Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

8 articles on this Page

,,Synopsis of Previous Chapters.


Synopsis of Previous Chapters. CHAPTERS 1. and II.— The atorv opens >mong oicfaids, and the central figure is Sir Clement Frobisher, an orchid fancier. Hafid, itis manservant, announces Paul Lopez, who has drought Frobisher an exceeding) v rare orchid, which when strung in the orchid house bursts htto bloom. It is the Cardinal Moth. When Hafid sees it he is like one demented, and cries out to have it destroyed. Lopez bids Frobisher farewell as Hafid announces two more visitors, Count Lefroy aud his secretary, Manfred but Frobisher postpones their visit till luncheon next day. Angela Lyne, Sir Clement's ward and neice,comes to him fcr seme orchids. She attends Lady Marchgrave's charity concert, and is after- wards one of the dinner guests. Her dinner partner is George Arnott,a would-be suitor whose claims are favoured by Sir Clement. She meets there Harold Denvers, her lover, but there is no Engagement between them, only an understand- ing. He presents .her with a specimen of the Cardinal Moth. On her return home she lets berself in with-a latchkey. She sees a strange jaan creeping towards the conservatory, whither ihe wa3 taking her orchid. She follows quickly, but arrivine there she finds he has vanished. Hafid confronts her and begs her to Take and iurn it." CHAPTERS III. and IV.—Frobisher sees uount Lefroy and his secretary Manfred, Frobisher and Lefroy are fighting against each >ther to obtain some concessions from the-Sban of Koordstatf. Frobisher informs Lefroy that Uie Shan will dine with him to-night, which Le- froy determines to circumvent. Frobisher shows the Cardinal Moth to Lefroy, who is enraged be- cause he has lost it, and strikes Manfred on the mouth. Afterwards he reasons that his secretary eould not have betrayed him, and apologises. they go to Manfied's rooms to discuss a plan of action for the dinner. Manfred reads out an Account of the mysterious death of a man who was murdered in a greenhouse at Streatham while trying to obtain possession of some orchids. The 3han of Koordstan is sitting over his breakfast. The man ser/ant announces Harold Denvers. The Shan, who has a liking for him, informs him that Sir Clement intends to bestow Angela Lyne on George Arnott. He says Denvers cannot have the concessions, as he has pledged the Blue Scone of Ghan. Denvers says that he has ob- tained a specimen of the Cardinal Moth, and 4hat he has placed it in a nursery at Streatham. Oount Lefroy is announced. CHAPTER V. An Interrupted Feast. To Frobiaher's petit diner the same even- 1 'ng of that eventful day, ostensibly to meet the 3hah of Koordstan, Lefroy came large and flam- ouoyant, with a vivid riband across his dazzling axpanse of shift and a iewelledcoIlar under his tie. There was an extra gloss on his black mous- ;ache, his swagger was a little more pronounced iharii usual. He looked like what he was-a 3irong man weighed down by not too many 3cruples. There were less than a dozen men alto- gether—a conpleof well-known members of the Traveller's, a popular E.G., and a keen hatchet- !acea judge with a quiet manner and a marvel- tons faculty for telling dialect stories. The in- evitable politician and fashionable doctor com- pleted the party. As Lefroy and his secretary entered the drawing-room, most of the men were fcdmiring a. portfolio of Morlaad's drawings that Frobisher had picked up lately. Hafid stepped noiselessly across the floor with telegram on a salver. Frobisher read it with- fat the slightest sign of annoyance. The Shan is not coming," he said. "^Koord- i Han is indisposed." "Sol gathered when I called professionally this afternoon," Dr. Brownsmith said dryly. Champagne," Frobisher laughed whole- beartedly. All right, Sir James, I won't ques- I tion you too far. So white is not going to mate in three moves this evening, Lefroy ?" Lefroy shrugged his shoulders carelessly. The Shan of Koordstan was safe for the present. He had seen to that. Manfred bad dropped quietly into a chair with just the suggestion of pain on his face. A smooth-voiced butler announced that dinner was served. Where does Frobisher get his servants from, Jessop ?" Sir James Brownsmith asked the judge as the two strolled across the hall together. Now there's a model of a butler for you. His voice has a flavour of old nutty sherry about it. By Jove, what are those flowers ?" | There were floweraevery where,mostly arranged I by Frobisher himself. In the