"What sort of questions?"
"I don't know that I can tell you exactly what the questions were," Arnold continued, "because they concerned some matters in which Mrs. Weatherley and her brother were chiefly concerned. To tell you the truth, ever since that night when I went to Hampstead to dine, the oddest things seem to have happened to me. I have to pinch myself sometimes to realize that this is London and that I am a clerk in the office of a wholesale provision merchant. When I let myself go, I seem to have been living in an unreal world, full of strange excitements—a veritable Arabian Nights."
"There was that terrible murder," she murmured. "You saw that, didn't you?"
"Not only saw it," he agreed, "but I seem, somehow, to have been mixed up with people who know a great deal about it. However, I have been told to mind my own business and I am going to. I have plenty to occupy my thoughts in Tooley Street. I am going to close in my little world and live there. The rest I am going to forget."
"You are coming back!" she whispered, with a joy in her tone which amazed him.
"I suppose I am," he admitted. "I like and admire Mrs. Weatherley's brother, Count Sabatini, and I have a genuine affection for Mrs. Weatherley, but I don't understand them. I don't understand these mysterious matters in which they seem mixed up."
"I do not believe," she declared, "that Count Sabatini would be mixed up in anything dishonorable. Women so seldom make a mistake, you know," she continued, "and I never met any one in my life who seemed so kind and gentle."
"I wish I could tell you everything," he said, "then I think you would really be as bewildered as I am. Mr. Weatherley's disappearance coming on the top of it all simply makes my brain reel. I can't do anything to help straighten things out. Therefore, I am going to do what I am told—I am going to mind my own business."
"To think only of Tooley Street," she murmured.
"I shall find it quite enough," he answered. "I want to understand all the details of the business, and it isn't easy at first. Mr. Jarvis is very sound and good, but he's a very small man moving in a very small way. Even Mr. Weatherley used to laugh at his methods."
She was silent for several moments. He studied her expression curiously.
"You don't believe that I shall be able to immerse myself in business?" he asked.
"It isn't exactly that," she replied. "I believe that you mean to try, and I believe that to some extent you will succeed, but I think, Arnold, that before very long you will hear the voices calling again from the world where these strange things happened. You are not made of the clay, dear, which resists for ever."
He moved uneasily in his seat. Her words sounded ominous. He was suddenly conscious that his present state of determination was the result of a battle, and that the war was not yet ended.
"She is so beautiful, that Mrs. Weatherley," Ruth continued, clasping her hands together and looking for a moment away from her surroundings. "No one could be blamed for climbing a little way out of the dull world if she held out her hands. I have seen so little of either of them, Arnold, but I do know that they both of them have that curious gift—would you call it charm?—the gift of creating affection. No one has ever spoken to me more kindly and more graciously than Count Sabatini did when he sat by my side on the lawn. What is that gift, Arnold? Do you know that with every word he spoke I felt that he was not in the least a stranger? There was something familiar about his voice, his manner—everything."
"I think that they are both quite wonderful people," Arnold admitted.
"Mrs. Weatherley, too, was kind," Ruth went on; "but I felt that she did not like me very much. She has an interest in you, and like all women she was a little jealous—not in the ordinary way, I don't mean," she corrected herself hastily, "but no woman likes any one in whom she takes an interest to be very kind to any one else."
They had reached the stage of their coffee. The band was playing the latest waltz. It was all very commonplace, but they were both young and uncritical. The waltz was one which Fenella had played after dinner at Bourne End, while they had sat out in the garden, lingering over their dessert. A flood of memories stirred him. The soft sensuousness of that warm spring night, with its perfumed silence, its subtly luxurious setting, stole through his senses like a narcotic. Ruth was right. It was not to be so easy! He called for his bill and paid it. Ruth laid her fingers upon his arm.
"Arnold," she began timidly, "there is something more. I scarcely know how to say it to you and yet it ought not to be difficult. You talk all the time as though you were my brother, or as though it were your duty to help me. It isn't so, dear, really, is it? If you could manage to lend me your room for one week, I think that I might be able to help myself a little. There is a place the clergyman told us of who came to see me once—"
Arnold interrupted her almost roughly. A keen pang of remorse assailed him. He knew very well that if she had not been intuitively conscious of some change in him, the thought which prompted her words would never have entered her brain.
"Don't let me hear you mention it!" he exclaimed. "I have made all the arrangements. It wouldn't do for me to live in an attic now that I am holding a responsible position in the city. Come along. Lean on my arm and mind the corner."
They had purposely chosen a table close to the door, so that they had only a few steps to take. Arnold called a taxi and handed Ruth in before he told the man the address.
"Now close your eyes," he insisted, when they were together in the cab.
Ruth did as she was told.
"I feel that it is all wrong," she murmured, leaning back, "but it is like little bits out of a fairy book, and to-night I feel so weak and you are so strong. It isn't any use my saying anything, Arnold, is it?"
"Not a bit," he answered. "All that you have to do is to hold my hand and wait."
In less than ten minutes the cab stopped. He hurried her into the entrance hall of a tall, somewhat somber building. A man in uniform rang a bell and the lift came down. They went up, it seemed to her, seven or eight flights. When they stepped out, her knees were trembling. He caught her up and carried her down a corridor. Then he fitted a Yale key from his pocket into a lock and threw open the door. There was a little hall inside, with three doors. He pushed open the first; it was a small bedroom, plainly but not unattractively furnished. He carried her a little way further down the corridor and threw open another door—a tiny sitting-room with a fire burning.
"Our new quarters!" he exclaimed cheerfully. "The room at the other end of the passage is mine. A pound a week and a woman to come in and light the fires! Mr. Jarvis let me have some money and I paid three months' rent in advance. What do you think of them?"
"I can't think," she whispered. "I can't!"
He carried her to the window.
"This is my real surprise, dear," he announced, in a tone of triumph. "Look!"
The blind flew up at his touch. On the other side of the street was a row of houses over which they looked. Beyond, the river, whose dark waters were gleaming in the moonlight. On their left were the Houses of Parliament, all illuminated. On their right, the long, double line of lights shining upon the water at which they had gazed so often.
"The lighted way, dear," he murmured, holding her a little more closely to him. "While I am down in the city you can sit here and watch, and you can see the ships a long way further off than you could ever see them from Adam Street. You can see the bend, too. It's always easier, isn't it, to fancy that something is coming into sight around the corner?"
She was not looking. Her head was buried upon his shoulder. Arnold was puzzled.
"Look up, Ruth dear," he begged. "I want you to look now—look along the lighted way and hold my hand very tightly. Don't you think that, after all, one of your ships has come home?"
She lifted her face, wet with tears, and looked in the direction where he pointed. Arnold, who felt nothing himself but a thrill of pleasure at his new quarters, was puzzled at a certain trouble which he seemed to see in her features, a faint hopelessness of expression. She looked where he pointed but there was none of the eager expectancy of a few weeks ago.
"It is beautiful, Arnold," she murmured, "but I can't talk just now."
"I am going to leave you to get over it," he declared. "I'm off now to fetch the luggage. You won't be afraid to be left here?"
She shook her head. A certain look of relief flashed across her face.
"No, I shall not be afraid," she answered.
He wheeled the easy-chair up to the window which he had flung wide open. He placed a cushion at the back of her head and left her with a cheerful word. She heard his steps go down the corridor, the rattle of the lift as it descended. Then her lips began to tremble and the sobs to shake her shoulders. She held out her hands toward that line of lights at which he had pointed, and her fingers were clenched.
"It is because—I am like this!" she cried, half hysterically. "I don't count!"
COUNT SABATINI VISITS
There was an air of subdued excitement about the offices of Messrs. Samuel Weatherley & Company from nine until half-past on the following morning. For so many years his clerks had been accustomed to see Mr. Weatherley stroll in somewhere about that time, his cigar in his mouth, his silk hat always at the same angle, that it seemed hard for them to believe that this morning they would not hear the familiar footstep and greeting. Every time a shadow passed the window, heads were eagerly raised. The sound of the bell on the outside door brought them all to their feet. They were all on tiptoe with expectation. The time, however, came and passed. The letters were all opened, and Mr. Jarvis and Arnold were occupying the private office. Already invoices were being distributed and orders entered up. The disappearance of Mr, Weatherley was a thing established.
Mr. Jarvis was starting the day in a pessimistic frame of mind.
"You may take my word for it, Chetwode," he said solemnly to his companion, after he had finished going through the letters, "that we shall never see the governor again."
Arnold was startled.
"Have you heard anything?" he asked.
Mr. Jarvis admitted gloomily that he had heard nothing.
"It's my belief that nothing more will be heard," he added, "until his body's found."
"Rubbish!" Arnold declared. "Mr. Weatherley wasn't the sort of man to commit suicide."
Mr. Jarvis looked around the office as though he almost feared that the ghost of his late employer might be listening.
"It is my belief," he said impressively, "that we none of us knew the sort of man Mr. Weatherley was, or rather the sort of man he has become since his marriage."
"I don't see what marriage with Mrs. Weatherley could have had to do with his disappearance," Arnold remarked.
Mr. Jarvis looked foolishly wise from behind his gold-rimmed spectacles.
