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Title: The Other Side Of The Chess-Board Author: Fred M White * A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1200261h.html Language: English Date first posted: January 2012 Date most recently updated: January 2012 This eBook was produced by: Roy Glashan Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html
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NEWTON MOORE nervously fingered the thin slip of glazed pasteboard which was his passport to the presence of no less a person than the Prime Minister himself.
A languid-looking Under-Secretary (unpaid) inquired Moore's business with as much sweet insolence as his manner could convey. The Secret Service Agent handed over the card and waited. It was Lord Westerhouse's private card and bore the pencilled legend "Admit bearer at once". The languid one so far forgot himself as to smile. A moment later Moore found himself in the private room of the Premier.
"Your lordship sent for me," Moore said tentatively.
"Ah, yes." Lord Westerhouse passed his hand over his forehead as if drawing his mind from some engrossing matter. "I sent for you, Mr. Moore. Sir Charles Morley has given me an account of your wonderful successes. I want you to undertake a matter which will tax your resources to the uttermost. I do not apprehend that your mission will be in the least dangerous. What seems to me to be required are tact and ingenuity."
Moore bowed, well pleased with this confidence placed in him.
"Do you know our Asturian ambassador, Lord Walmer, at all?" the Premier asked.
"I have heard of him," Moore replied. "I understand Lord Walmer to be a man of great mental attainment, a scholar and virtuoso, and a brilliant amateur on the violin. Also I have read some few poems of his."
"You have formed a high opinion of him, evidently?"
"So far as a stranger may, yes, my lord. The Walmers have ever been brilliant, and, at the same time, slightly erratic. From what I know I should say there is a strain of insanity in the family."
A grave look came over the Premier's face.
"I fear so," he said. "Lord Walmer has done great work in his time. We still rate his services very highly. And yet lately the conclusion has been forced upon us that Lord Walmer has betrayed—I mean is not acting in what we consider to be the best interests of his country."
Moore's teeth came together with a click. His bump of veneration accepted no impression, even in the presence of a First Lord of the Treasury.
"It seems to me that I am merely wasting your time." he said.
Lord Westerhouse somewhat coldly demanded more light. Moore proceeded to give it with point and vigor. Palpably, Lord Walmer was suspected of betraying the secrets of his country. Such a startling condition of affairs had probably never happened in connection with an Ambassador before. And, unless Lord Westerhouse could see his way to a full disclosure of the facts, Moore saw no object in pursuing the interview.
"You are a bold man," the Premier said acidly.
"That may be, my lord," Moore replied, "but I am not a fool."
Lord Westerhouse drew three skeletons on his blotting-pad, and drew them excessively badly, before he replied.
"You are right and I am wrong." he said frankly. "Briefly, the position is this. For some time we have been doing exceedingly badly in Mid-European diplomacy. This is all the more amazing, because, hitherto, Lord Walmer, upon whom so much depends, has succeeded wonderfully. He displays his usual tact and skill; his dispatches show no falling-off in originality and suggestiveness. And yet, so surely as he writes for our sanction for some brilliant new move, so surely is that move anticipated by the man on the other side of the chess-board. One or two of these schemes could not possibly have been anticipated by a person not cognisant of our deliberations, and therefore the conviction has been forced upon us that the man on the other side of the chess-board has seen the dispatches."
"Have vou pointed this out to Lord Walmer?"
"Oh, yes; he is quite as puzzled and distressed as we are. And he declares that the tampering with those papers is impossible. The last dispatch we got was written by Lord Walmer in secrecy; it was put up by himself, it was even posted by himself at some distance from Marenna, the capital of Asturia. Further than this, the letter was sent to a false address, and the handwriting on the envelope carefully disguised. And yet it is absolutely certain that the man on the other side of the chess-board saw the dispatch. Now, how can you account for that?"
"At present I cannot," said Moore, "but it is exceedingly interesting. I presume Lord Walmer told you all this in a private letter?"
"Which letter is at present in my possession."
"If you have no objection I should like to see it."
