Part 1 out of 5
The Devil's Paw
by E. Phillips Oppenheim
The two men, sole occupants of the somewhat shabby cottage
parlour, lingered over their port, not so much with the air of
wine lovers, but rather as human beings and intimates, perfectly
content with their surroundings and company. Outside, the wind
was howling over the marshes, and occasional bursts of rain came
streaming against the window panes. Inside at any rate was
comfort, triumphing over varying conditions. The cloth upon the
plain deal table was of fine linen, the decanter and glasses were
beautifully cut; there were walnuts and, in a far Corner, cigars
of a well-known brand and cigarettes from a famous tobacconist.
Beyond that little oasis, however, were all the evidences of a
hired abode. A hole in the closely drawn curtains was fastened
together by a safety pin. The horsehair easy-chairs bore
disfiguring antimacassars, the photographs which adorned the walls
were grotesque but typical of village ideals, the carpet was
threadbare, the closed door secured by a latch instead of the
usual knob. One side of the room was littered with golf clubs, a
huge game bag and several boxes of cartridges. Two shotguns lay
upon the remains of a sofa. It scarcely needed the costume of
Miles Furley, the host, to demonstrate the fact that this was the
temporary abode of a visitor to the Blakeney marshes in search of
Furley, broad-shouldered, florid, with tanned skin and grizzled
hair, was still wearing the high sea boots and jersey of the duck
shooter. His companion, on the other hand, a tall, slim man, with
high forehead, clear eyes, stubborn jaw, and straight yet
sensitive mouth, wore the ordinary dinner clothes of civilisation.
The contrast between the two men might indeed have afforded some
ground for speculation as to the nature of their intimacy.
Furley, a son of the people, had the air of cultivating, even
clinging to a certain plebeian strain, never so apparent as when
he spoke, or in his gestures. He was a Member of Parliament for a
Labour constituency, a shrewd and valuable exponent of the gospel
of the working man. What he lacked in the higher qualities of
oratory he made up in sturdy common sense. The will-o'-the-wisp
Socialism of the moment, with its many attendant "isms" and
theories, received scant favour at his hands. He represented the
solid element in British Labour politics, and it was well known
that he had refused a seat in the Cabinet in order to preserve an
absolute independence. He had a remarkable gift of taciturnity,
which in a man of his class made for strength, and it was
concerning him that the Prime Minister had made his famous
epigram, that Furley was the Labour man whom he feared the most
and dreaded the least.
Julian Orden, with an exterior more promising in many respects
than that of his friend, could boast of no similar distinctions.
He was the youngest son of a particularly fatuous peer resident in
the neighbourhood, had started life as a barrister, in which
profession he had attained a moderate success, had enjoyed a brief
but not inglorious spell of soldiering, from which he had retired
slightly lamed for life, and had filled up the intervening period
in the harmless occupation of censoring. His friendship with
Furley appeared on the surface too singular to be anything else
but accidental. Probably no one save the two men themselves
understood it, and they both possessed the gift of silence.
"What's all this peace talk mean?" Julian Orden asked, fingering
the stern of his wineglass.
"Who knows?" Furley grunted. "The newspapers must have their
"I have a theory that it is being engineered."
"Bolo business, eh?"
Julian Orden moved in his place a little uneasily. His long,
nervous fingers played with the stick which stood always by the
side of his chair.
"You don't believe in it, do you?" he asked quietly.
Furley looked straight ahead of him. His eyes seemed caught by
the glitter of the lamplight upon the cut-glass decanter.
"You know my opinion of war, Julian," he said. "It's a filthy,
intolerable heritage from generations of autocratic government.
No democracy ever wanted war. Every democracy needs and desires
"One moment," Julian interrupted. "You must remember that a
democracy seldom possesses the imperialistic spirit, and a great
empire can scarcely survive without it."
"Arrant nonsense!" was the vigorous reply. "A great empire, from
hemisphere to hemisphere, can be kept together a good deal better
by democratic control. Force is always the arriere pensee of the
individual and the autocrat."
"These are generalities," Julian declared. "I want to know your
opinion about a peace at the present moment."
"Not having any, thanks. You're a dilettante journalist by your
own confession, Julian, and I am not going to be drawn."
"There is something in it, then?"
"Maybe," was the careless admission. "You're a visitor worth
having, Julian. '70 port and homegrown walnuts! A nice little
addition to my simple fare! Must you go back to-morrow?"
"We've another batch of visitors coming, - Stenson amongst them,
by the bye."
Furley nodded. His eyes narrowed, and little lines appeared at
"I can't imagine," he confessed. "What brings Stenson down to
Maltenby. I should have thought that your governor and he could
scarcely spend ten minutes together without quarrelling!"
"They never do spend ten minutes together alone," Julian replied
drily. "I see to that. Then my mother, you know, has the knack
of getting interesting people together. The Bishop is coming,
amongst others. And, Furley, I wanted to ask you - do you know
anything of a young woman - she is half Russian, I believe - who
calls herself Miss Catherine Abbeway?"
"Yes, I know her," was the brief rejoinder.
"She lived in Russia for some years, it seems," Julian continued.
"Her mother was Russian - a great writer on social subjects."
"Miss Abbeway is rather that way herself," he remarked. "I've
heard her lecture in the East End. She has got hold of the
woman's side of the Labour question as well as any one I ever came
"She is a most remarkably attractive young person," Julian
"Yes, she's good-looking. A countess in her own right, they tell
me, but she keeps her title secret for fear of losing influence
with the working classes. She did a lot of good down Poplar way.
Shouldn't have thought she'd have been your sort, Julian."
Julian smiled - rather a peculiar, introspective smile.
"I, too, can, be serious sometimes," he said.
His friend thrust his hands into his trousers pocket and, leaning
back in his chair, looked steadfastly at his guest.
"I believe you can, Julian," he admitted. "Sometimes I am not
quite sure that I understand you. That's the worst of a man with
the gift for silence."
"You're not a great talker yourself," the younger man reminded his
"When you get me going on my own subject," Furley remarked, "I
find it hard to stop, and you are a wonderful listener. Have you
got any views of your own? I never hear them."
Julian drew the box of cigarettes towards him.
"Oh, yes, I've views of my own," he confessed. "Some day,
perhaps, you shall know what they are."
"A man of mystery!" his friend jeered good-naturedly.
Julian lit his cigarette and watched the smoke curl upward.
"Let's talk about the duck," he suggested.
The two men sat in silence for some minutes. Outside, the storm
seemed to have increased in violence. Furley rose, threw a log on
to the fire and resumed his place.
"Geese flew high," he remarked.
"Too high for me," Julian confessed.
"You got one more than I did."
"Sheer luck. The outside bird dipped down to me."
Furley filled his guest's glass and then his own.
"What on earth have you kept your shooting kit on for?" the latter
asked, with lazy curiosity.
Furley glanced down at his incongruous attire and seemed for a
moment ill at ease.
"I've got to go out presently," he announced.
Julian raised his eyebrows.
"Got to go out?" he repeated. "On a night like this? Why, my
dear fellow - "
He paused abruptly. He was a man of quick perceptions, and he
realised his host's embarrassment. Nevertheless, there was an
awkward pause in the conversation. Furley rose to his feet and
frowned. He fetched a jar of tobacco from a shelf and filled his
"Sorry to seem mysterious, old chap," he said. "I've just a bit
of a job to do. It doesn't amount to anything, but - well, it's
the sort of affair we don't talk about much."
"Well, you're welcome to all the amusement you'll get out of it, a
night like this"
Furley laid down his pipe, ready-filled, and drank off his port.
"There isn't much amusement left in the world, is there, just
now?" he remarked gravely.
"Very little indeed. It's three years since I handled a shotgun
"You've really chucked the censoring?"
"Last week. I've had a solid year at it."
"Not exactly that. My own work accumulated so."
"Briefs coming along, eh?"
"I'm a sort of hack journalist as well, as you reminded me just
now," Julian explained a little evasively.
"I wonder you stuck at the censoring so long. Isn't it terribly
"Sometimes. Now and then we come across interesting things,
though. For instance, I discovered a most original cipher the
"Did it lead to anything?" Furley asked curiously.
"Not at present. I discovered it, studying a telegram from
Norway. It was addressed to a perfectly respectable firm of
English timber merchants who have an office in the city. This was
the original: `Fir planks too narrow by half.' Sounds harmless
enough, doesn't it?"
"Absolutely. What's the hidden meaning?"
"There I am still at a loss," Julian confessed, "but treated with
the cipher it comes out as `Thirty-eight steeple on barn.'"
