The End of Her Honeymoon
Mrs. Belloc Lowndes
Author of "The Uttermost Farthing," "The Chink in the Armour," etc., etc.
"Cocher? l'Hôtel Saint Ange, Rue Saint Ange!"
The voice of John Dampier, Nancy's three-weeks bridegroom, rang out
strongly, joyously, on this the last evening of their honeymoon. And before
the lightly hung open carriage had time to move, Dampier added something
quickly, at which both he and the driver laughed in unison.
Nancy crept nearer to her husband. It was tiresome that she knew so little
"I'm telling the man we're not in any hurry, and that he can take us round
by the Boulevards. I won't have you seeing Paris from an ugly angle the
"But Jack? It's nearly midnight! Surely there'll be nothing to see on the
"Won't there? You wait and see—Paris never goes to sleep!"
And then—Nancy remembered it long, long afterwards—something very odd and
disconcerting happened in the big station yard of the Gare de Lyon. The
horse stopped—stopped dead. If it hadn't been that the bridegroom's arm
enclosed her slender, rounded waist, the bride might have been thrown out.
The cabman stood up in his seat and gave his horse a vicious blow across
"Oh, Jack!" Nancy shrank and hid her face in her husband's arm. "Don't let
him do that! I can't bear it!"
Dampier shouted out something roughly, angrily, and the man jumped off the
box, and taking hold of the rein gave it a sharp pull. He led his unwilling
horse through the big iron gates, and then the little open carriage rolled
How enchanting to be driving under the stars in the city which hails in
every artist—Jack Dampier was an artist—a beloved son!
In the clear June atmosphere, under the great arc-lamps which seemed
suspended in the mild lambent air, the branches of the trees lining the
Boulevards showed brightly, delicately green; and the tints of the dresses
worn by the women walking up and down outside the cafés and still
brilliantly lighted shops mingled luminously, as on a magic palette.
Nancy withdrew herself gently from her husband's arm. It seemed to her that
every one in that merry, slowly moving crowd on either side must see that
he was holding her to him. She was a shy, sensitive little creature, this
three-weeks-old bride, whose honeymoon was now about to merge into happy
Dampier divined something of what she was feeling. He put out his hand and
clasped hers. "Silly sweetheart," he whispered. "All these merry,
chattering people are far too full of themselves to be thinking of us!"
As she made no answer, bewildered, a little oppressed by the brilliance,
the strangeness of everything about them, he added a little anxiously,
"Darling, are you tired? Would you rather go straight to the hotel?"
But pressing closer to him, Nancy shook her head. "No, no, Jack! I'm not a
bit tired. It was you who were tired to-day, not I!"
"I didn't feel well in the train, 'tis true. But now that I'm in Paris I
could stay out all night! I suppose you've never read George Moore's
description of this very drive we're taking, little girl?"
And again Nancy shook her head, and smiled in the darkness. In the world
where she had lived her short life, in the comfortable, unimaginative world
in which Nancy Tremain, the delightfully pretty, fairly well-dowered,
orphan, had drifted about since she had been "grown-up," no one had ever
heard of George Moore.
Strange, even in some ways amazing, their marriage—hers and Jack
Dampier's—had been! He, the clever, devil-may-care artist, unconventional
in all his ways, very much a Bohemian, knowing little of his native
country, England, for he had lived all his youth and working life in
France—and she, in everything, save an instinctive love of beauty, which,
oddly yet naturally enough, only betrayed itself in her dress, the
A commission from an English country gentleman who had fancied a portrait
shown by Dampier in the Salon, had brought the artist, rather reluctantly,
across the Channel, and an accident—sometimes it made them both shiver to
realise how slight an accident—had led to their first and
Nancy Tremain had been brought over to tea, one cold, snowy afternoon, at
the house where Dampier was painting. She had been dressed all in grey, and
the graceful velvet gown and furry cap-like toque had made her look, in his
eyes, like an exquisite Eighteenth Century pastel.
One glance—so Dampier had often since assured her and she never grew tired
of hearing it—had been enough. They had scarcely spoken the one to the
other, but he had found out her name, and, writing, cajoled her into seeing
him again. Very soon he had captured her in the good old way, as women—or
so men like to think—prefer to be wooed, by right of conquest.
There had been no one to say them nay, no one to comment unkindly over so
strange and sudden a betrothal. On the contrary, Nancy's considerable
circle of acquaintances had smilingly approved.
All the world loves a masterful lover, and Nancy Tremain was far too
pretty, far too singular and charming, to become engaged in the course of
nature to some commonplace young man. This big, ugly, clever, amusing
artist was just the contrast which was needed for romance.
And he seemed by his own account to be making a very good income, too! Yet,
artists being such eccentric, extravagant fellows, doubtless Nancy's modest
little fortune would come in useful—so those about them argued carelessly.
Then one of her acquaintances, a thought more good-natured than the rest,
arranged that lovely, happy Nancy should be married from a pleasant country
house, in a dear little country church. Braving superstition, the wedding
took place in the last week of May, and bride and bridegroom had gone to
Italy—though, to be sure, it was rather late for Italy—for three
Now they were about to settle down in Dampier's Paris studio.
Unluckily it was an Exhibition Year, one of those years, that is, which,
hateful as they may be to your true Parisian, pour steady streams of gold
into the pockets of fortunate hotel and shop keepers, and which bring a
great many foreigners to Paris who otherwise might never have come. Quite a
number of such comfortable English folk were now looking forward to going
and seeing Nancy Dampier in her new home—of which the very address was
quaint and unusual, for Dampier's studio was situated Impasse des Nonnes.
They were now speeding under and across the vast embracing shadow of the
Opera House. And again Dampier slipped his arm round his young wife. It
seemed to this happy man as if Paris to-night had put on her gala dress to
welcome him, devout lover and maker of beauty, back to her bosom.
"Isn't it pleasant to think," he whispered, "that Paris is the more
beautiful because you now are in it and of it, Nancy?"
And Nancy smiled, well pleased at the fantastic compliment.
She pressed more closely to him.
"I wish—I wish—" and then she stopped, for she was unselfish, shy of
expressing her wishes, but that made Dampier ever the more eager to hear,
and, if possible, to gratify them.
"What is it that you wish, dear heart?" he asked.
"I wish, Jack, that we were going straight home to the studio now—instead
of to an hotel."
"We'll get in very soon," he answered quickly. "Believe me, darling, you
wouldn't like going in before everything is ready for you. Mère Bideau has
her good points, but she could never make the place look as I want it to
look when you first see it. I'll get up early to-morrow morning and go and
see to it all. I wouldn't for the world you saw our home as it must look
now—the poor little living rooms dusty and shabby, and our boxes sitting
sadly in the middle of the studio itself!"
They had sent their heavy luggage on from England, and for the honeymoon
Nancy had contented herself with one modest little trunk, while Dampier had
taken the large portmanteau which had been the useful wedding present of
the new friend and patron in whose house he had first seen his wife.
Swiftly they shot through the triple arch which leads from the Rue de
Rivoli to the Carousel. How splendid and solitary was the vast dimly-lit
space. "I like this," whispered Nancy dreamily, gazing up at the dark,
And then Dampier turned and caught her, this time unresisting, yielding
joyfully, to his breast. "Nancy?" he murmured thickly. "Nancy? I'm afraid!"
"Afraid?" she repeated wonderingly.
"Yes, horribly afraid! Pray, my pure angel, pray that the gods may indulge
their cruel sport elsewhere. I haven't always been happy, Nancy."
And she clung to him, full of vague, unsubstantial fears. "Don't talk like
that," she murmured. "It—it isn't right to make fun of such things."
"Make fun? Good God!" was all he said.
And then his mood changed. They were now being shaken across the huge,
uneven paving stones of the quays, and so on to a bridge. "I never really
feel at home in Paris till I've crossed the Seine," he cried joyously.
"Cheer up, darling, we shall soon be at the Hôtel Saint Ange!"
"Have you ever stayed in the Hôtel Saint Ange?" she said, with a touch of
curiosity in her voice.
"I used to know a fellow who lived there," he said carelessly. "But what
made me pick it out was the fact that it's such a queer, beautiful old
house, and with a delightful garden. Also we shall meet no English there."
"Don't you like English people?" she asked, a little protestingly.
And Dampier laughed. "I like them everywhere but in Paris," he said: and
then, "But you won't be quite lonely, little lady, for a good many
Americans go to the Hôtel Saint Ange. And for such a funny reason—"
"It was there that Edgar Allan Poe stayed when he was in Paris."
Their carriage was now engaged in threading narrow, shadowed thoroughfares
which wound through what might have been a city of the dead. From midnight
till cock-crow old-world Paris sleeps, and the windows of the high houses
on either side of the deserted streets through which they were now driving
were all closely shuttered.
"Here we have the ceremonious, the well-bred, the tactful Paris of other
days," exclaimed Dampier whimsically. "This Paris understands without any
words that what we now want is to be quiet, and by ourselves, little girl!"
A gas lamp, burning feebly in a corner wine shop, lit up his exultant face
for a flashing moment.
"You don't look well, Jack," Nancy said suddenly. "It was awfully hot in
Lyons this morning—"
"We stayed just a thought too long in that carpet warehouse," he said
gaily,—"And then—and then that prayer carpet, which might have belonged
to Ali Baba of Ispahan, has made me feel ill with envy ever since! But joy!
Here we are at last!"
After emerging into a square of which one side was formed by an old Gothic
church, they had engaged in a dark and narrow street the further end of
which was bastioned by one of the flying buttresses of the church they had
The cab drew up with a jerk. "C'est ici, monsieur."
The man had drawn up before a broad oak porte cochère which, sunk far back
into a thick wall, was now inhospitably shut.
"They go to bed betimes this side of the river!" exclaimed Dampier
Nancy felt a little troubled. The hotel people knew they were coming, for
Jack had written from Marseilles: it was odd no one had sat up for them.
But their driver gave the wrought-iron bell-handle a mighty pull, and after
what seemed to the two travellers a very long pause the great doors swung
slowly back on their hinges, while a hearty voice called out, "C'est vous,
Monsieur Gerald? C'est vous, mademoiselle?"
And Dampier shouted back in French, "It's Mr. and Mrs. Dampier. Surely you
expect us? I wrote from Marseilles three days ago!"
He helped his wife out of the cab, and they passed through into the broad,
vaulted passage which connected the street with the courtyard of the hotel.
By the dim light afforded by an old-fashioned hanging lamp Nancy Dampier
saw that three people had answered the bell; they were a middle-aged man
(evidently mine host), his stout better half, and a youth who rubbed his
eyes as if sleepy, and who stared at the newcomers with a dull,
As is generally the case in a French hotel, it was Madame who took command.
She poured forth a torrent of eager, excited words, and at last Dampier
turned to his wife:—"They got my letter, but of course had no address to
which they could answer, and—and it's rather a bore, darling—but they
don't seem to have any rooms vacant."
But even as he spoke the fat, cheerful-looking Frenchwoman put her hand on
the young Englishman's arm. She had seen the smart-looking box of the
bride, the handsome crocodile skin bag of the bridegroom, and again she
burst forth, uttering again and again the word "arranger."
Dampier turned once more, this time much relieved, to his wife: "Madame
Poulain (that's her name, it seems) thinks she can manage to put us up all
right to-night, if we don't mind two very small rooms—unluckily not on the
same floor. But some people are going away to-morrow and then she'll have
free some charming rooms overlooking the garden."
He took a ten-franc piece out of his pocket as he spoke, and handed it to
the gratified cabman:—"It doesn't seem too much for a drive through
fairyland"—he said aside to his wife.
And Nancy nodded contentedly. It pleased her that her Jack should be
generous—the more that she had found out in the last three weeks that if
generous, he was by no means a spendthrift. He had longed to buy a couple
of Persian prayer carpets in that queer little warehouse where a French
friend of his had taken them in Lyons, but he had resisted the
Meanwhile Madame Poulain was talking, talking, talking—emphasising all she
said with quick, eager gestures.
"They are going to put you in their own daughter's room, darling. She's
luckily away just now. So I think you will be all right. I, it seems, must
put up with a garret!"
"Oh, must you be far away from me?" she asked a little plaintively.
"Only for to-night, only till to-morrow, sweetheart."
And then they all began going up a winding staircase which started flush
from the wall to the left.
First came Madame Poulain, carrying a candle, then Monsieur Poulain with
his new English clients, and, last of all, the loutish lad carrying Nancy's
trunk. They had but a little way to go up the shallow slippery stairs, for
when they reached the first tiny landing Madame Poulain opened a curious,
narrow slit of a door which seemed, when shut, to be actually part of the
finely panelled walls.
"Here's my daughter's room," said the landlady proudly. "It is very
comfortable and charming."
"What an extraordinary little room!" whispered Nancy.
And Dampier, looking round him with a good deal of curiosity, agreed.
In the days when the Hôtel Saint Ange belonged to the great soldier whose
name it still bears, this strange little apartment had surely been, so the
English artist told himself, a powdering closet. Even now the only outside
light and air came from a small square window which had evidently only
recently been cut through the thick wall. In front of this aperture
fluttered a bright pink curtain.
Covering three of the walls as well as the low ceiling, was a paper
simulating white satin powdered with rose-buds, and the bed, draped with
virginal muslin curtains, was a child's rather than a woman's bed.
"What's that?" asked Dampier suddenly. "A cupboard?"
He had noticed that wide double doors, painted in the pale brownish grey
called grisaille, formed the further side of the tiny apartment.
Madame Poulain, turning a key, revealed a large roomy space now fitted up
as a cupboard. "It's a way through into our bedroom, monsieur," she said
smiling. "We could not of course allow our daughter to be far from
And Dampier nodded. He knew the ways of French people and sympathised with
He stepped up into the cupboard, curious to see if this too had been a
powdering closet, and if that were so if the old panelling and
ornamentation had remained in their original condition.
Thus for a moment was Dampier concealed from those in the room. And during
that moment there came the sound of footsteps on the staircase, followed by
the sudden appearance on the landing outside the open door of the curious
little apartment of two tall figures—a girl in a lace opera cloak, and a
young man in evening dress.
Nancy Dampier, gazing at them, a little surprised at the abrupt apparition,
told herself that they must be brother and sister, so striking was their
resemblance to one another.
"We found the porte cochère open, Madame Poulain, so we just came straight
in. Good night!"
The young lady spoke excellent French, but as she swept on up the staircase
out of sight there came a quick low interchange of English words between
herself and the man with her.
"Daisy? Did you notice that beautiful young woman? A regular stunner! She
must be that daughter the Poulains are always talking about."
And then "Daisy's" answer floated down. "Yes, I noticed her—she is
certainly very pretty. But do be careful, Gerald, I expect she knows a
Dampier stepped down out of the cupboard.
"That American cub ought to be put in his place!" he muttered heatedly.
Nancy turned her face away to hide a little smile. Jack was so funny! He
delighted in her beauty—he was always telling her so, and yet it annoyed
him if other people thought her pretty too. This young American had looked
at her quite pleasantly, quite respectfully; he hadn't meant to be
offensive—of that Nancy felt sure.
"I suppose you have a good many Americans this year?" went on Dampier in
French, turning to Monsieur Poulain.
"No, monsieur, no. Our clientèle is mostly French. We have only this young
lady, her brother, and their father, monsieur. The father is a Senator in
his own country—Senator Burton. They are very charming people, and have
stayed with us often before. All our other guests are French. We have never
had such a splendid season: and all because of the Exhibition!"
"I'm glad you are doing well," said Dampier courteously. "But for my
part"—he shrugged his shoulders—"I'm too much of a Parisian to like the
Then he turned to Nancy: "Well, you'll be quite safe, my darling. Monsieur
and Madame Poulain are only just through here, so you needn't feel lonely."
And then there came a chorus of bonsoirs from host, from hostess, and from
the lad who now stood waiting with the Englishman's large portmanteau
hitched up on his shoulder.
Dampier bent and kissed his wife very tenderly: then he followed Monsieur
Poulain and the latter's nephew up the stairs, while Madame Poulain stayed
behind and helped Mrs. Dampier to unpack the few things she required for
And Nancy, though she felt just a little bewildered to find herself alone
in this strange house, was yet amused and cheered by the older woman's
lively chatter, and that although she only understood one word in ten.
Madame Poulain talked of her daughter, Virginie, now in the country well
away from the holiday crowds brought by the Exhibition, and also of her
nephew, Jules, the lad who had carried up the luggage, and who knew—so
Madame Poulain went to some pains to make Nancy understand—a
Late though it was, the worthy woman did not seem in any hurry to go away,
but at last came the kindly words which even Nancy, slight as was her
knowledge of French, understood: "Bonsoir, madame. Dormez bien."
Nancy Dampier sat up in bed.
Through the curtain covering the square aperture in the wall which did duty
for a window the strong morning light streamed in, casting a pink glow over
the peculiar little room.
She drew the pearl-circled watch, which had been one of Jack's first gifts
to her, from under the big, square pillow.
It was already half-past nine. How very tiresome and strange that she
should have overslept herself on this, her first morning in Paris! And
yet—and yet not so very strange after all, for her night had been
curiously and disagreeably disturbed.
At first she had slept the deep, dreamless sleep of happy youth, and then,
in a moment, she had suddenly sat up, wide awake.
The murmur of talking had roused her—of eager, low talking in the room
which lay the other side of the deep cupboard. When the murmur had at last
ceased she had dozed off, only to be waked again by the sound of the porte
cochère swinging back on its huge hinges.
It was evidently quite true—as Jack had said—that Paris never goes to
Jack had declared he would get up and go over to the studio early, so there
was nothing for it but to get up, and wait patiently till he came back.
Nancy knew that her husband wouldn't like her to venture out into the
streets alone. He was extraordinarily careful of her—careful and
thoughtful for her comfort.
What an angel he was—her great strong, clever Jack!
A girl who goes about by herself as much as Nancy Tremain had gone about
alone during the three years which had elapsed betwixt her leaving school
and her marriage, obtains a considerable knowledge of men, and not of the
nicest kind of men. But Jack was an angel—she repeated the rather absurdly
incongruous word to herself with a very tender feeling in her heart. He
always treated her not only as if she were something beautiful and rare,
but something fragile, to be respected as well as adored….
He had left her so little during the last three weeks that she had never
had time to think about him as she was thinking of him now; "counting up
her mercies," as an old-fashioned lady she had known as a child was wont to
advise those about her to do.
At last she looked round her for a bell. No, there was nothing of the sort
in the tiny room. But Nancy Dampier had already learned to do without all
sorts of things which she had regarded as absolute necessities of life when
she was Nancy Tremain. In some of the humbler Italian inns in which she and
Jack had been so happy, the people had never even heard of a bell!
She jumped out of bed, put on her pretty, pale blue dressing-gown—it was a
fancy of Jack's that she should wear a great deal of pale blue and
white—and then she opened the door a little way.
"Madame!" she called out gaily. "Madame Poulain?" and wondered whether her
French would run to the words "hot water"—yes, she thought it would. "Eau
chaude"—that was hot water.
But there came no answering cry, and again, this time rather impatiently,
she called out, "Madame Poulain?"
And then the shuffling sounds of heavy footsteps made Nancy shoot back from
the open door.
"Yuss?" muttered a hoarse voice.
This surely must be the loutish-looking youth who, so Nancy suddenly
remembered, knew a little English.
"I want some hot water," she called out through the door. "And will you
please ask your aunt to come here for a moment?"
"Yuss," he said, in that queer hoarse voice, and shuffled downstairs again.
And there followed, floating up from below, one of those quick, gabbling
interchanges of French words which Nancy, try as she might, could not
She got into bed again. Perhaps after all it would be better to allow them
to bring up her "little breakfast" in the foreign fashion. She would still
be in plenty of time for Jack. Once in the studio he would be in no hurry,
or so she feared, to come back—especially if on his way out he had opened
her door and seen how soundly she was sleeping.
She waited some time, and then, as no one came, grew what she so seldom
was, impatient and annoyed. What an odd hotel, and what dilatory,
disagreeable ways! But just as she was thinking of getting up again she
heard a hesitating knock.
It was Madame Poulain, and suddenly Nancy—though unobservant as is youth,
and especially happy youth—noticed that mine hostess looked far less well
in the daytime than by candle-light.
Madame Poulain's stout, sallow face was pale, her cheeks puffy; there were
rings round the black eyes which had sparkled so brightly the night before.
But then she too must have had a disturbed night.
In her halting French Mrs. Dampier explained that she would like coffee and
rolls, and then some hot water.
"C'est bien, mademoiselle!"
And Nancy blushed rosy-red. "Mademoiselle?" How odd to hear herself so
addressed! But Madame Poulain did not give her time to say anything, even
if she had wished to do so, for, before Mrs. Dampier could speak again, the
hotel-keeper had shut the door and gone downstairs.
And then, after a long, long wait, far longer than Nancy had ever been made
to wait in any of the foreign hotels in which she and her husband had
stayed during the last three weeks, Madame Poulain reappeared, bearing a
tray in her large, powerful hands.
She put the tray down on the bed, and she was already making her way
quickly, silently to the door, when Nancy called out urgently, "Madame?
Madame Poulain! Has my husband gone out!"
And then she checked herself, and tried to convey the same question in her
difficult French—"Mon mari?" she said haltingly. "Mon mari?"
But Madame Poulain only shook her head, and hurried out of the room,
leaving the young Englishwoman oddly discomfited and surprised.
It was evidently true what Jack had said—that tiresome Exhibition had
turned everything in Paris, especially the hotels, topsy-turvy. Madame
Poulain was cross and tired, run off her feet, maybe; her manner, too,
quite different now from what it had been the night before.
Nancy Dampier got up and dressed. She put on a pale blue linen gown which
Jack admired, and a blue straw hat trimmed with grey wings which Jack said
made her look like Mercury.
She told herself that there could be no reason why she shouldn't venture
out of her room and go downstairs, where there must surely be some kind of
Suddenly remembering the young American's interchange of words with his
sister, she wondered, smiling to herself, if she would ever see them again.
How cross the young man's idle words had made Jack! Dear, jealous Jack, who
hated it so when people stared at her as foreigners have a trick of
staring. It made Nancy happy to know that people thought her pretty, nay
beautiful, for it would have been dreadful for Jack, an artist, to marry an
Locking her box she went out onto the shallow staircase, down the few steps
which led straight under the big arch of the porte cochère. It was thrown
hospitably open on to the narrow street now full of movement, colour, and
sound. But in vivid contrast to the moving panorama presented by the busy,
lane-like thoroughfare outside, was the spacious, stone-paved courtyard of
the hotel, made gay with orange trees in huge green tubs. Almost opposite
the porte cochère was another arch through which she could see a glimpse of
the cool, shady garden Jack remembered.
Yes, it was a strangely picturesque and charming old house, this Hôtel
Saint Ange; but even so Nancy felt a little lost, a little strange,
standing there under the porte cochère. Then she saw that painted up on a
glass door just opposite the stairs leading to her room was the word
"Bureau": it was doubtless there that Jack had left word when he would
She went across and opened the door, but to her surprise there was no one
in the little office; she hadn't, however, long to wait, for Madame
Poulain's nephew suddenly appeared from the courtyard.
He had on an apron; there was a broom in his hand, and as he came towards
her, walking very, very slowly, there came over Nancy Dampier, she could
not have told you why, a touch of repulsion from the slovenly youth.
"I wish to know," she said, "whether my husband left any message for me?"
But the young man shook his head. He shuffled first on one foot and then on
the other, looking miserably awkward. It was plain that he did not know
more than a word or two of English.
"I am sure," she said, speaking slowly and very distinctly, "that my
husband left some kind of message with your uncle or aunt. Will you please
ask one of them to speak to me?"
He nodded. "Si, mademoiselle" and walked quickly away, back into the
"Mademoiselle" again! What an extraordinary hotel, and what bad manners
these people had! And yet again and again Jack had compared English and
French hotels—always to the disadvantage of the former.
Long minutes went by, and Nancy began to feel vexed and angry. Then there
fell on her listening ears a phrase uttered very clearly in Madame
Poulain's resonant voice: "C'est ton tour maintenant! Vas-y, mon ami!"
And before she had time to try and puzzle out the sense of the words, she
saw Monsieur Poulain's portly figure emerge from the left side of the
courtyard, and then—when he caught sight of the slim, blue-clad figure
standing under his porte cochère—beat a hasty retreat.
Nancy's sense of discomfort and indignation grew. What did these people
mean by treating her like this? She longed with a painful, almost a sick
longing for her husband's return. It must be very nearly eleven o'clock.
Why did he stay away so long?
A painful, choking feeling—one she had very, very seldom experienced
during the course of her short, prosperous life, came into her throat.
Angrily she dashed away two tears from her eyes.
This was a horrid hotel! The Poulains were hateful people! Jack had made a
mistake—how could he have brought her to such a place? She would tell him
when he came back that he must take her away now, at once, to some
ordinary, nice hotel, where the people knew English, and where they treated
their guests with ordinary civility.
And then there shot through Nancy Dampier a feeling of quick relief, for,
walking across the courtyard, evidently on their way out, came a
pleasant-looking elderly gentleman, accompanied by the girl whom Nancy had
seen for a brief moment standing on the landing close to her bedroom door
the night before.
These were English people? No, American of course! But that was quite as
good, for they, thank heaven! spoke English. She could ask them to be her
interpreters with those extraordinary Poulains. Jack wouldn't mind her
doing that. Why, he might have left quite an important message for her!
She took a step forward, and the strangers stopped. The old
gentleman—Nancy called him in her own mind an old gentleman, though
Senator Burton was by no means old in his own estimation or in that of his
contemporaries—smiled a very pleasant, genial smile.
Nancy Dampier made a charming vision as she stood under the arch of the
porte cochère, her slender, blue-clad figure silhouetted against the dark
background by the street outside, and the colour coming and going in
"May I speak to you a moment?" she said shyly.
The American took off his hat, and stood looking down at her kindly. "My
name is Burton, Senator Burton, at your service! What can I do for you?".
The simple little question brought back all Nancy's usual happy confidence.
How silly she had been just now to feel so distressed.
"I'm Mrs. Dampier, and I can't make the hotel people understand what I
say," she explained. "I mean Monsieur and Madame Poulain—and the nephew—I
think his name is Jules—though he is supposed to speak English, is so
"Yes, indeed he is!" chimed in the girl whom her brother had called
"Daisy." "I've long ago given up trying to make that boy understand
anything, even in French. But they do work him most awfully hard, you know;
they have women in each day to help with the cleaning, but that poor lad
does everything else—everything, that is, that the Poulains don't do
"What is it that you can't make them understand?" asked Senator Burton
indulgently. "Tell us what it is you want to ask them?"
"I only wish to know at what time my husband went out, and whether he left
any message for me," answered Nancy rather shamefacedly. "You see the hotel
is so full that they put us on different floors, and I haven't seen him
"I'll find that out for you at once. I expect Madame Poulain is in her
kitchen just now."
The Senator turned and went back into the courtyard, leaving his daughter
and the young Englishwoman alone together.
"The Poulains seem such odd, queer people," said Nancy hesitatingly.
"D'you think so? We've always found them all right," said the girl,
smiling. "Of course they're dreadfully busy just now because of the
Exhibition. The hotel is full of French people, and they give Madame
Poulain a great deal of trouble. But she doesn't grudge it, for she and her
husband are simply coining money! They're determined that their daughter
shall have a splendid dowry!" She waited a moment, and then repeated, "Oh,
yes, the Poulains are very good sort of people. They're very kindly and
To this remark Nancy made no answer. She thought the Poulains both rude and
disagreeable, but she had no wish to speak ill of them to this nice girl.
How lucky it was that these kind Americans had come to her rescue! Though
still feeling indignant and uncomfortable with regard to the way in which
she had been treated by the hotel-keeper and his wife, she felt quite happy
Senator Burton was away for what seemed, not only to Mrs. Dampier, but also
to his daughter, a considerable time. But at last they saw him coming
slowly towards them. His eyes were bent on the ground; he seemed to be
Nancy Dampier took a step forward. "Well?" she said eagerly, and then a
little shyly she uttered his name, "Well, Mr. Burton? What do they say? Did
my husband leave any message?"
"No, he doesn't seem to have done that." And then the Senator looked down
searchingly into the young Englishwoman's face. It was a very lovely face,
and just now the look of appeal, of surprise, in the blue eyes added a
touch of pathetic charm. He thought of the old expression, "Beauty in
His daughter broke in: "Why, Mrs. Dampier, do come upstairs and wait in our
sitting-room," she said cordially. "I'll come with you, for we were only
going out for a little stroll, weren't we, father?"
Nancy Dampier hesitated. She did not notice that the American Senator
omitted to endorse his daughter's invitation; she hesitated for a very
different reason: "You're very kind; but if I do that I shall have to tell
Madame Poulain, for it would give my husband a dreadful fright if he came
in and found I had left my room and disappeared"—she blushed and smiled
And again Senator Burton looked searchingly down into the lovely, flushed
little face; but the deep-blue, guileless-looking eyes met his questioning
gaze very frankly. He said slowly, "Very well, I will go and tell Madame
Poulain that you will be waiting up in our sitting-room,
He went out across the courtyard again, and once more he seemed, at any
rate to his daughter, to stay away longer than was needed for the delivery
of so simple a message.
Growing impatient, Miss Burton took Nancy Dampier across the sunlit
courtyard to the wide old oak staircase, the escalier d'honneur, as it was
still called in the hotel, down which the Marquis de Saint Ange had
clattered when starting for Fontenoy.
When they were half-way up the Senator joined them, and a few moments later
when they had reached the second landing, he put a key in the lock of a
finely carved door, then he stood back, courteously, to allow his
daughter's guest to walk through into the small lobby which led to the
delightful suite of rooms which the Burtons always occupied during their
frequent visits to Paris.
Nancy uttered an exclamation of delight as she passed through into the
high-pitched, stately salon, whose windows overlooked one of those leafy
gardens which are still the pride of old Paris. "This is delightful!" she
exclaimed. "Who would ever have thought that they had such rooms as this in
the Hôtel Saint Ange!"
"There are several of these suites," said Daisy Burton pleasantly. "In
fact, a good many French provincial people come up here, year after year,
for the winter."
While Mrs. Dampier and his daughter were exchanging these few words the
Senator remained silent. Then—"Is your brother gone out?" he
"Yes, father. He went out about half an hour ago. But he said he'd be back
in ample time to take us out to luncheon. He thought we might like to go to
"So we will. Daisy, my dear—?" He stopped short, and his daughter looked
at him, surprised.
"I'm afraid I must ask you to leave me with this young lady for a few
moments. I have something to say to her which I think it would be as well
that I should say alone."
