LLEWELLYN V. HUGHES
FOR upwards of an hour they had remained motionless; the English setter, its head glued to a beloved knee, and the third ugliest man in the City; both graven in the twilight filtering through the tall, oblong windows of the library.
Ugly men, their spare time not being demanded by Society, usually grow rich. There was little need for Orth way's presence in Throgmorton Street, for his father had left him a fortune. Three months ago that fortune had enabled him to marry Cleo Ledyard.
Family acquaintanceship dating through centuries had figured but slightly in this astonishing transaction; Cleo, only beginning her twenties and animating Society with her beauty, was many years his junior.
It had been a surprise to him when her mother suggested that the girl could not be in better hands; he recalled how that confidence had confused him. The few times he had been alone with her were hours of self-consciousness, awkw a r d embarrassment; the girl, he felt, barely
tolerated him, and whenever absent from the sunshine of her presence he was only too willing to remove his ugly face. But Mrs. Ledyard insisted she was acting wisely and he had given way’. Never would he forget that morning and Cleo’s pathetic, single nod of acceptance; he came away feeling like an ogre, for his world, then, had suddenly’ turned into fairyland.
He supposed it had been arranged between mother and daughter, and, for his part, Daniel Orthway would not have brought himself to force matters. He questioned the wisdom of it; the lamb to the slaughter all over again. Yet, as it turned out, it became the final injunction of a dying woman, for Mrs. Ledyard passed away almost before they’ had reached Paris on their honeymoon trip. She had been a dear friend, but he was thankful that her sudden death ended the dilemma of a supposed honeymoon. Since then, he and his bride had remained in his house facing the park, and now, after three months, there appeared no prospect that his relations towards her would ever exceed those of a guardian. City men, he knew, feared him; but that dominating side, that forceful personality, would be strictly hidden from Cleo; there would be nothing in his manner or speech to cause her the least regret or fear. It had been a decision maintained only at the expense of his peace of mind, his physical well-being; yet he preferred that to the ignominy of frightening her. There was little possibility, he determined, of Cleo's learning to care for him, and, physically, he must be repulsive to her.
But now it was something else, something more acute. Gerald Meeking had dropped a hint, three months ago, on the eve of hi3 wedding. It had been the most delicate of veiled suggestions then, meaning nothing. This morning, however, on the steps of the Exchange, he'd had the audacity to inquire whether his prognostication, as he termed it, had been remembered. Short shrift the fellow would have received had he said another word; but Meeking was a smooth, clever gentleman, and a self-confessed friend.
The truth was, Orthway silently informed himself, he had no friends. If he excepted the dog at his feet, he was destitute of well-wishers. It wasn’t only for the sake of banter that he was called “the Great Dane.” Oxford had first tagged him with it because of his size and facial resemblance, and the name had stuck to him ever since. Now, at thirty-seven, he readily admitted he must look more than ever like a Dane; at least he wouldn’t contradict it; he rarely glanced in a mirror, anyway’, and certainly not for the purpose of verification.
Great Dane or Little Dane, they made a mistake in attributing to him a nature blunt and devoid of sensitiveness. Only God in Heaven, apparently, realised that even a Dane’s feelings could be ripped and torn to shreds. The very things with which he and his
ugliness were thought to have nothing in commonlove, refinement, children—were the exact things he longed for intensely.
WHY, he wondered in recurrent exasperation, had Cleo consented to marry him? She was not the kind who might sacrifice herself for a few millions. And yet, what other reason? Marriage! Well, it had hardly been that. For these three months he had seen her occasionally during the day and evening, and sometimes he had dinner with her alone; but never once had he put foot across the threshold of her room. In the beginning that hadn’t bothered him . . . then all at once, he began to love her, to worship her, with all the hidden, awful, and inarticulate love of a—of a Great Dane. Perhaps she had noticed it and was afraid of him. It was there to read. But—and for this he couldn’t blame her—on his face her eyes never dwelt longer than a passing moment; no woman, for that matter, over looked pleasantly on him, usually not at all aftjr the first spell for something absorbingly unattractive.
There was just one creature that found in him something on which to everlastingly and contentedly gaze: his dog! Hour after hour the setter would look up at his face as though in it he found never-ending beauty. Sometimes Daniel Orthway felt that the dog knew his innermost thoughts, and he had unburdened his heart, for sheer want of relief.
“It’s in my mind, Blimp; in my mind,” Orthway explained in a tone ranged only for the setter’s ears. “In here”—he tapped his chest—“I’m all right.”
The room responded with the beat of a tail on the
“I can’t, I daren’t, give myself up to these rumours. If I did I’d go to the devil. Like that!” He let his hand fall on the chair’s arm-rest.
“No, Blimp, it’s the tumult in my blessed head that’s doing the damage. In my heart I’m more at ease; she fills that so completely there isn’t room for anything else. And I’m not avaricious. I’m not one of those who wants to hog what he’s got. I’m content to know she’s in my house, to feel that this is where she lives, within the same walls, under the same roof; to know it’s my money that buys her every blessed thing to which she takes a fancy, clothes, jewellery, books, furs —anything; to appreciate that when she’s home she sits opposite me at the dinner-table; best of all to know she bears my name.”
“I lie awake up in that room of mine trying to think out what to do. I want her to be happy, that’s the
main consideration. It’s not a question of money, thank God; it’s only that she’s hungry to care for someone. Not me, d’yer see, I miss it by a thousand miles. Sometimes I feel sorry for her, too. She’s played her pari courageously, her blood’s at the back ,of her in that; but, of course, she can’t keep it up indefinitely.
“This Fitzgerald! Not a bad sort of fellow in his way, and I’m his friend, mark you. I’m perfectly willing she should have him here to dinner, go out with him, theatre, dance. At least, I was—within reason. I’ve introduced him at the Exchange, put him up for one or two of the clubs; I’ve been damned decent to the man.
