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Title: The Wrath to Come
Author: E Phillips Oppenheim
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Language: English
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Wrath to Come
Author: E Phillips Oppenheim

First Published 1924

*




BOOK ONE



CHAPTER I

It is a passage which might well be haunted with memories of the famous
courtesans, dignitaries, criminals "de luxe" and aristocrats of the
world,--the long straight stretch of passage leading from the Hotel de
Paris to the International Sporting Club of Monte Carlo. Nevertheless it
seemed to Grant Slattery a strange place for this meeting which, during
his last two years' wandering about Europe, he had dreaded more than
anything else on earth. Complete recognition came slowly. Each slackened
speed as the distance between them diminished. When they came to a
standstill there was a moment's silence.

"Gertrude!" he exclaimed.

"Grant!" she murmured.

The purely automatic exercise of this conventional exchange of greetings
helped him at first through what must always have been a bitter and
terrible moment. For though Grant Slattery had every quality which goes
to the making of a man, he had also, about some things, a woman's
sensitiveness.

"It is a long time," she said softly.

"Time is entirely relative," he remarked didactically.

She seemed a little helpless. It was an embarrassing situation for her
and a painful one for him, this encounter with the girl who had jilted
him publicly in the face of all Washington society and eloped with his
rival. This meeting in the curved archway passage with a flunkey at
either end was the first since he had taken leave of her at her house
one night three years ago, after an evening at the opera. She had lain
in his arms for a moment, her lips had met his willingly--even as he had
often remembered since--with a touch of somewhat rare passion. And on
the morrow she had become the Princess von Diss and had sailed for
Berlin.

"This was bound to happen some day," she said, regaining her
self-possession almost to the point of calmness. "I hope that you are
going to be nice to me."

"I was prepared even to be grateful," he answered, with a little bow.
"Alas! now that I see you I find it impossible."

"Very nice indeed," she approved. "I don't think I have changed much,
have I?"

"You're looking more beautiful than ever," he assured her.

She smiled. His eyes told her that he spoke the truth.

"And you," she went on, "you're just the same--a little more dignified
perhaps. They tell me that you have left the diplomatic service. Is that
so?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"No work left," he replied. "We move on towards the millennium."

Their eyes met for a moment. There was a silent question in hers which
he ignored.

"Where were you going?" she enquired.

"I've been lunching at the Club," he answered. "I was just going to
stroll across to the tennis courts for an hour."

"You can come to the Rooms with me instead," she suggested. "We will
find two chairs and talk for a little time. We can't part like this."

He hesitated.

"Am I likely to meet your husband?"

"My husband is not in Monte Carlo at present. I hope you're not going to
be horrid about him. Grant--you won't want to fight a duel or anything
of that sort?"

"If I had felt that way about it," he answered, "it would have been at
an earlier stage of the proceedings. A woman has a right to change her
mind. I have harboured no grievance against any one."

He turned with her and they made their way to the Bar, almost deserted
at that early hour, for it was barely four o'clock, and the Rooms were
only just opened. They found two comfortable chairs and sat for a few
moments in silence. Each was taking stock of the other. He had spoken
the truth when he had declared that she was more beautiful than ever.
She was very fair, her complexion exquisitely creamy, with scarcely a
tinge of colour. Her eyes were so deep a blue that they seemed at times
almost to attain to that rare and wonderful shade commonly termed
violet. Her hair was yellow, the colour of the faint gold in the morning
sky. Her lips were a little fuller than the delicacy of her features
required, but beautifully shaped. Her figure he thought improved. She
still possessed the grace of long limbs and a slender body, but she had
passed from a threatened thinness to a gracious but still delicate
shapeliness. He looked admiringly at her beautiful fingers as she
withdrew her gloves.

"You always liked my hands," she murmured, studying them for a moment.

His eyes were fixed upon a ring she wore,--a thin platinum guard with a
single beautifully set pearl. She smiled at him.

"Terribly wrong of me to keep it, I know," she admitted-"But I have. Do
you want it back. Grant?"

"No," he answered, a little brusquely. "But--"

"But what?"

"I am not going to flirt with you," he declared.

She threw her head back and laughed.

"The same familiar Grant, honest to the point of pugnacity. Why, my dear
man, how do you ever expect to shine as a diplomatist?"

"I have given up the idea," he reminded her.

"So you are not going to flirt with me," she sighed.

He avoided the challenge of her eyes, secretly delighted that he found
it so easy.

"Since we are here, we must order something," he insisted, summoning the
waiter. "The fellow has been watching us reproachfully for the last five
minutes."

"It's very early, but I'll have some tea," she acquiesced resignedly.

Grant gave the order and turned back to his companion. He was forced to
make conversation in order to avoid drifting too rapidly into the
intimacies of the past.

"You find life amusing in Berlin?" he asked politely.

"Not at all. Berlin bores me. That is why I'm here. And I can see
perfectly well that you are going to do your best to bore me too. I am
disappointed in you."

"That," he complained, "is a little hard. Now that I am a free man, I am
full of intelligent interest in Berlin. I hoped that you might gratify
my curiosity."

"You were there yourself for two years," she reminded him drily.

"But that was five years ago. The evidences of what I suppose must be
called the Royalist movement had only just then begun to appear. Prince
Frederick, for instance, was still at school--he had scarcely shown
himself in public. Now they tell me that he is almost a popular idol."

Gertrude von Diss gazed thoughtfully into her little gold mirror and
used her powder puff with discretion.

"My husband being a member of the Government," she said "I never discuss
politics. I wonder if I shall find a place at one of the baccarat
tables. I have lost so much in my small way at roulette that I think I
shall give it up for a time. It is not amusing to lose always."

"I'll go and see, if you like," he offered politely.

"Presently. Tell me about yourself. Why did you give up the Diplomatic
Service?"

"Because there are no diplomatic activities left nowadays for the
citizens of the United States," he replied. "The whole world has become
a gigantic mart for tradespeople to buy, sell, and exchange wares.
Consuls can do our business. And then I came into the Van Roorden money
and turned lazy, I suppose."

"I don't follow you at all," she declared. "Even if commercial
achievement has become the guiding lamp of the world, I don't in the
least know what you mean by saying that there is no diplomacy left for
the United States, Commerce is one of the chief reasons for diplomatic
exchanges, isn't it? I know my adopted country people think so."

He shrugged his shoulders,

"Very likely," he confessed. "Don't take me too seriously. I was only
inventing a justification for my laziness."

She indulged in a little grimace.

"You are distressingly uncommunicative," she observed. "I begin to
suspect that we are both very clever people. All the same," she went on
reflectively, "I don't see why we shouldn't exchange confidences. It
might be amusing."

"It wouldn't be a fair bargain," he assured her. "Your husband holds a
high official position in Berhn. He must be brought into touch with
people who are intimately acquainted with the trend of political thought
in every country. I am nobody and I know nobody."

A smile played for a moment at the corners of her lips.

"You have developed a new and most becoming trait," she declared.
"You're the first modest man I've met for years. We don't raise them in
Berlin."

"The conceit passed out of my system three years and two months ago," he
answered a little bitterly.

She laid her hand upon his. Her voice was almost caressing.

"There is something I shall tell you about that, some day," she
promised, "something which will help you to understand. Meanwhile try
and believe that I too have suffered. I was not so callous as I seemed."

The old spell was upon him for a moment but he told himself that it was
only his senses which were enchained; the rest of him was free.

"I am glad to hear that," he told her with well-simulated indifference.

The room was invaded by a crowd of young people, mostly in flannels, who
had evidently come down from the tennis courts. The young woman who
seemed to be the ringleader of their gaiety--a very attractive looking
young person indeed in her white tennis clothes and smart hat--flashed a
smile of welcome at Grant as she entered the room. The smile was
modified as she glanced a little curiously at his companion. When they
had settled down for tea at an adjacent table, however, she looked over
her shoulder.

"We are having a riotous party to-night," she announced, "dining first
at the Villa, coming down here and going on to dance somewhere
afterwards. Will you be my escort?"

"With the utmost pleasure," he assented promptly. "But shan't I be
getting into trouble? What about Bobby?"

She shook her head dolefully and dropped her voice.

"Misbehaved," she confided. "Seen at Nice when he ought to have been
playing tennis, yesterday afternoon--terrible! Something Russian,
covered with jewels! Bobby can't afford that sort of thing, you know.
We're sending him to Coventry for at least two days."

"Poor fellow!" Grant murmured sympathetically.

"Don't be a hypocrite," the girl laughed. "You know you're glad. I don't
think I shall ever look at him again. And I'm all rebound! Not later
than eight-thirty dinner, please. Dad told me that he wanted to see you,
but we're not going to leave you at home to study bridge problems."

"I shall be punctual," Grant assured her.

"Can't talk any more," she concluded, turning away. "These greedy people
are eating up all the chocolate eclairs. As it is, every one's had more
than his share. You are a pig, Arthur!"

"Who is she?" Gertrude enquired under her breath. "I dislike her anyhow.
I wanted you to dine with me."

"I don't know whether I ought to apologize," he observed, "for having
lost the American habit of introducing. Her name is Susan Yeovil. She's
very charming and very popular. Her little set keep things moving down
here."

"Is she by any chance the daughter of the English Prime Minister?"
Gertrude asked eagerly.

Grant nodded.

"Lord Yeovil is down here for the International Congress," he replied.
"They have a villa at Cap Martin."

"What does he want to see you for?"

"I thought that you might have learnt our secret from what Lady Susan
said," he confided. "We solve the 'Field' bridge problems together. Very
interesting, some of them."

"You're simply horrid," she declared impatiently.

It was the old pout which he remembered so well and a momentary
tenderness beset him. He crushed it back.

"What are you in Monte Carlo for alone, just now, Gertrude?" he
demanded, turning the tables upon her.

She drew a newspaper cutting from a thin gold card-case and handed it to
him. It contained a list of visitors at the various Riviera hotels, his
own name amongst them--underlined. He took the slip of paper from her
fingers and looked at it long and earnestly. Then he handed it back
without remark.

"That is why I came," she confessed. "It is perhaps just as foolish an
impulse as the impulse which swept me off my feet and made a horrible
woman of me three years and two months ago. But it came and I yielded to
it. And now, the first night that I am here, you are dining out. You
actually accept an invitation from that forward young woman whilst you
are sitting by my side."

He smiled imperturbably. His impulse of tenderness had passed. He knew
now why she had come, and the knowledge gave him an advantage. She had
no idea that she had betrayed herself.

"I told you that I had lost my conceit," he said, "and I am not going to
take you literally. There is no hardship, you see, in exchanging Berlin
for Monte Carlo in February."

"There are other places on the Riviera," she reminded him. "We have a
villa at Cannes and quite a number of friends there. Let me know the
worst, Grant. What about to-morrow?"

"To-morrow I am entirely at your service," he replied, "except for the
matter of some tennis in the afternoon. We must lunch together."

She sighed contentedly.

"You aren't going to be absolutely horrid, then?"

"I couldn't be for long," he assured her. "All the same, I am afraid
that I'm running a terrible risk."

Again the smile--and with it the little stab at his heart. He was a man
with instincts of faithfulness.

"I may be running that risk myself," she whispered.



CHAPTER II

Presently Grant and his companion rose and moved to the Rooms, crowded
now with a strange medley of people, men and women of every nationality,
and speaking every tongue, differing racially but brought into a curious
affinity,--the women by the great dress-makers of the world, the men by
the unwritten laws of Saville Row. The corner in which they found
themselves was an auspicious one and they stood for a moment or two
looking on. They themselves were the objects of some attention.
Gertrude, after her last season divided between London and Paris, had
become recognised as a beauty of almost European fame. Her
companion--Mr. Grant P. Slattery was the name upon his visiting
card--had also acquaintances in most of the capitals of the world. In a
way he was a good foil to the woman by whose side he stood,--a tall,
good-looking young American, a little slimmer than the usual type,
looking somewhat older than his thirty years, perhaps because of a
certain travelled air, a quiet assurance born of his brief but
successful diplomatic career in three of the great capitals.

"My adopted country people are back again in force," Gertrude remarked.

"They interest me more than any other people here," Grant confessed. "It
is as though the nation had changed its type."

"Explain yourself, please," she invited.

"I must speak frankly if I do," he warned her.

"As frankly as you please. I hold no brief for my husband's country
people. I like some of them and hate others."

"Well, then," he continued, "it seems to me that the women are no longer
blowsy and florid and over-dressed, the men no longer push their way and
swagger. Somehow or other the women have learnt how to dress and the men
have acquired manners. They are not in the least like the travelling
Germans of say thirty years ago--just before the war."

"They are feeling their way," she remarked cynically.

He looked down at her with the air of one who has listened to wise
words. In reality, it was he who was feeling his way.

"I am not so sure," he reflected. "I wonder sometimes whether the whole
nation has not changed, whether the war did not purge them of their
boastfulness and conceit, whether this present generation has not
acquired a different and a less offensive outlook."

"Do you really believe that?" she asked.

"I am simply speculating," he answered. "To begin with there is a great
change in your aristocracy. Young Prince Frederick, for instance. Every
one says that he has modelled himself exactly upon what the present King
Edward VIII of England was like when he was a lad of twenty. All the
older statesmen tell us that he was the most popular young man in the
civilised world, modest, democratic, charming. These are not Teutonic
qualities, you know, but your Prince Frederick is certainly developing
them."

"I wonder," she murmured.

"Tell me, what is your own attitude towards your husband's country
people?" he went on, almost bluntly. "Do you like them or don't you?
And, more important still, do you believe in them or don't you?"

She looked around her a little nervously. The Rooms were thronged with
people but the corner in which they were standing was still almost
isolated.

"My friend," she confided, "I am a simple woman and not a psychologist.
I live amongst the German people. I do not dislike them as I am sure I
should have disliked the Germans of thirty years ago, but I do not
understand them. You must remember that of the Germans who made their
country the most hated in the world before the war of nineteen-fourteen,
I naturally knew nothing. I wasn't even born when the Peace of
Versailles was signed. The German of those days is, so far as I am
concerned, as extinct as the dodo!"

"If he is not extinct," Grant said, "he is at least not in the
limelight."

"He has perhaps learnt to wear the sheep's clothing," she suggested.
"You will not be able to induce me to say one word either for or against
these people whom I confess that I do not understand. If you would
really like to know all about them," she went on, "shall we ask the one
man who ought to know? Have you ever met Prince Lutrecht?"

"Never," Grant replied. "I know of him, of course, and I have heard Lord
Yeovil speak of him several times lately. They meet most days, of
course, at Nice."

"I shall present you," she promised. "You will find him a most
interesting and delightful man, and, if my husband is to be believed, it
is he who, for the next generation, will decide the destinies of his
country."

"It will give me great pleasure to meet him," Grant assured her. "He was
not in office when I was in Berlin but I remember being told he had a
great dislike to America and Americans."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"His father was of the Hohenzollern regime," she remarked, "and the
Republican Government of to-day is a bitter pill for the aristocracy of
a score of generations. He seems to be alone just now. Wait until I call
you."

She crossed the room and was welcomed cordially by a tall, exceedingly
aristocratic-looking man, apparently about sixty years of age, dressed
with the utmost care, handsome and with a charming smile. A moment or
two later he made his way with Gertrude by his side to where Grant was
standing. He brushed aside Gertrude's formal introduction.

"I had interests in the Foreign Office at Berlin when Mr. Slattery was
at the American Embassy," he said. "I remember him quite well. I regret
very much to hear that you have left the Service, Mr. Slattery, We need
all the help we can get nowadays from Americans of your status and
culture."

"Germany has shown lately that she needs no help from any one, sir,"
Grant replied.

The Prince smiled gravely.

"You are very kind. There is no power on earth which could hinder the
German people from attaining to their destiny. But we need understanding
and we need sympathy. We are not always represented to our friends as we
would wish. I hope that I shall see more of you in Monte Carlo, Mr.
Slattery. I am staying at the Villa Monaco and shall be glad to receive
your visit. I am usually to be found at home, at any time when the
Congress at Nice is not sitting."

He passed on, with a low bow and a whispered farewell to Gertrude,
leaving in Grant's mind a curious impression of unfriendliness, for
which he could not in the least account. Even his civility had seemed
unnatural.

"They say that he is to be our next President," Gertrude confided.

Her companion watched the Prince thoughtfully as the latter paused to
accept the greetings of a friend.

"I don't think I ever met a man who looked so ill-fitted to be the
President of a great democracy," he remarked drily.

"Could you think of a more suitable post for him?"

He nodded.

"I could more easily imagine him the Mephistophelian chancellor of an
autocrat."

"Back in the Hohenzollern days?"

"Or in the days which may be in store for us," he replied.

She looked into the baccarat room.

"An empty place at my favorite table!" she exclaimed. "Call on me early
to-morrow. Grant, and we'll plan something. Forgive my hurrying. I can't
afford to miss this."

He watched her pass into the outer room and seat herself contentedly in
the vacant place. Then he strolled from table to table, risking a louis
now and then, but scarcely waiting to see the result. A spirit of
restlessness pursued him. He stood aloof for some minutes, watching
Gertrude immersed in the baccarat. Then he wandered into the Bar, where
Susan Yeovil presently found him. She sank into a chair by his side.

"Broke!" she announced ruefully, turning her little handbag inside out.
"Not a louis left, and the others won't be ready to go home for an hour
yet."

"Can I be of any assistance?" he ventured.

She shook her head.

"I've been too nicely brought up. I couldn't possibly borrow money from
you. Tell me about the beautiful lady."

"She was very well known three or four years ago in Washington as
Gertrude Butler," Grant confided. "She is the woman to whom I was
engaged and who married Prince Otto von Diss."

She was instantly grave.

"You poor thing!" she exclaimed. "How horrid for you meeting her like
that. Did you mind much?"

"I don't know," he replied. "I was asking myself that question as you
came up. I have never been able to analyse exactly my feeling for her,
either during those days of our engagement or since, I was very much in
love with her, if that counts for anything."

"It doesn't," she assured him. "Being in love is just a spring disease.
I fancied myself in love with Bobby before I heard of him advertising
himself with that Russian lady in Nice. Six sets of tennis this
afternoon, three eclairs and the cocktail you are going to give me
presently have completely cured me."

"Fancy intruding your own experiences in such a serious matter! You are
only a child," he reminded her with a smile.

"I'm nineteen," she retorted. "Surely that is old enough for anything. I
am of age for the great passion itself, if only it would arrive, and
arrive quickly. I believe I heard that croupier call out number
fourteen. I know I shall end by besmirching my good name and borrowing a
louis from you."

He laid a handful of notes upon the table beside them. She shook her
head again.

"Don't tempt me," she begged. "Besides, I think I would rather talk. I
am interested in the Princess. Tell me just how you are feeling about
her."

"I couldn't," he confessed.

"Is she here without her husband?"

"Yes."

"Cat! Of course she's come to flirt with you."

"I don't think so. I think she has come here with an altogether
different purpose."

"What purpose?"

He smiled at her with affected tolerance.

"After all, you know," he said, "young people shouldn't be too curious."

She drew away from him petulantly.

"I wonder," she complained, "why you always persist in treating me as
though I were a child."

"Well, aren't you?" he rejoined. "Nineteen isn't very old, you know."

"Anyway, if father can tell me things," she argued, "I don't see why you
should be so secretive."

"What does your father tell you?"

"Nothing that I am going to repeat to you, Mr. Inquisitor. I will tell
you this, though," she went on, dropping her voice a little. "He isn't
at all happy about the way things are going over at Nice. Did you know
that it was he who insisted upon sittings being suspended for a day, and
that he and Arthur sent no less than twenty cables away last night."

"Yes, I knew," he admitted, "but I had no idea that you did."

She permitted herself a friendly little grimace.

"I only mentioned it just to show that every one doesn't ignore me as
you do," she observed. "Here's Arthur. He's having a day off, isn't he?"

The young man came up and displayed a handful of plaques. He was
good-looking in a pale, rather tired way.

"Why do I slave for your father, Lady Susan," he demanded, "for a vulgar
pittance, when there are thousands to be picked up here without the
slightest effort?"

"Vulgar pittance!" she scoffed. "I'm sure Dad, or rather the country,
pays you quite as much as you're worth. Besides, look at the number of
free meals you get!"

"This to the private secretary of a Prime Minister!" the young man
groaned. "Why, my dear child--"

"I'm nobody's 'dear child'!" she interrupted. "I am 'Lady Susan' to you
two men, except perhaps after a dance, or in the moonlight, or on the
river, when I feel yielding and let either of you call me 'Susan.'
Please, get it into your heads that I am nobody's 'child.' In this age
of flappers, nineteen is almost passe. I could be married to-morrow if I
chose."

"Heaven forbid!" Arthur exclaimed. "At any rate unless it were to me."

"You'd have to change considerably before I'd marry either of you," she
declared. "If you've won all those plaques, you can lend me one. You can
get it out of Father to-night."

"And you refused to borrow from me," Grant said reproachfully.

"Well, you see Arthur is one of the household," she explained, "and I
don't feel the same way about him. Besides, I shall probably repay him
in ten minutes. I feel that my luck is in."

She strolled off. The Honourable Arthur Lymane sank into her vacant
place.

"You're coming up to-night, Slattery?"

"I'm dining."

"The Chief wants to see you particularly," Lymane confided, dropping his
voice. "He's already cabled to Washington. There's a damned funny
atmosphere about the proceedings at Nice this time. Nothing that amounts
to anything without doubt, but every one seems to be so jolly
mysterious."

"Is that so?" Grant murmured.

"The Chief took the bull by the horns yesterday when he suspended
sittings for twenty-four hours. It gives us a breathing spell, anyway."

"Have you any idea what's at the bottom of it all?" Grant asked.

His companion shook his head.

"The Chief will talk to you to-night. He may be more communicative with
you than he has been with me. By Jove! Grant, old fellow!" he exclaimed,
his tone suddenly changing to one of wondering admiration. "There's the
most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my life. Coming straight at us,
too."

The young man had already risen to his feet as though about to take his
departure, but, as Gertrude crossed the room towards them, he remained
transfixed, watching her. His look was no ordinary stare. The admiration
it expressed was, in its way, too subtle and too involuntary.

"She's coming straight at us," he repeated, in an agitated whisper. "For
heaven's sake, if you know her, Slattery, present me."

Gertrude, smiling, came towards them. She seemed already to appreciate
the situation. Grant rose to his feet.

"Congratulate me!" she exclaimed. "I've won thirty thousand francs."

"Come and celebrate with us," Grant invited, drawing up a chair for her.
"Let me present my friend, Mr. Arthur Lymane--the Princess von Diss."



CHAPTER III

The uproarious little dinner party at the Villa Miranda drew to a close.
Lord Yeovil rose to his feet and laid his hand on Grant's shoulder.

"My young friend," he said, "let us leave this scene of debauchery for a
few minutes. You and I will take our coffee together in my den. Thank
heavens, none of my colleagues or any members of our new Yellow Press
were present here tonight. You were the only silent person, Arthur," he
added, pausing on his way to the door. "You look as though you had seen
a vision."

The young man, whose silence had indeed been noticeable, looked up.

"I have," he admitted.

"Arthur has fallen in love with a beautiful stranger," Susan called out.
"Something must be done about it. Now that we've sent Bobby to Coventry
we can't really spare Arthur. Dad, isn't it one of the duties of a Prime
Minister's private secretary to flirt with his daughter when she feels
so disposed?"

"Certainly," Lord Yeovil agreed.

"It is also," Grant reminded her, with a slight smile, "part of the
duties of a Prime Minister's daughter to see that his secretary doesn't
fall under the influence of fascinating but mysterious strangers."

"That settles your hash, young man," Susan declared, across the table.
"You stick to me to-night."

"I think I'll resign," Arthur announced. "These conferences are a great
strain on my nervous system as it is."

"Wouldn't you be scared if Dad took you at your word!" Susan observed,
reaching over the table for the cigarettes, "You'd never get another
job."

"You're all very rude to me," Arthur complained, with a show of dignity.
"I am considered in political circles to be a young man of much promise.
The Daily Sun said so last week."

There was a chorus of derision, in the midst of which Grant and his host
made their way to a small sitting room at the back of the house. Coffee
and liqueurs were upon the sideboard, and upon the table was a copy of
the Field and two packs of cards.

"Now, my young friend," Lord Yeovil invited, "help yourself to anything
you fancy, and there upon the table you will find a highly interesting
bridge problem--by way of bluff. Only, whatever we may have to say to
one another, let us get it over quickly. The great thing is not to keep
Susan waiting. She doesn't understand the interference of international
history with her amusements! First of all, have you anything fresh to
report?"

"Nothing very definite, sir," Grant acknowledged. "But, in a sense, my
cruise to Archangel was a success."

"You mean that you were right in your suspicions?"

"I obtained a good deal of evidence in support of it, evidence which is
now in the hands of the British Admiralty. I was at Archangel for a
fortnight and I had letters of introduction to two of the Russian
admirals. I spent a lot of time on their ships. They were almost as
hospitable as the sailors of the old regime."

"Tried to drink you under the table and that sort of thing, I suppose."

Grant smiled.

"I survived the ordeal, but I am afraid that my liver is temporarily
deranged," he admitted. "I obtained a lot of quite useful information.
Personally I am absolutely convinced now that the Russian fleet has
never been trained or adjusted to form a separate unit. It is intended
to act in conjunction with the German fleet in some unknown enterprise.
A number of the engineers and gunners are Germans and there is a
distinct atmosphere of German discipline about the whole outfit. In
addition, as I dare say you've heard, they're all armed with German
guns. Of course, even a non-expert can easily understand," he went on,
after a brief pause, during which he accepted and lit a cigar which his
host had silently passed him, "that two nations like Germany and Russia
might easily keep within the tonnage allowed them by the Washington
Conference, and yet, if each concentrated upon a particular sort of
armament, they would, when brought together, be a more formidable
fighting unit than the united forces of any two countries who had each
spread out their tonnage to make an individual unit."

"You think that is the basis of this understanding between Germany and
Russia?" Lord Yeovil asked.

"I am convinced of it," Grant replied. "Internal evidence was more
difficult to get than external, but I have obtained a certain amount of
proof that, contrary to the provisions of the Pact, there exists a
secret naval understanding between Germany and Russia. Fortunately for
us and for every one it is Great Britain's turn this year to police the
seas, so I have made an exhaustive report to your Admiralty. I'm pretty
certain that there'll be British warships in the Baltic before many
weeks are past."

"You didn't come back in the yacht?"

Grant shook his head.

"I came back overland, sir. I spent four days in Berlin,--my second
visit as a traveller from the Bethlehem Steel Company."

"Pick up anything?"

"Not much," was the grim acknowledgement. "They're pretty close-lipped
in Berlin just now, and I had to be careful. I came away, however, with
the absolute conviction that there is something in the air. There is
what we used to call 'cyclonic disturbance' about, and the trail led
here. You probably know more about it than I do."

"That 'cyclonic disturbance' is brewing, all right," the other assented.
"We're in the thick of it at Nice. The day before yesterday we came
almost to a deadlock over a question which Lutrecht persisted in raising
and which we discussed for hours. I am going to treat you with a great
deal of confidence, as I always have done. Grant. Years ago, when you
were First Secretary at your Embassy in London, and I was Foreign
Minister, I discovered that you shared one conviction which has been at
the root of the whole of my policy from the moment I entered the
Cabinet. That conviction is that the interests of Great Britain and the
United States of America are inextricably and inevitably identical. I
shan't dilate. There it is in plain words, the text of my political
life, and because I know that you share it, I have treated you with a
confidence I have not extended even to one of my own countrymen. I am
now going beyond the limits of official propriety. I am going to tell
you what the trouble has been at the last two meetings of the Pact. It
has been this: Lutrecht, apparently out of a clear sky, has enunciated
this principle and claims the confirmation of the Pact; that, whereas
every nation of the Pact stands together against aggression by any
member of it against another member, there is nothing in its
constitution to prevent two members of the Pact arriving at a separate
and individual understanding as regards proceedings directed against any
nation not a member of the Pact. Do you follow me, Grant?"

"To the bitter end," was Grant's reply. "The thing's as plain as a
pikestaff. I have felt this coming for years. We are close on the
trouble now."

"Well," Lord Yeovil continued, "I suspended proceedings for twenty-four
hours to obtain the opinion of some international jurists. I shall delay
them for another twenty-four hours until after to-morrow's meeting."

Grant leaned a little forward in his chair. It was obvious that he was
deeply moved.

"I can't tell you, sir, how much I appreciate your confidence," he said,
"and honestly I think the fact that you have been willing to give it to
me has been and will be helpful to the peace of the world. And now I am
going to ask you something else. You are postponing the consideration of
Prince Lutrecht's arguments until after to-morrow, as you admit, with a
purpose. Is that purpose your intention to propose to the Conference
that the United States be once more invited to join the Pact?"

The Prime Minister eyed his vis-a-vis, for a moment, with inscrutable
countenance. He was no longer the indulgent father of a tomboy daughter
or the genial host of a young people's party. He looked every inch of
him the great statesman he really was.

"Where did you get that from. Grant?" he demanded.

"You know my position, sir," the young man replied earnestly.

"I am the one foreign Secret Service agent my country can claim. Even
then, I'm not official. I have money to spend and I spend it. I have
sources of information and I use them. I have friends in Washington,
too, with whom I am in touch hour by hour. This is not a question of
betrayal; it is more divination. They expect that invitation on the
other side, sir. And the best of them hope for it. Will it be
forthcoming?"

Lord Yeovil considered for a full minute. Then he knocked the ash from
his cigar.

"Well," he admitted, "you've seen your way to the truth, Grant. I'm
going to risk it. It's a big thing so far as I am concerned. If, by any
chance, the Conference opposes me, my resignation will be inevitable.
If, by any chance, I get the thing through, and Washington refuses, I
shall be the most discredited politician who ever placed his country in
a humiliating position."

"I don't think the United States will refuse," Grant declared. "It is
most unfortunate that the matter will have to go to the Senate and be
publicly discussed because, of course, as you know, there are always
malignant influences in a polyglot country like ours. But I know the
feeling of the people who count. They want to come in like hell."

"I expect you've been supplying them with a little information," Lord
Yeovil observed.

Grant nodded.

