There's No Such Word
The path of Romance leads to a state secret, and a weapon in hand becomes a perilous possession
The story: Motoring into the South American republic of Sao Pedro in search of adventure, the Honorable Larry Odell catches sight of Senorita Daryl Forsythe, beautiful stepdaughter of Areal Pacheco, President of the republic, as she is driven past him in her luxurious car, and falls instantly in love with her. He learns that she is to be married in a few days to Clive Lattimer. a wealthy and elderly English resident, nevertheless he resolves not only to meet her but to marry her. In his philosophy there is no such word as “impossible.”
Surreptitiously puncturing the tires of her car, Larry persuades Daryl to let him drive her home. She laughs at his declaration of love. Larry is such an engaging talker, however, that when they reach the Palace Daryl introduces him to her father.
Larry tells President Pacheco that, despite all obstacles, he means to marry Daryl. He is first laughed at and then warned that Sao Pedro may become a dangerous country for him to live in.
Meanwhile Daryl, who does not love Lattimer but intends to marry him because her father wishes it, contrasts her elderly and sombre admirer with her young and dashing one, to the latter's advantage. She resolves not to permit Larry to see her again because such meetings are detrimental to her peace of mind.
Frustrated in an attempt to “crash” a ball, Larry inveigles Daryl's chauffeur away, knocks him insensible, dons his uniform and drives Daryl from the ball. When he discloses his identity Daryl gasps and refuses to utter a word, and Larry remarks pleasantly that in a motor car she always appears to be unsociable.
NOW if Larry had fumed up at the dance, it is just possible that Daryl might have been casually kind to him, but this kidnapping was another matter. Anger outweighing surprise, Daryl went down on her knees and wrenched back the sliding screen of glass that separated them.
“What does this mean?” she demanded. “Answer me. What does it mean?”
Her head was close to Larry’s, and it seemed to him that the air had been filled with a subtle perfume. He sniffed it luxuriously with open nostrils and half dosed eyes.
“That scent of yours is like an English hedgerow,” he said. “Stop at once. I order you.”
“Sorry, lady, but I don’t know how. I’m a stranger in these parts myself.”
It was bad enough his having dared to carry out this exploit, but to add to that the offense of being funny was more than Daryl could stand.
“Don’t laugh,’’ she cried. “You can’t do things like this. You can’t
“But I have,” he said.
“And I do wish people wouldn’t keep telling me that I can’t do this and that, when all the time it’s quite easy. No trouble at all as a matter of fact, and so pleasant.”
Daryl bit her lip and simmered: “Where’s François?”
“He was sleeping like a babe when I left him.”
“He gave you those clothes?”
“‘Gave’ is hardly the word, but then I always think there’s more satisfaction in talcing what one wants rather than standing around hoping for it.”
Daryl didn’t trust herself to reply, and was given little opportunity, for his pleasant voice ranged on:
“Besides, we’d arranged to meet tonight, and I couldn’t very well disappoint myself, could I? No. Of course I
couldn’t. You wouldn’t have me disappoint myself, would you? Just so. Of course you wouldn’t.”
“Oh, be quiet,” said Daryl. It is strange that her next remark should have been indirectly concerned with his welfare. “If Pacheco ever hears
“He will. He can’t fail to,” said Larry. “After all, poor François is still alive. I did him no permanent injury.” Daryl swallowed twice. It really wasn't conceivable that anyone like Larry could exist. They just didn’t happen, that was all there was to it. There weren’t any such people; so it was no good being angry. She shut her eyes and told herself that François was driving her back to the presidency, and that in a little less than four days she would be the wife of Clive Lattimer. But when she opened her eyes it was to see that the car had passed the turning which led to her home.
"You don’t know what you’re doing,” she said. “Oh, yes I do,” Larry answered. “I’m taking you for a drive to the Botanical Gardens.”
Her voice pitched a note up the scale.
“You’re not to. I forbid it.”
But the warning came too late. They had already reached the gates.
“Hold tight,” he warned.
The car heeled over sharply as he turned the comer, throwing Daryl into a heap on the floor.
“Beast!” she said, as she sat up and rubbed her elbow.
“I’m a little hard of hearing,” said Larry.
Once again fury surged up in Daryl’s bosom, and she spent the next few moments searching the back of the car for a weapon. The search was unrewarded, for even the space under the seat cushions failed to produce anything harder or more lethal than a few tire patches.
Larry watched her activities in the reflector on the windshield.
“I’m sitting over the spanners,” he said. “I sort of guessed surprise might turn to violence.”
His guess proved accurate, for Daryl beat her closed fists on the top of his cap. Unfortunately, since the roof of the car was low, there was little play for her hand and the results were disappointing.
“Why not sit in front?” he suggested. “Then you could give me a real sock in the jaw.”
In impotent rage, Daryl threw herself back upon the cushions.
“And I could see that little rippling profile of yours again, and be happy.” He was silent for a moment, then added: “Don’t you want me to see that rippling profile? I have been missing it terribly since we parted.” There was no answer. “Daryl, don’t you want me to be happy? And aren’t there any small yearnings for happiness in you?” Still no answer. “Daryl, are you sulking back there? Are you sticking out your lower lip? Daryl?”
He repeated the name half a dozen times and in as many tones. He seemed to be tasting its flavor like a connoisseur, allowing the full aroma and sweetness to permeate his palate.
“I shall never be tired of that name. I shall be just as happy saying it ten years from now as I am tonight.”