centre was a rough handful of green twigs bound together with a silver cord, and the whole surmounted by a coil I of the Dinky white orchid, with its fringe of tumbling red moths. "Orchids," said the politician. Something í fraeh, Frobisher? What do you call it ?" I The specimen is not named at present," Lefroy said, meaningly. Frobisher glanced at the speaker and smiled. Lefroy is quite right,he said. The speci- men lacks a. name. It came in the first place from Koordstan, and there were thiee spines of the original plant. It is a freak, there uever was. Lefroy suddenly dashed a glass in his faoe. anything like it before, and thera will probably never be one like it again. That self-same orchid was very near to being the price of a kingdom once upon a time." "Only it is unfortunately impossible to tell the story," Lefroy remarked. Once again Frobisher glanced at the speaker and smiled. Most of the guests by this time were busy over their soup. They were not the class of men to waste valuable sentiment over flowers. It was only Frobisher who glanced from time to time lovingly at the Cardinal Moth. Manfred seemed to avoid it altogether. He sat at the table eating nothing, and obviously out of sorts with his food. I've a bilious headache, Sir Clement," he explained. The mere sight of food and smell of cooking makes me sick to the soul. Would you mind if I sat in the drawing-room in the dark for a little time. I am confident that the attack will pass off presently." Anything you please, my dear fellow," Fro- bisher cried hospitably. A strong cup of tea a glass of champagne and a dry biscuit ? No ? If you ring the bell Hafid will attend to you." Hafid salaamed as he dexterously caught a meaning glance from Frobisher. Lefroy brutally proclaimed aloud that a good dinner was utterly wasted upon Manfred. Brownsmith, with his month fall of aspic, was understood to say some- thing anent the' virtues of bromide. So the dinner proceeded with pink lakes of light on the tabte, the flowers and the cut glass and quaint silver. And there were blossoms, blossoms every- where* ^thousands of them. Frobisher might have bein a great scoundrel; that he was a man of exquisite taste was beyond question. The elaborate dinner dragged smoothly along. Two hoars pis-d, a silver chime proclaimed eleven o'clock. The cloth vas drawn at length, as the host's whim was, the decanters and glistening glass stood on a browv glistening lake.of polished oak, with here aud there a dash of fruit to give a more vivid tonch of colour. Hafid handed round a silver cigarette box, a cedar cigar cabinette on wheels was pushed along the table. Over the shaded electric lights" a blue wreath of smoke hung. Thes ilver chime struck twelve. "Hatid, you have made Mr Manfred comfort- able ?" Frobisher asked, Hafid replied that he had done all that a man could do. Mr Manfred was reclining in the dark near an open window. All the other servants hot himself had retired. The butler had seen that everything necessary was laid out in the smoking-room.. Always send the servants to bed as soon as possible," Frobisher explained. What with the spread of modern journalism I find it neces- sary. Yqu never know nowadays how far one's butler is interested in the same stock that you are deeply dipped in and a long-eared footman has changed the course of diplomacy before now." If everybody pursued the same policy, George/' Baron Jessop murmured, I and my taarned friends of the Bench would have more or tees of a sinecure." "And Lord Saltani yonder would not have lost A beantiful wife," Lefroy said loudly. A sodden hush seemej to smite the table. Lord Saltaur whiteued to his lips under bis tan, his long, lean handa gripped the edge of the table passionately. His own domestic scandal had been ao new, so painful, that the whole party stood aghast at the brutality of the insult. Frobiaher," Saltaur said hoarsely. !l It is not pleasant to be insulted by a blackguard What was that word ?" Lefroy asked quite sweetly. My hearing may be a trifle deficient, but I fancied Jbis Lordship said something about a blackguard." I Frobisher interferad as in" duty bound. As a matter of fact he was enjoying the situation. Lefroy had drunk deeply, but then he had seen Lefroy a amazing prowess in that direction too many times for any fears as to his ultimate equilibrium. No, Lafroy was playing soma deep game. As yet, only the first card had been laid upon the table. "I think that the apology lies with you, Count." Frobisher said tentatively. A mere