Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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IT was one of those rather cold and dreary evenings and, although the fire in my drawing-room was burning brightly and the room itself is attractive and cheerful, I felt a peculiar sense of depression.
And I couldn't shake it off. I asked myself: What have you got to be depressed about? But I couldn't find any answer.
I was still trying when the telephone bell rang. It was Glynda. She said: "Mignon, my dear (she always calls me by my first Christian name, although most people call me Adela), do you think you could come round and drink a cocktail? I have a few nice friends here and there is a man who seems rather nice. And he's awfully keen to meet you."
I said: "Glynda, I'd love it. Who is the man? Do I know him?"
"I don't think so," said Glynda. "But he's fearfully keen to meet you. I've forgotten his name for the moment. Julia Spence brought him here. He has a fascinating face and nice manners. Now—are you curious?"
I wasn't, but I said: "Very! I'll be with you as soon as I've changed my frock."
While I was changing, my mind, for no accountable reason, switched to Robert. Why I should suddenly begin to think about him I don't know. I ought to dislike Robert intensely; yet I made no endeavor to dismiss him from my mind. I shrugged my shoulders. Thinking about Robert was just "one of those things." It didn't really matter and it didn't mean a thing.
I slipped into my fur coat and was on the way to my drawing-room when Herbert, my maid, came in and said that I had a caller. She gave me his card. I looked at it and read, "Detective-Inspector J. B. Ellams, C.I.D., New Scotland Yard," and printed underneath was a private address and telephone number. I wondered what on earth a detective inspector could want with me!
When I went in, he was standing in front of the fireplace. He was a nice-looking man of about forty-five years of age, with greying hair, a kindly face, and good-humored eyes.
I said as brightly as possible: "Good evening, Mr. Ellams. I do hope I haven't been breaking the law. I'm not used to receiving visits from detective-inspectors."
He smiled. He said: "You've nothing to worry about, Mrs. Hayes, but I wonder if you'd mind answering a few questions. And I'd be awfully glad if you'd answer the questions before I tell you my reason for asking them."
I said: "That's rather odd, isn't it? And won't you sit down?"
He sat down. I gave him a cigarette.
"No, it isn't really odd, Mrs. Hayes," he said. "You see, if I told you the reason why I'm asking the questions, it might possibly affect your emotions, and your answers. Do you understand?"
"Ye-es? I think I do," I answered. "Anyway, please ask me anything you want to."
He said: "I think I am right in saving that you were the Comtesse d'Epernay, Mrs. Hayes, and that you divorced your husband—the Comte Robert d'Épernay—about a year ago. And then you retook your maiden name and called yourself Mrs. Adela Hayes. Isn't that right?"
I said: "Yes, that's perfectly right. You know, Mr. Ellams, it is rather strange, but only a few minutes ago I was thinking about my ex-husband, and I wondered why. Now you arrive and begin to talk about him."
He said: "I don't know that that's strange, Mrs. Hayes. Very often there is a sort of telepathy between people who are fond of each other."
"Oh, dear," I murmured, "am I still supposed to be fond of him?"
"I don't know," he replied. "But I'd like to know."
I said: "Really, Mr. Ellams, this is most peculiar, isn't it? Are you going into all the nuances of my past love life?"
He smiled. He had the most charming smile. He said: "No. I'm not going to ask you anything you don't want to answer, but I had a reason for suggesting that. You will see what it is in a minute. Tell me, Mrs. Hayes, have you seen the Comte since you divorced him?"
I said: "No, I haven't seen him for a long time, and I don't know that I particularly want to."
He asked: "Are you sure about that? You know, when a woman begins to think about her ex-husband, sometimes she gets a little curious about him. She wonders if he's altered; whether he's missed her."
I said: "Well, I don't think I've been thinking about those things, and I don't think—in fact, I'm sure I'm not fond of Robert. You see, since we are talking about this, I might as well tell you that I was very angry with him."
He nodded. He said: "Yes? He was very attractive, wasn't he—much too attractive?"
I said: "Women adored him. I did at one time. Mind you, Mr. Ellams, I don't know that it was entirely his fault. You know, women are awful cats. They are not a bit kind to each other. I must say I think there was an awful lot of temptation put in Robert's way."
