The False Faces
Vance, Louis Joseph
Part 4 out of 6
"Three persons called," Blensop admitted discreetly. "One returns at
Stanistreet threw him a keen look. "Eh!" he said, making swift inference,
and turned to his wife and sister-in-law. "It is nearly twelve now. Forgive
me if I hurry you off."
"Patience," said Mrs. Arden indulgently. "Not for worlds would I hinder
your weighty affairs, dear old thing, but I sleep more sound o' nights when
I know my trinkets are locked up securely in your safe."
With a graceful gesture she unfastened a magnificent necklace and deposited
it on the desk.
"Frightful rot," her sister commented from the doorway. "As if anybody
would dare break in here."
"Why not?" Mrs. Arden enquired calmly, stripping her fingers of their
"With a watchman patrolling the grounds all night--"
"Letty is sensible," Stanistreet interrupted. "Howson's faithful enough,
and these American police dependable, but second-storey men happen in the
best-guarded neighbourhoods. Be advised, Adele: leave your things here with
"No fear," his wife returned coolly. "Too frightfully weird...."
She drifted across the threshold, then hesitated, a pretty figure of
"But really, Colonel Stanistreet is right," Blensop interposed vivaciously.
"What do you imagine I heard to-night? The Lone Wolf is in America!"
"What is that you say?" Mrs. Arden demanded sharply.
"The Lone Wolf ... Fact. Have it on most excellent authority."
"The Lone Wolf!" Mrs. Stanistreet drawled. "If you ask me, I think the Lone
Wolf nothing in the world but a scapegoat for police stupidity."
"You wouldn't say that," Mrs. Arden retorted, "if you had lived in Paris as
long as I. There, in the dear old days, we paid that rogue too heavy a tax
not to believe in him."
"Frightful nonsense," insisted the other. "I'm off. 'Night, Arthur. Shall
you be long, George?"
"Oh, half an hour or so," her husband responded absently as she
With a little gesture consigning her jewellery, heaped upon the desk, to
the care of her brother-in-law, Mrs. Arden uttered good-nights and followed
Blensop bowed her out respectfully, shut the door and returned to the desk.
"What's this about the Lone Wolf?" Stanistreet enquired, sitting down to
con the papers more intently.
"Oh!" Blensop laughed lightly. "I was merely repeating the blighter's own
assertion. I mean to say, he boasted he was the Lone Wolf."
"Who boasted he was the Lone Wolf?"
"Chap who called to-night, giving the name of Duchemin--André Duchemin. Had
French passports, and letters from the Home Office recommending him rather
highly. Useful creature, one would fancy, with his knowledge of the right
way to go about the wrong thing. What? Ought to be especially helpful to us
in hunting down the Hun over here."
"Is this the man who returns at midnight?"
"Yes, sir. I thought it best to make the appointment."
"He said he had crossed on the _Assyrian_, said it significantly, you know.
I fancied he might be the person you have been expecting."
Stanistreet looked up with a frown. "Hardly," he said--"if, that is, he is
really what he claims to be. I wonder how he came by those letters."
"Does seem odd, doesn't it, sir? A confessed criminal!"
"An extraordinary man, by all accounts.... Those other callers--?"
"Nobody of importance, I should say. A man who gave his name as Ember and
got a bit shirty when I asked his business. Told him you might consent to
see him at nine in the morning."
"And the other?"
"A young woman--deuced pretty girl--also reticent. What was her name?
Brooke--that was it: Cecelia Brooke."
"The devil!" Stanistreet exclaimed, dropping the papers. "What did you say
"What could I say, sir? She refused to divulge a word about her business
with us. I told her--"
Warned by a gesture from Colonel Stanistreet, Blensop broke off. Walker was
opening the door.
"A Mr. Duchemin, sir, says Mr. Blensop made an appointment with you for
"Show him in, please."
The footman shut himself out. Blensop clutched nervously at Mrs. Arden's
"Hadn't I better put these in the safe first?"
"No--no time." Stanistreet opened a drawer of the desk--"Here!"--and closed
it as Blensop hastily swept the jewellery into it. "Safe enough there--as
long as he doesn't know, at all events. But don't forget to put them away
after he goes."
Again the door opened. Walker announced: "Mr. Duchemin." Stanistreet rose
in his place. A man strode in with the assurance of one who has discounted
a cordial welcome.
Through the gap which he had quietly created between the portière and the
side of the window, Lanyard stared hungrily, and for the second time that
night damned heartily the inadequate light in the library.
The impostor's face, barely distinguishable in the up-thrown penumbra
of the lampshade, wore a beard--a rather thick, dark beard of negligent
abundance, after a mode popular among Frenchmen--above which his features
were an indefinite blur.
Lanyard endeavoured with ill success to identify the fellow by his
carriage; there was a perceptible suggestion of a military strut, but that
is something hardly to be termed distinctive in these days. Otherwise, he
was tall, quite as tall as Lanyard, and had much the same character of
body, slender and lithe.
But he was "Karl" beyond question, confederate and murderer of Baron von
Harden, the man who had thrown the light bomb to signal the U-boat,
the brute with whom Lanyard had struggled on the boat deck of the
_Assyrian_--though the latter, in the confusion of that struggle, had
thought the German's beard a masking handkerchief of black silk.
Now by that same token he was no member of that smoking-room coterie upon
which Lanyard's suspicions had centered.
On the other hand, any number of passengers had worn beards, not a few of
much the same mode as that sported by this nonchalant fraud.
Vainly Lanyard cudgelled his wits to aid a laggard memory, haunted by a
feeling that he ought to know this man instantly, even in so poor a light.
Something in his habit, something in that insouciance which so narrowly
escaped insolence, was at once strongly reminiscent and provokingly
Pausing a little ways within the room, the fellow clicked heels and bowed
punctiliously in Continental fashion, from the hips.
"Colonel Stanistreet, I believe," he said in a sonorous voice--"Karl's"
unmistakable voice--"chief of the American bureau of the British Secret
"I am Colonel Stanistreet," that gentleman admitted. "And you, sir--?"
"I have adopted the name of André Duchemin," the impostor stated. "With
permission I retain it."
Colonel Stanistreet inclined his head slightly. "As you will. Pray be
He dropped back into his chair, while "Karl" with a murmur of
acknowledgment again took the armchair on the far side of the desk, where
the lamp stood between him and the secret watcher.
"My secretary tells me you have letters of introduction...."
"Here." Calmly "Karl" produced and offered those purloined papers.
"You will smoke?" Stanistreet indicated a cigarette-box and leaned back to
glance through the letters.
During a brief pause Blensop busied himself with collecting together the
documents which had occupied him and began reassorting them, while "Karl,"
helping himself to a cigarette, smoked with manifest enjoyment.
"These seem to be in order," Stanistreet observed. "I note from this code
letter that your true name is Michael Lanyard, you were once a professional
French thief known as 'The Lone Wolf', but have since displayed every
indication of desire to reform your ways, and have been of considerable
use to the Intelligence Office. I am desired to employ your services in my
discretion, contingent--pardon me--upon your continued good behaviour."
"Precisely," assented "Karl."
"Proceed, Monsieur Duchemin."
"It is an affair of some delicacy.... Do we speak alone, Colonel
"Mr. Blensop is my confidential secretary...."
"Oh, no objection. Still--if I may venture the suggestion--those windows
open upon a garden, I take it?"
"Yes. Blensop, be good enough to close the windows."
Stepping delicately, Blensop moved toward the end of the room.
Again Lanyard was confronted with the alternatives of incontinent flight or
attempting to remain undetected through the adoption of an expedient of the
most desperate audacity. He had prepared against such contingency, he did
not mean to go; but the feasibility of his contemplated manoeuvre depended
entirely upon chance, its success in any event was forlornly problematic.
"Karl" remained hidden from him by the lamp, so he from "Karl." Colonel
Stanistreet, facing his caller, sat half turned away from the windows.
Everything rested with Blensop's choice, which of the two windows he would
elect first to close.
A right-handed man, he turned, as Lanyard had foreseen, to the right, and
momentarily disappeared in the recess of the farther window.
In the same instant Lanyard slipped noiselessly from behind the portière,
and dropped into that capacious wing chair which Blensop had thoughtfully
placed for him some time since.
Thus seated, making himself as small and still as possible, he was wholly
concealed from all other occupants of the library but Blensop; and even
this last was little likely to discover him.
He did not. He closed and latched the farther window, then that wherein
Lanyard had lurked, and ambled back into the room with never a glance
toward that shadowed corner which held the wing chair.
And Lanyard drew a deep breath, if a quiet one. Behind him the conversation
had continued without break. It was true, he could see nothing; but he
could hear all that was said, he had missed no syllable, and now every
second was informing him to his profit....
"Your secretary, no doubt, has told you I am a survivor of the _Assyrian_
"You were, I believe, expecting a certain communication of extraordinary
character by the _Assyrian_, to be brought, that is, by an agent of the
British Secret Service."
After an almost imperceptible pause Stanistreet said evenly: "It is
"A communication, in fact, of such character that it was impossible to
entrust it to the mails or to cable transmission, even in code."
