your side."=20

John Dory started back. He looked with something like apprehension
at the youth to whom Marnstam pointed. =20

"My name is Victor Franklin," that young man declared. "What's all
this about?"=20

Dory felt the ground give beneath his feet. Nevertheless, he set
his teeth and fought for his hand. =20

"You say that your name is Victor Franklin?" he asked. =20


"You are the inventor of a flying machine?"=20

"I am."=20

"You were in Westmoreland with these two men a few days go?"=20

"I was," the young man admitted. =20

"You left the village of Scawton in a motor car with them?"=20

"Yes! We quarrelled on the way, and parted."=20

"You were robbed of nothing?"=20

Victor Franklin smiled. =20

"Certainly not," he answered. "I had nothing worth stealing except
my plans, and they are in my pocket now."=20

There was a few moments' intense silence. Dory wheeled suddenly
round, and looked to where Mr. Vincent Cawdor had been standing. =20

"Where is Mr. Cawdor?" he asked, sharply. =20

"The gentleman with the grey moustache left a few seconds ago," one
of the men at the door said. Dory was very pale. =20

"Gentlemen," he said, "I have to offer you my apologies. I have
apparently been deceived by some false information. The charge
is withdrawn."=20

He turned on his heel and left the room. The two policemen
followed him. =20

"Keep them under observation," Dory ordered shortly, "but I am
afraid this fellow Cawdor has sold me."=20

He found a hansom outside, and sprang into it. =20

"Number 27, Southampton Row," he ordered. =20

Rounceby and his partner were alone in the little smoking room.
The former was almost inarticulate. The night porter brought
them brandy, and both men drank. =20

"We've got to get to the bottom of this, Marnstam," Mr. Rounceby
muttered. =20

Mr. Marnstam was thinking. =20

"Do you remember that sound through the darkness," he said - "the
beating of an engine way back on the road?"=20

"What of it?" Rounceby demanded. =20

"It was a motor bicycle," Marnstam said quietly. "I thought so
at the time."=20

"Supposing some one followed us and pulled him out," Rounceby said,
hoarsely, "why are we treated like this? I tell you we've been
made fools of! We've been treated like children - not even to be
punished! We'll have the truth somehow out of that devil Cawdor!

They made their way to the courtyard and found a cab. =20

"Number 27, Southampton Row!" they ordered. =20

They reached their destination some time before Dory, whose horse
fell down in the Strand, and who had to walk. They ascended to the
fourth floor of the building and rang the bell of Vincent Cawdor's
room - no answer. They plied the knocker - no result. Rounceby
peered through the keyhole. =20

"He hasn't come home yet," he remarked. "There is no light anywhere
in the place."=20

The door of a flat across the passage was quietly opened. Mr. Peter
Ruff, in a neat black smoking suit and slippers, and holding a pipe
in his hand, looked out. =20

"Excuse me, gentlemen," he said, "but I do not think that Mr. Cawdor
is in. He went out early this evening, and I have not heard him

The two men turned away. =20

"We are much obliged to you, sir," Mr. Marnstam said. =20

"Can I give him any message?" Peter Ruff asked, politely. "We
generally see something of one another in the morning."=20

"You can tell him - " Rounceby began. =20

"No message, thanks!" Marnstam interrupted. "We shall probably
run across him ourselves to-morrow."=20

John Dory was nearly a quarter of an hour late. After his third
useless summons, Mr. Peter Ruff presented himself again. =20

"I am afraid," he said, "you will not find my neighbour at home.
There have been several people enquiring for him to-night, without
any result."=20

John Dory came slowly across the landing. =20

"Good evening, Mr. Ruff!" he said. =20

"Why, it's Mr. Dory!" Peter Ruff declared. "Come in, do, and have
a drink."=20

John Dory accepted the invitation, and his eyes were busy in that
little sitting room during the few minutes which it took his host
to mix that whisky and soda. =20

"Nothing wrong with our friend opposite, I hope?" Peter Ruff asked,
jerking his head across the landing. =20

"I hope not, Mr. Ruff," John Dory said. "No doubt in the morning he
will be able to explain everything. I must say that I should like
to see him to-night, though."=20

"He may turn up yet," Peter Ruff remarked, cheerfully. "He's like
myself - a late bird."=20

"I fear not," Dory answered, drily. "Nice rooms you have here, sir.
Just a sitting room and bedroom, eh?"=20

Peter Ruff stood up and threw open the door of the inner apartment. =20

"That's so," he answered. "Care to have a look round?"=20

The detective did look round, and pretty thoroughly. As soon as he
was sure that there was no one concealed upon the premises, he
drank his whisky and soda and went. =20

"I'll look in again to see Cawdor," he remarked - "to-morrow,
perhaps, or the next day."=20

"I'll let him know if I see him about," Peter Ruff declared. "Sorry
the lift's stopped. Three steps to the left and straight on.


Miss Brown arrived early the following morning, and was disposed
to be inquisitive. =20

"I should like to know," she said, "exactly what has become of Mr.
Vincent Cawdor"=20

Peter Ruff took her upstairs. There was a little mound of ashes
in the grate. =20

She nodded. =20

"I imagined that," she said. "But why did you send me out to
watch yourself?"=20

"My dear Violet," Peter Ruff answered, "there is no man in the world
to-day who is my equal in the art of disguising himself. At the
same time, I wanted to know whether I could deceive you. I wanted
to be quite sure that my study of Mr. Vincent Cawdor was a safe one.
I took those rooms in his name and in his own person. I do not
think that it occurred even to our friend John Dory to connect us in
his mind."=20

"Very well," she went on. "Now tell me, please, what took you up
to Westmoreland?"=20

"I followed Rounceby and Marnstam," he answered, "I knew them when
I was abroad, studying crime - I could tell you a good deal about
both those men if it were worth while - and I knew, when they hired
a big motor car and engaged a crook to drive it, that they were
worth following. I saw the trial of the flying machine, and when
they started off with young Franklin, I followed on a motor bicycle.
I fished him out of the tarn where they left him for dead, brought
him on to London, and made my own terms with him."=20

"What about the body which was found in the Longthorp Tarn?" she
asked. =20

"I had that telegram sent myself," Peter Ruff answered. =20

She looked at him severely. =20

"You went out of your way to make a fool of John Dory!" she said,
frowning at him. =20

"That I admit," he answered. =20

"It seems to me," she continued, "that that, after all, has been
the chief object of the whole affair. I do not see that we - that
is the firm - profit in the least."=20

Peter Ruff chuckled. =20

"We've got a fourth share in the Franklin Flying Machine," he
answered, "and I'm hanged if I'd sell it for a hundred thousand

"You've taken advantage of that young man's gratitude," she declared. =20

Peter Ruff shook his head. =20

"I earned the money," he answered. =20



Amidst a storm of whispered criticisms, the general opinion was
that Letty Shaw was a silly little fool who ought to have known
better. When she had entered the restaurant a few minutes before
midnight, followed by Austen Abbott, every one looked to see a third
person following them. No third person, however, appeared. Gustav
himself conducted them to a small table laid for two, covered with
pink roses, and handed his fair client the menu of a specially
ordered supper. There was no gainsaying the fact that Letty and
her escort proposed supping alone! =20

The Caf=82 at the Milan was, without doubt, the fashionable rendezvous
of the moment for those ladies connected with the stage who, after
their performance, had not the time or the inclination to make the
conventional toilet demanded by the larger restaurants. Letty Shaw,
being one of the principal ornaments of the musical comedy stage,
was well known to every one in the room. There was scarcely a person
there who within the last fortnight had not found an opportunity of
congratulating her upon her engagement to Captain the Honourable
Brian Sotherst. Sotherst was rich, and one of the most popular
young men about town. Letty Shaw, although she had had one or two
harmless flirtations, was well known as a self-respecting and
hard-working young actress who loved her work, and against whom no
one had ever had a word to say. Consequently, the shock was all the
greater when, within a fortnight of her engagement, she was thus to be
seen openly supping alone with the most notorious woman hunter about
town - a man of bad reputation, a man, too, towards whom Sotherst was
known to have a special aversion. Nothing but a break with Sotherst
or a fit of temporary insanity seemed to explain, even inadequately,
the situation. =20

Her best friend - the friend who knew her and believed in her - rose
to her feet and came sailing down the room. She nodded gaily to
Abbott, whom she hated, and whom she had not recognized for years,
and laid her hand upon Letty's arm. =20

"Where's Brian?" she asked. =20

Letty shrugged her shoulders - it was not altogether a natural
gesture. =20

"On duty to-night," she answered. =20

Her best friend paused for a moment. =20

"Come over and join our party, both of you," she said. "Dicky
Pennell's here and Gracie Marsh - just landed. They'd love to meet

Letty shook her head slowly. There was a look in her face which
even her best friend did not understand. =20

"I'm afraid that we can't do that," she said. "I am Mr. Abbott's

"And to-night," Austen Abbott intervened, looking up at the woman
who stood between them, "I am not disposed to share Miss Shaw with

Her best friend could do no more than shake her head and go away.
The two were left alone for the rest of the evening. When they
departed together, people who knew felt that a whiff of tragedy had
passed through the room. Nobody understood - or pretended to
understand. Even before her engagement, Letty had never been known
to sup alone with a man. That she should do so now, and with this
particular man, was preposterous! =20

"Something will come of it," her best friend murmured, sadly, as
she watched Austen Abbott help his companion on with her cloak. =20

Something did!