"I never leave them alone," he admitted. "To a certain extent I'm afraid
they look upon me as an alarmist for the simple reason that there is
scarcely a single citizen of the United States who doesn't believe
absolutely in the impregnability of his country. However, I think I've
stirred them up a little in Washington, and there's more to be done in
that way, yet. Do you feel inclined to tell me, sir, what would be the
prospect of the voting if you bring forward your motion to-morrow?"

"They appear to me to be in our favour," was the deliberate reply. "When
the Pact was first formed any invitation to join it had to be unanimous.
Lately, however, that has been modified. Unless there are four
dissentients now, any nation proposed, becomes, if willing to join,
'ipso facto' a member of the Pact. I can conceive two; it might be
possible to conceive three dissentients. I can put my finger upon no
possible fourth."

"I see," Grant murmured. "By the bye was Baron Naga at Nice yesterday?"

"He was."

"Do you know if he has received any dispatches from home since the last
sitting."

Lord Yeovil considered for a moment.

"He must have," he acknowledged, "because he was able to give us a very
crude description of these flying boats of theirs, which the Italians
are so curious about. He had no information at all two days ago when the
matter came up."

"I'd give in the neighbourhood of a million dollars to see that
dispatch," Grant declared.

There was still a great deal of noise in the dining room and in the
passage. Lord Yeovil walked to the door and locked it. Then he came back
to his place. He spoke slowly and with the air of one choosing his
words.

"Slattery," he said, "it has been in my mind for two years to propose a
further invitation to your country to join the Pact, because, in my
opinion, conditions during the last decade have entirely altered, and
the position of your country outside the Pact, even though she may be
considered the greatest power in the world, has become anomalous and
dangerous. She has subscribed to the Limitation of Armaments, which she
herself inaugurated, and has scrupulously carried out her obligations.
With all her power and wealth she is unable to launch a single
battleship or put under arms a single regiment of soldiers beyond the
proportion allotted to her by the other subscribing powers. Yet,
although she is in this position, she is not a member of the Pact. That
is to say, that, legally speaking, any two or three nations who do
belong to the Pact might attack America with superior forces and the
other members of the Pact would be powerless."

"You have placed the matter in a nutshell, sir," Grant agreed. "It was
the consideration of these things which brought me to Europe and keeps
me employed here. America, when the great call came, rose magnificently
to her opportunities. She stretched across to Europe, and though,
indeed, others bore the brunt of the burden, she ended the war of
nineteen-fourteen. Since then, without a doubt, she has had a pohtical
relapse. Her statesmen have lost a certain measure of insight and
vision. She has sunk back into the parochial. Politics have become more
than ever a game and a profession. Her statesmen are so busy fighting
over their own national problems that they have never envisaged the
danger upon the horizon. That has been my view. It is my view to-day."

"Go on," Lord Yeovil invited. "You have not been in Europe during these
last twelve months for nothing."

"I am convinced," Grant declared, "that Germany and Japan have arrived
at an understanding to strike at America. I am convinced for that reason
that they will oppose your invitation to America to-morrow. If they do
not and I have wasted my time, then God be thanked for it. I shall go
back to polo and golf, hunt the hounds at Pau, and never take myself
seriously again."

The older man helped himself to a cigarette and tapped it thoughtfully
upon the table without lighting it.

"There is just one thing, Slattery," he said. "I have the greatest
respect and liking for Naga. I cannot somehow believe that he would
oppose me to-morrow unless he first gave me some intimation of his
intention. Besides, he isn't in the least bellicose. I believe him to be
an honourable man, and I can't imagine his being mixed up in any
Teutonic plot."

Grant nodded.

"I, too," he agreed, "have a great respect for Naga. At the same time,
with these Orientals, one has to remember it is their country first,
their country second, their country all the time."

There were warning sounds from outside--the exodus of all the young
people into the hall. Insistent voices called for Grant. He slipped
across and unlocked the door.

"You had better go," his host advised. "We understand one another and
there is nothing more to be done at present. Tomorrow, after the meeting
of the Conference, we shall know where we stand."

"It's a private meeting, isn't it?"

"Yes. Thank God, we've managed to keep the Press out. Between you and
me, Grant, if there were no newspapers, all the nations of the world
would be sitting round in a family party. There would be no wars and
very few quarrels. It is the enlightened Press of this generation which
provides the fuel for tragedy."

The door was thrown open.

"'X to lead the ace of hearts and make the grand slam!'" Lady Susan
cried. "Do come along. Grant. Whatever do grand slams in print matter? I
have liqueurs on with Arthur that we're in the Club in twelve minutes.
Do you think your Rolls-Royce is equal to it?"

"Nine-and-a-half is my time," Grant replied. "Nine, if you run up the
stairs. Come on!"

The little party hurried off, their automobile lights flashing through
the darkness of the curving drive, their voices disturbing the owls and
waking many echoes in the violet stillness. Then the last car glided off
down the hill and the Villa was left in silence.

Towards it, from the other side of Nice, came thundering through the
darkness a great limousine, with its four lights flaring and siren
whistle blowing. Outside, the driver sat with a face like a graven mask,
with one thought in his brain. Inside, a man lay back amongst the
cushions, upon whose forehead the sign of death seemed to already rest.



CHAPTER IV

Lord Yeovil, after the departure of the young people of the house,
settled down to spend an evening after his own heart. He rang for his
servant, ordered the wood fire to be replenished, exchanged his dinner
coat for a smoking jacket, and lit a battered-looking briar pipe, which
was the delight of his life. He was beginning to feel the need for a
period of cool and impartial deliberation. For the last ten days he had
been presiding over the meetings at Nice of the Pact of Nations, an
organisation established in Paris in nineteen-thirty, and now, twenty
years later, the guiding force of the world. Its bitterest critics--and,
at its inauguration, there had been many--were forced now to admit that
the Pact had become one of the brilliant successes of the century. Its
conception had first been mooted at a Trade Conference at Genoa in
nineteen-twenty-two, and its provisions, subsequently drawn up with the
utmost care by a committee of European law makers, practically made war
amongst its members impossible. France had been able to abandon herself
at last to a sense of complete and luxurious security. Germany, admitted
after some hesitation, had apparently been amongst its most law-abiding
members. The Limitation of Armaments, the great pacific scheme initiated
by the President of the United States early in nineteen-twenty-one, was
still carried on as a separate institution but with numerous
affiliations. There was only one great drawback to the Pact, one flaw
alone which prevented its being the greatest association ever formed
during the world's history, and that drawback was the fact which, at the
present moment, was giving both Grant Slattery and Lord Yeovil cause for
the greatest apprehension. The United States, after a period of profound
deliberation, during which great dissensions had arisen, had decided to
be the one great power outside its influence. For the same reasons which
had kept her for so long out of the war of nineteen-fourteen, she had
reiterated her policy of self-determination and had once more declared
Europe outside the sphere of her political interests. Her position had
been the principal subject of discussion amongst statesmen and thinkers
for many years. No administration, however, had been strong enough to
change it, and it was universally accepted now as an unassailable
attitude. She had ample justification for believing herself strong
enough to fight her own battles and defend her own honour. Her position
was in its way magnificent and evoked the florid and rhetorical praise
of many of her own writers, especially those who were in any way
Teutonic in their origin. Those who, like Grant Slattery, saw the
sinister side of the situation, were few and their voices unheard in the
great glad psalm of thanksgiving in which her Press, day by day, and
month by month, glorified and exaggerated her unexampled and amazing
prosperity. Without a doubt America had become the richest country in
the world.

It was of America that Lord Yeovil, who had once been an exceedingly
popular Ambassador at Washington, was thinking as he smoked his
disreputable pipe, lounging in an easy-chair, his feet upon the fender.
He had a profound respect for Grant Slattery, whose handling of various
intricate matters, whilst First Secretary in London, had won his
unqualified approval. The young man had seemed at that time assured of
an ambassadorship, and his complete withdrawal from the Diplomatic
Service had been a mystery even to his intimates. Lord Yeovil knew the
reason for that withdrawal and was day by day growing more thoroughly to
appreciate it. He was thinking of it now as he smoked his meditative
pipe, wondering exactly how much real information Grant had picked up in
Berlin, wondering, too, whether that small cloud which had already
appeared on the political horizon was destined to seriously disturb the
thirty years of peace.

The sound of wheels in the drive and the pealing of the bell broke into
his reflections. He glanced at the clock. It was a few minutes past
eleven,--an impossible hour for an ordinary caller. Presently Andrews, a
young typist employed by his private secretary, knocked at the door and
entered.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, sir," he said, "but Baron Naga is here and
asks if you will receive him."

"Baron Naga!" the Prime Minister repeated in amazement. "At this hour of
the night!"

"He seems to have come straight from Nice," the young man confided.

"I will see him, unofficially, of course,--delighted. But what on earth
is the urgency?"

"His Excellency gave me no intimation, sir."

"You can show him in," Lord Yeovil directed. "Explain that I'm out of
harness and spending a quiet evening."

Baron Naga himself was obviously paying no visit of ceremony. He had not
changed his clothes for the evening and was wearing the frock coat and
dark trousers in which he usually appeared at meetings of the
Conference. His complexion was always rather more waxen than sallow, but
to-night it seemed positively ghastly. His little formal bow before he
advanced to shake hands was unsteady. A man of another race and
different manner of life might have been suspected of drunkenness.

"My dear Baron!" Lord Yeovil said hospitably. "This is very friendly of
you. I hope you do not bring me bad news. Sit down, please," he invited.

The Ambassador sank into an easy-chair. He was most undoubtedly ill.

"I am much obliged to you, sir, for receiving me at this late hour," he
said. "My errand is of some importance. I have come to announce to you,
in the first place, that my Imperial Master has accepted my resignation
from the highly honourable post of Ambassador to Great Britain, and
also, from the representation of Japan at the Pact of the Nations. I
shall not, therefore, be attending the Meeting to-morrow."

"God bless my soul!" Lord Yeovil exclaimed. "I regret very much to hear
this."

"Your lordship is very kind," was the agitated reply. "Baron Katina is
on his way from Berlin to take my place at the Pact of Nations, and
Count Itash is already on the spot if anything of urgency should occur.
My Imperial Master has not, I believe, as yet signified his wishes so
far as regards my successor at St. James's."

"But, my dear Baron, this is most terrible news!" the other declared.
"Most unexpected, too. It you will allow me to say so, there is no one
with whom it has been a greater pleasure to work or whose loyal support
during the past sessions of the Pact I have more appreciated."

"You are very kind, Lord Yeovil, most gracious," his visitor repeated, a
little wistfully. "It has come to pass, however, that on a very vital
matter I have found myself unable to conform to the desires and policy
of those in whose hands the destiny of my country rests. It is a great
grief to me."

"I am sure it must be," the Prime Minister assented, watching his
visitor closely. "You have made me very curious. I was not aware that
there was any subject of policy at present under consideration which
could give scope for a difference of opinion of such drastic moment."

"The greatest tragedy of this matter is now to come," Baron Naga
continued solemnly. "For my country's sake I am here to betray her
confidence. I shall place you, sir, in possession of certain information
which, as President of the Pact of Nations, should be disclosed to you.
After I have spoken, you will hear of me no more. It is for the ultimate
good of Japan and my people--but for the moment the words I must speak
are treason and for speaking them I must pay the price."

Lord Yeovil was seriously disturbed. There was something in his
visitor's attitude and demeanour which were beyond his comprehension.

"But, my dear Baron." he began

The Ambassador moved uneasily in his chair. There were blue lines under
his eyes. It was more than ever obvious that he was very ill.

"A thousand pardons," he interrupted weakly, "but I have perhaps
underestimated the action--I am weaker than some of my years--listen, I
implore you!"

Lord Yeovil hastened to the little sideboard and poured out a glass of
brandy.

"Don't distress yourself, Baron," he begged. "You can tell me anything
you wish to presently. I am always at your service. Drink this, please."

Baron Naga clutched at the glass, clutched at his throat. He made a
passionate attempt to speak. The words, however, were almost
incomprehensible.

"Katina and--Lutrecht--America--the beginning--the great scheme--Itash
knows--God of my parents!"

The glass rolled from his fingers. His head dropped forward. Lord Yeovil
rushed to the bell.

"Telephone for a doctor," he directed the butler, who answered it.
"Baron Naga is ill."

But Baron Naga was no longer ill. Both master and servant knew the truth
as they stood and looked at the crumpled-up figure in the chair.



CHAPTER V

There is an inner annex to the Bar at the Sporting Club, at either end
of which a discreet flirtation is entirely in order. Grant, wandering in
for a whiskey and soda towards midnight, was suddenly transfixed by the
sight of Gertrude and Arthur, their heads very close together, the young
man's air of devotion unmistakable. He watched them with a deepening
frown. Suddenly he felt a touch upon his arm. Susan stood by his side.
Her voice was as gay as usual, but she was pale and a little tired.

"Disgraceful, isn't it?" she exclaimed. "We're absolutely deserted. I'm
afraid Arthur's lost his head altogether."

"He's a fool!" Grant declared.

She looked at him a little wistfully.

"Do you mind so much?"

"I mind because--"

He broke off in his sentence. After all, his peculiar knowledge of
Gertrude was better kept to himself for the present.

"Well, I don't like to see him make a fool of himself," he concluded a
little awkwardly. "The Princess is a married woman and has a jealous
husband. She is also a hardened flirt."

"We thought of going on directly," she announced. "What ought we to do
about Arthur?"

"I'll go and tell him as soon as you're ready," Grant offered.

"We're all here now. Rose and Tommy are outside, and Bobby's gone for
his coat. We've had to forgive him. He's so terribly penitent. We've
four without him if you like. I suppose you could look after me with an
effort," she added, looking up at him.

"Of course I could, but we ought to let him know we're going," Grant
decided. "I'll step across and tell him."

Susan turned towards the cloak room, and Grant made his way towards the
two people whom they had been discussing. Gertrude welcomed him with a
smile, half challenging, half provocative. Her companion was inclined to
be querulous.

"Lady Susan wants to know whether you're coming along with us, Lymane?"
Grant said. "We're all quite ready."

The young man glanced at the clock.

"Much too early," he grumbled. "There'll be no one there before one
o'clock."

"The others seem to wish to go."

"Well, there are four of you," Lymane pointed out. "I'll come along
presently."

"I think you'd better come with us," Grant persisted. "That is, if the
Princess will spare you."

"But I will not spare him," she laughed. "I like him very much. He says
much nicer things to me than you do and I do not see why you should
hurry him away, just as we are getting on so nicely."

"Neither do I," Lymane agreed. "Make my excuses, there's a good chap.
I'll come along within half an hour or so. Lady Susan is in your charge,
anyway, not mine. I'm the odd man out."

Grant turned away with the slightest of bows. He found the little party
waiting for him downstairs, reinforced by the advent of another young
man, a friend of the Lancasters.

"Arthur is hopelessly enslaved," Grant announced. "The beautiful
Princess has him in her clutches. He says he'll come along presently. I
should doubt whether we see him again this evening."

"It doesn't really matter whether we do or not," Susan remarked, as she
stepped into the car, by Grant's side. "That nice Wheeler boy who plays
tennis so well is coming along, so we shall get all the dancing we want.
Are you going to dance with me. Grant? And why do you look so cross?"

"I'm not really cross," he assured her, "but Arthur, when he likes, can
be such a hopeless young ass. Anyway, I'll get the first dance with
you."

They glided across the square, past the gardens and into the quiet
street on the right-hand side. They entered the restaurant to the
strains of modified jazz music, ordered champagne and sandwiches and sat
down at a round table.

"You do dance well, you know, Grant," Susan told him after their second
turn.

"You're rather wonderful yourself after eight sets of tennis," he
observed. "Is it my fancy or are you a little pale?"

"I did feel tired a little time ago," she admitted. "It's passed of?
now, though. What a shame one of you have to sit out."

"Bobby isn't going to sit out long," he pointed out. "Young rascal!"

They watched the young man lead away one of the professional danseuses.
Susan laughed heartily.

"Just like Bobby," she declared. "He can't dance for nuts. If he wanted
to dance with a professional though, I wonder why on earth he didn't
choose the little one at the next table to us."

Grant glanced at the girl whom his companion had indicated, at first
carelessly, but afterwards with genuine interest. She was seated at a
small round table close to their own,--dark, pale, almost sallow, with
rather narrow eyes of a deep brown shade, silky eyebrows and eyelashes,
and black hair in which, as she moved her head to the music, there
seemed to be a gleam of wine colour. She was plainly dressed in a black
taffeta gown and she wore no jewellery of any sort. There was something
about her expression peculiarly inscrutable and yet Grant fancied that
as his eyes met hers she intended in some mysterious way to let him know
that she had observed his interest.

"What a quaint creature," he observed. "I wonder who she is?"

"She's one of the professional dancers," Susan told him. "She was here
on Monday, and when we were here the week before. She was dancing all
the time with the Japanese Count then, the young man who does the
interpreting at Nice. Look at Bobby being taught new steps; isn't he
priceless?"

The evening wore on in the usual way. The little party danced
incessantly, drank a moderate quantity of champagne and a great many
orangeades, and watched the throng of people with a certain amount of
interest. Suddenly Susan touched Grant on the arm.

"A tragedy!" she whispered. "Look at the dark young woman's face. Her
Japanese Count has just come in with another woman."

Grant turned around and was just in time to catch an expression on the
girl's face which, for a moment, almost shocked him. The slightly
scornful air of inscrutability was gone, the lips had parted, there was
a gleam of white teeth, her eyes had narrowed almost into slits, and her
eyebrows had drawn closer together. It was all over in a moment, so
quickly indeed that Grant wondered whether it had really been murder
that he had seen there. She even glanced across the room and nodded
carelessly at the young man and the girl, a danseuse from a neighbouring
café. Grant exchanged a questioning glance with Susan.

"Do you know," he said, "it seemed to me, for a moment, that she was
going to play the virago."

"She looked like a little fiend," Susan replied. "Bother, here comes
Arthur. I suppose I shall have to dance this with him."

Lymane came in, full of apologies. He was a little absorbed in manner
and he took the chaff to which he was subjected in a somewhat
spiritless fashion.

"Don't see what any one's got against me," he remarked, as he helped
himself to a glass of wine. "You're a man over, already. What about this
dance, Lady Susan?"

"The next," she answered, waving him away. "After that, you, please.
Grant."

Grant and Arthur Lymane were left alone. At the adjoining table the dark
girl with the inscrutable face was smoking cigarettes and drinking tea,
glancing occasionally towards them.

"Lymane," his companion said. "May I take a liberty with you?"

"Go ahead."

"I don't think you're altogether wise to cultivate your acquaintance
with the Princess von Diss."

"Why the devil not?" the young man demanded.

"If you're going to take it like that, there's no more to be said about
it. Sorry I interfered."

"You'd better tell me what you mean, anyway."

"Mine is simply the obvious point of view," Grant explained. "You are
the private secretary of the Prime Minister of your country, who is also
President of the Pact of Nations. I do not think that I would become too
intimate or be seen too much in public with the wife of a German
statesman of Von Diss's known proclivities."

Lymane lit a cigarette with trembling fingers.

"You're out of your mind, Slattery," he declared.

"Perhaps," was the quiet rejoinder. "The advice I have offered you is
for your own good."

"The usual cant," the young man sneered. "Why you might have been born
thirty years ago. What's the difference between Germany and the other
nations? What's the Pact done, I should like to know, if it hasn't
brought them all into a group? You seem to be harking back to the
primeval days when German spies and adventurous princesses were the
stock in trade of the sensational novelist."

"Such people may still exist," Grant persisted.

"Rubbish! What is there to spy about? They're all making a fuss over at
Nice, but I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't amount to
anything. You're a bit of an alarmist, I know, Slattery, but I'm not. In
any case, to take exception to my friendship with the Princess simply
because you yourself have had a misunderstanding with her is neither
more nor less than ridiculous."

Grant looked at his companion curiously.

"I am sorry you take it like that," he said. "I will admit that I hold a
somewhat gloomy view of the international situation just now, but you
are wrong when you suggest that I have had any sort of a
misunderstanding with the Princess."

"At any rate. Von Diss is not a particular friend of yours, is he?" the
young man asked meaningly.

Grant rose to his feet.

"Look here, Lymane," he protested, "there are limits to the disagreeable
things you may say to me. I think--"

It was one of those happenings which Grant could never explain, even to
himself. He rose to his feet simply with the intention of leaving his
companion for a moment or two. As he did so, unseen to him, the girl at
the next table rose also. She held up her arms quite naturally, without
saying a word, without even looking directly towards him. No word of
invitation passed from either one to the other. When, afterwards, Grant
asked himself how that dance had come about, he could only surmise that
the girl had willed it.



CHAPTER VI

"I SUPPOSE," Grant remarked, after their first turn of the room, "that I
must be psychic."

"Why?" the girl asked.

"Because, although you have never addressed a word to mc, not even since
we commenced to dance, I believe that you have something to say."

"It is not you who are psychic," she replied. "It was I who conveyed
that impression to you. We will stop now. Come this way, please."

She led the way to two chairs set in a retired corner of the Bar, which
was just then almost deserted.

"That was a very short dance," he complained.

"You dance very well," she answered, "but to talk is sometimes more
important."

He looked at her with quickening curiosity. In her strange, quiet way
she was, without a doubt, attractive, but in an absolutely unanalysable
manner. Not only was she without ornaments, but her dress itself was
made in the plainest possible fashion. There was no colour upon her
cheeks or carmine upon her lips. She seemed even to have disdained the
powder puff.

"What will you have?" he asked, as a waiter drew near. "Some champagne?"

"Thank you," she replied. "I never drink wine. I will have some tea and
some cigarettes."

"Aren't you a little unusual for a place like this?" he asked.

"Very," she admitted. "At first they did not wish to take me. Now they
know better. I can bring them custom when I choose."

"You speak very good English," he said, "but you are not English, are
you?"

"My mother," she told him, "was Japanese. My father was a Levantine. I
was born in Alexandria. There are only two things I can do in the
world--dance and speak many languages. But no, there is a third. I can
hate."

"Well, I hope you won't hate me?" he remarked, smiling.

She studied him for a moment and it seemed to him that it was the first
time that their eyes had met.

"No," she assured him. "I shall never hate you, nor shall I ever love
you. Perhaps that is as well or the young lady at your table would be
jealous."

"There is no one at my table who is particularly interested in me," he
declared.

"That is not true," she replied. "Lady Susan Yeovil is very much
interested in you."

He was half amused, half inclined to be irritated at what seemed like
presumption.

"The young lady and I are very good friends," he observed.

"That may be your feeling but it is not hers," she said composedly. "You
look as though you thought that it was not my affair. It is not. I will
speak to you of another matter."

"As soon as you please. I must be getting back to my friends before
long."

She stirred her tea lazily.

"I shall not keep you from them," she promised. "Do you know the man who
came in with Yvonne Cortot from the Café de Paris?"

"I have never seen him before," Grant replied.

"His name is Itash," she confided, "Count Itash. Some of the girls call
him Sammy--I do not know why. You are an American, are you not?"

"I am," he admitted.

"You are a patriot?"

"I think I may call myself one," he assented, a little bewildered,

"Then you should beware of Count Itash," the girl said slowly, "Count
Itash, whom Yvonne christened Sammy. Count Itash does not love your
country. He would hurt you if he could."

Grant felt that she was watching him out of the corners of her eyes. He
laughed with pretended scorn.

"My dear young lady," he protested, "all that sort of thing died a
natural death many years ago. I don't suppose there is any great
friendliness between our nations but we get on all right nowadays."

"Do you? I am not so sure. Count Itash does not think so either. I have
heard him speak of disputes in Washington."

"Count Itash seems to be a very indiscreet young man," Grant observed.
"There may have been a little trouble lately but all these things are
settled now in a friendly way."

"There is something coming soon," she warned him, "which will not be
settled in a friendly way. There is a demand soon to be made in
Washington which may end in a threat."

"A threat of what? The days of wars are over."

She turned her head slightly.

"Only for those," she reminded him, "who belong to the Pact of Nations."

"What on earth do you know about the Pact of Nations?" he asked
curiously.

"I know everything there is to be known. I have a capable instructor."

"I am more than ever convinced," he said drily, "that Count Itash is a
very indiscreet young man."

She knocked the ash from her cigarette onto a plate.

"Count Itash has never addressed a word to me on the subject in his
life," she assured him.

"Who is your informant, then?"

"Count Itash."

"You indulge in conundrums," he remarked.

"Why waste time on the unimportant?" she queried scornfully. "I can tell
you great truths. What does it matter how I came by them? You would
scarcely believe me if you knew, and it really does not matter. The
truth is all that matters."

"Who is it that you imagine to be plotting against my country?" he
asked.

"Japan and Germany. Possibly China also. You know what Germany lives
for? Revenge. As the years go by, her schemes mature. She is nearer the
end now than at any time. Shall I tell you of two things which will
happen before many years have passed?"

"I fancy that you're a prophet of woe. Let's hear, anyway."

"Prince Frederick will have been proclaimed Emperor of Germany, and
Germany and Russia will have declared war against the world."

"Has your informant also vouchsafed the information as to where the
money is to come from?"

"From the conquest of America,"

"God bless my soul!" Grant gasped.

The orchestra was playing a waltz now. The music seemed to reach them in
little ripples of melody. The sound of voices grew louder, and even the
popping of corks more insistent. A young man came round towards the Bar
and paused to glance meditatively at the two occupants of the almost
empty room. Afterwards he ignored them and seated himself on one of the
stools in front of the Bar.

"Itash is uneasy," she whispered. "He does not wish very much that I
talk to you. He has no idea that I know what I know, but you see how
restless he is. Something tells him that there is danger about. Sammy!"

The young man swung round on his stool and came towards them at once.

"Let me introduce to you my new friend, Mr. Grant Slattery," she said
coolly. "Count Itash."

"I am very glad to meet you, sir," Itash declared, speaking English with
a somewhat guttural accent for one of his race.

"And how is it that you have left Yvonne?" the girl enquired. "You had
better hurry back, or she may make you jealous, There are many here who
like to dance with her."

"Yvonne! That is nothing!" he answered. "An affair of the moment. Will
you dance with me, Cleo? That is if you, sir, will permit," he added,
turning to Grant.

"By all means," the latter assented, "but Mademoiselle will return?"

"I shall most certainly return," the girl promised. "There is a great
deal more that I have to say to you, Mr. Slattery. I like very much to
talk to you. You understand so well the things that interest me."

"The prodigal returned!" Rose Lancaster exclaimed, as Grant rejoined the
little party. "I think that we ought to send him to Coventry just as we
did Bobby."

"Nonsense!" Susan expostulated. "Every one dances with these
professionals. The only point is whether Grant was quite justified in
taking her to such a very secluded corner. Votes on the subject,
please!"

"She is a most attractive-looking young woman," Lymane declared.
"Something about her quite different. I thought at first she was a
little shopgirl out for a holiday."

"I didn't," Susan remarked drily. "I've seen her dance. Her name is
Mademoiselle Cleo, and she used to be at the Palais Royal. What did you
talk to her about, Grant?"

"To tell you the truth," he replied, "we were in the midst of a most
interesting conversation when her young Japanese admirer came and
dragged her away. We're going to finish it later."

"You're engaged to dance this with me, anyhow," Susan reminded him,
rising to her feet.

They moved off, danced, and waited for the encore.

"I wish you hadn't been so attentive to that young woman," Susan said
abruptly.

"Why?"

She waited for a moment until they were out of the crowd.

"There's some trouble between them already," she whispered. "Was he
jealous of you, do you suppose?"

Grant looked across the room. Itash and the girl were seated at a table
together, Itash leaning towards his companion, his face dark and even
threatening. The girl smiled back at him with a look of obvious disdain.
Close at hand, Yvonne, the little danseuse from the Café de Paris, whom
Itash had brought with him, watched them both with growing anger.

"I'm afraid there's going to be trouble there," Susan observed. "This is
just the sort of thing which makes one realise, after all, that these
places are rather sordid."

"I don't think you need feel like that," Grant assured her. "As a matter
of fact, a very interesting situation has developed. Itash, unlike most
of his race, seems to have been a little communicative to the girl. Now
he has made her wildly jealous and she threatens to talk. I believe that
he is terrified."

"Talk? What about?"

"Lady Susan," he said, dropping his voice a little and drawing his chair
nearer to hers, "you have been your father's confidante to some small
extent, and I dare say you can understand that, while these
Congressional Meetings are going on at Nice, we are in the centre of a
very hotbed of intrigue. The threads sometimes show themselves in the
most unlikely places. I rather fancy that there is one of them to be
caught hold of here."

"How exciting!" she murmured. "I felt sure, from something Dad said,
that there was trouble brewing. Who's misbehaving, Grant?"

"The two from whom trouble was always to be apprehended," he answered.
"It's all tremendously interesting, only what I can't understand is how
a close-mouthed fellow like Itash could ever have let a word escape him.
As a matter of fact, the girl herself said that he hadn't. And yet she
knows. She has given me plenty to think about already."

They danced again once or twice. Afterwards Susan was claimed by Lymane,
and Grant strolled across towards the Bar. As soon as she saw him alone.
Mademoiselle Cleo rose to her feet with the obvious intention of joining
him. Itash laid his hand upon her wrist, leaned forward and spoke to her
fiercely. She only laughed. Grant, however, who had caught the young
man's expression, was suddenly anxious. He had a feeling that the field
of action had broadened, that they were no longer in the little night
restaurant, but on the arena of a prospective and far-reaching
battleground. Itash, his face dark with anger, had risen to his feet.
Yvonne came up and touched him on the arm. He only pushed her away. She
went off, laughing, with some one else. Cleo, ignoring Itash's attempts
to detain her, came smiling towards Grant.

"I am afraid," he said politely, "that you are in trouble."

"Yes," she assented. "I am in trouble with my friend, Count Itash. If he
knew what I had told you--what I am going to tell you--he would
certainly kill me. The most amusing part of it is that, as he sits
there, biting his nails and cudgelling his brains, he cannot imagine how
it is that I know."

"How do you know?" Grant asked curiously. "Have you spied upon him,
listened to private conversations, stolen his papers?"

"Not one of these," she answered. "Yet I know. I know of the great plot,
started six years ago and now rapidly drawing near to fruition."

"Are you going to tell me about it?"

