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1. Paul Harley Of Chancery Lane
Toward the hour of six on a hot summer's evening Mr. Paul Harley was seated in
his private office in Chancery Lane reading through a number of letters which
Innes, his secretary, had placed before him for signature. Only one more
remained to be passed, but it was a long, confidential report upon a certain
matter, which Harley had prepared for His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State
for the Home Department. He glanced with a sigh of weariness at the little clock
upon his table before commencing to read.
"Shall detain you only a few minutes, now, Knox," he said.
I nodded, smiling. I was quite content to sit and watch my friend at work.
Paul Harley occupied a unique place in the maelstrom of vice and ambition which
is sometimes called London life. Whilst at present he held no official post, some
of the most momentous problems of British policy during the past five years,
problems imperilling inter-state relationships and not infrequently threatening a
renewal of the world war, had owed their solution to the peculiar genius of this
No clue to his profession appeared upon the plain brass plate attached to his
door, and little did those who regarded Paul Harley merely as a successful
private detective suspect that he was in the confidence of some who guided the
destinies of the Empire. Paul Harley's work in Constantinople during the feverish
months preceding hostilities with Turkey, although unknown to the general public,
had been of a most extraordinary nature. His recommendations were never
adopted, unfortunately. Otherwise, the tragedy of the Dardanelles might have
been averted.
His surroundings as he sat there, gaze bent upon the typewritten pages, were
those of any other professional man. So it would have seemed to the casual
observer. But perhaps there was a quality in the atmosphere of the office which
would have told a more sensitive visitor that it was the apartment of no ordinary
man of business. Whilst there were filing cabinets and bookshelves laden with
works of reference, many of them legal, a large and handsome Burmese cabinet
struck an unexpected note.
On closer inspection, other splashes of significant colour must have been
detected in the scheme, notably a very fine engraving of Edgar Allan Poe, from
the daguerreotype of 1848; and upon the man himself lay the indelible mark of
the tropics. His clean-cut features had that hint of underlying bronze which tells of
years spent beneath a merciless sun, and the touch of gray at his temples only
added to the eager, almost fierce vitality of the dark face. Paul Harley was
notable because of that intellectual strength which does not strike one
immediately, since it is purely temperamental, but which, nevertheless, invests its
possessor with an aura of distinction.
Writing his name at the bottom of the report, Paul Harley enclosed the pages in a
long envelope and dropped the envelope into a basket which contained a
number of other letters. His work for the day was ended, and glancing at me with