Peter Ruff rose at his accustomed time the following morning, and
attired himself, if possible, with more than his usual care. He
wore the grey suit which he had carefully put out the night before,
but he hesitated long between the rival appeals of a red tie with
white spots and a plain mauve one. He finally chose the latter,
finding that it harmonised more satisfactorily with his socks, and
after a final survey of himself in the looking-glass, he entered
the next room, where his coffee was set out upon a small round table
near the fire, together with his letters and newspapers. =20

Peter Ruff was, after all, like the rest of us, a creature of habit.
He made an invariable rule of glancing through the newspapers before
he paid any regard at all to his letters or his breakfast. In the
absence of anything of a particularly sensational character, he then
opened his letters in leisurely fashion, and went back afterwards
to the newspaper as he finished his meal. This morning, however,
both his breakfast and letters remained for some time untouched.
The first paragraph which caught his eye as he shook open the Daily
Telegraph was sufficiently absorbing. There it was in great black


Beyond the inevitable shock which is always associated with the
taking of life, and the unusual position of the people concerned
in it, there was little in the brief account of the incident to
excite the imagination. A policeman on the pavement outside the
flat in which Miss Shaw and her mother lived fancied that he heard,
about two o'clock in the morning, the report of a revolver shot.
As nothing further transpired, and as the sound was very indistinct,
he did not at once enter the building, but kept it, so far as
possible, under observation. About twenty minutes later, a young
gentleman in evening dress came out into the street, and the
policeman noticed at once that he was carrying a small revolver,
which he attempted to conceal. The constable thereupon whistled
for his sergeant, and accompanied by the young gentleman - who made
no effort to escape - ascended to Miss Shaw's rooms, where the body
of Austen Abbott was discovered lying upon the threshold of the
sitting room with a small bullet mark through the forehead. The
inmates of the house were aroused and a doctor sent for. The
deceased man was identified as Austen Abbott - a well-known actor -
and the man under arrest gave his name at once as Captain the
Honourable Brian Sotherst. Peter Ruff sighed as he laid down the
paper. The case seemed to him perfectly clear, and his sympathies
were altogether with the young officer who had taken the law into
his own hands. He knew nothing of Miss Letty Shaw, and, consequently,
did her, perhaps, less than justice in his thoughts. Of Austen
Abbott, on the other hand, he knew a great deal - and nothing of
good. It was absurd, after all, that any one should be punished for
killing such a brute! =20

He descended, a few minutes later, to his office, and found Miss
Brown busy arranging a bowl of violets upon his desk. =20

"Isn't it horrible?" she cried, as he entered, carrying a bundle of
papers under his arm. "I never have had such a shock!"=20

"Do you know any of them, then?" Peter Ruff asked, straightening his
tie in the mirror. =20

"Of course!" she answered. "Why, I was in the same company as Letty
Shaw for a year. I was at the Milan, too, last night. Letty was
there having supper alone with Austen Abbott. We all said that
there'd be trouble, but of course we never dreamed of this! Isn't
there any chance for him, Peter? Can't he get off?"=20

Peter Ruff shook his head. =20

"I'm afraid not," he answered. "They may be able to bring evidence
of a quarrel and reduce it to manslaughter, but what you've just
told me about this supper party makes it all the worse. It will
come out in the evidence, of course."=20

"Captain Sotherst is such a dear," Miss Brown declared, "and so
good-looking! And as for that brute Austen Abbott, he ought to
have been shot long ago!"=20

Peter Ruff seated himself before his desk and hitched up his
trousers at the knees. =20

"No doubt you are right, Violet," he said, "but people go about
these things so foolishly. To me it is simply exasperating to
reflect how little use is made of persons such as myself, whose
profession in life it is to arrange these little matters. Take
the present case, for example. Captain Sotherst had only to lay
these facts before me, and Austen Abbott was a ruined man. I
could have arranged the affair for him in half-a-dozen different
ways. Whereas now it must be a life for a life - the life of an
honest young English gentleman for that of a creature who should
have been kicked out of the world as vermin!... I have some
letters give you, Violet, if you please."=20

She swung round in her chair reluctantly. =20

"I can't help thinking of that poor young fellow," she said, with
a sigh. =20

"Sentiment after office hours, if you please!" said Peter. =20

Then there came a knock at the door. =20

His visitor lifted her veil, and Peter Ruff recognized her
immediately. =20

"What can I do for you, Lady Mary?" he asked. =20

She saw the recognition in his eyes even before he spoke, and
wondered at it. =20

"You know me?" she exclaimed. =20

"I know most people," he answered, drily; "it is part of my

"Tell me - you are Mr. Peter Ruff," she said, "the famous specialist
in the detection of crime? You know that Brian Sotherst is my brother?"=20

"Yes," he said, "I know it! I am sorry - very sorry, indeed."=20

He handed her a chair. She seated herself with a little tightening
of the lips. =20

"I want more than sympathy from you, Mr. Ruff," she warned him.
"I want your help."=20

"It is my profession," he admitted, "but your brother's case makes
intervention difficult, does it not?"=20

"You mean - " she began. =20

"Your brother himself does not deny his guilt, I understand."=20

"He has not denied it," she answered - "very likely he will not do
so before the magistrate - but neither has he admitted it. Mr. Ruff,
you are such a clever man. Can't you see the truth?"=20

Peter Ruff looked at her steadily for several moments. =20

"Lady Mary," he said, "I can see what you are going to suggest. You
are going on the assumption that Austen Abbott was shot by Letty
Shaw and that your brother is taking the thing on his shoulders."=20

"I am sure of it!" she declared. "The girl did it herself, beyond
a doubt. Brian would never have shot any one. He might have
horsewhipped him, perhaps - even beaten him to death - but shot
him in cold blood - never!"=20

"The provocation - " Ruff began. =20

"There was no provocation," she interrupted. "He was engaged to
the girl, and of course we hated it, but she was an honest little
thing, and devoted to him."=20

"Doubtless," Ruff admitted. "But all the same, as you will hear
before the magistrates, or at the inquest, she was having supper
alone with Austen Abbott that night at the Milan."=20

Lady Mary's eyes flashed. =20

"I don't believe it!" she declared. =20

"It is nevertheless true," Peter Ruff assured her. "There is no
shadow of doubt about it."=20

Lady Mary was staggered. For a few moment she seemed struggling
to rearrange her thoughts. =20

"You see," Ruff continued, "the fact that Miss Shaw was willing to
sup with Austen Abbott tete-a-tete renders it more improbable that
she should shoot him in her sitting room, an hour or so later, and
then go calmly up to her mother's room as though nothing had

Lady Mary had lost some of her confidence, but she was not daunted. =20

"Even if we have been deceived in the girl," she said, thoughtfully
- "even if she were disposed to flirt with other men - even then
there might be a stronger motive than ever for her wishing to get
rid of Abbott. He may have become jealous, and threatened her."=20

"It is, of course, possible," Ruff assented, politely. "Your
theory would, at any rate, account for your brother's present

