Elusive Isabel
Jacques Futrelle

Part 1 out of 3

Produced by Steven desJardins and PG Distributed Proofreaders








































All the world rubs elbows in Washington. Outwardly it is merely a city
of evasion, of conventionalities, sated with the commonplace pleasures
of life, listless, blase even, and always exquisitely, albeit frigidly,
courteous; but beneath the still, suave surface strange currents play at
cross purposes, intrigue is endless, and the merciless war of diplomacy
goes on unceasingly. Occasionally, only occasionally, a bubble comes to
the surface, and when it bursts the echo goes crashing around the earth.
Sometimes a dynasty is shaken, a nation trembles, a ministry topples
over; but the ripple moves and all is placid again. No man may know all
that happens there, for then he would be diplomatic master of the

"There is plenty of red blood in Washington," remarked a jesting
legislative gray-beard, once upon a time, "but it's always frozen before
they put it in circulation. Diplomatic negotiations are conducted in the
drawing-room, but long before that the fight is fought down cellar. The
diplomatists meet at table and there isn't any broken crockery, but you
can always tell what the player thinks of the dealer by the way he draws
three cards. Everybody is after results; and lots of monarchs of Europe
sit up nights polishing their crowns waiting for word from Washington."

So, this is Washington! And here at dinner are the diplomatic
representatives of all the nations. That is the British ambassador, that
stolid-faced, distinguished-looking, elderly man; and this is the French
ambassador, dapper, volatile, plus-correct; here Russia's highest
representative wags a huge, blond beard; and yonder is the phlegmatic
German ambassador. Scattered around the table, brilliant splotches of
color, are the uniformed envoys of the Orient--the smaller the country
the more brilliant the splotch. It is a state dinner, to be followed by
a state ball, and they are all present.

The Italian ambassador, Count di Rosini, was trying to interpret a
French _bon mot_ into English for the benefit of the dainty, doll-like
wife of the Chinese minister--who was educated at Radcliffe--when a
servant leaned over him and laid a sealed envelope beside his plate. The
count glanced around at the servant, excused himself to Mrs. Quong Li
Wi, and opened the envelope. Inside was a single sheet of embassy note
paper, and a terse line signed by his secretary:

"A lady is waiting for you here. She says she must see you immediately,
on a matter of the greatest importance."

The count read the note twice, with wrinkled brow, then scribbled on it
in pencil:

"Impossible to-night. Tell her to call at the embassy to-morrow morning
at half-past ten o'clock."

He folded the note, handed it to the servant, and resumed his
conversation with Mrs. Wi.

Half an hour later the same servant placed a second sealed envelope
beside his plate. Recognizing the superscription, the ambassador
impatiently shoved it aside, intending to disregard it. But irritated
curiosity finally triumphed, and he opened it. A white card on which was
written this command was his reward:

"It is necessary that you come to the embassy at once."

There was no signature. The handwriting was unmistakably that of a
woman, and just as unmistakably strange to him. He frowned a little as
he stared at it wonderingly, then idly turned the card over. There was
no name on the reverse side--only a crest. Evidently the count
recognized this, for his impassive face reflected surprise for an
instant, and this was followed by a keen, bewildered interest. Finally
he arose, made his apologies, and left the room. His automobile was at
the door.

[Illustration: The handwriting was unmistakably that of a woman.]

"To the embassy," he directed the chauffeur.

And within five minutes he was there. His secretary met him in the hall.

"The lady is waiting in your office," he explained apologetically. "I
gave her your message, but she said she must see you and would write you
a line herself. I sent it."

"Quite correct," commented the ambassador. "What name did she give?"

"None," was the reply. "She said none was necessary."

The ambassador laid aside hat and coat and entered his office with a
slightly puzzled expression on his face. Standing before a window,
gazing idly out into the light-spangled night, was a young woman, rather
tall and severely gowned in some rich, glistening stuff which fell away
sheerly from her splendid bare shoulders. She turned and he found
himself looking into a pair of clear, blue-gray eyes, frank enough and
yet in their very frankness possessing an alluring, indefinable
subtlety. He would not have called her pretty, yet her smile, slight as
it was, was singularly charming, and there radiated from her a
something--personality, perhaps--which held his glance. He bowed low,
and closed the door.

"I am at your service, Madam," he said in a tone of deep respect.
"Please pardon my delay in coming to you."

"It is unfortunate that I didn't write the first note," she apologized
graciously. "It would at least have saved a little time. You have the

He produced it silently, crest down, and handed it to her. She struck a
match, lighted the card, and it crumbled up in her gloved hand. The last
tiny scrap found refuge in a silver tray, where she watched it burn to
ashes, then she turned to the ambassador with a brilliant smile. He was
still standing.

"The dinner isn't over yet?" she inquired.

"No, Madam, not for another hour, perhaps."

"Then there's no harm done," she went on lightly. "The dinner isn't of
any consequence, but I should like very much to attend the ball
afterward. Can you arrange it for me?"

"I don't know just how I would proceed, Madam," the ambassador objected
diffidently. "It would be rather unusual, difficult, I may say, and--"

"But surely you can arrange it some way?" she interrupted demurely. "The
highest diplomatic representative of a great nation should not find it
difficult to arrange so simple a matter as--as this?" She was smiling.

"Pardon me for suggesting it, Madam," the ambassador persisted
courteously, "but anything out of the usual attracts attention in
Washington. I dare say, from the manner of your appearance to-night,
that you would not care to attract attention to yourself."

She regarded him with an enigmatic smile.

"I'm afraid you don't know women, Count," she said slowly, at last.
"There's nothing dearer to a woman's heart than to attract attention to
herself." She laughed--a throaty, silvery note that was charming. "And
if you hesitate now, then to-morrow--why, to-morrow I am going to ask
that you open to me all this Washington world--this brilliant world of
diplomatic society. You see what I ask now is simple."

The ambassador was respectfully silent and deeply thoughtful for a time.
There was, perhaps, something of resentment struggling within him, and
certainly there was an uneasy feeling of rebellion at this attempt to
thrust him forward against all precedent.

"Your requests are of so extraordinary a nature that--" he began in
courteous protestation.

There was no trace of impatience in the woman's manner; she was still

"It is necessary that I attend the ball to-night," she explained, "you
may imagine how necessary when I say I sailed from Liverpool six days
ago, reaching New York at half-past three o'clock this afternoon; and at
half-past four I was on my way here. I have been here less than one
hour. I came from Liverpool especially that I might be present; and I
even dressed on the train so there would be no delay. Now do you see the
necessity of it?"

Diplomatic procedure is along well-oiled grooves, and the diplomatist
who steps out of the rut for an instant happens upon strange and
unexpected obstacles. Knowing this, the ambassador still hesitated. The
woman apparently understood.

"I had hoped that this would not be necessary," she remarked, and she
produced a small, sealed envelope. "Please read it."

The ambassador received the envelope with uplifted brows, opened it and
read what was written on a folded sheet of paper. Some subtle working
of his brain brought a sudden change in the expression of his face.
There was wonder in it, and amazement, and more than these. Again he
bowed low.

"I am at your service, Madam," he repeated. "I shall take pleasure in
making any arrangements that are necessary. Again, I beg your pardon."

"And it will not be so very difficult, after all, will it?" she
inquired, and she smiled tauntingly.

"It will not be at all difficult, Madam," the ambassador assured her
gravely. "I shall take steps at once to have an invitation issued to you
for to-night; and to-morrow I shall be pleased to proceed as you may

She nodded. He folded the note, replaced it in the envelope and returned
it to her with another deep bow. She drew her skirts about her and sat
down; he stood.

"It will be necessary for your name to appear on the invitation," the
ambassador went on to explain. "If you will give me your name I'll have
my secretary--"

"Oh, yes, my name," she interrupted gaily. "Why, Count, you embarrass
me. You know, really, I have no name. Isn't it awkward?"

"I understand perfectly, Madam," responded the count. "I should have
said _a_ name."

She meditated a moment.

"Well, say--Miss Thorne--Miss Isabel Thorne," she suggested at last.
"That will do very nicely, don't you think?"

"Very nicely, Miss Thorne," and the ambassador bowed again. "Please
excuse me a moment, and I'll give my secretary instructions how to
proceed. There will be a delay of a few minutes."

He opened the door and went out. For a minute or more Miss Thorne sat
perfectly still, gazing at the blank wooden panels, then she rose and
went to the window again. In the distance, hazy in the soft night, the
dome of the capitol rose mistily; over to the right was the
congressional library, and out there where the lights sparkled lay
Pennsylvania Avenue, a thread of commerce. Miss Thorne saw it all, and
suddenly stretched out her arms with an all-enveloping gesture. She
stood so for a minute, then they fell beside her, and she was

Count di Rosini entered.

"Everything is arranged, Miss Thorne," he announced. "Will you go with
me in my automobile, or do you prefer to go alone?"

