F. Marion Crawford
Part 6 out of 6
Lady Maud was not gifted with much power of writing, for she was not
clever at books, or with pen and ink, but she wrote her letter
with deep conviction and striking clearness. The only point of any
importance which she did not mention was that Logotheti had promised
to help her, and she did not write of that because she was not really
sure that he could do anything, though she was convinced that he would
try. She was very anxious. She was horrified when she thought of what
might happen if nothing were done. She entreated Van Torp to answer
that he would take steps to defend himself; and that, if possible, he
would come to town so that they might consult together.
She finished her letter and went to bed; but her good nerves failed
her for once, and it was a long time before she could get to sleep.
It was absurd, of course, but she remembered every case she had ever
heard of in which innocent men had been convicted of crimes they had
not committed and had suffered for them; and in a hideous instant,
between waking and dozing, she saw Rufus Van Torp hanged before her
The impression was so awful that she started from her pillow with a
cry and turned up the electric lamp. It was not till the light flooded
the room that the image quite faded away and she could let her
head rest on the pillow again, and even then her heart was beating
violently, as it had only beaten once in her life before that night.
Sir Jasper Threlfall did not know how long it would be before Mr.
Feist could safely be discharged from the establishment in which
Logotheti had so kindly placed him. Dr. Bream said 'it was as bad a
case of chronic alcoholism as he often saw.' What has grammar to do
with the treatment of the nerves? Mr. Feist said he did not want to be
cured of chronic alcoholism, and demanded that he should be let out
at once. Dr. Bream answered that it was against his principles to
discharge a patient half cured. Mr. Feist retorted that it was a
violation of personal liberty to cure a man against his will. The
physician smiled kindly at a view he heard expressed every day, and
which the law shared, though it might not be very ready to support it.
Physically, Mr. Feist was afraid of Dr. Bream, who had played football
for Guy's Hospital and had the complexion of a healthy baby and a
quiet eye. So the patient changed his tone, and whined for something
to calm his agitated nerves. One teaspoonful of whisky was all he
begged for, and he promised not to ask for it to-morrow if he might
have it to-day. The doctor was obdurate about spirits, but felt his
pulse, examined the pupils of his eyes, and promised him a calming
hypodermic in an hour. It was too soon after breakfast, he said. Mr.
Feist only once attempted to use violence, and then two large men came
into the room, as quiet and healthy as the doctor himself, and gently
but firmly put him to bed, tucking him up in such an extraordinary way
that he found it quite impossible to move or to get his hands out; and
Dr. Bream, smiling with exasperating calm, stuck a needle into his
shoulder, after which he presently fell asleep.
He had been drinking hard for years, so that it was a very bad case;
and besides, he seemed to have something on his mind, which made it
Logotheti came to see him now, and took a vast deal of trouble to be
agreeable. At his first visit Feist flew into a rage and accused the
Greek of having kidnapped him and shut him up in a prison, where
he was treated like a lunatic; but to this Logotheti was quite
indifferent; he only shook his head rather sadly, and offered Feist a
very excellent cigarette, such as it was quite impossible to buy, even
in London. After a little hesitation the patient took it, and the
effect was very soothing to his temper. Indeed it was wonderful, for
in less than two minutes his features relaxed, his eyes became quiet,
and he actually apologised for having spoken so rudely. Logotheti had
been kindness itself, he said, had saved his life at the very moment
when he was going to cut his throat, and had been in all respects the
good Samaritan. The cigarette was perfectly delicious. It was about
the best smoke he had enjoyed since he had left the States, he said.
He wished Logotheti to please to understand that he wanted to settle
up for all expenses as soon as possible, and to pay his weekly bills
at Dr. Bream's. There had been twenty or thirty pounds in notes in his
pocket-book, and a letter of credit, but all his things had been taken
away from him. He concluded it was all right, but it seemed rather
strenuous to take his papers too. Perhaps Mr. Logotheti, who was so
kind, would make sure that they were in a safe place, and tell the
doctor to let him see any other friends who called. Then he asked
for another of those wonderful cigarettes, but Logotheti was awfully
sorry--there had only been two, and he had just smoked the other
himself. He showed his empty case.
'By the way,' he said, 'if the doctor should happen to come in and
notice the smell of the smoke, don't tell him that you had one of
mine. My tobacco is rather strong, and he might think it would do you
harm, you know. I see that you have some light ones there, on the
table. Just let him think that you smoked one of them. I promise to
bring some more to-morrow, and we'll have a couple together.'
That was what Logotheti said, and it comforted Mr. Feist, who
recognised the opium at once; all that afternoon and through all the
next morning he told himself that he was to have another of those
cigarettes, and perhaps two, at three o'clock in the afternoon, when
Logotheti had said that he would come again.
Before leaving his own rooms on the following day, the Greek put four
cigarettes into his case, for he had not forgotten his promise; he
took two from a box that lay on the table, and placed them so that
they would be nearest to his own hand when he offered his case, but he
took the other two from a drawer which was always locked, and of which
the key was at one end of his superornate watch-chain, and he placed
them on the other side of the case, conveniently for a friend to take.
All four cigarettes looked exactly alike.
If any one had pointed out to him that an Englishman would not think
it fair play to drug a man deliberately, Logotheti would have smiled
and would have replied by asking whether it was fair play to accuse an
innocent man of murder, a retort which would only become unanswerable
if it could be proved that Van Torp was suspected unjustly. But to
this objection, again, the Greek would have replied that he had been
brought up in Constantinople, where they did things in that way;
and that, except for the trifling obstacle of the law, there was
no particular reason for not strangling Mr. Feist with the English
equivalent for a bowstring, since he had printed a disagreeable story
about Miss Donne, and was, besides, a very offensive sort of person
in appearance and manner. There had always been a certain directness
about Logotheti's view of man's rights.
He went to see Mr. Feist every day at three o'clock, in the most kind
way possible, made himself as agreeable as he could, and gave him
cigarettes with a good deal of opium in them. He also presented Feist
with a pretty little asbestos lamp which was constructed to purify
the air, and had a really wonderful capacity for absorbing the rather
peculiar odour of the cigarettes. Dr. Bream always made his round
in the morning, and the men nurses he employed to take care of his
patients either did not notice anything unusual, or supposed that
Logotheti smoked some 'outlandish Turkish stuff,' and, because he was
a privileged person, they said nothing about it. As he had brought
the patient to the establishment to be cured, it was really not to be
supposed that he would supply him with forbidden narcotics.
Now, to a man who is poisoned with drink and is suddenly deprived of
it, opium is from the beginning as delightful as it is nauseous to
most healthy people when they first taste it; and during the next four
or five days, while Feist appeared to be improving faster than might
have been expected, he was in reality acquiring such a craving for
his daily dose of smoke that it would soon be acute suffering to be
deprived of it; and this was what Logotheti wished. He would have
supplied him with brandy if he had not been sure that the contraband
would be discovered and stopped by the doctor; but opium, in the
hands of one who knows exactly how it is used, is very much harder
to detect, unless the doctor sees the smoker when he is under the
influence of the drug, while the pupils of the eye are unnaturally
contracted and the face is relaxed in that expression of beatitude
which only the great narcotics can produce--the state which Baudelaire
called the Artificial Paradise.
During these daily visits Logotheti became very confidential; that is
to say, he exercised all his ingenuity in the attempt to make Feist
talk about himself. But he was not very successful. Broken as the man
was, his characteristic reticence was scarcely at all relaxed, and it
was quite impossible to get beyond the barrier. One day Logotheti gave
him a cigarette more than usual, as an experiment, but he went to
sleep almost immediately, sitting up in his chair. The opium, as a
moderate substitute for liquor, temporarily restored the habitual tone
of his system and revived his natural self-control, and Logotheti soon
gave up the idea of extracting any secret from him in a moment of
There was the other way, which was now prepared, and the Greek had
learned enough about his victim to justify him in using it. The cypher
expert, who had been at work on Feist's diary, had now completed his
key and brought Logotheti the translation. He was a rather shabby
little man, a penman employed to do occasional odd jobs about the
Foreign Office, such as engrossing documents and the like, by which he
earned from eighteenpence to half-a-crown an hour, according to the
style of penmanship required, and he was well known in the criminal
courts as an expert on handwriting in forgery cases.
He brought his work to Logotheti, who at once asked for the long entry
concerning the night of the explosion. The expert turned to it and
read it aloud. It was a statement of the circumstances to which Feist
was prepared to swear, and which have been summed up in a previous
chapter. Van Torp was not mentioned by name in the diary, but was
referred to as 'he'; the other entries in the journal, however, fully
proved that Van Torp was meant, even if Logotheti had felt any doubt
The expert informed him, however, that the entry was not the original
one, which had apparently been much shorter, and had been obliterated
in the ordinary way with a solution of chloride of lime. Here and
there very pale traces of the previous writing were faintly visible,
but there was not enough to give the sense of what was gone. This
proved that the ink had not been long dry when it had been removed,
as the expert explained. It was very hard to destroy old writing so
completely that neither heat nor chemicals would bring it out again.