He said: "Yes, I expect there was. And I suppose the temptation got a little too strong eventually."
"I suppose so," I answered. "There was a woman—she was supposed to be a friend of mine—very charming, very good-looking. I suspected Robert—I really suspected him for the first time in my life. So I left him."
He raised his eyebrows. "Do you mean you left him without knowing anything really definite about him?" he asked.
I nodded. "Yes, I suppose I did. But then, I've always believed in my instinct. Anyway, I wrote him a letter and I told him exactly what I suspected, and he wrote back and told me I was quite right."
"I see. And then did he go off with this lady? Was that what made you bring your action for divorce?"
I said: "No. He supplied some other evidence. I suppose he didn't want to bring her into it."
"Quite—the usual thing," he said. "And has he married her since?"
I shook my head. "No, as far as I know, he hasn't married anybody. You know, Mr. Ellams, I'm getting most frightfully curious about this. I would like to know what it's all about."
He said: "I'm going to tell you what it's about, Mrs. Hayes, and then you'll understand my questions. The first thing I wanted to find out was whether your ex-husband believed that he was entitled to be angry with you—such as, for instance, if your suspicions about this lady for whom you left him were incorrect. You say he wrote to you and said that what you thought was right, but a man will often write a letter like that out of anger. He may have thought that as you accused him of it he might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb."
"All right," I said. "And supposing he did think that?"
He looked serious. "The point is, as far as I am concerned, and when I say I, I mean the police," he went on, "if he thought he was entitled to be angry with you, then perhaps we ought to regard him as a potential enemy."
My mouth almost opened with amazement. "A potential enemy! Robert! Whatever do you mean?"
He said: "I'll explain. For some years we have had our eye on a gentleman called Marcel Gulavet—an extremely clever crook. I believe he was at one time in the French Army and in the F.F.I. He had a not undistinguished career in the war. But since then his record has been very bad. He's got a very clever racket, Mrs. Hayes, and one I do not want to see used on you."
"On me?" I was amazed. "Whatever has this Marcel Gulavet to do with me?"
"Just this," he went on. "Marcel's specialty is a clever one. He takes pains to scrape up an acquaintanceship with any man who has been married to a wealthy woman who possesses valuable jewellery and who feels disgruntled about the divorce proceedings which the wife has successfully brought. He endeavors to obtain the confidence of such a man. From him, by degrees, very slowly and very cleverly, so as not to arouse any suspicion, he finds out about the late wife's habits, her method of life, what time she goes out in the day, whether she goes to the theatre or dines out a great deal. You understand?"
I said: "Yes; I think I do."
"Very often," he went on, "the husband will have retained keys of safes or strong-boxes—quite innocently, of course. We've known cases where Gulavet has actually taken an impression of a key of a safe in the possession of an ex-husband, had a duplicate made and, picking his time, walked into the lady's flat and helped himself."
"And do you think this Marcel Gulavet is going to use the same tactics on me, Mr. Ellams?" I asked.
"I don't know, but I don't propose to take any chances," he replied. "I want to get my hands on this Marcel Gulavet, and the thing is we do know that during the past six or seven months he has assiduously cultivated the friendship of your ex-husband."
I said a little hotly: "Mr. Ellams, are you suggesting that Robert—my ex-husband—would league himself with this criminal in order to rob me?"
He shook his head. "I'm not suggesting that at all, Mrs. Hayes. It is quite possible that the Comte might be perfectly innocent in this business. But if he has developed a dislike for you he might possibly allow himself to be talked into doing something which might harm you, by this Gulavet."
I said: "You can set your mind at rest on that point immediately, Mr. Ellams. I know Robert very well. He may have had failings—he may have been tempted by women—but I do tell you that he would never stoop to do anything that was dishonest."
He said: "Thank you very much, Mrs. Hayes. You've told me all I wanted to know. Incidentally," he went on, with a little smile, "you don't seem to dislike the Comte as much as you gave me to believe a little while ago."
I said: "But I do dislike him—I naturally dislike him. Any woman would dislike a man who preferred somebody else, but that doesn't mean to say that I have to depreciate his character."
