The Avenger

Produced by E-text prepared by Juliet Sutherland, Mary
Meehan, and the Project br/>HTML version produced by Chuck Greif

THE AVENGER

BY E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM

Author of

“The Master Mummer,” “A Maker of History,”
“The Malefactor,” “The Lost Leader,”
“The Great Secret,” Etc.

Illustrated by

ALEC BALL

1908

CONTENTS

I.A MYSTERIOUS VISITOR
II.THE HORROR OF THE HANSOM
III.DISCUSSING THE CRIME
IV.UNDER A CLOUD
V.ON THE TELEPHONE
VI.ONE THOUSAND POUNDS’ REWARD
VII.THE COLONEL’S DAUGHTER
VIII.THE BARONESS INTERVENES
IX.A BOX AT THE ALHAMBRA
X.OUTCAST
XI.FALSE SENTIMENT
XII.TIDINGS FROM THE CAPE
XIII.SEARCHING THE CHAMBERS
XIV.THE DEAD MAN’S BROTHER
XV.THE LAWYER’S SUGGESTION
XVI.A DINNER IN THE STRAND
XVII.A CONFESSION OF LOVE
XVIII.AN AMATEUR DETECTIVE
XIX.DESPERATE WOOING
XX.STABBED THROUGH THE HEART
XXI.THE FLIGHT OF LOUISE
XXII.THE CHÂTEAU OF ÉTARPE
XXIII.A PASSIONATE PILGRIM
XXIV.AN INVITATION TO DINNER
XXV.THE MAN IN THE YELLOW BOOTS
XXVI.MADAME DE MELBAIN
XXVII.THE SPY
XXVIII.THE SCENE IN THE AVENUE
XXIX.A SUBSTANTIAL GHOST
XXX.THE QUEEN OF MEXONIA
XXXI.RETURNED FROM THE TOMB
XXXII.AT THE HÔTEL SPLENDIDE
XXXIII.A HAND IN THE GAME
XXXIV.AN ILL-ASSORTED COUPLE
XXXV.HIS WIFE
XXXVI.THE MURDERED MAN’S EFFECTS
XXXVII.THE WIDOW’S ULTIMATUM
XXXVIII.INEFFECTUAL WOOING
XXXIX.THE COLONEL’S MISSION
XL.BLACKMAIL
XLI.THE COLONEL SPEAKS
XLII.LOVE REMAINS

ILLUSTRATIONS

“THERE PLASHED ACROSS HER FACE A QUIVER, AS THOUGH OF PAIN”
“AT THE SIGHT OF THE TWO MEN, THE BARONESS STOPPED SHORT”
“HE WAS THERE ON HIS KNEES, WITH HIS ARMS AROUND THE TERRIFIED WOMAN”
“‘TO THE NEAREST POLICE STATION! THAT’S WHERE I’M OFF.'”

CHAPTER I

A MYSTERIOUS VISITOR

The man and the woman stood facing one another, although in the uncertain firelight which alone illuminated the room neither could see much save the outline of the other’s form. The woman stood at the further end of the apartment by the side of the desk—his desk. The slim trembling fingers of one hand rested lightly upon it, the other was hanging by her side, nervously crumpling up the glove which she had only taken off a few minutes before. The man stood with his back to the door through which he had just entered. He was in evening dress; he carried an overcoat over his arm, and his hat was slightly on the back of his head. A cigarette was still burning between his lips, the key by means of which he had entered was swinging from his little finger. So far no words had passed between them. Both were apparently stupefied for the moment by the other’s unexpected presence.

It was the man who recovered his self-possession first. He threw his overcoat into a chair, and touched the brass knobs behind the door. Instantly the room was flooded with the soft radiance of the electric lights. They could see one another now distinctly. The woman leaned a little forward, and there was amazement as well as fear flashing in her soft, dark eyes. Her voice, when she spoke, sounded to herself unnatural. To him it came as a surprise, for the world of men and women was his study, and he recognized at once its quality.

“Who are you?” she exclaimed. “What do you want?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“It seems to me,” he answered, “that I might more fittingly assume the role of questioner. However, I have no objection to introduce myself. My name is Herbert Wrayson. May I ask,” he continued with quiet sarcasm, “to what I am indebted for this unexpected visit?”

She was silent for a moment, and as he watched her his surprise grew. Equivocal though her position was, he knew very well that this was no ordinary thief whom he had surprised in his rooms, engaged to all appearance in rifling his desk. The fact that she was a beautiful woman was one which he scarcely took into account. There were other things more surprising which he could not ignore. Her evening dress of black net was faultlessly made, and he knew enough of such things to be well aware that it came from the hands of no ordinary dressmaker. A string of pearls, her only ornament, hung from her neck, and her black hat with its drooping feathers was the fellow of one which he had admired a few evenings ago at the Ritz in Paris. It flashed upon him that this was a woman of distinction, one who belonged naturally, if not in effect, to the world of which even he could not claim to be a habitant. What was she doing in his rooms?—of what interest to her were he and his few possessions?

“Herbert Wrayson,” she repeated, leaning a little towards him. “If your name is Herbert Wrayson, what are you doing in these rooms?”

“They happen to be mine,” he answered calmly.

“Yours!”

She picked up a small latch-key from the desk.

“This is number 11, isn’t it?” she asked quickly.

“No! Number 11 is the flat immediately overhead,” he told her.

She appeared unconvinced.

“But I opened the door with this key,” she declared.

“Mr. Barnes and I have similar locks,” he said. “The fact remains that this is number 9, and number 11 is one story overhead.”

She drew a long breath, presumably of relief, and moved a step forward.

“I am very sorry!” she declared. “I have made a mistake. You must please accept my apologies.”

He stood motionless in front of the door. He was pale, clean-shaven, and slim, and in his correct evening clothes he seemed a somewhat ordinary type of the well-bred young Englishman. But his eyes were grey, and his mouth straight and firm.

She came to a standstill. Her eyes seemed to be questioning him. She scarcely understood his attitude.

“Kindly allow me to pass!” she said coldly.

“Presently!” he answered.

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