“What do you wish me to do, Madame X?”
“As if you did not know!” she mocked.
“I’m very dense at times,” he assured her.
“Dense!” she laughed. “Shades of Talleyrand, hear the man! However, as you desire to be told, I’ll tell you. I wish you to forget that you saw anything unusual on your way home this morning, and to return the articles you took from the cab.”
“To the cab?” Harleston inquired.
“No, to me.”
“What were the articles?”
“A sealed envelope containing a message in cipher.”
“Haven’t you forgotten something?”
“Oh, you may keep the roses, Mr. Harleston, for your reward!” she laughed.
She had not missed the handkerchief, or else she thought it of no consequence.
“Assuming, for the moment, that I have the articles in question, how are they to be gotten to you?”
“By the messenger, I shall send.”
“Will you send yourself?”
“What is that to you, sir?” she trilled.
“Simply that I shall not even consider surrendering the articles, assuming that I have them, to any one but you.”
“You will surrender them to me?” she whispered.
“I won’t surrender them to any one else.”
“In other words, I have a chance to get them. No one else has a chance?”
“Very well, I accept. Make the appointment, Mr. Harleston.”
“Will five o’clock this afternoon be convenient?”
“Perfectly—if it can’t be sooner,” she replied, after a momentary pause. “And the place?”
“Where you will,” he answered. He wanted her to fix it so that he could judge of her good faith.
And she understood.
“I’m not arranging to have you throttled!” she laughed. “Let us say the corridor of the Chateau—that is safe enough, isn’t it?”
“Don’t you know, Madame X, that Peacock Alley is one of the most dangerous places in town?”
“Not for you, Mr. Harleston,” she replied. “However—”
“Oh, I’ll chance it; though it’s a perilous setting with one of your adorable voice—and the other things that simply must go with it.”
“And lest the other things should not go with it,” she added, “I’ll wear three American Beauties on a black gown so that you may know me.”
“Good! Peacock Alley at five,” he replied and snapped up the receiver.
“The affair promises to be quite interesting,” he confided to the paper-knife, with which he was spearing tiny holes in the blotter of the pad. “Peacock Alley at five—but there are a few matters that come first.”
He went straight to the safe, unlocked it, took out the photograph, the cipher message, and the handkerchief, carried these to the table and placed them in a large envelope, which he sealed and addressed to himself. Then with it, and the three American Beauties, he passed quickly into the corridor and to an adjoining apartment. There he rang the bell vigorously and long.