He got up, saying, "I see. Well, thank you very much once more. We'll keep a close eye on our friend, Gulavet. In the meantime, Mrs. Hayes, you have my card, and you'll find my private address and telephone number on it. I suggest that if you notice anything that seems at all suspicious you ring me at my private address immediately."
I said: "That's very kind of you, Mr. Ellams."
"Do you keep many valuables here in this flat?" he asked. "If you do, I should be rather inclined to move them to a safe place."
"I don't propose to do anything of the sort," I replied. "I'm perfectly certain that Robert would not allow himself to be talked into giving away any of my personal affairs to this Gulavet person, even if he did consider him to be a friend."
He said: "Well, that's as you like. But don't forget, if you need me you know where to get in touch with me."
We shook hands and he went away. After he had gone I stood in the middle of the room thinking about Robert. I remembered certain sides of him—the charming, mischievous side of his character.
Robert was very clever—quite a brilliant person—a man who always managed to get his own way.
And Inspector Ellams had put a very funny idea into my head. Just supposing Robert were angry with me; supposing the police officer had been right and there hadn't been anything between Robert and that woman; supposing he had written that letter saying I was perfectly right about her in a fit of pique; supposing now, being thoroughly angry, he was in a frame of mind to score off me?
But he couldn't consider robbing me! Or could he? He might if he were broke; if he hadn't any money. Lots of men changed during the war and I hadn't seen Robert for some time. Then I thought to myself: It isn't any good being depressed. You'd much better go round to Glynda's and drink a cocktail. I went. But on the way round in the cab I felt more depressed than ever.
Glynda met me in the hall. She took one look and said: "But, my dear, whatever is the matter? You look most unhappy. What's wrong?"
I said: "Oh, I suppose I'm merely being stupid, Glynda, but I've been thinking about Robert."
She said: "Oh dear, has he been doing something wicked? But, anyway, you're not fearfully concerned about him, are you, my dear? It isn't as if he belonged to you any more." She looked at me sideways.
I said: "No, but it's not easy to be entirely disinterested." Glynda, I knew, had always been a great admirer of Robert's, and she's my oldest friend. I think she had the idea in her head that I'd been a little hasty about the divorce.
She said: "Well, never mind, cheer up. There's a most charming man here—the man I told you about He's dying to meet you. His name is Raoul Duchâtel, a Frenchman. He was a pilot in the Fighting French Air Force. Incidentally, he knew Robert, too. I believe they were old friends."
Wearily I replied, "Were they?" It seemed I couldn't escape from Robert.
"Yes," she said brightly.
"This Raoul Duchâtel is a great friend of Julia Spence and her husband. They think he's marvellous. Come and meet him."
I went into the drawing room, which was crowded with people. Glynda piloted me across the room, grabbed a dry Martini from the service table, gave it to me en route. Then she produced Captain Duchâtel.
He was tall and slim—about Robert's height, I thought, but thinner. And then I metaphorically kicked myself for comparing everybody I met with my ex-husband. He had an odd but rather attractive face, and his eyes were nice.
He spoke with a small stutter in a rather peculiar metallic voice, and I found myself thinking that it was a pity that his voice was not as attractive as the rest of him—for his sake, I mean.
He said: "You know, Madame, I'm so very glad to meet you, because I've heard so much about you."
"Dear me," I murmured. "Have you really? I do hope it's been good."
He said: "It's been very good. You see, I used to fly with your husband--I beg your pardon, he was your husband—Robert. He is a great friend of mine and he spent hours talking about you."
I said, "Really!" I was beginning to feel a little bored with Robert as a permanent topic of conversation. I hoped he'd change the subject, but he didn't.
He went on: "You know, Madame, he was a charming and delightful man. He was the sort of man who would have been a great success at anything he took up if only...."
My curiosity was aroused. I asked: "If only what, Captain Duchâtel?"
He shrugged his shoulders. He said: "I'm very sorry. Perhaps I should not have said that."
I said: "Why not? In any event, since you have said it, I think it's only right for you to finish the sentence."
He drank his cocktail slowly, put the glass on a table behind him. He said: "Robert is a temperamental person, as you probably know, and ever since he has not been with you he has altered, and I am afraid, not for the better."
