“Well, you and your friend Felix
have placed me in a very pleasant position, haven’t
you?” asked Lady Heyburn of Flockart, who had
just entered the green-and-white morning-room at Park
Street. “I hope now that you’re satisfied
with your blunder!”
The man addressed, in a well-cut suit
of grey, a fancy vest, and patent-leather boots, still
carrying his hat and stick in his hand, turned to
her in surprise.
“What do you mean?” he
asked. “I arrived from Paris at five this
morning, and I’ve brought you good news.”
“Nonsense!” cried the
woman, starting from her chair in anger. “You
can’t deceive me any longer.”
“Krail has discovered the whole
game. The syndicate held a meeting at the office
in Paris. He and I watched the arrivals.
We now know who they are, and exactly what they are
doing. By Jove! we never dreamed that your husband,
blind though he is, is head of such a smart and influential
group. Why, they’re the first in Europe.”
“What does that matter?
Krail wants money, so do we; but even with all your
wonderful schemes we get none!”
“Wait, my dear Winnie, remain
patient, and we shall obtain plenty.”
It was indeed strange for a woman
within that smart town-house, and with her electric
brougham at the door, to complain of poverty.
The house had been a centre of political activity
in the days before Sir Henry met with that terrible
affliction. The room in which the pair stood had
been the scene of many a private and momentous conference,
and in the big drawing-room upstairs many a Cabinet
Minister had bent over the hand of the fair Lady Heyburn.
Into the newly decorated room, with
its original Adams ceiling, its dead-white panelling
and antique overmantel, shone the morning sun, weak
and yellow as it always is in London in the spring-time.
Lady Heyburn, dressed in a smart walking-gown
of grey, pushed her fluffy fair hair from her brow,
while upon her face was an expression which told of
combined fear and anger.
Her visitor was surprised. After
that watchful afternoon in the Boulevard des
Capucines, he had sat in a corner of the Cafe
Terminus listening to Krail, who rubbed his hands
with delight and declared that he now held the most
powerful group in Europe in the hollow of his hand.
For the past six years or so gigantic
coups had been secured by that unassuming and
apparently third-rate financial house of Lenard et
Morellet. From a struggling firm they had within
a year grown into one whose wealth seemed inexhaustible,
and whose balances at the Credit Lyonnais, the Societe
Generale, and the Comptoir d’Escompte were
possibly the largest of any of the customers of those
great corporations. The financial world of Europe
had wondered. It was a mystery who was behind
Lenard et Morellet, the pair of steady-going, highly
respectable business men who lived in unostentatious
comfort, the former at Enghien, just outside Paris,
and the latter out in the country at Melum.
The mystery was so well and so carefully preserved
that not even the bankers themselves could obtain
knowledge of the truth.
Krail had, however, after nearly two
years of clever watching and ingenious subterfuge,
succeeded, by placing the group in a “hole”
in calling them together. That they met, and
often, was undoubted. But where they met, and
how, was still a complete mystery.
As Flockart had sat that previous
afternoon listening to Krail’s unscrupulous
and self-confident proposals, he had remained in silent
wonder at the man’s audacious attitude.
Nothing deterred him, nothing daunted him.
Flockart had returned that night from
Paris, gone to his chambers in Half-Moon Street, breakfasted,
dressed, and had now called upon her ladyship in order
to impart to her the good news. Yet, instead of
welcoming him, she only treated him with resentment
and scorn. He knew the quick flash of those eyes,
he had seen it before on other occasions. This
was not the first time they had quarrelled, yet he,
keen-witted and cunning, had always held her powerless
to elude him, had always compelled her to give him
the sums he so constantly demanded. That morning,
however, she was distinctly resentful, distinctly defiant.
For an instant he turned from her,
biting his lip in annoyance. When facing her
again, he smiled, asking, “Tell me, Winnie, what
does all this mean?”
“Mean!” echoed the Baronet’s
wife. “Mean! How can you ask me that
question? Look at me a ruined woman!
And you ”
“Speak out!” he cried. “What
“You surely know what has happened.
You have treated me like the cur you are and
that is speaking plainly. You’ve sacrificed
me in order to save yourself.”
“From exposure. To me, ruin is not a matter
of days, but of hours.”
“You’re speaking in enigmas.
I don’t understand you,” he cried impatiently.
“Krail and I have at last been successful.
We know now the true source of your husband’s
huge income, and in order to prevent exposure he must
pay and pay us well too.”
“Yes,” she laughed hysterically.
“You tell me all this after you’ve blundered.”
“Blundered! How?” he asked, surprised
at her demeanour.
