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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
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 man.
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
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
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 a triumphant smile, he stood up. His office was
a part of a residential suite, but although, like some old-time burgher
of the city, he lived on the premises, the shutting of a door which led
to his private rooms marked the close of the business day. Pressing a
bell which connected with the public office occupied by his secretary,
Paul Harley stood up as Innes entered.
"There's nothing further, is there, Innes?" he asked.
"Nothing, Mr. Harley, if you have passed the Home Office report?"
Paul Harley laughed shortly.
"There it is," he replied, pointing to the basket; "a tedious and
thankless job, Innes. It is the fifth draft you have prepared and it
will have to do."
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