“But he’s a bit of a name in the City. More of a ladies’ man—whatever that goes for; and it’s that, d’yer see, that’s bothering me. I suppose I ought to tell her. But I fancy she’d resent it . . .”
The distant sound ef the first dinner gong came to his rescue. Rising, Daniel Orth way mounted the broad, walnut-stained stairway and went to his rooms in the north wing to change. It was the eve of Cleo’s birthday, but he didn’t know if she would be in. He was, he admitted, rather afraid of meeting her, and this evening his conversation would be artificial enough for anyone.
Descending later, his heart quickened at the sound of the piano in the music room. Cleo, then, was at home. He wondered if Fitzgerald were with her, leaning over the piano as he had so often seen him.
The melody was strangely familiar, and he found it had some association with his honeymoon; their suite of rooms in the Chateau Laurier. He knew it was Chopin—a ballade, he chanced—for she had once informed him. Unfortunately, Orthway knew little about music; no ear for it; it was, most likely, an additional excuse for her preference elsewhere. Fitzgerald was up in such matters.
Cleo, he discovered, was alone. He came in, quietly, and seated himself. Resting his head on his hands, he listened. The clear-cut loveliness of her at the piano didn’t escape him, but he was unable to dwell upon it, for, seeing him, she rose and walked towards the diningroom door. This was one of her own rooms, and lacking her companionship he had often come here to enjoy what, in some inexplicable manner, was so remarkably characteristic of her: tapestries; a Grecian vase; the orange shawl draping the glistening Steinway.
“Shall we go in?”
Orthway followed, pushed in her chair, and sat opposite. Upstairs he had drunk liberally of the sherry, and thus fortified, he commenced hurriedly on his appreciation for the Chopin ballade, and more particularly for her interpretation. He then touched on the condition of the market and told her that shares, generally, were on the mend. She was not interested in this, and all too soon he relapsed, as he had feared, into a stupid reticence. Her occasional remarks, chiefly inquiries about household affairs, he replied to with a monosyllable, then came complete silence save for the moving of plates and silverware by the servants. He realised he was drinking mechanically, and put his hand over his glass when the butler attempted to refill it.
Finding Cleo’s eyes averted, he absorbed himself, in a dull complacence, in her colouring and vivid beauty. Daniel Orthway had never tired of wondering in what heavenly—sometimes he wanted to particularise it as diabolical—mould her arms and shoulders had been cast. She was still in half-mourning; black suited her immensely; against it her skin had the texture of satin. Proud and distinguished was her head, surmounted by wavy black hair which in the candle light appeared a deep blue, the exact colour of her çyes should she condescend to lift them. To be loved by such a woman would be a miracle.
She had been instructing the butler. Orthway, lost
in contemplation of her charm, hadn’t heard. Then she glanced quickly at her wrist, pushing back her chair. “I’m sorry. I’ve an appointment. Do you mind?” He bowed his head.
“I’d been hoping, Dan, that you’d have remembered,” she told him when the last servant had left them together, and they sat sipping their coffee. “It’s—it’s the eve of my birthday.”
“I suppose it didn’t occur to you that you might have—still, it doesn’t matter, does it? Don’t sit up— waiting, I mean. I shall possibly be rather late.”
Asking her, out of interest in her enjoyment, where she was going, Orthway was informed it was the Opera. “Fitz says it’s the last appearance of Jeritza. The Allans are going. It’s their box.”
He said, agreeably, “You might have had Fitzgerald up to dinner.”
Cleo laughed at that.
“Couldn’t. He went to the Allans. The fact was I told him I wanted to have dinner alone—with you.” Her shoulders rose in an almost imperceptible movement, and she turned to the door,
“Cleo . . .” She waited. “It’s nothing,” he decided. “Please finish what you were going to say, Dan.” “Nothing to interest you, Cleo.”
“Well—sorry. I really must go. I’m fearfully late as it is. Good-night.”
LATER, in the library, Orthway’s reverie was disJ turbed by a visitor. Gerald Meeking had, so he confessed, nothing much to do that evening, so he thought he’d run in on the Great Dane for a little chat.
“Good,” was the gruff and unwelcome comment. “Pinder, bring the decanter—glasses.”
“Hold on,” ordered Meeking. “Don’t worry about me; I’m carrying a full load as it is. Been at it all day.” The butler left them. “I’ll tell you, Dan. Fuller and I were talking things over this afternoon, and I felt it was up to me to let you know what’s going the round of the clubs; some inside information. You seldom appear there, so I thought——”
“Let’s have it.”
Meeking brought his manicured hand down on the table with no uncertain emphasis. “Why the devil don’t you boot that skunk Fitzgerald?”
“My God! man, I tell you it’s all over the town.” Dan Orthway was standing. “I don’t want an atom of your advice, Meeking, and you’d better tell them to keep their scandal-mongering out of ear-shot. D’yer see? And I mean what I say. Get me?”
The other was seemingly crushed.
“Well, you needn’t get mad about it.”
“I am mad. I’m fighting mad. And another word from you—or from any of ’em—and there’ll be some work with these knuckles.” Orthway’s ugliness was intensified. “Now, get out of here before I kick you out. Get out!”
Meeking did. Usually he preferred a leisured tread for which a walking-stick appeared a necessary if ornamental aid; he now displayed an agility that, at another time, would have been entertaining.
FOR a time Orthway didn’t move, then he rose on impulse and went through the conservatory out into the street. Crossing, he reached the park and wandered aimlessly; hands thrust deep into pockets, followed at heel by his dog, he tramped on until he found himself in an unfrequented grove where a small pond nestled under a fringe of azaleas. On a dark stone, croaking monotonously, was a bull-frog, a big fellow, with eyes the size of marbles, and with him Orthway inhaled the tranquillity of the night. Then, after an hour, the old frog rippled his pond with a downward plunge and was gone.