jest," Lefroy said, airily. A jeu d'eoprit. Lord Saltaur's wife." You hound," Saltaur cried, passionately. Whatever I have been, you might leave the name of a pure woman out of your filthy con- versation. If you don't apologise at once, I'll thrust your words down your throat for you." A contemptuous reply camefrom Lefroy. There was a flash of crystal and a glass shattered on th Ccunt's dark face. leaving a star-shaped wound on his cheek. A moment later and he and Saltaur were struggling together like wild animals. Frobisher had so far forgotten himself as to lean back in his chair as if this were a mere exhibition got up for his entertainment. Is this part of the evening's amusement, Sir Clement," the Judge asked coldly. Frobisher realised his responsibilities with a sigh for his interrupted pleasure. His civilisa- tion was the thinnest possible veneer, a shoddy thing like Tottenham Court-road furniture. Come, you chaps must drop it," he cried I can't have you fighting over my Smyrna carpet. Saltaur, you shall have your apology, Lefroy, do you hear me ?'' Strong arms interfered, and the two men were dragged apart. Lefroy's teeth glistened in a ghastly grin there was a sDeck of blood on his white sbirt front. Saltaur's laboured breath- ing could be heard all over the room. I take you all to witness that it was no seek- ing of mine," he cried. I was foully insulted. In a few days all the world will know that I have been made the victim of a discharged ser- vant's Derjury. Frobisher, I am ?till waiting for my apology." Lefroy paused and paased his handkerchief across his face. He seemed to have wiped the leering expression from it. He looked a per- fect picture of puzzled bewilderment. What have I done ?" he asked. What on earth have I said ?" Beautiful," Frobisher murmured. "Artis- tic to a fault. What is he driving at 7" Baron Jessop explainei clearly and judi- ciously. He was glad to have an opportunity of doing so. Viewing the thing dispassionately, he was bound to say that Count Lefroy had been guilty of a grave breach of good taste. But he was quite sure that under the circumstances-" On my honour, I haven't the slightest re- collection ef it," Lefroy cried. If thete is one ladyof my acquaintance I honour and respect it is Lady—the charming woman whom Lord Sal- taur calls bis wife. A sudden fit of mental aberration, my lord. An old wound in the head followed by a spell in the sunshine. This is the third time the thing has happened. The last time in Servia nearly cost me my life. My dear Saltaur, I am sorry from the bottom of my heart." Funniest case I ever heard of," the puzzled Saltaur murmured. All the same, I'm deuced sorry I threw that wine glass at you." Oh, so you chucked a wine glass at me I Laid my cheek open, too. Well. 1 should have done exactly the same thing under the same circum- stances. From this night I touch nothing stronger than claret. If I'd stuck to that, this wouldn't have happened." The good-humoured Saltaur muttered some- thing in reply, the threads of the dropped conver- sation were taken up again. Hafid, who had watched the sudden quarrel with Oriental indif- ference, had gone off to the conservatory for hot water to bathe Lefroy's damaged face. There was just a lull for a moment in the conversation, a sadden silence, and then the smash of a crystal vessel on a tiled floor and a strangled cry of terror from Hafid. He came headlong into the room, his eyes starting, his whole frame quiver- ing with an ungovernable terror. Mr Manfred," he yelled. "Lving on the floor in the conservatory, dead. Take it and burn it, and destroy it. Take it and burn it and destroy it. Take it Frobisher pounced upon the wailing speaker and clutched him by the throat. As the first hoarse words came from Hafid the rest of the party had rushed headlong into the orchid house. Frobisher shook his servant like a reed is shaken by a storm. Silence, you fool," he whispered. "You didn't kill the man, and I didn't kill the man. If he is dead he has not been murdered. And it is no fault of yours. Allah knows better," Hafid muttered, sulkily. You didn't kill him and I didn't kill him, but he is dead, and Allah will punish the guilty. Take it and burn it and "Idiot! Son of a pig, be silent. And mind, you are to know nothing. You went to get the hot water from the orchid house and saw Mr Manfred lying there. As soon as you did so you rushed in,to tell us. Now come along." The limp boay of Manfred had been partly raised, and his head rested on Sir James