Therefore Feist must have decided to change the entry soon after he
had made it, and probably on the next day. The expert had not found
any other page which had been similarly treated. The shabby little man
looked at Logotheti, and Logotheti looked at him, and both nodded; and
the Greek paid him generously for his work.
It was clear that Feist had meant to aid his own memory, and had
rather clumsily tampered with his diary in order to make it agree with
the evidence he intended to give, rather than meaning to produce the
notes in court. What Logotheti meant to find out was what the man
himself really knew and what he had first written down; that, and some
other things. In conversation, Logotheti had asked him to describe the
panic at the theatre, and Cordova's singing in the dark, but Feist's
answers had been anything but interesting.
'You can't remember much about that kind of thing,' he had said in his
drawling way, 'because there isn't much to remember. There was a crash
and the lights went out, and people fought their way to the doors in
the dark till there was a general squash; then Madame Cordova began
to sing, and that kind of calmed things down till the lights went up
again. That's about all I remember.'
His recollections did not at all agree with what he had entered in his
diary; but though Logotheti tried a second time two days later, Feist
repeated the same story with absolute verbal accuracy. The Greek asked
him if he had known 'that poor Miss Bamberger who died of shock.'
Feist blew out a cloud of drugged tobacco smoke before he answered,
with one of his disagreeable smiles, that he had known her pretty
well, for he had been her father's private secretary. He explained
that he had given up the place because he had come into some money.
Mr. Bamberger was 'a very pleasant gentleman,' Feist declared, and
poor Miss Bamberger had been a 'superb dresser and a first-class
conversationalist, and was a severe loss to her friends and admirers.'
Though Logotheti, who was only a Greek, did not understand every word
of this panegyric, he perceived that it was intended for the highest
praise. He said he should like to know Mr. Bamberger, and was sorry
that he had not known Miss Bamberger, who had been engaged to marry
Mr. Van Torp, as every one had heard.
He thought he saw a difference in Feist's expression, but was not sure
of it. The pale, unhealthy, and yet absurdly youthful face was not
naturally mobile, and the almost colourless eyes always had rather a
fixed and staring look. Logotheti was aware of a new meaning in them
rather than of a distinct change. He accordingly went on to say that
he had heard poor Miss Bamberger spoken of as heartless, and he
brought out the word so unexpectedly that Feist looked sharply at him.
'Well,' he said, 'some people certainly thought so. I daresay she was.
It don't matter much, now she's dead, anyway.'
'She paid for it, poor girl,' answered Logotheti very deliberately.
'They say she was murdered.'
The change in Feist's face was now unmistakable. There was a drawing
down of the corners of the mouth, and a lowering of the lids that
meant something, and the unhealthy complexion took a greyish shade.
Logotheti was too wise to watch his intended victim, and leaned back
in a careless attitude, gazing out of the window at the bright creeper
on the opposite wall.
'I've heard it suggested,' said Mr. Feist rather thickly, out of a
perfect storm of drugged smoke.
It came out of his ugly nostrils, it blew out of his mouth, it seemed
to issue even from his ears and eyes.
'I suppose we shall never know the truth,' said Logotheti in an idle
tone, and not seeming to look at his companion. 'Mr. Griggs--do you
remember Mr. Griggs, the author, at the Turkish Embassy, where we
first met? Tall old fellow, sad-looking, bony, hard; you remember him,
'Why, yes,' drawled Feist, emitting more smoke, 'I know him quite
'He found blood on his hands after he had carried her. Had you not
heard that? I wondered whether you saw her that evening. Did you?'
'I saw her from a distance in the box with her friends,' answered
'Did you see her afterwards?'
The direct question came suddenly, and the strained look in Feist's
face became more intense. Logotheti fancied he understood very well
what was passing in the young man's mind; he intended to swear in
court that he had seen Van Torp drag the girl to the place where her
body was afterwards found, and if he now denied this, the Greek, who
was probably Van Torp's friend, might appear as a witness and narrate
the present conversation; and though this would not necessarily
invalidate the evidence, it might weaken it in the opinion of the
jury. Feist had of course suspected that Logotheti had some object in
forcing him to undergo a cure, and this suspicion had been confirmed
by the opium cigarettes, which he would have refused after the first
time if he had possessed the strength of mind to do so.
While Logotheti watched him, three small drops of perspiration
appeared high up on his forehead, just where the parting of his thin
light hair began; for he felt that he must make up his mind what to
say, and several seconds had already elapsed since the question.
'As a matter of fact,' he said at last, with an evident effort, 'I did
catch sight of Miss Bamberger later.'
He had been aware of the moisture on his forehead, and had hoped that
Logotheti would not notice it, but the drops now gathered and rolled
down, so that he was obliged to take out his handkerchief.
'It's getting quite hot,' he said, by way of explanation.
'Yes,' answered Logotheti, humouring him, 'the room is warm. You must
have been one of the last people who saw Miss Bamberger alive,' he
added. 'Was she trying to get out?'
'I suppose so.'
Logotheti pretended to laugh a little.
'You must have been quite sure when you saw her,' he said.
Feist was in a very overwrought condition by this time, and Logotheti
reflected that if his nerve did not improve he would make a bad
impression on a jury.
'Now I'll tell you the truth,' he said rather desperately.
'By all means!' And Logotheti prepared to hear and remember accurately
the falsehood which would probably follow immediately on such a
But he was disappointed.
'The truth is,' said Feist, 'I don't care much to talk about this
affair at present. I can't explain now, but you'll understand one of
these days, and you'll say I was right.'
'Oh, I see!'
Logotheti smiled and held out his case, for Feist had finished the
first cigarette. He refused another, however, to the other's surprise.
'Thanks,' he said, 'but I guess I won't smoke any more of those. I
believe they get on to my nerves.'
'Do you really not wish me to bring you any more of them?' asked
Logotheti, affecting a sort of surprised concern. 'Do you think they
'I do. That's exactly what I mean. I'm much obliged, all the same, but
I'm going to give them up, just like that.'
'Very well,' Logotheti answered. 'I promise not to bring any more. I
think you are very wise to make the resolution, if you really think
they hurt you--though I don't see why they should.'
Like most weak people who make good resolutions, Mr. Feist did not
realise what he was doing. He understood horribly well, forty-eight
hours later, when he was dragging himself at his tormentor's feet,
entreating the charity of half a cigarette, of one teaspoonful of
liquor, of anything, though it were deadly poison, that could rest his
agonised nerves for a single hour, for ten minutes, for an instant,
offering his life and soul for it, parching for it, burning, sweating,
trembling, vibrating with horror, and sick with fear for the want of
For Logotheti was an Oriental and had lived in Constantinople; and
he knew what opium does, and what a man will do to get it, and that
neither passion of love, nor bond of affection, nor fear of man or
God, nor of death and damnation, will stand against that awful craving
when the poison is within reach.
The society papers printed a paragraph which said that Lord Creedmore
and Countess Leven were going to have a week-end party at Craythew,
and the list of guests included the names of Mr. Van Torp and Senorita
da Cordova, 'Monsieur Konstantinos Logotheti' and Mr. Paul Griggs,
after those of a number of overpoweringly smart people.
Lady Maud's brothers saw the paragraph, and the one who was in the
Grenadier Guards asked the one who was in the Blues if 'the Governor
was going in for zoology or lion-taming in his old age'; but the
brother in the Blues said it was 'Maud who liked freaks of nature, and
Greeks, and things, because they were so amusing to photograph.'
At all events, Lady Maud had studiously left out her brothers and
sisters in making up the Craythew party, a larger one than had been
assembled there for many years; it was so large indeed that the
'freaks' would not have been prominent figures at all, even if they
had been such unusual persons as the young man in the Blues imagined
For though Lord Creedmore was not a rich peer, Craythew was a fine old
place, and could put up at least thirty guests without crowding them
and without causing that most uncomfortable condition of things in
which people run over each other from morning to night during week-end
parties in the season, when there is no hunting or shooting to keep
the men out all day. The house itself was two or three times as big as
Mr. Van Torp's at Oxley Paddox. It had its hall, its long drawing-room
for dancing, its library, its breakfast-room and its morning-room, its
billiard-room, sitting-room, and smoking-room, like many another big
English country house; but it had also a picture gallery, the library
was an historical collection that filled three good-sized rooms, and
it was completed by one which had always been called the study, beyond
which there were two little dwelling-rooms, at the end of the wing,
where the librarian had lived when there had been one. For the old
lord had been a bachelor and a book lover, but the present master of
the house, who was tremendously energetic and practical, took care of
the books himself. Now and then, when the house was almost full, a
guest was lodged in the former librarian's small apartment, and on the
present occasion Paul Griggs was to be put there, on the ground that
he was a man of letters and must be glad to be near books, and
also because he could not be supposed to be afraid of Lady Letitia
Foxwell's ghost, which was believed to have spent the nights in the
library for the last hundred and fifty years, more or less, ever since
the unhappy young girl had hanged herself there in the time of George
the Second, on the eve of her wedding day.
