Credit and thanks for making this work available to RGL go to Gary Meller, Florida, who donated the scanned images of his print edition of "The Shy Plutocrat" used to produce this e-book.
IT was probably the Bishop who was chiefly responsible for all the trouble that followed—the Bishop's somewhat overpowering personality and his choice of He austere waiting room in the solemn Fifth Avenue Club for his address to the notoriously timid young man. Maurice Teyl, arrived in New York that morning of the nineteen-twenties for the first time in his life, after a long journey from a land of lonely hills and sweeping valleys, one of the vast pastoral backwaters of the Western States, had already found the city sufficiently alarming. The roar of it had deafened him. The sense of hurry everywhere had reduced him to a condition of mental chaos. The porter in the ecclesiastical-looking hall, to whom he had presented his card, had seemed to him the most awe-inspiring functionary he had ever encountered, the begaitered Bishop, who in due course came out to greet him, something far removed from any order of human being with whom one could exchange ideas upon the common topics of life. He was obsessed with a sense of unreality. He found it impossible to believe that it was he, Maurice Teyl, seated in that hard leather easy-chair in that imposing and stately apartment, he who was the subject of this lava of gently flowing words from this imposing personage with his masses of smoothly-brushed hair, his sacerdotal features, his well-cared-for hands, and general air of internal and external polish. No single sentence had been spoken which could have helped to put him at his ease. He sat on the edge of his chair, his lanky, yet athletic figure disposed of to its worst advantage, painfully conscious of his lack of poise and of all the defects of his appearance—his shock of red hair, his wide, nervous mouth, his large hands, the fingers of which he was constantly intertwining. Nevertheless, he sat it out, a pained but earnest listener.
"My dear young friend," the Bishop observed, after a brief preliminary conversation, "owing to your grandmother's peculiar views as to your upbringing, I have had but little chance so far to mark your progress in life. What I know of you, I have learnt chiefly through the daily or weekly papers."
The young man shivered.
"Those newspaper men just print any old stuff," he confided nervously. "The boys birded the last one that came around."
"Just tarred and feathered him and threw him into a pond. Grandmother had been reading about herself in the Sunday papers, and I'll say she didn't care for all the stuff they'd faked up. She just told the boys what to do with the next one that came along."
The Bishop coughed.
"Your grandmother was a woman of violent prejudices," he remarked. "I wrote to her some years ago on the subject of your collegiate career, and her reply, I regret to say, showed a great lack of consideration for my feelings and my position. It was, in short, of the most offensive nature. I gather, however, that your education has been in a measure provided for?"
The young man's face darkened.
"I've had an English tutor, an American one, and a Frenchman hanging about the place for the last three years," he groaned. "Also a golf professional, a tennis coach, and a white-chokered fellow who used to say prayers twice a day, read the Bible with me at night, when he could catch me, and who called himself a chaplain."
The Bishop frowned slightly. The reference to the chaplain he considered in bad taste.
"And what did you do with this—er—this retinue before you came away?" he enquired.
"I sacked the lot the morning of my twenty-first birthday," Maurice Teyl replied, with a faint smile of ecstasy. "All except Ned, that is—the golf professional. I guess I'll always keep Ned. He's laying me out a new course now. I'd have taken him along to Europe with me if he'd wanted to go."
"Your grandmother's system of education," the Bishop pronounced, "was ill-advised and almost immoral. The day of your emancipation, however, has now arrived. You are leaving for Southampton, I gather, on the Anderconia."
"Three weeks from to-day," the young man assented, without any particular enthusiasm.
The Bishop began to settle down. He had the air of a divine who had given out his text and was prepared to get to business.
"I regret very much," he said, "that Diocesan affairs will occupy much of my attention in various parts of the State, during the next few weeks. I am glad, however, of this opportunity of a brief conversation with you. I should like you to remember, Maurice Teyl, that you are starting on no ordinary journey. No pilgrim whose wanderings I can recall has ever left his home under such conditions. You have just attained your majority and you are probably—you are without a doubt—the richest young man in the world."
"Gee, that money!" the young man lamented.
"One imagines you," the Bishop continued, with a little wave of the hand, "invested with something of the dignity of an ambassador. You will represent in England very much what their young prince represented here upon his recent visit to this country. He showed us the grace and social charm, the éclat, of the old country. You represent the power and strength of America—her boundless wealth, her immense vigour. Never lose sight of the fact, Maurice Teyl, that yours should not be a pleasure trip only. You are an ambassador of progress, with great responsibilities and equally great opportunities."
The unhappy listener muttered something incomprehensible. He felt that words were expected of him, but he searched his brain in vain for a suitable response.
"Have any plans been made for you, may I ask, upon your arrival?" the Bishop enquired.
The young man fidgeted in his chair. A shaft of sunlight stole into the room and shone for a moment upon his freckled face, his slightly snub nose, and clear, troubled eyes.
"Ned's fixed up a few golf games for me round London," he observed timidly.
The Bishop's disapproval marred for a moment the perfect serenity of his expression.
"You will find other, and I hope more important duties also waiting for you," he declared severely. "You have, as you are of course aware, a lay and clerical guardian in London as well as here. Prebendary Dorkins is a very excellent and much respected man, whose personal acquaintance I have had the pleasure of making, and Mr. Crosset, as a famous lawyer and man of the world, should be of great assistance to you. Your sojourn in London will no doubt be influenced by their advice, but I myself shall write to various personages of note whom I have been privileged to meet. I shall point out to them how much you represent. I shall beg them to use their utmost efforts on your behalf, to see that you are brought into touch with all the best influences which might go towards the moulding of your life."
"That's very kind of you, sir," was the utterly cheerless admission. "I—well, I guess I'll soon find my way about."
"You will need help and direction," his mentor assured him. "In all material affairs I understand that adequate arrangements have been made for you. The best courier in Europe is awaiting instructions for your continental tour, and a French valet will become associated with your own servant as soon as you are prepared to receive him. The Reverend Goadby, an earnest young man of little more than your own age, will leave New York with you as companion and chaplain, although I may tell you he has instructions not to lay too much stress upon the spiritual side of his vocation. You will travel as the princes of the world alone can travel."
The young man looked almost pathetically at his companion.
"I don't see, sir," he ventured, with a slight shudder, "why I can't have a trip abroad without all this fuss."
The Bishop laid a hand upon each knee and leaned forward. It was a favourite attitude of his when engaged in personal exhortation with one of his flock.
"I am afraid," he said, "you will have to get accustomed to the fact that however modest your own views of life may be, your position entails great and varied responsibilities. You represent the modern driving force of the universe. You have no title of nobility, you come from no race of sovereigns, but you still wield a sceptre as omnipotent as that of any of the modern rulers of the world. In time, no doubt, you will get used to your position, for which, I must repeat once more, your grandmother's preparation has been most ill-advised. It is too late now, however, to do more than regret the fact. I hope, Maurice Teyl," the Bishop concluded, rising to his feet, "that your travels may be beneficial and pleasant, as well as broadening to your mind and character. I appreciate your early visit to me, and I welcome this opportunity, my lad, of wishing you success in life, strength of purpose, and an earnest Christian endeavour to carry manfully upon your shoulders the burden of the great responsibilities with which you are endowed."
The Bishop led the way to the door, his hand resting upon the young man's shoulder. He felt that he had performed his whole duty, and some friends were waiting for him to play a rubber of bridge upstairs—a relaxation which he permitted himself upon two afternoons during the week. In the lofty, marble-pillared hall, with its stained-glass windows, he handed over his charge to a liveried attendant.
"Write to me, Maurice Teyl, if ever you are in trouble or distress, temporal or spiritual," he begged. "My advice will always be at your disposal. If I have not the opportunity of seeing you again before the day of your departure, I wish you a happy voyage and a godly life."
The Bishop withdrew his hand with a little wince of pain from the grip of the long brown fingers between which he had confidingly placed it, and the young man, who had been the subject of his exhortations staggered out into the golden sunlight of Fifth Avenue with its panorama of life de luxe. Drawn up to his full height almost for the first time, he seemed longer and lankier than ever, notwithstanding the level breadth of his fine shoulders and a certain wiry athleticism of bearing. He stood upon the steps and gazed for a moment with unseeing eyes across the broad thoroughfare.
"Another chaplain," he muttered to himself, "a French valet to make old Jennings miserable, and a courier! I guess not!"
"Where to?" demanded the taxi-man whom he had summoned, leaning lazily from the seat and throwing open the door.
"Can you make the 4: 40 Chicago Limited at the Grand Central?"
The taximan glanced at his clock.
"Might, if we've any luck," he replied. "Where's your baggage?"
"Never mind about my baggage," was the hasty response. "You make my train."
MAURICE TEYL, whether for good or for evil, missed his train. His taxicab driver did his best, but the traffic policemen of New York are not to be trifled with, and four times during that brief distance a red lamp and a whistle brought the dense line of vehicles to a standstill. Arrived at the station itself, there remained just a chance. From the last flight of stairs, Maurice looked down almost with agony at the huge train, onto the various platforms of which the attendants were already swinging themselves.
"No ticket. I'll pay the conductor," he gasped.
The gate-man looked at him pityingly.
"There ain't no tickets to be bought on the Limited," he drawled, blocking the entrance.
Maurice Teyl, with a flush of shame, for the first time in his life, tried to make capital out of his identity.
"I'm Maurice Teyl," he announced. "I'm—"
"God Almighty don't get on the Chicago Limited without a ticket," the man interrupted, slamming the gate.
Then the train began to move, and Maurice knew that his escape from the city was at any rate temporarily delayed. He turned around, mounted the steps, and lingered for a moment in the great hall of the station, irresolute. Then he bought a time-table, made his way to one of the great, comfortless waiting rooms, seated himself in an empty place and began to study the problem of how to get away from New York. Every now and then the doors were flung open, and a porter in parrot-like tones sang out a list of trains. Each time a handful of waiting passengers departed. Finally he became aware that only one other person was left on his bench. He looked up, and by chance met her eyes. Then he laid down the timetable.
"Say," he began diffidently, "is anything the matter?"
"Nothing whatever," the young woman who was seated a few feet away from him replied coldly.
"But you're crying," he pointed out.
"I'm doing nothing of the sort," she replied. "I have a very bad cold. And it's none of your business, anyway."
Maurice Teyl was conscious of a confusion of the senses for which he could in no way account. His heart, too, which he had reason to believe was physically an excellent organ, was thumping against his ribs in a most unaccustomed fashion. The girl by his side was quietly but nicely dressed. She was attractive-looking—much too attractive-looking, he thought, to be seated there alone—but signs of distress were evident. She had turned a little away from him, but he was perfectly certain that he had not been mistaken in the matter of those tears. A suitcase, much too heavy for her to carry, was by her feet. He spoke again, and his slow, drawling voice, with its distinct note of earnestness, gave no hint of possible offence.
"You'll forgive me," he begged. "I come from back in the Western States. I've never been in New York before. We always speak to strangers in a neighbourly way if we meet them, and if they want anything we like to help. I guess I'm in some trouble myself. I've just missed my train. What's yours?"
She looked at him—long, slightly uncouth, notwithstanding his well-fitting clothes—at his freckled face, his earnest eyes, at his mouth which seemed as though it must be always laughing. There were no signs in her of any confusion of the senses, for whatever her thoughts might have been they were to his advantage.
"Mine's an ordinary hard luck story—at least, it will seem so to you. I've had my pocket picked," she confided. "I haven't a dime in the world."
He smiled sympathetically, but with the air of one confronting a very minor worry.
"Well, well," he commiserated, "they told me I'd got to be careful up here in New York. I've all my pockets pretty well sown up with buttons. Guess you girls don't get a chance that way. Where did you want to go?
"I got out of the train from New Saragut half an hour ago," she told him. "I want to go to an hotel on Seventh Avenue. I've had to drag this suitcase down here, and I've a trunk checked. I haven't a nickel to pay for a porter or to pay for a taxicab, or the subway, or even a cloakroom ticket, and when I arrive at the hotel—if ever I arrive—then I've nothing to pay for my dinner or my room."
"Is that all?" he asked cheerfully.
She looked at him with wide-open eyes—very blue eyes, still a little misty.
"Isn't it enough?" she demanded petulantly.
"No friends around?" he enquired.
"Not until to-morrow. I start at the Broadway Theatre to-morrow night in 'The Piccadilly Girls' and I expect the manager would advance me a trifle, but I haven't a personal friend in New York."
"Except me," he reminded her.
"I don't know you," she replied, a little doubtfully, yet with some hope in her tone. "You are—well, I don't mind your talking to me, and that's something—but you're not a friend, and I don't see how you can help. Besides, you're in trouble yourself."
He smiled at her, and she knew then that it was just that smile she had been waiting for. She had no longer an atom of distrust.
"Say, let me tell you how I can help," he explained cheerfully. "I have my own troubles, but they've nothing to do with empty pocketbooks. I can carry that suit case of yours outside, I can get your trunk out of the baggage-room, I can pay the porter to put them on a taxicab, I can drive you down to your hotel, and I can lend you fifty dollars until you get going."
"Arc you real?" she demanded. "I don't know New York very well, but such things don't happen. Besides, you were just going away. I saw you reading a time-table."
"I was going, but I've changed my mind," he admitted, "I missed my train, anyway. I couldn't go until to-morrow if I wanted to."
Still she hesitated.
"I really don't know," she began—
"But what don't you know?" he interrupted, with a note of pleasant protest in his drawling voice. "Let me tell you right now that I've been brought up on a ranch, a hundred miles from any city. I've lived their all my days, and I'm like the rest of the folk out there. If any one comes along and wants a meal or a bed, why they get it from the first person they happen up against. I don't know anything about cities. We have tourists and travellers journeying out to the far ranches sometimes. They just make for our lights and stay as long as they've a mind to. When we meet people who want help, we help them. When we want help ourselves we ask for it. That's our way, and I don't see why being in New York makes any difference. So will you kindly quit worrying."
She actually began to laugh, and when she laughed, although she was still a little pale with anxiety, she became more attractive than ever. Her hair was a deep shade of brown, and her eyes were quite the bluest he had ever seen. Although she had spoken of the theatre, she looked as though she had never known what cosmetics were. She was on her feet now, light and graceful.
"You're a dear!" she exclaimed. "Can you really carry the bag?"
"Can I not?" he rejoined, swinging it lightly in his hand. "We'll get over to the baggage-room."
They found a porter, they found the trunk, they found a taxicab. The young lady, settling herself down with a little sigh of relief, fumbled in her bag and produced a card.
"My name is Lucy Compston," she confided. "I'm English."
"I guessed that from your accent," he confessed. She laughed softly.
"My accent!" she repeated. "I like that!"
"Well, what made you come over here, anyway?" he enquired. She sighed.
"I was on the stage in England, and I never seemed to get any chance, whereas American girls kept coming over to London and doing wonderfully. I had a little money left me, and I suddenly made up my mind I'd spend it coming out here and seeing if I could make good. I've played in travelling companies, but this is the first time I've got a New York engagement. What is your name, please?"
He opened his mouth, and closed it again.
"Maurice," he told her—"Andrew Maurice."
"I like 'Andrew.' And you are really going to lend me ten dollars?"
"I am going to lend you fifty," he insisted, "and I am coming to see you at the theatre. When do you begin, and what sort of a part have you?"
"I'm only in the chorus," she admitted, "but I have one song. I have to rehearse that first, though. They may let me sing it to-morrow night, or I may have to wait till after the first week."
"The Broadway Theatre—'The Piccadilly Girls.' I shall be there to-morrow night."
"But I thought that you were trying to get away from New York," she remonstrated, endeavouring to subdue the note of gladness in her tone.
"It doesn't matter what I do for a while," he assured her.
She was vaguely uneasy. He certainly was a difficult young man to place.
"Haven't you any work?" she asked.
"Work?" he repeated, as though the word were new to him.
"Well, you do something, I suppose. You don't live on air."
He laughed softly. He understood now the point of her question.
"Of course! The fact is, I am looking for a job."
"You poor dear!" she sighed. "Looking for a job in New York!"
"Like to bet I don't find one?" he challenged.
"Oh, I don't know. Here we are. What an awful-looking place!"
They had pulled up outside a dingy building, which seemed to be half tenement house, half private hotel. He helped the taxicab man carry her trunk inside the untidy hall, and fetched her suitcase, whilst she stood contemplating her surroundings almost in despair. A slovenly woman servant, who made not the slightest offer of assistance, was hovering in the background. There was a fusty smell about the inside of the place, and the stale odour of decayed vegetables from the area.
"I don't think I shall like it here," she confided, with a shudder, "but it's cheap."
"You couldn't possibly dine in such a joint," he insisted. "What time shall you be ready for me to call for you?"
"I wouldn't have you come all this way again today for anything in the world," she declared firmly.
"Then where will you meet me?" he persisted.
After all, she felt delightfully helpless. He was very big and strong, standing in the low, narrow hall.
"You really mean that you want me to dine with you?"
"Sure thing," he replied cheerfully.
"Then I'll come to Macadam's in Broadway at half-past seven," she promised.
"Macadam's in Broadway at half-past seven," he repeated. "That sounds good to me, and in the meanwhile—"
He handed over a wad of notes and pressed them into her hand. The reluctance with which she accepted them might well have been assumed, but it wasn't.
"Unless I find my purse," she warned him, "it may be a long time before I am able to pay you back."
He smiled. Indeed, if she had known it, he had something to smile at.
"It won't worry me any, if you never do," he assured her. "I will be at Macadam's in Broadway at seven-thirty to-night."
THE immediate subsequent proceedings of Maurice Teyl, to a person unacquainted with his peculiarities, might have seemed in a sense suspicious. He drove to the back entrance of the magnificent Hotel St. Bernerd, paid his fare generously before he alighted, and was off into the hotel telephone booth like a streak of lightning. Arrived there, to his relief, without having attracted observation, he rang up suite Number 284.
"That you, Jennings?" he enquired cautiously.
"Yes, Mr. Teyl."
"How are tricks?"
"Very bad for you just now, sir," was the warning reply. "There are seven newspaper men, two young ladies, a press photographer and a movie man, all waiting to see you."
The prospective victim groaned.
"What have you done with them?" he demanded.
"They are in the large salon. Mr. Bullivant was over this afternoon, soon after you'd left to see the Bishop, and he begged for them to be treated reasonably, however you felt about talking to them."
"We'll treat 'em all right," was the grim response. "Just you turn the key in the lock for one moment, Jennings, and leave the door of the bedroom open. I'm coming up the back way. I'll slip in."
"Very good, sir."
Maurice Teyl peered out of the telephone booth, found the coast clear, and with a hasty bribe to the attendant, ascended to the second floor of the hotel by means of the luggage lift. Stepping cautiously out, he sprinted down the corridor, vanished through an open door which he closed triumphantly behind him, and turned with a grin to the demure-looking, pale-faced man who had watched his entrance.
"Some sport this, Jennings!"
"You appear to enjoy it, sir," the man replied gloomily. "If I might take the liberty, I should suggest facing them all and getting it over."
"Not if you were I, you wouldn't," Maurice declared, making his way to the bedroom. "Get me some clothes ready, Jennings. I've a date."
"Where might you be dining, sir?" the man enquired.
"At Macadam's, down in Broadway, wherever that may be."
"Not with the Bishop, sir?"
Maurice Teyl shivered slightly. He yielded for a moment to the old-fashioned superstition of someone having walked over his grave.
"Guess I've escaped that catastrophe, Jennings," he confided. "The Bish never asked me, anyway. I should think this was a sort of half theatrical place—nothing very tony."
"Very good, sir. Your bath is already prepared. You will find everything you require here afterwards."
In something less than half an hour, Maurice Teyl was ready for the next development of this, his first adventure. He was wearing dinner clothes of the least obtrusive design, plain pearl studs and links, and a Homburg hat and cane were upon the table.
"Open the door and listen, Jennings," his master whispered.
The man obeyed, looking up and down cautiously.
"The corridor is empty for the moment," he announced. "You will find a flask in your overcoat pocket containing two cocktails, sir."
"What's that for?"
"Prohibition here, sir—strictly enforced. You can drink anything in the restaurant, all right, so long as you bring it yourself, but it is difficult to get, and you can't be sure of the quality. What shall I do about the press people?"
Maurice considered the matter briefly.
"We must give them some sort of a run for their money," he reflected. "Say that I went to see the Bishop at the Athenaeum Club and that as I haven't come back, you imagine I must have stayed there to dine. They'll like them at that old mausoleum."
"Very good, sir."
"And say, did you bring plenty of the stuff along? Can you fix them all a cocktail to stop their feeling too badly?"
"There will be no difficulty about that, sir," was the confident reply. "I have already secured a considerable supply of gin and vermouth, and I have the address of several most reliable bootleggers."
"Serve them a double one then," Maurice Teyl directed, tiptoeing his way to the door. "They'll need it before they've caught me."
Along the empty corridor, down the broad stairway with flying footsteps, one swift leap into a conveniently waiting taxicab, and Maurice was off again. There was an almost impish grin upon his face as he leaned back and lit a cigarette. He fingered the flask lovingly, but replaced it in his pocket. He had a fancy that it would be wonderful to drink his first cocktail in New York looking into the bluest eyes he had ever seen... The drive— rather a long one—fascinated him. The thunder of the elevated trains, the ceaseless throngs of people, crowding the sidewalks, kept him in a state of continual wonder. Broadway was stupendous. He was still gazing about him open-mouthed, a veritable hayseed, save for his clothes, when the taxicab pulled up with a jerk. He stepped out, paid the driver, and with several disregarded apologies, elbowed his way at right angles through the surging crowds to the door of the restaurant. It was early when he crossed the threshold, but the place was already half filled. A little embarrassed by the fact that he was the only person there with any pretensions at evening dress, he handed his coat and hat to a boy and stood looking around him.
"Want a table?" the youth demanded, taking pity on this unusual client.
Six feet of Maurice Teyl leaned down towards his diminutive protector.
"I'm expecting to meet a young lady here," he confided. "Is there any sort of a waiting room?"
"Nope," was the curt reply. "Guess you'll pick her up all right, if you've got a date with her. You don't need to hang around. Take that table facing the door, and you'll see the Jane come in all right."
Maurice, with the consent of a waiter, established himself at the table indicated, offered a remuneration to the boy which sent him staggering back to his place, and took up a menu. A waiter eyed him contemplatively, not quite sure whether he had to do with some lunatic from the West or a green Englishman. He had seen the five-dollar tip which had frozen the words upon the boy's lips.
"Like to see a captain?" he enquired.
"I'll order in a few minutes," Maurice decided. "I'm expecting a young lady."
The waiter departed, still puzzled, and consulted the head waiter as to what sort of a client this might be. The latter was uninterested until he heard of the five-dollar tip to the cloakroom boy, after which he promptly sought out this amazing customer for a little genial conversation. It was interrupted, however, in its initial stages by the arrival of Miss Compston.
"You're good and punctual!" Maurice declared, rising promptly to his feet. "Won't you help me order dinner?"
She glanced at him in some surprise. His evening clothes were evidently unexpected. She herself was very neatly and becomingly dressed, but in street clothes and a small hat. As she prepared to take her place, he was conscious once more of that extraordinary confusion of ideas which had assailed him when be had first looked into her timid but friendly blue eyes. By this time he was entirely convinced that there wasn't another girl in the world like her.
"I hope you didn't expect me to wear evening clothes," she remarked, us she sat down, "because I simply haven't got any. We work all the evening, of course, and I hate going out afterwards."
"I'll say you couldn't look nicer," he assured her enthusiastically.
She accepted the menu and studied it carefully. The meal she selected was a simple and economical.
"No oysters?" the waiter ventured. "Terrapin's in season."
She looked thoughtfully at her companion. The pearls in his shirt front were certainly real, and he appeared genuinely disappointed at the paucity of her order.
"I'll fall for the terrapin," she acquiesced, "and we'll finish with a salad, if you'd like it."
The waiter disappeared with a benevolent smile. Maurice produced his flask and the girl uttered a little cry of delight.
"Cocktails!" she exclaimed, as he poured out the amber liquid. "I haven't had one for months."
"Seems longer to me since I did," he murmured, thinking of that half hour of agony in the waiting room of the Club from which he had barely recovered.
"Do you get them all the time?" she asked curiously.
He shook his head.
"Not quite that. Out West where I come from, though, they're not so strict as here."
"When are you going back?" she enquired, as the first course of their dinner was served.
"Not just yet," he confided. "I'm going to let things roll along for a time. I missed the train, and that's all there is to it. I guess I'll spend the next fortnight in New York."
"Are you on a vacation?"
He hesitated for a moment.
"I'm still looking for that job," he reminded her.
"Do you seriously need one?"
"Sure. I'll need one sometime or other, of course. No good rushing things."
"What have you been working at?"
"Farming," was the prompt reply.
"You won't get a job at farming in New York," she reminded him.
"I wouldn't mind a change," he confessed. "I guess I'll find something all right that will keep me going. How long do you expect your play to run?"
She shook her head.
"I can't tell. I haven't seen it yet. I've got to rehearse my song to-morrow morning, and then go on at night. It's mostly old stuff, though. If the play runs, I shall see it through, if they'll keep me; if not, I'm finished. I shall have to go back to England and start all over again."
"I surely can't understand why you shouldn't make a great hit," he said fervently.
"That's very kind of you," she laughed, "but I certainly haven't up to the present. Sometimes I think that I'm not quite the type. They tell me that none of us English girls have what they call the zip. I can dance all right and play the silly parts, but they don't seem to amount to much. It's the first time I've had a chance in New York, though."
"Do you think you'll like it?" he asked, his thoughts wandering back for a moment to the purlieus of that unsavoury hotel.
"Oh, I shall like it all right," she insisted. "The only thing is whether they'll like me well enough to keep me on. The man who gave me the engagement told me he didn't think I'd have a chance, unless I woke up, and I don't think I want to wake up the way he means."
"Quite right," Maurice murmured approvingly.
"I don't know," she sighed. "I'm broad-minded enough. You have to be if you're on the stage. I haven't any particular convictions about anything, but there are things I like and things I don't like. I daresay I should be just as fond of theatrical parties and all-night stunts as the rest of the girls are in time, but I get so bored, or else angry when the boys get fresh. Now tell me a little more about yourself, Mr. Maurice?"
"Well, I don't think there's anything more to tell," he replied, searching his brain for some plausible story. "I'm a regular hayseed brought up in the backwoods, and never been out of them."
"Never been to college?" she asked wonderingly.
"That seems to me a shame," she pronounced, a little severely. "It doesn't matter so much about girls, but I do think that when a man has sons—especially in this country—he ought to make any sacrifice to send them to college."
Maurice Teyl, with whom had lived for his edification in a wing of the mansion where he was born, an Oxford don, a Harvard man of letters and a French littérateur, nevertheless assented gravely.
"It's the games one misses so much," he regretted. "I shouldn't know what to do with a football if I got it in my hands."
"Perfectly wicked! And I suppose you're the same about golf and tennis?"
Maurice, attached to whose suite were both tennis and golf professionals, managed to evade a direct reply.
"Of course, there's exercise of a sort to be had in the country," he confessed. "I've managed to keep fit somehow or other. In New York—"
The words died away upon his lips. He was filled with amazement at the sight of the little man who had paused in front of their table and whom Miss Compston was greeting with every appearance of amiability. The person in question was short, rotund, with a mass of curly, black hair, which it was impossible to keep concealed although he had not as yet removed his hat. His complexion was sallow, his nose was hooked, his eyes dark, and the lower half of a cigar hung from between his yellow teeth. He wore a badly-brushed, blue serge suit, a coloured shirt of amazing pattern and a tie of figured white silk which had lost any freshness it might at any time have possessed. Nevertheless, two waiters were on hand to conduct him to a table, and Miss Compston had actually the air of one flattered by his notice.
"Well, girlie, you've rolled up," he observed, and his voice, Maurice noticed, was less objectionable than his appearance. "Are you going to knock them tomorrow night?"
"I hope so," she answered, smiling. "I know my song by heart and I'm trying it over at to-morrow's rehearsal. How long are we going to run for, Mr. Levy?"
He removed his cigar from his mouth and leaned a little towards her.
"A month at the most," he confided. "I thought I'd found a winner, but it's petering out, somehow. Lily's been after the dopes and she don't seem to get her back into it. Don't you worry, though, girlie; if you come over good, you'll be in the next show, all right. Who's your friend?"
"A gentleman from out West," Miss Compston explained. "Mr. Maurice, this is Mr. Lenny Levy."
Maurice rose to his feet and held out his band, which the other promptly accepted, taking care to display an enormous diamond on his little finger. His interest in Maurice standing up seemed tremendously increased. He looked him up and down in frank amazement.
"Glad to meet you, Mr. Levy," Maurice murmured, somewhat embarrassed.
"Say," Mr. Levy demanded with fervour, "where did you get them pants pressed?"
Maurice stared at his questioner for a moment without replying. He was on the point of referring to Jennings, when he realised the possible inappropriateness of such an encumbrance as a valet.
"I can do them myself," he answered good-humouredly. "It's quite easy."
"Got any more clothes like that?"
"Plenty," Maurice admitted. "I've got more clothes than anything else."
"Want a job?"
"Badly, for a week or two."
"A week or two will sec us through," Mr. Levy declared. "You're hired in my chorus, if you'll wear them sort of clothes and teach the other skiboos how to press their pants like that."
"I haven't any experience on the stage," Maurice ventured.
"You don't need any," was the prompt reply. "Any guy with two legs could do the stuff you'll have to do. Come along with Miss Lucy down to the theatre to-morrow morning. There'll be a rehearsal going on some time. Twenty dollars a week. Goodbye, girlie!"
He rolled off, and Maurice sat down in his place. He was feeling slightly dazed.
"Who is he?" he demanded.
"That's Lenny Levy," his companion told him—"the best-known theatrical man in his line on Broadway. He's clever too, and not half such a pig as some of them. I hope you didn't mind his making remarks about your trousers."
"Mind? I loved him," Maurice asserted enthusiastically. "And we're going to work together. Isn't that great?"
She laughed happily.
"You won't be able to live like this on twenty dollars a week," she reminded him.
"I've still got a little of what grandmother left," he assured her.
THE New York press must have its measure of sensational news day by day, and they made ample amends for their failure to locate Maurice Teyl by the manner in which they handled his disappearance. Sinister headlines blackened the morning papers, foul play was openly hinted at. It was proved that Maurice Teyl had arrived in New York at eight o'clock on one Thursday morning, proved that he visited his guardian at the Athenaeum Club on the afternoon of the same day. Since then no person had seen or heard of him. His valet, with all his clothes, remained in the suite engaged by him at the Hotel St. Bernerd. The valet, however, refused to answer a single question, and had nothing to say except that he was expecting his master at any moment. Mr. Bullivant, legal adviser and trustee to the Teyl millions, declared that his young ward had not even paid him a visit. There was no person in the city who could say with authority that they had seen or spoken with the young man, except the hall porter at the Athenaeum Club, the Bishop, and one of the reception clerks at the Hotel St. Bernerd, who had shown him to his room on his early arrival in the city. The suggestions as to his disappearance were multifarious, dramatic and suggestive. Several newspaper men were known to be already on their way west. In the meanwhile, to keep the public interest alive, every newspaper came out with fresh computations as to the Teyl millions. It was estimated that he could, if he chose, pay off the national debt of almost any country in the world, and one ingenious editor, a little ahead of the others, published a picture of the princesses of Europe whose kingdoms this Prince Fortunatus could buy at the cost of a royal alliance. Morning and evening, Maurice groaned as he glanced through the terrible headlines and paragraphs. Every time he met Lucy Compston, his heart sank until her manner assured him that her suspicions had not been aroused.
"Ever read these newspapers of ours?" he enquired one morning, when they were lunching together a few days after the first performance of 'The Piccadilly Girls.'
"I never even glance at them," she assured him. "I did buy one the morning after the show—and that was quite enough for me. Never again—even though they didn't handle me quite so cruelly as the rest of the company."
"Quite right," Maurice approved eagerly. "Take my advice, Miss Lucy, don't touch one of them. They're full of nothing but falsehoods and sensationalism."
"Well, I haven't time for one thing, or inclination for another," she admitted. "I get the English Times, and I read the weekly news. That is all that concerns me. But what I should like to know is what you're going to do when this show is over. Even if I get another place, you won't, you know. Lenny's learned all he can from your clothes, and—I don't want to hurt your feelings—I must tell you that you haven't the slightest aptitude for the stage."
"I was beginning to fear it myself," he confessed cheerfully. "Never you mind, Miss Compston, I'll worry through. All my people have had luck," he ruminated, "or perhaps they wouldn't even have done as well as they have. What about a little drive round the Park?"
"Certainly not," was the firm reply. "The way you waste your money makes me positively angry. We'll walk—much better for you."
"I'm ready when you are...."
The walk in Central Park, however, was very nearly Maurice's undoing. Just as they were passing through the gate nearly opposite the Imperial Hotel, a stout, important-looking gentleman with grey moustaches and beard, who appeared to be taking exercise while his automobile awaited him, came to a sudden standstill in the path and stared at Maurice in frank and almost pathetic amazement.
"Maurice!" he exclaimed. "My God, it's Maurice!"
On the whole, the young man faced the situation with presence of mind and discretion. There was a seat close at hand, and he led Lucy towards it, giving the bewildered old gentleman on the pathway time to recover.
"Wait here for me three minutes, please," he begged.
"It doesn't mean trouble for you, Mr. Maurice?" she asked, looking at him anxiously.
"Don't you believe it," he assured her. "I'm all right. I haven't done a thing to anybody."
She drew a little sigh of relief, and Maurice rejoined the agitated pedestrian.
"Yes, here I am, Mr. Bullivant," he said, shaking hands. "You've caught me, all right. Well, what about it?"
Mr. Bullivant had partly recovered.
"What's the meaning of it all, Maurice?" he demanded. "Where are you hiding, and why? Don't you know most of New York is in a fever about what they call your 'disappearance'?"
"More fools they," was the terse reply. "Now I'm not going to stand here explaining, but at eleven o'clock to-morrow morning, Mr. Bullivant, in your office, I'll tell you everything you want to know, so long as you promise me this one thing—you don't let on to a single soul that you've seen me here in New York."
"My dear Maurice!" the other protested. "And the young lady too!"
"The young lady is a great friend of mine," Maurice confided firmly, "but she is not the cause of my having disappeared. That I will explain to you tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I have your word—"
"Naturally, my dear fellow—naturally."
"You do not breathe a syllable to any living soul as to my being here in New York—these newspaper fellows particularly."
"Agreed," Mr. Bullivant conceded. "On the other hand, I have your promise that you present yourself at my office at eleven o'clock to-morrow morning."
"Have you got a thousand dollars about you?" Maurice enquired wistfully. "I'm running a little short, and I don't care to go to the banks. I've got my letter of credit, all right, of course, but that's no use."
Mr. Bullivant produced his pocketbook.
"There's about nine hundred there," he announced. "I was going to a poker game later on this afternoon. Put it away and count it when you have time."
Maurice abstracted the notes from the monogrammed leather case, and handed the latter back to his benefactor empty.
"Until eleven o'clock to-morrow morning, then," he said, with a farewell nod.
Mr. Bullivant, who apparently had no further desire for exercise, stepped into his automobile.
Maurice sat down for a moment by Miss Compston's side. Her face was a little troubled.
"Who was that old gentleman?" she asked abruptly.
"Well, to tell you the truth," he replied, "if my affairs were sufficiently important to require a guardian, I guess that's what he'd be. He was a friend of my dad, anyway."
