Part 6 out of 7
"You must remember that the Duchess has a special reason," he reminded
her. "I suppose it's that Portel affair."
"Yes," Mrs. Carraby agreed, "it is the Portel affair."
They were both silent. There wasn't much to be said, for the moment.
"Have you heard," he inquired presently, "whether Lady Anne is with him
"No," she replied. "Somehow or other, people don't seem to talk scandal
about Lady Anne. They say that she is staying for a time with an old
friend there. Algernon!"
"Is it true that you are doing so badly at the Foreign Office?" she
A little flush mounted almost to his forehead.
"I have had the devil's own luck," he muttered.
"I can't take up a newspaper," she continued bitterly, "without finding
it full of abuse of you. They say that during six weeks the _entente
cordiale_ has vanished. They say that you have lost the friendship
of France, that she trusts us no longer, and that Germany's tone
becomes more threatening and more bullying every day, solely on account
of your weakness."
"We can't afford to risk a war," Carraby explained. "I am a Radical
Minister. I have represented a Radical constituency ever since I came
into Parliament. What the devil should I have to say to my people if
within a couple of months of taking office we were plunged into war?"
"I do not pretend," Mrs. Carraby remarked, "to be an active politician,
but I have heard it said that the best way to avoid war is to show that
you are not afraid of it. They say that that is where Sir Julien Portel
was so splendid. Do you know that the leading article of one of your
own papers this morning declares that Germany would never have dared to
have said so much to us if she had not known that she had only a puppet
to deal with in the Cabinet? You know what all the other papers are
hinting at? Is it true, Algernon, that you gave two hundred thousand
pounds to the party?"
"Whether it is true or not," Carraby retorted, "it makes no difference.
I wanted this post, wanted it for your sake as much as my own, and I
wish to Heaven that it was at the bottom of the sea! I'd resign
to-morrow if I could do so with dignity. I can't now, of course. Every
one would say I was chucked. To make things worse," he went on
savagely, "there come these infernal letters of Portel's!"
Mrs. Carraby raised her eyebrows.
"Why, I've heard it said that those letters are the one hope this
country has! I have heard it said that but for those letters France and
England would be as far apart to-day as they ever were. I heard it said
only this afternoon that those letters were our only hope of peace.
They were compared with the letters of Junius, whoever he was. Lord
Cardington told me himself that they were the most splendid political
prose he had ever read in his life."
"That may be true enough," Carraby growled, "but they make it all the
harder for me. No doubt Portel was a good Minister. No doubt he was
doing very well in his post. Now he writes these letters every one
remembers it, every one is asking for him back again. It's hell, Mabel!
I wish to God we'd let the man alone!" Mrs. Carraby looked at her
husband steadfastly. She was a little taller than he. She looked at
him, from his well-brushed hair to the trim patent boots which adorned
his small feet. She looked at him and in those strange-colored eyes of
hers were unmentionable things. She turned away and walked to the
window. In imagination she was back again in Julien's rooms. She lived
again through those few minutes. If he had answered differently!
Outside in the square the newsboys were shouting. She had stood before
the window for some time when a familiar name fell upon her ears. She
turned around and touched the bell.
"What is it that you want?" her husband asked.
"A paper," she replied.
A very correct butler brought her the _Pall Mall Gazette_ a moment
or two later. She scanned it eagerly. Then it slipped from her
shuddering fingers. She turned upon her husband.
"He is dead!" she cried. "Can't you read it? 'Death of an Englishman in
an explosion in Paris. Mr. Kendricks, a journalist, seriously injured;
Sir Julien Portel, the ex-Cabinet Minister,--dead!'"
She stood as though turned to stone. Then something in her husband's
face seemed to bring her back to the present. She turned upon him. Her
face was suddenly lit with some strange, quivering fire. It was one of
the moments of her life.
"You miserable worm!" she shrieked. "You dare to stand there and smile
because a man is dead! You!"
He tried to draw himself up, tried to rebuke her. He might as well have
tried to stem a torrent.
"I've done my best to share your rotten, scheming life," she cried, "to
help you in your dirty ways, and to crawl up into the places we
coveted! Once I saw the truth. Once a real man was kind to me and I saw
the difference. I've felt it in my heart ever since. For your sake and
my own, for the sake of our rotten, miserable ambitions, I ruined him
and sent him to his death. He is dead, do you hear? You and I did it!
We are murderers! And to think that I did it for you! That you--such a
creature as you--might take his place!"
She threw up her hands high above her head. There had been people who
had doubted her good looks. No one at that instant would have denied
her beauty. Carraby's eyes were fixed upon her and he was afraid. Even
when she had cast herself face downward upon the couch, and lay with
her head buried in her hands, he dared not go near. He stood there
gazing at her across the room. Perhaps he, too, though his
understanding was less, tasted a little of the poison!
In the splendid library of his palace in Berlin, the maker of toys
leaned back in his chair after a long and successful day's work. There
lingered upon his lips still the remnants of a grim smile, which the
dictation of a dispatch to London had just evoked. His secretary
gathered up his papers. His master was disposed to be genial.
"My young friend," he remarked, "those letters from Paris--they were
stopped just in time, eh?"
"Just in time, indeed, Highness," the young man replied. "I have
friends who write me from there. They assure me that their effect was
tremendous. The cessation of them was indeed an act of Providence."
Prince Falkenberg's lips relaxed. There were hard lines at the corners
of his mouth. Yet if this were indeed a smile, it was no pleasant thing
to look upon!
"An act of Providence, without a doubt!" he exclaimed,--"Providence
which watches always over the destinies of our dear Fatherland!"
"I shall bring you now, Highness, the foreign papers?" the young man
"If you please," his master replied. "I read them now, thank Heaven,
with an easier feeling."
The young man retreated and reappeared in a few minutes with a pile of
newspapers. Prince Falkenberg rose and stretched himself, lit a long
black cigar and threw himself into a comfortable chair before the high
"Your Highness will take some coffee, perhaps?" the young man asked.
The great Minister unfolded his newspapers. A reference in the English
_Times_ perplexed him. He turned to the journal which only a few
days ago he had opened with almost a shudder. He undid the wrapper,
shook it open and looked at it. Then suddenly he sat like a man turned
to stone. The cigar burnt out between his teeth, his eyes were riveted
upon that page, the black letters seemed to have become lurid. The
sentences stabbed, he was face to face with the impossible. The paper
which he read was dated on the preceding day. Before him was a fourth
article, dated from Paris, dated less than forty-eight hours ago,
signed "Julien Portel." The title of the article was "The World's Great
Mischief-Maker!" He read on, read from that first sentence to the last,
read the naked truth about himself, saw his motives exposed, his
secret visits to Paris derided, his foibles photographed. He saw
himself the laughing stock of Europe. Then he leaned over and rang the
"Neudheim," he said, "let it be given out that I leave to-night for
Falkenberg as usual. Let the automobile be prepared for a long journey.
I leave in half an hour."
The young man stared. He had fancied that those flying visits of his
master's for a time were to be discontinued.
"Your Highness goes south?" he asked.
"I drive all night," Prince Falkenberg replied. "See that the Count
Rudolf is prepared to accompany me. Quick! Give the orders."
In the untidy salon of his bachelor apartments in the Boulevard
Maupassant Estermen awaited the coming of his master in veritable fear
and trembling. In all his experience he had never been compelled to
face a crisis such as this. There had been small failures, punished,
perhaps, by a sarcastic word or biting sentence. There had been no
failure to compare with this one! Herr Freudenberg deliberately, and of
his own free choice, was accustomed to take huge risks. When they came
he accepted them, but when they were not inevitable he as sedulously
avoided them. The wrecking of Julien's apartments in the Rue de
Montpelier was by far the most hazardous enterprise which had been
attempted since the days of the toymaker's first secret visits to
Paris. Half a dozen human beings had been done to death in a manner
which invited and even challenged the attentions of the French police.
A terrible risk had been run and run in vain. The blow had been struck
at the very moment when its object was unattainable! Estermen shivered
as he tried to imagine for himself the coming interview. Gone, he
feared, was his life of pleasant luxury among the flesh-pots and easy
ways of Paris; his bachelor apartments, occupied in name by him but of
which the real tenant was his dreaded master. And behind all this
apprehension lurked another grisly and terrible fear! For the twentieth
time during the last few minutes he peered through the closely drawn
Venetian-blind, and his blood ran cold. On the pavement opposite,
before the small table of a cafe, a man was sitting--the same man! For
two days he had been there--a gaunt and silent person with a wonderful
trick of gazing away into space from the columns of his newspaper. But
Estermen knew all about that! He knew, even, the man's name! He knew
that he was one of the most persistent and successful of French
detectives. His name was Jean Charles and he had never known failure.
Estermen looked at him through the blind and his pale face was ugly
The moment arrived. The long, gray traveling car, covered with dust,
swung around the corner and stopped below. Herr Freudenberg was
travel-stained and almost unrecognizable in his motor clothes as he
stepped out and passed into the block of apartments. Contrary to his
usual custom, he did not at once present himself before the man who
awaited him in fear and trembling. Estermen heard him enter his own
suite of rooms on the other side of the stairway and give a few brief
orders. Then there was a peremptory knock at the door. Herr Freudenberg
was announced and entered.