"As I learn the details, yes," she promised. "Day by day and week by
week, you shall know everything. In the meantime, alas! I must make
friends with him again. Unless we are friends there are some things
which I shall never know. But when I do know them, you shall be told. It
is my will to wreck his schemes."

"Who is working with him?" Grant enquired.

She looked across the room to where the young man's vengeful eyes seemed
to be glaring at them from behind his spectacles.

"Your intelligence should tell you that," she replied. "Germany, of
course. Well, I like Germany well enough. They are a great people. I am
not so fond of England. But Itash is to be destroyed."

"Is it my fancy," Grant asked, as she rose to her feet, "or are you just
a little unforgiving?"

She looked back at him over her shoulder.

"I despise all people," she said, "who forgive. I never change, I never
forgive, I never forget, I never break a promise. I go back to Itash now
because there are things I do not know, but he will have little joy of
me. I promise you that."

She swung across the room, laughed down at the young man who awaited
her, and sat by his side. He began talking in a low, fierce tone. She
leaned back, fanning herself. Grant returned to his own table.

"A very amusing place, this," he observed. "What about another bottle of
wine?"

"Certainly not," Susan declared. "Arthur has paid the bill, and we've
made up our minds to go. Bobby has danced five times with that girl with
the ginger hair. You have absented yourself twice with the nondescript
young woman. And I have come to the conclusion that this is no place for
a nice girl to spend a happy evening."

"Believe me," Grant began

"Not a word," she interrupted. "We're all going home. Three o'clock, and
tennis to-morrow before lunch. Of course," she concluded, "you needn't
come, unless you want to. As a matter of fact, though, I should think
you've made quite enough mischief for one night. The Japanese youth
looked as though he were trying to think out some complicated form of
murder for you, when you disappeared with the young woman."

"I shouldn't be surprised if his thoughts were turning that way," Grant
admitted. "He's a sulky brute. Hullo! Here's Andrews! I wonder what's
up."

The young man who had just entered approached Lymane and whispered in
his ear. They talked for a few moments in agitated monosyllables. Then
Lymane turned towards the others.

"Andrews has just brought some extraordinary news," he announced. "Baron
Naga motored over from Nice to the Villa to-night, was taken ill and
died there an hour or so ago."

Grant looked across the room, hash was still talking volubly. Cleo was
still listening with the same inscrutable look.



CHAPTER VII

Gertrude was more than content with her luncheon companion on the
following morning. In some subtle but unmistakable way Grant's attitude
seemed to have changed. He looked at her with undisguised admiration and
the table which he had selected was in the most secluded corner of the
famous restaurant at the end of the Arcade. She gave a little cry of
delight as she leaned over the great bowl of pink roses which were
awaiting her.

"How wonderful!" she exclaimed.

"How wonderful to have you here," he murmured gallantly.

She looked at him with a faint air of surprise. Yesterday he had seemed
all reserve, sometimes even a little cold. To-day his deportment was
almost that of a lover.

"Why are you so much nicer than yesterday?" she asked, as she took her
place.

"My resistance is weakening," he confessed.

She gave a little sigh of content.

"I think," she confided, "that I am going to enjoy my luncheon. But
before we say another word--tell me some more about this horrible
tragedy. What was it? Heart disease?"

Grant nodded.

"The doctor thought so. I believe that he is making a further
examination."

"Why did Naga motor all the way from the other side of Nice to see Lord
Yeovil so late last night?" she enquired.

"Something to do with the meeting at Nice," he replied indifferently.
"Let's talk about ourselves, Gertrude."

She allowed her hand to rest for a moment on his. Again she looked at
him, half curiously, half with gratification.

"You are really much nicer than the Lymane boy," she declared, "and I
thought that I should have to rely upon him for a flirtation."

"You'll do nothing of the sort," he announced brusquely.

"Mayn't I dine with him?"

"No," was the firm reply. "He has his work to attend to and you have me
to look after."

She gave her undivided attention for a few moments to the hors d'oeuvres
and made a selection.

"Well," she decided, "we will postpone the discussion."

"If a flirtation is necessary to your peace of mind and contentment of
spirit," he continued, "I must dig into the memories of my own sombre
past."

"Dear me," she sighed, "I am afraid poor Otto is going to be very
jealous."

"I was very jealous of him once," Grant reminded her. "It's my turn
now."

"How much are you in earnest?" she asked curiously.

"I shall endeavour to show you."

"The life of an attractive woman," she murmured, "is full of
complications."

"So are the lives of her victims," he commented. "Besides, there happens
to be a little owing to this particular victim."

"Owing?" she repeated.

"I mean it. If you have any thoughts to spare from your husband, any
kindness to give, any affection to bestow, these gifts belong to me."

Again she looked at him searchingly.

"Why are you so changed since yesterday?"

"Yesterday the old soreness had come back," he explained. "I loved you
and hated you. To-day things seem to have fallen into a clearer
perspective. I don't hate you any more."

"And do you--love me a little?"

He looked into her eyes which, before his earnest gaze, became faintly
troubled.

"Grant," she whispered, "I don't know whether I want you to talk to me
like this. I have a horrible feeling somehow that you're not serious.
And besides--supposing I were to lose my head."

"Even then," he said, "you might look upon it as atonement."

She became silent for a time, obviously disturbed. The subjects which
had filled her mind had been forcibly ejected.

"I can't think--really I can't think. Grant, what possessed me in those
days," she murmured reminiscently. "Otto was so furiously in love with
me, and he was so violent. I hesitated and then he seemed to have it all
his own way. And I rather wanted to be a Princess."

"Don't let's talk about the past," he begged, his mouth hardening a
little. "The only correct philosophy is to live from day to day. Let us
talk about to-day, and then to-morrow."

She was almost embarrassed.

"Grant dear," she expostulated, "you mustn't make love to me like this
before everybody. Prince Lutrecht always comes here to lunch and
Cornelius Blunn arrived early this morning."

"Cornelius Blunn," Grant repeated. "One of the most interesting men in
Europe, I should think."

"He is an intimate friend of my husband's," she remarked drily, "and for
a widower, he's rather great on the domestic virtues. If we meet him
I'll present you."

"How much of the rest of your day am I permitted to claim?" he enquired.
"I should think we could dodge this virtue-loving millionaire somehow or
other."

"But what about poor Mr. Lymane?" she demanded. "He has sent me a
roomful of roses already this morning."

"Life," Grant declared, "is going to be full of disappointments for that
young man."

"Meanwhile," she suggested, smiling, "supposing we leave off talking
nonsense for a little time. I should like to hear some more about Baron
Naga. Have you been up to the Villa this morning?"

"Yes, I went up to see if there was anything I could do. They are
terribly upset, of course."

"Why did he come all the way from Nice at that time of night?" she asked
for the second time.

"There was no particular reason that I know of, except that things are
not going quite so smoothly as they should at the Conference," he
confided. "Baron Naga, I think, wanted to explain his position."

"In Berlin they say that the Pact is breaking up," she told him,
dropping her voice a little. "I never thought that it would last so
long. America did well to keep out of it."

He nodded with assumed self-satisfaction.

"Yes, I think we did the right thing," he agreed. "America doesn't need
allies, and she certainly doesn't want to be dragged in to pull the
chestnuts out of any one else's fire. She is great enough to stand
alone. No one can hurt her. Thank God no one wants to."

"I wonder," Gertrude reflected. "America has enemies, you know."

"Pooh! None that really count," he assured her. "Japan, of
course--furious because we won't let her little yellow men come in and
become citizens. And I suppose a portion of Germany's historic hatred
descends upon us, too. Apart from that, we are all right."

"Supposing America were asked to join the Pact to-day; do you think she
would consent?"

"I'm sure she wouldn't," he replied confidently. "Not the ghost of a
chance of it. She's been out for all these years, making her own
commercial treaties, and to-day is easily the richest country in the
world. Why should she change?"

"Why, indeed," Gertrude murmured. "I was just interested to know how you
felt about it."

"I feel as our President feels," he continued, "and most of our thinking
men. We are satisfied. We shouldn't get into a state of nerves even if
Japan got leave to start building a couple more cruisers a year. By the
way, I wonder whom they will send to take Naga's place at the Pact?"

"Katina is coming from Berlin," she told him. "I believe he is on his
way already. I don't suppose I should have told you that," she added,
with a little laugh, "but you see I'm beginning to have confidence in
you--or rather in your indifference to these things."

"Why did you ever doubt me?" he asked. "I told you yesterday that I had
finished with politics."

"Well," she explained, "you know how careful Germans are. You used to be
in the Diplomatic Service, and I've heard you spoken of once or twice as
a person who ought to be watched. I think I can clear your suspicious
character now, though."

"I'm afraid I'm too lazy," he answered, "to be seriously interested in
anything. The Van Roorden millions wrecked my ambitions. You'd have been
a very rich woman if you'd waited, Gertrude."

"If I'd waited," she sighed, looking at him for a moment, and then
dropping her eyes.

The restaurant, which had been almost empty at their first coming, had
now filled up. Gertrude looked about her in surprise.

"Why, I never saw these people come in," she declared. "There's Prince
Lutrecht over there. And a whole party of your friends. I don't think
Lady Susan likes me."

Susan nodded and smiled across the room. Her eyes, however, had a shade
of reproach in them as they met Grant's.

"Like you.-' Of course she likes you," he protested. "If there's an
unpopular one in the party, it isn't you. Look how Lymanc is glaring at
me. Gertrude, you won't dine with him, will you?"

"My dear Grant, how on earth am I going to get out of it?" she asked.

"I'll get you out of it all right," he promised. "Tell me, who is the
corpulent gentleman of pleasant appearance, with the hat too small for
his head, who is standing upon the threshold, beaming at you?"

"That is Cornelius Blunn," she whispered. "He's a dear thing. Do be
civil to him for my sake. He could make mischief with Otto if he wanted
to, and I'm afraid he's coming to speak to me."

The newcomer--stout, genial and jovial--was crossing the room, smiling
as though the whole of Monte Carlo was some tremendous joke and the fact
of meeting the Princess its supreme consummation. He lumbered up like a
great elephant, moving clumsily on his rather short legs. But the air
with which he raised Gertrude's fingers to his lips was the air of a
courtier.

"Why, Princess," he exclaimed. "How delightful to find you, and how good
for one's national self-respect to discover that no one in this
wonderful place can even hold a candle to a compatriot."

"Always a flatterer," she smiled. "Let me introduce Mr. Grant Slattery.
Mr. Cornelius Blunn."

Mr. Blunn shook hands pleasantly, but without enthusiasm. His manner
suggested that Grant's presence as Gertrude's sole companion needed some
further explanation.

"Mr. Slattery is one of my oldest friends," she continued. "We were
children together in Washington."

Mr. Blunn beamed. A great smile seemed to rise from the depths of his
nature. He was a man of sentiment and he recognised the claim of old
friendships. He took the affair under his protection.

"Delightful!" he exclaimed. "Mr Slattery, you must not doubt my
sincerity when I say that it is always a pleasure to meet an American. I
am no stranger in New York. I was one of the first who dared show
himself there after the terrible days of the War. I was a youngster
then--but it hurt. Still, I said to myself, I will go there. It is the
home of many of my race. If there is still bad feeling between us, it
must perish. And it has perished. Of that I am assured. It has indeed."

"Do you travel in England, too?" Grant asked.

Mr. Blunn was no longer a completely happy man. He sighed.

"In England--no," he answered. "That is another matter. Princess, I kiss
your fingers. My luncheon will be a happier meal for the pleasure you
have brought into the room. Mr. Slattery, I envy you, sir. So does every
man, but I bear you no grudge."

He departed, ponderous yet light-footed, elephantine yet dignified.
Grant gazed after him with genuine curiosity.

"If I were up against that man in a business deal or a political
imbroglio," he murmured, "I should feel that I needed all my wits about
me. A person of that type is more dangerous than all the Lutrechts in
the world."

"Dangerous? But how, dangerous?" she queried. "Mr. Blunn is a great
philanthropist and an enthusiastic patron of the arts. In what respect
could he be dangerous?"

"Only if he chose to be," Grant answered carelessly.

"Could I be dangerous, if I chose to be?" she demanded.

"You are dangerous," he assured her. "You are the most dangerous woman
in the world, to my peace of mind. And the terrible part of it all is
that you are a German. You belong to a race with whom the domestic
virtues are a positive fetish."

"Just because I married Otto?"

"Just because you married Otto," he acknowledged. "Germans have the
knack of making Germans of their wives."

"Absurd!" she laughed. "What is there Teutonic about me? German women
haven't my figure, and they certainly couldn't wear my clothes."

"Externally you have advantages," he admitted. "All the same you have
married a German and you are a governed woman."

"How you hate my adopted country," she exclaimed.

"I do not," he objected. "I hate neither the country nor the people. My
feeling is entirely different. I don't mind admitting that if I were a
seriously minded politician I should be afraid of them."

"But why?" she asked. "What is there to fear? Industrially the world is
open to every one since war was done away with."

"Perhaps so."

"But isn't it, Grant, really? The Pact includes every European nation,
as well as Japan. Then there's the Limitation of Armaments as well.
Every nation is more or less on an equal footing, and they are all
pledged not to fight one another. You must admit that Germany has kept
the conditions of the Pact faithfully. Where can fear lie?"

"Where, indeed? You mustn't take me too seriously, Gertrude. I only
meant that, so far as I can see, Germany is well on the way to becoming
the second most powerful nation in the world. But honestly, I don't know
why we're talking politics. I lost all interest in them years ago. Do
you know what I did yesterday?"

"Tell me," she begged.

"I wired to Cannes for my yacht. It should be here to-morrow."

She looked at him for a moment steadily. Then a tinge of colour stole
into her cheek. She seemed suddenly a little nervous.

"I wish I knew which was the real Grant," she murmured.

"What do you mean?"

"The Grant of yesterday--or the Grant of to-day."



CHAPTER VIII

"One needs to be long-suffering to cope with one's friends," Susan
remarked, when an hour later she found herself seated side by side with
Grant on a bench at the tennis courts. "Last night you showed marked
attentions to a danseuse; this morning you have been flirting
disgracefully with that beautiful princess, thereby reducing poor Arthur
to despair, and now you propose to devote a few minutes to me for the
first time to-day. I am beginning to fear, Mr. Grant Slattery, that you
are going to be a disappointment to me."

"Not at tennis, anyhow," he assured her. "You and I are going to wipe
the ground with the Lancasters."

"Our thoughts are on different planes," she declared. "I speak of life
and you of tennis. I think we shall beat them, if you stand up to the
net and don't poach."

"How's your father to-day?" he asked a little abruptly.

"Quite all right, considering. It must have been a terrible shock to him
to see that poor old man collapse with scarcely a moment's warning."

"Naga was a great statesman," Grant remarked. "One of the last of the
old school. Come on, it's our court."

On the way across, an acquaintance hailed Grant. By his side stood Count
Itash--sometimes called Sammy.

"Slattery, Count Itash says that he has only an informal acquaintance
with you and would like an introduction," the former said. "Count
Itash--Mr. Grant Slattery."

Grant held out his hand. The other, after a little bow, accepted it. He
was an insignificant-looking person amongst the athletic young men by
whom he was surrounded, but his eyes, behind his horn-rimmed spectacles,
were exceptionally hard and piercing.

"I am glad to meet you, Mr. Slattery," he said. "Could you, before you
leave the courts, spare me a minute or two?"

"With pleasure," Grant assented. "We are going to play the best of three
sets here. I'll look for you afterwards."

"You are very kind, sir."

"Who's your little friend. Grant?" young Lancaster enquired curiously.
"He's the fellow we saw at the Carlton last night, isn't he?"

"That's the chap," Grant replied. "He rejoices in the name of Itash. I
believe I have heard that he is attached to the Japanese Embassy in
Berlin and is doing secretarial work for their section here.
Queer-looking card, isn't he?"

"I couldn't make out where I'd seen him before," Lancaster observed, "I
remember now; I used to see him driving about with Baron Naga.
Dismal-looking beggar, isn't he?"

"I expect the poor young man is upset about his Chief," Susan remarked.
"What did he want. Grant?"

"Wanted to speak to me," was the indifferent reply. "He's going to wait
until after we've finished our three sets."

"You're going to get some part of what's coming to you," Susan laughed.
"You took his dancing companion away last night and you spoiled Arthur's
luncheon to-day. Why don't you get a girl of your own?"

"I try," Grant confessed humbly. "I'm afraid I'm not popular with the
sex."

"That's your fault," Susan insisted. "A nicely brought-up girl always
likes a well-behaved man. Now get up to the net and remember we've money
on this set. Serve!"

The tennis courts presented a gay scene as the afternoon wore on. There
was the usual crowd of English and French people, the women nearly all
in white, the men, especially the foreigners, showing a little more
variety in their costumes. The sun was shining and every one seemed
inspired by the soft exhilaration of the air, the beauty of the
glittering blue sea below, and the mountains behind. There was a crowd
too of more elaborately dressed spectators, a fluttering of
many-coloured parasols, and all the time the cheerful hum of
light-hearted conversation in many tongues. With characteristic
patience, Count Itash--sometimes called Sammy--sat on his solitary bench
and waited--a solemn, almost ghoul-like figure, on the outskirts of the
gaiety. At the conclusion of their sets. Grant, after he had received
the congratulations of his partner, went over and seated himself by his
side.

"What do you wish to say to me, Count Itash?" he enquired.

"I offer apologies, but I am in some trouble," the young man explained
earnestly. "It concerns the lady with whom you talked last night."

"Mademoiselle Cleo?"

"The young lady who is so called," Itash assented. "She has been my
companion for some time here in Monte Carlo. I will now be very
truthful. I have taken a fancy to another girl. Such things happen."

"Quite so," Grant agreed. "But I can't exactly see how this concerns
me."

"It is in this way. Cleo is very, very angry. She knows that I am in
the Diplomatic Service,--that I am, in fact, occupying a very
confidential and important position down here. She makes a pretence of
having obtained possession of secret information concerning the affairs
over which I watch, and she threatens to make use of it."

"Well?"

"But I have never confided in her, not one word," the young man
declared. "We Japanese are not like that. We do not talk. We carry our
secrets in our brain."

"Then if you have told her nothing, what are you afraid of?" Grant
asked.

"I have told her nothing," Itash repeated vehemently, "nor can I think
of a single written line of a compromising nature which could possibly
have come into her possession. Yet I am disturbed in my mind. Cleo is a
strange being. She has the gift of speaking the truth. Not all people
have it. When she speaks a thing, one's heart feels that it is true. So
when she tells me that there are secrets of mine which have come within
her knowledge, I am afraid. She came to you last night, and she talked
to you earnestly. I ask you, sir, did she tell you anything of those
affairs confided to me, the disclosure of which could amount in any way
to a breach of faith?"

"Not a word," Grant assured him. "To be quite frank, I don't know what
you're talking about."

The young man passed his hand across his forehead.

"Mr. Slattery, sir," he confessed, "I am in great distress of mind and
body. The death of my Chief last night was terrible, and all the time I
cannot escape from this load of anxiety which weighs upon me."

"I should use a little common sense," Grant advised. "If you know that
you have told her nothing, if you know that you have committed none of
your secrets, whatever they may be, to paper, can't you realise that she
is only trading upon your fears?"

"That must be so," Itash muttered.

"Furthermore," Grant continued, "if she had secrets to tell, why on
earth should she bring them to me? I am the last person in the world
likely to be interested in them."

The young man shot a sudden quick glance at his companion. Then he
blinked a great many times behind his spectacles.

"I see that," he acknowledged. "You are not in the Diplomatic Service,
Mr. Slattery?"

"In my younger days I was Secretary at Berlin and London for a short
time," Grant told him. "When I came into my money, however, I chucked
it. The young lady's choice of me as a confidant would have been
ridiculous."

"Just so," Itash agreed. "Then she told you nothing?"

"Nothing at all."

"Nor did she give you the impression that she had anything to tell?"

"She gave me no impression at all, except that she was rather a
mysterious young person, suffering from an acute fit of jealousy."

Itash rose slowly to his feet. He held out his hand.

"I apologise humbly, Mr. Slattery," he said. "I see that I have been
very foolish. Thank you for listening to me. I will go now."

"You are not going to play?"

Itash shook his head sorrowfully.

"It would not be reverent. In a week or two, perhaps, if I am still
here."

He made his way towards the gate,--an odd figure, in his ceremonious
black apparel. Susan looked after him curiously.

"Well, have you promised to let him have his girl back again?" she asked
Grant, as he returned to her side.

"I have assured him that I am not a serious rival for her favours," he
rejoined. "The young man seems comforted."

"Got your hands pretty full as it is, haven't you?"

"Look here," Grant said severely. "Kindly remember that I have just
steered you to victory on the tennis courts, and in a day or two, if you
behave yourself, I will be able to take you for a cruise in the Grey
Lady. Incidentally I should be glad if you would further bear in mind
the fact that I am a great many years your senior. A little more
respect, please. Now, come along, and I'll give you a lift down to the
club for tea."

"Thank you. I thought of going with Bobby."

"You may have thought of it, but you are coming with me," he insisted.

"Rather a bully, aren't you?" she observed coolly. "However, perhaps I'd
better. Bobby gets so affectionate in those little voitures,--thinks one
needs steadying all the time. You're above that sort of thing, aren't
you?"

"The springs of my Rolls-Royce," he began

"Oh, bother the springs of your Rolls-Royce," she interrupted. "I'm
coming with you because I want to get to the club quickly and because I
like your car."

"The worst of being a millionaire!" Grant complained gloomily, as he
took his place at the wheel. "One is tolerated only for one's
possessions."

"They're generally the best thing about a millionaire," Susan declared.
"All the same, if there were an unattached English one in the market, I
think that I should like to marry him."

"What's the matter with a perfectly good American one?" he suggested.

"Entrancing idea, but illusionary," she rejoined drily. "I hate
syndicates, or rechauffes. I'm going in to tidy up. Grant. Try and get
the round table in the corner."

She jumped out and ran lightly up the steps. Grant backed his car to the
pavement and was in the act of following her when the blue-liveried
commissionaire, hat in hand, accosted him mysteriously.

"A young lady asked me to give you this as soon as you arrived, sir," he
announced, presenting a twisted-up half sheet of paper.

"Sure it's for me?" Grant asked a little doubtfully.

"Mr. Grant Slattery," the man declared. "The young person knew your
name, sir."

Grant thrust the note into his waistcoat pocket. He felt a curious
conviction as to its source. To add a touch of coincidence to the
affair, on the opposite side of the way, Itash was leaning over the
wall, apparently watching the shipping in the harbour.



CHAPTER IX

As A yachtsman Mr. Cornelius Blunn did not shine sartorially. As a guest
and conversationalist at Grant's improvised cruise on the following day
he was easily the most popular man on board. Susan, who had been his
neighbour at lunch, watched him pacing the deck, with a look almost of
affection in her face.

"Princess," she confided to Gertrude, "I think your friend, Mr. Blunn,
is the most amusing man I've ever met."

Gertrude smiled.

"He is one of those impossible persons who never grow up," she declared.
"A picnic like this is the joy of his life. He was simply delighted when
I gave him Mr. Slattery's message. The strange part of it is that he can
scarcely cross the gangway of a steamer without being violently ill. Yet
a cruise like this he simply revels in."

"Make his fortune as a raconteur on the music-hall stage," Bobby
Lancaster chuckled. "Some of the stories he told after you girls had
come up on deck!--there was one about a little Dutch girl. I really must--"

"Bobby," Susan interrupted severely, "I am ashamed of you. The story
will reach us all in due course through the proper channels. You will
tell your sister, of course. She will tell me. And so on."

"Then there was another about an Italian maid."

His sister rose to her feet and thrust her arm through his.

"Bobby," she said, "you and I will take a little walk. You have brought
this upon yourself. I can't see you chuckling there and leaving me to
wonder what it's about all the time. We'll stroll down to the bows."

"This roundabout business is trying but decent," Susan observed. "I
suppose I shall have to wait at least another quarter of an hour. In the
meantime, Mr. Slattery, I adore your yacht."

"She really is wonderful, Grant," Gertrude intervened. "You hadn't
anything like this in the old days, had you?"

"Perhaps it was as well," Susan murmured, with a rare impulse of ill
humour.

Gertrude smiled across at her rival. Grant had scarcely left her side
all day and she was beginning to feel a little sorry for this very
charming young English girl to whom her coming was likely to prove so
disastrous. Even the picnic had been arranged at her suggestion.

"Well, the yacht has arrived, and other things," she remarked. "It is
never too late in this world, so long as one has the will. Grant, I want
to go to the Dutch East Indies."

"I'd better tell him to put in at Naples and coal, then," he suggested.

"You will kindly remember," Susan observed, "that you have the Prime
Minister of the greatest empire in the world on board, who will be
required at Nice at a quarter to eleven to-morrow morning to preside
over the little tea party there."

"That is unfortunate," Gertrude sighed. "Such a quarrelsome little tea
party too, isn't it?"

Lymane, who was seated in the little circle, moved in his chair
uneasily. Grant turned slightly towards her.

"Quarrelsome, is it?" he repeated. "How do you know that?"

"Oh, the air is full of rumours," she answered carelessly. "Yesterday,
for instance, everybody was saying that that poor dear Baron Naga had
committed suicide because America was to be invited once more to come
into the Pact."

"I thought it was because he found he had one funnel too many on his
latest cruiser," Bobby Lancaster remarked.

"Idiot!" his sister exclaimed. "That's the business of the Limitation of
Armaments Congress, not the Pact."

"Naga, as a matter of fact, represented his country on both Boards,"
Lymane pointed out. "Too much for one man. I know that he dreaded that
journey to Washington every year."

The stewards appeared with tea. Lord Yeovil and Cornelius Blunn joined
the little group. The latter removed his hat, dragged his chair out to
where he could set the full benefit of the sunlight and the breeze, and
smiled on every one beatifically.

"Mr. Slattery," he said, "you are, without exception, the most fortunate
man in the world. You own the most perfect yacht I have ever seen, you
have no business or other cares, you have the friends who make a man
happy. It is a wonderful existence."

Grant smiled.

"Rather a lazy one, I am afraid," he admitted.

"Laziness is the only sound philosophy of life," Blunn insisted. "If you
have no need to work for yourself, why do it? If you spend your time
working for others, you meet with nothing but ingratitude. I grudge the
time I have to give to the management of my own affairs, but I am always
deeply grateful that I was never tempted to dabble in politics. I am
training up young men, and in five years' time I shall be free from all
cares. When that time comes, I shall be like a lizard in the sun of good
fortune. I will never write a letter and seldom read a newspaper."

"I thought that all Germans were politicians by instinct, from their
cradles upwards," Lord Yeovil remarked, smiling.

"Not in these days," Blunn replied, helping himself to his third cake.
"My father, of course, was a rabid politician, but he lived in terrible
times. A prosperous Germany is so much to the good, of course, but her
sons naturally lack the inspiration of what used to be known as
patriotism. The fact of it is," he went on, "that industrially Germany
has come in for a great heritage. If she had been as prosperous in
nineteen-fourteen as she is today, that wicked old Kaiser of ours might
have rattled his sabre forever and no one would have listened. What
people have often failed to understand about my country is that we are
not seekers after glory. We want money and the ease and comfort and
happy days that money brings."

"You don't think that Germany wants another war, then?" Bobby Lancaster
asked.

"My dear young man," Blunn assured him emphatically, "there isn't a
leader living or a cause in existence which could induce the German of
to-day to exchange the loom for the sword. There isn't a nation which
rejoices so thoroughly in the Pact. I thought that this was absolutely
understood by now. Even the English sensationalists have begun to trust
us."

He smiled around upon them all. Somehow or other he seemed to feel the
inspiration of the circle of interested auditors.

"There is only one thing needed," he continued, "which my friends the
politicians tell me would end the last hopes of the militarists, and
that is that the Pact of Nations, over which my honoured friend here,
Lord Yeovil, so ably presides, should induce the United States of
America to join them and abandon forever her present aloofness. I do not
understand myself the means by which this could be done or the etiquette
necessary, but as a representative German citizen, my hand of
comradeship is ready at any moment."

"I wonder," Lord Yeovil speculated, "whether you really do speak as a
representative German citizen."

"Believe me, I do," was the earnest reply. "My simple tastes in life are
shared by millions. What the German of to-day wants is his beer, his
wine, his music and his womankind. He wants to spend his spare time with
his children and to be able to buy his little home early in life. I am
not a great traveller; I don't know how it is with other nations. I know
how it is with my own. We want to live out our days comfortably and
pleasantly. We are natural human beings, filled with natural desires. I
have eaten too many cakes. I shall walk for a little time or I shall
have no appetite for this wonderful dinner, which our gracious host has
promised us. Princess, will you do me the honour?"

Gertrude rose from her place.

"I am not a great walker, Mr. Blunn," she warned him, "but for ten
minutes I will be your companion."

"That ten minutes," he rejoined, "will be the crown of my day."

They all looked after him a little curiously as he stepped out upon his
promenade. Lord Yeovil was very much interested.

"I am delighted. Grant," he said to Slattery, "that you have given me an
opportunity, through your friend the Princess von Diss, of meeting Mr.
Blunn. I find him an extraordinary intriguing personality."

"For a multimillionaire he seems to be a very simple creature," Rose
Lancaster observed.

"'Multi' is inadequate," Grant interposed. "He is reputed to be worth
anything from forty to sixty million pounds. It is hard to see how any
one could have handled such wealth and have remained so apparendy
ingenuous."

"Do you distrust him?" Susan asked a little bluntly.

Grant hesitated. He seemed to be watching Gertrude and Blunn as they
walked together,--Gertrude superbly beautiful, walking with the perfect
grace of her long limbs and exquisite poise, Blunn striding along
cheerfully by her side, a figure, by contrast, almost of absurdity.

"Well, I don't know," he acknowledged. "You remember what our own
Ambassador said many years ago. 'Trust everybody but a German, and trust
a German when he is dead.'"

Lord Yeovil smiled.

"Nevertheless, Grant," he confessed, "I have a leaning towards Mr.
Blunn. I am almost sorry that he is not a politician. I would rather
have him seated at the Conference table than our friend Lutrecht. What
about a rubber of bridge until cocktail time? We can play on deck."

Blunn stopped short in his promenade.