Orthway, too, returned to his home, and in the library he found Pinder in the act of laying a tablecloth and the requirements for supper.
“It’s madame’s orders, sir. About half-pas' e’even, she said.”
“Perfectly all right. Mr. Fitzgerald?”
“I think so, sir.”
“What time is it now?”
“A little after eleven, sir. Shall I lay for three?”
“No, no.” Orthway spoke dazedly. “But—-you
might bring me something—upstairs, Pinder. To my room.”
“Yes, sir.” The butler picked up an object from the table. “Your cigarette case, sir. You left it in your chair.”
“Thanks.” Orthway looked at it. It was the one
gift Cleo had given him. A wedding present. On it had been engraved, in her own handwriting: “Dan
Orthway: the Great Dane.” Then, in the lower corner: “From the Little Lamb.” He had once playfully called her by that name when she was in her teens, and it had been met with an amount of verbal objection. On his wedding day he had accepted the repetition as indicative of a submission to a mother’s wishes; an ingenuous, pathetic, and silent expression of her sacrifice; in all, a subtle message. Yet not for his fortune would he have parted with the gift.
Alone, he soliloquised on its sentimental value. More than once just lately he had come near making a fetish of the thing, addressing it as he~ longed but did not dare address its giver. He was about to slip it into a vest-pocket when a haunting whisper gave him an idea. Why not leave the cigarette case on the white cloth where Fitzgerald would be sure to notice it? It would serve a double purpose. The fellow would know it had been left there as a warning, a sentry; the situation, his highly probable questions, would then make him ignominious. And she, Cleo, would be reminded of its significance, what it meant.
Orthway placed it conspicuously, so that the table lamp caused its gold to scintillate; then he left the room.
Upstairs, he undressed, pushed away his untouched supper, and, enveloped in his dressing-gown, pulled at his pipe until it glowed with fire.
“We’re moping again, Blimp. It’s in my mind,” he repeated; “only in my mind. In my heart I’m all right about her. If I thought the fellow was giving her a moment’s anxiety I’d kill him with my bare hands; Lord! I shouldn’t talk like that. The man’s a gentleman, I reckon; she wouldn’t have him here if he weren’t. Ah! this suspicion, this Satanic jealousy! I either trust her, or I don’t—and by God! I trust her. That answers one question, doesn’t it?”
The tail began its tattoo.
“Anyway, the leaving of that cigarette-case downstairs may be reasonably excused. I didn’t like to do it; still there it is. Besides, Fitzgerald has no right coming here at this hour, and . . . But then, Cleo asked him, didn’t she?”
It was amazing, thought Orthway, how his mind settled first on one thing, then on another with increasing magnitude of distrust. Incidents which hitherto had not concerned him were now puffed out to an imaginative importance. How long he sat pondering in his chair he never rightly knew. Presumably between the hours of one and two he fell asleep from sheer mental exhaustion.
When he awoke he was lying, not in the chair, but
on his bed. It was morning. The light of day now flooded the room, and Orthway, still in his dressinggown, was compelled to rise and pull down the blinds. It was then ten o’clock.
He had been dreaming!
Half-awake, the dream came back to him with all its reality. Revolver in hand, he had left his room, crept along the corridor, gone on tip-toe down the stairs, and listened by the door of the library. Entering, he surprised a burglar preparing to leave; a short, thick-set fellow, whose face was distinctly memorable because of a livid birthmark on his cheek. Orthway’s re-action had been prompt.
“Put up your hands,” he had said.
The burglar complied, seemingly without hesitation.
“So that’s the game, eh?” he recalled having said to him. “I thought I heard a noise down here. Caught red-handed, aren’t you? Well, the telephone’ll settle you, my man. Keep up your hands!”
He went to the desk with the intention of calling the police, and the burglar commenced an earnest appeal for mercy.
“This is the first crib I’ve cracked, mister. I was passing along the street, thinking of sleeping in the park. The window was open so I thought I’d climb in. Then I w^as tempted by the sight of food. I’ve got a wife and two kids at home that hasn’t had a bite to eat in three days.” The workings of the man’s face portrayed great anxiety, and his eyes shone as with fever.
“Did you see anyone in here?” Orthway asked him.
“A lady and gentleman?” *
“The room was in darkness.”
Orthway looked at the table. There under the lamp was his cigarette case. At once his suspicion of Fitzgerald returned and was accompanied by a fierce hatred that in his conscious hours had remained undeveloped. He still held tîie telephone receiver to his ear, but his eyes were transfixed by the cigarette case.
“You want a chance, do you?”
“Please, mister. If you get me gaoled, my wife’ll die.”
“See that cigarette case?” There was no amazement on the man’s face. “I’ll let you off if you do me a favour.”
“I’ll do anything you say.”
“All right. Take that cigarette case, go to a Mr. Fitzgerald’s flat, and plant it somewhere in his rooms. I’d just as soon he served your sentence; he’d be out of my mind then. What do you say?”
“I’ll do it, sir. Where does he live?”
Orthway found a sheet of paper and a pen, and wrote, in plain, large handwriting, the address. “Do it right away. To-night.”
Lying on his bed, Orthway once again watched the man crawl through the window, close it behind him, and vanish into the night . . .
