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Title: Judgment Reserved
Author: Fred M White
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1100221.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: April 2011
Date most recently updated: April 2011

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Title: Judgment Reserved
Author: Fred M White

*

Author of 'The Cardinal Moth," "Blackmail," "A Front of Brass," etc.,
etc.

*

Published in the Western Mail (Perth, W.A.), Friday 19 September, 1913.

*

"Now perhaps you had better explain," Mostyn Carr said to his companion.
"I came down to Dinard for a change of air. I can ill afford it, but it
had to be. Now you come to me, a perfect stranger, and feed me en
prince. Why, Mr. Barrington?"

"You can feed en prince every night, if you like," Barrington said. He
was a man of forty, and he would have passed anywhere as a soldier. A
resolute wiry figure, with a keen eye and a strong determined face. "You
like this kind of thing, eh?"

"All novelists do," Carr laughed bitterly. "It's like a plot of one of
my stories. What do you want?"

"One of those very same plots," Barrington said, evenly. "You are ready
to do anything for money. I am a passingly clever
adventurer--racecourse, cards, city. I have a nerve of steel, an
audacity of brass, I know every capital in Europe, and I speak five
languages fluently. Give me a plot, and I can carry it out with fidelity
and cunning. I have been absolutely candid with you. If you cannot
consent to come in with me----"

"My dear fellow, I couldn't. No nerve. Still I can plot all right. There
was a little thing I sketched out the other day, for instance, after
France broke off diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Unless you are
in a position to command at least two thousand pounds----"

"There is no trouble about the money," Barrington said. "Oh, the money
is all right enough, all I want is the scheme. Give me the outline of
it."

"Well, what do you say to looting the Vatican?"

Barrington leant forward with a gleam in his grey eyes.

"Go on," he said quietly. "That is something after my own heart. A la
bonne heure!"

"You will go to Rome," Carr continued, "and I shall write instructions
there--tell me, can you put your hands upon some young man who is ready
for anything in the way of an intrigue if he is paid for it? He must
have the address of a gentleman, and he must be safely out of the way
afterwards. One you betray to the police for choice?"

Barrington intimated that there would be no difficulty in that respect.

"Very good. I find that these bread disturbances in Rome and Florence
are merely sleeping. Could you undertake to start them again in a mild
form? The loot of the Vatican is impossible you may argue, which is why
that is going to happen. You have the nerve?"

"Yes," Barrington said quietly. "I have the nerve."

       *       *       *       *       *

In a small, well appointed house in the Rue de petit Bois dwelt one
Count de Rivi, an elegant and accomplished young gentleman who had more
than once come under the eye of the police on suspicion of having been
concerned in some of the numberless Legitimist plots that the French
police are constantly discovering. Anyway, De Rivi was known to be a
great friend or the Duke of Morleans, and in Legitimist organs he wrote
his opinions freely. The Duke of Morleans was in America now, so that
the vigilant eye of justice was more or less relaxed so far as the Rue
de petit Bois was concerned.

It is needless to say that Carl de Rivi viewed with anxiety and alarm
the breaking off of diplomatic relations between the Republic and the
Vatican. Something must be done to restore the lamentable breach, and De
Rivi felt that he was the man to do it. One morning--it was a fortnight
later than the interview between Carr and Barrington--De Rivi was
gratified by the receipt of a long cablegram in the cypher of the
brotherhood in New York. It was from the Duke of Morleans, alluding to
the Vatican split, and commanding De Rivi to repair immediately to Rome,
and there to hold a consultation with Cardinal Ravinni, who was known to
have a strong leaning in the direction of the Bourbon dynasty. Cardinal
Ravinni was expecting this visit from the Count and there was some
suggestion that the Pope would be likely to grant an audience. It was
all very vague, essentially diplomatic, and absolutely after De Rivi's
own heart.