Nancy got up from the chair on which she had already seated herself, and
fear flashed into her face. "What is it?" she cried apprehensively. "You're
not going to tell me that anything's happened to Jack!"
"No, no," said the Senator quickly, but even as he uttered the two short,
reassuring little words he averted his eyes from Mrs. Dampier's questioning
His daughter left the room.
"What is it?" said Nancy again, trying to smile. "What is it, Mr. Burton?"
And then the Senator, motioning her to a chair, sat down too.
"The Poulains," he said gravely—he was telling himself that he had never
come across so accomplished an actress as this young Englishwoman was
proving herself to be—"the Poulains," he repeated very distinctly,
"declare that you arrived here last night alone. They say that they did not
know, as a matter of fact, that you were married. You do not seem to have
even given them your name."
Nancy stared at him for a moment. Then, "There must be some extraordinary
mistake," she said quietly. "The Poulains must have thought you meant
someone else. My husband and I arrived, of course together, late last
night. At first Madame Poulain said she couldn't take us in as the hotel
was full. But at last she said that they could give us two small rooms.
They knew our name was Dampier, for Jack wrote to them from Marseilles. He
and I were only married three weeks ago: this is the end of our honeymoon.
My husband, who is an artist, is now at his studio. We're going to move
there in a day or two."
She spoke quite simply and straightforwardly, and the Senator felt oddly
relieved by her words.
He tried to remember exactly what had happened, what exactly the Poulains
had said, when he had gone into the big roomy kitchen which lay to the left
of the courtyard.
He had certainly been quite clear. That is, he had explained, in his very
good French, to Madame Poulain, that he came to inquire, on behalf of a
young English lady, whether her husband, a gentleman named Dampier, had
left any message for her. And Madame Poulain, coming across to him in a
rather mysterious manner, had said in a low voice that she feared the young
lady was toquée—i. e., not quite all right in her head—as, saving
Monsieur le Sénateur's presence, English ladies so often were! At great
length she had gone on to explain that the young lady in question had
arrived very late the night before, and that seeing that she was so young
and pretty, and also that she knew so very little French, they had allowed
her, rather than turn her out, to occupy their own daughter's room, a room
they had never, never, under any circumstances, allowed a client to sleep
Then Madame Poulain had gone out and called Monsieur Poulain; and the
worthy man had confirmed, in every particular, what his wife had just
said—that is, he had explained how they had been knocked up late last
night by a loud ringing at the porte cochère; how they had gone out to the
door, and there, seized with pity for this pretty young English lady, who
apparently knew so very, very little French, they had allowed her to occupy
their daughter's room….
Finally, the good Poulains, separately and in unison, had begged the
Senator to try and find out something about their curious guest, as she
apparently knew too little French to make herself intelligible.
Now that he heard Nancy's quiet assertion, the Senator felt sure there had
been a mistake. The Poulains had evidently confused pretty Mrs. Dampier
with some wandering British spinster.
"Let me go down with you now," she said eagerly. "The truth is—I know
you'll think me foolish—but I'm afraid of the Poulains! They've behaved so
oddly and so rudely to me this morning. I liked them very much last night."
"Yes," he said cordially. "We'll go right down now; and my girl, Daisy, can
When his daughter came into the room, "There's been some mistake," said
Senator Burton briefly. "It's my fault, I expect. I can't have made it
clear to Madame Poulain whom I meant. She has confused Mrs. Dampier with
some English lady who turned up here alone late last night."
"But we turned up late last night," said Nancy quickly. "Very, very late;
long after midnight."
"Still, my brother and I came in after you," said Daisy Burton suddenly.
And then she smiled and reddened. Mrs. Dampier must certainly have
overheard Gerald's remark.
"It was an awful job getting a cab after that play, father, and it must
have been nearly one o'clock when we got in. As we felt sure this side of
the house was shut up we went up that queer little back staircase, and so
past the open door of Mrs. Dampier's room," she explained.
To the Senator's surprise, Mrs. Dampier also grew red; indeed, she blushed
crimson from forehead to chin.
"My brother thought you were French," went on Daisy, a little awkwardly.
"In fact, we both thought you must be Madame Poulain's daughter. We knew
that was Virginie's room, and we've always been hearing of that girl ever
since we first came to stay in Paris. She used to be at a convent school,
and she's with her grandmother in the country just now, to be out of the
Exhibition rush. The Poulains simply worship her."
The Senator looked very thoughtful as he walked downstairs behind the two
girls. The mystery was thickening in a very disagreeable way. Both
hotel-keepers had stated positively that the "demoiselle anglaise," as they
called her, had slept in their daughter's room….
But what was this the lady who called herself Mrs. Dampier saying?
"My husband and I realised you thought I was Mademoiselle Poulain," said
Nancy, and she also spoke with a touch of awkwardness.
Senator Burton put out his right hand and laid it, rather heavily, on his
She stopped and turned round. "Yes, father?"
"Then I suppose you also saw Mr. Dampier, Daisy?"
Eagerly he hoped for confirmation of the charming stranger's story. But—
"No," she said reluctantly. "We only saw Mrs. Dampier and the Poulains,
father—they were all in the room together. You see, we were outside on the
dark staircase, and just stopped for a minute on the landing to say
good-night to the Poulains, and to tell them that we had come in."
"I suppose, Mrs. Dampier, that by then your husband had already gone to his
room?" But in spite of his efforts to make his voice cordial the Senator
failed to do so.
"No, he hadn't gone upstairs then." Nancy waited a moment, puzzled, then
she exclaimed, "I remember now! Jack had just stepped up into a big
cupboard which forms one side of the little room. He came out again just as
Miss Burton and—and your son had gone on upstairs." Again she reddened
uncomfortably, wondering if this nice, kind girl had heard Jack's
unflattering epithets concerning "the young American cub." But no, Jack's
voice, if angry, had been low.
When they were at the bottom of the staircase the Senator turned to his
"Daisy," he said quietly, "I think it will be best for this lady to see
Madame Poulain with me alone." And as his daughter showed no sign of having
understood, he said again, with a touch of severity in his voice: "Daisy, I
desire you to go upstairs."
"You'll bring Mrs. Dampier up again, father?"
He hesitated—and then he said, "Yes, should she wish it, I will do so."
And Daisy Burton turned away, up the stairs again, very reluctantly. Her
indulgent father was not given to interfere with even the most casual of
her friendships, and she already felt as if this attractive young
Englishwoman was to be her friend.
Madame Poulain came slowly across the courtyard, and the Senator was struck
by her look of ill-health, of languor. Clearly the worthy woman was
overtaxing her strength. It was foolish of the Poulains not to have more
help in, but French people were like that!
Senator Burton knew that these good folks were trying to amass as large a
dowry as possible for their adored only child. Virginie was now of
marriageable age, and the Poulains had already selected in their own minds
the man they wished to see their son-in-law. He was owner of an hotel at
Chantilly, and as he was young, healthy, and reputed kind and
good-tempered, he had the right to expect a good dowry with his future
wife. The fact that this was an Exhibition Year was a great stroke of luck
for the Poulains. It almost certainly meant that their beloved Virginie
would soon be settled close to them in charming salubrious Chantilly….
The proprietress of the Hôtel Saint Ange now stood close to Senator Burton
and his companion. Her voluble tongue was stilled for once: she was
twisting a corner of her blue check apron round and round in her strong,
"Well, Madame Poulain," the American spoke very gravely, "there has
evidently been some strange misunderstanding. This lady asserts most
positively that she arrived here last night accompanied by her husband,
A look of—was it anger or pain?—came over Madame Poulain's face. She
shook her head decidedly. "I have already told monsieur," she said quickly,
"that this lady arrived here last night alone. I know nothing of her
husband: I did not even know she was married. To tell you the truth,
monsieur, we ought to have made her fill in the usual form. But it was so
late that we put off the formality till to-day. I now regret very much that
we did so."
The Senator looked questioningly at Nancy Dampier. She had become from red
very white. "Do you understand what she says?" he asked slowly,
"Yes—I understand. But she is not telling the truth."
The Senator hesitated. "I have known Madame Poulain a long time," he said.
"Yes—and you've only known me a few minutes."
Nancy Dampier felt as though she were living through a horrible
nightmare—horrible and at the same time absurd. But she made a great
effort to remain calm, and to prove herself a sensible woman. So she added
quietly: "I can't tell—I can't in the least guess—why this woman is
telling such a strange, silly untruth. It is easy to prove the truth of
what I say, Mr. Burton. My husband's name is John Dampier. He is an artist,
and has a studio here in Paris."
"Do you know the address of your husband's studio, Mrs. Dampier?"
"Of course I do." The question stung her, this time past endurance. "I
think I had better have a cab and drive there straight," she said stiffly.
"Please forgive me for having given you so much trouble. I'll manage all
right by myself now."
Every vestige of colour had receded from her face. There was a frightened,
hunted expression in her blue eyes, and the Senator felt a sudden thrill of
concern, of pity. What did it all mean? Why should this poor girl—she
looked even younger than his daughter—pretend that she had come here
accompanied, if, after all, she had not done so?
Madame Poulain was still looking at them fixedly, and there was no very
pleasant expression on her face.
"Well," she said at last, "that comes of being too good-natured, Monsieur
le Sénateur. I never heard of such a thing! What does mademoiselle accuse
us of? Does she think we made away with her friend? She may have arrived
with a man—as to that I say nothing—but I assert most positively that in
that case he left her before she actually came into the Hôtel Saint Ange."
"Will you please ask her to call me a cab?" said Nancy trembling.
And he transmitted the request; adding kindly in English, "Of course I am
coming with you as far as your husband's studio. I expect we shall find
that Mr. Dampier went there last night. The Poulains have forgotten that he
came with you: you see they are very tired and overworked just now—"
But Nancy shook her head. It was impossible that the Poulains should have
Madame Poulain went a step nearer to Senator Burton and muttered something,
hurriedly. He hesitated.
"Mais si, Monsieur le Sénateur."
And very reluctantly he transmitted the woman's disagreeable message. "She
thinks that perhaps as you are going to your husband's rooms, you had
better take your trunk with you, Mrs. Dampier."
Nancy assented, almost eagerly. "Yes, do ask her to have my trunk brought
down! I would far rather not come back here." She was still quite collected
and quiet in her manner. "But, Mr. Burton, hadn't I better pay? Especially
if they persist in saying I came alone?" she smiled, a tearful little
smile. It still seemed so—so absurd.
She took out her purse. "I haven't much money, for you see Jack always pays
everything. But I've got an English sovereign, and I can always draw a
cheque. I have my own money."
And the Senator grew more and more bewildered. It was clear that this girl
was either speaking the truth, or else that she was a most wonderful
actress. But, as every man who has reached the Senator's age is ruefully
aware, very young women can act on occasion in ordinary every day life, as
no professional actress of genius ever did or ever will do on a stage.
Madame Poulain went off briskly, and when she came back a few moments
later, there was a look of relief, almost of joy, on her face. "The cab is
here," she exclaimed, "and Jules has brought down madame's trunk."
Nancy looked at the speaker quickly. Then she was "madame" again? Well,
that was something.
"Three francs—that will quite satisfy us," said Madame Poulain, handing
over the change for her English sovereign. It was a gold napoleon and a
two-franc piece. For the first time directly addressing Mrs. Dampier,
"There has evidently been a mistake," she said civilly. "No doubt monsieur
left madame at the door, and went off to his studio last night. I expect
madame will find monsieur there, quite safe and sound."
Senator Burton, well as he believed himself to be acquainted with his
landlady, would have been very much taken aback had he visioned what
followed his own and Mrs. Dampier's departure from the Hôtel Saint Ange.
Madame Poulain remained at the door of the porte cochère till the open
carriage turned the corner of the narrow street. Then she looked at
"How much did she give you?" she asked roughly. And the young man
reluctantly opened a grimy hand and showed a two franc piece.
She snatched it from him, and motioned him back imperiously towards the
After he had gone quite out of sight she walked quickly up the little
street till she came to a low, leather-bound door which gave access to the
church whose fine buttress bestowed such distinction on the otherwise
rather sordid Rue Saint Ange. Pushing open the door she passed through into
the dimly-lit side aisle where stood the Lady Altar.
This old church held many memories for Madame Poulain. It was here that
Virginie had been christened, here that there had taken place the funeral
service of the baby son she never mentioned and still bitterly mourned, and
it was there, before the High Altar, to the right of which she now stood,
that she hoped to see her beloved daughter stand ere long a happy bride.
She looked round her for a moment, bewildered by the sudden change from the
bright sunlit street to the shadowed aisle. Then she suddenly espied what
she had come to seek. Close to where she stood an alms-box clamped to the
stone wall had written upon it the familiar legend, "Pour les Pauvres."
Madame Poulain took a step forward, then dropped the three francs Nancy
Dampier had just paid her, and the two francs she had extracted from
Jules's reluctant hand, into the alms-box.
That the cabman was evidently familiar with the odd address, "Impasse des
Nonnes," brought a measure of relief to Senator Burton's mind, and as he
turned and gazed into the candid eyes of the girl sitting by his side he
was ashamed of his vague suspicions.
The little carriage bowled swiftly across the great square behind which
wound the Rue Saint Ange, up one of the steep, picturesque streets which
lead from thence to the Luxembourg Gardens.
When they had gone some considerable way round the gay and stately
pleasance so dear to the poets and students of all nations, they suddenly
turned into the quaintest, quietest thoroughfare imaginable, carved out of
one of those old convent gardens which till lately were among the most
beautiful and characteristic features of the "Quartier."
An architect, who happened also to be an artist, had set up in this remote
and peaceful oasis his household gods, adding on this, his own domain, a
few studios with living rooms attached.
A broad, sanded path ran between the low picturesque buildings, and so the
carriage was obliged to draw up at the entrance to the Impasse.
Senator Burton looked up at the cabman: "Better not take off the lady's
trunk just yet," he said quickly in French, and though Nancy Dampier made
no demur, she looked surprised.
They began walking up the shaded path, for above the low walls on either
side sprang flowering shrubs and trees.
"What a charming place!" exclaimed the Senator, smiling down at her. "How
fond you and your husband must be of it!"
But his companion shook her head. "I've never been here," she said slowly.
"You see this is my first visit to Paris. Though I ought not to call it a
visit, for Paris is to be my home now," and she smiled at last, happy in
the belief that in a few moments she would see Jack.
She was a little troubled at the thought that Jack would be disappointed at
her coming here in this way, with a stranger. But surely after she had
explained the extraordinary occurrence of the morning he would understand?
They were now opposite No. 3. It was a curious, mosque-like building, with
the domed roof of what must be the studio, in the centre. Boldly inscribed
on a marble slab set above the door was the name, "John Dampier."
Before the bell had well stopped ringing, a sturdy apple-faced old woman,
wearing the Breton dress Jack so much admired, stood before them.
Nancy of course knew her at once for Mère Bideau.
A pleasant smile lit up the gnarled face, and Nancy remembered what Jack
had so often said as to Mère Bideau's clever way of dealing with visitors,
especially with possible art patrons.
Mrs. Dampier looked very kindly at the old woman who had been so good and
so faithful a servant to her Jack, and who, she hoped, would also serve her
well and faithfully.
Before the Senator had time to speak, Mère Bideau, shaking her head,
observed respectfully, "Mr. Dampier is not yet arrived. But if you,
monsieur, and you, madame, will give yourselves the trouble of coming back
this afternoon he will certainly be here, for I am expecting him
"Do you mean that Mr. Dampier has not been here at all this morning?"
enquired the Senator.
"No, monsieur, but as I have just had the honour of informing you, my
master is to arrive to-day without fail. Everything is ready for him and
for his lady. I had a letter from Mr. Dampier the day before yesterday."
She waited a moment, and then added, "Won't monsieur come in and wait? Mr.
Dampier would indeed be sorry to miss monsieur!"
So far so good. Senator Burton eagerly acknowledged to himself that here
was confirmation—as much confirmation as any reasonable man could
expect—of Mrs. Dampier's story.
This respectable old woman was evidently expecting her master and his bride
to-day—of that there could now be no doubt.
"I beg of you to enter," said Mère Bideau again. "Monsieur and madame may
like to visit the studio? I do not say that it is very tidy—but my
master's beautiful paintings are not affected by untidiness—" and she
This important-looking gentleman, whom her shrewd Parisian eyes and ears
had already told her was an American, might be an important picture-buyer;
in any case, he was evidently gravely disappointed at not finding Mr.
Dampier at home.
"My master may arrive any moment," she said again; "and though I've had to
put all the luggage he sent on some time ago, in the studio—well, monsieur
and madame will excuse that!"
She stood aside to allow the strangers to step through into the little
The Senator turned to Nancy: "Hadn't we better go in and wait?" he asked.
"You must remember that if Mr. Dampier has gone to the hotel they will
certainly tell him we are here."
"No," said Nancy in a low voice, "I would rather not go in—now. My husband
doesn't want me to see the place until he has got it ready for me." Her
lips quivered. "But oh, Mr. Burton, where can Jack be? What can he be
doing?" She put her hands together with a helpless, childish gesture of
distress. Then, making an effort over herself, she said in a more composed
voice, "But I should like you to go in and just see some of Jack's
With a smiling face Mère Bideau preceded the Senator down a sunny corridor
into the large studio. It was circular in shape, lighted by a skylight, and
contained a few pieces of fine old furniture, now incongruously allied to a
number of unopened packing-cases and trunks.
Mère Bideau went on talking volubly. She was evidently both fond and proud
of her master. Suddenly she waved her lean arm towards a large, ambitious
painting showing a typical family group of French bourgeois sitting in
"This is what won Mr. Dampier his first Salon medal," she explained. "But
his work has much improved since then, as monsieur can see for himself!"
and she uncovered an unframed easel portrait. It was a really interesting,
distinguished presentment of a man. "Is not this excellent?" exclaimed Mère
Bideau eagerly. "What expression, what strength in the mouth, in the eyes!"
Senator Burton, had the circumstances been other, would perhaps have smiled
at the old woman's enthusiasm, and at her intelligent criticism. But now he
simply nodded his head gravely. "Yes, that is a very good portrait," he
said absently. "And—and—where are the living rooms?"
"This way, monsieur!" Then, with some surprise, "Would monsieur care to see
the appartement? Then I presume monsieur is a friend of my master."
But the Senator shook his head quickly. "No, no, I don't want to see the
rooms," he said. "I was only curious to know if Mr. Dampier actually
As there was a suite of living rooms attached to the studio, why had the
Dampiers gone to an hotel?
"Yes, monsieur, there are three beautiful bedrooms, also a bath-room, and a
room which was not used by us, but which my master is going to turn into a
little salon for his lady. As for their meals—" she shrugged her
shoulders—"they will have to be served as heretofore in the studio." Then,
"Does monsieur know the new Madame Dampier?" enquired Mère Bideau a trifle
"Yes," he answered uncomfortably. "Yes, I do know her."
"And if monsieur will excuse the question, is she a nice lady? It will make
a great difference to me—"
"Yes, yes—she is very charming, very pretty."
He could not bring himself to inform the good woman that the lady who had
come with him, and who was now waiting outside the house, claimed to be
Mrs. Dampier. It would be too—too unpleasant if it turned out to be—well,
The Senator was telling himself ruefully that though there was now ample
evidence of the existence of John Dampier, there was not evidence at all as
yet that the artist had ever been at the Hôtel Saint Ange: still less that
the young Englishwoman who had just now refused to accompany him into the
studio was John Dampier's wife. However, that fact, as she had herself
pointed out rather piteously, could very soon be put to the proof.
Slowly Senator Burton left the studio and made his way into the open air,
where Nancy was waiting for him.
"Well?" he said questioningly. "Well, Mrs. Dampier, what is it that you
would like to do now?"
"I don't know what I ought to do," said Nancy helplessly. She had again
become very pale and she looked bewildered, as well as distressed. "You see
I felt so sure that we should find Jack here!"
"The only thing I can suggest your doing," the American spoke kindly, if a
little coldly, "is to come back with me to the Hôtel Saint Ange. It is
probable that we shall find Mr. Dampier there, waiting for you. A dozen
things may have happened to him, none of which need give you any cause for
anxiety." He pulled out his watch. "Hum! It's close on twelve—yes, the
only thing to do is to go back to the hotel. It's almost certain we shall
find him there—" it was on his lips to add, "if he really did come with
you last night," but he checked himself in time.
"But Mr. Burton? Suppose Jack is not there?"
"If he doesn't return within the next two or three hours, then I will
consult with my son, who, young though he be, has a very good head on his
shoulders, as to what will be the best step for you to take. But don't
let's meet trouble half-way! I have little doubt that we shall find Mr.
Dampier waiting for you, vowing vengeance against the bold man who has
eloped, even with the best of motives, with his wife!" he smiled, and poor
Nancy gave a quivering smile in return.
"I should so much have preferred not to go back to that hotel," she said,
in a low voice. "I do hope Jack won't make me stay on there for the next
two or three days."
And with the remembrance of what she had considered to be the gross insult
put upon her by Madame Poulain, Nancy Dampier reddened deeply, while her
new friend felt more and more bewildered and puzzled.
On the one hand Senator Burton had the testimony of three trustworthy
persons that the young Englishwoman had arrived alone at the hotel the
night before; and against this positive testimony there was nothing but her
Very, very reluctantly, he felt compelled to believe the Poulains' version
of what had happened. He could think of no motive—in fact there was no
motive—which could prompt a false assertion on their part.
As they were driving back, each silent, each full of painful misgivings,
the kindly American began to wonder whether he had not met with that, if
rare yet undoubted, condition known as entire loss of memory.
If, as Madame Poulain had suggested, Mr. Dampier had left his wife just
before their arrival at the hotel, was it not conceivable that by some kind
of kink in Mrs. Dampier's brain—the kind of kink which brings men and
women to entertain, when otherwise sane, certain strange delusions—she had
imagined the story she now told with so much circumstantial detail and
When they were nearing the hotel, Nancy put her hand nervously on her
"Mr. Burton," she whispered, "I'm horribly afraid of the Poulains! I keep
thinking of such dreadful things."
"Now look here, Mrs. Dampier—" Senator Burton turned, and looking down
into her agitated face, spoke gently and kindly—"though I quite admit to
you these people's conduct must seem inexplicable, I feel sure you are
wronging the Poulains. They are very worthy, respectable folk—I've known
them long enough to vouch for that fact. This extraordinary
misunderstanding, this mistake—for it must be either a misunderstanding or
a mistake on some one's part—will soon be cleared up, so much is certain:
till then I beg you not to treat them as enemies."
And yet even Senator Burton felt taken aback when he saw the undisguised
annoyance, the keen irritation with which their return to the Hôtel Saint
Ange was greeted by the woman to whom he had just given so good a
certificate of character.
Madame Poulain was standing on the street side of the open porte cochère,
as the carriage drove down the narrow street, and the American was
astonished to see the change which came over her face.
An angry, vindictive, even a cruel expression swept over it, and instead of
waiting to greet them as the carriage drew up at the door she turned
abruptly away, and shuffled out of sight.
"Wait a moment," he said, as the fiacre drew up, "don't get out of the
carriage yet, Mrs. Dampier—"
And meekly Nancy obeyed him.
The Senator hurried through into the courtyard. Much would he have given,
and he was a careful man, to have seen the image he had formed of Jack
Dampier standing on the sun-flecked flagstones. But the broad space
stretching before him was empty, deserted; during the daylight hours of
each day the Exhibition drew every one away much as a honey cask might have
done a hive of bees.
Madame Poulain did not come out of her kitchen as was her usual hospitable
wont when she heard footsteps echoing under the vaulted porte cochère, and
so her American guest had to go across, and walk right into her
"We did not find the gentleman at his studio," he said shortly, "and I
presume, Madame Poulain, that he has not yet been here?"
She shook her head sullenly, and then, with none of her usual suavity,
exclaimed, "I do not think, Monsieur le Sénateur, that you should have
brought that demoiselle back here!"
She gave him so odd—some would have said, so insolent a look, that the
Senator realised for the first time what he was to realise yet further in
connection with this strange business, namely, that the many who go through
life refusing to act the part of good Samaritans have at any rate excellent
reasons for their abstention.
It was disagreeably dear that Madame Poulain thought him a foolish old man
who had been caught by an adventuress's pretty face….
To their joint relief Monsieur Poulain came strolling into his wife's
"I've been telling Monsieur le Sénateur," exclaimed Madame Poulain, "that
we do not wish to have anything more to do with that young person who
asserts that she arrived here with a man last night. Monsieur le Sénateur
has too good a heart: he is being deceived."
The hotel-keeper looked awkwardly, deprecatingly, at his valued American
client. "Paris is so full of queer people just now," he muttered. "They
keep mostly to the other side of the river, to the Opera quarter, but we
are troubled with them here too, during an Exhibition Year!"
"There is nothing at all queer about this poor young lady," said Senator
Burton sharply—somehow the cruel insinuation roused him to chivalrous
defence. But soon he changed his tone, "Now look here, my good friends"—he
glanced from the husband to the wife—"surely you have both heard of people
who have suddenly lost their memory, even to the knowledge of who they were
and where they came from? Now I fear—I very much fear—that something of
the kind has happened to this Mrs. Dampier! I am as sure that she is not
consciously telling a lie as I am that you are telling me the truth. For
one thing, I have ascertained that this lady's statement as to Mr. John
Dampier having a studio in Paris, where he was expected this morning, is
true. As to who she is herself that question can and will be soon set at
rest. Meanwhile my daughter and myself"—and then he hesitated, for, well
as he knew French, Senator Burton did not quite know how to convey his
meaning, namely, that they, he and his daughter, meant to see her through.
"My daughter and myself," he repeated firmly, "are going to do the best we
can to help her."
Madame Poulain opened her lips—then she shut them tight again. She longed
to tell "Monsieur le Sénateur" that in that case she and Poulain must have
the regret of asking him to leave their hotel.
But she did not dare to do this.
Her husband broke in conciliatingly: "No doubt it is as Monsieur le
Sénateur says," he observed; "the demoiselle is what we said she was only
this morning—" and then he uttered the word which in French means so much
and so little—the word "toquée."
There came another interruption. "Here come Mademoiselle Daisy and Monsieur
Gerald!" exclaimed Madame Poulain in a relieved tone.
The Senator's son and daughter had just emerged across the courtyard, from
the vestibule where ended the escalier d'honneur. There was a look of keen,
alert interest and curiosity on Gerald Burton's fine, intelligent face. He
was talking eagerly to his sister, and Madame Poulain told herself that
surely these two young people could not wish their stay in Paris to be
complicated by this—this unfortunate business—for so the Frenchwoman in
her own secret heart designated the mysterious affair which was causing her
and her worthy husband so much unnecessary trouble.
Some little trouble, so she admitted to herself, they had expected to have,
but they had not thought it would take this very strange and
But the hotel-keeper was destined to be bitterly disappointed in her hope
that Daisy and Gerald Burton would try and dissuade their father from
having anything more to do with Mrs. Dampier.
"Well, father?" the two fresh voices rang out, and the Senator smiled back
well pleased. He was one of those fortunate fathers who are on terms of
full confidence and friendship as well as affection with their children.
Indeed Senator Burton was specially blessed; Daisy was devoted to her
father, and Gerald had never given him a moment of real unease: the young
man had done well at college, and now seemed likely to become one of the
most distinguished and successful exponents of that branch of
art—architecture—modern America has made specially her own.
"Well?" said the Senator, "well, Daisy, I suppose you have told your
brother about this odd affair?"
As his daughter nodded, he went on:—"As for me, I have unfortunately
nothing to tell. We found the studio, and everything was exactly as this
poor young lady said it would be—with the one paramount exception that her
husband was not there! And though his housekeeper seems to be expecting Mr.
Dampier every moment, she has had no news of him since he wrote, some days
ago, saying he would arrive this morning. It certainly is a very
inexplicable business—" he looked helplessly from one good-looking,
intelligent young face to the other.
"But where is Mrs. Dampier now?" asked Daisy eagerly. "I do think you might
have told me before you took her away, father. I would have loved to have
said good-bye to her. I do like her so much!"
"You won't have far to go to see her. Mrs. Dampier's at the door, sitting
in a carriage," said her father drily. "I had to bring her back here: I
didn't know what else to do."
"Why, of course, father, you did quite right!"
And Gerald Burton chimed in, "Yes, of course you were right to do that,
Senator Burton smiled a little ruefully at his children's unquestioning
approval. He himself was by no means sure that he had done "quite right."
They walked, the three of them, across to the porte-cochère.
Nancy Dampier was now sitting crouched up in a corner of the fiacre; a
handkerchief was pressed to her face, and she was trying, not very
successfully, to stifle her sobs of nervous fear and distress.
With an eager, impulsive gesture the American girl leapt up the step of the
little open carriage. "Don't cry," she whispered soothingly. "It will all
come right soon! Why, I expect your husband just went out to see a friend
and got kept somehow. If it wasn't for those stupid Poulains' mistake about
last night you wouldn't feel really worried, now would you?"
Nancy dabbed her eyes. She felt ashamed of being caught crying by these
kind people. "I know I'm being silly!" she gasped. "You must forgive me!
It's quite true I shouldn't feel as worried as I feel now if it wasn't for
the Poulains—their saying, I mean, that they've never seen my husband.
That's what upset me. It all seems so strange and—and horrid. My sense
tells me it's quite probable Jack has gone in to see some friend, and was
"And now," said Daisy Burton persuasively, "you must come upstairs with us,
and we'll get Madame Poulain to send us up a nice déjeuner to our
And so the Senator found part of his new problem solved for him. Daisy, so
much was dear, had determined to befriend—and that to the uttermost—this
unfortunate young Englishwoman.
But now there arose another most disagreeable complication.
Madame Poulain had strolled out, her arms akimbo, to see what was going on.
And, as if she had guessed the purport of Miss Burton's words, she walked
forward, and speaking this time respectfully, even suavely, to "Monsieur le
Sénateur," observed, "My husband and I regret very greatly that we cannot
ask this lady to stay on in our hotel. We have no vacant room—no room
And then it was that Gerald Burton, who had stood apart from the
discussion, saying nothing, simply looking intently, sympathetically at his
sister and Mrs. Dampier—took a hand in the now complicated little
"Father!" he exclaimed, speaking in low, sharp tones. "Of course Mrs.
Dampier must stay on here with us till her husband comes back! If by some
extraordinary chance he isn't back by to-night she can have my room—I
shall easily find some place outside." And as his father looked at him a
little doubtfully he went on:—"Will you explain to Madame Poulain what
we've settled? I can't trust myself to speak to the woman! She's behaving
in the most unkind, brutal way to this poor little lady."
He went on between his teeth, "The Poulains have got some game on in
connection with this thing. I wish I could guess what it is."
