by E. Philips Oppenheim
I CROWNED HEADS MEET
II ARTHUR DORWARD’S “SCOOP”
III “OURS IS A STRANGE COURTSHIP”
IV THE NIGHT TRAIN FROM VIENNA
V “VON BEHRLING HAS THE PACKET”
VI VON BEHRLING IS TEMPTED
VII “WE PLAY FOR GREAT STAKES
VIII THE HAND OF MISFORTUNE
IX ROBBING THE DEAD
X BELLAMY IS OUTWITTED
XI VON BEHRLING’S FATE
XII BARON DE STREUSS’ PROPOSAL
XIII STEPHEN LAVERICK’S CONSCIENCE
XIV ARTHUR MORRISON’S COLLAPSE
XV LAVERICK’S PARTNER FLEES
XVI THE WAITER AT THE “BLACK POST
XVII THE PRICE OF SILENCE
XVIII THE LONELY CHORUS GIRL
XIX MYSTERIOUS INQUIRIES
XX LAVERICK IS CROSS EXAMINED
XXI MADEMOISELLE IDIALE’S VISIT
XXII ACTIVITY OF AUSTRIAN SPIES
XXIII LAVERICK AT THE OPERA
XXIV A SUPPER PARTY AT LUIGI’S
XXV JIM SHEPHERD’S SCARE
XXVI THE DOCUMENT DISCOVERED
XXVII PENETRATING A MYSTERY
XXVIII LAVERICK’S NARROW ESCAPE
XXIX LASSEN’S TREACHERY DISCOVERED
XXX THE CONTEST FOR THE PAPERS
XXXI MISS LENEVEU’S MESSAGE
XXXII MORRISON Is DESPERATE
XXXIII LAVERICK’S ARREST
XXXIV MORRISON’S DISCLOSURE
XXXV BELLAMY’S SUCCESS
XXXVI LAVERICK ACQUITTED
XXXVII THE PLOT TEAT FAILED
XXXVIII A FAREWELL APPEARANCE
CROWNED HEADS MEET
Bellamy, King’s Spy, and Dorward, journalist, known to fame in every English-speaking country, stood before the double window of their spacious sitting-room, looking down upon the thoroughfare beneath. Both men were laboring under a bitter sense of failure. Bellamy’s face was dark with forebodings; Dorward was irritated and nervous. Failure was a new thing to him – a thing which those behind the great journals which he represented understood less, even, than he. Bellamy loved his country, and fear was gnawing at his heart.
Below, the crowds which had been waiting patiently for many hours broke into a tumult of welcoming voices. Down their thickly-packed lines the volume of sound arose and grew, a faint murmur at first, swelling and growing to a thunderous roar. Myriads of hats were suddenly torn from the heads of the excited multitude, handkerchiefs waved from every window. It was a wonderful greeting, this.
“The Czar on his way to the railway station,” Bellamy remarked.
The broad avenue was suddenly thronged with a mass of soldiery – guardsmen of the most famous of Austrian regiments, brilliant in their white uniforms, their flashing helmets. The small brougham with its great black horses was almost hidden within a ring of naked steel. Dorward, an American to the backbone and a bitter democrat, thrust out his under-lip.
“The Anointed of the Lord!” he muttered.
Far away from some other quarter came the same roar of voices, muffled yet insistent, charged with that faint, exciting timbre which seems always to live in the cry of the multitude.
“The Emperor,” declared Bellamy. “He goes to the West station.”
The commotion had passed. The crowds in the street below were on the move, melting away now with a muffled trampling of feet and a murmur of voices. The two men turned from their window back into the room. Dorward commenced to roll a cigarette with yellow-stained, nervous fingers, while Bellamy threw himself into an easy-chair with a gesture of depression.
“So it is over, this long-talked-of meeting,” he said, half to himself, half to Dorward. “It is over, and Europe is left to wonder.”
“They were together for scarcely more than an hour,” Dorward murmured.
“Long enough,” Bellamy answered. “That little room in the Palace, my friend, may yet become famous.”
“If you and I could buy its secrets,” Dorward remarked, finally shaping a cigarette and lighting it, “we should be big bidders, I think. I’d give fifty thousand dollars myself to be able to cable even a hundred words of their conversation.”
“For the truth,” Bellamy said, “the whole truth, there could be no price sufficient. We made our effort in different directions, both of us. With infinite pains I planted – I may tell you this now that the thing is over – seven spies in the Palace. They have been of as much use as rabbits. I don’t believe that a single one of them got any further than the kitchens.”
Dorward nodded gloomily.
“I guess they weren’t taking any chances up there,” he remarked. “There wasn’t a secretary in the room. Carstairs was nearly thrown out, and he had a permit to enter the Palace. The great staircase was held with soldiers, and Dick swore that there were Maxims in the corridors.”
“We shall hear the roar of bigger guns before we are many months older, Dorward,” he declared.
The journalist glanced at his friend keenly. “You believe that?”
Bellamy shrugged his shoulders.
“Do you suppose that this meeting is for nothing?” he asked. “When Austria, Germany and Russia stand whispering in a corner, can’t you believe it is across the North Sea that they point? Things have been shaping that way for years, and the time is almost ripe.”
“You English are too nervous to live, nowadays,” Dorward declared impatiently. “I’d just like to know what they said about America.”
Bellamy smiled with faint but delicate irony.
“Without a doubt, the Prince will tell you,” he said. “He can scarcely do more to show his regard for your country. He is giving you a special interview – you alone out of about two hundred journalists. Very likely he will give you an exact account of everything that transpired. first of all, he will assure you that this meeting has been brought about in the interests of peace. He will tell you that the welfare of your dear country is foremost in the thoughts of his master. He will assure you – “
“Say, you’re jealous, my friend,” Dorward interrupted calmly. “I wonder what you’d give me for my ten minutes alone with the Chancellor, eh?”
“If he told me the truth,” Bellamy asserted, “I’d give my life for it. For the sort of stuff you’re going to hear, I’d give nothing. Can’t you realize that for yourself, Dorward? You know the man – false as Hell but with the tongue of a serpent. He will grasp your hand; he will declare himself glad to speak through you to the great Anglo-Saxon races – to England and to his dear friends the Americans. He is only too pleased to have the opportunity of expressing himself candidly and openly. Peace is to be the watchword of the future. The white doves have hovered over the Palace. The rulers of the earth have met that the crash of arms may be stilled and that this terrible unrest which broods over Europe shall finally be broken up. They have pledged themselves hand in hand to work together for this object, – Russia, broken and humiliated, but with an immense army still available, whose only chance of holding her place among the nations is another and a successful war; Austria, on fire for the seaboard – Austria, to whom war would give the desire of her existence; Germany, with Bismarck’s last but secret words written in letters of fire on the walls of her palaces, in the hearts of her rulers, in the brain of her great Emperor. Colonies! Expansion! Empire! Whose colonies, I wonder? Whose empire? Will he tell you that, my friend Dorward?”
The journalist shrugged his shoulders and glanced at the clock.
“I guess he’ll tell me what he chooses and I shall print it,” he answered indifferently. “It’s all part of the game, of course. I am not exactly chicken enough to expect the truth. All the same, my message will come from the lips of the Chancellor immediately after this wonderful meeting.”
“He makes use of you,” Bellamy declared, “to throw dust into our eyes and yours.”
“Even so,” Dorward admitted, “I don’t care so long as I get the copy. It’s good-bye, I suppose?”
“I shall go on to Berlin, perhaps, to-morrow,” he said. “I can do no more good here. And you?”
“After I’ve sent my cable I’m off to Belgrade for a week, at any rate,” Dorward answered. “I hear the women are forming rifle clubs all through Servia.”
Bellamy smiled thoughtfully.
“I know one who’ll want a place among the leaders,” he murmured.
“Mademoiselle Idiale, I suppose?”
“It’s a queer position hers, if you like,” he said. “All Vienna raves about her. They throng the Opera House every night to hear her sing, and they pay her the biggest salary which has ever been known here. Three parts of it she sends to Belgrade to the Chief of the Committee for National Defence. The jewels that are sent her anonymously go to the same place, all to buy arms to fight these people who worship her. I tell you, Dorward,” he added, rising to his feet and walking to the window, “the patriotism of these people is something we colder races scarcely understand. Perhaps it is because we have never dwelt under the shadow of a conqueror. If ever Austria is given a free hand, it will be no mere war upon which she enters, – it will be a carnage, an extermination!”
Dorward looked once more at the clock and rose slowly to his feet.
“Well,” he said, “I mustn’t keep His Excellency waiting. Good-bye, and cheer up, Bellamy! Your old country isn’t going to turn up her heels yet.”
