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The Pawns Count by E. Phillips Oppenheim

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He came down towards her in a state of great excitement.

"Say, we've had to open up the office again!" he exclaimed. "The
telegrams are rolling in now. That so-called German naval victory was a
fake. The Britishers came out right on top. You know you stand to net at
least half a million, Mr. Lutchester? The worst of it is I have another
client who's going to lose it."

Pamela shook her head at Lutchester.

"The possibility of increased responsibilities," he whispered. "A
married man needs something to fall back upon."

CHAPTER XXXI

The offices of Messrs. Neville, Brooks, and Van Teyl were the scene of
something like pandemonium. Van Teyl himself, bathed in perspiration,
rushed into his room for the twentieth time. He almost flung the
newspaper man who was waiting for him through the door.

"No, we don't know a darned thing," he declared. "We've no special
information. The only reason we're up to our neck in Anglo-French is
because we've two big clients dealing."

"It's just a few personal notes about those clients we'd like to
handle."

"Oh, get out as quick as you can!" Van Teyl snapped. "This isn't a
bucket shop or a pool room. The names of our clients concerns ourselves
only."

"What do you think Anglo-French are going to do, Mr. Van Teyl?"

"I can't tell," was the prompt answer, "but I can tell what's going to
happen if you don't clear out."

The newspaper man took a hurried leave. Van Teyl seized the telephone
receiver, only to put it down with a little shout of relief as the door
opened and Lutchester entered.

"Thank God!" he exclaimed. "Why, I've been ringing you up for an hour
and a half."

"Sorry," Lutchester replied, "I was down at the barber's the first time
you got through, and then I had some cables to send off."

"Look here," Van Teyl continued, gripping him by the shoulder, "is six
hundred and forty thousand dollars, or thereabouts, profit enough for
you on your Anglo-French?"

"It sounds adequate," Lutchester confessed, laying his hat and cane
carefully upon the table and drawing up an easy-chair. "How much is Mr.
Fischer going to lose?"

"God knows! If you allow me to sell at the present moment, you'll ease
the market, and he'll lose about what you make."

"And if I decide to hold my Anglo-French?"

"You'll have to provide us with about a couple of million dollars," Van
Teyl replied, "and I should think you would pretty well break Fischer
for a time. Frankly, he's an important client, and we don't want him
broken, even temporarily."

"What do you want me to do, then?"

"Give us authority to sell," Van Teyl begged. "Can't you hear them
yapping about in the office outside? They're round me all the time like
a pack of hounds. Honestly, if I don't sell some Anglo-French before
lunch-time to-day, they look like wrecking the office."

Lutchester knocked the end of a cigarette thoughtfully against the side
of his chair.

"All right," he decided, "I don't want you to suffer any inconvenience.
Besides, I am going to Washington this afternoon. You can keep on
selling as long as the market's steady. Directly it sags, hold off. If
necessary, even buy a few more. You understand me? Don't sell a single
block under to-day's price. Keep the market at that figure. It's an
easy job, because next week Anglo-French will go up again."

Van Teyl was moved to a rare flash of admiration.

"You're a cool hand, Lutchester," he declared, "considering you're not
a business man."

"Fischer's the man who'll need to keep cool," Lutchester remarked,
lighting his cigarette. "What about a little lunch?"

The stockbroker scarcely heard him. He had struck a bell, and the
office seemed suddenly filled with clerks. Van Teyl's words were
incoherent--a string of strange directions, punctuated by slang which
was, so far as Lutchester was concerned, unintelligible. The whole
place seemed to wake into a clamour of telephone bells, shouts, the
clanging and opening of the lift gates, and the hurried tramp of
footsteps in the corridors outside. Lutchester rose to his feet. He was
looking very comfortable and matter-of-fact in his grey tweed suit and
soft felt hat.

"Perhaps," he observed pleasantly, "I am out of place here. Drop me a
line and let me know how things are going to the Hotel Capitol at
Washington."

"That's all right," Van Teyl promised. "I'll get you on the
long-distance 'phone. I was coming myself with Pamela for a few days,
but this little deal of yours has set things buzzing.... Say, who's
that?"

The door opened, and Fischer paused upon the threshold. Certainly, of
all the people concerned, the two speculators themselves seemed the
least moved by the excitement they were causing. Fischer was dressed
with his usual spick-and-span neatness, and his appearance betrayed no
sign of flurry or excitement. He nodded grimly to Lutchester.

"My congratulations," he said. "You seem to have rigged the Press here
to some purpose."

Lutchester raised his eyebrows.

"I don't even know a newspaper man in New York," he declared.

The newcomer gave vent to a little gesture of derision.

"Then you've some very clever friends! You'd better make the most of
their offices. The German version of the naval battle will be confirmed
and amplified within twenty-four hours, and then your Anglo-French will
touch mud."

"If that is your idea," Lutchester remarked suavely, "why buy now? Why
not wait till next week? Come," he went on, "I will have a little
flutter with you, if you like, Fischer. I will bet you five thousand
dollars, and Van Teyl here shall hold the stakes, that a week hence
to-day Anglo-French stand higher than they do at this moment."

Fischer hesitated. Then he turned away.

"I am not a sportsman, Mr. Lutchester," he said.

Lutchester brushed away a little dust from his coat sleeve.

"No," he murmured, "I agree with you. Good morning!"

Lutchester walked out into the sun-baked streets, and with his absence
Fischer abandoned his almost unnatural calm. He strode up and down the
room, fuming with rage. At every fresh click of the tape machine, he
snatched at the printed slip eagerly and threw it away with an oath. No
one took any notice of him. Van Teyl rushed in and out, telephones
clanged, perspiring clerks dashed in with copies of contracts to add to
the small pile upon the desk. There came a quiet moment presently. Van
Teyl wiped the perspiration from his forehead and drank a tumblerful of
water.

"Fischer," he asked, "what made you go into this so big? You must have
known there was always the risk of your wireless report beating it up a
little too tall."

"It wasn't our report at all that I went by," Fischer confessed
gloomily. "It was the English Admiralty announcement that did it. Can
you conceive," he went on, striking the table with his fist, "any
nation at war, with a grain of common sense or an ounce of
self-respect, issuing a statement like that?--an apology for a defeat
which, damn it all, never happened! Say the thing was a drawn battle,
which is about what it really was. It didn't suit the Germans to fight
it to a finish. They'd everything to lose and little to gain. So in
effect they left the Britishers there and passed back behind their own
minefield. So far as regards reports, that was victory enough for any
one except those muddle-headed civilians at Whitehall. They deceived
the world with that infernal bulletin, and incidentally me. It was on
that statement I gave you my orders, not on ours."

"It's a damned unfortunate business!" Van Teyl sighed. "You're only
half way out yet, and it's cost you nearly three hundred thousand."

A dull spot of purple colour burned in Fischer's cheeks. His upper lip
was drawn in, his appearance for a moment was repulsive.

"It isn't the money I mind," he muttered. "It's Lutchester."

Van Teyl was discreetly silent. Fischer seemed to read his thoughts. He
leaned across the table.

"A wonderful fellow, your friend Lutchester," he sneered. "An Admirable
Crichton of finance and diplomacy and love-making, eh? But the end
isn't just yet. I promise you one thing, James Van Teyl. He isn't going
to marry your sister."

"I'd a damned sight sooner she married him than you!" Van Teyl blazed
out.

Fischer was taken aback. He had held for so long the upper hand with
this young man that for the moment he had forgotten that circumstances
were changed between them. Van Teyl rose to his feet. The bonds of the
last few months had snapped. He spoke like a free man.

