The Clue of the Twisted Candle

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Kara smiled.

"That was an impertinence, wasn't it!" he said, banteringly. "But then you mustn't forget, my dear man, that I was very anxious to marry your wife. I don't suppose it is secret. And when I lost her, I had ideas about you which are not pleasant to recall."

He had recovered his self-possession and had continued his aimless stroll about the room.

"You must remember I am a Greek, and the modern Greek is no philosopher. You must remember, too, that I am a petted child of fortune, and have had everything I wanted since I was a baby."

"You are a fortunate devil," said the other, turning back to his desk, and taking up his pen.

For a moment Kara did not speak, then he made as though he would say something, checked himself, and laughed.

"I wonder if I am," he said.

And now he spoke with a sudden energy.

"What is this trouble you are having with Vassalaro?"

John rose from his chair and walked over to the fire, stood gazing down into its depths, his legs wide apart, his hands clasped behind him, and Kara took his attitude to supply an answer to the question.

"I warned you against Vassalaro," he said, stooping by the other's side to light his cigar with a spill of paper. "My dear Lexman, my fellow countrymen are unpleasant people to deal with in certain moods."

"He was so obliging at first," said Lexman, half to himself.

"And now he is so disobliging," drawled Kara. "That is a way which moneylenders have, my dear man; you were very foolish to go to him at all. I could have lent you the money."

"There were reasons why I should not borrow money from you,", said John, quietly, "and I think you yourself have supplied the principal reason when you told me just now, what I already knew, that you wanted to marry Grace."

"How much is the amount?" asked Kara, examining his well-manicured finger-nails.

"Two thousand five hundred pounds," replied John, with a short laugh, "and I haven't two thousand five hundred shillings at this moment."

"Will he wait?"

John Lexman shrugged his shoulders.

"Look here, Kara," he said, suddenly, "don't think I want to reproach you, but it was through you that I met Vassalaro so that you know the kind of man he is."

Kara nodded.

"Well, I can tell you he has been very unpleasant indeed," said John, with a frown, "I had an interview with him yesterday in London and it is clear that he is going to make a lot of trouble. I depended upon the success of my play in town giving me enough to pay him off, and I very foolishly made a lot of promises of repayment which I have been unable to keep."

"I see," said Kara, and then, "does Mrs. Lexman know about this matter?"

"A little," said the other.

He paced restlessly up and down the room, his hands behind him and his chin upon his chest.

"Naturally I have not told her the worst, or how beastly unpleasant the man has been."

He stopped and turned.

"Do you know he threatened to kill me?" he asked.

Kara smiled.

"I can tell you it was no laughing matter," said the other, angrily, "I nearly took the little whippersnapper by the scruff of the neck and kicked him."

Kara dropped his hand on the other's arm.

"I am not laughing at you," he said; "I am laughing at the thought of Vassalaro threatening to kill anybody. He is the biggest coward in the world. What on earth induced him to take this drastic step?"

"He said he is being hard pushed for money," said the other, moodily, "and it is possibly true. He was beside himself with anger and anxiety, otherwise I might have given the little blackguard the thrashing he deserved."

Kara who had continued his stroll came down the room and halted in front of the fireplace looking at the young author with a paternal smile.

"You don't understand Vassalaro," he said; "I repeat he is the greatest coward in the world. You will probably discover he is full of firearms and threats of slaughter, but you have only to click a revolver to see him collapse. Have you a revolver, by the way?"

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