And the Senator, much disliking his task, did speak to Madame Poulain. "I
am arranging for Mrs. Dampier to stay with us, as our guest, till her
husband's—hem—arrival. My son will find a room outside, so you need not
disturb yourself about the matter. Kindly send for Jules, and have her
trunk carried up to our apartments."
And Madame Poulain, after an uncomfortably long pause, turned and silently
obeyed the Senator's behest.
The afternoon wore itself away, and to two out of the four people who spent
it together in the pleasant salon of the Burtons' suite of rooms the hours,
nay the very minutes, dragged as they had never dragged before.
Looking back to that first day of distress and bewilderment, Nancy later
sometimes asked herself what would have happened, what she would have done,
had she lacked the protection, the kindness—and what with Daisy Burton
almost at once became the warm affection—of this American family?
Daisy and Gerald Burton not only made her feel that they understood, and,
in a measure, shared in her distress, but they also helped her to bear her
anguish and suspense.
Although she was not aware of it very different was the mental attitude of
Senator Burton was one of those public men of whom modern America has a
right to be proud. He was a hard worker—chairman of one Senate committee
and a member of four others; he had never been a brilliant debater, but his
more brilliant colleagues respected his sense of logic and force of
character. He had always been unyielding in his convictions, absolutely
independent in his views, a man to whom many of his fellow-countrymen would
have turned in any kind of trouble or perplexity sure of clear and
And yet now, as to this simple matter, the Senator, try as he might, could
not make up his mind. Nothing, in his long life, had puzzled him as he was
puzzled now. No happening, connected with another human being, had ever so
filled him with the discomfort born of uncertainty.
But the object of his—well, yes, his suspicions, was evidently quite
unconscious of the mingled feelings with which he regarded her, and he was
half ashamed of the ease with which he concealed his trouble both from his
children and from their new friend.
Nancy Dampier was far too ill at ease herself to give any thought as to how
others regarded her. She had now become dreadfully anxious, dreadfully
troubled about Jack.
Much of her time was spent standing at a window of the corridor which
formed a portion of the Burtons' "appartement." This corridor overlooked
the square, sunny courtyard below; but during that first dreary afternoon
of suspense and waiting the Hôtel Saint Ange might have been an enchanted
palace of sleep. Not a creature came in or out through the porte
cochère—with one insignificant exception: two workmen, dressed in
picturesque blue smocks, clattered across the big white stones, the one
swinging a pail of quaking lime in his hand, and whistling gaily as
When a carriage stopped, or seemed to stop, in the street which lay beyond
the other side of the quadrangular group of buildings, then Nancy's heart
would leap, and she would lean out, dangerously far over the grey bar of
the window; but the beloved, and now familiar figure of her husband never
followed on the sound, as she hoped against hope, it would do.
At last, when the long afternoon was drawing to a close, Senator Burton
went down and had another long conversation with the Poulains.
The hotel-keeper and his wife by now had changed their tone; they were
quite respectful, even sympathetic:
"Of course it is possible," observed Madame Poulain hesitatingly, "that
this young lady, as you yourself suggested this morning, Monsieur le
Sénateur, is suffering from loss of memory, and that she has imagined her
arrival here with this artist gentleman. But if so, what a strange thing to
fancy about oneself! Is it not more likely—I say it with all respect,
Monsieur le Sénateur—that for some reason unknown to us she is acting
And with a heavy heart "Monsieur le Sénateur" had to admit that Madame
Poulain's view might be the correct one. Nancy's charm of manner, even her
fragile and delicate beauty, told against her in the kindly but shrewd
American's mind. True, Mrs. Dampier—if indeed she were Mrs. Dampier—did
not look like an adventuress: but then does any adventuress look like an
adventuress till she is found to be one?
The Frenchwoman suggested yet another theory. "I have been asking myself,"
she said, smiling a little wryly, "another question. Is it not possible
that this young lady and her husband had a quarrel? Such incidents do
occur, even during honeymoons. If the two had a little quarrel he may have
left her at our door—just to punish her, Monsieur le Sénateur. He would
know she was safe in our respectable hotel. Your sex, if I may say so,
Monsieur le Sénateur, is sometimes very unkind, very unfeeling, in their
dealings with mine."
Monsieur Poulain, who had said nothing, here intervened. "How you do run
on," he said crossly. "You talk too much, my wife. We haven't to account
for what has happened!"
But Senator Burton had been struck by Madame Poulain's notion. Men, and if
all the Senator had heard was true, especially Englishmen, do behave very
strangely sometimes to their women-folk. It was an Englishman who conceived
the character of Petruchio. He remembered Mrs. Dampier's flushed face, the
shy, embarrassed manner with which she had come forward to meet him that
morning. She had seemed rather unnecessarily distressed at not being able
to make the hotel people understand her: she had evidently been much
disappointed that her husband had not left a message for her.
"My son thinks it possible that Mr. Dampier may have met with an accident
on his way to the studio."
A long questioning look flashed from Madame Poulain to her husband, but
Poulain was a cautious soul, and he gave his wife no lead.
"Well," she said at last, "of course that could be ascertained," and the
Senator with satisfaction told himself that she was at last taking a proper
part in what had become his trouble, "but I cannot help thinking, Monsieur
le Sénateur, that we might give this naughty husband a little longer—at
any rate till to-morrow—to come back to the fold."
And the Senator, perplexed and disturbed, told himself that after all this
might be good advice.
But when he again went upstairs and joined the young people, he found that
this was not at all a plan to which any one of the three was likely to
consent. In fact as he came into the sitting-room where Nancy Dampier was
now restlessly walking up and down, he noticed that his son's hat and his
son's stick were already in his son's hands.
"I think I ought to go off, father, to the local Commissaire of Police.
There's one in every Paris district," said Gerald Burton abruptly. "Mrs.
Dampier is convinced that her husband did go out this morning, even if the
Poulains did not see him doing so; and she and I think it possible, in
fact, we are afraid, that he may have met with an accident on his way to
As he saw by his father's face that this theory did not commend itself to
the Senator, the young man went on quickly:—"At any rate my doing this can
do no harm. I might just inform the Commissaire that a gentleman has been
missing since this morning from the Hôtel Saint Ange, and that the only
theory we can form which can account for his absence is that he may have
met with an accident. Mrs. Dampier has kindly provided me with a
description of her husband, and she has told me what she thinks he might
have been wearing."
Nancy stopped her restless pacing. "If only the Poulains would allow me to
see where Jack slept last night!" she cried, bursting into tears. "But oh,
everything is made so much more difficult by their extraordinary assertion
that he never came here at all! You see he had quite a large portmanteau
with him, and I can't possibly tell which of his suits he put on
And the Senator looking down into her flushed, tearful face, wondered
whether she were indeed telling the truth—and most painfully he doubted,
doubted very much.
But when Gerald Burton came back at the end of two hours, after a long and
weary struggle with French officialdom, all he could report was that to the
best of the Commissaire's belief no Englishman had met with an accident
that day. There had been three street accidents yesterday in which
foreigners had been concerned, but none, most positively none, to-day. He
admitted, however, that all his reports were not yet in.
Paris, from the human point of view, swells to monstrous proportions when
it becomes the background of a great International World's Fair. And the
police, unlike the great majority of those in the vast hive where they keep
order, have nothing to gain in exchange for the manifold discomforts an
Exhibition brings in its train.
At last, worn out by the mingled agitations and emotions of the day, Nancy
went to bed.
The Senator, Gerald and Daisy Burton waited up some time longer. It was a
comfort to the father to be able to feel that at last he was alone for a
while with his children. To them at least he could unburden his perplexed
and now burdened mind.
"I suppose it didn't occur to you, Gerald, to go to this Mr. Dampier's
He looked enquiringly at his son.
Gerald Burton was sitting at the table from which Mrs. Dampier had just
risen. He looked, if a trifle weary, yet full of eager energy and life—a
fine specimen of strong, confident young manhood—a son of whom any father
might well be fond and proud.
The Senator had great confidence in Gerald's sense and judgment.
"Yes indeed, father, I went there first. Not only did I go to the studio,
but from the Commissaire's office I visited many of the infirmaries and
hospitals of the Quarter. You see, I didn't trust the Commissaire; I don't
think he really knew whether there had been any street accidents or not. In
fact at the end of our talk he admitted as much himself."
"And at Mr. Dampier's studio?" queried the Senator. "What did you find
there? Didn't the old housekeeper seem surprised at her master's
"Yes, father, she did indeed. I could see that she was beginning to feel
very much annoyed and put out about it."
"Did she tell you," asked the Senator hesitatingly, "what sort of man this
Mr. Dampier is?"
"She spoke very well of him," said young Burton, with a touch of reluctance
in his voice, "but she admitted that he was a casual sort of fellow."
Gerald's sister looked up. She broke in, rather eagerly, "What sort of a
man do you suppose Mr. Dampier to be, Gerald?"
He shrugged his shoulders, rather ill-temperedly. He, too, was tired, after
the long day of waiting and suspense. "How can I possibly tell, Daisy? I
must say it's rather like a woman to ask such a question! From something
Mrs. Dampier said, I gather he is a plain-looking chap."
And then Daisy laughed heartily, for the first time that day. "Why, she
adores him!" she cried, "she can't have told you that."
"Indeed she did! But you weren't there when I made her describe him
carefully to me. I had to ask her, for it was important that I should have
some sort of notion what the fellow is like."
He took out his note-book. "I'll tell you what I wrote down, practically
from her dictation. 'A tall man—taller than the average Englishman. A
loosely-hung fellow; (he doesn't care for any kind of sport, I gather).
Thirty five years of age; (seems a bit old to have married a girl—she
won't be twenty till next month). He has big, strongly-marked features, and
a good deal of fair hair. Always wears an old fashioned repeater watch and
bunch of seals. Was probably wearing this morning a light grey tweed suit
and a straw hat.'" Gerald looked up and turned to his sister, "If you call
that the description of a good-looking man, well, all I can say is that I
don't agree with you, Daisy!"
"He's a very good artist," said the Senator mildly. "Did you go into his
"Yes, I did. And I can't say that I agree with you, father: I didn't care
for any of the pictures I saw there."
Gerald Burton spoke rather crossly. Both his father and sister felt
surprised at his tone. He was generally very equable and good-tempered. But
where any sort of art was concerned he naturally claimed to speak with
"Have you any theory, Gerald"—the Senator hesitated, "to account for the
extraordinary discrepancy between the Poulains' story and what Mrs. Dampier
asserts to be the case?"
"Yes, father, I have a quite definite theory. I believe the Poulains are
The young man leant forward across the round table. He spoke very
earnestly, but even as he spoke he lowered his voice, as if fearing to be
Senator Burton glanced at the door. "You can speak quite openly," he said
rather sharply. "You forget that there is the door of our appartement as
well as a passage between this room and the staircase."
"No, father, I don't forget that. But it would be quite easy for anyone to
creep in. The Poulains have pass keys everywhere."
"My dear boy, they don't understand English!"
"Jules does, father. He knows far more English than he admits. At any rate
he understands everything one says to him."
Daisy broke in with a touch of impatience. "But with what object could the
Poulains tell such a stupid and cruel untruth, one, too, which is sure to
be found out very soon? If this Mr. Dampier did arrive here last night,
well then, he did—if he didn't, he didn't!"
"Yes, that's true," Gerald turned to his sister. "And though I've given a
good deal of thought to it during the last few hours—I can't form any
theory yet as to why the Poulains are lying. I only feel quite sure that
"It's a curious thing," observed the Senator musingly, "that neither of you
saw this Mr. Dampier last night—curious, I mean, that he should have just
stepped up into a cupboard, as Mrs. Dampier says he did, at the exact
moment when you were outside the door."
Neither of his children made any reply. That coincidence still troubled
At last,—"I don't see that it's at all curious," exclaimed her brother
hastily. "It's very unfortunate, of course, for if we had happened to see
him the Poulains couldn't have told the tale they told you this morning."
The Senator sighed. He was tired—tired of the long afternoon spent in
doing nothing, and, to tell the truth, tired of the curious, inexplicable
problem with which he had been battling since the morning.
"Well, I say it with sincere regret, but I am inclined to believe the
"Father!" His son was looking at him with surprise and yes, indignation.
"Yes, Gerald. I am, for the present, inclined not only to believe the
Poulains' clear and consistent story, but to share Madame Poulain's view of
"And what is her view?" asked Daisy eagerly.
"Well, my dear, her view—the view, let me remind you, of a sensible woman
who, I fancy, has seen a good deal of life—is that Mr. Dampier did
accompany his wife here, as far as the hotel, that is. That then, as the
result of what our good landlady calls a 'querelle d'amoureux,' he left
her—knowing she would be quite safe of course in so respectable a place as
the Hôtel Saint Ange."
Daisy Burton only said one word—but that word was "Brute!" and her father
saw that there was the light of battle in her eyes.
"My dear," he said gently, "you forget that it was an Englishman who wrote
'The Taming of the Shrew.'"
"And yet American girls—of a sort—are quite eager to marry Englishmen!"
The Senator quickly pursued his advantage. "Now is it likely that Madame
Poulain would make such a suggestion if she were not telling the truth? Of
course her view is that this Mr. Dampier will turn up, safe and sound, when
he thinks he has sufficiently punished his poor little wife for her share
in their 'lovers' quarrel.'"
But at this Gerald Burton shook his head. "We know nothing of this man
Dampier," he said, "but I would stake my life on Mrs. Dampier's
The Senator rose from his chair. Gerald's attitude was generous; he would
not have had him otherwise but still he felt irritated by his son's
suspicion of the Poulains.
"Well, it's getting late, and I suppose we ought all to go to bed now,
especially as they begin moving about so early in this place. As for you,
my boy, I hope you've secured a good room outside, eh?"
Gerald Burton also got up. He smiled and shook his head.
"No, father, I haven't found a place at all yet! The truth is I've been so
tremendously taken up with this affair that I forgot all about having to
find a room to-night."
"Oh dear!" cried Daisy in dismay. "Won't you find it very difficult? They
say Paris is absolutely full just now. Why, a lot of people who have never
let before are letting out rooms just now—so Madame Poulain says."
"Don't worry about me. I shall be all right," said Gerald quickly. "I
suppose my things have been moved into your room, father?"
Daisy nodded. "Yes, I saw to all that. In fact I did more—" she smiled;
the brother and sister were very fond of one another. "I packed your bag
for you, Ger."
"Thanks," he said. And then going quickly round the table, he bent down and
kissed her. "I'll be in early to-morrow morning," he said, nodding to
Then he went out.
Daisy Burton felt surprised. Gerald was the best of brothers, but he didn't
often kiss her good-night. There had been a strange touch of excitement, of
emotion, in his manner to-night. It was natural that she herself should be
moved by Nancy Dampier's distress. But Gerald? Gerald, who was generally
speaking rather nonchalant, and very, very critical of women?
"Gerald's tremendously excited about this thing," said Daisy thoughtfully.
She was two years younger in years than her brother, but older, as young
women are apt to be older, in all that counts in civilised life. "I've
never seen him quite so—so keen about anything before."
"I hope he will have got a comfortable room," said the Senator a little
crossly. Then fondly he turned and took his daughter's hand. "Sleep well,
my darling," he said. "You two have been very kind to that poor little
soul. And I love you both for it. Whatever happens, kindness is
"Why, what d'you mean, father?" she looked down at him troubled, rather
disturbed by his words.
"Well, Daisy, the truth is,"—he hesitated—"I can't make out whether this
Mrs. Dampier is all she seems to be. And I want to prepare you for a
possible disappointment, my dear. When I was a young man I once took a
great fancy to someone who—well, who disappointed me cruelly—" he was
speaking very gravely. "It just spoilt my ideal for a time—I mean my ideal
of human nature. Now I don't want anything of that kind to happen to you or
to our boy in connection with this—this young lady."
"But, father? You know French people aren't as particular about telling the
truth as are English people. I can't understand why you believe the
"My dear, I don't know what to believe," he said thoughtfully.
She was twenty-four years old, this grey-eyed, honest, straightforward girl
of his; and yet Senator Burton, much as he loved her, knew very little as
to her knowledge of life. Did Daisy know anything of the ugly side of human
nature? Did she know, for instance, that there are men and women,
especially women, who spend their lives preying on the honest, the
chivalrous, and the kind?
"The mystery is sure to be cleared up very soon," he said aloud. "If what
our new friend says is true there must be as many people in England who
know her to be what she says she is, as there are people in Paris who
evidently know all about the artist, John Dampier."
"Yes, that's true. But father?"
"Yes, my dear."
"I am quite sure Mrs. Dampier is telling the truth."
Somehow the fact that Daisy was anxious to say that she disagreed with him
stung the Senator.
"Then what do you think of the Poulains?" he asked quietly—"the Poulains,
whom you have known, my dear, ever since you were fifteen—on whose honesty
and probity I personally would stake a good deal. What do you think
Daisy began to look very troubled. "I don't know what to think," she
faltered. "The truth is, father, I haven't thought very much of the
Poulains in the matter. You see, Madame Poulain has not spoken to me about
it at all. But you see that Gerald believes them to be lying."
"Gerald," said the Senator rather sharply, "is still only a boy in many
things, Daisy. And boys are apt, as you and I know, to take sides, to feel
very positive about things. But you and I, my darling—well, we must try to
be judicial—we must try to keep our heads, eh?"
"Yes, father, yes—we must, indeed"; but even as she said the words she did
not quite know what her father meant by "judicial."
And Gerald Burton? For a while, perhaps for an hour, holding his heavy bag
in his hand, he wandered about from hostelry to hostelry, only to be told
everywhere that there was no room.
Then, taking a sudden resolution, he went into a respectable little café
which was still open, and where he and his father, in days gone by, had
sometimes strolled in together when Daisy was going about with friends in
Paris. There he asked permission to leave his bag. Even had he found a
room, he could not have slept—so he assured himself. He was too excited,
his brain was working too quickly.
Talking busily, anxiously, argumentatively to himself as he went, he made
his way to the river—to the broad, tree-lined quays which to your true
lover of Paris contain the most enchanting and characteristic vistas of
Once there, his footsteps became slower. He thrust his hands into his
pockets and walked along, with eyes bent on the ground.
What manner of man could John Dampier be to leave his young wife—such a
beautiful, trusting, confiding creature as was evidently this poor girl—in
this cruel uncertainty? Was it conceivable that the man lived who could
behave to this Mrs. Dampier with the unkindness Gerald's father had
suggested—and that as the outcome of a trifling quarrel? No! Gerald
Burton's generous nature revolted from such a notion.
And yet—and yet his father thought it quite possible! To Gerald his
father's views and his father's attitude to life meant a great deal more
than he was wont to allow, either to that same kind indulgent father or to
himself; and now he had to admit that the Senator did believe that what
seemed so revolting to him, Gerald, was the most probable explanation of
The young man had stayed quite a while at the studio, listening to Mère
Bideau's garrulous confidences. Now and again he had asked her a question,
forced thereto by some obscure but none the less intense desire to know
what Nancy Dampier's husband was like. And the old woman had acknowledged,
in answer to a word from him, that her master was not a good-tempered man.
"Monsieur" could be very cross, very disagreeable sometimes. But bah! were
not all gentlemen like that?—so Mère Bideau had added with an easy laugh.
On the whole, however—so much must be admitted—she had given Dampier a
very good character. If quick-tempered, he was generous, considerate, and,
above all, hard-working. But—but Mère Bideau had been very much surprised
to hear "Monsieur" was going to be married—and to an Englishwoman, too!
She, Mère Bideau, had always supposed he preferred Frenchwomen; in fact, he
had told her so time and again. But bah! again; what won't a pretty face do
with a man? So Mère Bideau had exclaimed 'twixt smile and sigh.
Gerald Burton began walking more quickly, this time towards the west, along
the quay which leads to the Chamber of Deputies.
The wide thoroughfare was deserted save for an occasional straggler making
his weary way home after a day spent in ministering to the wants and the
pleasures of the strangers who now crowded the city….
How wise he, Gerald Burton, was now showing himself to be in thus spending
the short summer night out-of-doors, à la belle étoile, as the French so
charmingly put it, instead of in some stuffy, perhaps not overclean,
But soon his mind swung back to the strange events of the past day!
Already Nancy Dampier's personality held a strange, beckoning fascination
for the young American. He hadn't met many English girls, for his father
far preferred France to England, and it was to France they sped whenever
they had time to do so. And Gerald Burton hadn't cared very much for the
few English girls he had met. But Nancy was very, very different from the
only two kinds of her fellow countrywomen with whom he had ever been
acquainted—the kind, that is, who is closely chaperoned by vigilant mother
or friend, and the kind who spends her life wandering about the world
How brave, how gentle, how—how self-controlled Mrs. Dampier had been!
While it was clear that she was terribly distressed, and all the more
distressed by the Poulains' monstrous assertion that she had come alone to
the Hôtel Saint Ange, yet how well she had behaved all that long day of
waiting and suspense! How anxious she had been to spare the
Not for a single moment had he, Gerald Burton, felt with her as he so often
felt with women—awkward and self-conscious. Deep in his inmost heart he
was aware that there were women and girls who thought him very
good-looking; and far from pleasing him, the knowledge made him feel
sometimes shy, sometimes even angry. He already ardently wished to protect,
to help, to shelter Mrs. Dampier.
Daisy had been out of the room for a moment, probably packing his bag, when
he had come back tired and weary from his fruitless quest, and Mrs.
Dampier, if keenly disappointed that he had no news, had yet thanked him
very touchingly for the trifling trouble, or so it now seemed, that he had
taken for her.
"I don't know what I should have done if it hadn't been for your kind
father, for your sister, and—and for you, Mr. Burton."
He walked across the bridge leading to the Champs Elysées, paced round the
Arc de Triomphe, and then strolled back to the deserted quays. He had no
wish to go on to the Boulevards. It was Paris asleep, not Paris awake, with
which Gerald Burton felt in close communion during that short summer night.
And how short is a Paris summer night! Soon after he had seen the sun rise
over an eastern bend of the river, the long, low buildings which line the
Seine below the quays stirred into life, and he was able to enjoy a
delicious, a refreshing plunge in the great swimming-bath which is among
the luxuries Paris provides for those of her sons who are
Six o'clock found Gerald Burton at the café where he had left his bag,
ready for a cup of good coffee.
The woman who served him—the waiters were still asleep—told him of a room
likely to be disengaged the next night.
The next night? But if Dampier were to come back this morning—as,
according to one theory, he was very likely to do—then he, Gerald, would
have no need of a room.
Somehow that possibility was not as agreeable to him as it ought to have
been. In theory Gerald Burton longed for this unknown man's return—for a
happy solution, that is, of the strange mystery which had been cast, in so
dramatic a fashion, athwart the Burtons' placid, normal life; but, scarce
consciously to himself, the young American felt that Dampier's reappearance
would end, and that rather tamely, an exciting and in some ways a very
As he came up the Rue Saint Ange, he saw their landlord, a blue apron tied
about his portly waist, busily brushing the pavement in front of the hotel
with a yellow broom.
"Well?" he said eagerly, "well, Monsieur Poulain, any news?"
Poulain looked up at him and shook his head. "No, Monsieur Gerald," he said
sullenly, "no news at all."
Nancy Dampier sat up in bed.
Long rays of bright sunlight filtering in between deep blue curtains showed
her a large, lofty room, with panelled walls, and furniture covered with
blue damask silk.
It was more like an elegant boudoir in an old English country house than a
bedroom, and for a moment she wondered, bewildered, where she could be.
Then suddenly she remembered—remembered everything; and her heart filled,
brimmed over, with seething pain and a sharp, overwhelming sensation
Jack had gone: disappeared: vanished as if the earth had swallowed him up!
And she, Nancy, was alone in a foreign city where she did not know a single
soul, with the paramount exception of the American strangers who had come
to her help in so kindly and so generous a fashion.
She pushed her soft hair back from her forehead, and tried to recall, step
by step, all that had happened yesterday.
Two facts started out clearly—her almost painful gratitude to the Burtons
and her shrinking terror of the Poulains, or rather of Madame Poulain, the
woman who had looked fixedly into her face and lied.
As to what had happened to Dampier, Nancy's imagination began to whisper
things of unutterable dread. If her Jack had been possessed of a large sum
of money she would have suspected the hotel people of having
But no, she and Jack had come to the end of the ample provision of gold and
bank-notes with which they had started for Italy. As is the way with most
prosperous newly-married folk, they had spent a good deal more on their
short honeymoon than they had reckoned to do. He had said so the day before
yesterday, in the train, when within an hour of Paris. Indeed he had added
that one of the first things they must do the next day must be to call at
the English bank where he kept an account.
She now told herself that she had to face the possibility, nay the
probability, that her husband had met with some serious accident on his way
to the Impasse des Nonnes. Nancy knew that this had been Gerald Burton's
theory, and of her three new kind friends it was Gerald Burton who
impressed her with the greatest trust and confidence. He, unlike his
father, had at once implicitly believed her version of what had taken place
when she and Jack arrived at the Hôtel Saint Ange.
The bedroom door opened, cautiously, quietly, and Daisy Burton came in
carrying a tray in her pretty graceful hands.
Poor Nancy! She felt confused, grateful, and a little awkward. She had not
realised that her nervous dread of Madame Poulain would mean that this kind
girl must wait on her.
"I came in before, but you were sound asleep. Still, I thought I must wake
you now, for father wants to know if you would mind him going to our
Embassy about your husband? It's really my brother's idea. As you know,
Gerald thinks it almost certain that Mr. Dampier met with some kind of
accident yesterday morning, and he isn't a bit satisfied with the way the
local Commissaire de Police answered his enquiries. Gerald thinks the only
way to get attended to in Paris is to make people feel that you are
important, and that they will get into trouble if they don't attend to you
Even as she was speaking Daisy Burton smiled rather nervously, for both she
and Gerald had just gone through a very disagreeable half-hour with their
generally docile and obedient father.
The Senator did not wish to go to the American Embassy—at any rate not
yet—about this strange business. He had pleaded with both his young people
to wait, at any rate, till the afternoon: at any moment, so he pointed out,
they might have news of the missing man: but Gerald was inexorable.
"No, father, that's no use; if we do nothing we shan't get proper attention
from the police officials till to-morrow. If you will only go and see Mr.
Curtis about this business I promise to take all other trouble off
And then the Senator had actually groaned—as if he minded trouble!
"Mr. Curtis will do for you what he certainly wouldn't do for me, father.
Daisy can go with you to the Embassy: I'll stay and look after Mrs.
Dampier: she mustn't be left alone, exposed to the Poulains' insolence."
And so the matter had been settled. But Senator Burton had made one
"I won't go to the Embassy," he said firmly, "without hearing from Mrs.
Dampier's own lips that such is her wish. And, Daisy? Gerald? Hearken to
me—neither of you is to say anything to influence her in the matter, one
way or the other."
And so it was with a certain relief that Daisy Burton now heard her new
friend say eagerly:
"Why of course! I shall only be too grateful if your father will do
anything he thinks may help me to find Jack. Oh, you don't know how
bewildered and how frightened I feel!"
And the other answered soothingly, "Yes, indeed I do know how you must
feel. But I expect it will be all right soon. After all, Gerald
said—"—she hesitated a moment, and then went on more firmly—"Gerald said
that probably Mr. Dampier met with quite a slight accident, and that might
be the reason why the tiresome Commissaire de Police knew nothing
"But if it was a slight accident," Nancy objected quickly, "Jack would have
let me know at once! You don't know my husband: he would move heaven and
earth to save me a minute's anxiety or trouble."
"I am sure of that. But Gerald says that if Mr. Dampier did try and arrange
for you to be sent a message at once, the message miscarried—"
It was an hour later. The Senator had listened in silence while his young
English guest had expressed in faltering, but seemingly very sincere,
tones, her gratitude for his projected visit to the American Embassy. Nay,
she had done more. Very earnestly Mrs. Dampier had begged Senator Burton
and his daughter not to give themselves more trouble over her affairs than
was absolutely necessary.
And her youth, her beauty, her expression of pitiful distress had touched
the Senator, though it had not shaken his belief in the Poulains' story. He
did however assure her, very kindly and courteously, that he grudged no
time spent in her service.
And then, while Gerald Burton accompanied his father and his sister
downstairs, Nancy Dampier was left alone for a few minutes with her own
troubled and bewildered thoughts.
She walked restlessly over to one of the high windows of the sitting-room,
and looked down into the shady garden below. Then her eyes wandered over
the picturesque grey and red roofs of the old Paris Jack Dampier loved
Somehow the cheerful, bright beauty of this June morning disturbed and even
angered poor Nancy. She remembered with distaste, even with painful wonder,
the sensations of pleasure, of amusement, of admiration with which she had
first come through into this formal, harmoniously furnished salon, which
was so unlike any hotel sitting-room she had ever seen before.
But that had been yesterday morning—infinitely long ago.
Now, each of the First Empire pieces of furniture seemed burnt into her
brain: and the human faces of the dull gold sphinxes which jutted from each
of the corners of the long, low settee seemed to grin at her maliciously.
She felt unutterably forlorn and wretched. If only she could do something!
She told herself, with a sensation of recoil and revolt, that she could
never face another day of suspense and waiting spent as had been the whole
of yesterday afternoon and evening.
Going up to the brass-rimmed round table, she took up a book which was
lying there. It was a guide to Paris, arranged on the alphabetical
principle. Idly she began turning over the leaves, and then suddenly Nancy
Dampier's cheeks, which had become so pale as to arouse Senator Burton's
commiseration, became deeply flushed. She turned over the leaves of the
guide-book with feverish haste, anxious to find what it was that she now
sought there before the return of Gerald Burton.
At last she came to the page marked M.
Yes, there was what she at once longed and dreaded to find! And she had
just read the last line of the paragraph when Gerald Burton came back
into the room.
Looking at him fixedly, she said quietly and in what he felt to be an
unnaturally still voice, "Mr. Burton? There is a place in Paris called the
Morgue. Do you not think that I ought to go there, to-day? It says in this
guide-book that people who are killed in the streets of Paris are taken
straight to the Morgue."
The young American nodded gravely. The Commissary of Police had mentioned
the Morgue, had in fact suggested that those who were seeking John Dampier
would do well to go there within a day or two.
Nancy went on:—"Could I go this morning? I would far rather go by myself,
I mean without saying anything about it to either your father or to
He answered quickly, but so gently, so kindly, that the tears sprang to her
eyes, "Yes, I quite understand that. But of course you must allow me to go
And she answered, again in that quiet, unnaturally still voice, "Thank you.
I shall be grateful if you will." Then after a moment, "Couldn't we start
soon—I mean now?"
"Why yes, certainly—if you wish it."
Without saying anything further, she went to put on her hat.