“What’s the use of beating
about the bush?” asked her ladyship. “The
girl is back at Glencardine. She knows everything,
thanks to your foolish self-confidence.”
“Back at Glencardine!”
gasped Flockart. “But she dare not speak.
By heaven! if she does then then ”
“And what, pray, can you do?”
inquired the woman harshly. “It is I who
have to suffer, I who am crushed, humiliated, ruined,
while you and your precious friend shield yourselves
behind your cloaks of honesty. You are Sir Henry’s
friend. He believes you as such you!”
And she laughed the hollow laugh of a woman who was
staring death in the face. She was haggard and
drawn, and her hands trembled with nervousness which
she strove in vain to repress. Lady Heyburn was
“He still believes in me, eh?”
asked the man, thinking deeply, for his clever brain
was already active to devise some means of escape from
what appeared to be a distinctly awkward dilemma.
He had never calculated the chances of Gabrielle’s
return to her father’s side. He had believed
“I understand that my husband
will hear no word against you,” replied the
tall, fair-haired woman. “But when I speak
he will listen, depend upon it.”
“You dare!” he cried,
turning upon her in threatening attitude. “You
dare utter a single word against me, and, by Heaven!
I’ll tell what I know. The country shall
ring with a scandal the shame of your attitude
towards the girl, and a crime for which you will be
arraigned, with me, before an assize-court. Remember!”
The woman shrank from him. Her
face had blanched. She saw that he was equally
as determined as she was desperate. James Flockart
always kept his threats. He was by no means a
man to trifle with.
For a moment she was thoughtful, then
she laughed defiantly in his face. “Speak!
Say what you will. But if you do, you suffer with
“You say that exposure is imminent,”
he remarked. “How did the girl manage to
return to Glencardine?”
“With Walter’s aid.
He went down to Woodnewton. What passed between
them I have no idea. I only returned the day
before yesterday from the South. All I know is
that the girl is back with her father, and that he
knows much more than he ought to know.”
“Murie could not have assisted
her,” Flockart declared decisively. “The
old man suspects him of taking those Russian papers
from the safe.”
“How do you know he hasn’t
cleared himself of the suspicion? He may have
done. The old man dotes upon the girl.”
“I know all that.”
“And she may have turned upon
you, and told the truth about the safe incident.
That’s more than likely.”
“She dare not utter a word.”
“You’re far too self-confident. It
is your failing.”
“And when, pray, has it failed? Tell me.”
“Never, until the present moment.
Your bluff is perfect, yet there are moments when
it cannot aid you, depend upon it. She told me
one night long ago, in my own room, when she had disobeyed,
defied, and annoyed me, that she would never rest
until Sir Henry knew the truth, and that she would
place before him proofs of the other affair. She
has long intended to do this; and now, thanks to your
attitude of passive inertness, she has accomplished
“What!” he gasped in distinct
alarm, “has she told her father the truth?”
“A telegram I received from
Sir Henry late last night makes it only too plain
that he knows something,” responded the unhappy
woman, staring straight before her. “It
is your fault your fault!” she went
on, turning suddenly upon her companion again.
“I warned you of the danger long ago.”
Flockart stood motionless. The
announcement which the woman had made staggered him.
Felix Krail had come to him in Paris,
and after some hesitation, and with some reluctance,
had described how he had followed the girl along the
Nene bank and thrown her into the deepest part of the
river, knowing that she would be hampered by her skirts
and that she could not swim. “She will
not trouble us further. Never fear!” he
had said. “It will be thought a case of
suicide through love. Her mental depression is
the common talk of the neighbourhood.”
And yet the girl was safe and now
home again at Glencardine! He reflected upon
the ugly facts of “the other affair” to
which her ladyship sometimes referred, and his face
went ashen pale.
Just at the moment when success had
come to them after all their ingenuity and all their
endeavours just at a moment when they could
demand and obtain what terms they liked from Sir Henry
to preserve the secret of the financial combine came
“Felix was a fool to have left
his work only half-done,” he remarked aloud,
as though speaking to himself.
“What work?” asked the
hollow-eyed woman eagerly. But he did not satisfy
her. To explain would only increase her alarm
and render her even more desperate than she was.
“Did I not tell you often that,
from her, we had all to fear?” cried the woman
frantically. “But you would not listen.
And now I am I’m face to face with
the inevitable. Disaster is before me. No
power can avert it. The girl will have a bitter
and terrible revenge.”
“No,” he cried quickly,
with fierce determination. “No, I’ll
save you, Winnie. The girl shall not speak.
I’ll go up to Glencardine to-night and face
it out. You will come with me.”
“I!” gasped the shrinking
woman. “Ah, no. I I couldn’t.
I dare not face him. You know too well I dare