L. P. M.
J. Stewart Barney
Part 2 out of 5
appearance of a snarling dog as he cringed in the corner of the
cab. One hand was pulling at his collar while with the other he
clutched at the seat in a vain effort to restrain the tremors which
were shaking him from head to foot. "Don't speak. I must talk and talk
fast," he said.
Edestone leaned forward as if to halt the car, but the fellow caught
him by the knee in a grip almost of desperation.
"For God's sake don't do that!" he pleaded. "He will kill both of
us. Oh, don't you understand? He is a German spy. I am German, Rebener
is German, we are all Germans--all spies. We have been watching you
for the past six months. This man is now driving you to a place where
they will certainly kill you unless you turn over that instrument
which you have in your pocket."
At this Edestone started. Although he could scarcely control himself
and felt like strangling the chicken-hearted wretch, he recovered
himself in time to say with a look of disgust, "You poor miserable
"I know, Mr. Edestone, but please keep quiet. I may save you if you
will do as I say. I don't know about myself. I am a dead man for
certain, though, if you let him once suspect," and he motioned in the
direction of the chauffeur. Then continuing he gasped out: "Stop the
taxi anywhere along here: get out and go into some shop. When you come
out again say to me that you have decided you will look at the prints
some other day, and that you will walk to the hotel. Discharge and pay
him. I will re-engage him and as soon as we get out of sight you take
another taxi and drive straight to your hotel. But you must be
careful; he knows that you have the instrument with you. They are
desperate enough to do anything. Your life is in danger."
Edestone, thoroughly enjoying the excitement of the situation, had
absolutely no fear either for himself or for the instrument, since as
a matter of fact he knew that he could destroy that at any moment. He
felt sorry for Smith, however. He pitied him for his weakness but
realized that he was risking his life to save him, so he did as he was
While he was in the shop 4782 got off the box, and, looking into the
cab, said sternly to Smith in German: "If you are playing me any of
your American tricks, you half-breed, you will never see the sun set
Also, when Edestone returned and discharged him with a very handsome
tip, he did not seem especially gratified, and when poor Smith in a
trembling voice re-engaged the taxi, the driver almost lost control of
himself. Had he done so, Edestone, who was watching him closely, would
have been delighted, since he would have liked nothing better than to
have forced the fellow to show his hand then and there. He was again
struck with the chauffeur's appearance as he stood talking to Smith
for he had the air of a gentleman and even through his dirt looked
above his position. Leaving them there, the American strolled along,
and, after a block or two, hailed another cab and ordered it to drive
to Claridge's. He really did not think to look about him, but had he
done so he might have discovered that he was being followed by the
first taxi with its woebegone passenger and its handsome chauffeur.
Arriving at the hotel he was interested to see standing in front of
the door a carriage with men in the royal livery, and he was met at
the entrance by the proprietor himself in a frightful state of
"Mr. Edestone, one of the King's equerries is waiting in the reception
room to see you. I have been calling you up at every club and hotel in
Edestone went into the reception room where he was met by an officer
in the uniform of the Royal Horse Guards, who after going through the
formality of introducing himself delivered his message:
"His Majesty, the King, instructs me to say that he will receive you
and inspect your drawings, photographs, etc., at Buckingham Palace
this afternoon at half-past four o'clock."
To nearly every man, especially if he happened to be an Englishman,
the fact that he had received a Royal Command would have been
sufficient to make him, if not nervous, at least thoughtful. Edestone
was, however, so incensed at Rebener and so disgusted with Schmidt and
so angry with the entire German Secret Service, that it came to him as
a relief, like an invitation, from a gentleman older and more
distinguished than himself, to dine, or to see some recently acquired
painting or bit of porcelain, after he had been all day at a Board
meeting of avaricious business men. It was no affectation with him
that he felt he was going into an atmosphere in which he belonged. "I
always assume that Royalties are gentlemen," he would say, "until I
find that they are not; and as long as they conduct themselves as such
I am perfectly at ease, but as soon as they begin to behave like
bounders I am uncomfortable."
He was not one of those Americans who insist at all times and under
all circumstances that he is as good as any man, simply because in his
heart of hearts he knows that he is not, but hopes by this bluster to
deceive the world. On the contrary, he was a firm advocate of an
aristocratic form of government, and did not hesitate to say that he
considered the Declaration of Independence, wherein it refers to the
absolute equality of man, as a joke.
He was a most thorough believer in class and class distinction and
said that he hoped to see the day when the world would be ruled by an
upper class who would see that the lower classes had all that was good
for them, but would not be allowed to turn the world upside down with
their clumsy illogical reforms and new religions, Saint-Simonianism,
humanitarianism, or as a matter of fact with any of the old
established _isms_. They already have several hundred forms to
choose from, he would say; they should not be allowed to make any more
new ones until one single one of these has been universally
accepted. The glamour of royalty had no effect upon him. Its solidity,
dignity, and gentility did.
When he saw the royal livery standing before the hotel, he had rather
surmised that it was being used by some Indianapolis heiress who had
married a title which carried the privilege of using it and was
getting her money's worth. He therefore took no interest in looking
into the carriage, but he would have been glad to have gone up to the
men and said: "A nice pair of horses you have there. How well they are
turned out, and how very smartly you wear your livery."
The equerry, Colonel Stewart, was very simple and direct. He treated
Edestone with consideration, but did not forget to let him understand
that the King was showing great condescension in inviting him so
"A carriage will be sent for you at four o'clock, and if there is any
apparatus and you have men to install it they will be looked after by
an officer of the Royal Household who will call in about an hour."
He said that the King wished to have it understood that he was not
receiving Edestone in any way as representing the United States of
America, since no credentials of any kind had been presented, but
simply as a gentleman of science whose achievements warranted the
In the course of their conversation, Edestone referred to his recent
unpleasant experience in the spy-driven taxi, and he was assured by
Colonel Stewart that he need entertain no further apprehensions on
that score as thorough protection would be given him and every single
one of these men would be and already were under espionage. Bowing
then, the equerry left as quietly as he had come.
Edestone went up to his apartment and issued his instructions to
James, his valet.
"Send Mr. Black and Mr. Stanton to me at once. Then fix my bath, send
for the barber, and lay out my clothes. I am going out to tea"--he
paused--"with His Majesty, King George V. of England," while he
enjoyed the effect on his snobbish English servant.
"Mr. Black," he said when his electrician and operating man came in,
"will you and Mr. Stanton go to Grosvenor Square and bring over the
boxes with the apparatus and films. They will have to be back here by
3:15, as there will be an officer of the Royal Household here at that
time. Go with him to Buckingham Palace and install the instrument and
screen where he directs you; then wait there until you hear from me."
While he was dressing and being shaved he ran over in his mind what he
should say to the King. He knew that either Rockstone or Underhill had
engineered this audience, and he wondered whether it foreboded good or
evil. At any rate it was progress, and that was all-important.
Colonel Stewart had certainly been most cordial, and the fact that he
was to meet the King without the delay of presenting credentials
through the American Embassy, rather argued that England felt the
necessity for prompt action.
The barber almost cut his ear off when James came to announce the fact
than an officer of the Royal Household was downstairs and that Mr.
Black and Mr. Stanton had returned from Grosvenor Square with the
apparatus and films, and when Edestone stopped him long enough to say
through the lather: "Tell Mr. Black that I will be at the Palace and
shall want everything in readiness by 4:30 at the latest," the man
gave such a start that he almost dropped the shaving mug. He set it
down with a bang on the marble washbasin.
"I go," he said. "My nose bleeds. I will send you another barber." And
he rushed out of the room.
"What is the matter, James?" exclaimed Edestone indignantly. "Why
didn't you insist on their sending up the head barber instead of that
fool? Come finish this thing up yourself, I can't wait." Recovering
his equanimity he added: "Time flies and the King waits."
James, who in his time had valeted princes, after he had finished
shaving him and had turned him out as only a well-trained English
valet can, glanced with satisfaction at his work. "I think, sir, when
His Majesty sees you, sir, he will ask, sir, who is your tailor,
sir. A buttonhole, sir?"
And so with a light step and buoyant spirit the American went down,
when word came up that Colonel Stewart had called for him.
"Mr. Edestone," said the Colonel, "I am glad to tell you that your
apparatus has arrived safely and has been installed in the Green
Drawing Room. The King is deeply interested, and judging from a
mysterious pair of curtains in the gallery I think that other members
of the Royal Family intend to see this wonderful American with his
wonderful invention. As to your friends, the German spies, I made due
report of the matter and shall probably have something to tell you
It was a beautiful spring day and as Edestone was driven through
Berkeley Square, up Piccadilly, and down Grosvenor Place he saw London
at its best. Then, as he crossed the park with its beautiful old trees
and lake and flower-beds, approaching Buckingham Palace from an
entirely different angle than he had ever seen it before, he realized
for the first time that it was in the midst of a beautiful sylvan
setting. The Buckingham Palace that he knew had always suggested to
him one of the Department Buildings in Washington in their efforts to
look as much like a royal palace as possible.
When he stopped under a porte-cochere simple little entrance, he felt
that he might be making a call at some rich American's country home
rather than on the King of England in the middle of London. There were
no soldiers and no extraordinary number of servants. He had seen as
many and more at some of the houses at Newport. He was shown into a
long, low, and rather dark room on the ground floor, where a lot of
young officers were lounging about. Colonel Stewart introduced him to
several of them and a smarter lot of young fellows Edestone had seldom
He had not been waiting more than fifteen or twenty minutes when he
heard Colonel Stewart's name called. His pulse quickened for he knew
that this was a signal for him. Colonel Stewart, bowing to the other
officers, said to him: "Will you please come with me, Mr. Edestone?"
Passing out of the room and up a short flight of stairs they came to a
broad corridor about twenty feet wide which ran around three sides of
a court, opening out upon the gardens to the west. They were conducted
around two sides of the square and taken into a large reception room
in the opposite corner where there were perhaps a dozen officers of
high rank, ministers and statesmen, standing about in groups. They
spoke in voices scarcely above a whisper and when the door on the
left, which evidently led into a still larger room, was opened there
was absolute silence.
Colonel Stewart, who up to this time had been quite affable, now
seemed suddenly to be caught by the solemnity of the place, and stood
like a man at the funeral of his friend.
