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   Chapter 32 No.32

December Love By Robert Hichens Characters: 10169

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


When Sir Seymour was going out of the main hall of the building in which Arabian lived a taxicab happened to drive up. A man got out of it and paid the chauffeur. Sir Seymour made a sign to the chauffeur, who jerked his head and said:

"Yes, sir."

"Drive me to Claridge's Hotel, please," said Sir Seymour.

He got into the taxicab and was soon away in the night. When he reached the hotel he went to the bureau and inquired if Miss Van Tuyn was at home. The man at the bureau, who knew him well, said that she was in, that she had not been out all day. He would inquire at once if she was at home to visitors. As he spoke he looked at Sir Seymour with an air of discreet interest. After a moment at the telephone he asked Sir Seymour to go upstairs, and called a page-boy to accompany him and show him the way.

"Henriques," said Sir Seymour, pausing as he was about to follow the page. "You're a discreet fellow, I know."

"I hope so, Sir Seymour."

"If by chance a man called Arabian should come here, while I am upstairs, get rid of him, will you? I am speaking on Miss Van Tuyn's behalf and with her authority."

"I won't let the gentleman up, Sir Seymour."

"Has he called to-day?"

"Yes, Sir Seymour. He called early this afternoon. I had orders to say Miss Van Tuyn and Miss Cronin were both out. He wrote a note downstairs which was sent up."

"He may call again at any time. Get rid of him."

"Yes, Sir Seymour."

"Thanks. I rely on your discretion."

And Sir Seymour went towards the lift, where the page-boy was waiting.

Miss Van Tuyn met him at the threshold of her sitting-room. She was very pale. She greeted him eagerly.

"How good of you to call again! Do come in. I haven't stirred. I haven't been out all day."

She shut the sitting-room door.

"He has been here!"

"So I heard."

"How? Who has-"

"I ventured to speak to Henriques, the young man at the bureau, before coming up. I know him quite well. I took it on myself to give an order on your behalf."

"That he wasn't to be allowed to come up?"

"Yes. I told Henriques to get rid of him."

"Oh, thank you! Thank you! I've been in misery all day thinking at every moment that he might open my door and walk in."

"They won't let him up."

"But they mightn't happen to see him. If there were many people in the hall he might pass by unnoticed and-"

"In a hotel of this type people don't pass by unnoticed. You need not be afraid."

"But I am horribly afraid. I can't help it. And it's so dreadful not daring to move. It's-it's like living in a nightmare!"

"Come, Miss Van Tuyn!" said Sir Seymour, and in his voice and manner there was just a hint of the old disciplinarian, "pull yourself together. You're not helpless, and you've got friends."

"Oh, do forgive me! I know I have. But there's something so absolutely hideous in feeling like this about a man who-whom I-"

She broke off, and sat down on a sofa abruptly, almost as if her limbs had given way under her.

"I quite understand that. I've just been with the fellow."

Miss Van Tuyn started up.

"You've seen him?"

"Yes."

"Where? Here?"

"I went to Mr. Garstin's studio to have a look at the portrait and say a word to him. While I was there Arabian called. I stayed on and sat with him for some time. Afterwards I walked with him to the building where he is living temporarily and went in."

"Went in? You went into his flat!"

"As I say."

Miss Van Tuyn looked at him without speaking. Her expression showed intense astonishment, amounting almost to incredulity.

"I had it out with him," said Sir Seymour grimly, after a pause. "And in the heat of the moment I told him something which I had not intended to tell him, which I had not meant to speak of at all."

"What? What?"

"I told him I knew about the theft of ten years ago."

"Oh!"

"And I told him also that you knew about it."

"That I-oh! How did he take it? What did he say?"

"I didn't wait to hear. The flat was-well-scented, and I wanted to get out of it."

His face expressed such a stern and acute disgust that Miss Van Tuyn's eyes dropped beneath his.

"You may think-it would be natural to think that the fact of my having told the man about your knowledge of his crime would prevent him from ever attempting to see you again," Sir Seymour continued, "but I don't feel sure of that."

"You think that even after that he might-"

"I'll be frank with you. I can't tell what he might or might not do. He may follow my suggestion-"

"What did you-"

"I suggested to him that he had better clear out of the country at once. It's quite possible that he may take my view and go, but in case he doesn't, and tries to bother you any more-"

"He's been! He's written! He says he will see me. He has guessed that something has turned me against him."

"He knows now what it is. Now I want you to write a note to him which I will leave at the bureau in case he calls to-night or to-morrow morning."

"Yes."

She went to the writing-table and sat down.