Lord Westerhouse handed the document over without delay. The subject matter was of no great interest to Moore, seeing that he had already had an epitome of it. He studied the handwriting intently. It was small and neat and somewhat shaky, the caligraphy of a scholar who had reached the age when steadiness of hand was no more. At the end was a postscript obviously written some time after the letter, and added as an afterthought. Moore's eyes dilated as he read the words carefully.
"You notice something there," the Premier exclaimed.
"Certainly I do," Moore replied. "Compare the postscript to the body of the letter. The handwriting is obviously the same, but one is the hand of the present Lord Walmer and the P.S. the hand of Lord Walmer as he might have written twenty years ago. Look how wonderfully steady it is. Even the signature is feeble beside it. I shall have something to start upon."
"You mean that you have made a discovery?"
Moore smiled slightly. His eyes were shining.
"I have made a discovery and a most important one," he said. "I have dropped upon a secret that Lord Walmer has hitherto succeeded in keeping from the eyes of the world. You may see nothing, but to me it is quite plain on the face of the paper. For the present I prefer to keep that secret."
Moore's tone carried conviction. Lord Westerhouse looked at his watch.
"I have every confidence in you," he said. "Walmer has heard of you. and he has asked for your services to be placed at his disposal. You had better go to Marenna in the capacity of an extra private secretary. You will have no difficulty in making yourself known to Lord Walmer, for it seems to me to be unwise to advise him of your coming. When can you go?"
"I can cross over by the night boat," said Moore, "and the day after to-morrow I shall be in Marenna."
Lord Westerhouse looked at his watch again, this time significantly. Moore rose. A hint like that was never lost upon him. The Premier rose at the same time and extended his hand.
"Good luck to you," he said. "And may you speedily get the better of the man on the other side of the chess-board."
Three hours later and Moore was on his way to Dover.
THE British Embassy in Marenna was a gloomy structure, which might have been a barrack, a prison, or a palace, according to the mood and fancy of the owner. There were large rooms furnished in the style of bygone days, echoing flagged passages, Cordova leather hanging from the sombre walls. And here Lord Walmer lived in bachelor state. No woman would have consented to reside there.
A tall, thin man with eagle features and silver hair rose to greet Moore as he entered. He noted the fine lines of the face, its weary expression, and its tired eyes that were, nevertheless, capable of flashing fire upon occasions. There was a stately urbanity about the Ambassador sufficient to impress Moore.
"I have been expecting you, Mr. Moore." he said. "I presume that Lord Westerhouse told you the exact limits of your mission?"
Moore bowed, and his quick eye took in all the details of the room. It was furnished partly as a library, partly as an office. Books and papers were scattered about, some proof sheets lay on a table; on a chair was a violin case thrown open. And inside was the most valuable Cremona in Europe.
"Lord Westerhouse told me everything," Moore replied.
A shadow passed over the face of the Ambassador.
"I am getting old, Mr. Moore," he said, "and my life's work is nearly completed. Had I not set my heart upon the accomplishment of one thing. I should have retired long ago. And, instead of accomplishing that one thing, I am frittering away what once was, without vanity, a great reputation. Mr. Moore, this maddening mystery is gradually sapping my reason."
"The mystery is going to be solved," said Moore.
"The confidence of youth," the Ambassador murmured, "the confidence of youth. Keep it as long as you can, for there is no more precious possession. I am going to give you a free hand here: you will come in and go out as you please. As to the rest, that is your business. You will dine with me to-night at eight. I have a friend coming who may interest you. I daresay you have heard of Count Gleytrim. He was a great figure here years ago."
Moore had certainly heard the name before. Had not Gleytrim practically built up the Asturian Empire before the present Emperor disgraced him and proceeded to undo one of the most gigantic political constructions of modern times? The man who had once bid fair to dominate Europe had taken his disgrace sadly to heart. He had flashed over Europe a trail of fire with words that scourged as a plague, and an invective like a swarm of locusts. Then he had crept back to the lash of his Imperial master and eaten of the dust of humiliation. A soured man, he dwelt now in Mirenna, forgotten but not despised.
