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Title: The Charlatan Author: Fred M White * A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1201241h.html Language: English Date first posted: February 2012 Date most recently updated: February 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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THE extraordinary affair at 19, Grosvenor Gate, the town residence of the Duchess of Dumblane, occupied the public mind for at least three days—a remarkable testimony to the dramatic features of the case. The Duchess, as everybody knows, is a recognised leader of Society, very young and very pretty; also, according to her friends, who are capable of expressing an opinion, very foolish into the bargain. On the other hand, the Duke is a pillar of the Upper House, given to politics and striving to effect that economy which is necessary now with a nobleman who depends largely on his estates for his income.
The affair is briefly told as follows. The Duchess had been dining at a certain house where Royalty was expected—a dull, decorous, very full-dress affair—and for the purpose she had procured the family diamonds from the bank where they were usually kept. After the State dinner-party was over, her Grace had returned home and given the gems into the custody of her maid, afterwards going to a "bridge"-party in Stratton Street. The maid was told that she could go to bed if she liked, as her mistress would be very late.
At three o'clock the following morning, the Duchess returned home. The Duke was away in South Africa on some semi-political mission, so that the Duchess had the house to herself. According to her story, she had let herself into the house with a latch-key and had proceeded at once to her dressing-room.
A dreadful spectacle awaited her there. Helena, the maid, lay on the floor, absolutely unconscious, and bleeding from a wound on the face and another on the neck. The place was in great disorder—evidently a severe struggle had taken place. Greatly alarmed, the Duchess summoned the servants to her assistance, and the police were called in.
Helena was by no means so badly hurt as first appeared. Restored to consciousness, she had a queer, confused story to tell. She had put away her mistress's diamonds and had taken a book up which interested her.
That was about one o'clock in the morning. She had fallen asleep in the dressing-room, but was suddenly aware of the fact that somebody was in the room. Before she could jump up, she was grasped from behind; she struggled and called out; she was conscious of two blows, and then she recollected no more.
The natural inference was that the daring thief had come for the jewels. The thing had been carefully worked out by an expert gang, whom the police professed to know all about. Would the Duchess give them a minute list of the missing gems? And then came the most extraordinary part of the story. The jewels were not missing at all. The Duchess had gone through the cases, and they were all intact.
Harold Resbie had read all about it in the Daily Flash. The exceedingly popular novelist and social favourite smiled to himself as he read the story. Time was when it had been just on the cards that the Duchess of Dumblane might become Mrs. Harold Resbie. But the Duke had come along, and Harold had accepted the inevitable. It was not to be expected that Miss Florence Vane would resist a chance like that.
But that was two years ago, and Resbie had got over it by this time. He had so far got over it that he felt a little ashamed to think that he had ever given a serious thought to the pretty, silly, frivolous, and slightly selfish Duchess of Dumblane. They were still very good friends, as they had been for years; and when the little lady needed a tonic in the shape of a good scolding, she never sought it in vain at the hands of Harold Resbie.
He was just back from Monte Carlo now, where he had been dallying with the plot of a new novel. For the third day in succession the Daily Flash squeezed a column out of the Dumblane mystery, as they called it. The Duchess would be certain to be very piquant and very dramatic on the situation, and Resbie had made up his mind to call on her. A little note from the lady in question, imploring him to come round, as she was in great trouble, decided Resbie's mind for him. He would drop into Grosvenor Gate about tea-time.
The drawing-rooms were deserted as Resbie arrived. The Duchess, charmingly arrayed in a pink, silky wrap, awaited him. She could do no more than press the hand of the novelist and sink into a chair with a sigh of deep resignation. Four footmen contrived with great exertion to set out the tea, after which they retired, with strict injunctions to the effect that the Duchess was not at home to anybody.
"What is the trouble about?" Resbie asked.
"My dear Harold, don't you read the papers?" the Dnchess asked reproachfully. "Surely you know all about that most agitating affair which—"
"Well, you have forgotten that by this time, surely? Your nervous system—"
"Don't talk about nerves. I am a perfect wreck. When I think of that awful night—"
"But you haven't lost anything," Resbie said. "And as for nerves, that is all nonsense, thanks to the outdoor life you lived at the old Vicarage. If you had lost your jewels, for instance—"
"My dear Harold, that is exactly what has taken place."
Resbie's manner changed—he became interested instead of cynical.
"I don't understand. Of course, I read all about that mysterious outrage here. But you told the police that not so much as a finger-ring was missing."