To the man who had been waiting for his sentence there was something
terrible in the grim impassivity of Prince Falkenberg's features. His
face was set and white and sphinx-like. Only his eyes shone with a
fierce, unusual fire.
"What have you to say, Estermen?" he demanded.
"It was a miracle," Estermen faltered. "Sir Julien descended the stairs
with the copy in his hand to speak to a caller. For seventeen hours he
had been in his rooms, for the following seventeen hours he would
probably have been there, too. For the intervening thirty seconds he
happened to be upon the pavement. It was a miracle!"
This was the end of all the specious story which Estermen had gone over
so often to himself! Yet he had done his cause no harm, for the few
sentences he spoke were the truth.
"You have discovered his present whereabouts?" his master demanded.
Estermen hesitated. He feared that this was another blow which he was
about to deal.
"He is at the house of Madame Christophor in the Rue de St. Paul," he
His news, however, did not discompose Prince Falkenberg. On the
contrary, he seemed, if anything, to find the intelligence agreeable.
"Have you made any inquiries as to his condition?"
Estermen shrugged his shoulders.
"The household of Madame Christophor," he replied, "is, as you know,
outside my sphere of influence. It is, besides, incorruptible. I myself
am personally obnoxious to Madame. I could do nothing but wait for your
Prince Falkenberg stood with his hands behind him, thinking. He had
relapsed into his former grim and impenetrable silence. And while he
waited the sweat stood out in beads upon Estermen's forehead. Greatly
he feared that the worst was to come!
"Have you anything else to say to me?" his master asked.
"Nothing!" Estermen replied, with faltering lips.
Prince Falkenberg's eyes were fierce orbs of light and his servant
quailed before him.
"Have you any reason to believe that the origin of the crime is
It was the question which above all others he had dreaded! Estermen was
a coward and a fluent liar. The latter gift, however, availed him
nothing. He felt as though the nerves of his tongue were being
controlled by some other agency. Against his will he told the truth.
"Jean Charles is watching these apartments!"
Prince Falkenberg's single exclamation was the death sentence of his
agent. Estermen knew it and his knees knocked one against the other.
"For six years," Prince Falkenberg said, after a moment's pause, "you
have lived an easy and a comfortable life, Estermen,--a life, I dare
say, spent among the gutter vices which would naturally appeal to a
person of your temperament; a life, apart from the small services which
I have required of you, directed altogether by your own inclinations.
Be thankful for those six years. As you well know, but for me they
would have been spent either in prison or in the problematical future
world--a matter entirely at the discretion of the judge who tried you.
It pleased me to rescue you for my own purpose. You were possessed of a
certain amount of low cunning and a complete absence of all ordinary
human qualities, a combination which made you a useful servant of my
will. My one condition has been always before you. The present case
demands your fulfillment of it."
Estermen began to tremble.
"The man may be there by accident," he faltered. "There is no certainty
as yet that I am even suspected. I'm--I'm horribly afraid to die!" he
added, with an ugly little laugh.
"So are most men of your kidney," Prince Falkenberg replied composedly.
"Nevertheless, die you must, and to-night. Write your confession. Make
it clear that one of the victims was your personal enemy. I'll dictate
it, if you like."
"I can do it myself," Estermen muttered. "Let me--let me write the
confession first and then make an attempt to escape," he pleaded. "If I
am taken, the confession shall be found upon me. It will make no
difference. Let me have a chance! I know the secret places of the city.
I have friends who might help me to escape."
Prince Falkenberg watched his agent for a moment in contemptuous
curiosity. Estermen was walking restlessly up and down the few feet of
carpet, his fingers and the muscles of his face twitching. His words
had come with difficulty, as though he had suddenly developed an
impediment in his speech. His sallow complexion had become yellow. His
carefully waxed moustache was drooping, a speck of saliva was issuing
from his lips.
"The request which you make to me," Prince Falkenberg replied, "I
absolutely refuse. I know you and your cowardly temperament too well to
allow you to come alive into the hands of the French police."
"You value your own life highly enough!" Estermen snarled.
"It is not so," Prince Falkenberg asserted. "If I had ever valued my
own life highly, there would have been no Herr Freudenberg; and if the
whole history of Herr Freudenberg is discovered, I follow you, my
friend, post haste. If I seem to be taking any pains to hold my own,
remember that mine is a life which is valuable to the Fatherland. You
have been and you are only a feeder at the troughs. One more or less
such as you in the world makes just the difference of a speck of
dust--that is all."
Estermen shrank cowering into his seat.
"I'd rather live--in torture--in prison or in chains--anywhere!" he
gasped. "I can't think of death!"
Prince Falkenberg was becoming impatient.
"My dear Estermen," he exclaimed, "what prison do you suppose remains
open for the murderer of seven men! You shrink from death. Yet let me
assure you that the guillotine, with the certain prospect of it before
you day after day through a long trial, is no pleasant outlet from the
world for a sybarite. Be a philosopher. Go and die as you have lived.
Write your confession, summon your dearest friend by telephone, give a
little supper--you'll have plenty of time--but see that the affair is
over before midnight! This is my advice to you, Estermen; these are
also my orders, my final orders. If I find you alive when I return, or
the confession unwritten, I will show you how death may be made more
horrible than anything you have yet conceived."
Prince Falkenberg turned on his heel and left the apartment. Estermen
remained for several moments shrinking back in the chair upon which he
had collapsed. Then he rose and with trembling footsteps stole to the
window, peering out from behind the blind. The man at the cafe opposite
was still there!
"This afternoon," Madame Christophor declared, looking thoughtfully at
Julien, "I am going to send you a new secretary."
He turned a little eagerly in his easy-chair.
"Lady Anne!" he exclaimed.
"Are you glad?" she asked.
Julien hesitated. His eyes sought his companion's face. She was seated
at the small writing-table drawn up close to his side, her head resting
upon her left hand, the pen in her right fingers sketching idle figures
at the bottom of the sheet which she had just written. She was wearing
a dress of strange-colored muslin, a shade between gray and silver, but
from underneath came a shimmer of blue, and there were turquoises about
her neck. Her large, soft eyes were fixed steadfastly upon his. There
was a sort of question in them which he seemed to have surprised there
more than once during the last few days. A sudden uneasiness seized
him. His brain was crowded with unwilling fancies. There were, without
doubt, symptoms of coquetry in her appearance. He had spoken of blue as
the one sublime color. As she leaned a little back in her chair,
resting from her labors, he could scarcely help noticing the blue silk
stockings and suede shoes which matched the hidden color of her skirt,
the ribbon which gleamed from the dusky masses of her hair. Madame
Christophor was always a very beautiful and a very elegant woman, and
it seemed to have pleased her during these last few days to appear at
her best. Julien gripped for a moment at his bandaged arm.
"You are in pain? You would like me to change the bandage?" she
suggested almost eagerly.
"Not yet," he replied. "It is still quite comfortable."
She looked at him thoughtfully.
"You have the air of wanting something," she remarked. "Is there
anything that displeases you?"
"Displeases me! If you knew how strange that sounded!" he exclaimed. "I
do not think that any one ever lived with such luxury, or was treated
with so much kindness, as I during the last few days. You make every
Madame Christophor sighed. Almost as Julien finished his speech he
regretted its conclusion. Madame Christophor, on the other hand,
although she sighed, seemed vaguely content.
"You see, the fates against whom you have so great a grievance have
done something to atone," she declared. "No doubt you hated to leave
your work to come and speak to me in the street that afternoon. No
doubt your red-headed journalist friend hated me also. Yet if you had
not come, if my automobile had been detained a few minutes on the
way--ah! it is terrible indeed to think what might not have happened!"
She shivered. A moment later she raised her eyes and continued.
"I think," she said, "you must abandon a little of your hostility
against my sex. It was a woman who worked this mischief in your life
and a woman who was fortunate enough to save it. I think you can almost
cry quits with us, Sir Julien."
He smiled. He was struggling to lead back their conversation to a
lighter level. A certain change in this woman's tone and manner, a
change which was reflected even in her appearance, disturbed him
"The balance is already on my side, dear hostess," he assured her. "You
have left me an eternal debtor to your sex. I shall never again indulge
in generalities or wholesale condemnation. It is, after all, foolish.
But tell me why you are sending Lady Anne to help me to-day?"
She watched for any trace of disappointment in his tone. There was
none. On the contrary, his mention of Lady Anne was accompanied by a
slight eagerness which puzzled her.
"I have a few social duties to attend to," she explained a little
vaguely. "Lady Anne is quite efficient. I like her handwriting, too. It
is like herself--clean-cut, legible. There are no hidden pools about
"Yet," he said, "a woman always keeps some part of herself concealed."
"You think that Lady Anne, too, has her secret?" Madame Christophor
asked, raising her eyes.
