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The Pawns Count by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Part 2 out of 5

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He changed his position a little uneasily. His attitude became less of
a sprawl. His eyes were fixed upon her face.

"I fear," he said, "that we are going to begin by a disagreement. I do
not consider that America has realised in the least the duties of a
neutral nation."

"You must explain that at once, if you please, before we go any
further," Pamela insisted.

"Is this neutrality?" Fischer demanded, his rather harsh voice almost
raucous now with a touch of real feeling. "America ships daily millions
of dollars' worth of those things that make war possible, to France, to
Italy, above all to England. She keeps them supplied with ammunition,
clothing, scientific instruments, food--a dozen things which make war
easier. To Germany she sends nothing. Is that neutrality?"

"But America is perfectly willing to deal in the same way with
Germany," Pamela pointed out. "German agents can come and place their
orders and take away whatever they want. The market is as much open to
her as to the Allies."

Fischer was sitting bolt upright in his chair now. There was a little
spot of colour in his cheeks and his eyes flashed behind his
spectacles. He struck the side of the chair. He was very angry.

"That is Jesuitical," he declared. "It is perfectly well-known that
Germany is not in a position to fetch munitions from America.
Therefore, I say that there is no neutrality in supplying one side in
the war with goods which the other is unable to procure."

"Then you place upon America the onus of Germany's naval inferiority,"
Pamela remarked drily.

"Germany's maritime inferiority does not exist," Mr. Fischer protested.
"When the moment arrives that the High Seas fleet comes out for action
the world will know the truth."

"Then hadn't it better come," Pamela suggested, "and clear the ocean
for your commerce?"

"That isn't the point," Fischer insisted. "We have wandered from the
main issue. I say that America abandons its neutrality when it helps
the Allies to continue the war."

"I don't think you will find," Pamela replied, "that international law
prevents any neutral country from supplying either combatant with
munitions. If one country can fetch the things and the other can't,
that is the misfortune of the country that can't. For one moment look
at the matter from England's point of view. She has built up a mighty
navy to keep the seas clear for exactly this purpose--to continue her
commerce from abroad. Germany instead has built up a mighty army, with
which she has overrun Europe. Germany has had the advantage from her
army. Why shouldn't England have the advantage from her navy?"

"Let me ask you the question you asked me a few minutes ago," her
companion begged. "Were you born in America--or England?"

"I was born in America," Pamela told him; "so were my parents and my
grandparents. I claim to be American to the backbone. I claim even to
treat any sympathies I might have in this affair as prejudices, and not
even to allow them a single corner in my brain."

Mr. Fischer sat quite still for several moments. He was struggling very
hard to keep his temper. In the end he succeeded.

"We will not, then, pursue the subject of America's neutrality," he
said, "because it is obvious that we disagree fundamentally. But tell
me this, now, as an American and a patriot. Which do you think would be
better for America--That Germany and Austria won this war, or the
Allies?"

"Upon that question I have not altogether made up my mind," Pamela
confessed.

"Then there is room there for a discussion," Mr. Fischer pointed out
eagerly. "I should like to put my views before you on this matter."

"And I should love to hear them," Pamela replied, "but I feel just now
as though we had talked enough politics. Do you know that I came up on
deck in a state of great agitation?"

"Submarine alarms from the stewardess?" Mr. Fischer suggested.

"I am not afraid of submarines, but I have a most profound dislike for
thieves," Pamela declared.

"You have not had anything stolen?" he asked quickly.

"I have not," Pamela replied, "but the only reason seems to be that I
have nothing worth stealing. When I got back from luncheon this
afternoon I found that my stateroom had been systematically searched."

She turned her head a little lazily and looked at her neighbour. His
expression was entirely sympathetic.

"Your jewellery?"

"Deposited with the purser."

"I congratulate you," he said.

"Nothing has been stolen," she observed, "but one hates the feeling of
insecurity, all the same. Both my steward and stewardess are old
friends. It must have been a very clever person who found his way into
my room."

"A very clever person," Mr. Fischer objected, "would have known that
you had deposited your jewels with the purser."

"If it was my jewels of which they were in search," Pamela murmured.
"By the bye, do you remember all that fuss about the disappearance of a
young soldier that morning at Henry's?"

Fischer nodded.

"I heard something about it," he confessed. "They were talking about it
at dinner-time."

"I had an idea that you might be interested," Pamela went on. "He was
rather a foolish young man. He came into the restaurant telling every
one at the top of his voice that he had made a great discovery! Even in
London, which is, I should think, the most prosaic city in the world,
there must be people who are on the lookout to pick up war secrets."

"Even in London, as you remark," Fischer assented.

"You didn't hear the end of the affair, I suppose?" she asked him.

The steward had arrived with afternoon tea. Fischer threw into the sea
the cigar which he had been smoking.

"I do not think," he said, "that the end has been reached yet."

Pamela sighed.

"Les oreilles ennemies!" she quoted. "I suppose one has to be careful
everywhere."

CHAPTER VIII

It was one evening towards the end of the voyage, and about an hour
after dinner. A huge form loomed out of the darkness, continuing its
steady promenade along the unlit portion of the deck. Pamela, moved by
some caprice, abandoned her caution of the last few days and called
out.

"Mr. Fischer!"

He stopped short. The sparks flew from the red end of his cigar, which
he tossed into the sea. He hastened towards her.

"Miss Van Teyl?" he replied, a little hesitatingly.

"How clever of you to know my voice!" she observed. "I am in the humour
to talk. Will you sit down, please?"

Mr. Fischer humbly drew a chair to her side.

"I had an idea," he said, "that you had been avoiding me the last two
or three days."

"I have," she admitted.

"Have I offended you, then?"

"Scarcely that," she replied, "only, you see, it seemed waste of time
to talk to you with the foils on, and a little dangerous, perhaps, to
talk to you with them off."

His face reflected his admiration.

"Miss Van Teyl," he declared, "you are quite a wonderful person. I have
never believed very much in women before. Perhaps that is the reason
why I have never married."

"Dear me, are you a woman-hater?" she asked.

He looked at her steadfastly.

"I have made use of women as playthings," he confessed. "Until I met
you I never thought of them as companions, as partners."

She laughed at him through the darkness, and at the sound of her laugh
his eyes glowed.

"Really, I am very much flattered," she said. "You give me credit for
intelligence, then?"

"I give you credit for every gift a woman should have," he answered
enthusiastically. "I recognise in you the woman I have sometimes
dreamed of."

Again she laughed.

"Don't tell me, Mr. Fischer," she protested, "that ever in your
practical life you have spent a single moment in dreams?"

"I have spent many," he assured her, "but they have all been since I
knew you."

Pamela sighed.

"I have never been through a voyage," she observed, "without a love
affair. Still, I never suspected you, Mr. Fischer."

"You suspected me, perhaps, of other things."

She nodded.

"I am full of suspicions about you," she admitted. "I am not going to
tell you what they are, of course."

"There is one thing of which I am guilty," he confessed. "I should like
to tell you about it right now."

"Could I guess it?"

"You're clever enough."

"You like me, don't you, Mr. Fischer?"

"Better than any woman in the world," he answered promptly. "And my
confession is--well, just that. Will you marry me?"

Pamela shook her head.

"Quite early in life," she confided, "I made up my mind that I would
never give a definite answer to any one who proposed to me on a
steamer. I suppose it's the wind, or is it the stars, or the silence,
or what? I have known the sanest of men, even like you, Mr. Fischer,
become quite maudlin."

"I am brimful of common sense at the present moment," he declared
earnestly. "You and I could do great things together, if only I could
get you to look at one certain matter from my point of view; to see it
as I see it."

"A political matter?" she inquired naively.

"I want to try and persuade you," he confessed, "that America has
everything in the world to gain from Germany's success, and everything
to lose if the Allies should triumph in this war and Great Britain
should continue her tyranny of the seas."

"It's an extraordinarily interesting subject," Pamela admitted.

"It is almost as absorbing," he declared, "as the other matter which
just now lies even nearer to my heart."

She withdrew her fingers from his sudden clutch.

"Mr. Fischer," she told him, "what I said just now was quite final. I
will not be made love to on a steamer."

"When we land," he continued eagerly, "you will be coming to see your
brother, won't you?"

She nodded.

"Of course! I am coming to the Plaza Hotel. That, I suppose, is good
news for you, Mr. Fischer."

"Of course it is," he answered, "but why do you say so?"

"It will give you so many opportunities," she murmured.

"Of seeing you?"

She shook her head.

"Of searching my belongings."

There was a moment's silence. She heard his quick breath through the
darkness. His voice assumed its harsher tone.

"You believe that it was I who searched your stateroom?"

"I am sure that it was you, or some one acting for you."

"What is it, then, of which I am in search?" he demanded.

