February as a rule is not a month
of fogs, but rather a month of tempestuous gales,
of frosts and snowfalls, but the night of February
17th, 19 , was one of calm and mist.
It was not the typical London fog so dreaded by the
foreigner, but one of those little patchy mists which
smoke through the streets, now enshrouding and making
the nearest object invisible, now clearing away to
the finest diaphanous filament of pale grey.
Sir William Bartholomew had a house
in Portman Place, which is a wide thoroughfare, filled
with solemn edifices of unlovely and forbidding exterior,
but remarkably comfortable within. Shortly before
eleven on the night of February 17th, a taxi drew
up at the junction of Sussex Street and Portman Place,
and a girl alighted. The fog at that moment was
denser than usual and she hesitated a moment before
she left the shelter which the cab afforded.
She gave the driver a few instructions
and walked on with a firm step, turning abruptly and
mounting the steps of Number 173. Very quickly
she inserted her key in the lock, pushed the door
open and closed it behind her. She switched on
the hall light. The house sounded hollow and
deserted, a fact which afforded her considerable satisfaction.
She turned the light out and found her way up the
broad stairs to the first floor, paused for a moment
to switch on another light which she knew would not
be observable from the street outside and mounted the
Miss Belinda Mary Bartholomew congratulated
herself upon the success of her scheme, and the only
doubt that was in her mind now was whether the boudoir
had been locked, but her father was rather careless
in such matters and Jacks the butler was one of those
dear, silly, old men who never locked anything, and,
in consequence, faced every audit with a long face
and a longer tale of the peculations of occasional
To her immense relief the handle turned
and the door opened to her touch. Somebody had
had the sense to pull down the blinds and the curtains
were drawn. She switched on the light with a sigh
of relief. Her mother’s writing table was
covered with unopened letters, but she brushed these
aside in her search for the little parcel. It
was not there and her heart sank. Perhaps she
had put it in one of the drawers. She tried them
all without result.
She stood by the desk a picture of
perplexity, biting a finger thoughtfully.
“Thank goodness!” she
said with a jump, for she saw the parcel on the mantel
shelf, crossed the room and took it down.
With eager hands she tore off the
covering and came to the familiar leather case.
Not until she had opened the padded lid and had seen
the snuffbox reposing in a bed of cotton wool did
she relapse into a long sigh of relief.
“Thank heaven for that,” she said aloud.
“And me,” said a voice.
She sprang up and turned round with a look of terror.
“Mr. Mr. Meredith,” she stammered.
T. X. stood by the window curtains
from whence he had made his dramatic entry upon the
“I say you have to thank me also, Miss Bartholomew,”
he said presently.
“How do you know my name?” she asked with
“I know everything in the world,”
he answered, and she smiled. Suddenly her face
went serious and she demanded sharply,
“Who sent you after me Mr. Kara?”
“Mr. Kara?” he repeated, in wonder.
“He threatened to send for the
police,” she went on rapidly, “and I told
him he might do so. I didn’t mind the police it
was Kara I was afraid of. You know what I went
for, my mother’s property.”
She held the snuff-box in her outstretched hand.
“He accused me of stealing and
was hateful, and then he put me downstairs in that
awful cellar and ”
“And?” suggested T. X.
“That’s all,” she
replied with tightened lips; “what are you going
to do now?”
“I am going to ask you a few
questions if I may,” he said. “In
the first place have you not heard anything about
Mr. Kara since you went away?”
She shook her head.
“I have kept out of his way,” she said
“Have you seen the newspapers?” he asked.
“I have seen the advertisement
column I wired asking Papa to reply to
“I know I saw it,” he smiled;
“that is what brought me here.”
“I was afraid it would,”
she said ruefully; “father is awfully loquacious
in print he makes speeches you know.
All I wanted him to say was yes or no. What do
you mean about the newspapers?” she went on.
“Is anything wrong with mother?”
He shook his head.
“So far as I know Lady Bartholomew
is in the best of health and is on her way home.”
“Then what do you mean by asking
me about the newspapers!” she demanded; “why
should I see the newspapers what is there
for me to see?”
“About Kara?” he suggested.
She shook her head in bewilderment.