"I think that if she has, she is quite capable of keeping it," he
There was a knock at the door. Lady Anne entered. She came a few yards
into the room with a slight smile upon her lips, and nodded pleasantly
to Julien. In her slim stateliness, the untroubled serenity of youth
reflected in her smiling face, she represented perfectly the other type
of womanhood. Madame Christophor rose deliberately to her feet. For one
swift moment she measured the things between them. She herself was
conscious of a greater intellectual maturity, a more subtle quality in
her looks, a beauty less describable, more exotic, perhaps, but also
more provocative. The arts of her sex were at her finger-tips, the
small arts disdained by this well-looking and perfectly healthy young
woman. She turned her head quickly towards Sir Julien. It was the idle
impulse of the man or woman who plucks the petals from a flower. Julien
was gazing steadfastly at Lady Anne.... Madame Christophor picked up
her belongings and moved towards the door.
"Be merciless today, my friend!" she exclaimed, pausing upon the
threshold,--"virulent, if you will! _Le Jour_ was screaming at you
last night. Jesen has lost his head a little; or is it the lash of his
master which he feels? How can one tell?"
"After tonight," Julien remarked, with a smile, "who will read _Le
Jour_? I shall tell the story of the purchase of that paper by Herr
Freudenberg. French people will not love to think that the pen of Jesen
has been guided by the hand of Germany."
Madame Christophor made a little grimace.
"My friend," she declared, "my house is, I believe, the safest spot in
Paris, yet there are limits. Remember that you have become a celebrity.
There is an agitation in England to have you back at the Foreign
Office. All Paris is divided upon the subject of your life or death.
And there are men here in the city who seek for you night and day with
death in their hands. My house is sanctuary, but no one can write such
things as you are writing and deem himself secure against any risk."
He smiled at her confidently.
"Yet you would not have me leave out one single line, you would not
have me lower the torch for one second! You suggest caution!--you, who
haven't the word 'fear' in your vocabulary! It is your house, not mine.
There are more bombs to be bought in Paris. Yet tell me, would you have
me spare a single word of the truth?"
She flashed back her answer across the room. For the moment she forgot
Lady Anne. They two were on another plane.
"Not one word," she assured him, with soft yet vibrant earnestness. "I
would have you write the truth in letters of fire upon the clouds, for
all Paris to see. You have a message. See that it goes out."
Madame Christophor closed the door softly behind her. Julien remained
looking at the spot from which she had disappeared. Then he drew a
"She is wonderful!" he muttered.
Lady Anne took up her pen. She avoided looking at him.
"Let us begin," she said....
They wrote for hours. Julien was in the mood for this final and fierce
attack upon _Le Jour_ and all the powers that stood behind it. He
held up Falkenberg to derision--the charlatan of modern politics, the
Puck of Berlin, whose one sincerity was his hatred for England, and one
capacity, the giant capacity for mischief! He wound up his article with
a scathing and personal denunciation of Falkenberg, and a splendidly
worded appeal to the French nation not for one moment to be deceived as
to the character of this tireless and ambitious schemer after his
country's welfare. All the time Anne took down his words in fluent and
flowing writing. When at last he had finished, he looked at the sheets
which surrounded her with something like amazement.
"Why, what a pig I've been, Anne!" he exclaimed, glancing from the
table to the clock. "You must have been writing for nearly three
She was busy picking up the sheets.
"Quite, I should say," she answered, "but I loved it. Now I am going to
ring for tea, and afterwards you must read it through. We might get the
manuscript down to the office to-night."
"I shall need you when I read it through," he reminded her. "There will
"Either Madame Christophor or I will be here," she replied. "Madame
Christophor may have some other work for me."
He looked at her curiously.
"Even you are different," he murmured.
"Tell me at once what you mean?" she begged.
"I wish I knew," he confessed. "To tell you the truth, Anne, a curious
feeling of detachment seems to have come over me--during the last few
days especially. It is such a short time since I was living the
ordinary sort of mechanical life in London, engaged to be married to
you, and my doings day by day all mapped out--a life interesting, of
course, but without any real variation. And now here I am, hanging on
to life by the thin edge of nothing, writing such things as I should
never have dared to have said from my seat in the House, practically
an adventurer. Do you wonder that sometimes I am not quite sure that it
isn't all a nightmare? I am actually hiding here in Paris from
assassins--in Paris, the most civilized city in the world--the guest of
a woman whose acquaintance I made only because a little manicurist in
Soho insisted upon it. And you, Anne, are here by my side, a
professional secretary, the friend of a milliner, more intimate and on
better terms with me than you were in the days when we were engaged to
be married! What has happened to us, Anne? How did we get here?"
She laughed at him tolerantly.
"We've come a little into our own, I suppose," she remarked. "As for
me, I feel a different woman since I stepped out of the made-to-order
world. And you--well, don't be angry, but you're not nearly so much of
a prig, are you, Julien? You're less starched and more human. Of course
we are more companionable. We are both more human."
"I suppose that so far as I am concerned Kendricks had something to do
with it--he was always trying to make me look at things differently.
But it seems such a short time for such an absolute change."
She was balancing her pen upon the inkpot--keeping her eyes turned from
"It isn't always a matter of time, you know, Julien," she said
thoughtfully. "You were never really a prig--I was never really a
machine for wearing a ready-made smile and a few smart frocks. It took
a shock to make us see things, but neither of us remained wilfully
blind. You'll be back in your world before long and a better man than
"I have hopes some day of becoming a perfect secretary," she confessed.
"If I fail, I will at least make more bows than any one else in a day."
He leaned towards her, showing a sudden and dangerous forgetfulness of
his bandaged arm.
"Anne," he said firmly, "if I go back, you go back. Sometimes I think
that I shall never regret anything that has happened if--"
The door was softly opened. It was Madame Christophor who entered with
a little pile of letters in her hand. Lady Anne, with slightly
heightened color, rose to her feet. There was something in Madame
Christophor's eyes which was almost fiercely questioning.
"I am not disturbing you, I trust?" she asked slowly. "I bring Sir
Julien some letters."
He caught up the sheets which lay by his side.
"I will not even look at them until I have corrected my article," he
Madame Christophor settled herself composedly in an easy-chair.
"Lady Anne shall read it aloud," she proposed calmly, "and I will
assist in the corrections. For the French edition I may be able to
suggest. The papers today are most amusing," she continued. "The German
press is almost unreadable. No wonder that there is a price upon your
head, my friend!"
Julien moved restlessly in his place.
"I have had the most extraordinary luck," he remarked. "No other man,
naturally, knew so much of Anglo-German and Anglo-French relations. And
instead of being at home in Downing Street, and muzzled, I happened to
be here on the spot, to run up against Falkenberg, discover his little
schemes, and with my own special knowledge to see through them at once.
No one else ever had such an opportunity."
Madame Christophor smiled enigmatically. She was looking thoughtfully
across at her guest.
"It is not every opportunity in life," she murmured, "which a man knows
how to embrace!"
NEARING A CRISIS
That night, for the first time since his arrival in the house as a
guest, Julien dined downstairs. To his surprise, when he presented
himself in the smaller salon to which he had been directed, he found
the table laid for two only. Madame Christophor, who was standing on
the threshold of the winter-garden opening out from the apartment, read
his expression and frowned.
"You expected Lady Anne to dine?" she asked bluntly.
Julien was taken a little aback.
"It seemed natural to expect her," he admitted.
Madame Christophor moved towards the bell, but Julien intercepted her.
He remembered all that he owed to this woman. He was ashamed of his
lack of tact.
"Dear Madame Christophor," he pleaded, "forgive me if for a moment I
forgot how altered things are. Indeed, it was not a matter of choice
with me. Of course, it will give me the greatest pleasure to dine
tete-a-tete with you!"
He was, perhaps, a shade too impressive, but Madame Christophor, as all
women who greatly desire to read in a man's words what they choose to
find there, hesitated. Finally, with a shrug of the shoulders, she
turned away from the bell.
"Three is such an impossible number," she declared, with well-assumed
carelessness. "Lady Anne has her own salon adjoining her apartment. She
dines there always. If I am without company, I enjoy the rest of being
alone. She is very delightful in her own way, your dear Lady Anne, but
she and I have not much in common. Come and see my roses."
She led the way into the conservatory, a dome-shaped building with
colored glass at the top, fragrant, almost faint with the perfume of
roses and drooping exotics. A little fountain was playing in the
middle. When the butler announced the service of dinner and they
returned to take their places, she left the door open.
"Tonight," she announced, as they sat side by side at the small round
table, "I am going to take advantage of the situation. I am your
hostess and you are an invalid. It is my opportunity to talk. Are you a
good listener, Sir Julien?"
She had dropped her voice almost to a whisper. Those beautiful deep-set
eyes were challenging his. She seemed to have made up her mind that for
that night, at any rate, her beauty should be unquestioned. She wore a
dress of black net, fitting very closely, a wonderful background for
her white skin and the ropes of pearls which were twined about her
neck. He had never seen her _decolletee_, but he remembered
reading in a ladies' fashion paper that a famous sculptor had once
declared her neck and bust to be the most beautiful in Paris. She had
even added the slightest touch of color to her cheeks. There was no
longer any sign of the wrinkles at the sides of her eyes. She read the
half ingenuous, half unwilling admiration in his face, and she laughed
"Ah, my friend," she murmured, "I can see that you object to the role
of listener! Very well, then, you shall talk. You shall tell me of your
life in England. You shall tell me what dreams have come to you for the
days when once more you shall help to shape the destinies of your
nation. Tell me how you mean to live! Shall you be again--what was it
Lady Anne thought you?--a prig?"