"So I did, Harold; but it was not true, all the same. A heap of stuff was left, but all the fine family diamonds were gone. I dared not say a word about it, because I knew that Dumblane would be furious. He gave me the keys of his safe, and he made me promise that whenever I wore the diamonds, I would see that they were locked up personally. But it seemed to be all right, and I was dreadfully late for my bridge-party the other night. So I just handed the diamonds to Helena and went off."
"How long has Helena been in your service?" asked Resbie.
"My dear Harold, how suspicious you are! Helena is an absolute treasure. Besides, she came to me with a splendid recommendation from the Marquise de Boishardy."
"The Marquise being suspected of cheating at cards," said Resbie tentatively. "Lots of West End tradesmen are wondering where the Marquise has gone. This Helena—"
"Harold, I would stake my reputation on the probity of Helena."
"Very well; we will not pursue the investigation in that direction. What do you want me to do?"
"Really, I don't know," the Duchess said falteringly. "I confided in you because you are a novelist and have a strange gift for solving the workings of the human mind. Look how you prophesied that I should marry the Duke, even when you and I were practically engaged! I want you to take this case in hand and see if you can make anything of it. Of course, it's a dead secret "
"Really! Now, how many of your bosom friends know the truth?"
The Duchess was forced to admit that she had confided her story to a select few, but not more than twelve altogether. Those bosom friends were deeply interested. Resbie wanted to know if that was as far as things had gone at present.
"Almost," the Duchess said, speaking with a certain hesitation. "I almost wish now that I had told the police everything. But that is not the strangest part of the affair. When I mentioned the matter to Irene Charteris, she advised me to go to one of those marvellous creatures who look into crystals and keep black page-boys."
"So they did in the days of Queen Anne," Resbie said sarcastically. "You were to go and see this woman with a view to getting your diamonds back. If we read of these things in books, we laugh. Sane men and women consulting a vulgar charlatan who—"
"But she isn't," the Duchess exclaimed. "She really is marvellous. Why, she sent me her card the very day of my loss. When I saw her the day before yesterday—"
"She told you that there had been telepathic sympathy between you, eh?"
"My dear Harold, how did you know that?" the Duchess cried.
Resbie felt inclined to abandon the case as hopeless. And yet cleverer people than her Grace had believed thoroughly in that senseless tomfoolery.
"In the course of my profession I have met some of these people," he said. "This woman saw a possible chance of making money out of you. She gazed into the crystal and told you that you would get your gems back if you followed a certain course. Did she arrange for a séance at the house of that very foolish Mrs. Charteris, for instance?"
"Harold, it was absolutely wonderful!" the Duche§s cried. "When I got that card, I had vague hopes that something would come of it. I told Irene Charteris everything. She said that there was nobody like Madame Lesterre. A séance was arranged for the same evening—there were about a dozen of us present, all my dearest friends. It was a long time before the spiritual influence came, but it did come at last. Madame Lesterre is a lovely woman."
"They always are," Harold said cynically. "Otherwise they would never make salt."
"I declare she was beautiful; her face was inspired. She said that she saw a certain box, fitted with jasper and gold, with initials in the enamel on the lid. At once I recognised that she was describing the Louis Seize writing-table in my boudoir. She said she could see a drawer in this thing filled with cotton wool, and on the cotton wool was a case of shabby leather. Inside this case there were things glittering like fire."
"Well?" Resbie asked, interested in spite of himself, "and what happened then?"
"Why, I came home. It was vague, but soothing. I opened that particular drawer in my writing-table, and there was the very case that Lesterre had seen in her vision. When I came to look inside it, I found the diamond collar with the clasp that Charles I. gave to the family."
"Do you mean to say it was the grand collar that everybody knows of?" Resbie cried.
"Absolutely the same, Harold. Imagine my delight, imagine how cheerfully I paid Madame Lesterre's fee of a hundred guineas. In some marvellous way she had identified the thief in the crystal, and her will power had compelled the return of that collar."
"Wasn't her will power equal to getting all the swag back?" Resbie asked with a touch of the usual cynicism.
"No; I put that to Madame Lesterre. We have had two more of the séances since, and each time there has been a substantial result. Of course, those hundred-guinea fees are very trying, especially as I am so hard up just now. Of course, too, the story is sure to leak out when I have got all the gems back, and it will be the making of Lesterre. The thing will be in all the Society papers, and then she'll be able to charge what she likes."
