The False Faces
Vance, Louis Joseph
Part 3 out of 6
socks, a sweater, a dungaree coat, trousers of the same stuff, all vilely
damp, and a friendless pair of oil-sodden shoes: the sweepings of a dozen
lockers, but as welcome as disreputable.
Dressed, he turned aft through the alleyway, entering immediately the
central operating room and storm center of that typhoon of noise, a
wilderness of polished machinery in active being.
Of the score or more leather-clad machinists silent at their posts, none
paid him more heed than a passing, incurious glance as he crossed to a
narrow steel companion ladder and ascended to the conning tower. This he
found deserted; but its deck-hatch was open. He climbed out to the bridge.
The night was calm and heavily overcast, with no sea more than long, slow
swells. Through its windless quiet the U-boat racketed with the raving
abandon of the Spirit of Discord on a spree in a boiler factory. To the
riot of its internal strife was added the remonstrance of waters sliced by
the stem and flung back by the sides, a prolonged and stertorous hiss like
the rending of an endless sheet of canvas.
To eyes new from the electric illumination of the hold, the blackness was
positive, with the palpable quality of an element, relieved alone by the
dull glow of the binnacle housing the gyroscope telltale, from which the
faintest of golden reflections struck back to pick out a pair of seemingly
severed fists gripping the handles of the bridge steering wheel with a
singular effect of desperation.
For some moments Lanyard could see nothing more.
The mirthless chuckle of the lieutenant sounded at his elbow.
"So the good Herr Doctor thought he had better come up for air, eh? My
friend, the very dead might envy you the sincerity of your slumbers. We
have been half an hour on the surface, with all this uproar--and you are
only just wakened!"
"Half an hour?" Lanyard repeated thoughtfully. "Then we should be close
"Give us ten minutes more ... if we don't go aground in this accursed
A broad-shouldered body passed between Lanyard and the binnacle,
momentarily eclipsing its light. Down below in the operating room a bell
shrilled, and of a sudden the Diesels were silenced.
The dead quiet that followed the sharp extinction of that hubbub was as
startling as the detonation of high explosive had been.
Through this sudden stillness the submarine slipped stealthily, the hissing
beneath her bows dying down to gentle sibilance.
From forward the calls of an invisible leadsman were audible. In response
the commander uttered throaty orders to the helmsman at his elbow, and
those unattached hands shifted the wheel minutely.
Lanyard started to speak, but a growl from the captain, and a touch of the
lieutenant's hand on his sleeve cautioned him to silence.
There was a small pause. The vessel seemed to have lost way altogether, to
swim like a spirit ship that Stygian tide. The lieutenant moved forward,
leaving Lanyard alone. The voice of the leadsman was stilled. By the wheel
the captain stood absolutely motionless, his body vaguely silhouetted
against the glow of the binnacle. The hands that gripped the wheel so
savagely were as steady as if carven out of stone. An atmosphere of
suspense enveloped the boat like a cloud.
Lanyard grew conscious of something huge and formidable, a denser shadow in
the darkness beyond the bows, the loom of land. Off to starboard a point
of light appeared abruptly, precisely as if a golden pin had punctured the
black blanket of the night. The captain growled gutturals of relief and
command. The hands on the wheel shifted, steering exceeding small. A second
light shone out to port, then shifted slowly into range with the first,
till the two were as one. Again the bell sang in the operating room, and
the vessel forged ahead quietly to the urge of electric motors alone. A
third light and a fourth appeared, well apart to port and starboard, the
range lights precisely equidistant between them. Between these the U-boat
moved swiftly. They swam back on either hand and were abruptly extinguished
as if the night, resenting their insolent trespass, had gobbled both at a
The temperature became sensibly warmer and the salt air of the sea was
strongly tinctured with the sweet smell of pines and forest mould.
Up forward carbons sputtered and spat; a searchlight was unsheathed and
carved the gloom as if it was butter, ranging swiftly over the tree-clad
shore of a burnished black lagoon, picking out en passant several unpainted
wooden structures, then steadying on a long and substantial landing stage,
on which several men stood waiting.
As the U-boat, with motors dead and way lessening, glided up alongside
the head of that T-shaped landing stage and was made fast, the wireless
operator popped up from below, saluted the commander, and delivered a
Lanyard, instinctively aware that this was the expected report from
Seventy-ninth Street on Dr. Paul Rodiek, quietly pulled himself together
and took quick observations.
At best his chances in the all-too-probable emergency were far from
brilliant. Yet one might better perish trying, however hopelessly, than
passively submit to being shot down.
The lieutenant, waspishly superintending the work of crew and base guards
at the mooring lines, stood preoccupied within an arm's length; while the
landing stage was a fair six feet away. From its T-head to the shore, the
distance was nothing less than two hundred yards.
Desperate action and miraculous luck might take the Prussian by surprise
and enable one to snatch the service automatic from its holster at his
belt, leap to the stage, and shoot a way landward through the guards
clustered there; after which everything would depend on swiftness of foot
and the uncertain light permitting one to gain a refuge in the surrounding
woodland without a bullet in one's back.
It was a sorry hope....
With catlike attention Lanyard watched the hands holding that paper to the
binnacle light--large hands, heavy and muscular but tremulous with drink
and nervous reaction from the long strain and cumulative horror of the
cruise then ending. Their aim would not be good, except by accident. None
the less, if the report were unfavourable, their first gesture would be
toward the holster, signalling to Lanyard that the moment had come to
initiate heroic measures.
The Bavarian was an unconscionable time absorbing the import of the
message. Bending his face close to the paper, the better to make out the
writing, he read with moving lips, slowly, a doltish frown of concentration
clouding his congested countenance.
At length, however, he stood up, swaying a little as he folded and pocketed
Lanyard relaxed. The man was too far gone in drink to be crafty, too sure
of his absolute power of life and death to imagine a need for craft. Since
his hand had not immediately sought the holster, it would not.
Turbid accents uttered the name of Dr. Rodiek.
Lanyard stepped forward alertly. "Yes, Herr Captain?"
"New York says it had no knowledge of your intention to leave England on
the _Assyrian_, but that you may well have done so. The Wilhelmstrasse will
know, of course. It has already been telegraphed. Pending its reply, I am
to detain you."
"How long?" Lanyard demurred.
"As you know, transatlantic communications must now go by land telegraph to
the Border, by hand into Mexico, thence by radio via Venezuela to Berlin.
All that takes time. Also, we may not signal New York but at stated times
of night. You will be detained another twenty-four hours at least, possibly
"My errand cannot wait."
"You will obstruct the business of the Imperial Government at your peril."
"I would incur still greater peril did I let you go," the commander replied
nervously. "With these swine-dogs at war with the Fatherland, our lives are
not worth _that_ should this base be betrayed."
"Do I understand America has declared war?"
"Two days since. Did you not know?"
"The _Assyrian's_ wireless room was under guard: the captain published no
The Bavarian gave a gesture of impatience.
"You will remain on board for the night," he announced heavily.
"Pardon!" Lanyard insisted with every evidence of anxious excitement.
"What you tell me makes it more than ever imperative that I reach New York
without an hour's avoidable delay. I warn you, think well before you hinder
the discharge of my duty."
"It is not necessary that I think," the commander replied. "My thinking has
all been done for me. Me, I obey my orders; it is not my part to question
their wisdom. Moreover, Herr Doctor, to my mind your insistence is to say
the least suspicious. Even had I discretion in the matter, I should hold
you. Therefore, you will keep a civil tongue in your head, or go below in
He swung on his heel, showing an insolent back while he conferred with his
And Lanyard shrugged appreciation of the futility of more contention
against such mulishness. Not that the Bavarian was not right enough! As to
that, one had really hoped for no better issue; but every shift is worth
trial till proved worthless; and he was no worse off now than if he had
submitted without complaint. Still one had Chance to look to for aid and
comfort in this stress; and Chance, the jade, is not always unkind to her
Even now she flashed upon Lanyard a provoking intimation of her smile.
He began to divine possibilities in this overt ill-feeling between the
officers; advantage might be made of the racial hostility of Prussian and
The commander's attitude and tone were consistently overbearing, if his
words were inaudible to Lanyard. The lieutenant quite evidently submitted
only in form; his salute was punctiliously correct and curt; and as the
commander lumbered off down the landing stage, he grumbled indistinctly in
"Dog of a Bavarian!"
"The good Herr Captain," Lanyard suggested pleasantly, "is not in the most
agreeable of tempers, yes?"
The high and well-born lieutenant spat comprehensively into the darkness
overside. After a moment of hesitation he moved nearer and spoke in
confidential accents. And the fragrant air of the night was tainted with
the vinous effluvium of his breath.
"Always he prattles of his precious duty!" the Prussian muttered. "Damn his
duty! Look you, Herr Doctor: months we have been on this cruise, yes, more
than three months out of Heligoland, penned together in this ramshackle
stinkpot, or isolated here in this God-forgotten hole, seeing nothing of
life, hearing nothing of the world but what little the radio tells
us--sick of the very sight of one another's faces! And now, when we have
accomplished a glorious feat and have every right to look for prompt recall
and the rewards of heroes, orders come to remain indefinitely and operate
against the North Atlantic fleet of the contemptible Yankee navy! The life
of a dog! And that noble commander of mine pretends to welcome it, talks
of one's duty to the Fatherland--as if he liked the work any better than
I!--solely to spite me!"
"Because he hates me," the lieutenant snarled passionately--"hates me even
as I hate him--he knows how well!"
He interrupted himself to define his conception of the commander's
character in the freest vernacular of the Berlin underworld.