"You haven't had the opportunity of watching the governor as I have since his marriage," he declared. "Take my advice, Chetwode. You are not married, I presume?"
"I am not," Arnold assured him.
"Nor thinking of it?"
"Nor thinking of it," Arnold repeated.
"When the time comes," Mr. Jarvis said, "don't you go poking about in any foreign islands or places. If only the governor had left those smelly European cheeses to take care of themselves, he'd be sitting here in his chair at this moment, smoking a cigar and handing me out the orders. You and I are, so to speak, in a confidential position now, Chetwode, and I am able to say things to you about which I might have hesitated before. Do you know how much the governor has spent during the last year?"
"No idea," Arnold replied. "Does it matter?"
"He has spent," Mr. Jarvis announced, solemnly, "close upon ten thousand pounds."
"It sounds like a good deal," Arnold admitted, "but I expect he had saved it."
"Of course he had saved it," Mr. Jarvis admitted; "but what has that to do with it? One doesn't save money for the pleasure of spending it. Never since my connection with the firm has Mr. Weatherley attempted to spend anything like one half of his income."
"Then I should think it was quite time he began," Arnold declared. "You are not going to suggest, I suppose, that financial embarrassments had anything to do with Mr. Weatherley's disappearance?"
Mr. Jarvis started. To him the suggestion sounded sacrilegious.
"My dear Chetwode," he said, "you must indeed be ignorant of the resources of the firm when you make such a suggestion! I simply wished to point out that after his marriage Mr. Weatherley completely changed all his habits. It is not well for a man of his age to change his habits.... God bless my soul, here is an automobile stopping outside. If it should be Mr. Weatherley come back!"
They both hurried eagerly to the window. The automobile, however, which had drawn up outside, was larger and more luxurious than Mr. Weatherley's. Count Sabatini, folding up his newspaper, made a leisurely descent. The cashier looked at him curiously.
"Wonder who it is," he remarked. "Looks like some sort of a foreigner."
"It is Mrs. Weatherley's brother," Arnold told him.
Mr. Jarvis was deeply interested. A moment later a card was brought in.
"Gentleman wishes to see Mr. Chetwode."
"You can show him in," Arnold directed.
Sabatini was already upon the threshold. He carried his gray Homburg hat in his hand; he seemed to bring with him a subtle atmosphere of refinement. The perfection of his clothes, the faint perfume from his handkerchief, his unusual yet unnoticeable tie—these things were a cult to himself. The little array of clerks, through whose ranks he had passed, stared after him in wonder.
"How are you, my young friend?" he asked, smiling at Arnold. "Immersed in business, I suppose?"
"We are very busy, naturally," Arnold answered. "Please come in and sit down."
Sabatini laid his hat and stick upon the table and commenced leisurely to draw off his gloves.
"This is Mr. Jarvis, who has been Mr. Weatherley's right-hand man for a great many years," Arnold said, introducing him; "Count Sabatini, Mr. Weatherley's brother-in-law."
Mr. Jarvis shook hands solemnly.
"I am glad to know you, sir," he declared. "I have not had the pleasure of seeing much of Mrs. Weatherley, but my connection with the firm is a very old one."
"Is there any news," asked Sabatini, "of our esteemed friend?"
Mr. Jarvis shook his head mournfully.
"There is no news," he announced. "I am afraid, sir, that it will be a long time before we do hear any news. If your business is with Mr. Chetwode, Count Sabatini," he added, "I will ask you to excuse me. I have plenty to do in the warehouse. If there is any information I can give you on behalf of your sister or yourself, I shall be very happy to come back if you will send for me."
He bustled out, closing the door after him. Sabatini looked around with a faint smile, as though his surroundings amused him. He then carefully deposited his gloves with his hat, selected the most comfortable chair, and seated himself.
"So this is where the money is coined, eh?" he remarked. "It is fortunate that I have discovered the place, for I need some."
"We haven't had time to do much coining yet."
"Supposing I want five hundred pounds, could I have it?" Sabatini asked.
Arnold shook his head.
"Certainly not," he replied, "unless you had cheeses to sell us for it, or bacon. Messrs. Weatherley & Company are provision merchants, not money-lenders."
"You have the control of the finances, haven't you?"
"To a certain extent, I have," Arnold admitted.
"Now how much is there in that safe, I wonder?" Sabatini asked.
"About thirteen hundred pounds—perhaps even more than that," Arnold told him.
Sabatini withdrew the hand which had been fumbling in his pocket. Arnold looked suddenly into the muzzle of a small, shining revolver.
"It was very foolish of you to give me that information," Sabatini said. "You have not forgotten our long conversation, I trust? I expounded to you most carefully the creed of my life. Five hundred pounds, if you please," he added, politely.
"Not one ha'penny," Arnold answered, seating himself upon the table and folding his arms.
"I'll give you until I count three," Sabatini announced, in a still, cold voice.
"You can give me as long as you like," Arnold retorted, pleasantly.
Sabatini very deliberately counted three and pulled the trigger of his revolver. There was a slight click. He looked down the muzzle of the weapon and, with a little sigh, thrust it back into his pocket.
"This appears to be one of my failures," he declared. "Lend me five shillings, then," he added. "I really came out without any silver and I must keep up my reputation. I positively cannot leave this office without loot of some sort."
Arnold handed his visitor two half-crowns, which the latter put gravely into his pocket.
"Come and lunch with me to-day at my rooms," he invited. "Lady Blennington and Fenella will be there. If you bring with you a sufficient appetite, you may get value for your five shillings. It is the only way you will ever get it back."
"Then I must resign myself to being robbed," Arnold answered. "We haven't time, nowadays, for luncheon parties. On the whole, I think I should be justified in putting the amount down to petty cash. I might even debit Mrs. Weatherley's account with it."
Sabatini took out his cigarette case.
"You will forgive me?" he said. "In your offices, I believe, it is not the custom, but I must confess that I find your atmosphere abominable. Last night I saw Fenella. She told me of your disagreement with her and your baseless suspicions. Really, Chetwode, I am surprised at you."
"'Suspicions' seems scarcely the word," Arnold murmured.
"You are such a hideously matter-of-fact person," he declared. "Fenella should have seen your attitude from the humorous point of view. It would have appealed to me very much indeed."
"I am sorry if your sister misunderstood anything that I said," Arnold remarked, a little awkwardly.
"My dear fellow," Sabatini continued, "there seems to have been very little ground for misunderstanding. Fenella was positively hurt. She says that you seem to look upon us as a sort of adventurer and adventuress—people who live by their wits, you understand, from hour to hour, without character or reputation. She is quite sure, in her own mind, that you believe Mr. Weatherley's absence to be due to our secret and criminal machinations."
"I am sorry," Arnold replied, "if anything I said to your sister has given her that impression. The fact remains, however, that Mrs. Weatherley has declined to give me any explanation of various incidents which were certainly more than bewildering. One cannot help feeling," he went on, after a moment's hesitation, "that if my friendship were of any account to your sister—which, of course, it isn't—she would look at the matter differently."
"My dear Chetwode," Sabatini declared, "my sympathies are entirely with you. The trouble of it is, of course, that the explanations which you demand will probably leave you only the more bewildered. When I came to London," he continued, watching the smoke from his cigarette, "I said to myself, 'In this great black city all hopes of adventure must be buried. Fenella will become a model wife of the bourgeoisie. I myself, if I stay, shall probably become director of some city company where they pay fees, give up baccarat for bridge, imbibe whiskey and soda instead of the wine of my country; perhaps, even—who knows?—I may take to myself a wife and live in a villa.' On the contrary, other things have happened. Even here the earth has trembled a little under our feet. Even now we listen for the storm."
"You talk to me always in parables," Arnold protested. "How am I to understand what you mean?"
"You have reason, my young friend," Sabatini admitted calmly. "Ask your questions."
"First of all, then, you know where Mr. Weatherley is!"
Sabatini made a wry face.
"Let us leave this respectable Weatherley out of the case for a moment," he said. "To tell you the truth, I am weary of him. I would speak of ourselves—of my sister and myself and those others. You cannot deny that however wicked you may think us we are at least interesting."
"Have you come here to make fun of me?" Arnold asked quietly.
"Not in the least," Sabatini assured him. "On the contrary, I have come to make friends. My sister is penitent. We have decided to take your discretion for granted. I am here to explain. You want to understand all these things which seem to you so mysterious. Well, ask your questions. What is it that you wish to know?"
"Nothing," Arnold replied. "I have come to the conclusion that I was wrong to speak to your sister as I did. I have a great responsibility here which will occupy all my thoughts. I am going to devote myself to work. The other things do not interest me any longer."
"My young friend," he murmured, "you may say that to yourself, but it is not true. It is not life for you to buy these articles of food at one price and sell them for another; to hold the profit in your hand and smile. That is what life means in Tooley Street. You could do it for a little time, perhaps, but not for very long."
"It may seem absurd to you," Arnold protested, "but it's my duty for the present, anyhow, and I am going to do it. I shall have to work ten hours a day and I shall have no time for dreams. I am going to stay in the atmosphere I have to live in."
Sabatini shook his head.
"You must have relaxation."
"I can find it," Arnold replied. "I can find it without going so far afield."
