THE LONE WOLF
LOUIS JOSEPH VANCE
III. A POINT OF INTERROGATION
IV. A STRATAGEM
VI. THE PACK GIVES TONGUE
VIII. THE HIGH HAND
X. TURN ABOUT
XIV. RIVE DROIT
XV. SHEER IMPUDENCE
XVII. THE FORLORN HOPE
XXIII. MADAME OMBER
XXV. WINGS OF THE MORNING
XXVI. THE FLYING DEATH
THE LONE WOLF
It must have been Bourke who first said that even if you knew your way
about Paris you had to lose it in order to find it to Troyon's. But
then Bourke was proud to be Irish.
Troyon's occupied a corner in a jungle of side-streets, well withdrawn
from the bustle of the adjacent boulevards of St. Germain and St.
Michel, and in its day was a restaurant famous with a fame jealously
guarded by a select circle of patrons. Its cooking was the best in
Paris, its cellar second to none, its rates ridiculously reasonable;
yet Baedeker knew it not. And in the wisdom of the cognoscenti this was
well: it had been a pity to loose upon so excellent an establishment
the swarms of tourists that profaned every temple of gastronomy on the
The building was of three storeys, painted a dingy drab and trimmed
with dull green shutters. The restaurant occupied almost all of the
street front of the ground floor, a blank, non-committal double doorway
at one extreme of its plate-glass windows was seldom open and even more
This doorway was squat and broad and closed the mouth of a wide,
stone-walled passageway. In one of its two substantial wings of oak a
smaller door had been cut for the convenience of Troyon's guests, who
by this route gained the courtyard, a semi-roofed and shadowy place,
cool on the hottest day. From the court a staircase, with an air of
leading nowhere in particular, climbed lazily to the second storey and
thereby justified its modest pretensions; for the two upper floors of
Troyon's might have been plotted by a nightmare-ridden architect after
witnessing one of the first of the Palais Royal farces.
Above stairs, a mediaeval maze of corridors long and short, complicated
by many unexpected steps and staircases and turns and enigmatic doors,
ran every-which-way and as a rule landed one in the wrong room, linking
together, in all, some two-score bed-chambers. There were no salons or
reception-rooms, there was never a bath-room, there wasn't even running
water aside from two hallway taps, one to each storey. The honoured
guest and the exacting went to bed by lamplight: others put up with
candlesticks: gas burned only in the corridors and the
restaurant—asthmatic jets that, spluttering blue within globes obese,
semi-opaque, and yellowish, went well with furnishings and decorations
of the Second Empire to which years had lent a mellow and somehow
rakish dinginess; since nothing was ever refurbished.
With such accommodations the guests of Troyon's were well content. They
were not many, to begin with, and they were almost all middle-aged
bourgeois, a caste that resents innovations. They took Troyon's as they
found it: the rooms suited them admirably, and the tariff was modest.
Why do anything to disturb the perennial peace of so discreet and
confidential an establishment? One did much as one pleased there,
providing one's bill was paid with tolerable regularity and the hand
kept supple that operated the cordon in the small hours of the night.
Papa Troyon came from a tribe of inn-keepers and was liberal-minded;
while as for Madame his wife, she cared for nothing but pieces of
To Troyon's on a wet winter night in the year 1893 came the child who
as a man was to call himself Michael Lanyard.
He must have been four or five years old at that time: an age at which
consciousness is just beginning to recognize its individuality and
memory registers with capricious irregularity. He arrived at the hotel
in a state of excitement involving an almost abnormal sensitiveness to
impressions; but that was soon drowned deep in dreamless slumbers of
healthy exhaustion; and when he came to look back through a haze of
days, of which each had made its separate and imperative demand upon
his budding emotions, he found his store of memories strangely dulled
The earliest definite picture was that of himself, a small but vastly
important figure, nursing a heavy heart in a dark corner of a fiacre.
Beside him sat a man who swore fretfully into his moustache whenever
the whimpering of the boy threatened to develop into honest bawls: a
strange creature, with pockets full of candy and a way with little boys
in public surly and domineering, in private timid and propitiatory. It
was raining monotonously, with that melancholy persistence which is the
genius of Parisian winters; and the paving of the interminable strange
streets was as black glass shot with coloured lights. Some of the
streets roared like famished beasts, others again were silent, if with
a silence no less sinister. The rain made incessant crepitation on the
roof of the fiacre, and the windows wept without respite. Within the
cab a smell of mustiness contended feebly with the sickening reek of a
cigar which the man was forever relighting and which as often turned
cold between his teeth. Outside, unwearying hoofs were beating their
deadly rhythm, cloppetty-clop….
Back of all this lurked something formlessly alluring, something sad
and sweet and momentous, which belonged very personally to the child
but which he could never realize. Memory crept blindly toward it over a
sword-wide bridge that had no end. There had been (or the boy had
dreamed it) a long, weariful journey by railroad, the sequel to one by
boat more brief but wholly loathsome. Beyond this point memory failed
though sick with yearning. And the child gave over his instinctive but
rather inconsecutive efforts to retrace his history: his daily life at
Troyon's furnished compelling and obliterating interests.
Madame saw to that.
It was Madame who took charge of him when the strange man dragged him
crying from the cab, through a cold, damp place gloomy with shadows,
and up stairs to a warm bright bedroom: a formidable body, this Madame,
with cold eyes and many hairy moles, who made odd noises in her throat
while she undressed the little boy with the man standing by, noises
meant to sound compassionate and maternal but, to the child at least,
Then drowsiness stealing upon one over a pillow wet with tears …
And Madame it was who ruled with iron hand the strange new world to
which the boy awakened.
The man was gone by morning, and the child never saw him again; but
inasmuch as those about him understood no English and he no French, it
was some time before he could grasp the false assurances of Madame that
his father had gone on a journey but would presently return. The child
knew positively that the man was not his father, but when he was able
to make this correction the matter had faded into insignificance: life
had become too painful to leave time or inclination for the adjustment
of such minor and incidental questions as one's parentage.
The little boy soon learned to know himself as Marcel, which wasn't his
name, and before long was unaware he had ever had another. As he grew
older he passed as Marcel Troyon; but by then he had forgotten how to
A few days after his arrival the warm, bright bed-chamber was exchanged
for a cold dark closet opening off Madame's boudoir, a cupboard
furnished with a rickety cot and a broken chair, lacking any provision
for heat or light, and ventilated solely by a transom over the door;
and inasmuch as Madame shared the French horror of draughts and so kept
her boudoir hermetically sealed nine months of the year, the transom
didn't mend matters much. But that closet formed the boy's sole refuge,
if a precarious one, through several years; there alone was he ever
safe from kicks and cuffs and scoldings for faults beyond his
comprehension; but he was never permitted a candle, and the darkness
and loneliness made the place one of haunted terror to the sensitive
and imaginative nature of a growing child.
He was, however, never insufficiently fed; and the luxury of forgetting
misery in sleep could not well be denied him.
By day, until of age to go to school, he played apprehensively in the
hallways with makeshift toys, a miserable, dejected little body with
his heart in his mouth at every sudden footfall, very much in the way
of femmes-de-chambre who had nothing in common with the warm-hearted,
impulsive, pitiful serving women of fiction. They complained of him to
Madame, and Madame came promptly to cuff him. He soon learned an almost
uncanny cunning in the art of effacing himself, when she was imminent,
to be as still as death and to move with the silence of a wraith. Not
infrequently his huddled immobility in a shadowy corner escaped her
notice as she passed. But it always exasperated her beyond measure to
look up, when she fancied herself alone, and become aware of the
wide-eyed, terrified stare of the transfixed boy….
That he was privileged to attend school at all was wholly due to a
great fear that obsessed Madame of doing anything to invite the
interest of the authorities. She was an honest woman, according to her
lights, an honest wife, and kept an honest house; but she feared the
gendarmerie more than the Wrath of God. And by ukase of Government a
certain amount of education was compulsory. So Marcel learned among
other things to read, and thereby took his first blind step toward
Reading being the one pastime which could be practiced without making a
noise of any sort to attract undesirable attentions, the boy took to it
in self-defence. But before long it had become his passion. He read, by
stealth, everything that fell into his hands, a weird mélange of
newspapers, illustrated Parisian weeklies, magazines, novels: cullings
from the débris of guest-chambers.
Before Marcel was eleven he had read "Les Misérables" with intense
His reading, however, was not long confined to works in the French
language. Now and again some departing guest would leave an English
novel in his room, and these Marcel treasured beyond all other books;
they seemed to him, in a way, part of his birthright. Secretly he
called himself English in those days, because he knew he wasn't French:
that much, at least, he remembered. And he spent long hours poring over
the strange words until; at length, they came to seem less strange in
his eyes. And then some accident threw his way a small English-French
He was able to read English before he could speak it.
Out of school hours a drudge and scullion, the associate of scullions
and their immediate betters, drawn from that caste of loose tongues and
looser morals which breeds servants for small hotels, Marcel at eleven
(as nearly as his age can be computed) possessed a comprehension of
life at once exact, exhaustive and appalling.
Perhaps it was fortunate that he lived without friendship. His concept
of womanhood was incarnate in Madame Troyon; so he gave all the hotel
women a wide berth.
The men-servants he suffered in silence when they would permit it; but
his nature was so thoroughly disassociated from anything within their
experience that they resented him: a circumstance which exposed him to
a certain amount of baiting not unlike that which the village idiot
receives at the hands of rustic boors—until Marcel learned to defend
himself with a tongue which could distil vitriol from the vernacular,
and with fists and feet as well. Thereafter he was left severely to
himself and glad of it, since it furnished him with just so much more
time for reading and dreaming over what he read.
By fifteen he had developed into a long, lank, loutish youth, with a
face of extraordinary pallor, a sullen mouth, hot black eyes, and dark
hair like a mane, so seldom was it trimmed. He looked considerably
older than he was and the slightness of his body was deceptive,
disguising a power of sinewy strength. More than this, he could care
very handily for himself in a scrimmage: la savate had no secrets from
him, and he had picked up tricks from the Apaches quite as effectual as
any in the manual of jiu-jitsu. Paris he knew as you and I know the
palms of our hands, and he could converse with the precision of the
native-born in any one of the city's several odd argots.
To these accomplishments he added that of a thoroughly practised petty
His duties were by day those of valet-de-chambre on the third floor; by
night he acted as omnibus in the restaurant. For these services he
received no pay and less consideration from his employers (who would
have been horrified by the suggestion that they countenanced slavery)
only his board and a bed in a room scarcely larger, if somewhat better
ventilated, than the boudoir-closet from which he had long since been
ousted. This room was on the ground floor, at the back of the house,
and boasted a small window overlooking a narrow alley.
He was routed out before daylight, and his working day ended as a rule
at ten in the evening—though when there were performances on at the
Odéon, the restaurant remained open until an indeterminate hour for the
accommodation of the supper trade.
Once back in his kennel, its door closed and bolted, Marcel was free to
squirm out of the window and roam and range Paris at will. And it was
thus that he came by most of his knowledge of the city.
But for the most part Marcel preferred to lie abed and read himself
half-blind by the light of purloined candle-ends. Books he borrowed as
of old from the rooms of guests or else pilfered from quai-side stalls
and later sold to dealers in more distant quarters of the city. Now and
again, when he needed some work not to be acquired save through
outright purchase, the guests would pay further if unconscious tribute
through the sly abstraction of small coins. Your true Parisian,
however, keeps track of his money to the ultimate sou, an idiosyncrasy
which obliged the boy to practise most of his peculations on the
fugitive guest of foreign extraction.
In the number of these, perhaps the one best known to Troyon's was
He was a quick, compact, dangerous little Irishman who had fallen into
the habit of "resting" at Troyon's whenever a vacation from London
seemed a prescription apt to prove wholesome for a gentleman of his
kidney; which was rather frequently, arguing that Bourke's professional
activities were fairly onerous.
Having received most of his education in Dublin University, Bourke
spoke the purest English known, or could when so minded, while his
facile Irish tongue had caught the trick of an accent which passed
unchallenged on the Boulevardes. He had an alert eye for pretty women,
a heart as big as all out-doors, no scruples worth mentioning, a secret
sorrow, and a pet superstition.
The colour of his hair, a clamorous red, was the spring of his secret
sorrow. By that token he was a marked man. At irregular intervals he
made frantic attempts to disguise it; but the only dye that would serve
at all was a jet-black and looked like the devil in contrast with his
high colouring. Moreover, before a week passed, the red would crop up
again wherever the hair grew thin, lending him the appearance of a
His pet superstition was that, as long as he refrained from practising
his profession in Paris, Paris would remain his impregnable Tower of
Refuge. The world owed Bourke a living, or he so considered; and it
must be allowed that he made collections on account with tolerable
regularity and success; but Paris was tax-exempt as long as Paris
offered him immunity from molestation.
Not only did Paris suit his tastes excellently, but there was no place,
in Bourke's esteem, comparable with Troyon's for peace and quiet.
Hence, the continuity of his patronage was never broken by trials of
rival hostelries; and Troyon's was always expecting Bourke for the
simple reason that he invariably arrived unexpectedly, with neither
warning nor ostentation, to stop as long as he liked, whether a day or
a week or a month, and depart in the same manner.
His daily routine, as Troyon's came to know it, varied but slightly: he
breakfasted abed, about half after ten, lounged in his room or the café
all day if the weather were bad, or strolled peacefully in the gardens
of the Luxembourg if it were good, dined early and well but always
alone, and shortly afterward departed by cab for some well-known bar on
the Rive Droit; whence, it is to be presumed, he moved on to other
resorts, for he never was home when the house was officially closed for
the night, the hours of his return remaining a secret between himself
and the concierge.
On retiring, Bourke would empty his pockets upon the dressing-table,
where the boy Marcel, bringing up Bourke's petit déjeuner the next
morning, would see displayed a tempting confusion of gold and silver
and copper, with a wad of bank-notes, and the customary assortment of
Now inasmuch as Bourke was never wide-awake at that hour, and always
after acknowledging Marcel's "bon jour" rolled over and snored for
Glory and the Saints, it was against human nature to resist the allure
of that dressing-table. Marcel seldom departed without a coin or two.
He had yet to learn that Bourke's habits were those of an Englishman,
who never goes to bed without leaving all his pocket-money in plain
sight and—carefully catalogued in his memory….
One morning in the spring of 1904 Marcel served Bourke his last
breakfast at Troyon's.
The Irishman had been on the prowl the previous night, and his rasping
snore was audible even through the closed door when Marcel knocked and,
receiving no answer, used the pass-key and entered.
At this the snore was briefly interrupted; Bourke, visible at first
only as a flaming shock of hair protruding from the bedclothes,
squirmed an eye above his artificial horizon, opened it, mumbled
inarticulate acknowledgment of Marcel's salutation, and passed
blatantly into further slumbers.
Marcel deposited his tray on a table beside the bed, moved quietly to
the windows, closed them, and drew the lace curtains together. The
dressing-table between the windows displayed, amid the silver and
copper, more gold coins than it commonly did—some eighteen or twenty
louis altogether. Adroitly abstracting en passant a piece of ten
francs, Marcel went on his way rejoicing, touched a match to the fire
all ready-laid in the grate, and was nearing the door when, casting one
casual parting glance at the bed, he became aware of a notable
phenomenon: the snoring was going on lustily, but Bourke was watching
him with both eyes wide and filled with interest.
Startled and, to tell the truth, a bit indignant, the boy stopped as
though at word of command. But after the first flash of astonishment
his young face hardened to immobility. Only his eyes remained constant
The Irishman, sitting up in bed, demanded and received the piece of ten
francs, and went on to indict the boy for the embezzlement of several
sums running into a number of louis.
Marcel, reflecting that Bourke's reckoning was still some louis shy,
made no bones about pleading guilty. Interrogated, the culprit deposed
that he had taken the money because he needed it to buy books. No, he
wasn't sorry. Yes, it was probable that, granted further opportunity,
he would do it again. Advised that he was apparently a case-hardened
young criminal, he replied that youth was not his fault; with years and
experience he would certainly improve.
Puzzled by the boy's attitude, Bourke agitated his hair and wondered
aloud how Marcel would like it if his employers were informed of his
Marcel looked pained and pointed out that such a course on the part of
Bourke would be obviously unfair; the only real difference between
them, he explained, was that where he filched a louis Bourke filched
thousands; and if Bourke insisted on turning him over to the mercy of
Madame and Papa Troyon, who would certainly summon a sergent de ville,
he, Marcel, would be quite justified in retaliating by telling the
Préfecture de Police all he knew about Bourke.
This was no chance shot, and took the Irishman between wind and water;
and when, dismayed, he blustered, demanding to know what the boy meant
by his damned impudence, Marcel quietly advised him that one knew what
one knew: if one read the English newspaper in the café, as Marcel did,
one could hardly fail to remark that monsieur always came to Paris
after some notable burglary had been committed in London; and if one
troubled to follow monsieur by night, as Marcel had, it became evident
that monsieur's first calls in Paris were invariably made at the
establishment of a famous fence in the rue des Trois Frères; and,
finally, one drew one's own conclusions when strangers dining in the
restaurant—as on the night before, by way of illustration—strangers
who wore all the hall-marks of police detectives from
England—catechised one about a person whose description was the
portrait of Bourke, and promised a hundred-franc note for information
concerning the habits and whereabouts of that person, if seen.
Marcel added, while Bourke gasped for breath, that the gentleman in
question had spoken to him alone, in the absence of other waiters, and
had been fobbed off with a lie.
But why—Bourke wanted to know—had Marcel lied to save him, when the
truth would have earned him a hundred francs?
"Because," Marcel explained coolly, "I, too, am a thief. Monsieur will
perceive it was a matter of professional honour."
Now the Irish have their faults, but ingratitude is not of their number.
Bourke, packing hastily to leave Paris, France and Europe by the
fastest feasible route, still found time to question Marcel briefly;
and what he learned from the boy about his antecedents so worked with
gratitude upon the sentimental nature of the Celt, that when on the
third day following the Cunarder Carpathia left Naples for New York,
she carried not only a gentleman whose brilliant black hair and glowing
pink complexion rendered him a bit too conspicuous among her
first-cabin passengers for his own comfort, but also in the second
cabin his valet—a boy of sixteen who looked eighteen.
The gentleman's name on the passenger-list didn't, of course, in the
least resemble Bourke. His valet's was given as Michael Lanyard.
The origin of this name is obscure; Michael being easily corrupted into
good Irish Mickey may safely be attributed to Bourke; Lanyard has a
tang of the sea which suggests a reminiscence of some sea-tale prized
by the pseudo Marcel Troyon.
In New York began the second stage in the education of a professional
criminal. The boy must have searched far for a preceptor of more sound
attainments than Bourke. It is, however, only fair to say that Bourke
must have looked as far for an apter pupil. Under his tutelage, Michael
Lanyard learned many things; he became a mathematician of considerable
promise, an expert mechanician, a connoisseur of armour-plate and
explosives in their more pacific applications, and he learned to grade
precious stones with a glance. Also, because Bourke was born of
gentlefolk, he learned to speak English, what clothes to wear and when
to wear them, and the civilized practice with knife and fork at table.
And because Bourke was a diplomatist of sorts, Marcel acquired the
knack of being at ease in every grade of society: he came to know that
a self-made millionaire, taken the right way, is as approachable as one
whose millions date back even unto the third generation; he could order
a dinner at Sherry's as readily as drinks at Sharkey's. Most valuable
accomplishment of all, he learned to laugh. In the way of by-products
he picked up a working acquaintance with American, English and German
slang—French slang he already knew as a mother-tongue—considerable
geographical knowledge of the capitals of Europe, America and Illinois,
a taste that discriminated between tobacco and the stuff sold as such
in France, and a genuine passion for good paintings.
Finally Bourke drilled into his apprentice the three cardinal
principles of successful cracksmanship: to know his ground thoroughly
before venturing upon it; to strike and retreat with the swift
precision of a hawk; to be friendless.
And the last of these was the greatest.
"You're a promising lad," he said—so often that Lanyard would almost
wince from that formula of introduction—"a promising lad, though it's
sad I should be to say it, instead of proud as I am. For I've made you:
but for me you'd long since have matriculated at La Tour Pointue and
graduated with the canaille of the Santé. And in time you may become a
first-chop operator, which I'm not and never will be; but if you do,
'twill be through fighting shy of two things. The first of them's
Woman, and the second is Man. To make a friend of a man you must lower
your guard. Ordinarily 'tis fatal. As for Woman, remember this, m'lad:
to let love into your life you must open a door no mortal hand can
close. And God only knows what'll follow in. If ever you find you've
fallen in love and can't fall out, cut the game on the instant, or
you'll end wearing stripes or broad arrows—the same as myself would,
if this cursed cough wasn't going to be the death of me…. No, m'lad:
take a fool's advice (you'll never get better) and when you're shut of
me, which will be soon, I'm thinking, take the Lonesome Road and stick
to the middle of it. 'He travels the fastest that travels alone' is a
true saying, but 'tis only half the truth: he travels the farthest into
the bargain…. Yet the Lonesome Road has its drawbacks, lad—it's
Bourke died in Switzerland, of consumption, in the winter of
1910—Lanyard at his side till the end.
Then the boy set his face against the world: alone, lonely, and
His return to Troyon's, whereas an enterprise which Lanyard had been
contemplating for several years—in fact, ever since the death of
Bourke—came to pass at length almost purely as an affair of impulse.
He had come through from London by the afternoon service—via
Boulogne—travelling light, with nothing but a brace of handbags and
his life in his hands. Two coups to his credit since the previous
midnight had made the shift advisable, though only one of them, the
later, rendered it urgent.
Scotland Yard would, he reckoned, require at least twenty-four hours to
unlimber for action on the Omber affair; but the other, the theft of
the Huysman plans, though not consummated before noon, must have set
the Chancelleries of at least three Powers by the ears before Lanyard
was fairly entrained at Charing Cross.
Now his opinion of Scotland Yard was low; its emissaries must operate
gingerly to keep within the laws they serve. But the agents of the
various Continental secret services have a way of making their own laws
as they go along: and for these Lanyard entertained a respect little
short of profound.
He would not have been surprised had he ran foul of trouble on the pier
at Folkestone. Boulogne, as well, figured in his imagination as a
crucial point: its harbour lights, heaving up over the grim grey waste,
peered through the deepening violet dusk to find him on the packet's
deck, responding to their curious stare with one no less insistently
inquiring…. But it wasn't until in the gauntlet of the Gare du Nord
itself that he found anything to shy at.
Dropping from train to platform, he surrendered his luggage to a ready
facteur, and followed the man through the crush, elbowed and
shouldered, offended by the pervasive reek of chilled steam and
coal-gas, and dazzled by the brilliant glare of the overhanging
Almost the first face he saw turned his way was that of Roddy.
The man from Scotland Yard was stationed at one side of the platform
gates. Opposite him stood another known by sight to Lanyard—a highly
decorative official from the Préfecture de Police. Both were scanning
narrowly every face in the tide that churned between them.
Wondering if through some fatal freak of fortuity these were acting
under late telegraphic advice from London, Lanyard held himself well in
hand: the first sign of intent to hinder him would prove the signal for
a spectacular demonstration of the ungentle art of not getting caught
with the goods on. And for twenty seconds, while the crowd milled
slowly through the narrow exit, he was as near to betraying himself as
he had ever been—nearer, for he had marked down the point on Roddy's
jaw where his first blow would fall, and just where to plant a
coup-de-savate most surely to incapacitate the minion of the
Préfecture; and all the while was looking the two over with a manner of
the most calm and impersonal curiosity.
But beyond an almost imperceptible narrowing of Roddy's eyes when they
met his own, as if the Englishman were struggling with a faulty memory,
neither police agent betrayed the least recognition.
And then Lanyard was outside the station, his facteur introducing him
to a ramshackle taxicab.
No need to speculate whether or not Roddy were gazing after him; in the
ragged animal who held the door while Lanyard fumbled for his facteur's
tip, he recognized a runner for the Préfecture; and beyond question
there were many such about. If any lingering doubt should trouble
Roddy's mind he need only ask, "Such-and-such an one took what cab and
for what destination?" to be instantly and accurately informed.
In such case to go directly to his apartment, that handy little
rez-de-chaussée near the Trocadéro, was obviously inadvisable. Without
apparent hesitation Lanyard directed the driver to the Hotel Lutetia,
tossed the ragged spy a sou, and was off to the tune of a slammed door
and a motor that sorely needed overhauling….
The rain, which had welcomed the train a few miles from Paris, was in
the city torrential. Few wayfarers braved the swimming sidewalks, and
the little clusters of chairs and tables beneath permanent café awnings
were one and all neglected. But in the roadways an amazing concourse of
vehicles, mostly motor-driven, skimmed, skidded, and shot over
burnished asphalting all, of course, at top-speed—else this were not
Paris. Lanyard thought of insects on the surface of some dark forest
The roof of the cab rang like a drumhead; the driver blinked through
the back-splatter from his rubber apron; now and again the tyres lost
grip on the treacherous going and provided instants of lively suspense.
Lanyard lowered a window to release the musty odour peculiar to French
taxis, got well peppered with moisture, and promptly put it up again.
Then insensibly he relaxed, in the toils of memories roused by the
reflection that this night fairly duplicated that which had welcomed
him to Paris, twenty years ago.
It was then that, for the first time in several months, he thought
definitely of Troyon's.
And it was then that Chance ordained that his taxicab should skid. On
the point of leaving the Ile de la Cité by way of the Pont St. Michel,
it suddenly (one might pardonably have believed) went mad, darting
crabwise from the middle of the road to the right-hand footway with
evident design to climb the rail and make an end to everything in the
Seine. The driver regained control barely in time to avert a tragedy,
and had no more than accomplished this much when a bit of broken glass
gutted one of the rear tyres, which promptly gave up the ghost with a
roar like that of a lusty young cannon.
At this the driver (apparently a person of religious bias) said
something heartfelt about the sacred name of his pipe and, crawling
from under the apron, turned aft to assess damages.
On his own part Lanyard swore in sound Saxon, opened the door, and
delivered himself to the pelting shower.
"Well?" he enquired after watching the driver muzzle the eviscerated
tyre for some eloquent moments.
Turning up a distorted face, the other gesticulated with profane
abandon, by way of good measure interpolating a few disconnected words
and phrases. Lanyard gathered that this was the second accident of the
same nature since noon that the cab consequently lacked a spare tyre,
and that short of a trip to the garage the accident was irremediable.
So he said (intelligently) it couldn't be helped, paid the man and over
tipped precisely as though their journey had been successfully
consummated, and standing over his luggage watched the maimed vehicle
limp miserably off through the teeming mists.
Now in normal course his plight should have been relieved within two
minutes. But it wasn't. For some time all such taxis as did pass
displayed scornfully inverted flags. Also, their drivers jeered in
their pleasing Parisian way at the lonely outlander occupying a
position of such uncommon distinction in the heart of the storm and the
precise middle of the Pont St. Michel.
Over to the left, on the Quai de Marché Neuf, the façade of the
Préfecture frowned portentously—"La Tour Pointue," as the Parisian
loves to term it. Lanyard forgot his annoyance long enough to salute
that grim pile with a mocking bow, thinking of the men therein who
would give half their possessions to lay hands on him who was only a
few hundred yards distant, marooned in the rain!…
In its own good time a night-prowling fiacre ambled up and veered over
to his hail. He viewed this stroke of good-fortune with intense
disgust: the shambling, weather-beaten animal between the shafts
promised a long, damp crawl to the Lutetia.
And on this reflection he yielded to impulse.
Heaving in his luggage—"Troyon's!" he told the cocher….
The fiacre lumbered off into that dark maze of streets, narrow and
tortuous, which backs up from the Seine to the Luxembourg, while its
fare reflected that Fate had not served him so hardly after all: if
Roddy had really been watching for him at the Gare du Nord, with a mind
to follow and wait for his prey to make some incriminating move, this
chance-contrived change of vehicles and destination would throw the
detective off the scent and gain the adventurer, at worst, several
When at length his conveyance drew up at the historic corner, Lanyard
alighting could have rubbed his eyes to see the windows of Troyon's all
bright with electric light.
Somehow, and most unreasonably, he had always believed the place would
go to the hands of the house-wrecker unchanged.
A smart portier ducked out, seized his luggage, and offered an
umbrella. Lanyard composed his features to immobility as he entered the
hotel, of no mind to let the least flicker of recognition be detected
in his eyes when they should re-encounter familiar faces.
And this was quite as well: for—again—the first he saw was Roddy.
A POINT OF INTERROGATION
The man from Scotland Yard had just surrendered hat, coat, and umbrella
to the vestiaire and was turning through swinging doors to the
dining-room. Again, embracing Lanyard, his glance seemed devoid of any
sort of intelligible expression; and if its object needed all his
self-possession in that moment, it was to dissemble relief rather than
dismay. An accent of the fortuitous distinguished this second encounter
too persuasively to excuse further misgivings. What the adventurer
himself hadn't known till within the last ten minutes, that he was
coming to Troyon's, Roddy couldn't possibly have anticipated; ergo,
whatever the detective's business, it had nothing to do with Lanyard.
Furthermore, before quitting the lobby, Roddy paused long enough to
instruct the vestiaire to have a fire laid in his room.
So he was stopping at Troyon's—and didn't care who knew it!
His doubts altogether dissipated by this incident, Lanyard followed his
natural enemy into the dining-room with an air as devil-may-care as one
could wish and so impressive that the maitre-d'hotel abandoned the
detective to the mercies of one of his captains and himself hastened to
seat Lanyard and take his order.
This last disposed of; Lanyard surrendered himself to new
impressions—of which the first proved a bit disheartening.
However impulsively, he hadn't resought Troyon's without definite
intent, to wit, to gain some clue, however slender, to the mystery of
that wretched child, Marcel. But now it appeared he had procrastinated
fatally: Time and Change had left little other than the shell of the
Troyon's he remembered. Papa Troyon was gone; Madame no longer occupied
the desk of the caisse; enquiries, so discreetly worded as to be
uncompromising, elicited from the maitre-d'hôtel the information that
the house had been under new management these eighteen months; the old
proprietor was dead, and his widow had sold out lock, stock and barrel,
and retired to the country—it was not known exactly where. And with
the new administration had come fresh decorations and furnishings as
well as a complete change of personnel: not even one of the old waiters
"'All, all are gone, the old familiar faces,'" Lanyard quoted in
vindictive melancholy—"damn 'em!"
Happily, it was soon demonstrated that the cuisine was being maintained
on its erstwhile plane of excellence: one still had that comfort….
Other impressions, less ultimate, proved puzzling, disconcerting, and
Lanyard commanded a fair view of Roddy across the waist of the room.
The detective had ordered a meal that matched his aspect well—both of
true British simplicity. He was a square-set man with a square jaw,
cold blue eyes, a fat nose, a thin-lipped trap of a mouth, a face as
red as rare beefsteak. His dinner comprised a cut from the joint,
boiled potatoes, brussels sprouts, a bit of cheese, a bottle of Bass.
He ate slowly, chewing with the doggedness of a strong character
hampered by a weak digestion, and all the while kept eyes fixed to an
issue of the Paris edition of the London Daily Mail, with an effect of
concentration quite too convincing.
Now one doesn't read the Paris edition of the London Daily Mail with
tense excitement. Humanly speaking, it can't be done.
Where, then, was the object of this so sedulously dissembled interest?
Lanyard wasn't slow to read this riddle to his satisfaction—in as far,
that is, as it was satisfactory to feel still more certain that Roddy's
quarry was another than himself.
Despite the lateness of the hour, which had by now turned ten o'clock,
the restaurant had a dozen tables or so in the service of guests
pleasantly engaged in lengthening out an agreeable evening with
dessert, coffee, liqueurs and cigarettes. The majority of these were in
couples, but at a table one removed from Roddy's sat a party of three;
and Lanyard noticed, or fancied, that the man from Scotland Yard turned
his newspaper only during lulls in the conversation in this quarter.
Of the three, one might pass for an American of position and wealth: a
man of something more than sixty years, with an execrable accent, a
racking cough, and a thin, patrician cast of features clouded darkly by
the expression of a soul in torment, furrowed, seamed, twisted—a mask
of mortal anguish. And once, when this one looked up and casually
encountered Lanyard's gaze, the adventurer was shocked to find himself
staring into eyes like those of a dead man: eyes of a grey so light
that at a little distance the colour of the irises blended
indistinguishably with their whites, leaving visible only the round
black points of pupils abnormally distended and staring, blank, fixed,
passionless, beneath lashless lids.
For the instant they seemed to explore Lanyard's very soul with a look
of remote and impersonal curiosity; then they fell away; and when next
the adventurer looked, the man had turned to attend to some observation
of one of his companions.
On his right sat a girl who might be his daughter; for not only was
she, too, hall-marked American, but she was far too young to be the
other's wife. A demure, old-fashioned type; well-poised but unassuming;
fetchingly gowned and with sufficient individuality of taste but not
conspicuously; a girl with soft brown hair and soft brown eyes; pretty,
not extravagantly so when her face was in repose, but with a slow smile
that rendered her little less than beautiful: in all (Lanyard thought)
the kind of woman that is predestined to comfort mankind, whose
strongest instinct is the maternal.
She took little part in the conversation, seldom interrupting what was
practically a duologue between her putative father and the third of
This last was one, whom Lanyard was sure he knew, though he could see
no more than the back of Monsieur le Comte Remy de Morbihan.
And he wondered with a thrill of amusement if it were possible that
Roddy was on the trail of that tremendous buck. If so, it would be a
chase worth following—a diversion rendered the more exquisite to
Lanyard by the spice of novelty, since for once he would figure as a
The name of Comte Remy de Morbihan, although unrecorded in the Almanach
de Gotha, was one to conjure with in the Paris of his day and
generation. He claimed the distinction of being at once the homeliest,
one of the wealthiest, and the most-liked man in France.
As to his looks, good or bad, they were said to prove infallibly fatal
with women, while not a few men, perhaps for that reason, did their
possessor the honour to imitate them. The revues burlesqued him; Sem
caricatured him; Forain counterfeited him extensively in that
inimitable series of Monday morning cartoons for Le Figaro: one said
"De Morbihan" instinctively at sight of that stocky figure, short and
broad, topped by a chubby, moon-like mask with waxed moustaches,
womanish eyes, and never-failing grin.
A creature of proverbial good-nature and exhaustless vitality, his
extraordinary popularity was due to the equally extraordinary
extravagance with which he supported that latest Gallic fad, "le
Sport." The Parisian Rugby team was his pampered protégé, he was an
active member of the Tennis Club, maintained not only a flock of
automobiles but a famous racing stable, rode to hounds, was a good
field gun, patronized aviation and motor-boat racing, risked as many
maximums during the Monte Carlo season as the Grand Duke Michael
himself, and was always ready to whet rapiers or burn a little harmless
powder of an early morning in the Parc aux Princes.
But there were ugly whispers current with respect to the sources of his
fabulous wealth. Lanyard, for one, wouldn't have thought him the
properest company or the best Parisian cicerone for an ailing American
gentleman blessed with independent means and an attractive daughter.
Paris, on the other hand—Paris who forgives everything to him who
contributes to her amusement—adored Comte Remy de Morbihan …
But perhaps Lanyard was prejudiced by his partiality for Americans, a
sentiment the outgrowth of the years spent in New York with Bourke. He
even fancied that between his spirit and theirs existed some subtle
bond of sympathy. For all he knew he might himself be American…
For some time Lanyard strained to catch something of the conversation
that seemed to hold so much of interest for Roddy, but without success
because of the hum of voices that filled the room. In time, however,
the gathering began to thin out, until at length there remained only
this party of three, Lanyard enjoying a most delectable salad, and
Roddy puffing a cigar (with such a show of enjoyment that Lanyard
suspected him of the sin of smuggling) and slowly gulping down a second
bottle of Bass.
Under these conditions the talk between De Morbihan and the Americans
became public property.
The first remark overheard by Lanyard came from the elderly American,
following a pause and a consultation of his watch.
"Quarter to eleven," he announced.
"Plenty of time," said De Morbihan cheerfully. "That is," he amended,
"if mademoiselle isn't bored …"
The girl's reply, accompanied by a pretty inclination of her head
toward the Frenchman, was lost in the accents of the first speaker—a
strong and sonorous voice, in strange contrast with his ravaged
appearance and distressing cough.
"Don't let that worry you," he advised cheerfully. "Lucia's accustomed
to keeping late hours with me; and who ever heard of a young and pretty
woman being bored on the third day of her first visit to Paris?"
He pronounced the name with the hard C of the Italian tongue, as though
it were spelled Luchia.
"To be sure," laughed the Frenchman; "one suspects it will be long
before mademoiselle loses interest in the rue de la Paix."
"You may well, when such beautiful things come from it," said the girl.
"See what we found there to-day."
She slipped a ring from her hand and passed it to De Morbihan.
There followed silence for an instant, then an exclamation from the
"But it is superb! Accept, mademoiselle, my compliments. It is worthy
even of you."
She flushed prettily as she nodded smiling acknowledgement.
"Ah, you Americans!" De Morbihan sighed. "You fill us with envy: you
have the souls of poets and the wealth of princes!"
"But we must come to Paris to find beautiful things for our women-folk!"
"Take care, though, lest you go too far, Monsieur Bannon."
"How so—too far?"
"You might attract the attention of the Lone Wolf. They say he's on the
prowl once more."
The American laughed a trace contemptuously. Lanyard's fingers
tightened on his knife and fork; otherwise he made no sign. A sidelong
glance into a mirror at his elbow showed Roddy still absorbed in the
The girl bent forward with a look of eager interest.
"The Lone Wolf? Who is that?"
"You don't know him in America, mademoiselle?"
"The Lone Wolf, my dear Lucia," the valetudinarian explained in a dryly
humourous tone, "is the sobriquet fastened by some imaginative French
reporter upon a celebrated criminal who seems to have made himself
something of a pest over here, these last few years. Nobody knows
anything definite about him, apparently, but he operates in a most
individual way and keeps the police busy trying to guess where he'll
The girl breathed an incredulous exclamation.
"But I assure you!" De Morbihan protested. "The rogue has had a
wonderfully successful career, thanks to his dispensing with
confederates and confining his depredations to jewels and similar
valuables, portable and easy to convert into cash. Yet," he added,
nodding sagely, "one isn't afraid to predict his race is almost run."
"You don't tell me!" the older man exclaimed. "Have they picked up the
"The man is known," De Morbihan affirmed.
By now the conversation had caught the interest of several loitering
waiters, who were listening open-mouthed. Even Roddy seemed a bit
startled, and for once forgot to make business with his newspaper; but
his wondering stare was exclusively for De Morbihan.
Lanyard put down knife and fork, swallowed a final mouthful of Haut
Brion, and lighted a cigarette with the hand of a man who knew not the
meaning of nerves.
"Garçon!" he called quietly; and ordered coffee and cigars, with a
liqueur to follow….
"Known!" the American exclaimed. "They've caught him, eh?"
"I didn't say that," De Morbihan laughed; "but the mystery is no
more—in certain quarters."
"Who is he, then?"
"That—monsieur will pardon me—I'm not yet free to state. Indeed, I
may be indiscreet in saying as much as I do. Yet, among friends…"
His shrug implied that, as far as he was concerned, waiters were
unhuman and the other guests of the establishment non-existent.
"But," the American persisted, "perhaps you can tell us how they got on
"It wasn't difficult," said De Morbihan: "indeed, quite simple. This
tone of depreciation is becoming, for it was my part to suggest the
solution to my friend, the Chief of the Sûreté. He had been annoyed and
distressed, had even spoken of handing in his resignation because of
his inability to cope with this gentleman, the Lone Wolf. And since he
is my friend, I too was distressed on his behalf, and badgered my poor
wits until they chanced upon an idea which led us to the light."
"You won't tell us?" the girl protested, with a little moue of
disappointment, as the Frenchman paused provokingly.
"Perhaps I shouldn't. And yet—why not? As I say, it was elementary
reasoning—a mere matter of logical deduction and elimination. One made
up one's mind the Lone Wolf must be a certain sort of man; the rest was
simply sifting France for the man to fit the theory, and then watching
him until he gave himself away."
"You don't imagine we're going to let you stop there?" The American
demanded in an aggrieved tone.
"No? I must continue? Very well: I confess to some little pride. It was
a feat. He is cunning, that one!"
De Morbihan paused and shifted sideways in his chair, grinning like a
By this manoeuvre, thanks to the arrangement of mirrors lining the
walls, he commanded an indirect view of Lanyard; a fact of which the
latter was not unaware, though his expression remained unchanged as he
sat—with a corner of his eye reserved for Roddy—speculating whether
De Morbihan were telling the truth or only boasting for his own
"Do go on—please!" the girl begged prettily.
"I can deny you nothing, mademoiselle…. Well, then! From what little
was known of this mysterious creature, one readily inferred he must be
a bachelor, with no close friends. That is clear, I trust?"
"Too deep for me, my friend," the elderly man confessed.
"Impenetrable reticence," the Count expounded, sententious—and
enjoying himself hugely—"isn't possible in the human relations. Sooner
or later one is doomed to share one's secrets, however reluctantly,
even unconsciously, with a wife, a mistress, a child, or with some
trusted friend. And a secret between two is—a prolific breeder of
platitudes! Granted this line of reasoning, the Lone Wolf is of
necessity not only unmarried but practically friendless. Other
attributes of his will obviously comprise youth, courage, imagination,
a rather high order of intelligence, and a social position—let us say,
rather, an ostensible business—enabling him to travel at will hither
and yon without exciting comment. So far, good! My friend the Chief of
the Sûreté forthwith commissioned his agents to seek such an one, and
by this means several fine fish were enmeshed in the net of suspicion,
carefully scrutinized, and one by one let go—all except one, the
veritable man. Him they sedulously watched, shadowing him across Europe
and back again. He was in Berlin at the time of the famous Rheinart
robbery, though he compassed that coup without detection; he was in
Vienna when the British embassy there was looted, but escaped by a
clever ruse and managed to dispose of his plunder before the agents of
the Sûreté could lay hands on him; recently he has been in London, and
there he made love to, and ran away with, the diamonds of a certain
lady of some eminence. You have heard of Madame Omber, eh?" Now by
Roddy's expression it was plain that, if Madame Omber's name wasn't
strange in his hearing, at least he found this news about her most
surprising. He was frankly staring, with a slackened jaw and with
stupefaction in his blank blue eyes.
Lanyard gently pinched the small end of a cigar, dipped it into his
coffee, and lighted it with not so much as a suspicion of tremor. His
brain, however, was working rapidly in effort to determine whether De
Morbihan meant this for warning, or was simply narrating an amusing
yarn founded on advance information and amplified by an ingenious
imagination. For by now the news of the Omber affair must have thrilled
many a Continental telegraph-wire….
"Madame Omber—of course!" the American agreed thoughtfully. "Everyone
has heard of her wonderful jewels. The real marvel is that the Lone
Wolf neglected so shining a mark as long as he did."
"But truly so, monsieur!"
"And they caught him at it, eh?"
"Not precisely: but he left a clue—and London, to boot—with such
haste as would seem to indicate he knew his cunning hand had, for once,
"Then they'll nab him soon?"
"Ah, monsieur, one must say no more!" De Morbihan protested. "Rest
assured the Chief of the Sûreté has laid his plans: his web is spun,
and so artfully that I think our unsociable outlaw will soon be making
friends in the Prison of the Santé…. But now we must adjourn. One is
sorry. It has been so very pleasant…."
A waiter conjured the bill from some recess of his waistcoat and served
it on a clean plate to the American. Another ran bawling for the
vestiaire. Roddy glued his gaze afresh to the Daily Mail. The party
Lanyard noticed that the American signed instead of settling the bill
with cash, indicating that he resided at Troyon's as well as dined
there. And the adventurer found time to reflect that it was odd for
such as he to seek that particular establishment in preference to the
palatial modern hostelries of the Rive Droit—before De Morbihan,
ostensibly for the first time espying Lanyard, plunged across the room
with both hands outstretched and a cry of joyous surprise not really
justified by their rather slight acquaintanceship.
"Ah! Ah!" he clamoured vivaciously. "It is Monsieur Lanyard, who knows
all about paintings! But this is delightful, my friend—one grand
pleasure! You must know my friends…. But come!"
And seizing Lanyard's hands, when that one somewhat reluctantly rose in
response to this surprisingly over-exuberant greeting, he dragged him
willy-nilly from behind his table.
"And you are American, too. Certainly you must know one another.
Mademoiselle Bannon—with your permission—my friend, Monsieur Lanyard.
And Monsieur Bannon—an old, dear friend, with whom you will share a
passion for the beauties of art."
The hand of the American, when Lanyard clasped it, was cold, as cold as
ice; and as their eyes met that abominable cough laid hold of the man,
as it were by the nape of his neck, and shook him viciously. Before it
had finished with him, his sensitively coloured face was purple, and he
was gasping, breathless—and infuriated.
"Monsieur Bannon," De Morbihan explained disconnectedly—"it is most
distressing—I tell him he should not stop in Paris at this season—"
"It is nothing!" the American interposed brusquely between paroxysms.
"But our winter climate, monsieur—it is not fit for those in the prime
"It is I who am unfit!" Bannon snapped, pressing a handkerchief to his
lips—"unfit to live!" he amended venomously.
Lanyard murmured some conventional expression of sympathy. Through it
all he was conscious of the regard of the girl. Her soft brown eyes met
his candidly, with a look cool in its composure, straightforward in its
enquiry, neither bold nor mock-demure. And if they were the first to
fall, it was with an effect of curiosity sated, without hint of
discomfiture…. And somehow the adventurer felt himself measured,
classified, filed away.
Between amusement and pique he continued to stare while the elderly
American recovered his breath and De Morbihan jabbered on with
unfailing vivacity; and he thought that this closer scrutiny discovered
in her face contours suggesting maturity of thought beyond her apparent
years—which were somewhat less than the sum of Lanyard's—and with
this the suggestion of an elusive, provoking quality of wistful
languor, a hint of patient melancholy….
