Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

11 erthygl ar y dudalen hon

Synopsis of Previous Chapters.


Synopsis of Previous Chapters. CHAPTERS I. and IT.—The story opens among oichids, and the central figure is Sir Clement Frobisher, an orchid fancier Hafid, his manservant, announces Paul Lopez, who has brought Frobisher an exceedingly rare orchid, which when strong in the orchid house bursts inlo bloom. It is the Cardinal Moth. When Hafid sees it he is like one demented, and cries oat to have it destroyed. Lopez bids Frobisher farewell as Hafid announces two more visitors, Count Lefroy and his secretary, Manfred but Frobisher postpones their visit till luncheon next day. Angela Lyne, Sir Clement's ward and I neice.comes to him fcr seme orchids. She attends Lady Marchgrave'a charity concert, and is after- wards one of the dinner guests. Her dinner partner is George Arnott.a would-be snitor whose claims are favoured by Sir Clement. She meets there Harold Denvers, her lover, but there is DO engagement between them, only an understand- ing. He presents her with a specimen of the Cardinal Moth. On her return home she lets herself in with a latchkey. She sees a strange man creeping towards the conservatory, whither she was taking her orchid. She follows quickly, but arrivine there she finds he has vanished. I Hafid confronts her and begs her to Take and burn it." CHAPTERS III. and IV.—Frobisher sees Count Lefroy and his secretary Manfred. Frobisher and Lefroy are fighting against each other to obtain some concessions from the Shan of Koordstan. Frobisher informs Lefroy that the Shan will dine with him to-night, which Le- froy determines to circumvent. Frobisher shows the Cardinal Moth to Lefroy, who is enraged be- cause he has lost it, and strikes Manfred on the mouth. Afterwards he reasons that his secretary could not have betrayed him, and apologises. They go to Manfred's rooms to discuss a plan of action for the dinner. Manfred reads out an account of the mysterious death of a man who was murdered in a greenhouse at Streatham while trying to obtain possession of some orchids. The Shan of Koordstan is sitting over his breakfast. The man ser/ant announces Harold Denvers. The Shan, who has a liking for him, informs him that Sir Clement intends to bestow Angela Lyne on George Arnott. He says Denvers cannot have the concessions, as he has pledged the Blue Stone of Ghan. Denvers says that he has ob- tained a specimen of the Cardinal Moth, and that he has placed it in a nursery at Streatham. Count Lefroy is announced. CHAPTER V.—Frobisher's luncheon party takes place. Manfred pleads sudden indisposi- tion, and retires. Count Lefroy insults Lord Saltcur. They wrestle together, but are finally parted. Explanations follow, and the matter is smoothed over. Hafid discovers the body of Manfred lying on the floor of the conservatory- quite dead. Hafid is beside himself with terror, and murmurs, Take it and barn it, and destroy it," over and over again. Frobisher seeks Leiroy: and for once the veil of diplomacy is drawn aside, and they speak heart to heart. Frobisher gains the victory in this war of words. The gueatj depart, iind Frobisher tries to shake sense into Hand. Angela, who has been aroused by the commotion, comes to Sir Clement. He gives her so mnch information as be deems wise. and then dismisses her. Angela seea Harold Denvers creeping from bush to bush in the garden. He tells her it is a matter of life and death, and she lets him in. CHAPTERS VI. and VII.—Sir James Brown- amith and Inspector Townsend discuss the mur- der of Manfred, and compare it with the murder of the other man at the Streatham nursery, which was almost similarly done. They agree that both victims have been destroyed by Thugee. The cord nsed is in both cases identical—Manilla rope. Sir Clement is sitting up late over his pipe. His servant Hafid comes to him. He is silly with terror,and keeps on muttering, Take it and burn it, and destroy it." Frobisher abuses him roundly, and then dismisses him. He hears somebody moving in the house, and guesses it is Angela. His surmise is correct. She meets Harold, who tells her that he wants that spray of the Cardinal Moth. She gives Harold an account of the night's events. This determines him all the more to regain possession of the Car- dinal Moth. Harold ciragahafid-outfrom-the shadows. The man-servant says he has come-to warn his mistress that Sir Clement is on the alert and is lookiug for his slippers. They both implore Hafid to turn the key on him. He hastens to obey, while Angela leads the way to