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going to say, and why she wished him to remain.

'It will save a note,' she said, by way of explanation. 'My father
and I want you to come to Craythew for the week-end after this,' she
continued, turning to Margaret. 'We are asking several people, so it
won't be too awfully dull, I hope. Will you come?'

'With pleasure,' answered the singer.

'And you too?' Lady Maud looked at Logotheti.

'Delighted - most kind of you,' he replied, somewhat surprised by the
invitation, for he had never met Lord and Lady Creedmore. 'May I take
you down in my motor?' he spoke to Margaret. 'I think I can do it
under four hours. I'm my own chauffeur, you know.'

'Yes, I know,' Margaret answered with a rather malicious smile. 'No,
thank you!'

'Does he often kill?' inquired Lady Maud coolly.

'I should be more afraid of a runaway,' Margaret said.

'Get that new German brake,' suggested Lady Maud, not understanding at
all. 'It's quite the best I've seen. Come on Friday, if you can. You
don't mind meeting Mr. Van Torp, do you? He is our neighbour, you
remember.'

The question was addressed to Margaret, who made a slight movement and
unconsciously glanced at Logotheti before she answered.

'Not at all,' she said.

'There's a reason for asking him when there are other people. I'm
not divorced after all - you had not heard? It will be in the _Times_
to-morrow morning. The Patriarch of Constantinople turns out to be a
very sensible sort of person.'

'He's my uncle,' observed Logotheti.

'Is he? But that wouldn't account for it, would it? He refused to
believe what my husband called the evidence, and dismissed the suit.
As the trouble was all about Mr. Van Torp my father wants people to
see him at Craythew. That's the story in a nutshell, and if any of you
like me you'll be nice to him.'

She leaned back in her corner of the little sofa and looked first at
one and then at the other in an inquiring way, but as if she were
fairly sure of the answer.

'Every one likes you,' said Logotheti quietly, 'and every one will be
nice to him.'

'Of course,' chimed in Margaret.

She could say nothing else, though her intense dislike of the American
millionaire almost destroyed the anticipated pleasure of her visit to
Derbyshire.

'I thought it just as well to explain,' said Lady Maud.

She was still pale, and in spite of her perfect outward coolness and
self-reliance her eyes would have betrayed her anxiety if she had not
managed them with the unconscious skill of a woman of the world who
has something very important to hide. Logotheti broke the short
silence that followed her last speech.

'I think you ought to know something I have been telling Miss Donne,'
he said simply. 'I've found the man who wrote all those articles, and
I've locked him up.'

Lady Maud leaned forward so suddenly that her loosened opera-cloak
slipped down behind her, leaving her neck and shoulders bare. Her eyes
were wide open in her surprise, the pupils very dark.

'Where?' she asked breathlessly. 'Where is he? In prison?'

'In a more convenient and accessible place,' answered the Greek.

He had known Lady Maud some time, but he had never seen her in the
least disturbed, or surprised, or otherwise moved by anything. It was
true that he had only met her in society.

He told the story of Mr. Feist, as Margaret had heard it during
dinner, and Lady Maud did not move, even to lean back in her seat
again, till he had finished. She scarcely seemed to breathe, and
Logotheti felt her steady gaze on him, and would have sworn that
through all those minutes she did not even wink. When he ceased
speaking she drew a long breath and sank back to her former attitude;
but he saw that her white neck heaved suddenly again and again, and
her delicate nostrils quivered once or twice. For a little while there
was silence in the room. Then Lady Maud rose to go.

'I must be going too,' said Logotheti.

Margaret was a little sorry that she had given him such precise
instructions, but did not contradict herself by asking him to stay
longer. She promised Lady Maud again to be at Craythew on Friday of
the next week if possible, and certainly on Saturday, and Lady Maud
and Logotheti went out together.

'Get in with me,' she said quietly, as he helped her into her hansom.

He obeyed, and as he sat down she told the cabman to take her to the
Haymarket Theatre. Logotheti expected her to speak, for he was quite
sure that she had not taken him with her without a purpose; the more
so, as she had not even asked him where he was going.

Three or four minutes passed before he heard her voice asking him a
question, very low, as if she feared to be overheard.

'Is there any way of making that man tell the truth against his will?
You have lived in the East, and you must know about such things.'

