F. Marion Crawford
Part 4 out of 6
had known that the facts were accurately told, whatever their meaning
might be, she would have taken them for further evidence against the
accused. As for Miss More, she was guided by her duty to her employer,
or her affection for little Ida, and she seemed to be of the
charitable sort, who think no evil; but after what Lord Creedmore had
said, Margaret had no doubt but that it was Mr. Van Torp who provided
for the child, and if she was his daughter, the reason for Senator
Moon's neglect of her was patent.
Then Margaret thought of Isidore Bamberger, the hard-working man of
business who was Van Torp's right hand and figure-head, as Griggs had
said, and who had divorced the beautiful, half-crazy mother of the two
Idas because Van Torp had stolen her from him--Van Torp, his partner,
and once his trusted friend. She remembered the other things Griggs
had told her: how old Bamberger must surely have discovered that his
daughter had been murdered, and that he meant to keep it a secret till
he caught the murderer. Even now the detectives might be on the right
scent, and if he whose child had been killed, and whose wife had been
stolen from him by the man he had once trusted, learnt the whole truth
at last, he would not be easily appeased.
'You have had some singular offers of marriage,' said Logotheti in a
tone of reflection. 'You will probably marry a beggar some day--a
nice beggar, who has ruined himself like a gentleman, but a beggar
'I don't know,' Margaret said carelessly. 'Of one thing I am sure. I
shall not marry Mr. Van Torp.'
Logotheti laughed softly.
'Remember the French proverb,' he said. '"Say not to the fountain, I
will not drink of thy water."'
'Proverbs,' returned Margaret, 'are what Schreiermeyer calls stupid
stuff. Fancy marrying that monster!'
'Yes,' assented Logotheti, 'fancy!'
Three weeks later, when the days were lengthening quickly and London
was beginning to show its better side to the cross-grained people who
abuse its climate, the gas was lighted again in the dingy rooms in
Hare Court. No one but the old woman who came to sweep had visited
them since Mr. Van Torp had gone into the country in March, after Lady
Maud had been to see him on the evening of his arrival.
As then, the fire was laid in the grate, but the man in black who sat
in the shabby arm-chair had not put a match to the shavings, and the
bright copper kettle on the movable hob shone coldly in the raw glare
from the incandescent gaslight. The room was chilly, and the man had
not taken off his black overcoat or his hat, which had a broad band
on it. His black gloves lay on the table beside him. He wore patent
leather boots with black cloth tops, and he turned in his toes as he
sat. His aquiline features were naturally of the melancholic type, and
as he stared at the fireplace his expression was profoundly sad. He
did not move for a long time, but suddenly he trembled, as a man does
who feels the warning chill in a malarious country when the sun goes
down, and two large bright tears ran down his lean dark cheeks and
were quickly lost in his grizzled beard. Either he did not feel them,
or he would not take the trouble to dry them, for he sat quite still
and kept his eyes on the grate.
Outside it was quite dark and the air was thick, so that the
chimney-pots on the opposite roof were hardly visible against the
gloomy sky. It was the time of year when spring seems very near in
broad daylight, but as far away as in January when the sun goes down.
Mr. Isidore Bamberger was waiting for a visitor, as his partner Mr.
Van Torp had waited in the same place a month earlier, but he made no
preparations for a cheerful meeting, and the cheap japanned tea-caddy,
with the brown teapot and the chipped cups and saucers, stood
undisturbed in the old-fashioned cupboard in the corner, while the
lonely man sat before the cold fireplace and let the tears trickle
down his cheeks as they would.
At the double stroke of the spring door-bell, twice repeated, his
expression changed as if he had been waked from a dream. He dried his
cheeks roughly with the back of his hand, and his very heavy black
eyebrows were drawn down and together, as if the tension of the man's
whole nature had been relaxed and was now suddenly restored. The look
of sadness hardened to an expression that was melancholy still, but
grim and unforgiving, and the grizzled beard, clipped rather close at
the sides, betrayed the angles of the strong jaw as he set his teeth
and rose to let in his visitor. He was round-shouldered and slightly
bow-legged when he stood up; he was heavily and clumsily built, but he
was evidently strong.
He went out into the dark entry and opened the door, and a moment
later he came back with Mr. Feist, the man with the unhealthy
complexion whom Margaret had seen at the Turkish Embassy. Isidore
Bamberger sat down in the easy-chair again without ceremony, leaving
his guest to bring up a straight-backed chair for himself.
Mr. Feist was evidently in a very nervous condition. His hand shook
perceptibly as he mopped his forehead after sitting down, and he moved
his chair uneasily twice because the incandescent light irritated his
eyes. He did not wait for Bamberger to question him, however.
'It's all right,' he said, 'but he doesn't care to take steps till
after this season is over. He says the same thing will happen again to
a dead certainty, and that the more evidence he has the surer he'll be
of the decree. I think he's afraid Van Torp has some explanation up
his sleeve that will swing things the other way.'
'Didn't he catch her here?' asked the elder man, evidently annoyed.
'Didn't he find the money on this table in an envelope addressed
to her? Didn't he have two witnesses with him? Or is all that an
'It happened just so. But he's afraid there's some explanation--'
'Feist,' said Isidore Bamberger slowly, 'find out what explanation the
man's afraid of, pretty quick, or I'll get somebody who will. It's my
belief that he's just a common coward, who takes money from his wife
and doesn't care how she gets it. I suppose she refused to pay one
day, so he strengthened his position by catching her; but he doesn't
want to divorce the goose that lays the golden egg as long as he's
short of cash. That's about the measure of it, you may depend.'
'She may be a goose,' answered Feist, 'but she's a wild one, and
she'll lead us a chase too. She's up to all sorts of games, I've
ascertained. She goes out of the house at all hours and comes home
when she's ready, and it isn't to meet your friend either, for he's
not been in London again since he landed.'
'Then who else is it?' asked Bamberger.
Feist smiled in a sickly way.
'Don't know,' he said. 'Can't find out.'
'I don't like people who don't know and can't find out,' answered the
other. 'I'm in a hurry, I tell you. I'm employing you, and paying you
a good salary, and taking a great deal of trouble to have you pushed
with letters of introduction where you can see her, and now you come
here and tell me you don't know and you can't find out. It won't do,
Feist. You're no better than you used to be when you were my secretary
last year. You're a pretty bright young fellow when you don't drink,
but when you do you're about as useful as a painted clock--and even a
painted clock is right twice in twenty-four hours. It's more than you
are. The only good thing about you is that you can hold your tongue,
drunk or sober. I admit that.'
Having relieved himself of this plain opinion Isidore Bamberger waited
to hear what Feist had to say, keeping his eyes fixed on the unhealthy
'I've not been drinking lately, anyhow,' he answered, 'and I'll tell
you one thing, Mr. Bamberger, and that is, that I'm just as anxious as
you can be to see this thing through, every bit.'
'Well, then, don't waste time! I don't care a cent about the divorce,
except that it will bring the whole affair into publicity. At soon as
all the papers are down on him, I'll start in on the real thing. I
shall be ready by that time. I want public opinion on both sides of
the ocean to run strong against him, as it ought to, and it's just
that it should. If I don't manage that, he may get off in the end in
spite of your evidence.'
'Look here, Mr. Bamberger,' said Feist, waking up, 'if you want my
evidence, don't talk of dropping me as you did just now, or you won't
get it, do you understand? You've paid me the compliment of telling me
that I can hold my tongue. All right. But it won't suit you if I hold
my tongue in the witness-box, will it? That's all, Mr. Bamberger. I've
nothing more to say about that.'
There was a sudden vehemence in the young man's tone which portrayed
that in spite of his broken nerves he could still be violent. But
Isidore Bamberger was not the man to be brow-beaten by any one he
employed. He almost smiled when Feist stopped speaking.
'That's all right,' he said half good-naturedly and half
contemptuously. 'We understand each other. That's all right.'
'I hope it is,' Feist answered in a dogged way. 'I only wanted you to
'Well, I do, since you've told me. But you needn't get excited like
that. It's just as well you gave up studying medicine and took to
business, Feist, for you haven't got what they call a pleasant bedside
Mr. Feist had once been a medical student, but had given up the
profession on inheriting a sum of money with which he at once began to
speculate. After various vicissitudes he had become Mr. Bamberger's
private secretary, and had held that position some time in spite of
his one failing, because he had certain qualities which made him
invaluable to his employer until his nerves began to give away. One of
those qualities was undoubtedly his power of holding his tongue
even when under the influence of drink; another was his really
extraordinary memory for details, and especially for letters he had
written under dictation, and for conversations he had heard. He was
skilful, too, in many ways when in full possession of his faculties;
but though Isidore Bamberger used him, he despised him profoundly,
as he despised every man who preferred present indulgence to future
Feist lit a cigarette and blew a vast cloud of smoke round him, but
made no answer to his employer's last observation.
'Now this is what I want you to do,' said the latter. 'Go to this
Count Leven and tell him it's a cash transaction or nothing, and that
he runs no risk. Find out what he'll really take, but don't come
talking to me about five thousand pounds or anything of that kind, for
that's ridiculous. Tell him that if proceedings are not begun by the
first of May his wife won't get any more money from Van Torp, and he
won't get any more from his wife. Use any other argument that strikes
you. That's your business, because that's what I pay you for. What I
want is the result, and that's justice and no more, and I don't care
anything about the means. Find them and I'll pay. If you can't find
them I'll pay somebody who can, and if nobody can I'll go to the end
without. Do you understand?'
'Oh, I understand right enough,' answered Feist, with his bad smile.'
If I can hit on the right scheme I won't ask you anything extra
for it, Mr. Bamberger! By the bye, I wrote you I met Cordova, the
Primadonna, at the Turkish Embassy, didn't I? She hates him as much
as the other woman likes him, yet she and the other have struck up a
friendship. I daresay I shall get something out of that too.'
'Why does Cordova hate him?' asked Bamberger.
'Don't quite know. Thought perhaps you might.'
'He was attentive to her last winter,' Feist said. 'That's all I know
for certain. He's a brutal sort of man, and maybe he offended her
'Well,' returned Isidore Bamberger, 'maybe; but singers aren't often
offended by men who have money. At least, I've always understood so,
though I don't know much about that side of life myself.'
'It would be just one thing more to break his character if Cordova
would say something against him,' suggested Feist. 'Her popularity is
something tremendous, and people always believe a woman who says that
a man has insulted her. In those things the bare word of a pretty lady
who's no better than she should be is worth more than an honest man's
character for thirty years.'