Lanyard laughed amiably. "They are like that," he agreed--"those
Which inspired the Prussian to deliver a phosphorescent diatribe on the
racial traits of the Bavarian people as comprehended by the North German
"To be cooped up God knows how long in this putrescent death-trap with such
cattle," he concluded mutinously--"it passes all endurance!"
"I wonder you stand it," Lanyard sympathised--"a man of spirit and good
birth, as one readily perceives. Though the life of a secret agent is not
altogether heavenly either, if you ask me," he added gratuitously. "Regard
me now, charged with a mission of most vital moment--more than ever so
since the Yankees have shown their teeth--delayed here indefinitely because
your excellent Herr Captain chooses to doubt my word."
"Patience. Maybe your release comes quickly. Then he will regret--or would
had he wit enough. There is no cure for a fool." The sententiousness of
this aphorism was unhappily marred by a hiccough. "Anybody with eyes in his
head could see you are what you are...."
The last of the operating-room crew piled up the hatchway, saluted, and
hurried ashore to join in noisy jubilations. There remained on the U-boat
only the lieutenant with Lanyard, and two base guards detailed as anchor
"I must go," the lieutenant volunteered. "And believe me, one welcomes a
change of clothing and a dry bed after a week in this reeking sieve. As for
you, my friend, if it lay with me, you should receive the treatment due
a gentleman." A wave of maudlin camaraderie affected him. He passed an
affectionate arm through Lanyard's and was suffered, though the gorge of
the adventurer revolted at the familiarity. "I am sorry to leave you. No,
do not be astonished! No protestations, please! It is quite true. I know a
man of the right sort when I meet one, the sort even I can associate with
without loss of self-respect. It is a great pity you may not come with me
and make a night of it."
"Another time, perhaps," Lanyard said. "The night may yet come when you and
I shall meet at the Metropole or the Admiral's Palace.... Who knows?"
"Ah!" sighed the Prussian, enchanted. "What a night that will be, my
friend!... But now, it is too bad, I really must ask you to step below.
Such are my silly orders. I am made responsible for you. What do you think
of that for a joke, eh?"
He laughed vacantly but loudly, and, attempting to poke a derisive thumb
into Lanyard's ribs, lost his balance.
"What a responsibility!" said Lanyard gravely, holding him up.
"Nonsense, that's what it is. You have no possible chance to escape."
"Suppose I make one--tip you overboard, take to my heels--?"
"You would be shot like a rabbit before you got half way to the shore."
"Ah, but grant, for the sake of argument, that these brave fellows, the
guards, aim poorly in this gloom?"
"Where would you go? Into the forest, naturally. But how far? You may
believe me when I tell you, not a hundred yards. It's a true wilderness,
scrub-oak and cedar and second growth choked with underbrush, almost
trackless. In five minutes you would be helplessly lost, in this blackness,
with no stars to steer by. We need only wait till daylight to find you
walking in a circle."
"You can't mean," Lanyard pursued, learning something helpful every moment,
"there is no communicating road?"
"The main woods road, yes: but that is far too well patrolled. Without the
countersign, you would be caught or shot a dozen times before you reached
the end of it."
"Ah, well!"--with the sigh of a philosopher--"then I presume there's no way
out but by swimming."
"Over to the beach you mean? Well, what then? You have got a twenty-mile
walk either way through deep sand sure to betray your footprints. At dawn
we follow and bag you at our leisure."
"You are discouraging!" Lanyard complained. "I see I may as well go below
and be good. It's a dull life."
"Tell you what," giggled the lieutenant, leading his prisoner to the
conning-tower hatch and lowering his voice: "do just that, go below and be
nice, and presently I will come back and we'll split a bottle. What do you
say to that, eh?"
"Not a bad notion, is it? I like it myself. One gets weary for the society
of a gentleman, you've no idea.... As soon as my commander is drunk enough,
I will slip away. How's that?"
"Grossartig!" Lanyard approved, turning to descend.
"Wait. You shall see for yourself what it means to have the friendship of
a man of my stamp." The lieutenant raised his voice, addressing the anchor
watch: "Attention. Heed with care: this gentleman is my friend. He is
detained merely as a matter of form. I do not wish him to be annoyed. Do
you understand? You are to leave him to himself as long as he remains
quietly below. But he is not to come on deck again till I return. Is all
that clear, imbeciles?"
The imbeciles, saluting mechanically, indicated glimmerings of
"Then below you go, Dr. Rodiek. And don't get impatient: I will rejoin you
as soon as possible."
"Don't be long," Lanyard implored.
As he lowered himself through the hatch he saw the Prussian stumble down
the gangplank and reel shoreward.
Well satisfied with his diplomacy, Lanyard lingered a while in the conning
tower, closely studying and memorising the more salient features of the
Island of Martha's Vineyard and its adjacent waters and mainland as
delineated on a most comprehensive large-scale chart published by the
German Admiralty from exhaustive soundings and surveys of its own
navigators and typographers, with corrections of as recent date as the
first part of the year 1917.
Here the breach in the south coast line which permitted the utilisation
of what had formerly been an extensive fresh-water pond as this secret
submarine base, was clearly shown. And a single glance confirmed the
lieutenant's statement concerning its remote isolation from settled
sections of the island.
Somewhat dismayed, Lanyard descended to the central operating compartment
and scouted through the hold from bow bulkhead to stern, making certain he
enjoyed undisputed privacy. And it was so; every man-jack of the U-boat's
personnel--jaded to the marrow with its cramped accommodations, unremitting
toil and care, unsanitary smells and forbidding associations--having
naturally seized the earliest opportunity to escape so loathsome a prison.
Lanyard, however, was anything but resentful of condemnation to this
solitary confinement. His interest in the interior arrangements of
submersibles seemed all but feverish, as intense as sudden; witness the
minute attention to detail which marked his second tour of inspection. On
this round he took his time. He had all night in which to work out his
salvation; the wildest schemes were revolving in his mind, the least
fantastic utterly impracticable without accurate knowledge of many matters;
and such knowledge might be gained only through patient investigation and
ungrudging expenditure of time.
It was now something past ten by the chronometers. He could hardly do much
before dawn, lacking the instinct of a red Indian to guide him through
that night-bound waste of woodland. So he felt little need to slight his
researches through haste, except in anticipation of his lieutenant's
return. And as to that, Lanyard was moderately incredulous: he expected to
see nothing more of this new-found friend, unless the infatuation of the
Prussian proved far stronger than his head.
Turning first to the private quarters of the commander, a somewhat more
commodious cubicle than that across the alleyway in which Lanyard had been
berthed, his interest was attracted by a small safe anchored to the deck
beneath the desk.
To this Lanyard addressed himself without hesitation, solving the secret
of its combination readily through exercise of the most rudimentary of
professional principles. The problem it offered, indeed, was child's play
to such cunning of touch and hearing as had made the reputation of the Lone
Open, the safe discovered to him a variety of articles of interest:
some five thousand dollars in English and American banknotes of large
denomination, several hundred in American gold; three distinct cipher
codes, one of these wholly novel in Lanyard's experience and so, he
believed, in the knowledge of the Allied secret services; the log of the
U-boat and the intimate diary of its commander, both in cryptograph; a
compact directory of German agents domiciled in Atlantic coast ports; a
very considerable accumulation of German Admiralty orders; together with
many documents of lesser moment.
Rapidly sorting out the more valuable of these, Lanyard disposed them about
his person, then confiscated the banknotes as indemnity for his stolen
money-belt, replaced the rejections, and reclosed and locked the safe.
His next interest was to arm himself. After several disappointments he
discovered arms-lockers beneath the berths for the crew in the forward
compartment just aft of that devoted to torpedo tubes. Here he selected
a latest pattern German navy automatic pistol with three extra cartridge
clips and, after some hesitation, a peculiarly devilish magazine rifle
firing explosive bullets. The latter he placed handily, yet out of sight,
near the foot of the companion ladder. The pistol fitted snugly a trousers
pocket, its bulk hidden by the sag of his sweater....
Some time later the lieutenant, slipping down the ladder, found Lanyard
studying with a convincing aspect of childlike bewilderment the complicated
combinations of machinery which crowded the central operating compartment.
Fresh from a bath and shave and wearing a clean uniform, the Prussian
showed vast improvement in looks if not in equilibrium. But his mouth
twitched fitfully, his eyes wandered and disclosed a disquieting
superabundance of white, and his tongue was noticeably thicker than before.
"Well, my friend!" he said--"you are truly disappointing. The watch said
you had made no sound since going below. I was afraid of another of those
famous naps of yours."
"With the prospect of a bottle with you? Impossible! I have been waiting
and waiting, with my tongue hanging out."
"Too bad. Why did you not look around, help yourself? Why not?" the
lieutenant demanded. "Have I not given you freedom of ship? It is yours,
everything here 'yours!"
"I want nothing but an end to this great thirst," Lanyard protested.
"Then--God in Heaven!--why we standing here? Come!"
Releasing the handrail the Prussian took careful aim for the alleyway door,
launched himself toward it, slipped on the greasy metal grating, and would
have fallen heavily but for Lanyard.
Cursing pettishly, he stood up, threw off Lanyard's arms without thanks,
and made a new attempt, this time shooting headlong through the alleyway,
to bring up against the wing table in the third forward compartment, the
kitchen and messroom in one.
"A great pity," he muttered, opening a locker and fumbling in its
"Keep you waiting so long. Not my fault." The lieutenant brought forth two
bottles of champagne and one of brandy. "You open them, Herr Doctor, like
'good fellow," he said, placing the three on the table. "I just wish you
'understand no discourtesy meant ... unavoidably detained ... beastly
commander ... drunk. Give 'my word, hopelessly drunk. Poor fool...."
"If my judgment is sound," Lanyard said, "this noble vessel will soon need
a new commander."