“I know and want to know nothing about Kara.
Why do you say this to me?”
“Because,” said T. X.
slowly, “on the night you disappeared from Cadogan
Square, Remington Kara was murdered.”
“Murdered,” she gasped.
“He was stabbed to the heart by some person
or persons unknown.”
T. X. took his hand from his pocket
and pulled something out which was wrapped in tissue
paper. This he carefully removed and the girl
watched with fascinated gaze, and with an awful sense
of apprehension. Presently the object was revealed.
It was a pair of scissors with the handle wrapped
about with a small handkerchief dappled with brown
stains. She took a step backward, raising her
hands to her cheeks.
“My scissors,” she said huskily; “you
won’t think ”
She stared up at him, fear and indignation struggling
“I don’t think you committed
the murder,” he smiled; “if that’s
what you mean to ask me, but if anybody else found
those scissors and had identified this handkerchief
you would have been in rather a fix, my young friend.”
She looked at the scissors and shuddered.
“I did kill something,”
she said in a low voice, “an awful dog...
I don’t know how I did it, but the beastly thing
jumped at me and I just stabbed him and killed him,
and I am glad,” she nodded many times and repeated,
“I am glad.”
“So I gather I found
the dog and now perhaps you’ll explain why I
didn’t find you?”
Again she hesitated and he felt that
she was hiding something from him.
“I don’t know why you
didn’t find me,” she said; “I was
“How did you get out?”
“How did you get out?” she challenged
“I got out through the door,”
he confessed; “it seems a ridiculously commonplace
way of leaving but that’s the only way I could
“And that’s how I got out,” she
answered, with a little smile.
“But it was locked.”
“I see now,” she said;
“I was in the cellar. I heard your key in
the lock and bolted down the trap, leaving those awful
scissors behind. I thought it was Kara with some
of his friends and then the voices died away and I
ventured to come up and found you had left the door
open. So so I ”
These queer little pauses puzzled
T. X. There was something she was not telling him.
Something she had yet to reveal.
“So I got away you see,”
she went on. “I came out into the kitchen;
there was nobody there, and I passed through the area
door and up the steps and just round the corner I
found a taxicab, and that is all.”
She spread out her hands in a dramatic little gesture.
“And that is all, is it?” said T. X.
“That is all,” she repeated; “now
what are you going to do?”
T. X. looked up at the ceiling and stroked his chin.
“I suppose that I ought to arrest
you. I feel that something is due from me.
May I ask if you were sleeping in the bed downstairs?”
“In the lower cellar?”
she demanded, a little pause and then, “Yes,
I was sleeping in the cellar downstairs.”
There was that interval of hesitation almost between
“What are you going to do?” she asked
She was feeling more sure of herself
and had suppressed the panic which his sudden appearance
had produced in her. He rumpled his hair, a gross
imitation, did she but know it, of one of his chief’s
mannerisms and she observed that his hair was very
thick and inclined to curl. She saw also that
he was passably good looking, had fine grey eyes, a
straight nose and a most firm chin.
“I think,” she suggested gently, “you
had better arrest me.”
“Don’t be silly,” he begged.
She stared at him in amazement.
“What did you say?” she asked wrathfully.
“I said ‘don’t be silly,’”
repeated the calm young man.
“Do you know that you’re being very rude?”
He seemed interested and surprised at this novel view
of his conduct.
“Of course,” she went
on carefully smoothing her dress and avoiding his
eye, “I know you think I am silly and that I’ve
got a most comic name.”
“I have never said your name
was comic,” he replied coldly; “I would
not take so great a liberty.”
“You said it was ‘weird’ which was
worse,” she claimed.
“I may have said it was ‘weird,"’
he admitted, “but that’s rather different
to saying it was ‘comic.’ There is
dignity in weird things. For example, nightmares
aren’t comic but they’re weird.”
“Thank you,” she said pointedly.
“Not that I mean your name is
anything approaching a nightmare.” He made
this concession with a most magnificent sweep of hand
as though he were a king conceding her the right to
remain covered in his presence. “I think
that Belinda Ann ”
“Belinda Mary,” she corrected.
