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her wrongs at the hands of this woman.

Sharply Philippa straightened herself, and as
if her stolen voice had suddenly been returned
to her, burst out : " What do you mean ? How
dare you arrest me? What have I done? It s
wicked it s cruel ! Tell me this instant! "

" Now, lady," the detective said, soothingly,
" don t you get riled ; just you be quiet. You re



not used to this sort of thing, I know, and I tell
you the best thing to do is to say nothing at all;
it s safest."

" But what for what for ? It s some horrid
plot it s your doing," she cried, suddenly open
ing fire on Victoria. " It s you you informed
on him you did ! And now he ll be sent to
Russia or Siberia ! And all because he wanted to
help a poor, down-trodden people! "

" I don t know what you are talking about! "
said Victoria, angrily. " I saw you in distress,
and I came to shield you from the crowd. As to
informing, I told you the whole story, and that
I had gone to the French consul. I suppose this
had something to do with Valdeck? " she added,
addressing the detective.

" Yes, mum," he nodded, " and from what I
heard you say, I take you to be the lady who
gave the clew. Did you recognize the woman
the other woman ? "

Victoria shook her head. " I didn t see her,"
she answered. " Who is she? "

He looked at her sagely. " Big game," he said,
" and came mighty near giving us the slip. The


next thing is to make her tell where the gent
is. Here we are, ladies not far to go. Now,
my girl, you be careful how you talk. I know
you you all get hysterical the first time you re
caught, but just you hang on to yourself."

The cab stopped short, and the door was
opened by a police sergeant, who stood aside as
the trio descended from the vehicle to the stone-
paved court, surrounded by official-looking build
ings. The hack turned and departed, making
room for the second cab, from which Madame
Tolle and her two companions emerged.

The whole party filed into the large, bare wait
ing-room, lighted by a gray-white shine of day
light filtered through pebbled glass. An immense
desk similar to those used in hotels filled one side
of the place; a telephone, a huge metal safe,
still suggestive of a cheap hostelry, and wooden
benches made up the furniture. Behind the desk a
police captain stood twirling his mustache.

As the party entered, he reached for a huge
ledger, and opening it, gave it a twist toward
the arrivals, but on recognizing the detectives,
he nodded, and closed the register with a bang.



His glance fell admiringly upon the three women,
of whom only Victoria was unveiled.

The detectives advanced to the captain, and a
low-voiced conversation ensued, in which the
words " small book," and " French consul " were
repeated at intervals.

Philippa shivered as with cold, and leaned
against the desk helplessly. Victoria bent toward
her, touched by her misery. " Ask for a lawyer,"
she suggested, softly. " You have a right to that,
I know."

"Here, you!" interrupted the captain, "no
whispering with the prisoner. Say, Pollock,
who s that?"

" Miss Claudel, who gave the information to
the consul so she said. It seems she knows the
other lady who brought the box."

" Hum," said the captain, " I suppose we had
better do a bit of telephoning here. Mulligan,
ring up the consulate."

" I want a lawyer," begged Philippa, timidly.

" Do, eh? Well, I suppose you can have one.

She hesitated a moment, vainly trying to col-


lect her scattered memory. " Mr. Pendle, I2OA
Broadway Pendle & Brown. They are my
aunt s attorneys."

" Your name? " demanded the officer.

" Philippa Clensdale Ford, of Madison


" Very well. Now we will see what we have

The two hand-bags and the iron despatch-box
were laid on the table, and after a few attempts
the lock of the latter was forced, and the lid
thrown back, revealing a layer of white cotton.

" Inventory," ordered the captain.

The sergeant prepared to note the contents.
There was a moment s tense silence as the con
cealing batting was removed, revealing a number
of tiny packages wrapped in tissue-paper. The
clumsy, hairy fingers of the officer unfolded one
picked up at random. There was a glitter, a
sparkle, and a flash as the contents lay bare to
the light ten or more diamonds of various

A gasp from Philippa was the only sound that
greeted the find.



" First package, twelve diamonds ; second pack
age, six small emeralds ; third, two large dia
monds ; fourth, handful of small stones ; fifth,
four rubies, one cat s-eye; sixth, eight-strand
pearl and diamond collar; seventh, pearl rope,
very large; eighth, large yellow diamond; two
packets colored pearls, three pink, two brown, one
large black, pierced."

There was absolute quiet as the heaps increased,
sparkling as they lay on their opened wrappers.