"And if so, sir...?"
"And you are aware that, of the two gentlemen entrusted with the care of
this document, one was drowned when the _Assyrian_ went down, and the other
so seriously injured that he has not yet recovered consciousness, but
was transferred directly from the pier to a hospital when the _Saratoga_
"What then, Monsieur Duchemin?"
"Colonel Stanistreet," said the impostor deliberately, "I have that
communication. I will ask you not to question me too closely as to how it
came into my possession. I have it: that is sufficient."
"If you possess any document which you conceive to be so valuable to the
British Government, monsieur, and consequently to the Allied cause, I have
every confidence in your intention to deliver it to me without delay."
A note of mild derision crept into the accents of "Karl."
"I have every intention of so doing, my dear sir.... But you must
appreciate I have incurred considerable personal danger, hardship, and
inconvenience in taking good care of this document, in seeing that it did
not fall into the wrong hands; in short, in bringing it safely here to you
A slightly longer pause prefaced Stanistreet's reply, something which
he delivered in measured tones: "I am able to promise you the British
Government will show due appreciation of your disinterested services,
"Not disinterested--not that!" the cheat protested. "Gentlemen of my
kidney, sir, seldom put themselves out except in lively anticipation of
favours to come."
"Be good enough to make yourself more clear."
"Cheerfully. I possess this document. I understand its character is such
that Germany would pay a round price for it. But I am a good patriot. In
spite of the fact that nobody knew I possessed it, in spite of the fact
that I need only have quietly taken it to Seventy-ninth Street to-night--"
"Monsieur Duchemin!" Stanistreet's voice was icy. "Your price?"
"Sorry you feel that way about it," said "Karl" with ill-concealed
insincerity. "You must know thieving is no more what it once was. Even I,
too, often am put to it to make both ends--"
"If you please, sir--how much?"
"Ten thousand dollars."
Silence greeted this demand, a lull that to Lanyard seemed endless. For in
his fury he was trembling so that he feared lest his agitation betray him.
The very walls before his eyes seemed to quake in sympathy. He was aware of
the ache of swollen veins in his temples, his teeth hurt with the pressure
put upon them, his breath came heavily, and his nails were digging
painfully into his palms.
"How much have we on hand, in the emergency fund?"
"Between ten and twelve thousand dollars, sir."
"Intuition, monsieur, is an indispensable item in the equipment of a
successful _chevalier d'Industrie_. So, at least, the good novelists tell
"Open the safe, Blensop, and fetch me ten thousand dollars."
"Very good, sir."
"I presume you won't object to satisfying me that you really have this
document, before I pay you your price."
"It is this which makes it a pleasure to deal with an Englishman, monsieur:
one may safely trust his word of honour."
"Permit me: here is the document. Use that magnifying glass I see by your
elbow, monsieur; take your time, satisfy yourself."
"Thanks; I mean to."
Another break in the dialogue, during which the eavesdropper heard an
odd sound, a sort of muffled swishing ending in a slight thud, then the
peculiar metallic whine of a combination dial rapidly manipulated, finally
the dull clank of bolts falling back into their sockets.
"Your _coffre-fort_--what do you say?--strong-box--safe--is cleverly
concealed, Colonel Stanistreet."
There was no direct reply, but after a moment Stanistreet announced
quietly: "This seems to be an authentic paper.... Monsieur Duchemin, what
knowledge precisely have you of the nature of this document?"
"Surely monsieur cannot have overlooked the circumstance that its seals
"True," Stanistreet admitted. "Still...."
"I trust Monsieur does not question my good faith?"
"Why not?" Stanistreet enquired drily.
"Oh, damn your play-acting, sir! If you can be capable of one infamy, you
are capable of more. None the less, you are right about an Englishman's
word: here is your money. Count it and--get out!"
"Thanks"--the impostor's tone was an impertinently exact imitation of
Stanistreet's--"I mean to."
"Permit me to excuse myself," Stanistreet added; and Lanyard heard the
muffled scrape of chair-legs on the rug as the Englishman got up.
"Gladly," the spy returned--"and ten thousand thanks, monsieur!"
The secretary intoned melodiously: "This way, Monsieur Duchemin, if you
"Pardon. Is it material which way I leave?"
"What do you mean?" Stanistreet demanded.
"I should be far easier in my mind if monsieur would permit me to go by way
of his garden, rather than run the risk of his front door."
"In these little affairs, monsieur, I try to make it a rule to avoid
covering the same ground twice."
"You have the insolence to imply I would lend myself to treachery!"
"I beg monsieur's pardon very truly for suggesting such a thing.
Nevertheless, one cannot well be overcautious when one is a hunted man."
"Blensop ... be good enough to see this man out through the garden."
"Again, monsieur, my thanks."
"Good-night," said Stanistreet curtly.
Blensop passed Lanyard's chair, unlatched and opened the window and stood
aside. An instant later "Karl" joined him, swung on a heel, facing back,
clicked heels again and bowed mockingly. Apparently he got no response, for
he laughed quietly, then turned and went out through the window, Blensop
With a struggle Lanyard mastered the temptation to dash after the spy,
overtake and overpower him, expose and give him up to justice. Only the
knowledge that by remaining quiescent, by biding his time, he might be
enabled to redeem his word to the Brooke girl, gave him strength to be
But he suffered exquisitely, maddened by the defamation imposed upon his
nick-name of a thief by this brazen impostor.
Nor was wounded _amour-propre_ mended by an exclamation in the room behind
his chair, the accents of Colonel Stanistreet thick with contempt:
"The Lone Wolf! Faugh!"
Presently Blensop came back, closed the window, and passed blindly by
Lanyard, his reappearance saluted by Stanistreet in tones that shook with
"You saw that animal outside the walls?"
Mildly injured surprise was indicated in the reply: "Surely, sir!"
"And locked the door after him?"
"Howson anywhere about?"
"I didn't see him. Daresay he's prowling somewhere within call. Do you wish
to speak to him?"
"No.... But you might, if you see anything of him, tell him to keep an
extra eye open to-night. I don't trust this self-styled Lone Wolf."
"Naturally not, sir, under the circumstances."
Stanistreet acknowledged this with an irritated snort. "No matter," he
thought aloud; "if it has cost us a pretty penny, we have got this safe in
hand at last. I've not had too much sleep, I can promise you, since the
report came through of Bartholomew's death and Thackeray's disablement.
Nor am I satisfied that this Monsieur Duchemin came by the document
fairly--confound his impudence! If he hadn't put me on honour, tacitly, I'd
not hesitate an instant about informing the police."
"Rather chancy course to take in this business, what?"
"I don't know.... That Yankee invention known as the 'frame-up' would
easily make America too small for the Lone Wolf without the British Secret
Service ever being mentioned in the matter."
"Yes; but suppose the beast knows the contents of this paper, suspects
the authorship of the 'frame-up'--as he instinctively would--and blabs?
Messages have been unsealed and copied and resealed before this."
"That one consideration ties my hands.... Here, my boy: take this and
put it in the safe--and don't forget Mrs. Arden's things, of course.
"Trust me, sir. Good-night."
A door closed with a slight jar, and for half a minute the room was so
positively quiet that Lanyard was beginning to wonder if Blensop himself
had gone out with his employer, when he heard a low and musical chuckle,
followed by a soft clashing as the secretary scooped Mrs. Arden's jewellery
out of the desk drawer.
Itching with curiosity, Lanyard turned with infinite care and peered round
the wing of the chair, thus gaining a view of the wall farthest from the
Blensop remaining invisible, Lanyard's interest centred immediately upon
the safe the ingenuity of whose concealment had excited "Karl's" favourable
comment, and with much excuse.
One of the portraits--that upon whose merits Blensop had descanted to
"Karl" earlier in the night--was, Lanyard saw, so mounted upon a solid
panel of wood that, by means of hidden mechanism, it could be moved
sidelong from its frame, uncovering the face of a safe built into the wall.
This last now stood open, its door, swung out toward Lanyard, showing
a simple arrangement of dials and locks with which he was on terms of
contemptuous familiarity; only the veriest tyro of a cracksman would want
more than a good ear and a subtle sense of touch in order to open it
without knowledge of the combination.
With all its reputation for efficiency and astuteness the British Secret
Service entrusted its mysteries to an antiquated contraption such as this!
Humming a blithe little air, Blensop moved into Lanyard's field of vision
and stopped between him and the safe, deftly pigeonholing therein the
docketed papers and Mrs. Arden's jewels. Then, closing the door, he shot
its bolts, gave the dial a brisk twirl, located a lever in the side of the
frame and thrust it into its socket.
With the same swish and thud which had puzzled Lanyard at first hearing,
the portrait slipped back into place.
Rounding on a heel, Blensop paused, head to one side, a slight frown
shadowing his bland countenance, and stood briefly rooted in some
perplexity of obscure origin. Twice he shook a peevish head, then smiled
radiantly and brought his hands together in an audible clap.
"I have it!" he cried in delight and, dancing briskly toward the desk, once
Now what was this which Mr. Blensop so spontaneously had, and from the
having of which he derived so much apparently innocent enjoyment? Wanting
an answer, Lanyard settled back in disgust, then sat sharply forward, gaze
riveted to the near sash of the adjacent window.
