L. P. M.
J. Stewart Barney
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Eric Casteleijn, Cam Venezuela, Charles M. Bidwell,
Thomas Hutchinson, Suzanne L. Shell, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
[Illustration: "COUNT VON HEMELSTEIN," THE AMERICAN SAID LAZILY,
"I WAS JUST THINKING WHAT A STUNNING BOOK-COVER YOU WOULD
MAKE FOR A CHEAP NOVEL." Drawn by Clarence F. Underwood.]
L. P. M.
The End of the Great War
J. Stewart Barney
With a Frontispiece by
Clarence F. Underwood
_THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED_
TO MY REAL FRIENDS, WHO MAY LOVE IT.
WHILE THE OTHERS IT MAY BORE;
TO MY ENEMIES, GOD BLESS THEM,
THO' THEY SPLUTTER, MORE AND MORE.
I.--THE MAN AND THE HOUR
II.--THE ONE-MAN SECRET
III.--CROSSING WITH ROYALTY
IV.--THE FIRST REBUFF
V.--ECHOES FROM THE WILHELMSTRASSE
VI.--A RUSTY OLD CANNON-BALL
VIII.--THE SPY-DRIVEN TAXI
X.--HE MEETS THE KING
XII.--FIRST SHOW OF FORCE
XIII.--"THE KING IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE KING!"
XIV.--THE ROYAL TEA-TABLE
XV.--SURROUNDED BY SOLDIERS
XVI.--A DINNER AT THE BRITZ
XVII.--THE VOICE IN THE TELEPHONE
XVIII.--IN THE HANDS OF THE GERMANS
XIX.--THE GERMAN POINT OF VIEW
XX.--GENERAL VON LICHTENSTEIN
XXI.--HE INSTALLS HIS WIRELESS
XXIII.--THE TWO-WHEELED MYSTERY
XXVI.--TWO REMARKABLE MEN
XXVII.--ALL CARDS ON THE TABLE
XXVIII.--WHERE IS IT?
XXIX.--THE DIFFERENCE OF THEIR STATIONS
XXX.--THEY CALL FOR ASSISTANCE
XXXI.--"SIT DOWN, YOU DOG!"
XXXII.--L. P. M.
XXXIII.--YACHTING IN THE AIR
XXXV.--A LYING KING MAKES A NATION OF LIARS
XXXVI.--THINK OF IT! WHY NOT?
L. P. M.
THE MAN AND THE HOUR
The Secretary of State, although he sought to maintain an air of
official reserve, showed that he was deeply impressed by what he had
"Well, young man, you are certainly offering to undertake a pretty
He smiled, and continued in a slightly rhetorical vein--the Secretary
was above all things first, last, and always an orator.
"In my many years of public life," he said, "I have often had occasion
to admire the dauntless spirit of our young men. But you have forced
me to the conclusion that even I, with all my confidence in their
power, have failed to realize how inevitably American initiative and
independence will demand recognition. It is a quality which our form
of government seems especially to foster and develop, and I glory
in it as perhaps the chief factor in our national greatness and
"In what other country, I ask you," he flung out an arm across the
great, flat-topped desk of state, "would a mere boy like yourself ever
conceive such a scheme, or have the incentive or opportunity to bring
it to perfection? And, having conceived and perfected it, in what
other country would he find the very heads of his Government so
accessible and ready to help him?"
The young man leaned forward. "Then am I to understand, Mr. Secretary,
that you are ready to help me?"
"Yes." He faced about and looked at his visitor in a glow of
enthusiasm. "Not only will I help you, but I will, so far as is
practicable, put behind you the power of this Administration.
"Doubtless the newspapers," his tone took on a tinge of ironic
resentment, "when they learn the broad character of the credentials
that I shall give you in order that you may meet the crowned heads of
Europe, will say that I am again lowering the dignity of my office.
But I consider, Mr. Edestone, that I am, in reality, giving more
dignity to my office by bringing it closer to and by placing it at
the services of, those from whose hands it first received its dignity,
the sovereign people. 'The master is greater than the servant'; and
to my mind you as a citizen are even more entitled to the aid and
co-operation of this Department than are its accredited envoys, our
ministers and ambassadors, who, like myself, are but your hired men."
His face lighted up with the memory of the many stirring campaigns
through which he had passed and his wonderful voice rang out,
responding to his will like a perfect musical instrument under the
touch of the artist.
"I tell you, sir," he declared, "I would rather be instrumental in
bringing to an end this cruel war which is now deluging the pages of
history with the heart's blood of the people, whose voices may now be
drowned in the roar of the 42-centimeter guns, but whose spirits will
unite in the black stench clouds which rise from the festered fields
of Flanders to descend upon the heads of those who by Divine Right
have murdered them,--I would rather be instrumental in bringing about
this result, than be President of the United States!"
He had risen, as he spoke, and had stepped from behind his desk to
give freer play to this burst of eloquence, but he now paused at the
entrance of a secretary for whom he had sent, and changing to that
quizzical drawl with which he had so often disarmed a hostile
audience, added, "And they do say that I am not without ambition in
He turned then to the waiting secretary, and letting his hand drop on
"Mr. Williams," he said, "this is Mr. John Fulton Edestone, of New
York, whose name is no doubt familiar to you. He is desirous of
meeting and discussing quite informally with the potentates of Europe,
a little matter which he thinks, and I more or less agree with him,
will be of decided interest to them."
He chuckled softly; then continued in a more serious tone: "Mr.
Edestone hopes, in short, with our assistance, to bring about not only
the end of the European war, but to realize my dream--Universal
Peace--and his plan, as he has outlined it to me, meets with my hearty
"I wish you to furnish him with the credentials from this Department
necessary to give him _entree_ anywhere abroad and protect him at
all times and under all circumstances.
"And, Mr. Williams," he halted the retiring subordinate, "when Mr.
Edestone's papers have been drawn, will you kindly bring them to me?
I wish to present them in person, and I know of no more appropriate
occasion than this afternoon, when I am to receive a delegation of
school children from the Southern Baptist Union and the Boy Scouts of
the Methodist Temperance League. I will be glad to have these young
Americans, as well as any others who may be calling to pay their
respects--not to me but to my office--hear what I have to say on
peace, patriotism, and grapes."
With the departure of the secretary he unbent slightly. "Well," he
smiled, "you cannot say, as did Ericsson with his monitor and Holland
with his submarine and the Wrights with their aeroplane, that you
could not get the support of your Government until it was too late. In
fact, my dear fellow, when I think of the obstacles so many inventors
have to contend with, it strikes me that you have had pretty easy
"Perhaps," Edestone raised his eyebrows a trifle whimsically, "it has
not been so easy as you think, Mr. Secretary."
"Oh, I know, I know!" the other replied. "You still must admit that in
comparison with most men you have been singularly fortunate. You have
had great wealth, absolute freedom to develop your ideas as you saw
fit, and finally the influence to command an immediate hearing for
your claims. Do you know that perhaps you are the richest young man in
the world today? It is this which, I must confess, at first rather
prejudiced me against you."
Edestone laughed good-naturedly. "It is lucky that my photographs were
able to speak for me."
"Yes," the Secretary assented. "As you probably have recognized, I am
not a scientist, and all your formulae and explanations were about as
so much Greek to me, but those photographs of yours were most
convincing, and prove to me how simple are the greatest of
discoveries. I fancy," he added slyly, "that they will penetrate even
the intelligence of a monarch."
"Ah!" He rubbed his hands together. "I can imagine the chagrin and
fury of those war lords when they find themselves so unexpectedly
called to time, while your device is held over the nations like a
policeman's club, with America as its custodian. What a thought!
Universal dominion for our country; Universal Peace!"
Some sense of opposition on the part of his companion aroused him, and
he levelled a quick and searching glance at the other.
"That is your intention, is it not, Mr. Edestone?" he demanded. "That,
upon the completion of your present mission, the Government shall take
over this discovery of yours?"
Edestone moved uneasily in his seat. He had naturally anticipated this
question, and yet he was unprepared to meet it.
The Secretary frowned and repeated his question. "That is your
intention, is it not?"
Hesitating no longer the inventor answered quietly:
"Mr. Secretary, I yield to no man in my devotion to my country, but I
am one of those who believe that the highest form of patriotism is to
seek the best interest of mankind, and standing on that I tell you
frankly that I cannot at this time answer your question. Just now I
look no farther than the end of this brutal war. After that is
accomplished it will be time enough for me to decide the ultimate
disposition of my invention. Its secret is now known to no living soul
but myself, and is so simple that it requires no written record to
preserve it, and would die with me. It is the result, it is true, of
many years of hard work, but the finished product I can and often do
carry in my waistcoat pocket.
"Do not misunderstand me," he lifted his hand as the Secretary
endeavoured to break in. "I thoroughly realize the responsibility of
my position and that my great wealth is a sacred trust. Upon the
answer to the question you have just put to me depends the destiny of
the world, whether it is answered by myself at this time or by others
in the future. Exactly what I will do when the time comes I cannot
say, but I will tell you this much, that in reaching a decision I will
call to my assistance men like yourself and abide by whatever course
the majority of them may dictate."
"But, my dear young fellow, that will not do." The Secretary shook his
head. "You are called upon to answer my question right here and now."
He dropped his bland and diplomatic manner as he spoke, and with his
jaw thrust forward showed himself the unyielding autocrat, who, in the
rough and tumble of politics, had ruled his party with a rod of iron.
This man whose wonderful talents and personality had fitted him for
his chosen position of champion of the plain people, and whose great
motive power, against all odds, that had forced him into the first
place in their hearts, was his sincere and honest love of office.
He had now assumed a rather boisterous and bullying tone, showing that
perhaps his great love for the rougher elements of society was due to
the fact that in the process of evolution he himself was not far
removed from the very plain people.
