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Title: The Strangers' Gate
Author: E Phillips Oppenheim
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1202231.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: June 2012
Date most recently updated: June 2012

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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Strangers' Gate
Author: E Phillips Oppenheim

*



CHAPTER I

Mr. Nigel Beverley, seated before his desk in the handsomely furnished
private office of the Anglo-Orlacian Trust Company, glanced with a
distinct frown at the card which his secretary had just brought in to
him. He read it aloud as though for the benefit of his companion and of
the demure-looking young lady who was standing by his side.

"'Marya [Princess] Mauranesco.' The 'Princess,' I should tell you, is in
brackets. And what is this?" he went on, scrutinising the rest of the
announcement. "'Violinist, Grill Room, Germanic, 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
Restaurant, Germanic, 10.30 P.M.-12.'"

"God bless my soul!" an elderly gentleman, in strikingly correct morning
clothes and wearing light spats, who was seated in an easy chair
opposite, exclaimed. "Is this the sort of visitor you get down in the
City on a busy morning, Nigel? Violinist at the Germanic restaurant!
What's that got to do with us?"

Nigel Beverley, with the card still between his fingers, glanced up at
his secretary.

"Perhaps Miss Dent can explain," he remarked drily. "Whatever made you
bring this card in, five minutes before an important meeting? You ought
to know perfectly well chat I am not likely to see anyone--not even the
Governor of the Bank of England."

The girl leaned over and with the tip of her little finger tapped a
corner of the card which he had not noticed.

"From Orlac," she pointed out. "As the meeting is largely concerned with
affairs in that country, Mr. Beverley, and the young lady declared that
her business was of the utmost importance, I thought it best at any rate
to let you know that she was here."

Her employer laid the card upon the desk.

"Miss Dent," he remonstrated, his tone kindly but reproachful, "you know
quite well that the board-room is half-filled already. The meeting is
called for half-past eleven, and it is now twenty-past."

"I should have pointed that out to the young lady, sir," she explained,
"but Sir Charles Brinkley has just telephoned begging that you will give
him ten minutes. His car has met with a slight mishap, but he will be
here at a quarter to twelve."

"That's all very well," Beverley replied, "but we can't interview young
ladies who play the violin down here in the City a few minutes before an
important meeting--even if they do come from Orlac. Tell her to write a
note instead, and let me know her reasons for wishing for an interview;
and I will see her for a moment, if I think it necessary, after the
meeting--or this afternoon."

The girl turned away without remark, closing the door softly behind her.

"Sorry about Brinkley, sir," Beverley apologised.

"So am I," was the irritated reply. "I hate being kept waiting on an
occasion--an important occasion--like this. Serves me right for ever
having promised to make the blasted speech. I have forgotten every word
I had to say already."

"It's only a vote of thanks," was the other's smooth reminder. "You will
do that on your head. Just the bare words, and anything that comes into
your mind at the moment. There isn't a hitch anywhere, you see. No
worrying questions or anything of that sort. Everyone will be in a jolly
good humour. So they ought to be, with a report like ours."

The elderly gentleman, who figured in Dehrett as "the Earl of
Portington," and who was his companion's prospective father-in-law,
grunted.

"All very well for you fellows. You are on your legs half the time,
making speeches. Twice a year is enough for me; once at the Royal
Agricultural Show, and a few words at the annual meeting of the
Fox-hunting Association...Damn it all, here's that girl of yours back
again!"

Miss Dent's tone was really apologetic this time.

"I am so sorry, Mr. Beverley," she said, "but the young woman is very
much in earnest. She says that she must talk to you before the meeting
takes place. She does not speak good English and is not easy to
understand, but it seems that her brother, who intended to call on you,
has been detained, and she is taking his place."

"But what about?" Beverley asked in mild but somewhat irritated
expostulation. "What does she want?"

Lord Portington suddenly remembered a visit to the Germanic a few nights
before and had an inspiration.

"Why not see her for a minute, Nigel?" he suggested. "Then, as soon as
Brinkley arrives, we can all go in together."

The younger man shrugged his shoulders.

"As you will, sir," he agreed. "You may show the young lady in, then,
Miss Dent. Tell her that she must not stay for more than five minutes."

The secretary disappeared. Nigel Beverley sat back in his chair and
assumed the stern expression of the man of affairs who is yielding
unwillingly to an unreasonable request. The effort was by no means an
easy one, for besides being an exceedingly good-looking man with
clean-cut features and a wholesome out-of-door complexion, there was a
gleam of humour in his unwavering blue eyes and at the corners of his
otherwise firm mouth. Portington, who was really short-sighted and was
wondering whether it was the same girl, rubbed his eyeglass and adjusted
it. The door was quietly opened.

"The young lady to see you, sir," Miss Dent announced.

Princess Marya Mauranesco entered the room.

The effect of the girl's entrance was perhaps exemplified by its
reaction upon the two men. Both had seemed at first inclined to remain
seated. Both, however, before she reached the desk, had risen to their
feet. She seemed a little uncertain as to whom to address. Beverley
pointed to a chair.

"My name is Beverley," he said, "and I am president of the
Anglo-Orlacian Trust Company. Won't you sit down? I must tell you that I
can spare only three or four minutes. We have an important meeting to
attend."

The girl smiled as she sank gracefully into the chair, and from that
moment Lord Portington was perfectly willing to forget all about the
meeting. Beverley, although he dimly realised the charms of his visitor,
was of sterner mould. He awaited her explanation with ill-concealed
impatience.

"But it is about that meeting," she explained, "that I come. You must
not hold it."

"Not hold it! What do you mean?" he asked brusquely.

"Well, if you hold it you must not say what you say here, then."

She drew from the modest bag she was carrying a folded-up newspaper
cutting. Beverley recognised it at a glance. It was a copy of an
interview he had given recently to a well-known journalist.

"Why not?" he demanded.

There was no trace of a smile upon her face now. She looked, indeed, a
little pathetic.

"Because--you must please not be angry--it is not true."

"What is there in that interview which is not true?"

She sat very upright in her chair, the thin, nervous fingers of her
right hand gripping its arm. Her eyes were fixed upon Beverley. She was
utterly serious. In a remote sort of way she was entirely beautiful.

"I shall try to explain," she began. "You forgive if I make mistakes. In
that talk you told the man that the supply of this new mineral, which is
mixed with some other metal, is to be found only in the Kingdom of
Orlac."

"So far as we know at present," Beverley corrected gently.

"Yes, but you add," she continued, "that this mineral is only to be
found in the mountains at Klast, which you have leased from the Crown
and where you have sunk the great mine."

"That is the truth," he declared.

The girl shook her head.

"Oh, no," she contradicted. "In another part of Orlac there is also to
be found this mineral."

"You are mistaken," he assured her. "We have paid large fees to
scientists and metallurgists, who have examined the whole country. No
trace of bauxite has been discovered anywhere except in the mountains
which we have leased. Apart from that, may I ask what you know about
it?"

"Nothing at all," she admitted. "It is my brother who knows."

"Why is he not here himself?"

She coughed slightly. She was evidently embarrassed.

"It was his wish to be here," she confided. "He was--prevented."

She glanced at Lord Portington, whose expression told her nothing. She
looked back at the younger man and then continued with a little
deprecating gesture.

"He could not come. You wish to know the truth? He is in prison."

"A good place for him, I should think--or a lunatic asylum," Beverley
remarked.

"But that is not kind," the girl protested. "Rudolph was unfortunate."

"How did your brother get into prison?" he asked. "For making false
statements, I imagine."

"Oh no," she remonstrated with a little shiver. "And yet--" She
hesitated. "I do not know. It might have been something hke that. We are
all very poor--very poor indeed--in Orlac. My brother speaks languages.
He takes tourists round sometimes. An American family engaged him to
travel with them through the country, and it seems that he made a
mistake in the accounts."

"Indeed," was Beverley's dry comment.

"It was not the fault of my poor brother," she declared. "He never had
much understanding of figures, and he is inclined to be extravagant.
These people v/ere very unkind to him. They took him before a magistrate
and he was sent to prison, A Mauranesco of Orlac has never known such
disgrace. It was very terrible."

Beverley glanced at the clock which stood upon the table.

"Young lady," he said, "we have listened most patiently to all you have
had to say, but you have not yet explained the reason for this visit."

"Brinkley has not turned up yet, you know, Nigel," Portington
intervened. "Better let the young lady finish her story. We must
remember that she is in a strange country and naturally she finds our
language a little difficult."

The girl flashed a grateful glance across at him.

"The money which my brother Rudolph borrowed," she explained, turning
eagerly to Beverley, "he took to buy some shares in your company so that
he could attend the meeting to-day."

"What was he going to do when he got there?" Beverley asked.

"I am not sure," she confessed. "I expected a letter from him this
morning. I believe he thought that you would buy those shares from him
at a great deal of money sooner than have anyone in the meeting ask
stupid questions."

Beverley leaned forward and pressed a bell on his desk. Marya Mauranesco
looked at him questioningly.

"What is that for?" she asked.

"To have my secretary show you out."

"But is that polite?" she continued with a little quiver of the lips.

"I say, Nigel, old chap," Portington put in, "aren't you being a little
severe? Evidently this young lady doesn't understand much about
business. I think that we ought to hear everything that she has to say."

She looked at him once more with gratitude in her eyes.

"How kind you are," she said softly. "What you say is true. I know
nothing about business. I only know what my brother told me: that there
is more bauxite in Orlac and it is not upon the property which your
company has leased. Wait--" she opened her bag, drew out a small piece
of rock and laid it upon the desk. "He said," she concluded, "that
anyone who understood minerals would know what that streak meant."

Beverley picked up the fragment and examined the scarred end of it. His
glance was only a cursory one.

"Well," he admitted, "so far as my knowledge goes, I should say that
that streak was bauxite. How do I know where it came from, though?"

"That is what my brother wishes to tell you," she said reproachfully.
"It was found in our country, but nowhere near the Klast Mine. He is
very clever. He has studied at a great college in Paris. He has a degree
in geology."

"And he is now in prison!"

The door was quietly opened. Miss Dent stood passively in the
background. Beverley rose to his feet.

"You have brought us some very interesting information, young lady," he
said kindly. "I am sorry to say that I do not believe a word of it. I am
not blaming you. I will admit that you have probably been misled."

The girl looked at him in surprise.

"But this," she protested, touching the fragment of rock, "does it not
speak for itself?"

"There is without a doubt a trace of bauxite there," Beverley agreed.
"It is easily come by. We are finding it every day at our mine at Klast.
There is not the slightest evidence to prove that it did not come from
our own mine."

"I don't think we can dismiss the young lady like this," Portington
remonstrated, "You must make allowances for Mr. Beverley," he went on,
turning towards her with a little bow. "You see, the hour of the meeting
has already passed and we could not possibly discuss this matter at
present. Perhaps we might, later in the day."

"But will you not wish to tell the people at the meeting what I have
come to tell you?" the girl asked. "Ought you not to contradict what Mr.
Beverley has said? It is here in print, you remember. My brother has
discovered that there is bauxite to be found elsewhere in the kingdom.
You must tell the company that you have made a mistake--"

"The present meeting," Beverley interrupted, "is concerned only with the
matters which have happened during the last six months up to the date
when it was summoned. It is not the place for the discussion of this
idle story which you have brought us."

She looked at him steadily and Beverley was conscious of a most
uncomfortable sensation.

"You think, then, that I have told you a story which is not true?"

Miss Dent tactfully intervened.

"Sir Charles Brinkley is on his way up in the lift, Mr. Beverley," she
announced.

Lord Portington rose to his feet.

"You see--er--Princess," he explained, "it is impossible for us to go
further into the subject at the moment. May we ask Miss Dent to take you
into the waiting room below? It is very comfortable, believe me, and the
meeting will not last long. As soon as it is over we will consider
anything further you may have to say."

The girl stood quite still--very remote, very subdued, it seemed to
Beverley.

"I will wait until your meeting is over," she agreed.

"Miss Dent, will you do as Lord Portington suggests?" her employer
enjoined. "You had better let His Lordship know exactly where she is,
after the meeting."

Marya of Mauranesco looked steadily into his eyes.

"Perhaps, then," she said, "I do not see you again?"

"Probably not," he answered in an almost childlike spirit of defiance to
the challenge which lurked in her tone. "I will wish you good morning.
Lord Portington is a director of the company, and if he thinks it
necessary to investigate your statement it will be done."

Her gesture as she turned away was a trifle enigmatic. She left the room
with the secretary. The folding doors at the other end of the office
were thrown open. Brinkley, who had just arrived full of apologies, led
the way into the board-room. The door closed to the sound of muffled
applause.



CHAPTER II

Lord Portington met with several minor difficulties when, at the
conclusion of a highly satisfactory meeting during which he flattered
himself he had fulfilled the position of vice-chairman with tact and
dignity, he went in search of this unusual young lady from Orlac. She
was seated in an easy chair in the waiting room, a morning paper had
slipped from her fingers onto the carpet, her eyes were inscrutably
fixed upon a little patch of blue sky visible through the top of the
tall window. She rose to her feet with obvious relief at his arrival.
She looked over his shoulder towards the door.

"Where is Mr. Beverley?" she asked. "He is not coming?"

Portington shook his head.

"He has appointed me his deputy. You can tell me everything you choose
about that most unprepossessing lump of rock and I will pass it on to
him faithfully. I see that it is past one o'clock. It will give me great
pleasure if you will lunch with me."

"Mr. Beverley--he does not come, too?"

"Not much in Beverley's line--festivals in the middle of the day,"
Portington explained. "A brainy fellow but a dull dog sometimes. I have
a car waiting. Where would you like to go?"

She hesitated.

"I am not sure. There are several more things I should like to have said
to Mr. Beverley. The words come with such difficulty when I speak in
your tongue."

Portington's fingers strayed to his upper lip. He had finished his
military career as a Colonel in the Yeomanry and he rather fancied the
remains of his scrubby but neatly kept little moustache.

"Won't I do as well?" he asked with a smile. "I am not sure that you
will not find me easier to get on with than Nigel Beverley."

"He was rather rude to me," she said, "but it was perhaps my fault that
I did not explain myself properly."

"You shall explain things to me," he proposed, leading her towards the
door. "Over a bottle of champagne, if you like. Not that I often take it
myself in the middle of the day," he went on, "but there must always be
exceptions, of course. Where would you like to lunch?"

"I do not mind," she replied, still a little doubtfully. "I cook my own
meals always in my small apartment. I have never been to any other
restaurant but the Germanic."

Portington was somewhat startled. He hesitated as he handed her into his
limousine. For a real critic of her sex--and he rather fancied himself
in that direction--it was quite easy to appreciate the beauty of her
slim but soft body underneath that shabby frock, the grace of her
movements and indeed the perfection of every gesture. All the same, her
hat would have been dear at anything more than half a sovereign and
cleaned gloves are not often seen in the haunts which he patronized.
After a moment's consideration he decided upon Soho.

"An old-fashioned place just coming to life again," he remarked. "We
will go to Kettner's."

"To me it is the same thing," she acknowledged. "I like very much good
food but it must be simple. That is why I like to cook for myself."

"How long have you been in this country?" he asked.

"Three weeks," she told him. "At first I could not breathe. Now it is
better but I do not like it. I wish the engagement I came to fill had
been in Paris."

"You girls are all the same," he grumbled. "Paris! No other place is
worth looking at."

"But I do not know," she confided, "because I have never been there."

"Never been to Paris?" he repeated in astonishment.

She shook her head.

"I came from Orlac by the cheapest route," she explained. "We travelled
very slowly in a noisy, dirty train and we came through Belgium."

"You never went to Paris to school?"

There was something a little grim about her gentle smile.

"I went to the convent school in Klast, our capital city," she confided.
"There I learnt very little. No one seemed to have any money to pay for
me. They made my father a General in the war and he was killed and there
was no pension. You must not think that I am rich because I am a
Princess. My brother works for a Tourist Agency; my mother made dresses,
before she died, for the ladies who could still afford to go to Court.
The palace that was once ours has been made into flats and we are
permitted by the proprietor to occupy the top one. Now I earn more than
anyone else in the family has ever earned--and it is not much--playing
the violin."

"I think that you should earn a great deal," he assured her. "You play
the violin in a style of your own very beautifully. I was one of the
first to hear you."

She smiled--a wan little smile of acknowledgement.

"Sometimes," she continued after a moment's pause, "I sing a little
song. Then they pay more. I put 'Princess' on my card because that is my
title and the management made me do it or they would not have engaged
me. English people seem so much to like titles that they sometimes
behave as though they were not very accustomed to them. You are a Lord,
are you not?"

He nodded.

"Just an Earl," he told her. "The lowest thing but one in the peerage.
Recent creation, too. I am only the third."

"My brother is the thirtieth Prince of Mauranesco--and he is in prison
for stealing. He has been in prison before, too," she went on
thoughtfully. "He is not, I am afraid, very honest. What is he to do? I
hope there will be no more Mauranescos or they will die of starvation."

"That sounds very sad," Portington remarked. "I think we must try and be
a little kinder to you over here than the world has been so far."

"What do you mean?" she asked curiously. "You find me a husband--yes?"

Lord Portington coughed. He felt that such suggestions as to her future
were a little premature.

"Well, we shall see," he replied. "Here we are."

They descended at the restaurant and an eager _maitre d'hôtel_ conducted
them to a quiet corner table. Marya approved of the luncheon he
ordered--grilled sole and Iamb cutlets--but declined champagne.

"A glass of red wine, if you like--Carlowitz, if they have it, or a
French claret not heavy."

"Cocktail?"

She hesitated but finally shook her head.

"You will be sorry you brought me out," she warned him. "I know so
little about the things one should eat and drink."

"How old are you?" he asked.

She drew her passport from her bag and handed it to him. He read it with
interest.

"Eighteen and a half!" he exclaimed. "And you are travelling about
alone?"

"Not that," she told him. "I have a serving-maid only because she has
been with the family for thirty years and if she did not live with me
she would starve. She speaks not a word of English and she is terrified
of the streets. I pay her no wages and I am sometimes very unhappy about
her as well as myself. She is the only thing that loves me in my life,
and she is the only person except Sister Georgina at the convent whom I
love."

"You will soon make friends here," he assured her. "They told me at the
Germanic the other night that you were filling the place for them."

"I am very glad," she said, replacing the little mirror she had been
using in her very worn vanity case and closing the latter with a snap.
"I thought that they did not very much like me. The people applaud and
they all send wine to the musicians and to me, but because I cannot
drink unless I eat, I refuse, and Monsieur Berthou, the leader of the
orchestra, he does not approve. I think this is the best food I have had
to eat or wine to drink," she went on, "since I have been in
England...Tell me about Mr. Beverley. He has such a pleasant face but he
was not very kind to me this morning."

"He is rather a rough diamond, anyway," Portington observed. "Thoroughly
decent chap--good family, makes heaps of money, fine sportsman and all
that--but not much of a ladies' man, I should think. Never so surprised
in my life as when he told me he wanted to marry my daughter."

She looked at him in astonishment.

"He is the fiancé of your daughter?" she exclaimed.

Portington nodded.

"They've been engaged for nearly a year now. Neither of them seems to be
in any hurry to get married."

Marya was silent for several moments.

"Is she very beautiful, your daughter?" she asked at last with apparent
irrelevance.

"The illustrated papers always say so," he replied. "She is
good-looking, I suppose. Nigel isn't a bad-looking fellow himself, if
only he would look at life more kindly."

"I do not like him," she declared a little sadly. "And he does not like
me. I think perhaps I said things wrongly. It is difficult to explain in
a foreign language."

"That reminds me," Portington said. "You had not finished all that you
wished to say."

She nodded.

"Of course," she admitted, "I do not understand business. It is quite
strange to me. Docs everyone treat everyone else as though they never
spoke the truth?"

"I would not go so far as that," he answered, "but you must remember
that you started off by confessing that your brother was in prison for
theft."

"That is true," she acknowledged, "and because it was true I was not
ashamed of it. One cannot live without money. Poor Rudolph, he is very
often hungry and he did want the money so badly for those few shares. He
did want to be at the meeting to-day."

"But what good would that have done him?"

"What good? Ah, but then," she went on, tapping the table with her very
delicately-shaped forefinger, "I do not say things properly. It was not
that he wanted to be unpleasant. He wanted to show Mr. Beverley his
shares and to say to him: 'If you do not buy these from me and give me a
great deal of money for them, I will tell your shareholders what I know
about there being bauxite somewhere else in Orlac. It does not all
belong to your mine as you told the newspaper man.'"

"I see," Lord Portington murmured. "Blackmail."

She smiled happily.

"Very likely that is the word," she admitted. "What my brother wished
was that Mr. Beverley should give him a great deal of money for not
telling the people what he knew. Is that blackmail?"

Portington concealed a smile behind his napkin.

"Something of the sort," he acknowledged.

"Well, that was what was in his mind," she said. "Now I must write to
tell him that Mr. Beverley does not wish to buy his shares and that he
does not believe his story. After that I suppose we shall write to the
Germans."

Her companion looked up a little startled.

"Oh, there are some Germans in this, are there?" he asked.

"Of course there are," she told him. "I was coming to that if Mr.
Beverley would have given me time to tell my story. There is a man
called Treyer. If the King had not disliked him so much he would have
given him the concession that he gave to Mr. Beverley, and your mine at
Klast would have belonged to him. Now I am to let Mr. Treyer know that
there is more bauxite in Orlac and I suppose he will try to buy that
instead."

"Why not sell it to us?" Portington asked.

She leaned a little forward in her chair.

"I believe that was my brother's idea," she confided. "It is all very
unfortunate, you see. Mr. Beverley disliked me so much that he did not
even come after the meeting to hear what I had to say."

"But he sent me instead," her companion reminded her. "I am a director
of the company."

"He should have come himself," she decided. "He had no faith in me. He
would not believe me."

"But my dear young lady," Portington remonstrated, "you should consider
this. The present company has spent thousands of pounds in having the
country surveyed. The finest metallurgists and geologists in Europe
have been over the place in sections and we have their signed report
that nowhere else in the kingdom of Orlac are there any traces of the
existence of bauxite."

"Then your men of science were all wrong," she said indignantly. "My
brother knows. I think that I myself shall go to Nicolas, the King, and
ask him if he will give permission to Mr. Treyer to dig for bauxite in
the place where the piece in my bag was found."

"And ruin our company."

"Is Mr. Beverley the sort of man who cares whether he ruins others when
he does business?" she demanded. "I do not think so."

"I have heard of this Mr. Treyer," Portington said thoughtfully. "Shifty
devil they call him and as stingy as they make 'em."

"Do forgive," she begged, "I do not understand."

"He would grab the concession in his own name and you would get nothing
for it. You know nothing of business. How could you deal with it--a
little musician who can barely speak our language, as beautiful as an
angel, a stranger in the country! How could you hold your own against
Treyer?"

She reopened her vanity case and looked in the mirror speculatively.

"You think that I am beautiful, or is it that you just say foolish
things?" she asked.

"On my honour I do think so. I never flatter."

"And attractive?"

"Devastatingly," he assured her.

She frowned.

"Why do you use words you know I shall not understand?" she complained.
"If I am attractive, why did your Mr. Beverley not look at me twice?
Why did he hurry me out of the place? Why did he not wish to see me
again?"

"Perhaps because he is one of those unfortunate Englishmen," Portington
suggested, "who can only see one woman at a time. I am rather like that
myself."

"You mean that he thinks of no one but your daughter? Well then, he had
better think a little of me. I do not like men who look at me as he
did...I do not like men who look at me the other way, either," she
added, with a faint tinge of reproof in her tone.

"It seems to me that you are a little difficult to please, anyway," he
observed peevishly.

"How clever of you," she murmured. "Let us not talk much more. It is
noisy here. Everyone seems so interested in life and one another and
they all have so much to talk about. I am lonely and I am disappointed."

"Too bad," he murmured sympathetically.

He patted her hand. She withdrew her fingers quite slowly, with even a
graceful little gesture, but there was something quite definite in their
removal. Lord Portington had had a great deal of experience, however, of
shy young ladies, and he was not easily discouraged.

"You want cheering-up," he suggested. "I think I must take you shopping
after lunch."

"Shopping?" she repeated. "What is that?"

"Take you to the big establishments here where they sell pretty
things--say frocks, hats, jewellery."

"I have no money," she sighed.

"You would not need any," he assured her.

"You mean that they would give me the things I admired?"

"Not exactly," he smiled. "Someone would pay, of course."

"You mean that you would?"

"Naturally."

She shook her head.

"I should not like that," she objected coldly.

"Why not?"

"You are not my father or my brother or any sort of relative," she said,
looking at him steadily. "I meet you in a business office this morning.
You are a stranger. Why should you give me presents?"

"Because I like you," he answered. "Because I have money and you have
not."

"It is not a good reason, that," she objected. "You cannot like me very
much. One gives presents because one is very generous or because--one
loves somebody. I do not think there is any love in your heart for me."

"That might very easily come," he told her, leaning across the table
impressively.

She shook her head again.

"Some day you would expect to be paid," she said. "You see, there is no
way in which I could pay you."

She dabbled her fingers for a moment in the rose-scented bowl which the
waiter had placed before her, glanced at a worn silver watch and pushed
back her chair.

"Do you mind," she asked, "if we go? I must think a little and rest a
little before I begin work this evening."

"And what about this fellow Treyer?" Portington asked as he summoned the
waiter and paid the bill.

"I may write to him," she replied, "or I may write to the King. They say
that he is in Paris."

"The place where your fragment of rock came from may not be on Crown
Lands," he reminded her.

"That I know nothing about," she admitted. "If I write to the King,
however, he will help to get Rudolph out of prison. That would be
better, I think."

"You will let me drive you home, at any rate," he begged as they left
the restaurant.

"That would be very kind of you," she consented gratefully. "I know the
way from Chelsea to the Germanic. Nowhere else. I lose myself and people
are not polite."

A woman with a flower-basket accosted them as they stood upon the
pavement waiting for the car. Marya gave a little cry of delight.

"If you please," she implored, looking up at her companion, "instead of
taking me shopping, will you give me that bunch of daffodils and a bunch
of violets, too? That would give me great pleasure."

"Why, of course."

He filled her arms with the blossoms and left the flower-seller almost
speechless with surprise and gratitude.

"That was the greatest kindness which anyone has offered me since I left
Orlac," Marya said. "I have not smelt a flower since I left home. Thank
you very much. If you are really driving me home it is Number 114,
Chappell Court, Chappell Street, Chelsea. I have it written down here."

He handed her into the car and they drove off together. The girl's whole
attention seemed to be taken up by her flowers.

"Look here," Portington began. "We can't part like this, Princess."

She raised her face from the cool caress of the flowers. Her beautiful
eyes were once more cold.

"Why not?"

"The matter of the bauxite," he explained hastily. "I have been thinking
it over, and in the interests of our company the affair had better be
cleared up."

"I think," she decided, "that I shall write to Mr. Treyer."

"You will do nothing of the sort," he insisted. "Supposing I fetch you,
will you come down and see us to-morrow?"

She shook her head.

"I have been to your office once," she said. "I have done, or tried to
do, what my brother wished. Mr. Beverley was not polite to me. He did
not believe that I was honest. I could see it in his eyes. Very well, I
go somewhere else."

"It was only Nigel's manner," he assured her. "It would do us a great
deal of harm if anyone suspected a German had got a second concession in
Orlac and it turned out that there was really bauxite there. Please do
as I suggest."

She considered the matter for a moment. A whiff of perfume from the
violets seemed suddenly to attract her. She stooped down to smell them.
When she looked up, the queer little suggestion of anger had left her
expression. It was the face of a child again.

"You know my address for letters," she said. "You know where I am to be
found in the evening. If Mr. Beverley wishes to see me he can do so.
Thank you very much for the lunch, Lord Portington," she added as the
car came to a standstill, "and with all my heart I thank you for the
flowers. They will keep me happy for days."

She stepped lightly on to the pavement, hugging the two nosegays, and
took leave of him with a foreign but not ungracious nod. Portington
waved his hand, replaced his hat upon his head, and resumed his seat in
the car with a grimace. He was by no means an inexperienced
boulevardier, but the ways of this little lady from Orlac were strange
to him.



CHAPTER III

There were times when Nigel Beverley, even-tempered man though he was,
found his prospective father-in-law a distinct nuisance. As a frivoler
in life he was an easy and pleasant companion. Directly he took himself
seriously, however, he became troublesome. He was very serious indeed
when Beverley returned to his office late that afternoon and heard with
surprise that Lord Portington had been waiting for him for nearly an
hour,

"I am terribly sorry," Beverley apologised. "If I had had any idea that
you were coming back, I'd have left word where I was. Is it the little
violinist who is still on your conscience?"

Portington had worked himself into a state of great solemnity. He
hitched up his trousers and leaned across the desk.

"My dear Nigel," he began, "you are taking this matter much too lightly.
I will admit that our luncheon started upon a more frivolous note but
since then I have had a long conversation with the young lady and she
has convinced me of two things."

Beverley rose from his usual seat at his desk and threw himself into a
luxurious easy chair.

"She was not here for long," he remarked, "but she certainly had a
convincing way with her."

"She is to be taken seriously," Portington declared. "I believe her
story."

"Brother in prison and all that sort of thing?" Beverley queried.

"I believe that every word she said was the truth. I believe that
bauxite is to be discovered in another part of the country. I believe
that her brother has found out about it, and that there is serious
danger of his approaching one of these German fellows on the matter."

"Disastrous, if it is true," Beverley admitted.

"I have had an interview with Mr. Patterson, our lawyer," Portington
continued. "I am only a junior director of the company, of course, but
upon the strength of what the young lady told me I felt it to be my
duty. I have examined a copy of the charter, Nigel. It is as I supposed.
The concession refers only to the mine at Klast. If any other deposit of
bauxite has been discovered in the kingdom, it does not come within the
scope of our activities. The Government of the country or the King
himself, if the bauxite is upon Crown Lands, could grant another
concession, and down would go the price and another country, possibly an
enemy one, would be able to turn out the same stuff."

"Well, what do you propose that we do about it?" Beverley enquired,
tapping a cigarette and lighting it. "By the by, I wonder if you would
like a drink, sir? I am thinking of one myself. I have had rather a
strenuous afternoon."

"A whisky-and-soda," Lord Portington admitted, "would be most
acceptable."

Beverley unlocked a beautiful mahogany wine chest, produced a decanter
of whisky and siphon of soda water, and served his guest and himself.
They nodded to one another and Beverley took what was for him an
unusually long gulp.

"You ask me," Portington continued, "what action I suggest that we
should take. I think, to begin with, Nigel, you should realise the
seriousness of this matter. You should get it into your head that this
girl, although she is naturally at a loss with our language, is
thoroughly straightforward instead of being the little fly-by-night
piece I thought she was myself. We should decide upon a course of action
at once."

"I am willing to presume that she was telling the truth straight away,"
Beverley agreed. "Now what about that plan of action?"

"Well, I think, whether he is in prison or not, we ought to get in touch
with the brother," Portington suggested.

"Capital! And then?"

"I think we should approach either the Prime Minister of the country or
the King. We should sound them as regards a further concession, if
bauxite is found in any other part of the kingdom."

"You ought to be permanently in the City," Beverley observed.

"Just common sense, all this, my boy," Portington pointed out with a
pleased smile. "Nothing but sheer common sense. We are making a large
profit, I know, with this bauxite, but that is because the supply is so
limited. If there is another lot coming onto the market and new
competition to face, what will become of those profits? What will
become, too, of the advantage we gain over any other country by having
the control of this material?"

"That is the question," Beverley agreed. "Well now, tell me how you got
on with the young lady."

Portington for a moment lost his air of extreme confidence and his tone
became a little dubious.

"I had an exceedingly pleasant time, Nigel," he said. "I found the girl
intelligent but remarkably stand-offish. She seemed very much hurt
indeed at her reception here. She appears to have a personal grievance
against you, and I'm afraid that she will take any opportunity that
comes her way of getting her own back."

"In other words," Beverley suggested, "you think that she's not likely to
help us in this matter if it turns out to be serious?"

"She's much more likely," Portington declared impressively, "to enter
into negotiations with this fellow Treyer. You know what that will mean,
Nigel. Not only shall we lose our monopoly, but we shall lose it to
Germany."

Beverley, who was at all times a very moderate drinker, replenished his
glass. He glanced across at Portington but shook his head.

"To prove to you, sir, how thoroughly I am in accord with you," he
began, "I will tell you how I have spent my afternoon. I, too, have been
to the lawyers. I have read over the charter and taken counsel's opinion
upon a portion of it. I have ascertained the exact whereabouts of His
Majesty King Nicolas and where he is likely to be for the next few days.
I have wired to Klast, to our Consul there, to ascertain whether
Mauranesco is still in prison, what is the length of his sentence and
whether there is any truth in these rumours of a political upheaval in
the country. I have ordered a plane to be ready for me at eight o'clock
tomorrow and I have already telegraphed to Will Hayter, the assistant
engineer at the mine, whom we have used once or twice before as a
confidential inquiry-man out at Klast, and begged him to let me know the
exact position of affairs. You see, sir, how right you are. I am
admitting it and doing my best to make amends."

"There is just one thing you have not done which you will have to do,"
Portington told him. "You will have to make friends with the girl."

Beverley was silent for a moment or two. His eyes had wandered to the
empty chair in which she had sat. He chased away a somewhat disturbing
memory.

"My dear beau-pere-that-is-to-be," he expostulated, "do you think that
it is seemly on my part to be chasing a lady of her youth, beauty and
poverty, bearing in mind the fact that I am an engaged man?"

"Ursula is very sensible," her father reminded him. "You will have me on
your side. I shall be able to explain."

"That's all very well," Beverley objected, "but I have not the gift for
this sort of thing which you have. I never was a gay dog with the other
sex, you know. A slow starter and never a finalist."

"You have got to get your nose down to it this time, my boy," Portington
persisted. "I tell you frankly, I can't make any headway myself. The
little devil even refused a shopping expedition. I have paved the way
for you all right, though. She confessed that she was anxious to see you
again. That's something, anyway."

"Perhaps so," Beverley assented. "What am I to do? Ring her up
somewhere, call at her rooms? Shall I--"

"Nothing of that sort," Portington interrupted. "The poor child is
living in the utmost poverty. I'll swear she hasn't a telephone. She has
one room, a bed sitting-room I suppose, on the top floor of a newly
erected block of flats in Chelsea. I don't believe she'd receive you
there if you went."

"Tell me how you suggest that I approach her, then? I'm perfectly
willing, up to a certain point."

"Well, I have discovered for one thing," Lord Portington confided, "that
you are off duty to-night. Ursula is dining and going on to a committee
meeting at the Copleys'. I believe that you are supposed to fetch her
afterwards, but that would be considerably later."

"Quite true," Beverley agreed. "And so?"

"We don't want to advertise ourselves too much," Portington went on,
"and I shall only accompany you in order to give the affair a
start-off. The young lady will be more outspoken if I am not there.
Besides--er--my presence would naturally cramp your style. I propose
that you and I dine together quietly in the Grill at the Germanic, and
that during the interval you do your best to get on terms with the
girl."

There was a distinct frown, indicated by the contraction of his very
fine eyebrows, upon Beverley's face.

"Rather vague," he commented.

"Any sort of terms; what's it matter? You and I are men of the world.
She can't do the company much harm between now and ten o'clock, and when
you do get a chance to talk to her it is up to you to convince her that
we are the Johnnies to keep in with."

"I don't fancy," Beverley commented, "that Ursula would altogether
approve."

"She's got to approve," the young lady's father said firmly. "Fifty per
cent dividend on hoisting that infernal mineral out of the earth is
making life a different thing for me. Don't you worry about Ursula.
Leave it to me. You could start by making it entirely a matter of
business with the girl. If you can't succeed that way you must take a
chance."

"A trifle modern, aren't you, in the way of prospective fathers-in-law?"
Beverley grunted.

"Never you mind about that, my lad," was the prompt retort. "It is you
who got us into this hole by putting the girl's back up. You will have
to set the matter right at any cost. I have shown you the way and I will
give you a start-off, Nigel. I can't say fairer than that."

Beverley frowned doubtfully. Again he was glancing at that empty chair
and seeing visions.

"I suppose not," he acquiesced.

"Of course if she had been one of the ordinary sort," Portington
conceded, "it would not have been your job at all. I might have figured
in your expense account rather heavily but I would have got the
concession. As it is, the world is full of fascinating young women
nowadays but there's only one other bauxite mine!"

Beverley rose from his chair and walked the length of the office and
back again. His pleasant expression and debonair carriage had almost
completely disappeared. His hands were deep in his trousers' pockets.
His lips were pursed for a whistle which never materialized. He came to a
standstill upon the hearthrug and looked across at Portington.

"Listen," he said. "I will do my best. I must warn you of this much,
though. If I find for any reason, probably for no reason you would ever
understand, that I want to back out, I shall--and it will be for you to
carry on."

Portington's fingers once more strayed to the neighbourhood of his upper
lip.

"You have plenty of common sense, Nigel," he admitted. "I will say that.
If you decide to pass the business back again to me, well, all I can say
is that I, too, will do my best."

Beverley rang the bell.

"I have some letters to write," he confided a little shortly, "and I
must have a few words with my head clerk. What time do we meet
to-night?"

"Half-past eight at the Germanic grill," Lord Portington replied,
accepting the hint and rising to his feet. "I should suggest dinner
coats and black ties, and a cocktail at Black's _en route_."

"I will be there," Nigel Beverley promised.



CHAPTER IV

At nine o'clock that evening Nigel Beverley, seated at the most favoured
table in the Germanic grill with Lord Portington, had decided that he
was a mean dog. By a quarter-past nine he was sure of it. His companion
was a little annoyed.

"For goodness' sake," Portington begged, "don't sit there looking like a
thundercloud, Nigel. We have a perfect right to come here and the girl
should accept it as a compliment that we wish to hear her play. Can't
you manage to look as though you were enjoying yourself? Waiter," he
added, "I'll change that wine order. Give us a bottle of Clicquot '21
instead of the claret."

"Very good, my lord," the man replied obsequiously.

"There appears to be a brief interval," Portington observed. "I shall
pay my respects to the young lady."

He rose and crossed the room to where the orchestra was seated on a
little raised dais. Beverley let him depart without a word. His eyes
were still fixed upon that slim, girlish figure standing with her back
to the piano. She was looking apparently in his direction but with
unseeing eyes. Her costume had no kinship with the ordinary type of
suburban evening gown affected by young ladies who play the violin in an
orchestra. It was a perfectly plain black frock buttoned high up to her
neck with scarcely a break in its continuous line. A little bow of white
tulle at her throat was her only ornament. Her beautiful hair--he
realised for the first time how beautiful, in its mellow golden
softness--was brushed plainly back from what he saw now to be a serious
as well as an attractive face. She was unduly pale, perhaps, but it was
a pallor which carried with it its own distinction. Her deep-set hazel
eyes were expressionless but it was because she was looking at nothing.
The slight curve of her lips seemed almost childish, a trifle
disdainful, too, at her forced appearance amongst that small but
heterogeneous crowd of performers. Somehow, she gave him the feeling
that he would like to leave his seat, fetch his coat and hat and walk
away from the place. At the same time, he had another feeling--that
nothing would induce him to leave until he had talked to her...

He had not long to wait. It was a quiet evening and the place was half
full. The leader of the orchestra was only too happy to grant a request
from a distinguished visitor. Portington brought the girl to their
table and the waiter hurried to place a chair for her.

"There's ten minutes' interval," Portington announced, "and Mademoiselle
Mauranesco--the Princess, I should say--is going to drink her first
cocktail with us."

"Her first?" Beverley remarked, rising to his feet.

"But you don't know the young lady's age," the other observed. "She is
eighteen and a half. She tells me, too, that in Orlac, where there are
very few tourists and no one has any money to spend, such luxuries are
unknown. I have suggested a White Lady."

"It is a surprise to see you again so soon," the girl remarked, looking
a little shyly at Beverley across the table.

"We were anxious to hear you play," he told her, "and I am looking
forward to making my apologies."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"You have little to apologise for," she said. "You were not very
sympathetic and you had perhaps the air of not quite believing my story.
I suppose it was the wrong thing for me to do, though, visiting you in
your office. I am sorry."

"We will forget it, shall we?" he suggested. "I wanted to have an
opportunity of telling you, Mademoiselle, that I was stupid and
ill-mannered. That was because I was a little upset. We had an important
meeting coming on and then what you told me, whether it was true or not,
well, it was rather a blow, you know."

"We need not speak of it again," she said. "It is over. I like your
cocktail," she added as she sipped from the glass which had been placed
before her. "It is very good indeed, but a little stronger than our
syrups and home-distilled vermouth. You are dining here--yes?"

"We have come to hear you play," Portington confided.

"And I to beg for your forgiveness," Beverley added.

She waved her hand, a subdued but graceful little gesture.

"It is finished," she said. "Never need we speak of it again."

"Are you going to sell us the five shares?" Portington asked.

She shook her head.

"Of course not," she replied. "I am sorry I spoke of that."

"Perhaps now that we have a chance you would like me to explain the
whole situation," Beverley proposed.

"Please not," she begged. "I should not understand and already half of
my ten minutes are gone. I am disappointed with this place. It is not
even so gay as our cafes in Klast. The lights are not good. People all
seem so morose. They eat all the time and they drink nothing. Perhaps
that is why they are not gay."

"A matter of temperament, my dear young lady," her elder companion
assured her. "It takes a great deal to make an Englishman gay. We take
our pleasures, if not sadly, at least silently."

She took another sip from her glass, then, glancing at the platform, she
rose to her feet.

"It is Monsieur Berthou who looks at me," she explained. "He wishes the
music. I must return to my place. You will excuse, please? I thank you
for the cocktail."

"Will you come back again?" Portington asked. "My friend here is very
anxious to talk to you."

She looked at Beverley. It seemed to him that this was the first time
their eyes had met. There was a faint note of enquiry in her gaze, a
certain measure of doubt. He was suddenly conscious that a great deal
might depend upon what he said. He had no time, however, to choose his
words.

"It is quite true," he assured her. "I do wish to talk to you. I came
to-night on purpose to see you."

"If it gives you pleasure," she said slowly, "I will return. It will not
be until after ten o'clock. We have half-an-hour's rest then and supper
if we choose to take it. If you wish, I shall come."

"I most certainly do wish and I shall be here waiting for you," he told
her gravely.

Lord Portington smiled. He was very thankful indeed that Beverley was
playing up.

"Let me take you back now," he begged.

"Thank you," she answered. "It is not necessary."

"It will be a pleasure," he murmured as he led her away.

"Is he very happy, your Mr. Beverley?" she asked as they crossed the
floor side by side. "He is engaged to marry a very beautiful Indy, as I
am sure your daughter must be. That should make him light-hearted and
give him good spirits. He should live with a smile upon his lips."

"Perhaps to-night he is depressed," Portington said, leaning towards her
confidentially. He had an inspiration.

"You see, what you told us about that little lump of rock you carried in
your bag was rather a blow," he went on. "It may be, if your brother is
right, that our company will lose a great deal of money."

"I believe," she sighed, "that it is money only in this country which
makes people happy. That is why my companion, the old nurse who lives
with me, does not like being in England. She says that in our own land
the people think of music and of their food, their wine and of their
love affairs. But of money they think seldom."

"Perhaps that is why they have so little," he pointed out. "Yours is a
poor country, is it not?"

"One of the poorest in the world," she told him, "and yours, they tell
me, is one of the richest. Yet I have seen more happiness in my own
country than I have here. It is strange ... I thank you. Lord
Portington."

"When you come back," he said, "I shall have gone. Please be kind to our
friend."

"I will play him something gay before the evening is over," she
promised. "I will play him something which will remind him of the
sunshine, and dancing, and pleasant people."

"It would do him a lot of good," her escort remarked as he turned away
with a farewell bow.

Portington resumed his seat with the air of one who faces a problem.

"Nigel," he confided, "I cannot make that young woman out."

"Is she so difficult?"

"Of course her age may be the explanation," Portington meditated. "She
gives one the impression of such delightful simplicity, yet when we
reflect that she sat there and told us about her brother's being in
prison and apparently thought nothing of it, one is puzzled. Perhaps she
really does take it as lightly as she seems to."

"That is a possibility," Beverley admitted.

The music recommenced. The two men paused between the courses of their
dinner to listen and watch the girl. The music was of the Hungarian
type--full of staccato notes, light-footed, with breathless, tremulous
spells. Then suddenly the girl was playing, alone, a few queer tremulous
notes carrying the rhythm and melody into another phase altogether, and
yet preserving by subtle little touches the motif of the composer.
Neither of her two auditors were musicians but Beverley was nearer to
realising the beauty of Marya's touch and the faultlessness of the notes
she produced. His companion, however, was the first to lead the
applause.

"The girl can play, damn it!" he exclaimed. "Jove, she'd be worth
backing if one were years younger, and if she's really the ingenue she
seems to be. She's good, Nigel. I tell you, she's really good. She's
wasted in an orchestra like this. I don't see why we shouldn't have her
play at one of Ursula's At Homes. You must talk to her about it."

"I wonder," Beverley speculated.

"Of course," Portington went on as he lit a cigarette a little later,
"for all your alert bearing, you are one of those staid sort of fellows,
Nigel. You would never lose your head about anyone. Wish to heaven I was
like you! Even at my time of life I tell you frankly that girl makes me
feel--well, almost a young man again. And I can't imagine why.
Everything that she says and does, the very way she looks at you, is
either a denial or a complete ignoring of sex. Until I knew how young
she was she puzzled me enormously."

Beverley declined to be drawn into a discussion. He opened the evening
newspaper for which he had sent.

"I suppose," he said drily, "she really is a product of her sheltered
life and an undeveloped temperament."

Portington smoked gloomily for several minutes. For a boon companion he
sometimes found this young man who was proposing to enter his family a
trifle unsympathetic. It was true that the girl was not playing for the
moment, but Beverley's sudden absorption in his newspaper was almost
unnatural.

"What's that you are studying so intently?" he asked.

"I beg your pardon," Beverley apologised, throwing down the paper. "It
is just an account of our meeting this afternoon. I wanted to be sure no
gossip had got about. That man who writes the City articles--he's pretty
clever at handling this sort of thing."

"Is my speech there?" Portington asked with interest.

His companion coughed.

"Only a brief account, sir. Just remarks that Lord Portington, in a few
apt words, proposed the usual vote of thanks to the chairman and
officials."

"A couple of very neat little touches of mine wasted," Portington
grumbled.

"Nobody ever reports speeches at these company meetings," Beverley
reminded him. "There's only one sort of thing to be said and only one
way of saying it."

Portington glanced at the other's plate.

"You have eaten nothing, Nigel," he remarked. "What's the matter with
you?"

"Saving myself," was the quiet reply. "I shall try and persuade the
young lady to have some supper or something when the break comes. I
thought I had better hold off so as to be able to join her."

Lord Portington beamed approval.

"Capital!" he exclaimed. "That's just what I should have done myself. I
think, if you don't mind, I will be getting on. I'd like to look in at
the club for half an hour, and afterwards this charity affair might be
amusing. Sort of superior bottle party, I imagine. You stick to it,
Nigel," he went on earnestly. "I'd stay if I thought I could do any
good, but it's much better left entirely in your hands. My respects to
the young lady. Telephone me how things have gone and what your plans
are, either late to-night or tomorrow morning."

Beverley's farewell was a trifle indefinite. He was conscious at that
moment of only one overpowering desire. He wanted to get rid of his
prospective father-in-law. He wanted him to leave the place and stay
away. Portington, sublimely unconscious of the fact, murmured a few more
words and took his departure, more than ever convinced of his gifts as a
diplomat.



CHAPTER V

At a few minutes past ten the music stopped and Beverley rose to his
feet with unconscious eagerness. He had scarcely taken a step from his
chair, however, before he paused. A man who had been seated at an
opposite table had anticipated him and intercepted Marya's approach.
They stood together talking in the centre of the place. He pointed to
his table. The girl shook her head but continued the conversation.
Beverley eyed her companion, who was certainly not an attractive
personality, with something approaching disgust. He was a tall, thin man
of indefinite age, with rather prominent teeth, a pallid complexion and
eyes set very near together. He was in formal evening dress, but his
clothes were ill-fitting and he was apparently greatly disturbed. He
held in his hand thick-lensed spectacles which he had removed upon
addressing Marya. Finally she turned away from him. He made a movement
as though to clutch her arm. At the last moment, however, he lost his
courage. He returned unwillingly to his table and she made her way
towards Beverley, who was standing prepared to greet her.

"I have not made you wait?" she asked.

"Not at all," he answered. "I see that you have found a friend."

"That was not a friend," she confided. "It is my brother whom he knows.
That was Mr. Treyer. He was at your meeting this afternoon. He is a
German who knows all about bauxite."

"Rat!" Beverley muttered.

"You do not like him?" she queried. "My brother thinks he is a nice
man."

The waiter held her chair and Beverley seated himself opposite to her.

"What was he doing at the meeting?" he demanded.

"He did not exactly tell me," she replied, "but I think that it is quite
easy to know. He is wondering whether you have heard of my brother's
discovery. He was very anxious to hear if you and I were going to talk
about bauxite."

"Does he know who I am?"

"Oh yes, he knows very well who you are. That is why he was so
disturbed. He did not like it that I come and talk with you. I tell him
what has happened to my brother and he was angry. He thought that
Rudolph was working for him."

The waiter approached the table with dishes.

"You have a very light supper," Beverley warned her. "Quails and a
little asparagus. I did not care for my chicken--I was not hungry then.
Now that you have come I have found my appetite. I shall join you, if I
may."

"It is very good manners of you," she acknowledged, "that you will not
let me eat alone. You have chosen just what I like. I am hungry. May I
drink some wine?"

The waiter filled their glasses. Beverley said nothing for several
moments. He found it a difficult situation.

"You do not talk much," she remarked.

"It is because I have too much to say," he answered. "Now that you have
noticed it I shall begin. First of all, then, it is understood that I
apologise most heartily for my rudeness this morning."

"That is forgotten."

"I am very interested in that piece of rock which you have brought over
to England and which you say that your brother found somewhere in Orlac.
I should like to know exactly where it came from. I have telegraphed my
expert there to make further investigations immediately."

"You have changed your mind, then," she said. "You do believe me now. It
is a little late."

"What do you mean by a little late?"

"I have sent a letter to my brother. I have told him that you think the
piece of rock is a cheat. I wrote to Mr. Treyer. That is why he is here
to-night. It was what my brother had told me."

"You didn't give me much time to change my mind, did you?" he remarked.

"You did seem to me," she replied, "like a man who would be very
unlikely to change his mind."

"So that long bounder to whom you were talking just now is Mr. Treyer,
the German agent?"

"It is a difficult language, English," she sighed. "'Bounder' is a word
I do not understand. It was Mr. Treyer with whom I was speaking. He came
here purposely to see me."

Beverley glanced across the room to where the solitary man was glowering
at them.

"If you will take my advice," he said earnestly, "you will have nothing
to do with Mr. Treyer. He will cheat you if he can. I am sure of it."

She looked at him for a moment steadfastly out of the unfathomable
depths of her deep hazel eyes.

"You mean that if I tell him where my brother found this piece of rock
he will buy the land and then he will not pay us anything?"

"Something like that."

"And with you it would be different? You and Lord Portington would be
honest? You would pay all that you promised?"

"Precisely," he admitted. "That is the difference between my company and
Treyer. We should pay. He would not. We are honest. He is a rogue."

"The quail," she said with apparent irrelevance, "is good. I enjoy him."

"Delighted," he murmured, filling her glass.

"But Mr. Treyer is very angry," she went on. "He looked as though he was
going to bite me. He invited me to have supper with him. He has pencil
and paper in his pocket. He would like me to sketch the place where my
brother found this little piece of rock and put in the name."

"You can't do that," he told her.

"Why can I not?"

"Because if you make that sketch at all you will make it on the back of
this menu card and write the name of the place where it was found."

"You will give me money if I do that?"

"A great deal," he assured her. "Much more than that piece of rock is
worth, probably."

"You have changed your mind, then? You trust me now?"

"I would not put it like that," he complained. "I had no time to decide
in the office. Since then I have made up my mind. I believe your story."

"All this," she confessed as she ate her quail and sipped her wine
delicately, "is very interesting."

"Is it true what Lord Portington told me, that you are only eighteen and
a half?"

She looked at him curiously. Beverley's features were excellent, even if
his chin indicated a certain measure of pugnacity. His blue eyes were
pleasantly clear and lit occasionally by a gleam of humour. His mouth
was resolute but not emotional. It was, on the whole, an attractive
countenance.

"It is quite true," she replied. "Why do you ask me? Is it of interest?"

"Distinctly."

"Why?"

"Because you are far too young to be playing in a restaurant orchestra,
to be entrusted with a dangerous and important secret, and to be
wandering about in a strange city by yourself."

"It is not the affair of others what I do," she said coldly.

"It is the affair of anyone who takes an interest in you," he rejoined.

"Do you take an interest in me?" she asked, looking across the table at
him.

He hesitated for a moment. There was not a shred of coquetry or
provocativeness in the question. There was very little curiosity.

"I did not when I first saw you," he confessed. "I do now."

"I wonder," she murmured. "I am not beautiful. I play the violin in a
queer fashion of my own, perhaps. Or is it that that fragment of rock
and its history mean so much to you?"

"It certainly is not the streak of bauxite in your fragment of rock," he
assured her. "Many things would have to happen before that could become
of vital importance to us. The claim to the land with instructions where
it was found would have to be proved. Concessions would have to be
arranged, machinery for the mine would have to be obtained. You have
only Mr. Treyer and myself who might be interested and I am perfectly
certain that you would not trust Mr. Treyer."

"You are quite wrong in what you say," she assured him. "Besides
yourself and Mr. Treyer there is also Predor Pravadia."

"Who is the person with that extraordinary name?" he asked.

"He is the leader of the communist party in Orlac."

"I don't like his name," Beverley observed.

She shrugged her shoulders slightly.

"He was born with it. His father was what you call in English a
'blacksmith.'"

"If you thought he could do anything about it why did you not see him
before you left your country?"

"Because," she admitted calmly, "he refused to see me. He thought, I
suppose, that I had come to beg. The last members of my family were
always begging from the Government. Then, you see, there was my brother
in prison. He might have thought that I came to beg for his release. It
was not interesting for him to see me."

"What about Lavaroko? I thought that he was the head of your Government
when you left Orlac."

"He was," she acknowledged, "but he was what you call a 'falling star.'
He had lost the confidence of the people. He could have done nothing. Of
course there is the King," she continued doubtfully. "I could have gone
direct to him."

"And why didn't you?"

She helped herself to asparagus and _beurre fondu_ which the _maitre
d'hôtel_ was tendering, and watched while her glass was refilled. It was
quite an appreciable period of time before she replied.

"That," she said, "does not concern you. The King is in Paris. I could
have gone there, but I came to you instead. And now please ask me no
more questions. You annoy me with so many. What I choose to tell, I
tell. It is myself who decides."

"For a young lady of eighteen and a half years you have a will of your
own," he observed.

Her eyebrows, very attractive and silky upon her pearly skin, were
gently raised.

"My age, also," she reminded him, "is my own affair."

"You are very independent," he said smiling.

