The Great Secret
E. Phillips Oppenheim
Part 5 out of 6
SIR GILBERT HAS A SURPRISE
At half-past ten the next morning, I rang the bell at the door of my
cousin's flat and inquired for Sir Gilbert Hardross. It was an excellent
testimonial to my altered appearance, that the man who answered the door,
and whom I had known all my life, declined promptly to admit me.
"Sir Gilbert is just going out," he said. "He is too busy this morning to
see any one."
I kept my foot in the door.
"He told me to come," I declared. "I cannot go away without seeing him."
"Then you can stay where you are," he declared, trying to close the door.
"You can see him as he comes out."
I stepped by him quickly. He was a small man, but he seized me pluckily
by the collar. Just then we heard a door open, and my cousin stepped out
dressed for the street.
"What is the matter, Groves?" he asked sharply.
"This fellow has forced his way in, sir," the man answered. "He says that
you told him to come."
My cousin stood drawing on his gloves, and eyed me superciliously.
"I think," he remarked, "that that is a mistake, isn't it? I am quite
sure that I have never seen you before in my life!"
I felt inclined to smile, but the man was watching us.
"I have some business with you, sir," I said deferenially. "I am not
begging, and I will not keep you longer than two minutes."
My cousin stepped back into the sitting-room. I followed him and took the
liberty of closing the door after me. Then I took off my hat, drew myself
up to my full height, and dropped the foreign accent which I had been at
so much pains to acquire.
"Don't you know me, Gilbert?" I asked.
He started at the sound of my voice, and took a quick step towards me. I
held out my hand.
"God in Heaven, it's Hardross!" he exclaimed.
I laughed as our hands met.
"I shall not bother about my disguise any longer," I remarked. "It is
evidently better even than I had hoped."
He wrung my hand. I was delighted to see that there was nothing in his
face but joy.
"Old chap!" he exclaimed, "I'm delighted. I can't say more. You've
knocked me all of a heap. For Heaven's sake talk! I should like to be
quite sure that I'm awake."
"You're awake all right," I answered, "as sure as I'm alive! How well you
look in black, old man! I suppose it's for me?"
"How on earth," he exclaimed, "could the papers have made such a
"They weren't so much to blame. A man was murdered in the Rockies who
called himself Hardross Courage, and who was travelling with my traps.
Only you see it wasn't I!"
"A man who called himself Hardross Courage," Gilbert repeated,
bewildered. "It's an uncommon name."
"The men who killed him," I answered, "thought that they had killed me.
It's a long story, Gilbert. I've come here to tell you a little of it, if
you can spare the time."
"Time! Of course I can," he declared. "Wait one moment while I go to the
I checked him on the way to the door.
"Not a word of this to any one, Gilbert," I said. "Not even to Groves
He nodded and hurried out of the room. When he returned, he had taken off
his hat and overcoat. He drew up two easy-chairs and produced a box of
"Now then!" he exclaimed, "for the mysteries! By Jove, I'm glad to see
you, Hardross! Light one of those--they're the old sort---and go ahead."
"You're not a nervous person, are you, Gilbert?" I asked quietly.
"I don't think so," he answered. "You've given my nerves a pretty good
test just now, I think! Why do you ask?"
"Because I am going to tell you secrets," I answered, "and because there
are men in the world, men in London close to us, who, if they knew, would
kill us both on sight."
"I am not a coward, if that is what you mean," Gilbert answered. "You
ought to know that. Go ahead."
I told him everything. When I had finished he sat staring at me like a
"I suppose," he said at last, looking from his extinct cigar into my
face, "that I am not by any chance dreaming? It is you, my cousin
Hardross, who has told me this amazing story."
"Every word of which is true," I answered firmly, and I knew at once that
he believed me.
"Well," he said, after a short silence, "where do I come in?"
"You fill a most important place," I answered. "I want you to see Polloch
"Am. I to tell him everything?"
"Everything," I answered. "We have our Secret Service, I suppose, the
same as other countries. It ought to be easy enough for them to act on
"Have you seen the papers this morning?" he asked suddenly.
"No!" I answered. "Is there any news?"
"Our Channel Squadron," he said, "has received a very courteous
invitation to visit Kiel during its forthcoming cruise."
"They will go?" I exclaimed.
"They leave in three weeks' time."
"If they enter German waters," I said, "not one of them will ever return.
The bay will be sown with mines. It is part of the Great Plot."
"Yesterday's paper," Gilbert continued, "remarked upon the warm reception
of the Prince of Normandy at the Berlin Court!"
"Ah!" I ejaculated.
"And the _Daily Oracle_," Gilbert went on, "had a leading article upon
the huge scale of the impending German manoeuvres. Three days ago, the
Kaiser made a speech declaring that the white dove of peace was, after
all, more glorious than the eagle of war!"
"That settles it," I declared. "Gilbert, can you see the Prime Minister
"I can and I will," he answered.
"You must convince him," I declared. "All the proofs I can give you are
here. There is an account of the meeting at the summer house of Mrs. Van
Reinberg at Lenox, with the names of all who were present and particulars
of what transpired. There is a copy of my admission into the Waiters'
Union, with some significant notes."
"This is all?" he asked.
"All!" I repeated. "Isn't it sufficient?"
"Polloch is an Englishman," my cousin said slowly, "and you know what
that means. He will need some convincing!"
"Then you must convince him," I declared. "I am risking my life over this
business, Gilbert, and we can none of us tell which way the pendulum will
swing. I know that Polloch is one of the old school of statesmen, and
hates Secret Service work. If it were not for that, such a plot as this
could never have been developed under his very nose. It is absolutely
necessary, Gilbert, that, under some pretext or another, the home fleet
is mobilized within the next fortnight."
"It's a large order, Jim!"
"It's got to be," I answered. "You don't know what a relief it is,
Gilbert, to sit here and talk to you about these things. Guest and I
scarcely ever speak of them. And all the time the minutes slip by,
and we get nearer the time. Guest and I are playing a desperate game
after all--a single slip and we should be wiped out. And no one else
Gilbert looked up at me quickly, as though a new thing had come into his
"Jim," he said, "have you seen Miss Van Hoyt?"
"Not since I was at Lenox," I answered. "She must still believe that I
was the man who was murdered in the Rocky Mountains--and I dare not let
"She certainly does believe it, Jim," my cousin answered gravely. "She
was here last week--she is coming to see me again to-day."
"In England!" I exclaimed. "Adèle in England!"
"Not only that," my cousin continued, "but I believe that her coming was
on your account."
"Tell me exactly what you mean," I demanded.
Gilbert leaned a little towards me.
"Jim," he said, "has there been anything between you and Miss Van Hoyt?"
"This much," I answered, "that but for these confounded happenings, she
would have been my wife. If ever I do marry anybody, it will be she."
Gilbert nodded gravely.
"I thought so," he answered. "Well, I can tell you something that will
perhaps surprise you. Miss Van Hoyt is also--"
He broke off in his sentence. We both sprang to our feet. A woman's clear
musical voice was distinctly audible in the hall outside.
"It is she," he declared. "Do you want her to find you here, to know that
you are alive?"
"Good God! No!" I answered.
He pointed to the curtains which separated the apartment from the
dining-room. I stepped through them quickly, just as Groves knocked at
A REUNION OF HEARTS
I heard the man's announcement, I was almost conscious of his surprise as
he realized the fact that his master was alone. Then I heard Gilbert
direct him to show the lady in; and a moment later my heart seemed to
stand still. Adèle had entered the room. She was within a few feet of me.
I heard the rustle of her gown, a faint perfume of violets reached me,
and then the sharp yap of Nagaski, as Gilbert tried to include him in his
welcome. Softly I stole a little closer to the curtain, and peered into
Now I was never an emotional person, but there was a mist gathering
before my eyes when at last I saw her. She was dressed in black, and her
cheeks had lost all their color. There was a difference even in her tone.
She spoke like a woman who has left the world of lighter things behind,
and who has vowed her life to a single purpose. The impulse to rush out
and take her into my arms was almost irresistible!
"I have come to see you, Sir Gilbert," she said, because I thought you
would like to know something--of what I am going to do! you and--your
cousin were great friends, were you not?"
"We were indeed," Gilbert answered.