"Look here, Fischer," he said, "you've had me practically in your power
for the best part of a year, but now I'm through with you. I'm out of
your debt, no thanks to you, and I'm going to keep out. I am working on
your business as hard as though you were my own brother, and I'll go on
doing it. I'll get you out of this mess as well as I can, and after
that you can take your damned business where you please."

"So that's it, is it?" Fischer scoffed. "A rich brother-in-law coming
along, eh? ... No, don't do that," stepping quickly backwards as Van
Teyl's fist shot out.

"Then keep my sister's name out of this conversation," Van Teyl
insisted. "If you are wise, you'll clear out altogether. They're at it
again."

Fischer, however, glanced at the clock and remained. At the next lull,
he hung down the tape and turned to his companion.

"Say, there's no use quarrelling, James," he declared. "I'm going to
leave you to it now. Guess I said a little more than I meant to, but I
tell you I hate that fellow Lutchester. I hate him just as though I
were the typical German and he were the typical Britisher, and there
was nothing but a sea of hate between us. Shake hands, Jim."

Van Teyl obeyed without enthusiasm. Fischer drew a chair to the table
and wrote out a cheque, which he passed across.

"I'll drop into the bank and let them know about this," he said. "You
can make up accounts and let me hear how the balance stands. I'll wipe
it out by return, whatever it is."

Fischer passed out of the offices a few minutes later, followed by many
curious eyes, and stepped into his automobile. A young man who had
brushed against him pushed a note into his hand. Fischer opened it as
his car swung slowly through the traffic:--

Guards at all Connecticut factories doubled. O'Hagan caught last night
in precincts of small arms factory. Was taken alive, disobeying orders.
Be careful.

Fischer tore the note into small pieces. His face was grimmer than ever
as he leaned back amongst the cushions. There were evil things awaiting
him outside Wall Street.

CHAPTER XXXII

Lutchester breathed the air of Washington and felt almost homesick. The
stateliness of the city, its sedate and quiescent air after the turmoil
of New York, impressed him profoundly. Everywhere its diplomatic
associations made themselves felt. Congress was in session, and the
faces of the men whom he met continually in the hotels and restaurants
seemed to him some index of the world power which flung its
far-reaching arms from beneath the Capitol dome.

One afternoon a few days after his arrival he called at the Hastings'
house, a great Colonial mansion within a stone's throw of his own
headquarters. The mention of his name, however, seemed to chill all the
hospitality out of the smiling face of the southern butler who answered
his ring. Miss Van Teyl was out, and from the man's manner it was
obvious that Miss Van Teyl would continue to be out for a very long
time. Lutchester retraced his steps to the British Embassy, where he
had spent most of the morning, and made his way to the sitting-room of
one of the secretaries. The Honourable Philip Downing, who was eagerly
waiting for a cable recalling him to take up a promised commission,
welcomed him heartily.

"Things are slack here to-day, old fellow. Let's go out to the Country
Club and have a few sets of tennis or a game of golf, whichever you
prefer," he suggested. "I've done my little lot till the evening."

"Show on to-night, isn't there?" Lutchester inquired.

"Just a reception. You're going to put in an appearance?"

"I fancy so. Have you got your list of guests handy?"

The young man dived into a drawer and produced a few typewritten
sheets.

"Alphabetical list of acceptances, with here and there a few personal
notes," he pointed out, with an air of self-satisfaction. "I go through
this list with the chief while he's changing for dinner."

Lutchester ran his forefinger down the list.

"Senator Theodore and Mrs. Hastings," he quoted. "By the bye, they have
a niece staying with them."

"Want a card for her?" the Honourable Philip inquired with a grin.

"I should like it sent off this moment," Lutchester replied.

The young man took a square, gilt-edged card from a drawer by his side,
filled it out at Lutchester's dictation, rang the bell, and dispatched
it by special messenger.

"I've got my little buzzer outside," he observed. "We'll make tracks
for the club, if you're ready."

The two men played several sets of tennis and afterwards lounged in two
wicker chairs, underneath a gigantic plane tree in a corner of the
lawn. The place was crowded, and Philip Downing was an excellent
showman.

"Washington," he explained, "has never been so divided into opposite
camps, and this is almost the only common meeting ground. Every one has
to come here, of course. The German Staff play tennis and the Austrians
all go in for polo. Here comes Ziduski. He's most fearfully popular
with the ladies here--does us a lot of harm, they say. He's a great
sticker for etiquette. He used to nod and call me Phil. Now you watch.
He'll bow from his waist, as though he had corsets on. As a matter of
fact, he's a good sportsman."

Count Ziduski's bow was stiff enough but his intention was obvious. He
stopped before the two men, exchanged a somewhat stilted greeting with
Philip Downing, and turned to Lutchester.

"I believe," he said, "that I have the honour of addressing Mr.
Lutchester?"

Lutchester rose to his feet.

"That is my name," he admitted.

"We have met in Rome, I think, and in Paris," the Count reminded him.
"If I might beg for the favour of a few moments' conversation with
you."

The two men strolled away together. The Count plunged at once into the
middle of things.

"It is you, sir, I believe, whom I have to thank for the abrupt
departure of Mademoiselle Sonia from New York?"

"Quite true," Lutchester admitted.

"Under different circumstances," the Count proceeded, "I might regard
such interference in my affairs in a different manner. Here, of course,
that is impossible. I speak to you out of regard for the lady in
question. You appear in some mysterious manner to have discovered the
fact that she was in the habit of bringing entirely unimportant and
non-political messages from dear friends in France."

"Mademoiselle Sonia," Lutchester said calmly, "had for a brief space of
time forgotten herself. She was engaged in carrying out espionage work
on your behalf. I believe I may say that she will do so no more."

The Count was a man of medium height, thin, with complexion absolutely
colourless, and deep-set, tired eyes. At this moment, however, he
seemed endowed with the spirit of a new virility. The cane which he
grasped might have been a dagger. His smooth tones nursed a threat.

"Mr. Lutchester," he declared, "if harm should come to her through your
information, I swear to God that you shall pay!"

Lutchester's manner was mild and unprovocative.

"Count," he replied, "we make no war upon women. Sonia has repented,
and the knowledge which I have of her misdeeds will be shared by no
one. She has gone back to her country to work for the Red Cross there.
So far as I am concerned, that is the end."

The two men walked a few steps further in unbroken silence. Then the
Count raised his hat.

"Mr. Lutchester," he said, "yours is the reply of an honourable enemy.
I might have trusted you, but Sonia is half of my life. I offer you my
thanks."

He strolled away, and Lutchester rejoined his young friend.

"The lion and the lamb seem to have parted safely!" the latter
exclaimed. "Now sit by my side and I will show you interesting things.
Those four irreproachable young men over there in tennis flannels are
all from the German Embassy. The two elder ones behind are Austrians.
All those women are the wives of Senators who sympathise with Germany.
Their husbands look like it, don't they? To-day they have an addition
to their ranks--the thin, elderly man there, whose clothes were
evidently made in London. That's Senator Hastings. He is a personal
friend of the President. Jove, what a beautiful girl with Mrs.
Hastings!"

"That," Lutchester told him, "is the young lady to whom you have just
sent a card of invitation for to-night."

"Then here's hoping that she comes," Philip Downing observed, finishing
his glass of mint julep. "Is she a pal of yours?"

"Yes, I know her," Lutchester admitted.

"Let's go and butt in, then," Downing suggested. "I love breaking up
these little gatherings. You'll see them all stiffen when we come near.
I hope they haven't got hold of Hastings, though."

The two men rose to their feet and crossed the lawn. Fischer, who had
suddenly appeared in the background, whispered something in Mrs.
Hastings' ear. She swung around to Pamela, a second too late. Pamela,
with a word of excuse to the young man with whom she was talking,
stepped away from the circle and held out her hand to Lutchester.

