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   Chapter 19 TAKE ME AWAY!

Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 15416

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Richard presented himself the next morning at the Hotel de Paris.

"Cheero!" he exclaimed, on being shown into Hunterleys' sitting-room. "All right up to date, I see."

Hunterleys nodded. He had just come in from the bank and held his letters in his hand. Richard seated himself on the edge of the table.

"I slept out on the yacht last night," he said. "Got up at six o'clock and had a swim. What about a round of golf at La Turbie? We can get down again by luncheon-time, before the people are about."

"Afraid I can't," Hunterleys replied. "I have rather an important letter to go through carefully, and a reply to think out."

"You're a queer chap, you know," Richard went on. "You always seem to have something on but I'm hanged if I can see how you pass your time here in Monte Carlo. This political business, even if you do have to put in a bit of time at it now and then, can't be going on all the while. Monte Carlo, too! So far as the women are concerned, they might as well be off the face of the earth, and I don't think I've ever seen you make a bet at the tables. How did your wife do last night? I thought she seemed to be dropping it rather."

"I think that she lost," Hunterleys replied indifferently. "Her gambling, however, is like mine, I imagine, on a fairly negligible scale."

Richard whistled softly.

"Well, I don't know," he observed. "I saw her going for maximums yesterday pretty steadily. A few thousands doesn't last very long at that little game."

Hunterleys smiled.

"A few thousands!" he repeated. "I don't suppose Violet has ever lost or won a hundred pounds in her life."

Richard abandoned the subject quickly. He was obliged to tell himself that it was not his business to interfere between husband and wife.

"Say, Hunterleys," he suggested, "do you think I could do something for the crowd on my little boat-a luncheon party or a cruise, eh?"

"I should think every one would enjoy it immensely," Hunterleys answered.

"I can count on you, of course, if I arrange anything?"

"I am afraid not," Hunterleys regretted. "I am too much engrossed now to make any arrangements."

"I'm hanged if you don't get more mysterious every moment!" Richard exclaimed vigorously. "What's it all about? Can't you even be safe in your room for five minutes without keeping one of those little articles under your newspaper while you read your letters?" he added, lifting with his stick the sheet which Hunterleys had hastily thrown over a small revolver. "What's it all about, eh? Are you plotting to dethrone the Prince of Monaco and take his place?"

"Not exactly that," Hunterleys replied, a little wearily. "Lane, old fellow, you're much better off not to know too much. I have told you that there's a kind of international conference going on about here and I've sort of been pitchforked into the affair. Over in your country you don't know much about this sort of thing, but since I've been out of harness I've done a good deal of what really amounts to Secret Service work. One must serve one's country somehow or other, you know, if one gets the chance."

Richard was impressed.

"Gee!" he exclaimed. "The sort of thing that one reads about, eh, and only half believes. Who's the French Johnny who arrived last night?"

"Douaille. He's the coming President, they say. I'm thinking of paying him a visit of ceremony this afternoon."

There was a knock at the door. A waiter entered with a note upon a salver.

"From Madame, monsieur," he announced, presenting it to Hunterleys.

The latter tore it open and read the few lines hastily:

Dear Henry,

If you could spare a few minutes, I should be glad if you would come round to my apartment.

Yours,

Violet.

Hunterleys twisted the note up in his fingers.

"Tell Lady Hunterleys that I will be round in a few moments," he instructed the servant.

Richard took up his stick and hat.

"If you have an opportunity," he said, "ask Lady Hunterleys what she thinks about a little party on the yacht. If one could get the proper people together-"

"I'll tell her," Hunterleys promised. "You'd better wait till I get back."

He made his way to the other wing of the hotel. For the first time since he had been staying there, he knocked at the door of his wife's apartments. Her maid admitted him with a smile. He found Violet sitting in the little salon before a writing-table. The apartment was luxuriously furnished and filled with roses. Somehow or other, their odour irritated him. She rose from her place and hastened towards him.

"How nice of you to come so promptly!" she exclaimed. "You're sure it didn't inconvenience you?"

"Not in the least," he replied. "I was only talking to Richard Lane."

"You seem to have taken a great fancy to that young man all at once," she remarked.

Hunterleys was sitting upon the arm of an easy-chair. He had picked up one of Violet's slippers and was balancing it in his hand.

"Oh, I don't know. He is rather refreshing after some of these people. He still has enthusiasms, and his love affair is quite a poem. Aren't you up rather early this morning?"