"The most amazing thing I ever heard of," Resbie murmured.
"Yes, isn't it? Only I wish that it didn't cost such a lot of money. We're going to have a séance here to-morrow night, and quite lot of people are coming. They are all pledged to secrecy, of course. I hope they will find the tiara then—I'm very anxious about the tiara."
Resbie opened his mouth as if to say something; then he seemed to think better of it. He switched off the conversation slightly.
"I hope you will let me be one of the party," he suggested. "It's just possible that I may find a way of solving this wonderful mystery. But my selfishness causes me to forget the human side of the story. How is your maid?"
"Helena? Oh, she is getting on very well indeed. The wounds are more or less superficial, and the girl has a wonderful fund of nervous energy. She laughs at her adventure already."
"It's just possible that she is laughing at something else besides that," Resbie said darkly. "Don't keep her tied up to the house too much."
"My dear Harold, she was out the very next day. I wanted her to have assistance for the time, but she positively declined. Helena is a very remarkable girl."
"So I should imagine. Now, I've got an idea about this thing. It is the kind of idea that would only occur to a novelist, and in itself it would make a pretty plot for a smart story. Whether my theory will be supported by facts remains to be seen. You say you have a séance here to-morrow night. I shall come, as you have asked me; but I am to have a free hand in the matter and ask what questions I like. Also I am to dine with you here beforehand at 7.30. I flatter myself that I shall have a startling surprise in store for you."
"Are you not going to tell me any more than that?" the Duchess asked.
"Not a word," Resbie said firmly. "I don't want to have the whole thing spoilt at the start. Give me another cup of tea and let us talk about something else."
It was an hour later that Resbie left Grosvenor Gate and made his way eastward. His first stopping-place was at the offices of a well-known firm of private detectives, and for a little time he was closeted with the head of the firm. He did not want much, he said—only two persons watched carefully for the next four-and-twenty hours. He must have a full report from the agent delivered in person at his chambers by seven o'clock the following evening.
"There will be no difficulty about that," the inquiry agent said. "Anything more, sir?"
"No, Yes, by Jove! there is I was nearly forgetting the most important thing. I want one of your ladies to call upon me about five to-morrow. She must have plenty of pluck and be ready for a dashing adventure which, however, will only last a few moments. She had better be in some kind of disguise. Can you manage that?"
The head of the firm was understood to say that he could manage anything of the kind, and that it was merely a matter of money. Resbie went away %ell satisfied with his plans, so far as they had gone. There was only one other thing to do.
"It's a pretty scheme," he told himself, "and worthy of the brain of any novelist. It's all theory on my part up to now, but I'm ready to bet any money that my theory is the correct one. A pretty plot, and the credulity of fools! But when you find level-headed business men and prominent journalists dabbling in this sort of thing, what can one expect from a mob of Society women whose brains are represented by the letter X. Hansom!"
Resbie drove away to Bond Street, where he stopped at length and asked for Madame Lesterre. Madame was in, and she was at present disengaged. Resbie passed into the sacred chamber, furnished as such rooms always are. He saw a tall, graceful woman, with a sweet, sad face and dark, pathetic eyes. The face was right enough, he thought, but the mouth was thin, and the lines of it both greedy and ambitious.
"You came here out of idle curiosity, Mr. Resbie," the woman said.
"That's perfectly true," Resbie said candidly, though be was a little moved by the swiftness of the woman's intuition. "And yet my curiosity is not idle. Fact is, I'm casting about for a plot for a new story; and as I was passing here, something came into my mind that may do. So I paid my two guineas at the door so that I could renew my acquaintance with this kind of atmosphere. I always find atmosphere is wonderfully stimulating to the imagination."
"Then yau do not believe in this kind of thing?" Lesterre asked. "The psychological—"
"I'm not quite certain that I believe in anything," Resbie laughed. "Let me smoke a cigarette here and have a chat for a few minutes whilst I get my atmosphere. Really, I feel as if I were going to get very good value for my two guineas."
Half an hour later, Resbie was back in his chambers again. He took a sheet of thick paper, and an envelope to match, and dictated a letter as follows to his secretary. There was no address to it, and no signature besides the initials—
Dear Madame Lesterre,—
I dare not sign my name, I dare not come and see you. I am in great distress. Will you help me? At nine o'clock to-morrow I shall be at the corner of Hilton Street, by the entrance to the Green Park. I hear you have a séance in Grosvenor Gate a little after that time. Will you ask your coachman to pull up at the spot I speak of, and I will tell you all I want to say through the window of your brougham. Don't fail; it is a matter of ten times your usual fee. Don't fail me. I.C.F.