Brown- smith's knee. The others stood waiting for the verdict. The fellow is dead," the great doctor said. Murdered I should say, undoubtedly. He has been strangled by a coarse cloth twisted about bis throat—precisely the same way as that poor fellow was murdered at Streatham the night be- fore last." A solemn silence fell upon the group. Hafid stood behind, his lips moving in silent speech Take it and burn it, and destroy it. Take it and burn it, tand destroy it, "for there is blood, upon it now and ever." The drama was none the less moving because of its decorous silence. The great surgeon knelt on the white marble floor of the orchid house with Manfred's head on his knees. Though Sir James Brownsmith's hand was quite steady, his face was white as his own hair, or the face of the dead man staring dumbly up to the tangle of ropes and blossoms overhead. There the Car- dinal Moth was dancing and quivering as if exulting over the crime. A long trail of it had broken away, and one tiny cloud of blossom danced near the surgeon's ear, as if trying to tell him the tragedv and its story. A ghastly business," the judge murmured. How did the murderer get in here ?" How did he get out ?" Frobisher suggested. There is no exit from here at all. All the servants have been in bed long ago and the front door is generally secured, at least the latch is always down." "But what brought poor Manfred in here ?" Saltaur asked. "I understood from Hafid that he was lying down in the drawing-room. Oh, Hafid Wake up man Take it and burn it, and destroy it," Hafid said, mechanically^ Frobisher shook him savagely, shook the dreamy horror off him like a garment. He was sorry, he said, but he could tell the excellent company nothing. A quarter ot an hour before and Mr Manfred had appeared to be asleep on the drawing-room sofa. Hafid had asked him if he needed anything, and he had made no reply, Very strange," Sir James murmured, still diagnosing the cruel standard pattern about the dead man's throat. Perhaps Count Lefroy —where is the Count?" He went back into the dining room," said Saltaur. Frobisher brought his teeth together with a click. For a moment he had quite forgotten Count Lefroy. He passed from the library and into the dining room. Lefroy stood by the great shining table close against the fluttering pyramid of red moths, a thin bladed knife in his hands. And what might you be doing ?" Frobisher asked softly. Lefroy smiled somewhat bitterly. He was per- fectly self nossessed with the grip of the man who knows how to hold himself in hand. And he smiled none the less easily because there was murder raging in his heart. "1 am cutting my nails," he said. Oh, I'll cut your claws for you," Frobisher said. Don't do that, what wilt your manicure artist say ? And a social superiority (feminine) tells me that you have the finest hand of any man in London. You are unhinged, my dear Count. This little affair This cold-blooded murder you mean. Oh, you scoundrel Lefroy had dropped the mask for a moment, There were contempt, loathing, horror in the last few words. Frobisher, connting the nodding swarm of crimson moths, merely "miled. Twenty-oeven, thirty-one, thirty-nine," he said. You haven't stolen any <' my flowers yet. Not a bad idea of yours to purloin a cluster, and send it to our tin Solomon yonder, as an earnest of good intentions later on. And why do you call me scoundrel ?' You are the most infernal villain that ever breathed." Well, perhaps I am. It is very good of you to admit my superior claims, dear Lefroy. But I am getting old and you may live to take my place somesday. Why Why did you kill Manfred ?" My dear fellow. I didn't kill Manfred. Yon think he has been murderel in the ordinary sense of the word. Manfred has not been murdered and nobody will ever be hanged for the crime. That you may take my word for. It is the ven- geance of the Crimson Moth, death by visitation of God call it what yon will. And it might have been yourself. Frobisher's whole manner hadchanged, his eyes were gleaming evilly as he hissed the last words warningly in Lefroy a ears. The latter changed colour sligbtly. I don't understand what you mean," he stammered. And yet you are not usually slow at under- standing. I repeat that it might have been yourself. If you had attempted the raid of the Cardinal Moth, instead of Manfrea, you would have been lying at the present moment with your head on Brownsmith's knees, and the mark of the beast about your throat," And if I tell those fellows yonder what you say ?" Yoa are at liberty to say anything you please. But yon are not going to say anything, my dear Lefroy you are too fine a player for that. You are going to wait patiently for your next innings. Come back to the others. And perhaps I had better lock this door." Lefroy, like a wise man, accepted the in- evitable. Bnt the rest of the party were no longer in the orchid house. They had carried I the dead man to the back dining-room, where they had laid him out on a conch. Frobisher rang up the nearest police station on the tele. i phone with tha request that a innspector should be sent for at once. By Gael, this is a dreadful thing, don't you j know, Saltaur said with a shudder. Fancy [ that poor fellow being murdered whilst we were I wrangling in the dining-room. I suppose there I is no doubt that it is murder, doctor ?" Not the shadow of a doubt about it. Sir James recited. Poor Manfred must have been admiring the flowers when the assassin stepped behind him and threw that coarse cloth over his hea.d. A knee could be insetted on his spine, and 'the head forced backwards. The cloth must have been twisted with tremendous force. It is quite a novel kind of murder for England." Oh, have heard of something, of the same kind before ?" Frobisher asked. In India, frequently I had a chance to examine more than one victim of Thugee,yonder. You remember what a scourge Thugism used to be in India some years ago. A Thug killed Man- fred, I have not tha slightest doubt about it." But there are no Thugs in England," the judge protested. Mv dear fellow, I have had an unfortunate demonstration to the contrary. And this crime is;not necessarily the work of a native. Thueee is not dead in India yet, and some white scoun- drel might have learnt the trick. Your own ser- vant, Hatid- 'I A robust bluebottle would make a formid- able antagonst for Hafid," Frobisher inter- rupted. "Ratid, somebody is ringing the bell. If it's a policeman, ask him in." Inspector Townshend came in, small,quiet,soft of manner, and undoubtedly dressed in Bond- street. He listened gravely to all that Frobisher and Brownsmith had to say, and then he asked permission to view the body, and subsequently examine the premises. A close search of the house only served to deepen the mystery. All the servants slept on the top floor, and that part of the house was bolted off every ilight after the domestic staff had retired. This was a whim of Sir Clement's, a whim likely to increase his unporularity in case of fire, but at present that was a secondary consideration. There was no exit from the orchid house. No windows had been left open, and despite the. fact that there were guests in the house, the front doorJatch had been dropped quite early in the evening. A rigid cross-examination of Hafid led to no satisfactory result. The man was almost congealed with terror and shock, but it was quite obvious that he knew nothing what- evar about the mystery. He was jaat about to cat a slip from the plant. I There will be an inquest to-morrow at twelve, Sir Clement," Townsend said. It will probably be a mere formal affair at which you gentlemen will be present. Good night, sirs." "We had better follow the inspector's example," Lefroy cried. Good night, Fro- bisher." My dear fellow, I wish yon a cordial adieu," Frobisher cried. And I can only regret that our pleasant evening has had so tragic a termina- tion. Townsend, you have locked up the back dining-room and taken the key. Good. I want no extra responsibility." The big hall door closed behind the last of them. Frobisher took Hafid firmly by the collar and led him into the orchid house. Now, you rascal," he said. What on earth do you mean by it ?" Take it and destroy it, and burn it," Hafid wailed, with a wriggling of his body. He seemed to be trying to shake off something loathesome. Oh, master, what is to become of us," You grovelling superstitious fool," Frobisher said, lightly. Nothing will become of us. Nobody knows anything, nobody will ever know anything as long as you remain silent. We haven't murdered anybody." Allah looking down from Paradise knows better than that, master." Well, he is not likely to be called in as a witness," Frobisher, muttered grimly. "I tell yon nothing has happened that the Jaw can take the least cognisance of. Mind you, I didn't know that things woald go quite so far. When I rang up the curtain it was comedy I looked for, not tragedy. Take the key and go into the dining- room. Remove those orchids and burn them, taking care that you