"We are off for a glimpse of Montmartre," De Morbihan was
explaining—"Monsieur Bannon and I. He has not seen Paris in twenty
years, he tells me. Well, it will be amusing to show him what changes
have taken place in all that time. One regrets mademoiselle is too
fatigued to accompany us. But you, my friend—now if you would consent
to make our third, it would be most amiable of you."
"I'm sorry," Lanyard excused himself; "but as you see, I am only just
in from the railroad, a long and tiresome journey. You are very good,
"Good!" De Morbihan exclaimed with violence. "I? On the contrary, I am
a very selfish man; I seek but to afford myself the pleasure of your
company. You lead such a busy life, my friend, romping about Europe,
here one day, God-knows-where the next, that one must make one's best
of your spare moments. You will join us, surely?"
"Really I cannot to-night. Another time perhaps, if you'll excuse me."
"But it is always this way!" De Morbihan explained to his friends with
a vast show of mock indignation. "'Another time, perhaps'—his
invariable excuse! I tell you, not two men in all Paris have any real
acquaintance with this gentleman whom all Paris knows! His reserve is
proverbial—'as distant as Lanyard,' we say on the boulevards!" And
turning again to the adventurer, meeting his cold stare with the De
Morbihan grin of quenchless effrontery—"As you will, my friend!" he
granted. "But should you change your mind—well, you'll have no trouble
finding us. Ask any place along the regular route. We see far too
little of one another, monsieur—and I am most anxious to have a little
chat with you."
"It will be an honour," Lanyard returned formally….
In his heart he was pondering several most excruciating methods of
murdering the man. What did he mean? How much did he know? If he knew
anything, he must mean ill, for assuredly he could not be ignorant of
Roddy's business, or that every other word he uttered was rivetting
suspicion on Lanyard of identity with the Lone Wolf, or that Roddy was
listening with all his ears and staring into the bargain!
Decidedly something must be done to silence this animal, should it turn
out he really did know anything!
It was only after profound reflection over his liqueur (while Roddy
devoured his Daily Mail and washed it down with a third bottle of Bass)
that Lanyard summoned the maitre-d'hôtel and asked for a room.
It would never do to fix the doubts of the detective by going elsewhere
that night. But, fortunately, Lanyard knew that warren which was
Troyon's as no one else knew it; Roddy would find it hard to detain
him, should events seem to advise an early departure.
When the maitre-d'hôtel had shown him all over the establishment
(innocently enough, en route, furnishing him with a complete list of
his other guests and their rooms: memoranda readily registered by a
retentive memory) Lanyard chose the bed-chamber next that occupied by
Roddy, in the second storey.
The consideration influencing this selection was—of course—that, so
situated, he would be in position not only to keep an eye on the man
from Scotland Yard but also to determine whether or no Roddy were
disposed to keep an eye on him.
In those days Lanyard's faith in himself was a beautiful thing. He
could not have enjoyed the immunity ascribed to the Lone Wolf as long
as he had without gaining a power of sturdy self-confidence in addition
to a certain amount of temperate contempt for spies of the law and all
Against the peril inherent in this last, however, he was self-warned,
esteeming it the most fatal chink in the armour of the lawbreaker, this
disposition to underestimate the acumen of the police: far too many
promising young adventurers like himself were annually laid by the
heels in that snare of their own infatuate weaving. The mouse has every
right, if he likes, to despise the cat for a heavy-handed and
bloodthirsty beast, lacking wit and imagination, a creature of simple
force-majeure; but that mouse will not advisedly swagger in cat-haunted
territory; a blow of the paw is, when all's said and done, a blow of
the paw—something to numb the wits of the wiliest mouse.
Considering Roddy, he believed it to be impossible to gauge the
limitations of that essentially British intelligence—something as
self-contained as a London flat. One thing only was certain: Roddy
didn't always think in terms of beef and Bass; he was nobody's facile
fool; he could make a shrewd inference as well as strike a shrewd blow.
Reviewing the scene in the restaurant, Lanyard felt measurably
warranted in assuming not only that Roddy was interested in De
Morbihan, but that the Frenchman was well aware of that interest. And
he resented sincerely his inability to feel as confident that the
Count, with his gossip about the Lone Wolf, had been merely seeking to
divert Roddy's interest to putatively larger game. It was just possible
that De Morbihan's identification of Lanyard with that mysterious
personage, at least by innuendo, had been unintentional. But somehow
Lanyard didn't believe it had.
The two questions troubled him sorely: Did De Morbihan know, did he
merely suspect, or had he only loosed an aimless shot which chance had
sped to the right goal? Had the mind of Roddy proved fallow to that
suggestion, or had it, with its simple national tenacity, been
impatient of such side issues, or incredulous, and persisted in
focusing its processes upon the personality and activities of Monsieur
le Comte Remy de Morbihan? However, one would surely learn something
illuminating before very long. The business of a sleuth is to sleuth,
and sooner or later Roddy must surely make some move to indicate the
quarter wherein his real interest lay.
Just at present, reasoning from noises audible through the bolted door
that communicated with the adjoining bed-chamber, the business of a
sleuth seemed to comprise going to bed. Lanyard, shaving and dressing,
could distinctly hear a tuneless voice contentedly humming "Sally in
our Alley," a rendition punctuated by one heavy thump and then another
and then by a heartfelt sigh of relief—as Roddy kicked off his
boots—and followed by the tapping of a pipe against grate-bars, the
squeal of a window lowered for ventilation, the click of an
electric-light, and the creaking of bed-springs.
Finally, and before Lanyard had finished dressing, the man from
Scotland Yard began placidly to snore.
Of course, he might well be bluffing; for Lanyard had taken pains to
let Roddy know that they were neighbours, by announcing his selection
in loud tones close to the communicating door.
But this was a question which the adventurer meant to have answered
before he went out….
It was hard upon twelve o'clock when the mirror on the dressing-table
assured him that he was at length point-device in the habit and apparel
of a gentleman of elegant nocturnal leisure. But if he approved the
figure he cut, it was mainly because clothes interested him and he
reckoned his own impeccable. Of their tenant he was feeling just then a
bit less sure than he had half-an-hour since; his regard was louring
and mistrustful. He was, in short, suffering reaction from the high
spirits engendered by his cross-Channel exploits, his successful
get-away, and the unusual circumstances attendant upon his return to
this memory-haunted mausoleum of an unhappy childhood. He even shivered
a trifle, as if under premonition of misfortune, and asked himself
heavily: Why not?
For, logically considered, a break in the run of his luck was due. Thus
far he had played, with a success almost too uniform, his dual rôle, by
day the amiable amateur of art, by night the nameless mystery that
prowled unseen and preyed unhindered. Could such success be reasonably
expected to attend him always? Should he count De Morbihan's yarn a
warning? Black must turn up every so often in a run of red: every
gambler knows as much. And what was Michael Lanyard but a common
gambler, who persistently staked life and liberty against the blindly
impartial casts of Chance?
With one last look round to make certain there was nothing in the
calculated disorder of his room to incriminate him were it to be
searched in his absence, Lanyard enveloped himself in a long
full-skirted coat, clapped on an opera hat, and went out, noisily
locking the door. He might as well have left it wide, but it would do
no harm to pretend he didn't know the bed-chamber keys at Troyon's were
interchangeable—identically the same keys, in fact, that had been in
service in the days of Marcel the wretched.
A single half-power electric bulb now modified the gloom of the
corridor; its fellow made a light blot on the darkness of the
courtyard. Even the windows of the conciergerie were black.
None the less, Lanyard tapped them smartly.
"Cordon!" he demanded in a strident voice. "Cordon, s'il vous plait!
"Eh? " A startled grunt from within the lodge was barely audible.
Then the latch clicked loudly at the end of the passageway.
Groping his way in the direction of this last sound, Lanyard found the
small side door ajar. He opened it, and hesitated a moment, looking out
as though questioning the weather; simultaneously his deft fingers
wedged the latch back with a thin slip of steel.
No rain, in fact, had fallen within the hour; but still the sky was
dense with a sullen rack, and still the sidewalks were inky wet.
The street was lonely and indifferently lighted, but a swift searching
reconnaissance discovered nothing that suggested a spy skulking in the
shelter of any of the nearer shadows.
Stepping out, he slammed the door and strode briskly round the corner,
as if making for the cab-rank that lines up along the Luxembourg
Gardens side of the rue de Medicis; his boot-heels made a cheerful
racket in that quiet hour; he was quite audibly going away from
But instead of holding on to the cab-rank, he turned the next corner,
and then the next, rounding the block; and presently, reapproaching the
entrance to Troyon's, paused in the recess of a dark doorway and,
lifting one foot after another, slipped rubber caps over his heels.
Thereafter his progress was practically noiseless.
The smaller door yielded to his touch without a murmur. Inside, he
closed it gently, and stood a moment listening with all his senses—not
with his ears alone but with every nerve and fibre of his being—with
his imagination, to boot. But there was never a sound or movement in
all the house that he could detect.
And no shadow could have made less noise than he, slipping cat-footed
across the courtyard and up the stairs, avoiding with super-developed
sensitiveness every lift that might complain beneath his tread. In a
trice he was again in the corridor leading to his bed-chamber.
It was quite as gloomy and empty as it had been five minutes ago, yet
with a difference, a something in its atmosphere that made him nod
briefly in confirmation of that suspicion which had brought him back so
For one thing, Roddy had stopped snoring. And Lanyard smiled over the
thought that the man from Scotland Yard might profitably have copied
that trick of poor Bourke's, of snoring like the Seven Sleepers when
most completely awake….
It was naturally no surprise to find his bed-chamber door unlocked and
slightly ajar. Lanyard made sure of the readiness of his automatic,
strode into the room, and shut the door quietly but by no means
He had left the shades down and the hangings drawn at both windows; and
since these had not been disturbed, something nearly approaching
complete darkness reigned in the room. But though promptly on entering
his fingers closed upon the wall-switch near the door, he refrained
from turning up the lights immediately, with a fancy of impish
inspiration that it would be amusing to learn what move Roddy would
make when the tension became too much even for his trained nerves.
Several seconds passed without the least sound disturbing the stillness.
Lanyard himself grew a little impatient, finding that his sight failed
to grow accustomed to the darkness because that last was too absolute,
pressing against his staring eyeballs like a black fluid impenetrably
opaque, as unbroken as the hush.
Still, he waited: surely Roddy wouldn't be able much longer to endure
And, surely enough, the silence was abruptly broken by a strange and
moving sound, a hushed cry of alarm that was half a moan and half a sob.
Lanyard himself was startled: for that was never Roddy's voice!
There was a noise of muffled and confused footsteps, as though someone
had started in panic for the door, then stopped in terror.
Words followed, the strangest he could have imagined, words spoken in a
gentle and tremulous voice:
"In pity's name! who are you and what do you want?"
Thunderstruck, Lanyard switched on the lights.
At a distance of some six paces he saw, not Roddy, but a woman, and not
a woman merely, but the girl he had met in the restaurant.
The surprise was complete; none, indeed, was ever more so; but it's a
question which party thereto was the more affected.
Lanyard stared with the eyes of stupefaction. To his fancy, this thing
passed the compass of simple incredulity: it wasn't merely improbable,
it was preposterous; it was anticlimax exaggerated to the proportions
of the grotesque.
He had come prepared to surprise and bully rag the most astute police
detective of whom he had any knowledge; he found himself surprised and
discountenanced by this…!
Confusion no less intense informed the girl's expression; her eyes were
fixed to his with a look of blank enquiry; her face, whose colouring
had won his admiration two hours since, was colourless; her lips were
just ajar; the fingers of one hand touched her cheek, indenting it.
The other hand caught up before her the long skirts of a pretty
robe-de-chambre, beneath whose edge a hand's-breadth of white silk
shimmered and the toe of a silken mule was visible. Thus she stood,
poised for flight, attired only in a dressing-gown over what, one
couldn't help suspecting, was her night-dress: for her hair was down,
and she was unquestionably all ready for her bed….But Bourke's
patient training had been wasted if this man proved one to remain long
at loss. Rallying his wits quickly from their momentary rout, he
reasserted command over them, and if he didn't in the least understand,
made a brave show of accepting this amazing accident as a commonplace.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Bannon—" he began with a formal bow.
She interrupted with a gasp of wondering recognition: "Mr. Lanyard!"
He inclined his head a second time: "Sorry to disturb you—"
"But I don't understand—"
"Unfortunately," he proceeded smoothly, "I forgot something when I went
out, and had to come back for it."
Suddenly her eyes, for the first time detached from his, swept the room
with a glance of wild dismay.
"This room," she breathed—"I don't know it—"
"It is mine."
"That is how I happened to—interrupt you."
The girl shrank back a pace—two paces—uttering a low-toned
monosyllable of understanding, an "O!" abruptly gasped.
Simultaneously her face and throat flamed scarlet.
"Your room, Mr. Lanyard!"
Her tone so convincingly voiced shame and horror that his heart misgave
him. Not that alone, but the girl was very good to look upon. "I'm
sure," he began soothingly; "it doesn't matter. You mistook a door—"
"But you don't understand!" She shuddered…. "This dreadful habit! And
I was hoping I had outgrown it! How can I ever explain—?"
"Believe me, Miss Bannon, you need explain nothing."
"But I must…I wish to…I can't bear to let you think…But surely
you can make allowances for sleepwalking!"
To this appeal he could at first return nothing more intelligent than a
dazed repetition of the phrase.
So that was how…Why hadn't he thought of it before? Ever since he had
turned on the lights, he had been subjectively busy trying to invest
her presence there with some plausible excuse. But somnambulism had
never once entered his mind. And in his stupidity, at pains though he
had been to render his words inoffensive, he had been guilty of
In his turn, Lanyard coloured warmly.
"I beg your pardon," he muttered.
The girl paid no attention; she seemed self-absorbed, thinking only of
herself and the anomalous position into which her infirmity had tricked
her. When she did speak, her words came swiftly:
"You see…I was so frightened! I found myself suddenly standing up in
darkness, just as if I had jumped out of bed at some alarm; and then I
heard somebody enter the room and shut the door stealthily…Oh, please
"But I do, Miss Bannon—quite."
"I am so ashamed—"
"Please don't consider it that way."
"But now that you know—you don't think—"
"My dear Miss Bannon!"
"But it must be so hard to credit! Even I… Why, it's more than a year
since this last happened. Of course, as a child, it was almost a habit;
they had to watch me all the time. Once… But that doesn't matter. I
am so sorry."
"You really mustn't worry," Lanyard insisted. "It's all quite
natural—such things do happen—are happening all the time—"
"But I don't want you—"
"I am nobody, Miss Bannon. Besides I shan't mention the matter to a
soul. And if ever I am fortunate enough to meet you again, I shall have
forgotten it completely—believe me."
There was convincing sincerity in his tone. The girl looked down, as
"You are very good," she murmured, moving toward the door.
"I am very fortunate."
Her glance of surprise was question enough.
"To be able to treasure this much of your confidence," he explained
with a tentative smile.
She was near the door; he opened it for her, but cautioned her with a
gesture and a whispered word: "Wait. I'll make sure nobody's about."
He stepped noiselessly into the hall and paused an instant, looking
right and left, listening.
The girl advanced to the threshold and there checked, hesitant, eyeing
He nodded reassurance: "All right—coast's clear!"
But she delayed one moment more.
"It's you who are mistaken," she whispered, colouring again beneath his
regard, in which admiration could not well be lacking, "It is I who am
fortunate—to have met a—gentleman."
Her diffident smile, together with the candour of her eyes, embarrassed
him to such extent that for the moment he was unable to frame a reply.
"Good night," she whispered—"and thank you, thank you!"
Her room was at the far end of the corridor. She gained its threshold
in one swift dash, noiseless save for the silken whisper of her
garments, turned, flashed him a final look that left him with the
thought that novelists did not always exaggerate, that eyes could shine
Her door closed softly.
Lanyard shook his head as if to dissipate a swarm of annoying thoughts,
and went back into his own bed-chamber.
He was quite content with the explanation the girl had given, but being
the slave of a methodical and pertinacious habit of mind, spent five
busy minutes examining his room and all that it contained with a
perseverance that would have done credit to a Frenchman searching for a
If pressed, he would have been put to it to name what he sought or
thought to find. What he did find was that nothing had been tampered
with and nothing more—not even so much as a dainty, lace-trimmed wisp
of sheer linen bearing the lady's monogram and exhaling a faint but
Which, when he came to consider it, seemed hardly playing the game by
As for Roddy, Lanyard wasted several minutes, off and on, listening
attentively at the communicating door; but if the detective had stopped
snoring, his respiration was loud enough in that quiet hour, a sound of
True, that proved nothing; but Lanyard, after the fiasco of his first
attempt to catch his enemy awake, was no more disposed to be
hypercritical; he had his fill of being ingenious and profound. And
when presently he again left Troyon's (this time without troubling the
repose of the concierge) it was with the reflection that, if Roddy were
really playing 'possum, he was welcome to whatever he could find of
interest in the quarters of Michael Lanyard.
THE PACK GIVES TONGUE
Lanyard's first destination was that convenient little rez-de-chaussée
apartment near the Trocadéro, at the junction of the rue Roget and the
avenue de l'Alma; but his way thither was so roundabout that the best
part of an hour was required for what might have been less than a
twenty-minute taxicab course direct from Troyon's. It was past one when
he arrived, afoot, at the corner.
Not that he grudged the time; for in Lanyard's esteem Bourke's epigram
had come to have the weight and force of an axiom: "The more trouble
you make for yourself, the less the good public will make for you."
Paradoxically, he hadn't the least intention of attempting to deceive
anybody as to his permanent address in Paris, where Michael Lanyard,
connoisseur of fine paintings, was a figure too conspicuous to permit
his making a secret of his residence. De Morbihan, moreover, through
recognizing him at Troyon's, had rendered it impossible for Lanyard to
adopt a nom-de-guerre there, even had he thought that ruse advisable.
But he had certain businesses to attend to before dawn, affairs
demanding privacy; and while by no means sure he was followed, one can
seldom be sure of anything, especially in Paris, where nothing is
impossible; and it were as well to lose a spy first as last. And his
mind could not be at ease with respect to Roddy, thanks to De
Morbihan's gasconade in the presence of the detective and also to that
hint which the Count had dropped concerning some fatal blunder in the
course of Lanyard's British campaign.
The adventurer could recall leaving no step uncovered. Indeed, he had
prided himself on conducting his operations with a degree of
circumspection unusually thorough-going, even for him. Yet he was
unable to rid himself of those misgivings roused by De Morbihan's
declaration that the theft of the Omber jewels had been accomplished
only at cost of a clue to the thief's identity.
Now the Count's positive information concerning the robbery proved that
the news thereof had anticipated the arrival of its perpetrator in
Paris; yet Roddy unquestionably had known nothing of it prior to its
mention in his presence, after dinner. Or else the detective was a
finer actor than Lanyard credited.
But how could De Morbihan have come by his news?
Lanyard was really and deeply perturbed….
Pestered to distraction by such thoughts, he fitted key to latch and
quietly let himself into his flat by a private street-entrance which,
in addition to the usual door opening on the court and under the eye of
the concierge, distinguished this from the ordinary Parisian apartment
and rendered it doubly suited to the adventurer's uses.
Then he turned on the lights and moved quickly from room to room of the
three comprising his quarters, with comprehensive glances reviewing
But, indeed, he hadn't left the reception-hall for the salon without
recognizing that things were in no respect as they ought to be: a hat
he had left on the hall rack had been moved to another peg; a chair had
been shifted six inches from its ordained position; and the door of a
clothes-press, which he had locked on leaving, now stood ajar.
Furthermore, the state of the salon, which he had furnished as a lounge
and study, and of the tiny dining-room and the bed-chamber adjoining,
bore out these testimonies to the fact that alien hands had thoroughly
ransacked the apartment, leaving no square inch unscrutinized.
Yet the proprietor missed nothing. His rooms were a private gallery of
valuable paintings and antique furniture to poison with envy the mind
of any collector, and housed into the bargain a small museum of rare
books, manuscripts, and articles of exquisite workmanship whose
individuality, aside from intrinsic worth, rendered them priceless. A
burglar of discrimination might have carried off in one coat-pocket
loot enough to foot the bill for a twelve-month of profligate
existence. But nothing had been removed, nothing at least that was
apparent in the first tour of inspection; which, if sweeping, was by no
Before checking off more elaborately his mental inventory, Lanyard
turned attention to the protective device, a simple but exhaustive
system of burglar-alarm wiring so contrived that any attempt to enter
the apartment save by means of a key which fitted both doors and of
which no duplicate existed would alarm both the concierge and the
burglar protective society. Though it seemed to have been in no way
tampered with, to test the apparatus he opened a window on the court.
The lodge of the concierge was within earshot. If the alarm had been in
good order, Lanyard could have heard the bell from his window. He heard
With a shrug, he shut the window. He knew well—none better—how such
protection could be rendered valueless by a thoughtful and fore-handed
Returning to the salon, where the main body of his collection was
assembled, he moved slowly from object to object, ticking off items and
noting their condition; with the sole result of justifying his first
conclusion, that whereas nothing had escaped handling, nothing had been
By way of a final test, he opened his desk (of which the lock had been
deftly picked) and went through its pigeon-holes.
His scanty correspondence, composed chiefly of letters exchanged with
art dealers, had been scrutinized and replaced carelessly, in disorder:
and here again he missed nothing; but in the end, removing a small
drawer and inserting a hand in its socket, he dislodged a rack of
pigeon-holes and exposed the secret cabinet that is almost inevitably
an attribute of such pieces of period furniture.
A shallow box, this secret space contained one thing only, but that one
of considerable value, being the leather bill-fold in which the
adventurer kept a store of ready money against emergencies.
It was mostly for this, indeed, that he had come to his apartment; his
London campaign having demanded an expenditure far beyond his
calculations, so that he had landed in Paris with less than one hundred
francs in pocket. And Lanyard, for all his pride of spirit,
acknowledged one haunting fear that of finding himself strapped in the
face of emergency.
The fold yielded up its hoard to a sou: Lanyard counted out five notes
of one thousand francs and ten of twenty pounds: their sum, upwards of
two thousand dollars.
But if nothing had been abstracted, something had been added: the back
of one of the Bank of England notes had been used as a blank for
Lanyard spread it out and studied it attentively.
The handwriting had been traced with no discernible attempt at
disguise, but was quite strange to him. The pen employed had been one
of those needle-pointed nibs so popular in France; the hand was that of
an educated Frenchman. The import of the memorandum translated
substantially as follows:
"To the Lone Wolf—
"The Pack sends Greetings
"and extends its invitation
"to participate in the benefits
"of its Fraternity.
"One awaits him always at
A date was added, the date of that very day…
Deliberately, having conned this communication, Lanyard produced his
cigarette-case, selected a cigarette, found his briquet, struck a
light, twisted the note of twenty pounds into a rude spill, set it
afire, lighted his cigarette there from and, rising, conveyed the
burning paper to a cold and empty fire-place wherein he permitted it to
burn to a crisp black ash.
When this was done, his smile broke through his clouding scowl.
"Well, my friend!" he apostrophized the author of that document which
now could never prove incriminating—"at all events, I have you to
thank for a new sensation. It has long been my ambition to feel
warranted in lighting a cigarette with a twenty-pound note, if the whim
should ever seize me!"
His smile faded slowly; the frown replaced it: something far more
valuable to him than a hundred dollars had just gone up in smoke …
His secret uncovered, that essential incognito of his punctured, his
vanity touched to the quick—all that laboriously constructed edifice
of art and chicane which yesterday had seemed so substantial, so
impregnable a wall between the Lone Wolf and the World, to-day rent,
torn asunder, and cast down in ruins about his feet—Lanyard wasted
time neither in profitless lamentation or any other sort of repining.
He had much to do before morning: to determine, as definitely as might
in discretion be possible, who had fathomed his secret and how; to
calculate what chance he still had of pursuing his career without
exposure and disaster; and to arrange, if investigation verified his
expectations, which were of the gloomiest, to withdraw in good order,
with all honours of war, from that dangerous field.
Delaying only long enough to revise plans disarranged by the
discoveries of this last bad quarter of an hour, he put out the lights
and went out by the courtyard door; for it was just possible that those
whose sardonic whim it had been to name themselves "the Pack" might
have stationed agents in the street to follow their dissocial brother
in crime. And now more than ever Lanyard was firmly bent on going his
own way unwatched. His own way first led him stealthily past the door
of the conciergerie and through the court to the public hall in the
main body of the building. Happily, there were no lights to betray him
had anyone been awake to notice. For thanks to Parisian notions of
economy even the best apartment houses dispense with elevator-boys and
with lights that burn up real money every hour of the night. By
pressing a button beside the door on entering, however, Lanyard could
have obtained light in the hallways for five minutes, or long enough to
enable any tenant to find his front-door and the key-hole therein; at
the end of which period the lamps would automatically have extinguished
themselves. Or by entering a narrow-chested box of about the dimensions
of a generous coffin, and pressing a button bearing the number of the
floor at which he wished to alight, he could have been comfortably
wafted aloft without sign of more human agency. But he prudently
availed himself of neither of these conveniences. Afoot and in complete
darkness he made the ascent of five flights of winding stairs to the
door of an apartment on the sixth floor. Here a flash from a pocket
lamp located the key-hole; the key turned without sound; the door swung
on silent hinges.
Once inside, the adventurer moved more freely, with less precaution
against noise. He was on known ground, and alone; the apartment, though
furnished, was untenanted, and would so remain as long as Lanyard
continued to pay the rent from London under an assumed name.
It was the convenience of this refuge and avenue of retreat, indeed
which had dictated his choice of the rez-de-chaussée; for the
sixth-floor flat possessed one invaluable advantage—a window on a
level with the roof of the adjoining building.
Two minutes' examination sufficed to prove that here at least the Pack
had not trespassed….
Five minutes later Lanyard picked the common lock of a door opening
from the roof of an apartment house on the farthest corner of the
block, found his way downstairs, tapped the door of the conciergerie,
chanted that venerable Open Sesame of Paris, "Cordon, s'il vous
plait!" and was made free of the street by a worthy guardian too
sleepy to challenge the identity of this late-departing guest.
He walked three blocks, picked up a taxicab, and in ten minutes more
was set down at the Gare des Invalides.
Passing through the station without pause, he took to the streets
afoot, following the boulevard St. Germain to the rue du Bac; a brief
walk up this time-worn thoroughfare brought him to the ample, open and
unguarded porte-cochére of a court walled with beetling ancient
When he had made sure that the courtyard was deserted, Lanyard
addressed himself to a door on the right; which to his knock swung
promptly ajar with a clicking latch. At the same time the adventurer
whipped from beneath his cloak a small black velvet visor and adjusted
it to mask the upper half of his face. Then entering a narrow and
odorous corridor, whose obscurity was emphasized by a lonely guttering
candle, he turned the knob of the first door and walked into a small,
A spare-bodied young man, who had been reading at a desk by the light
of an oil-lamp with a heavy green shade, rose and bowed courteously.
"Good morning, monsieur," he said with the cordiality of one who greets
an acquaintance of old standing. "Be seated," he added, indicating an
arm-chair beside the desk. "It seems long since one has had the honour
of a call from monsieur."
"That is so," Lanyard admitted, sitting down.
The young man followed suit. The lamplight, striking across his face
beneath the greenish penumbra of the shade, discovered a countenance of
"Monsieur has something to show me, eh?"
Lanyard's reply just escaped a suspicion of curtness: as who should
say, what did you expect? He was puzzled by something strange and new
in the attitude of this young man, a trace of reserve and constraint….
They had been meeting from time to time for several years, conducting
their secret and lawless business according to a formula invented by
Bourke and religiously observed by Lanyard. A note or telegram of
innocent superficial intent, addressed to a certain member of a leading
firm of jewellers in Amsterdam, was the invariable signal for
conferences such as this; which were invariably held in the same place,
at an hour indeterminate between midnight and dawn, between on the one
hand this intelligent, cultivated and well-mannered young Jew, and on
the other hand the thief in his mask.
In such wise did the Lone Wolf dispose of his loot, at all events of
the bulk thereof; other channels were, of course, open to him, but none
so safe; and with no other receiver of stolen goods could he hope to
make such fair and profitable deals.
Now inevitably in the course of this long association, though each
remained in ignorance of his confederate's identity, these two had come
to feel that they knew each other fairly well. Not infrequently, when
their business had been transacted, Lanyard would linger an hour with
the agent, chatting over cigarettes: both, perhaps, a little thrilled
by the piquancy of the situation; for the young Jew was the only man
who had ever wittingly met the Lone Wolf face to face….
Why then this sudden awkwardness and embarrassment on the part of the
Lanyard's eyes narrowed with suspicion.
In silence he produced a jewel-case of morocco leather and handed it
over to the Jew, then settled back in his chair, his attitude one of
lounging, but his mind as quick with distrust as the fingers that,
under cover of his cloak, rested close to a pocket containing his
Accepting the box with a little bow, the Jew pressed the catch and
discovered its contents. But the richness of the treasure thus
disclosed did not seem to surprise him; and, indeed, he had more than
once been introduced with no more formality to plunder of far greater
value. Fitting a jeweller's glass to his eye, he took up one after
another of the pieces and examined them under the lamplight. Presently
he replaced the last, shut down the cover of the box, turned a
thoughtful countenance to Lanyard, and made as if to speak, but
"Well?" the adventurer demanded impatiently.
"This, I take it," said the Jew absently, tapping the box, "is the
jewellery of Madame Omber."
"I took it," Lanyard retorted good-naturedly—"not to put too fine a
point upon it!"
"I am sorry," the other said slowly.
"It is most unfortunate…"
"May one enquire what is most unfortunate?"
The Jew shrugged and with the tips of his fingers gently pushed the box
toward his customer. "This makes me very unhappy," he admitted: "but I
have no choice in the matter, monsieur. As the agent of my principals I
am instructed to refuse you an offer for these valuables."
Again the shrug, accompanied by a deprecatory grimace: "That is
difficult to say. No explanation was made me. My instructions were
simply to keep this appointment as usual, but to advise you it will be
impossible for my principals to continue their relations with you as
long as your affairs remain in their present status."
"Their present status?" Lanyard repeated. "What does that mean, if you
"I cannot say monsieur. I can only repeat that which was said to me."
After a moment Lanyard rose, took the box, and replaced it in his
pocket. "Very well," he said quietly. "Your principals, of course,
understand that this action on their part definitely ends our
relations, rather than merely interrupts them at their whim?"
"I am desolated, monsieur, but … one must assume that they have
considered everything. You understand, it is a matter in which I am
wholly without discretion, I trust?"
"O quite!" Lanyard assented carelessly. He held out his hand.
"Good-bye, my friend."
The Jew shook hands warmly.
"Good night, monsieur—and the best of luck!"
There was significance in his last words that Lanyard did not trouble
to analyze. Beyond doubt, the man knew more than he dared admit. And
the adventurer told himself he could shrewdly surmise most of that
which the other had felt constrained to leave unspoken.
Pressure from some quarter had been brought to bear upon that eminently
respectable firm of jewel dealers in Amsterdam to induce them to
discontinue their clandestine relations with the Lone Wolf, profitable
though these must have been.
Lanyard believed he could name the quarter whence this pressure was
being exerted, but before going further or coming to any momentous
decision, he was determined to know to a certainty who were arrayed
against him and how much importance he need attach to their antagonism.
If he failed in this, it would be the fault of the other side, not his
for want of readiness to accept its invitation.
In brief, he didn't for an instant contemplate abandoning either his
rigid rule of solitude or his chosen career without a fight; but he
preferred not to fight in the dark.
Anger burned in him no less hotly than chagrin. It could hardly be
otherwise with one who, so long suffered to go his way without let or
hindrance, now suddenly, in the course of a few brief hours, found
himself brought up with a round turn—hemmed in and menaced on every
side by secret opposition and hostility.
He no longer feared to be watched; and the very fact that, as far as he
could see, he wasn't watched, only added fuel to his resentment,
demonstrating as it did so patently the cynical assurance of the Pack
that they had him cornered, without alternative other than to supple
himself to their will.
To the driver of the first taxicab he met, Lanyard said "L'Abbaye,"
then shutting himself within the conveyance, surrendered to the most
Nothing of this mood was, however, apparent in his manner on alighting.
He bore a countenance of amiable insouciance through the portals of
this festal institution whose proudest boast and—incidentally—sole
claim to uniquity is that it never opens its doors before midnight nor
closes them before dawn.
He had moved about with such celerity since entering his flat on the
rue Roget that it was even now only two o'clock; an hour at which
revelry might be expected to have reached its apogee in this, the
soi-disant "smartest" place in Paris.
A less sophisticated adventurer might have been flattered by the
cordiality of his reception at the hands of that arbiter elegantiarum
"Ah-h, Monsieur Lanya_rrr_! But it is long since we have been so
favoured. However, I have kept your table for you."
"Have you, though?"
"Could it be otherwise, after receipt of your honoured order?"
"No," said Lanyard coolly, "I presume not, if you value your peace of
"Monsieur is alone?" This with an accent of disappointment.
"Temporarily, it would seem so."
"But this way, if you please…."
In the wake of the functionary, Lanyard traversed that frowsy anteroom
where doubtful wasters are herded on suspicion in company with the
corps of automatic Bacchanalians and figurantes, to the main
restaurant, the inner sanctum toward which the naïve soul of the
travel-bitten Anglo-Saxon aspires so ardently.
It was not a large room; irregularly octagonal in shape, lined with
wall-seats behind a close-set rank of tables; better lighted than most
Parisian restaurants, that is to say, less glaringly; abominably
ventilated; the open space in the middle of the floor reserved for a
handful of haggard young professional dancers, their stunted bodies
more or less costumed in brilliant colours, footing it with all the
vivacity to be expected of five-francs per night per head; the tables
occupied by parties Anglo-Saxon and French in the proportion of five to
one, attended by a company of bored and apathetic waiters; a string
orchestra ragging incessantly; a vicious buck-nigger on a dais shining
with self-complacence while he vamped and shouted "Waitin' foh th'
Robuht E. Lee"…
Lanyard permitted himself to be penned in a corner behind a table,
ordered champagne not because he wanted it but because it was
etiquette, suppressed a yawn, lighted a cigarette, and reviewed the
assemblage with a languid but shrewd glance.
He saw only the company of every night; for even in the off-season
there are always enough English-speaking people in Paris to make it
possible for L'Abbaye Thêléme to keep open with profit: the inevitable
assortment of respectable married couples with friends, the men chafing
and wondering if possibly all this might seem less unattractive were
they foot-loose and fancy-free, the women contriving to appear at ease
with varying degrees of success, but one and all flushed with dubiety;
the sprinkling of demi-mondaines not in the least concerned about
their social status; the handful of people who, having brought their
fun with them, were having the good time they would have had anywhere;
the scattering of plain drunks in evening dress…. Nowhere a face that
Lanyard recognized definitely: no Mr. Bannon, no Comte Remy de
He regarded this circumstance, however, with more vexation than
surprise: De Morbihan would surely show up in time; meanwhile, it was
annoying to be obliged to wait, to endure this martyrdom of ennui.
He sipped his wine sparingly, without relish, considering the single
subsidiary fact which did impress him with some wonder—that he was
being left severely to himself; something which doesn't often fall to
the lot of the unattached male at L'Abbaye. Evidently an order had been
issued with respect to him. Ordinarily he would have been grateful:
to-night he was merely irritated: such neglect rendered him
The fixed round of delirious divertissement unfolded as per schedule.
The lights were lowered to provide a melodramatic atmosphere for that
startling novelty, the Apache Dance. The coon shouted stridently. The
dancers danced bravely on their poor, tired feet. An odious dwarf
creature in a miniature outfit of evening clothes toddled from table to
table, offensively soliciting stray francs—but shied from the gleam in
Lanyard's eyes. Lackeys made the rounds, presenting each guest with a
handful of coloured, feather-weight celluloid balls, with which to
bombard strangers across the room. The inevitable shamefaced Englishman
departed in tow of an overdressed Frenchwoman with pride of conquest in
her smirk. The equally inevitable alcoholic was dug out from under his
table and thrown into a cab. An American girl insisted on climbing upon
a table to dance, but swayed and had to be helped down, giggling
foolishly. A Spanish dancing girl was afforded a clear floor for her
specialty, which consisted in singing several verses understood by
nobody, the choruses emphasized by frantic assaults on the hair of
several variously surprised, indignant, and flattered male
guests—among them Lanyard, who submitted with resignation….
And then, just when he was on the point of consigning the Pack to the
devil for inflicting upon him such cruel and inhuman punishment, the
Spanish girl picked her way through the mob of dancers who invaded the
floor promptly on her withdrawal, and paused beside his table.
"You're not angry, mon coco?" she pleaded with a provocative smile.
Lanyard returned a smiling negative.
"Then I may sit down with you and drink a glass of your wine?"
"Can't you see I've been saving the bottle for you?"
The woman plumped herself promptly into the chair opposite the
adventurer. He filled her glass.
"But you are not happy to-night?" she demanded, staring over the brim
as she sipped.
"I am thoughtful," he said.
"And what does that mean?"
"I am saddened to contemplate the infirmities of my countrymen, these
Americans who can't rest in Paris until they find some place as deadly
as any Broadway boasts, these English who adore beautiful Paris solely
because here they may continue to get drunk publicly after half-past
"Ah, then it's la barbe, is it not?" said the girl, gingerly stroking
her faded, painted cheek.
"It is true: I am bored."
"Then why not go where you're wanted?" She drained her glass at a gulp
and jumped up, swirling her skirts. "Your cab is waiting, monsieur—and
perhaps you will find it more amusing with that Pack!"
Flinging herself into the arms of another girl, she swung away,
grinning impishly at Lanyard over her partner's shoulder.
THE HIGH HAND
Evidently his first move toward departure was signalled; for as he
passed out through L'Abbaye's doors the carriage-porter darted forward
"Monsieur's car is waiting."
"Indeed?" Lanyard surveyed briefly a handsome black limousine that, at
pause beside the curb, was champing its bits in the most spirited
fashion. Then he smiled appreciatively. "All the same, I thank you for
the compliment," he said, and forthwith tipped the porter.
But before entrusting himself to this gratuitous conveyance, he put
himself to the trouble of inspecting the chauffeur—a capable-looking
mechanic togged out in a rich black livery which, though relieved by a
vast amount of silk braiding, was like the car guiltless of any sort of
"I presume you know where I wish to go, my man?"
The chauffeur touched his cap: "But naturally, monsieur."
"Then take me there, the quickest way you know."
Nodding acknowledgement of the porter's salute, Lanyard sank gratefully
back upon uncommonly luxurious upholstery. The fatigue of the last
thirty-six hours was beginning to tell on him a bit, though his youth
was still so vital, so instinct with strength and vigour, that he could
go as long again without sleep if need be.
None the less he was glad of this opportunity to snatch a few minutes'
rest by way of preparation against the occult culmination of this
adventure. No telling what might ensue of this violation of all those
principles which had hitherto conserved his welfare! And he entertained
a gloomy suspicion that he would be inclined to name another ass, who
proposed as he did to beard this Pack in its den with nothing more than
his wits and an automatic pistol to protect ten thousand-francs, the
jewels of Madame Omber, the Huysman plans, and (possibly) his life.
However, he stood committed to his folly, if folly it were: he would
play the game as it lay.
As for curiosity concerning his immediate destination, there was little
enough of that in his temper; a single glance round on leaving the car
would fix his whereabouts beyond dispute, so thorough was his knowledge
He contemplated briefly, with admiration, the simplicity with which
that affair at L'Abbaye had been managed, finding no just cause to
suspect anyone there of criminal complicity in the plans of the Pack: a
forged order for a table to the maitre-d'hotel, ten francs to the
carriage-porter and twenty more to the dancing woman to play parts in a
putative practical joke—and the thing had been arranged without
implicating a soul!…
Of a sudden, ending a ride much shorter than Lanyard would have liked,
the limousine swung in toward a curb.
Bending forward, he unlatched the door and, glancing through the
window, uttered a grunt of profound disgust.
If this were the best that Pack could do…!
He had hoped for something a trifle more original from men with wit and
imagination enough to plot the earlier phases of this intrigue.
The car had pulled up in front of an institution which he knew
well—far too well, indeed, for his own good.
None the less, he consented to get out.
"Sure you've come to the right place?" he asked the chauffeur.
Two fingers touching the visor of his cap: "But certainly, monsieur!"
"Oh, all right!" Lanyard grumbled resignedly; and tossing the man a
five-franc piece, applied his knuckles to the door of an outwardly
commonplace hôtel particulier in the rue Chaptal between the impasse of
the Grand Guignol and the rue Pigalle.
Now the neophyte needs the introduction of a trusted sponsor before he
can win admission to the club-house of the exclusive Circle of Friends
of Humanity; but Lanyard's knock secured him prompt and unquestioned
right of way. The unfortunate fact is, he was a member in the best of
standing; for this society of pseudo-altruistic aims was nothing more
nor less than one of those several private gambling clubs of Paris
which the French Government tolerates more or less openly, despite
adequate restrictive legislation; and gambling was Lanyard's ruling
passion—a legacy from Bourke no less than the rest of his professional
To every man his vice (the argument is Bourke's, in defence of his
failing). And perhaps the least mischievous vice a professional
cracksman can indulge is that of gambling, since it can hardly drive
him to lengths more desperate than those whereby he gains a livelihood.
In the esteem of Paris, Count Remy de Morbihan himself was scarcely a
more light-hearted plunger than Monsieur Lanyard.
Naturally, with this reputation, he was always free of the handsome
salons wherein the Friends of Humanity devoted themselves to roulette,
auction bridge, baccarat and chemin-de-fer: and of this freedom he now
proceeded to avail himself, with his hat just a shade aslant on his
head, his hands in his pockets, a suspicion of a smile on his lips and
a glint of the devil in his eyes—in all an expression accurately
reflecting the latest phase of his humour, which was become largely one
of contemptuous toleration, thanks to what he chose to consider an
exhibition of insipid stupidity on the part of the Pack.
Nor was this humour in any way modified when, in due course, he
confirmed anticipation by discovering Monsieur le Comte Remy de
Morbihan lounging beside one of the roulette tables, watching the play,
and now and again risking a maximum on his own account.
A flash of animation crossed the unlovely mask of the Count when he saw
Lanyard approaching, and he greeted the adventurer with a gay little
flirt of his pudgy dark hand.
"Ah, my friend!" he cried. "It is you, then, who have changed your
mind! But this is delightful!"
"And what has become of your American friend?" Asked the adventurer.
"He tired quickly, that one, and packed himself off to Troyon's. Be
sure I didn't press him to continue the grand tour!"
"Then you really did wish to see me to-night?" Lanyard enquired
"Always—always, my dear Lanyard!" the Count declared, jumping up. "But
come," he insisted: "I've a word for your private ear, if these
gentlemen will excuse us."
"Do!" Lanyard addressed in a confidential manner those he knew at the
table, before turning away to the tug of the Count's hand on his
arm—"I think he means to pay up twenty pounds he owes me!"
Some derisive laughter greeted this sally.
"I mean that, however," Lanyard informed the other cheerfully as they
moved away to a corner where conversation without an audience was
possible—"you ruined that Bank of England note, you know."
"Cheap at the price!" the Count protested, producing his bill-fold.
"Five hundred francs for an introduction to Monsieur the Lone Wolf!"
"Are you joking?" Lanyard asked blankly—and with a magnificent gesture
abolished the proffered banknote.
"Joking? I! But surely you don't mean to deny—"
"My friend," Lanyard interrupted, "before we assert or deny anything,
let us gather the rest of the players round the table and deal from a
sealed deck. Meantime, let us rest on the understanding that I have
found, at one end, a message scrawled on a bank-note hidden in a secret
place, at the other end, yourself, Monsieur le Comte. Between and
beyond these points exists a mystery, of which one anticipates
"You shall have it," De Morbihan promised. "But first, we must go to
those others who await us."
"Not so fast!" Lanyard interposed. "What am I to understand? That you
wish me to accompany you to the—ah—den of the Pack?"
"Where else?" De Morbihan grinned.
"But where is that?"
"I am not permitted to say—"
"Still, one has one's eyes. Why not satisfy me here?"
"Your eyes, by your leave, monsieur, will be blindfolded."
"Pardon—it is an essential—"
"Come, come, my friend: we are not in the Middle Ages!"
"I have no discretion, monsieur. My confrères—"
"I insist: there will be trust on both sides or no negotiations."
"But I assure you, my dear friend—"
"My dear Count, it is useless: I am determined. Blindfold? I should say
not! This is not—need I remind you again?—the Paris of Balzac and
that wonderful Dumas of yours!"
"What do you propose, then?" De Morbihan enquired, worrying his
"What better place for the proposed conference than here?"
"But not here!"
"Why not? Everybody comes here: it will cause no gossip. I am here—I
have come half-way; your friends must do as much on their part."
"It is not possible…."
"Then, I beg you, tender them my regrets."
"Would you give us away?"
"Never that: one makes gifts to one's friends only. But my interest in
yours is depreciating so rapidly that, should you delay much longer, it
will be on sale for the sum of two sous."
"O—damn!" the Count complained peevishly.
"With all the pleasure in life…. But now," Lanyard went on, rising to
end the interview, "you must forgive me for reminding you that the
morning wanes apace. I shall be going home in another hour."
De Morbihan shrugged. "Out of my great affection for you," he purred
venomously, "I will do my possible. But I promise nothing."
"I have every confidence in your powers of moral suasion, monsieur,"
Lanyard assured him cheerfully. "Au revoir!"
And with this, not at all ill-pleased with himself, he strutted off to
a table at which a high-strung session of chemin-de-fer was in process,
possessed himself of a vacant chair, and in two minutes was so
engrossed in the game that the Pack was quite forgotten.
In fifteen minutes he had won thrice as many thousands of francs.
Twenty minutes or half an hour later, a hand on his shoulder broke the
grip of his besetting passion.
"Our table is made up, my friend," De Morbihan announced with his
inextinguishable grin. "We're waiting for you."
"Quite at your service."
