The Yellow Face
1. Page scan source: The Web Archive,
(The Library of Congress)
2. Hyphenation of compound words is as presented in theoriginal book.
THE YELLOW FACE
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
The Crimson Blind
The Corner House
The Weight of the Crown
THE YELLOW FACE
FRED M. WHITE
"The Crimson Blind," "The Corner House,"
"The Midnight Guest," etc.
R. F. FENNO & COMPANY
18 EAST SEVENTEENTH STREET, NEW YORK
F. V. WHITE & CO., LONDON
Copyright, 1907 By R. F. Fenno & Company
"The Yellow Face"
|II.||The Chopin Nocturne.|
|III.||The Mystery of the Strings.|
|IV.||The Speaking Likeness.|
|V.||A Vanished Clue.|
|VII.||No. 4, Montrose Place.|
|VIII.||The Chopin Fantasie.|
|IX.||The Man with the Fair Moustache.|
|X.||What Did She Know?|
|XI.||The Shadow on the Wall.|
|XVI.||The Bosom of Her Family.|
|XVII.||Which Man Was It?|
|XVIII.||The Empty Room.|
|XIX.||A Broken Melody.|
|XX.||The Mouse in the Trap.|
|XXI.||A Leader of Society.|
|XXIII.||Face to Face.|
|XXIV.||In the Square.|
|XXV.||On the Track.|
|XXVII.||In the Smoking Room.|
|XXVIII.||The Lamp Goes Out.|
|XXIX.||The Silver Lamp.|
|XXXI.||A Chance Encounter.|
|XXXII.||Lady Barmouth's Jewels.|
|XXXIII.||Gems Or Paste?|
|XXXIV.||In the Vault.|
|XXXV.||The Cellini Plate.|
|XXXVI.||A Stroke Of Policy.|
|XXXVII.||A Pregnant Message.|
|XXXVIII.||The Cry in the Night.|
|XXXIX.||Preparing The Way.|
|XL.||The Magician Speaks.|
|XLI.||The Worm Turns.|
|XLII.||A Piece of Music.|
|XLIII.||The Trap is Baited.|
|XLVI.||The Music Stops.|
|XLVII.||"A Woman Scorned."|
|XLVIII.||The Proof of the Camera.|
|L.||On the Brink.|
|LI.||Against the World.|
|LII.||The End of it All.|
THE YELLOW FACE
THE YELLOW FACE
The flickering firelight fell upon the girl's pretty, thoughtful face;her violet eyes looked like deep lakes in it. She stood with one smallfoot tapping the polished brass rail of the fender. Claire Helmsleywas accounted fortunate by her friends, for she was pretty and rich,and as popular as she was good-looking. The young man by her side, whostood looking moodily into the heart of the ship-log fire, was alsopopular and good-looking, but Jack Masefield was anything but rich. Hehad all the brain and all the daring ambition that makes for success,but he was poor and struggling yet, and the briefs that he dreamed ofat the Bar had not come.
But he was not thinking of the Bar now as he stood by ClaireHelmsley's side. They were both in evening dress, and obviouslywaiting for dinner. Jack's arm was around Claire's slender waist, andher head rested on his shoulder, so that by looking up she could justsee the shadow on his clean-cut face. Though the pressure of his armwas strong and tender, he seemed as if he had forgotten all about thepresence of the girl.
"Why so silent?" the girl said. "What are you thinking about, Jack?"
"Well, I was thinking about you, dearest," Jack replied. "About youand myself. Also of your guardian, Anstruther. I was wondering why heasks me so often and leaves us so much together when he has not theslightest intention of letting me marry you."
The girl colored slightly. The expression in her violet eyes was oneof pain.
"You have never asked my guardian," she said. "We have been engagednow for over six months, Jack, and at your request I have kept thething a dead secret. Why should we keep the matter a secret? You arecertain to get on in your profession, and you would do no worse if theworld knew that you had a rich wife. My guardian is kindness itself.He has never thwarted me in a single wish. He would not be likely totry and cross my life's happiness."
Jack Masefield made no reply for a moment. It was perhaps a singularprejudice on his part, but he did not like the brilliant and volatileDr. Spencer Anstruther, who was Claire's guardian. He would have foundit impossible to account for this feeling, but there it was.
"My guardian has plenty of money of his own," Claire said, as ifreading his thoughts.
"There you are mistaken," Jack replied. "This is a fine old house,filled with beautiful old things. Anstruther goes everywhere; he is afavorite in the best society. Men of letters say he is one of thefinest talkers in the world. But I happen to know that he has verylittle money, for a lawyer told me so. That being so, the £2,000 ayear you pay him till you marry or come of age is decidedly a thing totake care of. On the whole, dearest, we had better go on as we are."
Claire had a smile for her lover's prejudices. Personally she sawnothing amiss with her guardian. She crossed over to the window, theblinds of which had not yet been drawn, and looked out. She lookedacross the old-fashioned garden in front of the house to the streetbeyond, where a few passengers straggled along. On the far side of theroad stood an electric standard holding a flaring lamp aloft. Thehouse opposite was being refaced, so that it was masked in a highscaffold.
As was the custom in London, the scaffolding had been let out to someenterprising bill-posting company. It was a mass of gaudy sheets andplacards puffing a variety of different kinds of wares. In the centre,bordered by a deep band of black, was one solitary yellow face withdark hair and starting eyes. At the base was the single word"Nostalgo."