"So you have really come to Washington!" she exclaimed.

"As a rescuer," Lutchester replied. "I feel that I have a mission. We
cannot afford to lose your sympathies. May I introduce Philip Downing?"

Pamela shook hands with the young man and took her place between them.

"I've been envying you your seat under the tree," she said. "Couldn't
we go there for a few moments?"

Mrs. Hastings detached herself and approached them. She received Philip
Downing's bow cordially, and she was almost civil to Lutchester.

"I can't have my niece taken away," she protested. "We are just going
in to tea, Pamela."

Pamela shook her head.

"I am going to sit under that tree with Mr. Lutchester and Mr.
Downing," she declared. "Tea doesn't attract me in the least, and that
tree does."

Mrs. Hastings accepted defeat with a somewhat cynical gracefulness. She
closed her lorgnette with a little snap.

"You leave us all desolated, my dear Pamela," she said. "You remind me
of what your poor dear father used to say--'Almost any one could live
with Pamela if she always had her own way.'"

Pamela laughed as she strolled across the lawn.

"Aren't one's relatives trying!" she murmured.

CHAPTER XXXIII

Philip Downing very soon justified the profession to which he belonged
by strolling off with some excuse about paying his respects to some
acquaintances. Pamela and Lutchester immediately dropped the somewhat
frivolous tone of their conversation.

"You know that things are moving with our friend Fischer?" she began.

"I gathered so," Lutchester assented.

"His scheme is growing into shape," she went on. "You know what
wonderful people his friends are for organising. Well, they are going
to start a society all through the States and nominate for its
president--Uncle Theodore."

"Will they have any show at all?" Lutchester asked curiously.

She shrugged her shoulders.

"Who can tell? The German-Americans are very powerful indeed all
through the West, and then the pacifists will join them. You see, I
believe that although the soul of the country is with the Allies,
England is the most tactless country in the world. She is always giving
little pinpricks to the Government over here, either about maritime law
or one thing or another. Then all those articles in the papers about
America being too proud to fight, the sneering tone of some, even, of
the leading reviews, did a lot of harm. Uncle Theodore is going to
stand for what they call the true neutrality. That is to say, no
munitions, no help for either side."

"Well, I don't know anything about American politics," Lutchester
confessed, "but I shouldn't think he'd have an earthly chance."

"Money is immensely powerful," she went on reflectively, "and many of
the great money interests of the country are controlled by
German-Americans. Mr. Fischer has almost thrown me over politically,
but Uncle Theodore is crazy about the idea of a German pledge to
protect America against Japan. That is going to be the great argument
which he will keep up his sleeve until after the nomination."

"Fischer's trump card," Lutchester observed. "He hasn't shown you a
certain autograph letter yet, I suppose?"

She shook her head.

"He may have shown it to Uncle Theodore. I'm afraid he doesn't mean to
approach me again. He seems to have completely changed his attitude
towards me since the night he saw us at the Ritz-Carlton dining
together. He was going to show me the letter the first day after his
arrival in Washington. Instead of that, he has been in the house for
hours at a time without making the slightest attempt to see me."

"Faithless fellow!" Lutchester murmured. "Nothing like an Englishman,
after all, for absolute fidelity."

"Do you really think so?" Pamela inquired anxiously. "Do you think I
should be safe in trusting my heart and future to an Englishman?"

"To one particular Englishman, yes!" was the firm reply. "I was rather
hoping you might have made up your mind."

"Too many things to think about," she laughed. "How long are you going
to stay in Washington?"

"A few hours or days or weeks--until I have finished the work that
brought me here."

"And what exactly is that?"

"You ask me lightly," he replied, "but, if you are willing, I have
decided to take you into my confidence. Our friend Nikasti will be here
to-morrow. He was to have sailed for Japan yesterday, but he has
postponed his voyage for a few days. Do you know much about the
Japanese, Miss Pamela?"

"Very little," she acknowledged.

"Well, I will tell you one thing. They are not very good at forgiving.
There was only one way I could deal with Nikasti in New York, and it
was a brutal way. I have seen him twice since. He wouldn't look me in
the eyes. I know what that means. He hates me. In a sense I don't
believe he would allow that to interfere in any way with his mission.
In another sense it would. The Allies, above all things, have need of
Japan. We want Japan and America to be friends. We don't want Germany
butting in between the two. Baron Yung is a very clever man, but he is
even more impenetrable than his countrymen generally are. Our people
here admit that they find it difficult to progress with him very far.
They believe that secretly he is in sympathy with Nikasti's reports--
but you don't know about those, I suppose?"

"I don't think I do," she admitted.

"Nikasti was sent to England some years ago to report upon us as a
country. Japan at that time was meditating an alliance with one of the
great European Powers. Obviously it must be Germany or England. Nikasti
travelled all through England, studied our social life, measured our
weaknesses; did the same through Germany, returned to Japan, and gave
his vote in favour of Germany. I have even seen a copy of his report.
He laid great stress upon the absolute devotion to sport of our young
men, and the entire absence of any patriotic sentiment or any means of
national defence. Well, as you know, for various reasons his counsels
were over-ridden, and Japan chose the British alliance. That was
entirely the fault of imperfect German diplomacy. At a time like this,
though, I cannot help thinking that some elements of his former
distrust still remain in Nikasti's mind, and I have an idea that Baron
Yung is, to a certain extent, a sympathiser. I've got to get at the
bottom of this before I leave the States. If I need your help, will you
give it me?"

"If I can," she promised.

They saw Mrs. Hastings' figure on the terrace, waving, and Pamela rose
reluctantly to her feet.

"I don't suppose," Lutchester continued, as they strolled across the
lawn, "that you have very much influence with your uncle, or that he
would listen very much to anything that you have to say, but if he is
really in earnest about this thing, he is going to play a terribly
dangerous game. As things are at present, he has a very pleasant and
responsible position as the supporter and friend of very able men. With
regard to this new movement, he may find the whole ground crumble away
beneath his feet. Fischer is playing the game of a madman. It isn't
only political defeat that might come to him, but disgrace--even
dishonour."

"You frighten me," Pamela confessed gravely.

Lutchester sighed.

"Your uncle," he went on, "is one of those thoroughly conceited,
egotistical men who will probably listen to no one. You see, I have
found out a little about him already. But they tell me that her social
position means a great deal to your aunt. Neither her birth nor her
friends could save her if Fischer drags your uncle to his chariot
wheels."

"Do you think, perhaps, that you underestimate Mr. Fischer's position
over here?" she asked thoughtfully.

"I don't think I do," he replied, "but here is something which you have
scarcely appreciated. Fischer has had the effrontery to link himself up
with a little crowd of Germans all through the States, who are making
organised attempts to destroy the factories where ammunitions are being
made for the Allies. That sort of thing, you know, would bring any one,
however, distantly connected with it, to Sing Sing.... One moment," he
added quickly, as Mrs. Hastings stepped forward to meet them; "the
reception at the British Embassy to-night?"

"The others are going," she said. "My aunt didn't feel she was
sufficiently--"

"We sent you a card round especially this afternoon," Lutchester
interrupted. "You'll come?"

"How nice of you! Of course I will," she promised.

CHAPTER XXXIV

"Small affair, this," Downing observed, as he piloted Lutchester
through the stately reception rooms of the Embassy. "You see, we are
all living a sort of touchy life here, nowadays. We try to be civil to
any of the German or Austrian lot when we meet, but of course they
don't come to our functions. And every now and then some of those
plaguey neutrals get the needle and they don't come, so we never know
quite where we are, Guadopolis has been avoiding us lately, and I hear
he was seen out at the Lakewood Country Club with Count Reszka, the
Rumanian Minister, a few days ago. Gave the Chief quite a little
flurry, that did."