In showing "Karl" out, Blensop had moved the portières, exposing more
glass than previously had been visible. Now this mirrored darkly to the
adventurer a somewhat distorted vision of Blensop standing over the
desk, seemingly employed in no more amusing occupation than filling his
fountain-pen. But undoubtedly he was in the highest spirits; for the lilt
of his humming rose sweet and clear and ever louder.
To this accompaniment he pocketed his pen, two-stepped to the windows,
drew the portières jealously close, returned to the desk, switched off the
reading lamp, and left the room completely dark but for a dim glow from the
ash-filmed embers of the fire.
But before he went out the secretary interrupted his humming to laugh
with a mischievous élan which completely confounded Lanyard. He was not
unacquainted with the Blensop type, but the secret glee which seemed to
animate this specimen was something far beyond his comprehension.
As the door softly closed Lanyard moved silently across the room and bent
an ear to its panels, meanwhile drawing over his hands a pair of thin white
From beyond came no sound other than a faint creaking of stair-treads
Opening the door, Lanyard peered out, finding the hallway deserted and
dimly lighted by a single bulb of little candle-power at its far end, then
scouted out as far as the foot of the stairs, listened there for a little,
hearing no sounds above, and reconnoitred through the other living rooms,
at length returning to the library persuaded he was alone on the ground
floor of the house.
A Yale lock was fixed to the library side of the door. Lanyard released its
catch, insuring freedom from interruption on the part of anybody who lacked
the key, crossed to the other side door, left this on the latch and, having
thus provided an avenue for escape, turned attention to business, in brief,
to the safe.
Turning on the picture-light he found and operated the lever, with his
other hand so restraining the action of the panel that it moved aside
without perceptible jar.
Then with an ear to that smooth, cold face of enamelled steel, he began
to manipulate the combination. From within the door a succession of soft
clicks and knocks punctuated the muted whine of the dial, speaking
a language only too intelligible to the trained hearing of a thief;
synchronous breaks and resistance in the action of the dial conveyed
additional information through the medium of supersensitive finger tips.
Within two minutes he had learned all he needed to know, and standing back
twirled the knob right and left with a confident hand. At its fourth stop
he heard the dull bump of released tumblers, grasped the handle, and
twisted it strongly. The door swung open.
Systematically Lanyard searched the pigeonholes, emptying all but one,
examining minutely their contents without finding that slender roll of
Mystified, he hesitated. The thing, of course, was somewhere there, only
hidden more cunningly than he had hoped. It was possible, even probable,
that Blensop had stowed the cylinder away in a secret compartment.
But the interior arrangement was disconcertingly simple. Lanyard saw no
sign of waste space in which such a drawer might be secreted. Unless, to be
sure, one of the pigeonholes had a false back....
He began a fresh examination, again emptying each pigeonhole and sounding
its rear wall without result till there remained only that in which Blensop
had placed the Arden jewels.
It was necessary to move these, but Lanyard long withheld his hand,
reluctant to touch them, for that same reason which had influenced him to
avoid them in his first search.
Jewels such as these he both worshipped and desired with the passionate
adoration of connoisseur and lover in one. He feared violently the
temptation of physical contact with such stuff.
For his was no thief's errand to-night, but a matter, as he conceived
it, of his private honour, something apart and distinct from the code of
rogue's ethics which guided his professional activities. He had pledged
his word to Cecelia Brooke to keep safe for her that cylinder of paper, to
return it upon her demand for whatsoever disposition she might choose to
make of it. It was no concern of his what that choice might turn out to
be, any more than it was his affair if the document were a paper of
international importance. But she must and should, if act of his could
compass it, be given opportunity to redeem her word of honour if, as one
believed, that likewise were involved in the fate of the document.
He had stolen into this house like a thief because he had given his pledge
and perforce had been made false to that pledge, because he had been
despoiled of the concrete evidence of the trust reposed unasked in him, and
because he had learned that his spoiler was to meet Stanistreet in this
room at midnight.
He was here solely to make good his word, to take away that cylinder, could
he find it, and to return it to the girl ... not to thieve....
Slowly, reluctantly, inevitably he put forth his hand and selected from
among those brilliant symbols of his soul's profound damnation the
necklace, a rope of diamonds consummately matched, a rivulet of frozen
fire, no single stone less lovely than another.
"Admirable!" he whispered. "Oh, admirable!"
Hesitant to do this thing which to him, by the strange standard of his
warped code, spelled dishonour, he would and he would not; and while he
paltered, was visited by an oddly vivid memory of the clear and candid eyes
of Cecelia Brooke, seemed veritably to see them searching his own with
their look of grieving wonder ... the eyes of one woman who had reckoned
him worthy of her trust....
Almost he won victory in this fight he was foredoomed to lose. Under the
level and steadfast regard of those eyes his hand went out to replace the
necklace, moved unsteadily, faltered....
Beyond the windows an incautious footfall sounded. In the darkness out
there someone blundered into a piece of wicker furniture and disturbed it
with a small scraping sound, all but inaudible, but to the thief as loud as
the blast of a police whistle.
Instantly and instinctively, in two simultaneous gestures, Lanyard dropped
the necklace into an inner pocket of his coat and switched off the
With hands now as steady and sure as they had been vacillant a moment
since, he closed the safe door noiselessly, shot its bolts, and was yards
away, crouching behind an armchair, before the man outside had ceased to
fumble with the window fastenings.
If this were the watchman Howson, doubtless he would be satisfied with
finding the room dark and apparently untenanted, and would go off upon his
rounds unsuspecting. If he did not, or if he noticed the displaced panel,
then would come Lanyard's time to break cover and run for it.
With a faint creak one of the windows swung inward. Curtain-rings clashed
dully on their poles. Someone came through the portières and paused,
pulling them together behind him. The beam of an electric flash-lamp lanced
the gloom and its spotlight danced erratically round the walls.
Now there was no more thought of flight in Lanyard's humour, but rather a
firm determination to stand his ground. This was no night watchman, but a
housebreaker, one with no more title to trespass upon those premises than
himself; and at that an unskilled hand at such work, the rawest of amateurs
practising methods as clumsy and childish as any actor playing at burglary
on a stage before a simple-minded audience.
The noise he made on entering alone proved that, then this fatuous business
with the flash-lamp. And as he moved inward from the windows it became
evident that he had not even had the wit to close the portières completely;
a violet glimmer of starlight shone in through a deep triangular gap
between them at the top.
For all that, the intruder seemed to know what he wanted and where to seek
it, betrayed a nice acquaintance with the room, proceeding directly to the
safe picked out by his lamp.
Arrived beneath it he uttered a low sound which might have been interpreted
as surprise due to finding the panel already out of place. If so, surprise
evidently roused in him no suspicion that all might not be well. On the
contrary, he quite calmly located and turned the switch controlling the
Immediately, as its rays gushed down and disclosed the man, Lanyard
rose boldly from his place in hiding. Now there was no more need for
concealment; now was his enemy delivered into his hands.
The man was "Karl."
His back to Lanyard, unconscious of that one's catlike approach, the spy
put up his flash-lamp, searched in a waistcoat pocket and produced a slip
of paper, and bent his face close to the combination dial, studying its
figures; but abruptly, like a startled animal, whirled round to face the
One of the sashes was thrown back roughly, and a figure clad in the gray
livery of a private watchman parted the portières and entered the library.
"Everything all right in here, Mr. Blensop?"
Lanyard saw the sheen of blue steel in the hands of "Karl," and leaped too
late: even as he fell upon the spy's shoulders, the pistol exploded.
The watchman reeled back with a choking cry, caught wildly at the
portières, and dragged them down with him as he fell.
His screams of agony made hideous the night. And the second cry was no more
than uttered when Lanyard, even in the heat of his struggle, heard sounds
indicating that already the household was alarmed.
But the door would hold for a while; it was not probable that the first to
come downstairs would think to bring with him the key. Time enough to
think of escape when Lanyard had settled his score with this one: no light
undertaking; not only was the score a long one, longer than Lanyard then
dreamed, but, as he had learned to his cost, the man was an antagonist of
skill and strength not to be despised.
Nevertheless, aided by the surprise of his onslaught, Lanyard succeeded
in disarming the spy, forcing him to drop the pistol at the outset, and
through attacking from behind had him at a further disadvantage. For all
that he found his hands full till, by a trick of jiu-jitsu, he wrenched one
of the fellow's arms behind him so roughly as almost to dislocate it at the
shoulder and, forcing the forearm up toward his shoulder blades, held him
"Be still, you murderous canaille!" he growled--"or must I tear your arm
from its socket? Still, I say!"
"Karl" uttered a grunt of pain and ceased to struggle.
Pinning him against the bookcase, Lanyard hastily rifled his pockets, at
the first dip bringing forth a thin sheaf of American bank-notes with the
figures $1000 conspicuous on the uppermost.
"Ten thousand dollars," he said grimly--"precisely my fee for the use of my
name--to say nothing of its abuse!"
A torrent of untranslatable German blasphemy answered him. Intelligible was
the half-frantic demand: "Who the devil are you?"