"Bridge?" he repeated, with a broad smile. "Did I hear some one say
anything about bridge?"

"Mr. Blunn is a fanatic," Gertrude declared. "Grant, you will have to
come and entertain me, unless you are very anxious to play."

He rose at once to his feet and gave an order to the steward whom he had
summoned.

"I will show you the chart room," he suggested. "There are plenty to
play without me."

They strolled off together. Susan sat watching them with interlaced
fingers. Suddenly she became aware that Blunn's eyes were upon her.

"Lady Susan and I against any two," he proposed jovially. "Take me out
if I double 'no trumps' with your best suit, partner. Discard from
weakness. Always support me when you can, and we'll win all the money
there is on the yacht. Between ourselves, I have a yacht almost as large
as this, lying up in Kiel Harbour even now. I daren't use her because of
the socialists."

"Socialists!" Lord Yeovil repeated. "One never hears of them nowadays."

"They've all come to Germany," Blunn confided. "They are like
mice,--they always go for the ripening cheese. They are just a slur upon
our too great prosperity. One 'no trump,' partner. I knew it. You have
brought me luck. I am going to hold every card in the pack."



CHAPTER X

Gertrude's interest in the intricacies of nautical science abated as
soon as she found herself alone with her host in the chart room. They
sat on cane chairs, and she swiftly brushed aside his explanation as to
the problems suggested by the compass.

"My dear Grant," she laughed, "I don't care a bit how you set the course
of your yacht or where you go to. What I should really like to know is
why you don't hold my hand?"

"I am placing a great restraint upon myself," he assured her. "My
captain is on the left-hand side of the bridge there, and my first
officer on the right."

"Why you have a room with all these silly little windows, I can't
imagine," she complained. "I am feeling unusually gracious this
afternoon. It was really very sweet of you to arrange this party and to
let me bring Cornelius Blunn. He was most anxious to meet Lord Yeovil."

"I wonder why?" Grant remarked. "He appears to hate politics and most
serious matters."

"He does, but he loves men," she explained. "Men, and women, too, for
that matter. A new type interests him. He has more friends than any man
I ever met, and the number of his women acquaintances is scandalous."

"He seems quite a simple person. I should never have believed that he
was the Cornelius Blunn one reads so much about,--the great capitalist,
the huge speculator, the man who controls the brains of so many great
enterprises."

"Mostly newspaper talk," she observed carelessly. "He holds the majority
of the shares in a great many of these companies by inheritance, but he
takes no active part in their management. I wonder what Lord Yeovil
thought of his suggestion that America ought to be asked again to join
the Pact of Nations."

Grant's expression was one of bland indifference.

"I have no idea what Lord Yeovil's own views on the matter may be," he
confessed. "We seldom talk politics. How does a man like your friend
Blunn, now, get on with politicians, say of the type of Prince
Lutrecht?"

"Well, they are entirely different," she said thoughtfully. "Lutrecht is
a born statesman. He comes from a stock of diplomatists. He would never
have the broad views of Cornelius Blunn."

"This matter of America, for instance?" Grant hazarded.

"How should I know anything about it," she queried, a little
impatiently, "and why do we waste time talking politics? You're not
nearly so nice as you were yesterday. Have you nothing more interesting
to say?"

"And if I have, what would be the use?"

His tone seemed full of bitterness, his glance was certainly
reproachful. She leaned towards him and took his hand boldly.

"Can't I make up, just a little. Grant?" she whispered.

"Do you want to?" he demanded.

"I think so."

"And then go back--to Berlin?"

"Who knows?" she sighed. "You yourself have had proof that I am a
creature of impulse. When I feel strongly enough I have no will."

There was a knock at the door. A steward brought in a message scribbled
on a piece of paper. Grant glanced at it and nodded.

"We had better go down," he said, turning to Gertrude. "The captain
wants to consult me about the course. I have promised Lord Yeovil that
he shall be back at ten o'clock. And I have an appointment myself
later."

"What sort of an appointment?" she asked a little jealously.

"Nothing of any moment," he assured her.

They descended the steps, Grant pausing to speak for a few moments with
the captain.

"I'm tired of all these people," Gertrude declared abruptly. "Take me
into your music room and I'll play to you."

He shook his head. Lymane was glowering at them from the rail, and Rose
Lancaster was sitting alone.

"Alas!" he murmured. "You must remember that I am a host."

"I shall flirt with Arthur Lymane," she threatened.

"You've done that already," he answered drily.

"Nonsense, I've only trifled with him," she laughed. "He's a nice boy
but conceited. Walks in his master's shadow and fancies himself a
diplomatist. He is as some one once said of a war time Prime
Minister,--full of small reticences and bubbling over with ingenuous
disclosures."

"How did you discover that?"

"When I talk to him I have to pretend to be interested in politics," she
replied evasively. "There is nothing else he can talk about."

Susan cut out of the rubber and Rose Lancaster took her place. Grant
crossed over and sank into a chair by the former's side.

"Any luck?" he enquired.

"Thirty francs, thanks to Mr. Blunn. He's a daring caller but he plays
the cards wonderfully."

"A most interesting character," he remarked.

"Father seems to like him," she agreed. "The only German he ever has
liked."

"And you?"

"I like him, too, or rather I think I do," she replied, after a moment's
hesitation. "There are just odd moments when he gives me rather a quaint
impression of insincerity. I dare say that's fancy. Grant, you're giving
us a wonderful day."

"I want it to be," he answered. "It's very nice to get you all here, and
I fancy it must be rather a relief to your father to be right away for a
few hours. No messages or cables possible. Hullo!"

He looked up at the masthead. Susan followed his example. There was a
little crackling of blue fire there.

"I'm afraid I spoke too soon," he pointed out. "The wireless is
evidently working. I meant to have had it disconnected."

Lord Yeovil, who was playing a hand, paused for a moment and looked up
curiously.

"I should like to have been Prime Minister to Queen Elizabeth," he
grumbled. "One might have had a chance of a few hours' holiday then."

"Not you, Dad," Susan exclaimed. "You'd have found making love to her
all the time much more strenuous than law-making."

"My knowledge of history is slight," her father rejoined, "but I don't
fancy that Queen Elizabeth showed much amorous interest in elderly
widowers."

The Marconi operator presented a message to Lord Yeovil. He tore it
open, nodded, and waited till the young man had retired. Then, after a
moment's hesitation, he glanced across towards Gertrude, who was leaning
against the rail, with Lymane by her side.

"My news is official," he said, "but there is, I imagine, no secrecy
about it. It will probably interest you, Princess."

"Me!" Gertrude exclaimed, looking genuinely surprised.

"It is a cable from Berlin," Lord Yeovil continued, "which Andrews has
wirelessed on to me. 'Baron Katina left this morning with cabled
credentials to take Naga's place here. I am informed that he is
accompanied by Prince von Diss.'"

"Otto! My husband!" Gertrude cried.

Lord Yeovil assented.

"Is your husband, by any chance, a Japanese scholar, Princess?" he
asked.

"He understands Japanese," she replied. "He learnt it at Tokyo years
ago. He has been over there once or twice since on missions."

"That probably explains the matter," Lord Yeovil pointed out. "Katina
has the reputation of being a great diplomatist, but he has only just
commenced the study of European languages. The Prince is probably coming
with him as interpreter."

Gertrude's face was, for a moment, scarcely beautiful. She was looking
across at Grant. Susan intercepted the glance and laughed, for her, a
little maliciously.

"What a catastrophe!" she murmured.

A steward handed round cocktails. Blunn looked at the beautiful glasses,
with their slight frosting, and rose to his feet, as he accepted one.

"To my friend and host," he said, addressing Grant. "I drink to you
fervently, sir. You are the prince of hosts. Three minutes ago I felt
that slight uneasy sensation, that faint but insistent desire for
alcoholic sustenance, which sometimes prompts me at about seven o'clock
to press the bell for my own butler, or if I am in an hotel or at my
club, to make certain suggestions to the waiter. The feeling comes and
within three minutes it is gratified. Wonderful!"

He raised his glass to his lips and drained it.

"Have another," Grant invited; "there's a shakerful behind."

"I will," Mr. Blunn assented, without hesitation. "I like your
cocktails, sir, I like the time and manner in which they are served. I
like everything about them. It is indeed a very happy day. I am going
two 'no trumps.'"

Gertrude raised her glass.

"Well," she said, "I suppose I must drink to the end of my
grass-widowhood."

She looked across at Grant. He smiled inscrutably.

"You anticipate," he reminded her. "The Prince cannot arrive until the
morning after to-morrow."

She paused.

"In that case," she decided, "I shall drink to something else."

Dinner, served as they crept at half-speed towards the harbour, was a
wonderful meal. Grant's chef, who had ransacked Monte Carlo on the
previous day and motored over to Nice to collect the materials for one
of his favourite sauces, had surpassed himself. Every one except
Gertrude seemed in the highest possible spirits. Cornelius Blunn,
growing pinker with every course, sat like an overgrown and over-filled
child,--sometimes witty, sometimes ingenuous, always amusing. Rose
Lancaster on one side and Susan on the other were admirable and
appreciative foils for his gallantries. Gertrude, on Grant's right, was
a little silent and intense; Lymane, on her other side, sulky and
inclined to be melodramatic. He was continually endeavouring to inveigle
his neighbour into a whispered conversation which she, as persistently,
discouraged. She declined altogether to take him seriously.

"My dear man," she protested, "don't you understand the situation? I
cannot flirt with you any longer. My husband will be here within a few
hours. I must bring myself into the necessary state of mind to receive
him. It is a calamity, perhaps, but it must be borne."

"You have the whole of to-morrow," he muttered.

"It will take me the whole of to-morrow to find myself," she assured
him. "Here have I been encouraging Mr. Slattery and, at any rate,
listening to you, with all the licence of a fairly respectable but
susceptible grass widow. Otto is very jealous and I am a very dutiful
wife. I have little more than twenty-four hours to forget you both. I
must be left entirely alone. I have promised to dine with Mr. Slattery
to-morrow night, and a promise is a thing I never break. I warn him,
however, that it will be--well--"

"I rather understood," Lymane interrupted bitterly, "that you were
dining with me and coming somewhere to dance afterwards."

"That was the night after, my friend," she replied. "And, alas! there's
nothing in the least modern about Otto. I'll give everyone fair warning
that while he is here I shall not be allowed to dine or flirt with any
one. To-morrow night is my last evening of freedom. Don't be surprised.
Grant, if I lead you a terrible dance."

"Why should they have a dinner to themselves?" Cornelius Blunn
exclaimed, turning to Rose Lancaster. "I will give a dinner party
to-morrow night. I invite everybody. I have some other friends, over at
Nice. I will wire for them. Prince Lutrecht and his wife shall come. I
will spend the whole of to-morrow arranging it. I cannot equal this
festival but I will see what can be done. Accept quickly, please, every
one of you."

There was a little affirmative chorus. Cornelius Blunn looked across at
Gertrude. She set her lips and shook her head.

"I shall not give up my own dinner," she declared, defiantly, "and I
decline to let Mr. Slattery off."

"Very well," Blunn acquiesced good-humouredly. "I shall either alter the
date of mine or it shall be an opposition. I shall probably have
refinements which have never been thought of before. I shall have the
roof removed from the Hotel de Paris for a quarter of an hour only and
presents dropped down from aeroplanes for every one. I shall have
Mademoiselle Lebrun from Nice to sing to us and Coquinet to tell us
stories. I shall--"

"Don't give it all away," Gertrude interrupted. "If you are trying to
tempt me, I am quite firm. If you give your dinner to-morrow night, I
shall dine with Mr. Slattery."

"My attitude towards your husband in this matter," Blunn declared, "will
be one of pained but remorseful silence."

"So long as it really is silence," Gertrude laughed.

"I have ordered coffee and liqueurs on deck," Grant announced. "We are
just entering the bay and the moon is up. You ladies may need your wraps
but it is quite warm."

They trooped up the companionway. Grant looked for Susan, but she had
hurried on with young Lancaster. On deck they found that they were
already headed for the narrow opening between the red and green lamps of
the harbour. The great sweep of the bay was outlined by a glittering arc
of lights; the towering hillside in the background was bespangled with
little points of fire. The Casino flared out in front. The moon,
yellower and fuller at every moment, seemed to give a note almost of
artificiality to the little scene; they could even hear the sound of
music from the open windows of the Concert Room. Susan and Lancaster
found their way into the bows and stood watching the phosphorus. Lymane
brought coffee to Gertrude where she sat close to the rail.

"Do you really mean it about to-morrow?" he asked.

"Of course I do. Why not?"

"You were not engaged to dine with Grant Slattery," he complained. "You
made that up."

"What if I did?" she answered coolly. "Mr. Slattery is an old friend, he
is very amusing and he talks about things that interest me."

"Don't I?" he demanded.

"To be quite frank, you don't," she confessed. "You are very young, you
know, and you think because you are private secretary to the Prime
Minister that you have to wrap yourself in a mantle of impenetrable
reserve. I'm positively ill at ease talking to you. I am so afraid that
I shall ask something which will provoke one of your diplomatic
replies."

JO THEWRATHTOCOME

He leaned a little nearer to her.

"Come out to supper with me to-night," he begged,

"And I'll talk about anything you like in the world."

"Supper, to-night," she repeated, a little dubiously. "But shan't we be
tired?"

"No," he answered eagerly, "you can rest for two or three hours. Let me
call for you, say, at twelve o'clock."

She considered the matter for a moment. Then she nodded.

"Well, you can come and see me at twelve o'clock, anyway," she agreed.
"You're a very nice boy, and I didn't really mean to be angry with you.
You remember our bargain?"

"Rather!" he answered rapturously.

She looked over her shoulder. Grant had descended from the bridge and
was coming down the deck. For once the young man was quick to
understand.

"I shan't say a word about it, of course," he assured her.

She laughed back at him.

"I see there are hopes for you, after all," she declared.



CHAPTER XI

Grant walked into the Carlton at a quarter past twelve that evening, the
exact hour mentioned by Cleo in the note which the commissionaire at the
Sporting Club had given to him. He left his coat and hat in the coat
room, made his way inside the restaurant, which was as yet sparsely
occupied, and, ignoring the efforts of the maitre d'hôtel to provide him
with a table, strolled across to where Cleo was seated alone. She
welcomed him with a bare uplifting of the eyebrows, the sparsest
possible smile.

"You permit me?" he asked, with his hand on the back of her chair.

"Certainly," she assented. "Sit down if you wish, but I have changed my
mind. I have nothing to say to you."

He summoned a waiter and ordered some wine.

"That seems unfortunate," he remarked. "May I have the pleasure of
providing you with your accustomed beverage?"

"You can order some tea for me," she said shortly, "and as many
cigarettes as you like. But, alas, you will be wasting your kindness. I
have nothing to say to you."

"Perhaps," he suggested, "I should not be considered unreasonable if I
were to ask why this change? I am here at your invitation."

"It is permitted always to a woman to change her mind," she reminded
him. "I believe you're one of those with whom frankness is best. I have
changed mine because Itash--"

"Sometimes called Sammy," he murmured.

"--has changed his attitude towards me."

"All up with the little lady from the Café de Paris?" Grant queried.

"He has finished with her," she confided. "It was nothing but a passing
fancy, ministered to by her lies. I wish, instead of talking nonsense to
you, I had killed her."

"But, my dear lady, consider how different everything would have been,"
Grant pointed out. "Things having happened, as they have, behold
ourselves seated--friends, I trust--in this very pleasing place of
entertainment, alive and well, and with perfectly robust futures. If you
had killed that rather impossible young lady, where would you be now? In
that uncomfortable-looking edifice which these wise people of Monte
Carlo keep absolutely out of sight, awaiting your trial and not in the
least sure what was going to happen to you."

"I am satisfied, if you are," she said shortly.

"Of course, as a patriotic American," he went on, "there are drawbacks
to the situation. You were going to explain to me, if I remember
rightly, exactly how to save my country from her impending doom, and you
were also going to reveal to me various nefarious schemes directed
against her."

"Imagination!" she declared. "Nothing that I said was true. It was just
spite."

"Well, I don't know that it much matters," he observed, sipping his
wine. "I didn't believe it, anyhow."

"Why didn't you believe it?" she demanded.

"Because," he told her, "I have had some conversation with Count Itash.
I have come to the conclusion that that young man is not a fool. Under
those circumstances I do not see how he could possibly have confided
important political secrets to you. Nor can I conceive any sane reason
for his having put them upon paper in such a fashion that you could have
stolen them. Therefore, the existence of any means by which you could
have read the riddles of Itash's brain does not seem to me possible."

"So, to put it in plain words," she suggested

"I think that you were romancing."

She looked at him half mockingly, half in admiration.

"Really," she confessed, "I find you, for quite an ordinary person,
unusually quick of perception."

"And to be equally honest," he rejoined, "I find you only attractive
inasmuch as you are entirely removed from the commonplace. You are not
good-looking enough to be a danseuse here. I am not sure that you dance
well enough. You just have qualities that go to the ordinary man's head.
And therefore shall we have one dance before I make my disappointed way
back to the hotel?"

Again there was the beginning of that smile, which she seemed never to
finish. They moved away to the music. When the dance was finished they
found their way to two easy-chairs in a far corner of the Bar. She
looked at him sombrely. The smile was no nearer breaking into fruition
upon her lips.

"If I were not in love with Sammy," she acknowledged, "I think that I
should rather like you."

"A pity about that subjunctive," he sighed. "I am not at all sure that
he deserves you."

"If a man really deserved a woman," she said, "it is perfectly certain
that the woman would not care for him. That always happens."

"It sounds platitudinal for you," he commented.

"Pooh!" she scoffed. "We all have to be reminded of the things we know
best. I am, as you have suggested, plain, dull, altogether ordinary. Yet
I have gifts. Sammy, at one time, loved me desperately. If he ceases to
love me and puts another in my place, I shall destroy him. At present
his passion has returned. He has been very sweet to me for many hours,
and so, Monsieur l'Armericain, let us say good-bye. He does not like you
and it would do me no good to have him' come here and find us together."

Grant rose to his feet and bent low over her fingers.

"Mademoiselle," he said, "I do not think that this is the end. You would
doubtless prefer, under the circumstances, that I quit the restaurant."

"It would be to my advantage, in case Sammy should come," she admitted.
"If you were with a party of your friends it would be another matter."

Twice, during that few hundred yards down to the front, Grant stopped,
fancying that he was followed. Each time, if there had been a shadow
behind, it faded away. He entered the Casino, which he seldom visited,
without exactly knowing why, avoided the Cercle Prive and hung about the
tables near the entrance where the stranger visitants to Monte Carlo
congregate. He drew near a table and threw a louis on his favourite
number. It lost the first time. He repeated his stake and won. He turned
abruptly around, with his winnings, and was not in the least surprised
to find Itash standing behind him.

"You are fortunate," the young man murmured equably.

"They are a small part of life, these games of chance," Grant replied.

Itash's dark eyes glowed behind their spectacles.

"Listen," he expounded. "If you treat life like a science to be lived by
the direction of the brain, day by day, year by year, decade by decade,
then life is a thing that grows dry as dust in the living. It counts
only for the hucksters. But if one only realises--if one treats it as a
gamble--a hundred-to-one chance, if you will--then life is entrancing."

"Philosophy on the floor of the Casino," Grant observed, smiling. "You
haven't lost all your Orientalism, then, in Berlin and London?"

"I have only learnt to value it the more," was the calm reply. "Without
it no man can do more than climb to the middle places. In this world one
needs the gambler's instinct."

"You'd be a dangerous fellow," Grant remarked, "to be trusted with the
whole of your patrimony within these walls."

Itash glanced at his watch and smiled.

"My whole patrimony, my name, and my honour," he said, "are already at
stake, but it is not the spinning of a wheel which decides my fate. Will
you take a little supper with me at the Carlton, Mr. Slattery? I have a
friend who awaits me there--an acquaintance, also, I believe, of yours."

"With the utmost pleasure," Grant assented. "I only came in here because
I was bored."

So they climbed the hill and went back to the Carlton. Cleo was still
seated alone at her table. She watched the two men enter together,
without change of countenance. Itash was very ceremonious.

"You have, I believe, already met my friend, Mr. Grant Slattery," he
ventured.

"I have taken advantage of Mademoiselle's official position here," Grant
hastened to intervene. "I have given myself the pleasure of dancing with
her."

"In that case, Mademoiselle will permit us to join her," Itash
suggested. "But you have wine already upon your table, Cleo! How is
that?"

She glanced at the bottle which Grant had left three quarters filled.

"They come here, these men, after a dance," she explained. "They order
wine. The management prefers that I accept."

Itash waved it away impatiently and gave a fresh order. Nevertheless his
eyes were sombrely lit.

"Amongst Orientals," he confided, "there is always one trait which
survives--the trait of curiosity. Now that I have you here together,
tell me, I beg, on what subject did you two converse so earnestly in the
corner of the Bar there, last night--or was it two nights ago?"

"I was endeavouring to persuade Mademoiselle," Grant replied, "that the
Tango, as a dance, is an incomplete affair. The most perfect dances in
the world have been those in which the steps are absolutely
registered--the minuet, for instance."

"I was venturing," Cleo murmured, "to disagree with Monsieur."

"It appeared," Itash reflected, "that you took the affair seriously."

"Dancing," Grant remarked, "is the profession of Mademoiselle. It
happens to be my chief amusement."

Itash turned upon his guest. His question was asked with rapier-like
suddenness.

"Your chief amusement, but not your only one, Monsieur?"

"I play golf, I sail my yacht a little, I am an indifferent hand at
tennis," Grant acknowledged.

"You have no more serious occupation in life?" Itash demanded
incredulously.

His guest leaned over the table.

"My friends," he told his two companions, "I started life trying to be
serious, I was moderately well off. I needed a profession. I embraced
diplomacy and then--see what happened to me. I was left seventeen
million dollars, the whole of the Van Roorden estate. Well, I confess
it, I fell where many a better man has fallen before. I yielded to the
call of wealth. I am an idle man now for the rest of my days."

Itash himself took the bottle from the ice pail, filled his own glass
and Grant's to the brim. He appeared to have recovered his composure.
The shadow of some fear seemed to have passed from him.

"It is what I have been told," he admitted. "Such wealth might dazzle
any one. The spending of it might indeed enchain the imagination of the
most ambitious on earth. So I drink to your health, Mr. Grant Slattery.
I have had a nightmare. It has passed."

They drained their glasses. Itash was himself again. He leaned towards
Cleo.

"You will dance with me?" he murmured.

She rose at once. Just then there was the bustle, in the entrance hall,
of new arrivals. Gertrude and Arthur Lymane were being ushered in.



CHAPTER XII

The advantage was distinctly with Grant. His air of hurt reticence was
admirably assumed. It chanced that, at the moment of leaving the yacht,
Gertrude had confided to him that she had a headache and was going to
bed immediately on her return to the hotel.

"My congratulations upon your speedy recovery," he murmured.

She was mistress of herself at once. She raised her eyebrows very
slightly.

"Oh, my headache," she remarked. "A hot bath and an aspirin disposed of
that. Mr. Lymane was a perfect dear and called just as I was wondering
whether I should get up and try my luck at the Club, or go to bed. He
suggested some supper and a dance here. I am so glad I came. I love this
place, and I haven't been here this season. And you? Where are your
friends?"

"I came here with the very interesting young man whom I met on the
tennis courts," Grant replied. "They tell me that he plays tennis like a
pro. Harris, our new secretary, says that he could give me fifteen and
owe fifteen. In the other walks of life he is to be taken a little
differently. His name is Itash and he is, I understand, devoted to the
little danseuse who sits at this table."

The smile had faded from Gertrude's lips. She was looking into Grant's
face as though her eyes would bore their way into the back of his brain.

"I should not have thought that a party of three would be very amusing
for you," she remarked.

"The little danseuse is only a temporary addition," Grant explained. "I
am certainly not making my host jealous, for he takes his protegee away
whenever he chooses, and he insisted upon my coming. Still the position
is not without its embarrassments. I am seriously thinking of
cultivating one of these ladies for myself. There is a divine being
opposite, with vermilion-coloured hair and eyes of the most enchanting
shade of blue, I think I had better throw myself upon her mercy."

"Come and sit with us," Gertrude invited shortly.

"Not on any account," was the firm refusal. "I am already a troisième
here. When I leave it will not be to accept a similar place elsewhere.
Go and choose your table, you two. I am hurt, but not offended. I will
even come and pay my respects later on. But at present, when my friends
here have returned, I have an unconquerable desire to introduce myself
to the young person with vermilion hair."

"What shall you say to her?" Gertrude asked.

"I shall say," he confided, "'Mademoiselle, I have these few
recommendations to your favour. I am an American, as you see me, a
millionaire, with a yacht in the harbour and a cheque book which I too
seldom use. May I have the pleasure of this dance?'"

"It sounds interesting," Gertrude admitted. "She will probably refuse
you. She will think you have drunk too much wine. Such good fortune
would be incredible."

He rose to his feet.

"That remains to be seen," he said, taking leave of them with a little
bow.

They watched him approach the girl whom he had pointed out, watched her
rise with alacrity to her feet, and the commencement of the dance.
Gertrude bit her lip as she followed Lymane to a table.

"Monte Carlo," she observed coldly, "is too small a place for these
enterprises."

"Life is too short an affair to take notice of them," Lymane rejoined.

They chose their table, ordered wine and danced. Lymane murmured all the
time in his companion's ear. Gertrude sometimes listened, sometimes
watched the danseuse with the red hair. She seemed to be interested in
Itash, but her eyes seldom left Grant and his partner.

"I wonder whether it is my fancy," she confided to her escort, as they
sat down presently, "but it seems to me--I suppose it is because of this
Nice Conference going on so near--that there is an electrical atmosphere
everywhere. I feel as though there were rumblings underneath the earth,
as though we were on the brink, all the time, of portentous events."

He smiled indulgently, yet in a slightly superior fashion.

"I don't think that you need be afraid," he said. "I think I can assure
you that there are no cataclysms imminent at the moment."

"How can you tell?" she asked.

"Well," he pointed out, "for one thing, England, France, Germany, Japan,
Italy, Spain, and a few of the smaller powers are linked hand in hand to
preserve the peace of the world. There is no sign of war, no threat of
war anywhere. We are all a little jealous of Germany, but industrially
she deserves her success. Now, tell me, what form of cataclysm could
descend upon the earth to justify your depression?"

"I think," she sighed, sipping her champagne, "that I am afraid of the
end of the world."

"The end of the world," he observed, "is but a picturesque fable. The
scientists have the matter well in hand. We are likely to have at least
a thousand years of warning. My own apprehensions do not extend thus
far."

She looked through the menu, which a hovering waiter had handed to her.

"Notwithstanding our wonderful dinner," she decided, "I should like a
sandwich. And as it is not the end of the world which is coming and I
honestly don't believe I have indigestion, will you tell me why I am so
depressed?"

"I can only suggest," he ventured politely, "that it is because of your
husband's arrival to-morrow."

"That," she declared, "is a crude remark, the sort of speech which
betrays your youth. A man of the world, like Grant Slattery for
instance, would never have made it."

"He would probably have hinted at it," was the somewhat sullen
rejoinder, "and it would probably have been the truth."

"Well, I don't know," she murmured. "At any rate I am not going to
discuss my husband's coming with you. I prefer a little consolation for
these vague fears of mine. Do you honestly mean to tell me," she went
on, "that the peace of the world is so wonderfully assured? Take these
meetings of the Pact, for instance. Is there nothing there which gives
cause for a moment's anxiety?"

"Princess!" he expostulated, "You will remember!"

"Heavens! Am I forgetting again!" she exclaimed. "You see, you're such a
child, I always forget that you have an official connection with the
great world. Of course you can say nothing. But then, as it happens, I
know as much as you do. Prince Lutrecht is my husband's cousin. He came
to my rooms for a few minutes this evening. I know all that transpires
that can be told without an absolute breach of confidence. And I know
that as yet there has been nothing serious."

"But you know there are rumours abroad?"

"Prince Lutrecht gave me a hint to-night. There is just one apple of
discord that your Chief might throw upon the board."

"Shall we dance?" he begged.

She rose at once, quite willingly,

"You are a thoroughly irritating young man," she declared. "I shall send
for Mr. Grant Slattery to come and talk to me. He seems to pick up a
wonderful amount of information, and so does Prince Lutrecht. Even my
husband hears things sometimes. No one has refused me information--only
you. It is either because you don't like me or you don't trust me."

"I am not my own master," he reminded her, as they started off to dance.
"As it is, I have spoken more freely with you than with any one else
before in my life."

They danced until the music ceased. Gertrude clapped for the encore, and
they went on until the finish. Then, as they walked towards their table,
she continued their conversation.

"There is something you could tell me," she said, "because, if it is
true, the whole world will know it in a day or so. Does Lord Yeovil mean
to once more invite America to join the Pact?"

"You have heard that spoken of?"

"I have heard it stated for a fact."

"I believe it is true," he told her.

Grant's farewell shake of the hand possessed a particular significance
for Mademoiselle with the red hair, whose rent was a little in arrears.
She felt the crisp paper in her palm and flashed her thanks across at
him.

"This is too good of Monsieur," she murmured. "Because he dances so
beautifully. He has no need of a lesson. I am always at his
disposition."

They separated, Mademoiselle to glance at her note and find her most
sanguine hopes more than realised, Grant to rejoin Itash and his
imperturbable companion.

"I am in danger here," he declared. "I am of so susceptible a
temperament and Mademoiselle aux cheveux roux has spoken to me of the
loneliness of her life. I think I shall go back to my hotel. The sea air
to-day was very invigorating but it also makes one inclined to
sleepiness. Besides, I am like an uneasy spirit to-night. Wherever I
descend I find myself that terrible third. What happens to him in French
fiction and on the stage, one knows. I think I'll depart quickly."

Itash smiled, showing his wonderful white teeth. He was more at ease
now, and he was not without a sense of humour.

"Fetch Mademoiselle here," he suggested. "She is a very charming young
woman and we will make a partie carree. We will see the night through
and end it in my rooms with breakfast."

Grant shook his head.

"I am no longer of the age when such things attract," he sighed.
"Besides which, I detest an aftermath. The nights which end with bacon
and eggs and coffee offend me. I prefer they terminate with the playing
of the violin to the door, the bow of the Commissionaire, the little
voiture."

