F. Marion Crawford
Part 5 out of 6
Mr. Van Torp took off his hat, and bent down sideways till his flat
cheek rested on the knight's stone shin, and he blew out the flame
with one well-aimed puff. Lady Maud did not look at the top of his
head, nor steal a furtive glance at the strong muscles and sinews of
his solid neck. She did nothing of the kind. She bobbed the tea-ball
up and down in the saucepan by its chain, and watched how the hot
water turned brown.
'But I did not give you a "business acknowledgment," as you call it,'
she said thoughtfully. 'It's not quite truthful to say I did, you
'Does that bother you? All right.'
He produced his well-worn pocket-book, found a scrap of white paper
amongst the contents, and laid it on the leather. Then he took his
pencil and wrote a few words.
'Received of R. Van Torp L4100 to balance of account.'
He held out the pencil, and laid the pocket-book on his palm for her
to write. She read the words with out moving.
'"To balance of account"--what does that mean?'
'It means that it's a business transaction. At the time you couldn't
make any further claim against me. That's all it means.'
He put the pencil to the paper again, and wrote the date of the
meeting in Hare Court.
'There! If you sign your name to that, it just means that you had no
further claim against me on that day. You hadn't, anyway, so you may
just as well sign!'
He held out the paper, and Lady Maud took it with a smile and wrote
'Thank you,' said Mr. Van Torp. 'Now you're quite comfortable, I
suppose, for you can't deny that you have given me the usual business
acknowledgment. The other part of it is that I don't care to keep that
kind of receipt long, so I just strike a match and burn it.' He did
so, and watched the flimsy scrap turn black on the stone knight's
knee, till the gentle breeze blew the ashes away. 'So there!' he
concluded. 'If you were called upon to swear in evidence that you
signed a proper receipt for the money, you couldn't deny it, could
you? A receipt's good if given at any time after the money has been
paid. What's the matter? Why do you look as if you doubted it? What is
truth, anyhow? It's the agreement of the facts with the statement of
them, isn't it? Well, I don't see but the statement coincides with the
facts all right now.'
While he had been talking Lady Maud had poured out the tea, and had
cut some thin slices from the lemon, glancing at him incredulously now
and then, but smiling in spite of herself.
'That's all sophistry,' she said, as she handed him his cup.
'Thanks,' he answered, taking it from her. 'Look here! Can you deny
that you have given me a formal dated receipt for four thousand one
'Well, then, what can't be denied is the truth; and if I choose to
publish the truth about you, I don't suppose you can find fault with
'Excuse me for interrupting, but there is no "but." What's good in law
is good enough for me, and the Attorney-General and all his angels
couldn't get behind that receipt now, if they tried till they were
black in the face.'
Mr. Van Torp's similes were not always elegant.
'Tip-top tea,' he remarked, as Lady Maud did not attempt to say
anything more. 'That was a bright idea of yours, bringing the lemon,
He took several small sips in quick succession, evidently appreciating
the quality of the tea as a connoisseur.
'I don't know how you have managed to do it,' said Lady Maud at last.
'As you say, the "how" does not matter very much. Perhaps it's just as
well that I should not know how you got at the Patriarch. I couldn't
be more grateful if I knew the whole story.'
'There's no particular story about it. When I found he was the man to
be seen, I sent a man to see him. That's all.'
'It sounds very simple,' said Lady Maud, whose acquaintance with
American slang was limited, even after she had known Mr. Van Torp
intimately for two years. 'You were going to tell me more. You said
you had a plan for catching the real person who is responsible for
this attack on you.'
'Well, I have a sort of an idea, but I'm not quite sure how the land
lays. By the bye,' he said quickly, correcting himself, 'isn't that
one of the things I say wrong? You told me I ought to say how the land
"lies," didn't you? I always forget.'
Lady Maud laughed as she looked at him, for she was quite sure that he
had only taken up his own mistake in order to turn the subject from
the plan of which he did not mean to speak.
'You know that I'm not in the least curious,' she said, 'so don't
waste any cleverness in putting me off! I only wish to know whether I
can help you to carry out your plan. I had an idea too. I thought of
getting my father to have a week-end party at Craythew, to which you
would be asked, by way of showing people that he knows all about our
friendship, and approves of it in spite of what my husband has been
trying to do. Would that suit you? Would it help you or not?'
'It might come in nicely after the news about the divorce appears,'
answered Mr. Van Torp approvingly. 'It would be just the same if I
went over to dinner every day, and didn't sleep in the house, wouldn't
'I'm not sure,' Lady Maud said. 'I don't think it would, quite. It
might seem odd that you should dine with us every day, whereas if you
stop with us people cannot but see that my father wants you.'
'How about Lady Creedmore?'
'My mother is on the continent. Why in the world do you not want to
'Oh, I don't know,' answered Mr. Van Torp vaguely. 'Just like that,
I suppose. I was thinking. But it'll be all right, and I'll come any
way, and please tell your father that I highly appreciate the kind
invitation. When is it to be?'
'Come on Thursday next week and stay till Tuesday. Then you will be
there when the first people come and till the last have left. That
will look even better.'
'Maybe they'll say you take boarders,' observed Mr. Van Torp
facetiously. 'That other piece belongs to you.'
While talking they had finished their tea, and only one slice of bread
and butter was left in the sandwich-box.
'No,' answered Lady Maud, 'it's yours. I took the first.'
'Let's go shares,' suggested the millionaire.
'There's no knife.'
Lady Maud doubled the slice with conscientious accuracy, gently
pulled the pieces apart at the crease, and held out one half to her
companion. He took it as naturally as if they had been children, and
they ate their respective shares in silence. As a matter of fact Mr.
Van Torp had been unconsciously and instinctively more interested in
the accuracy of the division than in the very beautiful white fingers
that performed it.
'Who are the other people going to be?' he asked when he had finished
eating, and Lady Maud was beginning to put the tea-things back into
'That depends on whom we can get. Everybody is awfully busy just now,
you know. The usual sort of set, I suppose. You know the kind of
people who come to us--you've met lots of them. I thought of asking
Miss Donne if she is free. You know her, don't you?'
'Why, yes, I do. You've read those articles about our interview in New
York, I suppose.'
Lady Maud, who had been extremely occupied with her own affairs of
late, had almost forgotten the story, and was now afraid that she had
made a mistake, but she caught at the most evident means of setting it
'Yes, of course. All the better, if you are seen stopping in the same
house. People will see that it's all right.'
'Well, maybe they would. I'd rather, if it'll do her any good. But
perhaps she doesn't want to meet me. She wasn't over-anxious to talk
to me on the steamer, I noticed, and I didn't bother her much. She's a
Lady Maud looked at him, and her beautiful mouth twitched as if she
wanted to laugh.
'Miss Donne doesn't think you're a "lovely" man at all,' she said.
'No,' answered Mr. Van Torp, in a tone of child-like and almost
sheepish regret, 'she doesn't, and I suppose she's right. I didn't
know how to take her, or she wouldn't have been so angry.'
'When? Did you really ask her to marry you?' Lady Maud was smiling
'Why, yes, I did. Why shouldn't I? I guess it wasn't very well done,
though, and I was a fool to try and take her hand after she'd said
'Oh, you tried to take her hand?'
'Yes, and the next thing I knew she'd rushed out of the room and
bolted the door, as if I was a dangerous lunatic and she'd just found
it out. That's what happened--just that. It wasn't my fault if I was
in earnest, I suppose.'
'And just after that you were engaged to poor Miss Bamberger,' said
Lady Maud in a tone of reflection.
'Yes,' answered Mr. Van Torp slowly. 'Nothing mattered much just then,
and the engagement was the business side. I told you about all that in
'You're a singular mixture of several people all in one! I shall never
quite understand you.'
'Maybe not. But if you don't, nobody else is likely to, and I mean to
be frank to you every time. I suppose you think I'm heartless.
Perhaps I am. I don't know. You have to know about the business side
sometimes; I wish you didn't, for it's not the side of myself I like
The aggressive blue eyes softened a little as he spoke, and there was
a touch of deep regret in his harsh voice.
'No,' answered Lady Maud, 'I don't like it either. But you are not
heartless. Don't say that of yourself, please--please don't! You
cannot fancy how it would hurt me to think that your helping me was
only a rich man's caprice, that because a few thousand pounds are
nothing to you it amused you to throw the money away on me and my
ideas, and that you would just as soon put it on a horse, or play with
it at Monte Carlo!'
'Well, you needn't worry,' observed Mr. Van Torp, smiling in a
reassuring way. 'I'm not given to throwing away money. In fact, the
other people think I'm too much inclined to take it. And why shouldn't
I? People who don't know how to take care of money shouldn't have it.
They do harm with it. It is right to take it from them since they
can't keep it and haven't the sense to spend it properly. However,
that's the business side of me, and we won't talk about it, unless you
'I don't "like"!' Lady Maud smiled too.
'Precisely. You're not the business side, and you can have anything
you like to ask for. Anything I've got, I mean.'
The beautiful hands were packing the tea-things.
'Anything in reason,' suggested Lady Maud, looking into the shabby
'I'm not talking about reason,' answered Mr. Van Torp, gouging his
waistcoat pockets with his thick thumbs, and looking at the top of her
old grey felt hat as she bent her head. 'I don't suppose I've done
much good in my life, but maybe you'll do some for me, because you
understand those things and I don't. Anyhow, you mean to, and I want
you to, and that constitutes intention in both parties, which is the
main thing in law. If it happens to give you pleasure, so much the
better. That's why I say you can have anything you like. It's an
'Thank you,' said Lady Maud, still busy with the things. 'I know you
are in earnest, and if I needed more money I would ask for it. But
I want to make sure that it is really the right way--so many people
would not think it was, you know, and only time can prove that I'm
not mistaken. There!' She had finished packing the basket, and she
fastened the lid regretfully. 'I'm afraid we must be going. It was
awfully good of you to come!'
'Wasn't it? I'll be just as good again the day after to-morrow, if
you'll ask me!'
'Will you?' rippled the sweet voice pleasantly. 'Then come at the same
time, unless it rains really hard. I'm not afraid of a shower, you
know, and the arch makes a very fair shelter here. I never catch cold,
She rose, taking up the basket in one hand and shaking down the folds
of her old habit with the other.