Philippa, her eyes dilated, breathed hard in
terror as the jewels accumulated. She was stag
gered by the shock of surprise. All this had been
left in her charge; she had slept in her violet-
hung bed above all this wealth, believing it but
a few paltry hundreds to be turned over to a
deserving charity. What did it all mean ? Could
it be that Valdeck But no ! impossible ! These
were doubtless the gifts of wealthy sympathizers.

The merciless counting went on. Would they
never come to an end? At last an exclamation
from the imperturbable sergeant voiced the feel
ings of all, as he rolled in his palm a huge brown
diamond and two solitaires of great size and bril-


liancy. " So help me, Mulligan ! " he exclaimed,
" if this ain t the swag of them New Orleans
robberies that we had word of last month. This
here brown shiner is the Longosini one.
Where s that reward-list? On the board yonder."

Mulligan \vent to the large blackboard at the
further end of the room, whereon were pasted
announcements of rewards for the capture of
criminals. " Yes, sor," he answered, from across
the room, " it s themselves ! Brown diamond,
five carats, two white and one blue, three and a
half, three, and four carats respectively. Say,
Pollock, you ve made the haul this time, and no
mistake! "

" Here s the blue one," broke in the captain,
as he held up a jewel between his thumb and
forefinger. " Well, of all the surprises ! No bail
for this, I guess, no, sir ! "

" But," cried Victoria, " you can t keep Miss
Ford here. Put her under surveillance if you
must, but no, you can t ! Philippa, Commis
sioner Holes is one of your aunt s friends have
him called up; he can do more for you here
than any one else."



" Oh, yes ! " exclaimed Philippa, " you must
let me go! Yes, telephone to Commissioner
Holes; tell him to come himself and release
me. Oh, I don t know what I shall do!"

" Whew ! " whistled the sergeant, softly ;
"Commissioner Holes, is it? Well, well, now!
But, Miss Ford, how did you come by these
beauties? Maybe ye can give us a satisfactory
explanation ? "

" I can, oh, I can ! " Philippa exclaimed,
pale with excitement. " Mr. Valdeck told me he
was the head of the Polish Educational Society,
and was collecting funds for the cause. He said
he was watched by Russian spies and couldn t
send the money on without being suspected and
having everything seized and confiscated when
it reached the other side and of course I be
lieved it all ; indeed, I did ! "

" Look at that, now," Mulligan nodded.
"Russian spies, is it? Sure, lady, it s the likes
of you that makes the life easy for scamps and
rogues. And what is the grand American police
for? Sure, we haven t no use for nary a foreign


" Shut up ! " commanded the captain. " Miss
Ford, have you anything to prove your state

Philippa dragged at the bosom of her dress;
tremblingly she undid the buttons and drew forth
two crumpled notes. "There! there!" she cried,
" read them. See what he says himself! "

The captain smoothed the rumpled sheets, and
read aloud.

There was a pause, and then Philippa wished
she had died before she had given up the letters.
As the words of endearment spoken in the harsh,
mechanical voice of the captain filled the police-
station, a burning, writhing shame overpowered
her. She had forgotten, in her anxiety to clear
herself, the terms of the letters. She clung to the
desk, feeling Victoria s honest gray eyes on her
burning with indignation. Oh, that Victoria, of
all people, should see her in this state!

As the last sentence echoed into silence, Ma
dame Tolle, who up to this moment had stood
silent, uttered a sharp cry like a hurt animal as
she recognized the handwriting. Then she burst
into a torrent of French abuse that made the



walls of the station-house shiver, used as they
were to ungentle language.

But Philippa was unconscious of this. All she
realized was Victoria Victoria, who turned and
faced her with clenched hands and white face.
She was speaking slowly and with terrible scorn :
" And you were engaged to Morton you ! I
thought there might have been some mistake about
that private-room dinner-party; I thought you
might explain, but we hardly need go further ! "
She broke off and turned her back; without an
other word she moved toward the door.

" Hold on ! Miss Claudel, we want you, please.
The consul will be here presently, and then we ll
need your services. Mulligan, search the bags,
and then take the French woman to the matron
and have her go over her. But first, come here."

Madame Tolle was led forward. " Your
name?" asked the captain. There was no an
swer. The detective spoke : " She is Marie
Franchise Ducas," he said. " Here is her pho
tograph." He laid it on the desk.