"I'll go alone, please," she answered after a moment. "I shall be there
about eleven."

The ambassador bowed himself out.

And so Miss Isabel Thorne came to Washington!



Just as it is one man's business to manufacture watches, and another
man's business to peddle shoe-strings, so it was Mr. Campbell's business
to know things. He was a human card index, a governmental ready
reference posted to the minute and backed by all the tremendous
resources of a nation. From the little office in the Secret Service
Bureau, where he sat day after day, radiating threads connected with the
huge outer world, and enabled him to keep a firm hand on the diplomatic
and departmental pulse of Washington. Perhaps he came nearer knowing
everything that happened there than any other man living; and no man
realized more perfectly than he just how little of all of it he did

In person Mr. Campbell was not unlike a retired grocer who had shaken
the butter and eggs from his soul and settled back to enjoy a life of
placid idleness. He was a little beyond middle age, pleasant of face,
white of hair, and blessed with guileless blue eyes. His genius had no
sparkle to it; it consisted solely of detail and system and
indefatigability, coupled with a memory that was well nigh infallible.
His brain was as serene and orderly as a cash register; one almost
expected to hear it click.

He sat at his desk intently studying a cable despatch which lay before
him. It was in the Secret Service code. Leaning over his shoulder was
Mr. Grimm--_the_ Mr. Grimm of the bureau. Mr. Grimm was an utterly
different type from his chief. He was younger, perhaps thirty-one or
two, physically well proportioned, a little above the average height,
with regular features and listless, purposeless eyes--a replica of a
hundred other young men who dawdle idly in the windows of their clubs
and watch the world hurry by. His manner was languid; his dress showed
fastidious care.

Sentence by sentence the bewildering intricacies of the code gave way
before the placid understanding of Chief Campbell, and word by word,
from the chaos of it, a translation took intelligible form upon a sheet
of paper under his right hand. Mr. Grimm, looking on, exhibited only a
most perfunctory interest in the extraordinary message he was reading;
the listless eyes narrowed a little, that was all. It was a special
despatch from Lisbon dated that morning, and signed simply "Gault."
Completely translated it ran thus:

"Secret offensive and defensive alliance of the Latin against the
English-speaking nations of the world is planned. Italy, France, Spain
and two South American republics will soon sign compact in Washington.
Proposition just made to Portugal, and may be accepted. Special envoys
now working in Mexico and Central and South America. Germany invited to
join, but refuses as yet, giving, however, tacit support; attitude of
Russia and Japan unknown to me. Prince Benedetto d'Abruzzi, believed to
be in Washington at present, has absolute power to sign for Italy,
France and Spain. Profound secrecy enjoined and preserved. I learned of
it by underground. Shall I inform our minister? Cable instructions."

"So much!" commented Mr. Campbell.

He clasped his hands behind his head, lay back in his chair and sat for
a long time, staring with steadfast, thoughtful eyes into the impassive
face of his subordinate. Mr. Grimm perched himself on the edge of the
desk and with his legs dangling read the despatch a second time, and a

"If," he observed slowly, "if any other man than Gault had sent that I
should have said he was crazy."

"The peace of the world is in peril, Mr. Grimm," said Campbell
impressively, at last. "It had to come, of course, the United States and
England against a large part of Europe and all of Central and South
America. It had to come, and yet--!"

He broke off abruptly, and picked up the receiver of his desk

"The White House, please," he requested curtly, and then, after a
moment: "Hello! Please ask the president if he will receive Mr. Campbell
immediately. Yes, Mr. Campbell of the Secret Service." There was a
pause. Mr. Grimm removed his immaculate person from the desk, and took a
chair. "Hello! In half an hour? So much!"

The pages of the Almanac de Gotha fluttered through his fingers, and
finally he leaned forward and studied a paragraph of it closely. When he
raised his eyes again there was that in them which Mr. Grimm had never
seen before--a settled, darkening shadow.

"The world-war has long been a chimera, Mr. Grimm," he remarked at last,
"but now--now! Think of it! Of course, the Central and South American
countries, taken separately, are inconsequential, and that is true, too,
of the Latin countries of Europe, except France, but taken in
combination, under one directing mind, the allied navies would be--would
be formidable, at least. Backed by the moral support of Germany, and
perhaps Japan--! Don't you see? Don't you see?"

He lapsed into silence. Mr. Grimm opened his lips to ask a question: Mr.
Campbell anticipated it unerringly:

"The purpose of such an alliance? It is not too much to construe it into
the first step toward a world-war--a war of reprisal and conquest beside
which the other great wars of the world would seem trivial. For the fact
has at last come home to the nations of the world that ultimately the
English-speaking peoples will dominate it--dominate it, because they are
the practical peoples. They have given to the world all its great
practical inventions--the railroad, the steamship, electricity, the
telegraph and cable--all of them; they are the great civilizing forces,
rounding the world up to new moral understanding, for what England has
done in Africa and India we have done in a smaller way in the
Philippines and Cuba and Porto Rico; they are the great commercial
peoples, slowly but surely winning the market-places of the earth;
wherever the English or the American flag is planted there the English
tongue is being spoken, and there the peoples are being taught the
sanity of right living and square dealing.

"It requires no great effort of the imagination, Mr. Grimm, to foresee
that day when the traditional power of Paris, and Berlin, and St.
Petersburg, and Madrid will be honey-combed by the steady encroachment
of our methods. This alliance would indicate that already that day has
been foreseen; that there is now a resentment which is about to find
expression in one great, desperate struggle for world supremacy. A few
hundred years ago Italy--or Rome--was stripped of her power; only
recently the United States dispelled the illusion that Spain was
anything but a shell; and France--! One can't help but wonder if the
power she boasts is not principally on paper. But if their forces are
combined? Do you see? It would be an enormous power to reckon with, with
a hundred bases of supplies right at our doors."

He rose suddenly and walked over to the window, where he stood for a
moment, staring out with unseeing eyes.

"Given a yard of canvas, Mr. Grimm," he went on finally, "a Spanish boy
will waste it, a French boy will paint a picture on it, an English boy
will built a sail-boat, and an American boy will erect a tent. That
fully illustrates the difference in the races."

He abandoned the didactic tone, and returned to the material matter in
hand. Mr. Grimm passed him the despatch and he sat down again.

"'Will soon sign compact in Washington,'" he read musingly. "Now I don't
know that the signing of that compact can be prevented, but the signing
of it on United States soil can be prevented. You will see to that, Mr.

"Very well," the young man agreed carelessly. The magnitude of such a
task made, apparently, not the slightest impression on him. He languidly
drew on his gloves.

"And meanwhile I shall take steps to ascertain the attitude of Russian
and Japanese representatives in this city."

Mr. Grimm nodded.

"And now, for Prince Benedetto d'Abruzzi," Mr. Campbell went on slowly.
"Officially he is not in Washington, nor the United States, for that
matter. Naturally, on such a mission, he would not come as a publicly
accredited agent, therefore, I imagine, he is to be sought under another

"Of course," Mr. Grimm acquiesced.

"And he would avoid the big hotels."


Mr. Campbell permitted his guileless blue eyes to linger inquiringly
upon those of the young man for half a minute. He caught himself
wondering, sometimes, at the perfection of the deliberate indifference
with which Mr. Grimm masked his emotions. In his admiration of this
quality he quite overlooked the remarkable mask of benevolence behind
which he himself hid.

"And the name, D'Abruzzi," he remarked, after a time. "What does it mean
to you, Mr. Grimm?"

"It means that I am to deal with a prince of the royal blood of Italy,"
was the unhesitating response. Mr. Grimm picked up the Almanac de Gotha
and glanced at the open page. "Of course, the first thing to do is to
find him; the rest will be simple enough." He perused the page
carelessly. "I will begin work at once."



Mr. Grimm was chatting idly with Senorita Rodriguez, daughter of the
minister from Venezuela, the while he permitted his listless eyes to
wander aimlessly about the spacious ball-room of the German embassy,
ablaze with festooned lights, and brilliant with a multi-colored chaos
of uniforms. Gleaming pearl-white, translucent in the mass, were the
bare shoulders of women; and from far off came the plaintive whine of an
orchestra, a pulsing sense rather than a living sound, of music, pointed
here and there by the staccato cry of a flute. A zephyr, perfumed with
the clean, fresh odor of lilacs, stirred the draperies of the archway
which led into the conservatory and rustled the bending branches of
palms and ferns.

For a scant instant Mr. Grimm's eyes rested on a young woman who sat a
dozen feet away, talking, in playful animation, with an undersecretary
of the British embassy--a young woman severely gowned in some glistening
stuff which fell away sheerly from her splendid bare shoulders. She
glanced up, as if in acknowledgment of his look, and her eyes met his.
Frank, blue-gray eyes they were, stirred to their depths now by
amusement. She smiled at Senorita Rodriguez, in token of recognition.

"Aren't they wonderful?" asked Senorita Rodriguez with the quick,
bubbling enthusiasm of her race.

