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Sabatini, already dressed for the evening, his coat upon his arm, paused only to light a cigarette and read once more the telegram which he held between his fingers, before he left his house to step into the automobile which was waiting outside. His servant entered the room with his silk hat.
"You will remember carefully my instructions, Pietro?" he said.
"Assuredly, sir," the man answered.
"If there is a telegram, any communication from the Embassy, or telephone message, you will bring it to me yourself, at once, at number 17, Grosvenor Square. If any one should call to see me, you know exactly where I am to be found."
"There is a young gentleman here now, sir," the man announced. "He has just arrived."
"The young gentleman who was here before, to-day?" Sabatini asked.
"The same, Excellency."
Sabatini laid down his coat.
"You can show him in," he directed. "Wait for me outside."
Arnold, who had come straight from the unknown world in which he had found Isaac, was shown in immediately. Pietro closed the door and withdrew. Sabatini looked inquiringly at his visitor.
"You have seen Isaac?" he asked.
"I have seen him," Arnold assented.
"You bring me news?"
"It is true," Arnold replied. "I bring news."
Sabatini waited patiently. Arnold remained, for a moment, gloomily silent. It was hard to know how to commence.
"You will forgive my reminding you," Sabatini said quietly, "that I am on the point of starting out to keep an engagement. I would not mention it but in one respect London hostesses are exacting. There are many liberties which are permitted here, but one must not be late for dinner."
Arnold's memory flashed back to the scene which he had just left--to Isaac, the outcast, crouched beneath his barricade of furniture, waiting in the darkness with his loaded pistol and murder in his heart. Sabatini, calm and dignified in his rigidly correct evening dress, his grace and good-looks, represented with curious appositeness the other extreme of life.
"I will not keep you long," Arnold began, "but there is something which you must hear from me, and hear at once."
"Assuredly," Sabatini murmured. "It is something connected with your visit to this poor, misguided outcast. I am afraid there is nothing we can do for him."
"There is nothing any one can do for him," Arnold declared. "I went to see him because, when he fled from his rooms and they were seized by the police, his niece was left penniless and homeless. Fortunately, the change in my own circumstances permitted me to offer her a shelter--for the moment, at any rate. I have told you something of this before but I am obliged to repeat it. You will understand presently. It is of some importance."
"The young lady is still under your care?" he asked.
"She is still with me," Arnold admitted. "I took two rooms not very far away from here. I did it because it was the only thing to do, but I can see now that as a permanent arrangement it will not answer. Already, even, a shadow seems to have sprung up between us. I am beginning to understand what it is. I have always looked upon Ruth as being somewhat different from other women because of her infirmity. It is dawning upon me now that, after all, the infirmity counts for little. She is a woman, with a woman's sensibility and all that goes with it. It troubles her to be living alone with me."
A shadow of perplexity passed across Sabatini's face. This young man was very much in earnest and spoke as though he had good reasons for these explanations, yet the reasons themselves were not obvious and the minutes were passing.
"She seemed to me," he murmured, "to be a very charming and distinguished young lady."
"I am glad to hear you say so," Arnold declared. "To-day I went to Isaac that he might tell me whether there were not some relatives of hers in the world to whom she could apply for help and shelter. I pointed out that he had left Ruth alone and penniless; that although the charge of her was nothing but a pleasure to me, it was not fitting that I should undertake it. I insisted upon his telling me the name of at least one of her relatives, so that I might let them know of her existence and beg for a home for her."
"It was a reasonable request," Sabatini remarked. "I trust that the fellow recognized the situation?"
"He had already written out Ruth's history," Arnold said, his voice shaking a little. "He had written it out in pencil on a couple of sheets of foolscap. He gave them to me to bring away with me. I read them coming up. I am here now to repeat their purport to you."
Sabatini gave a little nod of interest. His glance at the clock was apologetic. He had thrown his overcoat once more upon his arm, and, with his white-gloved hand resting upon the back of a chair, stood listening in an attitude of courteous ease.
"I shall be glad to hear the story," he said. "I must admit that although I only met the young lady for those few minutes at Bourne End, I found myself most interested in her. I feel sure that she is charming in every way. Please go on."
"If Isaac's story is true," Arnold continued slowly, "you should indeed be interested in her."
Sabatini's eyebrows were slightly raised.
"I scarcely understand," he murmured. "I--pray go on."
"According to his story," Arnold said, "Ruth Lalonde is your daughter."