"Then," she continued, "it may be some satisfaction for you to know that
his death will not be altogether unavenged. I know more about it and the
reason of it than you can know! I know that he was murdered, brutally
murdered, because he had stumbled into the knowledge of some very
extraordinary political secrets; and because, as an Englishman, he was
striving to do what he believed to be his duty. His enemies were too many
and too powerful! But what he began"--she leaned a little forward in her
chair--"I mean to finish."
My cousin looked at her gravely.
"But will you not be running the same risk?" he asked.
Her lips parted in quiet scorn.
"A woman does not count the risks, when she has lost, through treachery,
the man she cares for," she said quietly. "But for this, I should have
been neutral. I am not an Englishwoman myself--in fact, I think my
sympathies were with those who are working for her downfall. But
everything is changed now! I am going to Paris to-night, and to-morrow I
shall see the Minister of War and General Bertillet. One part of this
great plot, at any rate, shall go awry."
"Tell me," my cousin asked, "what is--the Great Plot?"
The old habit was powerful with her. She looked nervously about the room.
"I cannot tell you," she answered, "only this! It is a wonderfully
thought-out scheme, which, if it were carried out successfully, would
mean the downfall of your country. The part of it which I know anything
about is the part which secures the neutrality of France, and breaks up
the alliance. I mean to prevent that."
"Take me into your confidence, Miss Van Hoyt," Gilbert begged.
She shook her head.
"You are wiser not to ask that" she said. "It is one of those cases where
knowledge means death. But I can at least give you a hint. Have you any
influence at all with any member of your government?"
"A little" Gilbert admitted.
"Then persuade them not to send your fleet to Kiel!"
Gilbert rose to his feet, and stood on the hearth-rug looking down at
"But, my dear young lady," he protested, "there are certain
international laws which every nation respects. The game of war has its
rules--unwritten, perhaps, but none the less binding. The visit of the
English fleet to German waters is an affair of courtesy--"
She interrupted him ruthlessly.
"Did you ever hear of a warship called the _Maine_?" she asked
scornfully. "Do you remember what happened to her? Can't you understand
that these things can be arranged? Your better understanding with Germany
hangs upon a thread. Germany knows exactly when to snap it. The English
fleet will be allowed to leave Kiel harbor without a doubt, but every
channel outside can be sown with mines in twenty-four hours. If I had
proofs of what I know is being planned, I would give them to you! But I
haven't. Go and do your best without them. The French ambassador may have
something to say to your ministers in a few days which should open their
"I shall do my best," Gilbert said slowly, "but ours is an unsuspicious
nation. I am afraid I shall be told that for Admiral Fisher to abandon
his visit to Kiel now, without some very definite reason, would be
Adèle shrugged her shoulders.
"After all," she said, "it is your affair. England has no claims upon me.
I have never lived here, I never shall--now! My work lies in France.
Still, take my advice! Do what you can with your ministers."
She rose to her feet, and, in order to rearrange her scarf, which had
fallen a little on one side, she set Nagaski on the ground. Very slowly,
he made his way towards me, sniffing all the time. A few feet from the
curtain he stopped. His hair stiffened. His little, beady eyes were like
black diamonds. He barked angrily.
"Nagaski!" his mistress called.
He did not move. Neither dared I, for he was within a few feet of me.
Adèle came across the room.
"Have you any secrets behind that curtain, Sir Gilbert?" she asked.
"A cat most likely," he answered nervously. "Let me pick him up for you."
Adèle stooped down, but he eluded her. With a low growl he sprang through
the opening, and fastened his teeth in my trousers. Adèle turned to my
cousin and her face was as pale as death.
"There was only one person in the world," she said, "to whom Nagaski used
to behave like that. Sir Gilbert! what is there behind that curtain? I
insist upon knowing. If there have been listeners to our conversation, it
will cost me my life."
I stepped out. It seemed to me that concealment was no longer possible.
She staged at me in bewilderment. I had forgotten my beard, my spectacles
and shabby clothes. She did not recognize me!
"Has this person been here all the time? Is this a trap?" she demanded,
turning to my cousin with flashing eyes.
I stepped forward.
"Adèle," I said, "don't you know me?"
She started violently. She looked steadily at me for a moment in dumb
amazement. Her cheeks were ashen, her eyes dilated. And then recognition
came--recognition in which there was also an element of terror.
"Jim!" she cried. "Jim! Oh! God!"
Her hands went to her throat. Her eyes seemed as though they would devour
me. Yet she was not wholly sure! I took her into my arms!
"It was another man whom they shot, Adèle," I murmured. "It is I indeed,
But I spoke as one might speak to the dead. Adèle had fainted in my arms!
Adèle was herself in a very few minutes. My cousin considerately slipped
out of the room. Directly she opened her eyes and found me kneeling by
her side, her color became more natural.
"Jim," she murmured, "how did you do it? Tell me how it is that you are
"A very simple matter," I answered. "I learned at Lenox all that I came
to America to find out. I wanted to return to England without creating
suspicion, so I hired a substitute to continue my trip."
"And he was killed?" she exclaimed.
"Yes!" I answered. "I insured his life, and I presume he knew his risks.
In any case, the life of one man was a small thing compared with--you
She looked into my face, and there was wonder in her eyes.
"How you have changed, Jim," she whispered. "It is you, isn't it? I can
scarcely believe it. Can the months really write their lines so deeply?"
"Months!" I answered. "I have passed into a different generation, Adèle.
It seems to me that my memory stops at a night a few months ago, at the
Hotel Français. The things which happened before that seem to have
happened to a different man."
"Could you play cricket now--or shoot partridges?"
"God knows!" I answered. "This thing has swallowed me up. The only thing
that I do know is that I must go on to the end."
"And what is to become of me?" she asked.
I touched her lips with mine--and all the passion and joy of another sort
of life warmed my blood once more.
"Wait only a few months, dear," I answered confidently, "and I will teach
Hope and incredulity struggled together in her face.
"You believe," she exclaimed, "that you will succeed?"
"Why not?" I answered. "I am counted dead. Could you yourself recognize
She shook her head doubtfully.
"Your face itself is so changed," she answered. "My poor Jim, you are a
very different person from the good-looking boy whose life seemed to
depend upon catching that ball at Lord's. I think that you must have
suffered a great deal."
"I have bought experience and the knowledge of life," I said grimly, "and
I suppose I have paid a pretty stiff price for it."
"Are you strong enough, Adèle," I asked, "for another shock?"
"I have lost the capacity for surprise," she answered. "Try me!"
"The real name of the man who is passing as my uncle--is Leslie Guest!"
She scarcely justified her last assertion, for her eyes were full of
wonder, and she drew a little away from me as though in fear.
"Leslie Guest! The man who died at Saxby!"
"He did not die," I answered. "It was a case of suspended animation. When
I read his letter to me, and when I saw you in the morning, I believed
him dead. So did all the others. It was in the middle of the next night
that the nurse discovered that he was alive! We sent for the doctor, and
by the next morning he was able to speak. It was then that we determined
to make use of what had happened."
"I see," she murmured. "That is why you changed the place of burial."
"Guest planned the whole thing himself," I said. "It was easily arranged.
The curious part of it all is that he seems to have got the poison out of
his system entirely now!"
She looked at me a little breathlessly.
"You are really wonderful people, both of you," she said.
"We have been very fortunate," I answered.
"And why," she asked, "are you dressed like a somewhat seedy-looking
"I am the head-waiter at the Café Suisse," I answered.
"Where is that?"
"In Soho! Guest--my uncle--is the proprietor."
"Listen, Jim!" she said. "Do not tell me why you are there, or what you
are doing. I suppose I ought to be working on the other side--but I shall
not. What I was going to do for the sake of you dead, I shall do now for
the sake of you living. You and I are allies!"
"Pour la vie!" I answered, kissing her fingers; "you see even Nagaski is
becoming reconciled to me."
She smiled and patted his head.
"At any rate," she said, "but for him I should not have found you! I
I answered her unspoken question.
"I should not have come out," I told her. "To tell you the truth, Adèle,
I am a different man now from what I was half an hour ago. I had
forgotten that I was still a live being, and that the world was, after
all, a beautiful place. I think I had forgotten that there was such a
person as Hardross Courage. The absorption of these days, when one has to
remember, even with every tick of the clock, that the slightest
carelessness, the slightest slip, means certain death--well, it lays hold
of you. No wonder the lines are there, dear!"