Sabatini was silent for a moment. He was a man of few expressions, but he seemed a little disappointed.
"Will you do your duty any the less zealously, do you think," he asked, "because you have friends who take an interest in you?"
Arnold was suddenly conscious of the ungraciousness of his attitude.
"You don't understand!" he exclaimed, a little desperately. "Your world wasn't made for me. I haven't any place in it. My work is here. I can't allow myself always to be distracted. Your sister is the most wonderful person I ever met, and it is one of the greatest pleasures I have ever known to talk to her, even for a few minutes, but I am more at peace with myself and with the world when I am away from her."
There was a gleam of approval in Sabatini's dark eyes. He nodded thoughtfully.
"It is well spoken. My sister chose to marry Samuel Weatherley, and the women of our race have been famous throughout history for their constancy. Must you, my dear young friend, go and hide your head in the sand because a woman is beautiful and chooses to be kind to you? Fenella values your friendship. You have done her a service and you have done me a service. A few nights ago it amused me to feed your suspicions. This morning I feel otherwise. We do not choose, either of us, that you should think of us quite in the way you are thinking now."
Arnold hesitated no longer then. He came and stood by his visitor.
"Since you insist, then," he declared, "I will ask you the questions which I should have asked your sister. That is what you desire?"
"Assuredly," Sabatini assented.
"First then, who killed Rosario?"
"There is a certain directness about your methods," Sabatini said suavely, "which commends itself to me. No one could mistake you for anything but an Englishman."
"Tell me who killed Rosario!" Arnold repeated.
"As you will," Sabatini replied. "Rosario was murdered by a Portuguese Jew—a man of the name of Isaac Lalonde."
SOME QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Arnold stood quite still for several moments. The shock seemed to have deprived him even of the power of speech. Sabatini watched him curiously.
"Is it my fancy," he inquired, "or is the name familiar to you?"
"The name is familiar," Arnold confessed.
Sabatini, for a moment, appeared to be puzzled.
"Lalonde," he repeated to himself. "Why, Lalonde," he added, looking up quickly, "was the name of the young lady whom you brought with you to Bourne End. An uncommon name, too."
"Her uncle," Arnold declared; "the same man, beyond a doubt. The police tried to arrest him two days ago, and he escaped. You might have read of it in the paper. It was spoken of as an attempt to capture an anarchist. Lalonde fired at them when he made his escape."
"It is a small world," he admitted. "I know all about Isaac Lalonde, but I am very sorry indeed to hear that the young lady is connected with him. She seemed—I hope you will forgive me—to speak as though she lived in straitened circumstances. Do you mind telling me whether this event is likely to prove of inconvenience to her?"
Arnold shook his head.
"I am making arrangements to find her another apartment," he said. "We have been through some very dark times together. I feel that I have the right to do everything that is necessary. I have no one else to support."
"If one might be permitted," he began, with what was, for him, a considerable amount of diffidence,—
Arnold interposed a little brusquely.
"The care of Ruth Lalonde is upon my shoulders," he insisted. "There can be no question about that. From me it is not charity, for she shared her meals with me when I was practically starving. I am going to ask you more questions."
"Proceed, by all means," Sabatini invited.
"Was Starling concerned at all in this Rosario affair?"
"Not directly," Sabatini admitted.
"Then why," Arnold demanded, "does he hide and behave like a frightened child?"
"A pertinent question," Sabatini agreed. "You have to take into account the man's constitutional cowardice. It is a fact, however, that he was perfectly well aware of what was going to happen, and there are circumstances connected with the affair—a document, for instance, that we know to be in the hands of the police—which account for their suspicions and would certainly tend to implicate our friend Starling. It would be quite easy to make out a very strong case against him."
"I do not understand," Arnold said, after a moment's silence, "what interest Lalonde could have had in killing Rosario."
Sabatini contemplated for a few moments the tip of his patent shoe. Then he sighed gently and lit a cigarette.
"For a young man," he remarked, "it is certain that you have a great deal of curiosity. Still, you have also, I believe, discretion. Listen, then. There is a certain country in the south of Europe which all those who are behind the scenes know to be on the brink of a revolution. The capital is already filled with newspaper correspondents, the thunder mutters day by day. The army is unpaid and full of discontent. For that reason, it is believed that their spirit is entirely revolutionary. Every morning we who know expect to read in the papers that the royal palace has been stormed and the king become an exile. This was the state of things until about a week ago. Did you read the papers on Thursday morning last?"
Arnold shook his head.
"Perhaps," he replied. "I saw nothing that I can remember."
"That morning," Sabatini continued, "the morning of Rosario's death, one read that the government of that country, which had vainly applied for a loan to all the bankers of Europe with a view to satisfying the claims of the army and navy, had at last succeeded in arranging one through the intervention of Rosario. The paragraph was probably inspired, but it spoke plainly, going so far, even, as to say that the loan had probably averted a revolution. The man who had saved the monarchy of an ancient nation was Rosario. One of his rewards, I think, was to have been a title and a distinguished order; it was understood among us that this was the real bait. Rosario's actual reward you know of."
"But where does Isaac Lalonde come in?" demanded Arnold.
"Isaac Lalonde is the London secretary of the revolutionary party of the country of which I have been speaking. I think," he concluded, "that your intelligence will make the rest clear."
Arnold struck the table on the edge of which he was sitting with the palm of his hand.
"Look here," he asked hoarsely, "if you knew all these things, if you knew that Isaac Lalonde had committed this murder, why do you go about with your lips closed? Why haven't you told the truth? An innocent man might be arrested at any time."
Sabatini smiled tolerantly.
"My dear fellow," he said, "why should I? Be reasonable! When you reach my age you will find that silence is often best. As a matter of fact, in this ease my sympathies are very much involved. It is in the mind of many of those who hold the strings that when that revolution does take place it will be I who shall lead it."
Arnold was again bewildered.
"But you," he protested, "are of the ancient nobility of Europe. What place have you among a crowd of anarchists and revolutionaries?"
"You jump at conclusions, my young friend," remarked Sabatini. "The country of which we have spoken is my country, the country from which, by an unjust decree I am exiled. There are among those who desire a change of government, many aristocrats. It is not only the democracy whose hatred has been aroused by the selfish and brutal methods of the reigning house."
Arnold got down from his table and walked to the window. The telephone rang with some insignificant inquiry from a customer. The incident somehow relieved him. It brought him back to the world of every-day events. The reality of life once more obtruded itself upon his conscience. All the time Sabatini lounged at his ease and watched him, always with the faint beginning of a smile upon his lips.
"What I have told you," the latter continued, after a few moments' pause, "must not, during these days, pass beyond the four walls of this singularly uninviting-looking apartment. I have nothing to add or to take from what I have said. The subject is closed. If you have more questions on any other subject, I have still a few minutes."
"Very well, then," Arnold said, coming back to his place, "let us consider the Rosario matter disposed of. Let us go back for a moment to Starling. Tell me why you and your sister saw danger to yourselves in Starling's nervous breakdown? Tell me why, when I returned to Pelham Lodge with her that night, she found a dead man in her room, a man whose body was afterwards mysteriously removed?"
"Quite a spirited number of questions," Sabatini remarked. "Well, to begin with, then, Rosario signed his death-warrant the moment he wrote his name across the parchment which guaranteed the loan. On the night when you first visited Pelham Lodge we heard the news. I believe that Lalonde and his friends would have killed him that night if they could have got at him. Lalonde, however, was a person of strange and inaccessible habits. He hated all aristocrats, and he refused even to communicate with me. Speaking for myself, I was just as determined as Isaac Lalonde that Rosario should never conclude that loan. I told him so that night—Starling and I together. It was thought necessary, by those whose word I am content to accept, that what I had to say to Rosario should come through Starling. It was Starling, therefore, who told him what his position would be if he proceeded further. I must admit that the fellow showed courage. He took a note of Starling's words, which he declared at the time should be deposited in his safe, so that if anything should happen to him, some evidence might be forthcoming. The police, without a doubt, have been in possession of this document, and, curiously enough, Starling was at the Milan that day. You will perceive, therefore, that in the absence, even, of a reasonable alibi it might be difficult to prove his innocence. To our surprise, however, for we had some faith in the fellow, instead of taking this matter with the indifference of a brave man, he has chosen to behave like a child. In his present half maudlin state he would, I am afraid, if in serious danger of conviction, make statements likely to cause a good deal of inconvenience to myself, my sister's friends, and others."
"Does he know himself who committed the murder?" Arnold asked.
"Perfectly well," he admitted, "but the fact helps him very little. Isaac Lalonde is rather a notable figure among European criminals. He belongs to a company of anarchists, well-meaning but bloodthirsty, who hold by one another to the death. If Starling, to save himself, were to disclose the name of the real murderer, he would simply make his exit from this life with a knife through his heart instead of the hangman's rope about his neck. These fellows, I believe, seldom commit crimes, but they are very much in earnest and very dangerous. If you ever happen to meet one of them with a red signet-ring upon his fourth finger, you can look out for trouble."
Arnold shivered for a moment.
"I have seen that ring," he murmured.
"You were a spectator of the tragedy, I remember," Sabatini agreed, pleasantly. "Now are you quite satisfied about Starling?"
"I have heard all I want to about that," Arnold admitted.
