Peter Ruff and the Double Four
E. Phillips Oppenheim
Part 5 out of 8
He turned away, leaving Courtledge alone, for a minute or two, on
the threshold of the card room. The secretary's attention was
riveted upon the table near the wall, and the frown on his face
deepened. Just as he was moving off, the Baron de Grost rose and
"They are playing a little high in here this evening," the latter
"I wish I had been in the club when they started," he said, gloomily.
"My task is all the more difficult now."
The Baron de Grost looked pensively, for a moment, at the cigarette
which he was carrying.
"By the bye, Mr. Courtledge," he asked, with apparent irrelevance,
"what was the name of the tall man with whom you were talking just
"Count von Hern. He was brought in by one of the attaches at the
Baron de Grost passed his arm through the secretary's and led him
a little way through the corridor.
"I thought I recognized our friend," he remarked. "His presence
here this evening is quite interesting."
"Why this evening?"
Baron de Grost avoided the question.
"Mr. Courtledge," he said, "I think that you will allow me to ask
you something without thinking me impertinent. You know that my
wife and I have taken some interest in Prince Albert. It is on his
account, is it not, that you look so gloomy to-night, as though you
had an execution in front of you?"
"I am afraid," he announced, "that we have come to the end of our
tether with that young man. It's a pity, too, for he isn't a bad
sort, and it will do the club no good if it gets about. But he
hasn't settled up for a fortnight, and the matter came before the
committee this afternoon. He owes one man over seven hundred pounds."
The Baron de Grost listened gravely.
"Are you going to speak to him to-night?" he asked.
"I must. I am instructed by the committee to ask him not to come to
the club again until he has discharged his obligations."
De Grost smoked thoughtfully for a few moments.
"Well," he said, "I suppose there is no getting out of it. Don't
rub it in too thick, though. I mean to have a talk with the boy
afterwards, and if I am satisfied with what he says, the money will
be all right."
Courtledge raised his eyebrows.
"You know, of course, that he has a very small income and no
"I know that," Baron de Grost answered. "At the same time, it is
hard to forget that he really is a member of the royal house, even
though the kingdom is a small one."
"Not only is the kingdom a small one," Courtledge remarked, "but
there are something like five lives between him and the succession.
However, It's very good-natured of you, Baron, to think of lending
him a hand. I'll let him down as lightly as I can. You know him
better than any one; I wonder if you could make an excuse to send
him out of the room? I'd rather no one saw me talking to him."
"Quite easy," said the Baron. "I'll manage it."
The rubber was just finishing as De Grost re-entered the room.
He touched the young man, who had been the subject of their
conversation, upon the shoulder.
"My wife would like to speak to you for a moment," he said. "She
is in the other room."
Prince Albert rose to his feet. He was looking very pale, and the
ash-tray in front of him was littered with cigarette ends.
"I will go and pay my respects to the Baroness," he declared. "It
will change my luck, perhaps. Au revoir!"
He passed out of the room and all eyes followed him.
Has the Prince been losing again to-night?" the Baron asked.
One of the three men at the table shrugged his shoulders.
"He owes me about five hundred pounds," he said, "and to tell you
the truth, I'd really rather not play any more. I don't mind high
points, but his doubles are absurd."
"Why not break up the table?" the Baron suggested. "The boy can
scarcely afford such stakes."
He strolled out of the room in time to meet the Prince, who was
standing in the corridor. A glance at his face was sufficient - the
secretary had spoken. He would have hurried off, but the Baron
"You are leaving, Prince?" he asked.
"Yes!" was the somewhat curt reply.
"I will walk a little way with you, if I may," De Grost continued.
"My wife brought Lady Brownloe, and the brougham only holds two
Prince Albert made no reply. He seemed just then scarcely capable
of speech. When they had reached the pavement, however, the Baron
took his arm.
"My young friend," he inquired, "how much does it all amount to?"
The Prince turned towards him with darkening face.
"You knew, then," he demanded, "that Mr. Courtledge was going to
speak to me of my debts?"
"I was sorry to hear that it had become necessary," the Baron
answered. "You must not take it too seriously. You know very well
that at a club like the Berkeley, which has such a varied membership,
card debts must be settled on the spot."
"Mine will be settled before mid-day to-morrow," the young man
declared, sullenly. "I am not sure that it may not be to-night."
De Grost was silent for a moment. They had turned into Piccadilly.
He summoned a taxicab.
"Do you mind coming round to my house and talking to me, for a few
minutes?" he asked.
The young man hesitated.
"I'll come round later on," he suggested. "I have a call to make
De Grost held open the door of the taxicab.
"I want a talk with you," he said, "before you make that call."
"You speak as though you knew where I was going, the Prince remarked.
His companion made no reply, but the door of the taxicab was still
open and his hand had fallen ever so slightly upon the other's
shoulder. The Prince yielded to the stronger will. He stepped
They drove in silence to Porchester Square. The Baron led the way
through into his own private sanctum, and closed the door carefully.
Cigars, cigarettes, whiskey and soda, and liqueurs were upon the
"Help yourself, Prince," he begged, "and then, if you don't mind,
I am going to ask you a somewhat impertinent question."
The Prince drank the greater part of a whiskey and soda and lit a
cigarette. Then he set his tumbler down and frowned.
"Baron de Grost," he said, "you have been very kind to me since I
have had the pleasure of your acquaintance. I hope you will not ask
me any question that I cannot answer."
"On the contrary," his host declared, "the question which I shall
ask will be one which it will be very much to your advantage to
answer. I will put it as plainly as possible. You are going, as
you admit yourself, to pay your card debts to-night or to-morrow
morning, and you are certainly not going to pay them out of your
income. Where is the money coming from?"
Albert of Trent seemed suddenly to remember that after all he was
of royal descent. He drew himself up and bore himself, for a
moment, as a Prince should.
"Baron de Grost," he said, "you pass the limits of friendship when
you ask such a question. I take the liberty of wishing you
He moved towards the door. The Baron, however, was in the way - a
strong, motionless figure, and his tone, when he spoke again, was
"Prince," he declared, "I speak in your own interests. You have
not chosen to answer my question. Let me answer it for you. The
money to pay your debts, and I know not how much besides, was to
come from the Government of a country with whom none of your name
or nationality should willingly have dealings."
The Prince started violently. The shock caused him to forget his
"How, in the devil's name, do you know that?" he demanded.
"I know more," the Baron continued. "I know the consideration
which you were to give for this money."
Then the Prince began plainly to show the terror which had crept
into his heart - the terror and the shame. He looked at his host
like a man dazed with hearing strange things.
"It comes to nothing," he said, in a hard, unnatural tone. "It is
a foolish bargain, indeed. Between me and the throne are four
lives. My promise is not worth the paper it is written upon. I
shall never succeed."
"That, Prince, is probably where you are misinformed," the Baron
replied. "You are just now in disgrace with your family, and you
hear from them only what the newspapers choose to tell."
"Has anything been kept back from me?" the Prince asked.
"Tell me this first," De Grost insisted. "Am I not right in assuming
that you have signed a solemn undertaking that, in the event of your
succeeding to the throne of your country, you will use the whole of
your influence towards concluding a treaty with a certain Power, one
of the provisions of which is that that Power shall have free access
to any one of your ports in the event of war with England?"
There was a moment's silence. The Prince clutched the back of the
chair against which he was leaning.
"Supposing it were true?" he muttered. "It is, after all, an idle
The Baron shook his head slowly.
"Prince," he said, "it is no such idle promise as it seems. The man
who is seeking to trade upon your poverty knew more than he would
tell you. You may have read in the newspapers that your two cousins
are confined to the palace with slight colds. The truth has been
kept quiet, but it is none the less known to a few of us. The
so-called cold is really a virulent attack of diphtheria, and,
according to to-night's reports, neither Prince Cyril nor Prince
Henry are expected to live."
"Is this true?" the Prince gasped.
"It is true," his host declared. "My information can be relied upon."
The Prince sat down suddenly. He was looking whiter than ever, and
"Even then," he murmured, "there is John."
"You have been out of touch with your family for some months," De
Grost reminded his visitor. "One or two of us, however, know what
you, probably, will soon hear. Prince John has taken the vows and
solemnly resigned, before the Archbishop, his heirship. He will
be admitted into the Roman Catholic Church in a week or two, and
will go straight to a monastery."