" Paris," answered the detective, as the woman


maintained her stubborn silence, now and again
darting venomous glances at Philippa through her
heavy veil.

" Occupation ? "

" She is a pal of Valdeck s, alias Kelsoff, alias
O Farrell."

" Lift that veil," commanded the officer.

The blue tissue was raised, revealing a sharp,
not unhandsome face, on which the traces of a
delicate make-up were apparent, contrasting with
her present pallor.

Victoria started, looked, and looked again.
" Why," she cried, " I know her ! That is the
maid, Madame Chateau-Lamion s maid."

The woman turned on her an instant s search
ing glance; then, in spite of herself, recognition
dawned in her face. " Connais pas," she said,
shortly, with a shrug of her shoulders.

" You could swear to this? " the captain asked,
slowly, of Victoria, who answered without hesi
tation :

" Yes, I will swear to it. I recall her per

" That s the consul s racket," Mulligan sug-



gested. " We re in for this New Orleans busi
ness. Glory be to the saints, but she s a thorough
one! " And he looked admiringly at the French

Meanwhile, communications were pouring in by
telephone. The consul was out, but would be
notified as soon as possible; Mr. Pendle would
come at once ; Mrs. Ford was absent.

" Gentlemen," said Victoria, " if you have no
further need of me, I will go."

" Your name first, please, in full, and your
residence. For sure you ll be wanted as a witness,
and to identify the lady s maid again. Then ye
can go, and many thanks for your trouble."

Victoria gave her name and address without
casting a glance toward Philippa, too outraged
to show any sympathy. The sergeant accom
panied her to the door, but as it closed she heard
the order, " Take em to the matron."



JL HE morning of the same day that witnessed
the incarceration of Philippa, Morton rose after
a sleepless and tormented night and made his
resolve : this matter had to be cleared up. When
his fiancee had been removed to her room and
the flurried maid had brought him the message
that " mademoiselle was recovering, but begged
to be excused," he had betaken himself to his
rooms in a high state of excitement. Above all
else, he was enraged at Mrs. Durham, the woman
who had dared to fling such cowardly accusations
at the most saintly girl on earth. As he paced
the floor he formed his determinations. Philippa
must not be drawn into this wretched business.
He would conduct it for her; it was his place
and privilege, and he would see who should write
retractions or apologies, Philippa or Mrs. Dur
ham. In fancy he hounded the malicious author-



ess to her lair, delivered an oration on feminine
weakness, folly, and venom, and departed only to
place in the hands of his wronged angel the docu
ment wrung from her accuser.

But Victoria alas, Victoria ! His old friend
ship and loyalty pleaded for her. How could he
have been so mistaken? To do him justice, had
he not been love-mad he never would have owned
a doubt of her. But so is man constituted that
one touch of passion weakens his hold on his
perceptions, even his certain knowledge. He
would have fought to the last ditch for her
against all odds, save yellow-haired Philippa with
the violet eyes. But Fate had placed before him
just that one antagonist, and his friendship failed,
not without pain, not without hurt to his whole
nature. But he could not doubt his love.

Valdeck and his equivocal words rose before
him Valdeck, the criminal ! But perhaps, after
all, that charge was groundless; Philippa had
declared that Victoria had a malicious vengeance
to satisfy in her statement of the case.

At last, however, Morton s instincts refused
to be longer suppressed. Whatever Valdeck s re-


lations to Victoria might be, Morton was forced
to confess that he believed her story; the man
was undoubtedly the social vampire she pictured.
Had he not felt it from the first, and begged his
darling to shun the contaminating companion
ship? It was only Philippa s innocence and lack
of knowledge of things worldly that had led her
to tolerate the impostor ! Then why believe the vil
lain s testimony against Victoria ? Morton s saner
self demanded. Perhaps after all the blame lay
with the Hungarian alone. Philippa had undoubt
edly lent too ready an ear to the man s accu
sations, brought solely to throw discredit on Vic
toria s hitherto unimpeached word, women
were notoriously uncharitable towards each other.
His intuition told him he was near the truth
now. He might even clear Victoria s skirts from
blame, with no graver charge against Philippa
than a too-great willingness to listen and believe
evil of her neighbors. Again and again he went
over the ground, gaining greater faith in his
surmises. He forgot his dinner, smoked himself
into a thoroughly nervous condition, and passed
a night of wakefulness and speculation.