"I couldn't sleep," she sighed. "I think it has come to me in the night that I am sick of this place. I wondered-"

She hesitated. He bent the slipper slowly back, waiting for her to proceed.

"The Draconmeyers don't want to go," she went on. "They are here for another month, at least. Linda would miss me terribly, I suppose, but I have really given her a lot of my time. I have spent several hours with her every day since we arrived, and I don't know what it is-perhaps my bad luck, for one thing-but I have suddenly taken a dislike to the place. I wondered-"

She had picked up one of the roses from a vase close at hand, and was twirling it between her fingers. For some reason or other she seemed ill at ease. Hunterleys watched her silently. She was very pale, but since his coming a slight tinge of pink colour had stolen into her cheeks. She had received him in a very fascinating garment of blue silk, which was really only a dressing-gown. It seemed to him a long time since he had seen her in so intimate a fashion.

"I wondered," she concluded at last, almost abruptly, "whether you would care to take me away."

He was, for a moment, bereft of words. Somehow or other, he had been so certain that she had sent to him to ask for more money, that he had never even considered any other eventuality.

"Take you away," he repeated. "Do you really mean take you back to London, Violet?"

"Just anywhere you like," she replied. "I am sick of this place and of everything. I am weary to death of trying to keep Linda cheerful-you don't realise how depressing it is to be with her; and-and every one seems to have got a little on my nerves. Mr. Draconmeyer," she added, a little defiantly, raising her eyes to his, "has been most kind and delightful, but-somehow I want to get away."

He sat down on the edge of a couch. She seated herself at the further end of it.

"Violet," he said, "you have taken me rather by surprise."

"Well, you don't mind being taken by surprise once in a while, do you?" she asked, a little petulantly. "You know I am capricious-you have told me so often enough. Here is a proof of it. Take me back to London or to Paris, or wherever you like."

He was almost overwhelmed. It was unfortunate that she had chosen that moment to look away and could not see, therefore, the light which glowed in his eyes.

"Violet," he assured her earnestly, "there is nothing in the world I should like so much. I would beg you to have your trunks packed this morning, but unfortunately I cannot leave Monte Carlo just

now."

"Cannot leave Monte Carlo?" she repeated derisively. "Why, my dear man, you are a fish out of water here! You don't gamble, you do nothing but moon about and go to the Opera and worry about your silly politics. What on earth do you mean when you say that you cannot leave Monte Carlo?"

"I mean just what I say," he replied. "I cannot leave Monte Carlo for several days, at any rate."

She looked at him blankly, a little incredulously.

"You have talked like this before, Henry," she said, "and it is all too absurd. You must tell me the truth now. You can have no business here. You are travelling for pleasure. You can surely leave a place or not at your own will?"

"It happens," he sighed, "that I cannot. Will you please be very kind, Violet, and not ask me too much about this? If there is anything else I can do," he went on, hesitatingly, "if you will give me a little more of your time, if you will wait with me for a few days longer-"

"Can't you understand," she interrupted impatiently, "that it is just this very moment, this instant, that I want to get away? Something has gone wrong. I want to leave Monte Carlo. I am not sure that I ever want to see it again. And I want you to take me.... Please!"

She held out her hands, swaying a little towards him. He gripped them in his. She yielded to their pressure until their lips almost met.

"You'll take me away this morning?" she whispered.

"I cannot do that," he replied, "but, Violet-"

She snatched herself away from him. An ungovernable fit of fury seemed to have seized her. She stood in the centre of the room and stamped her foot.

"You cannot!" she repeated. "And you will not give me a reason? Very well, I have done my best, I have made my appeal. I will stay in Monte Carlo, then. I will-"

There was a knock at the door.

"Come in," she cried. "Who is it?"

The door was softly opened. Draconmeyer stood upon the threshold. He looked from one to the other in some surprise.

"I am sorry," he murmured. "Please excuse me."

"Come in, Mr. Draconmeyer," she called out to his retreating figure. "Come in, please. How is Linda this morning?"

Draconmeyer smiled a little ruefully as he returned.

"Complaining," he replied, "as usual. I am afraid that she has had rather a bad night. She is going to try and sleep for an hour or two. I came to see if you felt disposed for a motor ride this morning?"

"I should love it," she assented. "I should like to start as soon as possible. Henry was just going, weren't you?" she added, turning to her husband.

He stood his ground.

