looking Lady Waverton, and a dislike
to her lovely friend. The scene he had just witnessed
confirmed his judgment of the Countess.
"I wish Gracie were not here!" exclaimed Lord
"She is--how you call it?--too much thinking
of herself to think of us," was the confident answer.
There came a look of discomfort and shame
over his face. "You women are such damn good actresses! Then
you think she's really ill this morning?"
"Ill is a big word. Still she is willing to
see a doctor. It is fortunate that I know a very good Paris
physician. He will be here very soon. But she wants us to
start for Versailles now, even before he comes."
"All right, I'll go and get ready."
When she believed herself alone, Countess
Filenska walked across to the long mirror between the two
window and stood looking at herself there, in the bright
Hercules Popeau gazed at her, absorbed. What
a beautiful woman! While very dark, she had no touch of
swarthiness. Her oval face, indeed, had the luminosity of a
white petal. She had had the courage to remain unshingled,
and the Frenchman, faithful to far-away memories of youth,
visioned the glorious mantle her tightly. coiled hair must
form when unbound. Her figure, at once slender and rounded,
was completely revealed, as is the fashion to-day, by her
plain black dress. A Russian? Hercules Popeau shook his
head. Her southern type of beauty was unmistakable. He had
known an Athenian woman very like this Countess Filenska.
It had been the hidden watcher's lifelong
business to guess the innermost thoughts of men and women.
But he felt he had no clue as to what was making this
beautiful "dark lady" smile in so inscrutable a way to
At last she turned round and left the room,
and at once her unseen admirer, and, yes, judge, closed the
tiny slit in the panelled wall. What a curious, romantic,
and, yes sinister page he had just turned in the great Book
of Life! A page of a not uncommon story; that of a
beautiful, unscrupulous woman playing the part of serpent in
a modern Garden of Eden.
It was clear that Lord Waverton was
infatuated with this lovely creature, but there had been no
touch of genuine passion in her voice, or even in her
apparently eager response to his ardour.
Hercules Popeau had a copy of the latest
"Who's Who?" on his writing-table. Eagerly he opened the
section containing the letter W. Yes, here was the entry:
"Waverton, Robert Hinchfield, of Liddersfield,
York. Second Baron."
And then there came back to him the knowledge
that this man's father had been one of the greatest of
Victorian millionaires. No wonder he had been able to
present the woman he loved in secret with that magnificent
There came the sounds of a motor drawing up
under the huge porte-cochère. Rising, the
Frenchman went quickly over to the open window on his right.
Yes, there was a big car, the best money
could hire, with his lordship standing by the bonnet. He
looked the ideal Milord of French fancy, being a tall, broad
man with fair hair, having in it a touch of red. He was
obviously impatient and ill at ease. But he had not long to
wait. The Countess stepped out into the courtyard. Even in
her close motor bonnet she looked entrancingly lovely.
Popeau took a step backward as there floated
up the voices of the two people whose secret he now shared.
"Did you see Gracie?" asked Lord Waverton,
"Yes, and she was so sweet and kind! She begs
us not to hurry back. She is quite looking forward to the
visit of my old friend, Dr. Scorpion."
Scorpion? A curious name--not a
happy name--for a medical man. Hercules Popeau had once
known a doctor of the name.
As the motor rolled out on to the boulevard,
he went back to his desk, and taking up the speaking tube,
he whistled down it. "Madame Colbec? I have something
important to say to you!"
He heard the quick answer, "At your service
"A doctor is coming to see Lady Waverton this
morning. Before he sees Miladi, show him yourself
into my bedroom."
There came a surprised: "Do you feel ill,
"I am not very well; and I have reason to
think this doctor is an old friend of mine. But I do not
wish Dr. Scorpion to know that he is not being shown
straight into the bedroom of his English lady patient. Have
I made myself clear?"