He sighed, and went on: "One can understand it. You are so lovely and attractive that one can understand a man being very unhappy if he lost you and doing all sorts of silly and stupid things. Of course, there is no excuse for doing silly and stupid things, but perhaps...?" He stopped again, shrugged his shoulders. "No," he said, "I must not say that."
"Captain Duchâtel, what were you going to say?" I asked.
He spread his hands. He looked at me with a charming half-smile. I began to think that he was a rather fascinating person, in spite of his peculiar voice.
He said: "Actually, Madame, I think that when you divorced Robert he began to—suffer from a feeling of—what you call it—resentment. I think that he was angry with life, with himself, and possibly with you. And when a man feels like that he does all sorts of strange things." He smiled again and asked: "Please let me get you another cocktail. I hope anything I have said has not made you unhappy. I would rather die than make you unhappy, Madame."
I said thank you very much again and gave him my glass. I didn't want another cocktail, but I wanted to think for a moment.
What was all this business about Robert? My brain was almost whirling. First of all Detective-Inspector Ellams, with his story about Robert being influenced by this man Marcel Gulavet. And now this obviously very nice and charming Captain Duchâtel, who, far from having a bad opinion of Robert, seemed to be thoroughly in sympathy with him. I felt more bemused than ever, but I had to find out some more. I just had to.
He came back with the cocktail. He said: "Now drink that and let's talk about something else. There are so many much more interesting subjects than the unfortunate Robert."
I said: "Unfortunate! But why unfortunate? Captain Duchâtel, you're a friend of Robert's. You know that he's a very clever man. Well, I really don't see why he should metaphorically go to the dogs merely because I divorced him. After all, he deserved to be divorced."
He put his head on one side. He smiled at me again; that odd, twisted smile of his had an almost hypnotic effect on me.
He said: "You know, that's the trouble. I have an idea that he thought you'd been a little unjust to him."
"Unjust!" I said. I was beginning to feel rather angry. I went on: "If you know anything about Robert you will know that for some time before I divorced him he was going about with that woman. I expect you know whom I mean—the beautiful Italian lady. Well, don't you think I was entitled to suspect him?"
He said: "Are suspicions always justified, Madame? Not always. You see, Robert met her when he was doing those amateur theatricals in the country. You remember what a marvellous actor he was. She was a very fascinating woman, but that doesn't mean that there was really anything between her and Robert, does it?"
I laughed a little bitterly. "If you mean that he was particularly keen on keeping her name out of the business, I agree with you," I said. "But since you know so much about Robert's private affairs, you will also know that when I wrote him and accused him of having a liaison with the lady in question, what did he do? He didn't admit that he'd been unfaithful with her, I grant you, but he took great pains to send me the usual hotel bill in connection with some other woman, which constituted the evidence in the divorce case."
He shrugged his shoulders. He said: "Of course, Madame, what you say is quite true. I merely thought that when a man as clever and temperamental as Robert is accused of something of which, perhaps, he might have been innocent, he becomes angry. He might have been one of those men who say, 'Very well, I might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.' He might have sent you that hotel bill in a fit of pique."
I said: "Might—might —might! Captain Duchâtel, it's a lovely word, 'might'—a part of the sentence 'what might have been'." I laughed a little bitterly.
He said: "Of course, I've been very foolish. I shouldn't have talked to you about it. I've made you unhappy. I'm so very, very sorry." He looked at me with such a pleading expression on his face that I had to laugh."
I said: "Very well, I forgive you."
I drank some of my cocktail. I began to think that Robert seemed to have a very loyal friend in Raoul Duchâtel. I remembered that Robert had always attracted to him a rather nice type of man. I wondered how he could have two such different friends as this Raoul Duchâtel, who was so obviously delightful, and the sinister-sounding Marcel Gulavet. An idea occurred to me.
I said: "Tell me something, if you know Robert well, and I have a particular reason for asking this, do you know anything about a man named Marcel Gulavet?"
He looked at me. His expression was serious. "But yes," he said. "Not only have I heard of him, but I know him very well."
I said: "Really! Would you tell me about him? I have a particular reason for wanting to know."