"Captain Graham's formula," she replied. "I think you want that a good
deal more than you want me."

"You have it then?" he asked fiercely.

She sighed.

"You jump so to conclusions. I didn't say so."

"You went up the stairs ... you were the only person who went up just
at that one psychological moment! He had his pocketbook with him when
he came in--he told Holderness so."

"And when you searched him it was gone," she remarked calmly. "Dear
me!"

"How do you know that I searched him?" Fischer demanded.

"How dare you ask me to give away my secrets?" she replied.

"Listen," he began, striving with an almost painful effort to keep his
voice down to the level of a whisper, "you and I together, we could do
the most marvellous things. I could let you into all my schemes. They
are great. They will be successful. After the war is over--"

He held his breath for a moment. The tramp of approaching footsteps
warned him of the coming of an intruder. The Captain came to a
standstill before their chairs and saluted.

"Miss Van Teyl," he said, "there will be a mutiny in the saloon if you
don't come down and sing."

She almost sprang to her feet. The ship was rolling a little, and she
laid her fingers upon his arm.

"I meant to come long ago," she declared, "but Mr. Fischer has been so
interesting. You will finish telling me your experiences another time,
won't you?" she called out over her shoulder. "There is so much that I
still want to hear."

Fischer's reply was almost ungracious. He watched their departure in
silence, and afterwards leaned further back in his chair. With long,
nervous fingers he drew a black cigar from his case and lit it. Then he
folded his arms. For more than half an hour he sat there motionless,
smoking furiously. He looked out into the chaos of the windy darkness,
he heard voices riding upon the seas, shrieking and calling to him,
voices to which he had been deaf too long. The burden of these later
years of turbulent, brazen, selfish struggling, rolled back. He had
been a sentimentalist once, a willing seeker after things which seemed
to have passed him by. At his age, he told himself, a man should still
find more than one place in the world.

CHAPTER IX

James Van Teyl glanced curiously at the small, dark figure standing
patiently before him, and then back again at the wireless cable which
he held in his fingers. He was just back from a tiring day in Wall
Street, and was reclining in the most comfortable easy-chair of his
Hotel Plaza sitting-room.

"Gee!" he murmured. "This beats me. The last thing I should have
thought we wanted here was a valet. The fellow who looks after this
suite has scarcely anything else to do. What did you say your name
was?"

"Nikasti, sir."

Van Teyl carefully reconsidered the cable. It certainly seemed to leave
no room for misunderstanding.

Please engage for our service, as valet, Nikasti. See that he enters on
his duties at once. Hope land this evening. Your sister on board sends
love.--F.

"Well that seems clear enough," the young man muttered, thrusting the
form into his waistcoat pocket. "You're here to stay, I guess, Nikasti?
I see you've brought your kit along."

"In case you decided to engage me, sir," the man replied.

"Oh, you are engaged right enough," Van Teyl assured him. "You'd better
make the best job you can of putting out my evening clothes. If you
ring for the floor valet, he'll help you. The bedrooms are through that
door."

"Very good, sir!"

"I am going down to the barber's now," Van Teyl continued, rising to
his feet. "Just remember this, Nikasti--what a name, by the bye!"

"I could be called Kato," the man suggested.

"Kato for me all the time," his prospective employer agreed. "Well,
listen. My sister, Miss Van Teyl, arrives from Europe on the _Lapland_
this evening. If she comes in or rings up, say I'm here and I want to
see her at once. You understand?"

"I understand, sir."

Van Teyl strolled out, and Kato disappeared into the inner room. The
floor valet, dressed in the dark blue livery of the hotel, was already
laying out his master's dinner clothes. He eyed the intruder a little
truculently.

"Who are you, anyway?" he inquired.

"My name is Nikasti," was the quiet reply. "Mr. Van Teyl has engaged me
as his valet, to wait upon him and Mr. Fischer."

The man laid down the shirt into which he was fixing the studs.

"That's some news," he remarked bitterly.

"To wait on Mr. Van Teyl and Mr. Fischer, eh? What the hell do they
want you for?"

Nikasti shook his head slowly. He was very small, and his dark eyes
seemed filled with melancholy.

"It is not for a very long time," he ventured.

"Long enough to do me out of my five dollars' tip every week," the man
grumbled. "I'm a married man, too, and a good American. Blast you
fellows, coming and taking our jobs away! Can't think what they let you
into the country for."

"I am sorry," Nikasti murmured.

"Your sorrow don't bring me in my five dollars," the valet retorted
bitterly. "There's only two suites on this floor to work for, anyway,
and this is the only one worth a cent."

"I am taking the situation," the other explained, "for the sake of
experience. I do not wish to rob you of your earnings. I will pay you
the five dollars a week while I stay here. You shall help me with the
work."

"That's a deal, my little yellow-skinned kid," the valet agreed in a
tone of relief. "I'll show you where the things are kept."

His new coadjutor bowed.

"The telephone is ringing in the master's room," he observed. "You
shall remain here, and I will answer it."

"That goes, Jappy," the man acquiesced. "If it's a young lady take her
name, but don't say that Mr. Van Teyl's about. Forward young baggages
some of them are."

Nikasti glided from the room, closed the door, and approached the
telephone receiver.

"Yes," he acknowledged, "these are the rooms of Mr. Van Teyl... No,
madam, Mr. Van Teyl is not in at present."

There was a moment's pause. Nikasti's face was impenetrable as he
listened, but his eyes glowed.

"Yes, I understand, madam," he said softly. "You are Miss Van Teyl, and
you wish to speak to your brother. The moment Mr. Van Teyl returns I
will ring you up or fetch you."

He replaced the receiver upon its hook, and returned to the bedroom.
For some little time he was initiated into the mysteries of his new
master's studs, boots and shoes, and general taste in wearing apparel.
Then the latter entered the sitting-room, and Nikasti obeyed his
summons.

"Anyone called me up?" he inquired.

"No one, sir."

Van Teyl glanced at the clock in an undecided manner.

"I'll change right away," he decided. "Just set things to rights in
here, fill my cigarette case, and hang round by the telephone."

Nikasti bowed, and the young man disappeared into the inner room. His
new attendant waited until the door was closed. Then he removed the
receiver from its hook, laid it upon the table, and moved stealthily
towards the open fireplace. For several moments he remained in an
attitude of listening, then with quick, lithe fingers he drew from his
pocket a cable dispatch, reread it with an air of complete absorption,
and committed it to the flames. He watched it burn, and turned away
from the contemplation of its grey ashes with a sigh of content.
Suddenly he started. The door of the sitting-room had been opened and
closed. A tall, broad-shouldered man, wearing gold-rimmed spectacles, a
long travelling coat and a Homburg hat, was standing watching him.
Nikasti was only momentarily disturbed. His look of gentle inquiry was
perfect.

"You wish to see my master--Mr. Van Teyl?" he asked.

"Where is he?" Fischer demanded.

"He is dressing in the next apartment. I will take him your name."

Fischer threw his coat and hat upon the table.

"That'll do directly," he replied. "So you're Nikasti?"

They looked at one another for a moment. The face of the Japanese was
smooth, bland, and imperturbable. His eyes were innocent even of any
question. Fischer's forehead was wrinkled, and his brows drawn close
together.

"I am Nikasti," the other acknowledged--"Kato Nikasti. Mr. Van Teyl has
just engaged me as his valet."

"You can take off the gloves," Fischer told him. "I am Oscar Fischer."

"Oscar Fischer," Nikasti repeated.

"Yes! ... Burning something when I came in weren't you? Looked like a
cable, eh?"

"A dispatch from London," Nikasti confided.

"Nothing that would interest me, eh?"

"It was a family message," was the calm response. "It did not concern
the affair which is between us."

"How came you to speak English like this?" Fischer inquired.

"I was at Oxford University for two years," Nikasti told him, "and in
the Embassy at London for five more."

"Before you took up your present job, eh?"

Nikasti assented silently. Fischer glanced around as though to make
sure that they were still alone.

"I have the communication with me," he announced, "which we are to
discuss. The terms of our proposal are clearly set out, and they are
signed by the Highest of all himself. The letter embodying them was
handed to me three weeks ago to-day in Berlin. Have you been to
Washington?"

Nikasti shook his head.

"I do not go to Washington," he said. "You will understand that
diplomatically, as you would put it, I do not exist. Neither is it
necessary. I am here to listen."

Fischer nodded.

"There need be very little delay, then," he observed, "before we get to
work."

Nikasti bowed and raised his forefinger in warning.

"I think," he whispered, "that Mr. Van Teyl has finished dressing."

CHAPTER X

Van Teyl, as he hastened forward to meet his friend, presented at first
sight a very good type of the well-groomed, athletic young American. He
was over six feet tall, with smooth, dark hair brushed back from his
forehead, a strong, clean-shaven face and good features. Only, as he
drew nearer, there was evident a slight, unnatural quivering at the
corner of his lips. The cordiality of his greeting, too, was a little
overdone.