'All the same, I'd bring a jacket next time if I were you,' said her
companion, exactly as her mother might have made the suggestion, and
scarcely bestowing a glance on her almost too visibly perfect figure.
The old thoroughbred raised his head as they crossed the sward, and
made two or three steps towards her of his own accord. Her foot rested
a moment on Mr. Van Torp's solid hand, and she was in the saddle. The
black was at first less disposed to be docile, but soon yielded at the
sight of another carrot. Mr. Van Torp did not take the trouble to
put his foot into the stirrup, but vaulted from the ground with no
apparent effort. Lady Maud smiled approvingly, but not as a woman
who loves a man and feels pride in him when he does anything very
difficult. It merely pleased and amused her to see with what ease and
indifference the rather heavily-built American did a thing which many
a good English rider, gentleman or groom, would have found it hard to
do at all. But Mr. Van Torp had ridden and driven cattle in California
for his living before he had been twenty.
He wheeled and came to her side, and held out his hand.
'Day after to-morrow, at the same time,' he said as she took it.
'Good-bye, and don't forget Thursday!'
They parted and rode away in opposite directions, and neither turned,
even once, to look back at the other.
The _Elisir d'Amore_ was received with enthusiasm, but the tenor
had it all his own way, as Lushington had foretold, and when Pompeo
Stromboli sang 'Una furtiva lacrima' the incomparable Cordova was for
once eclipsed in the eyes of a hitherto faithful public. Covent Garden
surrendered unconditionally. Metaphorically speaking, it rolled over
on its back, with its four paws in the air, like a small dog that has
got the worst of a fight and throws himself on the bigger dog's mercy.
Margaret was applauded, but as a matter of course. There was no
electric thrill in the clapping of hands; she got the formal applause
which is regularly given to the sovereign, but not the enthusiasm
which is bestowed spontaneously on the conqueror. When she buttered
her face and got the paint off, she was a little pale, and her
eyes were not kind. It was the first time that she had not carried
everything before her since she had begun her astonishing career, and
in her first disappointment she had not philosophy enough to console
herself with the consideration that it would have been infinitely
worse to be thrown into the shade by another lyric soprano, instead
of by the most popular lyric tenor on the stage. She was also
uncomfortably aware that Lushington had predicted what had happened,
and she was informed that he had not even taken the trouble to come
to the first performance of the opera. Logotheti, who knew everything
about his old rival, had told her that Lushington was in Paris that
week, and was going on to see his mother in Provence.
The Primadonna was put out with herself and with everybody, after the
manner of great artists when a performance has not gone exactly as
they had hoped. The critics said the next morning that the Senorita da
Cordova had been in good voice and had sung with excellent taste and
judgment, but that was all: as if any decent soprano might not do as
well! They wrote as if she might have been expected to show neither
judgment nor taste, and as if she were threatened with a cold. Then
they went on to praise Pompeo Stromboli with the very words they
usually applied to her. His voice was full, rich, tender, vibrating,
flexible, soft, powerful, stirring, natural, cultivated, superb,
phenomenal, and perfectly fresh. The critics had a severe attack of
Paul Griggs had first applied the name to that inflammation of
language to which many young writers are subject when cutting their
literary milk-teeth, and from which musical critics are never quite
immune. Margaret could no longer help reading what was written about
her; that was one of the signs of the change that had come over her,
and she disliked it, and sometimes despised herself for it, though
she was quite unable to resist the impulse. The appetite for flattery
which comes of living on it may be innocent, but it is never harmless.
Dante consigned the flatterers to Inferno, and more particularly to a
very nasty place there: it is true that there were no musical critics
in his day; but he does not say much about the flattered, perhaps
because they suffer enough when they find out the truth, or lose the
gift for which they have been over-praised.
The Primadonna was in a detestably uncomfortable state of mind on the
day after the performance of the revived opera. Her dual nature was
hopelessly mixed; Cordova was in a rage with Stromboli, Schreiermeyer,
Baci-Roventi, and the whole company, not to mention Signor Bambinelli
the conductor, the whole orchestra, and the dead composer of the
_Elisir d'Amore_; but Margaret Donne was ashamed of herself for
caring, and for being spoilt, and for bearing poor Lushington a grudge
because he had foretold a result that was only to be expected with
such a tenor as Stromboli; she despised herself for wickedly wishing
that the latter had cracked on the final high note and had made
himself ridiculous. But he had not cracked at all; in imagination she
could hear the note still, tremendous, round, and persistently drawn
out, as if it came out of a tenor trombone and had all the world's
lungs behind it.
In her mortification Cordova was ready to give up lyric opera and
study Wagner, in order to annihilate Pompeo Stromboli, who did not
even venture _Lohengrin_. Schreiermeyer had unkindly told him that if
he arrayed his figure in polished armour he would look like a silver
teapot; and Stromboli was very sensitive to ridicule. Even if he had
possessed a dramatic voice, he could never have bounded about the
stage in pink tights and the exiguous skin of an unknown wild animal
as Siegfried, and in the flower scene of _Parsifal_ he would have
looked like Falstaff in _The Merry Wives of Windsor_. But Cordova
could have made herself into a stately Brunhilde, a wild and lovely
Kundry, or a fair and fateful Isolde, with the very least amount of
artificial aid that theatrical illusion admits.
Margaret Donne, disgusted with Cordova, said that her voice was about
as well adapted for one of those parts as a sick girl's might be for
giving orders at sea in a storm. Cordova could not deny this, and fell
back upon the idea of having an opera written for her, expressly to
show off her voice, with a _crescendo_ trill in every scene and a high
D at the end; and Margaret Donne, who loved music for its own sake,
was more disgusted than ever, and took up a book in order to get rid
of her professional self, and tried so hard to read that she almost
gave herself a headache.
Pompeo Stromboli was really the most sweet-tempered creature in the
world, and called during the afternoon with the idea of apologising
for having eclipsed her, but was told that she was resting and would
see no one. Fraeulein Ottilie Braun also came, and Margaret would
probably have seen her, but had not given any special orders, so the
kindly little person trotted off, and Margaret knew nothing of her
coming; and the day wore on quickly; and when she wanted to go out, it
at once began to rain furiously; and, at last, in sheer impatience at
everything, she telephoned to Logotheti, asking him to come and dine
alone with her if he felt that he could put up with her temper, which,
she explained, was atrocious. She heard the Greek laugh gaily at the
other end of the wire.
'Will you come?' she asked, impatient that anybody should be in a good
humour when she was not.
'I'll come now, if you'll let me,' he answered readily.
'No. Come to dinner at half-past eight.' She waited a moment and then
went on. 'I've sent down word that I'm not at home for any one, and I
don't like to make you the only exception.'
'Oh, I see,' answered Logotheti's voice. 'But I've always wanted to be
the only exception. I say, does half-past eight mean a quarter past
'No. It means a quarter past eight, if you like. Good-bye!'
She cut off the communication abruptly, being a little afraid that if
she let him go on chattering any longer she might yield and allow him
to come at once. In her solitude she was intensely bored by her own
bad temper, and was nearer to making him the 'only exception' than she
had often been of late. She said to herself that he always amused her,
but in her heart she was conscious that he was the only man in the
world who knew how to flatter her back into a good temper, and would
take the trouble to do so. It was better than nothing to look forward
to a pleasant evening, and she went back to her novel and her cup of
tea already half reconciled with life.
It rained almost without stopping. At times it poured, which really
does not happen often in much-abused London; but even heavy rain
is not so depressing in spring as it is in winter, and when the
Primadonna raised her eyes from her book and looked out of the big
window, she was not thinking of the dreariness outside but of what
she should wear in the evening. To tell the truth, she did not often
trouble herself much about that matter when she was not going to sing,
and all singers and actresses who habitually play 'costume parts' are
conscious of looking upon stage-dressing and ordinary dressing from
totally different points of view. By far the larger number of them
have their stage clothes made by a theatrical tailor, and only an
occasional eccentric celebrity goes to Worth or Doucet to be dressed
for a 'Juliet,' a 'Tosca,' or a 'Dona Sol.'
Margaret looked at the rain and decided that Logotheti should not find
her in a tea-gown, not because it would look too intimate, but because
tea-gowns suggest weariness, the state of being misunderstood, and a
craving for sympathy. A woman who is going to surrender to fate puts
on a tea-gown, but a well-fitting body indicates strength of character
and virtuous firmness.
I remember a smart elderly Frenchwoman who always bestowed unusual
care on every detail of her dress, visible and invisible, before going
to church. Her niece was in the room one Sunday while she was dressing
for church, and asked why she took so much trouble.
'My dear,' was the answer, 'Satan is everywhere, and one can never
know what may happen.'
Margaret was very fond of warm greys, and fawn tints, and dove colour,
and she had lately got a very pretty dress that was exactly to her
taste, and was made of a newly invented thin material of pure silk,
which had no sheen and cast no reflections of light, and was slightly
elastic, so that it fitted as no ordinary silk or velvet ever could.
Alphonsine called the gown a 'legend,' but a celebrated painter who
had lately seen it said it was an 'Indian twilight,' which might mean
anything, as Paul Griggs explained, because there is no twilight to
speak of in India. The dress-maker who had made it called the colour
'fawn's stomach,' which was less poetical, and the fabric, 'veil of
nun in love,' which showed little respect for monastic institutions.
As for the way in which the dress was made, it is folly to rush into
competition with tailors and dress-makers, who know what they are
talking about, and are able to say things which nobody can understand.
The plain fact is that the Primadonna began to dress early, out of
sheer boredom, had her thick brown hair done in the most becoming way
in spite of its natural waves, which happened to be unfashionable just
then, and she put on the new gown with all the care and consideration
which so noble a creation deserved.
'Madame is adorable,' observed Alphonsine. 'Madame is a dream. Madame
has only to lift her little finger, and kings will fall into ecstasy
'That would be very amusing,' said Margaret, looking at herself in the
glass, and less angry with the world than she had been. 'I have never
seen a king in ecstasy.'
'The fault is Madame's,' returned Alphonsine, possibly with truth.
When Margaret went into the drawing-room Logotheti was already there,
and she felt a thrill of pleasure when his expression changed at sight
of her. It is not easy to affect the pleased surprise which the sudden
appearance of something beautiful brings into the face of a man who is
not expecting anything unusual.