"There's an idea over in London," Lutchester remarked, "that a good
deal of the war is being shaped in Washington nowadays."

"That is the Chief's notion," Downing assented. "I know he's pining to
talk to you, so we'll go and do the dutiful."

Lutchester was welcomed as an old friend by both the Ambassador and his
wife. The former drew him to a divan from which he could watch the
entrance to the rooms, and sat by his side.

"I am glad they sent you out, Lutchester," he said earnestly. "If ever
a country needed watching by a man with intelligence and experience,
this one does to-day."

"Do you happen to know that fellow Oscar Fischer?" Lutchester asked.

"I do, and I consider him one of the most dangerous people in the
States for us," the Ambassador declared. "He has a great following,
huge wealth, and, although he is not a man of culture, he doesn't go
about his job in that bull-headed way that most of them do."

"He's trying things on with Japan," Lutchester observed. "I think I
shall manage to checkmate him there all right. But there's another
scheme afloat that I don't follow so closely. You know Senator
Hastings, I suppose?"

The Ambassador nodded.

"Senator Theodore Hastings," he repeated thoughtfully. "Yes, he's
rather a dark horse. He is supposed to be the President's bosom friend,
but I hear whispers that he'd give his soul for a nomination, adopt any
cause or fight any one's battle."

"That's my own idea of him," Lutchester replied, "and I think you will
find him in the field with a pretty definite platform before long."

"You think he's mixed up with Fischer?" the Ambassador inquired.

"I'm sure he is," Lutchester assented. "Not only that, but they have
something up their sleeve. I think I can guess what it is, but I'm not
sure. How have things seemed to you here lately?"

"To tell you the truth, I haven't liked the look of them," the
Ambassador confided. "There's something afoot, and I can't be sure what
it is. Look at the crowd to-night. Of course, all the Americans are
here, but the diplomatic attendance has never been so thin. The
Rumanian Minister and his wife, the Italian, the Spanish, and the
Swedish representatives are all absent. I have just heard, too, that
Baron von Schwerin is giving a dinner-party."

Lutchester looked thoughtfully at the little stream of people. The
Ambassador left him for a few moments to welcome some late comers. He
returned presently and resumed his seat by Lutchester's side.

"Of course," he continued, lowering his voice, "all formal
communications between us and the enemy Embassies have ceased, but it
has come to be an understood thing, to avoid embarrassments to our
mutual friends, that we do not hold functions on the same day. I heard
that Von Schwerin was giving this dinner-party, so I sent round this
morning to inquire. The reply was that it was entirely a private one.
One of our youngsters brought us in a list of the guests a short time
ago. I see Hastings is one of them, and Fischer, and Rumania and Greece
will be represented. Now Hastings was to have been here, and as a rule
the neutrals are very punctilious."

"I suppose the way that naval affair was represented didn't do us any
good," Lutchester observed.

"It did us harm, without a doubt," was the lugubrious admission.
"Still, fortunately, these people over here are clever enough to
understand our idiosyncrasies. I honestly think we'd rather whine about
a defeat than glory in a victory."

"Diplomatically, too," Lutchester remarked thoughtfully, "I should have
said that things seemed all right here. The President comes in for a
great deal of abuse in some countries. Personally, I think he has been
wonderful."

The Ambassador nodded.

"You and I both know, Lutchester," he said, "that the last thing we
want is to find America dragged into this war. Such a happening would
be nothing more nor less than a catastrophe in itself, to say nothing
of the internal dissensions here. On the other hand, as things are now,
Washington is becoming a perfect arena for diplomatic chicanery, and I
have just an instinct--I can't define it in any way--which leads me to
believe that some fresh trouble has started within the last twenty-four
hours."

Lady Ridlingshawe motioned to her husband with her fan, and he rose at
once to his feet.

"I must leave you to look after yourself for a time, Lutchester," he
concluded. "You'll find plenty of people here you know. Don't go until
you've seen me again."

Lutchester wandered off in search of Pamela. He found her with Mrs.
Hastings, surrounded by a little crowd of acquaintances. Pamela waved
her fan, and they made way for him.

"Mr. Lutchester, I have been looking everywhere for you!" she
exclaimed. "What a secretive person you are! Why couldn't you tell me
that Lady Ridlingshawe was your cousin? I want you to take me to her,
please, I met her sister out in Nice."

She laid her fingers upon his arm, and they passed out of the little
circle.

"All bluff, of course," she murmured. "Find the quietest place you can.
I want to talk to you."

They wandered out on to a balcony where some of the younger people were
taking ices. She leaned over the wooden rail.

"Listen," she said, "I adore this atmosphere, and I am perfectly
certain there is something going on--something exciting, I mean. You
know that the Baron von Schwerin has a dinner-party?"

"I know that," he assented.

"Uncle Theodore is going with Mr. Fischer. He was invited at the last
moment, and I understand that his presence was specially requested."

Lutchester stood for a short time in an absorbed and sombre silence. In
the deep blue twilight his face seemed to have fallen into sterner
lines. Without a doubt he was disturbed. Pamela looked at him
anxiously.

"Is anything the matter?" she asked.

He shook his head.

"Nothing definite, only for the last few hours I have felt that things
here are reaching a crisis. There is something going on around us,
something which seems to fill Fischer and his friends with confidence,
something which I don't quite understand, and which it is my business
to understand. That is really what is worrying me."

She nodded sympathetically and glanced around for a moment.

"Let me tell you something," she whispered. "This evening my uncle came
into my room just before dinner. There is a little safe built in the
wall for jewellery. He begged for the loan of it. His library safe, he
said, was out of order. I couldn't see what he put in, but when he had
closed the door he stood looking at it for a moment curiously. I made
some jesting remark about its being a treasure chest, but he answered
me seriously. 'You are going to sleep to-night, Pamela,' he said,
'within a few yards of a dozen or so of written words which will change
the world's history.'"

Lutchester was listening intently. There was a prolonged pause.

"Well?" he asked, at last.

She glanced at the little Yale key which hung from her bracelet.

"Nothing! I was just wondering how I should be able to sleep through
the night without opening the safe."

"But surely your uncle didn't give you the key!"

She shook her head.

"I don't suppose he knows I have such a thing," she replied. "He has a
master-key himself to all the safes, which he used. This is one the
housekeeper gave me as soon as I arrived."

Lutchester looked out into the darkness.

"Tell me," he inquired, "is that your house--the next one to this?"

"That's the old Hastings' house," she assented. "They are all family
mansions along here."

"It looks an easy place to burgle," he remarked.

She laughed quietly.

"I should think it would be," she admitted. "There are any quantity of
downstair windows. We don't have burglaries in Washington, though
--certainly not this side of the city."

A little bevy of young people had found their way into the gardens.
Lutchester waited until they had passed out of earshot before he spoke
again.

"I have reason to believe," he continued, "that in the course of their
negotiations Fischer has deposited with your uncle a certain autograph
letter, of which we have already spoken, making definite proposals to
America if she will change her attitude on the neutrality question."

"The written words," Pamela murmured.

Lutchester's hand suddenly closed upon her wrist. She was surprised to
find his fingers so cold, yet marvellously tenacious.

"You are going to lose that key and I am going to find it," he said,
quietly. "I am sorry--but you must."

"I am going to do nothing of the sort," Pamela objected.

His fingers remained like a cold vice upon her wrist. She made no
effort to draw it away.

"Listen," he said; "do you believe that the Hastings-cum-Fischer party
is going to be the best thing that could happen for America?"

"I certainly do not," she admitted.

"Then do as I beg. Let me take that key from your bracelet. You shall
have no other responsibility."