"Take a look, assassin--see for yourself!" Lanyard twisted the spy around
to face him, holding him helpless against the wall with a knee in his
middle and a hand gripping his throat inexorably. "Do you know me now--the
man you thought you'd drowned a hundred fathoms deep?"
Blows thundered on the hallway door. Neither heeded. The spy was staring
into Lanyard's face, his eyes starting with horror and affright.
"Lanyard!" he gasped. "Good God! will you never die?"
"Never by your hand--" Lanyard began, but stopped sharply.
For a moment he glared incredulously, and in that moment knew his enemy.
"Ekstrom!" he cried; and the man at his mercy winced and quailed.
The din in the hallway grew louder. Voices cried out for the key. Somebody
threw himself against the door so heavily that it shook.
The emergency forced itself upon Lanyard's consciousness, would not be
denied. Its dilemma seemed calculated to unseat his reason. If he lingered,
he was lost. Either he must grant this creature new lease of life, or be
caught and pay the penalty of murder for an execution as surely just as any
in the history of mankind.
It was bitter, too bitter to have come to this his hour so long desired, so
long deferred, so arduously sought, and have the fruits of it snatched from
his craving grasp.
He could not bring himself to this renunciation; slowly his fingers
tightened on the other's throat.
Driven to desperation by the light of madness that began to flicker in
Lanyard's eyes, the Prussian abruptly put all he had of might and fury into
one final effort, threw Lanyard off, and in turn attacked him, fighting
like a lunatic for footroom, for space enough to turn and make for the
In spite of all he could do Lanyard saw the man work away from the wall and
manoeuvre his back toward the windows; then he flew at him with redoubled
fury, driving home blow after blow that beat down Ekstrom's guard and sent
him staggering helplessly, till an uppercut, swinging in under his uplifted
forearms, put an end to the combat. Ekstrom shot backward half a dozen
feet, stumbled over the prostrate body of the watchman, and crashed
headlong into the windows, going down in a shower of shattered glass.
In one and the same instant Lanyard darted back and dropped upon his knees
in the shadow of the club lounge, and the door to the hallway slammed open.
A knot of men, to the number of half a dozen, tumbling into the library,
saw that figure floundering amid the ruins of the window, and made for it,
passing on the other side of the lounge, between it and the fireplace.
Unseen, Lanyard rose, ran crouching across the room; found the side door,
opened it just far enough to permit the passage of his body, and drew it to
Ninety-fifth Street was a lonely lane of midnight quiet. He sped across it
like the shadow of a cloud wind-hunted.
In those days New York nights were long; this was still young when Lanyard
sauntered sedately from a side street and stopped on a corner of Broadway
in the Nineties; he had not long to wait ere a southbound taxicab hove in
sight and sheered over to the curb in answer to his signal.
It was still something short of one o'clock when he was set down at his
Wearily he let himself in by the private entrance, made a light, and
without troubling even to discard his overcoat threw himself into a chair.
Leaden depression weighed down his heart, and the flavour of failure was
as aloes in his mouth. Thrice within an hour he had fallen short of his
promises, to Cecelia Brooke, to himself, to his _idée fixe_. His three
chances, to redeem his word to the girl, to measure up to his queer
criterion of honour, to rid his world of Ekstrom, all had slipped through
fingers seemingly too infirm to profit by them.
He felt of a sudden old; old, and tired, and lonely.
The uses of his world, how weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable! What was
his life? An emptiness. Himself? A shuttlecock, the helpless sport of
his own failings, a vain thing alternately strutting and stumbling, now
swaggering in the guise of an avenger self-appointed, now sneaking in the
shameful habiliments of a felon self-condemned.
What had prevented his dealing out to Ekstrom the punishment he had so well
earned? That insatiable lust for loot of his. But for that damning evidence
against him of the stolen necklace in his pocket he might have had his will
of Ekstrom, and justified himself when discovered by proving that he had
merely done justice to a thief who sold what he had stolen and stole back
to steal again what he had sold.
Self-contempt attacked self-conceit like an acid. He saw Michael Lanyard
a sorry figure, sitting stultified with self-pity ... crying over spilt
Impatiently he shook himself. What though he had to-night forfeited his
chances? He could, nay, would, make others. He must....
To what end? Would life be sweeter if one found a way to restore to Cecelia
Brooke her precious document and to smuggle back to Mrs. Arden her pilfered
diamonds? Would this deadly ache of loneliness be less poignant with
With lack-lustre eyes he looked round that cheerless room, reckoning its
perfunctory pretense of comfort the forlornest mockery. To lodgings such as
this he was condemned for life, to an interminable sequence of transient
quarters, sordid or splendid, rich or mean, alike in this common quality of
His aimless gaze wandered toward the door opening on the public hallway,
and became fixed upon a triangular shape of white paper, the half of an
envelope tucked between door and sill.
Presently he rose and got the thing, not until he touched it quite
persuaded he was not the victim of an optical hallucination.
A square envelope of creamy paper, it was superscribed simply in a hand
strange to him, _Anthony Ember, Esq_., with the address of his apartment
Tearing the envelope he found within a double sheet of plain notepaper
bearing a message of five words penned hastily:
Nothing else, not another word or pen-scratch....
Opening the door Lanyard hailed the hall-attendant, a sleepy and not
"When did this come for me?"
"'Bout anour ago, Mistuh Embuh."
"Who brought it?"
"A messenger boy done fotch it, suh--look lak th' same boy."
"What same boy?"
"Same as come in when you do, 'bout 'leven o'clock--remembuh?"
Lanyard nodded, recalling that on his way up the street from Sixth Avenue
he had been subconsciously irritated by the shrill, untuneful whistling of
a loutish youth in Western Union uniform, who had followed him into the
house and become engaged in some minor altercation with the attendants
while Lanyard was unlocking the door to his apartment.
"What of him?"
"Why, he bulge in heah an' say we done send a call, an' we tell him we don'
know nuffin' 'bout no call, an' he sweah an' carry on, an' aftuh you done
gone in he ast whut is yo' name, an' somebody tell him an' he go away. An'
then 'bout haffanour aftuhwuds he come back with that theah lettuh--say to
stick it undeh yo' do, ef yo' ain't home. Leastways he look to me lak th'
same boy. Ah dunno fo' suah."
Repeated efforts failing to extract more enlightenment from this source,
Lanyard again shut himself in with the puzzle.
Somebody had set a messenger boy to dog him and find out his name and
address. Not Crane: Lanyard had seen that one disappear in the elevator of
the Knickerbocker and had thereafter moved too quickly to permit of Crane's
returning to the lobby, calling a messenger boy, and pointing out Lanyard.
For that matter, Lanyard was prepared to swear nobody had followed him from
the Knickerbocker to the Biltmore.
Vaguely he seemed to recall a first impression of the boy at the time when
he emerged from the drug store after his unprofitable effort to telephone
Cecelia Brooke, an indefinite memory of a shambling figure with nose
flattened against the druggist's window, apparently fascinated by the
display of a catch-penny corn cure.
Was there a link between that circumstance and the long delay which Lanyard
had suffered in the telephone booth? Had the Knickerbocker operator been
less stupid and negligent than she seemed? Was the truth of the matter that
Crane had surmised Lanyard would attempt communication with the Brooke girl
and had set a watch on the switchboard for the call?
Assuming that the Secret Service man had been clever enough for that,
it was not difficult to understand that Lanyard had purposely been kept
dangling at the other end of the wire till the call could be traced back to
its source and a messenger despatched from the nearest Western Union office
with instructions to follow the man who left the booth, and report his name
and local habitation.
Sharp work, if these inferences were reasonable. And, satisfied that
they were, Lanyard inclined to accord increased respect to the detective
abilities of the American.
But this note, this hurried, unsigned scrawl of five unintelligible words:
what the deuce did it mean?
On the evidence of the handwriting a woman had penned it. Cecelia Brooke?
Who else? Crane might well have been taken into her confidence, subsequent
to the sinking of the _Assyrian_, and on discovering that Lanyard had
survived have used this means of relieving the girl's distress of mind.
But its significance?... "Au Printemps" translated literally meant "in the
springtime," and "in the springtime at one o'clock" was mere gibberish,
incomprehensible. There is in Paris a department store calling itself "Au
Printemps"; but surely no one was suggesting to Lanyard in New York a
rendezvous in Paris!
Nevertheless that "Please!" intrigued with a note at once pleading and
imperative which decided Lanyard to answer it without delay, in person.
"_Au Printemps--one o'clock--please_!"
Upon the screen of memory there flashed a blurred vision of an electric
sign emblazoning the phrase, "Au Printemps," against the façade of a
building with windows all blind and dark save those of the street level,
which glowed pink with light filtered through silken hangings; a building
which Lanyard had already passed thrice that night without, in the
preoccupation of his purpose, paying it any heed; a building on Broadway
somewhere above Columbus Circle, if he were not mistaken.
Already it was one o'clock. Fortunately he was still in evening dress, and
needed only to change collar and tie to repair the disarray caused by his
encounter with Ekstrom.
In two minutes he was once more in the street.