'Oh, I say!' exclaimed the Greek. 'Let me look at you!'
And instead of coming forward to take her hand, he stepped back in
order not to lose anything of the wonderful effect by being too near.
Margaret stood still and smiled in the peculiar way which is a woman's
equivalent for a cat's purring. Then, to Logotheti's still greater
delight, she slowly turned herself round, to be admired, like a statue
on a pivoted pedestal, quite regardless of a secret consciousness that
Margaret Donne would not have done such a thing for him, and probably
not for any other man.
'You're really too utterly stunning!' he cried.
In moments of enthusiasm he sometimes out-Englished Englishmen.
'I'm glad you like it,' Margaret said. 'This is the first time I've
'If you put it on for me, thank you! If not, thank you for putting it
on! I'm not asking, either. I should think you would wear it if you
were alone for the mere pleasure of feeling like a goddess.'
'You're very nice!'
She was satisfied, and for a moment she forgot Pompeo Stromboli, the
_Elisir d'Amore_, the public, and the critics. It was particularly
'nice' of him, too, not to insist upon being told that she had put on
the new creation solely for his benefit. Next to not assuming rashly
that a woman means anything of the sort expressly for him, it is wise
of a man to know when she really does, without being told. At least,
so Margaret thought just then; but it is true that she wanted him to
amuse her and was willing to be pleased.
She executed the graceful swaying movement which only a well-made
woman can make just before sitting down for the first time in a
perfectly new gown. It is a slightly serpentine motion; and as there
is nothing to show that Eve did not meet the Serpent again after she
had taken to clothes, she may have learnt the trick from him. There is
certainly something diabolical about it when it is well done.
Logotheti's almond-shaped eyes watched her quietly, and he stood
motionless till she was established on her chair. Then he seated
himself at a little distance.
'I hope I was not rude,' he said, in artful apology, 'but it's not
often that one's breath is taken away by what one sees. Horrid weather
all day, wasn't it? Have you been out at all?'
'No. I've been moping. I told you that I was in a bad humour, but I
don't want to talk about it now that I feel better. What have you been
doing? Tell me all sorts of amusing things, where you have been, whom
you have seen, and what people said to you.'
'That might be rather dull,' observed the Greek.
'I don't believe it. You are always in the thick of everything that's
'We have agreed to-day to lend Russia some more money. But that
doesn't interest you, does it? There's to be a European conference
about the Malay pirates, but there's nothing very funny in that. It
would be more amusing to hear the pirates' view of Europeans. Let me
see. Some one has discovered a conspiracy in Italy against Austria,
and there is another in Austria against the Italians. They are the
same old plots that were discovered six months ago, but people had
forgotten about them, so they are as good as new. Then there is the
sad case of that Greek.'
'What Greek? I've not heard about that. What has happened to him?'
'Oh, nothing much. It's only a love-story--the same old thing.'
'Not now, for we shall have to go to dinner just when I get to
the most thrilling part of it, I'm sure.' Logotheti laughed. 'And
besides,' he added, 'the man isn't dead yet, though he's not expected
to live. I'll tell you about your friend Mr. Feist instead. He has
been very ill too.'
'I would much rather know about the Greek love-story,' Margaret
objected. 'I never heard of Mr. Feist.'
She had quite forgotten the man's existence, but Logotheti recalled
to her memory the circumstances under which they had met, and Feist's
unhealthy face with its absurdly youthful look, and what he had
said about having been at the Opera in New York on the night of the
'Why do you tell me all this?' Margaret asked. 'He was a
disgusting-looking man, and I never wish to see him again. Tell me
about the Greek. When we go to dinner you can finish the story in
French. We spoke French the first time we met, at Madame Bonanni's. Do
'Yes, of course I do. But I was telling you about Mr. Feist--'
'Dinner is ready,' Margaret said, rising as the servant opened the
To her surprise the man came forward. He said that just as he was
going to announce dinner Countess Leven had telephoned that she was
dining out, and would afterwards stop on her way to the play in the
hope of seeing Margaret for a moment. She had seemed to be in a hurry,
and had closed the communication before the butler could answer. And
dinner was served, he added.
Margaret nodded carelessly, and the two went into the dining-room.
Lady Maud could not possibly come before half-past nine, and there was
plenty of time to decide whether she should be admitted or not.
'Mr. Feist has been very ill,' Logotheti said as they sat down to
table under the pleasant light, 'and I have been taking care of him,
after a fashion.'
Margaret raised her eyebrows a little, for she was beginning to be
annoyed at his persistency, and was not much pleased at the prospect
of Lady Maud's visit.
'How very odd!' she said, rather coldly. 'I cannot imagine anything
'It has been very unpleasant,' Logotheti answered, 'but he seemed to
have no particular friends here, and he was all alone at an hotel, and
really very ill. So I volunteered.'
'I've no objection to being moderately sorry for a young man who falls
ill at an hotel and has no friends,' Margaret said, 'but are you going
in for nursing? Is that your latest hobby? It's a long way from art,
and even from finance!'
'Yes. I'm beginning to be curious!'
'I thought you would be before long,' Logotheti answered coolly, but
suddenly speaking French. 'One of the most delightful things in life
is to have one's curiosity roused and then satisfied by very slow
'Not too slow, please. The interest might not last to the end.'
'Oh yes, it will, for Mr. Feist plays a part in your life.'
'About as distant as Voltaire's Chinese Mandarin, I fancy,' Margaret
'Nearer than that, though I did not guess it when I went to see him.
In the first place, it was owing to you that I went to see him the
'Not at all. Everything that happens to me is connected with you in
some way. I came to see you late in the afternoon, on one of your
off-days not long ago, hoping that you would ask me to dine, but you
were across the river at Lord Creedmore's. I met old Griggs at your
door, and as we walked away he told me that Mr. Feist had fallen down
in a fit at a club, the night before, and had been sent home in a cab
to the Carlton. As I had nothing to do, worth doing, I went to see
him. If you had been at home, I should never have gone. That is what I
mean when I say that you were the cause of my going to see him.'
'In the same way, if you had been killed by a motor-car as you went
away from my door, I should have been the cause of your death!'
'You will be in any case,' laughed Logotheti, 'but that's a detail! I
found Mr. Feist in a very bad way.'
'What was the matter with him?' asked Margaret.
'He was committing suicide,' answered the Greek with the utmost calm.
'If I were in Constantinople I should tell you that this turbot is
extremely good, but as we are in London I suppose it would be very bad
manners to say so, wouldn't it? So I am thinking it.'
'Take the fish for granted, and tell me more about Mr. Feist!'
'I found him standing before the glass with a razor in his hand and
quite near his throat. When he saw me he tried to laugh and said he
was just going to shave; I asked him if he generally shaved without
soap and water, and he burst into tears.'
'That's rather dreadful,' observed Margaret. 'What did you do?'
'I saved his life, but I don't think he's very grateful yet. Perhaps
he may be by and by. When he stopped sobbing he tried to kill me for
hindering his destruction, but I had got the razor in my pocket, and
his revolver missed fire. That was lucky, for he managed to stick the
muzzle against my chest and pull the trigger just as I got him down.
I wished I had brought old Griggs with me, for they say he can bend a
good horse-shoe double, even now, and the fellow had the strength of
a lunatic in him. It was rather lively for a few seconds, and then he
broke down again, and was as limp as a rag, and trembled with fright,
as if he saw queer things in the room.'
'You sent for a doctor then?'
'My own, and we took care of him together that night. You may laugh at
the idea of my having a doctor, as I never was ill in my life. I have
him to dine with me now and then, because he is such good company, and
is the best judge of a statue or a picture I know. The habit of taking
the human body to pieces teaches you a great deal about the shape of
it, you see. In the morning we moved Mr. Feist from the hotel to a
small private hospital where cases of that sort are treated. Of course
he was perfectly helpless, so we packed his belongings and papers.'
'It was really very kind of you to act the Good Samaritan to
a stranger,' Margaret said, but her tone showed that she was
disappointed at the tame ending of the story.
'No,' Logotheti answered. 'I was never consciously kind, as you call
it. It's not a Greek characteristic to love one's neighbour as one's
self. Teutons, Anglo-Saxons, Latins, and, most of all, Asiatics, are
charitable, but the old Greeks were not. I don't believe you'll find
an instance of a charitable act in all Greek history, drama, and
biography! If you did find one I should only say that the exception
proves the rule. Charity was left out of us at the beginning, and we
never could understand it, except as a foreign sentiment imported with
Christianity from Asia. We have had every other virtue, including
hospitality. In the _Iliad_ a man declines to kill his enemy on the
ground that their people had dined together, which is going rather
far, but it is not recorded that any ancient Greek, even Socrates
himself, ever felt pity or did an act of spontaneous kindness! I don't
believe any one has said that, but it's perfectly true.'
'Then why did you take all that trouble for Mr. Feist?'
'I don't know. People who always know why they do things are great
bores. It was probably a caprice that took me to see him, and then
it did not occur to me to let him cut his throat, so I took away his
razor; and, finally, I telephoned for my doctor, because my misspent
life has brought me into contact with Western civilisation. But when
we began to pack Mr. Feist's papers I became interested in him.'
'Do you mean to say that you read his letters?' Margaret inquired.
'Why not? If I had let him kill himself, somebody would have read
them, as he had not taken the trouble to destroy them!'
'That's a singular point of view.'
'So was Mr. Feist's, as it turned out. I found enough to convince me
that he is the writer of all those articles about Van Torp, including
the ones in which you are mentioned. The odd thing about it is that I
found a very friendly invitation from Van Torp himself, begging Mr.
Feist to go down to Derbyshire and stop a week with him.'
Margaret leaned back in her chair and looked at her guest in quiet
'What does that mean?' she asked. 'Is it possible that Mr. Van Torp
has got up this campaign against himself in order to play some trick
on the Stock Exchange?'
Logotheti smiled and shook his head.
'That's not the way such things are usually managed,' he answered. 'A
hundred years ago a publisher paid a critic to attack a book in order
to make it succeed, but in finance abuse doesn't contribute to our
success, which is always a question of credit. All these scurrilous
articles have set the public very much against Van Torp, from Paris
to San Francisco, and this man Feist is responsible for them. He is
either insane, or he has some grudge against Van Torp, or else he has
been somebody's instrument, which looks the most probable.'