"There was something else I wished to say," he declared, glancing at Draconmeyer.

The latter moved at once towards the door but Violet stopped him.

"Not now," she begged. "If there is really anything else, Henry, you can send up a note, or I dare say we shall meet at the Club to-night. Now, please, both of you go away. I must change my clothes for motoring. In half an hour, Mr. Draconmeyer."

"The car will be ready," he answered.

Hunterleys hesitated. He looked for a moment at Violet. She returned his glance of appeal with a hard, fixed stare. Then she turned away.

"Susanne," she called to her maid, who was in the inner room, "I am dressing at once. I will show you what to put out."

She disappeared, closing the connecting door behind her. The two men walked out to the lift in silence. Draconmeyer rang the bell.

"You are not leaving Monte Carlo at present, then, Sir Henry?" he remarked.

"Not at present," Hunterleys replied calmly.

They parted without further speech. Hunterleys returned to his room, where Richard was still waiting.

"Say, have you got a valet here with you?" the young man enquired.

Hunterleys shook his head.

"Never possessed such a luxury in my life," he declared.

"Chap came in here directly you were gone-mumbled something about doing something for you. I didn't altogether like the look of him, so I sat on the table and watched. He hung around for a moment, and then, when he saw that I was sticking it out, he went off."

"Was he wearing the hotel livery?" Hunterleys asked quickly.

"Plain black clothes," Richard replied. "He looked the valet, right enough."

Hunterleys rang the bell. It was answered by a servant in grey livery.

"Are you the valet on this floor?" Hunterleys enquired.

"Yes, sir!"

"There was a man in here just now, said he was my valet or something of the sort, hung around for a minute or two and then went away. Who was he?"

The servant shook his head. He was apparently a German, and stupid.

"There are no valets on this floor except myself," he declared.

"Then who could this person have been?" Hunterleys demanded.

"A tailor, perhaps," the man suggested, "but he would not come unless you had ordered him. I have been on duty all the time. I have seen no one about."

"Very well," Hunterleys said, "I'll report the matter in the office."

"Some hotel thief, I suppose," Lane remarked, as soon as the door was closed. "He didn't look like it exactly, though."

Hunterleys frowned.

"Not much here to satisfy any one's curiosity," he observed. "Just as well you were in the room, though."

"Surrounded by mysteries, aren't you, old chap?" Richard yawned, lighting a cigarette.

"I don't know exactly about that," Hunterleys replied, "but I'll tell you one thing, Lane. There are things going on in Monte Carlo at the present moment which would bring out the black headlines on the halfpenny papers if they had an inkling of them. There are people here who are trying to draw up a new map of Europe, a new map of the world."

Richard shook his head.

"I can't get interested in anything, Hunterleys," he declared. "You could tell me the most amazing things in the world and they'd pass in at one ear and out at the other. Kind of a blithering idiot, eh? You know what I did last night after dinner. If you'll believe me, when I got to the villa, I found the place patrolled as though they were afraid of dynamiters. I skulked round to the back, got on the beach, and climbed a little way up towards the rock garden. I hid there and waited to see if she'd come out on the terrace. She never came, but I caught a glimpse of her passing from one room to another, and I tell you I'm such a poor sort of an idiot that I felt repaid for waiting there all that time. I shall go there again to-night. The boys wanted me to dine-Eddy Lanchester and Montressor and that lot-a jolly party, too. I sha'n't do it. I shall have a mouthful alone somewhere and spend the rest of the evening on those rocks. Something's got to come of this, Hunterleys."

"Let's go into the lounge for a few moments," Hunterleys suggested. "I may as well hear all about it."

They made their way downstairs, and sat there talking, or rather Hunterleys listened while Richard talked. Then Draconmeyer strolled across the hall and waited by the lift. Presently he returned with Violet by his side, followed by her maid, carrying rugs. As they approached, Hunterleys rose slowly to his feet. Violet was looking up into her companion's face, talking and laughing. She either did not see Hunterleys, or affected not to. He stood, for a moment, irresolute. Then, as she passed, she glanced at him quite blankly and waved her hand to Richard. The two disappeared. Hunterleys resumed his seat. He had, somehow or other, the depressing feeling of a man who has lost a great opportunity.

"Lady Hunterleys looks well this morning," Lane remarked, absolutely unconscious of anything unusual.

Hunterleys watched the car drive off before he answered.

"She looks very well," he assented gloomily.

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