"In fact, the Count lives next to me," Lord Walmer explained. "Formerly these two houses were connected. They were built for the joint heirs of the then powerful family of Valdar. The two young men married sisters and all determined to live harmoniously together, having separate establishments at the same time. How the quarrel arose and whether jealousy was at the bottom of it I cannot tell. But one brother murdered the other after killing his wife. It was a horrible story, and subsequently the door joining the two houses was barred up. When the old British Embassy here was destroyed by fire two years ago Count Gleytrim placed this house at my disposal, and I have been here ever since."
Moore was thoughtfully contemplating the wonderfully carved ceiling.
"Is Count Gleytrim an extinct volcano?" he asked.
"I should say not," Walmer replied. "He is not yet sixty, he is a man of indomitable ambition, and King Otho is dying of consumption. I should not be surprised to see Gleytrim with the reins in his hands again—"
"Then he takes the keenest interest in European diplomacy?"
"He doesn't say so, but I fancy he does. Much as I like Gleytrim—who is a fine performer on the violin—I trust he will keep his fingers off the helm till I have seen that Herzora Boundary business through."
"I am going to ask you to be perfectly frank with me," Moore said earnestly. "Is it not the Herzora affair that vou are being so constantly anticipated over?"
Lord Walmer looked slightly puzzled.
"Indeed it is," he replied. "I am forestalled all along the line."
"If Count Gleytrim were in power he would do his best to get the matter shelved altogether? Do I understand that?"
"That is correct. But why?"
Moore evaded the question. He smiled with the air of a man who is well pleased with himself.
"With your permission," he said. "I should like to explore the house. I may be able to light upon something in the way of a clue. I will not intrude upon your lordship again until dinner-time."
The rambling old palace was full of interest for Moore. The legend connected with it appealed strongly to his imagination. Most of the rooms were furnished in the quaint fashion of a bygone day. A film of dust lay over tapestry and carved oak. Here and there were stained-glass windows filling the clanging corridors with a gleam of orange fire or ghastly blue.
But there was something beyond all this of far more interest to Moore. He only allowed himself to simmer in the past for a little time. He came at length to a passage terminating in a large barred door, a door set in a heavy Norman arch, and studded with iron devices of quaint design.
It was the door connecting the two houses. Apparently it had remained unused for centuries, probably since the fateful night of tragedy and chaos. There was no key in the ponderous lock; the iron bands and bars would have defied a siege almost. Moore took a handkerchief from his pocket, and, with a twisted corner of the white silk, poked daintily into the keyhole.
Something brown and oily smeared the white fabric. Then Moore sat down on a broad stone ledge, and laughed gently to himself. Almost mechanically he whipped a thread of tissue paper and a pinch of tobacco into a cigarette.
"Strange," he muttered to himself, "how simple great men are. I suppose they stumble over straws because their heads are always in the clouds. However, there remains a good deal yet to be done. I shall be able to speak more definitely before I go to bed to-night."
In the still, historic silence of the place a sudden strain of sweet wailing music arose. It was a violin being played by a master hand. A tortured soul was struggling there, a soul in pain and doubt, a man groping in the dark for the unattainable. Then as suddenly the chords grew glad and joyous, the house thrilled to a triumphant march.
Moore crept along till he came to the garret library, from whence the mighty music issued. The door was open and he looked in. Lord Walmer was there. As he played his head was tilted back, his eyes fixed with dreamy rhapsody. Beside him on the table lay a rough sheet of notes, and not musical notes either. Moore crept on.
"The man is not on earth," he muttered.
BEFORE the hour fixed for a dinner designed to be eventful, Moore had time enough to learn much concerning his host. The diplomatic staff at the Embassy were disposed to be free in discussing the idiosyncrasies of their chief.
There was nothing absolutely wrong, Moore gathered. Only during the last few months Lord Walmer had been decidedly "queer." There were times when the Ambassador transacted business with all his old clearness and foresight. These times were decidedly in the majority.
But there were other periods when Lord Walmer seemed nervous and uncertain. He was shaky and hollow-eyed of mornings; he gave way to fits of depression. Sometimes these fits lasted for hours, or they passed away directly.