"Some day," she whispered, "I will smooth them all away for you! ..."
Gilbert came in a few minutes later.
"I am sorry to disturb you," he said, "but it is time I was off."
He glanced at Adèle.
"We have no secrets," I declared quickly.
"Well," he said, "I have an appointment with the Foreign Secretary at
three o'clock this afternoon. Where can I see you afterwards?"
I hesitated. That was rather a difficult question to answer.
"I don't want to come here too often," I answered. "Do you mind sitting
up a little later than usual tonight?"
"Of course not," he answered gravely.
"Then let me come to your club about a quarter to one," I said. "You can
see me in the strangers' room."
Adèle rose and gave me her hand.
"I too, must go," she said. "I may write to you here--if I do I shall
address the envelope to Sir Gilbert. Good-bye!"
I kissed her fingers, and she drew away from me a little shyly. My cousin
saw her to the door, and in less than half an hour I was in my shiny
dress coat, on duty for luncheon at the Café Suisse.
There were the usual crowd of people there, but no one whom I recognized
particularly, until the stout lady who had talked to me the night before
came in. I showed her to a table, and she talked to me graciously in
German. She had discarded her black sailor hat, and had the appearance of
being dressed in her best clothes.
"You see to-day I am alone," she remarked, drawing off her gloves and
revealing two large but well-shaped hands, the fingers of which were
laden with rings.
"You must take good care of me--so! And I am hungry--very hungry!"
It was a table d'hôte luncheon for eighteen-pence, and she ate everything
that was set before her, and frequently demanded second helpings. All the
time she talked to me, sometimes in German, sometimes in broken English.
She seemed quite uneasy when I was not all the time by her side.
"My good man," she told me, "has gone away for two--three days. I am
lonely, so I eat more! Why do you smile, Herr Schmidt?"
I shook my head.
"I know what you think," she continued, her black eyes upraised to mine.
"You think that after all I am not so very lonely. Perhaps you are right.
My good man he is much older than I. Sometimes he is very tiresome."
I murmured my sympathy. Just at that moment, Guest entered and passed
through to the little office, all smiles and bows--the typical
restaurateur. Madame eyed him keenly.
"It is your uncle, the new proprietor, is it not?" she asked.
I nodded, and left her on the pretext of a summons from another table.
Something in Guest's look had told me that he wished to speak to me. He
was taking off his overcoat when I entered the office.
"Be careful of that woman," he whispered in my ear. "She is dangerous."
"She is Hirsch's wife," I remarked.
"She passes as such, I know," he answered. "I have come across her once
or twice in my time. She is cleverer than she seems, and she is
dangerous. Any news?"
"We have a fresh ally," I answered. "She goes to Paris this afternoon."
"Miss Van Hoyt?" he exclaimed.
He glanced at a calendar.
"Good luck to her!" he answered. "We will talk later. Go back into the
I obeyed him, and almost immediately Madame called me to her side.
"I have a message for you," she whispered in my ear.
"You are to be at Max Sonneberg's rifle gallery at four o'clock this
"From your husband?" I asked.
"So! You will be there?"
"Certainly! Where is it?" I asked.
"18, Old Compton Street," she answered. "Afterwards--"
She hesitated. I stood before her in an attitude of respectful attention.
"You like to come and drink a glass of beer with me?" she asked. "I live
She was smiling at me with placid amicability. I was a little taken aback
"You come," she whispered persuasively. "No. 36, over the tailor's shop.
You will find it easily. Afterwards I come here to dine! So?"
I was on the horns of a dilemma, for while my acceptance of her
invitation might land me in a somewhat embarrassing position, I was still
anxious to know exactly what her reasons were for asking me. She leaned
a little closer towards me. Her black eyes were very bright and
"I expect you," she declared. "So!"
"Thank you very much," I said, "I will come!"
She paid her bill and departed. I opened the door for her myself, and she
whispered something in my ear as she went out. Karl, who had been
watching us curiously, came up to me a few moments later.
"You know who she is?" he asked.
"Hirsch's wife," I answered, nodding.
"You had better be careful," he said slowly. "Hirsch is not a safe man to
play tricks with."
I told Guest what had passed. He agreed with me that it was an
embarrassing position, but he was insistent that I should go.
"One cannot tell," he remarked. "Even the cleverest women have their
interludes. I rather fancy, though, that this time the lady has something
more in her mind."
At four o'clock I presented myself at the door of an entry at the address
which had been given me. An untidy-looking girl pointed out to me some
stairs, over which was a hand pointing downwards, and a notice--
"MAX SONNEBERG'S RIFLE RANGE."
I descended the stairs, and found myself in a sort of cellar with two
tubelike arrangements, down one of which a young man was shooting. Mr.
Sonneberg rose slowly from a chair and came towards me.
"Paul Schmidt, is it not?" he asked.
"I was told to come here at four o'clock," I said.
"Quite right. Now tell me, what is this?" he asked, taking from a seat
near and placing in my hand a weapon, similar to the one with which the
boy was shooting.
I handled it curiously.
"It is a service rifle, reduced size," I remarked.
"Let me see you load it!" he directed, pointing to a box of cartridges.
I obeyed him without hesitation. He pointed to the unoccupied tube.
"Shoot!" he directed.
The tube was an unusually long one, and the bull's-eye rather small, but
I fired six shots, and each time the bell rang. Mr. Sonneberg made a note
in a book which he had taken from his pocket.
"Very good," he declared, "You have passed first class. You shall
have your rifle to-night, and cartridges. Keep them in a safe place,
He pressed a cigar upon me, and patted me on the back.
"There are some who come here," he declared, "and I find it very hard to
believe that they have ever seen a rifle before. With you it is
different. You will shoot straight, my young friend. A life for every
"I was always fond of shooting!" I told him.
"Come again, my young friend," he said cordially, "and show some of these
others how a young German should shoot! You do not need practice, but it
does me good to see a man hold a rifle as you do! So!"
I left the shooting gallery with flying colors. I was not so sure of my
Madame received me with a beaming smile. I found her apartment furnished
in the typical German fashion. There were two heavy mirrors, a plush
tablecloth, and chairs covered with stamped velvet. A canary was singing
in a cage fashioned like a church, a model of a German village stood
proudly upon the sideboard. One end of the room was hung with thick
curtains. Madame herself had arranged her hair with a heavy black fringe,
and pinned an enormous blue bow at the back of her neck.
"We will sit together here," she said, indicating the sofa, "and we will
talk of England. But first you shall open the beer."
There were several bottles upon the sideboard, and a corkscrew. I poured
Madame out a glass and then one for myself. Madame was already making
room for me by her side, when an inspiration came to me.
"You will drink a health with me?" I asked.
She raised her glass. I assumed a profoundly sentimental air.
"It is to a little girl in Frankfort," I said sighing. "To meine liebe
Elsie! Soon I shall return to marry her!"
Madame raised her glass.
"To Elsie!" she repeated, and drank very nearly the whole of its
contents. Then she set the glass down and looked at it thoughtfully.
"So," she murmured, "you have in Frankfort a little girl?"
"Yes, Madame!" I answered.
My hostess became thoughtful for a few moments. I could not flatter
myself that it was disappointment which had furrowed her brow. She had,
however, the air of one who finds it necessary to readjust her plans.
It was during those few moments that I noticed the bulge in the curtains,
concerning which I was wise enough to hold my peace.
"You will marry her some day?" she inquired.
"As soon," I answered, "as I have saved enough money. My uncle offers me
the chance now. It is for that that I came back from America."
"Money," she remarked, "is not easily made. It takes time."
"It is true," I agreed.
"And you are very anxious to be married! She is pretty, this little one?"
"I wish I had her picture, Madame," I answered with enthusiasm, "that I
could show you. You would understand, then, that I am very anxious indeed
to be married."
"But to save money!" she said slowly, "it takes time that, eh?"
I could not see for the life of me what she was driving at, but I
assented sorrowfully. At any rate, I was holding my own.
"Herr Paul," she said, raising her black eyes to mine, "have you ever
looked about you for a way to make money more quickly?"