"Welcome home, Fischer! Why, man, you're looking fine. Had a pleasant
voyage?"

"Storms for the first few days--after that all right," Fischer replied.

"Any submarines?"

"Not a sight of one. Seen your sister yet?"

"Not yet. I've been waiting about for a telephone message. She hadn't
arrived, a few minutes ago."

Fischer frowned.

"I want us three to meet--you and she and I--the first moment she sets
foot in the hotel," he declared.

"What's the hurry?" Van Teyl demanded. "You must have seen plenty of
her the last ten days."

"That," Fischer insisted, "was a different matter. See here, Jimmy,
I'll be frank with you"

He walked to the door of the bedroom, opened it, and looked inside. Its
sole occupant was Nikasti, who was at the far end, putting away some
clothes. Fischer closed the door firmly and returned.

"I want you to understand this, James," he began. "Your sister is
meddling in certain things she'd best leave alone."

Van Teyl lit a cigarette.

"No use talking to me," he observed. "Pamela's her own mistress, and
she's gone her own way ever since she came of age."

"She's got to quit," Fischer pronounced. "That's all there is about it.
You and I will have to talk this out. Where are you dining?"

"Downstairs," Van Teyl replied gloomily. "I was thinking of waiting for
Pamela."

"You leave word to have your people let you know directly she arrives,"
Fischer advised, "and come along with me."

Van Teyl allowed himself to be led towards the door. Nikasti, with a
due sense of his new duties, glided past them, rang for the lift, and
watched them descend. Fischer turned at once towards the dining room.

"Thank God we're in a civilised country," he observed, "and that I
don't have to change when I don't want to!"

They found a quiet table, and Fischer, displaying much interest in the
menu, ordered a somewhat extensive dinner.

"Grapefruit and Maryland chicken are worth coming back to," he
declared. "Now see here, James, let's get to business. You've got to
help me with your sister."

"But how?" Van Teyl demanded. "Pamela and I are good pals, of course,
but she has a will of her own in all she does, and I don't fancy that
anything I could say would influence her very much."

"There are two things about your sister," Fischer continued. "The first
is that she's got to quit this secret service business she's got
herself mixed up in."

"Don't talk nonsense!" Van Teyl exclaimed. "Pamela doesn't care a fig
about politics."

Fischer grunted scornfully.

"You don't know much about your sister, young fellow," he said.
"Internal politics over here may not interest her a cent, but she's
crazy about America as a country, and she's shrewd enough to see things
coming that a great many of you over here aren't looking for. Anyway,
she came bang up against me in a little scheme I had on the night
before I left Europe, and somewhere about her she's got concealed a
document which I'd gladly buy for a quarter of a million dollars."

Van Teyl drank off his second cocktail.

"Some money!" he observed. "How did she come by the prize?"

"Played up for it, just as I did," Fischer replied. "She was clever
enough to make use of my scaffolding, and got up the ladder first. I'm
not squealing, but I've got to have that document, whatever it costs
me."

Van Teyl was silent for a moment. There was an undercurrent of
something threatening in his companion's manner, of which he had taken
note.

"And the second thing you mentioned?" he asked. "What is that?"

Fischer, as though to give due emphasis to his statement, indulged in a
brief pause. Then he leaned a little forward and spoke very slowly and
very forcibly.

"I want to marry her," he declared.

Van Teyl learned back in his chair and gazed at his vis-a-vis in blank
astonishment.

"You must be a damned fool, Fischer!" he exclaimed.

"You think so?" was the unruffled reply. "I wonder why?"

"I'll tell you why, if you want to know," Van Teyl continued bluntly.
"I know of four of the richest and best-looking young men in America,
two ambassadors, an English peer, and an Italian prince, who have
proposed to Pamela during the last twelve months alone. She refused
every one of them."

"Well," Fischer remarked, "she must marry some time."

Van Teyl looked at him insolently.

"I shouldn't think you'd have a dog's chance," he pronounced.

There was a little glitter behind Fischer's spectacles.

"Up till now," he admitted smoothly, "I have not been fortunate. I must
confess, however, that I was hoping for your good offices."

"Pamela wouldn't take the slightest notice of anything I might say,"
Van Teyl declared. "Besides, I should hate you to marry her."

"A little blunt, are you not, my young friend?" Fischer remarked
amiably. "Still, to continue, there is also the matter of that
document. I must confess that I exercised all my ingenuity to obtain
possession of it on the steamer."

"You would!" Van Teyl muttered.

"Your sister, however," Fischer continued, "was wise enough to have it
locked up in the purser's safe the moment she set foot upon the
steamer. She gave me the slip when she got it back, and eluded me,
somehow, on the quay. She will scarcely have had time to part with it
yet, though. When she arrives here to-night, it will in all probability
be in her possession."

"Well?" Van Teyl demanded. "You don't suggest that I should rob her of
it, I suppose?"

"Not at all," Fischer replied. "On the other hand, you might very well
induce her to give it up voluntarily, or at least to treat with me."

"You don't know Pamela," was Van Teyl's curt reply.

"I know her sufficiently," Fischer went on, leaning over the table, "to
believe that she would sacrifice a great deal to save her brother from
Sing Sing."

Van Teyl took the thrust badly. He started as though he had been
stabbed, and his face became almost ghastly in its pallor. He tossed
off a glass of wine hastily.

"Just what do you mean by that?" he asked thickly.

"Are you prepared," Fischer continued, "to have me visit your office
to-morrow morning and examine my accounts and securities in the
presence of your partners?"

"Why not?" Van Teyl faltered. "What the hell do you mean?"

"I mean, James Van Teyl," his companion declared, "that I should find
you a matter of a hundred thousand dollars short. I mean that you've
realised on some of my securities, gambled on your own account with the
proceeds, and lost. You did this as regards one stock at least, with a
forged transfer, which I hold."

Van Teyl looked almost piteously around. Life seemed suddenly to have
become an unreal thing--the crowds of well-dressed diners, the gentle
splashing of the water from the fountains in the winter garden, the
distant murmuring of music from behind the canopy of palms. So this was
the end of it! All that week he had hoped against hope. He had been
told of a sure thing. Next week he had meant to have a great gamble.
Everything was to have gone his way, after all. And now it was too
late. Fischer knew, and Fischer was a cruel man!...

The unnatural silence came to an end. Only Fischer's voice seemed to
come from a long way off.

"Drink your wine, James Van Teyl," he advised, "and listen to me.
You've been under obligations to me from the start. I meant you to be.
I brought a great business to your firm, and I insisted upon having you
interested. I had a motive, as I have for most things I do. You are
well placed socially in New York, and I am not. You are also above
suspicion, which I am not. It suited me to take this suite in the
Plaza, nominally in our joint names, but to pay the whole account
myself. It suited me because I required the shelter of your social
position. You understand?"

"I always understand," Van Teyl muttered.

"Just so. Only, whereas you simply thought me a snob, I had in reality
a different and very definite purpose. We come now, however, to your
present obligation to me. I can, if I choose, tear up your forged
transfer, submit to the loss of my money, and leave you secure. I shall
do so if you are able to induce your sister to hand over to me those
few lines of writing--to which, believe me, she has no earthly
right--and to accept me as a prospective suitor."

Van Teyl was drinking steadily now, but every mouthful of food seemed
almost to choke him. Red-eyed and defiant, he faced his torturer.

"You're talking rot!" he declared. "Pamela wouldn't marry you if you
were the last man on earth, and if she's got anything she wants to
keep, she'll keep it."

"And see her brother disgraced," Fischer reminded him, "tried at the
Criminal Court for theft and sent to Sing Sing? It's a good name in New
York, yours, you know. The Van Teyls have held up their heads high for
more than one generation. Your sister will not fancy seeing it dragged
down into the mire."

For a single moment the young man seemed about to throw himself upon
his companion, Fischer, perfectly unmoved, watched him, nevertheless,
like a cat.

"Better sit tight," he enjoined. "Drop it now or people will be
watching us. I have ordered some of the old brandy. A liqueur or two
will steady you, perhaps. Afterwards we will go upstairs and take your
sister into our confidence."

Van Teyl nodded.

"Very well," he agreed hoarsely. "We'll hear what Pamela has to say."

CHAPTER XI

Nikasti, with a low bow, watched the disappearance of the lift into
which his two new masters, James Van Teyl and Oscar Fischer, had
stepped. He waited until the indicator registered its safe arrival on
the ground floor. Then he slowly retraced his steps along the corridor,
entered the sitting-room, and took up the telephone receiver, which was
still lying upon the table.

"Will you give me number 77," he asked--"Miss Van Teyl's suite?"

There was a moment's silence--then a voice at the other end to which he
made obeisance.

