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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Maker Of History - Book 2 - Chapter 6. The Blundering Of Andrew
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A Maker Of History - Book 2 - Chapter 6. The Blundering Of Andrew Post by :mrslita_kabila Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :2975

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A Maker Of History - Book 2 - Chapter 6. The Blundering Of Andrew

BOOK II CHAPTER VI. THE BLUNDERING OF ANDREW

They came face to face in the hall of the Grand Hotel. Duncombe had just returned from his call upon the Marquise. Andrew was leaning upon the arm of a dark, smooth-shaven man, and had apparently just descended from the lift. At the sound of Duncombe's little exclamation they both stopped short. Andrew turned his heavily spectacled eyes in Duncombe's direction, but it was obvious that he saw nothing.

"You here, Andrew!"

"Yes! Why not?"

The tone was curt, almost discourteous. Duncombe understood at once.

"Let us sit down somewhere, and talk for a few minutes," he said. "I did not expect you. You should have let me know that you were coming."

Andrew laughed a little bitterly.

"I scarcely see why," he said. "To tell you the truth, I see no advantage to either of us in any intercourse."

Duncombe took him by the arm and led him towards the smoking-room.

"Andrew," he said, "perhaps I have behaved badly--at least from your point of view, but remember that I warned you. Let us sit down here. Who is your friend?"

"Never mind," Andrew answered. "You can say what you have to before him. He is in my confidence."

Duncombe glanced around. The man had taken the chair next to them, and was evidently prepared to listen to all that was said. His clothes and bearing, and quiet, unobtrusive manners, all seemed to suggest truthfully enough his possible identity--an English detective from an advertised office. Duncombe smiled as he realized the almost pitiful inadequacy of such methods.

"Come, Andrew," he said, turning to his friend, "you have a small grievance against me, and you think you have a great one."

"A small grievance!" Andrew murmured softly. "Thank you, Duncombe."

"Go on, then. State it!" Duncombe declared. "Let me hear what is in your mind."

Andrew raised his brows slowly. Twice he seemed to speak, but at the last moment remained silent. He was obviously struggling to control himself.

"There is this in my mind against you, Duncombe," he said finally. "I sent for you as a friend. You accepted a charge from me--as my friend. And you betrayed me."

Duncombe shook his head.

"Listen, Andrew," he said. "I want to remind you again of what I said just now. I warned you! No, don't interrupt. It may have sounded like nonsense to you. I meant every word I said. I honestly tried to make you understand. I came here; I risked many things. I failed! I returned to England. Up till then you had nothing to complain of. Then, Heaven knows why, but the very girl whom I had gone to Paris to seek came to Runton in the guise at least of an adventuress."

Andrew lifted his head quickly.

"You admit it at last, then?" he cried.

"Yes, I admit it now," Duncombe agreed.

"You lied to me there--to me who had no eyes, who trusted you. What was that but betrayal, rank, inexcusable betrayal!"

"Listen, Andrew," Duncombe said. "She told me that she was not Phyllis Poynton. It was enough for me. I disregarded my convictions. Her word was my law. She said that she was not Phyllis Poynton, and to me she never was Phyllis Poynton. She was afraid of you, and I helped her to avoid you. I admit it! It is the extent of my failing in our friendship, and you were warned."

"And now?"

"I am here now," Duncombe said a little sadly, "because I love her, and because I cannot keep away. But she will not see me, and I am no nearer solving the mystery than ever. On the contrary, I know that I am in danger here. It is possible that I may be driven to leave Paris to-night."

"You know where she is now?"

"Yes."

Andrew leaned suddenly over, and his grip was on Duncombe's shoulder like a vise.

"Then, by God, you shall tell me!" he said fiercely. "Don't you know, man, that Guy has been found in the Seine, robbed and drugged, and murdered without a doubt? Do you want me to wait whilst something of the same sort happens to her? You shall tell me where she is, Duncombe. I say that you shall tell me!"

Duncombe hesitated.

"You can do no more than I have done," he said.

"Then at least I will do as much," Andrew answered. "I am her oldest friend, and I have claims upon her which you never could have. Now that she is in this terrible trouble my place is by her side. I----"

"One moment, Andrew," Duncombe interrupted. "Are you sure that it was Guy Poynton who was found in the Seine? The height was given as five feet nine, and Guy Poynton was over six feet."

"You should read the papers," Andrew answered shortly. "He was identified by his sister."

"The papers said so," Duncombe answered hesitatingly; "but----"

"Look here," Andrew interrupted, "I have had enough of this playing with facts. You have grown too complex about this business altogether, Duncombe. Give me Phyllis Poynton's address."

"You shall have it," Duncombe answered, taking a leaf from his pocketbook and writing. "I don't think that it will be any good to you. I think that it is more likely to lead you into trouble. Miss Poynton is with the Marquis and Marquise de St. Ethol. They are of the first nobility in France. Their position as people of honor and circumstance appears undoubted. But nevertheless, if you are allowed to see her I shall be surprised."

The hall-porter approached them, hat in hand.

"A lady to see Monsieur," he announced to Andrew.