"I have thought of it often," I admitted, "but I have not succeeded. One
cannot do as these foolish English do--back horses in races they never
see. Stocks and shares I do not understand. I can only work; and my
uncle, though he promises much, pays little."
She nodded her head.
"And all this time," she murmured, "the poor little girl waits!"
"What can one do?" I murmured dejectedly. She motioned me to draw a
little nearer to her. "Herr Paul," she said, "I think that I could show
you a way to make money, a large sum of money quickly, if you had
I drew a little closer to her. She nodded again several times.
"You are not a fool, Herr Paul!" she remarked.
"I am not very clever," I answered sorrowfully; "but I do not think that
I am a fool!"
"You are a member of the No. 1 Branch of the Waiters' Union," she said
"There is no money in that," I answered. "They even want me to pay
something for my own rifle!"
"And when the time comes," she said thoughtfully, "you will probably be
"At least," I said hopefully, "I will shoot a few English first. But it
is true what you say, Madame."
She whispered in my ear.
"The English government," she said, "would give a great deal of money to
the person who told them about that No. 1 Branch. It would be easily
I would have risen to my feet, but she pulled me back.
"Do not be foolish, Herr Paul," she said. "What has your country done for
you? When you are older and wiser, you will understand that there is only
one hand worth playing for in the world, and that is your own. I hate all
this talk about patriotism and the Fatherland. They are all very well for
holiday times; but the first thing in the world, and the only thing, is
money. I want it and so do you! Let us earn it together."
I rose slowly to my feet.
"Madame," I said, "permit me to leave. I shall try to forget what you
have suggested. I love my little girl and I love money. But never that
I think that Madame was a little surprised. She tried to pull me down
again by her side, but I resisted.
"You are a very foolish young man," she said vigorously. "Sit still and
listen to me! What would your sweetheart say if she knew that you were
throwing away a chance of marrying her, perhaps next month? Who can
"Madame," I said, "if you say more, you say it at your own risk. So far
as we have gone I will try to forget. But I would like you to understand
that I am not an informer."
Her face darkened.
"You are afraid of running a little risk," she muttered--"a very small
risk! Remember that it would be a fortune. With what I can tell you it
would be a fortune for both of us, and no one need know that it was us."
I took up my hat.
"Madame," I said, "I am sorry that I came. I wish you good afternoon!"
I think that she had made up her mind, then, to waste no more time upon
me, for with a shrug of the shoulders she rose to her feet. She smoothed
her hair in front of the glass and patted her bow.
"I think, Herr Paul," she said, "that if it had not been for the little
girl in Frankfort, we might have arranged this--eh?"
I shook my head.
"Never!" I answered. "But if it had not been for her--"
"Madame knows," I answered, bowing over her bejewelled fingers. "Auf
She let me go then, and glad enough I was to get away from the atmosphere
of cheap scent and Madame's stealthy advances. I realized, of course,
that the whole affair was a trap, bred of this woman's suspicions of me.
Nevertheless, I scarcely dared to hope that they were finally allayed. I
told Guest about my afternoon's adventure, and he treated it very
"She is one of the most dangerous women we could possibly have to deal
with," he told me. "I have known of her all my life. She was in Paris
twelve years ago, and she has twice brought Germany and France to the
brink of war. She trusts or mistrusts wholly by instinct, and I have
heard her boast that she is never mistaken. You have scored this time;
but she won't let you alone. She is a regular sleuth-hound."
"I am warned," I assured him. "I shall do all that I can to keep out of
I left a little before closing time that night, and made my way, by a
circuitous route, to my cousin's club. I was shown into the strangers'
room, and Gilbert came to me in a few moments. His face told me at once
that he had met with no success. He carefully closed the door, and came
over to my side of the room.
"Jim," he said, "it's horrible, but I've failed completely to
convince--our friend. I haven't even made the least impression upon him.
He listened to all that I had to say with a very polite smile, and every
now and then kept on taking out his watch. When I had finished, he
thanked me very much, but gave me clearly to understand that he
considered I had been made a fool of. I tried to persuade him to see you,
but he declined point-blank. Shall I tell you his message to you?"
"He sent his compliments, and begged you not to neglect your winter
practice. Said he had set his heart upon the county winning the
championship next season!"
"In plain words," I remarked bitterly, "he recommends me to mind my own
Gilbert nodded silently. He was unfolding an evening paper.
"It is like trying to save a drowning man, who persists in clinging to
one's neck," I remarked. "Gilbert, I have had a German service-rifle
given me to-day, with a plain hint that I may expect to be using it
within a month. I even know which of the Tilbury forts I shall be
expected to share in taking."
My cousin nodded and opened out his paper.
"The Channel Squadron," he announced, "leaves Devonport for Kiel on
Thursday next. And here, in another part of the paper, is the little rift
in the lute, Listen!--
"'We understand that a slight difficulty has arisen with Germany as to
the proposed Morocco Commission. In view of the better understanding,
however, now existing between the two governments, a speedy agreement
is believed certain.'"
"We shall have an ultimatum," Gilbert declared grimly, "as soon as our
ships are safely anchored in Kiel harbor. Polloch may change his tone
then, but he will be a little too late. What can we do, Jim? Whom can we
"Heaven only knows!" I answered. "If Adèle succeeds in Paris, a hint may
come from there."
"It is a slender reed," Gilbert said, "for so mighty an issue to rest
I was thoughtful for a few moments.
"I have had proof within the last few hours," I said, "that I am under a
certain amount of suspicion, and it is very possible that I am watched.
Yet, after all, that is comparatively unimportant. Do you think that
Polloch would see me?"
"I am sure that he would not," Gilbert answered promptly. "In fact, I may
as well tell you at once, that he has set us down for a pair of cranks.
He dismissed me to-day almost peremptorily. And I have reason to know
that he has warned other members of the Cabinet against us. He told me
plainly that it was the policy of his government to conciliate Germany,
and he considered that a good deal of the ill-feeling in the past had
been due to the fact that we were always over-suspicious of Germany and
her actions. When I spoke of organized corps of waiters and clerks here,
300,000 of them, in commission, all of whom had had military training and
possessed rifles, he practically called me an ass."
"Gilbert," I said slowly, "we are up against an _impasse_. I shall go
back and consult with Guest. He is the most resourceful man I know. He
may be able to suggest something."
Gilbert did not attempt to detain me. We walked together across the hall
of the club, of which I, too, by the bye, was a member, and I was careful
to carry my hat in my hand. Just as we were reaching the porter's box, a
man in brilliant uniform, only partially concealed by a heavy military
cloak, pushed open the swing doors and entered the club. He passed us by
without a glance, but my heart was in my mouth.
"Gilbert," I whispered, "who was that?"
"Count Metterheim--he is on the military staff at the German Embassy.
I looked around. Count Metterheim had passed into the smoking-room, and
there was no one else within ear-shot.
"He is also," I said, "on the committee of the No. 1 Branch of the
Waiters' Union. I have been up before him at the Café Suisse!"
AN URGENT WARNING
Madame came alone to luncheon the next morning, and beckoned me to her
table. "Well," she said, with her black eyes fixed steadily upon mine,
"you are of the same mind, eh?"
"I prefer to think," I said, "that you were joking yesterday."
"So!" she answered, and began to eat. I gathered that I was dismissed.
But presently she called me back again.
"You have many friends in London, Herr Paul?" she asked.
"None at all," I answered. "It is very lonely."
"I thought," she said, "that I saw you coming out of some flats in Dover
Street the other day."
Madame was a little over-anxious. She was showing her hand too openly.
I leaned over the table, after a cautious glance around.
"I will tell you," I said, "since you are so kind as to be interested. I
am looking for another situation. I think that I shall go into a private
"Another situation?" she exclaimed. "You are not satisfied here?"
I shook my head.
"My uncle," I said, "is a very mean man. He does not like to pay both
Karl and myself--and he pays me very little. It is all promises!--and
meanwhile Elsie waits."
Madame laughed, not altogether pleasantly.
"Elsie is likely to wait," she said. "You are too scrupulous, Herr Paul.
I have shown you how to make a great deal of money."
"The money with which I marry Elsie," I answered, "shall not be blood
She let me go then, and I went away well pleased. I fancied that I was
holding my own with Madame. And I had left the way clear for my next
visit, which was no small thing.
