YOU SHOULD KNOW by this time, my dear Myra," Professor Blinkwell said easily, "that I have made it a rule of life that I take risks."

His niece delayed her reply while she put away another mouthful of the excellent bacon which the Professor had instructed her to order for breakfast, in preference to the rolls and coffee which the H?tel Splendide usually served for the first meal of the day. Then she said, "I know how clever you are; and, of course, I've heard you say that before, but I can't see why you came over here while you might have stayed in London and kept clear of whatever trouble there is."

"That," the Professor replied, with the patient tolerance1 which he always showed towards his companion's intellectual inferiority, "is because you foolishly presume that danger is increased by proximity2, or reduced by distance, whereas the fact may often be of a contrary kind.

"Where knowledge must be transmitted from mind to mind, it is well to observe that there is no form of communication that cannot be tapped, no code that cannot be read. There is one safe method alone - that of the open place and the whispered word."

It might be wrong to assume that Myra could not have followed her uncle's argument, had there been sufficient reason, but it is certain that she did not attempt to do so. She took no interest in the reflections of abstract wisdom, but held to her point in a woman's way.

"What I mean is, that if you'd stayed in London it wouldn't have been your business at all. You've often told me that you've no concern with what happens until you hear that it's landed in England, and mayn't even know who handles it until then."

"That is true in the ordinary course. It is an organization in which curiosity is mutually undesirable3, and is not encouraged by the head of the firm. But now that there is reason to think that something has gone wrong, and Gaspard being in jail - - "

"I thought you said that that was on a charge of another kind?"

"So it is. We suppose it to have been faked, so that he can be kept under arrest at a time when his absence may be disastrous4 to us."

"And suppose they treat you in the same way?"

"My dear Myra! It would be an international outrage5, which even the French police would be too shrewd, and too cautious, to try, even if such a thought should enter their heads, which it is not reasonable to suppose. What have I to do with the matters about which they fuss in this needless way, or what have they to do with me?"

Professor Blinkwell did not raise his voice, nor did his manner show any offence. His tone was that of good-humoured remonstrance6 against a preposterous7 suggestion. But his niece was sensitive to the resentment8 which lay beneath the controlled suavity9 of a manner which seldom changed. She said: "Yes. I was silly, of course. But somehow I always feel safer in London than I do here."

"You are quite safe, if you take sufficient care to avoid the traffic of the busier streets."

"You know I didn't mean that."

"But I did. The French driving is of a peculiarly dangerous type. We kill each other in a stolid10 efficient manner, but they will run you down here with a flair11, as taking pleasure in what they do."

Myra understood that her uncle intended to turn the conversation, which had developed a direction he did not approve though its subject was one on which he must speak frankly12 at times, she being the one person in the world who had his confidence in connection with the international drug trafficking of which he largely controlled the distribution in the British Isles13, at least so far as was necessary to enable her to act with intelligence in dealing14 with certain accounts through which it was contrived16 to manipulate the financial transactions involved, so that they should be innocent in their appearance to the banks concerned, and capable of plausible17 explanation if enquiry should be directed upon them.

Accepting the hint he gave, she spoke18 of that which had been on the surface of her mind before this conversation commenced. "I saw Will Kindell in the lounge yesterday evening. I suppose he's followed us here."

They both knew that she might have used the singular pronoun with greater accuracy, and the Professor, who was only vaguely19 aware of the existence of the young man she mentioned, and not always interested in her indecisive amours, became alertly curious.

"A young man of good family?"

"He's Lord Sparshott's cousin."

"And of good character, may we hope?"

"I should call him a bit soft."

"Of substantial means?"

"He hasn't a bean that he doesn't cadge20."

"An unattractive type. . . . But he has the good sense to be shall we say, infatuated by what he thinks you to be?"

"Yes. Dotty. That's why he's here."

"And I may observe that his affections are not reciprocated21 with equal fervour?"

"It's just a bore to have to get out of his way."

