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The Mischief Maker by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Part 7 out of 7

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so that he fell back in his place.

"If you try to leave the car," he said, "I swear that I will stop and
come back. I will shoot you where you lie, like a dog. Be brave, man!
Be thankful that you are going to your death in honorable company and
in honorable fashion! It's better, this, than the guillotine, isn't it?
Look at the country below, like patchwork, coming up to us. Listen to
the wind rushing by. You see the trees, how they bend? You feel the
rain stinging your cheeks? Sit still, man, and fix your thoughts where
you will. Think of mademoiselle _la danseuse_, think of her
kisses, think of the perfume of the violets at her bosom! You see, we
arrive. Watch that corner of the viaduct."

They were traveling now at a terrific speed, falling fast to the level
country. Before them was a high bridge, crossing the river. On the
left, a portion of it was being repaired and a few boards alone were up
for protection. Falkenberg, recognizing the spot for which he had been
looking, settled down in his seat. A grim smile parted his lips.

"Jean Charles will never place his hand upon your shoulder now!" he
cried. "Can you hear the wind sob, Estermen? Soon you'll hear the water
in your ears! Hold fast. Don't spoil the end!"

They were going at sixty miles an hour, and with the slightest swerve
of the steering wheel they turned to the left on entering the bridge
and struck the boards. Henri, in his account of the accident, declared
that although the car turned over before it reached the river,
Falkenberg never left his seat. Estermen, on the other hand, was thrown
violently out, and struck the water head foremost. From the condition
of his body it would seem that death was instantaneous. Falkenberg was
found with his arms locked around the steering wheel, his head bent
forward. He, too, seemed to have been drowned almost immediately. The
steering wheel was jammed, the car wrecked....

The authorities, who had left only a temporary protection while they
repaired the viaduct on the bridge, were severely censured. The makers
of the car were subjected to a very searching cross-examination. The
brakes and the uncertain light were blamed. Henri, who from the
hillside a mile or more back had watched with ghastly face, was the
only one who understood the accident, and he kept silent!



The Duchess of Clonarty was famous for doing the right thing. Three
weeks after the return of Julien and Lady Anne to London, she gave a
large dinner-party in their honor. At a quarter past eight, a
telephone message from the House of Commons was received, explaining
that Sir Julien would be ten minutes late, owing to his having to speak
at greater length than he had first intended upon the Agdar question.
Lady Anne was waiting for him, and they would arrive together certainly
within a quarter of an hour. The Duchess made every use of her
opportunity. She was at her very best during that brief period which
ensued while they waited for the delayed guests.

"You know, my dear Lady Cardington," she explained, raising her voice a
little to indicate that this was not entirely a confidence, "I never
dreamed that dear Anne had so much self-confidence and resolution. Even
now I have scarcely given up wondering at it. If she had only told me
that she was so sincerely attached to Julien, I would never have
listened for one moment to that Harbord affair. It was a mistake, of
course," she rippled on, "but then one learns so much by one's
mistakes. Notwithstanding their wealth, they were most terrible and
impossible people. I am sure the association would have been most
distasteful to the Duke. Poor Henry used to lock himself in his study
when any of them were about the place, and what it would have been if
they were really able to call themselves connections, I cannot imagine.
You were speaking of the Carraby woman a few minutes ago. My dear Eva!
Of course, you have heard about her? Her husband, when he resigned,
gave out that he was obliged to go abroad for his wife's health. My
dear, his wife had already left him, three days before! She was seen in
Paris with Bob Sutherland. I hear the divorce suit is filed. What a
terrible woman!"

"A great escape, I am sure, for Sir Julien," Lady Cardington declared.

The Duchess drew a little breath.

"Poor Julien was always so chivalrous," she murmured. "How thankful
your dear husband must be to think that at last he has one person in
his Cabinet who does command some sort of a following in the country!"

The Duchess delivered her little shaft and moved to the door. Sir
Julien and Lady Anne Portel had just been announced. It was almost a
family dinner. The Duchess took Julien's arm and drew him into a corner
while the others filed past.

"Is it true," she whispered, "that the Carraby woman has bolted?"

Julien nodded.

"I am afraid there isn't a doubt about it," he admitted.

"How are things to-night? Anything new?" she asked.

"Quite calm again," he replied. "The trouble seems to have passed over.
Falkenberg's death upset the whole scheme which was brewing against us,
whatever it may have been. All the notes which are being interchanged
at the present moment are perfectly pacific."

The Duchess sighed.

"After all," she said, "my little visit to Paris was
not so wild. I don't think you would ever have found out about Anne
but for me."

Julien smiled.

"If I really believed that," he assured her, "and I shall try to, then
I should feel that I owed you more than any person upon the earth."

The dinner was a success. Lady Anne seemed certainly to have developed.
She was looking wonderfully handsome, and though her eyes strayed more
than once to the end of the table where her husband was sitting, she
carried on her share of the conversation with just that trifle of
assurance which marks the transition from girlhood to the dignity of
marriage. After the women had left, conversation for a few moments was
necessarily political. The Duke, who read the _Times_ and the
_Spectator_, and attended every debate in the House of Lords,
spoke with some authority.