The ancient house stood more than a mile from the high road, near the
further end of such a park as is rarely to be seen, even in beautiful
Derbyshire, for the Foxwells had always loved their trees, as good
Englishmen should, and had taken care of them. There were ancient oaks
there, descended by less than four tree-generations from Druid times;
all down the long drive the great elms threw their boughs skywards;
there the solemn beeches grew, the gentler ash, and the lime; there
the yews spread out their branches, and here and there the cedar of
Lebanon, patriarch of all trees that bear cones, reared his royal
crown above the rest; in and out, too, amongst the great boulders that
strewed the park, the sharp-leaved holly stood out boldly, and the
exquisite white thorn, all in flower, shot up to three and four times
a man's height; below, the heather grew close and green to blossom in
the summer-time; and in the deeper, lonelier places the blackthorn and
hoe ran wild, and the dog-rose in wild confusion; the alder and the
gorse too, the honeysuckle and ivy, climbed up over rocks and stems;
you might see a laurel now and then, and bilberry bushes by thousands,
and bracken everywhere in an endless profusion of rich, dark-green
Squirrels there were, dashing across the open glades and running up
the smooth beeches and chestnut trees, as quick as light, and rabbits,
dodging in and out amongst the ferns, and just showing the snow-white
patch under their little tails as they disappeared, and now and again
the lordly deer stepping daintily and leisurely through the deep fern;
all these lived in the wonderful depths of Craythew Park, and of birds
there was no end. There were game birds and song birds, from the
handsome pheasants to the modest little partridges, the royalists and
the puritans of the woods, from the love-lorn wood-pigeon, cooing in
the tall firs, to the thrush and the blackbird, making long hops as
they quartered the ground for grubs; and the robin, the linnet, and
little Jenny Wren all lived there in riotous plenty of worms and
snails; and nearer to the great house the starlings and jackdaws shot
down in a great hurry from the holes in old trees where they had their
nests, and many of them came rushing from their headquarters in the
ruined tower by the stream to waddle about the open lawns in their
ungainly fashion, vain because they were not like swallows, but could
really walk when they chose, though they did it rather badly. And
where the woods ended they were lined with rhododendrons, and lilacs,
and laburnum. There are even bigger parks in England than Craythew,
but there is none more beautiful, none richer in all sweet and good
things that live, none more musical with song of birds, not one that
more deeply breathes the world's oldest poetry.
Lady Maud went out on foot that afternoon and met Van Torp in the
drive, half a mile from the house. He came in his motor car with Miss
More and Ida, who was to go back after tea. It was by no means the
first time that they had been at Craythew; the little girl loved
nature, and understood by intuition much that would have escaped a
normal child. It was her greatest delight to come over in the motor
and spend two or three hours in the park, and when none of the family
were in the country she was always free to come and go, with Miss
More, as she pleased.
Lady Maud kissed her kindly and shook hands with her teacher before
the car went on to leave Mr. Van Torp's things at the house. Then the
two walked slowly along the road, and neither spoke for some time, nor
looked at the other, but both kept their eyes on the ground before
them, as if expecting something.
Mr. Van Torp's hands were in his pockets, his soft straw hat was
pushed rather far back on his sandy head, and as he walked he breathed
an American tune between his teeth, raising one side of his upper lip
to let the faint sound pass freely without turning itself into a real
whistle. It is rather a Yankee trick, and is particularly offensive to
some people, but Lady Maud did not mind it at all, though she heard it
distinctly. It always meant that Mr. Van Torp was in deep thought, and
she guessed that, just then, he was thinking more about her than of
himself. In his pocket he held in his right hand a small envelope
which he meant to bring out presently and give to her, where nobody
would be likely to see them.
Presently, when the motor had turned to the left, far up the long
drive, he raised his eyes and looked about him. He had the sight of a
man who has lived in the wilderness, and not only sees, but knows how
to see, which is a very different thing. Having satisfied himself, he
withdrew the envelope and held it out to his companion.
'I thought you might just as well have some more money,' he said, 'so
I brought you some. I may want to sail any minute. I don't know. Yes,
you'd better take it.'
Lady Maud had looked up quickly and had hesitated to receive the
envelope, but when he finished speaking she took it quickly and
slipped it into the opening of her long glove, pushing it down till
it lay in the palm of her hand. She fastened the buttons before she
'How thoughtful you always are for me!'
She unconsciously used the very words with which she had thanked him
in Hare Court the last time he had given her money. The tone told him
how deeply grateful she was.
'Well,' he said in answer, 'as far as that goes, it's for you
yourself, as much as if I didn't know where it went; and if I'm
obliged to sail suddenly I don't want you to be out of your
'You're much too good, Rufus. Do you really mean that you may have to
go back at once, to defend yourself?'
'No, not exactly that. But business is business, and somebody
responsible has got to be there, since poor old Bamberger has gone
crazy and come abroad to stay--apparently.'
'Well, he behaves like it, anyway. I'm beginning to be sorry for that
man. I'm in earnest. You mayn't believe it, but I really am. Kind of
unnatural, isn't it, for me to be sorry for people?'
He looked steadily at Lady Maud for a moment, then smiled faintly,
looked away, and began to blow his little tune through his teeth
'You were sorry for little Ida,' suggested Lady Maud.
'That's different. I--I liked her mother a good deal, and when the
child was turned adrift I sort of looked after her. Anybody'd do that,
'And you're sorry for me, in a way,' said Lady Maud.
'You're different, too. You're my friend. I suppose you're about the
only one I've got, too. We can't complain of being crowded out of
doors by our friends, either of us, can we? Besides, I shouldn't put
it in that way, or call it being sorry, exactly. It's another kind of
feeling I have. I'd like to undo your life and make it over again for
you, the right way, so that you'd be happy. I can do a great deal, but
all the cursed nickel in the world won't bring back the--' he checked
himself suddenly, shutting his hard lips with an audible clack, and
looking down. 'I beg your pardon, my dear,' he said in a low voice, a
For he had been very near to speaking of the dead, and he felt
instinctively that the rough speech, however kindly meant, would have
pained her, and perhaps had already hurt her a little. But as she
looked down, too, her hand gently touched the sleeve of his coat to
tell him that there was nothing to forgive.
'He knows,' she said, more softly than sadly. 'Where he is, they know
about us--when we try to do right.'
'And you haven't only tried,' Van Torp answered quietly, 'you've done
'Have I?' It sounded as if she asked the question of herself, or of
some one to whom she appealed in her heart. 'I often wonder,' she
'You needn't worry,' said her companion, more cheerily than he had yet
spoken. 'Do you want to know why I think you needn't fuss about your
conscience and your soul, and things?'
He smiled now, and so did she, but more at the words he used than at
the question itself.
'Yes,' she said. 'I should like to know why.'
'It's a pretty good sign for a lady's soul when a lot of poor
creatures bless her every minute of their lives for fishing them out
of the mud and landing them in a decent life. Come, isn't it now? You
know it is. That's all. No further argument's necessary. The jury is
satisfied and the verdict is that you needn't fuss. So that's that,
and let's talk about something else.'
'I'm not so sure,' Lady Maud answered. 'Is it right to bribe people to
do right? Sometimes it has seemed very like that!'
'I don't set up to be an expert in morality,' retorted Van Torp, 'but
if money, properly used, can prevent murder, I guess that's better
than letting the murder be committed. You must allow that. The
same way with other crimes, isn't it? And so on, down to mere
misdemeanours, till you come to ordinary morality. Now what have you
got to say? If it isn't much better for the people themselves to lead
decent lives just for money's sake, it's certainly much better
for everybody else that they should. That appears to me to be
unanswerable. You didn't start in with the idea of making those poor
things just like you, I suppose. You can't train a cart-horse to win
the Derby. Yet all their nonsense about equality rests on the theory
that you can. You can't make a good judge out of a criminal, no
matter how the criminal repents of his crimes. He's not been born the
intellectual equal of the man who's born to judge him. His mind is
biassed. Perhaps he's a degenerate--everything one isn't oneself is
called degenerate nowadays. It helps things, I suppose. And you can't
expect to collect a lot of poor wretches together and manufacture
first-class Magdalens out of ninety-nine per cent of them, because
you're the one that needs no repentance, can you? I forget whether the
Bible says it was ninety-nine who did or ninety-nine who didn't,
but you'll understand my drift, I daresay. It's logic, if it isn't
Scripture. All right. As long as you can stop the evil, without doing
wrong yourself, you're bringing about a good result. So don't fuss.
'Yes, I see!' Lady Maud smiled. 'But it's your money that does it!'