"It is not I who am independent," she rejoined. "It is you who ask too
many questions. I know that I have seen very little of the world," she
went on gravely. "Perhaps for that reason I think the more. You are not
very old yourself. If it were Lord Portington, for instance, I would not
dare to say so much. But it would seem to me that when you think of
yourself you think of yourself as the most important thing in the world.
Other people only interest you so far as they can help or keep you back.
You are honest," she continued, after a moment's reflection. "It is, I
should think, your best quality. I could tell directly I came into your
office that you did not like me. I could tell just now, directly you
looked across the room when I was talking to Mr. Treyer, that you did
not like him."

He smiled.

"Who could possibly like a fellow like Treyer?"

"Why not?" she enquired. "He likes me. He tells me so already."

"Infernal cheek!"

"What does that mean?" she asked, puzzled.

"Never mind. I will answer your question. Look at the fellow. Teeth
sticking out--that always means something unpleasant; eyes looking into
each other--that means cunning; he can't even sit still in his
chair--that means lack of self-control. Not an atom of good taste about
him, either, although he says he does like you. He comes to dine in the
Grill Room in dress coat and white tie, and the coat itself is far too
long for him--the sort of garment affected by the French gigolo! And the
white tie I'd swear has seen service before. Oh, he's all wrong, believe
me. Princess Marya of Mauranesco. You can't possibly sell your little
piece of rock to him."

Almost for the first time he saw her smile. It was a gesture which never
fully developed but which changed her whole expression. His reaction to
it was prompt and spontaneous. A humorous light shone in his eyes, his
mouth relaxed. He leaned a little towards her. Both, at that moment,
were secretly conscious of the passing of that thin barrier of mutual
antagonism.

"The poor man!" she murmured. "I did notice that his coat was funny. I
like yours better and your red carnation is becoming."

The personal feeling in her harmless remark seemed to change the whole
atmosphere. He drew his flower a little further into its place.

"Now that you have praised my small effort at adornment," he said, and
all the stiffness had gone from his tone, "I can tell you how much I
admire your own lack of it."

She glanced at her wrists and fingers.

"Jewellery I do not possess," she confided, "except some rings which
were my grandmother's and which Sister Georgina keeps for me at the
convent. If ever I marry I shall wear them. If I die they will be sold
for the poor. It is a quaint thing," she went on, "that I like you much
better now that you have smiled. It is quaint, too, that it should have
been because of Mr. Treyer, because I do not think he likes you very
much."

"Loathes me," he assured her. "He worked hard to get the concession that
my company holds and they tell me that he is always hanging about the
German Consulate at Klast. I suppose he thinks that if these European
complications develop and Orlac takes sides, there may be a chance for
him to make trouble."

"He warned me against you," she confided.

"Do not believe a word he said," Beverley begged, with a return of the
twinkle in his eyes. "I'm really not so bad."

"It was not only you, it was your company. He said you were what he
called 'sharks.' What does 'sharks' mean?"

"It means 'over-keen.' Practically dishonest," he explained.

"That is right. He told me that you got your concession that way."

This time Beverley's was a perfectly human grin.

"Envious old fox," he observed. "He tried to be too clever and we beat
him at it."

"More words that I do not understand," she complained. "May I have some
coffee, please? In ten minutes I must return."

"May I drive you home afterwards?" he suggested when he had given the
order to a waiter.

She shook her head. He liked to think it was a slightly reluctant
gesture.

"Please no," she begged. "My old nurse, Suka, who lives with me, always
calls for me. It is best like that, please."

He was curiously disappointed but he recognised a certain inflexibility
in her tone and manner which he made no attempt to combat.

"Very well," he agreed. "Will you give me your address? And within a
week I will ask you to meet me. By that time I will give you a definite
answer to send to your brother."

She scribbled on the piece of paper which he handed to her.

"You want my piece of rock?" she asked as she returned it.

He shook his head.

"I do not even ask you for the sketch, the little map of the place it
was found," he replied. "All I would ask you is to keep away from that
wretched fellow Treyer."

She laughed quietly as she rose to her feet.

"It will be very difficult. He is like a crazy man about my piece of
rock."

"Don't trust him a yard," he begged, walking with her towards the dais.

"I think," she said quietly in a tone which was still emotionless but
very soft and pleasant to listen to, "I shall believe nothing he says. I
am beginning to feel more kindness about you. I will trust you, if you
wish, with my piece of rock."

Again he shook his head.

"Keep it to yourself," he advised, as he turned away from the platform
with a little bow of farewell.

Beverley, with those restless, unpleasant eyes watching him from the
other side of the room, sent for his bill a few minutes after Marya had
left him. Treyer did not hesitate for a moment. He crossed the floor
and stood before Beverley's table. He spoke English fluently but with a
thick guttural accent.

"I believe," he said, "you know who I am. You are Mr. Nigel Beverley of
the Klast Mine?"

"I am," Beverley acknowledged.

"With your permission I will join you for a short time."

"I regret very much but I am on the point of leaving," was the cool
reply.

"It is a matter of business which I wish to discuss with you," Treyer
insisted doggedly.

"It must be another time, then, if at all. I am quite unaware of there
being any business which we could discuss."

Mr. Treyer drew himself up to his full height, which was very
considerable, for he was a long and lanky person. He withdrew his
glasses, blinked for a moment and continued.

"I wish to know what steps you are taking," he said, "with reference to
this new discovery of bauxite in Orlac."

"Has there been any discovery?" Beverley enquired.

"The young man Mauranesco," Treyer went on, "the brother of the girl who
is playing in the orchestra here, claims to have found distinct traces
of it in the northern part of the kingdom. You probably know that as
well as I do. It is a matter of serious importance to you."

Beverley paused for a moment while he received change from the waiter
and handed him his very munificent gratuity.

"I have heard something about it," he admitted. "I cannot see, however,
that we have any mutual interests in the matter."

Mr. Treyer was evidently becoming angry and it did not improve his
appearance.

"What you say is foolish," he declared. "You know quite well that your
interests will be seriously affected."

"You speak as though you were aware of the terms of the royal concession
and the charter to my company," Beverley observed.

"I am," was the harsh reply, "and I know very well that if bauxite is
found in any other part of the country it will not come under your
charter and it will bring the price down fifty per cent. I was at the
meeting to-day. Patting yourselves nicely on the back, were you not,
about that concession out of which you cheated me? Something like five
hundred thousand pounds' profit on the first year's working. You will
have to halve that, Mr. Beverley, if Rudolph Mauranesco's discovery is a
genuine one."

"Maybe," Beverley admitted. "On the other hand, I scarcely see that it
is a matter of profitable discussion between you and me."

"I will point out why we should discuss it," Mr. Treyer rejoined with a
little snort. "I will sit down for a few minutes.

"Just as you please," Beverley replied. "The table is at your disposal.
I myself am just leaving."

There was a moment's silence. Treyer was struggling with his obvious
irritation. Beverley was fastening up his pocket-book.

"So that is to be your attitude?" Treyer demanded harshly.

"Did you expect anything else?" was the curt retort. "You fought us
hard to obtain a share in the concession we are holding. We declined
negotiations with you then and your offer to help finance the business.
We are in the same position to-day. That's all I have to say to you, Mr.
Treyer."

"Sit down for a few minutes," the latter urged. "I have a suggestion to
make."

Beverley shook his head.

"If you wish to sit here pray occupy my table," he begged. "I am leaving
now."

He nodded to the waiter, spoke a gracious word of farewell to the _maitre
d'hôtel_ who was hovering by, and left the place without another glance
at Treyer. The latter stood quite still for several moments watching his
departure. His lips seemed to have receded still more. There was an
unpleasant light in his eyes as he returned to his table, his hands
behind his back, his stoop more pronounced than ever.



CHAPTER VI

A DARK, olive-complexioned young man, good-looking but with a somewhat
fatigued expression, turned from the window of the sitting room where he
had been gazing over the Place Vendome to greet the visitor whom his
servant was announcing. He wore tweeds which were obviously of English
extraction. He was exceedingly well turned out and he possessed an air
of distinction. His attitude was friendly but guarded.

"It is Mr. Nigel Beverley, I am sure," he said, holding out his hand.

Beverley drew himself up and bowed before he advanced and accepted the
salutation.

"It is very kind of Your Majesty to remember me."

"Not at all, not at all," was the genial reply. "Sit down, please. My
secretary has, I trust, informed you of the condition I made when
consenting to receive you."

"Certainly, sir," Beverley acquiesced. "I shall obey your wishes
strictly. So far as I am concerned your incognito shall be rigidly
preserved."

"I am entered in the hotel books here as 'Mr. Nicolas,'" he said. "An
occasional 'sir' I do not mind, but here in Paris Mr. Nicolas is my
name."

"You may rely upon my discretion," Beverley assured him.

The young man passed his cigarette case.

"I have the ill fortune," he confided, "to rule over a thankless people.
They do not understand that even a king needs relaxation. Orlac is a
beautiful country, but to live in all the time--impossible. We have had
very pleasant business connections, Mr. Beverley. What more can I do for
you?"

"I have come to ask you for another concession," Beverley announced.

Nicolas smiled wistfully.

"But my dear friend," he said, "I have nothing else in Orlac except the
palace itself worth tuppence. You hold already the concession for the
bauxite mine."

"Quite true, sir," Beverley admitted, "but our concession was framed in
the belief that the bauxite was to be found only in the particular
district where the present mine is situated. Whether it be a true or
false report I do not know yet, but I have had information that bauxite
has been found in another part of your kingdom."

There was no doubt about the young man's interest. He waved his visitor,
who was still standing, to a chair.

"Sit down, if you please, Mr. Beverley," he invited. "This is most
interesting. Would you be so good, I wonder, as to ring the bell?"

Beverley did as he was requested.

"How did you obtain this information?" Nicolas continued. "Where is this
bauxite? Is it on Crown Lands?"

"The information which has been handed to me," Beverley told him, "comes
from the sister of a young man who I understand is in prison. His name
is Mauranesco."

Nicolas shook his head.

"A bad lot, those Mauranescos."

"I know nothing of the family," Beverley went on. "The sister of the
young man has brought me a small fragment of rock which contains
distinct traces of bauxite. Her brother refuses to set down on paper
where it was found and his sister, I am convinced, does not know."

"And the young man is in prison?"

"So his sister tells me."

"Where is he confined?"

"In the city gaol at Klast."

"And the charge against him?"

"Stealing money from some tourists with whom he was travelling."

"What is his sentence?"

"It has another month to run."

Nicolas was thoughtful.

"Does anyone else know of this business?" he enquired.

"A German named Treyer," Beverley replied. "He endeavoured to obtain the
concession you graciously granted to my firm."

"A most unpleasant person," Nicolas declared. "Stop! An idea comes to
me."

The bell was at that moment answered.

"Send in my secretary at once," Nicolas ordered. "You will find him in
the ante-room. Also send here a bottle of Pommery '28, a bottle of
Scotch whisky and some soda water. Also ice."

The man bowed respectfully and departed. His place was taken almost
immediately by a young man of mournful appearance dressed with great
precision in sombre attire and wearing dark spectacles.

"My secretary, Baron Genetter, Mr. Beverley. You probably remember him."

The two men exchanged formal bows. Nicolas continued.

"Genetter," he said, "you had a letter the other day from a German who
asked for an interview. It was forwarded from Orlac. You replied?"

"I replied at your suggestion, sir, enquiring into the nature of his
business."

"Was there any further communication from him?"

"Yes, sir."

"You may speak before Mr. Beverley," Nicolas said shortly. "What did the
fellow want?"

"He wrote at great length, sir," the secretary replied. "He declared
that he had spent many months, on behalf of his Government, searching
for bauxite in Orlac and the surrounding countries. He believes that he
has been successful in finding traces of it in an utterly unsuspected
portion of our country. Before he proceeds further he wishes for an open
concession."

"This is very interesting," Nicolas murmured. "You heard that, Mr.
Beverley? Very interesting."

"Without a doubt," Beverley agreed. "The only thing is, sir, I hope you
won't deal with this fellow Treyer. He is not a nice person at all."

Nicolas coughed.

"That is possible," he admitted, "but frankly I agree with the old
commercial saying: 'Business is business.' You do also, I am sure."

"Perfectly," Beverley replied, "with the right people. With the wrong
people it may lead to disaster. Whilst your secretary is here, sir, may
I in one or two words explain the suggestion I have come to make?"

"By all means," Nicolas acquiesced graciously. "That commits me to
nothing."

"If the concession which you granted to my company, sir, had been drawn
up in a grasping spirit, its conditions would have embraced bauxite in
the Kingdom of Orlac wherever found, and this discovery would simply
have made our own deal with you the more profitable. We asked for the
concession, however, only upon the Klast Mine, and the immediately
surrounding country near the capital. I think, therefore, that I am not
unreasonable when I ask now for an extended concession to include any
bauxite found in any other part of the country."

Nicolas' eyebrows were faintly raised.

"That wants thinking over," he remarked. "What do you say, Genetter?"

"I should ask Mr. Beverley what his company is prepared to pay for the
extended concession," was the discreet reply.

"Excellent," Nicolas approved with a happy smile. "Well thought of,
Genetter. An extended concession--er--cannot be granted without
consideration."

The waiter entered with wine in a cooler, a bottle of whisky, soda water
and a further silver pail full of ice.

"I should like," Nicolas proposed, "to offer you some refreshment, Mr.
Beverley."

"You are very kind, sir. I will take a whisky-and-soda, if I may."

Nicolas himself took a tumblerful of champagne. Beverley mixed his own
drink. The waiter left the room. Nicolas leaned back in the easy chair,
crossed his legs and lit a fresh cigarette. For a moment his expression
was slightly spoilt by an avaricious gleam in those uncannily large
eyes.

"I should like to put the matter to you in this way, sir," Beverley went
on. "When you granted my company the present concession we only asked
that it should apply to the small area of land round the then extinct
Klast Mine."

"Just so," Nicolas agreed, "and that is all we granted."

"Very greatly to your financial benefit," Beverley remarked, "if it
should turn out that Mauranesco's claim is a true one. I am here now to
suggest that you give my company a further concession upon bauxite or
any similar mineral discovered in any part of the country upon Crown
Lands."

"This requires consideration," Nicolas declared.

"The Mauranesco find may not be on Crown Lands at all," Beverley
reminded him. "In that case, sir, we should ask you to use your
influence with the owners of the land and the Government to grant the
concession to us. There's no other way in which it could be made
profitable, as there is no machinery in the kingdom except ours, and no
skilled labour."

Nicolas smoked his cigarette thoughtfully for a moment or two.

"How does that strike you, Genetter?" he asked the silent figure in the
background.

"It would be interesting to know the first advance sum Mr. Beverley
proposes to pay for the preliminary agreement if the Mauranesco
discovery should prove to be genuine."

Beverley nodded.

"I will make you an offer at once," he agreed: "Provided you, sir, give
a letter promising to use your influence with Parliament to grant us the
concession on the same terms as the existing one, we should be willing
to advance at once the sum of twenty-five thousand pounds."

"And supposing," Nicolas reflected, "that the Mauranesco reported find
should turn out to be a mistake, or that my Government, say, refused to
accept my advice as to how it should be disposed of?"

"In that case it would be open to Your Majesty to return us the
twenty-five thousand pounds; or failing that we should lose the money."

"A speculation."

"Precisely--a speculation."

"I do not think," Nicolas said blandly, "that you would get the
twenty-five thousand pounds back."

"It would be the fortune of war," Beverley acknowledged.

The door was suddenly thrown open. A young woman of exceedingly
seductive appearance entered. She wore a beautifully tailored suit which
had the unmistakable Parisian cachet; her hat, her coiffure, her fur and
the small etceteras of her toilet were faultless. She made her way over
to Nicolas, who had risen at once at her entrance.

"My dear Katarina!" he exclaimed with a slight note of remonstrance in
his tone.

She stretched out her hands.

"I regret," she apologised. "When I found the Baron was not in his room
I thought that you and he would be alone. I have been walking in the
Bois and it was very tiresome. Do I disturb anything of importance?"

"It is business which we discuss," Nicolas admitted, "and it is business
of an exceedingly interesting nature. Mr. Beverley, I have the pleasure
to present you to Madame Katarina."

She nodded pleasantly. There was a flash of welcome in her dark eyes.
She was flamboyant but magnificent. Beverley bowed and placed a chair
for her. She seated herself, however, on the arm of Nicolas's fauteuil.

"In a way your arrival is opportune," the latter went on. "Tell me,
Katarina, do you think we could find a use for twenty-five thousand
pounds?"

She threw out her hands in ecstasy.

"Who is it that makes this glorious suggestion?" she exclaimed, speaking
in French with a somewhat curious accent.

"It is I, Madame," Beverley replied. "I have made a proposition to
His--to Mr. Nicolas."

"Twenty-five thousand!" she repeated. "Why, _mon petit_," she went on,
caressing his arm, "it is the one thing we need to make us perfectly
happy--a little more money. Twenty-five thousand pounds! Four million
francs! It would mean another fortnight here in happiness. Who is this
good angel, my beloved?"

"This gentleman owns the company who bought the concession of the Klast
Mine," Nicolas told her.

"A rich Englishman!" she exclaimed with a glance at him which was almost
a caress. "How I love them all! Monsieur Beverley, I agree...What I say,
he does," she went on, patting her lover's arm. "What do we do to secure
these twenty-five thousand pounds?"

"Very little," Nicolas admitted. "But we might have to give them back
again if it turned out that a certain rumour was false."

"Oh, la la!" she cried scornfully. "Monsieur Beverley would take the
risk about our paying it back. Money is so easily spent in Paris. One
buys this and one buys that. The money is gone directly. How can one
give it back? Monsieur Beverley is too generous, I am sure," she added
with another wonderful flash of her eyes as she looked towards him, "t6
expect such a thing."

"Madame," Beverley rejoined with a little bow, "I look upon it as
extraordinarily improbable that I should ever be put in the painful
position of having to ask you for the return of this money we speak of."

She turned to Nicolas.

"I think I like your Englishman," she confided. "He is not so serious as
most of them. He has what they call a twinkle in the eye. Monsieur
Beverley, will you give me a glass of champagne?"

Beverley, with a glance towards Nicolas, who gave solemn assent, filled
a glass and presented it to the lady. Her eyes, beautiful
notwithstanding the obvious art of the specialist, again flashed
wonderful things into his.

"You drink, too," she insisted. "We make a toast."

"We three," she added, as though suddenly remembering Nicolas.

Beverley raised his tumbler courteously and backed a few steps away.

"To the money which will arrive," Katarina declared, lifting her glass.
"To the happiness it will bring. To that emerald pendant which reposes
still in the establishment of Cartier. That is a good toast. Monsieur,
is it not?"

Beverley drank discreetly. Nicolas whispered something to Katarina. She
pulled his ear and laughed softly.

"Might I suggest, sir," Beverley ventured, "that you talk over my
proposition with the Baron Genetter, your secretary here, and with
Madame, and that afterwards you and she will give me the pleasure of
dining with me this evening in my apartments or anywhere you choose. You
can give me your answer then. I will have a notary in attendance and the
business can be finished--"

"But the money!" Katarina interrupted breathlessly.

"I will pay over the money upon the signature of the document drawn up
on the lines I have suggested," Beverley promised.

"It is an amazing idea!" she exclaimed. "We accept, do we not, my little
one? It is a dinner which I shall eat with an appetite."

Nicolas was not quite so quick in making up his mind. There was
something of interrogation in that swift glance which flashed between
Genetter and himself. The pressure of Katarina's fingers upon his arm
was, however, almost compelling.

"Thank you, Mr. Beverley," he said. "We will accept your invitation, and
at present I see no reason why we should not bring the affair to the
conclusion you suggest. Under existing conditions," he added with a
slight cough, "we do not appear in the restaurant. We dine only
privately. Your apartment, therefore, in the hotel would be desirable."

Katarina indulged in a gesture of disappointment.

"Where is the pleasure of my new gowns and that divine ermine cape if we
are to dine privately all the time?" she demanded.

Nicolas had recovered something of his dignity.

"We are the victims of what amounts almost to a prosecution from the
Press just now," he explained to Beverley. "I have a great objection to
figuring continually in the chief picture papers, which I regret that
your Western culture tolerates. It will suit us better to dine alone
with you. Shall we say at nine o'clock?"

"That will be admirable," Beverley acquiesced. "My suite is on the third
floor--Number Seventy-one. I shall expect you, sir, and Madame," he
added with a little bow, "at that hour."

Bowing again in farewell, he passed through the door which the secretary
was holding open. Katarina's eyes followed him to the last moment, then
she threw herself into the arms of her companion.

"But it is marvellous, this," she cried. "What a wind of good chance to
have blown this solemn Englishman across the Channel with his pockets
bursting with money! Twenty-five thousand pounds! Do you realise what
this means to us, my beloved?"

"Realise it? Of course I do," Nicolas, who was regretting very much that
Katarina had not extended her walk for another mile or so, replied. "But
you must remember, little one, we have debts."

"Pooh!" she scoffed. "The Englishman must pay them."

"What do you think of it, Genetter?" Nicolas asked, turning to the
melancholy figure standing looking out of the window.

"The man Beverley," Genetter replied, "knows more than he tells us.
Still, I do not believe that there is any more bauxite in the kingdom."

"In that case," Nicolas reflected, "the sooner I sign this new agreement
and touch the money the better!"



CHAPTER VII

It was towards the pleasant hour of seven o'clock that Nigel Beverley,
having dealt with a considerable amount of telephoning and having made
all his arrangements for the impending banquet, was enjoying a little
well-earned repose stretched out upon his divan in the salon of his
suite at the Ritz. From the adjoining room, where the valet was
preparing his bath, came the pleasant sound of running water. On a small
table by his side was a gleaming cocktail shaker, a half-filled glass
and a box of cigarettes. He had just lit one of the latter and opened
the evening paper when a slight sound at the door disturbed him. The
handle was quietly turned. There was no knock but the door itself was
opened and closed stealthily. It was Madame Katarina who had crossed the
threshold, Madame in an exquisitely fashioned but daring neglige of
black crepe georgette. Beverley sprang to his feet.

"Madame!" he exclaimed, and there was distinct alarm in his voice.

She laughed at his embarrassment.

"My dear Mr. Englishman," she remonstrated. "Why do you look so
terrified? My suite is in the next corridor. I prepare myself soon for
your wonderful dinner. I pass your door. I open it and come in. Why not?
A leetle moment's conversation."

"But Nicolas--" Beverley began.

"Oh, la la!" she interrupted. "Am I a fool? Nicolas has gone to the Turf
Club. Every afternoon he takes his first aperitif there. You do not wish
to have a word with me--no? And perhaps a cocktail," she added, glancing
at the tray.

Beverley was swift to make up his mind. He accepted the situation,
although without enthusiasm, and rang the bell.

"Ah, but you must not do that," she cried.

"It is for another glass," he pointed out.

"Stop the waiter," she insisted. "I drink out of yours."

Beverley made his way to the next room and dispatched the valet to
intercept the waiter.

"It is arranged," he reported when he returned.

She looked up at him, her left hand at her hip, a flavour of mockery
upon her lips, invitation flowing from her eyes.

"Good," she said.

She threw herself upon the divan. He filled his glass and passed it to
her. She drank half its contents and handed it back.

"Mr. Beverley, this is a business visit. You wish that?"

"At your discretion, Madame," he replied.

"My discretion? Well, there is something I must say to you. Come a
little nearer to me."

He was seated on the head of the divan and he glanced towards the
bathroom, from which the sound of running water had ceased. He ignored
her request.

"Let us proceed with the business," he suggested with an easy smile.

"You like me here, yes?"

"I am more flattered than I can tell you, dear Madame," he assured her.
"My apartment has never been more honoured and the rose pink lining of
your _négligée,_ is the most amazing flash of colour I ever saw."

"That is more human," she declared with a gratified smile. "An hour or
so ago you were so stiff and hard. Almost I made up my mind not to come,
but it was necessary. You and I, my dear friend, should have an
understanding. Why not? You want something from Nicolas. Nicolas--well,"
she went on with a little gesture, "he is my man, my slave. What you
want you can have. But there is me," she concluded, tapping herself with
her long fingernails.

"I am puzzled," he admitted.

"So simple. Listen. The twenty-five thousand pounds for Nicolas, that is
good. But what for me? He will consent if I say so. He will say 'no' if
I bid him."

"Madame," Beverley said, "I admire very much your plain-spokenness. To
tell you the truth, that twenty-five thousand pounds is something of an
offer, considering I honestly do not believe that there is any more
bauxite in Orlac. Still, if Madame would accept--"

"A further twenty-five thousand," she murmured. "In notes--quietly and
secretly."

"You take my breath away," he confessed.

"I might do that," she meditated. "It would be pleasant--yes? At any
rate, the twenty-five thousand pounds would be the seal of our
friendship."

"Madame Katarina," he regretted, "I could not give you twenty-five
thousand pounds."

Her eyes seemed to dilate as she looked at him. Her expression changed
into one of pained surprise.

"You do not wish--" she hesitated, "you do not wish to give me
twenty-five thousand pounds?"

"I will not insult Madame by saying it is too large a sum," he rejoined,
"but I cannot pay it."

She beckoned him to her.

"For one moment," she invited.

He shook his head.

"Alas," he replied, "I dare not. If the door should open, all chances of
my concession from Nicolas would disappear."

"Idiot!" she laughed. "I have told you that Nicolas is safely away."

"No man is safe from turning up at any time when he has so wonderful a
jewel to guard," he sighed.

"Oh, how much better!" she exclaimed. "I could almost let you off--a
leetle--only a very leetle--of the twenty-five thousand pounds for such
a sweet speech. Would you be happier if I had twenty?"

"Madame," he said, and he spoke with mock seriousness into which he
contrived to impart a certain amount of intensity, "there is a certain
sum which in notes could be placed secretly in your handbag at any place
or any time to-morrow. That sum could be no more than a compliment. It
is inadequate--I know it--it does not deserve even a smile from your
lips, a kind glance from your eyes. I know that, too. But alas, bankers
are hard people."

"The sum is--how much?"

"Five thousand pounds."

She knotted the little handkerchief with which she had been toying and
threw it at him. He caught it and placed it in his breast pocket.

"You are the rudest man I did ever meet!" she exclaimed.

"It is not my will," he assured her.

"You offer me--what did you say?--ten thousand pounds?"

"Five thousand," he corrected her gravely. "It is nothing--I know that
full well, but remember it is only to purchase just a shadow of good
will, just that your fingers guide the fingers of Nicolas at the foot of
the deed which my notary will present to-night. Sorrowfully I repeat
that it is a compliment only. You will owe me nothing when the deed is
signed."

She drew a long sigh. He was a hard one, this Englishman.

"I am humiliated," she declared. "I am very, very sad. I am perhaps
getting old. Am I losing my looks, Monsieur Beverley? Is it my charm
perhaps that has gone? I have not what you Westerners call glamour? It
is that, perhaps. I do not please you."

"Am I the only one," he asked, "who would hesitate at the idea of
following in the footsteps of the King?"

"It does not flatter you?"

"At such a time, at this particular moment when I am asking--well--a
favour of Nicolas, I would not admit even to myself that I had ventured
to raise my eyes to his most precious possession."

She sat upright on the divan. The smile with which she was regarding him
had in it something of admiration.

"Mr. Beverley," she pronounced, "you are a very clever man. You are not
at all what I thought you--stupid. The five thousand pounds, if you
please, must be in English Bank of England notes. Later this evening I
will tell you how to deal with them. A packet perhaps addressed to my
woman, Madame Bonfils."

"Exactly according to your desires," he promised.

"And I am to be sent away?" she went on, rising unwillingly to her feet.

"If you could only guess," he sighed as he led the way to the door, "how
unwillingly."

She stopped short. Her arms were making a dangerous movement towards his
neck. He listened.

"It is the valet," he confided as he turned the handle of the door. "He
is back again in the bathroom."

She drew her négligée closely round her and walked on tiptoe with
exaggerated caution. As she passed him she looked up into his face. The
gesture, full of good nature, diabolically provocative, was the gesture
of a gaytine of the street. She smacked his cheek lightly and
disappeared.

Beverley, with a sigh of relief, rang for a messenger, scribbled a few
lines upon a card, handed the boy who presently appeared five hundred
francs and a note addressed to a florist.

"Red roses, stems at least two feet long," he ordered. "To Madame
Katarina, Suite Seventy-seven. Immediate. Ten francs for yourself--and
hurry."

The _chasseur_ smiled and took his leave. Beverley finished up the remains
of his cocktail, glanced at his watch, and put a further telephone call
through to Orlac.

At the end of a very excellently served miniature banquet Nicolas
dropped his bombshell.

"I am not quite sure," he said, speaking very slowly and very
distinctly, "that I like you as much as I thought I did, Mr. Beverley."

Beverley was more than a little startled. He looked across the round
table to where Nicolas was seated very upright in his chair, composed
and reserved in his manner up till then. His cheeks, however, were
flushed and there was a slight filminess about his eyes.

"Sorry to hear that, sir," his host replied. "What have I done to
offend you? Is the dinner not to your liking?"

"The dinner is well enough," Nicolas acknowledged, "but it is the effort
of the Ritz. All that you have to do is to pay for it. You are too fond
of your money, you Englishmen. You think of nothing else. You think you
can buy the world. Perhaps you think that you can buy Orlac, even--my
kingdom."

Beverley glanced across at Madame Katarina. From her first entrance into
the room he had been conscious of the slight change in her deportment.
She was wearing a plain white dress, no jewellery, but in her hand she
carried two or three very beautiful red roses tied up with ribbon. Her
gaiety of a few hours earlier, if it had not already gone, was very much
abated. She was apparently nervous. There was trouble brooding in her
eyes.

"Nicolas," she remonstrated, "my dear Nicolas! Why do you talk like this
to our friend Mr. Beverley? I am quite sure that he has done nothing to
deserve it."

"I am not convinced that he is an honest man," Nicolas said. "He is
trying to buy my Crown rights."

"What good are your rights to you except to sell?" Beverley asked
coolly.

"Twenty-five thousand pounds is not much money," Nicolas went on
solemnly. "I have an expensive companion. We have spent as much as
twenty-five thousand pounds in a month before now, have we not,
Katarina?"

"That was when you were more generous," she replied with a little laugh.

"If you have changed your mind, sir, about signing the concession,"
Beverley assured him, "I shall not press the matter. I can send the
notary away and we can postpone our discussion until my return from
Orlac."

Nicolas swallowed hard. When he spoke his voice was very slow but very
distinct.

"Your return from where?"

"Orlac," Beverley repeated. "I have been talking to my agent to-night in
the Grand Hotel at Klast. He tells me that he knows the district from
which this rumour of more bauxite has come."

"What difference does that make?"

"Only this," Beverley explained. "His opinion is that the bauxite,
should it exist at all, is to be found in a tract of country to the
extreme north and beyond the boundary of the Crown Lands."

"If your agent were here," Nicolas said, "I should throw him out of the
window."

"It would not be a wise action," Beverley observed drily.

Katarina had the air of one who was becoming alarmed. She leaned over
and laid her white fingers upon Nicolas' hand. Her voice was suddenly
soothing.

"Dear one," she murmured, "you are talking foolishly. You must remember
that Mr. Beverley is your host."

"This morning," Nicolas said, speaking with great deliberation, "I was
disposed to like Mr. Beverley. To-night I really am afraid that I
dislike him. How do you account for that?"

"Mr. Beverley has behaved very kindly to us," Katarina insisted.
"To-morrow you will be yourself again and you will regret this
foolishness."

"Not at all," Nicolas declared. "Mr. Beverley is not the man I thought
he was. He does not drink fairly. I have drunk nearly a bottle of wine
more than he has. I have drunk more than you two put together. I do not
like a man who will not drink glass by glass with me."

"Then you will never like me," Beverley confided. "I am not used to
drinking very much wine and I should never change my habits."

"Not even," his guest asked with immense gravity, "in the cause of
politeness?"

"Certainly not. In fact, to be quite candid with you," Beverley went on,
taking a bottle which had just been opened from the cooler and filling
his glass, "I am going to drink this and no more. I shall take a liqueur
brandy and that will be all for the evening. You, my guests, can do
precisely as you like. You will allow me--" he filled the woman's glass,
he filled Nicolas', then he replaced the bottle in the cooler. "There
are two more bottles in the room," he concluded, "and doubtless more
still in the cellar. Now, sir, I hope that you understand. I have in
this glass all that I am going to drink. If that is bad manners, then I
am a person with bad manners. Need that affect our business together?"

"Mr. Beverley is quite right," Katarina drawled. "Please do not be
stupid any longer, Nicolas. There is one more course of this wonderful
dinner to be served, I see," she added, glancing at the menu.
"Asparagus! Fresh asparagus from Genes, with Sauce Mousseline. Let Mr.
Beverley ring for the service of dinner to be resumed and afterwards
we will speak of business."

She put her arm around his neck. Nicolas unbent a little. Beverley
looked away as their embrace developed.

"What you say is all very well," Nicolas assented a minute or two later.
"It shall be as you wish, Katarina. I, too, like asparagus. This wine is
very good. I wish that I had not drunk so many aperitifs at the club."

Beverley rang the bell. One of the two waiters who, according to orders,
were outside the room, entered immediately. The service table with its
heating arrangements was wheeled in. The asparagus was served. Beverley
and Katarina indulged in a little casual conversation about the theatre.
Nicolas remained somewhat aloof. Coffee, fruit and cigars were placed
upon the table. The waiters once more disappeared. The _maitre d'hôtel_,
who had been superintending their operations, bent over Beverley's
chair.

"The gentleman whom you were expecting, sir," he announced, "is in the
ante-room."

Beverley nodded. The three were once more alone. The flush on Nicolas'
face had subsided but he was still apparently angry.

"So you are going to Klast, Mr. Beverley?" he asked.

"I had some thoughts of it," the other admitted, "You see, sir, if this
bauxite exists in conjunction with the magnesium in large quantities in
other parts of Orlac, my company must be in a position to control it. My
journey there, of course," he went on thoughtfully, "might be postponed
or even abandoned if you signed the clause which you will find in the
agreement that if these substances are found upon lands which are not
Crown Lands, you will use every effort to obtain a concession from the
Government on behalf of the Anglo-Orlacian Trust Company."

"Why should I do that?" Nicolas asked.

"Because if you do, the twenty-five thousand which I have been to some
trouble to procure this afternoon in English Bank notes, can be paid
over to you without delay. Otherwise it would be more prudent of us to
wait a short time and see if there is any credence to be attached to
this report."

Katarina gripped her lover's arm.

"Nicolas dear," she begged. "Please be sensible. Everything that Mr.
Beverley has said has been most fair. He does not propose to wait even
until he has found out where this mineral is to be found. He will pay
over the twenty-five thousand pounds in cash to-night. What a fete day
tomorrow will be for us!"

"I do not seriously think, sir," Beverley urged, "that anyone in the
world would make you so good an offer. It is simply because we are so
deeply interested in the new metal which we are turning out with the
help of bauxite that I have made it. You must remember that we have
already sent a commission of geologists and metallurgists to Orlac to
search for further deposits of this bauxite and they have discovered
none. When we come to look into the matter, therefore, it v/ill probably
turn out that there is not enough of it in this northern district to
make it worth our while mining it. In that case, you see, you will have
had money you would not have obtained in any other way. I am offering it
simply as an insurance against anyone else handling the stuff."

Nicolas had still the air of an obstinate and bad-tempered boy. Katarina
glanced meaningly at Beverley.

"Let me talk to him for a few minutes," she murmured.



CHAPTER VIII

Beverley left them together. He went into the adjoining ante-room,
chatted for a few minutes with Genetter and the notary, glanced through
and approved the agreement which the latter had drawn up, and ordered
the brandy. When he returned to the salon, however, it was obvious that
Katarina had not met with complete success. She was walking up and down
the room, and she had the air of one who was working herself into a
fury. Her hair was disarranged, her beautiful eyes red as though from
weeping. Nicolas was sprawling in his chair, his hands in his trousers'
pockets. His glass was empty.

"No longer," Katarina declared, "will I live with a man who behaves like
a fool. Do you hear that, Nicolas?" she went on, pausing by his chair.
"I have had enough of you. Everything between us is ended. I go to
London to-morrow. There you dare not follow me. I shall send a telegram
to Gunter, and he can put the news in all the papers. The people of
Orlac can have their king back again if they want him. I have done my
best to keep him a reasonable person and make him happy. I have
finished."

Nicolas moved uneasily in his chair. He remained, however, silent.

"It is you, now, who talk like a fool," he said at last.

She literally shrieked at him. She stood before him with both her fists
clenched and something that was like murder in her eyes.

"Go and find another mistress to put up with you," she cried. "Easy
enough, you think. Go and try! In a few days' time you will be calling
for me, and I swear before the Holy Virgin that I shall not come. If I
leave this hotel and you to-night I never, never return. Remember that,
Nicolas. You sign the paper that Mr. Beverley has prepared or we part."

There was, for the next few moments, a queer silence in the room.
Katarina stood between the two men, shaking from head to foot, her bosom
heaving, her eyes dilated, her gesture as she stood with her head thrown
back and her outstretched hand pointing towards Nicolas, superb. Very
slowly the latter rose to his feet. With his left hand he held the back
of the fauteuil, the fingers of his right stretched out for the brandy
bottle still upon the table. He half-filled his glass, raised it to his
lips and drained it to the last drop. Then he flung the glass upon the
carpet and pointed to the door.

"You can go," he said. "You know who you are and what you came from. I
will not let this gentleman into the secret. I am the ruler of my
country and no woman shall say that I lived to do her bidding. You can
go, Katarina. Do you hear?"

The change in her was curious. The passion seemed to die from her face
and disappear with a little shiver from her body. She stood still for a
moment as though she were listening to the echo of his words, then she
turned her back upon him. Her walk was dignified, her progress to the
door apparently unhurried, yet Beverley, although he sprang forward,
failed to reach it before she did. She turned the handle and passed out
without a backward glance, without a single word. Nicolas opened his
mouth as though to call after her. If he had had that intention, he was
too late. Beverley and he were alone in the room.

"What are you going to do about this, sir?" Beverley asked, breaking a
silence which was almost tragic in its intensity.

"I am going," Nicolas replied, resuming his seat and stretching out for
the brandy bottle, "to get drunk. I am a little drunk now. I am going to
get very much drunker. Sit down, my friend, and watch me. This stuff is
stronger than ordinary cognac. It is Armagnac, seventy years old. This
is what I think of it."

He raised the glass to his lips. Presently he set it down. His head had
been upturned to the ceiling and when he glanced across at the table the
bottle was gone. He turned upon his companion in cold fury.

"I'm sorry," Beverley said, interrupting his torrent of words, "but I do
not wish to see you commit suicide before my eyes. Besides, I should
like a little of that Armagnac myself before you drink it all."

He poured himself out a reasonable portion from the bottle, which he
then placed by the side of his chair. He sipped it with the air of a
connoisseur, and set down his glass.

"Your Majesty," he began with a sudden change of tone, "forgive me if I
ignore for a moment your incognito. This is not the way for a person of
royal birth to dismiss a woman who has at any rate served him to the
best of her ability, who has been his companion for many years--very
probably his faithful companion--"

"Who knows about women?" Nicolas interrupted.

"None of us, happily," Beverley continued. "What does that matter? Your
romance is known everywhere. It will remain an ugly spot in your life if
Madame leaves here in anger, driven out by your cruel words."

"She leaves at her own desire," Nicolas muttered.

"She does nothing of the sort," Beverley contradicted. "She leaves
because you have scouted her advice, because you have drunk too much
wine in her presence, because you have treated her not as a comrade but
as a woman you might have found at a _café chantant_. Madame Katarina is a
world-famed diva. Her talent has made her known throughout Europe. She
has earned the right to be treated with respect, even by a king."

Nicolas staggered to his feet. His fists were clenched and he seemed
about to spring at Beverley.

"Who are you to come here and address me in this fashion?" he enquired.
"You--an English merchant--a huckster of money! Do you know that you are
speaking to a king?"

"Quite well," was the quiet reply, "and no one regrets the necessity of
my words more than I do. Your Majesty, I beg you once more to leave that
brandy alone, to pull yourself together, to find Madame in her apartment
and offer her your apologies. As for my concession, you can sign it or
not as you will. If you have twenty-five thousand pounds to throw away
do so. There may come a time when you will regret it but that is of no
consequence. I give you good advice. In a few minutes you may be too
late. It doesn't take a woman long to leave her temporary home when she
has been insulted and hurt by her protector."

"What do you know about my affairs?" Nicolas demanded.

"Nothing," was the frank reply. "Except for an hour in the palace at
Klast I know nothing of you. I have never spoken to Madame Katarina
before in my life. I read few newspapers, the gossip of Courts lies
outside my life. But to-day I have heard a man talk to a woman, I have
seen that woman suffer and it is enough."

"That will do," Nicolas declared. "You had better leave me now. As
regards this paper you want me to sign, Genetter can see to it. I will
place the matter in the hands of my counsellors."

"You will pardon my reminding you," Beverley pointed out, "but it is not
for me to go, sir. These are my apartments and you are at the moment my
guest."

Nicolas shrugged his shoulders.

"I suppose you are right," he admitted moodily. "You have given me, at
any rate, an excellent dinner, Mr. Beverley, and the Armagnac is
wonderful. I have changed my mind about getting drunk. There is a
certain amount of wisdom in your advice."

Beverley sprang to his feet.

"You will allow me," he begged.

He took a glass from the table and poured into it a little of the
Armagnac. He handed it to Nicolas and bowed, then he filled his own
glass.

"It is indeed a wonderful beverage," he said. "I am scarcely an epicure
in these matters but the _maitre d'hôtel_ told me that you preferred it to
any of their brandies."

"He was right," Nicolas declared. "I drink to your good health, Mr.
Beverley, and I offer you my thanks--"

It was a suspended toast. The door was quietly opened and left open.
Katarina entered the room. She was wearing travelling clothes, a quiet
hat with a half-veil. Upon the threshold behind her stood her
grey-haired maid carrying a large dressing case and also attired for a
journey. Katarina, without a glance towards Nicolas, came over to
Beverley and held out her hand.

"You will excuse all that has happened, Mr. Beverley?" she begged, with
an undernote of dignity in her tone. "You know I am half a gipsy. You
know how hard it is to resist when one is driven into madness. Forgive
me and--good-bye."

Beverley lifted her fingers to his lips. She turned away still without a
glance towards Nicolas, who was standing watching her, tense and
breathless.

"Is this journey necessary, Madame?" Beverley asked.

"It is necessary," she replied. "I have places on the boat to London.

"We shall probably meet later."

She was very pale, her voice was very quiet. There seemed to be an
unnatural restraint about her manner and her movements. She turned to
the door to find Nicolas standing in the way. Even then she did not
raise her voice.

"You will be so kind as to permit me to pass," she said.

"Not I!" he answered fiercely. "Where are you going?"

"It is no longer your affair."

There was another breathless moment. Katarina was like the wan shadow of
a woman, her eyes sad and without lustre, all the life apparently gone
from her tone and movements. The splendid vitality of her ardent
feminism seemed to be a dead thing. Nicolas, on the other hand, was like
a man awakened into fury. The slight heaviness of feature had gone. He
leaned towards the woman and Beverley for a moment was afraid that he
was about to strike her.

"You lie!" he cried savagely. "You are my affair and will be till you
die!"

He took her suddenly into his arms. With his right hand he tore the hat
from her head and flung it to a distant corner of the room. The fur cape
he sent after it. She lay in his arms utterly passive, as v/hite as
death and speechless. He held her so closely to him that a little shiver
of pain passed through her body.

"Get back to your room," he ordered the maid. "Unpack everything. Wait
there for your mistress. Close the door after you. Do you hear?"

The woman went. Nicolas turned to Beverley. His other arm was around
Katarina now.

"Listen," he said, "go to your notary. Wait there. In ten minutes I will
be with you."

Beverley hesitated. Nicolas had the air of a man who was holding himself
in with a terrific effort.

"You will remember that you are hurting her," he ventured.

For a moment there was an ugly pause. Katarina half-opened her eyes. Her
left arm, which was hanging limply by her side, was drawn up. She
pointed vaguely to the door.

"If I could breathe," she murmured.

Nicolas relaxed his hold.

"You had better go," she said to Beverley. "I am not afraid. He will not
hurt me."

Beverley hesitated yet again, then he made his way to the door. He
seemed to be already forgotten. Nicolas was carrying the girl in his
arms towards the fauteuil. The fury had left his face. He was looking
anxiously into her half-opened eyes. Beverley passed silently out of the
room.

In a very little more than the ten minutes for which he had asked,
Nicolas presented himself in the ante-room where Beverley had just
finished reading the agreement. He had not in the least the appearance
of a man who had passed through an emotional crisis. On the other hand,
his manner was a little distrait.

"You have read through the agreement?" he asked Beverley.

"I have just finished, sir. With one slight alteration which the notary
has effected it is satisfactory."

"And the sum of money you mentioned?"

"Is here," Beverley pointed out, producing a packet.

Nicolas tossed it over to Genetter, who had been talking to the notary.

"Count that, Genetter," he enjoined. "Quickly."

"Will you read the agreement yourself," Beverley asked, "or would you
like me to read it--or the notary?"

"Myself," was the prompt reply. "Give it to me."

He threw himself into an easy chair and began to read swiftly, turning
over the pages one by one. In five minutes he had finished. He asked no
questions whatever.

"Give me a pen," he demanded. "Good. Where do I sign?"

The notary became a person of importance. He pointed out exactly where
the signature must be, affixed the seal and signed himself with many
flourishes of the pen.

"An independent witness is an advantage," he confided.

Beverley also signed. The document was replaced in the envelope and he
thrust it into his pocket.

"In English money," the Baron announced, "one finds here twenty-five
thousand pounds."

"Put it into the safe behind my bed," Nicolas ordered. "You understand,
Genetter? It is not a sum I care to carry about with me. Our business is
now, I believe, completed."

The notary took his leave. Beverley and his guest were alone for a
moment.

"Madame begs that you will excuse her reappearance," Nicolas said. "She
has gone to her apartments."

"She has, I hope, abandoned her intention of leaving Paris?"

"Absolutely. You must not take that little scene too seriously. The lady
has a wild and turbulent disposition. I myself am not exactly
Anglo-Saxon in my temperament. Affairs like that, however, pass. She is
particularly desirous for me to express her thanks to you for your
entertainment this evening. I am to conduct you to her apartment for
that purpose. She will not detain you for even so long as five minutes."

"A pleasure," Beverley murmured.

Nicolas led the way down the corridor and into a small suite looking out
on the Place Vendome. He knocked at the door. It was instantly opened by
the maid.

"In five minutes," he said, "I will return."

"I promise that I will have taken my departure."

Katarina appeared suddenly upon the threshold of her salon. She drew
Beverley in and closed the door.

"He has signed?" she asked eagerly.

"He has signed," Beverley replied. "The agreement is in my pocket."

"And for me?"

"The little affair we spoke of is here."

She almost snatched the envelope from his hand. She bent dovvn to get a
better light from the shaded lamp, tore open the envelope and counted
its contents quickly. Then she drew out a jewel case from her wardrobe,
unlocked it, concealed the envelope underneath one of the trays, locked
it again, and replaced it. She turned to Beverley. Except that her hair
was out of place and that she had changed her travelling gown for a
négligée, she showed no signs of her recent emotion.

"But he is difficult, that one," she sighed, holding Beverley's wrist.
"Listen, you have paid him the twenty-five thousand pounds?"

"Every penny of it."

"In Bank notes?"

"That is so."

"Thank you. Now listen. This may not be the end of your troubles,
although you think it is. Will you keep this envelope that I shall give
you?"

"Naturally."

She wrote down a name, blotted the envelope and passed it to him. In the
corner she had made a scrawl which was utterly indecipherable. He
gathered that it was written in the language of her country.

"Put that away in your pocketbook," she enjoined. "If by any chance
there is trouble in Orlac, present that envelope to General Kara Bavan.
He is chief of the police at Klast. Say that I gave it to you. Say that
he is to be your friend. That is all. No more."

"I thank you very much," Beverley said, placing the envelope in his
pocketbook.

"You may never need it," she concluded, leading him towards the door,
"but you cannot tell. He is strange, indeed, that one," she repeated as
she opened the door and glanced down the corridor.

She held up her hand, Beverley touched it with his lips, and took his
leave.



CHAPTER IX

At half-past eleven on the morning of the fourth day after Nigel
Beverley's return to London from Paris, history in one small detail
repeated itself. At precisely that hour Miss Dent entered his private
office bearing a card in her hand. He glanced up at first without any
particular concern, then suddenly he became interested indeed. The card
which she was holding in her hand was of rather unusual but familiar
size. It was larger than the ordinary man's but smaller than the
woman's. From a somewhat bored condition of mind he found himself
suddenly galvanized into a state of acute anticipation. He took the slip
of pasteboard into his hand with a sigh of relief. His inspiration had
not failed him. There it was:--

Marya [Princess] Mauranesco And underneath in the two corners:--

Violinist, Grill Room, Restaurant, Germanic,

Germanic, 7 p.m.-10 p.m. 10.30 p.m.-12.

Nigel Beverley remained for a moment or two curiously silent. It seemed
hard to realise that it was only six days since her first visit. He
wanted to dwell on the fact that she was there, a few seconds away,
under the same roof. He had but to say the word and he would see her. It
was almost too good to be true. He had not broken one of those good
resolutions of his but he was about to see her.

"The young lady is outside?" he asked.

"It is the same young lady who was here the day of the meeting,
Mr. Beverley," his glib-tongued secretary told him. "She said
if you could spare a few minutes she would be so glad and she would not
keep you long. Perhaps I ought to remind you, sir, that you have an
appointment in ten minutes with Sir Theodore Marshall and at twelve
o'clock Mr. Hansell is calling with the prospectus of the new flotation.
He saw Lord Portington whilst you were away."

"You can show this young lady in at once," Beverley directed. "And Miss
Dent--"

"Yes, sir?"

"Her business is of some importance. If Sir Theodore is punctual you
must ask him to wait until I am free."

"Very good, sir."

It was astonishing how little his memory had failed him. When she came
in she was exactly as he had seen her in his imagination a hundred
times. There was the same shabby but tidy skirt, the unimportant hat,
more than balanced by the general sense of neatness and elegance which
gave her such an air of distinction. She was carrying the same handbag
and at the sight of the smile with which he welcomed her her own lips
relaxed. He rose and drew the visitor's chair a little closer to his
desk.

"I am delighted to see you again, Princess," he said quietly.

Nigel Beverley was a man who never used set phrases, a fact which his
caller seemed somehow to divine, for the slight stiffness of manner
which he remembered from her first visit had disappeared.

"It is kind of you to say that," she confided, seating herself. "I
wondered whether I should venture to come or send you a little note. I
liked better to come. It takes me a very long time to write a letter in
your language. And please, when you address me by name will you forget
the 'Princess'? Whilst I am in my present position it is not a suitable
title."

"Certainly," he agreed, "but what shall I call you?"

She considered the matter for a moment.

"Marya Mauranesco," she decided.

"Very well, Marya Mauranesco, I am very glad indeed that you are here,"
he assured her. "I was away for only one day and night. Last evening and
the evening before I very nearly came to the Germanic."

"Your visit would have made me happy," she said.

"But I should have lost the pleasure of welcoming you here. Tell me,
have you news from your country?"

"Not really news," she answered. "At least it did not come direct from
Orlac. It may not interest you at all, but I must tell you that that
strange man, the one with the funny coat who seemed to be all teeth when
he spoke--Herr Treyer--was in the grill room at the Germanic the night
after you left. He was somewhat troublesome."

"In what way?"

"He came and spoke to me when I wished to be left alone. He invited me
to come to his table, which I had no pleasure in doing; he asked to be
allowed to drive me home, which of course I could not permit. He spoke
all the time of this great new discovery of bauxite and magnesium in
Orlac."

"What had he to say about it?" Beverley enquired.

"He spoke of it as a secret, but a secret of vast importance," she went
on. "He said that it would mean great disaster for your country. That I
did not like and I told him so. He wanted very much to know where you
were. He has rung up your office here giving another name. He asked me
many times if I had not some idea why you were away from business."

"This," Beverley said, "is very interesting. I am so glad that you came
to tell me. I cannot tell you how glad."

She gave a little sigh of content.

"I am pleased," she murmured.

"Now I will tell you a great secret if you will promise not to tell Air.
Treyer," he confided.

She smiled scornfully.

"I shall not speak to him again at the Germanic," she assured him. "I
told Monsieur Berthou that he annoyed me that second evening, and he
will not be permitted to try and make conversation any more."

"A horrid fellow," Beverley observed. "I am glad you feel that way about
him. Now I will tell you my secret. I have been to Paris."

"Yes?"

"I have seen Nicolas."

"Yes?"

"If this new discovery of bauxite is on Crown Lands Nicolas has given me
the concession. If it is not on his own land he has signed a promise to
use his influence as regards the acquisition of the land and the mining
rights on our behalf."

"That was clever of you," she approved. "It was perhaps just in time.
Shall I tell you where Mr, Treyer has gone? He has gone to Orlac."

"That also is interesting," Beverley remarked.

"He thinks that I am keeping back from him what may be happening there,"
she went on. "He will get permission to see my brother. I think he wants
very much for his country to buy the land where this mineral is to be
found. Have you discovered yet whether it is on Crown Lands?"

"To tell you the truth," he admitted, "I have not. I telegraphed and
telephoned to the man whom I might call my agent there but so far he
seems to know nothing definite. His opinion is that it might come from a
district outside the Crown Lands, but exactly where he could not
surmise. During the last two or three days I have not been able to get
in touch with him, but that is probably because he has gone up north
prospecting. No one apparently but your brother knows the truth."

She nodded.

"He said that it was a great secret. He would not tell me where it was.
I should not think that he has told anyone. But for the accident of his
being in prison," she went on, with a touch of that marvellous naivete
which made everything she said so luminous, "I am sure that he would
have been here before now. I am very happy, Mr. Beverley, that you have
these promises from Nicolas, but I shall warn you of something."

"Please do," he begged.

"I do not trust Herr Treyer. He is not an honest man--except perhaps to
his own country."

Beverley nodded.

"And what else?"

"I must tell you this also," she sighed. "I do not like to tell you but
I think that you should know. I do not trust my brother, either."

Beverley looked at her keenly.

"You think that it is possible that he deceived you about that lump of
rock?" he asked. "It might have come from my own mine, you know. A lump
like that might have been picked up by any casual visitor."

"No," she said firmly. "I believe that he told the truth about that
piece of rock. I believe that it came from somewhere in the country a
long way from your mine but I do not know where. Rudolph knows. He will
not part with that knowledge unless there is money to be made by it. Now
I must go on and tell you this: I am afraid. Herr Treyer is a German. He
would do anything, even kill joyfully, for the sake of his country. My
brother is crazy with his hatred of poverty. He would commit any sin
willingly to escape from it."

"A dangerous combination," Beverley admitted.

She was silent for a few moments. Her eyes seemed to be fixed upon the
long slant of pale sunshine which had found its way into that sombre
office and lay across the rich Turkey carpet like a thin band of gold.
She raised her eyes to his unexpectedly.

"I wonder so much," she said, "why you, a rich man, can bear to spend
days of sunshine in this terrible City just to make more money."

