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RED MASQUERADE

Being the Story of THE LONE WOLF'S DAUGHTER

BY

LOUIS JOSEPH VANCE

1921







[Illustration: "_Prince Victor gave a gesture of pain and reluctance. 'Must
I tell you?_'"]




TO J. PARKER READ, JR., ESQ. THE CINEMA THAT WAS HIS



APOLOGY


This tale quite brazenly derives from the author's invention for motion
pictures which Mr. J. Parker Read, Jr., produced in the autumn of 1919
under the title of "The Lone Wolf's Daughter."

It is only fair to state, however, that the author has in this version
taken as many high-handed liberties with the version used by the photoplay
director as the latter took with the original.

The chance to get even for once was too tempting....

Messrs. Doubleday, Page & Company in the first instance, and then Mr.
Arthur T. Vance, editor of _The Pictorial Review_, in which the story was
published as a serial, were equally guilty of the encouragement which
results in its appearance in its present guise.

L.J.V.

Westport--31 December, 1920.



Books by Louis Joseph Vance

CYNTHIA-OF-THE-MINUTE

JOAN THURSDAY

NOBODY

NO MAN'S LAND

POOL OF FLAME

PRIVATE WAR

SHEEP'S CLOTHING

THE BANDBOX

THE BLACK BAG

THE BRASS BOWL

THE BRONZE BELL

THE DARK MIRROR

THE DAY OF DAYS

THE DESTROYING ANGEL

THE FORTUNE HUNTER

THE ROMANCE OF TERENCE O'ROURKE

TREY O' HEARTS

_Stories About "The Lone Wolf"_

THE LONE WOLF

THE FALSE FACES

RED MASQUERADE

ALIAS THE LONE WOLF




CONTENTS

BOOK ONE: A CHAPTER FROM THE YOUTH OF MONSIEUR MICHAEL LANYARD

I PLEBEIAN AND PRINCE

II THE PRINCESS SOFIA

III MONSIEUR QUIXOTE

IV THE FOOL AND HIS MONEY

V IMPOSTOR

VI THÉRÈSE

VII FAMILY REUNION

VIII GREEK VS. GREEK

IX PAID IN FULL


BOOK TWO: THE LONE WOLF'S DAUGHTER

I THE GIRL SOFIA

II MASKS AND FACES

III THE AGONY COLUMN

IV MUTINY

V HOUSE OF THE WOLF

VI THE MUMMER

VII THE FANTASTICS

VIII COUNCIL OF THE GODLESS

IX MRS. WARING

X VICTOR ET AL

XI HEARTBREAK

XII SUSPECT

XIII THE TURNIP

XIV CONFERENCE OF THE DAMNED

XV INTUITION

XVI THE CRYSTAL

XVII THE RAISED CHEQUE

XVIII ORDEAL

XIX UNMASKING

XX THE DEVIL TO PAY

XXI VENTRE À TERRE

XXII THE SEVEN BRASS HINGES




BOOK I


A CHAPTER FROM THE YOUTH OF MONSIEUR MICHAEL LANYARD



RED MASQUERADE



I

PLEBEIAN AND PRINCE


The gentleman was not in the least bored who might have been and was seen
on that wintry afternoon in Nineteen hundred, lounging with one shoulder to
a wall of the dingy salesroom and idly thumbing a catalogue of effects
about to be put up at auction; but his insouciance was so unaffected that
the inevitable innocent bystander might have been pardoned for perceiving
in him a pitiable victim of the utterest ennui.

In point of fact, he was privately relishing life with enviable gusto. In
those days he could and did: being alive was the most satisfying pastime he
could imagine, or cared to, who was a thundering success in his own conceit
and in fact as well; since all the world for whose regard he cared a
twopenny-bit admired, respected, and esteemed him in his public status, and
admired, respected, and feared him in his private capacity, and paid him
heavy tribute to boot.

More than that, he was young, still very young indeed, barely beyond the
threshold of his chosen career. To his eagerly exploring eye the future
unrolled itself in the likeness of an endless scroll illuminated with
adventures all piquant, picturesque, and profitable. With the happy
assurance of lucky young impudence he figured the world to himself as his
oyster; and if his method of helping himself to the succulent contents of
its stubborn shell might have been thought questionable (as unquestionably
it was) he was no more conscious of a conscience to give him qualms than he
was of pangs of indigestion. Whereas his digestive powers were superb....

This way of killing an empty afternoon, too, was much to his taste. The man
adored auctions. To his mind a most delectable flavour of discreet scandal
inhered in such collections of shabby properties from anonymous homes.
Nothing so piqued his imagination as some well-worn piece of furniture--say
an ancient escritoire with ink stains on its green baize writing-bed (dried
life-blood of love letters long since dead!) and all its pigeon-holes and
little drawers empty of everything but dust and the seductive smell of
secrets; or a dressing-table whose bewildered mirror, to-day reflecting
surroundings cold and strange, had once been quick and warm to the beauty
of eyes brilliant with delight or blurred with tears; or perchance a
bed....

