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Chapter 7


Fenella never became absolutely unconscious. She was for some time in a state apparently of intense nervous prostration. Her breath was coming quickly, her eyes and her fingers seemed to be clinging to his as though for support. Her touch, her intimate presence, her reliance upon him, seemed to Arnold to infect the very atmosphere of the place with a thrill of the strangest excitement.

"You think that he is dead?" she faltered once.

"Of course not," he replied reassuringly. "I saw no weapon at all. It was just a quarrel."

She half closed her eyes.

"There was blood upon his waistcoat," she declared, "and I saw something flash through the window."

"I will go and see, if you like," Arnold suggested.

Her fingers gripped his.

"Not yet! Don't leave me yet! Why did you say that you recognized the hand--that it was the same hand you saw upon the window-sill last night?"

"Because of the signet ring," Arnold answered promptly. "It was a crude-looking affair, but the stone was bright scarlet. It was impossible to mistake it."

"It was only the ring, then?"

"Only the ring, of course," he admitted. "I did not see the hand close enough. It was foolish of me, perhaps, to say anything about it, and yet--and yet the man last night--he was looking for Rosario. Why should it not be the same?"

He heard the breath come through her teeth in a little sob.

"Don't say anything at present to any one else. Indeed, there are others who might have worn such a ring."

Arnold hesitated, but only for a second. He chanced to look into her face, and her whisper became his command.

"Very well," he promised.

A few moments later she sat up. She was evidently becoming stronger.

"Now go," she begged, "and see--how he is. Find out exactly what has happened and come back. I shall wait for you here."

He stood up eagerly.

"You are sure that you will be all right?"

"Of course," she replied. "Indeed, I shall be better when I know what really has happened. You must go quickly, please, and come back quickly. Stop!"

Arnold, who had already started, turned back again. They were in a ladies' small reception room at the head of the stairs leading down into the restaurant, quite alone, for every one had streamed across the courtyard to see what the disturbance was. The side of the room adjoining the stairs and the broad passage leading to the restaurant was entirely of glass. A man, on his way up the stairs, had paused and was looking intently at them.

"Tell me, who is that?" demanded Fenella.

Arnold recognized him at once.

"It is your friend Starling--the man from South America."

"Starling!" she murmured.

"I think that he is coming in," Arnold continued. "He has seen you. Do you mind?"

She shook her head.

"No. He will stay with me while you are away. Perhaps he knows something."

Arnold hurried off and met Starling upon the threshold of the room.

"Isn't that Mrs. Weatherley with you?" the latter inquired.

"Yes," Arnold told him. "She was lunching with me in the Grill Room. I believe that she was really waiting for Rosario--when the affair happened."

"What affair?"

Arnold stared at him. It seemed impossible that there was any one ignorant of the tragedy.

"Haven't you heard?" Arnold exclaimed. "Rosario was stabbed outside the Grill Room a few moments ago."

Starling's pallid complexion seemed suddenly to become ghastly.

"Rosario--Rosario stabbed?" he faltered.

"I thought that every one in the place must have heard of it," Arnold continued. "He was stabbed just as he was entering the café, not more than ten minutes ago."

"By whom?"

Starling's words came with the swift crispness of a pistol shot. Arnold shook his head.

"I didn't see. I am just going to ask for particulars. Will you stay with Mrs. Weatherley?"

Starling looked searchingly along the vestibule. The news seemed to have affected him strangely. His head was thrown a little back, his nostrils distended. He reminded Arnold for a moment of a watch-dog, listening.

"Of course," he muttered, "of course. Come back as soon as you can and let us know what has happened."

Arnold made his way through the reception hall and across the courtyard. Already the crowd of people was melting away. A policeman stood on guard at the opposite door, and two more at the entrance of the café. The whole of the vestibule where the affair had happened was closed, and the only information which it was possible to collect Arnold gathered from the excited conversations of the little knots of people standing around. In a few minutes he returned to the small reception room. Fenella and Starling looked eagerly up as he entered. They both showed signs of an intense emotion. Starling was even gripping the back of a chair as he spoke.

"What of Rosario?" he demanded.

Arnold hesitated, but only for a moment. The truth, perhaps, was best.

"Rosario is dead," he replied gravely. "He was stabbed to the heart and died within a few seconds."

There was a queer silence. Arnold felt inclined to rub his eyes. Gone was at least part of the horror from their white faces. Fenella sank back in her chair with a little sob which might almost have been of relief. Starling, as though suddenly mindful of the conventions, assumed a grimly dolorous aspect.

"Poor fellow!" he muttered. "And the murderer?"

"He's gotten clean off, for the present at any rate," Arnold told them. "They seem to think that he reached the Strand and had a motor car waiting."

Again there was silence. Then Mrs. Weatherley rose to her feet, glanced for a moment in the looking-glass, and turning round held out both her hands to Arnold.

"You have been so kind to me," she said softly. "I shall not forget it--indeed I shall not. Mr. Starling is going to take me home in his car. Good-bye!"

Arnold held her hands steadfastly and looked into her eyes. They were more beautiful than ever now with their mist of risen tears. But there were other things in her face, things less easy to understand. He turned away regretfully.

"I am sorry that you should have had such a shock," he said. "Is there any message for Mr. Weatherley?"

She exchanged a quick glance with her companion. Then for the first time Arnold realized the significance of the errand on which he had come.

"Some one must have warned Mr. Weatherley of what was likely to happen!" he exclaimed. "It was for that reason I was sent here!"

Again no one spoke for several seconds.

"It was not your fault," she said gently. "You were told to wait inside the restaurant. You could not have done more."

Arnold turned away with a little shiver. His mission had been to save a man's life, and he had failed!

E. Phillips Oppenheim