He heard her quick word of assent. Madame
Colbec was as sharp as a needle, and she had once had reason
to be profoundly grateful to Hercules Popeau. He could trust
her absolutely; sometimes he called her, by way of a joke,
Hercules Popeau always did everything in what
he called to himself an artistic--an Englishman would have
said a thorough--way. Thus, before getting into his bed he
entirely undressed and drew together the curtains of his
bedroom windows. Thus anyone coming into the room from the
sunny corridor outside would feel in darkness, while to one
whose eyes were already accustomed to the dim light,
everything would be perfectly clear.
He had already been in bed half an hour, when
at last the door opened, and he heard Madame Colbec say in a
smooth tone, "Entrez, Monsieur le Docteur." His heart gave a
leap, for the slight individual who had just been shown into
the darkened room was undoubtedly his Scorpion--the man he
had known twenty years ago. The doctor had been about thirty
when he had got into the very serious trouble which had
brought him into touch with the then Chief of the Criminal
Investigation Department, so he must now be fifty.
With a sardonic look on his powerful face
Hercules Popeau watched his visitor grope forward a little
"Miladi," he said at last, in an ill-assured
tone, "I will ask your permission to draw the curtains a
little? Otherwise I cannot see you!"
He put his hat on a chair as he spoke, and
then he went towards the nearest window, and pulled apart
the curtains, letting in a stream of light; he turned
towards the bed--
"It is a long time since we have met, my good
For a moment Popeau thought that the man who
stood stock-still staring at him, as if petrified, was about
to fall down in a faint. And a feeling of regret, almost of
shame, came over him, for he was a kindly man, at having
played the other such a trick.
But the visitor made a great effort to regain
his composure, and at last, with a certain show of valour,
he exclaimed: "I have been shown into the wrong room. I am
here to see a lady who is ill."
"That is so," said Popeau quietly. "But I,
too, feel ill, and hearing that you had been called to this
hotel, I thought I would see you first, to ask your advice.
I confess I wondered if you were the Dr. Scorpion I had once
To the unfortunate man who stood in the
middle of the large room there was a terrible edge of irony
in the voice that uttered those quiet words.
"Of course, I know that in the old days you
were more accustomed to diagnose the state of an ailing
woman than that of a man," went on the ex-police chief
And then he changed his tone. "Come, come!"
he exclaimed. "I have no right to go back to the past! Draw
a chair close up to my bed, and tell me how you have got on
all these years?"
With obvious reluctance the doctor complied
with this almost command. "I have now been in very
respectable practice for some time." He waited a moment,
then he added bitterly. "Can you wonder that seeing you gave
me a moment of great discomfort, reminding me of certain
errors of my youth for which I have bitterly repented?"
"I am glad to hear you have repented," said
In a clearer, calmer tone Scorpion went on,
"I made a good marriage; I have a sweet wife and two
Hercules Popeau held out his hand. The other
took it. And then the detective felt a sensation of violent
recoil, for it was as if the hand he held was a dead hand.
It was icy cold--an infallible sign of shock. The ex-police
chief felt a touch of sharp remorse. He had nothing in him
of the feline human being who likes to play with a man or a
woman as a big cat plays with a mouse.
Lord and Lady Waverton and their friend had
arrived on a Sunday night, and Dr. Scorpion's first visit to
the hotel had been paid on the Tuesday morning. As the week
went on Lady Waverton, while still keeping to her room,
became convalescent, though the doctor recommended that her
ladyship should go on being careful till the day that she
was to leave Paris, that is on the Saturday.
On the Friday morning Madame Colbec herself
brought up Hercules Popeau's petit déjeuner.
She looked anxious and worried. "Miladi is worse," she said
abruptly. "I have already telephoned for the doctor. The
countess is greatly distressed! I must hurry, as I have to
serve an English breakfast for two in the next room at
A few minutes later Popeau, peeping through
the slanting "Judas," sat watching Lord Waverton and the
Countess Filenska. After having exchanged a long, passionate
embrace they had sat down, but the excellent omelette
prepared by Madame Colbec remained untasted. It was almost
as if they were quarrelling, for the first words uttered by
the Englishman were:
"I don't see why you should go to England
She said firmly, "It is imperative that I
should see the man who is going to Russia on Saturday."
"Well, then, if you go----" he had the grace
to look ashamed, "I don't see why I shouldn't go, too!