"I am like many other and more famous men," he remarked. "I have
learned much in adversity."
"I read the English papers," she continued presently. "I have also a
large correspondence. Do you know that there is nearly a rebellion in
your party? Questions have been asked about you in the House. Both
sides want you back. There is a feeling that you were allowed to go
much too easily, that the indiscretion of which you were guilty was a
trifle. This man Carraby is what you call--a cad! That does not do in
the high places. Nationality cannot conceal a lack of breeding."
"I have thought over many things," Julien admitted. "If the way is made
clear for me, I shall go back. Why not? I believe that I can serve my
country, and it is the life for which I am best fitted. Carraby may
have his good points, but his ambitions have been a little too
extensive. He would have made a better mayor of the town where he was
"You are right," she declared. "There is no place for such men in the
great world. You will go back. It is written. See--I drink to England's
future Prime Minister!"
She raised her glass, which the butler had just filled with champagne.
She looked into his eyes as she drank and Julien was conscious of a
passing uneasiness. She set the glass down, empty. Her hand lay for a
moment near his.
"You will go back," she murmured. "You will forget. The people whom you
have met in your brief period of adversity will seem to you like
shadows. Is it not so?"
He took her hand and raised it boldly to his lips.
"It will never be like that with you, dear hostess," he assured her.
"There are things which one does not forget."
She did not withdraw her hand. Its pressure upon his fingers was faint
"Do you remember when we first met," she said softly, "how bitter we
were against the others--even at first against one another? You had
been betrayed by that unimportant woman and the whole sex was hateful
to you. I had just come from seeing the tragedy caused by a man's crass
selfishness. I, too, was wearing the fetters. To me the whole of your
sex seemed abominable.... You see," she went on, "my marriage was a
terrible disappointment. I fancied that I was marrying a great man, a
genius, an inspired statesman, and I found myself allied to a political
machine. My wealth--have I told you, I wonder, that I am very
wealthy?--helped him. For the rest, I was a puppet by his side. I
lived in Berlin for one year. Official life in Berlin for an American
woman, even though she be Princess von Falkenberg, is still
intolerable. The men were bad enough, the women worse. I could not
breathe. I was no part of my husband's life. I was no part of any one's
life. The German women did not understand me. My husband--oh, he is
very German in his heart!--only laughed at my complaints. He would have
been perfectly willing to see me become as those others--_hausfrauen_,
bearers of children, a domestic article. So we separated--divorce at that
moment was impossible. I came back to Paris."
"You had no children?" Julien asked.
"One boy," she answered, her eyes becoming very soft. "Do not let us
speak of him for a moment."
The service of dinner continued. Outside, the water from the fountain
fell into the basin with a gentle, monotonous sound. The perfume of the
roses stole through the open doorway. One softly-shaded lamp had been
lit, but the rest of the lofty room remained in shadowy obscurity. The
light from that one lamp seemed to fall full upon Madame Christophor's
"I loved my boy," she went on. "It was part of my husband's cruelty to
detach him from me. He has the law on his side. I may not even see
Rudolf. Very well, I do my best to steel my heart. I come here to live.
I have many friends, but Falkenberg is the only man to whom I have ever
belonged, and he has treated me as he would have treated one of those
others--his companions for the moment. I have occupied myself here in
work of different sorts. I have tried in my way to do good among women
less happy, even, than I. Wherever I went I saw that every woman who
has sinned, every woman who is miserable, every woman who has become a
blot upon the earth, is what she is by reason of man's selfishness.
Can you wonder that I have grown a little bitter?"
"I wonder at nothing in the woman who has been Falkenberg's wife,"
Julien replied. "He seems to me the most unscrupulous person who ever
breathed. Yet in his way he is marvelously attractive."
"He is," she admitted. "I fell in love with him against my will.
Directly my reason intervened, the madness was over. How old do you
think I am, Sir Julien?"
Julien was a little startled.
"How old?" he repeated.
"A foolish question, of course," she continued. "How could you be
honest! I am twenty-nine years old. I believe that I am the richest
woman in Paris. I am tired of being called brilliant and cynical, of
showing fortune-hunters to the door, of living my life in loneliness.
Falkenberg has sworn that if I take any steps to make a divorce
possible, I shall never see my boy again. I have not seen him, as it
is, for nearly two years. The threat is losing its terrors.... You are
listening, my friend?"
She turned to the butler. The other servants had already left the room.
"Bring coffee into the winter-garden," she ordered. "Come, Sir Julien."
She lit a cigarette and threw it away almost immediately. Her eyes were
gleaming like stars. She laid her fingers upon his arm as they passed
out into the perfumed air of the conservatory, and he seemed to feel
some touch of the fire that was burning in her veins. She swayed a
little towards him. The color in her cheeks was brilliant. Her bosom
was rising and falling quickly. She was splendidly handsome, nerved up
to great things, a woman inspired by a purpose. Julien was afraid. He,
too, felt something of the excitement of the moment, but his brain
seemed numbed. There was nothing he could say. She threw herself back
into a low chair and drew him down to her side. With her other hand she
caught hold of a cluster of pink roses and pressed their cool blossoms
to her cheek.
"Sir Julien," she murmured, "I have looked so steadfastly into life, I
have striven so hard to find a place there. I have something to give. I
do not come empty-handed. I can place offerings upon the altar of the
great god. I have myself, my brains such as they are, and the golden
key which unlocks the wonderful doors. Can you wonder that I ask for
something in return? I have stood in the marketplace of life, I have
passed down between the stalls, and I am humiliated. There is no life,
there is no career upon this world for a woman. It is a strange
doctrine, perhaps, to preach in these days, but I have searched and I
know it to be the truth. Nature meant woman for man, and if she rebels
there is no seat for her alone among the mighty places. Alone I can win
none of the things I desire. You see, I talk to you like this, nakedly,
because we are of the order of those who understand. You very nearly
married a duke's daughter and became a middle-class politician. Don't
do it. Don't think of it any more, Julien. You were meant for the great
places, and I think--I think--that I was meant to hold the torch to
light you there!"
She started at his tone. In the splendid arrogance of her assured
position, her brilliant gifts, her almost inspired individuality,
failure had never occurred to her. Even now she refused to read the
message in his set face.
"You feel, perhaps," she went on, leaning towards him, "that you are
pledged to Lady Anne. Dear Sir Julien, rub your eyes! I want you to
see--all the way to the skies. Lady Anne is a sweet girl who will look
nice at the head of any one's table. She will read the papers and take
an intelligent interest in her husband's work, and ask him trite and
obvious questions to prove that she understands all about it. She will
give you phenacetin when you have a headache, she will fill your house
with the right sort of people. She will be very amiable and very
satisfied. She'll always read the debates and she'll sit up for you at
night in a pretty dressing-gown. And all the time the wall will grow,
brick by brick, and you will look up to the skies and find them empty,
and listen for the music and hear none, and a web will be spun about
your heart, and your brain will be clogged, and the fine thoughts will
go, and you'll never be anything but a successful politician. You
know very well that all the paths to the great pit of unhappiness are
crowded with men who have been successful in their profession."
She swayed even closer towards him, her head a little thrown back, her
eyes inviting him. He scrambled to his feet. Still she held out her
"Won't you trust me?" she begged. "Believe me that I know the way into
the great places, Julien."
"Listen!" he cried hoarsely. "You have offered me everything except
your love. Thank Heaven you did not offer me that! I love Lady Anne."
"Everything _except_ my love!" she exclaimed, with the first note
of trouble in her tone. "Everything _except_ my love! Are you mad?"
"I love Lady Anne!" he repeated, setting his teeth.
They stood facing one another. She tore a handful of the blossoms from
a syringa tree and commenced crushing them in her fingers. The sound of
footsteps scarcely disturbed her. The butler appeared, followed by Lady
Anne. The former excused himself with a grave face.
"Madame," he announced, "the Prince von Falkenberg is here."
Madame Christophor turned slowly around.
"The Prince von Falkenberg! Where?"
"In the waiting-room, madame."
She moved away. She did not glance towards Julien.
"I come," she announced.
Lady Anne had some letters in her hand, which she handed to Julien. He
threw them hastily aside and drew her suddenly into his arms and into
the shadow of the giant palm.
"Anne," he pleaded, "not because of your mother, not because you would
make me a suitable wife, but because I love you, will you marry me?"
He felt her relax in his arms.
"Julien!" she murmured.
"I didn't finish the sentence," he went on,--"to-morrow at the
"It's the only way," he insisted confidently. "We couldn't be married
in London. All the tribe of Harbord would come and boo, and it would
save no end of gossip and bother when we got back. Anne--I love you
very much and I want you just as soon as I can get you!"
"Of course, if you put it like that," she said softly,--
"This is the only frock I have."
"The Rue de la Paix is at our gates," he reminded her.
"Be sensible," she begged. "You can't show your-self about Paris.
Something terrible will happen."
"Not it!" he replied confidently. "It's too late."
His arm crept a little further around her waist, he drew her even
further back among the drooping palms.
"I think that I like this better than the last time you asked me!" she
FALKENBERG'S LAST EFFORT
"Madame," Prince Falkenberg declared, with a formal bow, "I owe you a
thousand apologies for this visit."