Furley stared for a moment, then he lit his pipe.
"Well, of the two," he declared, "I should prefer the first
rendering for intelligibility."
"So would most people," Julian assented, smiling, "yet I am sure
there is something in it - some meaning, of course, that needs a
context to grasp it."
"Have you interviewed the firm of timber merchants?"
"Not personally. That doesn't come into my department. The name
of the man who manages the London office, though, is Fenn -
Furley withdrew the pipe from his mouth. His eyebrows had come
together in a slight frown.
"Nicholas Fenn, the Labour M.P.?"
"That's the fellow. You know him, of course?"
"Yes, I know him," Furley replied thoughtfully. "He is secretary
of the Timber Trades Union and got in for one of the divisions of
Hull last year."
"I understand that there is nothing whatever against him
personally," Julian continued, "although as a politician he is of
course beneath contempt. He started life as a village
schoolmaster and has worked his way up most creditably. He
professed to understand the cable as it appeared in its original
form. All the same, it's very odd that, treated by a cipher which
I got on the track of a few days previously, this same message
should work out as I told you."
"Of course," Furley observed, "ciphers can lead you - "
He stopped short. Julian, who had been leaning over towards the
cigarette bog, glanced around at his friend. There was a frown on
Furley's forehead. He withdrew his pipe from between his teeth.
"What did you say you made of it?" he demanded.
"`Thirty-eight steeple on barn."'
"Thirty-eight! That's queer!"
"Why is it queer?"
There was a moment's silence. Furley glanced at the little clock
upon the mantelpiece. It was five and twenty minutes past nine.
"I don't know whether you have ever heard, Julian," he said, "that
our enemies on the other side of the North Sea are supposed to
have divided the whole of the eastern coast of Great Britain into
small, rectangular districts, each about a couple of miles square.
One of our secret service chaps got hold of a map some time ago."
"No, I never heard this," Julian acknowledged. "Well?"
"It's only a coincidence, of course," Furley went on, "but number
thirty-eight happens to be the two-mile block of seacoast of which
this cottage is just about the centre. It stretches to Cley on
one side and Salthouse on the other, and inland as far as
Dutchman's Common. I am not suggesting that there is any real
connection between your cable and this fact, but that you should
mention it at this particular moment - well, as I said, it's a
Furley had risen to his feet. He threw open the door and listened
for a moment in the passage. When he came back he was carrying
"Julian," he said, "I know you area bit of a cynic about espionage
and that sort of thing. Of course, there has been a terrible lot
of exaggeration, and heaps of fellows go gassing about secret
service jobs, all the way up the coast from here to Scotland, who
haven't the least idea what the thing means. But there is a
little bit of it done, and in my humble way they find me an
occasional job or two down here. I won't say that anything ever
comes of our efforts - we're rather like the special constables of
the secret service - but just occasionally we come across
"So that's why you're going out again to-night, is it?"
"This is my last night. I am off up to town on Monday and 'shan't
be able to get down again this season."
"Had any adventures?"
"Not the ghost of one. I don't mind admitting that I've had a
good many wettings and a few scares on that stretch of marshland,
but I've never seen or heard anything yet to send in a report
about. It just happens, though, that to-night there's a special
vigilance whip out."
"What does that mean?" Julian enquired curiously.
"Something supposed to be up," was the dubious reply. "We've a
very imaginative chief, I might tell you."
"But what sort of thing could happen?" Julian persisted. "What
are you out to prevent, anyway?"
Furley relit his pipe, thrust a flask into his pocket, and picked
up a thick stick from a corner of the room.
"Can't tell," he replied laconically. "There's an idea, of
course, that communications are carried on with the enemy from
somewhere down this coast. Sorry to leave you, old fellow," he
added. "Don't sit up. I never fasten the door here. Remember to
look after your fire upstairs, and the whisky is on the sideboard
"I shall be all right, thanks," Julian assured his host. "No use
my offering to come with you, I suppose?"
"Not allowed," was the brief response.
"Thank heavens!" Julian exclaimed piously, as a storm of rain blew
in through the half-open door. "Good night and good luck, old
Furley's reply was drowned in the roar of wind. Julian secured
the door, underneath which a little stream of rain was creeping
in. Then he returned to the sitting room, threw a log upon the
fire, and drew one of the ancient easy-chairs close up to the
Julian, notwithstanding his deliberate intention of abandoning
himself to an hour's complete repose, became, after the first few
minutes of solitude, conscious of a peculiar and increasing sense
of restlessness. With the help of a rubber-shod stick which
leaned against his chair, he rose presently to his feet and moved
about the room, revealing a lameness which had the appearance of
permanency. In the small, white-ceilinged apartment his height
became more than ever noticeable, also the squareness of his
shoulders and the lean vigour of his frame. He handled his gun
for a moment and laid it down; glanced at the card stuck in the
cheap looking glass, which announced that David Grice let lodgings
and conducted shooting parties; turned with a shiver from the
contemplation of two atrocious oleographs, a church calendar
pinned upon the wall, and a battered map of the neighbourhood,
back to the table at which he had been seated. He selected a
cigarette and lit it. Presently he began to talk to himself, a
habit which had grown upon him during the latter years of a life
whose secret had entailed a certain amount of solitude.
"Perhaps," he murmured, "I am psychic. Nevertheless, I am
convinced that something is happening, something not far away."
He stood for a while, listening intently, the cigarette burning
away between his fingers. Then, stooping a little, he passed out
into the narrow passage and opened the door into the kitchen
behind, from which the woman who came to minister to their wants
had some time ago departed. Everything was in order here and
spotlessly neat. He climbed the narrow staircase, looked in at
Furley's room and his own, and at the third apartment, in which
had been rigged up a temporary bath. The result was
unilluminating. He turned and descended the stairs.
"Either," he went on, with a very slight frown, "I am not psychic,
or whatever may be happening is happening out of doors."
He raised the latch of the door, under which a little pool of
water was now standing, and leaned out. There seemed to be a
curious cessation of immediate sounds. From somewhere straight
ahead of him, on the other side of that black velvet curtain of
darkness, came the dull booming of the wind, tearing across the
face of the marshes; and beyond it, beating time in a rhythmical
sullen roar, the rise and fall of the sea upon the shingle. But
near at hand, for some reason, there was almost silence. The rain
had ceased, the gale for a moment had spent itself. The strong,
salty moisture was doubly refreshing after the closeness of the
small, lamplit room. Julian lingered there for several moments.
"Nothing like fresh air," he muttered, "for driving away fancies."
Then he suddenly stiffened. He leaned forward into the dark,
listening. This time there was no mistake. A cry, faint and
pitiful though it was, reached his ears distinctly.
"Coming, old chap," he shouted. "Wait until I get a torch."
He stepped quickly back into the sitting room, drew an electric
torch from the drawer of the homely little chiffonier and,
regardless of regulations, stepped once more out into the
darkness, now pierced for him by that single brilliant ray. The
door opened on to a country road filled with gleaming puddles. On
the other side of the way was a strip of grass, sloping downwards;
then a broad dyke, across which hung the remains of a footbridge.
The voice came from the water, fainter now but still eager.
Julian hurried forward, fell on his knees by the side of the dyke
and, passing his hands under his friend's shoulders, dragged him
out of the black, sluggish water.
"My God!" he exclaimed. "What happened, Miles? Did you slip?"
"The bridge-gave way when I was half across," was the muttered
response. "I think my leg's broken. I fell in and couldn't get
clear - just managed to raise my head out of the water and cling
to the rail."
"Hold tight," Julian enjoined. "I'm going to drag you across the
road. It's the best I can do."
They reached the threshold of the sitting room.
"Sorry, old chap," faltered Furley - and fainted.
He came to himself in front of the sitting-room fire, to find his
lips wet with brandy and his rescuer leaning over him. His first
action was to feel his leg.
"That's all right," Julian assured him. "It isn't broken. I've
been over it carefully. If, you're quite comfortable, I'll step
down to the village and fetch the medico. It isn't a mile away."
"Don't bother about the doctor for a moment," Furley begged.
"Listen to me. Take your torch - go out and examine that bridge.
Come back and tell me what's wrong with it."
"What the dickens does that matter?" Julian objected. "It's the
doctor we want. The dyke's flooded, and I expect the supports
"Do as I ask," Furley insisted. "I have a reason."