He said: "But of course. He is a very good type of man, you know—a flying-officer in our Service with a not undistinguished record. He is, of course, younger than Robert, and I am sorry to say that ever since he's known Robert he has gone rather to the bad. Have I said something very terrible?"
I said: "No, do you mean that Robert has had a bad effect on this Gulavet?"
He nodded. "I am afraid I do," he said. "You see, Gulavet is a young and impressionable man. He has a great admiration for Robert, and, as I have told you, Robert is inclined to be very cynical these days. I think that possibly he has been a little short of the good things in life—of money, and perhaps a lot of his old friends have passed him by. Also, but perhaps you did not hear of it, he had a bad flying smash a year ago. He has recovered, of course, but it shook him very badly. I think that this Gulavet has listened too much to the things that Robert has said; has become a little embittered, too."
An idea—not a very nice one—began to take shape in my mind. I said: "Captain Duchâtel, I want you to be absolutely frank with me. Can you tell me if Robert and this Marcel Gulavet have been associated together in anything which might bring them under the notice of the police? Would you just answer yes or no?"
He paused for a moment. He looked very miserable. Then he said: "If you ask me, Madame, I must answer yes."
"Thank you very much," I said. "Now, will you answer one more question? If these two have done something together which was not right, who do you think was mainly responsible? Who would be the leader; in whose brain would the idea germinate—in Robert's or in Mr. Gulavet's?"
Without a second's hesitation he said: "There is no doubt that the inceptor of such an idea would be Robert. Gulavet would follow him anywhere."
I said: "I see. Thank you very much for telling me." I felt more miserable than ever.
He smiled at me again. He said: "But listen, Madame, all this has nothing to do with you, and I think that possibly you are a little unhappy. You are remembering the past, and the past is always finished and done with, isn't it?"
I said: "I am afraid it isn't—not always." I was never nearer to bursting into tears in my life. Yet in one way I was glad. I'd often wondered if I was still in love with Robert. I'd never been quite certain. Now, hearing all this, I knew that I disliked him intensely.
Possibly he sensed what was passing in my mind.
He said: "Love is a very funny thing, Madame. And so is hate. It is strange how the two things often go together. But now, do you think that I have deserved well of your country? I have been a good airman in the war. Don't you think that your country owes me something?" He looked at me with such an impish expression in his eyes that I could not refrain from smiling.
I said: "I'm sure you have. But why?"
"Well," he said, "if you think I deserve well, then I think you should try to repay. Mind you, the repayment is a big one. I'm going to suggest that you do me the honor of dining with me one night. I would like so much to talk to you again."
I said: "Of course, I'd like that very much."
We arranged a night. I agreed to meet him at the Splendide for dinner on the following Thursday. He seemed overjoyed at my accepting his invitation. Then he said good-bye and went off.
When he had gone, I found myself thinking about him. I thought I was beginning to be very interested in Captain Raoul Duchâtel. Perhaps too interested.
I WAS glad when Thursday came. At eight o'clock that evening, when I had finished dressing, I went to the wall safe in my bedroom, opened it, and took out some rings and a bracelet. I stood there in front of the safe, looking at the boxes which contained my jewellery and thinking about what the detective-inspector had said about Robert and Gulavet. Supposing Robert had begun to hate me, could it be possible that he could bring himself to steal from me? I shrugged my shoulders. I remembered what Raoul Duchâtel had said—that people can change quickly.
And it would not be difficult for Robert. It was the same wall safe; the same combination on the lock. And the tiara in the safe, old-fashioned but very valuable, that had come to me from my mother, would sell for a great deal of money.
I shrugged my shoulders again. Perhaps I would ask Captain Duchâtel what he thought.
We had the most delightful meal. Raoul—for half way through dinner we had gone to Christian names—was very charming. He was restful, reassuring, and possessed that supreme masculine gift of making a woman feel important. I forgot about Robert I forgot about everything. I, who had said that I would never again consider marriage, found myself thinking that Raoul would make an ideal husband for some lucky woman.
Afterwards, when he was putting me into my car, he said: "I want to see you soon, Adela. And I ought to tell I you, however disloyal it may sound, that I'm glad you did divorce Robert and that you are free."