With the morning came action. First he must
see Mrs. Durham, and secure a written retraction
of her accusation against Philippa ; then he would
sift the matter down to the last grain of fact,
exonerate Victoria, and bring Valdeck to his
much-needed punishment.

As early as he decently could, Morton tele
phoned to Mrs. Durham, and was promptly

His anger flamed up once more as he sat in
the stuffy booth and heard over the connecting
wire the well-modulated tones of her voice.

" This is Mr. Conway," he answered her first
question. " Can you make it convenient to see
me this morning?" His tone was cold, and
boded no mercy.

To his surprise the answer came fearlessly, and
it was even more belligerent and icy than his own.
" Certainly ; I was expecting you. If you will
come for me at once, you will find me at break
fast in the restaurant. We can go into the matter
at once."

Her readiness staggered him ; he had expected



equivocation and delay; this businesslike alert
ness was unsettling.

" In half an hour, then ? " he inquired, with
a new note of anxiety in his voice.

" The sooner the better," came the unwavering
reply. And he hung up the receiver with a
sensation of dread.

How could she be so sure of herself? How
dared she face him with her trumped-up story?
Surely there must be some appearance, some foun
dation perfectly innocent but making misin
terpretation possible.

No! He recalled vividly Philippa s upturned,
beseeching eyes, and her tearful, childish accent
as she had turned to him. " Morton, if you
love me, don t give them the satisfaction of listen
ing. You know it isn t true ! "

Of course he knew it wasn t true, poor, be
wildered little girl ! Feeling again all his eager
animosity, he went out and called a passing han

As he drove up Fifth Avenue, he hardened
his heart and steeled his nerves. This clashing
of feminine weapons and armor was new and



harassing. How was one to tell a lady, young,
pretty, and bewitchingly gowned, just what a
mean, wretched example of humanity she really
was! Morton would vastly have preferred a
dozen tigers or as many famished duns. But he
buckled on his mail of insensibility and justice,
and relentlessly proceeded.

As they drew up before the vast, yellow side
of the studio building, he collected himself and
assumed a formally polite manner, calculated to
strike terror into any less businesslike and well-
administered citadel than Mrs. Durham s heart.

As he entered the restaurant, the lady rose to
meet him, brisk, frank, and energetic.

" Good morning, Mr. Conway. Of course
you ve been vastly annoyed. I quite understand.
And the sooner it s over, the better. Isn t that

He noted with annoyance that she seemed even
fresher, younger, more self-possessed, and more
beautifully tailored than ever.

" You understand the nature of my visit,
then? " he inquired, coldly.

" Oh, dear, yes. You want me to explain what


I meant. Dare I produce my informant ? and
all the rest of it. My dear man, I should not
have made that assertion had I not been perfectly
prepared to do so. You have a cab? Good! It
will save time, and I must be back by twelve.
My typewriter, you know." She smiled sweetly,
and preceded him into the hall.

He assisted her into the hansom and took his
seat. " Where to? " he asked, his curiosity pierc
ing his indifferent manner.

" To your uncle Morris Courncey s office."

Morton gave the address in bewilderment.

" I ll tell you a few things about this, if you
like," said Mrs. Durham, leaning back quite at
her ease, and not in the least flustered. " Your
good old relative was a great friend of Victoria s
parents, you see, and some of this nasty gossip
concerning the daughter reached his ears. Of
course, he made up his mind to discover who
had originated the said slander. He came to me
we were old pals, too, as it happened, and he
likewise knew me to be a great admirer and an
unswerving friend of Victoria s." There was the



least suspicion of emphasis marking the " un
swerving," and Morton winced.

" He asked me to whom Victoria was indebted
for these fascinating little innuendoes and open
remarks, and I told him just what every one else
has, namely, that Victoria s dear friend, Miss
Ford, was at the bottom of it all. * What! ex
claimed old Morris, Philippa Ford ? Why, she
wouldn t dare! I saw her myself go up-stairs
with that Valdeck in Gagano s restaurant, where
no decent woman ever goes ! She couldn t afford
to speak ill of any one ! Well, I answered, she
has. Then, said your uncle Morris, I ll be
hanged if I don t prove she isn t to be believed !

Morton swung round in his seat as if he had
been hit, and faced his companion, white to the

" Kindly remember I am engaged to Miss
Ford," he said, slowly, dizzied with indignation.