Still there came no word from Daryl; and this may have been because it seemed to her that there sounded in her ears the music of viols, of violins, lutes, lyres, and the infinite sweetness of a reed.
• The car ran on a little while, out of the range of the city’s lights. It stopped where a bank of flowering shrubs sloped to the edge of a lake, with a pencil of moonlight drawn across its quivering surface. The air was sweet and heavy with the scent of nenuphar. Reeds whispered and rustled by the margin of the water. A great owl laughed and floated away upon silent wings.
Larry descended from the car and opened the rear door.
“Let’s talk. Shall we?” he said.
His voice was like a lodestone, drawing her she knew not where, but still she took no notice. With a shrug of his shoulders he turned and moved toward the water, where was a rustic bench, upon which he sat with his back to the car.
WHO shall deny that women are the braver sex? Who brings the charge that they allow their hearts and their emotions to overrule wiser judgments? As silently as the passing of that owl.
Daryl crept into the front seat and. setting the throttle, touched the button of the self-starter with a trembling thumb. The silence of the night was disturbed by a whir of cogs, but from the engine came no responsive energy. Once again she pressed the button, but with the same maddening absence of result.
Larry had not moved, and. shooting a glance toward him, Daryl saw that he raised one hand in which gleamed a piece of metal.
“Do you want the key?” he called to her with a smile. What was the use? Jumping out and slamming the door of the car, Daryl walked toward him with all the dignity of a judge entering the Court of Assize. It was hard to know what to say; to find anything bad enough—strong enough. Her choice of words was dismally disappointing, even to her own ears:
“Nobody—nobody behaves as you’re behaving.”
All the banter had gone out of his voice when he replied : “They dp when they’re in love.”
“Then you’ve no right to be in love.”
He looked at her and somehow she was reminded of a small boy gazing in wonder upon a Christmas tree. The same expectancy, excitement, wonder and admiration were in his eyes.
“No right?” he said and laughed. “But what an excuse, Daryl. Take a look at yourself in that water if you don’t believe me.”
Involuntarily she half turned toward the lake, but a hand shot out and fastened on one of hers.
“No, don’t. It wouldn’t be safe, for you’d see something so lovely you’d jump in after yourself and get drowned.” Once more the lutes, viols and the violins were filling the
air with their music. To blot out the sound, she covered her ears with the palms of her hands.
“I’m not listening to a word you're saying.”
"Who cares,” said he. "if your thoughts are pleasant, and they cannot fail to be that, like all the rest of you?”
“You forget I’m to be married at the end of the week.” “I mean to persuade you to forget it.”
She shook her head. Something in the vigor of that action gave her strength.
“You never will. If you think I admire your way of trying—”
“I know,” he nodded. “I admit I'm rushing things along a bit, but how can I help it, with only three days left?” He came very near. “Daryl, you don't dislike me, do you?”
It was awfully brave of her to turn and look at him. Her answer was brave too.
“I think — I think you’re — appalling.”
If she had said she loved him, he could not have seemed more pleased.
“Ah, but that’s grand, Daryl ! I bet you never talk that way to old Who Is It.”
She made no reply.
“Why are you doing this thing?” he pleaded. “Has Lattimer some hold over you?”
She shook her head.
“Then why? What earthly reason can there be for a girl like you to throw away her life—”
But she wouldn’t let him finish.
“Stop!” she said. “The reason has nothing to do with you.”
“Or with you, unless I’m mistaken,” he replied.
She shrank back a half step as though he had surprised a secret.
“Don’t let’s talk about it,” she said. "Please don’t let's talk about it. I—you wouldn’t understand.” Suddenly tears sounded in her voice. “Why do you want to make it harder for me?”
"Need it be that?” he answered. “I have no pretentions and little enough money. I'm just an ordinary sort of fellow, but I’ll take an oath I could make you happier than ever Lattimer would even try to do.”
But Daryl only shook her head.
"Take me home,” she pleaded.
“And leave that moon?”
“You’ll sit beside me, Daryl?”
Through the windows of the car she watched the ragged outlines of the trees merge into the formal silhouettes of houses. She and Larry did not speak, but now and again he turned and looked at her, and in so doing marked a sudden frown gather between her eyebrows as they passed the front of a large house.
“What's the matter with it?” he asked.
“You do notice things,” she said. “He lives there.”
“He” could only mean one man.
“Lattimer?” Larry asked.
She nodded. When next he spoke there was a practical note in his voice.
“I’m glad to know that."
“Because I must look him up tonight.”
“For you, of course. I didn’t get much change out of Pacheco, so I must try my luck with Methuselah.” “When will you realize the hopelessness of interfering?”
“When I hear the bells ringing for your wedding,” he said.
She was silent for a time, then: “You won’t get in. He sees no
“I’ll get in.” said Larry. He said it as if it were a matter of course.
“I have the President’s car, I am wearing the uniform of the President's chauffeur. Of course I’ll
“Don’t you realize that there are some things that even you can’t do?” she urged.
“There’s nothing one can’t do if one wants to do it enough.”
She put a hand over one of his that was resting upon the wheel.
“But if I begged you? If I said it would only bring harm if you went on with it?”
There was something grim in the set of his mouth as he replied :
“I’m thinking of the harm if I don’t go on with it.”
As the car passed through the courtyard gates before the Presidency, an N. C. O. gave the i order to present
'3 arms. Some servants
came forward as they stopped at the main entrance. Looking at Daryl, Larry realized
that she was afraid.
