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Adrien Leroy   By: (-1920)

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ADRIEN LEROY

CHARLES GARVICE

LONDON

GEORGE NEWNES, LIMITED SOUTHAMPTON STREET, STRAND, W.C.

CHAPTER I

It was a cold night in early spring, and the West End streets were nearly deserted. The great shutters of the shops were being drawn down with a dull rumble, and every moment the pavements grew more dreary looking as the glories of the plate glass windows were hidden.

Tired workers with haggard faces were making their way homeward; to them the day was at an end. But to the occupants of the whirring taxis and smart motors, as they sped westward, the round of their day was but half way through; for them, the great ones of the earth, the all important hour of dinner was at hand.

At the entrance of one of the most luxurious clubs in Pall Mall two men, in immaculate evening dress, stood carelessly surveying the hurrying throngs of people.

"Seven," said one, as the hour struck from the nearest church. "I thought Standon said seven."

"Yes, and like a woman, meant half past," returned the other, hiding a yawn.

"Stan's too young to value his dinner properly, but Leroy ought to have been punctual. Oh, here is Stan!" as a slight, well dressed man sprang hastily from a smart motor and came towards them.

"Hello!" said the new comer, shaking hands, "you two fellows first? I hope I'm not late, Shelton."

"Of course you're late," growled Shelton, with characteristic pessimism. "You always are, and Leroy is worse. Come along, we may as well wait inside as in this beastly draught."

In the great dining hall the snowy covered tables were being taken rapidly by members about to dine; silent footed waiters were hurrying to and fro, carrying out their various duties, while intermittently the sound of opening champagne bottles mingled with the buzz of conversation and the ripple of laughter.

The three men, Mortimer Shelton, Lord Standon and Frank Parselle, seated themselves at a table in a comfortable recess and took stock of the room, responding to numerous nods and smiles of recognition, while grumbling at the unpunctuality of their friend.

"Ten past seven!" groaned Shelton, looking at his watch. "I might have known that Leroy would be late. Shall we wait?"

"Oh, yes!" said Parselle; "Adrien might not like it, you know. It is a bore, though! The soup will be as thick as mud!"

"By Jove! I'd forgotten," interrupted Standon suddenly. "I met Leroy yesterday, and he asked me to tell you he might be late, as he was off to Barminster Castle last night. We were not to wait. He gave me a note, and if I haven't left it in my other coat " He fumbled in his pocket. "No; here it is." He produced the note with an air of triumph, and Shelton, with a muttered exclamation of disgust, ordered dinner to be served before he opened it. As he did so and ran his eye over the contents, he frowned.

"Just listen to this," he said irritably.

"'MY DEAR MORTIMER,

A letter from Jasper takes me down to the Castle. I will return in time to join your little party and, with your leave, bring Jasper along too; but don't wait on any account.

"'Yours,

"'ADRIEN LEROY.'"

"Jasper always Jasper!" commented Standon. "I'd like to know by what means Jasper Vermont has obtained such influence over Leroy."

"Ah, that's the mystery!" said Parselle, frowning.

"It's as plain as a pikestaff," growled Mortimer Shelton. "Leroy saved Vermont's life years ago at Oxford, I think. That's enough for Adrien. If a cat or dog, or even a one eyed monkey, placed itself under his protection, Adrien Leroy would stick to it through thick and thin. You know his little way; and this Vermont is no fool. He intends to make full use of his friend."

"And yet Leroy is not easily taken in," remarked Parselle thoughtfully.

"Every man has his weak point," retorted Shelton with a shrug, "and Jasper is Leroy's one vulnerable spot... Continue reading book >>




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