"What?" asked Mr. Grimm.

"Her eyes," was the reply. "Every person has one dominant feature--with
Miss Thorne it is her eyes."

"Miss Thorne?" Mr. Grimm repeated.

"Haven't you met her?" the senorita went on. "Miss Isabel Thorne? She
only arrived a few days ago--the night of the state ball. She's my
guest at the legation. When an opportunity comes I shall present you to

She ran on, about other things, with only an occasional remark from Mr.
Grimm, who was thoughtfully nursing his knee. Somewhere through the
chatter and effervescent gaiety, mingling with the sound of the pulsing
music, he had a singular impression of a rhythmical beat, an indistinct
tattoo, noticeable, perhaps, only because of its monotony. After a
moment he shot a quick glance at Miss Thorne and understood; it was the
tapping of an exquisitely wrought ivory fan against one of her tapering,
gloved fingers. She was talking and smiling.

"Dot-dash-dot! Dot-dash-dot! Dot-dash-dot!" said the fan.

Mr. Grimm twisted around in his seat and regaled his listless eyes with
a long stare into the senorita's pretty face. Behind the careless ease
of repose he was mechanically isolating the faint clatter of the fan.

"Dot-dash-dot! Dot-dash-dot! Dot-dash-dot!"

"Did any one ever accuse you of staring, Mr. Grimm?" demanded the
senorita banteringly.

For an instant Mr. Grimm continued to stare, and then his listless eyes
swept the ball-room, pausing involuntarily at the scarlet splendor of
the minister from Turkey.

"I beg your pardon," he apologized contritely. There was a pause. "The
minister from Turkey looks like a barn on fire, doesn't he?"

Senorita Rodriguez laughed, and Mr. Grimm glanced idly toward Miss
Thorne. She was still talking, her face alive with interest; and the fan
was still tapping rhythmically, steadily, now on the arm of her chair.

"Dot-dash-dot! Dot-dash-dot! Dot-dash-dot! Dot-dash-dot!"

"Pretty women who don't want to be stared at should go with their faces
swathed," Mr. Grimm suggested indolently. "Haroun el Raschid there would
agree with me on that point, I have no doubt. What a shock he would get
if he should happen up at Atlantic City for a week-end in August!"

"Dot-dash-dot! Dot-dash-dot! Dot-dash-dot!"

Mr. Grimm read it with perfect understanding; it was "F--F--F" in the
Morse code, the call of one operator to another. Was it accident? Mr.
Grimm wondered, and wondering he went on talking lazily:

"Curious, isn't it, the smaller the nation the more color it crowds into
the uniforms of its diplomatists? The British ambassador, you will
observe, is clothed sanely and modestly, as befits the representative of
a great nation; but coming on down by way of Spain and Italy, they get
more gorgeous. However, I dare say as stout a heart beats beneath a
sky-blue sash as behind the unembellished black of evening dress."

"F--F--F," the fan was calling insistently.

And then the answer came. It took the unexpectedly prosaic form of a
violent sneeze, a vociferous outburst on a bench directly behind Mr.
Grimm. Senorita Rodriguez jumped, then laughed nervously.

"It startled me," she explained.

"I think there must be a draft from the conservatory," said a man's
voice apologetically. "Do you ladies feel it? No? Well, if you'll excuse

Mr. Grimm glanced back languidly. The speaker was Charles Winthrop
Rankin, a brilliant young American lawyer who was attached to the German
embassy in an advisory capacity. Among other things he was a Heidelberg
man, having spent some dozen years of his life in Germany, where he
established influential connections. Mr. Grimm knew him only by sight.

And now the rhythmical tapping of Miss Thorne's fan underwent a change.
There was a flutter of gaiety in her voice the while the ivory fan
tapped steadily.

"Dot-dot-dot! Dash! Dash-dash-dash! Dot-dot-dash! Dash!"

"S--t--5--u--t," Mr. Grimm read in Morse. He laughed pleasantly at some
remark of his companion.

"Dash-dash! Dot-dash! Dash-dot!" said the fan.

"M--a--n," Mr. Grimm spelled it out, the while his listless eyes roved
aimlessly over the throng. "S--t--5--u--t m--a--n!" Was it meant for
"stout man?" Mr. Grimm wondered.

"Dot-dash-dot! Dot! Dash-dot-dot!"

"F--e--d," that was.

"Dot-dot-dash-dot! Dot-dash! Dash-dot-dash-dot! Dot!"

"Q--a--j--e!" Mr. Grimm was puzzled a little now, but there was not a
wrinkle, nor the tiniest indication of perplexity in his face. Instead
he began talking of Raphael's cherubs, the remark being called into life
by the high complexion of a young man who was passing. Miss Thorne
glanced at him once keenly, her splendid eyes fairly aglow, and the fan
rattled on in the code.

"Dash-dot! Dot! Dot-dash! Dot-dash-dot!"

"N--e--a--f." Mr. Grimm was still spelling it out.

Then came a perfect jumble. Mr. Grimm followed it with difficulty, a
difficulty utterly belied by the quizzical lines about his mouth. As he
caught it, it was like this: "J--5--n--s--e--f--v--a--t--5--f,"
followed by an arbitrary signal which is not in the Morse code:

Mr. Grimm carefully stored that jumble away in some recess of his brain,
along with the unknown signal.

"D--5--5--f," he read, and then, on to the end: "B--f--i--n--g
5--v--e--f w--h--e--n g g--5--e--s."

That was all, apparently. The soft clatter of the fan against the arm of
the chair ran on meaninglessly after that.

"May I bring you an ice?" Mr. Grimm asked at last.

"If you will, please," responded the senorita, "and when you come back
I'll reward you by presenting you to Miss Thorne. You'll find her
charming; and Mr. Cadwallader has monopolized her long enough."

Mr. Grimm bowed and left her. He had barely disappeared when Mr. Rankin
lounged along in front of Miss Thorne. He glanced at her, paused and
greeted her effusively.

"Why, Miss Thorne!" he exclaimed. "I'm delighted to see you here. I
understood you would not be present, and--"

Their hands met in a friendly clasp as she rose and moved away, with a
nod of excuse to Mr. Cadwallader. A thin slip of paper, thrice folded,
passed from Mr. Rankin to her. She tugged at her glove, and thrust the
little paper, still folded, inside the palm.

"Is it yes, or no?" Miss Thorne asked in a low tone.

"Frankly, I can't say," was the reply.

"He read the message," she explained hastily, "and now he has gone to
decipher it."

She gathered up her trailing skirts over one arm, and together they
glided away through the crowd to the strains of a Strauss waltz.

"I'm going to faint in a moment," she said quite calmly to Mr. Rankin.
"Please have me sent to the ladies' dressing-room."

"I understand," he replied quietly.



Mr. Grimm went straight to a quiet nook of the smoking-room and there,
after a moment, Mr. Campbell joined him. The bland benevolence of the
chief's face was disturbed by the slightest questioning uplift of his
brows as he dropped into a seat opposite Mr. Grimm, and lighted a cigar.
Mr. Grimm raised his hand, and a servant who stood near, approached

"An ice--here," Mr. Grimm directed tersely.

The servant bowed and disappeared, and Mr. Grimm hastily scribbled
something on a sheet of paper and handed it to his chief.

"There is a reading, in the Morse code, of a message that seems to be
unintelligible," Mr. Grimm explained. "I have reason to believe it is
in the Continental code. You know the Continental--I don't."

Mr. Campbell read this:

"St5ut man fed qaje neaf j5nsefvat5f," and then came the unknown,
dash-dot-dash-dash. "That," he explained, "is Y in the Continental
code." It went on: "d55f bfing 5vef when g g5es."

The chief read it off glibly:

"Stout man, red face, near conservatory door. Bring over when G goes."

"Very well!" commented Mr. Grimm ambiguously.

With no word of explanation, he rose and went out, pausing at the door
to take the ice which the servant was bringing in. The seat where he had
left Senorita Rodriguez was vacant; so was the chair where Miss Thorne
had been. He glanced about inquiringly, and a servant who stood stolidly
near the conservatory door approached him.

"Pardon, sir, but the lady who was sitting here," and he indicated the
chair where Miss Thorne had been sitting, "fainted while dancing, and
the lady who was with you went along when she was removed to the ladies'
dressing-room, sir."

Mr. Grimm's teeth closed with a little snap.

"Did you happen to notice any time this evening a stout gentleman, with
red face, near the conservatory door?" he asked.

The servant pondered a moment, then shook his head.

"No, sir."

"Thank you."

Mr. Grimm was just turning away, when there came the sharp, vibrant
cra-a-sh! of a revolver, somewhere off to his left. The president! That
was his first thought. One glance across the room to where the chief
executive stood, in conversation with two other gentlemen, reassured
him. The choleric blue eyes of the president had opened a little at the
sound, then he calmly resumed the conversation. Mr. Grimm impulsively
started toward the little group, but already a cordon was being drawn
there--a cordon of quiet-faced, keen-eyed men, unobstrusively forcing
their way through the crowd. There was Johnson, and Hastings, and Blair,
and half a dozen others.