“You needn't be,”
he said, in answer to her unspoken thought.
“But suppose François is back?”
“That would be a pity,” he said. “Better hop out quick, my sweet.” His hand closed over hers for an instant. “Good night.”
“Oh, I wish—I wish.” she said, “you didn’t worry me so.” Her foot had scarcely touched the ground before Larry put the car into gear and swept out of the courtyard.
HER maid, Magda, rose from a chair as Daryl came slowly into her apartment. The woman’s eyes, quick to observe, noticed that her mistress seemed dazed and unconscious of her surroundings. Indeed, she stood for a moment looking at Magda as though she were in the presence of a stranger. It was only by an effort she succeeded in forcing a smile of recognition.
"Will you be going to bed now, señorita?”
It was not a difficult question to decide, but an appreciable space of time passed before Daryl stirred herself to answer:
“What? To bed? No, not yet. You needn’t sit up, Magda.”
“But, señorita, I would gladly—”
“No,” Daryl replied. “Please. Good night, Magda.” “Good night, señorita.”
The door closed and once again Daryl moved toward a mirror. This time it was one that hung above the mantel shelf.
“I look different tonight,” she said to her reflection. “I believe”—After all, she was alone and it could do no harm to be frank with oneself about oneself—“I believe I look almost lovely.”
It was the first time in all her life that Daryl had thrown herself a rose, and some of the color of that flower mounted to her cheeks for very shame and modesty.
“One oughtn’t to say that sort of thing,” she chided herself. "I’m sorry.” But since it is an unsatisfactory business saying one is sorry to an empty room, Daryl allowed her eyes to come to rest upon a little image of the Virgin, and to that image she repeated: “I’m sorry.”
Then, out of nothing, or perhaps because of the image, a thought and a memory stirred. With a swift impulsive movement she went to a telephone and dialed a number. It was a distance call, and some few moments passed before a gentle voice answered :
“This is Fra Anselmo. Who is ringing?”
Because the sound of his voice filled her with a certain self-consciousness, Daryl put her enquiry in a little run of hasty, awkward words.
“Certainly, my dear,” came the answer. “Certainly I prayed for your happiness, and for a miracle if it were needed.”
“Oh!” said Daryl guiltily. So guiltily that she clapped down the receiver, because she could not trust herself to speak another word. “Oh,” she repeated. And then common sense strode across her imagination, trampling out romance. "It’s no use,” she said.
'“PHE approach of conflict induces depression in many natures, but with Larry its effect was the reverse. He was not a man who deliberately sought conflicting situations, but when confronted by one his spirits and his faculties rose to a standard of efficiency above their normal level. In this respect, it is possible that he had profited by an imposition during his school days, when he had been compelled to write a hundred times the words of Polonius:
“Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but when in, bear it that the opposed may beware of thee.”
Leaving the car outside Lattimer’s house, he addressed himself to a knocker with a stout heart whose action was in no sense weakened by knowledge of the lateness of the hour nor by premonitions of the hostile reception he was likely to find awaiting him. That the household was not yet abed was demonstrated by a glow through the skylight above the front door and by lights shining through the lowered blinds of the upstairs window.
His first knock failing to attract attention, Larry seized the bell pull and gave it a vigorous tug. A moment later the Judas hole in the front door was opened and Lattimer’s butler, Roberts, occupied the vacant space.
“Yes? What is it?” said Roberts.
With all the panache of a herald of the French court announcing the arrival of the Dauphin, Larry replied:
“An urgent message for Mr. Lattimer.”
“The master has retired,” said Roberts.
Larry could not think of anything better than to repeat his original announcement with added emphasis:
“An urgent message for Mr. Lattimer.”
As he had predicted, the uniform he wore proved to be a valid passport. Chains rattled, bolts were withdrawn, and the door opened.
“Well, come in.” said Roberts, “but I don’t like it.” “You haven’t heard it,” said Larry and strode into the hall, where three other servants were assembled.
The impression they gave Larry was that they would probably shine with more lustre as a personal bodyguard than in the performance of more sober domestic duties. “You can’t give me the message, I suppose?” said Roberts. “You are right. I can’t,” was the reply.
Having had the gloomy experience of disturbing his
master after he had retired, Roberts sighed heavily, instructed one of the servants, a huge mulatto, to direct Larry to the library, and proceeded upstairs, shaking his head. In company with the mulatto, Larry found himself in a large apartment lined with books which bore the air of never having been read.
“That sure is a swell uniform,” said the mulatto.
Larry accepted this commendation with a nod.
“I’m glad you like it.”
“Yes, sir, I’ll say I like it. You’re new, ain’t you?”
Larry shook his head. “Not very.”
The mulatto looked puzzled, scratched his woolly pate and produced:
“Well, I’m pleased to know you.”
“Granted,” said Larry.
"Yes, sir,” said the mulatto, and for want of further inspiration along the aisles of conversation, grinned amiably and retired.
