The Clue of the Twisted Candle

by Edgar Wallace

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Chapter XVIII

T. X. sat at his desk, his chin in his hands, his mind remarkably busy. Grave as the matter was which he was considering, he rose with alacrity to meet the smiling girl who was ushered through the door by Mansus, preternaturally solemn and mysterious.

She was radiant that day. Her eyes were sparkling with an unusual brightness.

"I've got the most wonderful thing to tell you," she said, "and I can't tell you."

"That's a very good beginning," said T. X., taking her muff from her hand.

"Oh, but it's really wonderful," she cried eagerly, "more wonderful than anything you have ever heard about."

"We are interested," said T. X. blandly.

"No, no, you mustn't make fun," she begged, "I can't tell you now, but it is something that will make you simply - "she was at a loss for a simile.

"Jump out of my skin?" suggested T. X.

"I shall astonish you," she nodded her head solemnly.

"I take a lot of astonishing, I warn you," he smiled; "to know you is to exhaust one's capacity for surprise."

"That can be either very, very nice or very, very nasty," she said cautiously.

"But accept it as being very, very nice," he laughed. "Now come, out with this tale of yours."

She shook her head very vigorously.

"I can't possibly tell you anything," she said.

"Then why the dickens do you begin telling anything for?" he complained, not without reason.

"Because I just want you to know that I do know something."

"Oh, Lord!" he groaned. "Of course you know everything. Belinda Mary, you're really the most wonderful child."

He sat on the edge of her arm-chair and laid his hand on her shoulder.

"And you've come to take me out to lunch!"

"What were you worrying about when I came in?" she asked.

He made a little gesture as if to dismiss the subject.

"Nothing very much. You've heard me speak of John Lexman?"

She bent her head.

"Lexman's the writer of a great many mystery stories, but you've probably read his books."

She nodded again, and again T. X. noticed the suppressed eagerness in her eyes.

"You're not ill or sickening for anything, are you?" he asked anxiously; "measles, or mumps or something?"

"Don't be silly," she said; "go on and tell me something about Mr. Lexman."

"He's going to America," said T. X., "and before he goes he wants to give a little lecture."

"A lecture 7"

"It sounds rum, doesn't it, but that's just what he wants to do."

"Why is he doing it!" she asked.

T. X. made a gesture of despair.

"That is one of the mysteries which may never be revealed to me, except " he pursed his lips and looked thoughtfully at the girl. "There are times," he said, "when there is a great struggle going on inside a man between all the human and better part of him and the baser professional part of him. One side of me wants to hear this lecture of John Lexman's very much, the other shrinks from the ordeal."

"Let us talk it over at lunch," she said practically, and carried him off.

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