"Did you have to ask for money?" she continued severely.
"I held him up for it," Maurice confided, with a twinkle in his eyes. "I happened to know that he was off to a poker game, which his wife doesn't allow, so I threatened to ring up the house and let them know, if he didn't part."
"Rubbish!" she scoffed.
"Precisely," Maurice agreed, as he buttoned the notes securely into his pocket. "Anyway, we can eat at Macadam's to-night now, and to tell you the truth I was running a little short."
"I don't wonder at it, the way you spend your money," Lucy rejoined drily, as she rose to her feet and they strolled along. "I wish you'd introduced me to your guardian, or whoever he is. I'd have told him what I thought of you and your extravagant habits."
"You'll know him some day," Maurice promised. "In the meanwhile, as I've had a stroke of luck, what about a taxi and tea out at the Clermont?"
"Certainly not," was the curt reply. "We'll walk back and have tea at some reasonable place."
Maurice, who had surreptitiously summoned a taxicab, laid his hand upon his companion's arm.
"Remember," he begged, "this show of ours can't possibly last more than a week or ten days, and you tell me you've booked your passage to England. These are our last few days together—in New York. Let's make the most of them."
"But can't we make the most of them without spending quite so much money?" she protested, still hesitating.
Maurice threw open the door of the taxicab, and somehow or other she found herself inside.
"We could," he admitted, "but all my life I shall like to think of the way I spent a part of my little legacy."
AT precisely eleven o'clock on the following morning, Maurice presented himself at the offices of Mr. Bullivant, situated at the less frivolous end of Broadway. His guardian was apparently studying a little pile of newspapers, from which he looked up at the entrance of his visitor, with a twinkle in his eye.
"Who's running things for you down at home, young man?" he enquired.
Maurice glanced over his shoulder and read the headline:
"MAURICE TEYL BACK ON HIS RANCH,
REFUSES INTERVIEW BUT STATES MAY
SAIL AFTER ALL ON ANDERCONIA."
"Ned Shields, my golf pro, sent that cable," Maurice explained. "He sends off whatever I tell him to, and he's got orders to treat the newspaper fellows rough, if any of them should hang about the place too long."
Mr. Bullivant leaned back in his chair and laughed softly. Suffering no longer from the shock of surprise which had rendered him almost speechless on the previous afternoon, he appeared now to better advantage. His mouth had a distinctly humorous curve, his expression was genial, and he lacked altogether the austerity of his ecclesiastical confrère.
"Look here, my lad," he demanded, "what game are you playing at? You're giving us a hell of a lot of trouble, and I don't see what it's all about."
Maurice rose from his chair, and stood upon the hearth-rug, and from the commencement of his explanation his guardian realised that he was very much in earnest.
"Look here, Mr. Bullivant," he began, "you know Mountain Springs, and you know just how I was brought up from the time I was able to toddle around until a few weeks ago. Grandmother had her own way. I'd never been inside a large town, until I stepped out onto the Grand Central Station here, never travelled anywhere or met any strangers since I was a baby."
"The whole system of your bringing up was entirely against my advice," Mr. Bullivant declared emphatically. "I very nearly lost my care of your millions through my protest to your grandmother."
"I'm not blaming you or anyone," Maurice continued, "but just see what I'm up against now. You and the Bishop and those two guys over in England all decide that, according to my father's wishes, the time has come when I must see something of the world. That goes all right with me. I'm willing, but why the hell shouldn't I do it my own way? I have had to submit to the ridiculous long enough. I've learned to loathe the sight of Aubrey, my English tutor, the old professor from Harvard and Monsieur le Marquis from France. I gave them all the shove the morning of my twenty-first birthday. I'm simply fed up with them. I came to New York alone with Jennings. He's an Englishman, and he and Ned Shields are the nearest approach to human beings I've had round me for ages. I arrived at New York the day before I'd arranged to, on purpose, but even then I had to send down for a stenographer and an envelope-cutter to tackle my letters. There were two hundred and forty-seven invitations for lunches and dinners and things, from people I'd never heard of in my life. There was a stack of cards too, which would have reached to the ceiling, and flowers—what the hell do people want to send me flowers for? I'm not going to sit in the electric chair."
Mr. Bullivant smiled sympathetically.
"These people do go crazy sometimes," he admitted.
The young man grew more and more in earnest as he warmed to the recital of his grievances.
"There were thirty cards for clubs," he went on. "There were piles of letters from so-called intimate friends of my family—gee, I didn't believe the old dad had got a friend in the world!—wanting to take me right away in their limousines to their homes on Long Island or Fifth Avenue or to their clubs. Then the newspaper men closed in on me as though I were the ball in a football scrimmage."
"You knocked one of them down," Mr. Bullivant remonstrated gravely.
"If I'd had a dozen pair of fists, I'd have knocked the lot down. You know how I was brought up, Mr. Bullivant. You ought to have warned me of what coming to New York was likely to mean."
"You're perfectly right," Mr. Bullivant admitted. "I ought to have done something of the sort. If you hadn't come that one day earlier, though, I should have been at the station to meet you, and I could have dealt with some of these people for you."
"'The Shy Plutocrat!' they called me," Maurice groaned. "Say, tell me this, Mr. Bullivant, wouldn't you be a bit scared of all these blokes if you'd been brought up as I have been? I hate the sight of them all. I won't be mobbed by them. I was telling you about that morning I arrived. They wouldn't give me a moment to breathe—followed me about, even into my bedroom. At last I got myself locked in, had a bite of lunch, slipped out the back way and went round to see the Bishop, expecting to find him a human being, and meaning to ask him for his advice. Oh, my God!"
The young man closed his eyes. The memory of that interview still tormented him.
"The Bishop, I am afraid, is a somewhat austere person," Mr. Bullivant admitted.
"I guess I'll let it go at that," Maurice assented grimly. "I never had a chance to open my mouth, but I got all the advice I wanted, and then something over. When I got outside the door of that Club lobby, and remembered the crowd who were waiting for me and that pile of letters, I made up my mind to chuck it all and go straight back home. I jumped into a taxicab, drove to the Grand Central Station and missed the Limited by one minute."
"That was five days ago," Mr. Bullivant remarked, looking searchingly across at his visitor. "It is that five days with which I am chiefly concerned. I am still your guardian, you know, Maurice, and I am going to ask you where you spent those days, and what you have been doing?"
"I clipped the 'Teyl' off my name, and called myself Maurice," the young man confided, "and I've been earning twenty dollars a week at a show on Broadway."
"What?" Mr. Bullivant gasped.
"Twenty dollars a week," Maurice repeated, "in the chorus of 'The Piccadilly Girls.' I've got rooms at a boarding house on Seventh Avenue, a block away from where the young lady you saw with me yesterday lives, and when I go to the St. Bernerd's to get a bath and freshen up, Jennings meets me and lets me in by the back way. I've had lots of fun but it's a bum show and they're going bust directly."
"I had no idea that you'd any aptitude for that sort of thing," Mr. Bullivant observed, as soon as he had recovered his composure.
"I'll tell you I haven't," Maurice admitted. "I got the job because a chap named Lenny Levy liked the way Jennings had creased my trousers. Anyway, we're nearly through with it."
Mr. Bullivant coughed.
"The young lady?" he ventured.
"She's in the show too. Her name is Miss Lucy Compston; some day or other it will be Teyl."
Mr. Bullivant was manifestly disturbed. There was something in his young ward's expression which he partly feared and partly admired. Nevertheless, he meant to do his duty.
"Maurice," he said, "if you think of getting married at your time of life and with your lack of experience, you're a damned fool."
"There are some things, Mr. Bullivant," Maurice rejoined emphatically, "that don't call for any experience. You cotton on to the truth, and see the truth a good deal more surely than other chaps who've had all the experience in the world. We'll talk about Lucy Compston another time, if you don't mind, when you've had the opportunity of meeting her."
"That's all very well," Mr. Bullivant pointed out. "I won't presume to say a word against the young lady, who struck me as looking most attractive. At the same time you ought to remember that she's practically the only girl you've talked to on equal terms in all your life."
Maurice leaned over and patted his guardian on the shoulder.
"Bully for you!" he declared. "You're a man. If I'd had a word from you of warning against stage young ladies, or telling me of the dukes' daughters I might marry, and that sort of thing, I'd have cleared out quick. You're all right, Mr. Bullivant! I'll go slowly. Now let's get on to the next thing."
"About this trip to Europe then?" Mr. Bullivant enquired resignedly.
"I may go," Maurice replied. "In fact, I'm rather set on going. Have you looked through this morning's papers though?"
"Not all of them," the lawyer admitted.
"Every darned one of the press men I've been dodging ever since I arrived in New York is going to be on the dock, all the camera operators, the Bishop, with a few of his distinguished friends, and the Lord knows who else! I couldn't face it, Mr. Bullivant—I couldn't indeed, sir. If I go, I'm going a way of my own."
"Do you wish me to cancel your suite then?"
"Don't do anything of the sort," Maurice begged. "Just let things drift. I may be there, and I may not. Let it go at that."
"This is all very unsatisfactory," Mr. Bullivant complained.
"So was my bringing up," was the swift rejoinder. "You couldn't help that, of course, but some one was responsible for it. Why, because my father and grandfather made all these millions, should I be considered as in any way different from any other young man of my age? Why shouldn't I have been allowed to go to college, at any rate, and meet a few other human beings, instead of having an English tutor shoved down my throat, and a French Marquis, and a Harvard bookworm? What the hell use have they been to me? My bringing up was rotten, and now that I'm free, I'm going to ask for advice when I want it, and when I don't, I'm going to do what I damn well please."
"If I weren't your guardian," Mr. Bullivant sighed, "I expect I should find myself sympathizing with you."
"Come right over with it, sir," the young man begged. "Believe me, I don't mean any harm because I don't want the advice of these people. I simply don't know what to say to them, I feel an unutterable fool, I go hot and cold, and, in short, I'm beastly miserable. I'm not going through with it. In a year or two's time I may feel differently."
"Well, I sha'n't argue with you," Mr. Bullivant decided. "We're crazy folk in New York, anyway. Is there any way I can help you?"
"Send me twenty thousand dollars loose cash round to the hotel, addressed to Jennings," Maurice enjoined. "I can't use my letter of credit, or sign a cheque, or I should have the bank clerks hopping out into the street to let the world know where I was. That's all you can do for me for the present, Mr. Bullivant. I'll look after myself, don't you fear."
Mr. Bullivant rose to his feet, unlocked a cabinet and produced a cocktail shaker and three bottles. From a mahogany-covered refrigerator, shaped like a case to hold legal volumes, he helped himself to ice, and got busy.
"Do you know anything about this layout, Maurice?" he enquired.
"I should say so," the young man assented. "You've the right vermouth, I see."
"You have preserved some of the elements of civilization down at Mountain Springs then," Mr. Bullivant remarked drily.
"Jennings saw to that—Jennings and that rotter Aubrey, between them. I've had two cocktails a day for the last three years."
"That was Jennings," Maurice confided, as he accepted the frosted glass which his guardian handed over. "He wouldn't produce the stuff until I promised—one before lunch and one before dinner until I was twenty-one. You know, Mr. Bullivant," Maurice went on, "in case you have another ward like me chucked on your hands, I'll tell you this. I've had three tutors down there, a golf professional and a valet, and the only two men who've been a damned bit of use to me have been Jennings and Ned Shields."
"But the Marquis? Surely you can speak French?"
"Scarcely a word. The old boy understood no English, so he didn't know how to set about teaching me. Besides, he had a lady friend about a hundred miles away, and he spent half his time visiting her."
"Doctor Grotan then, whom we selected for the major part of your studies? He was one of the most brilliant scholars of his year."
"So he used to tell us. He's writing a book—worked eight hours a day on it."
"This sounds bad to me," Mr. Bullivant admitted, shaking his head. "What about Aubrey, the Englishman, an old Etonian? We paid him eight thousand dollars a year."
"I'm not sure that he wasn't worth it," Maurice remarked. "He taught me the little I know about clothes. We played two rounds of golf a day, and always a set or two of tennis or squash. He went through thirty of my suits of clothes before he departed, and gave them his benediction. He has promised that when I come to London he'll take me to the only shop in the world for ties. I guess Aubrey was worthwhile as a tailor's dummy. I shouldn't have got my job at 'The Piccadilly Girls' but for him."
Mr. Bullivant dispensed the dividends.
"I have been only one of four guardians, Maurice," he pointed out, "and as you know my task has been to look after the American portion of your monied interests. It may amuse you to hear incidentally, that at the present moment we employ a stockbroker, with a seat in the Stock Exchange, the whole time of one lawyer, the part time of another, and a staff of thirty clerks for the management of your affairs. However, that is by the way. As man to man, I am not going to preach to you. I'll leave that to the Bishop. Don't get too bucked up about your millions. There are lots of pleasures in life you'll lose through having so much money. You won't be able to gamble with any satisfaction, and you'll find it hard to do a generous thing, however often you have the impulse. If you go the right way about it, though, and I think you will, you ought to have a pretty good time. Anyhow, here's luck and straight living to you!"
The young man drained his glass, took up his hat, and shook his guardian's hand warmly.
"If I'd come to you first instead of the Bishop, sir, things might have been very different," was his farewell speech.
SUCCESS upon Broadway is heralded and proclaimed by flaming lights, by a glittering firmament of emblazoned names, by loitering crowds gathered around the entrance of the theatre, and by busy ticket-sellers. On the other hand, lights are never wasted upon a failure. Three minutes after the curtain fell upon the last night of "The Piccadilly Girls," the entrance to the place was like a mausoleum, and the scanty audience had almost to grope its way out. The performers who started to leave the stage with equal celerity were met, however, with a slight check. Mr. Lenny Levy appeared from somewhere in the background and held out an arresting arm.
"Stop a minute, you guys," he enjoined. "I've got just a word of farewell for you."
The chorus, including Lucy Compston and Maurice, hung around, interested. The others fidgeted. Lily Banks, the heroine, showed distinct signs of disquiet.
"We've had a bum show," the little man went on. "You've lost your jobs, and I've lost my money. I'm going to tell you right here that you've got no one but yourselves to thank for it."
"You're talking through your hat, Lenny," Miss Banks protested. "It was a rotten show. I told you so from the first."
"It was a rotten show," was the furiously shouted response, "because you never had the kick to make it anything else. Ain't all the musical jim-jams the same? I tell you there isn't a cent's worth of difference between them from one end of Broadway to the other. It's just what you people who call yourselves artists choose to make of them. What's the use of your coming to the theatre half doped every night, Lily Banks, and going through your part without as much pep as would bring a hayseed round to the stage door. Look here."
He strode suddenly through them, snatched at a handkerchief which the young woman was carrying in her hand, and disclosed a small phial. He held it up for a moment, for every one to see, and then dashed it on the floor.
"You can't even come on the stage without your filthy muck!" he exclaimed. "Just because you're Lily Banks, who used to do a good turn, and managers are fools enough to pay you ten times as much as you're worth, you think you can play that game on the public. You'll never play it again in this theatre."
"Do you think I want to come inside your rotten barn?" the girl snarled. "It's no business of yours if I choose to drug myself silly."
"Ain't it?" the infuriated little man retorted. "We'll see about that. You can try your dope on some other manager. And as for you, Rose," he went on, turning to the second principal girl, "you're better than Lily, but not so damned much. You think because you've got a lot of boobs who like to take you out to supper, and because you're collecting jewellery every other night, that you don't need to worry about your part or giving the public a show for their money. Any old song and dance will do, eh? Have you tried to sing since this show opened? Not once. Have you tried to act? Not you. You just fix your eyes where your jay bird for the night is, and that's all you think about—easier money!"
"Come on, girls," the accused young lady exclaimed. "I'm not going to stay here to be insulted by this little squirt."
"You'll stay here until I've done with you," Lenny Levy shouted, "or I'll have the stage carpenter lock you in for the night. As for you, Ed Lomas," he proceeded, addressing the principal man, "you're a boob and a ninny. Just because you couldn't get a spark out of Lily, you let all the stuff go. You could have made a hit on your own if you'd tried, with some of your lines. Not you. You saw Lily slopping through her part, and you just followed her example. You're fired, every one of you—regular hands and hands for the run of the piece. I'm going to close the damned theatre to-night, and I'll open it when I can get some live boys and girls, or never again. Now, out you go! And don't loiter about your dressing rooms either. All lights out in half an hour."
They filed past him, sulky, protesting, Lily Banks on the verge of hysterics. The scowling little man leaned over and patted Lucy Compston on the shoulder.
"Guess you did your best, my dear," he said, not unkindly, "though musical comedy ain't your stunt. Your young man with the creased pants too—well, he was a trier, but gee! you people who'd like to do your bit ain't got it in you, and those who have, like Lily and Rose, why the life outside's got hold of them, and they ain't worth a damn any longer. It's drink, dope, hysterics. Work! God, they don't know what the word means. Roadhouse parties all night, dope séances all afternoon, and they stagger in here, thinking the public will stand for it."
"And in a month's time, Lenny," a young man who had taken one of the minor parts declared good-humouredly, "you'll be running another show, old chap, and cursing us all inside out the same way."
Lenny disappeared, growling.
"It's a bloody life!" were his last words.
"I'll allow," Maurice observed, as he turned into Broadway with Lucy Compston by his side, "that my theatrical aspirations are damped."
"You never pretended to be able to do anything except wear your clothes right," she reminded him. "You did that, and put the others in the way of it too. Besides, you never asked Lenny for a job. He came and forced it upon you."
"You'll have a bite?" he asked anxiously.
"I don't know," she hesitated. "You've spent more than your twenty dollars this week already."
"I tell you I've got a little money," he insisted.
"You'll need it all before you get through life," she sighed. "For a young man from the country you certainly are extravagant."
He took her by the arm and drew her firmly inside a supper place which they had more than once visited.
"Anyway," he pointed out, "it seems to be our last evening here, and it would be a pity if we couldn't eat a few oysters together."
They found a table without the slightest difficulty, notwithstanding the crowded condition of the room, for Maurice's tips—a frequent source of remonstrance from his companion—were outrageous. Lucy unfastened her coat and leaned back in the cushioned seat. She was one of those fortunate young woman who have the gift of looking even prettier when they are tired.
"I can't stop long," she warned her companion. "I shall have to be up early in the morning to do my packing."
"Are you really going on the Anderconia?" he asked.
"Why not?" she rejoined, a little wearily. "Lenny says he hasn't another show coming on, and he wouldn't want me in it, anyway. I'm no good out here. I don't seem to have it in me. I shall go back to London and take on one of the old jobs down in the provinces. Thank heavens, I had just enough for my second-class passage back."
"I guess I'll be making London before long," he remarked tentatively.
She looked at him with a curious light in her blue eyes.
"If you really have to earn your own living," she said, "I should think that London would be better for you than New York."
"Because it seems to me that in England people's brains don't work quite so rapidly. You might have a better chance there. Please don't be offended," she added quickly, noticing the sensitive flush of colour in his face. "It isn't a matter of intelligence, you know—I'm sure you have plenty of that—but over here one does need push. You know yourself that you're nervous about talking to people. You'd never be able to go out and sell things, for instance, would you?"
"I suppose not," he admitted gloomily.
"I don't think all this fuss and bluster counts for much," she went on consolingly. "I don't think it even makes a man likable, but without it you seem to fall behind in this country. You told me once that you were supposed to take after your father. I daresay that's why he wasn't able to get on very well and couldn't even send you to college."
For a moment his lips parted in a peculiar and involuntary smile. Most of his enormous inheritance had come to him through unexpected developments in real estate since his father's death, but he still remembered the pompous leading article cut out and framed by his grandmother, when his father's will of something over thirty millions was proved, and its grandiose announcement that this fortune had been accumulated in a few short years by unusual industry and business acumen.
"I guess I'd rather talk about you," he suggested a little abruptly. "Dad did his best, but maybe he didn't have all the luck. Why do you feel that you'll do better in London than over here?"
"Because in England," she explained, "there's a better chance of some sort of a future career for a girl who's been on the stage. Over here we're ranked as something not quite human. Men do their best to make fools of us, but they don't marry us. Over in England it's different. Girls on the stage do marry, and marry very well. Decent sort of men aren't afraid to be seen about with them either."
"And you think you'll get work?"
"I don't suppose I shall get anything in London," she sighed, "but if I got a place in a provincial company, that wouldn't be nearly so bad as doing the smaller towns over here.... New York's wonderful, of course, but sometimes it frightens even me, and I shouldn't call myself soft. I'm always terrified of being out of a job for long, and really having no money. If anything were to happen I've no one to help me over here. If I were ill, for instance—well, they say New Yorkers are kindly, but they don't give anything for nothing—especially the men. Over in England there would always be some one who would see I didn't starve. Have you any relatives?"
"Scarcely one in the world."
"That's a pity. You're a man, of course—and a strong man too, I should think by the look of you—but it seems to me you'd be more comfortable with some one to look after you if you were badly up against it."
"I surely do believe that you think I'm a mut," he decided.
She patted his hand caressingly.
"My dear boy, I certainly do not," she assured him, "but you do seem scared and nervous when you're with folks, don't you, and that makes one wonder how you'll get on in the world when you've spent your money, and have to turn to and work."
"I guess I'll be all right," he declared cheerfully. "I'll have a look at England, anyway, before I decide upon anything. I can come and see you there, can't I?"
She turned her head slightly, and surprised something in his eyes which brought the colour to her own cheeks. Their meal was over. He had paid the bill, and they were on the point of leaving. A jazz band was performing outrageously in a corner, and the atmosphere was heavy with tobacco-smoke. The clatter of plates and raised voices was almost deafening. She drew a little closer to him.
"Now and then you can, of course," she consented. "I shall like to see you very much, but—shall I be frank, or will you think I'm horrid, I wonder?"
"Take a risk," he begged.
"I think it would be better if I did not see too much of you in England," she told him gravely.
"Because I like you and I think you like me a little."
"I sure do," he agreed emphatically.
"Then I am all the more certain that I am right," she went on, with a regretful little sigh. "I am inclined to get fond of people if they are kind to me in a nice sort of way, and a girl in my profession doesn't meet too many of that sort."
"I don't see anything to worry about," he argued. "There's nothing in the world I'd like so much as to have you get fond of me, for instance."
"I'll tell you why I don't want to," she pronounced firmly. "I've made up my mind about one thing, and I'm not going to change it. I was brought up in a poverty-stricken home; want was always there in the background, like a spectre. Since I've started life on my own, there's always been the same fear—nothing in the background, only a few dollars between me and the streets, or the workhouse. The fear of it is in my blood. I've made up my mind that I'll never marry any one poor. When I marry, I'm going to escape."
"You don't know that I'm absolutely poor," he ventured.
She smiled almost maternally.
"I don't think that you have very much money," she told him. "I don't think you'll keep what you have very long, and I don't think you'll ever make any."
"I knew it," he sighed. "You think I'm just an empty-headed hayseed."
"Don't be silly!" she begged. "If you knew how nice I thought you were, you might almost become vain, but you see I believe in being frank. I won't allow myself to get fond of anyone unless he is able to make me feel that as well as caring for him I never need to worry about money again.... Now, let's go, please."
They walked almost in silence to the boarding-house. Maurice seemed to have become absent-minded. Once or twice she looked up at him a little wistfully.
In the narrow, smelly passage where their good-nights were usually exchanged, she placed both her hands in his.
"You're not angry with me, or hurt?"
"Not a bit," he assured her.
"It's our good-bye," she added, in a slightly lowered tone. "I don't want you to see me off, please. I should rather hate it. I'll send you my address in London."
One of those strange fits of nervousness, the outcome of his upbringing, suddenly seized upon Maurice. His head swam. He forgot the sordidness, the almost misery, of his surroundings, the flickering gas-jet, the uncouth shadows. Yet, although he was conscious of a new sweetness in the world, something that he had known nothing about at Mountain Springs, he remained tongue-tied, and he felt again that miserable flush of colour in his cheeks. Then, as suddenly as it had come, the fit passed. Her face was lifted to his a little expectantly, her hands stole up to his shoulders. For the first time, he stooped down and kissed her.
After she had gone, he let himself quietly out of the house, and lingered for a moment on the topmost of the flight of steps. Overhead, the sky was luridly bright with the reflected glow of Broadway. The honking of motor-horns and the mysterious muffled sounds of a million footfalls were in strange contrast with the night sounds of Mountain Springs, the softly-blowing winds in the elm trees, the rushing downward of the torrential watercourses to their mother river, the melancholy but musical croakings of the frogs and many nocturnal insects. Yet overhead, above the venomous reflection of the flaring street signs, shone the stars.... He lingered there until the thunder of a passing train on the elevated tore into his world of fancies. Then he slowly made his way down towards the street, and, finding a taxi-cab, was driven to the back entrance of the St. Bernerd's Hotel.
NEVER was there a more furious man than the purser of the Anderconia, now free from her tugs and steaming slowly down the bay at eleven o'clock on the following morning. He glared at his assistant, who was standing upon the threshold of his room, as though that unfortunate youth were personally responsible for the amazing announcement which he had just made.
"Not on board?" he repeated, in a tone of dismay. "Maurice Teyl not on board? But you can't have been all over the ship, Smart? Why, his valet brought all the luggage on late last night. I saw the fellow myself. He said he expected his master in good time this morning."
"I'm afraid there's no doubt about it, Mr. Milsom" the assistant declared regretfully. "There are two or three photographers, and half a dozen newspaper men waiting, not to speak of the crowd on the pier, and I think they'd have found him if he'd been anywhere about. Mr. Bullivant, the lawyer who arranged for the passage, was here too, Bishop Radlett, and a young clerical gentleman who was to have accompanied him as chaplain. They were all down in his room. The Bishop was very upset. You read about his having gone back to Mountain Springs almost the day after he'd arrived in New York?"
"How the devil could one help reading about it," the purser rejoined. "All the same, we had definite word to expect him on board, that he had made up his mind to return in time to take the trip."
The assistant shook his head sorrowfully. He was a long, thin youth, with sandy hair and a somewhat extended neck. He wore nose glasses, and he enjoyed life more when his chief was in a good humour.
"I'm afraid there's no doubt that he's not on board, sir," he reiterated.
The purser strode savagely up and down the narrow confines of his room. He was a good-looking and popular officer, whole-heartedly devoted to his passengers, their comfort and amusement. The absence of Maurice Teyl was one of the most terrifying contretemps he had ever experienced.
"You know, Smart," he confided, "that there are fifty people in this ship who are only making the voyage with us because it was announced that the royal suite had been booked by Maurice Teyl. He must have meant to come, for there wasn't any sort of an attempt to cancel it. What the devil made him change his mind?"
His junior shrugged his shoulders.
"He must have funked the coming back to New York, sir," he suggested. "You know what all the newspapers call him—'The Shy Plutocrat.' They say he was brought up on this great property of Mountain Springs and was never allowed in any sort of a city. I expect New York scared him so badly that when he got back home again he just decided to stay there. One newspaper man told me that they simply mobbed the hotel when he was here, and one or two of them went all the way down to Mountain Springs afterwards, but they could never run him to earth."
The purser, who was a man of fluent speech, indulged in another little burst of profanity.
"What the hell are we to tell these people?" he demanded. "Some of them have been ringing me up for days to make sure that Maurice Teyl was going to be on board. I told them that there wasn't the slightest doubt about it. What the devil else could I say? Did it seem reasonable that any one would book and pay for the finest suite on any steamship in the world, and not occupy it? Not any attempt to cancel, not a word of apology or explanation of any sort. The fellow simply never comes on board."
"He's treated his own people just as badly, sir," the assistant pointed out. "The Bishop came over all the way from Boston, expecting to see him, and his lawyer was here, with a lot of papers."
There was a knock at the door, and a steward made his unobtrusive appearance.
"Beg pardon, sir," he announced, "but there's one of the passengers wants a word with you."
"Find out what he wants, and get some one else to attend to him," was the curt reply. "I'm busy."
The steward closed the door and ventured a little farther into the room.
"It's one of those stony brokes, sir, come on board without a ticket," he confided. "I thought perhaps you'd send him back with the pilot, but I didn't like to take it on myself to give orders."
The purser nodded savagely. Here indeed was a Christian thrown to the lions.
"Send the fellow in," he ordered. "I'll deal with him."
The steward leaned backwards and beckoned to a loiterer in the passage. Maurice Teyl, in a blue serge suit, which he had carefully refrained from having brushed or pressed, and a flannel shirt and soft collar instead of his usual immaculate linen, appeared upon the threshold. His carefully thought-out appearance was neither too prosperous nor too impecunious. He was obviously nervous, and he smiled ingratiatingly at the purser.
"What's this?" the latter demanded, with a steely glitter in his eyes. "What do you mean by coming on board without booking your passage first?"
"Hadn't time, sir," was the polite reply. "I only made up my mind to come at the last moment. You can shove me into any old sort of a cubbyhole. I'll pay whatever you think reasonable—that I can afford," he added, as an afterthought.
The purser opened his mouth, and closed it again.
The truculence had gone from his manner. He stared steadfastly at his visitor, of whom, up to the last few moments, he had taken but scant notice; his assistant was doing the same thing.
"What's your name?" the purser demanded.
"Maurice, sir—Andrew Maurice. I've been playing in 'The Piccadilly Girls' down at the Broadway Theatre. We finished last night, and as there was nothing fresh coming on, I thought I'd like to try my luck in England. I'd no time to call in at your place and get a ticket. I thought perhaps you'd allow me to arrange that when I came on board."
Still the purser stared. He glanced towards his assistant, who nodded in sympathetic understanding. They were both impressed by the same coincidence.
"Shut the door and be off, Steward," the purser directed. "Smart," he went on, turning to his assistant, "you stay here. Mr. Maurice, sit down for a moment, please."
The young man, in some surprise, dragged the suitcase which he had been carrying up to the side of a chair, and seated himself.
"What did you say your name was?" the purser asked again.
"An actor, eh?"
"Of a sort. I'm only a beginner."
"English or American?"
"Do you know whom you're like?"
"Well, I think I know whom you mean, sir," Maurice admitted. "I couldn't help noticing it in the papers the last few days. All my friends and the people down at the theatre have been chaffing me about it. You mean the young Californian millionaire who is travelling with you."
"Who isn't travelling with us, curse him! From what I can hear, he got the funks at the last moment and stayed at home down at Mountain Springs, wherever that may be. There'll be a mutiny on the ship when they know."
"Why?" Maurice asked innocently.
The purser opened a cupboard, listened for a moment to the clamour of voices in the outside office, and mixed three whiskies and sodas. He passed them around silently.
"I don't know what's got the people," he replied at length, "but they seem crazy nowadays about any one in the least unusual. It's these damned press stunts that do the trick, I suppose. They boomed this young idiot's arrival in New York, and his taking this trip, until people have got all worked up about it. We could have let our best rooms a dozen times over to people who wanted to cross simply on the chance of meeting Maurice Teyl."
"I can answer for that," Smart put in. "There are at least sixty people on board I know of, who chose this steamer simply because they believed that Maurice Teyl was travelling with us."
Maurice looked a little uncomfortable.
"Silly muts!" he murmured.
There was a brief silence, during which the purser sipped his whisky and soda reflectively, and appeared to be making an intensive study of his ill-at-ease visitor.
"So you want a cabin, eh?"
"Something in the second class, if possible," was the eager reply. "Steerage would do for me, all right. I just want to get across without any fuss."
"Well, we've no vacant cabin on board," the purser announced deliberately. "The second class is filled right up to the Board of Trade capacity, and, as you ought to know, we don't carry steerage on a ship like this. You'll have to go back by the pilot."
"Oh, I say!" Maurice protested. "I couldn't do that."
"I couldn't go down the ladder," Maurice confided, with a sudden burst of inspiration. "I've got a weak head."
"You should have thought of that before you tried this stowaway game," the purser rejoined. "If your head's weak, your nerve isn't."
"Couldn't I sleep in a corner of the smoking room?" Maurice begged.
"Sleeping in the public rooms isn't allowed," was the curt response. "I don't see what we can do for you, Mr. Maurice."
The purser glanced out of the open porthole. Already the steamer was slowing down to drop the pilot. He rose to his feet, and tried the handle of the door to make sure that it was fastened.
"Look here, young fellow," he said, returning to his place, "I'll take you across on one condition, and I'll take you across too, more comfortably than you've ever travelled in your life before, or ever will again."
"That's better," Maurice observed, with a sigh of relief.
"This is the condition," the purser declared, leaning forward in his chair and dropping his voice. "I've gone, perhaps, a little too far in declaring that of my certain knowledge this young fellow Teyl was going to make the voyage with us. I don't want to be the most unpopular man on the ship, and I am going to try a bluff upon all these crazy lion hunters."
"It sounds interesting," Maurice murmured, under his breath.
"Listen here," the purser continued. "If you'll occupy Maurice Teyl's suite and swear that you won't move out of it without permission until we reach port, you shall have it free, gratis and for nothing. Understand clearly what it means. So far as the ship and the ship's officers are concerned, I'm going to declare that you are Maurice Teyl, and you mustn't deny it. You'll have a deck of your own to sit on, anything in the world you fancy in foods and wines, and servants to wait upon you—no hardships, I can promise you. I'll take all risks. I'll deal with the passengers, and I'll get you off the boat at the other end. Are you on?"
Maurice's bewilderment had given place, towards the end of the purser's speech, to a fit of silent but genuine mirth. He sat there with his long legs stretched out, his hands in his trousers pockets, his large mouth opened in a frank and engaging laugh of undiluted amusement.
"Gee!" he exclaimed. "You want me to impersonate Maurice Teyl?"
"That's what it comes to," the other assented. "You're an actor of a sort, you say, so you ought to be able to do it easily enough. You're the very spit of the fellow, features, height, the colour of your hair and all. Arc you on?"
"Am I a raving lunatic?" Maurice demanded, wiping his eyes. "Of course I'm on. Lead the way to the royal suite."
"There's the press to be considered, sir," Smart ventured nervously.
"I'll deal with the press," his chief declared. "We'll wireless back that Mr. Teyl came on board incognito—fooled them all. If ever the truth leaks out, I'll own up sooner than get you into trouble, young fellow. You'll take my word?"
The purser rose to his feet and opened the door. He purposely raised his voice, purposely introduced into it a slightly deferential note.
"Come this way, Mr. Teyl," he invited, taking him by the arm. "I'll show you over your suite myself, if you'll allow me. You needn't be nervous now that we're well away. I'll guarantee that there isn't a newspaper man left on deck."
There were already people listening—-quite a sufficient number to spread the news throughout the ship. Maurice played up admirably.
"All that I want," he confided, "is to be left alone until I get used to this sort of thing. I hate fuss and crowds and strangers.... They'll take care of that suitcase, won't they?" he added, under his breath. "That's all the luggage I've got."
There was deliberate admonition in the purser's smile.
"Your servant came on board last night with all your clothes, Mr. Teyl," he announced. "This way, sir. You see you've an absolutely private entrance, and you can keep just as much to yourself as you like. You needn't ever step out on to the main deck unless you want to. I shall be sending a wireless back within an hour, and the Company will be gratified to know what you think of your accommodation. Here we are!"