Out he went – long, lank, uncouth, with yellow-stained fingers and hatchet-shaped, gray face – a strange figure but yet a power. Bellamy remained. For a while he seemed doubtful how to pass the time. He stood in front of the window, watching the dispersal of the crowds and the marching by of a regiment of soldiers, whose movements he followed with critical interest, for he, too, had been in the service. He had still a military bearing, – tall, and with complexion inclined to be dusky, a small black moustache, dark eyes, a silent mouth, – a man of many reserves. Even his intimates knew little of him. Nevertheless, his was the reticence which befitted well his profession.
After a time he sat down and wrote some letters. He had just finished when there came a sharp tap at the door. Before he could open his lips some one had entered. He heard the soft swirl of draperies and turned sharply round, then sprang to his feet and held out both his hands. There was expression in his face now – as much as he ever suffered to appear there.
“Louise!” he exclaimed. “What good fortune!”
She held his fingers for a moment in a manner which betokened a more than common intimacy. Then she threw herself into an easy-chair and raised her thick veil. Bellamy looked at her for a moment in sorrowful silence. There were violet lines underneath her beautiful eyes, her cheeks were destitute of any color. There was an abandonment of grief about her attitude which moved him. She sat as one broken-spirited, in whom the power of resistance was dead.
“It is over, then,” she said softly, “this meeting. The word has been spoken.”
He came and stood by her side.
“As yet,” he reminded her, “we do not know what that word may be.”
She shook her head mournfully.
“Who can doubt?” she exclaimed. “For myself, I feel it in the air! I can see it in the faces of the people who throng the city! I can hear it in the peals of those awful bells! You know nothing? You have heard nothing?”
Bellamy shook his head.
“I did all that was humanly possible,” he said, dropping his voice. “An Englishman in Vienna to-day has very little opportunity. I filled the Palace with spies, but they hadn’t a dog’s chance. There wasn’t even a secretary present. The Czar, the two Emperors and the Chancellor, – not another soul was in the room.”
“If only Von Behrling had been taken!” she exclaimed. “He was there in reserve, I know, as stenographer. I have but to lift my hand and it is enough. I would have had the truth from him, whatever it cost me.”
Bellamy looked at her thoughtfully. It was not for nothing that the Press of every European nation had called her the most beautiful woman in the world. He frowned slightly at her last words, for he loved her.
“Von Behrling was not even allowed to cross the threshold,” he said sharply.
She moved her head and looked up at him. She was leaning a little forward now, her chin resting upon her hands. Something about the lines of her long, supple body suggested to him the savage animal crouching for a spring. She was quiet, but her bosom was heaving, and he could guess at the passion within. With purpose he spoke to set it loose.
“You sing to-night?” he asked.
“Before God, no!” she answered, the anger blazing out of her eyes, shaking in her voice. “I sing no more in this accursed city!”
“There will be a revolution,” Bellamy remarked. “I see that the whole city is placarded with notices. It is to be a gala night at the Opera. The royal party is to be present.”
Her body seemed to quiver like a tree shaken by the wind.
“What do I care – I – I – for their gala night! If I were like Samson, if I could pull down the pillars of their Opera House and bury them all in its ruins, I would do it!”
He took her hand and smoothed it in his.
“Dear Louise, it is useless, this. You do everything that can be done for your country.”
Her eyes were streaming and her fingers sought his.
“My friend David,” she said, “you do not understand. None of you English yet can understand what it is to crouch in the shadow of this black fear, to feel a tyrant’s hand come creeping out, to know that your life-blood and the life-blood of all your people must be shed, and shed in vain. To rob a nation of their liberty, ah! it is worse, this, than murder, – a worse crime than his who stains the soul of a poor innocent girl! It is a sin against nature herself!”
She was sobbing now, and she clutched his hands passionately.
“Forgive me,” she murmured, “I am overwrought. I have borne up against this thing so long. I can do no more good here. I come to tell you that I go away till the time comes. I go to your London. They want me to sing for them there. I shall do it.”
“You will break your engagement?”
She laughed at him scornfully.
“I am Idiale,” she declared. “I keep no engagement if I do not choose. I will sing no more to this people whom I hate. My friend David, I have suffered enough. Their applause I loathe – their covetous eyes as they watch me move about the stage – oh, I could strike them all dead! They come to me, these young Austrian noblemen, as though I were already one of a conquered race. I keep their diamonds but I destroy their messages. Their jewels go to my chorus girls or to arm my people. But no one of them has had a kind word from me save where there has been something to be gained. Even Von Behrling I have fooled with promises. No Austrian shall ever touch my lips – I have sworn it!”
“Yes,” he assented, “they call you cold here in the capital! Even in the Palace – “
She held out her hand.
“It is finished!” she declared. “I sing no more. I have sent word to the Opera House. I came here to be in hiding for a while. They will search for me everywhere. To-night or to-morrow I leave for England.”
Bellamy stood thoughtfully silent.
“I am not sure that you are wise,” he said. “You take it too much for granted that the end has come.”
“And do you not yourself believe it?” she demanded. He hesitated.
“As yet there is no proof,” he reminded her.
She sat upright in her chair. Her hands thrust him from her, her bosom heaved, a spot of color flared in her cheeks.
“Proof!” she cried. “What do you suppose, then, that these wolves have plotted for? What else do you suppose could be Austria’s share of the feast? Couldn’t you hear our fate in the thunder of their voices when that miserable monarch rode back to his captivity? We are doomed – betrayed! You remember the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, a blood-stained page of history for all time. The world would tell you that we have outlived the age of such barbarous doings. It is not true. My friend David, it is not true. It is a more terrible thing, this which is coming. Body and soul we are to perish.”
He came over to her side once more and laid his hand soothingly on hers. It was heart-rending to witness the agony of the woman he loved.
“Dear Louise,” he said, “after all, this is profitless. There may yet be compromises.”
She suffered her hand to remain in his, but the bitterness did not pass out of her face or tone.
“Compromises!” she repeated. “Do you believe, then, that we are like those ancient races who felt the presence of a conqueror because their hosts were scattered in battle, and who suffered themselves passively to be led into captivity? My country can be conquered in one way, and one way only, – not until her sons, ay, and her daughters too, have perished, can these people rule. They will come to an empty and a stricken country – a country red with blood, desolate, with blackened houses and empty cities. The horror of it! Think, my friend David, the horror of it!”
Bellamy threw his head back with a sudden gesture of impatience.
“You take too much for granted,” he declared. “England, at any rate, is not yet a conquered race. And there is France – Italy, too, if she is wise, will never suffer this thing from her ancient enemy.”
“It is the might of the world which threatens,” she murmured. “Your country may defend herself, but here she is powerless. Already it has been proved. Last year you declared yourself our friend – you and even Russia. Of what avail was it? Word came from Berlin and you were powerless.”
Then tragedy broke into the room, tragedy in the shape of a man demented. For fifteen years Bellamy had known Arthur Dorward, but this man was surely a stranger! He was hatless, dishevelled, wild. A dull streak of color had mounted almost to his forehead, his eyes were on fire.
“Bellamy!” he cried. “Bellamy!”
Words failed him suddenly. He leaned against the table, breathless, panting heavily.
“For God’s sake, man,” Bellamy began, –
“Alone!” Dorward interrupted. “I must see you alone! I have news!”
Mademoiselle Idiale rose. She touched Bellamy on the shoulder.
“You will come to me, or telephone,” she whispered. “So?”
Bellamy opened the door and she passed out, with a farewell pressure of his fingers. Then he closed it firmly and came back.
ARTHUR DORWARD’S “SCOOP”
“What’s wrong, old man?” Bellamy asked quickly.
Dorward from a side table had seized the bottle of whiskey and a siphon, and was mixing himself a drink with trembling fingers. He tossed it off before he spoke a word. Then he turned around and faced his companion. “Bellamy,” he ordered, “lock the door.”
Bellamy obeyed. He had no doubt now but that Dorward had lost his head in the Chancellor’s presence – had made some absurd attempt to gain the knowledge which they both craved, and had failed.
“Bellamy,” Dorward exclaimed, speaking hoarsely and still a little out of breath, “I guess I’ve had the biggest slice of luck that was ever dealt out to a human being. If only I can get safe out of this city, I tell you I’ve got the greatest scoop that living man ever handled.”
“You don’t mean that – “
Dorward wiped his forehead and interrupted.
“It’s the most amazing thing that ever happened,” he declared, “but I’ve got it here in my pocket, got it in black and white, in the Chancellor’s own handwriting.”
“Why, what you and I, an hour ago, would have given a million for,” Dorward replied.