"It is Miss Van Teyl who speaks? I am Mr. Van Teyl's valet. Mr. Van
Teyl is here now and will be glad if you will come in."

He replaced the receiver, listened and waited. In a few moments there
was the sound of a light footstep outside. The door was opened and
Pamela entered. She was still wearing the grey tailor-made costume in
which she had left the steamer.

"Why, where is Mr. Van Teyl?" she asked, looking around the room. "I
have been ringing up for the last ten minutes and couldn't get any
answer. I did not realise that it was the next suite."

"Mr. Van Teyl is close at hand, madam," Nikasti replied. "If you will
kindly be seated, I will fetch him."

"How long have you been valet here?" Pamela asked curiously.

"For a few hours only, madam," was the grave reply. "If you will be so
good as to wait."

He bowed low and left the room. Pamela took up an evening paper and for
a few minutes buried herself in its contents. Then suddenly she held it
away from her and listened. A queer and unaccountable impulse inspired
her with a certain mistrust. There was no sound of movement in the
adjoining bedchamber, nor any sign of her brother's presence. She
opened the door and peered in. It was empty and in darkness. Then,
moved by that same unaccountable impulse, she crossed the room and
listened at the door which led into her own suite, and which she
perceived was bolted on this side as well as her own. She listened at
first idly, afterwards breathlessly. In a few moments she was convinced
that her senses were not playing her false. Some one was moving
stealthily about in her room, the key to which was even at that moment
in her hand. She hastened to the door, to be confronted by another
surprise. The handle turned but the door refused to open. She was
locked in.

Pamela was both generous and insistent in the matter of bells. She
found four, and she rang them all together. The consequences were
speedy, and in their way satisfactory. Nikasti himself, a breathless
chambermaid, a hurt but dignified waiter, and the floor valet, who had
not even stopped to put on his coat, entered together. They seemed a
little stupefied at finding Pamela alone and no sign of any
disturbance.

"Why was I locked in here?" Pamela demanded indignantly, taking them
en bloc.

There was a little chorus of non-comprehension. Nikasti stepped
forward, waved to the others to be silent, and bowed almost to the
ground.

"It was a mistake easily to be understood, madam," he explained. "The
handle is a little stiff, perhaps, but the door was not locked. We all
reached here together, I myself barely a yard in advance. No key was
used--and behold!"

Pamela was disposed to argue, but a moment's reflection induced her to
change her mind. This falsehood of Nikasti's was at least interesting.
She waved the hotel servants away.

"I am sorry to have troubled you," she said. "I will remember it when I
pay my bill."

They took their leave, Nikasti showing them out. When the last had
departed, he turned back to the centre table, from the other side of
which Pamela was watching him curiously.

"I cannot imagine," she remarked, "how I could have made such a mistake
about the door. I tried it twice or three times and it certainly seemed
to me to be locked."

Nikasti moved a step nearer towards her. Something of the servility of
his manner had gone. For the first time she looked at him closely,
appreciated the tense immobility of his features, the still,
penetrating light of his cold eyes. A queer premonition of trouble for
a moment unsteadied her.

"There was no mistake," he said softly. "The door was locked."

Even then she did not fully understand the position. She leaned a
little towards him.

"It was locked?" she repeated.

"I locked it," he told her. "It is locked now, securely. I have been
searching in your room for something which I did not find. I think that
you had better give it to me. It will save trouble."

"Are you mad?" she demanded breathlessly.

"Do I seem so?" he replied. "There is no person more sane than I. I
require from you the formula of the new explosive, which you stole in
Henry's restaurant eleven days ago."

The sense of mystery passed. It was simply trouble of the ordinary sort
from an unexpected source.

"Dear me!" she murmured. "Every one seems interested in my little
adventure. How did you hear about it?"

"I destroyed the cable telling me of all that happened only a few
minutes ago," he explained. "It was the foolish talk of the young
inventor which gave his secret to the world to scramble for."

"It was very clever of your informant," she remarked, "to suggest that
I was the fortunate thief. Why not Oscar Fischer? It was his plot, not
mine."

The eyes of the little Japanese seemed suddenly to narrow. He realised
quite well that she was talking simply to gain time.

"Madam," he insisted, "the formula. It is for my country, and for my
country I would risk much."

"I do not doubt it," she replied; "but if I hold it, I hold it for my
country, too, and there is nothing you would risk for Japan from which
I should shrink for America."

He laid his hands upon the table. She turned her ring and clenched her
hand. She could see his spring coming, realised in those few seconds
that here was an opponent of more desperate and subtle calibre than
Joseph. Whether her wits might have failed her, fate remained her
friend. There was a knock at the door.

"You hear?" she cried breathlessly. "There is some one there. Shall I
call out?"

His hands and knee were gone from the table. He was once more his old
self, so completely the servant that for a moment even Pamela was
puzzled. It seemed as though the events of the last few seconds might
have been part of a disordered dream. Nikasti played to the cue of her
fevered question and entirely ignored them. He opened the door with a
respectful flourish--and John Lutchester walked in.

CHAPTER XII

Pamela's first shock of surprise did not readily pass. In the first
place, John Lutchester's appearance in America at all was entirely
unexpected. In the second, by what possible means could he have arrived
at this precise and psychological moment?

"You!" she exclaimed, a little helplessly. "Mr. Lutchester!"

He smiled as he shook hands. Nikasti had slipped noiselessly from the
room. Pamela made no effort to detain him. She had a curious feeling
that the things which had passed between them concerned their two
selves only. So had no desire whatever to hand him over to retributive
justice.

"You are surprised," he observed. "So far as my presence here is
concerned, I knew quite well that I was coming some time ago, but it
was one of those matters, you understand, Miss Van Teyl, that one is
scarcely at liberty to talk about. I am here in connection with my
work."

"Your work," she repeated weakly. "I thought that you were in the
Ministry of Munitions?"

"Precisely," he admitted. "I have a travelling inspectorship. You see,
I don't mind telling you this, but it is just as well, if you will
forgive my mentioning it, Miss Van Teyl, that these things are not
spoken of to any one. My business over here is supposed to be secret. I
am going round some of the factories from which we are drawing
supplies."

She drew a long breath and began to feel a little more like herself.

"Well, after this," she declared, "I shall be surprised at nothing. I
have had one shock already this evening, and you are the second."

"The first, I trust, was not disagreeable?"

She shrugged her shoulders.

"Without flattering you," she answered, "I think I could say that I
prefer the second."

"I had an idea," Lutchester remarked diffidently, "that my arrival
seemed either opportune or inopportune--I could not quite tell which.
Were you in any way troubled or embarrassed by the presence of the
little Japanese gentleman?"

"Of course not," she replied. "Why, he is Jimmy's valet."

"How absurd of me!" Lutchester murmured. "By the bye, if Jimmy is your
brother--Mr. Van Teyl--I have a letter to him from a pal in town--Dicky
Green. It was to present it that I found my way up here this evening. I
was told that he might put me in the way of a little golf during my
spare time over here."

He produced the note and laid it upon the table. Pamela glanced at it
and then at Lutchester. He was carefully dressed in dinner clothes,
black tie and white waistcoat. He was, as usual, perfectly groomed and
immaculate. He had what she could only describe to herself as an
everyday air about him. He seemed entirely free from any mental
pressure or the wear and tear of great events.

"Golf?" she repeated wonderingly. "You expect to have a little spare
time, then?"

"Well, I hope so," Lutchester replied. "One must have exercise. By the
bye," he went on, "is your brother in, do you happen to know? Perhaps
it would be more convenient if I came round in the morning? I am
staying in the hotel."

"Oh, for goodness sake, don't go away," she begged. "Jimmy will be here
presently, for certain. To tell you the truth, we have been rather
playing hide-and-seek this evening, but it hasn't been altogether his
fault. Please sit down over there--you will find cigarettes on the
sideboard--and talk to me."

"Delighted," he agreed, taking the chair opposite to her. "I suppose
you want to know what became of poor Graham?"

A sudden bewilderment appeared in her face. She leaned towards him. Her
forehead was knitted, her eyes puzzled. There was a new problem to be
solved.

"Why, Mr. Lutchester," she demanded, "how on earth did you get here?"

"Across the Atlantic," he replied amiably. "Bit too far the other way
round."

"Yes, but what on?" she persisted. "I went straight on to the _Lapland_
after we parted last week, and only arrived here an hour or so ago.
There was no other passenger steamer sailing for three days."

"I was a stowaway," he told her confidentially--"helped to shovel coals
all the way over."

"Don't talk nonsense!" she protested a little sharply. "I dislike
mysteries. Look at you! A stowaway, indeed! Tell me the truth
at once?"

He leaned forward in his chair towards her. An ingenuous smile parted
his lips. He had the air of a schoolboy repeating a mischievous secret.