THERE was not an officer on board, or a member of the crew, for that matter, who was not proud of the royal suite on the Anderconia. Maurice, notwithstanding previous reports of its magnificence, gave a little gasp of surprise as his companion exhibited its splendours. There was a dining room, panelled in dark oak, with suitable furniture, a brightly-decorated little sitting-room, with French windows opening out on to a sunny stretch of enclosed and sheltered deck, two bedrooms, one furnished in the French style, with pale blue walls and delicate chintzes, the other more sombre in tone, evidently designed for a masculine occupant. There was a bathroom opening from each, and flowers in every possible corner of the place. As soon as the tour of investigation was ended, the purser led the way back to the sitting-room, locked the door and motioned his companion to a seat.
"You'll go through with this, now that we've started, Mr. Maurice—er—Mr. Teyl, I mean," he corrected himself, looking anxiously at his companion.
"I'll go through with it, all right, so far as I'm concerned," was the reassuring reply. "I don't quite see how you're going to get away with it, though. It's a pretty big bluff to put over."
"That's my lookout. If we can once get through the voyage, and I can get you off the boat according to a little scheme I have in my mind, I'll bluff it out to my dying day. I'm not going to be fooled like this before all the passengers. Maurice Teyl booked this suite, and Maurice Teyl is going to travel in it, so far as the passengers and ship's company know."
"What about the wireless?"
"That's practically our only risk, however much we juggle with it," the purser agreed, "unless there happens to be some one on board who's actually met you lately."
"Gee!" Maurice exclaimed, giving a very creditable imitation of a man assailed by a sudden panic. "There's Miss Compston. I'm sorry, but there's Lucy Compston."
"She was in the cast of 'The Piccadilly Girls' with me—had a small part with one song. She's on board—in the second class, I believe."
"Are you on friendly terms with her?" the purser asked anxiously.
"Just as friendly as I can get," Maurice admitted,
"Not likely to give you away?"
Maurice deliberated for a moment.
"No, I don't think she'd do that," he decided. "She's a straightforward little lady, and she'll probably disapprove, but I don't think she'll act disagreeably about it."
"Let me see," the purser mused. "They're overcrowded in the second class, and we've got a few vacant staterooms at this end—even though I told you we hadn't. I'll go round some time and find her out, and get her moved up here where you can have a word with her. You're sure she won't talk?"
"Not the way you mean," Maurice replied, a little dolefully. "I shall get it in the neck all right, though."
"You don't know any one else on board, do you?"
"Not a soul."
"As regards the wireless," the purser reflected, "there will be a despatch to-morrow, of course, announcing that the Bishop and Maurice Teyl's lawyer and all of them were on the pier to wish the young man good-bye, and that he never turned up. I shall reply to that that he double-fooled them all, and came on board early by arrangement with the authorities. If Maurice Teyl is really the shy young idiot they say, he'll lie doggo in California and he certainly won't make trouble. In the meanwhile, whatever happens, I shall stick it out for five days that you're the real article. If it's necessary to doctor the Marconi messages a little, I shall do it."
"I don't see what harm the wireless can do," Maurice demurred, "unless young Teyl down at Mountain Springs gets hold of the newspapers and cuts up rough. Somehow or other, I don't think he'll do that."
"Neither do I," the purser agreed cheerfully. "Make yourself at home, young man, order what you like, and remember that it won't cost you a cent."
"It's a jolly good show for me," Maurice admitted. "I only hope that you won't get into trouble."
"It's my own lookout if I do. As a matter of fact, if we get through the voyage, I'm pretty certain I sha'n't. You're as like the other fellow as two peas. I wonder they haven't mobbed you in New York."
"People did seem to have a queer way of staring at me now and then," Maurice confided. "What are you going to do about landing me, though?"
"My idea is to slip you off at Cherbourg," the purser explained, "but there's plenty of time to decide about that. What you've got to remember is that you must lie low here. No wandering round after the girls, or any of that sort of thing. You've got to live up to your reputation of being the shyest young man on earth."
"I surely can do that," Maurice promised.
"You'll have your meals in your own dining room, of course. You'll give precisely what orders you please, and you won't be required to part with a dollar while you're on board. On the other hand, if we shove you off at Cherbourg, you'll have a grant which will enable you to get comfortably to London. All I ask from you is to remember one thing: you're not a Broadway actor out of work who sneaked on here to get a cheap passage to England; you're Maurice Teyl, multimillionaire. Live up to it."
"I'll do what I can."
"Once again, let me remind you that you're also the shyest young man living," the other went on. "You'll find the girls will try all sorts of dodges to get you away from your little corner of the deck. You're not having any, mind. Blush and look away if they get gay. You've plenty of enclosed room for exercise there. Never leave it, unless I say the word."
"What about the bar?" Maurice ventured, a little wistfully.
"Not on your life," was the severe reply. "By the way, I'm not quite sure, but I believe Maurice Teyl is an abstainer."
"I'm betting he's not," Maurice declared anxiously.
"How do you know?"
"Seen snapshots of him drinking a cocktail," was the mendacious answer. The purser ruminated.
"Well, go easy, anyway," he advised. "I may have to bring just one or two important people in for a minute or two. I sha'n't, of course, unless I'm satisfied that they've never met you. You'll play the game?"
"You just trust me!" Maurice begged, getting up and strolling around the room. "I'll say that I'm beginning to fit in to this place, beginning to feel stuffed full of dollars already."
"Don't forget that you're shy—damned shy."
"I've got that coming on, too. Don't you worry, purser."
"I'm going to report to the captain now that you're on board," the latter concluded, with a sigh of relief. "Order anything you like. If you want a cocktail, you needn't wait until the bar is open. Ring the bell, and the steward will arrange it for you. And, if you can take a chair outside, where they can see you, it wouldn't be a bad idea. Don't have your cocktail there though, until I've found out whether you're an abstainer or not."
"Even if I am," Maurice argued cheerfully, "any man may change his habits on a long sea voyage."
The purser was on his way to the door. There was a frown on his forehead, however, and he paused before reaching it.
"I can't get rid of the idea that there's something I've forgotten," he confessed.
"And by God, you're right!" Maurice exclaimed suddenly, pointing towards the stateroom, from which came the sound of some one moving about. "There's Maurice Teyl's valet!"
At that precise moment, the door leading to the bedroom was opened, and Jennings made his imperturbable appearance. He glanced woodenly past Maurice, and addressed the purser.
"Can you tell me if Mr. Teyl has come on board, sir?" he enquired.
All the purser's elation of a few minutes ago had disappeared. He saw his scheme nipped in the bud before it was well launched. Nevertheless, he pulled himself together like the man of parts he undoubtedly was, and was on the point of attempting his bluff, when he was forestalled.
"Of course I'm here, Jennings," Maurice said, turning away from the window, where he had been trifling with the blind. "I came on board with the second-class passengers to escape the mob. What is it you want?"
Jennings hesitated, but only for a single second.
"I beg your pardon, sir. My eyesight, as you know, is not very good, and for the moment I did not recognise you. I came to suggest your changing into some thicker clothes, sir, before lunch."
"Very well," he assented. "Put something out for me."
Jennings disappeared as quietly and unobtrusively as he had come and without a shadow of disquietude in his manner. The purser crossed the room and patted his young protégé on the shoulder.
"My God, you're a masterpiece, young fellow!" he exclaimed. "But how the hell did you know that his name was Jennings?" Maurice smiled.
"Working only at night leaves one plenty of time to read the newspapers," he explained. "Curiously enough, I've read pretty well every line that's been written about Maurice Teyl. I could stand a close examination on his life, from the days of that picture in the New York Sun, where he wore a velveteen suit with lace around the knees."
The purser wrung his companion's hand.
"God sent you to me," he misquoted fervently.
MAURICE, on the departure of the purser, made his way to the bedroom where Jennings was meditatively overhauling a row of overcoats.
"Jennings," he announced, "I am myself again."
"Or rather I'm not myself; I'm pretending to be myself."
"I can't say that I quite follow you, sir," the man admitted.
"It's like this," Maurice explained, seating himself upon the bed. "I told you I was coming on board amongst the second classers, that I might jog along and collect a few things on the quiet, but that you weren't to recognise me unless I gave you the tip. You played the game O. K., but look what's happened. It seems the whole ship was terribly upset because Maurice Teyl didn't turn up, and when I went to the purser for a berth, he offered me the choice of the free use of Maurice Teyl's apartment if I would pretend to be Maurice Teyl, or off the ship in five minutes down the pilot's ladder! He tumbled to the likeness, it seems."
"Pretend to be yourself, sir?"
"You've said it, Jennings."
"It appears to me, sir," the man remarked respectfully, "that so long as you were going to take this on, you might just as well have come on board in the ordinary way."
"That's where you're dead wrong," his master pointed out earnestly. "If I'd driven down at ten o'clock from the St. Bernerd's, I should have had a farewell strut on the deck with the Bishop while be preached me another sermon, a farewell oration from Mr. Bullivant to follow, a dozen newspaper men trying to make me say some asinine thing for their papers in the morning—-and you know how I hate those photographers, Jennings! Don't you see, I escaped all that and I am going to be shoved off quietly at the other end. There's a young lady on board, too, in the second class, who I certainly didn't want to guess that I am really Maurice Teyl—not just yet, at any rate."
"I quite understand, sir," Jennings murmured. "I presume that none of these people on board have any idea how long I've been in your service?"
"I don't believe there's a soul on board who knows that."
"Then, if I might make a suggestion, sir, it would be better to assume, so far as the purser and the officers of the ship are concerned, that I have only recently arrived from Europe, and that, up to the present date, I have not had the opportunity of seeing much of you."
Maurice nodded approvingly.
"Good for you, Jennings!" he agreed. "Now, get me out a fur coat, will you. There's a rumour that I'm not on board, so the purser wants me to sit in my cage."
For an hour or more before luncheon, and for a couple of hours before dinner, a stream of promenaders gazed more or less furtively at the spectacle of the richest young man in the world, wrapped in a fur coat, stretched upon a bamboo couch, piled with cushions, reading a novel and smoking a cigarette. Fragments of their remarks reached him sometimes with blatant distinctness, but he made no sign. He was beginning to appreciate the purser's point of view, and he gathered that there was a general feeling of satisfaction amongst the crowd that they were about to spend the next four or five days breathing the same air as himself. His likeness to his photographs was universally admitted, his personal appearance was discussed with marked favour by the feminine sex, and his cleverness in fooling the newspaper men and the small crowd who had come to bid him farewell was regarded as an excellent joke. There was no doubt whatever that during that first day, at least, Maurice conscientiously earned his money. He justified his reputation for shyness by scarcely lifting his eyes from his book, but he remained there, in plain view, to the joy and edification of the ceaseless throng of promenaders. Towards seven o'clock, when the crowd was beginning to thin, Jennings made his sedate appearance.
"Your bath is ready at any time you choose to take it, sir," he announced. "I have filled both the salt-water and the fresh-water receptacles."
This was intensely interesting to the loiterers. They paused as Maurice laid down his book, hoping that they might hear his voice. He disappointed them, however, by merely nodding.
"The steward is here, sir, who has been appointed to wait upon you," Jennings continued, indicating the presence in the background of one of the ship's servants, holding a silver tray upon which stood a glass filled with dull amber-coloured liquid.
"With the second steward's compliments, sir," the man remarked, stepping forward. "Special ship's cocktail, invented by our bartender. If you approve, we would like your permission to call it the 'Teyl' cocktail."
Maurice, to the marked satisfaction of his now frankly interested audience, raised the glass to his lips, sipped its contents approvingly, and handed it back empty.
"You can tell your bartender," he declared, "that I'll be proud to have my name associated with such a concoction. Now, what about dinner?"
"The second steward will be very glad to have your orders, sir."
This was more than ever interesting to the loiterers outside. A small crowd had gathered, pretending to be absorbed in some object seawards, but in reality all attention. Maurice stretched out his hand.
"Got a menu?" he enquired.
"The steward thought that for you, sir, a menu was not necessary," was the magniloquent reply. "There's nothing you could order that we would not be able to supply."
The promenaders looked as though they found it difficult to refrain from applause. This was indeed the way to address the princes of the earth. Maurice accepted the statement with a smile.
"Very well, then," he said, "I should like a little caviar, some roast beef, not too well done, baked potatoes, spinach and some Cheddar cheese."
The attendant accepted what seemed to him a very inadequate order in silence. An amateur journalist, who was amongst the throng outside, made a note upon his shirt cuff to write an article on the simple tastes of great men.
"I have been asked to recommend our Bollinger '14, sir," the steward continued.
Maurice nodded in approbation, and rose to his feet to have one last look at the sea. From every side he could hear fragments of muffled conversation.
"Plain roast beef! My, that doesn't seem much of a dinner!"
"All the money in the world won't buy him two stomachs," some philosopher observed.
"I wish he'd dine in the saloon, like the prince did," one of the prettiest of the bevy of girls sighed.
"I guess he'll never do that," her escort remarked. "They say he's just too shy to live."
So far, Maurice acknowledged to himself, as he strolled in to his luxurious dressing room, everything had gone according to plan. He took a cold sea bath, followed by a warm fresh-water one, and had just completed a leisurely toilet when there was a knock at the door, and the purser entered, evidently in a cheerful frame of mind.
"Everything all right with you?" he enquired.
"O.K.," Maurice assured him. "Short of being prodded, and given apples, I've been the prize exhibition at the Zoo. I've bitten no one, and they've had a free show. They've heard me order my dinner, and they know that I have a fancy for under-done roast beef and Bollinger '14. They've now gone off to talk about it."
"You've made a hit with the girls," the purser declared. "They all think you're just wonderful. I can't keep 'em out of my office. They come in, one at a time, pretending it's about something else, and they always wind up with the same question.—'Don't I think I could manage an introduction?'"
"You keep them to their own part of the ship," Maurice begged, a little nervously. "If you let them loose in here, I'll go overboard."
The purser smiled.
"You don't need to worry," he reassured his star passenger. "I'll give you plenty of notice if I have to bring one of them along. How about your wardrobe?"
"Amazing!" Maurice declared. "Everything fits me like a glove. The fellow must have exactly my figure. His jewellery, too, certainly does take my fancy. These buttons I have on to-night, for instance."
The purser duly admired them, and afterwards touched the bell.
"Don't forget to leave all these trifles behind you," he enjoined good-naturedly. "We'll meet in London later on, and if there's anything you fancy particularly amongst Teyl's belongings, I'll match it, as a little memento of this trip. You're doing your duty nobly. I should think half the passengers on the ship have seen you, and they're as pleased as punch about it."
Maurice nodded, and pushed the cigarettes across the table. He was easily falling into the ways of a host.
"Damned good cigarettes you have on board," he remarked. "I don't know that I've ever smoked anything better in my life."
"Best of everything for you," was the hospitable reply. "How does it feel, I wonder, to be the richest young man in the world?"
"I'm getting the habit."
"You deserve to come into a fortune yourself," the purser declared feelingly. "I suppose it's part of your stage training, but you certainly have got the knack of carrying a thing of this sort through. You're saving me from a perfectly rotten trip, I can tell you that."
The steward made a breathless appearance with the accustomed tray.
"Twenty dollars a week on Broadway didn't run to this sort of thing," Maurice observed, holding up his glass.
The purser extended a warning hand.
"Look here," he begged, "try to forget the fellow in that bum show on Broadway altogether. Try to get it into your head that you are not only playing the part of Maurice Teyl, but that you are Maurice Teyl. Go to sleep dreaming that you are Maurice Teyl, wake up believing it. These people on board are capable of anything. They're so damned curious, you'll find them hanging around in any old corner to hear even a word from you. They expected to find you guarded by a secretary, a tutor and God knows what. Now that they realise you're alone, we shall have the devil's own business to keep them away. You're Maurice Teyl, remember. You slipped on board quietly to avoid the crowd. You live at Mountain Springs, where you don't see a stranger once a month. You're on your way to London, and perhaps round Europe, to look about you. You were brought up in California, and never allowed by your grandmother to leave the ranch—two hundred miles of it. Eighty bedrooms in your house, swimming bath, racquet court, and all the rest of it. Outside—golf links, steeplechase course—"
"My dear fellow," Maurice interrupted, "I know more about it than you do. I've read practically every line that was ever written about this nut Teyl—every line that was worth reading, anyway. They couldn't phase me, however they tried. What about dining with me?"
The purser shook his head regretfully.
"First night out," he explained, "and I've scarcely touched my regular work yet, I've been so taken up with arranging your little affair. I shan't even get into the saloon—have a mouthful in my cabin, perhaps. I tell you what, though; I shall have to bring the captain round presently."
"That's all right. I'm not frightened of him."
"Don't overdo your confidence. Remember, you're the shyest young man on earth. Sit tight and let him do the talking."
"I should worry!" Maurice exclaimed. "Remember, I've been on the stage, and there isn't a thing in Maurice Teyl's past life I don't know."
"Don't get careless all the same. Sit tight and let the other folks do the talking," was the purser's parting admonition.
Maurice dined alone in regal state, and fully justified his reputation when he was paid a visit of ceremony first by the steward and then by the second steward. He shook hands with both of them nervously.
"Thank you very much for coming," he said simply, in reply to their customary introduction. "I'm being very well looked after. Everything is most satisfactory."
"I'm very glad to hear it, sir," the second steward declared. "I thought I'd like to pay my respects, in case there was anything special you might be wanting, either now or at any future time while you do us the honour of remaining on board."
"We have some Napoleon liqueur brandy, in our reserve bin—" the steward began.
"You can send me a bottle of it at once," Maurice interrupted. "Thank you both very much. I am glad to have seen you, but don't let any one else come."
The two men took their leave together.
"Well, for once in their lives, these newspaper-men are telling the truth," the second steward observed to his companion. "You wouldn't believe that a young man with all that money could be so quiet and nervous-like."
"Comes of being brought up on a farm," the other opined sagely.
The captain made his appearance later in the evening. He was a sturdy, well-built man, with grizzled hair, and clean-cut sailor's features.
"Glad you chose our line to cross on, Mr. Teyl," he remarked, after the business of shaking hands had been concluded.
"They all tell me that it is the best," Maurice rejoined. "I'm quite sure I couldn't wish for anything more comfortable."
"We shall see something of you on deck later on, I hope. You'll be welcome on the bridge in fair weather at any time."
"I don't believe I'll be out on deck much, Captain. I'm not very fond of crowds. Won't you sit down, sir, and smoke a cigar, or a cigarette? There's some liqueur brandy here that they tell me is very good."
The captain accepted a cigarette, but refused to stay.
"There are some nasty patches of fog coming over," he confided. "I'm going on the bridge for an hour or so. I shall leave you in Mr. Milsom's bands. Don't hesitate to ask for anything you want."
"I'm certain I shall be well looked after, sir," Maurice assured him.
The captain departed, and his place was taken a few minutes later by the purser, who accepted a liqueur but was also in a hurry.
"Old man all right?" he enquired anxiously.
"So far as I could gather. Anyway, he didn't ask me any questions."
The purser stooped to light a cigarette.
"The first wireless has just come in, announcing that you missed your boat," he confided. "Every one's laughing at it."
Maurice made a wry face.
"Those chaps are crazy," he declared, in a tone of disgust. "What the devil does it matter to New York where Maurice Teyl is? Tell me about Miss Compston?"
The purser pointed to a little stretch of deck close to Maurice's private promenade.
"You watch that spot to-morrow morning," he enjoined. "I shall leave the rest, to you."
AT nine o'clock on the following morning, the occupant of the royal suite on the Anderconia breakfasted in regal fashion off fruit, bacon and eggs, a pot of strong coffee, toast and marmalade. Afterwards he did his duty by sitting out on his enclosed portion of deck, with a novel. The purser paid him an early visit. The latter's complete air of satisfaction had disappeared. There was a frown upon his forehead, and he was evidently disturbed.
"Things didn't go quite so well last night, Maurice," he said. "They were talking all over the ship about your change of habits."
"Change of habits?"
"Why, yes," the purser went on, drawing a newspaper from his pocket. "I don't think you knew your Maurice Teyl as well as you thought you did. After listening to what these people had to say, I've been reading up about you myself. It seems you don't smoke, you don't drink, you have the strongest aversion to feminine society, and you always conduct a Sunday service yourself in one of your halls. They want to know what you're going to do about it here."
"That was all before grandmother died," Maurice pointed out.
"Possibly," the purser argued, "but I don't think you ought to change so completely in such a short time. Have your cocktails served inside—as I suggested once before—if you don't mind, and don't smoke quite so much out here. You ought to be wearing spectacles too. I've brought you a pair of sun glasses. They'll make you look a bit more serious."
Maurice accepted them gingerly.
"Say, purser," he protested, "I can't pretend to live up to what that young fool used to be. Can't you spread it round that I've broken out a bit, just got my liberty, and been in New York for a month, don't you know?"
"I'm doing all I can," the other assured him. "Of course, we've always got the fact that you're just come of age to fall back upon, but remember, two months ago there was a character study of you in the Boston Review, by a man who'd been down to your ranch. He described you then as 'the shyest young man in America'; you didn't touch liquor, and you didn't smoke, and you'd no use for girls."
"What a mut!" Maurice groaned. "If Maurice Teyl's going on like that all his life, what will be the use of all his money? I think I'd better give him a lead, and run amuck whilst I'm on the ship. He'll probably be grateful to me later on, if he ever hears about it."
The purser shook his head.
"Don't do anything to get them talking too much," he begged. "Of course, some day or other I expect I shall have to plead guilty to having been fooled, but there's no sense in asking for trouble. The cocktails are just as good inside; so is the whisky and soda, and if you want to read a novel, why read it, but I've brought you the Methodist Recorder, and two or three reviews to have on a chair by your side. So long, young fellow! Keep your eyes open, and you may see something interesting before long."
The purser took his leave, and Maurice carefully picked up the copy of the Methodist Recorder and placed it on the ledge of his window, with the title outwards. He had no sooner re-opened his novel again, however, than it slipped through his fingers, and he struggled to his feet. A few yards away, in the small portion of deck which the purser had indicated the night before, was a newly arrived steamer chair, occupied by a girl who was seated with her coat collar buttoned up, and her eyes turned towards the sea. Maurice touched the bell by his side, and Jennings came hastening out.
"Go straight out of that door. You see the young lady shivering with cold there? Invite her in here. Don't give my name, but bring her."
Jennings adequately fulfilled the role of the perfect servant. He asked no questions, he made no protest. With the young lady he was gently persuasive until, after some hesitation, she rose and followed him. Maurice welcomed her eagerly.
"My dear Miss Compston!" he exclaimed. "What a wretched place you chose for your chair. Do please come and sit with me here. That will do, Jennings," he added, as the man reappeared with an armful of rugs. "I'll make Miss Compston comfortable."
Jennings took the hint and departed swiftly. Maurice held a chair invitingly towards his astonished guest.
"But I don't understand," she exclaimed. "I can't stay in here. They are all saying that this is Mr. Teyl's suite. He has come on board, after all. What on earth are you doing in it?"
"It is Maurice Teyl's suite, sure," he admitted, gently forcing her into the chair and arranging the rugs about her, "but I'm the only person occupying it. Don't give me away, please. I have accepted the most wonderful engagement—only a five days' stretch, worse luck—ever offered to a bum young actor out of work. I put the purser wise to the fact that some one I knew was to be on board, and we decided that I should throw myself upon your generosity, and tell you the truth. I am playing the part of Maurice Teyl."
"An impostor!" she exclaimed, making an uneasy movement in her chair.
"I guess that's so," he confessed, "but I'm not the faker. I am an impostor by request of the authorities. Will you please listen before you judge me."
He recounted the whole story of his arrival on board, and the interview in the purser's office. She was half diverted, half disapproving.
"You see," he explained, "I'm not running any risk whatever. The purser stands solid behind me. If any trouble should come of it—and it isn't serious—I am going to say that I walked on board, that the purser took me for Mr. Teyl, ushered me in here, only thought I was kidding him when I protested, and insisted that I was Maurice Teyl, until at last I accepted the situation. If the trouble gets more serious, the purser's going to own up to the whole truth. So you see, I don't run any risk in any case. You won't give us away?"
"I suppose not," she answered doubtfully, "but I think I'd better not stay here."
"Why not?" he demanded.
"Everybody who goes by will see me," she pointed out. "Directly I leave they'll all flock around, asking questions about you. What am I to say?"
"Say that you come from my part of the country," he proposed. "That's quite simple, isn't it? You are really half a Californian. Your father did something on the ranch, and you taught school. Can you remember that?"
"I suppose I can."
"Then that's all right. Now make yourself comfortable here. No draughts—plenty of air, plenty of sunshine. Please admit that you like this better than that corner of the deck where you were sitting alone."
"I like it very much better. Only I'm still a little worried about it all."
"But you don't need to be," he insisted. "I've been looking at the fellow's pictures, and we're as alike as two peas. I've read up his history, studied his habits, and although there are a whole crowd of people on board who will try to get at the purser to make my acquaintance, there isn't one who claims to have known me before."
She laughed across at him softly.
"Well," she confessed, "it's very pleasant to see you again, anyhow."
"I'll say that it's the best thing that's happened to me since I left New York," he assured her eagerly.
The purser, who had heard of the young lady's arrival, made a somewhat anxious appearance. Maurice introduced them.
"Mr. Milsom," he said, "I want you to meet Miss Lucy Compston, the young lady I told you about. She was playing with me in 'The Piccadilly Girls' at the Broadway Theatre."
The purser shook hands and accepted a chair.
"I hope Miss Compston isn't going to bust up our little show," he ventured, with nervous good humour.
"I should say not," Maurice declared confidently. "She doesn't exactly approve, but she won't give us away. So long as you can tell her that I'm not deceiving you, that I'm only calling myself Maurice Teyl at your request, she's not butting in anywhere."
"That's fine!" the purser exclaimed, with an air of relief. "Our young friend is quite right in what he says, Miss Compston. He hasn't attempted to deceive me in the least. I know perfectly well that he's not Maurice Teyl. He has adopted the name and the personality at my urgent request, and he can drop it again as soon as he likes after we reach Cherbourg."
"In that case of course it's no concern of mine," Miss Compston agreed. "I won't breathe a word. So this is why I was fetched up from the other end of the ship."
"Yes!" Maurice assented. "I told Mr. Milsom here that you were on board, and that if you caught sight of me without warning, you might give me away at any moment. The best thing you can do now is to keep clear of the rest of the people as much as possible, and establish yourself here."
"That won't be much hardship," she laughed. "I like your end of the ship far better than mine."
The purser rose to his feet.
"Well, I must get back to my work," he announced. "I'll come and have a cocktail with you if I may about twelve—inside. Please don't let this young man forget altogether, Miss Compston, that up till a month or so ago, at any rate, he was an abstainer, he didn't smoke, he was the shyest lad in America, and his favourite literature was the Methodist Recorder."
"I'll do my best," she promised, with a twinkle in her eyes. "Prom what I've seen of him though, it doesn't seem to quite fit."
The purser took his leave. Maurice sat a little forward in his chair and glanced furtively at his companion. Their eyes met, her lips twitched, and finally parted. They both laughed until the tears stood in their eyes.
"But really this is ridiculous!" she exclaimed. "What on earth made you decide to come to England so soon?"
"Well," he explained, "I have that living to earn, and you yourself thought I should have a better chance in England than in America. I'll tell you, too, that New York seemed a lonely sort of place with you gone and the theatre closed."
"So you just walked on board without a ticket or anything?"
"Sure, that's what I did. It's turned out all right, though, you see. I shall save my passage money, and I am here to look after you."
"Have you brought any of your money with you?" she enquired.
"Some of it."
"I wonder how much you'll have left," she speculated, "when you've tipped all these people as Maurice Teyl should, and landed in a foreign country?"
"I don't have to do any tipping," he assured her. "The purser is going to see to all that for me. I'm to step off this boat without having it cost me a dollar."
"You won't do it," she prophesied. "Do you realise hat you are occupying the royal suite."
"But I'm not paying for it," he reminded her again. "Come and have a look at the rooms. They're worth seeing."
He led her inside, and she gasped in astonishment.
"I never imagined that anything like this was possible on board ship!" she exclaimed.
"Neither did I," he admitted. "Try that easy-chair. Comfortable, isn't it? Why won't you stay while I do an hour's gym? I've got a little private show leading out of my bathroom. And what's wrong with taking luncheon with me afterwards? Some food, I can tell you!"
She curled herself up in the easy-chair and stretched out her hand towards a pile of magazines.
"You'll never get rid of me," she warned him.
"I should worry!"
THERE was scandal during the next few days amongst the passengers on board the Anderconia concerning the doings of their illustrious fellow traveller. Lucy Compston's chair had been permanently moved on to his little stretch of private deck, and every morning she was to be seen there with or without her host, sunning herself and enjoying great comfort generally. Mothers of daughters—and there were many—expressed themselves vigorously upon the subject. Miss Compston, they had discovered, was an actress—a musical-comedy actress, who had been playing a small part in an unsuccessful production at the Broadway Theatre. She may or may not have come from Maurice Teyl's part of the country, but she was by no means the sort of companion whom, from the nature of his bringing up, he might have been expected to select. Scandal flared up afresh every morning towards twelve o'clock at the sight of the salver and empty glasses in the inner room, and the young couple promenading their sheltered deck. The purser tried at first to treat it as a joke. Some of his more influential passengers, however, got on his nerves and he broached the matter with Maurice.
"I say," he begged, on the third evening, "I think we're overdoing this seclusion a little. There isn't the faintest whisper of suspicion as to your identity, and I haven't heard of a soul who claims to have met you before, but I wonder whether you'd mind cottoning a little to some of these people—walking on the outside deck, for instance, or dining in the saloon."
Maurice indulged in a grimace.
"What about my reputation for shyness?" he objected. "I don't think Maurice Teyl would do either of those things."
"The trouble with you, young fellow," the purser pointed out earnestly, "is that you're only living up to a part of that blasted reputation of yours. You're doing the hermit business all right, but even though you have your cocktails inside, they can't help noticing them sometimes through the window, and it isn't exactly acting like the 'shyest young man in the world' to have a young lady from a Broadway Theatre spend the whole of every day with you."
"Mr. Milsom is right," Lucy intervened. "Perhaps I'd better—"
"I'll do whatever you want me to do," Maurice interrupted hastily. "Say the word, and I'll face the music."
The purser nodded approvingly.
"Good man. Take a walk around the deck, say in a few minutes, and pass the time of day with some of them. You can turn tongue-tied any moment you like, you know. Take Miss Compston with you, if you want. She'll keep some of the women off."
"Count me out, please," Lucy begged, looking up from her book. "I shouldn't make any sort of a figure in a royal procession."
"I'll do it alone then," Maurice promised gloomily, rising to his feet. "I just hope I sha'n't bungle it."
So in due course the unexpected happened. At a few minutes before twelve, which seemed to be the most popular hour for promenading, Maurice opened the door of his own little domain and strolled outside. The news passed around the ship as though by wireless. The occupants of the long rows of chairs all leaned forward, loungers against the side of the ship paused in their conversation and frankly stared. Maurice sauntered up and down in unconcerned fashion, exchanged several good mornings with wistful-looking elderly gentlemen of Wall Street appearance, and began to congratulate himself that he would be able to complete his duty promenade without being forced into conversation. He had reckoned without Mr. Alonzo B. Dunn, however. The latter, a small, grey-haired and dapper personage, hearing the news in the smoking room, hurried out on to the deck and bore down upon his victim without hesitation or temerity.
"This is Mr. Teyl, isn't it?" he exclaimed, bringing him to a standstill. "Glad to know you. Alonzo B. Dunn my name is, of St. Louis. So you're making the trip with us. Well, well!"
"Well, well!" Maurice echoed, not being able to think of anything else for the moment.
"Real estate's my line," Mr. Dunn confided. "I once had the honour of selling several thousand acres of land to your grandfather. I'm on a vacation now though. Great ship, this!"
"Magnificent," Maurice agreed.
"I'd like you to know my daughter, sir. Just a step this way. Sadie!"
Mr. Alonzo Dunn, notwithstanding a furtive attempt on the part of his companion to escape, skilfully manoeuvred him towards a slightly detached line of three chairs. A young lady who was a miniature replica of her father, struggled to her feet from a mass of rugs. She wore very short skirts, very short hair, of neutral tint which showed some signs of persuasion towards a warmer colour, and a gold-rimmed monocle, a form of refuge from short-sightedness which Maurice especially disliked. Her complexion was inclined to be sallow, but the vermilion of her lips reminded Maurice of his brief experience behind the scenes in "The Piccadilly Girls."
"So this is really Mr. Teyl!" she exclaimed, holding out her hand. "I am afraid you don't recollect me."
"I'm afraid I don't," he confessed, a little uneasily.
"You came over to address us at Elliston College on Graduation Day last year," she reminded him. "I don't see how you could recognise me, as we were all dressed alike, but I should have known you anywhere, except that you wore spectacles then, and you seem to have broadened some. I pointed you out to mother the first day we saw you on your private deck."
"So you were one of those young ladies," Maurice murmured.
"I've never forgotten what a beautiful address you gave us," she went on. "I wish we'd all taken your advice."
Maurice moved uncomfortably upon his feet.
"It isn't easy to talk to young ladies," he ventured. "I guess I was pretty young then too. I shouldn't have gone, but my grandfather, as you know, established the college, and my grandmother had never missed Graduation Day for thirty years. Pretty difficult it was, talking to you girls."
"I think it must have been terrible," she agreed. "You didn't seem nearly so shy, though, as we'd expected. You gave us such good advice, all about reading the right sort of books, never to allow our brothers to persuade us to smoke or drink cocktails, and when we left college to try to find a career, to do as much good in the world as we could. It was all so wonderful, if only one could live up to it!"
Maurice cleared his throat nervously.
"I'm afraid I wasn't very helpful," he mumbled.
"But you were," she insisted warmly. "I like serious things and serious people, as dad here will tell you, and to have a young man talk to us like that was quite wonderful. I remember how eloquent you were about prohibition."
"I've felt eloquent about it often since," Maurice remarked ambiguously.
Mr. Dunn's hand upon his arm was like a steel grip.
"We'd like you to take dinner with us one evening in the restaurant," he invited. "You and Sadie can talk about your college days, or dance afterwards."
"Mr. Teyl didn't go to college," his daughter reminded her parent, "and I don't think he approves of dancing. There's a marvellous moon these nights on deck though."
"You're very kind," Maurice said. "I will let you know which evening later on, if you'll allow me."
"Any evening will suit us," Mr. Dunn persisted. "This evening as well as any other."
"This evening the purser has half promised to dine with me," Maurice confided.
"Bring him along, bring him along," his prospective host suggested hospitably. "We'll be glad to have him. You needn't fear that you'll be asked to break your principles either," he went on. "Nothing but cold water ever passes my lips, or my wife's, or is served upon my table."
"I'll see Mr. Milsom and let you know," Maurice promised, edging away.
"My wife will be coming along in a moment," Mr. Dunn announced, looking wistfully down the deck. "She'll be tickled to death to meet you."
"I'll stop next time I pass."
He extricated himself, bowed to Miss Sadie, and made for a distant flight of steps which looked hopeful as a means of escape. Miss Dunn gazed after him regretfully.
"I do wish he hadn't hurried away," she sighed. "I wanted those Spencer girls to see him talking to us. I think he's kind of shy still, Father. I wanted to ask him to sit down, but he seemed nervous all the time."
Mr. Dunn grunted, as he subsided into his chair.
"I should have thought he would have enjoyed a chat after having been alone all this time," he remarked.
Maurice made a circuitous and intricate way back to the neighbourhood of his suite, threw himself into an easy-chair in the sitting room and rang for the steward.
"Cocktails," he ordered curtly, "stronger than usual."
"Very good, sir. Mr. Milsom to see you, sir."
The purser strolled in.