"And what are you going to do with it?"

"You must leave that to me," he answered. "I will tell you as much as I
can. I stopped Nikasti sailing for Japan, but I made a mortal enemy of
him at the same time. He has come to Washington to consult with his
Ambassador. They are together tonight. It is my mission to convince
them of Germany's duplicity."

"I see.... And you think that these written words--?"

"Give the key to me," he begged, "and ask no questions."

She shook her head.

"I should object most strongly to nocturnal disturbers of my slumbers!"

It seemed to her that his frame had become tenser, his tone harder. The
grip of his fingers was still upon her wrist.

"Even your objection," he said, "might not relieve you of the
possibility of their advent."

"Don't be silly," she answered, "and, above all, don't try to threaten
me. If you want my help--"

She looked steadfastly across at the looming outline of the Hastings'
house.

"I do want your help," he assured her.

"How long should you require the letter for?"

"One hour," he replied.

She led him down some steps on to the smooth lawns which encircled the
house. They passed in and out of some gigantic shrubs until at last
they came to a paling. She felt along it for a few yards.

"There is a gate there," she told him. "Can you do anything with it?"

It was fastened by an old lock. He lifted it off its hinges, and they
both passed through.

"Keep behind the shrubs as much as you can," she whispered. "There is a
way into the house from the verandah here."

They reached at last the shadow of the building. She paused.

"Wait here for me," she continued. "I would rather enter the house
without being seen, if I can, but it doesn't really matter. I can make
some excuse for coming back. Don't move from where you are."

She glided away from him and disappeared. Lutchester waited, standing
well back in the shadow of the shrubs. From the Embassy came all the
time the sound of music, occasionally even the murmur of voices; from
the dark house in front of him, nothing. Suddenly he heard what seemed
to be the opening of a window, and then soft footsteps. Pamela appeared
round the corner of the building, a white, spectral figure against that
background of deep blue darkness. She came on tiptoe, running down the
steps and holding her skirts with both hands.

"Not a soul has seen me," she whispered. "Take this quickly."

She thrust an envelope into his hands, and something hard with it.

"That's Uncle Theodore's seal," she explained. "He sealed up the
envelope when he put it in there. Now come back quickly to the Embassy.
You must please hurry with what you want to do. If I have left when you
return, you must come back to exactly this place. That window"--she
pointed upwards--"will be wide open. You must throw a pine cone or a
pebble through it. I shall be waiting."

"I understand," he assured her.

They retraced their steps. Once more they drew near to the Embassy. The
night had grown warmer and more windows had been opened. They reached
the verandah. She touched his hand for a moment.

"Well," she said, "I don't know whether I have been wise or not. Try
and be back in less than an hour, if you can. I am going in alone."

She left him, and Lutchester, after a few brief words with the
Ambassador, hurried away to his task. In twenty minutes he stood before
a tall, grey-stone building, a few blocks away, was admitted by a
Japanese butler, and conducted, after some hesitation, into a large
room at the back of the house. An elderly man, dressed for the evening,
with the lapel of his coat covered with orders, was awaiting him.

"I am a stranger to you, Baron," Lutchester began.

"That does not matter," was the grave reply. "Ten minutes ago I had an
urgent telephone call from our mutual friend. His Excellency told me
that he was sending a special messenger, and begged me to give you a
few minutes. I have left a conference of some importance, and I am
here."

"A few minutes will be enough," Lutchester promised. "I am engaged by
the English Government upon Secret Service work. I came to America,
following a man named Fischer. You have heard of him?"

"I have heard of him," the Ambassador acknowledged.

"In New York," Lutchester continued, "he met one of your countrymen,
Prince Nikasti, a man, I may add," Lutchester went on, "for whom I have
the highest respect and esteem, although quite openly, years ago, he
pronounced himself unfavourably disposed towards my country. The object
of Fischer's meeting with Prince Nikasti was to convey to him certain
definite proposals on behalf of the German Government. They wish for a
rapprochement with your country. They offer certain terms, confirmation
of which Fischer brought with him in an autograph letter."

There was a moment's silence. Not a word came from the man who seemed
to have learnt the gift of sitting with absolute immovability. Even his
eyes did not blink. He sat and waited.

"The proposals made to you are plausible and deserving of
consideration," Lutchester proceeded. "Do not think that there exists
in my mind, or would exist in the mind of any Englishman knowing of
them, any feeling of resentment that these proposals should have been
received by you for consideration. Nothing in this world counts to
those who follow the arts of diplomacy, save the simple welfare of the
people whom he represents. It is therefore the duty of every patriot to
examine carefully all proposals made to him likely to militate to the
advantage of his own people. You have a letter, offering you certain
terms to withdraw from your present alliances. Here is a letter from
the same source, in the same handwriting, written to America. Break the
seal yourself. It was brought to this country by Fischer, in the same
dispatch box as yours, to be handed to some responsible person in the
American Government. It was handed to Senator Theodore Hastings. It is
to form part of his platform on the day when his nomination as
President is announced. It must be back in his safe within
three-quarters of an hour. Break the seal and read it."

The Japanese held out his hand, broke the seal of the envelope, and
read. His face remained immovable. When he had finished he looked up at
his visitor.

"I am permitted to take a copy?" he asked.

"Certainly!"

He touched a bell, spoke down a mouthpiece, and with almost necromantic
swiftness two young men were in the room. A camera was dragged out, a
little flash of light shot up to the ceiling, and the attaches vanished
as quickly as they had come. The Ambassador replaced the document in
its envelope, handed a stick of sealing-wax and a candle to Lutchester,
who leaned over and resealed the envelope.

"The negative?" he enquired.

"Will be kept under lock and key," the Ambassador promised. "It will
pass into the archives of Japanese history. In future we shall know."

Once more he touched a bell. The door was opened. Lutchester found
himself escorted into the street. He was back at the Embassy in time to
meet a little stream of departing guests. Lady Ridlingshawe patted him
on the shoulder with her fan.

"Deserter!" she exclaimed, reproachfully, "Wherever have you been
hiding?"

Lutchester made some light reply and passed on. He made his way out
into the gardens. The darkness now was a little more sombre, and he had
to grope his way to the palings. Soon he stood before the dark outline
of the adjoining house. In the window towards which he was making his
way a single candle in a silver candlestick was burning. He paused
underneath and listened. Then he took a pine cone which he had picked
up on his way and threw it through the open window. The candle was
withdrawn. A shadowy form leaned out.

"I'm quite alone," she assured him softly. "Can you throw it in?"

He nodded.

"I think so."

His first effort was successful. The seal followed, wrapped up in his
handkerchief. A moment or two later he saw Pamela's face at the window.

"Good night!" she whispered. "Quickly, please. There is still some one
about downstairs."

The light was extinguished. Lutchester made his way cautiously back,
replaced the gate upon its hinges and reached the shelter of the Embassy,
denuded now of guests. He found Downing in the smoking-room.

"Can I get a whisky and soda?" Lutchester asked, in response to the
latter's vociferous greeting.

"Call it a highball," was the prompt reply, "and you can have as many
as you like. Have you earned it?" he added, a little curiously.

"I almost believe that I have," Lutchester assented.

CHAPTER XXXV

Mr. Oscar Fischer and his friend, Senator Theodore Hastings, stood side
by side, a week later, in the bar of one of the most fashionable of New
York hotels. They were passing away the few minutes before Pamela and
her aunt would be ready to join them in the dining room above.

"Very little news, I fancy," Hastings remarked, glancing at the tape
which was passing through his companion's fingers.

"Nothing--of any importance," Fischer replied. "Nothing."