A clear-eyed, level-headed young attaché gave Moore this information. Naturally he knew nothing of the source of the evil.
"Any other point for me?" Moore asked.
"No, I fancy I have told you pretty well everything. Most of Lord Walmer's best ideas are thought out after dinner over a solo on the violin. He is a marvellous player, and so is Count Gleytrim."
"A marvellous player indeed," Moore murmured.
"He sits up half the night playing sometimes." the attaché resumed. "When the fiddling is going on not one of us dare go near the chief. His instructions on that head are definite and final. I give you the tip because it seems to me that it may be useful."
Moore had no further questions to ask and went his way. He wandered along the dark stone streets of Marenna. chewing the cud of reflection.
The grey city had thrown off its gloom for once. For three hundred and sixty-two days in the year Marenna was plunged in grey melancholy. It was only in carnival time that she forgot herself and laughed.
The mask had fallen for the nonce. Sober citizens, men of substance and family, had cast aside the black coat of business and donned motley garb. The streets teemed with grotesque figures. A group of handsome girls smothered Moore with confetti as he passed. A clown with a garb like that of Joseph of old belabored him over the head with his bladder.
Moore was in no mood for this masque of flowers and folly at present. Some night when the fun was fast and furious he might be more in tune with the revel. There were two more days of heedless frivolity, culminating in a fancy ball at the Opera House on Thursday night.
Moore turned away from the roar of voices and the clatter of folly, and made his way back to the Embassy. He had little time to spare, for a big, blaring clock somewhere hard by was striking eight when he had finished his toilet. In a small room adjoining the garret library he saw a table laid with candles and flowers and covers for three. Lord Walmer, in an old dress suit and a riband of some order across his breast, was awaiting his guests.
"I prefer to dine quietly here," he explained. "There are state rooms on the ground floor, but their gloomy grandeur depresses one's spirits. You have been out in the city seeking inspiration, I presume?"
"Yes, my lord; and what is more, I have found it."
The Ambassador started wildly. The eager expectation of his face was suppressed as a footman announced Count Gleytrim. Moore gave the new-comer one swift glance, and immediately every detail was focussed on his mental retina.
He saw a tall, slim, brown man, a man lean and hard, the kind of man who never tires, and whose agility, menial and physical, is the agility of the cat. He saw a face thin as a hatchet, set in scanty grey hair. He saw a mouth hidden by a ragged, drooping moustache. He saw a pair of eyes that smouldered. The whole figure was encased in a seedy, untidy evening dress, but Moore could have no need of explanation to tell him he stood in the presence of no ordinary man.
"This is a new assistant of mine—Mr. Moore," said the Ambassador. "Count Gleytrim, will you permit me?"
The Count nodded with a careless, easy insolence, which at any other time would have brought the blood to Moore's cheek. Diplomatic attachés were as tin soldiers to Gleytrim. They were usually pretty, and served a subordinate purpose.
As a matter of fact, Moore desired in remain more or less effaced for the present. He desired to pass as a rather stupid and shy young man, utterly overcome by the honor so unexpectedly thrust upon him.
A couple of footmen placed shades over the candles and set dinner on the table. Moore was alert enough now when he knew that his features were in the shadow. He look in everything, despite the fact that he was more than once carried away by the hard brilliancy and scathing sarcasm of the Count's discourse.
He noticed that the Ambassador was suffering from profound melancholy. His clawlike fingers beat restlessly on the damask, He toyed with his glass of Laffite. but during the whole of dinner the glass was tilted but once.
Clearly Lord Walmer had no weakness in the way of alcohol.
For the most part Moore remained silent. When he did make a remark, it was one of the ordinary flavorless society type. So far as politeness would admit. Gleytrim ignored him. Lord Walmer made an attempt, and an unsuccessful attempt, to draw Moore into the stream of talk.
"I expect you are tired." he said.
"I am keeping my eyes open by sheer force of will," Moore replied. "I have been travelling for the best part of three days."
"If you like to retire," Lord Walmer suggested.
Moore disclaimed any desire to do so. As a matter of fact he had the strongest possible reasons for remaining.