"True. Quite true." The Prussian placed two aluminium cups upon the table
and half filled one with brandy, then brimmed it with champagne. "Try
that," he said thickly, "That will keep your tail up, my friend."
"Many thanks," Lanyard protested, filling another cup with undiluted
champagne. "I prefer one thing at a time."
"Unfortunate ... don't know what is good ... King's peg ... wonderful
drink. No matter. To 'new commander--prosit!"
He drained his cup at a gulp.
"To the new commander!" Lanyard echoed, and drank judiciously.
"Excellent.... How long can he last, do you think, at this pace?"
"No telling--not long--too long for my liking. Shall I tell 'something?"
He filled his cup again, half and half, and sat down, his wicked, rat-like
face more than ever pale and repulsive. "Not 'whisper of this, mind--though
I think 'crew sometimes suspects: he's going mad!"
"Not that Bavarian?"
The lieutenant nodded wisely. "If 'knew him as I know him, 'never be
surprised, my friend. You think too much drink. Yes, but not entirely. He
keeps seeing things, hearing them, especially by night."
"What sort of things?"
"Faces." The Prussian licked his lips, glanced furtively over his shoulder,
and drank. "Dead faces, eyes eaten out, seaweed in their hair.... And
voices--he's forever hearing voices ... people trying to talk, 'can't
make him understand because 'mouths 'full of water, you know. But they
understand one another, keep discussing how to get at him.... He tells me
about it ... I tell you, it is Hell to hear him talk ... especially when
submerged, as last night. Then he hears them fumbling all over the hull
with their stumpy fingers, trying to find 'way in, talking about him. And
he tells me, and keeps insisting, till sometimes I seem to hear them, too.
But I don't. Before God, I don't! You don't believe I do, do you?"
His eyes rolled wildly.
"Why should you?"
"Just so: why should I?" The lieutenant's accents rose to a shrill pitch.
"I have not his record ... still in training when he sent _Lusitania_ to
the bottom. Yes: it was he, second-in-command, in charge of torpedo tubes.
His own hand fired that torpedo...."
He fell silent, staring moodily into his cup, perhaps thinking of the
number of torpedoes it had been his own lot to discharge upon errands of
And the dead silence of the ship was made audible by a stealthy drip-drip
of water from the seams, and the furtive slaver of the tide on the outer
A shiver ran through the body of the Prussian. He pulled himself together
with obvious effort, looked up with an uncertain grin, and passed a shaking
hand across his writhing lips.
"All foolishness, of course, but 'gets on one's nerves ... constant
association with man like that.... 'Know what he's doing now, or was, when
I came away? Sitting up with doors and windows locked and blinds drawn,
drinking brandy neat. He can't sleep by night if sober, or without 'light
in the room. If he does, he knows they will get him ... people he hears
crawling up from the sea, slopping round the house, mumbling, whimpering in
He broke off abruptly, with a whisper more dreadful than a
shriek--"_God_!"--and jumped to his feet, whipping the automatic from his
A footfall sounded in one of the after compartments. Others followed.
Someone was coming slowly down the alleyway, someone with dragging, heavy
The lieutenant waited motionless, as one petrified with terror.
The bulkhead doorway framed the figure of the commander. He paused there,
louring at his subaltern with haunted eyes ablaze in a face like parchment.
"So!" he said, nodding. "As I thought. It is thus I find you, fraternising
with one who may be, for all we know, an enemy to the Fatherland. You
drunken, babbling fool! Get ashore!" His angry foot thumped the grating.
"Get ashore, and report yourself under arrest!"
With no more warning than a strangled snarl, the lieutenant shot him
through the head.
UNDER THE ROSE
Vague stupefaction replaced the scowl upon the countenance of the
commander. He swayed, a hand faltering to his forehead, where dark blood
was beginning to well from a cleanly drilled puncture. Then he collapsed
completely, falling prone across the raised sill of the bulkhead opening. A
convulsive tremor shook savagely his huge frame.
Thereafter he was quite still.
The report of that one shot had reverberated stunningly within those narrow
walls of steel. Momentarily Lanyard looked to see the alarmed anchor watch
appear; so too, apparently, the lieutenant, who remained immobile, pistol
poised in a hand for the moment strangely steady, gaze fixed upon the mouth
of the alleyway.
But through a long minute no other sounds were audible than that ceaseless
dripping from frames and seams, with that muted, terrible mouthing of
waters on the plates.
Unable either to fathom or forecast the workings of the drink-maddened
mentality masked by that rat-like face, Lanyard waited with a hand covertly
grasping the automatic in his pocket. There was no telling; at any moment
that murderous mania might veer his way. And he was not content to die, not
yet, not in any event by the hand of a decadent little beast of a Boche.
Slowly the arm of the lieutenant dropped, lowering the pistol till its
muzzle chattered on the top of the table: a noise that broke the spell upon
his senses. He looked down in dull brutish wonder, then roused and with a
gesture of horror let the weapon fall clattering.
His glance shifting to the body of his commander, he started violently,
backing up against the plates to put all possible distance between himself
and his handiwork. His lips moved, framing phrases at first incoherent,
presently articulate in part:
"... _done it at last!... Knew I must soon_...."
Abruptly he looked up at Lanyard.
"Bear witness," he cried: "I was provoked beyond human endurance. He
insulted me in your presence ... me!... that scum!"
Lanyard said nothing, but met his gaze with a blank, non-committal stare,
under which the eyes of the lieutenant wavered and fell.
Then with a start he realised anew the significance of that still figure at
his feet, and tried to shake some of the swagger back into his wretched,
"A good job!" he muttered defiantly. "And you will stand by me, I know....
Only there is nothing in that, of course, no justification possible before
a court martial. Even your testimony could not save me ... I am done for,
He hung his head. Lanyard heard whispered words: "_degraded," "dishonour,"
A chronometer in the central operating compartment tolled eight bells.
With a sharp cry the lieutenant dropped to his knees. "He can't be dead!"
he shrilled. "It is all play-acting, to frighten me!"
Frantically he sought to turn the body over.
Lanyard's hand shot swiftly out, capturing the automatic on the table. With
rapid and sure gestures he extracted and pocketed the clip, drew back the
breech, ejecting into his palm the one shell in the barrel, and replaced
the weapon, all before the Prussian gave over his insane efforts to
resurrect the dead.
"He is dead enough," he announced, eyeing Lanyard morosely--"beyond
helping.... Look here; are you with me or against me?"
"Need you ask?"
"I count on you, then. Good. I think we can cover this up."
He checked and stood for a while lost in thought.
"How?" Lanyard roused him.
"Simply enough: I go on deck, send the watch ashore on some trumped-up
errand. They suspect nothing, thinking the commander and I have you in
charge. If they heard that shot, I will say one of us dropped a bottle
of champagne, and it exploded.... When they are gone, I bring the dory
alongside; and with your help it should be an easy matter to carry this
body up, weight it, row it out to the middle of the lagoon, dump it
overboard. Then we return. Our story is, the commander followed the anchor
watch ashore; if later he wandered off, got lost in the woods in his
alcoholic delirium, that is no affair of ours. Do you understand?"
"Perfectly," said Lanyard with a look of fatuous innocence. "But how about
the water--is it deep enough?"
The Prussian took no pains to dissemble his scorn of this question,
seemingly so witless. "To cover the body? Why, even here there is
sufficient depth at low tide for us to submerge completely, barring the
periscopes. And it is deeper yet in the middle."
"Thanks," Lanyard replied meekly.
"Have another drink? No?" The Prussian tossed off a half cupful of
undiluted brandy, and shuddered. "Then stop here. I'll be back in a--"
"Half a minute." The lieutenant halted in the act of stepping across the
body. Lanyard levelled a hand at the automatic. "Do you mind taking that
with you? I have no desire to be found here with it and a dead man, should
anything prevent your return."
With a sickly grimace the murderer snatched up the weapon, thrust it in its
holster, and hurriedly departed.
Lanyard watched him pass through the alleyway and turn toward the companion
ladder, then followed quietly.
As the lieutenant climbed out on deck, Lanyard ascended to the conning
tower and waited there, listening. He could not quite make out what was
said; but after a few brusque words of command two pair of boots rang on
the gangplank and thumped away down the stage. At the same time Lanyard let
himself noiselessly out through the hatch.
As soon as his vision grew reconciled to the change from light to darkness,
he discovered the slender figure of the lieutenant skulking on tip-toe
after the retreating anchor watch; about midway on the landing stage,
however, he paused and bent over one of the piles, apparently fumbling with
the painter of a small boat moored in the black shadows below.
At this Lanyard began to move along the deck, one by one working the
mooring lines clear of their cleats and dropping them gently overboard,
till but two were left to hold the U-boat in place.
Throughout he kept watch upon the manoeuvres of the lieutenant--saw him
drop over the side of the stage, heard a thump of feet as he landed in a
boat, and a subsequent creak of oar-locks.
The small boat was rounding the bows of the submarine when the adventurer
ducked back through conning tower to hold.
He was standing where he had been left when the lieutenant came below.
"It's all right," this last announced with shabby bravado as he stepped
over the body in the doorway. "We are rid of that damned watch for a time.
They won't return within half an hour at least. I have the dory moored
amidships. If we are lively, this dirty job will be over in no time at
Lanyard nodded. "I am ready."
"No need to hurry--plenty of time for one more drink." The Prussian
splashed brandy into the cup, filling it to the brim. "And God knows I need
Lanyard watched critically as, with head well back, he drained that
staggering dose of raw spirit gulp by gulp without once removing the cup
from his lips. No mortal man could drink like that and stand up under it:
it was now a mere question of time....