Julian rose to his feet, walked cautiously to the edge of the
dyke, turned on his light, and looked downwards. One part of the
bridge remained; the other was caught in the weeds, a few yards
down, and the single plank which formed its foundation was sawn
through, clean and straight. He gazed at it for a moment in
astonishment. Then he turned back towards the cottage, to receive
another shock. About forty yards up the lane, drawn in close to a
straggling hedge, was a small motor-car, revealed to him by a
careless swing of his torch. He turned sharply towards it,
keeping his torch as much concealed as possible. It was empty - a
small coupe of pearl-grey - a powerful two-seater, with deep,
cushioned seats and luxuriously fitted body. He flashed his torch
on to the maker's name and returned thoughtfully to his friend.
"Miles," he confessed, as he entered the sitting room, "there are
some things I will never make fun of again. Have you a personal
"Not one," replied Furley. "The soldiers, who are all decent
fellows, the old farmer at the back, and your father and mother
are the only people with whom I have the slightest acquaintance in
"The bridge has been deliberately sawn through," Julian announced
Furley nodded. He seemed prepared for the news.
"There is something doing in this section, then," he muttered.
"Julian, will you take my job on?"
"Like a bird," was the prompt response. "Tell me exactly what to
Furley sat up, still nursing his leg.
"Put on your sea boots, and your oilskins over your clothes," he
directed. "You will want your own stick, so take that revolver
and an electric torch. You can't get across the remains of the
bridge, but about fifty yards down to the left, as you leave the
door, the water's only about a foot deep. Walk through it,
scramble up the other side, and come back again along the edge of
the dyke until you come to the place where one lands from the
broken bridge. Is that clear?"
"After that, you go perfectly straight along a sort of cart track
until you come to a gate. When you have passed through it, you
must climb a bank on your lefthand side and walk along the top.
It's a beastly path, and there are dykes on either side of you."
"Pooh!" Julian exclaimed. "You forget that I am a native of this
part of the world."
"You come to a sort of stile at the end of about three hundred
yards," Furley continued. "You get over that, and the bank breaks
up into two. You keep to the left, and it leads you right down
into the marsh. Turn seaward. It will be a nasty scramble, but
there will only be about fifty yards of it. Then you get to a bit
of rough ground - a bank of grass-grown sand. Below that there is
the shingle and the sea. That is where you take up your post."
"Can I use my torch," Julian enquired, "and what am I to look out
"Heaven knows," replied Furley, "except that there's a general
suggestion of communications between some person on land and some
person approaching from the sea. I don't mind confessing that
I've done this job, on and off, whenever I've been down here, for
a couple of years, and I've never seen or heard a suspicious thing
yet. We are never told a word in our instructions, either, or
given any advice. However, what I should do would be to lie flat
down on the top of that bank and listen. If you hear anything
peculiar, then you must use your discretion about the torch. It's
a nasty job to make over to a pal, Julian, but I know you're keen
on anything that looks like an adventure."
"All over it," was the ready reply. "What about leaving you
alone, though, Miles?"
"You put the whisky and soda where I can get at it," Furley
directed, "and I shall be all right. I'm feeling stronger every
moment. I expect your sea boots are in the scullery. And hurry
up, there's a good fellow. We're twenty minutes behind time, as
Julian started on his adventure without any particular enthusiasm.
He found the crossing, returned along the side of the bank,
trudged along the cart track until he arrived at the gate, and
climbed up on the dyke without misadventure. From here he made
his way more cautiously, using his stick with his right hand, his
torch, with his thumb upon the knob, in his left. The lull in the
storm seemed to be at an end. Black, low-hanging clouds were
closing in upon him. Away to the right, where the line of marshes
was unbroken, the boom of the wind grew louder. A gust very
nearly blew him down the bank. He was compelled to shelter for a
moment on its lee side, whilst a scud of snow and sleet passed
like an icy whirlwind. The roar of the sea was full in his ears
now, and though he must still have been fully two hundred yards
away from it, little ghostly specks of white spray were dashed,
every now and then, into his face. From here he made his way with
great care, almost crawling, until he came to the stile. In the
marshes he was twice in salt water over his knees, but he
scrambled out until he reached the grass-grown sand bank which
Furley had indicated. Obeying orders, he lay down and listened
intently for any fainter sounds mingled with the tumult of nature.
After a few minutes, it was astonishing how his eyes found
themselves able to penetrate the darkness which at first had
seemed like a black wall. Some distance to the right he could
make out the outline of a deserted barn, once used as a
coast-guard station and now only a depository for the storing of
life belts. In front of him he could trace the bank of shingle
and the line of the sea, and presently the outline of some dark
object, lying just out of reach of the breaking waves, attracted
his attention. He watched it steadily. For some time it was as
motionless as the log he presumed it to be. Then, without any
warning, it hunched itself up and drew a little farther back.
There was no longer any doubt. It was a human being, lying on its
stomach with its head turned to the sea.
Julian, who had entered upon his adventure with the supercilious
incredulity of a staunch unbeliever invited to a spiritualist's
seance, was conscious for a moment of an absolutely new sensation.
A person of acute psychological instincts, he found himself
analysing that sensation almost as soon as it was conceived.
"There is no doubt," he confessed under his breath, "that I am
His heart was beating with unaccustomed vigour; he was conscious
of an acute tingling in all his senses. Then, still lying on his
stomach, almost holding his breath, he saw the thin line of light
from an electric torch steal out along the surface of the sea,
obviously from the hand of his fellow watcher. Almost at that
same moment the undefined agitation which had assailed him passed.
He set his teeth and watched that line of light. It moved slowly
sideways along the surface of the sea, as though searching for
something. Julian drew himself cautiously, inch by inch, to the
extremity of the sand hummock. His brain was working with a new
clearness. An inspiration flashed in upon him during those few
seconds. He knew the geography of the place well, - the corner of
the barn, the steeple beyond, and the watcher lying in a direct
line. His cipher was explained!
Perfectly cool now, Julian thought with some regret of the
revolver which he had scorned to bring. He occupied himself,
during these seconds of watching, by considering with care what
his next action was to be. If he even set his foot upon the
shingle, the watcher below would take alarm, and if he once ran
away, pursuit was hopeless. The figure, so far as he could
distinguish it, was more like that of a boy than a man. Julian
began to calculate coolly the chances of an immediate
intervention. Then things happened, and for a moment he held his
The line of light had shot out once more, and this time it seemed
to reveal something, something which rose out of the water and
which looked like nothing so much as a long strip of zinc piping.
The watcher at the edge of the sea threw down his torch and
gripped the end of it, and Julian, carried away with excitement,
yielded to an instant and overpowering temptation. He flashed on
his own torch and watched while the eager figure seemed by some
means to unscrew the top of the coil and drew from it a dark,
rolled-up packet. Even at that supreme moment, the slim figure
upon the beach seemed to become conscious of the illumination of
which he was the centre. He swung round, - and that was just as
far as Julian Orden got in his adventure. After a lapse of time,
during which he seemed to live in a whirl of blackness, where a
thousand men were beating at a thousand anvils, filling the world
with sparks, with the sound of every one of their blows
reverberating in his ears, he opened his eyes to find himself
lying on his back, with one leg in a pool of salt water, which was
being dashed industriously into his face by an unseen hand. By
his side he was conscious of the presence of a thick-set man in a
fisherman's costume of brown oilskins and a southwester pulled
down as though to hide his features, obviously the man who had
dealt him the blow. Then he heard a very soft, quiet voice behind
"He will do now. Come."
The man by his side grunted.
"I am going to make sure of him," he said thickly. Again he heard
that clear voice from behind, this time a little raised. The
words failed to reach his brain, but the tone was one of cold and
angry dissent, followed by an imperative order. Then once more
his senses seemed to be leaving him. He passed into the world
which seemed to consist only of himself and a youth in fisherman's
oilskins, who was sometimes Furley, sometimes his own sister,
sometimes the figure of a person who for the last twenty-four
hours had been continually in his thoughts, who seemed at one
moment to be sympathising with him and at another to be playing
upon his face with a garden hose. Then it all faded away, and a
sort of numbness crept over him. He made a desperate struggle for
consciousness. There was something cold resting against his
cheek. His fingers stole towards it. It was the flask, drawn
from his own pocket and placed there by some unseen hand, the top
already unscrewed, and the reviving odour stealing into his
nostrils. He guided it to his lips with trembling fingers. A
pleasant sense of warmth crept over him. His head fell back.