De Rivi immediately wrote to some length to the Cardinal, appointing two
days later for the important interview. This thing must be kept as dark
as the grave, he told himself. All the same, he was a little disturbed
to read in the next morning's 'Matin' that the Vatican was moving in the
matter of the recent deplorable dispute, and that rumour had it that a
certain prominent Bourbon supporter had been approached with a view to
engaging his services as a mediator. De Rivi wondered how it was done.
An old journalistic hand like Mostyn Carr could have told him. The Count
also noticed in the same journal that the Rome bread riots had broken
out again, but this time in only a mild form.

As he had arranged, De Rivi departed for Rome two days later. His rooms
were modest and unassuming, and he flattered himself that nobody in the
Italian capital would know of his arrival. He had dined, and was taking
his modest glass of Chianti after dinner, when a stranger was announced,
who declined to give his name.

"You had better ask the gentleman in," De Rivi said as coolly as
possible. He had little doubt as to the identity of his visitor. "And
see that I am not disturbed."

A typical Italian in a long cloak and a heavy slouch hat entered, and
carefully closed the door behind him.

Then he proceeded to disrobe and show the dark, clean-shaven face of
Cardinal Ravinni. There was nothing distinguished looking about the man,
his features were quite of the ordinary type. Two of his upper front
teeth were missing.

"I am delighted to see your eminence," the Count said. "Pray be seated.
It would have been more fitting if I had paid my compliments to you at
the Vatican; but really, one cannot be too cautious. Already one of our
Parisian papers has an inkling of my mission."

"It were far best to proceed slowly," the Cardinal said. "As for me, you
know exactly where my sympathies lie. It would be a great day for the
Holy See that saw the end of your accursed republic and France in the
fold again. But festina lente," he murmured. "It is not yet. The Pope is
ailing, though for reasons we have not made the matter public. As for
me, I make myself greatly unpopular in my advocacy for peace. I have
many enemies amongst the advanced Catholic party in Corsica. I have been
threatened with assassination. And Rome is greatly disturbed since some
agitator has started those bread riots again. When I walk the streets as
I am doing tonight it is with a positive danger to myself."

The Count was exceedingly sorry to hear it. Surely the extreme party
must see the folly of keeping up this miserable quarrel with the
Government of France. Had the Pope expressed any opinion on the matter,
had the mission from Paris been mentioned to him?

"Well, I have hinted at it," the Cardinal confessed. "As I said before,
festina lente is our motto. It is easily possible for me to gain you an
interview with his Holiness. There can be no harm in his granting
audience. Beforehand, I will let you know how far to go. Meanwhile, you
had best remain here quietly, and not seek to see me. Be prepared at any
time if I send for you to come to my lodgings at the Vatican. It is a
little gate in the lane that runs by the side of the gardens. No; I need
not detain you longer."

The Cardinal donned his hat and cloak and departed. The streets were
fairly quiet save for a few dissolute fellows making a noise--the
outcome of a recent renewed bread riot which the police claimed to have
broken up. All the same, the Cardinal prudently turned down the dark
lane by the side of the Vatican gardens, and sought entrance that way.
It was very dark at one spot, with overhanging trees. Something lurked
in the shadow. As the Cardinal passed a detaining hand was laid on his
shoulder. Before he could turn a pair of powerful arms were about his
neck, something sweet and subtle and stupefying was clapped to his mouth
and nostrils. There was a faint struggle that a child might have made,
and Cardinal Ravinni lay on his back breathing peacefully. A door opened
close at hand with a sharp click, a satisfied chuckle from the darkness,
and all was still save the pattering of rain as it fell on the umbrella
pines.

It was nearly an hour later when Cardinal Ravinni staggered into the
hall of the Guards, and looked vaguely around him. Under his slouched
hat his face looked deadly pale, there was blood on his forehead, and
his lips were swollen and disfigured. He stood there a moment as if he
were trying to realise his surroundings. A sergeant of the Swiss Guard
hurried forward, prepared to raise an alarm. Ravinni seemed to feel this
by a kind of instinct. He laid a detaining hand upon the sergeant's arm.
For an old man badly maimed, his grip was a powerful one.