In one of the groups, Edestone saw Colonel Wyatt, who gave him a
little nod of recognition. In a few minutes the door to the larger
room opened and Lord Rockstone coming out walked straight up to where
he and Colonel Stewart stood.
"His Majesty wishes to waive all form and ceremony, and has ordered me
to present you to him at once," he said. But when he saw the cool and
matter-of-fact way in which Edestone received this extraordinary
announcement his expression said as plainly as words: "These Americans
are certainly a remarkable people." He merely bowed to Colonel
Stewart, however, and continued: "Will you please come with me," and
leading the way to the door, spoke to an attendant who went inside. In
about five minutes the man returned, and announced to Lord Rockstone:
"His Majesty will receive you."
HE MEETS THE KING
The room into which they were shown was large and well-proportioned,
but was furnished and decorated in the style of the middle of the
nineteenth century--that atrocious period often referred to as the
Early Victorian, a term which always calls forth a smile at any
assembly of true lovers of art and carries with it the idea of all
that is heavy and vulgarly inartistic. But on the whole the room had
an air of comfort, flooded as it was with warm sunlight that streamed
through the four great windows on the right and those on each side of
the fireplace at the opposite end.
Around the large table, sat a gathering of the most distinguished men
of the Empire drawn from the Privy Council. They had evidently
finished the work of the day, as was shown by the absence of all
papers on the table and the precise manner in which the different
cabinet ministers had their portfolios neatly closed in front of them.
One would say that they had settled down to be amused or bored as the
case might be. They looked like a company of well-bred people whose
host has just announced that "Professor Bug" will relate some of his
experiences among the poisonous orchids of South America, or like a
lot of polite though perfectly deaf persons waiting for the music to
begin. Some were talking quietly, while others sat perfectly still.
The servants were removing writing materials, maps, etc., and a cloud
of clerks and undersecretaries were being swallowed up by a door in a
corner of the room.
At the end of the table opposite the door through which Edestone had
entered, sat the King. He looked very small as he sat perfectly still,
his hands resting listlessly on the arms of his great carved chair of
black walnut picked out with gold. His face with its reddish beard,
now growing grey, bore an expression of deep sadness, almost of
melancholia. His expression became more animated, however, when
Edestone entered, and he sat up and looked straight at the American as
he stood at the other end of the table.
"Your Majesty," Lord Rockstone bowed, "I beg to be allowed to present
to you Mr. John Fulton Edestone of New York of the United States of
The King rose and, as his great chair was drawn back, walked to the
nearest window and stood while Rockstone brought Edestone up to him.
Extending his hand he said:
"Mr. Edestone, Mr. Underhill tells me that you are from New York. It
has been a source of great regret to me that I have never been able to
visit your wonderful country. I recall very distinctly, though, a stay
of several weeks that I made in Bermuda, and of the many charming
Americans whom I met there at that time. I was, then, the Duke of
York," he sighed.
His manner was cordial and he seemed to wish to put Edestone at ease,
assuming with him an air rather less formal than he would have shown
toward one of his own subjects of the middle class--the one great
class to which the nobility, gentry, and servants of England assign
all Americans, although the first two often try hard to conceal this
while the last seem to fear that the Americans may forget it.
"I am rather surprised to find you so young a man after hearing of
your wonderful achievements in science," the King went on, adding with
rather a sad smile: "It seems a pity to take you from some charming
English girl with whom you might be having tea this beautiful spring
afternoon and bring you to this old barracks to discuss instruments of
death and destruction." And his face seemed very old.
After a pause he turned to Rockstone and directing him to introduce
Edestone he went back to his seat and with a slight gesture ordered
the rest to resume their places. He fixed his eyes on Edestone, who
had been taken back to the other end of the table where he stood
perfectly still. Not once had the American spoken since coming into
the room. He had acknowledged the King's great kindness with a bow
which showed plainer than words in what deep respect he held the head
of the great English-speaking race. This seemed to have made a good
impression on some of the older men, who up to this time had not
deigned to look in his direction. One of the younger men murmured in
an undertone: "Young-looking chap to have kicked up such a rumpus,
isn't he? He has deuced good manners for an American."
Meanwhile Lord Rockstone, bowing to the King and then to the rest of
the company, was proceeding with the introduction, briefly explaining
that Mr. Edestone had requested to be allowed to appear before His
Majesty and explain certain inventions which he claimed to have made.
The King, however, seeming determined to make it as easy as possible
for the American, chose to supplement this formality.
"Mr. Edestone," he said with a smile, "since this meeting is to be, as
you say in America, 'just a gentlemen's meeting,' you may sit down
while you tell us about your wonderful discovery."
Edestone acknowledged the courtesy with a slight bow but declined.
"Your Majesty, with your kind permission, I should prefer to stand,"
and, then, without the slightest sign of embarrassment, he continued:
"I thank Your Majesty for your kindness. I will as briefly as I can
explain that to which you have so graciously referred as my wonderful
discovery, but before doing this, I beg to be allowed to set forth to
you my position relative to Your Majesty and Your Majesty's subjects.
Should I in my enthusiasm at any time violate any of the established
rules of court etiquette, please always remember that it is due to my
ignorance and not to any lack of deep and sincere respect or that
affection which I and all true Anglo-Saxons have for your person as
representing the head of that great people and the King of 'Old
A thrill went through the room. The King was evidently affected. One
old gentleman, who up to this time had taken absolutely no notice of
Edestone, turned quickly and looking sharply at him through his large
eyeglasses, said: "Hear! Hear!"
The speaker acknowledged this and then proceeded. "I am an American
and I am proud of it. Not because of the great power and wealth of my
country, nor of its hundred and odd millions of people made up of the
nations of the earth, the sweepings of Europe, the overflow of Asia,
and the bag of the slave-hunter of Africa, which centuries will
amalgamate into a _cafe au lait_ conglomerate, but because I am
proud of that small group of Anglo-Saxons who, under the influence of
the free air of our great country, have developed such strength that
they have up to this time put the stamp of England upon all who have
come in contact with them. And while it is not my intention to sell my
invention to England, I will give you my word that it shall never be
used except for the benefit of the English-speaking people."
He then raised his right hand as he added very slowly and distinctly:
"In your presence and that of Almighty God, I dedicate my life to my
people, the Anglo-Saxons!"
This was received with a general murmur of applause, although there
were a few dark-skinned gentlemen with curly beards and large noses
who seemed uncomfortable. Edestone had caught that group of
unemotional men and against their will had swept them along with him,
and it was only with an effort that some of the younger men could
refrain from giving him three cheers.
Underhill, who was smiling and gesticulating at Rockstone and Graves,
applauded violently, while the King made no effort to hide his
pleasure. There was something about this man that left in no one's
mind any doubt of his sincerity, and on looking at him they felt that
he was not the kind of a man who would so solemnly and in the presence
of the King and all of the greatest men of England dedicate his life
to a purpose if he did not know that therein lay a real gift to
mankind. His sublime confidence was as convincing as his simplicity
Seeing that the ice was broken he turned now to the serious business
of the afternoon.
"Mr. President," he commenced, "now that I have shown you how I stand
on international politics, I shall proceed----"
He was astonished to see the King put his head back and laugh, while
the rest, made bold by the royal example, joined in heartily.
The King seeing that Edestone was innocent of any mistake and was
blankly searching for an explanation of their mirth leaned forward and
not altogether lightly said:
"The King of England accepts the Presidency of the Anglo-Saxon
"I beg Your Majesty's pardon. I am sorry. I have forgotten myself so
soon: what shall I do when I get into the intricacies of mathematics,
physics, and mechanics to explain to you my invention?"
"Mr. Edestone," said the King, "we understand perfectly. Go on."
Recovering himself quickly and assuming a thoroughly businesslike air,
snapping out his facts with precision, speaking rapidly without notes
or memoranda, he said:
"The physical properties of electrons form the basis of my invention,
and it cannot be understood except by those who have studied the
electron theory of matter, according to which theory the electron or
corpuscle is the smallest particle of matter that had, up to my
discovery, been isolated. They are present in a free condition in
metallic conductors. Each electron carries an electric charge of
electrostatic units and produces a magnetic field in a plane
perpendicular to the direction of its motion. This brings us to the
atom, which may be described as a number of electrons positive and
negative in stable equilibrium, this condition being brought about by
the mutual repulsion of the like and attraction for the opposite
electrification so arranged as to nullify each other. Having thus
established the law of the equilibrium of electrons, corpuscles,
atoms, and molecules, I found that the same law applies to the
equilibrium of our solar system, and, in fact, of the universe, and,
by the elimination of either the positive or the negative electron,
this equilibrium is altered or destroyed.
"I then sought to nullify the attraction of gravity by changing the
electrical condition of the electrons of an object, which until that
time was attracted by the earth, as is shown by the formula,
_V equals the square root of (s times 2g)_ for falling bodies,
and by using the formula _Y equals the square root of mx divided by
(pi times g)_ I found----"
But at this point he was interrupted by the King, who said, with a
gesture of supplication: "Please! Please! Mr. Edestone do not go so
deeply into science, for, for my part, I regret to say that it would
be entirely lost on me. Save that for my men of science," and he waved
his hand in the direction of his rough and rugged old Sea Lord, Admiral
Sir Wm. Brown. "Just tell us what you have accomplished and then show
us some of these marvellous things that Mr. Underhill has told us you
can do. Besides, I understand that you are to show us moving pictures
of the actual working of your machine, boat, or whatever it is."
The inventor was disappointed; for he had wished to set all minds at
rest and to establish the fact that he was no trickster but a
scientist. With a deprecating smile he said: "As Your Majesty
Then, without the slightest sign of condescension, and selecting with
the greatest care only words that the man in the street could
understand, he proceeded with his exposition.
"I have discovered that gravitation is due to the attraction that two
bodies in different electrical condition have for each other, and that
by changing the condition of one of these bodies so that they are both
in the same electrical condition this attraction no longer exists. I
have also discovered that the earth is, so to speak, as far as the
laws of gravity are concerned, in a state of what we might call for
lack of a better name, 'positive electrical condition,' and that all
objects on the earth, as long as they are not in contact with it, are
in what we may call 'negative electrical condition.' These remain in
this condition so long as they are not in actual electrical contact
with the earth and are separated from it by a non-conducting medium
such as the atmosphere, glass, hard rubber, etc., and are attracted by
it, as is shown by the formulae which I will gladly explain to your
gentlemen of science." And he turned with a bow to Admiral Sir William
Brown, who was leaning across the table frowning at him and who with
his scrubbing-brush hair, long upper lip, and heavy brows looked more
like a Rocky Mountain goat than ever.