Bellamy’s expression was one of blank but wondering incredulity.
“You can’t mean this, Dorward!” he exclaimed. “You may have something – just what the Chancellor wants you to print. You’re not supposing for an instant that you’ve got the whole truth?”
Dorward’s smile was the smile of certainty, his face that of a conqueror.
“Here in my pocket,” he declared, striking his chest, “in the Chancellor’s own handwriting. I tell you I’ve got the original verbatim copy of everything that passed and was resolved upon this afternoon between the Czar of Russia, the Emperor of Austria and the Emperor of Germany. I’ve got it word for word as the Chancellor took it down. I’ve got their decision. I’ve got their several undertakings.”
Bellamy for a moment was stricken dumb. He looked toward the door and back into his friend’s face aglow with triumph. Then his power of speech returned.
“Do you mean to say that you stole it?”
Dorward struck the table with his fist.
“Not I! I tell you that the Chancellor gave it to me, gave it to me with his own hands, willingly, – pressed it upon me. No, don’t scoff!” he went on quickly. “Listen! This is a genuine thing. The Chancellor’s mad. He was lying in a fit when I left the Palace. It will be in all the evening papers. You will hear the boys shouting it in the streets within a few minutes. Don’t interrupt and I’ll tell you the whole truth. You can believe me or not, as you like. It makes no odds. I arrived punctually and was shown up into the anteroom. Even from there I could hear loud voices in the inner chamber and I knew that something was up. Presently a little fellow came out to me – a dark-bearded chap with gold-rimmed glasses. He was very polite, introduced himself as the Chancellor’s physician, regretted exceedingly that the Chancellor was unwell and could see no one, – the excitement and hard work of the last few days had knocked him out. Well, I stood there arguing as pleasantly as I could about it, and then all of a sudden the door of the inner room was thrown open. The Chancellor himself stood on the threshold. There was no doubt about his being ill; his face was as pale as parchment, his eyes were simply wild, and his hair was all ruffled as though he had been standing upon his head. He began to talk to the physician in German. I didn’t understand him until he began to swear, – then it was wonderful! In the end he brushed them all away and, taking me by the arm, led me right into the inner room. For a long time he went on jabbering away half to himself, and I was wondering how on earth to bring the conversation round to the things I wanted to know about. Then, all of a sudden, he turned to me and seemed to remember who I was and what I wanted. ‘Ah!’ he said, ‘you are Dorward, the American journalist. I remember you now. Lock the door.’ I obeyed him pretty quick, for I had noticed they were mighty uneasy outside, and I was afraid they’d be disturbing us every moment. ‘Come and sit down,’ he ordered. I did so at once. ‘You’re a sensible fellow,’ he declared. ‘To-day every one is worrying me. They think that I am not well. It is foolish. I am quite well. Who would not be well on such a day as this?’ I told him that I had never seen him looking better in my life, and he nodded and seemed pleased. ‘You have come to hear the truth about the meeting of my master with the Czar and the Emperor of Germany?’ he asked. ‘That’s so,’ I told him. ‘America ‘s more than a little interested in these things, and I want to know what to tell her.’ Then he leaned across the table. ‘My young friend,’ he said, ‘I like you. You are straightforward. You speak plainly and you do not worry me. It is good. You shall tell your country what it is that we have planned, what the things are that are coming. Yours is a great and wise country. When they know the truth, they will remember that Europe is a long way off and that the things which happen there are really no concern of theirs.’ ‘You are right,’ I assured him, – ‘dead right. Treat us openly, that’s all we ask.’ ‘Shall I not do that, my young friend?’ he answered. ‘Now look, I give you this.’ He fumbled through all his pockets and at last he drew out a long envelope, sealed at both ends with black sealing wax on which was printed a coat of arms with two tigers facing each other. He looked toward the door cautiously, and there was just that gleam in his eyes which madmen always have. ‘Here it is,’ he whispered, ‘written with my own hand. This will tell you exactly what passed this afternoon. It will tell you our plans. It will tell you of the share which my master and the other two are taking. Button it up safely,’ he said, ‘and, whatever you do, do not let them know outside that you have got it. Between you and me,’ he went on, leaning across the table, ‘something seems to have happened to them all to-day. There’s my old doctor there. He is worrying all the time, but he himself is not well. I can see it whenever he comes near me.’ I nodded as though I understood and the Chancellor tapped his forehead and grinned. Then I got up as casually as I could, for I was terribly afraid that he wouldn’t let me go. We shook hands, and I tell you his fingers were like pieces of burning coal. Just as I was moving, some one knocked at the door. Then he began to storm again, kicked his chair over, threw a paperweight at the window, and talked such nonsense that I couldn’t follow him. I unlocked the door myself and found the doctor there. I contrived to look as frightened as possible. ‘His Highness is not well enough to talk to me,’ I whispered. ‘You had better look after him.’ I heard a shout behind and a heavy fall. Then I closed the door and slipped away as quietly as I could – and here I am.”
Bellamy drew a long breath.
“My God, but this is wonderful!” he muttered. “How long is it since you left the Palace?”
“About ten minutes or a quarter of an hour,” Dorward answered.
“They’ll find it out at once,” declared the other. “They’ll miss the paper. Perhaps he’ll tell them himself that he has given it to you. Don’t let us run any risks, Dorward. Tear it open. Let us know the truth, at any rate. If you have to part with the document, we can remember its contents. Out with it, man, quick!. They may be here at any moment.”
Dorward drew a few steps back. Then he shook his head.
“I guess not,” he said firmly.
Bellamy regarded his friend in blank and uncomprehending amazement.
“What do you mean?” he exclaimed. “You’re not going to keep it to yourself? You know what it means to me – to England?”
“Your old country can look after herself pretty well,” Dorward declared. “Anyhow, she’ll have to take her chance. I am not here as a philanthropist. I am an American journalist, and I’ll part to nobody with the biggest thing that’s ever come into any man’s bands.”
Bellamy, with a tremendous effort, maintained his self-control.
“What are you going to do with it?” he asked quickly. “I tell you I’m off out of the country to-night,” Dorward declared. “I shall head for England. Pearce is there himself, and I tell you it will be just the greatest day of my life when I put this packet in his hand. We’ll make New York hum, I can promise you, and Europe too.”
Bellamy’s manner was perfectly quiet – too quiet to be altogether natural. His hand was straying towards his pocket.
“Dorward,” he said, speaking rapidly, and keeping his back to the door, “you don’t realize what you’re up against. This sort of thing is new to you. You haven’t a dog’s chance of leaving Vienna alive with that in your pocket. If you trust yourself in the Orient Express to-night, you’ll never be allowed to cross the frontier. By this time they know that the packet is missing; they know, too, that you are the only man who could have it, whether the Chancellor has told them the truth or not. Open it at once so that we get some good out of it. Then we’ll go round to the Embassy. We can slip out by the back way, perhaps. Remember I have spent my life in the service, and I tell you that there’s no other place in the city where your life is worth a snap of the fingers but at your Embassy or mine. Open the packet, man.”
“I think not,” Dorward answered firmly. “I am an American citizen. I have broken no laws and done no one any harm. If there’s any slaughtering about, I guess they’ll hesitate before they begin with Arthur Dorward. . . . Don’t be a fool, man!”
He took a quick step backward, – he was looking into the muzzle of Bellamy’s revolver.
“Dorward,” the latter exclaimed, “I can’t help it! Yours is only a personal ambition – I stand for my country. Share the knowledge of that packet with me or I shall shoot.”
“Then shoot and be d–d to you!” Dorward declared fiercely. “This s my show, not yours. You and your country can go to – “
He broke off without finishing his sentence. There was a thunderous knocking at the door. The two men looked at one another for a moment, speechless. Then Bellamy, with a smothered oath, replaced the revolver in his pocket.
“You’ve thrown away our chance,” he said bitterly.
The knocking was repeated. When Bellamy with a shrug of the shoulders answered the summons, three men in plain clothes entered. They saluted Bellamy, but their eyes were traveling around the room.
“We are seeking Herr Dorward, the American journalist!” one exclaimed. “He was here but a moment ago.”
Bellamy pointed to the inner door. He had had too much experience in such matters to attempt any prevarication. The three men crossed the room quickly and Bellamy followed in the rear. He heard a cry of disappointment from the foremost as he opened the door. The inner room was empty!
“OURS IS A STRANGE COURTSHIP”
Louise looked up eagerly as he entered.
“There is news!” she exclaimed. “I can see it in your face.”
“Yes,” Bellamy answered, “there is news! That is why I have come. Where can we talk?”