'What did you find amongst his papers?' Margaret asked, quite
forgetting her vicarious scruples about reading a sick man's letters.
'A complete set of the articles that have appeared, all neatly filed,
and a great many notes for more, besides a lot of stuff written in
cypher. It must be a diary, for the days are written out in full and
give the days of the week.'
'I wonder whether there was anything about the explosion,' said
Margaret thoughtfully. 'He said he was there, did he not?'
'Yes. Do you remember the day?'
'It was a Wednesday, I'm sure, and it was after the middle of March.
My maid can tell us, for she writes down the date and the opera in a
little book each time I sing. It's sometimes very convenient. But it's
too late now, of course, and, besides, you could not have read the
'That's an easy matter,' Logotheti answered. 'All cyphers can be read
by experts, if there is no hurry, except the mechanical ones that are
written through holes in a square plate which you turn round till the
sheet is full. Hardly any one uses those now, because when the square
is raised the letters don't form words, and the cable companies will
only transmit real words in some known language, or groups of figures.
The diary is written hastily, too, not at all as if it were copied
from the sheet on which the perforated plate would have had to be
used, and besides, the plate itself would be amongst his things, for
he could not read his own notes without it.'
'All that doesn't help us, as you have not the diary, but I should
really be curious to know what he had to say about the accident, since
some of the articles hint that Mr. Van Torp made it happen.'
'My doctor and I took the liberty of confiscating the papers, and we
set a very good man to work on the cypher at once. So your curiosity
shall be satisfied. I said it should, didn't I? And you are not so
dreadfully bored after all, are you? Do say that I'm very nice!'
'I won't!' Margaret answered with a little laugh. 'I'll only admit
that I'm not bored! But wasn't it rather a high-handed proceeding to
carry off Mr. Feist like that, and to seize his papers?'
'Do you call it high-handed to keep a man from cutting his throat?'
'But the letters--?'
'I really don't know. I had not time to ask a lawyer's opinion, and so
I had to be satisfied with my doctor's.'
'Are you going to tell Mr. Van Torp what you've done?'
'I don't know. Why should I? You may if you like.'
Logotheti was eating a very large and excellent truffle, and after
each short sentence he cut off a tiny slice and put it into his
mouth. The Primadonna had already finished hers, and watched him
'I'm not likely to see him,' she said. 'At least, I hope not!'
'My interest in Mr. Feist,' answered Logotheti, 'begins and ends with
what concerns you. Beyond that I don't care a straw what happens to
Mr. Van Torp, or to any one else. To all intents and purposes I have
got the author of the stories locked up, for a man who has consented
to undergo treatment for dipsomania in a private hospital, by the
advice of his friends and under the care of a doctor with a great
reputation, is as really in prison as if he were in gaol. Legally, he
can get out, but in real fact nobody will lift a hand to release him,
because he is shut up for his own good and for the good of the public,
just as much as if he were a criminal. Feist may have friends or
relations in America, and they may come and claim him; but as there
seems to be nobody in London who cares what becomes of him, it pleases
me to keep him in confinement, because I mean to prevent any further
mention of your name in connection with the Van Torp scandals.'
His eyes rested on Margaret as he spoke, and lingered afterwards, with
a look that did not escape her. She had seen him swayed by passion,
more than once, and almost mad for her, and she had been frightened
though she had dominated him. What she saw in his face now was not
that; it was more like affection, faithful and lasting, and it touched
her English nature much more than any show of passion could.
'Thank you,' she said quietly.
They did not talk much more while they finished the short dinner, but
when they were going back to the drawing-room Margaret took his arm,
in foreign fashion, which she had never done before when they were
alone. Then he stood before the mantelpiece and watched her in silence
as she moved about the room; for she was one of those women who always
find half a dozen little things to do as soon as they get back from
dinner, and go from place to place, moving a reading lamp half an inch
farther from the edge of a table, shutting a book that has been left
open on another, tearing up a letter that lies on the writing-desk,
and slightly changing the angle at which a chair stands. It is an odd
little mania, and the more people there are in the room the less the
mistress of the house yields to it, and the more uncomfortable she
feels at being hindered from 'tidying up the room,' as she probably
Logotheti watched Margaret with keen pleasure, as every step and
little movement showed her figure in a slightly different attitude and
light, indiscreetly moulded in the perfection of her matchless gown.
In less than two minutes she had finished her trip round the room and
was standing beside him, her elbows resting on the mantelpiece, while
she moved a beautiful Tanagra a little to one side and then to the
other, trying for the twentieth time how it looked the best.
'There is no denying it,' Logotheti said at last, with profound
conviction. 'I do not care a straw what becomes of any living creature
She did not turn her head, and her fingers still touched the Tanagra,
but he saw the rare blush spread up the cheek that was turned to him;
and because she stopped moving the statuette about, and looked at it
intently, he guessed that she was not colouring from annoyance at what
he had said. She blushed so very seldom now, that it might mean much
more than in the old days at Versailles.
'I did not think it would last so long,' she said gently, after a
'What faith can one expect of a Greek!'
He laughed, too wise in woman's ways to be serious too long just then.
But she shook her head and turned to him with the smile he loved.
'I thought it was something different,' she said. 'I was mistaken. I
believed you had only lost your head for a while, and would soon run
after some one else. That's all.'
'And the loss is permanent. That's all!' He laughed again as he
repeated her words. 'You thought it was "something different"--do you
know that you are two people in one?'
She looked a little surprised.
'Indeed I do!' she answered rather sadly. 'Have you found it out?'
'Yes. You are Margaret Donne and you are Cordova. I admire Cordova
immensely, I am extremely fond of Margaret, and I'm in love with both.
Oh yes! I'm quite frank about it, and it's very unlucky, for whichever
one of your two selves I meet I'm just as much in love as ever!
Absurd, isn't it?'
'It's flattering, at all events.'
'If you ever took it into your handsome head to marry me--please, I'm
only saying "if"--the absurdity would be rather reassuring, wouldn't
it? When a man is in love with two women at the same time, it really
is a little unlikely that he should fall in love with a third!'
'Mr. Griggs says that marriage is a drama which only succeeds if
people preserve the unities!'
'Griggs is always trying to coax the Djin back into the bottle, like
the fisherman in the _Arabian Nights_,' answered Logotheti. 'He has
read Kant till he believes that the greatest things in the world can
be squeezed into a formula of ten words, or nailed up amongst the
Categories like a dead owl over a stable door. My intelligence, such
as it is, abhors definitions!'
'So do I. I never understand them.'
'Besides, you can only define what you know from past experience
and can reflect upon coolly, and that is not my position, nor yours
Margaret nodded, but said nothing and sat down.
'Do you want to smoke?' she asked. 'You may, if you like. I don't mind
'No, thank you.'
'But I assure you I don't mind it in the least. It never hurts my
'Thanks, but I really don't want to.'
'I'm sure you do. Please--'
'Why do you insist? You know I never smoke when you are in the room.'
'I don't like to be the object of little sacrifices that make people
'I'm not uncomfortable, but if you have any big sacrifice to suggest,
I promise to offer it at once.'
'Unconditionally?' Margaret smiled. 'Anything I ask?'
'Yes. Do you want my statue?'
'The Aphrodite? Would you give her to me?'
'Yes. May I telegraph to have her packed and brought here from Paris?'
He was already at the writing-table looking for a telegraph form.
Margaret watched his face, for she knew that he valued the wonderful
statue far beyond all his treasures, both for its own sake and because
he had nearly lost his life in carrying it off from Samos, as has been
As Margaret said nothing, he began to write the message. She really
had not had any idea of testing his willingness to part with the thing
he valued most, at her slightest word, and was taken by surprise;
but it was impossible not to be pleased when she saw that he was in
earnest. In her present mood, too, it restored her sense of power,
which had been rudely shaken by the attitude of the public on the
It took some minutes to compose the message.
'It's only to save time by having the box ready,' he said, as he rose
with the bit of paper in his hand. 'Of course I shall see the statue
packed myself and come over with it.'
She saw his face clearly in the light as he came towards her, and
there was no mistaking the unaffected satisfaction it expressed. He
held out the telegram for her to read, but she would not take it, and
she looked up quietly and earnestly as he stood beside her.
'Do you remember Delorges?' she asked. 'How the lady tossed her glove
amongst the lions and bade him fetch it, if he loved her, and how he
went in and got it--and then threw it in her face? I feel like her.'
Logotheti looked at her blankly.
'Do you mean to say you won't take the statue?' he asked in a
'No, indeed! I was taken by surprise when you went to the
'You did not believe I was in earnest? Don't you see that I'm
disappointed now?' His voice changed a little. 'Don't you understand
that if the world were mine I should want to give it all to you?'
'And don't you understand that the wish may be quite as much to me as
the deed? That sounds commonplace, I know. I would say it better if I
She folded her hands on her knee, and looked at them thoughtfully
while he sat down beside her.
'You say it well enough,' he answered after a little pause. 'The
trouble lies there. The wish is all you will ever take. I have
submitted to that; but if you ever change your mind, please remember
that I have not changed mine. For two years I've done everything I can
to make you marry me whether you would or not, and you've forgiven me
for trying to carry you off against your will, and for several other
things, but you are no nearer to caring for me ever so little than you
were the first day we met. You "like" me! That's the worst of it!'
'I'm not so sure of that,' Margaret answered, raising her eyes for a
moment and then looking at her hands again.
He turned his head slowly, but there was a startled look in his eyes.
'Do you feel as if you could hate me a little, for a change?' he
'There's only one other thing,' he said in a low voice.
'Perhaps,' Margaret answered, in an even lower tone than his. 'I'm not
quite sure to-day.'
Logotheti had known her long, and he now resisted the strong impulse
to reach out and take the hand she would surely have let him hold in
his for a moment. She was not disappointed because he neither
spoke nor moved, nor took any sudden advantage of her rather timid
admission, for his silence made her trust him more than any passionate
speech or impulsive action could have done.