"It is not always that," he explained. "Sometimes one has to work hard
to keep what one has."

"Your City is rather like a mimic battle-field. Everyone is struggling
to possess himself of his neighbour's goods. And after all," she
reflected, "it does not take much money to live happily."

The telephone rang and for a few minutes Beverley was involved in a mesh
of business. He was called upon to make a decision, an appointment for
one day was cancelled and another made, a thin, quiet voice spoke to him
from a capital on the other side of Europe. The girl sat and waited
patiently until he had finished.

"It is wrong of me," she said, rising to her feet, "that I take up so
much of your time. I felt that I must come and tell you that I am quite
sure my brother and Herr Treyer are planning something together that is
not good."

He waved her back into her place.

"Believe me, I am grateful," he said, "and what you are telling me is
important. I beg that you will not hurry away."

The door had been quietly opened. Beverley glanced across the floor to
find Miss Dent looking at him reproachfully from the threshold.

"Sir Theodore has already been here ten minutes, Mr. Beverley," she
announced.

He nodded a little curtly.

"If I am likely to be detained much longer," he said, "I will come out
and speak to him. Do not disturb me now until I ring."

The door was closed.

Marya shrugged her shoulders.

"That is the tone you used when you first spoke to me," she reminded
him. "I do not like it. You are very stern. It makes me shiver to hear
you speak like that. I was afraid to come this morning and then you
smiled and I was content. If you think I am telling you something silly
please will you promise not to speak to me like that?"

"I promise," he assured her.

"I lie awake," she continued, "and I think these things. Herr Treyer now
is very angry. You think that he is of no significance. I think that all
wicked people are dangerous. I ask myself what he could do to bring us
trouble."

Beverley was more than a little puzzled at her persistence but the girl
was at any rate in earnest. Besides, he liked having her seated only a
few feet from him. He liked to watch the slow and infrequent changes in
her expression, the light in those deep-set eyes, the glorious colour
and texture of that amazing hair. Her voice, too, with its curious
accent, was like a stream of melody and a joy to listen to.

"Don't hurry," he begged. "These people can all wait. I did a morning's
work during those few minutes at the telephone. Tell me really what is
at the back of that troubled frown of yours."

"You are so kind to me that the frown has gone," she smiled. "I
continue. I am quite sure that this German man has gone to Orlac. By
to-day he will be there. Rudolph is in prison, it is true, but in Orlac
it is very easy to see anyone who is in prison. They will talk together.
Herr Treyer will propose things. If they mean money, Rudolph will
hesitate at nothing. Herr Treyer, to obtain a supply of the mineral or
whatever it is his country needs, will be even more unscrupulous."

Beverley nodded gravely.

"It is very sweet of you, Marya Mauranesco," he said, "to take so much
interest in this matter, but even if it should turn out that bauxite and
magnesium are to be found in a distant part of the kingdom in a spot
upon which I have no claim, then it would take months, almost years, for
anyone to mine it should they acquire the rights."

"Shall I tell you what I have thought to myself might happen?" she
asked.

"Of course," he begged.

"The present premier, Lavaroko, is not a good man," she declared. "He
was a friend of Rudolph's before Rudolph disgraced himself. Even now he
has sympathy with him. There is a great deal of the wild country where
nothing will grow in Orlac which belonged to my family. It is worth
nothing for agriculture or building. Rudolph might claim it and there
would be no one to dispute with him. Lavaroko might support his claim
and my brother would give Treyer the right to take out this stuff."

"It does not sound very probable," Beverley told her.

"But listen," she persisted. "Lavaroko is like most of the people in my
country. He is poor but he is greedy for money. It is said everywhere
that he accepts bribes but he governs the country well so nothing has
been done. If the spot where the rock came from, which I have still in
my bag, was not found upon Crown Lands, it would be easy, with the help
of Lavaroko, to declare that the property on which it was found belonged
to the Mauranesco family."

"There would still be difficulties," Beverley reflected, glancing at his
watch. "Will you excuse me for a minute or two? I must go and speak to
this man who is waiting."

"Of course," she acquiesced, "but why not send me away? There is nothing
more that I can tell you. It is for you to act."

He shook his head.

"I would rather finish our conversation," he assured her.

He was back again in a quarter of an hour full of apologies. Marya
Mauranesco only smiled.

"It is I who should apologise," she said. "I take up too much of your
time. I can only speak slowly and I forget words."

"Considering that you have never been in the country before," he said,
"I think that you speak English wonderfully. Of course, the situation in
Orlac, as you have presented it, is complicated, but as I have told you,
I cabled and telephoned to a man who is on the staff of our mining
enterprise in Orlac only a few days ago, and begged him to make certain
enquiries. I have been expecting to get a report from him."

"What is his name, please?"

"Will Hayter," he told her, a little surprised. "It is not likely that
you have ever heard of him, though. He has rather an indefinite position
at the Klast Mine. I rather fancy that he must be prospecting
somewhere."

"I can tell you where he is," the girl said gravely. "He is in the same
prison as my brother."

Beverley looked at her in astonishment.

"Where on earth did you hear that?" he demanded.

"You could not read my brother's letter or I would show it to you," she
said. "He simply told me that they were all very excited in the
prison--that an Englishman named Hayter had been brought in on a serious
charge of espionage."

Beverley leaned back in his chair. He was genuinely disturbed.

"Espionage! Will Hayter!" he repeated. "The thing is preposterous. He
knows no more about foreign policies than the man in the moon!"

She shook her head.

"I tell you," she assured him, "exactly what my brother said in his
letter."

"If he's in prison this accounts for his silence during the last few
days," Beverley meditated.

"It is, I should think, a conspiracy," the girl decided. "Lavarokoj
Treyer and my brother have a scheme. Your man Hayter has been put out of
the way."

Beverley looked once more at his watch. There was a general shuffling of
footsteps and rattling of lift gates to be heard. He rose to his feet.

"You will lunch with me, please, Marya Mauranesco?" he invited.
"Afterwards we will talk over the situation seriously."

"I will lunch with you with great pleasure if it is a quiet place where
people will not look at my clothes," she assented. "I lunched with the
gentleman--Lord Portington--whose daughter you are to marry, the first
day I came. But I did not very much enjoy it. You will not offer to take
me shopping, I am sure."

"Not a hope," he told her as they left the room together. "You look
too nice as you are."



CHAPTER X

They lunched very quietly in a small Bohemian club quite close to
Shepherd's Market, from very simple food chosen by Marya, and drinking
_vin rosé_, which was the nearest thing she could find to the Carlowitz.
During the courses she spread out the letter she had received from her
brother and translated a few sentences:


I have a fellow prisoner here, dear Marya [she read]. He was brought in
last night. They call him a spy but what is there to spy about in this
stricken country? He was arrested in the Café Klast and as he could not
speak a word of the language, he seems to have lost his temper and
struck one of the agents of the police, who is reported to be dying. If
so, it will be a serious thing for him. He is an Englishman named
Hayter. If he came to spy I think he must have been hunting down that
crazy German, Treyer, who would sell his soul to find bauxite.

Write me at once to whom you have shown your specimen. Write all the
results. Get some money advanced if you can. Send me a part of your
salary--anything. I get not enough to eat and I have to beg even for my
cigarettes. See again the people in London who own the Klast Mine. When
I am free I can talk to them openly. They will part with the money
quickly enough. Treyer arrives to-morrow and is coming to see me. I hope
for money from him. No one knows when my appeal will be heard. I seem to
be forgotten. I lie here in sorrow and suffering. The few coins I have I
spend in sending you my letters by this wonderful new air service. They
should reach you in twenty-four hours. Do not forget, Marya, that you
are my sister...


She began again in another part of the letter but stopped suddenly.
There was a tinge of colour in her cheeks which he judged came from
shame. Before she put the letter away, however, she read him a
postscript:--


A messenger from Treyer has arrived. I was allowed to talk to him. He
has advanced money. I have wine and cigarettes and more food. I have
been allowed to go to the bath in the Governor's house. All these people
around me have changed. It is as though they were starved for a little
silver. Treyer is like an underground animal but he carries a purse. He
is a sly one. He knew about the man Hayter. I cannot help thinking that
he was at the bottom of the trouble in the café. If you are in
communication with the Klast Mine people find out why they sent Hayter
here prospecting and whether he has discovered anything. I believe
Treyer knows, but he is a fox, that man. The Germans are wonderful. What
they want they get. I do not like them, but never mind. If he has a
scheme, if he makes a proposition, I shall say "yes." Anything to get
back into the world, to see some lights and hear some music, to dance
once more with one of the little fairies from the cafes--but that is not
for you to hear about. Farewell.


She folded up the letter and replaced it in her bag.

"I think," she said deliberately, "that if you wish to make the best use
of those concessions you have obtained from Nicolas you should go out to
Orlac yourself and see what Treyer is doing."

He nodded.

"In a very few days," he told her, "I shall be there."

"And meanwhile?"

"I shall telephone to-night to our manager of the mine. How they ever
got Will Hayter into trouble I cannot imagine. Why does your brother
lean so much on you in his troubles, Mary a Mauranesco? Is there no one
else of your family to whom he can turn?"

"Not one soul left in the country except Sister Georgina, and she and my
brother do not meet," she answered. "For the rest, Russia, Austria,
America have swallowed up all our stricken race. What property they have
had which could be sold they have disposed of and they have spent the
money or taken it away with them. There are lands still, but they
produce nothing. Goats feed upon the slopes of the Mauranesco Mountains
but the land is fit for nothing else. Still, this man Treyer, he did say
strange things when he talked to me. He waited for encouragement to say
more but I gave him none. I think he has a scheme at the back of his
mind, but it is a bad scheme. It is a scheme of robbers. I think that is
why he has gone to see Rudolph."

Beverley continued his luncheon and remained deliberately silent for
several moments. Perhaps he was trying to analyse the curious sense of
pleasure which he felt when he was alone with this girl, listening to
her broken speech, to the words produced with so much hesitation yet
always with a note of music as though all her senses were attuned to
melody, and even in stumbling through the intricacies of an unknown and
difficult language, her tongue faltered rather than produce crude
sounds. What disturbed Beverley a little was the ease with which she
seemed to talk in confidence to him and yet remain so delicately and
completely aloof.

"Why are you being so kind to me?" he asked abruptly. "You search in
your mind all the time for the things which you think I ought to know."

She studied his words deliberately. It was as though she was turning
over his question in her mind.

"I myself seek for an answer to your question," she said at last, "and
really I do not know. No one has spoken to me in this country with whom
it gives me pleasure to exchange words or thoughts. I do not like the
people who come to the Germanic. As for yourself, I have always the
feeling that you wish to be kind. But please now we will make a change.
We will talk no more of my brother's sad state or of Orlac. Tell me
about yourself. Perhaps a little--yes?--of this young lady, the daughter
of your friend Lord Portington, whom you are to marry."

He had very little to say.

"You will see her picture in one of the illustrated papers most weeks,"
he confided. "She is very fond of social life, for which I have not much
time and for which I have no inclination at all."

"She is beautiful, I am sure."

"She is considered so."

"Clever, of course?"

"About things which interest her. She has a marvellous brain for
contract bridge and she has some knowledge, if not a great
understanding, of music."

"All the English young ladies are fond of games, are they not?"

"She hunts, plays golf, tennis--all quite well."

"You see her every day?"

"Heavens, no!"

He suddenly remembered that he had not caught even a glimpse of Ursula
since that morning when Marya Mauranesco had walked into his office.
Not that there was any connection between the two. That was ridiculous.

"You do not very much like to talk to me about her?" his companion asked
with a certain wistfulness in her tone.

"There is so little to say," he replied lamely. "I would like you to
know her but she is so thoroughly English that I think you would find it
hard to understand her outlook."

"But it must be a good outlook," the girl persisted. "You are going to
marry her. She has the qualities which you find most desirable for a
wife."

He laughed, not very naturally.

"Some day soon you must meet her. Then you will see that she is not very
easy to explain to anyone who has spent her early youth in a convent."

"Have you in the pocketbook a picture of her?"

He shook his head.

"I have a photograph of her portrait in last year's Academy," he said,
"but I don't carry it with me."

"Last year's Academy? What is that?"

"An exhibition of pictures," he explained. "I should not waste your time
going there, though. You should visit the National Gallery and the Tate,
and some of the modern shows."

"You must write down the pictures I should see, please."

"I'm afraid I am somewhat old-fashioned for a mentor," he sighed, "but I
will do my best. How do you spend your mornings and afternoons?"

"I make my own clothes," she told him. "Suka does all the mending but
she cannot do the fine work. Unless it is very cold I open the windows
wide and sit there even if I wear a coat. I listen to the many noises of
London and sometimes if I close my eyes I can hear the beating of
millions of feet upon the pavements. In the street where I live there
are few passers-by. That I do not mind. What I like, too, is to watch
the river when there is not too much mist. The strangest-looking ships
go up and down. At night, too, when the lamps are lit, the mist is
orange-coloured. Sometimes it is only a little way from the ground and
you see only the sails or the tall masts and they look as though they
were drifting through the air...Oh, the time passes. If there is not
trouble coming in Orlac, if only Rudolph would keep from doing evil
things, I am not so unhappy here."

"You don't like the people in the orchestra," he said. "Are you not
lonely?"

She looked at him for a moment and that queer little smile parted her
lips very slightly.

"I miss the convent a little but not very much, although my aunt, Sister
Georgina, was very kind to me. I always knew that existence there was
not even the commencement of life. Here, although I have so small a
share in it, I feel life all around me. Everything that I see makes me
think. I do not want anyone with me but Suka because I could not
explain. I feel but I feel for myself. I cannot share my thoughts. Soon
I shall speak English better, especially if you sometimes talk to me.
That would be better, of course. You must not go for a few moments," she
said. "I have not finished all that I wish to say to you."

"I am in no hurry," he assured her.

"Tell me please, who was the Prime Minister who signed your original
agreement with the King on behalf of the people?"

"Stephen Lavaroko--the same man who is in office now if he wins the
election."

"I do not think that he will," she confided. "I think that the
communist, Pravadia, will get in."

"Does that matter?" he asked.

"How should I know? I am really a very ignorant girl. I expect
everything is really as it should be, Mr. Beverley; but I am worried
when I think of the German, Treyer, who wants so much your bauxite and
magnesium--of Treyer and Rudolph together--and when I remember what
Sister Georgina used to tell me, so sadly, too, about the lawlessness in
the country."

"I don't think," he reflected, "that there's anything very much for us
to worry about yet, but I owe a great deal to the warning you gave me.
But for that, I should not have gone over to Paris; I should not have
obtained that further concession from Nicolas. I wish that I could think
of some way, Marya Mauranesco, in which I could show my gratitude."

"There is no way," she said calmly, "which would be agreeable to me."

"If you look at me as though you were going to be offended," he
complained, "I shall be miserable. You don't wish that?"

"No, I do not wish that," she admitted.

"But in your voice there was already a warning."

"You must remember please that the interest I have taken in your affairs
is just because you are the first person since I left Orlac who has
spoken to me kindly, and yet as I like to be spoken to. It would be all
spoilt if you were--well--to be like Lord Portington, to offer to take
me shopping."

"I have no idea of anything of the sort," he assured her. "What I might
have suggested, only I am not venturing to do so," he added quickly as
he saw her stiffen, "is simply that I think you have an amazing gift
with that violin of yours which you are not using to its full advantage
in an orchestra. There are academies in London which exist foi the sole
purpose of receiving pupils in the arts. You can only go to them if you
satisfy examiners that you are worth helping, and then, with the funds
which other artists have provided, you may be helped to study and not be
obliged to work in unhealthy places to earn a livelihood. Lady Ursula is
a patroness of one of these places. I myself know of others."

"I think that I understand what you mean," she said a little doubtfully.
"You would like to be what they call a philanthropist. It comes from
your good heart, I am sure, Mr. Beverley. So you see I am not angry. But
I shall accept help from no one in life. When I feel that I am likely to
die of starvation I shall go to the minister for our country. I shall
tell him that I am a Mauranesco and I shall beg him to make arrangements
to send me back to the convent. I can live there if I wish for the rest
of my life."

"It would be a sin," he declared.

Her silken eyebrows were lifted very slightly. Her eyes reproached him.

"It is not my idea of sin," she said gravely. "So now, please, Mr.
Beverley, I must thank you for my lunch and go back to Chelsea."

There was something so definite in her tone, so unyielding in that
barrier as delicate as though it were fashioned of the finest of lace
and yet as impassable as though it were of grimly wrought steel, that he
felt himself wordless and defeated. He was hurt but he was also afraid
of what strange action she might take if she even guessed at his
feelings. He hid his discomfiture behind a smile.

"I read not very long ago--since I have known you," he confided, "in
that great book of reference which we call the _Encyclopaedia Britannica_,
that the inhabitants of Orlac are noted for their stubborn independence.
Most mountain races are like that."

She smiled quietly and he knew that all was well.

"I am not so unreasonable as you seem to think," she said. "I shall ask
you sometime when you are sitting at your desk and you have a moment to
spare to write down the names of those picture galleries and to tell me
the pictures that I ought to see. Again, you can write out, if you will,
the name of the library where it will cost very little money, or even
none at all, to borrow books, and if there is anything you can tell me
about the real music in London, where it is to be found but not for too
much money, put that down, too."

"It will make me very happy," he assured her. "I see that you have some
heart after all. Presently I shall feel that I dare invite you to come
with me to hear Kreisler play the violin or to this new season of
Russian Ballet."

From that moment he felt that there was truth in something which up to
then he had only dimly suspected. She was beautiful. He knew it then and
for all time. There was a light shining in her face which seemed to have
broken out from some hidden corner.

"It would give me great happiness," she said softly.



CHAPTER XI

The remainder of that afternoon--a long one, as it was nearly eight
o'clock before Beverley found himself free to leave Gracechurch
Street--was a trifle chaotic. The following morning was worse. It was
not until four o'clock in the afternoon nearly a week later that he felt
himself able to deal with an increasingly difficult situation. It was
something, perhaps, in his trusted secretary's tone, deprecatory but
urgent, which supplied the necessary stimulus.

"Lord Portington has been waiting to see you, Mr. Beverley, for nearly
half an hour."

Beverley's impatient exclamation died away on his lips. He remembered
that in the City the one unforgivable sin was to display any sort of
emotion in times of distress. He forgot that ever since he had entered
the building that day he had been talking and arguing, dealing with all
the annoyances of long-distance telephoning, speaking to difficult
people with chosen words. He forgot all his anxious hours and nodded
almost casually.

"You can show His Lordship in, Miss Dent, and see that I am not
interrupted for say ten minutes. Then you can pile it on--telephones,
anything you like. I really have no more than ten minutes to spare."

"Very good, Mr. Beverley."

Lord Portington was wearing a suit of well-cut tweeds which became him
even better than the costume in which he had moved the vote of thanks to
the chairman of the Anglo-Orlacian Trust Company a fortnight ago. In
other respects, however, he was not at his best. He was annoyed at
having been kept waiting, he was anxious concerning the news that he
brought, and the hangover from a very late supper party had not been
improved by a large and heavy lunch.

"Nigel," he exclaimed crossly, "this is really too bad of you! Do you
know that I have been outside in your damned office for half an hour,
kicking my heels?"

"Sorry, sir," Beverley apologised tersely.

"You haven't even a pretty typist in the place worth looking at," His
Lordship continued. "Miss Dent, your own secretary, looks as though she
had swallowed not only the poker but the v/hole of the kitchen
fire-irons. You can't hear yourself think with that beastly clatter of
machines."

"I'm sorry," Beverley repeated. "I have been here myself for nearly six
hours on end. I haven't been out to lunch. I haven't even had a drink.
Now go on, please, sir, with what you have to say."

"There's a lot of trouble going on in Orlac," Portington began bluntly.

"Tell me something I don't know," was the curt rejoinder.

"But you perhaps don't know as much as I do," his visitor persisted.
"Sir Walter Harding, our minister there, arrived in London last
night--flew over. I met him at the club this morning quite by accident."

"I have an appointment with him in half an hour," Beverley confided.
"What's it all about?"

"Well, as you know, Lavaroko has resigned and a change of government is
pending. There were a score of questions about the Anglo-Orlacian Trust
in the House yesterday. They want to withdraw the concession."

"Can't be done," was Beverley's brief comment.

"Anyhow, they want to grant another concession to a syndicate of Germans
who claim to have discovered bauxite in some mountains belonging to a
young man who is in prison. Everyone was talking about Orlac this
morning. Know the price of Anglo-Orlacians?"

"They were down five points at three o'clock," Beverley answered.
"What's it matter?"

"What does it matter?" Portington repeated angrily. "Upon my word,
Nigel, I don't understand you."

"Nothing to understand," Beverley replied. "You and I are neither of us
the sort of fool who buys or sells shares on margin. Even if
Anglo-Orlacians were five points down to-day and ten down to-morrow,
they will probably be twenty up in a month's time...You will forgive me,
I know, Portington, but I am hellishly busy and I have to get out some
particulars for Harding before he comes. That German swine, Treyer, is
out to get bauxite at any price. That's what it comes to. He's not going
to get it in Orlac."

"What if they close down our mine?"

"Who?"

"The Orlacian Government."

"How the mischief can they? The King would have to sign the order and he
will never do it. Besides, it is a British company working under a
British charter. Everything is straight and above-board."

"Why does Harding think it so damned serious, then?" Portington asked.

"I haven't seen him yet," Beverley replied with a shrug of the
shoulders. "Perhaps I shall be able to convince him that it is not so
serious as he thinks."

Lord Portington's fingers strayed towards his upper lip.

"Of course, Nigel," he admitted, "you City fellows know what's what as a
rule. I have no doubt our charter is sound enough but they are devilish
fidgety up at the Foreign Office just now about anything to do with
Germany."

Beverley leaned back a little wearily in his chair.

"I have no doubt," he admitted, "that there may be a little trouble with
Germany. They want aluminium like hell and this modern combination of
magnesium and bauxite seems so far at any rate to be a complete success.
They will work for all they are worth but they can't upset a charter
like ours or interfere with a mine that is already turning out large
quantities of the stuff and paying generous royalties to the King and
the Government. We may have rather a weak-kneed lot at the Foreign
Office but they can't allow Orlac to interfere in a perfectly legitimate
and well-established British enterprise."

"You would think not," Portington admitted doubtfully, "but you know how
it is just now in the Cabinet. Out-and-out pacifists, every one of them.
If Germany bullies hard enough and Orlac cocks snooks at us, what are we
going to do?"

"Don't ask me, sir. Try and remember this: We are working an honest and
lawful undertaking and although we are in a foreign country, that
country is getting a splendid return on its concession. There's no human
reason to interfere with us, no possible excuse. As for this reported
discovery of bauxite in another part of the kingdom, that may have to be
fought out, but the King has to sign any concession that is granted as
well as Parliament, and I have it in the King's own handwriting that he
will grant no concession for any further mining for bauxite in Orlac
without our sanction. Come now, sir, what have we to worry about?"

Portington's slender fingers again strayed to his upper lip. The veins
were standing out a great deal on the back of his hands. He looked
longingly across the room.

"Save my life, Nigel," he begged. "Give me a whisky-and-soda."

"Help yourself," was Beverley's cordial reply. "You are a privileged
person, sir."

"What about you?" his prospective father-in-law asked, crossing the room
with quite amazing celerity.

Beverley shook his head.

"Not just yet, thank you. I have had nothing to eat since breakfast, and
that was a thinnish affair. As soon as I have had a sandwich or two I'll
take a drink."

"Righto."

"When you have had it you won't mind if I clear you out? There's Harding
coming, as you know, and I have some more affairs I want to settle
before business hours are over."

"Thinking of buying a few Anglo-Orlacians?" Porting-ton asked, looking
round with his tumbler in his hand.

"Might do worse. I'll look and see what I've got in my private account.
There's not a sounder investment in the world."

Portington set down his glass empty. He was feeling and looking a great
deal better.

"Not if Orlac keeps straight with us," he agreed, taking up his hat.

"It's a rotten country from what I can hear about it," Beverley
admitted. "Harding is like all these diplomatic chaps. He keeps his
mouth pretty well shut but they're a queer lot over there. You will
excuse me, sir?"

"I'll go at once--I'll go at once, Nigel. Don't worry, but Ursula gave me
a message. She made me swear I'd deliver it."

"Well?"

"She wants to see you urgently."

"Quite impossible," Beverley declared. "The last once or twice--"

"Yes, I know," Portington interrupted, "but this time she honestly does
want to consult you and have a talk. She would have been down here this
afternoon but I implored her not to come. I told her we were having a
field day and that you would be engaged two or three deep. She was
difficult to put off, I can tell you. If you said 'no' she wants you to
dine to-night--we have only a few people coming and you can talk
afterwards--or join a supper party she has later."

"Everything to-day is quite impossible," Beverley repeated. "You
yourself can tell Ursula how I am placed. Tomorrow, if I am still in the
country, I'll make an appointment."

"Still in the country? What does that mean?"

"Oh, nothing," Beverley assured him. "It just slipped out. There's no
doubt that things are in a mess over in Orlac; and Hayter, the man I
relied upon out there, seems to have got into a little trouble or been
kicked into it. If I don't get a clearer understanding of things I may
fly over. It only takes a day there and a day back."

Miss Dent stood upon the threshold of the room.

"Sir Walter Harding to see you, sir," she announced.

"See you later, I hope, Nigel," Portington called over his shoulder as
he hurried for the door.

Sir Walter Harding was a diplomat of the old school, which had doubtless
kept him in the smaller places of life, middle-aged, slow of speech, a
trifle pompous. He shook hands with Beverley and accepted an easy chair.

"Some years since we met, Mr. Beverley," he remarked. "You will
remember, I daresay, that it was at the banquet which followed the
opening of your wonderful mine."

"I remember it quite well," Beverley acquiesced. 'T thought Klast a very
pleasant city at that time. From what I gather now, though, things have
changed a little."

"The situation there," Sir Walter admitted gravely, "has become very
difficult."

"Well, what's it all about?" Beverley asked, and no one would have
judged by his buoyant tone and smile that he had been seated in a chair
without food or stimulant for over six hours. "The mine's doing
splendidly, we are thoroughly satisfied, and we are really paying a most
unusual royalty to the Government of Orlac which they have received
punctually on every June thirtieth and December thirty-first for the
last four years. The King, too, has had his whack out of it."

"There has been no complaint about your punctuality or probity in any
way," Sir Walter admitted.

"There's talk now about a further discovery of the mineral in another
part of the kingdom," Beverley continued. "Well, that's all right. We
are ready to deal with it if it is the truth, as I daresay you may know.
I have already obtained a concession from the King giving my company the
first offer of the new supply if we are satisfied that it is there and
wish to sink another mine."

"That's quite all right so far as it goes," Sir Walter agreed; "but the
position of affairs is not quite so simple as all that."

"Please explain," Beverley begged.

"The concession and the charter under which you work the Klast Mine was
signed by Stephen Lavaroko and King Nicolas."

"The Prime Minister of Orlac and the King," Beverley acquiesced. "The
charter, I may add, was submitted to the House of Assembly and
unanimously approved. The Premier, by an unanimous vote, was instructed
to sign it. The King was more than willing. Nothing could be more
perfectly in order."

Sir Walter nodded but the uneasiness in his manner was even more
pronounced.

"That is quite true, Mr. Beverley," he admitted; "but you know that
there are wheels within wheels. The Government of Orlac has now entirely
changed. Lavaroko has resigned and the communist leader, Pravadia, who
is likely to succeed him, is an entirely different sort of person. The
House of Assembly, too, is likely to be composed of a different set of
members."

"It is still the House of Assembly," Beverley pointed out, "and the King
remains."

"Just so. The King is not particularly popular just now. The matter I
have come over to discuss with you is this," Harding went on, drawing
his chair a little closer and leaning over the desk. "There will be a
motion brought before the House of Assembly, the moment Pravadia comes
into power, to revoke the charter granted to your company."

"Any such motion must be entirely illegal," Beverley said quietly. "Even
if it were passed it could never be carried into effect."

"I must tell you that there is a strong difference of opinion in Klast,"
Sir Walter went on. "The position, at any rate, is serious enough to
render this visit to London on my part imperative. The new Parliament
will meet in a week's time. Voting will be taken upon this motion. The
vote, if against you, will then be reported to His Majesty and his
assent for cancellation will be asked."

"The King will not consent," Beverley declared confidently.

"In that case there will be civil war," Harding pointed out. "The King
will probably be deposed, and the mine confiscated."

"And in the meantime," Beverley asked, "what steps does the British
Government propose to take?"

"The--er--British Government?" Sir Walter repeated.

"Certainly. The mine is an English undertaking. It is owned by a British
trading company, who have duly fulfilled all their obligations. What, I
ask you, Sir Walter, will be the attitude of the British Government if
any attempt should be made to confiscate our property?"

"Let me leave that question in the air for the moment," Harding begged.
"Let me ask you instead what you would suggest that they did?"

"I take rather an interest in naval affairs," Beverley observed. "I
believe that H.M.S. Lion is now in Malta. I should suggest that she took
a cruise up the Adriatic."

"I must remind you," Harding pointed out, "that the Adriatic is no
longer a one-powered sea. Germany also has a port there."

"Would that fact," Beverley asked, with the glimmerings of a smile,
"deter the British Government from taking steps to protect the property
of their country-people--property established by charter and according
to international law unassailable?"

"I do not wish to seem evasive, Mr. Beverley," Harding replied gravely,
"but would you expect Great Britain to embark upon a war to protect the
property of your company in a somewhat ill-disciplined country like
Orlac?"

"The question of war doesn't at the moment appear to arise," Beverley
objected. "The sending of a warship is merely a gesture."

"The British Government," Sir Walter said stiffly, "is not in the habit
of resorting to gestures unless it is prepared to give effect to them. I
have great hopes myself that this affair can be settled by diplomatic
means."

"That remains with you and the Foreign Office," Beverley replied.

"Your attitude--" Sir Walter began.

"Is as I have stated," Beverley interrupted tersely. "We certainly, as
pioneers of a great British enterprise, will expect the support of our
country. The trouble is that Great Britain has once or twice weakened at
the last moment in an affair of this sort. She is beginning to be looked
upon as a heart-and-soul pacifist country. I submit that, if the present
attitude of Orlac is persisted in, this is one of the occasions when
Britain should prove that she is not to be badgered."

"You are taking a great deal for granted, Mr. Beverley," Sir Walter
pointed out. "One would need, for instance, to examine the statutes of
the Orlacian House of Assembly. It might be found that a charter granted
by one Government is not necessarily binding upon its successor."

"The charter is endorsed by the King," Beverley reminded him.

"Suppose the King is deposed?"

"These are not matters for my consideration," Beverley said. "It is for
your Cabinet to enquire into that. You have no doubt kept them informed
of the German secret service work which has been going on in Klast."

The minister moved uneasily in his chair.

"I scarcely know to what you refer, Mr. Beverley," he said.

"There is a man--a German--I think his name is Treyer. He docs not act
officially, of course, but he has been engaged in various underhand
enterprises in Orlac. I thought perhaps you might have heard of them.
Politics are not our concern here in Gracechurch Street."

Sir Walter brushed the subject on one side.

"I take it, then, that your attitude, Mr. Beverley, is that you hold
unswervingly by the charter which you received from a previous
Government of Orlac and under which you have been working the Klast
Mine, and by the charter endorsed by the present King."

"That is so," Beverley agreed. "We have sunk three or four million
pounds in the works and we have paid the King and the Orlacian
Government royalties during the last four years amounting to very nearly
half a million pounds. This may not sound much to you. Sir Walter, but I
can assure you that to the finances of Orlac it has meant a great deal.
Further, we have employed and are now employing a thousand people at
wages such as they have never touched before, and every penny of it is
spent in the country. We do not expect to be disturbed. We do not expect
to have to circularise our shareholders that their property is in
danger."

Sir Walter rose to his feet.

"It is understood, Mr. Beverley," he said earnestly as he held out his
hand, "that this visit of mine has been entirely unofficial."

"Certainly," Beverley agreed, touching the bell. "I accept it as such
and I am rather glad to realise that it is unofficial. But what I have
said you may count upon as being the unanimous attitude of the members
of the Anglo-Orlacian Trust Company who own the mine."

"Precisely."

Miss Dent came quietly in. Beverley shook hands with his departing
guest.

"Please show Sir Walter Harding out. Miss Dent," he said. "Very glad to
have seen you again. Sir Walter. Good day. Miss Dent, will you return in
a few minutes ..."

Miss Dent duly made her reappearance.

"Send one of the men out for some sandwiches, please," her employer
directed.

"I sent for some an hour ago, sir," the young woman replied. "Shall I
bring them in?"

"If you please."

Beverley ate the sandwiches and mixed himself a whisky-and-soda. He
interrupted his impromptu meal to ring up Portington House.

"Is Lady Ursula in?" he asked.

"She is in her room, sir. Mr. Beverley, isn't it? I'll put you through."

A few minutes later Beverley heard a familiar but somewhat weary voice
at the other end of the telephone.

"Is that you, Nigel?"

"Yes."

"Well, I'm back again, you see. Did Dad give you my messages?"

"Every one of them."

"Well?"

"I'm terribly sorry, Ursula, but I can't do one of the things you
suggest. We are exceedingly busy in the City, as your father knows. The
best I could do would be this. I could come round to Portington House
and have a talk with you say between the time you finish dinner and get
ready for your supper party. I could be with you at half-past ten."

This time the very tired voice had in it some sign of irritation.

"Very inconvenient but I must see you. I'll be here."

Beverley rang off. For some moments afterwards he sat making meaningless
scrawls upon the virgin sheet of blotting paper before him. None of
these scrawls, however, had any connection with Lady Ursula Portington.



CHAPTER XII

Lady Ursula swept out from her room into what she called her "den" but
what her maid preferred to designate as "the boudoir," and glanced at
her visitor's attire in some surprise.

"You haven't changed, Nigel?" she exclaimed.

"Too busy, my dear," he replied, accepting a mild caress. "I have come
straight from the City."

"Heavens, what a hurry you are in to make a lot of money! You have had
something in the way of dinner, I suppose?"

"Something," he admitted.

"Like some coffee, or a whisky-and-soda?"

"Coffee, please. I think I would like some strong coffee."

She rang the bell and gave the order. He watched her curiously as she
stood at the phone. Yes, there was no doubt that the newspapers were
right. Lady Ursula was a very beautiful young woman. Her classical
features were almost perfect in outline. Her dark hair and eyebrows were
both attractive. Her grey-blue eyes, however, were a trifle be-ringed,
and filled with an expression which just at the moment was half-peevish,
half-apprehensive. She drew a chair up to her finance’s--not too close,
not too far away--and sank into it a little wearily.

"I got rid of the people who were coming to dinner," she confided. "I
have to go to the supper, anyway, and one must rest sometimes."

"I suppose so," he admitted. "Been going hard, Ursula?"

"Two silly picture shows this afternoon and five cocktail parties. I
shall ruin my figure," she went on, looking with satisfaction at her
shapely outlines.

"Are the cocktail parties important?" he asked.

"Don't be cynical," she replied. "If one's friends do all these things
you have to join in or else you are very soon forgotten, and that
wouldn't be any fun."

"So you chucked the dinner?"

She nodded.

"I had some caviar and bortsch with Freddie Dennison at a new Russian
place," she confided. "We went on there from Judith's cocktail party. It
was nearly nine, then."

"Freddie Dennison," he repeated. "I saw his horse lost yesterday."

"How did you know? You don't read the racing news."

"Not as a rule. As soon as your father explained that you wanted to see
me very urgently, though, I looked it up."

"Oh, be a little sympathetic," she begged. "Did you ever know such
rotten luck? He only lost by a head, and I backed him to win only.
Freddie lost a packet."

"And you?"

"More than I could afford. It was not that alone I wanted to see you
about, though. I really am in a hole, Nigel."

He nodded.

"How much?"

"Don't be brutal. Remember we may possibly be married some day, and that
at present I should be your one thought in life. Cultivate a little
sympathy. When I tell you that I am in a hole try and imagine what it
must feel like to have an overdraft at the bank and not to know where
your next shilling is coming from."

"I think I can guess that," he replied. "It is coming from me."

"Of course," she went on, crossing her legs and settling down a little
more comfortably in her chair, "I don't suppose it is really the thing
to do--to borrow from your fiancé. What do you think about it, Nigel?"

"I have no convictions."

She threw away the stump of her cigarette and lit another.

"Well, someone must help me out. I think I have screwed the last
possible cheque out of Dad, and Aunt Harriet is lost somewhere in
Austria and won't answer letters, and for the first time in his life Ben
has written me a perfectly beastly formal notice that my betting account
is very much overdue."

"How much?" Beverley repeated.

The coffee was brought in and placed upon the table by his side.
Beverley prepared it and took a liqueur glass full of brandy. Lady
Ursula held out her hand, glancing up for a moment from the half-sheet
of notepaper on which she was scribbling.

"A little brandy, Nigel, please," she begged. "Pour it out for me, will
you? That's right. If anyone rings up, Annette, don't put them
through--not for a quarter of an hour."

"Very good, milady."

The girl left the room, handing over the tray to the waiting footman.
Lady Ursula continued her task with the figures. A few minutes later she
brought it to a conclusion.

"Nigel," she acknowledged, having glanced at it carefully, "I am
really--yes, I am really ashamed of myself. Not that it is my fault,"
she went on. "One must have clothes. One must have one's bets.
Everything is so terribly expensive nowadays."

"How much?" he asked once more.

"Well, it's awful to tell you how much I owe that's urgent," she
confessed. "There's twenty-four hundred pounds I must pay Ben to-morrow
morning, and there's another thirty-five hundred people are pressing me
for."

"Making in all," he said without flinching, "fifty-nine hundred."

"I suppose so."

He drew a thin private chequebook from his pocket, opened it and wrote
rapidly. She rested her hand upon his shoulder and leaned over him while
he wrote.

"Bearer," she murmured with a little sigh of satisfaction. "How nice of
you, Nigel. I could not possibly have given Ben your cheque, and I would
much rather pay the others with my own. You are really sure this doesn't
inconvenience you?"

"Not materially," he replied. "There you are, Ursula."

He handed it across. She put her other arm around his neck.

"You don't want even a kiss?" she asked him, with a really very
seductive smile.

He escaped gracefully. He was careful not to push her away but he sank a
little farther back in his own chair.

"Not just yet, Ursula," he said. "I am going to ask you a question
first."

"Well?"

"Do you mind very much if I don't marry you?"

The little flash of gratitude which had softened her face faded. She
remained surprised. She drew very slowly away.

"Do you mean that, Nigel?"

"Yes."

"Because of this?"

She pointed to the chequebook.

"Not altogether."

"You have been listening to stories about me?"

"I seldom meet any of your set," he reminded her. "On such occasions as
I have I think it is well known that I do not listen to gossip."

"People have talked about me," she acknowledged.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"That happens, no doubt, amongst your friends."

"What they have said is not true."

"I am glad to hear it."

"You mean really that you wish to break it off?"

"I do," he repeated. "If I thought that you minded the least bit in the
world, Ursula, I should be more apologetic. As it is, I feel sure that I
am not hurting you and from the selfish point of view I know quite well
that I shall get over it. I was never a marrying man, you know, Ursula.
On the other hand, I have leanings towards domesticity."

"Well, domesticity does come into married life, doesn't it?"

He shook his head.

"Not from your standpoint or that of your friends," he answered. "That
doesn't matter. I am not speaking harshly, really. I still imagine it
would be very delightful to have you receive my guests and you would
wear your clothes and your jewels in a manner which would reflect great
credit on my taste, but you see I am not sure that that is all one
should expect from the woman one takes--don't think I am getting
sentimental--into one's heart. There must be other things in life. If
ever I marry I shall try and find them."

"Stupid!" she exclaimed.

"Unfashionable, rather," he corrected. "Anyhow, there is a mighty past,
you know, Ursula, of fiction, of literature, of every sort of poetry,
which suggests other possibilities."

"Have you gone crazy, Nigel?" she asked wonderingly. "I have never heard
you talk like this."

"I am not sure," he replied, "that we have ever had the opportunity for
serious conversation."

"Is it too late?" she asked after a moment's hesitation.

"It is too late."

She held out the cheque.

"Of course I could not take this," she said.

"Will you please remember that this is the first request I have ever
made to you and it will probably be the last?" he answered earnestly.
"Keep it, Ursula. What has happened is my fault as much as yours. My
thoughts have been in other places than the places where you live, just
as your thoughts have never wandered round the byways of my life. It
would have been most unsuitable if they had. There is no such thing as
beginning again, Ursula. We should have had to start the whole affair
differently if it had been meant to live."

"There is someone else?"

For a single moment he hesitated.

"There is no one else," he told her, "but some accident, some chance in
life has brought something into my mind--was it an inspiration or a
fancy?--that there is a joy in life which is very easily neglected. We
neglected it. We never took any account of it that I can remember, and
we have gone on too long to drag it into existence now."

"Too long for you to feel anything of that sort for me?" she asked with
a faint note of wistfulness in her tone.

"It is too late," he admitted.

"You mean it--about the cheque?"

"I mean it very seriously, and I beg you, Ursula, not to disappoint me
in this one thing. You were grateful to me when I gave you your first
present. I shall be just as grateful to you if you put that cheque into
your bank and think no more about it. Come, we are friends?"

He put out his hand. She accepted it without the slightest hesitation.

"I always said that you were a queer fellow, Nigel."

He laughed.

"Ring the bell, dear," he begged. "The pompous Groves shall show me
out."

She walked with him to the door, her arm through his.

"Will this make any difference to Dad?" she asked. "Shall you turn him
off the board of your company?"

"Don't be absurd," he protested. "He is the most picturesque figure we
have on it and I really think that in time he would begin to understand
a little about the business if he cared to give his mind to it."

"I am grateful to you for that, anyhow," she said. "He would never
forgive me if you were really angry."

They watched the butler mounting the stairs. He turned back towards her.

"My last word of advice," he half-whispered in her ear: "Don't marry
Freddie Dennison. Cut him out altogether. He's a bad friend and he would
make a bad husband."

She leaned over the banisters and treated him to a little grimace. After
that she threw him an airy kiss and after that went back to her
sitting-room, sat once more in her chair and asked herself whether she
was glad or sorry. There was an unusual hot feeling about her eyes. He
seemed to have left some atmosphere in the room which she scarcely
recognised. She crumpled her handkerchief up in her fingers.

"What a fool I have been!" she murmured, and at that moment she really
meant it.

It was one of Nigel Beverley's fancies in life to drive himself about
London so far as possible. For a moment or two he sat in the driving
seat of his coupe, after he had flashed on the lights and Groves, having
bidden him a respectful good-night, had disappeared up the broad steps.
He sat with his thumb hovering over the starting button in a curious fit
of indecision. There was his club in St. James's Street, there were his
rooms in the Albany--both quite close. Suddenly he made up his mind. He
drove slowly into Bond Street, turned to the right down Piccadilly, to
the left again past Buckingham Palace, and then down a long straggling
thoroughfare into the purlieus of Chelsea and into that street with its
high lodging houses where Marya of Mauranesco had her temporary abode.
He reached the end building almost at crawling pace, swung his car round
and brought it to a standstill on the farther side of the cross-road.
Then he turned out all the lights except the small side ones, lit a
cigarette and glanced once more at the time. The brackish odour of the
Thames was in his nostrils, the tops of the bordering elm trees in the
gardens were swaying slightly in the south wind. He sat motionless in
the driving seat and he asked himself why he had come. Vaguely he knew.
There were only faint ideas in his mind, however. None of them had taken
shape. He knew very well what he was waiting for but he had not the
faintest idea what he should do when the time came. It was that still,
quiet figure with its strange sense of detachment that he wanted to see.
He had kept away from the Germanic. It had been an effort. It had been
too late for the Grill Room when he had left Portington House and he had
not changed. He was not even sure that he wanted to speak to her. He
just wanted to be sure that she was there.

A policeman passed and looked at him curiously. A Rolls-Royce car,
however, is seldom affected by the doubtful world and the constable
ventured upon a salute. There were very few passers-by and presently a
soft drizzle of rain began to fall, covering the pavements and pattering
gently against the leaves of the trees. Beverley let down the window and
drew a long breath. Since the rain there seemed to be a new freshness in
the night air. Big Ben struck twelve and in due course half-past, and
then from where he sat he saw the two figures for which he waited step
off an omnibus at the top of the street and come slowly down. Marya was
walking a yard or so ahead, behind her the clumsy stout figure of Suka
with a strangely shaped black bonnet tied upon her head. Marya was
carrying her own violin case, and Suka a large brown-paper parcel.
Neither had an umbrella or seemed to be taking any notice of the rain.
They passed underneath one of the electric light standards and a sudden
strange idea disturbed Beverley. They walked in a cloud of tragedy,
these two--the strange, remote girl and the bulky old woman struggling
with her load. They were not talking to one another. Marya preserved
always that slight lead, and the woman rolled after her. But something
had happened...Beverley wondered afterwards whether, if it had not been
for that curious premonition for which he could in no way account, he
would not have sat quietly in his place and watched her even though
there was longing in his eyes and a curious, unfamiliar flutter of his
heart as she stood by whilst Suka thrust the key into the front door and
passed in to that dark fortress-like building--out of sight, lost. He
really believed that if Marya had followed her closely and also
disappeared, he would have driven away content with his brief vision.
Marya, however, by chance lingered for a moment; and this new foreboding
which had taken possession of him was stronger even than his stubborn
will. He stepped lightly out of the car, crossed the road and stood upon
the pavement within a few feet of Marya. He stood with his hat in his
hand and he was very near the electric-light standard. She swung round,
her head a little upraised, and looked at him questioningly at first and
then with a sudden relief.

"Marya Mauranesco," he said, "may I speak to you for just a moment?"

He knew in those few seconds that his premonition had been a true one.
There was proof of it in her nervous start, that first wary look in her
eyes as she raised them to his.

"You!" she exclaimed. "Why are you here? Speak to me--I do not
understand. Why are you here?"

"I cannot tell you," he admitted. "I had an idea that you wanted me."

"It is strange, that," she said wonderingly. "Tell me why you have come,
please, because I am a little frightened."

Notwithstanding the unchanging quiet of her tone, he knew that she was
speaking the truth. His own curious lapse into a confused state of
living passed.

"Marya," he said, "you know quite well that you have nothing to fear
from me. I took a little drive on my way home--see, there's my car. I
had a fancy to see you come home to-night, and to know that all was well
with you."

"You have not seen Lord Portington?"

"Not to-night. I have come from Portington House. He was not there."

She leaned the violin case which she had been carrying against the
railing. The door was suddenly pulled wide open. Suka stood there upon
the threshold looking out upon them. Her dark face, with the beetling
eyebrows drawn together now in a frown of anger, was curiously
forbidding. She spoke rapidly to Marya in their own language. Marya
answered. There was a touch of hauteur in her gesture as she pointed to
the violin case, waved her away and turned to Beverley.

"You will walk with me a few steps--yes?--so far, perhaps, as the river?
I have something to speak to you."

"Willingly," he agreed.

The woman behind them picked up the violin case, glowered for a minute
at Beverley and re-entered the building.

"I had need of you to-night," the girl said as they walked side by side.
"You have spoken to me like a friend. You must do something for me."

"I will do anything in my power," he told her. "It will give me great
pleasure."

"I humiliate myself that I ask but there is no one else," she continued.
"I have been told to leave the Germanic, Mr. Beverley. They do not wish
me there any longer. They did not offer me money for the nights I have
played this week; I could not ask them for it. You must please give Suka
and me tickets for our journey back. I do not mind if it is in a cattle
truck. We must get away."

Beverley looked down at her and there was an immense compassion in his
heart, a compassion which he feared wholly to show.

"Nothing," he assured her, "could be easier than that. I will pay your
bills here, I will pack you into the train with Suka and I will send you
home if that must be. Or if things continue to go ill there," he added
with a little smile, "I might take you up into the clouds in my own
plane and fly there. The Government of your country is behaving very
strangely and I may have to go to Klast."

"I am ashamed," she said quietly.

"Why?" he asked.

"I am ashamed that you are so kind."

"But that is folly. I have a kind feeling for you, Marya Mauranesco, if
you like me to put it like that. I am a man and you are a girl, it is
true; but I am very, very much older than you. If you are in trouble it
is quite right that I should help. Now tell me, why are you going home
and why did you ask me if I had seen Lord Portington?"

"It is very stupid," she said. "I must ask you to walk for a minute or
two before I speak, then I tell you."

He half-looked at her and looked away again immediately, for he had seen
the glistening of tears in her eyes. He was miserable and yet curiously
happy. They had reached the corner of the street and she hesitated. He
checked his first impulse to touch her arm.

"We go a little way along there," he pointed out, "and we reach the
Embankment. We can watch the lights for a minute or two and you can tell
me what has happened. But there is no hurry. I do not forget that you
are struggling to say things in a different language. Very clever," he
went on, amazed to find that the fingers which drew out his cigarette
case were trembling a little. "I remember having to order ordinary
things in France when I was sent there as a schoolboy. It took me a long
time to search my mind for the words. Here, where everything--life as
well as the city and the people--is strange to you, it must be terribly
diflficult...Now we cross the road. I know you do not mind my smoking,"
he added, quite unconscious of the fact that his cigarette was already
out. "We follow this railing a little way and we come to the river. Then
you will begin to feel at home and you will tell me what this foolish
thing is."

"You must not be so kind to me," she pleaded. "It--it hurts."

"Not so much as your throat will in the morning," he told her as they
faced the damp breeze. "Here, put this round your neck."

He took the silk muffler from his pocket and handed it to her. She
twisted it round her throat. They moved on in silence until they reached
the Embankment. He led her across the road. They leaned over the
parapet, watching for a moment the lights on the other side. The rain had
almost ceased to fall and the stars were visible overhead through the
grey lacework of filmy clouds. The breeze had dropped to a faint sighing
amongst the leaves of the trees behind.

"You are very understanding," she said. "If I could talk my own tongue
it would be easier. I expect I was stupid but to-night I played as usual
and I saw that Lord Portington was there with some friends. There were
two ladies whom I did not know and two men, one of whom arrived late.
Lord Portington asked me to come and speak with them in the interval and
I went. I am so anxious," she went on after a moment's pause, "not to
say anything which will hurt you who are so kind, Mr. Beverley, but Lord
Portington said something which I did not understand when he came to
fetch me, and he held my arm, which I do not like, and he did not
introduce me formally to his friends. There was one, the gentleman who
came late--a Mr. Dennison did they call him?--who filled my glass and
who I think had had too much to drink. I moved my chair a little farther
away and he said something."

"You do not wish to repeat it?" Beverley asked as she hesitated.

She looked up at him.

"Do you mind? He should not have said it to me. I could not stay there.
I got up and I am afraid I forgot my manners, too, for I said nothing. I
went away. After the next interval Lord Portington started to come up
and I left off playing. I could not help it. Then presently the manager
came and he was angry. He told me when I was leaving that I need not
come again, that if I could not be civil to his clients I was useless to
him. He gave me no money. He said nothing but that I was not to come
again. We left the place, Suka and I, after it was over--we came out by
the back entrance and we got into a bus and drove home and I was
thinking as I walked down this street that it was very difficult for me
to know what to do, and when I saw you--well, I thought of something
that Sister Georgina once told me about invisible angels--I shall not
tell you what it was, but it was wonderful that you were there."

"I am very glad that I was," he smiled, still conscious of the volcano
which flamed at his side. "You are much too young, Marya, to be alone at
these places."

"You think, I am sure, that I did not have good manners," she said
wistfully.

"My dear child," he remonstrated, and this time he allowed a little of
the natural feeling to creep into his tone, "if I had had a daughter or
a sister in your place I should have been proud for her to have done
exactly what you did. It is perhaps fortunate for you that you have a
friend, and I feel that it is more fortunate for me that I happened to
drive down this way to-night. Now we will walk back. I will have a word
with your Suka. I feel sure she will understand my indifferent French
because I heard her begin to talk to you in that language. You will go
up to bed and forget all about it, and to-morrow I will either send you
a letter or I will ask you to come down into the City and see me. I want
badly to find someone who comes from Orlac and you are just that person.
You will be able to tell me all I want to know. It will be very useful
to me indeed if you will tell me just a few things."

"If I thought I could help you--" she began.

"Well, we will speak of that," he interrupted. "Don't try to talk,
yourself, much more to-night. Just lie down and go to sleep as soon as
you can. I am very happy, Marya Mauranesco, to be your guardian or your
elderly friend or whatever you like to think of me as, and I shall have
only one question more to ask you. Would you rather have those tickets
for Klast or would you rather that the manager of the Germanic
apologised to you, asked you to stay on a little longer, and agreed that
you should not be asked to speak to any of his patrons again?"

"I should like that," she said eagerly but almost under her breath. "I
should like that best."

"I don't think that there will be the slightest difficulty."

They reached the main entrance to the flats. As they came to a momentary
standstill outside, the door opened and Suka appeared.

"You would like to come in?" Marya asked a little shyly. "I do not quite
know where there is--"

"Of course I would not like to come in," he interrupted. "My dear child,
Suka can stay and speak to me here for a moment and you run along. You
shake hands with me and to-morrow we will meet sometime or I will write
you a letter, but everything will be all right, remember. Sleep well!"

Not a note of what he was feeling, not a sign of that ridiculous turmoil
of which he was half-ashamed and in which he still found a queer new
pleasure...She gave him her icy-cold fingers. He touched them for a
moment lightly, then he waved her away and called Suka to him.

"Madame," he said, "I think I heard you speak French?"

"I speak some French," the woman answered suspiciously.

"Your young mistress," Beverley continued, "is in some trouble. She does
not understand the class of people at the Germanic and I am pleased to
be in a position to help her. It is possible she may leave to-morrow, it
is possible she may stay. If she leaves I will send you railway tickets
to take you both back. If she stays you must take care of this money for
her to pay anything there is to be paid here and I will settle with her
friends in Orlac later on. I am the owner of property in Klast, Madame,
and your young mistress brought me messages from her brother. It is
perfectly in order that I should help her until things go better."

"It may be as you say. Monsieur," the woman answered rather more
graciously, "but I do not think that Mademoiselle would permit me to
accept this money."

"You are accepting nothing," Beverley told her a little curtly. "I ask
you to take care of it so that you may not be left without money in a
strange country. Use it if necessary or keep it till I see you again. It
is possible that I shall have considerable business transactions with
Mademoiselle's brother, if that makes you feel any better about it. Now
go and see after your mistress."

The woman recognised the voice of authority. Perhaps, too, she had
understanding. She drew a little sigh of relief.

"Monsieur is very kind," she acknowledged. "Mademoiselle is young, she
knows nothing of life and it is a great responsibility for me. I am
afraid to be alone with her sometimes, although--"

"You are frightened without a cause, Madame," he interrupted.
"Mademoiselle is right to keep to herself and you will find that she
very soon has friends. Good night."

Suka dropped him a little curtsy.

"Good night, Monsieur."

Beverley started his car and drove to the Albany. He made his way to his
sitting-room, helped himself to a whisky-and-soda and sent his servant
to bed. He looked round his very comfortable and luxurious den with a
queer feeling of non-familiarity, then he laughed softly to himself.
Everything was just the same except himself.



