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THE DUTIES OF A SECRETARY
It was twenty minutes to four before Arnold reached the office. Mr. Jarvis looked at him curiously as he took off his hat and hung it up.
"I don't know what you've been up to, young man," he remarked, "but you'll find the governor in a queer state of mind. For the last hour he's been ringing his bell every five minutes, asking for you."
"I was detained," Arnold answered shortly. "Is he alone now?"
Mr. Jarvis nodded.
"I think that you had better go in at once," he advised. "There he is stamping about inside. I hope you've got some good excuse or there'll be the dickens to pay."
The door of the inner office was suddenly opened. Mr. Weatherley appeared upon the threshold. He recognized Arnold with an expression partly of anger, partly of relief.
"So here you are at last, young man!" he exclaimed. "Where the dickens have you been to all this while? Come in--come in at once! Do you see the time?"
"I am very sorry indeed, sir," Arnold replied. "I can assure you that I have not wasted a moment that I know of."
"Then what in the name of goodness did you find to keep you occupied all this time?" Mr. Weatherley demanded, pushing him through into the office and closing the door behind them. "Did you see Mr. Rosario? Did you give him the message?"
"I had no opportunity, sir," Arnold answered gravely.
"No opportunity? What do you mean? Didn't he come to the Milan? Didn't you see him at all?"
"He came, sir," Arnold admitted, "but I was not able to see him in time. I thought, perhaps," he added, "that you might have heard what happened."
Mr. Weatherley had reached the limits of his patience. He struck the table with his clenched fist. For a moment anger triumphed over his state of nervous excitability.
"Heard?" he cried. "Heard what? What the devil should I hear down here? If you've anything to tell, why don't you tell it me? Why do you stand there looking like a--"
Mr. Weatherley was suddenly frightened. He understood from Arnold's expression that something serious had happened.
"My God!" he exclaimed. "Mrs. Weatherley--my wife--"
"Mrs. Weatherley is quite well," Arnold assured him quickly. "It is Mr. Rosario."
"What of him? What about Rosario?"
"He is dead," Arnold announced. "You will read all about it in the evening papers. He was murdered--just as he was on the point of entering the Milan Grill Room."
Mr. Weatherley began to shake. He looked like a man on the verge of a collapse. He was still, however, able to ask a question.
"The murderer was not caught," Arnold told him. "No one seems to have seen him clearly, it all took place so quickly. He stole out of some corner where he must have been hiding, and he was gone before anyone had time to realize what was happening."
Mr. Weatherley had been standing up all this time, clutching nervously at his desk. He suddenly collapsed into his easy-chair. His face was gray, his mouth twitched as though he were about to have a stroke.
"My God!" he murmured. "Rosario dead! They had him, after all! They--killed him!"
"It was a great shock to every one," Arnold went on. "Mrs. Weatherley arrived about a quarter of an hour before it occurred. I understood that she was expecting to lunch with him, but when I told her why I was there she came and sat at my table. She was sitting there when it happened. She was very much upset indeed. I was detained looking after her."
Mr. Weatherley looked at him narrowly.
"I am sorry that she was there," he said. "She is not strong. She ought not to be subjected to such shocks."
"I left her with Mr. Starling," Arnold continued. "He was going to take her home."
"Was Starling lunching there?" Mr. Weatherley asked.
"We saw him afterwards, coming up from the restaurant," Arnold replied. "He did not seem to have been in the Grill Room at all."
Mr. Weatherley sat back in his chair and for several minutes he remained silent. His eyes were fixed upon vacancy, his lips moved once or twice, but he said nothing. He seemed, indeed, to have lost the power of speech.
"It is extraordinary how the affair could have happened, almost unnoticed, in such a crowded place," Arnold went on, feeling somehow that it was best for him to talk. "There is nearly always a little stream of people coming in, or a telephone boy, or some one passing, but it happened that Mr. Rosario came in alone. He had just handed his silk hat to the cloakroom attendant, who had turned away with it, when the man who killed him slipped out from somewhere, caught him by the throat, and it was all over in a few seconds. The murderer seems to have kept his face entirely hidden. They do not appear to have found a single person who could identify him. I had a table quite close to the door, as you told me, and I really saw the blow struck. We rushed outside, but, though I don't believe we were more than a few seconds, there wasn't a soul in sight."
"The police will find out something," Mr. Weatherley muttered. "They are sure to find out something."