She looked at him steadfastly. =20

"You believe, then," she said, "that my brother shot Austen Abbott?"=20

"I do," he admitted frankly. "So does every man or woman of common
sense in London. On the facts as they are stated in the newspapers,
with the addition of which I have told you, no other conclusion is

Lady Mary rose. =20

"Then I may as well go," she said tearfully. =20

"Not at all," Peter Ruff declared. "Listen. This is a matter=20of
business with me. I say that on the facts as they are known, your
brother's guilt appears indubitable. I do not say that there may
not be other facts in the background which alter the state of
affairs. If you wish me to search for them, engage me, and I will
do my best."=20

"Isn't that what I am here for?" the girl exclaimed. =20

"Very well," Peter Ruff said. "My services are at your disposal."=20

"You will do your best - more than your best, won't you?" she begged.
"Remember that he is my brother - my favourite brother!"=20

"I will do what can be done," Peter Ruff promised. "Please sit down
at that desk and write me two letters of introduction."=20

She drew off her gloves and prepared to obey him. =20

"To whom?" she asked. =20

"To the solicitors who are defending your brother," he said, "and
to Miss Letty Shaw."=20

"You mean to go and see her?" Lady Mary asked, doubtfully. =20

"Naturally," Peter Ruff answered. "If your supposition is correct,
she might easily give herself away under a little subtle
cross-examination. It is my business to know how to ask people
questions in such a way that if they do not speak the truth their
words give some indication of it. If she is innocent I shall know
that I have to make my effort in another direction."=20

"What other direction can there be?" Lady Mary asked dismally. =20

Peter Ruff said nothing. He was too kind-hearted to kindle false
hopes. =20

"It's a hopeless case, of course," Miss Brown remarked, after Lady
Mary had departed. =20

"I'm afraid so," Peter Ruff answered. "Still I must earn my money.
Please get some one to take you to supper to-night at the Milan,
and see if you can pick up any scandal."=20

"About Letty?" she asked. =20

"About either of them," he answered. "Particularly I should like
to know if any explanation has cropped up of her supping alone
with Austen Abbott."=20

"I don't see why you can't take me yourself," she remarked. "You
are on the side of the law this time, at any rate."=20

"I will," he answered, after a moment's hesitation. "I will call
for you at eleven o'clock to-night."=20

He rose and closed his desk emphatically. =20

"You are going out?" she asked. =20

"I am going to see Miss Letty Shaw," he answered. =20

He took a taxicab to the flats, and found a handful of curious people
still gazing up at the third floor. The parlourmaid who answered
his summons was absolutely certain that Miss Shaw would not see him.
He persuaded her, after some difficulty, to take in his letter while
he waited in the hall. When she returned, she showed him into a
small sitting room and pulled down the blinds. =20

"Miss Shaw will see you, sir, for a few minutes," she announced, in
a subdued tone. "Poor dear young lady," she continued, "she has
been crying her eyes out all the morning."=20

"No wonder," Peter Ruff said, sympathetically. "It's a terrible
business, this!"=20

"One of the nicest young men as ever walked," the girl declared,
firmly. "As for that brute, he deserved all he's got, and more!"=20

Peter Ruff was left alone for nearly a quarter of an hour. Then
the door was softly opened and Letty Shaw entered. There was no
doubt whatever about her suffering. Ruff, who had seen her only
lately at the theatre, was shocked. Under her eyes were blacker
lines than her pencil had ever traced. Not only was she ghastly
pale, but her face seemed wan and shrunken. She spoke to him the
moment she entered, leaning with on hand upon the sideboard. =20

"Lady Mary writes that you want to help us," she said. "How can
you? How is it possible?"=20

Even her voice had gone. She spoke hoarsely, and as though short
of breath. Her eyes searched his face feverishly. It seemed
cruelty not to answer her at once, and Peter Ruff was not a cruel
man. Nevertheless, he remained silent, and it seemed to her that
his eyes were like points of fire upon her face. =20

"What is the matter?" she cried, with breaking voice. "What have
you come for? Why don't you speak to me?"=20

"Madam," Peter Ruff said, "I should like to help you, and I will do
what I can. But in order that I may do so, it is necessary that you
should answer me two questions - truthfully!"=20

Her eyes grew wider. It was the face of a terrified child. =20

"Why not?" she exclaimed. "What have I to conceal?"=20

Peter Ruff's expression never changed. There was nothing about
him, as he stood there with his hands behind him, his head thrown a
little forward, in the least inspiring - nothing calculated to
terrify the most timid person. Yet the girl looked at him with the
eyes of a frightened bird. =20

"Remember, then," he continued, smoothly, "that what you say to me
is sacred. You and I are alone without witnesses or eavesdroppers.
Was it Brian Sotherst who shot Abbott - or was it you?"=20

She gave a little cry. Her hands clasped the sides of her head in
horror. =20

"I!" she exclaimed, "I! God help me!"=20

He waited. In a moment she looked up. =20

"You cannot believe that," she said, with a calmness for which he
was scarcely prepared. "It is absurd. I left the room by the
inner door as he took up his hat to step out into the hall."=20

"Incidentally," he asked - "this is not my other question, mind -=20
why did you not let him out yourself?"=20

"We had disagreed," she answered, curtly. =20

Peter Ruff bent his head in assent. =20

"I see," he remarked. "You had disagreed. Abbott probably hoped
that you would relent, so he waited for a few minutes. Brian
Sotherst, who had escaped from his engagement in time, he thought,
to come and wish you good night, must have walked in and found him
there. By the bye, how would Captain Sotherst get in?"=20

"He had a key," the girl answered. "My mother lives here with me,
and we have only one maid. It was more convenient. I gave him one
washed in gold for a birthday present only a few days ago."=20

"Thank you," Peter Ruff said. "The revolver, I understand, was
your property?"=20

She nodded. =20

"It was a present from Brian," she said. "He gave it to me in a
joke, and I had it on the table with some other curiosities."=20

"The first question," Peter Ruff said, "is disposed of. May I
proceed to the second?"=20

The girl moistened her lips. =20

"Yes!" she answered. =20

"Why did you sup alone with Austen Abbott last night?"=20

She shrank a little away. =20

"Why should I not?" she asked. =20

"You have been on the stage, my dear Miss Shaw," Peter Ruff continued,
"for between four and five years. During the whole of that time, it
has been your very wise habit to join supper parties, of course, when
the company was agreeable to you, but to sup alone with no man! Am I
not right?"=20

"You seem to know a great deal about me," she faltered. =20

"Am I not right?" he repeated. =20


"You break your rule for the first time," Peter Ruff continued, "in
favour of a man of notoriously bad character, a few weeks after the
announcement of your engagement to an honourable young English
gentleman. You know very well the construction likely to be put
upon your behaviour - you, of all people, would be the most likely
to appreciate the risk you ran. Why did you run it? In other words,
I repeat my question. Why did you sup alone with Austen Abbott
last night?"=20

All this time she had been standing. She came a little forward now,
and threw herself into an easy-chair. =20

"It doesn't help!" she exclaimed. "All this doesn't help!"=20

"Nor can I help you, then," Peter Ruff said, stretching out his
hand for his hat. =20

She waved to him to put it down. =20

"I will tell you," she said. "It has nothing to do with the case,
but since you ask, you shall know. There is a dear little girl in
our company - Fluffy Dean we all call her - only eighteen years old.
We all love her, she is so sweet, and just like I was when I first
went on the stage, only much nicer. She is very pretty, she has no
money, and she is such an affectionate little dear that although she
is as good as gold, we are all terrified for her sake whenever she
makes acquaintances. Several of us who are most interested made a
sort of covenant. We all took it in turns to look after her, and
try to see that she did not meet any one she shouldn't. Yet, for
all our precautions, Austen Abbott got hold of her and turned her
silly little head. He was a man of experience, and she was only a
child. She wouldn't listen to us - she wouldn't hear a word against
him. I took what seemed to me to be the only chance. I went to him
myself - I begged for mercy, I begged him to spare the child. I
swore that if - anything happened to her, I would start a crusade
against him, I would pledge my word that he should be cut by every
decent man and woman on the stage! He listened to what I had to say
and at first he only smiled. When I had finished, he made me an
offer. He said that if I would sup with him alone at the Milan,
and permit him to escort me home afterwards, he would spare the
child. One further condition he made - that I was to tell no one
why I did it. It was the man's brutal vanity! I made the promise,
but I break it now. You have asked me and I have told you. I went
through with the supper, although I hated it. I let him come in for
a drink as though he had been a friend. Then he tried to make love
to me. I took the opportunity of telling him exactly what I thought
of him. Then I showed him the door, and left him. Afterwards -=20
afterwards - Brian came in! They must have met upon the very