“Belinda Mary, I was going to
say, or as a matter of fact,” he floundered,
“I was going to say Belinda and Mary.”
“You were going to say nothing of the kind,”
she corrected him.
“Anyway, I think Belinda Mary is a very pretty
“You think nothing of the sort.”
She saw the laughter in his eyes and felt an insane
desire to laugh.
“You said it was a weird name
and you think it is a weird name, but I really can’t
be bothered considering everybody’s views.
I think it’s a weird name, too. I was named
after an aunt,” she added in self-defence.
“There you have the advantage
of me,” he inclined his head politely; “I
was named after my father’s favourite dog.”
“What does T. X. stand for?” she asked
“Thomas Xavier,” he said,
and she leant back in the big chair on the edge of
which a few minutes before she had perched herself
in trepidation and dissolved into a fit of immoderate
“It is comic, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Oh, I am sorry I’m so
rude,” she gasped. “Fancy being called
Tommy Xavier I mean Thomas Xavier.”
“You may call me Tommy if you wish most
of my friends do.”
“Unfortunately I’m not
your friend,” she said, still smiling and wiping
the tears from her eyes, “so I shall go on calling
you Mr. Meredith if you don’t mind.”
She looked at her watch.
“If you are not going to arrest me I’m
going,” she said.
“I have certainly no intention
of arresting you,” said he, “but I am
going to see you home!”
She jumped up smartly.
“You’re not,” she commanded.
She was so definite in this that he was startled.
“My dear child,” he protested.
“Please don’t ‘dear
child’ me,” she said seriously; “you’re
going to be a good little Tommy and let me go home
She held out her hand frankly and
the laughing appeal in her eyes was irresistible.
“Well, I’ll see you to a cab,” he
“And listen while I give the
driver instructions where he is to take me?”
She shook her head reprovingly.
“It must be an awful thing to be a policeman.”
He stood back with folded arms, a stern frown on his
“Don’t you trust me?” he asked.
“No,” she replied.
“Quite right,” he approved;
“anyway I’ll see you to the cab and you
can tell the driver to go to Charing Cross station
and on your way you can change your direction.”
“And you promise you won’t follow me?”
“On my honour,” he swore; “on one
“I will make no conditions,” she replied
“Please come down from your
great big horse,” he begged, “and listen
to reason. The condition I make is that I can
always bring you to an appointed rendezvous whenever
I want you. Honestly, this is necessary, Belinda
“Miss Bartholomew,” she corrected, coldly.
“It is necessary,” he
went on, “as you will understand. Promise
me that, if I put an advertisement in the agonies
of either an evening paper which I will name or in
the Morning Port, you will keep the appointment I
fix, if it is humanly possible.”
She hesitated a moment, then held out her hand.
“I promise,” she said.
“Good for you, Belinda Mary,”
said he, and tucking her arm in his he led her out
of the room switching off the light and racing her
down the stairs.
If there was a lot of the schoolgirl
left in Belinda Mary Bartholomew, no less of the schoolboy
was there in this Commissioner of Police. He
would have danced her through the fog, contemptuous
of the proprieties, but he wasn’t so very anxious
to get her to her cab and to lose sight of her.
“Good-night,” he said, holding her hand.
“That’s the third time
you’ve shaken hands with me to-night,”
“Don’t let us have any
unpleasantness at the last,” he pleaded, “and
“I have promised,” she replied.
“And one day,” he went
on, “you will tell me all that happened in that
“I have told you,” she said in a low voice.
“You have not told me everything, child.”
He handed her into the cab. He
shut the door behind her and leant through the open
“Victoria or Marble Arch?” he asked politely.
“Charing Cross,” she replied, with a little
He watched the cab drive away and
then suddenly it stopped and a figure lent out from
the window beckoning him frantically. He ran up
“Suppose I want you,” she asked.
“Advertise,” he said promptly,
“beginning your advertisement ’Dear Tommy."’
“I shall put ‘T. X.,’”
she said indignantly.
“Then I shall take no notice
of your advertisement,” he replied and stood
in the middle of the street, his hat in his hand, to
the intense annoyance of a taxi-cab driver who literally
all but ran him down and in a figurative sense did
so until T. X. was out of earshot.