'That's nothing,' Van Torp said, as if he disliked the subject.
He changed it effectually by speaking of his own present intentions
and explaining to his friend what he meant to do.
His point of view seemed to be that Bamberger was quite mad since his
daughter's death, and had built up a sensational but clumsy case, with
the help of the man Feist, whose evidence, as a confirmed dipsomaniac,
would be all but worthless. It was possible, Van Torp said, that Miss
Bamberger had been killed; in fact, Griggs' evidence alone would
almost prove it. But the chances were a thousand to one that she had
been killed by a maniac. Such murders were not so uncommon as Lady
Maud might think. The police in all countries know how many cases
occur which can be explained only on that theory, and how diabolically
ingenious madmen are in covering their tracks.
Lady Maud believed all he told her, and had perfect faith in his
innocence, but she knew instinctively that he was not telling her all;
and the certainty that he was keeping back something made her nervous.
In due time the other guests came; each in turn met Mr. Van Torp soon
after arriving, if not at the moment when they entered the house; and
they shook hands with him, and almost all knew why he was there, but
those who did not were soon told by the others.
The fact of having been asked to a country house for the express
purpose of being shown by ocular demonstration that something is 'all
right' which has been very generally said or thought to be all wrong,
does not generally contribute to the light-heartedness of such
parties. Moreover, the very young element was hardly represented, and
there was a dearth of those sprightly boys and girls who think it the
acme of delicate wit to shut up an aunt in the ice-box and throw the
billiard-table out of the window. Neither Lady Maud nor her father
liked what Mr. Van Torp called a 'circus'; and besides, the modern
youths and maids who delight in practical jokes were not the people
whose good opinion about the millionaire it was desired to obtain, or
to strengthen, as the case might be. The guests, far from being what
Lady Maud's brothers called a menagerie, were for the most part of the
graver sort whose approval weighs in proportion as they are themselves
social heavyweights. There was the Leader of the House, there were
a couple of members of the Cabinet, there was the Master of the
Foxhounds, there was the bishop of the diocese, and there was one of
the big Derbyshire landowners; there was an ex-governor-general
of something, an ex-ambassador to the United States, and a famous
general; there was a Hebrew financier of London, and Logotheti, the
Greek financier from Paris, who were regarded as colleagues of Van
Torp, the American financier; there was the scientific peer who had
dined at the Turkish Embassy with Lady Maud, there was the peer whose
horse had just won the Derby, and there was the peer who knew German
and was looked upon as the coming man in the Upper House. Many had
their wives with them, and some had lost their wives or could not
bring them; but very few were looking for a wife, and there were no
young women looking for husbands, since the Senorita da Cordova was
apparently not to be reckoned with those.
Now at this stage of my story it would be unpardonable to keep my
readers in suspense, if I may suppose that any of them have a little
curiosity left. Therefore I shall not narrate in detail what happened
on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, seeing that it was just what might
have been expected to happen at a week-end party during the season
when there is nothing in the world to do but to play golf, tennis, or
croquet, or to ride or drive all day, and to work hard at bridge all
the evening; for that is what it has come to.
Everything went very well till Sunday night, and most of the people
formed a much better opinion of Mr. Van Torp than those who had lately
read about him in the newspapers might have thought possible. The
Cabinet Ministers talked politics with him and found him sound--for
an American; the M.F.H. saw him ride, and felt for him exactly the
sympathy which a Don Cossack, a cowboy, and a Bedouin might feel for
each other if they met on horseback, and which needs no expression in
words; and the three distinguished peers liked him at once, because he
was not at all impressed by their social greatness, but was very
much interested in what they had to say respectively about science,
horse-breeding, and Herr Bebel. The great London financier, and he,
and Monsieur Logotheti exchanged casual remarks which all the men who
were interested in politics referred to mysterious loans that must
affect the armaments of the combined powers and the peace of Europe.
Mr. Van Torp kept away from the Primadonna, and she watched him
curiously, a good deal surprised to see that most of the others
liked him better than she had expected. She was rather agreeably
disappointed, too, at the reception she herself met with Lord
Creedmore spoke of her only as 'Miss Donne, the daughter of his oldest
friend,' and every one treated her accordingly. No one even mentioned
her profession, and possibly some of the guests did not quite realise
that she was the famous Cordova. Lady Maud never suggested that she
should sing, and Lord Creedmore detested music. The old piano in the
long drawing-room was hardly ever opened. It had been placed there in
Victorian days when 'a little music' was the rule, and since the happy
abolition of that form of terror it had been left where it stood, and
was tuned once a year, in case anybody should want a dance when there
were young people in the house.
A girl might as well master the Assyrian language in order to compose
hymns to Tiglath-Pileser as learn to play the piano nowadays, but
bridge is played at children's parties; let us not speak ill of the
Bridge that has carried us over.
Margaret was not out of her element; on the contrary, she at first
had the sensation of finding herself amongst rather grave and not
uncongenial English people, not so very different from those with whom
she had spent her early girlhood at Oxford. It was not strange to her,
but it was no longer familiar, and she missed the surroundings to
which she had grown accustomed. Hitherto, when she had been asked to
join such parties, there had been at least a few of those persons
who are supposed to delight especially in the society of sopranos,
actresses, and lionesses generally; but none of them were at Craythew.
She was suddenly transported back into regions where nobody seemed to
care a straw whether she could sing or not, where nobody flattered
her, and no one suggested that it would be amusing and instructive
to make a trip to Spain together, or that a charming little kiosk
at Therapia was at her disposal whenever she chose to visit the
There was only Logotheti to remind her of her everyday life,
for Griggs did not do so at all; he belonged much more to the
'atmosphere,' and though she knew that he had loved in his youth a
woman who had a beautiful voice, he understood nothing of music and
never talked about it. As for Lady Maud, Margaret saw much less of her
than she had expected; the hostess was manifestly preoccupied, and
was, moreover, obliged to give more of her time to her guests than
would have been necessary if they had been of the younger generation
or if the season had been winter.
Margaret noticed in herself a new phase of change with regard to
Logotheti, and she did not like it at all: he had become necessary to
her, and yet she was secretly a little ashamed of him. In that temple
of respectability where she found herself, in such 'a cloister of
social pillars' as Logotheti called the party, he was a discordant
figure. She was haunted by a painful doubt that if he had not been a
very important financier some of those quiet middle-aged Englishmen
might have thought him a 'bounder,' because of his ruby pin, his
summer-lightning waistcoats, and his almond-shaped eyes. It was very
unpleasant to be so strongly drawn to a man whom such people probably
thought a trifle 'off.'
It irritated her to be obliged to admit that the London financier, who
was a professed and professing Hebrew, was in appearance an English
gentleman, whereas Konstantinos Logotheti, with a pedigree of
Christian and not unpersecuted Fanariote ancestors, that went back to
Byzantine times without the least suspicion of any Semitic marriage,
might have been taken for a Jew in Lombard Street, and certainly would
have been thought one in Berlin. A man whose eyes suggested dark
almonds need not cover himself with jewellery and adorn himself
in naming colours, Margaret thought; and she resented his way of
dressing, much more than ever before. Lady Maud had called him exotic,
and Margaret could not forget that. By 'exotic' she was sure that her
friend meant something like vulgar, though Lady Maud said she liked
But the events that happened at Craythew on Sunday evening threw such
insignificant details as these into the shade, and brought out the
true character of the chief actors, amongst whom Margaret very
unexpectedly found herself.
It was late in the afternoon after a really cloudless June day, and
she had been for a long ramble in the park with Lord Creedmore, who
had talked to her about her father and the old Oxford days, till all
her present life seemed to be a mere dream; and she could not realise,
as she went up to her room, that she was to go back to London on
the morrow, to the theatre, to rehearsals, to Pompeo Stromboli,
Schreiermeyer, and the public.
She met Logotheti in the gallery that ran round two sides of the hall,
and they both stopped and leaned over the balustrade to talk a little.
'It has been very pleasant,' she said thoughtfully. 'I'm sorry it's
over so soon.'
'Whenever you are inclined to lead this sort of life,' Logotheti
answered with a laugh, 'you need only drop me a line. You shall have
a beautiful old house and a big park and a perfect colonnade of
respectabilities--and I'll promise not to be a bore.'
Margaret looked at him earnestly for some seconds, and then asked a
very unexpected and frivolous question, because she simply could not
'Where did you get that tie?'
The question was strongly emphasised, for it meant much more to her
just then than he could possibly have guessed; perhaps it meant
something which was affecting her whole life. He laughed carelessly.
'It's better to dress like Solomon in all his glory than to be taken
for a Levantine gambler,' he answered. 'In the days when I was
simple-minded, a foreigner in a fur coat and an eyeglass once stopped
me in the Boulevard des Italiens and asked if I could give him the
address of any house where a roulette-table was kept! After that I
took to jewels and dress!'
