“And just what was the purpose, may I inquire, of the message you telegraphed with your fan in the ball-room?”
“You read that?” exclaimed Miss Thorne in mock astonishment. “You read that?”
“And the man who read that message? Perhaps he shot the senor?”
“Perhaps,” she taunted.
For a long time Mr. Grimm stood staring at her, staring, staring. She, too, rose, and faced him quietly.
“Am I to be arrested?” she asked again.
“Why do you make me do it?” he demanded.
“That is my affair.”
Mr. Grimm laid a hand upon her arm, a hand that had never known nervousness. A moment longer he stared, and then:
“Madam, you are my prisoner for the attempted murder of Senor Alvarez!”
The rings on the portieres behind him clicked sharply, and the draperies parted. Mr. Grimm stood motionless, with his hand on Miss Thorne’s arm.
“You were inquiring a moment ago for a revolver,” came in a man’s voice. “Here it is!”
Mr. Grimm found himself inspecting the weapon from the barrel end. After a moment his glance shifted to the blazing eyes of the man who held it—a young man, rather slight, with clean-cut, aristocratic features, and of the pronounced Italian type.
[Illustration: He found himself inspecting the weapon from the barrel end.]
“My God!” The words came from Miss Thorne’s lips almost in a scream. “Don’t—!”
“I did make some inquiries about a revolver, yes,” Mr. Grimm interrupted quietly. “Is this the one?”
He raised his hand quite casually, and his fingers closed like steel around the weapon. Behind his back Miss Thorne made some quick emphatic gesture, and the new-comer released the revolver.
“I shall ask you, please, to free Miss Thorne,” he requested courteously. “I shot Senor Alvarez. I, too, am a secret agent of the Italian government, willing and able to defend myself. Miss Thorne has told you the truth; she had nothing whatever to do with it. She took the weapon and escaped because it was mine. Here is the paper that was taken from Senor Alvarez,” and he offered a sealed envelope. “I have read it; it is not what I expected. You may return it to Senor Alvarez with my compliments.”
After a moment Mr. Grimm’s hand fell away from Miss Thorne’s arm, and he regarded the new-comer with an interest in which admiration, even, played a part.
“Your name?” he asked finally.
“Pietro Petrozinni,” was the ready reply. “As I say, I accept all responsibility.”
A few minutes later Mr. Grimm and his prisoner passed out of the legation side by side, and strolled down the street together, in amicable conversation. Half an hour later Senor Alvarez identified Pietro Petrozinni as the man who shot him; and the maid servant expressed a belief that he was the man who slammed the door in her face.