The room had been struck dumb. The dancers stopped, with tense,
inquiring looks, and the plaintive whine of the orchestra, far away,
faltered, then ceased. There was one brief instant of utter silence in
which white-faced women clung to the arms of their escorts, and the
brilliant galaxy of colors halted. Then, after a moment, there came
clearly through the stillness, the excited, guttural command of the
German ambassador.

"Keep on blaying, you tam fools! Keep on blaying!"

The orchestra started again tremulously. Mr. Grimm nodded a silent
approval of the ambassador's command, then turned away toward his left,
in the direction of the shot. After the first dismay, there was a
general movement of the crowd in that direction, a movement which was
checked by Mr. Campbell's appearance upon a chair, with a smile on his
bland face.

"No harm done," he called. "One of the officers present dropped his
revolver, and it was accidently discharged. No harm done."

There was a moment's excited chatter, deep-drawn breaths of relief, the
orchestra swung again into the interrupted rhythm, and the dancers moved
on. Mr. Grimm went straight to his chief, who had stepped down from the
chair. Two other Secret Service men stood behind him, blocking the
doorway that opened into a narrow hall.

"This way," directed the chief tersely.

Mr. Grimm walked along beside him. They skirted the end of the ball-room
until they came to another door opening into the hall. Chief Campbell
pushed it open, and entered. One of his men stood just inside.

"What was it, Gray?" asked the chief.

"Senor Alvarez, of the Mexican legation, was shot," was the reply.


"Only wounded. He's in that room," and he indicated a door a little way
down the hall. "Fairchild, two servants, and a physician are with him."

"Who shot him?"

"Don't know. We found him lying in the hall here."

Still followed by Mr. Grimm, the chief entered the room, and together
they bent over the wounded man. The bullet had entered the torso just
below the ribs on the left side.

"It's a clean wound," the physician was explaining. "The bullet passed
through. There's no immediate danger."

Senor Alvarez opened his eyes, and stared about him in bewilderment;
then alarm overspread his face, and he made spasmodic efforts to reach
the inside breast pocket of his coat. Mr. Grimm obligingly thrust his
hand into the pocket and drew out its contents, the while Senor Alvarez
struggled frantically.

"Just a moment," Mr. Grimm advised quietly. "I'm only going to let you
see if it is here. Is it?"

He held the papers, one by one, in front of the wounded man, and each
time a shake of the head was his answer. At the last Senor Alvarez
closed his eyes again.

"What sort of paper was it?" inquired Mr. Grimm.

"None of your business," came the curt answer.

"Who shot you?"

"None of your business."

"A man?"

Senor Alvarez was silent.

"A woman?"

Still silence.

With some new idea Mr. Grimm turned away suddenly and started out into
the hall. He met a maid-servant at the door, coming in. Her face was
blanched, and she stuttered through sheer excitement.

"A lady, sir--a lady--" she began babblingly.

Mr. Grimm calmly closed the door, shutting in the wounded man, Chief
Campbell and the others. Then he caught the maid sharply by the arm and
shook some coherence into her disordered brain.

"A lady--she ran away, sir," the girl went on, in blank surprise.

"What lady?" demanded Mr. Grimm coldly. "Where did she run from? Why did
she run?" The maid stared at him with mouth agape. "Begin at the

"I was in that room, farther down the hall, sir," the maid explained.
"The door was open. I heard the shot, and it frightened me so--I don't
know--I was afraid to look out right away, sir. Then, an instant later,
a lady come running along the hall, sir--that way," and she indicated
the rear of the house. "Then I came to the door and looked out to see
who it was, and what was the matter, sir. I was standing there when a
man--a man came along after the lady, and banged the door in my face,
sir. The door had a spring lock, and I was so--so frightened and excited
I couldn't open it right away, sir, and--and when I did I came here to
see what was the matter." She drew a deep breath and stopped.

"That all?" demanded Mr. Grimm.

"Yes, sir, except--except the lady had a pistol in her hand, sir--"

Mr. Grimm regarded her in silence for a moment.

"Who was the lady?" he asked at last.

"I forget her name, sir. She was the lady who--who fainted in the
ball-room, sir, just a few minutes ago."

Whatever emotion may have been aroused within Mr. Grimm it certainly
found no expression in his face. When he spoke again his voice was quite

"Miss Thorne, perhaps?"

"Yes, sir, that's the name--Miss Thorne. I was in the ladies'
dressing-room when she was brought in, sir, and I remember some one
called her name."

Mr. Grimm took the girl, still a-quiver with excitement, and led her
along the hall to where Gray stood.

"Take this girl in charge, Gray," he directed. "Lock her up, if
necessary. Don't permit her to say one word to anybody--_anybody_ you
understand, except the chief."

Mr. Grimm left them there. He passed along the hall, glancing in each
room as he went, until he came to a short flight of stairs leading
toward the kitchen. He went on down silently. The lights were burning,
but the place was still, deserted. All the servants who belonged there
were evidently, for the moment, transferred to other posts. He passed on
through the kitchen and out the back door into the street.

A little distance away, leaning against a lamp-post, a man was
standing. He might have been waiting for a car. Mr. Grimm approached

"Beg pardon," he said, "did you see a woman come out of the back door,

"Yes, just a moment or so ago," replied the stranger. "She got into an
automobile at the corner. I imagine this is hers," and he extended a
handkerchief, a dainty, perfumed trifle of lace. "I picked it up
immediately after she passed."

Mr. Grimm took the handkerchief and examined it under the light. For a
time he was thoughtful, with lowered eyes, which, finally raised, met
those of the stranger with a scrutinizing stare.

"Why," asked Mr. Grimm slowly and distinctly, "why did you slam the door
in the girl's face?"

"Why did I--what?" came the answering question.

"Why did you slam the door in the girl's face?" Mr. Grimm repeated

The stranger stared in utter amazement--an amazement so frank, so
unacted, so genuine, that Mr. Grimm was satisfied.

"Did you see a man come out the door?" Mr. Grimm pursued.

"No. Say, young fellow, I guess you've had a little too much to drink,
haven't you?"

But by that time Mr. Grimm was turning the corner.



The bland serenity of Mr. Campbell's face was disturbed by thin, spidery
lines of perplexity, and the guileless blue eyes were vacant as he
stared at the top of his desk. Mr. Grimm was talking.

"From the moment Miss Thorne turned the corner I lost all trace of her,"
he said. "Either she had an automobile in waiting, or else she was lucky
enough to find one immediately she came out. She did not return to the
embassy ball last night--that much is certain." He paused reflectively.
"She is a guest of Senorita Inez Rodriguez at the Venezuelan legation,"
he added.

"Yes, I know," his chief nodded.

"I didn't attempt to see her there last night for two reasons," Mr.
Grimm continued. "First, she can have no possible knowledge of the fact
that she is suspected, unless perhaps the man who slammed the door--"
He paused. "Anyway, she will not attempt to leave Washington; I am
confident of that. Again, it didn't seem wise to me to employ the
ordinary crude police methods in the case--that is, go to the Venezuelan
legation and kick up a row."

For a long time Campbell was silent; the perplexed lines still furrowed
his benevolent forehead.

"The president is very anxious that we get to facts in this reported
Latin alliance as soon as possible," he said at last, irrelevantly. "He
mentioned the matter last night, and he has been keeping in constant
communication with Gault, in Lisbon, who, however, has not been able to
add materially to the original despatch. Under all the circumstances
don't you think it would be best for me to relieve you of the
investigation of this shooting affair so that you can concentrate on
this greater and more important thing?"

"Will Senor Alvarez die?" asked Mr. Grimm in turn.

"His condition is serious, although the wound is not necessarily fatal,"
was the reply.

Mr. Grimm arose, stretched his long legs and stood for a little while
gazing out the window. Finally he turned to his chief:

"What do we know, here in the bureau, about Miss Thorne?"

"Thus far the reports on her are of the usual perfunctory nature," Mr.
Campbell explained. He drew a card from a pigeonhole of his desk and
glanced at it. "She arrived in Washington two weeks and two days ago
from New York, off the _Lusitania_, from Liverpool. She brought some
sort of an introduction to Count di Rosini, the Italian ambassador, and
he obtained for her a special invitation to the state ball, which was
held that night. Until four days ago she was a guest at the Italian
embassy, but now, as you know, is a guest at the Venezuelan legation.
Since her arrival here she has been prominently pushed forward into
society; she has gone everywhere, and been received everywhere in the
diplomatic set. We have no knowledge of her beyond this."

