Chapter XXVII. The Millionaire, the Stranger, and the Princess
 

As the three men threaded their way through the crowded Strand and approached the Hotel Cecil, Fullaway suddenly drew their attention to a private automobile which was turning in at the entrance to the courtyard.

"There's Delkin, in his car," he exclaimed, "and, great Scott, there's our Princess with him--Nastirsevitch! But who's the other man? Looks like a compatriot of ours, Van Koon, eh?"

Van Koon, who had been staring about him as they crossed over from the corner of Wellington Street, turned and glanced at the occupants of the car. Allerdyke was looking there, too. He had never seen Delkin as yet, and he was curious to set eyes on a man who had made several millions out of canning meat. He had no very clear conception of American millionaires, and he scarcely knew what he expected to see. But there were two men in the car with the Princess Nastirsevitch, and they were both middle-aged. One man was a tall, handsome, military-looking fellow, dressed in grey tweeds and wearing a Homburg hat of light grey with a darker band; his upturned, grizzled moustache gave him a smart, rather aggressive appearance; the monocle in his eye added to his general impressiveness. The other man was not particularly impressive--a medium sized, rather plump little man, with a bland, smiling countenance and mild eyes beaming through gold-rimmed spectacles; he sat with his back to the driver, and was just then leaning forward to tell something to the Princess and the man in the Homburg hat who were bending towards him and, smiling at what he said.

"Which of 'em is Delkin, then?" asked Allerdyke as the automobile swept into the courtyard. "Big or little?"

"The little fellow with the spectacles," replied Fullaway. "Quiet, unobtrusive man, Delkin--but cute as they're made. Know the other man, Van Koon?"

Van Koon had twisted round and was staring back in the direction from which they had come, he shook his head, a little absent-mindedly.

"Not from Adam," he answered, "but there's a man--Bostonian--just gone along there that I do know and want to see badly. Wait a bit for me in the courtyard there, Fullaway--shan't be long."

He turned as he spoke, and darted off through the crowd, unusually dense at that moment because of the luncheon hour. Fullaway, making no comment, walked forward into the courtyard and looked about him. Suddenly he nodded his head towards a far corner.

"There's Delkin and the Princess, and the man who was with them, sitting at a table over there," he said. "I didn't know that Delkin and the Princess were acquainted. But then, of course, they're both staying in this hotel, and they're both American. Well, shall we go to them now, Allerdyke, or shall we sit down here and wait a bit for Van Koon?"

"We'll wait," replied Allerdyke. He dropped into a chair and drew out his cigarette-case. "Have a drink while we're waiting?" he suggested, beckoning a waiter who was passing. "What's it to be?"

"Oh--something small, then," said Fullaway. "Dry sherry. Better bring three--Van Koon won't be long."

But the minutes passed and Van Koon was still absent. Ten minutes more went, and still he did not come. And Fullaway pulled out his watch with an air of annoyance.

"Too bad of Van Koon," he said. "Time's going, and I know Delkin lunches at two o'clock. Come on, Allerdyke," he continued, rising, "we'll go over to Delkin. If Van Koon comes, he'll find us. He's probably gone off with that other man, though--he's an absent-minded chap in some things, and too much given to the affair of the moment. Come on--I'll introduce you."

The Chicago millionaire, once put in possession of Allerdyke's name, looked at him with manifest curiosity, and motioned him and Fullaway to take seats with himself and his two companions.

"We were just talking of your case, Mr. Allerdyke," he said quietly. "The Princess, of course, has told me about you. Fullaway, I don't know if you know this gentleman--his name's well enough known, anyway. This gentleman is Mr. Chilverton, the famous New York detective. Chilverton--Mr. Fullaway, Mr. Allerdyke."

Fullaway and Allerdyke both looked at the man in the Homburg hat with great interest as they shook hands with him. Fullaway at any rate knew of his world-wide reputation; Allerdyke faintly remembered that he had heard of him in connection with some great criminal affair.