"We come, then, to your last question," Sabatini said. "You demand to know the meaning of the unfortunate incident which occurred in my sister's boudoir. Here I think that I am really going to surprise you."
"Nothing," Arnold declared, fervently, "could surprise me. However, go on."
"Neither Fenella nor myself," Sabatini asserted, "have the slightest idea as to how that man met with his death."
"But you know who he was?" Arnold asked. "You know why he was watching your house, why he seems to have broken into it?"
"I can assure you," Sabatini repeated, "that not only am I ignorant as to how the man met with his death, but I have no idea what he was doing in the house at all. The night Rosario was there it was different. They were on his track then, without a doubt, and they meant mischief. Since then, however, there has been a pronounced difference of opinion between the two branches of the revolutionary party—the one which I represent and the one which includes Lalonde and his friends. The consequence is that although we may be said to be working for the same ends, we have drawn a little apart. We have had no communications whatever with Lalonde and his friends since the murder of Rosario. Therefore, I can only repeat that I am entirely in the dark as to what that man was doing in my sister's rooms or how he met with his death. You must remember that these fellows are all more or less criminals. Lalonde, I believe, is something of an exception, but the rest of them are at war with Society to the extent of enriching themselves at the expense of their wealthier neighbors on every possible occasion. It is quite likely that the night they were watching Rosario it may have occurred to them that my sister's room contained a good many valuable trifles and was easily entered, especially as they seem to have had a meeting place close at hand. That, however, is pure surmise. You follow me?"
"In a way, I suppose I do," he admitted. "But—it isn't easy, is it?"
"These matters are not easy," Sabatini agreed. "There are motives and counter-motives to be taken note of with which at present I do not weary you. I give you the clue. It is enough."
"But the mystery of the man's body being removed?" Arnold began.
Sabatini shrugged his shoulders.
"Our knowledge ends with what I have told you," he said. "We have no idea who killed the man, and what we know about his removal we know only from what you saw."
Arnold sat thinking for several moments. The telephone rang and some one inquired for Mr. Weatherley. When he had answered it, he turned once more to his visitor.
"Do you know," he remarked, "that nothing that you have yet told me throws the slightest light upon the disappearance of Mr. Weatherley?"
"Ah! well," he said, "I am afraid that as yet I have not fully appreciated that incident. In France it is by no means unusual that a man should take a hurried journey from his family. I, perhaps, have not sufficiently taken into account Mr. Weatherley's exactness and probity of life. His disappearance may, indeed, have a more alarming significance than either my sister or I have been inclined to give it, but let me assure you of this, my dear Chetwode, that even if Mr. Weatherley has come to serious grief, neither Fenella nor I can suggest the slightest explanation for it. She knows of no reason for his absence. Neither do I. She is, however, just as convinced as I am that he will turn up again, and before very long."
Sabatini pushed away his chair and prepared to leave. His hand fell carelessly and yet almost affectionately upon the young man's shoulder.
"Perhaps," he said, quietly, "I am what you are doubtless thinking me—something of a poseur. Perhaps I do like making a tax upon your sober British rectitude. I will admit that the spirit of adventure is in my heart; I will admit that there is in my blood the desire to take from him who hath and give to him who hath not; but, on the other hand, I have my standards, and I seriously do not think that you would be risking very much if you accepted my invitation to lunch to-day."
Arnold held out his hand.
"If I hesitate for a single moment," he replied frankly, "it is because of my work here. However, as you say that Mrs. Weatherley will be there, I will come."
"We shall look forward to the pleasure, then," Sabatini concluded. "Now I will leave you to go on with your money-coining. Au revoir!"
He strolled gracefully out, pausing on his way through the clerk's office to offer a courteous farewell to Mr. Jarvis. The great automobile glided away. Arnold came back from the window and sat down in front of his desk. Before his eyes was a pile of invoices, in his brain a strange medley of facts and fancies.
Mr. Jarvis came bustling in.
"About those Canadian hams, Chetwode," he began,—
Arnold recognized the voice of his saviour.
"We'll go into the matter at once," he declared, briskly.
It seemed to Arnold that he had passed, indeed, into a different world as he followed Count Sabatini's austere looking butler across the white stone hall into the cool dining-room, where the little party which he had come to join was already at luncheon. Outside, an unexpected heat seemed to have baked the streets and drained the very life from the air. Here the blinds were closely drawn; the great height of the room with its plain, faultless decorations, its piles of sweet-smelling flowers, and the faint breeze that came through the Venetian blinds, made it like a little oasis of coolness and repose. The luncheon-party consisted of four people—Count Sabatini himself, Lady Blennington, Fenella, and a young man whom Arnold had seen once before, attached to one of the Legations. Fenella held out both her hands.
"I'm afraid I am late," Arnold said.
"It is my fault for not mentioning the hour," Sabatini interposed. "We are continental in our tastes and we like to breakfast early."
"In any case, you would be forgiven," Fenella declared, "for this, as you know, is our party of reconciliation."
"What, have you two been quarreling?" Lady Blennington exclaimed. "You don't deserve to have admirers, Fenella. You always treat them badly. How is it you've never been to see me, Mr. Chetwode?"
"Not because I have forgotten your kind invitation," Arnold replied, taking the chair by Fenella's side which the butler was holding for him. "Unfortunately, I am at work nearly every afternoon."
"Mr. Chetwode is my husband's secretary now, you must remember," Fenella remarked, "and during his absence he naturally finds a great deal to do."
"Well, I am sure I am only too glad," Lady Blennington said, "to hear of a young man who does any work at all, nowadays. They mostly seem to do nothing but hang about looking for a job. When you told me," she continued, "that you were really in the city, I wasn't at all sure that you were in earnest."
"I can assure you, Lady Blennington," he declared, "that so far as my sex is represented here to-day, we are very strenuous people indeed. Signor di Marito here carries upon his shoulders a burden, just at the present moment, which few of the ambassadors would care to have to deal with. Mr. Chetwode I have visited in his office, and I can assure you that so far as his industry is concerned there is no manner of doubt. As for myself—"
Lady Blennington interrupted gayly.
"Come," she said, "I believe it of these two others, if you insist, but you are not going to ask us to believe that you, the personification of idleness, are also among the toilers!"
Sabatini looked at her reproachfully.
"One is always misunderstood," he murmured. "This morning, as a matter of fact, I have been occupied since daybreak."
"Let us hear all about it," Lady Blennington demanded.
"My energies have been directed into two channels," Sabatini announced. "I have been making preparations for a possible journey, and I have been trying to find a missing man."
Arnold looked up quickly. Fenella paused with her glass raised to her lips.
"Who is the missing man?" Lady Blennington asked.
"Mr. Weatherley," Sabatini replied. "We can scarcely call him that, perhaps, but he has certainly gone off on a little expedition without leaving his address."
"Well, you amaze me!" Lady Blennington exclaimed. "I never thought that he was that sort of a husband."
"Did you make any discoveries?" asked Arnold.
Sabatini shook his head.
"None," he confessed. "As an investigator I was a failure. However, I must say that I prosecuted my inquiries in one direction only. It may interest you to know that I have come to the conclusion that Mr. Weatherley's disappearance is not connected in any way with the matters of which we spoke this morning."
"Then it remains the more mysterious," declared Arnold.
"Fenella, at any rate, is not disposed to wear widow's weeds," remarked Lady Blennington. "Cheer up, dear, he'll come back all right. Husbands always do. It is our other intimate friends who desert us."
"I am quite sure that you are right," she admitted. "I am not really worried at all. It is a very annoying manner, however, in which to go away, this,—a desertion most unceremonious. And now Andrea here tells me that at any moment he may leave me, too."
They all looked at him. He inclined his head gravely.
"Nothing is decided," he said. "I have friends abroad who generally let me know when things are stirring. There is a little cloud—it may blow over or it may be the presage of a storm. In a day or two we shall know."
"You men are to be envied," Lady Blennington sighed, speaking for a moment more seriously. "You have the power always to roam. You follow the music of the world wherever you will. The drum beats, you pull up your stakes, and away you go. But for us poor women, alas! there is never any pulling up of the stakes. We, too, hear the music—perhaps we hear it oftener than you—but we may not follow."
"You have compensations," Sabatini remarked.
"We have compensations, of course," Lady Blennington admitted, "but what do they amount to, after all?"
"You have also a different set of instincts," Signor di Marito interposed. "There are other things in the life of a woman than to listen always to the wander-music."
"The question is as old as the hills," Fenella declared, "and it bores me. I want some more omelette. Really, Andrea, your chef is a treasure. If you get your summons, I think that I shall take him over. Who will come to the theatre with me to-night? I have two stalls for the Gaiety."
"I can't," Lady Blennington remarked. "I am going to a foolish dinner-party, besides which, of course, you don't want to be bothered with a woman."
"Nor can I," Sabatini echoed. "I have appointments all the evening."
"I, alas!" Signor di Marito sighed, "must not leave my post for one single moment. These are no days for theatre-going for my poor countrymen."
"Then the duty seems to devolve upon you," Fenella decided, smiling toward Arnold.
"I am sorry," he replied, "but I, too, seem to be unfortunate. I could not possibly get away from the city in time."