It may have been some loverlike instinct that drew Larry’s eyes to a framed photograph of Daryl upon the mantel, but there was nothing loverlike in the scowl that he directed at it. For the first time jealousy stirred in his bosom, and for some moments he debated whether or no he should confiscate the picture. An absence .of pockets in his chauffeur’s uniform, and a few lingering shreds of conscience about appropriating other people’s property, restrained him. He contented himself by laying the picture face downward, and had barely done so when he caught the sound of a turning latch. He was facing the door when Mr. Lattimer came in, and his exclamation, “Oh, no,” synchronized with Mr. Lattimer’s irritable:
To judge a man by the appearance he presents after being rudely hauled out of bed is rather less than fair. In such circumstances no man is at his best. Mr. Lattimer had assumed over his pyjamas a pair of baggy trousers and a seedy-looking smoking jacket. What little hair he possessed was disordered and awry. Moreover, his features were set in an expression of concentrated displeasure, which robbed them of any vestige of youthfulness they might otherwise have claimed.
“What do you mean, ‘Oh. no?’ No what?”
Larry hastily recovered himself and bowed.
“I must apologize for my rudeness,” he said, “but I was surprised to find you are even older than I thought. *
Now Mr. Lattimer had no intention of bandying words with anyone at that hour of night, and he may be pardoned for the laconic judgment:
Larry was about to protest his sobriety when Lattimer added:
“If you have a message for me, you’d better give it and get out.”
“I’m afraid what I have to say,” said Larry, “may involve us in an argument. You see, I came here—well, briefly— to point out that the idea of your marrying is out of the question.”
Mr. Lattimer was genuinely staggered.
“Do you mean to tell me that the President had the infernal sauce to send you here with that message?”
Larry hastened to dispel any such illusion.
“No indeed, sir. I came entirely of my own accord.”
If Mr. Lattimer originally believed his visitor to be drunk, these few sentences were enough to prove to him that he was wrong. The young man was not drunk; he was mad, and in this circumstance it would probably be wise to humor him. At the same time. Lattimer cursed his folly for having failed to give the servants orders to stand by. Somewhat indiscreetly, he allowed his eyes to wander in the direction of a drawer in his writing table.
“You must pardon me,” he said, “if I fail to understand just what you’re driving at. I was told that the President’s chauffeur—”
“I know,” said Larry, “but I couldn’t think of any other way to get at you.”
“Other way than what?”
“Knocking out the chauffeur and bagging his duds.”
“A hold up !” Lattimer exploded and took three relatively rapid steps toward the table.
Larry, however, was first to reach it, and, planting himself upon the blotter, swung his legs over the coveted drawer. “Get off that table!” roared Mr. Lattimer.
“Listen,” said Larry sweetly, “there isn’t going to be any shooting or violence. I only want to talk to you.”
T5 UT Lattimer was taking no chances. Changing direction, he made a dive for the bell cord. Once again Larry was too quick for him, and, seizing the cord, swung it out of reach over the top of a picture frame.
“Look here,” he pleaded, “let’s cut out this romping and come down to business.”
To tell the truth, Lattimer had no ambition for any further calisthenics. He was already a little out of breath.
“If I were twenty years younger,” he panted, “I’d wring your neck.”
This remark supplied the precise lead which Larry sought. “If you were twenty years younger, sir, you might even contemplate a marriage which at your present age is out of the question.”
“What the blazes has my marriage to do with you?”
“We can’t both marry the same girl, so one of us must stand down.”
It was not until then that Lattimer realized his visitor’s identity. This must be the young man of whom Pacheco had spoken earlier that day. Human reactions are often surprising, but it is curious to record that with this realization there was bom in Lattimer something approximating to admiration for Larry’s astounding crust.
“Bless my soul,” he said, “I think you must be potty!” “I’m in love.”
Quick to sense a change of atmosphere, Larry knew instinctively that his host’s hostility was on the wane. The frown still hovered upon his forehead, but there was a twinkle of humor in the eyes beneath it. It was arguable that this was a happy omen. On the other hand, time was by no means ripe for laying foundation stones of friendship. Many and difficult problems awaited solving before such a happy consummation.
Lattimer had dropped into an armchair and, uninvited, Larry occupied the one that faced him.
“Look here, sir,” he said in a most engaging manner. “I’ve no doubt you’re a first-class fellow, with a good brain and plenty of substance, but I’m looking at you through a young girl’s eyes.”
“I’ll kick you if you do,” said Lattimer.
Ignoring the interruption, Larry went on :
“And in that perspective, frankly, you lack charm.”
"In answer to that,” said Lattimer, "I can only say that your conduct hasn’t tempted me to exhibit any.”
“I know,” said Larry, “and from any point of view but one this visit of mine and what I’m saying are insupportable, but that one overrules all the rest. Youth must have its day, sir. And you mustn’t mind my saying that—well, you wouldn’t be able to give it a half day.”
“If that means anything, it’s indecent,” said Lattimer, and, leaning over, poured out a drink. “If you want one, you can help yourself,” he added, but Larry shook his head.
“You’ve made a mistake, Mr. Lattimer,*and it’s up to you as a sportsman to rectify ic.”
Mr. Lattimer swallowed his drink and seemed to gather strength therefrom.
“No doubt you intend to flatter me in using the word ‘sportsman,’ ” he said. “Allow me to put you right on the subject. First, last and foremost, I am a business man. This is a business matter. And, furthermore, it is my business and not yours.”
“Yes, that’s all very well,” said Larry. “But even in business one can make mistakes. Look here, it wouldn’t be hard to find an excuse for breaking off the engagement.” Lattimer chuckled.
“Perhaps you’d like to suggest one,” he said.
