He went out

Alone and punctual, hungry for mid-day victuals, and eager to impart
newly acquired knowledge, Miss Tallentire returned from studying the
Luxor Obelisk. Her coming upon the hour and solitary state were noted,
but a second-hand rendering of hieroglyphic lore could be dispensed
with by a lady entertaining a more modern-minded guest. Aksakoff, with
a notable sparkle in his eyes–begotten by confidential conversation
with his hostess–rose to welcome the fair interrupter. International
courtesies were exchanged, while Leah, glancing impatiently at the
clock, waited for their conclusion to slip in a question or so.

“Where is Mr. Askew? Why did he not bring you back?”

“He did, Lady James, as far as the lift. He is now writing a letter in
the smoking-room.”

“And so will forget that I asked him to luncheon. Please remind him,
dear; or, better, tell the waiter to bring him up. M. Demetrius is
coming also.”

“Dr. Demetrius!” Joan paused in her exit. “I did not know that he was
in Paris, Lady James.”

“Nor did I until an hour ago. Don’t lose time, dear. Mr. Askew may go,
and I particularly wish him to stay.”

Lady Jim ushered the girl out hurriedly, judiciously saw to the

Lady Jim ushered the girl out hurriedly, and judiciously saw to
the closing of the door, before turning to meet Aksakoff’s inquiring
gaze. “You approve of a full table, madame?”

“There is safety in numbers,” she assured him.

“For M. Demetrius?”

Leah resumed her seat with raised eyebrows. “I fear you will think me
dull, M. Aksakoff, but I do not understand.”

The diplomatist bowed an apology. He had forgotten that even in
private her comedy was to be played by the book. The conversation of
the next few minutes he foresaw very plainly. She would play round the
reason for their meeting, without coming to grips, mysteriously
conveying her meaning in speeches which she did not mean. Only a
politician of Aksakoff’s subtlety would have understood the unsaid
from what she now proceeded to say.

“Besides”–she was continuing the speech interrupted by his bow–“you
promised that no harm should come to the doctor.”

“Madame, I renew that promise.”

“I hope so; otherwise, I shall regret having consented to this
meeting.”

“Yet I understood that M. Demetrius desired it.”

“That is no reason why I should consent.”

“Possibly not. Still, as a peacemaker—-”

“You put me into the Beatitudes, then?”

“Why not, if you achieve your object in reconciling enemies?”

“The signing of the treaty depends upon you, M. Aksakoff.”

“Consider it signed–on conditions.”

“Which means that it is not signed. H’m! M. Demetrius is anxious, even
willing, to renounce your daughter.”

A dull red stained Aksakoff’s opaque skin. “How flattering to my
fatherly pride! There is, then”–the hint was delicate–“another?”

Lady Jim retorted in kind. “So you said at Monte Carlo.”

“Mademoiselle Ninette? I believe I did. She lured him to Paris, then?”

“How should I know? He has never mentioned the creature’s name to me,
nor would he dare to. He came, so he declares, to see me.”

“On matters connected with your recent loss, no doubt.”

“It is more than probable.”

Her avoidance of the necessary topic exasperated him. Sharp words were
on the tip of his tongue, but wisdom withheld them. His accomplice was
not the woman to yield to dominance, and the merest hint of its
exercise might, probably would, engender wrath likely to jeopardise
the almost achieved plot. Money or no money–Aksakoff still ascribed
mercenary reasons–her pride would never bend to the yoke of advice.
To be silent was his second thought, and silent he became. This, it
would seem, was wise, since she began to explain, Aksakoff paying out
liberally the necessary rope that she might hang herself.

“M. Demetrius is unwise to come here. I told him so; yes, I
confess–remember my warning–that I betrayed you. All the same–very
foolishly, I think–he insisted upon an immediate meeting, to recover
his birthright, he says. Can you arrange for the rehabilitation, of
this exiled Esau?”

A faint smile played round the diplomatist’s thin lips, “I can!”

“And you will?”

“Assuredly, if M. Demetrius disabuses Katinka of her infatuation.”

“That is his affair and yours. No doubt”–she spoke meaningly–“you
will wish to speak to him privately?”