"Post that. Miss Maynard, please," Resbie chuckled, "and say nothing about it. If you are a good girl, I'll tell you the original plot and its sequence, if all goes well."
What with police and pressmen and disinterested friends, the life of the Duchess was a burden to her. Also the excitement of the séances was getting on her nerves. She had a vague feeling that, piecemeal, she was going to recover the whole of her property; but, even then, the price she was paying for it was a high one. Also she was beginning to regret that she had taken certain friends into her confidence. She began to notice that people watched her suspiciously. A certain lady journalist had inserted a daring paragraph in a Society paper. To crown all, a leading official from Scotland Yard had inquired whether there were any truth in the persistent rumours that the stones had been stolen, after all.
Therefore it was that her Grace welcomed Harold Resbie to dinner with effusion. She declared herself to be utterly bored to death; she was nervous and uneasy. Resbie said something soothing. He looked very calm and confident as he came into the drawing-room.
"I'm sure some of those women have been talking," the Duchess said. "They all promised me most faithfully that they would not say anything to anybody. And yet people are actually hinting to me that for diplomatic reasons I am concealing the truth. A man who came from Scotland Yard to-day—"
"Oh, so they are getting hold of the truth also?" Resbie asked.
"It looks like it. Really, the number of falsehoods I have had to tell lately is enormous. And the daughter of a clergyman, too! If those people at Scotland Yard force me any further, I shall be really ill."
There was no exaggeration here, as the novelist conld see. The Duchess of Dumblane looked anxious and worried; there were dark rings under her blue eyes.
"You ought never to have kept the truth from Scotland Yard," Resbie said. "I have no doubt, had you wished it, they would have allowed the public to think that nothing was lost. As it is, you call them in to help you, and then you deliberately put them off the scent."
"I don't see what difference that could make," said the innocent Duchess.
"Why, it makes every difference, of course. It removes motive, for one thing; and it prevents the Yard people from looking for a confederate in the house. You may say what you like about your servants and their blameless integrity, but there was a confederate in the house.
"Now, I have taken this thing in my hands, and I am going to work it my own way. Unless I am greatly mistaken, I shall have the pleasure of handing all your jewels back to you in the course of the evening; but I must do it my own way, or not at all. In the first instance, it is imperative that I should have a few words with your maid. Send her into your boudoir presently for something or another, and I will follow. I came half an hour before my time for this purpose. There is no time to lose."
Resbie spoke sharply and sternly and in the voice of one who expects to be obeyed. A little later he strolled into the boudoir, where a pretty, dark girl with a vivacious face appeared to be looking for something. Resbie quietly closed the door behind him. There was not very much conversation, but it was mainly on the side of the novelist. All the same, the second gong for dinner rang before Resbie returned to the drawing-room.
"I was beginning to get quite alarmed," the Duchess said. "I do hope you have not upset Helena. She is by far the best maid that I ever had. If she gives me notice—"
"Oh, but she won't," Resbie said cheerfully. "One thing I can promise you with every confidence—if there is any notice given, it will come from you. Cheer up, your troubles are nearly over; you will sleep with an easy mind to-night. And now let us go into dinner. I shall not refer to the subject again."
It was an exquisite little dinner, and Resbie enjoyed it thoroughly in his critical way. He looked upon a good dinner as a distinct addition to the joys of life. The wines were poems in their way, and the subsequent cigarette had a flavour of its own. Resbie looked at his watch presently.
"We have been exactly an hour and a half over dinner," he said.
"Have you found it too long?" the Duchess laughed. "Personally, I look upon the time seated over dinner as so much hideous waste. All this fussy cooking is lost on me. I should like to go back to the soup and locally killed chicken of the dear old Vicarage days."
"No woman can dine," Resbie said thoughtfully. "It is an art that she never acquires. A bun and a glass of claret is what I saw a Princess dine off in Paris. What time do your people come?"
The Duchess remarked that the séance was fixed for a quarter to ten. She had asked some dozen of her bosom friends to see the manifestations. She was getting very restless and nervous again, as Resbie noticed from behind the pungent blue haze of his cigarette-smoke. She wished that the whole thing were over.
"Have half a glass of champagne," he said soothingly. "As you are never used to it, the wine will do you all the good in the world. I am glad to see that you keep your simple tastes. Drink that up and trust in me. I am not going to disappoint you."