Madame Christophor looked at him across the room, and in her eyes there
was no welcome nor any anger--only surprise.
"You break," she reminded him, "the word of a prince!"
Falkenberg smiled icily.
"There are cataclysms in life," he said, "whirlpools into which one may
sometimes be drawn. One's will is overborne. I myself am in that
Madame Christophor looked steadfastly at her visitor. Was it her fancy
or was he really growing older, this man of iron? The story of the last
few weeks was written into his face, there were shadows under his eyes,
a deep line across his forehead.
"Since you are here, be seated," she invited, sinking herself wearily
into a chair. "Tell me as quickly as you can what has brought you?"
"Portel has brought me," Falkenberg answered grimly. "They tell me that
he has taken shelter under the shadow of your petticoats."
"Shelter from your assassins!"
"Precisely!" Falkenberg admitted.
"I do not admire your methods," Madame Christophor remarked. "They seem
to me not only brutal but clumsy. You killed seven men and injured
several others, to no purpose."
"Madame," Falkenberg declared, "to secure the death of that man I would
have destroyed a whole quarter of Paris and every person in it."
Madame Christophor shivered.
"Thorough, as usual, my dear Prince," she murmured. "Nevertheless, I
find such statements loathsome. We should have outlived the days of
barbarity. I do not understand men who deal in such fashion with their
"There is something between us greater than personal enmity," he
retorted fiercely. "My personal enemy I would deal with in such a
manner as I make no doubt would commend itself to your scruples. Julien
Portel is more than that. He is the enemy of my country. Upon him,
therefore, I shall have no mercy."
"I will not argue with you," she replied. "There is a plainer issue
before us. In passing my threshold you have broken your word of honor.
What do you want?"
"I want Julien Portel!"
Madame Christophor shrugged her shoulders.
"You have wanted him for some little time."
"Never so badly as at this instant," Falkenberg declared bitterly. "He
has set all Europe in a ferment with those infernal letters. He knows
too much. He knows whence came the money which bought _Le Jour_.
He knows every detail of my campaign here."
"There are surely others," she objected, "who must have guessed--"
"But there was no one else," he interrupted, "who had the special
knowledge which Portel has. He came from the Foreign Office, with the
records of the last two years in his mind. At Berlin he and I crossed
swords. He is the only Englishman who has ever caused me a moment's
"Are you sure," she asked, "that your campaign here has been a wise
"The wisdom of Solomon," he replied grimly, "can be made to look like
folly by the accident of failure. There is no doubt as to its wisdom.
No one has studied these matters as I have studied them. No one has
seen the truth more clearly. An alliance between England and America is
a matter of a few years only, and when it comes the progress of Germany
is set back for a generation. The one absolute necessity before me was
to cut the bonds between England and France and to settle with England
alone and quickly--diplomatically, if possible; by force of arms as a
last resource. We don't seek war, Henriette. We are not really a
bloodthirsty nation. We seek territory. We need new lands--fruitful
lands, trade, the command of the seas. If we cannot get what we want
by peaceful means, then it must be war. England for the present is
weakly governed. She is in the throes of labor troubles. Her political
parties are ill-balanced. There is a puppet at the Foreign Office. Now
is the time to strike."
"Is it wise to tell me your secrets?" she inquired coldly. "I have no
sympathy for you or your country."
"I have a bargain to strike with you and you must understand," he
answered. "Twenty-four hours ago we dispatched a gunboat to a certain
neutral port which comes under the influence of England. We paid a
German to go there and send us word that he was in danger. We have sent
an intimation to the French and English Governments. To England it is
an insult. I have taken the chance that France has had enough of this
_entente_. Now you understand why I must have Julien Portel before
they can get him back to the Foreign Office, before he can do more
mischief. A strong man in Downing Street at this juncture might upset
"I understand well enough why you need Julien Portel," she admitted. "I
am still in the dark, however, as to why you imagine that I shall give
"Because I am going to buy him from you," Falkenberg asserted.
She glanced across the room at him, half curiously, half scornfully.
"Buy him! You!"
"Exactly," he replied. "You smile because you do not understand. I
offer you a dispensation for your divorce, and your son."
A little tremor seemed to pass through her whole frame. For a moment
she closed her eyes. Then she sprang to her feet and stood quivering
"This is one of your traps!" she exclaimed. "You don't mean it!"
"To prove that I do," he insisted, "I have brought Rudolf with me to
Paris. He can be in your arms in a few minutes. Look into the street,
if you will."
She crossed the room hastily and lifted the curtain. A low cry broke
from her lips. In the tonneau of the great touring car outside a little
boy was lying back amongst the cushions, asleep.
"He is tired," Falkenberg said slowly, with his eyes fixed upon the
woman. "He has come all the way from Berlin without an hour's rest. Am
I to take him back to-morrow? It is for you to decide."
Madame Christophor turned toward the door. Falkenberg barred the way.
"Not yet!" he declared. "Do you accept my terms?"
"But he is hungry!" she cried. "I can see that he is hungry! And he is
so pale--let me fetch him in."
"Of course he is hungry," his father agreed. "He has also been asking
me questions about you all the way. He believes that he is going to see
you. I, too, believe that. You consent?"
"Tell me exactly what it is that you require?" she demanded.
"Take me to Portel," he answered swiftly. "Inform him that you cannot
any longer permit him the shelter of your roof."
She sat down and began to laugh, softly but in unnatural fashion.
Falkenberg watched her with grim curiosity.
"And then?" she inquired.
"I have made some plans," he said slowly. "If he passes outside your
doors to-night, he will write no more articles!"
"But the whole of the English Press is clamoring for his return to
power! There will be no need for his pen--he will take up his old
"Precisely!" Falkenberg assented. "It is not my intention that he shall
return to that position!"
Madame Christophor sat with her eyes fixed upon the wall. Then she
began to laugh once more in the same strange manner. Falkenberg was
"You find my intentions amusing?" he asked.
"I find the situation amusing," she replied. "Half an hour ago I
offered Sir Julien Portel what is left of my life."
Falkenberg stood perfectly still, watching her closely. Then his eyes
filled with a sudden bright light.
"You!" he exclaimed. "You--Princess von Falkenberg--offered yourself to
this man and were refused?"
"You are indeed a genius," she admitted. "I was refused."
There was a brief silence. Falkenberg waited. Madame Christophor
remained silent. Her attitude puzzled him a little. He was afraid to
speak for fear of striking the wrong note. Nevertheless, the onus of
speech was thrust upon him.
"Madame," he said at last, "I anticipate your reply. This man has put
an intolerable insult upon you. While he lives you could never forget
it. There are some privileges still belonging to me. I claim the right
of avenging that affront."
"It comes conveniently--the affront!" she remarked, through her
"Conveniently or not, the affront exists!" he cried. "You cannot refuse
me now! You would not have him go unpunished!"
"I am not sure that he was to blame."
"Not to blame?" Falkenberg repeated, with emphasis. "Would you have me
believe that you threw yourself at his head unasked, without
encouragement--you, the proudest woman in France? One does not believe
"Nevertheless, it is the truth," Madame Christophor declared.
Falkenberg smiled incredulously, but he said nothing. Madame
Christophor had found her way once more to the window. She stood there,
looking down into the car. The boy was still asleep. She gripped the
window-curtains with both her hands. He was so pale, so tired, and how
he had grown!
"I give you even his heritage," Falkenberg promised. "Make of him a
Frenchman or an American, if you will. He is your own son. Take him. I
give my firstborn for my country. You will not refuse what I offer?"
Madame Christophor made no answer. Falkenberg, however, saw the longing
in her face. It was enough! He suddenly changed his tactics.
"This Julien Portel," he said,--"it is another woman he prefers."
He saw her bosom heave. The storm against which she had been struggling
all the time seemed on the point of bursting. The hot blood was singing
in her ears, her eyes were aflame. She crossed the room and rang the
bell. Falkenberg was content to wait. He felt that he had won! The
butler appeared almost immediately.
"You will conduct the Prince von Falkenberg into the winter-garden,"
she directed. "He desires to speak to Sir Julien Portel."
"And you?" Falkenberg asked, turning towards her.
A swift gesture showed him her disordered countenance. It was
"I follow," she announced.
DEFEAT FOR FALKENBERG
Among the palms of Madame Christophor's conservatory, Julien and Lady
Anne were living through a brief new chapter of their history. The
wonderful thing had come to them. It was amazing--almost unrealizable!
A new glamor enveloped the merest trifles. They spoke in halting
sentences, they were at times almost incoherent. The marvel of it was
Lady Anne was the first to hear the sound of approaching footsteps. She
listened. It was not Madame Christophor who returned. She laid her hand
upon Julien's arm.
"It is Jean, the butler, who comes," she whispered. "He conducts some
On the threshold of the winter-garden, only a short distance away, they
heard Jean's voice.
"Monsieur le Prince will find Sir Julien Portel a few steps further
"Monsieur le Prince!" Anne faltered, with whitening face. "Julien, what
does it mean?"
Julien rose to his feet. The footsteps were close at hand now upon the
tessellated pavement. Then through the drooping palm boughs they saw
him. Julien was standing tense and prepared, his uninjured arm was
ready to strike. Falkenberg was there.
"You!" Julien exclaimed. "Well?"