"I believe," he said firmly, "that we have passed through a crisis
greater than any one, even those in power, know of. It is my opinion
that Falkenberg was the bitter enemy of this country--that it was he,
indeed, who kept alive all that suspicious and jealous feeling of which
we have had constant evidences from Berlin. He was dying all the time
to make mischief. I am sorry, of course, for his tragical end. On the
other hand, I am inclined to believe that his departure from the sphere
of politics was the best thing that has happened to this country for
many years."

"There is no doubt," Lord Cardington declared, "that he was working
hard to estrange France and England. Your letters, Sir Julien, made
that remarkably evident."

"'The good that men do lives after them,'" some one quoted, "also the
evil. I am afraid it will be some time before France and England are on
exactly the same terms."

"I would not be so sure," Julien interposed, setting down his glass.
"The politics of Paris are the politics of France, and the spirit of
the Parisian is essentially mercurial. Besides, the days of the great
alliance draw nearer--the next step forward after the arbitration
treaty. Who can doubt that when that is completed, France will embrace
the chance of permanent peace?"

The Duke rose to his feet.

"Five minutes only I am allowed, gentlemen," he said. "My wife wants
some of us, some of us have to go back to Westminster. I shall ask you,
therefore, before we separate, as this is in some respects an occasion,
to drink to the health of my son-in-law, Sir Julien Portel. Though a
politician of the old type, I do not fail to appreciate what we owe to
the new school. I am a reader of the old-fashioned newspapers, but I
recognize the fact that the modern Press sometimes exercises a new and
wonderful function in politics. It is my opinion that by means of this
modern journalism Sir Julien Portel has maintained the peace of the
world. I ask you, therefore, not only as my private friends and
relatives, but as politicians, to drink to-night to the health of my

They all rose.

"And with that toast," Lord Cardington added, as he bowed toward
Julien, "let me associate the fervent pleasure felt by all of us in
welcoming back once more the colleague to whom we have so many reasons
to be thankful."

The party broke up soon afterwards. Lady Anne drove back with her
husband to Westminster. She sat by his side in the closed car which had
been her father's wedding present. Her hands, linked together, were
passed through his arm. She was a very well satisfied woman.

"Julien," she declared, "it's lovely to be back here, but I wouldn't
have been without those few weeks in Paris for anything in the world. I
don't think we can ever get back down into the bottom of the ruts, do

"If ever we feel like it," he answered, smiling, "we'll cross the
Channel again, and take Mademoiselle Janette with us and seek for more

"Lovely!" she exclaimed. "I shall hold you to that, mind."

"No need," he replied. "Kendricks is going to stay there as
correspondent for the _Post_. We must go and see him occasionally.
There is no one who understands better the temperament of the Parisian
than he."

"There will be no more Herr Freudenberg to circumvent," she remarked.

"Paris always has its problems," he answered. "Kendricks realizes that.
The plotting of the world takes place within a mile of Montmartre."

They were nearing Westminster. Julien drew his wife towards him and
kissed her.

"I shall only be about twenty minutes, dear," he suggested. "Why not

"Of course," she replied. "I have a little electric lamp here, and a
book. I'd love to."

Julien walked blithely into the House. Lady Anne turned on the lamp,
drew out her book, and leaned back among the cushions with a deep sigh
of content.

* * * * *

That same night, wandering around Paris, Kendricks met Monsieur,
Madame, and Mademoiselle.

"It is the gallant Englishman!" mademoiselle exclaimed.

"It is the gentleman who ate both portions of chicken!" madame cried,
clapping her hands.

It was a veritable meeting. Kendricks willingly joined their little
party and sat down with them in the brightly-lit cafe. Monsieur ordered

"The business affairs of monsieur are prospering, I trust?" he said.
"After all, the _entente_ remains."

Kendricks lifted his glass.

"I drink to it!" he exclaimed. "It is the sanest thing to-day in
European politics. Drink to it yourself, monsieur, and you, madame, and
you, mademoiselle. You shall accuse us no longer, we English, of
selfishness or stupidity. For what reason, think you, did we order a
warship to Agdar and brave the whole wrath of Germany?"

Monsieur held out his hand.

"My friend," he declared, "it was a stroke of genius, that. It was what
we none of us expected from any English Minister. It was magnificent. I
confess it--it has altered my opinions. I drink with you now, cordially
and heartily. I drink to the _entente_. I believe in it. I am a

Kendricks shook hands with every one solemnly. He shook hands last with
mademoiselle, and forgot to release her little fingers for several

"Tell us of your friend, monsieur?" madame asked politely.

But Kendricks did not hear! He was whispering in mademoiselle's ear.
Her dark eyes were fixed upon the tablecloth, her pretty lips were
parted, a most becoming flush of color was in her cheeks. Monsieur
looked at madame and winked. Madame smiled, well pleased.

"_L'entente!_" monsieur murmured.

Madame nodded.

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