There was a question in Mr. Grimm's listless eyes as they met those of
his chief. The same line of thought was running in both their minds,
born, perhaps, of the association of ideas--Italy as one of three great
nations known to be in the Latin compact; Prince Benedetto d'Abruzzi, of
Italy, the secret envoy of three countries; the sudden appearance of
Miss Thorne at the Italian embassy. And in the mind of the younger man
there was more than this--a definite knowledge of a message cunningly
transmitted to Mr. Rankin, of the German embassy, by Miss Thorne there
in the ball-room.

"Can you imagine--" he asked slowly, "can you imagine a person who would
be of more value to the Latin governments in Washington right at this
stage of the negotiations than a brilliant woman agent?"

"I most certainly can not," was the chief's unhesitating response.

"In that case I _don't_ think it would be wise to transfer the
investigation of the shooting affair to another man," said Mr. Grimm
emphatically, reverting to his chief's question. "I think, on the
contrary, we should find out more about Miss Thorne."

"Precisely," Campbell agreed.

"Ask all the great capitals about her--Madrid, Paris and Rome,
particularly; then, perhaps, London and Berlin and St. Petersburg."

Mr. Campbell thoughtfully scribbled the names of the cities on a slip of

"Do you intend to arrest Miss Thorne for the shooting?" he queried.

"I don't know," replied Mr. Grimm frankly. "I don't know," he repeated
musingly. "If I _do_ arrest her immediately I may cut off a clue which
will lead to the other affair. I don't know," he concluded.

"Use your own judgment, and bear in mind that a man--_a man_ slammed
the door in the maid's face."

"I shall not forget him," Mr. Grimm answered. "Now I'm going over to
talk to Count di Rosini for a while."

The young man went out, thoughtfully tugging at his gloves. The Italian
ambassador received him with an inquiring uplift of his dark brows.

"I came to make some inquiries in regard to Miss Thorne--Miss Isabel
Thorne," Mr. Grimm informed him frankly.

The count was surprised, but it didn't appear in his face.

"As I understand it," the young man pursued, "you are sponsor for her in

The count, evasively diplomatic, born and bred in a school of caution,
considered the question from every standpoint.

"It may be that I am so regarded," he admitted at last.

"May I inquire if the sponsorship is official, personal, social, or all
three?" Mr. Grimm continued.

There was silence for a long time.

"I don't see the trend of your questioning," said the ambassador
finally. "Miss Thorne is worthy of my protection in every way."

"Let's suppose a case," suggested Mr. Grimm blandly. "Suppose Miss
Thorne had--had, let us say, shot a man, and he was about to die, would
you feel justified in withdrawing that--that protection, as you call

"Such a thing is preposterous!" exclaimed the ambassador. "The utter
absurdity of such a charge would impel me to offer her every

Mr. Grimm nodded.

"And if it were proved to your satisfaction that she _did_ shoot him?"
he went on evenly.

The count's lips were drawn together in a straight line.

"Whom, may I ask," he inquired frigidly, "are we supposing that Miss
Thorne shot?"

"No one, particularly," Mr. Grimm assured him easily. "Just suppose
that she _had_ shot anybody--me, say, or Senor Alvarez?"

"I can't answer a question so ridiculous as that."

"And suppose we go a little further," Mr. Grimm insisted pleasantly,
"and assume that you _knew_ she _had_ shot some one, say Senor Alvarez,
and you _could_ protect her from the consequences, _would_ you?"

"I decline to suppose anything so utterly absurd," was the rejoinder.

Mr. Grimm sat with his elbows on his knees, idly twisting a seal ring on
his little finger. The searching eyes of the ambassador found his face
blankly inscrutable.

"Diplomatic representatives in Washington have certain obligations to
this government," the young man reminded him. "We--that is, the
government of the United States--undertake to guarantee the personal
safety of every accredited representative; in return for that
protection we must insist upon the name and identity of a dangerous
person who may be known to any foreign representative. Understand,
please, I'm not asserting that Miss Thorne is a dangerous person. You
are sponsor for her here. Is she, in every way, worthy of your

"Yes," said the ambassador flatly.

"I can take it, then, that the introduction she brought to you is from a
person whose position is high enough to insure Miss Thorne's position?"

"That is correct."

"Very well!"

And Mr. Grimm went away.



Some vague, indefinable shadow darkened Miss Thorne's clear, blue-gray
eyes, in sharp contrast to the glow of radiant health in her cheeks, as
she stepped from an automobile in front of the Venezuelan legation, and
ran lightly up the steps. A liveried servant opened the door.

"A gentleman is waiting for you, Madam," he announced. "His card is here
on the--"

"I was expecting him," she interrupted.

"Which room, please?"

"The blue room, Madam."

Miss Thorne passed along the hallway which led to a suite of small
drawing-rooms opening on a garden in the rear, pushed aside the
portieres, and entered.

"I'm sorry I've kept you--" she began, and then, in a tone of surprise:
"I beg your pardon."

A gentleman rose and bowed gravely.

"I am Mr. Grimm of the Secret Service," he informed her with frank
courtesy. "I am afraid you were expecting some one else; I handed my
card to the footman."

For an instant the blue-gray eyes opened wide in astonishment, and then
some quick, subtle change swept over Miss Thorne's face. She smiled
graciously and motioned him to a seat.

"This is quite a different meeting from the one Senorita Rodriguez had
planned, isn't it?" she asked.

There was a taunting curve on her scarlet lips; the shadow passed from
her eyes; her slim, white hands lay idle in her lap. Mr. Grimm regarded
her reflectively. There was a determination of steel back of this
charming exterior; there was an indomitable will, a keen brain, and all
of a woman's intuition to reckon with. She was silent, with a
questioning upward slant of her arched brows.

"I am not mistaken in assuming that you are a secret agent of the
Italian government, am I?" he queried finally.

"No," she responded readily.

"In that event I may speak with perfect frankness?" he went on. "It
would be as useless as it would be absurd to approach the matter in any
other manner?" It was a question.

Miss Thorne was still smiling, but again the vague, indefinable shadow,
momentarily lifted, darkened her eyes.

"You may be frank, of course," she said pleasantly. "Please go on."

"Senor Alvarez was shot at the German Embassy Ball last night," Mr.
Grimm told her.

Miss Thorne nodded, as if in wonder.

"Did you, or did you not, shoot him?"

It was quite casual. She received the question without change of
countenance, but involuntarily she caught her breath. It might have
been a sigh of relief.

"Why do you come to me with such a query?" she asked in turn.

"I beg your pardon," interposed Mr. Grimm steadily. "Did you, or did you
not, shoot him?"

"No, of course I didn't shoot him," was the reply. If there was any
emotion in the tone it was merely impatience. "Why do you come to me?"
she repeated.

"Why do I come to you?" Mr. Grimm echoed the question, while his
listless eyes rested on her face. "I will be absolutely frank, as I feel
sure you would be under the same circumstances." He paused a moment; she
nodded. "Well, immediately after the shooting you ran along the hallway
with a revolver in your hand; you ran down the steps into the kitchen,
and out through the back door, where you entered an automobile. That is
not conjecture; it is susceptible of proof by eye witnesses."

Miss Thorne rose suddenly with a queer, helpless little gesture of her
arms, and walked to the window. She stood there for a long time with her
hands clasped behind her back.

"That brings us to another question," Mr. Grimm continued mercilessly.
"If you did not shoot Senor Alvarez, do you know who did?"

There was another long pause.

"I want to believe you, Miss Thorne," he supplemented.

She turned quickly with something of defiance in her attitude.

"Yes, I know," she said slowly. "It were useless to deny it."

"Who was it?"

"I won't tell you."

Mr. Grimm leaned forward in his chair, and spoke earnestly.

"Understand, please, that by that answer you assume equal guilt with the
person who actually did the shooting," he explained. "If you adhere to
it you compel me to regard you as an accomplice." His questioning took a
different line.

"Will you explain how the revolver came into your possession?"

"Oh, I--I picked it up in the hallway there," she replied vaguely.

"I want to believe you, Miss Thorne," Mr. Grimm said again.

"You may. I picked it up in the hallway," she repeated. "I saw it lying
there and picked it up."

"Why that, instead of giving an alarm?"

"No alarm was necessary. The shot itself was an alarm."

"Then why," Mr. Grimm persisted coldly, "did you run along the hallway
and escape by way of the kitchen? If you did not do the shooting, why
the necessity of escape, carrying the revolver?"

There was that in the blue-gray eyes which brought Mr. Grimm to his
feet. His hands gripped each other cruelly; his tone was calm as always.

"Why did you take the revolver?" he asked.

Miss Thorne's head drooped forward a little, and she was silent.

"There are only two possibilities, of course," he went on. "First, that
you, in spite of your denial, did the shooting."

"I did not!" The words fairly burst from her tightly closed lips.

"Or that you knew the revolver, and took it to save the person, man or
woman, who fired the shot. I will assume, for the moment, that this is
correct. Where is the revolver?"

From the adjoining room there came a slight noise, a faint breath of
sound; or it might have been only an echo of silence. Their eyes were
fixed each upon the others unwaveringly, with not a flicker to indicate
that either had heard. After a moment Miss Thorne returned to her chair
and sat down.