the conservatory. Denvers mounts the steps, and detaches a spray of the Cardinal Moth, but in so doing his arm is gripped as in a vice, and roTird bis wrist the flesh is cut to the bone. CHAPTER VIIL The Weaker VesseL bike most men of his. class, Frobisher had 1ft perfect knowledge of the art of using others. To study their weakness was always the first stage of the game, and therefore in an early Btage of their acquaintance, the little baronet learnt the fact that Paul Lopex was criminally extravagant with his money. How Lopez got rid of it Frobi- sher neither knew nor cared, the weakness paid, him, and there was-an end of it. Lopez and Rancid left the place together. i Therefore Frobisher paid his henehman liber- ally. There was no generosity about it, nothing bat policy. That was the secret of Lopez's life, and beyond that Frobisher never attempted to penetrate. Perhaps he knew that Lopez must not be poshed too far. Paul Lopez had contented himself with the zesnlt of his labours for the day. He was a plain, simply dressed man himself, and gave no sug- gestion of a liking for the luxuries and good things of this life. All the same, he was seated now at a most perfectly appointed table, clad in most immaculate evening dress, and looking across a table in the centre of which was a verit- able bank of flowers. Two opal electric swans floated upon what was meant to resemble a miniatare lake, and these gave the only light to the dinner table. The dining-room was small, but exquisitely furnished, for Lopez had a pretty taste that way. There were no servants in the room now, for coffee had been served, and Lopez was leaning back with the air of one who had dined wisely and well. On the other side of the table a girl sat. She was slight and fair, with a pretty, petulant face, the spoilt look not in the least detracting from her Grease-like beauty. Here eyes were the eyes of a woman, and her expression that of a child. Lopez called her simply Cara-not even his most intimate acquaintances knew her other name-an she was popularly supposed to be the child of some dead and gone friend. No daughter had ever had more care and love bestowed upon her than Cara, she was the one soft spot in Lopez's life. Perhaps she cared for him in a way; perhaps she had come to regard him and all these luxuries as a matter of course certainly it was that Cara lacked nothing many times when Lopez had to go without. There was a queer, half-ashamed look on his face now, as he pulled at his cigarette. Cara bad been scolding him, and be looked like a de- teeted schoolboy. You have been gambling again," she said, sharply. Why do 70a do it ? You would be a rich man by this time if you would only let those wretched cards alone. And you always lose. Yon are so headstrong and rash, you seem to lose your senses over the card tables. And you distinctly promised to take me to Pan this year. Lopez admitted the fact with a sigh. No- body else under the sun would have dared to speak to him aa Cara was doing at this moment. It never occurred to him to suggest that Cara might be doing something for a living. He had promised her a good time at Pan,instead of which be had been gambling,and had lost all his money. No trouble at all getting cash," he mur- mured. Cara crashed a grape between her white, stung teeth. That sonnds very pretty." she said. But I have had no money for a week and some of the tradespeople are beginning to ask about their books. If I am to be worried I shall go away. Did yon get those tickets for the opera to-morrow night ?" Lopez nodded. He bad not forgotten them in fact he never forgot anything of that bind. He looked furtively at the clock, and Cara sighed. "You are going out ?" she demanded. Which means that I am to have a long dull evening Fit home. I am sick of these long dnll evenings at home." How long since you had one ?" Lopez asked. good naturedly. My dear, there are few girls who have as good a time as you. And business must be attended to. I have to go out for a little time,but I shall be back by eleven o'clock. And when I come back I'll take you to the Del. grave to supper." A little smile broke out on Cara's pretty petulant face. Already she was debating in ber mind what dress she should wear. When Lopez made a promise of that kind he always fulfilled it. Cara rote and gave ber guardian a loving I embrace. She smiled engagingly as she lighted a cigarette for him Theu be off at once," she cried, and then you will have no excuse for being late. It will save time if I meet you at the Belgrave. Yon are to get that little table opposite the