When he opened his eyes again, he first turned around for the tea
by his bedside, then stared in front of him, wondering if these
things which he saw were indeed displayed through an upraised
blind. There was the marsh - a picture of still life - winding
belts of sea creeping, serpent-like, away from him towards the
land, with broad pools, in whose bosom, here and there, were
flashes of a feeble sunlight.. There were the clumps of wild
lavender he had so often admired, the patches of deep meadow
green, and, beating the air with their wings as they passed, came
a flight of duck over his head. Very stiff and dazed, he
staggered to his feet. There was the village to his right,
red-tiled, familiar; the snug farmhouses, with their brown fields
and belts of trees; the curve of the white road.
And then, with a single flash of memory, it all came back to him.
He felt the top of his head, still sore; looked down at the
stretch of shingle, empty now of any reminiscences; and finally,
leaning heavily on his stick, he plodded back to the cottage,
noticing, as he drew near, the absence of the motor-car from its
place of shelter. Miles Furley was seated in his armchair, with a
cup of tea in his hand and Mrs. West fussing over him, as Julian
raised the latch and dragged himself into the sitting room. They
both turned around at his entrance. Furley dropped his teaspoon
and Mrs. West raised her hands above her head and shrieked.
Julian sank into the nearest chair.
"Melodrama has come to me at last," he murmured. "Give me some
tea - a whole teapotful, Mrs. West - and get a hot bath ready."
He waited until their temporary housekeeper had bustled out of the
room. Then he concluded his sentence.
"I have been sandbagged," he announced impressively, and proceeded
to relate the night's adventure to his host.
"This," declared Julian, about a couple of hours later, as he
helped himself for the second time to bacon and eggs, "is a
wonderful tribute to the soundness of our constitutions. Miles,
it is evident that you and I have led righteous lives."
"Being sandbagged seems to have given you an appetite," Furley
"And a game leg seems to have done the same for you," Julian
rejoined. "Did the doctor ask you how you did it?"
"I just said that I slipped on the marshes. One doesn't talk of
such little adventures as you and I experienced last night."
"By the bye, what does one do about them?" Julian enquired. "I
feel a little dazed about it all, even now living in an unreal
atmosphere and that sort of thing, you know. It seems to me that
we ought to have out the bloodhounds and search for an engaging
youth and a particularly disagreeable bully of a man, both dressed
in brown oilskins and - "
"Oh, chuck it!" Furley intervened. "The intelligence department
in charge of this bit of coast doesn't do things like that. What
you want to remember, Julian, is to keep your mouth shut. I shall
have a chap over to see me this afternoon, and I shall make a
report to him."
"All the same," persisted Julian, "we - or rather I - was without
a doubt a witness to an act of treason. By some subtle means
connected with what seemed to be a piece of gas pipe, I have seen
communication with the enemy established."
"You don't know that it was the enemy at all," Furley grunted.
"For us others," Julian replied, "there exists the post office,
the telegraph office and the telephone. I decline to believe that
any reasonable person would put out upon the sea in weather like
last night's for the sake of delivering a letter to any harmless
inhabitant of these regions. I will have my sensation, you see,
Furley. I have suffered - thank heavens mine is a thick skull! -
and I will not be cheated of my compensations."
"Well, keep your mouth shut, there's a good fellow, until after I
have made my report to the Intelligence Officer," Furley begged.
"He'll he here about four. You don't mind being about?"
"Not in the least," Julian promised. "So long as I am home for
dinner, my people will be satisfied."
"I don't know how you'll amuse yourself this morning," Furley
observed, "and I'm afraid I shan't be able to get out for the
flighting this evening."
"Don't worry about me," Julian begged. "Remember that I am
practically at home it's only three miles to the Hall from here so
you mustn't look upon me as an ordinary guest. I am going for a
tramp in a few minutes."
"Lucky chap!" Furley declared enviously. "Sunshine like this
makes one feel as though one were on the Riviera instead of in
Norfolk. Shall you visit the scene of your adventure?"
"I may," Julian answered thoughtfully. "The instinct of the
sleuthhound is beginning to stir in me. There is no telling how
far it may lead."
Julian started on his tramp about half an hour later. He paused
first at a bend in the road, about fifty yards down, and stepped
up close to the hedge.
"The instinct of the sleuthhound," he said to himself, "is all
very well, but why on earth haven't I told Furley about the car?"
He paused to consider the matter, conscious only of the fact that
each time he had opened his lips to mention it, he had felt a
marked but purposeless disinclination to do so. He consoled
himself now with the reflection that the information would be more
or less valueless until the afternoon, and he forthwith proceeded
upon the investigation which he had planned out.
The road was still muddy, and the track of the tyres, which were
of somewhat peculiar pattern, clearly visible. He followed it
along the road for a matter of a mile and a half. Then he came to
a standstill before a plain oak gate and was conscious of a
distinct shock. On the top bar of the gate was painted in white
and it needed only the most cursory examination to establish the
fact that the car whose track he had been following had turned in
here. He held up his hand and stopped a luggage trolley which had
just turned the bend in the avenue. The man pulled up and touched
"Where are you off to, Fellowes?" Julian enquired.
"I am going to Holt station, sir," the man replied, "after some
"Are there any guests at the Hall who motored here, do you know?"
"Only the young lady, sir," the man replied, "Miss Abbeway. She
came in a little coupe Panhard."
Julian frowned thoughtfully.
"Has she been out in it this morning?" he asked.
The man shook his head.
"She broke down in it yesterday afternoon, sir," he answered,
"about halfway up to the Hall here."
"Broke down?" Julian repeated. "Anything serious? Couldn't you
put it right for her?"
"She wouldn't let me touch it, sir," the man explained. "She said
she had two cracked sparking plugs, and she wanted to replace them
herself. She has had some lessons, and I think she wanted a bit
"I see. Then the car is in the avenue now?"
"About half a mile up, on the left-hand side, sir, just by the big
elm. Miss Abbeway said she was coming down this afternoon to put
new plugs in."
"Then it's been there all the time since yesterday afternoon?"
"The young lady wished it left there, sir. I could have put a
couple of plugs in, in five minutes, and brought her up to the
house, but she wouldn't hear of it."
"I see, Fellowes."
"Any luck with the geese last night, sir?" the man asked. "I
heard there was a pack of them on Stiffkey Marshes."
"I got one. They came badly for us," Julian replied.
He made his way up the avenue. At exactly the spot indicated by
the chauffeur a little coupe car was standing, drawn on to the
turf. He glanced at the name of the maker and looked once more at
the tracks upon the drive. Finally, he decided that his
investigations were leading him in a most undesirable direction.
He turned back, walked across the marshes, where he found nothing
to disturb him, and lunched with Purley, whose leg was now so much
better that he was able to put it to the ground.
"What about this visitor of yours?" Julian asked, as they sat
smoking afterwards. "I must be back at the Hall in time to dine
to-night, you know. My people made rather a point of it."
"You'll be all right," he replied. "As a matter of fact, he isn't
"Not coming?" Julian repeated. "Jove, I should have thought you'd
have had intelligence officers by the dozen down here!"
"For some reason or other," Furley confided, "the affair has been
handed over to the military authorities. I have had a man down to
see me this morning, and he has taken full particulars. I don't
know that they'll even worry you at all - until later on, at any
"Jove, that seems queer!"
"Last night's happening was queer, for that matter," Furley
continued. "Their only chance, I suppose, of getting to the
bottom of it is to lie doggo as far as possible. It isn't like a
police affair, you see. They don't want witnesses and a court of
justice. One man's word and a rifle barrel does the trick."
"I suppose," he observed, "that if I do my duty as a loyal
subject, I shall drop the curtain on last night. Seems a pity to
have had an adventure like that and not be able to open one's
mouth about it."
"You don't want to join the noble army of gas bags," he said.
"Much better make up your mind that it was a dream."
"There are times," Julian confided, "when I am not quite sure that
Julian entered the drawing-room at Maltenby Hall a few minutes
before dinner time that evening. His mother, who was alone and,
for a wonder, resting, held out her hand for him to kiss and
welcomed him with a charming smile. Notwithstanding her grey
hair, she was still a remarkably young-looking woman, with a great
reputation as a hostess.
"My dear Julian," she exclaimed, "you look like a ghost! Don't
tell me that you had to sit up all night to shoot those wretched
Julian drew a chair to his mother's side and seated himself with a
little air of relief.
"Never have I been more conscious of the inroads of age," he
confided. "I can remember when, ten or fifteen years ago, I used
to steal out of the house in the darkness and bicycle down to the
marsh with a twenty-bore gun, on the chance of an odd shot."
"And I suppose," his mother went on, "after spending half the
night wading about in the salt water, you spent the other half
talking to that terrible Mr. Furley."