Something in the chuckle, with its hint of comfort and self-confidence and unassailability, pricked Larry on the
“Certainly I would,” he replied. “As an old man, you could complain that she wasn’t young enough for you.” But he did Lattimer an injustice in thinking to offend him in that fashion, for Lattimer had wit enough to perceive ’not only the justice but the worldly wisdom in the statement. The chuckle broadened into a laugh.
“You’re an impertinent young scoundrel,” he said. “But I don’t dislike you. So I’ll give you a word of advice. Get over the horizon and get there quick.”
Larry shook his head.
“As a business man, you should recognize that I’m
“And so am I, and my sincerity will carry a lot more weight than yours.”
It was a challenge and Larry accepted it “You think so?”
“I know it. Listen. I’ve no personal illusions. I’m prepared to agree from your standpoint that this marriage is an act of se'fish indulgence. I have, however, reached a position where I can afford to indulge myself. And that isn’t all. Apart from my own feelings, any attempt to mess up this marriage would be attended by disaster.”
The sudden conviction that he was very near to stumbling upon the truth that lay at the back of the business prompted Larry to adopt a less truculent attitude.
“To me?” he asked.
Lattimer did not reply.
“No,” said Larry. “That’s foolish, because you wouldn’t be concerned with anything that might happen to me.” Lattimer raised his eyes.
“On the other hand,” Larry went on, groping among suspicions for a solution to the puzzle. “What might happen to Pacheco may be of importance to you.”
“I don’t intend to particularize,” said Lattimer.
Larry nodded. “There’s no need,” he said, “for it could hardly be anyone else. Disaster wouldn’t touch Daryl She doesn’t care a hoot for you.”
Lattimer looked something less than pleased.
“I’ve never regarded hooting as an expression of affect ion,” he said.
But Larry was not listening. His quick brain had picket up a trailing thread and knotted it to a rope of facts.
Continued cm page 37
Continued from page 26
“Odd, that the marriage should take place two days before the national audit, isn’t it?” he said.
His eyes were fixed on Lattimer's face, and he did not fail to mark the sudden agitation which spread over it. Lattimer shook a finger of warning.
“Keep out of this, young man.”
“And it’s odd,” Larry continued, “that the President should also be Minister of Finance.” Having gone so far, he went the limit. “What’s it feel like, Mr. Lattimer, to win a girl by making good her father’s defalcations?”
It had been not much more than a shot in the dark but it struck the target full and true. Clive Lattimer pointed at the door. “You get out of here,” he stammered.
A happy smile spread over Larry’s face. “You may be a swell financier, Mr. Lattimer,” he said, “but you’d never have made a living at diplomacy.” With a light step he walked toward the door.
“Here ! Come back.”
“Haven't the time.” Larry turned, with the open door between his hands. “Shall I send you a card for our wedding, Mr. Lattimer?” He did not wait for the reply. With that Parthian arrow, with that piece of Gasconade, he passed from the house.
THE return of François to the Presidency was the cue for an upheaval. Apart from the news he brought, his appearance was so irregular as to provoke the liveliest astonishment and protest.
Upon recovering consciousness, he had wasted the best part of an hour hammering upon the locked door and shouting to be released. These efforts proving without avail, he had snatched up a raincoat, had opened the window and lowered himself to the street by means of some wall vines. His lack of nether garments probably accounted for the unwillingness of taxi drivers to accept him as a fare. Indeed, despairing of transport, he had already started to run to the Presidency when he encountered a chauffeur with whom he was personally acquainted.
It is to François’ credit that he made no attempt to disguise the fact that he had accepted an invitation to drink during his working hours, and it was a matter for genuine surprise to him that Pacheco, before whom he was ushered, made no comment whatsoever upon this obvious breach of discipline. Nor was Pacheco apparently concerned by the report of other servants that, after leaving Daryl at the doors of the Presidency, the car with its unofficial driver had immediately set forth upon another errand and had not been seen since.
This circumstance Pacheco treated with the utmost indifference, and it was not until François was so misguided as to express his gratitude to the powers above that the villainous Englishman had at least driven mademoiselle safely home that his temper flared. Until that point he had not associated Larry with the affair.
“And you consider that cause for congratulation?” he screamed. "Pig! Idiot! Dolt! Blockhead! Get out of my sight— get out! I’ll deal with you in the morning.” François lost no time in availing himself of the invitation, and fled. He was not present when Pacheco got to work ringing up the Police Station and other public services. For the next fifteen minutes the telephone wires of Santarem fizzed and crackled with orders, the burden of which was that a limousine, color primrose. No. 3x55-C, was to be located with a minimum loss of time and its driver brought in, alive or dead. When he had finished, Pacheco sank back in the chair and snapped his sharp, white, gleaming teeth up and down the length of a lead pencil, until he had reduced it to a pulp.
WITH more pressing matters to occupy his attention, and encouraged by the knowledge that fate and his own discern-
ment had put into his hands a powerful weapon with which to fight the machinations of Pacheco, Larry had not wasted a thought upon François and the likelihood that he might already have raised the alarm.
He was indeed gently cruising up the main boulevard, his mind engaged in outlining a course of action for his future offensive, when the first intimation came that all was not well in the State of Sao Pedro so far as his personal safety was concerned.
A policeman, who two minutes before had received the circular call, recognized the car and, springing into the read way. commanded Larry to stop. Since there was practically nothing that Larry desired to say to the policeman, he navigated around him with some precision and nicety and increased his speed. Thrusting a whistle into his mouth, the policeman blew three shrill blasts, at the same time opening fire with an automatic. It so happened that two patrol cars, coming from east and west, converged upon Larry at an intersection and covered off in hot pursuit.