The Duchess and her visitor had barely reached the drawing-room before some of the guests began to arrive. They were a smart, level-looking lot, as Resbie was bound to confess, so that their credulity over the powers of Madame Lesterre was all the more amazing. There are many remarkable things in the olla podrida called Society, but nothing more amazing than the belief in the charlatan who looks into crystals and foretells the future.
Resbie sternly repressed a desire to laugh at the whole thing, but he was not slow to see that the policy would be a mistaken one. The conversation turned on the occult. Madame Lesterre was a great favourite; but, on the other hand, there was a new star, in the shape of a mulatto, who was doing remarkable things. The atmosphere was false and meretricious, and Resbie began to long for a little fresh air.
Yet, on the face of it, Madame Lesterre had performed a wonderful thing. When the story became public, as it was bound to do, her fortune would be made; in future, she could always charge pretty well anything for a consultation.
Madame Lesterre was announced, and the audience fluttered respectfully to greet her. The dark face was a little pale, her eyes expressed both fear and indignation. She suffered herself to be led to a chair and surrounded by her admiring disciples.
"Your work has been too much for you to-day, Madame?" the Duchess said.
"My dear child, it is not that," Lesterre said, with a languid, insolent familiarity that roused Resbie to anger. If the woman had her deserts, she had been behind stone walls. "My friends, I have to-night been submitted to a most insufferable outrage. I received a note purporting to come from a client of mine who was in great trouble. I was to stop my brougham on my way here—give her a secret audience. I did so, and a woman in a veil looked into the window. Instantly she passed some pungent stuff on a handkerchief to my face, and I fainted. I could not call out, though I never quite lost my senses. I have a vague recollection of being searched, but fortunately for me I had left even my purse at home. Ornaments I never wear, as you good friends of mine are aware. Then the thief made off and was out of sight before I could recover my voice again. There is an experience for you!"
"You will place the matter in the hands of the police?" somebody suggested.
"No, I shall let it pass. The police say my methods are not legitimate, just as if I were a mere fortune-teller! We shall have the manifestations in here."
"Why not in the library?" said Resbie. "It is more spacious and more sympathetic."
Resbie's voice was low and level, so that nobody noticed the curious intonation of it except Madame Lesterre, who turned and looked at him sharply. Then she smiled, as one who recollects the face of a pleasant acquaintance. Resbie repeated his suggestion again.
"The library is certainly a more comfortable room," the Duchess said. "The dark doors have—"
"No, no!" Madame Lesterre cried. "In here, if you please! When I entered the house, I had no prejudices. But my temperament is a singular one and open to all kinds of passing influence. When I entered this room, I was in a state of nervous indignation. I was going to suggest that the manifestation be postponed to a future occasion. Then the charm of the room came over me, and my spirit was at rest. I feel that I am going to do great things to-night."
Resbie said no more. He had gained his point, though the others did not know it. He stood in the background, as if he took no further interest in the proceedings. Madame produced her crystal from her pocket and placed it on a little table. After that, in a deep, impressive voice she asked to have the door locked. Not only did Resbie lock the door, but he took the key from the lock and placed it in his pocket.
The lights were turned low, the manifestations had begun. For a long time the gazer looked into the glassy ball with a rapt attention. Her lips began to move, but no sound came from them; she grew rigid and stiff, she did not seem to breathe.
"I see something misty," the words came at length. "I see a soldier, a great General, dressed in the fashion of a bygone day. I see Eastern palaces and the hurry of fight. I see men fall; then I see the soldier with a magnificent diamond cross in his hand. It is set in gold snakes."
"Isn't it marvellous?" the Duchess whispered half-hysterically. "That is the Grand Cross that Lord George found at Delhi. Madame has never seen it, yet she describes it perfectly. She speaks again."
The march was going on. She told what she could see. She saw the cross suspended in mid-air; she saw it fall to the ground, and there it was picked up by invisible hands and conveyed to a black vase with gold figures upon it. Behind the vase was a picture of a child asleep.
"The Ming Cup," the Duchess cried. "The Ming Cup, in the far corner yonder, with the picture by Rubens behind it. Mr. Resbie, will you see what is in the cup? I am too nervous to look. It is possible that the missing Cross—"
The Duchess paused, unable to proceed any further. In a solemn, tense silence, Resbie crossed the room and lifted the cover from the priceless Ming Cup. He plunged his hand down until it touched some hard, brilliant surface. As he raised his hand again, and the electrics flashed up, a stream of fire, cross-shaped, struck the eyes of everybody.
