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Bat Wing

10.
The Night Walker
If luncheon had seemed extravagant, dinner at Cray's Folly proved to be a
veritable Roman banquet. To associate ideas of selfishness with Miss Beverley
was hateful, but the more I learned of the luxurious life of this queer household
hidden away in the Surrey Hills the less I wondered at any one's consenting to
share such exile. I had hitherto counted an American freak dinner, organized by
a lucky plunger and held at the Cafe de Paris, as the last word in extravagant
feasting. But I learned now that what was caviare in Monte Carlo was ordinary
fare at Cray's Folly.
Colonel Menendez was an epicure with an endless purse. The excellence of one
of the courses upon which I had commented led to a curious incident.
"You approve of the efforts of my chef?" said the Colonel.
"He is worthy of his employer," I replied.
Colonel Menendez bowed in his cavalierly fashion and Madame de Staemer
positively beamed upon me.
"You shall speak for him," said the Spaniard. "He was with me in Cuba, but has
no reputation in London. There are hotels that would snap him up."
I looked at the speaker in surprise.
"Surely he is not leaving you?" I asked.
The Colonel exhibited a momentary embarrassment.
"No, no. No, no," he replied, waving his hand gracefully, "I was only thinking that
he--" there was a scarcely perceptible pause--"might wish to better himself. You
understand?"
I understood only too well; and recollecting the, words spoken by Paul Harley
that afternoon, respecting the Colonel's will to live, I became conscious of an
uncomfortable sense of chill.
If I had doubted that in so speaking he had been contemplating his own death,
the behaviour of Madame de Staemer must have convinced me. Her complexion
was slightly but cleverly made up, with all the exquisite art of the Parisienne, but
even through the artificial bloom I saw her cheeks blanch. Her face grew haggard
and her eyes burned unnaturally. She turned quickly aside to address Paul
Harley, but I knew that the significance of this slight episode had not escaped
him.
He was by no means at ease. In the first place, he was badly puzzled; in the
second place, he was angry. He felt it incumbent upon him to save this man from
a menace which he, Paul Harley, evidently recognized to be real, although to me
it appeared wildly chimerical, and the very person upon whose active
cooeperation he naturally counted not only seemed resigned to his fate, but by
deliberate omission of important data added to Harley's difficulties.
How much of this secret drama proceeding in Cray's Folly was appreciated by
Val Beverley I could not determine. On this occasion, I remember, she was
simply but perfectly dressed and, in my eyes, seemed the most sweetly desirable
woman I had ever known. Realizing that I had already revealed my interest in the
 
 
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