A nickel bullet drilled through the back of the car and made a neat hole in the windshield just above Larry’s head. It being apparent that things were warming up. Larry slipped down low in the driving seat, and, steering a serpentine course, bore his j foot down hard upon the gas. He was still some distance from the Presidency, and before he had wheeled into the Via Maria Puerta several other automobiles, in some cases with patrolmen riding upon the running-boards, had joined in the chase. The air was filled with shouting, the crack of repeated shots, and the roar of internal combustion engines. From the sound of many thuds behind him, Larry assumed that the back panel of the car must be taking on the character of a colander. Being loyal to his friends, it was pleasant to reflect that it was Pacheco’s car rather than his own which was suffering in this fashion.
He was travelling fast and, even with the gates of the palace courtyard in view, he did not risk offering himself as an easier mark by decreasing the speed. Instead, he blazed on until level with the gates, then slamming on all brakes, dry skidded a half circle and lunged through. Inevitably the skid had slowed down his rate of progress, otherwise it would have been impossible for a sergeant of the guard and three privates to leap upon the running-board.
In the roadway behind, disaster piled upon disaster, like Pelion on Ossa. The patrol cars had pulled up so abruptly on witnessing Larry’s manoeuvre that several of the pursuing cars crashed into the back panels and created an inextricable tangle. Larry heard something of the confusion but gave little heed to it, for the reason that a pistol had appeared through an open window beside him and was muzzling around in search of his eye. Then a voice shouted: “Stick ’em up!”
Now it is manifestly unwise to remove one’s hands from the wheel of a car that is proceeding at a rate of over thirty miles per hour, and this point Larry was about to advance when the muzzle of the pistol contacted and glued itself to his temple.
The imperative, “Up, or I’!! fire!” could not in such circumstances be ignored by a man of sense. Larry raised his hands, and the car, denied that human guidance without which all its perfections availed it not, departed from the road and, sweeping through a screen of bushes, plunged its front wheels into a miniature lake, to the dismay and indignation of a colony of roosting ducks. The result of this mishap was to catapult the supercargo headlong into the water. Before they had had time to recover from their surprise Larry opened a door, stepped along the sloping runningboard, and, balancing himself upon a rear wing, leaped lightly ashore.
He had actually reached the front door of the Presidency and rung the bell before the forces of law and order fell upon him
like a pack of wolves. The clamor of their voices was stilled by the opening of the door, and in the lull Larry availed himself of the opportunity to inform a servant that he would like to see the President. Without waiting for an answer to his request, he walked into the hall with the air of a welcome guest. This assurance was not lost upon his captors, and it was only the boldest among them who ventured to follow him indoors and lay rough hands upon his arms and shoulders.
‘‘And you might say,” said Larry, still addressing the servant, "that my business is important.”
Probably there are few sensations more disagreeable to a policeman than to be utterly ignored. Protesting and threatening cries rose and filled the air.
“Take him to the courthouse. Throw him ! in jail. Have him out of this.”
I It is impossible to say what the outcome of these many suggestions may have been I on account of the sudden arrival of Luigi. As private secretary to Pacheco, Luigi's orders naturally took precedence.
"Four of you," he said, addressing the group, "lay hold of this man and bring him along. The President will see him at once.” From the point of view of the police, the affair was full of surprises. In the ordinary course of events, a person apprehended in the act of stealing a car does not as a rule manifest delight at the prospect of an interview with its owner and is rarely heard to ejaculate the word, “Splendid," in a tone of enthusiasm.
Yet such was the case. Larry’s chief alarm during the last quarter of an hour had been that he might be thrown into a common jail and thus denied the opportunity of saying what he intended to say to Pacheco. The fates once more had worked in his favor, and it was with a light step that he accompanied his escort into that gentleman’s presence.
“We’ve got him, excellency,” said Luigi, with the air of a man who had effected the capture single-handed.
“Ay, we’ve got him,” echoed the escort. "Tried to dodge us, but we were too many for him.”
“Since we were all coming in the same direction,’’ said Larry, “and since I had the pleasure of leading the chase, I don’t know whether these gentlemen have very much to congratulate themselves about.”
But this was a question upon which Pacheco had no mind to express a view. He was rolling one of his inevitable cigarettes, an employment which appeared to occupy his entire attention. He flickered the scarlet tip of his tongue along the gummed edge of the paper and pressed it into position. Striking a match, he lit the cigarette and inhaled it for a few quiet and reflective moments. For a time his eyes rested upon Larry with a cold and glittering
E MEET again, Señor Odell.’’
Larry nodded. “I found it impossible to keep away. Indeed, I was coming to see you when these thugs wrecked the car.” Pacheco lifted his eyebrows. “Your dealings with my car have been, if I may say so, a little unfortunate.”
"On the contrary,’’ said Larry, “it’s proved a very good friend to me.”
“It would appear to have provided you with an entree to a private lock-up,” said Pacheco.
The meaning of his words was apparent, i even to the callous intelligences of Larry’s i escort. They chuckled appreciably.
"I think you’re wrong in saying that,” said Larry, “and I hope to prove it, if you will let me have a minute with you alone.’’ “Which I have no intention of doing,” said Pacheco. Then, addressing Luigi: “Take him away. Have him kept under lock and key for the night, and put him over the frontier in the morning.”
Larry felt the hands of his escort tighten upon his arms.