Hardly that: the hand of the murderer shook and wavered widely as he put
down the cup. For a moment he swayed with eyes fixed and glazing, features
visibly losing plasticity, then lurched forward, knocking the brandy bottle
to the floor, swung around a full half turn in blind effort to re-establish
equilibrium, fell backward upon the table, and lay racked from head to foot
with savage spasms, hands clawing empty air, chest labouring vainly to win
sufficient oxygen to combat the poison with which his system was saturated.
Moving to his side, Lanyard laid a hand upon the left breast. The man's
heart was hammering his ribs with agonizing blows, at first rapid, by
degrees more slow and feeble.
No power on earth could save him now: he had committed suicide as surely as
Wasting not another glance or thought upon him Lanyard hurried aft to the
central operating room.
The time he had spent there, an hour earlier, was by no means lost in
purposeless marvelling. He boasted a certain aptitude for mechanics,
perhaps legitimately inherited from that obscure origin of his, largely
fostered by the requirements of his craft; into the bargain, he had been
privileged ere now to gain some slight insight into the principles of
submersible operation. If obliged to work swiftly and in some instances
upon the advice of intuition rather than practical knowledge, he went not
unintelligently about his task, made few false moves.
Turning first to the diving controls, he adjusted the hydroplanes to their
extreme downward inclination, then made the rounds of the vent valves,
opening all wide. With a sharp hissing and whistling the air from the
auxiliary tanks was driven inboard, and as Lanyard manipulated the wheels
operating the forward and aft groups of Kingston valves, to the hissing was
added the suck and gurgle of water flooding the main and auxiliary ballast
and adjusting tanks.
Immediately the U-boat began to sink. Lanyard delayed only to close the
switches which controlled the electric motors. As their drone gained volume
he grasped the rifle and swarmed up the companion-ladder, passing through
the conning tower to deck with little or nothing to spare--with, in fact,
barely time to throw off the two mooring lines and jump into the small boat
before water, sweeping hungrily up over deck and bridge, began to cascade
through conning tower and torpedo hatchways.
Constrained to cut the painter lest the dory be drawn down with the
fast-sinking submarine, he fitted oars to locks and put his back to them,
swinging the small boat hastily clear of whirlpools which formed as the
waves closed over the spot where the U-boat had rested.
From first to last less than five minutes' activity had been needed for
the task of scotching this water-moccasin of the salt seas and putting its
keepers at the mercy of the country whose hospitality they had too long
Well content, after a little, Lanyard lay on his oars and contemplated with
much interest what the night permitted to be visible: the landing stage, no
more than a dark, vague mass in the darkness; the land picked out with but
few lights, mainly at windows of the base buildings, painting dim ribbons
upon the polished floor of the lagoon.
Methodically these were eclipsed as a moving figure passed before them.
Listening intently, Lanyard could distinguish the slow footfalls of an
unsuspecting sentry--no other sounds, more than gentle voices of the night:
murmurs of blind wavelets, the plaintive whisper of a little breeze belated
amid the tree-tops of that dark forest, and a slow, weary soughing of
swells upon the distant ocean shore.
Perceiving as yet not the slightest indication of an alarm ashore, Lanyard
ventured to continue rowing, but with utmost caution, lifting and dipping
his blades as gingerly as though they were fashioned of brittle glass, and
for want of a better guide keeping the stern of the dory square to the
shank of the T-stage.
In time the bows grounded lightly on sand. The melancholy voice of the sea
now seemed a heavier sighing in the stillness. He pushed off and rowed on
parallel with a dark shore line, so close in that his starboard oar touched
bottom at each stroke.
At intervals he paused and rested, striving vainly to garner some clue to
his bearings. Inexorably the blackness forbade that. He might have failed
ere dawn to grope a way out of that trap had not the disappearance of the
submarine been discovered within the hour.
A sudden clamour rose in the quarter of the landing stage, first one great
shout of dismay, then two voices bellowing together, then others. Several
rifle-shots were fired in the air. More lights broke out in windows ashore.
Many feet drummed resoundingly upon the stage, and the confusion of voices
attained a pitch of wild, hysteric uproar. Of a sudden a flare was lighted
and tossed far out upon the bosom of the lagoon.
Surprised by that sharp and merciless blue glare, Lanyard instinctively
shipped oars and picked up the rifle. He could see so clearly that
huddle of figures upon the head of the landing stage that he confidently
apprehended being fired upon at any moment; but minutes lengthened and
he was not. Either the Germans were looking for bigger game than a dory
adrift, or the dazzling flare hindered more than aided their vision.
At length persuaded that he had not been detected, Lanyard put aside the
rifle and resumed the oars. Now his course was made beautifully clear to
him: the blue light showed him that outlet to the sea which he sought
within a hundred yards' distance.
Presently the flare began to wane. It was not renewed. Altogether unseen,
unsuspected, Lanyard swung the dory into the breach, and drove it seaward
with all his might.
Swiftly the lagoon was shut out by narrow closing banks. The blue glare
died out behind a black profile of rounded dunes. Lanyard turned the bow
eastward, rowing broadside to the shore.
After something more than an hour of this mode of progress, he struck in
toward the beach, disembarked in ankle-deep waters, slung the rifle over
his shoulder by its strap and, pushing the dory off, abandoned it to the
whim of the sea.
Then again he set his face to the east, following the contour of the beach
just within the wash of the tide: thereby making sure that there should
be no trail of footprints in the sand to guide a possible pursuit in the
The rising sun found him purposefully splashing on, weary but enheartened
by the discovery that he had left behind the more thickly wooded section of
Presently, turning in to the dry beach for the first time, he climbed
to the summit of a dune somewhat higher than its fellows, and took
observations, finding that he had come near to the eastern extremity of the
At some distance to his right a wagon road, faintly rutted in sand and
overgrown with beach grass, struck inland.
Following this at a venture, he came, at about eight o'clock, upon the
outskirts of a waterside community.
Before proceeding he hid the magazine rifle in a thicket, then made a wide
detour, and picked up a roadway which entered the village from the north.
If his disreputable appearance was calculated to excite comment, readiness
in disbursing money to remedy such shortcomings made amends for Lanyard's
taciturnity. Within two hours, shaved, bathed, and inconspicuously dressed
in a cheap suit of ready-made clothing, he was breakfasting famously upon
the plain fare of a commercial tavern.
The town, he learned, was the one-time important whaling port of Edgartown.
He would be able to leave for the mainland on a ferry steamer sailing early
in the afternoon.
Ten minutes before going abroad he filed a long telegram in code addressed
to the head of the British Secret Service in New York....
Consequences manifold and various ensued.
When the telegram had been delivered and decoded--both transactions being
marked by reasonable promptitude--the head of the British Secret Service
in New York called the British Embassy in Washington on the long distance
Shortly thereafter an attaché of the British Embassy jumped into a
motor-car and had himself driven to one of the cardinal departments of the
When he had kicked his heels in an antechamber upward of an hour, he was
received, affably enough, by the head of the department, a smug, open-faced
gentleman whose mood was largely preoccupied with illusions of grandeur,
who was, in short, interested far more in considering how splendid it was
to be himself than in hearing about any mare's-nest of a German U-boat base
on the south shore of Martha's Vineyard.
He was, however, indulgent enough to promise to give the matter his
distinguished consideration in due course.
He even went so far as to have his secretary make a note of what alleged
information this young Englishman had to impart.
During the night he chanced to wake up and recall the matter, and concluded
that, all things considered, it would do no harm to give the United States
Navy a little amusement and exercise, even if it should turn out that the
rumour of this submarine base was a canard.
So, the next morning, he went to his desk some time before noon, and issued
a lot of orders. One of them had to do with the necessity for absolute
During the day several minor officials of the department might have been,
and indeed were, observed going about their business with painfully
Also many messages were transmitted by wireless, telephone, and telegraph,
to various persons charged with the defense of the Atlantic Coast; some of
these were code messages, some were not.
That same night a great forest fire sprang up on the south shore of
Martha's Vineyard, both preceded and accompanied by a series of heavy
The first United States vessel to reach the lagoon found only charred
remains of a landing stage and several buildings and, at the bottom of the
lagoon, an incoherent mass of wreckage, a twisted and shattered chaos of
steel plates and framework that might possibly have been a perfectly sound
submarine, though sunken, had somebody not been warned in ample time
to permit its destruction through the agency of trinitrotoluene, that
enormously efficient modern explosive nicknamed by British military and
naval experts "T.N.T.," and by the Germans "Trotyl."
The early editions of those New York evening newspapers which Lanyard
purchased in Providence, when he changed trains there en route from New
Bedford to New York, carried multi-column and most picturesque accounts of
the _Assyrian_ disaster.
But the whole truth was in none.
Lanyard laid aside the last paper privately satisfied that, for no-doubt
praiseworthy reasons of its own, Washington had seen fit to dictate the
suppression of a number of extremely pertinent circumstances and facts
which could hardly have escaped governmental knowledge.
Already, one inferred, a sort of censorship was at work, an effective if
comparatively modest precursor to that noble volunteer committee which was
presently with touching spontaneity to fasten itself upon an astonished
Ship of State before it could gather enough way to escape such cirripede
Presumably it was not thought wise to disconcert a great people, in the
complacence of its awakening to the fact that it was remotely at war with
the Hun, with information that a Boche submersible was, or of late had
been, operating in the neighbourhood of Nantucket.
Unanimously the sinking of the _Assyrian_ was ascribed to an internal
explosion of unknown origin. No paper hinted that German secret agents
might possibly have figured incogniti among her passengers. There was
mention neither of the flare which had burned on her after deck to make
the _Assyrian_ a conspicuous target in the night, nor of any of the other
untoward events which had led up to the explosion. Nothing whatever
was said of the shot fired at the submerging U-boat by a United States
torpedo-boat destroyer speeding to the rescue.