Peter Ruff took up his hat. =20

"Thank you!" he said. =20

"You see," she continued, drearily, "that it all has very little to
do with the case. I meant to keep it to myself, because, of course,
apart from anything else, apart from Brian's meeting him coming out
of my rooms, it supplies an additional cause for anger on Brian's part."=20

"I see," he answered. "I am much obliged to you, Miss Shaw. Believe
me that you have my sincere sympathy!"=20

Peter Ruff's farewell words were unheard. Letty had fallen forward
in her chair, her head buried in her hands. =20

Peter Ruff went to Berkeley Square and found Lady Mary waiting for him.
Sir William Trencham, the great solicitor, was with her. Lady Mary
introduced the two men. All the time she was anxiously watching Ruff's
face. =20

"Mr. Ruff has been to see Miss Shaw," she explained to Sir William.
"Mr. Ruff, tell me quickly," she continued, with her hand upon his
shoulder, "did she say anything? Did you find anything out?"=20

He shook his head. =20

"No!" he said. "I found nothing out!"=20

"You don't think, then," Lady Mary gasped, "that there is any chance
- of getting her to confess - that she did it herself?"=20

"Why should she have done it herself?" Peter Ruff asked. "She admits
that the man tried to make love to her. She simply left him. She
was in her own home, with her mother and servant within call. There
was no struggle in the room - we know that. There was no necessity
for any."=20

"Have you made any other enquiries?" Lady Mary asked. =20

"The few which I have made," Peter Ruff answered gravely, "point all
in the same direction. I ascertained at the Milan that your brother
called there late last night, and that he heard Miss Shaw had been
supping alone with Austen Abbott. He followed them home. I have
ascertained, too, that he had a key to Miss Shaw's flat. He
apparently met Austen Abbott upon the threshold."=20

Lady Mary covered her face with her hands. She seemed to read in
Ruff's words the verdict of the two men - the verdict of common
sense. Nevertheless, he made one more request before leaving. =20

"I should like to see Captain Sotherst, if you can get me an order,"
he said to Sir William. =20

"You can go with me to-morrow morning," the lawyer answered. "The
proceedings this morning, of course, were simply formal. Until
after the inquest it will be easy to arrange an interview."=20

Lady Mary looked up quickly. =20

"There is still something in your mind, then?" she asked. "You
think that there is a bare chance?"=20

"There is always the hundredth chance!" Peter Ruff replied. =20

Peter Ruff and Miss Brown supped at the Milan that night as they had
arranged, but it was not a cheerful evening. Brian Sotherst had been
very popular among Letty Shaw's little circle of friends, and the
general feeling was one of horror and consternation at this thing
which had befallen him. Austen Abbot, too, was known to all of them,
and although a good many of the men - and even the women - were
outspoken enough to declare at once that it served him right,
nevertheless, the shock of death - death without a second's warning
- had a paralysing effect even upon those who were his severest
critics. Violet Brown spoke to a few of her friends - introduced
Peter Ruff here and there - but nothing was said which could throw
in any way even the glimmerings of a new light upon the tragedy. It
all seemed too hopelessly and fatally obvious. =20

About twenty minutes before closing time, the habitues of the place
were provided with something in the nature of a sensation. A little
party entered who seemed altogether free from the general air of
gloom. Foremost among them was a very young and exceedingly pretty
girl, with light golden hair waved in front of her forehead, deep
blue eyes, and the slight, airy figure of a child. She was
accompanied by another young woman, whose appearance was a little
too obvious to be prepossessing, and three or four young men - dark,
clean-shaven, dressed with the irritating exactness of their class
- young stockbrokers or boys about town. Miss Brown's eyes grew
very wide open. =20

"What a little beast!" she exclaimed. =20

"Who?" Peter Ruff asked. =20

"That pretty girl there," she answered - "Fluffy Dean her name is.
She is Letty Shaw's protege, and she wouldn't have dreamed of
allowing her to come out with a crowd like that. Tonight, of all
nights," she continued, indignantly, "when Letty is away!"=20

Peter Ruff was interested. =20

"So that is Miss Fluffy Dean," he remarked, looking at her
curiously. "She seems a little excited."=20

"She's a horrid little wretch!" Miss Brown declared. "I hope that
some one will tell Letty, and that she will drop her now. A girl
who would do such a thing as that when Letty is in such trouble
isn't worth taking care of! Just listen to them all!"=20

They were certainly becoming a little boisterous. A magnum of
champagne was being opened. Fluffy Dean's cheeks were already
flushed, and her eyes glittering. Every one at the table was
talking a great deal and drinking toasts. =20

"This is the end of Fluffy Dean," Violet Brown said, severely. "I
hate to be uncharitable, but it serves her right."=20

Peter Ruff paid his bill. =20

"Let us go," he said. =20

In the taxicab, on their way back to Miss Brown's rooms, Ruff was
unusually silent, but just before he said good night to her - on
the pavement, in fact, outside her front door - he asked a question. =20

"Violet," he said, "would you like to play detective for an hour
or two?"=20

She looked at him in some surprise. =20

"You know I always like to help in anything that's going," she
said. =20

"Letty Shaw was an Australian, wasn't she?" he asked. =20


"She was born there, and lived there till she was nearly eighteen
- is that true?" he asked again. =20

"Quite true," Miss Brown answered. =20

"You know the offices of the P.& O. line of steamers in Pall Mall?"
he asked. =20

She nodded. =20


"Get a sailing list to Australia - there should be a boat going
Thursday. Present yourself as a prospective passenger. See how
many young women alone there are going out, and ask their names.
Incidentally put in a little spare time watching the office."=20

She looked at him with parted lips and wide-open eyes. =20

"Do you think - " she began. =20

He shook her hand warmly and stepped back into the taxicab. =20

"Good night!" he said. "No questions, please. I sha'n't expect
you at the office at the usual time to-morrow, at any rate.
Telephone or run around if you've anything to tell me."=20

The taxicab disappeared round the corner of the street. Miss Brown
was standing still upon the pavement with the latchkey in her hand. =20


It was afternoon before the inquest on the body of Austen Abbott,
and there was gathered together in Letty Shaw's parlor a curiously
assorted little group of people. There was Miss Shaw herself - or
rather what seemed to be the ghost of herself - and her mother;
Lady Mary and Sir William Trencham; Peter Ruff and Violet Brown -=20
and Mr. John Dory. The eyes of all of them were fixed upon Peter
Ruff, who was the latest arrival. He stood in the middle of the
room, calmly taking off his gloves, and glancing complacently down
at his well-creased trousers. =20

"Lady Mary," he said, "and Miss Shaw, I know that you are both
anxious for me to explain why I ask you to meet me here this
afternoon, and why I also requested my friend Mr. Dory from Scotland
Yard, who has charge of the case against Captain Sotherst, to be
present. I will tell you."=20

Mr. Dory nodded, a little impatiently. =20

"Unless you have something very definite to say," he remarked, "I
think it would be as well to postpone any general discussion of this
matter until after the inquest. I must warn you that so far as I,
personally, am concerned, I must absolutely decline to allude to
the subject at all. It would be most unprofessional."=20

"I have something definite to say," Peter Ruff declared, mildly. =20

Lady Mary's eyes flashed with hope - Letty Shaw leaned forward in
her chair with white, drawn face. =20

"Let it be understood," Peter Ruff said, with a slight note of
gravity creeping into his tone, "that I am here solely as the agent
of Lady Mary Sotherst. I am paid and employed by her. My sole
object is on her behalf, therefore, to discover proof of the
innocence of Captain Sotherst. I take it, however," he added,
turning towards the drooping figure in the easy-chair, "that Miss
Shaw is as anxious to have the truth known."=20