"You have been talking pretty loud about using the 'big stick' over on
the other side," he went on sternly, "but that big-stick business you
will find is a thing that works two ways. Suppose then I should tell
you, 'No answer to my question, no credentials.' What would you have
"I should say," Edestone's face was set, "simply this, Mr. Secretary,
if I must speak in the language of the people in order that you may
understand me: 'I should like very much to have your backing in the
game, but if you are going to sit on the opposite side of the table, I
hold three kings and two emperors in my hand, and I challenge you to a
show-down.' I should further say that, credentials or no credentials,
I am leaving tomorrow on the _Ivernia_, and that inasmuch as I
have a taxi at the door, and a special train held for me at the Union
Station, I must bid you good-day, and leave you to your watchful
waiting, while I work alone."
He rose from his seat, and with a bow started for the door.
"Hold on there, young fellow, keep your coat on!" the Secretary
shouted, throwing his head back and laughing loud enough to be heard
over on the Virginia shores. "You remind me of one of those gentle
breezes out home, which after it has dropped the cow-shed into the
front parlour and changed your Post-Office address, seems always to
sort of clear up the atmosphere. When one of them comes along we
generally allow it to have its own way. It doesn't matter much whether
we do or not, it will take it anyhow. I never play cards, but what you
say about having a few kings in your pants' pocket seems to be pretty
nearly true. You are made of the real stuff, and if you can do all the
things that you say you can do, and I believe you can, nothing will
"In that case," said Edestone, resuming his seat, "I suppose I may as
well wait for my credentials."
And in due time he got them, the presentation being made by the
Secretary to the edification of the Baptist School children and the
Methodist Soldiers of Temperance and a score of adoring admirers. Then
with a hasty farewell to the officials of the State Department, this
emissary of peace started on his hurried rush to New York.
His taxi, which he had held since seven o'clock that morning, broke
all speed regulations in getting to the station, and the man was well
paid for his pains.
Edestone found his Special coupled up and waiting for him. He always
travelled in specials, and they always waited for him. In fact,
everything waited for him, and he waited for no one. When he engaged a
taxi he never discharged it until he went to bed or left the town. It
was related of him that on one occasion he had directed the taxi to
wait for him at Charing Cross Station, and returning from Paris three
days later had allowed his old friend, the cabby, who knew him well, a
shilling an hour as a _pourboire_. He claimed that his mind
worked smoothly as long as it could run ahead without waits, but that
as soon as it had to halt for anything--a cab, a train, or a slower
mind to catch up--it got from under his control and it took hours to
get it back again.
To him money was only to be spent. He would say: "I spend money
because that calls for no mental effort, and saving is not worth the
trouble that it requires."
A big husky chap, thirty-four years old, with the constitution of an
ox, the mind of a superman, the simplicity of a child: that was John
Fulton Edestone. He insisted that his discovery was an accident that
might have befallen anyone, and counted as nothing the years of
endless experiments and the millions of dollars he had spent in
bringing it to perfection. He was a dreamer, and had used his colossal
income and at times his principal in putting his dreams into iron and
Upon arriving in New York he was met by his automobile and was rushed
away to what he was pleased to call his Little Place in the Country.
It was one of his father's old plants which had contributed to the
millions which he was now spending.
It was nothing more nor less than a combination machine shop and
shipyard, situated on the east bank of the Hudson in the neighbourhood
of Spuyten Duyvil.
It was midnight when he arrived. The night force was just leaving as
he stepped from his automobile and the morning shift was taking its
place. At eight o'clock the next morning this latter would in turn be
relieved by a day shift; for night and day, Sundays and holidays,
winter and summer, without stopping, his work went on. It got on his
nerves, he said, to see anything stop. Speed and efficiency at any
cost was his motto, and the result was that he had gathered about him
men who were willing to keep running under forced draft, even if it
did heat up the bearings.
"Tell Mr. Page to come to me at once," he said, as he entered a little
two-story brick structure apart from the other buildings. This had
originally been used as an office, but he had changed it into a
comfortable home, his "Little Place in the Country."
THE ONE-MAN SECRET
With the giving of a few orders relative to his departure in the
morning, the brevity of which showed the character of service he
demanded, Edestone permitted himself to relax. He dropped into an
arm-chair, after lighting a long, black cigar, and pouring out for
himself a comfortable drink of Scotch whisky and soda.
For a few minutes he sat looking into the open fire, while blowing
ring after ring of smoke straight up into the air. The well-trained
servant moved so quietly about the room that his presence was only
called to his attention by the frantic efforts of the smoke rings to
retain their circular shape as they were caught in the current of air
which he created and were sent whirling and twisting to dissolution,
although to the last they clung to every object with which they came
in contact in their futile struggle to escape destruction.
Edestone loved to watch these little smoke phantoms, their first mad
rush to assume their beautiful form and the persistency with which
they clung to it until overtaken by another, were brushed aside, or
else drifted on in wavering elongated outlines and so gradually
They suggested to his fancy the struggling nations of the world,
battling with the currents and cross-currents near the storm-scarred
old earth, and continually endeavouring to rise above their fellows to
some calmer strata, where serene in their original form they could
look down with condescension upon their harassed and broken companions
The little rings were, however, more interesting to him for another
and more practical reason. It was their toroidal movement around a
circular axis which moved independently in any direction that first
suggested to him the principles of his discovery.
Before him the fire upon the hearth sang and crackled as it tore
asunder the elements that had taken untold ages to assemble in their
present form, and with the prodigality of nature was joyfully rushing
them up the chimney to start them again upon their long and weary
journey through the ages.
The bubbles coming into existence in the bottom of his glass, rushing
in myriads through the pale yellow liquid to the top and obliteration,
set the thin glass to vibrating like the sound of distant bells.
From his workshop came the soft purr of rapidly moving machinery,
punctuated now and again by the roar of the heavy railroad trains that
thundered past his little flag station.
Had he seen then what the future had in store for him, had he realized
that he was in that well-beloved environment for the last time, he
would not have hesitated to have gone on along the road that he had
marked out for himself. It would simply have made the wrench at
parting a little bit more severe.
His musing was interrupted by his man, who had attracted his attention
by noiselessly rearranging on the table the objects that were already
in perfect order.
"Mr. Page is outside, sir."
It was a call to action. Edestone, without changing his position,
said: "Tell him to come in." And then taking two or three deep puffs
at his cigar, he blew out into the clear space in front of him a large
and perfectly formed ring. Rising he followed it slowly as it drifted
across the room, twisting and circling upon itself. Then with a low
laugh, which was almost a sigh, after sticking his finger through its
shadowy form, with a sweep of his powerful hand he brushed it aside.
"Good-bye, little friend," he said, "we have had many good times
together, and whatever you may have in store for me, I promise never
to complain. Let us hope that I shall use wisely and well the
knowledge which you have given me."
Turning quickly at some slight sound, which told him that he was no
longer alone, he threw his shoulders back, and with his head high in
the air there came over his clean-shaven face a look of quiet
determination, a look before which those who were born to rule were so
soon to quail.
Then, with a complete change of manner, upon seeing his old friend and
fellow-workman, his face lighted up, and he laughed:
"Well, old 'Specs,' I'm back, you see, and the 'Dove of Peace' is
safely caged. He came to hand with scarcely even a struggle." Then as
he looked down into the other's worn and haggard eyes which peered up
at him through their round, horn-rimmed spectacles, his voice softened
and he spoke with a touch of compunction.
"By Jove, old chap, you look all in. I've been driving you boys a bit
too hard; but don't you worry. I'm off in the morning, and then you'll
have a chance to take it easier. Soon our beautiful _Little Peace
Maker_," he winked, "will be tucked safely away in some quiet
corner, and you scientific fellows can devote all your attention
to your beloved bridge, while I bid up The Hague Conference for a
"But to business now. How did the films for the moving pictures come
"Good. I'll have you run them over for me presently. I don't want to
show too much when I give my performances for Royalty, you understand;
just enough to scare them to death. And how about the wireless? Did
you test that out, and tune it to my instruments, as I asked you?"
With a satisfactory answer to this also, he ranged off rapidly into a
dozen other inquiries.
"Does Lee understand exactly where he is to go, and what he is to do,
if by any chance he is discovered there? He does, eh? Well, I don't
think he need anticipate the slightest trouble in that regard; but
we've got to be prepared for every emergency.
"Now, 'Specs,' I want you to get off tomorrow night. Leave enough men
about the plant, and have sufficient work going on, so that your
absence may not excite comment. Go by way of Canada, and as soon as
you are safely out of here, take your time and run no unnecessary
risks. As soon as you are settled, communicate with me, once only
every day at exactly twelve o'clock Greenwich time, until I answer
you. I shall then not communicate with you again until this peace game
is up and we are forced to show our hands."
He paused a moment as if to make sure that he had overlooked nothing;
then resumed his instructions.
"Captain Lee's men all understand, I believe, that we are playing for
a big stake, and that the work we have on hand is no child's play; but
it will do no harm to impress it on them again. I sincerely hope that
no rough work will be required; but they may as well realize that I
intend to have absolute obedience, and shall not hesitate at the most
extreme measures to obtain it. They must be drilled until every man
is faultlessly perfect in the part he is to play. We may all be
pronounced outlaws at any time with a price upon our heads, and
therefore, before leaving here, I wish that none be allowed to join
the enterprise except those who willingly volunteer for the sake of
the cause. The men who are unwilling to volunteer, and yet know too
much, must be taken and held _incommunicado_ in some perfectly
safe place until such time as I notify you.
"I think that is all," he reflected. Then, while the other man watched
him curiously, he stepped to the safe, and opening it brought back a
small, hardwood box about six inches square.
"I have never explained to you, Page," he said, "the exact
construction of the instrument that is contained in this box. As you
know, there is but one other instrument like this in the world, and
that you know is in a safe place. My reason for not taking anybody
into my confidence was not from any lack of faith in you or my other
trusted associates, but simply in order to be absolutely sure at all
times and under all circumstances that I was the only one in
possession of this secret."
And turning to the fireplace he threw the box with its contents
directly on to the burning logs.
Page gave a slight gasp as he saw the wooden receptacle catch, and
half stepped forward as if to rescue it, but Edestone quickly raised
an interposing hand. Then he turned to his companion with a smile.