'I daresay I am wrong to tell you even that much,' she went on
presently, 'but I do so want to play fair. I've always despised women
who cannot make up their minds whether they care for a man or not. But
you have found out my secret; I am two people in one, and there
are days when each makes the other dreadfully uncomfortable! You
'And it's the Cordova that neither likes me nor hates me just at this
moment,' suggested Logotheti. 'Margaret Donne sometimes hates me and
sometimes likes me, and on some days she can be quite indifferent too!
Is that it?'
'Yes. That's it.'
'The only question is, which of you is to be mistress of the house,'
said Logotheti, smiling, 'and whether it is to be always the same one,
or if there is to be a perpetual hide-and-seek between them!'
'Box and Cox,' suggested Margaret, glad of the chance to say something
frivolous just then.
'I should say Hera and Aphrodite,' answered the Greek, 'if it did not
look like comparing myself to Adonis!'
'It sounds better than Box and Cox, but I have forgotten my
'Hera and Aphrodite agreed that each should keep Adonis one-third of
the year, and that he should have the odd four months to himself. Now
that you are the Cordova, if you could come to some such understanding
about me with Miss Donne, it would be very satisfactory. But I am
afraid Margaret does not want even a third of me!'
Logotheti felt that it was rather ponderous fun, but he was in such an
anxious state that his usually ready wit did not serve him very well.
For the first time since he had known her, Margaret had confessed that
she might possibly fall in love with him; and after what had passed
between them in former days, he knew that the smallest mistake on his
part would now be fatal to the realisation of such a possibility. He
was not afraid of being dull, or of boring her, but he was afraid of
wakening against him the wary watchfulness of that side of her nature
which he called Margaret Donne, as distinguished from Cordova, of the
'English-girl' side, of the potential old maid that is dormant in
every young northern woman until the day she marries, and wakes to
torment her like a biblical devil if she does not. There is no miser
like a reformed spendthrift, and no ascetic will go to such extremes
of self-mortification as a converted libertine; in the same way, there
are no such portentously virginal old maids as those who might have
been the most womanly wives; the opposite is certainly true also, for
the variety 'Hemiparthenos,' studied after nature by Marcel Prevost,
generally makes an utter failure of matrimony, and becomes, in fact,
little better than a half-wife.
Logotheti took it as a good sign that Margaret laughed at what he
said. He was in the rather absurd position of wishing to leave her
while she was in her present humour, lest anything should disturb it
and destroy his advantage; yet, after what had just passed, it
was next to impossible not to talk of her, or of himself. He had
exceptionally good nerves, he was generally cool to a fault, and he
had the daring that makes great financiers. But what looked like the
most important crisis of his life had presented itself unexpectedly
within a few minutes; a success which he reckoned far beyond all
other successes was almost within his grasp, and he felt that he was
unprepared. For the first time he did not know what to say to a woman.
Happily for him, Margaret helped him unexpectedly.
'I shall have to see Lady Maud,' she said, 'and you must either go
when she comes or leave with her. I'm sorry, but you understand, don't
'Of course. I'll go a moment after she comes. When am I to see you
again? To-morrow? You are not to sing again this week, are you?'
'No,' the Primadonna answered vaguely, 'I believe not.'
She was thinking of something else. She was wondering whether
Logotheti would wish her to give up the stage, if by any possibility
she ever married him, and her thoughts led her on quickly to the
consideration of what that would mean, and to asking herself what sort
of sacrifice it would really mean to her. For the recollection of the
_Elisir d'Amore_ awoke and began to rankle again just then.
Logotheti did not press her for an answer, but watched her cautiously
while her eyes were turned away from him. At that moment he felt like
a tamer who had just succeeded in making a tiger give its paw for the
first time, and has not the smallest idea whether the creature will do
it again or bite off his head.
She, on her side, being at the moment altogether the artist, was
thinking that it would be pleasant to enjoy a few more triumphs, to
make the tour of Europe with a company of her own--which is always the
primadonna's dream as it is the actress's--and to leave the stage
at twenty-five in a blaze of glory, rather than to risk one more
performance of the opera she now hated. She knew quite well that
it was not at all an impossibility. To please her, and with the
expectation of marrying her in six months, Logotheti would cheerfully
pay the large forfeit that would be due to Schreiermeyer if she broke
her London engagement at the height of the season, and the Greek
financier would produce all the ready money necessary for getting
together an opera company. The rest would be child's play, she was
sure, and she would make a triumphant progress through the capitals of
Europe which should be remembered for half a century. After that, said
the Primadonna to herself, she would repay her friend all the money he
had lent her, and would then decide at her leisure whether she would
marry him or not. For one moment her cynicism would have surprised
even Schreiermeyer; the next, the Primadonna herself was ashamed of
it, quite independently of what her better self might have thought.
Besides, it was certainly not for his money that her old inclination
for Logotheti had begun to grow again. She could say so, truly enough,
and when she felt sure of it she turned her eyes to see his face.
She did not admire him for his looks, either. So far as appearance was
concerned, she preferred Lushington, with his smooth hair and fair
complexion. Logotheti was a handsome and showy Oriental, that was all,
and she knew instinctively that the type must be common in the East.
What attracted her was probably his daring masculineness, which
contrasted so strongly with Lushington's quiet and rather bashful
manliness. The Englishman would die for a cause and make no noise
about it, which would be heroic; but the Greek would run away with a
woman he loved, at the risk of breaking his neck, which was romantic
in the extreme. It is not easy to be a romantic character in the eyes
of a lady who lives on the stage, and by it, and constantly gives
utterance to the most dramatic sentiments at a pitch an octave higher
than any one else; but Logotheti had succeeded. There never was a
woman yet to whom that sort of thing has not appealed once; for one
moment she has felt everything whirling with her as if the centre of
gravity had gone mad, and the Ten Commandments might drop out of the
solid family Bible and get lost. That recollection is probably the
only secret of a virtuously colourless existence, but she hides it,
like a treasure or a crime, until she is an old and widowed woman;
and one day, at last, she tells her grown-up granddaughter, with a
far-away smile, that there was once a man whose eyes and voice stirred
her strongly, and for whom she might have quite lost her head. But she
never saw him again, and that is the end of the little story; and the
tall girl in her first season thinks it rather dull.
But it was not likely that the chronicle of Cordova's youth should
come to such an abrupt conclusion. The man who moved her now had been
near her too often, the sound of his voice was too easily recalled,
and, since his rival's defection, he was too necessary to her; and,
besides, he was as obstinate as Christopher Columbus.
'Let me see,' she said thoughtfully. 'There's a rehearsal to-morrow
morning. That means a late luncheon. Come at two o'clock, and if it's
fine we can go for a little walk. Will you?'
'Of course. Thank you.'
He had hardly spoken the words when a servant opened the door and Lady
Maud came in. She had not dropped the opera cloak she wore over her
black velvet gown; she was rather pale, and the look in her eyes told
that something was wrong, but her serenity did not seem otherwise
affected. She kissed Margaret and gave her hand to Logotheti.
'We dined early to go to the play,' she said, 'and as there's a
curtain-raiser, I thought I might as well take a hansom and join them
She seated herself beside Margaret on one of those little sofas that
are measured to hold two women when the fashions are moderate, and are
wide enough for a woman and one man, whatever happens. Indeed they
must be, since otherwise no one would tolerate them in a drawing-room.
When two women instal themselves in one, and a man is present, it
means that he is to go away, because they are either going to make
confidences or are going to fight.
Logotheti thought it would be simpler and more tactful to go at once,
since Lady Maud was in a hurry, having stopped on her way to the play,
presumably in the hope of seeing Margaret alone. To his surprise she
asked him to stay; but as he thought she might be doing this out of
mere civility he said he had an engagement.
'Will it keep for ten minutes?' asked Lady Maud gravely.
'Engagements of that sort are very convenient. They will keep any
length of time.'
Logotheti sat down again, smiling, but he wondered what Lady Maud was
going to say, and why she wished him to remain.
'It will save a note,' she said, by way of explanation. 'My father
and I want you to come to Craythew for the week-end after this,' she
continued, turning to Margaret. 'We are asking several people, so it
won't be too awfully dull, I hope. Will you come?'
'With pleasure,' answered the singer.
'And you too?' Lady Maud looked at Logotheti.
'Delighted--most kind of you,' he replied, somewhat surprised by the
invitation, for he had never met Lord and Lady Creedmore. 'May I take
you down in my motor?' he spoke to Margaret. 'I think I can do it
under four hours. I'm my own chauffeur, you know.'
'Yes, I know,' Margaret answered with a rather malicious smile. 'No,
'Does he often kill?' inquired Lady Maud coolly.
'I should be more afraid of a runaway,' Margaret said.
'Get that new German brake,' suggested Lady Maud, not understanding at
all. 'It's quite the best I've seen. Come on Friday, if you can. You
don't mind meeting Mr. Van Torp, do you? He is our neighbour, you
The question was addressed to Margaret, who made a slight movement and
unconsciously glanced at Logotheti before she answered.
'Not at all,' she said.
'There's a reason for asking him when there are other people. I'm
not divorced after all--you had not heard? It will be in the _Times_
to-morrow morning. The Patriarch of Constantinople turns out to be a
very sensible sort of person.'
'He's my uncle,' observed Logotheti.
'Is he? But that wouldn't account for it, would it? He refused to
believe what my husband called the evidence, and dismissed the suit.
As the trouble was all about Mr. Van Torp my father wants people to
see him at Craythew. That's the story in a nutshell, and if any of you
like me you'll be nice to him.'
She leaned back in her corner of the little sofa and looked first at
one and then at the other in an inquiring way, but as if she were
fairly sure of the answer.
'Every one likes you,' said Logotheti quietly, 'and every one will be
nice to him.'
'Of course,' chimed in Margaret.
She could say nothing else, though her intense dislike of the American
millionaire almost destroyed the anticipated pleasure of her visit to
'I thought it just as well to explain,' said Lady Maud.
She was still pale, and in spite of her perfect outward coolness and
self-reliance her eyes would have betrayed her anxiety if she had not
managed them with the unconscious skill of a woman of the world who
has something very important to hide. Logotheti broke the short
silence that followed her last speech.
'I think you ought to know something I have been telling Miss Donne,'
he said simply. 'I've found the man who wrote all those articles, and
I've locked him up.'
Lady Maud leaned forward so suddenly that her loosened opera-cloak
slipped down behind her, leaving her neck and shoulders bare. Her eyes
were wide open in her surprise, the pupils very dark.