"Coffee and a cigarette always work wonders with me," he said. "If I may be allowed to listen quietly. I do not often get an intellectual treat like this."
A peculiar click of Gleytrim's lips was the response. Moore caught the flash of his hard dry smile. Dinner came to an end at length, and then an adjournment to the garret library was made. Coffee and cigarettes were set out here. Moore dropped into an easy chair and half closed his eyes. but he did not shut them altogether. As a matter of fact he was watching intently. Two violins lay side by side on the table. Lord Walmer took one. and caressed it as a mother might fondle a child.
"There is nothing like music. "he said, "nothing like it to soothe one. What do you say to try that duet of Chopin's, Gleytrim?"
The Count took a second cigarette. It seemed to Moore that the great statesman was regarding him with no particular favor. There was impatience in the glance and something of suspicion also.
"Presently, my good friend, presently, he said in his incisive tones. "I would not disturb the slumbers of our young Talleyrand here. Later on. perhaps, when he feels that he can with propriety depart."
Moore smiled to himself. The Count was anxious for his departure. He had some pressing reason for getting rid of the intruder. As Gleytrim bent over his coffee cup. Moore flashed Lord Walmer one significant glance.
"The violin well played is a passion with me," he said.
Was it fancy or did the Count start and change color? It might have been fancy, certainly; but assuredly the frown and the flash of the eye had nothing to do with Moore's vivid imagination. There was silence for a few minutes. From the street below came the merry din of the Carnival. Walmer commenced to pluck at the strings of his violin. He moved the instrument to his chin and swept the bow over with the firm, straight sweep of a master. A low. wailing melody filled the room, a melody full of tears. Despair spoke and trembled in every chord of the music. There was fixed despair on the face of the player also. He struck a harsh note or two presently, and then dropped the Cremona.
"This will never do," he muttered. "My wrist is stiff, my fingers are cramped. I—I shall do better presently."
Without a word of apology Walmer quitted the room. He was gone for five or more minutes, during which no words were exchanged between Moore and the Count. The former seemed to have passed to the land of dreams.
But he was wonderfully alert and wide-awake. He saw the look of mingled suspicion and relief on the hatchet face of Gleytrim; he saw the marvellous transformation of Walmer's features on his return. His eyes were bright and shining, his whole frame was erect. He seemed to have cast off his shoulders the burden of a score of years. "The duet, Gleytrim," he cried. "Let us play it."
The Count rose unwillingly. But soon the glamor of the music suffused him, and all else was forgotten. Such a concord of sweet sounds filled the room as Moore had never heard before. When the harmony ceased he felt a wild impulse to cheer. He snored ever so faintly instead.
Gleytrim made a half grim pass at Moore with his bow.
"Pig," he said. "It is quite true that you English have no soul. Carry him to his sty and let him sleep."
"No, no," Walmer cried; "he is quite worn out. My friend here is by no means the fool you take him for." Moore suppressed a chuckle. "He is doing no harm there. Shall I play you that Andante I composed the other night?"
"By all means, let us have the Andante," the Count cried.
He composed himself to listen. He watched Lord Walmer with a keen glance and an eager expectancy which had nothing of the musician about it. Moore was puzzled. He was more puzzled still ten minutes later.
For nearly a quarter of an hour the master played on, lost in his music. There had come over his face the rapt, far-away look Moore had noticed earlier in the day. Walmer was no longer on earth. He had passed away from it as completely as if he had won the world beyond the tomb.
He had become more limp and slack as the Andante proceeded. Presently the music ceased altogether. Walmer laid his violin on the table and began to scribble fast on a sheet of paper. As he raised his face for a moment Moore saw that the musician had fallen into a kind of trance. He had seen people walking in their sleep before, and this was what Walmer was doing.
"That's it," he murmured in a hollow tone. "A magnificent idea. If it can only be carried out my life's work is finished. And now to hide it, hide it where even those scoundrels will be baffled."
He stole across the room softly. A small clock stood on the mantel. In the back of this Walmer deposited his paper. He took up his violin again, and as he commenced to play the light of reason gradually came back to his eyes. Gleytrim's eyes were fixed intently upon Moore. The latter gave a strangled snore and rose to his feet.