"Monsieur has sentiment," Cleo murmured.

"I cling to what remains of it," Grant assured her earnestly. "When
sentiment goes, then life is like the dust which the Persian poet tells
us about. And so, all you young people, farewell."

He made his bow, collected his hat and coat, and departed. He left the
place with the air of a conqueror. He looked back at it, metaphorically
shaking his fist.

"This is a sorry triumph," he muttered, as he lit a cigarette. "There is
that ass Lymane gassing away to Gertrude--thank heavens he doesn't know
much--and Mademoiselle Cleo, back again under the thrall, close-lipped,
close-tongued, with enough locked up at the back of her brain to make
the way easy for all of us."

"Monsieur desires something?" the Commissionaire asked him wonderingly.

"Nothing in the world," Grant replied, slipping a five-franc note into
his hand. "I am perfectly happy. I am going home to bed."

The man took off his hat and bowed.

"A pleasant repose to Monsieur," he said.



CHAPTER XIII

They sat in the luncheon room at Mont d'Agel, three very hungry but
well-satisfied beings, Lord Yeovil, Susan, and Grant. They sipped their
aperitifs and waited for their luncheon, "contented but eager," to use
Susan's own expression.

"The match was a good one," Grant conceded, "but no Prime Minister has a
right to hole out like your father. Lady Susan. Affairs of state and all
that sort of thing ought to interfere and make him raise his head."

"That putt at the sixteenth was sheer robbery," she agreed.

"An excellent match," Lord Yeovil declared. "Placing you at scratch,
Grant, and Susan at twelve, men's handicap, the fact that I was able to
halve the match against you would seem to indicate my having played
somewhere about six. Six is above my form."

"I think, with the exception of the drive which you sliced from the
eighth tee, Dad, and which landed in Italy," Susan observed, "you were
playing better than six."

"The game has restored my faith in my powers of concentration," her
father announced. "I said to myself, every nation in the world may be at
one another's throats to-morrow, my resignation may be demanded before I
return to England, I may march out of Downing Street, bag and baggage,
the day of my return, but I will not take my eye off the ball this
morning, and I didn't."

"Plumb in the centre, every time," Grant agreed. "Hurray! Here come the
hors d'oeuvres!'

"It is not my custom to drink wine in the middle of the day," Lord
Yeovil said, "but I think we must supplement the vin ordinaire a
little--Montrachet, perhaps, or Chateau Yquem?"

"This is a terrible start to a strenuous day," Grant remarked, "To-night
I dine with Delilah."

Susan looked across the table at him a little curiously.

"I am glad that you admit the attraction."

"I never found any one who knew her and was willing to deny it," Grant
rejoined.

"Quite right," his host assented. "Thank heavens that I am no longer a
young man. I fancy that I should find the Princess irresistible."

"When I knew her first," Grant continued reminiscently, "she was a
simple American girl, living upon a farm, riding three hours every day,
playing a little tennis, doing a little housekeeping. Then she had a
season in Washington. After that she became somehow the vogue. A town
aunt took her up. It was about that time that Von Diss fell so
desperately in love with her."

"She was a fool to marry him," Lord Yeovil declared. "Even now, after
all these years, a German or an Austrian woman finds it difficult to
hold her own. In Berlin the aristocracy, especially, at any rate until
about ten years ago, have had a hideous time."

"There's a reaction going on now," Grant reminded him.

"As we well know," the older man assented. "Chiefly owing, I honestly
believe, to that fascinating youth. Prince Frederick. A most charming
lad. I only hope that Lutrecht and our dear friend's husband. Von Diss,
and the others of that regime don't get hold of him and spoil him. By
the bye, I am breaking my rule by speaking of such affairs in a public
place, and Arthur isn't here to correct me. I wonder why you are not
English, Grant. You would have made a wonderful secretary for me."

"I'd rather have been an Englishman than belong to any other race, if I
hadn't been an American, sir," Grant answered. "As it is, I am naturally
content."

"Au revoir to conversation," his host remarked, watching the approach of
their first course. "I now become a glutton. Appetite is, after all, a
most entrancing thing."

"During this regrettable silence of my father's," Susan observed, as she
helped herself from one of the dishes, "you and I had better exchange a
few ideas, Grant. You don't seem to have had much time for me lately."

"Dear Lady Susan," he bemoaned, "the amenities of life have seemed to
lie outside the orbit of my jurisdiction the last few days."

"You always pose as being so busy," she scoffed. "What do you do with
yourself?"

"Solve bridge problems, inspect my crew on the Grey Lady, lose my mille
or two, eat, drink, and sleep. It is a most enthralling existence."

"You seem to have left out a few little things," she remarked. "There's
the Princess, for instance. I thought that it was rather the object of
your life just now to entertain her."

"Others have shared that task with me," he replied. "To-night I dine
with her. We shall probably be very sentimental. I shall ask her whether
she is entirely happy with the man she preferred to me. She will sigh
and tears will stand in my eyes as I look through the wall. Then we
shall part with a little gulp. I may kiss her fingers and she will go
and powder her nose, put on a becoming peignoir and listen for the
train. I foresee a sentimental evening."

"Something has happened to you," Susan declared. "You used not to be so
sentimental, or so cynical."

"A great deal has happened to me," he agreed. "In three days' time, Lady
Susan, if you will trust me so far, I will tell you a most entrancing
story."

"And, in the meantime," she reminded him, a little coldly, "the tears
will stand in your eyes, and you will look through the wall, whilst
thinking of the woman you have loved."

"Those things have to be," he apologised.

"For what purpose?" she demanded. "Where is the necessity? Have you
anything to gain, for instance, by flirting with the Princess? Or do you
do it to indulge in a sort of sentimental debauch--to go through it and
then analyse your feelings? Because--"

She was suddenly silent. She felt that, in a sense, she had betrayed
herself. Her father glanced at her across the table. Grant saved the
situation.

"You read me like a book. Lady Susan," he acknowledged. "You always do.
As a matter of fact, a passion for diluted psychology of an analytical
type stopped my taking honours at Harvard, and will, without a doubt,
interfere with my complete success in life. I am hideously curious about
little things. Still, I offer no apologies. The Princess has stirred
colder hearts than mine."

"If I were your age," Lord Yeovil declared, helping himself to omelette
unselfishly, and yet with discretion, "there is nothing in this world
which would prevent my being in love with the Princess."

"I am glad that you recognise my difficulties," Grant said gratefully.

"Experience has such a charm for the very young," Susan observed, a
little sarcastically.

"After all, it's rather a relief," Grant observed, looking round the
room, "to be free for an hour or two from this little host of
intriguers. Here we are with a crowd of strangers, amongst whom I only
recognise our very excellent friend Baron Funderstrom, the Scandinavian.
None of the others are here. I fancy that this atmosphere is a little
too bracing for them. We are in a different world. Intrigue up here is
unknown--except the intrigue of cutting in."

"Dashed annoying intrigue, too, when it comes off," Lord Yeovil
grumbled. "Are you two young people going to play again? Because, I tell
you frankly that I am not. I'll send the car back for you with pleasure.
A nap in my study for the next hour or two is the thing which appeals to
me most."

"Just as Lady Susan wishes," Grant said, looking towards her.

"I should like another round, unless it bores you," she decided.

Their final round was played in the brilliant declining sunlight of a
perfect Riviera afternoon. The wind had dropped and brought no longer
icy reminiscences from the snow-clad Alps. The air, though keen, was
sweet and laden with the fragrance of the trees in blossom, which
fringed the slopes of the hills. More than once they paused to look
downwards. Susan was, for her, a little listless.

"I don't think you're really enjoying the Riviera this year," he
remarked.

"I'm not sure that I am," she admitted. "Somehow or other, from the
moment we arrived, we seem to have lived in an unfamiliar atmosphere. I
can't explain it. Baron Naga's death seemed to be part of it. Dad bluffs
most beautifully but he is all the time nervous and on edge.
You--although I don't know what you have to do with it all--seem to be
living half in this world and half in some other you won't talk about.
Arthur has the air of a man about to commit suicide. The Lancasters are
the only normal people, and perhaps that is because they are brainless.
What's it all about, Grant? Have you really lost your head about this
old sweetheart of yours? And is there really any cause for Dad to worry?
All these politicians who come to call are so delightfully amiable and
polite that one can't realise that they may not be absolutely sincere."

"I'm not going to try and bluff to you, Lady Susan," Grant said
seriously. "I'm afraid there may be trouble afoot. We can't quite get to
grips with it, but it's there. We have indications of it, and warnings
from all sorts of unsuspected quarters. Personally, I think your father
is in a very awkward position. You see the great difficulty is that,
however hard he tries, he can't find out exactly how things really do
stand. When the Pact was inaugurated, all the nations started trusting
one another. They dropped secret treaties and secret understandings and
swept the whole of their Secret Service departments into the four
corners of the world,--that is to say, the honest ones did.
Consequently, now there's trouble about, we don't know where to turn."

"But you?" she protested. "You're out of it all. You're not even
English. Why are you so disturbed?"

He smiled as he watched his ball go travelling over a bunker.

"Let it alone, Lady Susan," he begged. "You're the one person outside it
all. Stop outside for a time. If the trouble comes you will know of it
fast enough."

She was not altogether satisfied.

"Is it my fancy," she asked, "or am I being treated like some one just
emerged from the nursery?"

"My dear Lady Susan," he pointed out, "it wouldn't do you a bit of good
to be let into your father's worries or mine. And they very likely don't
amount to anything, after all."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"Do you talk like this to the Princess?" she queried.

He smiled.

"I should certainly not tell the Princess the things you are asking me,"
he assured her.

"I suppose I am a cat," Susan reflected, "but I don't like the
Princess."

"You'll like her when you know her better," he ventured.

"I don't want to know her any better," she declared. "She seems to me
the sort of woman who makes use of people. That's what I can't help
thinking about you, and her, and Arthur."

"What use can she make of us?" he asked.

"She wants to get to know things, for the sake of that husband of hers,
I suppose. It's all very well for you, but I do think Arthur ought to be
more careful. Father never says much but I fancy he's thinking a good
deal."

They finished the round almost in silence, and their conversation over
tea was negligible. On the way down. Grant was conscious of a sudden
fear. Susan, after all, was a creature of impulse. These purgatorial
days through which he and the others were passing, meant nothing to her.
She might fail to make allowance for them. She was always surrounded by
young men, and, for the moment at any rate, she was seriously annoyed
with him.

"Lady Susan," he began.

"Mr. Slattery."

"I thought it was generally 'Grant'," he remonstrated.

"I have heard myself called 'Susan'," she reminded him.

"Look here, then, Susan," he recommenced. "We seem to have got wrong
somehow. I don't like it. I want to be friends."

"My dear man," she protested, "have I shown any signs of quarrelling
with you?"

"You're annoyed, and I don't want you to be."

"Does it really make any difference?" she asked a little bitterly.

"Of course it does."

"Do something to please me then, will you?"

"Anything," he declared, with foolish optimism.

"Don't dine with that Von Diss woman to-night."

He was distressed.

"My dear Susan!" he expostulated. "I can't get out of it."

"Had you asked her to dine with you or did she invent that on the
yacht?"

"She invented it on the yacht," he admitted. "At the same time I
accepted it, and, to tell you the truth, Susan, for certain reasons, I
really am anxious to dine with her."

"The certain reasons being, I suppose, that she may go on making love to
you in the flagrant way she did on the yacht."

"Do you mind whether she does or not?"

"Not in the least," she declared untruthfully.

"Then it wouldn't be any use my asking you--"

She turned suddenly towards him with a touch of her old manner.

"You can ask me anything you like, Grant, if only you'll promise not to
dine with her to-night."

He was half embarrassed, half irritated. She was, after all, such a
child.

"Susan," he begged, "be reasonable."

"What a horrible suggestion!" she scoffed. "I'll be reasonable when I'm
middle-aged,--when nothing matters. I'm a very foolish person, of
course, but it does happen to matter a good deal to me that you insist
upon dining with that woman to-night. To prove how unreasonable I
am--voila!"

The car had been crawling round the corner of the Square, and Susan
jumped lightly onto the footpath. She waved her hand to Grant.

"Thanks so much for the game," she said. "I'm going to talk to Bobby and
Rose."

She waved her hand once more and started off to join her friends. Grant
stopped his car by the pavement.

"Look here, you can't leave me like that," he protested. "Your father
left you in my care."

"Can't help it," she replied. "You were beginning to bore me, so I had
to escape."

"But how are you getting out to the Villa?" he asked.

"Bobby will take me. Won't you, Bobby?"

"Rather!" that young man promised. "Push off Grant! You've had a pretty
good innings, old chap. We haven't seen anything of Susan all day. Come
along! We'll have mixed vermouths over at the Café de Paris, gamble for
half an hour, then we'll get rid of Rose, and I'll take you home in a
petite voiture."

"It's a desperate enterprise, but I accept," she declared. "Good-by.
Grant! Hope you enjoy your dinner."

"I shall do my best," he answered, with a little unnecessary emphasis.



CHAPTER XIV

"Well!"

The monosyllable was suggestive, almost illuminative. Gertrude had
paused for a moment on the threshold of the little salon, which she was
entering from her bedchamber. Her unexpected visitor, Mr. Cornelius
Blunn, looked across at her with a deprecating smile.

"I am a monument of apologies, Princess," he said.

"We will take them for granted, then," she replied. "What do you want?"

He glanced at the clock.

"Five minutes' conversation," he begged, "or, if by any fortunate
chance, you are disengaged--"

"You know quite well that I am dining with Mr. Slattery," she
interrupted.

"I had imagined so," he assented. "It is about that dinner engagement
that I venture to come and see you."

"You will, I trust, avoid impertinence."

"I shall try," he assured her. "Princess, your mission here was a
difficult one. So far you have performed it with much skill."

"I am flattered," she murmured, with latent irony.

"I may or may not share your opinion as to Mr. Grant Slattery," he
continued, "but, in other respects, you have done well. I am here to beg
you not to spoil the good effects of your work."

"Will you please say what you want to in as few and as plain words as
possible," she invited.

"I obey," he answered, with a little bow. "You came here to try and
solve for us a somewhat vexed question concerning this young man, Mr.
Grant Slattery. You think that you have arrived at the truth concerning
him. I am going to be frank with you and tell you that I am not so sure.
But I am convinced of one thing,--you have gone as far as Otto would
approve in your investigations."

"You think that I am likely to lose my head about this man?" she asked.

Blunn made no reply. She waited for a moment and then glanced towards
the clock.

"Otto is my friend," he went on, "and Otto, as you know, is of a very
jealous temperament. I think you would be wiser to cancel your dinner
engagement for this evening."

"For a clever man," she said deliberately, "I think you are the biggest
fool I ever knew."

"I am your husband's friend, and yours," he reminded her quietly.

"Listen," she continued. "Otto sent me here and you know my mission. I
shall perform it in just the way I think best. What there is to be said
about my methods can come from him. You mean well, I think, but anything
which you said would be useless."

"Princess," Mr. Blunn remonstrated, "you're a young woman and you have
the strong will of your nationality. I am an elderly man and I claim the
right of speaking to you frankly. You are going to spend the evening
with a man whom three years ago you treated disgracefully. The instinct
for atonement is a very dangerous thing."

"Perhaps," she admitted. "At any rate, I am my own mistress. What I
choose to give, I give, and nothing that you could say, no threat that
you could utter, would induce me to change."

"Your mind is made up. Princess?"

"My mind is utterly and finally made up."

There was a knock at the door. A messenger from below announced the
arrival of a gentleman for Madame la Princesse.

"You can show him up," Gertrude directed.

The man bowed and left the room. Blunn looked across at her and frowned.

"You will receive him here, in your salon?" he asked.

"Certainly," she replied. "If it pleased me to do so I should dine here.
I am responsible to no one for what I may choose to do."

Still he made no movement to depart.

"It seems to be my hard fate to anger you, Princess," he regretted. "And
I can assure you that such is not my desire. Yet this I must tell you,
that I am used to men, and watching men, and turning them inside out,
judging them from their characters and actions and the trifles which
escape other people. I have never yet been wrong. This man Slattery is,
in my opinion, all that we believed him to be. In my opinion, he is
playing a game of his own with you. You think that you have discovered
him harmless; you think that his devotion to you is real. You are wrong.
You are wrong in both conclusions."

She smiled. At that moment she was praying that the confidence which her
smile was intended to indicate really existed in her heart.

"I think," she declared, "that a woman is the best judge of a man's
affection for her. I may put Mr. Slattery's to the test. If I do, I
have no fears."

There was a knock at the door. Grant was ushered in. Gertrude gave him
her fingers. He raised them to his lips and turned towards Blunn.

"Have no fear," the latter said. "I am an uninvited guest and I was just
taking my leave. Princess, you will allow me once more to assure you
that I never make a mistake."

She laughed a little scornfully.

"The Kingdom of Fools is peopled by the men who never make mistakes,"
she answered.

The door closed upon Blunn. She came a little nearer to Grant.

"What did that fellow want?" he demanded.

"To warn me against you," she replied.

"What a busybody!"

"He has disappointed me," she remarked. "I never dreamed that he was the
sort of person who would come and talk to a woman as her husband's
friend. Such a terribly obvious attitude."

"And how ignorant he showed himself of you and your capacity for
resistance."

She came a little nearer to him, raised her eyes, and stood for a moment
silent.

"Do you remember the last time you kissed me. Grant?"

"Perfectly well," he answered. "I stayed with you half an hour after we
got back from the opera. I must have interfered with your packing, I'm
afraid."

He saw her wince, but he remained unmoved. He was smiling at her
pleasantly, regarding her with genuine admiration.

"You look wonderful to-night, Gertrude," he said.

"Then why don't you want to kiss me?" she asked.

"A psychological problem insoluble before dinner," he assured her with
faint irony.

"Then you don't want to," she persisted.

He leaned forward, holding her for a moment in his arms, yet gently
resisting the abandon of her swaying body. He kissed her on the eyes,
drew her hand through his arm, and turned towards the door.

"Five minutes later and Louis would never forgive me," he said. "He is
preparing for us--"

The sentence was never finished. The door was suddenly opened without a
knock or any form of warning. A man, in travelling clothes, and carrying
a small despatch case, entered.

"Otto!" Gertrude exclaimed, disengaging her arm from Grant's. "How on
earth did you get here--to-night?"

He frowned irritably.

"I sent a telegram," he replied. "You did not, perhaps, receive it. We
found a quicker route. May I be presented to this gentleman?"

"It is Mr. Grant Slattery," Gertrude murmured. "My husband, Prince von
Diss."

The two men bowed. Neither extended a hand.

"You can scarcely expect me to bid you welcome very heartily," Grant
said, with a secret strain of thanksgiving in his heart. "I was to have
had the pleasure of taking your wife out to dinner."

Prince von Diss glanced around him. He had a most unpleasant face,
short, fair moustache, carefully trimmed, well-cut features, a wicked
mouth, and cold, unprepossessing eyes. He was very nearly bald.

"I was not aware, Gertrude," he observed, "that it was your custom to
receive your friends in your salon at an hotel of this description."

"I do as I think well in such matters," she answered calmly.

There was a moment's hectic silence. The Prince seemed about to speak
but controlled himself with an effort.

"You are probably fatigued with travelling," she continued, "and would
prefer to dine here. In that case I can keep my engagement with Mr.
Slattery."

"On the contrary, I shall beg you to break it," the Prince declared
emphatically. "It is a peculiarity of mine, but I do not permit my wife
to dine alone with any man so long as I am within reach. I shall hope to
have another opportunity of cultivating Mr. Slattery's acquaintance."

"I will provide you with one gladly," Grant answered, without
hesitation.

Gertrude laid her hand upon his arm.

"I do not allow my friends to quarrel with my husband," she said. "I am
very sorry indeed about our dinner. Grant. When will you come and see
me?"

"Whenever you choose, Gertrude."

"To-morrow at four o'clock. You will take tea with me here. In the
meantime I cannot tell you how much I regret our dinner."

Grant was suddenly conscious of the ridiculous side of the situation. He
pulled himself together and turned to the newcomer courteously.

"Perhaps you, as well as your wife, would do me the honour of dining?"
he suggested. "Dinner is ordered downstairs. Half-an-hour's delay will
be of no consequence."

The Prince bowed coldly.

"I thank you very much, sir," he replied, "but to-night I shall prefer
to dine tete-a-tete with my wife. I have affairs to attend to. We shall
without doubt meet again."

Grant dined alone in a distant corner of the restaurant, somewhat to his
own satisfaction, but very much to the disappointment of the maitre
d'hôtel to whom he had confided his orders. Just as he was finishing,
Gertrude and her husband entered the room. The latter had changed his
clothes but appeared to be in no better humour. He scowled at Grant and
ignored his wife, both when he ordered the dinner and the wine. She
leaned back in her chair, fanning herself lazily. Her eyes continually
sought Grant's. On the way out he paused for a moment at their table.
She made a little grimace of apprehension, but Grant only smiled.

"You have made a very greedy man of me. Princess," he confessed. "I have
had to try and eat the dinner I had ordered for two."

"I wish you'd sent me my share," she said. "I have not been consulted
about our own, anyway, and I seem to have heard the name of every dish I
detest."

Her husband spoke for the first time.

"The marital feast cloys, I am afraid," he sneered.

"I have no doubt but that you are right," Grant assented, with a little
bow of farewell. "I'm not married myself, but one seems to discover
these things."

He passed out into the hall and stood for a moment smiling to himself.
Then, prompted by a sudden impulse, he opened one of the telephone boxes
and rang up the Villa Miranda. In a minute or two Susan came to the
telephone.

"What on earth do you want?" she enquired. "You ought to be in the
middle of dinner."

"I am supplanted," he replied.

"What do you mean? Arthur?" she asked with some excitement.

"Worse! Her husband! The Prince arrived twelve hours before he was
expected. It was most awkward."

"So you haven't dined with her?"

"He refused to let me. Gertrude did her best but it was quite useless.
You should see him, Susan. He's an insufferable little bounder."

"You would have dined with her, then, if he had not arrived?" she asked,
after a moment's pause.

"Naturally."

"Well, good night."

"Stop a minute," he insisted. "If I came around--"

"Don't come to-night," she interrupted. "Father's going to bed in a few
minutes, and I'm going round to the Lancasters. They've some friends in
to dance."

"Why didn't they ask me?" he grumbled.

"You're supposed to be engaged," she reminded him. "Good-by."

"Aren't you a little--"

The instrument whirred in his ear. He was disconnected.

"Little cat!" Grant shouted down the instrument. But he was too late.
There was no reply.

Grant, who was living on the yacht, had already commenced to undress
when the sight of the moon through the porthole window brought him up on
deck again. He sank into a basket chair, filled his pipe and sat
smoking. The gangway which connected the stern of the yacht to the dock
had been pulled in and there was no sound of any movement on board. The
Casino was in darkness, but the Sporting Club was still brilliantly
illuminated, and here and there on the hillside lights shone out from
the villas. A sort of violet curtain of twilight seemed to brood over
the place. An automobile with flashing lamps swung around the corner and
dashed along the road to Nice. A voiture came down the steep incline
towards the harbour. Momentarily curious. Grant watched it. It came
along the dockway to within fifty yards of the yacht. Then it stopped. A
woman descended and came swiftly along the jetty. The light from an
electric standard flashed upon the jewels in her hair as she passed, and
Grant sprang suddenly to his feet. He walked hastily towards the stern.
The woman had paused, looking at the little chasm of water. She moved
out of the shadows and he recognised her.

"Gertrude!" he cried.

"Please put down the gangway," she called out. "I want to come on
board."

A sailor on night duty hurried forward. Grant gave a brief order and a
gangplank was lowered. It was he, however, who made use of it. He met
Gertrude at the shore end and gently led her on one side.

"Gertrude," he told her firmly, "it is impossible for you to come on
board at this hour of the night. Tell me what has happened."

She was looking very white and very determined. She put her arm through
his and clung to him.

"Grant," she said, "He took me away from you once, and he wasn't
altogether honest about it. If you like you can take me back again."

"My dear Gertrude!" he exclaimed.

"I mean it," she went on. "I know everything that is in your mind. I
don't care. If I am worth having, take me. Otto has brought it upon
himself. I think that I dislike him more than any human being upon the
earth."

All the time he was leading her back slowly towards the waiting voiture.

"Gertrude," he insisted, "this is not a possibility."

"Why not?" she demanded. "You're your own master. You could steam away
to-morrow morning before any one was about. You told me only the other
day that you were always ready for an emergency."

"Quite true," he agreed. "But not this emergency."

"He has insulted me," she declared, "and he's insufferable. No
self-respecting woman ought to marry a German. She becomes a worse
chattel than the plaything of a Mohammedan."

"I am terribly sorry for you," Grant assured her, "but what you are
contemplating now would only make matters worse. You must remember this,
too. Your husband is a Roman Catholic. He would never divorce you."

She was silent.

"You don't want me," she muttered.

"Perhaps I don't want you in the spirit in which you have come," he
answered gently. "You simply want to revenge yourself upon your husband
and you offer me the chance of revenging myself, too. It isn't quite a
big enough feeling, Gertrude. The satisfaction of it wouldn't last for
the rest of our lives."

"Since when have you learnt to preach?" she scoffed.

"A man doesn't need to preach to hesitate about taking another man's
wife," he rejoined. "This is just an impulse of yours, Gertrude."

She tried to drag him back toward the gangway.

"Let me come on the yacht," she begged. "I mean it. I don't care even if
he won't divorce me."

"You're not coming on," he insisted. "Not to-night, at any rate."

She looked at him with quick suspicion.

"Have you any one else there?" she demanded.

"You know very well that I have not," he answered
indignantly. "Adventures of that sort do not appeal to me."

"Very well," she said. "You won't let me yield to one impulse. You can't
prevent my yielding to another. I have a disclosure to make. I came to
Monte Carlo to spy on you."

"I knew that quite well," he replied.

"Knew it? How could you?"

"Because the newspaper you showed me with my name on bore the yellow
pencil marks of your Secret Service."

"Well," she went on, "I haven't made much of you,--I've-learnt more from
Arthur Lymane. But I've found out a few things and my people are content
with what seem to be trifles. You won't let me give myself away. I'll
give them away. They know that Lord Yeovil is going to propose an
invitation to America to join the Pact. They'll pretend to acquiesce.
In reality they're going to vote against it."

"Three of them, perhaps," Grant interposed quickly. "Which; one have
they induced to be the fourth?"

"That is what I am going to tell you," she said. "Baron Funderstrom."

"The Scandinavian!" Grant exclaimed.

"It has cost them fifty thousand pounds," she continued, "but they have
his promise. Four votes and the motion is lost. Those four are arranged
for. Now do you believe that I am in earnest when I tell you that I hate
my husband? Do you still forbid me to come on the yacht?"

"Yes," he answered.

He was standing with his hand upon the rail of the gangplank-She came
close to him. Her eyes were filled with tears. "Let me come, Grant," she
begged. "I will be content just to be cared for as you used to care for
me. I don't mind what happens to me. You can hide me away, if you like.
You can come back here alone if you want. I won't complain. Only I must
have some one kind to me. Let me come, please."

His arm barred the way.

"Gertrude," he said, "this may hurt but it's best. I care for some one
else. I couldn't have you on the yacht. It wouldn't be honest."

"Some one else!" she muttered. "Well, why not?"

She stood away for a moment, on the edge of the dock. She was looking
down at the waters of the harbour. He caught her by the arm.

"Gertrude," he asked, "do you think that they will have missed you yet?"

"I don't think so," she answered dully. "They were all talking in
Blunn's rooms. Some one else. Grant! Why didn't you tell me?"

"We were both playing a game," he declared. "You were trying to learn my
secrets. I was trying to learn yours."

"Who is she?"

"That doesn't matter, does it? I'm not in the least sure of her or about
her, but you see--well, I had to tell you, hadn't I?"

He led her towards the voiture. Even when they reached it she looked
longingly back at the yacht.

"It would have been such wonderful freedom," she sighed. "You used to
care, Grant. I thought that you used to care quite a great deal."

He handed her into the carriage and tucked the rug around her. The hand
which he touched was cold.

"The Hotel de Paris," he told the man.

She leaned back without another word. He listened to the horses' hoofs
ringing on the hard macadam road. As they turned the corner she waved
her hand,--a pitiful little salute.



CHAPTER XV

The spray came flashing back like drops of crystal sunlight from the
bows of the Grey Lady as she rose and dipped, ploughing her way
southwards in the teeth of a stiff breeze. The rolling blue of the
Mediterranean was crested with multitudinous little white caps.
Sometimes the wind lifted the foam bodily from the breaking waves and
dashed it like a shower of April rain across the white decks. Susan,
holding fast to the rail, tossed her head back to let the wind sweep
through her hair.

"It's wonderful. Grant," she exclaimed. "This is the best day we've ever
had on the Grey Lady. The wind's getting up, too, isn't it?"

"It's freshening a little, I think," Grant admitted. "Thank heavens,
you're all good sailors."

"Upon me, when sailing," Cornelius Blunn declared, "the sea has a
pernicious and devastating effect. It gives me appetite, it gives me
thirst, it fills me with the joy of life. Yet no sooner do I set my foot
upon an ocean steamer than I am incapacitated. It is amazing!"

"I'm glad you mentioned that--the little matter of thirst," Grant
observed, smiling. "It is a long time between afternoon tea and
cocktails. We must introduce Baron Funderstrom to my famous Scotch
whisky. Let's go into the smoke room. They've got the fiddles on the
table."

Baron Funderstrom, a tall, gloomy man, grey-haired, grey-bearded,
grey-visaged, of neutral outlook and tired manners, accepted the
invitation without enthusiasm or demur. He drank two whiskeys and sodas
quite patiently.

"It is good whisky," he pronounced.

"It is wonderful," Blunn agreed. "It reminds me of what I used to drink
in my younger days."

"It is not SO potent as our own," Baron Funderstrom remarked. "One could
drink a great deal of this without discomfort."

His eyes were upon the decanter. Grant refilled their glasses,

"Wonderful!" Blunn repeated. "Mr. Slattery, you are the best host in the
world. Never shall I forget our first picnic on board this yacht. It is
amazing that you should invite us again so soon. Tell me--you will not
think I am presuming, I am sure--but our invitation, as I received it,
was a little vague. Do we dine on board to-night, or are we to be
landed?"