"That was my first very clumsy model. The actual mechanical
construction of this instrument is so simple," he said, "that I can
at any time construct one which will answer all purposes that I may
require of it until I see you. I intend to amuse myself on the
_Ivernia_ during the crossing constructing a new smaller and
more compact instrument, combining with it one of the receivers which
you have attuned to your wireless. See that these as well as the
following," handing "Specs" a list of electrical supplies, "are put in
Black's steamer trunk. And now, let's have a look at those films."
He followed this with a tour of inspection of the entire
establishment, although the latter was largely perfunctory in
character, since he knew that for days everything had been in
readiness for his orders, waiting only for his return from Washington;
then returning to his quarters, he tumbled into bed to catch a few
hours of sleep before again whirling off at a sixty-mile-an-hour gait
to board his steamer at the dock.
His plans were completed. His men, down to the lowest helper, were
fellows of tested experience and education, many of them college
graduates, while his "commissioned officers," as he called them,
numbering sixty, were all experts in their respective lines. They had
been drawn from all ranks of life, from the college laboratory, the
automobile factory, and the war college. There were among them bank
clerks, former commanders of battle-ships, doctors, lawyers, soldiers,
and sailors. In fact, his little world was a perfectly equipped and
smoothly running community with all the departments of a miniature
government, save only a diplomatic service, and that he combined with
his own prerogatives as Executive and Commander-in-Chief.
One thing he did not have in all his company, so far as he knew,--and
that was a weakling. So thoroughly had he sifted them out, and applied
to each of them the acid test, that he was sure he could rely on them,
as he liked to say, "to the last ditch."
For the rest, although he had taken only a few of them into his
confidence as to his real purposes and intentions, he had assured each
recruit that he would be required to do nothing that was contrary to
his duty to his fellow-man, his country, or his God.
And tomorrow the wheels would be set in motion. The undertaking to
which he had dedicated his life and colossal fortune would be
It was characteristic of Edestone that no sooner had he laid his head
upon the pillow than his eyes closed, and he slept as peacefully as a
CROSSING WITH ROYALTY
After a perfectly uneventful voyage, the _Ivernia_, with Edestone
and his three men aboard, swung slowly to her dock. As the big vessel
had approached the coast the few cabin passengers were at first a
little nervous, but the contempt in which the officers held, or
pretended to hold, the submarine menace made itself soon felt
throughout the ship, and but for the thinness of their ranks all went
as usual. It is true that the little group of army contract-seekers
and returning refugees seemed to enjoy constituting themselves into
special look-outs, and regarded it as their particular duty, as long
as it did not interfere with their game of bridge, or might cause them
to lose a particularly comfortable and sheltered corner of the deck,
to notify the stewards if they happened to see anything which to them
looked like a periscope or floating mine.
Throughout the voyage Edestone kept very much to himself and in his
quarters occupied himself constructing a new instrument, and to the
hard-rubber case that had been provided for it he attached a wireless
receiver. In some of this work he was assisted by Stanton and Black,
two electricians he had brought with him, who, with James, his valet,
made up his party.
He had little time and less inclination to observe his neighbours, who
occupied the corresponding suite just across the passageway; but his
man James, who had been formally introduced to their servants,
insisted upon telling him all about them. They were, James said, the
Duchess of Windthorst and her daughter, the Princess Wilhelmina, who
were returning from Canada, where they had been visiting the Duke of
Connaught at Toronto.
But, if Edestone was preoccupied, the Princess, on the contrary,
being a girl of nineteen, with absolutely nothing on her mind, had
not failed to note the handsome young man across the passage.
Unconsciously answering to the irresistible call of youth, which is as
loud to the princess as to the peasant, she had watched him with a
great deal of interest, and had been fascinated by his faultless boots
and the fact that he failed to notice her at all.
Yet Edestone, it may be remarked, was not the only person on board
favoured with the royal regard. The Duchess, with the propensity of
her kind on visiting the States, had selected for her rare promenades
on deck a Broadway sport of the most absurd and exaggerated type,
known as "Diamond King John" Bradley.
This vagary is explained by the fact that the social chasm separating
them from all Americans is, to their limited vision, so infinitely
great that it is impossible for them to see and to understand the
niceties that the Americans draw between the butcher of New York and
the dry-goods merchant of Denver; and since it is impossible to see
nothing from infinity, they content themselves by selecting those who
are, in their opinion, typical, in order that in the short time they
can give to this study they may learn all of the characteristics of
this most extraordinary race, who on account of the similarity of
language have presumed to claim a relationship with them. They will
not accept as true what much of the world believes: that Old England
is in her decadence, and that her only hope is in those sons who have
left her and who, away from the debilitating influence of the
poisonous vapours arising from the ruins of her glory, are developing
the ancient spirit of their ancestors and are returning to her
assistance in her time of need.
As to the Princess, Edestone, although he noted that she was extremely
attractive in face and figure, did not give her a second thought. He
was amused at the attitude of the Duchess and her class, and was
willing to accept it, but it did not arouse any desire on his part to
follow the lead of the gentleman from Broadway and seek their
acquaintance. As a matter of fact, he had always found the young women
of the upper classes of England either extremely stupid or perfectly
willing to appear so to an American of his class.
Still, as it happened, he did meet the Princess. One night after
dinner he found her struggling with the door into the passage which
led to their adjoining apartments. She was, or pretended to be,
helpless in the wind that was blowing her down the deck as she clung
to the rail, and, quietly taking her by the arm, he pulled her back to
the door, where he held her until she was safely inside. This was all
done in a perfectly matter-of-fact manner, and she might as well have
been a steamer rug that was in danger of being blown overboard. Then
before she had time to thank him, the door was blown shut, and he had
resumed his solitary walk along the deck.
The next time that the Princess saw him, although she felt sure that
he must have known that she had looked in his direction, there was no
indication of any desire on his part to continue the acquaintance. He
had apparently entirely forgotten the episode or her existence, and
the pride of a beautiful young girl was hurt, and the dignity of
royalty offended--but the first was all that really mattered.
And so the voyage ended. The passengers all seemed perfectly willing
to go ashore, notwithstanding their assumption of indifference to the
German blockade. Edestone, as usual, was met by the fastest form of
locomotion, and before the trunks and bags had begun to toboggan down
to the dock, he was whirling up to London in the powerful motor car
belonging to his friend, the Marquis of Lindenberry. Edestone had
notified him by wireless to meet the steamer, and they were now being
driven directly to the Marquis's house in Grosvenor Square. Stanton
and Black were left behind with James, who condescended with his
superior knowledge to assist them in getting the luggage through the
"Well what in the name of common sense has brought you over to England
at such a time as this?" demanded Lindenberry, after the automobile
had swept clear of the town and with a gentle purr had settled down to
its work. He leaned over as he spoke, to satisfy himself that the
chauffeur, having finished adjusting his glasses with one hand while
running at top speed, finally had both hands on the wheel, and then
turned expectantly to his companion.
"Oh, I see," Lindenberry nodded when he found that he got no
satisfactory answer to this or the other inquiries he put; "you
evidently do not propose to take me into your confidence. Still, I
would not be so deucedly mysterious, if I were you. I call it beastly
rude, you know. Here I have come all the way from Aldershot, and am
using the greater part of my valuable leave in response to your crazy
wire. Tell me, is it a contract to deliver a dozen dreadnoughts at the
gates of the Tower of London before Easter Sunday?" and his eyes
twinkled, "or have some of your young Americans enlisted and the fond
parents sent you over to rescue them?"
Edestone smiled. "Well, the first thing I want, Lindenberry, is a
little chat with Lord Rockstone."
"Oh, is that all?" with a satiric inflection. "Well, why in the name
of common sense didn't you say so at first? I do not know, however,
that I can positively get you an appointment today. You must not mind
if His Lordship keeps you waiting for a few minutes if he happens to
be talking with the Czar of Russia on the long-distance telephone. You
know, we over here are still great sticklers on form. We are trying
hard to be progressive, but we still consider it quite rude to tell a
King to hold the wire while we talk to someone else who has not taken
the trouble that he has to make an appointment. You must remember that
he has perhaps dropped several shillings into the slot, and would
naturally be annoyed if told by the girl that time was up and to drop
"Or Lord Rockstone may perhaps be just in the midst of one of his
usual twenty-four-hour interviews with an American newspaper
representative," he continued his chaffing. "Now if he does not invite
Graves and Underhill and Apsworth to have tea with you, you might drop
in at Boodles' on your way back from the city, and we will just pop on
to Buckingham Palace and deliver to Queen Mary the ultimatum from the
suffragette ladies of the Sioux Indians."
Edestone laughed so heartily that the footman nearly turned to see if
something had happened. "And they say that you Englishmen have no
sense of humour. The trouble with you though, old top, is that your
joke is so deucedly good that you don't see the point yourself."
They were just passing through one of Rockstone's military camps,
where England's recruited millions were being trained, and cutting
short his badinage Edestone gazed at the scene with interest.
"It does seem a pity that all these fine young fellows should be
sacrificed in order to settle a question which I could settle in a
very short time," he said, becoming more serious.
"Settle it in a very short time?" repeated Lindenberry. "I would like
to know how you propose to do it. I know you are full of splendid
ideas, and invent all kinds of electrical contrivances to do things
that one can do perfectly well with one's own hands. I suppose you
would take a large magnet and with it pull all of the German warships
out of the Kiel Canal, and hold them while you went on board and
explained to Bernhardi and von Bulow the horrors of war, and if they
did not listen to you, you would, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin lead
them off with all the other disagreeable odds and ends, submarines and
Zeppelins, to an island, way, way out in the ocean, where they would
have to stay until they promised to be good little boys?"
"Well, wouldn't that be better than killing a lot of these fine young
fellows you have here?" demanded Edestone, although he smiled at his
friend's fantastic idea.