“Don’t do it, Pacheco." he said. “You’d be making a mistake.”
“I am prepared to risk that,” was the
"All right,” Larry agreed. "No doubt you know your own business best, but some of your predecessors in office took a few risks which did not turn out so well.”
The smooth surface of Pacheco’s forehead wrinkled into little mounds of doubt.
"Come on, you,” said one of the escorts. But Pacheco held up a hand.
“I will see this man alone,” he said. "The rest of you will wait outside until I ring.” And to be on the safe side he picked up the silver bell and laid it in his lap.
With obvious reluctance the escort retired, and Larry heard the door close behind him. Straightening himself, he walked to the table and, taking a cigarette from the box there, lighted it with just as much deliberation as Pacheco displayed a few minutes earlier; then, with a reflection of a similar smile, he inhaled the smoke and looked at Pacheco in silence. There was something very uncomfortable about that silence. It seemed to carry with it a portent not only of strength, but of superiority. Pacheco drew a watch from his pocket, and extending it in the palm of his hand:
“I am giving you one minute, señor."
“Half will do,” came the answer.
"For my own part,” said Pacheco, “even a quarter in your company would seem interminable.”
Larry laughed. He liked a game fighter— it gave him a fillip—and he leaned across the table so that their faces were only a few inches apart.
“Has anybody ever called you a thief. Pacheco?’’
“It would hardly be worth the risk,
“There would be no risk if you were a thief, Pacheco.’’
"I did not invite you to remain for the purpose of entering into a debate.”
“Very well." said Larry. “I’ll say it straight out. You’ve been helping yourself out of the till.”
The effect of this accusation was disappointing. Pacheco did not bat an eyelid.
“I am unfamiliar with the English idiom.’’
“You've been helping yourself to treasury funds,” said Larry.
“Is that all you have to say?”
“I think that ought to do for a start." was the reply.
“Then you will allow me to supply the conclusion.” Pacheco leant back in his chair, brows down—a dangerous man. “Señor Odell, I had meant to treat you leniently as a romantic young fool. Your accusation against my personal honor, however, puts a different complexion on the matter.” His voice rose and trembled with indignation. “Unless you withdraw your words here and now, tomorrow will find you at work in the quarries for an indefinite period.”
His sincerity was convincing, and for a space the two men looked into each other’s eyes challengingly. It was touch and go with Larry and he knew it. After all, he had done no more than take a guess at what might have happened, and in that moment he could not have said with certitude whether that guess had been right or wrong, but there was in his nature an obstinate streak that would not allow him to desert his guns. Marching toward the doors and throwing them wide open, he addressed the guard in a voice which rang with authority:
“I demand to be placed under arrest for a slanderous accusation against the Presi-
“Seize him,” cried the officer, and hands fell roughly upon his shoulders.
And then it was that Pacheco cracked and. struggling to his feet in genuine alarm.
“Release that man and get out.”
He collapsed into his chair, and as the escort backed from the room and closed the door, Larry went into a peal of laughter.
DARYL was on the point of going to bed when the hubbub consequent upon Larry’s arrival reached her ears. Putting on a négligée, she went to the head of the grand staircase and listened. She arrived too late to see Larry and the escort cross the hall below, but from the direction of
Pacheco’s room came the sound of voices, doors opening and shutting, and the clink of spurs. For two or three minutes perhaps she remained upon the landing before running down to acquaint herself with what was happening. Before the closed double doors of Pacheco’s room a knot of policemen and soldiers had gathered. The expression on their faces was of the liveliest amazement.
Plucking at Luigi’s sleeve, she drew him aside and asked what was happening. The little man seemed in a state of perplexity and agitation.
“I hardly know what to say, señorita,” he replied. “His excellency is in there with the Englishman, Odell. He had stolen one of the palace cars, as perhaps—” He hesitated. “Well, as to that, señorita, you know as much as I.”
“Well?” said Daryl.
“We arrested him before the palace.” “And the car?” she asked.
“He drove it into the lily pond, señorita.” “My lovely car?” she exclaimed. "But I’m sure he didn’t. He drives beautifully.” Luigi threw a glance at her and, realizing her indiscretion, Daryl asked severely: “Well, go on. Since then, what?”
“I hardly know,” Luigi repeated. “We brought him before his excellency, who gave orders for his arrest and that he should be put over the frontier in the morning.”
Daryl bit her lip. “Then where is he?” The little secretary nodded toward the closed doors.
“In there, señorita, with his excellency.” “Alone?”
“Yes, señorita. -And the last we heard was the señor laughing.”
“Laughing?” she repeated.
“Laughing,” said Luigi. “Like a school-
Daryl tapped her pursed lips with a reflective forefinger.
“How well you notice, Luigi,” she said. “His laugh is like a schoolboy’s.” A cloud came across her brow. “I do wish I knew what he was laughing at.”
But as no one seemed able to supply a reason she turned and went slowly away.
PACHECO was nothing if not cautious.
In the reckoning between himself and Larry he had no intention of allowing anyone to give ear. There was a small apartment which adjoined his room, and thither he and Larry repaired to have it out. Since Larry had called his bluff and won such an obvious victory, Pacheco’s stature had visibly diminished. He looked like a little crumpled leaf as, huddled, chin on breast in a great armchair, he waited for the attack to begin.
It is to Larry’s credit that apart from the one glad laugh which had marked his moment of victory, he had given no other evidence of satisfaction. He was approaching the matter now from a purely logical point of view, determined to investigate how best the information he had secured could be turned to Daryl’s and his own advantage.