Gerald Burton's notions as to the Morgue were in a sense at once confused
and clear. He had known of the place ever since he could read. He was aware
that it was a building where all those who die a violent death are at once
taken: he imagined it further to be a place where morbid curiosity drew
daily many tourists. In fact in an old guide-book of which his father was
fond he remembered that there ran a sentence:—
The Morgue is certainly one of the most curious and extraordinary
sights of Paris, but only those who are in the enjoyment of good nerves
are advised to visit it.
As he waited for Mrs. Dampier the young man's face became very, very grave.
Till now he had not envisaged the possibility that John Dampier, this
unknown man across the current of whose life he, Gerald Burton, had been
thrust in so strange and untoward a manner, might be dead.
Sudden death—that dread possibility which is never far from any one of
us—never haunts the mind of normal youth.
But now there came to Gerald Burton a sudden overwhelming understanding of
the transience not only of human life, but what means so much more to most
sentient human beings, the transience of such measure of happiness as we
poor mortals are allowed to enjoy.
His imagination conjured up Nancy Dampier as he had first seen her standing
in Virginie Poulain's little room. She had been a vision of lovely
girlhood, and yes, far more than that—though he had not known it then—of
His unspoken question was answered by Mrs. Dampier's return into the room.
He looked at her searchingly. Yes, she was lovely—her beauty rather
heightened than diminished, as is so often the case with a very young
woman, by the ordeal she was going through, but all the glow and radiance
were gone from her face.
"I ought to have told you before," he said impulsively, "that—that among
the men who were taken to the Morgue yesterday morning there was no one who
in the least answered to the description you have given me of Mr.
Dampier—so much the Commissary of Police was able to inform me most
And Nancy drew a long convulsive breath of relief.
They went down to the courtyard, and across to the porte cochère. While
they did so Gerald Burton was unpleasantly conscious that they were being
watched; watched from behind the door which led into the garden, for there
stood Jules, a broom as almost always in his hand: watched from the kitchen
window, where Madame Poulain stood with arms akimbo: watched from behind
the glass pane of the little office which was only occupied when Monsieur
Poulain was engaged in the pleasant task of making out his profitable
But not one of the three watchers came forward and offered to do them even
the usual, trifling service of hailing a cab.
The two passed out into the narrow street and walked till they came to the
square where stood, at this still early hour of the morning, long rows of
"I think we'd better drive?" said Gerald Burton questioningly.
And his companion answered quickly, "Oh yes! I should like to get there as
quickly as possible." And then her pale face flushed a little. "Mr. Burton,
will you kindly pay for me?"
She put her purse, an absurd, delicately tinted little beaded purse which
had been one of her wedding presents, into his hand.
Gerald took it without demur. Had he been escorting an American girl, he
would have insisted on being paymaster, but some sure instinct had already
taught him how to treat Nancy Dampier—he realised she preferred not adding
a material to the many immaterial obligations she now owed the
A quarter of an hour's quick driving brought them within sight of the low,
menacing-looking building which is so curiously, in a sense so beautifully,
situated on the left bank of the Seine, to the right of Notre Dame.
"Mrs. Dampier? I beg you not to get out of the carriage till I come and
fetch you," said Gerald earnestly, "there is no necessity for you to come
into the Morgue unless—" he hesitated.
"I know what you mean," she said quietly. "Unless you see someone there who
might be Jack. Yes, Mr. Burton, I'll stay quietly in the carriage till you
come and fetch me. It's very good of you to have thought of it."
But when they drew up before the great closed door two or three of the
incorrigible beggars who spend their days in the neighbourhood of the
greater Paris churches, came eagerly forward.
Here were a fine couple, a good-looking Englishman and his bride. True,
they were about to be cheated out of their bit of fun, but they might be
good for a small dole—so thought the shrewder of those idlers who seemed,
as the carriage drew up, to spring out of the ground.
One of them strolled up to Gerald. "M'sieur cannot go into the Morgue
unless he has a permit," he said with a whine.
Gerald shook the man off, and rang at the closed door. It seemed a long
time before it was opened by a man dressed like a Paris workman, that is in
a bright blue blouse and long baggy white trousers.
"I want to view any bodies which were brought in yesterday. I fear I am a
He slipped a five franc piece into the man's hand. But the silver key which
unlocks so many closed doors in Paris only bought this time a civil answer.
"Impossible, monsieur! I should lose my place. I could not do it for a
thousand francs." And then in answer to the American's few words of
surprise and discomfiture,—"Yes, it's quite true that we were open to the
public till three years ago. But it's easier to get into the Elysée than it
is to get into the Morgue, nowadays." He waited a moment, then he murmured
under his breath, "Of course if monsieur cares to say that he is looking
for someone who has disappeared, and if he will provide a description, the
more commonplace the better, then—well, monsieur may be able to obtain a
permit! At any rate monsieur has only to go along to the office where
permits are issued to find that what I say is true. If only monsieur will
bring me a permit I will gladly show monsieur everything there is to be
seen." The man became enthusiastic. "Not only are there the bodies to see!
We also possess relics of many great criminals; and as for our
refrigerating machines—ah, monsieur, they are really in their way wonders!
Well worth, as I have sometimes heard people say, coming all the way to
Paris to see!"
Sick at heart Gerald Burton turned away—not, however, before he had
explained gravely that his wish in coming to the Morgue was not to gratify
idle curiosity, but to seek a friend whose disappearance since the morning
before was causing acute anxiety.
The man looked at him doubtfully—somehow this young gentleman did not look
as people generally look who come to the Morgue on serious business. The
janitor was only too familiar with the signs—the air of excitement, of
dejection, of suspense, the reddened eyelids…. But, "In that case I am
sure to see monsieur again within a few minutes," he said politely.
Nancy had stepped down from the carriage. "Well?" she said anxiously.
"Well, won't he let you in?"
"We shall have to get an order. The office is only just over there,
opposite Notre Dame. Shall we dismiss the cab?"
"Yes," she said. "I would far rather walk across." Still followed by a
troop of ragged idlers, they hastened across the great space in front of
Notre Dame and so to the office of the Morgue.
At first the tired official whose not always easy duty it is to
discriminate between the morbid sightseer and the anxious relative or
friend, did not believe the American's story. He, too, evidently thought
that Gerald and the latter's charming, daintily dressed companion were
simply desirous of seeing every sight, however horrible, that Paris has to
offer. But when he heard the name "Dampier," his manner suddenly changed.
There came over his face a sincere look of pity and concern.
"You made enquiries concerning this gentleman yesterday?" he observed, and
Gerald Burton, rather surprised, though after all he need not have been,
assented. Then the Commissary of Police had been to some trouble for him
after all? He, Gerald, had done the man an injustice.
"We have had five bodies already brought in this morning," said the clerk
thoughtfully. "But I'm sure that none of them answers to the description we
have had of madame's husband. Let me see—Monsieur Dampier is aged
thirty-four—he is tall, dressed in a grey suit, or possibly a brown suit
of clothes, with a shock of fair hair?"
And again Gerald Burton was surprised how well the man remembered.
The other went into another room and came back with a number of grey cards
in his hand. He began to mumble over the descriptions, and suddenly Gerald
"That might be the person we are looking for!" he exclaimed. "I mean the
description you've just read out—that of the Englishman?"
"Oh no, monsieur! I assure you that the body here described is that of a
quite young man." And as the American looked at him doubtfully, he added,
"But still, if you wish to make absolutely sure I will make out a permit;
and madame can stay here while you go across to the Morgue." Again he
looked pityingly at Mrs. Dampier.
Nancy shook her head. "Tell him I mean to go too," she said quietly.
The man looked at her with an odd expression. "I should not myself care to
take my wife or my sister to the Morgue, monsieur. Believe me her husband
is not there. Do try and dissuade the poor lady." As he spoke he averted
his eyes from Nancy's flushed face.
Gerald Burton hesitated: it was really kind of this good fellow to feel so
much for a stranger's distress.
"Won't you stay here and let me go alone to that place? I think you can
trust me. You see there is only one body there which in any way answers to
"Yes, I quite understand that, but I'd rather go too." Her lips quivered.
"You see you've never seen Jack, Mr. Burton."
"I'm afraid this lady is quite determined to go too," said the young
American in a low voice; and without making any further objection, the
Frenchman filled in a form and silently handed it to Gerald Burton.
And then something happened which was perhaps more untoward and strange
than Gerald realised.
He and Mrs. Dampier were already well started across the great sunny space
in front of Notre Dame, when suddenly he felt himself tapped on the
shoulder by the man from whom they had just parted.
"Monsieur, monsieur!" said the French official breathlessly, "I forgot a
most important point. Visitors to the Morgue are not allowed to see all the
bodies exposed in our mortuary. When the place was closed to the public we
went from one extreme to the other. The man whose description you think
approximates to that of the gentleman you are looking for is Number 4. Tell
the guardian to show you Number 4."
Then he turned on his heel, without awaiting the other's thanks; and as he
walked away, the Frenchman said aloud, not once but many times, "Pauvre
petite dame!" And then again and again, "Paume petite dame!"
But his conscience was clear. He had done his very best to prevent that
obstinate young American subjecting the "poor little lady" to the horrible
ordeal she was about to go through. Once more he spoke aloud—"They have no
imagination—none at all—these Yankees!" he muttered, shrugging his
The janitor of the Morgue, remembering Gerald Burton's five-franc piece,
and perchance looking forward to another rond, was wreathed in smiles.
Eagerly he welcomed the two strangers into the passage, and carefully he
closed the great doors behind them.
"A little minute," he said, smiling happily. "Only one little minute! The
trifling formality of showing your permit to the gentleman in the office
must be gone through, and then I myself will show monsieur and madame
everything there is to be seen."
"We do not wish to see everything," said Gerald Burton sharply. "We simply
wish to see—" he hesitated—"body Number 4—" he lowered his voice, but
Nancy understood enough French to know what it was that he said.
With a blind, instinctive gesture she put out her hand, and Gerald Burton
grasped it firmly, and for the first time a look of pity and of sympathy
came across the janitor's face.
Tiens! tiens! Then it was true after all? These young people (he now took
them for a brother and sister) were here on business, not, as he had
supposed, on pleasure.
"Come in and wait here," he said gravely. "This is the doctors' room, but
madame can sit here for a moment while the formalities are gone through."
He flung open a door, and showed them into a curious, old-fashioned looking
sitting-room, strangely unlike the waiting-room which would have been found
attached, say, to an American or British mortuary.
An ornate writing-table filled up one corner of the room, and, opposite the
two windows, covering the whole of the blank wall, was a narrow glass case
running from floor to ceiling.
From this case young Burton quickly averted his eyes, for it was filled
with wax models of heads which might have been modelled from the denizens
of Dante's Inferno.
"I'm afraid I must now leave you for a moment," he said gently; "sit over
here, Mrs. Dampier, and look out on the river."
And Nancy obeyed with dull submission. She gazed on the bright, moving
panorama before her, aware, in a misty, indifferent way, that the view was
beautiful, that Jack would have thought it so.
This bend of the Seine is always laden with queer, picturesque craft, and
just below the window by which she sat was moored a flat-bottomed barge
which evidently served as dwelling place for a very happy little family.
One end of the barge had been turned into a kind of garden, there was even
a vine-covered arbour, under which two tiny children were now playing some
And this glimpse of ordinary normal life gradually brought a feeling of
peace, almost of comfort, to Nancy's sore heart. She wondered if she would
ever be happy again—happy as those little children playing outside were
happy, without a thought of care in the world: that had been the kind of
simple, unquestioning happiness she too had thoughtlessly enjoyed till the
last three days.
When Gerald Burton came back he was glad rather than grieved to see that
tears were running down her face.
But a moment later, as they followed their guide down a humid, dark passage
her tears stopped, and a look of pinched terror came into her eyes.
Suddenly there fell on their ears loud, whirring, jarring sounds.
"What's that?" cried Nancy in a loud voice. Her nerves were taut with
suspense, quivering with fear of what she was about to see.
And the janitor, as if he understood her question, turned round
reassuringly. "Only our refrigerating machines, madame. We think them
wonderfully quiet, considering. They whirr on night and day, they are never
stilled. As for me—" he added jovially—"I would miss the noise very much.
But as I lie in bed listening to the sound I know that all is well. It
would be a very serious thing indeed for us if the machines stopped, even
for ten minutes—" he shook his head mysteriously.
Nancy breathed a little more easily. She had not understood what it was
exactly that he had said, but his voice had sounded cheerful and kind: and
she remained for a while ignorant of the meaning and object of the machines
by which they passed quickly in a great room filled with moving wheels,
and, even on this hot June day, full of icy breaths.
As they came to the end of the engine-room their guide turned round and
gave the young American a quick, warning look. "C'est ici," he said, under
his breath. And Gerald stepped quickly in front of Mrs. Dampier.
"Is what we are going to see very horrible?" he whispered hurriedly. "I
wish this lady to be spared as far as may be from seeing anything
"As to horrible—well, it depends, monsieur, on what is thought horrible! A
good many of my pensioners have been dangerous customers in their time—but
now? Fortunately, monsieur, the dead cannot bite!" and he smiled at his own
Gerald Burton shuddered involuntarily, but as he and Nancy followed the man
from the engine-room he gave a sigh of relief, for they had emerged into a
wide, airy shed.
The place looked like a workshop of sorts, for it was lined, on one side,
with what looked like gigantic chests of drawers, painted black; while
standing about on the stone pavement were long white deal packing cases.
Over in a corner was a black box, of which the lid was loose.
"You said Number 4, monsieur?" said the man in a business-like tone. "Well,
I will get you out Number 4. Kindly stand just over there—not in the
sunlight, that might prevent your seeing clearly." He added, speaking far
more gently and kindly than he had yet done, "Madame must not be
frightened. It will be all over in a moment."
Gerald looked down at his companion. Her face seemed to have become quite
small, like that of a child, but the pupils of her eyes had dilated: as she
stared up at him fearfully he likened them, in his heart, to deep
She came close up to him, and then, without stopping to think, simply
following a natural instinct, he put his arm round her shoulder; so would
he have done to his sister in a moment of similar distress.
"Don't be too frightened," he whispered, "it will all be over very, very
soon, Mrs. Dampier. Somehow I don't think you have anything to fear."
"Please stand over in that corner," said the janitor, pointing towards the
black box Gerald Burton had noticed when they had first come into the yard.
"We have a poor lady in that box who was only brought in an hour ago! She
was run over, killed by an omnibus—such a pity, for she is such a nice
fresh-looking lady: not more than about thirty years of age. We expect her
family any moment; they will know her by her wedding ring, and by a little
locket with a child's hair in it."
Even as he was speaking the man was opening a small, inconspicuous door,
situated close to that which gave into the refrigerating-engine room.
Gerald's arm slipped down from Nancy's shoulder. She had put out her hand
gropingly, as a blind child might have done, and he was now holding the
poor little hand tightly clasped in his firm grasp.
There came a harsh rumbling sound, and then there was wheeled out into the
open yard an inclined plane hitched up on huge iron wheels. To the inclined
plane was bound a swathed, rigid figure.
"Here is Number 4," said the man in a subdued tone. "I will uncover his
face so that madame and monsieur may see if it is the gentleman for whom
they are seeking."
A strange tremor shot through Gerald Burton. He was shaken with a variety
of sensations of which the predominant feeling was that of repulsion. Was
he at last about to gaze at the dead face of the man who, with the one
paramount exception of that same man's wife, had filled his mind and
thoughts to the exclusion of all else since he had first heard the name of
John Dampier? Was he now to make acquaintance with the stranger who had yet
in so curious and sinister a way become his familiar?
Nancy gently withdrew her hand from his: leaning slightly forward, she
gazed at the swathed stark form which might possibly—so much she had told
herself at once—be that of John Dampier.
Very slowly the man drew off that portion of the sheet which covered the
upper part of the body, and, as he did so, Gerald Burton heard the woman
standing by his side utter a long, fluttering sigh of relief.
Thank God it was not Jack—not her Jack!
The fine, well-cut face was that of a man about Gerald Burton's own age.
The features were stilled in the awful immobility of death: but for that
immobility, the dead man lying there before them might have been asleep.
"An Englishman," said the janitor thoughtfully, "or perchance an American?
A finely built fellow, monsieur. A true athlete. Not a wound, not a touch!
Just dropped dead yesterday afternoon in a public gymnasium."
"How extraordinary it is," observed Gerald Burton in a low voice, "that he
has not yet been claimed by his friends—"
"Oh no, monsieur, not extraordinary at all! We in this country write to our
children every day when we are separated from them—that is if we can
afford the stamps. Not so English or American people. They think their
children are sure to be all right. In about a fortnight we shall have
enquiries for Number 4, hardly before then."
"And by that time," said Gerald slowly, "I suppose the poor fellow will
have been buried."
"Oh no, monsieur—" the man laughed, as if the other's remark struck him as
being really very funny. "Why, we keep some of them as long as fifteen
months! Those drawers are full of them—" he pointed to the long black
chests which lined one side of the shed. "Would monsieur like to see some
of my pensioners? I have men, women, ay, and children too, cosily tucked
away in there."
A low exclamation of horror escaped from Nancy Dampier's lips. She turned
ashily pale. At last she understood what it was the janitor was saying….
The man looked at her with kindly concern. "Tiens!" he said, "isn't that
strange? It happens again and again! People like madame come here—quite
quiet, quite brave; and then, though overjoyed at not finding the person
they came to seek—they suddenly shudder and turn pale; sometimes I have
known them faint!"
"Kindly let us out by the shortest and quickest way," said Gerald quickly.
"Pardon, monsieur, the law exacts that Number 4 must remain in your
presence for a quarter of an hour." The man shrugged his shoulders. "You
see some people, especially ladies, are apt to think afterwards that they
may have made a mistake: that their sight was at fault, and so on. That is
why this tiresome regulation is now in force. I should like to oblige
monsieur, but to do so would get me into trouble."
He stopped speaking, and stood waiting, at attention.
And then, as they stood there in silence, Gerald, looking beyond the still,
swathed figure stretched out before him, allowed his eyes to rest on these
black boxes, each containing one poor tenantless shell of humanity, from
which the unquenchable spirit of man had been suddenly, violently expelled:
and as he looked, he missed something that should have been there—the
sign, the symbol, of the cross.
A flood of memories came surging through his mind—memories of childish
prayers learnt at his mother's knee, of certain revisions which time had
brought to his first innocent, unquestioning faith. And with those memories
came anger and a sense of humiliation. For there was nothing, absolutely
nothing, to show that these boxes before him held what had once been the
dwelling-place of that daily miracle, the sentient soul of man. These
defenceless dead had been subjected to a last, continuous, intolerable
insult; in their flesh he felt that his own humanity was degraded. Here was
nothing to separate the human dead from the beasts of the field; these
boxes would have looked the same had they held merely the bodies of animals
prepared for the inquisitive, probing research of science.
His young imagination, strung to the highest pitch, penetrated those
shuttered receptacles and showed him on the face of each occupant that
strange ironic smile with which the dead husk of man seems often to betray
the full knowledge now possessed by the spirit which has fled. That riddle
of existence, of which through the ages philosophers and kings had sought
the key, was now an open book to all those who lay here in the still
majesty of death. Yes, they could well afford to smile—to smile at the
littleness which denied to their tenements of flesh the smallest symbol of
belief that death was not the end of all.
His companion had also marked the absence of any sign of the Christian's
hope in this house of death, and through her mind there ran the confused
recollection of holy words:—
"It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in
dishonour; it is raised in glory.
"Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep….
"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
Comfortable words! They seemed, merely by their flight through the tense
ganglia of her brain, to break into the awful loneliness of these recent
tabernacles of the spirit, and bestow on them the benison denied them in
its pride by the human family from whose bosom they had been torn.
Then swiftly her mind turned to the thought of those who were still
watching and waiting, in that misery of suspense of which she now knew each
pang. Every one—surely every one—of these dead who now surrounded
her,—silent, solitary, had been loved—for love comes in some guise to all
poor human creatures. Those mouths, cheeks, eyes, those rippling waves of
woman's hair, had been kissed—ah, how often. The perishing flesh had been
clasped heart to heart….
There came over her soul a great rush of pity for those others, the vast
and scattered company, mourning, mourning, and yet reaching out in wild
hope and desire for their loved ones, whose bodies were all the while here.
They did not know, yet hither came winging unerringly, like flights of
homing doves, their myriad prayers, their passionate loving thoughts and
wistful thirsty longing for one word, one kiss, one touch of the hand….
Surely such thoughts and prayers sanctified this charnel-house.
She herself was of that company—that company who were not sure. Some,
doubtless, obstinate, refused to believe that death in any form had
overtaken the missing; others feared to come here and look. She had not
The janitor spoke to her, and she started violently.
"You are quite convinced, madame, that Number 4 is not he whom you seek?"
These words, that question, evidently embodied a formula the man was bound
Mrs. Dampier bent her head.
"You, monsieur, also have no doubt?"
"None at all," said Gerald briefly.
With a sudden movement the man put the sinister carriage in motion, but
when he had got it close to the door of the mortuary, he stopped a
moment:—"We have many compliments on our brancard," he said cheerfully.
"It is very ingenious, is it not? You see the wheels are so large that a
mere touch pushes it backwards and forwards. It is quite easy to wheel back
into place again."
Gerald Burton took out a five-franc piece. He left Nancy Dampier standing,
an infinitely pathetic, forlorn little figure, in the sunlit portion of the
yard, and approached the man.
"We must go now," he said hurriedly. "I suppose it is quite easy to leave
by the way we came in—through the engine-room?"
"One moment, monsieur, one moment! Before showing you out I must put Number
4 back with his other companions. There is no fear of his being lonely,
poor man! We had five brought in this morning."
They had not long to wait before the concierge joined them again.
"Won't monsieur and madame stay and just see everything else there is to be
seen?" he asked eagerly. "We have the most interesting relics of great
criminals, notably of Troppman. Troppman was before my time, monsieur, but
the day that his seven victims were publicly exposed there—" he pointed
with his thumb to the inconspicuous door through which he had just wheeled
Number 4—"ah, that was a red-letter day for the Morgue! Eighteen thousand
people came to gaze on those seven bodies. And it was lucky, monsieur, that
in those days we were open to the public, for it was the landlord of their
hotel who recognised the poor creatures."
He was now preceding his two visitors through the operating theatre where
are held the post-mortems. From thence he led them into the hall where they
had first gained admission. "Well, monsieur, if you really do not care to
see our relics—?" He opened the great door through which so few living men
and women ever pass.
Gerald Burton and Nancy Dampier walked out into the sunlight, and the last
thing they saw of the Morgue was the smiling face of the concierge—it was
not often that he received ten francs for doing his simple duty.
"Au plaisir de vous revoir, monsieur, madame: au plaisir de vous revoir!"
he said gaily. And as the courteous old French mode of adieu fell upon
their ears, Gerald Burton felt an awful sensation of horror, of oppression,
yes and of dread, steal over him.
Nancy Dampier, looking up at her companion, suddenly forgot herself. "Mr.
Burton," she exclaimed, her voice full of concern, "I'm afraid this has
made you feel ill? I oughtn't to have let you come here!" And it was she
who in her clear, low voice told the cabman the address of the Hôtel
Gerald Burton muttered a word of half-angry excuse. He was keenly ashamed
of what he took to be his lack of manliness.
But during the weeks, aye and the months that followed he found himself
constantly haunted by the gentle, ironic words of farewell uttered by the
concierge of the Morgue: "Au plaisir de vous revoir, monsieur, madame: au
plaisir de vous revoir!"
The American abroad has a touching faith, first, in the might and power of
his country to redress all wrongs, and secondly, in the personal prestige
of his Ambassador.
As a rule this faith is justified by works, but in the special and very
peculiar case of John Dampier, Senator Burton was destined to meet with
With keen vexation he learnt that the distinguished and genial individual
who just then represented the great sister Republic in Paris, and on whom
he himself had absolutely counted for advice and help, for they were old
friends and allies, had taken sick leave for three months.
Paris, during an Exhibition Year, seems mysteriously to lose the wonderful
climate which a certain British Minister for Foreign Affairs once declared
to be the only one that suited every diplomat's constitution!
The Senator and his daughter drove on from the American Embassy to the
American Consulate, and it was with a feeling of considerable satisfaction
that they were shown by a courteous janitor into the pleasant, airy
waiting-room where a large engraving of Christopher Columbus, and a huge
photograph of the Washington Monument, welcome the wandering American.
Even in this waiting-room there was an air of cheerful activity, a constant
coming and going, which showed that whatever might be the case with the
Embassy, the Consulate, at any rate, was very much alive.
"Mr. Senator Burton? Glad to see you, sir! What can we do for you?" The
words fell with a cheering, refreshing sound on the Senator's ears, though
the speaker went on a trifle less cordially, "We are simply overwhelmed
with business just now! You can imagine—but no, no one could imagine, the
length, the breadth, the scope of what people think to be our duties in an
The distinguished visitor and his daughter were being shown into the
Consul's own pleasant study. Now this spacious, comfortable apartment is
hung with fine engravings of the White House and of the Capitol, and
Senator Burton felt a thrill of yearning as well as of pride when he gazed
at these familiar, stately buildings which looked so homelike and dear when
seen amid alien surroundings.
And as he sat down, and prepared to state his business, there suddenly came
over this kindly American a curious feeling of misgiving, of self-rebuke.
Had he remained at home in Washington, content with all his familiar duties
and pleasures, he would never have been brought into this association with
a strange, unpleasant life-story.
But he soon shook off this feeling of misgiving, and as the curious tale he
had to tell was being listened to, kindly and patiently, he felt glad
indeed that he had at last found a fellow-countryman in whom to confide,
and on whose advice he could rely.
But when Senator Burton had finished speaking, the American Consul shook
his head. "I only wish we could help you!" he exclaimed. "But we can do
nothing where a British subject is concerned. We've quite enough to do
looking after those of our own people who disappear in Paris! Would you be
surprised to learn, Mr. Senator, that four of our countrymen have
completely vanished within the last two days?" And as Daisy uttered a
little exclamation of incredulous dismay, "Don't feel so badly about it, my
dear young lady, I quite expect all four of them to turn up again, after
having given us and their friends a great deal of useless,
"What I really want," said the Senator earnestly, "is not your official
assistance, but a word of practical advice. What is it this unfortunate
young lady, Mrs. Dampier, ought to do? We've tried the Commissaire de
Police of the quarter, and he's perfectly useless: in fact my son, who's
seen him twice, doesn't believe a word he says."
The Consul gave what Senator Burton felt to be a very French shrug of the
"That don't surprise me! As regards the lower branch of the service the
police here is very understaffed. The only thing for you to do is to take
this poor lady to the British Consulate. They are driven to death there,
just as we are here, and they'll naturally snatch at any excuse to avoid an
extra job. But of course if this Mrs. Dampier is, as you say, a British
subject—well, they're bound to do something for her. But you may believe
me when I say, Mr. Senator, that there's probably nothing really mysterious
about the case. You may find this Mr. Dampier at the hotel when you return
there. It may interest you to learn"—he hesitated, and glanced at his
young countrywoman—"that among our countrymen who vanish, I mean in a
temporary way, there are more married men than bachelors."
And with that enigmatic pronouncement the genial Consul courteously and
smilingly dismissed Senator Burton and his daughter.
The same afternoon saw the Senator and Mrs. Dampier on their way to the
The day before Nancy had been unwilling to leave the hotel for even the
shortest space of time, now she seemed sunk into apathetic despair—and
yet, as they drove along together, the Senator still doubted, still
wondered in the depths of his heart, whether the lovely young woman now
sitting silent by his side, was not making a fool of him, as she had
certainly done of his two children.
He caught himself again and again thinking of her as "Nancy;" already his
daughter and she were on Christian-name terms with one another; and as for
Gerald, he had put everything else aside to devote himself entirely to
solving the mystery of John Dampier's disappearance.
At last they reached the British Consulate, and the American could not help
feeling a thrill of pride as he mentally compared the Office where he had
been that morning and that which represented, in this shabby side street,
the commercial might and weight of the British Empire.
The waiting-room into which they were shown was a gloomy apartment looking
on to an inner courtyard, and Senator Burton's card did not produce the
magic effect it had done at the American Consulate; in fact he and his
companion had to take their turn with a crowd of other people, and the time
they were kept waiting seemed very long.
At last, however, they were ushered into the study of the courteous Briton
whose difficult and sometimes exasperating duty it is to look after the
rights and interests of the motley world composed of those Englishmen and
Englishwomen who make a short or long sojourn in Paris. Once they were in
his presence nothing could have been kinder and more considerate than the
British Consul's reception of the American Senator and his companion.
In the Consular branch of the Diplomatic Service the post of Consul in the
greater cities of the civilised world is almost invariably given to an
ex-member of the Diplomatic Corps—to one, that is, who is a shrewd man of
the world rather than a trained business official, and Senator Burton felt
it to be a comfort indeed to deal with such a one rather than with an acute
but probably conventionally-minded man of commercial experience.
The Consul was moved by Mrs. Dampier's youth, her beauty, her evident, if
subdued bewilderment and distress. She told her story very clearly and
simply, but to the Senator's excited and yes, it must be admitted,
suspicious fancy, she seemed to slur over, as of no importance, the
extraordinary discrepancy between her own and the Poulains' account of what
had happened on the night of her own and her husband's arrival in Paris.
The Consul asked but few questions, but those were pertinent and to the
"I am glad, Mrs. Dampier, that you did not come to me yesterday," he said
at last, "for, thanks, as I understand, to this gentleman, you have done
everything which I should have had to advise you to do."
He then turned more particularly to his American visitor:—"I suppose you
have now quite convinced yourself that no kind of street accident befell
Mr. Dampier yesterday morning?"
The Senator shook his head dubiously; there was a look of hesitation, of
unease, on his face.
"Perhaps it would be as well," said the Consul suavely, "for Mrs. Dampier
to go and wait awhile in the next room. Then you and I, Mr. Senator, might
go into the matter more thoroughly?"
Unsuspiciously Nancy Dampier fell in with the plan.
And then, at last, Senator Burton was able to open out his heart, and, as
the British Consul listened to the American's version of all that had taken
place, when he realised how entirely the story of this young lady, who
called herself Mrs. Dampier, was uncorroborated, his face became graver
"From the little opportunity I have had of judging, she impresses me as
being a truthful woman," he said musingly. "Still, what I now know puts a
very different complexion on the story as told me just now by her."
"That is exactly what I feel," said the Senator sighing. "From something
you said just now I gather that you have heard of this Mr. John Dampier?"