"Absurd!" she answered, a little sharply. "You are like a boy with a new hobby. It is I who wish that you leave when you choose."
"Apart from that," Arnold continued, "I am sorry, but I have an engagement for the evening."
She made a little grimace.
"With your invalid friend?"
"I should not like to leave her alone this evening. She has been in a great deal of trouble lately."
There was a moment's silence. A slight frown had gathered on Fenella's forehead.
"I noticed that she was dressed wholly in black," she remarked. "Perhaps she is in trouble because she has lost a relative lately?"
"She appears to have no relatives in the world," Arnold declared, "except an uncle, and he, I am afraid, is a little worse than useless to her."
Sabatini, who had been listening, leaned a little forward.
"She lives entirely alone with the uncle of whom you have spoken?" he asked.
"Up till yesterday she has done so," Arnold answered gravely. "Just at present, as you know, he has gone away. I only wish that I could find him."
"Going away, as you put it," Fenella murmured, "seems to be rather the fashion just now."
Arnold glanced up quickly but her expression was entirely innocent. He looked across the table, however, and found that Sabatini was watching him pensively. Fenella leaned towards him. She spoke almost in a whisper, but her tone was cold, almost unfriendly.
"I think," she said, "that with regard to that young woman you carry chivalry too far."
Arnold flushed slightly. Then Sabatini, with a little murmur of words, changed the conversation. Once more it became entirely general, and presently the meal drew towards a pleasant termination. Fenella and Lady Blennington left together. At the moment of departure, the former turned towards Arnold.
"So I cannot induce you to become my escort for to-night?" she asked.
There was appeal, half humorous, half pathetic in her eyes. Arnold hesitated, but only for a moment.
"I am sorry," he said, "but indeed I shall not be able to leave the office until after the time for the theatre."
"You will not obey my orders about the office?"
"I could not, in any case, leave Ruth alone this evening," he replied.
She turned away from him. The little gesture with which she refused to see his hand seemed to be one of dismissal.
"Signor di Marito, you will take us to the automobile, will you not?" she said. "Perhaps we can drop you somewhere? Good-bye, Andrea, and thank you very much for your charming luncheon. If the message comes, you will telephone, I know?"
Arnold lingered behind while Sabatini showed his guests to the door. When he, too, would have left, however, his host motioned him to resume his chair.
"Sit down for a few minutes," he begged. "You have probably seen enough of me for to-day, but I may be called away from England at any moment and there is a question I want to ask you before I go."
"You are really in earnest, then, about leaving?" he asked.
"Assuredly," Sabatini replied. "I cannot tell you exactly how things may go in my country, but if there is a rising against the reigning house, a Sabatini will certainly be there. I have had some experience in soldiering, and I have a following. It is true that I am an exile, but I feel that my place is somewhere near the frontier."
Arnold glanced enviously at the man who lounged in the chair opposite him. He seemed to carry even about his person a flavor from the far-off land of adventures.
"What I want to ask you is this," Sabatini said. "A few minutes ago you declared that you were anxious to discover the whereabouts of your little friend's uncle. Tell me why?"
"I will tell you, with pleasure," Arnold answered. "You see, she is left absolutely alone in the world. I do not grumble at the charge of her, for when I was nearly starving she was kind to me, and we passed our darkest days together. On the other hand, I know that she feels it keenly, and I think it is only right to try and find out if she has no relatives or friends who could possibly look after her."
"It is perfectly reasonable," Sabatini confessed. "I can tell you where to find Isaac Lalonde, if you wish."
Arnold's little exclamation was one almost of dismay.
"You know?" he cried.
"Naturally," Sabatini admitted. "You have a tender conscience, my young friend, and a very limited knowledge of the great necessities of the world. You think that a man like Isaac Lalonde has no real place in a wholesome state of society. You have some reason in what you think, but you are not altogether right. In any case, this is the truth. However much it may horrify you to know it, and notwithstanding our recent differences of opinion, communications have frequently taken place between the committee who are organizing the outbreak in Portugal, among which you may number me, and the extreme anarchists whom Isaac represents."
"You would not really accept aid from such?" Arnold exclaimed.
Sabatini smiled tolerantly.
"There are many unworthy materials," he said, "which go to the building of a great structure. Youth rebels at their use but age and experience recognize their necessity. The anarchist of your halfpenny papers and Police News is not always the bloodthirsty ruffian that you who read them are led to suppose. Very often he is a man who strenuously seeks to see the light. It is not always his fault if the way which is shown him to freedom must cross the rivers of blood."
Arnold moved uneasily in his chair. His host spoke with such quiet conviction that the stock arguments which rose to his lips seemed somehow curiously ineffective.
"Nevertheless," he protested, "the philosophy of revolutions—"
"We will not discuss it," Sabatini declared, with a smile. "You and I need not waste our time in academic discussion. These things are beside the mark. What I had to say to you is this. If you really wish to speak with Isaac Lalonde, and will give me your word to keep the knowledge of him to yourself, I can tell you where to find him."
"I do wish to speak to him for the reasons I have told you," Arnold replied. "If he were to disappear from the face of the earth, as seems extremely probable at the present moment, Ruth would be left without a friend in the world except myself."
Sabatini wrote an address upon a slip of paper.
"You will find him there," he announced. "Go slowly, for the neighborhood is dangerous. Can I drop you anywhere?"
Arnold shook his head.
"Thank you," he said, "I must go straight back to the office. I will take the tube from the corner."
Sabatini escorted his guest to the door. As they stood there together, looking down into the quiet street, he laid his hand upon the young man's shoulder.
"I will not say good-bye," he declared, "because, although I am here waiting all the time, I do not believe that the hour has come for me to go. It will be soon but not just yet. When we first met, I thought that I should like to take you with me. I thought that the life in what will become practically a new country, would appeal to you. Since then I have changed my mind. I have thought of my own career, and I have seen that it is not the life or career for a young man to follow. The adventures of the worker in the cities are a little grayer, perhaps, than those which come to the man who is born a wanderer, but they lead home just as surely—perhaps more safely. Au revoir!"
He turned away abruptly. The door was softly closed. Arnold went down the steps and set his face citywards.
ISAAC IN HIDING
Arnold, as he neared the end of his journey, felt, indeed, that he had found his way into some alien world. The streets through which, after many directions, he had passed, had all been strange to him, strange not only because of their narrowness, their poverty, their ill flavor, but on account, also, of the foreign names above the shops, the street cries, and the dark, unfamiliar aspects of the people. After losing his way more than once, he discovered at last a short street branching out of a narrow but populous thoroughfare. There were no visible numbers, but counting the houses on the left-hand side, and finding the door of the seventh open, he made his way inside. The place was silent and seemed deserted. He climbed the stairs to the second story and knocked at the door of the front room. So far, although barely a hundred yards away was a street teeming with human beings, he had not seen a soul in the place.
His first knock remained unanswered. He tried again. This time he heard a movement inside which he construed as an invitation to enter. He threw open the door and stepped in. The blind was closely drawn, and to his eyes, unaccustomed to the gloom, there seemed to be no one in the place. Suddenly the fire of an electric torch flashed into his eyes, a familiar voice from a distant corner addressed him.
"What the devil are you doing here?"
The light was as suddenly turned off. Arnold could see now that the man whom he had come to visit had barricaded himself behind an upturned table in a distant corner of the room.
"I want a word or two with you, Isaac," Arnold said.
"Who told you where to find me?"
"Have you told any one else?"
"Are you alone?"
Isaac came slowly out into the room. His appearance, if possible, was a little more ghastly even than when Arnold had seen him last. He was unshaven, and his eyes shone with the furtiveness of some hunted animal. In his hand he was holding a murderous-looking pistol.
"Say what you want—be quick—and get away," Isaac muttered. "I am not here to receive visitors—not your sort, any way. You understand that?"
"You seem to be prepared to receive some one in a most unpleasant manner," Arnold said gravely. "Is that sort of thing worth while, Isaac?"
There was a brief pause. Arnold, having asked his question, was looking at his companion, half in horror, half in pity. Isaac, white with passion, seemed unable for the moment to make any intelligible reply. Then, drawing in his breath as though with an effort, he walked past Arnold and stood for a moment on the threshold of the door, listening intently. Satisfied, apparently, that there was nothing to be heard save the usual street noises, he closed the door softly and came back into the room.
"You," he said to Arnold, "are one of the clods of the earth, to whom it is not given to understand. You are one of those who would fall before the carriages of the rich and hold out your hands for their alms. You are one of those who could weep and weep and watch the children die, wringing your hands, while the greedy ones of the world stuff themselves at their costly restaurants. The world is full of such as you. It is full, too, of many like myself, in whose blood the fever burns, into whose brain the knowledge of things has entered, in whose heart the seared iron burns."
"That's all right for Hyde Park," Arnold declared, bluntly, "but do you imagine you are going to help straighten the world by this sort of thing?"
"In my way, I am," Isaac snarled. "What do you know of it, you smooth-faced, healthy young animal, comfortably born, comfortably bred, falling always on your feet in comfortable fashion, with the poison of comfort in your veins? You look at my pistol as an evil thing, because it can spell the difference between life and death. I will tell you what it represents to me. It represents my rebellion and the rebellion of my class against what you choose to call here law and order. Law and order are good enough things, but they have become the tools with which the smug rich keep themselves in luxury in the fat places of the world, while millions of others, gripping vainly at the outside of life, fall off into the bottomless chasm."