"Well done, young fellow," he applauded. "You didn't stay on deck overlong, though."
"Long enough," Maurice groaned. "Do you know a Mr. Alonzo B. Dunn?"
The purser smiled.
"So he got hold of you, did he?"
"He did," was the gloomy reply, "and he wants to get hold of you too, to dine with him to-night. Cold water to drink, and elevating conversation with Miss Sadie in the moonlight afterwards."
"Sure! It seems I went over to Elliston College when she was a graduate, and talked a lot of bunkum about the higher life. She is trying to lead it, all owing to my teachings."
The purser grinned.
"If she's living up to your teachings," he observed, "you'd no place in a young ladies' university. She is one of the worst little devils on the steamer."
"What, that pious little chit?" Maurice gasped.
"She's in one of the swiftest crowds on board," the purser insisted. "They're up to all hours of the night, after their people have gone to bed, smoking cigarettes and drinking champagne. They were at it this morning until two o'clock—half a dozen of them."
"The little hypocrite!" Maurice declared indignantly.
"They're a tough crowd, the American girls nowadays. This child should have been sharing a stateroom with her mother, but she was at me the moment we were out to sea, begging me to change her to a room with another girl at the farther end of the ship. If I'd known what her game was, I wouldn't have listened, but the old man's a good client, so I fixed it up for her. They've got a gramophone down there, and dance. If you take my advice, young fellow, especially under the circumstances, you'll keep clear of them."
"You get me out of that dinner then," Maurice stipulated.
The cocktails arrived and had their usual tranquilizing effect.
"I'll get you out of the dinner, of course," the purser promised. "It would only mean another complication afterwards if you went. I tell you what you will have to do, though. It's the ship's dance tomorrow night. We shall be at Cherbourg the night after. You'll have to show up for half an hour."
"I'm not sure that Maurice Teyl is supposed to dance," his proposed impersonator objected hopefully.
"Oh, he's had plenty of time to take lessons since his grandmother died," the purser pointed out. "It won't do for you to be more exclusive than the prince."
"I won't dance with Miss Dunn," Maurice pronounced. "Deceitful little cat!"
"Not the slightest necessity for that," the other assured him soothingly. "You shall dance with the prettiest girls on board, but no nonsense, mind. Remember that every one you pay attention to will be all the more savage when she finds out—if she ever does—that it wasn't Maurice Teyl at all. Go slow, and as soon as you're tired of it, I'll arrange for you to slip away."
"What about Miss Compston?"
"That's all right. She's on the first-class passenger list now, and in any case, she shall come as my guest."
"The dance, then, by all means," Maurice consented, "but not the dinner, or the moonlight with Sadie," he added, with a little shiver.
THE ship's ball, notwithstanding the late arrival of Maurice Teyl, was undoubtedly a great success. The days of flapping awnings and cold draughts upon Atlantic liners existed no longer. The ballroom on the Anderconia was equal to anything on shore, the floor perfect, and the two orchestras, one at each end, entirely competent. The slight shortage of young men was atoned for by the energy of their elders. The captain had himself taken the floor and pushed around a matron of ample dimensions in a fox trot. The event of the evening was heralded by a little whisper of excitement throughout the room. Even the music seemed to falter and some of the best performers lost step. Every one was gazing towards the main entrance, through which the purser and his long-looked-for young companion were advancing in leisurely fashion. Maurice, in his well-cut dinner clothes, with a white carnation in his buttonhole, and an ingratiating smile upon his lips, was not in the least like the morose young man of whom every one had heard. He paused to pay his respects to the captain, and, unconsciously, most of the feminine contingent in the room began to edge their way to the front, Miss Sadie Dunn, as a matter of fact, boldly hastening across the floor. Maurice, however, with a hurried whisper to the purser, had already contrived an introduction to the nearest of the bevy of pretty girls towards whom he was being led.
"I'm afraid I'm not much of a performer," he ventured, as they started off.
"It's such a relief to find that you dance at all," was the smiling rejoinder. "One hears that all your life is given up to good works."
"Why am I so maligned?" he sighed. "I can assure you that I am a very ordinary human being—and full of human weaknesses."
"As, for instance?" she queried.
"I shall claim the privilege of telling you before long," he whispered shamelessly.
"He's no manners anyhow," Miss Sadie snapped, as she turned disconsolately away. "I'm the only one of the crowd he's met."
Maurice decided that he had made an exceedingly good choice. Besides being very pretty in a soft, fluffy way, his partner was a really beautiful dancer. She made scarcely any attempt at conversation, but when she did, her voice was pleasant and soft. Encores, with two orchestras, were not freely indulged in, but this time Maurice himself led the demand, and they danced again. When the music came to an end, they found themselves close to the open door, with a glittering stretch of sea in sight.
"Would you care to stroll outside until the next dance?" he suggested.
What a triumph! She felt her heart heating a little more quickly, and it was difficult to achieve the second's becoming hesitation. They walked through the soft night the whole length of the ship. Once or twice she looked up at him wistfully after his monosyllabic replies to her attempts at conversation. If only she knew what to talk about, how to interest him!
"Would you care for a cigarette?" Maurice enquired, opening his case.
"Why, I should love one," she accepted. "You don't mean to say that you smoke too?"
"Why not? Didn't I tell you that I was full of human weaknesses. You want to forget all this newspaper stuff."
As he held the match their eyes met, and she laughed up at him. Afterwards they leaned over the rails in the front part of the ship, looking towards the bow, where passers-by were few. Maurice seemed to be watching a fragment of dark cloud on its way to the moon.
"Are you enjoying your voyage?" she asked.
"Very much," he answered. "You see, I've never been on the ocean before."
"One hears so many wonderful stories about you," she went on, after a moment's pause. "They say that you hold a sort of high court in Mountain Springs, and that you have scarcely ever been off your own ranch."
"Quite true—the latter part of it. What else?"
"Incidentally that you are the richest young man in the world."
"I'll ask you now," he protested, "can I be responsible for my grandfather's grasping habits? What else?"
"And the shyest?"
He made no immediate reply. They stood quite still until the black fragment of cloud which be had been watching suddenly floated across the face of the moon, and then she had the surprise of her life. She felt his arm around her waist, looked up in astonishment and met his lips very nearly upon her own.
"I suppose I am that," he confessed. "That's why I was waiting for that cloud. What pretty eyes you have."
A quarter of an hour later, after another dance, the favoured young woman rejoined her girl friends. She had a slightly bewildered but completely happy air.
"Well?" they all asked, crowding around her.
"Did you get him to open his mouth?" Sadie Dunn asked tartly.
Maurice Teyl's late partner was smoothing her hair. It seemed that, after all, there had been a little breeze outside.
"I think," she confided breathlessly, "that I have discovered a new form of shyness."
Lucy Compston, with whom Maurice had danced whenever the ghost of an opportunity had presented itself, the purser and Maurice himself finished the evening in the latter's sitting room. The purser was in a remarkably good humour.
"I sha'n't forget this, young fellow," he declared, with genial condescension. "You've given us a real leg-up. At least a score of people have asked for return passages on the ship."
"That's all right, so long as you're satisfied," Maurice declared, helping himself to a whisky and soda.
"I think that the whole business is disgraceful," Lucy pronounced severely.
"Come, come!" the purser protested.
"I mean it, and as for you, Mr. Milsom, you dance very nicely and I have enjoyed my evening, but I don't think that you ought to encourage Mr. Maurice to make idiots of all these people. Just sitting on the verandah, occupying his rooms and impersonating Maurice Teyl isn't so bad, if you really think it worth while. He ought not to have gone and danced with those girls though, and allowed himself to be introduced."
The purser, recognising an undernote of real earnestness in the girl's complaint, swallowed his whisky and soda hastily and prepared to take his leave.
"Mine are the broad shoulders in this case, Miss Compston," he confessed, "and I am the only one to blame. Maurice would have been an idiot if he had refused my offer, and he's only done exactly what I asked him to do. I may get in the soup for it myself later on, but it's my funeral, and I promise you that no one else suffers. Up to the present, I am satisfied. Good night, both of you."
He departed, and Maurice threw himself into the vacant easy-chair.
"I suppose it all must seem pretty rotten to you," he admitted deprecatingly. "All the same, it was too tempting an offer to refuse. I had to get across to London somehow or other."
"There were plenty of other ways. You told me this afternoon that you had brought some of your money with you. Why not have paid for your passage?"
"That wouldn't have helped me," he pointed out. "There wasn't a berth to be had in the ship."
"Any other would have done as well."
"I'll say not."
"And why not?"
"Because you were on this one."
"You know perfectly well," she said coldly, "that that didn't make the slightest difference to you. I am not sure that you even remembered it."
"How was it that I remembered the number of your stateroom then?"
She leaned forward in her chair. She was suddenly not so tired.
"It was you who sent me those lovely roses?" she demanded breathlessly.
"I'm glad you thought them lovely."
"But it was very wrong of you. They must have cost a terrible lot of money."
"I wish people didn't think so much of money," he reflected.
"They all do nowadays," she sighed, "and I don't know that I blame them. It seems as though every day there were new luxuries brought into the world, new pleasures, new ways of spending. I don't believe our grandfathers and grandmothers had half the temptations to extravagance that we have."
"My grandfather," he confided, "made his own coffin."
She indulged in a little grimace.
"It was a dour thing to do," she acknowledged, "but I daresay he left enough to pay for funeral expenses, whereas you—what do you suppose is going to happen to you if you buy American Beauty roses—from a shop in Fifth Avenue too!"
"When I see you looking as sweet as you do just now," he whispered, touching her hand for a moment, "I wish I'd filled the cabin with them."
There was a very warm light in her eyes, though she was trying to look severe.
"You mustn't talk like that, please," she begged. "You know very well that it isn't the least bit of good. And seriously," she went on, "although of course it isn't my affair, and I don't want to be silly about things, I don't like what you're doing here. It isn't worthy of you."
"I can't back out now, can I?" he protested. "I must give Milsom a show for his money. I've had all the fun and luxury. I must see him through."
"But you needn't carry it quite so far," she argued. "To-night was inexcusable. You've upset all those young women. The pretty fluffy-haired one, for instance, will imagine all her days that she's danced and flirted with Maurice Teyl."
"Well, they get all the fun of thinking they have—if it's any fun."
"They'll find out some day."
"I wonder," he ruminated. "The purser's a clever chap."
"You may think so," she rejoined. "I'm not so sure. There will be paragraphs about you and what you did on the voyage, and they will certainly come to the notice either of Maurice Teyl or of some one who knows where he is. His friends are not likely to keep quiet. What about all these people on board then? They'll be perfectly furious with Mr. Milsom."
"His idea is that they won't," Maurice explained, "simply because they'll believe that he was fooled himself. The suite was engaged and paid for. I walk on board and claim it, and even you will admit I look enough like the pictures of Maurice Teyl to be taken for him anywhere. What was there to make the purser suspicious, supposing he'd been perfectly honest about the matter. Even my coming on board secretly was just what the real Maurice Teyl would have done."
"Then if the purser escapes blame," she persisted, "what about you?"
"Who is there to make trouble about it—regular trouble, I mean?" he pointed out. "On the face of it they might charge me with obtaining food and lodging under false pretences, but the purser knows I haven't, and the ship's company are the only people who have a grievance."
"You may be right," she sighed. "If only you'd stayed in here and not mixed with the passengers I don't see that it would have mattered very much to anybody."
"Well, anyway, it's all over now," he observed, a little gloomily. "I'm to be shot out at Cherbourg."
"Milsom's dope for the passengers is that there are a lot of people coming to meet me at Southampton, and that in a fit of overwhelming shyness I insisted upon sneaking off and hiding somewhere in France until I can get to England without being recognised. As a matter of fact, he has given me a pass on another line from Havre, and a railway ticket to London."
"To-morrow," she repeated.
He looked around disconsolately.
"I shall miss all this," he confessed.
"And so shall I," she agreed frankly. "I suppose I ought to thank you for allowing me to share in your stolen glories. I've scolded you about it, but I've had lots of fun."
"Some day," he began—and hesitated.
"Some day I may make enough money to take you off on a trip somewhere just the way we've been travelling this time."
She shook her head sorrowfully.
"You'll never do that, dear man. It sounds lovely but the right people never do make money."
"Say, I believe you think I'm some sort of a prize idiot," he remonstrated. "I can assure you I'm clever enough when it comes to a matter of business. And now, before you forget, give me your address in London."
She leaned over to the writing table, took a sheet of paper and scribbled upon it.
"I shall go to a boarding house in Bloomsbury whilst I find something to do," she confided. "My sister and the rest of my relatives live in the provinces. I sha'n't go back to them until I'm driven. You can come and call on me if you like, but you'll hate it, I'm sure, especially after this."
There was a knock at the door. A messenger from the Marconi office handed Maurice a wireless. He opened it and, when the former had departed read it aloud with a little shudder:
TO MAURICE TEYL S.S. ANDERCONIA.
PREBENDARY DORKINS, MR. MATTHEW CROSSET, AND OTHERS OF YOUR FAMILY FRIENDS, GUARDIANS AND TRUSTEES, SEND YOU GREETINGS AS YOU APPROACH THE SHORES OF ENGLAND. THEY WILL MEET YOU AT SOUTHAMPTON, A SPECIAL SALOON WILL BE ATTACHED TO THE BOAT TRAIN AND A SUITE IS ARRANGED FOR AT THE RITZ HOTEL.
He tore the message into small pieces.
"Prebendary Dorkins," he murmured, "and my friend Crosset, whoever he may be, have a little disappointment coming to them."
Afterwards he walked with her down the deck as far as the companionway leading to her quarters. They paused in the shadow of one of the in-slung boats, and he took her faintly resisting figure into his arms.
"I am quite sure Maurice Teyl would never have done that," she said, when he reluctantly released her.
"I'm Maurice Teyl for another twenty-four hours at least," he answered, "and I surely know that I want to do it all the time."
She shook her head. They were still lingering amongst the shadows.
"You're a dear," she sighed, "and I'm very fond of you, but nothing in the world is so foolish as for young people who have no money to talk like that."
"But I have some money," he insisted. "I keep on telling you so."
She laughed softly.
"You'll need it all, dear, to keep you going until you get some work. I don't want to dishearten you, but for an American I think you are the least likely person to earn a living of any one I ever knew."
"We'll see," he declared hopefully. "I may surprise you yet, Lucy," he added, bending over her once more. "I think your lips are just—"
She slipped away from him with a little gesture of farewell, and was at the head of the stairs before he could stop her. The red end of the purser's cigar appeared around the corner to mark the spot whence his cough of warning had come.
"One last drink, my shy plutocrat," he chuckled, taking him by the arm.
MAURICE TEYL, bathed, dressed and refreshed, descended to the hall of the Ritz in Paris on the following afternoon, and paused to light a cigarette. He had somehow the feeling that the holiday of his life was commencing. He was free at last from the galling curiosity of those swarms of fellow passengers, and though he was disappointed to hear the one tongue on every side of him—his own—and to see nothing but his own countrymen, the fact that he was a stranger, that he was wholly unnoticed, added to his sense of liberty. He strode joyfully towards the door through which he was to pass into the atmosphere of the enchanted city, and found himself nearly colliding with a small, grey-haired man upon whose expressive but unprepossessing face were prompt indications of intense satisfaction.
"Well, this is great! So we've run you to earth, eh? I said to Sadie an hour ago, 'Maybe he's at Meurice's.' She said, 'Dad, I feel somehow he's at the Ritz.' So I started round here right away. Well, well! You stole a march on all those folks, didn't you?"
"I left the boat early, if that is what you mean," Maurice admitted. "I always meant to get off at Cherbourg. I had no idea any of you others were doing the same thing."
"You got ahead of us with that tug, my lad," Mr. Alonzo B. Dunn confessed. "We were close on your heels, though. We caught the first of the specials. Then as soon as we'd settled down, I started off to look you up. This is your first trip, isn't it?"
"It is my first trip, and to tell you the truth—"
"I've been over a score of times at least," Mr. Dunn confided. "I guess I know the gay city inside out. We'll show you round, Mr. Teyl. Glad to do it, sir! Glad to be of any service, for your poor grandfather's sake."
"I wouldn't think of troubling you," Maurice declared earnestly. "Don't you worry about me. I'm only staying for a day or so anyway. I shall get over to London as soon as I can without any fuss."
Mr. Alonzo Dunn took no notice. He consulted his watch.
"It is now," he said, "twenty minutes past five. There's just time for a drive in the Bois, if you like, and at half-past seven you'll dine with Mrs. Dunn, Sadie and myself at the Grand Hotel."
"I'm afraid," Maurice began—
"Not a word," Mr. Dunn interrupted. "You told Sadie you didn't know a soul here—so you can't have any engagement. At half-past seven at the Grand Hotel."
"But you must forgive me, Mr. Dunn," Maurice protested, with despair in his tone, "from what I've heard of it, I don't think I should like the Grand Hotel very much for my first dinner in Paris. Besides, so many of the people from the steamer are going there."
"Then we'll dine with you here," Mr. Dunn consented magnanimously. "It don't matter one little bit to us. We'd just as soon, anyway, only we take the pension at the Grand, and it seemed like chucking the price of three dinners away. What about a carriage now, and that little drive? Or perhaps you'd rather have an automobile. I'll tell the man here to get it."
"I must just leave my key at the desk."
"I'll wait here," Mr. Dunn promised urbanely.
Mr. Dunn waited scarcely five minutes before a small boy respectfully presented him with a note. He adjusted his glasses and read the few lines which Maurice Teyl had scribbled in the writing room:
Dear Mr. Dunn,
I quite forgot that I had an appointment in the Bois, for which I am already late.
With my apologies.
Mr. Dunn made for the side entrance of the hotel as fast as his short legs could carry him, but there was no sign of Maurice. He remembered his daughter's words: "That young man surely is difficult," he admitted gloomily.
Maurice, encouraged by his escape, leaned back in the corner of the automobile he had procured, and enjoyed his first glimpse of Paris. He was whisked through the amazing tangle of traffic, across the Place de la Concorde, driven at a more leisurely pace up the Champs Elysées, to emerge presently into the Bois. He stopped at a restaurant for a cocktail, visited, at the suggestion of his friendly chauffeur, two of the most fashionable bars, from which he fled somewhat precipitately upon realising that they were crowded with fellow countrymen, sought in vain for some place where a single word of French might be heard or spoken, and returned at last to his hotel about twenty minutes to eight. He passed through the entrance hall on his way to the lift, and was suddenly brought to a standstill. Seated at a small table, in regulation dinner attire, and with the obvious air of waiting for his coming, were Mr. and Mrs. Alonzo Dunn and Sadie. For a moment he was too amazed to do anything but allow his hand to be shaken in turn by Mrs. Alonzo Dunn and her daughter.
"Half-past seven, we said, didn't we?" Mr. Dunn reminded him, glancing at his watch. "I guess you've been meeting friends."
"Why—well, I'm sorry," Maurice stammered.
"Tickled to death, both of them," Mr. Dunn went on, "when I told them you'd insisted on us coming to dine here."
"Real sweet of you, Mr. Teyl," Sadie murmured, looking unutterable things at him.
Maurice acknowledged defeat more or less gracefully.
"Sorry if I'm a little late," he apologised. "If you'll excuse me for a few minutes—"
"Don't say a word, my lad," Mr. Dunn interrupted, patting him on the shoulder. "We've all been young, you know—first visit to Paris. We'll stay right here while you change. I reckon our Sadie hasn't much to learn from the way these young women wear their clothes, but her mother likes to watch them."
"I'll be as quick as I can," Maurice promised.
He ascended to his room, where his evening clothes had been laid out by the floor valet. On his table were already piled a bewildering and terrifying number of cards. He picked them up and let them drop through his helpless fingers. He was apparently bidden to tea, to dine and to dance at a score of houses by people of whom he had never even heard. There were explanatory notes, one or two of which he opened and destroyed. It was New York all over again, on a smaller scale. Finally he swept everything into the waste-paper basket, changed without undue haste, and descended to find Sadie loitering before a jeweller's case close to the lift gate. She came quickly towards him and took him by the arm.
"Say, Mr. Teyl," she exclaimed, "before Poppa and Mamma see you, couldn't we get off somewhere and have a cocktail? I'm dying for one. They'll never think of looking for us in the bar."
For a moment he stood and studied her critically. She was wearing a dress of sea-green chiffon, the skirts of which barely covered her knees. Her hair was skilfully coiffured, her use of cosmetics judicious, except for too vivid colouring upon her lips. She was his first experience of the new effort of youth against the bondage of respectability.
"Why, if you say so," he assented. "I'm wanting something of the sort pretty badly myself."
She tightened her grip upon his arm and led him towards the bar.
"Dad and Mom are simply awful," she confided. "It isn't often I see much of them—even on a trip like this—but when I heard you'd asked us to dine to-night, I put off another party at once. It was sweet of you, Mr. Teyl. I didn't think we should meet again so soon."
"I'd no idea myself that any one from the boat would get here before I left," he admitted.
"Don't go too soon," she begged. "Stay on here, and we'll have some fun. I've lots of friends living here, who know all the places to go to at night."
"I'm afraid I'm pretty well due in London," he regretted.
She tugged at his arm. "This way."
They sat in two easy-chairs in the bar and were served with cocktails. Her queer little eyes sent ecstatic messages to him as she raised her glass. The fingers of one of her hands rested as though by accident upon his knee.
"You're rather nice, Mr. Teyl," she declared. "Don't go away from Paris just yet, and perhaps we might be able to do something about this shyness of yours."
"Incurable, I'm afraid," he sighed.
She finished her cocktail at a gulp.
"One more," she begged.
"Are you used to drinking cocktails like this?" he asked in amazement.
"Oh, we generally have three or four before dinner," she told him. "I have one girl friend—you ought to meet her—she begins about five o'clock in the afternoon, and there's no stopping her. If ever I marry I'm going to live over here."
"I daresay it's a pretty good place," he admitted. "I haven't seen much of it yet. I'm living in hopes of coming across a Frenchman on the streets before I leave."
She laughed hilariously.
"You won't," she assured! him. "Paris belongs to us nowadays—that is, the Paris of the restaurants and the boulevards and the cafés and bars. There are a few French people left who live at home, but one never sees them. What a bore," she went on, "having to go back and dine with Dad and Mom. I wish we could get off somewhere."
He finished his cocktail and took her firmly by the arm.
"My child," he said, "remember that good advice I gave you at Elliston College."
She made a grimace as he hurried her along the corridor.
"You know you're as big a fraud as I am," she whispered confidentially.
Mr. and Mrs. Alonzo Dunn were disposed to be a little fretful until they saw the return of their host accompanied by their daughter. Mrs. Dunn, who was an ample woman, possessed of a remarkable flow of vigorous speech, beamed upon them graciously.
"I met your daughter as I stepped out of the lift," Maurice explained. "She's been showing me round. I hope I haven't kept you too long. Shall we go in?"
Mrs. Dunn confessed that she had not eaten for seven hours, and feared trouble to her digestion unless she was at once supplied with nutriment. Mr. Dunn was already upon his feet. They made their way to the restaurant where, owing to the intuitive genius of the first maître d'hôtel they encountered, they were given an excellent table. Mr. Dunn assumed a horrified expression when Maurice ordered champagne.
"A little Evian water for us, if you please, young man," he begged. "I rather took it for granted that you'd retained the prejudices of your father and grandfather against liquor."
"I haven't," Maurice asserted promptly. "I drink an occasional cocktail and always wine with my dinner. I find it agrees with me."
Mr. Alonzo Dunn appeared to be on the point of further protests, but a glance from his wife silenced him. Sadie looked longingly at the bottle.
"Some day or other," she sighed, "I hope I'll be allowed to taste champagne."
Again Mrs. Dunn intervened. She was a woman of keen perceptions, and but one object in life—to settle her daughter suitably.
"When you are married, my dear Sadie," she said, "you will be able to live according to your husband's wishes. Whilst you live with us you must follow our principles."
Maurice, who was really a very good-natured person, yielded to his young neighbour's imploring glance.
"This is a special occasion, Mrs. Dunn," he begged. "Couldn't Miss Sadie be allowed half a glass?"
"I should prefer not to witness my daughter's initiation into—"
"Don't be foolish, Alonzo," his wife interrupted sharply. "Sometime or other the dear child must have her first glass of wine. If Mr. Teyl wishes it, let this be the occasion."
"Poor old dears!" Sadie whispered, under her breath, as she watched the wine being poured out. "How nice of you, Mr. Teyl," she added, looking at him eloquently. "I'll love to think that the very first time I ever tasted champagne was at your invitation."
She set down her half-emptied glass with a little sigh.
"To think what I've been missing all these years!" she exclaimed.
"All these years!" her mother repeated indignantly. "Why, you're only nineteen, child."
"Sometimes," she remarked, with a curious little twitch of her mouth, half wicked, half humorous, "I feel as though I had been living a great deal longer than that."
"These modern young women keep our hands full, Mr. Teyl," Mrs. Dunn murmured indulgently. "Sadie's only had one season in New York, but it didn't take her long to see what the other girls were doing—takes our breath away sometimes, but all the same, she's a good girl."
"Of course she's a good girl," her father interposed, a little impatiently. "Now, Mr. Teyl, coming here all unannounced like this, you've taken people a bit by surprise, but I've done what I could for you since we parted. I've telephoned to the Embassy and to a few friends of mine here, and one or two others with whom I'm not personally acquainted. You'll find our little colony is only too anxious to meet you. I guess by this time some of them will have looked you up."
"I'll say they have," Maurice declared disconsolately. "I'm sure you meant it kindly, Mr. Dunn, but the one thing I wanted was to be left alone for the few days here. I got off at Cherbourg because I knew what was in store for me in London. I want to see Paris, not waste my time making acquaintances."
"I should say he does," Sadie agreed. "Why did you interfere at all, Dad? I wouldn't have a thing to do with any of these people if I were you, Mr. Teyl. Just engage me as guide, and I'll show you the sights of Paris."
"Don't talk nonsense, Sadie," her father enjoined with asperity. "Mr. Teyl will want a man of experience as a companion—not a slip of a girl. Fortunately we have a clear fortnight here, and I've nothing whatever to do. I guess I'll place myself entirely at your disposal, Mr. Teyl. You don't need to say a word. Anything I could do, I should do gladly for the sake of your grandfather. To-morrow morning, for instance, I thought we might begin with the Luxembourg and the Tuileries, and in the afternoon get out to Versailles. In the evening I think you'll find that Mr. Eli Chunn is arranging a dinner for you. You know Mr. Chunn by repute of course."
"I never heard of him," Maurice confessed indifferently.
"Well, well!" Mr. Dunn exclaimed. "And you a young American too! Mr. Chunn is the dominating partner in the firm of Chunn and Ardless. There is no firm, sir—no firm of bankers in New York, outside the great corporations, whose transactions are so large or whose credit is so unimpeachable. Mr. Chunn is a great personality. If he takes a fancy to you, you will find every minute of your time in Paris occupied."
Maurice prepared for speech, but decided that silence was best. And then his anticipatory troubles were forgotten in the tragedy of the moment. People were beginning to enter the restaurant, and Mr. Dunn, who had been looking hungrily about, suddenly laid down his knife and fork and rose to his feet.
"Well, well!" he exclaimed, as he shook hands with a rotund and elderly gentleman with a shock of white hair, a large, clean-shaven face and a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles. "If we weren't just talking about you, Mr. Chunn! You know my wife and daughter. Mr. Chunn, my dear. Sadie—Mr. Chunn."
Mr. Chunn appeared to be a little vague about the matter, but bowed.
"And this," Mr. Dunn went on, with a note of veneration in his tone, "is Mr. Maurice Teyl—my young friend, Mr. Maurice Teyl, concerning whom I rang you up this afternoon."
Mr. Chunn's manner underwent a change. He grasped Maurice's outstretched hand tightly and held it for a time between both of his.
"I knew your father and your grandfather," he declared. "I have business dealings at this very moment with Mr. Bullivant, one of the trustees of the Teyl estates. I'm glad to meet you, young man. One has heard so many stories as to whether you were coming aboard, or whether you weren't that we'd almost given you up."
"Our newspaper men are a crazy bunch," Maurice remarked. "I came over by the steamer I always intended to travel by, only I got off at Cherbourg."
Mr. Chunn produced a card.
"Now, my young friend," he said, "I should like you to place yourself in my hands for as much of your spare time as you can. To-morrow, for instance—"
"I'm afraid I have made some plans for tomorrow," Maurice regretted.
"I'm looking after Mr. Teyl to-morrow," Mr. Dunn announced pithily.
"Dinner then. You must positively dine with me," Mr. Chunn insisted. "I shall ask a company to meet you whom I think you will be gratified to know. There arc some very prominent men in Paris just now, Mr. Teyl, and there isn't one of them who won't be glad to shake your father's son by the hand. We'll make it eight o'clock, if that suits you—here."
"You're very kind," Maurice demurred. "I'm rather tired from the voyage. I was thinking of going light for a day or two."
Mr. Chunn stood on tiptoe and rested his hand upon Maurice's shoulder.
"Young man," he said, "we've heard all about that shyness of yours. You've got to get over it—that's a sure thing. This scheme of travel is just about the best way to begin. You've got to meet people, so you may as well make up your mind to it. Don't you worry any about to-morrow night. I'll look after you myself, and Eddie Hulligan—he's a bright lad, Eddie Hulligan—he shall put you through it. Until to-morrow night, then."
Mr. Chunn, with a bow towards the ladies, turned away. Mr. Dunn called after him.
"What time did you say you were expecting us, Mr. Chunn?"
The latter hesitated. A more sensitive man than Mr. Dunn might have flinched.
"Why—er—I said eight o'clock for dinner," the banker observed. "I think Mr. Teyl understood."
"We'll be there," Mr. Dunn promised cheerfully. "I'll get him back in time, sure."
Mr. Chunn passed on, and Maurice's self-established sponsor recommenced his dinner with an air of satisfaction.
"Wasn't going to ask me, I know," he chuckled. "I fixed that all right, though."
"You're certainly bright, Alonzo," his wife murmured admiringly....
Dinner—-Maurice's first dinner in Paris—proceeded languidly. Presently Sadie threw down her napkin.
"Let's go and dance, Mr. Teyl," she suggested.
Maurice welcomed any change from the dreary feast. They made their way to the crowded floor, but after a turn or two Sadie drew him on one side.
"I didn't want to dance particularly," she confided. "We can have as much of that as we like later. Pretty bored, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am," he acknowledged frankly. "These plans of your father's don't exactly fit in with what I intend to do."
She looked up at him with a twinkle in her narrow, green eyes. He felt her thin fingers once more gripping his arm.
"You dear boy, you don't have to do half that stunt," she assured him. "Let's have some fun tonight, can't we? I'll get rid of Mom and Dad early, and if you'll wait I'll be back again in about half an hour, as soon as I've got them safely in their rooms, and we'll go off and do some night shows."
"You and I alone?" Maurice exclaimed.
She laughed up into his face. For a moment, in the illuminating knowledge of that smile, he seemed to forget her actual personality. It came to him from somewhere far back—the smile of knowledge—perhaps from one of those pictures which hung in his grandfather's gallery, or was it the little statuette which he remembered so well his grandmother locking away.
"Alone? Of course," she laughed. "That's what makes it such fun. I know all the night places. We can just amuse ourselves any old way we like, so long as we get back before seven o'clock. You say after dinner that you're tired and going to bed early, and I'll make Mother and Father take me home. Then, as soon as I'm sure they're all right for the night, I'll get a taxi and come back here for you. Don't you think we might amuse ourselves, Maurice?"
She looked up at him a little breathlessly. Her becarmined lips parted, showing her very beautiful teeth. The lure of something which had no place in the eyes of youth shone out at him. A curious shiver of half-fascinated repulsion stirred in his blood.
"Nothing doing at all, Miss Sadie," he said firmly.
"Nothing doing," he repeated. "Your father and mother are my guests. I don't know either of them to speak of, but there they are. I'm not going to take you out without their knowing anything about it."
"But you idiot," she exclaimed angrily, "of course they wouldn't let me go if they knew. I want to take you up to the Montmartre and those other places."
For the first and last time in his life, Maurice was pleased to see Mr. Alonzo B. Dunn, who broke suddenly in upon their conversation.
"Now then, you young people," he said, "you'll have plenty of time to dance during the next fortnight. There's George H. Holt waiting to meet you, Mr. Teyl. If you'll just step back to the table I'll introduce you."
Sadie gripped her companion's arm once more with a convulsive little pressure which gave him a certain impression of fierceness.
"We'll finish our dance afterwards," she whispered.
Mr. George Holt, who also came from Wall Street, and conformed to type, was not easily got rid of, and when at last he took his leave, providence, for the second time that evening, smiled upon Maurice. A tall, good-looking young man approached the table and addressed him in friendly fashion.
"This is Maurice Teyl, isn't it?" he enquired. "I'm Philip Martin, the second secretary at our Embassy here."
Maurice shook hands with some cordiality.
"The chief would like to meet you," the young man continued. "Could you spare a moment?"
Maurice murmured a word of excuse to his guests and strolled off with his rescuer. As soon as they had rounded a corner, he stopped short.
"Look here," he said, "I'll allow you're a good sort—felt certain of it when I saw you coming along. Do me a favour."
"Why, sure," the other assented.
"Get me away from those people," Maurice begged. "They invited themselves to dinner—I won't say more than that. That horrible little man keeps on introducing me to people I don't want to know and they've apparently made up their minds to sit on till midnight."
"Have you paid your bill?" the young man asked.
"Half an hour ago," Maurice groaned. "I thought that might be a hint, but it didn't work."
"You leave it to me then. You needn't bother about coming over to the chief now. It's rather a big party. Leave a card at the Embassy to-morrow. I'll make your excuses, all right. You were out of luck when you picked up that horrible little fellow Dunn. He's worrying us all the time for invitations for that girl of his. You be off and do just what you want to. If you'll drop a card at the Embassy tomorrow morning, I'll be in and we might fix up something. I'll get rid of those people for you now, anyway."
Maurice shook him warmly by the hand.
"I sha'n't forget this," he said gratefully. "You're just the man I needed."
The young attaché retraced his steps to deliver his sugared bombshell. Maurice went straight to the office.
"Is there a train to London to-night?" he asked the concierge.
"Midnight, sir," the man replied, glancing at the clock.
"Get me a seat or a compartment—anything—and a cabin," Maurice ordered, laying some notes upon the table. "Send up for my things in a quarter of an hour."
"You're not leaving us already, sir?"
Maurice mumbled something, ascended to his room, called the valet and watched his things being packed behind a locked door. In less than twenty minutes he was stepping into a taxicab. The concierge touched him on the shoulder.
"A young lady left this, sir," he announced, handing him a note.
Maurice tore open the envelope. There were a few lines, in a slim, angular handwriting:
Maurice Dear, we are going to have our night, aren't we? I promise that you shall be amused. I'll be back here within three quarters of an hour. There's one place I shall take you to—but perhaps I'd better not tell you beforehand! You may be shy again! But you won't, will you?
He tore the note into small pieces. "Any reply, sir?" the concierge asked. Maurice stepped into the cab and shook his head.
"No reply! Gare du Nord."
AT a quarter past nine on the following morning, sixteen people, seated in the dining room of Number 26a, Garden Street, Bloomsbury, paused in their consumption of bacon and eggs and weak coffee, to peer out of the window at a taxicab which had just driven up. A tall young man, pleasantly freckled, with red hair and athletic presence, in due course descended and rang the bell. Mrs. Bodham, the proprietress, who was standing at the sideboard, superintending the service, took a step towards the window, scrutinised the dressing case, glancing at the young man whose appearance was certainly prepossessing, and suddenly caught a look of recognition in Lucy Compston's face.