Settling his score and finding himself considerably better off than he
had imagined, he resigned his place gracefully, and suffered the Count
to link arms and drag him away up the main staircase to the second
storey, where smaller rooms were reserved for parties who preferred to
"So it appears you succeeded!" he chaffed his conductor good-humouredly.
"I have brought you the mountain," De Morbihan assented.
"One is grateful for small miracles…."
But De Morbihan wouldn't laugh at his own expense; for a moment,
indeed, he seemed inclined to take umbrage at Lanyard's levity. But the
sudden squaring of his broad shoulders and the hardening of his
features was quickly modified by an uneasy sidelong glance at his
companion. And then they were at the door of the cabinet particulier.
De Morbihan rapped, turned the knob, and stood aside, bowing politely.
With a nod acknowledging the courtesy, Lanyard consented to precede
him, and entered a room of intimate proportions, furnished chiefly with
a green-covered card-table and five easy-chairs, of which three were
occupied—two by men in evening dress, the third by one in a
well-tailored lounge suit of dark grey.
Now all three men wore visors of black velvet.
Lanyard looked from one to the other and chuckled quietly.
With an aggrieved air De Morbihan launched into introductions:
"Messieurs, I have the honour to present to you our confrère, Monsieur
Lanyard, best known as 'The Lone Wolf.' Monsieur Lanyard—the Council
of our Association, known to you as 'The Pack.'"
The three rose and bowed ceremoniously, Lanyard returned a cool,
good-natured nod. Then he laughed again and more openly:
"A pack of knaves!"
"Monsieur doubtless feels at ease?" one retorted acidly.
"In your company, Popinot? But hardly!" Lanyard returned in light
The fellow thus indicated, a burly rogue of a Frenchman in rusty and
baggy evening clothes, started and flushed scarlet beneath his mask;
but the man next him dropped a restraining hand upon his arm, and
Popinot, with a shrug, sank back into his chair.
"Upon my word!" Lanyard declared gracelessly, "it's as good as a play!
Are you sure, Monsieur le Comte, there's no mistake—that these gay
masqueraders haven't lost their way to the stage of the Grand Guignol?"
"Damn!" muttered the Count. "Take care, my friend! You go too far!"
"You really think so? But you amaze me! You can't in reason expect me
to take you seriously, gentlemen!"
"If you don't, it will prove serious business for you!" growled the one
he had called Popinot.
"You mean that? But you are magnificent, all of you! We lack only the
solitary illumination of a candle-end—a grinning skull—a cup of blood
upon the table—to make the farce complete! But as it is…. Messieurs,
you must be rarely uncomfortable, and feeling as foolish as you look,
into the bargain! Moreover, I'm no child. … Popinot, why not
disembarrass your amiable features? And you, Mr. Wertheimer, I'm sure,
will feel more at ease with an open countenance—as the saying runs,"
he said, nodding to the man beside Popinot. "As for this gentleman," he
concluded, eyeing the third, "I haven't the pleasure of his
With a short laugh, Wertheimer unmasked and exposed a face of decidedly
English type, fair and well-modelled, betraying only the faintest
traces of Semitic cast to account for his surname. And with this
example, Popinot snatched off his own black visor—and glared at
Lanyard: in his shabby dress, the incarnate essence of bourgeoisie
outraged. But the third, he of the grey lounge suit, remained
motionless; only his eyes clashed coldly with the adventurer's.
He seemed a man little if at all Lanyard's senior, and built upon much
the same lines. A close-clipped black moustache ornamented his upper
lip. His chin was square and strong with character. The cut of his
clothing was conspicuously neither English nor Continental.
"I don't know you, sir," Lanyard continued slowly, puzzled to account
for a feeling of familiarity with this person, whom he could have sworn
he had never met before.
"But you won't let your friends here outdo you in civility, I trust?"
"If you mean you want me to unmask, I won't," the other returned
brusquely, in fair French but with a decided transatlantic intonation.
"Native-born, if it interests you."
"Have I ever met you before?"
"You have not."
"My dear Count," Lanyard said, turning to De Morbihan, "do me the
favour to introduce this gentleman."
"Your dear Count will do nothing like that, Mr. Lanyard. If you need a
name to call me by, Smith's good enough."
The incisive force of his enunciation assorted consistently with the
general habit of the man. Lanyard recognized a nature no more pliable
than his own. Idle to waste time bickering with this one….
"It doesn't matter," he said shortly; and drawing back a chair, sat
down. "If it did, I should insist—or else decline the honour of
receiving the addresses of this cosmopolitan committee. Truly,
messieurs, you flatter me. Here we have Mr. Wertheimer, representing
the swell-mobsmen across Channel; Monsieur le Comte standing for the
gratin of Paris; Popinot, spokesman for our friends the Apaches; and
the well-known Mr. Goodenough Smith, ambassador of the gun-men of New
York—no doubt. I presume one is to understand you wait upon me as
representing the fine flower of the European underworld?"
"You're to understand that I, for one, don't relish your impudence,"
the stout Popinot snapped.
"Sorry…. But I have already indicated my inability to take you
"Why not?" the American demanded ominously. "You'd be sore enough if we
took you as a joke, wouldn't you?"
"You misapprehend, Mr.—ah—Smith: it is my first aim and wish that you
do not take me in any manner, shape or form. It is you, remember, who
requested this interview and—er—dressed your parts so strikingly!"
"What are we to understand by that?" De Morbihan interposed.
"This, messieurs—if you must know." Lanyard dropped for the moment his
tone of raillery and bent forward, emphasizing his points by tapping
the table with a forefinger. "Through some oversight of mine or
cleverness of yours—I can't say which—perhaps both—you have
succeeded in penetrating my secret. What then? You become envious of my
success. In short, I stand in your light: I'm always getting away with
something you might have lifted if you'd only had wit enough to think
of it first. As your American accomplice, Mr. Mysterious Smith, would
say, I 'cramp your style.'"
"You learned that on Broadway," the American commented shrewdly.
"Possibly…. To continue: so you get together, and bite your nails
until you concoct a plan to frighten me into my profits. I've no doubt
you're prepared to allow me to retain one-half the proceeds of my
operations, should I elect to ally myself with you?"
"That's the suggestion we are empowered to make," De Morbihan admitted.
"In other words, you need me. You say to yourselves: 'We'll pretend to
be the head of a criminal syndicate, such as the silly novelists are
forever writing about, and we'll threaten to put him out of business
unless he comes to our terms.' But you overlook one important fact:
that you are not mentally equipped to get away with this amusing
impersonation! What! Do you expect me to accept you as leading spirits
of a gigantic criminal system—you, Popinot, who live by standing
between the police and your murderous rats of Belleville, or you,
Wertheimer, sneak-thief and black-mailer of timid women, or you, De
Morbihan, because you eke out your income by showing a handful of
second-storey men where to seek plunder in the homes of your friends!"
He made a gesture of impatience, and lounged back to wait the answer to
this indictment. His gaze, ranging the four faces, encountered but one
that was not darkly flushed with resentment; and this was the
"Aren't you overlooking me?" this last suggested gently.
"On the contrary: I refuse to recognize you as long as you lack courage
to show your face."
"As you will, my friend," the American chuckled. "Make your profit out
of that any way you like."
Lanyard sat up again: "Well, I've stated your case, messieurs. It
amounts to simple, clumsy blackmail. I'm to split my earnings with you,
or you'll denounce me to the police. That's about it, isn't it?"
"Not of necessity," De Morbihan softly purred, twisting his moustache.
"For my part," Popinot declared hotly, "I engage that Monsieur of the
High Hand, here, will either work with us or conduct no more operations
"Or in New York," the American amended.
"England is yet to be heard from," Lanyard suggested mockingly.
To this Wertheimer replied, almost with diffidence: "If you ask me, I
don't think you'd find it so jolly pleasant over there, if you mean to
cut up nasty at this end."
"Then what am I to infer? If you're afraid to lay an information
against me—and it wouldn't be wise, I admit—you'll merely cause me to
be assassinated, eh?"
"Not of necessity," the Count murmured in the same thoughtful tone and
manner—as one holding a hidden trump.
"There are so many ways of arranging these matters," Wertheimer
"None the less, if I refuse, you declare war?"
"Something like that," the American admitted.
"In that case—I am now able to state my position definitely." Lanyard
got up and grinned provokingly down at the group. "You can—all four of
you—go plumb to hell!"
"My dear friend!" the Count cried, shocked—"you forget—"
"I forget nothing!" Lanyard cut in coldly—"and my decision is final.
Consider yourselves at liberty to go ahead and do your damnedest! But
don't forget that it is you who are the aggressors. Already you've had
the insolence to interfere with my arrangements: you began offensive
operations before you declared war. So now if you're hit beneath the
belt, you mustn't complain: you've asked for it!"
"Now just what do you mean by that?" the American drawled ironically.
"I leave you to figure it out for yourselves. But I will say this: I
confidently expect you to decide to live and let live, and shall be
sorry, as you'll certainly be sorry, if you force my hand."
He opened the door, turned, and saluted them with sarcastic punctilio.
"I have the honour to bid adieu to Messieurs the Council of—'The
Having fulfilled his purpose of making himself acquainted with the
personnel of the opposition, Lanyard slammed the door in its face,
thrust his hands in his pockets, and sauntered down stairs, chuckling,
his nose in the air, on the best of terms with himself.
True, the fat was in the fire and well a-blaze: he had to look to
himself now, and go warily in the shadow of their enmity. But it was
something to have faced down those four, and he wasn't seriously
impressed by any one of them.
Popinot, perhaps, was the most dangerous in Lanyard's esteem; a
vindictive animal, that Popinot; and the creatures he controlled, a
murderous lot, drug-ridden, drink bedevilled, vicious little rats of
Belleville, who'd knife a man for the price of an absinthe. But Popinot
wouldn't move without leave from De Morbihan, and unless Lanyard's
calculations were seriously miscast, De Morbihan would restrain both
himself and his associates until thoroughly convinced Lanyard was
impregnable against every form of persuasion. Murder was something a
bit out of De Morbihan's line—something, at least, which he might be
counted on to hold in reserve. And by the time he was ready to employ
it, Lanyard would be well beyond his reach. Wertheimer, too, would
deprecate violence until all else failed; his half-caste type was as
cowardly as it was blackguard; and cowards kill only impulsively,
before they've had time to weigh consequences. There remained "Smith,"
enigma; a man apparently gifted with both intelligence and
character…. But if so, what the deuce was he doing in such company?
Still, there he was: and the association damned him beyond
consideration. His sorts were all of a piece, beneath the consideration
of men of spirit….
At this point, the self-complacence bred of his contempt for Messrs. de
Morbihan et Cie. bred in its turn a thought that brought the adventurer
The devil! Who was he, Michael Lanyard, that held himself above such
vermin, yet lived in such a way as practically to invite their
advances? What right was his to resent their opening the door to
confraternity, as long as he trod paths so closely parallel to theirs
that only a sophist might discriminate them? What comforting
distinction was to be drawn between on the one hand a blackmailer like
Wertheimer, a chevalier-d'industrie like De Morbihan, or a patron of
Apaches like Popinot, and on the other himself whose bread was eaten in
the sweat of thievery?
He drew a long face; whistled softly; shook his head; and smiled a wry
"Glad I didn't think of that two minutes ago, or I'd never have had the
Without warning, incongruously and, in his understanding, inexplicably,
he found himself beset by recurrent memory of the girl, Lucia Bannon.
For an instant he saw her again, quite vividly, as last he had seen
her: turning at the door of her bed-chamber to look back at him, a
vision of perturbing charm in her rose-silk dressing-gown, with rich
hair loosened, cheeks softly glowing, eyes brilliant with an emotion
illegible to her one beholder….
What had been the message of those eyes, flashed down the dimly lighted
length of that corridor at Troyon's, ere she vanished?
Adieu? Or au revoir? …
She had termed him, naïvely enough, and a gentleman.
But if she knew—suspected—even dreamed—that he was what he was?…
He shook his head again, but now impatiently, with a scowl and a
"What's the matter with me anyway? Mooning over a girl I never saw
before to-night! As if it matters a whoop in Hepsidam what she
thinks!… Or is it possible I'm beginning to develop a rudimentary
conscience, at this late day? Me!…"
If there were anything in this hypothesis, the growing-pains of that
late-blooming conscience were soon enough numbed by the hypnotic spell
of clattering chips, an ivory ball singing in an ebony race, and
For Lanyard's chair at the table of chemin-de-fer had been filled by
another and, too impatient to wait a vacancy, he wandered on to the
salon dedicated to roulette, tested his luck by staking a note of five
hundred francs on the black, won, and incontinently subsided into a
chair and an oblivion that endured for the space of three-quarters of
At the end of that period he found himself minus his heavy winnings at
chemin-de-fer and ten thousand francs of his reserve fund to boot.
By way of lining for his pockets there remained precisely the sum which
he had brought into Paris that same evening, less subsequent general
The experience was nothing novel in his history. He rose less resentful
than regretful that his ill-luck obliged him to quit just when play was
most interesting, and resignedly sought the cloak-room for his coat and
And there he found De Morbihan—again!—standing all garmented for the
street, mouthing a huge cigar and wearing a look of impatient
"At last!" he cried in an aggrieved tone as Lanyard appeared in the
offing. "You do take your time, my friend!"
Lanyard smothered with a smile whatever emotion was his of the moment.
"I didn't imagine you really meant to wait for me," he parried with
double meaning, both to humour De Morbihan and hoodwink the attendant.
"What do you think?" retorted the Count with asperity—"that I'm
willing to stand by and let you moon round Paris at this hour of the
morning, hunting for a taxicab that isn't to be found and running
God-knows-what risk of being stuck up by some misbegotten Apache? But I
should say not! I mean to take you home in my car, though it cost me a
half-hour of beauty sleep not lightly to be forfeited at my age!"
The significance that underlay the semi-humourous petulance of the
little man was not wasted.
"You're most amiable, Monsieur le Comte!" Lanyard observed
thoughtfully, while the attendant produced his hat and coat. "So now,
if you're ready, I won't delay you longer."
In another moment they were outside the club-house, its doors shut
behind them, while before them, at the curb, waited that same handsome
black limousine which had brought the adventurer from L'Abbaye.
Two swift glances, right and left, showed him an empty street, bare of
hint of danger.
"One moment, monsieur!" he said, detaining the Count with a touch on
his sleeve. "It's only right that I should advise you … I'm armed."
"Then you're less foolhardy than one feared. If such things interest
you, I don't mind admitting I carry a life-preserver of my own. But
what of that? Is one eager to go shooting at this time of night, for
the sheer fun of explaining to sergents de ville that one has been
attacked by Apaches? … Providing always one lives to explain!"
"It's as bad as that, eh?"
"Enough to make me loath to linger at your side in a lighted doorway!"
Lanyard laughed in his own discomfiture. "Monsieur le Comte," said he,
"there's a dash in you of what your American pal, Mysterious Smith,
would call sporting blood, that commands my unstinted admiration. I
thank you for your offered courtesy, and beg leave to accept."
De Morbihan replied with a grunt of none too civil intonation,
instructed the chauffeur "To Troyon's," and followed Lanyard into the
"Courtesy!" he repeated, settling himself with a shake. "That makes
nothing. If I regarded my own inclinations, I'd let you go to the devil
as quick as Popinot's assassins could send you there!"
"This is delightful!" Lanyard protested. "First you must see me home to
save my life, and then you tell me your inclinations consign me to a
premature grave. Is there an explanation, possibly?"
"On your person," said the Count, sententious.
"You carry your reason with you, my friend—in the shape of the Omber
"Assuming you are right—"
"You never went to the rue du Bac, monsieur, without those jewels: and
I have had you under observation ever since."
"What conceivable interest," Lanyard pursued evenly, "do you fancy
you've got in the said loot?"
"Enough, at least, to render me unwilling to kiss it adieu by leaving
you to the mercies of Popinot. You don't imagine I'd ever hear of it
again, when his Apaches had finished with you?"
"Ah!… So, after all, your so-called organization isn't founded on
that reciprocal trust so essential to the prosperity of
"Amuse yourself as you will with your inferences, my friend," the Count
returned, unruffled; "but don't forget my advice: pull wide of Popinot!"
"A vindictive soul, eh?"
"One may say that."
"You can't hold him?"
"That one? No fear! You were anything but wise to bait him as you did."
"Perhaps. It's purely a matter of taste in associates."
"If I were the fool you think me," mused the Count "I'd resent that
innuendo. As it happens, I'm not. At least, I can wait before calling
you to account."
"And meantime profit by your patience?"
"But naturally. Haven't I said as much?"
"Still, I'm perplexed. I can't imagine how you reckon to declare
yourself in on the Omber loot."
"All in good time: if you were wise, you'd hand the stuff over to me
here and now, and accept what I chose to give you in return. But
inasmuch as you're the least wise of men, you must have your lesson."
"The night brings counsel: you'll have time to think things over. By
to-morrow you'll be coming to offer me those jewels in exchange for
what influence I have in certain quarters."
"With your famous friend, the Chief of the Sûreté, eh?"
"Possibly. I am known also at La Tour Pointue."
"I confess I don't follow you, unless you mean to turn informer."
"It's a riddle, then?"
"For the moment only…. But I will say this: it will be futile, your
attempting to escape Paris; Popinot has already picketted every outlet.
Your one hope resides in me; and I shall be at home to you until
midnight to-morrow—to-day, rather."
Impressed in spite of himself, Lanyard stared. But the Count maintained
an imperturbable manner, looking straight ahead. Such calm assurance
would hardly be sheer bluff.
"I must think this over," Lanyard mused aloud.
"Pray don't let me hinder you," the Count begged with mild sarcasm. "I
have my own futile thoughts…."
Lanyard laughed quietly and subsided into a reverie which, undisturbed
by De Morbihan, endured throughout the brief remainder of their drive;
for, thanks to the smallness of the hour, the streets were practically
deserted and offered no obstacle to speed; while the chauffeur was
doubtless eager for his bed.
As they drew near Troyon's, however, Lanyard sat up and jealously
reconnoitered both sides of the way.
"Surely you don't expect to be kept out?" the Count asked dryly. "But
that just shows how little you appreciate our good Popinot. He'll never
object to your locking yourself up where he knows he can find you—but
only to your leaving without permission!"
"Something in that, perhaps. Still, I make it a rule to give myself the
benefit of every doubt."
There was, indeed, no sign of ambush that he could detect in any
quarter, nor any indication that Popinot's Apaches were posted
thereabouts. Nevertheless, Lanyard produced his automatic and freed the
safety-catch before opening the door.
"A thousand thanks, my dear Count!"
"For what? Doing myself a service? But you make me feel ashamed!"
"I know," agreed Lanyard, depreciatory; "but that's the way I am—a
little devil—you really can't trust me! Adieu, Monsieur le Comte."
"Au revoir, monsieur!"
Lanyard saw the car round the corner before turning to the entrance of
Troyon's, keeping his weather-eye alert the while. But when the car was
gone, the street seemed quite deserted and as soundless as though it
had been the thoroughfare of some remote village rather than an artery
of the pulsing old heart of Paris.
Yet he wasn't satisfied. He was as little susceptible to psychic
admonition as any sane and normal human organism, but he was just then
strongly oppressed by intuitive perception that there was something
radically amiss in his neighbourhood. Whether or not the result of the
Count's open intimations and veiled hints working upon a nature
sensitized by excitement and fatigue, he felt as though he had stepped
from the cab into an atmosphere impregnated to saturation with nameless
menace. And he even shivered a bit, perhaps because of the chill in
that air of early morning, perhaps because a shadow of premonition had
fallen athwart his soul….
Whatever its cause, he could find no reason for this; and shaking
himself impatiently, pressed a button that rang a bell by the ear of
the concierge, heard the latch click, thrust the door wide, and
Here reigned a silence even more marked than that of the street, a
silence as heavy and profound as the grave's, so that sheer instinct
prompted Lanyard to tread lightly as he made his way down the passage
and across the courtyard toward the stairway; and in that hush the
creak of a greaseless hinge, when the concierge opened the door of his
quarters to identify this belated guest, seemed little less than a
Lanyard paused and delved into his pockets, nodding genially to the
blowsy, sleepy old face beneath the guardian's nightcap.
"Sorry to disturb monsieur," he said politely, further impoverishing
himself in the sum of five francs in witness to the sincerity of his
"I thank monsieur; but what need to consider me? It's my duty. And what
is one interruption more or less? All night they come and go…."
"Good night, monsieur," Lanyard cut short the old man's garrulity; and
went on up the stairs, now a little wearily, of a sudden newly
conscious of his vast and enervating fatigue.
He thought longingly of bed, yawned involuntarily and, reaching his
door, fumbled the key in a most unprofessional way; there were weights
upon his eyelids, a heaviness in his brain….
But the key met with no resistance from the wards; and in a trice,
appreciating this fact, Lanyard was wide-awake again.
No question but that he had locked the door securely, on leaving after
his adventure with the charming somnambulist….
Had she, then, taken a whim to his room?
Or was this but proof of what he had anticipated in the beginning—a
bit of sleuthing on the part of Roddy?
He entertained little doubt as to the correctness of this latter
surmise, as he threw the door open and stepped into the room, his first
action being to grasp the electric switch and twist it smartly.
But no light answered.
"Hello!" he exclaimed softly, remembering that the lights could readily
have been turned off at the bulbs. "What's the good of that?"
In the same breath he started violently, and swung about.
The door had closed behind him, swiftly but gently, eclipsing the faint
light from the hall, leaving what amounted to stark darkness.
His first impression was that the intruder—Roddy or whoever—had
darted past him and out, pulling the door to in that act.
Before he could consciously revise this misconception he was fighting
for his life.
So unexpected, so swift and sudden fell the assault, that he was caught
completely off guard: between the shutting of the door and an onslaught
whose violence sent him reeling to the wall, the elapsed time could
have been measured by the fluttering of an eyelash.
And then two powerful arms were round him, pinioning his hands to his
sides, his feet were tripped up, and he was thrown with a force that
fairly jarred his teeth, half-stunning him.
For a breath he lay dazed, struggling feebly; not long, but long enough
to enable his antagonist to shift his hold and climb on top of his
body, where he squatted, bearing down heavily with a knee on either of
Lanyard's forearms, hands encircling his neck, murderous thumbs digging
into his windpipe.
He revived momentarily, pulled himself together, and heaved mightily in
futile effort to unseat the other.
The sole outcome of this was a tightening pressure on his throat.
The pain grew agonizing; Lanyard's breath was almost completely shut
off; he gasped vainly, with a rattling noise in his gullet; his
eyeballs started; a myriad coruscant lights danced and interlaced
blindingly before them; in his ears there rang a roaring like the voice
of heavy surf breaking upon a rock-bound coast.
And of a sudden he ceased to struggle and lay slack, passive in the
Only an instant longer was the clutch on his throat maintained. Both
hands left it quickly, one shifting to his head to turn and press it
roughly cheek to floor. Simultaneously he was aware of the other hand
fumbling about his neck, and then of a touch of metal and the sting of
a needle driven into the flesh beneath his ear.
That galvanized him; he came to life again in a twinkling, animate with
threefold strength and cunning. The man on his chest was thrown off as
by a young earthquake; and Lanyard's right arm was no sooner free than
it shot out with blind but deadly accuracy to the point of his
assailant's jaw. A click of teeth was followed by a sickish grunt as
the man lurched over….
Lanyard found himself scrambling to his feet, a bit giddy perhaps, but
still sufficiently master of his wits to get his pistol out before
making another move.
The thought of Lanyard's pocket flash-lamp offering itself, immediately
its wide circle of light enveloped his late antagonist.
That one was resting on a shoulder, legs uncouthly a-sprawl, quite
without movement of any perceptible sort; his face more than
half-turned to the floor, and masked into the bargain.
Incredulously Lanyard stirred the body with a foot, holding his weapon
poised as though half-expecting it to quicken with instant and violent
action; but it responded in no way.
With a nod of satisfaction, he shifted the light until it marked down
the nearest electric bulb, which proved, in line with his inference, to
have been extinguished by the socket key, while the heat of its bulb
indicated that the current had been shut off only an instant before his
The light full up, he went back to the thug, knelt and, lifting the
body, turned it upon its back.
Recognition immediately rewarded this manoeuvre: the masked face
upturned to the glare was that of the American who had made a fourth in
the concert of the Pack—"Mr. Smith," Quickly unlatching the mask,
Lanyard removed it; but the countenance thus exposed told little more
than he knew; he could have sworn he had never seen it before. None the
less, something in its evil cast persistently troubled his memory, with
the same provoking and baffling effect that had attended their first
Already the American was struggling toward consciousness. His lips and
eyelids twitched spasmodically, he shuddered, and his flexed muscles
began to relax. In this process something fell from between the fingers
of his right hand—something small and silver-bright that caught
Picking it up, he examined with interest a small hypodermic syringe
loaded to the full capacity of its glass cylinder, plunger drawn
back—all ready for instant service.
It was the needle of this instrument that had pricked the skin of
Lanyard's neck; beyond reasonable doubt it contained a soporific, if
not exactly a killing dose of some narcotic drug—cocaine, at a venture.
So it appeared that this agent of the Pack had been commissioned to put
the Lone Wolf to sleep for an hour or two or more—perhaps not
permanently!—that he might be out of the way long enough for their
He smiled grimly, fingering the hypodermic and eyeing the prostrate man.
"Turn about," he reflected, "is said to be fair play…. Well, why not?"
He bent forward, dug the needle into the wrist of the American and shot
the plunger home, all in a single movement so swift and deft that the
drug was delivered before the pain could startle the victim from his
As for that, the man came to quickly enough; but only to have his
clearing senses met and dashed by the muzzle of a pistol stamping a
cold ring upon his temple.
"Lie perfectly quiet, my dear Mr. Smith," Lanyard advised; "don't speak
above a whisper! Give the good dope a chance: it'll only need a moment,
or I'm no judge and you're a careless highbinder! I'd like to know,
however—if it's all the same to you—"
But already the injection was taking effect; the look of panic, which
had drawn the features of the American and flickered from his eyes with
dawning appreciation of his plight, was clouding, fading, blending into
one of daze and stupour. The eyelids flickered and lay still; the lips
moved as if with urgent desire to speak, but were dumb; a long
convulsive sigh shook the American's body; and he rested with the
immobility of the dead, save for the slow but steady rise and fall of
Lanyard thoughtfully reviewed these phenomena.
"Must kick like a mule, that dope!" he reflected. "Lucky it didn't get
me before I guessed what was up! If I'd even suspected its strength,
however, I'd have been less hasty: I could do with a little information
from Mr. Mysterious Stranger here!"
Suddenly conscious of a dry and burning throat, he rose and going to
the washstand drank deep and thirstily from a water-bottle; then set
himself resolutely to repair the disarray of his wits and consider what
was best to be done.
In his abstraction he wandered to a chair over whose back hung a light
dressing-gown of wine-coloured silk, which, because it would pack in
small compass, was in the habit of carrying with him on his travels.
Lanyard had left this thrown across his bed; and he was wondering
subconsciously what use the man had thought to make of it, that he
should have taken the trouble to shift it to the chair.
But even as he laid hold of it, Lanyard dropped the garment in sheer
surprise to find it damp and heavy in his grasp, sodden with viscid
moisture. And when, in a swift flash of intuition, he examined his
fingers, he discovered them discoloured with a faint reddish stain.
Had the dye run? And how had the American come to dabble the garment in
water—to what end?
Then the shape of an object on the floor near his feet arrested
Lanyard's questing vision. He stared, incredulous, moved forward, bent
over and picked it up, clipping it gingerly between finger-tips.
It was one of his razors—a heavy hollow-ground blade—and it was foul
With a low cry, smitten with awful understanding, Lanyard wheeled and
stared fearfully at the door communicating with Roddy's room.
It stood ajar an inch or two, its splintered lock accounted for by a
small but extremely efficient jointed steel jimmy which lay near the
Beyond the door … darkness … silence…
Mustering up all his courage, the adventurer strode determinedly into
the adjoining room.
The first flash of his hand-lamp discovered to him sickening
verification of his most dreadful apprehensions.
Now he saw why his dressing-gown had been requisitioned—to protect a
After a moment he returned, shut the door, and set his back against it,
as if to bar out that reeking shambles.
He was very pale, his face drawn with horror; and he was powerfully
shaken with nausea.
The plot was damnably patent: Roddy proving a menace to the Pack and
requiring elimination, his murder had been decreed as well as that the
blame for it should be laid at Lanyard's door. Hence the attempt to
drug him, that he might not escape before police could be sent to find
He could no longer doubt that De Morbihan had been left behind at the
Circle of Friends of Harmony solely to detain him, if need be, and
afford Smith time to finish his hideous job and set the trap for the
And the plot had succeeded despite its partial failure, despite the
swift reverse chance and Lanyard's cunning had meted out to the Pack's
agent. It was his dressing-gown that was saturate with Roddy's blood,
just as they were his gloves, pilfered from his luggage, which had
measurably protected the killer's hands, and which Lanyard had found in
the next room, stripped hastily off and thrown to the floor—twin
crumpled wads of blood-stained chamois-skin.
He had now little choice; he must either flee Paris and trust to his
wits to save him, or else seek De Morbihan and solicit his protection,
his boasted influence in high quarters.
But to give himself into the hands, to become an associate, of one who
could be party to so cowardly a Crime as this … Lanyard told himself
he would sooner pay the guillotine the penalty….
Consulting his watch, he found the hour to be no later than half-past
four: so swiftly (truly treading upon one another's heels) events had
moved since the incident of the somnambulist.
This left at his disposal a fair two hours more of darkness: November
nights are long and black in Paris; it would hardly be even moderately
light before seven o'clock. But that were a respite none too long for
Lanyard's necessity; he must think swiftly in contemplation of instant
action were he to extricate himself without the Pack's knowledge and
Granted, then, he must fly this stricken field of Paris. But how? De
Morbihan had promised that Popinot's creatures would guard every
outlet; and Lanyard didn't doubt him. An attempt to escape the city by
any ordinary channel would be to invite either denunciation to the
police on the charge of murder, or one of those fatally expeditious
forms of assassination of which the Apaches are past-masters.
He must and would find another way; but his decision was frightfully
hampered by lack of ready money; the few odd francs in his pocket were
no store for the war-chest demanded by this emergency.
True, he had the Omber jewels; but they were not negotiable—not at
least in Paris.
And the Huysman plans?
He pondered briefly the possibilities of the Huysman plans.
In his fretting, pacing softly to and fro, at each turn he passed his
dressing-table, and chancing once to observe himself in its mirror, he
stopped short, thunderstruck by something he thought to detect in the
counterfeit presentment of his countenance, heavy with fatigue as it
was, and haggard with contemplation of this appalling contretemps.
And instantly he was back beside the American, studying narrowly the
contours of that livid mask. Here, then, was that resemblance which had
baffled him; and now that he saw it, he could not deny that it was
unflatteringly close: feature for feature the face of the murderer
reproduced his face, coarsened perhaps but recognizably a replica of
that Michael Lanyard who confronted him every morning in his
shaving-glass, almost the only difference residing in the scrubby black
moustache that shadowed the American's upper lip.
After all, there was nothing wonderful in this; Lanyard's type was not
uncommon; he would never have thought himself a distinguished figure.
Before rising he turned out the pockets of his counterfeit. But this
profited him little: the assassin had dressed for action with
forethought to evade recognition in event of accident. Lanyard
collected only a cheap American watch in a rolled-gold case of a sort
manufactured by wholesale, a briquet, a common key that might fit any
hotel door, a broken paper of Régie cigarettes, an automatic pistol, a
few francs in silver—nothing whatever that would serve as a mark of
identification; for though the grey clothing was tailor-made, the
maker's labels had been ripped out of its pockets, while the man's
linen and underwear alike lacked even a laundry's hieroglyphic.
With this harvest of nothing for his pains, Lanyard turned again to the
wash-stand and his shaving kit, mixed a stiff lather, stropped another
razor to the finest edge he could manage, fetched a pair of keen
scissors from his dressing-case, and went back to the murderer.
He worked rapidly, at a high pitch of excitement—as much through sheer
desperation as through any appeal inherent in the scheme either to his
common-sense or to his romantic bent.
In two minutes he had stripped the moustache clean away from that
stupid, flaccid mask.
Unquestionably the resemblance was now most striking; the American
would readily pass for Michael Lanyard.
This much accomplished, he pursued his preparations in feverish haste.
In spite of this, he overlooked no detail. In less than twenty minutes
he had exchanged clothing with the American in detail, even down to
shirts, collars and neckties; had packed in his own pockets the several
articles taken from the other, together with the jointed jimmy and a
few of his personal effects, and was ready to bid adieu to himself, to
that Michael Lanyard whom Paris knew.
The insentient masquerader on the floor had called himself "good-enough
Smith"; he must serve now as good-enough Lanyard, at least for the Lone
Wolf's purposes; the police at all events would accept him as such. And
if the memory of Michael Lanyard must needs wear the stigma of brutal
murder, he need not repine in his oblivion, since through this
perfunctory decease the Lone Wolf would gain a freedom even greater
The Pack had contrived only to eliminate Michael Lanyard, the amateur
of fine paintings; remained the Lone Wolf with not one faculty
impaired, but rather with a deadlier purpose to shape his occult
Under the influence of his methodical preparations, his emotions had
cooled appreciably, taking on a cast of cold malignant vengefulness.
He who never in all his criminal record had so much as pulled trigger
in self-defence, was ready now to shoot to kill with the most
cold-blooded intent—given one of three targets; while Popinot's
creatures, if they worried him, he meant to exterminate with as little
compunction as though they were rats in fact as well as in spirit….
Extinguishing the lights, he stepped quickly to a window and from one
edge of its shade looked down into the street.
He was in time to see a stunted human silhouette detach itself from the
shadow of a doorway on the opposite walk, move to the curb, and wave an
arm—evidently signaling another sentinel on a corner out of Lanyard's
range of vision.
Herein was additional proof, if any lacked, that De Morbihan had not
exaggerated the disposition of Popinot. This animal in the street,
momentarily revealed by the corner light as he darted across to take
position by the door, this animal with sickly face and pointed chin,
with dirty muffler round its chicken-neck, shoddy coat clothing its
sloping shoulders, baggy corduroy trousers flapping round its bony
shanks—this was Popinot's, and but one of a thousand differing in no
essential save degree of viciousness.
It wasn't possible to guess how thoroughly Popinot had picketed the
house, in co-operation with Roddy's murderer, by way of provision
against mischance; but the adventurer was satisfied that, in his proper
guise as himself, he needed only to open that postern door at the
street end of the passage, to feel a knife slip in between his
ribs—most probably in his back, beneath the shoulder-blade….
He nodded grimly, moved back from the window, and used the flash-lamp
to light him to the door.
Now when Lanyard had locked the door, he told himself that the gruesome
peace of those two bed-chambers was ensured, barring mischance, for as
long as the drug continued to hold dominion over the American; and he
felt justified in reckoning that period apt to be tolerably protracted;
while not before noon at earliest would any hôtelier who knew his
business permit the rest of an Anglo-Saxon guest to be
disturbed—lacking, that is, definite instructions to the contrary.
For a full minute after withdrawing the key the adventurer stood at
alert attention; but the heavy silence of that sinister old rookery
sang in his ears untroubled by any untoward sound….
That wistful shadow of his memories, that cowering Marcel of the
so-dead yesterday in acute terror of the hand of Madame Troyon, had
never stolen down that corridor more quietly: yet Lanyard had taken not
five paces from his door when that other opened, at the far end, and
Lucia Bannon stepped out.
He checked then, and shut his teeth upon an involuntary oath: truly it
seemed as though this run of the devil's own luck would never end!
Astonishment measurably modified his exasperation.
What had roused the girl out of bed and dressed her for the street at
that unholy hour? And why her terror at sight of him?
For that the surprise was no more welcome to her than to him was as
patent as the fact that she was prepared to leave the hotel forthwith,
enveloped in a business-like Burberry rainproof from her throat to the
hem of a tweed walking-skirt, and wearing boots both stout and brown.
And at sight of him she paused and instinctively stepped back, groping
blindly for the knob of her bed-chamber door; while her eyes, holding
to his with an effect of frightened fascination, seemed momentarily to
grow more large and dark in her face of abnormal pallor.
But these were illegible evidences, and Lanyard was intent solely on
securing her silence before she could betray him and ruin incontinently
that grim alibi which he had prepared at such elaborate pains. He moved
toward her swiftly, with long and silent strides, a lifted hand
enjoining rather than begging her attention, aware as he drew nearer
that a curious change was colouring the complexion of her temper: she
passed quickly from dread to something oddly like relief, from
repulsion to something strangely like welcome; and dropping the hand
that had sought the door-knob, in her turn moved quietly to meet him.
He was grateful for this consideration, this tacit indulgence of the
wish he had as yet to voice; drew a little hope and comfort from it in
an emergency which had surprised him without resource other than to
throw himself upon her generosity. And as soon as he could make himself
heard in the clear yet concentrated whisper that was a trick of his
trade, a whisper inaudible to ears a yard distant from those to which
it was pitched, he addressed her in a manner at once peremptory and
"If you please, Miss Bannon—not a word, not a whisper!"
She paused and nodded compliance, questioning eyes steadfast to his.
Doubtfully, wondering that she betrayed so little surprise, he pursued
as one committed to a forlorn hope:
"It's vitally essential that I leave this hotel without it becoming
known. If I may count on you to say nothing—"
She gave him reassurance with a small gesture. "But how?" she breathed
in the least of whispers. "The concierge—!"
"Leave that to me—I know another way. I only need a chance—"
"Then won't you take me with you?"
"Eh?" he stammered, dashed.
Her hands moved toward him in a flutter of entreaty: "I too must leave
unseen—I must! Take me with you—out of this place—and I promise
you no one shall ever know—"
He lacked time to weigh the disadvantages inherent in her proposition;
though she offered him a heavy handicap, he had no choice but to accept
it without protest.
"Come, then," he told her—"and not a sound—"
She signified assent with another nod; and on this he turned to an
adjacent door, opened it gently, whipped out his flash-lamp, and passed
through. Without sign of hesitancy, she followed; and like two shadows
they dogged the dancing spot-light of the flash-lamp, through a
linen-closet and service-room, down a shallow well threaded by a spiral
of iron steps and, by way of the long corridor linking the
kitchen-offices, to a stout door secured only by huge, old-style bolts
Thus, in less than two minutes from the instant of their encounter,
they stood outside Troyon's back door, facing a cramped, malodorous
alley-way—a dark and noisome souvenir of that wild mediaeval Paris
whose effacement is an enduring monument to the fame of the good Baron
Now again it was raining, a thick drizzle that settled slowly, lacking
little of a fog's opacity; and the faint glimmer from the street lamps
of that poorly lighted quarter, reflected by the low-swung clouds, lent
Lanyard and the girl little aid as they picked their way cautiously,
and always in complete silence, over the rude and slimy cobbles of the
foul back way. For the adventurer had pocketed his lamp, lest its beams
bring down upon them some prowling creature of Popinot's; though he
felt passably sure that the alley had been left unguarded in the
confidence that he would never dream of its existence, did he survive
to seek escape from Troyon's.
For all its might and its omniscience, Lanyard doubted if the Pack had
as yet identified Michael Lanyard with that ill-starred Marcel who once
had been as intimate with this forgotten way as any skulking tom of the
But with the Lone Wolf confidence was never akin to foolhardiness; and
if on leaving Troyon's he took the girl's hand without asking
permission and quite as a matter-of-course, and drew it through his
arm—it was his left arm that he so dedicated to gallantry; his right
hand remained unhampered, and never far from the grip of his automatic.
Nor was he altogether confident of his companion. The weight of her
hand upon his arm, the fugitive contacts of her shoulder, seemed to
him, just then, the most vivid and interesting things in life; the
consciousness of her personality at his side was like a shaft of golden
light penetrating the darkness of his dilemma. But as minutes passed
and their flight was unchallenged, his mood grew dark with doubts and
quick with distrust. Reviewing it all, he thought to detect something
too damnably adventitious in the way she had nailed him, back there in
the corridor of Troyon's. It was a bit too coincidental—"a bit
thick!"—like that specious yarn of somnambulism she had told to excuse
her presence in his room. Come to examine it, that excuse had been far
too clumsy to hoodwink any but a man bewitched by beauty in distress.
Who was she, anyway? And what her interest in him? What had she been
after in his room?—this American girl making a first visit to Paris in
company with her venerable ruin of a parent? Who, for that matter, was
Bannon? If her story of sleep-walking were untrue, then Bannon must
have been at the bottom of her essay in espionage—Bannon, the intimate
of De Morbihan, and an American even as the murderer of poor Roddy was
Was this singularly casual encounter, then, but a cloak for further
surveillance? Had he in his haste and desperation simply played into
her hands, when he burdened himself with the care of her?
But it seemed absurd; to think that she… a girl like her, whose every
word and gesture was eloquent of gentle birth and training…!
Yet—what had she wanted in his room? Somnambulists are sincere
indeed in the indulgence of their failing when they time their
expeditions so opportunely—and arm themselves with keys to fit strange
doors. Come to think of it, he had been rather willfully blind to that
flaw in her excuse…. Again, why should she be up and dressed and so
madly bent on leaving Troyon's at half-past four in the morning? Why
couldn't she wait for daylight at least? What errand, reasonable duty
or design could have roused her out into the night and the storm at
that weird hour? He wondered!
And momentarily he grew more jealously heedful of her, critical of
every nuance in her bearing. The least trace of added pressure on his
arm, the most subtle suggestion that she wasn't entirely indifferent to
him or regarded him in any way other than as the chance-found comrade
of an hour of trouble, would have served to fix his suspicions. For
such, he told himself, would be the first thought of one bent on
beguiling—to lead him on by some intimation, the more tenuous and
elusive the more provocative, that she found his person not altogether
But he failed to detect anything of this nature in her manner.
So, what was one to think? That she was mental enough to appreciate how
ruinous to her design would be any such advances? …
In such perplexity he brought her to the end of the alley and there
pulled up for a look round before venturing out into the narrow, dark,
and deserted side street that then presented itself.
At this the girl gently disengaged her hand and drew away a pace or
two; and when Lanyard had satisfied himself that there were no Apaches
in the offing, he turned to see her standing there, just within the
mouth of the alley, in a pose of blank indecision.
Conscious of his regard, she turned to his inspection a face touched
with a fugitive, uncertain smile.
"Where are we?" she asked.
He named the street; and she shook her head. "That doesn't mean much to
me," she confessed; "I'm so strange to Paris, I know only a few of the
principal streets. Where is the boulevard St. Germain?"
Lanyard indicated the direction: "Two blocks that way."
"Thank you." She advanced a step or two, but paused again. "Do you
know, possibly, just where I could find a taxicab?"
"I'm afraid you won't find any hereabouts at this hour," he replied. "A
fiacre, perhaps—with luck: I doubt if there's one disengaged nearer
than Montmartre, where business is apt to be more brisk."
"Oh!" she cried in dismay. "I hadn't thought of that…. I thought
Paris never went to sleep!"
"Only about three hours earlier than most of the world's capitals….
But perhaps I can advise you—"
"If you would be so kind! Only, I don't like to be a nuisance—"
He smiled deceptively: "Don't worry about that. Where do you wish to
"To the Gare du Nord."
That made him open his eyes. "The Gare du Nord!" he echoed. "But—I beg
"I wish to take the first train for London," the girl informed him
"You'll have a while to wait," Lanyard suggested. "The first train
leaves about half-past eight, and it's now not more than five."
"That can't be helped. I can wait in the station."
He shrugged: that was her own look-out—if she were sincere in
asserting that she meant to leave Paris; something which he took the
liberty of doubting.
"You can reach it by the Métro," he suggested—"the Underground, you
know; there's a station handy—St. Germain des Prés. If you like, I'll
show you the way."
Her relief seemed so genuine, he could have almost believed in it. And
"I shall be very grateful," she murmured.
He took that for whatever worth it might assay, and quietly fell into
place beside her; and in a mutual silence—perhaps largely due to her
intuitive sense of his bias—they gained the boulevard St. Germain. But
here, even as they emerged from the side street, that happened which
again upset Lanyard's plans: a belated fiacre hove up out of the mist
and ranged alongside, its driver loudly soliciting patronage.
Beneath his breath Lanyard cursed the man liberally, nothing could have
been more inopportune; he needed that uncouth conveyance for his own
purposes, and if only it had waited until he had piloted the girl to
the station of the Métropolitain, he might have had it. Now he must
either yield the cab to the girl or—share it with her…. But why not?
He could readily drop out at his destination, and bid the driver
continue to the Gare du Nord; and the Métro was neither quick nor
direct enough for his design—which included getting under cover well
Somewhat sulkily, then, if without betraying his temper, he signalled
the cocher, opened the door, and handed the girl in.
"If you don't mind dropping me en route…"
"I shall be very glad," she said … "anything to repay, even in part,
the courtesy you've shown me!"
"Oh, please don't fret about that…."
He gave the driver precise directions, climbed in, and settled himself
beside the girl. The whip cracked, the horse sighed, the driver swore;
the aged fiacre groaned, stirred with reluctance, crawled wearily off
through the thickening drizzle.
Within its body a common restraint held silence like a wall between the
The girl sat with face averted, reading through the window what corner
signs they passed: rue Bonaparte, rue Jacob, rue des Saints Pères, Quai
Malquais, Pont du Carrousel; recognizing at least one landmark in the
gloomy arches of the Louvre; vaguely wondering at the inept French
taste in nomenclature which had christened that vast, louring, echoing
quadrangle the place du Carrousel, unliveliest of public places in her
strange Parisian experience.
And in his turn, Lanyard reviewed those well-remembered ways in vast
weariness of spirit—disgusted with himself in consciousness that the
girl had somehow divined his distrust….
"The Lone Wolf, eh?" he mused bitterly. "Rather, the Cornered Rat—if
people only knew! Better still, the Errant—no!—the Arrant Ass!"
They were skirting the Palais Royal when suddenly she turned to him in
an impulsive attempt at self-justification.
"What must you be thinking of me, Mr. Lanyard?"