"It's likely enough," the Prince gasped. "He always wanted to be a
"You see now," the Baron continued, "that your friend's generosity
was not so wonderful a thing. Count von Hern was watching you
to-night at the Bridge Club. He has gone home; he is waiting now
to receive you. Apart from that, the man Nisch, with whom you have
played so much, is a confederate of his, a political tout, not to
say a spy."
"The brute!" Prince Albert muttered. "I am obliged to you, Baron,
for having warned me," he added, rising slowly to his feet. "I shall
sign nothing. There is another way."
De Grost shook his head.
"My young friend," he said, "there is another way, indeed, but not
the way you have in your mind at this moment. I offer you an
alternative. I will give you notes for the full amount you owe
to-night, so that you can, if you will, go back to the club direct
from here and pay everything - on one condition."
"You must promise to put your hand to no document which the Count
von Hern may place before you, and pledge your word that you have
no further dealings with him."
"But why should you do this for me?" the Prince exclaimed. "I do
not know that I shall ever be able to pay you."
"If you succeed to the throne, you will pay me," the Baron de Grost
said. "If you do not succeed, remember that I am a rich man, and
that I shall miss this money no more than the sixpence which you
might throw to a crossing-sweeper."
The Prince was silent. His host unlocked a small cabinet and took
from it a bundle of notes.
"Tell me the whole amount you owe," he insisted, "every penny, mind."
"Sixteen hundred pounds," was the broken reply.
De Grost counted a little roll and laid it upon the table.
"There are two thousand pounds," he said. "Listen, Prince. A name
such as you bear carries with it certain obligations. Remember that,
and try and shape your life accordingly. Take my advice - go back
to your own country and find some useful occupation there, even if
you only rejoin your regiment and wear its uniform. The time may
come when your country will require you, for her work comes sooner
or later to every man. You are leading a rotten life over here, a
life which might have led to disaster and dishonor, a life, as you
know, which might have ended in your rooms to-night with a small
bullet hole in your forehead. Brave men do not die like that. Take
up the money, please."
The Baron de Grost sent a cipher dispatch to Paris that night, and
received an answer which pleased him.
"It is a small thing," he read, "but it is well done. Particulars
of a matter of grave importance will reach you to-morrow."
THE AMBASSADOR'S WIFE
Alone in his study, with fast-locked door, Peter, Baron de Grost,
sat reading, word by word, with zealous care the despatch from
Paris which had just been delivered into his hands. From the
splendid suite of reception rooms which occupied the whole of the
left-hand side of the hall came the faint sound of music. The
street outside was filled with automobiles and carriages setting
down their guests. Madame was receiving to-night a gathering of
very distinguished men and women, and it was only for a few
moments, and on very urgent business indeed, that her husband had
dared to leave her side.
The room in which he sat was in darkness except for the single
heavily shaded electric lamp which stood by his elbow. Nevertheless,
there was sufficient illumination to show that Peter had achieved
one, at least, of his ambitions. He was wearing court dress, with
immaculate black silk stockings and diamond buckles upon his shoes.
A red ribbon was in his buttonhole and a French order hung from his
neck. His passion for clothes was certainly amply ministered to by
the exigencies of his new position. Once more he read those last
few words of this unexpectedly received despatch, read them with a
frown upon his forehead and the light of trouble in his eyes. For
three months he had done nothing but live the life of an ordinary
man of fashion and wealth. His first task, for which, to tell the
truth, he had been anxiously waiting, was here before him, and he
found it little to his liking. Again, he read slowly to himself
the last paragraph of Sogrange's.
As ever, dear friend, one of the greatest sayings which the men
of my race have ever perpetrated once more justifies itself -
"Cherchez la femme!" Of Monsieur we have no manner of doubt. We
have tested him in every way. And to all appearance Madame should
also be above suspicion. Yet those things of which I have spoken
have happened. For two hours this morning I was closeted with
Picon here. Very reluctantly he has placed the matter in my hands.
I pass it on to you. It is your first undertaking, cher Baron,
and I wish you bon fortune. A man of gallantry, as I know you are,
you may regret that it should be a woman, and a beautiful woman,
too, against whom the finger must be pointed. Yet, after all, the
fates are strong and the task is yours.
The music from the reception rooms grew louder and more insistent.
Peter rose to his feet, and moving to the fireplace, struck a match
and carefully destroyed the letter which he had been reading. Then
he straightened himself, glanced for a moment at the mirror, and
left the room to join his guests.
"Monsieur le Baron jests," the lady murmured.
The Baron de Grost shook his head.
"Indeed, no, Madame!" he answered earnestly. "France has offered
us nothing more delightful in the whole history of our entente than
the loan of yourself and your brilliant husband. Monsieur de
Lamborne makes history among us politically, while Madame - "
The Baron sighed, and his companion leaned a little towards him;
her dark eyes were full of sentimental regard.
"Yes?" she murmured. "Continue. It is my wish."
"I am the good friend of Monsieur de Lamborne," the Baron said,
and in his tone there seemed to lurk some far-away touch of regret,
"yet Madame knows that her conquests here have been many."
The Ambassador's wife fanned herself and remained silent for a
moment, a faint smile playing at the corners of her full, curving
lips. She was, indeed, a very beautiful woman - elegant, a
Parisienne to the finger-tips, with pale cheeks, but eyes dark and
soft, eyes trained to her service, whose flash was an inspiration,
whose very droop had set beating the hearts of men less susceptible
than the Baron de Grost. Her gown was magnificent, of amber satin,
a color daring, but splendid; the outline of her figure, as she
leaned slightly back in her seat, might indeed have been traced by
the inspired finger of some great sculptor. De Grost, whose
reputation as a man of gallantry was well established, felt the
whole charm of her presence - felt, too, the subtle indications of
preference which she seemed inclined to accord to him. There was
nothing which eyes could say which hers were not saying during those
few minutes. The Baron, indeed, glanced around a little nervously.
His wife had still her moments of unreasonableness; it was just as
well that she was engaged with some of her guests at the farther
end of the apartments.
"You are trying to turn my head," his beautiful companion whispered.
"You flatter me."
"It is not possible," he answered.
Again the fan fluttered for a moment before her face. She sighed.
"Ah. Monsieur!" she continued, dropping her voice until it scarcely
rose above a whisper, "there are not many men like you. You speak
of my husband and his political gifts. Yet what, after all, do they
amount to? What is his position, indeed, if one glanced behind the
scenes, compared with yours?"
The face of the Baron de Grost became like a mask. It was as though
suddenly he had felt the thrill of danger close at hand, danger
even in that scented atmosphere wherein he sat.
"Alas, Madame!" he answered, "it is you, now, who are pleased to
jest. Your husband is a great and powerful ambassador. I,
unfortunately, have no career, no place in life save the place
which the possession of a few millions gives to a successful
She laughed very softly, and again her eyes spoke to him. "Monsieur,"
she murmured, "you and I together could make a great alliance, is it
"Madame," he faltered, doubtfully, "if one dared hope -"
Once more the fire of her eyes, this time not only voluptuous. Was
the man stupid, she wondered, or only cautious?
"If that alliance were once concluded," she said, softly, "one might
hope for everything."
"If it rests only with me," he began, seriously, "oh, Madame!"
He seemed overcome. Madame was gracious, but was he really stupid
or only very much in earnest?
"To be one of the world's money kings," she whispered, "it is
wonderful - that. It is power - supreme, absolute power. There
is nothing beyond, there is nothing greater."
Then the Baron, who was watching her closely, caught another gleam
in her eyes, and he began to understand. He had seen it before
among a certain type of her countrywomen - the greed of money. He
looked at her jewels and he remembered that, for an ambassador, her
husband was reputed to be a poor man. The cloud of misgiving
passed away from him; he settled down to the game.
"If money could only buy the desire of one's heart," he murmured.
His eyes seemed to seek out Monsieur de Lamborne among the moving
throngs. She laughed softly, and her hand brushed his.
"Money and one other thing, Monsieur le Baron," she whispered in
his ear, "can buy the jewels from a crown - can buy, even, the
heart of a woman - "
A movement of approaching guests caught them up, and parted them
for a time. The Baroness de Grost was at home from ten till one,
and her rooms were crowded. The Baron found himself drawn on one
side, a few minutes later, by Monsieur de Lamborne himself.
"I have been looking for you, De Grost," the latter declared.
"Where can we talk for a moment?"
His host took the ambassador by the arm and led him into a retired
corner. Monsieur de Lamborne was a tall, slight man, somewhat
cadaverous looking, with large features, hollow eyes, thin but
carefully arranged gray hair, and a pointed gray beard. He wore a
frilled shirt, and an eye-glass suspended by a broad black ribbon
hung down upon his chest. His face, as a rule, was imperturbable
enough, but he had the air, just now, of a man greatly disturbed.