Logotheti turned his almond-shaped eyes slowly towards her, but he
could not see her face well, for it was not very light in the broad
West End street. She was white; that was all he could make out. But he
understood what she meant.

'There is a way,' he answered slowly and almost sternly. 'Why do you
ask?'

'Mr. Van Torp is going to be accused of murder. That man knows who did
it. Will you help me?'

It seemed an age before the answer to her whispered question came.

'Yes.'




CHAPTER XIV


When Logotheti and his doctor had taken Mr. Feist away from the hotel,
to the no small satisfaction of the management, they had left precise
instructions for forwarding the young man's letters and for informing
his friends, if any appeared, as to his whereabouts. But Logotheti had
not given his own name.

Sir Jasper Threlfall had chosen for their patient a private
establishment in Ealing, owned and managed by a friend of his, a place
for the treatment of morphia mania, opium-eating, and alcoholism.

To all intents and purposes, as Logotheti had told Margaret,
Charles Feist might as well have been in gaol. Every one knows how
indispensable it is that persons who consent to be cured of drinking
or taking opium, or whom it is attempted to cure, should be absolutely
isolated, if only to prevent weak and pitying friends from yielding
to their heart-rending entreaties for the favourite drug and bringing
them 'just a little'; for their eloquence is often extraordinary, and
their ingenuity in obtaining what they want is amazing.

So Mr. Feist was shut up in a pleasant room provided with double doors
and two strongly barred windows that overlooked a pretty garden,
beyond which there was a high brick wall half covered by a bright
creeper, then just beginning to flower. The walls, the doors, the
ceiling, and the floor were sound-proof, and the garden could not in
any way be reached without passing through the house.

As only male patients were received, the nurses and attendants were
all men; for the treatment needed more firmness and sometimes strength
than gentleness. It was uncompromising, as English methods often are.
Except where life was actually in danger, there was no drink and no
opium for anybody; when absolutely necessary the resident doctor
gave the patient hypodermics or something which he called by an
unpronounceable name, lest the sufferer should afterwards try to buy
it; he smilingly described it as a new vegetable poison, and in fact
it was nothing but dionine, a preparation of opium that differs but
little from ordinary morphia.

Now Sir Jasper Threlfall was a very great doctor indeed, and his
name commanded respect in London at large and inspired awe in the
hospitals. Even the profession admitted reluctantly that he did
not kill more patients than he cured, which is something for one
fashionable doctor to say of another; for the regular answer to any
inquiry about a rival practitioner is a smile - 'a smile more dreadful
than his own dreadful frown' - an indescribable smile, a meaning smile,
a smile that is a libel in itself.

It had been an act of humanity to take the young man into medical
custody, as it were, and it had been more or less necessary for the
safety of the public, for Logotheti and the doctor had found him in a
really dangerous state, as was amply proved by his attempting to cut
his own throat and then to shoot Logotheti himself. Sir Jasper said he
had nothing especial the matter with him except drink, that when
his nerves had recovered their normal tone his real character would
appear, so that it would then be possible to judge more or less
whether he had will enough to control himself in future. Logotheti
agreed, but it occurred to him that one need not be knighted, and
write a dozen or more mysterious capital letters after one's name, and
live in Harley Street, in order to reach such a simple conclusion; and
as Logotheti was a millionaire, and liked his doctor for his own sake
rather than for his skill, he told him this, and they both laughed
heartily. Almost all doctors, except those in French plays, have some
sense of humour.

On the third day Isidore Bamberger came to the door of the private
hospital and asked to see Mr. Feist. Not having heard from him, he had
been to the hotel and had there obtained the address. The doorkeeper
was a quiet man who had lost a leg in South Africa, after having been
otherwise severely wounded five times in previous engagements. Mr.
Bamberger, he said, could not see his friend yet. A part of the cure
consisted in complete isolation from friends during the first stages
of the treatment. Sir Jasper Threlfall had been to see Mr. Feist that
morning. He had been twice already. Dr. Bream, the resident physician,
gave the doorkeeper a bulletin every morning at ten for the benefit of
each patient's friend; the notes were written on a card which the man
held in his hand.