At half-past three the restaurant was almost empty. Very soon after four
I rang the bell of Lady Dennisford's town house in Park Lane. The man who
opened it stared at my request to see her Ladyship. Eventually, however,
I persuaded him to take in a message. I wrote a single word upon a plain
card, and in five minutes I was shown into a small boudoir.
Lady Dennisford entered the room almost at the same instant from an
opposite door. She was dressed in deep mourning; but it seemed to me that
something of the old weariness was gone from her face. She looked at me
searchingly, but obviously without recognition.
"I am Lady Dennisford," she said. "What is your business with me?"
I kept my eyes fixed upon her steadily.
"You do not recognize me, Lady Dennisford?" I asked.
She frowned slightly.
"Your voice is familiar," she answered, "and--why, you have a look of
Hardross Courage! Who are you?"
"I am Hardross Courage," I answered. "Please do not look at me as though
I were something uncanny. The report of my death was a little premature!"
She held out her hands.
"My dear Hardross!" she exclaimed. "You have taken my breath away!
I am delighted, of course; but"--she continued, looking at me
wonderingly--"what has happened to you? Where did you get those clothes?"
"I am going to explain everything to you, Lady Dennisford," I declared;
"but before I do so, let me ask you something! I have given you one
shock! Can you stand another?"
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"You see before you," I answered, "one dead man who has come to life. Can
you bear to hear of another?"
Then every shred of color left her cheeks, and she trembled like one
stricken with an ague. But all the time her eyes were pleading
passionately with mine, as though it lay in my power to make the thing
which she longed for true.
"Not--not Leslie! It is impossible."
"It is the truth," I answered. "He is alive."
I caught her just in time, and led her to the sofa. Her face was
bloodless, even to the lips.
"Lady Dennisford," I said earnestly, "for his sake, for mine, bear up.
Don't let me have to call for the servants. We are both in danger. Your
people will probably be questioned."
"I will be brave," she answered with quivering lips; "but what did it
mean--at Saxby then? Why, there was a funeral!"
"He was hard-pressed," I told her, "and it was the only way to save him.
Be brave, Lady Dennisford, for I have come to you for help!"
"I will do everything you ask me to," she answered. "But tell me one
thing more. He is alive!"
"He is in London," I answered. "He would have come himself, but the risk
would have been greater. Will you listen to what I have to say?"
"Go on," she answered. "I am ready."
"You know what happened to him in Berlin fifteen years ago," I began. "He
suffered for another's fault, but he suffered. His career was over, he
was left with but two objects in life. One was a desire to reinstate
himself; another, hatred for the country whose spies had brought ruin
upon him. He changed his identity, but he remained at Berlin. For years
he met with no success. Then fortune favored him. By chance he picked up
one of the threads of the most cunning, the most cruel, the most
skilfully thought-out plots against this country which the secret history
of the world had ever known. He escaped to London, but spies were already
on his track. I saved him from death once, and from that moment I, too,
was drawn into the vortex. Let me tell you exactly what has happened to
us since we joined forces."
Lady Dennisford was a good listener. I gave her, in as few words as
possible, a faithful account of our adventures, and she never once
interrupted me with a single question. When I had finished, she was
perfectly calm and self-possessed.
"It is the most wonderful story I have ever heard," she declared with
"The most wonderful part of it, from our point of view, is to come," I
answered grimly. "We have a fair amount of proof, and we have laid all
the facts before the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister."
"They absolutely refuse to believe us! Notwithstanding everything that we
have put before them, the Channel Squadron has sailed for Kiel."
Lady Dennisford was a woman born for emergencies. She made no remark. She
simply asked the one sensible question:
"What can I do?"
"Lord Esherville is your cousin, is he not?"
"He is an influential member of the Cabinet. Will you go to him, tell him
what you know of us, tell him who Guest is and his history? Try and
convince him that we are not cranks, and that the country is really in
the deadliest peril. Get him to see Polloch at once. Both Guest and
myself are watched, because we have taken a café which is frequented by
these people, but we will arrange a meeting, somehow. Try and get us a
She rose to her feet.
"It must be within the next thirty-six hours," I answered, "or it will be
"Where shall I let you know?"
"Letters are not safe," I answered. "I will call here at eleven o'clock
"You are not going," she exclaimed. "You will have some tea?"
I laughed outright.
"Please don't forget," I begged her, "that I have come about a situation.
I am going to bring my references to-morrow."
"Absurd," she murmured softly. "Is--Leslie--also a--what did you say you
"He is the proprietor of the Café Suisse in Old Compton Street," I
answered. "I am his nephew learning the business."
"May I come and lunch?" she asked.
"I think not," I answered, smiling. "Our restaurant does not cater for
"Then how shall I let you know?" she asked.
"I will bring my references to-morrow," I answered--"at eleven o'clock."
I bought an evening paper on my way back to the Café Suisse. Of news here
was very little. A leading article commented, with what to me seemed
fatuous satisfaction, upon our improved foreign relations. Our _entente_
with France was now in a fair way to be supplemented by a better
understanding with Germany. Great things were hoped from the friendly
visit of our fleet to Kiel; such international courtesies made always for
good. And as I walked through the twilight with the paper clenched in my
hand, I forgot where I was, I seemed to see over the grey sea to where,
silently and secretly, the long service trains to Germany crawled to that
far northward point, disgorging all the while their endless stream of
soldiers, with mathematical regularity. The great plot moved. I read the
extracts from the Berlin and Frankfort papers, and I knew that the
wonderful example of the world's newest Power had been scrupulously
followed. No word was there of secret manoeuvres amidst the wastes of
those northern sands. I read the imposing list of battleships and
cruisers, now ploughing their stately way across the dark waters, and
I shuddered as I thought of the mine-sown track across which they would
return. I remembered what a great German statesman had once boldly
declared--"there is no treachery, if it be only on sufficiently great a
scale, which success does not justify." And here was I, almost the only
Englishman who knew the truth--powerless!
It was a busy night at the Café Suisse. Guest promenaded the room in his
tightly fitting frock coat, his grey wig, and newly grown imperial,
exchanging greetings with his clients in many languages. The long table
was full! Hartwell was there, and Hirsch, and Kauffman, Madame and the
others. And always I fancied that when I approached their table their
voices dropped a little, and covert glances followed me when I turned
away. Had Madame succeeded in making them suspicious, I wondered.
They went into the club-room as usual, and a quiet time followed in the
restaurant. I went to talk with Madame, but she had little to say to me.
Somehow, though, I could not move a yard without feeling that her eyes
were upon me. Once only she beckoned to me.
"Well," she asked, "have you found the place yet, where you will make so
much money that you can send for the beloved Elsie?"
I smiled deprecatingly.
"I have answered two advertisements," I said; "one at a club, but they
were no good. I am going to see a rich English lady to-morrow morning.
She may engage me as butler."
"You are a very foolish young man, Herr Paul," she said. "You do not know
how to look after yourself. You will never make any money!"
It was one o'clock the next morning before Guest and I turned homeward to
our rooms, for we had thought it well to separate, and I could tell him
what had passed between Lady Dennisford and myself. He heard me without
interruption, but I saw his face twitch with anxiety.
"It is almost the last chance," he muttered.
THE BLACK BAG
Lady Dennisford had failed. I saw it in her face as soon as I entered the
room, and her first few words confirmed it.
"It's no use, Jim," she declared. "I've done my best, but there isn't a
soul who will listen to me."
"Good God!" I murmured, and sat down on the sofa.
"There is not a single man in the Cabinet of the slightest influence,"
she continued, "who will take this affair seriously. Lord Esherville
assured me solemnly that the whole affair was absurd and impossible.
Polloch declares that we have been brought to the brink of war with
Germany twice already, through treating her overtures with too much
suspicion. He is absolutely determined that the mistake shall not be
"How about the massing of troops on the French frontier?" I asked.
"Ordinary manoeuvres," Lady Dennisford said. "The whole proceeding is
"And the reception of the Prince of Normandy by the Emperor?"
"An act of private courtesy. He ridicules the idea of German interference
in French politics."
"And the rifle union?"
"If he believes in it at all, he looks upon it simply as a social and
patriotic club, with which we have nothing to do. He ridicules the idea
of regarding it as a force that could be utilized, even in the event of
"Then all three things happening together are merely coincidences?" I
said bitterly. "He is blind enough to believe that?"