destroy thirty-nine of the red flowers. Then you can go to bed." Hafid recoiled with unutterable loathing on his face. I couldn't do it," he whispered. I couldn't touch one of those accursed blossoms. Beat me. torture me, turn me into the street to starve, but don't ask me to do that, roaster. I dare not." He cowered abjectly at Frobisher's feet. With good humoured contempt the latter kicked him aside. Go to bed," he said. "YOtl are a gieater coward than even I imagined. Put the lights out and I'll go to bed also." The lights were carefully put out, except in the smoking room. where FrDbisher sat pondering over the strange events of the evening. He was not in the least put out or alarmei or distressed: on the contrary he looked like a man who had been considerably -pleased with an interesting entertainment. For Manfred he felt neither sorrow nor sympathy. He did not look fearfully round the room as if half expecting to see the shadow of Manfred's assassin creeping upon him. But he srpiled in his own peculiar fashion as the door opened and a white-robed figure came in. It was Angela with her fine hair about her shoulders and a look. of horror in her eyes. '1 So you've found out all about it," Sir Clem- ent said. I'm sorry, because it will spoil your rest. How did you come to make the discovery ?" I had just come in," Angela explained. I let myself in with my latchkey. 1 did not come I near you because I could hear that you were entertaining company, so I went straight to bed. Then I heard Hafid's cry and I came to the head of the struct, where I could hear everything." You mean to say tha.t you stood there and listened ?" '• I couldn't help it. So far as I could judge there was an assassin in the house. Just for the moment I was far too frightened to move. That raving madman might have come for me next." Well, you can make your mind quite easy on that score. As you know the whole house has been most thoroughly searched from top to bottom, and there Î" nobody here but the servants and ourselves now. If 1 were you I should keep out of it. Go to bed." Sir Clement barked out the last few words, but Angela did not move. There will be an inquest, of course," she asited. Oh, Lord, yes. The papers will reek of it, and half the reporters in London will look upon the place as a kind of public-house for the next week. Take my advice and keep out of it. You know nothing and you want to continue to know nothing, so to speak." But 1 am afraid that I know a great deal," Angela said, slowly. When I came in I was going into the conservatory to place a. flower that I had given me to-night. It is a flower that I am likely to be interested in another time. And there I saw a strange man walking swiftly the same way. From his air and manner he was obviously doing wrong. My idea was to follow and stop him. And when I reached the conserva- tory, to my intense surprise, he was nowhere to be seen." Frobisher bent down to fill his pipe. There was an evil diabolical grin so malignant, and yet so gleeful, as to render the face almost inhuman. It may be of importance later on," he said- Meanwhile I should keep the information to myself. Now go to bed and lock your door. I'm going to finish my pipe in my dressing-room." Frobisher snapped out the lights, leaving the house in darkness. For once in her life Angela- did lock her door. She could not sleep she had no desire for bed, and yet her eyes were heavy and tired. She pulled up the blind and opened the wrndow, out beyond the garden was flooded with moonlight. As Angela stood there she seemed to see a figure creeping from one bush to another. It is my fancy," she told herself. I could imagine anything to-night. And yet I could have been certain that I saw the figure of a man." Angela paused it was no fancy. A man crept over the grass and looked up at the window as if he were doing something strictly on the lines of conventionality. To her amazement Angela saw that the intruder was in evening dress, and that it was Harold Denveza. Harold," she whispered. M Whatever are you doing there ?" '• I came on t bechance," was the reply- "I- have beard strange things to-night, and there is something*that I must know at once. I was going to try and rouse you with some pebbles. Dare you go down to the garden room window and let me in ? Darling, it is a matteu. of life or death, or I would not ask." Angela slipped down the stairs noiselessly .and opened the window. (To be Continued,)

[No title]


A Good Reason-

[No title]

t\ [ ' J # F&iietiSr —** j…