CHAPTER XIII

Miss Dent entered Nigel Beverley's office the next morning at an early
hour unannounced, as in times of stress she was privileged to do. She
touched one of the three telephones upon his desk and laid her hand upon
the receiver.

"Paris calling," she said. "A very mysterious gentleman to speak to you
personally--at once. Baron Genetter he told me his name was, or
something like it."

Beverley looked up from the stack of letters which he had been busy
running through, and held out his hand for the receiver.

"Beverley speaking," he announced. "Who is it?"

"Genetter. You remember, Mr. Beverley? Secretary to Mr. Nicolas. Please
do not forget the incognito."

"That's all right," Beverley agreed. "What do you want?"

"This is a personal call from me to you, sir. I was much struck by the
way you handled a certain piece of business over here some days ago. I
am telephoning to you urgently to make an unusual request. In your own
interests it is important that you should be on the spot here at
once--immediately."

"As serious as all that, is it?"

"I can assure you that it is of the utmost importance. I give you now a
piece of excellent advice. It is for your good. It comes from one who
wishes you well. Pay a visit upon Mr. Nicolas to-day. Omit all mention
of my name. Omit all mention of my having telephoned. The morning
newspapers will afford you sufficient excuse."

Beverley's eyes wandered across the office to the clock.

"It is now," he said, "nine o'clock. There is a plane from Croydon at
eleven. I shall be in Paris--not Le Bourget, I mean at the Ritz
Hotel--at quarter past one. Will you make sure of Mr. Nicolas being
there and prepared to receive me, for I must be back here this
afternoon?"

"It is already arranged," was the joyful reply. "Mr. Nicolas will be
here waiting to receive another visitor. It is I alone who know that the
other visitor has postponed his call. When you arrive you will
appreciate the need for this haste...Till we meet, sir."

Beverley laid down the receiver.

"A trifle annoying," he said thoughtfully as he turned to his secretary,
"but I must certainly go. As a matter of fact," he went on, "there's no
man I want to have a few words with more urgently than the gentleman
calling himself Mr. Nicolas."

"Orlac?" Miss Dent asked cautiously.

Her chief nodded.

"There will be a stand-up fight between half a dozen of us within the
course of the next week or two," he confided. "A great deal depends upon
our friend, Mr. Nicolas. I wish to heaven he would pack up and get back
to his own country. Miss Dent," he went on, "go through these letters a
second time. Anything very important I'll deal with at six o'clock, or
as soon as I get back. Telephone through and be sure I have
accommodation this morning, and book me back on the afternoon boat."

"Are there any documents you will require to take with you?" Miss Dent
asked, reaching down a small despatch case from the shelf.

Beverley shook his head. He was already struggling into his coat.

"I have everything in my head, thanks," he replied. "French money,
passport, _carte d'identite_ and a chequebook?"

"All these are ready in this case, sir," she pointed out, touching one
of the compartments. "I am also putting in the _Times_ and the _Financial
News_ of this morning, your cigarette case and a flask."

"Capital," he approved. "Wait here until I return this afternoon, Miss
Dent. Answer any enquiries by saying that I am out of town on
business--away for the day, in fact. I would prefer that even Lord
Portington didn't know exactly where I was."

"I quite understand, sir," the girl assured him.

Beverley took the inside seat in his Rolls-Royce coupe which was waiting
outside. His brain was a little too active for complicated driving.

"I want to call at the office of the managing director of the Germanic,"
he told the chauffeur. "It is next door to the restaurant."

Their progress was none too rapid. The usual surge of morning traffic
was sweeping into the City from outside. In about twenty minutes
Beverley reached his destination. The man whom he wished to see--Sir
Samuel Jacobson--kept him waiting only a few seconds and offered him a
warm welcome.

"Sir Samuel," Beverley explained, "I am here to ask you a favour."

"My dear fellow--"

"I know you will grant it if you can," the other interrupted. "Forgive
me if I hurry. I have to catch this morning's plane for Le Bourget. Off
to Paris for an hour or two. There was a slight incident--I don't
suppose you have even heard of it--in your restaurant last night. You
have a young lady violinist from Orlac playing there. Orlac is a country
in which I am interested."

"Quite true," Sir Samuel admitted. "She plays remarkably well but not
quite in the style to which my restaurant habitués are accustomed."

"Never mind that," Beverley went on. "The matter is really
insignificant, but here it is. The young lady was asked to join a party
last night. She speaks very little English, she is of gentle birth, just
out of a convent, she either understood or misunderstood something said
to her by one of the guests. She refused to sit down at the table and
went back to the musicians. She behaved as I consider quite properly.
The manager of the restaurant--I forget his name, Hudson, I
think--dismissed her. He didn't even pay her for the broken week."

"My dear Mr. Beverley," Sir Samuel protested, "I can scarcely believe
this."

"It is absolutely true," Beverley said, "word for word. My interest in
the young lady exists because, as you know, the company of which I am
managing director owns the Klast Mine which is situated in Orlac and I
have many friends in the country. The young lady in question is not
exactly a protégée of mine, but I have a great interest in her and a
great admiration for her character and deportment. She is badly hurt and
I want you to smooth things down. She should have a letter of apology
from Hudson this morning by one o'clock and be begged to resume her
place in the orchestra to-night. You can let it go at that, if you like,
for the moment, and I will come in and see you again. Here is her
address. The letter must be sent this morning by special messenger or
the girl will be going back to Orlac."

Sir Samuel held out his hand.

"My dear fellow," he said as he took the card and laid it on his desk.
"I only wish that every favour I am asked was as easy to grant. You can
board your plane--by the by, you have not too much time--with an easy
conscience. The thing is done."

"Good man. I will see you during the week," his visitor promised,
picking up his hat.

Beverley reached Croydon with ten minutes to spare. An emissary from the
office was there with his ticket and a few notes of no great importance
from Miss Dent. He took his place and at twenty-past one he was ushered
down the broad corridor which stretched from the lift to the private
suite of Nicolas at the Ritz Hotel, and into the small anteroom where he
found Genetter awaiting his arrival.

"It is good work, this of yours," the latter said, smiling and rubbing
his hands. "I scarcely ventured to hope that you would catch this
morning's plane. His Majesty knows already of your proposed visit."

"And Madame?" Beverley asked. "She remains?"

Genetter indulged in a little grimace.

"Still here," he said. "Nothing will move her till the money runs out.
We are all packed up for our return. There is trouble in Orlac."

"Change of government?"

"More than that," Genetter went on. "You will hear in a minute or two.
Remember, you come as an inquirer. You have heard disturbing rumours."

The door of the inner apartment was suddenly opened and Nicolas came
out. As usual he appeared in the best of health and spirits, and was
carefully dressed for a promenade in the Bois before luncheon. He shook
hands warmly with Beverley, took him by the arm and led him to a divan.

"Leave us, Genetter," he instructed. "See that we are not disturbed."

"Your Majesty has had disquieting news from Orlac, the Baron tells me,"
Beverley began.

"Majesty be hanged," was the irritated reply. "I am not at all sure I
shall be a king to-morrow, anyhow, but until then do not forget my
incognito."

"I apologise, sir."

"You have seen this morning's papers?"

"I have," Beverley acknowledged. "Read the Times coming over in the
plane. Sorry I never listen-in to the radio. Lavaroko has resigned and
you are in for a general election, which seems to be going in favour of
the communists."

"That is right," Nicolas admitted. "It is very inconvenient, for it
means that no money will reach me for at least a week. Apart from that,
Lavaroko urgently wishes me to return and face the question which,
although it has not been openly discussed, is at the bottom of the
trouble."

"What is it all about?" Beverley asked.

"The party of the Left," Nicolas confided, "have demanded either that
the accounts of the Klast Mine and our financial connection with it be
published, or that the charter granted to the company be revoked.
Lavaroko has resigned but there are persistent rumours that he is in
secret sympathy with the party of the Left and that the crisis was
entirely engineered by him."

"Perfectly breathless the way you people conduct your political
upheavals," Beverley observed.

"They lose no time," Nicolas admitted. "The elections for the new House
of Assembly are now taking place all over Orlac and if the Left get in I
am to be called upon to withdraw my charter, and all royalties received
from the mine are to be devoted towards the national expenditure."

"Sounds like opera _bouffe_," Beverley remarked. "If the King has granted
the charter to the people who have sunk the mine on Crown Lands, and the
acting Prime Minister of the country has ratified it, how on earth can
any succeeding Parliament undo what has been done? Furthermore, even if
a fresh Premier comes into office, the same King remains."

Nicolas coughed slightly.

"Yes, the same King," he assented. "But for how long? If Lavaroko gets
in again and refuses to withdraw the charter he will be assassinated and
it does not really make much difference whether he withdraws it or not,
because sooner or later there will be a change of government, the new
Premier will issue a decree of nullification; and although the land
belonged to me, if I do not withdraw my charter they will call upon me
to abdicate."

"Great fun you are having over there," Beverley observed.

"Well, I'm glad to see you accept bad news like this without flinching,"
the King remarked with a momentary gleam of admiration in his eyes. "You
always were a man, though, Beverley. I wish I had a Prime Minister like
you."

"I wish I were your Prime Minister, sir--for a week or two," was the dry
rejoinder. "I should try to set things straight for you. It seems to me
that Orlac is asking for trouble."

"That is what I feel," Nicolas agreed. "The more I breathe the air of
Paris just now the less inclined I feel to go back and try what things
are like in Orlac."

"I am not sure," Beverley said, "that I blame you. However, there might
be conditions under which it would be better for you to return. Will you
pardon me if I make a suggestion which is not immediately to the point?"

"Pray do," the other invited courteously.

"We had a pleasant voyage over this morning," Beverley continued, "but
we met with a great many of what I think they call pockets of air. I
feel shaken."

Nicolas' face shone with sympathy. He touched the bell.

"A blissful idea," he declared. "Two double Martinis, Pierre," he
ordered from his chamberlain. "Make them yourself half-and-half, plenty
of ice and shaken--you know--really shaken."

Beverley drew a sigh of relief.

"I feel better already," he said. "There are further and very serious
complications in this matter, as I expect you realise, sir."

Nicolas stroked his chin and looked doubtfully at his visitor.

"Well," he remarked, "of course another little question has cropped
up--"

"A very important question I call it," Beverley interrupted.

"That terrible person--the lisping German with prominent front teeth and
unpleasant appearance generally--started it," Nicolas continued, "and by
some mistake of Genetter's I granted him an audience. I heard a few
words of what he had to say and out he went. He seems to be one of these
fellows, though, who work underground for their country--more or less
spies, of course, and a mischievous breed at that. The authorities in
Berlin have taken the thing up now, however. They do not like your
people having this mine, Beverley. They think you are getting more than
your fair share of that stuff they use for blending with magnesium."

"They have been worrying about that for a long time," Beverley assented.

"I understand from Genetter," Nicolas went on, "that we are likely to
hear more about this question of supply. Have you heard any more about
the rumour of bauxite having been found in another part of the kingdom?"

"Nothing definite," Beverley acknowledged.

"You have none to spare from your own mine, I suppose?"

"Not an ounce," was the cool but very firm reply. "We have a hundred
thousand tons' contract for the British Government. If the Germans do
not already know that they have guessed it long ago."

"Awkward," Nicolas murmured. "Very awkward."

"It simply means that Germany will have to look elsewhere for her stock
of bauxite," Beverley continued.

Nicolas was silent for a moment.

"Supposing it should turn out that the specimen the young man
Mauranesco's sister brought to you really indicates the presence of
bauxite in another part of the kingdom?" he asked.

"That would be very interesting, of course," Beverley replied, "but it
would scarcely affect our position. If it was discovered on Crown Lands
I have already the concession. If it is not we have your influence and
your undertaking not to sign a concession in favour of any other nation.
For your sake, sir, I hope that if it is a genuine find it is on your
own lands. Even deducting the amount payable to the State, it would mean
a considerable increase to Your Majesty's income."

"Badly wanted, Mr. Beverley, I can assure you," Nicolas declared. "I had
hoped that your unexpected visit this morning meant that a further store
of bauxite had been discovered, that it was on Crown Lands and that you
were prepared to make a further advance."

Beverley smiled.

"Isn't that just a little super-optimistic, sir?" he ventured. "So far,
we have no direct evidence that any further stock of bauxite exists in
the country. The origin of the specimen brought by Marya Mauranesco
remains unknown. Even if it should be traced, it will become a grave
question as to whether it exists in sufficient quantities to go to the
very great expense of mining for it."

"This man Treyer," Nicolas observed, "most impudently declined to
disclose the whereabouts of the stuff but he was willing to swear
himself black in the face that Mauranesco knew where it existed."

"So shall we in a very short time," Beverley declared.

"Just so. Now, Mr. Beverley," the other went on, as a waiter made
tentative entrance, "we will finish the contents of that shaker
together. Afterwards I am going to ask you one more point-blank
question."

Beverley allowed his glass to be filled. As soon as the waiter had taken
his leave Nicolas threw himself into an easy chair and with his hands in
his trousers' pockets assumed an attitude of complete bonhomie.

"Mr. Beverley," he said, "being a king is sometimes the devil of a
business, but it does not make a business man. I have been interested in
studying your methods. I approve of them. I am about to imitate them.
When you want to know something you ask a plain question. I am now going
to ask you one. Precisely why have you come over here to see me?"

"Capital!" Beverley exclaimed. "I came over to ask you, sir, exactly
what your attitude will be supposing the election now proceeding in
Orlac should return to power the extreme Left political party and they
attempt to upset the concession granted by Lavaroko and yourself to my
firm. I also thought I would take the liberty of reminding you of that
last charter by which you have undertaken to sign no other concession,
even though your Government might present it for your approval. In plain
words, I wish to make absolutely certain that the position of the Klast
Mine remains and will remain unassailable."

"Admirably put," Nicolas approved. "I will answer you in the same
manner, Mr. Beverley. I shall resist to my last breath any change in the
charter or the concession of the present Klast Mine. I hold by my
concession and I pronounce the illegality of any attempt on the part of
the new Government to interfere with the charter granted to your
company. I shall refuse also to sign a new concession, if the bauxite be
discovered in any other part of my kingdom, to anyone except yourself;
and if it is upon my lands I shall carry out my agreement to sign a
concession for your company."

"That is what I imagined would be your reply, sir. Forgive me if I
strike the nail once more upon the head. When you say that you will
resist to your last breath any attempt to alter the charter given to my
company, what precisely do you mean by that?"

Nicolas stiffened a little.

"I shall go so far," he said, "as to risk assassination or deposition.
Can a man say more than that, Mr. Beverley? Bloodshed amongst my people
is the one thing I have striven always to avoid. I shall go so far as to
risk that."

Beverley considered for a moment, then he made a little bow.

"Your reply, sir," he confessed, "has given me great satisfaction. May I
have the honour now of inviting you and Madame Katarina, if she is
available, to lunch?"

"I accept with great pleasure," the King replied. "I shall venture also
to accept for Madame. You had the good fortune, Mr. Beverley, to impress
very favorably Madame Katarina. She has counselled me since your visit
to do everything I can to further your interests in Orlac."

Luncheon was served--a pleasant meal which was ordered by Beverley with
care, and approved of by his guests. Nevertheless Beverley, although he
gave no signs of it, knew perfectly well that neither Nicolas nor Madame
Katarina were entirely at their ease. When coffee was served and their
host with a word of excuse glanced at his watch and asked the _maitre
d'hôtel_ to inquire by telephone from Le Bourget at exactly what time the
English plane was due to leave, the signs of disquietude on Katarina's
part increased. Nicolas, on the other hand, seemed to welcome his host's
preparation for an early departure.

"An excellent lunch," the former declared as he sipped his coffee. "You
are a wonderful host, Mr. Beverley. You have learnt to study the likes
and dislikes of your guests. It is a great gift. I trust that you will
return to England fully satisfied in your mind."

Beverley's smile and rejoinder were perhaps more courteous than
convincing.

"How can one be more completely reassured," he remarked, "than when one
has received the solemn word of a king?"

Nicolas sipped his brandy.

"You should have been a courtier, Mr. Beverley," he observed.

"Too plain-spoken for that, I fear, sir. However, I confess that I
return feeling lighter-hearted. I myself," he went on as he signed the
bill and pushed a half-hidden note into the hand of the _maitre d'hôtel_,
"know for a fact that Your Majesty's interests are best served through
my company. It is a relief to me, however, to know that nothing is
likely to disturb your faith in us."

Katarina leaned lazily across the table.

"You leave us too soon. Monsieur Beverley," she complained.

"Alas, it is necessary."

"I have a letter," she told him, "which I should like to have conveyed
to London. It is to me of very great importance."

Nicolas frowned.

"My dear," he remonstrated, "should we trouble a great business man like
Mr. Beverley with a lady's note for her dressmaker?"

Madame laughed lightly.

"My dressmaker indeed!" she exclaimed as she handed the envelope across
the table. "This note is to Monsieur Cochrane. He is the greatest
impresario in Europe. Dressmaker!"

"I will deliver it with pleasure," Beverley promised, slipping it into
his pocket. "I know Cochrane quite well. I will deliver it into his own
hands. And now, alas, it must be _au revoir_. You will permit me?"

She vouchsafed him her fingers, ablaze with jewels. Nicolas extended his
hands.

"We must thank you for a very excellent luncheon as well as for the
pleasure of your company, Mr. Beverley," he said.

"I beg, sir, that you will not hurry from the table on my account," the
latter replied with a glance at the half-full coffee-cups and brandy
glasses. "The luncheon has been a great pleasure to me."

Katarina flashed a brilliant smile at him. Nicolas resumed his seat.
Beverley made his exit, rang for the lift and descended. From a seat
opposite the lift, when he arrived at the ground floor, a woman dressed
in black, the obvious lady's maid, rose to her feet and accosted him.

"It is Monsieur Beverley?"

He nodded.

The woman kept her eyes fixed anxiously upon the stationary lift. She
spoke quickly and in rather guttural French.

"Monsieur has a letter in his pocket addressed by Madame Katarina to a
gentleman in London?"

"Well?"

She moved a little nearer to him. The lift bell had not rung, there were
few people about.

"The letter is for Monsieur," she said. "He is to open it and read its
contents. Afterwards he is to destroy it. He is to read it, though,
before he mounts the plane."

"Understood," Beverley murmured under his breath.

The woman glided away. Beverley made his way outside, settled down in a
corner of the car he had ordered, and drove off. As soon as he was well
away from the Place Vendome he tore open the letter addressed to Mr.
Cochrane. He read the few lines of the thin scrawling handwriting at a
glance:--

Treyer is trying to get into touch with Predor Pravadia, the leader of
the Left. They will win the election. Pravadia may repudiate the charter
when he takes office. Treyer has rendezvous with Nicolas at six
to-night.

Beverley tore the letter into small pieces and dropped them separately
from the window. He leaned back in the corner, his arms folded. It
occurred to him gloomily that he was likely to travel a long distance
from Gracechurch Street in the next few weeks.



CHAPTER XIV

Marya's walk seemed never to change. She crossed the crowded floor of
the Grill Room at the Germanic that evening with the same serene and
effortless grace of movement as when on the night before she had trodden
the rain-splashed pavement of the narrow street leading from the omnibus
to her rooms. Watching her, Beverley, who had risen to his feet as she
stepped down from the dais, decided that she was the only person he had
ever known with artistic sensibilities who was entirely devoid of
self-consciousness. She threaded her way amongst the closely packed
tables towards him seeing nobody, holding out her hand to him at the
moment of her arrival with that same little gesture in its slight
elevation of innate but unconscious condescension. He raised it to his
lips. A waiter held her chair. She seated herself and her eyes scanned
Beverley's face a little anxiously.

"I think," she said, "that you must be a magician."

"I am a very ordinary man," he assured her, "and the proof of it is that
I am starving. Your glass I see is already filled. Your supper is
ordered. Drink with me to my tomorrow's journey."

Her lips touched the brim of her champagne goblet.

"To where?" she asked.

"To Orlac."

She set down her glass.

"You go to Orlac?"

He nodded.

"I will explain," he told her. "You will be the only person in the world
who knows the real reason of my visit. First, though, tell me--everything
has gone well with you?"

"Everything has been as I desired," she said. "The money came, an
apology, and a very kind gentleman who owns the Germanic met me when I
arrived this evening and assured me that I was free to accept or refuse
invitations, and he made me compliments on my playing which were not
deserved."

"There is still something wrong," he said quietly.

"There is nothing."

"Then why are you not happy?"

"If you must know that, I am not quite happy because I owe so much and
can return so little. I think that I did wrong to leave Orlac."

"Why?"

She hesitated. Again there were evidences of that amazing absence of any
self-consciousness.

"I am lost in the world," she confided. "I suffer. I have glimpses of a
life of beauty. There is no place there for me."

"I do not think," he reflected, "that these ideas came to you under this
roof."

"It is quite true," she admitted. "I have been to see some of the
pictures you spoke of. Yesterday morning the sun shone and I walked in
the gardens of Kew. I saw more pictures in the afternoon. I do not think
I shall stay here and play to these people very much longer. Now will
you please tell me about Orlac."

"There is trouble there," he said. "Very likely it all started with the
finding of that little piece of rock you showed me."

She looked at him wonderingly.

"But how could that be possible?"

"The people are discontented," he explained. "They think that money is
going out of the country and being paid to the King which should come to
them. The Premier, as you know, has resigned. The election drags on but
they say that the party of the Left are certain to win. They talk of
confiscating our mine, and, if there is more of this bauxite in any
other part of the kingdom, working it by a coalition from which the
people are to have the whole of the profits."

"It is stupid!" she exclaimed.

"It seems so," he admitted, "but of course there is something underneath
it all. Treyer, our unpleasant friend whom you sent away, is plotting
for Germany. He and the leader of the Left party seem to have come
together."

She was thoughtful for a moment.

"But the mine which is now being worked," she asked, "there is no doubt
about that? It is upon Crown Land. No one could confiscate that?"

"Strange things have been done in the old days," he told her, "in some
of the smaller kingdoms of Central Europe. There is a strong party in
Orlac, I hear, who object to the King spending so much time away from
his country. He might lose his throne. Treyer is making overtures of
friendship towards Pravadia and between them they might arrange a
sufficient income for the King if he made over the mine...Please
continue to eat your chicken, Marya Mauranesco. Just at the moment it is
more important than the future of Klast. That we can do nothing about as
we sit here, but the chicken might be taken away any minute and you
would be hungry."

"It is true," she admitted, recommencing her meal.

They ate and drank in comparative silence for some time. Once or twice
her silky eyebrows were drawn close together as though she were
thinking. Her companion gave her no encouragement towards a renewal of
their conversation, however. A wonderful dish of fruit finished their
repast. She drew a little sigh of content.

"You are really a magician," she said. "You read the weaknesses of other
people."

With the arrival of the finger-bowls and coffee, however, she was not
to be denied any longer. She leaned across the table.

"Mr. Beverley," she said.

"Marya Mauranesco," he rejoined gravely.

"I do not think that you should go to Orlac. Let me ask you this. What
is it that you hope to do there?"

"To stop this intrigue on the part of Germany to get hold of my
bauxite," he answered bluntly. "They have discovered that blended with
magnesium it makes the most perfect aluminium in the world and they mean
to have it, whatever price they pay."

"You forgive--yes?" she asked almost apologetically. "But if they are so
determined, do you think that you alone, not even able to speak the
language, will stop them?"

He was silent for a moment. His thoughts were travelling a long way
backwards.

"Please," she murmured.

He remembered where they were.

"Marya Mauranesco," he said, "in the days when I studied and loved Greek
mythology there was one who had a theory that the soul of a man
travelled with him through life but outside his body--always there to
receive confessions, to give sympathy and advice."

"It is a beautiful idea," she mused.

"I am glad that you approve," he continued, "because I begin to think
that you are taking that place with me. I talk to you as I would talk to
no one else. I am going into a blank struggle. I cannot even speak
German fluently. I have a great admiration for the race but I do not
like them and I am going out to Orlac not only for the sake of thwarting
their schemes but to hold my mine for the people who have trusted us and
invested their money in it. I may do no good, yet I shall go. It is my
duty."

"Yes," she reflected, "I think that you are the sort of man who would do
that."

"If I do not succeed," he went on, "we shall either be placed in a very
humiliating position or it will be war. England is not a brave country
when the question of war arises. She would go even a little too far, as
she has done recently in intrigue and shuffling, to avoid it, but this
time if I fail she will be confronted with a definite issue. She might
be forced to fight. Well, we shall see."

She looked at him wonderingly.

"A European war just for the Klast Mine!" she exclaimed.

"It might come to that. Walter Harding, our minister there, is a weak
man and very gullible. The German minister is the reverse. He and Treyer
are a crafty pair. They may get Pravadia to alter the Constitution so
that the Government of Orlac can confiscate the mine."

"But how could England permit that?" she demanded.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Our own people would save their face, I suppose, by paying us an
indemnity," he replied. "We don't want that: we want to keep our mine.
That is the reason I am going to Orlac."

"You go when?" she asked.

"I dare not pass over Berlin," he confided, glancing around for a
moment. "There have been too many spies abroad. I shall trust to my
latest purchase. I have a plane of my own, Marya Mauranesco. Some day in
the dim future, if things go well, when you are a famous artist, I may
take you back to Orlac to see your friends."

"I would like to fly," she admitted, "but it is not of that I wish to
speak just now. I feel very much alone in the world, dear friend. I do
not wish you to go to Orlac. Life and death over here are very important
things. Life and death in Orlac are insignificant. Even the great city
lord, Mr. Nigel Beverley, might disappear. You are not used to the
undisciplined life. Please do not go there."

A warning note was struck on the piano, a bow was drawn across the
strings of the 'cello. Marya looked quickly round and sprang to her
feet.

"It is necessary that I return," she announced sadly.

He checked the protest which came so easily to his lips.

"What about the restaurant afterwards?" he asked.

"One does not leave the dais there," she said. "That has always been
understood."

"Could I share Suka's duty to-night?"

"Share?" she repeated dubiously. "Oh, please speak simply. I am so
stupid. I do not understand."

"Can I take you home, in the omnibus if you like, with Suka?" he asked.

"If you wish," she answered without hesitation. "We go out by a little
door in Leopold Street. I would not wish you to ride in an omnibus. We
will all three ride in your car or a taxicab, or, if you wish it," she
added, "Suka can follow us in a taxicab."

"That we can arrange," he agreed. "At five-past twelve?"

"Please."

Beverley was too restless to wait in the restaurant, besides which he
had a telephone appointment. He drove to the Albany and rang up Paris.

"I would like," he announced to the operator in the Ritz, "to speak to
Baron Genetter, the private secretary of Mr. Nicolas. Will you see if he
is to be found? I will remain here."

"_Bien_, Monsieur," was the complaisant reply.

Soon he heard Genetter's silky voice, at first talking to the operator
then to him.

"It is Monsieur Beverley?"

"Speaking."

"You had your conversation with my master?"

"Yes."

"You are satisfied?"

"No."

There was something which sounded like a groan from the other end.

"And now?"

"It is no secret--I would rather like Nicolas to know--I leave for Orlac
to-morrow."

"It is a dangerous enterprise."

"It is more dangerous to remain idle."

"It is very sad," Genetter said. "My master's attitude warned me that
this might come. Neither Madame Katarina nor I, who are his best
friends, agree. It is a foolish course he takes."

"He will discover that too late," was Beverley's stern comment. "I
promised you you should know the result of our conversation. Well,
there it is. Words, nothing but words."

Treyer came.

"Well?"

"After he left I knew that the worst had happened. I knew that Nicolas
was no longer a sane man."

"He told you nothing?"

"He professed to tell me everything but I knew that it was not the
truth."

"You listened?"

"Mr. Beverley, it was not for my own good, not even to save my own skin.
It was for his. He is like a boy in the nursery who has escaped and
having the power has plunged into the great world. Nicolas will lose his
kingdom and his mistress and his life. You and I alone can save him."

"It may be your business," Beverley said. "It is not mine."

"He is very young."

"What is that to me?" Beverley retorted with a touch of scorn in his
tone. "He is old enough to waste his money upon an extravagant mistress,
to break his word of honour, the word of honour of a king, to deceive
those who have treated him honestly. If he perseveres in such courses
why should I care whether he hves or dies?"

"It is easy speech but there are those who love Nicolas."

"Sorry for them," Beverley replied.

"If there is any change in the situation, where could I find you?"

"You could write me to the office of the mine in Klast."

"Alas, that I dare not do," Genetter confessed. "Your letters--if not
to-day, to-morrow or the next day--will be censored."

"Then leave it alone," Beverley advised. "We shall be fighting in
different camps, anyhow, Genetter. If Nicolas comes to his senses we may
meet. If not, better forget that we ever tried to help him behind his
back. Good night. They are calling for the line."

Beverley laid down the receiver and glanced at his watch. It was still
only eleven o'clock. He unlocked the door of the room in which he had
been telephoning and rang for his servant.

"Martin," he enquired, "my things are all packed?"

"Everything, sir. You will pardon me but--I hope I did right, sir--Lord
Portington called and wished to see you urgently. I told him that you
were not to be disturbed. He is waiting in the dining-room."

Beverley nodded.

"You can send him in."

Portington entered the room with a very long face indeed.

"My dear Nigel," he said, "have you seen anything of Appleby?"

"Thank God, no," Beverley replied. "He is the one man I have been trying
to avoid."

"I have just left him," Portington went on. "He couldn't find you so he
had to put up with me. It is about this trouble in Orlac."

Beverley waved his visitor to a chair.

"Well, what about it?"

"They are very upset at the War Office, especially the department in
which you and I are interested. They are terrified lest the agitation in
the country might mean delay in shipments from the mine."

"I don't see why it should," Beverley pointed out. "We are still working
up to capacity and we are delivering all that we promised. You know that
yourself, sir, or rather you could know if you cared to look through the
entries at the office."

"Anyhow," Lord Portington continued, "Appleby says he must see you at
once. They told him here that you were out of town and Martin refused to
say when you would be back. In Gracechurch Street they were even more
mysterious. I myself, as you know, had no information whatever. Where
have you been all day?"

"Very busy," was the curt reply. "Very busy indeed. I am going to be
busy for a few days. As a matter of fact, I am going abroad."

"Abroad? Does Ursula know?"

"Don't bother about Ursula and me just now, sir," Beverley begged. "I
know what Appleby wants to see me about. I rather hoped I should have
slipped away before he got the wind up. However, as it is I must see
him. Where is he?"

"He is at the Carlton Club now waiting for a phone message from me."

Beverley sighed.

"All right, I will come round there with you or you can telephone him
that I shall be there in ten minutes."

"I will take you round," Portington decided. "I am glad you are being
reasonable about this, Nigel. As to going abroad just now--why, it's
nonsense!"

Beverley made no reply. He lit a cigarette and rang for Martin.

"Have all my luggage and your own things ready, Martin," he said. "I
shall be back in half an hour."

"We shall be going to Croydon, sir?" the man asked.

"No, to Heston."

"At what time--"

"Never mind about that," his master interrupted. "Just wait until I am
back and have everything in readiness. You can take down the names of
anyone who telephones but you know nothing."

"Very good, sir."

Portington had a great deal to say in the car but his companion sat by
his side in silence. At the last moment, however, he was obliged to
answer a very direct question.

"Nigel, there is one thing I must ask you," his companion insisted. "Is
there anything wrong between you and Ursula?"

"Nothing at all," Beverley answered as the car drew up. "Everything
between us is perfectly all right. It has been wrong for the last few
months but it is all right now. You can ask Ursula. She will tell you
all about it."

"I am much relieved," Portington admitted. "And now for Appleby."



CHAPTER XV

The Right Honourable Viscount Appleby, joint Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs and probably at that moment the most important person in
Great Britain, greeted Beverley in friendly fashion.

"Ran him to ground at last," Portington remarked. "I'll leave you to
it."

"If you don't mind," the minister agreed.

The latter waited until the door of the Strangers' Room was closed; then
he insisted on Beverley's taking an easy chair and lighting a cigarette.

"We are worried, Beverley," he confided. "I had to send for you. What I
am going to say must be considered absolutely secret. When I say that,
it is not a figure of speech; our censors would know what to do with any
reports we objected to, but we don't even want a word of gossip."

Beverley nodded.

"I quite understand."

"I am speaking to you not as a Cabinet minister," Appleby continued,
"but as chairman of the United Defence Committee. We are obtaining from
you at the present moment something like a hundred tons a week of a
certain material which we will not name which comes from your mine at
Klast."

Beverley assented with a nod.

"Our contract with you," Appleby went on, "demands that you supply no
one else with this material. You are keeping to that?"

"Absolutely. No one else has had an ounce. No contract with anyone else
exists."

"I hate long-winded speeches," Appleby proceeded. "You and I are both
business men, Beverley. This material we obtain from you, blended with
magnesium, makes the most perfect aluminium in the world. It is unique.
It is worth anything to us. The Germans have kept their laboratories
going day and night to find a substitute. They cannot find it. They have
been getting behind with their coverings for all their new range of
aeroplanes. Suddenly, without any announcement in the papers, without
any fuss, the greatest firm in Germany--you know which I mean--has
accepted an enormous contract from their Government for planes, in which
it is stipulated that this particular material shall be used. Have you
any explanation to offer?"

"No direct explanation, sir," Beverley replied. 'T shall tell you the
facts. You can form your own judgment. We hold a concession from the
King giving us possession of all the territory on which the Klast Mine
is situated. That concession was necessary first because it was Crown
Land, the personal property of King Nicolas. Further than that, we hold
a charter from the House of Assembly giving us the sole right to work
the mine we have established. We pay so much to the King, we pay so much
to Parliament. We have not been a single day behind with either payment.
There has been a rumour that bauxite has been discovered in another part
of the kingdom. I am going to Orlac--at two o'clock to-morrow morning my
plane leaves Heston--to investigate it. I do not believe the rumour but
even if I did, it would take anyone two years to build another plant in
the country of Orlac or anywhere else, to deal with the bauxite and the
special processes required. Therefore the contract you speak of could
not be carried out with bauxite which had not been drawn from an already
established mine."

"Then how is this contract with the German Government to be kept by the
firm who have entered into it?" Appleby asked.

"There Is only one way, sir," Beverley replied. "There is a political
crisis in Orlac, as I don't need to tell you, of course. The Premier who
signed our charter has resigned. Elections are now taking place. It is
likely that there will be a new premier. The only possible explanation
of that contract you have spoken of is that the Germans have been
conducting a secret course of propaganda in Orlac, bribing with both
hands, and that they will be able to induce the new premier, whoever he
is, to withdraw our charter, the King to cancel the concession and the
Government to confiscate the mine."

"Very clearly put, Beverley. And so?"

"The charter was given legally to a British company," Beverley
continued. "The mine at Klast is owned and worked with British capital.
If confiscation were attempted the company would appeal to you, sir. We
should ask you to resist an illegal action towards your subjects and
insist upon the mine being left in the possession of its legal owners."

Appleby nodded understandingly but very gravely.

"That might mean war," he said.

"It would be a more likely and reasonable basis for war than any of
these scares we have heard of for a long time, sir," Beverley agreed.

"You have already received a visit from our Minister to Orlac," Appleby
remarked.

"Sir Walter Harding called upon me yesterday, sir. There was nothing I
could say. His visit was, I gather, more one of preliminaries. You have
asked me for the whole truth and I have given it to you. We have a
capital of three million pounds, the whole of which, practically, is
held by British shareholders. I cannot believe for a moment that any
English Government, apart from what its own interests might be, would
permit them to be robbed."

Lord Appleby was silent for a few moments.

"I take it, then, Beverley," he continued, "that you have had no news
whatever as regards this contract having been made by the German
Government."

"Certainly not," Beverley replied. "All that I know is that Germans have
been in Orlac and are there now, working to disorganise the country and
to bring about the state of affairs of which you have spoken. A private
company such as ours has very few resources on which it can rely to deal
with such a situation, but as I have already told you, sir, I am leaving
for Orlac within a few hours. I hate war as much as any human being
could possibly hate it and I shall do everything I can not to put you in
the position of having to use force to protect our interests."

"With regard to this reported discovery of bauxite elsewhere," Appleby
asked, "have your firm taken any steps?"

"We only heard of it about a fortnight ago," Beverley declared. "Since
then I have obtained a concession from the King in case any further
supply of bauxite should be found upon his lands, and a promise in
writing that he will grant no charter to anyone except our company.
Furthermore, he has given me a document guaranteeing his influence with
the new Prime Minister, if there should be a change, to preserve the
amenities of the present mine and to grant no privileges to any other
company."

"You have certainly acted promptly," the minister conceded.

"In our small way," Beverley continued, "we have done our best to meet
guile with guile. We have made presents in various directions which it
is as well for you to know nothing of. All the same, the presents have
been made and the signatures granted."

"Do you believe that the King will stand firm against the Government if
they should come to loggerheads?" Appleby asked.

"I lunched with His Majesty to-day," Beverley confided. "I am not wholly
convinced that he is an honest man, especially since I have discovered
that he later kept an appointment with the German who has been doing the
underground work in Orlac."

"Notwithstanding the fact that he has accepted a present from you,
Beverley, on behalf of your company?"

"Notwithstanding that fact, sir."

"What will be your course of action, Beverley, when you arrive in
Orlac?" Lord Appleby enquired.

"It will depend entirely upon the course of the election. If the Left
Wing get in, I shall do my best to make friends with the incoming
Premier. If I fail, and of course if we receive any official intimation
that our charter is to be terminated, I shall have to lay the situation
before you."

Appleby was silent for several moments.

"I am glad to have had this talk with you, Beverley," he said. "I have,
at any rate, a complete grasp of the situation now and, so far as you
have gone, I approve of everything. I am sure that you are making every
human effort to keep the mine in your own hands and to prevent any other
similar enterprise being started, and what I am going to say is perhaps
unnecessary--but I shall say it all the same. If secret service money is
required for dealing with these people, and it is no good being blind to
the fact that there are people who cannot be dealt with any other way,
you can rely upon us as being at your back and if you are able to pull
this through and keep clear of trouble, there is nothing personal you
could ask of the Government which it would not be happy to grant. You
understand me, I am sure."

"Perfectly. I can only say, sir, that I am exceedingly obliged."

"You will join me in a whisky-and-soda before you go?" Lord Appleby
begged.

"If you would excuse me, sir, I would be glad. I dined late and I still
have a little work to do before I start off. If I have any news other
than what Sir Walter Harding sends you I will communicate through him,
and I would suggest, sir, that if you have any special instructions for
me you send them to the Consulate in Klast."

Appleby walked with him as far as the steps of the club. On the way back
to the smoking-room, he met Portington and paused for a moment.

"I congratulate you, Portington," he said, "upon your future son-in-law.
I think young Beverley is one of the most straightforward and
plain-spoken business men I have ever been brought into touch with. Sort
of fellow we could find room for in politics."

"I'm afraid, sir," Portington commented, "we could not spare him from
Gracechurch Street."

"I told him," Appleby continued, dropping his voice a little as the two
men passed across the hall, "that if he could keep us out of this
trouble in Orlac and still supply us with what v/e need from the mine,
he would stand very high up in that Government list we refer to in times
of celebrations. You and I might have to put our heads together about
that."

Portington nodded somewhat grimly. He had just had a telephone
conversation with Ursula, who had up till then kept her own counsel,
which was to say the least of it disturbing. Still, he was an optimist
by nature and he remembered that Beverley had made no reference to that
unfortunate little incident at the Germanic.

"Glad you think well of him, Appleby," he said. "He has brains. There is
another thing about him, too. He knows when to speak and he knows when
to keep silent."

"I wish there were more like him amongst my followers," the minister
remarked a trifle sadly as the two men parted.

There were very few loiterers in Leopold Street when punctually at five
minutes past twelve Marya Mauranesco made her appearance walking slowly
down the entry followed by Suka, who had a bundle under either arm.
Beverley stepped out on to the pavement to meet her.

"You are marvellously punctual," he said, taking the violin case from
her. "Will you step in, please? It is a fine night. Would it be
agreeable for Suka to ride with the chauffeur in front?"

"She will like it," Marya replied. "She complains always of the lack of
air."

They drove off. In the semi-obscurity of the car Beverley, watching his
companion closely, fancied that he saw some slight change in her
expression. The restlessness of earlier in the evening seemed to have
gone. There was a reposeful look about her sensitive mouth and her
finely drawn features.

"You have beautiful possessions," she observed, sinking back amongst the
cushions.

"Material things are easy to arrive at," Beverley said. "They form,
though, a very unimportant part of life."

"Is the plane you have bought as wonderful as this?"

"It is larger than I needed," he told her. "There is not so much luxury
about planes, of course, but it is the best one can buy of its sort.
Someday, perhaps you will fly with me."

She looked up at him. There was something a little different in her
eyes, in that quick movement, in the faint unsteadiness of her question.

"That has come into your mind," she asked, "just lately--yes? You would
like to take me with you sometime in your plane?"

"I should like it very much," he assured her. "These are stormy days and
I am going on a difficult journey, Marya Mauranesco, or I might perhaps
try and tell you how much."

The smile lingered upon her lips. For a time she said nothing. Beverley
himself felt curiously tongue-tied. It was not until they reached the
corner of her street that she spoke again.

"What you said just now I like," she told him. "I am glad that you did
not have it in your mind to go away to Orlac and never see or think of
me again..."

They drew up outside the tall building. Beverley stepped out and
assisted her to alight.

"You v/ill wish me luck?" he said, holding out his hand.

"Wait!" she cried. "I ask you something, if you please. You wait here
for me for five minutes? I come out and make you my farewells. Five
minutes, please?"

"Certainly," he agreed. "I will wait with pleasure."

Suka curtsied to him from the pavement. They disappeared. In rather less
than the five minutes Marya Mauranesco returned. She was carrying the
small bag she had brought with her on that first visit to his office.
Behind her was Suka, who proceeded to re-ensconce herself in the
comfortable place by the side of the chauffeur. Beverley glanced at her
in surprise. He half-rose to his feet, but the girl waved him back. She
sank into the place by his side.

"If you please," she begged, "you must not be angry. I shall ask you to
be very kind to Suka and to me. We shall be grateful always."

"But what is it that you want?" he asked her. "I thought you were coming
back alone just to say one word of farewell. I have been asking myself
what that one word would be."

"I have come back," she explained, "but I do not wish to say farewell.
We are coming with you to Orlac."



CHAPTER XVI

Some thirty hours later Marya Mauranesco and Nigel Beverley sat side by
side on the steps of their grey, beautifully shaped plane. Silent now,
it still seemed to be quivering from its flight over the mountains. A
few yards away, their pilot was enjoying a stroll around the grassy
slope and the relief of a long-desired cigarette. There were other
shadowy figures about the place, mechanics in blue and tan uniforms,
gathered mostly in the neighbourhood of this stranger from the skies
which had swept down upon them with such scanty warning. The aerodrome
itself was crude. There were a dozen hangars, most of them empty. There
were zinc-roofed workmen's dwellings, a patch of allotment gardens.
Those, however, were all nearly half a mile away. From the plateau which
formed the main landing ground and in the middle of which Beverley's
plane had made a perfect descent, there sloped a marvellous amphitheatre
of gorgeous country'--pine forests, a glittering river, a mist-topped
range of hills, and beyond them wonderful mountains whose peaks faded
into the clouds. Immediately below them was the city; and although from
this distance it had a certain picturesque charm and outline, no one had
ever claimed that Klast in itself was beautiful. The steward of the
plane brought them steaming coffee, and rolls, fresh milk and butter
from a farmhouse close at hand. He brought also a woman still young but
with deep lines in her brown, weather-worn face. She wore a faded
scarlet shawl round her shoulders and a queerly shaped skirt. She
entered at once into conversation in her own language with Marya.
Beverley listened for a moment idly, then he looked away across the
tree-tops towards the town and over the town to the fruitful country on
the other side. He was conscious of a sense of peace, at once deep and
restful. He had slept for hours through the wild journey, without relief
to his tired brain. Here in the sweet yet bracing atmosphere, which
seemed filled with the perfume of flowers and the dreamy morning wind,
he felt rested. It was an enterprise, even for the pilot, this flight in
a new machine to this place. It was a strange feeling, too, that Marya,
so quiet, so silent and yet so curiously stimulating, had slept
peacefully a few yards away all through their journey and was there now
by his side, perfectly calm, perfectly content, more desirable than any
woman into whose eyes he had ever looked.

"She has news of what is going on in the city?" he asked her when the
woman, with a clumsy curtsy, had left them.

"She does not know much," Marya explained. "Up here we are still eleven
miles from Klast. She has been there, she tells me, four times in her
life. She lives in their two fields and in her poultry yard. Her man has
been summoned to the army. Months may pass, she says, before she sees or
hears from him again. She is very happy because of the three pieces of
silver you gave me for her. I think she has never sold milk at such a
price before."

Beverley, who was thinking of the huge cities over which they had passed
and the almost fierce examination of their passports and the storm of
questions which assailed them at the German frontier during the staccato
hour of the only pause in their flight, smiled as he looked around him.

"Did you ask her about the time the officials are likely to turn up?"

"To turn up?" she repeated thoughtfully.

"To arrive, to ask for and examine our passports and to know what our
business is in Klast."

"Oh, yes," she told him. "That will be very soon. There is a big motor
lorry which arrives every morning at eight o'clock. It will be here
soon. Very few planes, the woman said, ever stop here. Sometimes they
pass over. Very seldom they descend."

The pilot threw away his cigarette and approached them. He doffed his
cap to Marya.

"Since the young lady speaks the language, sir," he said to Beverley,
"perhaps she was able to get some information from the woman."

"The officials will be here presently," Beverley announced. "I have only
been here once before and then they talked of building a funicular up
here, and a motor road. They seem, however, to have abandoned the idea."

"No garage, nothing of that sort?" the man asked.

"There is a store of petrol here and plenty of oil in that stone
building, but it is all locked up. The officials will be here at eight
o'clock. There is excellent coffee, and cold ham, if you want it, which
the steward has just produced, and fresh milk. Better get into the salon
and have some breakfast."

The man climbed the steps and disappeared. Beverley pointed out to Marya
the little pine-topped hill on the right-hand side of the enclosure.

"There is a path there," he said. "We shall be able to see the whole
road to Klast."

She walked by his side across the soft springy turf starred here and
there with wild flowers.

"I could see this place," she told him, "from the convent. I used to
watch them building this terrible aerodrome. Sister Georgina, when she
looked this way, had always tears in her eyes. She was one who feared
the coming of the outside world. The slightest event in any way not
usual disturbed her. She prayed night and day always for peace."

"And you?" he asked curiously.

"I grew to be like her," Marya confessed. "I, too, came to fear the
invasion of life. I have fear of it now. I have seen so little of the
world, Mr. Beverley. I think it is an ugly-place."

"And the Sister Superior," he asked, "has she ever left Klast?"

"She left when she was the age that I am now," Marya confided. "She was
even younger. I have seen a picture of her painted by an artist who
lived in Klast for many years. She was beautiful. She was like a flower.
She had the sweetest mouth and eyes that one ever saw. In her room there
are still copies of nearly all the Madonnas of the Renaissance. There is
one artist who took his wife always for his model. She was like that."

"And now?"

"She is beautiful still," Marya continued gravely, "but oh, so
different! Her hair is white; she found no happiness anywhere in the
cities of the world. I just remember her return. It was terrible to see
her at first, but it was beautiful to watch her growing more peaceful
and contented all the time in our gardens or in the chapel listening to
the music. One thing she had learned out in the world was the care of
flowers. She taught all that she knew to us. Each one of us worked every
diy and each one of us was supposed to be devoted to one particular
flower. I had beautiful lilies in my garden. Perhaps some day I shall be
permitted to show them to you."

"What do you mean by that?" he asked, smiling down at her.

"We have not spoken of it," she said quietly, "but I am going to live
with Sister Georgina. I think it will make her happy to have me. I have
seen nothing in life of which I am not afraid."

They had reached the top of the hill. She passed a little in advance of
him and pointed from the summit down towards some wooded slopes
overlooking the city.

"Through the trees," she went on, "you could see little glimpses of the
convent. The trees have grown now and of the building you can see
nothing until you are there. To the right, where there is an open space,
you can see the small chapel. It is beyond that where our gardens are.
You see the wall?"

"I do indeed," he answered.

"It has many names. No one has ever been known to climb it. It is many
feet high and they say that the iron spikes, scarcely one of which is
missing, are nearly a thousand years old. The first name--'The Ring of
Peace'--is the one I like best. There are two gates only. One is where I
am pointing," she told him, leaning a little forward. "That is 'The Gate
of Entrance.' There is a house there where the portress and two others
live. The other is called 'The Gate of Departure.' It is behind the
convent and out of sight. Then there is a building like a church outside
both gates," she went on, swinging a little round. "That is where the
young women come day by day for instruction. It is there that I went
every day to learn languages, geography, history...It has its private
chapel, but it is not the real chapel. That is in the convent
enclosure."

"It is very beautiful," Beverley said. "Show me now the rest of the
city--the King's palace, the House of Assembly."

She turned away and it seemed to Beverley that her eyes left with
reluctance those wooded and secret places in which the convent was
hidden.

"That is the King's palace, in the heart of the town," she pointed out.
"It is of white stone, very large, not very beautiful. There is the
House of Assembly, on the other side of the square. There is no question
of beauty there. That is ugly. If your eyes are good, and I think they
are, you can see something crawling along the boulevard. It is one of
the new electric cars."

"I see it," he admitted.

"There," she went on, her finger directed towards the bare-topped hills
on the right, "is your mine. You can see the shafts. At night-time
sometimes you can see the flames. A mile away you can feel the heat. All
those buildings which look like rings of great mushrooms are the
tenement houses built for the miners."

Beverley looked up at them thoughtfully.

"The mine is at work now," he remarked. "I can see the smoke."

"It is at work always night and day," she told him.

"What is that?" he asked, pointing down the rough road towards an
ascending vehicle immediately below them. It seemed to him that she
shivered a little. Without a doubt she moved nearer to him. A sudden
flash of pleasant consciousness seemed to tell him that it was an
instinctive search for protection.

"It is the officials of the town," she told him in a half-whisper.
"There are gendarmes and the guardians of the aerodrome. We shall have
to go back with them in that lorry. Suka will be very happy. Her brother
is a gendarme. Sometimes on fete days she goes with him to town."

Her eyes seemed to have become a little dilated as she looked down at
the clumsy vehicle which was being laboriously driven up the precipitous
assent.

"Are you happy to be near home again, Marya?" he asked her.

She remained silent. Slowly she turned away from him.

"We must meet them," she said. "I have never been to the Flying Station
before but there is a douane as well."

He followed her down the narrow path. They reached the edge of the wood
within hearing of the vehicle which now, however, was out of sight.
Beverley suddenly checked her progress.

"Please tell me, Marya Mauranesco," he begged. "I have brought you here
safely because you asked me to do so. Whether I was wise or not I do not
know. What do you propose to do? How is it that you wish to live? You
cannot seriously mean that you are going to live at the convent on the
other side of the walls."

The sweet full lips trembled a little. She suddenly raised her eyes to
his--a very unusual action on her part. He saw clearly into their
depths. He realised now for the first time something of the struggle
which was going on, the disquietude which had crept into her being.

"Behind the walls I may not go yet," she explained softly. "I shall live
there outside the great gates until Sister Georgina takes me in. That
will come someday. Meanwhile I shall see my brother. I shall hear what
he has to tell me. I shall have my own little cell in the outer house.
As the summer goes on I shall leave my door open and when our own dreary
little evening service is over I shall hear the singing at vesper-time
in the chapel. Then the lights will gleam out in the city. I shall hear
the footsteps and the voices a long distance away, and nearer still I
shall smell the flowers in the garden. Then our music will cease. The
stars will come out, and if the wind is from the south I shall hear the
tinkling of guitars at the cafes, people's footsteps upon the pavement,
the quiver of their laughter. You see," she concluded, "when one is
outside the gates one is between the two worlds. It is so that one is
taught to think for oneself. I must just live out my period of waiting."

There was a further series of explosions from the rough road below. The
lorry turned in at the gate and came to a standstill. One by one its
inmates descended. The air was full of exclamations as they raised their
arms and pointed to the newly arrived plane, a glittering, beautiful
sight. A young man in military uniform suddenly detached himself from
the group. He came swiftly across towards them.

Beverley knew in a moment who he was. He was conscious at one and the
same time of the fact that this was quite one of the most beautiful
human beings he had ever seen and that it was Marya's brother.



CHAPTER XVII

The young man greeted his sister with a joyful deference which seemed to
Beverley dignified yet charming. Perhaps out of respect for the presence
of a stranger, he spoke to her in English.

"So you have dropped from the clouds of heaven, dear Marya!" he
exclaimed. "You join once more the angels of earth. I offer you the
salutations of a very ordinary human being."

His lips touched her cheeks lightly on either side. He held her away
from him and looked at her thoughtfully.

"But these few weeks have made a difference," he went on. "You are no
longer a schoolgirl."

Marya maintained her air of perfect gravity. If the meeting had brought
her any pleasure she successfully concealed it.

"This is Mr. Nigel Beverley," she said, "who has brought me here in his
beautiful plane. Mr. Beverley, this is my brother Rudolph Mauranesco."

The young man saluted in military fashion. Afterwards he held out his
hand. His smile was good-natured, his tone cordial.

"I welcome you, Mr. Beverley," he declared. "You are a great benefactor
of my country. I thank you for having given my sister this marvellous
experience. You have come, I suppose, to see that your mine is still
tearing the bauxite out of the earth at Klast."

"I have come to have a look round," Beverley admitted. "I hear that
things are a little unsettled over here."

Rudolph ignored the remark. He extended his hand towards the little
group by whom they were surrounded.

"My companions," he explained, "are all officials of the place.
Gentlemen, this is Mr. Nigel Beverley who is responsible for the
prosperity of our city. He is the president of the company who own the
Klast Mine."

There was a great deal of handshaking and of guttural salutation which
sounded to Beverley, with his scant comprehension of the language, as
though he had found his way into a parrot house. He was led away into
the bureau, his papers were examined, everything that should be
countersigned was countersigned. The dozen officials--some of them in
marvellously shabby uniforms, others in strangely cut clothes and hats
which looked as though they had come from the ready-made department of
some London or New York outfitter--had nothing but compliments to offer.
The customs official smiled longingly at Beverley's beautifully packed
suitcases but refused to examine anything. It was only when he caught
sight of a box of cigars that a covetous gleam shone for a moment in his
eyes. Beverley opened it at once. The man spoke a little French.

"Try one of these," the former invited. "I am not a great smoker of
cigars but you will agree with me that they were too good to leave
behind."

There was a further exchange of courtesies, after which Beverley's
half-empty box was returned to its place. Marya had drawn her brother a
little on one side and whispered in his ear. He nodded and came across
to Beverley.

"My sister was afraid that you would have to descend in this awful
vehicle," he said. "Nothing of the sort. Your coming is already known in
the city and has excited much interest. We have not a great many modern
cars in the place, but the one which awaits you belongs to our principal
garage and was purchased from His Majesty King Nicolas a year ago. It is
not bad of its kind. If agreeable, my sister, you and myself will
descend in it and your baggage can follow afterwards. It is agreed?"