Mrs. Durham sighed. " I m trying to prepare
you for what you are bound to get from Courncey,
who has, I have learned, a very just perception
of things, and a wonderfully fine vocabulary with
which to clothe it. To continue, I begged him to


do nothing till I saw him again. I wanted to
think things over and make the most of the in
formation when the time came. That was yes
terday morning, and the time came in the after

" Mr. Courncey is mistaken ; a fancied resem
blance," he answered, doggedly.

" Not at all ; but I will let him speak for him
self. In the meantime, I am honestly sorry for
you, though I ve no patience with any one claim
ing even ordinary common sense who pins his
faith on a woman of Miss Ford s stamp when he
has the friendship of such a personality as Vic
toria. You deserve well, I don t know that
my imagination can picture anything quite bad
enough. She s worth ten dozen such as you!
And all the golden-haired Philippas that ever
were born wouldn t make a showing that Vic
couldn t overturn with her little finger. Ouf ! I m
getting angry. Let s be quiet."

" I think it would be in better taste," Morton
murmured, under his breath.

Mrs. Durham leaned back, watching the endless
procession of city blocks and the ceaseless, hurry-



ing procession that crowded the sidewalk and
congested the thoroughfares.

They reached the region of shops, and drove
down on Broadway, where the buildings grew
taller, and the gilt wholesale signs more aggres
sive. Noise and rumble all about them, yet the
two sat enveloped in silence, threading their way
amid the banging, pounding cable-cars, skimming
by other hurrying hansoms, skilfully avoiding
the heavy, jarring wheels of laden trucks.

They at last drew up before the towering front
of a huge office hive, from which, busy as bees,
in and out, rushed anxious business men. Ele
vators sped up and down with lightning swift
ness; everywhere was slippery marble and
wrought metal, things designed for cleanliness,
durability, and hard usage, yet ornate. A strange
outgrowth of luxury and utility pushed to their

As if in a dream, they were caught in the rush,
and snapped into one of the elevators. Instantly
they shot upward, stopping with disturbing jerks
at various landings. At the ninth floor they



stepped out, and walked down the marble corri

Before the office sign of Courncey & Hall they
paused. Mechanically Morton opened the door,
and his commanding companion swept by him.
With a regal nod to the clerk who advanced to
meet them, she handed her card with a request for
instant admittance to the senior partner s private
office. The sound of her voice was apparently
an " Open Sesame," for the ground-glass door
at the upper end of the room was opened abruptly
by a red-faced little man, who rushed down on her
after the manner of an affectionate bulldog, whose
exuberant greeting might well be mistaken by
the uninitiated for a threatening advance.

"So it s you, is it? Come in, come in, come
in ! "

He fired the words with inconceivable rapidity,
as he wrung first Mrs. Durham s hand, and then
his nephew s somewhat reluctant palm.

They filed into the sanctum, and the little mil
lionaire banged the door smartly.

" Sit down, sit down, sit down ! " he volleyed.
" Don t mind me if I tramp about nervous,



you know, nervous! I suppose you brought
Morton down to hear what I have to say ? Glad
of it, glad of it." He paused, fixed his piercing
black eyes on Morton.

Mrs. Durham had seated herself calmly. But
Morton remained erect, towering above his rapid-
r.ri-C .::-.;> :;. .- : .: . . j-.e,- : :.:: : :-. .::. :

" You re not engaged to her. are you ? " Courn-
cey demanded, suddenly suspicious. " I heard
rumors, you know rumors. But I denied them,
of coarse. Still, before we go any further : Are
you here as Victoria s friend to run down that
cowardly lie, or are you trying to clear that snivel
ling little cat, Philippa Ford ? "

" Uncle Morris." he answered, simply. " I am
engaged to Miss Ford, but " and the faintest
hesitation trembled in his words "I want to
know die truth. Mrs. Durham has accused the
young lady of dining in a notorious restaurant
with a well, in questionable company, while she
was professing her love for me, and had been en
gaged only a few days. And Miss Ford positively
denies this."

" But she did she did ! * cried the little man.


Morton raised his hand deprecatingly. " That
has to he proved. As for these stories, I am
only too anxious to clear Victoria you know
how fond I am, and always have been, of her.
I am convinced that this man Valdeck has put
these lies in circulation to shield himself. Per
haps Miss Ford may have repeated them, for
which I should be heartily sorry ; but, if so, it was
in the belief that she was speaking the truth."

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Online LibraryEthel Watts Mumford GrantWhitewash → online text (page 10 of 13)