The iron prince had disappeared. It was Herr Freudenberg, maker of
toys, suave, genial, fascinating, who bowed before them.
"Why so surprised, Sir Julien?" he asked. "You forget that this is my
wife's house. The little difficulties which have existed between us
have to-day, I am happy to say, been removed. I have restored her son
to Madame la Princesse. We are reunited. Henceforth my wishes are the
wishes also of madame. You will present me? It is Lady Anne Clonarty, I
They were both bewildered. For the moment Falkenberg was supreme. He
bowed low upon the hesitating words of introduction.
"Dear Lady Anne," he murmured, "do not be prejudiced against me. Sir
Julien believes that I am his enemy. I am not. I am his sincere and
Lady Anne's eyebrows were slowly raised.
"You have surely," she remarked, "a strange manner of showing such
Falkenberg smiled whimsically. He had the expression of a penitent boy
who has misbehaved.
"It is at least consistent," he pleaded. "I admire Sir Julien's talents
to such an extent that I am perhaps a trifle too anxious that he should
not use them against my country."
"You haven't forced your way in here to bandy phrases," Julien asserted
a little harshly. "What is it that you want?"
"You!" Falkenberg answered softly. "You, my friend! Madame la
Princesse--my wife, whom you have known as Madame Christophor--finds it
impossible, against my wishes, to offer you any longer the shelter of
her roof. I am here to escort you, if you will, to your new
quarters--to follow you, if I cannot reconcile you to my company."
Julien was startled, Lady Anne incredulous.
"I do not believe," the former declared, "that Madame Christophor
intends any such act of inhospitality."
"As to that," Falkenberg replied pleasantly, "my wife will be here
herself in a few moments. You shall hear what she has to say from her
own lips. You must remember that I have paid a price. I have given up
the guardianship of my son. You yourself," he continued, looking
steadfastly at Julien, "may know if any other cause exists likely to
have influenced my wife in granting my request."
Julien set his teeth, but he did not flinch.
"What is it that you want with me, Prince Falkenberg?" he demanded.
"Another brutal attempt at massacre? I owe you this," he added, raising
his bandaged arm. "Do you imagine that you can continue to use the
methods of other generations with impunity? The thing is absurd. There
are too many who know already the secret of Herr Freudenberg, maker of
toys! There are too many who will know, also, before long, the secret
of the explosion in the Rue de Montpelier!"
Falkenberg nodded gravely.
"I understand," he admitted. "One moves, of course, always, with the
knife at one's heart. Yet, until now, I, personally, am safe. Another
man dies to-night, even as we talk here, and confesses himself guilty
of the Rue de Montpelier affair. But let that pass. We have crossed
swords, Sir Julien, and I frankly admit, although I have gained my end
to-night, that I am worsted. The money I spent to purchase _Le
Jour_ has been thrown away. The months of careful intrigue, the
sacrifices and efforts I have made to destroy the _entente_, have
been rendered almost futile by your diabolical pen. Very well, for what
you have done I will accept defeat--I will accept defeat without
malice. But there is the future."
"What of it?" Julien asked.
"I do not intend," Falkenberg declared, in a low, firm tone, "to have
you back, a member of any English Government. I prefer Carraby and such
"You flatter me!" Julien remarked grimly.
"Not in the least," Falkenberg objected. "You know the position as well
as I. The political party of which you are a member is in power for a
long time. You have got hold of the middle class, you've bought the
Irish vote, you've bought labor. In the ranks of your party there isn't
a man whom I fear--only you. I will not have you go back."
"But as it happens," Julien announced, "I am going back. I have heard
from England this evening. Your friend Carraby is resigning."
Falkenberg shook his head. He remained calm, but there was an ominous
flash in his eyes.
"You would make a mistake," he asserted. "No one ever goes
back--successfully. Do I not know--I who am twenty years your senior, I
who have felt my way into all the corners and crevices of life? Listen
to me, please."
He drew a chair towards them and sat down, crossing his knees and
looking towards them both in friendly fashion.
"Sir Julien," he said, "and you, my dear young lady, your entire future
depends upon this little conversation. Can you not put it out of your
minds for a few moments that I am the dangerous Falkenberg, the
mischief-maker, the ogre of all respectable Britons? Can you not
remember only that I am a well-meaning, not unkindly old gentleman who
has some good advice to offer? You at least will listen to me, Lady
Anne. Do I look like an assassin by choice? Do I seem like the sort of
person to indulge in these dangerous exercises for mere amusement? You
are both young, you have both your lives before you. Why do you, Sir
Julien, voluntarily put the yoke about your neck? Why do you, my
gracious young lady, suffer the man with whom your life is to be linked
to deliver himself over voluntarily into a state of bondage? Politics
lose all glamor to those who have dwelt within the walls. Sir Julien
has dwelt there and so have I. He knows in his heart whether it is
worth while. One lives always amidst a clamor of evil tongues, a
pestilent trail of poisonous suspicions. One gives up one's life to be
flouted and misunderstood, to be accused of evil motives and every
imaginable crime. When it is all over, when one has time to think of
all that one has missed, one feels that all one has done could have
been done just as well by the next man in the street. That is the end
of it. And against all that, you two have the world before you. You can
be rich--very rich indeed. You can make an idyll of this love of yours.
You can travel around the world in your own yacht, you can visit all
strange countries, you can wander where you will, and all the time
affairs in the world will go on very much the same as if you had stayed
and given the best hours of your life to the dusty treadmill. I am an
old man, Lady Anne, and I have an evil name in your country. They call
me greedy, subtle, and ambitious. I may be all these things, but let me
assure you that if I had my time over again my master could find
another servant and my country another toiler. There are fairer flowers
in life to be plucked than any which can be reached from the high
places in Downing Street or Berlin.... Let me, at least, Lady Anne,
make sure of your support? Mind, I am not threatening now--I plead."
Lady Anne looked at him gravely.
"Sir Julien," she declared, "will answer you for himself."
"But I want your own decision," Falkenberg insisted. "I want you to see
the truth as I see it. I want you to tell me that you agree with me."
She shook her head.
"But I do not!" she exclaimed. "To me you have spoken like a sophist.
One does not gain happiness by seeking it. You may be honest in some
part of what you say--I cannot tell. Only I think that you have
mistaken Sir Julien's ideas--and mine."
"You disappoint me!" Falkenberg murmured.
Sir Julien smiled.
"Not very much, I think," he said. "You always did believe in trying
the hundredth chance. Let us come back to the reasonable part of our
discussion. Do you propose, then, that I should leave this house at
this moment with you?"
"My car is entirely at your service," Falkenberg suggested.
"Do I seem to you so ingenuous?" Julien inquired. "I am wondering what
resources are open to me. I might propose to Lady Anne here that she
telephone for the gendarmes. Why should I not have an escort to take me
to an hotel?"
Falkenberg shrugged his shoulders.
"I like the idea," he admitted. "By all means, do as you say. Only do
me the favor to remember that this is my wife's house and with her
authority I request that you leave it immediately."
"I wonder," Julien asked, "what may be in store for me?--what pleasant
schemes you have hatched?"
Falkenberg shrugged his shoulders.
"Listen," he said,--"if you listen attentively you will hear the murmur
of Paris calling you back. Almost you can hear the falling of a
thousand feet upon the pavements of the boulevards, the voice of life.
You may find an asylum there. Who can tell?"
They heard the soft swirl of a woman's gown passing over the marble
floor. They all turned. It was Madame Christophor who stood there.
"Still here?" she remarked.
"It is not my intention to linger," he assured her. "Prince von
Falkenberg has given me your message. I am prepared to go."
Lady Anne moved hastily forward.
"Do you know," she cried, "that they will kill him? Do you know that
this man," she added, pointing to Falkenberg, "has admitted it? Would
you dare to send him out to be butchered in the streets?"
"The young lady exaggerates," Falkenberg protested. "This is a
perfectly respectable neighborhood. What possible harm can come to an
English gentleman? Besides, I have offered him, if he will, the
protection of my car."
Madame Christophor sighed. She waved back Sir Julien.
"Alas!" she exclaimed, "there has been a slight misunderstanding."
She touched a bell which stood on the table by her side. Almost
immediately a tall, pale-faced man in dark clothes appeared, followed
by Jean, the butler.
"My dear Prince," she said to her husband, "I do assure you that you
need have no special anxiety. Let me present to you Monsieur Bourgan of
the French Detective Service. Monsieur Bourgan--the Prince von
Falkenberg--Sir Julien Portel!"
Monsieur Bourgan saluted. The two men looked at him,--as yet they
"I suppose," Madame Christophor continued, "that I am a somewhat
nervous woman, but you see I can always plead the privilege of my sex.
I was delighted to have Sir Julien here with me, but in a sense it was
a responsibility. It occurred to me then to send a message to the
Minister of the Police, who happens to be a great friend of mine, and
at his suggestion Monsieur Bourgan here, who is, as I have no doubt you
both well know, very distinguished in the Service, has taken up his
residence in my house. He has occupied, as a matter of fact, the next
room to Sir Julien's. Forgive me," she added, smiling at them all, "if
I kept this little matter secret, but I know that men hate a fuss. I
propose, dear Prince," she added, turning to her husband, "that
Monsieur Bourgan accompanies you to your rooms. You need not fear then
There was an absolute silence. It was broken at last by the Prince von
"I must confess," he said slowly, "that I do not altogether
Madame Christophor faced him with a faint smile upon her lips. The
smile itself told him all that he desired to know.