"We cannot be overheard here," De Grost remarked. "It must be an
affair of a few words only, though."
Monsieur de Lamborne wasted no time in preliminaries. "This
afternoon," he said, " I received from my Government papers of
immense importance, which I am to hand over to your Foreign Minister
at eleven o'clock to-morrow morning."
The Baron nodded.
De Lamborne's thin fingers trembled as they played nervously with
the ribbon of his eye-glass.
"Listen," he continued, dropping his voice a little. "Bernadine has
undertaken to send a copy of their contents to Berlin by to-morrow
"How do you know that?"
The ambassador hesitated.
"We, too, have spies at work," he remarked, grimly. "Bernadine
wrote and sent a messenger with the letter to Berlin, The man's
body is drifting down the Channel, but the letter is in my pocket."
"The letter from Bernadine?"
"What does he say?"
"Simply that a verbatim copy of the document in question will be
despatched to Berlin to-morrow evening, without fail."
"There are no secrets between us," De Grost declared, smoothly.
"What is the special importance of this document?"
De Lamborne shrugged his shoulders.
"Since you ask," he said, "I will tell you. You know of the slight
coolness which there has been between our respective Governments.
Our people have felt that the policy of your ministers in expending
all their energies and resources in the building of a great fleet
to the utter neglect of your army is a wholly one-sided arrangement,
so far as we are concerned. In the event of a simultaneous attack
by Germany upon France and England, you would be utterly powerless
to render us any measure of assistance. If Germany should attack
England alone, it is the wish of your Government that we should be
pledged to occupy Alsace-Lorraine. You, on the other hand, could
do nothing for us, if Germany's first move were made against France."
The Baron was deeply interested, although the matter was no new one
"Go on," he directed. "I am waiting for you to tell me the specific
contents of this document."
"The English Government has asked us two questions: first, how many
complete army corps we consider she ought to place at our disposal
in this eventuality; and, secondly, at what point should we expect
them to be concentrated. The despatch which I received to-night
contains the reply to these questions."
"Which Bernadine has promised to forward to Berlin to-morrow night,"
the Baron remarked, softly.
De Lamborne nodded.
"You perceive," he said, "the immense importance of the affair. The
very existence of that document is almost a casus belli."
"At what time did the despatch arrive," the Baron asked, "and what
has been its history since?"
"It arrived at six o'clock, and went straight into the inner pocket
of my coat; it has not been out of my possession for a single second.
Even while I talk to you I can feel it."
"And your plans? How are you intending to dispose of it to-night?"
"On my return to the Embassy I shall place it in the safe, lock it
up, and remain watching it until morning."
"There doesn't seem to be much chance for Bernadine," the Baron
"But there must be no chance - no chance at all," Monsieur de
Lamborne asserted, with a note of passion in his thin voice. "It
is incredible, preposterous, that he should even make the attempt.
I want you to come home with me and share my vigil. You shall be
my witness in case anything happens. We will watch together."
De Grost reflected for a moment.
"Bernadine makes few mistakes," he said, thoughtfully. Monsieur de
Lamborne passed his hand across his forehead.
"Do I not know it?" he muttered. "In this instance, though, it
seems impossible for him to succeed. The time is so short and the
conditions so difficult. I may count upon your assistance, Baron?"
The Baron drew from his pocket a crumpled piece of paper.
"I received a telegram from headquarters this after noon," he said,
"with instructions to place myself entirely at your disposal."
"You will return with me, then, to the Embassy?" Monsieur de
Lamborne asked, eagerly.
The Baron de Grost did not at once reply. He was standing in one
of his characteristic attitudes, his hands clasped behind him, his
head a little thrust forward, watching with every appearance of
courteous interest the roomful of guests, stationary just now,
listening to the performance of a famous violinist. It was, perhaps,
by accident that his eyes met those of Madame de Lamborne, but she
smiled at him subtly, more, perhaps, with her wonderful eyes than
her lips themselves. She was the centre of a very brilliant group,
a most beautiful woman holding court, as was only right and proper,
among her admirers. The Baron sighed.
"No," he said, "I shall not return with you, De Lamborne. I want
you to follow my suggestions, if you will."
"Leave here early and go to your club. Remain there until one, then
come to the Embassy. I shall be there awaiting your arrival."
"You mean that you will go there alone? I do not understand," the
ambassador protested. "Why should I go to my club? I do not at
"Nevertheless, do as I say," De Grost insisted. "For the present,
excuse me. I must look after my guests."
The music had ceased, there was a movement toward the supper-room.
The Baron offered his arm to Madame de Lamborne, who welcomed him
with a brilliant smile. Her husband, although, for a Frenchman,
he was by no means of a jealous disposition, was conscious of a
vague feeling of uneasiness as he watched them pass out of the room
together. A few minutes later he made his excuses to his wife and
with a reluctance for which he could scarcely account left the
house. There was something in the air, he felt, which he did not
understand. He would not have admitted it to himself, but he more
than half divined the truth. The vacant seat in his wife's carriage
was filled that night by the Baron de Grost.
At one o'clock precisely Monsieur de Lamborne returned to his house
and heard with well-simulated interest that Monsieur le Baron de
Grost awaited his arrival in the library. He found De Grost gazing
with obvious respect at the ponderous safe let into the wall.
"A very fine affair - this," he remarked, motioning with his head
"The best of its kind," Monsieur de Lamborne admitted. "No burglar
yet has ever succeeded in opening one of its type. Here is the
packet," he added, drawing the document from his pocket. "You shall
see me place it in safety myself."
The Baron stretched out his hand and examined the sealed envelope for
a moment closely. Then he moved to the writing-table, and, placing
it upon the letter scales, made a note of its exact weight. Finally,
he watched it deposited in the ponderous safe, suggested the word to
which the lock was set, and closed the door. Monsieur de Lamborne
heaved a sigh of relief.
"I fancy this time," he said, "that our friends at Berlin will be
disappointed. Couch or easy-chair, Baron?"
"The couch, if you please," De Grost replied, "a strong cigar, and a
long whiskey and soda. So! Now, for our vigil."
The hours crawled away. Once De Grost sat up and listened.
"Any rats about?" he inquired.
The ambassador was indignant.
"I have never heard one in my life," he answered. "This is quite a
De Grost dropped his match-box and stooped to pick it up.
"Any lights on anywhere, except in this room?" he asked.
"Certainly not," Monsieur de Lamborne answered. "It is past three
o'clock, and every one has gone to bed."
The Baron rose and softly unbolted the door. The passage outside
was in darkness. He listened intently, for a moment, and returned,
"One fancies things," he murmured, apologetically.
"For example?" De Lamborne demanded.
The Baron shook his head.
"One mistakes," he declared. "The nerves become over sensitive."
The dawn broke and the awakening hum of the city grew louder and
louder. De Grost rose and stretched himself.
"Your servants are moving about in the house," he remarked. "I
think that we might consider our vigil at an end."
Monsieur de Lamborne rose with alacrity.
"My friend," he said, "I feel that I have made false pretenses to
you. With the day I have no fear. A thousand pardons for your
"My sleepless night counts for nothing," the Baron assured him, "but,
before I go, would it not be as well that we glance together inside
De Lamborne shook out his keys.
"I was about to suggest it," he replied.
The ambassador arranged the combination and pressed the lever.
Slowly the great door swung back. The two men peered in.
"Untouched!" De Lamborne exclaimed, a little note of triumph in his
De Grost said nothing, but held out his hand.
"Permit me," he interposed.
De Lamborne was conscious of a faint sense of uneasiness. His
companion walked across the room and carefully weighed the packet.
"Well?" De Lamborne cried. "Why do you do that? What is wrong?"
The Baron turned and faced him.
"My friend," he said, "this is not the same packet." The ambassador
stared at him incredulously.
"You are jesting!" he exclaimed. "Miracles do not happen. The
thing is impossible."
"It is the impossible, then, which has happened," De Grost replied,
swiftly. "This packet can scarcely have gained two ounces in the
night. Besides, the seal is fuller. I have an eye for these details."
De Lamborne leaned against the back of the table. His eyes were a
little wild, but he laughed hoarsely.
"We fight, then, against the creatures of another world," he declared.
"No human being could have opened that safe last night."
The Baron hesitated.
"Monsieur de Lamborne," he said, "the room adjoining is your wife's."