"Some people think," Arnold continued, "that the man never left the hotel, or, if he did, that he was taken away in a motor car. The whole hotel was being searched very carefully when I left."
There was a knock at the door. Mr. Jarvis, who had been unable to restrain his curiosity any longer, brought some letters in for signature.
"If you can spare a moment, sir," he began, apologetically, "there is this little matter of Bland & Company's order. I have brought the reports with me."
Mr. Weatherley felt his feet upon the ground again. He turned to the papers which his clerk laid before him and gave them his close attention. When Arnold would have left the room, however, he signed impatiently to him to remain. As soon as he had given his instructions, and Mr. Jarvis had left the room, he turned once more to Arnold.
"Chetwode," he said, looking at him critically, "you appear to me to be a young man of athletic build."
Arnold was quite speechless.
"I mean that you could hold your own in a tussle, eh? You look strong enough to knock any one down who attempted to take liberties with you."
"I dare say I might manage that, sir," he admitted.
"Very well--very well, then," Mr. Weatherley repeated. "Have your desk moved in here at once, Chetwode. You can have it placed just where you like. You'll get the light from that window if you have the easy-chair moved and put in the corner there against the wall. Understand that from now on you are my private secretary, and you do not leave this room, whoever may come in to see me, except by my special instructions. You understand that, eh?"
"Your business is to protect me, in case of anything happening--of any disagreeable visitors, or anything of that sort," Mr. Weatherley declared. "This affair of Mr. Rosario has made me nervous. There is a very dangerous gang of people about who try to get money from rich men, and, if they don't succeed, use violence. I have already come into contact with something of the sort myself. Your salary--what do you get at present?"
"Twenty-eight shillings a week, sir."
"Double it," Mr. Weatherley ordered promptly. "Three pounds a week I will make it. For three pounds a week I may rely upon your constant and zealous service?"
"You may rely absolutely on that," Arnold replied, not quite sure whether he was on his head or his feet.
"Very well, then, go and tell some of the porters to bring in your desk. Have it brought in this very moment. Understand, if you please, that it is my wish not to be left alone under any circumstances--that is quite clear, isn't it?--not under any circumstances! I have heard some most disquieting stories about black-mailers and that sort of people."
"I don't think you need fear anything of the sort here," Arnold assured him.
"I trust not," Mr. Weatherley asserted, "but I prefer to be on the right side. As regards firearms," he continued, "I have never carried them, nor am I accustomed to handling them. At the same time,--"
"I wouldn't bother about firearms, if I were you, sir," Arnold interrupted. "I can promise you that while I am in this office no one will touch you or harm you in any way. I would rather rely upon my fists any day."
Mr. Weatherley nodded.
"I am glad to hear you say so. A strong young man like you need have no fear, of course. You understand, Chetwode, not a word in the outer office."
"Certainly not, sir," Arnold promised. "You can rely entirely upon my discretion. You will perhaps tell Mr. Jarvis that I am to do my work in here. Fortunately, I know a little shorthand, so if you like I can take the letters down. It will make my presence seem more reasonable."
Mr. Weatherley leaned back in his chair and lit a cigar. He was recovering slowly.
"A very good idea, Chetwode," he said. "I will certainly inform Mr. Jarvis. Poor Rosario!" he went on thoughtfully. "And to think that he might have been warned. If only I had told you to wait outside the restaurant!"
"Do you know who it was who telephoned to you, sir?" Arnold asked.
"No idea--no idea at all," Mr. Weatherley declared. "Some one rang up and told me that Mr. Rosario was engaged to lunch in the Grill Room with my wife. I don't know who it was--didn't recognize the voice from Adam--but the person went on to say that it would be a very great service indeed to Mr. Rosario if some one could stop him from lunching there to-day. Can't think why they telephoned to me."
"If Mr. Rosario were lunching with your wife," Arnold pointed out, "it would be perfectly easy for her to get him to go somewhere else if she knew of the message, whereas he might have refused an ordinary warning."
"You haven't heard the motive even hinted at, I suppose?" Mr. Weatherley asked.
"Not as yet," Arnold replied. "That may all come out at the inquest."
"To be sure," Mr. Weatherley admitted. "At the inquest--yes, yes! Poor Rosario!"
He watched the smoke from his cigar curl up to the ceiling. Then he turned to some papers on his table.
"Get your desk in, Chetwode," he ordered, "and then take down some letters. The American mail goes early this afternoon."
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