"Do you know who the young man is, Miss Compston?" she enquired.
"I believe so," Lucy replied. "I think it is a young gentleman who crossed on my steamer from New York."
"Would he be wanting rooms, I wonder?" Mrs. Bodham ventured anxiously.
"I should think very likely," Lucy admitted. "He was asking me about some quiet place in London."
"It's very difficult just at the moment," Mrs. Bodham mused, knowing perfectly well that she was as likely to turn away a young gentleman boarder as to refuse ten thousand pounds for the good will of her business.
"I daresay it wouldn't be for long," Lucy murmured.
"Let me sec," the landlady continued, "there's Number six, but it's only a small back room, and Number eight—but the running water's out of repair there. Then there's the suite, of course. I wonder whether your young friend would be in a position to consider the suite, Miss Compston?"
"I don't think he has very much money," was the doubtful reply. "He's extravagant, though."
Mrs. Bodham sighed.
"They're all like that," she remarked. "Those who have money don't want to part with it, and those who haven't got it arc just the ones who'd like to go in for luxuries if they could."
The single waiter of the establishment, still in déshabille, made a partial entry into the room.
"Young gentleman asking to see the manageress," he announced. "I've shown him into the lounge."
Mrs. Bodham's hands strayed from long habit to her hair.
"Will you all help yourselves to tea and coffee, please," she invited, "only be careful with the milk. That's all we could get this morning. I'll be back directly."
Mrs. Bodham hastened out, and made a dignified entrance into the very typical apartment where Maurice was awaiting her. It had started its career as a drawing-room, with the few articles of furniture which the Tottenham Court Road suggests for such an apartment, but to meet modern requirements some folding doors had been left permanently open, a couple of divans and some Turkish tables introduced, and the dual apartment re-christened the "Lounge." Maurice, who looked very big indeed as he turned from the window, responded to Mrs. Bodham's tentative good-morning with a smile which won her heart on the spot.
"Do you mind telling me," he asked, "if this is the place Miss Compston spoke to me about?"
"Miss Lucy Compston," Mrs. Bodham repeated. "Certainly I should say it is. She is in the dining room having breakfast just now, with the other guests."
"Bully!" Maurice exclaimed with enthusiasm. "I'll be glad to have the privilege of seeing her for a moment, if I may, later on. I wonder whether you could accommodate me here for a short time, Madam?"
"Won't you sit down?" Mrs. Bodham suggested, seating herself in an easy-chair, leaning a little forward and pressing the tips of her fingers together. "I wouldn't try that chair, please. You're rather large, aren't you?" she added, with a smile. "The couch is all right. I would like to accommodate any friend of Miss Compston's. What sort of rooms did you want?"
"It depends on what you've got," Maurice replied. "I could put up with a single bedroom anywhere, if that's all you have. Or if you have what they call a 'suite'—a sitting room and bedroom and bathroom—that's what I should like better."
Mrs. Bodham smiled. Maurice's words were like music, for with that suite empty it was very difficult to make the place pay.
"It happens," she announced, "that the only suite I have of that description is at present empty. It was let to Mr. Bernerd, a Music Hall agent, but he has been taken ill in Manchester, and he was obliged to cancel it. I should be happy to show it to you."
Maurice followed her upstairs, glanced at the rooms, which were well enough in their way, sighed at the outlook, and lingered for a moment at the window. A momentary vision of blue hills, fertile valleys, waving elm trees and golden patches of sunshine passed before his eyes.
"Mr. Bernerd was going to pay me four and a half guineas a week for the suite, and two and a half guineas for his board," Mrs. Bodham began tentatively, "but—"
"I'll take them for one month, if you please," Maurice interrupted, producing his pockctbook. "I'm afraid you don't know anything of me—Maurice, my name is—Mr. Andrew Maurice—and I'd like to pay you for a month in advance."
Mrs. Bodham shivered with suppressed excitement. Such things she felt didn't really happen.
"Seven guineas a week—that's about thirty pounds, isn't it? These English guineas get me," Maurice confessed. "Anyway, there'll be some extras, of course," he went on, laying three ten-pound notes upon the table. "Now could I speak to Miss Compston for a minute, do you think?"
"Certainly, Mr. Maurice. I'll have your bag sent up. Perhaps you'd like a wash, and you'll have some breakfast, won't you? I'll have something hot prepared for you."
"I had breakfast on the train, thanks," Maurice assured her. "When my things are brought up, I'll just have a wash. Perhaps Miss Compston could come up to the sitting room for a minute before she goes out."
"I'm sure she'll be glad to," Mrs. Bodham declared. "I do hope you'll be comfortable, sir. We've had several American gentlemen here, mostly with their wives, and they were all very satisfied."
"I'm certain I shall be," Maurice declared.
Mrs. Bodham took her leave, and walked downstairs with the three ten-pound notes in her hand, and an extraordinary feeling of lightness about her footsteps. Ready money like this was the one thing she prayed for in her difficult life. When she entered the dining-room, the smile she bestowed upon Miss Compston was not only genial but full of gratitude.
"My dear Miss Compston," she gushed, "what a charming young friend of yours! I'm quite delighted with him, and he's taken the suite for a month."
Lucy smiled a little doubtfully.
"Well, I'm very glad," she said, "for your sake."
"He wants to see you, naturally enough," Mrs. Bodham went on. "The sitting room's all in order, any time when you've finished your breakfast. I promised I'd ask you to step up."
"I'll be very glad to see him, of course," Lucy assented. "He was acting with me in New York," she continued, after a moment's pause. "I think he came in for a small legacy a short time ago, and he's doing his best to spend it."
"He's one of the sort," Mrs. Bodham pronounced, as she resumed her task at the sideboard, "who ought to have real money, and not just a legacy. He didn't haggle, didn't ask a lot of questions about what he could have for the money, and what he couldn't; just saw the rooms and was pleased with them, and took them like a gentleman. From what I've seen of him, the longer he stays, the better I shall be pleased."
Lucy, with the eyes of the little company upon her, finished her breakfast deliberately before she rose to her feet.
"Will you find out. Miss Compston, whether Mr. Maurice will be in for his luncheon and dinner and tell him the hours?" Mrs. Bodham begged. "It works out quite all right with the places at table. I was keeping the seat at my right for Mr. Bernerd. He can have that, and then he'll be next you. Or, perhaps, if you two would like the small table to yourselves—"
"Certainly not," Lucy interrupted, with a little laugh. "He saw quite enough of me on the steamer. I'm sure he'll like to be next you. I'll tell him everything."
She mounted the stairs very slowly, trying to persuade herself that this little tremor at her heart really didn't mean anything. The absurd young man! What was the use of his coming here? And yet, it would be rather nice to see him. How well he had looked stepping out of the taxi. She glanced down at herself thoughtfully. The pink jumper would have been more becoming, but she certainly wasn't going to change. Every one downstairs would notice it when she reappeared. The brown one wasn't so bad. She pulled it down, touched her hair, and opened the door.
"Mr. Maurice!" she exclaimed. "Why, how nice—"
"Andrew," he interrupted, suddenly taking her into his arms.
"Well, Andrew then," she protested, "you really mustn't do that."
She made no violent attempt to free herself, however. He led her towards the couch.
"Well, here I am, you see, in the jolly little village," he announced. "You know you've got to show me around."
"I know I'm not going to do anything of the sort," she rejoined. "I'm very busy."
"You've got an engagement already?" he asked, with obvious disappointment.
She nodded triumphantly.
"I'm on at the Aldwych in less than a week," she confided. "It's only a small part, and I don't think you'll like the show any better than 'The Piccadilly Girls,' but at least it means enough to live on."
"Any chance for me in the chorus?" he enquired hopefully.
"Not the slightest. I told you that it was no use your thinking of the stage in this country."
"That's bad. Never mind, I guess I'll find something."
"I don't approve of your start," she told him severely. "What do you mean by coming and taking the most expensive suite in the place?"
"Is it?" he asked. "This English money bothers me some. It seemed quite cheap."
"I hope, at any rate," she continued, "that you don't intend to waste your money in restaurants; that now you're paying for being here, you'll have all your meals in the place."
Maurice's face fell; he had caught a glimpse of the dining room on his way upstairs.
"Some of them, of course," he conceded, "but you must remember, Lucy, I'm over here to get the atmosphere of London, and the restaurants, theatres and streets are important places to hang around in. Now, I thought we might have a little lunch together—"
"Certainly not," Lucy interrupted.
"But, my dear child," he expostulated, taking her hand absently in his, "how long is it since I saw you?"
"Not two days," she answered firmly.
"Lord, is that all? Call them weeks, and that's how I'm feeling about it."
"A very pretty speech," Lucy acknowledged, "but facts are facts."
"And food is food. Do you realise, Miss Compston, that you and I have never taken a meal together in this country, that never once have we been able to sit down in civilised fashion at a luncheon or dinner table, and call bravely for a cocktail and ask for the wine list, instead of digging for a flask in my hip pocket. We can't deny ourselves this one treat." Lucy hesitated.
"The lunch here yesterday certainly wasn't very good," she reflected.
"There's a place some one told me of—the Carlton Grill," Maurice ventured.
"Too expensive," Lucy vetoed firmly.
"Now look here," Maurice argued, "what's the difference after all between a cheap place and an expensive one? Nothing, when you come to add it all up; and you get good things at one place, and rotten things at another. I've got a little spending money. Let's spend it sensibly. Don't let's throw it away. If you've nothing better to do, I thought we'd take a taxicab round for an hour or so, while you show me the sights, and then a cocktail at the Savoy Bar—I've heard of the Savoy Bar all my life—and afterwards we make our way to the Carlton."
"You're quite impossible," Lucy sighed.
"Don't you believe it! The longer you know me, the more you'll realise how reliable and steady I really am."
"You ought to spend this morning," she told him, "going to an agent or somebody of the sort, and looking for work."
"I can't do that," he confided, with a sudden inspiration. "You see, a part of this legacy of mine was left me on condition that it was to be considered spending money. I was just to see what I could of different countries whilst it lasted. And then there's another thing. Consider what I saved coming over free."
"That," she declared sternly, "was disgraceful.
"Sure," he admitted, "but I saved the money. Seems to me the best thing we can do now is to get rid of that money, and then we sha'n't have it on our consciences."
She drew a little away and looked at him. That irresistible mouth of his was breaking into a smile. His eyes were already lit with coming laughter.
"You had better unpack your clothes and put them away, if you really mean to stay here," she enjoined, acknowledging defeat. "I shall be ready in three quarters of an hour."
He escorted her to the door, and her weak protests as to the nature of their brief parting were naturally ineffective. Maurice strode back into the room, and walked once more to the window, with its outlook over a wilderness of sooty roofs and chimneys. Already the rain was beginning to fall.
"What's weather matter, anyway?" he murmured happily to himself, as he pulled out his case and lit a cigarette.
"AND now tell me all about Paris," Lucy demanded, as soon as they were comfortably ensconced at a corner table in the Carlton Grill, a table, by the by, which had been marked "engaged" but which seemed to have become miraculously at Maurice's disposal after a whispered word with the maître d'hôtel.
"All about Paris?" Maurice repeated, a little vaguely.
"Without hesitation and without concealment," Lucy insisted.
"I didn't see much of Paris," he admitted. "I was there—let me see—for ten hours."
"Fancy any young man in the world visiting Paris for the first time in his life and leaving it in ten hours!" Lucy exclaimed. "Why, what happened to you?"
"Mr. Alonzo B. Dunn," Maurice replied.
"Don't be foolish," she begged. "Tell me why you came away so soon?"
There was a brief pause whilst Maurice gave various orders to the waiter and wine waiter. Then he continued.
"Well," he recounted, "this is just what happened to me. I was pushed off on to a tug at Cherbourg, at dawn on Thursday morning. I had to wait for a train to Paris, and I arrived there about twelve. I went to the Ritz—"
"You went to the where?" Lucy interrupted.
"The Ritz. What's wrong with the place?"
"Nothing much," she answered coldly. "The most expensive hotel in Paris, that's all."
"How was I to know that," he protested. "Anyway, it was only for one night, and—"
"Get on with your story," she enjoined.
"Well, the Ritz was the only hotel I knew the name of, so I went there. I was pretty tired. The train I had come by from Cherbourg wasn't the boat special. It didn't specialize in anything that I could discover, except stopping at small stations and making a lot of noise. I just lay down, and when I woke up it was five o'clock. I made myself presentable, descended in the elevator, and walked straight into the arms of Mr. Alonzo Dunn."
"How did he get there?" Lucy asked.
"He'd come up by boat special," Maurice explained. "You see, the regular passengers were landed soon after I got off, and I expect they reached Paris as soon as I did. Anyway, there I was."
"It wasn't well at all," Maurice groaned. "Mr. Dunn was a difficult person to shake. He invited me to dinner at the Grand. I refused, said I didn't like the Grand. He invited himself to dine with me at the Ritz and ordered an automobile to take me for a drive. I made an excuse to leave him for a moment, and sent a note to say that I was called away on business. Then I had two hours' freedom. I took an automobile and drove out to the Bois, and that was all I saw of Paris. I fancied I saw a Frenchman once, down on the Champs Elysées, but I couldn't be sure. There certainly wasn't one in either of the bars I went to. Finally I got back to the Ritz somewhere about half-past seven and was going up to my room to change, when whom should I see, sitting in the lounge in their dinner clothes, waiting, but Mr. Alonzo B. Dunn, Mrs. Alonzo B. Dunn, and Miss Sadie!"
"Come to dine with you?" Lucy asked.
"Yes, although God knows I never asked them."
Lucy leaned back in her place and laughed until the tears came into her eyes. She even forgot for a moment the caviare with which she had been served.
"Please go on with it," she begged. "This is delightful."
"I suppose I was an ass," he admitted. "I ought to have pretended not to have seen them, legged it up to my room, and got out the back entrance. Anyway, I didn't. I just went like a lamb to the slaughter. They very kindly excused me for being late, so up I went and changed, discovered a hundred cards in my room, got downstairs, dined with Mr. and Mrs. Dunn and Sadie, and found that he was preparing a sort of puppet show of me for the next few days, he being showman—pleased as Punch he was about it, too. Every other shock-headed, soft-shirt-fronted gentleman, with a black eyeglass ribbon and a drawl, that entered the place was one of his intimate American friends. I was jumping up and down like a jack-in-the-box, shaking hands here and there, threatened with parties, dinners, dances, and God knows what else. I had to dance with Sadie, who I found had plans of her own for the evening. It seems we were to give the old people the slip and go up to Montmartre until the small hours. The next day I was to dine with Mr. Chunn, whoever he may be, and so on—and so on."
"And what did you do?"
"A real white man came along," Maurice confided enthusiastically—"chap named Martin at the Embassy in Paris—and took me away from the table. He'd heard I was Maurice Teyl, and he wanted me to go and meet his chief. I couldn't confide in him altogether, but I let him see the tangle I'd got into, and he played up like a sport, told me I was to drop a card on his Chief the next afternoon—gee, fancy me doing a thing like that!—and promised if I'd like to hop it—he thought I wanted a night off in Paris alone—that he'd square the Alonzo Dunns, so the last I saw of him he was explaining to Papa, Mamma, and Sadie, that the Ambassador had taken such a fancy to me he wouldn't let me go, and I was legging it upstairs with a time-table in my hands. I packed up—or rather the valet chap in the room did—paid my bill—I didn't forget that, thank goodness—-and I caught the night train for London. And here I am. And so far, Lucy," he went on, touching her hand across the table, "I don't mind confessing to you that grey though your skies may be and muddy your streets, I prefer London to Paris."
"It appears to me," Lucy said, with some severity, "that you've been playing the same ridiculous game over in Paris as the purser forced you into on the steamer."
"But was it my fault?" he protested. "There was no getting away from Mr. Alonzo B. Dunn. I couldn't give the show away to him. He'd met me as Maurice Teyl, and Maurice Teyl I had to remain. I didn't know he was going to try to launch me on the Paris-American world. The whole thing was in train and doing before I could lift my little finger. I had to hop it from the steamer, and I had to hop it from Paris. I'm beginning to wonder how long I shall be able to stay here."
"I don't think you deserve any sympathy at all," Lucy told him sternly. "You shouldn't have begun this ridiculous enterprise."
"Then I should never have been here," he reminded her, "for the purser wouldn't have given me a berth on the ship. And I'm just going to say that I'm glad I'm here, and I can't think of any place in the world where I'd rather be."
"You hopeless person!" she sighed,
"Well, that was my trip to Paris, anyway," he concluded. "'Drama in half a chapter, to be continued in our next.'"
"Supposing the same thing happens to you in London?" she demanded.
His face suddenly assumed a determined expression.
"I'll stick it as long as I can, for the purser's sake. I'm telling you one thing, though: I'm not going to be chased out of here like I was out of Paris. I'd sooner tell the truth."
A very smartly dressed, fluffy-haired young lady paused before their table, making a sign to her escort to proceed. Maurice looked into the smiling face of his first dancing partner upon the steamer, Miss Jennie Malcolm.
"How do you do, Mr. Teyl?" she said demurely. "I thought I saw you come in. We were sitting in the alcove."
Maurice rose to his feet with a heavy heart.
"Glad to see you again, Miss Malcolm," he lied.
"Fancy leaving us all without saying good-bye," she complained, with a little pout. "And you were so nice at the dance too."
"Er—was I?" Maurice queried uneasily. "Did you meet Miss Compston? She was on the boat, you know."
The two girls exchanged perfunctory greetings.
"Won't you tell me where you are staying, Mr. Teyl?" the girl enquired. "Father left cards at the Ritz, but they told him you weren't there, although you were expected every day."
"I'm there, and I'm not, you know," Maurice explained, a little desperately. "Fact is, I've had a sort of nervous breakdown—obliged to keep very quiet for a short time."
She stared at his sunburnt complexion, clear, bright eyes and alert, athletic presence.
"A nervous breakdown!" she repeated incredulously.
"Gets me in the most unexpected ways," he went on. "In a crowd, I simply go crazy. I'm just lying quiet for about three weeks—plenty of golf, and all that sort of thing. If—well, say in a month's time—your father will leave cards at the Ritz again, he'll probably find me there and glad to see him."
"I'll tell him, certainly," she promised, without any enthusiasm in her tone, however. "Good-bye. I hope we'll meet again soon."
She passed on with a friendly but not too cordial little nod, and Maurice sat down with a groan.
"If only you weren't in London," he murmured, "I should find out some quiet country place where I could play golf."
"Would you?" she scoffed. "And how about finding this work?"
"I'll find it as soon as my spending money has gone," he assured her. "Remember, this is the first holiday I have ever had in my life."
"I'm afraid you're a most unpractical person," she replied, glancing at her wrist watch. "Do you know that I have to be at a rehearsal in a quarter of an hour?"
"That sounds rather a nuisance," he grumbled. "What do I do whilst you're at the theatre?"
"Why, you foolish man, you don't suppose you're going to spend all your time with me, do you?" she laughed.
"Most of it, I hope," he answered cheerfully. "You're my only friend here; you're English—I'm American; I've got to be shown the city. It's a kind of national debt of hospitality which devolves upon you."
"Bunkum!" she scoffed.
"Well, we'll see," he concluded, as they passed outside, and he handed her into a taxicab. "What time shall I call for you at the theatre?"
"You can't call for me," she replied. "One never knows what time one finishes rehearsal."
He looked at his watch.
"It is now," he said, "a quarter to three. Supposing I come at half-past four?"
"But you may have to wait ever such a time," she warned him.
"Waiting is my strong suit. I can walk up and down these higgledy-piggledy little streets, and look in the shop windows, and pass the time no end of ways."
"Incorrigible!" she murmured. "You may do as you like, as it's your first afternoon. As a matter of fact, we're only called for an hour's rehearsal, so if you're somewhere about at half-past four, I think you'll be all right."
"After which," he suggested, "we will take a stroll down that street where Aubrey told me of a corking jewellery store—Bond Street, I think he said it was. I want to buy a present for a friend."
The taxi drew up outside the stage door of the theatre. Maurice descended and helped his companion out.
"At half-past four," he said.
"I won't keep you waiting if I can help it," she promised. "If it's going to be a long time, I'll send word to the doorkeeper."
"You needn't worry," he assured her. "I'll hang on."
PREBENDARY DORKINS and Mr. Matthew Crosset, the well-known solicitor of Lincoln's Inn, sat side by side in the latter's well-appointed limousine which, at a quarter to five that afternoon, was making its slow and laboured progress along Bond Street. Both men were entirely true to type. The prebendary, tall, slim, grey of hair and complexion, with long, nervous features and dressed with ecclesiastical formality, looked exactly as a prebendary should look. Mr. Matthew Crosset, in well-cut, somewhat old-fashioned morning coat, neat grey trousers, broad-toed shoes and spats, need only have walked on the stage in a Drury Lane melodrama to be recognised at once as the family solicitor. Neither of the two men were inclined for conversation. Nevertheless, the subject which was uppermost in the minds of both of them occasionally asserted itself.
"I can see no alternative," the prebendary observed drearily, "save to at once inform the Duchess of the situation."
"She may to some extent be prepared," his companion pointed out, "from the newspaper accounts of the young man's landing at Cherbourg."
The prebendary shook his head.
"I had a note from her this morning," he confided. "She alluded casually to the paragraphs in question, but expressed her 'entire confidence' in my keeping my undertaking with regard to the young man. 'I know that you will not fail me' were her last words."
The lawyer inclined his head understandingly.
"The Duchess is notoriously an unreasonable woman," he admitted. "As the lad's secular guardian and co-trustee in his English estates, I will, if you desire it, accompany you to Grosvenor Square, and assure her Grace that we have taken every possible step towards finding the young man."
"That is kind of you," the prebendary acknowledged, "but it will, alas, be of little service. The Duchess is subject to these furious whims, and no man in the world has ever been able to talk her out of one. Knowing the young man's disposition and reputed shyness, I did my best to dissuade her from the idea, but I might as well have talked to the Sphinx."
"I have had some business dealings with the family," Mr. Crosset remarked sympathetically. "The Duke is easy enough to get on with, but I consider the Duchess the most obstinate woman I have ever met in my life."
"She has a will of granite," the prebendary groaned. "'Maurice Teyl shall open my bazaar, and nobody else,' she declared, in reply to everything I could urge. 'He will be the most talked-of personage in London when he arrives, and every one will want to see him. He will have the opportunity of meeting my daughter during the first few weeks of her entrance into society, and there is no telling to what act of generosity he may not be inspired.'"
"She mentioned something about the Glenforth living at the same time, didn't she?"
The prebendary nodded sadly.
"She mentioned it, if I may say so, with a singular absence of delicacy," he acknowledged. "She, as it were, held a pistol to my head. 'The Duke,' she told me, 'is anxious to give Glenforth to our incumbent at Castle Morby. I intend, however, to have my own way. If you are able to gratify my wishes in this matter, prebendary, the living is yours; if you fail me, I shall not interfere.'"
"How like the Duchess!" the lawyer murmured. "She is without doubt a woman who knows her own mind."
The automobile came slowly to a standstill, wedged in a dense tangle of traffic. Suddenly the prebendary gave a little start. He leaned forward and gazed open-mouthed out of the window. His left hand descended heavily upon his companion's knee.
"Crosset!" he exclaimed. "Crosset!"
The lawyer released his suffering limb, which was rheumatic.
"What is it?" he demanded.
The prebendary pointed. Both men stared at the not unusual spectacle of a tall, slightly over-grown looking boy, with a pleasant face and hair of a distinct shade of red. He was in the act of turning away from a shop window, and stooping down to talk to a quietly dressed and prepossessing young woman, who was apparently his companion.
"That's Maurice Teyl. I'll swear it is he."
The lawyer, disposed to be incredulous, after his first glance, was inclined to agree.
"I do believe it is!" he cried. "It's three years since I saw him, and he's filled out a little, but I honestly believe that you're right."
The prebendary was already out of the car. Holding his silk hat on his head with one hand, and with his coat tails flying behind him, he dived in front of a stationary omnibus, emerged upon the pavement, and laid his free hand upon the young man's shoulder. What he said sounded perhaps a little inadequate when taken in conjunction with his breathless and almost undignified arrival.
"Most extraordinary!" he gasped. "Extraordinary! You are Maurice Teyl."
A fleeting look of distress passed across the young man's face. He temporised with the situation.
"Am I?" he murmured.
"Mr. Crosset and I met the boat at Southampton on Friday," the prebendary continued. "We were most concerned to hear that you had left it at Cherbourg. I had a long conversation with the purser, a most intelligent man, who endeavoured to make the situation clear to me. My dear Maurice, you must struggle against this habit of reserve. With a future such as yours must necessarily be, you must accustom yourself to mixing with the world."
"What makes you so certain that I'm this fellow Teyl?" Maurice demanded, with a nervous glance towards Lucy, who had drifted in the direction of a shop window.
The prebendary smiled.
"It is barely four years," he reminded his victim, "since I visited you and your grandmother at Mountain Springs. It was then that she appointed me your English guardian, together with Mr. Crosset, who is close at hand. A most estimable woman, your grandmother. I learned of her death with the utmost regret."
"I think, if you will excuse me," Maurice began—"Here is Mr. Crosset," the prebendary interrupted. "You will remember him without a doubt. He accompanied me on my visit to your grandmother."
Mr. Crosset, who had also made his precarious way from the car, arrived upon the scene and shook hands warmly with the young man.
"I look upon this meeting," the prebendary declared, "as most fortuitous. This uncertainty as to your whereabouts has involved us in great distress and inconvenience."
"I really don't see why it should," Maurice protested. "I was certain to turn up sometime or other."
The prebendary laid his hand upon the young man's shoulder. The block was over and the car had drawn slowly up to the curb.
"Get in with us, please," he enjoined. "This is too crowded a thoroughfare for conversation. We will go to the Ritz. I shall have the pleasure of offering you some tea."
"Sorry," Maurice replied, "but you may have noticed that I have a companion. I had just invited Miss Compston to tea with me."
At the sound of her name, Lucy half glanced around. Maurice took her by the arm.
"Prebendary," he said, "and Mr. Crosset, let me introduce you to a friend of mine, Miss Compston."
Both men acknowledged the introduction politely but without enthusiasm. The prebendary coughed.
"It has been a source of great relief and satisfaction to Mr. Crosset and me," he announced, "to meet Mr. Teyl this afternoon."
"To meet whom?" Lucy enquired.
"Mr. Maurice Teyl. We travelled to Southampton to bid him welcome to this country, and were greatly disappointed to find that he had left the ship."
Lucy looked from one to the other of the two men. Then she glanced towards Maurice.
"Nothing to do with me," he assured her. "It's no use my contradicting them."
"We hope, Miss Compston," Mr. Crosset, who had formed a favourable opinion of the young lady, intervened civilly, "that you will give us the pleasure of your company at tea at the Ritz."
"You are very kind," Lucy said doubtfully.
"You had better come," Maurice begged. "You may save me from getting into trouble again."
"I think perhaps I'd better," she agreed. "Thank you very much, Mr. Crosset. I should be delighted."
They entered the car and drove off.
"May I ask why you choose the Ritz?" Maurice enquired.
"Because that will be your headquarters for the present," the lawyer replied. "All your luggage is there, in the suite ordered for you. When did you arrive from France?"
"Only this morning."
"And where were you thinking of staying?"
"I have taken rooms at a boarding house in Bloomsbury."
The two guardians exchanged shocked glances. The richest young man in the world at a Bloomsbury boarding house!
"That must not continue," the prebendary insisted firmly. "As yet, of course, we do not know how long you wish to stay in England. If for any length of time, I would suggest a bachelor suite of rooms. That is a matter we can discuss later, however."
"Are there any newspaper men or photographers hanging about the Ritz?" Maurice enquired gloomily.
"Not a soul," the prebendary assured him. "If you had arrived when you were expected, you would certainly have had to run the gauntlet. This afternoon, however, there is no reason to suppose that you will be troubled in any way. Your grandmother spoke to me herself of your retiring disposition, Maurice—an excellent trait in a young man. You need have no fear that over here your privacy will be unduly intruded upon. I myself shall make a point of seeing to that. There are a few duties, naturally, which may devolve upon you—an occasional appearance, perhaps, at a public meeting, some simple little matter, like the opening of a bazaar, for instance."
"The what?" Maurice interrupted, in a startled tone.
"The opening of a bazaar," the prebendary continued suavely. "One of the easiest of public functions in the world, and one of the duties which—er—naturally devolve upon those who are blessed with a large share of this world's goods. By the by, there is something of that sort on the tapis already. We must have a little chat about it later."
They drew up at the Ritz. Lucy paused upon the pavement. She turned towards the prebendary and Mr. Crosset.
"It is so kind of you both to have asked me to tea," she said, "but I think, under the circumstances, which you will perhaps understand later on, I would rather not come. Andrew, can I have one word with you, please?" she begged, turning towards him.
"Why, of course," he assented. "You'll excuse me, gentlemen."
They walked a pace or two to one side.
"Andrew," Lucy enjoined severely, "you're not going to start this business again?"
"Do you suppose I want to?" he groaned.
"Why did you ever come here with them?"
"My dear Lucy, they wouldn't listen to reason. They've got Maurice Teyl on the brain. I suppose I am ridiculously like the fellow. Anyway, it was no good arguing in Bond Street, and I'm just going to sit down with them quietly here, and tell them the truth about myself."
"Promise?" she insisted.
"Very well, then," she decided. "I am going across to Stewart's for tea, and shall stay there for some time. If, at the end of twenty minutes you have not made things clear to these people and come to me—well, I shall come to you, and I shall tell them the truth."
"That's a bargain," Maurice agreed. "If I can't convince these old bunglers who I am, you shall come and do the trick for me."
"I hope very much," Lucy said severely, "that it will not be necessary."
MAURICE, with a word of apology, rejoined his two guardians, who were anxiously awaiting him.
"Miss Compston thought she'd leave us alone for a time," he explained.
"A most sensible young lady," the prebendary declared approvingly. "This way, my friend."
The prebendary, with his hand resting lightly upon Maurice's arm, led him to the reception desk. He leaned across the counter and, dropping his voice to a stage whisper, addressed the dignified-looking personage in charge.
"This is Mr. Maurice Teyl," he announced. "Conduct us, if you please, to his suite."
A little shiver of excitement seemed to pass through the entire office. Every one left off work. The faces of the two young lady typists glowed with interest. The young man in charge bowed low.
"If you will excuse me for one moment, sir," he begged, "Mr. Belotsky, our manager, will, I am sure, wish to personally conduct Mr. Teyl."
"You'll do," Maurice insisted, gripping him by the arm. "I want to get up to my rooms as quickly as possible, and without any fuss."
Some instinct had warned him of the spreading of the news. A small boy had torn off into the lounge, distributing whoops of information on the way. The reception clerk ushered the little party towards the lift.
"Just as you please, sir," he assented. "Mr. Belotsky, however, will wish to pay his respects as soon as you are installed. We have reserved our best suite for you—the one usually occupied by Royalty."
The ascent to the third floor was made almost in silence. The inspection of the suite, however, evoked much enthusiasm from the prebendary and Mr. Crosset. Maurice hung up his coat and hat in the hall and wandered about, giving an occasional nod.
"Wonderful rooms," he admitted shortly—"much too wonderful for me. I'm not used to anything of the sort."
The prebendary laid his hand upon his shoulder.
"My dear lad," he said in a fatherly tone, "that feeling of strangeness will soon wear off. Your grandmother always told me how simply you had been brought up. There comes a time in one's life, however, when one must make some attempt to live up to one's responsibilities, and—er—compatibly with one's means. That, I fancy," he concluded, with a little smile, "would be impossible so far as you are concerned. You will never know the luxury of being extravagant."
They passed in to the salon. It was obvious that the time for a conference had arrived. Maurice resignedly indicated an easy-chair to the prebendary, another to Mr. Crosset, and seated himself in a third. A waiter to whom the order had been entrusted duly served them with tea. The prebendary crossed his gaitered legs and pressed the tips of his fingers gently together.
"This meeting with you is most pleasant, my dear Maurice," he began, "and I must confess an immense relief to me personally. Later on, you will no doubt like to have a little conversation with Mr. Crosset with reference to temporal affairs. The substance of what he will tell you, though, resolves itself into the amazing fact, of which you are already doubtless aware, that your resources in this country, as well as in your own, are practically inexhaustible. There is no scheme of living which you could devise in which you would not be able to indulge. A yacht, horses, if you wish to race, a theatre if you desire to patronise the stage, motor cars, country estates, all these are yours for the trouble of deciding in what manner you propose finally to amuse yourself. The few duties winch must full to your lot you will find easy and, I trust, pleasant. May I ask if you have made any plans yet?"
"Nothing definite," Maurice replied uneasily. "I wasn't sure about staying over here at all. I hate all this beastly fuss."
"You will get used to it in time," the prebendary assured him soothingly. "Now that you are here, you must make up your mind to spend a week or two quietly exploring the wonders of our capital."
"No damned bazaars or anything of that sort?" Maurice asked suspiciously.
The prebendary coughed.
"I will ask you, Maurice," he begged, with gentle dignity, "to respect my cloth so far as to abstain when possible from the use of violent language."
"But bazaars," Maurice insisted.
"Let me explain," the prebendary interrupted. "I have been admitted to terms of considerable friendship—I might say intimacy—with a lady well-known in English society for her devotion to charitable causes. I refer to the Duchess of Leicestershire. Her Grace has been fervently interested in one of the noblest causes ever espoused by charitable folk—namely the providing of homes and futures for the families, relatives and dependents of sufferers during the War. You will admit, I think, my dear Maurice, that this is a cause worthy of great effort."
"The cause seems all right," Maurice conceded grudgingly, "but what I want to know—"
"The Duchess has organised a great bazaar at the Albert Hall which is to be opened to-morrow afternoon," the prebendary swept ruthlessly on. "In the ordinary way, it would have been opened by Royalty, probably by the Prince of Wales himself, but when the matter came up for discussion, the papers were full of your impending visit here, and the Duchess conceived an idea which has become an obsession with her. She decided that you must open the bazaar."
"What I—open a bazaar?" Maurice gasped.
"Here in London—to-morrow at four o'clock in the afternoon."
"Nothing doing," Maurice declared firmly.
"I shall hope, my dear Maurice," his spiritual mentor said patiently, "to induce you to reconsider that decision."
"You may hope to, but you won't."
"I am going to make this a very personal matter," the prebendary continued, his voice becoming solemn, almost portentous. "The living of Glenforth, which is in his Grace's gift, has fallen vacant. It is one of the most desirable of private benefices—a beautiful old house, not too arduous work, and an excellent, stipend. I may admit, without any undue yielding towards worldliness, that it has been one of the great and much prayed-for desires of my life that some day or other this particular living might be bestowed upon me. His Grace, I am sorry to say, desires to offer it to the incumbent of the parish in which the castle is situated—a worthy, but younger man than myself, whose energies, I think, might be more fittingly directed towards urban work. Her Grace, however, is on my side to some extent, and—not to make too long a story of it, Maurice—she has promised me the living on condition that you open the bazaar to-morrow afternoon. It was necessary for a decision to be arrived at in order that the placards and various announcements of the affair should be printed, and, under the extraordinary circumstances of the case, I have—er—ventured to pledge myself to your fulfillment of this act of charity."
Maurice shook his head.