"Say nothing," he whispered. "Make no disturbance. It is vital that
there should be no fuss. I have met with an accident. Take me to my
apartments at once. There is something the matter with my eyes----"

"But your eminence----" the sergeant stammered. "It is impossible to
recognise. I have the honour to speak to one of the Cardinals. As to the
rest----"

The speaker made a significant gesture. By the dress alone he knew that
he was in the presence of one of the College of Cardinals, but the
slouch hat, the swollen and bloody face rendered recognition out of the
question.

"Ravinni," the dignitary whispered. "I have met with an injury that
could not by any stretch of imagination be called an accident. The
Mafiosi----"

The speaker appeared to grow misty and confused again. He was so dazed
that it was impossible for him to find the way to his apartments. The
proper thing would have been to raise an alarm, but the Cardinal had
strictly forbidden that. And the longer the delay the greater the
responsibility of the sergeant.

"If your eminence will take my arm," he suggested. "Your secretary
passed this way just now in the direction of your apartments. Doubtless
he awaits your eminence."

He did, a little, dark, earnest looking man, who exclaimed with dismay
at the sight of the Cardinal. Ravinni sank in his chair and passed a
handkerchief to his face. By a gesture he indicated that the light was
too strong for him. The sergeant had discreetly retired. The secretary
stood waiting for his chief to speak.

"It is nothing," Ravinni said in a hoarse tone. Something seemed to
impede his speech. "It is no more than the fulfilment of a threat. I was
lucky to escape with my life."

"Your eminence is too fearless, too outspoken," the secretary said
suavely. "But surely that will keep. It is necessary to summon a
doctor----"

"It is necessary to do nothing of the sort. I am getting better already.
It is a late hour, and everybody has retired. I will wash my bruises
presently when my face has become less tender, meanwhile, there is work
to be done. My keys, Father Ravogli."

A bunch of keys was produced, one a pass key that Ravinni fumbled in his
hand. He asked a few questions rapidly--evidently his brain was not
affected.

"Late as it is, I have an errand for you Ravogli," he said. "I suppose
you have guessed where I went to-night?"

"Seeing that your eminence was so good as to tell me. It was to see
Count de Rivi. It was a dangerous mission under the circumstances."

"Why? Nobody could possibly know that the Count had come here, or what
his mission was."

"There your eminence is quite mistaken. The papers nowadays learn
everything. It was stated in the Paris 'Matin,' for instance, this
morning that the Count was coming here to try and patch up the dispute
that we deplore so much. It was known, too, that he came to see you. The
extreme party here were aware of that. They wanted no settlement. If the
Mafiosi leaders took in their heads to interfere----"

"My dear Ravogli, they have already done so. Such a chance of mischief
was not to be neglected. The Mafiosi are at work in this matter. The
most powerful secret society and the oldest in Europe, have sworn to
kill me if I do not hold my hand. They have started the bread riots
again to cover their movements. But for a lucky chance I should have
been killed to-night."

The Cardinal appeared to be overcome with a sudden faintness. He mumbled
some questions about his keys, he seemed to have forgotten the use of
some of them.

"But it is idle to sit here talking," he said as if struggling with his
feelings. "There is much to be done. Take me to my bedroom and give me
the pass key to the library. When I have washed and lain down for a
spell I shall be better. Meanwhile I have something for you to do. The
errand is not without a suggestion of danger."

Ravogli pulled himself up proudly. The call of the Holy Church was
sufficient. He was ready to meet any danger for her sake. His eyes
gleamed in the feeble light. With a shaking hand the Cardinal produced a
letter from his robes.

"You are to take this," he commanded. "You are to go as far as the
foothills beyond the Coliseum. You will see a broken gateway there set
amongst a clump of umbrella pines. Sit down there and wait till a man
accosts you. He will ask whether you have seen anything of a brown dog,
and you will reply that the dog is found. Then you will give him this
letter, and receive a small parcel in exchange. Bring it back to me at
once. You may succeed in your mission, or you may have to wait for
hours, it all depends on the other man. In any case you must not wait
till after daybreak, but you must return by the small gate in the lane
behind the garden. Have I made myself quite explicit?"