He was startled: "I? Oh, don't consider me, please. It doesn't matter
what I think—does it?"
"But you've been so kind; I feel I owe you at least some explanation—"
"Oh, as for that," he countered cheerfully, "I've got a pretty definite
notion you're running away from your father."
"Yes. I couldn't stand it any longer—"
She caught herself up in full voice, as though tempted but afraid to
say more. He waited briefly before offering encouragement.
"I hope I haven't seemed impertinent…."
Than this impatient negative his pause of invitation evoked no other
recognition. She had subsided into her reserve, but—he fancied—not
Was it, then, possible that he had misjudged her?
"You've friends in London, no doubt?" he ventured.
"I shall manage very well. I shan't be there more than a day or
two—till the next steamer sails."
"I see." There had sounded in her tone a finality which signified
desire to drop the subject. None the less, he pursued mischievously:
"Permit me to wish you bon voyage, Miss Bannon… and to express my
regret that circumstances have conspired to change your plans."
She was still eyeing him askance, dubiously, as if weighing the
question of his acquaintance with her plans, when the fiacre lumbered
from the rue Vivienne into the place de la Bourse, rounded that
frowning pile, and drew up on its north side before the blue lights of
the all-night telegraph bureau.
"With permission," Lanyard said, unlatching the door, "I'll stop off
here. But I'll direct the cocher very carefully to the Gare du Nord.
Please don't even tip him—that's my affair. No—not another word of
thanks; to have been permitted to be of service—it is a unique
pleasure, Miss Bannon. And so, good night!"
With an effect that seemed little less than timid, the girl offered her
"Thank you, Mr. Lanyard," she said in an unsteady voice. "I am sorry—"
But she didn't say what it was she regretted; and Lanyard, standing
with bared head in the driving mist, touched her fingers coolly,
repeated his farewells, and gave the driver both money and
instructions, and watched the cab lurch away before he approached the
But the enigma of the girl so deeply intrigued his imagination that it
was only with difficulty that he concocted a non-committal telegram to
Roddy's friend in the Prefecture—that imposing personage who had
watched with the man from Scotland Yard at the platform gates in the
Gare du Nord.
It was couched in English, when eventually composed and submitted to
the telegraph clerk with a fervent if inaudible prayer that he might be
ignorant of the tongue.
"Come at once to my room at Troyon's. Enter via adjoining room
prepared for immediate action on important development. Urgent. Roddy."
Whether or not this were Greek to the man behind the wicket, it was
accepted with complete indifference—or, rather, with an interest that
apparently evaporated on receipt of the fees. Lanyard couldn't see that
the clerk favoured him with as much as a curious glance before he
turned away to lose himself, to bury his identity finally and forever
under the incognito of the Lone Wolf.
He couldn't have rested without taking that one step to compass the
arrest of the American assassin; now with luck and prompt action on the
part of the Préfecture, he felt sure Roddy would be avenged by Monsieur
de Paris…. But it was very well that there should exist no clue
whereby the author of that mysterious telegram might be traced….
It was, then, not an ill-pleased Lanyard who slipped oft into the night
and the rain; but his exasperation was elaborate when the first object
that met his gaze was that wretched fiacre, back in place before the
door, Lucia Bannon leaning from its lowered window, the cocher on his
box brandishing an importunate whip at the adventurer.
He barely escaped choking on suppressed profanity; and for two sous
would have swung on his heel and ignored the girl deliberately. But he
didn't dare: close at hand stood a sergent de ville, inquisitive eyes
bright beneath the dripping visor of his kepi, keenly welcoming this
diversion of a cheerless hour.
With at least outward semblance of resignation, Lanyard approached the
"I have been guilty of some stupidity, perhaps?" he enquired with
lip-civility that had no echo in his heart. "But I am sorry—"
"The stupidity is mine," the girl interrupted in accents tense with
agitation. "Mr. Lanyard, I—I—"
Her voice faltered and broke off in a short, dry sob, and she drew back
with an effect of instinctive distaste for public emotion. Lanyard
smothered an impulse to demand roughly "Well, what now?" and came
closer to the window.
"Something more I can do, Miss Bannon?"
"I don't know…. I've just found it out—I came away so hurriedly I
never thought to make sure; but I've no money—not a franc!"
After a little pause he commented helpfully: "That does complicate
matters, doesn't it?"
"What am I to do? I can't go back—I won't! Anything rather. You may
judge how desperate I am, when I prefer to throw myself on your
generosity—and already I've strained your patience—"
"Not much," he interrupted in a soothing voice. "But—half a moment—we
must talk this over."
Directing the cocher to drive to the place Pigalle, he reentered the
cab, suspicion more than ever rife in his mind. But as far as he could
see—with that confounded sergo staring!—there was nothing else for
it. He couldn't stand there in the rain forever, gossiping with a girl
half-hysterical—or pretending to be.
"You see," she explained when the fiacre was again under way, "I
thought I had a hundred-franc note in my pocketbook; and so I have—but
the pocketbook's back there, in my room at Troyon's."
"A hundred francs wouldn't see you far toward New York," he observed
"Oh, I hope you don't think—!"
She drew back into her corner with a little shudder of humiliation.
As if he hadn't noticed, Lanyard turned to the window, leaned out, and
redirected the driver sharply: "Impasse Stanislas!"
Immediately the vehicle swerved, rounded a corner, and made back toward
the Seine with a celerity which suggested that the stables were on the
"Where?" the girl demanded as Lanyard sat back. "Where are you taking
"I'm sorry," Lanyard said with every appearance of sudden contrition;
"I acted impulsively—on the assumption of your complete confidence.
Which, of course, was unpardonable. But, believe me; you have only to
say no and it shall be as you wish."
"But," she persisted impatiently—"you haven't answered me: what is
this impasse Stanislas?"
"The address of an artist I know—Solon, the painter. We're going to
take possession of his studio in his absence. Don't worry; he won't
mind. He is under heavy obligation to me—I've sold several canvasses
for him; and when he's away, as now, in the States, he leaves me the
keys. It's a sober-minded, steady-paced neighbourhood, where we can
rest without misgivings and take our time to think things out."
"But—" the girl began in an odd tone.
"But permit me," he interposed hastily, "to urge the facts of the case
upon your consideration."
"Well?" she said in the same tone, as he paused.
"To begin with—I don't doubt you've good reason for running away from
"A very real, a very grave reason," she affirmed quietly.
"And you'd rather not go back—"
"That is out of the question!"—with a restrained passion that almost
won his credulity.
"But you've no friends in Paris—?"
"And no money. So it seems, if you're to elude your father, you must
find some place to hide pro tem. As for myself, I've not slept in
forty-eight hours and must rest before I'll be able to think clearly
and plan ahead….And we won't accomplish much riding round forever in
this ark. So I offer the only solution I'm capable of advancing, under
"You are quite right," the girl agreed after a moment. "Please don't
think me unappreciative. Indeed, it makes me very unhappy to think I
know no way to make amends for your trouble."
"There may be a way," Lanyard informed her quietly; "but we'll not
discuss that until we've rested up a bit."
"I shall be only too glad—" she began, but fell silent and, in a
silence that seemed almost apprehensive, eyed him speculatively
throughout the remainder of the journey.
It wasn't a long one; in the course of the next ten minutes they drew
up at the end of a shallow pocket of a street, a scant half-block in
depth; where alighting, Lanyard helped the girl out, paid and dismissed
the cocher, and turned to an iron gate in a high stone wall crowned
The grille-work of that gate afforded glimpses of a small, dark garden
and a little house of two storeys. Blank walls of old tenements
shouldered both house and garden on either side.
Unlocking the gate, Lanyard refastened it very carefully, repeated the
business at the front door of the house, and when they were securely
locked and bolted within a dark reception-hall, turned on the electric
But he granted the girl little more than time for a fugitive survey of
this ante-room to an establishment of unique artistic character.
"These are living-rooms, downstairs here," he explained hurriedly.
"Solon's unmarried, and lives quite alone—his studio-devil and
femme-de-ménage come in by the day only—and so he avoids that pest a
concierge. With your permission, I'll assign you to the studio—up
And leading the way up a narrow flight of steps, he made a light in the
huge room that was the upper storey.
"I believe you'll be comfortable," he said—"that divan yonder is as
easy a couch as one could wish—and there's this door you can lock at
the head of the staircase; while I, of course, will be on guard
below…. And now, Miss Bannon… unless there's something more I can
The girl answered with a wan smile and a little broken sigh. Almost
involuntarily, in the heaviness of her fatigue, she had surrendered to
the hospitable arms of a huge lounge-chair.
Her weary glance ranged the luxuriously appointed studio and returned
to Lanyard's face; and while he waited he fancied something moving in
those wistful eyes, so deeply shadowed with distress, perplexity, and
"I'm very tired indeed," she confessed—"more than I guessed. But I'm
sure I shall be comfortable…. And I count myself very fortunate, Mr.
Lanyard. You've been more kind than I deserved. Without you, I don't
like to think what might have become of me…."
"Please don't!" he pleaded and, suddenly discountenanced by
consciousness of his duplicity, turned to the stairs. "Good night, Miss
Bannon," he mumbled; and was half-way down before he heard his
valediction faintly echoed.
As he gained the lower floor, the door was closed at the top of the
stairs and its bolt shot home with a soft thud.
But turning to lock the lower door, he stayed his hand in transient
"Damn it!" he growled uneasily—"there can't be any harm in that girl!
Impossible for eyes like hers to lie!… And yet … And yet!… Oh,
what's the matter with me? Am I losing my grip? Why stick at ordinary
precaution against treachery on the part of a woman who's nothing to me
and of whom I know nothing that isn't conspicuously questionable?…
All because of a pretty face and an appealing manner!"
And so he secured that door, if very quietly; and having pocketed the
key and made the round of doors and windows, examining their locks, he
stumbled heavily into the bedroom of his friend the artist.
Darkness overwhelmed him then: he was stricken down by sleep as an ox
falls under the pole.
It was late afternoon when Lanyard wakened from sleep so deep and
dreamless that nothing could have induced it less potent than sheer
systemic exhaustion, at once nervous, muscular and mental.
A profound and stifling lethargy benumbed his senses. There was stupor
in his brain, and all his limbs ached dully. He opened dazed eyes upon
blank darkness. In his ears a vast silence pulsed.
And in that strange moment of awakening he was conscious of no
individuality: it was, for the time, as if he had passed in slumber
from one existence to another, sloughing en passant all his three-fold
personality as Marcel Troyon, Michael Lanyard, and the Lone Wolf. Had
any one of these names been uttered in his hearing just then it would
have meant nothing to him—or little more than nothing: he was for the
time being merely himself, a shell of sensations enclosing dull
embers of vitality.
For several minutes he lay without moving, curiously intrigued by this
riddle of identity: it was but slowly that his mind, like a blind hand
groping round a dark chamber, picked up the filaments of memory.
One by one the connections were renewed, the circuits closed….
But, singularly enough in his understanding, his first thought was of
the girl upstairs in the studio, unconsciously his prisoner and
hostage—rather than of himself, who lay there, heavy with loss of
sleep, languidly trying to realize himself.
For he was no more as he had been. Wherein the difference lay he
couldn't say, but that a difference existed he was persuaded—that he
had changed, that some strange reaction in the chemistry of his nature
had taken place during slumber. It was as if sleep had not only
repaired the ravages of fatigue upon the tissues of his brain and body,
but had mended the tissues of his soul as well. His thoughts were
fluent in fresh channels, his interests no longer the interests of the
Michael Lanyard he had known, no longer self-centred, the interests of
the absolute ego. He was concerned less for himself, even now when he
should be most gravely so, than for another, for the girl Lucia Bannon,
who was nothing to him, whom he had yet to know for twenty-four hours,
but of whom he could not cease to think if he would.
It was her plight that perturbed him, from which he sought an
outlet—never his own.
Yet his own was desperate enough….
Baffled and uneasy, he at length bethought him of his watch. But its
testimony seemed incredible: surely the hour could not be five in the
afternoon!—surely he could not have slept so close upon a full round
of the clock!
And if it were so, what of the girl? Had she, too, so sorely needed
sleep that the brief November day had dawned and waned without her
That question was one to rouse him: in an instant he was up and groping
his way through the gloom that enshrouded bed-chamber and dining-room
to the staircase door in the hall. He found this fast enough, its key
still safe in his pocket, and unlocking it quietly, shot the beam of
his flash-lamp up that dark well to the door at the top; which was
For several moments he attended to a taciturn silence broken by never a
sound to indicate that he wasn't a lonely tenant of the little
dwelling, then irresolutely lifted a foot to the first step—and
withdrew it. If she continued to sleep, why disturb her? He had much to
do in the way of thinking things out; and that was a process more
easily performed in solitude.
Leaving the door ajar, then, he turned to one of the front windows,
parted its draperies, and peered out, over the little garden and
through the iron ribs of the gate, to the street, where a single
gas-lamp, glimmering within a dull golden halo of mist, made visible
the scant length of the impasse Stanislas, empty, rain-swept, desolate.
The rain persisted with no hint of failing purpose….
Something in the dreary emptiness of that brief vista deepened the
shadow in his mood and knitted a careworn frown into his brows.
Abstractedly he sought the kitchen and, making a light, washed up at
the tap, then foraged for breakfast. Persistence turned up a
spirit-stove, a half-bottle of methylated, a packet of tea, a tin or
two of biscuit, as many more of potted meats: left-overs from the
artist's stock, dismally scant and uninviting in array. With these he
made the discovery that he was half-famished, and found no reason to
believe that the girl would be in any better case. An expedition to the
nearest charcuterie was indicated; but after he had searched for and
found an old raincoat of Solon's, Lanyard decided against leaving the
girl alone. Pending her appearance, he filled the spirit-stove, put the
kettle on to boil, and lighting a cigarette, sat himself down to watch
the pot and excogitate his several problems.
In a fashion uncommonly clear-headed, even for him, he assembled all
the facts bearing upon their predicament, his and Lucia Bannon's,
jointly and individually, and dispassionately pondered them….
But insensibly his thoughts reverted to their exotic phase of his
awakening, drifting into such introspection as he seldom indulged, and
led him far from the immediate riddle, by strange ways to a revelation
altogether unpresaged and a resolve still more revolutionary.
A look of wonder flickered in his brooding eyes; and clipped between
two fingers, his cigarette grew a long ash, let it fall, and burned
down to a stump so short that the coal almost scorched his flesh. He
dropped it and crushed out the fire with his heel, all unwittingly.
Slowly but irresistibly his world was turning over beneath his feet….
The sound of a footfall recalled him as from an immeasurable remove; he
looked up to see Lucia at pause upon the threshold, and rose slowly,
with effort recollecting himself and marshalling his wits against the
emergency foreshadowed by her attitude.
Tense with indignation, quick with disdain, she demanded, without any
preface whatever: "Why did you lock me in?"
He stammered unhappily: "I beg your pardon—"
"Why did you lock me in?"
"Why did you—"
But she interrupted herself to stamp her foot emphatically; and he
caught her up on the echo of that:
"If you must know, because I wasn't trusting you."
Her eyes darkened ominously: "Yet you insisted I should trust you!"
"The circumstances aren't parallel: you're not a notorious malefactor,
wanted by the police of every capital in Europe, hounded by rivals to
boot—fighting for life, liberty and"—he laughed shortly—"the pursuit
She caught her breath sharply—whether with dismay or mere surprise at
his frankness he couldn't tell.
"Are you?" she demanded quickly.
"Am I what?"
"What you've just said—"
"A crook—and all that? Miss Bannon, you know it!"
"The Lone Wolf?"
"You've known it all along. De Morbihan told you—or else your father.
Or, it may be, you were shrewd enough to guess it from De Morbihan's
bragging in the restaurant. At all events, it's plain enough, nothing
but desire to find proof to identify me with the Lone Wolf took you to
my room last night—whether for your personal satisfaction or at the
instigation of Bannon—just as nothing less than disgust with what was
going on made you run away from such intolerable associations….
Though, at that, I don't believe you even guessed how unspeakably
vicious those were!"
He paused and waited, anticipating furious denial or refutation; such
would, indeed, have been the logical development of the temper in which
she had come down to confront him.
Rather than this, she seemed calmed and sobered by his charge; far from
resenting it, disposed to concede its justice; anger deserted her
expression, leaving it intent and grave. She came quietly into the room
and faced him squarely across the table.
"You thought all that of me—that I was capable of spying on you—yet
were generous enough to believe I despised myself for doing it?"
"Not at first…. At first, when we met back there in the corridor, I
was sure you were bent on further spying. Only since waking up here,
half an hour ago, did I begin to understand how impossible it would be
for you to lend yourself to such villainy as last night's."
"But if you thought that of me then, why did you—?"
"It occurred to me that it would be just as well to prevent your
reporting back to headquarters."
"But now you've changed your mind about me?"
He nodded: "Quite."
"But why?" she demanded in a voice of amazement. "Why?"
"I can't tell you," he said slowly—"I don't know why. I can only
presume it must be because—I can't help believing in you."
Her glance wavered: her colour deepened. "I don't understand…" she
"Nor I," he confessed in a tone as low….
A sudden grumble from the teakettle provided welcome distraction.
Lanyard lifted it off the flames and slowly poured boiling water on a
measure of tea in an earthenware pot.
"A cup of this and something to eat'll do us no harm," he ventured,
smiling uneasily—"especially if we're to pursue this psychological
enquiry into the whereforeness of the human tendency to change one's
And then, when the girl made no response, but remained with troubled
gaze focused on some remote abstraction, "You will have tea, won't
you?" he urged.
She recalled her thoughts, nodded with the faintest of smiles—"Yes,
thank you!"—and dropped into a chair.
He began at once to make talk in effort to dissipate that constraint
which stood between them like an unseen alien presence: "You must be
"Sorry I've nothing better to offer you. I'd have run out for something
more substantial, only—"
"Only—?" she prompted, coolly helping herself to biscuit and potted
"I didn't think it wise to leave you alone."
"Was that before or after you'd made up your mind about me—the latest
phase, I mean?" she persisted with a trace of malice.
"Before," he returned calmly—"likewise, afterwards. Either way you
care to take it, it wouldn't have been wise to leave you here. Suppose
you had waked up to find me gone, yourself alone in this strange
"I've been awake several hours," she interposed—"found myself locked
in, and heard no sound to indicate that you were still here."
"I'm sorry: I was overtired and slept like a log…. But assuming the
case: you would have gone out, alone, penniless—"
"Through a locked door, Mr. Lanyard?"
"I shouldn't have left it locked," he explained patiently…. "You
would have found yourself friendless and without resources in a city to
which you are a stranger."
She nodded: "True. But what of that?"
"In desperation you might have been forced to go back—"
"And report the outcome of my investigation!"
"Pressure might have been brought to induce admissions damaging to me,"
Lanyard submitted pleasantly. "Whether or no, you'd have been obliged
to renew associations you're well rid of."
"You feel sure of that?"
"How can you be?" she challenged. "You've yet to know me twenty-four
"But perhaps I know the associations better. In point of fact, I do.
Even though you may have stooped to play the spy last night, Miss
Bannon—you couldn't keep it up. You had to fly further contamination
from that pack of jackals."
"Not—you feel sure—merely to keep you under observation?"
"I do feel sure of that. I have your word for it."
The girl deliberately finished her tea, and sat back, regarding him
steadily beneath level brows. Then she said with an odd laugh: "You
have your own way of putting one on honour!"
"I don't need to—with you."
She analyzed this with gathering perplexity. "What do you mean by that?"
"I mean, I don't need to put you on your honour—because I'm sure of
you. Even were I not, still I'd refrain from exacting any pledge, or
attempting to." He paused and shrugged before continuing: "If I thought
you were still to be distrusted, Miss Bannon, I'd say: 'There's a free
door; go when you like, back to the Pack, turn in your report, and let
them act as they see fit.'… Do you think I care for them? Do you
imagine for one instant that I fear any one—or all—of that gang?"
"That rings suspiciously of egoism!"
"Let it," he retorted. "It's pride of caste, if you must know. I hold
myself a grade better than such cattle; I've intelligence, at least….
I can take care of myself!"
If he might read her countenance, it expressed more than anything else
distress and disappointment.
"Why do you boast like this—to me?"
"Less through self-satisfaction than in contempt for a pack of
murderous mongrels—impatience that I have to consider such creatures
as Popinot, Wertheimer, De Morbiban and—all their crew."
"And Bannon," she corrected calmly—"you meant to say!"
"Wel-l—" he stammered, discountenanced.
"It doesn't matter," she assured him. "I quite understand, and strange
as it may sound, I've very little feeling in the matter." And then she
acknowledged his stupefied stare with a weary smile. "I know what I
know," she added, with obscure significance….
"I'd give a good deal to know how much you know," he muttered in his
"But what do you know?" she caught him up—"against Mr.
Bannon—against my father, that is—that makes you so ready to suspect
both him and me?"
"Nothing," he confessed—"I know nothing; but I suspect everything and
everybody…. And the more I think of it, the more closely I examine
that brutal business of last night, the more I seem to sense his will
behind it all—as one might glimpse a face in darkness through a
lighted lattice…. Oh, laugh if you like! It sounds high-flown, I
know. But that's the effect I get…. What took you to my room, if not
his orders? Why does he train with De Morbihan, if he's not blood-kin
to that breed? Why are you running away from him if not because you've
found out his part in that conspiracy?"
His pause and questioning look evoked no answer; the girl sat moveless
and intent, meeting his gaze inscrutably. And something in her
impassive attitude worked a little exasperation into his temper.
"Why," he declared hotly—"if I dare trust to intuition—forgive me if
I pain you—"
She interrupted with impatience: "I've already begged you not to
consider my feelings, Mr. Lanyard! If you dared trust to your
"Why, then, I could believe that Mr. Bannon, your father … I could
believe it was his order that killed poor Roddy!"
There could be no doubting her horrified and half-incredulous surprise.
"Roddy?" she iterated in a whisper almost inaudible, with face fast
"Inspector Roddy of Scotland Yard," he told her mercilessly, "was
murdered in his sleep last night at Troyon's. The murderer broke into
his room by way of mine—the two adjoin. He used my razor, wore my
dressing-gown to shield his clothing, did everything he could think of
to cast suspicion on me, and when I came in assaulted me, meaning to
drug and leave me insensible to be found by the police. Fortunately—I
was beforehand with him. I had just left him drugged, insensible in my
place, when I met you in the corridor…. You didn't know?"
"How can you ask?" the girl moaned.
Bending forward, an elbow on the table, she worked her hands together
until their knuckles shone white through the skin—but not as white as
the face from which her eyes sought his with a look of dumb horror,
dazed, pitiful, imploring.
"You're not deceiving me? But no—why should you?" she faltered. "But
how terrible, how unspeakably awful! …"
"I'm sorry," Lanyard mumbled—"I'd have held my tongue if I hadn't
thought you knew—"
"You thought I knew—and didn't lift a finger to save the man?" She
jumped up with a blazing face. "Oh, how could you?"
"No—not that—I never thought that. But, meeting you then and there,
so opportunely—I couldn't ignore the coincidence; and when you
admitted you were running away from your father, considering all the
circumstances, I was surely justified in thinking it was realization,
in part at least, of what had happened that was driving you away." She
shook her head slowly, her indignation ebbing as quickly as it had
risen. "I understand," she said; "you had some excuse, but you were
mistaken. I ran away—yes—but not because of that. I never dreamed …"
She fell silent, sitting with bowed head and twisting her hands
together in a manner he found it painful to watch.
"But please," he implored, "don't take it so much to heart, Miss
Bannon. If you knew nothing, you couldn't have prevented it."
"No," she said brokenly—"I could have done nothing … But I didn't
know. It isn't that—it's the horror and pity of it. And that you could
"But I didn't!" he protested—"truly I did not. And for what I did
think, for the injustice I did do you, believe me, I'm truly sorry."
"You were quite justified," she said—"not only by circumstantial
evidence but to a degree in fact. You must know … now I must tell you
"Nothing you don't wish to!" he interrupted. "The fact that I
practically kidnapped you under pretence of doing you a service, and
suspected you of being in the pay of that Pack, gives me no title to
"Can I blame you for thinking what you did?" She went on slowly,
without looking up—gaze steadfast to her interlaced fingers: "Now for
my own sake I want you to know what otherwise, perhaps, I shouldn't
have told you—not yet, at all events. I'm no more Bannon's daughter
than you're his son. Our names sound alike—people frequently make the
same mistake. My name is Shannon—Lucy Shannon. Mr. Bannon called me
Lucia because he knew I didn't like it, to tease me; for the same
reason he always kept up the pretence that I was his daughter when
"But—if that is so—then what—?"
"Why—it's very simple." Still she didn't look up. "I'm a trained
nurse. Mr. Bannon is consumptive—so far gone, it's a wonder he didn't
die years ago: for months I've been haunted by the thought that it's
only the evil in him keeps him alive. It wasn't long after I took the
assignment to nurse him that I found out something about him…. He'd
had a haemorrhage at his desk; and while he lay in coma, and I was
waiting for the doctor, I happened to notice one of the papers he'd
been working over when he fell. And then, just as I began to appreciate
the sort of man I was employed by, he came to, and saw—and knew. I
found him watching me with those dreadful eyes of his, and though he
was unable to speak, knew my life wasn't safe if ever I breathed a word
of what I had read. I would have left him then, but he was too cunning
for me, and when in time I found a chance to escape—I was afraid I'd
not live long if ever I left him. He went about it deliberately; to
keep me frightened, and though he never mentioned the matter directly,
let me know plainly, in a hundred ways, what his power was and what
would happen if I whispered a word of what I knew. It's nearly a year
now—nearly a year of endless terror and…"
Her voice fell; she was trembling with the recrudescent suffering of
that year-long servitude. And for a little Lanyard felt too profoundly
moved to trust himself to speak; he stood aghast, staring down at this
woman, so intrinsically and gently feminine, so strangely strong and
courageous; and vaguely envisaging what anguish must have been hers in
enforced association with a creature of Bannon's ruthless stamp, he was
rent with compassion and swore to himself he'd stand by her and see her
through and free and happy if he died for it—or ended in the Santé!
"Poor child!" he heard himself murmuring—"poor child!"
"Don't pity me!" she insisted, still with face averted. "I don't
deserve it. If I had the spirit of a mouse, I'd have defied him; it
needed only courage enough to say one word to the police—"
"But who is he, then?" Lanyard demanded. "What is he, I mean?"
"I hardly know how to tell you. And I hardly dare: I feel as if these
walls would betray me if I did…. But to me he's the incarnation of
all things evil…." She shook herself with a nervous laugh. "But why
be silly about it? I don't really know what or who he is: I only
suspect and believe that he is a man whose life is devoted to planning
evil and ordering its execution through his lieutenants. When the
papers at home speak of 'The Man Higher Up' they mean Archer Bannon,
though they don't know it—or else I'm merely a hysterical woman
exaggerating the impressions of a morbid imagination…. And that's all
I know of him that matters."
"But why, if you believe all this—how did you at length find
"Because I no longer had courage to endure; because I was more afraid
to stay than to go—afraid that my own soul would be forfeit. And then,
last night, he ordered me to go to your room and search it for evidence
that you were the Lone Wolf. It was the first time he'd ever asked
anything like that of me. I was afraid, and though I obeyed, I was glad
when you interrupted—glad even though I had to lie the way I did….
And all that worked on me, after I'd gone back to my room, until I felt
I could stand it no longer; and after a long time, when the house
seemed all still, I got up, dressed quietly and … That is how I came
to meet you—quite by accident."
"But you seemed so frightened at first when you saw me—"
"I was," she confessed simply; "I thought you were Mr. Greggs."
"Mr. Bannon's private secretary—his right-hand man. He's about your
height and has a suit like the one you wear, and in that poor light—at
the distance I didn't notice you were clean-shaven—Greggs wears a
"Then it was Greggs murdered Roddy and tried to drug me! … By George,
I'd like to know whether the police got there before Bannon, or
somebody else, discovered the substitution. It was a telegram to the
police, you know, I sent from the Bourse last night!"
In his excitement Lanyard began to pace the floor rapidly; and now that
he was no longer staring at her, the girl lifted her head and watched
him closely as he moved to and fro, talking aloud—more to himself than
"I wish I knew! … And what a lucky thing, you did meet me! For if
you'd gone on to the Gare du Nord and waited there….Well, it isn't
likely Bannon didn't discover your flight before eight o'clock this
morning, is it?"
"I'm afraid not…."
"And they've drawn the dead-line for me round every conceivable exit
from Paris: Popinot's Apaches are picketed everywhere. And if Bannon
had found out about you in time, it would have needed only a word…"
He paused and shuddered to think what might have ensued had that word
been spoken and the girl been found waiting for her train in the Gare
"Mercifully, we've escaped that. And now, with any sort of luck, Bannon
ought to be busy enough, trying to get his precious Mr. Greggs out of
the Santé, to give us a chance. And a fighting chance is all I ask."
"Mr. Lanyard"—the girl bent toward him across the table with a gesture
of eager interest—"have you any idea why he—why Mr. Bannon hates you
"But does he? I don't know!"
"If he doesn't, why should he plot to cast suspicion of murder on you,
and why be so anxious to know whether you were really the Lone Wolf? I
saw his eyes light up when De Morbihan mentioned that name, after
dinner; and if ever I saw hatred in a man's face, it was in his as he
watched you, when you weren't looking."
"As far as I know, I never heard of him before," Lanyard said
carelessly. "I fancy it's nothing more than the excitement of a
man-hunt. Now that they've found me out, De Morbihan and his crew won't
rest until they've got my scalp."
"Professional jealousy. We're all crooks, all in the same boat, only I
won't row to their stroke. I've always played a lone hand successfully;
now they insist on coming into the game and sharing my winnings. And
I've told them where they could go."
"And because of that, they're willing to——"
"There's nothing they wouldn't do, Miss Shannon, to bring me to my
knees or see me put out of the way, where my operations couldn't hurt
their pocketbooks. Well … all I ask is a fighting chance, and they
shall have their way!"
Her brows contracted. "I don't understand…. You want a fighting
chance—to surrender—to give in to their demands?"
"In a way—yes. I want a fighting chance to do what I'd never in the
world get them to credit—give it all up and leave them a free field."
And when still she searched his face with puzzled eyes, he insisted: "I
mean it; I want to get away—clear out—chuck the game for good and
A little silence greeted this announcement. Lanyard, at pause near the
table, resting a hand on it, bent to the girl's upturned face a grave
but candid regard. And the deeps of her eyes that never swerved from
his were troubled strangely in his vision. He could by no means account
for the light he seemed to see therein, a light that kindled while he
watched like a tiny flame, feeble, fearful, vacillant, then as the
moments passed steadied and grew stronger but ever leaped and danced;
so that he, lost in the wonder of it and forgetful of himself, thought
of it as the ardent face of a happy child dancing in the depths of some
brown autumnal woodland….
"You," she breathed incredulously—"you mean, you're going to stop—?"
"I have stopped, Miss Shannon. The Lone Wolf has prowled for the last
time. I didn't know it until I woke up, an hour or so ago, but I've
turned my last job."
He remarked her hands were small, in keeping with the slightness of her
person, but somehow didn't seem so—wore a look of strength and
capability, befitting hands trained to a nurse's duties; and saw them
each tight-fisted but quivering as they rested on the table, as though
their mistress struggled to suppress the manifestation of some emotion
as powerful as unfathomable to him.
"But why?" she demanded in bewilderment. "But why do you say that? What
can have happened to make you—?"
"Not fear of that Pack!" he laughed—"not that, I promise you."
"Oh, I know!" she said impatiently—"I know that very well. But still I
"If it won't bore you, I'll try to explain." He drew up his chair and
sat down again, facing her across the littered table. "I don't suppose
you've ever stopped to consider what an essentially stupid animal a
crook must be. Most of them are stupid because they practise clumsily
one of the most difficult professions imaginable, and inevitably fail
at it, yet persist. They wouldn't think of undertaking a job of civil
engineering with no sort of preparation, but they'll tackle a dangerous
proposition in burglary without a thought, and pay for failure with
years of imprisonment, and once out try it again. That's one kind of
criminal—the ninety-nine per-cent class—incurably stupid! There's
another class, men whose imagination forewarns them of dangers and
whose mental training, technical equipment and sheer manual dexterity
enable them to attack a formidable proposition like a modern safe—by
way of illustration—and force its secret. They're the successful
criminals, like myself—but they're no less stupid, no less failures,
than the other ninety-nine in our every hundred, because they never
stop to think. It never occurs to them that the same intelligence,
applied to any one of the trades they must be masters of, would not
only pay them better, but leave them their self-respect and rid them
forever of the dread of arrest that haunts us all like the memory of
some shameful act…. All of which is much more of a lecture than I
meant to inflict upon you, Miss Shannon, and sums up to just this:
I've stopped to think…."
With this he stopped for breath as well, and momentarily was silent,
his faint, twisted smile testifying to self-consciousness; but
presently, seeing that she didn't offer to interrupt, but continued to
give him her attention so exclusively that it had the effect of
fascination, he stumbled on, at first less confidently. "When I woke up
it was as if, without my will, I had been thinking all this out in my
sleep. I saw myself for the first time clearly, as I have been ever
since I can remember—a crook, thoughtless, vain, rapacious, ruthless,
skulking in shadows and thinking myself an amazingly fine fellow
because, between coups, I would play the gentleman a bit, venture into
the light and swagger in the haunts of the gratin! In my poor,
perverted brain I thought there was something fine and thrilling and
romantic in the career of a great criminal and myself a wonderful
figure—an enemy of society!"
"Why do you say this to me?" she demanded abruptly, out of a phase of
He lifted an apologetic shoulder. "Because, I fancy, I'm no longer
self-sufficient. I was all of that, twenty-four hours ago; but now
I'm as lonesome as a lost child in a dark forest. I haven't a friend in
the world. I'm like a stray pup, grovelling for sympathy. And you are
unfortunate enough to be the only person I can declare myself to. It's
going to be a fight—I know that too well!—and without something
outside myself to struggle toward, I'll be heavily handicapped. But if
…" He faltered, with a look of wistful earnestness. "If I thought
that you, perhaps, were a little interested, that I had your faith to
respect and cherish … if I dared hope that you'd be glad to know I
had won out against odds, it would mean a great deal to me, it might
mean my salvation!"
Watching her narrowly, hanging upon her decision with the anxiety of a
man proscribed and hoping against hope for pardon, he saw her eyes
cloud and shift from his, her lips parted but hesitant; and before she
could speak, hastily interposed:
"Please don't say anything yet. First let me demonstrate my sincerity.
So far I've done nothing to persuade you but—talk and talk and talk!
Give me a chance to prove I mean what I say."
"How"—she enunciated only with visible effort and no longer met his
appeal with an open countenance—"how can you do that?"
"In the long run, by establishing myself in some honest way of life,
however modest; but now, and principally, by making reparation for at
least one crime I've committed that's not irreparable."
He caught her quick glance of enquiry, and met it with a confident nod
as he placed between them the morocco-bound jewel-case.
"In London, yesterday," he said quietly, "I brought off two big coups.
One was deliberate, the other the inspiration of a moment. The one I'd
planned for months was the theft of the Omber jewels—here."
He tapped the case and resumed in the same manner: "The other job needs
a diagram: Not long ago a Frenchman named Huysman, living in Tours, was
mysteriously murdered—a poor inventor, who had starved himself to
perfect a stabilizator, an attachment to render aeroplanes practically
fool-proof. His final trials created a sensation and he was on the eve
of selling his invention to the Government when he was killed and his
plans stolen. Circumstantial evidence pointed to an international spy
named Ekstrom—Adolph Ekstrom, once Chief of the Aviation Corps of the
German Army, cashiered for general blackguardism with a suspicion of
treason to boot. However, Ekstrom kept out of sight; and presently the
plans turned up in the German War Office. That was a big thing for
Germany; already supreme with her dirigibles, the acquisition of the
Huysman stabilizator promised her ten years' lead over the world in the
field of aeroplanes…. Now yesterday Ekstrom came to the surface in
London with those self-same plans to sell to England. Chance threw him
my way, and he mistook me for the man he'd expected to meet—Downing
Street's secret agent. Well—no matter how—I got the plans from him
and brought them over with me, meaning to turn them over to France, to
whom by rights they belong."
"Without consideration?" the girl enquired shrewdly.
"Not exactly. I had meant to make no profit of the affair—I'm a bit
squeamish about tainted money!—but under present conditions, if France
insists on rewarding me with safe conduct out of the country, I shan't
refuse it…. Do you approve?"
She nodded earnestly: "It would be worse than criminal to return them
"That's my view of the matter."
"But these?" The girl rested her hand upon the jewel-case.
"Those go back to Madame Omber. She has a home here in Paris that I
know very well. In fact, the sole reason why I didn't steal them here
was that she left for England unexpectedly, just as I was all set to
strike. Now I purpose making use of my knowledge to restore the jewels
without risk of falling into the hands of the police. That will be an
easy matter…. And that brings me to a great favour I would beg of
She gave him a look so unexpectedly kind that it staggered him. But he
had himself well in hand.
"You can't now leave Paris before morning—thanks to my having
overslept," he explained. "There's no honest way I know to raise money
before the pawn-shops open. But I'm hoping that won't be necessary; I'm
hoping I can arrange matters without going to that extreme. Meanwhile,
you agree that these jewels must be returned?"
"Of course," she affirmed gently.
"Then … will you accompany me when I replace them? There won't be any
danger: I promise you that. Indeed, it would be more hazardous for you
to wait for me elsewhere while I attended to the matter alone. And I'd
like you to be convinced of my good faith."
"Don't you think you can trust me for that as well?" she asked, with a
flash of humour.
"To believe … Mr. Lanyard," she told him gently but earnestly, "I do
"You make me very happy," he said … "but I'd like you to see for
yourself…. And I'd be glad not to have to fret about your safety in
my absence. As a bureau of espionage, Popinot's brigade of Apaches is
without a peer in Europe. I am positively afraid to leave you alone…."
She was silent.
"Will you come with me, Miss Shannon?" "That is your sole reason for
asking this of me?" she insisted, eyeing him steadily.
"That I wish you to believe in me—yes."
"Why?" she pursued, inexorable.
"Because … I've already told you."
"That you want someone's good opinion to cherish…. But why, of all
people, me—whom you hardly know, of whom what little you do know is
He coloured, and boggled his answer…. "I can't tell you," he
confessed in the end.
"Why can't you tell me?"
He stared at her miserably…. "I've no right…."
"In spite of all I've said, in spite of the faith you so generously
promise me, in your eyes I must still figure as a thief, a liar, an
impostor—self-confessed. Men aren't made over by mere protestations,
nor even by their own efforts, in an hour, or a day, or a week. But
give me a year: if I can live a year in honesty, and earn my bread, and
so prove my strength—then, perhaps, I might find the courage, the—the
effrontery to tell you why I want your good opinion…. Now I've said
far more than I meant or had any right to. I hope," he ventured
pleadingly—"you're not offended."
Only an instant longer could she maintain her direct and unflinching
look. Then, his meaning would no more be ignored. Her lashes fell; a
tide of crimson flooded her face; and with a quick movement, pushing
her chair a little from the table, she turned aside. But she said
He remained as he had been, bending eagerly toward her. And in the long
minute that elapsed before either spoke again, both became oddly
conscious of the silence brooding in that lonely little house, of their
isolation from the world, of their common peril and mutual dependence.
"I'm afraid," Lanyard said, after a time—"I'm afraid I know what you
must be thinking. One can't do your intelligence the injustice to
imagine that you haven't understood me—read all that was in my mind
and"—his voice fell—"in my heart. I own I was wrong to speak so
transparently, to suggest my regard for you, at such a time, under such
conditions. I am truly sorry, and beg you to consider unsaid all that I
should not have said…. After all, what earthly difference can it make
to you if one thief more decides suddenly to reform?"
That brought her abruptly to her feet, to show him a face of glowing
loveliness and eyes distractingly dimmed and softened.
"No!" she implored him breathlessly—"please—you mustn't spoil it!
You've paid me the finest of compliments, and one I'm glad and grateful
for … and would I might think I deserved! … You say you need a year
to prove yourself? Then—I've no right to say this—and you must please
not ask me what I mean—then I grant you that year. A year I shall wait
to hear from you from the day we part, here in Paris…. And to-night,
I will go with you, too, and gladly, since you wish it!"
And then as he, having risen, stood at loss, thrilled, and incredulous,
with a brave and generous gesture she offered him her hand.
"Mr. Lanyard, I promise…."
To every woman, even the least lovely, her hour of beauty: it had not
entered Lanyard's mind to think this woman beautiful until that moment.
Of her exotic charm, of the allure of her pensive, plaintive
prettiness, he had been well aware; even as he had been unable to deny
to himself that he was all for her, that he loved her with all the
strength that was his; but not till now had he understood that she was
the one woman whose loveliness to him would darken the fairness of all
And for a little, holding her tremulous hand upon his finger-tips as
though he feared to bruise it with a ruder contact, he could not take
his eyes from her.
Then reverently he bowed his head and touched his lips to that hand …
and felt it snatched swiftly away, and started back, aghast, the idyll
roughly dissipated, the castle of his dreams falling in thunders round
In the studio-skylight overhead a pane of glass had fallen in with a
shattering crash as ominous as the Trump of Doom.
Falling without presage upon the slumberous hush enveloping the little
house marooned in that dead back-water of Paris, the shock of that
alarm drove the girl back from the table to the nearest wall, and for a
moment held her there, transfixed in panic.
To the wide, staring eyes that questioned his so urgently, Lanyard
promptly nodded grave reassurance. He hadn't stirred since his first,
involuntary and almost imperceptible start, and before the last
fragment of splintered glass had tinkled on the floor above, he was
calming her in the most matter-of-fact manner.
"Don't be alarmed," he said. "It's nothing—merely Solon's skylight
"You call that nothing!" she cried gustily. "What caused it, then?"
"My negligence," he admitted gloomily. "I might have known that wide
spread of glass with the studio electrics on, full-blaze, would give
the show away completely. The house is known to be unoccupied; and it
wasn't to be expected that both the police and Popinot's crew would
overlook so shining a mark…. And it's all my fault, my oversight: I
should have thought of it before…. High time I was quitting a game
I've no longer the wit to play by the rules!"
"But the police would never…!"
"Certainly not. This is Popinot's gentle method of letting us know he's
on the job. But I'll just have a look, to make sure…. No: stop where
you are, please. I'd rather go alone."
He swung alertly through to the hall window, pausing there only long
enough for an instantaneous glance through the draperies—a fugitive
survey that discovered the impasse Stanislas no more abandoned to the
wind and rain, but tenanted visibly by one at least who lounged beneath
the lonely lamp-post, a shoulder against it: a featureless civilian
silhouette with attention fixed to the little house.
But Lanyard didn't doubt this one had a dozen fellows stationed within
Springing up the stairs, he paused prudently at the top-most step, one
quick glance showing him the huge rent gaping black in the skylight,
the second the missile of destruction lying amid a litter of broken
glass—a brick wrapped in newspaper, by the look of it.
Swooping forward, he retrieved this, darted back from the exposed space
beneath the shattered skylight, and had no more than cleared the
threshold than a second something fell through the gap and buried
itself in the parquetry. This was a bullet fired from the roof of one
of the adjoining buildings: confirming his prior reasoning that the
first missile must have fallen from a height, rather than have been
thrown up from the street, to have wrought such destruction with those
tough, thick panes of clouded glass….
Swearing softly to himself, he descended to the kitchen.
"As I thought," he said coolly, exhibiting his find.
"They're on the roof of the next house—though they've posted a sentry
in the street, of course."
"But that second thump—?" the girl demanded.
"A bullet," he said, placing the bundle on the table and cutting the
string that bound it: "they were on the quivive and fired when I showed
myself beneath the skylight."
"But I heard no report," she objected.
"A Maxim silencer on the gun, I fancy," he explained, unwrapping the
brick and smoothing out the newspaper…. "Glad you thought to put on
your hat before you came down," he added, with an approving glance for
the girl; "it won't be safe to go up to the studio again—of course."
His nonchalance was far less real than it seemed, but helped to steady
one who was holding herself together with a struggle, on the verge of
"But what are we to do now?" she stammered. "If they've surrounded the
"Don't worry: there's more than one way out," he responded, frowning at
the newspaper; "I wouldn't have picked this place out, otherwise. Nor
would Solon have rented it in the first instance had it lacked an
emergency exit, in event of creditors…. Ah—thought so!"
"Troyon's is gone," he said, without looking up. "This is to-night's
Presse…. 'Totally destroyed by a fire which started at six-thirty
this morning and in less than half an hour had reduced the ancient
structure to a heap of smoking ashes'! …" He ran his eye quickly
down the column, selecting salient phrases: "'Believed to have been of
incendiary origin though the premises were uninsured'—that's an
intelligent guess!… '_Narrow escape of guests in their
'whatyemaycallems….'Three lives believed to have been lost … one
body recovered charred almost beyond recognition_'—but later
identified as Roddy—poor devil! … 'Two guests missing, Monsieur
Lanyard, the well-known connoisseur of art, who occupied the room
adjoining that of the unfortunate detective, and Mademoiselle Bannon,
daughter of the American millionaire, who himself escaped only by a
miracle with his secretary Monsieur Greggs, the latter being overcome
by fumes'—what a shame!… 'Police and firemen searching the
ruins'—hm-hm—' extraordinary interest manifested by the Préfecture
indicates a suspicion that the building may have been fired to conceal
some crime of a political nature.'"
Crushing the newspaper between his hands, he tossed it into a corner.
"That's all of importance. Thoughtful of Popinot to let me know, this
way! The Préfecture, of course, is humming like a wasp's-nest with the
mystery of that telegram, signed with Roddy's name and handed in at the
Bourse an hour or so before he was 'burned to death.' Too bad I didn't
know then what I do now; if I'd even remotely suspected Greggs'
association with the Pack was via Bannon…. But what's the use? I did
my possible, knowing the odds were heavy against success."
"What was written on the paper?" the girl demanded obliquely.