He took consent for granted and led the way to the limousine, which was
a little out-of-date but still flaunted the royal arms on the panels.
Marya gave a few brief instructions to Suka and entered the vehicle.
Beverley found himself by her side and the young man faced them. His
smile disclosed a set of dazzling teeth. He had the lofty forehead and
the classic features of a young Roman Emperor of bygone ages. His
carriage, too, was that of a race of rulers.

"It would have made me very happy, Mr. Beverley," he said, leaning
forward, "if I had been able to offer you the hospitality of the
Mauranesco palace, but, alas, it is no longer in my hands. To tell you
the truth, it has been turned into a block of flats. The most
comfortable suite, however, at the hotel is prepared for you. Further
than that we cannot go."

"The hotel is the only possible place," Marya said quietly. "The palace
of which my brother speaks consists now of workmen's dwellings except
for the two rooms in the attic which we were permitted to occupy, and
which have been left for my habitation in case I returned."

The young man shrugged his shoulders.

"My sister speaks the truth, I fear," he admitted. "Still, one likes to
express one's regrets. I know something of Western luxury, Mr. Beverley.
I was at Oxford for two terms. I had a flat in Mayfair for two months. I
know something of Paris. All this was before the crash."

"We never had any money," Marya said. "What we spent belonged to others.
With it we spent also our hopes."

Mauranesco turned to Beverley. His beautifully-shaped eyebrows were
slightly contracted.

"My sister looks sadly upon life," he confided. "You can tell that when
you hear her talk. She would be gay but she has not the gaiety of
spirit. Trouble oppresses and defeats her. With me it is different. I
see hope everywhere--especially at the present moment. My sister has
paid you a business visit, has she not, Mr. Beverley?"

"She has indeed," was the swift response. "Tell me, did that fragment of
rock she showed me come from property which belongs to you?"

The young man smiled with the air of one whose mind was fixed upon happy
things.

"You shall be told all about that presently, Mr. Beverley," he promised.
"You were a wise man to come here. There are others who wish to talk to
me about that piece of rock. I tell them 'No.' England is the greatest
country in the world. The Klast Mine belongs to England. It is Mr.
Beverley who has brought prosperity to Orlac. It is our duty to remember
it."

"That sounds very fair," Beverley acknowledged.

"It is a matter of honour," the other declared.

"I have undertaken this journey," Beverley continued, "partly to make a
few enquiries into the political condition of your country and partly on
the subject of this reported discovery of bauxite in the northern part
of the kingdom. Your sister did not know where the fragment which she
showed me was found. You can tell me all about it, of course. Was it on
Crown Lands?"

The young man shook his head.

"Oh, no."

"Was it on land belonging to you?"

Mauranesco seemed a little pained.

"Certainly it was," he replied. "My family have owned the whole ridge of
hills where it was discovered for many generations."

"Is it far from Klast?"

"In this car and in good weather it can be reached in three hours."

"Are you willing to allow the geologist I have attached to the Klast
Mine to inspect the property?"

The young man was mildly dubious.

"Would that be necessary, sir?" he asked. "Bauxite is unmistakable. You
yourself must be well acquainted with its appearance."

"Perhaps I am," Beverley acknowledged, "but it is necessary, in order to
estimate its value, to examine it in the crude state to see exactly how
it has come into being."

Mauranesco's expression rather resembled the pout of a beautiful but
discontented child.

"The more people who know about this," he explained, "the greater the
difficulty in dealing with it from the commercial point of view. I shall
do everything I can to please you, though, Mr. Beverley. My sister has
spoken to me most touchingly of your kindness to her."

Beverley glanced towards Marya. There was not a sign upon her face that
she was even listening. He turned again to his opposite neighbour.

"Tell me," he asked, "does Herr Treyer know yet where this piece of rock
was found?"

The young man's start was almost dramatic.

"Treyer?"

"That may be only an assumed name," Beverley went on, "but it is the
name under which he is known at the present moment. He is a German
Secret Agent working for his country. He has been to London and I
believe to Paris, and he has certainly been over here. I understood that
you had had conversations with him."

Rudolph Mauranesco appeared a trifle hurt.

"Mr. Beverley," he said, "I see that my sister has not confided to you
the humiliating situation in which I have been placed during the last
few weeks."

"You mean that you have been in prison?"

"I was the victim of a wicked misunderstanding," the other explained
with calm dignity. "I was temporarily confined in a fortress.
Fortunately the political upheaval of the last few days has resulted in
certain changes amongst the permanent officials. Through that I at once
obtained my liberty."

"I understood," Beverley told him, "that you had had conversations with
Treyer, and that as a result he had paid visits both to London and
Paris."

"You have heard strange things," the young man scoffed. "They are not
true. It is with you and you alone that I wish to deal. I have been
living since I left the--er--fortress in the remains of an old castle
which has belonged for many centuries to my family. Day by day I have
walked over my land. I have satisfied myself that we have a great supply
of bauxite. I am prepared to start with you this afternoon. If you wish
to bring your geologist you can do so, under certain conditions.
Otherwise there is my word, the word of a Prince of Mauranesco. The land
is there. It is my property. The bauxite is there. You can find for
yourself a hundred such specimens as the one my sister took to England.
A half-day's climbing in the hills should satisfy you. All that I would
add is this: Knowledge of such an immensely important fact is in itself
a great danger. We must keep it to ourselves as up till now I have
done."

"I am not alone in this matter," Beverley reminded the eager young man.
"I have a board of directors to satisfy. It would be better, I am sure,
if I brought my expert."

Mauranesco accepted the situation with an air of resignation.

"Everything," he declared, "shall be arranged according to your wishes.
The only thing is, there must be no loss of time. We will start this
afternoon, if possible. I can only regret that in Klast itself or even
when we reach my own property, I cannot offer you the hospitality which
a visitor of your position should receive from the head of my House. In
plain words, you will have to rough it most terribly."

Then Marya spoke again and Beverley was at once conscious of the change
in her. Her voice maintained all its soft qualities but there was
something in its timbre entirely different. The warmth had gone from her
tone. If such a thing had been reasonable one might have imagined that
there was contempt behind her words.

"I have already explained our unfortunate position to Mr. Beverley,
Rudolph," she said. "He will not expect hospitality of any sort from
us."

"It is regrettable," the young man sighed. "Nevertheless," he went on,
with the air of one who has a happy idea, "you will give me the
pleasure, Mr. Beverley, of lunching with me at the hotel?"

"Delighted," Beverley assented.

"Neither the accommodation nor the food," Rudolph continued, "are what
you have been accustomed to, but to me, after the fortress--"

"Prison," Marya corrected him quietly.

Her brother looked shocked.

"Marya!" he expostulated.

"I am under great obligation to Mr. Beverley," she explained with
ominous calm. "Nothing would make me happier than that his visit over
here should turn out to be successful. It is necessary, however, that he
be told the literal truth about everything. I who know nothing of
business can see that he will have difficulties to face. We can only
help him by seeing that he is not in any way misled."

There was a moment's pause. Rudolph, his eyebrows slightly contracted,
glanced smilingly across at Beverley as though appealing for his
sympathy.

"I think, sir," he said, "that you have bewitched my sister. I have
never before known her to take the faintest interest in serious affairs
other than religious ones. I see that I must be very careful in all that
I say to you. The tongue slips sometimes. It is an easy habit to
acquire. You shall have from me nothing but hard facts strung rigidly
together...You observe," he went on in an altered tone and with a wave
of his hand towards the town which they were approaching, "that Klast is
spreading. The city has outgrown its boundaries. Some of our most
ancient buildings are being sacrificed--beautiful though they were. This
is what takes their place."

Beverley glanced at the tall blocks of modern flats fashioned of the
inevitable concrete slabs which lined one side of the road and murmured
a word or two of sympathy.

"In time to come," Rudolph continued, "this will all be changed. The
city has been poverty-stricken for many years--and not only the city,
but the Government of the whole country. It is the taxes from your mine
which are filling the empty coffers; but, alas, not fast enough. There
is a strong communistic party in the House. All the time they clamour
for progress, more comfort for the people, more schools."

"It is reasonable," Beverley observed.

Rudolph shook his head. His agile and shapely fingers had during the
last few seconds been rolling some tobacco in a strip of paper. He began
to smoke.

"These are Western ideas," he declared. "I myself am more of an artist.
I would like to see the boulevards widened and improved where the houses
have been pulled down, trees planted, public gardens arranged for, a
State-endowed hotel and opera house. Your money is pouring into Klast,
bringing it all the time prosperity. Soon, either from you or from other
countries, this fresh discovery of bauxite will bring even greater
wealth. Lavaroko was a man of broad enough sympathies but he has been,
temporarily at any rate, deposed. What will happen should the Left Wing
win this election no one can tell."

They passed the royal palace, an impressive-looking building although
most of the windows were curtained and the place had an uninhabited
appearance. Then they swung round into the square and pulled up outside
the hotel, a large but ordinary-looking structure of red brick. The
ground floor was wholly devoted to a large café which extended onto the
pavement. A row of rather tired-looking shrubs in huge pots bordered the
kerb.

"You would wish, I am sure, my dear Marya," her brother suggested, "to
make your way at once to the convent. Sister Georgina is expecting you."

Marya took Beverley's hand and stepped lightly onto the crude pavement.

"Before I go to the convent," she said, "I have a debt which must be
discharged."

"A debt?" Rudolph repeated.

"Of gratitude to Mr. Beverley," she explained. "In order to discharge it
I wish to understand something of this very difficult situation before I
leave altogether the life of the city."

Rudolph seemed a little perplexed, almost distressed. He passed his arm
affectionately through his sister's, a dignified but not unfriendly
gesture. She freed herself at once.

"Surely," he remonstrated, "you can leave the matter of entertaining Mr.
Beverley and doing all that is possible for him in my hands?"

Their eyes met. Rudolph's question was curiously yet not unpleasantly
asked. There was something, however, significantly unresponsive in his
sister's silence. The three walked up the hotel steps together. The
manager, with many bows, presented himself to Beverley. From the
background an obvious Englishman came forward and greeted the latter
warmly.

"My name is Underwood, sir," he announced. "I daresay you remember me. I
am Mr. Marstan's private secretary."

"I remember you quite well," Beverley replied. "I rather thought that
Mr. Marstan would have been here himself or at the flying ground to meet
me."

"He sent me to explain," Underwood apologised. "The fact of it is,
things are so unsettled that he thinks it best not to leave the mine at
present."

"What is this about Hayter?" Beverley enquired. "Been getting into
trouble of some sort, hasn't he?"

"Nobody knows very much about it, sir," Underwood confided, drawing his
chief a little on one side. "It seems that he became embroiled in some
disturbance here one night recently. There was a row at the principal
cafe and for a Scotsman Hayter is very short-tempered, as you may
remember. Anyhow, he was arrested, taken to prison and he is there now.
He was brought into Court and simply remanded."

"What sort of disturbance was it?"

Underwood looked round once more cautiously.

"This place reeks of spies, Mr. Beverley," he said. "There's a queer
sort of underground whispering going on throughout the whole city and
this hotel is the centre of it all. No one knows what has happened to
Hayter except that he is in prison and Mr. Marstan has been refused
permission to see him. We have simply been told that a charge of
espionage is pending against him."

"Rather unusual situation, isn't it?" Beverley remarked, frowning.

"Conditions are all unusual, sir," the young man proceeded eagerly. "You
probably know nothing about it because the chief and I both believe that
our cables to you in England have been censored or stopped altogether at
the post office. This place is in a turmoil politically. The communists,
or Left Wing, as they call themselves, have turned the Government out on
the question of the distribution of the royalties from the mine. We
believe that Hayter has been put out of the way because he is the only
practical geologist in the country."

Beverley listened without change of countenance. There was to be a
battle, then, a battle with unseen, unknown enemies. His face hardened
although a grim little smile parted his lips.

"This is very interesting. Underwood," he said.

Marya had sunk into a chair at the other end of the stone-paved hall.
Her brother was leaning over her talking earnestly. Underwood, with a
slight gesture, pointed him out.

"That is one of the young Orlacians whom we are all beginning to
suspect," he said, dropping his voice almost to a whisper. "It was
through him that no one from the mine was allowed to use the military
route up to the aerodrome this morning and I was obliged to await you
down here."

"I do not intrude?" Rudolph asked as he approached hesitatingly. "If
you, sir," he went on, addressing Beverley, "have matters to discuss
with this gentleman, I will take my sister to the convent and return for
lunch."

"There is nothing whatever of privacy in our conversation," Beverley
assured him. "It is just a matter of routine connected with the mine.
Dull as ditch-water to you, I'm afraid, and quite incomprehensible. I
can hear about that later. The suggestion I was about to make," he
added, glancing at his watch, "was that although it is a considerable
time before the lunch hour I think a small aperitif would be a good
idea."

Rudolph smiled happily.

"It will be my great pleasure," he said, "to show you the way to what we
call our American Bar and to drink with you to your safe arrival in this
country."

"Your sister--" Beverley began, looking over his shoulder.

"My sister's attendant has arrived," Rudolph interrupted, pointing out
Suka's lumbering approach up the hotel steps. "Marya will be quite safe
now in her hands."

Beverley hesitated. Suka had already taken up her place behind her
mistress' chair.

"Should I be asking too much of you if I begged that your sister might
be included in your luncheon invitation?" he suggested. "I have not yet
had the opportunity of making my adieux. The message which I have just
received makes it necessary for me to pay a call in the town
immediately."

"It shall be as you wish, Mr. Beverley," Rudolph acquiesced. "It is now
half-past ten. We will have our drink and meet here again at
twelve-thirty. My sister shall be invited to join us."

"Capital!"

"You will visit us this morning, sir?" Underwood asked anxiously.

"Certainly," Beverley replied. "I won't fix a time but I will come
sometime to-day."

The young man took his leave. Beverley looked through the open door of
the hotel, attracted by some shouting in the street.

"We will see what is exciting the people at this early hour," Rudolph
observed. "The bar is to be reached from outside more easily."

They stood on the steps looking out. Traffic in the streets seemed
suspended. The loiterers were all gazing up at the palace. On the roof a
steeplejack was fixing a ladder against the flagpost. Rudolph's face
grew suddenly serious.

"The King," he said almost under his breath. "See, they are painting the
flagstaff. The flag is there rolled up ready to be hoisted."

The hotel manager came smilingly up to them.

"It is good news, Mr. Beverley," he announced. "Good news for us all.
The King returns within a few days--perhaps to-morrow. The palace is to
be opened."



CHAPTER XVIII

Beverley, whose card and request for an interview with the chief of the
police seemed to create a certain amount of commotion at the grey stone
building with its sombre front almost immediately opposite the hotel,
was finally ushered into a large, barely furnished apartment on the
second floor. The sole occupant of the place, who was seated at a desk
surrounded by the stubs of cigars, looked up at his entrance and glanced
once more at the card. He was stout, and florid of feature, with closely
trimmed grey hair; and the tunic of his uniform was negligently open.

"What is your business with me, sir?" he asked in gutturally spoken but
quite comprehensible French.

"My name is Beverley. I come from England. I am one of the proprietors
of the Klast Mine. You, I believe, sir, are General Kara Bavan, Chief of
the Police?"

"That is my post," was the somewhat startled reply. "I was informed that
your business with me was urgent, Mr. Beverley."

"I have the honour to present to you a message from a mutual
acquaintance," the visitor announced, handing over the sheet of hotel
notepaper on which Katarina had scrawled those few significant lines.

The General rose to his feet. With the help of an enormous monocle he
glanced down the couple of sentences. He had the air of one endeavouring
to assume a more amiable expression as he bowed and resumed his place.
Certainly there was a complete change in his tone and manner.

"Pray sit down, Mr. Beverley," he invited. "The gracious lady who
honours me with those few lines requests that I render you any service
possible during your visit to the city. What can I do for you?"

"One of my employees at our offices here seems to have got into
trouble," Beverley explained. "He is, as a matter of fact, in prison. So
far as I can understand no definite charge has been made against him and
there is a good deal of mystery as to what his offence may have been. I
ask your permission, General, to visit him and I am venturing to go even
further than that and to request that as I am in urgent need of his
services he be released at once."

The General added one more to the stubs of extinct cigars and disposed
of the whole small trayful by throwing them into the great open
fireplace.

"I know the man you mean, Mr. Beverley," he admitted. "A charge was
certainly made against him. He created a disturbance in a cafe, and in a
public place he criticised severely some of our institutions. I think
that you will agree with me, sir, that this is not wise behaviour in a
strange city."

"It is most unlike my employee," Beverley declared, "and I might venture
to remind you, General, that the charge has yet to be investigated."

"What position does he hold with your firm?" the latter asked.

"He is our geologist in chief," Beverley replied. "I wish to take him
with me on a certain expedition to another part of the kingdom to
investigate a report that bauxite is to be found there."

The General, after a brief search, found in one of his drawers a
crumpled sheet of blank notepaper. On the point of signing his name to
the few lines he had scrawled, he paused with the pen still in his hand.

"You are willing to hold yourself responsible for the behaviour of this
person, Mr. Beverley?" he enquired.

"I certainly am."

"Then I shall go further than giving you permission to see him," the
Chief of Police said simply. "Madame seems to wish that you be treated
with every consideration. It is done. Your employee is set at liberty."

He added a couple of lines to what he had already written, signed his
name with a great splash, folded up the paper and handed it over to
Beverley. Then he leaned back in his chair and crossed his pudgy legs.

"What else can I do for you, sir?" he asked.

"You can tell me who is going to win this election and who is to be the
next Premier," Beverley suggested with a smile. "Permit me to offer you
a cigarette, sir."

The General helped himself from Beverley's case.

"This election is a blasted nuisance," he confided. "Lavaroko should
never have resigned. If these fellows on the Left ever get into power,
and they might do so this time quite easily, although they have no one
but the peasants and the shop people behind them, they might do an
enormous amount of damage. Sit down, Mr. Beverley. You are interested in
our affairs?"

"Naturally I am," Beverley replied as he accepted the invitation. "My
company have three million pounds' worth of English gold sunk in the
Klast Mine. Besides that, we have erected some of the most valuable
machinery in the world at a great cost."

"Three million pounds is much money," the General acknowledged.

"It is a huge sum to risk in any single enterprise. Our charter, of
course, was signed by Lavaroko, and our concession is from the King, so
our position is secure," Beverley pointed out. "At the same time, the
kingdom of Orlac has restless neighbours and the establishment of an
industry such as ours has created a great deal of jealousy."

The General coughed.

"I know nothing about politics," he said. "I endeavour to keep law and
order in the city, my staff of police are able and diligent; but with
politics I have nothing to do."

"Quite right," Beverley agreed. "For a high official in your position it
would be unwise to interfere."

"You have seen His Majesty lately?"

"Not many hours ago. The day before yesterday I lunched with him in
Paris."

"He is in good health, I trust?"

"Excellent. He spoke of having to return almost at once if things did
not calm down in the city here."

The General stroked his long moustache thoughtfully.

"His Majesty is always a great responsibility to me," he confided.
"Until this election is settled I would a great deal rather he stayed
away. If he returns, twenty-five of my best men have to be watching him
day by day. If Madame Katarina, the _prima donna_ at the opera house here,
returns also--and to tell you the truth, sir, the people are clamouring
a great deal more for her return than His Majesty's--my responsibilities
will be doubled."

"Madame is popular?" Beverley asked.

"The people of Klast have one failing," Kara Bavan sighed. "They are
music mad. The opera house was closed when Katarina left for Paris. I
honestly believe that if it were opened again to-night half the
discontent in the city would be smoothed away."

"Amazing," Beverley murmured.

The General accepted another cigarette.

"You are a young man," he remarked, looking curiously at his visitor,
"to hold so important a commercial position."

Beverley smiled.

"I am older than I look, perhaps," he acknowledged. "I am very much
interested in your country. General. I am happy to think that I have
been the cause of adding so much to its prosperity."

The Chief of Police nodded.

"As I said before," he declared, "I do not interest myself in politics.
I keep my men in order. If ever war should come--which heaven forbid--I
return to the army as chief of the staff. I am a servant of the King and
the State."

"I had the honour of meeting your commander-in-chief when I was over
here some years ago," Beverley announced. "His Majesty gave a banquet at
the palace. Lavaroko, the Prime Minister, was present, also General
Belovar. I trust that I have remembered the name correctly."

"Quite correctly," the other replied. "The General is in the capital at
present. He will welcome a call from you at the barracks, I am sure."

"I shall pay my respects before I leave," Beverley promised. "In the
meantime. General, I will not take up any more of your time. I thank you
for acceding so graciously to our friend's request. I shall go now
direct to the prison."

The General coughed. He seemed to be suffering from some slight
embarrassment.

"I myself have travelled very little in what would be considered the
more civilised countries of the world," he acknowledged, "but I read
your magazines and I gather that the prisons in other countries are very
much in advance of ours. We Orlacians are, I think I may say, Mr.
Beverley, a fine race but we are a trifle crude. Our people have always
been a little shy of over-civilised methods and habits. The prison will
seem to you a rough sort of place. All I can say is that it is good
enough for the criminals we have to house there."

"So long as you don't put me in amongst them," the departing visitor
said, smiling and holding out his hand, "I shall not be critical. I wish
you once more good morning."

Beverley, ushered out in due form, found his way to the street and, in
the same springless victoria drawn by a flea-bitten grey horse which he
had engaged at the hotel, he drove off to the prison. They chimbed a long
hill with a strange mixture of shops and cafes on one side and a row of
trees in the middle of the broad walk on the other. At its summit was a
plain stone building standing in the middle of what looked as though it
had been at some time or another the playground of a school. Beverley
pushed his way through a half-opened gate, passed an empty sentry box,
walked up the cement path and came to a sudden standstill. The
dejected-looking figure of a middle-aged man shabbily attired was seated
upon a bench outside the entrance.

"Hayter!" Beverley exclaimed. "Will Hayter!"

The man looked up and sprang to his feet.

"My God, it's Mr. Beverley!" he cried.

"Will Hayter," Beverley repeated, sitting down by his side. "What the
dickens have they been doing to you?"

"Well, they haven't been torturing me or anything of that sort," the man
replied, "but my God, I'm glad to see you, sir! I haven't had a wash for
a week, the food here is not fit to eat nor the water to drink. They
won't charge me with anything but they won't let me go. It's a hell of a
country, this. The Minister has gone over to England--I expect you know
that. That's their excuse for keeping me here."

Beverley rose to his feet.

"Well, the first thing to be done," he said, "is to get you out of it.
Just stay where you are for a few moments, Hayter. I think I shall be
able to take you away with me."

Beverley made his way into the interior of the building. It was a
dreary-looking place. The walls were of stone and in the great entrance
hall dozens of people were sitting about and some children were even
playing with a ball. A man in uniform seated behind a desk beckoned to
him surlily, and Beverley unfolded and showed him the paper which he had
just received. The former saluted as he saw the signature and with a
more courteous gesture invited Beverley to follow him. They walked along
a corridor for some distance, then the official threw open a door
without knocking and entered a crudely furnished untidy-looking office.
A bare bench was set against the wall and three rush chairs of
uncomfortable appearance were placed behind a long oak table. A man
engaged in an angry torrent of mingled abuse and remonstrance was being
led away, a policeman on either side of him. Beverley's guide pushed his
way past them and spoke to an elderly official in plain clothes who was
seated in one of the armchairs. He presented the paper which Beverley
had handed to him and indicated Beverley, who was standing in the
background. The magistrate read it through and frowned, then with a
little start he re-read and passed it on to the man who was seated on
his left and was wearing military uniform. They read over the few lines
scrawled by the Chief of Police and talked eagerly for some minutes,
looking now and then at Beverley. At last the man in uniform stood up
and beckoned him to approach.

"My companion here," he indicated in halting French, "is the magistrate
of the Petty Court. You are the Mr. Beverley spoken of in these papers?"

"That is my name," Beverley acquiesced.

The two men both bowed.

"I am a lawyer of Klast," the first one announced. "Major Sigrid here is
the governor of the prison. We understand that you have applied for the
release of one of our prisoners."

"There has been some little misunderstanding, I think, about my friend,"
Beverley assured them. "I have known William Hayter for a great many
years. He has never been in any sort of trouble but is a highly
respectable person. He knows nothing about this country or its politics
and he is here on an important mission on behalf of the Klast Mine with
which I am connected."

"The Klast Mine," the lawyer repeated in a tone of reverence.

"The mine," the governor of the prison echoed.

The two men talked together earnestly. Beverley, who was beginning to
remember a few words of Orlacian from his previous visit, smiled as he
caught the gist of their speech. The civilian who had introduced himself
as a lawyer presently addressed him.

"The information given against Mr. William Hayter," he said amiably,
"came largely from a young man of high birth but indifferent character
who was himself an inmate of the prison and who has only been released
on bail. Your friend is reported to have indulged in a political tirade
in a public place vehemently attacking the Government of this country.
Enquiries concerning his character, however, have been quite
satisfactory and there has been no other evidence against him. In the
face of the letter which we have received from General Kara Bavan, Major
Sigrid here suggests that we have no alternative but to release the
prisoner as desired. If you are satisfied, Mr. Beverley, you are at
liberty to take your friend away. He is at the present moment in the
exercise yard."

"I saw him there as I came in," Beverley remarked.

"I will accompany you," Major Sigrid proposed, "and see him out of the
gates."

Beverley bowed his acknowledgements, received back his papers, and the
two men returned to the prison yard where Hayter was sitting anxiously.

"You speak a little English, perhaps?" Beverley asked his companion.

The latter shook his head regretfully. Beverley turned to his employee.

"Look here, Hayter," he said, "they are perfectly willing to let you go
right along with me now. If I were you I should not make a complaint.
Anything we want to do in the way of getting compensation we can see
about afterwards. The great thing is to get you clear of this place. I
want you outside pretty badly."

Hayter hesitated but only for a moment.

"You are quite right, Mr. Beverley," he acknowledged. "There are one or
two in this dog kennel I should like to have a word or two with; but as
you say, that can come afterwards. I'm ready, sir."

"Mr. Hayter," Beverley said suavely to the governor of the prison, "is
ready to believe that there has been some mistake in his arrest. If you
will be so kind as to accompany us to the gate so that we can pass your
sentinel there we will go at once."

"With much pleasure," the governor assented. "Monsieur Beverley will
sign the book in the sentry box."

Beverley did as he was requested and accepted the body of William
Hayter. There were farewells--courteous on Beverley's part, a little
dubious but florid on the part of the governor of the prison, somewhat
dour from Will Hayter. The two men got into the carriage and drove away.

"Where are your clothes?" Beverley asked.

"They will be at the hotel, if they have not been interfered with. I've
been living in a single room there because they speak a word or two of
English, and their own language is not understandable to a reasonable
human being. It's expensive but Mr. Marstan down at the mine he told me
not to worry about that. Klast's no' such a dear place after all."

They drove to the hotel, where they found Hayter's things still
untouched in the room he had taken. His return was welcomed by the hotel
proprietor with much relief. Beverley looked his companion over and
pointed to the lift.

"Up you go, Hayter," he directed. "Bath, shave, clean clothes and then
come down to that place they call the bar when you are ready. No, we'll
sit outside on the pavement. There's some shade under the awnings there
and I have a luncheon engagement for you at one o'clock."

Hayter indulged in a broad Scottish grin.

"I'm entirely agreeing with you, Mr. Beverley," he said, "but if you sit
there thinking to see some of the beauties of the town go by you'll be
disappointed. There's a few floating about when the lights are lit but
they're a hard-looking lot of lassies in the daytime."

"Never mind," his employer replied. "I have plenty of cigarettes and I
haven't looked at one of the papers I brought out from London yet."

"I would sit right down outside if I were you, and don't go wandering
about the place alone," was Hayter's farewell admonition. "It was in a
cafe about six doors down the street where they got hold of me for no
earthly reason whatever, except that I could not speak a word of their
blasted lingo and they knew that I was working at the mine. The Café
Klast they called it. Don't you put your head in there, sir."

Beverley smiled.

"Don't you worry, Hayter," he said. "I'm not looking for trouble. Put on
some decent things and get down as soon you can. I have a small luncheon
party at one o'clock and I may be taking you for a little expedition
up-country afterwards."

"An expedition out of the country would suit me better," the Scotsman
grumbled as he turned away.




CHAPTER XIX

Will Hayter, when he accosted Beverley about an hour later in the hall
of the hotel, presented a very different appearance. He had taken a
bath, had his hair cut, shaved, was wearing presentable linen and a neat
grey tweed suit.

"I am a new man indeed," he declared. "I am needing one thing and one
thing only--that is a drop of old Scotch."

"We'll find that all right," Beverley assured him with a glance at the
clock. "We have twenty minutes before lunch."

He felt a hand on his shoulder. Rudolph Mauranesco was standing there,
smiling and debonair.

"You will give me the pleasure?" he begged with a bow to Hayter.

Beverley introduced them. There was a queer little flash for a moment in
Hayter's keen blue eyes as he shook hands, but no sign of recognition
from the younger man.

"I have heard of Mr. Hayter," the latter said courteously, "as being
your famous engineer and geologist. I am delighted to meet him. I trust
that he is joining us at luncheon."

"I'm delighted to be here myself," Hayter declared drily. "We were
speaking of a little refreshment, Mr. Mauranesco."

"You will both do me the honour," the young man replied. "This way, if
you please."

He led them down the passage, on the wall of which was painted "To the
American Bar," and showed himself at once very much at home in his
surroundings. He exchanged gracious greetings with everybody in the
crowded place. There were officers in the grey and magenta uniform of
the country, who sat mostly apart drinking from small wineglasses,
twirling their moustaches and preserving as far as possible an air of
aloofness. There were shopkeepers and the _commis voyageurs_ of the east.
There was also a considerable sprinkling of the young bloods and damsels
of the place--the former for the most part attired in flannel trousers
and either pullovers or embroidered shirts of intricate design. A noisy
orchestra was blaring out American melodies. A dozen automatic machines,
all being well patronised, parted every now and then with a loud little
stream of coins. Rudolph Mauranesco summoned a waiter and gave a rapid
order, then he turned to his two companions apologetically.

"Mr. Hayter will understand," he said, "that here there is little
choice. For him I have ordered the whisky of his country. For you, Mr.
Beverley, I have ordered the home made vermouth and a little gin as a
corrective. They will add a dash of bitters and a small piece of lemon.
It is as near as we can get to the Western idea of a cocktail. There is
little else here that is drinkable."

"That sounds all right," Beverley observed as the three men ensconced
themselves in a corner. "Isn't this place rather unusually full?"

Rudolph Mauranesco nodded.

"The whole city," he confided, "is bubbling with excitement."

"Political?" Beverley enquired.

"Entirely," the young man assented. "I wish to give you both a word of
caution. Mr. Hayter, from his unfortunate experience, should realise the
importance of it."

"I have realised a good many things since I set foot in this country,"
Hayter grunted.

"It gets worse every day," Rudolph continued. "Strangers and people of
importance such as ourselves are spied upon and listened to in every
place we enter and every time we open our mouths."

"It is a mischievous crowd, I'll allow," Hayter said grimly.

Mauranesco smiled.

"Please make excuses," he begged, "for a people of excitable
temperament. That indeed we are. We will talk together, we three; but we
will talk of the ladies of London or Paris or the film magnates of
Hollywood."

"I am not knowing anything about those gentlemen," Hayter admitted, "but
I promise you that I am keeping a still tongue in my head."

"Not a word," Rudolph went on, leaning towards them, "of the Left Party
or the Right or Lavaroko or Pravadia. Politics are not our interest. If
we talk at all let it be of business. I will tell you of these piles of
bauxite which I hope I may soon be showing to our friend Mr. Hayter
here."

"You will be showing me something new, then," the Scotsman observed. "I
have never seen bauxite in piles yet."

"It would be simpler, perhaps," Beverley suggested drily, "if we didn't
talk at all."

"Or if you listened to me," Rudolph proposed. "I know what will make
friends for you in this place. Speak of music. Speak of the possible
return of the divine Katarina. Tell us, Mr. Beverley, that you heard her
sing in Paris or touched the hem of her garment as she passed you in the
Bois or sat in the same restaurant. People will listen to that and
admire you for it. Katarina is their idol."

The waiter, in probably the strangest costume ever imagined for one of
his profession, brought them two wineglasses and a tumbler, a bottle of
whisky and a siphon of soda water upon a tin tray. He wore a pair of
soiled linen trousers, a girdle which was like the girdle of a bathrobe
around his middle, a blue flannel shirt open at the throat and very
little else. He had a Levantine face, a Levantine expression and a
Levantine gleam in his narrow unpleasant eyes. He hesitated, waiting
patiently for payment, until Beverley suddenly appreciated the situation
and produced an English ten-shilling note. The man departed with sudden
haste and Rudolph seemed to recover from his momentary fit of
abstraction.

"It pleases you, this mixture?" he asked, raising his wineglass to his
lips and muttering a few words which were apparently local good wishes.

"Excellent," Beverley replied, sipping the contents of his glass. "Let
us now proceed upon the task of talking about nothing. Your café is
pleasing. It has local colour. One thing seems to me to be queer about
it, though. It is the absence of journals. I haven't seen a sign of a
newspaper."

"Nor will you until the last day of the election," the young man
replied. "Foreign journals have all been stopped at the frontiers and
the offices of the three principal Orlacian newspapers have been sacked
and the premises practically destroyed within the last few days."

"Are you serious?" Beverley asked.

"Entirely. The curious part of it is that the results seem to have been
justified since the furious rioting of a few nights ago. There have been
no quarrels in the cafes or rioting in the streets for forty-eight
hours, and no more--forgive me, I say this almost under my breath--" he
concluded, leaning forward, "no more unexplained disappearances of
foreigners."

"You hear that?" Beverley asked, turning towards Hayter and humouring
his companion by speaking almost in a whisper.

"Aye, I hear it," the Scotsman answered. "It's true I might have had a
drop or two of whisky that night but it is not true that I said a single
word against this country or its Government. It's a fine place, I'm
thinking, and there is no mine in the world turning out rich stuff as
the Klast Mine. You can take that from me and I'm not caring how many
overhear it."

Mauranesco smiled indulgently.

"I do not think that sort of talk is likely to get our friend into
trouble," he said. "All the townspeople and the country folk, too, are
proud of the Klast Mine, and I am rather happy that Mr. Hayter has
spoken of it. You were not thinking, I trust, Mr. Beverley, of visiting
your properties before we start on our journey this afternoon?"

"But naturally," Beverley replied. "Why not? There's no frantic haste,
is there? I have come a long distance to confer with my managers. Of
course I must pay them a visit as soon as possible after my arrival. I
should have gone this morning only it was necessary to first secure the
release of my friend Hayter here."

"How you managed that is a matter of amazement to me," Rudolph
acknowledged. "We do not need to discuss it. Your influence in the place
is great, of course, but I should have thought the disorganization in
the city and the absence of the King would at least have delayed
matters. You are a wonderful man, Mr. Beverley. You arrive, you command,
and the prison doors fly open before you."

"They were not very strongly barred," Beverley remarked drily. "This
matter of rushing off to inspect your land--"

Rudolph was suddenly excited. He gripped Beverley's arm.

"Remember, I beg of you," he interrupted, "I have been holding over a
great matter for your consideration. It is of vast, enormous importance.
What does it involve you in? A few hours' journey, a walk or a mule ride
along a mountain path; a search, an inspection--one hour--two hours. You
will see it all before you. A fortune which even the great capitalists
of your Western cities would wonder at! And there is so little time!"

"But why is there so little time?" Beverley asked, accepting a glass
from the second tray of drinks which the waiter, in response to an
unseen gesture from Rudolph, had brought. "Why the hurry, my young
friend? To-morrow, the next day, the day after, your mountains will
still be there. If the bauxite you speak of is in evidence, it has lain
in those hills for a thousand years. One day is surely as good as
another at the end of that time."

There was a strange expression on Rudolph's face. It scarcely resembled
an expression of ordinary anxiety. It was as though he were afflicted by
some internal torment.

"I wish, Mr. Beverley," he said, "because you have been kind to my
sister, because you have shown yourself a friend CO Orlac, that it is
you and you only who have to deal with this enormous proposition. To
secure it, speed is necessary."

"But if the mineral is on your land, here you are and here am I. What
can be done without us? The mountains cannot disappear in smoke, nor can
the bauxite be--er--carried away in chariots of fire."

Rudolph was still distracted.

"One cannot tell," he went on eagerly. "I have heard strange stories
even this morning whilst I was making my preparations. Two men have been
discovered camping out in a sheltered place upon the mountains for
several days. My foresters found them. It is my belief that they were
searching for bauxite. Then," he continued after a moment's pause,
"there is this man Treyer. He is a strange person, that. He is
persistent. He has always believed that there was bauxite in the
northern part of the kingdom and when he could not approach me, because
of my retirement in the fortress, he travelled all the way to London to
see my sister. What may he not be doing even now?"

Beverley tapped and lit a cigarette.

"But," he objected, "if this bauxite is really upon your land it would
not help him to have discovered it. It will still be yours to dispose
of; and although I should not perhaps go so far with a stranger, I will
tell you, Rudolph Mauranesco, that there might be difficulties for
anyone except our company who attempted to purchase or rent your land
upon which bauxite has been discovered here in Orlac."

"But look at the state of my country," Rudolph argued. "We have at the
present moment practically no Government. One or two of the permanent
officials may be still in their places, but of Government actually,
there is none."

"That is only a question of time," Beverley pointed out. "A Government
will be formed. Land cannot be disposed of promiscuously. No one could
come, for instance, and plant a flag upon your mountains and claim all
that lies underneath. A time must arrive when law and order are
re-established in the country. At present it would be impossible for
anyone to sink huge sums of money in starting a new mine."

Rudolph deftly rolled and lit a cigarette with trembling fingers.

"You are trifling with a gigantic opportunity, Mr. Beverley," he warned
him. "When you make up your mind for action, it may be too late."

Beverley glanced at his watch.

"Speaking of time," he remarked, "don't you think that we shall be
keeping your sister waiting if we don't make a move?"

"Marya will not mind. When she knows what we have been thinking about
she will be glad. She was anxious that I should offer you my property or
the rights over it. She will not be happy until she knows that we have
come to some arrangement."

"If you ask me, I think she will be starving," Beverley said, draining
his glass and rising to his feet. "Do me the favour, Hayter, of
telephoning to Mr. Marstan and saying that I will call to see him at
three o'clock this afternoon. When I have got through my business,
Mauranesco, we will meet again and discuss this journey north."

There was a black cloud of disappointment upon Rudolph's face. It seemed
in some unaccountable way to have affected the peculiar quality of his
good looks. With the departure of his buoyant air and glad, happy
expression, his almost magnetic attraction seemed to have disappeared.

"You are taking a great risk, Mr. Beverley," he said unsteadily.
"Perhaps you do not need any more bauxite, perhaps it does not matter to
you that someone else may come and behind your back secure, by fair
means or foul, rights over my land. I am poor. I cannot stop them. And
although the mountains are mine there are other claims."

"If you can convince me that there is any real reason for this urgency,"
Beverley promised, "I will leave with you after I have seen
Marstan--later on to-night, perhaps."

"You insist upon going to the mine first?"

"Be reasonable," Beverley begged. "I have travelled two thousand miles
to consult with my managers here. They are within a mile of me now. Of
course I must see them before I embark upon any sort of expedition."

Rudolph Mauranesco shrugged his shoulders sulkily.

"You may be risking a great deal more than you know," he muttered.



CHAPTER XX

The restaurant of the hotel, through which Rudolph Mauranesco conducted
them, resembled an unconvincing imitation of an English station
dining-room not of the first order. There were gilt-edged mirrors
hanging upon the walls but most of these were cracked and the quality of
the glass indifferent. The curtains which hung before the windows were
faded, the atmosphere of the place was musty. There was no carpet upon
the tessellated pavement of the floor. There was no attempt at anything
in the shape of noiseless service. The waiters were clad in a great
variety of shabby clothes and the guests were nearly all men apparently
of the bourgeois type, except for a few who were presumably officials,
and a sprinkling of young officers whose uniform was somewhat the worse
for wear. In comparison with everyone else, Rudolph Mauranesco, who
seemed to have made an amazing recovery from his pathetic
disappointment, was noticeably and strikingly patrician. He walked with
dignity, the few salutations which he vouchsafed to one or two of the
company were of a condescending nature, and without any attempt at
swagger he was easily the most distinguished-looking of the gathering.
The manager, a fat little Austrian, bald-headed, with a fixed smile,
preceded them as they passed through the room, flung aside some curtains
at the farther end and pointed to a narrow staircase. They mounted in
single file and reached a smaller dining-room, the only occupant of
which was Suka, already seated in a remote corner. She rose to her feet
respectfully at their entrance, and remained standing until they, too,
were seated at the only other table laid for service. Rudolph's manners
as he held the chair for his sister were those of a Lord Chamberlain. He
indicated to Beverley his place by her side, waited for Hayter to take
his seat and then leaned over to Beverley.

"You must excuse, if you please, Mr. Beverley," he begged. "This is a
faraway corner of the world and we have not yet embraced all the
European customs. You were gracious enough to wish for my sister's
company at luncheon and so it is arranged. It is not usual, though, for
the ladies of our noble families to dine or lunch at a hotel except in a
private room. This is the best the manager can do. As you see, it is
private but we have a curtain instead of a door and we have a French
_maitre d'hôtel_ here deputed to take our orders in a language we can all
understand."

"Excellent," Beverley approved. "Your sister must be starving--so am I."

The menu and wine card were both presented to Beverley, who accepted the
situation and promptly commenced to study them. He did his best from an
indifferent bill of fare and a very sparse _carte de vins_. By his side
sat Marya, an air of grave annoyance deepening upon her face. Beverley,
who understood very well the faint curve of her exquisite lips and the
contraction of her eyebrows, did his best to dispel her ill-humour.

"Your brother is being very kind," he said. "I should be absolutely lost
in this place without him."

Rudolph bowed with the air of one who receives a well-deserved
compliment.

"You needed little help in the choosing of the luncheon, Mr. Beverley,"
he remarked. "One only regrets that the opportunities here for culinary
enterprise are so limited."

"If I may be allowed a trifling remark," Hayter interposed, "it was a
joy to me to hear my friend Mr. Beverley handling the menu. I have it in
my mind that he must remember where I have spent the last few days, for
his choice of dishes seems to me excellent. To judge by the plates I
noticed below, too, the people in this part of the world are not without
appetites."

Rudolph smiled happily. He leaned across to his sister.

"Our friend Mr. Hayter," he said, "who I might tell you is a
distinguished geologist, has suffered during this upheaval in the city
very much in the same way as I have suffered myself."

"I have been in prison," Hayter confessed. "There's no denying that and
I hope the young lady will believe that I was innocent of any offence to
the man or to the law. It was a wicked affair. I think that they had no
liking for my nationality or my business."

Marya smiled graciously.

"I am quite sure, Mr. Hayter," she said, "that you did nothing wrong."

"You will perhaps feel a little more at your ease," her brother
remarked, "if I tell you, Mr. Hayter, that I myself, well known though I
am and a personal friend of His Majesty's, have been in trouble within
the last few weeks. I myself have been confined in a fortress. Politics,
you understand. Always politics."

Marya glanced at him contemptuously but she remained silent. There was a
humorous twist to Hayter's lips but he restrained himself.

"I had heard something of the matter," he admitted, "although I was not
thinking I would meet the gentleman. If this soup is of your ordering,
Mr. Beverley, you were well acquainted with the best dishes of this
country. I have made it myself--it is half a goulash and half a potage,
but it is fine stuff for a hungry man."

He disappeared from the conversation for several minutes. Beverley
leaned towards his companion.

"Marya Mauranesco," he said, "we must learn to accept the trifling
foibles of our friends as we find them. There are times, you know, when
even the truth is better glossed over. In any case, it is not worth
while to brood over trifles."

"You are very sympathetic," she told him gently; "but beyond the trifles
there are other things--yes?"

She glanced at her brother who was seated opposite. It was a very large
table and their places were of necessity a long way apart. Beverley
calmly moved his chair nearer to hers.

"I am humiliated," she confided, "that even here in our own city we must
accept as a matter of course your hospitality. I will try to consider
that as a trifle, but I am not happy that you are here in Orlac without
any friends or advisers who know the place and the people. I am not
happy, either, that you propose to start upon this expedition with
Rudolph."

"And I shall not be in the least happy if you go and bury yourself in
that convent," he assured her.

"There is no question at the present moment of burying myself," she
replied. "Certainly our Holy Sister Georgina would not, after my journey
to London, accept me for the present in the convent itself. The most I
could hope for would be a temporary home in the House of
Passers-by--outside the gates. But, Mr. Beverley--"

"Nigel Beverley," he interrupted under his breath.

"Nigel Beverley, then," she corrected herself. "Do please remember that
you are in a lawless place and, deeply though it hurts me to say so, I
do not trust Rudolph."

Beverley glanced quickly at the farther end of the table. The young man
was well out of hearing, however, and showed no sign of being interested
in anything except his luncheon.

"You cannot tell how miserable I am to say these things," Marya went on,
dropping her voice a little, "but in this place with Rudolph, although
he is my brother, you must believe nothing you hear. You must take
nothing for granted. You must think carefully for yourself before you
accept anything that Rudolph tells you as being true. Now he begins to
look at me suspiciously. I can say no more. I trust it is enough."

"It is enough," he assured her. "We start well with our luncheon. River
trout is always a luxury and I find no fault with the cooking. Serve
Mademoiselle with the wine," he ordered the _maitre d'hôtel_.

Rudolph leaned forward in his chair. His smile was one of content.

"You chose well indeed, sir," he congratulated Beverley. "The mountain
fish here are always excellent and the chickens are sometimes eatable.
The food of the country is not so bad. It is when we import that we
fail. We have little ice, no proper system of refrigeration. One train a
day passes through the country; four goods-trains, which take more than
a week to get anywhere, lumber through Klast across Europe. Everything
is dear, but that makes no matter. No one in the kingdom," he concluded
with a happy laugh, "has any money at all and nobody pays for anything."

"I am wondering what might become of the trifling sum the Klast Mine
contributes to the revenue here," Hayter remarked with a grin.

"Some portion, I suppose, must circulate," Rudolph admitted, "but most
of it disappears into the coffers of the ministers. And after
that--whew!--it disappears altogether. Madame the wife of the Financial
Secretary--a new dress arrives for her from Paris. Mademoiselle his
mistress turns the heads of the young men and the starving officers here
with the confections for which she ransacks the _magasins_ of Klast.
Monsieur the Premier--well, a new motor-car arrives. For his
secretaries, clothes from the tailors of Vienna or Paris. But of coin,
of ready money, there is little to be seen. Everyone lives here on what
you call in England 'the tick.' Sometimes, if there is to be a
settlement, it is an affair of barter. There is a farmer who owes me
much money for rent. If I press him, all that I shall get will be a
cow."

"My brother must not be taken too seriously," Marya said with a faint
relaxation of her lips. "I do not believe that there is a person in the
kingdom who owes Rudolph one copper coin. The rent for any miserable
acres which are left of our estates goes quite properly to those who
have advanced money on them."

Rudolph sighed sadly.

"My sister," he explained with a little wave of the hand, "knows nothing
of the life in Klast or anywhere else. She is the spiritual foster-child
of her aunt. Sister Georgina, and although Sister Georgina has been a
great lady and is still a saint on earth, what she knows about life is
exactly nothing at all."

Luncheon, which had its weak spot, in the shape of goat cutlets, as well
as its more successful ones, passed on towards its conclusion. They
drank coffee afterwards, of unexpected quality. Hayter, after first
asking Marya's permission, lovingly filled his black briar pipe.
Beverley drew his chair a little closer still to Marya's. Her brother,
happily smoking one of Beverley's cigarettes, crossed the room to speak
to Suka.

"When shall I see you again, Marya Mauranesco?" Beverley asked.

She lifted her wonderful eyes and looked at him thoughtfully--almost, it
seemed to him, tenderly.

"I ask myself that question," she confessed in a low tone, "and I am
unhappy. If I go to the convent, though it be only to the House of
Passers-by, Sister Georgina will expect me to stay."

"You do not wish to stay?"

"I should save myself from the affronts of life," she reflected
wistfully. "I should find there quiet for my soul. I am not sure that I
should find peace."

"Why not?"

She remained silent for several moments. They were practically alone
now. Hayter, still smoking his beloved pipe, had strolled across to the
window and was looking down into the square. Rudolph had disappeared
from the room.

"It is hard to answer that question," she acknowledged, "but in all my
life, although I have not seen you often, Nigel Beverley, you are the
only one who has spoken to me kindly and gently, who has seemed to
understand the thoughts which have been beating against the walls of my
mind. If I go back now to seek the peace of the cedar and the Cyprus
trees, the evening chants, the music of our organ, the perfumes from
Sister Georgina's garden, the sighing of the wind, all the things that
have become dear to me, I fear that that peace would be gone. So long as
you remain in Klast I should be unhappy because I should know that you
were in danger."

The thrill of her words with their exquisitely personal touch was like
the breath of a new life to Nigel Beverley, and ever afterwards he
thought how miraculous it was that this new life could have come to him
in these strange, sordid surroundings, in this ugly room with its soiled
tablecloths, its chipped blue-china trays for tobacco ash and
toothpicks, its uneven, unwashed tessellated floor covered only in
places with a few worn rugs, its shabby gilt cornices and ill-cleaned
windows. From the restaurant below came the rumble and cackle of
high-pitched voices, the clatter of crockery, the call of the
hard-worked waiters. From the square outside the only audible sound was
the rattle of rubberless wheels over the cobbled way. Yet in this very
unlikely abode of romance--only a few inches from his ears--came this
stream of music more wonderful than anything to which he had ever
listened.

"If you do not go back to the convent, Marya," he asked, using her
Christian name alone for the first time, "is there no friend in Klast
who could keep you for a few days until the way lies clearly
before--us?"

There was a faint stream of colour in her pale face. Her eyes met his.

"I need no one but Suka," she confided. "There could be no watchdog or
chaperon like her. In the attic of the Mauranesco palace there is still
some of our old furniture and some clothing of mine. I could go back
there. I have been thinking^ during luncheon. I believe that I will do
that."

Always afterwards Beverley was grateful that in those few moments--those
priceless moments--some sort of inspired instinct kept him from
premature utterance of the thoughts which were in his heart.

"It would be a great happiness to me, Marya," he admitted, "if I could
feel that you were near at hand. I think that the danger you speak of is
exaggerated, but help I might need. And you can give it."

She drew a little sigh but it was not a sigh of pain.

"I make my decision, then," she announced. "I shall go back to our
rooms. Now that we have decided that, I proceed to offer you my advice.
Do not leave this place with Rudolph to-day. Go first to your mine and
talk to your manager. Go to your ministry and see if your Englishman,
Sir Walter Harding, has returned. Seek an interview with Lavaroko or
with Predor Pravadia, whom they say will be the new Premier. Spend the
night at the hotel here. Afterwards, to-morrow at dawn if you will, go
north with Rudolph--but take others with you. Take that strange-looking
man with the pipe--the Scotsman. Take someone else who knows the
country, if you can."

"What shall I find in the north, Marya?"

"If I knew I would tell you," she answered simply. "It may be as my
brother says, but I am not sure. It is my sorrow to repeat that he does
not speak the truth. The mountain ridge and the old castle now in ruins
is Mauranesco land, but much of it has passed from our possession and
much of it is in the hands of a band of wild goatherds who are little
better than savages. I have a strange idea--but I cannot put it into
words."

"An idea of evil?"

"Nigel," she went on, "will you please remember what I ask you? Watch
all that is happening around you, by night and by day."

"I will do that," he promised, glancing across the room to where
Rudolph, who had just returned, was talking with Hayter by the window.
"And I will think also of you who give me this advice."

There was a new sweetness in that pathetic yet he almost dared to think
affectionate little smile which parted her lips. Her hand was stretched
upon the table. He looked at it longingly. His heart ached to possess
himself of it for a single second--to give one tender pressure to those
fingers. He rose instead to his feet. He made no effort, however, to
keep back the tenderness in his tone as he stooped over her.

"Every word you have spoken," he said, "has gone to my heart and will
live in my memory. Will you give me one promise?"

She lifted her eyes.

"I will try."

He saw the beginnings of fear, and he spoke quickly.

"All that I would ask, Marya, is that you do not return to the convent
finally until I come back."

She smiled her consent and it was a smile which lived in his memory for
long afterwards.

"That I will promise," she said.

It was Will Hayter who created the diversion from his place before the
window. He looked round and called to the others in the room.

"'Tis a wee bit of a disturbance," he announced, "but I gather it's of a
cheerful nature."

They all hurried to the window. A carriage had pulled up outside the
front door of the hotel, a carriage which was already empty although
people were rushing along the pavement to greet the person who had just
descended from it. Down below there was a solid screen of people
standing upon the chairs of the open-air café, blocking the view into
the street. The tumult was continued in the restaurant underneath. The
little company in the private dining-room could hear the crowd below
them shouting. Then the curtain was swept aside. There was the sound of
footsteps on the stairs, a momentary glimpse of bowing waiters and hotel
officials, from amongst whom emerged the figure of a woman. She entered
the room like a whirlwind, dressed for a voyage, half-smothered in furs,
the flowers which had been thrown still clinging to her skirts and
shoulders. Her hands were outstretched, her large beautiful eyes
wide-open.

"Where is he then? I ask--where is he? It is Mr. Beverley I seek."

Beverley gazed in amazement at the approaching figure. It was Katarina.

The next few moments passed in indescribable confusion. Beverley himself
scarcely realised what was happening. He only knew that Katarina had
twined her hands almost round his neck, that her face was upturned to
his. She was making a wonderful entrance.

"I have found you!" she cried. "It is Monsieur Beverley! He is
safe--safe! I am happy."

He felt himself dragged away towards the window. Everyone else was
speechless. Marya had shrunk back and was standing alone In the
background, a look of proud horror in her face. Katarina was the
dominant figure.

"I must show myself at the window," she declared. "All the time people
call for me."

"Where is Nicolas?" Rudolph demanded.

She swung her arm almost threateningly towards him.

"He comes later, perhaps," she replied. "I have speech to make with my
friend here. Go away, Rudolph Mauranesco. Leave us...I stand so at the
window. I smile...Those are all my friends, those people in the square,
but I must have words quickly with Monsieur Beverley."

She threw kisses from the tips of her fingers, laughed aloud and waved
her hand. Then in the midst of it all she turned to Beverley.

"Listen," she cried, "I come to save your life. There is one in this room
who would kill you if he dared. There are plots against you. Nicolas has
deceived us both."

Beverley, with an almost desperate effort, extricated himself from the
arms which were endeavouring to fold him in an even closer embrace. For
years afterwards he remembered the cloying perfume of furs which for a
moment had been pressed against him.

"Madame Katarina!" he protested sternly. "I beg--"

She interrupted him, fury in her voice, anger blazing out of her eyes.
She pointed to Rudolph, who seemed suddenly to have lost control of
himself and had burst into a torrent of angry abuse. Beverley listened
for a moment and then looked away to where Marya had been. Save for
himself, Katarina, Rudolph, and Will Hayter, the room was empty. Marya
and Suka had disappeared.



CHAPTER XXI

Beverley, a little later in the afternoon, was seated in the handsomely
furnished private office of Mr. Herbert Marstan, manager of the Klast
Mine, listening to his very disquieting report.