"You Americans are developing into a nation of foolish old women,"
taunted Lindenberry, "and the sooner that you get into a muss like
this one we're in, the sooner you will get back that fighting spirit
which has made you what you are. You are fast losing the respect of
the other nations by your present methods, always looking after your
own pocket-books while the rest of the world is bleeding to death."
Edestone was thoughtful, and appeared to have no answer for this, and
Lindenberry reverted to his request.
"If you really want to have an interview with Lord Rockstone, Jack, I
think I can possibly arrange it. I will telephone to Colonel Wyatt,
who is on his staff, and find out what he can do for you."
And so they chatted until coming to Grosvenor Square where they got
out of the automobile in front of an unpretentious red brick house
with an English basement entrance, trimmed with white marble and
Lindenberry at once telephoned to Colonel Wyatt, who said that Lord
Rockstone was in and that if Edestone would come around at once he
would see to it that his letters were presented. As to an appointment,
he could promise nothing, but he did say to Lindenberry, not to be
repeated, that the Department was not at that time very favourably
disposed toward Americans.
With his usual promptness, Edestone jumped into his automobile and
started for Downing Street, not stopping even to wash his face and
hands nor to brush the dust from his clothes.
At the door he was met by an officer in khaki, was told that Colonel
Wyatt was expecting him, and was asked if he would be so kind as to
come up to the Colonel's office. There he was told that his
credentials and letters could be presented that afternoon, but there
was practically no chance of an interview, as Lord Rockstone was
leaving the War Offices in a few minutes.
Word was finally brought in that Lord Rockstone would see Mr. Edestone
and receive his letters, but regretted that he would be unable to give
him an appointment, as he was leaving for the Continent in a few days
and affairs of state required his entire time--which translated into
plain English meant: "Come in, but get out as soon as you can."
Shown into a large room, he saw seated at a big desk the man who is
said to have said that he did not know when the war would end, but he
did know when it would begin, and fixed that date at about eight
months after the actual declaration--after millions of pounds had been
expended and hundreds of thousands of English dead.
Cold, powerful, relentless, and determined, Edestone knew that it was
useless to appeal to a sense of humanity in this man who, sitting at
his desk early and late, directed the great machine that slowly but
surely was drawing to itself the youth and vigour of all England,
there to feed and fatten, flatter and amuse these poor boys from the
country, and with music and noise destroy their sensibilities before
sending them across the Channel to live for their few remaining days
in holes in the ground that no self-respecting beast would with his
own consent occupy.
To appeal to a sense of duty so strong in him as applied to England,
was one thing; but to convince him that Edestone as an American had a
sense of duty to the nations of Europe was something quite different.
This man of steel had no imagination, he was convinced, and to ask him
to follow him in his flights would be as useless as to request him to
whistle Yankee Doodle.
He had a chance to decide all this while Rockstone, who had risen and
received him with courtesy, was reading the letters he presented. The
great soldier's face never changed once as he read them all with care.
"Your credentials are satisfactory," he finally said, "but I do not
quite understand what it is you wish. Your letters say that you do not
want to sell anything, which is most extraordinary; I thought you
Americans always wanted to sell something." And his face assumed the
expression of a man who, having no sense of humour, thought that he
had perhaps made a joke.
"If you have drawings and photographs of a new instrument of war," he
caught himself up abruptly, "I should greatly prefer that you submit
these to the Ordnance Department; but since your Secretary of State
has been so insistent, I will look at them tomorrow. I will give you
an appointment from 9 to 9:15."
And he rose and bowed.
THE FIRST REBUFF
At exactly a quarter past nine the following morning, Lord Rockstone
with military precision rose from his desk.
"I fear that my time is up, Mr. Edestone," he said, glancing at his
watch. "I have enjoyed this opportunity of meeting you and listening
to your presentation of your theory. Your drawings are most
interesting; your photographs convincing, if--" he paused, his lip
curling slightly under his long tawny moustache,--"if one did not know
of the remarkable optical illusions capable of being produced in
photography. Our friends, the Germans, have become particularly expert
in the art of double exposure."
Then, as if he thought he might have said too much, he added less
"Please do not understand that I doubt either your sincerity, or that
of the Government at Washington in this matter; you may have both
perhaps been deceived. I hope that your stay in England may be
pleasant, and I regret that this war will prevent you from receiving
the attention to which your letters and your accomplishments would
With an expression on his face that said plainer than words: "This is
the last minute of my most valuable time that I intend to give to this
nonsense," he bowed formally, and reseating himself at his desk, took
Then without looking up, "Good morning, Mr. Edestone."
The American did not allow himself to show the slightest trace of
annoyance at the brusque dismissal.
"You will at least permit me to thank you for your kind intentions,
sir," he said; and standing perfectly still until he had forced Lord
Rockstone to look up, he added with a smile, "We may meet again,
There was something about his perfect ease of manner as he stood
waiting which showed that although he would not condescend to notice
it, he was both conscious of the War Minister's unpardonable rudeness
and intended to make him acknowledge it.
Rockstone hesitated a moment; then with a belated show of courtesy
came from behind his desk, and stiffly extended his hand.
"You Americans are the most extraordinary people," he said; "I must
admit, I never quite understand you."
"Then you must grant us a slight advantage," rejoined Edestone evenly;
"because we believe we do understand you Englishmen. If there had been
the same clear understanding on your side in the present instance it
would have been more to your interest, I am satisfied; for then
instead of merely disturbing you I should have aroused you."
"It is not a question of arousing me as you call it. You are dealing
with the Government of the Empire, and, as you know, England moves
slowly. The suggestion that I invite His Majesty to see a lot of
moving pictures of an impossible machine, if you will pardon me, is
preposterous. If you really wish to sell something to the War
Department, although I understand you to state that you do not,
nothing is simpler. Ship one of your machines to England, give a
demonstration, and whereas I cannot speak with authority, I am
confident that England will pay all that any other Government will
pay. As to our friends, the enemy, our ships will attend to it that
nothing goes to them that can be used against us." His jaws snapped,
and his cold greenish-grey eyes flashed, as he gave another curt bow
Edestone had no alternative but to leave; but as he turned to rejoin
Colonel Wyatt, who had stood stiffly at attention throughout the
entire interview, he could not resist one parting shot.
"Do not forget, Lord Rockstone," he said, "that England six months ago
spoke lightly of submarines."
The War Minister pretended not to hear; but no sooner had the door
closed upon his offensive visitor than he caught up the
telephone. "Get me the Admiralty, and present my compliments to
Mr. Underhill," he directed sharply. "Tell him I would like to speak
to him at once."
He turned back to a tray of letters left upon his desk to sign, but
halted, his pen held arrested in air.
"Suppose," he muttered, "the fellow should actually have--? But,
pshaw! It's simply a mammoth Yankee bluff. That Foreign Department at
Washington is just silly enough to believe that it can frighten us
with its manufactured photographs. They are so anxious over there to
stop the war, that they would resort to any expedient--anything but
The telephone tinkled.
"Ah! Are you there Underhill? Yes, this is Rockstone. I called you up
to warn you against a madman who is now on his way to see you. You
can't well refuse to give him an audience, for he has such strong
letters from the American Government that one might imagine he was a
special envoy sent to offer armed intervention and to end the war. But
in my opinion he is merely a crank or an impostor, who has succeeded
in obtaining the support and endorsement of their State Department.
"What is that? Oh yes; he's an American. His name? How should I
remember! I wasn't interested either in him, or what he had to say.
He pretends to have discovered some new agency or force, don't you
know, and tries to prove by a lot of double-exposed photographs that
he has broken down the fundamental laws of physics, neutralizing the
force of gravity, or annihilating space by the polarization of light,
or some such rot.
"Do not kick him out. He has letters not only from his Government, but
from some of its most prominent men whom it would be unwise to offend
at this time. Just listen to his twaddle about universal peace and
that sort of thing, and then pass him on to Graves with a quiet
warning such as I have given you."
Meanwhile Edestone, having taken leave of Colonel Wyatt, was making
his way out of the building, when he found himself accosted in the
dimly lighted corridor by a man in civilian clothes whom he recognized
as a New York acquaintance of several years' standing.
"Well, look who's here!" he greeted Edestone lustily as he extended
his hand. "What brings you into the very den of the lion? Is it that,
like myself, you are helping dear old England get arms and ammunition
with which to lick the barbarians on the Rhine?"
Glancing around cautiously he lowered his voice. "Make her pay well
for them, my boy; she would not hesitate to turn them on us, if we got
in her way."
Edestone laughingly disclaimed any interest in army contracts, but at
the same time avoided divulging the actual mission upon which he was
There was something in his companion's manner that put him rather on
his guard; he remembered smoking after dinner not more than three or
four months before in the house of one of the most prominent German
bankers in New York, and listening to this man, who had expressed
himself in a way that might have suggested somewhat pro-German
sympathies. Edestone had at the time attributed this to a
consideration for their host and to the fact that the German
Ambassador was present; but he recalled that, although the speaker was
most violent in his protestations of neutrality, someone had suggested
at the time that he was of a German family, his father having been
born in Hesse-Darmstadt. He was a man of wealth, with establishments
in New York and Newport, at both of which places Edestone had been
entertained. His loud and hearty manner stamped him as a typical
American, but his large frame, handsome face, and military bearing
showed his Teutonic origin.
"You surprise me Rebener." Edestone's eyes twinkled slightly at these
recollections. "I should have supposed, if you had anything of the
kind to sell, that it would be to your friend, Count Bernstoff.
However," he laid his hand on the other's arm, "it's an agreeable
surprise to run across a fellow-countryman, no matter what the cause.
Are you going my way?"
"No," Rebener told him, he had an appointment on hand with one of the
bureau chiefs in the Ordnance Department.
"Well then suppose you dine with me tonight," suggested Edestone. "I
am stopping at Claridge's and shall be awfully glad if you can come. I
am entirely alone in London, you see; my cronies, I find, are all dead
or at the front."
"Delighted, my boy. But listen! Don't have any of your English
swells. Let's make this a quiet little American dinner just to
ourselves, and forget for once this ghastly war."