Still, the bare facts alone were sufficiently appalling. Reading what had
been permitted to gain publication, Lanyard experienced a qualm of horror
together with the thought that, even had he drowned as he had expected to
drown, such a fate had almost been preferable to participation in those
awful ten minutes precipitated by that pale messenger of death which had so
narrowly missed Lanyard himself as he rested on the bosom of the sea.
Within ten minutes after receiving her coup de grâce the _Assyrian_ had
gone under; barely that much time had been permitted a passenger list of
seventy-two and a personnel of nearly three hundred souls in which to rouse
from dreams of security and take to the lifeboats.
Thanks to the frenzied haste compelled by the swift settling of the ship,
more than one boat had been capsized. Others had been sunk--literally
driven under--by masses of humanity cascading into them from slanting
decks. Others, again, had never been launched at all.
The utmost efforts of the destroyer, fortuitously so near at hand, had
served to rescue but thirty-one passengers and one hundred and eighty of
In the list of survivors Lanyard found these names:
Becker, Julius--New York
Crane, Robert T.--New York
Velasco, Arturo--Buenos Aires
Among the injured, Lieutenant Lionel Thackeray, D.S.O., was listed as
suffering from concussion of the brain, said to have been contracted
through a fall while attempting to aid the launching of a lifeboat.
In the long roster of the drowned these names appeared:
Von Harden, Baron Gustav--Amsterdam
Osborne, Captain E. W.--London
Of all the officers, Mr. Sherry was a solitary survivor, fished out of the
sea after going down with his ship.
No list boasted the name "Karl."
Lacking accommodations for the rescued, it was stated, the destroyer had
summoned by wireless the east-bound freight steamship _Saratoga_, which had
trans-shipped the unfortunates and turned back to New York....
Throughout the best part of that journey from Providence to New York
Lanyard sat blankly staring into the black mirror of the window beside
his chair, revolving schemes for his immediate future in the light of
information derived, indirectly as much as directly, from these newspaper
Retrospective consideration of that voyage left little room for doubt that
the designs of the German agents had been thoughtfully matured. They had
been quiet enough between their first stroke in the dark and their last,
between the burglary of Cecelia Brooke's stateroom the first night out and
those murderous attacks on Bartholomew and Thackeray. Unquestionably,
had they bided their time pending that hour when, according to their
information, the submersible would be off Nantucket, awaiting their signal
to sink the _Assyrian_--a signal which would never have been given had
their plans proved successful, had they not made the ship too hot to hold
them, and finally had they not made every provision for their own escape
when the ship went down.
Lanyard was confident that all of their company had been warned to hold
themselves ready, and consequently had come off scot free--all, that is,
save that victim of treachery, the unhappy Baron von Harden.
If the number of that group which Lanyard had selected as comprising a
majority of his enemies, those nine who had discussed the Lone Wolf in the
smoking room, was now reduced to five--Becker, Dressier, O'Reilly, Putnam,
and Velasco--or four, eliminating Putnam, of whose loyalty there could be
no question--Lanyard still had no means of knowing how many confederates
among the other passengers these four might not have had.
And even four men who appreciated what peril to their plans inhered in the
Lone Wolf, even four made a ponderable array of desperate enemies to have
at large in New York, apt to be encountered at any corner, apt at any time
to espy and recognise him without his knowledge.
This situation imposed upon him two major tasks of immediate moment: he
must hunt down those four one by one and either satisfy himself as to their
innocence of harmful intent or put them permanently _hors de combat_; and
he must extinguish utterly, once and for all time, that amiable personality
whose brief span had been restricted to the decks of the _Assyrian_,
Monsieur André Duchemin.
That one must be buried deep, beyond all peradventure of involuntary
Fortunately the last step toward the positive metamorphosis indicated had
been taken that very morning, when the Gallic beard of Monsieur Duchemin
was erased by the razor of a New England barber, whose shears had likewise
eradicated every trace of a Continental mode of hair-dressing. There
remained about Lanyard little to remind of André Duchemin but his eyes; and
the look of one's eyes, as every good actor knows, is something far more
easy to disguise than is commonly believed.
But it was hardly in human nature not to mourn the untimely demise of so
useful a body, one who carried such beautiful credentials and serviceable
letters of introduction, whose character boasted so much charm with a
solitary fault--too facile vulnerability to the prying eyes of those to
whom Paris meant those days and social strata in which Michael Lanyard
had moved and had his being. Witness--according to Crane--the demoniac
cleverness of the Brazilian in unmasking the Duchemin incognito.
Suspicion was taking form in Lanyard's reflections that he had paid far
too little attention to Señor Arturo Velasco of Buenos Aires, whose
avowed avocation of amateur criminologist might easily be synonymous with
interests much less innocuous.
Or why had Velasco been so quick to communicate recognition of Lanyard to
an employee of the United States Secret Service?
For that matter, why had he felt called so publicly to descant upon the
natural history of the Lone Wolf? In order to focus upon that one the
attentions of his enemies? Or to put him on guard?
It was altogether perplexing. Was one to esteem Velasco friend or foe?
Lanyard could comfort himself only with the promise he should one day know,
and that without undue delay.
Alighting in Grand Central Terminus late at night, he made his way to
Forty-second Street and there, in the staring headlines of a "Late Extra,"
read the news that the steamship _Saratoga_ had suffered a crippling
engine-room accident and was limping slowly toward port, still something
like eighteen hours out.
Wondering if it were presumption to construe this as an omen that the stars
in their courses fought for him, Lanyard went west to Broadway afoot, all
the way beset with a sense of incredulity; it was difficult to believe that
he was himself, alive and at large in this city of wonder and space, where
people moved at leisure and without fear on broad streets that resembled
deep-bitten channels for rivers of light. He was all too wont with nights
of dread and trembling, with the mediaeval gloom that enwrapped the cities
of Europe by night, their grim black streets desolate but for a few,
infrequent, scurrying shapes of fright.... While here the very beggars
walked with heads unbowed, and men and women of happier estate laughed and
played and made love lightly in the scampering taxis that whisked them
homeward from restaurants of the feverish midnight.
A people at war, actually at grips with the Blond Beast, arrayed to
defend itself and all humanity against conquest by that loathsome incubus
incarnate, a people heedless, carefree, irresponsible, refusing to credit
Here and there a recruiting poster, down the broad reaches of Fifth Avenue
a display of bunting, no other hint of war-time spirit and gravity....
Longacre Square, a weltering lake of kaleidoscopic radiance, even at this
late hour thronged with carnival crowds, not one note of sobriety in the
Lanyard lifted a wondering gaze to the livid sky whose far, clear stars
were paled and shamed by the up-flung glare, like eyes of innocence peering
down into a pit of hell.
Yet one could hardly be numb to the subtle, heady intoxication of those
cool, immaculate, sea-sweet airs which swept the streets, instilling
self-confidence and lightness of spirit even in heads shadowed with the woe
of war-worn Europe.
Lanyard had not crossed the Avenue before he found himself walking with a
brisker stride, holding his own head high....
On impulse, despite the lateness of the hour, albeit with misgivings
justified in the issue, he hailed a taxicab and had himself driven to the
headquarters of the British Secret Service in America, an unostentatious
dwelling on the northwest corner of West End Avenue at Ninety-fifth Street.
Here a civil footman answered the door and Lanyard's enquiries with the
information that Colonel Stanistreet had unexpectedly been called out
of town and would not return before evening of the next day, while his
secretary, Mr. Blensop, had gone to a play and might not come home till all
More impatient than disappointed, Lanyard climbed back into his cab, and in
consequence of consultation with its friendly minded chauffeur, eventually
put up for the night in an Eighth Avenue hotel of the class that made
Senator Raines famous, a hostelry brazenly proclaiming accommodations "for
gentlemen only," whereas it offered entertainment for both man and beast
and catered rather more to beast than to man.
However, it served; it was inconspicuous and made no demands upon a shabby
traveller sans luggage, more than payment in advance.
Early abroad, Lanyard breakfasted with attention fixed to the advertising
columns of the _Herald_, and by mid-morning was established as sub-tenant
of a furnished bachelor apartment on Fifty-eighth Street near Seventh
Avenue, a tiny nest of few rooms on the street level, with entrances from
both the general lobby and the street direct: an admirable arrangement for
one who might choose to come and go without supervision or challenge.
Lacking local references as to his character, Lanyard was obliged to pay
three months' rent in advance in addition to making a substantial deposit
to cover possible damage to the furnishings.
His name, a spur-of-the-moment selection, was recorded in the lease as
At noon he brought to his lodgings two trunks salvaged from a storage
warehouse wherein they had been deposited more than three years since, on
the eve of his flight with his family from America, an affair of haste and
secrecy forbidding the handicap of heavy impedimenta.
Thus Lanyard became once more possessor of a tolerably comprehensive
But, those trunks released more than his personal belongings; intermingled
were possessions that had been his wife's and his boy's. As he unpacked,
memories peopled those perfunctorily luxurious lodgings of the transient
with melancholy ghosts as sweet and sad as lavender and rue.
For hours on end the man sat idle, head bowed down, hands plucking
aimlessly at small broidered garments.
And if in the sweep and turmoil of late events he seemed to have forgotten
for a little that feud which had brought him overseas, he roused from this
brief interlude of saddened dreaming with the iron of deadly purpose newly
entered into his soul, and in his heart one dominant thought, that now his
hour with Ekstrom could not, must not, be long deferred.
In the street there rose an uproar of inhuman bawling. Lanyard went to the
private door, hailed one of the husky authors of the din, an itinerant
news-vendor, and disbursed a nickel coin for one cent's worth of spushul
uxtry and four cents' worth of howling impudence.