'That's so,' said Bamberger, looking at him attentively. 'That's quite
true. Whatever you are, Feist, you're no fool. We may as well have the
pretty lady's bare word, anyway.'
'If you approve, I'm nearly sure I can get it,' Feist answered. 'At
least, I can get a statement which she won't deny if it's published
in the right way. I can furnish the materials for an article on her
that's sure to please her--born lady, never a word against her, highly
connected, unassailable private life, such a contrast to several other
celebrities on the stage, immensely charitable, half American, half
English--every bit of that all helps, you see--and then an anecdote or
two thrown in, and just the bare facts about her having had to escape
in a hurry from a prominent millionaire in a New York hotel--fairly
ran for her life and turned the key against him. Give his name if you
like. If he brings action for libel, you can subpoena Cordova herself.
She'll swear to it if it's true, and then you can unmask your big guns
and let him have it hot.'
'No doubt, no doubt. But how do you propose to find out if it is
'Well, I'll see; but it will answer almost as well if it's not true,'
said Feist cynically. 'People always believe those things.'
'It's only a detail,' said Bamberger, 'but it's worth something,
and if we can make this man Leven begin a suit against his wife,
everything that's against Van Torp will be against her too. That's not
justice, Feist, but it's fact. A woman gets considerably less pity for
making mistakes with a blackguard than for liking an honest man too
Mr. Bamberger, who had divorced his own wife, delivered these opinions
thoughtfully, and, though she had made no defence, he might be
supposed to know what he was talking about.
Presently he dismissed his visitor with final injunctions to lose no
time, and to 'find out' if Lady Maud was interested in any one besides
Van Torp, and if not, what was at the root of her eccentric hours.
Mr. Feist went away, apparently prepared to obey his employer with
all the energy he possessed. He went down the dimly-lighted stairs
quickly, but he glanced nervously upwards, as if he fancied that
Isidore Bamberger might have silently opened the door again to look
over the banister and watch him from above. In the dark entry below he
paused a moment, and took a satisfactory pull at a stout flask before
going out into the yellowish gloom that had settled on Hare Court.
When he was in the narrow alley he stopped again and laughed, without
making any sound, so heartily that he had to stand still till the fit
passed; and the expression of his unhealthy face just then would have
disturbed even Mr. Bamberger, who knew him well.
But Mr. Bamberger was sitting in the easy-chair before the fireplace,
and his eyes were fixed on the bright point at which the shiny copper
kettle reflected the gaslight. His head had fallen slightly forward,
so that his bearded chin was out of sight below the collar of his
overcoat, leaving his eagle nose and piercing eyes above it. He was
like a bird of prey looking down over the edge of its nest. He had not
taken off his hat for Mr. Feist, and it was pushed back from his bony
forehead now, giving his face a look that would have been half comic
if it had not been almost terrifying: a tall hat set on a skull, a
little back or on one side, produces just such an effect.
There was no moisture in the keen eyes now. In the bright spot on the
copper kettle they saw the vision of the end towards which he was
striving with all his strength, and all his heart, and all his wealth.
It was a grim little picture, and the chief figure in it was a
thick-set man who had a queer cap drawn down over his face and his
hands tied; and the eyes that saw it were sure that under the cap
there were the stony features of a man who had stolen his friend's
wife and killed his friend's daughter, and was going to die for what
he had done.
Then Isidore Bamberger's right hand disappeared inside the breast of
his coat and closed lovingly upon a full pocket-book; but there was
only a little money in it, only a few banknotes folded flat against
a thick package of sheets of notepaper all covered with clear, close
writing, some in ink and some in pencil; and if what was written there
was all true, it was enough to hang Mr. Rufus Van Torp.
There were other matters, too, not written there, but carefully
entered in the memory of the injured man. There was the story of his
marriage with a beautiful, penniless girl, not of his own faith, whom
he had taken in the face of strong opposition from his family. She
had been an exquisite creature, fair and ethereal, as degenerates
sometimes are; she had cynically married him for his money, deceiving
him easily enough, for he was willing to be blinded; but differences
had soon arisen between them, and had turned to open quarrelling, and
Mr. Van Torp had taken it upon himself to defend her and to reconcile
them, using the unlimited power his position gave him over his partner
to force the latter to submit to his wife's temper and caprice, as the
only alternative to ruin. Her friendship for Van Torp grew stronger,
till they spent many hours of every day together, while her husband
saw little of her, though he was never altogether estranged from her
so long as they lived under one roof.
But the time came at last when Bamberger had power too, and Van Torp
could no longer hold him in check with a threat that had become vain;
for he was more than indispensable, he was a part of the Nickel Trust,
he was the figure-head of the ship, and could not be discarded at
will, to be replaced by another.
As soon as he was sure of this and felt free to act, Isidore Bamberger
divorced his wife, in a State where slight grounds are sufficient. For
the sake of the Nickel Trust Van Torp's name was not mentioned. Mrs.
Bamberger made no defence, the affair was settled almost privately,
and Bamberger was convinced that she would soon marry Van Torp.
Instead, six weeks had not passed before she married Senator Moon,
a man whom her husband had supposed she scarcely knew, and to
Bamberger's amazement Van Torp's temper was not at all disturbed by
the marriage. He acted as if he had expected it, and though he hardly
ever saw her after that time, he exchanged letters with her during
nearly two years.
Bamberger's little daughter Ida had never been happy with her
beautiful mother, who had alternately spoilt her and vented her temper
on her, according to the caprice of the moment. At the time of the
divorce the child had been only ten years old; and as Bamberger was
very kind to her and was of an even disposition, though never very
cheerful, she had grown up to be extremely fond of him. She never
guessed that he did not love her in return, for though he was cynical
enough in matters of business, he was just according to his lights,
and he would not let her know that everything about her recalled her
mother, from her hair to her tone of voice, her growing caprices, and
her silly fits of temper. He could not believe in the affection of a
daughter who constantly reminded him of the hell in which he had
lived for years. If what Van Torp told Lady Maud of his own pretended
engagement to Ida was true, it was explicable only on that ground, so
far as her father was concerned. Bamberger felt no affection for
his daughter, and saw no reason why she should not be used as an
instrument, with her own consent, for consolidating the position of
the Nickel Trust.
As for the former Mrs. Bamberger, afterwards Mrs. Moon, she had gone
to Europe in the autumn, not many months after her marriage, leaving
the Senator in Washington, and had returned after nearly a year's
absence, bringing her husband a fine little girl, whom she had
christened Ida, like her first child, without consulting him. It soon
became apparent that the baby was totally deaf; and not very long
after this discovery, Mrs. Moon began to show signs of not being quite
sane. Three years later she was altogether out of her mind, and as
soon as this was clear the child was sent to the East to be taught.
The rest has already been told. Bamberger, of course, had never seen
little Ida, and had perhaps never heard of her existence, and Senator
Moon did not see her again before he died.
Bamberger had not loved his own daughter in her life, but since her
tragic death she had grown dear to him in memory, and he reproached
himself unjustly with having been cold and unkind to her. Below the
surface of his money-loving nature there was still the deep and
unsatisfied sentiment to which his wife had first appealed, and by
playing on which she had deceived him into marrying her. Her treatment
of him had not killed it, and the memory of his fair young daughter
now stirred it again. He accused himself of having misunderstood her.
What had been unreal and superficial in her mother had perhaps been
true and deep in her. He knew that she had loved him; he knew it now,
and it was the recollection of that one being who had been devoted to
him for himself, since he had been a grown man, that sometimes brought
the tears from his eyes when he was alone. It would have been a
comfort, now, to have loved her in return while she lived, and to have
trusted in her love then, instead of having been tormented by the
belief that she was as false as her mother had been.
But he had been disappointed of his heart's desire; for, strange as it
may seem to those who have not known such men as Isidore Bamberger,
his nature was profoundly domestic, and the ideal of his youth had
been to grow old in his own home, with a loving wife at his side,
surrounded by children and grandchildren who loved both himself and
her. Next to that, he had desired wealth and the power money gives;
but that had been first, until the hope of it was gone. Looking back
now, he was sure that it had all been destroyed from root to branch,
the hope and the possibility, and even the memory that might have
still comforted him, by Rufus Van Torp, upon whom he prayed that he
might live to be revenged. He sought no secret vengeance, either, no
pitfall of ruin dug in the dark for the man's untimely destruction;
all was to be in broad daylight, by the evidence of facts, under the
verdict of justice, and at the hands of the law itself.
It had not been very hard to get what he needed, for his former
secretary, Mr. Feist, had worked with as much industry and
intelligence as if the case had been his own, and in spite of the
vice that was killing him had shown a wonderful power of holding his
tongue. It is quite certain that up to the day when Feist called on
his employer in Hare Court, Mr. Van Torp believed himself perfectly
A fortnight later Count Leven informed his wife that he was going home
on a short leave, but that she might stay in London if she pleased. An
aunt of his had died in Warsaw, he said, leaving him a small property,
and in spite of the disturbed state of his own country it was
necessary that he should go and take possession of the land without
Lady Maud did not believe a word of what he said, until it became
apparent that he had the cash necessary for his journey without
borrowing of her, as he frequently tried to do, with varying success.
She smiled calmly as she bade him good-bye and wished him a pleasant
journey; he made a magnificent show of kissing her hand at parting,
and waved his hat to the window when he was outside the house, before
getting into the four-wheeler, on the roof of which his voluminous
luggage made a rather unsafe pyramid. She was not at the window, and
he knew it; but other people might be watching him from theirs, and
the servant stood at the open door. It was always worth while, in
Count Leven's opinion, to make an 'effect' if one got a chance.
Three days later Lady Maud received a document from the Russian
Embassy informing her that her husband had brought an action to obtain
a divorce from her in the Ecclesiastical Court of the Patriarch of
Constantinople, on the ground of her undue intimacy with Rufus Van
Torp of New York, as proved by the attested depositions of detectives.
She was further informed that unless she appeared in person or by
proxy before the Patriarch of Constantinople within one month of the
date of the present notice, to defend herself against the charges made
by her husband, judgment would go by default, and the divorce would be
At first Lady Maud imagined this extraordinary document to be a stupid
practical joke, invented by some half-fledged cousin to tease her.