"Been telling Mr. Chilverton about our business, Mr. Delkin?" asked Fullaway pleasantly. "Asking his expert advice?"

"I've told him no more than what he could read for himself in the newspapers," answered Delkin. "He's got stuff of his own to attend to, here in London. About our affair now, as you call it, Fullaway. It's not my affair, or I guess I'd have been more into it by this time. The Princess here thinks things are going real slow, and so do I. What do you think, Mr. Allerdyke!"

"It's a case in which things go slow of sheer necessity," replied Allerdyke. "It's a case of widespread ramifications--to use a long word. But--we keep having developments, Mr. Delkin. There's been one this morning. We came to see you about it--and perhaps you'll let Fullaway tell!--he'll put things into fewer words than I should."

"Sure!" answered the millionaire. "Go ahead, Fullaway--we're all interested."

Fullaway briefly told the story of the discovery at the hotel in the Docks that morning, and explained the deductions which had been made from it. He detailed the connection of Ebers, alias Federman or Herman, with himself, and reported the conversation which had just taken place at his own rooms. And then he turned to Allerdyke, with an expressive gesture.

"I'll let Allerdyke say why we came here," he said. "It was his idea and Van Koon's--not mine. Your turn, Allerdyke."

"I shan't be slow to take it," responded Allerdyke, stirring himself. "I'm one business man--Mr. Delkin's another. I only want to ask you, Mr. Delkin, if you ever talked of this jewel transaction to anybody beyond your own secretary? It's a plain question, and you'll understand why I ask it."

"Of course," replied Delkin genially. "Quite right to ask. I can answer it in one word. No! As to telling my secretary, Merrifield, who's been with me twelve years, and is a thoroughly trustworthy man, I merely told him sufficient for him to write and send that formal letter--he knew, and knows (at least, not from me) no details. No, sir!--never a word from me got about--not even to my own daughter. Of course, the Princess here and myself have discussed matters--since she came. And now that you're here, Fullaway, I'll tell you what I think--straight out. I think this affair has all been planned from your own office!"

Fullaway flushed and sat up in an attitude of sudden indignation.

"Oh, come, Mr. Delkin!" he exclaimed. "I--"

"Go softly, young man." said Delkin. "I mean no harm to you, and no reflections on you. But you know, I've been in your office a few times, and I have eyes in my head. What do you know about that fascinating young woman you have there? I'm a pretty good judge of human nature and character, and I should say that young lady is as clever and deep as they make 'em. Who is she? There's one thing sure from what you've just told us, Fullaway--you let her know all your business secrets."

Fullaway made no attempt to conceal his chagrin and vexation.

"I've had Mrs. Marlow in my employ for three years," he answered. "She came to me with excellent testimonials and references. I've just as much reason to trust her as you have to trust Merrifield. If she'd been untrustworthy, she could have robbed or defrauded me many a time over; she--"

"Did she ever have the chance of getting hold of a quarter of a million's worth of jewels before?" asked Delkin with a shrewd glance at Allerdyke. "Come, now! Even the most trusted people fall before a very big temptation. All business folk know that. What's Mr. Allerdyke think?"

Allerdyke was not going to say what he thought. He was wondering if Fullaway knew what he knew--that Mrs. Marlow was also Miss Slade, that she had some relations with a man who also bore two different names, that her actions were somewhat suspicious. But that was not the time to say all this--he said something non-committal instead.

"There seems to be no doubt that the knowledge that my cousin was carrying the jewels leaked out here--and from Fullaway's office," he answered.

"Through this fellow Ebers!" broke in Fullaway excitedly. "It's all rot to think that Mrs. Marlow had anything to do with it! Great Scott!--do any of you mean to suggest that she engineered several murders, and--"

Delkin laughed--a soft, cynical laugh.