Within five a cab deposited him in front of the Restaurant Au Printemps, an
institution of midnight New York whose title for distinction resided mainly
in the fact that it opened its upper floors for the diversion of "members"
about the time when others put up their shutters.
Lanyard's advent occurred at the height of its traffic. The dining rooms on
the street level were closed and unlighted: but men and women in pairs
and parties were streaming across the sidewalk from an endless chain of
motor-cars and being ground through the revolving doors like grist in the
hopper of an unhallowed mill, the men all in evening dress, the women in
garments whose insolence outrivalled the most Byzantine nights of L'Abbaye
Drawn in with the current through the turnstile door, Lanyard found himself
in an absurdly little lobby thronged to suffocation, largely with people
of the half-world--here and there a few celebrities, here and there small
tight clusters of respectabilities making a brave show of feeling at
ease--all waiting their turn to be lifted to delectable regions aloft in an
elevator barely big enough to serve in a private residence.
For a moment Lanyard lingered unnoticed on the outskirts of this
assemblage, searching its pretty faces for the prettier face he had come to
find and wondering that she should have chosen for her purpose with him a
resort of this character. His memory of her was sweet with the clean smell
of the sea; there was incongruity to spare in this atmosphere heady with
the odours of wine, flesh, scent, and tobacco. Perplexing....
A harpy with a painted leer and predacious eyes pounced upon him, tore away
his hat and coat, gave him a numbered slip of pasteboard by presenting
which he would be permitted to ransom his property on extortionate terms.
And still he saw no Cecelia Brooke, though his aloof attitude coupled with
an intent but impersonal inspection of every feminine face within his
radius of vision earned him more than one smile at once furtively
provocative and unwelcome.
By degrees the crowd emptied itself into the toy elevator--such of it, that
is, as was passed by a committee on membership consisting of one chubby,
bearded gentleman with the look of a French diplomatist, the empressement
of a head waiter and the authority of the Angel with the Flaming Sword.
_Personae non gratae_ to the management--inexplicably so in most
instances--were civilly requested to produce membership cards and, upon
failure to comply, were inexorably rejected, and departed strangely
shamefaced. Others of acceptable aspect were permitted to mingle with
the upper circles of the elect without being required to prove their
In the person of this suave but inflexible arbiter Lanyard identified a
former maître d'hôtel of the Carlton who had abruptly and discreetly fled
London soon after the outbreak of war.
He fancied that this one knew him and was sedulous both to keep him in the
corner of his eye and never to meet his regard directly.
And once he saw the man speak covertly with the elevator attendant,
guarding his lips with a hand, and suspected that he was the subject of
The lobby was still comfortably filled, a constant trickle of arrivals
replacing in measure the losses by election and rejection, when Lanyard,
watching the revolving doors, saw Cecelia Brooke coming in.
She was alone, at least momentarily; and in his sight very creditably
turned out, remembering that all her luggage must have been lost with the
_Assyrian_. But what Englishwoman of her caste ever permitted herself to be
visible after nightfall except in an evening gown of some sort, even though
a shabby sort? Not that Miss Brooke to-night was shabbily attired: she was
much otherwise; from some mysterious source of wardrobe she had conjured
wraps, furs, and a dancing frock as fresh and becoming as it was, oddly
enough, not immodest. And with whatever cares preying upon her secret mind,
she entered with the light step and bright countenance of any girl of her
age embarked upon a lark.
All that was changed at sight of Lanyard.
He bowed formally at a moment when her glance, resting on him, seemed about
to wander on; instead it became fixed in recognition. Instantly her smile
was erased, her features stiffened, her eyes widened, her lips parted, the
colour ebbed from her cheeks. And she stopped quite still in front of the
door till lightly jostled by other arrivals.
Then moving uncertainly toward him, she said, "Monsieur Duchemin!" not
loudly, for she was not a woman to give excuse for a scene under any
circumstances, but in a tone of complete dumbfounderment.
Covering his own dashed contenance with a semblance of unruffled
amiability, he bowed again, now over the hand which the girl tentatively
offered, letting it rest lightly on his fingers, touching it as lightly
with his lips.
"It is such a pleasant surprise," he said at a venture, then added
guardedly: "But my name--I thought you knew it was now Anthony Ember."
Her eyes were blank. "I don't understand," she faltered. "I thought you ...
I never dreamed.... Is it really you?"
"Truly," he averred, lips smiling but mind rife with suspicion and
This was not acting; he was convinced that her surprise was absolutely
So she had not expected to find him "Au Printemps" at one o'clock in the
morning, till that very moment had believed him as dead as any of those
poor souls who had perished with the _Assyrian_!
Therefore that note had not come from her, therefore Lanyard had
complimented Crane without warrant, crediting him with another's
cleverness. Then whose...?
And while Lanyard's head buzzed with these thoughts, an independent chamber
of his mind was engaged in admiring the address with which the girl was
recovering from what must have been, what plainly had been, a staggering
shock. Already she had begun to grapple with the situation, to take herself
in hand and dissemble; already her face was regaining its accustomed cast
of self-confidence, composure, and intelligent animation. Throughout she
pursued without a break the thread of conventional small talk.
"It is a surprise," she said calmly. "Really, you are a most astonishing
person, Mr. Ember. One never knows where to look for you."
"That is my good fortune, since it provides me with unexpected pleasures
such as this. You are with friends?"
"With a friend," she corrected quietly--"with Mr. Crane. He stopped outside
to pay our taxi-driver. How odd it seems to find any place in the world as
much alive as this New York!"
"It seems almost impossible," Lanyard averred--"indeed, somehow wrong. I've
a feeling one has no right to encourage so much frivolity. And yet...."
"Yes," she responded quickly. "It is good to hear people laugh once more.
That is why Mr. Crane suggested coming here to-night, to cheer me up. He
said Au Printemps was unique, promised I'd find it most amusing."
"I'm sure...." Lanyard began as Crane entered, breezing through the
turnstile and comprehending the situation in a glance.
"Hello!" he cried. "Didn't I tell you everybody alive would be here?"
Nor was Cecelia Brooke less ready. "But fancy meeting Mr. Ember here! I had
no idea he was in New York--had you?"
"Perhaps a dim suspicion," Crane admitted with a twinkle, taking Lanyard's
hand. "Howdy, Ember? Glad to see you, gladder'n you'd think."
"How is that?" Lanyard asked, returning the cordiality of his grasp.
Crane's penetrating accents must have been audible in the remotest corner
of the ground-floor rooms: he made no effort to modulate them to a quieter
"You can help me out of a fix if you feel like it. You see, I promised Miss
Brooke if she'd take me for her guide, she'd see life to-night; and now,
just when we're going good, I've got to renig. Man I know held me up
outside, says I'm wanted down town on special business and must go. I might
be able to toddle back later, but can't bank on it. Do you mind taking over
"Chaperoning Miss Brooke's investigations into the seamy side of current
social history? That will be delightful."
"Attaboy! If I'm not back in half an hour you'll see her safely home, of
"And you'll excuse me, Miss Brooke? I hope you don't think--"
"What I do think, Mr. Crane, is that you have been most kind to a lonely
stranger. Of course I'll excuse you, not willingly, but understanding you
"That makes me a heap easier in my mind. But I' got to run. So it's
good-night, unless maybe I see you later. So long, Ember!"
With a flirt of a raw-boned hand, Crane swung about, threw himself
spiritedly into the revolving door, was gone.
"Amazing creature," Lanyard commented, laughing.
"I think him delightful," the girl replied, surrendering her wraps to a
maid. "If all Americans are like that--"
"Shall we go up?"
She nodded--"Please!"--and turned with him.
The committee on membership himself bowed them into the elevator. Several
others crowded in after them. For thirty seconds, while the car moved
slowly upward, Lanyard was free to think without interruption.
But what to think now? That Crane, actuated by some motive occult to
Lanyard, had engineered this apparently adventitious _rencontre_ for the
purpose of throwing him and the Brooke girl together? Or, again, that Crane
was innocent of guile in this matter--that other persons unknown, causing
Lanyard to be traced to his lodgings, had framed that note to entice him to
this place to-night? In the latter event, who was conceivably responsible
but Velasco, Dressier, O'Reilly--any one of these, or all three working in
concert? The last-named had looked Lanyard squarely in the face without
sign of recognition, back there in the lobby of the Knickerbocker,
precisely as he should, if implicated in the conspiracies of the Boche;
though it might easily have been Velasco or Dressier who had recognized the
adventurer without his knowledge....
The car stopped, a narrow-chested door slid open, a gush of hectic light
coloured morbidly the faces of alighting passengers, a blare of syncopated
noise singularly unmusical saluted the astonished ears of Lanyard and
Cecelia Brooke. She met his gaze with a smiling _moue_ and slightly lifted
"More than we bargained for?" he laughed. "But there is always something
new in this America, I promise you. Au Printemps itself is new, at all
events did not exist when I was last in New York."
Following her out, he paused beside the girl in a constricted space hedged
about with tables, waiting for the maître d'hôtel to seat those who had
been first to leave the elevator.