“There is no need, madame, seeing that you are in his confidence, and
in mine. Besides”–very slowly–“we can converse over our tea.”

Lady Jim’s nerves jumped. “Over tea,” she echoed equally slowly–“tea,
after luncheon?”

“It is a Russian custom. M. Demetrius and I are Russians. Still, if
the suggestion appears presumptuous”–he waved his hand with assumed
deprecation–“I withdraw it and apologise.”

“No!” She passed her tongue over dry, white lips, and answered
faintly. “You shall have your–tea.” Then, rising hurriedly, she made
for the near window on an obvious excuse. “I do not see him coming.”

As plainly as though Aksakoff had put it into words did Lady Jim know
that he intended to drug their victim. What would occur if this
plotter succeeded she did not know; what might occur she shivered to
think of, and the thought made her rash. “The police!” she murmured,
turning from the window.

M. Aksakoff joined her, adjusting his pince-nez leisurely, and
proceeded to look up and down the street, two stories below. “I do not
see the police, madame. But what a delightful day! I trust the night
will be equally mild, since I journey to Havre.”

“You go to Havre–to-night?” breathed Leah, not yet herself.

“By a moderately late train. My cousin, Count Petrovitch, is there
with his yacht. We have to talk about his possible marriage with my
daughter, before he leaves to-morrow for Kronstadt.”

“Oh!” sighed Lady Jim, very white. “How–how–amusing!” and after
misusing the word, she went back to her chair with geographical
thoughts. Paris–Havre–Kronstadt–Siberia; and Demetrius. “Oh!”
sighed she again, with a trembling hand shielding her eyes.

“You are ailing, madame,” cried Aksakoff, hastening to her politely.

“Starving!” replied Leah, with a wry smile. “Hush!”

The warning hissed through the chatter of Joan and Askew, who entered,
almost riotously happy. Their exuberant manners and frank speech
brought a wholesome breeze of cleansing honesty into the atmosphere of
stale rascality. The bracing wind blew Lady Jim out of dark chambers
into the day-lit spaces of the commonplace. With the protean
capability of women she flashed as a sun from passing storm-clouds, to
shine on the honest and hungry.

“Thanks awfully for your invitation to luncheon,” said Askew.

“Which you forgot.”

“Did I ever receive it?” he asked doubtfully.

“Did not my last remark imply the invitation. Remarkable!”

So irrelevant sounded the last word that Aksakoff queried its reason.

“Not that a man should forget an invitation,” she explained; “but that
a single meal should escape his greedy memory.”

“You make me out to be a gourmet,” hinted the invited guest.

“Why not a gourmand? One speaks French in Paris.”

“Not invariably, since we now converse in English,” said Askew, dryly;
and she approved of the retort. Clearly he was rapidly recovering from
the green-sickness of crude passion.

Meantime Joan instructed Aksakoff in ancient history. “The
hieroglyphics on the Place de la Concorde Obelisk describe the
triumphs of Rameses II., who reigned over Egypt in the fourteenth
century before Christ. Mr. Askew knows him.”

“Indeed?” smiled Lady Jim. “Is he stopping in Paris?”

“Miss Tallentire means to say that I know ‘of him.'”

“Well, I said so. But my English _is_ faulty.”

“Mr. Askew will surely improve it. His knowledge of hieroglyphics—-”

“The guide-book’s knowledge, Lady James,” corrected Askew.

“Hum! Information while you wait–Murray and Baedeker’s extract of
history–archeological tabloids.”

“What felicitous phrases!”

“Sarcasm! That surely means–convalescence.”

“You have been ill then, monsieur”; Aksakoff addressed the colouring
young gentleman.

“Heart-disease,” flashed Lady Jim, gaily–“Ah, M. Demetrius!”–and so
did her ex-lover out of a retort. “You know Miss Tallentire–Mr.
Askew; they were at Firmingham, if you remember. And M. Aksakoff, who
will doubtless recall Dr. Demetrius.”

“Say Prince Constantine Demetrius, madame.

“You place me too high,” said the doctor, bowing stiffly. “Out of
Russia I am but a simple physician.”