"It's rather a singular situation, isn't it, Mr. Grimm?" she inquired
irrelevantly. "You, Mr. Grimm of the Secret Service of the United
States; I, Isabel Thorne, a secret agent of Italy together here, one
accusing the other of a crime, and perhaps with good reason."

"Where is the revolver?" Mr. Grimm insisted.

"If you were any one else _but_ you! I could not afford to be frank with
you and--"

"If you had been any one else but _you_ I should have placed you under
arrest when I entered the room."

She smiled, and inclined her head.

"I understand," she said pleasantly. "For the reason that you are Mr.
Grimm of the Secret Service I shall tell you the truth. I _did_ take the
revolver because I knew who had fired the shot. Believe me when I tell
you that that person did not act with my knowledge or consent. You do
believe that? You do?" She was pleading, eager to convince him.

After a while Mr. Grimm nodded.

"The revolver is beyond your reach and shall remain so," she resumed.
"According to your laws I suppose I am an accomplice. That is my
misfortune. It will in no way alter my determination to keep silent. If
I am arrested I can't help it." She studied his face with hopeful eyes.
"Am I to be arrested?"

"Where is the paper that was taken from Senor Alvarez immediately after
he was shot?" Mr. Grimm queried.

"I don't know," she replied frankly.

"As I understand it, then, the motive for the shooting was to obtain
possession of that paper? For your government?"

"The individual who shot Senor Alvarez _did_ obtain the paper, yes. And
now, please, am I to be arrested?"

"And just what was the purpose, may I inquire, of the message you
telegraphed with your fan in the ball-room?"

"You read that?" exclaimed Miss Thorne in mock astonishment. "You read

"And the man who read that message? Perhaps he shot the senor?"

"Perhaps," she taunted.

For a long time Mr. Grimm stood staring at her, staring, staring. She,
too, rose, and faced him quietly.

"Am I to be arrested?" she asked again.

"Why do you make me do it?" he demanded.

"That is my affair."

Mr. Grimm laid a hand upon her arm, a hand that had never known
nervousness. A moment longer he stared, and then:

"Madam, you are my prisoner for the attempted murder of Senor Alvarez!"

The rings on the portieres behind him clicked sharply, and the draperies
parted. Mr. Grimm stood motionless, with his hand on Miss Thorne's arm.

"You were inquiring a moment ago for a revolver," came in a man's voice.
"Here it is!"

Mr. Grimm found himself inspecting the weapon from the barrel end. After
a moment his glance shifted to the blazing eyes of the man who held
it--a young man, rather slight, with clean-cut, aristocratic features,
and of the pronounced Italian type.

[Illustration: He found himself inspecting the weapon from the barrel

"My God!" The words came from Miss Thorne's lips almost in a scream.

"I did make some inquiries about a revolver, yes," Mr. Grimm interrupted
quietly. "Is this the one?"

He raised his hand quite casually, and his fingers closed like steel
around the weapon. Behind his back Miss Thorne made some quick emphatic
gesture, and the new-comer released the revolver.

"I shall ask you, please, to free Miss Thorne," he requested
courteously. "I shot Senor Alvarez. I, too, am a secret agent of the
Italian government, willing and able to defend myself. Miss Thorne has
told you the truth; she had nothing whatever to do with it. She took the
weapon and escaped because it was mine. Here is the paper that was taken
from Senor Alvarez," and he offered a sealed envelope. "I have read it;
it is not what I expected. You may return it to Senor Alvarez with my

After a moment Mr. Grimm's hand fell away from Miss Thorne's arm, and
he regarded the new-comer with an interest in which admiration, even,
played a part.

"Your name?" he asked finally.

"Pietro Petrozinni," was the ready reply. "As I say, I accept all

A few minutes later Mr. Grimm and his prisoner passed out of the
legation side by side, and strolled down the street together, in
amicable conversation. Half an hour later Senor Alvarez identified
Pietro Petrozinni as the man who shot him; and the maid servant
expressed a belief that he was the man who slammed the door in her face.



"And the original question remains unanswered," remarked Mr. Campbell.

"The original question?" repeated Mr. Grimm.

"_Where_ is Prince Benedetto d'Abruzzi, the secret envoy?" his chief
reminded him.

"I wonder!" mused the young man.

"If the Latin compact is signed in the United States--?"

"The Latin compact will _not_ be signed in the United States," Mr. Grimm
interrupted. And then, after a moment: "Have we received any further
reports on Miss Thorne? I mean reports from our foreign agents?"

The chief shook his head.

"Inevitably, by some act or word, she will lead us to the prince,"
declared Mr. Grimm, "and the moment he is known to us everything becomes
plain sailing. We know she _is_ a secret agent--I expected a denial, but
she was quite frank about it. And I had no intention whatever of placing
her under arrest. I knew some one was in the adjoining room because of a
slight noise in there, and I knew she knew it. She raised her voice a
little, obviously for the benefit of whoever was there. From that point
everything I said and did was to compel that person, whoever it was, to
show himself."

His chief nodded, understandingly. Mr. Grimm was silent for a little,
then went on:

"The last possibility in my mind at that moment," he confessed, "was
that the person in there was the man who shot Senor Alvarez. Frankly I
had half an idea that--that it might be the prince in person." Suddenly
his mood changed: "And now our lady of mystery may come and go as she
likes because I know, even if a dozen of our men have ransacked
Washington in vain for the prince, she will inevitably lead us to him.
And that reminds me: I should like to borrow Blair, and Hastings, and
Johnson. Please plant them so they may keep constant watch on Miss
Thorne. Let them report to you, and, wherever I am, I will reach you
over the 'phone."

"By the way, what was in that sealed packet that was taken from Senor
Alvarez?" Campbell inquired curiously.

"It had something to do with some railroad franchises," responded Mr.
Grimm as he rose. "I sealed it again and returned it to the senor.
Evidently it was not what Signor Petrozinni expected to find--in fact,
he admitted it wasn't what he was looking for."

For a little while the two men gazed thoughtfully, each into the eyes of
the other, then Mr. Grimm entered his private office where he sat for an
hour with his immaculate boots on his desk, thinking. A world-war--he
had been thrust forward by his government to prevent it--subtle
blue-gray eyes--his Highness, Prince Benedetto d'Abruzzi--a haunting
smile and scarlet lips.

At about the moment he rose to go out, Miss Thorne, closely veiled, left
the Venezuelan legation and walked rapidly down the street to a corner,
where, without a word, she entered a waiting automobile. The wheels spun
and the car leaped forward. For a mile or more it wound aimlessly in and
out, occasionally bisecting its own path; finally Miss Thorne leaned
forward and touched the chauffeur on the arm.

"Now!" she said.

The car straightened out into a street of stately residences and
scuttled along until the placid bosom of the Potomac came into view;
beside that for a few minutes, then over the bridge to the Virginia
side, in the dilapidated little city of Alexandria. The car did not
slacken its speed, but wound in and out through dingy streets, past
tumble-down negro huts, for half an hour before it came to a standstill
in front of an old brick mansion.

"This is number ninety-seven," the chauffeur announced.

Miss Thorne entered the house with a key and was gone for ten minutes,
perhaps. She was readjusting her veil when she came out and stepped into
the car silently. Again it moved forward, on to the end of the dingy
street, and finally into the open country. Three, four, five miles,
perhaps, out the old Baltimore Road, and again the car stopped, this
time in front of an ancient colonial farm-house.

Outwardly the place seemed to be deserted. The blinds, battered and
stripped of paint by wind and rain, were all closed, and one corner of
the small veranda had crumbled away from age and neglect. A narrow path,
strewn with pine needles, led tortuously up to the door. In the rear of
the house, rising from an old barn, a thin pole with a cup-like
attachment at the apex, thrust its point into the open above the dense,
odorous pines. It appeared to be a wireless mast. Miss Thorne passed
around the house, and entered the barn.

A man came forward and kissed her--a thin, little man of indeterminate
age--drying his hands on a piece of cotton waste. His face was pale with
the pallor of one who knows little outdoor life, his eyes deep-set and
a-glitter with some feverish inward fire, and the thin lips were pressed
together in a sharp line. Behind him was a long bench on which were
scattered tools of various sorts, fantastically shaped chemical
apparatus, two or three electric batteries of odd sizes, and ranged
along one end of it, in a row, were a score or more metal spheroids, a
shade larger than a one-pound shell. From somewhere in the rear came the
clatter of a small gasoline engine, and still farther away was an
electric dynamo.

"Is the test arranged, Rosa?" the little man queried eagerly in Italian.

"The date is not fixed yet," she replied in the same language. "It will
be, I hope, within the next two weeks. And then--"

"Fame and fortune for both of us," he interrupted with quick enthusiasm.
"Ah, Rosa, I have worked and waited so long for this, and now it will
come, and with it the dominion of the world again by our country. How
will I know when the date is fixed? It would not be well to write me

My lady of mystery stroked the slender, nervous hand caressingly, and a
great affection shone in the blue-gray eyes.

