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He took up a letter which lay unsealed upon the table. "This is the
Rokeby affair," he said. "I have decided to hold it over, after all,
until my return."
"Ah!" said Innes, quietly glancing at each envelope as he took it from
the basket. "I see you have turned down the little job offered by the
"I have," replied Harley, smiling grimly, "and a fee of five hundred
guineas with it. I have also intimated to that distressed nobleman that
this is a business office and that a laundry is the proper place to
take his dirty linen. No, there's nothing further to-night, Innes. You
can get along now. Has Miss Smith gone?"
But as if in answer to his enquiry the typist, who with Innes made up
the entire staff of the office, came in at that moment, a card in her
hand. Harley glanced across in my direction and then at the card, with
a wry expression.
"Colonel Juan Menendez," he read aloud, "Cavendish Club," and glanced
reflectively at Innes. "Do we know the Colonel?"
"I think not," answered Innes; "the name is unfamiliar to me."
"I wonder," murmured Harley. He glanced across at me. "It's an awful
nuisance, Knox, but just as I thought the decks were clear. Is it
something really interesting, or does he want a woman watched? However,
his name sounds piquant, so perhaps I had better see him. Ask him to
come in, Miss Smith."
Innes and Miss Smith retiring, there presently entered a man of most
striking and unusual presence. In the first place, Colonel Menendez
must have stood fully six feet in his boots, and he carried himself
like a grandee of the golden days of Spain. His complexion was
extraordinarily dusky, whilst his hair, which was close cropped, was
iron gray. His heavy eyebrows and curling moustache with its little
points were equally black, so that his large teeth gleamed very
fiercely when he smiled. His eyes were large, dark, and brilliant, and
although he wore an admirably cut tweed suit, for some reason I
pictured him as habitually wearing riding kit. Indeed I almost seemed
to hear the jingle of his spurs.
He carried an ebony cane for which I mentally substituted a crop, and
his black derby hat I thought hardly as suitable as a sombrero. His age
might have been anything between fifty and fifty-five.
Standing in the doorway he bowed, and if his smile was Mephistophelean,
there was much about Colonel Juan Menendez which commanded respect.
"Mr. Harley," he began, and his high, thin voice afforded yet another
surprise, "I feel somewhat ill at ease to--how do you say it?--
appropriate your time, as I am by no means sure that what I have to say
justifies my doing so."
He spoke most fluent, indeed florid, English. But his sentences at
times were oddly constructed; yet, save for a faint accent, and his
frequent interpolation of such expressions as "how do you say?"--a sort
of nervous mannerism--one might have supposed him to be a Britisher who
had lived much abroad. I formed the opinion that he had read
extensively, and this, as I learned later, was indeed the case.
"Sit down, Colonel Menendez," said Harley with quiet geniality.
"Officially, my working day is ended, I admit, but if you have no
objection to the presence of my friend, Mr. Knox, I shall be most happy
to chat with you."
He smiled in a way all his own.
"If your business is of a painfully professional nature," he added, "I
must beg you to excuse me for fourteen days, as I am taking a badly
needed holiday with my friend."
"Ah, is it so?" replied the Colonel, placing his hat and cane upon the
table, and sitting down rather wearily in a big leathern armchair which
Harley had pushed forward. "If I intrude I am sorry, but indeed my
business is urgent, and I come to you on the recommendation of my
friend, Senor Don Merry del Val, the Spanish Ambassador."
He raised his eyes to Harley's face with an expression of peculiar
appeal. I rose to depart, but:
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