Margaret wondered why she could not help liking him; and by sheer
force of habit she thought that he would make a very good-looking
While she was thinking of that and smiling in spite of his tie, the
old clock in the hall below chimed the hour, and it was a quarter to
seven; and at the same moment three men were getting out of a train
that had stopped at the Craythew station, three miles from Lord
The daylight dinner was over, and the large party was more or less
scattered about the drawing-room and the adjoining picture-gallery
in groups of three and four, mostly standing while they drank their
coffee, and continued or finished the talk begun at table.
By force of habit Margaret had stopped beside the closed piano, and
had seated herself on the old-fashioned stool to have her coffee. Lady
Maud stood beside her, leaning against the corner of the instrument,
her cup in her hand, and the two young women exchanged rather idle
observations about the lovely day that was over, and the perfect
weather. Both were preoccupied and they did not look at each other;
Margaret's eyes watched Logotheti, who was half-way down the long
room, before a portrait by Sir Peter Lely, of which he was apparently
pointing out the beauties to the elderly wife of the scientific peer.
Lady Maud was looking out at the light in the sunset sky above the
trees beyond the flower-beds and the great lawn, for the piano stood
near an open window. From time to time she turned her head quickly
and glanced towards Van Torp, who was talking with her father at some
distance; then she looked out of the window again.
It was a warm evening; in the dusk of the big rooms the hum of voices
was low and pleasant, broken only now and then by Van Torp's more
strident tone. Outside it was still light, and the starlings and
blackbirds and thrushes were finishing their supper, picking up the
unwary worms and the tardy little snails, and making a good deal of
sweet noise about it.
Margaret set down her cup on the lid of the piano, and at the slight
sound Lady Maud turned towards her, so that their eyes met. Each
noticed the other's expression.
'What is it?' asked Lady Maud, with a little smile of friendly
concern. 'Is anything wrong?'
'No--that is--' Margaret smiled too, as she hesitated--'I was going to
ask you the same question,' she added quickly.
'It's nothing more than usual,' returned her friend. 'I think it
has gone very well, don't you, these three days? He has made a good
impression on everybody--don't you think so?'
'Oh yes!' Margaret answered readily. 'Excellent! Could not be better!
I confess to being surprised, just a little--I mean,' she corrected
herself hastily, 'after all the talk there has been, it might not have
turned out so easy.'
'Don't you feel a little less prejudiced against him yourself?' asked
'Prejudiced!' Margaret repeated the word thoughtfully. 'Yes, I suppose
I'm prejudiced against him. That's the only word. Perhaps it's hateful
of me, but I cannot help it--and I wish you wouldn't make me own it to
you, for it's humiliating! I'd like him, if I could, for your sake.
But you must take the wish for the deed.'
'That's better than nothing!' Lady Maud seemed to be trying to laugh
a little, but it was with an effort and there was no ripple in her
voice. 'You have something on your mind, too,' she went on, to change
the subject. 'Is anything troubling you?'
'Only the same old question. It's not worth mentioning!'
'To marry, or not to marry?'
'Yes. I suppose I shall take the leap some day, and probably in the
dark, and then I shall be sorry for it. Most of you have!'
She looked up at Lady Maud with a rather uncertain, flickering smile,
as if she wished her mind to be made up for her, and her hands lay
weakly in her lap, the palms almost upwards.
'Oh, don't ask me!' cried her friend, answering the look rather than
the words, and speaking with something approaching to vehemence.
'Do you wish you had waited for the other one till now?' asked
Margaret softly, but she did not know that he had been killed in South
Africa; she had never seen the shabby little photograph.
That was all Lady Maud said, and the two words were not uttered
dramatically either, though gravely and without the least doubt.
The butler and two men appeared, to collect the coffee cups; the
former had a small salver in his hand and came directly to Lady Maud.
He brought a telegram for her.
'You don't mind, do you?' she asked Margaret mechanically, as she
'Of course,' answered the other in the same tone, and she looked
through the open window while her friend read the message.
It was from the Embassy in London, and it informed her in the briefest
terms that Count Leven had been killed in St. Petersburg on the
previous day, in the street, by a bomb intended for a high official.
Lady Maud made no sound, but folded the telegram into a small square
and turned her back to the room for a moment in order to slip it
unnoticed into the body of her black velvet gown. As she recovered her
former attitude she was surprised to see that the butler was still
standing two steps from her where he had stopped after he had taken
the cups from the piano and set them on the small salver on which he
had brought the message. He evidently wanted to say something to her
Lady Maud moved away from the piano, and he followed her a little
beyond the window, till she stopped and turned to hear what he had to
'There are three persons asking for Mr. Van Torp, my lady,' he said
in a very low tone, and she noticed the disturbed look in his face.
'They've got a motor-car waiting in the avenue.'
'What sort of people are they?' she asked quietly; but she felt that
she was pale.
'To tell the truth, my lady,' the butler spoke in a whisper, bending
his head, 'I think they are from Scotland Yard.'
Lady Maud knew it already; she had almost guessed it when she had
glanced at his face before he spoke at all.
'Show them into the old study,' she said, 'and ask them to wait a
The butler went away with his two coffee cups, and scarcely any one
had noticed that Lady Maud had exchanged a few words with him by the
window. She turned back to the piano, where Margaret was still sitting
on the stool with her hands in her lap, looking at Logotheti in the
distance and wondering whether she meant to marry him or not.
'No bad news, I hope?' asked the singer, looking up as her friend came
to her side.
'Not very good,' Lady Maud answered, leaning her elbow on the piano.
'Should you mind singing something to keep the party together while
I talk to some tiresome men who are in the old study? On these June
evenings people have a way of wandering out into the garden after
dinner. I should like to keep every one in the house for a quarter
of an hour, and if you will only sing for them they won't stir. Will
Margaret looked at her curiously.
'I think I understand,' Margaret said. 'The people in the study are
asking for Mr. Van Torp.'
Lady Maud nodded, not surprised that Logotheti should have told the
Primadonna something about what he had been doing.
'Then you believe he is innocent,' she said confidently. 'Even though
you don't like him, you'll help me, won't you?'
'I'll do anything you ask me. But I should think--'
'No,' Lady Maud interrupted. 'He must not be arrested at all. I know
that he would rather face the detectives than run away, even for a
few hours, till the truth is known. But I won't let him. It would
be published all over the world to-morrow morning that he had been
arrested for murder in my father's house, and it would never be
forgotten against him, though he might be proved innocent ten times
over. That's what I want to prevent. Will you help me?'
As she spoke the last words she raised the front lid of the piano,
and Margaret turned on her seat towards the instrument to open the
keyboard, nodding her assent.
'Just play a little, till I am out of the room, and then sing,' said
The great artist's fingers felt the keys as her friend turned away.
Anything theatrical was natural to her now, and she began to play very
softly, watching the moving figure in black velvet as she would have
watched a fellow singer on the stage while waiting to go on.
Lady Maud did not speak to Van Torp first, but to Griggs, and then to
Logotheti, and the two men slipped away together and disappeared. Then
she came back to Van Torp, smiling pleasantly. He was still talking
with Lord Creedmore, but the latter, at a word from his daughter, went
off to the elderly peeress whom Logotheti had abruptly left alone
before the portrait.
Margaret did not hear what Lady Maud said to the American, but it was
evidently not yet a warning, for her smile did not falter, and he
looked pleased as he came back with her, and they passed near the
piano to go out through the open window upon the broad flagged terrace
that separated the house from the flower-beds.
The Primadonna played a little louder now, so that every one heard the
chords, even in the picture-gallery, and a good many men were rather
bored at the prospect of music.
Then the Senorita da Cordova raised her head and looked over the grand
piano, and her lips parted, and boredom vanished very suddenly; for
even those who did not take much pleasure in the music were amazed by
the mere sound of her voice and by its incredible flexibility.
She meant to astonish her hearers and keep them quiet, and she knew
what to sing to gain her end, and how to sing it. Those who have not
forgotten the story of her beginnings will remember that she was a
thorough musician as well as a great singer, and was one of those
very few primadonnas who are able to accompany themselves from memory
without a false note through any great piece they know, from _Lucia_
She began with the waltz song in the first act of _Romeo and Juliet_.
It was the piece that had revealed her talent to Madame Bonanni, who
had accidentally overheard her singing to herself, and it suited her
purpose admirably. Such fireworks could not fail to astound, even if
they did not please, and half the full volume of her voice was more
than enough for the long drawing-room, into which the whole party
gathered almost as soon as she began to sing. Such trifles as having
just dined, or having just waked up in the morning, have little
influence on the few great natural voices of the world, which begin
with twice the power and beauty that the 'built-up' ones acquire in
years of study. Ordinary people go to a concert, to the opera, to a
circus, to university sports, and hear and see things that interest or
charm, or sometimes surprise them; but they are very much amazed if
they ever happen to find out in private life what a really great
professional of any sort can do at a pinch, if put to it by any strong
motive. If it had been necessary, Margaret could have sung to the
party in the drawing-room at Craythew for an hour at a stretch with no
more rest than her accompaniments afforded.