"The fact is, Miss Van Teyl," he confided, "I don't want it talked
about, you know, but I had a joy ride over."

"A what?"

"A joy ride," he repeated. "A cousin of mine is in command of a
destroyer, and she was under orders to sail for New York. He hadn't the
slightest right, really, to bring a passenger, as she was coming over
on a special mission, but I had word about the trip over here, so I
slipped on board late one night--not a word to any one, you
understand--and--well, here I am. A more awful voyage," he went on
impressively, "you couldn't imagine. I was sore all over within
twenty-four hours of starting. There's practically no deck on those
things, you know, for sitting out or anything of that sort. The British
Navy's nowhere for comfort, I can tell you. The biggest liner for me,
going back!"

Pamela was still a little dazed. Lutchester's story did not sound in
the least convincing. For the moment, however, she accepted his account
of himself.

"Tell me now," she begged, "about Captain Graham?"

"You haven't heard, then?"

"I have heard nothing. How should I hear?"

"I took him straight back to my rooms after we left you," Lutchester
began. "He was in an awful state of nerves and drugs and drink. Then I
put him to bed as soon as I could, and rang up a pal of mine at the War
Office to take him in hand."

"Do you believe," she asked curiously, "that he had really been robbed
of his formula?"

"Those amiable people who were interviewing him in the chapel seemed to
think so," Lutchester observed.

"But you! What do you think?" she persisted. He smiled in superior
fashion.

"I find it rather hard to bring myself to believe that any one would
take the trouble," he confided. "I have heard it said in my department
that there have been thirty-one new explosives invented since the
beginning of the war. Two of them only are in use, and they're not much
better than the old stuff."

Pamela nodded understandingly.

"All the same," she remarked, "I am not at all sure that was the case
with Captain Graham's invention. There were rumours for days before
that something wonderful was happening on Salisbury Plain. They had to
cover up whole acres of ground after his last experiments, and a man
who was down there told me that it seemed just as though the life had
been sucked out of it."

"Where did you collect all this information?" her visitor inquired.

She shrugged her shoulders.

"One hears everything in London."

Lutchester was sitting with his finger-tips pressed together. For a
moment his attention seemed fixed upon them.

"There are things," he said, "which one hears, too, in the far corners
of the world--on the Atlantic, for instance."

"You have had some news?" she interrupted.

"It is really a private piece of information," he told her, "and it
won't be in the papers--not the way the thing happened, anyway--but I
don't suppose there's any harm in telling you, as we were both more or
less mixed up in the affair. Graham was shot the next day, on his way
up to Northumberland."

"Shot?" she exclaimed incredulously.

"Murdered, if you'd like the whole thrill," Lutchester continued. "Of
course, we didn't get many particulars in the wireless, but we gathered
that he was shot by some one passing him in a more powerful car on a
lonely stretch of the Great North Road."

Pamela shuddered. She was for the moment profoundly impressed. A
certain air of unreality which had hung over the events of that night
was suddenly banished. The whole tragedy rose up before her eyes. The
effect of it was almost stupefying.

"Gave me quite a shock," Lutchester confided. "Somehow or other I had
never been able to take that night quite seriously. There was more than
a dash of melodrama in it, wasn't there? Seems now as though those
fellows must have been in earnest, though."

"And as though Captain Graham's formula," she reminded him gravely,
"was the real thing."

"Whereupon," Lutchester observed, "our first interest in the affair
receives a certain stimulus. Some one stole the formula. To judge from
the behaviour of those amiable gentlemen connected with Henry's
Restaurant, it wasn't they. Some one had been before them. Have you any
theories, Miss Van Teyl?"

"I can tell you who has," she replied. "Do you remember when we were
all grouped around that notice--Mefiez-vous! Taisez-vous! Les oreilles
ennemies vous ecoutent!?"

"Of course I do," he assented.

"Do you remember Baron Sunyea making a remark afterwards? He had been
standing by and heard everything Graham said."

"Can't say that I do," Lutchester regretted, "but I remember seeing him
about the place."

"You promise to say or do nothing without my permission, if I tell you
something?" she went on.

"Naturally!"

"See, then, how diplomacy or secret service work, or whatever you like
to call it, can gather the ends of the world together! Only a quarter
of an hour ago that Japanese valet of my brother's, having searched my
rooms in vain, demanded from me that formula!"

"From you?" Lutchester gasped. "But you haven't got it!"

"Of course not. On the other hand Sunyea pitched upon me as being one
of the possible thieves, and cabled his instructions over."

"Have you got it?" he asked abruptly.

"If I had," she smiled, "I should not tell you."

"But come," he expostulated, "the thing's no use to you."

"So Baron Sunyea evidently thought," she laughed. "We'll leave that, if
you don't mind."

Lutchester was still looking a little bewildered.

"I had an idea when I came in," he muttered, "that things were a little
scrappy between you and the Japanese gentleman."

She was suddenly serious.

"Now that I have told you the truth," she said, "I really ought to
thank you. You certainly seem to have a knack of appearing when you are
wanted."

"Fluke this time, I'm afraid," he acknowledged, "but I rather like the
suggestion. You ought to see a great deal of me, Miss Van Teyl. Do you
realise that I am a stranger in New York, and any hospitality you can
show me may be doubly rewarded? Are you going to take me round and show
me the sights?"

"Are you going to have any time for sight-seeing?"

"Well, I hope so. Why not? A fellow can't do more than a certain number
of hours' work in a day."

She looked at him curiously.

"And yet," she murmured, "you expect to win the war!"

"Of course we shall win the war," he assured her confidently. "You
haven't any doubt about that yourself, have you, Miss Van Teyl?"

"I don't know," she told him calmly.

Lutchester was almost horrified. He rose to his feet and stood looking
down at his companion.

"Tell me what on earth you mean?" he demanded. "We always win in the
long run, even if we muddle things about a little."

"I was just contrasting in my mind," she said thoughtfully, "some of
the Germans whom I have met since the war, with some of the Englishmen.
They are taking it very seriously, you know, Mr. Lutchester. They don't
find time for luncheon parties or sight-seeing."

"That's just their way," he protested. "They turn themselves into
machines. They are what we used to call suckers at school, but you can
take my word for it that before next autumn they will be on the run."

"You call them suckers," she observed. "That's because they're always
working, always studying, always experimenting. Supposing they got hold
of something like this new explosive?"

"First of all," he told her, "I don't believe in it, and secondly, if
it exists, the formula isn't in their hands."

"Supposing it is in mine?" she suggested. "I might sell it to them."

"I'd trust you all the time," he laughed lightheartedly. "I can't see
you giving a leg up to the Huns.... Will you lunch with me at one
o'clock to-morrow, please?"

"Certainly not," she replied. "You must attend to your work, whatever
it is."

"That's all very well," he grumbled, "but every one has an hour off for
luncheon."

"People who win wars don't lunch," she declared severely. "Here's
Jimmy--I can hear his voice--and he's brought some one up with him.
I'll--let you know about lunch."

The door opened. James Van Teyl and Fischer entered together.

CHAPTER XIII

The first few seconds after the entrance of the two men were
monopolised by the greetings of Pamela with her brother. Fischer stood
a little in the background, his eyes fixed upon Lutchester. His brain
was used to emergencies, but he found himself here confronted by an
unanswerable problem.

"Say, this is Mr. Lutchester, isn't it?" he inquired, holding out his
hand.

"The same," Lutchester assented politely. "We met at Henry's some ten
days ago, didn't we?"

"Mr. Lutchester has brought us a letter from Dicky Green, Jimmy,"
Pamela explained, as she withdrew from her brother's arms. "Quite
unnecessary, as it happens, because I met him in London just before we
sailed."

"Very glad to meet you, Mr. Lutchester," Jimmy declared, wringing his
hand with American cordiality. "Dicky's an old pal of mine--one of the
best. We graduated in the same year from Harvard."

Conversation for a few minutes was platitudinous. Van Teyl, although he
showed few signs of his recent excesses, was noisy and boisterous,
clutching at this brief escape from a situation which he dreaded.
Fischer on the other hand, remained in the back-ground, ominously
silent, thinking rapidly, speculating and theorising as to the
coincidence, if it were coincidence, of finding Lutchester and Pamela
together. He listened to the former's polite conversation, never once
letting his eyes wander from his face. All his thoughts were
concentrated upon one problem. The mysterious escape of Sandy Graham,
which had sent him flying from the country, remained unsolved. Of
Pamela's share in it he had already his suspicions. Was it possible
that Lutchester was the other and the central figure in that remarkable
rescue? He waited his opportunity, and, during a momentary lull in the
cheerful conversation, broke in with his first question.

"Say, Mr. Lutchester, you haven't any twin brother, have you?"

"No brother at all," Lutchester admitted.