"Of course! Of course!" she murmured. =20

"In France," Peter Ruff continued, "there is a somewhat curious
custom, which, despite a certain theatricality, yet has its points.
The scene of a crime is visited, and its events, so far as may be,
reconstructed. Let us suppose for a moment that we are now engaged
upon something of the sort."=20

Letty Shaw shrank back in her chair. Her thin white fingers were
gripping its sides. Her eyes seemed to look upon terrible things. =20

"It is too - awful!" she faltered. =20

"Madam," Peter Ruff said, firmly, "we seek the truth. Be so good
as to humour me in this. Dory, will you go to the front door,
stand upon the mat - so? You are Captain Sotherst - you have just
entered. I am Austen Abbott. You, Miss Shaw, have just ordered me
from the room. You see, I move toward the door. I open it - so.
Miss Shaw," he added, turning swiftly towards her, "once more will
you assure me that every one who was in the flat that night, with
the exception of your domestic servant, is present now?"=20

"Yes," she murmured. =20

"Good! Then who," he asked, suddenly pointing to a door on the
left - "who is in that room?"=20

They had all crowded after him to the threshold - thronging around
him as he stood face to face with John Dory. His finger never
wavered - it was pointing steadily towards that closed door a few
feet to the left. Suddenly Letty Shaw rushed past them with a
loud shriek. =20

"You shall not go in!" she cried. "What business is it of his?"=20

She stood with her back to the door, her arms outstretched like a
cross. Her cheeks were livid. Her eyes seemed starting from her

Peter Ruff and John Dory laid their hands upon the girl's wrists.
She clung to her place frantically. She was dragged from it,
screaming. Peter Ruff, as was his right, entered first. Almost
immediately he turned round, and his face was very grave. =20

"Something has happened in here, I am afraid," he said. "Please
come in quietly."=20

On the bed lay Fluffy Dean, fully dressed - motionless. One hand
hung down toward the floor - from the lifeless fingers a little
phial had slipped. The room was full of trunks addressed to - =20

Passenger to Melborne.
S.S. Caroline. =20

Peter Ruff moved over toward the bed and took up a piece of paper,
upon which were scribbled a few lines in pencil. =20

"I think," he said, "that I must read these aloud. You all have
a right to hear them."=20

No one spoke. He continued:=20

Forgive me, Letty, but I cannot go to Australia. They would only
bring me back. When I remember that awful moment, my brain burns
- I feel that I am going mad! Some day I should do this - better
now. Give my love to the girls.

They sent for a doctor, and John Dory rang up Scotland Yard. Letty
Shaw had fainted, and had been carried to her room. While they
waited about in strange, half-benumbed excitement, Peter Ruff once
more spoke to them. =20

"The reconstruction is easy enough now," he remarked. "The partition
between this sitting room and that little bedroom is only an
artificial one - something almost as flimsy as a screen. You see,"
he continued, tapping with his knuckles, "you can almost put your
hand through it. If you look a little lower down, you will see
where an opening has been made. Fluffy Dean was being taken care
of by Miss Shaw - staying with her here, even. Miss Dean hears her
lover's voice in this room - hears him pleading with Miss Shaw on=20
he night of the murder. She has been sent home early from the
theatre, and it is just possible that she saw or had been told that
Austen Abbott had fetched Miss Shaw after the performance and had
taken her to supper. She was mad with anger and jealousy. The
revolver was there upon the table, with a silver box of cartridges.
She possessed herself of it and waited in her room. What she heard
proved, at least, her lover's infidelity. She stood there at her
door, waiting. When Austen Abbott comes out, she shoots, throws the
revolver at him, closes her door, and goes off into a faint. Perhaps
she hears footsteps - a key in the door. At any rate, Captain
Sotherst arrives a few minutes later. He finds, half in the hall,
half on the threshold of the sitting room, Austen Abbott dead, and
Miss Shaw's revolver by the side of him. If he had been a wise
young man, he would have aroused the household. Why he did not do
so, we can perhaps guess. He put two and two together a little
too quickly. It is certain that he believed that the dead man had
been shot by his fiancee. His first thought was to get rid of the
revolver. At any rate, he walked down to the street with it in
his hand, and was promptly arrested by the policeman who had heard
the shot. Naturally he refused to plead, because he believed that
Miss Shaw had killed the man, probably in self-defence. She, at
first, believed her lover guilty, and when afterwards Fluffy Dean
confessed, she, with feminine lack of common sense, was trying to
get the girl out of the country before telling the truth. A visit
of hers to the office of the steamship company gave me the clue I

Lady Mary grasped both his hands. =20

"And Scotland Yard," she exclaimed, with a withering glance at Dory,
"have done their best to hang my brother!"=20

Peter Ruff raised his eyebrows. =20

"Dear Lady Mary," he said, "remember that it is the business of
Scotland Yard to find a man guilty. It is mine, when I am employed
for that purpose, to find him innocent. You must not be too hard
upon my friend Mr. Dory. He and I seem to come up against each
other a little too often, as it is."=20

"A little too often!" John Dory repeated, softly. "But one cannot
tell. Don't believe, Lady Mary," he added, "that we ever want to
kill an innocent man."=20

"It is your profession, though," she answered, "to find criminals
- and his," she added, touching Peter Ruff on the shoulder, "to
look for the truth."=20

Peter Ruff bowed low - the compliment pleased him. =20



It was a favourite theory with Peter Ruff that the morning papers
received very insufficient consideration from the majority of the
British public. A glance at the headlines and a few of the spiciest
paragraphs, a vague look at the leading article, and the sheets
were thrown away to make room for more interesting literature. It
was not so with Peter Ruff. Novels he very seldom read - he did not,
in fact, appreciate the necessity for their existence. The whole
epitome of modern life was, he argued, to be found among the columns
of the daily press. The police news, perhaps, was his favourite
study, but he did not neglect the advertisements. It followed,
therefore, as a matter of course, that the appeal of "M" in the
personal column of the Daily Mail was read by him on the morning of
its appearance - read not once only nor twice - it was a paragraph
which had its own peculiar interest for him. =20

Mr. Spencer Fitzgerald, if still in England, is requested to
communicate with "M," at Vagali's Library, Cook's Alley, Ledham
Street, Soho. =20

Peter Ruff laid the paper down upon his desk and looked steadily at
a box of India-rubber bands. Almost his fingers, as he parted with
the newspaper, had seemed to be shaking. His eyes were certainly
set in an unusually retrospective stare. Who was this who sought
to probe his past, to renew an acquaintance with a dead personality?
"M" could be but one person! What did she want of him? Was it
possible that, after all, a little flame of sentiment had been kept
alight in her bosom, too - that in the quiet moments her thoughts
had turned towards him as his had so often done to her? Then a
sudden idea - an ugly thought - drove the tenderness from his face.
She was no longer Maud Barnes - she was Mrs. John Dory, and John
Dory was his enemy! Could there be treachery lurking beneath those
simple lines? Things had not gone well with John Dory lately.
Somehow or other, his cases seemed to have crumpled into dust. He
was no longer held in the same esteem at headquarters. Yet could
even John Dory stoop to such means as these? =20

He turned in his chair. =20

"Miss Brown," he said, "please take your pencil."=20

"I am quite ready, sir," she answered. =20

He marked the advertisement with a ring and passed it to her. =20

"Reply to that as follows," he said:=20


I notice in the Daily Mail of this morning that you are enquiring
through the "personal" column for the whereabouts of Mr. Spencer
Fitzgerald. That gentleman has been a client of mine, and I have
been in occasional communication with him. If you will inform
me of the nature of your business, I may, perhaps, be able to put
you in touch with Mr. Fitzgerald. You will understand, however,
that, under the circumstances, I shall require proofs of your
good faith.=20
Truly yours,=20

Miss Brown glanced through the advertisement and closed her
notebook with a little snap. =20

"Did you say - 'Dear Sir'?" she asked. =20

"Certainly!" Peter Ruff answered. =20

"And you really mean," she continued, with obvious disapproval,
"that I am to send this?"=20

"I do not usually waste my time," Peter Ruff reminded her, mildly,
"by giving you down communications destined for the waste-paper

