Very slowly the ambassador shook his head.
“Not me!” he said. “Not me! I did dine with the younger members of the Legation in Langham Place. What name did you say?”
“A man named Delora,” I repeated.
Once more the ambassador shook his head, slowly and thoughtfully.
“Delora!” he repeated. “The name is unknown to me. There are many others of my race in London now,” he continued. “The costume, perhaps, makes one seem like another to those who look and pass by.”
I bowed very low. It was the most magnificently told lie to which I had ever listened in my life! His Excellency smiled at me graciously as I made my adieux, and passed on. Despite my disappointment, I felt that I was now becoming profoundly interested in my quest. The evidence, too, was all in favor of Delora. It seemed, indeed, as though this undertaking in which he was involved might, after all, be connected with other things than crime!
It was past one o’clock in the morning when I returned to the hotel, yet the porter who admitted me pointed toward the figure of a man who stood waiting in the dimly lit hall.
“There is a person here who has been waiting to see you for some hours, sir,” he said. “His name is Fritz.”
“To see me?” I repeated.
The man came a step forward and saluted. I recognized him at once. It was the commissionnaire at the Cafe Universel.
“It is quite right,” I told the porter. “You had better come up to my rooms,” I added, turning to Fritz.
I led the way to the lift and on to my sitting-room. There I turned up the electric lights and threw myself into an easy-chair.
“Well, Fritz,” said I, “I hope that you have brought me some news.”
“I have lost my job, sir,” the man answered, a little sullenly.
“How much was it worth to you?” I asked.
“It was worth nearly two pounds a week with tips,” he declared, speaking with a strong foreign accent.
“Then I take you into my service at two pounds ten a week from to-night,” I said. “The engagement will not be a long one, but you may find it lucrative.”
The man fingered his hat and looked at me stolidly.
“I am not a valet, sir,” he replied.
“If you were I should not employ you,” I answered. “You can make yourself very useful to me in another direction, if you care to.”
“I am very willing, sir,” the man declared,—“very willing indeed. I have a wife and children, and I cannot afford to be out of employment.”
“Come, then,” I said. “The long and short of it is this. I want to discover the whereabouts of the man who was with the Chinaman at your restaurant last evening.”
The man looked at me with something like surprise in his face.
“You do not know that?” he said.