She rose to her feet. Before them the open French windows led on to a smooth green lawn. She took his arm.
“Come outside with me,” she said. “I am shut up here because I will not see the doctors whom they send, or any one from the Opera House. An envoy from the Palace has been and I have sent him away.”
“You mean to keep your word, then?”
“Have I ever broken it? Never again will I sing in this City. It is so.”
Bellamy looked around. The garden of the villa was enclosed by high gray stone walls. They were secure here, at least, from eavesdroppers. She rested her fingers lightly upon his arm, holding up the skirts of her loose gown with her other hand.
“I have spoken to you,” he said, “of Dorward, the American journalist.”
“Of course,” she assented. “You told me that the Chancellor had promised him an interview for to-day.”
“Well, he went to the Palace and the Chancellor saw him.”.
She looked at him with upraised eyebrows.
“The newspapers are full of lies as usual, then, I suppose. The latest telegrams say that the Chancellor is dangerously ill.”
“It is quite true,” Bellamy declared. “What I am going to tell you is surprising, but I had it from Dorward himself. When he reached the Palace, the Chancellor was practically insane. His doctors were trying to persuade him to go to his room and lie down, but he heard Dorward’s voice and insisted upon seeing him. The man was mad – on the verge of a collapse – and he handed over to Dorward his notes, and a verbatim report of all that passed at the Palace this morning.”
She looked at him incredulously.
“My dear David!” she exclaimed.
“It is amazing,” he admitted, “but it is the truth. I know it for a fact. The man was absolutely beside himself, he had no idea what he was doing.”
“Where is it?” she asked quickly. “You have seen it?”
“Dorward would not give it up,” he said bitterly. “While we argued in our sitting-room at the hotel the police arrived. Dorward escaped through the bedroom and down the service stairs. He spoke of trying to catch the Orient Express to-night, but I doubt if they will ever let him leave the city.”
“It is wonderful, this,” she murmured softly. “What are you going to do?”
“Louise, you and I have few secrets from each other. I would have killed Dorward to obtain that sealed envelope, because I believe that the knowledge of its contents in London to-day would save us from disaster. To know how far each is pledged, and from which direction the first blow is to come, would be our salvation.”
“I cannot understand,” she said, “why he should have refused to share his knowledge with you. He is an American – it is almost the same thing as being an Englishman. And you are friends, – I am sure that you have helped him often.”
“It was a matter of vanity – simply cursed vanity,” Bellamy answered. “It would have been the greatest journalistic success of modern times for him to have printed that document, word for word, in his paper. He fights for his own hand alone.”
“And you?” she whispered.
“He will have to reckon with me,” Bellamy declared. “I know that he is going to try and leave Vienna to-night, and if he does I shall be at his heels.”
She nodded her head thoughtfully.
“I, too,” she announced. “I come with you, my friend. I do no more good here, and they worry my life out all the time. I come to sing in London at Covent Garden. I have agreements there which only await my signature. We will go together; is it not so?”
“Very well,” he answered, “only remember that my movements must depend very largely upon Dorward’s. The train leaves at eight o’clock, station time. I have already a coupe reserved.”
“I come with you,” she murmured. “I am very weary of this city.”
They walked on for a few paces in silence. Bellamy looked around the gardens, brilliant with flowering shrubs and rose trees, with here and there some delicate piece of statuary half-hidden amongst the wealth of foliage. The villa had once belonged to a royal favorite, and the grounds had been its chief glory. They reached a sheltered seat and sat down. A few yards away a tiny waterfall came tumbling over the rocks into a deep pool. They were hidden from the windows of the villa by the boughs of a drooping chestnut tree. Bellamy stooped and kissed her upon the lips.
“Ours is a strange courtship, Louise,” he whispered softly.
She took his hand in hers and smoothed it. She had returned his kiss, but she drew a little further away from him.
“Ah! my dear friend,” looking at him with sorrow in her eyes, “courtship is scarcely the word, is it? For you and me there is nothing to hope for, nothing beyond.”
He leaned towards her.
“Never believe that,” he begged. “These days are dark enough, Heaven knows, yet the work of every one has its goal. Even our turn may come.”
Something flickered for a moment in her face, something which seemed to make a different woman of her. Bellamy saw it, and hardened though he was he felt the slow stirring of his own pulses. He kissed her hand passionately and she shivered.
“We must not talk of these things,” she said. “We must not think of them. At least our friendship has been wonderful. Now I must go in. I must tell my maid and arrange to steal away to-night.”
They stood up, and he held her in his arms for a moment. Though her lips met his freely enough, he was very conscious of the reserve with which she yielded herself to him, conscious of it and thankful, too. They walked up the path together, and as they went she plucked a red rose and thrust it through his buttonhole.
“If we had no dreams,” she said softly, “life would not be possible. Perhaps some day even we may pluck roses together.”
He raised her fingers to his lips. It was not often that they lapsed into sentiment. When she spoke again it was finished.
“You had better leave,” she told him, “by the garden gate. There are the usual crowd in my anteroom, and it is well that you and I are not seen too much together.”
“Till this evening,” he whispered, as he turned away. “I shall be at the station early. If Dorward is taken, I shall still leave Vienna. If he goes, it may be an eventful journey.”
THE NIGHT TRAIN FROM VIENNA
Dorwood, whistling softly to himself, sat in a corner of his coupe rolling innumerable cigarettes. He was a man of unbounded courage and wonderful resource, but with a slightly exaggerated idea as to the sanctity of an American citizen. He had served his apprenticeship in his own country, and his name had become a household word owing to his brilliant success as war correspondent in the Russo-Japanese War. His experience of European countries, however, was limited. After the more obvious dangers with which he had grappled and which he had overcome during his adventurous career, he was disposed to be a little contemptuous of the subtler perils at which his friend Bellamy had plainly hinted. He had made his escape from the hotel without any very serious difficulty, and since that time, although he had taken no particular precautions, he had remained unmolested. From his own point of view, therefore, it was perhaps only reasonable that he should no longer have any misgiving as to his personal safety. ARREST as a thief was the worst which he had feared. Even that he seemed now to have evaded.
The coupe was exceedingly comfortable and, after all, he had had a somewhat exciting day. He lit a cigarette and stretched himself out with a murmur of immense satisfaction. He was close upon the great triumph of his life. He was perfectly content to lie there and look out upon the flying landscape, upon which the shadows were now fast descending. He was safe, absolutely safe, he assured himself. Nevertheless, when the door of his coupe was opened, he started almost like a guilty man. The relief in his face as he recognized his visitor was obvious. It was Bellamy who entered and dropped into a seat by his side.
“Wasting your time, aren’t you?” the latter remarked, pointing to the growing heap of cigarettes.
“Well, I guess not,” Dorward answered. “I can smoke this lot before we reach London.”
Bellamy smiled enigmatically.
“I don’t think that you will,” he said.
“You are such a sanguine person,” Bellamy sighed. “Personally, I do not think that there is the slightest chance of your reaching London at all.”
Dorward laughed scornfully.
“And why not?” he asked.
Bellamy merely shrugged his shoulders. Dorward seemed to find the gesture irritating.
“You’ve got espionage on the brain, my dear friend,” he declared dryly. “I suppose it’s the result of your profession. I may not know so much about Europe as you do, but I am inclined to think that an American citizen traveling with his passport on a train like this is moderately safe, especially when he’s not above a scrap by way of taking care of himself.”
“You’re a plucky fellow,” remarked Bellamy.
“I don’t see any pluck about it. In Vienna, I must admit, I shouldn’t have been surprised if they’d tried to fake up some sort of charge against me, but anyhow they didn’t. Guess they’d find it a pretty tall order trying to interfere with an American citizen.”
Bellamy looked at his friend curiously.
“I suppose you’re not bluffing, by any chance, Dorward?” he said. “You really believe what you say?”
“Why in thunder shouldn’t I?” Dorward asked.
“My dear Dorward,” he said, “it is amazing to me that a man of your experience should talk and behave like a baby. You’ve taken some notice of your fellow-passengers, I suppose?”
“I’ve seen a few of them,” Dorward answered carelessly. “What about them?”
“Nothing much,” Bellamy declared, “except that there are, to my certain knowledge, three high officials of the Secret Police of Austria in the next coupe but one, and at least four or five of their subordinates somewhere on board the train.”
Dorward withdrew his cigarette from his mouth and looked at his friend keenly.
“I guess you’re trying to scare me, Bellamy,” he remarked.
But Bellamy was suddenly grave. There had come into his face an utterly altered expression. His tone, when he spoke, was almost solemn.