She turned unwillingly to her machine. =20

"Mr. Fitzgerald is very much better where he is," she remarked. =20

"That depends," he answered. =20

She adjusted a sheet of paper into her typewriter. =20

"Who do you suppose 'M' is?" she asked. =20

"With your assistance," Peter Ruff remarked, a little sarcastically
- "with your very kind assistance - I propose to find out!"=20

Miss Brown sniffed, and banged at the keys of her typewriter. =20

"That coal-dealer's girl from Streatham!" she murmured to herself.... =20


A few politely worded letters were exchanged. "M" declined to
reveal her identity, but made an appointment to visit Mr. Ruff at
his office. The morning she was expected, he wore an entirely new
suit of clothes and was palpably nervous. Miss Brown, who had
arrived a little late, sat with her back turned upon him, and
ignored even his usual morning greeting. The atmosphere of the
office was decidedly chilly! Fortunately, the expected visitor
arrived early. =20

Peter Ruff rose to receive his former sweetheart with an agitation
perforce concealed, yet to him poignant indeed. For it was indeed
Maud who entered the room and came towards him with carefully
studied embarrassment and half doubtfully extended hand. He did
not see the cheap millinery, the slightly more developed figure, the
passing of that insipid prettiness which had once charmed him into
the bloom of an over-early maturity. His eyes were blinded with
that sort of masculine chivalry - the heritage only of fools and
very clever men - which takes no note of such things. It was Miss
Brown who, from her place in a corner of the room, ran over the
cheap attractions of this unwelcome visitor with an expression of
scornful wonder - who understood the tinsel of her jewellery, the
cheap shoddiness of her ready-made gown; who appreciated, with
merciless judgment, her mincing speech, her cheap, flirtatious
method. =20

Maud, with a diffidence not altogether assumed, had accepted the
chair which Peter Ruff had placed for her, and sat fidgeting, for
a moment, with the imitation gold purse which she was carrying. =20

"I am sure, Mr. Ruff," she said, looking demurely into her lap, "I
ought not to have come here. I feel terribly guilty. It's such
an uncomfortable sort of position, too, isn't it?"=20

"I am sorry that you find it so," Peter Ruff said. "If there is
anything I can do - "=20

"You are very kind," she murmured, half raising her eyes to his and
dropping them again, "but, you see, we are perfect strangers to one
another. You don't know me at all, do you? And I have only heard
of you through the newspapers. You might think all sorts of things
about my coming here to make enquiries about a gentleman."=20

"I can assure you," Peter Ruff said, sincerely, "that you need have
no fears - no fears at all. Just speak to me quite frankly. Mr.
Fitzgerald was a friend of yours, was he not?"=20

Maud simpered. =20

"He was more than that," she answered, looking down. "We were
engaged to be married."=20

Peter Ruff sighed. =20

"I knew all about it," he declared. "Fitzgerald used to tell me

"You were his friend?" she asked, looking him in the face. =20

"I was," Peter Ruff answered fervently, "his best friend! No one
was more grieved than I about that - little mistake."=20

She sighed. =20

"In some ways," she remarked softly, "you remind me of him."=20

"You could scarcely say anything," Peter Ruff murmured "which would
give me more pleasure. I am flattered."=20

She shook her head. =20

"It isn't flattery," she said, "it's the truth. You may be a few
years older, and Spencer had a very nice moustache, which you
haven't, but you are really not unlike. Mr. Ruff, do tell me where
he is!"=20

Peter Ruff coughed. =20

"You must remember," he said, "that Mr. Fitzgerald's absence was
caused by events of a somewhat unfortunate character."=20

"I know all about it," she answered, with a little sigh. =20

"You can appreciate the fact, therefore," Peter Ruff continued,
"that as his friend and well-wisher I can scarcely disclose his
whereabouts without his permission. Will you tell me exactly why
you want to meet him again?"=20

She blushed - looked down and up again - betrayed, in fact, all
the signs of confusion which might have been expected from her. =20

"Must I tell you that?" she asked. =20

"You are married, are you not?" Peter Ruff asked, looking down at
her wedding ring. =20

She bit her lip with vexation. What a fool she had been not to
take it off! =20

"Yes! Well, no - that is to say - "=20

"Never mind," Peter Ruff interrupted. "Please don't think that I
want to cross-examine you. I only asked these questions because I
have a sincere regard for Fitzgerald. I know how fond he was of
you, and I cannot see what there is to be gained, from his point
of view, by reopening old wounds."=20

"I suppose, then," she remarked, looking at him in such a manner
that Miss Brown had to cover her mouth with her hands to prevent
her screaming out - "I suppose you are one of those who think it
a crime for a woman who is married even to want to see, for a few
moments, an old sweetheart?"=20

"On the contrary," Peter Ruff answered, "as a bachelor, I have no
convictions of any sort upon the subject."=20

She sighed. =20

"I am glad of that," she said. =20

"I am to understand, then," Peter Ruff remarked, "that your reason
for wishing to meet Mr. Fitzgerald again is purely a sentimental

"I am afraid it is," she murmured; "I have thought of him so often
lately. He was such a dear!" she declared, with enthusiasm. =20

"I have never been sufficiently thankful," she continued, "that he
got away that night. At the time, I was very angry, but often
since then I have wished that I could have passed out with him into
the fog and been lost - but I mustn't talk like this! Please don't
misunderstand me, Mr. Ruff. I am happily married - quite happily

Peter Ruff sighed. =20

"My friend Fitzgerald," he remarked, "will be glad to hear that."=20

Maud fidgeted. It was not quite the effect she had intended to
produce! =20

"Of course," she remarked, looking away with a pensive air, one
has regrets."=20

"Regrets!" Peter Ruff murmured. =20

"Mr. Dory is not well off," she continued, "and I am afraid that I
am very fond of life and going about, and everything is so expensive
nowadays. Then I don't like his profession. I think it is hateful
to be always trying to catch people and put them in prison - don't
you, Mr. Ruff?"=20

Peter Ruff smiled. =20

"Naturally," he answered. "Your husband and I work from the opposite
poles of life. He is always seeking to make criminals of the people
whom I am always trying to prove worthy members of society."=20

"How noble!" Maud exclaimed, clasping her hands and looking up at
him. "So much more remunerative, too, I should think," she added,
after a moment's pause. =20

"Naturally," Peter Ruff admitted. "A private individual will pay
more to escape from the clutches of the law than the law will to
secure its victims. Scotland Yard expects them to come into its
arms automatically - regards them as a perquisite of its existence."=20

"I wish my husband were in your profession, Mr. Ruff," Maud said,
with a sidelong glance of her blue eyes which she had always found so
effective upon her various admirers. "I am sure that I should be a
great deal fonder of him."=20

Peter Ruff leaned forward in his chair. He, too, had expressive
eyes at times. =20

"Madam," he said - and stopped. But Maud blushed, all the same. =20

She looked down into her lap. =20

"We are forgetting Mr. Fitzgerald," she murmured. =20

Peter Ruff glanced up at the clock. =20

"It is a long story," he said. "Are you in a hurry, Mrs. Dory? =20

"Not at all," she assured him, "unless you want to close you office,
or anything. It must be nearly one o'clock."=20

"I wonder," he asked, "if you would do me the honour of lunching
with me? We might go to the Prince's or the Carlton - whichever
you prefer. I will promise to talk about Mr. Fitzgerald all the

"Oh, I couldn't!" Maud declared, with a little gasp. "At least
- well, I'm sure I don't know!"=20

"You have no engagement for luncheon?" Peter Ruff asked quietly. =20

"Oh, no!" she answered; "but, you see, we live so quietly. I have
never been to one of those places. I'd love to go - but if we were
seen! Wouldn't people talk?"=20

Peter Ruff smiled. Just the same dear, modest little thing! =20

"I can assure you," he said, "that nothing whatever could be said
against our lunching together. People are not so strict nowadays,
you know, and a married lady has always a great deal of latitude."=20

She looked up at him with a dazzling smile. =20

"I'd simply love to go to Prince's!" she declared. =20

"Cat!" Miss Brown murmured, as Peter Ruff and his client left the
room together. =20

Peter Ruff returned from his luncheon in no very jubilant state of
mind. For some time he sat in his easy-chair, with his legs crossed
and his finger tips pressed close together, looking steadily into
space. Contrary to his usual custom, he did not smoke. Miss Brown
watched him from behind her machine. =20

