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"I knelt to you once, young man," he said, "and kissed

source:Follow the wavesedit:governmenttime:2023-12-06 02:17:37

In a very depressed frame of mind, Desmond turned into the library. As he crossed the hall, he noticed how cheerless the house was. Again there came to him that odor of mustiness--of all smells the most eerie and drear--which he had noticed on his arrival. Somehow, as long as Nur-el-Din had been there, he had not remarked the appalling loneliness of the place.

A big log fire was blazing cheerfully in the grate, throwing out a bright glow into the room which, despite the early hour, was already wreathed in shadows. Wearily Desmond pulled a big armchair up to the blaze and sat down. He told himself that he must devote every minute of his spare time to going over in his mind the particulars he had memorized of Mr. Bellward's habits and acquaintanceships. He took the list of Bellward's friends from his pocket-book.

But this afternoon he found it difficult to concentrate his attention. His gaze kept wandering back to the fire, in whose glowing depths he fancied he could see a perfect oval face with pleading eyes and dazzling teeth looking appealingly at him.

Nur-el-Din! What an entrancing creature she was! What passion lurked in those black eyes of hers, in her moods, swiftly changing from gusts of fierce imperiousness to gentle airs of feminine charm! What a frail little thing she was to have fought her way alone up the ladder from the lowest rung to the very top! She must have character and grit, Desmond decided, for he was a young man who adored efficiency: to him efficiency spelled success.

But a spy needs grit, he reflected, and Nur-el-Din had many qualities which would enable her to win the confidence of men. Hadn't she half-captivated him, the would-be spy-catcher, already?

Desmond laughed ruefully to himself. Indeed, he mused, things looked that way. What would the Chief say if he could see his prize young man, his white-headed boy, sitting sentimentalizing by the fire over a woman who was, by her own confession, practically an accredited German agent? Desmond thrust his chin out and shook himself together. He would put the feminine side of Nur-el-Din out of his head. He must think of her henceforth only as a member of the band that was spotting targets for those sneaking, callous brutes of U-boat commanders.

He went back to the study of the list of Mr. Bellward's friends. But he found it impossible to focus his mind upon it. Do what he would, he could not rid himself of the sensation that he had failed at the very outset of his mission. He was, indeed, he told himself, the veriest tyro at the game. Here he had had under his hand in turn Nur-el-Din and Mortimer (who, he made no doubt, was the leader of the gang which was so sorely troubling the Chief), and he had let both get away without eliciting from either even as much as their address. By the use of a little tact, he had counted on penetrating something of the mystery enveloping the dancer and her relationship with the gang; for he thought he divined that Nur-el-Din was inclined to make him her confidant. With the information thus procured, he had hoped to get on to the track of the leader of the band.

But that ugly brute; Mortimer, with his goggle eyes, had spoiled everything. His appearance had taken Desmond completely by surprise: to tell the truth, it had thrown our young man rather off his guard. " If only I might have had a little longer acquaintance with my part," he reflected bitterly as $e sat by the fire, "I should have been better able to deal with that pompous ass!"

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