It had been a craven performance. The remembrance of its mechanical precision accused him of a mean, underhanded temper with cowardice predominating in his method of revenge. The very clearness of it made him cringe. Orthway, now fully awake, sprang from his bed and strode up and down the room while he lashed his conscience to scorn. There was no semblance of excuse for such a proceeding; it was foreign to every instinct he possessed. The fact that it had nothing to do with reality, that it had been only a dream, didn’t save him. Swiftly, Orthway went back over his University days, and on into the realm of his boyhood. Not once, he gladly saw, did such a degrading motive darken the picture; it was a clean picture, right through. With Fitzgerald, with any man, thank God, there was no need of recourse to subterfuge; a straight face to face meeting would suffice. His muscles grew taut, and he shivered. A cold shower happily removed part of his physical aversion, but Daniel Orthway’s morning interest was all on the side of curiosity.
E HESITATED at the foot of the stairs, cursed himself, then went determinedly into the library. A search failed to reveal his property, and Pinder was questioned.
“I cleaned up here early this morning, sir, and your cigarette case certainly wasn’t in the room. If you remember, I gave it to you last night.”
It was the morning of Cleo’s birthday, and the flowers he had ordered were everywhere in delightful profusion. Breakfast on Sunday was usually late to suit her, and he hoped that on this day of all days she would be down. He had not hoped in vain. In the breakfast-room Cleo was awaiting him, her filmy draperies the colour, almost, of her flowers. “Many happy returns of the day.”
Her eyes thanked him. “Your gifts were too lovely for words. I was horrid last night to suggest you had forgotten; you must have ordered my pearls at least a month ago. But it wasn’t for that—the presents; it was something else,” interrogating him steadily, she smiled. “And how did you know my favourite colour was mauve? That amazed me.”
“Ah!” Orthwav laughed. “A little deduction of mine during some of my lonely evenings here.”
“I can’t remember ever telling you,” said Cleo. “Anyway, you were not quite so exact in your appreciation of my age. In my necklace there is one pearl too many.” Continued on page 62
Continued, from page 19
“Twenty-five?” “Twenty-four.” He begged her pardon. “Perhaps,” she “even at
“Perhaps,” she hinted, “even at that your numerical estimate was a conservative one. Do I really appear so old?” Had the decision, he replied, been entirely left to him he would have purchased no more than twenty-two. Her mother--.
“Oh! I see. Mother! That was like her, poor, sweet thing. She was so anxious for you to marry me, Dan; she thought you’d shy at twenty-three. The wonder is she didn’t tell you I was twenty.”
HE ENDEAVOURED to change the subject, and tactfully inquired about the opera party. Had she enjoyed her evening?
“Very much. Jeritza sang delightfully and was deluged with flowers. Fitz, as usual, chatted incessantly, much to the Allans’ annoyance.”
“He’s really a dear thing, you know.
A little irresponsible, talky; apparently j he’s travelled extensively and knows j heaps of out of the way places; Alaska, j for instance. Last night he told me he feared you were beginning to dislike him.” “Why should he think that?”
“I can’t imagine.” She looked at him.
“I told him I thought you liked him very much.”
Orthway checked a frown. “Hardly that. I’ve no objection to him that I could put in a phrase; as a matter of fact, I haven’t the time nor inclination to cultivate his particular charm as you have done.”
This was the first occasion he had discussed Fitzgerald with her, and he could feel his blood mounting.
“I think he’s a dear,” she repeated.
He struggled for the control of his I feelings. “Yes, that’s what he is, all right. A dear! He needs a quantity of grit in him before he can be called by any other name.”
“I don’t wish to offend your particular j judgment, Cleo, and, as in other matters, | I may be wrong. However, whether or not Fitzgerald is anything of a man doesn’t concern me; I’m more interested this morning in the disappearance of my I cigarette case. The one you gave me, | three months ago. Last night I left it 1
on the table in the library. You didn’t happen to notice it, did you?”
Cleo couldn’t remember.
“Was Pinder about?”
“I told Pinder, during dinner, not to wait. How cross you are.”
“D’you mean to tell me that you and Fitzgerald sat down at that small table and failed to notice my cigarette case— your wedding gift, Cleo—right in front of your eyes?”
“Considering that I thought it too late for Fitz to come in, much as he begged for coffee, and that consequently I didn’t enter the library, perhaps you’ll forgive me?”
“Fitzgerald, then,” he asked, “didn’t come into the house last night?”
“He opened the door for me and we stood chatting in the hall for a moment. Then he left—for his club, I think he said.”
Orthway felt easier. “It’s strange about that cigarette case,” he intimated. “I wouldn’t care to lose it. Despite its motto, I value it.”
Her cup stopped half-way to her lips. “That’s rather surprising. I hadn’t a notion you ever looked at it. A motto, you said? I don’t understand what you mean . . .” She reconsidered his remark in the light of possible inference; then slowly shook her head. “It can’t be lost,” she told him. “Pinder must have put it away this morning.”
“Pinder,” retaliated Orthway, “can’t find it.”
“It’s probably mislaid. Really your interest and its sudden importance amuses me.” Cleo pressed a cluster of cool, delicately-coloured flowers against her cheek. “How adorable they are. So soft and velvety. I love them. Dan, I wish you’d tell me how you discovered my favourite colour was mauve?”
Something gave way in Orthway. Without apparent justification he wanted to break down, preferably by force of muscle, her tantalising reserve, her perfectly controlled voice. “I know many things,” he answered hardly; “many things, d’yer see. One is that Fitzgerald is not a fit companion for you. By Heaven! Can’t you see it in the fellow’s smug expression, his charming manner, his general conversation? It’s beyond me how you can put up with it day after day.”
Cleo was not looking at him now; she appeared absorbed in tracing a pattern on the table-cloth. There was little doubt, thought Orthway, that his brutality was hurting.
“I prefer charming manners to an almost total indifference.”
This, he surmised, amounted to what was practically an open confession of her regard for the man. It dismayed him, left him without the necessary determination, vigour, to continue.