"It's the wrong method, Isaac," Arnold insisted, earnestly.
Isaac threw out his hand—a little gesture, half of contempt, not altogether without its touch of dignity.
"This isn't any place for words," he said, "nor is it given to you to be the champion of your class. Let me alone. Speak your errand and be gone! No one can tell when the end may come. It will be better for you, when it does, that you are not here."
"I have come on account of your niece, whom you left penniless and homeless," Arnold said sternly. "With your immense sympathy for others, perhaps you can explain this little act of inattention on your part?"
Isaac's start of surprise was genuine enough.
"I had forgotten her," he admitted curtly. "I saw the red fires that night and since then there has been no moment to breathe or think—nothing to do but get ready for the end. I had forgotten her."
"She is safe, for the present," Arnold told him. "My circumstances have improved and I have taken a small flat in which there is a room for her. This may do for the present, but Ruth, after all, is a young woman. She is morbidly sensitive. However willing I may be, and I am willing, it is not right that she should remain with me. I have always taken it for granted that save for you she has no relatives and no friends. Is this the truth? Is there no one whom she has the right to ask for a home?"
Isaac was silent. Some movements in the street below disturbed him, and he walked with catlike tread to the window, peering through a hole in the blind for several moments. When he was satisfied that nothing unusual was transpiring, he came back.
"Listen," he said hoarsely, "I am a dead man already in all but facts. I can tell you nothing of Ruth's relatives. Better that she starved upon the streets than found them. But there is her chance still. My mind has been filled with big things and I had forgotten it. Before we moved into Adam Street, the last doctor who saw Ruth suggested an operation. He felt sure that it would be successful. It was to cost forty guineas. I have saved very nearly the whole of that money. It stands in her name at the Westminster Savings Bank. If she goes there and proves her identity, she can get it. I saved that money—God knows how!"
"What is the name of the doctor?" Arnold asked.
"His name was Heskell and he was at the London Hospital," Isaac replied. "Now I have done with you. That is Ruth's chance—there is nothing else I can do. Be off as quickly as you can. If you give information as to my whereabouts, you will probably pay for it with your life, for there are others besides myself who are hiding in this house. Now go. Do you hear?"
Arnold's anger against the man suddenly faded away. It seemed to him, as he stood there, that he was but a product of the times, fashioned by the grinding wheel of circumstance, a physical wreck, a creature without love or life or hope.
"Isaac," he said, "why don't you try and escape? Get away to some other country, out onto the land somewhere. Leave the wrongs of these others to come right with time. Work for your daily bread, give your brain a rest."
Isaac made no reply. Only his long, skinny forefinger shot out toward the door. Arnold knew that he might just as well have been talking to the most hopeless lunatic ever confined in padded room.
"If this is to be farewell, Isaac," he continued, "let me at least tell you this before I go. You are doing Ruth a cruel wrong. God knows I am willing enough to take charge of her, but it's none the less a brutal position for you to put her in. You have the chance, if you will, to set her free. Think what her life has been up till now. Have you ever thought of it, I wonder? Have you ever thought of the long days she has spent in that attic when you have been away, without books, with barely enough to eat, without companionship or friends? These are the things to which you have doomed her by your cursed selfishness. If she has friends who could take her away, and you refuse to speak, then all I can say is that you deserve any fate that may come to you."
Isaac remained silent for several moments. His face was dark and dogged. When he spoke, it was with reluctance.
"Young man," he said, "every word which you have spoken has been in my brain while I have lain here waiting for the end. A few hours ago I slept and had a dream. When I awoke, I was weak. See here."
He drew from his pocket two sheets of closely-written foolscap.
"The story of Ruth's life is here," he declared. "I wrote it with a stump of pencil on the back of this table. I wrote it, but I have changed my mind, and I am going to tear it up."
Arnold was light on his feet, with a great reach, and Isaac was unprepared. In a moment the latter was on his back, and the soiled sheets of foolscap were in Arnold's pocket. Isaac's fingers seemed to hover upon the trigger of his pistol as he lay there, crouched against the wall.
"Don't be a fool!" Arnold cried, roughly. "You'll do no good by killing me. The girl has a right to her chance."
There were several seconds of breathless silence, during which it seemed to Arnold that Isaac had made up and changed his mind more than once. Then at last he lowered his pistol.
"We'll call it chance," he muttered. "I never meant to write the rubbish. Since you have got it, though, it is the truth. Do with it what you will. There is one thing more. You know this man Sabatini?"
"If you mean the Count Sabatini, it was he who gave me your address," Arnold reminded him.
Isaac smiled grimly.
"Citizen Sabatini is all we know him by here. He knows well that to a man with his aspirations, a man who desires to use as his tools such as myself and my comrades, a title is an evil recommendation. He came to us first, as a man and a brother,—he, Count Sabatini, Marquis de Lossa, Chevalier de St. Jerome, Knight of the Holy Roman Empire,—an aristocrat, you perceive, and one of the worst. Yet we have trusted him."
"I do not believe," Arnold exclaimed, "that Sabatini would betray any one!"
"I am not accusing him," Isaac said solemnly. "I simply hold that he is not the man to lead a great revolutionary movement. It is for that reason, among others, that I have rejected his advances. Sabatini as president would mean very much the same thing as a king. Will you give him a message from me?"
"Yes," Arnold answered, "I will do that."
"Tell him, if indeed he has the courage which fame has bestowed upon him, to come here and bid me farewell. I have certain things to say to him."
"I will give him your message," Arnold promised, "but I shall not advise him to come."
A look of anger flashed in Isaac's face. The pistol which had never left his grip was slowly raised, only to be lowered again.
"Do as I say," he repeated. "Tell him to come. Perhaps I may have more to say to him about that other matter than I choose to say to you."
"About Ruth," Isaac repeated, sternly.
"You would trust a stranger," Arnold exclaimed, "with information which you deny me—her friend?"
Isaac waved him away.
"Be off," he said, tersely. "I have queer humors sometimes lying here waiting for the end. Don't let it be your fate to excite one of them. You have had your escape."
"What do you mean?" Arnold demanded.
Isaac laughed hoarsely.
"How many nights ago was it," he asked, "that you threw up a window in the man Weatherley's house—the night Morris and I were there, seeking for Rosario?"
"I never saw you!" Arnold exclaimed.
"No, but you saw Morris," Isaac continued. "What is more, you saw him again on the stairs with me that night, and it very nearly cost you your life. Lucky for you, young man, that you were not at Hampstead the night when Morris went there to seek for you!"
Arnold was speechless.
"You mean that he was there that night looking for me?" he cried.
"He hated you all," Isaac muttered, "you and the woman and Sabatini, and he was a little mad—just a little mad. If he had found you all there—"
"Well?" Arnold interposed, breathlessly.
Isaac shook his head.
"But I do mind," Arnold insisted. "I want to know about that night. Was it in search of us—"
Isaac held out his skinny hand. There was a dangerous glitter in his eyes.
"It is enough," he snarled. "I have no more to say about what is past. Send me Sabatini and he shall hear news from me."
Arnold retreated slowly towards the threshold.
"If you will take the advice of a sane man," he said, "you will throw that thing away and escape. If I can help—"
Isaac was already creeping to his hiding-place. He turned around with a contemptuous gesture.
"There is no escape for me," he declared. "Every day the police draw their circle closer. So much the better! When they come, they will find me prepared! If you are still here in sixty seconds," he added, "I will treat you as I shall treat them."
Arnold closed the door and made his way into the street.
Sabatini, already dressed for the evening, his coat upon his arm, paused only to light a cigarette and read once more the telegram which he held between his fingers, before he left his house to step into the automobile which was waiting outside. His servant entered the room with his silk hat.
"You will remember carefully my instructions, Pietro?" he said.
"Assuredly, sir," the man answered.
"If there is a telegram, any communication from the Embassy, or telephone message, you will bring it to me yourself, at once, at number 17, Grosvenor Square. If any one should call to see me, you know exactly where I am to be found."
"There is a young gentleman here now, sir," the man announced. "He has just arrived."
"The young gentleman who was here before, to-day?" Sabatini asked.
"The same, Excellency."
Sabatini laid down his coat.
"You can show him in," he directed. "Wait for me outside."
Arnold, who had come straight from the unknown world in which he had found Isaac, was shown in immediately. Pietro closed the door and withdrew. Sabatini looked inquiringly at his visitor.
"You have seen Isaac?" he asked.
"I have seen him," Arnold assented.
"You bring me news?"
"It is true," Arnold replied. "I bring news."
Sabatini waited patiently. Arnold remained, for a moment, gloomily silent. It was hard to know how to commence.
"You will forgive my reminding you," Sabatini said quietly, "that I am on the point of starting out to keep an engagement. I would not mention it but in one respect London hostesses are exacting. There are many liberties which are permitted here, but one must not be late for dinner."