"You dine on board most certainly," Grant announced. "If this wind
continues, we may not be able to land you until quite late in the
evening. However, I think that I can promise that my larder and my
cellar will be equal to any demands we can put upon them."

"So far as one can judge," the Scandinavian observed, "they are capable
of anything. It is a great thing to own a yacht like this. It's the acme
of luxury. Speaking of returning, though, Mr. Slattery, you will not
forget that we have to leave for Nice at nine o'clock to-morrow
morning."

"That's all right," Grant assured him. "The wind always goes down with
the twilight."

"When shall we change our course?" Cornelius Blunn enquired, looking out
of the porthole.

"Presently. It's pleasanter to make a straight run out."

Prince von Diss swaggered into the smoke room. He seemed smaller than
ever in his nautical blue serge, and he was perhaps not quite such a
good sailor as the others. He was certainly looking a little pinched.

"Mr. Slattery," he said, in a loud and important tone, "I have been
talking to your navigator. Isn't it almost time we altered our course?
We have been out of sight of land for an hour and more."

"I expect Captain Martin knows what he's about," Grant observed coolly.
"Come and try this whisky. Prince, or would you prefer a brandy and
soda?"

"I never drink spirits," was the prompt reply. "Wine, if you have any."

"I have some Clicquot--a very excellent year."

"I will drink some Clicquot," Prince von Diss decided.

They all sat down again while the steward produced an ice pail. There
was a disposition on Blunn's part to forget that they had been drinking
whisky and soda. Grant managed to slip away. He reached the deck and sat
down by Gertrude's side.

"Really," she observed, with her eyes fixed upon the horizon, "we might
almost be taking that sea voyage."

He smiled.

"A marvellously favourable wind!"

"Are they all right?" she asked, dropping her voice a little.

"Perfectly contented, so far! They've begun on champagne now after
whisky and soda. I'm hoping that they may feel like a nap before
dinner."

"Champagne!" she murmured. "That's Otto, I'm sure. He never drinks
anything else. I don't think, though," she went on, "that you'll ever
get him to drink enough to make him sleepy. When do you think the
trouble will come?"

"Not until after dinner," Grant assured her. "I shall set the course a
little differently before then. As soon as it is necessary to get steam
up, I shall be sent for down to the engine room."

"Really, life might have been very amusing," she sighed, "if only--"

"It will be amusing enough presently," he interrupted. "I can see that
your husband is already in rather an uncertain mood,--ready to make
trouble at the slightest provocation."

"Our friend the Baron, I should think, will remain perfectly
philosophical, especially if he has already touched the fifty thousand
pounds," Gertrude declared. "He's the most colourless person I have ever
met."

Cornelius Blunn came out of the smoking room and walked towards them.
His expression was inclined to be thoughtful. He stood for a moment
watching their course. Then he looked at the sun.

"You'll have a long beat back," he remarked to Grant.

"I shall steam back," the latter told him. "We're sailing now--for one
thing, because it's so much pleasanter, and the women enjoy it so."

"I'm not a nautical man," Blunn confessed, "but I presume it would be
impossible to get back under canvas."

"With this wind it would take us at least twenty-four hours," Grant
acknowledged. "I don't think we should make it then. Nowadays every
yacht of any size has auxiliary power of a sort."

"We would wish to avoid even the appearance of interfering with your
arrangements," Blunn said, "but you will not forget that our friend,
Baron Funderstrom, is a delegate; that means he must leave for Nice at
nine o'clock to-morrow morning."

"He'll be back before midnight."

"It is rather a pity Lord Yeovil was not able to join us. We should have
felt quite safe with him here."

"He and Lymane are hard at it, getting things ready for to-morrow,"
Grant explained. "It isn't very often he misses a day on the sea. What
about a rubber of bridge before dinner. I'll order a table."

He strolled away. Blunn turned towards Gertrude. He looked at her for a
moment thoughtfully.

"Has anything about this cruise struck you as being in any way
peculiar?" he asked.

"Why, no," she replied. "It all seems very pleasant. Mr. Slattery is a
wonderful host."

"Marvellous!" he assented. "Still, I don't quite see why he's standing
such a long way out or why he was so particularly anxious to have
Funderstrom as a guest. Funderstrom is not an attractive man."

"As a matter of fact, it was I who suggested him," she admitted. "And
having once mentioned his name, I suppose Mr. Slattery was trying to be
civil."

"It was you who suggested him," Blunn repeated thoughtfully. "Ah, well,
we shall see. I expect I'm being very foolish. We shall soon know."

"I don't know about being foolish but you're very mysterious," Gertrude
said, with slightly uplifted eyebrows.

"It is because I am on the scent of a mystery," he replied. "A crude
mystery, a clumsy affair, without a doubt--but still a mystery. We shall
see."

It was a significant fact to Cornelius Blunn that cocktails were
introduced before the accustomed time and pressed upon every one to the
limits of hospitality. Grant, himself, who was, as a rule, exceedingly
moderate, set an example by drinking one every time they came round, and
when they descended into the saloon for dinner, there were magnums of
champagne upon the table.

"When we get on deck after dinner," he announced, "we shall be headed
for the land and under steam."

"At what time do you propose to get rid of us?" Gertrude asked.

"In time for a final flutter at the Casino, if you're keen about it," he
assured her.

The service of dinner proceeded. The wine circulated, conversation,
which had languished at first, soon became gay, even uproarious.
Cornelius Blunn alone seemed to be scarcely in his usual spirits. He
looked often out of the porthole; more than once he glanced at the
clock.

"What about the course, now?" he asked his host once.

"We are round by this time," Grant answered. "You'll hear the engines
directly."

Another half an hour passed, however, and the engines remained silent.
Then one of the junior officers came in and whispered in Grant's ear. He
laid down his table napkin.

"May I be excused for a minute?" he begged. "A matter of etiquette. My
engineer always has to consult me. A perfect bluff, of course."

He was gone about ten minutes. When he came back they all looked at him
a little curiously. It was Gertrude who became spokeswoman.

"Is anything wrong, Grant?" she asked. "We're not going to be
shipwrecked or anything, are we?"

"Not a chance of it," he assured her. "I wish there were. I'd show you
what an Admirable Crichton I should make. As a matter of fact, there's a
little trouble with one of the pistons. We may not be able to get going
for an hour or so."

There was a brief silence. Then Susan laughed gaily.

"What fun! Shall we have to sleep on board?"

"Not so bad as that, I don't suppose," was the cheerful reply. "If you
do, though, I fancy we can manage to make you comfortable. Bad luck it's
a head wind, or we could beat in. We're gaining a little all the time,
as it is."

Baron Funderstrom finished his glass of champagne and looked to see if
there was any more in the nearest bottle.

"There will be no doubt, I trust, about my being landed in time to get
to Nice to-morrow?" he enquired.

"Not the slightest," Grant promised, making a sign to the steward. "Now,
gentlemen, we must just finish this champagne. Then I'm going to
introduce you to my Madeira. Vintage port I can't offer you, but my
Madeira--well, I bought it on the island myself, and I believe there is
nothing else quite like it."

They sat for the best part of an hour round the table. The women went
out on deck, but Susan soon returned in glistening oilskins.

"Dark as pitch," she declared, "and little spits of rain all the time.
Really, Mr. Host, you do provide us with lots of variety, even in the
way of weather."

Grant rose to his feet.

"We'll have a look round," he proposed. "I thought we should have heard
the engines before now."

They trooped out on deck. One of the stewards was busy handing out
oilskins and sou'westers. They walked up and down for a moment or two.
There were no lights in sight, and they seemed to be doing little more
than drift.

"I'll go and have a talk to Captain Martin," Grant suggested. "Perhaps
I'd better look downstairs first, though, and see what Henderson can
arrange, in case we have to give you a shakedown."

"I'd like to come with you," Cornelius Blunn, who had been curiously
silent for some time, proposed. "Which way are your quarters?"

Grant led them along the oak-panelled passage and threw open the door of
his own little suite. Blunn, who was following close behind, suddenly
pushed against him, so heavily that Grant slipped. The Prince, who had
joined them on the stairs, slammed the door. Grant felt the cold
pressure of a pistol against his forehead.

"If you utter a sound," Blunn threatened, "as sure as I'm a living man,
you'll be a dead one. Hold up your hands and back away there."

Grant held up one hand and stooped and picked up a cigar with the other.

"I give you my word of honour that I am not armed," he said, "and I
haven't the faintest intention of quarrelling with a man who is. Now
what's it all about?"

"Will you give the order to start your engines?" Blunn demanded.

"I'll see you damned first," was the emphatic reply.



CHAPTER XVI

Captain Martin and Chief Engineer Nicholson were smoking a pipe together
in the latter's very comfortable but somewhat out-of-the-way quarters
when, to their surprise, the door of the cabin was abruptly opened to
admit two of the ship's guests, Cornelius Blunn and Baron Funderstrom.

"Good evening, gentlemen," the captain said, in some surprise.

Cornelius Blunn was not wasting words.

"We want to know, Mr. Engineer, what is wrong with your engines. Why
can't you start up and get us back to Monte Carlo according to promise?"

"My engines! Who said there was anything wrong with my engines?"
Nicholson demanded.

"Mr. Slattery has told us so," was the curt reply. "He told us not a
quarter of an hour ago that you were afraid to start them for fear of an
accident to one of the pistons."

"Well, if Mr. Slattery said so," the chief engineer observed, "he's
doubtless right."

"I do not believe it," Blunn declared. "We have reason to suspect that
Mr. Slattery is trying to keep us out here all night for a purpose of
his own."

"If you think that, it's Mr. Slattery you'd better talk to, sir,"
Nicholson suggested. "My job on board this boat is to take orders from
the owner. You'd better go and complain to Mr. Slattery, if there's
anything not to your liking."

"We have complained to Mr. Slattery," Blunn rejoined. "He has refused to
order you to start the engines."

"Then that's all there is to be said about it," the captain intervened.
"They'll start all right as soon as Mr. Slattery says the word, and not
before."

Cornelius Blunn's hand left his hip pocket. He was a good judge of men,
and he realised that threats were not likely to help him.

"Look here," he said. "You two are sensible men. I'm sure of that. I
want to tell you that Mr. Slattery is playing a very dangerous game. He
is pretending to be broken down to keep this gentleman. Baron
Funderstrom, from attending the Nice Conference to-morrow."

"Aye, aye," the engineer observed. "He has some good reason, no doubt."

"I am not going to threaten you with what may happen if this conspiracy
is persisted in," Blunn went on. "I want to put the matter to you
another way. Start your engines up and get us into Monte Carlo before
morning and you shall have a draft for five thousand pounds, during the
day."

"Five thousand pounds!" Chief Engineer Nicholson exclaimed.

"Five thousand pounds!" the captain echoed.

"It's an enormous sum," the former declared.

"It is yours, if you'll do as I have asked," Blunn assured them.

"What's the matter with Mr. Slattery giving me my orders?" Nicholson
demanded.

"Mr. Slattery has already given you his orders, and we don't approve of
them," Blunn replied.

"It's a pity, that," the chief engineer regretted, "for Mr. Slattery's
are the only orders that are likely to receive any attention on board
this ship."

"If to that five, I were to add another two?" Blunn suggested.

"Seven thousand pounds! Why, man alive, it's a tremendous sum," the
other gasped. "I'd not know what to do with such a fortune."

"That is for you to decide," Blunn said impatiently. "You can make your
own arrangements with the captain. All we ask of you is to start your
engines, and of the captain, to take us into Monte Carlo. Come! This
shall mean your fortunes, both of you. It shall be ten thousand pounds
between you, paid in cash to-morrow morning."

"Ten thousand pounds!" the engineer repeated. "Did you hear that,
Captain Martin? Five thousand apiece! Why, mon, the money would be a
temptation to us. Like as not we would stay on land and get drunk,
instead of coming to sea, like decent seafaring men should."

"Will you do it, or won't you?" Blunn demanded, suddenly suspicious of
the other's attitude.

The chief engineer knocked the ashes from his pipe.

"I'm thinking," he said, "that neither of you gentlemen are much used to
the sea and the ways of seafaring folk, or you'd know that there isn't a
self-respecting officer born who'd take his orders from any except his
skipper. You're simply wasting your time here, gentlemen. If you'll
excuse me, I'll be getting along. I've a fancy for a word with Mr.
Slattery."

"You'll stay here for the present," Blunn declared coolly. "Don't make a
fuss about it, please. No one wants to hurt you, but there's a great
deal at stake, and a few men's lives won't make much difference."

The engineer looked in blank and genuine amazement down the black muzzle
of Blunn's automatic.

"Take your finger off that trigger, you blithering idiot," he shouted.
"Don't you know it might go off at any minute?"

"It's very likely indeed to go off if you move," Blunn assured him.
"Just as you are, please, both of you."

Baron Funderstrom stepped backwards, and Blunn followed his example.
Outside, they shut the door and locked it. The two officers stared at
one another open-mouthed.

"So that's the game," the engineer exclaimed. "We're keeping that
warmed-up corpse of a lop-eared German from going to the Conference.
Abductors! That's what we are."

The captain helped himself to whisky and passed the decanter.

"Fill up, Jim," he invited, "and then you'd better press the bell."

Nicholson did as he was bid. Then he shook his head.

"The fat chump wasn't quite such a flat as all that," he remarked.
"Wire's cut outside."

Captain Martin leaned back in his chair and laughed.

"If this doesn't beat the band!" he exclaimed. "To think that I've been
going to sea for thirty years, and have never been in a hold-up before!
Drink up, Jim, and we'll get busy. There must be something we can do."

The chief mate, Henry Fosbrooke, was standing, his back to the rail,
watching the somewhat erratic antics of an uncertain wind in his
main-sail. The yacht being for a watch under his control, he was
indulging in some mild speculation as to the reason for the curious
instructions he had received. To him, out of the gloom, came Blunn,
bulky, ponderous, slow-footed, followed by Funderstrom, grey and cold,
silent as a dead man.

"Are you the officer in charge?" the former asked.

"I am, sir, for my sins," was the civil reply. "We're giving you a queer
sort of entertainment to-night."

"My friend here. Baron Funderstrom, and I are the victims of a practical
joke," Blunn continued. "We have a proposition to make to you."

"A proposition," the officer repeated, watching the slow bellying of his
sail. "If it is anything to do with getting busy down in the engine
room, I shall be glad to hear it, anyhow. I don't fancy this flopping
about like a lame duck, with squalls in the offing."

"To tell you the truth, neither do we," Blunn declared. "We want to turn
the tables upon Mr. Slattery. Is there a second engineer on board?"

"There he is, sir," the mate answered, pointing to a gloomy figure
standing with his hands in his pockets a few yards away.

"I should like to speak to him for a moment. Please call him."

The appearance of the second engineer, who at once obeyed the summons,
was distinctly encouraging. He was a youngish man, with shifty eyes and
a furtive manner.

"Are five thousand pounds apiece any use to you young fellows?" Blunn
asked, addressing them both.

Neither of them answered. They could only stare.

"Get down to your engine room, start up and head this yacht back for
Monte Carlo," Blunn continued, "and the money is yours."

"Without Mr. Slattery's orders?" the officer of the watch gasped.

"Mr. Slattery, at the moment, is not in a position to give orders," was
the terse reply.

"What about my chief?" the engineer demanded.

"He is in the same position. You have got the run of the ship for a
time. Do as I say and I swear before God you shall have the money."

"The devil!" the mate exclaimed. "I thought there was some queer work
afoot. What's wrong with Mr. Slattery?"

"Nothing serious," Blunn assured them. "I have locked him up. He is
trying to play a trick on us. It is perfectly fair and just to defend
ourselves. He is endeavouring to keep us from making land before dawn.
We are determined to get there, somehow or other. It is five thousand
apiece. There's some fun to be got in the world for five thousand, you
know."

"I'm on, anyway," the second engineer decided. "We can't be getting any
one into bad trouble."

"You will not be getting any one into trouble at all," Blunn declared.
"My friend here is Baron Funderstrom, Scandinavian delegate at the Nice
Conference. All Mr. Slattery is trying to do is to prevent his attending
the meeting to-morrow morning, for political reasons. We intend that he
shall be there."

"But what's become of my chief?" his subordinate asked anxiously.

"Locked up in his own room," was the blunt reply, "and the captain with
him. That can't last long, I know, but it won't take us very long either
to get back to Monaco, with a full head of steam on."

"All right," the officer of the watch announced. "I'll take her in
charge. We've scarcely any sail on her now. We'll get rid of that
directly. Five thousand pounds each, mind!"

"It is a bargain," Blunn assured them.

They disappeared in different directions. Blunn, followed by
Funderstrom, his silent and almost ghostly shadow, strolled along the
deck. Away aft Rose Lancaster and her brother, Susan and Gertrude were
still laughing and talking. Susan looked up as they approached.

"Where's every one?" she asked curiously. "They all seem to have gone to
sleep."

"Where is Mr. Slattery?" Gertrude demanded. "And what have you done with
my husband?"

"They are all trying to solve the problem of this slight breakdown,"
Blunn explained. "It seems to be a more intricate affair than we
thought."

"I don't care when we get back," Susan declared recklessly. "I've been
to look at the cabins downstairs, and I never dreamed of such luxury in
my life."

"Odd thing about Slattery, though," Lancaster observed. "Is he really
down in the engine room?"

"I left him there," Blunn told them. "Like every owner, I believe he
fancies that his presence encourages les autres."

"By Jove, it has, too!" the young man exclaimed. "Can't you hear the
thud? The engine's started."

There was a chorus of exclamations. Susan rose from her place and glided
unnoticed to the other side of the deck.



CHAPTER XVII

Susan passed unseen down the companionway and into the saloon. A single
steward was there, busy at the sideboard.

"Where are all the others?" she enquired.

"They are having supper, your ladyship."

"Do you know where Mr. Slattery is?"

"He is in his room with another gentleman."

Susan hesitated for a moment and then continued on her passage through
the saloon. The man deferentially but effectively barred the way.

"If your ladyship will excuse me," he said, "Mr. Slattery gave
instructions that he was not to be disturbed."

"You're telling me a lie," she answered promptly. "Mr. Slattery gave no
such orders."

The man faltered.

"Well, the gentleman with him did, your ladyship."

"That isn't at all the same thing," Susan declared. "Stand aside,
please."

The man hesitated. He was a somewhat undersized person, and Susan, just
then, felt herself possessed with the strength of half a dozen such. She
swept him on one side, and passed along the passage beyond the saloon.
At the second door, which she knew to be Grant's, she paused, knocked in
vain and then tried the handle.

"Who is there?" Grant's voice enquired.

"Curse you, shut up!" Von Diss muttered angrily.

"Grant, is anything wrong?" Susan called out.

"A great deal," he answered, "and you seem to have been the only person
with common sense enough to find it out. Can you get hold of Captain
Martin and tell him there is a mutiny on the ship? I'm locked in here."

The door was stealthily opened. A hand flashed out and caught her by the
wrist. She felt herself being dragged into the room. And then
pandemonium. The sudden opening of the door showed her what had
happened. Grant, lounging on his bunk, covered by Von Diss's weapon,
took advantage of that sudden turn to make the spring which he had been
contemplating for some time. Von Diss's right arm was knocked up by a
cruel undercut; one barrel of the pistol went off harmlessly into the
wall. With the other hand, Grant struck him on the side of the head. He
collapsed with barely a groan, half on the floor and half on the sofa.
Grant stooped and picked up the pistol.

"Bless you, my child!" he said to Susan, who was standing, amazed but
unshaken, on the threshold.

"What does it all mean?" she demanded wonderingly.

"Oh, we asked for trouble, all right," he admitted. "We're abductors,
pirates, whatever you like. I don't blame these chaps for not taking it
lying down. But I think they might have put up a better-class fight. Now
let's get on deck. I want to find out who the mischief gave orders to
start the engine."

"What about him?" she asked, pointing to the floor where Von Diss lay
moaning and half conscious.

"I'll send a steward down," Grant promised. "He's got lots of nerve, I
will say that for him. He got me covered and his hand was like a rock.
He'd have shot me all right if I'd moved. He made the mistake of his
life when he took his eye off me to pull you in. Now we'll have to see
about these engines."

She slipped her arm through his. They made their way through the
deserted saloon, up the companionway, and out on to the weather side of
the deck. A young officer came along, smoking a cigarette. He saluted as
Grant spoke to him.

"Who's on the bridge, Simpson?"

"Fosbrooke, sir. It's my relief but he preferred to go on for another
hour. Said he had some special orders."

"What's our course?"

"Almost due north, sir," the youth answered. "We shall fetch Monaco in
about two hours."

Grant nodded and walked forward to the steps leading to the bridge. The
lookout man stood behind the white canvas. A solitary figure was pacing
back and forth.

"Stay here," Grant whispered. "There's probably some one else lurking
about to see that this fellow isn't interfered with."

"Not I!" she insisted. "I'm coming up with you. You haven't another
pistol, have you?"

"No, but you can have this one," he answered, pushing it into her hand.
"They won't suspect your having one and I'm pretty useful with my fists.
Got it? Good! Now, go around the other side and tell Gertrude to look
after her husband. See what's doing, and then come forward. I can't
think what's become of Martin and the chief engineer."

She nodded and glided away through the darkness. Her slippered feet were
noiseless upon the deck, and in her black gown she was almost invisible.
Grant mounted the steps rapidly. There was no sign of any unauthorised
person upon the bridge. The words of stern enquiry were already framed
upon his lips. Then, just as he stood on the last step, something swung
out from behind the canvas protection. He felt a crashing blow on the
side of his head, a sudden sensation of fury, followed by one of
darkness. He fell down the steps and collapsed on the deck below.
Cornelius Blunn, an ugly block of wood still in his hand, peered over
and looked at him.

"A pity," he muttered. "I hate violence."

The seaman had turned round from his shelter on the bridge. He glanced
anxiously towards the officer in charge.

"What's going on here, sir?" he asked.

"Only one of the commander's guests run amok," was the answer. "Had too
much to drink and wanted to come and sail the ship. Get back to your
post. Burgess."

The man looked uneasily below. He was not at all satisfied.

"Seems to me they've treated him a bit roughly, sir," he said.

"Not our job."

"Hadn't I better go down and have a look at him?" he persisted.

"Stay where you are, damn you!" was the angry reply. "We're doing
twenty-six knots with a cloud of rain ahead, and thirty fishing boats
somewhere about. Attend to your job."

There was a certain irony about Susan's reappearance aft. Grant's string
quartette band, of which he was so proud, had begun to play soft music.
Funderstrom had rejoined the little group and was sitting upon the
outskirts, cold and silent as ever. Gertrude and Rose were listening to
the music, but the latter was clearly uneasy. She welcomed Susan
eagerly.

"Susan, where is everybody?" she exclaimed. "I never knew anything so
mysterious. Mr. Slattery hasn't been back all the time. Prince von Diss
has disappeared, and now even Mr. Blunn has deserted us."

"I suppose it's the trouble about the engines," Susan observed. "I don't
think there's anything to be alarmed at, though. The sea's quite calm
even if we do break down."

Mr. Cornelius Blunn suddenly came into evidence. He stepped through the
companionway with the obvious air of having something to say.

"There is no cause for alarm," he assured them; "the whole affair is a
mere trifle, but Mr. Slattery has met with a slight accident. He seems
to have slipped coming down the steps from the bridge. We've taken him
into the saloon. If one of you ladies, who is accustomed to bandaging--"

Gertrude and Susan both rose to their feet. Susan, however, was halfway
down the stairs before the others had started. Grant was lying upon a
sofa, and a steward was bathing his forehead. He looked up as Susan
entered. She hurried over to his side and waved the steward away.

"Are you hurt, Grant?" she whispered eagerly.

"Not I," he answered. "I'm making the worst of it, but I shall be all
right in half an hour. It's a fair enough fight, Susan, but these
fellows are in earnest, especially Blunn. Look here, Nicholson and
Martin must be locked up in the chief engineer's quarters. All the bells
are cut, but the captain's boy is certain to find them within half an
hour. The worst of it is, we shall be in sight of Monaco in an hour or
so if they keep this speed up."

"They shan't," she declared. "Tell me. Who's my man? Where shall I go,
the engine room, or the bridge?"

Grant smiled.

"Bravo, child!" he muttered. "Look out! They're coming. The bridge!"

Susan turned away with a little shiver of excitement. Gertrude, who had
just hurried in, knelt down by Grant's side and called to the steward.

"Some more hot water and lint," she directed. "Some disinfectant, if you
have it, and a sponge. Please leave this to me, all of you. I'm used to
bandaging but I hate to have too many people round."

Susan left the saloon stealthily and made her way back on deck. She
walked up the lee side and climbed the stairs down which Grant had been
thrown. The officer in charge was standing, looking steadily at a light
far ahead. He suddenly felt a touch on his arm and turned round with a
start to find Susan by his side.

"Do you mind my talking to you for a minute," she whispered. "We're all
so scared--so afraid that we're going to break down or something."

"We're quite all right," the young man declared, a little thickly.

"Shall we get back to Monaco to-night?"

"In about two hours' time. We shall see the lights presently."

"What is our course just now, then?" she enquired.

"Almost due north," he replied. "There's just a point or two of east in
it. You'd better get down, your ladyship. Mr. Slattery doesn't allow any
one on the bridge unless he brings them here himself."

She edged a little away from him.

"Where do you give your orders to the engine room?" she asked.

He pointed to the chart house behind. She nodded.

"I have brought you a message from Mr. Slattery," she said.

He looked at her suspiciously. There was something stealthy and guarded
in her attitude. The wind was blowing her hair back from her face. It
was a very strong capable face,--a stronger face than his own. Her eyes,
too--soft and brown, but compelling--seemed to hold him.

"Mr. Slattery's message," she went on, "is that you alter the course to
due south. It is his wish to go no nearer to Monaco. Will you please
ring down to the engine room at once and reverse your course."

"I can't do that, your ladyship," he declined. "I have my orders. I must
stick to them."

"And I have mine," she said, "from Mr. Slattery. I have never broken my
word in my life and you can take this from me, just as though I were a
man. I'm not going to risk killing you outright but I'm going to shoot
you first through one leg and then through the other, unless you do as
you're ordered."

"Pooh! Don't be silly," he exclaimed, moving towards her. "I'm twice as
quick as you are and a great deal more used to firearms."

"Quick, I say!"

The muzzle of her pistol gleamed wickedly in the light which shone from
the chart room. The young man stood and looked ahead of him miserably.

"What a night!" he groaned.

"I can't wait," she declared. "We might be interrupted. Get into the
room and ring down at once. If you don't I swear I will keep my word. I
will keep it before I count five. One, two, three--"

"Stop!" he begged. "I've had enough of this business. I don't suppose we
should have touched the five thousand anyhow."

He swung round and entered the chart house. She listened to his brief
conversation, covering him all the time. Soon they began what seemed to
be a huge turn. The light on their port bow disappeared. Now it was
abreast of them. Presently it was aft. The officer in charge finished
his directions and came out of the chart room.

"We're back on Mr. Slattery's original course," he announced. "What will
happen when that little fat man finds out, I don't know. Or what will
happen to me, either."

"Stick to it now," Susan enjoined, "and I'll do the best I can with Mr.
Slattery. You've done all you could to make amends anyhow."

"I can't make out what it all means," he muttered. "What's become of the
Skipper and Mr. Nicholson?"

"Locked in the engineer's room," she told him. "I can't understand why
they couldn't make themselves heard, though."

The young man grinned weakly.

"They're behind solid mahogany," he declared. "All the doors in the
officers' quarters are three inches thick. What's that?"

He swung round. Coming towards them, stealthily and sombrely through the
darkness, was Blunn, walking on tiptoe, and behind him gaunt and grey,
yet even more menacing, was Funderstrom.

"Give me the gun," the young man begged. "I'm fed up with this."

Susan looked into his face and gave it to him. He turned towards the
intruders, and the hand which held the pistol was as steady as a rock.

"Look here," he shouted. "Off my bridge, both of you! Not a word, or by
God, I'll shoot you both."

They came to a standstill. The sailor on lookout duty stepped from his
canvas shelter and stood staring at them.

"You have altered the course," Blunn complained.

"And if I have, what the hell is that to you?" the young man retorted.

"I take it that you don't want your five thousand pounds, then?" Blunn
enquired viciously.

"Not a penny of it," was the prompt reply. "I want you off this bridge
and damned quick too, or as sure as I'm a living man I shall shoot."

Cornelius Blunn stood for a moment, irresolute. No braver man than he
breathed, but he was also a philosopher.

"Bo's'n," the mate added, swinging round towards the lookout man, "hurry
round to my quarters. Get the key of the officers' mess. You'll find
that it will unlock the chief engineer's room. The captain and the chief
engineer are both there. Ask the captain to step this way. And listen to
me," he went on, "if either of your two interfere with that man, I'll
shoot, and shoot where it kills, too."

The bo's'n saluted and hurried off. Cornelius Blunn shrugged his
shoulders. He leaned against the rail but he made no further movement
forward.

"My young friend," he said, "forgive me if I suggest that you are
introducing an unwelcome note of melodrama into this little affair. It
has been a game of wits between your owner and ourselves, I fear that
the young lady," he added, bowing to Susan, "has played the winning
card. We will voyage with you, sir, in whatever direction you choose.
Funderstrom, I am very thirsty."

The two men disappeared. Susan smiled reassuringly up at the young
officer by her side.

"That's all right, now," she declared. "You've seen the thing through,
after all. It has been rather a mix-up, you know. I'm afraid Mr.
Slattery has been behaving very badly."

He looked steadily ahead into the windy darkness.

"Your ladyship is very kind," he rejoined shortly. "A sailor ought to
remember that he only has to obey orders."

She left him a moment or two later and walked down the deck. It was hard
for her to believe that the whole thing had not been a dream. A steward
was handing round glasses of champagne, and Cornelius Blunn, with an
apologetic grin, was holding a glass in either hand. The Prince, looking
very pale and malicious, was seated back in the shadows. Grant, with his
head bandaged, was standing on the threshold.