“You might, at least, have done better for yourself, Cleo,” he said less aggressively. “I’m aware, of course, of your aversion for me; I’ve had ample opportunity during these last three months to make sure of that. It wasn’t unexpected. The message on your cigarette case warned me, and every now and then a few of our mutual acquaintances kindly pointed out the disadvantages of beauty and beast. I’m not blaming you, neither have I under-estimated your bravery— for I think it needed that in addition to the obedience due to your mother.
“But I’ve often wondered if you ever gave me credit for a certain respectful consideration? Evidently, three months ag9—your wedding gift—you were not quite sure I’d have much respect for your feelings.” Though this, he felt, had not wholly conveyed his meaning, he daren’t put it more clearly. “I’ve tried hard not to be jealous; that, I imagine, won’t interest you; but when you choose a companion like Fitzgerald it’s pretty difficult to keep silent. I’ll skip telling you of his record, for it’s not a pleasant one.”
CLEO hadn’t moved. He expected to find a penitent head bowed in humiliation; glancing up he was shocked to see he was being regarded by untroubled eyes.
“Anyway,” he continued, a little lamely, “I may not be the one to judge, and I’ll stand by you in whatever you want to do. I hope you’ll remember that, Cleo. I don’t want you to worry abouta blessed thing. Yesterday I took the liberty of transferring in your name enough to last you, independent of me; so you’re all right there.”
Pinder came in and began speaking to
him. “. . . . And he says he must see you immediately, sir. There’s two of them?” “Two what? What do they want?” “They wouldn’t say, sir. They look like detectives.”
Daniel Orthway rose heavily. Passing Cleo, he stood with his back to her chair. Turning slightly, he felt for her arm and touched it with his fingers. “I’m sorry, dear.”
OUTSIDE, in the hall, he was instantly plunged into an exciting and unexpected eventuality.
“Mr. Daniel Orthway?”
“Happen to have missed a gold cigarette case?”
“When was it last in your possession?” “Last night—about eleven-thirty.”
The detective produced the missing article from his coat pocket; eyeing Orthway in a penetrative scrutiny, he said: “This it?”
There was no need for examination. “That’s it.”
A card was shown. “Sorry, Mr. Orthway, but we’ll have to arrest you on suspicion.”
“Arrest! What for?”
_ “Mr. Fitzgerald was murdered last night in his flat. We found your cigarette case on the floor beside the body.”
“I warn you that whatever you say may be used as evidence against you. We have a taxi outside. You’d better comeat once.” Orthway’s exclamation of surprise, horror, had reached across the hall, and over his shoulder he saw Cleo standing in the breakfast-room doorway; in the streaming sunlight she appeared like a ghost of his dream.
“You’ve got it all wrong,” he told them in an undertone. “But I’ll go with you as far as the police-station.” He walked towards the street door, and the detectives followed; but Cleo, her breakfast-gown spreading, came flying towards them. “Dan! What is it? What is it?”
Orthway turned to the butler. “Pinder, call Mrs. Orthway’s maid. Now, Cleo, be brave. They’ve found my cigarette case in Fitzgerald’s flat, d’yer see, and—and—”
“What are these men doing here?” No one spoke; and going to Orthway she clutched his arm. “Please, Dan, what does it all mean?”
“It’s murder, ma’am! that’s what it means.” The man was heartless. Cleo screamed.
“Fitzgerald, dear,” explained Orthway. “Last night—so they tell me.”
Suddenly, miraculously, she was in his arms, and the shock of Fitzgerald’s death became insignificant by comparison.
“Of course it’s a lie,” she told him. “Oh, Dan! What can they do to you?”
“Nothing. Not a blessed thing.” He was shivering. “I’m ready,” he said to the detectives. “Mark you! I can clear this up at the station in about five minutes. My butler can swear I never left the house last night.”
“And this cigarette case?”
“I don’t know how it got there.”
All the agony and suffering in the world, he believed, was well worth that moment’s joy of gently breaking from Cleo’s arms. No man more happily rode in custody of the law to face a probable charge of murder. Conflicting emotions rendered his brain a veritable battleground wherein two forces, his dream and Cleo, continually fought for supremacy. In that, too, was he happy, for one always dominated the other.
THERE was little necessity for his appearance at the police-station. Some hours earlier the actual murderer had been caught with all the damning evidences of his crime upon him; a man named Thompson.
Daniel Orthway returned to a tearful though happy Cleo. They had both been to blame, she sobbed; but it was mostly Orthway’s fault. Never since their marriage had he taken the least interest in her. “You simply ignored me,” shesaid, “and I felt more like a Little Nuisance than a Little Lamb.”
“I didn’t think you cared, Cleo.”
“You never tried to find out,” was her complaint. “And I loved you, Dan, the day you proposed to me. You were just a Great Dane, and positively terrified; I remember you stuttered. Your nervousness, somehow, made me really care for you. Then I began to think I was mis-
taken, and that you’d married me just because mother begged you, because you’d known father and were sorry for us.”
“No, it wasn’t that.”
“Well, you never paid me any attention. Only twice—twice, mind you!—for I kept count—you called me dear. I tried every way I could think of to melt you; flirted, went about with poor Fitz—” She hesitated. “It was absurd of you to think I cared for him. And the message on my cigarette case wasn’t a warning. It was a confession. No, Dan, you’ve simply been a Great Dane, and nothing else.”
He tightened his arms about her.
“I loved you all the time,” she repeated; “and I don’t think I could bear it if I thought you actually doubted me.”
Orthway hardly trusted himself to speak.
“Dan! You didn’t, you couldn’t lose faith in me like that?”
“Of course not,” he said. “Whatever put such a notion in your dear little head?” Evidently it satisfied her. “Poor Fitz,” she said again. “It’s too awful to think about. I’m sure he never harmed anyone in his life.”