"I have invented an instrument," continued Edestone, "which I call a
_Deionizer._ With this, so far as regards any phenomena of which
we are conscious, I am able to change the electrical condition of an
object, provided this object is insulated from electrical contact with
the earth. That is, I can change it from the so-called minus
condition, which is attracted by the earth, to the plus condition,
which being the same condition as the earth, is therefore not
attracted by it. The object in that state can be said to have no
weight, although frankly for some reason which I have not yet
discovered it does not lose its inertia against motion in any
direction relative to the earth."
He then took from his pocket the leather case which Underhill readily
recognized, and, turning to Lord Rockstone, he said with a slightly
"If your Lordship will be so kind as to stand on a glass plate or
block of hard rubber I can with this little instrument which I have in
my hand alter your electrical condition from its present minus to that
of plus. I can then place you anywhere in this room and keep you there
as long as you do not come in contact with any object that,
electrically speaking, is in contact with the earth."
This caused Lord Rockstone to give a grim but thoroughly good-natured
smile, and Edestone, feeling as if he had somewhat settled scores with
the "Hero of the Nile," continued: "As a less valuable object than one
of the most brilliant stars in Great Britain's crown will answer my
purpose just as well, may I ask that one of the servants fetch the
glass plate that was brought to the Palace this afternoon with my
The glass plate having been brought in by a flunkey, he repeated the
experiment with which he had so astonished Underhill at the Admiralty,
using the flunkey however in place of the cannon ball, and leaving the
poor unfortunate creature suspended in mid-air while he himself
replied to the many questions that were put to him.
Finally he touched the man's hand, and taking the shock through his
own body let him drop to the floor. The fellow remained there in an
almost fainting condition, but, recovering and finding that he had
sustained no injuries except to his dignity, which in his state of
great excitement had fallen away from him, he rushed out of the room
without asking for or receiving permission to do so. His
panic-stricken exit would at any other time have been most amusing,
but the audience just then was in no humour for levity.
Edestone next repeated the same experiment, utilizing different small
objects that were handed to him by the gentlemen about the table, and
soon had suspended above the glass plate an assortment of
pocket-knives, watches, and a glass of water, while he chatted with
those who were nearest to him, and handed to the scientific members of
the council diagrams and mathematical formulae which he hastily
scribbled on bits of paper.
After the different objects had been returned to their respective
owners, the King by a slight gesture called the meeting to order, for
all had left their seats and were crowding around Edestone in what,
for Englishmen, was a state of violent excitement. Even the more
self-contained were unable to conceal the fact that they were
impressed by these experiments as well as by the quiet dignity of this
young man. They seemed to realize that he had them figuratively if not
literally in the palm of his hand. The dullest and least imaginative
saw the endless possibilities in the application of his discovery to
the arts and sciences. During all of this time the young American had
kept himself under perfect control and had answered all questions in
the most deferential and respectful manner; and now, having received
from the King permission to continue, he went on:
"The secret of my discovery lies in this little instrument, the
construction of which is known only to myself. The application of this
newly-discovered principle can be best understood by viewing my moving
pictures, which show it in actual operation. Now, with your most kind
permission I should like to inspect my apparatus to see that
everything is all right."
And then, as if some sudden impulse which pleased him had flashed
across his mind, like the big healthy-minded boy that he was, and with
an irresistible smile on his face, he dropped into a more familiar
tone than he had allowed himself up to this time.
"And to show you what I think of Englishmen," he said, "I will leave
this Deionizer in your keeping until I return. A gentle tap or two on
that hard-rubber shell and you will know its secret." He laid the
instrument with its little case beside it on the table in front of the
King and left the room escorted by a member of the Royal Family, young
Prince George of Windthorst, who insisted upon acting as his guide to
the Green Drawing Room.
As the door closed upon them, the King rose, saying as he did so,
"Please remain seated." He walked into one of the windows and stood
for some minutes looking out over the park. Whatever it was that was
passing through his mind, it was not a pleasant thought, as was shown
by his hands, which were clasped behind his back so tightly that the
fingers were perfectly white; and the veins of his neck swelled, while
the muscles of his jaws were firmly set. No one dared to move. The
silence in the room was so intense that the men about the table, as if
caught by a spell, sat with unfinished gestures, like the figures in a
moving picture when the film catches. The clock on the mantel seemed
suddenly to have waked up and to be trying by its loud ticking to fool
itself into thinking that it had been ticking all the time. When the
time came for it to strike five o'clock, it went at it with such
resounding vim that Admiral Sir William Brown, who had served his
apprenticeship in the turrets, seemed to think that he had better open
his mouth to save his ear-drums.
"War is war! All is fair! War is war! All is fair!" it seemed to say.
The King finally turned, and walking back to the table picked up the
innocent-looking instrument. He turned it over and over in his hand
and then slowly and carefully wound the platinum wires about it as a
boy winds a top and placed it back into its leather case. As he put it
down on the table, he said, almost as if to himself:
"We have come today to one of the turning points in the history of the
world. This is a remarkable man."
After a moment, he turned to Underhill: "I think you have done your
country a great service today in averting what might have been an
appalling catastrophe. Do you not agree with me, Sir Egbert?" he
glanced toward the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
"I do, Sire," the minister acquiesced thoughtfully. "If this man
represents the United States of America, it will not be long before
she will insist that this war be brought to an end upon her own terms,
and it would have been almost suicidal on our part to antagonize him.
She doubtless controls this instrument whose practical application
will probably be shown us by his pictures."
"But what this man has just said to you, Sire," suggested Underhill,
"does not seem to bear out the idea that he is acting under
instructions from the present State Department at Washington."
"If it please Your Majesty," interposed one of the statesmen of the
old school, "should we not make some formal representation to the
United States of America before this man be allowed to go to Berlin?"
"I should not approve of that," dissented the King. "In the first
place, as far as we know, Mr. Edestone may have already communicated
with Berlin, Paris, and Petrograd. I do not think he would put himself
so completely in our power if he thought he was risking the
destruction of his entire scheme."
"I believe, Your Majesty," said another sneeringly, "that this
melodramatic exit is just another Yankee bluff. You will probably find
in looking into it that the fellow has palmed the real instrument and
has forced this one on us by clever sleight of hand."
"I disagree with you entirely," said the King, frowning and bringing
his hand down on the table as if to put an end to the discussion. "I
believe this man to be a gentleman and a thoroughly good sportsman."
FIRST SHOW OF FORCE
On entering the room, when he returned, Edestone, although he was
aware that the King had been notified and the attendants been given
orders to admit him, did not advance, but took his stand near the
door, looking neither to the right nor to the left. He permitted the
young Prince, his escort, who had discovered that they had many
friends in common, and whose sister it was that had been his
fellow-passenger on the _Ivernia_, to inform His Majesty that
everything was in readiness for the exhibition of the moving pictures.
The King immediately beckoned the inventor forward and, picking up the
little instrument from the table, thrust it into Edestone's hands,
almost with an air of relief.
"We appreciate the compliment you have paid us in believing that we
still play fair." There was in both his tone and action a touch of the
bluff heartiness of the naval officer, which was natural to him, and
showed that he had thrown off all restraint. "But do not, I beg of
you, do this again, even in England. These are desperate times; and
nations, like men, when fighting for their very existence, are quite
apt to forget their finer scruples.
"My cousin in Berlin, I am convinced," and there was perhaps a hint of
warning in his smile, "would give the souls of half his people to know
what that little box contains; and, in his realm, it is the religion
of some of his benighted subjects to give him what he wants."
Bowing slightly, Edestone took the little case, and, without even
looking at it, slipped it carelessly into the inside pocket of his
"I knew that Your Majesty would understand me," he said in a tone
intended for the Royal ear alone, and with more emotion than he had
yet displayed. As he spoke, too, he lifted his hand in obedience to an
involuntary and apparently irresistible impulse.
The King met him more than half-way. Reaching out, he grasped the
extended hand in his own, and standing thus the two men looked
straight into each other's eyes.
The suppressed excitement which the scene created was so intense that
some of the spectators seemed to be suffering actual pain; and when,
after a fraction of a moment which seemed an age, the King released
the American's hand and spoke, there was an audible sigh of relief
that pervaded the entire room.
"We will now look at the pictures," said His Majesty simply, and,
leading the way, he set out in the direction of the Green Drawing
Edestone fell back and bowed respectfully in acknowledgment of the
pleasant glances which were thrown in his direction, as the Lords,
Generals, Admirals, and Ministers of State took their places in line,
clinging with an almost frantic tenacity, in response to the teachings
of the Catechism of the English Church, to their position "in that
state of life unto which it had pleased God to call" them.
Thoroughly amused at the situation which compelled him to bring up the
rear of the procession like the piano-tuner or the gas-man, Edestone
marched along at the side of an attendant in livery, who evidently
looked upon him as a clever vaudeville artist that had been brought in
to entertain the company. He told the visitor, with a broad grin, that
he had frightened the other flunkey almost out of his wits with his
magic tricks. Edestone, his sense of humour aroused, thereupon gravely
offered to give a show in the servants' hall at two shillings a head,
half the receipts to be donated to the Red Cross, provided he was
given a guarantee of ten pounds; and when the fellow promised to
consider the proposal, pretended carefully to take down his name.
The King, who, in the meantime, seemed to be in a sort of brown-study,
passed down the corridor with the long file of dignitaries following
him in order of precedence. But when His Majesty reached the Green
Drawing Room and, looking around, saw nothing of the American, he gave
a slight frown of annoyance. Immediately he directed that Edestone be
brought up and placed in a chair near himself, while the attendants
drew the curtains and extinguished the lights.
After the room had been made perfectly dark, and the buzzing of the
cinematograph in its temporary cabinet indicated that everything was
in readiness, Edestone's operator, in response to a word from his
employer, threw upon the screen two or three portraits of the King and
various members of the Royal Family. This was not only by way of
compliment, but also to give assurance that the machine was in proper
working order. Edestone proposed to run no chances of a bungling or
incomplete presentation of his pictures.