"He believes it most sincerely," Lady Dennisford answered.
"He will not stop the fleet going to Kiel?"
"He almost lost his temper at the bare suggestion," Lady Dennisford
answered. "The slight hitch in the Morocco negotiations, he says, is
simply owing to a misunderstanding, which will be cleared up in a day or
"Now I can understand," I said, "why, on the Continent, they always speak
of British diplomacy with their tongues in their cheeks. To think that
the destinies of a great country should be in the hands of men like this.
Why, what can our Secret Service be about?"
"I believe," Lady Dennisford said, "that they have lately been presenting
some disquieting reports. But it is all of no use. Every member of the
Cabinet has got his back up. Lord Polloch says that Germany's friendship
is absolutely necessary to us just now, and his Cabinet are determined to
"They will," I muttered, "at a price. Lady Dennisford, you will excuse
me, I know. I must hurry back and see Guest."
"What is there left for you to do?"
"Heaven only knows!" I answered. "I am afraid we are at the end of our
tether. If Guest has yet another card up his sleeve, he has kept it
secret from me. I must see him at once."
"You will let me hear from you soon?" she begged as I departed.
"The newspapers may have more to tell you than I," I answered. "But I
will come again--about the situation!"
Guest was waiting for me in the little glass enclosure we called an
office. He saw my news written in my face.
"She has failed," he murmured.
"Utterly!" I answered.
We were both silent for a moment. The crisis of our fortunes had come,
and, for the first time, I saw Guest falter. He removed his spectacles
for a moment, and there was despair in his eyes.
"To think that we should have done so much--in vain," he muttered. "If
one could think of it, there must be a way out."
His head drooped for a moment, and, glancing up, I saw Hirsch's dark
inquisitive face watching us through the glass.
"Put on your spectacles and be careful," I whispered. "We are being
Guest was himself again in a moment. I stepped out into the restaurant,
where a few early luncheon guests were already arriving, and attended to
my duties as well as I could. Hirsch and his wife were at their usual
corner table, and they were presently joined by Marx, and two others of
the committee before whom I had appeared. They all carried newspapers,
and their conversation, though constant and animated, always languished
at my approach--a fact which somewhat alarmed me. Madame watched me
ceaselessly. I was perfectly certain once, when their heads were very
close together, that I was the subject of their conversation. As soon as
I realized this, I tried, without pointedly avoiding them, to keep out of
We were very full that morning, and every one seemed to linger a long
time over their luncheon. I was sick to death of the place, and my weary
peregrinations from table to table, of the smile I wore, and the small
jests and complaints I was forced to receive. The smell of the cooking
was like some loathsome poison in my nostrils. I felt that morning, with
the depression of despair upon my heart, that this was a fool's game
which I had been playing. And then my heart stood still, and my recently
developed powers of self-control received a severe shock. A familiar
little yap had given me the first warning, I turned sharply round towards
the door. Adèle, followed by a small elderly gentleman with a red ribbon
in his buttonhole, had just entered.
I hastened towards them, and I addressed Adèle without a flicker of
recognition in my face. I piloted them to a table a little apart, and
handed her the carte.
"We shall remain," she said calmly, and with the air of one giving an
order, "until the place is nearly empty. Come and talk to us as soon as
you can safely."
I bowed, and handed them over to the waiter whose duty it was to serve at
their table. As I passed down the room, I glanced towards the Hirsch
table. They had ceased their conversation. Every one of them was
staring at the newcomers. Soon they began to whisper together. Madame
beckoned to me.
"Do you know who they are, Herr Paul, those people who have just come
in?" she asked. "The little old gentleman, for instance! He is a
Frenchman, is he not?"
I shook my head.
"They are strangers, Madame," I told her. "The gentleman has not spoken
yet, but he wears a red ribbon in his coat."
Madame dismissed me with a little nod. I stood for a moment at a
neighboring table, and I heard Hirsch's low voice.
"If it is he," he muttered, "there is mischief brewing, but he has come
"If it is he," Madame murmured, "there is danger, there is always danger!
You remember--at Brussels--"
I could hear no more, and I dared not show my curiosity. Somewhat
abruptly, it seemed to me, the little party finished their luncheon and
departed. The place began to grow emptier, I took careful stock of the
few people that were left, and decided that the coast was clear. I
returned to Adèle and her friend.
"Tell us both quickly," she said in a low tone, "exactly how things
stand. This gentleman is the head of the French secret police. He is here
to help, if it is possible."
"We have collected our material," I answered, "and placed it before the
government here. We are up against an _impasse_. Through different
sources we have approached several members of the Cabinet. The result has
been the same in every case. We are treated as madmen. Polloch will do
nothing. The fleet has sailed, the rifles remain in the alleys of Soho
and Heaven knows where. Not a single precautionary measure has been
"In a lesser degree," she said, "I, too, have failed. I have succeeded in
getting the royalist officers removed from the frontier army, but with
regard to the navy, they would do nothing. The French government declined
to believe that England might need assistance. We shall get no aid from
The little old gentleman leaned over and addressed me.
"What is your next step?"
"We have none," I answered bluntly. "I have only spoken for a minute or
two with Guest since we heard of our last failure. Shall I fetch him?"
Adèle nodded. I went for Guest, who was promenading the room with his
hands behind him, casting every now and then a sharp glance in our
"They wish to speak to you," said.
He nodded and walked by my side.
"Our friend," he said, "is admirably disguised, but I recognized him. It
is Monsieur Bardow, the cleverest man in France."
The two men exchanged bows and smiles. A waiter was standing near.
"I insist, Monsieur," Monsieur Bardow said, "that you and your nephew
here join me in a bottle of wine. We will drink luck to your new venture.
No! you must seat yourself, you and your nephew also!"
The farce was well kept up till the wine had been fetched and the waiter
dismissed. Then Monsieur Bardow, with the mild expression of one who is
still exchanging compliments, began to talk.
"Mr. Guest," he said, "I know you, and I think that you know me. We are
both up against a hard thing--officials, who won't believe what does
sound a little, perhaps, like a fairy story. I have succeeded a little,
you not at all. I consider that a disaster to England, however, would be
a disaster also to my country. I am here, therefore, to see if I can be
of service to you."
Adèle leaned over towards us.
"Monsieur Bardow," she said, "has already been to his ambassador here!"
"And Monsieur Lestrange, who is good enough to have complete confidence
in me, went at once to Downing Street," Monsieur Bardow explained. "When
he returned he was angry!"
Guest tapped on the table with his forefinger.
"We have submitted our proofs," he said, "and they have been received
with derision. Your ambassador, Monsieur Bardow, has spoken for us--and
in vain! In what different manner can we approach this wooden-headed
government? You have come here with something to propose! What is it?"
Monsieur Bardow nodded assent. He opened his mouth to speak. Suddenly his
expression changed. He pointed to the door. The words came from his lips
with the crisp rapidity of a repeating rifle!
"Who is that man?" he demanded. "Look! quick!"
I was just in time to see Hirsch's figure disappearing through the swing
"A man named Hirsch," I answered.
"Who is he?"
"One of the committee of the Union," I answered.
"He left something with a waiter. Call the waiter quickly," Monsieur
I obeyed at once. The waiter, a Swiss-German, hurried to our table.
"What did Mr. Hirsch want?" I asked.
"He said that he was coming back to dinner this evening, and he left a
bag," the waiter replied.
"Bring the bag here at once!" Bardow ordered.
Already he had risen to his feet. Something of his excitement had become
communicated to us. In obedience to a peremptory gesture from Guest, the
waiter hurried off, and returned almost immediately carrying a small
black bag. Bardow held it for a moment to his ear. We were all conscious
of a faint purring noise. Nagaski began to whine. Monsieur Bardow laid
the bag gently down upon the table.
"Out of the place for your lives!" he commanded in a tone of thunder. I
took Adèle's arm, we all rushed for the door. We had barely reached it
before the floor began to heave, the windows to fall in, and a report
like thunder deafened us! We emerged into the street, wrapped in a thick
cloud of curling smoke, with masonry and fragments of furniture falling
all around us. But we emerged safely, though of the Café Suisse there was
scarcely left one stone upon another.
A LAST RESOURCE
From all sides a great crowd gathered, with almost inconceivable
rapidity. We pushed our way through, and gained a side street in safety.