"Disenchanted?" she asked calmly. =20

Peter Ruff did not reply for several moments. =20

"I am afraid," he admitted, hesitatingly, "that marriage with John
Dory has - well, not had a beneficial effect. She allowed me, for
instance, to hold her hand in the cab! Maud would never have
permitted a stranger to take such a liberty in the old days."=20

Miss Brown smiled curiously. =20

"Is that all?" she asked. =20

Peter Ruff felt that he was in the confessional. =20

"She certainly did seem," he admitted, "to enjoy her champagne a
great deal, and she talked about her dull life at home a little
more, perhaps, than was discreet to one who was presumably a
stranger. She was curious, too, about dining out. Poor little
girl, though. Just fancy, John Dory has never taken her anywhere
but to Lyons' or an A B C, and the pit of a theatre!"=20

"Which evening is it to be?" Miss Brown asked. =20

"Something was said about Thursday," Peter Ruff admitted. =20

"And her husband?" Miss Brown enquired. =20

"He happens to be in Glasgow for a few days," Peter Ruff answered. =20

Miss Brown looked at her employer steadily. She addressed him by
his Christian name, which was a thing she very seldom did in office
hours. =20

"Peter," she said, "are you going to let that woman make a fool
of you?"=20

He raised his eyebrows. =20

"Go on," he said; "say anything you want to - only, if you please,
don't speak disrespectfully of Maud."=20

"Hasn't it ever occurred to you at all," Miss Brown continued,
rising to her feet, "that this Maud, or whatever you want to call
her, may be playing a low-down game of her husband's? He hates you,
and he has vague suspicions. Can't you see that he is probably
making use of your infatuation for his common, middle-class little
wife, to try and get you to give yourself away? Can't you see it,
Peter? You are not going to tell me that you are so blind as all

"I must admit," he answered with a sigh, "that, although I think
you go altogether too far, some suspicion of the sort has interfered
with my perfect enjoyment of the morning."=20

Miss Brown drew a little breath of relief. After all, then, his
folly was not so consummate as it had seemed! =20

"What are you going to do about it, then?" she asked. =20

Peter Ruff coughed - he seemed in an unusually amenable frame of
mind, and submitted to cross-examination without murmur. =20

"The subject of Mr. Spencer Fitzgerald," he remarked, "seemed,
somehow or other, to drop into the background during our luncheon.
I propose, therefore, to continue to offer to Mrs. John Dory my most
respectful admiration. If she accepts my friendship, and is
satisfied with it, so much the better. I must admit that it would
give me a great deal of pleasure to be her occasional companion - at
such times when her husband happens to be in Glasgow!"=20

"And supposing," Miss Brown asked, "that this is not all she wants
- supposing, for instance, that she persists in her desire for
information concerning Mr. Spencer Fitzgerald?"=20

"Then," Peter Ruff admitted, "I'm afraid that I must conclude that
her unchivalrous clod of a husband has indeed stooped to make a=20
fool of her."=20

"And in that case," Miss Brown demanded, "what shall you do?"=20

"I was just thinking that out," Peter Ruff said mildly, "when you

The friendship of Peter Ruff with the wife of his enemy certainly
appeared to progress in most satisfactory fashion. The dinner and
visit to the theatre duly took place. Mr. Ruff was afterwards
permitted to offer a slight supper and to accompany his fair
companion a portion of the way home in a taxicab. She made several
half-hearted attempts to return to the subject of Spencer Fitzgerald,
but her companion had been able on each occasion to avoid the
subject. Whether or not she was the victim of her husband's guile,
there was no question about the reality of her enjoyment during the
evening. Ruff, when he remembered the flash of her eyes across the
table, the touch of her fingers in the taxi, was almost content to
believe her false to her truant lover. If only she had not been
married to John Dory, he realised, with a little sigh, that he might
have taught her to forget that such a person existed as Spencer
Fitzgerald, might have induced her to become Mrs. Peter Ruff! =20

On their next meeting, however, Peter Ruff was forced to realise
that his secretary's instinct had not misled her. It was, alas,
no personal and sentimental regrets for her former lover which had
brought the fair Maud to his office. The pleasures of her evening
- they dined at Romano's and had a box at the Empire - were
insufficient this time to keep her from recurring continually to
the subject of her vanished lover. He tried strategy - jealousy
amongst other things. =20

"Supposing," he said, as they sat quite close to one another in the
box during the interval, "supposing I were to induce our friend to
come to London - I imagine he would be fairly safe now if he kept
out of your husband's way - what would happen to me?"=20

"You!" she murmured, glancing at him from behind her fan and then
dropping her eyes. =20

"Certainly - me!" he continued. "Don't you think that I should be
doing myself a very ill turn if I brought you two together? I have
very few friends, and I cannot afford to lose one. I am quite sure
that you still care for him."=20

She shook her head. =20

"Not a scrap!" she declared. =20

"Then why did you put that advertisement in the paper?" Ruff asked,
with smooth but swift directness. =20

She was not quick enough to parry his question. He read the truth
in her disconcerted face. Knowing it now for a certainty, he
hastened to her aid. =20

"Forgive me," he said, looking away. "I should not have asked that
question - it is not my business. I will write to Fitzgerald. I
will tell him that you want to see him, and that I think it would
be safe for him to come to London."=20

Maud recovered herself quickly. She thanked him with her eyes as
well as her words. =20

"And you needn't be jealous, really," she whispered behind her fan.
"I only want to see him once for a few minutes - to ask a question.
After that, I don't care what becomes of him."=20

A poor sort of Delilah, really, with her flushed face, her too
elaborately coiffured hair with its ugly ornament, her ready-made
evening dress with its cheap attempts at smartness, her cleaned
gloves, indifferent shoes. But Peter Ruff thought otherwise. =20

"You mean that, after I have found him for you, you will still come
out with me again sometimes?" he asked wistfully. =20

"Of course!" she answered. "Whenever I can without John knowing,"
she added, with an unpleasant little laugh. "If you only knew how
I loved the music and the theatres, and this sort of life! What a
good time your wife would have, Mr. Ruff!" she added archly. =20

It was no joking matter with him. He had to remember that he was,
in effect, her tool, that she was making use of him, willing to
betray her former lover at her husband's bidding. It was enough to
make him, on his side, burn for revenge! Yet he put the thought
away from him with a shiver. She was still the woman he had loved
- she was still sacred to him! That night he pleaded an engagement,
and sent her home in a taxicab alone. =20

John Dory, waiting patiently at home for his wife's return, felt a
certain uneasiness when she swept into their little sitting room in
all her cheap splendour, with flushed cheeks - an obvious air of
satisfaction with herself and disdain for her immediate surroundings.
John Dory was a commonplace looking man - the absence of his collar,
and his somewhat shabby carpet slippers, did not improve his
appearance. He had neglected to shave, and he was drinking beer.
At headquarters he was not considered quite the smart young officer
which he had once shown signs of becoming. He looked at his wife
with darkening face, and his wife, on her part, thought of Peter
Ruff in his immaculate evening clothes. =20

"Well," he remarked, grumblingly, "you seem to find a good deal of
pleasure in this gadding about!"=20

She threw her soiled fan on the table.=20

"If I do," she answered, "you are not the one to sit there and
reproach me with it, are you ?"=20

"It's gone far enough, anyway," John Dory said. "It's gone further
than I meant it to go. Understand me, Maud - it's finished! I'll
find your old sweetheart for myself."=20

She laughed heartily. =20

"You needn't trouble," she answered, with a little toss of the head.
"I am not such a fool as you seem to think me. Mr. Ruff has made
an appointment with him."=20

There was a change in John Dory's face. The man's eyes were bright
- they almost glittered. =20

"You mean that your friend Mr. Ruff is going to produce Spencer
Fitzgerald?" he exclaimed. =20

"He has promised to," she answered. "John," she declared, throwing
herself into an easy-chair, "I feel horrid about it. I wonder what
Mr. Ruff will think when he knows!"=20

"You can feel how you like," John Dory answered bluntly, "so long as
I get the handcuffs on Spencer Fitzgerald's wrists!"=20

She shuddered. She looked at her husband with distaste. =20

"Don't talk about it!" she begged sharply. "It makes me feel the
meanest creature that ever crawled. I can't help feeling, too,
that Mr. Ruff will think me a wretch - quite the gentleman he's
been all the time! I never knew any one half so nice!"=20