"I understand what your eminence requires to the very letter," Ravogli
said, "If there is anything----"

"Yes. You can give me your arm as far as the library. Every now and
again I feel as if I am going to faint. There are certain things I want
to do before I retire to rest. It may be that to-morrow I shall be ill
and forbidden to rise by the doctor. In that case all the good work will
be undone. Come along!"

The magnificent library of the Vatican was reached at length. There were
other treasures here beyond books and priceless manuscripts, cases of
precious coins, jewels, the thousand odds and ends small in bulk, but
representing a fortune each in itself. Give a thief a free hand here and
in a few minutes he would have been rich beyond expectation. The lights
burned low, but still they flashed on the treasure here and there. But
Cardinal Ravinni saw nothing of this. He seemed to be fighting for the
mastery of himself.

"The weakness is passing," he said, "at least, for the present. Give me
pen and paper. Thanks. And of your errand, and of my misfortune, you are
to say nothing to a soul."

Ravogli bowed and departed. For a little time the Cardinal sat waiting
there, then he seemed to grow restless and he rose to his feet. He
wandered aimlessly about the magnificent apartment, a clock in the
distance struck the hour of one. As if the clang of the bell were
something like a warning he turned rapidly from the room in the
direction of his own apartments. He had tied up his bleeding face with a
soft handkerchief; he seemed very old and feeble to the guard as be
passed through the hall again. The sergeant went so far as to speak.

"Your eminence is not going out again?" he asked. "The extent of your
injuries it is perhaps presumption on my part, to say so, but your
eminence----"

"You are a kind and thoughtful man," Ravinni said. "It is not far that I
go, something of importance that I dropped outside. Then I will go to
bed. Be discreet and silent, and it will go well with you."

This with the air of a benefactor. But the sergeant had seen many
strange things there, and this was not the strangest of them all.

He stood aside as the Cardinal passed and pulled the heavy door softly
behind him.

It was dark in the grounds so that Ravinni hesitated for a moment. Then
as if bracing himself for an effort, he walked rapidly along the road
with his face turned in the direction of the glowing lights of the city.

       *       *       *       *       *

The tragedy of Cardinal Ravinni's death thrilled Europe for a day or
two. The well-known leader of the Moderate party had been found dead
just outside the Vatican gardens, his head and face mutilated beyond all
recognition. It was a startling mystery altogether and nobody could make
anything of it. There was no inquest or anything of that kind, so that
the matter was likely to rest where it was.

But one man could have thrown a brilliant light on the dark places, and
that one man was sitting coughing in a snug little restaurant on the
Boulevard des Hermes.

In the doorway presently stood the trim neat military figure of Trevor
Barrington. He strolled over and took his place by Mostyn Carr's side,
as if they had been casual acquaintances.

"You've ordered dinner, I see," he said. "A little potage, trout in
champagne, an ortolan, and a pawn curry. Old Cliquot, too. Come, we are
getting on. This money----"

"I have four francs left," Carr said. "But I trusted to you to do the
business side of the affair. I suppose you managed it all right."

Barrington tapped a bulging pocket complacently. He sniffed approvingly
at the soup.

"That was child's play," he remarked. "Of course, one had to make
sacrifices, especially where gems and cups and coins with a history were
concerned. But I suppose that when we come to settle up there will be
seventy thousand pounds to divide. If it had not been a single-handed
business I should have cleared out the whole Vatican."

"But on the whole you have no reason to be dissatisfied. I told you that
the thing was ridiculously easy. All you had to do was to follow out my
instructions."

"Oh, I know. But you might have been more candid with me. You treated me
a little bit as a general treats his men, you know. I did exactly as I
was told, but all the same I was and am very much in the dark as to the
way things were managed."

Carr poured himself out a glass of champagne. He picked daintily at his
ortolan.

"All in good time," he said. "I have been lying low the last few days,
having a fried fish done in oil and hard brown bread. The food in Rome
was abominable."