"The whole situation's damned ridiculous!" Marstan declared, striking
the blotting pad in front of him with his clenched fist and scowling
across at his visitor. "The layout is more like a Gilbert and Sullivan
opera! Just step this way, Mr. Beverley."

He led him to the window and the two men stood looking out into the
beautifully kept courtyard with its mass of carefully-tended flowering
shrubs in the centre.

"See those wooden boxes," Marstan asked, "do you know what they are?"

"Look like sentry boxes."

Marstan nodded.

"You should see the popinjays who spend a few hours a day inside them
spitting and smoking cigarettes!" he exclaimed. "Soldiers of the
Orlacian public guard, sent up here to protect us! There are supposed to
be half-a-dozen about the place at the gates and doors, but they are
probably over at the café gambling. See those heaps of matting?"

"Yes, I see them."

"Machine guns underneath," Marstan went on. "We have a dozen old
soldiers on the staff and we have drill every night. Nice state of
things in a Christian country!"

"But my dear fellow," Beverley expostulated, "why haven't you kept us
more in touch with these developments?"

"How the mischief could I?" was the manager's almost pathetic rejoinder,
"Every letter sent out from here has been censored since the week before
last. All my communications to the firm have gone over in Sir Walter
Harding's private bag, otherwise you wouldn't have received one of
them."

"But what are the machine guns for?"

"Most nights there is a minor riot in the place," Marstan explained.
"The people of Orlac have got it into their minds that the
foreigners--ourselves for example--are making a great fortune out of the
mine whilst they themselves are starving."

"But couldn't you get definite protection from the police force of the
city?" Beverley asked.

"Not a hope. The head of the police has shut himself up and won't see
anyone. No one knows to whom you can apply. The fact of it is that Orlac
is in a state of revolution. Parliament has been dissolved, an election
is taking place all over the country, and the extreme Left, communists
of every sort, bolshevists--anything you like to call them--are going to
win. That is the party that demand that our charter should be cancelled
and that they should work the mine and sell the results."

"Harding knows this?"

"He has gone over to London. Much good it will do him! He's taken his
wife with him, too. You'll find the Embassy practically deserted."

"Well, I had a talk with Harding and I expected to find everything
rather upset over here," Beverley admitted, "but I had no idea it was as
bad as this. Given you a bit of a shock, I'm afraid."

"Life has been a perfect hell for the last six weeks," Marstan admitted
wearily. "No good making a fuss about it, Mr. Beverley, but I haven't
been outside these gates for over a month. Last time I tried to get down
to the hotel where I have been living I was surrounded before I could
reach the pavement. Fortunately they are all rank cowards. I flourished
an empty gun and they were off like scared rabbits. The next night,
though, there were twice as many of them waiting--and the
ugliest-looking lot, too. I had the gates locked, every entrance to the
mine patrolled, and I haven't left the place since."

"And Will Hayter--" Beverley began.

"God knows where he is," the other interrupted. "He was arrested ten
days ago. Never even been brought before the magistrate, so far as I can
hear. Just disappeared. If Harding hadn't been away I should have
telephoned to ask him to find out. As it is, there is no one there with
any sort of authority at all. The first secretary was set upon by a mob
the other night, badly injured, and is lying in hospital now. I have
even had my private wire down to the mine cut twice."

"Were things as bad as this when Harding left?"

"Not quite. The last few days has seen a change for the worse."

"And you're practically cut off," Beverley meditated.

"I have managed to get a wireless message or two across the frontier,"
Marstan confided, "but I can't get any replies."

"What about the labour itself--your miners?"

"That's easy," Marstan pronounced. "They are earning such money as they
never touched before, and they are all for getting along with it. We
aren't a day behind with production."

"I could look round the place, I suppose?"

"If you don't mind taking a chance. No one inside the boundaries has
been particularly troublesome up to now. You had better take this,"
Marstan went on, opening a cupboard which was full of firearms of every
sort. "That's a good revolver. American type--a little small--but it
does the trick all right. A box of cartridges here, too. I wouldn't move
without it for a day or two if I were you, Mr. Beverley."

Beverley slipped the weapon into his coat-pocket.

"Good thing we had the place fenced in so thoroughly," he remarked.

"Damned good thing," Marstan agreed, picking up his hat, "All the same,
the mob seem to have got a vein of common sense under their folly. They
realise that we are drawing wealth out of the land and they don't want
that stopped. I listened to one of the tub-thumpers the last time I was
in the city--I have picked up a good deal of their lingo, you know--and
he was advising them to leave the mine alone. The devils are just
cunning enough to stop short of wilful destruction. They want the mine,
but they want it in its present condition."

"I should like to have a look round and see what sort of condition it is
in," Beverley proposed.

"I'll show you round with pleasure," Marstan agreed, leading his visitor
towards the door. "I must admit that all our trained staff have been
wonderful. You would scarcely believe, when you see how we are carrying
on, what a pitiful state things are in outside. We will have a glance at
the laboratories, if you don't mind, before we start on the serious
business."

"As you will," his companion assented.

Beverley, an hour or so later, sank wearily into an easy chair in the
private office. Marstan unlocked a mahogany cupboard, produced a bottle
of Scotch whisky, glasses and a siphon of soda water. He mixed two
drinks and passed a tumbler to his visitor.

"No ice," he commented briefly. "The works aren't running. There are no
cigarettes to be bought here but standard makes of American, and filthy
French stuff. If you're a pipe-smoker--"

"I have plenty of cigarettes, thank you," Beverley interrupted, drawing
out his case. "Help yourself."

Marstan in his turn sank into a chair with a gesture of fatigue, shook
his head and filled his pipe.

"I have tired you out, sir, I'm afraid," he said, "but I have made one
side of the matter clear, I hope: The mine's being run almost like
clockwork. On that piece of paper you have, you see exactly how many
tons of stuff we're dragging up, how much of the magnesium goes through
the machines, and--without bothering you too much about the relative
quantities--you know how much of the finished metal we are turning out.
We are paying to the King and the Government between them three thousand
pounds a week. We are shipping tonnage the amount of which you can
figure out for yourself. It's enormous. This is one of the most valuable
properties of its sort in the world, and we have kept it going. If we
are left alone, Mr. Beverley, everyone connected with the mine is in for
a long period of prosperity. If there are going to be riots, breaking-up
of machinery, strikes, we are not in a position to cope with them. We
are at the mercy of the Government--which means no Government at all. We
have neither police nor military sufficient to protect us."

Beverley drank half his whisky-and-soda at a gulp, then he lit a
cigarette.

"You give me the clearest outlook on the mine I have ever had," he said.
"Now I come to the real trouble outside. First of all, do you believe in
this rumour about the finding of bauxite in the northern part of the
kingdom?"

"I do not," Marstan declared tersely. "I am satisfied with the original
report Hayter and our geologists handed in after they had explored the
whole country. I don't believe there's any more bauxite to be found
nearer than those worked-out mines in Hungary. Will Hayter had just made
arrangements for paying another flying visit up north when he got into
this trouble, whatever it may be, but I can tell you this--he doesn't
believe it either. And there's that rotten German agent, Treyer, who has
been hanging round, disappearing and then turning up again for the last
year. I don't believe he has any real faith in it himself. He and a
young blackguard of an aristocrat--Mauranesco--are snooping round all
the time. They tell me they have changed their tactics now. I should not
be surprised if half this trouble outside wasn't engineered by them.
They want to get hold of this mine. Keep your eyes open in the city, Mr.
Beverley. Don't give them a chance to get at you."

"I am supposed to be going up north with young Mauranesco to-night or
to-morrow to look at some land of his where he says there is bauxite,"
Beverley confided. "Taking Will Hayter with me, too, by the by."

"Will Hayter!" the other exclaimed.

Beverley nodded.

"We have been so busy," he explained, "that I have not been able to tell
you all my news. I had a letter of introduction to the Chief of Police
here, and directly your young man Underwood told me about Hayter I went
straight to him, meaning really only to ask for an interview."

"What--to General Kara Bavan himself?"

"The General himself," Beverley assented. "I found him very civil and I
got a great deal more than I expected out of him. He gave me an order of
release which I took to the prison, and Will Hayter is now back at the
hotel smoking pipe after pipe and cursing the country of Orlac. All the
same, he's a free man."

"A good stroke of work, that," Marstan acknowledged. "It is a great
relief to me, too, I can assure you, sir."

"Well, there he is, and we're going up north probably to-night. If, by
any chance, this rumour of bauxite being there has any foundation, I
have already an undertaking from Nicolas to use his influence with any
government there may be to grant us the mining rights. I have seen a
specimen and young Mauranesco swears that there is heaps of it up north
in a spot Hayter never went near. That is why I am off on this
expedition to-night."

"It's a marvellous thing to do," Marstan declared after a moment's
troubled thought. "You are one of the quickest workers I ever knew, Mr.
Beverley. The only thing is I cannot help feeling nervous about
Mauranesco. From what I hear of him he's a bad lot."

"He may be," Beverley admitted. "All the same, I can't see V hat he has
to gain exactly by taking me up there if there's nothing to show for
it."

"What I ask myself is this," Marstan explained anxiously: "If he wants
to take anyone up there why doesn't he take that German fellow, Treyer?
They've been about a lot together, I know."

"Perhaps Treyer can't get the money," Beverley suggested. "The young man
admits he is desperately poor. Treyer may have big men behind him but he
doesn't give one the impression of being dangerous."

"Doesn't he?" Marstan grunted. "Well, I can tell you this, Mr. Beverley.
He would cut your throat in a minute if he thought it would bring him
any nearer to getting a share in this mine or any other where he could
find bauxite--and as for the Germans, I believe that they are trooping
into the place. They are trying to make friends with anyone in politics
they think likely to be in the next Government. They say that's the
reason the King is keeping away, but there are rumours that they have
found him out--even in Paris."

"All this," Beverley pointed out, "only makes it more important that I
should take Hayter up north and see for myself how the land lies. We
cannot afford to have the Germans get in on this stuff, Marstan, either
politically or for any other reason. What is your private opinion about
the King?"

"A difficult question," Marstan said. "I have only met him once and that
was just after he had drawn his first cheque for royalties and we were
all little gods to him then. He is still getting his money paid him
through the Credit Lyonnais, and the Government, or what stands for it,
is still getting theirs. If you ask me, I should say that we are paying
them month by month a larger sum than the whole internal revenue of the
country. I believe that Nicolas is staying in Paris until after the
elections here. If he were here and any question of appropriating the
mine turned up he would not only be losing his royalties but he would be
between the devil and the deep blue sea when he was asked to make a
decision."

"Is he popular?" Beverley asked. "Could he hold out against a Government
who asked him to cancel our charter? In plain words, do you think he
would be deposed if he refused? Do the Orlacians want him back at all?"

"They are a queer people," Marstan answered dubiously. "It is my belief
that if he would send back his companion--the great _prima donna_,
Katarina, who owns the opera house here, you know--he could come or
stay, just as he pleased. The people would not care a damn but they are
crazy about music and they worship Katarina."

"A very personable lady," Beverley murmured.

"You have met her?"

Beverley nodded.

"Lunched with her and Nicolas a few days ago," he confided. "That is how
I know that we cannot altogether trust Nicolas. He has already received
that fellow Treyer."

Marstan groaned.

"It's a damn' bad lookout for us, then," he declared.

Beverley made no direct reply.

"What about Lavaroko?" he asked suddenly. "That's the man who signed our
charter."

"Drinking himself to death," Marstan replied gloomily. "All the same,
you ought to sec him, Mr. Beverley."

"Do you know anything of Predor Pravadia, the leader of the Left Wing?"

"A rank out-and-out communist, a fine figure of a man and he may have a
few principles--but not many. Anyhow, his present battle-cry is 'Orlac
for the people,' and when he says 'Orlac' he means the mine."

Beverley picked up his hat.

"I must go," he announced. "All the advice I can give you for the moment
is--carry on."

"We will do that," the other promised. "So far there has been no attempt
to interfere with the machinery, the workers or the transport. There's a
lot of damned tub-thumping in the city, but both sides seem to have
common sense enough to know that if they touch the mine they kill the
goose that lays the golden egg. It is like this," Marstan concluded as
he walked with Beverley to the door. "There will probably be a
revolution in this place directly. They say that if Nicolas returns
there may be an assassination but whatever happens the people have just
sense enough to see that whoever holds the mine is going to rule the
country; and they can't run the mine without us."

Beverley stepped into the old-fashioned car with the royal arms
emblazoned on both panels which was waiting for him outside. Marstan
remained bare-headed on the threshold.

"Where shall I tell him to go to?" he asked.

"To the Convent of Notre Dame."

Marstan repeated the order to the ruffianly-looking chauffeur. His
eyebrows were slightly upraised but he made no comment.



CHAPTER XXII

Never again in the immediate future or in the years to come did Nigel
Beverley count himself amongst the ranks of the unimpressionable. He sat
upon a hard black-oak bench in a waiting-room of the House of
Passers-by, and gradually he felt a subtle change in the atmosphere he
was breathing, in the thoughts that stole into his mind. It was not only
the tranquillity of the place itself, not only the beauty of those
chimes which came softly in mellow, musical notes, or the aromatic
perfume of the flowers and flowering shrubs outside stealing into the
room, which had their effect upon him. It was a wave of something
utterly unanalysable, which seemed suddenly to bring rest to his jangled
nerves and to soothe his overstrung mentality. He had never been an
irreligious man but faith to him had become a superstition. He had never
been prejudiced, and in those few drifting moments he was glad of it.
Time moved slowly in harmony with his thoughts and sometimes it seemed
almost to lapse. The end came when the door was quietly opened and a
woman entered. He rose at once to his feet, and he was conscious of the
long and earnest scrutiny of her clear grey eyes. She wore the
disguising and undistinguished garb of a religious order, but
notwithstanding the pallor of her cheeks, the saintlike immobility of
her features, he realised at once why, in those few years of her vivid
and splendid life in the various Courts of Europe, she had been
accounted one of the most beautiful women alive.

"You are Mr. Beverley," she said, and her voice was all that her
presence promised. "Please to remain seated. You asked to be allowed to
speak to my charge, Marya Mauranesco."

"I hope I may be permitted to do so," he answered.

"What is your object in wishing to see her, Mr. Beverley? No, I pray you
remain seated," she added, waving him back. "I stand always. We have our
strange ideas, you know, we people who live solitary lives, and it seems
to me that I think more clearly when I stand. Please forget the manners
of the outside world and tell me what it is you wish to say to Marya."

"Madame--" he began.

"Sister Georgina, if you please," she interrupted.

"Sister Georgina, then," he went on. "I find it hard to tell you but I
have offended unconsciously a young woman for whom I have a great
admiration and respect. I wish to make the situation clear to her. I
wish her to understand that for anything which happened after luncheon
to-day I was in no way responsible."

"Why does that matter?"

"It matters to me very much," Beverley declared. "I have a great
admiration for Marya Mauranesco. I do not wish to sink in her esteem."

"She has spoken of an Englishman who has been kind to her," she said,
"during those few weeks of unsuitable, unfitting life which she passed
in London. She has offered me no confidences; I do not ask for yours;
but she has sought the shelter of this home for troubled people and it
is my wish to protect her from all evil, real and imaginary."

"I have begun to think. Sister Georgina," Beverley ventured, "that that
is also my wish."

"We are in conflict then," she answered, "for the two could never go
together. Tell me about yourself, Mr. Beverley. You are a great man of
affairs, I understand. You have wealth. You own the mine which has
brought prosperity to this small kingdom."

"Details would only weary you, Sister Georgina," he replied. "I am a
wealthy man, after my fashion."

"You come of a family who have adopted commerce for a career?" she
asked.

"No. I come of gentle people. My father and uncle were both in the
different Services of my country, the army and the navy; but I have no
dislike for commerce. It leaves plenty of scope for the imagination, it
makes continual call upon your judgment. Does this matter very much,
Sister Georgina?"

She shook her head. There was a faint suggestion of apology in the
gesture.

"It is only by questioning you, Mr. Beverley," she said, "that I can
think about you afterwards and make up my mind as to what sort of man
you are. You find me here in charge of many young souls who know nothing
of the outside life. That has not been my good fortune. I had
unfortunately connections with one of the royal families of Europe and
for a time I tried to do what I thought to be my duty in the world, so
you see I am not ignorant nor am I a prejudiced woman, but I have seen
much in life that was unpleasant and very little indeed that seemed to
lead to the greater happiness. That is why I ask you these anxious
questions. My young relative has come back here a little shaken after
her brief contact with unfamiliar methods of existence. I do not think
that she is fitted for such efforts. I think that she is too much a
saint by instinct to enter a life which bristles with vulgarity of
happenings and vulgarity of morals. That is why I am anxious and
disturbed because her interest in you was such that she wished to see
you. I could not refuse, but I said that I would talk to you first. That
I insisted upon."

"It is reasonable. Sister Georgina," Beverley answered. "I am a very
ordinary person but it is possible that here and there in our attitude
towards life as it is lived nowadays we might, if we had time, find
things in common."

"Do you wish to marry my niece?"

"You ask me a question," Beverley replied, "which I have never asked
myself. I believe, I earnestly believe, that I do."

"There is a hesitation still in your mind."

"A hesitation because I have followed my impulse and my instinct in this
matter," Beverley explained, "and I have never weighed it in my mind. I
am much older than Marya and although I have led, as men go, a
comparatively blameless life I am not a saint. She lives on a higher
plane than I, perhaps, but if I do wish to marry her, and I believe I
do, I shall do my best rather to live up to her standard than to ask her
to adopt mine. At the same time," he went on earnestly, "I must tell you
this. Sister Georgina. In the world where I belong and which you have
left, doubtless for fine and excellent reasons, idealism in one's daily
life is hard to realise. We have not the time for meditation, the time
to subdue the human side of ourselves by long hours of reflection. We
live according to our lights. I must tell you that I have no faith.
That, I know, is a terrible thing to say to you. Perhaps it will finish
our interview."

Sister Georgina shook her head.

"No," she said. "I have lived a woman's life, Mr. Beverley, although no
human power could tempt me back into the world I read and hear of. I am
happy here--all my surroundings please me--the sheer beauty of my daily
life keeps me content--but--do not let this astonish you too much--I
have no faith either. I worship but I have no clear idea whom I worship.
I simply know that it is good for my soul and my body to believe that I
believe--and so I go on. I watch my young people carefully; and those
who I think are capable of it, and fitted for it, I pray to stay here
and take vows in which I myself scarcely believe."

"Sister Georgina," Beverley said a little impulsively, "you are a
wonderful woman."

She smiled dissent.

"A very ordinary one: too much of a woman ever to become a saint. Never
before in my life, not when I left it after a visit to Rome or since,
have I said as much to any man as I have said to you. I wanted to see if
I could, in these few minutes, decide what manner of man you were. I
shall send you my young relative, Mr. Beverley. You shall have your talk
with her. But listen, I will not say that I am not making a mistake. I
have been deceived so often, I have been surprised many and many a time,
because there is some quality of life, some strange questing impulse,
sometimes beautiful but not always so, which I find in the young people
under my care which I recognise, and I seek no longer to keep them here
because the life for them would not be a natural one. But in Marya I
have found nothing of this, Mr. Beverley. I have believed her to have
the mind and soul of a saint. My faith in that is not shaken but I can
run no risk, I can never ask her to bury herself here for always until I
am sure. Therefore I shall send her to you. But, Mr. Beverley, it is my
honest belief--and I say that to you as a woman who has never even
thought a falsehood--that Marya has not the impulse, perhaps I should
say the aptitude, for married life in busy places, for a life of
pleasure and society and idle ways. At present she is so undisturbed.
Think carefully, I beg of you as a human being, Mr. Beverley, for whom I
feel a real and instinctive respect--do not ask her to change her life
for yours unless you are sure, absolutely and entirely sure, that you
can make her happy...You will forgive me? Marya will be with you
directly."

She inclined her head slightly. There was a softer light in her eyes,
and for a moment she was human and nothing else. Then she passed out and
Beverley was not very sure whether his whole conversation had not been a
dream and whether the woman with whom he had been talking had indeed
once been a queen, whether that strange, saintlike loveliness of hers
could possibly belong to a person who had held a great place in the
world which she had quitted with so little effort. He had forgotten the
mine, small conspiracies, the sordidness of the country, the hard,
scheming world which flamed so near...Then the door was once more softly
opened. Mary a came in and stood facing him--Marya, already intangibly
altered, somehow carrying with her in some mysterious fashion
suggestions of her kinship with the woman whose place she had taken. For
a moment Beverley had not even the desire to raise her fingers to his
lips and seek for the light in her eyes. He was tongue-tied.

"You wished to speak to me?" she asked.

"Yes," he answered. "Sister Georgina has made it difficult. Will you sit
down for a moment?"

She sat on the oak bench a few feet away from him. Somehow or other
those few feet seemed like an eternity of distance. He could no more
have taken her hand than have made a ghoulish attempt to seize her in
his arms.

"Sister Georgina was not pleased that you came," she said.

"But you?"

"It is hard to say."

"Whether you ever see me again or I you, Marya Mauranesco," Beverley
declared, "I could not let you go with wrong ideas. Your famous singer
is no more to me than the placards of her which disfigure your streets.
I have met her twice only, on the occasion of my visits to King Nicolas.
I have entertained them both at dinner and at lunch. To me the fact that
I came into contact with either of them was simply an episode in the
commercial side of my life. I am a man of affairs and I have those to
think of who risked their savings in the concerns which I have
established, I wished for Nicolas' support in my endeavours to hold on
to the mine. I have never spoken a word, looked or felt a thought,
concerning Madame Katarina that I would not put on plain paper for you
to see, if the gift of expression were given me."

Marya winced as though from some strange and unhappy memory.
Nevertheless, she looked at him and he fancied that there was some
slight change in the faraway light of her eyes.

"It is a sad thing," she said, "that the ugliest things in life will
come and disturb sometimes our deepest thoughts. I thank you for what
you have said."

"You believe me?"

"Yes, I believe you."

"But you remain here?"

"Yes, I remain here."

"Why?"

"I cannot tell you," she answered earnestly. "Something inside me is
bruised. I know that I am foolish, but remember that already Sister
Georgina's example, to breathe the same atmosphere, to watch her hour by
hour, to read her thoughts--it has an effect. I left here because I
thought that it was my duty. I came to London where everything was ugly.
You, too, at first--and then you were kind and you talked to me about
pictures and we spoke of beautiful things once or twice. You seemed
different. It was then that my fidelity to all the things of which
Sister Georgina and I had talked seemed weaker and I began to be almost
afraid of myself. Something seemed as though it might grow up in me
which would alter my whole life, something which, if she had known, and
she would have known, would have made her turn the key of my little room
here in the House of Passers-by and wave me away. And now--that is dead.
I am going to follow her example."

"I came here," Beverley said, "to ask you to trust me with your future.
I told Sister Georgina that I wished to marry you."

For the life of him he could not tell whether it was a thrill or a
shiver which went trembling through that slender, beautiful body of
hers. He only knew that when she spoke next her eyes had fallen. She was
looking down at the floor.

"I do not think that you could have meant that," she faltered. "You know
so little of me and I understand so little of what life under those
conditions would be. I wish you to go away, please, Nigel Beverley, and
remember that you are to marry someone else."

"That is finished," he answered quietly. "Finished before I came
abroad."

"I hope she is not unhappy."

"She will never know happiness or unhappiness as you and I know it," he
said. "I could find happiness, Marya, with you--not with her or her
sort."

She seemed suddenly afraid. Slight though it was he saw the change in
her, saw again that momentary shiver, that deeper light of trouble which
seemed to shine out of her eyes.

"Please not," she begged. "Please do not talk like that. I have to go.
My ten minutes are finished."

"Marya," he persisted earnestly, "I am afraid now that I am here alone
with you and the atmosphere of that woman seems to cling to you--even to
your clothes and to your voice--I am afraid of saying the wrong thing,
but I have a real love for you, Marya."

"You must not," she cried, her voice suddenly raised. "Oh, please,
please no more!"

She moved away. He made no effort to follow her. Her fingers were upon
the latch of the door.

"Nigel Beverley," she implored, turning round at the last moment,
"forget what you said. You do not know. But remember you are not an
ordinary person to me. I may tell you that. I felt as though it were
sacrilege when that painted woman tried to hold you in her arms, and I
would have you live and be happy and marry someone whom you should
marry, but because of what I have felt--listen. Be careful. You have
enemies in this place. Your life, your safety, your money--everything
you care for is in danger."

"There is nothing I care for, Marya, as I care for you," he said
doggedly.

Her slight bosom was rising and falling, the lights flashing from her
eyes contradicted her words.

"Do not hurt me any more, please," she begged. "Please go and find your
way back to England. Do not trust Rudolph. Do not trust either of those
two politicians. Do not trust Nicolas. Let someone who counts for less
than you come out and deal with them. Go away, please. I am afraid."

"Then you care a little?" he cried quickly.

How she went he scarcely knew. His knees were trembling--he, a strong
man. It was a matter of seconds before he was in the stone corridor but
there was no sign of Marya. The great gates leading into the convent
proper were barred, yet there was no sign of her anywhere in the House
of Passers-by...

He walked out to the door. The woman who opened the gate listened to his
eager questions but said never a word. She held it open and pointed.
Down at the bottom of the hill the horn of his motor was like a call
back to an ugly, repulsive life. He looked backwards but the gate closed
behind him and he walked down the hill.



CHAPTER XXIII

On his return to the hotel Beverley found Will Hayter, a small black bag
by his side, seated in the easy chair of his salon. Opposite to him,
talking eagerly in faultless English, stood Rudolph Mauranesco, rolling
innumerable miniature cigarettes between his long nervous fingers and
throwing them away into the tray of the black-leaded stove after a whiff
or two. Beverley looked at them both in some surprise.

"I'm sorry," he apologised. "I have perhaps kept you waiting."

"I have been having an interesting talk with Mr. Hayter," Rudolph said
eagerly. "He has been telling me the secrets of detecting bauxite in
unexpected places. I thought I knew a little about mineral research
myself, but he seems to have spent a lifetime at it."

"He is not very sanguine about your property," Beverley remarked.

"He has not been to find out," Rudolph replied. "He may change his
opinion after I have taken him around."

"I change my collar occasionally," Will Hayter observed, "and I am never
without a clean shirt on the Sabbath; but my opinions, they stick. I
don't often change them, young gentleman. I am calling your attention,
Mr. Beverley, to the fact that there is a huge square envelope on the
mantelpiece for you with all sorts of bearings and royal devices all
over the back of it. It was brought about an hour ago by a flunkey in a
flame-coloured livery and an impertinent manner, who could not speak a
word of any language that a decent person could understand. Anyway,
there's the letter."

Rudolph leaned forward, took it from the mantelpiece and handed it over
to Beverley. He gave a little start as he recognised the handwriting.

"Nicolas is back then!" the young man exclaimed. "That polishing of the
flagstaff meant something, after all."

Beverley broke the seal and read the contents. The letter was dated from
the palace and written in violet ink with many evidences of haste.


Dear Mr. Beverley,

We have just arrived by aeroplane. His Majesty instructs me to say that
he wishes an immediate interview with you and desires that you present
yourself at the palace immediately on receipt of this note.

G.

P.S. My private advice to you, sir, is to come at once.


Beverley tore the letter into small pieces.

"I'm sorry, Rudolph Mauranesco," he said, "but I may have to postpone
our trip north until to-morrow. The King has commanded my attendance at
the palace. I don't know what he wants, I don't know how long he will
keep me, but in the present troubled state of affairs I feel bound to
accede to his wishes."

Rudolph made a gesture of despair. He threw away the cigarette he had
just lit.

"Nicolas only wants you," he pointed out, "to make sure that you are not
with Katarina. You are trifling with the chance of a lifetime, Mr.
Beverley. Something which Mr. Hayter has just said convinces me that
there is bauxite on my hills. Herr Treyer is ready to start at any
moment. It is possible that he is already on the way."

"You are an Orlacian," Beverley said calmly "You know what a command
from the King means. I have no wish to stand in his bad books."

The young man's gloom vanished.

"It must be," he decided. "It is a moonlight night. We will wait an hour.
If you do not come then, Mr. Hayter and I will start on our journey and
you can follow us in the morning."

"Where do I go to?" Beverley asked.

"We shall leave you the automobile which you have been using," Rudolph
said. "The chauffeur knows the route and the destination. I will take
Mr. Hayter in my own Isotta. It is the fastest car in the kingdom, Mr.
Hayter, but you will be safe with me. I am a wonderful driver."

"No man who drives fast is a wonderful driver," the Scotsman grunted.
"However, there's my master. I will do as I am told."

"Make it an hour and a half," Beverley begged. "If I can be back before,
I will. Have you got all your things, Hayter?"

"I've got my instruments," the latter replied, "and the
acids--everything that I need--but I warn you, before we go, that we are
probably off on a fool's errand. You can't pick up bauxite like pebbles
and I have had a glimpse of this strip of mountains before."

Beverley moved to the table and helped himself from the bottle of whisky
which stood at Hayter's elbow. He splashed in some soda water and drank
it. He had the curious feeling of having passed into a different world.
Only the young man with the beautiful eyes, noble forehead and musical
voice seemed somehow or other a faint link with reality. He had the
sense of living automatically. He had promised to go north. He must go.
The summons had come from the King. It must be obeyed. His own will
seemed dead. He set down his glass, empty.

"And the end of my drive if I come alone?" he asked.

"I am ashamed to call my home a castle," the young man admitted, "but it
has been called so for seven or eight hundred years. There are three
walls standing, two rooms over which a roof still remains. A few
goatherds live in huts around it. An old man makes coffee for me and
finds me food when I go there for the night. It is not often," he
meditated. "I go to shoot bears in a few months' time. There are boars
about now and a few deer but to shoot them is not easy, and to find
their bodies in the chasms into which they fail sometimes impossible. I
make no apologies, Mr. Beverley. You must sleep in your clothes. You can
at least have hot coffee and you can be back here to-morrow night, and I
promise you that you will imagine you are back in the acme of
civilization when you reach this hotel."

Beverley, with unchanged expression, took up his hat and turned towards
the door.

"I leave you for the present," he said. "Anything you have to say to me,
Hayter?"

"Nothing, Mr. Beverley. It's a comfort so long as I am making this
journey in a barbarous country that I have a young man who can speak
English."

Rudolph accompanied Beverley to the ground floor of the hotel and
watched him drive off in the car, then he mounted the stairs once more
and re-entered the salon, where Hayter was busy with the whisky bottle.

"Let us," he suggested, "finish our conversation."

"I will have your proposition in plain words, Mr. Mauranesco," Hayter
insisted. "It is against my principles, I tell you, even to listen to
such a suggestion; but it is a mighty hard world to make money in, and I
have not had the best of fortune."

Rudolph crossed the floor once more towards the door, locked it and came
back to his place.

"It is the plain truth which I shall tell you, Mr. Hayter," he said,
"and the proposition which I shall make is an honest one."

"Honest, be gum!" the Scotsman exclaimed.

"So far as you and I are concerned--yes. I shall give it to you if you
wish upon paper." Listen to me, sir. That fragment of rock that my
sister took over and showed to Mr. Beverley was bought in an antique
shop in a back street here. It came originally, of course, from the
Klast Mine. It was just a curiosity."

"So the young lady is in it!" Will Hayter sighed, shaking his head.

"My sister had no knowledge of where the fragment came from," Rudolph
replied. "It is of no consequence to anyone, so far as I can see, but my
sister believed my story that it had been found by me elsewhere in the
kingdom. She took it to Mr. Beverley in all good faith. That does not
matter. So far as I know, there is not an ounce of bauxite on my
mountains. You have been over a part of them yourself and two German
scientists have done the same thing."

"So you have been trying to deal with that fellow Treyer," Hayter
observed.

Rudolph coughed.

"Whether I have or have not," he said, "is of no consequence. I want to
deal with you now, Mr. Hayter, and this is the proposition I make to
you. Mr. Beverley knows no more about geology than, say, my sister. He
is utterly ignorant on the subject. He trusts implicitly in you. He
expects to receive a report which is entirely discouraging. He only
sends you up and follows himself in order to keep his promise. Very
good. My proposal is that you give him a surprise. You admit that you
have never been on the south side of the mountains--only the north.
Well, you make your investigations, of course, where you like. If I were
you I should find a quiet corner where you are not likely to break your
neck and smoke a pipe and tell yourself that you are a rich man. What
you have to do is simply this: You have to report to Mr. Beverley that
you found indications of bauxite, that you followed them to their
source, that you believe there is a large supply in an utterly
unexpected spot. You can tell him that w^e have only waited for your
report before turning another body of German investigators loose upon
the mountains. You can tell him that he has had the first offer. I will
do the rest."

"What might you be thinking of sticking him for?" Hayter enquired.

"One million pounds," Rudolph replied. "And of that sum you will receive
one fourth. I shall give you my bond the day the agreement is signed."

"It's a risky business," Will Hayter decided.

"Not at all," the young man declared. "Remember we are not going in for
leases or charters. I shall sell him the land outright and though it is
not worth a sovereign a year to any man for grazing or any other purpose
it is truthfully and legally Mauranesco property. The lawyer here has
the deeds and there are copies at the law office,"

"No Crown rights?"

"No Crown rights whatsoever. It is a clear, straightforward sale I mean
to make. I sell the mountain and Mr. Beverley pays me. If he is
disappointed in not finding bauxite, it is you who will have to stand
the brunt of it; but if you are a wise man you will be in America by the
time he finds out and you will go with two hundred and fifty thousand
pounds."

Will Hayter returned to the whisky bottle. He held the glass, which he
filled liberally, in front of him and watched the bubbles of the soda
water as he splashed it in.

"It is a great pity, young man," he said, "that you are no' a whisky
drinker."

"I'll drink a bottle of wine with you on the way up," Rudolph promised.
"What about it, Mr. Hayter? Is it a deal?"

"I'll just take the rest of that hour and a half to think it over," the
Scotsman decided. "If they have another bottle of the same in the hotel,
Mr. Mauranesco, we might be taking it with us. It will be cold on those
mountain-tops and I will have to make a show of going over them
properly. I will probably have to sleep out a night--perhaps even two."

"You shall have mules," the young man told him, "and a small tent. I
agree with you, Mr. Hayter, it would be better if you were to make an
exploration. As for the bottle of whisky, if it is to be got you shall
have it. I will go downstairs myself and enquire."

He unlocked the door and descended to the bar. Left to himself Will
Hayter, with his tumbler in his hand, leaned back in his chair and gazed
up at the ceiling.

"Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds," he reflected. "Two hundred and
fifty thousand pounds for making a wee bit of a mistake!"

Much of the splendour of the King's palace at Klast was faded splendour,
but there was still plenty of ceremony. A footman handed Beverley on to
a _major domo_ on his appearance and the _major domo_ conducted him to the
apartment of Baron Genetter. The Baron welcomed the newcomer warmly.

"It is a very good affair that you have come, Mr. Beverley," he cried.
"Nicolas is beside himself with anger. He believes that Katarina left
him and came here to see you. He has sent a message to her villa and
there is no reply."

"I have no idea where Madame is," Beverley said calmly. "She appeared
this morning in the luncheon-room where I was seated with friends, she
welcomed me in a manner which afforded me considerable embarrassment. I
left as soon afterwards as was possible to go about my business. I have
not seen her since."

"She has written you--she is waiting for you?"

"It is possible," Beverley admitted. "There was a note from her slipped
into my hand by the manager when I returned to the hotel. She reminded
me that I had once told her that 'Tristan and Isolde' was my favourite
opera and that she had come back to Klast to sing it to me, and I was to
be sure and have supper with her at her villa at the conclusion of the
performance."

"That woman is hell!" Genetter declared furiously.

"To that letter," Beverley continued, "I have made no reply. I do not
propose to make one. The honour that she does me in seeking my company
is entirely unsolicited. I have no wish to see or speak to her again so
long as I live. Can I say more than that, Baron?"

"Why, no," Genetter acknowledged. "But are you going to live up to your
words?"

"I most certainly am," Beverley answered coldly. "You should remember,
with your wide experience, that Englishmen have not the instincts of the
troubadour or the Lovelace. We are not always seeking for passing
amours. I can give you my word of honour that I shall not approach this
lady or respond in any way to her friendly overtures. I can do no more."

"But Katarina," the Baron said, looking at his visitor curiously, "she
is a woman for whom the whole world has a passion. Great men have tried
all they knew to carry her away. Nicolas knows it. He is never content
when she is absent from him for twenty-four hours. You are a man of
flint, Mr. Beverley."

"Whatever I am," Beverley replied, "I have no admiration for Madame
Katarina except as a great singer, and any feelings that I have for her
sex are entirely concentrated in another direction."

The Baron sighed.

"If only the King could hear those words!" he exclaimed. "Well," he
added, glancing at the clock, "I must take you to him. He is walking up
and down his room in a state of excitement. He will question you, Mr.
Beverley. Tell him what you cannot avoid telling him--and I should
forget the note."

"It is already forgotten," Beverley assured him. "Its ashes are at the
back of the stove in my salon."

"Things may, after all, turn out better," the Baron observed hopefully.
"The King has great faith in Englishmen, He is more likely to believe
you than he would any other man in the world. He himself feels that
Katarina is irresistible, all-conquering. If he knew of that note, the
offer to sing for you and the invitation, I think that he would blow out
his brains."

Beverley made no reply. The Baron took him by the arm and led him down
the corridor to where a sentinel was standing outside a closed door.
There was a rapid exchange of passwords. The door was opened. Beverley
was introduced to the presence of the King.



CHAPTER XXIV

There was very little of friendliness in the welcome extended by King
Nicolas to his visitor. He had already donned the undress uniform of his
own guards, but his face was puffy, his eyes bloodshot. He had the air
of one who has been indulging in a bout of unwholesome dissipation and
is at the same time worried and distressed. The gesture with which he
invited Beverley to be seated was in itself ungracious. Beverley,
however, after his formal bow sat down and waited to be addressed.

"I wish to ask you a few personal questions," Nicolas began.

"I shall be very glad to answer them, sir."

"When did you last see Madame Katarina?"

"During the luncheon hour at the hotel," Beverley answered. "Madame
presented herself there apparently to escape from an over-enthusiastic
welcome on the part of the public."

Nicolas frowned.

"Humph," he muttered. "They did not offer me anything of the sort.
Were you aware of her coming?"

"Certainly not, sir. It was a complete surprise to me."

"Luncheon--let me see," the King went on. "How did you spend your
afternoon, Mr. Beverley?"

"I have been to the offices of the mine," Beverley replied. "Since then
I have paid a call on the Sister Superior of the Convent of Notre Dame."

"And afterwards?"

"I returned to my room at the hotel. I was preparing for a visit to the
north, together with my prospector, to examine a property owned by the
Mauranesco family. I received your note and I came here at once."

"Then you have had no further conversation with Madame Katarina?"

"None whatever."

"Have you received any communication from her?"

Beverley considered for a moment.

"I had an invitation to attend the opera on Thursday, sir."

"What sort of invitation?"

"You will forgive me, sir, if I remind you that one cannot discuss
letters one might receive from a lady with anyone."

"A matter of etiquette," Nicolas sneered.

"Entirely, sir," was the firm reply.

"You are proposing to visit the opera?"

"I fear not. I have serious affairs on hand and am making no
arrangements."

"You are not proposing to visit Madame Katarina at her villa?"

"Certainly not, sir."

There was a brief silence. The King's expression was a little less
gloomy. Beverley leaned forward in his chair.

"Perhaps you will allow me to make a brief statement rather than be
cross-examined in this way, sir," he proposed. "Madame Katarina, they
say, is a great singer and a great artist. She may be. I have never
heard her sing, I don't suppose that I ever shall. There has been
nothing in my deportment towards her to warrant these questions you have
asked me, but there is no harm in my making a voluntary statement. I
have not the slightest interest in Madame Katarina, I don't care if I
see her again or not, and if it is your wish that I should do so I would
willingly promise to keep away from the opera, never enter her villa,
and consider our acquaintance closed so far as I can do so without being
guilty of a breach of good manners."

"That sounds very straightforward, Mr. Beverley," Nicolas remarked after
a few moments' reflection. "Madame has been a charming companion to me
and is so still. She has one fault. She likes the admiration and
attention of every man. This sometimes puts me in an undignified
position. Hence my questions to you."

"If it interests Your Majesty to know it," Beverley continued, "my
affections, such as they are, are entirely disposed of elsewhere. I am
not a man who seeks adventures and there is not the slightest chance of
my ever seeking one with the lady in question,"

"Genetter," the King said, turning to his secretary, "send in the
whisky, two glasses and some soda water. You will take a drink with me,
Mr. Beverley?"

"With pleasure, sir."

The whisky and soda water was brought and served. Beverley accepted also
a cigarette.

"Will you now, sir, permit me to say a few words on my own account?"

"Certainly. I will listen to anything you have to say, Mr. Beverley,"
the King replied, with a marked increase of graciousness in his manner.

"It refers to the matter which brought me to Klast and which is, I must
confess, a great anxiety to me. I am told that the election which is now
proceeding will result in a change of Prime Ministers. It has been
hinted that a motion will come before the House of Assembly to cancel my
charter. This is not legally or morally possible and it would lead to
grave unpleasantness. It will relieve me of some anxiety if I have Your
Majesty's views upon the matter."

Nicolas moved uneasily in his chair.

"I must admit, Mr. Beverley," he said, "that I do not know much about
constitutional law. I do not know whether another body of members of the
House of Assembly have the right to cancel an agreement made by their
predecessors. The lawyers must tell us that. Otherwise, I am afraid
that what you have heard is true."

"What would be Your Majesty's attitude if you were asked to cancel your
own concession?"

"I should have to be guided by the advice of my Prime Minister."

Nicolas' reply was almost too glib. Beverley was silent for a few
moments.

"We should regard it as a serious matter, sir, if your Parliament
decided upon any form of cancellation; but it would be worse still if
they should transfer the charter we now hold to any other person or
company of persons."

"Well, drink your whisky-and-soda and do not anticipate the worst,"
Nicolas enjoined. "Very likely Lavaroko will pull his adherents together
and be able to form another Government. In that case the question will
possibly not arise. It seems to me that you are trying to meet trouble
half-way."

"That is not my custom, sir," Beverley replied, "nor is it so in this
case. We have a representative here, as you know, and we are perfectly
well aware that a foreign nation is endeavouring by all the means in its
power to secure a supply of bauxite. You know this yourself. Its
representative or rather a member of its secret service has had
interviews with you in Paris. The doings of Mr. Treyer have been watched
day by day for the last six months. It is chiefly through his efforts
that Lavaroko was forced to resign and a great part of the funds which
are enabling the Left Wing to fight so successfully come from him. We
find ourselves, therefore, in a very serious situation. I have the
interests of a great many of my fellow countrymen in my keeping, sir.
There are altogether something like four million pounds of British
capital invested in the Klast Mine. It would be quite impossible for
us to submit to anything in the shape of cancellation of our charter
or revocation of the concession granted by Your Majesty."

The King shrugged his shoulders.

"I am like all constitutional monarchs," he pointed out, "little more
than a pawn in the game. You must wait until the new Government meets
and you have ascertained the intentions of the new Premier. Then will be
the time for your complaints."

"If I return to England and tell my shareholders what you say the
situation would be insupportable," Beverley insisted; "there are several
members of Parliament upon our board and there is not the slightest
doubt but that they would at once demand from the Government protection
for their interests."

"It will be time enough to consider that, Mr. Beverley, when your
interests are seriously threatened," the King replied.

"I accept the rebuke, sir," Beverley acknowledged, "but although I am no
politician, I can assure you that no British Cabinet would accept a
change of Government in this country as an excuse for confiscating the
property of an established English firm. The Union Jack is flying at the
present moment over our offices. I need not tell you what the result
would be if it were not treated with the respect it commands."

"A trifle melodramatic, my friend," Nicolas remarked. "This discussion
is becoming fruitless. We must wait until the new Parliament is
assembled and the new Premier has decided what steps to take. Perhaps,
if you will pardon my suggesting it, we might now bring this interview
to a close."

"Not a very satisfactory one, I fear," Beverley said, rising to his
feet.

"Well, what are you going to do about it?" the King asked bluntly. "You
will have to wait until the new Government is in power."

"I felt justified," Beverley ventured, "in asking Your Majesty's
intentions."

"You have asked them and you have had my reply. I shall act upon my
Premier's advice."

"With regard also to your own personal concession?" Beverley queried.

"The two go together," the King declared sullenly. "They must go
together. You are a very agreeable person, Mr. Beverley, and on the
whole I rather like you, but I am not going to risk assassination or
deposition for the sake of your blasted mine. I shall do what my own
ministers advise me to do."

Beverley sighed as he moved backwards towards the door.

"I regret very much that Your Majesty takes this view of the situation,"
he said. "Sir Walter Harding is, I believe, returning this week and will
ask for an interview as soon as he arrives."

"Not a damned bit of use," was the sulky rejoinder. "Until the elections
are over I have nothing to say..."

Beverley bowed his way out. Genetter accompanied him to the gates of the
palace.

"You are taking rather an extreme view of the situation, I fancy, Mr.
Beverley," the Baron said as he laid his arm on the other's shoulder.
"You cannot persuade me any more than you could King Nicolas that
England is likely to go to war just because a small country like Orlac,
in a perfectly constitutional manner, cancels a concession. Compensation
would be offered as a matter of course."

"There are other circumstances in this affair, as you and I both know,"
Beverley concluded. "We will not discuss them. It is perhaps useless."

"These damned Germans," Genetter sighed.

Nicolas rose to his feet a moment or two after Genetter and Beverley had
left and drew on one side the curtain of the adjoining apartment.
Katarina came slowly in. She had lost her colour and a good deal of her
brilliant energy. She threw herself into the chair which Beverley had
just vacated.

"Well, _carissima_," Nicolas exclaimed lightly as he resumed his place,
"what do you think of this amorous Englishman of yours? You heard him?"

"Yes, I heard," she snapped.

"He does not seem quite so smitten as you imagined, yes?"

"Never mind," she muttered. "Get me a drink."

Nicolas rose a little ungraciously to his feet. He rang the bell,
however.

"Not champagne," she cried. "Brandy."

A footman received the order and departed. Nicolas refilled his glass.
For the first time that afternoon he was rather enjoying himself.

"You would like to have sung to him the 'Song of the Lovelorn Queen,'"
he mocked. "You would like to have felt the fire of the love potion in
your veins, yes?"

Her fingers played with the empty glass in front of her. There was a
wicked gleam in her eyes. Nicolas, not for the first time in his life,
was afraid of her.

"We will forget him," he proposed. "Come and sit by my side, Katarina.
We will talk of things more pleasant than this cold-blooded Englishman."

She made no movement. The brandy was brought in. She half-filled her
glass.

"Listen, Nicolas," she said at last. "You will do something to please
me?"

"Anything," he assured her.

"You will do what he fears. You will send for Pravadia when his party
are elected and you will encourage this idea of his. You will take away
the mine from the English and give it to the Germans."

"Did you not hear me hint to him that this might happen?"

"No hints," she answered. "It must happen."

"If there is war," he meditated, "we might come rather badly out of it,
little one. The Germans are not so easy to deal with as the English. The
English are stupid, but they keep their word."

"The English are to lose that mine," she said. "If they do not, Nicolas,
you will lose me."

"I would rather lose my kingdom," he declared, rising to his feet and
coming over towards her.

A little sullenly she lifted her arms. She met his kisses at first
coldly. By degrees, however, she drew him further down.

"It is a promise?"

"A King's promise," he whispered.



CHAPTER XXV

Beverley, when he reached the square on one side of which the hotel was
situated, found all traffic suspended and the square itself filled with
a mob of shouting and yelling people. The outside cafes all held
separate crowds. People were leaning out of the windows. There was an
indescribable and utterly incomprehensible roar of voices. The car had
come to a standstill. Beverley leaned forward and spoke to the driver,
who had a slight knowledge of French.

"What is it that has happened?" he asked.

The chauffeur pointed to a great white sheet hung from the roof of one
of the houses. On it was roughly traced, in black, names and numbers.

"It is the five election results which have just come in, Monsieur," the
man explained. "They are all won by the Left. The communists are going
mad."

"Five results are not so many," Beverley observed.

"But Monsieur," the chauffeur went on, turning a little farther round
and himself showing signs of excitement, "with these five gains Predor
Pravadia must win. If every other seat was lost he would still have a
majority. And of the other seats the constitutionalists could never win
more than half a dozen. Pravadia will be the new Premier of Orlac."

The man broke off to stand up, wave his cap and join in the tumult of
voices. He sat down, wiping his forehead. The ideas were racing through
Beverley's mind.

"This Pravadia," he asked, "he is an avocaty is he not?"

"Without a doubt, Monsieur. He has an office the other side of the
square."

"You can drive me there?"

The chauffeur smiled.

"If you would speak with Monsieur Pravadia," he replied, "you would need
to be a magician. He is now at the Town Hall. He will be there until
midnight. At this moment the citizens are tearing the coats off the
backs of their neighbours to get near him. It is a great day for Klast,
this."

Beverley stood up in the car and looked round. It was an amazing sight.
The people were wedged together in one solid mass. There was nothing
resembling a policeman to be seen, there was no order, no attempt to
control the surging masses.

"Can you get me into the hotel by the back entrance?" Beverley asked.

"Through the garage, Monsieur, most certainly."

They backed away from the square down the street. In a few minutes
Beverley found himself in the hall of the hotel. With difficulty he
found his way into the manager's bureau. The latter, bathed in
perspiration, welcomed him profusely.

"Monsieur Beverley," he gasped, "you see Klast on a great day. The
people have broken down the constitutional government. No one knows what
may happen."

"Listen," Beverley said, "I want to speak to Predor Pravadia."

"You might as well try to speak to the Lord of Hosts," was the prompt
reply.

"So the chauffeur seemed to think," Beverley continued, "and yet I must
speak with him. The chauffeur told me that he was at the Town Hall. He
cannot live through a night like this at the Town Hall. Sooner or later
he will come here."

The little Austrian was taken by surprise.

"How does Monsieur know that?" he asked.

"Pure guesswork," Beverley admitted. "Still, he's coming."

"And so?"

"It will be very greatly to your advantage, Herr Levenstein, if you
arrange that I have an opportunity of a word or two with him."

"To-morrow perhaps?"

"To-night. I am leaving to inspect some property ninety miles away
sometime to-night."

"What you ask is too difficult, sir. I cannot help you," the hotel
manager declared hopelessly. "I will be perfectly frank. Mr. Pravadia
meets three of his great supporters here in an hour. It will be
difficult to get him into the hotel. When I tell you that he enters
through the wine cellar you will understand how difficult. We have a
room for him and six of the sturdiest men of the city guard on duty
there now. I have had a German gentleman who fought his way through the
crowd and arrived here in rags. He went down on his knees and begged for
what you are asking. I could not help him. I cannot help you."

"Well, at any rate I'm glad you did not help that fellow Treyer,"
Beverley said smiling. "Listen, Mr. Levenstein, will you sell me your
hotel?"

"Sell it?"

"Yes. If you don't want to sell me the hotel, sell me the room where
Pravadia is going to spend the evening--or lease it to me. For my
apartments you are charging me, I think, something like four English
sovereigns a night. For Pravadia's apartment, which I will cheerfully
loan to that gentleman, I offer you four hundred English sovereigns."

The hotel manager flopped into his chair. For the fiftieth time that day
he took out a silk handkerchief and wiped his forehead.

"Sell? How can I sell a room in a hotel?" he demanded.

"My dear fellow, it is simply for you to choose," Beverley went on
calmly. "I will buy your hotel, if you like, or I will buy the room or
rent the room--and the most lucrative thing for you would be to let it
to me. Elections will not come every night, Mr. Levenstein. I am not a
clumsy fellow. I shall not come butting into the apartment. I shall rely
upon your tact just to get me there for a few minutes as soon as he
arrives--perhaps before his councillors come. My business with him will
not be lengthy. He will be as glad to see me when we have talked
together as I shall be to have my talk with him. I am not speaking of
money that is in the air, Mr. Levenstein. Four hundred pounds in Bank of
England notes will pass into your hands when I leave Pravadia's room
to-night."

The man's eyes glistened.

"But Monsieur Beverley," he protested, "with such princely sums to offer
why did you not make your way to the Town Hall?"

"An apt question, Mr. Levenstein. I will tell you why. There are already
a thousand people in it. There is not an inch to spare, a cubic foot of
air to breathe. How could I speak a private word with Pravadia there? No
chance. I want him alone to listen to just a few words from me. My only
chance is your sitting-room. Shall I go to my room now and bring those
notes?"

"But if he refuses to speak with you--if he throws you out? He is a
strong man."

"All that I ask of you is the possession of the sitting-room. If I am
thrown out of it you still get your money."

Mr. Levenstein had lost all power of resistance. Having been shouting at
the mob and at his waiters and at the crowds who tried to invade his
hotel for the last two hours, he had no voice left, either. He jerked
his forefinger upwards.

"Bring me the four hundred pounds," he said hoarsely. "I will take you
myself and lock you in the sitting-room. For what happens afterwards it
is not I who am responsible. That is a bargain--yes? It must be
understood, sir, that you are there--no one knows how. I run my risk. If
the interview does not arrive I keep the four hundred pounds."

"It is understood," Beverley agreed. "I return, then, in ten minutes."

"Make it twenty," Mr. Levenstein begged. "I need to bathe my head. I
need to wash. I need to drink a Pernod or some of your Scotch whisky. I
am a man who has been through much to-day."

"Twenty minutes, by all means," Beverley conceded.

Up in the salon of his employer's suite "Will Hayter was lounging in a
shiny, uncomfortable-looking chair with a soiled lace-covered pillow
behind his head and a tumbler of whisky-and-soda by his side. He put
down his pipe and swung round in his place as Beverley entered.

"We are to start?" he asked.

"Presently," was the swiftly spoken reply. "Listen, Hayter, I pledged my
word to examine this tract of country although personally I don't think
it is a damn' bit of good. Still, I swore I would go, and I shall go. It
just happens, however, that time is valuable just now. Seen anything of
that fellow Treyer?"

"He has been hanging around trying to pump me for an hour or so," Hayter
admitted. "Then that angel-faced young Orlacian, Mauranesco, came
running in to see if you were back and off went Treyer like a shot.
Pretended he didn't know Mauranesco, and I saw the two at the bar
together not a couple of hours ago!"

"Treyer's a dangerous fellow, though he looks such a simpleton,"
Beverley said. "Don't you have too much to say to him, Hayter. What I
want to put to you is this: It will take two days to go from one end of
the mountain ridge to the other, even if we don't break our necks. There
is no need for me to go all the way. If I have to stay over in Klast
to-night I want you to go on with Mauranesco, start work to-morrow
morning, and I will come up later in the day as soon as I have finished
here. I shouldn't come at all but I have pledged my word."

"You couldna' take it back, I suppose?" Hayter asked after a moment's
hesitation.

"Why?"

The Scotsman pulled at his pipe for a moment in silence,

"That young Mauranesco," he confided, "I've got a queer idea about him."

"Get on with it."

"He's too beautiful for the rough stuff, I imagine," Hayter went on,
"but I would not trust myself alone with him in a dark room, if I were
you, Mr. Beverley."

"Why not?"