Arnold's memory flashed back to the scene which he had just left—to Isaac, the outcast, crouched beneath his barricade of furniture, waiting in the darkness with his loaded pistol and murder in his heart. Sabatini, calm and dignified in his rigidly correct evening dress, his grace and good-looks, represented with curious appositeness the other extreme of life.
"I will not keep you long," Arnold began, "but there is something which you must hear from me, and hear at once."
"Assuredly," Sabatini murmured. "It is something connected with your visit to this poor, misguided outcast. I am afraid there is nothing we can do for him."
"There is nothing any one can do for him," Arnold declared. "I went to see him because, when he fled from his rooms and they were seized by the police, his niece was left penniless and homeless. Fortunately, the change in my own circumstances permitted me to offer her a shelter—for the moment, at any rate. I have told you something of this before but I am obliged to repeat it. You will understand presently. It is of some importance."
"The young lady is still under your care?" he asked.
"She is still with me," Arnold admitted. "I took two rooms not very far away from here. I did it because it was the only thing to do, but I can see now that as a permanent arrangement it will not answer. Already, even, a shadow seems to have sprung up between us. I am beginning to understand what it is. I have always looked upon Ruth as being somewhat different from other women because of her infirmity. It is dawning upon me now that, after all, the infirmity counts for little. She is a woman, with a woman's sensibility and all that goes with it. It troubles her to be living alone with me."
A shadow of perplexity passed across Sabatini's face. This young man was very much in earnest and spoke as though he had good reasons for these explanations, yet the reasons themselves were not obvious and the minutes were passing.
"She seemed to me," he murmured, "to be a very charming and distinguished young lady."
"I am glad to hear you say so," Arnold declared. "To-day I went to Isaac that he might tell me whether there were not some relatives of hers in the world to whom she could apply for help and shelter. I pointed out that he had left Ruth alone and penniless; that although the charge of her was nothing but a pleasure to me, it was not fitting that I should undertake it. I insisted upon his telling me the name of at least one of her relatives, so that I might let them know of her existence and beg for a home for her."
"It was a reasonable request," Sabatini remarked. "I trust that the fellow recognized the situation?"
"He had already written out Ruth's history," Arnold said, his voice shaking a little. "He had written it out in pencil on a couple of sheets of foolscap. He gave them to me to bring away with me. I read them coming up. I am here now to repeat their purport to you."
Sabatini gave a little nod of interest. His glance at the clock was apologetic. He had thrown his overcoat once more upon his arm, and, with his white-gloved hand resting upon the back of a chair, stood listening in an attitude of courteous ease.
"I shall be glad to hear the story," he said. "I must admit that although I only met the young lady for those few minutes at Bourne End, I found myself most interested in her. I feel sure that she is charming in every way. Please go on."
"If Isaac's story is true," Arnold continued slowly, "you should indeed be interested in her."
Sabatini's eyebrows were slightly raised.
"I scarcely understand," he murmured. "I—pray go on."
"According to his story," Arnold said, "Ruth Lalonde is your daughter."
Sabatini stood perfectly motionless. The slight expression of tired attention with which he had been listening, had faded from his face. In the late sunshine which still filled the room, there was something almost corpse-like in the pallor of his cheeks, his unnatural silence. When he spoke, his words came slowly.
"Is this a jest?"
"Isaac's story is that you married her mother, who was his sister, in Paris, nineteen and a half years ago. Her name was Cecile Ruth Leneveu, and she was acting at one of the theatres. She was really Isaac's half-sister. His father had brought him from Paris when he was only a child, and married again almost at once. According to his story, Ruth's mother lived with you for two years—until, in fact, you went to Chili to take command of the troops there, at the time of the revolution. When you returned, she was dead. You were told that she had given birth to a daughter and that she, too, had died."
"That is true," Sabatini admitted slowly. "I came back because of her illness, but I was too late."
"The child did not die," Arnold continued. "She was brought up by Isaac in a small convent near Rouen, where she remained until two years ago, when he was forced to come to England. He brought her with him as, owing to her accident, she was unable to take the post of teacher for which she had been intended, and the convent where she was living was unexpectedly broken up. Since then she has lived a sad life with him in London. His has been simply a hand-to-mouth existence."
"But I do not understand why I was kept in ignorance," Sabatini declared. "Why did he not appeal to me for help? Why was my daughter's existence kept a secret from me?"
"Because Isaac is half a fanatic and half a madman," Arnold replied. "You represent to him the class he loathes, the class he has hated all his life, and against which he has waged ceaseless war. He hated your marriage to his sister, and his feelings were the more embittered because it suited you to keep it private. He has nursed a bitter feeling against you all his life for this reason."
Sabatini turned stiffly away. He walked to the window, standing for a moment or two with his back to Arnold, looking out into the quiet street. Then he came back.
"I must go to this man at once," he said. "You can take me there?"
"I can take you," Arnold assented, doubtfully, "and I have even a message from him asking you to visit him, but I warn you that he is in a dangerous mood. I found him the solitary occupant of a miserable room in the back street of a quarter of London which reminded me more than anything else of some foreign city. He has cleared the furniture from the room, reared a table up on end, and is crouching behind it with a Mauser pistol in his hand and a box of cartridges by his side. My own belief is that he is insane."
"It is of no account, that," Sabatini declared. "One moment."
He touched the bell for his servant, who entered almost immediately.
"You will take a cab to 17, Grosvenor Square, Pietro," he directed. "Present my compliments to the lady of the house, and tell her that an occurrence of the deepest importance deprives me of the honor of dining to-night."
"Very good, your Excellency."
Sabatini turned to Arnold.
"Come," he said simply, "my automobile is waiting. Will you direct the man?"
They started off citywards. Sabatini, for a time, sat like a man in a dream, and Arnold, respecting his companion's mood, kept silent. There seemed to be something unreal about their progress. To Arnold, with this man by his side, the amazing story which he had gathered from those ill-written pages, with their abrupt words and brutal cynicism, still ringing in his brain, their errand seemed like some phantasmal thing. The familiar streets bore a different aspect; the faces of the people whom they passed struck him always with a curious note of unreality. Ruth was Sabatini's daughter! His brain refused to grasp so amazing a fact. Yet curiously enough, as he leaned back among the cushions, the likeness was there. The turn of the lips, the high forehead, the flawless delicacy of her oval face, in the light of this new knowledge were all startlingly reminiscent of the man who sat by his side now in a grim, unbroken silence. The wonder of it all remained unabated, but his sense of apprehension grew.
Presently Sabatini began to talk, rousing himself as though with an effort, and asking questions concerning Ruth, about her accident, her tastes. He heard of the days of her poverty with a little shiver. Arnold touched lightly upon these, realizing how much his companion was suffering. Their progress grew slower and slower as they passed into the heart of this strange land, down the narrow yet busy thoroughfare which seemed to be the main artery of the neighborhood. Strange names were above the shop-windows, strange articles were displayed behind them. Stalls were set out in the streets. Men and women, driven by the sulphurous heat to seek air, leaned half-dressed from the windows, or sat even upon the pavement in front of their houses. More than once they were obliged to come to a standstill owing to the throngs of loiterers. As they neared the last corner, Arnold leaned out and his heart sank. In front he could see the crowd kept back by a line of police.
"We are too late!" he exclaimed. "They have found him! They must be making the arrest even now!"
CLOSE TO TRAGEDY
The two men stood up in the automobile. Sabatini's face had darkened. He leaned over and said something to the chauffeur. They drove on through the press of people, who gave way sullenly. A police inspector came to the side of the car.
"This way is blocked for the present, sir," he said to Sabatini. "If you want to get past, you had better take one of the turnings to the left."
"My destination is just here," Sabatini replied. "Tell me, what is the cause of this disturbance?"
"Some of our men have gone to make an arrest in the street there, sir," the inspector replied, "and we are having some trouble."
"Is it the man Isaac Lalonde whom you are after?" Sabatini asked.
"That is so, sir," the inspector admitted. "A desperate scoundrel he is, too. He's shot at and wounded all three of the policemen who entered the house, and he lies crouching before the window, threatening to shoot any one who passes up the street."
"Who is in charge here?" Sabatini inquired.
"Chief Inspector Raynham," the man replied, pointing to an officer in plain uniform who was standing a few yards away.
"Take me to him," Sabatini directed. "I may be of use in this matter."
The crowd opened to let them pass through. They were on the corner of the pavement now, and the street to their right was empty. There was a disposition on the part of the people to hug the wall and peer only round the corner, for they were within easy range of the grimy window opposite.
"Mr. Inspector," Sabatini said, "I am Count Sabatini, a nobleman of the country from which that man comes. I think, perhaps, that if you will allow me to make the effort he will listen to me. I may be able to save the loss of useful lives."
The chief inspector saluted.
"I shouldn't recommend you to go near him, sir," he declared. "They say he's an out-and-out anarchist, the leader of one of the most dangerous gangs in London. We've got the back of the house covered and he can't escape, but he's shot three of our men who tried to get at him. The chief of police is on his way down, and we are waiting for instructions from him."
Sabatini's lips parted in the faintest of smiles. One could well have imagined that he would have devised some prompter means to have secured this man if he had been in command.
"You will not forbid my making the attempt, I trust?" he said, courteously. "I do so at my own risk, of course."