He made his eyes blank: "Written on the paper—?"
"I saw something in red ink at the head of the column. You tried to
hide it from me, but I saw…. What was it?"
"Oh—that!" he laughed contemptuously: "just Popinot's impudence—an
invitation to come out and be a good target."
She shook her head impatiently: "You're not telling me the truth. It
was something else, or you wouldn't have been so anxious to hide it."
"Oh, but I assure you—!"
"You can't. Be honest with me, Mr. Lanyard. It was an offer to let you
off if you'd give me up to Bannon—wasn't it?"
"Something like that," he assented sheepishly—"too absurd for
consideration…. But now we're due to clear out of this before they
find a way in. Not that they're likely to risk a raid until they've
tried starving us out; but it would be as well to put a good distance
between us before they find out we've decamped."
He shrugged into his borrowed raincoat, buttoned it to his chin, and
turned down the brim of his felt hat; but when he looked up at the girl
again, he found she hadn't moved; rather, she remained as one
spellbound, staring less at than through him, her expression
"Well," he ventured—"if you're quite ready, Miss Shannon—?"
"Mr. Lanyard," she demanded almost sharply—"what was the full wording
of that message?"
"If you must know—"
He lifted a depreciative shoulder. "If you like, I'll read it to
you—or, rather, translate it from the thieves' argot Popinot
complimented me by using."
"Not necessary," she said tersely. "I'll take your word for it…. But
you must tell me the truth."
"As you will…. Popinot delicately suggested that if I leave you here,
to be reunited to your alleged parent—if I'll trust to his word of
honour, that is, and walk out of the house alone, he'll give me
twenty-four hours in which to leave Paris."
"Then only I stand between you and—"
"My dear young woman!" he protested hastily. "Please don't run away
with any absurd notion like that. Do you imagine I'd consent to treat
with such canaille under any circumstances?"
"All the same," she continued stubbornly, "I'm the stumbling-block.
You're risking your life for me—"
"I'm not," he insisted almost angrily.
"You are," she returned with quiet conviction.
"Well!" he laughed—"have it your own way!…"
"But it's my life, isn't it? I really don't see how you're going to
prevent my risking it for anything that may seem to me worth the risk!"
But she wouldn't laugh; only her countenance, suddenly bereft of its
mutinous expression, softened winningly—and her eyes grew very kind to
"As long as it's understood I understand—very well," she said quietly;
"I'll do as you wish, Mr. Lanyard."
"Good!" he cried cheerfully. "I wish, by your leave, to take you out to
dinner…. This way, please!"
Leading through the scullery, he unbarred a low, arched door in one of
the walls, discovering the black mouth of a narrow and tunnel-like
With a word of caution, flash-lamp in his left hand, pistol in right,
Lanyard stepped out into the darkness.
In two minutes he was back, with a look of relief.
"All clear," he reported; "I felt pretty sure Popinot knew nothing of
this way out—else we'd have entertained uninvited guests long since.
Now, half a minute…."
The electric meter occupied a place on the wall of the scullery not far
from the door. Prying open its cover, he unscrewed and removed the fuse
plug, plunging the entire house in complete darkness.
"That'll keep 'em guessing a while!" he explained with a chuckle.
"They'll hesitate a long time before rushing a dark house infested by a
desperate armed man—if I know anything about that mongrel lot!…
Besides, when they do get their courage up, the lack of light will
stave off discovery of this way of escape…. And now, one word more."
A flash of the lamp located her hand. Calmly he possessed himself of
it, if without opposition.
"I've brought you into trouble enough, as it is, through my stupidity,"
he said; "but for that, this place should have been a refuge to us
until we were quite ready to leave Paris. So now we mustn't forget,
before we go out to run God-only-knows-what gauntlet, to fix a
rendezvous in event of separation…. Popinot, for instance, may have
drawn a cordon around the block; we can't tell until we're in the
street; if he has, you must leave me to entertain them until you're
safe beyond their reach…. Oh, don't worry: I'm perfectly well able to
take care of myself….But afterwards, we must know where to find each
other. Hotels, cafés and restaurants are out of the question: in the
first place, we've barely money enough for our dinner; besides, they'll
be watched closely; as for our embassies and consulates, they aren't
open at all hours, and will likewise be watched. There remain—unless
you can suggest something—only the churches; and I can think of none
better suited to our purposes than the Sacré-Cour."
Her fingers tightened gently upon his.
"I understand," she said quietly; "if we're obliged to separate, I'm to
go direct to the Sacré-Cour and await you there."
"Right! …But let's hope there'll be no such necessity."
Hand-in-hand like frightened children, these two stole down the
tunnel-like passageway, through a forlorn little court cramped between
two tall old tenements, and so came out into the gloomy, sinuous and
silent rue d'Assas.
Here they encountered few wayfarers; and to these, preoccupied with
anxiety to gain shelter from the inclement night, they seemed, no
doubt, some student of the Quarter with his sweetheart—Lanyard in his
shabby raincoat, striding rapidly, head and shoulders bowed against the
driving mist, the girl in her trim Burberry clinging to his arm….
Avoiding the nearer stations as dangerous, Lanyard steered a roundabout
course through by-ways to the rue de Sèvres station of the Nord-Sud
subway; from which in due course they came to the surface again at the
place de la Concorde, walked several blocks, took a taxicab, and in
less than half an hour after leaving the impasse Stanislas were
comfortably ensconced in a cabinet particulier of a little restaurant
of modest pretensions just north of Les Halles.
They feasted famously: the cuisine, if bourgeois, was admirable and,
better still, well within the resources of Lanyard's emaciated purse.
Nor did he fret with consciousness that, when the bill had been paid
and the essential tips bestowed, there would remain in his pocket
hardly more than cab fare. Supremely self-confident, he harboured no
doubts of a smiling future—now that the dark pages in his record had
been turned and sealed by a resolution he held irrevocable.
His spirits had mounted to a high pitch, thanks to their successful
evasion. He was young, he was in love, he was hungry, he was—in
short—very much alive. And the consciousness of common peril knitted
an enchanting intimacy into their communications. For the first time in
his history Lanyard found himself in the company of a woman with whom
he dared—and cared—to speak without reserve: a circumstance
intrinsically intoxicating. And stimulated by her unquestionable
interest and sympathy, he did talk without reserve of old Troyon's and
its drudge, Marcel; of Bourke and his wanderings; of the education of
the Lone Wolf and his career, less in pride than in relief that it was
ended; of the future he must achieve for himself.
And sitting with chin cradled on the backs of her interlaced fingers,
the girl listened with such indulgence as women find always for their
lovers. Of herself she had little to say: Lanyard filled in to his
taste the outlines of the simple history of a young woman of good
family obliged to become self-supporting.
And if at times her grave eyes clouded and her attention wandered, it
was less in ennui than because of occult trains of thought set astir by
some chance word or phrase of Lanyard's.
"I'm boring you," he surmised once with quick contrition, waking up to
the fact that he had monopolized the conversation for many minutes on
She shook a pensive head. "No, again…. But I wonder, do you
appreciate the magnitude of the task you've undertaken?"
"Possibly not," he conceded arrogantly; "but it doesn't matter. The
heavier the odds, the greater the incentive to win."
"But," she objected, "you've told me a curious story of one who never
had a chance or incentive to 'go straight'—as you put it. And yet you
seem to think that an overnight resolution to reform is all that's
needed to change all the habits of a life-time. You persuade me of your
sincerity of today; but how will it be with you tomorrow—and not so
much tomorrow as six months from tomorrow, when you've found the going
rough and know you've only to take one step aside to gain a smooth and
"If I fail, then, it will be because I'm unfit—and I'll go under, and
never be heard of again…. But I shan't fail. It seems to me the very
fact that I want to go straight is proof enough that I've something
inherently decent in me to build on."
"I do believe that, and yet…" She lowered her head and began to trace
a meaningless pattern on the cloth before she resumed. "You've given me
to understand I'm responsible for your sudden awakening, that it's
because of a regard conceived for me you're so anxious to become an
honest man. Suppose … suppose you were to find out … you'd been
mistaken in me?"
"That isn't possible," he objected promptly.
She smiled upon him wistfully—and leniently from her remote coign of
superior intuitive knowledge of human nature.
"But if it were—?"
"Then—I think," he said soberly—"I think I'd feel as though there
were nothing but emptiness beneath my feet!"
"And you'd backslide—?"
"How can I tell?" he expostulated. "It's not a fair question. I don't
know what I'd do, but I do know it would need something damnable to
shake my faith in you!"
"You think so now," she said tolerantly. "But if appearances were
"They'd have to be black!"
"If you found I had deceived you—?"
"Miss Shannon!" He threw an arm across the table and suddenly
imprisoned her hand. "There's no use beating about the bush. You've got
She drew back suddenly with a frightened look and a monosyllable of
sharp protest: "No!"
"But you must listen to me. I want you to understand…. Bourke used to
say to me: 'The man who lets love into his life opens a door no mortal
hand can close—and God only knows what will follow in!' And Bourke was
right…. Now that door is open in my heart, and I think that whatever
follows in won't be evil or degrading…. Oh, I've said it a dozen
different ways of indirection, but I may as well say it squarely now: I
love you; it's love of you makes me want to go straight—the hope that
when I've proved myself you'll maybe let me ask you to marry me….
Perhaps you're in love with a better man today; I'm willing to chance
that; a year brings many changes. Perhaps there's something I don't
fathom in your doubting my strength and constancy. Only the outcome can
declare that. But please understand this: if I fail to make good, it
will be no fault of yours; it will be because I'm unfit and have proved
it…. All I ask is what you've generously promised me: opportunity to
come to you at the end of the year and make my report…. And then, if
you will, you can say no to the question I'll ask you and I shan't
resent it, and it won't ruin me; for if a man can stick to a purpose
for a year, he can stick to it forever, with or without the love of the
woman he loves."
She heard him out without attempt at interruption, but her answer was
prefaced by a sad little shake of her head.
"That's what makes it so hard, so terribly hard," she said…. "Of
course I've understood you. All that you've said by indirection, and
much besides, has had its meaning to me. And I'm glad and proud of the
honour you offer me. But I can't accept it; I can never accept it—not
now nor a year from now. It wouldn't be fair to let you go on hoping I
might some time consent to marry you…. For that's impossible."
"You—forgive me—you're not already married?"
"Or in love with someone else?"
Again she told him, gently, "No."
His face cleared. He squared his shoulders. He even mustered up a smile.
"Then it isn't impossible. No human obstacle exists that time can't
overthrow. In spite of all you say, I shall go on hoping with all my
heart and soul and strength."
"But you don't understand—"
"Can you tell me—make me understand?"
After a long pause, she told him once more, and very sadly: "No."
Though it had been nearly eight when they entered the restaurant, it
was something after eleven before Lanyard called for his bill.
"We've plenty of time," he had explained; "it'll be midnight before we
can move. The gentle art of house-breaking has its technique, you know,
its professional ethics: we can't well violate the privacy of Madame
Omber's strong-box before the caretakers on the premises are sound
asleep. It isn't done, you know, it isn't class, to go burglarizing
when decent, law-abiding folk are wide-awake…. Meantime we're better
off here than trapezing the streets…."
It's a silent web of side ways and a gloomy one by night that backs up
north of Les Halles: old Paris, taciturn and sombre, steeped in its
memories of grim romance. But for infrequent, flickering, corner lamps,
the street that welcomed them from the doors of the warm and cosy
restaurant was as dismal as an alley in some city of the dead. Its
houses with their mansard roofs and boarded windows bent their heads
together like mutes at a wake, black-cloaked and hooded; seldom one
showed a light; never one betrayed by any sound the life that lurked
behind its jealous blinds. Now again the rain had ceased and, though
the sky remained overcast, the atmosphere was clear and brisk with a
touch of frost, in grateful contrast to the dull and muggy airs that
had obtained for the last twenty-four hours.
"We'll walk," Lanyard suggested—"if you don't mind—part of the way at
least; it'll eat up time, and a bit of exercise will do us both good."
The girl assented quietly….
The drum of their heels on fast-drying sidewalks struck sharp echoes
from the silence of that drowsy quarter, a lonely clamour that rendered
it impossible to ignore their apparent solitude—as impossible as it
was for Lanyard to ignore the fact that they were followed.
The shadow dogging them on the far side of the street, some fifty yards
behind, was as noiseless as any cat; but for this circumstance—had it
moved boldly with unmuffled footsteps—Lanyard would have been slow to
believe it concerned with him, so confident had be felt, till that
moment, of having given the Pack the slip.
And from this he diagnosed still another symptom of the Pack's
Supremely on the alert, he had discovered the pursuit before they left
the block of the restaurant. Dissembling, partly to avoid alarming the
girl, partly to trick the spy, he turned this way and that round
several corners, until quite convinced that the shadow was dedicated to
himself exclusively, then promptly revised his first purpose and,
instead of sticking to darker back ways, struck out directly for the
broad, well-lighted and lively boulevard de Sébastopol.
Crossing this without a backward glance, he turned north, seeking some
café whose arrangements suited his designs; and, presently, though not
before their tramp had brought them almost to the Grand Boulevards,
found one to his taste, a cheerful and well-lighted establishment
occupying a corner, with entrances from both streets. A hedge of
forlorn fir-trees knee-deep in wooden tubs guarded its terrasse of
round metal tables and spindle-shanked chairs; of which few were
occupied. Inside, visible through the wide plate-glass windows, perhaps
a dozen patrons sat round half as many tables—no more—idling over
dominoes and gossip: steady-paced burghers with their wives, men in
small ways of business of the neighbourhood.
Entering to this company, Lanyard selected a square marble-topped table
against the back wall, entrenched himself with the girl upon the seat
behind it, ordered coffee and writing materials, and proceeded to light
a cigarette with the nonchalance of one to whom time is of no
"What is it?" the girl asked guardedly as the waiter scurried off to
execute his commands. "You've not stopped in here for nothing!"
"True—but lower, please!" he begged. "If we speak English loud enough
to be heard it will attract attention…. The trouble is, we're
followed. But as yet our faithful shadow doesn't know we know
it—unless he's more intelligent than he seems. Consequently, if I
don't misjudge him, he'll take a table outside, the better to keep an
eye on us, as soon as he sees we're apparently settled for some time.
More than that, I've got a note to write—and not merely as a
subterfuge. This fellow must be shaken off, and as long as we stick
together, that can't well be done."
He interrupted himself while the waiter served them, then added sugar
to his coffee, arranged the ink bottle and paper to his satisfaction,
and bent over his pen.
"Come closer," he requested—"as if you were interested in what I'm
writing—and amused; if you can laugh a bit at nothing, so much the
better. But keep a sharp eye on the windows. You can do that more
readily than I, more naturally from under the brim of your hat…. And
tell me what you see…."
He had no more than settled into the swing of composition, than the
girl—apparently following his pen with closest attention—giggled
coquettishly and nudged his elbow.
"The window to the right of the door we came in," she said, smiling
delightedly; "he's standing behind the fir-trees, staring in."
"Can you make out who he is?" Lanyard asked without moving his lips.
"Nothing more than that he's tall," she said with every indication of
enjoying a tremendous joke. "His face is all in shadow…."
"Patience!" counselled the adventurer. "He'll take heart of courage
when convinced of our innocence."
He poised his pen, examined the ceiling for inspiration, and permitted
a slow smile to lighten his countenance.
"You'll take this note, if you please," he said cheerfully, "to the
address on the envelope, by taxi: it's some distance, near the
Etoile…. A long chance, but one we must risk; give me half an hour
alone and I'll guarantee to discourage this animal one way or another.
"Perfectly," she laughed archly.
He bent and for a few moments wrote busily.
"Now he's walking slowly round the corner, never taking his eyes from
you," the girl reported, shoulder to his shoulder and head
distractingly near his head.
"Good. Can you see him any better?"
"This note," he said, without stopping his pen or appearing to say
anything "is for the concierge of a building where I rent stabling for
a little motor-car. I'm supposed there to be a chauffeur in the employ
of a crazy Englishman, who keeps me constantly travelling with him back
and forth between Paris and London. That's to account for the
irregularity with which I use the car. They know me, monsieur and
madame of the conciergerie, as Pierre Lamier; and I think they're
safe—not only trustworthy and of friendly disposition, but quite
simple-minded; I don't believe they gossip much. So the chances are De
Morbihan and his gang know nothing of the arrangement. But that's all
speculation—a forlorn hope!"
"I understand," the girl observed. "He's still prowling up and down
outside the hedge."
"We're not going to need that car tonight; but the hôtel of Madame
Omber is close by; and I'll follow and join you there within an hour at
most. Meantime, this note will introduce you to the concierge and his
wife—I hope you won't mind—as my fiancée. I'm telling them we became
engaged in England, and I've brought you to Paris to visit my mother in
Montrouge; but am detained by my employer's business; and will they
please give you shelter for an hour."
"He's coming in," the girl announced quietly.
"No—merely inside the row of little trees."
"The boulevard side. He's taken the corner table. Now a waiter's going
out to him."
"You can see his face now?" Lanyard asked, sealing the note.
"Nothing you recognize about him, eh?"
"You know Popinot and Wertheimer by sight?"
"No; they're only names to me; De Morbihan and Mr. Bannon mentioned
them last night."
"It won't be Popinot," Lanyard reflected, addressing the envelope;
"This man is tall and slender."
"Wertheimer, possibly. Does he suggest an Englishman, any way?"
"Not in the least. He wears a moustache—blond—twisted up like the
Lanyard made no reply; but his heart sank, and he shivered
imperceptibly with foreboding. He entertained no doubt but that the
worst had happened, that to the number of his enemies in Paris was
One furtive glance confirmed this inference. He swore bitterly, if
privately and with a countenance of child-like blandness, as he sipped
the coffee and finished his cigarette.
"Who is it, then?" she asked. "Do you know him?"
He reckoned swiftly against distressing her, recalling his mention of
the fact that Ekstrom was credited with the Huysman murder.
"Merely a hanger-on of De Morbihan's," he told her lightly; "a
spineless animal—no trouble about scaring him off…. Now take this
note, please, and we'll go. But as we reach the door, turn back—and go
out the other. You'll find a taxi without trouble. And stop for
He had shown foresight in paying when served, and was consequently able
to leave abruptly, without giving Ekstrom time to shy. Rising smartly,
he pushed the table aside. The girl was no less quick, and little less
sensitive to the strain of the moment; but as she passed him her lashes
lifted and her eyes were all his for the instant.
"Good night," she breathed—"good night … my dear!"
She could have guessed no more shrewdly what he needed to nerve him
against the impending clash. He hadn't hesitated as to his only course,
but till then he'd been horribly afraid, knowing too well the
desperate cast of the outlawed German's nature. But now he couldn't
He strode briskly toward the door to the boulevard, out of the corner
of his eye aware that Ekstrom, taken by surprise, half-started from his
chair, then sank back.
Two paces from the entrance the girl checked, murmured in French, "Oh,
my handkerchief!" and turned briskly back. Without pause, as though he
hadn't heard, Lanyard threw the door wide and swung out, turning
directly to the spy. At the same time he dropped a hand into the pocket
where nestled his automatic.
Fortunately Ekstrom had chosen a table in a corner well removed from
any in use. Lanyard could speak without fear of being overheard.
But for a moment he refrained. Nor did Ekstrom speak or stir; sitting
sideways at his table, negligently, with knees crossed, the German
likewise kept a hand buried in the pocket of his heavy, dark ulster.
Thus neither doubted the other's ill-will or preparedness. And through
thirty seconds of silence they remained at pause, each striving with
all his might to read the other's purpose in his eyes. But there was
this distinction to be drawn between their attitudes, that whereas
Lanyard's gaze challenged, the German's was sullenly defiant. And
presently Lanyard felt his heart stir with relief: the spy's glance had
"Ekstrom," the adventurer said quietly, "if you fire, I'll get you
before I fall. That's a simple statement of fact."
The German hesitated, moistened the corners of his lips with a nervous
tongue, but contented himself with a nod of acknowledgement.
"Take your hand off that gun," Lanyard ordered. "Remember—I've only to
cry your name aloud to have you torn to pieces by these people. Your
life's not worth a moment's purchase in Paris—as you should know."
The German hesitated, but in his heart knew that Lanyard didn't
exaggerate. The murder of the inventor had exasperated all France; and
though tonight's weather kept a third of Paris within doors, there was
still a tide of pedestrians fluent on the sidewalk, beyond the flimsy
barrier of firs, that would thicken to a ravening mob upon the least
He had mistaken his man; he had thought that Lanyard, even if aware of
his pursuit, would seek to shake it off in flight rather than turn and
fight—and fight here, of all places!
"Do you hear me?" Lanyard continued in the same level and unyielding
tone. "Bring both hands in sight—upon the table!"
There was no more hesitation: Ekstrom obeyed, if with the sullen grace
of a wild beast that would and could slay its trainer with one sweep of
its paw—if only it dared.
For the first time since leaving the girl Lanyard relaxed his vigilant
watch over the man long enough for one swift glance through the window
at his side. But she was already vanished from the café.
He breathed more freely now.
"Come!" he said peremptorily. "Get up. We've got to talk, I
presume—thrash this matter out—and we'll come to no decision here."
"Where do we go, then?" the German demanded suspiciously.
"We can walk."
Irresolutely the spy uncrossed his knees, but didn't rise.
"Walk?" he repeated, "walk where?"
"Up the boulevard, if you like—where the lights are brightest."
"Ah!"—with a malignant flash of teeth—"but I don't trust you."
Lanyard laughed: "You wear only one shoe of that pair, my dear captain!
We're a distrustful flock, we birds of prey. Come along! Why sit there
sulking, like a spoiled child? You've made an ass of yourself,
following me to Paris; sadly though you bungled that job in London, I
gave you credit for more wit than to poke your head into the lion's
mouth here. But—admitting that—why not be graceful about it? Here am
I, amiably treating you like an equal: you might at least show
gratitude enough to accept my invitation to flâner yourself!"
With a grunt the spy got upon his feet, while Lanyard stood back,
against the window, and made him free of the narrow path between the
tree-tubs and the tables.
"After you, my dear Adolph…!"
The German paused, half turned towards him, choking with rage, his
suffused face darkly relieving its white scars won at Heidelberg. At
this, with a nod of unmistakable meaning, Lanyard advanced the muzzle
of his pocketed weapon; and with an ugly growl the German moved on and
out to the sidewalk, Lanyard respectfully an inch or two behind his
"To your right," he requested pleasantly—"if it's all the same to you:
I've business on the Boulevards…"
Ekstrom said nothing for the moment, but sullenly yielded to the
"By the way," the adventurer presently pursued, "you might be good
enough to inform me how you knew where we were dining—eh?"
"If it interests you—"
"I own it does—tremendously!"
"Pure accident: I happened to be sitting in the café, and caught a
glimpse of you through the door as you went upstairs. Therefore I
waited till the waiter asked for your bill at the caisse, then
stationed myself outside."
"But why? Can you tell me what you thought to accomplish?"
"You know well," Ekstrom muttered. "After what happened in London …
it's your life or mine!"
"Spoken like a true villain! But it seems to me you overlooked a
conspicuous chance to accomplish your hellish design, back there in the
"Would I be such a fool as to shoot you down before finding out what
you've done with those plans?"
"You might as well have," Lanyard informed him lightly … "For you
won't know otherwise."
With an infuriated oath the German stopped short: but he dared not
ignore the readiness with which his tormentor imitated the manoeuvre
and kept the pistol trained through the fabric of his raincoat.
"Yes—?" the adventurer enquired with an exasperating accent of
"Understand me," Ekstrom muttered vindictively: "next time I'll show
you no mercy—"
"But if there is no next time? We're not apt to meet again, you know."
"That's something beyond your knowledge—"
"You think so? … But shan't we resume our stroll? People might notice
us standing here—you with your teeth bared like an ill-tempered
dog…. Oh, thank you!"
And as they moved on, Lanyard continued: "Shall I explain why we're not
apt to meet again?"
"If it amuses you."
"Thanks once more! … For the simple reason that Paris satisfies me;
so here I stop."
"Well?" the spy asked with a blank sidelong look.
"Whereas you are leaving Paris tonight."
"What makes you think that?"
"Because you value your thick hide too highly to remain, my dear
captain." Having gained the corner of the boulevard St. Denis, Lanyard
pulled up. "One moment, by your leave. You see yonder the entrance to
the Metro—don't you? And here, a dozen feet away, a perfectly
able-bodied sergent de ville? Let this fateful conjunction impress you
properly: for five minutes after you have descended to the Métro—or as
soon as the noise of a train advises me you've had one chance to get
away—I shall mention casually to the sergo—that I have seen Captain
"Hush!" the German protested in a hiss of fright.
"But certainly: I've no desire to embarrass you: publicity must be
terribly distasteful to one of your sensitive and retiring
disposition…. But I trust you understand me? On the one hand, there's
the Métro; on the other, there's the flic; while here, you must admit,
am I, as large as life and very much on the job! … And inasmuch as I
shall certainly mention my suspicions to the minion of the law—as
aforesaid—I'd advise you to be well out of Paris before dawn!"
There was murder in the eyes of the spy as he lingered, truculently
glowering at the smiling adventurer; and for an instant Lanyard was
well-persuaded he had gone too far, that even there, even on that busy
junction of two crowded thoroughfares, Ekstrom would let his temper get
the better of his judgment and risk everything in an attempt upon the
life of his despoiler.
But he was mistaken.
With a surly shrug the spy swung about and marched straight to the
kiosk of the underground railway, into which, without one backward
glance, he disappeared.
Two minutes later the earth beneath Lanyard's feet quaked with the
crash and rumble of a north-bound train.
He waited three minutes longer; but Ekstrom didn't reappear; and at
length convinced that his warning had proved effectual, Lanyard turned
and made off.
For all that success had rewarded his effrontery, Lanyard's mind was
far from easy during the subsequent hour that he spent before
attempting to rejoin Lucy Shannon, dodging, ducking and doubling across
Paris and back again, with design to confuse and confound any jackals
of the Pack that might have picked up his trail as adventitiously as
His delight, indeed, in discomfiting his dupe was chilled by
apprehension that it were madness, simply because the spy had proved
unexpectedly docile, to consider the affaire Ekstrom closed. In the
very fact of that docility inhered something strange and ominous, a
premonition of evil which was hardly mitigated by finding the girl safe
and sound under the wing of madame la concierge, in the little court of
private stables, where he rented space for his car, off the rue des
Monsieur le concierge, it appeared, was from home; and madame,
thick-witted, warm-hearted, simple body that she was, discovered a
phase of beaming incuriosity most grateful to the adventurer, enabling
him as it did to dispense with embarrassing explanations, and to whisk
the girl away as soon as he liked.
This last was just as soon as personal examination had reassured him
with respect to his automobile—superficially an ordinary motor-cab of
the better grade, but with an exceptionally powerful engine hidden
beneath its hood. A car of such character, passing readily as the
town-car of any family in modest circumstances, or else as what Paris
calls a voiture de remise (a hackney car without taximeter) was a
tremendous convenience, enabling its owner to scurry at will about
cab-ridden Paris free of comment. But it could not be left standing in
public places at odd hours, or for long, without attracting the
interest of the police, and so was useless in the present emergency.
Lanyard, however, entertained a shrewd suspicion that his plans might
all miscarry and the command of a fast-travelling car soon prove
essential to his salvation; and he cheerfully devoted a good half-hour
to putting the motor in prime trim for the road.
With this accomplished—and the facts established through discreet
interrogation of madame la concierge that no enquiries had been made
for "Pierre Lamier," and that she had noticed no strange or otherwise
questionable characters loitering in the neighbourhood of late—he was
ready for his first real step toward rehabilitation….
It was past one in the morning when, with the girl on his arm, he
issued forth into the dark and drowsy rue des Acacias and, moving
swiftly, crossed the avenue de la Grande Armée. Thereafter, avoiding
main-travelled highways, they struck southward through tangled side
streets to aristocratic Passy, skirted the boulevards of the
fortifications, and approached the private park of La Muette.
The hôtel particulier of that wealthy and amiable eccentric, Madame
Hélène Omber, was a souvenir of those days when Passy had been
suburban. A survival of the Revolution, a vast, dour pile that had
known few changes since the days of its construction, it occupied a
large, unkempt park, irregularly triangular in shape, bounded by two
streets and an avenue, and rendered private by high walls crowned with
broken glass. Carriage gates opened on the avenue, guarded by a
porter's lodge; while of three posterns that pierced the walls on the
side streets, one only was in general use by the servants of the
establishment; the other two were presumed to be permanently sealed.
Lanyard, however, knew better.
When they had turned off from the avenue, he slackened pace and moved
at caution, examining the prospect narrowly.
On the one hand rose the wall of the park, topped by naked, soughing
limbs of neglected trees; on the other, across the way, a block of tall
old dwellings, withdrawn behind jealous garden walls, showed stupid,
sleepy faces and lightless eyes.
Within the perspective of the street but three shapes stirred; Lanyard
and the girl in the shadow of the wall, and a disconsolate, misprized
cat that promptly decamped like a terror-stricken ghost.
Overhead the sky was breaking and showing ebon patches and infrequent
stars through a wind-harried wrack of cloud. The night had grown
sensibly colder, and noisy with the rushing sweep of a new-sprung wind.
Several yards from the postern-gate, Lanyard paused definitely, and
spoke for the first time in many minutes; for the nature of their
errand had oppressed the spirits of both and enjoined an unnatural
silence, ever since their departure from the rue des Acacias.
"This is where we stop," he said, with a jerk of his head toward the
wall; "but it's not too late—"
"For what?" the girl asked quickly.
"I promised you no danger; but now I've thought it over, I can't
promise that: there's always danger. And I'm afraid for you. It's not
yet too late for you to turn back and wait for me in a safer place."
"You asked me to accompany you for a special purpose," she argued; "you
begged me to come with you, in fact…. Now that I have agreed and come
this far, I don't mean to turn back without good reason."
His gesture indicated uneasy acquiescence. "I should never have asked
this of you. I think I must have been a little mad. If anything should
come of this to injure you…!"
"If you mean to do what you promised—"
"Do you doubt my sincerity?"
"It was your own suggestion that you leave me no excuse for doubt…"
Without further remonstrance, if with a mind beset with misgivings, he
led on to the gate—a blank door of wood, painted a dark green, deeply
recessed in the wall.
In proof of his assertion that he had long since made every preparation
to attack the premises, Lanyard had a key ready and in the lock almost
before they reached it.
And the door swung back easily and noiselessly as though on
well-greased hinges. As silently it shut them in.
They stood upon a weed-grown gravel path, hedged about with thick
masses of shrubbery; but the park was as black as a pocket; and the
heavy effluvia of wet mould, decaying weeds and rotting leaves that
choked the air, seemed only to render the murk still more opaque.
But Lanyard evidently knew his way blindfold: though motives of
prudence made him refrain from using his flash-lamp, he betrayed not
the least incertitude in his actions.
Never once at loss for the right turning, he piloted the girl swiftly
through a bewildering black labyrinth of paths, lawns and thickets….
In due course he pulled up, and she discovered that they had come out
upon a clear space of lawn, close beside the featureless, looming bulk
of a dark and silent building.
An admonitory grasp tightened upon her fingers, and she caught his
singularly penetrating yet guarded whisper:
"This is the back of the house—the service-entrance. From this door a
broad path runs straight to the main service gateway; you can't mistake
it; and the gate itself has a spring lock, easy enough to open from the
inside. Remember this in event of trouble. We might become separated in
the darkness and confusion…."
Gently returning the pressure, "I understand," she said in a whisper.
Immediately he drew her on to the house, pausing but momentarily before
a wide doorway; one half of which promptly swung open, and as soon as
they had passed through, closed with no perceptible jar or click. And
then Lanyard's flash-lamp was lancing the gloom on every hand, swiftly
raking the bounds of a large, panelled servants' hall, until it picked
out the foot of a flight of steps at the farther end. To this they
moved stealthily over a tiled flooring.
The ascent of the staircase was accomplished, however, only with
infinite care, Lanyard testing each rise before trusting it with his
weight or the girl's. Twice he bade her skip one step lest the
complaints of the ancient woodwork betray them. In spite of all this,
no less than three hideous squeals were evoked before they gained the
top; each indicating a pause and wait of several breathless seconds.
But it would seem that such servants as had been left in the house, in
the absence of its chatelaine, either slept soundly or were accustomed
to the midnight concert of those age-old timbers; and without
mischance, at length, they entered the main reception-hall, revealed by
the dancing spot-light as a room of noble proportions furnished with
Here the girl was left alone for a few minutes, while Lanyard darted
above-stairs for a review of the state bedchambers and servants'
With a sensation of being crushed and suffocated by the encompassing
dark mystery, she nerved herself against a protracted vigil. The
obscurity on every hand seemed alive with stealthy footfalls,
whisperings, murmurings, the passage of shrouded shapes of silence and
of menace. Her eyes ached, her throat and temples throbbed, her skin
crept, her scalp tingled. She seemed to hear a thousand different
noises of alarm. The only sounds she did not hear were those—if
any—that accompanied Lanyard's departure and return. Had he not been
thoughtful enough, when a few feet distant, to give warning with the
light, she might well have greeted with a cry of fright the
consciousness of a presence near her: so silently he moved about. As it
was, she was startled, apprehensive of some misadventure, to find him
back so soon; for he hadn't been gone three minutes.
"It's quite all right," he announced in hushed accents—no longer
whispering. "There are just five people in the house aside from
ourselves—all servants, asleep in the rear wing. We've got a clear
field—if no excuse for taking foolish chances! However, we'll be
finished and off again in less than ten minutes. This way."
That way led to a huge and gloomy library at one extreme of a chain of
great salons, a veritable treasure-gallery of exquisite furnishings and
authentic old masters. As they moved slowly through these chambers
Lanyard kept his flash-lamp busy; involuntarily, now and again, he
checked the girl before some splendid canvas or extraordinary antique.
"I've always meant to happen in some day with a moving-van and loot
this place properly!" he confessed with a little affected sigh.
"Considered from the viewpoint of an expert practitioner in
my—ah—late profession, it's a sin and a shame to let all this go
neglected, when it's so poorly guarded. The old lady—Madame Omber, you
know—has all the money there is, approximately, and when she dies all
these beautiful things go to the Louvre; for she's without kith or kin."
"But how did she manage to accumulate them all?" the girl wondered.
"It's the work of generations of passionate collectors," he explained.
"The late Monsieur Omber was the last of his dynasty; he and his
forebears brought together the paintings and the furniture; madame
added the Orientals gathered together by her first husband, and her own
collection of antique jewellery and precious stones—her particular
As he spoke the light of the flash-lamp was blotted out. An instant
later the girl heard a little clashing noise, of curtain rings sliding
along a pole; and this was thrice repeated.
Then, following another brief pause, a switch clicked; and streaming
from the hood of a portable desk-lamp, a pool of light flooded the
heart of a vast place of shadows, an apartment whose doors and windows
alike were cloaked with heavy draperies that hung from floor to ceiling
in long and shining folds. Immense black bookcases lined the walls,
their shelves crowded with volumes in rich bindings; from their tops
pallid marble masks peered down inquisitively, leering and scowling at
the intruders. A huge mantelpiece of carved marble, supporting a great,
dark mirror, occupied the best of one wall, beneath it a wide, deep
fireplace yawned, partly shielded by a screen of wrought brass and
crystal. In the middle of the room stood a library table of mahogany;
huge leather chairs and couches encumbered the remainder of its space.
And the corner to the right of the fireplace was shut off by a high
Japanese screen of cinnabar and gold.
To this Lanyard moved confidently, carrying the lamp. Placing it on the
floor, he grasped one wing of the screen with both hands, and at cost
of considerable effort swung it aside, uncovering the face of a huge,
old-style safe built into the wall.
For several seconds—but not for many—Lanyard studied this problem
intently, standing quite motionless, his head lowered and thrust
forward, hands resting on his hips. Then turning, he nodded an
invitation to draw nearer.
"My last job," he said with a smile oddly lighted by the lamp at his
feet—"and my easiest, I fancy. Sorry, too, for I'd rather have liked
to show off a bit. But this old-fashioned tin bank gives no excuse for
"But," the girl objected, "You've brought no tools!"
"Oh, but I have!" And fumbling in a pocket, Lanyard produced a pencil.
"Behold!" he laughed, brandishing it.
She knitted thoughtful brows: "I don't understand."
"All I need—except this."
Crossing to the desk, he found a sheet of note-paper and, folding it,
"Now," he said, "give me five minutes…."
Kneeling, he gave the combination-knob a smart preliminary twirl, then
rested a shoulder against the sheet of painted iron, his cheek to its
smooth, cold cheek, his ear close beside the dial; and with the
practised fingers of a master locksmith began to manipulate the knob.
Gently, tirelessly, to and fro he twisted, turned, raced, and checked
the combination, caressing it, humouring it, wheedling it, inexorably
questioning it in the dumb language his fingers spoke so deftly. And in
his ear the click and whir and thump of shifting wards and tumblers
murmured articulate response in the terms of their cryptic code.
Now and again, releasing the knob and sitting back on his heels, he
would bend intent scrutiny to the dial; note the position of the
combination, and with the pencil jot memoranda on the paper. This
happened perhaps a dozen times, at intervals of irregular duration.
He worked diligently, in a phase of concentration that apparently
excluded from his consciousness the near proximity of the girl, who
stood—or rather stooped, half-kneeling—less than a pace from his
shoulder, watching the process with interest hardly less keen than his
Yet when one faint, odd sound broke the slumberous silence of the
salons, instantly he swung around and stood erect in a single movement,
gaze to the curtains.
But it had only been a premonitory rumble in the throat of a tall old
clock about to strike in the room beyond. And as its sonorous chimes
heralded two deep-toned strokes, Lanyard laughed quietly, intimately,
to the girl's startled eyes, and sank back before the safe.
And now his task was nearly finished. Within another minute he sat back
with face aglow, uttered a hushed exclamation of satisfaction, studied
his memoranda for a space, then swiftly and with assured movements
threw the knob and dial into the several positions of the combination,
grasped the lever-handle, turned it smartly, and swung the door wide
"Simple, eh?" he chuckled, with a glance aside to the girl's eager
face, bewitchingly flushed and shadowed by the lamp's up-thrown
glow—"when one knows the trick, of course! And now … if one were not
an honest man!"
A wave of his hand indicated the pigeonholes with which the body of the
safe was fitted: wide spaces and deep, stored tight with an
extraordinary array of leather jewel-cases, packets of stout paper
bound with tape and sealed, and boxes of wood and pasteboard of every
shape and size.
"They were only her finest pieces, her personal jewels, that Madame
Omber took with her to England," he explained; "she's mad about them
… never separated from them…. Perhaps the finest collection in the
world, for size and purity of water…. She had the heart to leave
Lifting a hand he chose at random, dislodged two leather cases, placed
them on the floor, and with a blade of his pen-knife forced their
From the first the light smote radiance in blinding, coruscant welter.
Here was nothing but diamond jewellery, mostly in antique settings.
He took up a piece and offered it to the girl. She drew back her hand
"No!" she protested in a whisper of fright.
"But just look!" he urged. "There's no danger … and you'll never see
the like of this again!"
Stubbornly she withheld her hand. "No, no!" she pleaded. "I—I'd rather
not touch it. Put it back. Let's hurry. I—I'm frightened."
He shrugged and replaced the jewel; then yielded again to impulse of
curiosity and lifted the lid of the second case.
It contained nothing but pieces set with coloured stones of the first
order—emeralds, amethysts, sapphires, rubies, topaz, garnets,
lapis-lazuli, jacinthes, jades, fashioned by master-craftsmen into
rings, bracelets, chains, brooches, lockets, necklaces, of exquisite
design: the whole thrown heedlessly together, without order or care.
For a moment the adventurer stared down soberly at this priceless
hoard, his eyes narrowing, his breathing perceptibly quickened. Then
with a slow gesture, he reclosed the case, took from his pocket that
other which he had brought from London, opened it, and held it aside
beneath the light, for the girl's inspection.
He looked not once either at its contents or at her, fearing lest his
countenance betray the truth, that he had not yet succeeded completely
in exorcising that mutinous and rebellious spirit, the Lone Wolf, from
the tenement over which it had so long held sway; and content with the
sound of her quick, startled sigh of amaze that what she now beheld
could so marvellously outshine what had been disclosed by the other
boxes, he withdrew it, shut it, found it a place in the safe, and
without pause closed the door, shot the bolts, and twirled the dial
until the tumblers fairly sang.
One final twist of the lever-handle convincing him that the combination
was effectively dislocated, he rose, picked up the lamp, replaced it on
the desk with scrupulous care to leave no sign that it had been moved,
and looked round to the girl.
She was where he had left her, a small, tense, vibrant figure among the
shadows, her eyes dark pools of wonder in a face of blazing pallor.
With a high head and his shoulders well back he made a gesture
signifying more eloquently than any words: "All that is ended!"
"And now…?" she asked breathlessly.
"Now for our get-away," he replied with assumed lightness. "Before dawn
we must be out of Paris…. Two minutes, while I straighten this place
up and leave it as I found it."
He moved back to the safe, restored the wing of the screen to the spot
from which he had moved it, and after an instant's close examination of
the rug, began to explore his pockets.
"What are you looking for?" the girl enquired.
"My memoranda of the combination—"
"I have it." She indicated its place in a pocket of her coat. "You left
it on the floor, and I was afraid you might forget—"
"No fear!" he laughed. "No"—as she offered him the folded paper—"keep
it and destroy it, once we're out of this. Now those portières…"
Extinguishing the desk-light, he turned attention to the draperies at
doors and windows….
Within five minutes, they were once more in the silent streets of Passy.
They had to walk as far as the Trocadéro before Lanyard found a fiacre,
which he later dismissed at the corner in the Faubourg St. Germain.
Another brief walk brought them to a gate in the garden wall of a
residence at the junction of two quiet streets.
"This, I think, ends our Parisian wanderings," Lanyard announced. "If
you'll be good enough to keep an eye out for busybodies—and yourself
as inconspicuous as possible in this doorway…"
And he walked back to the curb, measuring the wall with his eye.
"What are you going to do?"
He responded by doing it so swiftly that she gasped with surprise:
pausing momentarily within a yard of the wall, he gathered himself
together, shot lithely into the air, caught the top curbing with both
She heard the soft thud of his feet on the earth of the enclosure; the
latch grated behind her; the door opened.
"For the last time," Lanyard laughed quietly, "permit me to invite you
to break the law by committing an act of trespass!"
Securing the door, he led her to a garden bench secluded amid
"If you'll wait here," he suggested—"well, it will be best. I'll be
back as soon as possible, though I may be detained some time. Still,
inasmuch as I'm about to break into this hôtel, my motives, which are
most commendable, may be misinterpreted, and I'd rather you'd stop
here, with the street at hand. If you hear a noise like trouble, you've
only to unlatch the gate…. But let's hope my purely benevolent
intentions toward the French Republic won't be misconstrued!"
"I'll wait," she assured him bravely; "but won't you tell me—?"
With a gesture, he indicated the mansion back of the garden.
"I'm going to break in there to pay an early morning call and impart
some interesting information to a person of considerable
consequence—nobody less, in fact, than Monsieur Ducroy."
"And who is that?"
"The present Minister of War…. We haven't as yet the pleasure of each
other's acquaintance; still, I think he won't be sorry to see me…. In
brief, I mean to make him a present of the Huysman plans and bargain
for our safe-conduct from France."
Impulsively she offered her hand and, when he, surprised, somewhat
diffidently took it, "Be careful!" she whispered brokenly, her pale
sweet face upturned to his. "Oh, do be careful! I am afraid for you…."
And for a little the temptation to take her in his arms was stronger
than any he had ever known….
But remembering his stipulated year of probation, he released her hand
with an incoherent mumble, turned, and disappeared in the direction of
THE FORLORN HOPE
Established behind his splendid mahogany desk in his office at the
Ministère de la Guerre, or moving majestically abroad attired in frock
coat and glossy topper, or lending the dignity of his presence to some
formal ceremony in that beautiful uniform which appertained unto his
office, Monsieur Hector Ducroy cut an imposing figure.
Abed … it was sadly otherwise.
Lanyard switched on the bedside light, turning it so that it struck
full upon the face of the sleeper; and as he sat down, smiled.
The Minister of War lay upon his back, his distinguished corpulence
severely dislocating the chaste simplicity of the bed-clothing. Athwart
his shelving chest, fat hands were folded in a gesture affectingly
naïve. His face was red, a noble high-light shone upon the promontory
of his bald pate, his mouth was open. To the best of his unconscious
ability he was giving a protracted imitation of a dog-fight; and he was
really exhibiting sublime virtuosity: one readily distinguished
individual howls, growls, yelps, against an undertone of blended voices
of excited non-combatants…
As suddenly as though some one, wearying of the entertainment, had
lifted the needle from that record, it was discontinued. The Minister
of War stirred uneasily in his sleep, muttered a naughty word, opened
one eye, scowled, opened the other.
He blinked furiously, half-blinded but still able to make out the
disconcerting silhouette of a man seated just beyond the glare: a quiet
presence that moved not but eyed him steadfastly; an apparition the
more arresting because of its very immobility.
Rapidly the face of the Minister of War lost several shades of purple.
He moistened his lips nervously with a thick, dry tongue, and
convulsively he clutched the bed-clothing high and tight about his
neck, as though labouring under the erroneous impression that the
sanctity of his person was threatened.
"What do you want, monsieur?" he stuttered in a still, small voice
which he would have been the last to acknowledge his own.
"I desire to discuss a matter of business with monsieur," replied the
intruder after a small pause. "If you will be good enough to calm
"I am perfectly calm—"
But here the Minister of War verified with one swift glance an earlier
impression, to the effect that the trespasser was holding something
that shone with metallic lustre; and his soul began to curl up round
"There are eighteen hundred francs in my pocketbook—about," he managed
to articulate. "My watch is on the stand here. You will find the family
plate in the dining-room safe, behind the buffet—the key is on my
ring—and the jewels of madame my wife are in a small strong-box
beneath the head of her bed. The combination—"
"Pardon: monsieur labours under a misapprehension," the housebreaker
interposed drily. "Had one desired these valuables, one would readily
have taken them without going to the trouble of disturbing the repose
of monsieur…. I have, however, already mentioned the nature of my
"Eh?" demanded the Minister of War. "What is that? But give me of your
mercy one chance to explain! I have never wittingly harmed you,
monsieur, and if I have done so without my knowledge, rest assured you
have but to petition me through the proper channels and I will be only
too glad to make amends!"