Monsieur Bardow arrested the attention of a four-wheeled cab galloping
towards the scene of the disaster, and motioned us to enter. We all
crowded in, and Monsieur Bardow, who entered last, gave an address
to the driver.
"My friends," he said, as he finally stepped in, "I am afraid that it was
my presence which has brought this disaster upon your café. My disguise
is good, but not good enough to deceive the cleverest rogues in Europe.
Let us take up our conversation where it was interrupted."
"The café has served its turn," he declared. "I am glad it is gone,
although it was a close shave for us. Monsieur Bardow, I believe that you
have something to suggest. There is no time to lose!"
The little Frenchman nodded.
"I have," he admitted. "It is, perhaps, a forlorn hope, but it is our
only chance. You have appealed to the government--you have failed!
Appeal, then, to their masters."
"The people!" Guest exclaimed. "But how? There is no time!"
"There is only one way," Monsieur Bardow declared, "but it is a royal
way. The things which we four in this cab know could be driven home to
every living Englishman in little more than twelve hours' time, if we can
"The Press!" I cried.
"If we can only find," Monsieur Bardow continued, with a little nod, "an
editor man enough to throw the great dice!"
"Staunton!" Guest exclaimed.
"We are on our way there," Monsieur Bardow declared. "He is our one
I glanced towards Guest. There was a new fire in his eyes. I saw that the
idea appealed to him. Nervously he flung down the window and let in the
"A newspaper agitation," he muttered, "takes time, and if that destroyer
does not leave by four o'clock to-morrow afternoon--"
Monsieur Bardow held up his hand.
"We go no further," he said. "It shall leave!"
The cab drew up before the palatial offices of the _Daily Oracle_.
Monsieur Bardow took the lead, and with very little delay we were
escorted to a lift, and into a waiting-room on the third floor. Here our
guide left us, but only for a moment. In less than five minutes after we
had entered the building we were in the presence of John Staunton, Editor
and Managing Director of the _Daily Oracle_, a paper whose circulation
was reported to be the largest which any English journal had ever
attained. He was sitting, a slight, spare man, before a long table in the
middle of a handsomely furnished room. Before him were telephones of
various sorts, a mass of documents, and a dummy newspaper. He held out
his hand to Monsieur Bardow, and half rose to his feet as he noticed
"You have something to say to me, Monsieur Bardow?" he said rapidly. "As
quickly as possible, if you please! This is the busiest hour of the day
"You may reckon it, also," Monsieur Bardow said, "the greatest hour of
your life, for I am going to give you an opportunity to-day of making
history for all time."
Staunton raised his eyebrows. Yet it was easy to see that he was
"Your friends?" he asked, glancing towards us.
Monsieur Bardow turned to Guest.
"Forgive me," he said, "but it must be truth now, and nothing else. This
is Lord Leslie Wendover, third son of the Duke of Mochester. You may
remember Lord Leslie Wendover's name in connection with the Berlin
scandals fifteen years ago. This," he added, turning to me, "is Hardross
Courage. You have heard of him, no doubt. The lady is Miss Van Hoyt of
Mr. Staunton bowed to all of us.
"Well?" he said.
"Each one of us," Monsieur Bardow said, standing, a slim, calm figure at
the end of the table, with his fingers resting upon its leather top, "has
a story to tell you. The stories vary only from their point of view. The
end of all is the same. It is this: unless the English government sends a
fast destroyer to Kiel before four o'clock to-morrow afternoon, the
Germans will command London before seven days have passed. And to the
best of my belief, Mr. Staunton, you are the only man who can save this
"I will hear the story in a moment," Staunton said calmly. "First! You
have been to the government?"
"We have," Guest answered. "They decline to hear us, believe us, or
receive us. They scoff at our facts and ignore our warnings."
"You have some proofs?"
"We have almost convincing ones," Guest answered. "A further one almost
cost us our lives a few minutes ago! The restaurant where we were
deliberating was blown up by a bomb, placed there by some one who
"The name of the restaurant?" Staunton asked.
"The Café Suisse," I told him.
From his look of interest, I knew that he had heard something about the
"Well," he said, "let me hear the stories."
Guest told his first, I followed, Adèle told hers, and Monsieur Bardow
rapidly filled in certain blanks. All the while Staunton listened in
silence. He had opened an atlas, and studied it carefully with a
cigarette in his mouth, whilst Monsieur Bardow was speaking. When he had
heard everything we had to say, he pushed the atlas back and leaned over
the table towards us.
"You ask me," he said slowly, "to publish this story to-morrow. With what
"That the people of this great country," Monsieur Bardow answered
quickly, "should at least have a chance to themselves arrest this
horrible disaster. Let them rise up and insist that before four o'clock
tomorrow that destroyer leaves Devonport, with orders to stop our fleet
entering Kiel harbor. Let them insist upon a general mobilization of the
fleet, and the breaking up of this traitorous Rifle Corps. Your ministers
have failed you! It is by favor of the people that they rule! Let the
The man at the table moved his position ever so slightly. His eyes were
fixed downwards. He seemed to be thinking deeply. Monsieur Bardow
"My friends here," he said, "have done all that can be done with members
of the Cabinet, not only themselves, but in the person of others of great
influence. The appeal to you is practically an appeal to Caesar.
Ministers are great, but you are greater. It is your hand to-day which
grasps the levers which guide the world."
And still the man at the table was silent. Monsieur Bardow had more to
"I will tell you," he said, "what an American newspaper has done for us.
To-morrow, at twelve o'clock, ten million of dollars is due to be paid to
the agents of Prince Victor of Normandy, by the Credit Lyonnais of Paris.
To-morrow morning, the _New York Herald_, in great type, exposes as a
gigantic joke the whole affair! It will give the names of the American
citizens, and the titles which their contribution to the Royalist cause
in France is to secure. To-morrow, all New York will be convulsed with
laughter--and I do not think that that ten million dollars will be cabled
to the Credit Lyonnais."
The man at the table lifted his head. His face was the face of a man who
had been in pain.
"The two cases," he said slowly, "are not identical. The _New York
Herald_ perpetrates a huge joke upon its readers. Whichever way that
affair ends, the newspaper has little to lose! You ask me, on the other
hand, to risk ruin!"
"I do!" Monsieur Bardow answered. "I came to you, I and my friends
here, because, from the first, you have shown yourself the uncompromising
foe of German diplomacy and aspirations. I give you the chance to
justify yourself. I know what it is that you fear, you do not doubt our
faith--your only fear is lest we may have been deceived. Is that not so?"
Staunton assented gravely.
"You are asking me a great deal," he said. "The _Daily Oracle_ represents
a million of capital, it represents the life work of myself and many dear
comrades. You ask me to stake our prestige, our whole future, upon your
story. You ask me to publicly flout the government which we have
supported through thick and thin. You give me no time to consult my
colleagues--I must decide at once, yes or no! This is no small matter.
"It is a tragedy," Monsieur Bardow answered. "I tell you that the future
history of your country, perhaps of Europe, rests upon your decision.
Don't let any smaller issue weigh with you for a moment. Be thankful that
you are the man whose name will live in history as the savior of his
"Do not be too sure even of that," Staunton said. "Polloch is an
obstinate man, and I know as well as any one, perhaps, how set the
Cabinet are upon this German _rapprochement_. Still--you have fastened
the burden on my shoulders, and I will carry it."
"Thank God!" Monsieur Bardow exclaimed, leaning over and shaking hands
with Staunton. "Have no fear, my friend! It is Heaven's truth which you
"I believe it," Staunton answered quietly. "Several mysterious things
have happened during the last few days, and late this afternoon, consols
began to fall in a most extraordinary fashion. The side-winds have blown
some curious information to us, even this last hour or so! Now,
gentlemen, and Miss Van Hoyt," he continued in a suddenly altered tone,
"I have to send for all my editors and break up the whole paper. I shall
be here till daybreak and afterwards. One condition I have to make with
"Name it," Monsieur Bardow declared.
"You must not leave this building till the paper is out. At any moment we
may require information from one of you! You shall be made as comfortable
as possible! Do you agree?"
"Of course," we all answered. "In fact," Guest remarked, "I fancy this is
the safest place for us for a few hours."