"At eight o'clock on the night of the test," she explained, still
speaking Italian, "a single light will appear at the apex of the capitol
dome in Washington. That is the signal agreed upon; it can be seen by
all in the city, and is visible here from the window of your bedroom."

"Yes, yes," he exclaimed. The feverish glitter in his eyes deepened.

"If there is a fog, of course you will not attempt the test," she went

"No, not in a fog," he put in quickly. "It must be clear."

"And if it is clear you can see the light in the dome without

"And all your plans are working out well?"

"Yes. And yours?"

"I don't think there is any question but that both England and the
United States will buy. Do you know what it means? Do you know what it
means?" He was silent a moment, his hands working nervously. Then, with
an effort: "And his Highness?"

"His Highness is safe." The subtle eyes grew misty, thoughtful for a
moment, then cleared again. "He is safe," she repeated.

"Mexico and Venezuela were--?" he began.

"We don't know, yet, what they will do. The Venezuelan answer is locked
in the safe at the legation; I will know what it is within forty-eight
hours." She was silent a little. "Our difficulty now, our greatest
difficulty, is the hostility of the French ambassador to the compact.
His government has not yet notified him of the presence of Prince
d'Abruzzi; he does not believe in the feasibility of the plan, and we
have to--to proceed to extremes to prevent him working against us."

"But they _must_ see the incalculable advantages to follow upon such a
compact, with the vast power that will be given to them over the whole
earth by this." He indicated the long, littered work-table. "They _must_
see it."

"They will see it, Luigi," said Miss Thorne gently. "And now, how are
you? Are you well? Are you comfortable? It's such a dreary old place

"I suppose so," he replied, and he met the solicitous blue-gray eyes for
an instant. "Yes, I am quite comfortable," he added. "I have no time to
be otherwise with all the work I must do. It will mean so much!"

They were both silent for a time. Finally Miss Thorne walked over to the
long table and curiously lifted one of the spheroids. It was a sinister
looking thing, nickeled, glittering. At one end of it was a delicate,
vibratory apparatus, not unlike the transmitter of a telephone, and the
other end was threaded, as if the spheroid was made as an attachment to
some other device.

"With that we control the world!" exclaimed the man triumphantly. "And
it's mine, Rosa, mine!"

"It's wonderful!" she mused softly. "Wonderful! And now I must go. I may
not see you again until after the test, because I shall be watched and
followed wherever I go. If I get an opportunity I shall reach you by
telephone, but not even that unless it is necessary. There is always
danger, always danger!" she repeated thoughtfully. She was thinking of
Mr. Grimm.

"I understand," said the man simply.

"And look out for the signal--the light in the apex of the capitol
dome," she went on. "I understand the night must be perfectly clear; and
_you_ understand that the test is to be made promptly at three o'clock
by your chronometer?"

"At three o'clock," he repeated.

For a moment they stood with their arms around each other, then tenderly
his visitor kissed him, and went out. He remained looking after her
vacantly until the chug-chug of her automobile, as it moved off down the
road, was lost in the distance, then turned again to the long



From a pleasant, wide-open bay-window of her apartments on the second
floor, Miss Thorne looked out upon the avenue with inscrutable eyes.
Behind the closely drawn shutters of another bay-window, farther down
the avenue, on the corner, she knew a man named Hastings was hiding; she
knew that for an hour or more he had been watching her as she wrote. In
the other direction, in a house near the corner, another man named Blair
was similarly ensconced, and he, too, had been watching as she wrote.
There should be a third man, Johnson. Miss Thorne curiously studied the
face of each passer-by, seeking therein something to remember.

She sat at the little mahogany desk and a note with the ink yet wet
upon it lay face up before her. It was addressed to Signor Pietro
Petrozinni in the district prison, and read:

"My Dear Friend:

"I have been waiting to write you with the hope that I could report
Senor Alvarez out of danger, but his condition, I regret to say, remains
unchanged. Shall I send an attorney to you? Would you like a book of any
kind? Or some delicacy sent in from a restaurant? Can I be of any
service to you in any way? If I can please drop me a line.


"Isabel Thorne."

At last she rose and standing in the window read the note over, folded
it, placed it in an envelope and sealed it. A maid came in answer to her
ring, and there at the window, under the watchful eyes of Blair and
Hastings--and, perhaps, Johnson--she handed the note to the maid with
instructions to mail it immediately. Two minutes later she saw the maid
go out along the avenue to a post-box on the corner.

Then she drew back into the shadow of the room, slipped on a
dark-colored wrap, and, standing away from the window, safe beyond the
reach of prying eyes, waited patiently for the postman. He appeared
about five o'clock and simultaneously another man turned the corner near
the post-box and spoke to him. Then, together, they disappeared from
view around the corner.

"So that's Johnson, is it?" mused Miss Thorne, and she smiled a little.
"Mr. Grimm certainly pays me the compliment of having me carefully

A few minutes later she dropped into the seat at the desk again. The
dark wrap had been thrown aside and Hastings and Blair from their
hiding-places could see her distinctly. After a while they saw her rise
quickly, as an automobile turned into the avenue, and lean toward the
window eagerly looking out. The car came to a standstill in front of the
legation, and Mr. Cadwallader, an under-secretary of the British
embassy, who was alone in the car, raised his cap. She nodded and
smiled, then disappeared in the shadows of the room again.

Mr. Cadwallader went to the door, spoke to the servant there, then
returned and busied himself about the car. Hastings and Blair watched
intently both the door and the window for a long time; finally a closely
veiled and muffled figure appeared at the bay-window, and waved a gloved
hand at Mr. Cadwallader, who again lifted his cap. A minute later the
veiled woman came out of the front door, shook hands with Mr.
Cadwallader, and got in the car. He also climbed in, and the car moved
slowly away.

Simultaneously the front door of the house on the corner, where Hastings
had been hiding, and the front door of the house near the corner, where
Blair had been hiding, opened and two heads peered out. As the car
approached Hastings' hiding-place he withdrew into the hallway; but
Blair came out and hurried past the legation in the direction of the
rapidly disappearing motor. Hastings joined him; they spoke together,
then turned the corner.

It was about ten o'clock that night when Hastings reported to Mr.
Campbell at his home.

"We followed the car in a rented automobile from the time it turned the
corner, out through Alexandria, and along the old Baltimore Road into
the city of Baltimore," he explained. "It was dark by the time we
reached Alexandria, but we stuck to the car ahead, running without
lights until we came in sight of Druid Hill Park, and then we had to
show lights or be held up. We covered those forty miles going in less
than two hours.

"After the car passed Druid Hill it slowed up a little, and ran off the
turnpike into North Avenue, then into North Charles Street, and slowly
along that as if they were looking for a number. At last it stopped and
Miss Thorne got out and entered a house. She was gone for more than half
an hour, leaving Mr. Cadwallader with the car. While she was gone I made
some inquiries and learned that the house was occupied by a Mr. Thomas
Q. Griswold. I don't know anything else about him; Blair may have
learned something.

"Now comes the curious part of it," and Hastings looked a little
sheepish. "When Miss Thorne came out of the house she was not Miss
Thorne at all--_she was Senorita Inez Rodriguez_, daughter of the
Venezuelan minister. She wore the same clothing Miss Thorne had worn
going, but her veil was lifted. Veiled and all muffled up one would have
taken oath it was the same woman. She and Cadwallader are back in
Washington now, or are coming. That's all, except Blair is still in
Baltimore, awaiting orders. I caught the train from the Charles Street
station and came back. Johnson, you know--"

"Yes, I've seen Johnson," interrupted Campbell. "Are you absolutely
positive that the woman you saw get into the automobile with Mr.
Cadwallader was Miss Thorne?"

"Absolutely," replied Hastings without hesitation. "I saw her in her
own room with her wraps on, then saw her come down and get into the

"That's all," said the chief. "Good night." For an hour or more he sat
in a great, comfortable chair in the smoking-room of his own home, the
guileless blue eyes vacant, staring, and spidery lines in the benevolent

* * * * *

On the morning of the second day following, Senor Rodriguez, the
minister from Venezuela, reported to the Secret Service Bureau the
disappearance of fifty thousand dollars in gold from a safe in his
private office at the legation.



Mr. Campbell was talking.

"For several months past," he said, "the International Investment
Company, through its representative, Mr. Cressy, has been secretly
negotiating with Senor Rodriguez for certain asphalt properties in
Venezuela. Three days ago these negotiations were successfully
concluded, and yesterday afternoon Mr. Cressy, in secret, paid to Senor
Rodriguez, fifty thousand dollars in American gold, the first of four
payments of similar sums. This gold was to have been shipped to
Philadelphia by express to-day to catch a steamer for Venezuela." Mr.
Grimm nodded.