door for 10.45. And you will wait for me in the corridor." Card, issued her commands in the most im- perial way and Lopez listened meekly. He had been used to command and make use of men all his lifetime, bat he never rebelled when Cars. was concerned. He passed into the road leading to Regent's Park presently and hailed a passing hansom. In the course of time he was set down at the corner of Greenacre-street. At little way down that quiet dignified thoroughfare he stopped and took a latchkey from his pocket. The door of the house where he paused was closed, a feeble light glimmered over the fan, everything looked most quiet and respectable and decorous. In the hall was an umbrella stand, two carved oak chairs and a Turkey carpet. Beyond it was a dull baize door, and beyond that an inner hall magnificently turnished. A gorgeous foot- man took Lopez's hat and coat, and he proceeded to make his way up the marble staircase. There were more baized doors, and as Lopez paused the murmur of voices grew louder. Lopez come at length to the magnificent double drawing-room, where the electric lights were low and dim under crimson shades, and where a score or two of men were gambling. There was a roulette table, which was well patronised with tables for other games. There was no laughter or badinage, from the players' facss the stakes were evidently high indeed, the proprietor of the Spades' Club looked with a cold eye upon the gambler who preferred moderate stakes. The place was com- paratively new, and as yet the police had no idea of its establishment, and only a favoured few knew where heavy plav was to be found. Lopez helped himself to an excellent cnp of coffee and a liqueur, and stood smoking placidly and waiting for a chance to join the roulette table. Most of the men round were well known to him as gieat lights in the world of fashion, who were killing an hour or so after dinner before proceeding to one social function or another. They would most of them return in the smaJI hours. Another man was waiting, a little lithe active man who suggested the East. His dress was quite modern and Western, but his dark eyes and dusky skin told their own tale. Lopez gently touched the spectator on the shoulder, and he turned round sharply. Haven't you been playing at all ? Lope." aaked. I had my turn," the othci man said. I'm dead out of luck, Lopez. I shall have to help I myself to some of my maker's jewels if this goes on." Only unfortunately be of Koordstan has already anticipated you," Lopez laughed. You will have to think of a better plan than that, Hamid Khan." Kamid Khan smiled sourly. On the staff of the Shan and sent overon a secret political mission, the dark-eyed man was a deadly enemy of the man he called his master. He had all the vices and extravagances of his imperial employer and he would have done anything for the where- withal to carry on the campaign. Lopez and he had been more or less friends for many years, and many a piece of 3bady business bad they transacted together. The Shan is hard up 1" Lopez suggested. The Shan is at the end of his resources," Hamid Khan growled. Of course, it is always possible for him to raise money on those con- cessions. But for the present he's what you call bard up. Still, he's not without brains, and be may be worth backing." If I were yon I should back him for all he is worth," Lopez said, as he thoughtfully watched the rolling marble on the roulette table. I know that you are in the opposite camp and that you have elected to throw your lot in with what is calle3 the progressives in Koordstan. But the man you want to make Shan is a friend of Russia. and the English government may not stand it. Besides, the present Shan is no fool, and I happen to know that he is well advised here. If you can, get a grip on him." Oh, I've got the grip fast enough," Hamid Khan said moodily. Perhaps I should like to do what you suggest, but I'm too deeply-plunged to the other side now. I am forcing the old man's hand now 1 came over on purpose. The Blue Stone Lopez suppressed a little cry. He affected not. to be listening. If you will favour me with your attention," Hamid Khan said stiffly. My dear fellow, I beg your pardon. But red ;has tnrned up ten times in succession, and I was ^counting up the theory of chance. Do you mean 'to say the Shan has sold the Blue Stone ?" It was cleverly done, and the shot was an ad- mirable one. Hamid Khan fell into the trap at once. The Shan's not quite such a fool as that," he said. If be did that and the fact became public property he wouldn't be on the throne for a