She had a good many cousins, among whom were several beardless
undergraduates and callow subalterns in smart regiments, who would
think it no end of fun to scare 'Cousin Maud.' There was no mistaking
the official paper on which the document was written, and it bore
the seal of the Chancery of the Russian Embassy; but in Lady Maud's
opinion the mention of the Patriarch of Constantinople stamped it as
an egregious hoax.
On reflection, however, she decided that it must have been perpetrated
by some one in the Embassy for the express purpose of annoying her,
since no outsider could have got at the seal, even if he could have
obtained possession of the paper and envelope. As soon as this view
presented itself, she determined to ascertain the truth directly, and
to bring down the ambassadorial wrath on the offender.
Accordingly she took the paper to the Russian clerk who was in charge
of the Chancery, and inquired who had dared to concoct such a paper
and to send it to her.
To her stupefaction, the man smiled politely and informed her that the
document was genuine. What had the Patriarch to do with it? That was
very simple. Had she not been married to a Russian subject by the
Greek rite in Paris? Certainly. Very well. All marriages of Russian
subjects out of their own country took place under the authority of
the Patriarch of Constantinople, and all suits for divorcing persons
thus married came under his jurisdiction. That was all. It was such a
simple matter that every Russian knew all about it. The clerk asked
if he could be of service to her. He had been stationed in
Constantinople, and knew just what to do; and, moreover, he had a
friend at the Chancery there, who would take charge of the case if the
Countess desired it.
Lady Maud thanked him coldly, replaced the document in its envelope,
and left the Embassy with the intention of never setting foot in it
She understood why Leven had suddenly lost an aunt of whom she had
never heard, and had got out of the way on pretence of an imaginary
inheritance. The dates showed plainly that the move had been prepared
before he left, and that he had started when the notice of the suit
was about to be sent to her. The only explanation that occurred to her
was that her husband had found some very rich woman who was willing to
marry him if he could free himself; and this seemed likely enough.
She hesitated as to how she should act. Her first impulse was to go
to her father, who was a lawyer and would give her good advice, but a
moment's thought showed her that it would be a mistake to go to him.
Being no longer immobilised by a sprained ankle, Lord Creedmore would
probably leave England instantly in pursuit of Leven himself, and no
one could tell what the consequences might be if he caught him; they
would certainly be violent, and they might be disastrous.
Then Lady Maud thought of telegraphing to Mr. Van Torp to come to town
to see her about an urgent matter; but she decided against that course
too. Whatever her relations were with the American financier this was
not the moment to call attention to them. She would write to him, and
in order to see him conveniently she would suggest to her father to
have a week-end house party in the country, and to ask his neighbour
over from Oxley Paddox. Nobody but Mr. Van Torp and the post-office
called the place Torp Towers.
She had taken a hansom to the Embassy, but she walked back to Charles
Street because she was angry, and she considered nothing so good for a
rage as a stiff walk. By the time she reached her own door she was as
cool as ever, and her clear eyes looked upon the wicked world with
their accustomed calm.
As she laid her hand on the door-bell, a smart brougham drove up
quickly and stopped close to the pavement, and as she turned her head
Margaret was letting herself out, before the footman could get round
from the other side to open the door of the carriage.
'May I come in?' asked the singer anxiously, and Lady Maud saw that
she seemed much disturbed, and had a newspaper in her hand. 'I'm so
glad I just caught you,' Margaret added, as the door opened.
They went in together. The house was very small and narrow, and Lady
Maud led the way into a little sitting-room on the right of the hall,
and shut the door.
'Is it true?' Margaret asked as soon as they were alone.
'About your divorce--'
Lady Maud smiled rather contemptuously.
'Is it already in the papers?' she asked, glancing at the one Margaret
had brought. 'I only heard of it myself an hour ago!'
'Then it's really true! There's a horrid article about it--'
Margaret was evidently much more disturbed than her friend, who sat
down in a careless attitude and smiled at her.
'It had to come some day. And besides,' added Lady Maud, 'I don't
'There's something about me too,' answered Margaret, 'and I cannot
'Me and Mr. Van Torp--the article is written by some one who hates
him--that's clear!--and you know I don't like him; but that's no
reason why I should be dragged in.'
She was rather incoherent, and Lady Maud took the paper from her hand
quietly, and found the article at once. It was as 'horrid' as the
Primadonna said it was. No names were given in full, but there could
not be the slightest mistake about the persons referred to, who were
all clearly labelled by bits of characteristic description. It was all
in the ponderously airy form of one of those more or less true stories
of which some modern weeklies seem to have an inexhaustible supply,
but it was a particularly vicious specimen of its class so far as
Mr. Van Torp was concerned. His life was torn up by the roots and
mercilessly pulled to pieces, and he was shown to the public as a
Leicester Square Lovelace or a Bowery Don Juan. His baleful career was
traced from his supposed affair with Mrs. Isidore Bamberger and her
divorce to the scene at Margaret's hotel in New York, and from that
to the occasion of his being caught with Lady Maud in Hare Court by a
justly angry husband; and there was, moreover, a pretty plain allusion
to little Ida Moon.
Lady Maud read the article quickly, but without betraying any emotion.
When she had finished she raised her eyebrows a very little, and gave
the paper back to Margaret.
'It is rather nasty,' she observed quietly, as if she were speaking of
'It's utterly disgusting,' Margaret answered with emphasis. 'What
shall you do?'
'I really don't know. Why should I do anything? Your position is
different, for you can write to the papers and deny all that concerns
you if you like--though I'm sure I don't know why you should care.
It's not to your discredit.'
'I could not very well deny it,' said the Primadonna thoughtfully.
Almost before the words had left her lips she was sorry she had
'Does it happen to be true?' asked Lady Maud, with an encouraging
'Well, since you ask me--yes.' Margaret felt uncomfortable.
'Oh, I thought it might be,' answered Lady Maud. 'With all his good
qualities he has a very rough side. The story about me is perfectly
Margaret was amazed at her friend's quiet cynicism.
'Not that about the--the envelope on the table--'
She stopped short.
'Oh yes! There were four thousand one hundred pounds in it. My husband
counted the notes.'
The singer leaned back in her chair and stared in unconcealed
surprise, wondering how in the world she could have been so completely
mistaken in her judgment of a friend who had seemed to her the best
type of an honest and fearless Englishwoman. Margaret Donne had not
been brought up in the gay world; she had, however, seen some aspects
of it since she had been a successful singer, and she did not
exaggerate its virtues; but somehow Lady Maud had seemed to be above
it, while living in it, and Margaret would have put her hand into the
fire for the daughter of her father's old friend, who now acknowledged
without a blush that she had taken four thousand pounds from Rufus Van
'I suppose it would go against me even in an English court,' said Lady
Maud in a tone of reflection. 'It looks so badly to take money, you
know, doesn't it? But if I must be divorced, it really strikes me
as delightfully original to have it done by the Patriarch of
Constantinople! Doesn't it, my dear?'
'It's not usual, certainly,' said Margaret gravely.
She was puzzled by the other's attitude, and somewhat horrified.
'I suppose you think I'm a very odd sort of person,' said Lady Maud,
'because I don't mind so much as most women might. You see, I never
really cared for Leven, though if I had not thought I had a fancy for
him I wouldn't have married him. My people were quite against it. The
truth is, I couldn't have the husband I wanted, and as I did not mean
to break my heart about it, I married, as so many girls do. That's my
little story! It's not long, is it?'
She laughed, but she very rarely did that, even when she was amused,
and now Margaret's quick ear detected here and there in the sweet
ripple a note that did not ring quite like the rest. The intonation
was not false or artificial, but only sad and regretful, as genuine
laughter should not be. Margaret looked at her, still profoundly
mystified, and still drawn to her by natural sympathy, though
horrified almost to disgust at what seemed her brutal cynicism.
'May I ask one question? We've grown to be such good friends that
perhaps you won't mind.'
Lady Maud nodded.
'Of course,' she said. 'Ask me anything you please. I'll answer if I
'You said that you could not marry the man you liked. Was he--Mr. Van
Lady Maud was not prepared for the question.
'Mr. Van Torp?' she repeated slowly. 'Oh dear no! Certainly not! What
an extraordinary idea!' She gazed into Margaret's eyes with a look of
inquiry, until the truth suddenly dawned upon her. 'Oh, I see!' she
cried. 'How awfully funny!'
There was no minor note of sadness or regret in her rippling laughter
now. It was so exquisitely true and musical that the great soprano
listened to it with keen delight, and wondered whether she herself
could produce a sound half so delicious.
'No, my dear,' said Lady Maud, as her mirth subsided. 'I never was in
love with Mr. Van Torp. But it really is awfully funny that you should
have thought so! No wonder you looked grave when I told you that I was
really found in his rooms! We are the greatest friends, and no man was
ever kinder to a woman than he has been to me for the last two years.
But that's all. Did you really think the money was meant for me? That
wasn't quite nice of you, was it?'
The bright smile was still on her face as she spoke the last words,
for her nature was far too big to be really hurt; but the little
rebuke went home sharply, and Margaret felt unreasonably ashamed of
herself, considering that Lady Maud had not taken the slightest pains
to explain the truth to her.
'I'm so sorry,' she said contritely. 'I'm dreadfully sorry. It was
abominably stupid of me!'
'Oh no. It was quite natural. This is not a pretty world, and there's
no reason why you should think me better than lots of other women. And
besides, I don't care!'
'But surely you won't let your husband get a divorce for such a reason
as that without making a defence?'
'Before the Patriarch of Constantinople?' Lady Maud evidently thought
the idea very amusing. 'It sounds like a comic opera,' she added. 'Why
should I defend myself? I shall be glad to be free; and as for the
story, the people who like me will not believe any harm of me, and the
people who don't like me may believe what they please. But I'm very
glad you showed me that article, disgusting as it is.'
'I was beginning to be sorry I had brought it.'
'No. You did me a service, for I had no idea that any one was going to
take advantage of my divorce to make a cowardly attack on my friend--I
mean Mr. Van Torp. I shall certainly not make any defence before the
Patriarch, but I shall make a statement which will go to the right
people, saying that I met Mr. Van Torp in a lawyer's chambers in
the Temple, that is, in a place of business, and about a matter of
business, and that there was no secret about it, because my husband's
servant called the cab that took me there, and gave the cabman the
address. I often do go out without telling any one, and I let myself
in with a latch-key when I come home, but on that particular occasion
I did neither. Will you say that if you hear me talked about?'