"Why, yes, indeed I have—I know his name as being that of a distinguished
English artist living in Paris; but he has never troubled me individually,
and I can answer for it that he is very little known to our colony here. He
evidently lives only amongst the French painters and their set—which means
that to all intents and purposes he has become a Frenchman!" The Consul
shrugged his shoulders—racial prejudice dies hard.
He looked doubtfully at his visitor:—"You see, Mr. Senator, if this lady's
tale is true, if the poor little woman is a three weeks' bride, Mr.
Dampier's disappearance may mean a good many things, any one of which is
bound to cause her pain and distress. I do not think it likely that there
has been any kind of foul play. If, as Mrs. Dampier asserts, he had neither
money nor jewels in his possession, we may dismiss that possibility from
"If anything of that sort has happened—I mean, if there has been foul
play," said Senator Burton firmly, "then I would stake my life that neither
of the Poulains are in any way associated with it."
"Quite so. Still, as Mrs. Dampier has appealed to me very properly for
help, these hotel people—if they are as worthy as you believe them to
be—will not mind consenting to an informal interrogatory from one of my
clerks. I have here a sharp young fellow who knows English as well as he
does French. I'll send him back with you. He can take down the Poulains'
story, even cross-examine them in a friendly manner. Mrs. Dampier might
also give him her version of what took place."
Senator Burton uttered a hesitating assent. He knew only too well that the
Poulains would greatly resent the proposed interrogatory.
"One word more, Mr. Senator. If there is no news of this Mr. John Dampier
by to-morrow, you must persuade Mrs. Dampier to write, or even to telegraph
for her friends. For one thing, it isn't at all fair that all this trouble
should fall on an entire stranger, on one not even her own countryman! I
cannot help seeing, too, that you do not altogether believe in Mrs. Dampier
and her story. You can't make up your mind—is not that so?"
The American Senator nodded, rather shamefacedly.
"I might advise you to go to the Préfecture de Police, nay, I might
communicate with them myself, but I feel that in the interests of this
young lady it would be better to go slow. Mr. Dampier may return as
suddenly, as unexpectedly, as he went. And then he would not thank us, my
dear sir, for having done anything to turn the Paris Police searchlight on
his private life."
The Consul got up and held out his hand. "For your sake, as well as for
that of my countrywoman, I hope most sincerely that you will find Mr.
Dampier safe and sound when you get back to the Hôtel Saint Ange. But if
the mystery still endures to-morrow, then you really must persuade this
poor young lady to send for one of her relatives—preferably, I need hardly
say, a man."
"At what time shall I expect your clerk?" asked Senator Burton. "I think I
ought to prepare the Poulains."
"No, there I think you're wrong! Far better let him go back with you now,
and hear what they have to say. Let him also get a properly signed
statement from Mrs. Dampier. Then he can come back here and type out his
report and her statement for reference. That can do no harm, and may in the
future be of value."
He accompanied the American Senator to the door. "I wish I could help you
more," he said cordially. "Believe me, I appreciate more than I can say
your extraordinary kindness to my 'subject.' I shall, of course, be glad to
know how you get on. But oh, if you knew how busy we are just now! When I
think of how we are regarded—of how I read, only the other day, that a
Consul is the sort of good fellow one likes to make comfortable in a nice
little place—I wish the man who wrote that could have my 'nice little
place' for a week, during an Exhibition Year! I think he would soon change
Mrs. Dampier was not present at the, to Senator Burton, odious half-hour
which followed their return to the Hôtel Saint Ange.
At first the French hotel-keeper and his wife refused to say anything to
the Consular official. Then, when they were finally persuaded to answer his
questions, they did so as curtly and disagreeably as possible. Madame
Poulain also made a great effort to prevent her nephew, young Jules, from
being brought into the matter. But to her wrath and bitter consternation,
he, as well as her husband and herself, was made to submit to a regular
examination and cross-examination as to what had followed Mrs. Dampier's
arrival at the Hôtel Saint Ange.
"Why don't you send for the police?" she cried at last. "We should be only
too glad to lay all the facts before them!"
And as the young Frenchman, after his further interview with Nancy, was
being speeded on his way by the Senator, "I'm blessed if I know what to
believe!" he observed with a wink. "It's the queerest story I've ever come
across; and as for the Poulains, it's the first time I've ever known French
people to say they would like to see the police brought into their private
affairs! One would swear that all the parties concerned were telling the
truth, but I thought that boy, those people's nephew, did know something
more than he said."
The third morning brought no news of the missing man, and Senator Burton,
noting Gerald's and Daisy's preoccupied, anxious faces, began to wonder if
his life would ever flow in pleasant, normal channels again.
The son and daughter whom he held so dear, whose habitual companionship was
so agreeable to him, were now wholly absorbed in Mrs. Dampier and her
affairs. They could think of nothing else, and, when they were alone with
their father, they talked of nothing else.
The Senator remembered with special soreness what had happened the
afternoon before, just after he had dismissed the clerk of the British
Consul. Feeling an eager wish to forget, as far as might be for a little
while, the mysterious business in which they were all so untowardly
concerned, he had suggested to Daisy that they might go and spend a quiet
hour in the Art section of the Exhibition. But to his great discomfiture,
his daughter had turned on him with a look of scorn, almost of contempt:
"Father! Do you mean me to go out and leave poor little Nancy alone in her
dreadful suspense and grief—just that I may enjoy myself?"
And the Senator had felt ashamed of his selfishness. Yes, it had been most
unfeeling of him to want to go and gaze on some of the few masterpieces
American connoisseurs have left in Europe, while this tragedy—for he
realised that whatever the truth might be it was a tragedy—was still
It was good to know that thanks to the British Consul's word of advice his
way, to-day, was now clear. The time had come when he must advise Mrs.
Dampier to send for some member of her family. Without giving his children
an inkling of what he was about to say to their new friend, Senator Burton
requested Nancy, in the presence of the two others, to come down into the
garden of the Hôtel Saint Ange in order that they might discuss the
As they crossed the sun-flecked cheerful courtyard Nancy pressed
unconsciously nearer her companion, and averted her eyes from the kitchen
window where the hotel-keeper and his wife seemed to spend so much of their
spare time, gazing forth on their domain, watching with uneasy suspicion
all those who came and went from the Burtons' apartments.
As the young Englishwoman passed through into the peaceful garden whose
charm and old-world sweetness had been one of the lures which had drawn
John Dampier to what was now to her a fatal place, she felt a sensation of
terrible desolation come over her, the more so that she was now half
conscious that Senator Burton, great as was his kindness, kept his judgment
They sat down on a wooden bench, and for awhile neither spoke. "Have you
found out anything?" she asked at last in a low voice. "I think by your
manner that you have found out something, Mr. Burton—something you don't
wish to say to me before the two others?"
He looked at her, surprised. "No," he said sincerely, "that is not so at
all. I have found out nothing, Mrs. Dampier—would that I had! But I feel
it only right to tell you that the moment has come when you should
communicate with your friends. The British Consul told me that if we were
still without news, still in suspense, this morning, he would strongly
advise that you send for someone to join you in Paris. Surely you have some
near relation who would come to you?"
Nancy shook her head. "No. I daresay it may seem strange to you, Senator
Burton, but I have no near relations at all. I was the only child of a
father and mother who, in their turn, were only children. I have some very
distant cousins, a tribe of acquaintances, a few very kind friends—" her
lips quivered "but no one—no one of whom I feel I could ask that sort
Senator Burton glanced at her in dismay. She looked very wan and fragile
sitting there; whatever the truth, he could not but feel deeply sorry
Suddenly she turned to him, and an expression of relief came over her sad
eyes and mouth. "There is someone, Mr. Burton, someone I ought to have
thought of before! There is a certain Mr. Stephens who was my father's
friend as well as his solicitor; and he has always managed all my money
matters. I'll write and ask Mr. Stephens if he can come to me. He was more
than kind at the time of my marriage, though I'm afraid that he and Jack
didn't get on very well together."
She looked up in Senator Burton's face with a bewildered, pleading look,
and he suddenly realised how difficult a task such a letter would be to
her, supposing, that is, that the story she told, the story in which even
now the Senator only half believed—were true.
"I'll go up and write the letter now," she said, and together they both
went, once more, indoors.
But Gerald Burton, when he heard of the proposed letter to Mrs. Dampier's
lawyer, made an abrupt suggestion which both the Senator and Nancy welcomed
"Why shouldn't we telephone to this Mr. Stephens?" he asked. "That would
save a day, and it would be far easier to explain to him all that has
happened by word of mouth than in a letter—" He turned to Nancy, and his
voice unconsciously softened: "If you will trust me, I will explain the
situation to your friend, Mrs. Dampier."
The father and son's drive to the Central Paris-London-Telephone office was
curiously silent, though both the older and the younger man felt full of
"Now, at last, I am on the track of the truth!" such was the Senator's
secret thought. But he would not have been very much surprised had no such
name as that of Davies P. Stephens, Solicitor, 58 Lincoln's Inn Fields,
appeared in the London Telephone Directory. But yes, there the name was,
and Gerald showed it to his father with a gleam of triumph.
"You will want patience—a good deal of patience," said the attendant
Gerald Burton smiled. He was quite used to long-distance telephoning at
home. "All right!" he said cheerily. "I've plenty of patience!"
But though the young man claimed to have plenty of patience he felt far too
excited, far too strung up and full of suspense, for the due exercise of
that difficult virtue.
The real reason why he had suggested this telephone message, instead of a
letter or a telegram, was that he longed for his father's suspicions to be
set at rest.
Gerald Burton resented keenly, far more keenly than did his sister, the
Senator's lack of belief in Nancy Dampier's story. He himself would have
staked his life on the truthfulness of this woman whom he had only known
At last the sharp, insistent note of the telephone bell rang out, and he
stept up into the call-box.
"Mr. Stephens' office?" He spoke questioningly: and after what seemed a
long pause the answer came, muffled but audible. "Yes, yes! This is Mr.
Stephens' office. Who is it wants us from Paris?" The question was put in a
Cockney voice, and the London twang seemed exaggerated by its transmission
over those miles and miles of wire by land, under the sea, and then by
"I want to speak to Mr. Stephens himself," said Gerald Burton very
"Mr. Stephens? Yes, he's here all right. I'll take a message."
"Make him come himself."
"Yes, he's here. Give me your message—" the words were again a little
"I can't send a message. You must fetch him." Gerald Burton's stock of
patience was giving way. Again there was an irritating pause, but it was
broken at last.
"Who is it? I can't fetch him if you won't say who you are."
"I am speaking on behalf of Mrs. Dampier," said Gerald reluctantly. Somehow
he hated uttering Nancy's name to this tiresome unknown.
And then began an absurd interchange of words at cross purposes.
"No," said Gerald. "Mrs. Dampier."
"Yes," said the clerk. "Yes, I quite understand. L. for London—"
Gerald lost his temper—"D. for damn!" he shouted, "Dampier."
And then, at last, with a shrill laugh that sounded strange and eerie, the
clerk repeated, "Dampier—Mr. John Dampier? Yes, sir. What can we do
"Mrs. Dampier? Yes, sir. I'll fetch Mr. Stephens." The clerk's voice had
altered; it had become respectful, politely enquiring.
And at last with intense relief, Gerald Burton heard a low clear, incisive
voice uttering the words: "Is that Mrs. Dampier herself speaking?"
Instinctively Gerald's own voice lowered. "No, I am speaking for Mrs.
The English lawyer's voice hardened, or so it seemed to the young American.
It became many degrees colder. "I beg your pardon, Mr. Dampier. Yes? What
can I do for you?"
And as Gerald, taken oddly aback by the unseen man's very natural mistake,
did not answer for a moment or two:
"Nothing wrong with Nancy, I hope?"
The anxious question sounded very, very clear.
"There is something very wrong with Mrs. Dampier—can you hear me clearly?"
"Yes, yes What is wrong with her?"
"Mrs. Dampier is in great trouble. Mr. Dampier has disappeared."
The strange thing which had happened was told in those four words, but
Gerald Burton naturally went on to explain, or rather to try to explain,
the extraordinary situation which had arisen, to Nancy's lawyer and friend.
Mr. Stephens did not waste any time in exclamations of surprise or pity.
Once he had grasped the main facts, his words were few and to the point.
"Tell Mrs. Dampier," he said, speaking very distinctly, "that if she has no
news of her husband by Friday I will come myself to Paris. I cannot do so
before. Meanwhile, I strongly advise that she, or preferably you for her,
communicate with the police—try and see the Prefect of Police himself. I
myself once obtained much courteous help from the Paris Prefect of Police."
Gerald stept down from the stuffy, dark telephone box. He turned to the
attendant:—"How much do I owe you?" he asked briefly.
"A hundred and twenty francs, Monsieur," said the man suavely.
The Senator drew near. "That was an expensive suggestion of yours, Gerald,"
he observed smiling, as the other put down six gold pieces. And then he
"Well, father, there's not much to tell. This Mr. Stephens will come over
on Friday if there's still no news of Mr. Dampier by then. He wants us to
go to the Prefecture of Police. He says we ought to try and get at the
Prefect of Police himself."
There came a long pause: the two were walking along a crowded street.
Suddenly Gerald stopped and turned to the Senator. "Father," he said
impulsively, "I suppose that now, at last, you do believe Mrs.
The young man spoke with a vehemence and depth of feeling which disturbed
his father. What a good thing it was that this English lawyer was coming to
relieve them all from a weight and anxiety which was becoming, to the
Senator himself, if not to the two younger people, quite intolerable.
"Well," he said at last, "I am of course glad to know that everything, so
far, goes to prove that Mrs. Dampier's account of herself is true."
"That being so, don't you think the Hôtel Saint Ange ought to be searched?"
"Searched?" repeated Senator Burton slowly. "Searched for what?"
"If I had charge of this business—I mean sole charge—the first thing I
would do would be to have the Hôtel Saint Ange searched from top to
bottom!" said Gerald vehemently.
"Is that Mrs. Dampier's suggestion?"
"No, father, it's mine. I had a talk with that boy Jules last night, and
I'm convinced he's lying. There's another thing I should like to do. I
should like to go to the office of the 'New York Herald' and enlist the
editor's help. I would have done it long ago if this man Dampier had been
"And you would have done a very foolish thing, my boy." The Senator spoke
with more dry decision than was his wont. "Come, come, Gerald, you and I
mustn't quarrel over this affair! Let us think of the immediate thing to
do." He put his hand on his son's arm.
"I suppose that the first thing to do is to take this Mr. Stephens'
"Why, of course, father! Will you, or shall I, go to the Prefecture of
"Well, Gerald, I have bethought myself of that courteous President of the
French Senate who wrote me such a pleasant note when we first arrived in
Paris this time. No doubt he would give me a personal introduction to the
Prefect of Police."
"Why, father, that's a first rate idea! Hadn't you better go right now and
"Yes, perhaps I had; and meanwhile you can tell the poor little woman that
her friend will be here on Friday."
"Yes, I will. And father? May I tell Daisy that now you agree with me about
Mrs. Dampier—that you no longer believe the Poulains' story?"
"No," said Senator Burton a little sternly. "You are to say nothing of the
sort, Gerald. I have only known this girl three days—I have known the
Poulains nine years. Of course it's a great relief to me to learn that Mrs.
Dampier's account of herself is true—so far as you've been able to
ascertain such a fact in a few minutes' conversation with an unknown man
over the telephone—but that does not affect my good opinion of the
And on this the father and son parted, for the first time in their joint
lives, seriously at odds the one with the other.
"Give you an introduction to our Prefect of Police? Why, certainly!"
The white-haired President of the French Senate looked curiously at the
American gentleman who had sought him out at the early hour of
"You will find Monsieur Beaucourt a charming man," he went on. "I hear
nothing but good of the way he does his very difficult work. He is a type
to whom you are used in America, my dear Senator, but whom we perhaps too
often lack in France among those who govern us. Monsieur Beaucourt is a
strong man—a man who takes his own line and sticks to it. I was told only
the other day that crime had greatly diminished in our city since he became
Prefect. He is thoroughly trusted by his subordinates, and you can imagine
what that means when one remembers that our beautiful Paris is the resort
of all the international rogues of Europe. And if they tease us by their
presence at ordinary times, you can imagine what it is like during an
In all French public offices there is a strange mingling of the sordid and
of the magnificent.
The Paris Prefecture of Police is a huge, quadrangular building, containing
an infinity of bare, and to tell the truth, shabby, airless rooms; yet when
Senator Burton had handed in his card and the note from the President of
the French Senate, he was taken rapidly down a long corridor, and ushered
into a splendid apartment, of which the walls were hung with red velvet,
and which might have been a reception room in an Italian Palace rather than
the study of a French police official.
"Monsieur le Préfet will be back from déjeuner in a few minutes," said the
man, softly closing the door.
The Senator looked round him with a feeling of keen interest and curiosity.
After the weary, baffling hours of fruitless effort in which he had spent
the last three days, it was more than pleasant to find himself at the
fountainhead of reliable information.
Since the far-off days when, as a boy, he had been thrilled by the
brilliant detective stories of which French writers, with the one
outstanding exception of Poe, then had a monopoly, there had never faded
from Senator Burton's mind that first vivid impression of the power, the
might, the keen intelligence, and yes, of the unscrupulousness, of the
But now, having penetrated into the inner shrine of this awe-inspiring
organism, he naturally preferred to think of the secret autocratic powers,
and of the almost uncanny insight of those to whom he was about to make
appeal. Surely they would soon probe the mystery of John Dampier's
The door opened suddenly, and the Paris Prefect of Police walked into the
room. He was holding Senator Burton's card, and the letter of introduction
with which that card had been accompanied, in his sinewy nervous
Bowing, smiling, apologising with more earnestness than was necessary for
the few moments the American Senator had had to await his presence, the
Prefect motioned his guest to a chair.
"I am very pleased," he said in courtly tones, "to put myself at the
disposal of a member of the American Senate. Ah, sir, your country is a
wonderful country! In a sense, the parent of France—for was not America
the first great nation to become a Republic?"
Senator Burton bowed, a little awkwardly, in response to this flowery
He was telling himself that Monsieur Beaucourt was quite unlike the picture
he had mentally formed, from youth upwards, of the Paris Prefect of Police.
There was nothing formidable, nothing for the matter of that in the least
awe-inspiring, about this tired, amiable-looking man. The Prefect was also
lacking in the alert, authoritative manner which the layman all the world
over is apt to associate with the word "police."
Monsieur Beaucourt sat down behind his ornate buhl writing-table, and
shooting out his right hand he pressed an electric bell.
With startling suddenness, a panel disappeared noiselessly into the red
velvet draped wall, and in the aperture so formed a good-looking young man
"My secretary, Monsieur le Sénateur—my secretary, who is also my nephew."
The Senator rose and bowed.
"André? Please say that I am not to be disturbed till this gentleman's
visit is concluded." The young man nodded: and then he withdrew as quickly,
as silently, as he had appeared; and the panel slipped noiselessly back
"And now tell me exactly what it is that you wish me to do for you," said
the Prefect, with a weary sigh, which was, however, softened by a pleasant
smile. "We are not as omnipotent as our enemies make us out to be, but
still we can do a good deal, and we could do a good deal more were it not
for the Press! Ah, Monsieur le Sénateur, that is the only thing I do not
like about your great country. Your American Press sets so bad, so very
bad, an example to our poor old world!"
A thin streak of colour came into Monsieur Beaucourt's cheek, a gleam of
anger sparkled in his grey eyes.
"Yes, greatly owing to the bad example set in America, and of late in
England too, quite a number of misguided people nowadays go to the Press
before they come to us for redress! All too soon," he shook a warning
finger, "they find they have entered a mouse-trap from which escape is
impossible. They rattle at the bars—but no, they are caught fast! Once
they have brought those indefatigable, those indiscreet reporters on the
scene, it is too late to draw back. They find all their most private
affairs dragged into the light of day, and even we can do very little for
Senator Burton nodded gravely. He wished his son were there to hear these
"And now let us return to our muttons," said the Prefect leaning forward.
"I understand from the President of the Senate that you require my help in
a rather delicate and mysterious matter."
"I do not know that the matter is particularly delicate, though it is
certainly mysterious," and then Senator Burton explained, in as few and
clear words as possible, the business which had brought him there—the
disappearance, three days before, of the English artist, John Dampier, and
of the present sad plight of Dampier's wife.
Monsieur Beaucourt threw himself back in his chair. His face lit up, it
lost its expression of apathetic fatigue; and his first quick questions
showed him a keen and clever cross-examiner.
At once he seized on the real mystery, and that though the Senator had not
made more of it than he could help. That was the discrepancy in the account
given by the Poulains and by Mrs. Dampier respectively as to the lady's
arrival at the hotel.
But even Monsieur Beaucourt failed to elicit the fact that Senator Burton's
acquaintance with Mrs. Dampier was of such short standing. He assumed that
she was a friend of the Burton family, and the Senator allowed the
assumption to go by default.
"The story you have told me," the Prefect said at last, "is a very curious
story, Monsieur le Sénateur. But here we come across stranger things every
day. Still, certain details make the disappearance of this English
gentleman rather stranger than usual. I gather that the vanished man's wife
is a charming person?"
"Extremely charming!" said the Senator quickly. "And I should say quite
truthful—in fact this discrepancy between her account and that of the
Poulains has worried and perplexed me very much."
"Do not let that worry you," said the other thoughtfully. "If this young
lady, your friend, be telling the truth, it is very probable that the
Poulains began to lie in the hope of avoiding trouble for themselves:
having lied they found themselves obliged to stick to their story. You see
just now our hotel-keepers are coining gold, and they do not like this very
pleasant occupation of theirs interrupted, for even the best of reasons. If
this gentleman left the hotel the same night that he arrived there—as I
can see you yourself are inclined to believe, Monsieur le Sénateur—then
you may be sure that the hotel people, even if they did see him for a few
moments, would not care to admit that they had done so. I therefore advise
that we put them and their account of what took place out of our minds.
From what you tell me, you have already done what I may call the
"Yes," said Senator Burton frankly. "My son and I have done everything
which common sense could suggest to us. Thus we at once gave a description
of the missing man to the police station of the quarter where both the
Hôtel Saint Ange and Mr. Dampier's studio are situated. But, owing
doubtless to the fact that all your officials are just now very busy and
very overworked, we did not get quite as much attention paid to the case as
I should have liked. I do not feel quite sure even now that the missing man
did not meet with a street accident."
"I can ascertain that for you in a moment."
Again the Prefect pressed a pedal. A panel, and this time a different panel
from the first, slid back, and again the secretary appeared.
Monsieur Beaucourt said a brief word or two, and a few moments later a
tabulated list, written in round-hand, lay before him.
"Here are all the accidents which have occurred in Paris during the last
He ran his eyes down the list; and then, rising, handed the sheets to
"I think this disposes of the idea that an accident may have befallen your
friend in the streets," said the Prefect briefly.
And the Senator, handing back the list, acknowledged that this was so.
"May I ask if you know much of the habits and way of life of this vanished
bridegroom?" asked the Prefect thoughtfully. "I understand he belongs to
the British Colony here."
"Mr. Dampier was not my friend," said the Senator hurriedly. "It is Mrs.
"Ah, yes—I understand—the three weeks' bride? It is she you know. Well,
Monsieur le Sénateur, the best thing you and I can do is to look at the
artist's dossier. That is quite likely to provide us with a useful clue."
The Senator felt a thrill of anticipatory interest. All his life he had
heard of the dossiers kept by the Paris police, of how every dweller in the
great city, however famous, however obscure, had a record in which the most
intimate details of their lives were set down in black and white. Somehow
he had never quite believed in these French police dossiers.
"Surely you are not likely to have a dossier of Mr. Dampier?" he exclaimed,
"he is a British subject, and, as far as I know, a perfectly
The Prefect smiled. "The mere fact that he is an English subject living in
Paris entitles him to a dossier. In fact everybody who is anybody in any
kind of society, from that frequented by the Apaches to that of the
Faubourg Saint Germain, has a dossier. And from what you tell me this
artist, who won a Salon medal, and who has already had a distinguished
career as a painter, is certainly 'somebody.' Now, please tell me exactly
the way to spell his surname and his Christian name. English names are so
Very clearly the Senator spelt out—first the word "John" and then the word
And as, under his dictation, the Prefect of Police wrote the two
distinctive names of the missing man, there came a look of frowning
perplexity and indecision over his face.
"It's an odd thing," he muttered, "but I seem to have heard that name quite
lately, and in some strange connection! Now what could it have been? As you
probably know, Monsieur le Sénateur, there is a French form of that name,
Dampierre. But no—it is that John which puzzles me—I am quite sure that I
have heard the name 'John Dampier' quite recently."
"Isn't it likely," suggested the Senator, "that the man's disappearance has
been reported to you? My son and I have done everything in our power to
make the fact known, and Mr. Dampier's name and particulars as to his
appearance have been at the Morgue since yesterday."
"Well, that's possible, of course. Just now my poor head has to hold far
more than it was ever meant to do. The presence of so many royal personages
in Paris always means extra trouble for me—especially when they are here
'incognito.' By the way, it would amuse, perhaps shock you, to see the
dossiers of some of these Princes and Grand Dukes! But these are, of
course, kept very secret. Meanwhile, I must not forget Mr. John Dampier."
This time the Prefect did not ring his bell. Instead he blew down a tube.
"You would scarcely believe it," he said, looking up suddenly, "but these
tubes have only just been installed! I had a regular battle over the matter
with the Treasury. But now that the battle is won, I forget half the time
that the tube is there! Picot? Please send me the dossier of an
artist-painter called John Dampier," he spelt the names. "English subject;
living in Impasse des Nonnes. I have an impression that we have had that
name before us during the last week or so—Have you any recollection
He put the tube to his ear.
And then the American Senator, looking at the Paris Prefect of Police, was
struck by a sudden change which came over the listener's face. There
gathered on Monsieur Beaucourt's features a look of quick surprise,
followed—yes, unmistakably—by a frown of dismay.
Putting his free hand over the tube, he withdrew it from his ear and
applied it to his lips. "Yes, yes," he said rapidly, "enough, enough! I
quite understand. It is, as you say, very natural that I should have
And then he looked quickly across at the Senator. "You are right, Monsieur
le Sénateur: Mr. Dampier's name was put before me only yesterday as that of
an Englishman who had disappeared from his hotel. But I took him to be a
passing visitor. You know quite a number of the tourists brought by the
Exhibition disappear, sometimes for two or three days—sometimes—well, for
ever! That, of course, means they have left Paris suddenly, having got into
what the English call a 'scrape.' In such a case a man generally thinks it
better to go home—wiser if sadder than when he came."
There followed a pause.
"Well, Monsieur le Sénateur," said the Prefect, rising from his chair. "You
may rest assured that I will do everything that is in my power to find
"But the dossier?" exclaimed Senator Burton. "I thought, Monsieur le
Préfet, that I was to see Mr. Dampier's dossier?"
"Oh, to be sure—yes! I beg your pardon."
Again he whistled down the tube. "Picot?" he exclaimed, "I still require
that dossier! Why am I kept waiting in this way?"
He listened for a few moments to what his invisible subordinate had to say,
and then again he spoke down the funnel, and with a certain pettish
impatience. "The last entry is of no importance—understand me—no
importance at all! The gentleman for whose benefit I require the dossier
already knows of this Mr. Dampier's disappearance."
A moment later a clerk knocked at the door, and appeared with a blue
envelope which he laid with a deep bow on the Prefect's table.
It was not a very large envelope, and yet Senator Burton was surprised at
its size, and at the number of slips of paper the Prefect of Police
withdrew from it.
"I do not suppose, Monsieur le Sénateur, that you have ever seen one of our
dossiers—in fact I may tell you that very few people outside this building
ever do see one. By the way, a great deal of nonsense is talked about them.
Roughly speaking, a dossier is not a history of the individual in question;
it simply records what is being said of him. For instance, the day that I
became Prefect of Police my dossier was brought to me—"
He smiled wearily.
"Your dossier?" repeated the Senator in amazement.
"Yes, my dossier. I have had it bound, and I keep it as a curiosity.
Everything that had ever been written about me in the days when I was a
Member of the Chamber of Deputies is there. And what really made me feel
angry was the fact that I had been confused with more than one of my
namesakes, in fact certain misdeeds that these worthy folk had committed
were actually registered in my dossier!"
He stopped speaking for a moment, and took up the blue envelope.
"But now let us consider this Mr. John Dampier. You will see that he bears
the number '16909,' and that his envelope is blue. Had this gentleman ever
had anything to do with the police, were he, to put it plainly, of the
criminal class, this envelope would be yellow. As for the white envelopes,
they, Monsieur le Sénateur, have to deal with a very different sort of
individual. We class them briefly under the general word 'Morals.'"
As he spoke the Prefect was looking swiftly through the Dampier dossier,
and not till he had glanced at every item did he hand the envelope to his
Senator Burton could not but admire the intelligent way the dossier had
been prepared, and kept up to date.
On the top sheet were carefully gummed various entries from the
biographical dictionaries in which mention was made of John Dampier and his
career. There followed a eulogistic newspaper article containing an account
of the picture which had won the artist his Médaille d'Honneur at the Salon
two years before. Then came a piece of foolscap headed "General remarks,"
and here were written the following words:—"Lives quietly; is popular with
his fellow artists; has few debts; does not frequent the British Colony."
The Senator looked up quickly. "Well, there is not much to learn from
this!" he said. And then, "I notice, Monsieur le Préfet, that there was
another entry which has been removed."
"Yes," said the Prefect. "That last entry was only added the day before
yesterday, and told of Monsieur Dampier's disappearance. It is being
written up now, Monsieur le Sénateur, with a note explaining your kind
interest in him, and telling of your visit to-day."
Senator Burton rose from his chair. He could not have told exactly why, but
he had the impression that his courteous host had suddenly become anxious
to get rid of him.
But this impression was evidently erroneous. Even after they had cordially
shaken hands, the Prefect of Police seemed in no hurry to let him go.
"One moment, Monsieur le Sénateur?" he looked earnestly into the American's
frank face. "I feel bound to tell you that I am convinced there is more in
this mysterious disappearance than appears on the surface. I fear—I
greatly fear—that this Mr. Dampier has vanished of his own free will," he
spoke with evident reluctance, "and that his poor young wife will never see
him again. As I think I said before, the public, especially the vulgar,
ignorant public, credit us with powers we are far from possessing. It is
possible that this gentleman does not care for the trammels of married
life, and that his bride, however charming she may be, has disappointed
him. Such cases are commoner than you might think possible, especially
among English and American people. You, in your country, if you will
forgive my saying so, marry with such reckless haste; and that often means
repenting at bitter leisure." The Prefect's voice lowered, a look of real
distress came over his face. "Ah! what tales I could tell you—what fearful
domestic tragedies have been confided to me here, within these four walls!