"At eight o'clock, then," Edestone nodded.
"And a strict neutrality dinner, remember. That is the only safe kind
for us Americans to eat in London."
"All right, Rebener, as neutral as you please. _A bientot_." And
with a wave of the hand he passed on down the corridor and out of the
building. His appointment with Underhill, Chief of the Admiralty, was
not until 11:30, so he put in the time by sauntering rather slowly
along the Thames Embankment.
He regretted now that, in talking with Lord Rockstone, he had not made
a little more show of force, for had he assumed a more dictatorial
manner he would have at least aroused the fighting spirit in his stern
antagonist, who might then have taken some interest in crushing him
under his heel; whereas now he saw plainly that Rockstone considered
him beneath his notice, and thereby much valuable time had been
lost. Yet he did not wish to make any show of force until he knew
positively that his men were all at their stations, and that the
_Little Peace Maker_ was near at hand. He must be in a position
to use force before playing his last card, and he had not as yet heard
from "Specs." Although he knew that their instruments were perfectly
attuned, he had not, up to twelve o'clock of the day before, received
a single vibration.
At this point he was interrupted by encountering another American who
also insisted upon stopping and shaking hands. This was a young
architect from New York, who had from time to time done work for his
father's estate and who had also made some alterations at the Little
Place in the Country for Edestone himself. He was a tall, lank young
man of about twenty-seven, with little rat-like eyes, placed so close
to his hawk-like nose that one felt Nature would have been kinder to
him had she given him only one eye and frankly placed it in the middle
of his receding forehead. His small blonde moustache did not cover his
rabbit mouth, which was so filled with teeth that he could with
difficulty close his lips.
"What has brought you to London, Schmidt? Aren't you afraid that these
Englishmen will capture you and shoot you as a spy?"
"Sh! Not quite so loud please, Mr. Edestone; these English are such
fools. They think that because a man has a German name he must be a
fighting German, when you know that I am a perfectly good naturalized
American citizen. My passport is made out in the name of Schmidt, and
that's my name all right, but I call myself Smith over here to keep
from rubbing these fellows the wrong way."
"Well, Mr. 'Smith,' you have not told me what you are doing in
"I have been sent over by a New York architectural paper to make a
report upon the condition of the cathedral at Rheims. I stopped over
in London to get my papers vised by the Royal Institute of
Architects." Then, lowering his voice, and keeping his eyes on a
policeman who was apparently watching them with interest: "I am sorry
to see you here, Mr. Edestone. This is no place for us Americans, and
my advice to you is to get out of here as soon as you can, and don't
come back again until the war is over."
Edestone felt that he would have said more but they were interrupted
by the policeman who said: "Excuse me, gentlemen, but these be war
times, and me ordhers are to keep the Imbankment moving."
ECHOES FROM THE WILHELMSTRASSE
After leaving the War Offices, Rebener went directly to the nearest
"Hello, Karlbeck," he called, after satisfying himself by mumbling a
jumble of unintelligible words and numbers that he had the man he
wanted on the wire. "Is Smith there? What? Thames Embankment? What did
you say is the number of that officer? Oh, my old butler, Pat! That's
all right. Now listen; if I should miss Smith and he comes in, tell
him to call me at my hotel at once. I have made an engagement for
dinner with our man for eight o'clock tonight, but you and H. R. H.
need not be at my rooms until half-past eight. You understand, eh?
He strolled out, following Edestone's course with the air of a man
wishing to enjoy this beautiful spring morning, and approaching the
officer who had interrupted the interview between Edestone and Smith,
he said, with a little twinkle in his eye: "Will you tell me which of
these bridges is called the London Bridge?"
The blue-coated Pat, with Hibernian readiness, caught the humour of
the situation. "Shure, I would gladly, but 'tis a strhanger I am here
mesilf," he grinned as he smothered the entire lower part of his face
with his huge paw of a hand, and significantly closed one eye.
"Pat, your fondness for joking will get you into trouble yet. Did
Smith turn Edestone over to you?"
"He did, and I mesilf took him up to the Admiralty where he is
now. 4782, I think they called him, takes him up from there, and will
keep him until he hears from either you or Smith."
"Where has Smith gone?"
"Shure he's up at Claridge's, bein' shaved by Count von Hottenroth."
"Now, now, Pat, if you don't stop that joking of yours I'll certainly
report you to the Wilhelmstrasse."
"And they said I was to be the first King of dear old Ireland!" as
with a broad grin on his face he raised his hand as if drinking. "Der
Tag!" he cried, thereby causing several passers-by to laugh at the
idea of a London bobby giving the sacred German toast.
Rebener, leaving him, went directly to his rooms at The Britz where he
was received with the greatest consideration by everybody about the
place. He was shown to the royal suite by the proprietor himself, who
after he had carefully closed the door upon them stood as if waiting
"Call Claridge's on the 'phone, and tell Smith who is being shaved,"
he smiled at the recollection of Pat's jest, "to meet me here at
once. I do not want him seen in the hotel, so tell him to come in by
the servants' entrance, and you bring him up on the service elevator
and in here through my pantry and dining-room."
The proprietor retired to attend to this, but was soon back, and
Rebener continued his instructions.
"Luckily Edestone invited me to dine with him tonight before I had a
chance to invite him," he said, "but I will persuade him to come here
and dine with me."
"So, Mr. Bombiadi," he turned to the proprietor, "I shall want dinner
here for four at 8:30. See to it yourself, will you, that my guests
are brought through my private entrance, and one especially--you know
who--who will be incognito, must not be recognized. Not that there
could be any objection to these men dining with me here--a common rich
American, who loves to spend his money on princes and things--but by
tonight this man Edestone will be watched by at least twenty men from
Scotland Yard, and they suspect anyone of being a German spy, be he
prince or pauper."
Their conversation was interrupted at this point by the arrival of
Smith, who came in very much excited. Sniffling and rubbing his nose
with the back of his forefinger, like a nervous cocaine fiend, he
broke out agitatedly:
"Mr. Rebener, I'm getting sick of this job. When I undertook to find
out for you what was going on at the Little Place in the Country, I
was working for Germany as against the world, and anything that I can
do for her I am glad and proud to do, but that Hottenroth talks like a
damn fool. Excuse me, Mr. Rebener, but he don't want to stop at
anything. He says that if he pulls off this thing the Emperor, when he
gets to London, will make him Duke of Westminster, or something, and
six months from now he will appoint me Governor-General of North
America. I tell you, Mr. Rebener, that fellow is plumb nutty."
"Pardon me, Mr. Rebener," interposed the proprietor, "it is true that
Hottenroth is excitable, but he is faithful to the Fatherland and an
humble servant to His Imperial Majesty. He has been in charge of a
fixed post in London for fifteen years. He was one of the very first
to be sent here, and he was in Paris before that. He would die
willingly for the Fatherland, as would I, and if this Schmidt, I mean
Smith, thinks there is any sin too great to be committed for the
Fatherland, he is not worthy of a place among us, and the sooner we
get rid of him the better." And he looked at the unfortunate Smith in
a way that showed he was willing to do this at any moment.
But Rebener, who had lived all his life in America, and like Smith did
not thoroughly agree with the philosophy of German militarism--before
which everything must bow--hurriedly raised his hand.
"Come, come, you are both getting unnecessarily excited. Don't let us
try to cross our bridges until we get to them. What did von Hottenroth
have to report?"
"It was not very satisfactory, to tell you the truth, Mr. Rebener,"
said Smith; "they searched through all of his things and they found
nothing but a drawing of a Zeppelin of our 29-M type, with some slight
changes, which Hottenroth said don't amount to anything, and some
photographs of Mr. Edestone himself, doing some juggling tricks with
heavy dumb-bells and weights, but we learned afterwards from the
porter that an expressman had left two large and heavy trunks marked,
'A. M. Black and P. S. Stanton,' at No. 4141 Grosvenor Square East."
"Well what is the report," demanded Bombiadi, "on No. 4141 Grosvenor
Smith read from a memorandum book: "Lord Lindenberry, who is a
widower, lives there with his mother, the Dowager. The old lady is now
up at their country place, in Yorkshire, and the Marquis went on to
Aldershot last night after having dined with Edestone at Brooks's and
dropping him at Claridge's at 12:15 A.M. The house is only partially
opened; there are only a few of the old servants there."
"And do you think these trunks contain the instrument which you
reported to us from America was always kept in the safe at the Little
Place in the Country?" snapped the hotel proprietor.
"I don't know," whined Smith. "Mr. Edestone probably has it with him."
"Well, we must get hold of it before he shows it to Underhill,"
frowned the proprietor, "that is, if it has not been shown already,
and in that case we must get hold of Edestone himself."
"Now that is exactly what is troubling me," Smith's voice rose
hysterically. "I'm not going to stand for any of that rough stuff,
Mr. Rebener. Mr. Edestone and his father have both been mighty good to
me, and if anything happens to him I'll blow on the whole lot of you."
"So?" The proprietor's pale fat face was convulsed with a look of
hatred and contempt. "Then we are to understand, Smith, that if we
find it necessary to do away with Edestone you wish to go first? You
dirty little half-breed," he growled in an undertone. "Your mother
must have been an English woman."
"Here, here, you two fools!" Rebener broke in with sharp authority,
"there is no question of 'doing away' with Edestone, as you call
it. What we're after is the invention and not the man himself, and
we'll not get it by 'doing away' with him. I am, like Smith here,
opposed to murder, even for the Fatherland."
"But it is not murder, Mr. Rebener," interrupted the proprietor, "if
thereby we are instrumental in saving thousands of the sons of the
"That would not only not save the sons of the Fatherland, but would
put an end to our usefulness, both here in London and in America,
especially if Edestone has already turned the whole thing over to
England. The very first thing for us to do is to find out how the
matter stands. If the Ministry knows nothing, we must work to get him
to Berlin, and then even you fire-eaters may safely trust it to the
Wilhelmstrasse. If it should happen, however, that the British
Government has the invention, His Royal Highness tonight will try to
get enough out of Edestone to enlighten Berlin, and in that way we
shall at least get an even break. That is, always provided that
Edestone has not a lot of the completed articles, whatever they may
be, at the Little Place in the Country. That would put us in bad
again, and it will be up to Count Bernstoff to attend to it from the
New York end."