"My dear Carr," Barrington cried. "What do you know about the food in
Rome?"

"Because I was there all the time," Carr said coolly. "I had to be. I
took no active part in the conspiracy, because I am such an abominable
coward. I should have lost my nerve and spoilt the whole business. But I
had to be on the spot all the time. By-the-bye, what became of that
young man who played the part of our confederate? I particularly asked
you to chose some fellow whose acquaintance with the police----"

"Oh, that's all right," Barrington said calmly. "A line to the
authorities at Vienna soon settled the hash. We are not in the least
likely to meet again."

Carr leaned back in his chair with the air of a man who is absolutely
satisfied. He luxuriated over his cigarette and Benedictine. The flavour
of both was exquisite.

"Then that removed the last element of danger," he said. "Now confess,
my dear Barrington, you are exceedingly curious to know how the whole
thing was done. Light your cigar, and I will tell you. For some little
time I had been casting round for a plot of sufficient importance, a
raid on a Royal scale. The Tower had been done, so had Windsor
Castle--in fiction, I mean. Then why not the Vatican? As I told you
before the split between the Pope and France gave me the first idea. The
mere fact that I was a close student of European affairs rendered my
task easier. From the very first I began to see my way. When I found
that the Duke of Morleans had gone to America the thing was quite easy.

"Of course I had read a good deal about the views and the ambitions of
Cardinal Ravinni. Also I was more or less acquainted with the same
attributes regarding Count Rivi. By way of opening the ball, I
instructed you to get those cablegrams sent from America to the Count De
Rivi and the Cardinal respectively as if they had emanated from the Duke
of Morleans. You managed that very well. As I expected, De Rivi went to
Rome, and there saw the Cardinal. I saw the Cardinal call at the Count's
lodgings, and then I knew we were safe. Meanwhile I had looked up some
old journalistic acquaintances in Rome. You see my work is pretty well
known, in fact I have had stories of mine translated for the Italian
papers. I desired to see something of the ways and work of the Mafiosi,
and that was easily managed. So was that bread riot business. One or two
rioters were killed, and it was not very difficult to procure one of the
bodies. That body your confederate hid in a ditch by the side of the
Vatican garden according to my instructions. The procuring of the corpse
in Rome is no difficult matter. Then came the only hazardous thing--the
kidnapping of the Cardinal and the spiriting away of the great cleric
during which time you assumed his clothes and made up your face as if
you had been in some deadly conflict. This was where your courage and
nerve came in, and where I should have failed. Thanks to books and
guides, Baedeker and the like, you have a pretty fair knowledge of what
to do and where to go. Made up as you were it was easy to deceive the
secretary Ravogli and get him to guide you to the library. Having got
Ravogli out of the way, you had only to fill your pockets and disappear.
The next item on the programme was to place the Cardinal's clothes upon
the body of that mutilated corpse so kindly produced by the Mafiosi and
the problem was complete."

"Capital," Barrington cried, as Carr stopped and coughed. "But the real
Cardinal?"

"Was released from the empty house to which we removed him yesterday,"
Carr explained. "I thought that out early in the scheme. By this time
the real Cardinal is back again at the Vatican. It does not matter to us
what explanation he makes, one thing you may be certain of--the Vatican
will keep silence. If you had left only the bare walls behind you the
policy of silence would still be maintained. Cardinal Ravinni will walk
about Rome blandly and shake his head, saying he cannot be responsible
for sensational reports. Europe has heard the last of that."

"Um," Barrington muttered. "Seems exceedingly simple when it comes to be
explained. After all, anybody might have done it."

Carr's thin face flushed angrily. The vanity of the author was touched.
He lighted a fresh cigarette with a hand that trembled a little.

"You should never explain problems to children and fools," he said. "If
I had told you nothing, you would have regarded me as a prodigy of
wisdom, and respected me all the more. Could you have planned out this
campaign, man?"

Barrington did not think he could. The flush died out of Carr's thin
face, his eyes smiled. He was satisfied.



THE END



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