I said: "Really! I thought you were disliking me because I had. Do you remember what you said at Glynda's cocktail party?"
He nodded. "I know. But I feel differently now." He put his hand through the driving window and took mine. "I want you to dine with me one night soon," he went on. "There is something I want to ask you. Will you dine next Thursday—please?"
My heart began to beat a little too quickly for my liking. I wondered what was happening to me. The idea came to me very definitely that he was going to propose to me on the following Thursday. And I liked the idea—very much.
I said I would like to dine with him, and drove back to my flat. I felt very happy. At least I felt very happy until, I took off my bracelets, opened, the wall safe in my bedroom, and took out my jewel case to put the bracelets away.
Then my heart stood still. The tiara was gone!
I THOUGHT immediately of Robert. The wall safe had not been opened by force and there was only one person who knew the combination.
I felt terribly angry. I don't think I've ever been so angry in my life. I sat down and cried with rage and disappointment. I was furious that a man who had once been my husband could descend to such depths.
Then I dried my eyes, powdered my nose, smoked a cigarette, and telephoned to Detective-Inspector Ellams.
It was half an hour after midnight when I decided to telephone through to Raoul and tell him what had happened. I felt lonely, undecided, and miserable.
When he answered the telephone, I said: "Raoul, I'm terribly sorry to disturb you, but I'm in such trouble. Will you listen carefully?"
He said yes. He also said that nothing was so serious that it couldn't be put right, and that I was to try not to worry too much. Then he told me to go ahead.
I said: "When I got back here to-night, after leaving you, I found that my tiara was gone from the wall safe. I telephoned through to Detective-Inspector Ellams, who had warned me some time ago that he thought Robert might try to steal it. Mr. Ellams told me to do nothing until he had a chance to make some inquiries. This was about ten o'clock. At eleven-thirty he came through again. He told me that Robert had been seen in the corridor outside my flat this evening while you and I were dining."
Raoul said: "But this is terrible. Still, it doesn't mean that Robert—"
"I'm afraid it does," I said. "Because the detective-inspector had also found out that at about nine-forty-five this evening, within half an hour after he was seen here, Robert endeavored to sell the tiara to some shady character, who has told Mr. Ellams all about it. Mr. Ellams said that my only chance of getting the tiara back was to have Robert arrested. He said that if Robert was arrested he would probably divulge where the tiara was to save his own skin.
"I agreed. Robert has been charged with burglary and is in a cell at Cannon Row Police Station, and I'm so miserable that I don't know what to do."
Raoul said: "Don't think about it. Just do nothing at all but try to go to sleep. I'll come and see you in the morning. Please give me the detective-inspector's telephone number and I'll ring him up and see what can be done. But whatever happens, don't worry. I'm sure it will be all right."
I gave him the telephone number and tried to sleep. I was furious with Robert, and the more I hated him the more I felt that Raoul was the only person who really understood me. Almost suddenly I began to realise that I was head over heels in love with him.
NEXT morning, at ten o'clock, Raoul arrived, accompanied by Detective-Inspector Ellams. I gave them cigarettes and asked what had happened.
"Your ex-husband denies everything," said Mr. Ellams. "He says that he was here last night, but that he came round to see a friend who lives in this apartment block and who was not at home. He denies that he has been in here or even touched your tiara." He shrugged his shoulders.
I looked at Raoul. He said:
"It's easily settled, isn't it? If Robert were here and opened that safe, his fingerprints would be on the jewel case. Unless, of course, he wore gloves."
The Inspector said: "Would you open the safe, Mrs. Hayes? I'd better take a look."
We went into my bedroom and I opened the wall safe. Mr. Ellams put on his gloves and took out my jewel case. He put it down on the table and opened it.
The tiara was in its usual place!
I looked at them in amazement. "But it was gone," I said. "It wasn't there last night. I assure you it wasn't!"
The detective-inspector looked at Raoul. He looked very serious. He said: "This isn't very good. I've charged a man with burglary and locked him up and the stolen property isn't even stolen!"
Raoul laughed. He said: "Well, all's well that ends well. All you have to do is to release Robert. Mrs. Hayes must have made a mistake."