He found no more of interest in the newspaper than the information that the
_Saratoga_ had been sighted off Fire Island and was expected to dock in New
York not later than eight o'clock that night.
This, however, was acceptable reading. Lanyard had work to do which were
better done before "Karl" and his crew found opportunity to communicate
directly with their collaborators ashore, work which it were unwise
to initiate before nightfall lent a cloak of shadows to hoodwink the
ever-possible adventitious German spy.
Nor was he so fatuous as to fancy it would profit him to call before nine
o'clock at the house on West End Avenue. No earlier might he hope to find
Colonel the Honourable George Fleetwood-Stanistreet near the end of his
dinner, and so in a mood approachable and receptive.
But there could be no harm in reconnaissance by daylight.
He whiled away the latter part of the afternoon in taxicabs, by dint of
frequent changes contriving in the most casual fashion imaginable to pass
the Seventy-ninth Street branch of the Wilhelmstrasse no less than four
Little rewarded these tactics other than a fairly accurate mental
photograph of the building and its situation--and a growing suspicion that
the United States Government had profited nothing by England's lessons
of early war days in respect of the one way to cope with resident enemy
The house stood upon a corner, occupying half of an avenue block--the
northern half of which was the site of a towering apartment house in
course of construction--and loomed over its lesser neighbours a monumental
monstrosity of architecture, as formidable as a fortress, its lower tiers
of windows barred with iron, substantial iron grilles ready to bar its
main entrance, even heavier gates guarding the carriage court in the
side street. In all a stronghold not easy for the most accomplished
house-breaker to force; yet the heart of it was Lanyard's goal; for there,
he believed, Ekstrom (under whatever _nom de guerre_) lay hidden, or if not
Ekstrom, at least a clear lead to his whereabouts.
Certainly that one could not be far from the powerful wireless station
secretly maintained on the roof of this weird jumble of architectural
periods, its aërials cunningly hidden in the crowning atrocity of its
minaret: a station reputedly so powerful that it could receive Berlin's
nightly outgivings of news and orders, and, in emergency, transmit them to
other secret stations in Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela.
Yet the shrewdest scrutiny of eyes trained to detect police agents at
sight, however well disguised, failed to espy one sign of any sort of
espionage upon this nest of rattlesnakes.
Apparently its tenants came and went as they willed, untroubled by and
contemptuous of governmental surveillance.
A handsome limousine car pulled up at its carriage block as Lanyard drove
by, one time, and a pretty woman, exquisitely gowned, alighted and was
welcomed by hospitable front doors that opened before she could ring: a
woman Lanyard knew as one of the most daring, diabolically clever, and
unscrupulous creatures of the Wilhelmstrasse, one whose life would not have
been worth an hour's purchase had she ventured to show herself in Paris,
London, or Petrograd at any time since the outbreak of the war.
He drove on, deep in amaze.
Indications were not wanting, on the other hand, that enemy spies
maintained close watch upon the movements of those who frequented the house
on West End Avenue. A German agent whom Lanyard knew by sight was strolling
by as his taxi rounded its corner and swung on down toward Riverside Drive.
This more modest residence possessed a brick-walled garden at the back, on
the Ninety-fifth Street side. And if the top of the wall was crusted with
broken glass in a fashion truly British, it had a door, and the door a
lock. And Lanyard made a note thereon.
And when he went home to dress for dinner, he opened up the false bottom
of one of his trunks and selected from a store of cloth-wrapped bundles
therein one which contained a small bunch of innocent-looking keys whose
true _raison d'être_ was anything in the world but guileless.
Later he did himself very well at Delmonico's, enjoying for the first time
in many years a well-balanced dinner faultlessly cooked and served amid
quiet surroundings that carried memory back half a decade to the Paris that
was, the Paris that nevermore will be....
At nine precisely he paid off a taxicab at the corner of Ninety-fifth
While waiting on the doorstep of the corner house, he raked the street
right and left with searching glances, and was somewhat reassured.
Apparently he called at an hour when the Boche pickets were off duty; at
the moment there was no pedestrian visible within a block's distance
on either hand, nobody that he could see skulked in the areas of the
old-fashioned brownstone houses across the way.
The neighbourhood was, indeed, quiet even for an upper West Side
residential quarter. A block over to the east Broadway was strident in the
flood of its nocturnal traffic; a like distance to the west Riverside Drive
hummed with pleasure cars taking advantage of the first bland night of that
belated spring. But here, now that the taxi had wheeled away, there was
never a car in sight, nor even a strolling brace of sidewalk lovers.
The door opened, revealing the same footman.
"Colonel Stanistreet? I will see, sir."
"If you will be kind enough to be seated," the footman suggested,
indicating a small waiting room. "And what name shall I say?"
It had been Lanyard's intention to have himself announced simply as the
author of that telegram from Edgartown. Obscure impulse made him change his
mind, some premonition so tenuous as to defy analysis.
"Mr. Anthony Ember."
"Thank you, sir."
After a little the footman returned.
"If you will come this way, sir...."
He led toward the back of the house, introducing Lanyard to a spacious
apartment, a library uncommonly well furnished, rather more than
comfortably yet without a trace of ostentation in its complete luxury, a
warm room, a room intimately lived in, a room, in short, characteristically
British in atmosphere.
Waist-high bookcases lined the walls, broken on the right by a cheerful
fireplace with a grate of glowing cannel coal, in front of it a great club
lounge upholstered, like all the chairs, in well-used leather. Opposite the
chimney-piece, a handsome thing in carved oak, a door was draped with a
curtain that swung with it. In the back of the room two long and wide
French windows stood open to the night, beyond them that garden whose
wall had attracted Lanyard's attention. There were a number of paintings,
portraits for the most part, heavily framed, with overhead picture-lights.
In the middle of the room was a table-desk, broad and long, supporting a
shaded reading lamp. On the far side of the table a young man sat writing,
with several dockets of papers arranged before him.
As Lanyard entered, this one put down his pen, pushed back his chair, and
came round the table: a tallish, well-made young man, dressed a shade too
foppishly in spite of an unceremonious dinner coat, his manner assured,
amiable, unconstrained, perhaps a little over-tolerant.
"Mr. Ember, I believe?" he said in a voice studiously musical.
"Yes," Lanyard replied, vaguely annoyed with himself because of an
unreasoning resentment of this musical quality. "Mr. Blensop?"
"I am Mr. Blensop," that one admitted gracefully. "And how may I have the
pleasure of being of service?"
He waved a hand toward an easy chair beside the table, and resumed his own.
But Lanyard hesitated.
"I wished to see Colonel Stanistreet."
Mr. Blensop looked up with an indulgent smile. His face was round and
smooth but for a perfectly docile little moustache, his lips full and red,
his nose delicately chiselled; but his eyes, though large, were set cannily
"Colonel Stanistreet is unfortunately not at home. I am his secretary."
"Yes," said Lanyard, still standing. "In that case I'd be glad if you would
be good enough to make an appointment for me with Colonel Stanistreet."
"I am afraid he will not be home till very late to-night, but--"
Mr. Blensop smiled patiently. "Colonel Stanistreet is a very busy man," he
uttered melodiously. "If you could let me know something about the nature
of your business...."
"It is the King's," said Lanyard bluntly.
The secretary went so far as to betray well-bred surprise. "You are an
Englishman, Mr. Ember?"
And for all he knew to the contrary, so Lanyard was.
"I am Colonel Stanistreet's secretary," the young man again suggested
"That is precisely why I ask you to make an appointment for me with your
employer," Lanyard retorted politely.
"You won't say what you wish to see him about?"
A trace of asperity marred the music of those tones; Mr. Blensop further
indicated distaste of the innuendo inherent in Lanyard's use of the word
"employer" by delicately wrinkling his nose.
"I am sorry," Lanyard replied sufficiently.
The door behind him opened, and the footman intruded.
"Beg pardon, Mr. Blensop...."
The servant advanced to the table and proffered a visiting card on a tray.
Mr. Blensop took it, arched pencilled brows over it.
"To see me, Walker?"
"The gentleman asked for Colonel Stanistreet, sir."
"H'm.... You may show him in when I ring."
The footman retired. Mr. Blensop looked up brightly, bending the card with
"You were saying your business was...?"
"I was not," Lanyard replied with disarming good humour. "I'm afraid that
is something much too important and confidential to reveal even to Colonel
Stanistreet's secretary, if you don't mind my saying so."
Mr. Blensop did mind, and betrayed vexation with an impatient little
gesture which caused the card to fly from his fingers and fall face
uppermost on the table. Almost instantly he recovered it, but not before
Lanyard had read the name it bore.
"Of course not," said the secretary pleasantly, rising. "But you understand
my instructions are rigid ... I'm sorry."
"You refuse me the appointment?"
"Unless you can give me an inkling of your business--or perhaps bring a
letter of introduction."
"I can do neither, Mr. Blensop," said Lanyard earnestly. "I have
information of the gravest moment to communicate to the head of the British
Secret Service in this country."
The secretary looked startled. "What makes you think Colonel Stanistreet is
connected with the British Secret Service?"
"I don't think so; I know it."
After a moment of hesitation Mr. Blensop yielded graciously. "If you can
come back at nine to-morrow morning, Mr. Ember, I'll do my best to persuade
"I repeat, my business is of the most pressing nature. Can't you arrange
for me to see your employer to-night?"
"It is utterly impossible."
Lanyard accepted defeat with a bow.
"To-morrow at nine, then," he said, turning toward the door by which he had
"At nine," said Mr. Blensop, generous in triumph. "But do you mind going
out this way?"
He moved toward the curtained door opposite the chimney-piece. Lanyard
paused, shrugged, and followed. Mr. Blensop opened the door, disclosing a
vista of Ninety-fifth Street.