The inspector hesitated. Sabatini, with a sudden swing of his powerful arm, made his way into the front rank. Arnold clutched at him.
"Don't go," he begged. "It isn't worth while. You hear, he has shot three policemen already. You can't save him—you can't help him."
Sabatini turned round with an air of gentle superiority.
"My young friend," he said, "do you not understand that Isaac will not be taken alive? There is a question I must ask him before he dies."
The inspector stepped forward—afterwards he said that it was for the purpose of stopping Sabatini. He was too late, however. The crowd thronging the end of the street, and the hundreds of people who peered from the windows, had a moment of wonderful excitement. One could almost hear the thrill which stirred from their throats. Across the empty street, straight towards the window behind which the doomed man lay, Sabatini walked, strangest of figures amidst those sordid surroundings, in his evening clothes, thin black overcoat, and glossy silk hat. Step by step he approached the door. He was about three yards from the curbstone when the window behind which Isaac was crouching was suddenly smashed, and Isaac leaned out. The crowd, listening intently, could hear the crash of falling glass upon the pavement. They had their view of Isaac, too—a wan, ghostlike figure, with haggard cheeks and staring eyes, eyes which blazed out from between the strands of black hair.
"Stand where you are," he shouted, and the people who watched saw the glitter of the setting sun upon the pistol in his hand. Sabatini looked up.
"Isaac Lalonde," he called out, "you know who I am?"
"I know who you are," they heard him growl,—"Count Sabatini, Marquis de Lossa, Chevalier de St. Jerome, Knight of the Holy Roman Empire, aristocrat, blood-sucker of the people."
Sabatini shrugged his shoulders slightly.
"As to that," he answered firmly, "one may have opinions. My hand at least is free from bloodshed. You are there with nothing but death before you. I am here to ask a question."
"Ask it, then," the man at the window muttered. "Can't you see that the time is short?"
"Is it true, this message which you sent me by that young man? Is it my daughter, the child of Cecile, whom you have kept from me all these years?"
Isaac leaned further forward out of the window. Every one in the crowd could see him now. There were a few who began to shout. Every one save Sabatini himself seemed conscious of his danger. Sabatini, heedless or unconscious of it, stood with one foot upon the curbstone, his face upturned to the man with whom he was talking.
"Ay, it is true!" Isaac shouted. "She is your daughter, child of the wife whom you hid away, ashamed of her because she came from the people and you were an aristocrat. She is your child, but you will never see her!"
Then those who watched had their fill of tragedy. They saw the puff of smoke, the sharp, discordant report, the murderous face of the man who leaned downward. They saw Sabatini throw up his hands to heaven and fall, a crumpled heap, into the gutter. Isaac, with the pistol to his own forehead, overbalanced himself in the act of pulling the trigger, and came crashing down, a corpse, on to the pavement. The crowd broke loose, but Arnold was the first to raise Sabatini. A shadow of the old smile parted his whitening lips. He opened his eyes.
"It's a rotten death, boy," he whispered hoarsely; "a cur's bullet, that. Look after her for me. I'd rather—I'd rather hear the drums beating."
Arnold gripped him by the shoulders.
"Hold on to yourself, man!" he gasped. "There's a doctor coming—he's here already. Hold on to yourself, for all our sakes! We want you—Ruth will want you!"
Sabatini smiled very faintly. He was barely conscious.
"I'd rather have heard the drums," he muttered again.
MR. WEATHERLEY RETURNS
It was twenty minutes past nine on a Saturday morning when the wonderful thing happened. Precisely at his accustomed hour, in his accustomed suit of gray clothes, and with his silk hat a little on the back of his head, Mr. Weatherley walked into his office, pausing as usual to knock the ash from his cigar before he entered the clerks' counting house. Twelve young men gazed at him in frank and undiluted amazement. As though absolutely unconscious of anything unusual, Mr. Weatherley grunted his "Good morning!" and passed on into the private room. Arnold and Mr. Jarvis were busy sorting the letters which had arrived by the morning's post. Mr. Weatherley regarded them with an expression of mingled annoyance and surprise.
"What the devil are you doing, opening the letters before I get here?" he exclaimed. "I'm punctual, am I not? Twenty-two minutes past nine to the tick. Get out of my chair, Jarvis!"
Mr. Jarvis rose with a promptitude which was truly amazing, considering that a second ago he had been sitting there as though turned to stone. Mr. Weatherley was disposed to be irritable.
"What on earth are you both staring at?" he asked. "Nothing wrong with my appearance, is there? You get out into the warehouse, Jarvis, and wait until you're sent for. Chetwode, go and sit down at your desk. I'll be ready to dictate replies to these as soon as I've glanced them through."
Mr. Jarvis made a slow retreat towards the door. Every now and then he turned and looked back over his shoulder.
"You will allow me to say, sir," he faltered, "that I—that we all are glad to see you back."
"See me back?" Mr. Weatherley repeated, frowning heavily. "What the devil do you mean, sir? Why, I was here till nearly six last evening, straightening out the muddle you'd got Coswell's account into."
Mr. Jarvis withdrew precipitately, closing the door behind him. Mr. Weatherley glanced across the room to where Arnold was standing.
"I'm hanged if I can understand Jarvis lately," he said. "The fellow seems off his head. See me back, indeed! Talks as though I'd been away for a holiday."
Arnold opened his lips and closed them again without speech. Mr. Weatherley took up the letters and began to read them, at first in silence. Presently he began to swear.
"Anything wrong, sir?" Arnold asked.
"Has every one taken leave of their senses?" Mr. Weatherley demanded, in a startled tone. "These can't be this morning's letters. They're all about affairs I know nothing of. They're dated—yes, they're all dated July 1. I was here yesterday—I remember signing the cheques—May 4, it was. What the—"
He stopped short. The office boy had performed his duty. Opposite to him stood the great calendar recording the date—July 2 stared him in the face. Mr. Weatherley put his hand to his forehead.
"Come here, Chetwode, quickly," he begged.
Arnold hurried over towards his employer. Mr. Weatherley had lost flesh and there were bags under his eyes. His appearance now was the appearance of a man who has received some terrifying shock. His hands clasped the sides of his chair.
"I'm all right, Chetwode?" he gasped. "I haven't been ill or anything? This isn't a nightmare? The office seems all changed. You've moved the safe. The letters—I can't understand the letters! Give me the Day Book, quick."
Arnold passed it to him silently. Mr. Weatherley turned over the pages rapidly. At May 4, he stopped.
"Yes, yes! I remember this!" he exclaimed. "Twenty barrels of apples, Spiers & Pond. Fifty hams to Coswell's. I remember this. But what—"
His finger went down the page. He turned over rapidly, page after page. The entries went on. They stopped at June 30. He shrank back in his chair.
"Have I been ill, Chetwode?" he muttered.
Arnold put his arm upon his employer's shoulder.
"Not exactly ill, sir," he said, "but you haven't been here for some time. You went home on May 4—we've none of us seen you since."
There was a silence. Very slowly Mr. Weatherley began to shake his head. He seemed suddenly aged.
"Sit down, Chetwode—sit down quickly," he ordered, in a curious, dry whisper. "You see, it was like this," he went on, leaning over the table. "I heard a noise in the room and down I came. He was hiding there behind a curtain, but I saw him. Before I could shout out to the servants, he had me covered with his revolver. I suppose I'm not much to look at in a black tie and dress coat, wrong thing altogether, I know,—but Fenella was out so it didn't really matter. Anyway, he took me for the butler. 'It isn't you I want,' he said, 'it's your mistress and the others.' I stared at him and backed toward the door. 'If you move from where you are,' he went on, dropping his voice a little, 'I shall shoot you! Go and stand over in that corner, behind me. It's Mrs. Weatherley I want. Now listen. There's a ten-pound note in my waistcoat pocket. I'll give it to you to go and fetch her. Tell her that an old friend has called and is waiting to see her. You understand? If you go and don't bring her back—if you give the alarm—you'll wake up one night and find me by your bedside, and you'll be sorry.' You see, I remember every word he said, Chetwode—every word."
"Go on, please!" Arnold exclaimed, breathlessly.
Mr. Weatherley nodded slowly.
"Yes," he said, "I shall tell you all about it. I remember every word that was spoken; I can see the man at this moment. I didn't move from where I was, but I was a little annoyed at being taken for Groves, and I told him so. 'If you're a burglar,' I said, 'you've found your way into trouble. I'm the master of the house and Mrs. Weatherley is my wife. Perhaps you'll tell me now what you want with her?' He looked at me and I suppose he decided that I was telling the truth. 'Your wife,' he said slowly, 'is looking for trouble. I'm not sure that it hasn't come. You know she was a friend of Rosario—Rosario the Jew?' 'I know that they were acquainted,' I said. He laughed then, and I began to hate the fellow, Chetwode. 'It was your wife,' he said, 'for whom Rosario wanted that title. She could have stopped him—' Then he broke off, Chetwode. 'But I don't suppose you understand these things,' he said. 'You'd better just understand this, though. I am here to have a little explanation with Mrs. Weatherley. I have a message for her, and she's got to hear it from my own lips. When I've finished with her, I want her brother, and when I've finished with him, I want the young man who was here the other night. It's no good saying he's not here now, because I saw him start.'"