"I believe he's in with Treyer's people," Hayter declared, "and I think
he covets that Klast Mine as the gentleman in the Bible, whose name I
have forgotten, coveted Naboth's vineyard. To him, you are the Klast
Mine. If cutting your throat was going to help him any and he had the
nerve to do it you would be a dead man to-morrow."

Beverley laughed contemptuously.

"I believe the fellow would rob me or anyone else as soon as look at
us," he admitted; "but you hit the right nail on the head when you said
that he was not out after the rough stuff, I don't think that young
man's a fighter. Still, keep your eyes open up north if he goes with
you."

"I'll do that," Hayter promised grimly.

"Mind, as soon as you are there get straight away to work," Beverley
went on. "I will follow you as soon as I possibly can. You need not have
much to say to Mauranesco. Just tell him I have an appointment I must
keep in the city here but that I shall be up to-morrow. What about your
dinner? My movements for the rest of the evening will be a little
uncertain."

"I've had a hearty tea," Will Hayter confessed, "and I have a good
supper packed for eating on the way and something left over for
breakfast to-morrow morning. The young man tells me there is neither
civilisation nor convenience where we are going to stay, so I am laying
in a few things and a bottle of whisky."

"Good man," Beverley approved. "If I don't see you again, Hayter, good
luck to you. I need not tell you to look out for all the tricks. You
know what I think about Rudolph Mauranesco."

"And," Will Hayter concluded with a grin, "I know what I think of him
myself."

Ten minutes later Mr. Levenstein, with a blissful expression upon his
pudgy face, was counting and putting in secure hiding at the back of his
safe in the bureau four hundred pounds' worth of Bank of England notes.
Beverley watched him, lounging in an easy chair and smoking a cigarette.

"Well, you have your money, anyway," he remarked with a smile as
Levenstein concluded his task, reset the combination and closed up the
safe. "Now what are you going to do about me?"

"I have had word from Pravadia that he will be here at ten o'clock,"
Levenstein confided. "At a quarter to ten I will put you in the
sitting-room. I shall have to lock you up--that will be necessary. It is
I myself who will bring Pravadia to the room, and I shall be as
surprised as anyone when I see you there. I will make myself scarce
though--and I will leave the key in the inside of the door. If you are
quick you can lock it, then no one will be able to disturb you."

"Excellent," Beverley murmured.

"Come to me at half-past nine here in this office," the manager
enjoined. "You've got an hour. If I were you I should go into the
restaurant and have some dinner. You are looking a little tired, Mr.
Beverley, if you do not mind my saying so."

"It's a good idea, anyway," Beverley agreed.

"I will take you in," Levenstein suggested. "They tell me the place is
packed full, but I will find a table for you some way or other. Do you
mind?"

They crossed the hall, crowded with people although the front doors were
now tightly closed. In the restaurant pandemonium reigned but there were
still a few unoccupied tables.

"None of the military here, I notice," the hotel manager pointed out as
he installed his companion at a table. "They have been called out, I
suppose. Word just came through that the King has arrived and demanded
that his guard be doubled. I ask myself why he has come. If the Left go
on as they are going," he continued, dropping his voice and glancing
around, "I do not think that this will be a very safe place for King
Nicolas...Until half-past nine, then, Mr. Beverley."

"I shall be punctual," the latter promised.

Levenstein took his leave with his usual courteous bow. Beverley ordered
some dinner and looked around at the extraordinary crowd by whom he was
surrounded. There were very few women. The great majority seemed to be
townspeople half worn out with shouting and excitement, who knew they
would get no dinner at home and who were in any case too restless to
face a domestic feast. More than half of the younger generation were
wearing only the long jersey and flannel trousers which seemed to be the
popular day costume of the place. In a retired corner were two or three
diners in dinner clothes and black ties, at a table presided over by an
elderly man with grey hair. The waiter thought he saw curiosity in
Beverley's eyes and whispered in his ear as he served him.

"That is the Speaker in the House, or rather in the last Parliament,
sir," he confided. "He has come from his country seat to see the end of
the fight."

"Will he be re-elected?" Beverley asked.

"Not if the Left get in. Count Zockaradi is a great constitutionalist
and a firm supporter of the King. Ah, but tomorrow," the man continued
in a tone of subdued ecstasy, "you will see a different crowd here. It
is Katarina who sings at the opera. Man and woman will wear everything
of the best. Everyone who can scrape the money together will be there to
hear her. She is a divinity."

The waiter drifted away. Beverley ate his dinner without appetite or
attention. Now that there had come a moment's slackening in the tension
of the hours he felt again more poignantly than ever that strange aching
depression which to his subconscious self had made the minutes leaden
since he had passed out from the House of Passers-by that afternoon. It
was internal torment to him to think of the things he might have said,
the arguments he might have used, torment to think that his failure
should be due to such a tawdry incident. He had been aching to send
Marya a letter, yet what could he say that he had not already said? She
had shown him kindness but never a gleam of affection. Perhaps he had
been over careful in his own self-restraint. He had followed his
instinct: it might have been a wrong one. A pitiful thought, but it
haunted him...

Rudolph Mauranesco, in a long motor-coat and carrying a cap in his hand,
came gracefully through the room. He stopped before Beverley's table
with a friendly bow.

"Mr. Hayter and I are starting at once," he announced. "The roads are
good and it is a clear night. I hope that when you arrive to-morrow you
will hear a wonderful report. Bring your chequebook with you, Mr.
Beverley. If Mr. Hayter discovers what I hope he will discover you will
need it."

"I am not so sanguine," Beverley told him frankly. "Our German friends
have been over your property, you know. They want bauxite--worse even
than we do."

Mauranesco shrugged his shoulders. "That may be true," he said, "but
there are times when geologists differ. Mr. Treyer seemed to me to
scarcely possess the gifts of a mineral expert. I should have greater
faith in Hayter. However, we shall see. We travel in my own car. The one
you have been using is at your disposition whenever you send for it.
Start as early as you can. It is a wild journey and a wild, barbaric
place when you come to the end of it. I cannot offer you comfort or any
form of luxury, for my home is in ruins, but it is possible that I may
be able to offer you a great fortune instead."

"We shall see," Beverley replied, and despite himself there was a little
kindness in his tone, for during one curious moment Rudolph's likeness
to his sister had been insistent. It was gone now but the reflection of
it remained.

"At any rate," Beverley promised as he lit a cigarette and stirred his
coffee, "I will bring my chequebook."



CHAPTER XXVI

Levenstein kept his promise. He was even meticulously punctual. At ten
minutes to ten, Beverley, who had been locked in the salon for barely
five minutes, heard the sound of a key in the door. He moved a little
into the shadows of the room. The door was thrown open. Levenstein
ushered in the man of the moment--a huge, broad-shouldered fellow with
strong features, leonine forehead and a mass of black hair which was
badly in need of a brush.

"Here you can get the rest you need so much, Predor Pravadia,"
Levenstein pointed out in his unctuous tone. "Opening from the other
side is a lavatory. Refreshments will be brought by myself personally in
a few minutes."

The reply was incomprehensible to Beverley, for it was spoken in the
Orlacian language. Levenstein, after a moment spent in transferring the
key, slipped away. He had barely closed the door when the newcomer
realised that he was not alone. The noise in his throat was rather like
the growl of an angry animal. He shouted an unintelligible sentence.
Beverley stopped him.

"You speak fluent French, Mr. Pravadia, I am told," he said, addressing
him in that language. "May I beg for five minutes' conversation--five
minutes only?"

"Who are you?" the other demanded fiercely.

"My name is Beverley. I am the president of the Klast Mine."

"What are you doing in this sitting-room? It is reserved for me."

"A long story," Beverley answered. "Does it matter? You are the man to
whom, more than anyone else, I want to talk for five minutes. I have had
to scheme to get here, I admit."

"How did you do it?" Predor Pravadia growled. "Levenstein is not used
to breaking his word with me."

"I bought the room," Beverley told him. "I should have bought the hotel
if it had been necessary."

"Just to speak to me for five minutes?"

"Precisely."

The man's fit of fury passed. There was a glint of respect in his
fierce, splendid eyes.

"Go on, then. I admire your methods. I will hear what you have to say."

"You are going to be Premier of this country. It is reported that your
party will require you to cancel the contract with my company, run the
mine yourselves and use the money for your people."

"Well, why not? It is Orlacian land. You know where the profits of the
mine go to now--half of them to Englishmen, half of them to the
mistresses and wives of members of the late Government, to King Nicolas
and his ladylove. All this time the Orlacians themselves have barely
enough to eat."

"Idealistic," Beverley answered, "but quite illogical. Who is going to
get the stuff out of the mine for you? Two hundred of the men who are
working directing more than a thousand miners have learnt their jobs in
the universities of the world. They are under contract to me. They do
not come from the type of men who break their word. Without their brains
the mine would run to seed in a week."

Pravadia passed his hand through his unkempt masses of hair.

"Well, I shall find out about that," he grunted.

"You don't need to," was the terse rejoinder. "I have come to offer you
a better suggestion."

"What is it?"

"Leave the mine as it is. That will keep you out of international
quarrels and keep you honest. It will be your fault in future if the
share of the profits that goes to the Kingdom of Orlac is wasted in the
way you describe. You must choose ministers who do not give the people's
money away to mistresses. You must be content yourself to overlook the
State accounts and see that the profits are used for the benefit of the
people."

"You seem to be telling me what I ought to do," Pravadia growled with an
ominous gleam in his eyes.

"I don't need to," Beverley countered swiftly. "But listen--this is my
proposition. This is why I should have bought the hotel, if it had been
necessary, to get these few minutes with you. I have a better offer.
Leave the mine alone. I will help you in a saner way to provide proper
dwellings for your people, to place the poorer classes in the condition
they ought to be, to endow your hospitals, to subsidise your
university."

"How?" Pravadia demanded, and the single word sounded like the report of
a bomb.

"I will float for you bonds issued by the State of Orlac for a million
pounds secured by a charge upon the customs, the railway and the public
works of the place. The issue price will be ninety-eight and the
interest rate will be four-and-a-half per cent. You will pay this easily
enough if the country is properly governed."

"Look here, my young friend," Pravadia pointed out, "who the hell, in
the places where money is, would buy Orlacian bonds? Nearly all the
small European countries are bankrupt and most of them are in default."

"That is because most of them are so badly governed," Beverley answered
firmly. "Remember, you will have the money from the mine coming in, and
as to placing the bonds--don't you understand--I guarantee to do it for
you? Have your City Treasurer print the bonds, I will launch them on the
English market and my firm shall underwrite them. Do you know what that
means, if they are properly underwritten as they will be? You will get
your million pounds for a certainty."

"Who the devil are you," Pravadia demanded, "the Count of Monte Cristo?"

"I am the president of the Anglo-Orlacian Trust Company," Beverley
answered coolly, "and our credit is worth a million pounds either in
London or New York. There are plenty of men in the City of London who
would float this loan for you if they had the same interest in the mine
that I have and if they happened to be on the spot. The Klast Mine is a
hobby of mine. My friends have bought shares in it--its reputation is my
reputation. I don't want it touched. If I had to lose a million myself
on your bonds I should still avoid bankruptcy. I should still have
something to be going on with. Now you see why I wanted to catch hold of
you before you went pledging yourself to confiscate my mine. I want you
to sit down at that table and write me out a promise that you won't
touch my charter or interfere with the working of the mine; and I will
write you a promise to hand you over one hundred thousand pounds this
week on the strength of what you are going to write to me, and the
remainder of the million as the bonds are delivered."

"Who else is in this with you?"

"No one."

"How do you know that your company will back you up?"

"I am the largest shareholder. I have what we call control. Half your
city bonds I may have to keep myself, the other half I can dispose of.
You can apply as to my standing to the Bank of England, for my probity
to the first firm of lawyers in London. I want to come to terms with you
before anyone else has a chance to get you to commit yourself to
promises which it would be immoral for you to carry out and which would
bring war to your country."

"What do you mean by that?"

"The Germans want the mine. They have been working behind my back for a
long time to get it. That fellow Treyer has been to you. Nothing that he
does or offers or talks about is straightforward. I have made you a
brave offer. It won't ruin me if things go wrong but it will take a
great part of my fortune. Things, however, will not go wrong. When I
take things to heart as I have done this I do not fail."

"It seems to me," Pravadia grinned, "that you are the man who ought to
rule this country!"

"I couldn't do it as well as you," Beverley answered. "For one thing I
have no eloquence. I could not speak to the people and move them as you
do. Another thing, I am not a politician."

"What about the King?"

"He cannot withdraw his concession if you don't withdraw your charter.
You have only to be firm and say you think that the mine is being worked
more beneficially under its present direction than it would be under any
other conditions and that you are under an obligation not to withdraw,
and he will have to do the same."

"Well, this is a nice end to a busy day," the man in the chair grunted.
"Let me alone for a minute. No, ring the bell if you can get anyone. I
want to drink and I want to eat."

Beverley would have touched the bell but his companion stopped him.

"Give me two minutes," he enjoined. "I cannot starve in two minutes. I
want to think."

Beverley drew away from the bell and waited. Pravadia stretched himself
out on the divan, a fine though clumsy-looking figure of a man. His
clothes showed signs of a furious day's work, his linen had wilted, his
tie was hanging loose, but although his hair was in disorder his hands
and nails were clean, his eyes were clear--almost brilliant. There was
not a single line upon his face that was not a line of thought. Beverley
felt that those throbbing moments each had a peculiar dramatic value.
The man might have been something of a visionary. He had almost that
appearance as he lay, tense and concentrated, looking through the room,
watching the pictures which his brain was conceiving, weighing
possibilities, drawing slowly to a conclusion. It was rather like the
dramatisation of a man's thoughts, Beverley fancied, as he watched.
Somehow or other he was confident what the decision would be.

"Ring the bell now," Pravadia said at last.

Levenstein himself answered it, slammed the door to behind him, and
turned the key. He was white with anxiety but at the sound of Pravadia's
voice his face cleared.

"Bread and meat and a bottle of wine--red wine, Levenstein," the giant
on the couch ordered. "Get hold of Kuniack, if you can--my secretary.
He is somewhere jammed up in your hall below. Get something to drink for
this amazing man who has forced his way in here," he went on, throwing
out his arm towards Beverley. "How the hell did you dare to let anyone
in here before I came? Tell me that, you miserable little Austrian."

Levenstein began once more to tremble.

"No one could have kept him out," he declared pitifully. "He offered to
buy the hotel. Nothing would have moved him. He is one of those British
who will not listen to reason. He is one of those men who never hear
anything that they do not want to."

"Well, you have made a reputation here," Pravadia said, waving
Levenstein away. "I am going into this place he says is a lavatory. I
must wash. My skin is as dry as my tongue and that is pretty well
burnt-out with talking. It is hours since I had a drink."

He vanished into the next room and there was a tremendous sound of
splashing. He reappeared presently, his face aglow, his hair glistening
with drops of water. He finished drying himself, looked at his nails,
threw the towel back into the room and pushed a chair up to the writing
table.

"Now, Mr. Beverley," he directed, "write out your part of the contract."

Beverley drew out a sheet of the hotel notepaper and wrote clearly and
rapidly. He passed the result over to Pravadia who read it through
without remark.

"Now I will write my piece," the latter said, taking Beverley's place.

He, too, wrote for a few moments. Levenstein reappeared just as he had
finished, carrying a tray. Behind him was a waiter with wine and whisky
and soda water, cigars and cigarettes. The tray of food and red wine was
placed before Pravadia: the whisky and soda water was passed to
Beverley. Pravadia chose the largest glass from the tray and watched it
being filled. He emptied it to the last drop, drinking slowly but with
an air of intense satisfaction.

"Brutes we are," he muttered as he turned to the plateful of meat before
him. "Food and drink make animals of us. You dined at a civilised hour,
I suppose, my amazing guest?"

"I have just come from dinner," Beverley admitted.

"I have touched nothing since twelve o'clock," the other remarked. "I
could feel that wine sizzling on my dry tongue. Where is Kuniack?"

"He is outside," Levenstein answered. "They pulled him about downstairs
but we got him through the crowd as well as we could."

"Send him in."

Levenstein stole to the door, opened it carefully, held out his hand and
drew in a small dark man who was still breathing heavily and whose
clothes were covered with dust.

261

"Close the door, Kuniack," his master ordered. "Get out, Levenstein, for
the moment. Come again when I ring. You might lock the door," he added.
"What is the key doing this side?"

Levenstein glanced anxiously at Beverley.

"My fault," the latter admitted. "I ordered it there. I had to make sure
of five minutes with you at any rate."

Pravadia laid down his knife and fork slowly. He looked at Beverley as
though he were contemplating an animal of some unknown species. Then he
recommenced his meal.

"Kuniack," he said, "you must find Dr. Halles."

"I know where he is, sir," Kuniack replied. "He is in the States
office."

"That is like his impudence," Pravadia grumbled. "How does he know he is
going to be Chancellor? Well, you have to fetch him, Kuniack, and tell
him to bring his seal."

"Yes, sir."

"Tell him there are two important documents for him to sign and seal
here and he has to manage it if he climbs on the roof and comes down the
chimney!"

"I will bring him back somehow, sir," the little man, who had now
regained his breath, promised.

"You see that gentleman over there?" Pravadia went on. "Beverley his
name is. Mr. Beverley. This is Kuniack, my private secretary. He is
coming into his own presently but he looks rather knocked about just
now. He is not as strong as you or me but he has a brain like a finely
tempered needle that does its work in the middle of a great block of
machinery, I will give you a quarter of an hour, Kuniack."

"I shall be here, sir," the latter promised.

Beverley and the man who was still eating and drinking were alone once
more. Pravadia suddenly looked up.

"You are right about those Germans, Beverley," he acknowledged. "They
have been at me for a year now. Their consul here has had a few words to
say, too. They are all right. They are working for their country. They
want the mine for their aeroplane coverings--same use as you make of the
stuff, I expect, only you have the patents and you have the mine. I will
tell you what they have got from me--you need not be scared--they have
got a promise that if I dispose of the mine they shall have the first
offer."

"You are not going to dispose of it," Beverley remarked coolly.

"Now I wonder how you guess that," the other grunted. "Well, you are
right. I am not. I like your way better. The only thing is--I hope you
have not bitten off more than you can chew. Never had a failure in your
life, I suppose?"

Beverley was silent for a moment. In the midst of this strange conflict
he felt again the gnawing pain at his heart.

"On the contrary," he confessed, "I have just failed in a scheme that
meant a great deal to me."

"I will bet it was not business."

"It was nothing connected with business."

"You will come out all right some day," Pravadia said cheerfully. "I
like your methods, Beverley. You are the sort of man for a rough country
like this. You go out for what you want and you will get it."

The man half-laughed, half-grinned at his uninvited visitor, his glass a
Uttle upraised, his fiercely lit eyes a trifle softened, his fine large
mouth intensely human. It was a queer moment and the queerest part of it
all was that Beverley suddenly felt that these few words meant something
vital to him. His confidence in himself, which had received such a
violent shock when he had found himself assailed by a vortex of feelings
and sensations which were all unfamiliar to him, was curiously restored.
He looked across the room almost in wonder. His imagination had received
a fillip.

"If you say so, Pravadia, I begin to believe that I shall," he said.



CHAPTER XXVII

Dr. Halles, the Chancellor-to-be, was found and brought to the hotel. He
welcomed Beverley with barely veiled surprise, but the two men were not
strangers. Predor Pravadia sat in the background whilst they exchanged
reminiscences.

"I had the honour of dining with you at the palace after the signing of
your charter some years ago, Mr. Beverley," the newcomer said. "I had no
official position then but I was the premier notary of Klast. We met
several other times, too, in connection with legal matters. I
transferred the property to you upon which you built your workmen's
cottages."

"I remember it all perfectly," Beverley acknowledged. "I remember what a
relief it was to find someone who spoke my own tongue."

"My name you may have forgotten," the Chancellor said. "It is Dr.
Halles. I was at Oxford and I studied law also in France. It is--may I
be allowed to say--a great surprise as well as a pleasure to meet you
here. You have visited Klast at a very exciting time in her history."

"That is enough politeness," Pravadia broke in. "Now, Doctor, you are
the only man who is sure of a place in my Government and you are the man
to consult on legal points. Mr. Beverley has kidnapped me. I am here a
prisoner. This room does not belong to the hotel. It belongs to Mr.
Beverley. He has bought it from Levenstein. It is the English method, I
suppose."

Dr. Halles was a little puzzled. He was a tall thin man with thoughtful
face. He could have passed anywhere round the Temple or in the Law
Courts as an English barrister.

"Mr. Beverley is worried, and naturally so," Pravadia continued. "He
wants to know what we are going to do about his mine."

"That is one of the greatest problems we shall have to face," Dr. Halles
acknowledged gravely. "We have the people to satisfy and the people have
been harshly treated."

"The problem is solved already," Pravadia announced. "Mr. Beverley and I
have come to an agreement."

The Chancellor's eyebrows were slightly upraised.

"Indeed?" he murmured.

"You think I am going too fast," Pravadia went on deliberately. "Well,
why not? Facts are brutal things. You cannot get over them. I am going
to be Prime Minister and I shall have a majority of seven to one. You
think the people I have served since I was a boy and who have shown
their trust in me to-day are going to refuse my first appeal? Not they.
Fools they would be if they did. Now Beverley wants to keep his mine. I
do not blame him. We need the money. The income derived from it that
should have gone to the State has mostly been wasted. That will not go
on longer because there will be honest men in my Cabinet, but there are
other things to consider. We would be face to face with terrible
troubles if we took that mine over. Chancellor. Mr. Beverley has been
explaining that and I knew it beforehand. I worked at the mine myself
for a time--been one of your employees, Beverley. My son-in-law has a
job there now. I tell you a fact of which Mr. Beverley has just reminded
me. They have two hundred trained men directing the miners. If we took
that mine away those two hundred men are Englishmen and we would lose
them. We have not the technical knowledge required to run the place and
yet we need the money. This is Beverley's offer. 'Leave the mine alone,'
he says. 'You will have all the concession money to use for its proper
purpose, not let it be wasted as Lavaroko's people did. I will
float a million pounds' worth of bonds for you on the London
market--four-and-a-half per cent--and underwrite them myself.'"

"It is a great scheme," the Chancellor admitted. "Is Mr. Beverley sure
that he can carry it out?"

"Absolutely," Beverley snapped.

"He is backing his opinion, anyway," Pravadia continued. "He is
underwriting the lot and he is advancing a hundred thousand pounds.
Halles, that hundred thousand will be damned useful. The treasury is
empty--Lavaroko has seen to that--and even governing a State costs
money, especially if one wants to inspire confidence. Read these two
draft proposals."

Dr. Halles adjusted his spectacles and read the two sheets of paper
which the Premier-elect had handed over. He laid them on the table
before him.

"It is a wonderful arrangement," he pronounced. "The only criticism I
would make--"

Halles paused and glanced meaningly at his chief.

"Out with it, man," the latter enjoined.

"I do not know what commitments you have made to these emissaries from
Germany and to the consul."

"Commitments be damned!" was the carefree retort. "Not a thing on paper,
not even a spoken promise. I told that man Treyer that I would offer him
the mine if we disposed of it. We are not going to dispose of it. I hate
the fellow, anyhow. I like this Englishman's way of doing business."

Halles smiled across at Beverley.

"You seem to have made a hit with our future ruler, sir," he observed.

"I think I came just in time for all our sakes," was the confident
reply.

"Of course you understand," Dr. Halles went on, "that these documents
can only be accepted as a token of good faith."

"Out comes the lawyer!" Pravadia boomed. "Of course they are not in
legal form. That is what you have to see to. The last returns will be in
to-morrow. Nicolas must send for me within twenty-four hours. I shall
accept office, nominate my ministers and everything will be in order in
less than a week. Then you can draw up the proper deeds. We will give
Mr. Beverley a banquet afterwards, even if it is not at the royal
palace, then he can shoot back to England and know that his mine is
safe. Ring the bell, Halles. I shall continue to drink red wine but one
bottle of champagne we must empty to the new era."

Levenstein came sidling in. The obvious atmosphere relieved him of all
apprehension. He hurried away and returned with the champagne. An extra
glass was thrust into his hand. They toasted Beverley, they toasted the
new Orlac, they toasted the coming premier. Then the latter got up and
stretched himself.

"How are the streets, Levenstein?" he asked.

"Clear, sir. I have a room here, though, if you will accept it."

The crowd was singing the Orlacian national anthem in the square below.
Predor Pravadia rose to his feet and kept time with the music with his
head--rough, crude music it was, an unknown composer's harsh sounding
words. Somehow or other it reminded Beverley of Pravadia
himself--massive, dynamic, with just that touch of barbaric splendour in
his speech and presence. The singing came to an end. The lights in the
square began to diminish. Farewells were spoken between the four men.
Beverley made his solitary way back to his own apartments. On the table
lay a pencilled note from Hayter:--


We are leaving you to it, Mr. Beverley. This young Adonis and I have got
my kit and we are off directly. If you decide to follow--although I can
do all that is necessary in the prospecting--don't forget to bring that
little gun I saw on your table. It is rough country we are bound for.
Even our host--he has had his nails manicured this afternoon and looks
more beautiful than ever--seems half afraid of it. And remember--there's
no food and no drink.

I'm writing this to ask you, if you should decide not to come, will you
send a car up to bring me back? I am not too fond of the job and I am
not too trustful of the young man--and good reason for it, too. Knowing
that it is no use your being there from the mineral point of view I
should recommend you to stay where you are.

W.H.


Beverley tore up the note and threw the pieces in the waste-paper basket.
Then he stripped off his clothes, took a bath and dressed himself in
rougher kit. He looked at his watch. It was an hour after midnight. He
had telephoned for the car but there was little chance of its being
ready before dawn. He lay down on his couch with no idea of sleep but
with almost a feverish hope of relaxation of body and mind. Every effort
seemed to be in vain. The occasional footsteps and voices of a dwindling
multitude kept him from even closing his eyes. The exultation of his
great coup that evening faded from his mind. Slowly he felt his thoughts
drifting back to that bare room with its sweet odours, its clean white
stone floor and oak-panelled walls. Every now and then he fancied that
he could hear the tapping of the trees outside against the windows...He
sat up suddenly. Perhaps he had dozed. If so, the sound which had
awakened him was repeated. There was a faint insistent knocking upon the
door. He sprang to his feet and hurried across the room.

Beverley, when he had opened the door, stared at the figure on the other
side of the threshold for a moment or two in blank non-recognition. Then
those long white fingers lifted the veil from her face and he looked
with cold anger at the intruder.

"Madame!" he exclaimed.

She caught his wrist. Apparently she feared that he was about to
retreat.

"Hear what I have to say," she begged. "I am tired--worn out. I am
nothing to be afraid of. Let me rest for a few minutes and speak to you.
I ask nothing. You hear that? I ask nothing from you."

Beverley closed the door behind him and guided her to a chair.

"Madame Katarina," he remonstrated coldly, "you seem determined to
involve me in trouble. I have no liking for him, but it is important
that I should keep friends with your King. It is common gossip in the
city that you are watched all the time by his spies."

"Not to-night," she assured him eagerly. "Nicolas is at his wits' end.
The communists are winning the election. He and Lavaroko are alone
together. I was dismissed. I went back to my villa. As soon as the
tumult in the streets was over I came here. No one would recognise me.
Everyone below is either asleep or drunk. I found my way here alone."

"And now that you are here?"

"I have been foolish," she confessed, "and I have repented of my
foolishness. I may bring evil upon you from what I have done. I am here
to warn you."

"Unless you have told falsehoods," he said, "there is no evil which you
could bring upon me."

"It is not an affair of Nicolas," she sighed. "Please permit me? My
headdress is too heavy and I have a raging pain."

She lifted her hat with its long veil from her head and laid it on the
top of the divan. She smoothed back her hair with her hands. There was
no trace of rouge upon her face, no lipstick, her eyes had been left
entirely untouched. Such beauty as remained lay in the beauty of her
supple body.

She had thrown open her cloak, as though subtly aware of the fact.

"You have another enemy in Klast besides Nicolas," she confided. "It is
that young man Rudolph Mauranesco."

"Well?"

"Rudolph I have known since I was a girl," she said. "He has pestered me
all my life. I mock myself of him always. He goes back to his little
lights of love and the girls of the city and he forgets, but each time
when I come back he flares up again. He is always troublesome."

"I really don't care about your love affairs or your flirtations,"
Beverley told her wearily. "What I need is a few hours' sleep. I start
on a long journey at dawn."

"If you go to the Mauranesco Mountains," she warned him, "it may be a
longer journey than you think."

"Anything definite?"

"Yes."

"I'm listening. Please make it brief."

"Rudolph came to the opera house where I was rehearsing to accustom
myself to the range of the place. I have not sung there for months. In
my dressing room, although my maid and two of the chorus were almost
within hearing, he went through the whole of his silly protestations
once more. I stopped him. 'You say that you would do anything in the
world for me,' I said. 'Very well--I have an enemy--a man whom I hate.
Challenge him to a duel and kill him and you shall have what you want.'
'You have only to name him!' Rudolph cried. 'It is the man who brought
your sister from England,' I told him."

Beverley's face relaxed. He dragged up a chair and sat down.

"Madame," he said, "but you are droll! Englishmen do not fight duels. If
Rudolph Mauranesco challenged me I should probably box his ears as soon
as I had got over the shock. Is this your warning to me?"

"Not all of it," she answered. "Do you think that I have no
understanding of Rudolph Mauranesco? He is a cheat and a Har and
something of a coward, and although they tell me that he fences like no
other man in the Orlacian army and is a deadly pistol shot, I do not
believe that he would risk his life. On the other hand, he would commit
murder just as easily as you or I might brush on one side an offending
insect. You are going into the wilds with him. Could anything be easier
than that he should shoot you at a moment when you were unprepared, come
back and announce himself the conqueror in a duel and claim his reward?"

"You wouldn't believe him--nor would anyone else," Beverley scoffed. "He
would be tried for murder."

She shook her head.

"He is cunning and you are unsuspicious. You do not take my warning
kindly and you think because I have taken money from you I am a woman
who is worth nothing. Still, I had to warn you. I am sorry now that I
took your money, but perhaps it would not have helped me."

"Madame Katarina," Beverley said, "if you really are serious in saying
that you wish for my affection you are quite right--it would not have
helped you. It would have made no difference. I admire you, as everyone
does. I should very much like to hear you sing and I should be honoured
to count you amongst my friends, but for the rest the truth is best. I
have failed in the only love affair I ever attempted. I have nothing
left to offer any woman."

"I am beginning to believe that," she lamented, "and that is why I told
you that you had nothing to fear from my coming. I shall not alter my
life because of you but you have left a sad place in it. I let myself be
carried away by a wave of hatred when I made that promise to Rudolph. I
should never again have known a moment's happiness if I had not come to
warn you. You are going into lonely places with him. Please be
careful...You see, I am not so troublesome, after all," she concluded,
rising slowly to her feet. "You can send me away now if you wish. You
are the only man whom I have ever met who would do that when I willed
otherwise, but you see I do not even ask for your lips. I go now,
please."

He walked with her to the door.

"Katarina," he said, "I thank you for coming. It was generous of you. I
promise that I will have my eyes upon that young man every moment we are
together, and if my lips seek only your fingers," he added, as he raised
them, "it is nevertheless the embrace of a friend."

She leaned towards him as he stooped his head and then, without the
slightest warning, without any change in those brilliant eyes till the
last second, she flung her arms around his neck, drew him to her so that
her heart was beating madly against his chest and her lips clinging
wildly to his. They stayed there--one kiss--and as suddenly as the storm
had burst it was over. He stood gasping. The room was empty. Katarina
was as light on her feet as a Valkyrie, as swift as the descent from the
clouds. He had no time for a single exclamation. The door was
closed--the room was empty. Slowly he recovered his breath. His head was
in a whirl. Then he suddenly became practical. He bolted the door, made
himself a drink with trembling fingers, lit a cigarette and drew up his
chair to the window to watch for the arrival of the car.



CHAPTER XXVIII

At seven o'clock that morning Beverley saw the sun rise blood-red and
challenging from behind the bare granite tops of the mountains above
Klast. He leaned out of the window of the car to watch the medley of
fierce colouring, wrapping his muffler more closely around his throat to
keep out the increasing cold. The car came slowly to a standstill and
the chauffeur jumped from his place.

"Engine too hot," he explained. "Water circulation not good. We wait for
a time."

Beverley relapsed amongst the cushions wearily. It seemed to him that
for hours and hours they had been taking those circular turns around the
mountain, winding through the gorges, up again round and round until the
engine had begun to knock as though it were ready to cough out its
inside.

"It is far now?" he asked the man.

The chauffeur was tired and gloomy.

"God knows," he replied. "So far we have come but very little distance."

Beverley looked downwards over the unprotected ledge of the road. So far
as he could see there was nothing but a succession of volcanic rocks,
here and there a patch of scrub, then a small plantation of sparse
shrubs, and after that more rocks.

"Which way is the chateau from here?" Beverley enquired.

"Chateau? There is no chateau," the man answered. "The ruins of it lie
about on yonder hill. They are just fallen rocks. The remains of the
castle are there."

He pointed across a mighty gorge at the bottom of which a river was
tumbling down on its way seawards, a river which showed itself simply as
a little streak of silver.

"Which way does the road go?"

The driver indicated the side of the mountain ahead of him.

"Round there. Twenty-four kilometres of vile road--a kilometre and a
half across the gorge."

"Much more climbing?"

"The last fifteen kilometres all the time," the man groaned. "The
chateau used to stand on a promontory hanging right over the precipice.
The collection of stones they still call the chateau has the appearance
of being about to roll over into the river at any time. The last Prince
of Mauranesco who occupied the place looked over there so long that he
could not lift his eyes. He shrank nearer and nearer to the ground and
then he threw himself over--one thousand metres sheer. It was a month
before they found the body."

Beverley passed a handful of cigarettes to the chauffeur, poured him out
some whisky in a small cup and resumed his place.

"Drive on when you are ready," he ordered. "If you tell me any more
horrors about this place I may find myself telling you to return to
Klast."

"When the engine is cool," the man assented, emptying the contents of
the cup at a single gulp and lighting a cigarette.

The sun was clear of the mountains before they started but soon
afterwards was blotted out of sight. The mists rolled down and they
could go no faster than a crawl. Beverley descended for a while and
walked behind the car to thaw his numbed limbs. All the time he was
making his way into the blank wall of white fog. In the end he was
driven to keeping the palm of his hand against the shrubs and the
granite rocks on the inside. The headlights which illuminated the road
with a feeble radiance seemed only to make their progress more
difficult. The driver was becoming hysterical.

"Not another metre," he kept saying to himself. "It is the journey of a
fool."

They found slight shelter for a time in a pine plantation on the
right-hand side of the road.

"Put your brakes on full and stop here for half an hour," Beverley
suggested. "We shall hear if there is anything coming and we can get
some big stones to block the wheels."

The man was muttering as though he were insane but he followed the
suggestion. Soon the car was drawn up by the side of the road, partially
protected by the closely growing pinewood, and the two men, wet through
in spite of their overcoats, sat on the running board. The chauffeur
dozed. Beverley was almost following suit when he fancied he heard a
sound in the near distance. He sat up and finally struggled to his feet.
As always, there continued the sound of the river below, reaching them
in little more than a sullen whisper; but against that there was at this
moment the shriller, more staccato noise of a motor horn. Beverley
leaned over the driving seat of his car and blew the horn, waking, it
seemed to him, a thousand strange mocking echoes from the other side of
the precipice. The chauffeur opened his eyes and staggered to his feet.

"There is another car not far away," Beverley told him quietly. "I
cannot tell whether it is coming up or down. Listen!"

The driver listened for a time.

"It is on the other side of the gorge," he decided.

"It is coming the way we came," Beverley pointed out. "It will be
catching us up before long. Our back lights have fused, I see."

275

"They will run into us," the chauffeur groaned. "We will both go over
the precipice."

"Idiot!" Beverley muttered. "Have you a torch in your car?"

The man lifted the cushion of the driving seat and produced one.

"I will go back a little way and shout," Beverley told him. "You had
better stay where you are. You don't seem too steady on your feet. Where
will the next passing-place be?"

"A kilometre on," was the dismal reply. "You had better keep the light
going all the time. If you turn it on suddenly you will frighten them
into a skid."

Beverley nodded and began very slowly to climb the hill. When he came at
last to the corner he stood there, and with his arm around a young pine
trunk he leaned over the road with the torch extended. The sound of the
approaching car was becoming very distinct now although there was as yet
no sign of a light. Suddenly there appeared a faint glimmer upon the
road. The car, which must have turned the corner, came steadily on.
Beverley raised his voice but it was not until the approaching vehicle
was within a few yards of him that there came an answer to his shouts.
Pebbles flew into the air and with blazing lights and a violent
shrieking of brakes the car came to a sudden standstill.

"Hello there!" Beverley cried in French. "There's another car in front.
You cannot pass and our rear light has fused."

The driver made no answer. Beverley felt his way round the bonnet to the
door. The window was let down. He flashed his light inside, flashed it
into the white and startled face of Herr Treyer.

"Who are you? Has there been an accident?" the latter demanded.

"You will know who I am presently, Mr. Treyer," Beverley answered,
lowering his torch. "There has been no accident. Tell your man to pull
in to the side of the road. You had better stay where you are till the
mist rises a little. You cannot pass us. Tell your chauffeur--he doesn't
understand me."

Treyer leaned forward and addressed the man in rapid German. Inch by
inch they moved in to the side of the road.

"You are all right here," Beverley said, resting his elbow on the frame
of the open window. "Are you off to call upon Rudolph Mauranesco,
Treyer?"

"It is my friend Beverley!" the other gasp>ed.

"No, not your friend," Beverley objected. "We shall never be friends,
Mr. Treyer. We do not like one another but we like the same thing. Is
not that true?"

"What do you mean?" was the hoarse query.

"Bauxite."

"Is there any to be found in these mountains?" Treyer asked with
simulated eagerness.

"I don't think so or you would have had it before now. I can't think
what you are doing here, Treyer. I'm sure you have been over the ground
long ago."

"Yes, I have wasted many hours exploring these savage hills," Treyer
admitted. "But tell me this, Beverley--what is your man Hayter doing,
coming up here with Mauranesco? He knows as well as I do that there is
no bauxite to be found, yet they left Klast together last night and
Hayter had all his paraphernalia as though he were going prospecting."

"So you felt that you had to come along and see what was doing, eh?"
Beverley asked.

"Of course I came along," was the eager rejoinder. "It is my duty. We
manoeuvred Hayter into prison once to keep him out of mischief, but you
bribed the governor or the chief constable and he was set free again.
Where is he off to now with Rudolph Mauranesco? Those mountains are old
stuff. There is nothing there. What are they up to?"

"I am exactly in your position," Beverley confided. "I, too, am
wondering what they are up to. I, too, am on my way to find out. You
look pretty pale, Treyer. What's done you in, eh? Are you worrying about
the result of the elections?"

"It is this blasted climb," the other groaned. "The elections were bad
enough--Lavaroko is nearly crazy--but if I had known anything about this
awful weather--these fogs--these ghastly mountains--"

"You have been here before," Beverley interrupted.

"Ac^, but I approached them from the other side of the frontier," Treyer
explained. "It is flat country round there. I will never make another
expedition like this again at night. It is horrible."

"I can't think what you are doing it for now," Beverley speculated.

"I am following Hayter," Treyer confessed. "I know he believes there is
nothing here. Why are you following him? There must have been some fresh
news. Still, I really did not have to come," he went on with an
unpleasant grin. "I think we shall have all the bauxite we want in a few
months' time."

"Have any of these Orlacians got any to sell?" Beverley asked.

"They have the Klast Mine."

"They cannot sell that,"' Beverley scoffed. "It is British property."

Treyer chuckled.

"Well, well!" he exclaimed. "We shall see!"

"You know, Treyer," Beverley confided, leaning a little farther into the
car, "you are a damned unpleasant fellow."

The German shrank back into his corner.

"You do not like me, I know, Mr. Beverley," he said. "I do not like you.
As things are now, we are bound to be on opposite sides but there is no
reason why we should not quarrel pleasantly."

"A quarrel like ours is never ended that way," was the calm retort. "I am
a much stronger man than you are, Treyer, and the precipice just below
is a four-thousand-feet drop. You are out all the time to do me mischief
one way or another. Why should not I take advantage of this spot, this
wonderful moment, and throw you over? No one would be very sorry for
you. I don't suppose they would ever find your body even if they came to
look for it."

"Be quiet!" a frightened voice shouted. "Why do you talk like this?"

"One must pass the time," Beverley said lightly. "You look pretty
miserable. Don't you smoke?"

"I have finished all my cigarettes," Treyer declared.

"Drink?"

"I have nothing to drink. I saw Hayter and Mauranesco start out
together--Hayter with his outfit--and I heard afterwards that you were
following them shortly. Well, I just got this car, it belongs to our
consul, and I came to see what you are all up to. There is the truth for
you. Young Mauranesco is a bad one to do business with. He is very, very
slippery. If you have a cigarette, Mr. Beverley, I should like one."

Beverley passed him a handful from his case.

"I have some whisky down the road," he said.

"I should like some!" the other exclaimed fervently.

"Well, I suppose, on the new principle of making friends with one's
enemies, I must look after you," Beverley remarked, swinging away from
the window. "Hold on for a few minutes."

He returned to his own car. The chauffeur, now wide awake, was awaiting
him eagerly.

"They are going the same way as we are," Beverley told him. "It is a car
from the German consulate. They are going to the Chateau Mauranesco."

The man spat into the open waste of the precipice.

"God help you all when you get there!" he muttered.

Beverley possessed himself of the whisky bottle and groped his way back.
Treyer's fingers were blue with cold as he held out a paper cup.

"I thank you," he muttered. "I am sorry that I cannot drink to your good
health. It is a pity that we must be enemies. Your drink, though, is
warm. _Ach_!"

He swallowed almost the entire contents of the cup.

"Wonderful!" he declared. "I wish you were not the man, Mr. Beverley,
who is keeping this bauxite from me. I do not like having to hate you so
much."

"We are better enemies," Beverley told him cheerfully. "We should never
get on as friends. Look here--the mist is rolling off. In ten minutes we
shall be able to start. You cannot pass us here--not for a kilometre. If
you run into us we shall both go over the precipice. When we get to the
passing place we will crawl into the side and let you go. If you arrive
at the castle first, order me a hot bath and a hot breakfast!"

Treyer's grin was unpleasant but sincere.

"You will see what you will get," he muttered. "I will do as you say,
Mr. Beverley. I will instruct the chauffeur at least. He only speaks
German. I will tell him to start when you start--I can almost see your
car already--and that you will pull in and wait for us to pass a
kilometre farther on,"

Beverley nodded and turned away. Down the road he stood motionless for a
few minutes. With his foot on the running board of the car he watched
with almost awestruck wonder the mists fading slowly away, disclosing
with amazing distinctness the panorama below. The whole of the grim
country grew clearer and clearer. More of it was visible every
second--sinister, rocky, with occasional small patches of green
pasture-land, not a human habitation, no signs of a town or village. A
winding ribbon of road encircled the mountainside and disappeared.
Beverley stepped into the car.

"Go ahead," he ordered.

The chauffeur blew the horn and recommenced the journey. At the passing
place they waited. The German car crept by. Beverley caught just a
glimpse of Treyer's evil white face with that fixed sardonic smile still
upon his lips leering at them as he passed by. Beverley sighed.
Unconsciously, he asked himself the question aloud:

"Would it have been murder?"

Herr Treyer's car travelled fast. For some distance they saw it in
front, catching glimpses of it--a small object growing less
distinguishable all the time. Presently the road improved. As they
dropped towards the valley farmhouses appeared in the distance, groups
of peasants working in the fields. Then they mounted again. The driver
pointed with outstretched finger to a towering crag high above their
heads on the other side of the gorge.

"The castle of Mauranesco," he announced with a grimace.

His passenger looked up in amazement.

"Do you mean that there is really a road up there?" he asked.

"What they call a road," the man answered. "To call it a mule track
would be a compliment."

Soon they began the final ascent and were faced with a new horror. The
mists came rolling down again from the mountain tops and with scarcely a
moment's warning wind came also, bending the tops of the trees, lashing
its way down the road, across the gorge, and blowing pebbles and small
twigs and leaves into their faces. Three or four times the car was
brought to a standstill and in the dark forest of pines stretching
almost perpendicularly above them they could hear the sounds of the
trees bent almost double, cracking with a report like that of a pistol
shot. As they climbed higher the fury of the storm seemed to increase. A
stinging rain took the place of the mist but brought with it an
obscurity almost as complete. Still all the time they made progress of a
sort, although the road itself became narrower and more terrifying. They
reached a peak with a slight decline. The driver took advantage of a
momentary lull in the storm to change to second speed and swung round a
corner with his foot upon the accelerator. Then his frantic yell, the
swaying of the car, the boughs crashing through the windows, the sudden
darkness, robbed Beverley of breath--almost of his senses. His first
thought was that the chauffeur had lost control of the steering and had
driven into the wood. Then he suddenly realised what had actually
happened. A large fallen tree lay across the road and they had driven
full into it. The driver had lost his balance and fallen out onto the
track. Beverley heard him yelling.

"_Sautez! Sautez, Monsieur_!"

The car was swaying over towards the precipice. Beverley sprang out and
realised at once that his jump had been a little too violent. He himself
was swaying on the edge of the precipice. Thousands of feet below he
could see the thin little stream which was really a great river. He was
hanging over the edge in space, his feet still clinging to the ground,
his sense of balance strained to its utmost. He saw the woods below and
in those few brief seconds it seemed as though they were rising up
towards him. He saw the great stretch of granite rocks--then woods
again. He seemed to be in the air--in the middle of space. The soil was
giving beneath his feet, he felt a hideous impulse to abandon the
struggle. Then he took the only chance. He threw himself backwards, lay
gasping on the extreme edge, caught hold of a bough of the fallen tree
with a frantic effort and pulled himself up inch by inch--inch by inch
towards safety. He lay on his stomach in the middle of the road, a car
wing by his side, fragments of the smashed windows scattered around
him--but lying on his stomach secure, the solid flint-strewn road
beneath him. After a few moments he felt unconsciousness slowly
overwhelming him. He set his teeth tight. The driver pushed his way
through the branches of the fallen tree and stood over him. Beverley
clasped the man's hand and pulled himself to his feet. For the first
minute or two he felt that his knees were like water. Then with a sudden
impulse of relief he realised that the car was still resting on its
wheels, although at a dangerous angle and with one tyre torn to strips.
He thrust his hand through the jagged remains of the window and reached
the bottle of whisky. He took a long gulp and passed the bottle to the
chauffeur. The joy of the burning liquor trickling down his throat was
almost incredible. Life was flowing once more in his veins. Even the
rain beating upon his cheeks was reviving. Another drink--the giddiness
was gone. His knees were themselves again. He looked at the car.

"_Qu'est-ce qu'on peut faire_?" he demanded.

The driver drew a long breath of immense relief.

"We shall see. Monsieur. I have something to show you."

He pointed a few yards into the woods and beckoned. Beverley staggered
after him. There remained the still sap-bleeding stump from which the
tree had been torn. The whole length of it was there--little twigs, a
depression, a few yards of turf, broken fragments of the boughs.

"That tree," the chauffeur pointed out, his black eyes blazing with
passionate anger, "fell ten metres from the road. Look at the footsteps
all around. It was dragged onto the road to wreck this car. C'est
formidable. Monsieur"

It took Beverley only a couple of minutes to realise that the man was
speaking the truth.

"The German car!" he cried.

"The car that passed us was pulled up four metres away, Monsieur," the
driver continued. "You can see the marks of the tyres. You can see where
it stood. It was the monsieur to whom you gave the whisky," he
concluded, pointing downwards into the mighty gulf. "That is where he
wished us to be. The driver and he pulled the tree across the road. It
was easy enough."

"We were lucky," Beverley said quietly. "Come along and see what we can
do to the car."

They commenced their investigations. The glass in the windows was
shattered, one door was smashed to pieces, the axle was slightly bent.
The torn tyre hung in shreds around the bare wheel. The spare wheel,
however, was undamaged. Beverley, who was something of a mechanic, took
off his coat and set to work. Hours passed but they made a job of it;
and in due course, moving slowly and very cautiously, they started on
the last lap of their journey.

At eight o'clock that night they limped into what had once been the
courtyard of a castle. Through the remains of a doorway they passed from
room to room--roofless, with only a fragment of the walls
standing--until the driver pointed out a thick oak door which still hung
on its hinges.

"Two rooms are left there," he announced. "It is all that remains."

Through the chinks there came a gleam of light. Beverley knocked in vain
but the sound of voices inside was clearly audible. He turned the mighty
handle and pushed with his shoulder. The door yielded and he crossed the
threshold, followed by the chauffeur.



CHAPTER XXIX

"Mr. Beverley!" Rudolph Mauranesco cried joyfully as he sprang up from a
chair in front of the huge log fire. "Wonderful!"

He came forward with outstretched hands. His sole companion in the room,
"Will Hayter, had also risen to his feet. He held his pipe in his hand.
There was a look of great relief in his wrinkled face and shining out of
his keen blue eyes.

"We were commencing to worry a wee bit about you, Mr. Beverley," he
said.

Beverley advanced into the little circle of illumination afforded by the
leaping flames and returned their greetings. They looked at him--Hayter
especially--in horror. His clothes were torn and muddy, he was wet
through to the skin, there were patches of blood about the sleeves of
his coat and trousers and a cut on his forehead. He walked with the
stiff motions of one who is not sure of his strength.

"My dear sir," Mauranesco exclaimed. "You have had an
accident--something has happened!"

"We have had a terrible ride over the mountains," Beverley explained a
little shortly. "I am wet through. There's a gale blowing in the pass
and we ran into a tree. I see you have no lack of heating here, at any
rate. Could I have a hot bath or something? I have dry clothes with me
here. But first--where is Treyer?"

"Herr Treyer?" Rudolph repeated. "I have no idea."

"But he passed us on the way here," Beverley insisted.

The young man shook his head.

"Then I tell you," he said, "what must have happened to him. There is a
small settlement of goatherds' cottages five or six miles farther on,
half-way down to the valley. He stayed there last time he was here. It
is nearer the slopes where he thought he might find bauxite. He has
probably gone on there."

Beverley glanced enquiringly at Hayter.

"He has not been near here," the latter declared. "I have been out all
day but I came in an hour ago and I have seen no trace of him."

"I need not say," Rudolph apologised, dismissing abruptly the question
of Treyer, "that we have nothing in the shape of a bathroom. You may as
well know the worst at once. This is the only room with four walls
standing that remains of the old castle. We bunk in here, cook on that
other fire--nothing else to be done."

"It is gloriously warm, anyway," Beverley remarked. "I warn you
though--I must take off my clothes by that other fire."

"And if you do, be sure you don't interfere with what is cooking there,"
Will Hayter begged. "They seem a trifle short of stores up here and Mr.
Mauranesco took out his gun and shot a wild deer. The woodman skinned it
and there's a good half of it stewing in that pot."

The tin bath and hot water were brought in by a wild-looking individual,
Beverley stripped, took an impromptu bath, rubbed himself dry on an
ancient piece of towelling and changed into a spare suit of clothes. The
driver declined the tub but washed and changed some of his wet apparel
for a rough shepherd's coat. He went out to the woodman's compound and
Mauranesco, with a word of excuse, followed him.

"No luck, I suppose?"' Beverley asked his remaining companion,

"As you're decent, man, I'll come over and talk to you now," Hayter
replied as Beverley drew on his trousers.

"You look as though you had had a few shocks to-day. Here's another for
you. I have found bauxite."

Beverley was proof against surprises.

"Where?"

"On the south side. Where we never expected to find it. Every indication
was against it. That's why Treyer and his little company of geologists
left the ridge alone. But it's there--and it's not planted."

"Take your oath on that, Hayter?" Beverley asked, looking at him
shrewdly. "You must remember what Mauranesco is."

"I'll take my oath on it," Hayter repeated. "It is beyond doubt, Mr.
Beverley. There's bauxite there. By this time to-morrow I'll know
whether it's worth sinking a shaft for."

Beverley drew on the remainder of his clothing thoughtfully.

"Anything else to tell me, Hayter?" he enquired.

"Not a thing. Apart from the bauxite I don't like this place, I'm not
liking the young Mauranesco, and I'm hating the whole job."

"Does he know how you feel about things?"

"Am I a fool?"

"Where do you sleep here?"

"In a rug or any old covering I can find in front of the fire. The young
gentleman sleeps in front of the other fire."

"Are there no servants?"

"Not what you would call servants. A couple of lads and the wife of one
of the woodmen come in. The woman boils the kettle in the morning. It's
rough, Mr. Beverley--that's what it is."

"My car will never take us back," Beverley confided. "What about
Mauranesco's?"

"There's room for three and he's likely to be well disposed towards us
if you drop him a hint that my report is more favourable than you
expected. He's hard pressed for money, I can tell you that. The sight of
a pound note sets him trembling. It's my belief he would be a raving
lunatic if he guessed that there was nigh upon a fortune for him in that
ridge of his."

"Keep quiet about it till I give the word."

"I'll do that," Hayter promised.

Beverley threw himself into a hard wooden chair. A great fatigue was
stealing over him.

"You haven't a drop of that whisky left, Hayter?" he asked.

"I'm like all Scotsmen--I'm selfish about my whisky, but I'm no' so
selfish as all that," Hayter replied.

He produced the bottle from the pocket of an overcoat hanging up behind
the door. He found a glass, too, and passed it across. Beverley sipped
its contents slowly.

"For a temperate man," he confessed, fighting with an overpowering
sleepiness, "I have drunk a good deal to-day. What is that delicious
odour?"

"It's the venison cooking. I'll say this for the young gentleman--he
picked off that beastie with his rifle in fine style."

"I'll stay awake till I've eaten something," Beverley decided.

Soon Rudolph returned, full of apologies, with a coarse tablecloth on
his arm, followed by a woman carrying plates and knives and forks. A
strange bottle of red wine, the fierceness of which had gone with the
years, was added to the feast. The venison was served up in a steaming
tureen. Salt and vegetables were absent but a great cake of rye bread,
almost black in colour, embellished the lower half of the table. There
was very little in the way of conversation. Their host asked one
question before he finally settled down for the night.

"Is there any chance for me, do you think, Mr. Beverley?"

"There might be," was the cautious reply. "Hayter's been telling me that
the southern slope doesn't look quite so hopeless as the other side of
the ridge where he spent most of his time when he was here last. Will
you answer me a question, young man? It may mean a good deal to you that
you answer it truthfully, that you keep nothing back from me."

"There is nothing to keep back," Rudolph replied. "Go on."

"To whom do those mountains belong?"

"Every yard of them belongs to the Mauranescos," was the prompt reply.

"And who are they?"

"My sister and I. No one else has any sort of claim."

"Have you raised money on the property?"

The young man laughed bitterly.

"Who would advance a penny on it, sir? I owe the lawyer who has the
deeds and who is supposed to be in charge of my affairs a matter of
three hundred pounds. If you were to advance a few thousands upon our
chances he might deduct that."

"No other claim? No dealings with Treyer, for instance?"

