Red Masquerade eBook

Louis Joseph Vance
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 194 pages of information about Red Masquerade.

“No longer Nogam,” he said in the same low accents, and smiled—­“but your father, Michael Lanyard!”

XIX

UNMASKING

One more instant the girl rested passive in uncomprehending astonishment; then abruptly she exerted herself to break free from the supporting embrace, but found the effort wasted for lack of opposition, so that her own violence sent her reeling away half a dozen paces, to bring up against the desk; while Lanyard, making no move more than to drop his rejected arms, remained where she had left him, and requited her indignant stare with a broken smile of understanding, a smile at once tender, tolerant, and sympathetic, with a little quirk of rueful humour for good measure.

“My father!” Sofia repeated in a gasp of disdain—­“you!

He gave a slight shrug.

“Such, it appears, is your sad fortune.”

“A servant!”

“And not the proud prince you were promised?  Rather a come down, one must admit.”  Lanyard laughed low, and moved nearer.  “I’m sorry, I mean I might be (for myself, too) if Nogam were less a fraud than that pretentious mountebank, Prince Victor—­or for the matter of that, if you were as poor of spirit as you would seem on your own valuation, if you were not at heart your mother’s daughter, and mine, my child by a woman whom I loved well, and who long ago loved me!”

He paused deliberately to let her grasp the full sense of his words, then pursued: 

“It may help you get your bearings to know that I am truly the Michael Lanyard to whom Messieurs Secretan & Sypher addressed their advertisement—­you remember—­as this should prove.”

He offered a slip of paper, and after another moment of dumb staring, the girl took it and read aloud the message which Victor had dictated following Sofia’s flight to him from the Cafe des Exiles.

"’To Michael Lanyard, Intelligence Division, the War Office, Whitehall—­’"

“That is to say,” Lanyard interpreted, “of the British Secret Service.”

“You!”

He bowed in light irony.  “One regrets one is at present unable to offer better social standing.  To-morrow, it may be ...  But who knows?”

Sofia shook her head impatiently, and in a murmur of deepening amazement resumed her reading of the note: 

"’Your daughter Sofia is now with me..  Your own intelligence must tell you nothing could be more fatal than an attempt to communicate with her’"

To the interrogation eloquent in her eyes Lanyard replied: 

“Dictated by Victor to Karslake, who passed it on to me, the night he brought you to the house from the Cafe des Exiles.”

“You knew—­you, who claim to be my father—­yet permitted him—?”

“You were in the house before I knew I had a daughter; Karslake had no chance to consult me before fetching you.  Furthermore, if he had hesitated to carry out Victor’s orders just then, not only would he have nullified all our preparations to secure evidence enough to convict the man, or at least run him out of England—­”

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Project Gutenberg
Red Masquerade from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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