Satisfied at length, he rose and faced about toward his audience.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he said, after addressing the King,--for from
the gallery had come sounds which showed that, as Colonel Stewart had
suggested, some of the ladies of the Court were taking an interest in
the exhibition,--"I shall not trouble you to listen to a long,
scientific discourse on the theory of my discovery, nor how I have
made practical application of it. I shall simply throw the pictures on
the screen, letting them speak for themselves; and then, with His
Majesty's kind permission, shall be glad to answer any questions that
may be put to me. The first picture I shall show you is one of my
workshop in New York."
There appeared on the screen a dark, somewhat indistinct interior,
which seemed to have been photographed from high up and looking down
through a long, shed-like building lighted from the roof. The immense
height of this roof was not at first apparent until it was compared
with the pigmy-like figures of the workmen who were busily engaged
about a great, black, cigar-shaped object, which had the general
appearance of a Zeppelin. In the dim light, there was nothing about
its aspect to distinguish it from the latest models of the German
air-ship, save that it seemed to be of heavier construction, as shown
by the great difficulty with which the men were moving it toward the
farther end of the shed, which was entirely open.
"I would especially call your attention to the track upon which moves
the cradle that carries the large black object in the centre of the
picture," said Edestone. "The tires are made of hard rubber, and the
rails which are of steel rest on glass plates attached to each of the
tires. Thus, any object placed in the cradle becomes absolutely
insulated, and has no electrical connection with the earth, which, as
I have explained, are the requisite conditions to permit of
'Deionizing' by the use of an instrument similar to the one I have in
my pocket. Of course, though in actual operation we use a much larger
'Deionizer' than the little model I have shown you, and run it with a
hundred horse-power motor, instead of with a small spring and
watchworks. This track and cradle at which you are looking, although
they weigh many tons, can be easily taken apart and transported in
sections, as I stand ready to demonstrate."
The film ended as he finished, and for a moment the screen was blank;
then with a little splutter from the cabinet, another picture
This was of a great open space, the most desolate and lonely stretch
of country that could well be imagined, a broad, open plain that
stretched on for miles and miles, perfectly flat, treeless and
uninhabited. The wind apparently was blowing violently, judging from
the way it tossed Edestone's hair about as, hatless, he walked back
and forth in the near foreground, shading his eyes from the sun with
his hand while he looked into the lens and called his directions to
the man who was working the camera.
"That disreputable-looking individual is myself," he confessed. "My
hat had blown away, a circumstance quite inconvenient at the time, but
not without a certain element of present interest, as showing that a
high wind was blowing at that time."
Behind him in the middle distance was a track and cradle similar to
the one shown in the first picture. The machine in the cabinet buzzed,
and clicked, and made a noise like that of a small boy rattling a
stick along a picket fence. A draught from some open window blowing
against the linen screen caused the flat, deserted plain to undulate
like the waves of the sea. The horizon bobbed up and down, showing
first a great expanse of sky, and then the foreground ran up to
infinity. The cradle was seen first at the right, and then at the left
of the picture. The clouds in the sky kept jumping about, as if the
operator was trying to follow some object aloft, but was unable to get
it into the field of his camera.
The audience began to grow impatient. Had the apparatus got out of
order, they wondered, and were they to be cheated of the promised
sensation? But just then the screen steadied, and there appeared in
the upper left-hand corner of the picture a faint, far-away dot which
gradually assumed the form of a dirigible. Across the desolate
landscape it sailed, growing more and more distinct as it drew nearer.
It circled, turning first to the right and then to the left, rising
and descending, as if responding willingly to the touch of its unseen
pilot, until with a majestic swoop it hovered like a great bird
exactly over the cradle, and came to a standstill.
To those among the spectators who had witnessed the evolutions of the
great battleships of the air over Lake Constance, there was nothing
notable about either the vessel or its performance, except that it
seemed larger, more solid, and had four great smoke stacks. In the
gale which was blowing, the volumes of inky smoke which poured from
the four great funnels were tossed about and flung away like long,
streaming ribbons; yet the ship itself was as steady as a great ocean
liner on a summer sea.
On closer inspection, too, it was seen that on the upper side of the
craft there was a platform or deck running its full length, where men
were working away like sailors on a man-of-war, and from portholes and
turrets protruded great black things which looked like the muzzles of
All at once, as if acting under an order from within, these were
trained on the spectators and simultaneously discharged, belching out
great rings of smoke. There was a stifled scream from the gallery at
this, but immediately the room grew quiet again, and the audience sat
as if spellbound awaiting further developments. A small door in the
starboard side now opened, and the figure of a man came running down a
gangway to a platform suspended under the ship, where, silhouetted
against the sky, he occupied himself in signalling to some one on the
ground. He was joined from time to time by others of the crew as the
vessel settled slowly toward the earth.
When it was about one hundred and fifty feet above the cradle,
Edestone was seen to walk out with a megaphone in his hand, and
through it communicate instructions to the man on the bridge, in
evident obedience to which the airship settled still lower, until it
was not more than twenty feet above the top of the cradle.
A ladder having then been lowered to Edestone, he climbed up it,
ascended the gangway, and disappeared into the interior of the great
cigar-shaped object, it all the time remaining absolutely stationary.
But he was not long lost to view. In a few minutes he re-appeared on
the top deck and a man by his side energetically waved a large flag.
And as the two stood there, the airship began to move.
Slowly at first, but gradually gaining momentum, it soared away across
the wastes, and soon was lost to sight.
There was a moment after that when the room was dark, while horizontal
streaks of light chased each other from bottom to top across the
screen, and disappeared into the darkness from which they had come.
Another picture followed, taken from the same viewpoint as the last.
"Here she comes!" cried Edestone, seeming to forget for the moment
where he was, as a small speck which represented the approaching
airship disclosed itself. "This time in the upper right-hand corner of
the picture. See! I am on board, and I am driving her at one hundred
and ten miles." And he followed with his pointer the swift course of
the vessel, as it shot down the screen like a great comet, leaving a
long tail of smoke behind it. To the overwrought nerves of the
audience, the buzz and splutter of the moving-picture machine seemed
to increase in volume, and thus lend a semblance of reality to the
monster as it swept nearer and nearer.
Straight for the camera it was headed, grim, threatening,
irresistible, as if it were preparing to rush out of the screen and
destroy Buckingham Palace. The spectators with difficulty kept their
seats, and when the formidable thing dashed by and disappeared at the
side of the picture, they settled back in their chairs with an
unmistakable sigh of relief.
It appeared again, after making a great circle, returning slowly now,
and dropping lightly as a feather to the cradle, where it remained
perfectly still, while the black smoke enveloped it in a veil of
The machine in the cabinet stopped, and some one was heard to say in a
loud whisper, "Lights!" Admiral Brown was the first of the assembly to
recover. He sprang to his feet and like a wounded old lion at bay
stood glaring at Edestone. His rugged weather-beaten face convulsed
with suppressed rage, which but for the presence of the King would
have exploded upon Edestone after the manner of the old-fashioned
sea-dog that he was, but holding himself in check he said loudly and
"If there is no objection I will ask the young man to repeat the last
picture, and I would also like to inquire with what material the
framework of this ship is covered, and what is the calibre of those
large guns--if they are guns?"
"Will you please be so kind as to answer the Admiral's questions, Mr.
Edestone?" said the King.
"The material which I used through her entire length of 907 feet, both
top and bottom, is Harveyized steel, six feet thick; and the largest
gun is sixteen inches," replied Edestone slowly, enjoying the look of
blank amazement which spread over the Admiral's face as he dropped
back into his chair gasping and mopping his brow.
"This is the end of everything. I wish I had never lived to see the
day!" The old sailor sat like a man who had seen a vision so appalling
that it robbed him of his reason.
"THE KING IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE KING!"
The King, of all the company, seemed to be the only one who had
remained perfectly cool. He was like a man who realizing the gravity
of the situation yet had nerved himself to meet it.
"Mr. Edestone," he said, as if speaking to one of his own naval
officers, "you will please show the last two pictures again, and for
the benefit of Admiral Brown you might give us some further details in
regard to the ship's equipment and armament. May I also ask you where
these pictures were taken?"
"On the flat plains in the centre of the island of Newfoundland,"
Edestone informed him, "between the White Bear River and the east
branch of the Salmon, and from fifty to seventy-five miles from the
seacoast on the south. If Your Majesty will look into the middle
distance when the second picture is again thrown on the screen you
will see some small, dark objects; these are one of those immense
herds of caribou, which happen to be moving south over this vast
barren at the time of year that these pictures were taken--that is, in
He observed that the face of the King took on an expression blended
partly of astonishment and partly of resentment when he mentioned the
name of one of the Colonial possessions of the Empire, and hastened to
"You will find, Sire, if you inquire of the Governor of that Province
that I was there with the full knowledge and consent of Your Majesty's
Government to carry on certain scientific experiments. I selected this
deserted spot, so far removed from all human habitation, because there
I should not be disturbed. Until I showed these pictures here today no
one outside of my own men knew the nature of these experiments. The
guns were loaded with nothing more harmful than several hundred pounds
of black powder to produce the display of force which you have just
seen. I will admit," he granted with a smile, "that if the newspapers
had got word of what was going on there they might have made some
excitement; I can assure you, however, that no act of mine could be
construed even by our most susceptible and timid State Department as a
violation of neutrality."
"But where is your ship now?" asked the King, while the rest of the
company held their breath, awaiting the answer.
"That, Your Majesty, for reasons of state, I regret I cannot at this
time tell you, but you have my word and that of our Secretary that
wherever she may be, her mission is one of peace."
"Peace!" snorted Admiral Brown. "With a six-foot armour-belt and
sixteen-inch guns! It is a ship of war, Your Majesty. We have the
right to demand whether or not it is now on or over British soil, and
if it is, to make such representations to the United States Government
as will cause her to withdraw it at once and apologize for having
violated the dignity of Great Britain."
"And if they should refuse, Sir William," asked the King, with a weary
smile, "would you undertake to drive it off?
"No, Admiral," he continued, "up to this time we have no official
knowledge of this airship's existence. Until we have, we will take Mr.
Edestone's assurance that his own and his country's intentions to us
A wave of hot indignation had swept over the entire assembly, and it
was with some difficulty that the King was able to restore order.