"It is the salon of Madame," the ambassador admitted.
"What are the electrical appliances doing there?" the Baron demanded.
"Don"t look at me like that, De Lamborne. Remember that I was here
before you arrived."
"My wife takes an electric massage every day," Monsieur de Lamborne
answered, in a hard, unnatural voice. "In what way is Monsieur le
Baron concerned in my wife's doings?"
"I think that there need be no answer to that question," De Grost
said, quietly. "It is a greater tragedy which we have to face."
Quick as lightning, the Frenchman's hand shot out. De Grost barely
avoided the blow.
"You shall answer to me for this, sir," De Lamborne cried. "It is
the honor of my wife which you assail."
"I maintain only," the Baron answered, "that your safe was entered
from that room. A search will prove it."
"There will be no search there," De Lamborne declared, fiercely.
"I am the Ambassador of France, and my power under this roof is
absolute. I say that you shall not cross that threshold."
De Grost's expression did not change. Only his hands were suddenly
outstretched with a curious gesture - the four fingers were raised,
the thumbs depressed. Monsieur De Lamborne collapsed.
"I submit," he muttered. "It is you who are the master. Search
where you will."
"Monsieur has arrived?" the woman demanded, breathlessly.
The proprietor of the restaurant himself bowed a reply. His client
was evidently well-known to him. He answered her in French - French,
with a very guttural accent.
"Monsieur has ascended some few minutes ago. Myself, I have not
had the pleasure of wishing him bon aperitif, but Fritz announced
The woman drew a little sigh of relief. A vague misgiving had
troubled her during the last few hours. She raised her veil as she
mounted the narrow staircase which led to the one private room at
the Hotel de Lorraine. She entered, without tapping, the room at
the head of the stairs, pushing open the ill-varnished door with
its white-curtained top. At first she thought that the little
apartment was empty.
"Are you there?" she exclaimed, advancing a few steps.
The figure of a man glided from behind the worn screen close by her
side, and stood between her and the door.
"Madame!" De Grost said, bowing low.
Even then she scarcely realized that she was trapped. "You?" she
cried. "You, Baron? But I do not understand. You have followed
"On the contrary, Madame," he answered. "I have preceded you."
Her colossal vanity triumphed over her natural astuteness. The man
had employed spies to watch her! He had lost his head. It was an
awkward matter, this, but it was to be arranged. She held out her
"Monsieur," she said, "let me beg you now to go away. If you care
to, come and see me this evening. I will explain everything. It
is a little family affair which brings me here."
"A family affair, Madame, with Bernadine, the enemy of France," De
Grost declared, gravely.
She collapsed miserably, her fingers grasping at the air, the cry
which broke from her lips harsh and unnatural. Before he could tell
what was happening, she was on her knees before him.
Spare me," she begged, trying to seize his hands.
"Madame," De Grost answered, "I am not your judge. You will kindly
hand over to me the document which you are carrying."
She took it from the bosom of her dress. De Grost glanced at it,
and placed it in his breast-pocket.
"And now?" she faltered.
De Grost sighed - she was a very beautiful woman.
"Madame," he said, "the career of a spy is, as you have doubtless
sometimes realized, a dangerous one."
"It is finished," she assured him, breathlessly. "Monsieur le Baron,
you will keep my secret? Never again, I swear it, will I sin like
this. You, yourself, shall be the trustee of my honor."
Her eyes and arms besought him, but it was surely a changed man -=20
this. There was none of the suaveness, the delicate responsiveness
of her late host at Porchester House. The man who faced her now
possessed the features of a sphinx. There was not even pity in his
"You will not tell my husband?" she gasped.
"Your husband already knows, Madame," was the quiet reply. "Only
a few hours ago I proved to him whence had come the leakage of so
many of our secrets lately."
She swayed upon her feet.
"He will never forgive me," she cried.
"There are others," De Grost declared, "who forgive more rarely,
even, than husbands."
A sudden illuminating flash of horror told her the truth. She
closed her eyes and tried to run from the room.
"I will not be told," she screamed. "I will not hear. I do not
know who you are. I will live a little longer."
"Madame," De Grost said, "the Double-Four wages no war with women,
save with spies only. The spy has no sex. For the sake of your
family, permit me to send you back to your husband's house."
That night, two receptions and a dinner party were postponed. All
London was sympathizing with Monsieur de Lamborne, and a great many
women swore never again to take a sleeping draught. Madame de
Lamborne lay dead behind the shelter of those drawn blinds, and by
her side an empty phial.
THE MAN PROM THE OLD TESTAMENT
Bernadine, sometimes called the Count von Hern, was lunching at the
Savoy with the pretty wife of a Cabinet Minister, who was just
sufficiently conscious of the impropriety of her action to render
the situation interesting.
"I wish you would tell me, Count von Hern," she said, soon after
they had settled down in their places, "why my husband seems to
object to you so much. I simply dared not tell him that we were
going to lunch together, and as a rule he doesn't mind what I do
in that way."
Bernadine smiled slowly.
"Ah, well," he remarked, "your husband is a politician and a very
cautious man. I dare say he is like some of those others, who
believe that, because I am a foreigner and live in London, therefore
I am a spy."
"You a spy," she laughed. "What nonsense!"
She shrugged her shoulders. She was certainly a very pretty woman,
and her black gown set off to fullest advantage her deep red hair
and fair complexion.
"I suppose because I can't imagine you anything of the sort," she
declared. "You see, you hunt and play polo, and do everything which
the ordinary Englishmen do. Then one meets you everywhere. I
think, Count von Hern, that you are much too spoilt, for one thing,
to take life seriously."
"You do me an injustice," he murmured.
"Of course," she chattered on, "I don't really know what spies do.
One reads about them in these silly stories, but I have never felt
sure that as live people they exist at all. Tell me, Count, what
could a foreign spy do in England?"
Bernadine twirled his fair moustache and shrugged his shoulders.
"Indeed, my dear lady," he admitted, "I scarcely know what a spy
could do nowadays. A few years ago, you English people were all
so trusting. Your fortifications, your battleships, not to speak
of your country itself, were wholly at the disposal of the
enterprising foreigner who desired to acquire information. The
party who governed Great Britain then seemed to have some strange
idea that these things made for peace. To-day, however, all that
"You seem to know something about it," she remarked.
"I am afraid that mine is really only the superficial point of view,"
he answered, "but I do know that there is a good deal of information,
which seems absolutely insignificant in itself, for which some
foreign countries are willing to pay. For instance, there was a
Cabinet Council yesterday, I believe, and some one was going to
suggest that a secret, but official, visit be paid to your new
harbor works up at Rosyth. An announcement will probably be made
in the papers during the next few days as to whether the visit is
to be undertaken or not. Yet there are countries who are willing
to pay for knowing even such an insignificant item of news as that,
a few hours before the rest of the world."
Lady Maxwell laughed.
"Well, I could earn that little sum of money," she declared gayly,
"for my husband has just made me cancel a dinner-party for next
Thursday, because he has to go up to the stupid place."
Bernadine smiled. It was really a very unimportant matter, but he
loved to feel, even in his idle moments, that he was not altogether
wasting his time.
"I am sorry," he said," that I am not myself acquainted with one
of these mythical personages that I might return you the value of
your marvelous information. If I dared think, however, that it
would be in any way acceptable, I could offer you the diversion of
a restaurant dinner-party for that night. The Duchess of
Castleford has kindly offered to act as hostess for me and we are
all going on to the Gaiety afterwards."
"Delightful!" Lady Maxwell exclaimed. "I should love to come."
"You have, then, dear lady, fulfilled your destiny," he said. "You
have given secret information to a foreign person of mysterious
identity, and accepted payment."
Now, Bernadine was a man of easy manners and unruffled composure.
To the natural insouciance of his aristocratic bringing up, he had
added the steely reserve of a man moving in the large world, engaged
more often than not in some hazardous enterprise. Yet, for once in
his life, and in the midst of the idlest of conversations, he gave
himself away so utterly that even this woman with whom he was
lunching - a very butterfly lady, indeed could not fail to perceive
it. She looked at him in something like astonishment. Without the
slightest warning his face had become set in a rigid stare, his eyes
were filled with the expression of a man who sees into another world.
The healthy color faded from his cheeks, he was white even to the
parted lips, the wine dripped from his raised glass onto the
"Why, whatever is the matter with you?"she demanded. "Is it a ghost
that you see?"