No doubt for an artist this Mr. John Dampier was a very good fellow—what
in England they call 'respectable enough.' But still, think what painters
are like! Think of how Bohemian, how careless is their life, compared with
that of the man who has a regular occupation—" Monsieur de Beaucourt shook
his head gloomily—"In most of these stories of sudden disappearance there
is no crime, as the relations are so apt to think there is. No, Monsieur le
Sénateur, there is simply—a woman! Sometimes it is a new friend—but far
oftener it is an old friend."
There was a pause. "God forbid," said the Prefect suddenly, "that I should
accuse this unfortunate man of anything heinous! But—but, Monsieur le
Sénateur? You must have learnt through our Press, through those of our
newspapers which delight in dragging family scandals to light, the amazing
story of Count Bréville."
The Senator was impressed, in spite of himself, by the other's manner.
"I don't remember the name," he said thoughtfully.
"Count Bréville," said the Prefect slowly, "was a man of deservedly high
reputation, in fact one of the pillars of the Royalist party. He had a wife
who adored him, a large family whom he adored, and they all lived an
idyllic country life. Well, one day the Count's coat, his hat, his
pocket-book (which was known to have been full of bank-notes, but which was
now empty) were found on the parapet of a bridge near his château. It was
given out—it was believed that a dastardly crime had been committed. And
then, by a mere accident, it was brought to my notice—for there was
nothing in the Count's dossier which could have led me to suspect such a
thing—that a charming governess who had been in the employment of his
Countess for some four or five years had suddenly left to join her family
in the New World, and that her travelling companion was strangely like her
"Yes," said Senator Burton uncomfortably, "I think I do remember something
of that story now."
"All the world was let into the secret," said the Prefect regretfully, "for
the family had confided, from the first, in the Press. They thought—what
did they not think, poor, foolish people? Among other things they actually
believed that the Count had been murdered for political reasons. But no,
the explanation was far more simple. That high-minded man, that Christian
gentleman, this father of charming children whom he apparently adored, had
gone off under a false name, leaving everything that was dear to him,
including his large fortune, to throw in his lot with the governess!"
The Prefect came closer to Senator Burton. He even lowered his voice. "I
had the Countess here, Monsieur le Sénateur, in this room. Oh, what a
touching, what a moving interview! The poor woman was only anxious to have
back her husband with no questions asked, with no cruel reminders. And now
he is back—a broken man. But had he been an artist, Monsieur le Sénateur,
would the Count have been traced? Of course not! Would he have returned?
No, indeed! The Prefect of Police can do many things, Monsieur le Sénateur,
but as I said just now, he cannot force an unwilling husband back to his
wife, especially if that husband has already crossed the frontier. Come,
Monsieur le Sénateur, confess that some such explanation of Mr. Dampier's
disappearance has already occurred to you?"
"Well," said Senator Burton slowly, "I confess that some such thought has
crossed my mind. But in that case what a tragic fate for the poor
"Bah! Do you know the saying:—'Widowhood is the Marshal's bâton every
woman carries in her knapsack!'"
Senator Burton could not help smiling. Then he grew very grave. "But Mrs.
Dampier, in the case you suppose, would not be a widow, Monsieur le Préfet:
she would be neither maid, wife, nor widow."
The Prefect looked surprised. "Ah yes! The English divorce laws are very
conservative. But I suppose in the end such a marriage would be annulled?"
"I suppose so," said Senator Burton indifferently.
"I wish I could help you more," said the Prefect solicitously. He really
wished he could, for he liked his kindly visitor. "Can you suggest anything
that we could do to help you?"
"Yes," said the Senator frankly. "My son, Monsieur le Préfet, has not the
same trust in the hotel-keeper, Poulain, that I feel. Neither, I am bound
to tell you, has Mrs. Dampier. I think it would be a relief to the poor
young lady, if the hotel could be searched for some trace of Mr. Dampier's
sojourn there. You see Mrs. Dampier is convinced—or seems to be—that her
husband spent a night there."
"Nothing is easier than to have the place searched," said the Prefect
quickly. "I will arrange for it to be done to-morrow morning at eleven.
Perhaps you, Monsieur le Sénateur, will inform the hotel people that a
Perquisition is about to take place."
As he walked away from the Prefecture of Police, Senator Burton told
himself that the French were certainly a curiously casual people.
How strange that the Prefect should have asked him to break the news of
what was to happen at eleven o'clock the next morning to the Poulains! In
America—and he supposed in England also—the hotel-keeper would have
received a formal notification of the fact that his house was about to be
searched, or, in the case that foul play was suspected, no warning at all.
But here, in Paris, it was thought enough to entrust a stranger with a
message concerning so serious a matter.
Of everything that had happened in connection with this extraordinary
Dampier affair, perhaps this having to tell the Poulains that their hotel
was to be searched was the most disagreeable and painful thing of all to
their American friend and kindly client.
The Senator was now very sorry, that, in deference to his son's wish, he
had made such a suggestion.
On his return to the hotel he was surprised to find a woman he had never
seen before installed in Madame Poulain's kitchen. Still, the presence of
the stranger brought a sense of reprieve.
He, Senator Angus Burton, the distinguished politician whom most of those
of his fellow-countrymen whose opinion mattered would have said to be a
particularly fearless man, dreaded the task of telling Madame Poulain that
a Perquisition was about to take place in her house.
He lifted his hat. "Is Madame Poulain out?"
"She won't be long, monsieur; she and her husband have had to absent
themselves for a little hour."
"Are they both out?" asked the Senator. He had never in his long knowledge
of the Hôtel Saint Ange known such a thing to happen—that both the
Poulains should be out together.
"Yes, monsieur. They have had to take that nephew of theirs, young Jules,
off to the station. They are sending him to the country. He's in a sad
state—he does nothing but cry, poor lad! I suppose he's in love—I've
known it take young men that way." The woman smiled, smiled as a certain
type of person usually does smile when giving disagreeable or unpleasant
news. "It is very awkward for the Poulains to lose the lad just now, for
they are very busy. I have no doubt—" she tossed her head—"that Jules has
been working too hard; the Poulains are foolish not to have more help from
outside. I came in just to oblige Madame Poulain while she and her husband
accompanied Jules to the station. But I also am busy. I have my own work to
attend to just as much as anybody else; and my three children are all
working at the Exhibition."
The Senator left the eager gossip, and began walking round the courtyard.
He felt quite wretched. Jules, at no time a very intelligent lad, had
evidently been terrified out of his wits by the questionings and the
cross-questionings to which he had been subjected.
And then—and then—no doubt Gerald was in a measure also responsible for
the lad's state! Senator Burton had been very much annoyed when his son had
told him of what had happened the night before—of how he had accused the
Poulains' nephew of lying—of knowing something of the Dampier affair….
He was just about to go upstairs when he saw Monsieur and Madame Poulain
emerging from the porte cochère. They both looked tired, hot, and
He walked forward to meet them.
"I am very sorry to hear this news about Jules," he began quickly. "I hope
you are not really anxious about him?"
Madame Poulain stared at him fixedly, reproachfully. "It is all this
affair," she said with a heavy sigh. "If it had only been the police, our
own police, we should not have minded, Monsieur le Sénateur—we are honest
people—we have nothing to fear from the police," she lifted her head
proudly. "But when it came to that impudent young man—"
For a moment the Senator was at a loss—then he suddenly remembered:—"You
mean the gentleman attached to the British Consulate?" he said
uncomfortably. And as she nodded her head, "But surely it was quite
reasonable that he should come and ask those questions. You must remember
that both Mr. and Mrs. Dampier are English people. They have a right to the
protection and help of their Consulate."
"I do not say to the contrary, monsieur. I am only telling you the truth,
namely that that English lawyer—for lawyer I suppose he was—terrified
Jules. And had it not been that I and my husband are conscious of—of our
innocence, Monsieur le Sénateur, he would have terrified us also. Then your
son attacked Jules too. Surely the matter might have been left to the
police—our own excellent police."
"I am glad you feel as you do about the police," said the Senator
earnestly, "for as a matter of fact the Prefect of Police, whom I have just
been consulting about Mr. Dampier's disappearance, suggests that the Hôtel
Saint Ange be searched."
"Searched?" exclaimed Monsieur Poulain, staring at the Senator.
"Searched?" shrieked Madame Poulain indignantly.
"Yes," said Senator Burton quietly, and trying to speak as if a police
Perquisition of a respectable hotel was the most ordinary thing in the
world. "They are sending their men at eleven to-morrow morning. Let me add
that they and Mrs. Dampier are most eager to study your convenience in
every way. They would doubtless choose another time should eleven o'clock
be inconvenient to you."
Madame Poulain was now speechless with indignation, and yes, with surprise.
When at last she did speak, her voice trembled with pain and anger.
"To think," she said, turning to her husband, and taking for the moment no
notice of her American client—"to think that you and I, Poulain, after
having lived here for twenty-one years and a half, should have our hotel
searched by the police—as if it were the resort of brigands!" She turned
to the Senator, and quietly, not without a measure of dignity, went
on:—"And to think that it is you, Monsieur le Sénateur, who we have always
thought one of our best patrons, who have brought this indignity upon us!"
"I am very, very sorry for all the trouble you are having about this
affair," said Senator Burton earnestly. "And Madame Poulain? I want to
assure you how entirely I have always believed your statement concerning
this strange business."
"If that is so then why all this—this trouble, Monsieur le Sénateur?"
Husband and wife spoke simultaneously.
"I wonder," exclaimed the Senator, "that you can ask me such a question! I
quite admit that the first twenty-four hours I knew nothing of this
unfortunate young woman whose cause I championed. But now, Madame Poulain,
I have learnt that all she told me of herself is true. Remember she has
never faltered in the statement that she came here accompanied by her
husband. I, as you know," he lowered his voice, "suppose that in so
thinking she is suffering from a delusion. But you cannot expect my view to
be shared by those who know her well and who are strangers to you. As I
told you only this morning, we hope that towards the end of this week Mrs.
Dampier's lawyer will arrive from England."
"But what will happen then?" cried Madame Poulain, throwing up her hands
with an excited, passionate gesture. "When will this persecution come to an
end? We have done everything we could; we have submitted to odious
interrogatories, first from one and then from the other—and now our hotel
is to be searched! None of our other clients, and remember the hotel is
full, Monsieur le Sénateur, have a suspicion of what is going on, but any
moment the affair may become public, and then—then our hotel might empty
in a day! Oh, Monsieur le Sénateur"—she clasped her hands together—"If
you refuse to think of us, think of our child, think of poor little
"Come, come, Madame Poulain!"
The Senator turned to the good woman's husband, but Poulain's usually
placid face bore a look of lowering rage. The mention of his idolised
daughter had roused his distress as well as anger.
"Now, Poulain, do tell your wife that there is really nothing to worry
about. The police speak of you both in the very highest terms! As to the
search that will take place to-morrow, it is the merest formality."
"I hope, monsieur, that you will do us the honour of being present," said
Madame Poulain quickly. "We have nothing to hide, and we should far prefer
you to be there."
"If such is your wish I will certainly be present," said Senator Burton
And then, as he walked away to the escalier d'honneur, he told himself that
on the whole the poor Poulains had taken his disagreeable piece of news
very well. Gerald was not showing his usual sense over this business: he
had let his sympathies run away with him. But the Senator loved his son all
the better for his chivalrous interest in poor Mrs. Dampier. It wasn't
every young man who would have put everything aside in the way of interest,
of amusement, and of pleasure in such a city as Paris, for the sake of an
As to Gerald's view of the Poulains, that again was natural. He didn't know
these people with the same kindly knowledge the Senator and Daisy had of
them. Gerald had been at college, and later working hard in the office of
America's greatest living architect, at the time the Senator and his
daughter had spent a whole winter at the Hôtel Saint Ange.
It was natural that the young man should take Mrs. Dampier's word instead
of the hotel-keepers'. But even so, how extraordinary was the utter
divergence between the two accounts of what had happened!
For the hundredth time Senator Burton asked himself where the truth lay.
A sad change had come over Nancy Dampier in the three long days. She could
not sleep, and they had to force her to eat. The interrogatories to which
she had had to submit, first from one and then from another, had worn her
out. When going over her story with the Consular official, she had suddenly
faltered, and putting her hand to her head with a bewildered gesture, "I
can't remember," she had said, looking round piteously at the Senator, "I
And he asked himself now whether those three words did not embody more of
the truth than the poor girl would admit. Had she ever really remembered
what had happened on that first evening of her arrival in Paris?
Such were Senator Burton's disconnected and troubled thoughts as, leaving
the perturbed hotel-keepers, he slowly went to join his children and
To his relief, neither Daisy nor Nancy were in the salon, and his thoughts
were pleasantly forced into another channel, for on the table lay a cable
from some people called Hamworth, Mr. Hamworth was one of the Senator's
oldest friends: also there was a pretty clever daughter who had always
shown a rather special liking for Gerald….
The Hamworths were arriving in Paris at ten the next morning, and they
asked the Senator and his children to join them at lunch at Bignon's.
Mingling with a natural pleasure at the thought of seeing old friends, and
of getting away from all this painful business for a short time, was added
a secret satisfaction at the thought that he would thus escape being
present at the search of the Hôtel Saint Ange.
"I suppose we ought to start in about half an hour," said the Senator
genially. They were sitting, he and Gerald, at breakfast.
Madame Poulain, with the adaptability of her kind—the adaptability which
makes the French innkeeper the best in the world, always served a real
"American breakfast" in the Burtons' salon.
As his son made no answer to his remark, he went on, "I should like to be
at the station a few minutes before the Hamworths' train is due."
Senator Burton was sorry, very, very sorry indeed, that there was still no
news of the missing man, on this third morning of Dampier's disappearance.
But he could not help feeling glad that poor little Mrs. Dampier had stayed
in bed; thanks to that fact he and his children were having breakfast
together, in the old, comfortable way.
The Senator felt happier than he had felt for some time. What a comfort it
would be, even to Gerald and to Daisy, to forget for a moment this strange,
painful affair, and to spend three or four hours with old friends!
Gerald looked up. "I'm not coming, father. You will have to make my
apologies to the Hamworths. Of course I should have liked to see them. But
Mrs. Dampier has asked me to be present at the search. Someone ought, of
course, to be there to represent her." He jerked the words out with a touch
of defiance in his voice.
"I'm sorry she did that," said the Senator coldly. "And I think, Gerald,
you should have consulted me before consenting to do so. You see, our
position with regard to the Poulains is a delicate one—"
"Delicate?" repeated Gerald quickly. "How do you mean, father?"
"We have known these people a long while. It is fifteen years, Gerald,
since I first came to this hotel with your dear mother. I have received
nothing but kindness from Madame Poulain, and I am very, very sorry that
she now associates us in her mind with this painful business."
"All I can say is, sir, that I do not share your sorrow."
The Senator looked up quickly. This was the first time—yes, the very first
time that Gerald had ever spoken to him with that touch of sarcasm—some
would have said impertinence—which sits so ill on the young, at any rate
in the view of the old. Perhaps Gerald repented of his rude, hasty words,
for it was in a very different tone that he went on:—
"You see, father, I believe the whole of Mrs. Dampier's story, and you only
believe a part. If I shared your view I should think very ill of her
indeed. But you, father (I don't quite know how you do it) manage to like
and respect her, and to believe the Poulains as well!"
"Yes," said the Senator slowly, "that is so, Gerald. I believe that the
Poulains are telling the truth, and that this poor young woman thinks she
is telling the truth—two very different things, my boy, as you will find
out by the time you know as much of human nature as I now do. When you have
lived as long as I have lived in the world, you will know that many people
have an extraordinary power of persuading themselves of that which
"But why—" asked Gerald eagerly,—"why should Mrs. Dampier wish to prove
that her husband accompanied her here if he did nothing of the kind?"
And then just as he asked the question which the Senator would not have
found it very easy to answer, Daisy came into the room.
"I have persuaded Mrs. Dampier to stay in bed till the search is over.
She's just worn out, poor little dear: I shall be glad when this Mr.
Stephens has arrived—she evidently has the greatest faith in him."
"I shall be glad too," said the Senator slowly: how glad he would be
neither of his children knew or guessed. "And now, Daisy, I hope you won't
be long in getting ready to start for the station. I should be sorry indeed
if the Hamworths' train came in before we reached there."
"Father! Surely you don't want me to leave Nancy this morning of all
mornings? She ought not to be alone while the search is going on. She
wanted to be actually present at it, didn't she, Gerald?"
The young man nodded. "Yes, but Daisy and I persuaded her that that was not
necessary, that I would be there for her. It seems that Mr. Dampier had a
very large portmanteau with him. She is sure that the Poulains have got it
"She has told Gerald exactly what it is like," chimed in Daisy.
The Senator looked from one to the other: he felt both helpless and
indignant. "The Hamworths are among the oldest friends we have in the
world," he exclaimed. "Surely one of you will come with me? I'm not asking
you to leave Mrs. Dampier for long, Daisy."
But Daisy shook her head decidedly. "I'd rather not, father—I don't feel
as if I wanted to see the Hamworths at all just now. I'm sure that when you
explain everything to them, they will understand."
Utterly discomfited and disappointed, and feeling for the first time really
angry with poor Nancy Dampier, Senator Burton took his departure for the
To the French imagination there is something terrifying in the very word.
And this justifiable terror is a national tradition. To thousands of honest
folk a Perquisition was an ever present fear through the old Régime, and
this fear became acute terror in the Revolution. Then a search warrant
meant almost certainly subsequent arrest, imprisonment, and death.
Even nowadays every Frenchman is aware that at any moment, and sometimes on
the most frivolous pretext, his house may be searched, his most private
papers ransacked, and every member of his household submitted to a sharp,
informal interrogation, while he stands helpless by, bearing the outrage
with what grace he may.
Gerald Burton, much as he now disliked and suspected Monsieur and Madame
Poulain, could not but feel sorry for them when he saw the manner in which
those hitherto respectable and self-respecting folk were treated by the
Police Agent who, with two subordinates, had been entrusted with the task
of searching the Hôtel Saint Ange.
The American was also surprised to see the eagerness with which the
Poulains had welcomed his presence at their unpleasant ordeal.
"Thank you for coming, Monsieur Gerald; but where is Monsieur le Sénateur?"
asked Madame Poulain feverishly. "He promised—he absolutely promised us
that he would be here this morning!"
"My father has had to go out," said Gerald courteously, "but I am here to
represent both him and Mrs. Dampier."
A heavy frown gathered over the landlady's face. "Ah!" she muttered, "it
was a dark day for us when we allowed that lady to enter our hotel!"
Gerald, putting a strong restraint on his tongue, remained silent, but a
moment later, as if in answer to his feeling of exasperation and anger, he
heard the Police Agent's voice raised in sarcastic wrath. "I must ask you
to produce the plan before I begin my Perquisition."
"But, monsieur," exclaimed the hotel-keeper piteously, "I cannot give you a
plan of our hotel! How should we have such a thing? The house is said to be
three hundred years old. We have even been told it should be classed as an
"Every hotel-keeper is bound to have a plan of his hotel," said the Agent
roughly. "And I shall report you for not complying with the law. If a plan
of the Hôtel Saint Ange did not exist, it was your duty to have one made at
your own expense."
"Bien, bien, monsieur! It shall be done," said Poulain resignedly.
"To have a Perquisition without a plan is a farce!" said the man, this time
addressing Gerald Burton. "An absolute farce! In such an old house as this
there may be many secret hiding-places."
"There are no secret hiding-places in our hotel," screamed Madame Poulain
angrily. "We have no objection at all to being inspected in the greatest
detail. But I must warn you, gentlemen, that your job will take some time
to carry through."
The Police Agent shrugged his shoulders disagreeably. "Come along," he said
sharply. "Let us begin at once! We would like to start by seeing your own
Gerald Burton began to feel very uncomfortable. Under pleasanter, more
normal circumstances he would have thoroughly enjoyed a long exhaustive
inspection of a house which had probably been remodelled, early in the
eighteenth century, on the site of a mediaeval building.
For the first time since he had begun to study with a view to excelling in
the profession he had himself chosen, he had forgotten his work—the work
he so much enjoyed—for three whole days. This Perquisition brought some of
the old interest back. As an architect he could not but be interested and
stimulated by this intimate inspection of what had been a magnificent
specimen of a French town mansion.
When the search party reached the bed-chamber of the hotel-keeper and his
wife Gerald Burton drew back, but Madame Poulain gave him a smart tap on
the arm. "Go in, go in!" she said tartly, but he saw there were tears in
her eyes. "We have nothing to hide, Monsieur Gerald! This is my room of
memories; the room where our beloved Virginie was born. Little did I think
it would ever be dishonoured by the presence of the police!"
Gerald, thus objurgated, walked through into a large room, low-ceilinged as
are all rooms situated on the entresol floor of a Paris house.
Over the bed hung Madame Poulain's wedding wreath of artificial orange
blossoms in a round glass case. Photographs of the beloved Virginie taken
at various stages of her life, from infancy to girlhood, were the sole
other adornment of the room, and formed an odd contrast to the delicately
carved frames of the old dim mirrors let into grey panelled walls.
"What have we here?" cried the Police Agent tapping one of the panels which
formed the wall opposite the door and the fireplace.
"It is a way through into our daughter's room," said Poulain sullenly, and
opening what appeared to be a cupboard door.
The American took an eager step forward.
This must be the place in which, according to Nancy's account, John Dampier
had stood concealed during that eventful moment when he, Gerald, and his
sister Daisy, had stood looking into the tiny room.
Yes, two or three people might well stand hidden in this deep recess, for
the cupboard was almost as large as the smaller of the two apartments of
which it formed the connecting link.
The Police Agent, following young Burton, stepped down into Virginie's
room:—his voice softened:—"A very charming room," he said, "this little
nest of mademoiselle your daughter!"
"We had to cut a window out of the wall," observed Madame Poulain, "When we
first came here this was a blind closet where the aristocrats, it seems,
used to powder their hair—silly creatures that they were! As if anyone
would like to be white before their time!"
"We had better go up this staircase," said the Police Agent, passing out of
Mademoiselle Poulain's room.
And the six of them all filed up the narrow staircase, glancing into many a
curious, strange little apartment on the way.
Every inch of space had been utilised in view of the business the
Exhibition rush had brought the Poulains. Still, even on the upper floors,
Gerald Burton noticed that there remained intact many beautiful suites of
apartments now divided and let out as single rooms.
Not a word had been said of the coming Perquisition to those staying in the
hotel. But Madame Poulain, by some means best known to herself, had managed
to get rid of them all for the morning. And it was well that she had done
so, for in more than one case the Police Agent and his men lifted the lid
of travelling trunks, unhesitatingly pulled out drawers, and flung open the
doors of hanging cupboards.
Gerald Burton was in turn amused, interested, and disgusted. The glimpses
which this search revealed into other people's lives seemed dishonourable,
and instinctively he withdrew his gaze and strove to see as little
Having thoroughly examined all the street side of the Hôtel Saint Ange, the
three police emissaries started their investigations on the other side of
the quadrangle, that which gave on the courtyard and on the garden.
When the party came round to the rooms occupied by Senator Burton and his
family, Madame Poulain came forward, and touched the Police Agent on the
arm:—"The lady who imagines that we have made away with her husband is
here," she whispered. "You had better knock at the door, and then walk
straight in. She will not be pleased—perhaps she will scream—English
people are so prudish when they are in bed! But never mind what she says or
does: there is no reason why her room should not be searched as well as
that of everybody else."
But the woman's vengeful wish was to remain ungratified.
Nancy Dampier had dressed, and with Daisy's help she had even made her bed.
The Police Agent—Gerald Burton was deeply grateful to him for it—treated
her with consideration and respect.
"C'est bien! C'est bien! madame," he said, just glancing round the room,
and making a quick sign to his men that their presence was not
At last the weary party, for by that time they were all very weary, reached
the top floor of the Hôtel Saint Ange.
Here were rough garrets, oppressively hot on a day like this, but each and
all obviously serving some absent client of the hotel as temporary
Madame Poulain looked quite exhausted. "I think," she said plaintively, "I
will remain here, monsieur, at the end of the passage. You will find every
door unlocked. Perhaps we ought to tell you that these rooms are not as a
rule inhabited, or indeed used by us in any way. That must excuse their
present condition. But in a season like this—well, dame! we could fill
every cranny twice over!"
Gerald and the three Frenchmen walked along the corridor, the latter
flinging open door after door of the curious cell-like little bedrooms
furnished for the most part with only an iron bed, a couple of chairs, and
the usual walnut-wood wardrobe.
"What's this?" asked one of the men sharply. "We find a door plastered up
here, Monsieur Poulain."
But it was Madame Poulain who came languidly forward from the end of the
passage. "Yes," she said. "If you wish to see that room you will have to
get a ladder and climb up from the outside. A young Breton priest died here
last January from scarlet fever, monsieur—" she lowered her voice
instinctively—"and the sanitary authorities forced us to block up the room
in this way—most unfortunately for us."
"It is strange," said the man, "that the seal of the sanitary authorities
is not affixed to the door."
"To tell you the truth," said Madame Poulain uncomfortably, "the seal was
there, but I removed it. You see, monsieur, it would not have been
pleasant, even when all danger of infection was gone, to say anything to
our other clients about so sad an event."
The man nodded his head, and went on.
But the incident made a disagreeable impression on Gerald Burton. And when
they all finally came down to the courtyard, the Police Agents being by
this time on far better terms with Monsieur and Madame Poulain than they
had been at the beginning—on such good terms indeed that they were more
than willing to attack the refreshments the hotel-keeper had made ready for
them—he drew the head Agent aside.
"There was one thing," he said, "which rather troubled me—"
The man looked at him attentively. "Yes, monsieur?" He realised that this
young man, whom he took for an Englishman, had been present on behalf of
the people at whose request the Perquisition had been ordered. He was
therefore inclined to treat him with civility.
"I mean that closed room on the top floor," said Gerald hesitatingly. "Is
there no way of ascertaining whether Madame Poulain's story is
true—whether, that is, the room was ever condemned by the sanitary
"Yes," said the Agent, "nothing is easier, monsieur, than to find that
He took a note-book out of his pocket, tore out a sheet, and wrote a few
lines on it. Then he called one of his subordinates to him and said a few
words of which Gerald caught the sense. It was an order to go to the office
of the sanitary inspector of the district and bring back an answer at once.
In a quarter of an hour the man was back.
"The answer is 'Yes,'" he said a little breathlessly, and he handed his
chief a large sheet of paper, headed:
VILLE DE PARIS,
Sanitary Inspector's Department.
In answer to your question, I have to report that we did condemn a room
in the Hôtel Saint Ange for cause of infectious disease.
The Police Agent handed it to Gerald Burton. "I felt sure that in that
matter," he observed, "Madame Poulain was telling the truth. But, of
course, a Perquisition in a house of this kind is a mere farce, without a
plan to guide us. Think of the strange winding passages along which we were
led, of the blind rooms, of the deep cupboards into which we peeped! For
all we can tell, several apartments may have entirely escaped our
"Do you make many of these Perquisitions?" asked Gerald curiously.
"No, monsieur. We are very seldom asked to search a whole house. Almost
always we have some indication as to the special room or rooms which are to
be investigated. In fact since I became attached to the police, six years
ago, this is the first time I have ever had to carry out a thorough
Perquisition," he laughed a little ruefully, "and it makes one dry!"
Gerald Burton took the hint. He put a twenty-franc piece into the man's
hand. "For you and your men," he said. "Go and get a good lunch: I am sure
you need it."
The Police Agent thanked him cordially. "One word, monsieur? Perhaps I
ought to tell you that we of the police are quite sure that the gentleman
about whom you are anxious left this hotel—if indeed he was ever in it.
The Poulains bear a very good character—better than that of many
hotel-keepers of whom I could tell you—better than that of certain
hotel-keepers who own grand international hotels the other side of the
river. Of course I had to be rough with them at first—one has to keep up
one's character, you know. But, monsieur? I was told confidentially that
this Perquisition would probably lead to nothing, and, as you see, it has
led to nothing."
Gerald sighed, rather wearily, for he too was tired, he too would be glad
of his luncheon. Yes, this search had been, as the Police Agent hinted,
something of a farce after all, and he had led not only himself, but, what
he regretted far more, poor Nancy Dampier down a blind alley.
He found her waiting, feverishly eager and anxious to hear the result of
the Perquisition. When the door of the salon opened, she got up and turned
to him, a strained look on her face.
"Well?" she said. "Well, Mr. Burton?"
He shook his head despondently. "We found nothing, absolutely nothing which
could connect your husband with any one of the rooms which we searched,
Mrs. Dampier. If, after leaving you, he did spend the night in the Hôtel
Saint Ange, the Poulains have obliterated every trace of his presence."
She gave a low cry of pain, of bitter disappointment, and suddenly sinking
down into a chair, buried her head in her hands—"I can't bear it," she
wailed. "I only want to know the truth, whatever the truth may be! Anything
would be better than what I am going through now."
Gerald Burton came and stood by the bowed figure. He became curiously pale
with that clear, not unhealthy, pallor which is induced by exceptional
intensity of feeling.
"Mrs. Dampier?" he said, in a very low voice.
She lifted her head and looked at him fixedly.
"Everything that a man can do I will do to find your husband. If I fail to
find him living I will find him dead."
But it is far easier to form such a resolution and to make such a promise
as that which Gerald Burton had made to Nancy Dampier than it is to
carry it out.
The officials of the Prefecture of Police grew well accustomed to the sight
of the tall, good-looking young American coming and going in their midst,
and they all showed a sympathetic interest in his quest. But though the
police officials were lavish in kindly words, and in permits and passes
which he found an open sesame to the various places where it was just
conceivable that John Dampier, after having met with some kind of accident,
might have been carried, they were apparently quite unable to elucidate the
growing mystery of the English artist's disappearance.
Early on the Friday morning Gerald Burton telephoned to Nancy Dampier's
friend and lawyer the fact that they were still entirely without any clue
to the whereabouts of the missing man. And, true to his word, Mr. Stephens
arrived in Paris that same evening.
He found his poor young client awaiting him in the company of the new
friends to whom she owed so deep a debt of gratitude, and this lessened, to
a certain extent, the awkwardness of their meeting. Even so, the shrewd,
kindly Englishman felt much shocked and distressed by the change which had
taken place in Nancy.
Just a month ago he had seen her standing, most radiant as well as
prettiest of brides, by her proud husband's side. Perhaps because she had
had so lonely a girlhood there had been no tears at Nancy Tremain's
wedding, and when he had put her in the carriage which was to be the first
little stage of her honeymoon, she had whispered, "Mr. Stephens? I feel as
if I was going home." And the lawyer had known all that the dear, to her
till then unfamiliar, word—had meant to her.