'Of course I will.'
Nevertheless, Margaret thought that Lady Maud might have given her a
little information about the 'matter of business' which had
involved such a large sum of money, and had produced such important
Mr. Van Torp was walking slowly down the Elm Walk in the park at Oxley
Paddox. The ancient trees were not in full leaf yet, but there were
myriads of tiny green feather points all over the rough brown branches
and the smoother twigs, and their soft colour tinted the luminous
spring air. High overhead all sorts and conditions of little birds
were chirping and trilling and chattering together and by turns, and
on the ground the sparrows were excessively busy and talkative, while
the squirrels made wild dashes across the open, and stopped suddenly
to sit bolt upright and look about them, and then dashed on again.
Little Ida walked beside the millionaire in silence, trustfully
holding one of his hands, and as she watched the sparrows she tried
to make out what sort of sound they could be making when they hopped
forward and opened their bills so wide that she could distinctly see
their little tongues. Mr. Van Torp's other hand held a newspaper, and
he was reading the article about himself which Margaret had shown to
Lady Maud. He did not take that particular paper, but a marked copy
had been sent to him, and in due course had been ironed and laid on
the breakfast-table with those that came regularly. The article was
marked in red pencil.
He read it slowly with a perfectly blank expression, as if it
concerned some one he did not know. Once only, when he came upon
the allusion to the little girl, his eyes left the page and glanced
quietly down at the large red felt hat with its knot of ribbands
that moved along beside him, and hid all the child's face except the
delicate chin and the corner of the pathetic little mouth. She did not
know that he looked down at her, for she was intent on the sparrows,
and he went back to the article and read to the end.
Then, in order to fold the paper, he gently let go of Ida's hand, and
she looked up into his face. He did not speak, but his lips moved
a little as he doubled the sheet to put it into his pocket; and
instantly the child's expression changed, and she looked hurt and
frightened, and stretched up her hand quickly to cover his mouth, as
if to hide the words his lips were silently forming.
'Please, please!' she said, in her slightly monotonous voice. 'You
promised me you wouldn't any more!'
'Quite right, my dear,' answered Mr. Van Torp, smiling, 'and I
apologise. You must make me pay a forfeit every time I do it. What
shall the forfeit be? Chocolates?'
She watched his lips, and understood as well as if she had heard.
'No,' she answered demurely. 'You mustn't laugh. When I've done
anything wicked and am sorry, I say the little prayer Miss More taught
me. Perhaps you'd better learn it too.'
'If you said it for me,' suggested Mr. Van Torp gravely, 'it would be
more likely to work.'
'Oh no! That wouldn't do at all! You must say it for yourself. I'll
teach it to you if you like. Shall I?'
'What must I say?' asked the financier.
'Well, it's made up for me, you see, and besides, I've shortened it a
wee bit. What I say is: "Dear God, please forgive me this time, and
make me never want to do it again. Amen." Can you remember that, do
'I think I could,' said Mr. Van Torp. 'Please forgive me and make me
never do it again.'
'Never want to do it again,' corrected little Ida with emphasis. 'You
must try not even to want to say dreadful things. And then you must
say "Amen." That's important.'
'Amen,' repeated the millionaire.
At this juncture the discordant toot of an approaching motor-car was
heard above the singing of the birds. Mr. Van Torp turned his
head quickly in the direction of the sound, and at the same time
instinctively led the little girl towards one side of the road. She
apparently understood, for she asked no questions. There was a turn in
the drive a couple of hundred yards away, where the Elm Walk ended,
and an instant later an enormous white motor-car whizzed into sight,
rushed furiously towards the two, and was brought to a standstill in
an uncommonly short time, close beside them. An active man, in the
usual driver's disguise of the modern motorist, jumped down, and at
the same instant pushed his goggles up over the visor of his cap
and loosened the collar of his wide coat, displaying the face of
'Oh, it's you, is it?' Mr. Van Torp asked the wholly superfluous
question in a displeased tone. 'How did you get in? I've given
particular orders to let in no automobiles.'
'I always get in everywhere,' answered Logotheti coolly. 'May I see
you alone for a few minutes?'
'If it's business, you'd better see Mr. Bamberger,' said Van Torp.
'I came here for a rest. Mr. Bamberger has come over for a few days.
You'll find him at his chambers in Hare Court.'
'No,' returned Logotheti, 'it's a private matter. I shall not keep you
'Then run us up to the house in your new go-cart.'
Mr. Van Torp lifted little Ida into the motor as if she had been a
rather fragile china doll instead of a girl nine years old and quite
able to get up alone, and before she could sit down he was beside her.
Logotheti jumped up beside the chauffeur and the machine ran up the
drive at breakneck speed. Two minutes later they all got out more than
a mile farther on, at the door of the big old house. Ida ran away to
find Miss More; the two men entered together, and went into the study.
The room had been built in the time of Edward Sixth, had been
decorated afresh under Charles the Second, the furniture was of the
time of Queen Anne, and the carpet was a modern Turkish one, woven
in colours as fresh as paint to fit the room, and as thick as a down
quilt: it was the sort of carpet which has come into existence with
the modern hotel.
'Well?' Mr. Van Torp uttered the monosyllable as he sat down in his
own chair and pointed to a much less comfortable one, which Logotheti
'There's an article about you,' said the latter, producing a paper.
'I've read it,' answered Mr. Van Torp in a tone of stony indifference.
'I thought that was likely. Do you take the paper?'
'No. Do you?'
'No, it was sent to me,' Logotheti answered. 'Did you happen to glance
at the address on the wrapper of the one that came to you?'
'My valet opens all the papers and irons them.'
Mr. Van Torp looked very bored as he said this, and he stared stonily
at the pink and green waistcoat which his visitor's unfastened coat
exposed to view. Hundreds of little gold beads were sewn upon it at
the intersections of the pattern. It was a marvellous creation.
'I had seen the handwriting on the one addressed to me before,'
'Oh, you had, had you?'
Mr. Van Torp asked the question in a dull tone without the slightest
apparent interest in the answer.
'Yes,' Logotheti replied, not paying any attention to his host's
indifference. 'I received an anonymous letter last winter, and the
writing of the address was the same.'
'It was, was it?'
The millionaire's tone did not change in the least, and he continued
to admire the waistcoat. His manner might have disconcerted a person
of less assurance than the Greek, but in the matter of nerves the two
financiers were well matched.
'Yes,' Logotheti answered, 'and the anonymous letter was about you,
and contained some of the stories that are printed in this article.'
'Oh, it did, did it?'
'Yes. There was an account of your interview with the Primadonna at a
hotel in New York. I remember that particularly well.'
'Oh, you do, do you?'
'Yes. The identity of the handwriting and the similarity of the
wording make it look as if the article and the letter had been written
by the same person.'
'Well, suppose they were--I don't see anything funny about that.'
Thereupon Mr. Van Torp turned at last from the contemplation of the
waistcoat and looked out of the bay-window at the distant trees, as if
he were excessively weary of Logotheti's talk.
'It occurred to me,' said the latter, 'that you might like to stop any
further allusions to Miss Donne, and that if you happened to recognize
the handwriting you might be able to do so effectually.'
'There's nothing against Madame Cordova in the article,' answered Mr.
Van Torp, and his aggressive blue eyes turned sharply to his visitor's
almond-shaped brown ones. 'You can't say there's a word against her.'
'There may be in the next one,' suggested Logotheti, meeting the look
without emotion. 'When people send anonymous letters about broadcast
to injure men like you and me, they are not likely to stick at such a
matter as a woman's reputation.'
'Well--maybe not.' Mr. Van Torp turned his sharp eyes elsewhere. 'You
seem to take quite an interest in Madame Cordova, Mr. Logotheti,' he
observed, in an indifferent tone.
'I knew her before she went on the stage, and I think I may call
myself a friend of hers. At all events, I wish to spare her any
annoyance from the papers if I can, and if you have any regard for her
you will help me, I'm sure.'
'I have the highest regard for Madame Cordova,' said Mr. Van Torp, and
there was a perceptible change in his tone; 'but after this, I guess
the best way I can show it is to keep out of her track. That's about
all there is to do. You don't suppose I'm going to bring an action
against that paper, do you?'
'Hardly!' Logotheti smiled.
'Well, then, what do you expect me to do, Mr. Logotheti?'
Again the eyes of the two men met.
'I'll tell you,' answered the Greek. 'The story about your visit to
Miss Donne in New York is perfectly true.'
'You're pretty frank,' observed the American.
'Yes, I am. Very good. The man who wrote the letter and the article
knows you, and that probably means that you have known him, though you
may never have taken any notice of him. He hates you, for some reason,
and means to injure you if he can. Just take the trouble to find out
who he is and suppress him, will you? If you don't, he will throw more
mud at honest women. He is probably some underling whose feelings you
have hurt, or who has lost money by you, or both.'
'There's something in that,' answered Mr. Van Torp, showing a little
more interest. 'Do you happen to have any of his writing about you?
I'll look at it.'
Logotheti took a letter and a torn piece of brown paper from his
pocket and handed both to his companion.
'Read the letter, if you like,' he said. 'The handwriting seems to be
the same as that on the wrapper.'
Mr. Van Torp first compared the address, and then proceeded to read
the anonymous letter. Logotheti watched his face quietly, but it did
not change in the least. When he had finished, he folded the sheet,
replaced it in the envelope, and returned it with the bit of paper.
'Much obliged,' he said, and he looked out of the window again and was
Logotheti leaned back in his chair as he put the papers into his
pocket again, and presently, as Mr. Van Torp did not seem inclined to
say anything more, he rose to go. The American did not move, and still
looked out of the window.
'You originally belonged to the East, Mr. Logotheti, didn't you?' he
'Yes. I'm a Greek and a Turkish subject.'
'Do you happen to know the Patriarch of Constantinople?'
Logotheti stared in surprise, taken off his guard for once.
'Very well indeed,' he answered after an instant. 'He is my uncle.'
'Why, now, that's quite interesting!' observed Mr. Van Torp, rising
deliberately and thrusting his hands into his pockets.
Logotheti, who knew nothing about the details of Lady Maud's pending
divorce, could not imagine what the American was driving at, and
waited for more. Mr. Van Torp began to walk up and down, with his
rather clumsy gait, digging his heels into vivid depths of the new
Smyrna carpet at every step.