At the great man's name, Mr. Bamberger became thoughtful. A smart
brougham drove up just then and a tall woman, who wore a thick veil,
got out and entered the vestibule where Bamberger was standing by the
open door. The doorkeeper evidently knew her, for he glanced at his
notes and spoke without being questioned.

'The young gentleman is doing well this week, my lady,' he said.
'Sleeps from three to four hours at a time. Is less excited. Appetite
improving.'

'Can I see him?' asked a sad and gentle voice through the veil.

'Not yet, my lady.'

She sighed as she turned to go out, and Mr. Bamberger thought it
was one of the saddest sighs he had ever heard. He was rather a
soft-hearted man.

'Is it her son?' he asked, in a respectful sort of way.

'Yes, sir.'

'Drink?' inquired Mr. Bamberger in the same tone.

'Not allowed to give any information except to family or friends,
sir,' answered the man. 'Rule of the house, sir. Very strict.'

'Quite right, of course. Excuse me for asking. But I must see Mr.
Feist, unless he's out of his mind. It's very important.'

'Dr. Bream sees visitors himself from ten to twelve, sir, after he's
been his rounds to the patients' rooms. You'll have to get permission
from him.'

'But it's like a prison!' exclaimed Mr. Bamberger.

'Yes, sir,' answered the old soldier imperturbably. 'It's just like a
prison. It's meant to be.'

It was evidently impossible to get anything more out of the man, who
did not pay the slightest attention to the cheerful little noise Mr.
Bamberger made by jingling sovereigns in his waistcoat pocket; there
was nothing to do but to go away, and Mr. Bamberger went out very much
annoyed and perplexed.

He knew Van Torp well, or believed that he did, and it was like
the man whose genius had created the Nickel Trust to have boldly
sequestrated his enemy's chief instrument, and in such a clever way
as to make it probable that Mr. Feist might be kept in confinement
as long as his captor chose. Doubtless such a high-handed act would
ultimately go against the latter when on his trial, but in the
meantime the chief witness was locked up and could not get out. Sir
Jasper Threlfall would state that his patient was in such a state of
health, owing to the abuse of alcohol, that it was not safe to set
him at liberty, and that in his present condition his mind was so
unsettled by drink that he could not be regarded as a sane witness;
and if Sir Jasper Threlfall said that, it would not be easy to get
Charles Feist out of Dr. Bream's establishment in less than three
months.

Mr. Bamberger was obliged to admit that his partner, chief, and enemy
had stolen a clever march on him. Being of a practical turn of mind,
however, and not hampered by much faith in mankind, even in the most
eminent, who write the mysterious capital letters after their names,
he wondered to what extent Van Torp owned Sir Jasper, and he went to
see him on pretence of asking advice about his liver.

The great man gave him two guineas' worth of thumping, auscultating,
and poking in the ribs, and told him rather disagreeably that he
was as healthy as a young crocodile, and had a somewhat similar
constitution. A partner of Mr. Van Torp, the American financier?
Indeed! Sir Jasper had heard the name but had never seen the
millionaire, and asked politely whether he sometimes came to England.
It is not untruthful to ask a question to which one knows the answer.
Mr. Bamberger himself, for instance, who knew that he was perfectly
well, was just going to put down two guineas for having been told so,
in answer to a question.

'I believe you are treating Mr. Feist,' he said, going more directly
to the point.

'Mr. Feist?' repeated the great authority vaguely.

'Yes. Mr. Charles Feist. He's at Dr. Bream's private hospital in West
Kensington.'

'Ah, yes,' said Sir Jasper. 'Dr. Bream is treating him. He's not a
patient of mine.'

'I thought I'd ask you what his chances are,' observed Isidore
Bamberger, fixing his sharp eyes on the famous doctor's face. 'He used
to be my private secretary.'

He might just as well have examined the back of the doctor's head.

'He's not a patient of mine,' Sir Jasper said. 'I'm only one of the
visiting doctors at Dr. Bream's establishment. I don't go there unless
he sends for me, and I keep no notes of his cases. You will have to
ask him. If I am not mistaken his hours are from ten to twelve.
And now' - Sir Jasper rose - 'as I can only congratulate you on your
splendid health - no, I really cannot prescribe anything - literally
nothing - '

Isidore Bamberger had left three patients in the waiting-room and was
obliged to go away, as his 'splendid health' did not afford him the
slightest pretext for asking more questions. He deposited his two
guineas on the mantelpiece neatly wrapped in a bit of note-paper,
while Sir Jasper examined the handle of the door with a stony gaze,
and he said 'good morning' as he went out.