“Having admitted the facts,” he said, “Let’s come down to the details. How much did you grab?”
Pacheco’s dislike and Larry’s affection for direct questions struck a balance.
“I was given some unfortunate advice in the matter of an investment.”
“We’re dealing with effects, not causes,” said Larry. “How much did you grab?” Pacheco frowned. “I object to the word ‘grab.’ I had certain commitments to liquidate and was driven, as many other men have been before me, to borrow a trifle.”
“Which you’ve since been unable to put “Just so.”
“What do you call ‘a trifle?’ ”
“In this case, it was a matter of two hundred thousand dollars.”
Larry whistled. “A lot of money.”
“Yes and no,” Pacheco agreed. “On the other hand, it is a terrible responsibility in view of the fact that the national audit is on Monday next.”
“Any private means?”
“And so,” said Larry, “you conceived the pretty idea of touching Lattimer for the brass in return for Daryl’s hand in marriage."
Pacheco cleared his throat. “I believe I am right in saying that the idea of this marriage had developed in Mr. Lattimer’s mind before my present difficulties arose.” “And did you receive it favorably?"
“I had not then given it my mature con sidération,” said Pacheco.
“In other words, you were in no danger.” “If you prefer to put it that way.”
Larry wandered up and down the room for a moment in silence, then :
“How real is this danger?”
“Very real,” said Pacheco. “You have already studied the tablets under the statues of some of my predecessors.”
“M-yes,” said Larry. “A firing party?” Pacheco nodded.
“Does Daryl know about you and this lucky dip of yours?”
“I was reluctantly obliged to tell her. Some little leverage was necessary to persuade her to realize the suitability of Mr. Lattimer as a husband.”
Larry snorted. “I can imagine it. You make me sick.”
“Lattimer has always admired Daryl.” “Then let him do it from a distance,” said Larry. “Still, that’s not the point. The point is that Daryl’s freedom depends upon pulling you out of the mud.”
“In essence, yes,” Pacheco agreed. “Of course one might put it more agreeably.” “Out of the mud,” Larry repeated. "And that’s what we’ve got to do somehow.” Pacheco leaned forward in his chair and adopted an insidious tone.
“Believe me,” he said, “if fate or any other circumstance were to have supplied a younger alternative with enough private means to—shall we say—”
“I don’t think we need say anything about that,” Larry replied. “Because there’s nothing doing, Pacheco. Even if I had the money, I wouldn’t use it in that way.”
/AN EXPRESSION not only of pain, but of disappointment crossed Pacheco’s
“Well, that’s a pity. I was rather hoping. However ...” His voice drifted into silence.
“You’re certain it means a firing party?” said Larry. “You’ve not been playing on her nerves?”
Pacheco shook his head. “It is only by resorting to extreme measures that we have found it possible to ensure a strict observance of Ministerial honesty in Sao Pedro."
The extreme solemnity with which he uttered these words set Larry laughing. Perhaps it was the laughter that supplied an inspiration. Banging his fist on the mantel shelf he said :
“I’ve got it. Simple. Take a holiday and don’t come back.”
But Pacheco only looked at him wearily. “You underestimate our national intelligence, Señor Odell. The last Minister of Finance who attempted what you suggest on the eve of the audit was shot before he reached the frontier. We are a very discerning people. A difficulty of this kind cannot be solved so easily.”
“No. But get this into your head,” said Larry. “It isn’t going to be solved by marrying Daryl to a man who is all yesterday and no tomorrow.”
“Well, if you can offer a more practical solution—”
“I can offer a sporting one. You’ve a gun, I suppose?”
Rather grudgingly Pacheco admitted that he had.
“Very well, old friend. Lock the door and use it.”
The exquisitely manicured fingers of Pacheco’s left hand caressed a chilly smile at the corners of his mouth.
“If you were better acquainted with Sao Pedro,” he said, “you would realize that very few of our citizens shoot themselves— for the reason that it is more often done for them.” At the back of his eyes there was hint of a growing determination.
“Eh?” said Larry.
Pacheco rose. "It is more often done for them," he repeated solemnly. “And that, my young friend, is a generality that you might do well to reflect upon as you walk back to your hotel."
There was not much doubt as to the underlying significance of that remark. Larry looked at him and sniffed.
“Coming back to life, eh?” he queried. “Getting your second breath. Pacheco? If I can't buy and cannot be bought, something more drastic will have to be done. Is that it?”
Pacheco shrugged his shoulders.
“You must make your own interpretation. You failed to offer any solution to my difficulty. You can see for yourself how unwise it would be to add to it."
"I can take care of myself, Pacheco."
"If you give me your guarantee that you
will cultivate the quality of forgetfulness, there would be no need for you to take care of yourself.”
Larry shook his head.
"There's only one guarantee I'll give you, Pacheco. That for just so long as I’m above ground, I’ll do my best to bust this marriage by any means that lies within my power.”
"After which,” said Pacheco sweetly, “fortified by the knowledge that you proved yourself the responsible agent for my execution, you will lay your heart at my stepdaughter's feet, confident of her ready acceptance?”
It was an adroit tum, and Larry threw up his hand with a gesture of a duelist acknowledging a hit.
"Good for you, Pacheco,” he said. “Apart from Daryl, you’re making this tight worth while.” And. picking up his hat, he walked from the room.
To be Continued