“I came to you,” I said, “because, since the receipt of this cable, I have convinced myself that Delora is engaged in some sort of underground work the crisis of which must be very close at hand. I found him last night in a miserable, deserted sort of building down near the river in Bermondsey. He offered me ten thousand pounds not to reply to his brother’s cable, I think that he would have done his best to have detained me there but for the fact that I had taken precautions before I started.”
“Have you any idea,” Lamartine asked, “what the nature of this underground business is?”
“I cannot imagine,” I answered. “In some way it seems to me that it is connected with the Chinese ambassador, because I have seen them several times together. That, however, is only surmise. I can give you one more piece of information,” I added, “and that is that the Chinese ambassador and Delora have recently visited Newcastle.”
“I know everything except one thing,” he said, “and that we shall both of us know before the day is out. Our friend Delora has played a great game. Even now I cannot tell you whether he has played to win or to lose. Since you have been so kind as to look me up, Captain Rotherby,” he went on, “let us spend a little time together. Do me, for instance, the honor to lunch with me at the Milan at one o’clock.”
“With Louis?” I asked grimly.
“I do not think that Louis will hurt us,” Lamartine answered. “There is just a chance, even, that we may not find him on duty to-day.”
“I will lunch with you with pleasure,” I said, “but there is one thing which I must do first.”
Lamartine looked at me narrowly.
“You want to see Miss Delora?” he asked.
It was foolish to be offended. I admitted the fact.
“Well,” he said, “it is natural. Miss Delora is a very charming young lady, and, so far as I know, she believes in her uncle. At the same time, I am not sure, Captain Rotherby, that the neighborhood of the Milan is very safe for you just now.”
“At this hour of the morning,” I said, “one should be able to protect one’s self.”
“It is true,” Lamartine answered. “Tell me, Captain Rotherby, at what hour did you send that cable last night?”
“At midnight,” I answered.
Lamartine glanced at the clock.
“Soon,” he said, “we shall have an official cable here, and then things will be interesting. Shall we meet, then, at the Milan?”
“Precisely,” I answered. “You don’t feel inclined,” I added, “to be a little more candid with me? My head has ached for a good many days over this business.”
“A few hours longer won’t hurt you,” Lamartine answered, laughing. “I can promise you that it will be worth waiting for.”
At a few minutes before twelve I entered the Milan by the Court entrance, and received at once some astonishing news. Ashley, who came out to meet me, drew me at once upon one side with a little gesture of apology.