"Please continue with your pictures, Mr. Edestone," he said in a tone
The lights again went out, the machine in the cabinet began to turn,
and as the dramatic scene was re-enacted before them his audience sat
in perfect silence while Edestone, as though he were recounting the
simplest and most ordinary facts, gave out the following information:
"This ship has a length over all of 907 feet. Its beam is 90 feet. Its
greatest circular dimension is described with a radius of 48 feet. She
would weigh, loaded with ammunition, fuel, provisions, and crew, if
brought in contact with the earth, 40,000 tons. Her weight as she
travels, after making allowance for the air displacement is generally
kept at about 3000 tons, which automatically adjusts itself to the
density of the surrounding atmosphere, but can be reduced to nothing
at pleasure. Its full speed has never been reached. This is simply a
matter of oil consumption; I have had her up to 180 miles. Her
steaming radius is about 50,000 miles, depending upon the speed. She
carries twelve 16-inch guns, twenty-two 6-inch guns, sixteen 4-inch
anti-aircraft guns, eight 3-pounders, four rapid-fire guns, six aerial
torpedo tubes, and six bomb droppers, which can simultaneously
discharge tons of explosives. She has a complement of 1400 officers
and men. She required three years and eight months to build at a cost
of $10,000,000. In action her entire ship's company is protected by at
least six feet of steel, and there is no gun known that can pierce her
protection around the vital parts. As you have seen, she can approach
to within a few feet of the surface and remain perfectly stationary in
that position as long as she is not brought in electrical contact with
The machine in the cabinet had stopped. As the lights were again
turned on, Edestone, glancing in the direction of the gallery and
seeing that there was no one there, bowed merely to the company before
him. "I thank Your Majesty, Lords, and Gentlemen for your very kind
attention," he said. He then stood quietly, waiting respectfully for
the King to speak.
"Mr. Edestone," said the King as he rose, "you have certainly given us
a most instructive afternoon, and you must be exhausted after your
efforts." He turned to Colonel Stewart, "Please insist upon Mr.
Edestone taking some refreshments before he leaves Buckingham Palace."
He grasped the inventor firmly by the hand. "Good-bye, Mr. Edestone. I
shall probably not see you again," and bowing to the rest of the
company he left the room deep in conversation with Sir Egbert Graves.
Edestone immediately became the centre of attraction.
"The King is dead; long live the King!" expresses the eagerness with
which man adapts himself to a new order of things. The older men were
stunned and seemed unable to throw off the gloom that had settled upon
them. They bowed to the inevitable fall of the old and its replacement
by the new. They were not buoyed up by the elasticity and confidence
of youth; they seemed to realize that their race was run and that it
were better that they step aside and give to younger men the task of
solving a new problem in a new way. They sat perfectly still with
dejected faces that seemed to see only dissolution.
The younger men were quicker to recover, and as they felt the old
foundations crumbling under their feet, saw visions of a new and
greater edifice. They gloried in the development of the age as they
did in their own strength to keep abreast of it, and rushed to meet
progress, to join it, and to become one with it. They did not stop to
think what the future might have in store for them, but seemed to be
intoxicated by its possibilities.
Crowding around Edestone they probed him with questions which he
answered with the greatest patience and in the most modest, quiet, and
dignified manner. When asked a question almost childish in its
simplicity, he appeared to acknowledge the compliment in the
assumption that he knew the answer, and gave it with the same
precision as one which called for the most complicated mathematical
calculation and reference to the most intricate formulae of the laws
of mechanics and physics. He was rescued and borne away by Colonel
Stewart who announced that, acting under His Majesty's order, he was
obliged to give him some refreshments, whether he wanted them or not,
and if he did not come at once to his quarters and have a drink he
would be forced to order out the Guards. Drawing him aside the Colonel
whispered, "I must see you alone before you leave the Palace."
Edestone turned and slowly left the room, bowing to each of the
"Now," said Colonel Stewart, "come to my quarters first, as I have
something rather confidential to tell you. You can come back and join
the others afterward, if you care to."
When they were comfortably seated in the Colonel's private apartments,
and had provided themselves with drinks and cigars, the equerry leaned
toward his charge a trifle impressively.
"Mr. Edestone," he said, "you do not look like a chap who would lose
his nerve if he suddenly found himself in a position that was more or
less dangerous. Indeed I rather gather that you are like one of your
distinguished Admirals--ready at all times for a fight or a frolic."
"The facts are, Mr. Edestone, that you are in a pretty ticklish
position, and had not Mr. Underhill notified Scotland Yard when he
did, I do not know what might have happened. These German spies who
have been following you all day are well known to them, and when our
men picked you up, which was when you left the Admiralty and were
talking to the taxi-chauffeur, they were convinced that you were in
real danger. Then when you were directed to the German restaurant and
afterward left it in the taxicab with this man Smith they had your cab
followed, at the same time notifying Mr. Underhill, and covering your
"This is most interesting," said Edestone; "but if the business of
these men is known why are they not arrested?"
"Mr. Edestone," said Colonel Stewart, "we Englishmen are not credited
with any sense by our friends the enemy, and relying upon our supposed
stupidity their work, which they take so much pride in, is by no means
as secret as they suppose it to be. There have been in London
thousands of what the Germans term 'fixed posts.' These are men who
have established places of business and have lived in the community
from ten to fifteen years. They receive a salary from the German
Government running from two pounds to four pounds a month and all
incurred expenses. The 'fixed post' men report to men higher up, who,
in turn, report to the Diplomatic Service. Under them, too, are all of
the patriotic emigrants from Germany, who act as spies without being
conscious of the fact that they are doing so. These receive no pay for
bringing in the bits of scandal or other information which is all
carefully noted and kept on file in Berlin under a system of card
"That man Munchinger who keeps the restaurant where you lunched, and
the barber Hottenroth at your hotel, are both of them 'fixed post'
men. This American architect was new and had not been quite placed as
yet. The chauffeur also seems to be one of them, although he is
entirely unknown to Scotland Yard.
"When you discharged your first taxi and took another, Smith and the
chauffeur spy followed you until they were frightened off by seeing my
carriage with the royal livery in front of your hotel. They drove off
then with such a rush that the chauffeur must have lost control of his
car, for it plunged into the Thames with Smith inside it, and before
he could be reached and rescued he was drowned. The chauffeur was
either drowned or ran away, as nothing has been seen of him since."
Edestone rose, his face stern as he learned the news of Smith's fate.
"Colonel Stewart," he declared sharply, "that poor devil was
murdered." And to support his accusation he told briefly of Smith's
confession and behaviour in the cab.
The Colonel bowed. "I shall see that these facts are turned over to
the authorities," he said, "but at present I am more concerned in
regard to you. These men are fanatics, you must understand, whose
faith teaches them to do anything that is for the benefit of the
Fatherland. We know most of them. We do not arrest them because they
are more useful to us as they are. As soon as one is arrested he is
immediately replaced by another, and it takes some little time before
we can pick up the new one. We have received reports to the effect
that a small army of them have been around Buckingham Palace all
afternoon, as well as at your hotel; so it is evident that Smith's
story was no fancy and that these men are after you in desperate
earnest. Would you mind telling me, Mr. Edestone, what are your plans
for the future?"
"Not at all. My movements are extremely simple. I shall return to my
hotel, where I expect to remain until I retire. A friend of mine, an
American, Mr. Rebener, whom I have known for a great many years, will
dine with me there this evening."
"An old friend of yours you say?" The Colonel's eyes narrowed
"Yes," replied Edestone. "I have known him for fifteen years." For
reasons of his own he had made it a point not to include Rebener's
name among those mentioned by Smith in his confession, nor did he
refer to it now.
Colonel Stewart hesitated a moment. "Of course, Mr. Edestone," he said
finally, "you Americans are neutrals and are at liberty to select your
friends where you please, but my advice to you would be not to take
London as the place to entertain people with German names. You will
probably understand that we cannot take any chances."
"I have known Mr. Rebener," repeated Edestone, "for years. He is one
of our most prominent men, and I am confident that he would not lend
himself to any of these Middle-Age methods."
"You can never tell," said Colonel Stewart darkly. "Germany holds out
to the faithful the promise of great rewards at the end of this war,
which she has convinced them cannot fail to end successfully for her."
"No," the American insisted stubbornly. "Mr. Rebener might readily
sell to Germany a few million dollars' worth of munitions of war, and
likewise tell his friend, Count Bernstoff, anything that he might
hear. I will even go so far as to say that he might make an especial
effort to pick up bits of gossip here in London; and he will almost
certainly endeavour to use his influence with me in favour of Germany.
But that he would take part in a plot to kill, kidnap, or rob me is
"I see you are determined to have your own way, Mr. Edestone," the
Colonel smiled, "so I come now to the most difficult part of my
mission. What do you propose to do with that instrument which you now
carry so carelessly in your coat pocket? You can readily understand
that it is not safe in your hotel, or, in fact, at hardly any other
place in London outside of the vaults of the Bank of England. We are
put in the delicate position of having to protect it without having
the privilege of asking that it be put in our charge."
"I appreciate all that you say and have considered destroying it, but
have now come to the conclusion to keep it always with me, for, after
all that you tell me, I think that I am in pretty safe hands in
"But think, my dear fellow," cried the Colonel jumping up, "what might
happen if this thing falls into the hands of the Germans! To prevent
that it would be my duty to shoot you on the spot."
"Good work! Right-o!" laughed Edestone. "You have my permission to
shoot whenever it goes to the Germans. Don't worry. They'll not murder
and rob me in the middle of dear old London with all your fellows
about, and I do not expect to leave the hotel tonight."
THE ROYAL TEA-TABLE
As Edestone and Colonel Stewart were leaving the Palace, they were met
by the young Prince of the Blood, who seemed bent upon renewing his
acquaintance with his American friend.
"I say, Edestone," he greeted him, "you really must not leave before
giving me an opportunity of presenting you to some of the ladies of
the Court. You are the lion of the day and they are anxious to meet
you. My sister, Princess Billy, is almost in tears and hysterical. She
insisted upon seeing your pictures because she said that you were an
old friend of hers she had met on the steamer coming over from
Accepting, Edestone smiled as he thought of the undignified manner of
their meeting, and was taken in charge by the young man.