"Quite right. We got cold and wet through in the evening; we sat
up talking till the small hours; we got cold and wet again this
morning-and here I am."
"A converted sportsman," his mother observed. "I wish you could
convert your friend, Mr. Furley. There's a perfectly terrible
article of his in the National this month. I can't understand a
word of it, but it reads like sheer anarchy."
"So long as the world exists," Julian remarked, "there must be
Socialists, and Furley is at least honest."
"My dear Julian," his mother protested, "how can a Socialist be
honest! Their attitude with regard to the war, too, is simply
disgraceful. I am sure that in any other country that man Fenn,
for instance, would be shot."
"What about your house party?" Julian enquired, with bland
"All arrived. I suppose they'll be down directly. Mr. Hannaway
Wells is here."
"Good old Wells!" Julian murmured. "How does he look since he
became a Cabinet Minister?"
"Portentous," Lady Maltenby replied; with a smile. "He doesn't
look as though he would ever unbend. Then the Shervintons are
here, and the Princess Torski - your friend Miss Abbeway's aunt."
"The Princess Torski?" Julian repeated. "Who on earth is she?"
"She was English," his mother explained, "a cousin of the
Abbeways. She married in Russia and is on her way now to France
to meet her husband, who is in command of a Russian battalion
there. She seems quite a pleasant person, but not in the least
like her niece."
"Miss Abbeway is still here, of course?"
"Naturally. I asked her for a week, and I think she means to
stay. We talked for an hour after tea this afternoon, and I found
her most interesting. She has been living in England for years,
it seems, down in Chelsea, studying sculpture."
"She is a remarkably clever young woman," Julian said
thoughtfully, "but a little incomprehensible. If the Princess
Torski is her aunt, who were her parents?"
"Her father," the Countess replied, "was Colonel Richard Abbeway,
who seems to have been military attache at St. Petersburg, years
ago. He married a sister of the Princess Torski's husband, and
from her this young woman inherited a title which she won't use
and a large fortune. Colonel Abbeway was killed accidentally in
the Russo-Japanese War, and her mother died a few years ago."
"No German blood, or anything of that sort, then?"
"My dear boy, what an idea!" his mother exclaimed reprovingly.
"On the contrary, the Torskis are one of the most aristocratic
families in Russia, and you know what the Abbeways are. The girl
is excellently bred, and I think her charming in every way.
Whatever made you suggest that she might have German blood in
"No idea! Anyhow, I am glad she hasn't. Who else?"
"The Bishop," his mother continued, "looking very tired, poor
dear! Doctor George Lennard, from Oxford, two young soldiers from
Norwich, whom Charlie asked us to be civil to - and the great man
"Tell me about the great man? I don't think I've seen him to
speak to since he became Prime Minister."
"He declares that this is his first holiday this year. He is
looking rather tired, but he has had an hour's shooting since he
arrived, and seemed to enjoy it. Here's your father."
The Earl of Maltenby, who entered a moment later, was depressingly
typical. He was as tall as his youngest son, with whom be shook
hands absently and whom he resembled in no other way. He had the
conventionally aristocratic features, thin lips and steely blue
eyes. He was apparently a little annoyed.
"Anything wrong, dear?" Lady Maltenby asked.
Her husband took up his position on the hearthrug.
"I am annoyed with Stenson," he declared.
The Countess shook her head.
"It's too bad of you, Henry," she expostulated. "You've been
trying to talk politics with him. You know that the poor man was
only longing for forty-eight hours during which he could forget
that he was Prime Minister of England."
"Precisely, my dear," Lord Maltenby agreed. "I can assure you
that I have not transgressed in any way. A remark escaped me
referring to the impossibility of providing beaters, nowadays, and
to the fact that out of my seven keepers, five are fighting. I
consider Mr. Stenson's comment was most improper, coming from one
to whom the destinies of this country are confided."
"What did he say?" the Countess asked meekly.
"Something about wondering whether any man would be allowed to
have seven keepers after the war," her husband replied, with an
angry light in his eyes. "If a man like Stenson is going to
encourage these socialistic ideas. I beg your pardon - the
Bishop, my dear."
The remaining guests drifted in within the next few moments, - the
Bishop, Julian's godfather, a curious blend of the fashionable and
the devout, the anchorite and the man of the people; Lord and Lady
Shervinton, elderly connections of the nondescript variety; Mr.
Hannaway Wells, reserved yet, urbane, a wonderful type of the
supreme success of mediocrity; a couple of young soldiers,
light-hearted and out for a good time, of whom Julian took charge;
an Oxford don, who had once been Lord Maltenby's tutor; and last
of all the homely, very pleasant-looking, middle-aged lady,
Princess Torski, followed by her niece. There were a few
introductions still to be effected.
Whilst Lady Maltenby was engaged in this task, which she performed
at all times with the unfailing tact of a great hostess, Julian
broke off in his conversation with the two soldiers and looked
steadfastly across the room at Catherine Abbeway, as though
anxious to revise or complete his earlier impressions of her. She
was of medium height, not unreasonably slim, with a deliberate but
noticeably graceful carriage. Her complexion was inclined to be
pale. She had large, soft brown eyes, and hair of an unusual
shade of chestnut brown, arranged with remarkably effective
simplicity. She wore a long string of green beads around her
neck, a black tulle gown without any relief of colour, but a
little daring in its cut. Her voice and laugh, as she stood
talking to the Bishop, were delightful, and neither her gestures
nor her accent betrayed the slightest trace of foreign blood. She
was, without a doubt, extraordinarily attractive, gracious almost
to freedom in her manner, and yet with that peculiar quality of
aloofness only recognisable in the elect, - a very appreciable
charm. Julian found his undoubted admiration only increased by
his closer scrutiny. Nevertheless, as he watched her, there was a
slightly puzzled frown upon his forehead, a sense of something
like bewilderment mingled with those other feelings. His mother,
who had turned to speak to the object of his attentions, beckoned
him, and he crossed the room at once to their side.
"Julian is going to take you in to dinner, Miss Abbeway," the
Countess announced, "and I hope you will be kind to him, for he's
been out all night and a good part of the morning, too, shooting
ducks and talking nonsense with a terrible Socialist."
Lady Maltenby passed on. Julian, leaning on his stick, looked
down with a new interest into the face which had seldom been out
of his thoughts since their first meeting, a few weeks ago.
"Tell me, Mr. Orden," she asked, "which did you find the more
exhausting - tramping the marshes for sport, or discussing
sociology with your friend?"
"As a matter of fact," he replied, "we didn't tramp the marshes.
We stood still and got uncommonly wet. And I shot a goose, which
made me very happy."
"Then it must have been the conversation," she declared. "Is your
friend a prophet or only one of the multitude?"
"A prophet, most decidedly. He is a Mr. Miles Furley, of whom you
must have heard."
She started a little.
"Miles Furley!" she repeated. "I had no idea that he lived in
this part of the world."
"He has a small country house somewhere in Norfolk," Julian told
her, "and he takes a cottage down here at odd times for the
"Will you take me to see him to-morrow?" she asked.
"With pleasure, so long as you promise not to talk socialism with
"I will promise that readily, out of consideration to my escort.
I wonder how it is," she went on, looking up at him a little
thoughtfully, "that you dislike serious subjects so much."
"A frivolous turn of mind, I suppose," he replied. "I certainly
prefer to talk art with you."
"But nowadays," she protested, "it is altogether the fashion down
at Chelsea to discard art and talk politics."
"It's a fashion I shouldn't follow," he advised. "I should stick
to art, if I were you."
"Well, that depends upon how you define politics, of course. I
don't mean Party politics. I mean the science of living, as a
whole, not as a unit."
The Princess ambled up to them.
"I don't know what your political views are, Mr. Orden," she said,
"but you must look out for shocks if you discuss social questions
with my niece. In the old days they would never have allowed her
to live in Russia. Even now, I consider some of her doctrines the
most pernicious I ever heard."
"Isn't that terrible from an affectionate aunt!"
Catherine laughed, as the Princess passed on. "Tell me some more
about your adventures last night?"
She looked up into his face, and Julian was suddenly conscious
from whence had come that faint sense of mysterious trouble which
had been with him during the last few minutes. The slight quiver
of her lips brought it all back to him. Her mouth, beyond a
doubt, with its half tender, half mocking curve, was the mouth
which he had seen in that tangled dream of his, when he had lain
fighting for consciousness upon the marshes.