'I wasn't going to tell you,' he said at last, 'but I may just as
well. Most of the accusations in that letter are lies. I didn't blow
up the subway. I know it was done on purpose, of course, but I had
nothing to do with it, and any man who says I had, takes me for a
fool, which you'll probably allow I'm not. You're a man of business,
Mr. Logotheti. There had been a fall in Nickel, and for weeks before
the explosion I'd been making a considerable personal sacrifice to
steady things. Now you know as well as I do that all big accidents
are bad for the market when it's shaky. Do you suppose I'd have
deliberately produced one just then? Besides, I'm not a criminal. I
didn't blow up the subway any more than I blew up the Maine to bring
on the Cuban war! The man's a fool.'
'I quite agree with you,' said the Greek, listening with interest.
'Then there's another thing. That about poor Mrs. Moon, who's gone
out of her mind. It's nonsense to say I was the reason of Bamberger's
divorcing his wife. In the first place, there are the records of the
divorce, and my name was never mentioned. I was her friend, that's
all, and Bamberger resented it--he's a resentful sort of man anyway.
He thought she'd marry me as soon as he got the divorce. Well, she
didn't. She married old Alvah Moon, who was the only man she ever
cared for. The Lord knows how it was, but that wicked old scarecrow
made all the women love him, to his dying day. I had a high regard for
Mrs. Bamberger, and I suppose she was right to marry him if she liked
him. Well, she married him in too much of a hurry, and the child that
was born abroad was Bamberger's and not his, and when he found it out
he sent the girl East and would never see her again, and didn't leave
her a cent when he died. That's the truth about that, Mr. Logotheti. I
tell you because you've got that letter in your pocket, and I'd rather
have your good word than your bad word in business any day.'
'Thank you,' answered Logotheti. 'I'm glad to know the facts in the
case, though I never could see what a man's private life can have to
do with his reputation in the money market!'
'Well, it has, in some countries. Different kinds of cats have
different kinds of ways. There's one thing more, but it's not in the
letter, it's in the article. That's about Countess Leven, and it's the
worst lie of the lot, for there's not a better woman than she is from
here to China. I'm not at liberty to tell you anything of the matter
she's interested in and on which she consults me. But her father is
my next neighbour here, and I seem to be welcome at his house; he's a
pretty sensible man, and that makes for her, it seems to me. As for
that husband of hers, we've a good name in America for men like him.
We'd call him a skunk over there. I suppose the English word is
polecat, but it doesn't say as much. I don't think there's anything
else I want to tell you.'
'You spoke of my uncle, the Patriarch,' observed Logotheti.
'Did I? Yes. Well, what sort of a gentleman is he, anyway?'
The question seemed rather vague to the Greek.
'How do you mean?' he inquired, buttoning his coat over the wonderful
'Is he a friendly kind of a person, I mean? Obliging, if you take him
the right way? That's what I mean. Or does he get on his ear right
'I should say,' answered Logotheti, without a smile, 'that he gets on
his ear right away--if that means the opposite of being friendly and
obliging. But I may be prejudiced, for he does not approve of me.'
'Why not, Mr. Logotheti?'
'My uncle says I'm a pagan, and worship idols.'
'Maybe he means the Golden Calf,' suggested Mr. Van Torp gravely.
'The other deity in business is the Brazen Serpent, I believe,' he
'The two would look pretty well out there on my lawn,' answered Mr.
Van Torp, his hard face relaxing a little.
'To return to the point. Can I be of any use to you with the
Patriarch? We are not on bad terms, though he does think me a heathen.
Is there anything I can do?'
'Thank you, not at present. Much obliged. I only wanted to know.'
Logotheti's curiosity was destined to remain unsatisfied. He refused
Mr. Van Torp's not very pressing invitation to stay to luncheon, given
at the very moment when he was getting into his motor, and a few
seconds later he was tearing down the avenue.
Mr. Van Torp stood on the steps till he was out of sight and then came
down himself and strolled slowly away towards the trees again, his
hands behind him and his eyes constantly bent upon the road, three
He was not always quite truthful. Scruples were not continually
uppermost in his mind. For instance, what he had told Lady Maud about
his engagement to poor Miss Bamberger did not quite agree with what he
had said to Margaret on the steamer.
In certain markets in New York, three kinds of eggs are offered for
sale, namely, Eggs, Fresh Eggs, and Strictly Fresh Eggs. I have seen
the advertisement. Similarly in Mr. Van Torp's opinion there were
three sorts of stories, to wit, Stories, True Stories, and Strictly
True Stories. Clearly, each account of his engagement must have
belonged to one of these classes, as well as the general statement he
had made to Logotheti about the charges brought against him in the
anonymous letter. The reason why he had made that statement was plain
enough; he meant it to be repeated to Margaret because he really
wished her to think well of him. Moreover, he had recognised the
handwriting at once as that of Mr. Feist, Isidore Bamberger's former
secretary, who knew a good many things and might turn out a dangerous
But Logotheti, who knew something of men, and had dealt with some
very accomplished experts in fraud from New York and London to
Constantinople, had his doubts about the truth of what he had heard,
and understood at once why the usually reticent American had talked
so much about himself. Van Torp, he was sure, was in love with the
singer; that was his weak side, and in whatever affected her he might
behave like a brute or a baby, but would certainly act with something
like rudimentary simplicity in either case. In Logotheti's opinion
Northern and English-speaking men might be as profound as Persians in
matters of money, and sometimes were, but where women were concerned
they were generally little better than sentimental children, unless
they were mere animals. Not one in a thousand cared for the society
of women, or even of one particular woman, for its own sake, for the
companionship, and the exchange of ideas about things of which women
know how to think. To the better sort, that is, to the sentimental
ones, a woman always seemed what she was not, a goddess, a saint, or
a sort of glorified sister; to the rest, she was an instrument of
amusement and pleasure, more or less necessary and more or less
purchasable. Perhaps an Englishman or an American, judging Greeks from
what he could learn about them in ordinary intercourse, would get
about as near the truth as Logotheti did. In his main conclusion the
latter was probably right; Mr. Van Torp's affections might be of such
exuberant nature as would admit of being divided between two or three
objects at the same time, or they might not. But when he spoke of
having the 'highest regard' for Madame Cordova, without denying the
facts about the interview in which he had asked her to marry him and
had lost his head because she refused, he was at least admitting that
he was in love with her, or had been at that time.
Mr. Van Torp also confessed that he had entertained a 'high regard'
for the beautiful Mrs. Bamberger, now unhappily insane. It was
noticeable that he had not used the same expression in speaking of
Lady Maud. Nevertheless, as in the Bamberger affair, he appeared as
the chief cause of trouble between husband and wife. Logotheti was
considered 'dangerous' even in Paris, and his experiences had not
been dull; but, so far, he had found his way through life without
inadvertently stepping upon any of those concealed traps through which
the gay and unwary of both sexes are so often dropped into the divorce
court, to the surprise of everybody. It seemed the more strange to
him that Rufus Van Torp, only a few years his senior, should now find
himself in that position for the second time. Yet Van Torp was not
a ladies' man; he was hard-featured, rough of speech, and clumsy of
figure, and it was impossible to believe that any woman could think
him good-looking or be carried away by his talk. The case of Mrs.
Bamberger could be explained; she might have had beauty, but she
could have had little else that would have appealed to such a man as
Logotheti. But there was Lady Maud, an acknowledged beauty in London,
thoroughbred, aristocratic, not easily shocked perhaps, but easily
disgusted, like most women of her class; and there was no doubt but
that her husband had found her under extremely strange circumstances,
in the act of receiving from Van Torp a large sum of money for which
she altogether declined to account. Van Torp had not denied that story
either, so it was probably true. Yet Logotheti, whom so many women
thought irresistible, had felt instinctively that she was one of those
who would smile serenely upon the most skilful and persistent besieger
from the security of an impregnable fortress of virtue. Logotheti did
not naturally feel unqualified respect for many women, but since he
had known Lady Maud it had never occurred to him that any one could
take the smallest liberty with her. On the other hand, though he was
genuinely in love with Margaret and desired nothing so much as to
marry her, he had never been in the least afraid of her, and he had
deliberately attempted to carry her off against her will; and if she
had looked upon his conduct then as anything more serious than a mad
prank, she had certainly forgiven it very soon.
The only reason for his flying visit to Derbyshire had been his desire
to keep Margaret's name out of an impending scandal in which he
foresaw that Mr. Van Torp and Lady Maud were to be the central
figures, and he believed that he had done something to bring about
that result, if he had started the millionaire on the right scent. He
judged Van Torp to be a good hater and a man of many resources, who
would not now be satisfied till he had the anonymous writer of the
letter and the article in his power. Logotheti had no means of
guessing who the culprit was, and did not care to know.
He reached town late in the afternoon, having covered something like
three hundred miles since early morning. About seven o'clock he
stopped at Margaret's door, in the hope of finding her at home and of
being asked to dine alone with her, but as he got out of his hansom
and sent it away he heard the door shut and he found himself face to
face with Paul Griggs.
'Miss Donne is out,' said the author, as they shook hands. 'She's been
spending the day with the Creedmores, and when I rang she had just
telephoned that she would not be back for dinner!'
'What a bore!' exclaimed Logotheti.
The two men walked slowly along the pavement together, and for some
time neither spoke. Logotheti had nothing to do, or believed so
because he was disappointed in not finding Margaret in. The elder man
looked preoccupied, and the Greek was the first to speak.
'I suppose you've seen that shameful article about Van Torp,' he said.
'Yes. Somebody sent me a marked copy of the paper. Do you know whether
Miss Donne has seen it?'
'Yes. She got a marked copy too. So did I. What do you think of it?'
'Just what you do, I fancy. Have you any idea who wrote it?'
'Probably some underling in the Nickel Trust whom Van Torp has
offended without knowing it, or who has lost money by him.'
Griggs glanced at his companion's face, for the hypothesis struck him
as being tenable.
'Unless it is some enemy of Countess Leven's,' he suggested. 'Her
husband is really going to divorce her, as the article says.'
'I suppose she will defend herself,' said Logotheti.
'If she has a chance.'
'What do you mean?'
'Do you happen to know what sort of man the present Patriarch of
Logotheti's jaw dropped, and he slackened his pace.
'What in the world--' he began, but did not finish the sentence.
'That's the second time to-day I've been asked about him.'
'That's very natural,' said Griggs calmly. 'You're one of the very few
men in town who are likely to know him.'