“Dorward,” he said, “upon my honor, I assure you that what I have told you is the truth. I cannot seem to make you realize the seriousness of your position. When you left the Palace with that paper in your pocket, you were, to all intents and purposes, a doomed man. Your passport and your American citizenship count for absolutely nothing. I have come in to warn you that if you have any last messages to leave, you had better give them to me now.”
“This is a pretty good bluff you’re putting up!” Dorward exclaimed contemptuously. “The long and short of it is, I suppose, that you want me to break the seal of this document and let you read it.”
Bellamy shook his head.
“It is too late for that, Dorward,” he said. “If the seal were broken, they’d very soon guess where I came in, and it wouldn’t help the work I have in hand for me to be picked up with a bullet in my forehead on the railway track.”
Dorward frowned uneasily.
“What are you here for, anyway, then?” he asked.
“Well, frankly, not to argue with you,” Bellamy answered. “As a matter of fact, you are of no use to me any longer. I am sorry, old man. You can’t say that I didn’t give you good advice. I am bound to play for my own hand, though, in this matter, and if I get any benefit at all out of my journey, it will be after some regrettable accident has happened to you.”
“Say, ring the bell for drinks and chuck this!” Dorward exclaimed. “I’ve had about enough of it. I am not denying anything you say, but if these fellows really are on board, they’ll think twice before they meddle with me.”
“On the contrary,” Bellamy assured him, “they will not take the trouble to think at all. Their minds are perfectly made up as to what they are going to do. However, that’s finished. I have nothing more to say.
Dorward gazed for a minute or two fixedly out of the window.
“Look here, Bellamy,” he said, turning abruptly round, “supposing I change my mind, supposing I open this precious document and let you read it over with me?”
Bellamy rose hastily to his feet.
“You must not think of it!” he exclaimed. “You would simply write my death-warrant. Don’t allude to that matter again. I have risked enough in coming in here to sit with you.”
“Then, for Heaven’s sake, don’t stop any longer!” Dorward said irritably. “You get on my nerves with all this foolish talk. In an hour’s time I am going to bolt my door and go to sleep. We’ll breakfast together in the morning, if you like.”
Bellamy said nothing. The steward had brought them the whiskies and sodas which Dorward had ordered. Bellamy raised his tumbler to his lips and set it down again.
“Forgive me,” he said, “I do not think that I am thirsty.”
Dorward drank his off at a gulp. Almost immediately he closed his eyes. Bellamy, with a little shrug of the shoulders, left him alone. As he passed along to his own coupe, he met Louise in the corridor.
“You have seen Von Behrling?” he whispered. She nodded.
“He is in that coupe, number 7, alone,” she said. “I invited him to come in with me but he seemed embarrassed. It is his companions who watch him all the time. He has promised to talk with me later.”
In the middle of the night, Louise opened her eyes to find Bellamy bending over her.
“Louise,” he whispered, “it is Von Behrling who will take possession of the packet. They have been discussing whether it will not be safer to go on to London instead of doubling back. See Von Behrling again. Do all you can to persuade him to come to London, – all you can, Louise, remember.”
“So!” she whispered. “I shall put on my dressing-gown and sit in the corridor. It is hot here.”
Bellamy glided out, closing the door softly behind him. The train was rushing on now through the blackness of an unusually dark night. For some time he sat in his own compartment, listening. The voices whose muttered conversation he had overheard were silent now, but once he fancied that he heard shuffling footsteps and a little cry. In his heart he knew well that before morning Dorward would have disappeared. The man within him was hard to subdue. He longed to make his way to Dorward’s side, to interfere in this terribly unequal struggle, yet he made no movement. Dorward was a man and a friend, but what was a life more or less? It was to a greater cause that he was pledged. Towards three o’clock he lay down on his bed and slept. . . .
The train attendant brought him his coffee soon after daylight. The man’s hands were trembling.
“Where are we?” Bellamy asked sleepily.
“Near Munich, Monsieur,” the man answered. “Monsieur noticed, perhaps, that we stopped for some time in the night?”
Bellamy shook his head.
“I sleep soundly,” he said. “I heard nothing.”
“There has been an accident,” the man declared. “An American gentleman who got in at Vienna was drinking whiskey all night and became very drunk. In a tunnel he threw himself out upon the line.”
Bellamy shuddered a little. He had been prepared, but none the less it was an awful thing, this.
“You are sure that he is dead?” he asked.
The man was very sure indeed.
“There is a doctor from Vienna upon the train, sir,” he said. “He examined him at once, but death must have been instantaneous.”
Bellamy drew a long breath and commenced to put on his clothes. The next move was for him.
“VON BEHRLING HAS THE PACKET”
Bellamy stole along the half-lit corridors of the train until he came to the coup6 which had been reserved for Mademoiselle Idiale. Assured that he was not watched, he softly turned the handle of the door and entered. Louise was sitting up in her dressing-gown, drinking her coffee. He held up his finger and she greeted him only with a nod.
“Forgive me, Louise,” he whispered, “I dared not knock, and I was obliged to see you at once.”
“It is of no consequence,” she said. “One is always prepared here. The porter, the ticket-man, and at the customs – they all enter. Is anything wrong?”
“It has happened,” he answered.
She shivered a little and her face became grave.
“Poor fellow!” she murmured.
“He simply sat still and asked for it,” Bellamy declared, still speaking in a cautious undertone. “He would not be warned. I could have saved him, if any one could, but he would not hear reason.”
“He was what you call pig-headed,” she remarked.
“He has paid the penalty,” Bellamy continued. “Now listen to me, Louise. I got into that small coupe next to Von Behrling’s, and I feel sure, from what I overheard, that they will go on to London, all three of them.”
“Who is there on the train?” she demanded.
“Baron Streuss, who is head of the Secret Police, Von Behrling and Adolf Kahn,” Bellamy answered. “Then there are four or five Secret Service men of the rank and file, but they are all traveling separately. Von Behrling has the packet. The others form a sort of cordon around him.”
“But why,” she asked, “does he go on to London? Why not return to Vienna?”
“For one thing, ” Bellamy replied, with a grim smile, “they are afraid of me. Then you must remember that this affair of Dorward will be talked about. They do not want to seem in any way implicated. To return from any one of these stations down the line would create suspicion.”
“I am going to leave the train at the next stop,” he continued. “I find that I shall just catch the Northern Express to Berlin. From there I shall come on to London as quickly as I can. You know the address of my rooms?”
“15, Fitzroy Street.”
“When I get there, let me have a line waiting to tell me where I can see you. While I am on the train you will find Von Behrling almost inaccessible. Directly I have gone it will be different. Play with him carefully. He should not be difficult. To tell you the truth, I am rather surprised that he has been trusted upon a mission like this. He was in disgrace with the Chancellor a short while ago, and I know that he was hurt at not being allowed to attend the conference. The others will watch him closely, but they cannot overhear everything that passes between you two. Von Behrling is a poor man. You will know how to make him wish he were rich.”
Very slowly her eyebrows rose up. She looked at him doubtfully.
“It is a slender chance, David,” she remarked. “Von Behrling is a little wild, I know, and he pretends to be very much in love with me, but I do not think that he would sell his country. Then, too, see how he will be watched. I do not suppose that they will leave us alone for a moment.”
Bellamy took her hands in his, gripping them with almost unnatural force.
“Louise,” he declared earnestly, “you don’t quite realize Von Behrling’s special weakness and your extraordinary strength. You know that you are beautiful, I suppose, but you do not quite know what that means. I have heard men talk about you till one would think that they were children. You have something of that art or guile – call it what you will – which passes from you through a man’s blood to his brain, and carries him indeed to Heaven – but carries him there mad. Louise, don’t be angry with me for what I say. Remember that I know my sex. I know you, too, and I trust you, but you can turn Von Behrling from a sane, honorable man into what you will, without suffering even his lips to touch your fingers. Von Behrling has that packet in his possession. When I come to see you in London, I will bring you twenty thousand pounds in Bank of England notes. With that Von Behrling might fancy himself on his way to America – with you.”
She closed her eyes for a moment. Perhaps she wished to keep hidden from him the thoughts which chased one another through her brain. He wished to make use of her – of her, the woman whom he loved. Then she remembered that it was for her country and his, and the anger passed.
“But I am afraid,” she said softly, “that the moment they reach London this document will be taken to the Austrian Embassy.”
“Before then,” Bellamy declared, “Von Behrling must not know whether he is in heaven or upon earth. It will not be opened in London. He can make up another packet to resemble precisely the one of which he robbed Dorward. Oh! it is a difficult game, I know, but it is worth playing. Remember, Louise, that we are not petty conspirators. It is your country’s very existence that is threatened. It is for her sake as well as for England.”