The older man glanced searchingly at his companion, the change in whose
tone was ominous. Fischer was standing with the tape in his hand, his
eyes glued upon a certain paragraph. The Senator took out his
eyeglasses and looked over his friend's shoulder.

"What's this?" he demanded. "Eh?"

Fischer was fighting a great battle and fighting it well.

"Something wrong, apparently, with Frank Roughton," he observed; "an
old college friend of mine. They made him Governor of----only last
year."

Hastings read the item thoughtfully.

Governor Roughton this morning tendered his resignation as Governor of
the State of----. We understand that it was at once accepted. Numerous
arrests have taken place with reference to the great explosion at the
Bembridge powder factory.

"Looks rather fishy, that," Hastings observed thoughtfully.

"I'm sorry for Roughton," Fischer declared. "He was a perfectly
straight man, and I am sure he has done his best."

"Great friend of yours?" the other asked curiously.

"We were intimately acquainted," was the brief answer.

The two men finished their cocktails in silence. On their way upstairs
the Senator took his companion's arm.

"Fischer," he said, "you'll forgive me if I put a certain matter to you
plainly?"

"Naturally!"

"Within the last few days," Hastings proceeded, "there have been seven
explosions or fires at various factories throughout the States. It is a
somewhat significant circumstance," he added, after a slight pause,
"that every one of these misfortunes has occurred at a factory where
munitions of some sort for the Allies have been in process of
manufacture. Shrewd men have naturally come to the conclusion that
there is some organisation at work."

"I should doubt it," Fischer replied. "You must remember that there is
always a great risk of disasters in factories where explosives are
being handled. It is a new thing to many of the manufacturers here,
and it is obvious that they are not making use of all the necessary
precautions."

"I see," Hastings observed, reflectively. "So that is how you would
explain this epidemic of disasters, eh?"

"Certainly!"

"At the same time, Fischer, to set my mind entirely at rest," Hastings
continued, "I should like your assurance that you have nothing whatever
to do with any organisation, should there be such a thing, including in
its object the destruction of American property."

"I will do more than answer your question in the direct negative," was
the firm reply. "I will assure you that no such organisation exists."

"I am relieved to hear it," Hastings confessed. "This resignation of
Roughton, however, seems a strange thing. Most of these fires have
occurred in his State.... Ah! there is Senator Joyce waiting for us,
and Pamela and Mrs. Hastings."

Mr. Hastings as a host was in his element. His manners and tact, which
his enemies declared were far too perfect, were both admirably
displayed in the smaller ways of life. He guided the conversation into
light yet opportune subjects, and he utterly ignored the fact that
Senator Joyce, one of the great politicians of the day, whose support
of his nomination was already more than half promised, seemed distrait
and a little cold. It was Pamela who quite inadvertently steered the
conversation into a dangerous channel.

"What has Governor Roughton been doing, Mr. Fischer?" she asked.

There was a moment's silence. Pamela's question had fallen something
like a bombshell amongst the little party. It was their guest who
replied.

"The matter is occupying the attention of the country very largely at
the moment, Miss Van Teyl," he said. "It is perhaps unfortunate that
Governor Roughton seems to have allowed his sympathies to be so clearly
known."

"He is a German by birth, is he not?" Pamela inquired.

"Most decidedly not," Fischer asserted. "I was at Harvard with him."

"All the same," Pamela murmured under her breath, "I think that he was
born at Stuttgart."

"He is an American citizen," Senator Joyce observed, "and has reached a
high position here. We of the Administration may be wrong," he
continued, "but we believe, and we think that we have a right to
believe, that when any man of conscience and ideals takes the oath, he
is free from all previous prejudices. He is an American citizen--
nothing more and nothing less."

"Of course, that is magnificent," Pamela declared, "but it isn't common
sense, is it, and you haven't answered my original question yet."

"I am not in a position to do so, Miss Van Teyl," Joyce replied. "The
trouble probably is that Governor Roughton has been considered
incompetent as so many of these disasters have taken place unhindered
in his State."

"There was a rumour," Pamela persisted, "that he was under arrest."

"Quite untrue, I am sure," Fischer muttered.

There was a general diversion of the conversation, but the sense of
uneasiness remained. Pamela and Mrs. Hastings, at the conclusion of the
little banquet, acting upon a hint from their host, made their way to
one of the small drawing-rooms for their coffee. Left alone, the three
men drew their chairs closer together. Joyce's fine face seemed somehow
to have become a little harder and more unsympathetic. He sipped the
water, which was his only beverage, and pushed away the cigars in which
he generally indulged.

"Mr. Hastings," he pronounced, "I have given the subject of supporting
your nomination my deepest consideration. I was at one time, I must
confess, favourably disposed towards the idea. I have changed my mind.
I have decided to give my support to the present Administration."

Fischer's face was dark with anger. He even allowed an expletive to
escape from his lips. Hastings, however, remained master of himself.

"I will not conceal from you, Mr. Joyce," he confessed, "that I am
exceedingly disappointed. You have fully considered everything, I
presume--our pledge, for instance, to nominate you as my successor?"

"I have considered everything," Joyce replied. "The drawback in my
mind, to be frank with you, is that I doubt whether you would receive
sufficient support throughout the country. It is my idea," he went on,
"although I may be wrong, of course, that the support of the
German-Americans who, you must allow me to maintain, are an exceedingly
unneutral part of America, will place you in an unpopular position.
Should you succeed in getting yourself elected, which I very much
doubt, you will be an unpopular President. I would rather wait my
time."

"You have changed your views," Fischer muttered.

"To be perfectly frank with you, I have," Joyce acknowledged. "These
outrages throughout the States are, to my mind, blatant and criminal.
Directly or indirectly, the German-American public is responsible for
them--indirectly, by inflammatory speeches, reckless journalism, and
point-blank laudation of illegal acts; directly--well, here I can speak
only from my own suspicions, so I will remain silent. But my mind is
made up. A man in this country, as you know," he added, "need make only
one mistake and his political future is blasted. I am not inclined to
risk making that one mistake."

Hastings sighed. He was making a brave effort to conceal a great
disappointment.

"One cannot argue with you, Mr. Joyce," he regretted. "You have come to
a certain conclusion, and words are not likely to alter it. There is no
one I would so dearly have loved to number amongst my supporters, but I
see that it is a privilege for which I may not hope.... We will, if you
are ready, Fischer, join the ladies."

They rose from the table a few minutes later.

Fischer, who had been eagerly watching his opportunity, drew Senator
Joyce on one side for a moment as they passed down the crowded
corridor.

"Mr. Joyce," he said, "I have heard your decision to-night with deeper
regret than I can express, yet more than ever it has brought home one
truth to me. Our position towards you was a wrong one. We offered you a
reversion when we should have offered you the thing itself."

Senator Joyce swung around.

"Say, Mr. Fischer, what are you getting at?" he asked bluntly.

"I mean that it is Hastings and I who should have been your supporters,
and you who should have been our candidate," Fischer suggested boldly.
"What about it? It isn't too late."

"Nothing doing, sir," was the firm reply. "Theodore Hastings may not be
exactly my type of man, but I am not out to see him cornered like that,
and besides, to tell you the honest truth, Mr. Fischer," he added,
pausing at the door, "when I stand for the Presidency, I want to do so
not on the nomination of you or your friends, or any underground
schemers. I want the support of the real American citizen. I want to be
free from, all outside ties and obligations. I want to stand for
America, and America only, I not only want to be President, you see,
but I want to be the chosen President of the right sort of people.... I
am going to ask you to excuse me to the ladies and our host, Mr.
Fischer," he concluded, holding out his hand. "I had a note asking me
to visit the Attorney General, which I only received on my way here. I
have an idea that it is about this Roughton business."