"Thank _you_, Mr. Ember. _Good_-night," he intoned.
The door closed with the click of a spring latch.
Lanyard stood alone in the street, looking swiftly this way and that, his
hand closing upon that little bunch of keys in his pocket, his humour
For the name inscribed on that card which Mr. Blensop had so carelessly
dropped was one to fill Lanyard with consuming anxiety for better
acquaintance with its present wearer.
Written in pencil, with all the individual angularity of French
chirography, the name was André Duchemin.
It took a little time and patience but, on his third essay, Lanyard found
a key which agreed with the lock. He permitted himself a sigh of relief;
Ninety-fifth Street was bare, the door set flush with the outside of the
wall afforded no concealment to the trespasser, while the direct light of a
street lamp at the corner made his lonely figure uncomfortably conspicuous.
Apparently, however, he had not been observed.
Gently pushing the door open, he slipped in, as gently closed it, then for
a full minute stood stirless, spying out the lay of the land.
Fitting precisely his anticipations, the garden discovered a fine English
flavour; it was well-kept, modest, fragrant and, best of all, quite dark,
especially so in the shadow of the street wall. Only a glimmer of starlight
enabled him to pick out the course of a pebbled footpath. A border of deep
turf between this and the wall muffled his footsteps as he moved toward the
back of the house.
The library windows, deeply recessed, opened on a low, broad stoop of
concrete, with a pergola effect above, and a few wicker pieces upon a grass
Noiselessly Lanyard stepped across the low sill and paused in the cover of
heavy draperies, commanding a tolerably full view of the library if one
somewhat unsatisfactory, since the light within was by no means bright.
Still, this circumstance had its advantages for him; with his dark topcoat
buttoned to the throat and its collar turned up to hide his linen, he was
confident he would not be detected unless he gave his presence away by an
abrupt movement--something which the Lone Wolf never made.
At the moment Mr. Blensop seemed to be engaged in the surprising occupation
of discoursing upon art to his caller.
The latter occupied that chair which Lanyard had refused, on the far side
of the table. Thus placed, the lamplight masked more than revealed him,
throwing a dull glare into Lanyard's eyes. His man sat in a pose of earnest
attention, bending forward a trifle to follow the exposition of Mr.
Blensop, who stood beneath a portrait on the wall between the chimney-piece
and the windows, his attitude incurably graceful, a hand on the switch
controlling the picture-light. Apparently he had just finished speaking,
for he paused, looking toward his guest with a quiet and intimate smile as
he turned off the light.
"And that's all there is to it," he declared, moving back to the table.
"I see," said the other thoughtfully.
Lanyard felt himself start almost uncontrollably: rage swept through him,
storming brain and body, like a black squall over a hill-bound lake. For
the moment he could neither see or hear clearly nor think coherently.
For the voice of this latest incarnation of André Duchemin was the voice of
When the tumult of his senses subsided he heard Blensop saying, "I'll
write it out for you," and saw him pick up a pad and pencil and jot down a
"There you are," he added, ripping off the sheet and passing it across the
table. "Now you can't go wrong."
"I precious seldom do," his caller commented drily.
"I think--" Blensop began, and checked sharply as the man Walker came into
"Beg pardon, Mr. Blensop--"
There was an accent of impatience in those beautifully modulated tones:
"Well, what is it now?"
"A lady to see you, sir."
Blensop took the card from the proffered salver. "Never heard of her," he
announced brusquely at a glance. "She asked for Colonel Stanistreet or for
"Colonel Stanistreet, sir. But when I said he was not at home, she asked to
see his secretary."
"Any idea what she wants?"
"She didn't say, sir--but she seemed much distressed."
"They always are. H'm.... Young and good-looking?"
"Dessay I may as well see her," said Mr. Blensop wearily. "Show her in when
Walker shut himself out of the room.
"It's just as well," Blensop added to his caller. "You understand, my clear
"Assuredly." The man got up; but Blensop contrived exasperatingly to keep
between him and the windows. "I'm to be back at midnight?"
"Twelve sharp; you'll be sure to find him here then. Mind leaving by this
"Not in the least."
"Then _good_-night, my dear Monsieur Duchemin!"
Was there a hint of irony in Blensop's employment of that style? Lanyard
half fancied there was, but did not linger to analyse the impression.
Already the secretary had opened the side door.
In a bound Lanyard cleared the stoop, then ran back to the door in the
wall. But with all his quickness he was all too slow; already, as he
emerged to Ninety-fifth Street, his quarry was rounding the Avenue corner.
Defiant of discretion, Lanyard gave chase at speed but, though he had not
thirty yards to cover, again was baffled by the swiftness with which "Karl"
He had still some distance to go when the peace of the quarter was
shattered by a door that slammed like a pistol shot, and with roaring
motor and grinding gears a cab swung away from the curb in front of the
Stanistreet residence and tore off down the Avenue.
Swearing petulantly in his disappointment, Lanyard pulled up on the corner.
The number on the license plate was plainly revealed as the vehicle showed
its back to the street lamp. But what good was that to him? He memorised
it mechanically, in mutinous appreciation of the fact that the taxi was
setting a pace with which he could not hope to compete afoot.
The rumble of another motor-car caught his ear, and he looked round
eagerly. A second taxicab--undoubtedly that which had brought the young
woman now presumably closeted with Mr. Blensop--was moving up into the
place vacated by the first.
In two strides Lanyard was at its side.
"Follow that taxi!" he cried--"number seventy-six, three-eighty-five. Don't
lose sight of it, but don't pass it--don't let them know we're following!"
"Engaged," the driver growled.
"Hang your engagement! Here"--Lanyard pressed a golden eagle into the
fellow's palm--"there will be another of those if you do as I say!"
"Le's go!" the driver agreed with resignation.
If the cab was moving before Lanyard could hop in and shut the door, the
other had already established a killing lead; and though Lanyard's man
demonstrated characteristic contempt for municipal regulations governing
the speed of motor-driven vehicles, and racketed his own madly down the
Avenue, he was wholly helpless to do more than keep the tail-lamp of the
first in sight.
More than once that dull red eye seemed sardonically to wink.
Still, Lanyard did not think "Karl" knew he was pursued. His conveyance had
passed the corner before Lanyard emerged from the side street. There being
no reason that Lanyard knew of why the spy should believe himself under
suspicion, his haste seemed most probably due to natural desire to avoid
adventitious recognition, coupled with, no doubt, other urgent business.
At Seventy-second Street the chase turned east, with Lanyard two blocks
behind, and for a few agonizing moments was altogether lost to him. But at
Broadway the tide of southbound traffic hindered it momentarily, and it
swung into that stream with its pursuer only a block astern.
Thereafter through a ride of another mile and a half, the distance between
the two was augmented or abbreviated arbitrarily by the rules of the road.
At one time less than two cab-lengths separated them; then a Ford, driven
Fordishly, wandered vaguely out of a crosstown street and hesitated in the
middle of the thoroughfare with precisely the air of a staring yokel on
a first visit to the city; and Lanyard's driver slammed on the emergency
brake barely in time to escape committing involuntary but justifiable
When he was able once more to throw the gears into high, the chase was a
long block ahead.
They were entering Longacre Square before he made up that loss.
And at Forty-fourth Street, again, a stream of east-bound cars edged in
between the two, reducing Lanyard's driver to the verge of gibbering
A car resembling "Karl's" was crossing Broadway at Forty-second Street when
Lanyard was still on Seventh Avenue north of the Times Building.
But only a minute later his driver pulled up in front of the Hotel
Knickerbocker, and Lanyard, peering through the forward window, saw the
number 76-385 on the license plate of a taxicab drawing away, empty, from
the curb beneath the hotel canopy.
He tossed the second gold piece to the driver as his feet touched the
sidewalk, and shouldered through a cluster of men and women at the main
entrance to the lobby.
That rendezvous of Broadway was fairly thronged despite the slack
mid-evening hour, between the dinner and the supper crushes; but Lanyard
reviewed in vain the little knots of guests and loungers; if "Karl" were
among them, he was nobody whom Lanyard had learned to know by sight on
board the _Assyrian_.
With as little success he searched unobtrusively all public rooms on the
It was, of course, both possible and probable that "Karl," himself a guest
of the hotel, had crossed directly to the elevators and been whisked aloft
to his room.
With this in mind, Lanyard paused at the desk, asked permission to examine
the register and, being accommodated, was somewhat consoled; if his chase
had failed of its immediate objective, it now proved not altogether
fruitless. A majority of the _Assyrian_ survivors seemed to have elected to
stop at the Knickerbocker. One after another Lanyard, scanning the entries,
found these names:
Arturo Velasco--Buenos Aires
Half inclined to commit the imprudence of sending a name up to Miss
Brooke--any name but André Duchemin, Michael Lanyard, or Anthony
Ember--together with a message artfully worded to fix her interest without
giving comfort to the enemy, should it chance to go astray, the adventurer
hesitated by the desk; and of a sudden was satisfied that such a move would
be not only injudicious but waste of time; for, now that he paused to think
of it, he surmised that the young woman--"young and good-looking", on
Walker's word--who had called to see Colonel Stanistreet was none other
than this same Cecelia Brooke.
What more natural than that she should make early occasion to consult the
head of the British Secret Service in America?
A pity he had not waited there in the window! If he had, no doubt the
mystery with which the girl had surrounded herself would be no more mystery
to Lanyard; he would have learned the secret of that paper cylinder as well
as the part the girl had played in the intrigue for its possession, and so
be the better advised as to his own future conduct.
But in his insensate passion for revenge upon one who had all but murdered
him, he had forgotten all else but the moment's specious opportunity.