"My dear guests," he announced, waving his hand to Susan, as she came
up. "I regret having to tell you that the worst has happened. There is
no longer any hope of our reaching Monaco to-night. The captain, who has
just gone up on the bridge, has assured me that it is impossible."

"There will be a heavy reckoning," Funderstrom warned him solemnly.

"Under the circumstances," Grant went on, ignoring the remark, "I have
ordered supper to be served in the saloon."

"Supper," Mr. Cornelius Blunn said thoughtfully. "God bless my soul!
That's what's the matter with me. I'm hungry."



CHAPTER XVIII

The landing was a perfectly carried out farce. Everybody appeared to be
in high spirits and even Prince von Diss managed to infuse a little
cordiality into his thanks for the delightful hospitality he had
experienced. Grant was very apologetic about the slight trouble with his
engines. Everybody assured him, however, that the few extra hours at sea
had been a pleasure and studiously avoided any mention of the mingled
farce and drama which they had evoked. On the subject of his dinner,
which, after two postponements, had been fixed for the following night,
Mr. Cornelius Blunn was eloquent.

"If a single one of you denies me," he declared, "I shall be hurt. It is
going to give me the greatest possible pleasure to feel myself, for
once, a host, to endeavour to repay a little the sumptuous hospitality I
have received. We meet at the Hotel de Paris at eight o'clock. I have,
by the bye, asked His Majesty, the King of Gothland, to meet you. His
Majesty is most agreeable and his presence will in no way interfere with
what I hope is going to be a cheery evening."

Susan and Grant exchanged amused glances more than once, during this
somewhat drawn out business of leave-taking. Once she drew near enough
to him to whisper.

"What a gorgeous farce! Aren't we all clever?"

"Blunn is the man I admire," he confided. "The Prince can't get away
with it. He looks as though he wanted to stick a knife into some one."

There was a little sprinkling of journalists upon the quay, who had come
down on the report that an accident had happened to the Grey Lady. They
attached themselves especially to Baron Funderstrom, who had, however,
one reply to them all.

"It was unfortunate that I could not attend the meeting of the
Conference," he said, "owing to the slight accident to the engines which
happened when we were some distance out at sea. As a matter of fact,
however, I know quite well what the agenda consisted of and there was
nothing in which my views did not coincide with the majority."

"You know," one of the journalists asked him, "that the Conference has
decided to invite America to join the Pact?"

"I imagined that would take place," he admitted, without change of
countenance. "The decision to forward the invitation was, I presume,
unanimous?"

"The discussion took place in private session," the journalist pointed
out. "But one understands that there was no opposition."

Grant glanced at his watch.

"I wonder if your father is back from Nice?" he said to Susan.

She shook her head.

"He doesn't usually arrive at the Villa until six o'clock. Now that the
regular sessions have commenced, it may be even later."

"I will come up with you, if I may," he suggested. "I want to see him as
soon as possible after he returns. Besides, I want to escape from these
people."

"Come along," Susan agreed. "We had better take a carriage. They may
send the car down when they see the yacht coming in, but as Peters will
be over with Dad at Nice I should think it's doubtful."

They drove off and the remainder of the little company melted away from
the pier, all apparently in the highest of spirits.

"I must say one thing about Blunn," Grant declared, as they looked
backward for a moment from the top of the hill. "He's an unprincipled
scoundrel, of course, but he's a sportsman."

"He's much better than that Prince von Diss or that terrible
Scandinavian," Susan assented.

"I suppose you realise," he went on, "that you were the pluckiest person
on board."

"Nonsense!" she answered, colouring with pleasure. "It was really a
tremendous rag."

"I'm not quite sure what that misguided young officer of mine thought
about it when he found himself held up by a girl," Grant observed drily.
"They'd have brought it off but for you."

"I'm very glad," she murmured. "Next time you give a party like that I
hope I'm there."

He looked at her for a moment a little wistfully. Youth had certainly
befriended her. Gertrude had risen that morning with dark lines under
her eyes and her manner on the dock had been almost spiritless. There
was nothing in Susan's happy face and smiling expression to indicate a
night of anxiety.

"I wish you weren't such a kid," he said suddenly.

"What on earth do you mean?" she retorted. "I'm nearly twenty. Surely
that is old enough for--for anything. Are you trying to insinuate that I
am unintelligent or unformed or something?"

"You are very sweet as you are, Susan," he assured her. "It was a
foolish wish. I wouldn't have you a day older. And here comes your
father. They must have been back from Nice early."

Susan scarcely showed her usual joy at welcoming her parent. They all
arrived at the Villa together and Lord Yeovil at once drew Grant into
his little sanctum.

"I am inclined to think that you must have found a mare's nest, young
fellow," he announced. "You can guess my news?'

"You have received the consent of the Pact to forward the invitation to
America," Grant replied.

"Not only that, but my motion was supported by Prince Lutrecht."

"Were there no votes against it, then?" Grant asked incredulously.

"There were three black balls," Lord Yeovil admitted. "That was somewhat
of a surprise to us, I must say, but, as you know, three was not
sufficient to affect the result."

"Well," Grant told him, "I should like you to realise this. It is
entirely due to Lady Susan that you had your own way in this matter. You
have won the first step towards breaking up what I am convinced now to
be a very malevolent conspiracy, and it was your daughter who made it
possible."

"My daughter! Susan!" Lord Yeovil exclaimed. "What do you mean, Grant?"

"I mean that I was right--just as right as I knew I was, all the time.
Lutrecht voted against it, as he had always meant to, whatever he may
have said at the Meeting. So did Katina. That's why he was rushed down
from Berlin and why poor old Naga had to go. So did Gortz, the Russian.
And, if I hadn't abducted Funderstrom and kept him away until too late
to go to the Meeting, his would have been the fourth vote."

"Abducted Funderstrom!" Lord Yeovil repeated wonderingly.

"That's just what we did, sir," Grant assented. "I kept him on the yacht
until it was too late for him to go to Nice. There was a tremendous
row," he went on, "practically a free fight, and, at one time, Blunn and
Prince von Diss were having things their own way, and they very nearly
got Funderstrom back. If it hadn't been for Susan, who took command when
I was hors de combat and, with an automatic in her hand, frightened one
of my navigating officers to death, they would have done."

"You'd better not tell me anything more, Grant," Lord Yeovil decided, a
little gravely, though there was a twinkle of delight in his eyes. "This
sort of thing is outside the sphere of practical politics. All I can say
is that, whatever you did, I personally am convinced that you did it for
the best--and I thank you."

"What I did," Grant said earnestly, "I did incidentally for the sake of
the world's peace, but chiefly for the sake of my own country. We're
only halfway through the trouble yet, though. The invitation may be
sent. As yet it isn't accepted."

"I hope to God it will be!" was the fervent response. "If it isn't, I
tell you. Grant, no man, even though he had the tongue of a god and all
the angels, will be able to induce any future Meeting of the Pact to
send another invitation."

"I realise that absolutely," Grant acquiesced. "I can assure you of one
thing. All that stands for the best in my country will be in favour of
accepting, but there is a great deal there that stands for the worst.
There will be plots, and bribery, and intrigue, any quantity of it. And
yet we are going to win. The invitation shall be accepted."

A servant brought in cocktails and Grant was easily persuaded to stay
and dine.

"I shan't change," his prospective host told him. "You can send for
your things, if you like, or change afterwards if you are going on
anywhere. What I want you to do is to sit down in that easy-chair, and
tell me--unofficially, mind--the whole story of your adventures on the
yacht."

Grant lit a cigarette and accepted the invitation.

"When we all wished one another good-by this morning," he said, "I had
to pinch myself metaphorically to realise that I wasn't dreaming. The
whole thing seemed too improbable and fantastic. However, here's the
story."



CHAPTER XIX

The dinner given by Cornelius Blunn was the most talked-of function of a
very brilliant Riviera season. The writing room on the left of the
lounge at the Hotel de Paris had been transformed into a private
banqueting apartment, at one end of which a small stage had been erected
for artists who came from Nice and even Cannes to entertain the guests,
and whose fees were a record in munificence. Despite the slight
formality of the opening stages of the gathering, owing to the presence
of the Scandinavian monarch, the keynote to the whole party seemed to be
set and adequately maintained by Blunn himself,--reckless, brilliant
lightheartedness. Gertrude sat on his right, jealously watched from
across the table by her husband. Grant, with curious disregard for
precedence, was seated at her other side. On Blunn's left was a lady of
royal birth, whose exploits had been the talk of Europe,--a woman still
beautiful and witty, who was supposed to be devoting the remainder of
her years and a portion of her colossal fortune to the entertainment of
the monarch who sat on her left. Lord Yeovil, persuaded to be present
with great difficulty, at the last moment, was in the vicinity, with the
Princess Lutrecht for a neighbour. Several of the Monte Carlo notables
in addition to the originally invited guests were present. There was no
one there who did not acknowledge the genius of Blunn as a host. Europe
had been sought for gastronomic delicacies. Wines were served which had
become little more than a memory. The greatest violinist known lifted
them all, for a moment, into the rare atmosphere of the world to which
he held the pass-key. The most popular humourist in Paris offered the
wittiest creations of his brain. The only person who seldom smiled was
Gertrude. She had already been accepted in the little principality as
the reigning beauty of the season, but her appearance to-night had
created a positive sensation. She had justified to the fullest extent
the old contention that beauty is not a permanent and unchanging thing,
but an effect of chance, an evanescent quality, possessed one minute and
gone the next. This might have been the moment of her life. She seemed
to carry with her a nameless and unanalysable perfection of grace, of
figure,--all those nameless qualities which come so wonderfully to the
aid of features not really perfect in form. The violet of her eyes was
distracting. Even the slight fatigue which was sometimes apparent in her
languid tones seemed to bring her distinction. Susan, at the first sight
of her, and more than once since, had been conscious of a little sinking
of the heart. It seemed impossible that any man could look at her
without desire.

Grant himself was moved by the unfamiliar side of her beauty,--the
beauty which, for this one evening, seemed to have taken to itself a
certain appeal, a helplessness, a demand for something which perhaps no
one else but he could realise. Once or twice, at a whispered word from
her, he had felt his pulses leap as in the old days, had felt, indeed,
some touch of the old folly back again,--the folly of which he had
deemed himself purged. He had permitted himself to think for one moment
of a few nights ago when she had stood on the edge of the quay, looking
down to the yacht, looking wistfully at the gangplank, passage across
which he had so strenuously forbidden. It had been comparatively easy
then. He wondered whether any man in the world would have found it easy
now.

"Are you quite at your best to-night, Grant, or is it my fancy?" she
asked, during a pause in the conversation.

"If I am not," he rejoined, "it is because you surpass your best."

Almost for the first time, she laughed happily. There was real meaning
in his tone and it was the sort of speech for which she craved.

"You really think that I am looking well to-night? You see, I never know
where I am between the two extremes. Ottilie declared that I was a
vision of delight. Otto snarled out some-thins: about the Montmartre."

"It is a most unfortunate circumstance," Grant declared, "that every day
I am learning to dislike your husband more."

"You may hate him if you want to," she replied. "I shall not quarrel
with you."

"Well, I hope he is much kinder to you at home than he appears to be in
public. I can't stand the man who scowls at his wife's beauty because it
naturally attracts admiration and doesn't himself endeavour to offer her
his homage."

"Otto is thoroughly German," she replied. "Some Englishmen are the same,
they say. They buy their wife with their name or money or simulated
affection, and when they have her it is finished. She is their chattel,
she is their singing bird or dancing girl, to perform for their
pleasure. There are times, nowadays," she went on, "when such methods
fail, and they bring disaster. But even then the man is generally
selfish and brutal enough to see that some one else shares that
disaster."

Cornelius Blunn leaned a little forward in his place with uplifted
glass.

"Before I forget it--Bon Voyage, Mr. Slattery," he said. "May your trip
across the Atlantic provide you with as much amusement as our recent
cruise. And may its result be as satisfactory."

Grant bowed pleasantly and drank.

"I shall miss you all," he acknowledged, smiling.

Grant saw the white shoulder, so close to him, quiver for a moment,--a
queer little habit of hers in times of emotion. She remained silent,
however, for some time. Perhaps she knew that her husband's eyes were
upon her, as well as Blunn's. Under cover of a great chorus of laughter,
evoked by one of the latter's stories, she turned at last to Grant.

"That is just one of the sweet little stabs," she confided, "which I
have learnt to expect. Cornelius has been saving that up for me. I think
that you might have spared me the shock."

"I only made up my mind twelve hours ago," he assured her. "I can't
imagine how he knew."

"I'm glad to hear that. I think that I should have been the first to be
told."

"You probably would. Next to the Yeovils, of course."

"Lord Yeovil or Lady Susan?"

"They are equally my friends," he replied.

"Are you in love with Lady Susan, Grant?"

He was a little startled, both by the question and the thrill which it
brought.

"I happen to be thirty-one years old," he reminded her. "Lady Susan is
nineteen."

"That is rather a recognised standard," she remarked, "according to
present ideas. The older a man gets the more he leans towards the
kindergarten. In any case it doesn't answer my question."

"I have no time to be in love with any one just at present," he said. "I
have work to do."

"You men and your work!" she exclaimed bitterly. "You drag it around
with you like a closet of refuge, into which you can step whenever you
are hard pressed. Honestly I can't imagine why there are any good women
in the world. There certainly is no encouragement for them. When do you
sail. Grant?"

"To-morrow or Thursday."

"Are you going straight to New York?"

"I may stay at Gibraltar to coal," he replied. "I shall probably have
to."

She turned a little towards him. She had a trick of dropping her voice
almost to a whisper. Her little question barely reached his ears.

"Are you taking me with you?"

"I can't do that, Gertrude," he said firmly, "neither would you come.
And it isn't a fair question to ask me when you know that you are
looking more adorable than you ever looked in your life."

"I tried to make myself look nice to-night because I wanted to ask you
that question, or something like it. Isn't it terrible, this gift of
frankness I have developed? I think out a course of complete
dissimulation and I find myself suddenly the very personification of
candour. Why won't you take me. Grant? Are you afraid of Otto? He is a
very small man and not very strong. And duels have gone out even amongst
us now."

"I thought," he remarked with a smile, thankful for the note of banter
in her tone, "that your beloved young Prince was trying to bring them in
again."

"They say so," she admitted. "That is because he got them reinstated
when he was at the University, and, amongst his young friends, he is
President of what they call their 'Court of Honour.' But I do not think
you would be afraid to fight with any man. Grant, for anything you cared
for. The great question is, or would be, whether you cared enough."

"It isn't entirely a question of caring," Grant declared. "There are two
contemptible roles in the world. One of them is the role of Joseph. I
tell you frankly, Gertrude, that that is a part I never intend to play.
Therefore if I am placed in the position of that unfortunate young
man--which I trust I never shall be--I shall probably fall gracefully."

"Thank heavens," she murmured. "I may remind you of that some day."

"The other," he went on, "is the man who takes away another man's wife.
Frankly, I hate that a great deal worse. I suppose, during my thirty-one
years, I have behaved neither worse nor better than other men. But I
have never poached. I don't understand the morality of it exactly, but
it happens to be how I feel."

"I suppose you will admit," she said, "that circumstances alter cases.
What do you think, for instance, of Otto persuading me to run away with
him the day before we were to be married, by telling me something about
you when you were in Berlin which I afterwards found to be an utter
falsehood?"

"That was a contemptible action," he acknowledged, "but--"

He paused significantly. She half closed her eyes.

"Yes, I know," she confessed drearily. "I was just as much to blame.
More so, perhaps--but how I have suffered for it!"

He lowered his voice.

"Your husband," he warned her, "seldom takes his eyes from us. Blunn,
too, watches. We must speak of other things."

"It is always like that," she muttered under her breath. "Eyes seem to
follow me everywhere. Ears are listening. Life is like that in Berlin.
Everybody seems to have espionage on the brain."

Suddenly they all had a surprise. Blunn rose to his feet. His action was
so unexpected that they all stared at him. He beamed around at their
expectant faces. He had the trick of smiling at a score of people so
that each one thought the smile specially intended for him.

"My dear friends," he began, "have no fear. This is not a speech. This
is merely the expression of a quaint desire which has just come into my
mind to express my joy and pride that, to-night, amongst all of you dear
people who have come at my bidding, there has come one who, I think,
within the next few days or weeks, will be acknowledged the greatest
benefactor, the most far-seeing diplomatist, the most beneficent
statesman of this generation. I am referring, of course, to Lord
Yeovil."

Everyone smiled. The idea, even the words, were still, from an ordinary
point of view, curiously out of place. Yet, spoken by Blunn, just as he
spoke them, they seemed natural and reasonable.

"I will tell you what Lord Yeovil has done," he went on. "He has had the
courage of a great man. He has braved possible opposition,--and
opposition to the Chairman of the Pact of Nations can only mean one
thing, where the personal dignity of that functionary is concerned. He
has, I say, braved opposition, and he has pointed out to all of us the
weak link in the chain of our hope for eternal peace. I mean the
standing out of your great country, sir," he added, bowing to Slattery,
"the United States of America, from the Pact of Nations. Some of us have
felt that by her repeated refusals she did not deserve any further
invitations. Some of us have selfishly felt that we, ourselves, are in a
better position for her being outside of it. Lord Yeovil swept aside all
these pettinesses. He spoke to us as only a great man speaks. He saw the
truth, and he made us see it. We ratified that invitation. I ask you to
drink the health of Lord Yeovil with me. There is no other statesman
living to-day who could have done this great thing. I am a proud man
that he sits at this table. I only ask you to forgive the unassailable
impulse which has prompted me to make this public apologia. For, behind
my words, you will guess the truth,--that I was one of those who
hesitated. That is finished. I am a man convinced. I do homage to a
greater brain. My dear friends--I don't say 'Ladies and Gentlemen'--let
us drink to Lord Yeovil."

"Amazing!" Grant murmured, with genuine admiration in his tone.

Lord Yeovil, whose face was as still as the face of a graven image,
raised his glass. He took the only means possible of showing his opinion
of his host's action. He remained seated.

"My friends," he said, "any reply of mine to our host's kindly words
would give undue significance to his friendly outpourings, and would
invest a few remarks, spoken at a private dinner, with a semi-official
significance, I think that what we have all done together is a great and
a good thing. I should have liked every representative who was present
at Nice to have thought the same. Those three anonymous dissentients,
whose votes were recorded against me, still rankle just a little.
However, the thing is accomplished. I thank you, Mr. Blunn, for your
appreciation, and I thank you more especially still for the most
wonderful entertainment at which I have ever been privileged to assist.
There is one thing, however, which, at the present moment, seems of more
vital importance to me, and I am sure, to all of us, than any unexpected
and unofficial discussion of a political matter. We should all be made
supremely happy if Mademoiselle Lebrun would sing to us once more."

There was a gleam of admiration for a moment in Blunn's eyes. He was
just the man to appreciate the aptness which had minimised as far as
possible the importance of his pronouncement. He despatched an emissary
at once for the famous soprano.

"When Mademoiselle has sung," he announced, "His Majesty has asked
permission to retire to the Rooms."

The King smiled.

"This is an amazing place, with an amazing atmosphere," he declared.
"Even when one entertains like an ambassador--as no ambassador of to-day
could--always in the background there is that little god calling. We
leave our seats at the opera to tempt chance. We forget sometimes,
watching the spinning of that wheel, that the most beautiful woman of
our desire is waiting for us. How is it with you, Mr. Blunn? They tell
me that you are one of the richest men in the world, but I have seen
you standing watching that table as though nothing but an earthquake
could move you until the little ball had found its place."

"I feel it," Blunn acknowledged. "I have even gone so far, following out
the trend of your thoughts, as to try to appreciate the psychological
side of it. It isn't always the money that counts. Your Majesty has, if
I might be permitted to say so, exaggerated when he speaks of my wealth,
but still it is not the money at all which one thinks of. There is a
personal sense of triumph when your number turns up. You feel that you
have backed yourself against a mighty organisation and won. You are
supremely indifferent to the fact that chance has aided you. You have an
absolute conviction that it is your own cleverness. That is the secret
of the thrill when your number turns up and the croupiers fill your
pockets."

Mademoiselle Lebrun sang, and afterwards there was a little movement of
departure.

"Will you please escort me up to the Club?" Gertrude whispered to her
neighbour.

Grant bowed.

"With pleasure," he assented.

There were other influences at work, however. Blunn turned to her
good-humouredly, with the air of one making a pleasing announcement. The
Prince was laughing a little in the background.

"His Majesty asks for the pleasure of conducting you to the Rooms,
Princess."

"If you will do me that honour," the King murmured, bowing.

"I shall bring you bad luck," Gertrude warned him, her voice trembling a
little.

"You will give me, even in that event, what counts, perhaps, for
more--very charming company," was the gallant rejoinder.



CHAPTER XX

Susan came up to Grant, smiling, about half an hour later. She had left
Bobby Lancaster and his sister seated on a divan.

"Aren't you flattered, Grant?" she exclaimed. "You've been labelled
dangerous. Kings have been summoned to the help of the terrified
husband. Look, they've made the poor woman sit at a table and play
roulette, which she hates, with His Majesty on one side, her husband
behind her chair, and Blunn, like a patron saint, hovering around."

Grant looked at the little phalanx and nodded.

"Well," he admitted, "I'm half inclined to believe you're right. It does
seem to be a plot. Where's your father?"

"Gone home," she answered. "He was very angry with Mr. Blunn."

"All the same, it was clever," Grant observed. "I'll bet he's got a
dozen copies of those few remarks of his ready for print and
distribution in the States. The audacity of it all is so amazing. There
were you and I and Gertrude, to say nothing of the Prince, who knew the
whole secret, absolutely within a few yards of him,--knew how he fought
to get that gloomy Scandinavian back to Nice in time to vote. He just
laughs at us and ignores it all. We're only one or two. It is the
millions he wants. It's magnificent!"

"Since I'm afraid it's quite hopeless for you to get anywhere near the
enchanting Princess, would you like to talk to me for a few minutes?"
she invited.

"We'll find that greedy corner in the Bar," he assented, turning away
with her, "where you eat up all the chocolate eclairs."

She sighed.

"I wish I weren't so fond of food. People won't believe that I have
sentiment when they watch my appetite. However," she went on cheerfully,
"I shan't want anything more to eat to-day, nor to-morrow, as a matter
of fact."

"It was a great dinner," he acknowledged. "We'll have an orangeade and
go through the courses. They were something to dream of."

"If you're going to talk about food," she began peevishly,

"Not necessarily food," he interrupted, as they selected their easy
chairs. "There were the wines--that Chateau Yquem, for instance.
Terrible to drink it after champagne, but it was a dream."

"How long are you going to stay in the States.-'" she asked.

"Until you're grown up," he replied. "Then I'm coming back to see what
sort of a woman you have become."

"You will probably find me married to Bobby Lancaster," she warned
him. "He proposed to me to-night in an entirely different way and I was
really touched. I don't see why one should wait forever for a man who
never asks one, and who talks about going to the other end of the world
as though he was slipping into Corret's to have his hair cut."

"Meaning me?"

"Meaning you."

For a single moment Grant felt that he had exchanged his thirty-one
years for her nineteen. She was smiling at him with all the gentle
savoir faire of a woman of the world. He himself was embarrassed.

"Aren't you by way of being an extremist?" he enquired. "Even if one
might hesitate to ask you to leap into sedate middle age, it seems
rather a pity for you to marry into the nursery."

"Bobby is twenty-four," she declared indignantly.

"You amaze me," he confessed. "But consider those twenty-four years. We
will leave out the perambulator stages. Fifteen to nineteen at
Eton--cricket and rackets. Twenty to twenty-four, a guardsman--rather
more cricket, rather more rackets. It is a full and busy life, child,
but it makes for youth."

She smiled serenely.

"You don't understand," she remonstrated. "Cricket is almost our
religion. I asked the Captain of the Australians to marry me when I was
fourteen."

"He spared you?"

She nodded.

"He gave me his daughter's photograph. She was much older than I was,
very thin and she squinted. It wasn't really a romance--it was cricket."

"Is Bobby any good?" he asked.

She sighed.

"That's rather the pity of it," she admitted. "He very seldom makes any
runs and he has ninety-five different excuses, or rather explanations,
for the way in which he got out."

"I don't think I'm missing much in cricket," Grant reflected. "I played
halfback for Harvard. Football isn't a bad game, you know."

She looked at him sympathetically.

"That must have been back in the dim past," she observed. "Long before
the sedate middle-aged feeling came upon you."

"Susan, I want to tell you this. You're a delightful child and an
amusing tomboy and I've often wished that you were just a few years
older."

"Why?" she demanded breathlessly.

"Never mind. But, in addition to youth, you have a brain, and you're one
of the pluckiest girls I've ever had with me in a tight corner. Don't
think I've forgotten it, because I haven't."

"Rubbish!" she laughed.

"And I'm going to say this to you," he continued, turning towards her,
so that she suddenly saw that he was in earnest, and became very still
indeed, "I've got a half-finished job on my hands, and how it will turn
out I don't know. It will be a matter of six months before I'm through.
When I'm through, I'm coming right back. And, Susan, I don't want to say
too much, but I don't think those boys are going to be quite what you
deserve in life. It's horrible to feel a little too old."

She suddenly gripped his hand.

"Idiot!" she murmured. "You're not a bit too old. I wouldn't marry Bobby
Lancaster if he were the last man on earth."

She was looking at him with a suspicious mistiness in her eyes. Her
mouth was quivering just a little. And then it all passed. She was
herself again,--slim, girlish, delightful, with the audacity of a child
and the certain promise of the woman's beauty in her delicate
immaturity.

"I don't know how I can trust you to cross the Atlantic alone," she
laughed. "How many of the crew of the Grey Lady have you sacked?"

"Not one," he admitted. "I've forgiven them all. You don't think Blunn
is going to smuggle himself and a few desperate plotters on board, do
you? Or put an infernal machine there to blow me sky-high?"

She shook her head.

"I'm half honest," she said thoughtfully, "when I tell you frankly that
I don't like letting you go alone. You, in your sedate middle age, do
need a little looking after, sometimes, you know--somebody with the
common sense of youth. However, it's just an idea, I suppose. I wish you
luck in America, Grant."

"Will you wish me a safe return?" he asked.

Once more she looked at him. He felt the peace of a great understanding
in his heart. Those were not the eyes of a child.

"Yes," she answered. "I hope you will come back safe and soon."

At a few minutes after ten the next morning the Blue Peter was flying
from the masthead of the Grey Lady and the last of a little stream of
tradespeople were leaving the yacht. There was the usual crowd of
loungers upon the dock to watch the departure, and on the bridge Lord
Yeovil and Grant were standing a little aside, talking.

"If anything could make me a convert to your somewhat alarmist point of
view, Slattery, Blunn's behaviour last night would do it," the former
acknowledged, after a little desultory conversation upon the events of
the evening before. "I still don't understand what was at the back of
his mind."

"I can tell you," Grant said. "You'll find a copy of that speech will
appear broadcast throughout America. 'Cornelius Blunn, the great
shipping magnate, entertains Prime Minister of Great Britain, to
celebrate invitation to the United States to join the Pact of Nations.'
That's the sort of headline you'll see in every paper which counts.
Every word he said will appear verbatim. It's wonderful propaganda for
Germany."

"He stole a march on me, I'm afraid," was the somewhat rueful admission.

"Never mind," Grant consoled him. "We've won the first bout, after all,
and Blunn knows it. For all his carefully laid scheme to prevent it,
America is invited to join the Pact of Nations. Now we'll have to strip
for the second bout. We shall have to fight like hell to get that
invitation accepted. You don't follow our domestic politics, sir, I
expect."

"How can I?" Lord Yeovil protested. "I've problems enough of our own to
deal with all the time."

"The opinion of the educated and intelligent citizen of the United
States upon any vital subject," Grant expounded, "is sometimes,
unfortunately, an entirely different matter to her voting force. That is
our only danger. Cornelius Blunn and his friends know quite well that if
America accepts the invitation of the Pact, all those grandiose schemes
which have been formulated and brought to maturity by Germany and her
friends fall to the ground. Peace is assured to the world for an
indefinite period of time. Germany must abandon her hope of revenge.
Japan must reconcile herself to the permanent subordination of the
yellow races. Therefore, strenuous efforts will be made in America to
prevent her acceptance."

"I can quite believe that," Lord Yeovil assented. "The peace lover will
have German-American interests and the Japanese influence to fight.
Still, I can't help thinking that on a question like this the
common sense of the country will carry all before it."

"I am with you there," Grant agreed, "and yet it is a fact that there
have been, even within my memory, laws passed by the legislature which
were in absolute opposition to the will of the people. The voting power
of America is a chaotic and terribly uncertain quantity. Our friend
Blunn will be over there before a month is passed. Prince Lutrecht will
be visiting at Washington. I shouldn't be surprised if Baron Funderstrom
takes a little tour there, too. Headquarters will be moved from Monte
Carlo to Washington and New York, and we haven't any reasonable means of
coping with all the flaring, misleading propaganda which will be let
loose to induce America to refuse this invitation within the next few
weeks. The only hope will be if, by any remote chance, one of us is able
to discover proof of the subsequent intentions of Germany and her
jackals. Otherwise I honestly believe that there is a serious possibility
that the United States, in the most courteous possible tones, will
decline your invitation."

"If they do," Lord Yeovil remarked grimly, "I must resign at once from
my position as Chairman of the Pact and probably from the Premiership of
Great Britain. A refusal under the present circumstances would be little
less than an affront. You have this matter very much at heart, Grant."

"I'm an American and I am fond and proud of my country," Grant answered.
"I pose as being an idle millionaire. You know I'm not. I never worked
so hard in my younger days, when I was Second and eventually First
Secretary, or went through so many disagreeable moments as I have during
the last eighteen months. I don't fancy my next six months will be any
easier. I am going to do my level best to bring the truth home to the
American people and to show up the plot which I am convinced is being
organised against us. If I succeed I shall come straight back to Europe
and, if I may, I shall come and pay you a visit."

Lord Yeovil held out his hand. Probably at that moment the same thought
was in the minds of both men.

"You have my best wishes. Grant," he said cordially.