The room, of irregular conformation, held upward of two hundred guests and
habitués seated at tables large and small and so closely set together
that waiters with difficulty navigated narrow and tortuous channels of
communication. In the middle, upon a small dancing floor, rudely octagonal
in shape, made smaller by tables crowded round its edge to accommodate the
crush, a mob of couples danced arduously, close-locked in one another's
arms, swaying in rhythm with the over-emphasized time beaten out by a
perspiring little band of musicians on a dais in a far corner, their
activities directed by an antic conductor whose lantern-jawed, sallow face
peered grotesquely out through a mop of hair as black and coarse and lush
as a horse's mane.
Execrable ventilation or absence thereof manufactured an atmosphere that
reeked with heat animal and artificial and with ill-blended effluvia from a
hundred sources. Perhaps the odour of alcohol predominated; Lanyard thought
of a steam-heated wine-cellar. He observed nothing but champagne in any
glass, and if food were being served it was done surreptitiously. Sweat
dripped from the faces of the dancers, deep flushes discoloured all not so
heavily enamelled as to preserve an inalterable complexion, the eyes of
many stared with the fixity of hypnosis. Yet when the music ended with an
unexpected crash of discord these dancers applauded insatiably till the
jaded orchestra struck up once more, when they renewed their curious
gyrations with quenchless abandon.
The Brooke girl caught Lanyard's eye, her lips moved. Thanks to the din, he
had to bend his head near to hear.
She murmured with infinite expression: "Au Printemps!"
The maître d'hôtel was plucking at his sleeve.
"Monsieur had made reservations, no?" Startled recognition washed the man's
tired and pasty countenance. "Pardon, monsieur: this way!" He turned and
began to thread deviously between the jostling tables.
Dubiously Lanyard followed. He likewise had known the maître d'hôtel at
sight: a beastly little decadent whose cabaret on the rue d'Antin, just off
the avenue de l'Opéra, had been a famous rendezvous of international spies
till war had rendered it advisable for him to efface himself from the ken
of Paris with the same expedition and discretion which had marked the
departure from London of his confrère who now guarded the lower gateway to
these ethereal regions of Au Printemps.
The coincidence of finding those two so closely associated worked with the
riddle of that note further to trouble Lanyard's mind.
Was he to believe Au Printemps the legitimate successor in America of that
less pretentious establishment on the rue d'Antin, an overseas headquarters
for Secret Service agents of the Central Powers?
He began to regret heartily, not so much that he had presented himself in
answer to that note, but the responsibility which now devolved upon him of
caring for Miss Brooke. Much as he had wished to see her an hour ago, now
he would willingly be rid of her company.
Why had he been lured to this place, if its character were truly what he
feared? Conceivably because he was believed--since it now appeared he had
cheated death--still to possess either that desired document or knowledge
of its whereabouts.
Naturally the enemy would not think otherwise. He must not forget that
Ekstrom was playing double; as yet none but Lanyard knew he had stolen the
document and done a murder to cover the theft from his associates and leave
him free to sell to England without exciting their suspicion.
Consequently, Lanyard believed, he had been invited to this place to
be sounded, to be tempted, bribed, intimidated--if need be, and
possible--somehow to be won over to the uses of the Prussian spy system.
Leading them to the farther side of the room, the maître d'hôtel paused
bowing and mowing beside a large table already in the possession of a party
Lanyard's eyes narrowed. One of the three was Velasco, another a young man
unknown to him, a mannerly little creature who might have been written by
the author of "What the Man Will Wear" in the theatre programmes. The third
was Sophie Weringrode, the Wilhelmstrasse agent whom he had only that
afternoon observed entering the house in Seventy-ninth Street.
He stopped short, in a cold rage. Till that moment a mirror-sheathed pillar
had hidden from him Velasco and the Weringrode; else Lanyard had refused
to come so far; for obviously there were no unreserved tables, indeed few
vacant chairs, in that part of the room.
Not that he minded the cynical barefacedness of the dodge; that was indeed
amusing; he was sanguine as to his ability to dominate any situation that
might arise, and to a degree indifferent if the upshot should prove his
confidence misplaced; and he did not in the least object to letting the
enemy show his cards. But he did enormously resent what was, after all,
something quite outside the calculations of these giddy conspirators, the
fact that he must either beat incontinent retreat or introduce Cecelia
Brooke to the company of Sophie Weringrode.
His face darkened, a stinging reproof for the maître d'hôtel trembled on
his tongue's tip; but that one was busily avoiding his eye on the far side
of the table, drawing out a chair for "mademoiselle," while Velasco and the
Weringrode were alert to read Lanyard's countenance and forestall any steps
he might contemplate in defiance of their designs.
At first glimpse of the Brooke girl Velasco jumped up and hastened to her,
with eager Latin courtesy expressing his unanticipated delight in the
prospect of her consenting to join their party. And she was suffering with
quiet graciousness his florid compliments.
At the same time the Weringrode was greeting Lanyard in the most intimate
fashion--and damning him in the understanding of Cecelia Brooke with every
"My dear friend!" she cried gayly, extending a bedizened hand. "I had begun
to despair of you. Is it part of your system with women always to be a
little late, always to keep us wondering?"
Schooling his features to a civil smile, Lanyard bowed over the hand.
"In warfare such as ours, my dear Sophie," he said with meaning, "one uses
all weapons, even the most primitive, in sheer self-defense."
The woman laughed delightedly. "I think," she said, "if you rose from the
dead at the bottom of the sea, _Tony_, it would be with wit upon your
lips.... And you have brought a friend with you? How charming!" She shifted
in her chair to face Cecelia Brooke. "I wish to know her instantly!"
Velasco was waiting only for that opening. "Dear princess," he said,
instantly, "permit me to present Miss Cecelia Brooke ... Princess de
Completely at ease and by every indication enjoying herself hugely, the
girl bowed and took the hand the Weringrode thrust upon her. Her eyes,
a-brim with excitement and mischief, veered to Lanyard's, ignored their
warning, glanced away.
"How do you do?" she said simply. "I didn't understand Mr. Ember expected
to meet friends here, but that only makes it the more agreeable. May we sit
The person in the educated evening clothes was made known as Mr. Revel.
For Lanyard's benefit and his own he vacated the chair beside Sophie
Weringrode, seating himself to one side of Cecelia Brooke, who had Velasco
between her and the soi-disant princess.
Already a waiter had placed and was filling glasses for Lanyard and the
With the best grace he could muster the adventurer sat down, accepted
a cigarette from the Weringrode case, and with openly impertinent eyes
inspected the intrigante critically.
She endured that ordeal well, smiling confidently, a handsome creature with
a beautiful body bewitchingly gowned.
Time, he considered, had been kind to Sophie--time, the mysteries of the
modern toilette, and the astonishing adaptability of womankind. Splendidly
vital, like all of her sort who survive, she seemed mysteriously able to
renew that vitality through the very extravagance with which she squandered
it. She had lived much of late years, rapidly but well, had learned much,
had profited by her lessons. To-night she looked legitimately the princess
of her pretensions; the manner of the grande dame suited her type; her
gesture was as impeccable as her taste; prettier than ever, she seemed at
worst little more than half her age.
And her quick intelligence mocked the privacy of his reflections.
"Fair, fast, and forty," she interpreted smilingly.
He pretended to be stunned. "Never!" he protested feebly.
The woman reaffirmed in a series of rapid nods. "Have I ever had secrets
from you? You are too quick for me, monsieur: I do not intend to begin
deceiving you at this late day--or trying to."
"Flattery," he declared, "is meat and drink to me. Tell me more."
She laughed lightly. "Thank you, no; vanity is unbecoming in men; I do not
care to make you vain."
Aware that Cecelia Brooke was listening all the while she seemed to be
enchanted with the patter of Mr. Revel and the less vapid observations of
Velasco, Lanyard sought to shunt personalities from himself.
"And now a princess!"
"Did you not know I had married? Yes, a princess of Spain--and with a
castle there, if you must know."
"Quite a change of atmosphere from Berlin," he remarked. "But it has done
you no perceptible harm."
That won him a black look. "Oh, Berlin!" she said with contemptuous lips.
"I haven't been there since the beginning of the war. I wish never to see
the place again. True: I was born an Austrian; but is that any reason why I
should love Germany?"
She leaned forward, her fan gently tapping the knuckles of his hand.
"Pay less attention to me," she insisted, with a nod toward the middle of
the room. "You are missing something. Me, I never tire of her."
The floor had been cleared. A drummer on the dais was sounding the
long-roll crescendo. At the culminating crash the lights were everywhere
darkened save for an orange-coloured spot-light set in the ceiling
immediately above the dancing floor. Into that circular field of torrid
glare bounded a woman wearing little more than an abbreviated kirtle of
grass strands with a few festoons of artificial flowers. Applause roared
out to her, the orchestra sounded the opening bars of an Americanised
Hawaiian melody, the woman with extraordinary vivacity began to perform a
denatured hula: a wild and tawny animal, superbly physical, relying with
warrant upon the stark sensuality of her body to make amends for the
censored phrases of the primitive dance. The floor resounded like a great
drum to the stamping of her bare feet, till one marvelled at such solidity
of flesh as could endure that punishment.