Gracie hates to have me about her when she's ill. I can't
help thinking that the sensible thing to do would be to get
a trained nurse over from England."
The Countess looked violently disturbed. She
was pouring some black coffee into her cup, and Popeau saw
that the beautiful hand trembled.
"You cannot do better than leave Gracie in
the French doctor's hands," she explained. "He is
There came a knock at the door, and Doctor
Scorpion came in.
"I am, indeed, sorry," he began, "to hear
that my patient is worse----" but the Countess cut him
short. "Let us go to her!" she exclaimed, and together they
left the room
A few moments later the Countess came back.
"Gracie is better," she observed. "She will
probably be able to go home next Tuesday or Wednesday."
She put her hand caressingly through Lord
Waverton's arm. "I will go over to England to-day at four
o'clock, and I will be back here by to-morrow night. What do
you say of that for devotion?"
Her lover's face cleared. "Does that
"That I am a foolish woman? That I do not
like being away from you even for quite a little while? Yes,
She submitted--the unseen watcher thought
with a touch of impatience--to his ardent caresses. Suddenly
the door behind the screen opened. The two sprang apart and,
as the doctor edged his way in, Lord Waverton left the room.
Scorpion looked at the Countess fixedly. "Is
it true that Madame la Comtesse is going away to England
"I shall return to Paris to-morrow," she said
"I have thought matters over, and I refuse to
go on with the treatment before payment, or part payment, is
made," he said firmly.
"Come, don't be unreasonable!" she exclaimed.
He answered at once, in a fierce, surly tone,
"I cannot risk my head unless it is made worth my while.
Cannot you invent something which requires at once an
advance from the Milord of, say " he hesitated, then slowly
uttered the words, "fifty thousand francs?"
Popeau expected to hear a cry of protest, but
the beautiful woman who now stood close to the ugly,
clever-looking little doctor opened her hand-bag and said
coldly, "I have something here which is worth a great deal
more than fifty thousand francs," and she handed him the
jewel-case which contained the emerald pendant.
Scorpion opened the case. He looked at the
gorgeous stone with glistening, avid eyes. Slowly he shut
the jewel-case and put it in his pocket.
"Then you will keep your promise?"
There was a long pause. The doctor produced a
loose leaved prescription block. "I will fulfil my promise,"
he said firmly, "if you will write on this sheet of paper
what I dictate." He handed her a fountain pen:
"My dear friend and doctor,--I beg you to accept
the jewel I am sending you, a square-cut emerald, which is
my own property to dispose of, in consideration of the great
care and kindness you showed me when I was so extremely ill
last year.--Your ever grateful, OLGA
She hesitated for what seemed, both to the
invisible watcher and to her accomplice, a long time. But at
last she wrote out the words he had dictated.
Scorpion put the sheet of paper in the pocket
where already reposed the jewel-case.
"C'est entendu," he exclaimed, and
turned towards the door. A moment later Hercules Popeau
telephoned to Madame Colbec: "Make some pretext to keep the
doctor till I come down!"
He took out of a drawer a large sheet of
notepaper headed Prefecture de Police, Paris. On it
he wrote as follows.
"Madame,--You are in grave danger. The man you
are employing to rid you of your rival is affiliated to the
French Police. He has revealed your plot. An affidavit sworn
to by him will reach Scotland Yard in the course of
to-morrow. A copy of the sworn statement of Dr. Scorpion
will also be laid before Lord Waverton, who will be summoned
to appear as a witness at the extradition proceedings. An
admirer of your beauty thinks it kind to warn you that you
will be well advised to break your journey to-day. The value
of the jewel which I enclose is eight hundred pounds
He put the letter in his drawer, and then he
Scorpion was chatting to Madame Colbec in her
tiny office. He looked surprised and disturbed when he saw
"How is your patient, my good Scorpion?"
"Going on fairly," said the other
hesitatingly. "Though not well enough to leave the hotel
to-morrow, as she hoped to do."