"Still you do not listen!" the other insisted. "Come, Monsieur
Ducroy—calm yourself. I have not robbed you, because I have no wish to
rob you. I have not harmed you, for I have no wish to harm you. Nor
have I any wish other than to lay before you, as representing
Government, a certain matter of State business."
There was silence while the Minister of War permitted this exhortation
to sink in. Then, apparently reassured, he sat up in bed and eyed his
untimely visitor with a glare little short of truculent.
"Eh? What's that?" he demanded. "Business? What sort of business? If
you wish to submit to my consideration any matter of business, how is
it you break into my home at dead of night and rouse me in this brutal
fashion"—here his voice faltered—"with a lethal weapon pointed at my
"Monsieur will admit he speaks under an error," returned the burglar.
"I have yet to point this pistol at him. I should be very sorry to feel
obliged to do so. I display it, in fact, simply that monsieur may not
forget himself and attempt to summon servants in his resentment of this
(I admit) unusual method of introducing one's self to his attention.
When we understand each other better there will be no need for such
precautions, and then I shall put my pistol away, so that the sight of
it may no longer annoy monsieur."
"It is true, I do not understand you," grumbled the Minister of War.
"Why—if your errand be peaceable—break into my house?"
"Because it was urgently necessary to see monsieur instantly. Monsieur
will reflect upon the reception one would receive did one ring the
front door-bell and demand audience at three o'clock in the morning!"
"Well …" Monsieur Ducroy conceded dubiously. Then, on reflection, he
iterated the monosyllable testily: "Well! What is it you want, then?"
"I can best explain by asking monsieur to examine—what I have to show
With this Lanyard dropped the pistol into his coat-pocket, from another
produced a gold cigarette-case, and from the store of this last with
meticulous care selected a single cigarette.
Regarding the Minister of War in a mystifying manner, he began to roll
the cigarette briskly between his palms. A small shower of tobacco
sifted to the floor: the rice-paper cracked and came away; and with the
bland smile and gesture of a professional conjurer, Lanyard exhibited a
small cylinder of stiff paper between his thumb and index-finger.
Goggling resentfully, Monsieur Ducroy spluttered:
"Eh—what impudence is this?"
His smile unchanged, Lanyard bent forward and silently dropped the
cylinder into the Frenchman's hand. At the same time he offered him a
pocket magnifying-glass. "What is this?" Ducroy persisted stupidly.
"If monsieur will be good enough to unroll the papers and examine them
with the aid of this glass—"
With a wondering grunt, the other complied, unrolling several small
sheets of photographer's printing-out paper, to which several
extraordinarily complicated and minute designs had been
transferred—strongly resembling laborious efforts to conventionalize a
But no sooner had Monsieur Ducroy viewed these through the glass, than
he started violently, uttered an excited exclamation, and subjected
them to an examination both prolonged and exacting.
"Monsieur is, no doubt, now satisfied?" Lanyard enquired when his
patience would endure no longer.
"These are genuine?" the Minister of War demanded sharply, without
"Monsieur can readily discern notations made upon the drawings by the
inventor, Georges Huysman, in his own hand. Furthermore, each plan has
been marked in the lower left-hand corner with the word 'accepted'
followed by the initials of the German Minister of War. I think this
establishes beyond dispute the authenticity of these photographs of the
plan for Huysman's invention."
"Yes," the Minister of War agreed breathlessly. "You have the negatives
from which these prints were made?"
"Here," Lanyard said, indicating a second cigarette.
And then, with a movement so leisurely and careless that his purpose
was accomplished before the other in his preoccupation was aware of it,
the adventurer leaned forward and swept up the prints from the
counterpane in front of Monsieur Ducroy.
"Here!" the Frenchman exclaimed. "Why do you do that?"
"Monsieur no longer questions their authenticity?"
"I grant you that."
"Then I return to myself these prints, pending negotiations for their
transfer to France."
"How did you come by them?" demanded Monsieur Ducroy, after a moment's
"Need monsieur ask? Is France so ill-served by her spies that you do
not already know of the misfortune one Captain Ekstrom recently
suffered in London?"
Ducroy shook his head. Lanyard received this indication with
impatience. It seemed hardly possible that the French Minister of War
could be either so stupid or so ignorant….
But with a patient shrug, he proceeded to elucidate.
"Captain Ekstrom," he said, "but recently succeeded in photographing
these plans and took them to London to sell to the English.
Unfortunately for himself—unhappily for perfidious Albion!—Captain
Ekstrom fell in with me and mistook me for Downing Street's
representative. And here are the plans."
"You are—the Lone Wolf—then?"
"I am, as far as concerns you, monsieur, merely the person in
possession of these plans, who offers them through you, to France, for
"But why introduce yourself to me in this extraordinary fashion, for a
transaction for which the customary channels—with which you must be
familiar—are entirely adequate?"
"Simply because Ekstrom has followed me to Paris," Lanyard explained
indulgently. "Did I venture to approach you in the usual way, my
chances of rounding out a useful life thereafter would be practically
nil. Furthermore, my circumstances are such that it has become
necessary for me to leave France immediately—without an hour's
delay—also secretly; else I might as well remain here to be
butchered…. Now you command the only means I know of, to accomplish
my purpose. And that is the price, the only price, you will have to pay
me for these plans."
"I don't understand you."
"It is on schedule, is it not, that Captain Vauquelin of the Aviation
Corps is to attempt a non-stop flight from Paris to London this
morning, with two passengers, in a new Parrott biplane?"
"That is so…. Well?"
"I must be one of those passengers; and I have a companion, a young
lady, who will take the place of the other."
"It isn't possible, monsieur. Those arrangements are already fixed."
"You will countermand them."
"There is no time—"
"You can get into telephonic communication with Port Aviation in two
"But the passengers have been promised—"
"You will disappoint them."
"The start is to be made in the first flush of daylight. How could you
reach Port Aviation in time?"
"In your motor-car, monsieur."
"It cannot be done."
"It must! If the start must be delayed till we arrive, you will give
orders that it shall be so delayed."
For a minute the Minister of War hesitated; then he shook his head
"The difficulties are insuperable—"
"There is no such thing, monsieur."
"I am sorry: it can't be done."
"That is your answer?"
"It is regrettable, monsieur…"
"Very well!" Lanyard bent forward again, took a match from the stand on
the bedside table, and struck it. Very calmly he advanced the flame
toward the cigarette containing the roll of inflammable films.
"Monsieur!" Ducroy cried in horror. "What are you doing?"
Lanyard favoured him with a look of surprise.
"I am about to destroy these films and prints."
"You must never do that!"
"Why not? They are mine, to do with as I like. If I cannot dispose of
them at my price, I shall destroy them!"
"But—my God!—what you demand is impossible! Stay, monsieur! Think
what your action means to France!"
"I have already thought of that. Now I must think of myself."
Ducroy sat up in bed and dangled hairy fat legs over the side.
"But one moment only, monsieur. Don't make me waste your matches!"
"Monsieur, it shall be as you desire, if it lies in my power to
With this the Minister of War stood up and made for the telephone, in
his agitation forgetful of dressing-gown and slippers.
"You must accomplish it, Monsieur Ducroy," Lanyard advised him gravely,
puffing out the flame; "for if you fail, you make yourself the
instrument of my death. Here are the plans."
"You trust them to me?" Ducroy asked in astonishment.
"But naturally: that makes it an affair of your honour," Lanyard
With a gesture of graceful capitulation the Frenchman accepted the
little roll of film.
"Permit me," he said, "to acknowledge the honour of monsieur's
Lanyard bowed low: "One knows with whom one deals, monsieur!… And
now, if you will be good enough to excuse me…."
He turned to the door.
"But—eh—where are you going?" Ducroy demanded.
"Mademoiselle," Lanyard said, pausing on the threshold—"that is, the
young lady who is to accompany me—is waiting anxiously in the garden,
out yonder. I go to find and reassure her and—with your permission—to
bring her in to the library, where we will await monsieur when he has
finished telephoning and—ah—repaired the deficiencies in his attire;
which one trusts he will forgive one's mentioning!"
He bowed again, impudently, gaily, and—when the Minister of War looked
up again sheepishly from contemplation of his naked shanks—had
In high feather Lanyard made his way to a door at the rear of the house
which gave upon the garden—in his new social status of Governmental
protégé disdaining any such a commonplace avenue as that conservatory
window whose fastenings he had forced on entering. And boldly unbolting
the door, he ran out into the night, to rejoin his beloved, like a man
waking to new life.
But she was no more there: the bench was vacant, the garden deserted,
the gateway yawning on the street.
With a low, stifled cry, Lanyard turned from the bench and stumbled out
to the junction of the cross-street. But nowhere in their several
perspectives could he see anything that moved.
After some time he returned to the garden and quartered it with the
thoroughness of a pointer beating a covert. But he did this hopelessly,
bitterly aware that the outcome would be precisely what it eventually
was, that is to say, nothing….
He was kneeling beside the bench—scrutinizing the turf with
microscopic attention by aid of his flash-lamp, seeking some sign of
struggle to prove she had not left him willingly, and finding
none—when a voice brought him momentarily out of his distraction.
He looked up wildly, to discover Ducroy standing over him, his stout
person chastely swathed in a quilted dressing-gown and trousers, his
expression one of stupefaction.
"Well, monsieur—well?" the Minister of War demanded irritably.
"What—I repeat—what are you doing there?"
Lanyard essayed response, choked up, and gulped. He rose and stood
swaying, showing a stricken face.
"Eh?" Ducroy insisted with an accent of exasperation. "Why do you stand
glaring at me like that—eh? Come, monsieur: what ails you? I have
arranged everything, I say. Where is mademoiselle?"
Lanyard made a broken gesture.
"Gone!" he muttered forlornly.
Instantly the countenance of the stout Frenchman was lightened with a
gleam of eager interest—inveterate romantic that he was!—and he
stepped nearer, peering closely into the face of the adventurer.
"Gone?" he echoed. "Mademoiselle? Your sweetheart, eh?"
Lanyard assented with a disconsolate nod and sigh. Impatiently Ducroy
caught him by the sleeve.
"Come!" he insisted, tugging—"but come at once into the house. Now,
monsieur—now at length you enlist all one's sympathies! Come, I say!
Is it your desire that I catch my death of cold?"
Indifferently Lanyard suffered himself to be led away.
He was, indeed, barely conscious of what was happening. All his being
was possessed by the thought that she had forsaken him. And he could
well guess why: impossible for such an one as she to contemplate
without a shudder association with the man who had been what he had
been! Infatuate!—to have dreamed that she would tolerate the devotion
of a criminal, that she could ever forget his identity with the Lone
Wolf. Inevitably—soon or late—she must have fled that ignominious
thought in dread and horror, daring whatever consequences to escape and
forget both it and him. And better now, perhaps, than later….
He found no reason to believe she had left him other than voluntarily,
or that their adventures since the escape from the impasse Stanislas
had been attended upon by spies of the Pack. He could have sworn they
hadn't been followed either to or from the rue des Acacias; their way
had been too long and purposely too roundabout, his vigilance too
lively, for any sort of surveillance to have been practised without his
remarking some indication thereof, at one time or another.
On the other hand (he told himself) there was every reason to believe
she hadn't left him to go back to Bannon; concerning whom she had
expressed herself too forcibly to excuse a surmise that she had
preferred his protection to the Lone Wolf's.
Reasoning thus, he admitted, one couldn't blame her. He could readily
see how, illuded at first by a certain romantic glamour, she had not,
until left to herself in the garden, come to clear perception of the
fact that she was casting her lot with a common criminal's. Then,
horror overmastering her of a sudden she had fled—wildly, blindly, he
didn't doubt. But whither? He looked in vain for her at their agreed
rendezvous, the Sacré Coeur. She had neither money nor friends in Paris.
True: she had mentioned some personal jewellery she planned to
hypothecate. Her first move, then, would be to seek the
mont-de-piété—not to force himself again upon her, but to follow at a
distance and ward off interference on Bannon's part.
The Government pawn-shop had its invitation for Lanyard himself: he was
there before the doors were open for the day; and fortified by loans
negotiated on his watch, cigarette-case, and a ring or two, retired to
a café commanding a view of the entrance on the rue des
Blancs-Manteaux, and settled himself against a day-long vigil.
It wasn't easy; drowsiness buzzed in his brain and weighted his
eyelids; now and again, involuntarily, he nodded over his glass of
black coffee. And when evening came and the mont-de-piété closed for
the night, he rose and stumbled off, wondering if possibly he had
napped a little without his knowledge and so missed her visit.
Engaging obscure lodgings close by the rue des Acacias, he slept till
nearly noon of the following day, then rose to put into execution a
design which had sprung full-winged from his brain at the instant of
He had not only his car but a chauffeur's license of long standing in
the name of Pierre Lamier—was free, in short, to range at will the
streets of Paris. And when he had levied on the stock of a second-hand
clothing shop and a chemist's, he felt tolerably satisfied it would
need sharp eyes—whether the Pack's or the Préfecture's—to identify
"Pierre Lamier" with either Michael Lanyard or the Lone Wolf.
His face, ears and neck he stained a weather-beaten brown, a discreet
application of rouge along his cheekbones enhancing the effect of daily
exposure to the winter winds and rains of Paris; and he gave his hands
an even darker shade, with the added verisimilitude of finger-nails
inked into permanent mourning. Also, he refrained from shaving: a
stubble of two days' neglect bristled upon his chin and jowls. A rusty
brown ulster with cap to match, shoddy trousers boasting conspicuous
stripes of leaden colour, and patched boots completed the disguise.
Monsieur and madame of the conciergerie he deceived with a yarn of
selling his all to purchase the motor-car and embark in business for
himself; and with their blessing, sallied forth to scout Paris
diligently for sight or sign of the woman to whom his every heart-beat
By the close of the third day he was ready to concede that she had
managed to escape without his aid.
And he began to suspect that Bannon had fled the town as well; for the
most diligent enquiries failed to educe the least clue to the movements
of the American following the fire at Troyon's.
As for Troyon's, it was now nothing more than a gaping excavation
choked with ashes and charred timbers; and though still rumours of
police interest in the origin of the fire persisted, nothing in the
papers linked the name of Michael Lanyard with their activities. His
disappearance and Lucy Shannon's seemed to be accepted as due to death
in the holocaust; the fact that their bodies hadn't been recovered was
no longer a matter for comment.
In short, Paris had already lost interest in the affair.
Even so, it seemed, had the Pack lost interest in the Lone Wolf; or
else his disguise was impenetrable. Twice he saw De Morbihan "flânning"
elegantly on the Boulevards, and once he passed close by Popinot; but
neither noticed him.
Toward midnight of the third day, Lanyard, driving slowly westward on
the boulevard de la Madeleine, noticed a limousine of familiar aspect
round a corner half a block ahead and, drawing up in front of Viel's,
discharge four passengers.
The first was Wertheimer; and at sight of his rather striking figure,
decked out in evening apparel from Conduit street and Bond, Lanyard
Turning as he alighted, the Englishman offered his hand to a young
woman. She jumped down to the sidewalk in radiant attire and a laughing
Involuntarily Lanyard stopped his car; and one immediately to the rear,
swerving out to escape collision, shot past, its driver cursing him
freely; while a sergent de ville scowled darkly and uttered an
He pulled himself together, somehow, and drove on.
The girl was entering the restaurant by way of the revolving door,
Wertheimer in attendance; while De Morbihan, having alighted, was
lending a solicitous arm to Bannon.
Quite automatically the adventurer drove on, rounded the Madeleine, and
turned up the boulevard Malesherbes. Paris and all its brisk midnight
traffic swung by without claiming a tithe of his interest: he was
mainly conscious of lights that reeled dizzily round him like a
multitude of malicious, mocking eyes….
At the junction with the boulevard Haussmann a second sergent de ville
roused him with a warning about careless driving. He went more sanely
thereafter, but bore a heart of utter misery; his eyes still wore a
dazed expression, and now and again he shook his head impatiently as
though to rid it of a swarm of tormenting thoughts.
So, it seemed, he had all along been her dupe; all the while that he
had been ostentatiously shielding her from harm and diffidently
discovering every evidence of devotion, she had been laughing in her
sleeve and planning to return to the service she pretended to despise,
with her report of a fool self-duped.
A great anger welled in his bosom.
Turning round, he made back to the boulevard de la Madeleine, and on
one pretext and another contrived to haunt the neighbourhood of Viel's
until the party reappeared, something after one o'clock.
It was plain that they had supped merrily; the girl seemed in the
gayest humour, Wertheimer a bit exhilarated, De Morbihan much amused;
even Bannon—bearing heavily on the Frenchman's arm—was chuckling
contentedly. The party piled back into De Morbihan's limousine and was
driven up the avenue des Champs Élysées, pausing at the Élysée Palace
Hotel to drop Bannon and the girl—his daughter?—whoever she was!
Whither it went thereafter, Lanyard didn't trouble to ascertain. He
drove morosely home and went to bed, though not to sleep for many
hours: bitterness of disillusion ate like an acid in his heart.
But for all his anguish, he continued in an uncertain temper. He had
turned his back on the craft of which he was acknowledged master—for a
woman's sake; for nothing else (he argued) had he dedicated himself to
poverty and honest effort; and what little privation he had already
endured was hopelessly distasteful to him. The art of the Lone Wolf,
his consummate cunning and subtlety, was still at his command; with
only himself to think of, he was profoundly contemptuous of the
antagonism of the Pack; while none knew better than he with what ease
the riches of careless Paris might be diverted to his own pockets. A
single step aside from the path he had chosen—and tomorrow night he
might dine at the Ritz instead of in some sordid cochers' cabaret!
And since no one cared—since she had betrayed his faith—what
Yet he could not come to a decision; the next day saw him obstinately,
even a little stupidly, pursuing the course he had planned before his
Because his money was fast ebbing and motives of prudence alone—if
none more worthy—forbade an attempt to replenish his pocketbook by
revisiting the little rez-de-chaussée in the rue Roget and realizing on
its treasures, he had determined to have a taximeter fitted to his car
and ply for hire until time or chance should settle the question of his
Already, indeed, he had complied with the police regulations, and
received permission to convert his voiture de remise into a taxicab;
and leaving it before noon at the designated dépôt, he was told it
would be ready for him at four with the "clock" installed. Returning at
that hour, he learned that it couldn't be ready before six; and too
bored and restless to while away two idle hours in a café, he wandered
listlessly through the streets and boulevards—indifferent, in the
black melancholy oppressing him, whether or not he were recognized—and
eventually found himself turning from the rue St. Honoré through the
place Vendôme to the rue de la Paix.
This was not wise, a perilous business, a course he had no right to
pursue. And Lanyard knew it. None the less, he persisted.
It was past five o'clock—deep twilight beneath a cloudless sky—the
life of that street of streets fluent at its swiftest. All that Paris
knew of wealth and beauty, fashion and high estate, moved between the
curbs. One needed the temper of a Stoic to maintain indifference to the
allure of its pageant.
Trudging steadily, he of the rusty brown ulster all but touched
shoulders with men who were all that he had been but a few days
since—hale, hearty, well-fed, well-dressed symbols of prosperity—and
with exquisite women, exquisitely gowned, extravagantly be-furred and
be-jewelled, of glowing faces and eyes dark with mystery and promise:
spirited creatures whose laughter was soft music, whose gesture was
pride and arrogance.
One and all looked past, over, and through him, unaffectedly unaware
that he existed.
The roadway, its paving worn as smooth as glass, and tonight by grace
of frost no less hard, rang with a clatter of hoofs high and clear
above the resonance of motors. A myriad lights filled the wide channel
with diffused radiance. Two endless ranks of shop-windows, facing one
another—across the tide, flaunted treasures that kings might
pardonably have coveted—and would.
Before one corner window, Lanyard paused instinctively.
The shop was that of a famous jeweller. Separated from him by only the
thickness of plate-glass was the wealth of princes. Looking beyond that
display, his attention focussed on the interior of an immense safe, to
which a dapper French salesman was restoring velvet-lined trays of
valuables. Lanyard studied the intricate, ponderous mechanism of the
safe-door with a thoughtful gaze not altogether innocent of sardonic
bias. It wore all the grim appearance of a strong-box that, once
locked, would prove impregnable to everything save acquaintance with
the combination and the consent of the time-lock. But give the Lone
Wolf twenty minutes alone with it, twenty minutes free from
interruption—he, the one man living who could seduce a time-lock and
leave it apparently inviolate!…
To one side of that window stood a mirror, set at an angle, and
suddenly Lanyard caught its presentment of himself—a gaunt and hungry
apparition, with a wolfish air he had never worn when rejoicing in his
sobriquet, staring with eyes of predaceous lustre.
Alarmed and fearing lest some passer-by be struck by this betrayal, he
turned and moved on hastily.
But his mind was poisoned by this brutal revelation of the wide, deep
gulf that yawned between the Lone Wolf of yesterday and Pierre Lamier
of today; between Michael Lanyard the debonnaire, the amateur of fine
arts and fine clothing, the beau sabreur of gentlemen-cracksmen and
that lean, worn, shabby and dispirited animal who had glared back at
him from the jeweller's mirror.
He quickened his pace, with something of that same instinct of
self-preservation that bids the dipsomaniac avert his eyes and hurry
past the corner gin-mill, and turned blindly off into the rue Danou,
toward the avenue de l'Opéra.
But this only made it worse for him, for he could not avoid recognition
of the softly glowing windows of the Café de Paris that knew him so
well, or forget the memory of its shining rich linen, its silver and
crystal, its perfumed atmosphere and luxury of warmth and music and
shaded lights, its cuisine that even Paris cannot duplicate.
And the truth came home to him, that he was hungry not with that brute
appetite he had money enough in his pocket to satisfy, but with the
lust of flesh-pots, for rare viands and old vintage wines, to know once
more the snug embrace of a dress-coat and to breathe again the
atmosphere of ease and station.
In sudden panic he darted across the avenue and hurried north,
determined to tantalize himself no longer with sights and sounds so
provocative and so disturbing.
Half-way across the boulevard des Capucines, to the east of the Opéra,
he leapt for his life from a man-killing taxi, found himself
temporarily marooned upon one of those isles of safety which Paris has
christened "thank-Gods," and stood waiting for an opening in the
congestion of traffic to permit passage to the farther sidewalk.
And presently the policeman in the middle of the boulevard signalled
with his little white wand; the stream of east-bound vehicles checked
and began to close up to the right of the crossing, upon which they
encroached jealously; and a taxi on the outside, next the island,
overshot the mark, pulled up sharply, and began to back into place.
Before Lanyard could stir, its window was opposite him, and he was
looking in, transfixed.
There was sufficient light to enable him to see clearly the face of the
passenger—its pale oval and the darkness of eyes whose gaze clung to
his with an effect of confused fascination….
She sat quite motionless until one white-gloved hand moved uncertainly
toward her bosom.
That brought him to; unconsciously lifting his cap, he stepped back a
pace and started to move on.
At this, she bent quickly forward and unlatched the door. It swung wide
Hardly knowing what he was doing, he accepted the dumb invitation,
stepped in, took the empty seat, and closed the door.
Almost at once the car moved on with a jerk, the girl sinking back into
her corner with a suggestion of breathlessness, as though her effort to
seem composed had been almost too much for her strength.
Her face, turned toward Lanyard, seemed wan in the half light, but
immobile, expressionless; only her eyes were darkly quick with
On his part, Lanyard felt himself hopelessly confounded, in the grasp
of emotions that would scarce suffer him to speak. A great wonder
obsessed him that she should have opened that door to him no less than
that he should have entered through it. Dimly he understood that each
had acted without premeditation; and asked himself, was she already
regretting that momentary weakness.
"Why did you do that?" he heard himself demand abruptly, his voice
harsh, strained, and unnatural.
She stiffened slightly, with a nervous movement of her shoulders.
"Because I saw you… I was surprised; I had hoped—believed—you had
"Without you? Hardly!"
"But you must," she insisted—"you must go, as quickly as possible.
It isn't safe—"
"I'm all right," he insisted—"able-bodied—in full possession of my
"But any moment you may be recognized—"
"In this rig? It isn't likely…. Not that I care."
She surveyed his costume curiously, perplexed.
"Why are you dressed that way? Is it a disguise?"
"A pretty good one. But in point of fact, it's the national livery of
my present station in life."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Simply that, out of my old job, I've turned to the first resort of the
incompetent: I'm driving a taxi."
"Isn't it awfully—risky?"
"You'd think so; but it isn't. Few people ever bother to look at a
chauffeur. When they hail a taxi they're in a hurry, as a
rule—preoccupied with business or pleasure. And then our uniforms are
a disguise in themselves: to the public eye we look like so many
"But you're mistaken: I knew you instantly, didn't I? And those
others—they're as keen-witted as I—certainly. Oh, you should not have
stopped on in Paris!"
"I couldn't go without knowing what had become of you."
"I was afraid of that," she confessed.
"Oh, I know what you're going to say! Why did I run away from you?" And
then, since he said nothing, she continued unhappily: "I can't tell
you… I mean, I don't know how to tell you!"
She kept her face averted, sat gazing blankly out of the window; but
when he sat on, mute and unresponsive—in point of fact not knowing
what to say—she turned to look at him, and the glare of a passing lamp
showed her countenance profoundly distressed, mouth tense, brows
knotted, eyes clouded with perplexity and appeal.
And of a sudden, seeing her so tormented and so piteous, his
indignation ebbed, and with it all his doubts of her were dissipated;
dimly he divined that something behind this dark fabric of mystery and
inconsistency, no matter how inexplicable to him, excused all her
apparent faithlessness and instability of character and purpose. He
could not look upon this girl and hear her voice and believe that she
was not at heart as sound and sweet, tender and loyal, as any that ever
A wave of tenderness and compassion brimmed his heart; he realized that
he didn't matter, that his amour propre was of no account—that nothing
mattered so long as she were spared one little pang of self-reproach.
He said, gently: "I wouldn't have you distress yourself on my account,
Miss Shannon… I quite understand there must be things I can't
understand—that you must have had your reasons for acting as you did."
"Yes," she said unevenly, but again with eyes averted—"I had; but
they're not easy, they're impossible to explain—to you."
"Yet—when all's said and done—I've no right to exact any explanation."
"Ah, but how can you say that, remembering what we've been through
"You owe me nothing," he insisted; "whereas I owe you everything, even
unquestioning faith. Even though I fail, I have this to thank you
for—this one not-ignoble impulse my life has known."
"You mustn't say that, you mustn't think it. I don't deserve it. You
wouldn't say it—if you knew—"
"Perhaps I can guess enough to satisfy myself."
She gave him a swift, sidelong look of challenge, instinctively on the
"Why," she almost gasped—"what do you think—?"
"Does it matter what I think?"
"It does, to me: I wish to know!"
"Well," he conceded reluctantly, "I think that, when you had a chance
to consider things calmly, waiting back there in the garden, you made
up your mind it would be better to—to use your best judgment
and—extricate yourself from an embarrassing position—"
"You think that!" she interrupted bitterly. "You think that, after you
had confided in me; after you'd confessed—when I made you, led you on
to it—that you cared for me; after you'd told me how much my faith
meant to you—you think that, after all that, I deliberately abandoned
you because I suddenly realized you had been the Lone Wolf—!"
"I'm sorry if I hurt you. But what can I think?"
"But you are wrong!" she protested vehemently—"quite, quite wrong! I
ran away from myself—not from you—and with another motive, too, that
I can't explain."
"You ran away from yourself—not from me?" he repeated, puzzled.
"Don't you understand? Why make it so hard for me? Why make me say
outright what pains me so?"
"Oh, I beg of you—"
"But if you won't understand otherwise—I must tell you, I suppose."
She checked, breathless, flushed, trembling. "You recall our talk after
dinner, that night—how I asked what if you found out you'd been
mistaken in me, that I had deceived you; and how I told you it would be
impossible for me ever to marry you?"
"It was because of that," she said—"I ran away; because I hadn't been
talking idly; because you were mistaken in me, because I was
deceiving you, because I could never marry you, and
because—suddenly—I came to know that, if I didn't go then and there,
I might never find the strength to leave you, and only suffering and
unhappiness could come of it all. I had to go, as much for your sake as
for my own."
"You mean me to understand, you found you were beginning to—to care a
little for me?"
She made an effort to speak, but in the end answered only with a dumb
inclination of her head.
"And ran away because love wasn't possible between us?"
Again she nodded silently.
"Because I had been a criminal, I presume!"
"You've no right to say that—"
"What else can I think? You tell me you were afraid I might persuade
you to become my wife—something which, for some inexplicable reason,
you claim is impossible. What other explanation can I infer? What other
explanation is needed? It's ample, it covers everything, and I've no
warrant to complain—God knows!"
She tried to protest, but he cut her short.
"There's one thing I don't understand at all! If that is so, if your
repugnance for criminal associations made you run away from me—why did
you go back to Bannon?"
She started and gave him a furtive, frightened glance.
"You knew that?"
"I saw you—last night—followed you from Viel's to your hotel."
"And you thought," she flashed in a vibrant voice—"you thought I was
in his company of my own choice!"
"You didn't seem altogether downcast," he countered, "Do you wish me to
understand you were with him against your will?"
"No," she said slowly…. "No: I returned to him voluntarily, knowing
perfectly what I was about."
"Through fear of him—?"
"No. I can't claim that."
"Rather than me—?"
"You'll never understand," she told him a little wearily—"never. It
was a matter of duty. I had to go back—I had to!"
Her voice trailed off into a broken little sob. But as, moved beyond
his strength to resist, Lanyard put forth a hand to take the
white-gloved one resting on the cushion beside her, she withdrew it
with a swift gesture of denial.
"No!" she cried. "Please! You mustn't do that… You only make it
"But you love me!"
"I can't. It's impossible. I would—but I may not!"
"I can't tell you."
"If you love me, you must tell me."
She was silent, the white hands working nervously with her handkerchief.
"Lucy!" he insisted—"you must say what stands between you and my love.
It's true, I've no right to ask, as I had no right to speak to you of
love. But when we've said as much as we have said—we can't stop there.
You will tell me, dear?"
She shook her head: "It—it's impossible."
"But you can't ask me to be content with that answer!"
"Oh!" she cried—"how can I make you understand?… When you said
what you did, that night—it seemed as if a new day were dawning in my
life. You made me believe it was because of me. You put me above
you—where I'd no right to be; but the fact that you thought me worthy
to be there, made me proud and happy: and for a little, in my
blindness, I believed I could be worthy of your love and your respect.
I thought that, if I could be as strong as you during that year you
asked in which to prove your strength, I might listen to you, tell you
everything, and be forgiven…. But I was wrong, how wrong I soon
learned…. So I had to leave you at whatever cost!"
She ceased to speak, and for several minutes there was silence. But for
her quick, convulsive breathing, the girl sat like a woman of stone,
staring dry-eyed out of the window. And Lanyard sat as moveless, the
heart in his bosom as heavy and cold as a stone.
At length, lifting his head, "You leave me no alternative," he said in
a voice dull and hollow even in his own hearing: "I can only think one
"Think what you must," she said lifelessly: "it doesn't matter, so long
as you renounce me, put me out of your heart and—leave me."
Without other response, he leaned forward and tapped the glass; and as
the cab swung in toward the curb, he laid hold of the door-latch.
"Lucy," he pleaded, "don't let me go believing—"
She seemed suddenly infused with implacable hostility. "I tell you,"
she said cruelly—"I don't care what you think, so long as you go!"
The face she now showed him was ashen; its mouth was hard; her eyes
And then, as still he hesitated, the cab pulled up and the driver,
leaning back, unlatched the door and threw it open. With a curt,
resigned nod, Lanyard rose and got out.
Immediately the girl bent forward and grasped the speaking-tube; the
door slammed; the cab drew away and left him standing with the pose,
with the gesture of one who has just heard his sentence of death
When he roused to know his surroundings, he found himself standing on a
corner of the avenue du Bois.
It was bitter cold in the wind sweeping down from the west, and it had
grown very dark. Only in the sky above the Bois a long reef of crimson
light hung motionless, against which leafless trees lifted gnarled,
While he watched, the pushing crimson ebbed swiftly and gave way to
mauve, to violet, to black.
When there was no more light in the sky, a profound sigh escaped
Lanyard's lips; and with the gesture of one signifying submission to an
omen, he turned and tramped heavily back across-town.
More automaton than sentient being, he plodded on along the second
enceinte of flaring, noisy boulevards, now and again narrowly escaping
annihilation beneath the wheels of some coursing motor-cab or
ponderous, grinding omnibus.
Barely conscious of such escapes, he was altogether indifferent to
them: it would have required a mortal hurt to match the dumb, sick
anguish of his soul; more than merely a sunset sky had turned black for
him within that hour.
The cold was now intense, and he none too warmly clothed; yet there was
sweat upon his brows.
Dully there recurred to him a figure he had employed in one of his
talks with Lucy Shannon: that, lacking his faith in her, there would be
only emptiness beneath his feet.
And now that faith was wanting in him, had been taken from him for all
his struggles to retain it; and now indeed he danced on emptiness, the
rope of temptation tightening round his neck, the weight of criminal
instincts pulling it taut—strangling every right aspiration in him,
robbing him of the very breath of that new life to which he had thought
to give himself.
If she were not worthy, of what worth the fight?…
At one stage of his journey, he turned aside and, more through habit
than desire or design, entered a cheap eating-place and consumed his
customary evening meal without the slightest comprehension of what he
ate or whether the food were good or poor.
When he had finished, he hurried away like a haunted man. There was
little room in his mood for sustained thought: his wits were fathoming
a bottomless pit of black despair. He felt like a man born blind,
through skilful surgery given the boon of sight for a day or two, and
suddenly and without any warning thrust back again into darkness.
He knew only that his brief struggle had been all wasted, that behind
the flimsy barrier of his honourable ambition, the Lone Wolf was
ravening. And he felt that, once he permitted that barrier to be broken
down, it could never be repaired.
He had set it up by main strength of will, for love of a woman. He must
maintain it now for no incentive other than to retain his own good
will—or resign himself utterly to that darkness out of which he had
fought his way, to its powers that now beset his soul.
And … he didn't care.
Quite without purpose he sought the machine-shop where he had left his
He had no plans; but it was in his mind, a murderous thought, that
before another dawn he might encounter Bannon.
Interim, he would go to work. He could think out his problem while
driving as readily as in seclusion; whatever he might ultimately elect
to do, he could accomplish little before midnight.
Toward seven o'clock, with his machine in perfect running order, he
took the seat and to the streets in a reckless humour, in the temper of
a beast of prey.
The barrier was down: once more the Lone Wolf was on the prowl.
But for the present he controlled himself and acted perfectly his
temporary rôle of taxi-bandit, fellow to those thousands who infest
Paris. Half a dozen times in the course of the next three hours people
hailed him from sidewalks and restaurants; he took them up, carried
them to their several destinations, received payment, and acknowledged
their gratuities with perfunctory thanks—thoroughly in character—but
all with little conscious thought.
He saw but one thing, the face of Lucy Shannon, white, tense,
glimmering wanly in shadow—the countenance with which she had
He had but one thought, the wish to read the riddle of her bondage. To
accomplish this he was prepared to go to any extreme; if Bannon and his
crew came between him and his purpose, so much the worse for them—and,
incidentally, so much the better for society. What might befall himself
was of no moment.
He entertained but one design, to become again what he had been, the
supreme adventurer, the prince of plunderers, to lose himself once more
in the delirium of adventurous days and peril-haunted nights, to
reincarnate the Lone Wolf and in his guise loot the world anew, to
court forgetfulness even at the prison's gates….
It was after ten when, cruising purposelessly, without a fare, he swung
through the rue Auber into the place de l'Opéra and, approaching the
Café de la Paix, was hailed by a door-boy of that restaurant.
Drawing in to the curb with the careless address that had distinguished
his every action of that evening, he waited, with a throbbing motor,
and with mind detached and gaze remote from the streams of foot and
wheeled traffic that brawled past on either hand.
After a moment two men issued from the revolving door of the café, and
approached the cab. Lanyard paid them no attention. His thoughts were
now engaged with a certain hôtel particulier in the neighbourhood of La
Muette and, in his preoccupation, he would need only the name of a
destination and the sound of the cab-door slammed, to send him off like
Then he heard one of the men cough heavily, and in a twinkling
stiffened to rigidity in his seat. If he had heard that cough but once
before, that once had been too often. Without a glance aside, hardening
his features to perfect immobility, he knew that the cough was shaking
the slighter of those two figures.
And of a sudden he was acutely conscious of the clearness of the frosty
atmosphere, of the merciless glare of electricity beating upon him from
every side from the numberless street lamps and café lights. And
poignantly he regretted neglecting to mask himself with his goggles.
He wasn't left long in suspense. The coughing died away by spasms;
followed the unmistakable, sonorous accents of Bannon.
"Well, my dear boy! I have to thank you for an excellent dinner and a
most interesting evening. Pity to break it up so early. Still, les
affaires—you know! Sorry you're not going my way—but that's a
handsome taxi you've drawn. What's its number—eh?"
"Haven't the faintest notion," a British voice drawled in response.
"Never fret about a taxi's number until it has run over me."
"Great mistake," Bannon rejoined cheerfully. "Always take the number
before entering. Then, if anything happens … However, that's a
good-looking chap at the wheel—doesn't look as if he'd run you into
"Oh, I fancy not," said the Englishman, bored.
"Well, you never can tell. The number's on the lamp. Make a note of it
and be on the safe side. Or trust me—I never forget numbers."
With this speech Bannon ranged alongside Lanyard and looked him over,
keenly malicious enjoyment gleaming in his evil old eyes.
"You are an honest-looking chap," he observed with a mocking smile but
in a tone of the most inoffensive admiration—"honest and—ah—what
shall I say?—what's the word we're all using now-a-days?—efficient!
Honest and efficient-looking, capable of better things, or I'm no
judge! Forgive an old man's candour, my friend—and take good care of
our British cousin here. He doesn't know his way around Paris very
well. Still, I feel confident he'll come to no harm in your company.
Here's a franc for you." With matchless effrontery, he produced a coin
from the pocket of his fur-lined coat.
Unhesitatingly, permitting no expression to colour his features,
Lanyard extended his palm, received the money, dropped it into his own
pocket, and carried two fingers to the visor of his cap.
"Merci, monsieur," he said evenly.
"Ah, that's the right spirit!" the deep voice jeered. "Never be above
your station, my man—never hesitate to take a tip! Here, I'll give you
another, gratis: get out of this business: you're too good for it.
Don't ask me how I know; I can tell by your face—Hello! Why do you
turn down the flag? You haven't started yet!"
"Conversation goes up on the clock," Lanyard replied stolidly in
French. He turned and faced Bannon squarely, loosing a glance of
venomous hatred into the other's eyes. "The longer I have to stop here
listening to your senile monologue, the more you'll have to pay. What
address, please?" he added, turning back to get a glimpse of his
"Hotel Astoria," the porter supplied.
The porter closed the door.
"But remember my advice," Bannon counselled coolly, stepping back and
waving his hand to the man in the cab. "Good night."
Lanyard took his car smartly away from the curb, wheeled round the
corner into the boulevard des Capucines, and toward the rue Royale.
He had gone but a block when the window at his back was lowered and his
fare observed pleasantly:
"That you, Lanyard?"
The adventurer hesitated an instant; then, without looking round,
"Right-O! The old man had me puzzled for a minute with his silly
chaffing. Stupid of me, too, because we'd just been talking about you."
"Had you, though!"
"Rather. Hadn't you better take me where we can have a quiet little
"I'm not conscious of the necessity—"
"Oh, I say!" Wertheimer protested amiably—"don't be shirty, old top.
Give a chap a chance. Besides, I have a bit of news from Antwerp that I
guarantee will interest you."
"Antwerp?" Lanyard iterated, mystified.
"Antwerp, where the ships sail from," Wertheimer laughed: "not
Amsterdam, where the diamonds flock together, as you may know."
"I don't follow you, I'm afraid."
"I shan't elucidate until we're under cover."
"All right. Where shall I take you?"
"Any quiet café will do. You must know one—"
"Thanks—no," said Lanyard dryly. "If I must confabulate with gentlemen
of your kidney, I prefer to keep it dark. Even dressed as I am, I might
be recognized, you know."
But it was evident that Wertheimer didn't mean to permit himself to be
"Then will my modest diggings do?" he suggested pleasantly. "I've taken
a suite in the rue Vernet, just back of the Hôtel Astoria, where we can
be as private as you please, if you've no objection."
Wertheimer gave him the number and replaced the window….
His rooms in the rue Vernet proved to be a small ground-floor apartment
with private entrance to the street.
"Took the tip from you," he told Lanyard as he unlocked the door. "I
daresay you'd be glad to get back to that rez-de-chaussée of yours.
Ripping place, that…. By the way—judging from your apparently robust
state of health, you haven't been trying to live at home of late."
"Indeed yes, monsieur! If I may presume to advise—I'd pull wide of the
rue Roget for a while—for as long, at least, as you remain in your
present intractable temper."
"Daresay you're right," Lanyard assented carelessly, following, as
Wertheimer turned up the lights, into a modest salon cosily furnished.
"You live here alone, I understand?"
"Quite: make yourself perfectly at ease; nobody can hear us. And," the
Englishman added with a laugh, "do forget your pistol, Mr. Lanyard. I'm
not Popinot, nor is this Troyon's."
"Still," Lanyard countered, "you've just been dining with Bannon."
Wertheimer laughed easily. "Had me there!" he admitted, unabashed. "I
take it you know a bit more about the Old Man than you did a week ago?"
"But sit down: take that chair there, which commands both doors, if you
don't trust me."
"Do you think I ought to?"
"Hardly. Otherwise I'd ask you to take my word that you're safe for the
time being. As it is, I shan't be offended if you keep your gun handy
and your sense of self-preservation running under forced draught. But
you won't refuse to join me in a whiskey and soda?"
"No," said Lanyard slowly—"not if you drink from the same bottle."
Again the Englishman laughed unaffectedly as he fetched a decanter,
glasses, bottled soda, and a box of cigarettes, and placed them within
The adventurer eyed him narrowly, puzzled. He knew nothing of this man,
beyond his reputation—something unsavoury enough, in all
conscience!—had seen him only once, and then from a distance, before
that conference in the rue Chaptal. And now he was becoming sensitive
to a personality uncommonly insinuating: Wertheimer was displaying all
the poise of an Englishman of the better caste More than anybody in the
underworld that Lanyard had ever known this blackmailer had an air of
one acquainted with his own respect. And his nonchalance, the good
nature with which he accepted Lanyard's pardonable distrust, his genial
assumption of fellowship and a common footing, attracted even as it
With the easy courtesy of a practised host, he measured whiskey into
Lanyard's glass till checked by a "Thank you," then helped himself
generously, and opened the soda.
"I'll not ask you to drink with me," he said with a twinkle,
"but—chin-chin!"—and tilting his glass, half-emptied it at a draught.
Muttering formally, at a disadvantage and resenting it, Lanyard drank
with less enthusiasm if without misgivings.
Wertheimer selected a cigarette and lighted it at leisure.
"Well," he laughed through a cloud of smoke—"I think we're fairly on
our way to an understanding, considering you told me to go to hell when
last we met!"
His spirit was irresistible: in spite of himself Lanyard returned the
smile. "I never knew a man to take it with better grace," he admitted,
lighting his own cigarette.
"Why not! I liked it: you gave us precisely what we asked for."
"Then," Lanyard demanded gravely, "if that's your viewpoint, if you're
decent enough to see it that way—what the devil are you doing in that
"Mischief makes strange bed-fellows, you'll admit. And if you think
that a fair question—what are you doing here, with me?"
"Same excuse as before—trying to find out what your game is."
Wertheimer eyed the ceiling with an intimate grin. "My dear fellow!" he
protested—"all you want to know is everything!"
"More or less," Lanyard admitted gracelessly. "One gathers that you
mean to stop this side the Channel for some time."
"There's a settled, personal atmosphere about this establishment. It
doesn't look as if half your things were still in trunks."
"Oh, these digs! Yes, they are comfy."
"You don't miss London?"
"Rather! But I shall appreciate it all the more when I go back."
"Then you can go back, if you like?"
"Meaning your impression is, I made it too hot for me?"
Wertheimer interposed with a quizzical glance. "I shan't tell you about
that. But I'm hoping to be able to run home for an occasional week-end
without vexing Scotland Yard. Why not come with me some time?"
Lanyard shook his head.
"Come!" the Englishman rallied him. "Don't put on so much side. I'm not
bad company. Why not be sociable, since we're bound to be thrown
together more or less in the way of business."
"Oh, I think not."
"But, my dear chap, you can't keep this up. Playing taxi-way man is
hardly your shop. And of course you understand you won't be permitted
to engage in any more profitable pursuit until you make terms with the
powers that be—or leave Paris."
"Terms with Bannon, De Morbihan, Popinot and yourself—eh?"
"With the same."
"Mr. Wertheimer," Lanyard told him quietly, "none of you will stop me
if ever I make up my mind to take the field again."
"You haven't been thinking of quitting it—what?" Wertheimer demanded
innocently, opening his eyes wide.
"Ah, now I begin to see a light! So that's the reason you've come down
to tooling a taxi. I wondered! But somehow, Mr. Lanyard"—Wertheimer's
eyes narrowed thoughtfully—"I can hardly see you content with that
line… even if this reform notion isn't simple swank!"
"Well, what do you think?"
"I think," the Englishman laughed—"I think this conference doesn't
get anywhere in particular. Our simple, trusting natures don't seem to
fraternize as spontaneously as they might. We may as well cut the
sparring and go, down to business—don't you think? But before we do,
I'd like your leave to offer one word of friendly advice."