Bernadine's effort was superb, but he was too clever to deny the
"A ghost, indeed," he answered, "the ghost of a man whom every
newspaper in Europe has declared to be dead."
Her eyes followed his. The two people who were being ushered to a
seat in their immediate vicinity were certainly of somewhat unusual
appearance. The man was tall, and thin as a lath, and he wore the
clothes of the fashionable world without awkwardness, yet with the
air of one who was wholly unaccustomed to them. His cheek-bones
were remarkably high, and receded so quickly towards his pointed
chin that his cheeks were little more than hollows. His eyes were
dry and burning, flashing here and there as though the man himself
were continually oppressed by some furtive fear. His thick black
hair was short cropped, his forehead high and intellectual. He
was a strange figure, indeed, in such a gathering, and his companion
only served to accentuate the anachronisms of his appearance. She
was, above all things, a woman of the moment - fair, almost florid,
a little thick-set, with tightly-laced, yet passable figure. Her
eyes were blue, her hair light-colored. She wore magnificent furs,
and, as she threw aside her boa, she disclosed a mass of jewelry
around her neck and upon her bosom, almost barbaric in its profusion
"What an extraordinary couple!" Lady Maxwell whispered.
"The man looks as though he had stepped out of the Old Testament,"
Lady Maxwell's interest was purely feminine, and was riveted now
upon the jewelry worn by the woman. Bernadine, under the mask of
his habitual indifference, which had easily reassumed, seemed to be
looking away out of the restaurant into the great square of a
half-savage city, looking at that marvelous crowd, numbered by
their thousands, even by their hundreds of thousands, of men and
women whose arms flashed out toward the snow-hung heavens, whose
lips were parted in one chorus of rapturous acclamation; looking
beyond them to the tall, emaciated form of the bare-headed priest
in his long robes, his wind-tossed hair and wild eyes, standing
alone before that multitude, in danger of death, or worse, at any
moment - their idol, their hero. And again, as the memories came
flooding into his brain, the scene passed away, and he saw the bare
room with its whitewashed walls and blocked-up windows; he felt the
darkness, lit only by those flickering candles. He saw the white,
passion-wrung faces of the men who clustered together around the
rude table, waiting; he heard their murmurs, he saw the fear born
in their eyes. It was the night when their leader did not come.
Bernadine poured himself out a glass of wine and drank it slowly.
The mists were clearing away now. He was in London, at the Savoy
Restaurant, and within a few yards of him sat the man with whose
name all Europe once had rung - the man hailed by some as martyr,
and loathed by others as the most fiendish Judas who ever drew
breath. Bernadine was not concerned with the moral side of this
strange encounter. How best to use his knowledge of this man's
identity was the question which beat upon his brain. What use could
be made of him, what profit for his country and himself? And then
a fear - a sudden, startling fear. Little profit, perhaps, to be
made, but the danger - the danger of this man alive with such secrets
locked in his bosom! The thought itself was terrifying, and even as
he realized it a significant thing happened - he caught the eye of
the Baron de Grost, lunching alone at a small table just inside the
"You are not at all amusing," his guest declared. "It is nearly
five minutes since you have spoken."
"You, too, have been absorbed," he reminded her.
"It is that woman's jewels," she admitted. "I never saw anything
more wonderful. The people are not English, of course. I wonder
where they come from."
"One of the Eastern countries, without a doubt," he replied,
Lady Maxwell sighed.
"He is a peculiar-looking man," she said, "but one could put up with
a good deal for jewels like that. What are you doing this afternoon
- picture-galleries or your club?"
"Neither, unfortunately," Bernadine answered. "I have promised to
go with a friend to look at some polo ponies."
"Do you know," she remarked, "that we have never been to see those
Japanese prints yet?"
"The gallery is closed until Monday," he assured her, falsely. "If
you will honor me then, I shall be delighted."
She shrugged her shoulders but said nothing. She had an idea that
she was being dismissed, but Bernadine, without the least appearance
of hurry, gave her no opportunity for any further suggestions. He
handed her into the automobile, and returned at once into the
restaurant. He touched Baron de Grost upon the shoulder.
"My friend, the enemy!" he exclaimed, smiling.
"At your service in either capacity," the Baron replied. Bernadine
made a grimace and accepted the chair which De Grost had indicated.
"If I may, I will take my coffee with you," he said. "I am growing
old. It does not amuse me so much to lunch with a pretty woman.
One has to entertain, and one forgets the serious business of
lunching. I will take my coffee and cigarettes in peace.
De Grost gave an order to the waiter and leaned back in his chair.
"Now," he suggested, " tell me exactly what it is that has brought
you back into the restaurant?"
Bernadine shrugged his shoulders.
"Why not the pleasure of this few minutes' conversation with you?"
The Baron carefully selected a cigar, and lit it.
"That," he said, "goes well, but there are other things."
"As, for instance?"
De Grost leaned back in his chair, and watched the smoke of his
cigar curl upwards.
"One talks too much," he remarked. "Before the cards are upon the
table, it is not wise."
They chatted upon various matters. De Grost himself seemed in no
hurry to depart, nor did his companion show any signs of impatience.
It was not until the two people whose entrance had had such a
remarkable effect upon Bernadine, rose to leave, that the mask was,
for a moment, lifted. De Grost had called for his bill and paid it.
The two men strolled out together.
"Baron," Bernadine said, suavely, linking his arm through the other
man's as they passed into the foyer, "there are times when candor
even among enemies becomes an admirable quality."
"Those times, I imagine," De Grost answered, grimly, "are rare.
Besides, who is to tell the real thing from the false?"
"You do less than justice to your perceptions, my friend," Bernadine
De Grost merely shrugged his shoulders. Bernadine persisted.
"Come," he continued, "since you doubt me, let me be the first to
give you a proof that on this occasion, at any rate, I am candor
itself. You had a purpose in lunching at the Savoy to-day. That
purpose I have discovered by accident. We are both interested in
those people." The Baron de Grost shook his head slowly.
"Really," he began -
"Let me finish," Bernadine insisted. "Perhaps when you have heard
all that I have to say, you may change your attitude. We are
interested in the same people, but in different ways. If we both
move from opposite directions, our friend will vanish - he is clever
enough at disappearing, as he has proved before. We do not want the
same thing from him, I am convinced of that. Let us move together
and made sure that he does not evade us."
"Is it an alliance which you are proposing?" De Grost asked, with
a quiet smile.
"Why not? Enemies have united before to-day against a common foe."
De Grost looked across the palm court to where the two people who
formed the subject of their discussion were sitting in a corner,
both smoking, both sipping some red-colored liqueur.
"My dear Bernadine," he said, "I am much too afraid of you to listen
any more. You fancy because this man's presence here was an entire
surprise to you, and because you find me already on his track, that
I know more than you do and that an alliance with me would be to your
advantage. You would try to persuade me that your object with him
would not be my object. Listen. I am afraid of you - you are too
clever for me. I am going to leave you in sole possession."
De Grost's tone was final and his bow valedictory. Bernadine watched
him stroll in a leisurely way through the foyer, exchanging greetings
here and there with friends, watched him enter the cloakroom, from
which he emerged with his hat and overcoat, watched him step into his
automobile and leave the restaurant. He turned back with a clouded
face, and threw himself into an easy chair.
Ten minutes passed uneventfully. People were passing backwards and
forwards all the time, but Bernadine, through his half-closed eyes,
did little save watch the couple in whom he was so deeply interested.
At last the man rose, and, with a word of farewell to his companion,
came out from the lounge, and made his way up the foyer, turning
toward the hotel. He walked with quick, nervous strides, glancing
now and then restlessly about him. In his eyes, to those who
understood, there was the furtive gleam of the hunted man. It was
the passing of one who was afraid.
The woman, left to herself, began to look around her with some
curiosity. Bernadine, to whom a new idea had occurred, moved his
chair nearer to hers, and was rewarded by a glance which certainly
betrayed some interest. A swift and unerring judge in such matters,
he came to the instant conclusion that she was not unapproachable.
He acted immediately and upon impulse. Rising to his feet, he
approached her, and bowed easily but respectfully.
"Madame," he said, "it is impossible that I am mistaken. I have had
the pleasure, have I not, of meeting you in St. Petersburg?"
Her first reception of his coming was reassuring enough. At his
mention of St. Petersburg, however, she frowned.
"I do not think so," she answered, in French. "You are mistaken.
I do not know St. Petersburg."
"Then it was in Paris," Bernadine continued, with conviction.
"Madame is Parisian, without a doubt."
She shook her head, smiling.