Julian, absorbed for the first few minutes of dinner by the
crystallisation of this new idea which had now taken a definite
place in his brain, found his conversational powers somewhat at a
discount. Catherine very soon, however, asserted her claim upon
"Please do your duty and tell me about things," she begged.
"Remember that I am Cinderella from Bohemia, and I scarcely know a
"Well, there aren't many to find out about, are there?" he
replied. "Of course you know Stenson?"
"I have been gazing at him with dilated eyes," she confided. "Is
that not the proper thing to do? He seems to me very ordinary and
"Well, then, there is the Bishop."
"I knew him at once from his photographs. He must spend the whole
of the time when he isn't in church visiting the photographer.
However, I like him. He is talking to my aunt quite amiably.
Nothing does aunt so much good as to sit next a bishop."
"The Shervintons you know all about, don't you?" he went on. "The
soldiers are just young men from the Norwich barracks, Doctor
Lennard was my father's tutor at Oxford, and Mr. Hannaway Wells is
our latest Cabinet Minister."
"He still has the novice's smirk," she remarked. "A moment ago I
heard him tell his neighbour that he preferred not to discuss the
war. He probably thinks that there is a spy under the table."
"Well, there we are - such as we are," Julian concluded. "There
is no one left except me."
"Then tell me all about yourself," she suggested. "Really, when I
come to think of it, considering the length of our conversations,
you have been remarkably reticent. You are the youngest of the
family, are you not? How many brothers are there?"
"There were four," he told her. "Henry was killed at Ypres last
year. Guy is out there still. Richard is a Brigadier."
"I am ~ a barrister by profession, but I went out with the first
Inns of Court lot for a little amateur soldiering and lost part of
my foot at Mons. Since then I have been indulging in the
unremunerative and highly monotonous occupation of censoring."
"Monotonous indeed, I should imagine," she agreed. "You spend
your time reading other people's letters, do you not, just to be
sure that there are no communications from the enemy?"
"Precisely," he assented. "We discover ciphers and all sorts of
"What brainy people you must be!"
"We are, most of us."
"Do you do anything else?"
"Well, I've given up censoring for the present," he confided. "I
am going back to my profession."
"As a barrister?"
"Just so. I might add that I do a little hack journalism."
"How modest!" she murmured. "I suppose you write the leading
articles for the Times!"
"For a very young lady," Julian observed impressively, "you have
marvellous insight. How did you guess my secret?"
"I am better at guessing secrets than you are," she retorted a
He was silent for some moments. The faint curve of her lips had
again given him almost a shock.
"Have you a brother?" he asked abruptly.
"Because I met some one quite lately - within the last few hours,
as a matter of fact - with a mouth exactly like yours."
"But what a horrible thing!" she exclaimed, drawing out a little
mirror from the bag by her side and gazing into it. "How
unpleasant to have any one else going about with a mouth exactly
like one's own! No, I never had a brother, Mr. Orden, or a
sister, and, as you may have heard, I am an enfant mechante. I
live in London, I model very well, and I talk very bad sociology.
As I think I told you, I know your anarchist friend, Miles
"I shouldn't call Furley an anarchist," protested Julian.
"Well, he is a Socialist. I admit that we are rather lax in our
definitions. You see, there is just one subject, of late years,
which has brought together the Socialists and the Labour men, the
Syndicalists and the Communists, the Nationalists and the
Internationalists. All those who work for freedom are learning
breadth. If they ever find a leader, I think that this dear, smug
country of yours may have to face the greatest surprise of its
Julian looked at her curiously.
"You have ideas, Miss Abbeway."
"So unusual in a woman!" she mocked. "Do you notice how every one
is trying to avoid the subject of the war? I give them another
half-course, don't you? I am sure they cannot keep it up."
"They won't go the distance," Julian whispered. "Listen."
"The question to be considered," Lord Shervinton pronounced, "is
not so much when the war will be over as what there is to stop it?
That is a point which I think we can discuss without inviting
"If other means fail," declared the Bishop, "Christianity will
stop it. The conscience of the world is already being stirred."
"Our enemies," the Earl pronounced confidently from his place at
the head of the table, "are already a broken race. They are on
the point of exhaustion. Austria is, if possible, in a worse
plight. That is what will end the war - the exhaustion of our
"The deciding factor," Mr. Hannaway Wells put in, with a very
non-committal air, "will probably be America. She will bring her
full strength into the struggle just at the crucial moment. She
will probably do what we farther north have as yet failed to do:
she will pierce the line and place the German armies in Flanders
The Cabinet Minister's views were popular. There was a little
murmur of approval, something which sounded almost like a purr of
content. It was just one more expression of that strangely
discreditable yet almost universal failing, - the over-reliance
upon others. The quiet remark of the man who suddenly saw fit to
join in the discussion struck a chilling and a disturbing note.
"There is one thing which could end the war at any moment," Mr.
Stenson said, leaning a little forward, "and that is the will of
There was perplexity as well as discomfiture in the minds of his
"The people?" Lord Shervinton repeated. "But surely the people
speak through the mouths of their rulers?"
"They have been content to, up to the present," the Prime Minister
agreed, "but Europe may still see strange and dramatic events
before many years are out."
"Do go on, please," the Countess begged.
Mr. Stenson shook his head.
"Even as a private individual I have said more than I intended,"
he replied. "I have only one thing to say about the war in
public, and that is that we are winning, that we must win, that
our national existence depends upon winning, and that we shall go
on until we do win. The obstacles between us and victory, which
may remain in our minds, are not to be spoken of."
There was a brief and somewhat uncomfortable pause. It was
understood that the subject was to be abandoned. Julian addressed
a question to the Bishop across the table. Lord Maltenby
consulted Doctor Lennard as to the date of the first Punic War.
Mr. Stenson admired the flowers. Catherine, who had been sitting
with her eyes riveted upon the Prime Minister, turned to her
"Tell me about your amateur journalism, Mr. Orden?" she begged.
"I have an idea that it ought to be interesting."
"Deadly dull, I can assure you."
"You write about politics? Or perhaps you are an art critic? I
ought to be on my best behaviour, in case."
"I know little about art," he assured her. "My chief interest in
life - outside my profession, of course - lies in sociology."
His little confession had been impulsive. She raised her
"You are in earnest, I believe!" she exclaimed. "Have I really
found an Englishman who is in earnest?"
"I plead guilty. It is incorrect philosophy but a distinct
stimulus to life."
"What a pity," she sighed, "that you are so handicapped by birth!
Sociology cannot mean anything very serious for you. Your
perspective is naturally distorted."
"What about yourself?" he asked pertinently.
"The vanity of us women!" she murmured. "I have grown to look
upon myself as being an exception. I forget that there might be
others. You might even be one of our prophets - a Paul Fiske in
His eyes narrowed a little as he looked at her closely. From
across the table, the Bishop broke off an interesting discussion
on the subject of his addresses to the working classes, and the
Earl set down his wineglass with an impatient gesture.
"Does no one really know," Mr. Stenson asked, "who Paul Fiske is?"
"No one, sir," Mr. Hannaway Wells replied. "I thought it wise, a
short time ago, to set on foot the most searching enquiries, but
they were absolutely fruitless."
The Bishop coughed.
"I must plead guilty," he confessed, "to having visited the
offices of The Monthly Review with the same object. I left a note
for him there, in charge of the editor, inviting him to a
conference at my house. I received no reply. His anonymity seems
to be impregnable."
"Whoever he may be," the Earl declared, "he ought to be muzzled.
He is a traitor to his country."
"I cannot agree with you, Lord Maltenby," the Bishop said firmly.
"The very danger of the man's doctrines lies in their clarity of
thought, their extraordinary proximity to the fundamental truths
"The man is, at any rate," Doctor Lennard interposed, "the most
brilliant anonymous writer since the days of Swift and the letters
Mr. Stenson for a moment hesitated. He seemed uncertain whether
or no to join in the conversation. Finally, impulse swayed him.
"Let us all be thankful," he said, "that Paul Fiske is content
with the written word. If the democracy of England found
themselves to-day with such a leader, it is he who would be ruling
the country, and not I."
"The man is a pacifist!" the Earl protested.
"So we all are," the Bishop declared warmly. "We are all
pacifists in the sense that we are lovers of peace. There is not
one of us who does not deplore the horrors of to-day. There is
not one of us who is not passionately seeking for the master mind
which can lead us out of it."
"There is only one way out," the Earl insisted, "and that is to
beat the enemy."
"It is the only obvious way," Julian intervened, joining in the
conversation for the first time, "but meanwhile, with every tick
of the clock a fellow creature dies."