“I shall do my best,” she murmured, looking into his face. “Oh, you may be sure that I shall do my best!”
Bellamy raised her fingers to his lips and stole away. The electric lamps had been turned out, but the morning was cloudy and the light dim. Back in his own berth, he put his things together, ready to leave at Munich. Then he rang for the porter.
“I am getting out at the next stop,” he announced.
“Very good, Monsieur,” the man answered.
Bellamy looked at him closely.
“You are a Frenchman?”
“It is so, Monsieur!”
“I may be wrong,” Bellamy continued slowly, “but I believe that if I asked you a question and it concerned some Germans and Austrians you would tell me the truth.”
The man’s gesture was inimitable. Englishmen to him were obviously the salt of the earth. Germans and Austrians – why, they existed as the cattle in the fields – nothing more. Bellamy gave him a sovereign.
“There were three Austrians who got in at Vienna,” he said. “They are in numbers ten and eleven.”
“But yes, Monsieur!” the man assented. “As yet I think they are fast asleep. Not one of them has rung for his coffee.”
“Where are they booked for?”
“For London, Monsieur.”
“You do not happen,” Bellamy continued, “to have heard them say anything about leaving the train before then?”
“On the contrary, sir,” the porter answered, “two of the gentlemen have been inquiring about the boat across to Dover. They were very anxious to travel by a turbine.”
“Thank you very much. You will be so discreet as to forget that I have asked you any questions concerning them. As for me, if one would know, I am on my way to Berlin.”
The bell rang. The man looked outside and put his head once more in Bellamy’s coupe.
“It is one of the gentleman who has rung,” he declared. “If anything is said about leaving the train, I shall report it at once to Monsieur.”
“You will do well,” Bellamy answered.
The porter returned in a few moments.
“Two of the gentlemen, sir,” he announced, “are undressed and in their pyjamas. They have ordered their breakfast to be served after we leave Munich.”
“Further, sir,” the man continued, coming a little closer, “one of them asked me whether the English gentleman – meaning you – was going through to London or not. I told them that you were getting out at the next station and that I thought you were going to Berlin.”
“Quite right,” Bellamy said. “If they ask any more questions, let me know.”
Mademoiselle Idiale, with the aid of one of the two maids who were traveling with her, was able to make a sufficiently effective toilette. At a few minutes before the time for luncheon, she walked down the corridor and recognized Von Behrling, who was sitting with his companions in one of the compartments.
“Ah, it is indeed you, then!” she exclaimed, smiling at him.
He rose to his feet and came out. Tall, with a fair moustache and blue eyes, he was often taken for an Englishman and was inclined to be proud of the fact.
“You have rested well, I trust, Mademoiselle?” he asked, bowing low over her fingers.
“Excellently,” replied Louise. “Will you not take me in to luncheon? The car is full of men and I am not comfortable alone. It is not pleasant, either, to eat with one’s maids.”
“I am honored,” he declared. “Will you permit me for one moment?”
He turned and spoke to his companions. Louise saw at once that they were protesting vigorously. She saw, too, that Von Behrling only became more obstinate and that he was very nearly angry. She moved a few steps on down the corridor, and stood looking out of the window. He joined her almost immediately.
“Come,” he said, “they will be serving luncheon in five minutes. We will go and take a good place.”
“Your friends, I am afraid,” she remarked, “did not like your leaving them. They are not very gallant.”
“To me it is indifferent,” he answered, fiercely twirling his moustache. “Streuss there is an old fool. He has always some fancy in his brain.”
Louise raised her eyebrows slightly.
“You are your own master, I suppose,” she said. “The Baron is used to command his policemen, and sometimes he forgets. There are many people who find him too autocratic.”
“He means well,” Von Behrling asserted. “It is his manner only which is against him.”
They found a comfortable table, and she sat smiling at him across the white cloth.
“If this is not Sachers,” she said, “it is at least more pleasant than lunching alone.”
“I can assure you, Mademoiselle,” he declared, with a vigorous twirl of his moustache, “that I find it so.”
“Always gallant,” she murmured. “Tell me, is it true of you – the news which I heard just before I left Vienna? Have you really resigned your post with the Chancellor?”
“You heard that?” he asked slowly.
She hesitated for a moment.
“I heard something of the sort,” she admitted. “To be quite candid with you, I think it was reported that the Chancellor was making a change on his own account.”
“So that is what they say, is it? What do they know about it – these gossipers?”
“You were not allowed at the conference yesterday,” she remarked.
“No one was allowed there, so that goes for nothing.”
“Ah! well,” she said, looking meditatively out upon the landscape, “a year ago the thought of that conference would have driven me wild. I should not have been content until I had learned somehow or other what had transpired. Lately, I am afraid, my interest in my country seems to have grown a trifle cold. Perhaps because I have lived in Vienna I have learned to look at things from your point of view. Then, too, the world is a selfish place, and our own little careers are, after all, the most important part of it.”
Von Behrling eyed her Curiously.
“It seems strange to hear you talk like this,” he remarked.
She looked out of the window for a moment.
“Oh! I still love my country, in a way,” she answered, “and I still hate all Austrians, in a way, but it is not as it used to be with me, I must admit. If we had two lives, I would give one to my country and keep one for myself. Since we have only one, I am afraid, after all, that I am human, and I want to taste some of its pleasures.”
“Some of its pleasures,” Von Behrling repeated, a little gloomily. “Ah, that is easy enough for you, Mademoiselle!”
“Not so easy as it may appear,” she answered. “One needs many things to get the best out of life. One needs wealth and one needs love, and one needs them while one is young, while one can enjoy.”
“It is true,” Von Behrling admitted, – “quite true.”
“If one is not careful,” she continued, “one lets the years slip by. They can never come again. If one does not live while one is young, there is no other chance.”
Von Behrling assented with renewed gloom. He was twenty-five years old, and his income barely paid for his uniforms. Of late, this fact had materially interfered with his enjoyments.
“It is strange,” he said, “that you should talk like this. You have the world at your feet, Mademoiselle. You have only to throw the handkerchief.”
Her lips parted in a dazzling smile. The bluest eyes in the world grew softer as they looked into his. Von Behrling felt his cheeks burn.
“My friend, it is not so easy,” she murmured. “Tell me,” she continued, “why it is that you have so little self-confidence. Is it because you are poor?”
“I am a beggar,” – bitterly.
She shrugged her shoulders.
“Well,” she said, glancing down the menu which the waiter had brought, “if you are poor and content to remain so, one must presume that you have compensations.”
“But I have none!” he declared. “You should know that – you, Mademoiselle. Life for me means one thing and one thing only!”
She looked at him, for a moment, and down upon the tablecloth. Von Behrling shook like a man in the throes of some great passion.
“We talk too intimately,” she whispered, as the people began to file in to take their places. “After luncheon we will take our coffee in my coupe. Then, if you like, we will speak of these matters. I have a headache. Will you order me some champagne? It is a terrible thing, I know, to drink wine in the morning, but when one travels, what can one do? Here come your bodyguard. They look at me as though I had stolen you away. Remember we take our coffee together afterwards. I am bored with so much traveling, and I look to you to amuse me.”
Von Behrling’s journey was, after all, marked with sharp contrasts. The kindness of the woman whom he adored was sufficient in itself to have transported him into a seventh heaven. On the other hand, he had trouble with his friends. Streuss drew him on one side at Ostend, and talked to him plainly.
“Von Behrling,” he said, “I speak to you on behalf of Kahn and myself. Wine and women and pleasure are good things. We two, we love them, perhaps, as you do, but there is a place and a time for them, and it is not now. Our mission is too serious.”
“Well, well!” Von Behrling exclaimed impatiently, “what is all this? What do I do wrong? What have you to say against me? If I talk with Mademoiselle Idiale, it is because it is the natural thing for me to do. Would you have us three – you and Kahn and myself – travel arm in arm and speak never a word to our fellow passengers? Would you have us proclaim to all the world that we are on a secret mission, carrying a secret document, to obtain which we have already committed a crime? These are old-fashioned methods, Streuss. It is better that we behave like ordinary mortals. You talk foolishly, Streuss!”
“It is you,” the older man declared, “who play the fool, and we will not have it! Mademoiselle Idiale is a Servian and a patriot. She is the friend, too, of Bellamy, the Englishman. She and he were together last night.”
“Bellamy is not even on the train,” Von Behrling protested. “He went north to Berlin. That itself is the proof that they know nothing. If he had had the merest suspicion, do you not think that he would have stayed with us?”
“Bellamy is very clever,” Streuss answered. “There are too many of us to deal with, – he knew that. Mademoiselle Idiale is clever, too. Remember that half the trouble in life has come about through false women.