"Then, how did you get over here? You were at Henry's weren't you, on
the night the _Lapland_ sailed? You didn't cross with us, and there's
no other steamer due for two days."

"Then I can't be here," Lutchester declared. "The thing's impossible."

"Guess you'll have to explain, if you want to save me from a sleepless
night," Fischer persisted.

Lutchester smiled. He had the air of one enjoying the situation
immensely.

"Well," he said, "I have had to confess to Miss Van Teyl here, so I
may as well make a clean breast of it to you. To every one else I meet
in New York, I shall say that I came over on the _Lapland_. I really
came over on a destroyer."

Fischer's face seemed to become more set and grim than ever.

"A British destroyer," he muttered to himself.

"It was kind of a joy ride," Lutchester explained confidentially, "a
cousin of mine who was in command came in to see me and say good-by,
just after I'd received my orders from the head of my department to
come out here on the next steamer, and he smuggled me on board that
night. Mum's the word, though, if you please. We asked nobody's leave.
It would have taken about a month to have heard anything definite from
the Admiralty."

"A British destroyer come across the Atlantic, eh?" Mr. Fischer
muttered. "She must have come out on a special mission, then, I
imagine."

"That is not for me to say," Lutchester observed, with stiff reticence.

Pamela suddenly and purposely intervened. She turned towards Fischer.

"Mr. Lutchester brought some rather curious news," she observed. "He
got it by wireless. Do you remember all the fuss there was about the
disappearance of Captain Holderness' friend at Henry's?"

"I heard something about it," he admitted grimly.

"Well, Captain Graham was in my party, so naturally I was more
interested than any one else. To all appearance he entered Henry's
Restaurant, walked up the stairs, and disappeared into the skies. The
place was ransacked everywhere for him, but he never turned up. Well,
the very next day he was murdered in a motor-car on his way to
Northumberland."

"Incredible!" Fischer murmured.

"Seems a queer set out," Lutchester remarked, "but it's quite true. He
was supposed to have discovered a marvellous new explosive, the formula
for which had been stolen. He was on his way up to Northumberland to
make fresh experiments."

"For myself I have little faith," Fischer observed, "in any new
explosives. In Germany they believe, I understand, that the limit of
destructiveness has been attained."

"The Germans should know," Lutchester admitted carelessly. "I'm afraid
they are still a good deal ahead of us in most scientific matters. I
will take the liberty, of calling some time to-morrow, Miss Van Teyl,
and hope I shall have the pleasure of improving my acquaintance with
your brother. Good night, Mr. Fischer."

"Are you staying in the hotel?" the latter inquired.

"On the fifteenth floor," was the somewhat gloomy reply. "I shan't be
able to shave in front of the window without feeling giddy. However, I
suppose that's America. Good-by, everybody."

With a little inclusive and farewell bow he disappeared. They heard him
make his way down the corridor and ring for the lift. Rather a curious
silence ensued, which was broken at last by Pamela.

"Is that," she asked, throwing herself into an easy-chair and selecting
a cigarette, "just an ordinary type of a nice, well-bred,
unintelligent, self-sufficient Englishman, or--"

"Or what?" Fischer asked, with interest.

Pamela watched the smoke curl from the end of her cigarette.

"Well, I scarcely know how to finish," she confessed, "only sometimes
when I am talking to him I feel that he can scarcely be as big a fool
as he seems, and then I wonder. Jimmy," she went on, shaking her head
at him, "you're not looking well. You've been sitting up too late and
getting into bad habits during my absence. Open confession, now, if you
please. If it's a girl, I shall give you my blessing."

Van Teyl groaned and said nothing. A foreboding of impending trouble
depressed Pamela. She turned towards Fischer and found in his grim face
confirmation of her fears.

"What does this mean?" she demanded.

"Your brother will explain," Fischer replied. "It is better that he
should tell you everything."

"Everything?" she repeated. "What is there to tell. What have you to do
with my brother, anyway?" she added fiercely.

"You must not look at me as though I were in any way to blame for what
has happened," was the insistent reply. "On the contrary, I have been
very lenient with your brother. I am still prepared to be lenient--upon
certain conditions."

The light of battle was in Pamela's eyes. She fought against the
significance of the man's ominous words. This was his first blow, then,
and directed against her.

"I begin to understand," she said. "Please go on. Let me hear
everything."

Van Teyl had turned to the sideboard. He mixed and drank off a whisky
and soda. Then he swung around.

"I'll make a clean breast of it in a few words, Pamela," he promised.
"I've gambled with Fischer's money, lost it, forged a transfer of his
certificates to meet my liabilities, and I am in his power. He could
have me hammered and chucked into Sing Sing, if he wanted to. That's
all there is about it."

Pamela stood the shock well. She turned to Fischer.

"How much of this are you responsible for?" she asked.

"That," he objected, "is an impotent question. It is not I who had the
moulding of your brother's character. It is not I who made him a forger
and a weakling."

Van Teyl's arm was upraised. An oath broke from his lips. Pamela seized
him firmly and drew him away.

"Be quiet, James," she begged. "Let us hear what Mr. Fischer is going
to do about it."

"That depends upon you," was the cold reply.

Pamela stood at the head of the table, between the two men, and
laughed. Her brother had sunk into a chair, and his head had dropped
moodily upon his folded arms. She looked from one to the other and a
new sense of strength inspired her. She felt that if she were not
indeed entirely mistress of the situation, yet the elements of triumph
were there to her hand.

"This is living, at any rate," she declared. "First of all I discover
that your Japanese servant is a spy--"

"Nikasti!" Van Teyl interrupted furiously. "Blast him! I knew that
there was something wrong about that fellow, Fischer."

Fischer frowned.

"What's he been up to?" he inquired.

"Well, to begin with," Pamela explained, "he searched my room, then he
locked me in here, and was proceeding to threaten me when fortunately
Mr. Lutchester arrived."

"Threaten you--what about?" Fischer demanded.

"He seemed to have an absurd idea," Pamela explained sweetly, "that I
might have somewhere concealed upon my person the formula which was
stolen from Captain Graham last Monday week at Henry's Restaurant. It
makes quite a small world of it, doesn't it?"

"I will deal with Nikasti for this," Fischer promised, "if it is true.
Meanwhile?"

"No sooner have I got over that little shock," Pamela went on, "than
you turn up with this melodramatic story, and an offer from Mr.
Fischer, which I can read in his face. Really, I feel that I shall hear
the buzz of a cinema machine in a moment. How much do you owe him,
Jimmy?"

"Eighty-nine thousand dollars," the young man groaned.

"I'll write you a cheque to-morrow morning," Pamela promised. "Will
that do, Mr. Fischer?"

"It is the last thing I desire," was the calm reply.

"Really! Well, perhaps now you will come to the point. Perhaps you will
tell me what it is that you do want?"

"Stolen property," Fischer announced deliberately--"stolen property,
however, to which I have a greater right than you."

She laughed at him mockingly.

"I think not, Mr. Fischer," she said. "You really don't deserve it, you
know."

"And why not?"

"Just see how you have bungled! You bait the trap, the poor man walks
into it, and you allow another to forestall you. Not only that, but you
actually allow Japan to come into the game, and but for Mr.
Lutchester's appearance we might both of us have been left plant l.
No, Mr. Fischer! You don't deserve the formula, and you shall not have
it. I'll pay my brother's debt to you in dollars--no other way."

"Dollars," Mr. Fischer told her sternly, "will never buy the forged
transfer. Dollars will never keep your brother out of the city police
court or Sing Sing afterwards. There isn't much future for a young man
who has been through it."

Van Teyl was upon him suddenly with a low, murderous cry. Fischer had
no time to resist, no chance of success if he had attempted it. He was
borne backwards on to the lounge, his assailant's hand upon his throat.
The young man was beside himself with drink and fury. The words poured
from his lips, incoherent, hot with rage.

"You--hound! You've made my life a hell! You've plotted and schemed to
get me into your power!... There! Do you feel the life going out of
you?... My sister, indeed! You!... You scum of the earth! You ..."

"James!"

The sound of Pamela's voice unnerved him. His fit of passion was spent.
She dragged him easily away.

"Don't be a fool, Jimmy!" she begged. "You can't settle accounts like
that."

"Can't I?" he muttered. "If we'd been alone, Pamela ... my God, if he
and I had been alone here!"

"Jimmy," she said, "you're a fool, and you've been drinking. Fetch the
water bottle."

He obeyed, and she dashed water in Fischer's face. Presently he opened
his eyes, groaned and sat up. There were two livid marks upon his
throat. Van Teyl watched him like a crouching animal. His eyes were
still lit with sullen fire. The lust for killing was upon him. Fischer
sat up and blinked. He felt the atmosphere of the room, and he knew his
danger. His hand stole into his hip pocket, and a small revolver
suddenly flashed upon his knees. He drew a long breath of relief. He
was like a fugitive who had found sanctuary.

