Mr. Grimm bowed and left her. He had barely disappeared when Mr. Rankin lounged along in front of Miss Thorne. He glanced at her, paused and greeted her effusively.
“Why, Miss Thorne!” he exclaimed. “I’m delighted to see you here. I understood you would not be present, and—”
Their hands met in a friendly clasp as she rose and moved away, with a nod of excuse to Mr. Cadwallader. A thin slip of paper, thrice folded, passed from Mr. Rankin to her. She tugged at her glove, and thrust the little paper, still folded, inside the palm.
“Is it yes, or no?” Miss Thorne asked in a low tone.
“Frankly, I can’t say,” was the reply.
“He read the message,” she explained hastily, “and now he has gone to decipher it.”
She gathered up her trailing skirts over one arm, and together they glided away through the crowd to the strains of a Strauss waltz.
“I’m going to faint in a moment,” she said quite calmly to Mr. Rankin. “Please have me sent to the ladies’ dressing-room.”
“I understand,” he replied quietly.
THE FLEEING WOMAN
Mr. Grimm went straight to a quiet nook of the smoking-room and there, after a moment, Mr. Campbell joined him. The bland benevolence of the chief’s face was disturbed by the slightest questioning uplift of his brows as he dropped into a seat opposite Mr. Grimm, and lighted a cigar. Mr. Grimm raised his hand, and a servant who stood near, approached them.
“An ice—here,” Mr. Grimm directed tersely.
The servant bowed and disappeared, and Mr. Grimm hastily scribbled something on a sheet of paper and handed it to his chief.
“There is a reading, in the Morse code, of a message that seems to be unintelligible,” Mr. Grimm explained. “I have reason to believe it is in the Continental code. You know the Continental—I don’t.”
Mr. Campbell read this:
“St5ut man fed qaje neaf j5nsefvat5f,” and then came the unknown, dash-dot-dash-dash. “That,” he explained, “is Y in the Continental code.” It went on: “d55f bfing 5vef when g g5es.”
The chief read it off glibly:
“Stout man, red face, near conservatory door. Bring over when G goes.”
“Very well!” commented Mr. Grimm ambiguously.
With no word of explanation, he rose and went out, pausing at the door to take the ice which the servant was bringing in. The seat where he had left Senorita Rodriguez was vacant; so was the chair where Miss Thorne had been. He glanced about inquiringly, and a servant who stood stolidly near the conservatory door approached him.
“Pardon, sir, but the lady who was sitting here,” and he indicated the chair where Miss Thorne had been sitting, “fainted while dancing, and the lady who was with you went along when she was removed to the ladies’ dressing-room, sir.”