“What is it that you want?” Von Behrling demanded.
“That you travel the rest of the way with us, and speak no more with Mademoiselle.”
Von Behrling drew himself up. After all, it was he who was noble; Streuss was little more than a policeman.
“I refuse!” he exclaimed. “Let me remind you, Streuss, that I am in charge of this expedition. It was I who planned it. It was I” – he dropped his voice and touched his chest – “who struck the first blow for its success. I think that we need talk no more,” he went on. “I welcome your companionship. It makes for strength that we travel together. But for the rest, the enterprise has been mine, the success so far has been mine, and the termination of it shall be mine. Watch me, if you like. Stay with me and see that I am not robbed, if you fear that I am not able to take care of myself, but do not ask me to behave like an idiot.”
Von Behrling stepped away quickly. The siren was already blowing from the steamer.
VON BEHRLING IS TEMPTED
The night was dark but fine, and the crossing smooth. Louise, wrapped in furs, abandoned her private cabin directly they had left the harbor, and had a chair placed on the upper deck. Von Behrling found her there, but not before they were nearly half-way across. She beckoned him to her side. Her eyes glowed at him through the darkness.
“You are not looking after me, my friend,” she declared. “By myself I had to find this place.”
Von Behrling was ruffled. He was also humbly apologetic.
“It is those idiots who are with me,” he said. “All the time they worry.”
She laughed and drew him down so that she could whisper in his ear.
“I know what it is,” she said. “You have secrets which you are taking to London, and they are afraid of me because I am a Servian. Tell me, is it not so? Perhaps, even, they think that I am a spy.”
Von Behrling hesitated. She drew him closer towards her.
“Sit down on the deck,” she continued, “and lean against the rail. You are too big to talk to up there. So! Now you can come underneath my rug. Tell me, are they afraid of me, your friends?”
“Is it without reason?” he asked. “Would not any one be afraid of you – if, indeed, they believed that you wished to know our secrets? I wonder if there is a man alive whom you could not turn round your little finger.”
She laughed at him softly.
“Ah, no!” she said. “Men are not like that, nowadays. They talk and they talk, but it is not much they would do for a woman’s sake.”
“You believe that?” he asked, in a low tone.
“I do, indeed. One reads love-stories – no, I do not mean romances, but memoirs – memoirs of the French and Austrian Courts – memoirs, even, written by Englishmen. Men were different a generation ago. Honor was dear to them then, honor and position and wealth, and yet there were many, very many then who were willing to give all these things for the love of a woman.
“And do you think there are none now?” he whispered hoarsely.
“My friend,” she answered, looking down at him, “I think that there are very few.”
She heard his breath come fast between his teeth, and she realized his state of excitement.
“Mademoiselle Louise,” he said, “my love for you has made me a laughing-stock in the clubs of Vienna. I – the poverty-stricken, who have nothing but a noble name, nothing to offer you – have dared to show others what I think, have dared to place you in my heart above all the women on earth.”
“It is very nice of you,” she murmured. “Why do you tell me this now?”
“Why, indeed?” he answered. “What have I to hope for?”
She looked along the deck. Not a dozen yards away, two cigar ends burned red through the gloom. She knew very well that those cigar ends belonged to Streuss and his friend. She laughed softly and once more she bent her head.
“How they watch you, those men!” she said. “Listen, my friend Rudolph. Supposing their fears were true, supposing I were really a spy, supposing I offered you wealth and with it whatever else you might claim from me, for the secret which you carry to England!”
“How do you know that I am carrying a secret?” he asked hoarsely.
“My friend,” she said, “with your two absurd companions shadowing you all the time and glowering at me, how could one possibly doubt it? The Baron Streuss is, I believe, the Chief of your Secret Service Department, is he not? To me he seems the most obvious policeman I ever saw dressed as a gentleman.”
“You don’t mean it!” he muttered. “You can’t mean what you said just now!”
She was silent for a few moments. Some one passing struck a match, and she caught a glimpse of the white face of the man who sat by her side – strained now and curiously intense.
“Supposing I did!”
“You must be mad!” he declared. “You must not talk to me like this, Mademoiselle. I have no secret. It is your humor, I know, but it is dangerous.”
“There is no danger,” she murmured, “for we are alone. I say again, Rudolph, supposing this were true?”
His hand passed across his forehead. She fancied that he made a motion as though to rise to his feet, but she laid her hand upon his.
“Stay here,” she whispered. “No, I do not wish to drive you away. Now you are here you shall listen to me.”
“But you are not in earnest!” he faltered. “Don’t tell me that you are in earnest. It is treason. I am Rudolph Von Behrling, Secretary to the Chancellor.”
Again she leaned towards him so that he could see into her eyes.
“Rudolph,” she said, “you are indeed Rudolph Von Behrling, you are indeed the Chancellor’s secretary. What do you gain from it? A pittance! Many hours work a day and a pittance. What have you to look forward to? A little official life, a stupid official position. Rudolph, here am I, and there is the world. Do I not represent other things?”
“God knows you do!” he muttered.
“I, too, am weary of singing. I want a long rest – a long rest and a better name than my own. Don’t shrink away from me. It isn’t so wonderful, after all. Bellamy, the Englishman, came to me a few hours ago. He was Dorward’s friend. He knew well what Dorward carried. It was not his affair, he told me, and interposition from him was hopeless, but he knew that you and I were friends.”
“You must stop!” Von Behrling declared. “You must stop! I must not listen to this!”
“He offered me twenty thousand pounds,” she went on, “for the packet in your pocket. Think of that, my friend. It would be a start in life, would it not? I am an extravagant woman. Even if I would, I dared not think of a poor man. But twenty thousand pounds is sufficient. When I reach London, I am going to a flat which has been waiting for me for weeks – 15, Dover Street. If you bring that packet to me instead of taking it to the Austrian Embassy, there will be twenty thousand pounds and – “
Her fingers suddenly held his. She could almost hear his heart beating. Her eyes, by now accustomed to the gloom, could see the tumult which was passing within the man, reflected in his face. She whispered a warning under her breath. The two cigar ends had moved nearer. The forms of the two men were now distinct. One was leaning over the side of the ship by Von Behrling’s side. The other stood a few feet away, gazing at the lights of Dover. Von Behrling staggered to his feet. He said something in an angry undertone to Streuss. Louise rose and shook out her furs.
“My friend,” she said, turning to Von Behrling, “if your friends can spare you so long, will you fetch one of my maids? You will find them both in my cabin, number three. I wish to walk for a few moments before we arrive.”
Von Behrling turned away like a man in a dream. Mademoiselle Idiale followed him slowly, and behind her came Von Behrling’s companions.
The details of the great singer’s journey had been most carefully planned by an excited manager who had received the telegram announcing her journey to London. There was an engaged carriage at Dover, into which she was duly escorted by a representative of the Opera Syndicate, who had been sent down from London to receive her. Von Behrling seemed to be missing. She had seen nothing of him since he had descended to summon her maids. But just as the train was starting, she heard the sound of angry voices, and a moment later his white face was pressed through the open window of the carriage.
“Louise,” he muttered, “I am on fire! I cannot talk to you! I fear that they suspect something. They have told me that if I travel with you they will force their way in. Even now, Streuss comes. Listen for your telephone to-night or whenever I can. I must think – I must think!”
He passed on, and Louise, leaning back in her seat, closed her eyes.
“WE PLAY FOR GREAT STAKES “
Bellamy, travel-stained and weary, arrived at his rooms at two o’clock on the following afternoon to find amongst a pile of correspondence a penciled message awaiting him in a handwriting he knew well. He tore open the envelope.
DAVID DEAR, – I have just arrived and I am sending you these few lines at once. As to what progress I have made, I cannot say for certain, but there is a chance. You had better get the money ready and come to me here. If R. could only escape from Streuss and those who watch him all the time, I should be quite sure, but they are suspicious. What may happen I cannot tell. I do my best and I have hated it. Get the money ready and come to me. LOUISE.
Bellamy drew a little breath and tore the note into pieces. Then he rang for his servant. “A bath and some clean clothes quickly,” he ordered. “While I am changing, ring up Downing Street and see if Sir James is there. If not, find out exactly where he is. I must see him within half an hour. Afterwards, get me a taxicab.”
The man obeyed with the swift efficiency of the thoroughly trained servant. In rather less than the time which he had stated, Bellamy had left his rooms. Before four o’clock he had arrived at the address which Louise had given him. A commissionaire telephoned his name to the first floor, and in a very few moments a pale-faced French man-servant, in sombre black livery, descended and bowed to Bellamy.