THEY arranged to go away, as soon as possible, to Switzerland. Their second, though first real honeymoon, she called it. But the day after Fitzgerald’s burial Orthway was interrupted whilst clearing up his office affairs by the news that David Hunter, of the firm of Hunter and Jenkins, his solicitors, was waiting to see him.
The white-haired but exceedingly active old solicitor, a friend of his father, lost no time in explaining the object of his visit. “The truth is,” he commenced in his thin, staccato voice, “Fitzgerald’s death has set people’s tongues wagging.”
“What exactly d’you mean by that?” Hunter considered his next sentence. “There’s a little rag in the City here,” he said, “that favours its clientele with some highly-seasoned literature, weekly. Its hors d'oeuvre on Friday had Fitzgerald, you, and Cleo for the principal ingredients.”
Hunter, in mock pretence, protected his ear-drums. “That’s nothing. I’ve already silenced them. I merely mentioned it to point out that people of your prominence
“I understand. It’s been my fault, Hunter. I’ve been a damned idiot, d’yer see. Go ahead.”
“I don’t see,” returned the older man. crisply. “I’d no idea that you and Cleo had been having a hard time of it till I read that confounded paragraph. In the first place, you shouldn’t have permitted Cleo to go about with Fitzgerald.”
Orthway was plainly aggravated. “Cleo and I,” he stated quietly, “are going to Switzerland to-night. Before we leave I’ll have read a funeral service over a late weakness of mine, listening to advice about my private and domestic affairs. Therefore, if you understand me, further courtesy along that line is wasted.”
“I didn’t come up here for that,” returned Hunter. “I came up to warn you about the indictment, to-morrow. Carteret is handling the case for Thompson, and, although the prisoner gave himself up to the police, he’s been advised to plead ‘Not Guilty.’ From what I gather there was another motive at the back of the murder. Fitzgerald had been stripped of his jewellery, but it was lying on the table. I’m told the trial will prove sensational.”
The old solicitor squared his high, bony shoulders and fixed a pair of lively black eyes on Orthway.
“If the situation is not one of deliberate murder—that is, if there’s any complication with regard to your, or more particularly Cleo’s, friendship for Fitzgerald— you are almost certain to be called as a witness.”
Orthway considered this.
“A moment ago, Dan, you informed me you’d been a damned idiot. I’d like—if only for the sake of your father before you—to prevent the exposure of that, if possible.” He waited in vain for Orthway’s retaliation, then dropped into a characteristic pose. “Now let’s see how we stand,” he said. “That cigarette case! How did Fitzgerald get hold of it?”
Daniel Orthway had no idea.
“Now wait, Dan. There’s an alternating display of anxiety and irritation flitting across your face. What’s it all mean?” “No more than this,” was the reply. “I’m worried about that cigarette case.” “Worried!”
“Well—puzzled. D’yer see, before going to bed that night I left the blessed thing in the library—where Cleo and Fitzgerald were to have had supper. Next morning I couldn’t find it. Then the detectives came and—”
“You don’t think Fitzgerald took it?” “I might have, except, that he wasn’t in the library. Cleo decided it was too late. After twelve.” Helooked away. “No, there’s another twist to this business, Hunter, of which you know nothing.” Branching off to an apparently new subject, he asked, incisively: “What’s this
Thompson fellow like? Have you seen him?”
“No, Carteret told me something about him.”
“Did he. . . .?”
“A little stumpy man, with a sort of blotch on his cheek—a birthmark or something—Why! what’s wrong?”
Orthway, his face ashen, had risen from his chair. “It’s true, then,” he whispered hoarsely; “it wasn’t a dream, after all! Good Lord! I see it clearly now. It actually happened. . . it actually happened.” He steadied himself, and went to the window. “Hunter, you were right in saying I’d be wanted. Thompson will have a pretty story to tell. Of the two, he’s the less to blame. Fitzgerald must have come in while he was there, and—” “For Heaven’s sake, man, what are you saying? Had you anything to do with this?”
“It looks that way, doesn’t it! At first I hoped it was just an ugiy dream.”
The elder man regarded him with some compassion. “Come,” he said, “give me the details of this business, will you?”
ORTHWAY sat down, and, beginning with his marriage to Cleo, went over every incident that had a bearing on his behaviour on the night of the murder. “I’d been suspicious of Fitzgerald for some time, there’s no use my denying it; although I lied about that to Cleo. I suppose it got to me finally—here.” He touched his forehead.
“Now, hold on a minute. You say you dropped off to sleep about one-thirty?” “About then.”
“And in the morning found yourself on the bed? Not in your chair?” Orthway nodded. “Still in your dressing-gown?” “Proof enough, isn’t it? I’d gone downstairs and found a man in the library. For some reason I conceived this damnable method of revenge, and after choosing a common thief to perpetrate it I contentedly returned to my room and flopped on the bed. I can’t imagine how it was I fell asleep again; but I did. In the morning I thought I’d been dreaming.”
“Ever walked in your sleep?” asked Huntep.
“Walked in my sleep?” Orthway reflected, then he said: “Never in my life, to my knowledge. What’s that to do with it, anyway? You don’t think a sleepwalker could do what I did, do you? WThy, Hunter, I forced Thompson into my scheme with the threat of turning him over to the police if he refused. I wrote out Fitzgerald’s address. How d’you think he’d have found the place otherwise?”
Orthway lay back and wearily closed his eyes.
“What on earth happened to me that night, Heaven only knows. It hurt me to realize that I’d even dreamed such a thing. The accumulation of my cursed and totally inaccurate suspicions forced this criminal into it, by God! at the point of a revolver. Yes, that’s what I did, Hunter. Literally drove him on—on to murder,” he groaned.