Her hearers were the more delighted because it was so spontaneous, and
there was not the least affectation about it. During these days no one
had even suggested that she should make music, or be anything except
the 'daughter of Lord Creedmore's old friend.' But now, apparently,
she had sat down to the piano to give them all a concert, for the
sheer pleasure of singing, and they were not only pleased with her,
but with themselves; for the public, and especially audiences, are
more easily flattered by a great artist who chooses to treat his
hearers as worthy of his best, than the artist himself is by the
applause he hears for the thousandth time.
So the Senorita da Cordova held the party at Craythew spellbound while
other things were happening very near them which would have interested
them much more than her trills, and her 'mordentini,' and her soaring
runs, and the high staccato notes that rang down from the ceiling as
if some astounding and invisible instrument were up there, supported
by an unseen force.
Meanwhile Paul Griggs and Logotheti had stopped a moment in the first
of the rooms that contained the library, on their way to the old study
It was almost dark amongst the huge oak bookcases, and both men
stopped at the same moment by a common instinct, to agree quickly upon
some plan of action. They had led adventurous lives, and were not
likely to stick at trifles, if they believed themselves to be in
the right; but if they had left the drawing-room with the distinct
expectation of anything like a fight, they would certainly not have
stopped to waste their time in talking.
The Greek spoke first.
'Perhaps you had better let me do the talking,' he said.
'By all means,' answered Griggs. 'I am not good at that. I'll keep
quiet, unless we have to handle them.'
'All right, and if you have any trouble I'll join in and help you.
Just set your back against the door if they try to get out while I am
That was all, and they went on in the gathering gloom, through the
three rooms of the library, to the door of the old study, from which a
short winding staircase led up to the two small rooms which Griggs was
Three quiet men in dark clothes were standing together in the
twilight, in the bay window at the other side of the room, and they
moved and turned their heads quickly as the door opened. Logotheti
went up to them, while Griggs remained near the door, looking on.
'What can I do for you?' inquired the Greek, with much urbanity.
'We wished to speak with Mr. Van Torp, who is stopping here,' answered
the one of the three men who stood farthest forward.
'Oh yes, yes!' said Logotheti at once, as if assenting. 'Certainly!
Lady Maud Leven, Lord Creedmore's daughter--Lady Creedmore is away,
you know--has asked us to inquire just what you want of Mr. Van Torp.'
'It's a personal matter,' replied the spokesman. 'I will explain it to
him, if you will kindly ask him to come here a moment.'
Logotheti smiled pleasantly.
'Quite so,' he said. 'You are, no doubt, reporters, and wish to
interview him. As a personal friend of his, and between you and me,
I don't think he'll see you. You had better write and ask for an
appointment. Don't you think so, Griggs?'
The author's large, grave features relaxed in a smile of amusement as
he nodded his approval of the plan.
'We do not represent the press,' answered the man.
'Ah! Indeed? How very odd! But of course--' Logotheti pretended to
understand suddenly--'how stupid of me! No doubt you are from the
bank. Am I not right?'
'No. You are mistaken. We are not from Threadneedle Street.'
'Well, then, unless you will enlighten me, I really cannot imagine who
you are or where you come from!'
'We wish to speak in private with Mr. Van Torp.'
'In private, too?' Logotheti shook his head, and turned to Griggs.
'Really, this looks rather suspicious; don't you think so?'
Griggs said nothing, but the smile became a broad grin.
The spokesman, on his side, turned to his two companions and
whispered, evidently consulting them as to the course he should
'Especially after the warning Lord Creedmore has received,' said
Logotheti to Griggs in a very audible tone, as if explaining his last
The man turned to him again and spoke in a gravely determined tone--
'I must really insist upon seeing Mr. Van Torp immediately,' he said.
'Yes, yes, I quite understand you,' answered Logotheti, looking at him
with a rather pitying smile, and then turning to Griggs again, as if
The elder man was much amused by the ease with which the Greek had so
far put off the unwelcome visitors and gained time; but he saw that
the scene must soon come to a crisis, and prepared for action, keeping
his eye on the three, in case they should make a dash at the door that
communicated with the rest of the house.
During the two or three seconds that followed, Logotheti reviewed the
situation. It would be an easy matter to trick the three men into the
short winding staircase that led up to the rooms Griggs occupied, and
if the upper and lower doors were locked and barricaded, the prisoners
could not forcibly get out. But it was certain that the leader of the
party had a warrant about him, and this must be taken from him before
locking him up, and without any acknowledgment of its validity; for
even the lawless Greek was aware that it was not good to interfere
with officers of the law in the execution of their duty. If there had
been more time he might have devised some better means of attaining
his end than occurred to him just then.
'They must be the lunatics,' he said to Griggs, with the utmost calm.
The spokesman started and stared, and his jaw dropped. For a moment he
could not speak.
'You know Lord Creedmore was warned this morning that a number had
escaped from the county asylum,' continued Logotheti, still speaking
to Griggs, and pretending to lower his voice.
'Lunatics?' roared the man when he got his breath, exasperated out of
his civil manner. 'Lunatics, sir? We are from Scotland Yard, sir, I'd
have you know!'
'Yes, yes,' answered the Greek, 'we quite understand. Humour them,
my dear chap,' he added in an undertone that was meant to be heard.
'Yes,' he continued in a cajoling tone, 'I guessed at once that
you were from police headquarters. If you'll kindly show me your
He stopped politely, and nudged Griggs with his elbow, so that the
detectives should be sure to see the movement. The chief saw the
awkwardness of his own position, measured the bony veteran and the
athletic foreigner with his eye, and judged that if the two were
convinced that they were dealing with madmen they would make a pretty
'Excuse me,' the officer said, speaking calmly, 'but you are under a
gross misapprehension about us. This paper will remove it at once, I
trust, and you will not hinder us in the performance of an unpleasant
He produced an official envelope, handed it to Logotheti, and waited
for the result.
It was unexpected when it came. Logotheti took the paper, and as it
was now almost dark he looked about for the key of the electric
light. Griggs was now close to him by the door through which they had
entered, and behind which the knob was placed.
'If I can get them upstairs, lock and barricade the lower door,'
whispered the Greek as he turned up the light.
He took the paper under a bracket light on the other side of the room,
beside the door of the winding stair, and began to read.
His face was a study, and Griggs watched it, wondering what was
coming. As Logotheti read and reread the few short sentences, he was
apparently seized by a fit of mirth which he struggled in vain to
repress, and which soon broke out into uncontrollable laughter.
'The cleverest trick you ever saw!' he managed to get out between his
It was so well done that the detective was seriously embarrassed; but
after a moment's hesitation he judged that he ought to get his warrant
back at all hazards, and he moved towards Logotheti with a menacing
But the Greek, pretending to be afraid that the supposed lunatic was
going to attack him, uttered an admirable yell of fear, opened the
door close at his hand, rushed through, slammed it behind him, and
fled up the dark stairs.
The detective lost no time, and followed in hot pursuit, his two
companions tearing up after him into the darkness. Then Griggs quietly
turned the key in the lock, for he was sure that Logotheti had
reached the top in time to fasten the upper door, and must be
already barricading it. Griggs proceeded to do the same, quietly and
systematically, and the great strength he had not yet lost served him
well, for the furniture in the room was heavy. In a couple of minutes
it would have needed sledge-hammers and crowbars to break out by the
lower entrance, even if the lock had not been a solid one.
Griggs then turned out the lights, and went quietly back through the
library to the other part of the house to find Lady Maud.
Logotheti, having meanwhile made the upper door perfectly secure,
descended by the open staircase to the hall, and sent the first
footman he met to call the butler, with whom he said he wished to
speak. The butler came at once.
'Lady Maud asked me to see those three men,' said Logotheti in a low
tone. 'Mr. Griggs and I are convinced that they are lunatics escaped
from the asylum, and we have locked them up securely in the staircase
beyond the study.'
'Yes, sir,' said the butler, as if Logotheti had been explaining how
he wished his shoe-leather to be treated.
'I think you had better telephone for the doctor, and explain
everything to him over the wire without speaking to Lord Creedmore
'How long will it take the doctor to get here?'
'Perhaps an hour, sir, if he's at home. Couldn't say precisely, sir.'
'Very good. There is no hurry; and of course her ladyship will be
particularly anxious that none of her friends should guess what has
happened; you see there would be a general panic if it were known that
there are escaped lunatics in the house.'
'Perhaps you had better take a couple of men you can trust, and pile
up some more furniture against the doors, above and below. One cannot
be too much on the safe side in such cases.'
'Yes, sir. I'll do it at once, sir.'
Logotheti strolled back towards the gallery in a very unconcerned way.