'Good morning,' answered Sir Jasper, and as Mr. Bamberger crossed the
threshold the single clanging stroke of the doctor's bell was heard,
summoning the next patient.

The American man of business was puzzled, for he was a good judge of
humanity, and was sure that when the Englishman said that he had never
seen Van Torp he was telling the literal truth. Mr. Bamberger was
convinced that there had been some agreement between them to make it
impossible for any one to see Feist. He knew the latter well, however,
and had great confidence in his remarkable power of holding his
tongue, even when under the influence of drink.

When Tiberius had to choose between two men equally well fitted for a
post of importance, he had them both to supper, and chose the one who
was least affected by wine, not at all for the sake of seeing the
match, but on the excellent principle that in an age when heavy
drinking was the rule the man who could swallow the largest quantity
without becoming talkative was the one to be best trusted with a
secret; and the fact that Tiberius himself had the strongest head in
the Empire made him a good judge.

Bamberger, on the same principle, believed that Charles Feist would
hold his tongue, and he also felt tolerably sure that the former
secretary had no compromising papers in his possession, for his memory
had always been extraordinary. Feist had formerly been able to carry
in his mind a number of letters which Bamberger 'talked off' to him
consecutively without even using shorthand, and could type them
afterwards with unfailing accuracy. It was therefore scarcely likely
that he kept notes of the articles he wrote about Van Torp.

But his employer did not know that Feist's memory was failing from
drink, and that he no longer trusted his marvellous faculty. Van Torp
had sequestrated him and shut him up, Bamberger believed; but neither
Van Torp nor any one else would get anything out of him.

And if any one made him talk, what great harm would be done, after
all? It was not to be supposed that such a man as Isidore Bamberger
had trusted only to his own keenness in collecting evidence, or to a
few pencilled notes as a substitute for the principal witness himself,
when an accident might happen at any moment to a man who led such a
life. The case for the prosecution had been quietly prepared during
several months past, and the evidence that was to send Rufus Van Torp
to execution, or to an asylum for the Criminal Insane for life, was in
the safe of Isidore Bamberger's lawyer in New York, unless, at that
very moment, it was already in the hands of the Public Prosecutor. A
couple of cables would do the rest at any time, and in a few hours.
In murder cases, the extradition treaty works as smoothly as the
telegraph itself. The American authorities would apply to the English
Home Secretary, the order would go to Scotland Yard, and Van Torp
would be arrested immediately and taken home by the first steamer, to
be tried in New York.

Six months earlier he might have pleaded insanity with a possible
chance, but in the present state of feeling the plea would hardly be
admitted. A man who has been held up to public execration in the press
for weeks, and whom no one attempts to defend, is in a bad case if a
well-grounded accusation of murder is brought against him at such a
moment; and Isidore Bamberger firmly believed in the truth of the
charge and in the validity of the evidence.

He consoled himself with these considerations, and with the reflection
that Feist was actually safer where he was, and less liable to
accident than if he were at large. Mr. Bamberger walked slowly down
Harley Street to Cavendish Square, with his head low between his
shoulders, his hat far back on his head, his eyes on the pavement, and
the shiny toes of his patent leather boots turned well out. His bowed
legs were encased in loose black trousers, and had as many angles as
the forepaws of a Dachshund or a Dandie Dinmont. The peculiarities of
his ungainly gait and figure were even more apparent than usual, and
as he walked he swung his long arms, that ended in large black gloves
which looked as if they were stuffed with sawdust.

Yet there was something in his face that set him far beyond and above
ridicule, and the passers-by saw it and wondered gravely who and
what this man in black might be, and what great misfortune and still
greater passion had moulded the tragic mark upon his features; and
none of those who looked at him glanced at his heavy, ill-made figure,
or noticed his clumsy walk, or realised that he was most evidently
a typical German Jew, who perhaps kept an antiquity shop in Wardour
Street, and had put on his best coat to call on a rich collector in
the West End.