"So that's the game, James Van Teyl, is it?" he exclaimed. "Now
listen."

He adjusted the revolver with a click. His cruel, long fingers were
pressed around its stock.

"I am not threatening you," he went on. "I am not fond of violence, and
I don't believe in it. This is just in case you come a single yard
nearer to me. Now, Miss Van Teyl, my business is with you. We won't
fence any longer. You will hand over to me the pocketbook which you
stole from Captain Graham in Henry's Restaurant. Hand it over to me
intact, you understand. In return I will give you the forged transfer
of stock, and leave it to your sense of honour as to whether you care
to pay your brother's debt or not. If you decline to consider my
proposition, I shall ring up Joseph Neville, your brother's senior
partner. I shall not even wait for to-morrow, mind. I shall make an
appointment, and I shall place in his hands the proof of your brother's
robbery."

"Perhaps," Pamela murmured, "I was wrong to stop you. Jimmy....
Anything else, Mr. Fischer?"

"Just this. I would rather have carried this matter through in a
friendly fashion, for reasons at which I think you can guess."

She shook her head.

"You flatter my intelligence!" she told him scornfully.

"I will explain, then. I desire to offer myself as your suitor."

She laughed at him without restraint or consideration.

"I would rather marry my brother's valet!" she declared.

"You are entirely wrong," he protested. "You are wrong, too, in holding
up cards against me. We are on the same side. You are an American, and
so am I. I swear that I desire nothing that is not for your good. You
have wonderful gifts, and I have great wealth and opportunities. I have
also a sincere and very heartfelt admiration for you."

"I have never been more flattered!" Pamela scoffed.

He looked a little wistfully from one to the other. Antagonism and
dislike were written in their faces. Even Pamela, who was skilled in
the art of subterfuge, made little effort to conceal her aversion.
Nevertheless, he continued doggedly.

"What does it matter," he demanded, "who handles this formula--you or
I? Our faces are turned in the same direction. There is this difference
only with me. I want to make it the basis of a kindlier feeling in
Washington towards my father's country."

Pamela's eyebrows were raised.

"Are you sure," she asked, "that the formula itself would not find its
way into your father's country?"

"As to that I pledge my word," he replied. "I am an American citizen."

"Looks like it, doesn't he!" Van Teyl jeered.

"Tell us what you have been doing in Berlin, then?" Pamela inquired.

"I had a definite mission there," Fischer assured them, "which I hope
to bring to a definite conclusion. If you are an American citizen in
the broadest sense of the word, England is no more to you than Germany.
I want to place before some responsible person in the American
Government, a proposal--an official proposal--the acceptance of which
will be in years to come of immense benefit to her."

"And the quid pro quo?" Pamela asked gently.

"I am not here for the purpose of gratifying curiosity," Fischer
replied, "but if you will take this matter up seriously, you shall be
the person through whom this proposal shall be brought before the
American Government. The whole of the negotiations shall be conducted
through you. If you succeed, you will be known throughout history as
the woman who saved America from her great and growing danger. If you
fail, you will be no worse off than you are now."

"And you propose to hand over the conduct of these negotiations to me,"
Pamela observed, "in return for what?"

"The pocketbook which you took from Captain Graham."

"So there we are, back again at the commencement of our discussion,"
Pamela remarked. "Are you going to repeat that you want this formula
for Washington and not for Berlin?"

"My first idea," Fischer confessed, "was to hand it over to Germany. I
have changed my views. Germany has great explosives of her own. This
formula shall be used in a different fashion. It shall be a lever in
the coming negotiations between America and Germany."

"We have had a great deal of conversation to no practical purpose,"
Pamela declared. "Why are you so sure that I have the formula?"

Fischer frowned slightly. He had recovered himself now, and his tone
was as steady and quiet as ever. Only occasionally his eyes wandered to
where James Van Teyl was fidgetting about the table, and at such times
his fingers tightened upon the stock of his revolver.

"It is practically certain that you have the papers," he pointed out.
"You were the first person to go up the stairs after Graham had been
rendered unconscious. Joseph admits that he had been forced to leave
him--the orchestra was waiting to play. He was alone in that little
room. That you should have known of its existence and his presence
there is surprising, but nothing more. Furthermore, I am convinced that
you were in some way concerned with his rescue later. You visited
Hassan and you visited Joseph. From the latter you procured the key of
the chapel. If only he had had the courage to tell the truth--well, we
will let that pass. You have the papers, Miss Van Teyl. I am bidding a
great price for them. If you are a wise woman, you will not hesitate."

There was a knock at the door. They all three turned towards it a
little impatiently. Even Pamela and her brother felt the grip of an
absorbing problem. To their surprise, it was Lutchester who reappeared
upon the threshold. In his hand he held a small sealed packet.

"So sorry to disturb you all," he apologised. "I have something here
which I believe belongs to you, Miss Van Teyl. I thought I'd better
bring it up and explain. From the way your little Japanese friend was
holding on to it, I thought it might be important. It is a little torn,
but that isn't my fault."

He held it out to Pamela. It was a long packet torn open at one end.
From it was protruding a worn, brown pocketbook. Pamela's hand closed
upon it mechanically. There was a dazed look in her eyes. Fischer's
fingers stole once more towards the pocket into which, at Lutchester's
entrance, he had slipped his revolver.

CHAPTER XIV

Lutchester, to all appearance, remained sublimely unconscious of the
tension which his words and appearance seemed to have created. He had
strolled a little further into the room, and was looking down at the
packet which he still held.

"You are wondering how I got hold of this, of course?" he observed.
"Just one of those simple little coincidences which either mean a great
deal or nothing at all."

"How did you know it was mine?" Pamela asked, almost under her breath.

"I'll explain," Lutchester continued. "I was in the lobby of the hotel,
a few minutes ago, when I heard the fire bell outside. I hurried out
and watched the engines go by from the sidewalk. I have always been
rather interested in--"

"Never mind that, please. Go on," Pamela asked, almost under her
breath.

"Certainly," Lutchester assented. "On the way back, then, I saw a
little Japanese, who was coming out of the hotel, knocked down by a
taxicab which skidded nearly into the door. I don't think he was badly
hurt--I'm not even sure that he was hurt at all. I picked up this
packet from the spot where he had been lying, and I was on the point of
taking it to the office when I saw your name upon it, Miss Van Teyl, in
what seemed to me to be your own handwriting, so I thought I'd bring it
up."

He laid it upon the table. Pamela's eyes seemed fastened upon it. She
turned it over nervously.

"It is very kind of you, Mr. Lutchester," she murmured.

"I'll be perfectly frank," he went on. "I should have found out where
the little man who dropped it had disappeared to, and restored it to
him, but I fancied--of course, I may have been wrong--that you and he
were having some sort of a disagreement, a few minutes ago, when I
happened to come in. Anyway, that was in my mind, and I thought I'd run
no risks."

"You did the very kindest and most considerate thing," Pamela declared.

"The little Japanese must have been our new valet," James Van Teyl
observed. "I'm beginning to think that he is not going to be much of an
acquisition."

"You'll probably see something of him in a few minutes," Lutchester
remarked. "I will wish you good night, Miss Van Teyl. Good night!"

Pamela's reiterated thanks were murmured and perfunctory. Even James
Van Teyl's hospitable instincts seemed numbed. They allowed Lutchester
to depart with scarcely a word. With the closing of the door, speech
brought them some relief from a state of tension which was becoming
intolerable. Even then Fischer at first said nothing. He had risen
noiselessly to his feet, his right hand was in the sidepocket of his
coat, his eyes were fixed upon the table.

"So this is why you insisted upon a valet!" James Van Teyl exclaimed,
his voice thick with anger. "He's planted here to rob for you! Is that
it, eh, Fischer?"

Pamela drew the packet towards her and stood with her right palm
covering it. Fischer seemed still at a loss for words.

"I can assure you," he said at last fervently, "that if that packet was
stolen from Miss Van Teyl by Nikasti, it was done without my
instigation. It is as much a surprise to me as to any of you. We can
congratulate ourselves that it is not on the way to Japan."

Pamela nodded.

"He is speaking the truth," she asserted. "Nikasti is not out to steal
for others. He is playing the same game as all of us, only he is
playing it for his own hand. Mr. Fischer has brought him here for some
purpose of his own, without a doubt, but I am quite sure that Nikasti
never meant to be any one's cat's-paw."

"Believe me, that is the truth," Fischer agreed. "I will admit that I
brought Nikasti here with a purpose, but upon my honour I swear that
until this evening I never dreamed that he even knew of the existence
of the formula."