“And a remarkably clever one, according to this lady.”

“Madame flatters. I failed, where I should have succeeded.”

Leah murmured a sharp aside, reproving the professional humility which
necessitated an allusion to her loss. A bowing waiter entered before
the doctor’s apologetic shrug could be followed by words.

“Madame is served,” said the waiter, and the lift lowered five hungry
people to the dining-room.

Says a disciple of Brillat-Savarin, with solemn truth and the
infallible judgment of experience, “Breakfast in Scotland, lunch in
America, and dine in Paris.” Circumstances prevented Lady Jim from
dispensing Boston hospitality, but having supervised the ideas of the
Henri-Trois chef, she placed a very dainty and tempting repast before
a quartette almost too hungry to be critical. Nor was wanting wine,
chosen with masculine discretion, to loosen rusty tongues and release
fair thoughts embedded in slow brains. But this latter adjective must
be taken–very appropriately at table–with a grain of salt. None of
those who ate and drank were dull; three of them, indeed, were
much too clever, and the remaining two made up in sparkle what they
lacked in depth. Many good things were eaten and said during that
merry meal, and the corner near the large window bubbled with
laughter. Leah, watching stealthily the courtesy of Aksakoff and his
fellow-countryman, shivered internally at the irony of circumstances.
Paris–Havre–Kronstadt–Siberia: the four names repeated themselves
dolorously in her brain like a street cry. What wonder, then, that the
spectacle of this tragic comedy made her laugh and babble, and smile
and nod, and play to perfection the rôle of an attentive hostess. She
was quite glad that what would prove in all probability to be her
victim’s last civilised meal was appetising. Aksakoff professed
himself charmed with her esprit. Here, thought he, were the makings
of an ideal conspirator, and he regretted her nationality. The
Anglo-Saxon nature is so alien to working mole-fashion. Yet, had he
only known the truth, Lady Jim had already proved her willingness to
conspire, if not against a throne, at least for the cheating of a
limited company.

The luncheon was thus pleasant, and not less so the digestive hour,
when the repleted guests assembled in the sitting-room. Anxious to
afford the diplomatist every assistance, Lady Jim gathered the young
people under her wing near the piano at the far end of the apartment.
Joan, who had more of a soul than a memory for music, played scraps,
chatting to right and left while her nimble fingers ran from Mozart to
Chopin and attempted what their owner remembered of Wagner’s
creations. Thus the Muscovites, smoking by special permission, were
enabled to exchange views in comparative privacy. To assure complete
secrecy, and with the hole-and-corner instinct of the Slav, they
talked Russian with a bluntness strangely opposed to Lady Jim’s
elusive suggestiveness. The situation–to Demetrius, at least–did not
admit of sugared phrases or ambiguous explanations.

“Madame yonder”–he nodded towards Leah–“told you why I desired this
interview.”

“Yes!”–Aksakoff handled his cigarette daintily–“but an explanation
from you is necessary.”

Demetrius nodded brusquely. “I must mention the name of your
daughter.”

“Without doubt, since her welfare is the main object of our meeting.”

“Mademoiselle Aksakoff,” said Demetrius, coldly, “has done me the
honour to admire me. But that my affections are already engaged, I
should certainly reciprocate.”

“You allude to Mademoiselle Ninette?”

A look of surprise flitted across the other’s face. “The actress? Why
should you think so?”

“Rumour credits you with being her lover.”

“And, as usual, rumour is wrong. Mademoiselle Ninette was assuredly my
patient, but I received my fees in gold, not in kisses. As poor Dr.
Demetrius I I cannot live on love, Ivan Aksakoff.”

“Prince Constantine will be able to do so with the lady he mentions.”

“I mentioned no lady.”

“Ah, pardon!” Aksakoff was foiled. “You accept my apology?”

“None is needed. I intended to tell you the name of the lady, Ivan
Aksakoff; it is madame yonder.”

With uplifted eyebrows the diplomatist glanced in the direction of
Leah.

“I heard something in London clubs of your admiration for her,
Constantine Demetrius; even before her husband died it was said that
you had laid yourself at her feet. What a pity you cannot marry her!
An ideal match, my friend; quite ideal, and so useful in promoting a
social understanding between Holy Russia and these islanders.”