"It is the Cross surely enough," Resbie said quietly. He was the only one there who seemed to have kept his head. "Madame has been wonderfully successful. I suppose this is the marvellous gem that I have heard so much about. Pray do another one."
But Madame Lesterre, half-fainting in a chair now, declined gently. The mental strain was too great; her poor frame could not stand two of these activities in one evening. Perhaps later on in the week, when she had recovered from the strain—"
Resbie turned away and looked into the crystal. His gaze grew grim and intent. He began to mutter. Madame Lesterre turned to him with an indulgent smile.
"Mr. Resbie is feeling the influence," she said. "The highly strung brain of the novelist will ever be a good one for the telepathic attraction. Do you see anything?"
"I see many things," Resbie said. "For instance, I see a plant, a very pretty plant indeed—"
"Eh, what?" Madame said sharply. "Do you mean to suggest that? But go on, go on."
"A plant," Resbie proceeded. "It grows rapidly and gives off seeds. One of these seeds bursts and turns into a bowl. It is like the great bowl with the Rose du Barri cover over there, on the top of the Chippendale cabinet. I dare not break the spell by going to look myself. But will somebody take off the cover and see what is inside? Unless I am greatly mistaken, it will be found to contain the Duchess's diamond tiara."
Madame Lesterre had grown strangely still and white. One of the elect crossed the room and took something from the bowl. It gleamed and glittered as it found the light. There was no question what it was, as the Duchess's delighted scream testified.
"I am getting on," Resbie said. "For a mere amateur, I am doing very well indeed. We need not go into details over the rest of the seeds, but keep strictly to business. Over there on the chimney-piece is an antique enamelled tea-caddy. If you will look inside there, somebody will find the necklace of pearls... Is that really so? Now please try that ginger-jar on the little pedestal... So that contains a breastplate of diamonds. As I am in form, and the strain not too much for me, I had better finish my innings. Try that Sheraton cabinet, under the big palm. Thank you... There, I fancy that is the lot. Really, I did not know that my powers were so wonderfully great."
Nobody spoke for a long time; they were all too surprised. But on a table before the Duchess stood the whole of the missing property. Madame Lesterre had risen to her feet and was looking defiantly towards the door. One or two of the sharper guests were beginning to get a grip of the truth. Then Madame turned and held the handle of the door. She was not well—she must get home. Without saying farewell to anybody, she waited till the door was opened and Resbie was escorting her down the stairs.
"I will see you off the premises," he said. "A wonderful manifestation, yours. It is a pity that you have made up your mind to leave England. I don't think I was misinformed when I heard that you were leaving for Paris to-morrow, with no intention of coming back to—er—practise here?"
Madame accepted her defeat gracefully enough, and Resbie returned to the drawing-room. He sat down under a perfect stream of cross-questions. He proceeded to explain when the babel ceased.
"It was quite an easy matter," he said. "When the Duchess told me, I regarded this as a put-up job between the maid Helena and somebody outside. When I saw the maid and recognised the fact that she was not in the least hurt, I felt certain of it. All that blood, etc., belonged to somebody else. I found the motive when I heard of that first manifestation. The whole thing had been schemed by Madame Lesterre, to give herself a unique advertisement. I worked the thing out like a story. The first thing I did was to set a watch on the maid Helena. I was not in the least surprised to find that she was in the habit of visiting Madame, nor was I surprised to find that Madame is her sister.
"Then I was certain of my put-up job. Robbery was not the motive; a marvellous new advertisement was. Helena had only to arrange where to hide the different gems, and there you are. That is what the novelist found out. Gradually the gems would be discovered, and Madame would stand on a higher pinnacle than she had ever done before. To make sure, I had her searched to-night. I did not care to take any risks. When I came here to-night, I took the liberty of seeing Helena and asking her a few questions. She confirmed it all; she told me how the thing was planned for to-night. So I decided to have my little surprise too. I got all the jewels from Helena and gave her instructions where to hide them in this room. No, I was not afraid of her going back upon me, for I took care to tell her, which is a fact, that I had a detective waiting outside the house in case there was any treachery. I worked my little surprise, and you thought it was Madame Lesterre. Like the shrewd woman she is, she gave in at once. I am afraid that none of you ladies will ever see her again, as she departs for Paris to-morrow, with no intention of returning to England."
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