"But, my dear Prince," she declared, "it is my anxiety for your safety
which induces me to propose this. Only a few minutes ago you were
telling me that you feared that you had become an extremely unpopular
person in Paris, and that the very streets were not safe for you. Under
the circumstances, one can scarcely wonder at it! The French
Government, however, is above all small feelings. A private citizen in
Paris, even though he be an enemy of France, is a person to be
respected. The protection of the detective force of Paris is at your
service. Monsieur Bourgan, you will do me the great favor of conducting
my husband to his rooms. Afterwards you will return here to continue
your watch over Sir Julien."
"I am entirely at your command, madame," Monsieur Bourgan replied.
Falkenberg hesitated for one single moment. He seemed to be measuring
the distance between Julien and himself. Under the pretense of picking
up a match, Monsieur Bourgan was almost between them. Falkenberg
laughed softly, then most graciously he made his adieux.
"Lady Anne," he said, bowing, "one is permitted to wish you every
happiness? Sir Julien, let me assure you," he continued, "that it has
been a pleasure to renew our acquaintance. Dear Henriette," he added,
"this care for my safety touches me! And the boy?"
"He is safe in my room," she assured him. "It is absurd of me, no
doubt, but I have turned the key upon him and placed a footman outside
the door. Take care of yourself, dear Rudolf. Monsieur Bourgan, I know,
will watch over you well. Yet you are one of those who take risks
Falkenberg raised her fingers to his lips.
"Almost, dear Henriette," he murmured, "you make me regret that I ever
have to leave Paris at all."
She leaned a little towards him.
"I bear you no ill-will, Rudolf," she said softly. "Take my advice.
Leave Paris quickly."
His eyes held hers as though seeking for some meaning to her words. She
only shook her head. He turned and followed Jean. Monsieur Bourgan
brought up the rear. Madame Christophor shrugged her shoulders.
"Really," she declared, with a sigh, "life is becoming altogether too
complicated. Never mind, I have got rid of Prince Falkenberg for you,
Sir Julien. Between ourselves, I think that he will receive a hint to
leave Paris, and before very long. Listen--there goes his car."
"Dear Madame Christophor," Lady Anne whispered, "you are wonderful!"
Madame Christophor was already moving away.
"Not really wonderful," she replied. "Only a little human. I must go to
THE ONE WAY OUT
Estermen started up from his chair. In the unlit room the figure of
his master seemed to have assumed a portentous, almost a threatening
"Who's that?" he cried out.
Falkenberg calmly turned on the electric light.
"Still here, my friend?" he remarked significantly.
Estermen began to tremble.
"There is plenty of time," he faltered. "I am not sure about the man
opposite. It may be some one else he is watching."
Falkenberg walked to the window and stood there in the full glare of
the light. The man opposite was still sipping his eternal coffee. He
glanced casually at Falkenberg and back at his paper.
"You fool!" the latter said to Estermen. "Can't you see that he is
waiting only to draw the others in? Do you know that I--I, Von
Falkenberg, Chancellor of Germany, have received what they are pleased
to call a hint from the French Minister of Police that it would be
advisable for me to leave Paris? This is your blundering, Estermen!"
"Not mine only," the man muttered. "Do you know that there are those
who wait for you in your rooms?"
Falkenberg turned away.
"Stay here till I return," he ordered.
He turned the key of his own apartments and entered. His servant
hurried up to him.
"There waits for Your Highness," he announced, "the Baron von
"Here?" he exclaimed.
"In His Excellency's private apartment. There waits also--"
Falkenberg had already departed. He opened the door of his room. His
secretary rose hastily to his feet.
"What do you here, Neudheim?" Falkenberg demanded. "What has happened?"
"Excellency," the young man replied, "there is trouble. Within half an
hour of your leaving, I had important news. I dared not telegraph. I
have followed you. I took a special train from the frontier."
"Go on," Falkenberg said calmly. "It is something serious?"
"Indeed, yes, Your Excellency!" the Baron continued. "It is concerning
the Agdar matter."
Falkenberg's face lit up.
"An ultimatum!" he exclaimed. "So much the better!"
Baron von Neudheim shook his head.
"For once, I am afraid," he said, "we have been trapped. His Excellency
himself sent for me. The reply from Downing Street has been received."
"Well?" Falkenberg interrupted impatiently.
"Your Excellency, the reply to our note is exceedingly courteous. It
states that the unrest referred to had already been reported to the
British Government, and a warship which left Portsmouth under sealed
orders some months ago was instructed to proceed to the port last week.
The note goes on to state that no intimation was given to Germany, as
the British Government was not aware that Germany had any interests,
but it further contains an assurance that the welfare of all white men
will receive equal attention." Falkenberg set his teeth.
"What battleship was sent?" he asked.
"The 'Aida,'" the young man replied slowly,--"a first-class cruiser,
twenty-six thousand tons."
Falkenberg was silent for a moment. His face had grown dark.
"And ours," he muttered, "was a third-rate gunboat! Who in all Downing
Street could have planned a coup like this?"
"It was Sir Julien Portel--his last official action," the Baron
answered. "The papers to-morrow will be full of this. The Press of
Germany and England and France have the whole story."
"Which is to say," Falkenberg exclaimed, "that we are to be the
laughing-stock of Europe! Anything else?"
"There is an imperial summons commanding your presence at Potsdam at
once," Neudheim acknowledged reluctantly.
"I start for the frontier in a quarter of an hour," Falkenberg decided.
"I shall drive to Chalons and telegraph for a special train from
"You will let me accompany you?" the young man begged.
Falkenberg hesitated, then he shook his head.
"No, it is my wish that you return by train. Take a day's holiday, if
you will. You will be back in time."
The young man's expression was clouded. He was obviously disappointed.
"But, Excellency," he pleaded, "there is trouble in Berlin. It is best,
indeed, that I should be by your side."
Falkenberg held out his hand.
"My dear Fritz," he replied, "you will obey my orders, as you always
have done. It is my wish that you return by the ordinary train
"There is nothing I can do--no message--"
"Nothing!" Falkenberg interrupted. "Look after yourself. Leave me now,
if you please."
The young man moved reluctantly towards the door.
"Excellency," he protested, "I do not desire a day's holiday. Things in
Berlin are bad. Let us talk together on our way north. You have never
yet known defeat. We can plan our way through, or fight it. Don't tell
me to leave you, dear master!" he wound up, with a sudden change of
tone. "There are still ways."
Falkenberg laid his hand upon the young man's shoulder.
"Fritz," he said, "my orders, if you please! Remember that I never
suffer them to be disputed. Goodbye!"
The young man left the room. As he passed down the stairs he shivered.
Falkenberg passed into an inner apartment. Already he had guessed who
it was waiting for him. Mademoiselle rose to her feet with a little
"At last!" she exclaimed. "Dear maker of toys, how long you have been!
How weary it has been to wait!"
She came into his arms. He patted her head gently.
"Dear little one!"
"You are taking me to supper?" she begged.
He shook his head. Her face fell, the big tears were already in her
"But you are troubled!" she cried. "Oh, come and forget it all for a
time! Isn't that what you told me once was my use in the world--that I
could chatter to you, or sing, or lead you through the light paths, so
that your brain could rest? Let me take you there, dear one. To-night,
if ever, you have the look in your face. You need rest. Come to me!"
He looked at her steadfastly, looked at her feeling as one far away
gazing down upon some strange element in life. Then a thought came to
"Little one," he whispered, "you are irresistible. Wait, then. It may
be as you desire. Only, after supper I pass on."
"And I with you?" she implored.
He shook his head.
Once more he returned to Estermen's apartments. Estermen was still
there, smoking furiously. The room was blue with tobacco smoke.
Falkenberg regarded him with distaste.
"Make yourself presentable, man," he ordered. "We sup in the Montmartre
and we leave in a few minutes."
"What, I?" Estermen exclaimed, springing up.
"You and I and mademoiselle," Falkenberg told him. "I have made plans.
You may perhaps escape--who can tell?"
Estermen, with a little sob of relief, hurried into his sleeping
apartment. Soon they were all three in the big car, gliding through the
busy streets. It was getting towards midnight and they took their place
among the crowd of vehicles climbing the hill, only wherever the street
was broad enough they passed always ahead. At the Rat Mort they came to
a stand-still. Falkenberg led the way up the narrow stairs, greeted
Albert with both hands, nodded amiably to the _chef d'orchestre_,
the flower girl and the head waiter, who crowded around him.
"For as many as choose to come!" he declared. "The round table! The
best supper in France! It is a gala night, Albert. Serve us of your
best. Mademoiselle will sing. We are here to taste the joys of life."
Albert led the way.
"Ah, monsieur," he said, "it is good, indeed, to hear your voice! There
is no one who comes here who enters more splendidly into the spirit of
the place. When you are here I know that it will be a joyful evening
for all. They catch it, too, those others," he explained. "Sometimes
they come here stolid, British. They look around them, they eat, they
drink, they sit like stuffed animals. Then comes monsieur--dear
monsieur! He talks gayly, he laughs, he waves salutes, he drinks wine,
he makes friends. The thing spreads. It is the spirit--the real spirit.