Sophie Weringrode lounged negligently upon the table, bringing her head
near Lanyard's shoulder.
"Play fair," she said between lips that barely moved.
Without looking round Lanyard answered in the same manner: "Why ask more
than you are prepared to give?"
"The police ran you out of America once. We need only publish the fact that
Mr. Anthony Ember is the Lone Wolf...."
"Leave Berlin out of it before this girl."
Lanyard shrugged and laughed quietly. "What else?"
"We can't talk now. Ask me for the next dance."
The woman sat back in her chair, attentive to the posturing of the dancer,
slowly fanning herself.
Lanyard's semblance of as much interest was nothing more; furtively his
watchfulness alternated between two quarters of the room.
On the farther edge of the circle of tropical radiance he had marked down a
table at which two men were seated, Dressier and O'Reilly. No more question
now as to the personnel of the conspiracy; even Velasco had thrown off
the mask. The enemy had come boldly into the open, indicating a sense of
impudent assurance, indicating even more, contempt of opposition. No
longer afraid, they no longer skulked in shadows. Lanyard experienced a
premonition of events impending.
In addition he was keeping an eye on the door to the elevator shaft. Once
already it had opened, letting a bright window into the farther wall of the
shadowed room, discovering the figure of the maître d'hôtel in silhouette,
anxiety in his attitude. He was waiting for somebody, waiting tensely. So
were the others waiting, all that crew and their fellow workers scattered
among the guests. Lanyard told himself he could guess for whom.
Only Ekstrom was wanting to complete the circle. When he appeared--if by
chance he should--things ought to begin to happen.
If tolerably satisfied that Ekstrom would not come--not that night, at all
events--Lanyard, none the less, continued to be jealously heedful of that
But the hula came to an end without either his vigilance or the impatience
of the maître d'hôtel being rewarded. Writhing with serpentine grace to the
edge of the illuminated area, the dancer leaped back into darkness and the
folds of a wrap held by a maid, in which garment she was seen, bowing and
laughing, when the lights again blazed up.
Without ceasing to play, changing only the time of the tune, the orchestra
swung into a fox-trot. Lanyard glanced across the table to see Cecelia
Brooke rising in response to the invitation of dapper Mr. Revel.
In his turn, he rose with Sophie Weringrode. "Be patient with me,"
he begged. "It is long since I danced to music more frivolous than a
"But it is simple," the woman promised--"simple, at least, to one who can
dance as you could in the old days. Just follow me till you catch the step.
It doesn't matter, anyway; I desire only the opportunity to converse."
Yielding to his arms, she shifted into French when next she spoke.
"You do admirably, my friend. Never again depreciate your dancing. If you
knew how one suffers at the feet of these Americans--!"
"Excellent!" he said. "Now that is settled: what is it you are instructed
to propose to me?"
She laughed softly. "Always direct! Truly you would never shine as a secret
"Not as they shine," Lanyard countered--"in the dark."
"Don't be a fraud. We are what we are, and so are you. Let us not begin to
be censorious of one another's methods of winning a living."
"Agreed. But when do we begin to talk business?"
"Why do you continue so persistently antagonistic?"
"I am French."
"That is silly. You are an outlaw, a man without a country. Why not change
"And how does one effect miracles?"
"Germany offers you a refuge, security, freedom to ply your trade
unhindered--within reasonable limits."
"And in exchange what do I give?"
"Your services, as and when required, in our service."
"With what specific performance?"
"We want, we must without fail have, that document you took from the Brooke
"Perhaps we had better continue in English. You are speaking a tongue
unknown to me."
"Don't talk rot. You know well what I mean. We know you have the thing.
You didn't steal it to turn it over to England or the States. What is your
price to Germany?"
"Whatever you have in mind, believe me when I say I have nothing to sell to
"But what else can you do with it? What other market--?"
"My dear Sophie, upon my word I haven't got what you want."
"Then why so keen to get the Brooke girl on the telephone as soon as you
found out where she was stopping?"
"How did you learn about that, by the way?"
"Let the credit go to Señor Velasco. He saw you first."
"One thought as much.... Nevertheless, I haven't what you want."
"You gave it back to Miss Brooke?"
"Having nothing to give her, I gave her nothing."
The woman was silent throughout a round of the floor; then, "Tell me
something," she requested.
"Can I keep anything from you?"
"Are you in love with the English girl?"
Lanyard almost lost step, then laughed the thought to derision. "What put
that into your pretty head, Sophie?"
"Do you not know it yourself, my friend?"
"It is absurd."
She laughed maliciously. "Think it over. Possibly you have not stopped to
think as yet. When you know the truth yourself, you will be the better
qualified to fib about it. Also, you will not forget...."
"What?" he demanded bluntly as she paused with intention.
"That as long as she possesses the document--since you have it not--her
life is endangered even more than yours."
"She hasn't got it!" Lanyard declared, as nearly in panic as he ever was.
"Ah!" the woman jeered. "So you confess to some knowledge of it after all!"
"My dear," he said, teasingly, "do you really want to know what has become
of that paper?"
"I do, and mean to."
"What if I tell you?"
Her eyes lifted to his in childlike candour. "Need you ask?"
"You are irresistible.... Ask Karl."
She demanded sharply: "Whom?"
"Ah!" Again the adventuress was silent for a little. "What does he know?"
"Ask him, enquire why he murdered von Harden, then what business took him
to Ninety-fifth Street twice this evening--once about nine o'clock, again
"You must be mad, monsieur. Karl would not dare...."
"You don't know him--or have forgotten he was trained in the International
Bureau of Brussels, and there learned how to sell out both parties to a
business that won't bear publicity."
"I wonder," the woman mused. "Never have I wholly trusted that one."
"Shall I give you the key?"
"If you love Karl as little as I...."
"But where do you suppose the good man is, this night of nights?"
"Who knows? He was not here when I arrived at midnight. I have seen nothing
of him since."
"When you do--if he shows himself at all--look him over carefully for signs
of wear and tear."
"Yes, monsieur? And in what respect?"
"Look for cuts about his head and hands, possibly elsewhere. And should he
confess to an affair with a wind-shield in a motor accident, ask him what
happened to the study window in the house at Ninety-fifth Street."
Impish glee danced in the woman's eyes. "Your handiwork, dear friend?"
"A mere beginning.... You may tell him so, if you like."
He was subjected to a convulsive squeeze. "Never have I felt so kindly
disposed toward an enemy!"
"It is true, I were a better foe to Germany if I kept my counsel and let
Ekstrom continue to play double."
The music ceasing, to be followed by the inevitable clamour for more,
Lanyard offered an arm upon which Sophie rested a detaining hand.
"No--wait. We dance this encore. I have more to say."
He submitted amiably, the more so since not ill-pleased with himself. And
when again they were moving round the floor, she bore more heavily upon his
shoulder and was thoughtful longer than he had expected. Then--
"Attention, my friend."
"I am listening, Sophie."
"If what you hint is true--and I do not doubt it is--Karl's day is done."
"More nearly than he dreams," Lanyard affirmed grimly.
"I shan't be sorry. I am German through and through; what I do, I do for
the Fatherland, and in that find absolution for many things I care not to
remember. If through what you tell me I may prove Karl traitor, I owe you
"Always it has been my fondest hope, Sophie, some day to have you in my
Her fingers tightened on his. "Do not jest in the shadow of death. Since
you have been unwise enough to venture here to-night, you will not be
permitted to leave alive--unless you pledge yourself to us and prove your
sincerity by producing that paper."
"That sounds reasonable--like Prussia. What next?"
"I have warned you, so paid off my debt. The rest is your affair."
"Do you imagine I take this seriously?"
"It will turn out seriously for you if you do not."
"How can I be prevented from leaving when I will, from a public
"Is it possible you don't know this place? It is maintained by the
Wilhelmstrasse. Attempt to leave it without coming to a satisfactory
understanding, and see what happens."
"What, for instance?"
"The lights would be out before you were half across the room. When they
went up again, the Lone Wolf would be no more, and never a soul here would
know who stabbed him or what became of the knife."
"Are you by any chance amusing yourself at my expense?"
Once more the woman showed him her handsome eyes: he found them frankly
grave, earnest, unwavering.
"If you will not listen, your blood be on your own head."
"Forgive me. I didn't mean to be rude...."
"Still, you do not believe!"
"You are wrong. I am merely amused."
"If you understood, you could never mock your peril."
"But I don't mock it. I am enchanted with it. I accept it, and it renews
my youth. This might be Paris of the days when you ran with the Pack,
Sophie--and I alone!"
The woman moved her pretty shoulders impatiently. "I think you are either
mad or ... the very soul of courage!"
The encore ended; they returned to the table, Sophie leaning lightly on
Lanyard's arm, chattering gay inconsequentialities.
Dropping into her chair, she bent over toward Cecelia Brooke.
"He dances adorably, my dear!" the intrigante declared. "But I dare say you
know that already."
The English girl shook her head, smiling. "Not yet."