“We marry in a year,” announced the doctor, calmly.

“Ah, no; but pardon me, it is impossible!” Aksakoff, really and truly
startled, dropped his cigarette. That haughty Lady James Kaimes
should—- “It is quite impossible,” said he, staring.

“I refer you to the lady herself,” insisted Demetrius.

“A-a-a-h!” droned the other, picking up his cigarette to place it in
the ash-tray, and lighting another; “y-e-s!” He stared again at his
companion, then stole a glance at Leah. Apparently her desire to
assist Muscovite politics was not entirely a question of pounds,
shillings, and pence. She was less sordid and more subtle than he had
guessed.

Demetrius, giving him no time to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion,
went on with his explanation. “You will, therefore, understand that my
marriage with your daughter is out of the question.”

“Of course,” assented Aksakoff, absently, and wondering why Lady Jim
engaged herself to this exile. “Of course,” he added more briskly, “I
trust you will permit me to announce this engagement to my daughter.”

“Certainly. It will show her that—-”

“That you are unworthy of her hand,” ended Aksakoff, sharply, for here
the father overleaped the diplomatist.

“Quite so, Ivan Aksakoff, and I hope soon to congratulate the Countess
Petrovitch.”

“You are too good, Constantine Demetrius.”
“In return for thus arranging your domestic affairs,” continued the
doctor, unmoved by the sarcasm, “will you gain my pardon from the
Czar? Can you gain it?” he asked with emphasis.

“I can and will.”

“My title, my money—-”

“Both shall be restored. And of course,” added Aksakoff, with a keen
glance, “you will no longer work in what you term the sacred cause of
humanity.”

Demetrius waved his hand gloomily. “Dreams of youth–desires for the
impossible. I am aware,” he added bitterly, “that individuality in a
bureaucratic administration is looked upon as a crime.”

“Can you wonder at it? If one wheel refuses to fit in with another,
the machine will not work. We are all parts of a mighty engine—-”

“Which crushes the poor and the weak.”

“What matter, since you, Constantine Demetrius, are neither poor nor
weak?”

“My sympathy—-”

“A most dangerous word, current only in that Utopia you dreamed of. It
is not in the Russian dictionary.”

Demetrius turned on the scoffer a glittering eye. “It will be, some
day,” said he, slowly.

“My friend”–Aksakoff shook the ash from his cigarette–“if you
propose to edit dictionaries you must remain Dr. Demetrius–in exile.”

“I gladly would,” rejoined the other, heartily; “only—-” His voice
died away, as he looked towards Lady Jim.

The diplomatist laughed. “There is always a woman. Ah, these dear
ladies, how practical they are! In their hands we are wax, which they
mould after the honey is squeezed out”; he laughed again, then
resumed, business-like: “You will write to my daughter and place the
truth of this engagement beyond question.”

“To-morrow, Ivan Aksakoff, when I am in London. And needless to say, I
shall always profoundly respect Mademoiselle your daughter.”

“You mean the Countess Petrovitch.”

“If you can so far bend her to your ambition,” retorted Demetrius.
“You promise, then, to right me with the Czar?”

Aksakoff nodded and laughed cynically. “You are already Prince
Constantine Demetrius, rich, honoured, and–unsympathetic.”
The doctor winced at the last word, but shook hands on the agreement.
Lady Jim glanced across the room with Judas and his kiss in her mind.
That the cap fitted her, also, she did not consider for the moment.

“Coffee! Coffee!” cried the pianist, rising. “Just what I want.”

“It is tea on this occasion,” replied Leah, and went over to take
charge of the tray brought in by a smiling waiter.

“Tea?” Joan echoed the word in an amazed voice, and tripped like a
fairy towards a comfortable low chair. “Who ever heard of tea in the
middle of the day?”

“Australian colonists in the back blocks,” explained Askew, sauntering
to assist in arranging a harlequin set of cups. “They drink tea at all
hours.”