Behold! Even the dull, once they catch it, they enjoy."
Falkenberg took the cushioned seat in the corner. Close to his side was
mademoiselle, her hand already clasping his. Estermen, gaunt, red-eyed,
still haggard with fear, sat a few feet away.
"Wine!" Falkenberg ordered. "Pommery--bottles of it! Never mind if we
cannot drink it. Let us look at it. Let us imagine the joys that come,
added to those we feel."
Already the wine was rushing into their glasses. Falkenberg raised his
"To our last supper, dear Marguerite!" he whispered.
She shivered all over. She looked at him, her face was suddenly
"Jest? But is it not a night for jests!" he answered. "Why not? Ah,
Marguerite, I take it back! To our first supper! Let us say to
ourselves that to-night we stand upon the threshold of life. Let us say
to ourselves that never before have I seen how blue your eyes shine,
how sweet your mouth, how soft your fingers, how dear the thrill which
passes from you to me. Close to me, Marguerite--close to me, little
one! Our first evening!"
"Dearest," she whispered, "first or last, there could never be another.
It is you who make my life. It is you who, when you go, leave it
He held her hand more tightly.
"Ah, little friend," he murmured, "you spoil me with your sweet
phrases! You set the music playing in my heart--the witch music, I
think. Come, we must speak to Estermen," he continued, looking
resolutely away from her. "We cannot have him sitting there glum, a
death's-head at our feast. Estermen, drink, man! Is this a funeral
party? Wake up. Mademoiselle who dances there looks towards you. Why
not? You see, she waves her hand. You have waltzed with her before. Ask
her to sit down with us. I have ordered supper. See, mademoiselle
approaches, Estermen. More glasses, waiter. Open more wine. There is
champagne here for everybody. Mademoiselle does us great honor. Permit
The little dancing girl obeyed his invitation. She sat by Estermen's
side, but she cast a longing glance at Falkenberg. Their glasses were
filled. Estermen drank quickly, all the time looking about him with the
furtive air of a whipped dog.
"To-night," Falkenberg cried, as he lifted his glass, "I have but one
command--be joyful. Why not? To-night I have Marguerite by my side, and
you--you can choose from the world of Marguerites. There is nothing in
life like this--the hour of midnight, the music of the moment, the wine
of the hour, the woman we love. Drink, Estermen, once more. Fix your
thoughts upon the present. Mademoiselle looks around her. She finds you
dull. She will seek for another admirer. Ah, mademoiselle!" he added,
leaning across the table, "if the sweetest girl in Paris were not here
already by my side, do you think that I would permit you to be for an
instant the companion of a dumb admirer?"
Mademoiselle laughed back into his eyes.
"If monsieur's friend were but as gallant as monsieur himself!"
"He is depressed," Falkenberg declared, "but it passes. Behold! Another
glass like that, Estermen! Drink till you feel it bubbling in your
veins. Look at him now!"
Falkenberg leaned back in his place and pressed his companion's arm.
Indeed, the wine was working its magic. The terror was passing from
Estermen's face. Already he was becoming more natural.
"Leave them alone," Falkenberg said softly. "He will have no relapse.
The wine is in his blood. Ah, Marguerite! never did you seem so sweet
to me as tonight, when my face is set for the cold north! Have you joy
in remembering, little one? Have you sentiment enough for that?"
"I have sentiment enough," she whispered, "to suffer every time you
leave me. To-night I am afraid to let you go. Oh! dear--my dear--take
me with you! I have begged you before, but to-night I beg you in a
different manner. I am afraid to be left alone. I care not where or
whatever the end of your journey may be. Take me with you, dear one. It
is because I love that I ask this!"
He looked at her for a moment and there were wonderful things in his
"Ah, little girl," he murmured, "you teach one so much! One passes
through life too often with one's eyes closed, one finds the great
things in strange places, the rarest flowers even by the roadside.
Drink your wine, press my fingers--like that. See, it is the _chef
d'orchestre_ who approaches. You shall sing--sing to me, little
He motioned to the musician, who with a smile of delight held up his
hand to the orchestra. Mademoiselle hummed a few bars. The man who
listened nodded his head. Then he raised his violin, he passed his bow
across the strings. With the touch of his fingers he drew from them a
little melody. Mademoiselle assented. Her head was back against the
wall, her eyes half closed. Then she began to sing; sang so that in a
few moments the passionate words which streamed from her lips held the
room breathless. It was no ordinary music. It was the love prayer of a
woman, starting in sadness, passing on to passion, ending in wild
entreaty. As she finished she turned her head towards her companion.
"You shall not go alone!" she cried, and her words might well have been
the text of her song.
Falkenberg shook his head.
"Something gayer," he begged,--"something more like the wine which
foams in our glasses."
She obeyed him after only a moment's hesitation, yet in the first few
bars her song came to an abrupt end, her voice choked. She leaned
suddenly forward in her place, her face was hidden between her hands.
They all gazed at her curiously.
"Nerves!" one declared.
"Hysterics!" another echoed.
"It is the life they lead, these women," an American explained to a
little party of guests. "They weep or they laugh always. Life with them
quivers all the time. They pass from one emotion to another--they
seldom know which. Look, it is over with her."
It was over, indeed. She raised her head and sang, sang ravishingly,
charmingly, a gay love-song. Falkenberg was the first to applaud her.
"To-night, dear," he murmured, "you are wonderful. You sing from the
heart, your voice has feeling, you bring to one the exquisite
moments.... Behold, the supper arrives! Estermen has made friends now
with his little _danseuse_. Sit closer to me, dear. These are the
golden hours. Give me your hand, look into my eyes, drink with me....
How the minutes pass! There is magic in this place."
Towards four o'clock Falkenberg and his companions came down the narrow
stairs, out into the morning. A fine rain was falling, the pavements
were already wet. Falkenberg was still gay, still laughing and talking.
Behind, a little company--the _chef d'orchestre_, the chief
_maitre d'hotel_, the flower girl--wondering at his generosity,
stood at the head of the stairs to bid him godspeed. He gave a louis to
the _commissionaire_ and called for a special carriage. He had
almost to lift Marguerite inside.
"Dear child," he said, holding her hands, "here we must part for a
time--not for so long, perhaps. Who can tell? It is a comfortable
carriage, this. Here is a handful of money for the fare. It is of no
use to me."
He emptied his pockets into her lap as she sat there. She made no
effort to pick up the shower of gold and silver.
"What do you mean--that it is of no use to you?"
"We drive for home," he answered. "We shall need no money to take us
He drew her face very close to his.
"When you arrive at your apartment," he said, "you will find there a
little packet from me. Be wise, dear. If chance will have it that we do
not meet again very soon, may it help you to take all out of life that
you can find. Only sometimes when the heart is joyous, when the wine
flows and your feet are keeping time to the music of life, think for a
moment--of one who dwells, alas! in a quieter country. Dear
He kissed her, first upon the lips and then lightly on the forehead.
Then gently he thrust away the arms which she had wound around his
neck. He waved to the coachman to drive off. With a little shrug of the
shoulders he took his own place in the great touring car. Estermen,
too, clambered into the tonneau.
"You have supped well, I trust, Henri?" the Prince asked the chauffeur.
"Without a doubt, Excellency," the man replied.
"Then drive for the frontier," Falkenberg ordered. "We will stop you
when we need a rest."
They left Paris in the semi-darkness. They were away in the country
before the faintest gleam of daylight broke through the eastern clouds.
Even then the way was still obscured. It was a stormy morning, and
banks of murky clouds were piled up where the sun should have risen.
The rain still fell. Soon they commenced to ascend a range of hills. At
the summit Falkenberg pulled the check-string.
"Henri," he said, "come in behind here. I will drive for a time--it
will amuse me."
The man descended. Falkenberg took his place at the wheel. Estermen,
obeying his gesture, scrambled into the seat by his side.
"Go to the signpost," his master ordered the chauffeur. "Tell me
exactly, how many miles to Rheims?"
The man clambered up the bank. The gray morning twilight was breaking
now through a sea of clouds. From where they were the vineyards sloped
down to the bank. A thin, curving line of silver marked the course of
the river. Here and there a little gleam of sunlight fell upon the
country below them. Estermen closed his eyes.
"It makes me giddy," he muttered. "I hope that you will drive slowly
down the hill!"
Falkenberg glanced to the left--the chauffeur was still peering at the
milestone. He slipped in the clutch and the car glided off, gathering
speed as though by magic.
"You have left Henri!" Estermen cried. "He is running after us. Stop
the car! Can't you stop it?"
Falkenberg turned his head only once. The stone walls now on either
side seemed flying past them. Estermen looked into his face and quaked
"This ride is for you and me alone, my friend!" Falkenberg replied.
"Sit tight and say your prayers, if it pleases you. This is better,
after all, than poison, or the cold muzzle of a revolver at your
forehead. Close your eyes if you are afraid; or open them, if you have
the courage, and see the world spin by. We start on the great journey."
Estermen shrieked. He half rose to his feet, but Falkenberg, holding
the wheel with his right hand, struck him across the face with his left