week. But I happen to know that he hasn't got the stone at present, and I'm going to work that fact." Lopez listened to all Hamid had to say, indeed he went further and made several sug- gestions as if he bad been advising a friend in the most disinterested manner possible. At the same time he had leamt a valuable piece of news, and he was trying to find some way to use it to the best advantage. There came a gap in the table presently, and Lopez changed a hand- ful of notes into counters. These notes were all the money in his possession, but the fact troubled Lopez not at all. Once the gambling fever possessed hin common sense went to the winds. He played on for some time with varying suc- cess, everything else forgotten. He was fairly temperate at first, but the fever began to turn in his veins, and he started gambling iu earnest. Surely it was time for black to have a turn after so marvellons a run of the ted. But according to scientific authorities this is nothing to go by, and the chances are quite equal even after a record run, and the end of an boar saw the last of Lopez's gold-lettered counters swept with a careless movement into the clutches of the bank, and he rose with a sigh. The proprietor the club, a tall man, with the bland air of a cabinet minister, came up to him and proffered bis condolenses. Lopez lighted a cigarette with a steady hand. I thought you were playing very well," the proprietor said. Nobody playsvery well at this game," Lopez said with a smile. There are some of England's best intellects gathered here well knowing that the odds are on the bank. And yet such is the egotism of the human nature that every indi- vidual expects that he is going to be more for- tunate than his fellows, and get the best of a dead certainty. My dear Bishop, if it came to a battle of wits between you and myself, the disaster to you would be great. And yet we come here and you grow richer and richer at our expense." If a small cheque is any good?" the other insinuated. It would go the same way. Besides, I can- not stay to night. I have a call elsewhere. I am taking a lady to sapper at the Belgrave, where unhappily they give no credit. In the temporary insanity of the moment, I have gambled myself dry. A JE5 note The note was immediately forthcoming, with an urgent request that Lopez would take what he liked. He took a further note, and rammed it carelessly into his pocket. Hamid Khan rose at the same time from the other side of the table, his dark eyes gleaming. He helped him- self somewhat liberally to champagne from the side table. Yon also, my friend." Lopez laughed, Let us depart and console ourselves upon the road. If you have not anything better to do walk with me as far aa the Belgrave. I can's ask you to join me, because it is my privilege to be sup- ping with a lady there. Come along." They passed presently into Piccadilly, and from thence by degrees through Grosvenor- snaare. A great party was going on in one of the big houses there, and the road was blocked with carriages. The lights shined on many lovely women, and Lopez carelessly admired them. There was one lady in a brougham alone, a tall woman with a wonderfully regular face and black hair glowing with diamonds. My word. but she is lovely, Hamid Khan exclaimed. Who is she ? Looks English, but there is a decided suggestion of the East about her." A wonderful woman," Lopez said. Unless I am greatly mistaken she is going to be one of the big sensations of the world here. She is the wife of Aaron Benstein, the financier. The old chap is in his^dotage now, and, of course, she married him for his money. As a matter of fact Lopez broke off saddenly, he was going to say that he had known IVlrs Benstein pretty inti- mately at one time, but there was no reason to tell Hamid that much. The block of carriages broke up at once, and the dazzling beauty with the diamonds in her hair was gone. I know the name of Benstein," Hamid said. He is the old man whom the Shan has had so many dealings with lately. I shouldn't won- der-" It was the tarn of Hamid to break off sud- denly, and Lopez smiled. Under the big portico of the Belgrave the curiously assorted couple parted. Lopez lingerea a moment to finish his cigarette. In an ordinary way he watched the well-dressed crowd flatter up the steps. By no means a bad night's work," he mut- tered. rve picked up a piece of priceless in- formation. at least I hope so. Unless I am greatly mistaken my dear little Cara ia going to ruffle it with the best of them at Pan yet." CHAPTER IX. A Word to the Wise. A soldier of fortune like Lopez