"Before God, no," Rudolph declared. "He went over the property with
practical men and I am afraid I must tell you that they decided just
what Mr. Hayter always said. You see I am being quite frank with you.
They found no bauxite but they made the same mistake apparently as he
did. They only tried the northern slopes. They scarcely visited the
other side at all where Mr. Hayter has been all to-day."

"I am not prepared to make a report at present, young man, remember
that," Will Hayter said. "I don't want to disappoint you, but against my
own convictions I will admit that I found some traces of the stuff we
are looking for. It all depends upon to-morrow."

"You will start early," Mauranesco begged. "I will see that you get your
coffee--if I make it myself. The mules will be round at daybreak."

"I will be ready," Hayter agreed, "but if it is all the same to you I
would like you to choose an animal that takes the job a bit more
seriously than that beast I was on to-day. There he was," the Scotsman
observed wrathfully, "frisking around as though it were an early spring
morning. Find me an animal that will just attend to business and I will
be obliged to you, Mr. Mauranesco."

"You shall have it," the young man promised. "Do not be afraid that we
shall not take great care of you. You are worth your weight in gold to
us."

There followed a night of heavy sleeping. At dawn the little cavalcade
left the castle ruins and made their way to the spot which Hayter had
indicated. Mauranesco was too restless to join them. He went off through
the woods with his gun...For six solid hours the little Scotsman had no
word to say to Beverley or to anyone else. Occasionally he paused to
refill his pipe. Then he went at it again with a hammer in his hand and
thick glasses protecting his eyes. Now and then he took a spell of
digging. Occasionally he produced a bottle of chemical and rubbed a
piece of stone which he had chipped off with it. Soon after midday,
Beverley brought forth a chunk of bread and some cold venison and sat on
a rock munching it, gazing around him with amazement at the
extraordinary panorama. Presently Hayter came over and joined him,
produced his own packet of food, the whisky flask and his pipe.

"I'm through," he announced.

"Well?"

"It's there. It will be worth sinking a shaft a dozen times over. I'm
not saying it is the same as the Klast Mine, but I'm believing that it
is the second best in the world."

They heard the sound of Rudolph's gun in the wood below, Beverley
smiled.

"Let's hope he has shot us something worth eating for dinner," he
remarked.

"The young fool," Will Hayter reflected. "It's bad hands the money is
going into. But there's the young lady--she's different."

"Yes," Beverley agreed, "she's different."



CHAPTER XXX

On their homeward journey they came upon Rudolph Mauranesco plodding
along the mountain track close to the chateau, his gun under his arm,
carrying a brace of pheasants in his left hand. He quickened his pace at
the sight of them. Beverley reined in his animal as he caught a glimpse
of the young man's face, haggard with anxiety.

"You're in luck, my friend," he told him as he came panting alongside.
"Hayter says the yield would not compare with the Klast Mine, but it
might be worth sinking a shaft or two. We will try and do a little
business with you."

Rudolph wiped the perspiration from his forehead.

"Do it quickly," he begged. "Let us do it quickly before Mr. Hayter--"

"Before Mr. Hayter what?" Beverley asked curiously.

"Oh, he might change his mind," Rudolph explained hastily. "I am afraid
of his producing a row of figures and trying to get you to hold off for
a bit. It is the Scotch people, is it not, who are so careful of
spending money?"

"It is I who have to do the business with you," Beverley told him, "and
I am not Scotch."

Rudolph glanced up at him.

"There is Marya," he said.

"Naturally."

"I hope it will not be too small a sum," Rudolph went on nervously. "A
man must have money nowadays but Marya in the convent has no need of
it."

"That is for her to decide," Beverley observed. "She must have her share
of it."

Rudolph sighed.

"We must talk again about this before we go to the notary," he said.
"Can you start back to-night, Mr. Beverley?"

"My dear fellow," was the emphatic response, "don't for heaven's sake
think that I am depreciating your hospitality but it will be one of the
happiest moments of my life when I quit your ancestral home and feel the
warmth of a city around me again. You see we don't have adventures like
this in London. Have you seen anything of Mr. Treyer?"

"I think so," Rudolph replied after a moment's hesitation. "I saw three
men putting up a tent shelter, still on the north side where no one has
found any bauxite yet. It must belong to Treyer. That man--he is a
devil. He has it in his mind that he is being cheated, that everyone is
deceiving him, that he is letting chances slip through his fingers. He
does not understand why you are here. I think he would be dangerous if
he could."

Beverley laughed scornfully.

"Oh, he's done his best already," he observed.

"Mr. Beverley," Rudolph continued earnestly, "there are two reasons why
I should like to get you away from this place. One is for my own sake. I
want to get you to the notary, I want to show you my title deeds, I want
you to make some sort of offer for the bauxite. I need the money--oh,
so much worse than I can tell you. And secondly--I am not a coward, Mr.
Beverley, you will not think that, but I am a little afraid of Treyer.
He deceives himself. He reproaches me. He thinks that I have promised
this, that I have promised that. The fact of it is, he is not a clever
man at looking for bauxite. Mr. Hayter has known the place to search.
Treyer has always missed it. Mr. Hayter has found it. Treyer has
searched in vain. Treyer cannot buy my mountain because he has found
nothing there. With you an arrangement is possible, but Treyer, he will
be a madman when he knows that he has let a great chance slip through
his fingers. We must get down to the city and finish the business as
quickly as possible."

Beverley looked at the young man keenly.

"I expect, Mauranesco," he said, "that you have made him all sorts of
promises."

"Not so," Rudolph protested. "I have given him the opportunities. I have
said--search my mountains. I have said--come to me with an offer. He has
had more opportunities perhaps than you have. He has found nothing. He
makes no offer. Very well. All that I say is--let us get away from here
before he knows what is happening."

"I am as anxious to get away as you can be," Beverley replied, "but why
on earth should we hurry from this place because of Treyer?"

"Because he is dangerous," Rudolph declared fervently. "He is a man who
does not care how far he goes in violence."

"But he is here alone," Beverley pointed out. "He could do nothing. You
have servants here. I imagine that either you or I could deal with Mr.
Treyer if he got troublesome."

Just at that moment Rudolph had not the appearance of a young man able
to deal with anybody. There was, without a doubt, a look of fear on his
face.

"Treyer carries firearms," he said. "I do not like a man who carries
firearms. A coward can kill with firearms as easily as a brave man. And
as to those you call my servants--I have no authority over that troop of
brigands."

Beverley nodded.

"Well, I see your point, Mauranesco," he conceded. "We will get away
just as soon as you can start your car up. I cannot say more. Hayter is
ready--I am ready. We will take those excellent pheasants with us, if
you like, but although your mountain air here gives one a terrible
appetite I think on the whole I would rather feel myself on the way back
to Klast than spend the night here with Treyer hanging around."

"In ten minutes," Rudolph promised, "you shall hear the throb of my
engines. It will be a dark night but we will sup at the hotel."

They had reached the ruins of the castle and Rudolph hurried away to the
shed where the guns were kept. Hayter, who had pushed on ahead and had
taken no part in the conversation, returned from the far end of the room
where he had been washing vigorously, still rubbing his head with the
remnants of a towel.

"The young man is right, sir," he declared. "The sooner we are out of
here the better."

"A less attractive spot," Beverley confessed, "I have never come across
in my life, but I must say I cannot understand this sort of mysterious
fear you both have of Treyer. The only quality I have found in him is
persistence. He hangs on like a certain type of reptile. But what is
there to fear about him?"

"I'm not saying that I'm afraid," Hayter explained. "I have faced
trouble too often in my life, but when I do feel a moment's uneasiness
it is always about a man of Treyer's type. The honest, straightforward
savage I have met and dealt with pretty often in my younger days. This
fellow, I honestly believe, is up to mischief even at this moment."

"I don't see what possible harm he could do us up here," Beverley
reflected.

"Well, I'll tell you," Hayter went on. "I believe this is his fourth
visit to the mountains. He has made friends with some of those small
herdsmen around the other side half-way down to the village. They are
practically all barbarians. He's learnt some of their lingo and what he
says to them I cannot tell, but he talks to them hour after hour. It is
with them he stayed last night. I stood up to stretch myself about an
hour ago and there he was in the distance pointing towards us and
gesticulating."

"But they are Mauranesco's men," Beverley objected. "They have nothing
against us."

"They're half-witted," Hayter replied doggedly. "He's actually managed,
as I told you, to learn a little of their language and he's been
drilling something into them all the afternoon. My belief is he's trying
to make mischief for us somehow or other."

"Might as well be on a savage island anyway," Beverley muttered, "but
neither you nor I will need to come up alone again. In five minutes now
we are off again in Rudolph Mauranesco's car and with luck we shall have
a hot meal and a bottle of wine where the lights are blazing in a few
hours."

The Scotsman's eyes glistened. He opened the door of a cupboard and
looked at the diminished contents of his bottle of whisky.

"We'll just have a wee drop, sir," he said. "There's enough left for
that--just a stirrup cup. There's water in the carafe there. The young
gentleman said it came straight from one of those mountain streams so we
can fancy we are back in Scotland. Half-and-half, eh? Takes the body out
of the whisky and the soul out of the water, as they say."

They set their glasses down empty. Hayter's had been full to the brim,
Beverley's rather less than half-filled.

"And now," the latter proposed, "I think I will go and see if that young
man is ready for us. The ten minutes are about up."

"I'll follow you with pleasure, sir," Hayter agreed.

Before they reached the door, however, it was thrown violently open.
Rudolph half-ran, half-staggered in.

"Mr. Beverley," he cried, "I have come to warn you, sir! Treyer is here
with a lot of the herdsmen. They are all crazy."

Beverley buttoned up his coat. "Well, where's your car?" he asked. "I
don't like running away from anybody, but--"

"They pushed me away from it," Rudolph interrupted. "I tell you it is
serious trouble, Mr. Beverley. There are a score of them at least."

"They pushed you away, did they?" Beverley said calmly. "Well, we'll see
v.'^hat they do to us."

Before he could reach the door, however, it was again thrown wide open.
A confused stream of men pushed their way in--strange, savage-looking
creatures, some of them barefooted, others wearing odd fragments of
peasants' attire, all of them with dried goatskins in the shape of capes
around their shoulders and one or two of them in goatskin trousers. In
their midst was Treyer. The door was closed with a bang. The eyes of
every one of them seemed fixed upon Beverley, and the light in their
eyes was evil and murderous,

"Is this an evening call, Treyer?" Beverley asked. "Won't you introduce
your friends?"

"You will need no introduction," was the half-lisping, half-snarling
reply. "I will tell you why they are here. They are goatherds of the
Mauranesco Mountains. They and their fathers and grandfathers before
them have built their shanties and lived in the sheltered corners,
tended their goats and made a living somehow or other. They have the
idea--such a stupid idea, Mr. Beverley--that you have come to upset all
that. They will not listen to reason. They think you want to dispossess
that poor young man, Rudolph Mauranesco, of his property, dig holes in
the ground and destroy the herbage which feeds their goats. Perhaps you
can reason with them."

"I should be delighted," Beverley answered, "but I might as well talk to
the goats themselves. They would not understand a word of anything I
said."

Treyer grinned and there was a very unpleasant light in his narrow eyes.

"Dear me, that surprises me, Mr. Beverley," he said. "I should have
thought that you were too astute a business man to have come to a
country to buy property and beg concessions when you did not understand
the language of the people. Very difficult, this situation, I fear."

"I am sure," Beverley suggested, "that you would be an excellent
interpreter. Why not tell them that our coming will do them no harm but
will bring them vastly increased prosperity?"

Treyer indulged in that repulsive gesture of which he was so fond--he
laid his finger against his nose.

"I know so little of the language myself," he said sorrowfully, "that I
might make mistakes. I should be a bad one to help you in a critical
moment like this, Mr. Beverley."

"I can quite believe it," was the terse rejoinder. "Still, I should like
to fully understand the matter. Precisely what have they come here for?
Why are they carrying those sticks? Why do they all keep pointing at
that huge locked door with the key on the nail above it at the other end
of the room?"

"I wonder," Treyer answered. "I wonder that myself. They seem to have
got it into their minds that your coming here means the end of their
long years of liberty, living rent-free on these mountains which--God
knows why--they love. They do not like you, Beverley. I came with them,"
he went on with a malicious grin, "thinking I might mollify them. My
arguments seem only to make them worse. I am really afraid that it is
quite an unpleasant situation."

"Are you listening to all this, Rudolph Mauranesco?" Beverley asked,
raising his voice a little.

Rudolph came shivering from a remote corner of the room.

"I have heard everything," he whined. "It is awful--awful--awful! I have
been arguing with them outside. This is the trouble, Mr. Beverley. They
have no brains--they do not understand. I have told them there will be
plenty of the mountains left whatever you do. They do not believe me."

"Then what is it they propose?" Beverley asked.

There was a moment's silence. Then the whole crowd began to shout. They
shouted three words only and kept repeating them. All the time they
pointed towards the great locked door. Beverley waited until the tumult
had subsided a little then he raised his voice once more.

"What the devil do they mean, Mr. Interpreter?" he demanded.

"What they shouted," Treyer confided with mock horror in his tone, "was
just three words. These three: 'The Strangers' Gate!'"

"And what might they be meaning by that?" Hayter enquired, removing the
pipe from his mouth.

"It is a reference to one of their old customs," Treyer replied. "Ask
your dear friend Rudolph Mauranesco there. He will explain."

Rudolph was as white as a sheet. Beverley looked at him curiously. It
was a hard thing to realise, but he came to the conclusion that the
young man was not acting in the least. He was suffering from a perfect
paralysis of fear.

"What is it they want from me, Mauranesco?" Beverley demanded. "What is
the meaning of 'The Strangers' Gate'?"

"From hundreds of years ago," Rudolph explained, "there has been warfare
between the Princes of Mauranesco and the Barons across the frontier.
There were raids continually. If the chiefs of my race took any
prisoners they brought them here and--"

The young man broke down. Beverley watched him wipe the perspiration
from his forehead.

"Go on," he said encouragingly. "Let's hear the worst."

Rudolph pointed down the vast apartment.

"It is the door there," he faltered. "We keep it firmly locked in these
days. You asked about it when you came. If it is opened, it opens sheer
over the precipice. One step over the threshold is eternity. When the
people of the hills here had prisoners they brought them to the chateau
and sent them home through The Strangers' Gate."

There was a hoarse muttering from the motley company of savages as one
or two of the foremost edged their way nearer to Beverley.

"I conclude then," the latter said, "that they are paying me this little
visit with the idea of treating me as an enemy and pushing me through
The Strangers' Gate."

"And Hayter, also," Rudolph put in. "I have seen them stand watching him
hammering at those rocks for hours at a time and I have wondered what
they were thinking of. I know now. They look upon Hayter as a magician
and you, Beverley, as something like the devil!"

"You really ought to have started some elementary system of education
amongst these people," Beverley complained. "I appeal to you, Rudolph
Mauranesco, how many of your herdsmen shall I have to kill before they
consent to go home? Have you no authority over them? Can you not
influence them?"

"They will not listen to me," was the shivering reply. "I tried outside
in the courtyard."

Beverley drew a step backwards. He continued talking but his object was
to get his back to the wall.

"Mauranesco," he said sternly, "I must remind you that we are your
guests here. I came at your invitation, so did Hayter. We came at your
request and for your benefit. Are you really proposing to stand there in
the background and let these barbarians throw us through that door?"

"My dear friend," Rudolph assured him timorously, "I shall do my best.
If they attempt violence I will fight."

"Where's your gun?" Beverley asked. "You had one with you this
afternoon."

"They took it away outside," Rudolph wailed.

"That seems a pity. Listen, someone must make these madmen see reason.
If you can't, will you translate for me?"

"I will do my best," the young man promised.

"First of all, then, tell them to stop opening that door at the other
end of the room."

Mauranesco turned round and called out in a feeble quavering voice to
the six men who were pulling and tugging at the great iron bolts. They
took not the slightest notice of him. He walked over nearer to them. One
of the group thrust out his hand and pushed him on the chest so that he
nearly lost his balance. They shook their fists and shouted abusive
epithets at him. He turned to Beverley.

"You see how it is," he said despairingly. "I have no influence--no
authority. They have lived rent-free on my mountains all their lives and
that is how they answer me! I have forbidden them to open The Strangers'
Gate. They take no notice."

Almost as he spoke the great key was turned and the door yielded. There
was a rush of cold air into the huge vaulted room--a great blank sheet
of darkness outside, a star to be seen here and there, a rustling of
leaves in the thickly growing ivy, a dislodged family of bats wheeling
round, now inside the place, now out. Then there was movement forward
amongst the company of men--a great deal of shouting. One huge fellow
carrying no weapon but with the bare arms of a Hercules edged his way to
within a few yards of Beverley. Beverley remained motionless but his
eyes watched every movement of the man who was closing in upon him. He
spoke once more to Treyer, he spoke no louder than usual and with the
same half-pleasant drawl which always lent to his voice that peculiar
quality of distinctness.

"Treyer," he said, "I have done it before, but I have no fancy for
killing men like sheep. Will you in that beautiful language which you
have learnt from your friends explain to this gentleman who is within a
few feet of me now that if he makes another movement forward it will be
his last?"

"Got a gun, have you?" Treyer asked suspiciously.

"Say your little piece," Beverley enjoined without removing his eyes from
his approaching assailant.

Treyer shouted something. Whatever it was it seemed only to infuriate
the herdsman. His great fist shot out towards Beverley, who dodged it
easily, drew the revolver from his pocket and shot him through the
chest. With a roar of anger changing almost instantly to a howl of
stupefaction--that death-cry of a non-comprehending animal--the herdsman
reeled on his feet and fell. Beverley took advantage of the tumult to
move a little nearer to Hayter. He called out to him:--

"Get near me, Hayter! I had enough of looking down into the blasted
gorge yesterday. We'll die in here if we have to."

"I'll surely be joining you, sir," Hayter agreed enthusiastically,
dodging to avoid a blow from one of the crowd and landing his fist well
into the face of the ruffian who stepped out to intercept him. "I'm
right beside you now, Mr. Beverley. The blackguards can't understand us.
How many cartridges have you?"

"Only the full charge that's in the revolver," Beverley answered. "They
will probably get tired of this business before I have to use them all,
though."

A huge stick came whirling over the heads of the crowd. Beverley dodged
just in time to avoid its full force, but there was a nasty wound on his
forehead and blood Streamed down his cheek. He wiped it away from his
eyes and faced the little semi-circle in front of him, his gun following
the movement of any one of his assailants who seemed to have the idea of
edging nearer. For a few minutes, however, a sort of stupefaction held
them spellbound. They were all gaping at the man who lay stretched out
on the floor.

"Why not send him through The Strangers' Gate?" Beverley cried. "Save
funeral expenses!"

Beverley's attention, although he maintained his attitude of careless
indifference, never faltered. He saw the little crowd making way for one
of their number who had been leaning against the wall, a youth with
black hair smudged over his face, a mouthful of yellow teeth, a creature
whose walk even was like the stealthy tread of an animal. His right hand
was held behind him but from the first step he had taken Beverley had
caught the glitter of steel. There was a shout of incitement from all
the others, the meaning of which it was easy to guess. Beverley waited
until his approaching assailant stood just behind the semi-circle and
stooped to push his way past two men in the front rank.

"Better warn them once more, Treyer," he called out. "When I shoot it is
to kill!"

The German laughed out loud. It was a hideous, villainous sound, a
ghastly travesty of mirth. Before its echoes had died away the youth who
had been crouching sprang into the air, the men in the front of the
semi-circle opened on either side, the knife flashed out. His intended
victim shot at precisely the right instant. Even before the man could
cover those last few yards Beverley's bullet was exactly in the middle
of his forehead. There was another Satanic yell, the knife fell
clattering to the ground, the semi-circle shrank back.

"Have a heart. Will!" Beverley cried cheerily. "There must be thirty of
these ruffians here but I have been watching their faces. Not half of
them would dare to come near us. They will have finished with this
little business in a few minutes. Rudolph Mauranesco--"

"Oh, my God!" the young man shouted, wringing his hands, "Mr. Beverley,
what can I do?"

"Well, there's one thing you could do," was the prompt reply. "Get
outside and fetch that gun of yours and come and stand side by side with
Hayter and myself against this wall--and if you feel like putting a shot
into that scoundrel Treyer as you pass it wouldn't do anyone any harm."

"They will not let me out!" Rudolph cried. "I would have fetched the gun
long ago but they will not let me pass through."

"Knock them down, then!" Beverley thundered. "They're your men. You are
our host."

Rudolph burst into tears. He was a queer object standing against the
wall in a distant corner, his hair neatly parted, his tie still in its
place, his beautiful face wrung with anguish, his eyes luminous.

"I would do what I could," he sobbed. "Listen--I speak to them once
more."

He called out to the menacing group. They listened to him in dull
apathy. There was not a grown man there who since his cradle had heard a
kindly or a civil word from this youth who called himself Prince of the
Mauranescos. He meant no more to them than the stones they kicked out of
their way when climbing. If they understood the words which poured from
his lips, they showed no sign of it.

"Drive your fist into the face of one of them," Beverley scoffed.
"Perhaps they will listen to you then."

"You do not understand," was the pitiful reply. "I have not that sort of
strength. They would kill me if I interfered."

"They apparently mean to kill us if you don't," Beverley answered. "For
God's sake fetch a gun and line up with us. Even a shotgun would do some
good at this short range."

"They will not let me out," Rudolph repeated in despair. "If I get a
chance I will slip through the door."

The semi-circle was slowly closing in. Beverley lifted his voice.

"I don't know whether you want me to go on killing these men, Treyer,"
he called out, "but if they move another inch I'm going to pick them off
one by one."

Up went the German's Up. That hideous grin once more distorted his face.

"You have only four cartridges left," he jeered. "Four men will make no
difference here."

"Three," Beverley retorted. "I'm keeping the last one for you!"

"So you would murder me!" Treyer shouted. "That is what you are
threatening!"

"And you are doing your best to have me murdered because you are too
great a coward to do it yourself," was the furious reply.

The nearest assailant was almost within striking distance, gripping his
club, his eyes on fire, his lips parted in ugly fashion. Beverley, after
a shout of warning which naturally had no effect, shot him dead. He took
careful aim, as he had done each time. Every bullet was fired to kill.

"You are making a slaughter-house of this place, Treyer," he said
coolly. "I have two more men to kill--and you. I'm sorry it is
necessary. Then I will have to begin on my other pocketful of
cartridges."

Treyer laughed mockingly.

"You have no more," he cried out. "I can tell by the look of your
pockets."

"Well, there's another gun coming in a minute," Beverley warned him.

"If you are trusting Mauranesco to fetch it you will never see it in
this life!" Treyer jeered. "His knees are shaking so that he could not
reach even the door."

Four of the ruffians who had been whispering together made a sudden
rush. Hayter had stepped forward to administer the coup de grace to his
own particular opponent so that for a moment Beverley feared to shoot.
Suddenly a rough arm went round his neck, another round his middle. They
dragged him away from the wall. One of them--a giant of a fellow--had
him for a moment in a grip which threatened to crush his ribs. Hayter
snatched up the staff which another had dropped and, swinging it around,
got him fairly on the back of the skull. He reeled on his feet and
collapsed, gasping and writhing madly. Beverley freed himself, but he
had lost the advantage of his former position. In a fierce effort to
save the last three bullets, he escaped from the clutch of the remaining
man, swung round like lightning and caught him on the point of the jaw.
Over he went with a dull groan, and the sound of his head hitting the
cement floor was like music to his opponent. The fight was beginning to
get into Beverley's blood. A fresh assailant, sidling up, licking his
hands to get a firmer grip on his staff, he suddenly sprang at. His
first blow the man dodged, the second got him between the eyes. His
stick--a short one but thick--fell from his hand. Beverley stooped like
lightning, possessed himself of it, and dealt his victim a sweeping blow
which laid one side of his face open and finished up at his temple. With
a sickening cry this man, too, collapsed. Beverley, however, had been a
little too impetuous. Two others were upon him and this time he had to
fire. The nearer of them fell like a stone. His companion stood rooted
to the spot, his head turned towards the main entrance, making no
attempt to move. Beverley, thankful for the unexpected pause, drew a
long breath of relief. He was suddenly conscious that the atmosphere of
the room had changed. There was a wind sweeping through it. He looked
over the heads of the mob and saw the most amazing sight of his life.
The door leading to the courtyard stood wide open. Just as he had seen
her many times before--unruffled, calm and perfectly composed--Marya was
standing there, and a foot behind--Suka. A hush had descended upon the
room. Even the groaning of the wounded men seemed to have become
subdued. There was something very like silence. Then Marya spoke. Not
one word could Beverley understand, but the little crowd of listening
herdsmen seemed stricken with something which was almost terror.
Although her voice was never once raised, although the anger seemed to
dwell in her eyes only, there was something withering, something almost
like a lash in the tone of her voice. When she had finished she came a
step farther into the room. She was unarmed but no one touched her.
Suddenly Suka sprang into the midst of the group and with her strong
arms dealt blows right and left. She was like a fury let loose. All the
time she covered her mistress, although no one had attempted Marya any
harm. She rained blows wherever she could see a face and she shouted at
them like a woman possessed. Afterwards Beverley learnt that she was
addressing the men by name: uncles, cousins, a brother--every one of
them she knew. Three of the worst-looking stood their ground, one even
crawled towards Marya with long extended fingers. He seemed as though he
were about to grab her in his hands. Marya stood gazing at him, her head
thrown a little back, the fire of an intense contempt in her eyes. The
man, nevertheless, appeared dangerous. Beverley raised his revolver once
more. This was to be a sacred bullet, and it fulfilled its mission. The
herdsman spun round and died at her feet.

"I have only one bullet left, Marya Mauranesco," Beverley called out.
"Your brother is incapable of movement. Could you fetch a gun? There is
one in the shed outside."

Marya smiled at him and never before had there been such a smile upon
her lips. She pointed to the door. In they came trooping--cyclists in the
uniform of the Orlacian guards--every one of them armed.

"I have not come alone," she announced. "We outstripped the guards and
for a moment I was afraid they might be too late, but they have come.
What shall we do with them? The men will obey my orders. The Strangers'
Gate is open."

Beverley laughed across at her, wiping the blood from his face at the
same time.

"Let them alone," he advised. "Have your escort drive them back to their
mountains. If anyone should pass through that Strangers' Gate to-night,"
he concluded, pointing to Treyer, "there he stands^ The whole of this
business was brought about by him."

"It is a lie!" the accused man shouted furiously. "I know a few words of
their language, and I was trying all the time to get them to go away
quietly."

"You are a lying hound!" Beverley told him. "Not only did you bring
these herdsmen here and urge them to attack Hayter and myself, but
yesterday, after you had passed me on the road, you dragged a tree
across the track until it overhung the precipice. It was attempted
murder--nothing more or less. I escaped alive by a miracle. This is your
second attempt to get rid of us."

Suka, who had never left off her fierce harangue to the herdsmen,
suddenly turned and caught Treyer by the collar, dragging him towards
the wide-open Strangers' Gate. His shrieks reached the roof. He
struggled like a wild animal, calling madly for help.

"The woman is crazy!" he shouted.

He appealed to the herdsmen in their own language. They watched his
agony, stolid and unmoved. Beverley hesitated, but only for a moment.

"Call her back," he begged Marya. "Let Treyer be driven out with the
others. We will deal with him later."

Marya spoke half a dozen words, and the woman reluctantly released her
captive. Treyer, breathing heavily, pale as death, his face more than
ever like that of some wild and evil animal, plunged his hand into his
pocket. Something glittering flashed out. He leaned towards Beverley
with a sudden shout of triumph. He was unsteady on his feet, however. He
lingered for one fatal second to take aim. Beverley's last bullet found
its mark. The gun which he had kept carefully concealed went clattering
from Treyer's hand to the floor, and the cry with which he collapsed was
the cry of death.

The room was emptying fast. The soldiers were driving out the herdsmen
before them, the latter as sullen as ever but unresisting. Beverley and
Marya stood in a corner of the disordered barn.

"You have saved our lives, Marya Mauranesco," he said. "Your coming was
like a miracle."

"It was a very foolish business," she said. "Suka heard in some
mysterious way that Treyer was plotting evil things up here with the
herdsmen and she warned me."

"And you?"

"I went to the King. He has a heart after all. He sent me here in his
car and he sent the special household guard with me. The Diva Katarina
sent with them also the men who are detailed to watch her villa. Suka
recommends that we leave at once. There are hundreds of these wild
people on the mountains and one of the men whom they tell me you killed
is their leader. When they realise that he is dead some of the others
might come back. Will you and Mr. Hayter please return with us at once?
The car waits. First, do you wish that Suka or I shall wipe the blood
from your face?"

Beverley laughed softly.

"It is no task for you, Marya," he said. "There is water in the corner.
I will be ready in thirty seconds."

He thrust a towel underneath the tap, bathed his face and dried it with
a handkerchief. Suka tore herself away from the stampeding mob and
talked rapidly to her mistress, who listened to her words carefully.
Then she called to Beverley.

"We leave at once," she directed. "Suka tells me that there are more of
these vermin climbing the mountains, and when they hear that Brania,
their leader, is killed they might try to block our way through the
passes."

"Who can tell? It was really you who killed Brania?" she asked Beverley,
pointing to the huge fellow who lay on the floor.

"It was Brania or myself," he replied. "I chose Brania."



CHAPTER XXXI

Beverley woke up the next morning in surroundings which were to him at
first utterly unrecognisable. The room was flooded with dazzling
sunshine, he was conscious of a very severe pain in his left temple and
a general soreness all over which completely baffled him. Then memory
dribbled back. He remembered the wild excitement of the night before,
the strange silent drive in that luxurious car down from the mountains
out of the darkness into the dawn and the sting of the early wind as
they descended to the lowlands. And Marya had all the time been by his
side. He had dim recollections of the car's having stopped once on the
way when Marya sent the chauffeur for water from one of those streams
which fell from the heights across the road down into the valley. He
felt again the touch of her fingers upon his forehead, the bandage, her
calm words as she made a pillow for his head and suffered her hand to be
held in his. And now she was gone. He could scarcely remember a
farewell. Hayter had helped him into the hotel, and of course this was
his room, but more amazing than anything else in the world seemed the
figure seated in an easy chair not far from the bedside.

"Rudolph Mauranesco!" he exclaimed incredulously.

Rudolph rose to his feet. He was fresh and smiling. He had evidently
bathed and submitted himself to the ministrations of the _coiffeur_. He
was wearing a very well-cut suit of clothes and his expression was one
of complete satisfaction with the world and himself.

"So you are awake at last!" he exclaimed. "Good. It would have been
necessary to have shaken you in a few minutes. We have an appointment at
twelve o'clock."

"Have we?" Beverley murmured. "With whom? Some more of your goatherds?"

Rudolph waved the suggestion away.

"My dear Mr. Beverley," he remonstrated, "that was an absurd outbreak. I
remember very little of it myself. I was far from well last night but I
remember that there was trouble. We got you out of it all right though.
My sister fetched you home and I followed close behind with the guards
in case there should be an attack. This morning I have devoted my whole
time to our affairs."

"Marvellous!" Beverley muttered. "Mind ringing the bell? I want a jugful
of tea."

Rudolph did as he was bidden, A waiter appeared very soon and received
the order. A valet also, a queer fellow in a jersey and a pair of serge
trousers, made his appearance.

"A bath," Beverley ordered, "a full bath, mind--a big one. Hot at first
but a jug of cold water to throw over me afterwards. Does he get that,
Mauranesco?"

Rudolph made the matter perfectly clear. In twenty minutes Beverley had
drunk his tea, had had a bath which felt as though the waters of Elysium
were being poured over him, and now sat at his table shaving.

"Come on, my young visitor," he begged. "Talk to me."

"Hayter's discovery," Rudolph replied, rolling a cigarette lightly,
"will mean a different life for myself, at any rate, and for Marya, I
hope, except that she will be very hard to move. I had a few words with
Hayter after you had come up to bed and he seems perfectly convinced
about the bauxite."

Beverley watched the young man through the looking-glass. His tone was
confident, his eyes eager.

"Now listen," Rudolph went on. "You are a man of business, Mr. Beverley,
a man of marvellous intelligence. I know what you are saying to
yourself: 'I will go no further with this until I know to whom the land
belongs.'"

"There is a certain amount of common sense in that," Beverley admitted.

"It is all arranged," Rudolph assured him. "You will be happy to know
that the notaries who for generation after generation have handled the
affairs of the Mauranescos are the firm of which the new premier, Predor
Pravadia, was once an active partner. He is too busy now for serious
work but he is more interested in bauxite than any other man in the
country. I have arranged a rendezvous for twelve o'clock. There will be
you, myself--representing my sister and myself--our notary who holds the
title deeds of the mountains, Dr. Halles, the first lawyer in the
kingdom, and your specialist Hayter if you desire his presence."

"What are we all going to do?" Beverley asked, sponging his face.

"I have thought that out," the young man proceeded. "You are a cautious
man. You do not want to go too far without absolute proof of the things
which you are told, even by your own expert. My suggestion is that you
pay us a sum down at once--cash--for the option to search for bauxite on
the Mauranesco Mountains; and at the end of three months, or any
stipulated period, you deal with the owners--my sister and
myself--either in the way of direct purchase or by means of a concession
which will enable you to build your mine and produce your bauxite. Side
by side with that, we give you a written agreement to deal with no one
else in the matter until you have given your decision. Your option
covers everything."

"This is not Crown Land then?"

"It is not, but I will be perfectly frank with you," Rudolph continued
with a gesture of most engaging candour. "The new Government of Orlac,
as represented by Predor Pravadia, will bring forward a claim which by
means of old statutes they might probably be able to substantiate. They
will demand a royalty upon your output, a royalty which will go to the
people."

"By the by, there is no one else in the running for this bauxite just
now, is there?" Beverley demanded. "Is it part of a nightmare--did I
dream it or did that disagreeable fellow Treyer come to an unfortunate
end last night?"

Rudolph's expression for a moment was one of great gravity.

"Last night's affairs," he confided, "lie behind a cloud so far as I am
concerned. I felt myself on the brink of serious illness and I can
remember nothing. I do believe, however, that Treyer, who after all was
responsible for getting that herd of wild men together, met with a most
unfortunate accident."

"I dreamed, or perhaps it was the truth," Beverley said, "that even if
he escaped the ordeal of passing through that picturesque door of yours
which you call 'The Strangers' Gate' he nevertheless took his departure
into a world from which he is not likely to trouble us any more."

Rudolph shivered. Something of his gay insouciance had departed.

"Do not let us talk of it," he begged. "It was a terrible happening. All
that we have to remember for the moment is this: we shall not have Herr
Treyer to deal with. Treyer himself was entirely responsible for
everything that happened at the castle last night and he has paid the
price. He will interfere no more with us."

"That certainly simplifies matters," Beverley observed drily. "Any
further news from your mountain home?"

"Nothing will ever again be heard of that little outbreak," Rudolph
confided. "The herdsmen were driven back to their shelters on the hills
and to their village down on the lowlands. They are a pack of men
outside the paths of civilisation. There are very few people who even
understand their dialect. They are not to be considered."

"Tell me this once more: How was it that your sister arrived just as we
were all of us--excepting you and Treyer, I suppose--on the point of
being murdered?"

"I will explain my sister's arrival," Rudolph answered, "but it is
absurd to think for a moment that we should have allowed matters to
proceed to such extremities. I had already sent for help. We should have
been able to drive those fellows out in a few minutes."

"Do you mind leaving that all out?" Beverley begged. "Tell me how it was
that your sister arrived."

"It was through her woman Suka," the young man explained. "She got to
know in some mysterious way, which neither I nor anyone else could
explain, that Treyer was there stirring up the herdsmen and that they
were going to escort a strange Englishman, who wanted to drive them from
their mountains and take away their livelihood, through The Strangers'
Gate. It was the way by means of which my ancestors in the days of
barbarism used to get rid of their prisoners when they took any. It
seems to me that Marya did a very sensible thing. She left the House of
Passers-by under her aunt's protection, and she went to the King.
Nicolas heard what she had to say, gave her his own car, and at
Katarina's insistence ordered out his own bodyguard. No other form of
soldiery except this motorcycle corps could have reached the castle so
quickly. I think you may say, Mr. Beverley, that you owe your escape
from a certain amount of inconvenience, at any rate, largely to my
sister and myself."

Beverley lit a cigarette and looked the young man in the face for a
moment without speech. The latter did not for a moment flinch. He spoke
as though he believed what he was saying.

"You are the most amazing person I ever met in my life, Rudolph
Mauranesco," was all that Beverley could find it in his mind to remark.

"Coming from you, sir," was the delightfully-spoken reply, "that speech
has made me very happy."

Beverley swallowed some coffee, ate a couple of rolls, lit a further
cigarette and sent for Hayter.

"I must now say _Au revoir_ to you, Rudolph Mauranesco," he said. "My
last words before we meet at midday must be with Hayter alone."

"Does it matter about me?" Rudolph asked smiling.

"It matters a whole hell of a lot," Beverley told him. "Out you go! I
will meet you in the café at five minutes to twelve."

The young man rose reluctantly.

"It shall be just as you wish, Mr. Beverley," he agreed.

Hayter, who had been waiting in the next room, made his appearance. He
greeted his employer with a little chuckle.

"I'm glad to see you round and about, Mr. Beverley," he said. "I have
been handing you compliments in my sleep all night. I've been in tough
scraps in many parts of the world but I've never seen one better
handled."

"Listen to me. Will Hayter," Beverley began: "Is there any chance of a
flaw anyw^here, of any possible mistake as regards this bauxite?"

"There's nothing wrong with the bauxite, Mr. Beverley," Hayter replied
earnestly, "but I've a wee story to tell you that might amuse you. I'm
hoping you've confidence enough in me to take it the right way."

"No fear of my not doing that," Beverley promised. "Go ahead."

"That young scoundrel of last night--my God, what a specimen!--he came
to me before we went up north and he told me frankly that he did not
believe there was anything in the way of bauxite to be found in his
mountains. All the same, he reminded me that as you were going up there
and taking me with you it would certainly be up to me to make a report."

"That was a good start," Beverley observed drily.

"I must say," Hayter went on, pushing the tobacco a little farther down
in his pipe and pulling at it steadily, "I have never met with a
scoundrel in my life who made a rascally suggestion in a more delightful
fashion than that young man. He did not expect big things, but he made a
proposition which he thought I could not fail to accept. I was to find a
reasonable amount of bauxite--some bauxite--not much--no huge quantities
that would lead to disappointment and get me into trouble, but just
enough for you to buy an option upon the mountains and pay cash quick."

"And what did you say to that, Hayter?"

"What any man with common sense in the circumstances would have said,"
Hayter replied. "He offered me a quarter of anything you paid over!"

"Did he put it in writing?"

"He surely did. Am I a Scotsman for nothing?"

Beverley leaned back in his chair and began to laugh. He went on
laughing till the tears stood in his eyes.

"Are you going to hold him to this, Hayter?" he enquired.

"Unless you object, Mr. Beverley. I don't see any flaw in it myself. The
young bounder made a criminal suggestion to an honest man and I think he
should pay for it. I'm not taking the trouble to tell you it never
affected my report for one single second. To tell you the truth it will
be the humiliation of my life to think that I went over those mountains
and left the southern ridges alone. Your mountain and the Klast Mine
will give you enough bauxite, Mr. Beverley, to supply the whole world if
you want to."

"Then you will be a rich man, Will," Beverley remarked, chuckling. "How
that young man will hate parting!"

"I'll make a heap, sir, but it won't be you that will pay for it. That's
not saying I'm not properly grateful," he went on hurriedly, "It's what
I call a perfect case of the biter bit."

"Try to go on looking like an honest man, Hayter," Beverley advised him,
rising to his feet with a twinkle in his eyes. "All the same, I'm glad
you have something in writing."

It was a queer little meeting that took place a few minutes later.
Messrs. Zalaberg and Carneola, the two principal lawyers of Klast, sat
side by side at separate desks in their office. Predor Pravadia, acting
as witness and general counsellor, sprawled in an easy chair. Rudolph
Mauranesco sat with folded arms on a bench against the wall. Will Hayter
did not appear. Beverley was offered what was really the seat of
honour--an easy chair opposite Pravadia. Pravadia, huge and vigorous,
was in fine spirits. The final result of the outstanding elections had
come in that morning and each one of them had gone solidly to his party.
He shook hands heartily with Beverley as he entered and presented him to
the two lawyers.

"Delighted to welcome you back from the savage districts, Mr. Beverley,"
he said. "Here is this young fellow Mauranesco with an amazing story. He
says your expert has found bauxite there."

"From a somewhat superficial search," Beverley admitted, "my expert, Mr.
Hayter, is inclined to believe that there is a certain amount of bauxite
on the southern ridges. Whether it would be a payable proposition to
mine for it is another matter."

"Listen," Rudolph intervened, rising to his feet. "This need not be a
long meeting. The greater issues do not arise yet. Mr. Zalaberg and Mr.
Carneola are the representatives of a firm who have been lawyers to the
House of Mauranesco for hundreds of years. Will you, Mr. Zalaberg, tell
Mr. Beverley that what I say is a fact?"

Both men rose to their feet and bowed.

"It is perfectly true, sir," Zalaberg announced.

"To continue," Rudolph went on, "the mountains are the property of
whom, Mr. Zalaberg?"

"The mountains are the property of yourself. Prince Rudolph Mauranesco,
and of the Princess Marya Mauranesco, your sister."

"You hear that, Mr. Beverley?" Rudolph asked.

"I hear it."

"You are satisfied?"

"Naturally I am satisfied."

"What sort of offer, then, do you propose to make on behalf of my sister
and myself for those mountains?"

"I am not prepared to buy them," Beverley declared calmly, "but I am
prepared to give you a certain sum down--"

"Cash," Rudolph murmured.

"A certain sum down in cash," Beverley repeated, "for an option, which
you will write out and sign here before your two notaries and Mr.
Pravadia, giving me six months to make up my mind whether I will
purchase and sink a mine or not. If at the end of that time I decide not
to mine, the sum I pay for the option will be forfeited to you and your
sister. That is the situation so far as I am concerned, gentlemen,"
Beverley went on, turning to the others. "No one can buy a whole
district of wild land after only a few days' inspection. We should have
a number of things to consider before we took the risk of starting a
great undertaking up there in that desolate spot."

"A sound business point of view," Pravadia admitted.

"The question is," Rudolph said, "how much Mr. Beverley k prepared to
put down for the option. I know very little of my sister's means. There
are wealthy relations who do not approve of me, but I know my own
position. I am perfectly penniless. I need money. I am giving myself
away but I cannot help it. I am a truthful person. I shall throw myself
upon Mr. Beverley's consideration and ask him to make as generous an
offer as possible."

"I think for an option of this description," Beverley announced, "which
I may never take up, thirty thousand pounds would be a very fair sum,
fifteen thousand payable to you and fifteen thousand payable to your
sister."

"It is not enough," Rudolph insisted with a little gasp in his throat
which he could not wholly control.

The lawyers remained silent. The eyes of both of them were fixed upon
the ceiling. Thirty thousand pounds from which to draw something towards
that bill of costs which had been steadily mounting for two generations,
thirty thousand pounds for a range of hills which during the memory of
man had been simply the scanty grazing ground for an army of goats! They
trembled when Beverley stooped down as though to pick up his hat.

"I will think it over, if you like," he proposed, "but at present I
cannot see my way clear to give more."

"There are other interests in the market," Rudolph warned him, biting
his nails furiously.

"The less you talk about them the better, I should think," Beverley
remarked drily. "You would like to wait a few days, perhaps, and see
whether they materialise?"

There was a dark flush on the young man's face.

"I accept the sum you have offered, Mr. Beverley," he decided. "You can
pay it to my attorneys here and as soon as you do I will sign the
option. I shall act as my sister's trustee," he went on, "so you may as
well put the whole amount in my name."

"I am perfectly certain," Beverley declared, "that your lawyer would not
consent to that course, and I am perfectly certain that as you are joint
owners I shall pay half to each of you. I shall give you two drafts on
the Bank of England--one payable to Marya Mauranesco and one to Rudolph
Mauranesco--and they will be honoured on receipt of a telegraphic advice
that they are in your hands. You will touch the money to-morrow, I
should think, without fail. Is that satisfactory? If so, draw up the
option, Mr. Zalaberg."

"But Mr. Beverley," Rudolph protested gently with a complete return of
his usual charm of manner, "you surely .would not mistrust my handling
my sister's money. If she were here she would confide it to me in a
moment."

"The Princess is in the next room," Mr. Zalaberg murmured. "It would not
have been possible to have come to any definite arrangement without her
signature."

Rudolph surrendered gracefully.

"The matter is really of no consequence," he declared. "Mr. Beverley can
make out his drafts as he suggests."

A clerk was called in. The option was duly engrossed Beverley produced
his leather bound book of drafts which he always carried with him and
wrote out two. Mr. Zalaberg rose to his feet.

"I will invite the Princess to come and sign," he proposed, leaving the
room.

Beverley drew his chair back to a more remote corner. For the first time
in his life his own condition of mind puzzled him. He was conscious of
some queer return of the strain which he had suffered during that long
wonderful drive in the darkness. He hated the people around. Every nerve
in his body was tingling with the desire to see her, to hear her voice,
the soft flutter of her garments, to catch the look in her eyes as she
entered. But Mr. Zalaberg returned alone.

"The Princess requests," he announced, "that the copy be sent in to her
for signature. I shall take the draft at the same time. Perhaps Mr.
Beverley--"

Beverley shook his head.

"You will hand the Princess the draft with my best wishes," he said.
"Before she leaves, however, I should consider it a great favour if she
would spare me a moment."

Mr. Zalaberg took out the papers and returned a minute or two later.

"If you will step this way, Mr. Beverley," he invited, "the Princess
will be glad to sec you, but as the chariot--we always call it
that--from the convent is waiting for her outside with one of the lay
sisters, she asks that you will pay your visit at once. This way, sir."

Beverley rose to his feet. Mr. Zalaberg threw open the door of a small
waiting room, ushered him in and retreated at once. Beverley and Marya
stood alone in the room, face to face.

"Marya," he ventured, "I had no words last night."

"Nor I," she answered. "It was surely not wonderful that we should find
speech difficult. I had never seen bloodshed."

"You are going back to the convent?"

"It was my promise to Sister Georgina before she let me start on my wild
journey."

"I have offered you no thanks--I have not dared to say to you the things
which you know are here in my heart, Marya. I have held my peace because
I felt that after that crowded hour of horrors it was no time for me to
speak of the other things. But you must tell me, please, because in all
my future life there is nothing that would make the difference that your
answer will make--I do not care about your mountains or what they will
produce--I care for something else. You are going back to the convent,
Marya?"

She raised her eyes for the first time. They would have appeared much
the same to anyone else, but not to Nigel Beverley. He told himself with
a sort of passionate though silent conviction that she was looking at
him differently. He leaned forward eagerly. He drank in the memory of
them.

He was to be left alone, he must have something, some shred of hope to
cling to--and it lay in her eyes.

"I am going back," she told him, "because that was my promise. I am
going back, but only to the House of Passers-by until the time comes
when I have to make my choice. And when that time comes," she went on,
"believe me, I shall remember things you have said, I shall remember
what you have been to me, I shall remember the happiness I felt when I
was able to come to your help last night, and I shall remember how brave
a figure you seemed there amongst all those ruffians. What a dear memory
I shall carry with me in my heart--and if you please--that is all I can
say."

"And I," he said, "shall add only one small, such a very small, thing.
Will you give me your hand, please?"

She laid it in his after a moment's hesitation--cool and delicate it
felt, like a lily which had been floating in ice cold water.

"I shall remember that through those long hours of the night, Marya, you
allowed your hand to rest in mine. It is that which will give me hope
that some day you will give it to me forever."

He raised it reverently to his lips, kissed it, delayed perhaps just for
a moment, looked into her eyes once more, caught the beauty of that
glimmering smile and turned away. He walked back into the lawyers' den
like a man who walks upon air.



CHAPTER XXXII

Beverley sat once more at his desk in the private office of the
president of the Anglo-Orlacian Trust Company in Gracechurch Street. His
father-in-law-that-was-to-have-been occupied the easy chair generally
reserved for visitors. Lord Portington, in great good humour, drew the
red carnation which he was wearing a little more securely through his
buttonhole and indulged in the familiar gesture of letting his fingers
wander about his upper lip.

"It was an absolutely wonderful meeting, Nigel," he declared. "I have
never seen such enthusiasm. Not that you didn't deserve every bit of it,
my boy. You pulled the company out of what might have been a nasty hole,
you have doubled the value of our shares, and you are in high favour at
the Foreign Office. Life's a queer bag of tricks. To think of all this
coming from a little violin-playing lady calling here with a piece of
rock in her handbag! By the by, do you ever hear from her, Nigel?"

Beverley stiffened a little. His tone was colourless,

"No," he replied, "I have heard nothing from her since I left Orlac. Her
brother, of course, has pestered us with letters. We had to tell him at
last that all further negotiations must be conducted through our
lawyers."

"What has he to worry about?" Portington demanded. "He has made a huge
fortune--so has the little lady. Of course that deal was practically a
certainty when we got the second report about the Mauranesco Mountains.
Where I think you were lucky, Nigel, was in the way the City took those
Orlacian bonds. How you had the courage to offer to underwrite and
dispose of a million pounds' worth of paper for a struggling country
like Orlac beats me."

"I had talked to Pravadia," Beverley explained a little listlessly. "I
had made up my mind that he was a man with a great future. The election
was assured before I made the deal with him."

"But until he went into office he was an out-and-out Left Winger,"
Portington observed. "One of those dangerous sort of chaps living on the
borderland between socialism and communism who are all out for
confiscating everything. Can't imagine how you had the courage to trust
him as you did."

"He is the people's man, of course," Beverley admitted, "but Orlac is a
country which could only be governed by a people's man, and he went
about it in the right fashion. Its aristocracy has shrunk away, it never
possessed a solid bourgeoisie. It is a country of small properties and
small holdings. The people don't want to lose what they have and
Pravadia will see to it that they don't. Of course the mines will always
be the backbone of their prosperity, but they are commencing to
manufacture boots and shoes, clothes and many things on their own
account. Pravadia will never be content until they are a self-supporting
people and he will never default."

"Has the King ever interfered at all since the new Constitution was
established?"

Beverley shook his head.

"Too sensible. His finances depend entirely upon the State, and Nicolas
is shrewd enough to know that it pays him to keep the Constitution just
as it is."

"Well, I've had enough of Orlac for one morning," Portington declared.
"Come and have some lunch, Nigel. We'll do ourselves well. There's some
old Berncasteler Doctor at the Milan Grill--"

"I'll join you there in half an hour," Beverley Interrupted.

"I want to look through the minutes of the meeting, have a word or two
with the Press and sign my letters."

Miss Dent came silently into the room. She was holding a card in her
hand. She laid it down on the desk in front of her employer without
remark. He bent over it, glanced at the name and remained for a moment
motionless.

"Anyone special?" Portington asked curiously.

Still Beverley made no immediate reply. Memories were crowding in upon
him. Scarcely knowing what he did, he read aloud from the card:--

Princess Marya Mauranesco

"My God!" Portington exclaimed, rising briskly to his feet. "It's the
little violinist!"

Beverley was himself again, except that his blood was coursing fiercely
through his veins. He preserved his composure because he was a strong
man, but an almost unbearable crowd of emotions had seized him in their
grip.

"A very different personage now," he remarked. "You will excuse me,
won't you, sir, if I hurry you off?"

"Aren't I to be allowed to see the young lady?" Portington asked with
visible disappointment.

"Not this time. Later on, perhaps. Will you show the Princess in. Miss
Dent?"

Lord Portington took his leave grumbling good-naturedly. Beverley rose
to his feet. All the confusion of the last few minutes seemed to have
passed like magic. Perhaps Miss Dent had guessed what lay behind that
added sternness which they had all noticed in Beverley since his return
from Orlac. At any rate, she behaved like a young woman of tact. She
opened the door, closed it again and disappeared as soon as his visitor
had passed in. Very slowly Marya came towards the desk. She avoided the
chair where she had sat before. She came to where Beverley was standing
and looked up into his face.

"I have come back, Nigel Beverley," she announced. "Am I welcome?"

"You will give me your hand again?" he asked.

She held it out.

"It is yours," she said simply.

He grasped it firmly. There was surprise as well as deep happiness in
those clear eyes which seemed to be devouring hers.

"Why, you are trembling, Nigel," she murmured.

"I am afraid of my happiness," he told her. "I am almost afraid to touch
you."

Then she laughed softly and joyously.

"You must forget all your fears," she begged. "It is not because of the
money that I have changed. That would have made no difference. I stayed,
as I told you I should, for those months at the convent, and there is no
place more beautiful on earth. Everything around me was soothing and
sweet. The cedars--my own trees--whispered to me in the night and the
flowers made the mornings marvellous. I was on my knees sometimes for
hours during the day; I tried everything that I could; and I failed.
Perhaps my heart was not in my efforts, that I failed."

"Failed?" he repeated.

"To forget you, Nigel," she said. "To forget that there was another life
to be lived."

"You have come to me for always?" he asked, and the man whose splendid
firmness was the talk of everyone who came in contact with him lost it
all at that moment and his voice shook.

She leaned a little towards him and her arms went around his neck.

"You treated me always so sweetly," she whispered, "and I have grown to
love you for the memory of it. Now please take me. Sister Georgina has
given her blessing and sent me to you--and I am very happy."

They lunched at the Ritz. As they entered the restaurant Marya sent a
message up to her apartment.

"I have a chaperon," she explained. "She will not trouble us very much
but you must meet her. I have sent for her to come down to lunch. She is
a sister of my Aunt Georgina, and she married an Austrian--the Archduke
Karl Heinrich. They are very poor and she makes a little money helping
people choose clothes. You do not mind?"

"Of course not," he answered gaily. "Do you think that I could mind
anything?"

The Archduchess, who presently made her appearance, was a very
distinguished and pleasant lady, with a strong likeness to her sister.
Marya's introduction was typical.

"This is Mr. Nigel Beverley, Aunt," she said, "whom I have come over to
London to ask to marry me. You will be glad to know that he has
consented. This is my aunt, Nigel, the Archduchess of Meiningen
Staubnitz."

The Archduchess was charming. She approved of Beverley and it was not
long before she told him so. They were halfway through a very friendly
little lunch when a note was brought to Beverley. He asked permission
and tore it open.

"Who is your amazingly beautiful companion? Ask her at once where she
gets her frocks--and what are you doing, Nigel, lunching with an
Archduchess?

"An old friend of mine," Beverley explained, "wants to know where you
get your frocks, Marya."

"Paquin and Worth, so far," the Archduchess confided. "But up till now I
have been able to get her to take very little interest in what is
generally the first thought in a young girl's life. Clothes are really
quite important."

"Oh, I shall begin to think about them directly," Marya said smiling.
"Will you come with us this afternoon, Nigel, and help choose my
trousseau?"

Beverley looked up from scribbling his reply to Ursula's note.

"I will come anywhere if the Archduchess permits."

"Of course," the latter agreed. "I shall not be a burden upon you for
long, as I have an important visit of ceremony to make. We can commence,
though, immediately after luncheon. This evening I shall leave you
altogether to yourselves."

Beverley smiled.

"After all," he whispered across the table, "I am going to take you
shopping, Marya!"



THE END



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