Fischer returned to the others alone. Hastings was clearly disturbed at
his guest's departure. His friend and supporter, however, affected to
treat it lightly.

"Joyce is like all these lawyers," he declared. "He is simply waiting
to see which way the wind blows. I have come across them many times.
They like to wait till parties are evenly balanced, till their support
makes all the difference, and clinch their bargain then."

"I should have said," Pamela remarked, "that Mr. Joyce was a man above
that sort of thing."

"Every man has his price and his weak spot," her uncle observed
didactically. "Joyce's price is the Presidency. His weak spot is
popular adulation. I agree with Fischer. He will probably join us
later."

Mr. Hastings was summoned to the telephone, a moment or two later. Mrs.
Hastings sat down to write a note, and Pamela moved her place over to
Fischer's side. His face brightened at her spontaneous movement. She
shook her head, however, at the little compliment with which he
welcomed her.

"This afternoon," she said softly, "I met Mr. Lutchester."

"Is he back in New York?" Fischer asked, frowning.

Pamela nodded.

"He told me something which I feel inclined to tell you," she
continued, glancing into her companion's haggard face with a gleam of
sympathy in her eyes. "You'll probably see it in the newspapers
to-morrow morning. Governor Roughton's resignation was compulsory. He
is under arrest."

"For negligence?"

"For participation," was the grave reply. "Mr. Lutchester has been down
to--the city where these things took place. He only got back late this
afternoon."

"Lutchester again!" Fischer muttered.

"You see, it's rather in his line," Pamela reminded him. "He is over
here to superintend the production of munitions from the factories
which are working for the British Government."

"He is over here as a sort of general mischief-maker!" Fischer
exclaimed fiercely. "Do I understand that he has been down in----?"

Pamela nodded.

"He went down with one of the heads of the New York police."

She turned away, but Fischer caught at her wrist.

"You know more than this!" he cried hoarsely.

The agony in the man's face and tone touched her. After all, he was
fighting for the great things. There was nothing mean about Fischer,
nothing selfish about his lying and his crimes.

"I have told you all that I can," she whispered, "but if you hurried,
you could catch the _New York_ to-night--and I think I should advise
you to go."

CHAPTER XXXVI

Fischer, on leaving his unsuccessful dinner party, drove direct to the
residence of Mr. Max H. Bookam, in Fifth Avenue. The butler who
admitted him looked a little blank at his inquiry.

"Mr. Bookam was expected home yesterday, sir," he announced. "He has
not arrived, however."

"Has there been any telegram from him?--any news as to the cause of his
non-return?" Fischer persisted.

"I believe that Mr. Kaye, his secretary, has some information, sir,"
the man admitted. "Perhaps you would like to see him."

Fischer did not hesitate, and was conducted at once to the study in
which Mr. Bookam was wont to indulge in various nefarious Stock
Exchange adventures. The room was occupied on this occasion by a
dejected-looking young man, with pasty face and gold spectacles. The
apartment, as Fischer was quick to notice, showed signs of a strange
disorder.

"Where's Mr. Bookam?" he asked quickly.

The young man walked to the door, shook it to be sure that it was
closed, and came back again. His tone was ominous, almost dramatic.

"In the State Prison at----, sir," he announced.

"What for?" Fischer demanded, breathing a little thickly.

"I have no certain information," the secretary replied, with a
noncommittal air. "All I know is that I had a long-distance telephone
to burn certain documents, but before I could do so the room and the
house were searched by New York detectives, whose warrant it was
useless to resist."

"But what's the charge against Mr. Bookam?"

"It's something to do with the disasters in----," the young man
confided. "The Governor of the State, who is Mr. Bookam's cousin, is in
the same trouble.... Better sit down a moment, sir. You're looking
white."

Mr. Fischer threw himself into an easy-chair. He felt like a man who
has built a mighty piece of machinery, has set it swinging through
space, and watches now its imminent collapse; watches some tiny but
ghastly flaw, pregnant with disaster, growing wider and wider before
his eyes.

"What papers did the police take away with them?" he asked.

"There wasn't very much for them," the secretary replied. "There was a
list of the names of the proposed organisation which, owing to your
very wise intervention, was never formed. There was a list of factories
throughout the United States in which munitions are being made, with a
black mark against those holding the most important contracts. And
there was a letter from Governor Roughton."

"Mr. Bookam hasn't drawn any cheques lately for large amounts?" Fischer
inquired eagerly.

"There are three in his private cheque-book, sir, the counterfoils of
which are not filled in," was the somewhat dreary admission.

Fischer groaned as he received the news.

"Have you any idea about those cheques?" he demanded.

"I am afraid," the other acknowledged, "that Mr. Bookam was not very
discreet. I reminded him of your advice--that the money should be
passed through Sullivan--but he didn't seem to think it worth while."

"Look here, let me know the worst at once," Fischer insisted. "Do you
believe that any one of those cheques was made payable to any of the
men who are under arrest?"

"I am afraid," the secretary declared sadly, "that the proceeds of one
were found on the person of Ed. Swindles, intact."

Fischer sat for a moment with his head buried in his hands. "That any
man could have been such a fool. An organisation would have been a
thousand times safer. Max Bookam was only a very worthy and industrious
clothing manufacturer, with an intense love for the Fatherland and a
great veneration for all her institutions. What he had done, he had
done whole-heartedly but foolishly. He was a man who should never have
been trusted for a moment in the game. After all, the pawns count...."

Fischer took his leave and reached his hotel a little before midnight.
Already he had begun to look over his shoulder in the street. He found
his rooms empty with a sense of relief, marred by one little
disappointment. Nikasti was to have been there to bid him farewell--
Nikasti on his way back to Japan. He ascertained from the office of the
hotel that there had been no telephone message or caller. Then he
turned to his correspondence, some presentiment already clutching at
his strained nerves. There was a letter in a large envelope, near the
bottom of the pile, addressed to him in Nikasti's fine handwriting. He
tore open the envelope, and slow horror seized him as he realised its
contents. A long photograph unrolled itself before his eyes. The first
few words brought confusion and horror to his sense. His brain reeled.
This was defeat, indeed! It was a photograph of that other autograph
letter. The one which he had given to Nikasti to carry to Japan lay--
gross sacrilege!--about him in small pieces. There was no other line,
no message, nothing but this damning proof of his duplicity.

A kind of mental torture seized him. He fought like a caged man for
some way out. Every sort of explanation occurred to him only to be
rejected, every sort of subterfuge, only to be cast aside with a kind
of ghastly contempt. He felt suddenly stripped bare. His tongue could
serve him no more. He snatched at the telephone receiver and rang up
the number for which he searched eagerly through the book.

"Is that the office of the American Steamship Company?" he asked.

"Yes."

"What time will the _New York_ sail?"

"In three-quarters of an hour. Who's speaking?"

"Mr. Oscar Fischer. Keep anything you have for me."

He threw down the receiver for fear of a refusal, packed a few things
feverishly in a dressing bag, dashed the rest of his correspondence
into his pocket, and with the bag in one hand, and an overcoat over the
other arm, he hastened out into the street. He was obliged at first to
board a street car. Afterwards he found a taxicab, and drove under the
great wooden shed as the last siren was blowing. He hurried up the
gangway, a grim, remorseful figure, a sense of defeat gnawing at his
heart, a bitter, haunting fear still with him even when, with a shriek
of the tugs, the great steamer swung into the river. He was leaving
forever the work to which he had given so much of his life, leaving it
a fugitive and dishonoured. The blaze of lights, the screaming of the
great ferry-boats, all the triumphant, brazen noises of the mighty
city, sounded like a requiem to him as in the darkest part of the
promenade deck he leaned over the railing and nursed his agony, the
supreme agony of an ambitious man--failure.