"But I didn't," I said. "I'm perfectly certain it was gone. I know it was gone."
Mr. Ellams shrugged his shoulders. He looked very grim. "But it isn't gone now," he said. "The trouble is that your ex-husband has a very good action against you and the police. He has been wrongfully charged and wrongfully imprisoned. He can be very nasty, Mrs. Hayes, if he wants to be."
My brain was spinning. "Oh, dear," I said, and sat down weakly.
Raoul said: "Don't worry, Adela dear. There's only one thing to be done. There's been a mistake somewhere. But we've no time to go into that now. Mr. Ellams and I must go to Cannon Row at once, withdraw the charge against Robert, and have him released. Then I'll take him to my flat and try to persuade him not to do anything about this."
I looked at the detective inspector. He said: "I think Captain Duchâtel is right, Mrs. Hayes. We must hope that he can talk the Count into agreeing not to do anything about this. That is if he can."
They went off and I sat in my room, smoking a cigarette and trying to sort out my ideas. I just couldn't understand how all this had happened! I felt quite wretched. Supposing Robert were entirely guiltless and brought an action against me? I could imagine the headlines in the newspapers!
AT twelve o'clock the telephone jangled. I actually ran to the instrument. It was Raoul.
He said: "I've got Robert here at my flat. He's furious and is threatening all sorts of things. He says he knows nothing about your tiara, and that you've had him arrested out of spite. I'm trying to persuade him that a mistake has occurred. Please come round and help. I think if you talked to him it might help."
I said: "Very well," and he gave me the address. I was unutterably miserable. I didn't want to meet Robert. I felt that I wanted to die.
When I arrived at Raoul's flat, his man let me in. I was shown into a sitting-room and sat down. From the room next door came the sound of voices—Robert's and Raoul's voice.
I could hear them arguing Raoul pleading and Robert threatening.
After a while the door opened and Raoul came out.
He said: "My dear, it's not very good. Robert says that he will consent not to bring action against you if you will remarry him. He says that there was nothing between him and the Italian woman; that your suspicions were quite unjustified, and that he wrote you and sent you a faked hotel bill because he was furious with you. Well what are you going to do?"
I tried to keep the tears out of my eyes. I said weakly "Raoul, I don't want to marry Robert. I can't. I don't love him. I love someone else."
He smiled at me. "Do you?" he asked. "It isn't me, by any chance?"
I nodded. I couldn't speak He took me by the hand. He said: "Come and tell Robert Perhaps he'll relent."
He drew me across the room and through the doorway. He closed the door behind us.
The room in which we stood was empty. And there was no other door.
"But—but where is Robert?" I asked.
Raoul said: "I'm Robert. I've been Robert all along. You see, my dear, I wanted to come back to you, but I had to know that you were still in love with me."
His voice had changed. I knew it was Robert speaking
"I crashed badly in a plane a year ago," he said. "They've given me a new face. I hope you like it." He grinned at me like a mischievous schoolboy.
"But Raoul—Robert," I said. "What about Marcel Gulavet and what about Detective-Inspector Ellams, and what about—?"
"There isn't any Marcel Gulavet," he said, still grinning like a Cheshire cat. "And 'Detective-Inspector Ellams' is my partner—John Fraser. We're starting an aeroplane factory. You see, I got Fraser to go to your flat and tell you that fairy story. And then I persuaded Glynda to ask me to her party and to introduce me to you as Raoul Duchâtel. I'd still got a key to the flat and I knew the combination of the safe. Fraser went round and stole the tiara while you were dining with me, and I came round last night and put it back in the safe after you'd gone to sleep. You looked awfully nice, too."
He smiled at me again. And I remembered all the lovely times I'd had with Robert in the old days and I felt terribly happy.
I said mischievously: "This is all very well, Robert d'Épernay Raoul Duchâtel. But how do I know that you are Robert? How do I know that I'm not being deluded even now?"
He looked at me for a moment. Then he said: "Come and be kissed, Kitten." Kitten was the secret name that Robert had given me on our wedding day.
He put his arms round me and kissed me.
He said: "Well?"
It was Robert! No one ever kissed like Robert!
Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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