'Of course I know him,' answered Logotheti, still mystified. 'He's my
'Really? That's very lucky!'
'Look here, Griggs, is this some silly joke?'
'A joke? Certainly not. Lady Maud's husband can only get a divorce
through the Patriarch because he married her out of Russia. You know
about that law, don't you?'
Logotheti understood at last.
'No,' he said, 'I never heard of it. But if that is the case I may
be able to do something--not that I'm considered orthodox at the
Patriarchate! The old gentleman has been told that I'm trying to
revive the worship of the Greek gods and have built a temple to
Aphrodite Xenia in the Place de la Concorde!'
'You're quite capable of it,' observed Griggs.
'Oh, quite! Only, I've not done it yet. I'll see what I can do. Are
you much interested in the matter?'
'Only on general principles, because I believe Lady Maud is perfectly
straight, and it is a shame that such a creature as Leven should be
allowed to divorce an honest Englishwoman. By the bye--speaking of her
reminds me of that dinner at the Turkish Embassy--do you remember a
disagreeable-looking man who sat next to me, one Feist, a countryman
'Rather! I wondered how he came there.'
'He had a letter of introduction from the Turkish Minister in
Washington. He is full of good letters of introduction.'
'I should think they would need to be good,' observed Logotheti.
'With that face of his he would need an introduction to a Port Said
gambling-hell before they would let him in.'
'I agree with you. But he is well provided, as I say, and he goes
everywhere. Some one has put him down at the Mutton Chop. You never go
there, do you?'
'I'm not asked,' laughed Logotheti. 'And as for becoming a member,
they say it's impossible.'
'It takes ten or fifteen years,' Griggs answered, 'and then you won't
be elected unless every one likes you. But you may be put down as
a visitor there just as at any other club. This fellow Feist, for
instance--we had trouble with him last night--or rather this morning,
for it was two o'clock. He has been dropping in often of late, towards
midnight. At first he was more or less amusing with his stories, for
he has a wonderful memory. You know the sort of funny man who rattles
on as if he were wound up for the evening, and afterwards you cannot
remember a word he has said. It's all very well for a while, but you
soon get sick of it. Besides, this particular specimen drinks like a
'He looks as if he did.'
'Last night he had been talking a good deal, and most of the men who
had been there had gone off. You know there's only one room at the
Mutton Chop, with a long table, and if a man takes the floor there's
no escape. I had come in about one o'clock to get something to eat,
and Feist poured out a steady stream of stories as usual, though only
one or two listened to him. Suddenly his eyes looked queer, and he
stammered, and rolled off his chair, and lay in a heap, either dead
drunk or in a fit, I don't know which.'
'And I suppose you carried him downstairs,' said Logotheti, for Griggs
was known to be stronger than other men, though no longer young.
'I did,' Griggs answered. 'That's usually my share of the proceedings.
The last person I carried--let me see--I think it must have been that
poor girl who died at the Opera in New York. We had found Feist's
address in the visitors' book, and we sent him home in a hansom. I
wonder whether he got there!'
'I should think the member who put him down would be rather annoyed,'
'Yes. It's the first time anything of that sort ever happened at the
Mutton Chop, and I fancy it will be the last. I don't think we shall
see Mr. Feist again.'
'I took a particular dislike to his face,' Logotheti said. 'I remember
thinking of him when I went home that night, and wondering who he was
and what he was about.'
'At first I took him for a detective,' said Griggs. 'But detectives
'What made you think he might be one?'
'He has a very clever way of leading the conversation to a point and
then asking an unexpected question.'
'Perhaps he is an amateur,' suggested Logotheti. 'He may be a spy. Is
Feist an American name?'
'You will find all sorts of names in America. They prove nothing in
the way of nationality, unless they are English, Dutch, or French, and
even then they don't prove much. I'm an American myself, and I feel
sure that Feist either is one or has spent many years in the country,
in which case he is probably naturalised. As for his being a spy, I
don't think I ever came across one in England.'
'They come here to rest in time of peace, or to escape hanging in
other countries in time of war,' said the Greek. 'His being at the
Turkish Embassy, of all places in the world, is rather in favour of
the idea. Do you happen to remember the name of his hotel?'
'Are you going to call on him?' Griggs asked with a smile.
'Perhaps. He begins to interest me. Is it indiscreet to ask what sort
of questions he put to you?'
'He's stopping at the Carlton--if the cabby took him there! We gave
the man half-a-crown for the job, and took his number, so I suppose
it was all right. As for the questions he asked me, that's another
Logotheti glanced quickly at his companion's rather grim face, and was
silent for a few moments. He judged that Mr. Feist's inquiries must
have concerned a woman, since Griggs was so reticent, and it required
no great ingenuity to connect that probability with one or both of the
ladies who had been at the dinner where Griggs and Feist had first
'I think I shall go and ask for Mr. Feist,' he said presently. 'I
shall say that I heard he was ill and wanted to know if I could do
anything for him.'
'I've no doubt he'll be much touched by your kindness!' said Griggs.
'But please don't mention the Mutton Chop Club, if you really see
'Oh no! Besides, I shall let him do the talking.'
'Then take care that you don't let him talk you to death!'
Logotheti smiled as he hailed a passing hansom; he nodded to his
companion, told the man to go to the Carlton, and drove away, leaving
Griggs to continue his walk alone.
The elderly man of letters had not talked about Mr. Feist with any
special intention, and was very far from thinking that what he had
said would lead to any important result. He liked the Greek, because
he liked most Orientals, under certain important reservations and at a
certain distance, and he had lived amongst them long enough not to be
surprised at anything they did. Logotheti had been disappointed in not
finding the Primadonna at home, and he was not inclined to put up with
the usual round of an evening in London during the early part of the
season as a substitute for what he had lost. He was the more put out,
because, when he had last seen Margaret, three or four days earlier,
she had told him that if he came on that evening at about seven
o'clock he would probably find her alone. Having nothing that looked
at all amusing to occupy him, he was just in the mood to do anything
unusual that presented itself.
Griggs guessed at most of these things, and as he walked along he
vaguely pictured to himself the interview that was likely to take
Opinion was strongly against Mr. Van Torp. A millionaire is almost
as good a mark at which to throw mud as a woman of the world whose
reputation has never before been attacked, and when the two can be
pilloried together it is hardly to be expected that ordinary people
should abstain from pelting them and calling them bad names.
Lady Maud, indeed, was protected to some extent by her father and
brothers, and by many loyal friends. It is happily still doubtful how
far one may go in printing lies about an honest woman without getting
into trouble with the law, and when the lady's father is not only a
peer, but has previously been a barrister of reputation and a popular
and hard-working member of the House of Commons during a long time,
it is generally safer to use guarded language; the advisability of
moderation also increases directly as the number and size of the
lady's brothers, and inversely as their patience. Therefore, on the
whole, Lady Maud was much better treated by the society columns than
Margaret at first expected.
On the other hand, they vented their spleen and sharpened their
English on the American financier, who had no relations and scarcely
any friends to stand by him, and was, moreover, in a foreign country,
which always seems to be regarded as an aggravating circumstance when
a man gets into any sort of trouble. Isidore Bamberger and Mr. Feist
had roused and let loose upon him a whole pack of hungry reporters and
paragraph writers on both sides of the Atlantic.
The papers did not at first print his name except in connection with
the divorce of Lady Maud. But this was a landmark, the smallest
reference to which made all other allusions to him quite clear. It
was easy to speak of Mr. Van Torp as the central figure in a _cause
celebre_: newspapers love the French language the more as they
understand it the less; just as the gentle amateur in literature tries
to hide his cloven hoof under the thin elegance of italics.
Particular stress was laid upon the millionaire's dreadful hypocrisy.
He taught in the Sunday Schools at Nickelville, the big village which
had sprung up at his will and which was the headquarters of his
sanctimonious wickedness. He was compared to Solomon, not for his
wisdom, but on account of his domestic arrangements. He was indeed a
father to his flock. It was a touching sight to see the little ones
gathered round the knees of this great and good man, and to note
how an unconscious and affectionate imitation reflected his face
in theirs. It was true that there was another side to this truly
patriarchal picture. In a city of the Far West, wrote an eloquent
paragraph writer, a pale face, once divinely beautiful, was often seen
at the barred window of a madhouse, and eyes that had once looked too
tenderly into those of the Nickelville Solomon stared wildly at
the palm-trees in the asylum grounds. This paragraph was rich in
There were a good many mentions of the explosion in New York, too, and
hints, dark, but uncommonly straight, that the great Sunday School
teacher had been the author and stage-manager of an awful comedy
designed expressly to injure a firm of contractors against whom he had
a standing grudge. In proof of the assertion, the story went on to say
that he had written four hours before the 'accident' happened to give
warning of it to the young lady whom he was about to marry. She was
a neurasthenic young lady, and in spite of the warning she died very
suddenly at the theatre from shock immediately after the explosion,
and his note was found on her dressing-table when she was brought home
dead. Clearly, if the explosion had not been his work, and if he had
been informed of it beforehand, he would have warned the police and
the Department of Public Works at the same time. The young lady's
untimely death had not prevented him from sailing for Europe three or
four days later, and on the trip he had actually occupied alone the
same 'thousand dollar suite' which he had previously engaged for
himself and his bride. From this detail the public might form some
idea of the Nickelville magnate's heartless character. In fact, if
one-half of what was written, telegraphed, and printed about Rufus Van
Torp on both sides of the Atlantic during the next fortnight was to be
believed, he had no character at all.
To all this he answered nothing, and he did not take the trouble to
allude to the matter in the few letters he wrote to his acquaintances.
Day after day numbers of marked papers were carefully ironed and laid
on the breakfast-table, after having been read and commented on in the
servants' hall. The butler began to look askance at him, Mrs. Dubbs,
the housekeeper, talked gloomily of giving warning, and the footmen
gossiped with the stable hands; but the men all decided that it was
not derogatory to their dignity to remain in the service of a master
who was soon to be exhibited in the divorce court beside such a 'real
lady' as Lord Creedmore's daughter; the housemaids agreed in this
view, and the housekeeper consulted Miss More. For Mrs. Dubbs was an
imposing person, morally and physically, and had a character to lose;
and though the place was a very good one for her old age, because the
master only spent six weeks or two months at Oxley Paddox each year,
and never found fault, yet Mrs. Dubbs was not going to have her name
associated with that of a gentleman who blew up underground works and
took Solomon's view of the domestic affections. She came of very good
people in the north; one of her brothers was a minister, and the other
was an assistant steward on a large Scotch estate.