"Sorry, sir," he regretted, "but I'm afraid it can't be done. I shouldn't know what to say or how to say it. I should simply put the kibosh on the whole show."
The prebendary was anxious but unconvinced.
"You must not say that, Maurice," he begged. "I can assure you that if you will make the effort, you will never regret this act of self-abnegation. The Duchess is a very charming woman, with a very charming daughter, probably the most admired debutante of the season. You will simply have to sit on the platform by her side, stand up when you are called upon, and say three or four sentences, which I shall have carefully written out for you. Afterwards, you can announce, if you think fit, a gift to the cause, and the whole thing is over—so far as you are concerned, Maurice. But I want you to just remember this—that one action on your part will make a man of fifty-seven years of age, who has worked since he was a curate of twenty-three, happy for the rest of his life."
Maurice walked moodily up and down the room.
All the time he felt that the eyes of the two men were following him.
"It's a difficult business," he declared drearily. "I don't know how to explain myself, but I don't want a lot of fuss made about my presence here in London just now."
The lawyer smiled indulgently.
"My young friend," he remonstrated, "this is modesty carried to absurdity. You're not a royal prince, and you're not a film actor, but you are the richest young man in the world. You cannot hope to escape notoriety."
"In a week or two's time," he pleaded, "I might be able to face the public."
"The bazaar," the prebendary pointed out solemnly, "is to-morrow—and it is a function which cannot be postponed."
There was a knock at the door, and the waiter presented himself.
"A young lady to see Mr. Teyl," he announced.
The prebendary frowned slightly.
"Would it not be better, Maurice," he suggested, "if we finished our conversation first. You must not forget that this matter is of vital importance to me."
"Wait," Maurice begged, "in one moment you will understand."
Lucy Compston's furs were not of the best quality, but they were becoming. The cold May wind had brought a flush to her cheeks. Her eyes were bright with something that was suspiciously like anger. She stood for a moment, a graceful little figure, upon the threshold, looking at the three men. Maurice hastened forward to greet her.
"Andrew," she said, "the half hour is up."
"I know it," he acknowledged deprecatingly.
She turned to the two men.
"A short while ago," she began, "you introduced me to these two gentlemen—Prebendary Dorkins, I think it was, and Mr. Crosset. What I should like to know is, have you introduced yourself?"
"That's just it, Lucy," Maurice declared eagerly. "Now I want you to tell the truth, because there's no hope of them believing me. The prebendary here is trying to persuade me to open a bazaar to-morrow afternoon, because the Duchess, who is getting it up, thinks that the name of Maurice Teyl will be useful to her cause. Can I do this, Lucy?"
"No," she answered firmly.
"And why not?" the prebendary demanded.
She pointed to Maurice.
"Because he is no more Maurice Teyl than I am."
THE prebendary sat huddled up in his chair. He was incapable of speech. The lawyer's professional instincts were aroused, however, and his amazement kept him tongue-tied only for a moment.
"Then I understand that you are an impostor, young man?" he demanded.
"Why should you call me that? I didn't tell you that I was Maurice Teyl. I had no intention of doing anything of the sort. I even in a sense denied it. It was the prebendary who insisted that I was, but neither of you listened to me."
"Has the young lady anything more to say?" the lawyer enquired.
"Only this," Lucy replied. "I met Mr. Maurice—Andrew Maurice, his name is—by accident at the Grand Central Station in New York. He was looking for a job, and the manager of the theatre where I was working took him on trial. He was in the chorus of 'The Piccadilly Girls' for a fortnight, at a salary of twenty dollars a week."
"'The Piccadilly Girls'!" the prebendary gasped.
"The play came to an end," Lucy continued, "and we separated. After that, I found him, to my great surprise, on board the steamer. That part of the story he had better tell you."
"An actor!" the prebendary groaned.
"Twenty dollars a week!" the lawyer murmured. "Tell us your story, young man, and we will then make up our minds as to our course of action."
"Right here I'm afraid I'm going to get it in the neck from you gentlemen," Maurice began. "You've heard Miss Compston's story. Well, when the run of 'The Piccadilly Girls' was ended, I wanted to get over to England, and I wanted to travel by the same ship as Miss Compston. I went on board with the second-class passengers, and when the steamer was well down the bay, I hunted out the purser and asked him to let me have a berth. I found him in a whale of trouble because Maurice Teyl, who had engaged the royal suite, had not turned up, and he seemed to feel that when the news was known there would be a sort of mutiny amongst the passengers. He was very rude to me at first, but suddenly changed his tone. He looked at me as you two gentlemen did in Bond Street, and then—well, not to make a long story of it, he offered me a free passage over in Maurice Teyl's rooms if I would impersonate Maurice Teyl, and save him from the necessity of confessing the young man had not come on board. He put me off at Cherbourg and gave me a free ticket to London."
"And Maurice Teyl never crossed on the Anderconia at all!" the prebendary gasped. Maurice coughed.
"I was there in his place," he confessed. "And where is Maurice Teyl?" the lawyer demanded.
"There were rumours in New York," the young man confided, "that he had wandered back to the ranch."
"A most reprehensible proceeding on your part," the lawyer pronounced firmly.
"Disgraceful, and I should say criminal," the prebendary added.
"I was very angry with Mr. Maurice when he came and told me what he was doing, on the first day out," Miss Compston intervened, "but be assured me that no one could possibly suffer, and I consented to say nothing about it. I had no idea, however, that he was even dreaming of carrying on this impersonation after he had arrived in England. I warned him downstairs a little more than half an hour ago that if he would not tell the truth to you two gentlemen, I should come up and tell it for him. That's why I'm here."
"We are much obliged to you, young lady," the lawyer declared.
"Very grateful," the prebendary murmured gloomily.
"I should like to add, if I may," Miss Compston went on, "that I am quite sure Mr. Maurice had no idea whatever of any sort of fraud in connection with this affair. Just why he let the matter go so far as to come here with you, I don't know. I am afraid he rather enjoys the sensation of feeling himself to be Maurice Teyl for a few minutes, and gives way to it. I think he ought to be heartily ashamed of himself, but I am quite sure he had no wrong intention. I hope," she concluded, turning to him, "this ridiculous business is now at an end."
"Absolutely," he promised humbly, edging his way towards the door.
"No, don't come with me, please," she begged. "You had better stay and make your own apologies to these two gentlemen."
She took her leave, still a little flustered and angry. Maurice closed the door after her and returned to his place.
"Well, all I can say, gentlemen, is that I am very sorry if I misled you," he declared, seating himself on the edge of the table. "You'll admit, though, that I never claimed to be Maurice Teyl. It was you gentlemen who cornered me in Bond Street, and it wasn't any use my telling you that I wasn't Maurice Teyl. You'd never have believed me if Miss Compston hadn't come along."
"This business on the steamer," the lawyer remarked severely, "may turn out to be a very serious matter to you. What I can't understand, however, is why nothing has been heard from our young ward whom you have been impersonating. We've sent at least a dozen cables to Mountain Springs."
"I should figure it," Maurice suggested, "that the situation works out something like this. The young boob came to New York, never previously having been off the ranch. He went to call upon the Bishop, as we know, and the Bishop probably frightened him out of his life by talking to him of his huge responsibilities, and what a mighty careful life he'd have to live. The young man got the pip and went off back to the ranch, with the firm idea of staying there. If he's read anything in the papers about his supposed doings, he is all the better pleased because it keeps any one from suspecting where he really is."
The prebendary rose to his feet. He was suddenly looking a great deal older. He stooped as he reached for his hat, and there was an obvious mistiness in his eyes. Maurice was conscious of an unexpected pang of sympathy. He stood for a moment, a frown upon his face, thinking.
"Just a word before you go, Doctor Dorkins," he begged, "and you too, Mr. Crosset."
The lawyer resumed his seat. The prebendary remained standing.
"I hope you'll understand that I don't want to offend either of you gentlemen," Maurice went on gently. "You hold very dignified positions, I know, and that sort of thing, but life plays queer tricks with us. You see, for instance, what a risk the purser was prepared to take. I don't really care for myself. I'm a young fellow, and there isn't much trouble I could get into, because I've never had anything out of this business that didn't belong to me, and don't mean to. If the Duchess gives you this living, prebendary, can she take it away again?"
"Never," the prebendary replied. "After she has signed the deed—which she promised to do tomorrow afternoon at five o'clock—nothing in the world could invalidate it."
"Well, I'm game to see this thing through, if you are," Maurice proposed.
The lawyer stared at him as though he had suddenly taken leave of his senses. The prebendary's fingers twitched so that he dropped his hat and forgot to pick it up.
"What—what do you mean?" he demanded.
"I mean that I am established here as young Teyl the millionaire, through other people's mistakes," Maurice pointed out. "You gentlemen found me in Bond Street. You believed that I was your ward, and you brought me here. Well, go on believing it for twenty-four hours. You'll have the purser behind you to prove that you weren't the only ones who were fooled. No one could blame you very much. I am ridiculously like that poor mut, your ward. I know that from the pictures I've seen. I'll put on my best clothes to-morrow afternoon, lie quiet until the prebendary calls for me, say your few sentences as well as I can, hang around until you've got your deed, and then I'll disappear. What about it?"
The lawyer was leaning forward in his chair with pursed lips and knitted brows. The prebendary had literally collapsed back into his, but the light of a dazed hope was shining once more in his face.
"It would be a great deception upon her Grace," he faltered—"a deception which neither Mr. Crosset nor I could possibly undertake."
"Not so great a one on your part, anyway," Maurice argued. "You genuinely believed that I was your ward when you met me and brought me here. You can forget that young woman who bobbed in with her silly story. I didn't tell you that it was the truth, did I? Hang it all, I'll be Maurice Teyl until five o'clock to-morrow. I'll open your bazaar. I don't suppose there's a soul in the world who hasn't been dishonest for twenty-four hours in his life, from the butler who says his mistress isn't at home, to the trader who pretends he doesn't want to buy so as to get prices down. You're doing no one any harm, the way I figure it. I'm the only one who might get it in the neck, and I don't care a scrap."
The prebendary glanced furtively across at the lawyer. The latter scratched his chin.
"There is a certain amount of common sense," Mr. Crosset admitted, "in what this young man says. I consider that his likeness to Maurice Teyl is sufficient exoneration, so far as we are concerned, for anything that might happen. All that we have to do is to forget that young woman's extraordinary story."
"That is really your opinion?" the prebendary asked, with increasing cheerfulness.
"It is my honest opinion," the lawyer reiterated. "I believe too, that this young man is quite capable of carrying the thing through—better, without a doubt, owing to his association with the stage, than Maurice Teyl himself."
"He is certainly personable enough," the prebendary mused.
"It's a good cause," the lawyer went on. "It means your being settled for life, and I don't see that any one's going to suffer much. If you care to accept this young man's offer, Doctor Dorkins, I shall not stand in the way. The only thing that you must make up your mind to is that we must never—never—under any circumstances admit that we were not completely deceived."
The latter's mental struggle was brief.
"Young man," he decided, "I must first of all express my gratitude to you for an offer which I suppose in common parlance would be termed a sporting one. I accept it."
The lawyer coughed and tapped with his fingers upon the table.
"A small recompense," he began—
Maurice held out his hand.
"Not a penny," he insisted. "If ever I am in need of as much as twenty pounds I will come to you. I don't want to spend any more of this young man's money than I can help, but I had better sleep here, I suppose. At what time to-morrow will you call for me, Prebendary?"
"At half-past three. I can rely, I hope—you'll forgive me, but the matter is of much moment to me—upon your being here?"
"I sha'n't fail you," Maurice promised. "I shall have to wear the fellow's clothes, but as he's a bit of a philanthropist and it's a good cause, I don't suppose he'll mind that."
"Tail coat and silk hat," the lawyer advised.
"I'll have a word with Jennings and sec that no mistake is made in that direction," the prebendary declared.
They took their leaves solemnly, and both of them with a somewhat guilty air. Maurice, who remained behind, rang the bell for Jennings after a few minutes.
"Did those gentlemen ask you any questions, Jennings?" he enquired.
"They asked if I had waited upon you on the steamer, sir—and I said yes. They asked me if I had known Mr. Maurice Teyl before I met him on the Anderconia, and according to your instructions, I allowed them to think that I saw you for the first time when the purser brought you into the suite. They seemed perfectly satisfied. They gave me certain hints about your clothing to-morrow, sir, which were quite unnecessary. To dress you for any such function as the opening of a bazaar is very simple."
"Anything else happened since you arrived?"
"Nothing of any consequence, sir. I think you will find everything in order. I've taken the liberty of sending for a selection of neckties for your approval from the house which seems to have the vogue for the moment—the same house, sir, as recommended by Mr. Aubrey—and a representative of your tailors wishes to see you as soon as you arrive with regard to riding and hunting kit. I will telephone them shortly."
"In the meantime, Jennings," his master directed, "a double whisky and soda, if you please—and, listen, is there a back way out of this hotel?"
"Down by the fire escape at the back of the corridor, sir," was the respectful reply. "There are three or four gentlemen waiting to see you—several with cameras."
"Put them in the other sitting room," Maurice directed. "Bring me the whisky and soda, and show me the back way out."
BY eight o'clock that evening, Maurice was easily installed as Mrs. Bodham's favourite boarder. He sat at her right hand, and divided his conversational efforts between her and Lucy. He praised the cooking, he ordered wine, he behaved in every way as a young man should who desires to ingratiate himself with a temporary hostess. The only complaint that any one could have brought against him—for he was at any time willing to join in the general conversation—was that immediately after dinner he had marched Lucy up to his sitting room, and asked, as a special favour, to be served with coffee there.
"You've been a perfect dear," she told him, as she made herself as comfortable as possible in his badly misnamed 'easy-chair,' "but we mustn't do this every night."
"We sha'n't be in every night," Maurice declared. "I know a place where the food's better."
"The dinner here costs you nothing," Lucy reminded him severely. "Until we both start work, you must be content with it. Now, what is it you want to say to me?"
He waited until the coffee had arrived, and he had ascertained that liqueurs were unprocurable. Then he produced a box of expensive cigarettes, lit Lucy's and his own, and established himself by her side.
"Little girl," he said, "I have a confession to make."
She looked at him doubtfully.
"You don't mean to tell me that you've actually convinced those two old dears that I wasn't telling the truth?"
He shook his head.
"They wouldn't have believed me if I'd tried. No, your story stands all right. All the same, I'm going to open that bazaar to-morrow afternoon."
"But how can you?" she exclaimed. "They know you're not Maurice Teyl."
"That's right," he admitted. "Unofficially they know; officially they are not going to know until five o'clock to-morrow afternoon, and then, as it will be too late to do anything about it, they'll sit tight."
She sat upright in her chair.
"I don't want any more riddles," she said coldly. "Tell the exact truth."
"Well," he explained, "the old guy in the gaiters was all broken up when he heard your story. It seems that he'd been promised a living he'd been wanting for years by the Duchess of Leicestershire if he could get Maurice Teyl to open her bazaar. Naturally enough, thinking that the young man was coming along, he agreed. It's announced everywhere that Maurice Teyl's to do the trick, and if he's not forthcoming, the prebendary loses a comfortable home and a nice income for the rest of his life. I couldn't bear to see the old boy so cut up about it, so I made them both a sporting offer. I said I'd open the bazaar in Maurice Teyl's name, so long as I was allowed to clear out immediately afterwards and disappear."
"Do you mean to tell me that a clergyman consented to an act of deceit like that?"
"My dear," he argued, "there's no reason why a clergyman should be any more moral than a purser. A purser played this trick to save his face with his passengers; our friend the prebendary's going to do it to be made independent for life. I'm not surprised at him, but I must say I scarcely expected a lawyer to take it sitting down."
"I think it's a gross and inexcusable piece of deceit," she decided, "and I am ashamed to think you would lend yourself to it."
He took her hand in his and patted it gently.
"Listen, Lucy dear," he begged. "There isn't one person in the world a scrap the worse off for my doing this. The Duchess will have her wish, and I will say the few words that are necessary just as the real Maurice Teyl would have done. Maurice Teyl won't be any the worse off, even if I wear a suit of his clothes. I shall put them back again. There isn't a single thing of his that I shall either steal or damage. The public won't be any the worse off, because it can't matter a hang to them whether they see me or another chap just like me. That grey-headed old man with, I believe, a large family, and I have no doubt an invalid wife, is going to get the desire of his life."
"But the Duchess will take it away when she finds that she's been tricked."
"That's just where you're wrong," he rejoined. "She can't do it. I don't understand much about your British system of appointing parsons, or the American either, for the matter of that, but it seems that when you've once got the job it's yours for life. That's the whole point of the matter."
"I suppose you think I'm very stupid, and I must admit you make it sound all right, but I do hate your going about pretending to be some one else. I'm sure it will land you in trouble before you're finished."
"Why anticipate? And, in any case, I promise this shall be my last public appearance under any other name but my own."
"You promise that," she insisted.
"Then I won't worry. Anyway, it isn't for me to interfere. I daresay you'd look rather nice opening a bazaar. I think I shall have to come and see you."
"You come right along and sit on the platform with me, if you want to," he invited. She shook her head.
"I know my place better. If I turn up, I shall be one of the admiring crowd."
"Talking of admiring crowds," he ventured, "do you know I'm tremendously curious to know what the inside of an English cinema is like."
She considered the matter for a moment.
"If you'll promise to be content with the medium-priced scats," she stipulated, "we'll go and see Charlie Chaplin."
"Wait," he exclaimed. "We'll go where you please—"
There was a knock at the door, and, after a discreet interval, the one waiter of the establishment entered.
"A gentleman downstairs to see you, sir," he announced. "Name of Jennings."
Maurice groaned in spirit. He had given Jennings his address with instructions not to approach him except in case of urgency.
"Show him up," he directed. "Like to get your hat on, Lucy?"
She looked at him suspiciously.
"Jennings," she reflected. "Wasn't that the name of Mr. Teyl's servant?"
"I expect it's something about going back to the Ritz to-night," he said. "You see, until after tomorrow afternoon—"
"You needn't trouble to explain," she interrupted, a little coldly. "I'll go and get my hat on."
Jennings presently made his respectful appearance. He looked around the little sitting room with as much disapproval as his well-trained features were capable of exhibiting.
"I must beg your pardon, sir, for intruding," he said, "but I received a cable to-night which I thought you should read. It is from Mr. Bullivant."
He produced the despatch. Maurice read it over to himself:
TO JENNINGS, VALET TO MAURICE TEYL, RITZ HOTEL, LONDON.
AM GREATLY DISTURBED BY VARIOUS RUMOURS CONCERNING YOUR MASTER'S MOVEMENTS. AM SENDING OVER ANDERSON THIS BOAT FROM POLICE HEADQUARTERS, AND HAVE REQUESTED MR. CROSSET TO COMMUNICATE WITH SCOTLAND YARD. CABLE ANY NEWS.
Maurice folded up the cablegram several times, unfolded it and read it again, and finally stuffed it into his pocket.
"In about another week, Jennings," he reflected dolefully, "we shall be up against it."
Jennings' expression was not altogether sympathetic.
"If I might venture to say so, sir, it seems to me that we will be fortunate if we last so long as that."
Maurice smoked for a moment in gloomy silence.
"As many of those fellows about as ever?" he asked, a little nervously.
"It's as bad as New York, sir," Jennings confessed. "They'll have to be faced some day or other, though."
"Any more cards?"
"Two baskets full, sir, and about a hundred letters—all invitations, I should think, by the look of them."
Maurice threw his cigarette savagely into the grate.
"I'm playing golf in the morning, Jennings," he announced. "You'd better sneak round here with some clothes—and my clubs. I'll have to come round in the afternoon, though, to change for the bazaar."
"The prebendary has explained to me, sir, the necessity for your being punctual," Jennings answered. "Everything will be ready for you at half-past two. I wished to ask you, sir, whether I should send any reply to the cable?"
"Too late to stop that fellow Anderson, I'm afraid," Maurice reflected, "but you might cable that I'm all right, and opening a bazaar to-morrow—rumours unfounded, or something of that sort. Jennings," he added, after a moment's dreary pause, "it is borne in upon me that before very long I shall have to come out into the great white light."
"If you'll pardon my saying so, sir," Jennings observed, "life will be a great deal easier for all of us when you do."
Lucy made her reappearance, and Maurice caught up his hat and coat.
"Be looking out for me to-morrow afternoon, Jennings, at three o'clock precisely," his master warned him. "I may come in any old way."
"I shall be on the spot, sir," Jennings assured him.
Lucy was very silent that evening. She consented, however, to a small supper in one of the quieter restaurants, and towards the end of the meal she asked Maurice a question upon a subject which she usually avoided.
"Andrew," she enquired, "how long will this spending money of yours last?"
"Well, that rather depends. Why?"
"I should like to feel that you were really preparing to settle down to work, or to look for it, at any rate. This crazy life of yours is too ridiculous."
"Let me see," he mused, "to-day is Tuesday. I think, my dear Lucy, by to-day week, perhaps before then, if I buy a set of golf clubs which I saw in the window of a shop in Jermyn Street this afternoon, I shall be facing the world with nothing but a job between me and a course of meals with Mrs. Bodham in Garden Street."
"Then you are really going to make an effort?" she pleaded.
He held her hand for a moment under the table. She was dressed, as usual, very neatly, but her little touches of colour were always effective, and the new seriousness which she seemed to have acquired since his arrival from Paris lent her, in his eyes, an added sweetness. There was a sense of delicacy about her which reduced him almost to a state of awe, a spirituality which made him hesitate to use the ordinary commonplace words that came so readily to his lips.
"I am going to make the great effort of my life," he announced.
"But you're absurdly young," she sighed. "You haven't made any real efforts yet."
"If I'm young, so are you," he objected, "and one ages prematurely in confinement. You must remember I've led a very sheltered life."
"You're making up for it," she murmured, with the laughter creeping into her eyes.
"As soon as that spending money is gone—" he whispered.
"But not until you have found some work."
Then the orchestra played a tune they both loved, and conversation drifted away into the disconnected and remote, into little half-broken sentences, eloquent but unanalysable.
"Anyhow, in a week," he said, later on, when they faced the night again, and, standing upon the pavement waiting for their taxi, found the stars unexpectedly shining.
ON the first tee, with the usual almost perfect manners of the accredited golf professional, Clay asked the customary question, "How would you like to play, sir?"—meaning, naturally enough, "How many strokes would you like to receive?"
Maurice considered the matter for a moment.
"Well, I don't know, Clay," he reflected. "What did Sandy say when he wrote you?"
"Nothing, except that a young friend of his was coming across and would like a game."
"Good lad," Maurice murmured. "Nothing else, you're sure?"
"Not a word, sir."
"Well, you shall give me a stroke when you get two up."
The professional smiled.
"I'll do that with pleasure, sir," he agreed.
"What's this first hole?" Maurice enquired, trying in vain to see the flag.
"There's many takes a driver, sir, and some a cleek. I'm generally a trifle short myself with an iron."
Maurice studied his card for a moment, thrust it into his pocket, and walked on to the tee. He selected a club deliberately. Clay looked over his shoulder.
"I doubt whether you'll get there with that, sir," he ventured.
"I'll know better the next round then," Maurice answered with a smile.
He addressed his ball without undue care, and the professional watched the shot with a sudden access of interest.
"You're not far from the green, sir," he said respectfully. "I wouldn't say you hadn't reached it."
"A more powerful club than it seems," Maurice replied, putting the jigger back in his bag....
On the tenth tee, Maurice was two up, and had given two strokes. Clay, over the trees and two streams, watched himself outdriven by forty yards, and taking off his cap wiped the perspiration from his forehead.
"What might your handicap be in the States, sir?" he enquired.
"Haven't got one. I don't belong to any club."
The professional was more puzzled then ever.
"But I don't understand that, sir," he declared. "Your form's good enough for the championship, any day. I only wish we had you here next week to play for us against the Army. He's a nice boy, Sandy, not to give me an idea of what was coming to me! What might be the name of the club where he's a professional, sir?"
"It isn't a club," Maurice answered, a little thoughtlessly. "It's my own course."
"You wouldn't be the Mr. Teyl they're all talking about, sir?" the professional asked eagerly.
"Not I!" Maurice answered. "My name's Andrew Maurice."
The professional got one hole back and promptly lost five following. At the sixteenth they walked home.
"I'd very much like you to have a game with our secretary, sir," Clay suggested. "You perhaps saw him when he came over to the States?"
"Heard of him," Maurice admitted. "I never see any golf. They don't come to my part of California."
"Might you be lunching here, sir?"
"I thought we might have a few holes afterwards, if I lunched early enough," he suggested. "I've got to get back to Piccadilly by three o'clock."
"I'll speak to Mr. Cuthbert, sir. There might be time for nine holes, at any rate. He'd like to see you play, I'm sure."
"Send him along after lunch, if he wants a game," Maurice enjoined. "I've a car down here, and it won't take me long to get back."
At half-past two, the very popular secretary of the club walked arm in arm with Maurice down to his car. He had been beaten for the first time level on his own course, and was deeply moved by the experience.
"Look here," he said, "we've got the devil of a match coming on in a few days, and the worst team on God's earth. If I could rush you through into the club, would you care to play?"
"Why, of course," Maurice assented.
"I might arrange for you to become an honourary member or something of the sort," the secretary proposed.
"You don't need to worry about that," Maurice replied. "I'd be glad enough to join in the usual way. I may be spending a great deal of time in London later on."
"That will be all right, then," the secretary declared, much relieved. "I shall count upon you next Thursday. They'll send you the papers. Any one who plays the golf that you do is welcome at any club. Where did you pick it up?"
"Well, out in the part of California where I live we're a long way away from the clubs," Maurice explained, "and land is cheap. I live on a ranch and have quite a decent little course of my own."
"That's a luxury we don't know much about in England," the secretary sighed. "Did you ever come across this missing millionaire—as they call him—Maurice Teyl? They say he has golf courses and steeplechase courses, tennis courts, thousands of acres of preserves, and all sorts of miraculous things."
"I've never met him face to face," Maurice replied. "One hears a lot about him though."
"Sick of the sight of his name in the newspapers," the secretary agreed. "They say he's going to open a bazaar this afternoon. If so, half London will be there, craning their necks to get a view of him. He's supposed to be so shy that he bolted off the steamer at Cherbourg and crept into England by the back door."
"Poop!" Maurice scoffed derisively.
"You'll be down again before Thursday?" the secretary enquired, as they shook hands. "I'll have your membership papers all prepared at once."
"Probably to-morrow morning," Maurice replied, as he stepped into the car.
Half an hour later, a little breathless, Maurice gained the shelter of his room.
"That was a close shave, Jennings," he remarked, as he kicked off his golf shoes and looked disconsolately at the clothes laid out for him. "What sort of a guy am I going to look in those?" he sighed deeply.
"This is quite the ordinary costume for a public function in this country, sir," Jennings assured him.
"I'll take your word for it," Maurice grimaced. "Get me into them. I'm out to see that old sport the prebendary gets his living and I'm going through with it."
"The prebendary is in the sitting room now, sir," man announced. "He is the only person I have admitted. He seems, if I may venture to say so, a little upset."
"I'll have a sponge off," his master declared. "Then I'll go in and cheer the old boy up."
Certainly the prebendary seemed to stand in need of some consolation when, after an interval of about twenty minutes, Maurice presented himself. He was walking up and down the room, his hands behind his back, apparently muttering to himself. He turned towards his pseudo-ward with a groan.
"My young friend," he confided, "I have had a sleepless night. I have been greatly concerned about these proceedings this afternoon."
"What's your trouble?" Maurice demanded cheerfully. "Here am I ready to go through with it. Don't I look the part? Red hair, freckles and all, Maurice Teyl to the life! What's got you?"
"My conscience," the prebendary groaned.
"A man," Maurice declared firmly, "should be master of his conscience."
"Eh?" the prebendary queried, fancying he saw a gleam of hope in such bravely spoken words.
"A man doesn't need to let his conscience make him soft," Maurice explained. "You're doing a perfectly harmless thing, after all. What about your wife and family? Aren't they going to share in the good this is going to bring you? Oughtn't you to think of them?"
"You're quite right, young man," the prebendary agreed—"quite right. My dear wife for many years has shared with me in this desire to settle down at Glenforth. My two boys, too, will be able to make their appearance at the 'Varsity under much better auspices when I am in receipt of a larger stipend."
"You're worrying yourself about nothing, Prebendary," Maurice assured him. "Who's going to say that I'm an impostor? Listen. Look at me. I am Maurice Teyl. Get that into your head. I've told you that I'm Maurice Teyl. If I'm a liar, it's not your fault. If I'm deceiving you, you can't be blamed. You've promised that Maurice Teyl shall open the bazaar. Here I am. And hand over those few words that I'm to say, please."
"Your attitude has cheered me greatly," the prebendary confessed, passing over a small sheet of typewritten paper. "Yours is the common-sense view, after all. I must think not of myself and of my disturbed mind, but of those who arc dear to me and for whose benefit I am doing this thing. I shall accept your statement. I have no real reason for suspecting that you are not Maurice Teyl. If you are ready, the car waits for us."
"Mind, there's only one thing I demand of you," Maurice stipulated. "If any one attempts to intercept me or ask questions on the way down, I rely upon your protection. I will not be interviewed. I will not be photographed."
"You can rely upon me," the prebendary promised.
"Then lead on."
THE success of the Duchess of Leicestershire's huge bazaar on behalf of certain grades of war sufferers was chronicled at length that evening and on the following morning in every newspaper of account. It was indeed a very remarkable function. The platform had been crowded with celebrities, and the hero of the occasion, whom every one was anxious to see, turned out to be not the shy, trembling wisp of humanity expected, but a moderately self-possessed, tall, boyish-looking young man, a little diffident and silent, but personable enough in his correct clothes—a gracious tribute to English customs—and not too transatlantic in his manner of speech. The Duchess was charmed with him and rewarded the shivering prebendary with the most gracious of smiles. In the anteroom, in fact, after the preliminary conversations, she excused herself for a moment and returned with a sealed packet in her hand.
"Prebendary," she whispered, "perhaps that will make the afternoon a little happier for you."
He bent to kiss her fingers reverently.
"Duchess," he faltered, "I have no words."
Afterwards they all made their way on to the platform. Maurice, if not altogether at his ease, still gave no signs of being overcome by nervousness. He listened attentively to the Duchess' few opening words, and during the momentary interval exchanged remarks with her very beautiful daughter who was seated in a chair just behind his. When at last he was called upon, he rose with a slip of paper in his hand, to which be only once referred, attempted nothing more than the few sentences which the prebendary had dictated, but spoke them pleasantly and without perceptible hesitation. The treasurer then read out the list of donations and Maurice created a furore amongst the audience and a moment's blank consternation in Mr. Crosset's mind, by rising once more to his feet and begging to be allowed to add a thousand guineas to the fund. The bazaar was then declared open and the formal proceedings were at an end.
The Duchess lost no time in expressing her satisfaction. She leaned graciously over to Maurice.
"I cannot thank you sufficiently, my dear Mr. Teyl," she said, "for your help this afternoon. The charm of your presence here has helped wonderfully, and this amazing gift has quite taken our breath away.... No, you must not go for a few minutes. We positively cannot part from you yet. Mary, will you take Mr. Teyl round and let him see a few of the stalls?"
Lady Mary was only too pleased. Maurice, as he walked down the hall by her side, decided that for once rumour had been true enough. Lady Mary was not only very beautiful, but she possessed a reassuring and most pleasant flow of small talk.
"I think you're so wonderful," she confided, "to come amongst altogether strange people and get up and speak like that, without seeming frightened. I should have gone through the floor if I'd had to say as much as a word."
"I was quaking in every limb," he confessed. "I'm a regular hayseed, you know, Lady Mary. Except when I passed through New York, I don't think I've ever seen so many people together before."
"You were brought up on a ranch, weren't you?" she asked, looking at him curiously.
"I was not only brought up on it," he replied, "but I never left it. We haven't a town of any size within a hundred miles, and the only settlements and villages near are filled with our own people."
"It sounds quite patriarchal," she murmured.
"So the prebendary remarked when he visited us," Maurice said. "Every one who comes for a week or two thinks it paradise. We've plenty of sport, and the country is beautiful, but I don't fancy many people would be content to settle down and live there for the rest of their lives."
"Are you going to play polo or hunt here?" she asked.
"I haven't made up my mind yet," he evaded. "Ought I to do anything about these stalls?"
"Nothing at all. You'd only be pounced upon by all these grasping people, and made to buy a lot of things that wouldn't be of the slightest use to you. You've already given such a magnificent donation that it really isn't necessary. I think that we ought to look after you, instead. Wouldn't you like a drink, after that speech of yours?"
He looked at her admiringly.
"My, but you English girls are full of common sense!" he exclaimed.
She led him to a little bar, as yet undiscovered by the public. He chose a very secluded corner, into which, after a moment's hesitation, she suffered herself to be led.
"I believe you can have anything in the world you want here," she told him, "because all the drinks have been given us."
"Do you mind if I have a whisky and soda then?" he enquired. "It might stop my shaking at the knees."
"I'll agree, if you don't mind my having a rose cocktail," she bargained. "It's awfully early, I know, but I hate tea. Tell me about your daily life out in California, and what you thought of New York, and how you enjoyed the voyage and everything."
They talked together for a considerable time. It was early, apparently, for the visitors to the bazaar to feel the need of refreshment, and no one penetrated to their retired corner. When at last they returned, and Maurice had taken his leave, the Duchess, who was in excellent spirits, drew her daughter to one side.
"Well, my dear," she said, "I was glad to see you keep the shy young man entertained for so long. How did you get on with him?"
"Very well indeed," Lady Mary declared enthusiastically. "I like him very much, but—"
"I don't think I should call him shy."
Maurice, waiting for his car at the entrance, was aware of hurrying footsteps behind him, and looked around to find the prebendary, slightly out of breath, standing by his side.
"My young friend," the latter said earnestly, "I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have done splendidly. No one could have performed the function in a more graceful or sympathetic manner."
"I'm surely glad that you're satisfied," Maurice replied. "I hope that there won't be any trouble about that thousand guineas. I forgot to ask Mr. Crosset how much I was to put Teyl down for."
"Our good friend was worried for a moment," the prebendary confessed, with a smile, "but he is allowed to distribute a certain amount in charities every year out of the estate, and this sum can well be afforded. I don't know—er—if we are likely to meet again, but I sought you out to offer you my grateful thanks, and to tell you that I have my living. The Duchess presented me with the documents before the opening of the bazaar."
"That's bully!" Maurice declared, with a smile. "And don't you worry, Prebendary, about any slight irregularity there may have been. No one is the worse off for our little intrigue. The Duchess got what she wanted, the charity is the better off by a thousand guineas, and you and your wife are settled for life."
"I scarcely know how to approach the subject," the prebendary acknowledged doubtfully, "but I feel that I should be happier if you would allow me to offer you some trifling form of remuneration."
Maurice shook his head.
"Prebendary," he promised, "if ever I am hard up, I will come to you."
"I shall pray most earnestly for your success in life," the prebendary assured him, as they shook hands.
The car, which had brought Maurice, drew up a few yards away. Maurice took a last farewell of the prebendary and descended the steps to find Jennings waiting for him upon the pavement.
"Can I have a word with you, sir?" he begged.
"Get in," Maurice directed. "I don't like the look of these people hurrying out from the bazaar."
Jennings obeyed, and they drove off in safety.