"Oh! we are not the only people in the world who are clever," Pamela
declared, with an unnatural little laugh. "The first man who took note
of Sandy Graham's silly words as he rushed into Henry's was Baron
Sunyea. I saw him stiffen as he listened. He even uttered a word of
remonstrance. Japan in London heard. Japan in your sitting-room here,
in ten days' time, knew everything there was to be known."

"I didn't bring Nikasti here for this," Fischer insisted.

"Perhaps not," Pamela conceded, "but if you're a good American, what
are you doing at all with a Japanese secret agent?"

"If you trust me, you shall know," Fischer promised. "Listen to reason.
Let us have finished with one affair at a time. You very nearly lost
that formula to Japan. Hand over the pocketbook. You see how dangerous
it is for it to remain in your possession. I'll keep my share of the
bargain. I'll put my scheme before you. Come, be reasonable. See,
here's the forged transfer."

He drew a paper from his pocket and spread it out upon the table. His
long, hairy fingers were shaking with nervousness.

"Come, make it a deal," he persisted, "You can pay me the defalcations
or not, as you choose. There is your brother's freedom and the honour
of your name, in exchange for that pocketbook."

Pamela, after all her hesitation, seemed to make up her mind with
startling suddenness. She thrust the pocketbook towards Fischer, took
the transfer from his fingers and tore it into small pieces.

"I give in," she said. "This time you have scored. We will talk about
the other matter tomorrow."

Fischer buttoned up the packet carefully in his breast pocket. His eyes
glittered. He turned towards the door. On the threshold he looked
around. He stretched out his hand towards Pamela.

"Believe me, you have done well," he assured her hoarsely. "I shall
keep my word. I will set you in the path of great things."

He left the room, and they heard the furious ringing of the lift bell.
Pamela was tearing into smaller pieces the forged transfer. Van Teyl, a
little pale, but with new life in his frame, was watching the fragments
upon the floor. There was a tap at the door. Nikasti entered. Pamela's
fingers paused in their task. Van Teyl stared at him. The newcomer was
carrying the evening papers, which he laid down upon the table.

"Is there anything more I can do before I go to bed, sir?" he asked,
with his usual reverential little bow.

"Aren't you hurt?" Van Teyl exclaimed.

"Hurt?" Nikasti replied wonderingly. "Oh, no!"

"Weren't you knocked down by a taxicab," Pamela asked, "outside the
hotel?"

Nikasti looked from one to the other with an air of gentle surprise.

"I have been to my rooms in the servants' quarters," he told them, "on
the upper floor. I have not been downstairs at all. I have been
unpacking and arranging my own humble belongings."

Van Teyl clasped his forehead.

"Let me get this!" he exclaimed. "You haven't been down in the lobby of
the hotel, you haven't been knocked down by a taxicab that skidded, you
haven't lost a pocketbook which you had previously stolen from my
sister?"

Nikasti shook his head. He seemed completely mystified. He watched
Pamela's face carefully.

"Perhaps there has been some mistake," he suggested quietly. "My
English is sometimes not very good. I would not dream of trying to rob
the young lady. I have not lost any pocketbook. I have not descended
lower down in the hotel than this floor."

Van Teyl waved him away, accepted his farewell salutation, and waited
until the door was closed.

"Look here, Pamela," he protested, turning almost appealingly towards
her, "my brain wasn't made for this sort of thing. What in thunder does
it all mean?"

Pamela looked at the fragments of paper upon the floor and sank back in
an easy chair.

"Jimmy," she confided, "I don't know."

CHAPTER XV

Pamela opened her eyes the next morning upon a distinctly pleasing
sight. At the foot of her bed was an enormous basket of pink
carnations. On the counterpane by her side lay a smaller cluster of
twelve very beautiful dark red Gloire de Dijon roses. Attached to these
latter was a note.

"When did these flowers come, Leah?" Pamela asked the maid who was
moving about the room.

"An hour ago, madam," the girl told her.

"Read the name on the card," Pamela directed, pointing to the mass of
pink blossoms.

"Mr. Oscar H. Fischer," the girl read out, "with respectful
compliments."

Pamela smiled.

"He doesn't know, then," she murmured to herself. "Get my bath ready,
Leah."

The maid disappeared into the inner room. Pamela tore open the note
attached to the roses by her side, and read it slowly through:

Dear Miss Van Teyl,

I am so very sorry, but the luncheon we had half-planned for to-day
must be postponed. I have an urgent message to go south; to
inspect--but no secrets! It's horribly disappointing. I hope we may
meet in a few days.

Sincerely yours,

JOHN LUTCHESTER.

Pamela laid down the note, conscious of an indefined but distinct
sensation of disappointment. After all, it was not so wonderful to wake
up and find oneself in New York. The sun was pleasant, the little puffs
of air which came in through the window across the park, delightful and
exhilarating, yet something had gone out of the day. Accustomed to
self-analysis, she asked herself swiftly--what? It was, without a
doubt, something to do with Lutchester's departure. She tried to face
the question of her disappointment. Was it possible to feel any real
interest in a man who preferred a Government post to the army at such a
time, and who had brought his golf clubs out to America? Her
imagination for a moment revolved around the problem of his apparently
uninteresting and yet, in some respects, contradictory personality. Was
it really her fancy or had she, every now and then, detected behind
that flamboyant manner traces of something deeper and more serious,
something which seemed to indicate a life and aims of which nothing
appeared upon the surface? She clasped her knees and sat up in bed,
listening to the sound of the running water in the next room. Was there
any possible explanation of his opportune appearance on the night
before with a dummy pocketbook and a concocted story? The cleverest man
on earth could surely never have gauged her position with Fischer and
intervened in such a manner at the psychological moment.

Yet he had done it, she reflected, gazing thoughtfully at Fischer's
gift. If, indeed, he knew what was passing around him to that extent,
how much more knowledge might he not possess? She felt the little
silken belt around her waist. At least there was no one who could take
Sandy Graham's secret from her until she chose to give it up. Supposing
for a moment that Lutchester was also out for the great things, was he
fooled by her attitude? If he knew so much, he must know that the
secret remained with her. Perhaps, after all, he was only a philanderer
in intrigue....

Pamela bathed and dressed, sent for her brother, and, to his horror,
insisted upon an American breakfast.

"It's quite time I came back to look after you, Jimmy," she said
severely, as she watched him send away his grapefruit and gaze
helplessly at his bacon and eggs. "You're going to turn over a new
leaf, young man."

"I shan't be sorry," he confessed fervently. "I tell you, Pamela, when
you have a thing like this hanging over you, it's hell--some hell! You
just want to drown your thoughts and keep going all the time."

She nodded sagely.

"Well, that's over now, Jimmy," she said, "and I meant you to listen to
me. It's more than likely that Mr. Fischer may find out at any moment
that the mysterious pocketbook, which came from heaven knows where, is
a faked one. He may be horrid about it."

"While we are on that," Van Teyl interrupted, "I couldn't sleep a wink
last night for trying to imagine where on earth that fellow Lutchester
came in, and what his game was."

"I have a headache this morning, trying to puzzle out the same thing,"
Pamela told him.

"He seems such an ordinary sort of chap," Van Teyl continued
thoughtfully. "Good sportsman, no doubt, and all that sort of thing,
but the last fellow in the world to concoct a yarn, and if he did, what
was his object?"

"Jimmy," his sister begged, "let's quit. Of course, I know a little
more than you do, but the little more that I do know only makes it more
confusing. Now, to make it worse, he's gone away."

"What, this morning?"

"Gone away on his Government work," Pamela announced. "I had a note and
some roses from him. Don't let's talk about it, Jimmy. I keep on
getting new ideas, and it makes my brain whirl. I want to talk about
you."

"I'm a rotten lot to talk about," he sighed.

She patted his hand.

"You're nothing of the sort, dear, and you've got to remember now that
you're out of the trouble. But listen. Hurry down to the office as
early as you can and set about straightening things out, so that if Mr.
Fischer tries to make trouble, he won't be able to do it. There's my
cheque for eighty-nine thousand dollars I made out last night before I
went to bed," she added, passing it over to him. "Just replace what
stocks you're short of and get yourself out of the mess, and don't
waste any time about it."

His face glowed as he looked across the table.

"You're the most wonderful sister, Pamela."

"Nonsense!" she interrupted. "Nonsense! I ought not to have left you
alone all this time, and, besides, I'm pretty sure he helped you into
this trouble for his own ends. Anyway, we are all right now. I shall be
in New York for a few days before I go to Washington. When I do go, you
must see whether you can get leave and come with me."

"That's bully," he declared. "I'll get leave, right enough. There's
never been less doing in Wall Street. But say, Pamela, I don't seem to
half understand what's going on. You've given up most of your friends,
and you spend months away there in Europe in all sorts of corners. Now
you come back and you seem mixed up in regular secret service work.
Where do you come in, anyway? What are you going to Washington for?"

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