“You’re talking at random.”
“I’m telling you what happened. There’s not the slightest doubt but that I’m as responsible as Thompson.” “Rubbish!”
“Hunter, I put him up to it; I know I did.” He wiped away the perspiration from his forehead.
“You’ll get it all to-morrow, Hunter,” he went on. “Until then, I want you to do me a favour. I promise you I’ll not ask another. It’s this: Say nothing to Cleo. There are things I’ve got to put straight. I’ll telephone to her right away. Now don’t twitch your grey face in that way, Hunter; I’ve no other thought than that of standing up to what’s coming to me— to-morrow. If there’s any developments, let me know in the morning. But don’t come near me for the rest of the day. I want to be alone.”
A little later, using the telephone in his office, Orthway spoke to his wife. He was,
he equivocated, involved in an unexpected turn to his affairs that demanded all his attention, and, consequently, the indefinite postponement of their trip to Switzerland. This latter he regretted more than he could possibly explain, and he hoped she wou’d alleviate the misfortune by forgiving him.
Replacing the receiver afforded relief, separating him, so he thought, from disaster, and in preference to the risk of further discussion across the dining-table, he stayed in the City and returned only when Cleo had gone to her room.
AT MIDNIGHT there were engrossingly quiet moments, and Orthway gave himself up to introspection. Thoughts of Cleo stirred him until his chilled blood coursed more smoothly through his veins. Many years, he opined, might pass before he would again possess the especial liberty of this night; indeed, he might never possess it. Sentenced to a term of imprisonment, he could scarcely hope, under the extenuating circumstances of their marriage and his unattractiveness, for the sacrifice of Cleo’s youth; he wouldn’t, he argued, desire it; her beauty deserved a better frame than the sombre one of righteous loneliness.
He vacillated over his going upstairs, then, when he put out the light, decided, finally, upon his own room in the north wing. The house, anyway, was far too large. To pass her door on the excuse of accident was ludicrous. Instead, he spent half the night composing a letter which he intended leaving with Hunter. The trees in the park were gradually defining themselves against a grey sky when Orthway threw himself upon his bed.
HE SLEPT heavily, and was awakened only by Pinder’s continual banging on the door. “It’s Mr. Hunter, sir. He’s waiting downstairs, and wants to see you at once.”
It was, Orthway found very much to his surprise, almost mid-day. He dressed hurriedly, and at the foot of the stairs met Cleo. There was a pallor, a shadowing, in her cheeks, and a proportion of her beauty had flown. It was the expression in her eyes that pierced him; similar, he remembered swiftly, to a look in Blimp’s eye when for some misbehaviour he had punished him and the dog retaliated by licking his hand.
“I simply must know, Dan,” she said, with quiet determination. “Why don’t you tell me?”
Slowly, gently, Orthway gathered her into his arms and pressed his lips against her dark hair.
“Is it about Fitzgerald? His—death?” “Hunter’s waiting to tell me, I think. He arrived a few minutes ago.” He held her tightly just now, his heart pounding. “I’ll call you,” he said, as he released her and opened the door of the library.
The smoke rose tranquilly from two cigars, and, without rising, Hunter uttered an introduction.
“Mr. Philip Carteret.”
Orthway nodded curtly. Carteret, he saw, was a man under forty to whom a scrupulously clean and florid countenance, a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles, and a shiny bald pate lent an air of vast learning. He sat back, his elbows resting on the sides of his chair, surveying Orthway with the benign placidity of some great, wise Dodo.
“At eleven-thirty this morning,” began Hunter, “an hour when you were snoring in your bed, Thompson was committed for trial. It’s unlikely he’ll receive the maximum penalty.”
“Manslaughter. Ten years,” said Mr. Carteret, succinctly.
Hunter waved Orthway to a chair. “Before I proceed further, Dan, I’d like to know whether you still consider yourself an accomplice in the crime?”
“That, now,” was the impatient reply, “isn’t worth answering. Didn’t Thompson tell you this morning?”
“Thompson said nothing about it.”
“In which case he gave no reason for killing Fitzgerald?”
“Wrong again. He gave a full, lucid, and, to my mind, sufficient reason for bringing to a close the life of an unmitigated scoundrel.”
This puzzled Orthway. “What do you mean?”
Hunter glanced at his learned friend. “I’ve prevailed upon Mr. Carteret to come here and tell you what it all means,” he said. “Perhaps he’ll be kind enough to do so.”
The eminent lawyer removed, languidly, his cigar. “Last night Mr. Hunter interrupted a game of bridge in order to instruct me in a complication bearing on the case of my client, Thompson. It had to do with a dream, Mr. Orthway. I may tell you I was fascinated from the beginning. The most remarkable coincidence that ever came to my notice.” “Coincidence?”
“As I shall proceed to prove to you, sir.”
Mr. Carteret paused to observe the expansion of a blue smoke ring. “I had an interview with my client, and he verified your story, or rather the basis of your story, without the least hesitation, without the least concern.”
“In which event,” said Orthway, directing his remark at Hunter, ‘1 don’t quite see why Thompson—”
“Wait! Can’t you be quiet for a few minutes?”
ONCE more the renowned Carteret subjected his host to a profound inspection, then he said, very slowly:
“You certainly came down to this room on the night of the murder, Mr. Orthway; you certainly surprised Thompson waiting near that window; most certainly you gave him your cigarette case. But you did so while you were sound asleep!”
It was a contention which Orthway instantly discredited.
“Thompson says that? I don’t believe it!”