"I do not think that I remember meeting you, Monsieur," she replied,
doubtfully, "but perhaps - "
She looked up, and her eyes dropped before his. He was certainly a
very personable looking man, and she had spoken to no one for so
"Believe me, Madame, I could not possibly be mistaken," Bernadine
assured her, smoothly. "You are staying here for long?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Heaven knows!" she declared. "My husband he has, I think, what
you call the wander fever. For myself, I am tired of it. In Rome
we settle down, we stay five days, all seems pleasant, and suddenly
my husband's whim carries us away without an hour's notice. The same
thing at Monte Carlo, the same in Paris. Who can tell what will
happen here? To tell you the truth, Monsieur," she added, a little
archly, "I think that if he were to come back at this moment, we
should probably leave England to-night."
"Your husband is very jealous?" Bernadine whispered, softly.
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Partly jealous, and partly, he has the most terrible distaste for
acquaintances. He will not speak to strangers himself, or suffer me
to do so. It is sometimes - oh! it is sometimes very triste."
"Madame has my sympathy," Bernadine assured her. "It is an
impossible life - this. No husband should be so exacting."
She looked at him with her round, blue eyes, a touch of added color
in her cheeks.
"If one could but cure him!" she murmured.
"I would ask your permission to sit down," Bernadine remarked, "but
I fear to intrude. You are afraid, perhaps, that your husband may
She shook her head.
"It will be better that you do not stay," she declared. "For a
moment or two he is engaged. He has an appointment in his room with
a gentleman, but one never knows how long he may be."
"You have friends in London, then," Bernadine remarked, thoughtfully.
"Of my husband's affairs," the woman said, "there is no one so
ignorant as I. Yet since we left our own country, this is the first
time I have known him willingly speak to a soul."
"Your own country," Bernadine repeated, softly. "That was Russia,
of course. Your husband's nationality is very apparent."
The woman looked a little annoyed with herself. She remained silent.
"May I not hope," Bernadine begged, "that you will give me the
pleasure of meeting you again?"
She hesitated for a moment.
"He does not leave me," she replied. "I am not alone for five
minutes during the day."
Bernadine scribbled the name by which he was known in that locality,
on a card, and passed it to her.
"I have rooms in St. James's Street, quite close to here," he said.
"If you could come and have tea with me to-day or to-morrow, it
would give me the utmost pleasure."
She took the card, and crumpled it in her hand. All the time,
though, she shook her head.
"Monsieur is very kind," she answered. "I am afraid - I do not
think that it would be possible. And now, if you please, you must
go away. I am terrified lest my husband should return."
Bernadine bent low in a parting salute.
"Madame," he pleaded, "you will come?"
Bernadine was a handsome man, and he knew well enough how to use
his soft and extraordinarily musical voice. He knew very well, as
he retired, that somehow or other she would accept his invitation.
Even then, he felt dissatisfied and ill at ease, as he left the
place. He had made a little progress, but, after all, was it worth
while? Supposing that the man with whom her husband was even at
this moment closeted, was the Baron de Grost! He called a taxicab
and drove at once to the Embassy of his country.
Even at that moment, De Grost and the Russian - Paul Hagon he called
himself - were standing face to face in the latter's sitting-room.
No conventional greetings of any sort had been exchanged. De Grost
had scarcely closed the door behind him before Hagon addressed him
breathlessly, almost fiercely.
"Who are you, sir," he demanded, "and what do you want with me?"
"You had my letter?" De Grost inquired.
"I had your letter," the other admitted. "It told me nothing. You
speak of business. What business have I with any here?"
"My business is soon told," De Grost replied, "but in the first
place, I beg that you will not unnecessarily alarm yourself. There
is, believe me, no need for it, no need whatever, although, to
prevent misunderstandings, I may as well tell you at once that I am
perfectly well aware who it is that I am addressing."
Hagon collapsed into a chair. He buried his face in his hands and
"I am not here necessarily as an enemy," De Grost continued. "You
have very excellent reasons, I make no doubt, for remaining unknown
in this city, or wherever you may be. As yet, let me assure you
that your identity is not even suspected, except by myself and one
other. Those few who believe you alive, believe that you are in
America. There is no need for any one to know that Father -"
"Stop!" the man begged, piteously. "Stop!"
De Grost bowed.
"I beg your pardon," he said.
"Now tell me," the man demanded, "what is your price? I have had
money. There is not much left. Sophia is extravagant and traveling
costs a great deal. But why do I weary you with these things?" he
added. "Let me know what I have to pay for your silence."
"I am not a blackmailer," De Grost answered, sternly. "I am myself
a wealthy man. I ask from you nothing in money - I ask you nothing
in that way at all. A few words of information, and a certain paper,
which I believe you have in your possession, is all that I require."
"Information," Hagon repeated, shivering.
"What I ask," De Grost declared, "is really a matter of justice.
At the time when you were the idol of all Russia and the leader of
the great revolutionary party, you received funds from abroad."
"I accounted for them," Hagon muttered. "Up to a certain point I
accounted for everything."
"You received funds from the Government of a European power," De
Grost continued, "funds to be applied towards developing the
revolution. I want the name of that Power, and proof of what I say."
Hagon remained motionless for a moment. He had seated himself at
the table, his head resting upon his hand and his face turned away
from De Grost.
"You are a politician, then?" he asked, slowly.
"I am a politician," De Grost admitted. "I represent a great secret
power which has sprung into existence during the last few years.
Our aim, at present, is to bring closer together your country and
Great Britain. Russia hesitates because an actual rapprochement
with us is equivalent to a permanent estrangement with Germany."
"I understand," he said, in a low tone. "I have finished with
politics. I have nothing to say to you."
"I trust," De Grost persisted, suavely, "that you will be better
Hagon turned round and faced him.
"Sir," he demanded, "do you believe that I am afraid of death?"
De Grost looked at him steadfastly.
"No," he answered, "you have proved the contrary."
"If my identity is discovered," Hagon continued, "I have the means
of instant death at hand. I do not use it because of my love for
the one person who links me to this world. For her sake I live,
and for her sake I bear always the memory of the shameful past.
Publish my name and whereabouts, if you will. I promise you that
I will make the tragedy complete. But for the rest, I refuse to
pay your price. A great power trusted me, and whatever its motives
may have been, its money came very near indeed to freeing my people.
I have nothing more to say to you, sir.
The Baron de Grost was taken aback. He had scarcely contemplated
"You must understand," he explained, "that this is not a personal
matter. Even if I myself would spare you, those who are more
powerful than I will strike. The society to which I belong does
not tolerate failure. I am empowered even to offer you its
protection, if you will give me the information for which I ask."
Hagon rose to his feet, and, before De Grost could foresee his
purpose, had rung the bell.
"My decision is unchanging," he said. "You can pull down the roof
upon my head, but I carry next my heart an instant and unfailing
means of escape."
A waiter stood in the doorway.
"You will take this gentleman to the lift," Hagon directed.
There was once more a touch in his manner of that half divine
authority which had thrilled the great multitude of his believers.
De Grost was forced to admit defeat.
"Not defeat," he said to himself, as he followed the man to the
lift, "only a check."
Nevertheless, it was a serious check. He could not, for the moment,
see his way further. Arrived at his house, he followed his usual
custom and made his way at once to his wife's rooms. Violet was
resting upon a sofa, but laid down her book at his entrance.
"Violet," he declared, "I have come for your advice."
"He refuses, then?" she asked, eagerly.
"Absolutely. What am I to do? Bernadine is already upon the scent.
He saw him at the Savoy to-day, and recognized him."
"Has Bernadine approached him yet?" Violet inquired.
"Not yet. He is half afraid to move. I think he realizes, or will
very soon, how serious this man's existence may be for Germany."
Violet was thoughtful for several moments, then she looked up quickly.
"Bernadine will try the woman," she asserted. "You say that Hagon
"Blindly," De Grost replied. "He scarcely lets her out of his sight."
"Your people watch Bernadine?"
"Very well, then," Violet went on, "you will find that he will
attempt an intrigue with the woman. The rest should be easy for you."
De Grost sighed as he bent over his wife.
"My dear," he said, "there is no subtlety like the subtlety of a
Bernadine's instinct had not deceived him, and the following
afternoon his servant, who had already received orders, silently
ushered Madame Hagon into his apartments. She was wrapped in
magnificent sables and heavily veiled. Bernadine saw at once that
she was very nervous and wholly terrified. He welcomed her in as
matter-of-fact a manner as possible.