"I beg a thousand pardons. "he stammered, "I—I have been asleep."
Lord Walmer smiled his forgiveness.
"You are punished by missing my Andante. "he said. "But I see that you do not know what I am alluding to. You must have been sound asleep."
Moore brushed his hand across his eyes.
"I feel quite clear and fresh now," he said.
"If your lordship will favor me with another solo I will not sin again."
THE carnival at Marenna was fast culminating in one mad riot. For a time the Marennas seemed to have taken leave of sense and propriety. Moore watched the gay kaleidoscope from the roof of the Embassy, and a longing to take part in it possessed him. At any rate, he had made up his mind to attend the ball at the Opera House. There would be plenty of fun there, plenty of character to study, and Moore knew the value of local color.
Moore descended to the level of the street and stood in the deep shade of the doorway watching the parti-colored stream flashing past. As he lingered there Lord Walmer came in from the direction of the Imperial Palace.
"I must have a word or two with you," he said. "I have been forestalled again. An idea that came to me the night before last has been stolen. And I sat up till three this morning working on another grand scheme—the greatest thing I have ever done. If the scoundrels get hold of that I shall resign."
"But why make notes, my lord?" Moore suggested.
"I am bound to; my memory is not what it was. More than one great idea has come to me at night, only to be absolutely forgotten in the morning. Don't you know how you have strange dreams and strive in vain to recall them afterwards? Moore, if you don't solve this mystery I shall go mad."
Lord Walmer passed into the house without another word. The door of his garret library closed behind him, and Moore saw him no more for the present. He had the whole thing in his fingers now, but one knot in the skein puzzled him. How did Walmer's opponents actually finger the pencilled record of his schemes?
The thing puzzled him all day. It puzzled him at dinner, and it mocked him when midnight chimed out; and at length in despair he donned his dress as Mephistopheles and started for the Opera House. As he passed down the stairs he heard the wail of the fiddle in the library. Lord Walmer would not move from there till morning.
It was nearly one before Moore reached his destination. By this time gaiety was at its fullest. The scene was a brilliant and picturesque one. Moore stood and watched it with the eye of an artist. A little shepherdess, as pretty as one of Watteau's pictures, passed him. As she did so a tall figure dressed as a monk accosted her. The little shepherdess gave a cry of delight; then her eyes grew cold with displeasure.
"Do you call this twelve o'clock?" she asked reproachfully.
"It was no fault of mine," said the monk. "I must have had the misfortune to miss you. I was here punctually."
Moore staggered back breathless with surprise. The sudden flash of inspiration made him giddy. But only for a moment. A few minutes later and he was being carried swiftly to the Embassy.
The place was apparently as still as the grave. As Moore mounted the stairs he heard the wild scream of the fiddle far overhead. For a time he stood still waiting for his courage to return. Presently it came. Moore stepped up to the door, and opened it in defiance of all rigid instructions to the contrary. The fiddler was moving round the room as he played. Sometimes he would discard his instrument for a second to open a drawer, or examine the inside of a spill cup or a vase. The figure of Mephistopheles stole up behind him and touched his shoulder.
"You are merely wasting your time, Count," he said grimly. "The papers you are looking for are hidden in the violin case, which is about the last place where you are likely to look for them."
A snarling oath came from Gleytrim's lips. He staggered back with a genuine dismay as he looked upon the strange, red devil before him. The situation was a real dramatic surprise, for the simple reason that Gleytrim never for one moment associated his diabolical acquaintance with Moore.
"The devil has failed me at last," he said grimly.
"Not quite," Moore replied. "For instance, the devil is going to see you safely off the premises by the way in which you came. I know perfectly well why you are here and whence you came. But you are not going to be successful any more. Long before King Otho dies and you come into your own again, we shall have settled that Boundary business, at least Lord Walmer will. You are not likely to tamper with his schemes any more. Be good enough to take my arm. If you elect for violence you will find me quite ready."