Colonel Stewart made his excuses when the invitation was extended to
him, saying: "Mr. Edestone, I shall wait for you in the Guards' Room,"
and, turning to the young man, he added: "I deliver him into your
hands, and I hold you responsible for his valuable person which must
be delivered to me there."
Edestone was then taken in charge by the young Prince, who proudly
bore him off to deliver him into the hands of the ladies. He was
rather bored with the idea, and would have preferred to have gone
directly to his hotel, as he had had an eventful day and he did not
feel in the humour for the small talk of the tea-table.
He was taken into one of the smaller rooms where several ladies and
young officers in khaki were just finishing their tea. The atmosphere
of the room was offensively heavy with the strong odour of iodoform.
His pity was aroused when he suddenly realized that almost every man
in the room bore the unmistakable mark of service in the trenches. It
was the first time that he had been brought violently into contact
with the far-reaching and horrible devastation of this cruel war. One
pitiful figure, a young man of about twenty-two who sat apart from the
rest, so affected him that he scarcely recovered himself in time to
acknowledge the great kindness of the Duchess of Windthorst, who was
receiving him in the most gracious manner. This boy was totally blind.
Edestone was filled with admiration for these descendants of the
Norman conquerors, who in their gallantry and patriotism responded so
quickly to the call of their country, while the miserable swine whose
homes and families were being protected by these noble men were
instigating strikes and riots under the leadership of a band of
traitors who hid their cowardice behind labour organizations, or
attempted to mislead the disgusted world by windy speeches on the
subject of humanitarism into which position they were not followed by
the very women that they were giving as their excuse for their
The Duchess presented him to Princess Wilhelmina and the others. In
the soft and rich voice of the Englishwoman of culture and refinement,
which always charmed him, she said:
"Mr. Edestone, my daughter tells me that you came over on the
_Ivernia_ with us."
"No, no, mamma!" interrupted the Princess, with a frown and nervous
little laugh. "I said that Mrs. Brown said that she thought that Mr.
Edestone was on board."
The Duchess acknowledged this correction, and with the cool effrontery
that only a woman can carry off to her entire satisfaction, she then
pretended that this was the first time that she had ever laid eyes on
him, when as a matter of fact she and the Princess had discussed this
remarkable, independent individual, who had so quietly and alone
occupied the large suite adjoining theirs.
"Do sit down, Mr. Edestone," she smiled, "and tell us about your
wonderful electrical gun or ship. I really know so little about
electricity that I could not understand what my daughter has just been
telling me." And then, as if to save him from the great embarrassment
of speaking, which she felt that he must have in her presence, she
hastened to continue: "I am really so sorry that I did not know you
were a fellow-passenger or I should most certainly have had you
presented. I am very fond of you Americans, I find them most charming
and so original, you know."
"I really became quite attached to your Mr. Bradley, who was on board.
I think you call him 'Diamond King John.' He was most attractive,"
and, with a charming smile, "he showed me his diamond suspender
buttons; and he dances beautifully, my daughter tells me. I understand
that Mr. Bradley is one of your oldest Arizona families--or was it
Virginia?--I am so stupid about the names of your different counties.
But I agree with him that family is not everything, and that clothes
make the gentleman. He tells me that he gets all of his clothes from
the same tailor as the Duke. Do you get your clothes in London, Mr.
Edestone?" And then, seeing an expression on Edestone's face which
indicated to her that he was going to be bold enough to attempt to
enter into the conversation, hastily added: "No, of course not, you
would naturally get yours in New York, where Mr. Bradley tells me that
the finish of the buttonholes is much better on account of the
enormous salaries that you very rich Americans are able to pay your
tailors. No tea, Mr. Edestone? How foolish of me to ask! You would
like to have one of those American drinks; what is it you call them?
Cockplumes? My son could make one for you. Madame La Princesse de
Blanc taught him how to make one."
Edestone smilingly declined.
The Duchess, who by this time was beginning to feel that perhaps Mr.
Edestone would not insist upon taking off his coat or squatting Indian
fashion on the floor, continued:
"My son tells me that it was at her house in Paris that he had the
pleasure of making your acquaintance."
"Yes, Duchess," nodded Edestone.
"She is a most delightful little American," continued the Duchess. "So
bright, natural, unconventional, and original. And she chews tobacco
in the most fascinating manner."
Edestone all this time had been debating in his mind whether this
silly prattle was the result of real ignorance, snobbishness, or
kindness of heart. He gave her the benefit of the doubt, however, and,
wishing to show her that she might put her mind at rest as to his
ability to overcome any embarrassment that he might have had, said
with a perfectly solemn face:
"You should have asked your friend, Mr. Bradley, to show you his
suspenders themselves, Duchess. They are, I am told, set with rubies,
sapphires, and diamonds, and cost, I understand, $10,000."
"How very odd," said the Duchess.
"And I am sure," he continued, "that he feels as proud of having
danced with the Princess as she could have been at having been the
recipient of so much attention at the hands of 'King John,' who
apparently is also a Prince Charming."
And then ignoring their pretence of having just seen him for the first
time, in a most natural manner Edestone referred to the episodes of
Turning to the Princess, who all this time had vainly endeavoured to
check her mother, and changing his manner out of deference for her
youth and inexperience, and assuming a more humble demeanour, he
"I sincerely hope, Princess, that I did not hurt you when I was forced
to handle you so roughly, but it was blowing almost a hurricane."
"I forgive you, Mr. Edestone," she said with a charming smile, "for
hurting my arm; but," with a little pout, "I don't think I can forgive
you for hurting my feelings. Why did you not ask Mr. Bradley to
present you? He said that he knew you very well."
"Oh, I was rather afraid," laughed Edestone, "to suggest this to him.
You know we do not move in exactly the same set, and I did not wish to
give him an opportunity to snub me. Now that he does speak so
familiarly of his royal friends, I thought that he might consider me a
"You don't mean to say," snorted the Duchess, "that that creature
would dare to speak of me as a friend?"
"Well," said Edestone, "I shall do him the justice of saying that I am
quite certain he would not if he did not believe that you were, and
did not think that it was perfectly natural that you should be."
The Princess, who was looking at Edestone with an intense look, of
which however she was absolutely unconscious, broke in impatiently:
"Oh, mamma, do stop talking about that dreadful man and ask Mr.
Edestone to tell us something about his wonderful work." A light came
into her eyes which would have alarmed an American mother had she seen
it in the eyes of her daughter at a mixed summer resort.
Edestone was anxious to get away as he took absolutely no interest in
this particular phase of life; yet he did not wish to appear
unappreciative of the great honour that had been conferred upon him by
these ladies of such high rank. However, an opportunity soon presented
itself which permitted him to retire, and he bowed himself out of the
room, but not, it must be admitted, until he had answered a number of
questions which the Princess insisted on putting to him. He did this
with perfect deference, yet in such a businesslike way that she was
convinced, should a year elapse before he next saw her, he would
probably not recognize her.
SURROUNDED BY SOLDIERS
As Edestone left the Palace in company with Colonel Stewart, and the
two took their seats in the waiting carriage, he was amused to see a
troop of cavalry, which had been drawn up before the entrance, fall in
about them as an escort. The men were all dressed in khaki, and,
judging from their equipment, they were fixed for business more than a
mere guard of honour. A smart, young officer rode up and, saluting the
Colonel, asked: "Where to, sir?"
"To Claridge's." The Colonel saluted in return.
The carriage started, and the troopers, clattering out of the
courtyard, closed up about it in a fashion which showed that they were
going to take no chances with their valuable charge.
Edestone laughed at himself with his high hat and frock-coat as a
centre for all this military panoply. It recalled to him an
old-fashioned print he had seen when a boy, representing Abraham
Lincoln at the front.
"You don't mean to tell me that you really consider this necessary?"
he chaffed his companion.
Colonel Stewart nodded gravely. "They will make no attempt on your
life, Mr. Edestone," he added reassuringly, "except as a last resort;
but they are determined to have your secret. They prefer to get it
with your co-operation and assent. If not, they want it anyhow.
Finally, they stand ready to accomplish its destruction and your own
rather than permit England to obtain it."
Arriving at the hotel, the soldiers were drawn up in line while he
entered the door. To his surprise, moreover, the Colonel and two of
the cavalry-men accompanied him to the door of his apartment.
"Mr. Edestone," said the Royal Equerry, "I am sorry, but my orders are
to place a sentry at your door. You are not of course to consider
yourself in any sense a prisoner, but an honoured guest whose safety
is of paramount importance. Should you at any time wish to leave your
apartment, notify Captain Bright by telephone at the hotel office
where he will be stationed, and he will act as your escort. My advice,
however, is that you remain in the hotel." Giving a military salute,
he retired, leaving the two soldiers posted in the corridor.
A moment later, Edestone was summoned to the door to find that the
sentries had halted Black and Stanton whom he had directed to report
to him immediately on his return to the hotel.
A word from him proved sufficient to secure the admission of his
moving-picture experts; nevertheless, the three gazed at one another
uneasily as they stood within the room.
"What is it, Mr. Edestone?" Black's eyes rounded up. "They haven't
placed you under arrest, have they?"
Edestone shook his head. "Apparently not. At least they tell me I am
under no restraint, and, as they might say to a little boy about to be
spanked, that this is all for my own good. Whether or not this is
merely a polite subterfuge, and they intend to postpone my departure
from London from time to time in a way that can give no offence to our
Government, yet would spoil all my plans, I am still uncertain."
"By Jove, it might be worth while trying to find out," flared up
Stanton, bristling at the very suggestion of an indignity to his
adored chief. "If they've got anything of that kind up their sleeves,
we could soon show them that----"
"No." Edestone spoke up a trifle sharply. "I have decided to let the
situation develop itself."
His manner indicated that he wished the subject dropped; but, after he
had given the two men the orders for which he had summoned them, and
dismissed them, he fell into a rather perturbed reverie.
After all, might it not be well, as Stanton had urged, to assure
himself in regard to John Bull's honourable intentions? His mind
reverted to an expedient which he had already considered and cast
aside. It was to communicate with the American Ambassador, get his
passports, and start for Paris at once. Then, if he were halted, the
purpose of the British Government would be made plain and its
But, to tell the truth, he rather shrank from such a revelation.
Suppose he forced their hand in this way, and they should retaliate,
either by attempting to detain him in England, or insisting upon his
return to his own country? Was he prepared to----?