"The fact that this gold was in Senor Rodriguez's possession could not
have been known to more than half a dozen persons, as the negotiations
throughout have been in strict secrecy," and Mr. Campbell smiled
benignly. "So much! Now, Senor Rodriguez has just telephoned asking that
I send a man to the legation at once. The gold was kept there over
night; or perhaps I should say that the senor intended to keep it there
over night." Mr. Campbell stared at Mr. Grimm for a moment, then: "Miss
Thorne, you know, is a guest at the legation, that is why I am referring
the matter to you."

"I understand," said Mr. Grimm.

And ten minutes later Mr. Grimm presented himself to Senor Rodriguez.
The minister from Venezuela, bubbling with excitement, was pacing forth
and back across his office, ruffling his gray-black hair with nervous,
twining fingers. Mr. Grimm sat down.

"Senor," he inquired placidly, "fifty thousand dollars in gold would
weigh nearly two hundred pounds, wouldn't it?"

Senor Rodriguez stared at him blankly.

"_Si, Senor_," he agreed absently. And then, in English: "Yes, I should
imagine so."

"Well, was all of it stolen, or only a part of it?" Mr. Grimm went on.

The minister gazed into the listless eyes for a time, then, apparently
bewildered, walked forth and back across the room again. Finally he sat

"All of it," he admitted. "I can't understand it. No one, not a soul in
this house, except myself, knew it was here."

"In addition to this weight of, say two hundred pounds, fifty thousand
dollars would make considerable bulk," mused Mr. Grimm. "Very well!
Therefore it would appear that the person, or persons, who got it must
have gone away from here heavily laden?"

Senor Rodriguez nodded.

"And now, Senor," Mr. Grimm continued, "if you will kindly state the
circumstances immediately preceding and following the theft?"

A slight frown which had been growing upon the smooth brow of the
diplomatist was instantly dissipated.

"The money--fifty thousand dollars in gold coin--was paid to me
yesterday afternoon about four o'clock," he began slowly, in

"By Mr. Cressy of the International Investment Company," supplemented
Mr. Grimm. "Yes. Go on."

The diplomatist favored the young man with one sharp, inquiring glance,
and continued:

"The gentleman who paid the money remained here from four until nine
o'clock while I, personally, counted it. As I counted it I placed it in
canvas bags and when he had gone I took these bags from this room into
that," he indicated a closed door to his right, "and personally stowed
them away in the safe. I closed and locked the door of the safe myself;
I _know_ that it _was_ locked. And that's all, except this morning the
money was gone--every dollar of it."

"Safe blown?" inquired Mr. Grimm.

"No, Senor!" exclaimed the diplomatist with sudden violence. "No, the
safe was not blown! It was _closed and locked_, exactly as I had left

Mr. Grimm was idly twisting the seal ring on his little finger.

"Just as I left it!" Senor Rodriguez repeated excitedly. "Last night
after I locked the safe door I tried it to make certain that it _was_
locked. I happened to notice then that the pointer on the dial had
stopped precisely at number forty-five. This morning, when I unlocked
the safe--and, of course, I didn't know then that the money had been
taken--the pointer was still at number forty-five."

He paused with one hand in the air; Mr. Grimm continued to twist the
seal ring.

"It was all like--like some trick on the stage," the minister went on,
"like the magician's disappearing lady, or--or--! It was as though I had
not put the money into the safe at all!"

"Did you?" inquired Mr. Grimm amiably.

"Did I?" blazed Senor Rodriguez. "Why, Senor--! I did!" he concluded

Mr. Grimm believed him.

"Who else knows the combination of the safe?" he queried.

"No one, Senor--not a living soul."

"Your secretary, for instance?"

"Not even my secretary."

"Some servant--some member of your family?"

"I tell you, Senor, not one person in all the world knew that
combination except myself," Senor Rodriguez insisted.

"Your secretary--a servant--some member of your family might have seen
you unlock the safe some time, and thus learned the combination?"

Senor Rodriguez did not quite know whether to be annoyed at Mr. Grimm's
persistence, or to admire the tenacity with which he held to this one

"You must understand, Senor Grimm, that many state documents are kept
in the safe," he said finally, "therefore it is not advisable that any
one should know the combination. I have made it an absolute rule, as did
my predecessors here, never to unlock the safe in the presence of
another person."

"State documents!" Mr. Grimm's lips silently repeated the words. Then
aloud: "Perhaps there's a record of the combination somewhere? If you
had died suddenly, for instance, how would the safe have been opened?"

"There would have been only one way, Senor--blow it open. There is no

"Well, if we accept all that as true," observed Mr. Grimm musingly, "it
would seem that you either didn't put the money into the safe at all,
or--please sit down, there's nothing personal in this--or else the money
was taken out of the safe without it being unlocked. This last would
have been a miracle, and this is not the day of miracles, therefore--!"

Mr. Grimm's well modulated voice trailed off into silence. Senor
Rodriguez came to his feet with a blaze of anger in his eyes; Mr. Grimm
was watching him curiously.

"I understand then, Senor," said the minister deliberately, "that you
believe that I--!"

"I believe that you have told the truth," interrupted Mr. Grimm
placidly, "that is the truth so far as you know it. But you have stated
one thing in error. Somebody besides yourself _does_ know the
combination. Whether they knew it or not at this time yesterday I can't
say, but somebody knows it now."

Senor Rodriguez drew a deep breath of relief. The implied accusation had
been withdrawn as pleasantly and frankly as it had been put forward.

"I ran across a chap in New York once, for instance," Mr. Grimm took the
trouble to explain, "who could unlock any safe--that is, any safe of the
kind used at that time--twelve or fourteen years ago. So you see. I
doubt if he would be so successful with the new models, with all their
improvements, but then--! You know he would have made an ideal burglar,
that chap. Now, Senor, who lives here in the legation with you?"

"My secretary, Senor Diaz, my daughter Inez, and just at the moment, a
Miss Thorne--Miss Isabel Thorne," the senor informed him. "Also four
servants--two men and two women."

"I've had the pleasure of meeting your daughter and Miss Thorne," Mr.
Grimm informed him. "Now, suppose we take a look at the safe?"


Senor Rodriguez started toward the closed door just as there came a
timid knock from the hall. He glanced at Mr. Grimm, who nodded, then he

"Come in!"

The door opened, and Miss Thorne entered. She was clad in some filmy,
gossamer-like morning gown with her radiant hair caught up on her white
neck. At sight of Mr. Grimm the blue-gray eyes opened as if in
surprise, and she paused irresolutely.

"I beg your pardon, Senor," she said, addressing the diplomatist. "I did
not know you were engaged. And Mr. Grimm!" She extended a slim, white
hand, and the young man bowed low over it. "We are old friends," she
explained, smilingly, to the minister. Then: "I think I must have
dropped my handkerchief when I was in here yesterday with Inez. Perhaps
you found it?"

"_Si, Senorita_," replied Senor Rodriguez gallantly. "It is on my desk
in here. Just a moment."

He opened the door and passed into the adjoining room. Mr. Grimm's eyes
met those of Miss Isabel Thorne, and there was no listlessness in them
now, only interest. She smiled at him tauntingly and lowered her lids.
Senor Rodriguez appeared from the other room with the handkerchief.

"_Mil gracias, Senor_," she thanked him.

"_No hay de que, Senorita_," he returned, as he opened the door for

"_Monsieur Grimm, au revoir_!" She dropped a little curtsey, and still
smiling, went out.

"She is charming, Senor," the diplomatist assured him enthusiastically,
albeit irrelevantly. "Such vivacity, such personality, such--such--she
is charming."

"The safe, please," Mr. Grimm reminded him.



Together they entered the adjoining room, which was small compared to
the one they had just left. Senor Rodriguez used it as a private office.
His desk was on their right between two windows overlooking the same
pleasant little garden which was visible from the suite of tiny
drawing-rooms farther along. The safe, a formidable looking receptacle
of black enameled steel, stood at their left, closed and locked. The
remaining wall space of the room was given over to oak cabinets,
evidently a storage place for the less important legation papers.

"Has any one besides yourself been in this room to-day?" Mr. Grimm

"Not a soul, Senor," was the reply.

Mr. Grimm went over and examined the windows. They were both locked
inside; and there were no marks of any sort on the sills.

"They are just as I left them last night," explained Senor Rodriguez. "I
have not touched them to-day."

"And there's only one door," mused Mr. Grimm, meaning that by which they
had entered. "So it would appear that whoever was here last night
entered through that room. Very well."

He walked around the room once, opening and shutting the doors of the
cabinets as he passed, and finally paused in front of the safe. A brief
examination of the nickeled dial and handle and of the enameled edges of
the heavy door satisfied him that no force had been employed--the safe
had merely been unlocked. Whereupon he sat himself down, cross-legged on
the floor, in front of it.

"What are the first and second figures of the combination?" he asked.


Back to Full Books