was not easily elated by the unilei of the first goddess, but he felt on very good terms with himself as he stood there finishing his cigarette. Moat of the people I who passed ap the flight of marble steps were familiar to him, and Lopez amused himself by marking them off one by one. He was in an I indolent mood now, but his glance grew brighter aa a smartly appointed brongham drove up and a lady alighted. She had no covering to hex marvellous dead black hair, though her dress was hidden by a. long wrap. She was quite alone, I her air wae absolutely self-possessed as she looked around her. As she came up the steps she became conscious of Lopea's presence. j She smiled in a slow, languid v and half held out her hand. One always meets ou in uuexpeotsd places," ahe The jS,Et time we came together the conditions were very differ- ent to these," That is quite true, Isa," Lopez said gravely. Mrs Benstein. if you please," the woman -aid, with not the faintest trace of annoyance in her tones. The smile was almost caressing. '■ We had better observe the proprieties. Do you :;rnembar the last time we met, Paul Lopez?" Lopez bowed gravely. His mind had travelled back a long way. He had never forgotten the marvellous beauty of this woman it seemed strangely heightened by the dress and the dia- monds. You were not Mr3 Benstein then.~ he said. No. My ambitions did not De in that direc- No. My ambitions did not De in that direc- I tion. I had no liking for a fortune ready made. I always made up my mind to carve out one for myself. But since then I have learnt how hard it is for a woman to do so." The gieat dark eyes grew thoughtful for a moment, then the woman laughed. 1, We are all puppets of fate," she went on. even the strongest of us. I am a philosopher, or at least I imagine myself to be one, so it comes to the same thing. I am tired of the con- templation of my splendour, so I am going to make use of it. I shall go into Society.' 1 am quite sure you will go anywhere you please," Lopez said. Yes," the woman spoke asif it were a matter of course. To- morrow I begin. The wife of Aaron Benstein, the money-lender. How they will sneer ani mock at me." And how they will envy you iron' 'he bottom' of their shallow hearts." Mrs Benstein laughed as she walked up the shallow steps. That will give salt to the dish," she said. I came here to-night becanse I was tired of my own company. Let us sup together and talk of old times." Lopez was desolated, bat he had to decline. There was a girl waiting for him here, a simple girl who was not used to this kind of thing. It seemed dreadfully rude, bat Mrs Benstein would have to excuse him. The woman with the dark eyes smiled meaningly." 44 As you will," she said. Then I will sup alone, and study human nature uninterrupted. Good-night." They could see her speaking in an a..gry manner to Mrs Benstein. She passed on to the grand salon where the band was playing, and hundreds of soft shaded lights played upon banks of flowers and on the jewels that glittered there. Cara had secured her favourite table, and was busy looking over the menu when Lopez came up. I began to think that something had hap- pened," the girl said. I feared-lest you had gambled all your money away." So I did as a matter of fact," Lopez said, coolly, as he unfolded his serviette. I had to borrow XID for the supper. But you need not fear-the information I got was worth the price. Now let me see what there is to eat." "Tell me what you have discovered," Cara de- manded imperiously. "That I shall not do,my child,"Lopez replied, [, Suffice it is that you have the benefit of my labours. Besides, it all refers to a closed chapter in my life. I have fonnd a way to put money in my purse, so that you will ruffle it with the best of thern at Pan." Cara smiled contentedly. She finished her meal presently, and then she had time to study the other gaests. It was always a fascination to her to try and read the history of other people. As a rule her guesses were fairly shrewd, and when she was wrong Lopez corrected her. Who are those people at the third table ,she asked. The man looks like a gentleman he might have been in the army. But there is a certain fierce swagger about him that tells a atory. There is a man who is rather cold shouldered at his clubs, his wife is pretty, but shallow, and not at all too straightforward. The boy with them is dreadful. Probably rich, though." Lopez smiled as he lay back in his chair. You are correct," he said. That is Colonel Fairford and his wife. They are the hero and heroine of that Lawton Lodge diamond