1. A Message For Irvin
Monte Irvin, alderman of the city and prospective Lord Mayor of London, paced
restlessly from end to end of the well-appointed library of his house in Prince's
Gate. Between his teeth he gripped the stump of a burnt-out cigar. A tiny spaniel
lay beside the fire, his beady black eyes following the nervous movements of the
master of the house.
At the age of forty-five Monte Irvin was not ill-looking, and, indeed, was sometimes
spoken of as handsome. His figure was full without being corpulent; his well-
groomed black hair and moustache and fresh if rather coarse complexion, together
with the dignity of his upright carriage, lent him something of a military air. This he
assiduously cultivated as befitting an ex-Territorial officer, although as he had seen
no active service he modestly refrained from using any title of rank.
Some quality in his brilliant smile, an oriental expressiveness of the dark eyes
beneath their drooping lids, hinted a Semitic strain; but it was otherwise not
marked in his appearance, which was free from vulgarity, whilst essentially that of
a successful man of affairs.
In fact, Monte Irvin had made a success of every affair in life with the lamentable
exception of his marriage. Of late his forehead had grown lined, and those
business friends who had known him for a man of abstemious habits had observed
in the City chophouse at which he lunched almost daily that whereas formerly he
had been a noted trencherman, he now ate little but drank much.
Suddenly the spaniel leapt up with that feverish, spider-like activity of the toy
species and began to bark.
Monte Irvin paused in his restless patrol and listened.
"Lie down!" he said. "Be quiet."
The spaniel ran to the door, sniffing eagerly. A muffled sound of voices became
audible, and Irvin, following a moment of hesitation, crossed and opened the door.
The dog ran out, yapping in his irritating staccato fashion, and an expression of
hope faded from Irvin's face as he saw a tall fair girl standing in the hallway talking
to Hinkes, the butler. She wore soiled Burberry, high-legged tan boots, and a
peaked cap of distinctly military appearance. Irvin would have retired again, but the
girl glanced up and saw him where he stood by the library door. He summoned up
a smile and advanced.
"Good evening, Miss Halley," he said, striving to speak genially--for of all of his
wife's friends he liked Margaret Halley the best. "Were you expecting to find Rita at
The girl's expression was vaguely troubled. She had the clear complexion and
bright eyes of perfect health, but to-night her eyes seemed over-bright, whilst her
face was slightly pale.
"Yes," she replied; "that is, I hoped she might be at home."