Andrew rose and took his companion's arm. He scarcely glanced again towards Duncombe, who followed them out of the room. And there in the hall awaiting them was the young lady from Vienna, quietly dressed in black, but unmistakable with her pretty hair and perfumes. Duncombe watched them shake hands and move away before he could recover sufficiently from his first fit of surprise to intervene. Then a realization of what had happened rushed in upon him. They, too, then, had been to the Cafe Montmartre, with their obvious Anglicisms, their clumsy inquiries--to make of themselves without doubt the jest of that little nest of intriguers, and afterwards their tool. Duncombe thought of the fruits of his own inquiries there, and shivered. He hurried after the little party, who were apparently on their way to the cafe.

"Andrew," he said, grasping him by the arm, "I must speak with you alone--at once."

"I see no object in any further discussion between us," Andrew said calmly.

"Don't be a fool!" Duncombe answered. "That woman you are with is a spy. If you have anything to do with her you are injuring Phyllis Poynton. She is not here to give you information. She is at work for her own ends."

"You are becoming more communicative, my friend," Andrew said, with something which was almost a sneer. "You did not talk so freely a few minutes back. It seems as though we were on the eve of a discovery."

"You are on the brink of making an idiot of yourself," Duncombe answered quickly. "You were mad to bring that blundering English detective over here. What the French police cannot or do not choose to discover, do you suppose that they would allow an Englishman to find out--a stranger to Paris, and with an accent like that? If I cannot keep you from folly by any other means I must break my word to others. Come back into the smoking-room with me, and I will tell you why you are mad to have anything to do with that woman."

"Thank you," Andrew answered, "I think not. I have confidence in Mr. Lloyd, my friend here, and I have none in you."

"Andrew!"

"I speak as I feel!"

"Leave me out of the question. It is Phyllis Poynton you will harm. I see that your friend is listening, and Mademoiselle is impatient. Make your excuses for ten minutes, Andrew. You will never regret it."

The detective, who had evidently overheard everything, stepped back to them.

"You will excuse my interfering, sir," he said, "but if this case is to remain in my hands at all it is necessary for me to hear all that Sir George Duncombe has to say. The young lady will wait for a moment. This case is difficult enough as it is, what with the jealousy of the French police, who naturally don't want us to find out what they can't. If Sir George Duncombe has any information to give now," the man added with emphasis, "which he withheld a few minutes ago, I think that I ought to hear it from his own lips."

"I agree entirely with what Mr. Lloyd has said," Andrew declared.

Duncombe shrugged his shoulders. He looked around him cautiously, but they were in a corner of the entresol, and no one was within hearing distance.

"Very well," he said. "To save you from danger, and Miss Poynton from further trouble, I am going to break a confidence which has been reposed in me, and to give you the benefit of my own surmises. In the first place, Mr. Lloyd is mistaken in supposing that the French police have been in the least puzzled by this double disappearance. On the contrary, they are perfectly well aware of all the facts of the case, and could have produced Miss Poynton or her brother at any moment. They are working not for us, but against us!"

"Indeed!" Mr. Lloyd said in a tone of disbelief. "And their object?"

"Here is as much of the truth as I dare tell you," Duncombe said. "Guy Poynton whilst on the Continent became the chance possessor of an important State secret. He was followed to France by spies from that country--we will call it Germany--and the young lady who awaits you so impatiently is, if not one of them, at least one of their friends. At the Cafe Montmartre he gave his secret away to people who are in some measure allied with the secret service police of France. He was kidnapped by them, and induced to remain hidden by a trick. Meanwhile diplomacy makes use of his information, and foreign spies look for him in vain. His sister, when she came to search for him, was simply an inconvenience which these people had not contemplated. She was worked upon by fears concerning her brother's safety to go into hiding. Both have been well cared for, and the report of Guy's death is, I firmly believe, nothing but an attempt to lull the anxieties of the spies who are searching for him. This young woman here may be able to tell you into whose hands he has fallen, but you may take my word for it that she is in greater need of information than you are, and that she is an exceedingly dangerous person for you to discuss the Poyntons with. There are the crude facts. I have only known them a few hours myself, and there is a good deal which I cannot explain. But this I honestly and firmly believe. Neither you nor I nor Mr. Lloyd here can do the slightest good by interfering in this matter. For myself, I am leaving for England to-night."

Duncombe, like most honest men, expected to be believed. If he had entertained the slightest doubt about it he would not have dared to open his mouth. The silence that followed he could understand. No doubt they were as amazed as he had been. But it was a different thing when he saw the expression on Andrew's face as he turned to his companion.

"What do you think of this, Lloyd?" he asked.

"I am afraid, sir," the man answered, "that some of the clever ones have been imposing upon Sir George. It generally turns out so when amateurs tackle a job like this."

Duncombe looked at him in astonishment.

"Do you mean to say that you don't believe me?" he exclaimed.

"I wouldn't put it like that, sir," the man answered with a deprecating smile. "I think you have been misled by those who did not wish you to discover the truth."

Duncombe turned sharply on his heel.

"And you, Andrew?"

"I wish to do you justice," Andrew answered coldly, "and I am willing to believe that you have faith yourself in the extraordinary story you have just told us. But frankly I think that you have been too credulous."

Duncombe lost his temper. He turned on his heel, and walked back into the hotel.

"You can go to the devil your own way!" he declared.

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