“Monsieur will be so good as to come this way,” he directed.
Bellamy followed him into the lift, which stopped at the first floor. He was ushered into a small boudoir, already smothered with roses.
“Mademoiselle will be here immediately,” the man announced. “She is engaged with a gentleman from the Opera, but she will leave him to receive Monsieur.”
“Pray let Mademoiselle understand,” he said, “that I am entirely at her service. My time is of no consequence.”
The man bowed and withdrew. Louise came to him almost directly from an inner chamber. She was wearing a loose gown, but the fatigue of her journey seemed already to have passed away. Her eyes were bright, and a faint color glowed in her cheeks.
“David,” she exclaimed, “thank Heaven that you are here!”
She took both his hands and held them for a moment. Then she walked to the door, made sure that it was securely fastened, and stood there listening for a moment.
“I suppose I am foolish,” she said, coming back to him, “and yet I cannot help fancying that I am being watched on every side since we landed in England. I detest my new manager, and I don’t trust any of the servants he has engaged for me. You got my note?”
“Yes,” he answered, “I had your note – and I am here.”
The restraint of his manner was obvious. He was standing a little away from her. She came suddenly up to him, her hands fell upon his shoulders, her face was upturned to his. Even then he made no motion to embrace her.
“David,” she whispered softly, “what I am doing – what I have done – was at your suggestion. I do it for you, I do it for my country, I do it against every natural feeling I possess. I hate and loathe the lies I tell. Are you remembering that? Is it in your heart at this moment?”
He stooped and kissed her.
“Forgive me,” he said, “it is I who am to blame, but I am only human. We play for great stakes, Louise, but sometimes one forgets.”
“As I live,” she murmured, “the kiss you gave me last is still upon my lips. What I have promised goes for nothing. What he has promised is this – the papers to-night.”
“Unopened,” she repeated, softly.
“But how is it to be done?” Bellamy asked. “He must have arrived in London when you did last night. How is it they are not already at the Embassy?”
“The Ambassador was commanded to Cowes,” she explained. “He cannot be back until late to-night. No one else has a key to the treaty safe, and Von Behrling declined to give up the document to any one save the Ambassador himself.”
“What about Streuss?”
“Streuss and the others are all furious,” Louise said. “Yet, after all, Behrling has a certain measure of right on his side. His orders were to see with his own eyes this envelope deposited in the safe by the Ambassador himself.”
“He returns to-night!” Bellamy exclaimed quickly.
“Before he comes,” she declared, “I think that the document will be in your hands.”
“How is it to be done?”
“The report is written,” she explained, “on five pages of foolscap. They are contained in a long envelope, scaled with the Chancellor’s crest. Von Behrling, being one of the family, has the same crest. He has prepared another envelope, the same size and weight, and signed it with his seal. It is this which he will hand over to the Ambassador if he should return unexpectedly. The real one he has concealed.”
“Is he here?” Bellamy inquired.
“Thank Heavens, no!” she answered. “My dear David, what are you thinking of? He is not here and he dare not come here. You are to go to your rooms,” she added, glancing at the clock, “and between five and six o’clock this evening you will be rung up on the telephone. A rendezvous will be given you for later on to-night. You must take the money there and receive the packet. Von Behrling will be disguised and prepared for flight.”
Bellamy’s eyes glowed.
“You believe this?” he exclaimed.
“I believe it,” she replied. “He is going to do it. After he has seen you, he will make his way to Plymouth. I have promised – don’t look at me, David – I have promised to join him there.”
Bellamy was grave.
“There will be trouble,” he said. “He will come back. He will want to shoot you. He may be slow-witted in some things, but he is passionate.”
“Am I a coward?” she asked, with a scornful laugh. “Have I ever shown fear of my life? No, David! It is not that of which I am afraid. It is the memory of the man’s touch, it is the look which was in your face when you came into the room. These are the things I fear – not death.”
Bellamy drew her into his arms and kissed her.
“Forgive me,” he begged. “At such times a man is a weak thing – a weak and selfish thing. I am ashamed of myself. I should have known better than to have doubted you for a moment. I know you so well, Louise. I know what you are.”
“Dear,” she said, “you have made me happy. And now you must go away. Remember that these few minutes are only an interlude. Over here I am Mademoiselle Idiale who sings to-night at Covent Garden. See my roses. There are two rooms full of reporters and photographers in the place now. The leader of the orchestra is in my bedroom, and two of the directors are drinking whiskies and sodas with this new manager of mine in the dining-room. Between five and six o’clock this afternoon you will get the message. It is somewhere, I think, in the city that you will have to go. There will be no trouble about the money? Nothing but notes or gold will be of any use.”
“I have it in my pocket,” he answered. “I have it in notes, but he need never fear that they will be traced. The numbers of notes given for Secret Service purposes are expunged from every one’s memory.”
She drew a little sigh.
“It is a great sum,” she said. “After all, he should be grateful to me. If only he would be sensible and get away to the United States or to South America! He could live there like a prince, poor fellow. He would be far happier.”
“I only hope that he will go,” Bellamy agreed. “There is one thing to be remembered. If he does not go, if he stays for twenty-four hours in this country, I do not believe that he will live to do you harm. The men who are with him are not the sort to stop short at trifles. Besides Streuss and Kahn, they have a regular army of spies at their bidding here. If they find out that he has tricked them, they will hunt him down, and before long.”
“Oh, I hope,” she exclaimed, “that he gets away! He is a traitor, of course, but he is a traitor to a hateful cause, and, after all, I think it is less for the money than for my sake that he does it. That sounds very conceited, I suppose,” she added, with a faint smile. “Ah! well, you see, for five years so many have been trying to turn my head. No wonder if I begin to believe some of their stories. David, I must go. I must not keep Dr. Henschell waiting any longer.”
“To-morrow,” he said, “to-morrow early I shall come. I am afraid I shall miss your first appearance in England, Louise.”
The sound of a violin came floating out from the inner room.
“That is my signal,” she declared smiling. “De. Henschell was almost beside himself that I came away. I come, Doctor,” she called out. “David, good fortune!” she added, giving him her hands. “Now go, dear.”
THE HAND OF MISFORTUNE
Between the two men, seated opposite each other in the large but somewhat barely furnished office, the radical differences, both in appearance and mannerisms, perhaps, also, in disposition, had never been more strongly evident. They were partners in business and face to face with ruin. Stephen Laverick, senior member of the firm, although an air of steadfast gloom had settled upon his clean-cut, powerful countenance, retained even in despair something of that dogged composure, temperamental and wholly British, which had served him well along the road to fortune. Arthur Morrison, the man who sat on the other side of the table, a Jew to his finger-tips notwithstanding his altered name, sat like a broken thing, with tears in his terrified eyes, disordered hair, and parchment-pale face. Words had flown from his lips in a continual stream. He floundered in his misery, sobbed about it like a child. The hand of misfortune had stripped him naked, and one man, at least, saw him as he really was.
“I can’t stand it, Laverick, – I couldn’t face them all. It’s too cruel – too horrible! Eighteen thousand pounds gone in one week, forty thousand in a month! Forty thousand pounds! Oh, my God!”
He writhed in agony. The man on the other side of the table said nothing.
“If we could only have held on a little longer! ‘Unions’ must turn! They will turn! Laverick, have you tried all your friends? Think! Have you tried them all? Twenty thousand pounds would see us through it. We should get our own money back – I am sure of it. There’s Rendell, Laverick. He’d do anything for you. You’re always shooting or playing cricket with him. Have you asked him, Laverick? He’d never miss the money.”
“You and I see things differently, Morrison,” Laverick answered. “Nothing would induce me to borrow money from a friend.”
“But at a time like this,” Morrison pleaded passionately. “Every one does it sometimes. He’d be glad to help you. I know he would. Have you ever thought what it will be like, Laverick, to be hammered?”
“I have,” Laverick admitted wearily. “God knows it seems as terrible a thing to me as it can to you! But if we go down, we must go down with clean hands. I’ve no faith in your infernal market, and not one penny will I borrow from a friend.”
The Jew’s face was almost piteous. He stretched himself across the table. There were genuine tears in his eyes.
“Laverick,” he said, “old man, you’re wrong. I know you think I’ve been led away. I’ve taken you out of our depth, but the only trouble has been that we haven’t had enough capital, and no backing. Those who stand up will win. They will make money.”
“Unfortunately,” Laverick remarked, “we cannot stand up. Please understand that I will not discuss this matter with you in any way. I will not borrow money from Rendell or any friend. I have asked the bank and I have asked Pages, who will be our largest creditors. To help us would simply be a business proposition, so far as they