"And that is—?"
Lanyard nodded. "Thanks," he said simply.
"I say that in all sincerity," Wertheimer declared. "God knows you're
nothing to me, but at least you've played the game like a man; and I
won't see you butchered to make an Apache holiday for want of warning."
"Bannon's as vindictive as that, you think?"
"Holds you in the most poisonous regard, if you ask me. Perhaps you
know why: I don't. Anyway, it was rotten luck that brought your car to
the door tonight. He named you during dinner, and while apparently he
doesn't know where to look for you, it is plain he's got no use for
you—not, at least, until your attitude towards the organization
"It hasn't. But I'm obliged."
"Sure you can't see your way to work with us?"
"Mind you, I'll have to report to the Old Man. I've got to tell him
"I don't think I need tell you what to tell him," said Lanyard with a
"Still, it's worth thinking over. I know the Old Man's mind well enough
to feel safe in offering you any inducement you can name, in reason, if
you'll come to us. Ten thousand francs in your pocket before morning,
if you like, and freedom to chuck this filthy job of yours—"
"Please stop there!" Lanyard interrupted hotly. "I was beginning to
like you, too… Why persist in reminding me you're intimate with the
brute who had Roddy butchered in his sleep?"
"Poor devil!" Wertheimer said gently. "That was a sickening business, I
admit. But who told you—?"
"Never mind. It's true, isn't it?"
"Yes," the Englishman admitted gravely—"it's true. It lies at Bannon's
door, when all's said…. Perhaps you won't believe me, but it's a fact
I didn't know positively who was responsible till to-night."
"You don't really expect me to swallow that? You were hand-in-glove—"
"Ah, but on probation only! When they voted Roddy out, I wasn't
consulted. They kept me in the dark—mostly, I flatter myself, because
I draw the line at murder. If I had known—this you won't believe, of
course—Roddy would be alive to-day."
"I'd like to believe you," Lanyard admitted. "But when you ask me to
sign articles with that damned assassin—!"
"You can't play our game with clean hands," Wertheimer retorted.
Lanyard found no answer to that.
"If you've said all you wished to," he suggested, rising, "I can assure
you my answer is final—and go about my business."
"What's your hurry? Sit down. There's more to say—much more."
"As for instance—?"
"I had a fancy you might like to put a question or two."
Lanyard shook his head; it was plain that Wertheimer designed to draw
him out through his interest in Lucy Shannon.
"I haven't the slightest curiosity concerning your affairs," he
"But you should have; I could tell you a great many interesting things
that intimately affect your affairs, if I liked. You must understand
that I shall hold the balance of power here, from now on."
"Congratulations!" Lanyard laughed derisively.
"No joke, my dear chap: I've been promoted over the heads of your
friends, De Morbihan and Popinot, and shall henceforth be—as they say
in America—the whole works."
"By what warrant?"
"The illustrious Bannon's. I've been appointed his lieutenant—vice
Greggs, deposed for bungling."
"Do you mean to tell me Bannon controls De Morbihan and Popinot?"
The Englishman smiled indulgently. "If you didn't know it, he's
commander-in-chief of our allied forces, presiding genius of the
International Underworld Unlimited."
"Bosh!" cried Lanyard contemptuously. "Why talk to me as if I were a
child, to be frightened by a bogey-tale like that?"
"Take it or leave it: the fact remains…. I know, if you don't. I
confess I didn't till to-night; but I've learned some things that have
opened my eyes…. You see, we had a table in a quiet corner of the
Café de la Paix, and since the Old Man's sailing for home before long
it was time for him to unbosom rather thoroughly to the man he leaves
to represent him in London and Paris. I never suspected our power
before he began to talk…."
Lanyard, watching the man closely, would have sworn he had never seen
one more sober. He was indescribably perplexed by this ostensible
candour—mystified and mistrustful.
"And then there's this to be considered, from your side," Wertheimer
resumed with the most business-like manner: "you can work with us
without being obliged to deal in any way with the Old Man or De
Morbihan, or Popinot. Bannon will never cross the Atlantic again, and
you can do pretty much as you like, within reason—subject to my
approval, that is."
"One of us is mad," Lanyard commented profoundly.
"One of us is blind to his best interests," Wertheimer amended with
"Perhaps… Let it go at that. I'm not interested—never did care for
"Don't go yet. There is still much to be said on both sides of the
"Has there been one?"
"Besides, I promised you news from Antwerp."
"To be sure," Lanyard said, and paused, his curiosity at length engaged.
Wertheimer delved into the breast-pocket of his dress-coat and produced
a blue telegraph-form, handing it to the adventurer.
Of even date, from Antwerp, it read:
"Underworld—Paris—Greggs arrested today boarding steamer for America
after desperate struggle killed himself immediately afterward poison no
"Underworld?" Lanyard queried blankly.
"Our telegraphic address, of course. 'Q-2' is our chief factor in
"So they got Greggs!"
"Stupid oaf," Wertheimer observed; "I've no sympathy for him. The whole
affair was a blunder, from first to last."
"But you got Greggs out and burned Troyon's—!"
"Still our friends at the Préfecture weren't satisfied. Something must
have roused their suspicions."
"You don't know what?"
"There must have been a leak somewhere—"
"If so, it would certainly have led the police to me, after all the
pains you were at to saddle me with the crime. There's something more
than simple treachery in this, Mr. Wertheimer."
"Perhaps you're right," said the other thoughtfully.
"And it doesn't speak well for the discipline of your precious
organization—granting, for the sake of the argument, the possibility
of such nonsense."
"Well, well, have your own way about that. I don't insist, so long as
you agree to join forces with me."
"Oh, it's with you alone, now—is it? Not with that insane fiction, the
International Underworld Unlimited?"
"With me alone. I offer you a clear field. Go where you like, do what
you will—I wouldn't have the cheek to attempt to guide or influence
Lanyard kept himself in hand with considerable difficulty.
"But you?" he asked. "Where do you come in?"
Wertheimer lounged back in his chair and laughed quietly. "Need you
ask? Must I recall to you the foundations of my prosperity? You had the
name of it glib enough on your tongue the other night in the rue
Chaptal…. When you've done your work, you'll come to me and split the
proceeds fairly—and as long as you do that, never a word will pass my
"Oh, if you insist! Odd, how I dislike that word!"
Abruptly the adventurer got to his feet. "By God!" he cried, "I'd
better get out of this before I do you an injury!"
The door slammed behind him on a room ringing with Wertheimer's
But why?—he asked himself as he swung his cab aimlessly away—why that
blind rage with which he had welcomed Wertheimer's overtures?
Unquestionably the business of blackmailing was despicable enough; and
as a master cracksman, of the highest caste of the criminal world, the
Lone Wolf had warrantably treated with scorn and contempt the advances
of a pariah like Wertheimer. But in no such spirit had he comprehended
the Englishman's meaning, when finally that one came to the point; no
cool disdain had coloured his attitude, but in the beginning hot
indignation, in the end insensate rage….
He puzzled himself. That fit of passion had all the aspect of a
psychical inconsistency impossible to reconcile with reason.
He recalled in perplexity how, toward the last, the face of the
Englishman had swum in haze before his eyes; with what disfavour,
approaching hatred, he had regarded its fixed, false smirk; with what
loathing he had suffered the intimacy of Wertheimer's tone; how he had
been tempted to fly at the man's throat and shake him senseless in
reward of his effrontery: emotions that had suited better a man of
unblemished honour and integrity subjected to the insolent addresses of
a contemptible blackguard, emotions that might well have been expected
of the man Lanyard had once dreamed to become.
But now, since he had resigned that infatuate ambition and turned
apostate to all his vows, his part in character had been to laugh in
Wertheimer's face and bid him go to the devil ere a worse thing befall
him. Instead of which, he had flown into fury. And as he sat brooding
over the wheel, he knew that, were the circumstances to be duplicated,
his demeanour would be the same.
Was it possible he had changed so absolutely in the course of that
short-lived spasm of reform?
He cried no to that: knowing well what he contemplated, that all his
plans were laid and serious mischance alone could prevent him from
putting them into effect, feeling himself once more quick with the
wanton, ruthless spirit of the Lone Wolf, invincibly self-sufficient,
strong and cunning.
When at length he roused from his reverie, it was to discover that his
haphazard course had taken him back toward the heart of Paris; and
presently, weary with futile cruising and being in the neighbourhood of
the Madeleine, he sought the cab-rank there, silenced his motor, and
relapsed into morose reflections so profound that nothing objective had
any place in his consciousness.
Thus it was that without his knowledge a brace of furtive thugs were
able to slouch down the rank, scrutinizing it covertly but in detail,
pause opposite Lanyard's car under pretext of lighting cigarettes,
identify him to their satisfaction, and hastily take themselves off.
Not until they were quite disappeared did the driver of the cab ahead
dare warn him.
Lounging back, this last looked the adventurer over inquisitively.
"Is it, then," he enquired civilly, when Lanyard at length looked
round, "that you are in the bad books of the good General Popinot, my
"Eh—what's that you say?" Lanyard asked, with a stare of blank
The man nodded wisely. "He who is at odds with Popinot," he observed,
sententious, "does well not to sleep in public. You did not see those
two who passed just now and took your number—rats of Montmartre, if I
know my Paris! You were dreaming, my friend, and it is my impression
that only the presence of those two flies over the way prevented your
immediate assassination. If I were you, I should go away very quickly,
and never stop till I had put stout walls between myself and Popinot."
A chill of apprehension sent a shiver stealing down Lanyard's spine.
"But of a certainty, my old one!"
"A thousand thanks!"
Jumping down, the adventurer cranked the motor, sprang back to his
seat, and was off like a hunted hare….
And when, more than an hour later, he brought his panting car to a
pause in a quiet and empty back-street of the Auteuil quarter, after a
course that had involved the better part of Paris, it was with the
conviction that he had beyond question shaken off pursuit—had there in
fact been any attempt to follow him.
He took advantage of that secluded spot to substitute false numbers for
those he was licensed to display; then at a more sedate pace followed
the line of the fortifications northward as far as La Muette, where,
branching off, he sought and made a circuit of two sides of the private
park enclosing the hôtel of Madame Omber.
But the mansion showed no lights, and there was nothing in the aspect
of the property to lead him to believe that the chatelaine had as yet
returned to Paris.
Now the night was still young, but Lanyard had his cab to dispose of
and not a few other essential details to arrange before he could take
definite steps toward the reincarnation of the Lone Wolf.
Picking a most circumspect route across the river—via the Pont
Mirabeau—to the all-night telegraph bureau in the rue de Grenelle he
despatched a cryptic message to the Minister of War, then with the same
pains to avoid notice made back toward the rue des Acacias. But it
wasn't possible to recross the Seine secretly—in effect, at
least—without returning the way he had come—a long detour that irked
his impatient spirit to contemplate.
Unwisely he elected to cross by way of the Pont des Invalides—how
unwisely was borne in upon him almost as soon as he turned from the
brilliant Quai de la Conférence into the darkling rue François Premier.
He had won scarcely twenty yards from the corner when, with a rush, its
motor purring like some great tiger-cat, a powerful touring-car swept
up from behind, drew abreast, but instead of passing checked speed
until its pace was even with his own.
Struck by the strangeness of this manoeuvre, he looked quickly round,
to recognize the moon-like mask of De Morbihan grinning sardonically at
him over the steering-wheel of the black car.
A second hasty glance discovered four men in the tonneau. Lacking time
to identify them, Lanyard questioned their character as little as their
malign intent: Belleville bullies, beyond doubt, drafted from Popinot's
batallions, with orders to bring in the Lone Wolf, dead or alive.
He had instant proof that his apprehensions were not exaggerated. Of a
sudden De Morbihan cut out the muffler and turned loose, full strength,
the electric horn. Between the harsh detonations of the exhaust and the
mad, blatant shrieks of the warning, a hideous clamour echoed and
re-echoed in that quiet street—a din in which the report of a
revolver-shot was drowned out and went unnoticed. Lanyard himself might
have been unaware of it, had he not caught out of the corner of his eye
a flash that spat out at him like a fiery serpent's tongue, and heard
the crash of the window behind him as it fell inward, shattered.
That the shot had no immediate successor was due almost wholly to
Lanyard's instant and instinctive action.
Even before the clash of broken glass registered on his consciousness,
he threw in the high-speed and shot away like a frightened greyhound.
So sudden was this move that it caught De Morbihan himself unprepared.
In an instant Lanyard had ten yards' lead. In another he was spinning
on two wheels round an acute corner, into the rue Jean Goujon; and in a
third, as he shot through that short block to the avenue d'Antin, had
increased his lead to fifteen yards. But he could never hope to better
that: rather, the contrary. The pursuit had the more powerful car, and
it was captained by one said to be the most daring and skilful motorist
The considerations that dictated Lanyard's simple strategy were sound
if unformulated: barring interference on the part of the
police—something he dared not count upon—his sole hope lay in open
flight and in keeping persistently to the better-lighted,
main-travelled thoroughfares, where a repetition of the attempt would
be inadvisable—at least, less probable. There was always a bare chance
of an accident—that De Morbihan's car would burst a tire or be
pocketed by the traffic, enabling Lanyard to strike off into some maze
of dark side-streets, abandon the cab, and take to cover in good
But that was a forlorn hope at best, and he knew it. Moreover, an
accident was as apt to happen to him as to De Morbihan: given an
unsound tire or a puncture, or let him be delayed two seconds by some
traffic hindrance, and nothing short of a miracle could save him….
As he swung from the avenue d'Antin into Rond Point des Champs Élysées,
the nose of the pursuing car inched up on his right, effectually
blocking any attempt to strike off toward the east, to the Boulevards
and the centre of the city's life by night. He had no choice but to fly
He cut an arc round the sexpartite circle of the Rond Point that lost
no inch of advantage, and straightened out, ventre-à-terre, up the
avenue for the place de l'Étoile, shooting madly in and out of the tide
of more leisurely traffic—and ever the motor of the touring-car purred
contentedly just at his elbow.
If there were police about, Lanyard saw nothing of them: not that he
would have dreamed of stopping or even of checking speed for anything
less than an immovable obstacle….
But as minutes sped it became apparent that there was to be no renewed
attempt upon his life for the time being. The pursuers could afford to
wait. They could afford to ape the patience of Death itself.
And it came then to Lanyard that he drove no more alone: Death was his
Absorbed though he was with the control of his machine and the
ever-shifting problems of the road, he still found time to think quite
clearly of himself, to recognize the fact that he was very likely
looking his last on Paris … on life….
But a little longer, and the name of Michael Lanyard would be not even
a memory to those whose lives composed the untiring life of this broad
Before him the Arc de Triomphe loomed ever larger and more darkly
beautiful against the field of midnight stars He wondered, would he
reach it alive….
He did: still the pursuit bided its time. But the hood of the
touring-car nosed him inexorably round the arch, away from the avenue
de la Grande Armée and into the avenue du Bois.
Only when in full course for Porte Dauphine did he appreciate De
Morbihan's design. He was to be rushed out into the midnight solitudes
of the Bois de Boulogne and there run down and slain.
But now he began to nurse a feeble thrill of hope.
Once inside the park enclosure, he reckoned vaguely on some opportunity
to make sudden halt, abandon the car and, taking refuge in the friendly
obscurity of trees and shrubbery, either make good his escape afoot or
stand off the Apaches until police came to his aid. With night to cloak
his movements and with a clump of trees to shelter in, he dared believe
he would have a chance for his life—whereas in naked streets any such
attempt would prove simply suicidal.
Infrequent glances over-shoulder showed no change in the gap between
his own and the car of the assassins. But his motor ran sweet and true:
humouring it, coaxing it, he contrived a little longer to hold his own.
Approaching the Porte Dauphine he became aware of two sergents de ville
standing in the middle of the way and wildly brandishing their arms. He
held on toward them relentlessly—it was their lives or his—and they
leaped aside barely in time to save themselves.
And as he slipped into the park like a hunted shadow, he fancied that
he heard a pistol-shot—whether directed at himself by the Apaches, or
fired by the police to emphasize their indignation, he couldn't say.
But he was grateful enough it was a taxicab he drove, not a
touring-car: lacking the body of his vehicle to shield him, he little
doubted that a bullet would long since have found him.
In that dead hour the drives of the Bois were almost deserted. Between
the porte and the first carrefour he passed only one motor-car, a
limousine whose driver shouted something inarticulate as Lanyard hummed
past. The freedom from traffic dangers was a relief: but the pursuit
was creeping up, inch by inch, as he swung down the road-way along the
eastern border of the lake; and still he had found no opening, had
recognized no invitation in the lay of the land to attempt his one
plan; as matters stood, the Apaches would be upon him before he could
jump from his seat.
Bending low over the wheel, searching with anxious eyes the shadowed
reaches of that winding drive, he steered for a time with one hand,
while the other tore open his ulster and brought his pistol into
Then, as he topped the brow of the incline, above the whine of his
motor, the crackle of road-metal beneath the tires, and the boom of the
rushing air in his ears, he heard the sharp clatter of hoofs, and
surmised that the gendarmerie had given chase.
And then, on a slight down-grade, though he took it at perilous speed
and seemed veritably to ride the wind, the following machine, aided by
its greater weight, began to close in still more rapidly. Momentarily
the hoarse snoring of its motor sounded more loud and menacing. It was
now a mere question of seconds….
Inspiration of despair came to him, as wild as any ever conceived by
mind of man.
They approached a point where, on the left, a dense plantation walled
the road. To the right a wide foot walk separated the drive from a
gentle declivity sown with saplings, running down to the water.
Rising in his place, Lanyard slipped from under him the heavy
Then edging over to the left of the middle of the road, abruptly he
shut off power and applied the brakes with all his might.
From its terrific speed the cab came to a stop within twice its length.
Lanyard was thrown forward against the wheel, but having braced in
anticipation, escaped injury and effected instant recovery.
The car of the Apaches was upon him in a pulse-beat. With no least
warning of his intention, De Morbihan had no time to employ brakes.
Lanyard saw its dark shape flash past the windows of his cab and heard
a shout of triumph. Then with all his might he flung the heavy cushion
across that scant space, directly into the face of De Morbihan.
His aim was straight and true.
In alarm, unable to comprehend the nature of that large, dark, whirling
mass, De Morbihan attempted to lift a warding elbow. He was too slow:
the cushion caught him in the face, full-force, and before he could
recover or guess what he was doing, he had twisted the wheel sharply to
The car, running a little less than locomotive speed, shot across the
strip of sidewalk, caught its right forewheel against a sapling, swung
heavily broadside to the drive, and turned completely over as it shot
down the slope to the lake.
A terrific crash was followed by a hideous chorus of oaths, shrieks,
cries and groans. Promptly Lanyard started his motor anew and,
trembling in every limb, ran on for several hundred yards. But time
pressed, and the usefulness of his car was at an end, as far as he was
concerned; there was no saying how many times its identity might not
have been established by the police in the course of that wild chase
through Paris, or how soon these last might contrive to overhaul and
apprehend him; and as soon as a bend in the road shut off the scene of
wreck, he stopped finally, jumped down, and plunged headlong into the
dark midnight heart of the Bois, seeking its silences where trees stood
thickest and lights were few.
Later, like some worried creature of the night, panting, dishevelled,
his rough clothing stained and muddied, he slunk across an open space,
a mile or so from his point of disappearance, dropped cautiously down
into the dry bed of the moat, climbed as stealthily a slippery glacis
of the fortifications, darted across the inner boulevard, and began to
describe a wide arc toward his destination, the hôtel Omber.
He was singularly free from any sort of exultation over the manner in
which he had at once compassed his own escape and brought down
catastrophe upon his self-appointed murderers; his mood was quick with
wonder and foreboding and bewilderment. The more closely he examined
the affair, the more strange and inexplicable it bulked in his
understanding. He had not thought to defy the Pack and get off lightly;
but he had looked for no such overt effort at disciplining him so long
as he kept out of the way and suspended his criminal activities. An
unwilling recruit is a potential traitor in the camp; and retired
competition isn't to be feared. So it seemed that Wertheimer hadn't
believed his protestations, or else Bannon had rejected the report
which must have been made him by the girl. In either case, the Pack had
not waited for the Lone Wolf to prove his insincerity; it hadn't
bothered to declare war; it had simply struck; with less warning than a
rattlesnake gives, it had struck—out of the dark—at his back.
And so—Lanyard swore grimly—even so would he strike, now that it was
his turn, now that his hour dawned.
But he would have given much for a clue to the riddle. Why must he be
saddled with this necessity of striking in self-defence? Why had this
feud been forced upon him, who asked nothing better than to be let
alone? He told himself it wasn't altogether the professional jealousy
of De Morbihan, Popinot and Wertheimer; it was the strange, rancorous
spite that animated Bannon.
But, again, why? Could it be that Bannon so resented the aid and
encouragement Lanyard had afforded the girl in her abortive attempt to
escape? Or was it, perhaps, that Bannon held Lanyard responsible for
the arrest and death of Greggs?
Could it be possible that there was really anything substantial at the
bottom of Wertheimer's wild yarn about the pretentiously named
"International Underworld Unlimited"? Was this really a demonstration
of purpose to crush out competition—"and hang the expense"?
Or was there some less superficially tangible motive to be sought? Did
Bannon entertain some secret, personal animus against Michael Lanyard
himself as distinguished from the Lone Wolf?
Debating these questions from every angle but to no end, he worked
himself into a fine fury of exasperation, vowing he would consummate
this one final coup, sequestrate himself in England until the affair
had blown over, and in his own good time return to Paris to expose De
Morbihan (presuming he survived the wreck in the Bois) exterminate
Popinot utterly, drive Wertheimer into permanent retirement at
Dartmoor, and force an accounting from Bannon though it were
surrendered together with that invalid's last wheezing breaths….
In this temper he arrived, past one in the morning, under the walls of
the hôtel Omber, and prudently selected a new point of attack. In the
course of his preliminary examinations of the walls, it hadn't escaped
him that their brick-and-plaster construction was in bad repair; he had
marked down several spots where the weather had eaten the outer coat of
plaster completely away. At one of these, midway between the avenue and
the junction of the side-streets, he hesitated.
As he had foreseen, the mortar that bound the bricks together was all
dry and crumbling; it was no great task to work one of them loose,
making a foothold from which he might grasp with a gloved hand the
glass-toothed curbing, cast his ulster across this for further
protection, and swing himself bodily atop the wall.
But there, momentarily, he paused in doubt and trembling. In that
exposed and comfortless perch, the lifeless street on one hand, the
black mystery of the neglected park on the other, he was seized and
shaken by a sudden revulsion of feeling like a sickness of his very
soul. Physical fear had nothing to do with this, for he was quite alone
and unobserved; had it been otherwise faculties trained through a
lifetime to such work as this and now keyed to concert pitch would not
have failed to give warning of whatever danger his grosser senses might
Notwithstanding, he was afraid as though Fear's very self had laid hold
of his soul by the heels and would not let it go until its vision of
itself was absolute. He was afraid with a great fear such as he had
never dreamed to know; who knew well the wincing of the flesh from risk
of pain, the shuddering of the spirit in the shadow of death, and
horror such as had gripped him that morning in poor Roddy's bed-chamber.
But none of these had in any way taught him the measure of such fear as
now possessed him, so absolute that he quaked like a naked soul in the
inexorable presence of the Eternal.
He was afraid of himself, in panic terror of that ego which tenanted
the shell of functioning, sensitive stuff called Michael Lanyard: he
was afraid of the strange, silent, incomprehensible Self lurking occult
in him, that masked mysterious Self which in its inscrutable whim could
make him fine or make him base, that Self impalpable and elusive as any
shadow yet invincibly strong, his master and his fate, in one the grave
of Yesterday, the cup of Today, the womb of Tomorrow….
He looked up at the tired, dull faces of those old dwellings that
loomed across the way with blind and lightless windows, sleeping
without suspicion that he had stolen in among them—the grim and deadly
thing that walked by night, the Lone Wolf, creature of pillage and
rapine, scourged slave of that Self which knew no law….
Then slowly that obsession lifted like the passing of a nightmare; and
with a start, a little shiver and a sigh, Lanyard roused and went on to
do the bidding of his Self for its unfathomable ends….
Dropping silently to the soft, damp turf, he made himself one with the
shadows of the park, as mute, intangible and fugitive as they, until
presently coming out beneath the stars, on an open lawn running up to
the library wing of the hôtel, he approached a shallow stone balcony
which jutted forth eight feet above the lawn—an elevation so
inconsiderable that, with one bound grasping its stone balustrade, the
adventurer was upon it in a brace of seconds.
Nor did the long French windows that opened on the balcony offer him
any real hindrance: a penknife quickly removed the dried putty round
one small, lozenge-shaped pane, then pried out the pane itself; a hand
through this space readily found and turned the latch; a cautious
pressure opened the two wings far enough to admit his body; and—he
stood inside the library.
He had made no sound; and thanks to thorough familiarity with the
ground, he needed no light. The screen of cinnabar afforded all the
protection he required; and because he meant to accomplish his purpose
and be out of the house with the utmost expedition, he didn't trouble
to explore beyond a swift, casual review of the adjoining salons.
The clock was chiming the three-quarters as he knelt behind the screen
and grasped the combination-knob.
But he did not turn it. That mellow music died out slowly, and left him
transfixed, there in the silence and gloom, his eyes staring wide into
blackness at nothing, his jaw set and rigid, his forehead knotted and
damp with sweat, his hands so clenched that the nails bit deep into his
palms; while he looked back over the abyss yawning between the Lone
Wolf of tonight and the man who had, within the week, knelt in that
spot in company with the woman he loved, bent on making restitution
that his soul might be saved through her faith in him.
He was visited by clear vision of himself: the thief caught in his
crime by his conscience—or whatever it was, what for want of a better
name he must call his conscience: this thing within him that revolted
from his purpose, mutinied against the dictates of his Self, and
stopped his hand from reaping the harvest of his cunning and daring;
this sense of honour and of honesty that in a few brief days had grown
more dear to him than all else in life, knitting itself inextricably
into the fibre of his being, so that to deny it were against Nature….
He closed his eyes to shut out the accusing vision, and knelt on,
unstirring, though torn this way and that in the conflict of man's dual
Minutes passed without his knowledge.
But in time he grew more calm; his hands relaxed, the muscles of his
brow smoothed out, he breathed more slowly and deeply; his set lips
parted and a profound sigh whispered in the stillness. A great
weariness upon him, he rose slowly and heavily from the floor, and
stood erect, free at last and forever from that ancient evil which so
long had held his soul in bondage.
And in that moment of victory, through the deep hush reigning in the
house, he detected an incautious footfall on the parquetry of the
It was a sound so slight, so very small and still, that only a
super-subtle sense of hearing could have discriminated it from the
confused multiplicity of almost inaudible, interwoven, interdependent
sounds that make up the slumberous quiet of every human habitation, by
Lanyard, whose training had taught him how to listen, had learned that
the nocturnal hush of each and every house has its singular cadence,
its own gentle movement of muted but harmonious sound in which the
introduction of an alien sound produces immediate discord, and to
which, while at his work, he need attend only subconsciously since the
least variation from the norm would give him warning.
Now, in the silence of this old mansion, he detected a faint flutter of
discordance that sounded a note of stealth; such a note as no move of
his since entering had evoked.
He was no longer alone, but shared the empty magnificence of those vast
salons with one whose purpose was as furtive, as secret, as wary as his
own; no servant or watchman roused by an intuition of evil, but one who
had no more than he any lawful business there.
And while he stood at alert attention the sound was repeated from a
point less distant, indicating that the second intruder was moving
toward the library.
In two swift strides Lanyard left the shelter of the screen and took to
cover in the recess of one of the tall windows, behind its heavy velvet
hangings: an action that could have been timed no more precisely had it
been rehearsed; he was barely in hiding when a shape of shadow slipped
into the library, paused beside the massive desk, and raked the room
with the light of a powerful flash-lamp.
Its initial glare struck squarely into Lanyard's eyes, dazzling them,
as he peered through a narrow opening in the portières; and though the
light was instantly shifted, for several moments a blur of peacock
colour, blending, ebbing, hung like a curtain in the darkness, and he
could see nothing distinctly—only the trail traced by that dancing
spot-light over walls and furnishings.
When at length his vision cleared, the newcomer was kneeling in turn
before the safe; but more light was needed, and this one, lacking
Lanyard's patience and studious caution, turned back to the desk, and,
taking the reading-lamp, transferred it to the floor behind the screen.
But even before the flood of light followed the dull click of the
switch, Lanyard had recognized the woman.
For an instant he felt dazed, half-stunned, suffocating, much as he had
felt with Greggs' fingers tightening on his windpipe, that week-old
night at Troyon's; he experienced real difficulty about breathing, and
was conscious of a sickish throbbing in his temples and a pounding in
his bosom like the tolling of a great bell. He stared, swaying….
The light, gushing from the opaque hood, made the safe door a glare,
and was thrown back into her intent, masked face, throwing out in sharp
silhouette her lithe, sweet body, indisputably identified by the
individual poise of her head and shoulders and the gracious contours of
her tailored coat.
She was all in black, even to her hands, no trace of white or any
colour showing but the fair curve of the cheek below her mask and the
red of her lips. And if more evidence were needed, the intelligence
with which she attacked the combination, the confident, business-like
precision distinguishing her every action, proved her an apt pupil in
His thoughts were all in a welter of miserable confusion. He knew that
this explained many things he would have held questionable had not his
infatuation forbidden him to consider them at all, lest he be disloyal
to this woman whom he adored; but in the anguish of that moment he
could entertain but one thought, and that possessed him
altogether—that she must somehow be saved from the evil she
But while he hesitated, she became sensitive to his presence; though he
had made no sound since her entrance, though he had not even stirred,
somehow she divined that he—someone—was there in the recess of the
window, watching her.
In the act of opening the safe—using the memorandum of its combination
which he had jotted down in her presence—he saw her pause, freeze to a
pose of attention, then turn to stare directly at the portière that hid
him. And for an eternal second she remained kneeling there, so still
that she seemed not even to breathe, her gaze fixed and level, waiting
for some sound, some sign, some tremor of the curtain's folds, to
confirm her suspicion.
When at length she rose it was in one swift, alert movement. And as she
paused with her slight shoulders squared and her head thrown back
defiantly, challengingly, as one without will of his own but drawn
irresistibly by her gaze, he stepped out into the room.
And since he was no more the Lone Wolf, but now a simple man in agony,
with no thought for their circumstances—for the fact that they were
both house-breakers and that the slightest sound might raise a
hue-and-cry upon them—he took one faltering step toward her, stopped,
lifted a hand in a gesture of appeal, and stammered:
His voice broke and failed.
She didn't answer, more than by recoiling as though he had offered to
strike her, until the table stopped her, and she leaned back as if glad
of its support.
"Oh!" she cried, trembling—"why_—why_ did you do it?"
He might have answered her in kind, but self-justification passed his
power. He couldn't say, "Because this evening you made me lose faith in
everything, and I thought to forget you by going to the devil the
quickest way I knew—this way!"—though that was true. He couldn't say:
"Because, a thief from boyhood, habit proved too strong for me, and I
couldn't withstand temptation!"—for that was untrue. He could only
hang his head and mumble the wretched confession: "I don't know."
As if he hadn't spoken, she cried again: "Why—why did you do it? I
was so proud of you, so sure of you, the man who had turned straight
because of me!… It compensated… But now…!"
Her voice broke in a short, dry sob.
"Compensated?" he repeated stupidly.
"Yes, compensated!" She lifted her head with a gesture of impatience:
"For this—don't you understand?—for this that I'm doing! You don't
imagine I'm here of my own will?—that I went back to Bannon for any
reason but to try to save you from him? I knew something of his power,
and you didn't; I knew if I went away with you he'd never rest until he
had you murdered. And I thought if I could mislead him by lies for a
little time—long enough to give you a chance to escape—I
thought—perhaps—I might be able to communicate with the police, s
She hesitated, breathless and appealing.
At her first words he had drawn close to her; and all their talk was
murmurings. But this was quite instinctive; for both were beyond
considerations of prudence, the one coherent thought of each being that
now, once and forever, all misunderstanding must be done away with.
Now, as naturally as though they had been lovers always, Lanyard took
her hand, and clasped it between his own.
"You cared as much as that!"
"I love you," she told him—"I love you so much I am ready to sacrifice
everything for you—life, liberty, honour——"
"Hush, dearest, hush!" he begged, half distracted.
"I mean it: if honour could hold me back, do you think I would have
broken in here tonight to steal for Bannon?"
"He sent you, eh?" Lanyard commented in a dangerous voice.
"He was too cunning for me… I was afraid to tell you… I meant to
tell—to warn you, this evening in the cab. But then I thought perhaps
if I said nothing and sent you away believing the worst of me—perhaps
you would save yourself and forget me——"
"I tried my best to deceive him, but couldn't. They got the truth from
me by threats——"
"They wouldn't dare——"
"They dare anything, I tell you! They knew enough of what had happened,
through their spies, to go on, and they tormented and bullied me until
I broke down and told them everything… And when they learned you had
brought the jewels back here, Bannon told me I must bring them to
him—that, if I refused, he'd have you killed. I held out until
tonight; then just as I was about to go to bed he received a telephone
message, and told me you were driving a taxi and followed by Apaches
and wouldn't live till daylight if I persisted in refusing."
"You came alone?"
"No. Three men brought me to the gate. They're waiting outside, in the
"Two of them. The other is Captain Ekstrom."
"Ekstrom!" Lanyard cried in despair. "Is he——"
The dull, heavy, crashing slam of the great front doors silenced him.
Before the echo of that crash ceased to reverberate from room to room,
Lanyard slipped to one side of the doorway, from which point he could
command the perspective of the salons together with a partial view of
the front doors. And he was no more than there, in the shadow of the
portières, when light from an electrolier flooded the reception-hall.
It showed him a single figure, that of a handsome woman, considerably
beyond middle age but still a well-poised, vigorous, and commanding
presence, in full evening dress of such magnificence as to suggest
recent attendance at some State function.
Standing beneath the light, she was restoring a key to a brocaded
hand-bag. This done, she turned her head and spoke indistinguishably
over her shoulder. Promptly there came into view a second woman of
about the same age, but even more strong and able of appearance—a
serving-woman, in plain, dark garments, undoubtedly madame's maid.
Handing over the brocaded bag, madame unlatched the throat of her
ermine cloak and surrendered it to the servant's care.
Her next words were audible, and reassuring in as far as they indicated
ignorance of anything amiss.
"Thank you, Sidonie. You may go to bed now."
"Madame will not need me to undress her?"
"I'm not ready yet. When I am—I'm old enough to take care of myself.
Besides, I prefer you to go to bed, Sidonie. It doesn't improve your
temper to lose your beauty sleep."
"Many thanks, madame. Good night."
The maid moved off toward the main staircase, while her mistress turned
deliberately through the salons toward the library.
At this, swinging back to the girl in a stride, and grasping her wrist
to compel attention, Lanyard spoke in a rapid whisper, mouth close to
her ear, but his solicitude so unselfish and so intense that for the
moment he was altogether unconscious of either her allure or his
"This way," he said, imperatively drawing her toward the window by
which he had entered: "there's a balcony outside—a short drop to the
ground." And unlatching the window, he urged her through it. "Try to
leave by the back gateway—the one I showed you before—avoiding
"But surely you are coming too?" she insisted, hanging back.
"Impossible: there's no time for us both to escape undetected. I shall
keep madame interested only long enough for you to get away. But take
this"—and he pressed his automatic into her hand. "No—take it; I've
another," he lied, "and you may need it. Don't fear for me, but go—O
The footfalls of Madame Omber were sounding dangerously near, and
without giving the girl more opportunity to protest, Lanyard closed the
windows, shot the latch and stole like a cat round the farther side of
the desk, pausing within a few feet of the screen and safe.
The desk-lamp was still burning, where the girl had left it behind the
cinnabar screen; and Lanyard knew that the diffusion of its rays was
enough to render his figure distinctly and immediately visible to one
entering the doorway.
Now everything hung upon the temper of the house-holder, whether she
would take that apparition quietly, deceived by Lanyard's mumming into
believing she had only a poor thievish fool to deal with, or with a
storm of bourgeois hysteria. In the latter event, Lanyard's hand was
ready planted, palm down, on the top of the desk: should the woman
attempt to give the alarm, a single bound would carry the adventurer
across it in full flight for the front doors.
In the doorway the mistress of the house appeared and halted, her quick
bright eyes shifting from the light on the floor to the dark figure of
the thief. Then, in a stride, she found a switch and turned on the
chandelier, a blaze of light.
As this happened, Lanyard cowered, lifting an elbow as though to guard
his face—as though expecting to find himself under the muzzle of a
The gesture had the calculated effect of focussing the attention of the
woman exclusively to him, after one swift glance round had shown her a
room tenanted only by herself and a cringing thief. And immediately it
was made manifest that, whether or not deceived, she meant to take the
situation quietly, if in a strong hand.
Her eyes narrowed and the muscles of her square, almost masculine jaw
hardened ominously as she looked the intruder up and down. Then a
flicker of contempt modified the grimness of her countenance. She took
three steps forward, pausing on the other side of the desk, her back to
Lanyard trembled visibly….
"Well!"—the word boomed like the opening gun of an engagement—"Well,
my man!"—the shrewd eyes swerved to the closed door of the safe and
quickly back again—"you don't seem to have accomplished much!"
"For God's sake, madame!" Lanyard blurted in a husky, shaken voice,
nothing like his own—"don't have me arrested! Give me a chance! I
haven't taken anything. Don't call the flics!"
He checked, moving an uncertain hand towards his throat as if his
tongue had gone dry.
"Come, come!" the woman answered, with a look almost of pity. "I
haven't called anyone—as yet."
The fingers of one strong white hand were drumming gently on the top of
the desk; then, with a movement so quick and sure that Lanyard himself
could hardly have bettered it, they slipped down to a handle of a
drawer, jerked it open, closed round the butt of a revolver, and
presented it at the adventurer's head.
Automatically he raised both hands.
"Don't shoot!" he cried. "I'm not armed——"
"Is that the truth?"
"You've only to search me, madame!"
"Thanks!" Madame's accents now discovered a trace of dry humour. "I'll
leave that to you. Turn out your pockets on the desk there—and,
remember, I'll stand no nonsense!"
The weapon covered Lanyard steadily, leaving him no choice but to obey.
As it happened, he was glad of the excuse to listen for sounds to tell
how the girl was faring in her flight, and made a pretence of trembling
fingers cover the slowness with which he complied.
But he heard nothing.
When he had visibly turned every pocket inside out, and their contents
lay upon the desk, the woman looked the exhibits over incuriously.
"Put them back," she said curtly. "And then fetch that chair over
there—the one in the corner. I've a notion I'd like to talk to you.
That's the usual thing, isn't it?"
"How?" Lanyard demanded with a vacant stare.
"In all the criminal novels I've ever read, the law-abiding householder
always sits down and has a sociable chat with the house-breaker—before
calling in the police. I'm afraid that's part of the price you've got
to pay for my hospitality."
She paused, eyeing Lanyard inquisitively while he restored his
belongings to his pockets. "Now, get that chair!" she ordered; and
waited, standing, until she had been obeyed. "That's it—there! Sit
Leaning against the desk, her revolver held negligently, the speaker
favoured Lanyard with a more leisurely inspection; the harshness of her
stare was softened, and the anger which at first had darkened her
countenance was gone by the time she chose to pursue her catechism.
"What's your name? No—don't answer! I saw your eyes waver, and I'm not
interested in a makeshift alias. But it's the stock question, you
know…. Do you care for a cigar?"
She opened a mahogany humidor on the desk.
"Right—according to Hoyle: the criminal always refuses to smoke in
these scenes. But let's forget the book and write our own lines. I'll
ask you an original question: Why were you acting just now?"
"Acting?" Lanyard repeated, intrigued by the acuteness of this
masterful woman's mentality.
"Precisely—pretending you were a common thief. For a moment you
actually made me think you afraid of me. But you're neither the one nor
the other. How do I know? Because you're unarmed, your voice has
changed in the last two minutes to that of a cultivated man, you've
stopped cringing and started thinking, and the way you walked across
the floor and handled that chair showed how powerfully you're made. If
I didn't have this revolver, you could overpower me in an instant—and
I'm no weakling, as women go. So—why the acting?"
Studying his captor with narrow interest, Lanyard smiled faintly and
shrugged, but made no answer. He could do no more than this—no more
than spare for time: the longer he indulged madame in her whim, the
better Lucy's chances of scot-free escape. By this time, he reckoned,
she would have found her way through the service gate to the street.
But he was on edge with unending apprehension of mischance.
"Come, come!" Madame Omber insisted. "You're hardly civil, my man.
Answer my question!"
"You don't expect me to—do you?"
"Why not? You owe me at least satisfaction of my curiosity, in return
for breaking into my house."
"But if, as you suggest, I am—or was—acting with a purpose, why
expect me to give the show away?"
"That's logic. I knew you could think. More's the pity!"
"Pity I can think?"
"Pity you can get your own consent to waste yourself like this. I'm an
old woman, and I know men better than most; I can see ability in you.
So I say, it's a pity you won't use yourself to better advantage. Don't
misunderstand me: this isn't the conventional act; I don't hold with
encouraging a fool in his folly. You're a fool, for all your
intelligence, and the only cure I can see for you is drastic
"Meaning the Santé, madame?"
"Quite so. I tell you frankly, when I'm finished lecturing you, off you
go to prison."
"If that's the case I don't see I stand to gain much by retailing the
history of my life. This seems to be your cue to ring for servants to
call the police."
A trace of anger shone in the woman's eyes. "You're right," she said
shortly; "I dare say Sidonie isn't asleep yet. I'll get her to
telephone while I keep an eye on you."
Bending over the desk, without removing her gaze from the adventurer,
his captor groped for, found, and pressed a call-button.
From some remote quarter of the house sounded the grumble of an
"Pity you're so brazen," she observed. "Just a little less side, and
you'd be a rather engaging person!"
Lanyard made no reply. In fact he wasn't listening.
Under the strain of that suspense, the iron control which had always
been his was breaking down—since now it was for another he was
concerned. And he wasted no strength trying to enforce it. The stress
of his anxiety was both undisguised and undisguisable. Nor did Madame
Omber overlook it.
"What's the trouble, eh? Is it that already you hear the cell door
clang in your ears?"
As she spoke, Lanyard left his chair with a movement in the execution
of which all his wits co-operated, with a spring as lithe and sure and
swift as an animal's, that carried him like a shot across the two yards
or so between them.
The slightest error in his reckoning would have finished him: for the
other had been watching for just such a move, and the revolver was
nearly level with Lanyard's head when he grasped it by the barrel,
turned that to the ceiling, imprisoned the woman's wrist with his other
hand, and in two movements had captured the weapon without injuring its
"Don't be alarmed," he said quietly. "I'm not going to do anything more
violent than to put this weapon out of commission."
Breaking it smartly, he shot a shower of cartridges to the door, and
tossed the now-useless weapon into a wastebasket beneath the desk.
"Hope I didn't hurt you," he added abstractedly—"but your pistol was
in my way!"
He took a stride toward the door, pulled up, and hung in hesitation,
frowning absently at the woman; who, without moving, laughed quietly
and watched him with a twinkle of malicious diversion.
He repaid this with a stare of thoughtful appraisal; from the first he
had recognized in her a character of uncommon tolerance and amiability.
"Pardon, madame, but——" he began abruptly—and checked in constrained
appreciation of his impudence.
"If that's permission to interrupt your reverie," Madame Omber
remarked, "I don't mind telling you, you're the most extraordinary
burglar I ever heard of!"
Footfalls became audible on the staircase—the hasty scuffling of
"Is that you, Sidonie?" madame called.
The voice of the maid replied: "Yes, madame—coming!"
"Well—don't, just yet—not till I call you."
"Very good, madame."
The woman returned complete attention to Lanyard.
"Now, monsieur-of-two-minds, what is it you wish to say to me?"
"Why did you do that?" the adventurer asked, with a jerk of his head
toward the hall.
"Tell Sidonie to wait instead of calling for help? Because—well,
because you interest me strangely. I've got a theory you're in a
desperate quandary and are about to throw yourself on my mercy."
"You are right," Lanyard admitted tersely.
"Ah! Now you do begin to grow interesting! Would you mind explaining
why you think I'll be merciful?"
"Because, madame, I've done you a great service, and feel I can count
upon your gratitude."
The Frenchwoman's eyebrows lifted at this. "Doubtless, monsieur knows
what he's talking about——"
"Listen, madame: I am in love with a young woman, an American, a
stranger and friendless in Paris. If anything happens to me tonight, if
I am arrested or assassinated——"
"Is that likely?"
"Quite likely, madame: I have enemies among the Apaches, and in my own
profession as well; and I have reason to believe that several of them
are in this neighbourhood tonight. I may possibly not escape their
attentions. In that event, this young lady of whom I speak will need a
"And why must I interest myself in her fate, pray?"
"Because, madame, of this service I have done you … Recently, in
London, you were robbed——"
The woman started and coloured with excitement: "You know something of
"Everything, madame: it was I who stole them."
"You? You are, then, that Lone Wolf?"
"I was, madame."
"Why the past tense?" the woman demanded, eyeing him with a portentous
"Because I am done with thieving."
She threw back her head and laughed, but without mirth: "A likely
story, monsieur! Have you reformed since I caught you here——?"
"Does it matter when? I take it that proof, visible, tangible proof of
my sincerity, more than a meaningless date, would be needed to convince
"No doubt of that, Monsieur the Lone Wolf!"
"Could you ask better proof than the restoration of your stolen
"Are you trying to bribe me to let you off with an offer to return my
"I'm afraid emergency reformation wouldn't persuade you——"
"You may well be afraid, monsieur!"
"But if I can prove I've already restored your jewels——?"
"But you have not."
"If madame will do me the favour to open her safe, she will find them
"Am I wrong in assuming that madame didn't return from England until
"But today, in fact——"
"And you haven't troubled to investigate your safe since returning?"
"It had not occurred to me——"
"Then why not test my statement before denying it?"
