“Ah, Gott!” he cried, and raised his hand to his clammy forehead. “You will ruin me. I am a ruined man. I don’t try to extort anything. I run an honest business------”
“And one of the most profitable in the world,” added Harley, “since the days of Thais to our own. Even at Bond Street rentals I assume that a house of assignation is a golden enterprise.”
“Ah!” groaned Meyer, “I am ruined, so what does it matter? I tell you everything. I know Mr. De Lana who engages my room regularly, but I don’t know who the lady is who meets him here. No! I swear it! But always it is the same lady. When he falls I am downstairs in my office, and I hear him cry out. The lady comes running from the room and begs of me to get her away without being seen and to keep all mention of her out of the matter.”
“What did she pay you?” asked Harley.
“Pay me?” muttered Meyer, pulled up thus shortly in the midst of his statement.
“Pay you. Exactly. Don’t argue; answer.”
The man delivered himself of a guttural, choking sound, and finally:
“She promised one hundred pounds,” he confessed hoarsely.
“But you surely did not accept a mere promise? Out with it. What did she give you?”
“A ring,” came the confession at last.
“A ring. I see. I will take it with me if you don’t mind. And now, finally, what was it that she left behind?”
“Ah, Gott!” moaned the man, dropping into a chair and resting his arms upon the table. “It is all a great panic, you see. I hurry her out by the back stair from this landing and she forgets her bag.”
“Her bag? Good.”
“Then I clear away the remains of dinner so I can say Mr. De Lana is dining alone. It is as much my interest as the lady’s.”
“Of course! I quite understand. I will trouble you no more, Mr. Meyer, except to step into your office and to relieve you of that incriminating evidence, the lady’s bag and her ring.”
THE SLANTING EYES
“Do you understand, Knox?” said Harley as the cab bore us toward Hamilton Place. “Do you grasp the details of this cunning scheme?”
“On the contrary,” I replied, “I am hopelessly at sea.”
Nevertheless, I had forgotten that I was hungry in the excitement which now claimed me. For although the thread upon which these seemingly disconnected things hung was invisible to me, I recognized that Bampton, the city clerk, the bearded stranger who had made so singular a proposition to him, the white-hatted major, the dead stockbroker, and the mysterious woman whose presence in the case the clear sight of Harley had promptly detected, all were linked together by some subtle chain. I was convinced, too, that my friend held at least one end of that chain in his grip.
“In order to prepare your mind for the interview which I hope to obtain this evening,” continued Harley, “let me enlighten you upon one or two points which may seem obscure. In the first place you recognize that anyone leaning out of the window on the second floor would almost automatically rest his weight upon the iron bar which was placed there for that very purpose, since the ledge is unusually low?”