And now, here she was with strangers, wan, strained and unutterably
weary-looking; as she stood, her hand clasped in his, looking, with dumb
anguish, up into his face, Mr. Stephens felt a thrill of intense anger
against John Dampier. For the present, at any rate, he refused to entertain
the theory of crime or accident. But he kept his thoughts entirely
The irruption of any human being into a small and, for any reason, closely
welded together set of people produces much the same effect as does the
addition of a new product to a chemical mixture. And the arrival of the
English lawyer affected not only Nancy herself but, in varying ways,
Senator Burton and his son.
A very few moments spent in the Englishman's company brought to the
American Senator an immense measure of relief. For one thing, he was
sincerely glad to know that the poor young stranger's business was about to
pass into capable and evidently most trustworthy hands: also a rapid
interchange of words the first time they were left alone together put an
end, and that for ever, to Senator Burton's uneasy suspicions—suspicions
which had persisted to the end—as to Mrs. Dampier's account of herself.
Whatever else was obscure in this strange story, it was now clear that
Nancy had told nothing but the truth concerning her short, simple past
life. And looking back the Senator found it difficult, as a man so often
finds it difficult when he becomes wise after an event, to justify, even to
himself, his former attitude of distrust.
As to Gerald Burton, he felt a little jealousy of the lawyer. Till the
coming of Mr. Stephens it was to him that Mrs. Dampier had instinctively
turned in her distress and suspense; now she naturally consulted, and
deferred to the advice of, the older man and older friend.
But Mr. Stephens was not able to do more than had already been done. He
listened to what all those about him had to say concerning John Dampier's
disappearance, and he carefully went over the ground already covered by
Senator Burton and his son. He, too, saw the British Consul; he, too, was
granted a short but cordial interview with the Prefect of Police; but not
even to the Senator did he advance any personal theory as to what could
account for the extraordinary occurrence.
Members of the legal profession are the same all the world over. If they
are wise men and good lawyers, they keep their own counsel.
Perhaps because he himself had a son who was Gerald's age, the English
solicitor took, from the first, a very special interest in the young
American architect. Soon they were on excellent terms with one
another—indeed, it was with Gerald Burton that he found he had most to do.
The young man naturally accompanied him to all those places where the
presence of a first-rate interpreter was likely to be useful, and Gerald
Burton also pursued a number of independent enquiries on his own account.
But nothing was of any avail; they were baffled at every turn, and soon
this search for a vanished man became, to one of the two now so strenuously
engaged in it, the most sinister and disturbing of the many problems with
which he had had to deal as a trusted family lawyer.
The screen of memory bears many blurred and hazy impressions on its
surface, but now and again some special dramatic happening remains fixed
there in a series of sharply-etched pictures in which every line has its
retrospective meaning and value.
Such was to be the case with Mr. Stephens and the curious days he spent in
Paris seeking for John Dampier. He was there a whole week, and every
succeeding day was packed with anxious, exciting interviews and
expeditions, each of which it was hoped might yield some sort of clue. But
what remained indelibly fixed on the English lawyer's screen of memory were
three or four at the time apparently insignificant conversations which in
no case could have done much to solve the problem he had set himself
The first of these was a short conversation, in the middle of that busy
week, with Nancy Dampier.
After the first interview in which she had told him her version of what had
happened the night of her own and her husband's arrival in Paris, he had
had very little talk with her, and at no time had he expressed any opinion
as to what could have happened to John Dampier. But at last he felt it his
duty to try and probe a little more than he had felt it at first possible
to do into the question of a possible motive or motives.
"I'm afraid," he began, "that there's very little more to do than has been
already done. I mean, of course, for the present. And in your place, Nancy,
I should come back to England, and wait there for any news that may
As she shook her head very decidedly, he went on gravely:—"I know it is
open to you to remain in Paris; but, my dear, I cannot believe that your
husband is in Paris. If he were, we must by now, with the help of the
French police—the most expert in the world, remember—have come across
traces of him, and that whether he be dead or alive."
But Nancy did not take the meaning he had hoped to convey by that last
word. On the contrary:—
"Do you think," she asked, and though her lips quivered she spoke very
quietly, "that Jack is dead, Mr. Stephens? I know that Senator Burton's son
has come to believe that he is."
"No," said the English lawyer very seriously, "no, Nancy, I do not believe
that your husband is dead. It is clear that had he been killed or injured
that first morning in the Paris streets we should know it by now. The
police assert, and I have no reason to doubt them, that they have made
every kind of enquiry. No, they, like me, believe that your husband has
"Left Paris?" repeated Nancy in a bewildered tone.
"Yes, my dear. As to his motive in doing so—I suppose—forgive me for
asking you such a question—I suppose that you and he were on quite
comfortable and—well, happy terms together?"
Nancy looked at him amazed—and a look of great pain and indignation
flashed into her face.
"Why of course we were!" she faltered. "Absolutely—ideally happy! You
didn't know Jack, Mr. Stephens; you were always prejudiced against him.
Why, he's never said—I won't say an unkind word, but a cold or indifferent
word since our first meeting. We never even had what is called"—again her
lips quivered—'"a lovers' quarrel.'"
"Forgive me," he said earnestly. "I had to ask you. The question as to what
kind of relations you and he were on when you arrived in Paris has been
raised by almost every human being whom I have seen in the last few days."
"How horrible! How horrible!" murmured Nancy, hiding her face in her hands.
Then she raised her head, and looked straight at the lawyer:—"Tell anyone
that asks you that," she exclaimed, "that no woman was ever made happier by
a man than my Jack made me. We were too happy. He said so that last
evening—he said," she ended her sentence with a sob, "that his happiness
made him afraid—"
"Did he?" questioned Mr. Stephens thoughtfully. "That was an odd thing for
him to say, Nancy."
But she took no notice of the remark. Instead she, in her turn, asked a
question:—"Do the police think that Jack may have left me of his own
Mr. Stephens looked extremely uncomfortable. "Well, some of them have
thought that it is a possibility which should be kept in view."
"But you do not think so?" She looked at him searchingly.
The lawyer's courage failed him.
"No, of course not," he said hastily, and poor little Nancy believed him.
"And now," he went on quickly, relieved indeed to escape from a painful and
difficult subject, "I, myself, must go home on Saturday. Cannot I persuade
you to come back to England with me? My wife would be delighted if you
would come to us—and for as long as you like."
She hesitated—"No, Mr. Stephens, you are very, very kind, but I would
rather remain on in Paris for a while. Miss Burton has asked me to stay
with them till they leave for America. Once they are gone, if I still have
no news, I will do what you wish. I will come back to England."
The second episode, if episode it can be called, which was to remain
vividly present in the memory of the lawyer, took place on the fifth day of
his stay in Paris.
He and Gerald had exhausted what seemed every possible line of enquiry,
when the latter put in plain words what, in deference to his father's wish,
he had hitherto tried to conceal from Mr. Stephens—his suspicions of
"I haven't said so to you before," he began abruptly, "but I feel quite
sure that this Mr. John Dampier is dead."
He spoke the serious words in low, impressive tones, and the words, the
positive assertion, queerly disturbed Nancy's lawyer, and that though he
did not in the least share in his companion's view. But still he felt
disturbed, perhaps unreasonably so considering how very little he still
knew of the speaker. He was indeed almost as disturbed as he would have
been had it been his own son who had suddenly put forward a wrong and
indeed an untenable proposition.
He turned and faced Gerald Burton squarely.
"I cannot agree with you," he spoke with considerable energy, "and I am
sorry you have got such a notion in your mind. I am quite sure that John
Dampier is alive. He may be in confinement somewhere, held to
ransom—things of that sort have happened in Paris before now. But be that
as it may, it is my firm conviction that we shall have news of him within a
comparatively short time. Of course I cannot help seeing what you suspect,
namely, that there has been foul play on the part of the Poulains. But no
other human being holds this theory but yourself. Your father—you must
forgive me for saying so—has known these people a great deal longer than
you have, and he tells me he would stake everything on their substantial
integrity. And the police speak very highly of them too. Besides, in this
world one must look for a motive—indeed, one must always look for a
motive. But in this case no one that we know—I repeat, Mr. Burton, no one
that we know of—had any motive for injuring Mr. Dampier."
Gerald Burton looked up quickly:—"You mean by that there may be someone
whom we do not know of who may have had a motive for spiriting him away?"
Mr. Stephens nodded curtly. He had not meant to say even so much as that.
"I want you to tell me," went on the young American earnestly, "exactly
what sort of a man this John Dampier is—or was?"
The lawyer took off his spectacles; he began rubbing the glasses carefully.
"Well," he said at last, "that isn't a question I find it easy to answer. I
made a certain number of enquiries about him when he became engaged to Miss
Tremain, and I am bound to tell you, Mr. Burton, that the answers, as far
as they went, were quite satisfactory. The gentleman in whose house the two
met—I mean poor Nancy and Dampier—had, and has, an extremely high
opinion of him."
"Mrs. Dampier once spoke to me as if she thought you did not like her
husband?" Gerald Burton looked straight before him as he said the words he
felt ashamed of uttering. And yet—and yet he did so want to know the truth
as to John Dampier!
Mr. Stephens looked mildly surprised. "I don't think I ever gave her any
reason to suppose such a thing," he said hesitatingly. "Mr. Dampier was
eager, as all men in love are eager, to hasten on the marriage. You see,
Mr. Burton"—he paused, and Gerald looked up quickly:—
"Yes, Mr. Stephens?"
"Well, to put it plainly, John Dampier was madly in love"—the speaker
thought his companion winced, and, rather sorry than glad at the success of
his little ruse, he hurried on:—"that being so he naturally wished to be
married at once. But an English marriage settlement—especially when the
lady has the money, which was the case with Miss Tremain—cannot be drawn
up in a few days. Nancy herself was willing to assent to everything he
wished; in fact I had to point out to her that it is impossible to get
engaged on Monday and married on Tuesday! I suppose she thought that
because I very properly objected to some such scheme of theirs, I disliked
John Dampier. This was a most unreasonable conclusion, Mr. Burton!"
Gerald Burton felt disappointed. He did not believe that the English lawyer
was answering truly. He did not stay to reflect that Mr. Stephens was not
bound to answer indiscreet questions, and that when a young man asks an
older man whether or no he dislikes someone, and that someone is a client,
the question is certainly indiscreet.
In a small way the painful mystery was further complicated by the attitude
of Mère Bideau. Bribes and threats were alike unavailing to make the old
Breton woman open her mouth. She was full of suspicion; she refused to
answer the simplest questions put to her by either Mr. Stephens or
And the lawyer felt a moment of sharp impatience, as business men are so
often apt to feel in their dealings with women, when, in answer to his
remark that Mère Bideau would be brought to her knees when she found her
supplies cut off, Nancy, with tears running down her cheeks, cried out in
protest:—"Oh, Mr. Stephens, don't say that! I would far rather go on
paying the old woman for ever than that she should be brought, as you say,
to her knees. She was such a good servant to Jack: he is—he was—so
fond of her."
But Mère Bideau's attitude greatly disconcerted and annoyed the Englishman.
He wondered if the old woman knew more than she would admit; he even
suspected her of knowing the whereabouts of her master; the more
impenetrable became the mystery, the less Mr. Stephens believed Dampier
to be dead.
And then, finally, on the last day of his stay in Paris something happened
which, to the lawyer's mind, confirmed his view that John Dampier, having
vanished of his own free will, was living and well—though he hoped not
happy—away from the great city which had been searched, or so the police
assured the Englishman, with a thoroughness which had never been surpassed
if indeed it had ever been equalled.
With Mr. Stephens' morning coffee there appeared an envelope bearing his
name and a French stamp, as well of course as the address of the obscure
little hotel where the Burtons had found him a room.
The lawyer looked down at the envelope with great surprise. The address was
written in a round, copybook hand, and it was clear his name must have been
copied out of an English law list.
Who in Paris could be writing to him—who, for the matter of that, knew
where he was staying, apart from his own family and his London office?
He broke the seal and saw that the sheet of notepaper he took from the
envelope was headed "Préfecture de Police." Hitherto the police had
addressed all their communications to the Hôtel Saint Ange.
The letter ran as follows:
I am requested by the official who has the Dampier affair in hand to
ask you if you will come here this afternoon at three o'clock. As I
shall be present and can act as interpreter, it will not be necessary
for you to be accompanied as you were before.
What an extraordinary thing! Up to the present time Mr. Stephens had not
communicated with a single police official able to speak colloquial
English; it was that fact which had made him find Gerald Burton so
invaluable an auxiliary. But this letter might have been written by an
Englishman, though the signature showed it to be from a foreigner, and from
a Pole, or possibly a Russian.
Were the police at last on the trail of the missing man? Mr. Stephens'
well-regulated heart began to beat quicker at the thought. But if so, how
strange that the Prefect of Police had not communicated with the Hôtel
Saint Ange last night! Monsieur Beaucourt had promised that the smallest
scrap of news should be at once transmitted to John Dampier's wife.
Well, there was evidently nothing for it but to wait with what patience he
could muster till the afternoon; and it was characteristic of Nancy's legal
friend that he said nothing of his mysterious appointment to either the
Burtons or to Mrs. Dampier. It was useless to raise hopes which might so
easily be disappointed.
Three o'clock found Mr. Stephens at the Prefecture of Police.
"Ivan Baroff" turned out to be a polished and agreeable person who at once
frankly explained that he belonged to the International Police. Indeed
while shaking hands with his visitor he observed pleasantly, "This is not
the kind of work with which I have, as a rule, anything to do, but my
colleagues have asked me to see you, Mr. Stephens, because I have lived in
England, and am familiar with your difficult language. I wish to entertain
you on a rather delicate matter. I am sure I may count on your discretion,
and, may I add, your sympathy?"
The English lawyer looked straight at the suave-spoken detective. What the
devil did the man mean? "Certainly," said he, "certainly you can count on
my discretion, Monsieur Baroff, and—and my sympathy. I hope I am not
unreasonable in hoping that at last the police have obtained some kind of
due to Mr. Dampier's whereabouts."
"No," said the other indifferently. "That I regret to tell you is not the
case; they are, however, prosecuting their enquiries with the greatest
zeal—of hat you may rest assured."
"So I have been told again and again," Mr. Stephens spoke rather
impatiently. "It seems strange—I think I may say so to you who are, like
myself, a foreigner—it seems strange, I say, that the French police, who
are supposed to be so extraordinarily clever, should have failed to find
even a trace of this missing man. Mr. John Dampier can't have vanished from
the face of the earth: dead or alive, he must be somewhere!"
"There is of course no proof at all that Mr. Dampier ever arrived in
Paris," observed the detective significantly.
"No, there is no actual proof that he did so," replied the English
solicitor frankly. "There I agree! But there is ample proof that he was
coming to Paris. And, as I suppose you know, the Paris police have
satisfied themselves that Mr. and Mrs. Dampier stayed both in Marseilles
and in Lyons."
"Yes, I am aware of that; as also—" he checked himself. "But what I have
to say to you to-day, my dear sir, is only indirectly concerned with Mr.
Dampier's disappearance. I am really here to ask if you cannot exert your
influence with the Burton family, with the American Senator, that is, and
more particularly with his son, to behave in a reasonable manner."
"I don't quite understand what you mean."
"Well, it is not so very easy to explain! All I can say is that young Mr.
Burton is making himself very officious, and very disagreeable. He has
adopted a profession which here, at the Prefecture of Police, we naturally
detest"—the Russian smiled, but not at all pleasantly—"I mean that of the
amateur detective! He is determined to find Mr. Dampier—or perhaps it
would be more true to say"—he shrugged his shoulders—"that he wishes—the
wish perhaps being, as you so cleverly say in England, father to the
thought—to be quite convinced of that unfortunate gentleman's obliteration
from life. He has brought himself to believe—but perhaps he has already
told you what he thinks—?"
He waited a moment.
But the English lawyer made no sign of having understood what the other
wished to imply. "They have all talked to me," he said mildly, "Senator
Burton, Mr. Burton, Miss Burton; every conceivable possibility has been
discussed by us."
"Indeed? Well, with so many clever people all trying together it would be
strange if not one hit upon the truth!" The detective spoke with
"Perhaps we have hit upon it," said Mr. Stephens suddenly. "What do you
think, Monsieur Baroff?"
"I do not think at all!" he said pettishly. "I am far too absorbed in my
own tiresome job—that of keeping my young Princes and Grand Dukes out of
scrapes—to trouble about this peculiar affair. But to return to what I was
saying. You are of course aware that Mr. Gerald Burton is convinced, and
very foolishly convinced (for there is not an atom of proof, or of anything
likely to lead to proof), that this Mr. Dampier was murdered, if not by the
Poulains, then by some friend of theirs in the Hôtel Saint Ange. The
foolish fellow has as good as said so to more than one of our officials."
"I know such is Mr. Burton's theory," answered Mr. Stephens frankly, "and
it is one very difficult to shake. In fact I may tell you that I have
already tried to make him see the folly of the notion, and how it is almost
certainly far from the truth."
"It is not only far from the truth, it is absolutely untrue," said the
Russian impressively. "But what I now wish to convey to the young man is
that should he be so ill-advised as to do what he is thinking of doing he
will make it very disagreeable for the lady in whom he takes so strangely
violent an interest—"
"What exactly do you mean, Monsieur Baroff?"
"This Mr. Gerald Burton is thinking of enlisting the help of the American
newspaper men in Paris. He wishes them to raise the question in their
"I do not think he would do that without consulting his father or me," said
Mr. Stephens quickly. He felt dismayed by the other's manner. Monsieur
Baroff's tone had become menacing, almost discourteous.
"Should this headstrong young man do anything of that kind," went on the
detective, "he will put an end to the efforts we are making to find Mrs.
Dampier's husband. In fact I think I may say that if the mystery is never
solved, it will be thanks to his headstrong folly and belief in himself."
With this the disagreeable interview came to an end, and though the English
lawyer never confided the details of this curious conversation to any
living soul, he did make an opportunity of conveying Ivan Baroff's warning
to Gerald Burton.
"Before leaving Paris," he said earnestly, "there is one thing I want to
impress upon you, Mr. Burton. Do not let any newspaper people get hold of
this story; I can imagine nothing that would more distress poor Mrs.
Dampier. She would be exposed to very odious happenings if this
disappearance of her husband were made, in any wide sense of the word,
public. And then I need not tell you that the Paris Police have a very
great dislike to press publicity; they are doing their very best—of that I
am convinced—to probe the mystery."
Gerald Burton hesitated. "I should have thought," he said, "that it would
at least be worth while to offer a reward in all the Paris papers. I find
that such rewards are often offered in England, Mr. Stephens."
"Yes—they are. And very, very seldom with any good result," answered the
lawyer drily. "In fact all the best minds concerned with the question of
crime have a great dislike to the reward system. Not once in a hundred
cases is it of any use. In fact it is only valuable when it may induce a
criminal to turn 'King's evidence.' But in this case I pray you to believe
me when I say that we are not seeking to discover the track of any
criminal—" in his own mind he added the words, "unless we take John
Dampier to be one!"
It was on the morning of Mr. Stephens' departure from Paris, in fact when
he and Senator Burton, who had gone to see him off, were actually in the
station, walking up and down the Salle des Pas Perdus, that the lawyer
uttered the words which finally made up the American Senator's mind
"You have been so more than good to Mrs. Dampier," the Englishman said
earnestly, "that I do not feel it would be fair, Mr. Senator, to leave you
in ignorance of my personal conviction concerning this painful affair."
The American turned and looked at his companion. "Yes?" he said with
suppressed eagerness. "Yes, Mr. Stephens, I shall be sincerely grateful for
your honest opinion."
They had all three—he and Daisy and Gerald—tried to make this Englishman
say what he really thought, but with a courtesy that was sometimes grave,
sometimes smiling, Mr. Stephens had eluded their surely legitimate
Even now the lawyer hesitated, but at last he spoke out what he believed to
be the truth.
"It is my honest opinion that this disappearance of Mr. Dampier is painful
rather than mysterious. I believe that poor Nancy Tremain's bridegroom,
actuated by some motive to which we may never have the clue, made up his
mind to disappear. When faced with responsibilities for which they have no
mind men before now have often disappeared, Mr. Senator. Lawyers and
doctors, if their experience extend over a good many years, come across
stories even more extraordinary than that which has been concerning
"I take it," said Senator Burton slowly, "that you did not form a good
impression of this Mr. Dampier?"
The lawyer again hesitated, much as he had hesitated when asked the same
question by young Burton, but this time he answered quite truthfully.
"Well, no, I did not! True, he seemed entirely indifferent as to how the
money of his future wife was settled; indeed I could not help feeling that
he was culpably careless about the whole matter. But even so I had one or
two very disagreeable interviews with him. You see, Senator Burton, the man
was madly in love; he had persuaded poor Nancy to be married at once—and
by at once I mean within a fortnight of their engagement. He seemed
strangely afraid of losing her, and I keenly resented this feeling on his
part, for a more loyal little soul doesn't live. She has quite a nice
fortune, you know, and for my part I should have liked her to marry some
honest country gentleman in her own country—not an artist living
"You don't attach much importance to love, Mr. Stephens?"
The lawyer laughed. "Quite enough!" he exclaimed. "Love causes more trouble
in the world than everything else put together—at any rate it does to
members of my profession. But to return to poor Nancy. She's a fascinating
little creature!" He shot a quick glance at Senator Burton, but the latter
only said cordially:—
"Yes, as fascinating as she's pretty!"
"Well, she had plenty of chances of making a good marriage—but no one
touched her heart till this big, ugly fellow came along. So of course I had
to make the best of it!" He waited a moment and then went on. "I ought to
tell you that at my suggestion Dampier took out a large insurance policy on
his own life: I didn't think it right that he should bring, as it were,
nothing into settlement, the more so that Nancy had insisted, on her side,
that all her money should go to him at her death, and that whether they had
any children or not! You know what women are?" he shrugged his shoulders.
"If that be so," observed the Senator, "then money can have had nothing to
do with his disappearance."
"I'm not so sure of that! In fact I've been wondering uneasily during the
last few days whether, owing to his being an artist, and to his having
lived so much abroad, John Dampier could have been foolish enough to
suppose that in the case of his disappearance the insurance money would be
paid over to Mrs. Dampier. That, of course, would be one important reason
why he should wish to obliterate himself as completely as he seems to have
done. I need hardly tell you, Mr. Senator, that the Insurance Office would
laugh in my face if I were to try and make them pay. Why, years will have
to elapse before our courts would even consider the probability of death."
"I now understand your view," said the Senator gravely. "But even if it be
the true solution, it does not explain the inexplicable difference between
Mrs. Dampier's statement and that of the Poulains—I mean, their statements
as to what happened the night Mr. and Mrs. Dampier arrived in Paris."
"No," said the lawyer reluctantly. "I admit that to me this is the one
inexplicable part of the whole story. And I also confess that as to that
one matter I find it impossible to make up my mind. If I had not known poor
little Nancy all her life, I should believe, knowing what women are capable
of doing if urged thereto by pride or pain—I should believe, I say, that
she had made up this strange story to account for her husband's having left
her! I could tell you more than one tale of a woman having deceived not
only her lawyer, but, later, a judge and a jury, as to such a point of
fact. But from what I know of Mrs. Dampier she would be quite incapable of
inventing, or perhaps what is quite as much to the purpose, of keeping up
such a deception."
"From something my daughter said," observed Senator Burton, "I think you
have been trying to persuade the poor little lady to go back to England?"
"Yes, I tried to make her come back with me to-day. And I am bound to say
that I succeeded better than I expected to do, for though she refuses to
come now, she does intend to do so when you yourselves leave Paris, Mr.
Senator. Fortunately she does not know what sort of a time she will come
back to: I fear that most of her friends will feel exactly as I feel; they
will not believe that John Dampier has disappeared save of his own free
will—and some of them will suppose it their duty to tell her so!"
"It is the view evidently held by the French police," observed the Senator.
The English lawyer shrugged his shoulders. "Of course it is! The fact that
Dampier had hardly any money on him disposes of any crime theory. A
wonderful thing the Paris police system, Mr. Burton!"
And the other cordially agreed; nothing could have been more courteous,
more kind, more intelligent, than the behaviour of the high police
officials, from the Prefect himself downwards, over the whole business.
Mr. Stephens glanced up at the huge station clock. "I have only five
minutes left," he said. "But I want to say again how much I appreciate your
extraordinary kindness and goodness to my poor client. And, Mr. Senator?
There's just one thing more I want to say to you—" For the first time the
English lawyer looked awkward and ill at ease.
"Why yes, Mr. Stephens! Pray say anything you like."
"Well, my dear sir, I should like to give you a very sincere piece of
advice." He hesitated. "If I were you I should go back to America as soon
as possible. I feel this sad affair has thoroughly spoilt your visit to
Paris; and speaking as a man who has children himself, I am sure it has not
been well, either for Miss Daisy or for your son, to have become absorbed,
as they could hardly help becoming, in this distressing business."
The American felt slightly puzzled by the seriousness with which the other
delivered this well-meant but wholly superfluous advice. What just exactly
did the lawyer mean by these solemnly delivered words?
"Why," said the Senator, "you're quite right, Mr. Stephens; it has been an
ordeal, especially for my girl Daisy: she hasn't had air and exercise
enough during this last fortnight, let alone change of thought and scene.
But, as a matter of fact, I am settling about our passages to-day, on my
way back to the hotel."
"I am very glad to hear that!" exclaimed the other, with far more
satisfaction and relief in his voice than seemed warranted. "And I presume
that your son will find lots of work awaiting him on his return home?
There's nothing like work to chase cobwebs from the brain or—or heart,
"That's true: not that there are many cobwebs in my boy's brain, Mr.
Stephens," he smiled broadly at the notion.
"Messieurs! Mesdames! En voiture, s'il vous plait. En voiture—!"
A few minutes later Mr. Stephens waved his hand from his railway carriage,
and as he did so he wondered if he himself had ever been as obtuse a father
as his new American friend seemed to be.
As he walked away from the station Senator Burton made up his mind to go
back on foot, taking the office of the Transatlantic Steamship Company on
his way. And while he sauntered through the picturesque, lively streets of
the Paris he loved with so familiar and appreciative an admiration, the
American found his thoughts dwelling on the events of the last fortnight.
Yes, it had been a strange, an extraordinary experience—one which he and
his children would never forget, which they would often talk over in days
to come. Poor little Nancy Dampier! His kind, fatherly heart went out to
her with a good deal of affection, and yes, of esteem. She had behaved with
wonderful courage and good sense—and with dignity too, when one remembered
the extraordinary position in which she had been placed with regard to
The Poulains? For the hundredth time he wondered where the truth really
lay…. But he soon dismissed the difficult problem, for now he had reached
the offices of the French Transatlantic Company. There the Senator's
official rank caused him to be treated with very special civility; at once
he was assured that three passages would be reserved for him on practically
what boat he liked: he suggested the Lorraine, sailing in ten days time,
and he had the satisfaction of seeing good cabins booked in his name.
And as he walked away, slightly cheered, as men are apt to be, by the
pleasant deference paid to his wishes, he told himself that before leaving
Paris he must arrange for a cable to be at once dispatched should there
come any news of the mysterious, and at once unknown and familiar, John
Dampier. Mrs. Dampier would surely find his request a natural one, the more
so that Daisy and Gerald would be just as eager to hear news as he himself
would be. He had never known anything take so firm a hold of his son's and
On reaching the Hôtel Saint Ange the Senator went over to Madame Poulain's
kitchen; it was only right to give her the date of their departure as soon
"Well," he said with a touch of regret in his voice, "we shall soon be
going off now, Madame Poulain. Next Tuesday-week you will have to wish us
And instead of seeing the good woman's face cloud over, as it had always
hitherto clouded over, when he had sought her out to say that their stay in
Paris was drawing to a close, he saw a look of intense relief, of
undisguised joy, flash into her dark expressive eyes, and that though she
observed civilly, "Quel dommage, Monsieur le Sénateur, that you cannot stay
a little longer!"
He moved away abruptly, feeling unreasonably mortified.
But Senator Burton was a very just man; he prided himself on his fairness
of outlook; and now he reminded himself quickly that their stay at the
Hôtel Saint Ange had not brought unmixed good fortune to the Poulains. It
was natural that Madame Poulain should long to see the last of them—at any
rate this time.
He found Gerald alone, seated at a table, intent on a letter he was
writing. Daisy, it seemed, had persuaded Mrs. Dampier to go out for a walk
"Well, my boy, we shall have to make the best of the short time remaining
to us in Paris. I have secured passages in the Lorraine, and so we now only
have till Tuesday-week to see everything in Paris which this unhappy affair
has prevented our seeing during the last fortnight."
And then it was that the something happened, that the irreparable words
were spoken, which suddenly and most rudely opened the Senator's eyes to a
truth which the English lawyer had seen almost from the first moment of his
stay in Paris.
Gerald Burton started up. His face was curiously pale under its healthy
tan, but the Senator noticed that his son's eyes were extraordinarily
"Father?" He leant across the round table. "I am not going home with you.
In fact I am now writing to Mr. Webb to tell him that he must not expect me
back at the office for the present: I will cable as soon as I can give
him a date."
"Not going home?" repeated Senator Burton. "What do you mean, Gerald? What
is it that should keep you here after we have gone?" but a curious
sensation of fear and dismay was already clutching at the older
"I am never going back—not till John Dampier is found. I have promised
Mrs. Dampier to find him, and that whether he be alive or dead!"
Even then the Senator tried not to understand. Even then he tried to tell
himself that his son was only actuated by some chivalrous notion of keeping
his word, in determining on a course which might seriously damage
He tried quiet expostulation: "Surely, Gerald, you are not serious in
making such a decision? Mrs. Dampier, from what I know of her, would be.
the last to exact from you the fulfilment of so—so unreasonable a promise.
Why, you and I both know quite well that the Paris police, and also Mr.
Stephens, are convinced that this man Dampier just left his wife of his own
"I know they think that! But it's a lie!" cried Gerald with blazing eyes.
"An infamous lie! I should like to see Mr. Stephens dare suggest such a
notion to John Dampier's wife. Not that she is his wife, father, for I'm
sure the man is dead—and I believe—I hope that she's beginning to
think so too!"