"I have a word to say to you." Popeau's voice
had become cold and serious. "We will go upstairs to my
Scorpion stumbled up the staircase of the
grand old house. He was too frightened to know what he was
doing, or where he was going. When he reached the landing
the other man took hold of his shoulder and pushed him
through the door of his study. Then he locked the door, and
turning, faced his abject visitor:
"The first thing I ask you to do is to put on
the table the emerald which has just been given you as the
price of blood."
"The emerald? What do you mean?" he faltered.
"You know well what I mean!"
A look of rage came over the livid face.
"Does that woman dare to call me a thief?" he exclaimed.
"See what she herself wrote when she gave me this jewel!"
And with a shaking hand he drew a folded sheet of paper from
"I want that, too."
Scorpion sank down on a chair, and the
ex-police chief came and stood over him. "Listen carefully
to what I am going to say, Scorpion."
The wretched man looked up, his eyes full of
terror, while Popeau went on, tonelessly:
"Once more I am going to allow you to escape
the fate which is your due. Last time it was for the sake of
your mother. This time it will be for the sake of two
women--your good wife, and the unfortunate lady whom you, or
perhaps I ought to say your temptress and accomplice, had
doomed to a hideous death by poison "
Scorpion stared up at him without speaking;
his face had gone the colour of chalk.
"This morning you dictated a letter to your
accomplice Scorpion, and I now dictate to you the following
"I, Victor Scorpion, confess to having entered
into a conspiracy with a woman I know under the name of the
Countess Filenska, to bring about the death of Lady Waverton
Popeau looked fixedly at Scorpion. "What day
was she to die?" he asked.
Scorpion stared at his tormentor. He did not,
he felt he could not, answer.
At last he said in a whimpering voice, "I did
not mean the poor Miladi to die."
"But what day did the Countess expect her to
Popeau had to bend down to hear the words:
"Write down the proposal put to you."
"I was to receive five hundred pounds sterling
on the day of her death, and within six months of the
Countess's marriage to Lord Waverton ten thousand pounds
sterling, whatever the rate of exchange might be at the
"Do allow me to put down that I did not
intend to carry out this infamous plan?" he asked
Popeau hesitated. "No," he said, "I will not
allow you to do that. But this I will promise. Within a few
hours from now you yourself shall do what you wish with that
piece of paper."
"And now," he went on, "you can make yourself
at home in these two rooms and you will have the use of my
bathroom beyond." He smiled genially. "You may also
telephone home to your wife, saying you will not be home
The woman whom some of her English friends
called "the dark lady" had settled herself very comfortably
in a first-class compartment of the Paris-Calais express.
She was quite alone, for in July there are few travellers to
England. So she was rather taken aback when a big man,
dressed in a pale grey alpaca suit, suddenly thrust his body
and head through the door leading into the corridor.
"Have I the honour of speaking to the
Countess Filenska?" he said.
She hesitated a moment. Then she saw that he
held in his hand a bulky envelope, and involuntarily she
smiled. From dear, foolish Waverton of course! A billet
doux, accompanied, no doubt, by some delightful gift.
She held out her hand, "I am the Countess
Filenska," she said pleasantly.
"I have been told to give you this, Madame. I
am glad I have had the good fortune to arrive before the
He lifted his hat and walked off.
The train started; slowly she broke the seal
of the big envelope. Yes, there was a jewel case! Eagerly
she opened it, and then, came mingled disappointment and
surprise, for it only contained the emerald which she had
given that morning to Scorpion.
With a feeling of sudden apprehension she
unfolded the piece of note paper which accompanied it.
Slowly, with eyes dilated with terror, she read the terrible
words written there.
Could she leap out of the train? No, it was
moving too quickly. She could not afford to risk an
accident. Feverishly she counted over her money. Yes, she
had enough, amply enough, to break her journey at Calais,
and go on to----? After a moment's deep thought she uttered
aloud the word "Berlin."
Late that same afternoon Madame Colbec opened
the door of Hercules Popeau's study.
"Milord Waverton," she murmured in a nervous
The Englishman walked in. He looked
uncomfortable even a little suspicious. He felt anxious. Was
his wife worse, and was the man who had asked to see him a
"I have a painful, as well as a serious,
communication to make to your lordship," began Hercules
Popeau in slow, deliberate tones. "I belong to the French
Criminal Investigation Department, and a most sinister fact
has just been brought to our notice."