“In Russia, also,” remarked Lady Jim, jingling the saucers. “This is a
concession to the prejudices of our foreign guests”; and she laughed
amiably at the Muscovites.

Demetrius bowed and smiled, twisting his waxed moustache with admiring
glances at Leah’s red hair. He was far from suspecting a snare, and
that Aksakoff should have a finger and thumb in his waistcoat-pocket
did not seem remarkable. But Lady Jim–nervously on the alert–guessed
that the diplomatist was fiddling with something of a narcotic nature.
Also, his significant glance at her, at the teacups, at Demetrius,
hinted at her duty. She fulfilled it with a spasm of fear, well masked
by frivolity.

“Joan, I have dropped my handkerchief–near the piano, I think. Will
you please look for it?”

Miss Tallentire rose, to be anticipated, as Leah guessed she would be,
by two attentive gentlemen. “Allow me!” “Permit me, mademoiselle!” and
with Askew, Demetrius crossed for the search, while Lady Jim ran on
lightly:

“It might be on the floor near you, Joan. What a nuisance! How stupid
of me!”

Then Joan looked on the carpet–Leah also, the latter straining her
ears to hear the almost inaudible. The faint tinkle of a pellet
dropped into a cup sounded to her guilty soul like a clap of thunder.

“Here it is,” cried Joan, fishing under the table, and picking up what
Lady Jim had purposely dropped.

“Thanks awfully, dear. Mr. Askew, M. Demetrius, do not trouble.
Give me the teapot, Joan. Ah!” she babbled on, while filling the
cups–“What a pity we have not glasses, so that you could drink the
tea in your own fashion, M. Demetrius. M. Aksakoff, we did so enjoy
the novelty at your Monte Carlo villa. Still, here is a lemon; slice
it, Joan, dear. Do sit down, doctor. M. Aksakoff, you can be waiter.”

“Allow me,” cried Askew, half rising.

“Sit where you are,” said Leah, sharply; “you’ll upset the table. M.
Aksakoff!”

“With pleasure, madame”; and he obliged her with stiff cordiality.

Leah wiped her lips, which were dry, and stole a stealthy glance at
the cup which he handed to the doctor. It was of a deep blue colour.
“Augh!” she breathed, as he set it to his lips.

“You are wearied with your duties, madame,” conjectured Aksakoff,
sipping with gusto; “and I, alas, can relieve you only by acting as
waiter.”

“You are a guest now,” she rejoined, with a nervous laugh; “is the tea
to your liking?”

“Most delightful tea,” said Demetrius, courteously.

“You compliment the decoction too highly. Tea on the Continent is like
rain in the Sahara. I except Russia, of course,” she ended, smiling.

“You will find us English in many ways, when you visit Moscow,
madame.”

Leah looked inquisitively at Aksakoff, who spoke, guessing that he was
in possession of the truth, and wondering what he thought of the
engagement. The man’s face betrayed nothing, however, and her gaze
travelled to Demetrius. He was sitting perfectly still, and his eyes
looked dull, as though the fire of life was dwindling within. Meeting
her smile, he roused himself with a jerk and an apology.

“I feel sleepy–the heat, no doubt,” he murmured.

“I can’t say that I feel scorching,” said Askew, glancing through the
window at a grey sky.

“You are used to the tropics; M. Demetrius is not,” observed Aksakoff.

Joan laughed. “You remind me of a horrid story my brother told me. An
old Anglo-Indian was being cremated at Woking, and said that it was
the first time he had felt warm in England.”

“A horrid story indeed,” murmured Lady Jim, with her eyes on the
expressionless face of Demetrius. “You shouldn’t tell it, dear.” Then
she rose hurriedly: “Are you quite well, M. Demetrius?”

“Oh yes–quite”; the doctor’s voice droned into an inarticulate mumble
and his head fell forward.

“Oh! Mr. Askew–M. Aksakoff–what it the matter? His eyes are closed;
his breathing–just listen!”

“Kind of fit, perhaps,” said Askew, rising to shake Demetrius, and so
extorted a cry from the kind-hearted hostess.

“Don’t–the man is ill! Oh, how dreadful! Loosen his collar–open the
window. I wonder if he needs a doctor,” and she stepped to the
electric button of the bell.