With an incredulous shrug Madame Omber terminated a puzzled scrutiny of
Lanyard's countenance, and turned to the safe.
"But to have done what you declare you have," she argued, "you must
have known the combination—since it appears you haven't broken this
The combination ran glibly off Lanyard's tongue. And at this, with
every evidence of excitement, at length beginning to hope if not to
believe, the woman set herself to open the safe. Within a minute she
had succeeded, the morocco-bound jewel-case was in her hand, and a
hasty examination had assured her its treasure was intact.
"But why——?" she stammered, pale with emotion—"why, monsieur, why?"
"Because I decided to leave off stealing for a livelihood."
"When did you bring these jewels here?"
"Within the week—four or five nights since——"
"And then—repented, eh?"
"I own it."
"But came here again tonight, to steal a second time what you had
"That's true, too."
"And I interrupted you——"
"Pardon, madame: not you, but my better self. I came to steal—I could
"Monsieur—you do not convince. I fail to fathom your motives, but——"
A sudden shock of heavy trampling feet in the reception-hall,
accompanied by a clash of excited voices, silenced her and brought
Lanyard instantly to the face-about.
Above that loud wrangle—of which neither had received the least
warning, so completely had their argument absorbed them—Sidonie's
accents were audible:
"Madame—madame!"—a cry of protest.
"What is it?" madame demanded of Lanyard.
He threw her the word "Police!" as he turned and flung himself into the
recess of the window.
But when he wrenched it open the voice of a picket on the lawn saluted
him in sharp warning; and when, involuntarily, he stepped out upon the
balcony, a flash of flame split the gloom below, a loud report rang in
the quiet of the park, and a bullet slapped viciously the stone facing
of the window.
With as little ceremony as though the bullet had lodged in himself,
Lanyard tumbled back into the room, tripped, and fell sprawling; while
to a tune of clattering boots two sergents de ville lumbered valiantly
into the library and pulled up to discover Madame Omber standing
calmly, safe and sound, beside her desk, and Lanyard picking himself up
from the floor by the open window.
Behind them Sidonie trotted, wringing her hands.
"Madame!" she bleated—"they wouldn't listen to me, madame—I couldn't
"All right, Sidonie. Go back to the hall. I'll call you when needed….
Messieurs, good morning!"
One of the sergents advanced with an uncertain salute and a superfluous
question: "Madame Omber——?" The other waited on the threshold,
barring the way.
Lanyard measured the two speculatively: the spokesman seemed a bit old
and fat, ripe for his pension, little apt to prove seriously effective
in a rough-and-tumble; but the other was young, sturdy, and
broad-chested, with the poise of an athlete, and carried in addition to
his sword a pistol naked in his hand, while his clear blue eyes,
meeting the adventurer's, lighted up with a glint of invitation.
For the present, however, Lanyard wasn't taking any. He met that
challenge with a look of utter stupidity, folded his arms, lounged
against the desk, and watched Madame Omber acknowledge, none too
cordially, the other sergent's query.
"I am Madame Omber—yes. What can I do for you?"
The sergent gaped. "Pardon!" he stammered, then laughed as one who
tardily appreciates a joke. "It is well we are arrived in time,
madame," he added—"though it would seem you have not had great trouble
with this miscreant. Where is the woman?"
He moved a pace toward Lanyard: hand-cuffs jingled in his grasp.
"But a moment!" madame interposed. "Woman? What woman?"
Pausing, the older sergent explained in a tone of surprise:
"But his accomplice, naturally! Such were our instructions—to proceed
at once to madame's hôtel, come in quietly by the servants'
entrance—which would be open—and arrest a burglar with his female
Again the stout sergent moved toward Lanyard; again Madame Omber
"But one moment more, if you please!"
Her eyes, dense with suspicion, questioned Lanyard; who, with a
significant nod toward the jewel-case still in her hands, gave her a
glance of dumb entreaty.
After brief hesitation, "It is a mistake," madame declared; "there is
no woman in this house, to my certain knowledge, who has no right to be
here… But you say you received a message? I sent none!"
The fat sergent shrugged. "That is not for me to dispute, madame. I
have only my orders to go by."
He glared sullenly at Lanyard; who returned a placid smile that
(despite such hope as he might derive from madame's irresolute manner)
masked a vast amount of trepidation. He felt tolerably sure Madame
Omber had not sent for police on prior knowledge of his presence in the
library. All this, then, would seem to indicate a new form of attack on
the part of the Pack. He had probably been followed and seen to enter;
or else the girl had been caught attempting to steal away and the
information wrung from her by force majeure…. Moreover, he could
hear two more pair of feet tramping through the salons.
Pending the arrival of these last, Madame Omber said nothing more.
And, unceremoniously enough, the newcomers shouldered into the
library—one pompous uniformed body, of otherwise undistinguished
appearance, promptly identified by the sergents de ville as monsieur le
commissaire of that quarter; the other, a puffy mediocrity, known to
Lanyard at least (if apparently to no one else) as Popinot.
At this confirmation of his darkest fears, the adventurer abandoned
hope of aid from Madame Omber and began quietly to reckon his chances
of escape through his own efforts.
But he was quite unarmed, and the odds were heavy: four against one,
all four no doubt under arms, and two at least—the sergents—men of
sound military training.
"Madame Omber?" enquired the commissaire, saluting that lady with
immense dignity. "One trusts that this intrusion may be pardoned, the
circumstances remembered. In an affair of this nature, involving this
repository of so historic treasures—"
"That is quite well understood, monsieur le commissaire," madame
replied distantly. "And this monsieur is, no doubt, your aide?"
"Pardon!" the official hastened to identify his companion: "Monsieur
Popinot, agent de la Sûreté, who lays these informations!"
With a profound obeisance to Madame Omber, Popinot strode dramatically
over to confront Lanyard and explore his features with his small, keen,
shifty eyes of a pig; a scrutiny which the adventurer suffered with
"It is he!" Popinot announced with a gesture. "Messieurs, I call upon
you to arrest this man, Michael Lanyard, alias 'The Lone Wolf.'"
He stepped back a pace, expanding his chest in vain effort to eclipse
his abdomen, and glanced triumphantly at his respectful audience.
"Accused," he added with intense relish, "of the murder of Inspector
Roddy of Scotland Yard at Troyon's, as well as of setting fire to that
"For this, Popinot," Lanyard interrupted in an undertone, "I shall some
day cut off your ears!" He turned to Madame Omber: "Accept, if you
please, madame, my sincere regrets … but this charge happens to be
one of which I am altogether innocent."
Instantly, from lounging against the desk, Lanyard straightened up: and
the heavy humidor of brass and mahogany, on which his right hand had
been resting, seemed fairly to leap from its place as, with a sweep of
his arm, he sent it spinning point-blank at the younger sergent.
Before that one, wholly unprepared, could more than gasp, the humidor
caught him a blow like a kick just below the breastbone. He reeled, the
breath left him in one great gust, he sat down abruptly—blue eyes wide
with a look of aggrieved surprise—clapped both hands to his middle,
blinked, turned pale, and keeled over on his side.
But Lanyard hadn't waited to note results. He was busy. The fat sergent
had leaped snarling upon his arm, and was struggling to hold it still
long enough to snap a hand-cuff round the wrist; while the commissaire
had started forward with a bellow of rage and two hands extended and
itching for the adventurer's throat.
The first received a half-arm jab on the point of his chin that jarred
his entire system, and without in the least understanding how it
happened, found himself whirled around and laid prostrate in the
commissaire's path. The latter tripped, fell, and planted two hard
knees, with the bulk of his weight atop them, on the apex of the
At the same time Lanyard, leaping toward the doorway, noticed Popinot
tugging at something in his hip-pocket.
Followed a vivid flash, then complete darkness: with a well-aimed
kick—an elementary movement of la savate—Lanyard had dislocated the
switch of the electric lights, knocking its porcelain box from the
wall, breaking the connection, and creating a short-circuit which
extinguished every light in that part of the house.
With his way thus apparently cleared, the police in confusion, darkness
aiding him, Lanyard plunged on; but in mid-stride, as he crossed the
threshold, his ankle was caught by the still prostrate younger sergent
and jerked from under him.
His momentum threw him with a crash—and may have spared him a worse
mishap; for in the same breath he heard the report of a pistol and knew
that Popinot had fired at his fugitive shadow.
As he brought one heel down with crushing force on the sergent's wrist,
freeing his foot, he was dimly conscious of the voice of the
commissaire shouting frantic prayers to cease firing. Then the
pain-maddened sergent crawled to his knees, lunged blindly forward,
knocked the adventurer back in the act of rising, and fell on top of
Hampered by two hundred pounds of fighting Frenchman, Lanyard felt his
cause was lost, yet battled on—and would while breath was in him.
With a heave, a twist and a squirm, he slipped from under, and swinging
a fist at random barked his knuckles against the mouth of the sergent.
Momentarily that one relaxed his hold, and Lanyard struggled to his
knees, only to go down as the indomitable Frenchman grappled yet a
Now, however, as they fell, Lanyard was on top: and shifting both hands
to his antagonist's left forearm, he wrenched it up and around. There
was a cry of pain, and he jumped clear of one no longer to be reckoned
Nevertheless, as he had feared, the delay had proved ruinous. He had
only found his feet when an unidentified person hurled himself bodily
through the gloom and wrapped his arms round Lanyard's thighs. And as
both went down, two others piled up on top….
For the next minute or two, Lanyard fought blindly, madly, viciously,
striking and kicking at random. For all that—even with one sergent
hors de combat—they were three to one; and though with the ferocity of
sheer desperation he shook them all off, at one time, and gained a few
yards more, it was only again to be overcome and borne down, crushed
beneath the weight of three.
His wind was going, his strength was leaving him. He mustered up every
ounce of energy, all his wit and courage, for one last effort: fought
like a cat, tooth and nail; toiled once more to his knees, with two
clinging to him like wolves to the flanks of a stag; shook one off,
regained his feet, swayed; and in one final gust of ferocity dashed
both fists repeatedly into the face of him who still clung to him.
That one was Popinot; he knew instinctively that this was so; and a
grim joy filled him as he felt the man's clutches relax and fall away,
and guessed how brutal was the damage he had done that fat, evil face.
At length free, he made off, running, stumbling, reeling: gained the
hall; flung open the door; and heedless of the picket who had fired on
him from below the window, dashed down the steps and away….
Three shots sped him through that intricate tangle of night-bound park.
But all went wide; the pursuit—what little there was—blundered off at
hap-hazard and lost itself, as well.
He came to the wall, crept along in shelter of its shadow until he
found a tree with a low-swung branch that jutted out over the street,
climbed this, edged out over the wall, and dropped to the sidewalk.
A shout from the quarter of the carriage gates greeted his appearance.
He turned and ran again. Flying footsteps for a time pursued him; and
once, with a sinking heart, he heard the rumble of a motor. But he
recovered quickly, regained his wind, and ran well, with long, steady,
ground-consuming strides; and he doubled, turned and twisted in a
manner to wake the envy of the most subtle fox.
In time he felt warranted in slowing down to a rapid walk.
Weariness was now a heavy burden upon him, and his spirit numb with
desperate need of rest; but his pace did not flag, nor his purpose
falter from its goal.
It was a long walk if a direct one to which he set himself as soon as
confident the pursuit had failed once more. He plodded on, without
faltering, to the one place where he might feel sure of finding his
beloved, if she lived and were free. He knew that she had not
forgotten, and in his heart he knew that she would never again of her
own will fail him….
Nor had she: when—weary and spent from that heartbreaking climb up the
merciless acclivity of the Butte Montmartre—he staggered rather than
walked past the sleepy verger and found his way through the crowding
shadows to the softly luminous heart of the basilica of the Sacré-Cour,
he found her there, kneeling, her head bowed upon hands resting on the
back of the chair before her: a slight and timid figure, lost and
lonely in the long ranks of empty chairs that filled the nave.
Slowly, almost fearfully, he went to her, and silently he slipped into
the chair by her side.
She knew, without looking up, that it was he….
After a little her hand stole out, closed round his fingers, and drew
him forward with a gentle, insistent pressure. He knelt then with her,
hand in hand—filled with the wonder of it, that he to whom religion
had been nothing should have been brought to this by a woman's hand.
He knelt for a long time, for many minutes, profoundly intrigued, his
sombre gaze questioning the golden shadows and ancient mystery of the
distant choir and shining altar: and there was no question in his heart
but that, whatever should ensue of this, the unquiet spirit of the Lone
Wolf was forevermore at rest.
WINGS OF THE MORNING
About half-past six Lanyard left the dressing-room assigned him in the
barracks at Port Aviation and, waddling quaintly in the heavy
wind-resisting garments supplied him at the instance of Ducroy, made
his way between two hangars toward the practice field.
Now the eastern skies were pulsing with fitful promise of the dawn; but
within the vast enclosure of the aerodrome the gloom of night lingered
so stubbornly that two huge search-lights had been pressed into the
service of those engaged in tuning up the motor of the Parrott biplane.
In the intense, white, concentrated glare—that rippled oddly upon the
wrinkled, oily garments of the dozen or so mechanics busy about the
machine—the under sides of those wide, motionless planes hung against
the dark with an effect of impermanence: as though they were already
afloat and needed but a breath to send them winging skyward….
To one side a number of young and keen-faced Frenchmen, officers of the
corps, were lounging and watching the preparations with alert and
To the other, all the majesty of Mars was incarnate in the person of
Monsieur Ducroy, posing valiantly in fur-lined coat and shining top-hat
while he chatted with an officer whose trim, athletic figure was well
set off by his aviating uniform.
As Lanyard drew near, this last brought his heels together smartly,
saluted the Minister of War, and strode off toward the flying-machine.
"Captain Vauquelin informs me he will be ready to start in five
minutes, monsieur," Ducroy announced. "You are in good time."
"And mademoiselle?" the adventurer asked, peering anxiously round.
Almost immediately the girl came forward from the shadows, with a smile
apologetic for the strangeness of her attire.
She had donned, over her street dress, an ample leather garment which
enveloped her completely, buttoning tight at throat and wrists and
ankles. Her small hat had been replaced by a leather helmet which left
only her eyes, nose, mouth and chin exposed, and even these were soon
to be hidden by a heavy veil for protection against spattering oil.
"Mademoiselle is not nervous?" Ducroy enquired politely.
Lucy smiled brightly.
"I? Why should I be, monsieur?"
"I trust mademoiselle will permit me to commend her courage. But
pardon! I have one last word for the ear of Captain Vauquelin."
Lifting his hat, the Frenchman joined the group near the machine.
Lanyard stared unaffectedly at the girl, unable to disguise his wonder
at the high spirits advertised by her rekindled colour and brilliant
"Well?" she demanded gaily. "Don't tell me I don't look like a fright!
I know I do!"
"I daren't tell you how you look to me," Lanyard replied soberly. "But
I will say this, that for sheer, down right pluck, you—"
"Thank you, monsieur! And you?"
He glanced with a deprecatory smile at the flimsy-looking contrivance
to which they were presently to entrust their lives.
"Somehow," said he doubtfully, "I don't feel in the least upset or
exhilarated. It seems little out of the average run of life—all in the
"I think," she said, judgmatical, "that you're very like the other lone
wolf, the fictitious one—Lupin, you know—a bit of a blagueur. If
you're not nervous, why keep glancing over there?—as if you were
rather expecting somebody—as if you wouldn't be surprised to see
Popinot or De Morbihan pop out of the ground—or Ekstrom!"
"Hum!" he said gravely. "I don't mind telling you now, that's precisely
what I am afraid of."
"Nonsense!" the girl cried in open contempt. "What could they do?"
"Please don't ask me," Lanyard begged seriously. "I might try to tell
"But don't worry, my dear!" Fugitively her hand touched his. "We're
It was true enough: Ducroy was moving impressively back toward them.
"All is prepared," he announced in sonorous accents.
A bit sobered, in silence they approached the machine.
Vauquelin kept himself aloof while Lanyard and a young officer helped
the girl to the seat to the right of the pilot, and strapped her in.
When Lanyard had been similarly secured in the place on the left, the
two sat, imprisoned, some six feet above the ground.
Lanyard found his perch comfortable enough. A broad band of webbing
furnished support for his back; another crossed his chest by way of
provision against forward pitching; there were rests for his feet, and
for his hands cloth-wound grips fixed to struts on either side.
He smiled at Lucy across the empty seat, and was surprised at the
clearness with which her answering smile was visible. But he wasn't to
see it again for a long and weary time; almost immediately she began to
adjust her veil.
The morning had grown much lighter within the last few minutes.
A long wait ensued, during which the swarm of mechanics, assistants and
military aviators buzzed round their feet like bees.
The sky was now pale to the western horizon. A fleet of heavy clouds
was drifting off into the south, leaving in their wake thin veils of
mist that promised soon to disappear before the rays of the sun. The
air seemed tolerably clear and not unseasonably cold.
The light grew stronger still: features of distant objects defined
themselves; traces of colour warmed the winter landscape.
At length their pilot, wearing his wind-mask, appeared and began to
climb to his perch. With a cool nod for Lanyard and a civil bow to his
woman passenger, he settled himself, adjusted several levers, and
flirted a gay hand to his brother-officers.
There was a warning cry. The crowd dropped back rapidly to either side.
Ducroy lifted his hat in parting salute, cried "Bon voyage!" and
scuttled clear like a startled rooster before a motor-car. And the
motor and propeller broke loose with a mighty roar comparable only, in
Lanyard's fancy, to the chant of ten thousand rivetting locusts.
He felt momentarily as if his ear-drums must burst with the incessant
and tremendous concussions registered upon them; but presently this
sensation passed, leaving him with that of permanent deafness.
Before he could recover and regain control of his startled wits the
aviator had thrown down a lever, and the great fabric was in motion.
It swept down the field like a frightened swan; and the wheels of its
chassis, registering every infinitesimal irregularity in the surface of
the ground, magnified them all a hundred-fold. It was like riding in a
tumbril driven at top-speed over the Giant's Causeway. Lanyard was
shaken violently to the very marrow of his bones; he believed that even
his eyes must be rattling in their sockets….
Then the Parrott began to ascend. Singularly enough, this change was
marked, at first, by no more than slight lessening of the vibration:
still the machine seemed to be dashing over a cobbled thoroughfare at
breakneck speed; and Lanyard found it difficult to appreciate that they
were afloat, even when he looked down and discovered a hundred feet of
space between himself and the practice-field.
In another breath they were soaring over housetops.
Momentarily, now, the shocks became less frequent. And presently they
ceased almost altogether, to be repeated only at rare intervals, when
the drift of air opposing the planes developed irregularities in its
velocity. There succeeded, in contrast, the sublimest peace; even the
roaring of the propeller dwindled to a sustained drone; the biplane
seemed to float without an effort upon a vast, still sea, flawed only
occasionally by inconsiderable ripples.
Still rising, they surprised the earliest rays of the sun; and in their
virgin light the aeroplane was transformed into a thing of gossamer
Continually the air buffeted their faces like a flood of icy water.
Below, the scroll of the world unrolled like some vast and intricately
illuminated missal, or like some strange mosaic, marvellously minute….
Lanyard could see the dial of the compass, fixed to a strut on the
pilot's left. By that telltale their course lay nearly due northeast.
Already the weltering roofs of Paris were in sight, to the right, the
Eiffel Tower spearing up like a fairy pillar of gold lace-work, the
Seine looping the cluttered acres like a sleek brown serpent, the
Sacré-Coeur a dream-palace of opalescent walls.
Versailles broke the horizon to port and slipped astern. Paris closed
up, telescoped its panorama, became a mere blur, a smoky smudge. But it
was long before the distance eclipsed that admonitory finger of the
Vauquelin manipulating the levers, the plane tilted its nose and swam
higher and yet higher. The song of the motor dropped an octave to a
richer tone. The speed was sensibly increased.
Lanyard contemplated with untempered wonder the fact of his equanimity:
there seemed nothing at all strange in this extraordinary experience;
he was by no means excited, remained merely if deeply interested. And
he could detect in his physical sensations no trace of that qualmish
dread he always experienced in high places: the sense he had of
security, of solidity, was and ever remained wholly unaccountable in
Of a sudden, surprised by a touch on his arm, he turned to see through
the mica windows of the wind-mask the eyes of the aviator informed with
importunate doubt. Infinitely mystified and so an easy prey to
sickening fear lest something were going wrong with the machine,
Lanyard shook his head to indicate lack of comprehension. With an
impatient gesture the aviator pointed downward. Appreciating the fact
that speech was impossible, Lanyard clutched the struts and bent
forward. But the pace was now so fast and their elevation so great that
the landscape swimming beneath his vision was no more than a brownish
plain fugitively maculated with blots of contrasting colour.
He looked up blankly, but only to be treated to the same gesture.
Piqued, he concentrated attention more closely upon the flat, streaming
landscape. And suddenly he recognized something oddly familiar in an
approaching bend of the Seine.
"St.-Germain-en-Laye!" he exclaimed with a start of alarm.
This was the danger point….
"And over there," he reminded himself—"to the left—that wide field
with a queer white thing in the middle that looks like a winged
grub—that must be De Morbiban's aerodrome and his Valkyr monoplane!
Are they bringing it out? Is that what Vauquelin means? And if so—what
of it? I don't see …"
Suddenly doubt and wonder chilled the adventurer.
Temporarily Vauquelin returned entire attention to the management of
the biplane. The wind was now blowing more fitfully, creating
pockets—those holes in the air so dreaded by cloud pilots—and in
quest of more constant resistance the aviator was swinging his craft in
a wide northerly curve, climbing ever higher and more high.
The earth soon lost all semblance of design; even the twisted silver
wire of the Seine vanished, far over to the left; remained only the
effect of firm suspension in that high blue vault, of a continuous low
of iced water in the face, together with the tuneless chanting of the
After some forty minutes of this—it may have been an hour, for time
was then an incalculable thing—Lanyard, in a mood of abnormal
sensitiveness, began to divine additional disquiet in the mind of the
aviator, and stared until he caught his eye.
"What is it?" he screamed in futile effort to lift his voice above the
But the Frenchman understood, and responded with a sweep of his arm
toward the horizon ahead. And seeing nothing but cloud in the quarter
indicated, Lanyard grasped the nature of a phenomenon which, from the
first, had been vaguely troubling him. The reason why he had been able
to perceive no real rim to the world was that the earth was all a-steam
from the recent heavy rains; all the more remote distances were veiled
with rising vapour. And now they were approaching the coast, to which,
it seemed, the mists clung closest; for all the world before them slept
beneath a blanket of dull grey.
Nor was it difficult now to understand why the aviator was ill at ease
facing the prospect of navigating a Channel fog.
Several minutes later, he startled Lanyard with another peremptory
touch on his arm followed by a significant glance over his shoulder.
Lanyard turned quickly.
Behind them, at a distance which he calculated roughly as two miles,
the silhouette of a monoplane hung against the brilliant firmament,
resembling, with its single spread of wings, more a solitary, soaring
gull than any man-directed mechanism.
Only an infrequent and almost imperceptible shifting of the wings
proved that it was moving.
He watched it for several seconds, in deepening perplexity and anxiety,
finding it impossible to guess whether it were gaining or losing in
that long chase, or who might be its pilot.
Yet he had little doubt but that the pursuing machine had risen from
the aerodrome of Count Remy de Morbihan at St.-Germain-en-Laye; that it
was nothing less, in fact, than De Morbihan's Valkyr, reputed the
fastest monoplane in Europe and winner of a dozen International events;
and that it was guided, if not by De Morbihan himself, by one of the
creatures of the Pack—quite possibly, even more probably, by Ekstrom!
But—assuming all this—what evil could such pursuit portend? In what
conceivable manner could the Pack reckon to further its ends by
commissioning the monoplane to overtake or distance the Parrott? They
could not hinder the escape of Lanyard and Lucy Shannon to England in
any way, by any means reasonably to be imagined.
Was this simply one more move to keep the pair under espionage? But
that might more readily have been accomplished by telegraphing or
telephoning the Pack's confreres, Wertheimer's associates in England!
Lanyard gave it up, admitting his inability to trump up any sane excuse
for such conduct; but the riddle continued to fret his mind without
From the first, from that moment when Lucy's disappearance had required
postponement of this flight, he had feared trouble; it hadn't seemed
reasonable to hope that the Parrott could be held in waiting on his
convenience for many days without the secret leaking out; but it was
trouble to develop before the start from Port Aviation that he had
anticipated. The possibility that the Pack would be able to work any
mischief to him, after that, had never entered his calculations. Even
now he found it difficult to give it serious consideration.
Again he glanced back. Now, in his judgment, the monoplane loomed
larger than before against the glowing sky, indicating that it was
Beneath his breath Lanyard swore from a brimming heart.
The Parrott was capable of a speed of eighty miles an hour; and
unquestionably Vauquelin was wheedling every ounce of power out of its
willing motor. Since drawing Lanyard's attention to the pursuer he had
brought about appreciable acceleration.
But would even that pace serve to hold the Valkyr if not to distance it?
His next backward look reckoned the monoplane no nearer.
And another thirty minutes or go elapsed without the relative positions
of the two flying machines undergoing any perceptible change.
In the course of this period the Parrott rose to an altitude, indicated
by the barograph at Lanyard's elbow, of more than half a mile. Below,
the Channel fog spread itself out like a sea of milk, slowly churning.
Staring down in fascination, Lanyard told himself gravely: "Blue water
below that, my friend!"
It seemed difficult to credit the fact that they had made the flight
from Paris in so short a time.
By his reckoning—a very rough one—the Parrott was then somewhere off
Dieppe: it ought to pick up England, in such case, not far from
Brighton. If only one could see…!
By bending forward a little and staring past the aviator Lanyard could
catch a glimpse of Lucy Shannon.
Though all her beauty and grace of person were lost in the clumsy
swaddling of her makeshift costume, she seemed to be comfortable
enough; and the rushing air, keen with the chill of that great
altitude, moulded her wind-veil precisely to the exquisite contours of
her face and stung her firm cheeks until they glowed with a rare fire
that even that thick dark mesh could not wholly quench.
The sun crept above the floor of mist, played upon it with iridescent
rays, shot it through and through with a warm, pulsating glow like that
of a fire opal, and suddenly turned it to a tumbled sea of gold which,
apparently boundless, baffled every effort to surmise their position,
whether they were above land or sea.
None the less Lanyard's rough and rapid calculations persuaded him that
they were then about Mid-Channel.
He had no more than arrived at this conclusion when a sharp, startled
movement, that rocked the planes, drew his attention to the man at his
Glancing in alarm at the aviator's face, he saw it as white as
marble—what little of it was visible beyond and beneath the wind-mask.
Vauquelin was holding out an arm, and staring at it incredulously;
Lanyard's gaze was drawn to the same spot—a ragged perforation in the
sleeve of the pilot's leather surtout, just above the elbow.
"What is it?" he enquired stupidly, again forgetting that he could not
The eyes of the aviator, lifting from the perforation to meet Lanyard's
stare, were clouded with consternation.
Then Vauquelin turned quickly and looked back. Simultaneously he ducked
his head and something slipped whining past Lanyard's cheek, touching
his flesh with a touch more chill than that of the icy air itself.
"Damnation!" he shrieked, almost hysterically. "That madman in the
Valkyr is firing at us!"
THE FLYING DEATH
Steadying himself with a splendid display of self-control and sheer
courage, Captain Vauquelin concentrated upon the management of the
The drone of its motor thickened again, its speed became greater, and
the machine began to rise still higher, tracing a long, graceful curve.
Lanyard glanced apprehensively toward the girl, but apparently she
remained unconscious of anything out of the ordinary. Her face was
still turned forward, and still the wind-veil trembled against her
Thanks to the racket of the motor, no audible reports had accompanied
the sharp-shooting of the man in the monoplane; while Lanyard's cry of
horror and dismay had been audible to himself exclusively. Hearing
nothing, Lucy suspected nothing.
Again Lanyard looked back.
Now the Valkyr seemed to have crept up to within the quarter of a mile
of the biplane, and was boring on at a tremendous pace, its single
spread of wings on an approximate level with that of the lower plane of
But this last was rising steadily….
The driver's seat of the Valkyr held a muffled, burly figure that might
be anybody—De Morbihan, Ekstrom, or any other homicidal maniac. At the
distance its actions were as illegible as their results were
unquestionable: Lanyard saw a little tongue of flame lick out from a
point close beside the head of the figure—he couldn't distinguish the
firearm itself—and, like Vauquelin, quite without premeditation, he
At the same time there sounded a harsh, ripping noise immediately above
his head; and he found himself staring up at a long ragged tear in the
canvas, caused by the bullet striking it aslant.
"What's to be done?" he screamed passionately at Vauquelin.
The aviator shook his head impatiently; and they continued to ascend;
already the web of gold that cloaked earth and sea seemed thrice as far
beneath their feet as it had when Vauquelin made the appalling
discovery of his bullet-punctured sleeve.
But the monoplane was doggedly following suit; as the Parrott rose, so
did the Valkyr, if a trace more slowly and less flexibly.
Lanyard had read somewhere, or heard it said, that monoplanes were poor
machines for climbing. He told himself that, if this were true,
Vauquelin knew his business; and from this reflection drew what comfort
And he was glad, very glad of the dark wind-veil that shrouded his
face, which he believed to be nothing less than a mask of panic terror.
He was, in fact, quite rigid with fright and horror. It were idle to
argue that only unlikely chance would wing one of the bullets from the
Valkyr to a vital point: there was the torn canvas overhead, there was
that hole through Vauquelin's sleeve….
And then the barograph on the strut beside Lanyard disappeared as if by
magic. He was aware of a slight jar; the framework of the biplane
quivered as from a heavy blow; something that resembled a handful of
black crumbs sprayed out into the air ahead and vanished: and where the
instrument had been, nothing remained but an iron clamp gripping the
And even as any one of these bullets might have proved fatal, their
first successor might disable the aviator if it did not slay him
outright; in either case, the inevitable result would be death
following a fall from a height, as recorded on the barograph dial an
instant before its destruction, of more than four thousand feet.
They were still climbing….
Now the pursuer was losing some of the advantage of his superior speed;
the Parrott was perceptibly higher; the Valkyr must needs mount in a
more sweeping curve.
None the less, Lanyard, peering down, saw still another tongue of flame
spit out at him; and two bullet-holes appeared in the port-side wings
of the biplane, one in the lower, one in the upper spread of canvas.
White-lipped and trembling, the adventurer began to work at the
fastenings of his surtout. After a moment he plucked off one of his
gloves and cast it impatiently from him. A-sprawl, it sailed down the
wind like a wounded sparrow. He caught Vauquelin's eye upon him, quick
with a curiosity which changed to a sudden gleam of comprehension as
Lanyard, thrusting his hand under the leather coat, groped for his
pocket and produced an automatic pistol which Ducroy had pressed upon
They were now perhaps a hundred feet higher than the Valkyr, which was
soaring a quarter of a mile off to starboard. Under the guidance of the
Frenchman, the Parrott swooped round in a narrow circle until it hung
almost immediately above the other—a manoeuvre requiring, first and
last, something more than five minutes to effect.
Meanwhile, Lanyard rebuttoned his surtout and clutched the pistol,
trying hard not to think. But already his imagination was sick with the
thought of what would ensue when the time came for him to carry out his
Vauquelin touched his arm with urgent pressure; but Lanyard only shook
his head, gulped, and without looking surrendered the weapon to the
Bearing heavily against the chest-band, he commanded the broad white
spread of the Valkyr's back and wings. Invisible beneath these hung the
motor and driver's seat.
An instant more, and he was aware that Vauquelin was leaning forward
and looking down.
Aiming with what deliberation was possible, the aviator emptied the
clip of its eight cartridges in less than a minute.
The vicious reports rang out against the drum of the motor like the
cracking of a blacksnake-whip.
Momentarily, Lanyard doubted if any one bullet had taken effect. He
could not, with his swimming vision, detect sign of damage in the
canvas of the Valkyr.
He saw the empty automatic slip from Vauquelin'p numb and nerveless
fingers. It vanished….
A frightful fascination kept his gaze constant to the soaring Valkyr.
Beyond it, down, deep down a mile of emptiness, was that golden floor
of tumbled cloud, waiting …
He saw the monoplane check abruptly in its strong onward surge—as if
it had run, full-tilt, head-on, against an invisible obstacle—and for
what seemed a round minute it hung so, veering and wobbling, nuzzling
the wind. Then like a sounding whale it turned and dived headlong,
propeller spinning like a top.
Down through the eighth of a mile of space it plunged plummet-like;
then, perhaps caught in a flaw of wind, it turned sideways and began to
revolve, at first slowly, but with increasing rapidity in its fatally
Toward the beginning of its revolutions, something was thrown off,
something small, dark and sprawling … like that glove which Lanyard
had discarded. But this object dropped with a speed even greater than
that of the Valkyr, in a brace of seconds had diminished to the
proportions of a gnat, in another was engulfed in that vast sea of
Even so the monoplane itself, scarcely less precipitate, spun down
through the abyss and plunged to oblivion in the fog-rack….
And Lanyard was still hanging against the chest-band, limp and spent
and trying not to vomit, when, of a sudden and without any warning
whatever, the stentorian chant of the motor ceased and was blotted up
by that immense silence, by the terrible silence of those vast
solitudes of the upper air, where never a sound is heard save the
voices of the elements at war among themselves: a silence that rang
with an accent as dreadful as the crack of Doom in the ears of those
three suspended there, in the heart of that unimaginably pellucid and
immaculate radiance, in the vast hollow of the heavens, midway between
the deep blue of the eternal dome and the rose and golden welter of the
fog—that fog which, cloaking earth and sea, hid as well every vestige
of the tragedy they had wrought, every sign of the murder that they had
done that they themselves might not be murdered and cast down to
And, its propeller no longer gripping the air, the aeroplane drifted on
at ever-lessening speed, until it had no way whatever and rested
without motion of any sort; as it might have been in the cup of some
mighty and invisible hand, held up to that stark and merciless light,
under the passionless eye of the Infinite, to await a Judgment….
Then, with a little shudder of hesitation, the planes dipped, inclined
slightly earthwards, and began slowly and as if reluctantly to slip
down the long and empty channels of the air.
At this, rousing, Lanyard became aware of his own voice yammering
wildly at Vauquelin:
"Good God, man! Why did you do that?"
Vauquelin answered only with a pale grimace and a barely perceptible
Momentarily gathering momentum, the biplane sped downward with a
resistless rush, with the speed of a great wind—a speed so great that
when Lanyard again attempted speech, the breath was whipped from his
lips and he could utter no sound.
Thus from that awful height, from the still heart of that immeasurable
void, they swept down and ever down, in a long series of sickening
swoops, broken only by negligible pauses. And though they approached it
on a long slant, the floor of vapour rose to meet them like a mighty
rushing wave: in a trice the biplane was hovering instantaneously
before plunging on down into that cold, grey world of fog.
In that moment of hesitation, while still the adventurer gasped for
breath and pawed at his streaming eyes with an aching hand, pierced
through and through with cold, the fog showed itself as something less
substantial than it had seemed; blurs of colour glowed through its
folds of gauze, and with these the rounded summit of a brownish, knoll.
Then they plunged on, down out of the bleak, bright sunshine into cool
twilight depths of clinging vapours; and the good green earth lifted
its warm bosom to receive them.
Tilting its nose a trifle, fluttering as though undecided, the Parrott
settled gracefully, with scarcely a Jar, upon a wide sweep of untilled
land covered with short coarse grass.
For some time the three remained in their perches like petrified
things, quite moveless and—with the possible exception of the
But presently Lanyard became aware that he was regularly filling his
lungs with air sweet, damp, wholesome, and by comparison warm, and that
the blood was tingling painfully in his half-frozen hands and feet.
He sighed as one waking from a strange dream.
At the same time the aviator bestirred himself, and began a bit stiffly
to climb down.
Feeling the earth beneath his feet, he took a step or two away from the
machine, reeling and stumbling like a drunken man, then turned back.
"Come, my friend!" he urged Lanyard in a voice of strangely normal
intonation—"look alive—if you're able—and lend me a hand with
mademoiselle. I'm afraid she has fainted."
The girl was reclining inertly in the bands of webbing, her eyes
closed, her lips ajar, her limbs slackened.
"Small blame to her!" Lanyard commented, fumbling clumsily with the
chest-band. "That dive was enough to drive a body mad!"
"But I had to do it!" the aviator protested earnestly. "I dared not
remain longer up there. I have never before been afraid in the air, but
after that I was terribly afraid. I could feel myself going—taking
leave of my senses—and I knew I must act if we were not to follow that
other… God! what a death!"
He paused, shuddered, and drew the back of his hand across his eyes
before continuing: "So I cut off the ignition and volplaned. Here—my
hand. So-o! All right, eh?"
"Oh, I'm all right," Lanyard insisted confidently.
But his confidence was belied by a look of daze; for the earth was
billowing and reeling round him as though bewitched; and before he knew
what had happened he sat down hard and stared foolishly up at the
"Here!" said the latter courteously, his wind-mask hiding a smile—"my
hand again, monsieur. You've endured more than you know. And now for
But when they approached the girl, she surprised both by shivering,
sitting up, and obviously pulling herself together.
"You feel better now, mademoiselle?" Vauquelin enquired, hastening to
loosen her fastenings.
"I'm better—yes, thank you," she admitted in a small, broken
voice—"but not yet quite myself."
She gave a hand to the aviator, the other to Lanyard, and as they
helped her to the ground, Lanyard, warned by his experience, stood by
with a ready arm.
She needed that support, and for a few minutes didn't seem even
conscious of it. Then gently disengaging, she moved a foot or two away.
"Where are we—do you know?"
"On the South Downs, somewhere?" Lanyard suggested, consulting
"That is probable," this last affirmed—"at all events, judging from
the course I steered. Somewhere well in from the coast, at a venture; I
don't hear the sea."
"Near Lewes, perhaps?"
"I have no reason to doubt that."
A constrained pause ensued. The girl looked from the aviator to
Lanyard, then turned away from both and, trembling with fatigue and
enforcing self-control by clenching her hands, stared aimlessly off
into the mist.
Painfully, Lanyard set himself to consider their position.
The Parrott had come to rest in what seemed to be a wide, shallow,
saucer-like depression, whose irregular bounds were cloaked in fog. In
this space no living thing stirred save themselves; and the waste was
crossed by not so much as a sheep track. In brief, they were lost.
There might be a road running past the saucer ten yards from its brim
in any quarter. There might not. Possibly there was a town or village
immediately adjacent. Quite as possibly the Downs billowed away for
desolate miles on either hand.
"Well—what do we do now?" the girl demanded suddenly, in a nervous
voice, sharp and jarring.
"Oh, we'll find a way out of this somehow," Vauquelin asserted
confidently. "England isn't big enough for anybody to remain lost in
it—not for long, at all events. I'm sorry only on Miss Shannon's
"We'll manage, somehow," Lanyard affirmed stoutly.
The aviator smiled curiously. "To begin with," he advanced, "I daresay
we might as well get rid of these awkward costumes. They'll hamper
In spite of his fatigue Lanyard was so struck by the circumstances that
he couldn't help remarking it as he tore off his wind-veil.
"Your English is remarkably good, Captain Vauquelin," he observed.
The other laughed shortly.
"Why not?" said he, removing his mask.
Lanyard looked up into his face, stared, and fell back a pace.
"Wertheimer!" he gasped.
The Englishman smiled cheerfully in response to Lanyard's cry of
"In effect," he observed, stripping off his gauntlets, "you're right,
Mr. Lanyard. 'Wertheimer' isn't my name, but it is so closely
identified with my—ah—insinuative personality as to warrant the
misapprehension. I shan't demand an apology so long as you permit me to
preserve an incognito which may yet prove somewhat useful."
"Incognito!" Lanyard stammered, utterly discountenanced. "Useful!"
"You have my meaning exactly; although my work in Paris is now ended,
there's no saying when it may not be convenient to be able to go back
without establishing a new identity."
Before Lanyard replied to this the look of wonder in his eyes had
yielded to one of understanding.
"Scotland Yard, eh?" he queried curtly.
Wertheimer bowed. "Special agent," he added.
"I might have guessed, if I'd had the wit of a goose!" Lanyard affirmed
bitterly. "But I must admit…"
"Yes," the Englishman assented pleasantly; "I did pull your leg—didn't
I? But not more than our other friends. Of course, it's taken some
time: I had to establish myself firmly as a shining light of the swell
mob over here before De Morbihan would take me to his hospitable bosom."
"I presume I'm to consider myself under arrest?"
With a laugh, the Englishman shook his head vigorously.
"No, thank you!" he declared. "I've had too convincing proof of your
distaste for interference in your affairs. You fight too sincerely, Mr.
Lanyard—and I'm a tired sleuth this very morning as ever was! I would
need a week's rest to fit me for the job of taking you into custody—a
week and some able-bodied assistance!… But," he amended with graver
countenance, "I will say this: if you're in England a week hence, I'll
be tempted to undertake the job on general principles. I don't in the
least question the sincerity of your intention to behave yourself
hereafter; but as a servant of the King, it's my duty to advise you
that England would prefer you to start life anew—as they say—in
another country. Several steamers sail for the States before the end of
the week: further details I leave entirely to your discretion. But go
you must," he concluded firmly.
"I understand…" said Lanyard; and would have said more, but couldn't.
There was something suspiciously like a mist before his eyes.
Avoiding the faces of his sweetheart and the Englishman, he turned
aside, put forth a hand blindly to a wing of the biplane to steady
himself, and stood with head bowed and limbs trembling.
Moving quietly to his side, the girl took his other hand and held it
Presently Lanyard shook himself impatiently and lifted his head again.
"Sorry," he said, apologetic—"but your generosity—when I looked for
nothing better than arrest—was a bit too much for my nerves!"
"Nonsense!" the Englishman commented with brusque good-humour. "We're
all upset. A drop of brandy will do us no end of good."
Unbuttoning his leather surtout, he produced a flask from an inner
pocket, filled its metal cup, and offered it to the girl.
"You first, if you please, Miss Shannon. No—I insist. You positively
She allowed herself to be persuaded, drank, coughed, gasped, and
returned the cup, which Wertheimer promptly refilled and passed to
The raw spirits stung like fire, but proved an instant aid to the badly
jangled nerves of the adventurer. In another moment he was much more
Drinking in turn, Wertheimer put away the flask. "That's better!" he
commented. "Now I'll be able to cut along with this blessed machine
without fretting over the fate of Ekstrom. But till now I haven't been
able to forget——"
He paused and drew a hand across his eyes.
"It was, then, Ekstrom—you think?" Lanyard demanded.
"Unquestionably! De Morbihan had learned—I know—of your bargain with
Ducroy; and I know, too, that he and Ekstrom spent each morning in the
hangars at St. Germain, after your sensational evasion. It never
entered my head, of course, that they had any such insane scheme
brewing as that—else I would never have so giddily arranged with
Ducroy—through the Sûreté, you understand—to take Vauquelin's
place…. Besides, who else could it have been? Not De Morbihan, for
he's crippled for life, thanks to that affair in the Bois; not Popinot,
who was on his way to the Santé, last I saw of him; and never
Bannon—he was dead before I left Paris for Port Aviation."
"Oh, quite!" the Englishman affirmed nonchalantly, "When we arrested
him at three this morning—charged with complicity in the murder of
Roddy—he flew into a passion that brought on a fatal haemorrhage. He
died within ten minutes."
There was a little silence….
"I may tell you, Mr. Lanyard," the Englishman resumed, looking up from
the motor, to which he was paying attentions with monkey-wrench and
oil-can, "that you were quite off your bat when you ridiculed the idea
of the 'International Underworld Unlimited.' Of course, if you hadn't
laughed, I shouldn't feel quite as much respect for you as I do; in
fact, the chances are you'd be in handcuffs or in a cell of the Santé,
this very minute…. But, absurd as it sounded—and was—the
'Underworld' project was a pet hobby of Bannon's—who'd been the brains
of a gang of criminals in New York for many years. He was a bit touched
on the subject: a monomaniac, if you ask me. And his enthusiasm won De
Morbihan and Popinot over … and me! He took a wonderful fancy to me,
Bannon did; I really was appointed first-lieutenant in Greggs'
stead…. So you first won my sympathy by laughing at my offer," said
Wertheimer, restoring the oil-can to its place in the tool-kit;
"wherein you were very wise…. In fact, my personal feeling for you is
one of growing esteem, if you'll permit me to say so. You've most of
the makings of a man. Will you shake hands—with a copper's nark?"
He gave Lanyard's hand a firm and friendly grasp, and turned to the
"Good-bye, Miss Shannon. I'm truly grateful for the assistance you gave
us. Without you, we'd have been sadly handicapped. I understand you
have sent in your resignation? It's too bad: the Service will feel the
loss of you. But I think you were right to leave us, the circumstances
considered…. And now it's good-bye and good luck! I hope you may be
happy…. I'm sure you can't go far without coming across a highroad or
a village; but—for reasons not unconnected with my profession—I
prefer to remain in ignorance of the way you go."
Releasing her hand, he stepped back, saluted the lovers with a smile
and gay gesture, and clambered briskly to the pilot's seat of the
When firmly established, he turned the switch of the starting mechanism.
The heavy, distinctive hum of the great motor filled that isolated
hollow in the Downs like the purring of a dynamo.
With a final wave of his hand, Wertheimer grasped the starting-lever.
Its brool deepening, the Parrott stirred, shot forward abruptly. In
two seconds it was fifty yards distant, its silhouette already blurred,
its wheels lifting from the rim of the hollow.
Then lightly it leaped, soared, parted the mists, vanished….
For some time Lanyard and Lucy Shannon remained motionless, clinging
together, hand-in-hand, listening to the drone that presently dwindled
to a mere thread of sound and died out altogether in the obscurity
Then, turning, they faced each other, smiling a trace uncertainly, a
smile that said: "So all that is finished! … Or, perhaps, we dreamed
Suddenly, with a low cry, the girl gave herself to Lanyard's arms; and
as this happened the mists parted and bright sunlight flooded the
hollow in the Downs.