As for the warrant, he had burnt it in the empty fireplace in Griggs'
room after making all secure, and had dusted down the black ashes so
carefully that they had quite disappeared under the grate. After all,
as the doctor would arrive in the firm expectation of finding three
escaped madmen under lock and key, the Scotland Yard men might,
have some difficulty in proving themselves sane until they could
communicate with their headquarters, and by that time Mr. Van Torp
could be far on his way if he chose.
When Logotheti reached the door of the drawing-room, Margaret was
finishing Rosina's Cavatina from the _Barbiere di Siviglia_ in a
perfect storm of fireworks, having transposed the whole piece two
notes higher to suit her own voice, for it was originally written for
Lady Maud and Van Torp had gone out upon the terrace unnoticed a
moment before Margaret had begun to sing. The evening was still and
cloudless, and presently the purple twilight would pale under the
summer moon, and the garden and the lawns would be once more as bright
as day. The friends walked quickly, for Lady Maud set the pace and led
Van Torp toward the trees, where the stables stood, quite hidden from
the house. As soon as she reached the shade she stood still and spoke
in a low voice.
'You have waited too long,' she said. 'Three men have come to arrest
you, and their motor is over there in the avenue.'
'Where are they?' inquired the American, evidently not at all
disturbed. 'I'll see them at once, please.'
'And give yourself up?'
'I don't care.'
'Why not? Do you suppose I am going to run away? A man who gets out in
a hurry doesn't usually look innocent, does he?'
Lady Maud asserted herself.
'You must think of me and of my father,' she said in a tone of
authority Van Torp had never heard from her. 'I know you're as
innocent as I am, but after all that has been said and written about
you, and about you and me together, it's quite impossible that you
should let yourself be arrested in our house, in the midst of a party
that has been asked here expressly to be convinced that my father
approves of you. Do you see that?'
'Well--' Mr. Van Torp hesitated, with his thumbs in his waistcoat
Across the lawn, from the open window, Margaret's voice rang out like
a score of nightingales in unison.
'There's no time to discuss it,' Lady Maud said. 'I asked her to sing,
so as to keep the people together. Before she has finished, you must
be out of reach.'
Mr. Van Torp smiled. 'You're remarkably positive about it,' he said.
'You must get to town before the Scotland Yard people, and I don't
know how much start they will give you. It depends on how long Mr.
Griggs and Logotheti can keep them in the old study. It will be neck
and neck, I fancy. I'll go with you to the stables. You must ride to
your own place as hard as you can, and go up to London in your
car to-night. The roads are pretty clear on Sundays, and there's
moonlight, so you will have no trouble. It will be easy to say here
that you have been called away suddenly. Come, you must go!'
Lady Maud moved towards the stables, and Van Torp was obliged to
follow her. Far away Margaret was singing the last bars of the waltz
'I must say,' observed Mr. Van Torp thoughtfully, as they walked on,
'for a lady who's generally what I call quite feminine, you make a man
sit up pretty quick.'
'It's not exactly the time to choose for loafing,' answered Lady Maud.
'By the bye,' she added, 'you may as well know. Poor Leven is dead. I
had a telegram a few minutes ago. He was killed yesterday by a bomb
meant for somebody else.'
Van Torp stood still, and Lady Maud stopped with evident reluctance.
'And there are people who don't believe in Providence,' he said
slowly. 'Well, I congratulate you anyway.'
'Hush, the poor man is dead. We needn't talk about him. Come, there's
no time to lose!' She moved impatiently.
'So you're a widow!' Van Torp seemed to be making the remark to
himself without expecting any answer, but it at once suggested a
question. 'And now what do you propose to do?' he inquired. 'But I
expect you'll be a nun, or something. I'd like you to arrange so that
I can see you sometimes, will you?'
'I'm not going to disappear yet,' Lady Maud answered gravely.
They reached the stables, which occupied three sides of a square yard.
At that hour the two grooms and the stable-boy were at their supper,
and the coachman had gone home to his cottage. A big brown retriever
on a chain was sitting bolt upright beside his kennel, and began to
thump the flagstones with his tail as soon as he recognised Lady Maud.
From within a fox-terrier barked two or three times. Lady Maud opened
a door, and he sprang out at her yapping, but was quiet as soon as he
'You'd better take the Lancashire Lass,' she said to Van Torp. 'You're
heavier than my father, but it's not far to ride, and she's a clever
She had turned up the electric light while speaking, for it was dark
inside the stable; she got a bridle, went into the box herself, and
slipped it over the mare's pretty head. Van Torp saw that it was
useless to offer help.
'Don't bother about a saddle,' he said; 'it's a waste of time.'
He touched the mare's face and lips with his hand, and she understood
him, and let him lead her out. He vaulted upon her back, and Lady Maud
walked beside him till they were outside the yard.
'If you had a high hat it would look like the circus,' she said,
glancing at his evening dress. 'Now get away! I'll be in town on
Tuesday; let me know what happens. Good-bye! Be sure to let me know.'
'Yes. Don't worry. I'm only going because you insist, anyhow.
Good-bye. God bless you!'
He waved his hand, the mare sprang forward, and in a few seconds he
was out of sight amongst the trees. Lady Maud listened to the regular
sound of the galloping hoofs on the turf, and at the same time from
very far off she heard Margaret's high trills and quick staccato
notes. At that moment the moon was rising through the late twilight,
and a nightingale high overhead, no doubt judging her little self to
be quite as great a musician as the famous Cordova, suddenly began
a very wonderful piece of her own, just half a tone higher than
Margaret's, which might have distressed a sensitive musician, but did
not jar in the least on Lady Maud's ear.
Now that she had sent Van Torp on his way, she would gladly have
walked alone in the park for half an hour to collect her thoughts; but
people who live in the world are rarely allowed any pleasant leisure
when they need it, and many of the most dramatic things in real life
happen when we are in such a hurry that we do not half understand
them. So the moment that should have been the happiest of all goes
dashing by when we are hastening to catch a train; so the instant of
triumph after years of labour or weeks of struggling is upon us when
we are perhaps positively obliged to write three important notes
in twenty minutes; and sometimes, too, and mercifully, the pain of
parting is numbed just as the knife strikes the nerve, by the howling
confusion of a railway station that forces us to take care of
ourselves and our belongings; and when the first instant of joy, or
victory, or acute suffering is gone in a flash, memory never quite
brings back all the happiness nor all the pain.
Lady Maud could not have stayed away many minutes longer. She went
back at once, entered by the garden window just as Margaret was
finishing Rosina's song, and remained standing behind her till she
had sung the last note. English people rarely applaud conventional
drawing-room music, but this had been something more, and the Craythew
guests clapped their hands loudly, and even the elderly wife of the
scientific peer emitted distinctly audible sounds of satisfaction.
Lady Maud bent her handsome head and kissed the singer affectionately,
whispering words of heartfelt thanks.
Through the mistaken efforts of Isidore Bamberger, justice had got
herself into difficulties, and it was as well for her reputation,
which is not good nowadays, that the public never heard what happened
on that night at Craythew, how the three best men who had been
available at headquarters were discomfited in their well-meant attempt
to arrest an innocent man, and how they spent two miserable hours
together locked up in a dark winding staircase. For it chanced, as
it will chance to the end of time, that the doctor was out when the
butler telephoned to him; it happened, too, that he was far from home,
engaged in ushering a young gentleman of prosperous parentage into
this world, an action of which the kindness might be questioned,
considering that the poor little soul presumably came straight from
paradise, with an indifferent chance of ever getting there again. So
the doctor could not come.
The three men were let out in due time, however, and as no trace of a
warrant could be discovered at that hour, Logotheti and Griggs being
already sound asleep, and as Lord Creedmore, in his dressing-gown and
slippers, gave them a written statement to the effect that Mr. Van
Torp was no longer at Craythew, they had no choice but to return to
town, rather the worse for wear. What they said to each other by the
way may safely be left to the inexhaustible imagination of a gentle
and sympathising reader.
Their suppressed rage, their deep mortification, and their profound
disgust were swept away in their overwhelming amazement, however,
when they found that Mr. Rufus Van Torp, whom they had sought in
Derbyshire, was in Scotland Yard before them, closeted with their
Chief and explaining what an odd mistake the justice of two nations
had committed in suspecting him to have been at the Metropolitan
Opera-House in New York at the time of the explosion, since he had
spent that very evening in Washington, in the private study of the
Secretary of the Treasury, who wanted his confidential opinion on a
question connected with Trusts before he went abroad. Mr. Van Torp
stuck his thumbs into his waistcoat pockets and blandly insisted that
the cables should be kept red-hot--at international expense--till the
member of the Cabinet in Washington should answer corroborating the
statement. Four o'clock in the morning in London was only eleven
o'clock of the previous evening, Mr. Van Torp explained, and it was
extremely unlikely that the Secretary of the Treasury should be in
bed so early. If he was, he was certainly not asleep; and with the
facilities at the disposal of governments there was no reason why the
answer should not come back in forty minutes.