“There might be one in the hotel,” said Aksakoff, as Joan and Askew
obeyed her directions. And from the tone of his voice she knew that
there was one in the hotel. “It really seems to be a kind of fit,”
said Aksakoff, looking at the now unconscious man. “Yet he appeared to
be quite well a few minutes ago.”

Leah did not hear. She was already at the door issuing hurried
instructions to a waiter, whose smile had vanished. When she came back
the two men had placed Demetrius on the sofa, where he lay breathing
heavily, his face white and his lips purple; not a pleasant sight by
any means, as Askew thought.

“Had not you ladies better retire?” he suggested.

“No, no!” they cried in one breath. “We must help.”

“Only the doctor can do that–if there is one,” said Aksakoff,
observing his handiwork on the sofa with a critical eye.

Then, at the tail of a triple rap, entered the fat proprietor of the
Henri Trois, scared in looks and importantly fussy in manner. Behind
him glided a spick-and-span man, not unlike Demetrius, and
unmistakably Tartar.

“Dr. Helfmann happened to be luncheoning,” explained M. Gravier,
“fortunately. What is the matter, madame?”

Helfmann soon explained that. He felt the pulse of the patient, laid a
gentle hand on a weakly-beating heart, and turned up the purple
eyelids. Askew and Aksakoff stood aside with the proprietor. Lady Jim
and Joan bent forward with pale faces and clasped hands, anxious for
the verdict.

“A kind of fit,” explained the doctor; “he will be insensible for
two–three hours.”

“In my hotel? Ach!–the scandal!” cried Gravier, spreading his fat
hands in dismay.

“Is it really a fit?” asked Lady Jim, paying no attention.

“Madame”–the doctor faced her coldly–“to speak technically would not
enlighten you. I can bring this gentleman back to his senses; but I
think–with your permission,” added he, bowing, “that if you will
permit me to take him in a cab to a chemist’s shop where I can procure
the drug I require, it will save time. And in this case”–he glanced
calmly at the unconscious man–“time means life.”

“Ugh!” said Askew. “Take him away at once.”

“If you think it is better,” murmured Lady Jim, not daring to meet the
victorious eye of the diplomatist.

“Of course,” rejoined Askew, brusquely. “You and Miss Tallentire can
do nothing, and the sight is not a pleasant one.”

“Joan”; Lady Jim drew the girl away, and passed with her into the
bedroom adjoining. There behind a closed door they listened to the
sound of a body being removed. The scraping of feet, the heavy
breathing of ladened men, the bumping and humping of something soft
(horrible suggestion)–they could hear these intimations of removal
very plainly. Leah sat on the bed with tightly clasped hands between
slack knees. “Augh!” said Leah.

“It is all right, Lady James,” said Joan, petting her. “Poor M.
Demetrius will soon be all right. I wonder what made him ill?”

“I wonder,” echoed Lady Jim, and wondered very truly. She could not
understand what drug Aksakoff had used to reduce Demetrius so rapidly
to unconsciousness. And not another word was spoken for ten minutes.

“They have driven away in a fiacre,” announced Miss Tallentire, from
the window.

“Who have driven?”

“That doctor and M. Demetrius.”

“Not M. Aksakoff?”

Before her question could be answered a sharp knock came to the door,
and Aksakoff presented himself when it was opened.

“All is well, dear ladies,” said he, blandly. “Dr. Helfmann has gone
with our sick friend. Mr. Askew follows to see that all is well.”

“Askew follows?” said Lady Jim, with a sharp glance; “but why—-?”

The diplomatist still smiled. “He has a kind heart, that young Mr.
Askew, and so—-” he shrugged, then bowed to Joan. “I compliment you,
mademoiselle, on your courage. You also, madame. And now, all being
well, I must take my leave”; he kissed Lady Jim’s hand. “I shall see
you again in London, as to-night I journey to Havre.”

He went out, and Leah again heard four names as though a ghostly
porter was calling them at a ghostly junction.

“Paris, Havre, Kronstadt, Siberia,” said the ghostly porter.

“Ugh!” said Lady Jim.