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- The Devil's Paw - 10/44 -

"I want particularly to speak to Miss Abbeway," he confided.

Lady Maltenby smiled tolerantly.

"After nearly two hours of conversation at dinner! Well, I won't keep you in suspense. She wanted a quiet place to write some letters, so I sent her into the boudoir."

Julian hastened off, with a word of thanks. The boudoir was a small room opening from the suite which had been given to the Princess and her niece a quaint, almost circular apartment, hung with faded blue Chinese silk and furnished with fragments of the Louis Seize period,--a rosewood cabinet, in particular, which had come from Versailles, and which was always associated in Julian's mind with the faint fragrance of two Sevres jars of dried rose leaves. The door opened almost noiselessly.

Catherine, who was seated before a small, ebony writing table, turned her head at his entrance.

"You?" she exclaimed.

Julian listened for a moment and then closed the door. She sat watching him, with the pen still in her fingers.

"Miss Abbeway," he said, "have you heard any news this evening?"

The pen with which she had been tapping the table was suddenly motionless. She turned a little farther around.

"News?" she repeated. "No! Is there any?"

"A man was caught upon the marshes this morning and shot an hour ago. They say that he was a spy."

She sat as though turned to stone.


"The military police are still hunting for his companion. They are now searching the garage here to see if they can find a small, grey, coupe car."

This time she remained speechless, but all those ill-defined fears which had gathered in his heart seemed suddenly to come to a head. Her appearance had changed curiously during the last hour. There was a hunted, almost a desperate gleam in her eyes, a drawn look about her mouth as she sat looking at him.

"How do you know this?" she asked.

"The Colonel of the regiment stationed here has just arrived. He is down in the garage now with my father."

"Shot!" she murmured. "Most Dieu!"

"I want to help you," he continued.

Her eyes questioned him almost fiercely.

"You are sure?"

"I am sure."

"You know what it means?"

"I do."

"How did you guess the truth?"

"I remembered your mouth," he told her. "I saw your car last night, and I traced it up the avenue this morning."

"A mouth isn't much to go by," she observed, with a very wan smile.

"It happens to be your mouth," he replied.

She rose to her feet and stood for a moment as though listening. Then she thrust her hand down into the bosom of her gown and produced a small roll of paper wrapped in a sheet of oilskin. He took it from her at once and slipped it into the breast pocket of his coat.

"You understand what you are doing?" she persisted.

"Perfectly;" he replied.

She crossed the room towards the hearthrug and stood there for a moment, leaning against the mantelpiece.

"Is there anything else I can do?" he asked.

She turned around. There was a wonderful change in her face.

"No one saw me," she said. "I do not think that there is any one but you who could positively identify the car. Neither my aunt nor the maid who is with us has any idea that I left my room last night."

"Your clothes?"

"Absolutely destroyed," she assured him with a smile. "Some day I hope I'll find courage to ask you whether you thought them becoming."

"Some day," he retorted, a little grimly, "I am going to have a very serious talk with you, Miss Abbeway."

"Shall you be very stern?"

He made no response to her lighter mood. The appeal in her eyes left him colder than ever.

"I wish to save your life," he declared, "and I mean to do it. At the same time, I cannot forget your crime or my complicity in it."

"If you feel like that, then," she said a little defiantly, "tell the truth. I knew the risk I was running. I am not afraid, even now. You can give me back those papers, if you like. I can assure you that the person on whom they are found will undoubtedly be shot."

"Then I shall certainly retain possession of them," he decided.

"You are very chivalrous, sir," she ventured, smiling.

"I happen to be only selfish," Julian replied. "I even despise myself for what I am doing. I am turning traitor myself, simply because I could not bear the thought of what might happen to you if you were discovered."

"You like me, then, a little, Mr. Orden?" she asked.

"Twenty-four hours ago," he sighed, "I had hoped to answer that question before it was asked."

"This is very tantalising," she murmured. "You are going to save my life, then, and afterwards treat me as though I were a leper?"

"I shall hope," he said, "that you may have explanations--that I may find--"

She held out her hand and stopped him. Once more, for a moment, her eyes were distended, her form was tense. She was listening intently.

"There is some one coming," she whispered--"two or three men, I think. What fools we have been! We ought to have decided-- about the car."

Her teeth came together for a moment. It was her supreme effort at self-control. Then she laughed almost naturally, lit a cigarette, and seated herself upon the arm of an easy-chair.

"You are interfering shockingly with my correspondence," she declared, "and I am sure that they want you for bridge. Here comes Lord Maltenby to tell you so," she added, glancing towards the door.

Lord Maltenby was very pompous, very stiff, and yet apologetic. He considered the whole affair in which he had become involved ridiculous.

"Miss Abbeway," he said, "I beg to present to you Colonel Henderson. An unfortunate occurrence took place here last night, which it has become the duty of--er--Colonel Henderson to clear up. He wishes to ask you a question concerning--er--a motor-car."

Colonel Henderson frowned. He stepped a little forward with the air of wishing to exclude the Earl from further speech.

"May I ask, Miss Abbeway," he began, "whether the small coupe car, standing about a hundred yards down the back avenue, is yours?"

"It is," she assented, with a little sigh. "It won't go."

"It won't go?" the Colonel repeated.

"I thought you might know something about cars," she explained. "They tell me that two of the sparking plugs are cracked. I am thinking of replacing them tomorrow morning, if I can get Mr. Orden to help me."

"How long has the car been there in its present condition, then?" the Colonel enquired.

"Since about five o'clock yesterday afternoon," she replied.

"You don't think it possible that it could have been out on the road anywhere last night, then?"

"Out on the road!" she laughed. "Why, I couldn't get it up to the garage! You go and look at it, Colonel, if you understand cars. Fellowes, the chauffeur here, had a look at the plugs when I brought it in, and you'll find that they haven't been touched."

"I trust," the Earl intervened, "that my chauffeur offered to do

The Devil's Paw - 10/44

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