And even aside from such stimuli to a lively and ingenious fancy, there was
always the chance that one might pick up some priceless treasure at an
auction sale, some rare work of art dim with desuetude and the disrespect
of ignorance: jewellery of quaintest old-time artistry; a misprized bit of
bronze; a book, it might be an overlooked copy of a first edition inscribed
by some immortal author to a forgotten love; or even--if one were in rare
luck--a picture, its pristine brilliance faded, the signature of the artist
illegible beneath the grime of years, evidence of its origin perceptible
only to the discerning eye--to such an eye, for instance, as Michael
Lanyard boasted. For paintings were his passion.

Already, indeed, at this early age, he was by way of being something of a
celebrity, in England and on the Continent, as a collector of the nicest
discrimination.

And then he found unfailing human interest in the attendance attracted by
auction sales; in the dealers, gentlemen generally of pronounced
idiosyncrasies; in the auctioneers themselves, robust fellows, wielding a
sort of rugged wit singular to their calling, masters of deep guile,
endowed with intuitions which enabled them at a glance or from the mere
intonation of a voice to discriminate between the serious-minded and those
frivolous souls who bid without meaning to buy, but as a rule for nothing
more than the curious satisfaction of being able to brag that they had been
outbid.

But it was in the ranks of the general public that one found most
amusement; seldom did a sale pass off undistinguished by at least one
incident uniquely revealing or provocative. And for such moments Lanyard
was always on the qui vive, but quietly, who knew that nothing so quickly
stifles spontaneity as self-consciousness. So, if he studied his company
closely, he was studious to do it covertly; as now, when he seemed
altogether engrossed in the catalogue, whereas his gaze was freely roving.

Thus far to-day a mere handful of people other than dealers had drifted in
to wait for the sale to begin--something for which the weather was largely
to blame, for the day was dismal with a clammy drizzle settling from a low
and leaden sky--and with a solitary exception these few were commonplace
folk.

This one Lanyard had marked down midway across the room, in the foremost
row of chairs beneath the salesman's pulpit: by his attire a person of
fashion (though his taste might have been thought a trace florid) who
carried himself with an air difficult of definition but distinctive enough
in its way.

Whoever he was and what his quality, he was unmistakably somebody of
consequence in his own reckoning, and sufficiently well-to-do to dress the
part he chose to play in life. Certainly he had a conscientious tailor and
a busy valet, both saturate with British tradition. Yet the man they served
was no Englishman.

Aside from his clothing, everything about him had an exotic tang, though
what precisely his racial antecedents might have been was rather a riddle;
a habit so thoroughly European went oddly with the hints of Asiatic strain
which one thought to detect in his lineaments. Nevertheless, it were
difficult otherwise to account for the faintly indicated slant of those
little black eyes, the blurred modelling of the nose, the high cheekbones,
and the thin thatch of coarse black hair which was plastered down with
abundant brilliantine above that mask of pallid features.

The grayish pallor of the man, indeed, was startling, so that Lanyard for
some time sought an adjective to suit it, and was content only when he hit
on the word _evil_. Indeed, evil seemed the inevitable and only word; none
other could possibly so well fit that strange personality.

His interest thus fixed, he awaited confidently what could hardly fail to
come, a moment of self-betrayal.

That fell more quickly than he had hoped. Of a sudden the decent quiet of
King Street, thus far accentuated rather than disturbed by the routine
grind of hansoms and four-wheelers, was enlivened by spirited hoofs whose
clatter stilled abruptly in front of the auction room.

Turning a speciously languid eye toward the weeping window, Lanyard had a
partial view of a handsomely appointed private equipage, a pair of spanking
bays, a liveried coachman on the box.

The carriage door slammed with a hollow clap; a footman furled an umbrella
and climbed to his place beside the driver. As the vehicle drew away, one
caught a glimpse of a crest upon the panel.

Two women entered the auction room.



II

THE PRINCESS SOFIA


These ladies were young, neither much older than Lanyard, both were very
much alive, openly betraying an infatuation with existence very like his
own, and both were lovely enough to excuse the exquisite insolence of their
young vitality.

As is frequently the case in such associations, since a pretty woman seldom
courts comparison with another of her own colouring, one was dark, the
other fair.

With the first, Lanyard was, like all London, on terms of visual
acquaintance. The reigning beauty of the hour, her portrait was enjoying a
vogue of its own in the public prints. Furthermore, Lady Diantha Mainwaring
was moderately the talk of the town, in those prim, remotely ante-bellum
days--thanks to high spirits and a whimsical tendency to flout the late
Victorian proprieties; something which, however, had yet to lead her into
any prank perilous to her good repute.

The other, a girl whose hair of golden bronze was well set off by Russian
sables, Lanyard did not know at all; but he knew at sight that she was far
too charming a creature to be neglected if ever opportunity offered to be
presented to her.



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