"Then lose no time. You two should dance well together, for you are more of
a size. I think the next number will be a waltz. We get altogether too few
of them; these American dances, these one-steps and foxtrots, they are not
dances, they are mere romps, favourites none the less. And there is always
more room on the floor; so few waltz nowadays. Really, you must not miss
This playful insistence, the light stress she laid upon her suggestion that
Cecelia Brooke dance with him, considered in conjunction with her recent
admonition, impressed Lanyard as significantly inconsistent. Sophie was no
more a woman to make purposeless gestures than she was one sufficiently
wanting in finesse to signal him by pressures of her foot. There was sheer
intention in that iteration: "... _lose no time ... you must not miss this
opportunity_." Something had happened even since their dance; she had
observed something momentous, and was warning him to act quickly if he
meant to act at all.
With unruffled amiability, amused, urbane, Lanyard bowed his petition
across the table, and was rewarded by a bright nod of promise.
Lighting another cigarette, he lounged back, poised his wine glass
delicately, with the eye of a connoisseur appraised its pale amber tint,
touched it lightly to his lips, inhaling critically its bouquet, sipped,
and signified approval of the vintage by sipping again: all without missing
one bit of business in a scene enacted on the far side of the room,
directly behind him but reflected in a mirror panel of the wall he faced.
The diplomatist charged with the task of discriminating the sheep from the
goats in the lower lobby had come up to confer with his colleague, the
maître d'hôtel of the upper storey. When Lanyard first saw the man he was
standing by the elevator shaft, none too patiently awaiting the attention
of the other, who, caught by inadvertence at some distance, was moving to
join him, with what speed he could manage threading the thick-set tables.
Was this what Sophie had noticed? Had she likewise, perhaps, received some
secret signal from the guardian of the lower gateway?
A signal possibly indicating that Ekstrom had arrived
They met at last, those two, and discreetly confabulated, the maître
d'hôtel betraying welcome mitigation of that nervous tension which had
heretofore so palpably affected him; and, as the other stepped back into
the elevator, Lanyard saw this one's glance irresistibly attracted to the
table dedicated to the service of the Princess de Alavia. Something much
resembling satisfaction glimmered in the fellow's leaden eyes: it was
apparent that he anticipated early relief from a distasteful burden of
Then, at ease in the belief that he was unobserved, he turned to a near-by
table round which four sat without the solace of feminine society--four
men whose stamp was far from reassuring despite their strikingly quiet
demeanour and inconspicuously correct investiture of evening dress.
Two were unmistakable sons of the Fatherland; all were well set up, with
the look of men who would figure to advantage in any affair calling for
physical competence and courage, from coffee and pistols at sunrise in the
Parc aux Princes to a battle royal in a Tenderloin dive.
Their table commanded both ways out, by the stairs and by the elevator,
much too closely for Lanyard's peace of mind.
And more than one looked thoughtfully his way while the maître d'hôtel
hovered above them, murmuring confidentially.
Four nods sealed an understanding with him. He strutted off with far more
manner than had been his at any time since the arrival of Lanyard, and
vented an excess of spirits by berating bitterly an unhappy clown of a
waiter for some trivial fault.
The first bars of another dance number sang through the confusion of
voices: truly, as Sophie had foretold, a waltz.
Trained in the old school of the dance, Lanyard was unversed in that
graceless scamper which to-day passes as the waltz with a generation
largely too indolent or too inept of foot to learn to dance.
His was that flowing waltz of melting rhythm, the waltz of yesterday,
that dance of dances to whose measures a civilization more sedate in its
amusements, less jealous of its time, danced, flirted, loved, and broke its
Into the swinging movement of that antiquated waltz Lanyard fell without
a qualm of doubt, all ignorant as he was of his benighted ignorance; and
instantly, with the ease and gracious assurance of a dancer born, Cecelia
Brooke adapted herself to his step and guidance, with rare pliancy made her
every movement exquisitely synchronous with his.
No need to lead her, no need for more than the least of pressures upon her
yielding waist, no need for anything but absolute surrender to the magic of
Effortless, like creatures of the music adrift upon its sounding tides,
they circled the floor once, twice, and again, before reluctantly Lanyard
brought himself to shatter the spell of that enchantment.
Looking down with an apologetic smile, he asked:
"Mademoiselle, do you know you can be an excellent actress?"
As if in resentment the girl glanced upward sharply, with clouded eyes.
"So can most women, in emergency."
"I mean ... I have something serious to say; nobody must guess your
She said simply: "I will do my best."
"You must--you must appear quite charmed. Also, should you catch me
smirking like an infatuated ninny, remember I am only doing my own
indifferent best to act."
Laughter trembled deliciously in her voice: "I promise faithfully to bear
in mind your heartlessness!"
"I am an ass," he enunciated with the humility of conviction. "But that
can't be helped. Attend to me, if you please--and do not start. This place
turns out to be a nest of Prussian spies. I was brought here by a trick. I
understand the order is I may not leave alive."
Playing her part so well as almost to embarrass Lanyard himself, the girl
smiled daringly into his eyes.
"Because of that packet?" she breathed.
"Because of that, mademoiselle."
"Where is it?"
For an instant Lanyard lost countenance absolutely. Through sheer good
fortune the girl was now dancing with face averted, her head so nearly
touching his shoulder that it seemed to rest upon it.
Nevertheless, it was at cost of an heroic struggle that he fought down all
signs of that shock with which it had been borne in upon him that he dared
not assure the girl her packet was in safe hands.
If he had failed in his efforts to restore the thing to her, that she might
consign it as she saw fit and so discharge her personal trust, till now
Lanyard had solaced himself with a hazy notion that she would in turn be
comforted when she learned the document was in the keeping of her country's
Impossible to tell her that: his own act had rendered it impossible,
that act the outcome of wilful trifling with his infirmity, his itch for
Of a sudden the pilfered necklace secreted in an inner pocket of his
waistcoat, above his heart, seemed to have gained the weight of so much
lead. The hideous consciousness of the thing stung like the bite of live
This woman was in distress; he yearned to lighten her burden; he could do
that with half a dozen words; his guilt prohibited.
Now indeed the Lone Wolf tasted shame and realized its bitterness....
Puzzled by his constraint, the girl's eyes again sought his; and warned
in time by the movement of her head, he mustered impudence to meet their
question with the look of tenderness that went with the rôle she suffered
him to play.
"What is the matter?"
"I am ashamed that I have failed you...."
"Don't think of that. I know you did your best. Only tell me what became of
"It was stolen; when I returned to my stateroom that night I was held up
and robbed. The thief shot at me, killed his confederate, decamped by
way of the port. I pursued. Another aided him to overpower and cast me
"Yet you escaped...!"
Strange she should seem more intrigued by that than concerned about her
"I escaped, no matter how...."
"You don't know who stole the packet?"
"I don't recall the man among the passengers, but he may have been in one
of the boats, a fellow of about my stature, with a flowing beard...."
He sketched broadly Ekstrom as he had seen him in the Stanistreet library.
Her eyes quickened.
"One such escaped in our boat, the second steward; I think his name was
"Doubtless the same."
"Then it is gone!"
For once in his acquaintance with her, that brave spirit seemed to falter:
she became a burden, bereft for a little of all grace and spontaneity.
He was constrained to swing her forcibly into time.
Almost instantly she recollected herself, covered her lapse with a little
laugh innocent of any hint of its forced falsity, and showed him and the
room as well a radiant countenance: all with such address and art that the
incident might well have escaped notice, otherwise have passed for a bit of
Yet distress was too eloquent in the broken query: "What _am_ I to do?"
Heartsick, self-sick to boot, he essayed to suggest that she consult
Colonel Stanistreet, but lacking so much effrontery, stammered and fell
Perhaps misinterpreting, she cried in quick contrition: "I am forgetting!
Forgive me. I should have said: what are you to do?"
He whipped his wits together.
"Look down, turn your face aside, smile.... I have a plan, a desperate
remedy, but the best I can contrive. When next the lift comes up, we must
try to be near it. There is one row of tables which we must break through
by main force. Leave that to me, follow as I clear a way, go straight into
the lift. If anything happens, run down the stairway on the left. The
ground floor is two flights below. If I am any way detained, don't stop--go
on, get your wraps, take the first taxi you see, return directly to the
Knickerbocker. I will telephone you later."
"If you live," she breathed.
"Never fear for me...."
"But if I do? Do you imagine I could rest if I thought you had sacrificed
yourself for me?"
"You must not think that. I am far too selfish--"
"That is not so. And I refuse positively to do as you wish unless you tell
me how I may communicate with you."
Resigned to humour her, he recited his address and the number of the house
telephone, and when she had memorized both by iteration, resumed:
"Once outside, if anybody tries to hinder you, don't let them intimidate
you into keeping quiet, but scream, scream at the top of your lungs. These
beasts abominate a screaming woman, or any other undue noise. Not only will
that frighten them off, but it will fetch the nearest policeman."
The music ceased. She stood flushed, smiling, adorably pretty, eyes
star-like for him alone.
"We are not far from the lift now," she said just audibly.
"But the door is shut. Hush. Here comes the encore. Once more around...."
They drifted again into that witching maze of melody and movement made one.
"You are silent," she said, after a little. "Why?"
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