There is a gentleman waiting in the rain for me; he has been trailing me all the morning, and my only chance of escaping a disagreeable occurrence is in your companionship.
He nodded and they went out in the rain together. Three paces they had taken when there was a sound like the sharp crack of a whip. Something like an angry bee in terrific flight snapped past Mona's face, and her husband leapt at a man who was standing half a dozen paces away. Again came the explosion, but this time the bullet went high, and in a second she was the terrified spectator of two men at grips.
The struggle did not last long. Three policemen came from nowhere and one of the men was seized. The other came back to her wiping the mud from his coat. Come along and lunch and I'll tell you how you can get your divorce—I'm a bit of a lawyer, you know. Besides which I'd like to return all that money you gave me.
Whether or not, in the complicated terms of the Extradition Treaty between Italy and Britain, Mona Keddler could have been tried in London for a crime committed in Rome, no jurist would commit himself to say. John Keddler in his wisdom did not challenge a decision. He had an interview with his furious employer, who threatened and stormed—and went home.
Mona he sent to a place of safety until the storm blew over; but the storm was the mildest of breezes. The winter turned to spring and the spring to summer. The Italian Government notified all persons concerned that the Della Garda "affair" would be regarded as a lamentable family tragedy, for which nobody could be held liable; and the summer came to autumn again before Mona Keddler sailed for New York. The question of divorce, in spite of many meetings at luncheon, dinner, and tea-tables, had never been properly discussed by either.
It was not until the evening before she sailed for New York that Mona Keddler asked the question that had puzzled her so through the six months of her curiously pleasant married life. The divorce laws are so horribly strict in England. And you are married—without a wife. It was selfish, miserably selfish of me to let you do it—but why did you? She promised, and he watched the Olympic drift from the pier at Southampton with a little ache at his heart that nothing could assuage—watched until the trim figure on the promenade deck and the handkerchief she waved were indistinguishable from other figures and other wildly waving handkerchiefs.
Her trunks were piled on the deck and she was watching the low-lying shores of France with a light in her eyes which no man had ever seen. He walked down the stairs from the great man's study, and at every two steps he came to a halt as some new aspect of the situation appeared to him. He had an absurd desire to sit down on the heavily carpeted treads and take his time over his musings, and once or twice he did lean on the sloping and massive handrail to allow himself a physical ease that his mind might work with greater smoothness.
Of course, the whole thing was madness—stark lunacy, and the greatest, least reasonable, most extravagant of all the lunacies was John Jenner's sublime egotism. His name must be protected; his honor must be avenged; he must face the world without blush or reproach. There were seven more stairs to descend before he came to the broad landing from whence one reached the drawing-room and Leslie Jenner. He went down two steps and lingered And yet he was a sturdy young man, good and healthy looking, practised in the ways of social intercourse and one who was not unused to meeting difficult situations.
Once, in a shattered trench fronting the Hindenburg line, he had pushed nerve-shattered men into action with a ribald jest which had become an army classic. At this moment he did not feel humorous. He turned the knob with an effort of will which would have nerved a condemned man to put the rope about his own neck. A girl was standing against the fireplace, her back to him.
She did not look round even when he banged the door. He saw her shoulders shake, and looked back at the door. He nodded very slowly. He was very fond of Leslie Jenner. Every man was fond of her—a wisp of a girl, light-treading, lissome, quick- thinking. Bobby seated himself meekly. Old Winslow is one of the two gods of finance whom father worships; father is the other. They had a birthday party—one of their numberless children has reached twenty-one without mishap, and naturally they wanted everybody to rejoice and be exceeding glad.
Daddy was going, but something colossal happened at the last minute—steel rose an eighth or lard fell a twenty-fourth or something—and naturally the world stopped revolving.
I went alone—Winslows' place is about twelve miles out of town, and you have to cross a piece of waste land that is called Smoke Park. It is a desolation and an abomination—". Well, to continue this strange story. Nothing happened at the dance except that I saw you flirting outrageously with Sybil Thorbern—". There was oil where gas should have been or gas where oil was due, I can't tell you. Anyway, Anderson, that's the chauffeur, disappeared into the interior of the bonnet and remained, uttering strangled moans from time to time, and emerging at intervals to apologize for the weather.
You see, being a warm night I went in an open car, without hood or anything, and it began to rain like I was getting wet through, and I remembered that there was a shelter—a small respectable hut which had been erected for golfers—we were on the course when we finally went dead. Without saying a word to Anderson, I tripped daintily along a path and found the hut. By this time it was raining—um—well, as you said.
The Londoner. The French Riviera was another happy hunting ground. Got it! By the age of 12 Peter had decided on a life of crime rather than any of the legal options that would have been available to him. Codename: Tigger.
The door of the hut was closed, but it opened readily enough and I stepped inside. I was within hailing distance of the car, but the chauffeur had not seen me go, you understand? I went spiney and shivery and made for the door.
Before I could reach it somebody caught me by the arm. He was very gentle but very firm. He said that he hated doing this, but it was all for my good, and he hoped that I'd have the sense to see that he wouldn't have taken the step but for circumstances over which he had no control. In fact, it struck me that he was nervous himself. Then I heard the chauffeur's voice shout 'Are you there? Then I heard the car drone down the road.
Anderson thought I must have walked on, and went along to pick me up. I don't know what I said to the gentleman in the hut—I think I was offensive. He didn't seem to mind. I even made up stories about him. I was puzzled about the one-thirty. Why did he want me to stay so long? Presently, however, I got a clue. There was a sound of a car coming along the road, and I saw its head-lamps appear over the rise. It was from the same direction as I had come, and stopped at identically the same spot where my car had stopped.
I heard somebody get down, then I heard a whistle. And this is where the queerest part of the adventure began. My jailer literally pushed me into a corner of the hut. I heard somebody say, 'Is that you? But it was no joking matter for him, for just as I started in to ask with all the dignity that I could command that he should escort me at once to my home, along came papa's car from the opposite direction and pulled up near the golf hut.
I heard father's loud voice cursing Anderson. Give me one of those head-lamps.