"It is a question," Mr. Hannaway Wells reflected, "whether the
present generation is not inclined to be mawkish with regard to
human life. History has shown us the marvellous benefits which
have accrued to the greatest nations through the lessening of
population by means of warfare."
"History has also shown us," Doctor Lennard observed, "that the
last resource of force is force. No brain has ever yet devised a
logical scheme for international arbitration."
"Human nature, I am afraid, has changed extraordinarily little
since the days of the Philistines," the Bishop confessed.
Julian turned to his companion.
"Well, they've all settled it amongst themselves, haven't they?"
he murmured. "Here you may sit and listen to what may be called
the modern voice."
"Yet there is one thing wanting," she whispered. "What do you
suppose, if he were here at this moment, Paul Fiske would say? Do
you think that he would be content to listen to these brazen
voices and accept their verdict?"
"Without irreverence," Julian answered, "or comparison, would
"With the same proviso," she retorted, "I might reply that Jesus
Christ, from all we know of him, might reign wonderfully in the
Kingdom of Heaven, but be certainly wouldn't be able to keep
together a Cabinet in Downing Street! Still, I am beginning to
believe in your sincerity. Do you think that Paul Fiske is
"I believe," Julian replied, "that he sees the truth and struggles
to express it."
The women were leaving the table. She leaned towards him.
"Please do not be long," she whispered. "You must admit that I
have been an admirable dinner companion. I have talked to you all
the time on your own subject. You must come and talk to me
presently about art."
Julian, with his hand on the back of his chair, watched the women
pass out of the soft halo of the electric lights into the gloomier
shadows of the high, vaulted room, Catherine a little slimmer than
most of the others, and with a strange grace of slow movement
which must have come to her from some Russian ancestor. Her last
words lingered in his mind. He was to talk to her about art! A
fleeting vision of the youth in the yellow oilskins mocked him.
He remembered his morning's tramp and the broken-down motor-car
under the trees. The significance of these things was beginning
to take shape in his mind. He resumed his seat, a little dazed.
Maltenby was one of those old-fashioned houses where the port is
served as a lay sacrament and the call of the drawing-room is
responded to tardily. After the departure of the women, Doctor
Lennard drew his chair up to Julian's.
"An interesting face, your dinner companion's," he remarked.
"They tell me that she is a very brilliant young lady."
"She certainly has gifts," acknowledged Julian.
"I watched her whilst she was talking to you," the Oxford don
continued. "She is one of those rare young women whose undoubted
beauty is put into the background by their general attractiveness.
Lady Maltenby was telling me fragments of her history. It appears
that she is thinking of giving up her artistic career for some
sort of sociological work."
"It is curious," Julian reflected, "how the cause of the people
has always appealed to gifted Russians. England, for instance,
produces no real democrats of genius. Russia seems to claim a
monopoly of them."
"There is nothing so stimulating as a sense of injustice for
bringing the best out of a man or woman," Doctor Lennard pointed
out. "Russia, of course, for many years has been shamefully
The conversation, owing to the intervention of other of the
guests, became general and platitudinal. Soon after, Mr. Stenson
rose and excused himself. His secretary; who had been at the
telephone, desired a short conference. There was a brief silence
after his departure.
"Stenson," the Oxonian observed, "is beginning to show signs of
"Why not?" Lord Shervinton pointed out. "He came into office full
of the most wonderful enthusiasm. His speeches rang through the
world like a clarion note. He converted waverers. He lit fires
which still burn. But he is a man of movement. This present
stagnation is terribly irksome to him. I heard him speak last
week, and I was disappointed. He seems to have lost his
inspiration. What he needs is a stimulus of some sort, even of
"I wonder," the Bishop reflected, "if he is really afraid of the
"I consider his remark concerning them most ill-advised," Lord
Maltenby declared pompously.
"I know the people," the Bishop continued, "and I love them. I
think, too, that they trust me. Yet I am not sure that I cannot
see a glimmering of what is at the back of Stenson's mind. There
are a good many millions in the country who honestly believe that
war is primarily an affair of the politicians; who believe, too,
that victory means a great deal more to what they term `the upper
classes' than it does to them. Yet, in every sense of the word,
they are bearing an equal portion of the fight, because, when it
comes down to human life, the life of the farm labourer's son is
of the same intrinsic value as the life of the peer's."
Lord Maltenby moved a little in his chair. There was a slight
frown upon his aristocratic forehead. He disagreed entirely with
the speaker, with whom he feared, however, to cross swords. Mr.
Hannaway Wells, who had been waiting for his opportunity, took
charge of the conversation. He spoke in a reserved manner, his
fingers playing with the stem of his wineglass.
"I must confess," he said, "that I feel the deepest interest in
what the Bishop has just said. I could not talk to you about the
military situation, even if I knew more than you do, which is not
the case, but I think it is clear that we have reached something
like a temporary impasse. There certainly seems to be no cause
for alarm upon any front, yet, not only in London, but in Paris
and even Rome, there is a curious uneasiness afoot, for which no
one can, account which no one can bring home to any definite
cause. In the same connection, we have confidential information
that a new spirit of hopefulness is abroad in Germany. It has
been reported to us that sober, clear-thinking men - and there are
a few of them, even in Germany - have predicted peace before a
month is out."
"The assumption is," Doctor Lennard interpolated, "that Germany
has something up her sleeve."
"That is not only the assumption," the Cabinet Minister replied,
"but it is also, I believe, the truth."
"One could apprehend and fear a great possible danger," Lord
Shervinton observed, "if the Labour Party in Germany were as
strong as ours, or if our own Labour, Party were entirely united.
The present conditions, however, seem to me to give no cause for
"That is where I think you are wrong," Hannaway Wells declared.
"If the Labour Party in Germany were as strong as ours, they would
be strong enough to overthrow the Hohenzollern clique, to stamp
out the militarism against which we are at war, to lay the
foundations of a great German republic with whom we could make the
sort of peace for which every Englishman hopes. The danger, the
real danger which we have to face, would lie in an amalgamation of
the Labour Party, the Socialists and the Syndicalists in this
country, and in their insisting upon treating with the weak Labour
Party in Germany."
"I agree with the Bishop," Julian pronounced. "The unclassified
democracy of our country may believe itself hardly treated, but
individually it is intensely patriotic. I do not believe that its
leaders would force the hand of the country towards peace, unless
they received full assurance that their confreres in Germany were
able to assume a dominant place in the government of that country
- a place at least equal to the influence of the democracy here."
Doctor Lennard glanced at the speaker a little curiously. He had
known Julian since he was a boy but had never regarded him as
anything but a dilettante.
"You may not know it," he said, "but you are practically
expounding the views of that extraordinary writer of whom we were
speaking - Paul Fiske."
"I have been told," the Bishop remarked, cracking a walnut, "that
Paul Fiske is the pseudonym of a Cabinet Minister."
"And I," Hannaway Wells retorted, "have been informed most
credibly that he is a Church of England clergyman."
"The last rumour I heard," Lord Shervinton put in, "was that he is
a grocer in a small way of business at Wigan."
"Dear, me!" Doctor Lennard remarked. "The gossips have covered
enough ground! A man at a Bohemian club of which I am a member -
the Savage Club, in fact - assured me that he was an opium drugged
journalist, kept alive by the charity of a few friends; a human
wreck, who was once the editor of an important London paper."
"You have some slight connection with journalism, have you not,
Julian?" the Earl asked his son condescendingly. "Have you heard
"Many," Julian replied, "but none which I have been disposed to
credit. I should imagine, myself, that Paul Fiske is a man who
believes, having created a public, that his written words find an
added value from the fact that he obviously desires neither reward
nor recognition; just in the same way as the really earnest
democrats of twenty years ago scoffed at the idea of a seat in
Parliament, or of breaking bread in anyway with the enemy."
"It was a fine spirit, that," the Bishop declared. "I am not sure
that we are not all of us a little over-inclined towards
compromises. The sapping away of conscience is so easy."
The dining-room door was thrown open, and the butler announced a
"Colonel Henderson, your lordship."
They all turned around in their places. The colonel, a fine,
military-looking figure of a man, shook hands with Lord Maltenby.
"My most profound apologies, sir," he said, as he accepted a
chair. "The Countess was kind enough to say that if I were not
able to get away in time for dinner, I might come up afterwards."
"You are sure that you have dined?"
"I had something at Mess, thank you."
"A glass of port, then?"
The Colonel helped himself from the decanter which was passed
towards him and exchanged greetings with several of the guests to
whom his host introduced him.