'Where?' she asked breathlessly. 'Where is he? In prison?'
'In a more convenient and accessible place,' answered the Greek.
He had known Lady Maud some time, but he had never seen her in the
least disturbed, or surprised, or otherwise moved by anything. It was
true that he had only met her in society.
He told the story of Mr. Feist, as Margaret had heard it during
dinner, and Lady Maud did not move, even to lean back in her seat
again, till he had finished. She scarcely seemed to breathe, and
Logotheti felt her steady gaze on him, and would have sworn that
through all those minutes she did not even wink. When he ceased
speaking she drew a long breath and sank back to her former attitude;
but he saw that her white neck heaved suddenly again and again, and
her delicate nostrils quivered once or twice. For a little while there
was silence in the room. Then Lady Maud rose to go.
'I must be going too,' said Logotheti.
Margaret was a little sorry that she had given him such precise
instructions, but did not contradict herself by asking him to stay
longer. She promised Lady Maud again to be at Craythew on Friday of
the next week if possible, and certainly on Saturday, and Lady Maud
and Logotheti went out together.
'Get in with me,' she said quietly, as he helped her into her hansom.
He obeyed, and as he sat down she told the cabman to take her to the
Haymarket Theatre. Logotheti expected her to speak, for he was quite
sure that she had not taken him with her without a purpose; the more
so, as she had not even asked him where he was going.
Three or four minutes passed before he heard her voice asking him a
question, very low, as if she feared to be overheard.
'Is there any way of making that man tell the truth against his will?
You have lived in the East, and you must know about such things.'
Logotheti turned his almond-shaped eyes slowly towards her, but he
could not see her face well, for it was not very light in the broad
West End street. She was white; that was all he could make out. But he
understood what she meant.
'There is a way,' he answered slowly and almost sternly. 'Why do you
'Mr. Van Torp is going to be accused of murder. That man knows who did
it. Will you help me?'
It seemed an age before the answer to her whispered question came.
When Logotheti and his doctor had taken Mr. Feist away from the hotel,
to the no small satisfaction of the management, they had left precise
instructions for forwarding the young man's letters and for informing
his friends, if any appeared, as to his whereabouts. But Logotheti had
not given his own name.
Sir Jasper Threlfall had chosen for their patient a private
establishment in Ealing, owned and managed by a friend of his, a place
for the treatment of morphia mania, opium-eating, and alcoholism.
To all intents and purposes, as Logotheti had told Margaret,
Charles Feist might as well have been in gaol. Every one knows how
indispensable it is that persons who consent to be cured of drinking
or taking opium, or whom it is attempted to cure, should be absolutely
isolated, if only to prevent weak and pitying friends from yielding
to their heart-rending entreaties for the favourite drug and bringing
them 'just a little'; for their eloquence is often extraordinary, and
their ingenuity in obtaining what they want is amazing.
So Mr. Feist was shut up in a pleasant room provided with double doors
and two strongly barred windows that overlooked a pretty garden,
beyond which there was a high brick wall half covered by a bright
creeper, then just beginning to flower. The walls, the doors, the
ceiling, and the floor were sound-proof, and the garden could not in
any way be reached without passing through the house.
As only male patients were received, the nurses and attendants were
all men; for the treatment needed more firmness and sometimes strength
than gentleness. It was uncompromising, as English methods often are.
Except where life was actually in danger, there was no drink and no
opium for anybody; when absolutely necessary the resident doctor
gave the patient hypodermics or something which he called by an
unpronounceable name, lest the sufferer should afterwards try to buy
it; he smilingly described it as a new vegetable poison, and in fact
it was nothing but dionine, a preparation of opium that differs but
little from ordinary morphia.
Now Sir Jasper Threlfall was a very great doctor indeed, and his
name commanded respect in London at large and inspired awe in the
hospitals. Even the profession admitted reluctantly that he did
not kill more patients than he cured, which is something for one
fashionable doctor to say of another; for the regular answer to any
inquiry about a rival practitioner is a smile--'a smile more dreadful
than his own dreadful frown'--an indescribable smile, a meaning smile,
a smile that is a libel in itself.
It had been an act of humanity to take the young man into medical
custody, as it were, and it had been more or less necessary for the
safety of the public, for Logotheti and the doctor had found him in a
really dangerous state, as was amply proved by his attempting to cut
his own throat and then to shoot Logotheti himself. Sir Jasper said he
had nothing especial the matter with him except drink, that when
his nerves had recovered their normal tone his real character would
appear, so that it would then be possible to judge more or less
whether he had will enough to control himself in future. Logotheti
agreed, but it occurred to him that one need not be knighted, and
write a dozen or more mysterious capital letters after one's name, and
live in Harley Street, in order to reach such a simple conclusion; and
as Logotheti was a millionaire, and liked his doctor for his own sake
rather than for his skill, he told him this, and they both laughed
heartily. Almost all doctors, except those in French plays, have some
sense of humour.
On the third day Isidore Bamberger came to the door of the private
hospital and asked to see Mr. Feist. Not having heard from him, he had
been to the hotel and had there obtained the address. The doorkeeper
was a quiet man who had lost a leg in South Africa, after having been
otherwise severely wounded five times in previous engagements. Mr.
Bamberger, he said, could not see his friend yet. A part of the cure
consisted in complete isolation from friends during the first stages
of the treatment. Sir Jasper Threlfall had been to see Mr. Feist that
morning. He had been twice already. Dr. Bream, the resident physician,
gave the doorkeeper a bulletin every morning at ten for the benefit of
each patient's friend; the notes were written on a card which the man
held in his hand.
At the great man's name, Mr. Bamberger became thoughtful. A smart
brougham drove up just then and a tall woman, who wore a thick veil,
got out and entered the vestibule where Bamberger was standing by the
open door. The doorkeeper evidently knew her, for he glanced at his
notes and spoke without being questioned.
'The young gentleman is doing well this week, my lady,' he said.
'Sleeps from three to four hours at a time. Is less excited. Appetite
'Can I see him?' asked a sad and gentle voice through the veil.
'Not yet, my lady.'
She sighed as she turned to go out, and Mr. Bamberger thought it
was one of the saddest sighs he had ever heard. He was rather a
'Is it her son?' he asked, in a respectful sort of way.
'Drink?' inquired Mr. Bamberger in the same tone.
'Not allowed to give any information except to family or friends,
sir,' answered the man. 'Rule of the house, sir. Very strict.'
'Quite right, of course. Excuse me for asking. But I must see Mr.
Feist, unless he's out of his mind. It's very important.'
'Dr. Bream sees visitors himself from ten to twelve, sir, after he's
been his rounds to the patients' rooms. You'll have to get permission
'But it's like a prison!' exclaimed Mr. Bamberger.
'Yes, sir,' answered the old soldier imperturbably. 'It's just like a
prison. It's meant to be.'
It was evidently impossible to get anything more out of the man, who
did not pay the slightest attention to the cheerful little noise Mr.
Bamberger made by jingling sovereigns in his waistcoat pocket; there
was nothing to do but to go away, and Mr. Bamberger went out very much
annoyed and perplexed.
He knew Van Torp well, or believed that he did, and it was like
the man whose genius had created the Nickel Trust to have boldly
sequestrated his enemy's chief instrument, and in such a clever way
as to make it probable that Mr. Feist might be kept in confinement
as long as his captor chose. Doubtless such a high-handed act would
ultimately go against the latter when on his trial, but in the
meantime the chief witness was locked up and could not get out. Sir
Jasper Threlfall would state that his patient was in such a state of
health, owing to the abuse of alcohol, that it was not safe to set
him at liberty, and that in his present condition his mind was so
unsettled by drink that he could not be regarded as a sane witness;
and if Sir Jasper Threlfall said that, it would not be easy to get
Charles Feist out of Dr. Bream's establishment in less than three
Mr. Bamberger was obliged to admit that his partner, chief, and enemy
had stolen a clever march on him. Being of a practical turn of mind,
however, and not hampered by much faith in mankind, even in the most
eminent, who write the mysterious capital letters after their names,
he wondered to what extent Van Torp owned Sir Jasper, and he went to
see him on pretence of asking advice about his liver.
The great man gave him two guineas' worth of thumping, auscultating,
and poking in the ribs, and told him rather disagreeably that he
was as healthy as a young crocodile, and had a somewhat similar
constitution. A partner of Mr. Van Torp, the American financier?
Indeed! Sir Jasper had heard the name but had never seen the
millionaire, and asked politely whether he sometimes came to England.
It is not untruthful to ask a question to which one knows the answer.
Mr. Bamberger himself, for instance, who knew that he was perfectly
well, was just going to put down two guineas for having been told so,
in answer to a question.
'I believe you are treating Mr. Feist,' he said, going more directly
to the point.
'Mr. Feist?' repeated the great authority vaguely.
'Yes. Mr. Charles Feist. He's at Dr. Bream's private hospital in West
'Ah, yes,' said Sir Jasper. 'Dr. Bream is treating him. He's not a
patient of mine.'
'I thought I'd ask you what his chances are,' observed Isidore
Bamberger, fixing his sharp eyes on the famous doctor's face. 'He used
to be my private secretary.'
He might just as well have examined the back of the doctor's head.
'He's not a patient of mine,' Sir Jasper said. 'I'm only one of the
visiting doctors at Dr. Bream's establishment. I don't go there unless
he sends for me, and I keep no notes of his cases. You will have to
ask him. If I am not mistaken his hours are from ten to twelve.
And now'--Sir Jasper rose--'as I can only congratulate you on your
splendid health--no, I really cannot prescribe anything--literally
Isidore Bamberger had left three patients in the waiting-room and was
obliged to go away, as his 'splendid health' did not afford him the
slightest pretext for asking more questions. He deposited his two
guineas on the mantelpiece neatly wrapped in a bit of note-paper,
while Sir Jasper examined the handle of the door with a stony gaze,
and he said 'good morning' as he went out.
'Good morning,' answered Sir Jasper, and as Mr. Bamberger crossed the
threshold the single clanging stroke of the doctor's bell was heard,
summoning the next patient.