As Underhill had said, blood is thicker than water; and there were in
his nature many ties that bound him to the mother-country.
No, he concluded; if there was cause to worry, he would meet the
emergency when it arose. Anyhow, he was not of the worrying kind. He
threw himself down upon the sofa, since even for him it had been a
rather strenuous day, and soon was fast asleep.
He was awakened by James. "It is 7:30, sir, and you are dining at 8
o'clock." Then with a perfectly stolid face: "I beg pardon, sir, what
clothes will you take to the Tower, sir? The hall porter says, sir,
that with all these soldiers around, they are certainly going to stand
you up before a firing squad. And Hottenroth, the barber, says as how
every American that comes to London is more or less a German spy. But
he is a kind of a foreigner himself, sir. A Welshman, he says he is,
and he talks in a very funny way."
"No, they are not going to stand me up before a firing squad,"
Edestone halted this flood of intelligence, as he sprang up from the
sofa; "but I shall turn myself into one, and fire the whole lot of
you, if you don't stop talking so much. Now hurry up, and get me
dressed. I don't want to keep Mr. Rebener waiting."
Yet even with James's adept assistance, he found the time scant for
the careful toilet upon which he always insisted; and it was almost on
the stroke of the hour when at last he was ready.
Snatching his hat and cane from James, he started hurriedly out of the
door, but found himself abruptly challenged by the sentry just outside
whose presence he had for the moment completely forgotten.
"Excuse me, sir," the soldier saluted, "but my orders are to notify
Captain Bright, if you wish to leave your rooms."
He blew a whistle, summoning a comrade who suddenly appeared from
"Notify Captain Bright," he directed; then, in response to Edestone's
good-humoured but slightly sarcastic protests: "I'm sorry, sir, but
those are my orders."
"Has England declared war on the United States?" said Edestone.
"I don't know, sir," the sentry grinned. "We seem to be taking on all
comers." Then standing at attention, he waited until the soldier, who
had returned from telephoning, came forward to announce that the
Captain presented his apologies and would be right up.
A moment later Captain Bright himself came panting down the corridor.
He expressed profound regret that any inconvenience should have been
caused, but explained, as Colonel Stewart had already done, that he
was held personally responsible for Edestone's safety, and had
instructions to accompany him wherever he might go.
"Very well, Captain; I bow to the inevitable. May I trouble you to
conduct me to the dining-room?" And he strolled toward the lift at the
side of the tall cavalryman.
But in the office they encountered Rebener himself writing a note on
the back of his card.
"Oh, there you are, Jack?" he hailed Edestone. "I was just sending you
a note asking you if you wouldn't come and dine with me at the Britz
instead of here. It is too damn stupid here. Not that it's very bright
anywhere in London at present, but at least there's a little bit more
life at the Britz."
"Who is stopping here anyhow? Royalty?" he interrupted himself. "There
are soldiers all over the place."
"Yes; I am the recipient of that little attention," laughed the young
American. "Let me introduce Captain Bright here, who is acting as my
"What? You surely haven't run afoul of the War Department?" Rebener
rolled his eyes. "That sounds more like our friends, the barbarians,
than Englishmen. But, say, you are joking of course; you're not really
in trouble? Seriously is there anything you want me to do for you? I
have quite a little pull over at the War Offices, you know."
"No, thank you; I am leaving for Paris tomorrow." He looked straight
into Rebener's eyes, without giving the slightest hint in his
expression of the disclosure which had been made to him by the
unfortunate Smith. "It is simply that Captain Bright thinks there are
some people who might do something to me. I don't know exactly what it
is, but he insists on preventing them anyhow; so there you are. How
about it, Captain? Am I permitted to dine with Mr. Rebener at the
Britz? I think the Britz is a perfectly safe place for two American
"As you please, Mr. Edestone." The Captain drew himself up. "My orders
are to escort you, though, wherever you go." He raised his hand toward
a sergeant who was standing just inside the door.
"What! You are not going to take all the 'Tommies' along too?"
expostulated Rebener. "Oh, I say; you come along yourself, Captain,
and dine with us, but leave the men behind. I will see that Edestone
doesn't come to any grief."
"Sorry." The officer's tone ended any further argument. "I shall keep
my men as much out of sight as possible; but it will be necessary for
them to accompany us."
"You see." Edestone smiled somewhat ruefully. "I can't even go out to
buy a paper, without turning it into a sort of Fourth of July parade."
On going to the door they found that one of the royal carriages was
waiting for them, and after the two men were seated, and the Captain
had given the directions to the coachman, they dashed off in the midst
of a cavalcade.
"By the way," Rebener vouchsafed as they drove along, "I have taken
the liberty of inviting Lord Denton and Mr. Karlbeck, two friends of
mine, to dine with us tonight, and as Lord Denton is in mourning, he
has asked that I have dinner in my apartment. I hope that is all
"Certainly," assented Edestone. "Lord Denton, you say? I don't think I
have ever met him, have I? And isn't he just a little supersensitive
to raise a scruple of that sort? It seems to me that practically
everybody over here is in mourning. Fact is, I don't feel like going
to a ball myself." His face saddened, as he thought of the many good
fellows he had met on former visits to London who now lay underneath
the sod of Northern France and Belgium.
But by this time they were at the Britz and the proprietor was bowing
them inside, apparently so accustomed to receiving men of distinction
with military escort that he did not even notice the lines of trim
cavalrymen which drew themselves up on either side of his entrance.
"Will you gentlemen dine in the public restaurant?" asked Captain
Bright, stepping up to Edestone.
"No," Rebener took it upon himself to answer. "We are going to have a
little _partie carree_ in my apartment."
"In that case," said the Captain, "I regret that I shall have to
station men on that floor."
Rebener frowned as if he were about to voice a protest, but at that
moment the proprietor called him over to consult with him in regard to
For a moment or two they discussed it calmly enough; then as the
proprietor began to gesticulate and wax vehement, Rebener spoke over
his shoulder to his guest.
"Excuse me, Jack," he said, "but M. Bombiadi insists that I hold a
council of war with him over the selection of the wines. He declines
to accept the responsibility with such a distinguished personage as
you seem to have become." Then lowering his voice, he added with a
wink: "He is evidently impressed with that military escort of yours,
for all that he pretended not to notice it. I won't be away a minute."
He was hurried by the proprietor through the office and into one of
the small duplex apartments on the main floor. Passing through the
pantry and dining-room of the apartment out into the little private
hall with its street door on Piccadilly, and up a short flight of
marble steps with an iron railing, he was ushered into a handsomely
furnished little parlour.
There, standing in front of the mantelpiece was a man who did not look
like an Englishman, but more like a German Jew. He was perfectly bald
and had a black beard which was rather long and trimmed to a point.
His nose was unmistakable, and taken with his thick, red lips showed
pretty well what he was and whence he came. Talking to him very
earnestly was another man, who was much smaller, and who was also
German to the finger-tips.
Pausing on the threshold, M. Bombiadi with the servile and cringing
tone always assumed by those frock-coated criminals, European hotel
proprietors, asked humbly: "May we come in, Your Royal Highness?"
But Rebener, with the air of a man who was not accustomed to, or else
declined to consider, such formalities, unhesitatingly brushed the
proprietor aside, and walked up to the two men.
"I am sorry to be late," he said in a thoroughly businesslike manner,
"but Bombiadi here has doubtless explained the reason for it." Then,
as if he purposely refused to acknowledge the high rank of either of
the two men by waiting for them to speak, he said brusquely, even with
a slight touch of contempt: "Bombiadi tells me that you want to speak
with me, before we meet at the table."
"Yes, Mr. Rebener," said the smaller man, bowing with exaggerated
ceremony. "If it is not asking too much of you, I am sure that His
Royal Highness will appreciate your kindness."
The silky smoothness of his manner seemed to disgust Rebener.
"Now, look here, Karlbeck, don't try to get friendly with me," he drew
back as the other attempted to lay a hand upon his arm. "I am not in
love with this business, anyhow. I am German, and I am proud of the
Fatherland, as she stands with her back against the wall, fighting the
entire civilized world--and some of the barbaric;--but you two fellows
are Englishmen, and----"
"Pardon me, Mr. Rebener," the man with the beard broke in angrily.
"You seem to forget to whom you are speaking."
"No, that is just the trouble," cried Rebener with a loud laugh. "I
can't seem to forget it. And if Your Royal Highness insists upon
keeping on your crown, you had better let Mr. Edestone and myself dine
"Please, Mr. Rebener. Please not so loud," cautioned the proprietor,
pale with terror. "One never knows who may be listening."
"I have a word for you too." Rebener turned, and shook a threatening
finger in his face. "If I find that you cut-throats have murdered
Schmidt, I will turn you over to the London police, and let you be
hanged as common murderers without having any of the glory of dying
for your country. I distinctly told you, that I would not stand for
that sort of thing. He was a miserable creature, but he was an
American, and we Americans, even if we have got German blood, are not
traitors to the country of our adoption." And he looked with a sneer
at the two Englishmen. "Now, if any of you are planning to indulge in
any of your pretty little tricks with Mr. Edestone tonight, I give you
fair warning. I will call Captain Bright in, and turn the whole lot of
you over to him. I think he would be rather surprised to find His
Royal Highness in such company."
The man with the beard was literally white with rage. The thick veins
swelled along his neck, and his lower lip was trembling. But he
controlled himself with an effort, and endeavoured to speak calmly.
"Now, now, Mr. Rebener," he said, "you are unnecessarily excited, and
I therefore overlook your disrespect toward me. There is no intention
whatever of doing any violence to Mr. Edestone. We hope merely to
prevail on him to talk."
"What good will his talking do?" cried the smaller man before his
associate could silence him. "We know all that he said today at
Buckingham Palace. What we want is his instrument, and if we're not
going after that, what use is this dinner, I would like to know?"
"I can't tell you," rejoined Rebener, "unless His Royal Highness would
be willing to show his hand, and try to persuade Edestone to take our
view of the matter."
A sharp retort trembled on the lips of the Jewish-looking man, but
just then he caught sight of Bombiadi out of the corner of his eyes
gesticulating and making signs to him from behind Rebener's back.
"I suppose that is the only chance left us," he pretended to consider.