It was impossible to resist such simple logic. The lines were cleared
for urgent official business between London and Washington, and in
less than an hour the answer came back, to the effect that Mr. Rufus
Van Torp's statement was correct in every detail; and without any
interval another official message arrived, revoking the request
for his extradition, which 'had been made under a most unfortunate
misapprehension, due to the fact that Mr. Van Torp's visit to the
Secretary of the Treasury had been regarded as confidential by the
Scotland Yard expressed its regret, and Mr. Van Torp smiled and begged
to be allowed, before leaving, to 'shake hands' with the three men who
had been put to so much inconvenience on his account. This democratic
proposal was promptly authorised, to the no small satisfaction and
profit of the three haggard officials. So Mr. Van Torp went away,
and in a few minutes he was sound asleep in the corner of his big
motor-car on his way back to Derbyshire.
Lady Maud found Margaret and Logotheti walking slowly together under
the trees about eleven o'clock on the following morning. Some of the
people were already gone, and most of the others were to leave in the
course of the day. Lady Maud had just said good-bye to a party of ten
who were going off together, and she had not had a chance to speak to
Margaret, who had come down late, after her manner. Most great singers
are portentous sleepers. As for Logotheti, he always had coffee in his
room wherever he was, he never appeared at breakfast, and he got rid
of his important correspondence for the day before coming down.
'I've had a letter from Threlfall,' he said as Lady Maud came up. 'I
was just telling Miss Donne about it. Feist died in Dr. Bream's Home
'Rather unfortunate at this juncture, isn't it?' observed Margaret.
But Lady Maud looked shocked and glanced at Logotheti as if asking a
'No,' said the Greek, answering her thought. 'I did not kill him, poor
devil! He did it himself, out of fright, I think. So that side of the
affair ends. He had some sealed glass capsules of hydrocyanide of
potassium in little brass tubes, sewn up in the lining of a waistcoat,
and he took one, and must have died instantly. I believe the stuff
turns into prussic acid, or something of that sort, when you swallow
it--Griggs will know.'
'How dreadful!' exclaimed Lady Maud. 'I'm sure you drove him to it!'
'I'll bear the responsibility of having rid the world of him, if I
did. But my share consisted in having given him opium and then stopped
it suddenly, till he surrendered and told the truth--or a large part
of it--what I have told you already. He would not own that he killed
Miss Bamberger himself with the rusty little knife that had a few red
silk threads sticking to the handle. He must have put it back into his
case of instruments as it was, and he never had the courage to look
at it again. He had studied medicine, I believe. But he confessed
everything else, how he had been madly in love with the poor girl when
he was her father's secretary, and how she treated him like a servant
and made her father turn him out, and how he hated Van Torp furiously
for being engaged to marry her. He hated the Nickel Trust, too,
because he had thought the shares were going down and had risked
the little he had as margin on a drop, and had lost it all by the
unexpected rise. He drank harder after that, till he was getting silly
from it, when the girl's death gave him his chance against Van Torp,
and he manufactured the evidence in the diary he kept, and went to
Bamberger with it and made the poor man believe whatever he invented.
He told me all that, with a lot of details, but I could not make him
admit that he had killed the girl himself, so I gave him his opium and
he went to sleep. That's my story. Or rather, it's his, as I got it
from him last Thursday. I supposed there was plenty of time, but Mr.
Bamberger seems to have been in a hurry after we had got Feist into
'Had you told Mr. Van Torp all this?' asked Lady Maud anxiously.
'No,' Logotheti answered. 'I was keeping the information ready in case
it should be needed.'
A familiar voice spoke behind them.
'Well, it's all right as it is. Much obliged, all the same.'
All three turned suddenly and saw that Mr. Van Torp had crept up while
they were talking, and the expression of his tremendous mouth showed
that he had meant to surprise them, and was pleased with his success
in doing so.
'Really!' exclaimed Lady Maud.
'Goodness gracious!' cried the Primadonna.
'By the Dog of Egypt!' laughed Logotheti.
'Don't know the breed,' answered Van Torp, not understanding, but
cheerfully playful. 'Was it a trick dog?'
'I thought you were in London,' Margaret said.
'I was. Between one and four this morning, I should say. It's all
right.' He nodded to Lady Maud as he spoke the last words, but he did
not seem inclined to say more.
'Is it a secret?' she asked.
'I never have secrets,' answered the millionaire. 'Secrets are
everything that must be found out and put in the paper right away,
ain't they? But I had no trouble at all, only the bother of waiting
till the office got an answer from the other side. I happened to
remember where I'd spent the evening of the explosion, that's all, and
they cabled sharp and found my statement correct.'
'Why did you never tell me?' asked Lady Maud reproachfully. 'You knew
how anxious I was!'
'Well,' replied Mr. Van Torp, dwelling long on the syllable, 'I did
tell you it was all right anyhow, whatever they did, and I thought
maybe you'd accept the statement. The man I spent that evening with is
a public man, and he mightn't exactly think our interview was anybody
else's business, might he?'
'And you say you never keep a secret!'
The delicious ripple was in Lady Maud's sweet voice as she spoke.
Perhaps it came a little in spite of herself, and she would certainly
have controlled her tone if she had thought of Leven just then. But
she was a very natural creature, after all, and she could not and
would not pretend to be sorry that he was dead, though the manner of
his end had seemed horrible to her when she had been able to think
over the news, after Van Torp had got safely away. So far there had
only been three big things in her life: her love for a man who was
dead, her tremendous determination to do some real good for his
memory's sake, and her deep gratitude to Van Torp, who had made that
good possible, and who, strangely enough, seemed to her the only
living person who really understood her and liked her for her own
sake, without the least idea of making love. And she saw in him what
few suspected, except little Ida and Miss More--the real humanity and
faithful kindness that dwelt in the terribly hard and coarse-grained
fighting financier. Lady Maud had her faults, no doubt, but she was
too big, morally, to be disturbed by what seemed to Margaret Donne an
intolerable vulgarity of manner and speech.
As for Margaret, she now felt that painful little remorse that hurts
us when we realise that we have suspected an innocent person of
something dreadful, even though we may have contributed to the
ultimate triumph of the truth. Van Torp unconsciously deposited a coal
of fire on her head.
'I'd just like to say how much I appreciate your kindness in singing
last night, Madame da Cordova,' he said. 'From what you knew and
told me on the steamer, you might have had a reasonable doubt, and I
couldn't very well explain it away before. I wish you'd some day tell
me what I can do for you. I'm grateful, honestly.'
Margaret saw that he was much in earnest, and as she felt that she had
done him great injustice, she held out her hand with a frank smile.
'I'm glad I was able to be of use,' she said. 'Come and see me in
'Really? You won't throw me out if I do?'
'No, I won't throw you out!'
'Then I'll come some day. Thank you.'
Van Torp had long given up all hope that she would ever marry him, but
it was something to be on good terms with her again, and for the sake
of that alone he would have risked a good deal.
The four paired off, and Lady Maud walked in front with Van Torp,
while Margaret and Logotheti followed more slowly; so the couples did
not long keep near one another, and in less than five minutes they
lost each other altogether among the trees.
Margaret had noticed something very unusual in the Greek's appearance
when they had met half an hour earlier, and she had been amazed when
she realised that he wore no jewellery, no ruby, no emeralds, no
diamonds, no elaborate chain, and that his tie was neither green,
yellow, sky-blue, nor scarlet, but of a soft dove grey which she liked
very much. The change was so surprising that she had been on the point
of asking him whether anything dreadful had happened; but just then
Lady Maud had come up with them.
They walked a little way now, and when the others were out of sight
Margaret sat down on one of the many boulders that strewed the park.
Her companion stood before her, and while he lit a cigarette she
surveyed him deliberately from head to foot. Her fresh lips twitched
as they did when she was near laughing, and she looked up and met his
'What in the world has happened to you since yesterday?' she asked in
a tone of lazy amusement. 'You look almost like a human being!'
'Do I?' he asked, between two small puffs of smoke, and he laughed a
'Yes. Are you in mourning for your lost illusions?'
'No. I'm trying "to create and foster agreeable illusions" in you.
That's the object of all art, you know.'
'Oh! It's for me, then? Really?'
'Yes. Everything is. I thought I had explained that the other night!'
His tone was perfectly unconcerned, and he smiled carelessly as he
'I wonder what would happen if I took you at your word,' said
Margaret, more thoughtfully than she had spoken yet.
'I don't know. You might not regret it. You might even be happy!'
There was a little silence, and Margaret looked down.
'I'm not exactly miserable as it is,' she said at last. 'Are you?'
'Oh no!' answered Logotheti. 'I should bore you if I were!'
'Awfully!' She laughed rather abruptly. 'Should you want me to leave
the stage?' she asked after a moment.
'You forget that I like the Cordova just as much as I like Margaret
'Are you quite sure?'
'Let's try it!'
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