John Dory set down his empty glass. =20

"I wonder," he said, looking at her thoughtfully, "what made him
take such a fancy to you! Rather sudden, wasn't it, eh?"=20

Maud tossed her head. =20

"I don't see anything so wonderful about that," she declared. =20

"Listen to me, Maud," her husband said, rising to his feet. "You
aren't a fool - not quite. You've spent some time with Peter Ruff.
How much - think carefully - how much does he remind you of Spencer

"Not at all," she answered promptly. "Why, he is years older, and
though Spencer was quite the gentleman, there's something about Mr.
Ruff, and the way he dresses and knows his way about - well, you can
tell he's been a gentleman all his life."=20

John Dory's face fell. =20

"Think again," he said. =20

She shook her head. =20

"Can't see any likeness," she declared. "He did remind me a little
of him just at first, though," she added, reflectively - "little
things he said, and sort of mannerisms. I've sort of lost sight of
them the last few times, though."=20

"When is this meeting with Fitzgerald to come off?" John Dory asked
abruptly. =20

She did not answer him at once. A low, triumphant smile had parted
her lips. =20

"To-morrow night," she said; "he is to meet me in Mr. Ruff's office."=20

"At what time?" John Dory asked. =20

"At eight o'clock," she answered. "Mr. Ruff is keeping his office
open late on purpose. Spencer thinks that afterwards he is going
to take me out to dinner."=20

"You are sure of this?" John Dory asked eagerly. "You are sure
that the man Ruff does not suspect you? You believe he means that
you shall meet Fitzgerald?"=20

"I am sure of it," she answered. "He is even a little jealous," she
continued, with an affected laugh. "He told me - well, never mind!"=20

"He told you what?" John Dory asked. =20

She laughed. =20

"Never you mind," she said. "I have done what you asked me anyway.
If Mr. Ruff had not found me an agreeable companion he would not
have bothered about getting Spencer to meet me. And now he's done
it," she added, "I do believe he's a little jealous."=20

John Dory glared, but he said nothing. It seemed to him that his
hour of revenge was close at hand! =20

It was the first occasion upon which words of this sort had passed
between Peter Ruff and his secretary. There was no denying the fact
that Miss Violet Brown was in a passion. It was an hour past the
time at which she usually left the office. For an hour she had
pleaded, and Peter Ruff remained unmoved. =20

"You are a fool!" she cried to him at last. "I am a fool, too, that
I have ever wasted my thoughts and time upon you. Why can't I make
you see? In every other way, heaven knows, you are clever enough!
And yet there comes this vulgar, commonplace, tawdry little woman
from heaven knows where, and makes such a fool of you that you are
willing to fling away your career - to hold your wrists out for
John Dory's handcuffs!"=20

"My dear Violet," Peter Ruff answered deprecatingly, "you really
worry me - you do indeed!"=20

"Not half so much as you worry me," she declared. "Look at the
time. It's already past seven. At eight o'clock Mrs. Dory - your
Maud - is coming in here hoping to find her old sweetheart."=20

"Why not?" he murmured. =20

"Why not, indeed?" Miss Brown answered angrily. "Don't you know
- can't you believe - that close on her heels will come her
husband - that Mr. Spencer Fitzgerald, if ever he comes to life
in this room, will leave it between two policemen?"=20

Peter Ruff sighed. =20

"What a pessimist you are, my dear Violet!" he said. =20

She came up to him and laid her hands upon his shoulders. =20

"Peter," she said, "I will tell you something - I must! I am fond
of you, Peter. I always have been. Don't make me miserable if
there is no need for it. Tell me honestly - do you really believe
in this woman?"=20

He removed her hands gently, and raised them to his lips. =20

"My dear girl," he said, "I believe in every one until I find them
out. I look upon suspicion as a vice. But, at the same time," he
added, "there are always certain precautions which one takes."=20

"What precautions can you take?" she cried. "Can you sit there and
make yourself invisible? John Dory is not a fool. The moment he
is in this room with the door closed behind him, it is the end."=20

"We must hope not," Peter Ruff said cheerfully. "There are other
things which may happen, you know."=20

She turned away from him a little drearily. =20

"You do not mind if I stay?" she said. "I am not working to-night.
Perhaps, later on, I may be of use!"=20

"As you will," he answered. "You will excuse me for a little time,
won't you? I have some preparations to make."=20

She turned her head away from him. He left the room and ascended
the stairs to his own apartments. =20

Eight o'clock was striking from St. Martin's Church when the door
of Peter Ruff's office was softly opened and closed again. A man
in a slouch hat and overcoat entered, and after feeling along the
wall for a moment, turned up the electric light. Violet Brown rose
from her place with a little sob. She stretched out her hand to him. =20

"Peter!" she cried. "Peter!"=20

"My name," the newcomer said calmly, "is Mr. Spencer Fitzgerald."=20

"Oh, listen to me!" she begged. "There is still time, if you hurry.
Think how many clever men before you have been deceived by the
woman in whom they trusted. Please, please go! Hurry upstairs
and put those things away."=20

"Madam," the newcomer said, "I am much obliged to you for your
interest, but I think that you are making a mistake. I have
come here to meet - "=20

He stopped short. There was a soft knocking at the door. A stifled
scream broke from Violet Brown's lips. =20

"It is too late!" she cried. "Peter! Peter!"=20

She sank into her chair and covered her face with her hands. The
door was opened and Maud came in. When she saw who it was who sat
in Peter Ruff's place, she gave a little cry. Perhaps after all,
she had not believed that this thing would happen. =20

"Spencer!" she cried, "Spencer! Have you really come back?"

He held out his hands. =20

"You are glad to see me?" he asked. =20

She came slowly forward. The man rose from his place and came
towards her with outstretched hands. Then through the door came
John Dory, and one caught a glimpse of others behind him. =20

"If my wife is not glad to see you, Mr. Spencer Fitzgerald," he=20
aid, in a tone from which he vainly tried to keep the note of
triumph, "I can assure you that I am. You slipped away from me
cleverly at Daisy Villa, but this time I think you will not find
it so easy."=20

Maud shrank back, and her husband took her place. But Mr. Spencer
Fitzgerald looked upon them both as one who looks upon figures in
a dream. Miss Brown rose hurriedly from her seat. She came over
to him and thrust her arm through his.=20

"Peter," she said, taking his hand in hers, "don't shoot. It isn't
worth while. You should have listened to me."=20

The little man in the gold-rimmed spectacles looked at her, looked
at Mr. John Dory, looked at the woman who was shrinking back now
against the wall. =20

"Really," he said, "this is the most extraordinary situation in
which I ever found myself!"=20

"We will help you to realise it," John Dory cried, and the triumph
in his tone had swelled into a deeper note. "I came here to arrest
Mr. Fitzgerald, but I hear this young lady call you 'Peter.'
Perhaps this may be the solution - "=20

The little man struck the table with the flat of his hand. =20

"Come," he said, "this is getting a bit too thick. First of all
- you," he said, turning to Miss Brown - "my name is not Peter,
and I have no idea of shooting anybody. As for that lady against
the wall, I don't know her - never saw her before in my life. As
for you," he added, turning to John Dory, "you talk about
arresting me - what for?"=20

Mr. John Dory smiled. =20

"There is an old warrant," he said, "which I have in my pocket, but
I fancy that there are a few little things since then which we may
have to enquire into."=20

"This beats me!" the little man declared. "Who do you think I am?"=20

"Mr. Spencer Fitzgerald, to start with," John Dory said. "It seems
to me not impossible that we may find another pseudonym for you."=20

"You can find as many as you like," the little man answered testily,
"but my name is James Fitzgerald, and I am an actor employed at the
Shaftesbury Theatre, as I can prove with the utmost ease. I never
called myself Spencer; nor, to my knowledge, was I ever called by
such a name. Nor, as I remarked before, have I ever seen any one of
you three people before with the exception of Miss Brown here, whom
I have seen on the stage."=20

John Dory grunted. =20

"It was Mr. Spencer Fitzgerald," he said, "a clerk in Howell &
Wilson's bookshop, who leapt out of the window of Daisy Villa two


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