"We can try it at any rate. I suppose, too, we had better come to your
apartment immediately. Remember, though, we are to remain incognito
until I give the word. In the meantime, we are simply 'Lord Denton'
and 'Mr. Karlbeck.'"
On that agreement, Rebener left; but the proprietor, after following
him far enough to make sure that he was out of earshot, returned to
the little parlour where the other men waited.
"We will have to leave him out of our calculations," he shook his
head. "He is not heart and soul in the cause as is your Royal
Highness. However, it can be managed without Rebener.
"Hottenroth has telephoned me that he thinks Edestone has the
instrument on his person, but cannot make sure, as his rooms at
Claridge's are too closely guarded to permit of a search. We must go
upon the assumption that he has it with him, however, and get it away
from him. That plan of Your Royal Highness's will work perfectly, I am
sure. I will call Edestone to the telephone while you are at dinner,
and since the rest of you will all remain at the table, how can
Rebener suspect either of you gentlemen any more than he would suspect
"Now, I will return in a few minutes, and take you up to Mr. Rebener's
apartment. No one knows of your presence in the house so far, I can
assure you, and the servants on that floor may be thoroughly depended
A DINNER AT THE BRITZ
When Rebener got back to the entrance hall he found Edestone standing
talking with an American newspaper correspondent, and as he came up
heard the inventor say: "Well you can say that if I sell my discovery
to anyone it will be to the United States, and that rather than sell
to any other nation I would hand it over to my own country as a free
"Here, here," Rebener joined in laughingly as he came up, "don't you
offer to give away anything. Just because your father left you
comfortably well off is no reason that you shouldn't sell things if
people want to buy. Sell and sell while you've got the market, and
sell to the highest bidder. Look at me, I am selling to both sides;
that is my way of stopping this war." He turned to the young newspaper
man. "Is there anything new, Ralph?"
"Nothing, Mr. Rebener, except that there is a story out in New York
that Mr. Edestone here has been sent over to act as a sort of
unofficial go-between to bring England and Germany to terms; but he
denies this. Then there is another story that he is trying to sell
this new invention of his to England and that the German agents are
trying to get it away from him before he does. You've just heard what
he has to say on that subject, so I seem to have landed on a 'Flivver'
"Say, Mr. Edestone, you'll give me the dope on this lay-out won't you,
before the other boys get to it?" he wheedled. "We all know that
something is going on, and she's going to be a big story when she
breaks, and it would be the making of me with the 'old man' if I could
put it over first.
"I saw you, sir, this afternoon coming home from the Palace," he
chuckled, "and the President, going out to the first ball game of the
season, surrounded by the Washington Blues, to toss the pill into the
diamond, certainly had nothing on you."
"You've struck it," said Edestone, with a good-humoured laugh at
himself. "I have been trying all day to think what I looked like, and
Rebener laid his hand upon his arm. "Well, Jack," he said, "hadn't we
better be getting up to my place? I don't want to keep the other
gentlemen waiting, and these Europeans have an awful habit of coming
at the hour they are invited, and do not, as we do in America, in
imitation of the 'Snark,' 'dine on the following day.'
"Good-night, Ralph," he waved his hand to the correspondent. "Drop
around tomorrow; I may have something for you."
Then as they were going up in the elevator he confided to Edestone: "I
am not so crazy about these two chaps that are coming to dinner
tonight, but you know most of the good sort are at the front, or, if
they happen to be in London, are too busy to waste their time on us
Americans. Do you know, Jack, there is at this time quite a bit of
feeling against us in England? Exactly what it is they resent it is
hard to say. I certainly do not understand how they can expect us to
take any part in this war with our population composed of people from
every one of the countries that are engaged."
They had scarcely had time to take off their coats when Lord Denton
and Mr. Karlbeck came in through the private entrance. Edestone was
introduced, and after the two Americans had had their cocktails, both
Englishmen having declined to indulge in this distinctly American
custom, the four sat down to dinner. Rebener put "Lord Denton" on his
right, Edestone on his left, while "Mr. Karlbeck" took the only
remaining seat. The conversation was general, and Edestone found that
both the Englishmen were evidently making an effort to be agreeable.
"You are quite like an Englishman," said "Lord Denton" addressing him.
"I have known so few really nice Americans that I must say it is a
most delightful surprise. When I was told that you were a great
American inventor, I was prepared to see a fellow with the back of his
neck shaved, who, while chewing gum, would seize my lapel and hold on
to it while he insisted on explaining how I could save time and money
by using his electrical self-starting dishwasher or some such beastly
machine. When I visited New York two years ago, a committee had me in
charge for three days. Their one idea seemed to be to force large
cigars and mixed drinks on me at all hours of the day and night. One
of these charming gentlemen, a particularly objectionable fellow,
although he seemed to be very rich, was covered with diamonds and wore
the most ridiculous evening clothes topped off with a yachting cap
fronted with the insignia of some rowing club of which he had been
admiral. He always referred to his one-thousand-ton yacht as his
'little canoe,' and took delight in telling exactly what it cost him
by the hour to run, invariably adding that this amount did not include
his own food, wines, liquors, and cigars. 'We always charge that up to
profit-and-loss account,' he would say with a roar of laughter, in
which he was joined by a group of his satellites."
"I'll bet I can call the turn, eh, Jack?" Rebener glanced across the
table to Edestone, with a twinkle in his eye. "Didn't the chap also
tell you with great seriousness, 'Lord Denton,' that he had pulled off
more good deals in his 'little canoe' than in all the hotel corridors
"Well, I sincerely hope it's the same," said "Lord Denton." "You can't
have two such creatures in your country?"
"Was that the chap, 'Denton,'" broke in "Karlbeck," "who said to you,
the day that he slapped you on the back, that he was not so strong for
making all this fuss over Princes and things, as in his opinion it
"Yes, that was when I was on board his yacht, but he said I was all
right and he didn't mind spending money on me. 'This is my pleasure
today,' he said, 'although the Boss did say he wanted you treated
right, and his word goes both ways with me. See!'"
"Tell them about your experience with the New York newspaper men,"
"Oh, that was very amusing! The whole committee would stand around and
laugh while the 'boys,' as they called them, had a chance, which
consisted in my being asked the most impertinent questions by a lot of
objectionable little bounders whom they constantly referred to as 'the
greatest institution of our glorious country,' at times allowing also
that the country was 'God's own.'
"When I objected, some of your most powerful men would say: 'You had
better tell the reporters something or they'll get sore on you and
print a lot of lies about your women-folk.'
"The particularly offensive gentleman of whom I have spoken, after
telling me what he thought of the British aristocracy, which was not
always flattering, though I seemed to be exempt, said as he bade me
good-bye: 'By the way, don't forget that my wife and two daughters
will be stopping in London next spring.'"
"Well," inquired Edestone with a faint smile, "you did forget that his
wife and two daughters were stopping in London in the spring, I am
quite sure, and sure that he is convinced you got the best of it."
"Oh, I say, Mr. Edestone, that was a nasty one! You really would not
have expected me to introduce that fellow at my clubs, would you?"
"No," said Edestone, toying with something on the table to hide the
smile that played across his lips. "No, no, not at all. The Lord Mayor
of London would have satisfied him."
He would have dropped the subject there, but pressed by the other man
he continued rather seriously: "Since you ask me, 'Lord Denton,' I do
think that you should not have accepted that man's hospitality unless
you were prepared to return it to a certain extent."
"Well, what would you have expected His Royal Highness to do--I mean
'Lord Denton?'" "Karlbeck" corrected himself hastily. Edestone set his
glass down, and looked at the man for a moment. When he finally spoke
it was with a touch of asperity. With a sarcastic smile he said:
"The quiet way in which you Europeans accept everything from us and
return nothing, is being resented, not by the lower classes for they
read in our papers how the King shook hands with Jack Johnson; not by
the _nouveaux riches_, for they are perfectly satisfied with the
notoriety they get at the hands of your broken-down aristocracy who
spend their money,--no not by these classes, but by our ladies and
"Then why do you entertain our Princes so lavishly?" sneered
"It is our sense of humour, which allows us to be imposed upon. That
sense of humour is often mistaken for hysterical hospitality by the
distinguished stranger. We--and when I say we I mean people of
breeding which does not include the vulgarian who knows nothing and
may be the son of your father's ninth gardener--we know that the more
ridiculous we appear to you, the better you like it. Not to appear
ridiculous offends you, as it arouses a feeling of rivalry to which
you object, but with your lack of that same sense of humour, this you
Again he would have willingly dropped the subject, but "Lord Denton"
once more insisted upon keeping up the discussion.
"You must remember," said he, "Prince Henry's visit to America. You
don't mean to tell me the Americans were not complimented and pleased
at a visit from a Royal Prince?"
Edestone laughed. "You mean when Prince Henry of Prussia came over to
bridge the chasm which had formed between the German and American
nations over the Manila episode, by the interchange of courtesies
between the two ruling families, the Hohenzollerns and the Roosevelts?
"I was surprised that the Kaiser was so poorly informed as not to know
our attitude toward him and his Divine Right and mailed fist. Why,
everybody laughed except the Kaiser and the President--they were the
only ones who were fooled: the Kaiser, because he could not help
himself, it was in his blood; and Roosevelt, because he was at that
time in a most septic condition and was suffering from auto-intoxication
at the hands of that particular form of microbe."
"Edestone entertained Prince Henry himself at his Little Place in the
Country," said Rebener, who saw that "Lord Denton" was losing his
"Yes, I did," said Edestone. "Not that I thought he would enjoy it,
but somebody--and now when I come to think of it, you were the man,
Rebener--insisted that he would like to visit my machine shops. And he
did seem to enjoy seeing them very much, and Admiral Tirpitz and his
staff took all kinds of notes while asking all kinds of questions."
The reminiscence seemed to make the three other men a trifle
"Oh! what difference does it make after all?" said Rebener. "Let's get
down to business.
"Now, Edestone," he turned to the inventor, "you know me, and I'm not
much for beating about the bush. When I want something, my motto is,
'Go to it.' My object in inviting you here to meet these gentlemen
tonight was to see if we can't get together. As I understand the
situation, Jack, you have something that you think is pretty good. You
have lots of money, and you don't want to sell it. You don't have to,
but you want to get England to use it, and if she won't, you will try
Germany. Now is not that just about the size of it?"
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