With a grunt of impatience Lanyard turned away from the desk, and came face
to face with Crane.
The Secret Service man was coming from the direction of the bar in company
with Velasco, O'Reilly, and Dressier.
Of the three last named but one looked Lanyard's way, O'Reilly, and his
gaze, resting transiently on the countenance of André Duchemin minus the
Duchemin beard, passed on without perceptible glimmer of recognition.
Why not? Why should it enter his head that one lived and had anticipated
his own arrival in New York by twenty hours whom be believed to be buried
many fathoms deep off Nantucket?
As for Crane, his cool gray, humorous eyes, half-hooded with their heavy
lids, favoured Lanyard with casual regard and never a tremor of interest
or surprise; but as he passed his right eye closed deliberately and with a
significance not to be ignored.
To this Lanyard responded only with a look of blankest amaze.
Chatting with an air of subdued self-congratulation pardonable in such
as have come safe to land through many dangers of the deep, the quartet
strolled round the desk and boarded one of the elevators.
Not till its gate had closed did Lanyard stir. Then he went away from there
with all haste and cunning at his command.
The route through the café to Broadway offered the speediest and least
conspicuous of exits. From the side door of the hotel he plunged directly
into the mouth of the Subway kiosk and, chance favouring him, managed to
purchase a ticket and board a southbound local train an instant before its
doors ground shut.
Believing Crane would take the next elevator down, once he had seen the
others safely in their rooms, Lanyard was content to let him find the lobby
destitute of ghosts, to let him fume and wonder and think himself perhaps
The last thing he desired was entanglement with the American Secret
Service. For Crane he entertained personal respect and temperate liking,
thought the man socially an amusing creature, professionally a deadly peril
to one who had a feud to pursue.
Leaving the train at Grand Central, the adventurer passed through the back
ways of the Terminus, into the Hotel Biltmore, upstairs to its lobby,
thence out by the Vanderbilt Avenue entrance, walking through Forty-fourth
Street to Fifth Avenue, where he chartered a taxicab, gave the address
of his lodgings, and lay back in the corner of its seat satisfied he had
successfully eluded pursuit and very, very grateful to the Subway system
for the facilities it afforded fugitives like himself through its warren of
One thing troubled him, however, without respite: the Brooke girl was on
his conscience. To her he owed an accounting of his stewardship of that
trust which she had reposed in him. It was intolerable in his understanding
that she should be permitted to go one unnecessary hour in ignorance of the
truth about that business--the truth, that is, as far as he himself knew
If through Crane or in some unforseeable fashion she were to learn that
André Duchemin lived, she would think him faithless. If she knew that
Duchemin had been one with Michael Lanyard, the Lone Wolf, she would not be
surprised. But that, too, was intolerable; even the Lone Wolf had his code
Again, if she remained in ignorance of the fact that Lanyard had escaped
drowning, she would continue to believe her secret at the bottom of the sea
with him; whereas, in the hands of the enemy, in the possession of "Karl"
and his, confederates, it was potentially Heaven only knew how dangerous a
Abruptly Lanyard reflected that at least one doubt had been eliminated by
that encounter in the Knickerbocker. It was barely possible that "Karl" had
gone to the bar on entering and added himself to Crane's party, but it
was hardly creditable in Lanyard's consideration. He was convinced that,
whether or not Velasco, O'Reilly, and Dressier were parties to the Hun
conspiracy, none of these was "Karl."
As for the Brooke matter, he felt it incumbent upon him immediately to find
some safe means of communicating with the girl. She could be trusted not to
betray him to the police, however much she might at first incline to doubt
him. But he would persuade her of his sincerity, never fear!
The telephone offered one solution of his difficulty, an agency
non-committal enough, provided one were at pains not to call from one's
private station, to which the call might be traced back.
With this in mind he stopped and dismissed his taxicab at Fifty-seventh
Street and Sixth Avenue, and availed himself of a coin-box telephone booth
in the corner druggist's.
The experience that followed was nothing out of the ordinary. Lanyard,
connected with the Knickerbocker promptly, with the customary expenditure
of patience laboriously spelled out the name B-r-double-o-k-e, and was told
to hold the wire.
Several minutes later he began to agitate the receiver hook and was
eventually rewarded with the advice that the Knickerbocker operator, being
informed his party was in the rest'runt, was having her paged.
Still later the central operator told him his five minutes was up and
consented to continue the connection only on deposit of an additional
Eventually, in sequel to more abuse of the hook, he received this response
from the Knickerbocker switchboard: "Wait a min'te, can't you? Here's your
Lanyard was surprised at the eagerness with which he cried: "Hello!"
A click answered, and a bland voice which was not the voice he had expected
to hear: "Hello? That you, Jack?"
He said wearily: "I am waiting to speak with Miss Cecelia Brooke."
"Oh, then there _must_ be some mistake. This is Miss _Crooke_ speaking."
Lanyard uttered a strangled "Sorry!" and hung up, abandoning further effort
That matter would have to stand over till morning.
Time now pressed: it was nearly eleven; he had a rendezvous with Destiny to
keep at midnight, and meant to be more than punctual.
Walking to his apartment house, he proceeded to establish an alibi by
entering through the public hallway and registering with the telephone
attendant a call for seven o'clock the next morning.
In the course of the next half hour Lanyard let himself quietly out of the
private door, slipped around the block and boarded a Riverside Drive bus.
Alighting at Ninety-third Street, he walked two blocks north on the Drive,
turned east, and without misadventure admitted himself a second time to the
It was hardly possible to watch Mr. Blensop functioning in his vocational
capacity without reflecting on that cruel injustice which Nature only too
often practises upon her offspring in secreting most praiseworthy qualities
within fleshy envelopes of hopelessly frivolous cast.
The flowing gestures of this young man, his fluting accents, poetic eyes,
and modestly ingratiating moustache, the preciosity of his taste in dress,
assorted singularly with an austere devotion to duty rare if unaffected.
Beyond question, whether or not naturally a man of studious and
conscientious temper, Mr. Blensop figured to admiration in the role of such
Seated, the shaded lamplight an aureole for his fair young head, he wrought
industriously with a beautiful gold-mounted fountain pen for fully five
minutes after Lanyard had stolen into the draped recess of the French
window, pausing only now and again to take a fresh sheet of paper or
consult one of the sheaves of documents that lay before him.
At length, however, he hesitated with pen lifted and abstracted gaze
focussed upon vacancy, shook a bewildered head, and rose, moving directly
toward the windows.
For as long as thirty breathless seconds Lanyard remained in doubt; there
was the barest chance that in his preoccupation Blensop might pass through
to the garden without noticing that dark figure flattened against the
inswung half of the window, in the dense shadow of the portière. Otherwise
the game was altogether up; Lanyard could see no way to avoid the necessity
of staggering Blensop with a blow, racing for freedom, abandoning utterly
further effort to learn the motive of "Karl's" impersonation of Duchemin.
He gathered himself together, waited poised in readiness for any
eventuality--and blessed his lucky stars to find his apprehensions idle.
Three paces from the windows, Mr. Blensop made it plain that he was after
all not minded to stroll in the garden. Pausing, he swung a high-backed
wing chair round to face the corner of the room, switched on a reading
lamp, sat down and selected a volume of some work of reference from the
well-stocked book shelves.
For several minutes, seated within arm's length of the trespasser, he
studied intently, then with a cluck of satisfaction replaced the volume,
extinguished the light, and went back to his writing.
But presently he checked with a vexed little exclamation, shook his pen
impatiently, and fixed it with a frown of pained reproach.
But that did no good. The cussedness of the inanimate was strong in this
pen: since its reservoir was quite empty it mulishly refused more service
With a long-suffering sigh, Mr. Blensop found a filler in one of the desk
drawers, and unscrewed the nib of the pen.
This accomplished, he paused, listened for a moment with head cocked
intelligently to one side, dropped the dismembered implement, and got up
alertly. At the same moment the door to the hallway opened, and two women
entered, apparently sisters: one a lady of mature and distinguished charm,
the other an equally prepossessing creature much her junior, the one
strongly animated with intelligent interest in life, the other a listless
prey to habitual ennui.
To these fluttered Mr. Blensop, offering to relieve them of their wraps.
"Permit me, Mrs. Arden," he addressed the elder woman, who tolerated him
dispassionately. "And Mrs. Stanistreet ... I say, aren't you a bit late?"
"Frightfully," assented Mrs. Stanistreet in a weary voice. "It must be all
"Hardly that, Adele," said Mrs. Arden with a humorous glance.
"Dinner, the play, supper, and home before twelve!" commented Blensop,
shocked. "I say, that is going some, you know."
"George would insist on hurrying home," the young wife complained.
"Frightfully tiresome. We were so comfy at the Ritz, too...."
"The Crystal Room?" Dissembled envy poisoned Blensop's accents.
"Frightfully interestin'--everybody was there. I did so want to
dance--missed you, Arthur."
"I say, you didn't, did you, really?"
"Poor Mr. Blensop!" Mrs. Arden interjected with just a hint of malice.
"What a pity you must be chained down by inexorable duty, while we fly
round and amuse ourselves."
"I must not complain," Blensop stated with humility becoming in a dutiful
martyr, a pose which he saw fit quickly to discard as another man came
briskly into the room. "Ah, good evening, Colonel Stanistreet."
With a brusque nod, Colonel Stanistreet went straightway to the desk,
stopping there to take up and examine the work upon which his secretary had
been engaged: a gentleman considerably older than his wife, of grave and
sturdy cast, with the habit of standing solidly on his feet and giving
undivided attention to the matter in hand.
"Anything of consequence turned up?" he enquired abstractedly, running
through the sheets of pen-blackened paper.
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