CHAPTER XXXVII

"What has become," Mrs. Theodore Hastings asked her niece one afternoon
about a month later, "of your delightful friend, Mr. Lutchester?"

Pamela laid down her book and looked across at her aunt with wide-open
eyes.

"Why, I thought you didn't like him, aunt?"

"I cannot remember saying so, my dear," Mrs. Hastings replied. "I had
nothing against the man himself. It was simply his attitude with regard
to some of your uncle's plans, of which we disapproved."

Pamela nodded. They were seated on the piazza of the Hastings' country
house at Manchester.

"I see!... And uncle's plans," she went on reflectively, "have become a
little changed, haven't they?"

Mrs. Hastings coughed.

"There is no doubt," she admitted, "that your Uncle Theodore was
inveigled into supporting, to a certain extent, a party whose leaders
have shown themselves utterly irresponsible. The moment these horrible
things began to come out, however, your uncle finally cut himself loose
from them."

"Very wise of him," Pamela murmured.

"Who could have believed," Mrs. Hastings demanded, "that men like Oscar
Fischer, Max Bookam and a dozen other well-known and prominent
millionaires, would have stooped to encourage the destruction of American
property and lives, simply through blind devotion to the country of their
birth. I could understand," she went on, "both your uncle and I perfectly
understood that their sympathies were German rather than English, but
we shared a common belief that notwithstanding this they were Americans
first and foremost. It was in this belief that your uncle was led into
temporary association with them."

"Bad luck," Pamela sighed. "I am afraid it hasn't done Uncle Theodore
any good."

Mrs. Hastings went on with her knitting for a moment.

"My child," she said, "it has probably imperilled, if it has not
completely ruined, one of the great hopes which your uncle and I have
sometimes entertained. We are both of us, however, quite philosophical
about it. Even at this moment I am convinced that if these men had
acted with discretion, and been content to wield political influence
rather than to have resorted to such fanatical means, they would have
represented a great power at the next election. As things are, I admit
that their cause is lost for the time. I believe that your uncle is
contemplating an early visit to England. He is of the opinion that
perhaps he has misunderstood the Allied point of view, and he is going
to study matters at first hand."

Pamela nodded.

"I think he is very wise, aunt," she declared. "I quite expect that he
will come back a warm advocate of the Allies. No one would have a ghost
of a chance who went to the country here on the other ticket."

"I believe that that is your uncle's point of view," Mrs. Hastings
assented.... "Why don't you ask Mr. Lutchester down for a couple of
days?"

"If you mean it, I certainly will," Pamela agreed.

"Quite incidentally," her aunt continued, "I heard the nicest possible
things about him in Washington. Lady Ridlingshawe told me that the
Lutchesters are one of the oldest families in England. He is a cousin
of the Duke of Worcester, and is extraordinarily well connected in
other directions. I must say he has a most distinguished appearance.
A well-bred Englishman is so different from these foreigners."

Pamela laid down her book and drew her writing block towards her.

"I'll write and invite him down at once," she suggested.

"Your uncle will be delighted," Mrs. Hastings purred....

Lutchester received his invitation in New York and arrived in
Manchester three days later. Pamela met him at the station with a
couple of boatmen by her side.

"If you wouldn't mind sailing home?" she proposed. "The house is
practically on an island, and the tide is just right. These men will
take your luggage."

They walked down to the little dock together.

Pamela talked all the time, but Lutchester was curiously tongue-tied.

"You'll find Uncle Theodore, and aunt, too, most amusing," she
confided. "It is perfectly obvious that there is nothing uncle regrets
so much as his temporary linking up with Fischer and his friends; in
fact, he is going to Europe almost at once--I am convinced for no other
reason than to give him an excuse, upon his return, for blossoming out
as a fervent supporter of the Allies."

"Are you going too?" Lutchester inquired. "Shall I? Well, I am not
really sure," she declared, as they reached the little wooden dock. "I
suppose I shall, especially if I can find something to do. I may even
turn nurse."

"You will be able to find plenty to do," he assured her. "If nothing
else turns up, you can help me."

They stepped on to the yacht. Pamela, a radiant vision in white, with
white flannel skirt, white jersey and tam-o'-shanter, took the helm,
and was busy for a few moments getting clear. Afterwards she leaned
back amongst the cushions, with Lutchester by her side.

"In the agitation of missing that buoy," he reminded her, "you forgot
to answer my last suggestion."

"Is there any way in which I could help you?" she asked.

"You can help me in the greatest of all ways," he replied promptly.
"You can give me just that help which only the woman who cares can give
to the man who cares for her, and if that isn't exciting enough," he
went on, after a moment's pause, "well, I dare say I can find you some
work in the censor's department."

"Isn't censoring a little dull?" she murmured.

"Then you choose--"

Her hand slipped into his. A little breeze filled their sails at that
moment. The wonderful blue water of the bay sparkled with a million
gleams of sunshine. Lutchester drew a great breath of content.

"That's aunt on the landing-stage, watching us through her glasses,"
Pamela pointed out, making a feeble attempt to withdraw her hand.

"It will save us the trouble," he observed, resisting her effort, "of
explanations."

Lutchester found his host and hostess unexpectedly friendly. They even
accepted with cheerful philosophy the news that Lutchester's work in
America was almost finished for the time, and that Pamela was to
accompany him to Europe almost immediately. After dinner, when the two
men were left at the table, Hastings became almost confidential.

"So far as regards the sympathies of this country, Mr. Lutchester," he
said, "the final die has been cast within the last few weeks. There has
always been," he proceeded, "a certain irritation existing between even
the Anglo-Saxon Americans and your country. We have fancied so often
that you have adopted little airs of superiority towards us, and that
your methods of stating your intentions have not always taken account
of our own little weaknesses. Then America, you know, loves a good
fight, and the Germans are a wonderful military people. They were
fighting like giants whilst you in England were still slacking. But it
is Germany herself, or rather her sons and friends, who have destroyed
her chances for her. Fischer, for instance," he went on, fingering his
wineglass. "I have always looked upon Oscar Fischer as a brilliant and
far-seeing man. He was one of those who set themselves deliberately to
win America for the Germans. A more idiotic bungle than he has made of
things I could scarcely conceive. He has reproduced the diplomatic
methods which have made Germany unpopular throughout the world. He has
tried bullying, cajolery, and false-hood, and last of all he has
plunged into crime. No German-American will henceforth ever have weight
in the counsels of this country. I do not mind confessing," Mr.
Hastings continued, as he himself filled his guest's glass and then his
own, "that I myself was at one time powerfully attracted towards the
Teuton cause. They are a nation wonderful in science, wonderful in
warfare, with strong and admirable national characteristics. Yet they
are going to lose this war through sheer lack of tact, for the want of
that kindliness, that generosity of temperament, which exists and makes
friends in nations as in individuals. The world for Germany, you know,
and hell for her enemies!... But I am keeping you."

Lutchester drank his wine and rose to his feet.

"Pamela is sitting on the rocks there," Mr. Hastings observed. "I think
that she wants to sail you over to Misery Island. We get some unearthly
meal there at ten o'clock and come back by moonlight. It is a sort of
torture which we always inflict upon our guests. My wife and I will
follow in the launch."

"To Misery Island!" Lutchester repeated.

His host smiled as he led the way to the piazza steps. Pamela had
already stepped into the boat, and with the help of a boatman was
adjusting the sail. She waved her hand gaily and pointed to the level
stretch of placid water, still faintly brilliant in the dying sunlight.

"You think that we shall reach Misery Island before the tide turns?"
she called out.

Lutchester stepped lightly into the boat and took the place to which
she pointed.

"I am content," he said, "to take my chance."

THE END

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