"I thought I'd better let you know, sir," the man confided, "that I'm afraid you're best away from the hotel for the present. The gentlemen you noticed who tried to stop you on the steps were newspaper men, I think. They came down just in front of us in a car. The news that you were opening the bazaar seems to have spread all around. There's a small crowd in Arlington Street, and as many as could get in the hotel are hanging about the corridors. The management have done all they could to keep the people out, but Mr. Belotsky told me to say that short of sending for the police they were becoming powerless. I thought perhaps you would prefer to return to Garden Street for the present."
"In this kit!" Maurice groaned.
"The silk hat and morning costume is worn so much in London, sir, that you will probably not be noticed," Jennings assured him. "Besides, you could change as soon as you got to your room."
"Very well, Jennings, tell him to go to Number 26a, Garden Street," Maurice acquiesced.
They arrived in due course at that rather melancholy neighbourhood. Maurice stepped out, uncomfortably aware of Mrs. Bodham's eager inspection from the dining-room window.
"You needn't wait," he said. "I shall be round some time to-morrow, Jennings."
The men touched their hats and the car rolled off. Maurice looked after it a little longingly. After all, those rooms at the Ritz were very comfortable. It was very pleasant to press a bell and surround oneself with every conceivable luxury. Then he felt a touch upon his arm. Lucy had descended from an omnibus and was standing upon the pavement beside him, wrapped in a mackintosh, her shoes splashed with mud.
"You've been using that man's car," she exclaimed accusingly.
"My dear," he reminded her, "there was the bazaar."
"You did it—you really mean that you did it?" she gasped, realising his unusual attire.
He followed her into the ball and took off his hat in rather shamefaced fashion.
"Of course I did it," he answered, "and the prebendary has his living."
She glanced up at him wonderingly. He had taken her rather limp arm and they were mounting the stairs together.
"You actually dared to wear that man's clothes and make a speech in his name!"
"Only a few words," he reminded her. "Remember, there was nothing in it for me, Lucy. I only intended to give the old prebendary a leg up in the world. Come and sit by the fire in my sitting room, while I get rid of these beastly clothes. Then we'll sally out somewhere and have a cheap dinner."
"Cheap! You!" she scoffed, suffering herself all the same to be led to the sitting room. "If I made you go to a place where the food was cheap, you'd only order a bottle of expensive wine or something. You haven't any sense of money, Andrew. That's what's the matter with you. I've a good mind to take away what you have left and allow you so much a day."
He grinned. The idea presented amusing possibilities. Then he wheeled up an easy-chair to the fire.
"You shall take care of all the money when we're married," he promised.
"We're not going to be married," she replied firmly. "Nothing would induce me to plunge into matrimony with a shiftless husband."
There was the sound of voices outside, followed by a knock at the door. Mrs. Bodham, pale and evidently greatly disturbed, presented herself.
"I beg your pardon, I'm sure, Mr. Maurice," she said, "but this gentleman's been waiting to see you for over an hour. He says he's from—from Scotland Yard."
MAURICE glanced at the card which his visitor had tendered, glanced at the visitor himself with much distaste, but finally waved him to a chair.
"Mr. Richard Godson," Maurice read aloud. "Well, what can I do for you?"
The visitor laid his hat upon the table. He was a large, loosely-built man, pallid of complexion and with a general appearance of oiliness. He had small, furtive eyes, and inadequate eyebrows. His attire suggested a conflict between a natural taste for violent colours and a desire to assume a semi- professional aspect. He was not a pleasant person to look upon.
"I am very anxious, Mr. Maurice," he began, "that you should not misunderstand the nature of my visit. Let me assure you that I come as a friend."
"Thank you," was the curt reply. "I'm in the habit of choosing my own friends."
The newcomer was unabashed.
"In any case," he went on, "the few words I have to say to you arc for your private ear."
Lucy rose to her feet, but Maurice motioned her back again.
"I'm not in the least anxious to hear anything you may have to say," he declared, "but if you're going to say it, you'll say it before this young lady, or not at all."
Mr. Godson coughed and bowed towards Lucy.
"Under the circumstances, Mr. Maurice," he said, "there is, of course, nothing more to be said."
"Get on with your business," Maurice invited brusquely. "Who are you, anyway?"
"I am the head of a firm of information agents," Mr. Godson announced, with a somewhat strained attempt at dignity. "We have been consulted in various quarters, by one client in particular, concerning the identity of a supposed young American millionaire, Mr. Maurice Teyl."
"Good opening," Maurice observed. "Start on the next lap, please."
"There is a grave suspicion abroad," the visitor continued, "that Maurice Teyl himself has never left America, that the person who represented himself as Maurice Teyl on board the steamer, who has taken up his residence, or at any rate, his partial residence, at the Ritz Hotel in London here, who even ventured only this afternoon to open the Duchess of Leicestershire's bazaar at the Albert Hall, is an impostor."
"And what business of yours is it if he is?" Maurice demanded.
Mr. Godson coughed.
"I have a client," he explained, "who interests himself very much in affairs of this sort. We have accepted a commission from him to ascertain the truth as to these rumours. We have discovered, Mr. Maurice, that the suspicion referred to is founded upon fact."
"Very clever of you, I'm sure! And now for the last lap, please."
"You are probably prepared for that," was the suave but cynical rejoinder. "We are in a position to prove that you are the person who has been personating, and falsely representing himself, to be Maurice Teyl."
"Information agents, eh?" Maurice murmured, looking thoughtfully at the other man.
"That is what we call ourselves," Mr. Godson admitted. "We have been entrusted at various times with investigations by people of great consequence in the social and financial world, and I may say that we have in nearly every case brought our researches to a satisfactory conclusion."
"Including this one?" Maurice queried.
His visitor smiled—not at all a pleasant smile, and one which revealed a row of irregular and unattractive teeth.
"Including this one certainly, Mr. Maurice."
"It is very thoughtful of you," Maurice remarked, "to come here and tell me this little story. Why don't you put it before your client, tell him you have succeeded and find out what he wants to do about it?"
"We have already adopted that course."
"And what is your client's decision?"
"He has placed himself largely in our hands," Mr. Godson explained. "He has no desire to cause trouble. Enquiries of this sort interest and amuse him, and are naturally at times a source of profit."
"Coming to it at last!" Maurice muttered.
"In this case," Mr. Godson went on smoothly, "our client has no desire to be avaricious or to push matters to extremes. Our fees for expenses have amounted to a thousand pounds. Our client would be content with an honorarium of another thousand. Two thousand pounds in all, Mr. Maurice. It is not a large sum for any one to find who has been in your fortunate position for so long."
"My fortunate position?" Maurice repeated, with a puzzled frown.
"Of having had the resources of Maurice Teyl, millionaire, to draw upon," Mr. Godson explained.
Maurice threw the cigarette which he had been smoking into the fire and rose to his feet. He had been sitting for the last few minutes upon the arm of Lucy's chair.
"Mr. Godson," he said, taking up the card which lay upon the table and tearing it deliberately into small pieces, "your luck was dead in this afternoon when you found this young lady in my sitting room, for if she had not been here I should have treated you very much as I have treated your rotten piece of pasteboard. I'll have to handle you gently now," he went on, opening the door, "but you'll go down those stairs a great deal quicker than you came up. Come along!"
Mr. Godson looked hurt and a little nervous.
"I fail to understand you, sir," he rejoined. "I come to you on a professional errand, and I expect to be treated as one gentleman should treat another."
"You come to me as a damned blackmailer, and you're going to be treated as one," was the brusque retort. "This way! Down you go!"
Mr. Godson's attempt at an independent exit was frustrated. With his right hand suddenly closing upon his neck and his left knee in the small of his back, Maurice assisted the man's departure so that he completed his descent of the latter portion of the stairs in a recumbent and undignified attitude.
"Here's your hat," Maurice called down, sending it whizzing after him. "Now clear out, and if you show yourself here again, and find me alone, you'll get what you deserve."
Mr. Godson shambled as far as the front door. With his fingers on the handle, he felt braver. He turned round and faced his evictor, holding out his damaged hat.
"You'll pay for this, young fellow," he threatened. "Next time we do business it won't be a matter of two thousand pounds. Money is of no great consequence to us, I'm glad to say. Within half an hour we shall pass the information we have on to Scotland Yard, and trust to the generosity of Mr. Maurice Teyl's trustees for our reimbursement."
"Great scheme," Maurice remarked approvingly. "Get on with it."
Mr. Godson opened the front door and sent back a final volley over his shoulder.
"The warder of your prison will be the next man you try to bully," he called out. "This isn't much of a place for a young fellow who's been touching it up as you have, but it's a damned sight more comfortable than your cell will be."
He departed with a final slam of the door. Maurice made his way back to the sitting room.
"So that's that," he remarked, lighting another cigarette.
Lucy was evidently a little frightened.
"Andrew," she faltered, "it's all very well, but this is going to mean trouble for you, and it's all your own fault too."
"Oh, I guess not," was the cheerful reply. "I've been up against it worse than this."
"They'll send you to prison."
"Don't you bank on that."
"I hope you clearly understand," Lucy said severely, "that I should never dream of marrying any one who had been in prison."
"Tough luck!" Maurice murmured. "I guess I'll have to get the better of that gang then."
"It appears to me," Lucy went on, a little tearfully this time, "that the gang are likely to get the better of you. You can't put all the blame upon the purser and the prebendary and those others."
Maurice reestablished himself on the arm of her chair.
"The point is this," he expounded, "I may have worn Maurice Teyl's clothes, but I have returned them; I may have worn his jewellery, but I haven't kept any of it. It's all over at the Ritz. I've pawned nothing of his. I haven't spent a penny of any one else's money except my own. You know very well I was forced into that business on the Anderconia, and as for the bazaar, it was entirely a matter of good nature. I couldn't bear to see that dear old prebendary with his long face and ridiculous clothes pretty well in tears about his lost living. Of course I had to do what I could for him. Aren't we all in the world to help others when we find them in a tight corner? I'm not a lawyer, but where's the criminal charge against me?"
"I don't know," Lucy admitted doubtfully, "but I'm sure there is one."
"In the meantime, if I promise not to go near the Ritz to-day will you dine with me?"
"I'm so weak," she sighed. "I think it must be the food which tempts me."
MAURICE, or Mr. Andrew Maurice, as his name appeared in Mrs. Bodham's visiting book, found no difficulty in maintaining his position as that lady's favourite boarder. He was a frequent absentee from meals, but when he was present, he realised Mrs. Bodham's highest ideals of how a paying guest should behave. He was good-humoured with every one, told American stories in his pleasant drawling voice, with its slight trans-Atlantic accent, and was continually inviting his fellow boarders to share in the wine which he lavishly ordered. Although he appeared to have no occupation and indeed sallied out most mornings with a bag of golf clubs, he had several times announced his intention of taking up a position in London as soon as his vacation was over, and the idea of numbering him amongst her permanent residents became one of Mrs. Bodham's fixed ambitions.
Conversation at the breakfast table at Number 26a, Garden Street, was generally of a spasmodic nature, consisting chiefly of exclamations with appropriate comments thereon from men who were something in the City and who were bolting their meal with a newspaper doubled up in front of them.
On one particular morning, however, the exchange of amenities became more animated than usual.
"Another long article in the Express about the 'Bashful Young Plutocrat,'" a gentleman who was a clerk in a well-known firm of fruit importers observed, looking up from his paper. "Seems to be a mysterious sort of chap."
"Mysterious in what way, Mr. Hobson?" his hostess, who was always anxious to encourage general conversation, enquired.
"Well, he's here and he isn't here, all the time, if you follow what I mean," the fruit salesman explained, tapping his paper. "When the steamer left New York, for instance, he didn't seem to be on board, and it was only when they were well away that he turned up, to every one's surprise, from the second class, and claimed his suite. Then, when the steamer arrived at Southampton, and there were a crowd of people to meet him, he'd disappeared—chartered a tug and got off at Cherbourg. On Thursday afternoon again, he'd been placarded all over London to open that big bazaar at the Albert Hall, but although a suite had been taken for him at the Ritz, and his servant was supposed to have arrived, there hadn't been a sign of him. Yet, when the time comes, onto the platform at the Albert Hall he walks, if you please, opens the bazaar and disappears again. What do you think of that?"
"It certainly does sound mysterious," Mrs. Bodham conceded. "Has any one any idea where he disappears to?"
"The Express seems to take it lightly enough, but there was a much more sinister suggestion about the whole affair in the Sunday papers," another elderly gentleman remarked. "Sunday Topics declared positively that the real Maurice Teyl had never left his ranch in California, and that this fellow was nothing more nor less than an impostor."
There was a little murmur of interest, although every one appeared to have heard different versions of the same rumour.
"By-the-by," Mrs. Bodham observed, smiling sweetly upon her right-hand neighbour, "you and Miss Compston must have crossed on the same steamer. Did you see anything of him?"
"We saw him, all right," Maurice admitted, "or rather the fellow whom they said was Maurice Teyl. Not much to look at, either—a queer, frightened sort of chap, who scarcely ever came out of his rooms."
"Looked as though he had something on his conscience," Miss Compston remarked, glancing at Maurice severely.
"Well, I'll say we most of us have that," the latter drawled, "only some of us have so little conscience that we don't show it... Mrs. Bodham, I have bad news for you. Miss Compston and I will not be in for dinner."
"I shall be in," Miss Compston declared.
"To-morrow night," he reminded her, "you open at the Aldwych Theatre. To-night is the last chance you have of eating at a reasonable time, and without that flutter of excitement which—er—precedes your work upon the stage. You will eat with me at the Savoy Grill. It will be a night of celebration. Tomorrow or the next day will be the end of my vacation. You are starting work; so shall I. On the day after to-morrow, I shall begin to look for a job."
"You'll never get one," Lucy assured him calmly. "You're too lazy and too self-assured. And about to-night, how do you know I'm not dining with some one else?"
"I stole into your room and looked at your engagement book," he replied, with unblushing mendacity. "Amongst other dates—mostly with British dukes and earls—I found to-night like an oasis, unoccupied. That is why I pounced upon it."
"We'd much better dine here," Lucy suggested. "You'll be able to have another day's vacation for the price of the dinner at the Savoy Grill."
"Quite right, my dear," Mrs. Bodham approved. "If there's anything you fancy specially, I'll provide it."
"That's bully of you, Mrs. Bodham," Maurice acknowledged, "but I guess I'm a little weary of vacation. I've been used to hard work all my life. I'm beginning to feel the need of it."
"What sort of work do you think you will look for?" Mrs. Bodham enquired sympathetically.
"I shouldn't run after it, but of course if a good opening came along, I might consider the stage," he answered.
Lucy glanced at his shoulders with an appraising smile.
"You're strong," she remarked meditatively. "You might make a good scene shifter. I don't think you'd find any other opening."
He turned a little away from her.
"In 'The Piccadilly Girls' at the Broadway Theatre, New York," he began, addressing Mrs. Bodham—
"In 'The Piccadilly Girls,'" Lucy interrupted ruthlessly, "you walked on to show the crease of your trousers, and walked off as soon as they could get rid of you. You hadn't a word to say, which was perhaps lucky. If the show had run for another week you would have been fired. The other men had learned how to crease their trousers by then."
"And this is the girl whom I believed to be my friend!" Maurice groaned, as he rose from his seat with dignity. "Au revoir, Mrs. Bodham, you have seen the last of me for to-day, unless we meet on the stairs when I come home to change. I shall lunch where I golf."
Lucy was very severe with her companion that night at dinner time.
"No enquiries for me all day?" he ventured. "No rush of the police or anything of that sort? No plainclothes men from Scotland Yard with a warrant? Nothing further even from our friend, Mr. Godson?"
"There appear to have been no enquiries for you at all," she declared. "I can't imagine why, but this afternoon each time there was a ring at the bell, I expected to find that it was a policeman. You as good as promised me yesterday that this whole business would stop, and yet you must have been down to the Ritz for those clothes."
"That's so," he admitted, a little shamefacedly, "for one thing, I wanted to do you credit, and for another I thought if there was any trouble, any one waiting for me at Garden Street, I should be done out of this dinner. Besides, I played two rounds of golf, and I had to have a bath, and my legs stick out over the end at Garden Street. I have to bathe, as it were, in two parts, and it isn't comfortable."
"From what I have heard," she said sternly, "you have a cold bath once a week where you will be, before long."
He made a little grimace.
"Why remind me of unpleasant possibilities just in the middle of this excellent dinner?" he complained.
"And now," she went on, without any softening in her tone, "on the top of everything else, you tell me that the people down at your golf club have asked you to play for them against the Army. You're sure to meet some one down there who saw you at the bazaar and there will be more complications."
"I'll allow it seems just a little rash," he confessed, "but, Lucy dear, you girls don't understand how games get hold of a fellow. If you're asked to play in a golf match like that, you've just got to do it. You see, I laid the professional out again this morning, and I've already done in the secretary six and four—an international, too. They've made me a member of the club on purpose to play, and I'm going to take on the Army champion. That reminds me, I'll have to get another golf suit."
"From the Ritz again?"
"Why, of course. I can't seem to keep my fingers off that fellow's belongings. I like Teyl's clothes, I like his jewellery, I like his taste in ties. There's a golf suit of his, plain brown with very baggy plus-fours, I've got my eye on for to-morrow."
"If you followed my advice, or kept your promise," she said severely, "you wouldn't go near the Ritz again. You seem to be nothing but a scatter-brain lately. Surely you must realise the risk you're running."
"There may be some risk," he acknowledged, "but it's lots of fun. You should see me dodge the newspaper-men."
"It's a silly boy's trick," she declared. "You know perfectly well before many days are past you're bound to be in trouble."
"I'll admit there's likely to be an explosion," he reflected, "but I still don't see what they can do to me. If any one prosecutes, it would have to be that chap Crosset, Teyl's lawyer, but he couldn't do a damned thing to me. Don't spoil the last few days of my holiday, Lucy."
She bit her lip.
"You're incorrigible," she declared.
"Marry me, and I'll settle down."
"Marry you!" she repeated scornfully. "You admit you've got very nearly to the end of your vacation money, and you haven't even begun to look out for a job! If ever I marry any one, it will be a man who is able to support me. I don't want to stay on the stage all my life."
"Mercenary little brute!" he sighed. "I'll support you, all right."
"Well," he confided, "if the worst came to the worst, I could get a job any day as a golf professional. We could have one of those jolly little cottages near the golf house, with a garden, and you could keep chickens, and get up early in the morning, and I'd teach you golf."
"Thank you," she declined icily. "I don't consider myself a snob, but I'm not going to marry a golf professional."
"You Britishers!" he scoffed. "Out with us, a golf professional's as good as any one else."
Her face remained clouded. He could see that she was genuinely dejected, and he leaned across the table. His voice was suddenly softer.
"Please, Lucy," he pleaded, "I'm not quite such a dud as you seem to think me. Give me another few days. If I can come to you then, and show you that I can put down enough to buy the furniture, and start off all right, and that I've got a job with salary enough to keep us, will you marry me?"
"An honest job?" she enquired eagerly.
"My child," he assured her, "this is where the talking is good. You don't know much about me, but I can promise you that I have never robbed any one of a cent in my life, my finger prints have never been taken, I'm a stranger to the whole of the police force, no magistrate has ever asked me searching questions from over the tops of his spectacles. The pages of my back life are virgin white. As my past has been, so shall my present and future be. I pledge my word to that."
He was really irresistible in his more serious moments, and she laughed at him fondly across the table. She was looking very pretty in her simple but tasteful clothes, and the wine had brought a soft flush of colour to her cheeks, sometimes a little too pale since her arrival in London.
"You really are a dear, Andrew!" she said. "I'll marry you all right, if only you can show me that you mean to settle down and get something to do. I'll even go on working for a time to help things along, if it is necessary."
He held her hand frankly across the table.
"That's fine," he declared. "Now listen, sweetheart. Within a week, I will show you a marriage licence and provide you with a home."
There were very rare tears in her eyes as they met his.
"Then I shall be very happy," she whispered.
MAURICE walked, the centre of a little crowd of golfers, from the last green towards the bar at Ranelagh. He was between Captain Lord Arthur Somerton, brother, as he had discovered, of Lady Mary, and Major Forest, Army champion, whom he had just defeated—-five and three.
"It seems absurd, Maurice," the latter remarked, "that you should never have done any good in the championship over on the other side, or played in any of the big matches. Surely you're up to international form."
"No one seems to have thought so," Maurice assured him. "Besides, somehow or other, I seem to be out of the way of that sort of golf."
"Clay has just given me your card," Lord Arthur observed. "Sixty-nine, as the course is to-day, is marvellous."
"I had some lucky putts," Maurice confessed.
They passed through the arched way and came to the lawn in front of the bar. Lady Mary, who was seated at a small table, rose and strolled towards them. She nodded to her brother and held out her hand to Maurice, whom she eyed with an air of quizzical surprise.
"Congratulations," she murmured, dropping her voice significantly. "I already knew that you were an orator and a person of extraordinary will power—the way you overcame your shyness, I mean—but I had no idea that you were a wonderful golfer too. I watched you half the way round."
"Why, have you met Mr. Maurice?" her brother asked, a little surprised.
"Just for a few minutes at mother's bazaar. I don't really feel that I know him very well," Lady Mary continued, "but I am going to ask him, before he has that drink—you others can go and order it—to stay and talk with me for a moment."
"Whisky and soda?" Major Forest invited.
"If you please. And now, Lady Mary?" Maurice added interrogatively, as the others turned away.
She motioned him to walk by her side and led the way towards a hedge-enclosed path.
"Don't you think," she enquired simply, "that you are asking for a great deal of trouble?"
"Why, I don't seem to be finding any just now, Lady Mary," Maurice replied, with one of his irresistible smiles.
"But you stupid person," she exclaimed, "what are you doing—what are you doing it for? You're absolutely too blatant. Every one is beginning to realise that you have come over here either to rob us or have a joke against us. That's all very well for a day or two, but you can't go on with it, you know."
"What's coming to me now?" Maurice enquired ruefully. "I seem to be getting into heavy weather."
"And I should think you deserved it," she declared, in a tone which she meant to be severe. "Coming and opening bazaars indeed! Who are you, Mr. Maurice?"
"I'm beginning to wonder some," he sighed.
"If you started this for amusement," she continued earnestly, "well, you have amused yourself sufficiently. Let it go at that. If you are what they call in your country just a sort of Raffles crook, well, believe me when I tell you most earnestly that you have worked this game for all it is worth. My mother had a visitor last evening, and she has gone round to Scotland Yard this morning to meet the Chief Commissioner. Prebendary Dorkins and Mr. Crosset are summoned to the house for four o'clock. In plain words, mother believes you to be an impostor."
"There seem to be a lot of people kind of mistrusting me," Maurice complained.
"And don't you deserve it?" she demanded.
He looked down at her. Perhaps by accident she was walking quite close to him. Their eyes met, and they both laughed.
"Perhaps I do," he confessed.
"I wanted to have you admit that. I don't know why I'm such an idiot, but I've been waiting about to warn you of what's going on. You've either had lots of fun, Mr. Maurice, and it's time to own up, or, if you're out for the other thing, the game's finished. Take my advice and get away as quickly as you can. Don't bother about that whisky and soda, because between you and me, I don't think you'll ever have it. Mother telephoned down here directly after lunch. If she's getting her own way—and she generally docs—well, they're ready for you, that's all. Mother's a dear good woman," Lady Mary concluded, with a sigh, "but she hasn't just that sense of humour which would help her to appreciate your little undertaking the other day. You see that avenue?"
"You follow it for about fifty yards, and you come to the professional's shed. Outside that professional's shed your car is waiting. I went down and saw the man and ordered him there. Now, if you take my advice, you will get to it as fast as you can, jump in, drive to some secluded spot and stay there until this is all over. I'll hang around here, so that they'll think you're still with me, until you've had a fair start, then I'll just tell them that you had a message or something, and left by the Barnes gates."
"Are there many English girls like you, Lady Mary?" Maurice asked.
"I don't see why your men ever come over to America for wives, then," Maurice confided.
"Thank you.... Down the avenue," she pointed out. "Just outside the professional's shop. Don't hang around gossiping with Clay; get clear of the gates."
Maurice, who had never visited a Latin country, but who must have been something of a courtier at heart, bent very low indeed over her fingers. In a few moments he was on his way to London. Lady Mary, with an abstracted look in her eyes, was lingering in the privet-hedged walk....
"The Ritz," he directed the chauffeur. "Get her going until we're clear of this place."
They shot down the broad avenue at a speed which set the gate-keepers thinking. As far as Hammersmith Bridge their pace was scandalous; afterwards they proceeded in a more leisurely fashion. At the hotel, Maurice had luck. Entering at a quiet moment, he reached the luggage lift—the attendant of which was rapidly accumulating enough in tips to buy a small annuity— unnoticed, and was transported without an instant's delay to the third floor. The attendant scouted down the corridor, returned with good news, and Maurice gained the sanctuary of his room without incident. Jennings appeared immediately to welcome him. He was obviously very glad indeed to see his master, but his expression was troubled.
"If you'll excuse my saying so, sir," he announced, "we're very near the end of this little game. Things can't go on much longer."
"Pour me out a whisky and soda, Jennings, and bear up," Maurice enjoined. "It's my funeral, not yours. I've just had to leave a perfectly good drink in the bar at Ranelagh and run for my life. What's your pressing trouble?"
Jennings, before replying, obeyed orders and tendered the whisky and soda. Then he began his story.
"There have been a stream of people here the whole of the morning, sir, and most of the afternoon up till now," he announced impressively. "Some of them have been very awkward customers. There has been a most unpleasant person from an information agency—name of Godson—who assured me that you would be in prison before nightfall. There have been two gentlemen from Scotland Yard, the Duchess of Leicestershire's lawyer, whom I had very hard work indeed to get rid of, and between fifty and a hundred social visitors."
"Sorry I wasn't here when Godson called," Maurice murmured.
"I will only ask you, sir," Jennings continued, in a tone of despair, "to look at this mail. Some of the envelopes may contain circulars, of course, and others may be from tradespeople, but there are at least five hundred letters. Until I removed the receiver, the telephone never ceased to ring. Newspaper men camp outside in the corridor, photographers have left their apparatus here and spend their time in the bar waiting."
"Sounds pretty strenuous for everybody," Maurice admitted. "I hope you're getting something out of it."
Jennings coughed discreetly.
"I have accepted gifts which I must admit amount to a considerable sum; on the other hand, I have refused ridiculous offers to disclose your exact whereabouts at any given time. If you will excuse my being emphatic on this subject, sir, I wish to repeat that the game has undoubtedly reached its limit. I would suggest that you either capitulate or catch the night boat to Paris. You can't escape these people any longer. Why, two of the journalists have taken rooms in the hotel."
There was a faintly ferocious light in Maurice's eyes. He had the air of a hunted animal, nearing its last refuge, but determined to die game.
"I'll give them a run for their money before I've finished, Jennings," he promised, "police and all. Turn on the bath and put out some evening clothes. I'll dine downstairs in the restaurant."
"You wouldn't think of doing that, sir!" he protested.
"Wouldn't I?" Maurice rejoined. "It's time I had some fun out of this. I'll teach these fellows what it means to hunt me as though I were a rat and they were the ferrets. I'll give them a run for their money in the open."
Jennings came from a race of men who were born for obedience, and Jennings obeyed. Maurice himself superintended the bolting of the outside doors and extinguished the lights in all except the sitting-room and bedroom.
"Turn on my bath, Jennings," he ordered. "Put me out some underclothes and a warm dressing-gown, and make up the fire. We'll have a snug hour or two before I face them, anyhow."
AT a few minutes past half-past eight that evening, a young man, very correctly attired, of pleasing and not undistinguished appearance, strolled into the restaurant of the Ritz, which was already a little crowded, and accosted the head waiter. The latter leaned towards him, with the list of tables engaged in his hand.
"What name, sir?" he enquired.
"Teyl," Maurice replied distinctly, "Maurice Teyl. I haven't reserved a table, but perhaps you can find me one somewhere. I'm staying in the hotel."
The sheet almost slipped from the man's quivering fingers. For the moment, although he was reputed to have the savoir faire of an ambassador, he almost lost his nerve. To his credit be it said, however, that he recovered himself immediately.
"A table for one, Mr. Teyl. Certainly, sir. Very glad to have the honour of your presence. I will give you the Duke of Dorset's table. I believe his Grace is out of town for the week-end."
He led his distinguished visitor through a crowd of unsuspecting diners to a corner table, commanding a good view of the room. Maurice detached a five-pound note from others in his pocket and proffered it with an apologetic gesture.
"I'd be glad if you'd keep a still tongue about my being in the room," he ventured. "Forget it, and there'll be another of these to-morrow."
"I will do all I can, sir," the man assented, with some hesitation, "but you will understand that your presence in the hotel has created a great deal of interest. There will probably be some one in the restaurant who will recognise you; some one may even have seen you come in. Personally, you may rely upon me to say nothing."
"That's all right, then! Now give me the best dinner you can for a man who has played two rounds of golf and is cursed with some appetite. Cut out the caviar and the rich sauces—anything else in the world. I'll drink as much as I care for of a bottle of champagne—I'll leave the brand to you—and I'll start with a double Martini, demi sec."
"I'll take the liberty, sir, of composing a little menu myself," the maître d'hôtel promised.
Maurice leaned back in his chair, sipped his cocktail and glanced round at the smart crowd who filled the room, half curiously and half with a shrinking return of his natural diffidence. He heard his own name at one of the adjacent tables, and realised that without a doubt many of the people present were responsible for some of the cards and notes of invitation which were piled upon his table. No one took any particular notice of him, however, and he remained to the end of his meal alone and unmolested. He enjoyed his dinner, which was an excellent one, drank moderately of the wine, of which he also approved, signed the bill, left behind him a more than adequate tip, and finally rose from his place an hour and a half after his entrance, without having encountered a single glance of anything more than casual interest. Upon the threshold, however, the maître d'hôtel met him with a concerned expression upon his face.
"I am sorry, sir," he announced, in a low tone. "I have managed to keep the fact of your presence entirely secret amongst the guests in the restaurant, but it's got about outside. These press gentlemen will nose out anything. And they are all there waiting for you."
He pointed to a little group of men outside. Maurice shrugged his shoulders.
"I'll allow that's not your fault, maître d'hôtel," he admitted cheerfully. "You've given me an excellent dinner. You'll probably see me here tomorrow night."
"When you have gone, sir," the man enquired, "may I announce that you have honoured us?"
"If you like," Maurice assented resignedly.
He approached the enemy. An appointed spokesman of the little gathering in the vestibule accosted him as he passed along the corridor.
"Mr. Teyl," he said, "may I have a few words with you on behalf of my paper, the Courier? These other gentlemen, too, would be glad of a brief interview, now that we have had the good fortune to find you."
"What do you want to talk to me about?" Maurice demanded. "I'm not a soldier or a sailor, or a boxer, or even a film star. I haven't done a darned thing in life to interest any one. I'm just an American citizen on a holiday, and if I've got a hobby at all, it's to be left alone."
The man who had accosted him shook his head.
"These are days, sir," he explained, with a smile, "when, to use a colloquialism, money talks. You are reputed to be the richest young man in the world, and if we are a little insistent now, you must remember that you have been playing hide-and-seek with us for some time. The public has worked itself up into a state of unusual interest in you and your doings. So much so that there are a good many rumours about which, in your own interests, should be dispelled."
"I wish the public would mind its own business," Maurice grumbled.
"There isn't one of my profession," the other replied, with a smile, "who doesn't hear that said pretty often, but all the same it is a case of supply and demand, and what the public demands it is our job to supply. Here we are, and if you'll excuse my saying so, we're not to be denied. The whole noxious crowd of us have got you this time. I'm afraid you'll have to talk, and it is much better done pleasantly, and sooner over."
Maurice shrugged his shoulders.
"Come right up to my rooms, sir," he invited. "Your confrères can follow."
They stuck to him like wax. Those who couldn't crowd into the lift kept pace with him by sprinting up the stairs. They knew the way quite as well as he did, and they formed a little bodyguard for him along the corridor until he reached his rooms. Arrived there, Maurice summoned a waiter.
"Gentlemen," he said, "I hope you will all have coffee and liqueurs with me. Coffee and brandy for me, Jules. Take the orders from the other gentlemen. Better bring a bottle of whisky too, a box of cigars and some more cigarettes."
There was a little murmur of relief. After all, then, this was not to be the tussle they had feared. The waiter departed on his mission, and Maurice indicated chairs.
"If you will excuse me for one moment, gentlemen," he begged, "I'll change into a dinner jacket—what we call a Tuxedo over on the other side. I find these long coats you wear over here a little uncomfortable."
He left the room with a careless nod, apparently unconscious of the fact that two of the younger men had slipped from their places and were preparing to guard the corridor. He passed rapidly through his whole suite of rooms into a narrow private passage which ran out to the fire escape, opened the door and swung over the rail on to the topmost of the iron steps, ran lightly down one flight and climbed through an open window into a darkened room on the floor below. Here he found Jennings awaiting him, with a dinner jacket, black overcoat and black tie.
"You locked all the doors, Jennings, on the outside?" he asked, as he changed quickly.
"Every one of them, sir, the moment the waiter had left," the man acquiesced. "You must remember, however, that it can only mean a few minutes, as the telephone and bells are all in order."
"Quite enough for me," Maurice replied, stepping back to the window. "Here goes."
He glanced cautiously around, descended the other two flights of iron steps to a yard below, and emerged into Arlington Street. A moment later, he was leaning back in a taxicab.
"The Aldwych Theatre," he directed.
MAURICE, from the front of his box at the Aldwych Theatre, at the close of the second act of the "new and original" musical comedy in which Lucy was appearing, tried to impart a little genuine enthusiasm to the somewhat meagre applause. From the first, however, he knew that it was hopeless. During the interval, he strolled out to the lounge adjoining the refreshment room and sank into an easy-chair. A small man who had been drinking in unconvivial solitude, at the bar, first turned and stared at him, then crossed the room with his tumbler in his hand.
"Hullo, young creased pants!" he exclaimed.
"Hullo, Mr. Lenny Levy," Maurice rejoined. "What are you doing over on this side?"
"Just looking round," the latter confided. "Still out of a job?"
"Take my advice, young fellow, and go on resting, as far as the stage is concerned. Lucky you ain't in this bum show, anyway!"
"Is it so bad?" Maurice enquired.
"Rotten," was the emphatic reply. "Won't run a week. They got me here to see if I'd buy the American rights. I wouldn't give a dollar for them."
Maurice was not unduly depressed.
"Miss Compston doesn't seem to have any luck," he remarked.
"Have a drink," the other invited.
"That's very good of you. I'll have a whisky and soda."
The barman, who was suffering from lack of custom, brought the drinks himself. As soon as he had departed, the little man looked around in a mysterious manner as though to be sure they were alone. He drew his chair nearer to Maurice.
"Look here, young fellow," he said, "I don't wish you any particular harm."
"Well, I'm glad to hear that, anyway," Maurice acknowledged, somewhat taken aback.
"You can't act for nuts, and though you don't look exactly poverty-stricken, if ever you've had to rely upon the stage for a living, I guess you must have been good and hard up against it. All the same, you don't seem to me like a crook—not one of the regulars. Don't get me like that, anyway."
"Mr. Levy," Maurice assured him impressively, "I am not a crook."
"Well, you seem to have set a few people guessing. I'll be straight with you, young fellow. I've nothing against you, as I know of, and the other folks don't count any with me. I've had a bum sort of guy around at my hotel asking me questions about you—said he ran a firm of private investigation agents."