"Madame," he declared, "this is quite charming of you. You must
sit in my easy-chair here, and my man shall bring us some tea. I
drink mine always after the fashion of your country, with lemon, but
I doubt whether we make it so well. Won't you unfasten your jacket?
I am afraid that my rooms are rather warm."
Madame had collected herself, but it was quite obvious that she was
unused to adventures of this sort. Her hand, when he took it,
trembled, and more than once she glanced furtively toward the door.
"Yes, I have come," she murmured. "I do not know why. It is not
right for me to come. Yet there are times when I am weary, times
when Paul seems fierce and when I am terrified. Sometimes I even
wish that I were back - "
"Your husband seems very highly strung," Bernadine remarked. "He
has doubtless led an exciting life."
"As to that," she replied, gazing around her now and gradually
becoming more at her ease, "I know but little. He was a student
professor at Moschaume, when I met him. I think that he was at
one of the universities in St. Petersburg."
Bernadine glanced at her covertly. It came to him as an inspiration
that the woman did not know the truth.
"You are from Russia, then, after all," he said, smiling. "I felt
sure of it."
"Yes," reluctantly. "Paul is so queer in these things. He will
not let me talk of it. He prefers that we are taken for French
people. Indeed, it is not I who desire to think too much of Russia.
It is not a year since my father was killed in the riots, and two
of my brothers were sent to Siberia."
Bernadine was deeply interested.
"They were among the revolutionaries?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered.
"And your husband?"
"He, too, was with them in sympathy. Secretly, too, I believe that
he worked among them. Only he had to be careful. You see, his
position at the college made it difficult."
Bernadine looked into the woman's eyes and he knew then that she
was speaking the truth. This man was, indeed, a great master; he
had kept her in ignorance!
"Always," Bernadine said, a few minutes later, as he passed her tea,
"I read with the deepest interest of the people's movement in Russia.
Tell me, what became eventually of their great leader - the wonderful
She set down her cup untasted, and her blue eyes flashed with a fire
which turned them almost to the color of steel.
"Wonderful indeed!" she exclaimed "Wonderful Judas! It was he who
wrecked the cause. It was he who sold the lives and liberty of
all of us for gold."
"I heard a rumor of that," Bernadine remarked, "but I never believed
"It was true," she declared passionately.
"And where is he now?" Bernadine asked.
"Dead!" she answered fiercely. "Torn to pieces, we believe, one
night in a house near Moscow. May it be so!"
She was silent for a moment, as though engaged in prayer. Bernadine
spoke no more of these things. He talked to her kindly, keeping up
always his role of respectful but hopeful admirer.
"You will come again soon?" he begged, when, at last, she insisted
"It is so difficult," she murmured. "If my husband knew - "
Bernadine laughed, and touched her fingers caressingly.
"Need one tell him?" he whispered. "You see, I trust you. I pray
that you will come-"
Bernadine was a man rarely moved towards emotion of any sort. Yet
even he was conscious of a certain sense of excitement, as he stood
looking out upon the Embankment from the windows of Paul Hagon's
sitting-room, a few days later. Madame was sitting on the sofa,
close at hand. It was for her answer to a certain question that
"Monsieur," she said at last, turning slowly towards him, "it must
be no. Indeed, I am sorry, for you have been very charming to me,
and without you I should have been dull. But to come to your rooms
and dine alone to-night, it is impossible."
"Your husband cannot return before the morning, Bernadine reminded
"It makes no difference," she answered. "Paul is sometimes fierce
and rough, but he is generous, and all his life he has worshiped me.
He behaves strangely at times, but I know that he cares - all the
time more, perhaps, than I deserve."
"And there is no one else," Bernadine asked softly, "who can claim
even the smallest place in your heart?"
"Monsieur," the woman begged, "you must not ask me that. I think
that you had better go away."
Bernadine stood quite still for several moments. It was the climax
towards which he had steadfastly guided the course of this mild
"Madame," he declared, "you must not send me away. You shall not."
She held out her hand.
"Then you must not ask impossible things," she answered.
Then Bernadine took the plunge. He became suddenly very grave.
"Sophia," he said, "I am keeping a great secret from you and I can
do it no longer. When you speak to me of your husband you drive me
mad. If I believed that you really loved him, I would go away and
leave it to chance whether or not you ever discovered the truth.
As it is - "
"Well?" she interposed breathlessly.
"As it is," he continued, "I am going to tell you now. Your husband
has deceived you - he is deceiving you every moment."
She looked at him incredulously.
"You mean that there is another woman?"
Bernadine shook his head.
"Worse than that," be answered. "Your husband stole even your love
under false pretenses. You think that his life is a strange one,
that his nerves have broken down, that he flies from place to place
for distraction, for change of scene. It is not so. He left Rome,
he left Nice, he left Paris, for one and the same reason. He left
because he was in peril of his life. I know little of your history,
but I know as much as this. If ever a man deserved the fate from
which he flees, your husband deserves it."
"You are mad," she faltered.
"No, I am sane," he went on. "It is you who are mad, not to have
understood. Your husband goes ever in fear of his life. His real
name is one branded with ignominy throughout the world. The man
whom you have married, to whom you are so scrupulously faithful,
is the man who sent your father to death and your brothers to
"Father Paul!" she screamed.
"You have lived with him, you are his wife," Bernadine declared.
The color had left her cheeks; her eyes, with their penciled brows,
were fixed in an almost ghastly stare; her breath was coming in
uneven gasps. She looked at him in silent terror.
"It is not true," she cried at last; "it cannot be true."
"Sophia," he said, "you can prove it for yourself. I know a
little of your husband and his doings. Does he not carry always
with him a black box which he will not allow out of his sight?"
"Always," she assented. "How did you know? By night his hand
rests upon it. By day, if he goes out, it is in my charge."
"Fetch it now," Bernadine directed, "and I will prove my words."
She did not hesitate for a moment. She disappeared into the inner
room; and came back, only a few moments absent, carrying in her
hand a black leather despatch-box.
"You have the key?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered, looking at him and trembling, "but I dare
not - oh, I dare not open it!"
"Sophia," he said, "if my words are not true, I will pass out of
your life for always. I challenge you. If you open that box you
will know that your husband is, indeed, the greatest scoundrel in
She drew a key from a gold chain around her neck.
"There are two locks," she told him. "The other is a combination,
but I know the word. Who's that?"
She started suddenly. There was a loud tapping at the door.
Bernadine threw an antimacassar half over the box, but he was too
late. De Grost and Hagon had crossed the threshold. The woman
stood like some dumb creature. Hagon, transfixed, stood with his
eyes riveted upon Bernadine, His face was distorted with passion,
he seemed like a man beside himself with fury. De Grost came
slowly forward into the middle of the room.
"Count von Hern," he said, "I think that you had better leave."
The woman found words.
"Not yet," she cried, "not yet! Paul, listen to me. This man has
told me a terrible thing."
The breath seemed to come through Hagon's teeth like a hiss.
"He has told you!"
"Listen to me," she continued. "It is the truth which you must
tell now. He says that you - you are Father Paul."
Hagon did not hesitate for a second.
"It is true," he admitted.
Then there was a silence - short, but tragical. Hagon seemed
suddenly to have collapsed. He was like a man who has just had a
stroke. He stood muttering to himself.
"It is the end - this - the end!" he said, in a low tone. "Sophia!"
She shrank away from him. He drew himself up. Once more the great
light flashed in his face.
"It was for your sake," he said simply, "for your sake, Sophia. I
came to you poor and you would have nothing to say to me. My love
for you burned in my veins like fever. It was for you I did it -=20
for your sake I sold my honor, the love of my country, the freedom=20
of my brothers. For your sake I risked an awful death. For your
sake I have lived like a hunted man, with the cry of the wolves
always in my ears, and the fear of death and of eternal torture with
me day by day. No other man since the world was made has done more.
Have pity on me!"
She was unmoved; her face had lost all expression. No one noticed
in that rapt moment that Bernadine had crept from the room.
"It was you," she cried, "who killed my father, and sent my brothers
"God help me!" he moaned.
She turned to De Grost.
"Take him away with you, please," she said. "I have finished with
"Sophia!" he pleaded.
She leaned across the table and struck him heavily upon the cheek.
"If you stay here," she muttered, "I shall kill you myself ... "
That night, the body of an unknown foreigner was found in the attic
of a cheap lodging-house in Soho. The discovery itself and the
verdict at the inquest occupied only a few lines in the morning
newspapers. Those few lines were the epitaph of one who was very
nearly a Rienzi. The greater part of his papers De Grost mercifully
destroyed, but one in particular he preserved. Within a week the
much delayed treaty was signed at Paris, London and St. Petersburg.
