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The Pauper of Park Lane

William Le Queux

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  The Pauper of Park LaneBy William Le QueuxIllustrations by Frank T. MerrillPublished by Cupples and Leon Company, New York.This edition dated 1908.

  The Pauper of Park Lane, by William Le Queux.


  ________________________________________________________________________THE PAUPER OF PARK LANE, BY WILLIAM LE QUEUX.



  "There's some mystery about that girl--I'm certain of it."

  "What makes you suspect that?"

  "Well, first, she's evidently a lady--the daughter of a man who has comedown in the world most probably: and secondly--"

  "Ah! You mean the secret lover--the man who was here yesterday andbought a twenty-guinea evening gown of her to send to his sister--eh?"exclaimed Mr Warner, "buyer" of the costume department of the greatdrapery house of Cunnington's, in Oxford Street, that huge store which,as everybody knows, competes with Whiteley's and Harrod's for thepremier place of the middle-class trade in London.

  "Yes," laughed Miss Thomas, the rather stout middle-aged woman who washead saleswoman of the department, as she stood in the small,glass-partitioned office of the buyer, a pleasant-faced man offorty-five who was an expert in ladies' costumes, and twice yearlybought his stock personally in Paris and in Berlin. "Yes. She's areally nice girl, but I can't quite make her out, although she's beenhere for over a year now."

  "And the lover?" asked the buyer, with a glance across the long squareroom where autumn costumes of every description were displayed uponstands, or hanging by the hundred in long rows, while ranged round thewalls were many expensive evening-dresses exhibited in glass cases. Itwas afternoon, and the place was full of customers, the assistants intheir neat black holding ready-made skirts to their sides to try theeffect, or conducting the prospective purchaser to the fitting-rooms.And yet they were not what Mr Warner termed "busy."

  "The man, too, is a mystery, like Miss Rolfe. Nobody knows his name.He comes in sometimes, goes up to her, and asks to be served with askirt or something, and has it sent to Mr Evans at some chambers inDover Street. The name is, of course, not the right one," said the headassistant. "But Miss Rolfe knows it, of course?"

  "Probably she does."

  "And she meets him after business hours?"

  "I think so. But she keeps herself very much to herself, and is alwaysat home early."

  Mr Warner glanced across at the tall, fair-haired, handsome girl, whosefigure showed to such advantage in her black satin gown. At that momentshe was displaying a cheap tweed skirt to two middle-aged women. Herface, as he caught its profile, was very soft and refined, the contourof her cheeks perfect, and the stray wisp of hair across the brow gave asoftness to her countenance that was charming. Many a stage girl whosephotograph was displayed in the shop-windows was not half so beautifulas the demure, hard-working shop-assistant, Marion Rolfe.

  The air of mystery surrounding her, Mr Warner found interesting, andthe love-romance now in progress he intended to watch. Towards hisassistants, he was always lenient. Unlike some "buyers," he was neverhard, and never bullied them. He believed that by treating them withkindliness and with the courtesy every man should show towards a womanhe obtained the best of their business abilities, as no doubt he did."Warner of the Costumes" was known through the whole "house" as one ofthe most considerate of men, and one of the most trusted of old MrCunnington's advisers. Those in his department were envied by all theother seven hundred odd assistants in the employment of the great firm.

  While Mr Warner and Miss Thomas were speaking, a smart-looking,fair-haired, fair-moustached young man of about twenty-five, in frockcoat and silk hat, entered, and walking up to the little office, greetedthe buyer saying--

  "Mr Warner, I'm sorry to worry you, but may I speak to my sister for amoment on some important family business? I won't keep her but a fewmoments, for I see she's busy."

  "Why, certainly, Mr Rolfe," was the good-humoured reply, as Miss Thomaswent away to serve a customer. "It's against our rules, as you know,but for my own part I can never see why a young lady need be debarredfrom speaking to her own brother."

  "You're always very good, Mr Warner," responded the young man, "and I'dlike to thank you for many little kindnesses you've shown to Marion."

  "Oh, nothing, nothing, my dear Mr Rolfe," Warner said. "Your sister isan excellent business woman--one of the best I have, I may tell you.But look! She's disengaged now. Go over to her." And he watched theyoung man crossing the department.

  Marion, surprised when her brother stood before her, immediately askedwhether he had received Mr Warner's permission.

  "Of course I have," was his quick reply in rather an excited manner, shethought. "I just ran up to tell you that I have to go abroad suddenlyto-night, and to say good-bye. Old Sam Statham is sending me out toServia. He only told me at one o'clock that I must go, and I've beenbuying some things necessary."

  "To Servia!" exclaimed the girl, amazed that her brother, to whom shewas devoted, was to go so far from her.

  "Yes. We have some mining interests and some other things out there,and old Sam suddenly decided to send me out to make certain inquiries.I shall be away a month or two, I daresay, as I have to go to see a newmine in the course of preparation down on the banks of the Danubesomewhere."

  "But do take care of yourself, Charlie," urged the girl, looking up intoher brother's face. "I've heard that it's an unsafe country."

  "Unsafe! Why that's quite a fallacy. Servia is as safe as the Strandnowadays. Bland, our chief clerk, was out there a year, and he's beentelling me how delightful the people are. Servia is entirely misjudgedby us."

  "Then you'll go to-night?"

  "Yes, by the mail from Charing Cross," he replied. "But don't come andsee me off. I hate people to do that. And when you see dear old Max,tell him that I'm sorry I had no time to go round before leaving. I'vejust telephoned, and his man says he won't be back till seven. Thatwill be too late for me."

  "Very well," replied his sister. "But--"

  "But what?"

  "Well, Charlie, I'm sorry you're going. I feel--well, I feel that youare going to a place where an accident might happen to you. I knownothing about Servia, and besides--"


  "The mystery about old Sam Statham always haunts me. I don't somehowlike that man."

  "You only met him once, and he was very courteous to you. Besides, heis my master. Were it not for him I should most probably be going aboutLondon penniless."

  "I know, I know," she said. "Have you been to his house in Park Lanelately?"

  "I was there this morning, but only for five minutes. He gave me someinstructions about a call I had to make in the city."

  "I wish you could leave him and get some other work as secretary. Idon't like him. He isn't what he pretends to be, I'm sure he isn't."

  "He pretends to be nothing," laughed her brother. "Old Sam is amillionaire, and millionaires need no pretence. He could buy up thisshow twice over, and then leave a million for the death duties. You'vetaken a prejudice against him."

  "A woman's prejudice--which often is not very far wrong."

  "I know that you women see much further than we men do, but in this,Marion, you are quite wrong. Old Sam is eccentric and mean, but atheart he's not at all a bad old fellow."

  "Well, I tell you frankly, I don't half like your going to Servia underhis auspices."

  Charlie Rolfe laughed aloud.

  "My dear Marion, of what are you apprehensive?" he asked. "I go in avery responsible position, as his confidential secre
tary, to inquireinto certain matters in his interests. If I carry out my missionsuccessfully, I shall get a rise of salary."

  "Granted. But you know what you're told me about the queer storiesafloat regarding Samuel Statham and his house in Park Lane."

  "I've never believed them, although they are, of course, curious. Yetyou must remember that every man of great wealth has mysterious storiesput about by his enemies. Every man and every woman has enemies. Whohas not?"

  "But you've admitted