He looked fixedly--it was a long, searching
glance--into the other man's bewildered face. And then he
felt a thrill of genuine relief. Lord Waverton, so much was
clear, was quite unconscious of the horrible plot which had
had for object that of ridding him of his wife.
"The fact brought to our notice," went on
Popeau quietly, "concerns Lady Waverton."
"My wife? Impossible!"
Lord Waverton drew himself up to his full
height. He looked angry, as well as incredulous.
"Lady Waverton," went on the other,
"possesses a terrible enemy."
"I assure you," said Lord Waverton coldly,
"that the French police have made some absurd mistake. My
wife is the best of women, kindness itself to all those with
whom she comes in contact. I may have enemies; she
"Lady Waverton has an enemy," said Popeau
positively. "And what is more, that enemy intended to
compass her death, and, indeed, nearly succeeded in doing
The Englishman stared at the Frenchman. He
felt as if he was confronting a lunatic.
"This enemy of Lady Waverton's laid her
plans--for it is a woman--very cleverly," said Popeau
gravely. "She discovered in this city of Paris a man who
will do anything for money. That man is a doctor, and for
what appeared to him a sufficient consideration he undertook
to poison her ladyship."
He waited a moment, then added in an almost
casual tone: "Lady Waverton's death was to have occurred
"What!" exclaimed Lord Waverton, in a
horror-stricken voice, "do you mean the little French doctor
who has been attending my wife----"
"Yes," said Hercules Popeau stolidly. "Dr.
Scorpion had undertaken to bring about what would have
appeared to everybody here, in the Hotel Paragon, a natural
Lord Waverton covered his face with his
"Most fortunately for you, my lord, this
infamous fellow-countryman of mine grew suddenly afraid, and
made a full confession of the hideous plot. He brought with
him a written proof, as well as a valuable emerald,
which was part of the price the would-be murderess was
willing to pay the man she intended should be the actual
The speaker turned away, for he desired to
spare the unhappy man, whose sudden quick, deep breathing
showed the awful effect those last words had had on him.
The rest of the blood money--ten thousand
pounds sterling--was to be paid when Scorpion's temptress
became the second wife of a wealthy English peer."
Lord Waverton gave a strangled cry.
Popeau took out of his pocket the two
documents, the deed of gift written out by the Countess and
the confession signed by Scorpion himself.
"I will ask you to read these through," he
said. And then, after Lord Waverton had read Scorpion's
confession he opened the door of the bedroom.
"Come here a moment," he called out, "I have
done with that paper I asked you to sign, and I am ready to
give it you back the moment you have informed this gentleman
that you wrote it. Say in English, 'I, Scorpion, swear that
all that I wrote down here is true, and that this is my
The man repeated the words in a faltering
Popeau handed him his confession. "Take this
piece of paper," he observed, "down into the courtyard;
there set a light to it, and watch it burn; then go home and
thank the good God and your good wife that you have not
begun the long road which leads to the Devil's Island."
After Scorpion had left the room, Hercules
Popeau turned to the Englishman. "I trust," he said, "that
your lordship will not think it impertinent if I ask you to
listen to me for yet another two or three minutes."
Lord Waverton bent his head. His face had
gone grey under its tan.
"I am old enough to be your father, and this
would I say to you, and I trust that you will take it in
good part. There was a time, not long ago, when a man in
your position was guarded by high invisible barriers from
any terrible dangers. Those barriers are no longer----"
There came a knock at the door. A telegram
was handed to Lord Waverton. He tore open the envelope.
"An unexpected chance has come my way of getting
back to Russia and of recovering some of my lost property.
Good-bye, dear friends. Thank you both for your goodness to
an unhappy woman."
As Lord Waverton handed the two slips of
paper to his new friend, Hercules Popeau looked much
"All you have to do," he exclaimed, "is to
show Miladi this telegram, and then to give her--how do you
say it in English?--a good kiss on her sweet face!"