"Mr. Godson!" Maurice exclaimed. "A very pleasant fellow! I threw him down a flight of stairs last time we met."
Mr. Levy looked admiringly at his companion's physique.
"If I'd been built like you, young man," he declared, "there are many I should've treated that way. In any case, I could only tell this fellow what I knew, and that wasn't much. I admitted you'd acted in my theatre and were a friend of Miss Compston's. They've got it up against you, though."
"They didn't happen to mention what my particular misdemeanour was, did they?" Maurice enquired.
"If you wouldn't use such blasted long words," Lenny Levy grumbled, "you and I might get on a little better. The idea seemed to be that you'd been going about under a false name, and I guess roping in the stuff by false pretences. They're on your tracks, anyhow. There's some fuss coming, I should say."
Maurice nodded gloomily.
"Very kind of you, Mr. Levy," he acknowledged. "I guess I'd better clear out of town for a few days."
"Make it to-night," the other suggested. "From something that guy said, I guess they're pretty hot on your trail. As I told you before, young fellow," he added, looking steadily into the bottom of his glass, with the desired result, "I have nothing against you. You earned your twenty dollars a week with me, and that's more than most of them did, but where there's money around, I'm a starter, and if it pays these people to have me repeat to some big bugs tomorrow exactly what we two know to be the truth, why I don't reckon I'm doing anything shabby or underhand."
"That I'm sure you're not," Maurice agreed.
"They seem to want to prove that you and the guy who was in my chorus are the same chap. That's where I come in; that's where they want what they call my evidence."
"You give it," Maurice advised, smiling. "It won't hurt me any. You let them have the truth, and as much of it as they want."
Mr. Levy was at this juncture summoned away to confer with the management, and Maurice returned to his box. There was very little improvement in the show, and a certain air of depression about the stage door where, at the conclusion of the performance, he met Lucy.
"I didn't tell you you could come," she reminded him severely.
"I stayed away for the first act."
"A box too! Are you never going to learn how to take care of your money?"
He shook his head.
"I never shall," he admitted. "That's why I want you to make haste and get ready to come and take care of it for me."
"How much have you left?" she asked him bluntly. He paused for a moment. His thoughts were travelling back to the afternoon in New York, when Mr. Bullivant had placed before him those bewildering sheets of figures.
"I'd hate to tell you," was his final acknowledgment.
"I thought you would," she sighed. "All the same, I was feeling desperate. I had to ask you."
"Anyway, I've enough to stand a little supper," he ventured.
She suddenly changed her attitude.
"Very well—if you really have," she yielded wearily. "We'll go upstairs at Romano's. I'm tired—tired of these wretched shows."
"It's the last one you'll ever be in," he assured her....
They found a table in a dim corner of the balcony, and Maurice, allowed a free hand by his companion for the first time, ordered oysters, champagne, grilled bacon and mushrooms, and various other luxuries. Lucy seemed to have given up protests—to be showing signs of losing her courage.
"I shall go down to the country when this is over and finish with this miserable business," she declared. "In a good show and with a decent part, life on the stage is all very well. In a show like this, one feels ashamed all the time. I've nothing to do worth doing, no dress to wear worth wearing. How much would you be able to earn, Andrew, as a golf professional?"
"The way I figure it out, never less than four hundred a year."
"As much as that really?" she exclaimed eagerly.
"Not reckoning what you might make out of the chickens. I tell you what, Lucy, if you'll marry me to-morrow, I'll promise you that it shall never be less than four hundred a year."
Perhaps because she was so tired, her face seemed very soft in the subdued light. Her eyes shone into his.
"Andrew dear," she said, "I know I must sound awfully mercenary, but I'm not really, and you're such a baby about living seriously and earning money. I couldn't marry you just for the sake of being more comfortable, unless I felt—unless I knew that you meant it, and that you wouldn't have to be worried and anxious all the time. I was a horrid little snob the other day, but I don't mind a bit how you earn your living as long as you can do it without anxiety. It isn't the money I care about so much. You know that."
"Do you care for me enough to marry me?" he begged, leaning over until their heads almost touched.
It was suddenly she who seemed the timid one. Through the pallor of her cheeks, utterly destitute of any touch of make-up, came a soft stream of colour.
"Andrew, you know that I really do," she whispered. "I think you're a dear, and I'm very fond of you."
He held her hands tightly; his lips almost brushed hers. Then he leaned back in his chair and gave a further order to the waiter.
"I don't know much about this marrying business," he admitted, "but there's such a thing as a special license, isn't there?"
"I'm not going to let you waste your money on anything of that sort," she laughed. "I'll tell you what to do in the morning. Mrs. Bodham will find out for me."
"And how long shall I have to wait then?"
"Perhaps," he murmured, under his breath.
The remainder of the supper was a very joyous meal. Lucy seemed at last to have abandoned her depression and to have found some new sort of faith in her companion which helped her to forget all her anxieties. She accepted his word as to the possibilities of their future and made only one reference to the financial side of it.
"I think it would be much nicer to live in the country until you are able to get a post," she suggested. "I can really keep house on very little there, and you can practise your golf."
"We might perhaps manage to travel for a short time first, before we settle down?" he ventured.
She shook her head.
"Too expensive nowadays, I'm afraid. We must keep a little money in hand, in case there is any delay in your getting a post."
"Well, we'll see," he declared hopefully. "There's a lawyer chap here who knows all about my affairs. We'll talk to him to-morrow. Things may pan out even a little better than I thought, and money goes a long way over here."
She leaned across the table and looked up at him earnestly.
"There's just one thing, Andrew, that you must promise me," she insisted. "You must please give up these mysterious visits of yours to the Ritz, and have nothing more to do with Maurice Teyl's clothes or belongings or anything of the sort. I understand perfectly how you were led into it on the steamer and I don't know that I blame you, and I suppose it was all right opening that bazaar. You did it for some one else's sake, anyhow. But please, for my sake, drop it altogether now. Will you promise me that?"
"I will," he acquiesced emphatically. "To-morrow you shall come along with me and I'll wind things up finally, and after that, unless you say so, I won't go back to the Ritz again."
"Now you have given me your word," she declared, raising her glass to her lips, and letting her fingers stray across the table, "I am perfectly happy."
A VERY harrowed-looking Jennings was waiting for his master when Maurice returned to his little sitting-room at Number 26a, Garden Street an hour or so later.
"I am sorry, sir," he explained, "but I was compelled to take the liberty of coming round. If you will pardon my saying so, things have reached a crisis."
"That doesn't bother me any," Maurice declared cheerfully. "Tell me the worst."
"Bishop Radlett has arrived from New York, sir, and is staying at the hotel. It appears that he was cabled for by Mr. Crosset. He was accompanied, I believe, sir, by a gentleman from American police headquarters."
"Item of general news number one," Maurice remarked, without any signs of dismay. "Proceed."
"Prebendary Dorkins and Mr. Crosset have both called during the evening, sir, and have spent several hours with the Bishop. They were very much distressed."
"Wanted to see me, eh?"
Jennings shook his head.
"I don't think they expected to, sir. They appear to have come to the conclusion that you are—pardon me, sir—not yourself, and that you have cleared out to escape trouble. They wanted me to take an inventory of the clothes and jewellery to see what was missing. I promised to do so within the next twenty-four hours."
"A somewhat unpleasant-looking gentleman of the name of Godson, sir, who said he was the head of a firm of information agents, seems interested in the affair, and has been asking a great many questions. He brought a little Jew gentleman around this evening in the hope that he might be able to identify you. The manager of the hotel has been up once or twice, and seems very much upset. In short, there has been a great deal of commotion. There are more newspaper-men round than ever. I don't know whether you saw the evening papers, sir, but one of them has a long paragraph headed, 'Alleged Impersonation of an American Millionaire at a West End Hotel.'"
Maurice helped himself to whisky and soda and poured out one for Jennings. He took it over to him and patted him on the shoulder.
"Don't you worry, Jennings," he assured him. "I'm through with my little game. To-morrow I am going to straighten out everything. I'm engaged to be married, Jennings. You must drink my health."
"I'm sure I wish you every happiness, sir," the man declared. "Would it be the young lady to whom we were attentive on the steamer—Miss Compston?"
"To be sure! Who else should it be?"
"A very charming young lady she always seemed to me, sir," Jennings ventured.
"I'm going to give her the surprise of her life tomorrow. You've kept mum, Jennings? You've given nothing away?"
"I've obeyed instructions entirely, sir," the man replied. "I've answered no questions one way or the other. I pointed out that it was not my duty. They're all coming round again though to-morrow. The Bishop has taken possession of your rooms, and I think they're going to have a sort of meeting there in the salon. I forgot the gentleman from the steamship company, sir. He called with the purser. The purser seemed very depressed, sir. He was very anxious for a word with you privately."
"Don't you worry any more, Jennings," his master enjoined. "Get along now and expect me around tomorrow. Getting late for this respectable household."
"You won't come back to-night, sir?" Jennings suggested wistfully. "The thing's got to be faced, and I thought it would be a good idea for them, when they arrived, to find you established there."
"Not on your life! I've had a happy evening, and I'm not going to have it spoilt. Besides, it's too late. Come along, and I'll let you out."
They tiptoed their way down the staircase, and Maurice withdrew the chain from the front door.
"You'll pardon my saying one word more, sir," Jennings begged.
"Make it short then."
"You're really serious, sir, when you assure me that you're going to clear the whole matter up tomorrow? I ask your pardon, sir, if I seem persistent, but it's enough to drive a man crazy, the way they're badgering me all the time with questions. The Bishop professed not to recognise me when he arrived, and I think that has made the others suspicious about me too. I know they've cabled to Mountain Springs to know how long I've been in your service."
"We're coming out into the open to-morrow, sure, Jennings. Tell me at what time these people are going to gather round?"
"About half-past eleven, I understand, sir. They're going to hold a sort of informal meeting in your sitting room and decide exactly what action to take."
"At a quarter to twelve," Maurice promised, "you can count upon seeing me."
A much relieved Jennings bade his master a respectful good night, and, turning up his coat collar, hailed a passing taxicab.
Maurice, arrived once more in his sitting room, threw himself into his easy-chair for a final cigarette. He had scarcely ensconced himself comfortably, however, before there was a timid knocking at the door. He turned his head sharply.
"Come in," he invited.
The door was opened and closed again softly. Maurice stared in amazement at the figure which presented itself.
"Mrs. Bodham!" he exclaimed.
The landlady advanced into the room. She was wearing a plain, thick dressing gown, apparently of dark blue flannel, which enveloped her from her throat to her slippered feet, and which was fastened to her person by a much worn girdle. Her hair, being presumably arranged for the night, was concealed beneath a shabby boudoir cap. Her face was full of trouble.
"I've been sitting up to have a word with you, sir, before I went to bed," she confided. "I thought I'd better wait until the person who was here had left."
"Why, what's the matter, Mrs. Bodham?" Maurice asked. "I'm glad to talk to you at any time, but wouldn't to-morrow have done?"
"I couldn't have slept a wink to-night, sir, if I hadn't spoken to you," was the sorrowful reply. "It's a terrible thing to happen to one who's kept herself respectable and run this establishment so that many have said it's been a credit to the whole neighbourhood. We've been visited by the police."
"Why, is that so? Mrs. Bodham—Mrs. Bodham—what have you been doing wrong?"
"I doing wrong, sir?" she repeated, with some indignation. "It isn't what I've been doing, sir. No, indeed, sir!"
"Then what did the police want with you?"
"They came to ask questions about you, Mr. Maurice, and from the way they asked them, I'm afraid there's trouble about."
"Seems to me they're an inquisitive lot over here," Maurice sighed, without any marked signs of discomposure. "Guess they're after my passport or something of the sort."
"Mr. Maurice," his landlady persisted earnestly, "you're a light-hearted young gentleman and you treat everything the same way, but to have the police on the premises is a serious thing for any one who's tried to keep her house respectable as I have all these years. If it gets about, it will do me harm. I'm that worried I couldn't sleep, which is why I sat up for you. Will you tell me, Mr. Maurice, if there's anything the police can have against you—if they can take you to court, for instance, and declare that they found you staying here?"
"Take me to court?" Maurice scoffed good-humouredly. "Not on your life, Mrs. Bodham. I've set some people guessing a good bit, I'll confess, but it's their own fault."
"You're not in any real trouble then, Mr. Maurice?"
"There is probably no young man of my age in London," he assured her earnestly, "who is farther away from trouble than I am. Added to which, when I tell you that to-night Miss Compston has promised to marry me—well, you can be pretty sure that I'm not thinking of breaking the laws here or anywhere else."
Mrs. Bodham was almost—though not quite—at ease in her mind again.
"I wish you every happiness, I'm sure, Mr. Maurice, although we shall be sorry to lose Miss Compston—sorrier still when you go, sir—suites being rather difficult things to let nowadays—but do you mind my asking you this one question then: What did the police want?"
Maurice smiled reassuringly.
"Ah, Mrs. Bodham," he said, "that is just a little secret. You'll have to take my word until to-morrow afternoon that everything is as it should be. To-morrow afternoon, Miss Compston shall have a little chat with you, and you will understand. In the meanwhile, you can sleep soundly. It isn't going to do you a scrap of harm if ever the public gets to know that I've been staying here, and in the event of Miss Compston and I leaving, as we shall have to, I can promise you this—we'll keep the rooms on, both of us, until the end of the year, whether we're able to occupy them or not."
A great relief shone in Mrs. Bodham's face.
"I'm sure that's very kind of you, sir," she declared. "More than I expected—a great deal. And if it's really true that there isn't any serious trouble, why then I'm satisfied, I'm sure."
The church clock outside struck one. Maurice good-naturedly thrust his arm through his visitor's and escorted her to the door.
"I've a busy day to-morrow, Mrs. Bodham," he confided. "I don't think you'll be troubled with the police again. They probably only wanted to be sure that it was I who was staying here."
"You'll forgive me, sir, disturbing you so late," Mrs. Bodham begged, as she lingered upon the threshold.
"Mrs. Bodham," Maurice rejoined, "there's a man out home whom I have hated all my life. At the end of a close golf match, he topped his drive, sliced his second, holed a long iron, and won the match. If that man were here to-night, I should forgive him."
"Thank you very much, sir," Mrs. Bodham remarked, completely mystified. "And good night, sir."
THE Bishop, as seemed only fitting under the circumstances, took informal charge of the little gathering of people who had been allowed to penetrate into Maurice Teyl's suite at the Ritz. Interrupting a medley of chaotic conversation, it was he who had suggested that a brief resumé of the facts at his disposal might help them to understand a difficult and in some respects a humiliating situation. On his right hand, in Maurice's favourite easy-chair, sat the Duchess, very dignified, though a little acid, and more than a little resentful. As far away as he could place himself from her on the other side of the room was the prebendary, grey and worried, and by his side was Mr. Crosset. At the end of the table sat Mr. Milsom, the purser, with one of his directors, supported by Mr. Lenny Levy, Mr. Godson, and a representative from Scotland Yard, who had been invited to listen to the proceedings.
"The trouble which we are called upon to face," the Bishop began, as soon as he had asserted himself as shepherd of this disjointed meeting, "appears, I regret to state, to have originated with me. I, as you know, aided on the secular side by Mr. Bullivant, was appointed American supervisor over the education and future of Maurice Teyl. He was born, educated and lived all his days first with his parents and then with his grandmother out at Mountain Springs in California. I paid one visit out there to make his acquaintance, but no help was needed from me at that time. He had tutors, lay and clerical, young men to assist him in every branch of sport—the retinue, in short, of a prince. It was only when his grandmother died suddenly and the young man himself almost simultaneously attained his majority, that I came upon the scene. It was understood that he was to travel to Europe. It was his father's wish that he should do so as soon as possible after his twenty-first birthday. I wrote to him at Mountain Springs, reminding him of this fact, and very soon afterwards I received a note to say that he was in New York en route for London. I at once invited him to my club for a conference as to his plans. I would, as a matter of fact, have shown him greater hospitality, but I myself was leaving the city almost immediately upon diocesan matters. He duly made his appearance, and I addressed him, no doubt with a certain seriousness, as to the duties of his position, and endeavoured to make him realise to some extent the responsibilities attached to his enormous wealth. I did my best—I did what I thought to be my duty. It appears, however, that I went too far. The youth was obviously shy and—I confess it—probably needed more diplomatic treatment. He left, I noticed, in almost tremulous silence, and was heard to declare in the hall of the club, in terms—I regret to say—of profanity, that Europe was 'off.' He directed the taxicab driver to take him to the Grand Central Station, whence it has been presumed that he returned to California. Various telegrams and enquiries addressed there have all remained unanswered, but a special emissary, sent by my confrère Mr. Bullivant, has elicited, with much difficulty, the information that he is probably living in seclusion somewhere in that locality at one of the various farms or ranches belonging to the estate."
The speaker paused to clear his throat.
"And who then—?" the Duchess began.
The Bishop held up his hand.
"One moment, my dear Duchess," he begged. "Let us unfold this story in its logical sequence. There now steps upon the scene the young man whose misdeeds are responsible for our presence here. Mr. Milsom, will you kindly tell your story."
All eyes were turned upon the purser, who was at that moment a very miserable-looking man.
"My story is a simple enough one," he began gloomily. "The Anderconia left New York at the scheduled time, and it was reported to me as soon as we were clear that Maurice Teyl, for whom the royal suite had been reserved, was not on board, that the crowd of journalists gathered there to see him off had been obliged to disperse, and that his lawyer and secular guardian, Mr. Bullivant, who had also been on the dock, had seen nothing of him. Whilst I was considering sending a wireless, a young man came to my office, asking for a passage. He said that he had made up his mind to cross at the last moment, and had not had time to visit the office, but he was prepared to accept anything I could offer either in the first or the second class. As a matter of fact, we hadn't a berth vacant in the steamer, and I was on the point of telling him that he must go back with the pilot when I was struck by the amazing likeness between him and all the pictures I had seen of Maurice Teyl."
At this stage of the purser's narrative, the Bishop intervened.
"I should like at this juncture to ask what seems to me to be an apposite question: Did the young man announce himself as Maurice Teyl?"
The purser coughed.
"I cannot say that he did," he admitted. "On the other hand, bearing in mind the many stories one was reading in all the papers of the young man's shyness, I came to the conclusion that this probably was Maurice Teyl who had adopted an original way of escaping observation. I knew that as soon as the news spread on board that Maurice Teyl was absent, there would be a large amount of disappointment, and I decided that I was justified in assuming that this young man was Maurice Teyl, especially as his suite would otherwise have been vacant, and there wasn't another corner I could have given him. I admit that I probably exceeded my discretion. I should have forced him to declare himself as Maurice Teyl before I allowed him to claim the suite. I did not do so, however, and I have consequently felt it right to place my resignation in the hands of my directors."
"We gather then," the Bishop summarized, "that without insisting upon this young man's divulging his precise identity, you permitted him to occupy Maurice Teyl's suite, wear his clothes, enjoy the services of the valet who had been engaged for him and live at the expense of the company until you arrived at Cherbourg?"
"That is so," the purser admitted mournfully.
"Did the young man give any name at all?"
"He called himself Andrew Maurice."
There was a moment's silence. It appeared to be the opinion of the majority of those present that it was the purser who had started the whole trouble, in which assumption they were perhaps a little nearer the mark than they imagined. The Bishop again took up the running.
"You have heard Mr. Milsom's story," he continued. "You will all agree, I think, that his course of action was, to say the least of it, unfortunate. We now come to the fact that the belongings of Mr. Maurice Teyl, which were sent on board the Anderconia at New York, in charge of his servant, were, in default of any better suggestion, forwarded to this suite at the Ritz, which had been engaged for him. The so-called Maurice Teyl, who disappeared at Cherbourg, having, apparently, no desire to face the inevitable exposure of his landing at Southampton, made no immediate attempt to claim these belongings. Some few days after the steamer had arrived at Southampton, however, my friend Prebendary Dorkins, who was in company with Mr. Crosset at the time, met a young man in Bond Street whom he at once recognised—or thought he recognised—as Maurice Teyl. Upon being accosted, the young man, who appears to be of a Jesuitical disposition, refused to admit his identity, but on the other hand—scenting, perhaps, some possible advantage—was equally unwilling to deny it. From certain remarks he made, there was obviously no doubt that this was the person who had crossed on the Anderconia under the name of Maurice Teyl, and, as at that time no rumours as to his false identity were abroad, the prebendary imagined himself, as he doubtless was, justified in assuming that this was his ward. In the further course of conversation, however, it became apparent to our friends that the young man was behaving in a furtive and suspicious manner, which, however, they put down to a deliberate attempt at avoiding those responsibilities appertaining to his position. From the very best of motives, therefore—and I cannot see how we can blame either of these gentlemen—the prebendary and Mr. Crosset endeavoured to bring home to their supposed young charge the obligations of his position. They succeeded in persuading him to move from some secluded boarding house in Bloomsbury to the suite which had been engaged for Maurice Teyl at the Ritz, and further to perform one of the most important of the social duties to which his guardians had pledged him, namely the opening of the bazaar at the Albert Hall for the Duchess of Leicestershire. What measure of blame may be attached to our friend the prebendary and to Mr. Crosset, for so readily assuming the identity of the young man is a matter upon which we are each justified in forming our own opinion."
"I have formed mine," the Duchess snapped.
"The young man's first appearance in society as Maurice Teyl naturally excited a great deal of interest," the Bishop proceeded, "but, as seems in no way remarkable, his nerve failed him, and instead of responding in any way to the overtures made to him, he disappeared on the very next day, and, although apparently he has made surreptitious visits here, during which he helped himself to many articles of clothing and probably other things belonging to Maurice Teyl, I gather that his activities were temporarily suspended. His next appearance is at a golf club in the vicinity of London, where he is recognized as the young man who opened the bazaar in the name of Maurice Teyl, and at once takes refuge in flight. That same night—probably to evade this cloud of growing suspicion—he throws away all ideas of caution, dines downstairs in the restaurant at the Ritz under the name of Maurice Teyl—being careful, by-the-by, only to foot the bill with the number of his room—invites the newspaper-men who had been hanging about for days to see him up here in this salon, and afterwards, by means which would suggest that this was not the first adventure of the sort in which the young man had been engaged, he locks them in, and escapes from the hotel. We have discovered, owing to the activities of a Mr. Godson here, and to certain enquiries made by the police, that his hiding place has been a cheap boarding house in Bloomsbury, and we have succeeded also in obtaining evidence as to his identity. The definite issues before us then at this moment are two: first, what is the extent of the depredations indulged in by this young man, and what criminal charge is it possible to frame against him; and secondly, who is he?"
"Guess that's where I come in," Lenny Levy, invited by a direct glance from the Bishop, interposed. "If this were a New York crowd, there wouldn't be one of you who wasn't wise to my name and all about me, but over here I guess it's up to me to tell you that I'm Lenny Levy, the theatrical man. There was a young fellow named Maurice, to whom I offered a job at my theatre in Broadway just about the time that all this fuss was on. I tried him out at a low salary, because he was a friend of Miss Compston—a young English actress who was in the show—and because he was wearing the brand of clothes that hit it right with the chorus, and I wanted the others to copy him. He was no darned good on the stage, however good an actor he may be in private life, and if the play hadn't come to an end, I should have fired him. When I asked him what he was going to do, he told me that he should leave for Europe on the Anderconia, if he could raise enough money for the passage. I guess that was because Miss Compston was making the trip. I saw him go aboard with my own eyes, with the second-class passengers early in the morning, just as I saw him coming out of this hotel the other morning, and at the Aldwych Theatre only a few nights ago."
"This young man, I feel it is," the Bishop recommenced, "who, after having so successfully impersonated Maurice Teyl on the Anderconia and induced the prebendary to accept him as his ward, has been occupying this suite at odd times as Maurice Teyl, and has had, alas, the supreme impertinence to impose himself under the same name upon the Duchess."
"Rendering me thereby," her Grace pronounced, in a tone of great severity, her eyes fixed upon the prebendary, "an object of ridicule to all my friends and to the public generally, as soon as the truth is known."
The prebendary winced and half covered his face. Mr. Crosset thrust his hands into his trousers pockets and pursed his lips. Neither of them—possibly because they both knew that they were even more guilty than any one imagined—interrupted.
"Owing to information given us by a gentleman who has gone out of his way to afford us assistance—I refer to Mr. Godson here—and also to the efforts of the police, we are acquainted with this young man's address," the Bishop continued. "He is at the present moment living at Number 26a, Garden Street, Bloomsbury. The house is being watched and escape on the part of the person in question is thereby rendered impossible. We regret most deeply the scandal entailed, but it is my opinion, that the young man, whoever he may be, deserves and must receive the punishment for his misdeeds."
There was the unexpected sound of the click of a key in the lock. They all looked towards the door in a curiosity speedily merged into astonishment. There, upon the threshold, stood Maurice, with Lucy Compston by his side.
MAURICE, who for the moment seemed to have lost much of his accustomed nervousness, looked around at the motley gathering with uplifted eyebrows.
"Hullo!" he greeted them. "I wasn't expecting visitors."
No one was capable of speech. The Bishop, with the palms of his hands flat upon the table, had drawn a little back in his chair. The prebendary and Mr. Crosset felt themselves face to face with the spectre of their own wrongdoing. The Duchess' mouth was most unbecomingly open. Maurice drew up an easy-chair.
"Sit down, Lucy," he invited. "I'll introduce you to some of these people later."
She obeyed, trembling with unacknowledged fears, utterly without any comprehension of the little scene. Maurice remained by her side.
"Why, Bishop!" he exclaimed, "you didn't say anything about coming over so soon, the last time I saw you in New York. How do you do, Duchess—I am honoured indeed. And the prebendary and Mr. Crosset, and—why, there's my old friend, Lenny Levy—gave me my first theatrical engagement, didn't you, Lenny? Of course, I'm very glad to see you all, but I don't remember having invited any of you to pay me an early morning call, and, as for you, sir," he added, in a sterner tone, looking across towards Godson, "you'll be lucky if you leave here until you've had another word or two with me. I've no fancy for blackmailers. I thought you'd gathered that already."
The Duchess leaned forward.
"My young friend," she said coldly, "will you kindly tell us all who you are?"
"I'll tell you that," Lenny Levy interposed. "I'm here to identify him, and I'm right on the job. That's Maurice, the 'Creased Trouser Johnny,' as they called him in my chorus. If you don't believe me, ask the young lady who's with him. She was in my show, too. In fact, it was through her I tried him out. Here, I'll ask her myself. What's his name, Lucy?"
Miss Compston was looking very pale. All her confidence seemed suddenly to have deserted her.
"I'm afraid there's no doubt," she acknowledged, with a shiver, "that his name is Maurice. He was with me in 'The Piccadilly Girls.' I don't know why I was brought here—I'm sorry."
Maurice patted her encouragingly on the shoulder.
"And now, let's hear something from the other side," he suggested, moving a step nearer to the Bishop and drawing himself up to his full height. "Who do you say I am, Bishop? You ought to know. It wasn't so long since I sat in that stuffy waiting room of your club on Fifth Avenue and you nearly scared me stiff."
The Bishop, whose appearance during the last few minutes had been that of a man filled with intense but silent amazement, did not hesitate.
"You are most certainly the young man whom I visited at Mountain Springs during your grandmother's lifetime, and who called upon me at my club in New York last month, announcing himself as Maurice Teyl," he declared. "I must confess myself relieved as well as astonished to see you. I was given to understand that I should find an impostor here."
"And if he calls himself Maurice Teyl," Lenny Levy insisted, "impostor is just what he is, for I'll swear before the Almighty that his name is Andrew Maurice, and that he was in the chorus of 'The Piccadilly Girls' at my theatre on Broadway. Twenty dollars a week I paid him, and I'm darned if he was worth it."
Maurice looked across at the speaker with a smile.
"Why all this trouble?" he demanded. "Did you never, in the course of your theatrical experience, my friend, Mr. Levy, hear of a man who, when entering your profession, adopted a stage name? A clumsily chosen one, mine anyway, as my name happens to be Andrew Maurice Teyl. Now, I needn't address the Bishop," he went on, "because he is already convinced of my identity, but, Prebendary, you and Mr. Crosset, who are more or less strangers to me, can you imagine that I, a young man from the wilds of California, should have had skill and address enough to deceive a man with the sagacity and experience of our friend Mr. Milsom, the purser, here? The very idea is ridiculous. Mr. Milsom knew from first to last that I was without a doubt Maurice Teyl, or he would never have run the risk of imposing upon the other passengers or of allowing a stranger to occupy a suite engaged and paid for by some one else. Mr. Milsom, when he saw that I was anxious to conceal my identity, behaved exactly as a man of the world should behave. He didn't press me to declare myself, because he knew quite well who I was, but he showed me every attention and he gave me a delightful voyage. So much so," Maurice wound up, with a little bow towards the director, who was seated by the purser's side, "that I made up my mind when I left the ship that never, so long as I live, would I travel between England and America on any other line."
The director returned the bow amiably, but vacantly. The purser sat with his mouth a little open, his eyes fixed upon Maurice in joyful astonishment. Neither seemed capable of speech. Maurice, crossing the floor with a self-assured air, opened the communicating door and called for Jennings, who at once appeared.
"Jennings," he asked appealingly, "some extraordinary misapprehension seems to have crept abroad as to my identity. Will you tell these ladies and gentlemen how long you have known me?"
"Fifteen years, sir," the man answered. "I came across with your first tutor, Mr. Bomford."
"You remember the Bishop?"
"Certainly, sir. He stayed with us three or four days, down at Mountain Springs."
"The Bishop remembers you, I am sure," Maurice went on. "You don't doubt that I am Maurice Teyl, do you, Jennings?"
"How could I doubt it, sir?" the man replied eagerly. "I've known you since you were a child. I've seen you grow up. I left Mountain Springs with you, replenished your wardrobe in New York, while you were doing that theatre business, dismissed that other valet they engaged for you, according to instructions, and I was with you all the time on the steamer. If any one says you aren't Mr. Maurice Teyl, he can have a hundred to one on it out of my poor savings."
"Thank you very much, Jennings," his master said, waving him away. "I can't think how you all got so mixed up," he went on, seating himself on the arm of Lucy's chair, and taking her cold little hand into his. "The whole situation is perfectly simple. I travelled to New York soon after my twenty-first birthday, meaning to cross to Europe, and as you know, I paid my first call upon you, Bishop. I'll frankly admit that you scared me with all that talk of my responsibilities, and the kind of life it was up to me to lead. I made up my mind there and then to go back to Mountain Springs, but I missed my train at the Grand Central Depot, and there a gigantic stroke of luck happened to me. I was able to be of some small service to Miss Compston here, whom I met in the waiting room of the station, and in order to see more of her, I took a job in 'The Piccadilly Girls'—a job which Mr. Levy here has been so kind as to tell you I only got because Jennings knew how to press my trousers. The show was a failure, and when I discovered that Miss Compston was planning to sail to Europe in the Anderconia, the boat on which my passage had been secured, I determined I'd make the trip too. I admit I may have set people guessing the way I went on board, but I couldn't stick all that crowd on the pier, and I didn't even want Miss Compston to know who I was just then, simply because she's the sort of girl who probably wouldn't have had anything more to do with me if she'd known. That was why I slipped on board quietly and didn't report myself to the purser until we were well away. I asked for a passage, but it was no use my trying to bluff him. He knew well enough who I was, pushed me into my suite, and, as I've had the privilege of acknowledging already, he made the voyage very pleasant. I confess that I stole a march on the crowd at Cherbourg, but that I had meant to do all the time, and when I arrived in London and read all about my suite at the Ritz, and the newspaper-men waiting, and the cards and invitations showering in all the time, I got scared again, and I took rooms at a boarding house in Bloomsbury where Miss Compston here, the lady to whom I am engaged, is staying."
"Engaged!" the Duchess gasped, with the air of one who watches the demolition of a beautiful dream.
"Engaged!" the prebendary echoed; he was very happy, but he had six daughters.
"Engaged!" Mr. Crosset murmured, half to himself, some thoughts of settlements coming into his mind.
"Then one morning when I was in Bond Street," Maurice continued, "I met the prebendary by accident. He recognised me, naturally, but I gave him to understand, and Mr. Crosset too, that I intended to see a little of London on my own account, and that I wasn't prepared for the present to take up my place as Maurice Teyl. He argued with me, of course, but I had made up my mind to keep away from the Ritz as long as possible, especially as I always had Jennings to fall back upon. Then the prebendary went on to tell me about this promise that I should open the Duchess's bazaar, and explained the position he was being placed in, and how good a cause it was. I couldn't very well be churlish about it, so I went and did what he told me was my duty, and afterwards made my way back to Bloomsbury. I had taken my rooms there for a month, so I spent my time going back and forth, seeing a good deal of London which I shouldn't have seen any other way, playing a little golf, and avoiding social functions, which I must admit that I hate. So there we are!"
A deep and breathless silence ensued. The emissary from Scotland Yard, after a whispered word with Mr. Crosset, rose and left the room, followed closely by Mr. Godson. The Duchess was the first to recover herself.
"My dear Mr. Teyl," she said graciously, rising from her seat, and crossing the room towards him, "of course from the first I knew that all these suspicions must be ridiculous. Still, you know how those people kept talking, and, for your own sake, it was best to have the matter cleared up. This is why I associated myself with this—er—committee of enquiry."
"Duchess," Maurice replied, "I quite appreciate your position. The only point I should like to emphasize, however, is that you would have been perfectly safe in trusting the prebendary. I can assure you that he would never have run the risk of any mistake where you were concerned."
"I ought to have done so," she acknowledged, with a benevolent smile towards that bewildered but overjoyed dignitary. "Won't you present your fiancée to me, Mr. Teyl."
The Duchess made herself very agreeable to Lucy, who was gradually recovering from her state of complete bewilderment, and left a few minutes later, escorted by the Bishop and followed by the director of the steamship company, who shook hands warmly with the purser on his way to the door. The latter, with the prebendary and Mr. Crosset, remained. Maurice beamed on them as he rang the bell.
"Well, Prebendary," he said, "well, Purser, I think I got you both out of that mess all right."
The prebendary grasped him by the hand.
"You showed, Maurice, if I may be allowed to say so, a supreme tact," he acknowledged. "Your skill in meeting a difficult situation amazed and gratified me."
"You were a brick, sir," the purser declared, wringing his hand. "I can tell you I thought I'd got it in the neck."
"I am only just beginning to realise all this," Lucy faltered. "You mean to say that you really were Maurice Teyl all the time, and you never told me?"
"You can call me by any name you like," he answered, passing his arm round her waist, "but I was determined to get just where we are now before I let anybody know who I was. My name's Andrew Maurice, all right, but it's a sure thing that I'll have to be married as Andrew Maurice Teyl. You see my passport demands it," he added, laying it upon the table. "My letter of credit, which I have here, for a hundred thousand pounds, needs endorsement as Maurice Teyl—and, in short—well, hang it all, there's no getting away from it,—I really am Maurice Teyl."
The prebendary revealed a vein of Jesuitry.
"I always felt a subconscious conviction that you were," he confided, grasping the young man's hand once again.
"I'm hanged if it ever even occurred to me," the purser confessed.
"I'll tell you something," Lenny Levy declared, laying his hand upon the young man's shoulder, "you're a darned sight better actor than ever I thought you were."
"You deceived me all the time," Lucy whispered happily.
Maurice gave a highly promising order to the waiter who had answered the bell.
"So would any of you have deceived anybody you could, if a lot of newspaper nuts had christened you 'The Shy Plutocrat'," he declared.