“What an obstinate fool you are, Dan.” “Perhaps it’s just as well. I’ll not shift the responsibility on to other shoulders. You’re dealing with the wrong man if you think you can save my neck at the expense of Thompson. There’s such a thing as justice; fairness; and I reckon it’s under my skin, gentlemen. Now, I’d be obliged if you’d tell me exactly what Thompson said this morning.”
“This is what he said,” declared Carteret, a note of annoyance in his voice. “About twelve years ago, he and his wife, together with Fitzgerald, went to Western America on a prospecting venture. Gold. Why Thompson took his young wife remains a mystery, but the fact that he did prefaced trouble and developed into a catastrophe for the three of them. Fitzgerald, it seems, became ill there and was nursed back to health by Mrs. Thompson. That probably began it.
“One day, Thompson found a big nugget. He didn’t tell Fitzgerald—but the woman did! A cold-blooded compact followed. They bound Thompson to his bed, set fire to the shanty, and escaped down the river. Luckily for Thompson, the flames snapped the rope that held him, otherwise he would undoubtedly have burned to death. The mark on his cheek is a souvenir of the incident.”
“The surprising thing to me,” interpolated Hunter, “is that a man like Fitzgerald can bury a deed of that enormity and wear an everlasting smile in the face of Society. The thought of him here with Cleo nauseates me.”
0 AHEAD,” muttered Orthway. “Two years ago, Thompson finally traced his wife to London. There she had died, abandoned, in filthy and abject poverty. He worked in the City until he could afford sufficient money to put a tombstone over her grave. Then—he commenced his search for Fitzgerald.
“On the night of your dream, Thompson, who has been hunting London high and low, caught sight of Fitzgerald as he came out of the Opera House. He followed him here, concluded this was his private residence and that Mrs. Orthway was his wife, then waited for an opportunity to get in and settle his account. He didn’t see Fitzgerald leave, and it was not until two in the morning that he forced an entrance into this very room.
“Groping for the door, he heard footsteps, and hoping it might be Fitzgerald he hid near the window. Suddenly the lights were switched on and someone opened the door.
“Instead of his enemy, he witnessed the entrance of a somnambulist; you, Mr. Orthway. Your eyes were open, your lips moved as though you were endeavoring to say something, and you stood there gazing at him without the least surprise.
“At first, he didn’t know what to make of it. He was, as you may guess, a desperate man, and had you awakened you might not be listening to what I have to tell you now. But sensing you were fast asleep, Thompson decided to remain
quiet. Suddenly, still looking at him, you spoke:
“ ‘Where is Fitzgerald?’
“Having sought Fitzgerald for several years and believing he had cornered him here, your question left Thompson completely bewildered. He threw all caution to the winds.
“ ‘Doesn’t he live here?’ he asked.
“Thompson says he realized at once that you were telling the trutù, and that in some way he nad blundered. He also realized that if he could get you to answer his questions he would quickly be on Fitzgerald’s track again. He decided to risk it. Thrusting his scarred face as near yours as he dared, he lowered his voice to a whisper.
“ ‘Where does Fitzgerald live?’
“ ‘Four, Fairway Mansions.’
“ ‘What street?’
“Then you went to the table, picked up a gold cigarette case lying there, and dreamily offered it to him.
“ ‘Take this case to Fitzgerald,’ you said.
“Without waiting for a reply, you walked out of the room, closed the door behind you, and plunged the library into darkness by means of the switch in the hall.
“Thompson didn’t stop to reason why you wished Fitzgerald to have the cigarette case. All he thought of was that it enabled him to present himself to his enemy. In a way of speaking, it was a key that should open all locks for him.
“He lost no time in getting out; and inquired from a passer-by the locality of Fairway Mansions. Arrived there, he found the name he wanted on the door. He rang the bell but could get no reply. Fitzgerald had not yet returned from his club, and going round to the back of the building, Thompson climbed up the fire-escape and got in by forcing the window. He installed himself in a comfortable chair and waited for the appearance of Fitzgerald. That gentleman returned about half-past three. When he turned on the lights he saw his onetime partner grinning at him over the barrel of a revolver.”
Carteret paused for a few seconds, and re-lit his cigar.
“I’m inclined to believe Thompson,” he continued, “when he says that had Fitzgerald been able to return him his gold nugget, or its equivalent in cash, he wouldn’t have used his revolver. Fitzgerald swore he hadn’t a penny he could call his own, and that infuriated Thompson. He compelled him to hand over his diamond cuff-links, studs, his watch and chain, and he was searching for other valuables when Fitzgerald, recovering part of his nerve, picked up a chair and swung it. There was a struggle, during which Fitzgerald was shot and killed.
“That’s what occurred, Mr. Orthway! Thompson, as you know, didn’t try to escape. He surrendered to the police. There was no necessity for trying to compromise you—as a matter of fact, he didn’t know your name—and he had, so he tells me, no intention of mentioning anything about his having entered your house. Revenge was sweet to him, and he took the law into his own hands.” Philip Carteret intimated he had come to the end of his story. “That’s all, sir.”
“I told you, Dan, you had walked in your sleep,” said Hunter.
ORTHWAY, without a word, rose and went outside. He didn’t return for several minutes, and when he did so Cleo was clinging to his arm.
“I’ve heard everything, Dan,” she said, “from the other room. The door was open.”
David Hunter laughed, and introduced Carteret. “Dan,” he joked, “Cleo ought to take better care of you.”
“I will in future,” she said.
When they were alone, Orthway held his wife very close to him. “Can you forgive me, Cleo?”
“Poor Dan! There’s really nothing to forgive.” Drawing down his head, her lips touched his ear. “I knew all along you had walked in your sleep that awful night.”
“You, Cleo!” He smiled at her. “I don’t see how you could have known it.” “You came to my room.” she whispered. “At first I was startled. You bent over and kissed me, then went out again.
I followed you and kept watch until you entered your own room in safety."