Sabatini stood perfectly motionless. The slight expression of tired attention with which he had been listening, had faded from his face. In the late sunshine which still filled the room, there was something almost corpse-like in the pallor of his cheeks, his unnatural silence. When he spoke, his words came slowly.
"Is this a jest?"
"Isaac's story is that you married her mother, who was his sister, in Paris, nineteen and a half years ago. Her name was CÚcile Ruth Leneveu, and she was acting at one of the theatres. She was really Isaac's half-sister. His father had brought him from Paris when he was only a child, and married again almost at once. According to his story, Ruth's mother lived with you for two years--until, in fact, you went to Chili to take command of the troops there, at the time of the revolution. When you returned, she was dead. You were told that she had given birth to a daughter and that she, too, had died."
"That is true," Sabatini admitted slowly. "I came back because of her illness, but I was too late."
"The child did not die," Arnold continued. "She was brought up by Isaac in a small convent near Rouen, where she remained until two years ago, when he was forced to come to England. He brought her with him as, owing to her accident, she was unable to take the post of teacher for which she had been intended, and the convent where she was living was unexpectedly broken up. Since then she has lived a sad life with him in London. His has been simply a hand-to-mouth existence."
"But I do not understand why I was kept in ignorance," Sabatini declared. "Why did he not appeal to me for help? Why was my daughter's existence kept a secret from me?"
"Because Isaac is half a fanatic and half a madman," Arnold replied. "You represent to him the class he loathes, the class he has hated all his life, and against which he has waged ceaseless war. He hated your marriage to his sister, and his feelings were the more embittered because it suited you to keep it private. He has nursed a bitter feeling against you all his life for this reason."
Sabatini turned stiffly away. He walked to the window, standing for a moment or two with his back to Arnold, looking out into the quiet street. Then he came back.
"I must go to this man at once," he said. "You can take me there?"
"I can take you," Arnold assented, doubtfully, "and I have even a message from him asking you to visit him, but I warn you that he is in a dangerous mood. I found him the solitary occupant of a miserable room in the back street of a quarter of London which reminded me more than anything else of some foreign city. He has cleared the furniture from the room, reared a table up on end, and is crouching behind it with a Mauser pistol in his hand and a box of cartridges by his side. My own belief is that he is insane."
"It is of no account, that," Sabatini declared. "One moment."
He touched the bell for his servant, who entered almost immediately.
"You will take a cab to 17, Grosvenor Square, Pietro," he directed. "Present my compliments to the lady of the house, and tell her that an occurrence of the deepest importance deprives me of the honor of dining to-night."
"Very good, your Excellency."
Sabatini turned to Arnold.
"Come," he said simply, "my automobile is waiting. Will you direct the man?"
They started off citywards. Sabatini, for a time, sat like a man in a dream, and Arnold, respecting his companion's mood, kept silent. There seemed to be something unreal about their progress. To Arnold, with this man by his side, the amazing story which he had gathered from those ill-written pages, with their abrupt words and brutal cynicism, still ringing in his brain, their errand seemed like some phantasmal thing. The familiar streets bore a different aspect; the faces of the people whom they passed struck him always with a curious note of unreality. Ruth was Sabatini's daughter! His brain refused to grasp so amazing a fact. Yet curiously enough, as he leaned back among the cushions, the likeness was there. The turn of the lips, the high forehead, the flawless delicacy of her oval face, in the light of this new knowledge were all startlingly reminiscent of the man who sat by his side now in a grim, unbroken silence. The wonder of it all remained unabated, but his sense of apprehension grew.
Presently Sabatini began to talk, rousing himself as though with an effort, and asking questions concerning Ruth, about her accident, her tastes. He heard of the days of her poverty with a little shiver. Arnold touched lightly upon these, realizing how much his companion was suffering. Their progress grew slower and slower as they passed into the heart of this strange land, down the narrow yet busy thoroughfare which seemed to be the main artery of the neighborhood. Strange names were above the shop-windows, strange articles were displayed behind them. Stalls were set out in the streets. Men and women, driven by the sulphurous heat to seek air, leaned half-dressed from the windows, or sat even upon the pavement in front of their houses. More than once they were obliged to come to a standstill owing to the throngs of loiterers. As they neared the last corner, Arnold leaned out and his heart sank. In front he could see the crowd kept back by a line of police.
"We are too late!" he exclaimed. "They have found him! They must be making the arrest even now!"
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