Read CHAPTER XI of Cleek: the Man of the Forty Faces, free online book, by Thomas W. Hanshew, on ReadCentral.com.

It was not until they were aboard the boat and the shores of France were slipping off into the distance that Miss Lorne saw anything at all of Dollops. As he had travelled down from Paris to Calais in a separate compartment there had been no opportunity to do so. He had, too, held himself respectfully aloof even after they had boarded the steamer; and, but that once, when a lurch of the vessel had unexpectedly disturbed Cleek’s equilibrium and knocked his hat off, she might not have seen him even then.

But the manner in which he pounced upon that hat, the tender care with which he brushed it, and the affectionate interest in both voice and eyes when he handed it back and inquired eagerly, “Didn’t hurt yourself, Gov’nor, did you, sir?” compelled her to take notice of him, and, in doing so, to understand the position in which they stood to each other.

“You are travelling with a servant?” she enquired.

“More than a servant a devoted henchman, Miss Lorne. They say you can’t purchase fidelity for all the money in the world, but I secured the finest brand of it in the Universe by the simple outlay of two half crowns. It is the boy of that night on Hampstead Heath the boy who stood at the turning point. The Devil didn’t get him, you see. He kept his promise and has been walking the straight road ever since.”

She turned round and looked at him; realizing more of the man’s character in that moment than a hundred deeds of bravery, a thousand acts of gentle courtesy, could ever have made her understand.

“And you took him in?” she said slowly. “You gave him a chance? You helped him to redeem himself? How good of you.”

“How good for me, you mean,” he laughed, “It was ’bread on the waters’ with a vengeance, Miss Lorne. I should have lost my life last night but for that boy.” And told her briefly and airily how the thing had come to pass.

“Don’t think it vindictive of me, but I am sorry, I am very, very sorry you were not able to hand that dreadful woman, Margot, over to the authorities, Mr. Cleek,” she said, with an expression of great seriousness. “She is not likely to forget or to forgive what you have done; and some day, perhaps ... Oh, do be on your guard. It was really foolhardy to have attempted the thing alone. Surely you might have appealed for assistance to the Paris police and not only have minimised your personal risk but made sure of the woman’s arrest.”

“Not without allowing the authorities to learn exactly what the Baron de Carjorac was so anxious to keep them from learning, Miss Lorne. They must have found out what I was after, what really had been lost, if I had applied to them for assistance. I had either to do the thing alone or drop the case entirely. And drop it I would not after you had asked me to accept it, and Pardon? No, Miss Lorne, I do not know who the woman Margot really is. Even that name may be fictitious, as was the one of ‘Comtesse de la Tour.’ I only know of her that she is one of the great figures of the Underworld; that money is her game money alone; money first, last, and all the time; that her personal history is as much of a mystery to her closest associates as was well, no matter; people of that ilk are not fit subjects to discuss with you. All that I know of the woman is that she has travelled pretty well over the world; that some six or eight months ago she was in Ceylon with a er a certain member of her crew, and came within an ace of falling foul of the law. She had put up a plan to loot the depository of the Pearl Fisheries Company at a period when there were thousands of pounds worth of gems awaiting transport. With her usual luck she slipped out of the net and left the country before she could be arrested. But she will have found something there that will repay her for the visit in one way or another. Luck of that kind seems to follow her always.”

And a long time afterward he had reason to remember what he said. For the present, however, he had banished from his mind all things but the happiness which was his to-day; and gave himself up to that happiness with his whole heart.

Not once did he again intrude anything that had to do with himself, his exploits, or his future upon Ailsa’s attention until all the voyage across the channel and all the journey from Dover up to London had come to an end; and even then, eager though he was to know how matters might shape themselves for her future he was tactful, considerate, careful not to force her into any embarrassing position or to claim from her more than the merest acquaintance might.

“You are going to your friend at Hampstead, I suppose,” he said as he handed her into a taxicab at Charing Cross. “I shall like to know if you succeed in getting the position with Lady Chepstow; and if you send no word to Mr. Narkom, I shall take silence as an assent and know that you have.”

And afterward, when the days grew in number and late April merged into early May and no word came, he knew that she had succeeded; and was comforted, thinking of her safely housed and perhaps in a position more congenial than the last. At any rate, she was in England, she was again in the same land with him; and that of itself was comfort.

But other comforts were not wanting. The full glory of tulip time was here; The Yard had no immediate occasion for his services, and time was his to dawdle in the public parks among the children, the birds, and the flowers.

“And, lord, how he do love ’em all, bless his heart!” commented Dollops in confidence to himself as he bustled about, putting the Den in order, watering the plants and touching lovingly the things that belonged to the master he adored his daily task when Cleek was in the Park and had no need for his services. It was a pleasure to the boy, that service. His whole heart was in it. He resented anything that interfered with it even for an instant; and as at this particular time he was in the very midst of preparing a small surprise against his master’s return, he was by no means pleased when a sharp whirring sound of a telephone bell shrilled out from the adjoining room and called him from his labour of love.

“Oh, blow that thing! A body don’t have a minute to call his own since it’s been put in,” he blurted out disgustedly, and answered the call. “’Ullo! Yuss; this is Cap’n Burbage’s. Wot? No, he aren’t in. Dunno when he will be. Dunno where he is. But if there’s any messidge I say, who wants him? Wot? Oh, s’elp me. You, is it, Mr. Narkom? Yuss, it’s me, sir Dollops. Wot? No, sir. Went out two hours ago. Gone to Kensington Palace Gardens. Tulips is in full bloom and you couldn’t hold him indoors with a chain at tulip-time, bless his heart. Yuss, sir. Top hat, white spats same as the ‘Cap’n’ always wears, sir.”

Narkom, at the other end of the line, called back: “If I miss him, if he comes in without seeing me, tell him to wait; I’ll be round before three. Good-bye!” then hung up the receiver and turned to the gentleman who stood by the window on the other side of the private office, agitatedly twirling the end of his thick grey-threaded moustache with one hand, while with the other he drummed a nervous tattoo upon the broad oaken sill. “Not at home, Sir Henry; but, fortunately, I know where to find him with but little loss of time,” he said, and pressed twice upon an electric button beside his desk. “My motor will be at the door in a couple of minutes, and with ordinary luck we ought to be able to pick him up inside of the next half-hour.”

Sir Henry Sir Henry Wilding, Bart., to give him his full name and title a handsome, well-set-up man of about forty years of age, well groomed, and with the upright bearing which comes of military training, twisted round on his heel at this and gave the superintendent an almost grateful look.

“I hope so God knows I hope so, Mr. Narkom,” he said agitatedly. “Time is the one important thing at present. The suspense and uncertainty are getting on my nerves so horribly that the very minutes seem endless. Remember, there are only three days before the race, and if those rascals, whoever they are, get at Black Riot before then, God help me that’s all! And if this man Cleek can’t probe the diabolical mystery, they will get at her, too, and put Logan where they put Tolliver, the brutes!”

“You may trust Cleek to see that they don’t, Sir Henry. It is just the kind of case he will glory in; and if Black Riot is all that you believe her, you’ll carry off the Derby in spite of these enterprising gentry who Hallo! here’s the motor. Clap on your hat, Sir Henry, and come along. Mind the step! Kensington Palace Gardens, Lennard and as fast as you can streak it.”