Miss More's quiet serenity was not at all disturbed by what was
happening, for it could hardly be supposed that she was ignorant of
the general attack on Mr. Van Torp, though he did not leave the papers
lying about, where little Ida's quick eyes might fall on a marked
passage. The housekeeper waited for an occasion when Mr. Van Torp
had taken the child for a drive, as he often did, and Miss More was
established in her favourite corner of the garden, just out of sight
of the house. Mrs. Dubbs first exposed the situation, then expressed
a strong opinion as to her own respectability, and finally asked Miss
Miss More listened attentively, and waited till her large and sleek
interlocutor had absolutely nothing more to say. Then she spoke.
'Mrs. Dubbs,' she said, 'do you consider me a respectable young
'Oh, Miss More!' cried the housekeeper. 'You! Indeed, I'd put my hand
into the fire for you any day!'
'And I'm an American, and I've known Mr. Van Torp several years,
though this is the first time you have seen me here. Do you think I
would let the child stay an hour under his roof, or stay here myself,
if I believed one word of all those wicked stories the papers are
publishing? Look at me, please. Do you think I would?'
It was quite impossible to look at Miss More's quiet healthy face and
clear eyes and to believe she would. There are some women of whom
one is sure at a glance that they are perfectly trustworthy in every
imaginable way, and above even the suspicion of countenancing any
'No,' answered Mrs. Dubbs, with honest conviction, 'I don't, indeed.'
'I think, then,' said Miss More, 'that if I feel I can stay here, you
are safe in staying too. I do not believe any of these slanders, and
I am quite sure that Mr. Van Torp is one of the kindest men in the
'I feel as if you must be right, Miss More,' replied the housekeeper.
'But they do say dreadful things about him, indeed, and he doesn't
deny a word of it, as he ought to, in my humble opinion, though it's
not my business to judge, of course, but I'll say this, Miss More, and
that is, that if the butler's character was publicly attacked in the
papers, in the way Mr. Van Torp's is, and if I were Mr. Van Torp,
which of course I'm not, I'd say "Crookes, you may be all right, but
if you're going to be butler here any longer, it's your duty to defend
yourself against these attacks upon you in the papers, Crookes,
because as a Christian man you must not hide your light under a
bushel, Crookes, but let it shine abroad." That's what I'd say, Miss
More, and I should like to know if you don't think I should be right.'
'If the English and American press united to attack the butler's
character,' answered Miss More without a smile, 'I think you would
be quite right, Mrs. Dubbs. But as regards Mr. Van Torp's present
position, I am sure he is the best judge of what he ought to do.'
These words of wisdom, and Miss More's truthful eyes, greatly
reassured the housekeeper, who afterwards upbraided the servants for
paying any attention to such wicked falsehoods; and Mr. Crookes, the
butler, wrote to his aged mother, who was anxious about his situation,
to say that Mr. Van Torp must be either a real gentleman or a very
hardened criminal indeed, because it was only forgers and real
gentlemen who could act so precious cool; but that, on the whole, he,
Crookes, and the housekeeper, who was a highly respectable person and
the sister of a minister, as he wished his mother to remember, had
made up their minds that Mr. V.T. was Al, copper-bottomed--Mrs.
Crookes was the widow of a seafaring man, and lived at Liverpool,
and had heard Lloyd's rating quoted all her life--and that they, the
writer and Mrs. Dubbs, meant to see him through his troubles, though
he was a little trying at his meals, for he would have butter on
the table at his dinner, and he wanted two and three courses served
together, and drank milk at his luncheon, like no Christian gentleman
did that Mr. Crookes had ever seen.
The financier might have been amused if he could have read this
letter, which contained no allusion to the material attractions
of Torp Towers as a situation; for like a good many American
millionaires, Mr. Van Torp had a blind spot on his financial retina.
He could deal daringly and surely with vast sums, or he could screw
twice the normal quantity of work out of an underpaid clerk; but the
household arithmetic that lies between the two was entirely beyond his
comprehension. He 'didn't want to be bothered,' he said; he maintained
that he 'could make more money in ten minutes than he could save in a
year by checking the housekeeper's accounts'; he 'could live on coffee
and pie,' but if he chose to hire the chef of the Cafe Anglais to cook
for him at five thousand dollars a year he 'didn't want to know the
price of a truffled pheasant or a chaudfroid of ortolans.' That was
his way, and it was good enough for him. What was the use of having
made money if you were to be bothered? And besides, he concluded, 'it
was none of anybody's blank blank business what he did.'
Mr. Van Torp did not hesitate to borrow similes from another world
when his rather limited command of refined language was unequal to the
But at the present juncture, though his face did not change, and
though he slept as soundly and had as good an appetite as usual, no
words with which he was acquainted could express his feelings at all.
He had, indeed, consigned the writer of the first article to perdition
with some satisfaction; but after his interview with Logotheti,
when he had understood that a general attack upon him had begun, he
gathered his strength in silence and studied the position with all the
concentration of earnest thought which his exceptional nature could
He had recognised Feist's handwriting, and he remembered the man as
his partner's former secretary. Feist might have written the letter
to Logotheti and the first article, but Van Torp did not believe
him capable of raising a general hue and cry on both sides of the
Atlantic. It undoubtedly happened sometimes that when a fire had been
smouldering long unseen a single spark sufficed to start the blaze,
but Mr. Van Torp was too well informed as to public opinion about him
to have been in ignorance of any general feeling against him, if it
had existed; and the present attack was of too personal a nature to
have been devised by financial rivals. Besides, the Nickel Trust had
recently absorbed all its competitors to such an extent that it had no
rivals at all, and the dangers that threatened it lay on the one hand
in the growing strength of the Labour Party in its great movement
against capital, and on the other in its position with regard to
recent American legislation about Trusts. From the beginning Mr. Van
Torp had been certain that the campaign of defamation had not been
begun by the Unions, and by its nature it could have no connection
with the legal aspect of his position. It was therefore clear that
war had been declared upon him by one or more individuals on purely
personal grounds, and that Mr. Feist was but the chief instrument in
the hands of an unknown enemy.
But at first sight it did not look as if his assailant were Isidore
Bamberger. The violent attack on him might not affect the credit of
the Nickel Trust, but it was certainly not likely to improve it and
Mr. Van Torp believed that if his partner had a grudge against him,
any attempt at revenge would be made in a shape that would not affect
the Trust's finances. Bamberger was a resentful sort of man, but on
the other hand he was a man of business, and his fortune depended on
that of his great partner.
Mr. Van Torp walked every morning in the park, thinking over these
things, and little Ida tripped along beside him watching the squirrels
and the birds, and not saying much; but now and then, when she felt
the gentle pressure of his hand on hers, which usually meant that he
was going to speak to her, she looked up to watch his lips, and they
did not move; only his eyes met hers, and the faint smile that came
into his face then was not at all like the one which most people saw
there. So she smiled back, happily, and looked at the squirrels again,
sure that a rabbit would soon make a dash over the open and cross the
road, and hoping for the rare delight of seeing a hare. And the tame
red and fallow deer looked at her suspiciously from a distance, as if
she might turn into a motor-car. In those morning walks she did not
again see his lips forming words that frightened her, and she began to
be quite sure that he had stopped swearing to himself because she had
spoken to him so seriously.
Once he looked at her so long and with so much earnestness that she
asked him what he was thinking of, and he gently pushed back the
broad-brimmed hat she wore, so as to see her forehead and beautiful
'You are growing very like your mother,' he said, after a little
They had stopped in the broad drive, and little Ida gazed gravely up
at him for a moment. Then she put up her arms.
'I think I want to give you a kiss, Mr. Van Torp,' she said with the
utmost gravity. 'You're so good to me.'
Mr. Van Torp stooped, and she put her arms round his short neck and
kissed the hard, flat cheek once, and he kissed hers rather awkwardly.
'Thank you, my dear,' he said, in an odd voice, as he straightened
He took her hand again to walk on, and the great iron mouth was drawn
a little to one side, and it looked as if the lips might have trembled
if they had not been so tightly shut. Perhaps Mr. Van Torp had never
kissed a child before.
She was very happy and contented, for she had spent most of her life
in a New England village alone with Miss More, and the great English
country-house was full of wonder and mystery for her, and the park was
certainly the Earthly Paradise. She had hardly ever been with other
children and was rather afraid of them, because they did not always
understand what she said, as most grown people did; so she was not at
all lonely now. On the contrary, she felt that her small existence
was ever so much fuller than before, since she now loved two people
instead of only one, and the two people seemed to agree so well
together. In America she had only seen Mr. Van Torp at intervals, when
he had appeared at the cottage near Boston, the bearer of toys and
chocolates and other good things, and she had not been told till after
she had landed in Liverpool that she was to be taken to stop with him
in the country while he remained in England. Till then he had always
called her 'Miss Ida,' in an absurdly formal way, but ever since she
had arrived at Oxley Paddox he had dropped the 'Miss,' and had never
failed to spend two or three hours alone with her every day. Though
his manner had not changed much, and he treated her with a sort of
queer formality, much as he would have behaved if she had been twenty
years old instead of nine, she had been growing more and more sure
that he loved her and would give her anything in the world she asked
for, though there was really nothing she wanted; and in return she
grew gratefully fond of him by quick degrees, till her affection
expressed itself in her solemn proposal to 'give him a kiss.'
Not long after that Mr. Van Torp found amongst his letters one from
Lady Maud, of which the envelope was stamped with the address of her
father's country place, 'Craythew.' He read the contents carefully,
and made a note in his pocket-book before tearing the sheet and the
envelope into a number of small bits.
There was nothing very compromising in the note, but Mr. Van Torp
certainly did not know that his butler regularly offered first and
second prizes in the servants' hall, every Saturday night, for the
'best-put-together letters' of the week--to those of his satellites,
in other words, who had been most successful in piecing together
scraps from the master's wastepaper basket. In houses where the
post-bag has a patent lock, of which the master keeps the key, this
diversion has been found a good substitute for the more thrilling
entertainment of steaming the letters and reading them before taking
them upstairs. If Mrs. Dubbs was aware of Mr. Crookes' weekly
distribution of rewards she took no notice of it; but as she rarely
condescended to visit the lower regions, and only occasionally asked
Mr. Crookes to dine in her own sitting-room, she may be allowed the
benefit of the doubt; and, besides, she was a very superior person.