Those who saw him only saw his face and went on, feeling that they had
passed near something greater and sadder and stronger than anything in
their own lives could ever be.

But he went on his way, unconscious of the men and women he met, and
not thinking where he went, crossing Oxford Street and then turning
down Regent Street and following it to Piccadilly and the Haymarket.
Just before he reached the theatre, he slackened his pace and looked
about him, as if he were waking up; and there, in the cross street,
just behind the theatre, he saw a telegraph office.

He entered, pushed his hat still a little farther back, and wrote a
cable message. It was as short as it could be, for it consisted of one
word only besides the address, and that one word had only two letters:

'Go.'

That was all, and there was nothing mysterious about the syllable,
for almost any one would understand that it was used as in starting
a footrace, and meant, 'Begin operations at once!' It was the word
agreed upon between Isidore Bamberger and his lawyer. The latter had
been allowed all the latitude required in such a case, for he had
instructions to lay the evidence before the District Attorney-General
without delay, if anything happened to make immediate action seem
advisable. In any event, he was to do so on receiving the message
which had now been sent.

The evidence consisted, in the first place, of certain irrefutable
proofs that Miss Bamberger had not died from shock, but had been
killed by a thin and extremely sharp instrument with which she had
been stabbed in the back. Isidore Bamberger's own doctor had satisfied
himself of this, and had signed his statement under oath, and
Bamberger had instantly thought of a certain thin steel letter-opener
which Van Torp always had in his pocket.

Next came the affidavit of Paul Griggs. The witness knew the Opera
House well. Had been in the stalls on the night in question. Had not
moved from his seat till the performance was over, and had been one of
the last to get out into the corridor. There was a small door in the
corridor on the south side which was generally shut. It opened upon a
passage communicating with the part of the building that is let for
business offices. Witness's attention had been attracted by part of
a red silk dress which lay on the floor outside the door, the latter
being ajar. Suspecting an accident, witness opened door, found Miss
Bamberger, and carried her to manager's room not far off. On reaching
home had found stains of blood on his hands. Had said nothing of this,
because he had seen notice of the lady's death from shock in next
morning's paper. Was nevertheless convinced that blood must have been
on her dress.

The murder was therefore proved. But the victim had not been robbed
of her jewellery, which demonstrated that, if the crime had not been
committed by a lunatic, the motive for it must have been personal.

With regard to identity of the murderer, Charles Feist deposed that on
the night in question he had entered the Opera late, having only an
admission to the standing room, that he was close to one of the doors
when the explosion took place and had been one of the first to leave
the house. The emergency lights in the corridors were on a separate
circuit, but had been also momentarily extinguished. They were up
again before those in the house. The crowd had at once become jammed
in the doorways, so that people got out much more slowly than might
have been expected. Many actually fell in the exits and were trampled
on. Then Madame Cordova had begun to sing in the dark, and the panic
had ceased in a few seconds. The witness did not think that more than
three hundred people altogether had got out through the several doors.
He himself had at once made for the main entrance. A few persons
rushed past him in the dark, descending the stairs from the boxes. One
or two fell on the steps. Just as the emergency lights went up again,
witness saw a young lady in a red silk dress fall, but did not see her
face distinctly; he was certain that she had a short string of pearls
round her throat. They gleamed in the light as she fell. She was
instantly lifted to her feet by Mr. Rufus Van Torp, who must have been
following her closely. She seemed to have hurt herself a little,
and he almost carried her down the corridor in the direction of
the carriage lobby on the Thirty-Eighth Street side. The two then
disappeared through a door. The witness would swear to the door, and
he described its position accurately. It seemed to have been left
ajar, but there was no light on the other side of it. The witness did
not know where the door led to. He had often wondered. It was not
for the use of the public. He frequently went to the Opera and was
perfectly familiar with the corridors. It was behind this door that
Paul Griggs had found Miss Bamberger. Questioned as to a possible
motive for the murder, the witness stated that Rufus Van Torp was
known to have shown homicidal tendencies, though otherwise perfectly
sane. In his early youth he had lived four years on a cattle-ranch as
a cow-puncher, and had undoubtedly killed two men during that time.
Witness had been private secretary to his partner, Mr. Isidore


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Online LibraryF. Marion CrawfordThe Primadonna → online text (page 19 of 24)