An Amiable Charlatan

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AN AMIABLE CHARLATAN

BY
E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM
(AUTHOR OF “MR. GREX OF MONTE CARLO,” “THE DOUBLE TRAITOR”, ETC.)

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY WILL GREF

[Illustration:
“No one can be more glad than Mrs. Delaporte and myself
that this little affair has been concluded so amicably.”]

CONTENTS

CHAPTER
I THE MAN AT STEPHANO’S
II THE COUP IN THE GAMBLING DEN
III CULLEN GIVES ADVICE
IV THE WOOING OF EVE
V MR. SAMUELSON
VI THE PARTY AT THE MILAN
VII “ONE OF US”
VIII AT THE ALHAMBRA
IX THE EXPOSURE
X A BROKEN PARTNERSHIP
XI MR. BUNDERCOMBE’S WINK
XII THE EMANCIPATION OF LOUIS
XIII “THE SHORN LAMB”
XIV MR. BUNDERCOMBE’S LOVE AFFAIR
XV LORD PORTHONING’S LESSON

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

“No one can be more glad than Mrs. Delaporte and myself that this little
affair has been concluded so amicably”

“Ladies and gentlemen, if you please! Nothing has happened”

“I haven’t interrupted anything, have I—any little celebration, or
anything of that sort?”

“Eve was one of the first to congratulate me”

AN AMIABLE CHARLATAN

CHAPTER I—THE MAN AT STEPHANO’s

The thing happened so suddenly that I really had very little time to make
up my mind what course to adopt under somewhat singular circumstances. I
was seated at my favorite table against the wall on the right-hand side in
Stephano’s restaurant, with a newspaper propped up before me, a glass of
hock by my side, and a portion of the plat du jour, which happened to be
chicken en casserole, on the plate in front of me.

I was, in fact, halfway through dinner when, without a word of warning, a
man who seemed to enter with a lightfooted speed that, considering his
size, was almost incredible, drew a chair toward him and took the vacant
place at my table. My glass of wine and my plate were moved with smooth
and marvelous haste to his vicinity. Under cover of the tablecloth a
packet—I could not tell what it contained—was thrust into my hand.

“Sir,” he said, raising my glass of wine to his lips, “I am forced to take
somewhat of a liberty. You can render me the service of a lifetime! Kindly
accept the situation.”

I stared at him for a moment quite blankly. Then I recognized him; and,
transferring at once the packet to my trousers pocket, I drew another
glass toward me and poured out the remainder of my half-bottle of hock. So
much, at any rate, I felt I had saved!

“I shall offer you presently,” my self-invited guest continued, with his
mouth full of my chicken, “the fullest explanation. I shall also ask you
to do me the honor of dining with me. I think I am right in saying that we
are not altogether strangers?”

“I know you very well by sight,” I told him. “I have seen you here several
times before with a young lady.”

“Exactly,” he agreed. “My daughter, sir.”

“Then for the sake of your daughter,” I said, with an enthusiasm that was
not in the least assumed, “I can assure you that, whether as host or
guest, you are very welcome to sit at my table. As for this packet—”

“Keep it for a few moments, my young friend,” the newcomer interrupted,
“just while I recover my breath, that is all. Have confidence in me.
Things may happen here very shortly. Sit tight and you will never regret
it. My name, so far as you are concerned, is Joseph H. Parker. Tell me,
you are facing the door, some one has just entered. Who is it?”

“A stranger,” I replied; “a stranger to this place, I am sure. He is tall
and dark; he is a little lantern-jawed—a hatchet-shaped face, I should
call it.”

“My man, right enough,” Mr. Joseph H. Parker muttered. “Don’t seem to
notice him particularly,” he added, “but tell me what he is doing.”

“He seems to have entered in a hurry,” I announced, “and is now taking off
his overcoat. He is wearing, I perceive, a bowler hat, a dinner jacket,
the wrong-shaped collar; and he appears to have forgotten to change his
boots.”

“That’s Cullen, all right,” Mr. Joseph H. Parker groaned. “You’re a person
of observation, sir. Well, I’ve been in tighter corners than this—thanks
to you!”

“Who is Mr. Cullen and what does he want?” I asked.

“Mr. Cullen,” my guest declared, sampling the fresh bottle of wine which
had just been brought to him, “is one of those misguided individuals whose
lack of faith in his fellows will bring him some time or other to a bad
end. My young friend, sip that wine thoughtfully—don’t hurry over it—and
tell me whether my choice is not better than yours?”

“Possibly,” I remarked, with a glance at the yellow seal, “your pocket is
longer. By the by, your friend is coming toward us.”

“It is not a question of pocket,” Mr. Parker continued, disregarding my
remark, “it is a question of taste and judgment; discrimination is perhaps
the word I should use. Now in my younger days—Eh? What’s that?”

The person named Cullen had paused at my table. His hand was resting
gently upon the shoulder of my self-invited guest. Mr. Parker looked up
and appeared to recognize him with much surprise.

“You, my dear fellow!” he exclaimed. “Say, I’m delighted to see you—I am
sure! But would you mind—just a little lower with your fingers! Too
professional a touch altogether!”

Mr. Cullen smiled, and from that moment I took a dislike to him—a dislike
that did much toward determining the point of view from which I was
inclined to consider various succeeding incidents. He was by no means a
person of prepossessing appearance. His cheeks were colorless save for a
sort of yellowish tinge. His mouth reminded me of the mouth of a horse;
his teeth were irregular and poor.

Yet there was about the man a certain sense of power. His eyes were clear
and bright. His manner was imbued with the reserve strength of a man who
knows his own mind and does not fear to speak it.

“I am sorry to interrupt you at your dinner, Mr. Parker,” he said, his
eyes traveling all over the table as though taking in its appointments and
condition.

“Of no consequence at all,” Mr. Parker assured him; “in fact I have nearly
finished. If you are thinking of dining here let me recommend this chicken
en casserole. I have tasted nothing so good for days!”

Mr. Cullen thanked him mechanically. His mind, however, was obviously

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