On the day after he had received Lady Maud's note, Mr. Van Torp rode
out by himself. No one, judging from his looks, would have taken him
for a good rider. He rode seldom, too, never talked of horses, and was
never seen at a race. When he rode he did not even take the trouble to
put on gaiters, and, after he had bought Oxley Paddox, the first time
that his horse was brought to the door, by a groom who had never seen
him, the latter could have sworn that the millionaire had never been
on a horse before and was foolishly determined to break his neck. On
that occasion Mr. Van Torp came down the steps, with a big cigar in
his mouth, in his ordinary clothes, without so much as a pair of
straps to keep his trousers down, or a bit of a stick in his hand. The
animal was a rather ill-tempered black that had arrived from Yorkshire
two days previously in charge of a boy who gave him a bad character.
As Mr. Van Torp descended the steps with his clumsy gait, the horse
laid his ears well back for a moment and looked as if he meant to
kick anything within reach. Mr. Van Torp looked at him in a dull way,
puffed his cigar, and made one remark in the form of a query.
'He ain't a lamb, is he?'
'No, sir,' answered the groom with sympathetic alacrity, 'and if I was
you, sir, I wouldn't--'
But the groom's good advice was checked by an unexpected phenomenon.
Mr. Van Torp was suddenly up, and the black was plunging wildly as
was only to be expected; what was more extraordinary was that Mr. Van
Torp's expression showed no change whatever, the very big cigar was
stuck in his mouth at precisely the same angle as before, and he
appeared to be glued to the saddle. He sat perfectly erect, with his
legs perpendicularly straight, and his hands low and quiet.
The next moment the black bolted down the drive, but Mr. Van Torp did
not seem the least disturbed, and the astonished groom, his mouth wide
open and his arms hanging down, saw that the rider gave the beast his
head for a couple of hundred yards, and then actually stopped him
short, bringing him almost to the ground on his haunches.
'My Gawd, 'e's a cowboy!' exclaimed the groom, who was a Cockney,
and had seen a Wild West show and recognised the real thing. 'And
me thinkin' 'e was goin' to break his precious neck and wastin' my
bloomin' sympathy on 'im!'
Since that first day Mr. Van Torp had not ridden more than a score of
times in two years. He preferred driving, because it was less trouble,
and partly because he could take little Ida with him. It was therefore
always a noticeable event in the monotonous existence at Torp Towers
when he ordered a horse to be saddled, as he did on the day after he
had got Lady Maud's note from Craythew.
He rode across the hilly country at a leisurely pace, first by lanes
and afterwards over a broad moor, till he entered a small beech wood
by a bridle-path not wide enough for two to ride together, and lined
with rhododendrons, lilacs, and laburnum. A quarter of a mile from
the entrance a pretty glade widened to an open lawn, in the middle
of which stood a ruin, consisting of the choir and chancel arch of a
chapel. Mr. Van Torp drew rein before it, threw his right leg over the
pommel before him, and remained sitting sideways on the saddle, for
the very good reason that he did not see anything to sit on if he got
down, and that it was of no use to waste energy in standing. His horse
might have resented such behaviour on the part of any one else, but
accepted the western rider's eccentricities quite calmly and proceeded
to crop the damp young grass at his feet.
Mr. Van Torp had come to meet Lady Maud. The place was lonely and
conveniently situated, being about half-way between Oxley Paddox and
Craythew, on Mr. Van Torp's land, which was so thoroughly protected
against trespassers and reporters by wire fences and special watchmen
that there was little danger of any one getting within the guarded
boundary. On the side towards Craythew there was a gate with a patent
lock, to which Lady Maud had a key.
Mr. Van Torp was at the meeting-place at least a quarter of an hour
before the appointed time. His horse only moved a short step every now
and then, eating his way slowly across the grass, and his rider sat
sideways, resting his elbows on his knees and staring at nothing
particular, with that perfectly wooden expression of his which
indicated profound thought.
But his senses were acutely awake, and he caught the distant sound of
hoofs on the soft woodland path just a second before his horse lifted
his head and pricked his ears. Mr. Van Torp did not slip to the
ground, however, and he hardly changed his position. Half a dozen
young pheasants hurled themselves noisily out of the wood on the other
side of the ruin, and scattered again as they saw him, to perch on
the higher boughs of the trees not far off instead of settling on
the sward. A moment later Lady Maud appeared, on a lanky and elderly
thoroughbred that had been her own long before her marriage. Her
old-fashioned habit was evidently of the same period too; it had been
made before the modern age of skirted coats, and fitted her figure in
a way that would have excited open disapproval and secret admiration
in Rotten Row. But she never rode in town, so that it did not matter;
and, besides, Lady Maud did not care.
Mr. Van Torp raised his hat in a very un-English way, and at the same
time, apparently out of respect for his friend, he went so far as to
change his seat a little by laying his right knee over the pommel and
sticking his left foot into the stirrup, so that he sat like a woman.
Lady Maud drew up on his off side and they shook hands.
'You look rather comfortable,' she said, and the happy ripple was in
'Why, yes. There's nothing else to sit on, and the grass is wet. Do
you want to get off?'
'I thought we might make some tea presently,' answered Lady Maud.
'I've brought my basket.'
'Now I call that quite sweet!' Mr. Van Torp seemed very much pleased,
and he looked down at the shabby little brown basket hanging at her
He slipped to the ground, and she did the same before he could go
round to help her. The old thoroughbred nosed her hand as if expecting
something good, and she produced a lump of sugar from the tea-basket
and gave it to him.
Mr. Van Torp pulled a big carrot from the pocket of his tweed jacket
and let his horse bite it off by inches. Then he took the basket from
Lady Maud and the two went towards the ruin.
'We can sit on the Earl,' said Lady Maud, advancing towards a low tomb
on which was sculptured a recumbent figure in armour. 'The horses
won't run away from such nice grass.'
So the two installed themselves on each side of the stone knight's
armed feet, which helped to support the tea-basket, and Lady Maud took
out her spirit-lamp and a saucepan that just held two cups, and a tin
bottle full of water, and all the other things, arranging them neatly
'How practical women are!' exclaimed Mr. Van Torp, looking on. 'Now I
would never have thought of that.'
But he was really wondering whether she expected him to speak first of
the grave matters that brought them together in that lonely place.
'I've got some bread and butter,' she said, opening a small
sandwich-box, 'and there is a lemon instead of cream.'
'Your arrangements beat Hare Court hollow,' observed the millionaire.
'Do you remember the cracked cups and the weevilly biscuits?'
'Yes, and how sorry you were when you had burnt the little beasts! Now
light the spirit-lamp, please, and then we can talk.'
Everything being arranged to her satisfaction, Lady Maud looked up at
'Are you going to do anything about it?' she asked.
'Will it do any good if I do? That's the question.'
'Good? What is good in that sense?' She looked at him a moment, but
as he did not answer she went on. 'I cannot bear to see you abused in
print like this, day after day, when I know the truth, or most of it.'
'It doesn't matter about me. I'm used to it. What does your father
'He says that when a man is attacked as you are, it's his duty to
'Oh, he does, does he?'
Lady Maud smiled, but shook her head in a reproachful way.
'You promised me that you would never give me your business answer,
'I'm sorry,' said Mr. Van Torp, in a tone of contrition. 'Well, you
see, I forgot you weren't a man. I won't do it again. So your father
thinks I'd better come out flat-footed with a statement to the press.
Now, I'll tell you. I'd do so, if I didn't feel sure that all this
circus about me isn't the real thing yet. It's been got up with an
object, and until I can make out what's coming I think I'd best keep
still. Whoever's at the root of this is counting on my losing my
temper and hitting out, and saying things, and then the real attack
will come from an unexpected quarter. Do you see that? Under the
circumstances, almost any man in my position would get interviewed and
talk back, wouldn't he?'
'I fancy so,' answered Lady Maud.
'Exactly. If I did that, I might be raising against another man's
straight flush, don't you see? A good way in a fight is never to do
what everybody else would do. But I've got a scheme for getting behind
the other man, whoever he is, and I've almost concluded to try it.'
'Will you tell me what it is?'
'Don't I always tell you most things?'
Lady Maud smiled at the reservation implied in 'most.'
'After all you have done for me, I should have no right to complain if
you never told me anything,' she answered. 'Do as you think best. You
know that I trust you.'
'That's right, and I appreciate it,' answered the millionaire. 'In
the first place, you're not going to be divorced. I suppose that's
Lady Maud opened her clear eyes in surprise.
'You didn't know that, did you?' asked Mr. Van Torp, enjoying her
'Certainly not, and I can hardly believe it,' she answered.
'Look here, Maud,' said her companion, bending his heavy brows in a
way very unusual with him, 'do you seriously think I'd let you be
divorced on my account? That I'd allow any human being to play tricks
with your good name by coupling it with mine in any sort of way? If
I were the kind of man about whom you had a right to think that, I
wouldn't deserve your friendship.'
It was not often that Rufus Van Torp allowed his face to show feeling,
but the look she saw in his rough-hewn features for a moment almost
frightened her. There was something Titanic in it.
'No, Rufus--no!' she cried, earnestly. 'You know how I have believed
in you and trusted you! It's only that I don't see how--'
'That's a detail,' answered the American. 'The "how" don't matter
when a man's in earnest.' The look was gone again, for her words had
appeased him instantly. 'Well,' he went on, in his ordinary tone,
'you can take it for granted that the divorce will come to nothing.
There'll be a clear statement in all the best papers next week, saying
that your husband's suit for a divorce has been dismissed with costs
because there is not the slightest evidence of any kind against you.
It will be stated that you came to my partner's chambers in Hare Court
on a matter of pure business, to receive certain money, which was due
to you from me in the way of business, for which you gave me the usual
business acknowledgment. So that's that! I had a wire yesterday to say
it's as good as settled. The water's boiling.'
The steam was lifting the lid of the small saucepan, which stood
securely on the spirit-lamp between the marble knight's greaved shins.
But Lady Maud took no notice of it.
'It's like you,' said she. 'I cannot find anything else to say!'
'It doesn't matter about saying anything,' returned Mr. Van Torp. 'The
'Will you blow out the lamp?' As she spoke she dropped a battered
silver tea-ball into the water, and moved it about by its little
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