But Gleytrim elected for nothing of the kind. For the first time in his life he was dazed, and just a little frightened. Even an unscrupulous diplomatist may stand in awe of the devil, especially a devil he does not know. And therefore Count Gleytrim went peacefully. Moore led him up to the great door that once joined the two houses.
"You have the key of this in your pocket," he said. "All these big bars and bolts have been carefully sawn through and dusted over afterwards. When you do this kind of thing again, don't oil your locks too liberally. Such things give rise to suspicion. No, I'll lock the door on this side and keep the key. Good-night."
"One question," Gleytrim growled, "Who the devil are you?"
"On earth," was the reply. "my name is Moore. You met me two nights ago. I always sleep with one eye open. And, as Lord Walmer remarked, I am not quite such a fool as you took me to be. Good-night."
Moore clicked the key in the lock and strode back to the library. The cigarette he smoked there was a pleasant one. Half-a-dozen brown stubs lay in the grate, and the clock struck five before Lord Walmer returned. Doubtless he had donned his carnival dress elsewhere, for now he was in ordinary evening attire. He seemed tired and fagged; his eyes were sombre and clouded.
He started as Moore rose to greet him. He regarded the grotesque figure before him with cold surprise.
"This pleasantry is ill-timed," he said. "What does it mean?"
"No pleasantry is intended for a moment, my lord," Moore replied. "This dress has been more or less a part of my programme. I have discovered the thief, I have brought him to book, and he will steal no more of your ideas. Will you be so good as to search in the violin case?"
Walmer did so. His face lighted as he produced some loose memoranda.
"My scheme of last night. "he cried. "I had it a few hours ago, and in the morning I couldn't recollect where to look for the papers."
"Under the corner of the carpet," Moore explained, "I saw them peeping out, and I put them at the bottom of the fiddle case. The thief has been here for some hours to-night, but he never dreamt of looking there. Oh, I assure you I caught him absolutely red-handed."
"And the name of the thief?"
"The miscreant is your friend Count Gleytrim."
Not till Moore had given an object lesson on the door connecting the two houses could Lord Walmer bring himself to the belief expressed by Moore. He listened with deepest interest to the way in which Mephistopheles had brought the crime home to the brilliant and audacious Gleytrim.
"Begin at the beginning, and tell me all," he said.
"I shall have to commence in London, then," said Moore. "There the Premier gave me an outline of what was taking place here. He showed me a letter of yours. In that letter I noticed a wonderful difference between the body and the postscript. I presume the P.S. was not written at the same sitting."
"No," Walmer muttered with averted eyes. "It was not—why?"
"Because it was written cither after—er—dinner, or after a dose of morphia. If I am wrong, pray forgive me, but the latter is my theory."
A pained flush camme over Walmer's face.
"I have been taking morphia for some time. "he said. "You are quite right. Go on."
Moore proceeded to relate how he had watched Gleytrim the fateful night he had pretended to be asleep. He related to Walmer the things he had done and said when under the joint influence of music and morphia.
"Doubtless Gleytrim had discovered your secret," he concluded. "He has found out that some of your finest inspirations come when you are in that trance. He has doubtless often seen you scribble and hide those notes. He dared not touch them at the time, but he could come and, when you were out late, use your fiddle to make people believe you were in and keep them rigidly out of the library till his search was rewarded. Gleytrim knew, for instance, that you would be at the Opera House ball to-night."
"He did; I frequently amuse myself en garçon. I may as well admit that I have a private staircase. Oh, yes, for two or three or more hours a night, Gleytrim could play my violin in this room, and everybody might imagine it was me. Doubtless that is the way I have been deceived. But it was a good job you recognised my voice at the Opera House."
"It was the key of the situation," Moore replied. "I knew at once then whom I had left here amusing himself with the violin. Of course, I guessed from the first that Gleytrim was at the bottom of it, but I did not expect to get the knot undone quite as soon as this."
Walmer smiled thoughtfully for some time. Then he spoke sadly of retiring from the public scene altogether. A man who suffered from delusions was a danger to his country and a nuisance to himself.
"See that Boundary business through first, my lord," Moore said eagerly. "It will be easy now we are rid of the man on the other side of the chess-board."
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