scandal. Of course nothing was ever proved, but we have our ideas. The Colonel sticks to his clubs, but he has had a bad time there, and nobody will play cards with him. The young man comes from Australia. He is rich at present, bnt the Colonel will see that he does not long remain troubled with superfluous cash," A gratified little smile played about the cor- ners of Cara's month. "If the worst comes to the worst, I can call myself by a fancy name and turn palmist," she excliiiused. We are very clever people, you and I On the whole the people here to night are not particularly interesting. Who is the lady with the glorious diamonds ?" Cora indicated Mrs Benstein, sitting all alone, self-possessed and languidly interested in all that was going on around her. The recently married wife of Aaron Ben. stein, the great financier," Lopez explained. Tha old man is more or less in his dotage, and they say there is nothing that be will not do for bij, beautiful wife." The diamonds are absolutely superb," Cara said. "Why should they not be ? Benstein is sup- posed to have two-thirds of the jewels of society in his charge at one time or another. That is the way in which your high dame raises the wind, most of those stonej are kept at Benstein's own house. Doubtless his wife knows all about them. Then, if she wishes to wear this or that precious gem, why shouldn't she ?" Cara laughed merrily. Mrs Benstein seemed to fascinate her. It is no bad thing to be the wife of a great financier," she said. Those diamonds and emeralds together are absolutely superb. Who was Mrs Benstein ?" Lopez was understood to say that she was a brilliant mystery. Nobody quite knew where she came from, and nobody cared. But she was rich and beautiful and clever and if she made up her mind to play the game of society, nobody could stop her. All this Lopez explained as he sipped his liqueur. Cara took Mrs Benstein in steadily. She would make a good enemy," she said. Who is the vulgar woman who is having supper with that handsome man with the red beard ?" Oh, that is Lady Beechmore," Lopez ex- plained. "Beechmoreisamanofgood family, he has a good name and his career as a soldier was an honourable one. There are phases of human nature that beat me entirely, Cara. A case like that makes me feel how little I know. Lady Beechmore was on the variety stage, with nothing piquant about her but her vulgarity. She is plain, she is horribly made up, and yet Beech- more married her." Is he a rich man ?" "As things go. yes. He is one of the peers who has enough for his wants and a little to spare, as the old song has it. Why did be marry her, Cara ?" Cara. admitted that the problem was beyond her. Lady Beechmore was vulgar enough in all conscience. She talked loudly and she drank a great deal of champagne. She was extravagantly dressed, but she wore no ornaments which was unusual in a woman of her class. She ought to be smothered in stones," Cara said. Bridge," Lopez explained sententiously. Lady Beechmore is one of the most reckless gamblers in society. Probably that is why she is tolerated in good houses. Everybody knows what a gambler she is, except her husband. If I were to hazard a guess I should say that the Beechmore jewels are all in the possession of Aaron Benstein." Cara nodded. The salon was gradually getting empty. Lord Beechmore said something to his wife who shook her head and then he sauntered slowly from the room. Laiy Beechmore looked across to the seat where Mrs Benstein was re- clining and her coarse face grew red with anger. By some kind of magnetic influence the eyes of the two women met and the former rose. She crossed over to Mrs Benstein's table, a few low words followed before Mrs Benstein rose also. Her eyes were flashing and her breast was heav- ing. She made a motion towards the jewels in her hair and then seemed to change her mind. A few of the low angry words reached Lopez's ears. A sardonic smile was on his lips. A curiouB coincidence," he mattered. She is actually wearing Lady Beechmore's diamonds. Well, the information should prove valuable. I'll go and see Frobisher to-morrow. The mere hint of what can be done should be worth 15()0." What are you muttering about ?" Cara asked impatiently. Take me home, I'm tired of all this light and glitter. Sometimes I wish that I had never left the country. All the same I would give a great deal to know what those people are talking about." (To be Continued.):


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------------.-....---... BARDDONIAETH.

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