"You're lumping a lot of big stuff altogether, Fullaway," he remarked drily. "Do you know what I think of all this business? I think that everybody's jumping at conclusions. There are lots of questions, problems, difficulties that want solving and answering before I come to any conclusion. I'll tell you what they are," he went on bending forward in his lounge chair and looking from one to the other of the faces around him and beginning to tick off his points on the tips of his fingers. "Listen! One--Was James Allerdyke really murdered, or did he die a natural death? Two--Had James Allerdyke those jewels in his possession when he entered that S---- Hotel at Hull! Three--Has the robbery, or disappearance, of the Princess Nastirsevitch's jewels anything whatever to do with the theft of Mademoiselle de Longarde's property? Four--Was that man Lydenberg shot in Hull as a result of some connection with either, or both, of these affairs, or was he murdered for private or political reasons? Let me get a clear understanding of everything that's behind all these problems," he concluded, with a knowing smile, "and I'll tell you something!"

"You think it possible that the Nastirsevitch affair is the work of one lot, and the Lennard affair the work of another?" asked Allerdyke, thoughtfully. "In that case, I'll ask you a question, Mr. Delkin. How do you account for the fact that my cousin James, the Frenchwoman, Lisette Beaurepaire, and his valet, Ebers, or Federman, or Herman, were all found dead under similar circumstances? Come, now!"

"Aye, but were they?" demanded Delkin, clapping his hands together with a smile of triumphantly suggestive doubt. "Were they? You don't know--and the expert analysts don't know yet, and perhaps never will. I'll grant you that there's a strong probability that Ebers and the French maid were victims of the same murderer; but that doesn't prove that your cousin was. No, sir!--my impression is that everybody is taking too much for granted. And whether it offends you or not, Fullaway--and my intention's good--you ought to make drastic researches into your office procedure--you know what I mean. The leakage of the secret, sir, came from--there!"

Fullaway rose.

"Well, I shan't do any good by sitting here," he said, a little huffily. "If I'm going to begin those drastic researches I'd better begin. Coming, Allerdyke?"

The two men walked away together after taking leave of the millionaire and the Princess. But before they were clear of the courtyard, Chilverton caught them and tapped Fullaway on the elbow.

"Say!" he said confidentially. "You won't mind my asking you--who's this Van Koon that you mentioned?"

"Man from our side who's been here in London all this spring," answered Fullaway promptly. "He was coming with Allerdyke and me just now, but he turned back--just when you and Delkin drove in here."

Chilverton gave Fullaway a quick look.

"Did he see me?" he asked.

"Sure!" replied Fullaway. "Asked who you were--or I did."

"You did," remarked Allerdyke. "Then he went off."

"Describe him," said Chilverton. He listened attentively while Fullaway gave him a sketch of Van Koon's appearance. "Um!" he continued. "Do you mind my walking to your hotel with you? I believe I know that man, and I'd like to see him."

A hall-porter was standing at the door of the Waldorf who had been there when the three men went out together at one o'clock. Fullaway beckoned him.

"Seen anything of Mr. Van Koon?" he asked.

"Mr. Van Koon?--yes, sir. He came back a few minutes after you and Mr. Allerdyke and he had gone out, got a suit-case from upstairs, left word that he'd be away for the night, and went off in a taxi, sir," answered the man. "Seemed to be in a great hurry, sir!"

Before Fullaway could speak, Chilverton seized the hall-porter's arm. "Did you hear him give the cab-driver any direction?"

"Yes, sir," replied the man promptly. "St. Pancras Station, sir."

Without a word, Chilverton turned, hurried out to the pavement, and leapt into a taxi-cab that was standing there unengaged. In another instant the taxi-cab was off, and Allerdyke and Fullaway turned to each other. Then Allerdyke laughed.

"That's why Van Koon turned back, Fullaway," he said in a low voice. "He recognized Chilverton. Now, then--why did that recognition make him run? And--who is he?"