An extraordinary vivid and striking piece of work for a poster. Theface was strong and yet evil, the eyes were full of a devilishmalignity, yet there was a kind of laugh in them too. Artists spokefreely of the Nostalgo poster as a work of positive genius, yet nobodycould name the author of it. Nobody knew what it meant, what itforeshadowed. For two months now the thing had been one of thesensations of London. The cheap Press had built up legends round thatdiabolically clever poster; the head had been dragged into a story.The firm who posted Nostalgo professed to know nothing as to its innermeaning. It had become a catchword; actors on the variety stage madejokes about it. But still that devilish yellow face stared down atLondon with the malignant smile in the starting eyes.
"Jack, they have put up a fresh 'Nostalgo' poster on the hoardingopposite," Claire said. "I wish they hadn't. That face frightens me.It reminds me of somebody."
"So it does me," Jack replied, with sudden boldness. "It reminds me ofyour guardian."
Claire smiled at the suggestion. The guardian was a large, florid man,well-groomed and exquisitely clean. And yet as Jack spoke the yellowface opposite seemed to change, and in some way the illusion wascomplete. It was only for an instant, and then the starting eyes andthe queer smile that London knew so well were back again.
"You make me shudder," Claire said in a half-frightened way. "I shouldnever have thought of that. But as you spoke the face seemed tochange. I could see my guardian dimly behind it. Jack, am I suddenlygrowing nervous or fanciful? The thing is absurd."
"Not a bit of it," Jack said stoutly. "The likeness is there. It maybe a weird caricature, but I can see it quite plainly. Don't yourecall how Anstruther breaks out into yellow patches when he isexcited or angry? I tell you I hate that man. I may be nonsensical,but----"
Jack paced up and down the room as if lost in thought. The light wasshining on the face on the hoarding--it seemed to look at him withSpencer Anstruther's eyes.
"There is something wrong in this house," he said. "I feel it. You maylaugh at me, you may say that I am talking nonsense, but there it is.The strange people who come here----"
"Sent by the police mainly. Don't forget that my guardian is one ofthe greatest criminologists of our time. There is no man in London whocan trace the motive of a crime quicker than Mr. Anstruther. There wasthat marvelous case of those missing children, for instance----"
"Oh, I know," Jack said, with some suggestion of impatience in hisvoice. "And yet, if you don't mind, we will say nothing of ourengagement at present."
Claire contested the point no longer. After all she was very happy asthings stood. She had plenty of chances of meeting her lover, and Mr.Anstruther seemed to be altogether too wrapped up in his scientificstudies to notice what was going on under his very eyes. He came intothe room at the same moment humming a fragment of some popular opera.
There was nothing whatever about the man to justify Jack Masefield'sopinions. Spencer Anstruther was calculated to attract attentionanywhere. The man was tall and well set up, he had a fine commandingface softened by a tolerant and benign expression. People looked afterhim as he walked down the street and wondered which popular statesmanhe was. In society Anstruther was decidedly welcome, amongst men oflearning he was a familiar figure. His scientific knowledge was great,certain publications of his were regarded in the light of text-books.Altogether he was a man to cultivate.
"I am afraid that I am late, young people," he said in a smooth,polished voice. "I hope you have been able to amuse yourselvestogether in my absence. You look moody, Jack. Don't those briefs comein as freely as you would like? Or have you been quarreling?"
"No, sir," Jack replied. "We never quarrel; we are too good friendsfor that. We have not the excuse in that way that lovers are supposedto possess."
"We have been studying that awful poster," Claire said. "I wishsomebody would take it away. Jack is always seeing some likeness init. He says that you----"
The girl paused in some confusion. Anstruther smiled as he put up hisglasses.
"It is a complex face," he said. "Whose features does it remind you ofjust now, Jack?"
"Yours," Jack said boldly. He flashed the word out suddenly. Half tohimself he wondered why he always felt a wild desire to quarrel withthis man. "I hope you won't be offended, sir, but I can see agrotesque likeness to you in the famous repellent Nostalgo."
Claire looked up in some alarm. She was wondering how her guardianwould take it. The log fire in the grate shot up suddenly andilluminated Anstruther's face. Perhaps it was the quick flare thatplayed a trick on Claire's fancy, for it seemed to her that suddenlyAnstruther's face was convulsed with rage. The benign pink expressionhad gone, the features were dark with passion, the fine speaking eyesgrew black with malignant hatred. Claire could see the hands of theman clenched so hard that the knuckles stood out white as chalk. Andthere with it all was the likeness to Nostalgo that Jack had so boldlyalluded to. The fire dropped and spurted again, and when it rose forthe second time the face of Spencer Anstruther was smooth and smiling.
Claire passed her handkerchief across her eyes to concentrate thepicture of fiendish passion that she had seen. Was it possible thatimagination had played some trick on her? And yet the picture was asvivid as a landscape picked out and fixed upon the retina by a flashof lightning on a dark night. The girl turned away and hid her whiteface.
"I should like to meet the artist who drew that face," Anstruthersaid, with a smile. "One thing I am quite certain of--it is not thework of an Englishman. Well, it has found London something to talkabout, and the advertisement is a very clever one. I dare say beforelong we shall discover that it is exploited in the interest ofsomebody's soap."
"I am inclined to favor the view that Nostalgo is something novel inthe way of a thought-reader or a spiritualist," Jack said. "It seemsto me----"
The dining-room door was thrown open by