"If you will allow me

to suggest the wording."

"Please-please do!"

She took up a pen and dipped it in the ink. Then Sir Seymour dictated:

SIR,-Sir Seymour Portman has told me of his meeting with you to-day and of what occurred at it. What he said to you about me is true. I know. If you call you will not see me. I refuse absolutely to see you or to have anything more to do with you, now or at any future time.

"And then your name at the end."

Miss van Tuyn wrote with a hand that slightly trembled. "B. VAN TUYN."

"If you will put that into an envelope and address it I will take it down and leave it at the bureau."

"Thank you."

Miss Van Tuyn put the note into an envelope, closed the envelope and addressed it.

"That's right."

Sir Seymour held out his hand and she gave him the note.

"Now, good night."

"You are going!"

He smiled slightly.

"I don't sleep at Claridge's as you and Miss Cronin do."

"No, of course not. Thank you so very, very much! But I can never thank you properly."

She paused. Then she said with sudden bitterness:

"And I used to pride myself on my independence!"

"Ah-independence! A word!" said Sir Seymour.

He turned away to go, but when he was near the door he stopped and seemed hesitating.

"What is it?" said Miss Van Tuyn anxiously.

"Even men sometimes have instincts," he said, turning round.

"Yes?"

"May I use your telephone?"

"Of course! But-do-you-"

"Where-Oh, there it is!"

He went to it and called up the bureau. Then he said: "Sir Seymour Portman is speaking from Miss Van Tuyn's sitting-room . . . is that Mr. Henriques? Please tell me, has that man, Arabian, of whom we spoke just now, called again?"

There was a silence in which Miss Van Tuyn, watching, saw a frown wrinkle deeply Sir Seymour's forehead.

"Ah! Has he gone? Did you get rid of him? . . . How long ago? . . . Only two or three minutes! . . . Do you think he knows I am here? . . . Thank you. I'll be down in a moment."

He put the receiver back.

"Oh, but don't leave me!" said Miss Van Tuyn distractedly. "You see, in spite of what you told him he has come!"

"Yes. He has been. He's a determined fellow."

"He'll never give it up! What can I do?"

"All you can do at present is to remain quietly up here in your comfortable rooms. Leave the rest to me."

"But if he gets in?"

"He won't. Even if he came upstairs-and he won't be allowed to-he has no key of your outer door. Now I'll go down and leave this note at the bureau. If he comes back and receives it, that will probably decide him to give the thing up. He is counting on the weakness of your will. This note will show him you have made up your mind. By the way"-he fixed his dark eyes on her-"you have made up your mind?"

She blushed up to her hair.

"Oh, yes-yes!"

"Very well. To-morrow I shall go to Scotland Yard. We'll get him out of the country one way or another."

She accompanied him to the outer door of the apartment. When he had gone out she shut it behind him, and he heard the click of a bolt being pushed home.

Before leaving the hotel Sir Seymour again sought his discreet friend Henriques, to whom he gave Miss Van Tuyn's note.

"So the fellow has been?" he said.

"Yes, Sir Seymour."

"Did you get rid of him easily?"

"Well, to tell the truth, Sir Seymour, he tried to be obstinate. I think-if you'll excuse me-I certainly think that he was slightly under the influence of drink. Not drunk, you'll understand, not at all as much as that! But still-"

"Yes-yes. If he comes back give him that note. And-do you think it would be wise to give him a hint that any further annoyance might lead to the intervention of the police? The young lady is very much upset and frightened. Do you think you might drop a word or two-at your discretion?"

"I'll manage it, Sir Seymour. Leave it to me!"

"Very good of you, Henriques. Good night."

"Good night, Sir Seymour. Always very glad to do anything for you."

"Thank you."

As Sir Seymour stepped out into Brook Street he glanced swiftly up and down the thoroughfare. But he did not see the man he was looking for. He stood still for a moment. There was hesitation in his mind. The natural thing, he felt, would be to go at once to Berkeley Square and to have a talk with Adela. It was late. He was beginning to feel hungry. Adela would give him some dinner. But-could he go to Adela just now? No; he could not. And he hailed a cab and drove home. Something the beast had said had made a horrible impression upon the faithful lover, an impression which remained with him, which seemed to be eating its way, like a powerful acid, into his very soul, corroding, destroying.

Adela-young Craven!

Was it possible? Was there then never to be an end to that mania, which had been Adela's curse, and the tragedy of the man who had loved her with the long love which is so rare among men?

There was bitterness in Sir Seymour's heart that night, and that bitterness sent him home, to the home that was no real home, to the solitude that she had given him.

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