"But if Dampier is dead, Gerald, then—" the Senator was beginning to lose
patience, but he was anxious not to lose his temper too, not to make
himself more unpleasant than he must do. "Surely you see yourself, my boy,
that if the man is dead, there's nothing more for you to do here,
"Father, there's everything! The day I make sure that John Dampier is dead
will be the happiest day of my life." His voice had sunk low, he muttered
the last words between his teeth; but alas! the Senator heard them all
"Gerald!" he said gravely. "Gerald? Am I to understand—"
"Father—don't say anything you might be sorry for afterwards! Yes, you
have guessed truly. I love Nancy! If the man is dead—and I trust to God he
is—I hope to marry her some day. If—if you and Mr. Stephens are right—if
he is still alive—well then—" he waited a moment, and that moment was the
longest the Senator had ever known—"then, father, I promise you I will
come home. But in that case I shall never, never marry anybody else. Daisy
knows," went on the young man, unconsciously dealing his father another
bitter blow. "Daisy knows—she guessed, and—she understands."
"And does she approve?" asked the Senator sternly.
"I don't know—I don't care!" cried Gerald fiercely. "I am not looking for
anyone's approval. And, father?" His voice altered, it became what the
other had never heard his son's voice be, suppliant:—"I have trusted you
with my secret—but let it be from now as if I had not spoken. I beg of you
not to discuss it with Daisy—I need not ask you not to speak of it to
The Senator nodded. He was too agitated, too horror-stricken to speak, and
his agitation was not lessened by his son's final words.
It is two years to a day since John Dampier disappeared, and it is only
owing to one man's inflexible determination that the search for him has not
been abandoned long ago.
And now we meet Senator Burton far in body, if not in mind, from the place
where we last met him.
He is standing by an open window, gazing down on one of the fairest sights
civilised nature has to offer—that of an old English garden filled with
fragrant flowers which form scented boundaries of soft brilliant colour to
wide lawns shaded by great cedar trees.
But as he stands there in the early morning sunlight, for it is only six
o'clock, he does not look in harmony with the tranquil beauty of the scene
before him. There is a stern, troubled expression on his face, for he has
just espied two figures walking side by side across the dewy grass; the one
is his son Gerald, the other Nancy Dampier, still in the delicate and
dangerous position of a woman who is neither wife, maid, nor widow.
The Senator's whole expression has changed in the two years. He used to
look a happy, contented man; now, especially when he is alone and his face
is in repose, he has the disturbed, bewildered expression men's faces bear
when Providence or Fate—call it which you will—has treated them in a way
they feel to be unbearably unfair, as well as unexpected.
And yet the majority of mankind would consider this American to be
supremely blessed. The two children he loves so dearly are as fondly
attached to him as ever they were; and there has also befallen him a piece
of quite unexpected good fortune. A distant relation, from whom he had no
expectations, has left him a fortune "as a token of admiration for his high
Senator Burton is now a very rich man, and because Daisy fancied it would
please her brother they have taken for the summer this historic English
manor house, famed all the world over to those interested in mediaeval
architecture, as Barwell Moat.
Here he, Daisy, and Nancy Dampier have already been settled for a week;
Gerald only joined them yesterday from Paris.
Early though it is, the Senator has already been up and dressed over an
hour; and he has spent the time unprofitably, in glancing over his diary of
two years ago, in conning, that is, the record of that strange, exciting
fortnight which so changed his own and his children's lives.
He has read over with pain and distaste the brief words in which he
chronicled that first chance meeting with Nancy Dampier. What excitement,
what adventures, and yes, what bitter sorrow had that chance meeting under
the porte cochère of the Hôtel Saint Ange brought in its train! If only he
and Daisy had started out an hour earlier on that June morning just two
years ago how much they would have been spared.
As for the fortune left to him, Senator Burton is now inclined to think
that it has brought him less than no good. It has only provided Gerald with
an excuse, which to an American father is no excuse, for neglecting his
profession. Further, it has enabled the young man to spend money in a
prodigal fashion over what even he now acknowledges to have been a hopeless
quest, though even at the present moment detectives in every capital in
Europe are watching for a clue which may afford some notion as to the
whereabouts of John Dampier.
John Dampier? Grim, relentless spectre who pursues them unceasingly, and
from whose menacing, shadowy presence they are never free—from whom, so
the Senator has now despairingly come to believe, they never, never will
He had stopped his diary abruptly on the evening of that now far-off day
when his eyes had been so rudely opened to his son's state of mind and
heart. But though he has no written record to guide him the Senator finds
it only too easy, on this beautiful June morning, to go back, in dreary
retrospective, over these two long years.
Gerald had not found it possible to keep his rash vow; there had come a day
when he had had to go back to America—indeed, he has been home three
times. But those brief visits of his son to his own country brought the
father no comfort, for each time Gerald left behind him in Europe not only
his heart, but everything else that matters to a man—his interests, his
longings, his hopes.
Small wonder that in time Senator Burton and Daisy had also fallen into the
way of spending nearly the whole of the Senator's spare time in Europe, and
with Nancy Dampier.
Nancy? The mind of the watcher by the window turns to her too, as he
visions the slender, graceful figure now pacing slowly by his son's side.
Is it unreasonable that, gradually withdrawing herself from her old
friends, those friends who did not believe that Dampier had left her save
of his own free will, Nancy should cling closer and closer to her new
friends? No, not at all unreasonable, but, from the Senator's point of
view, very unfortunate. Daisy and Nancy are now like sisters, and to the
Senator himself she shows the loving deference, the affection of a
daughter, but with regard to the all-important point of her relations to
Gerald, none of them know the truth—indeed, it may be doubted if she knows
But the situation gets more difficult, more strained every month, every
week, almost every day. Senator Burton feels that the time has come when
something must be done to end it—one way or the other—and the day before
yesterday he sought out Mr. Stephens, now one of his closest friends and
advisers, in order that they might confer together on the matter. As he
stands there looking down at the two figures walking across the dewy grass,
he remembers with a sense of boding fear the conversation with
"There's nothing to be done, my poor friend, nothing at all! Our English
marriage laws are perfectly clear, and though this is a very, very hard
case, I for my part have no wish to see them altered."
And the Senator had answered with heat, "I cannot follow you there at all!
The law which ties a living woman to a man who may be dead, nay, probably
is dead, is a monstrous law."
And Mr. Stephens had answered very quietly, "What if John Dampier be
"And is this all I can tell my poor son?"
And then it was that Mr. Stephens, looking at him doubtfully, had answered,
"Well no, for there is a way out. It is not a good way—I doubt if it is a
right way—but still it is a way. It is open to poor little Nancy to go to
America, to become naturalized there, and then to divorce her husband, in
one of your States, for desertion. The divorce so obtained would be no
divorce in England, but many Englishmen and Englishwomen have taken that
course as a last resort—" He had waited a moment, and then added, "I
doubt, however, very, very much if Nancy would consent to do such a thing,
even if she reciprocates—which is by no means sure—your
son's—er—feeling for her."
"Feeling?" Senator Burton's voice had broken, and then he had cried out
fiercely, "Why use such an ambiguous word, when we both know that Gerald is
killing himself for love of her—and giving up the finest career ever
opened to a man? If Mrs. Dampier does not reciprocate what you choose to
call his 'feeling' for bet, then she is the coldest and most ungrateful
"I don't think she is either the one or the other," had observed Mr.
Stephens mildly; and he had added under his breath, "It would be the better
for her if she were—Believe me the only way to force her to consider the
expedient I have suggested—" he had hesitated as if rather ashamed of what
he was about to say, "would be for Gerald to tell her the search for Mr.
Dampier must now end—and that the time has come when he must go back to
Small wonder that Senator Burton found it hard to sleep last night, small
wonder he has risen so early. He knows that his son is going to speak to
Nancy, to tell her what Mr. Stephens has suggested she should do, and he
suspects that now, at this very moment, the decisive conversation may be
Though unconscious that anxious, yearning eyes are following them, both
Nancy Dampier and Gerald Burton feel an instinctive desire to get away from
the house, and as far as may be from possible eavesdroppers. They walk
across the stretch of lawn which separates the moat from the gardens in a
constrained silence, she following rather than guiding her companion.
But as if this charming old-world plesaunce were quite familiar to him,
Gerald goes straight on, down a grass path ending in what appears to be a
high impenetrable wall of yew, and Nancy, surprised, then sees that a
narrow, shaft-like way leads straight through the green leafy depths.
"Why, Gerald?" she says a little nervously—they have long ago abandoned
any more formal mode of address, though between them there stands ever the
spectre of poor John Dampier, as present to one of the two, and he the man,
as if the menacing shadow were in very truth a tangible presence. "Why,
Gerald, where does this lead? Have you ever been here before?"
And for the first time since they met the night before, the young man
smiles. "I thought I'd like to see an English sunrise, Nancy, so I've been
up a long time. I found a rose garden through here, and I thought it would
be a quiet place for our talk."
It is strangely dark and still under the dense evergreen arch of the
slanting way carved through the yew hedge; Nancy can only grope her way
along. Turning round, Gerald holds out his strong hands, and taking hers in
what seems so cool, so impersonal a grasp, he draws her after him. And
Nancy flushes in the half darkness; it is the first time that she and
Gerald Burton have ever been alone together as they are alone now, and that
though they have met so very, very often in the last two years.
Nancy is at once glad and sorry when he suddenly loosens his grasp of her
hands. The shadowed way terminates in a narrow wrought-iron gate; and
beyond the gate is the rose garden of Barwell Moat, a tangle of exquisite
colouring, jealously guarded and hidden away from those to whom the more
familiar beauties of the place are free.
It is one of the oldest of English roseries, planned by some Elizabethan
dame who loved solitude rather than the sun. And if the roses bloom a
little less freely in this quiet, still enclosure than they would do in
greater light and wilder air, this gives the rosery, in these hot June
days, a touch of austere and more fragile beauty than that to be seen
beyond its enlacing yews.
A hundred years after the Elizabethan lady had designed the rosery of
Barwell Moat a Jacobean dame had added to her rose garden a fountain—one
brought maybe from Italy or France, for the fat stone Cupids now shaking
slender jets of water from their rose-leaved cornucopias are full of a
roguish, Southern grace.
When they have passed through into this fragrant, enchanted looking
retreat, Nancy cries out in real delight: "What an exquisite and lovely
place! How strange that Daisy and I never found it!"
And then, as Gerald remains silent, she looks, for the first time this
morning, straight up into his face, and her heart is filled with a sudden
overwhelming sensation of suspense—and yes, fear, for there is the
strangest expression on the young man's countenance, indeed it is full of
deep, of violent emotion—emotion his companion finds contagious.
She tells herself that at last he has brought news. That if he did not tell
her so last night it was because he wished her to have one more night of
peace—of late poor Nancy's nights have become very peaceful.
John Dampier? There was a time—it now seems long, long ago—when Nancy
would have given not only her life but her very soul to have known that her
husband was safe, that he would come back to her. But now? Alas! Alas! Now
she realises with an agonised feeling of horror, of self-loathing, that she
no longer wishes to hear Gerald Burton say that he has kept his word—that
he has found Dampier.
She prays God that nothing of what she is feeling shows in her face; and
Gerald is far too moved, far too doubtful as to what he is to say to her,
and as to the answer she will make to him, to see that she looks in any way
different from what she always does look in his eyes—the most beautiful as
well as the most loved and worshipped of human creatures.
"Tell me!" she gasps. "Tell me, Gerald? What is it you want to say to me?
Don't keep me in suspense—" and then, as he is still dumb, she adds with a
cry, "Have you come to tell me that at last you have found Jack?"
And he pulls himself together with a mighty effort. Nancy's words have
rudely dispelled the hopes with which his heart has been filled ever since
his father came to his room last night and told him what Mr. Stephens had
suggested as a possible way out of the present, intolerable situation.
"No," he says sombrely, "no, Nancy, I have brought you no good news, and I
am beginning to fear I never shall."
And he does not see even now that the long quivering sigh which escapes
from her pale lips is a sigh of unutterable—if of pained and
But what is this he is now saying, in a voice which is so unsteady, so
oddly unlike his own?
"I think—God forgive me for thinking so if I am wrong—that I have always
been right, Nancy, that your husband is dead—that he was killed two years
ago, the night he disappeared—"
She bends her head. Yes, she too believes that, though there was a time
when she fought, with desperate strength, against the belief.
He goes on breathlessly, hoarsely, aware that he is making what Mr.
Stephens would call a bad job of it all: "I am now beginning to doubt
whether we shall ever discover the truth as to what did happen. His body
may still lie concealed somewhere in the Hôtel Saint Ange, and if that is
so, there's but small chance indeed that we shall ever, ever learn
And again she bends her head.
"I fear the time is come, Nancy, when the search must be given up."
He utters the fateful words very quietly, very gently, but even so she
feels a pang of startled fear. Does that mean—yes, of course it must mean,
that Gerald is going away, back to America?
A feeling of dreadful desolation fills her heart. "Yes," she says in a low
tone, "I think you are right. I think the search should be given up."
She would like to utter words of thanks, the conventional words of
gratitude she has uttered innumerable times in the last two years—but now
they stick in her throat.
Tears smart into her eyes, stifled sobs burst from her lips.
And Gerald again misunderstands—misunderstands her tears, the sobs which
tear and shake her slender body. But he is only too familiar with the
feeling which now grips him—the feeling that he must rush forward and take
her in his arms. It has never gripped him quite as strongly as it does now;
and so he steps abruptly back, and puts more of the stone rim of the
fountain between himself and that forlorn little figure.
"Nancy?" he cries. "I was a brute to say that. Of course I will go on! Of
course we won't give up hope! It's natural that I should sometimes become
He is telling himself resolutely that never, never will he propose to her
the plan his father revealed to him last night. How little either his
father or Mr. Stephens had understood the relation between himself and
Nancy if they supposed that he, of all men, could make to her such a
And then he suddenly sees in Nancy's sensitive face, in her large blue eyes
that unconscious beckoning, calling look every lover longs to see in the
face of his beloved….
They each instinctively move towards the other, and in a flash Nancy is in
his arms and he is holding her strained to his heart, while his lips seek,
find, cling to her sweet, tremulous mouth.
But the moment of rapture, of almost unendurable bliss is short indeed, for
suddenly he feels her shrinking from him, and though for yet another moment
he holds her against her will, the struggle soon ends, and he releases her,
feeling what he has never yet felt when with her, that is, bewildered,
hurt, and yes, angry.
And then, when she sees that new alien glance of anger in eyes which have
never looked at her but kindly, Nancy feels a dreadful pang of pain, as
well as of shamed distress. She creeps up nearer to him, and puts her hand
imploringly on his arm—that arm which a moment ago held her so closely to
him, but which now hangs, apparently nerveless, by his side.
"Gerald!" she whispers imploringly. "Don't be angry with me," and her voice
drops still lower as she adds piteously, "You see, I knew we were doing
wrong. I—I felt wicked."
And then, as he still makes no answer, she grows more keenly distressed.
"Gerald?" she says again. "You may kiss me if you like." And as he only
looks down at her, taking no advantage of the reluctant permission, she
falters out the ill-chosen words, "Don't you know how grateful I am
And then, stung past endurance, he turns on her savagely:—"Does that mean
that I have bought the right to kiss you?"
But as, at this, she bursts into bitter tears, he again takes her in his
arms, and he does kiss her, violently, passionately, hungrily. He is only a
man after all.
But alas! These other kisses leave behind them a bitter taste. They lack
the wild, exquisite flavour of the first.
At last he tells her, haltingly, slowly, of Mr. Stephens' suggestion, but
carefully as he chooses his words he feels her shrinking, wincing at the
images they conjure up; and he tells himself with impatient self-reproach
that he has been too quick, too abrupt—that he ought to have allowed the
notion to sink into her mind slowly, that he should have made Daisy, or
even his father, be his ambassador.
"I couldn't do that!" she whispers at last, and he sees that she has turned
very white. "I don't think I could ever do that! Think how awful it would
be if—if after I had done such a thing I found that poor Jack was not
dead? Some time ago—I have never told you of this—some friend, meaning to
be kind, sent me a cutting from a paper telling of a foreigner who had been
taken up for mad in Italy, and confined in a lunatic asylum for years and
years! You don't know how that story haunted me. It haunted me for weeks.
You wouldn't like me to do anything I thought wrong, Gerald?"
"No," he says moodily. "No, Nancy—I will never ask you to do anything you
think wrong." He adds with an effort, "I told my father last night that I
doubted if you would ever consent to such a thing."
And then she asks an imprudent question:—"And what did he say then?" she
says in a troubled, unhappy voice.
"D'you really want to know what he said?"
She creeps a little nearer to him, she even takes his hand. "Yes, Gerald.
"He said that if you wouldn't consent to do some such thing, why then I
should be doing wrong to stay in Europe. He said—I little knew how true it
was—that soon you would learn that I loved you, and that then—that then
the situation would become intolerable."
"Intolerable?" she repeats in a low, strained tone. "Oh no, not
intolerable, Gerald! Surely you don't feel that?"
And this time it is Gerald who winces, who draws back; but suddenly his
heart fills up, brims over with a great, an unselfish tenderness—for
Nancy, gazing up at him, looks disappointed as a child, not a woman, looks,
when disappointed of a caress; and so he puts his arms round her and kisses
her very gently, very softly, in what he tells himself is a kind, brotherly
fashion. "You know I'll do just whatever you wish," he murmurs.
And contentedly she nestles against him. "Oh, Gerald," she whispers back,
"how good you are to me! Can't we always be reasonable—like this?"
And he smiles, a little wryly. "Why, yes," he says, "of course we can! And
now, Nancy, it's surely breakfast time. Let's go back to the house."
And Nancy, perhaps a little surprised, a little taken aback at his sudden,
cheerful acceptance of her point of view, follows him through the dark
passage cut in the yew hedge. She supposes—perhaps she even hopes—that
before they emerge into the sun light he will turn and again kiss her in
the reasonable, tender way he did just now.
But Gerald does not even turn round and grasp her two hands as he did
before. He leaves her to grope her way behind him as best she can, and as
they walk across the lawn he talks to her in a more cheerful, indifferent
way than he has ever done before. Once they come close up to the house,
however, he falls into a deep silence.
It is by the merest chance that they stay in that afternoon, for it has
been a long, a wretched day for them all.
Senator Burton and his daughter are consumed with anxiety, with a desire to
know what has taken place, but all they can see is that Gerald and Nancy
both look restless, miserable, and ill at ease with one another. Daisy
further suspects that Nancy is avoiding Gerald, and the suspicion makes her
feel anxious and uncomfortable.
As for the Senator, he begins to feel that he hates this beautiful old
house and its lovely gardens; he has never seen Gerald look as unhappy
anywhere as he looks here.
At last he seeks his son out, and, in a sense, forces his confidence.
"Well, my boy?"
"Well, father, she doesn't feel she can do it! She thinks that Dampier may
be alive after all. If you don't mind I'd rather not talk about her
And then the Senator tells himself, for the hundredth time in the last two
years, that they have now come to the breaking point—that if Nancy will
not take the only reasonable course open to her, then that Gerald must be
nerved to make, as men have so often had to make, the great renouncement.
To go on as he is now doing is not only wrong as regards himself, it is
wrong as regards his sister Daisy.
There is a man in America who loves Daisy—a man too of whom the Senator
approves as much as he can of anyone who is anxious to take his daughter
from him. And Daisy, were her heart only at leisure, might respond; but
alas! her heart is not at leisure, it is wholly absorbed in the affairs of
her brother and of her friend.
At last the high ritual of English afternoon tea brings them out all
together on the lawn in front of the house.
Deferentially consulted by the solemn-faced, suave-mannered butler, who
seems as much part of Barwell Moat as do the gabled dormer windows, Daisy
Burton decides that tea is to be set out wherever it generally is set out
by the owners of the house. Weightily she is informed that "her ladyship"
has tea served sometimes in that part of the garden which is called the
rosery, sometimes on the front lawn, and the butler adds the cryptic
information, "according as to whether her ladyship desires to see
visitors or not."
Daisy does not quite see what difference the fact of tea being served in
one place or another can make to apocryphal visitors, so, with what
cheerfulness she can muster, she asks the others which they would prefer.
And at once, a little to her surprise, Nancy and Gerald answer
simultaneously, "Oh, let us have tea on the lawn, not—not in the rosery!"
And it is there, in front of the house, that within a very few minutes they
are all gathered together, and for the first time that day Senator Burton's
heart lightens a little.
He is amused at the sight of those three men—the butler and his two
footmen satellites—gravely making their elaborate preparations. Chairs are
brought out, piles of cushions are flung about in bounteous profusion, even
two hammocks are slung up—all in an incredibly short space of time: and
the American tenant of Barwell Moat tells himself that the scene before him
might be taken from one of the stories of his favourite British novelist,
good old Anthony Trollope.
Ah me! How happy they all might be this afternoon were it not for the ever
present unspoken hopes and fears which fill their hearts!
Daisy sits down behind the tea-table; and the cloud lifts a little from
Gerald's stern, set face; the three young people even laugh and joke a
The Senator glances at Nancy Dampier; she is looking very lovely this
afternoon, but her face is flushed, her manner is restless, agitated, she
looks what he has never seen her look till to-day, thoroughly ill at ease,
and yet, yes, certainly less listless, more alive than she looked
yesterday—before Gerald's arrival.
What strange creatures women are! The Senator does not exactly disapprove
of Nancy's decision, but he regrets it bitterly. If only she would throw in
her lot with Gerald—come to America, her mind made up never to return to
Europe again, why then even now they might all be happy.
But her face, soft though it be in repose, is not that of a weak woman; it
is that of one who, thinking she knows what should be her duty, will be
faithful to it; and it is also the face of a woman reserved in the
expression of her feelings. Senator Burton cannot make up his mind whether
Nancy realises Gerald's measureless, generous devotion. Is she even aware
of all that he has sacrificed for her? Daisy says yes—Daisy declares that
Nancy "cares" for Gerald—but then Daisy herself is open-hearted and
generous like her brother.
And while these painful thoughts, these half-formed questions and answers,
weave in and out through Senator Burton's brain, there suddenly falls a
loud grinding sound on his ears, and a motor-car sweeps into view.
Now, at last, Daisy Burton understands the butler's cryptic remark! Here,
in front of the house, escape from visitors is, of course, impossible. She
feels a pang of annoyance at her own stupidity for not having understood,
but there is no help for it—and very soon three people, a middle-aged lady
and two gentlemen, are advancing over the green sward.
The Senator and his daughter rise, and walk forward to meet them. Gerald
and Nancy remain behind. Indeed the young man hardly sees the strangers; he
is only conscious of a deep feeling of relief that the solicitous eyes of
his father and sister are withdrawn from him and Nancy.
Since this morning he has been in a strange state of alternating rapture
and despair. He feels as if he and Nancy, having just found one another,
are now doomed to part. Ever since he held her in his arms he has ached
with loneliness and with thwarted longing; during the whole of this long
day Nancy has eluded him; not for a single moment have they been alone
together. And now all his good resolutions—the resolutions which stood him
in such good stead in that dark, leafy tunnel—have vanished. He now faces
the fact that they cannot hope, when once more alone and heart to heart, to
be what Nancy calls "reasonable."…
Suddenly he comes back to the drab realities of every-day life. His father
is introducing him to the visitors—first to the lady: "Mrs. Arbuthnot—my
son, Gerald Burton. Mrs. Dampier—Mrs. Arbuthnot." And then to the two men,
Mr. Arbuthnot and a Mr. Dallas.
There is a quick interchange of talk. The newcomers are explaining who and
what they are. Mr. Robert Arbuthnot is a retired Anglo-Indian official, and
he and his wife have now lived for two years in the dower house which forms
part of the Barwell Moat estate.
"I should not have called quite so soon had it not been that our friend,
Mr. Dallas, is only staying with us for two or three days, and he is most
anxious to meet you, Mr. Senator. Mr. Dallas is one of the Officers of
Health for the Port of London. He read some years ago"—she turns smilingly
to the gentleman in question—"a very interesting pamphlet with which you
seem to have been in some way concerned, about the Port of New York."
The Senator is flattered to find how well Mr. Dallas remembers that old
report of which he was one of the signatories. For a moment he forgets his
troubles; and the younger people—Mrs. Arbuthnot also—remain silent while
these three men, who have each had a considerable experience of great
affairs, begin talking of the problems which face those who have vast
masses of human beings to consider and legislate for.
Mr. Dallas talks the most; he is one of those cheerful, eager Englishmen
who like the sound of their own voices: he is also one of those fortunate
people who take an intense interest in the work they are set to do. In Mr.
Dallas's ears there is no pleasanter sounding word than the word
"Ah," he says, turning smilingly to the Senator, "how I envy my New York
colleagues! They have plenary powers. They are real autocrats!"
"They would be but for our press," answers the Senator. "I wonder if you
heard anything of the scrape Dr. Cranebrook got into last year?"
"Of course I did! I heard all about it, and I felt very sorry for him. But
our London press is getting almost as bad! Government by newspaper—" he
shakes his head expressively. "And my friend Arbuthnot tells me that it's
becoming really serious in India; there the native press is getting more
and more power. Ah well! They do those things better in France."
And then Mrs. Arbuthnot's voice is heard at last. "My husband and Mr.
Dallas have only just come back from Paris, Miss Burton. Mr. Dallas went
over on business, and my husband accompanied him. They had a most
interesting time: they spent a whole day at the Prefecture of Police with
the Prefect himself—"
She stops speaking, and wonders a little why a sudden silence has fallen
over the whole group of these pleasant Americans—for she takes Nancy to be
an American too.
But the sudden silence—so deep, so absolute that it reminds Mrs. Arbuthnot
of the old saying that when such a stillness falls on any company someone
must be walking over their graves—is suddenly broken.
Mr. Dallas jumps to his feet. He is one of those men who never like sitting
still very long. "May I have another lump of sugar, Miss Burton? We were
speaking of Paris,—talk of muzzling the press, they know how to muzzle
their press in grim earnest in Paris! Talk of suppressing the truth, they
don't even begin to tell the truth there. The Tsar of Russia as an autocrat
isn't in it with the Paris Prefect of Police!"
And two of his listeners say drearily to themselves that Mr. Dallas is a
very ignorant man after all. He is evidently one of the many foolish people
who believe the French police omnipotent.
But the Englishman goes happily on, quite unconscious that he is treading
on what has become forbidden ground in the Burton family circle. "The
present man's name is Beaucourt, a very pleasant fellow! He told me some
astounding stories. I wonder if you'd like to hear the one which struck
He looks round, pleased at their attention, at the silence which has again
fallen on them all, and which he naturally takes for consent.
Eagerly he begins: "It was two years ago, at the height of their Exhibition
season, and of course Paris was crammed—every house full, from cellar to
attic! Monsieur Beaucourt tells me that there were more than five hundred
thousand strangers in the city for whose safety, and incidentally for whose
health, he was responsible!"
He waits a moment, that thought naturally impresses him more than it does
"Well, into that gay maelstrom there suddenly arrived a couple of young
foreigners. They were well-to-do, and what impressed the little story
particularly on Monsieur Beaucourt's mind was the fact that they were on
their honeymoon—you know how sentimental the French are!"
Mr. Dallas looks around. They are all gazing at him with upturned
faces—never had he a more polite, a more attentive circle of listeners.
There is, however, one exception: his old friend, Mr. Arbuthnot, puts his
hand up to conceal a yawn; he has heard the story before.
"Where was I? Oh, yes. Well, these young people—Monsieur Beaucourt thinks
they were Americans—had gone to Italy for their honeymoon, and they were
ending up in Paris. They arrived late at night—I think form
Marseilles—and most providentially they were put on different floors in
the hotel they had chosen in the Latin Quarter. Well, that very night—"
Mr. Dallas looks round him triumphantly. He does not exactly smile, for
what he is going to say is really rather dreadful, but he has the eager,
pleased look which all good story-tellers have when they have come to the
point of their story.
"I don't believe that one man in a million would guess what happened!" He
looks round him again, and has time to note complacently that the son of
his host, who has risen, and whose hands grip the back of the chair from
which he has risen, is staring, fascinated, across at him.
"A very, very strange and terrible thing befell this young couple. That
first night of their stay in Paris, between two and three the bridegroom
developed plague! Monsieur Beaucourt tells me that the poor fellow behaved
with the greatest presence of mind; although he cannot of course have known
what exactly was the matter with him, he gave orders that his wife was not
to be disturbed, and that the hotel people were to send for a doctor at
once. Luckily there was a medical man living in the same street; he leapt
on the dreadful truth, sent for an ambulance, and within less than half an
hour of the poor fellow's seizure he was whisked away to the nearest public
hospital, where he died five hours later."
Mr. Dallas waits a moment, he is a little disappointed that no one speaks,
and he hurries on:—
"And now comes the point of my story! Monsieur Beaucourt assures me that
the fact was kept absolutely secret. He told me that had it leaked out it
might have half emptied Paris. French people have a perfect terror of what
they call 'la Peste.' But not a whisper of the truth got about, and that
though a considerable number of people had to know, including many of the
officials connected with the Prefecture of Police. The Prefect showed me
the poor fellow's watch and bunch of seals, the only things, of course,
that they were able to keep; he really spoke very nicely, very movingly
And then, at last, the speaker stops abruptly. He has seen his host's son
reel a little, sway as does a man who is drunk, and then fall heavily to
It is hours later. The sun has long set. Gerald opens his eyes; and then he
shuts them again, for he wants to go on dreaming. He is vaguely aware that
he is lying in the magnificent Jacobean four-post bed which he had been far
too miserable, too agitated to notice when his father had brought him up
the night before. But now the restful beauty of the spacious room, the
fantastic old coloured maps lining the walls, affect him agreeably, soothe
his tired mind and brain.
During that dreamy moment of half-waking he has seen in the shadowed room,
for the lights are heavily shaded, the figures of his father and of Daisy;
he now hears his father's whisper:—"The doctor says he is only suffering
from shock, but that when he wakes he must be kept very quiet."
And Daisy's clear, low voice, "Oh, yes, father. When he opens his eyes
perhaps we'd better leave him with Nancy."
Nancy? Then Nancy really is here, close to him, sitting on a low chair by
the side of the bed. And when he opened his eyes just now she really had
bent her dear head forward and laid her soft lips on his hand. It was no
And then there comes over him an overwhelming rush of mingled feelings and
emotions. He tries to remember what it was that had happened this
afternoon—he sees the active, restless figure of the Englishman dancing
queerly up and down as it had seemed to dance just before he, Gerald, fell,
and he feels again the horrible wish to laugh which had seized him when
that dancing figure had said something about Beaucourt having spoken
"Curse Beaucourt! Such a fiend is only fit for the lowest depths of Hell."
Again he opens his eyes. Did he say the ugly words aloud? He thinks not, he
hopes not, for Daisy only takes their father's hand in hers and leads him
from the room.
"Nancy?" he says, trying to turn towards her. "Do we know the truth now? Is
my search at an end?"
"Yes," she whispers. "We know the truth now—my dearest. Your search is at
And as she gets up and bends over him, he feels her tears dropping on his