"No raids or invasions, I hope, Colonel?" the latter asked.
"Nothing quite so serious as that, I am glad to say. We have had
a little excitement of another sort, though. One of my men caught
a spy this morning."
Every one was interested. Even after three years of war, there
was still something fascinating about the word.
"Dear me!" Lord Maltenby exclaimed. "I should scarcely have
considered our out-of-the-way part of the world sufficiently
important to attract attentions of that sort."
"It was a matter of communication," the Colonel confided. "There
was an enemy submarine off here last night, and we have reason to
believe that a message was landed. We caught one fellow just at
"What did you do with him?" the Bishop asked.
"We shot him an hour ago," was the cool reply.
"Are there any others at large?" Julian enquired, leaning forward.
"One other," the Colonel acknowledged, sipping his wine
appreciatively. "My military police here, however, are very
intelligent, and I should think it very doubtful whether he can
"Was the man who was shot a foreigner?" the Earl asked. "I trust
that he was not one of my tenants?"
"He was a stranger," was the prompt assurance.
"And his companion?" Julian ventured.
"His companion is believed to have been quite a youth. There is a
suggestion that he escaped in a motor-car, but he is probably
hiding in the neighbourhood."
Lord Maltenby frowned. There seemed to him something incongruous
in the fact that a deed of this sort should have been committed in
his domain without his knowledge. He rose to his feet.
"The Countess is probably relying upon some of us for bridge," he
said. "I hope, Colonel, that you will take a hand."
The men rose and filed slowly out of the room. The Colonel,
however, detained his host, and Julian also lingered.
"I hope, Lord Maltenby," the former said, "that you will excuse my
men, but they tell me that they find it necessary to search your
garage for a car which has been seen in the neighbourhood."
"Search my garage?" Lord Maltenby repeated, frowning.
"There is no doubt," the Colonel explained, "that a car was made
use of last night by the man who is still at large, and it is very
possible that it was stolen. You will understand, I am sure, that
any enquiries which my men may feel it their duty to make are
actuated entirely by military necessity."
"Quite so," the Earl acceded, still a little puzzled. "You will
find my head chauffeur a most responsible man. He will, I am
sure, give them every possible information. So far as I am aware,
however, there is no strange car in the garage. Do you know of
"Only Miss Abbeway's," his son replied. "Her little Panhard was
out in the avenue all night, waiting for her to put some plugs in.
Every one else seems to have come by train."
The Colonel raised his eyebrows very slightly and moved slowly
towards the door.
"The matter is in the hands of my police," he said, "but if you
could excuse me for half a moment, Lord Maltenby, I should like to
speak to your head chauffeur."
"By all means," the Earl replied. "I will take you round to the
Julian entered the drawing-room hurriedly a few minutes later. He
glanced around quickly, conscious of a distinct feeling of
disappointment. His mother, who was arranging a bridge table,
called him over to her side.
"You have the air, my dear boy, of missing some one," she remarked
with a smile.
"I want particularly to speak to Miss Abbeway," he confided.
Lady Maltenby smiled tolerantly.
"After nearly two hours of conversation at dinner! Well, I won't
keep you in suspense. She wanted a quiet place to write some
letters, so I sent her into the boudoir."
Julian hastened off, with a word of thanks. The boudoir was a
small room opening from the suite which had been given to the
Princess and her niece a quaint, almost circular apartment, hung
with faded blue Chinese silk and furnished with fragments of the
Louis Seize period, - a rosewood cabinet, in particular, which had
come from Versailles, and which was always associated in Julian's
mind with the faint fragrance of two Sevres jars of dried rose
leaves. The door opened almost noiselessly.
Catherine, who was seated before a small, ebony writing table,
turned her head at his entrance.
"You?" she exclaimed.
Julian listened for a moment and then closed the door. She sat
watching him, with the pen still in her fingers.
"Miss Abbeway," he said, "have you heard any news this evening?"
The pen with which she had been tapping the table was suddenly
motionless. She turned a little farther around.
"News?" she repeated. "No! Is there any?"
"A man was caught upon the marshes this morning and shot an hour
ago. They say that. he was a spy.
She sat as though turned to stone.
"The military police are still hunting for his companion. They
are now searching the garage here to see if they can find a small,
grey, coupe car."
This time she remained speechless, but all those ill-defined fears
which had gathered in his heart seemed suddenly to come to a head.
Her appearance had changed curiously during the last hour. There
was a hunted, almost a desperate gleam in her eyes, a drawn look
about her mouth as she sat looking at him.
"How do you know this?" she asked.
"The Colonel of the regiment stationed here has just arrived. He
is down in the garage now with my father."
"Shot!" she murmured. "Most Dieu!"
"I want to help you," he continued.
Her eyes questioned him almost fiercely.
"You are sure?"
"I am sure."
"You know what it means?"
"How did you guess the truth?"
"I remembered your mouth," he told her. "I saw your car last
night, and I traced it up the avenue this morning."
"A mouth isn't much to go by," she observed, with a very wan
"It happens to be your mouth," he replied.
She rose to her feet and stood for a moment as though listening.
Then she thrust her hand down into the bosom of her gown and
produced a small roll of paper wrapped in a sheet of oilskin. He
took it from her at once and slipped it into the breast pocket of
"You understand what you are doing?" she persisted.
"Perfectly;" he replied.
She crossed the room towards the hearthrug and stood there for a
moment, leaning against the mantelpiece.
"Is there anything else I can do?" he asked.
She turned around. There was a wonderful change in her face.
"No one saw me," she said. "I do not think that there is any one
but you who could positively identify the car. Neither my aunt
nor the maid who is with us has any idea that I left my room last
"Absolutely destroyed," she assured him with a smile. "Some day I
hope I'll find courage to ask you whether you thought them
"Some day," he retorted, a little grimly, "I am going to have a
very serious talk with you, Miss Abbeway."
"Shall you be very stern?"
He made no response to her lighter mood. The appeal in her eyes
left him colder than ever.
"I wish to save your life," he declared, "and I mean to do it. At
the same time, I cannot forget your crime or my complicity in it."
"If you feel like that, then," she said a little defiantly, "tell
the truth. I knew the risk I was running. I am not afraid, even
now. You can give me back those papers, if you like. I can
assure you that the person on whom they are found will undoubtedly
"Then I shall certainly retain possession of them," he decided.
"You are very chivalrous, sir," she ventured, smiling.
"I happen to be only selfish," Julian replied. "I even despise
myself for what I am doing. I am turning traitor myself, simply
because I could not bear the thought of what might happen to you
if you were discovered."
"You like me, then, a little, Mr. Orden?" she asked.
"Twenty-four hours ago," he sighed, "I had hoped to answer that
question before it was asked."
"This is very tantalising," she murmured. "You are going to save
my life, then, and afterwards treat me as though I were a leper?"
"I shall hope," he said, "that you may have explanations - that I
may find - "
She held out her hand and stopped him. Once more, for a moment,
her eyes were distended, her form was tense. She was listening
"There is some one coming," she whispered - "two or three men, I
think. What fools we have been ! We ought to have decided -
about the car."
Her teeth came together for a moment. It was her supreme effort
at self-control. Then she laughed almost naturally, lit a
cigarette, and seated herself upon the arm of an easy-chair.
"Yo are interfering shockingly with my correspondence," she
declared, "and I am sure that they want you for bridge. Here
comes Lord Maltenby to tell you so," she added, glancing towards
Lord Maltenby was very pompous, very stiff, and yet apologetic.
He considered the whole affair in which he had become involved
"Miss Abbeway," he said, "I beg to present to you Colonel
Henderson. An unfortunate occurrence took place here last night,
which it has become the duty of - er - Colonel Henderson to clear
up. He wishes to ask you a question concerning - er - a
Colonel Henderson frowned. He stepped a little forward with the
air of wishing to exclude the Earl from further speech.
"May I ask, Miss Abbeway," he began, "whether the small coupe car,
standing about a hundred yards down the back avenue, is yours?"
"It is," she assented, with a little sigh. "It won't go."
"It won't go?" the Colonel repeated.
"I thought you might know something about cars," she explained.
"They tell me that two of the sparking plugs are cracked. I am
thinking of replacing them tomorrow morning, if I can get Mr.
Orden to help me."
"How long has the car been there in its present condition, then?"
the Colonel enquired.
"Since about five o'clock yesterday afternoon," she replied.
"You don't think it possible that it could have been out on the
road anywhere last night, then?"
"Out on the road!" she laughed. "Why, I couldn't get it up to the