THE FIRST SHOT
De Grost and his wife were dining together at the corner table in a
fashionable but somewhat Bohemian restaurant. Both had been in the
humor for reminiscences, and they had outstayed most of their
"I wonder what people really think of us," Violet remarked pensively.
"I told Lady Amershal, when she asked us to go there this evening,
that we always dined together alone somewhere once a week, and she
absolutely refused to believe me. 'With your own husband, my dear?'
She kept on repeating."
"Her Ladyship's tastes are more catholic," the Baron declared dryly.
"Yet, after all, Violet, the real philosophy of married life demands
something of this sort."
Violet smiled and fingered her pearls for a minute.
"What the real philosophy of married life may he I do not know," she
said, "but I am perfectly content with our rendering of it. What a
fortunate thing, Peter, with your intensely practical turn of mind,
that nature endowed you with so much sentiment."
De Grost gazed reflectively at the cigarette which he had just
selected from his case.
"Well," he remarked, "there have been times when I have cursed
myself for a fool, but, on the whole, sentiment keeps many fires
She leaned towards him and dropped her voice a little. "Tell me,"
she begged, "do you ever think of the years we spent together in
the country? Do you ever regret?"
He smiled thoughtfully.
"It is a hard question, that," he admitted. "There were days there
which I loved, but there were days, too, when the restlessness came,
days when I longed to hear the hum of the city and to hear men
speak whose words were of life and death and the great passions. I
am not sure, Violet, whether, after all, it is well for one who has
lived to withdraw absolutely from the thrill of life."
She laughed, Softly but gayly.
"I am with you," she declared, "absolutely. I think that the
fairies must have poured into my blood the joy of living for its
own sake. I should be an ungrateful woman indeed, if I found
anything to complain of, nowadays. Yet there is one thing that
troubles me," she went on, after a moment's pause.
"And that?" he asked.
"The danger," she said, slowly. "I do not want to lose you, Peter.
There are times when I am afraid."
De Grost flicked the ash from his cigarette.
"The days are passing," he remarked, "when men point revolvers at
one another, and hire assassins to gain their ends. Now, it is more
a battle of wits. We play chess on the board of Life still, but we
play with ivory pieces instead of steel and poison. Our brains
direct and not our muscles."
"It is only the one man of whom I am afraid. You have outwitted
him so often and he does not forgive."
De Grost smiled. It was an immense compliment - this.
"Bernadine," he murmured, softly, "otherwise, our friend the Count
"Bernadine!" she repeated. "All that you say is true, but when one
fails with modern weapons, one changes the form of attack. Bernadine
at heart is a savage."
"The hate of such a man," De Grost remarked complacently, "is worth
having. He has had his own way over here for years. He seems to
have found the knack of living in a maze of intrigue and remaining
untouchable. There were a dozen things before I came upon the scene
which ought to have ruined him. Yet there never appeared to be
anything to take hold of. Even the Criminal Department once thought
they had a chance. I remember John Dory telling me in disgust that
Bernadine was like one of those marvelous criminals one only reads
about in fiction, who seem, when they pass along the dangerous
places, to walk upon the air, and, leave no trace behind."
"Before you came," she said, "he had never known a failure. Do you
think that he is a man likely to forgive?"
"I do not," De Grost answered grimly. "It is a battle, of course,
a battle all the time. Yet, Violet, between you and me, if Bernadine
were to go, half the savor of life for me would depart with him."
Then there came a curious and wholly unexpected interruption. A man
in dark, plain clothes, still wearing his overcoat, and carrying a
bowler hat, had been standing in the entrance of the restaurant for
a moment or two, looking around the room as though in search of some
one. At last he caught the eye of the Baron de Grost and came
quickly toward him.
"Charles," the Baron remarked, raising his eyebrows. "I wonder what
A sudden cloud had fallen upon their little feast. Violet watched
the coming of her husband's servant, and the reading of the note
which he presented to his master, with an anxiety which she could
not wholly conceal. The Baron read the note twice, scrutinizing a
certain part of it closely with the aid of the monocle which he
seldom used. Then he folded it up and placed it in the breast
pocket of his coat.
"At what hour did you receive this, Charles?"he asked.
"A messenger brought it in a taxicab about ten minutes ago, sir,"
the man replied. "He said that it was of the utmost importance,
and that I had better try and find you."
"A district messenger?"
"A man in ordinary clothes, Charles answered. "He looked like a
porter in a warehouse, or something of that sort. I forgot to say
that you were rung up on the telephone three times previously by
The Baron nodded.
"You can go," he said. "There is no reply."
The man bowed and retired. De Grost called for his bill.
"Is it anything serious?" Violet inquired.
"No, not exactly serious," he answered. "I do not understand what
has happened, but they have sent for me to go - well, where it was
agreed that I should not go except as a matter of urgent necessity "
Violet knew better than to show any signs of disquietude.
"It is in London?" she asked.
"Certainly," her husband replied. "I shall take a taxicab from
here. I am sorry, dear, to have one of our evenings disturbed in
this manner. I have always done my best to avoid it, but this
summons is urgent."
She rose and he wrapped her cloak around her.
"You will drive straight home, won't you?" he begged. "I dare say
that I may be back within an hour myself."
"And if not?" she asked, in a low tone.
"If not, there is nothing to be done."
Violet bit her lip, but, as he handed her into the small electric
brougham which was waiting, she smiled into his face.
"You will come back, and soon, Peter," she declared, confidently.
"Wherever you go I am sure of that. You see, I have faith in my
star which watches over you."
He kissed her fingers and turned away. The commissionaire had
already called him a taxicab.
"To London Bridge," he ordered, after a moment's hesitation, and
The traffic citywards had long since finished for the day, and he
reached his destination within ten minutes of leaving the restaurant.
Here he paid the man, and, entering the station, turned to the
refreshment room and ordered a liqueur brandy. While he sipped it,
he smoked a cigarette and carefully reread in a strong light the
note which he had received. The signature especially he pored over
for some time. At last, however, he replaced it in his pocket,
paid his bill, and, stepping out once more on to the platform,
entered a telephone booth. A few minutes later he left the station,
and, turning to the right, walked slowly as far as Tooley Street.
He kept on the right-hand side until he arrived at the spot where
the great arches, with their scanty lights, make a gloomy
thoroughfare into Bermondsey, In the shadow of the first of these
he paused, and looked steadfastly across the street. There were
few people passing and practically no traffic. In front of him
was a row of warehouses, all save one of which was wrapped in
complete darkness. It was the one where some lights were still
burning which De Grost stood and watched.
The lights, such as they were, seemed to illuminate the ground
floor only. From his hidden post he could see the shoulders of a
man apparently bending over a ledger, diligently writing. At the
next window a youth, seated upon a tall stool, was engaged in
presumably the same occupation. There was nothing about the place
in the least mysterious or out of the way. Even the blinds of the
offices had been left undrawn, The man and the boy, who were alone
visible, seemed, in a sense, to be working under protest. Every
now and then the former stopped to yawn, and the latter performed
a difficult balancing feat upon his stool. De Grost, having
satisfied his curiosity, came presently from his shelter, almost
running into the arms of a policeman, who looked at him closely.
The Baron, who had an unlighted cigarette in his mouth, stopped
to ask for a light, and his appearance at once set at rest any
suspicions the policeman might have had.
"I have a warehouse myself down in these parts," he remarked, as
he struck the match, "but I don't allow my people to work as late
He pointed across the way, and the policeman smiled.
"They are very often late there, sir," he said. "It's a Continental
wine business, and there's always one or two of them over time."
"It's bad business, all the same," De Grost declared pleasantly.
"Good night, policeman!"
"Good night, sir!
De Grost crossed the road diagonally, as though about to take the
short cut across London Bridge, but as soon as the policeman was
out of sight he retraced his steps to the building which they had
been discussing, and turning the battered brass handle of the door,
walked calmly in. On his right and left were counting houses
framed with glass; in front, the cavernous and ugly depths of a
gloomy warehouse. He knocked upon the window-pane on the right
and passed forward a step or two, as though to enter the office.
The boy, who had been engaged in the left-hand counting house,
came gliding from his place, passed silently behind the visitor
and turned the key of the outer door. What followed seemed to
happen as though by some mysteriously directed force. The figures
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