"Of course, Mr. Rebener," said the proprietor, "we can do nothing
until we hear from His Royal Highness, but I am satisfied that he will
say Edestone must not be allowed to go to Downing Street tomorrow to
continue his negotiations, unless in some way we can get hold of this
"Well, I'll be damned if I'll--!" started Rebener angrily, when he was
interrupted by the proprietor, who holding his finger to his lip,
"Please, Mr. Rebener, please! Always remember that the service on
which we are engaged has no soul and a very long arm." Then dropping
into the persuasive and servile tone of the _maitre d'hotel_: "I
propose, Mr. Rebener, that you allow me to send you up a nice little
lunch, some melon, say, a _salmon mayonnaise_ or a _filet du
sole au vin blanc_ and a _noisette d'agneau_ and a nice little
sweet, and you must try a bottle of our Steinberger Auslese '84.
"And Smith," he turned to the humbler agent, "you had better get in
touch with 4782, who is reporting to His Royal Highness every hour.
His last message was that Edestone is still with Underhill, so you get
down to the Admiralty and report to me here as often as you can.
Edestone will probably lunch quietly alone somewhere, as I know that
all of his friends are at the front, but don't lose him until you turn
him over to Mr. Rebener tonight at 8 o'clock." His eyes narrowed as
they followed the skulking figure of the architect out of the room.
"That fellow needs watching," he muttered to Rebener. "He has lost his
nerve. He is not a true German anyhow. But if he makes a false step,
4782 knows what to do and you can depend upon him to do it. We do not
know who he is, but he is a gentleman, if not a nobleman, and he will
kill or die for his Emperor."
Smith, in the meantime, had gone down the service stairs and out at
the rear of the hotel. He was thoughtful, and when he was settled in
his taxi, after having directed the chauffeur where to drive, he said
"They are going to kill him tonight unless they get that machine, or
else can fix it so that Rockstone doesn't get it tomorrow, that is if
Underhill hasn't got it already. I wish I'd never started this
business; I never thought it would go so far, and what do I get out of
it? A German decoration which I can't wear in America, and God knows I
don't want to live in Germany, and seventeen dollars a week. I'm not
going to stand for it, and that's settled."
Arriving in front of a little restaurant he entered and sat down at a
table near a window looking out on Whitehall Place. The proprietor,
who was another German, came over to him, and while ostensibly
arranging the cloth spoke to him in an undertone in his own language.
"Edestone is still with Underhill," he said. "The taxi driver on the
stand opposite, the one who looks as if he were asleep, is 4782. In
that way he keeps the head of the line, you see, and when Edestone
comes out, if he doesn't take that cab, 4782 can follow him until he
alights again, and then he is to telephone His Royal Highness. So you
sit here and have lunch, where you can see what is going on."
Then, turning to a group of his regular customers at another table,
the jovial host in a loud voice and in perfect English took a violent
pro-Ally part in the war discussion that was going on.
A RUSTY OLD CANNON-BALL
Edestone had met the Honorable Herbert Underhill before, both in
America and in the country houses of England. The two were about the
same age, and as Underhill's mother was an American, Edestone had
hoped that he would not have quite so much trouble in getting him to
look at the matter from an American point of view.
Underhill, however, was just on that account a little bit more formal
with the cousins from across the sea than were most of the men of high
position in Europe. He was undoubtedly taken aback and thrown off his
guard when he found that Edestone was the dangerous American lunatic
of whom he had been warned. In the first place, he knew that there was
not the slightest chance of his being an impostor, and he also knew
exactly how much of a lunatic he was. He knew, in fact, that he was a
hard-riding, clear-thinking, high-minded Anglo-Saxon of the very best
type to be found A Rusty Old Cannon-Ball anywhere, and he smiled as he
thought of Rockstone's advice not to kick him out of the Admiralty.
With considerable show of cordiality, he invited his visitor into a
small room adjoining his large office, and sat him down at the
opposite side of a wide table.
"Lord Rockstone told me you were coming, but did not mention your
name. He is quite a chap, that Rockstone. Not what you Americans would
call a very chatty party, however. Now what can I do for you? Lord
Rockstone tells me that you have some new invention, or something of
the sort, that will help us to finish up this little scrimmage without
the loss of a single Tommy. Well, that is exactly what we are looking
for, and you American chaps are clever at thinking out new ideas. He
tells me, however, that you do not wish to sell it. Now I can
understand better than he why that part would be of no especial
interest to you; but can't we deal with a Syndicate, or a Board of
Underwriters, a Holding Company, or some of those wonderful business
combinations that you Americans devise in order to do business without
going to jail? Is the poor starving inventor some billionaire like
yourself, who works only for honour and glory? In that case we might
get an Iron Cross for him. In fact, we might get one blessed by the
Emperor himself, by Jove!"
Edestone laughed. "Well, Mr. Underhill, you cannot deny inheriting a
certain amount of American wit. I have so often heard the older
members of the Union Club tell stories of Billy Travers's witty
sayings. He must have gone the pace that kills. One of the old
servants used to tell that whenever Travers and Larry Jerome and that
set came in for supper, they expected the waiters to drink every fifth
bottle; it made things more cheerful-like--but _revenons a nos
moutons_. Lord Rockstone is right, I do not want to sell my
discovery, for mine it is. I am the penniless inventor. I only want an
opportunity of showing it to the heads of the Powers that are now at
war, and of demonstrating to them the stupendous and overwhelming
force that is now practically in the hands of the greatest of the
neutral governments, and thus try, if possible, to convince them of
the uselessness of continuing this loss of life and treasure.
"If I could demonstrate to you, Mr. Underhill, that I could, sitting
here in your office, give an order that would set London on fire and
send every ship in the English navy to the bottom in the course of a
few weeks, would you not advocate opening negotiations for peace? And
were I to show the Emperor of Germany that his great army could be
destroyed in even less time, would he not be more receptive than we
now understand him to be?"
"Why, Mr. Edestone, I most certainly should," the First Lord of the
Admiralty granted with a smile, "and I think that perhaps the German
Emperor would be amenable under the circumstances, but as they say in
your great country, 'I am from Missouri, you must show me.'"
He changed his position and glanced at Edestone as if he were
beginning to think that possibly Rockstone might be right in his
estimate after all.
"Very well, Mr. Underhill; it is now five minutes to noon, and I think
that I will be able to show you in exactly five minutes."
He took from his pocket a leather case, such as a woodsman might use
to carry a large pocket compass, and removing the cover set out upon
the table an instrument that was entirely enclosed in vulcanized
rubber. On the top, under glass, was a dial, with a little needle
which vibrated violently, but came to a standstill soon after being
placed on the table. Two small platinum wires, about twelve inches
long and carefully insulated, issued from opposite sides of the hard
Underhill's face at first bore only an expression of mild amusement,
but as Edestone evidenced such a deadly earnestness, he showed more
interest and said with a rather nervous laugh: "Look here, old chap,
don't blow the entire English navy out of the water while you're
closeted here with me. I must have some witness to prove that I didn't
do it or I might have to explain to the House of Commons."
Edestone, a hard and drawn look about his mouth, paid no heed, but
taking his watch out of his pocket fixed his eye on the little needle
of the instrument and waited as the last few seconds of the hour
ticked off. As the second hand made its last round, and the minute
hand swung into position exactly at twelve, he leaned over the table
as if trying by mental suggestion to make the instrument respond to
his will. But it remained perfectly quiescent, and with a half sigh
and a tightening of the lines about his mouth, he closed his
watch. Could it be possible, he thought, that "Specs" had forgotten
his instructions always to use Greenwich time?
He was about to replace the instrument in its case, when he was
startled by a clock on the mantel, which began to strike the hour of
twelve. Involuntarily he counted the strokes as they chimed slowly,
and as the vibrations of the last stroke faded away the little needle
swung an entire circuit of the dial, returning to its original
position. This was repeated three times.
Underhill, although still interested in what was going on, seemed a
bit relieved when nothing more startling happened.
"Oh, I say, you know, you gave me quite a start," he jested. "I
thought that you were going to set London on fire, and you simply seem
to be taking your blood-pressure."
Edestone still paid not the slightest attention to him, but after
glancing about the room walked over to the mantelpiece where he picked
up an old twelve-inch cannon-ball, which with considerable difficulty
he brought back and placed on the table by the side of his
instrument. His eyes once more roved about the room as if he were
seeking something, and stepping deliberately to a passe-partout
photograph of King George V., he ripped off the binding with his
pocket-knife and tore from it the glass.
"Oh, I say, now, Mr. Edestone, those cow-boy methods don't go here in
London, and if you cannot behave a bit more like a gentleman, I'll
have you shown to the street."
"We have more important matters on our hands just now, Mr. Underhill,
than whether or not I am a gentleman," snapped the American, his face
set and serious as he with nervous fingers laid the glass on the
Rolling the cannon-ball to him, he lifted it very gently on to the
glass plate, and then taking a key from his pocket he appeared to wind
up on the inside of the instrument some mechanism which gave off a
buzzing sound. Next he drew on a pair of rubber gloves with vulcanized
rubber finger tips, and moistening with his lips the ends of the two
platinum wires, pressed them to either side of the ball, first the one
and then the other. A spark was given off when the second contact was
made, and the room was filled with a pungent odour as of overheated
metal which caused both men to cough violently.
Following this, with great care, and using only the tips of his
fingers, he lifted the glass plate with the ball on it. When he had
raised it his arm's length above the table, like a plum pudding on a
platter, he took the glass away, leaving the ball hanging unsupported
in the air.
He sat down and smiled across the table into the astonished, almost
incredulous, face of his companion.