The breakfast-table became silent. Professor Blinkwell understood his niece very well, and she understood him, if not equally, at least better than most of his fellow-creatures were able to do.

He knew that she was very unlikely to lose her head over Lord Sparshott's impecunious22 and apparently23 idle cousin, though her attitude towards him might not be entirely24 consistent with the boredom25 that she professed26.

He knew that she liked to be flattered and stroked, like a well-fed cat, without caring overmuch whose hand might be smoothing her fur, and without desiring any more intimate association, or having the least intention of making return beyond the sound of a pleasant purr.

On her side she showed that she had followed her uncle's mind beyond anything which had been spoken aloud, when she broke the silence to add, "He's not the sort to be of any use to us, if you mean that."

"I wonder. . . He knows Thurlow, doesn't he? And Miss Thurlow, too?"

"Yes. He's a sort of English cousin to them. I don't know exactly what the relationship is. But I know that when they came to England they looked him up in the way Americans do."

"Well, that doesn't matter to us."

The breakfast-table became silent again, and it was only as they were about to rise that Professor Blinkwell said: "You'd better not tire yourself trying to get out of his way. In fact, you'd better be as nice to him as you can contrive15 to be."

"May I ask why?"

After a moment's hesitation27, the Professor, who had spoken in the act of rising, resumed his seat. He offered his cigarette-case to his niece, and struck a match for their common use before he replied.

"Yes. I think you may. In fact, it may be necessary for you to know. . . . Suppose," he went on, after a moment of thoughtful silence, "that you have some very valuable jewellery, of the existence of which I am unaware28. Which could not come to my knowledge without grave embarrassment29 to yourself?"


"You will be confronted with a difficult problem when we return to England in a few days' time. You will have to declare it to the Customs, and perhaps pay duty upon it, which you could hardly expect to do without my knowledge, or else take the risk of trying to smuggle30 it through."

As he said this, Professor Blinkwell observed a halffrightened, half-mutinous expression upon Myra's attractive, but rather heavy, features, which were not usually quick to expose her thoughts.

"I shouldn't like - - " she began. "I didn't think you'd ever ask me to - - "

"My dear Myra, don't be a fool! What are you supposing that you didn't think that you ever should?"

"I suppose you want me to ask Mr. Kindell to smuggle it through, without telling him what it is."

"Then you must think me a bigger fool than yourself. All you've got to do is to tell him about the trouble you're in. Do that within the next two days, but don't ask him to do any smuggling31 on your behalf, and don't agree to any offer that comes from him. For one reason, he'd be almost certain to fail; and there are two others that are even better than that."

As he spoke, the slightly sullen32 expression passed from his niece's face. She looked half puzzled and half relieved. She said: "Very well. I can do that, if it's any good."

"You can do it excellently, if you try, as I'm sure you will."

He rose again as he spoke, taking out a wallet at the same time, from which he drew some banknotes, which he handed to her.

"I Suppose you'll want to go shopping now you're here," he said casually33. "Most women do."

He paused at the door to add: "And don't forget that I never run any risks, and I shouldn't ask you to do anything that isn't perfectly34 safe. I've got too much to lose."

Myra heard these words with the relief which they had been intended to cause. They reminded her of the immunity35 with which Professor Blinkwell had controlled the English traffic in certain illicit36 drugs for the past five years, without evidence of the faintest suspicion being directed towards himself. Had he not told her more than once before that she would never have cause to fear so long as she obeyed his instructions with exactness, and without questioning what they meant? And had not this assurance always been justified37 by the event

The tale he had asked her to tell now was certainly not of a dangerous kind. Even had it been true, there could be no legal offence, in advance of an overt38 act.

She looked at the banknotes she had received and saw that they amounted to a total of two thousand francs. She was pleased at that, but she saw by the magnitude of the bribe39, that her uncle attached unusual importance to the part he had asked her to play, however safe it might be.

Well, it was not one she was likely to bungle40! She remained thoughtful for the next ten minutes, and then picked up the telephone and asked to be put through to Mr. Kindell's apartment.