The American man of business was puzzled, for he was a good judge of
humanity, and was sure that when the Englishman said that he had never
seen Van Torp he was telling the literal truth. Mr. Bamberger was
convinced that there had been some agreement between them to make it
impossible for any one to see Feist. He knew the latter well, however,
and had great confidence in his remarkable power of holding his
tongue, even when under the influence of drink.
When Tiberius had to choose between two men equally well fitted for a
post of importance, he had them both to supper, and chose the one who
was least affected by wine, not at all for the sake of seeing the
match, but on the excellent principle that in an age when heavy
drinking was the rule the man who could swallow the largest quantity
without becoming talkative was the one to be best trusted with a
secret; and the fact that Tiberius himself had the strongest head in
the Empire made him a good judge.
Bamberger, on the same principle, believed that Charles Feist would
hold his tongue, and he also felt tolerably sure that the former
secretary had no compromising papers in his possession, for his memory
had always been extraordinary. Feist had formerly been able to carry
in his mind a number of letters which Bamberger 'talked off' to him
consecutively without even using shorthand, and could type them
afterwards with unfailing accuracy. It was therefore scarcely likely
that he kept notes of the articles he wrote about Van Torp.
But his employer did not know that Feist's memory was failing from
drink, and that he no longer trusted his marvellous faculty. Van Torp
had sequestrated him and shut him up, Bamberger believed; but neither
Van Torp nor any one else would get anything out of him.
And if any one made him talk, what great harm would be done, after
all? It was not to be supposed that such a man as Isidore Bamberger
had trusted only to his own keenness in collecting evidence, or to a
few pencilled notes as a substitute for the principal witness himself,
when an accident might happen at any moment to a man who led such a
life. The case for the prosecution had been quietly prepared during
several months past, and the evidence that was to send Rufus Van Torp
to execution, or to an asylum for the Criminal Insane for life, was in
the safe of Isidore Bamberger's lawyer in New York, unless, at that
very moment, it was already in the hands of the Public Prosecutor. A
couple of cables would do the rest at any time, and in a few hours.
In murder cases, the extradition treaty works as smoothly as the
telegraph itself. The American authorities would apply to the English
Home Secretary, the order would go to Scotland Yard, and Van Torp
would be arrested immediately and taken home by the first steamer, to
be tried in New York.
Six months earlier he might have pleaded insanity with a possible
chance, but in the present state of feeling the plea would hardly be
admitted. A man who has been held up to public execration in the press
for weeks, and whom no one attempts to defend, is in a bad case if a
well-grounded accusation of murder is brought against him at such a
moment; and Isidore Bamberger firmly believed in the truth of the
charge and in the validity of the evidence.
He consoled himself with these considerations, and with the reflection
that Feist was actually safer where he was, and less liable to
accident than if he were at large. Mr. Bamberger walked slowly down
Harley Street to Cavendish Square, with his head low between his
shoulders, his hat far back on his head, his eyes on the pavement, and
the shiny toes of his patent leather boots turned well out. His bowed
legs were encased in loose black trousers, and had as many angles as
the forepaws of a Dachshund or a Dandie Dinmont. The peculiarities of
his ungainly gait and figure were even more apparent than usual, and
as he walked he swung his long arms, that ended in large black gloves
which looked as if they were stuffed with sawdust.
Yet there was something in his face that set him far beyond and above
ridicule, and the passers-by saw it and wondered gravely who and
what this man in black might be, and what great misfortune and still
greater passion had moulded the tragic mark upon his features; and
none of those who looked at him glanced at his heavy, ill-made figure,
or noticed his clumsy walk, or realised that he was most evidently
a typical German Jew, who perhaps kept an antiquity shop in Wardour
Street, and had put on his best coat to call on a rich collector in
the West End.
Those who saw him only saw his face and went on, feeling that they had
passed near something greater and sadder and stronger than anything in
their own lives could ever be.
But he went on his way, unconscious of the men and women he met, and
not thinking where he went, crossing Oxford Street and then turning
down Regent Street and following it to Piccadilly and the Haymarket.
Just before he reached the theatre, he slackened his pace and looked
about him, as if he were waking up; and there, in the cross street,
just behind the theatre, he saw a telegraph office.
He entered, pushed his hat still a little farther back, and wrote a
cable message. It was as short as it could be, for it consisted of one
word only besides the address, and that one word had only two letters:
That was all, and there was nothing mysterious about the syllable,
for almost any one would understand that it was used as in starting
a footrace, and meant, 'Begin operations at once!' It was the word
agreed upon between Isidore Bamberger and his lawyer. The latter had
been allowed all the latitude required in such a case, for he had
instructions to lay the evidence before the District Attorney-General
without delay, if anything happened to make immediate action seem
advisable. In any event, he was to do so on receiving the message
which had now been sent.
The evidence consisted, in the first place, of certain irrefutable
proofs that Miss Bamberger had not died from shock, but had been
killed by a thin and extremely sharp instrument with which she had
been stabbed in the back. Isidore Bamberger's own doctor had satisfied
himself of this, and had signed his statement under oath, and
Bamberger had instantly thought of a certain thin steel letter-opener
which Van Torp always had in his pocket.
Next came the affidavit of Paul Griggs. The witness knew the Opera
House well. Had been in the stalls on the night in question. Had not
moved from his seat till the performance was over, and had been one of
the last to get out into the corridor. There was a small door in the
corridor on the south side which was generally shut. It opened upon a
passage communicating with the part of the building that is let for
business offices. Witness's attention had been attracted by part of
a red silk dress which lay on the floor outside the door, the latter
being ajar. Suspecting an accident, witness opened door, found Miss
Bamberger, and carried her to manager's room not far off. On reaching
home had found stains of blood on his hands. Had said nothing of this,
because he had seen notice of the lady's death from shock in next
morning's paper. Was nevertheless convinced that blood must have been
on her dress.
The murder was therefore proved. But the victim had not been robbed
of her jewellery, which demonstrated that, if the crime had not been
committed by a lunatic, the motive for it must have been personal.
With regard to identity of the murderer, Charles Feist deposed that on
the night in question he had entered the Opera late, having only an
admission to the standing room, that he was close to one of the doors
when the explosion took place and had been one of the first to leave
the house. The emergency lights in the corridors were on a separate
circuit, but had been also momentarily extinguished. They were up
again before those in the house. The crowd had at once become jammed
in the doorways, so that people got out much more slowly than might
have been expected. Many actually fell in the exits and were trampled
on. Then Madame Cordova had begun to sing in the dark, and the panic
had ceased in a few seconds. The witness did not think that more than
three hundred people altogether had got out through the several doors.
He himself had at once made for the main entrance. A few persons
rushed past him in the dark, descending the stairs from the boxes. One
or two fell on the steps. Just as the emergency lights went up again,
witness saw a young lady in a red silk dress fall, but did not see her
face distinctly; he was certain that she had a short string of pearls
round her throat. They gleamed in the light as she fell. She was
instantly lifted to her feet by Mr. Rufus Van Torp, who must have been
following her closely. She seemed to have hurt herself a little,
and he almost carried her down the corridor in the direction of
the carriage lobby on the Thirty-Eighth Street side. The two then
disappeared through a door. The witness would swear to the door, and
he described its position accurately. It seemed to have been left
ajar, but there was no light on the other side of it. The witness did
not know where the door led to. He had often wondered. It was not
for the use of the public. He frequently went to the Opera and was
perfectly familiar with the corridors. It was behind this door that
Paul Griggs had found Miss Bamberger. Questioned as to a possible
motive for the murder, the witness stated that Rufus Van Torp was
known to have shown homicidal tendencies, though otherwise perfectly
sane. In his early youth he had lived four years on a cattle-ranch as
a cow-puncher, and had undoubtedly killed two men during that time.
Witness had been private secretary to his partner, Mr. Isidore
Bamberger, and while so employed Mr. Van Torp had fired a revolver at
him in his private office in a fit of passion about a message witness
was sent to deliver. Two clerks in a neighbouring room had heard the
shot. Believing Mr. Van Torp to be mad, witness had said nothing at
the time, but had left Mr. Bamberger soon afterwards. It was always
said that, several years ago, on board of his steam yacht, Mr. Van
Torp had once violently pulled a friend who was on board out of his
berth at two in the morning, and had dragged him on deck, saying that
he must throw him overboard and drown him, as the only way of saving
his soul. The watch on deck had had great difficulty in overpowering
Mr. Van Torp, who was very strong. With regard to the late Miss
Bamberger the witness thought that Mr. Van Torp had killed her to get
rid of her, because she was in possession of facts that would ruin him
if they were known and because she had threatened to reveal them to
her father. If she had done so, Van Torp would have been completely in
his partner's power. Mr. Bamberger could have made a beggar of him as
the only alternative to penal servitude. Questioned as to the nature
of this information, witness said that it concerned the explosion,
which had been planned by Van Torp for his own purposes. Either in a
moment of expansion, under the influence of the drug he was in the
habit of taking, or else in real anxiety for her safety, he had told
Miss Bamberger that the explosion would take place, warning her to
remain in her home, which was situated on the Riverside Drive, very
far from the scene of the disaster. She had undoubtedly been so
horrified that she had thereupon insisted upon dissolving her
engagement to marry him, and had threatened to inform her father of
the horrible plot. She had never really wished to marry Van Torp, but
had accepted him in deference to her father's wishes. He was known
to be devoting himself at that very time to a well-known primadonna
engaged at the Metropolitan Opera, and Miss Bamberger probably had
some suspicion of this. Witness said the motive seemed sufficient,
considering that the accused had already twice taken human life. His
choice lay between killing her and falling into the power of his
partner. He had injured Mr. Bamberger, as was well known, and Mr.
Bamberger was a resentful man.
The latter part of Charles Feist's deposition was certainly more in
the nature of an argument than of evidence pure and simple, and it
might not be admitted in court; but Isidore Bamberger had instructed
his lawyer, and the Public Prosecutor would say it all, and more also,
and much better; and public opinion was roused all over the United
States against the Nickel Tyrant, as Van Torp was now called.
In support of the main point there was a short note to Miss Bamberger
in Van Torp's handwriting, which had afterwards been found on her
dressing-table. It must have arrived before she had gone out to
dinner. It contained a final and urgent entreaty that she would not go
to the Opera, nor leave the house that evening, and was signed with
Van Torp's initials only, but no one who knew his handwriting would be
likely to doubt that the note was genuine.