"And now, Mr. Underhill, I hope you will pardon my rudeness," he
apologized lightly; "but I get so interested in these little tricks of
mine that sometimes I forget myself. If you will permit me, I shall,
when I go to Paris, order from Cartiers's a more befitting frame for
His Majesty, and shall beg you to accept it from me as a little
souvenir of our meeting today."
Underhill made no reply. His whole attention was riveted on that
amazing ball, and Edestone, a trifle mischievously, added: "If you
have a perfectly good heart, and think you can stand a bit of a shock,
touch that ball lightly with your finger."
"My heart's all right, and I am prepared for anything," Underhill
surrendered, as he reached up and touched the innocent looking rusty
old cannon-ball, whose only peculiarity seemed to be its willingness
to remain where it was without any visible means of support.
The room was suddenly filled with a greenish light, as if someone had
just taken a flash-light photograph. Underhill was thrown violently
back into his chair, and the ball crashed down on the table, splitting
it from end to end.
Without moving a muscle of his face, and taking no notice of the
gestures of pain made by Underhill as he sat rubbing his arm and
shoulder, Edestone resumed:
"Mr. Underhill, I will not take any more of your valuable time to show
you my drawings and photographs, but I beg you to say to Sir Egbert
Graves that you do not think with Lord Rockstone that the American
Secretary of State has been deceived, and that you hope he will, when
he sees me tomorrow, try to forget for a while that he is an
Englishman and be a little bit human. You know, Underhill, confidence
and pigheadedness are not even connected by marriage; much less are
they blood relations. By Jove," he grinned, "you can tell him I'll
stick him up against the ceiling if he insists upon handling me with
the ice tongs and leave him there until you take him down; that is, if
you care to take another little shock."
Underhill, although he might have thought at another time that it was
his duty to resent such light and frivolous reference to the heads of
His Majesty's Government, was now, however, occupied with more serious
reflections, and overlooked the offence.
"I am sure," he said, rousing himself, "that if Sir Egbert is
convinced that you are working for the sake of humanity he will be
most happy to make use of your talents."
"That is exactly what I want him to do," returned Edestone, "but not
in the way in which you mean. I wish to be given authority to open
negotiations for peace with the Emperor of Germany. Now,
Mr. Underhill, do we understand one another?"
He rose to leave with this, but Underhill, stepping quickly forward,
laid a hand upon his arm.
"You don't suppose for a moment, Mr. Edestone, that we will allow you
to leave England and go to Germany to sell them your invention and
have it used against us?"
"You have my word, Mr. Underhill, and that of the American Secretary
of State, that it is not my intention to sell to any government. With
that assurance, unless your Ministry wishes to risk the chances of war
with the United States, I think it will allow me to leave England and
go anywhere I please. Good-morning, Mr. Underhill. I am sorry to have
taken up so much of your valuable time, even more sorry to have broken
His Majesty's beautiful old oak table."
Underhill, left alone, sat for some moments looking from the broken
table to the cannonball and then back again. Finally he picked up a
fragment of glass, for the Royal face protector had likewise been
broken, when the good old English oak had met its defeat at the hands
of this Hun of the world of science, and with it, very gingerly, he
tapped the iron ball--this rusty old barbarian which had set at naught
the force of gravity, had violated all the established laws of nature,
and had like the Germans in Belgium smashed through.
Finding that nothing happened, he hesitated for a moment, and, then,
bracing himself against the shock, he touched his finger gently to
this rude old paradox. There was no shock, and, reassured, he leaned
across the table and tried with both hands to lift the cannon-ball.
"That part is genuine there is no doubt," he granted. "That old
cannon-ball must have been here since--?" He gave a start as his eyes
caught the inscription pasted upon it, which was:
"A freak cannon-ball, made at the Forge
and Manor of Greenwood, Virginia, 1778.
Presented in 1889 to Lord Roberts by
General George Bolling Anderson, Governor
of the State of Virginia."
"How extraordinary!" he exclaimed. "These Americans are popping up at
He passed out into the large outer office, and, glancing at his watch,
summoned an undersecretary.
"It is now just a quarter after twelve," he said, "and the Cabinet
lunches at Buckingham Palace at two. Present my compliments to Lord
Rockstone and Sir Egbert Graves, and say that I should like to see
them both here for a few minutes on a matter of the greatest
importance, and that much as I regret to trouble them it is absolutely
necessary that this meeting be held in my office and before they go on
to the Palace."
To another attendant who, moved by curiosity, was going in the
direction of the smaller room, he said: "Place a sentry at that door
when I leave. No one is to be allowed to enter that room until I give
A telephone orderly came in a few minutes later to say that his
message had found Lord Rockstone and Sir Egbert Graves together, and
that they both would be with him within the half-hour.
Underhill was now fully convinced that Edestone possessed some
wonderful invention or discovery which the United States intended to
use as a final argument for peace, and, with the aid of this
discovery, render untenable any position in opposition to its will
taken by England or any of the other Powers. Had he dreamed that the
United States was as ignorant as to the nature of this invention as he
himself was, the history of the world might have been changed.
When Graves and Rockstone arrived, he greeted them with serious face
and at once drew them into private conference.
"Gentlemen," he said, "I am sorry to have to trouble you to come to
me, but I am confident that you will forgive me when you understand my
reasons for insisting upon a meeting here." Keeping both men still
standing he continued: "I have a strange story to tell, so strange in
fact, that you gentlemen would be justified in doubting not only my
word but my sanity, had I nothing to show you in corroboration."
Both men stood like graven images; one like a soldier at attention;
the other, his hat and cane in his right hand and the tips of his two
first fingers resting lightly on the table behind which Underhill was
standing, his thin, clean-shaven, mask-like face as expressionless as
if it belonged to a head that had been stuck on the end of a pike and
shoved out across the table for Underhill to look at, instead of to
one well placed on his broad athletic shoulders. They both knew that
Underhill was young and had inherited from his beautiful American
mother a nervous and temperamental disposition. They also knew that
this was tempered by the crafty cleverness of the blood of the hero of
Blenheim. They had come prepared for one of his excitable outbursts,
although they knew he would not have been so insistent had there not
been good cause.
"Will you be so kind as to walk into this room with me?" He pointed
toward the door of the small room.
Still with that show of utter imperturbability the two complied,
continuing to gaze stolidly as their associate, closing the door
behind them, called their attention to the cannon-ball and broken
"Exhibits A and B"; he waved his hand toward the two objects. "I
wanted you to see these in order to convince you that I have neither
been dreaming, nor am I the victim of an aberration."
Then with great care and endeavouring to maintain a semblance of
self-possession, he described his recent experience, omitting no
single detail that he could recall. He showed them exactly where and
how he had been sitting, and followed every movement made by Edestone,
even to the ripping of the glass from the portrait of the King, until
finally, as if overcome by the strain that he had put upon himself to
appear perfectly calm, he ended with a nervous little laugh.
"Will you look at the inscription on that blooming old cannon-ball? It
really seems quite spooky."
Graves moved forward and thoughtfully examined the split table and the
rusty old relic of Valley Forge, but Rockstone did not offer to stir.
With what was almost a sneer on his face he met the challenging glance
of his younger confrere.
"I would not have believed, Underhill," he said impatiently, "that you
with your experience with the fakirs of India could have been taken in
by so old a trick." He half-closed his eyes as if to indicate that for
him at least the incident was closed.
Underhill frowned. "You are wrong, Rockstone," he exclaimed
impulsively. "This man is no faker, nor am I so easily imposed upon as
you seem to think. I tell you that we are called upon to deal with a
new agency that can neither be disputed nor sneered away, and unless
we can contrive some way to oppose it, the United States will step in
and force a peace upon us--a peace that will leave Europe exactly
where it was before the war--and keep it so, while she herself can go
ahead unchecked and take possession of the whole Western
Hemisphere. Don't you see the scheme?"
"Where is this extraordinary individual?" inquired the Foreign
Minister, completing his inspection of the table. "What has become of
him?" His thin voice was as evenly modulated as if he were asking
where he had put his other glove.
"Oh, probably at Boodle's or Brookes's lunching with some of his
friends," Underhill answered indifferently. "He left here only a short
time ago. And you need not be afraid, Sir Egbert," with a significant
glance. "A very careful eye is being kept upon his movements. We can
get him at any moment if we want him."
Graves nodded, and then went on meditatively.
"It is of course entirely irregular," he said, "but from what both of
you gentlemen tell me as to the nature of his credentials, there can
be little doubt that the man is here with the approval of his
Government, if not as an authorized representative. The sole question,
therefore, is whether or not he does possess such an invention or
discovery as he claims----"
"But can you doubt that?" demanded Underhill hotly.
"And whether," proceeded Sir Egbert without change of tone, "granting
that the contrivance is of value, the United States will permit its
purchase for use in the present war.
"On the first proposition, I can only say that if he has this
invention, as my young friend of the Navy stands so firmly convinced,
it is tantamount to admitting that the United States has a new and
terrible instrument of war, in which case it would be most unwise to
offend her. If he has not, there certainly can be no objection to
allowing him the opportunity of offering to our enemies something that
is of no value. Therefore, that seems to settle the question as to the
advisability of detaining him, as has been suggested. I should
strongly favour letting him go when and where he pleases.
"Assuming that he has in his possession facts or mechanisms that would
give to one nation such stupendous advantages over the others as he
claims, we must not forget that the United States has had these facts
and mechanisms for some time. Therefore, it would be ill-advised to
detain him forcibly, for the United States' answer to this would be a
declaration of war in which the superiority of her position would be
"I'm inclined to believe that the reason he does not wish to sell his
discovery is because he has not obtained permission from his
Government to do so. They intend to dispose of it to the country with
whom they can make the most favourable bargain. I think indeed that
under all circumstances the best policy for this Government is to
treat this man with the greatest possible consideration. If he has the
power to do us harm, we must put him in such a position that he will
not wish to do it; and if he has not, our treatment of him will have a
tendency to draw the United States nearer to us than she is at
present. We must, at least, pretend to take the American Secretary of
State at his word. Whereas I do not think that there is any doubt that
America is influenced entirely by selfish motives, she is now our
friend, and as long as this war goes on it is to the interest of Great
Britain to keep her so."