Staunton looked at us all a little curiously.
"I suppose," he remarked, "you know the risk you have been running?"
"Our friends have reminded us," I answered.
An attendant came in, and Staunton handed us over to him.
"Show this lady and these gentlemen into the strangers' room," he
ordered. "See that they have food and wine, and anything they require."
We left at once. In the passage we passed a little crowd of hurrying
journalists on their way to answer Staunton's summons. In every room the
alarm bell had sounded, and the making-up of the paper was stopped!
WORKING _THE ORACLE_
We had food and wine, plenty of it, and very excellently served. The room
in which we were imprisoned was more than comfortable--it was luxurious.
There were couches and easy-chairs, magazines and shaded electric lights.
Yet we could not rest for one moment. Adèle and I talked for an hour or
so, and we had plenty to say, but in time the fever seized us too. The
roar of the machinery below thrilled us through and through. It was the
warning which, in a very few hours, would electrify the whole country,
which was being whirled into type. I thought of Madame, and once I
Three times Guest was sent for to give some information, mainly with
regard to earlier happenings in Berlin, before our fateful meeting at the
Hotel Universal. At last my turn came. It was interesting to visit, if
only for a moment, the room where Staunton himself was writing this
He was sitting at his table, his coat off, an unlighted cigarette in his
mouth, an untasted cup of tea by his side. Two shorthand clerks sat
opposite to him, a typist was hard at work a few yards away. Staunton
called me over to him. His voice was hoarse and raspy, and there were
drops of sweat upon his forehead.
"Is it true, Mr. Courage," he said, "that you are still believed here to
"Certainly!" I answered. "I have not communicated even with my lawyers.
My substitute's fate was enough to make me careful!"
"Does any one know on this side?"
"My cousin, Sir Gilbert Hardross. He is with us. He saw Polloch and tried
all he could himself."
"Good!" Staunton declared. "One more question. You say that on the
committee of the Rifle Club was a German officer. Do you know who he
"I do," I answered. "I saw him at the club when I went to meet my cousin.
His name is Count Metterheim, and he is on the military staff at the
"Better and better," Staunton grunted. "That's all, thank you!"
I went back to the room where the others were waiting. The few people
whom I passed looked at me curiously. Already there were rumors flying
about the place. In less than five minutes I was summoned again. Staunton
looked up from his writing.
"The news has come through of the wrecking of the Café Suisse," he said.
"So far your story is substantiated. A man and a woman are in custody.
Their names are Hirsch!"
"He's a member of the committee!" I exclaimed. "I saw him bring in the
bag. It was Madame, his wife, who distrusted me all the time."
"Do you think," he asked, "that you were followed here?"
"Very likely," I answered
Staunton turned to a tall, dark young man who stood by his side.
"Tell Mr. Courage what has happened," he said.
The secretary looked at me curiously.
"A man arrived about a quarter of an hour ago who insisted upon seeing
Mr. Staunton. He hinted that he had an important revelation to make with
regard to the Café Suisse outrage. He would not see any one else, and
tried to force his way into the place. In the scuffle, a revolver fell
out of his pocket, loaded in all six chambers."
"What have you done with him?" I asked.
"Handed him over to the police," the young man answered; "but I am afraid
they would never get him to the station. Have you looked out of the
"No!" I answered.
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Do so!" he suggested.
I crossed the room, and, drawing the blind aside carefully, looked out.
The street was packed with people! Even as I stood there, I heard the
crash of breaking glass below!
"What does it mean?" I asked, bewildered.
"Your Rifle Corps, I should think," Staunton said, without ceasing
writing. "We closed the doors just in time. They will try to wreck the
"We have telephoned to Scotland Yard and the Horse Guards," the man who
stood by my side said, "and we have forty policemen inside the place now!
The sudden roar of an explosion split the air. The floor seemed to heave
under our feet, and the windows fell in with a crash, letting in the cold
night air. We could hear distinctly now the shrieks and groans from
below. It seemed to me that the roadway was suddenly strewn with the
bodies of prostrate men. I sprang back into the room, we all looked at
one another in horror. I think that for my part I expected to see the
walls close in upon us.
"A bomb," Staunton remarked calmly. "Listen!"
He leaned a little forward in his chair, his pen still in his hand, his
attitude one of strained and nervous attention. By degrees the tension in
his face relaxed.
"It goes!" he muttered. "Good!"
He bent once more over his work. I looked at the man by my side in
"What does he mean?" I asked.
"The engine! The machinery is not damaged!" was the prompt reply.
I wiped the sweat from my forehead. The silence in the room seemed almost
unnatural, and behind it we could hear the dull, monotonous roar of the
machinery, still doing its work. Once more I turned to the window, and as
I did so I heard the sullen murmur of voices. A little way down the
street a solid body of mounted police were forcing back the people.
I made my way back to the other room, almost knocked down in the passage
by a man, half-dressed, tearing along with a bundle of wet proofs in his
hand. Adèle was standing by the wrecked window-frame--there were
no more windows anywhere in the building--and she turned to me with a
"Jim!" she exclaimed, "Look! Look!"
I saw the line of fire and the policemen's saddles emptying fast. The
people were closing round the building. Guest stood frowning by our side.
"This is what comes," he said, "of making London the asylum for all the
foreign scum of the earth. How goes it, Courage?"
"Staunton is still writing, and the machinery is untouched."
"For how long, I wonder," he muttered. "The police are going over like
I looked below longingly, for my blood was up. It was no ordinary mob
this. They were beginning to fire in volleys now, and leaders were
springing up. As far as we could see there was a panorama of white faces.
It was easy to understand what had happened. We had been followed, and
our purpose guessed. Tomorrow's edition of the _Daily Oracle_ was never
meant to appear!
"The place will be at their mercy in another few minutes," Guest said
gloomily. "Twenty-four hours ago who would have dared to predict a riot
like this, in London of all places? Not all the police in Scotland Yard
would be of any avail against this mob."
"They may stop the paper," I said; "but Staunton's word--and these
events--should go for something with Polloch."
Guest looked at me and away out of the window. Adèle was behind us, and
out of hearing.
"Do you suppose," he said in a low tone, "that Staunton or any of us are
meant to leave this place alive? I am afraid our friends below know too
well what they are doing."
The door opened, and Staunton himself appeared. He looked years older
than the strong, debonair man to whom I had told my story a few hours
ago, but in his face was none of the despair which I had feared. He
was pale, and his eyes were shining with suppressed excitement, but he
had by no means the air of a beaten man. He came over to where we were
"It is finished," he said calmly. "I read your story in print."
"Magnificent," I murmured, "but look! Do you think that a single copy
will ever leave this place?"
He stood looking downwards with darkening face. For several moments he
"Look at them!" he muttered. "At last! The tocsin has sounded, and the
rats have come out of their holes! Half a million and more of scum eating
their way into the entrails of this great city of ours. For years we have
tried to make the government see the danger of it. It is our cursed
British arrogance which has shut the ears and closed the eyes of the men
who govern our destinies. Supposing your invasion should take place, who
is going to keep them in check? The sack of London would be well on its
way before ever a German soldier set foot upon our coast."
"The question for the moment," I remarked, "seems to be how long before
the sack of this place takes place. Look, the police are falling back.
The mob are closing in the street!"
Staunton was unmoved.
"The soldiers are on their way," he answered. "We received a message just
now by the private wire. The other has been cut. Look! My God, they've
brought the guns! There are some men at headquarters who are not fools."
We pressed close to the windows, and indeed it was a wonderful sight.
From the far end of the street, where the police had retreated, men were
flying in all directions. We caught a gleam of scarlet and a vision of
grey horses. There was no parley. The dead bodies of the police in all
directions, and the crack of the rifles, were sufficient. We saw the
gleam of fire, and we heard the most terrible of all sounds--the quick
spit-spit of the maxims. I drew Adèle away from the window.
"Don't look, dear," I said, for already the ranks of the mob were riven.
We saw the upflung hands, we heard their death cries. Leaders leaped up,
shouting orders, only to go down like ninepins as the line of fire
reached them. There was no hope for them or any salvation save flight.
Before our eyes we saw that great concourse melt away, like snow before
the midday sun. Staunton drew a great breath of relief.
"In half an hour," he said, turning abruptly to Adèle, "I will present
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