There were some other scattered pieces of evidence which fitted the
rest very well. Mr. Van Torp had not been seen at his own house,
nor in any club, nor down town, after he had gone out on Wednesday
afternoon, until the following Friday, when he had returned to make
his final arrangements for sailing the next morning. Bamberger had
employed a first-rate detective, but only one, to find out all that
could be discovered about Van Torp's movements. The millionaire had
been at the house on Riverside Drive early in the afternoon to see
Miss Bamberger, as he had told Margaret on board the steamer, but
Bamberger had not seen his daughter after that till she was brought
home dead, for he had been detained by an important meeting at which
he presided, and knowing that she was dining out to go to the theatre
he had telephoned that he would dine at his club. He himself had tried
to telephone to Van Torp later in the evening but had not been able to
find him, and had not seen him till Friday.
This was the substance of the evidence which Bamberger's lawyer and
the detective would lay before the District Attorney-General on
receiving the cable.
When Lady Maud stopped at Margaret's house on her way to the theatre
she had been dining at Princes' with a small party of people, amongst
whom Paul Griggs had found himself, and as there was no formality to
hinder her from choosing her own place she had sat down next to him.
The table was large and round, the sixty or seventy other diners in
the room made a certain amount of noise, so that it was easy to talk
in undertones while the conversation of the others was general.
The veteran man of letters was an old acquaintance of Lady Maud's; and
as she made no secret of her friendship with Rufus Van Torp, it was
not surprising that Griggs should warn her of the latter's danger. As
he had expected when he left New York, he had received a visit from a
'high-class' detective, who came to find out what he knew about Miss
Bamberger's death. This is a bad world, as we all know, and it is made
so by a good many varieties of bad people. As Mr. Van Torp had said to
Logotheti, 'different kinds of cats have different kinds of ways,' and
the various classes of criminals are pursued by various classes of
detectives. Many are ex-policemen, and make up the pack that hunts
the well-dressed lady shop-lifter, the gentle pickpocket, the agile
burglar, the Paris Apache, and the common murderer of the Bill Sykes
type; they are good dogs in their way, if you do not press them,
though they are rather apt to give tongue. But when they are not
ex-policemen, they are always ex-something else, since there is no
college for detectives, and it is not probable that any young man ever
deliberately began life with the intention of becoming one. Edgar Poe
invented the amateur detective, and modern writers have developed him
till he is a familiar and always striking figure in fiction and on the
stage. Whether he really exists or not does not matter. I have heard a
great living painter ask the question: What has art to do with truth?
But as a matter of fact Paul Griggs, who had seen a vast deal, had
never met an amateur detective; and my own impression is that if one
existed he would instantly turn himself into a professional because it
would be so very profitable.
The one who called on Griggs in his lodgings wrote 'barrister-at-law'
after his name, and had the right to do so. He had languished in
chambers, briefless and half starving, either because he had no talent
for the bar, or because he had failed to marry a solicitor's daughter.
He himself was inclined to attribute his want of success to the
latter cause. But he had not wasted his time, though he was more than
metaphorically threadbare, and his waist would have made a sensation
at a staymaker's. He had watched and pondered on many curious cases
for years; and one day, when a 'high-class' criminal had baffled the
police and had well-nigh confounded the Attorney-General and proved
himself a saint, the starving barrister had gone quietly to work in
his own way, had discovered the truth, had taken his information to
the prosecution, had been the means of sending the high-class one to
penal servitude, and had covered himself with glory; since when he had
grown sleek and well-liking, if not rich, as a professional detective.
Griggs had been perfectly frank, and had told without hesitation all
he could remember of the circumstances. In answer to further questions
he said he knew Mr. Van Torp tolerably well, and had not seen him in
the Opera House on the evening of the murder. He did not know whether
the financier's character was violent. If it was, he had never seen
any notable manifestation of temper. Did he know that Mr. Van Torp had
once lived on a ranch, and had killed two men in a shooting
affray? Yes, he had heard so, but the shooting might have been in
self-defence. Did he know anything about the blowing up of the works
of which Van Torp had been accused in the papers? Nothing more than
the public knew. Or anything about the circumstances of Van Torp's
engagement to Miss Bamberger? Nothing whatever. Would he read the
statement and sign his name to it? He would, and he did.
Griggs thought the young man acted more like an ordinary lawyer than a
detective, and said so with a smile.
'Oh no,' was the quiet answer. 'In my business it's quite as important
to recognise honesty as it is to detect fraud. That's all.'
For his own part the man of letters did not care a straw whether Van
Torp had committed the murder or not, but he thought it very unlikely.
On general principles, he thought the law usually found out the truth
in the end, and he was ready to do what he could to help it. He held
his tongue, and told no one about the detective's visit, because he
had no intimate friend in England; partly, too, because he wished to
keep his name out of what was now called 'the Van Torp scandal.'
He would never have alluded to the matter if he had not accidentally
found himself next to Lady Maud at dinner. She had always liked him
and trusted him, and he liked her and her father. On that evening she
spoke of Van Torp within the first ten minutes, and expressed her
honest indignation at the general attack made on 'the kindest man that
ever lived.' Then Griggs felt that she had a sort of right to know
what was being done to bring against her friend an accusation of
murder, for he believed Van Torp innocent, and was sure that Lady
Maud would warn him; but it was for her sake only that Griggs spoke,
because he pitied her.
She took it more calmly than he had expected, but she grew a little
paler, and that look came into her eyes which Margaret and Logotheti
saw there an hour afterwards; and presently she asked Griggs if he too
would join the week-end party at Craythew, telling him that Van Torp
would be there. Griggs accepted, after a moment's hesitation.
She was not quite sure why she had so frankly appealed to Logotheti
for help when they left Margaret's house together, but she was not
disappointed in his answer. He was 'exotic,' as she had said of him;
he was hopelessly in love with Cordova, who disliked Van Torp, and he
could not be expected to take much trouble for any other woman; she
had not the very slightest claim on him. Yet she had asked him to help
her in a way which might be anything but lawful, even supposing that
it did not involve positive cruelty.
For she had not been married to Leven four years without learning
something of Asiatic practices, and she knew that there were more
means of making a man tell a secret than by persuasion or wily
cross-examination. It was all very well to keep within the bounds of
the law and civilisation, but where the whole existence of her best
friend was at stake, Lady Maud was much too simple, primitive, and
feminine to be hampered by any such artificial considerations, and
she turned naturally to a man who did not seem to be a slave to them
either. She had not quite dared to hope that he would help her, and
his readiness to do so was something of a surprise; but she would have
been astonished if he had been in the least shocked at the implied
suggestion of deliberately torturing Charles Feist till he revealed
the truth about the murder. She only felt a little uncomfortable when
she reflected that Feist might not know it after all, whereas she had
boldly told Logotheti that he did.
If the Greek had hesitated for a few seconds before giving his answer,
it was not that he was doubtful of his own willingness to do what she
wished, but because he questioned his power to do it. The request
itself appealed to the Oriental's love of excitement and to his taste
for the uncommon in life. If he had not sometimes found occasions for
satisfying both, he could not have lived in Paris and London at all,
but would have gone back to Constantinople, which is the last refuge
of romance in Europe, the last hiding-place of mediaeval adventure,
the last city of which a new Decameron of tales could still be told,
and might still be true.
Lady Maud had good nerves, and she watched the play with her friends
and talked between the acts, very much as if nothing had happened,
except that she was pale and there was that look in her eyes; but only
Paul Griggs noticed it, because he had a way of watching the small
changes of expression that may mean tragedy, but more often signify
indigestion, or too much strong tea, or a dun's letter, or a tight
shoe, or a bad hand at bridge, or the presence of a bore in the room,
or the flat failure of expected pleasure, or sauce spilt on a new gown
by a rival's butler, or being left out of something small and smart,
or any of those minor aches that are the inheritance of the social
flesh, and drive women perfectly mad while they last.
But Griggs knew that none of these troubles afflicted Lady Maud, and
when he spoke to her now and then, between the acts, she felt his
sympathy for her in every word and inflection.
She was glad when the evening was over and she was at home in her
dressing-room, and there was no more effort to be made till the next
day. But even alone, she did not behave or look very differently; she
twisted up her thick brown hair herself, as methodically as ever, and
laid out the black velvet gown on the lounge after shaking it out,
so that it should be creased as little as possible; but when she was
ready to go to bed she put on a dressing-gown and sat down at her
table to write to Rufus Van Torp.
The letter was begun and she had written half a dozen lines when she
laid down the pen, to unlock a small drawer from which she took an old
blue envelope that had never been sealed, though it was a good deal
the worse for wear. There was a photograph in it, which she laid
before her on the letter; and she looked down at it steadily, resting
her elbows on the table and her forehead and temples in her hands.
It was a snapshot photograph of a young officer in khaki and puttees,
not very well taken, and badly mounted on a bit of white pasteboard
that might have been cut from a bandbox with a penknife; but it was
all she had, and there could never be another.
She looked at it a long time.
'You understand, dear,' she said at last, very low; 'you understand.'
She put it away again and locked the drawer before she went on with
her letter to Van Torp. It was easy enough to tell him what she had
learned about Feist from Logotheti; it was even possible that he had
found it out for himself, and had not taken the trouble to inform her
of the fact. Apart from the approval that friendship inspires, she had
always admired the cool discernment of events which he showed when
great things were at stake. But it was one thing, she now told him, to
be indifferent to the stupid attacks of the press, it would be quite
another to allow himself to be accused of murder; the time had come
when he must act, and without delay; there was a limit beyond which
indifference became culpable apathy; it was clear enough now, she
said, that all these attacks on him had been made to ruin him in the
estimation of the public on both sides of the Atlantic before striking
the first blow, as he himself had guessed; Griggs was surely not an
alarmist, and Griggs said confidently that Van Torp's enemies meant
business; without doubt, a mass of evidence had been carefully got
together during the past three months, and it was pretty sure that an
attempt would be made before long to arrest him; would he do nothing
to make such an outrage impossible? She had not forgotten, she could
never forget, what she owed him, but on his side he owed something to
her, and to the great friendship that bound them to each other. Who
was this man Feist, and who was behind him? She did not know why she
was so sure that he knew the truth, supposing that there had really
been a murder, but her instinct told her so.
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