"A very good idea, Sir Egbert," agreed Underhill. "That is absolutely
the only way to deal with this man. He says that he is almost a pure
Anglo-Saxon, you know, and he is as proud of it as if he were an
Englishman. He is the ninth in direct line from the original old chap,
or rather young chap, who went from England to Virginia in 1642. Think
of it! Say what you may, blood is thicker than water. That fellow is
at heart an Englishman; he has been away from home nearly three
Graves gave a little bow of comprehension. "When Mr. Edestone calls on
me tomorrow," he said, "I shall not even touch on the question of the
purchasing of this alleged invention, but shall offer to facilitate in
every way his mission as peacemaker. I shall take him at his word that
he does not intend to sell to any one, and try to persuade him that,
if he is bent on coercing any people, the English are not the ones
that require this, as they are in perfect accord with him, and that he
would accomplish his purpose much more quickly if he would bring force
to bear upon the German Emperor."
"But, Sir Egbert," broke in Underhill excitedly, "he says that he
wants us to authorize him to open peace negotiations with the Kaiser,
and I think he rather intimated that if we should refuse he would use
force, which of course means the United States."
"Well upon my word!" Rockstone's eyes flashed, and an indignant
expression took the place of the rather bored look with which he had
been listening. "That is pretty strong language to use to His Imperial
Majesty's Government, and for my part I think that this young
gentleman and his little trick box should be shipped back home with a
very polite but emphatic note to the effect that when England wishes
the good offices of the United States in bringing this war to a close,
she will call for them. As to the young man himself, I should say to
him that if he were caught trying to get into Germany he would be
looked upon as a spy endeavouring to render assistance to the enemy,
and would be treated accordingly."
"But wait a moment, Rockstone," said Sir Egbert. "You are forgetting
that this Mr. Edestone is in some measure at least the representative
of his country. We cannot afford to offend the United States of
America, even though his manners are bad."
"To the contrary," muttered Underhill, "his manners are surprisingly
Sir Egbert slightly inclined his head in acknowledgment of the
correction. "There is the point too," he went on, "as to whether or
not he is an impostor. If he is, why should we allow the American
comic papers to put us in the same category with their own Secretary
of State, at whom they have been poking fun for years, when they
discover that this exceedingly clever young man has taken us in also?
"No, no, to me the matter seems very simple. Uncle Sam has got
something he wants to sell. Good or bad it makes no difference; he
wants to sell, and sell it he will to the highest bidder. Why refuse
to consider his offer on the one hand, or why appear to be too anxious
to close with him on the other? Let him offer it to the enemy; he will
certainly come back for our bid before closing with them."
"Do you know, Sir Egbert," Lord Rockstone somewhat reluctantly allowed
himself to be won over, "since you put it that way I think that
perhaps you are right. Diplomacy is probably the strongest weapon with
which to deal with this young man. He did not impress me as one to be
easily bluffed by show of force."
"Nor should I be bluffed, even by you, Rockstone," said Underhill
somewhat ruefully, rubbing his arm, "if I had the power that this chap
has locked up in that little rubber box and stored away in that long
head of his."
"Well, let us make a decision: does His Majesty go to Washington or
shall the Chautauqua lecturer extend his professional tours to include
London?" Graves gave his sly secretive laugh. Then as if ashamed of
his momentary levity, and changing his entire manner, he said: "Well,
gentlemen, what do you propose?"
"I rather think we are unanimous," said Underhill, "in considering
that Mr. Edestone should be given a fair hearing. The final answer to
his proposition can be given, of course, only after it has been
discussed in full cabinet."
"That would perhaps be the best way to leave the matter," approved
"We are agreed then, it seems," said Graves, and they left together
for Buckingham Palace.
THE SPY-DRIVEN TAXI
On coming out of the Admiralty, Edestone, a trifle preoccupied, was
about to take the taxi with the rather sleepy driver which stood at
the head of the line. But the thought came to him, where shall I go?
As he had told Rebener, none of his pals were in town and he had
absolutely nothing to do until dinner at eight o'clock. Why not take
lunch at some quiet little place in the neighbourhood?
"I say, cabby, is there any sort of a decent restaurant around here
where one can get a very nice little lunch?"
"Yes, sir, thank you, sir"; the chauffeur rather abruptly came into
full possession of his faculties. "There is a very neat little place
right across the road, sir, thank you, sir," and he pointed in the
direction of the window at which Schmidt was sitting.
"Ah, thank you, cabby," said Edestone in his usual kind manner with
people of that class. He was rather struck by the handsome face of the
man, although it was covered over with grease and grime. "Here is a
shilling. Don't you think I might be able to walk that far this
"Yes, sir, thank you, sir." The man showed no appreciation of the
humour. "Would you be wanting a cab later on, sir? If so I'll just
hang about, sir. Times is hard in these war times, sir."
"Certainly, wait by all means," said Edestone with a jolly laugh. "Set
your clock. Now open your door and drive me to that restaurant over
there, and then wait for me till I have had my lunch. By the time that
I get through with you I think you will find that you have done a good
"I am sure of it, sir." The chauffeur hid a surreptitious chuckle with
his very dirty hand.
On entering the restaurant the first person Edestone saw was Schmidt,
and he gave a little nod of recognition.
"Well, Mr. Schmidt, we seem to be meeting quite often this morning. I
hope that I am to infer from your presence that I will be able to get
some of your delightfully greasy German dishes."
But at this point he was interrupted by the proprietor, who came
bustling up, trying to force him to take a seat at a table in another
part of the room.
"German dishes?" stammered the restaurant keeper. "Not at all. That
was when the place was run by Munchinger, but he went back to Germany
last July, and this place is run by me, and I am a Swiss. Still, sir,
if you are fond of the German dishes I think I might be able to
accommodate you, sir."
"Well, suppose I leave that entirely to you. I can't by any chance get
a large stein of Munchener beer?"
"No, sir, I am sorry. I can get you some French beer though, which we
think is much better. You know that Admiral Fisher has got those
Dutchmen bottled up so tight that they tell me the beer won't froth
any more in Germany." And he burst into a roar of laughter in which he
was joined by a chorus of adoring customers sitting about at the
Edestone sat down while the proprietor in person took his order to the
kitchen. In a very short time, the man returned and put down before
him a _gemuse suppe_, following this with _schweine fleisch,
sauerkraut_, and _gherkins_--a luncheon which might have been
cooked in a German's own kitchen--and set before him a glass of beer
which Edestone would have sworn had not been brewed outside of the
city of Munich.
The proprietor bustled about, laughing and cracking clumsy jokes with
everyone who would listen to him, and his jokes seemed to Edestone to
be almost as German as his beer. In this way he finally worked over to
where Smith was sitting, and as he pretended to arrange something on
the table whispered sharply: "Go to the lavatory."
Smith, unable to eat, sat toying with his food. He gulped his beer as
if it choked him. He turned around several times to look at Edestone,
but the latter after his perfunctory greeting took no further notice
of him. At last, paying his check, the man walked to the rear of the
restaurant and into a small, dark, badly ventilated room under the
stairs. The place was so dimly lighted that he could scarcely see in
front of him a wash basin, but as he was wondering what he was
expected to do next he heard a voice that seemed to come from a little
partially opened window that looked out into a dark ventilating shaft
to the left of the basin. "Pretend to wash your hands," the voice
whispered cautiously. Smith did as he was directed and found that he
thus brought his left ear close to the window opening.
"Now listen," said the voice, speaking rapidly in German. "God is with
the Fatherland today! 4782 has been engaged to wait. Hottenroth has
telephoned that our man undoubtedly has his instrument with him. The
order is for you and 4782 to get it from him this afternoon at any
cost. 4782 knows what he is to do." And the window closed softly.
Smith broke out into a cold perspiration. He knew that he was looking
death straight in the face, and in a twinkling his mind carried him
back over his entire life. He clutched at his throat as he realized
his horrible situation. His present position in the grip of this
relentless but invisible master had come about so gradually that he
had not realized how firmly he was caught until now it was too
late. Not being borne up by the hysterical exaltation of the true-born
Prussian, he resented that he should be the one selected to do this
He staggered back into the restaurant where the proprietor, laying a
hand upon his arm, and laughing loudly and winking as if he were
telling a risque story, muttered some further directions into his ear.
"He is preparing to go now. Join him and don't leave him until--" he
broke off and rushed over to Edestone who had risen from the table and
was taking his hat and cane from the waiter.
"I hope, sir, you found everything perfectly satisfactory?" he bowed.
"Very nice indeed," said Edestone, handing him a half-crown. "I am
glad to have discovered your place and I shall come again."
At the door he encountered Smith, who was lingering about as if
waiting for him.
"Oh, Mr. Edestone," he forced himself to say, swallowing and fumbling
with his mouth. "I remember when I was fixing up your Little Place in
the Country for you that you took a great deal of interest in old
English prints. Well, I have just found an old print shop over in the
Whitechapel district with some of the most wonderful old prints, and
if you have the time to spare I would like to take you over and have
the old man show them to you."
"I should like to very much," said Edestone. "I have just been
wondering what I should do with myself this afternoon."
"The Kaiser and God will bless you for this," the restaurant keeper
whispered into Smith's ear, after he had bowed Edestone out to the
"Mr. Smith, will you please give the address to the driver," said
Edestone as he stepped into the taxi. Smith leaned over and gave some
mumbled instructions to the chauffeur, who had remained upon his box;
then he took his place at the side of his friend and patron.
But no sooner had the motor started than he turned to
Edestone. "Mr. Edestone,"--his voice trembled so violently that he
could scarcely speak,--"please do not move or seem surprised at what I
am going to say."
Edestone drew back slightly and looked at him. He thought at first
that the man had suddenly lost his reason. Smith was perfectly livid
and his little eyes were starting from his head. His mouth was open
and he seemed to be vainly trying to draw his blue lips over his great
dry yellow teeth on which they seemed to catch, giving him the
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