Grant walked with his departing guest to the gangplank and waved his
farewell as they backed away into the harbour and swung round. Very soon
they were heading for the open sea. The wonderful little bejewelled
principality of intrigue, of fierce excitements and strange happenings,
grew fainter but not less beautiful. The sun was streaming down upon the
snow-streaked mountain peaks, the white-faced villas, the deep masses of
green, the garish but curiously attractive front of the great Casino.
Grant breathed a sigh of relief as the coast line faded away and the
west wind took them into its embrace. There were ten days at least of
freedom,--ten days in which to rearrange his thoughts, to prepare for
the next stage of the struggle.

He lunched early, dozed for an hour in the afternoon, read for a little
time, and discussed the question of coal supply with the chief engineer.
They made careful calculations and to Grant's relief, came to the
conclusion that a call at Gibraltar would not be necessary. He was
suddenly feverishly anxious to reach New York, to see his friends at
Washington, to gauge for himself exactly the feeling which would be
created by this fateful invitation. The solitude of the open seas
appealed to him immensely. He sat on deck for a while after dinner, in a
sheltered place, listening to the rush of the wind and watching the
stars make a fitful appearance. As the breeze stiffened they altered
their course slightly and showers of spray sometimes swept the deck. He
turned in early and slept soundly although every now and then he was
haunted by a queer sense of some unusual sound,--unusual yet not
sufficiently distinct to waken him. In the morning, he turned out at his
usual hour, quite unconscious of the fact that he was so soon to be
brought face to face with tragedy. He took his bath of warm and then
cold sea water, strolled on deck, breakfasted in a sunny corner, and lit
a pipe. After an hour or so he strolled aft on his way to the chart
room. As he passed the companionway he glanced in, gripped at the door,
stood stupefied, speechless, aghast. Still wearing her wonderful cloak,
her satin shoes and slippers, her eyes weary but passionately
questioning, came Gertrude.



CHAPTER XXI

"If you please, Grant," she said, "I want my clothes."

His words, even to himself, sounded pitifully inadequate.

"How on earth did you get here?" he demanded.

"It was rather difficult," she admitted. "I had a lot of luck. Can I
have some coffee or something? I haven't had anything since I came on
board."

"When was that?" he asked.

"Four o'clock yesterday morning. I'm starving. I was afraid you'd hear
me crying in the night."

"Good God!" he groaned. "Come down to my room. You mustn't let them see
you like that."

She followed him down to his own quarters. He shut the door, watched her
sink into a chair, and stood over her.

"Tell me about it," he said simply.

"After we got home," she began, "--and they made me play roulette until
two o'clock--Otto was simply brutal. I couldn't bear it any longer, and
the thought of your going. I gambled once before in life, you see. I
gambled again. I gave Ottilie, my maid, all the money I had. She packed
a trunk for me and addressed it to you. It came on board with a lot of
other things. It must be somewhere about. That was easy enough. The
difficulty was to get here myself. I borrowed a chauffeur's overcoat,
put it on over all my things and a cap that hid my face. I walked up and
down the docks for an hour, until I saw a chance. Then I came down the
gangway, slipped along the empty side of the deck, got down the
companionway--I had to hide twice behind doors--but eventually I got to
the door of the stateroom which you said you kept for any special guest,
and which I knew wasn't to be used this voyage. I crawled in, locked the
door, and lay down. I hid there and waited. It must have been about four
or five o'clock yesterday morning. I heard all the people come on with
Stores. I heard Lord Yeovil come on board. I heard your voices as you
walked up and down with him. All the time I lay there in terror. Then I
heard the rush of the water and the anchor come up. I heard the engines
and knew we were out at sea. Still I dared not show myself. I was
afraid."

"Afraid," he repeated mechanically.

"I was afraid you'd send me back. I knew there was only one chance--to
stay on board long enough. I hid all day, terrified lest some one should
look in the stateroom. At night I felt so ill that I almost gave up, but
somehow or other I dropped off to sleep. When I woke I felt faint, and I
found myself crying. I went to sleep again, though. This morning, as
soon as I heard your voice on deck, I crept up the stairs and here I am.
I am here, Grant. You are not going to be cruel?"

He rang the bell.

"Some coffee, an omelette, quickly," he ordered from the astonished
steward. "Serve it here. Let me have the coffee at once."

"Don't keep me alive unless you are going to be kind to me," she begged
hysterically. "I couldn't bear it, Grant. Tell me you are not going to
land me anywhere. Why are you looking at me like that?"

"I was thinking," he answered.

"Grant, you cared for me once," she went on. "I know I must look
perfectly hateful now, but I'm not hateful. I'm really rather wonderful.
I could be. Otto was killing me, and all the horrible things he made me
do. Grant, say something to me. Feel my hands, how cold they are. Be
kind to me."

"My dear, who could be anything but kind to you?" he exclaimed. "But you
must realise--you must know--this is a terrible thing you have done."

He took her hands and held them in his for a minute. The steward brought
in the coffee. The boy followed behind, a moment or two later, with an
omelette and cold meats. Grant felt suddenly stifled. He turned towards
the door.

"I'm going to leave you for a short time," he announced. "You must drink
your coffee and you must eat something. I'm going to try and find out
where your things are. I will have them put in a room for you and a bath
got ready. We can't talk until you are yourself again."

She looked at him wistfully.

"I'll do just as you tell me. Grant," she promised.

"Then first of all drink your coffee while it is hot," he insisted.

He made his way on deck. For a moment he could scarcely realise that
this was the same cruise, the same ship, the same deck he had walked a
few moments ago. He tried to face the matter calmly. She had been on
board since the night after Blunn's party, the remainder of that early
morning, and all the next night. By this time every one in Monte Carlo
probably knew,--probably she knew. No one would ever believe the truth.
No one could ever be told the truth. There was no explanation, no
defence. She was there alone on the yacht with him. Before they could
land anywhere, two nights would have passed. A sudden storm of anger
seized him! Then he remembered her, as she had almost crouched in her
chair, her gorgeous clothes bedraggled, her eyes searching his like the
haunted eyes of a dumb animal in fear. What way was there out of it? He
had faced problems before, difficult problems. How could he deal with
this one?

Presently he returned to his quarters and sent for his own servant.

"Brookes," he asked, "did you know anything about a lady being on
board?"

"Nothing, sir, until a few minutes ago when I saw her coming up the
companionway," the man assured him.

"Have you heard any one else allude to it in any way?"

"No one, sir."

"It appears that she sent a trunk here, or a package addressed to me,
containing her clothes," Grant continued after a moment's pause. "Kindly
search for it and have it taken to the Empire suite aft. Prepare a bath
there and everything that is necessary. Find the lady and let her know.
She will lunch with me in the saloon."

"Very good, sir," the man replied.

And after that! He busied himself for an hour or so in the minor affairs
of the ship. The captain found him studying the chart.

"When should we make Gibraltar, Martin?" he enquired.

"Sunday morning, sir, as early as you like. I'll guarantee the coal,
though."

Grant nodded.

"I may decide to put in," he said. "I'll let you know."

Gibraltar! A hopeless place. How could he possibly leave her there
amongst strangers? And yet, if not, it must be Madeira, worse still, or
New York. Eight days alone with the woman with whom he had once been in
love,--the memory of whose kisses had never altogether passed. It all
seemed very hopeless. His own marked attentions to Gertrude during the
last week or so--attentions persisted in partly to lull her suspicions
and partly to keep her away from Arthur Lymane--came back to his mind.
There was probably not a soul in the world who would hold him blameless
for what had happened. A diabolical trick of fate!

He came down the deck a few minutes before lunch time and found Gertrude
established in a long chair,--a very changed and resuscitated Gertrude.
She was wearing a white serge costume; her hair--she wore no hat--shone
in the warm light with the colour of cowslips in a sun-soaked meadow.
She was herself again, soignée, as perfect in the small details of her
toilette as though her maid had spent the morning by her side. Brookes
appeared with two cocktails on a tray, just as Grant arrived. She took
one readily and smiled at her distracted host.

"This is wonderful," she murmured. "I never wanted anything so much in
my life. The epoch to which my reputation belongs is finished," she went
on, a moment or two later. "You can put me off somewhere if you want to
and make me appear ridiculous. I do not think that you will be so cruel
as that, though."

"No," he admitted. "I do not think I shall. But, in the name of God,
what made you do it?"

"I have tried to explain," she answered. "Perhaps presently I may be
more coherent. Am I allowed to lunch with you?"

"By all means. The bugle has just gone. Let me help you out."

Her fingers clung to his, and she took his arm as they passed down the
companionway and entered the beautiful little saloon. She looked round
her almost affectionately.

"I didn't think I should be here again so soon," she murmured.

"Neither did I," he answered.

"I missed most of the fun the other night," she went on rumi-natingly.
"If I had known what was going to happen, I shouldn't have been so
careful. Your little friend, Lady Susan, really won the trick, didn't
she?"

"She did," Grant assented. "She brought that youthful navigator of mine
to his senses. I think if it hadn't been for her, your husband and Blunn
would have got Funderstrom back and that invitation to America would
never have been sent."

"In which case, I suppose you would not have been on your way to America
now?"

"I certainly should not," he acknowledged.

"And you would have been spared this terrible thing which has come upon
you!"

"The voyage would never have taken place," he remarked stonily.

The service of luncheon proceeded amidst flickers of conversation of a
general character, chiefly prompted by Gertrude. Afterwards they took
their coffee on deck.

"To leave our unimportant selves for a moment or two," she said sadly,
yet with an effort at lightness, "What are you going to do in America?"

"I shall find work there," he answered.

"You certainly will," she agreed. "I believe you are going back with the
right idea. If not, you can hear it from me. All that speech of Blunn's
was sheer and unadulterated bluff. Germany will do its very utmost in
the States to get the Senate to refuse the invitation from the Pact.
They have more power than you would imagine."

"You have reason to believe this?" Grant asked.

"I know it," she assured him. "They talked before me freely
enough--Blunn, Lutrecht, Otto. I was only Otto's wife, his chattel. I
didn't count. I shouldn't be likely to dare to breathe a word of which
my lord and master did not approve. Oh, they are fools, those men, the
way they treat their womankind."

"Have you any idea as to the means they intend to use?" Grant enquired.

"Propaganda, first and foremost," she declared. "They are all prepared.
Whom they cannot convince, they will buy. They reckon that the bill for
assenting to the invitation will be fought inch by inch in the Senate.
They will go any lengths to stop it."

Grant's face darkened.

"I know what that means," he muttered. "I know what a political fight in
my country means, alas!"

"I might be able to help," she suggested a little timidly. "I have seen
something of life in Berlin."

He made her drink her coffee and afterwards lie down and rest. He
himself spent a restless afternoon. The situation tormented him. A man
of fixed and changeless purposes, as a rule, he found himself all the
time looking at the matter from varying points of view. There were
moments when his old tenderness for Gertrude seemed to some extent
revived when, for the sake of bringing the happiness once more into her
face, he felt a queer incoherent impulse to bid her close the gates of
memory upon her past,--to assure her of his unchanged devotion. And then
he shook with terror at the thought that such an idea could possibly
have occurred to him. He was running a risk of ruining his own life and
perhaps Susan's for the sake of a sentimental impulse of pity. He kept
to himself most of the afternoon. At dinner time the strain began again.
She wore a simple but beautifully fitting black net gown, and the way
her eyes sought his as though for his approval would have seemed
pathetic to a harder-hearted man than Grant. She drank more champagne
than usual at dinner time and regained some of her spirits. She seemed
less timid, some of her constraint appeared to pass. Afterwards they sat
out on deck in a sheltered place. A clear, windy night, a star-strewn
sky and a moon in its last quarter. They smoked, drank coffee, and every
moment conversation became more difficult. Suddenly she leaned towards
him and caught at his hands.

"Grant," she murmured, pleading, "can't you pretend, even if you don't
feel anything any more? Don't keep me at arms' length like this. We're
alone. There isn't any one in the world to interfere, and my heart is
dry. Kiss me as though you cared just a little."

Her arms were around his neck, her head falling back, her lips close to
his. A sudden coldness came over him. He remembered how he had longed
and fought against the desire to kiss Susan. It wasn't fair, he had told
himself. She must have her chance. She was so young. The sort of kiss he
would have given her seemed somehow sacrilegious.

"Grant, kiss me."

He obeyed coldly, and with no pretence of fervour.

"Gertrude," he said, "it's a horrible thing. You know I cared once. You
know that once I was glad enough to kiss you."

"Is it that girl?" she asked.

"Yes," he answered.

Her arms slid away from him--white, reluctant arms, beautiful in shape
and texture--arms with their own peculiar expression of despair, as
they fell upon her lap. The life for a moment seemed to go out of her.

"She is so young," she murmured. "Such a child. Grant. She doesn't
understand life yet. You could leave her alone and she wouldn't be hurt.
And you--you don't realise it, but you need more than that."

"Gertrude," he confessed, "I'm a fool about her. I can't help it. She's
one of a type, I know--a very beautiful but not an unusual type. But
she's just herself. The way she looks, her voice, her laugh, her little
mannerisms--they just sit in my heart, they make me feel tender and
wonderful things, and there doesn't seem to be room for anything else."

She lay watching the lazy movements of the yacht as it rose and fell,
watching the black tumult of waters, glittering, now and then, in the
faint moonshine. For a time she seemed utterly inert. Then she rose
suddenly to her feet.

"I have a fancy to walk. Grant," she said. "No, don't come, please. I
would just like to walk alone. It is a fancy of mine."

He helped her to her feet. She drew a fur wrap around her shoulders and
turned hastily away. He leaned back in his chair, his eyes following her
movements. She walked with rapid, unhesitating footsteps, sure-footed
and graceful on the sloping deck, walked with her head a little
uplifted, as though watching the rolling mast stab upward at the stars,
as though she had passed into a world of her own thoughts, as though she
were pursuing phantom ideas, seeking comfort in impotent essays of the
imagination. The wind blew in her hair but brought no colour to her
cheeks. Time after time she passed his chair without a glance, and each
time it seemed to him that she was a little paler. At least he stopped
her.

"You are tiring yourself, Gertrude," he said kindly, "Take my arm if you
want to walk any more."

"You are right," she assented. "I will go down. Good night. Grant."

He kissed her fingers, horrified to find how cold they were. He insisted
on taking her down the companionway to the door of her stateroom. She
turned round there and smiled at him a little wanly. The suite consisted
of a tiny sitting room as well as a bedroom and bathroom, the latter all
black and white marble, and gleaming silver.

"You give me so much luxury. Grant," she sighed. "If only you could find
a little kindness in your heart for me."

He felt suddenly brutal. He stooped and kissed her hands.

"Dear Gertrude," he whispered, "my heart is full of kindness. So full--"

"So full. Grant?"

"So full that I don't know how to offer it to you," he answered. "You
see I'm a clumsy brute, Gertrude, and I've never been able to forget the
years when I thought you the most beautiful thing on earth."

"But you don't any longer!" she cried.

He turned away. She listened anxiously to his receding footsteps. Then
she threw herself on the sofa with a little moan. Afterwards she
prepared for bed, left her door on the latch, wrapped a dressing gown of
wonderful, rose-coloured silk around her, lit a standard electric light,
drew out a book at random, and made a pretence at reading. She waited
until she heard him come down the gangway, heard him pass her door with
unfaltering footsteps, on his way to his own quarters, heard him open
and close the door of his own room. Then she dropped the book and turned
over on her face amongst the pillows.



CHAPTER XXII

The next morning they passed Gibraltar soon after noon and headed for
the Straits. At one o'clock Grant, who had spent the morning on the
bridge, descended and walked down the deck. The chair in Gertrude's
accustomed place was empty. Brookes came out from the little smoke room
with a single cocktail upon a tray.

"Where is Madam?" Grant enquired.

"Her Highness sent word that she would remain in her rooms to-day,"
Brookes answered. "She begged that you would not disturb yourself on her
account. She is simply a little tired."

Grant frowned. He was most unexpectedly disappointed.

"Who is looking after the Princess?" he asked.

"I thought of doing so myself, if you have no objection, sir," the man
replied. "If you can manage with Jackson in the saloon, sir, it would
perhaps be better."

Grant nodded and went to his solitary luncheon. It was certainly, to
some extent, a relief to be spared the haunting question of her eyes, to
be made to feel all the time that, in some way or another, he was
unintentionally avenging himself for the great slight of his life. Yet
the solitude oppressed him. He ate without his usual appetite and even
forgot his whisky and soda until the meal was over. He spent the
afternoon engaged upon some work. At six o'clock he sent her a little
note:


My dear Gertrude, he wrote,_
_
I am so sorry you are not well. Is there anything I can do? Shall I have
the pleasure of seeing you at dinner time?


In a few minutes Brookes brought back an answer.


Dear Grant,

There is nothing the matter with me. If it is any pleasure to you, I
will come to dinner.


In a sense he hated the satisfaction with which he read the few lines.
He turned around and faced himself a little savagely as he realised the
feeling. The wind, which had been freshening during the last few days,
was now blowing almost a gale. He put on his oilskins, lit a pipe, and
walked out on deck. Even he, a yachtsman from his boyhood, had to crawl
along for some time, clutching at any support he could find, until he
reached the railing. Linking his arm through it, he stood and looked
down at the boiling cauldron of waters below. Grey clouds were rolling
up all around them. White-capped waves rose one after another, as though
to defy their progress. The first officer passed him on the way to the
bridge.

"Heavy sea, sir, for the time of year," he observed,

"Is it getting worse, do you think?"

The man shook his head.

"It will blow itself out by dusk, sir," he prophesied. "It's a pleasure
to see the way she rides through it."

Grant found his way presently on to the bridge and walked for an hour in
the roar of the wind and with the spray dashing continually in his face.
Towards the hour of twilight there was a faint yellow line of light
westward,--the only parting in the ever-gathering clouds.

"What do you think of it. Captain?" Grant asked.

"I'm thinking she's the grandest little weather boat I've ever been on,"
the latter replied. "All the same, it's as well we're on the southern
route. We might have lost a boat or two. It will be down before morning,
sir."

Grant, curiously excited by the storm, changed for dinner a little
before his usual time and made his way to the tiny smoke room. Brookes
was already there, mixing cocktails.

"We will have a bottle of the special Clicquot to-night," Grant ordered.

"Her Highness is dining, I believe, sir," the man told him. "She said
that she felt much better."

Grant nodded, furious with himself that the indifference with which he
replied was only assumed. He stood in the swaying room, holding on to one
of the fixed chairs, bitterly resenting the sudden access of weakness
which made him half long for, half dread her coming. Then he heard an
unexpected sound,--the sound of her laughter, silvery, almost gay, as
she came cautiously in, holding on to the wall. He stepped forward to
meet her and led her to a chair. She looked at him wonderingly.

"Whatever have you been doing. Grant?" she exclaimed. "What a colour you
have! You look as though something marvellous had happened."

He shook his head.

"Just the storm," he answered. "It was wonderful this afternoon."

She nodded.

"I watched it from my porthole. In a way it excited me too. I was glad
you sent your little message. Grant."

She looked at him and the fingers which held his glass shook. She was
wearing a simpler dress even than the night before,--a gown of black and
silver brocade, whose only fastening was a girdle around her waist. It
was cut low at the throat and she was wearing no jewellery, not even her
pearls, to conceal the white softness of her neck. When he looked at her
arms he saw that the sleeves were wide and loose.

"I am afraid that I was a little churlish last night," he confessed,
"and I didn't mean to be, Gertrude."

She caught at his fingers and held them for a moment.

"You are a dear, Grant," she said, "but you do carry the executioner's
knife with you. To-night let us forget. I think I too have the storm in
my heart. Let us forget the pain that comes when one remembers--when one
passes on to solitude. You shall be my agreeable companion at
dinnertime, and we will imagine that afterwards--well, what shall I
say?--Otto is waiting for me in the lounge, you are on your way up to
solve bridge problems at Lord Yeovil's. But, we dine together."

"If we dine at all," Grant laughed, as the spray suddenly beat against
the porthole. "This may put the fires out."

"The bugle has gone anyhow," she answered.

She was forced to cling to him along the passage. He had, even, once to
support her. In the saloon everything had been made fast as far as
possible, and deep fiddles were upon the table. The service of the meal,
however, was unimpaired. Gertrude had found her appetite. So also had
Grant. Conversation became suddenly a pleasure. It was as though the
whole awkwardness, the whole tragic significance of their presence alone
in the middle of the Atlantic had been swept away. She began to talk of
Berlin, the efforts of the aristocracy to reinstate themselves, the
silent influence of Lutrecht, Blunn and his wonderful love of life and
dark background of unscrupulous ambition.

Grant, who was usually so full of reserves, told her what only one or
two people in the world knew,--of his visit to Berlin as a traveller in
steel, told her how he had stayed at a commercial hotel and dodged the
fashionable quarters of the city, of how he had seen her once in the
distance, driving. He even told her what she wore. She laughed into his
face, with glad eyes.

"You remember my ermines. You remember just what I wore. And yet you
pretend that you don't care."

"I have never pretended quite so much as that," he answered.

The wine danced in their glasses.

"Wonderful!" Gertrude declared. "No one ever has such wonderful wine as
you, Grant. Or is it drinking with you that makes me think so, I wonder.
When you can leave off being severe, when you can look like a human
being, something like the dear Grant of only a few years ago--then you
make life seem too thrilling. Oh, if only I had the power to soften your
heart just a little, to awaken memories in your brain, to make your eyes
soften and have you feel--well, you have felt things for me, Grant."

"And you for me?" he ventured.

"As for no one else," she answered; "then and, alas, now."

He felt a sudden rebellious stirring of the pulses, and he set his
teeth. She laughed at him, half provocatively, half insolently.

"Grant," she begged, "just this one night may we have some more wine?
Hearing the thunder of those seas breaking outside excites me. I had no
lunch and I'm hungry and thirsty."

Brookes hastened away. They were alone for a moment. She leaned towards
him. He sat quite still. Her lips rested for a second delicately, yet
tenderly, upon his, and passed away.

"The storm," she whispered. "Put it down to that. All the strange things
that one can't see at normal times seem to be calling out inside one
to-night. Grant dear, do you know you really have got better-looking
during the last three years? I like the way you part your hair, and
those tiny little bits of grey at the sides."

"Are you trying to turn my head?" he replied uneasily.

"If I could, I would," she confessed. "Why think of it? Why speak of it?
I love the excitement of this great motion, the thrill of being here
alone with you. We are somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, aren't
we. Grant? Oh, I wonder what Otto is thinking about?"

She leaned back and laughed, showing her perfect teeth, the faint colour
once more back in her pale cheeks.

"I think I must have an evil nature," she went on, "because I love to
think of him now, tearing his hair and cursing--impotent. If there's
anything in the world really detestable, it's a jealous man who takes no
pains to keep what he has--a jealous man who thinks that what he has
bought--bought at the altar--is his by divine right."

Grant rose to his supreme effort. He braced himself and fought against
the personal note which had crept into their conversation. He tried to
discuss the future of the nations, but she would have none of that. He
told stories, and she suffered herself to be amused. But all the time
the atmosphere which she had created seemed to remain. Her eyes were
continually seeking his, begging for that answering flash which bespoke
a common understanding.

"Ah, Grant," she said once, as they lingered for a moment over their
last glass of wine, "how happy I am to-night. You were adorable to fetch
me from my solitude. Do you know that, if you had sent me no word, I
should have stayed on where I was? I think that I should have died."

"I missed you," he acknowledged simply.

"Dear man!" she murmured. "And yet you were trying all the time to look
as though I were an intruder, as though I had committed some
unforgivable sin. I suppose I have really," she went on. "There are some
who will never forgive me. An hour or two ago I thought that I should
never forgive myself. The greatest shame of life seemed so near."

He had the sudden feeling of a terrified animal. Every door of escape
seemed closed, and with it all there was the hateful singing in his
blood, the crude insistence of primitive passion. Susan seemed to be
receding, to be watching him from afar off, a little sad,--just a dream.
Again he swung himself into battle.

"A delightful dinner, and such a dinner as I never dreamed of alone with
you," he declared. "Now comes the difficult part. Can we get into the
smokeroom?"

"Easily," she scoffed.

They made their way, holding on to the tables. The yacht was plunging
and rolling even more than ever.

"I ought to go on deck," he told her, "and see how things are looking."

"Presently," she pleaded. "Come into the music room for a minute or two.
That will leave me only a step across to my room. We can have our coffee
there."

They made their way into the little rose and white music room. Opposite,
through the hooked door, was a glimpse of her own suite. The steward
brought them in coffee and liqueurs. He steadied himself with
difficulty. Suddenly one of the lights went out. Only the standard was
left heavily shaded and obscured.

"The captain told me to say, sir," Brookes reported, "that all was well
on deck, but there has been a mishap to the batteries supplying the
electric light, and we may be short for an hour or so. The electrician
is already at work repairing."

Grant nodded.

"I shall come on deck before I go to bed," he said.

The roaring of the wind seemed louder, and the beating of the great
waves over the portholes more insistent. She felt her way to the music
stool.

"Now," she announced, "I shall sing to you. You shall hear my singing
above the storm, if I have enough voice left. Come near, Grant. Come
where I can see you."

Her fingers wandered over the keys, then struck a few familiar chords.

"Hackneyed," she laughed up at him, "but so apposite. Listen, dear man
of surpassing strength."

She sang "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix," sang with her voice sometimes
drowned by the booming of the sea and wind, sometimes rising clear and
insistent through the momentary silences, always with that faint note of
an actual passion, which fired his blood. When she had stopped she held
out her arms. He took her gently into his but he held her away.

"Don't do this, Gertrude," he begged.

Her head sank back. He saw a look of absolute terror in her eyes. She
was like a limp burden in his arms.

"I am faint," she whispered. "Carry me across."

He staggered with her out of the room, across the passageway, unhooked
her door, and bent over her, alarmed. Suddenly there was a shock greater
than they had felt before. The light in the stateroom went out, the door
slammed. He saw her eyes open, blaze up at his through the darkness. Her
arms around his neck were suddenly like a vice. She clung to him madly.

"Grant," she cried, "you have to kiss me now. This may be the end!"




BOOK TWO



CHAPTER I

Grant, returning from an early stroll in the streets of New York on the
morning after his arrival, looked with dismay at the three capable and
determined-looking young men who occupied chairs in his sitting room,
and at the one young lady, who, having placed her notebook upon the
table, was deeply immersed in a novel. They all rose at his entrance.
Jim Havers of the New York Letter was the first to announce himself.

"Glad to meet you, Mr. Slattery."

"Tarleton, of the Moon," his neighbour announced. "Glad to welcome you
back to New York, Mr. Slattery."

"Booker, of the Chronicle," the third young man echoed. "Hope we're not
too early for you."

"I'm Phoebe Smiles," the young lady told him, with the air of one who
imparts information which should be entirely unnecessary. "You know
about me, I dare say."

Grant shook hands with all of them.

"Look here," he said, "I'm very glad to see you and to be welcomed back
home, but what's it all about? I'm not a novelist, or a politician, or
an English nobleman. You can't get head lines out of me."

"Not so sure that we mightn't, sir," Tarleton replied cheerfully, "We
thought, as we all arrived in a bunch, we'd better wait and see whether
you had any preference as to which section of the Press you talked to.
If you haven't you can give it to us all together. We can use the stuff
a bit differently."

"But I'm no use to you fellows," Grant protested. "I'd just as soon talk
to you all together as singly. In fact, I'd rather. It saves time. But
what do you want me to talk about?"

"First of all your voyage home," Tarleton suggested. "Some hurricane you
struck, eh?"

"We ran into a terrible storm about two days out of Gibraltar," Grant
told them. "The Grey Lady behaved magnificently. Captain Martin and
every one of my officers really deserve a word of praise. We didn't even
lose a boat, and, as you know, some of the big liners got badly knocked
about."

"That's interesting," Tarleton admitted, making a few notes. "There's
just one other little thing about the voyage, Mr. Slattery."

"Go ahead," Grant invited.

The three men looked at one another. Tarleton appeared to be almost
embarrassed,--an unusual situation for a newspaper man. Grant, who had
pushed a box of cigars across the table, lit a cigarette and threw
himself into an easy-chair.

"There have been some rumours going around," Tarleton said at last,
"about a romantic stowaway."

"Really!" Grant remarked. "I haven't heard them. What sort of a
stowaway?"

"A lady," Booker interposed, taking up his share of the burden. "A lady
who has been missing for some time from Monte Carlo."

"Is that so!" Grant exclaimed. "What was her name?"

"The Princess von Diss."

Grant stared at him for a moment.

"Do you mean to suggest that the Princess von Diss was a passenger on
board my yacht?" he demanded.

"That's the story that's been going round," Tarleton acknowledged.

"The idea seems to be that she smuggled herself on board without your
knowledge," Havers intervened, "and was only discovered on the third day
out."

"A beautiful romance," Miss Phoebe Smiles murmured.

"Of course," Tarleton suggested diffidently, "this might very reasonably
seem to be a subject upon which you might not care to talk. Say the
word, and we'll quit. Put it to us that on the subject of the missing
Princess von Diss Mr. Slattery had nothing to say, and down it goes in
our books and we'll pass on to the next."

Grant smiled.

"I think you can go a little further than that," he said. "You can
assure the millions in New York, who are interested in this sort of
thing, that I dined with the Princess von Diss on the night before I
left Monte Carlo, at a dinner party given by Mr. Cornelius Blunn, the
multi-millionaire,--a dinner which included her husband, the Prince von
Diss, the King of Gothland, the English Prime Minister, and various
other distinguished people. Since that evening I have not seen or heard
of the Princess."

The pencils were, for a moment, busy.

"One may take it, then," Tarleton ventured, "that these stories of a
romantic stowaway on board your yacht are untrue."

"Entirely," Grant assured them. "There was a large black cat discovered
when we were three days out. She was the only stowaway I know about."

"Good heading, that," Booker observed.


"ROMANTIC STOWAWAY ON MR. GRANT SLATTERY'S YACHT DISCOVERED.
ANSWERS TO THE NAME OF LIZZIE."

"Well, that disposes of the less important object of our visit," Havers
declared. "Can you say anything to us, Mr. Slattery, about the Nice
Conference of the Pact of Nations, and the invitation which was sent
from there to this country?"


"I was at Monte Carlo at the time," Grant replied, "and I had the
privilege of meeting Lord Yeovil often. I look upon the invitation as
one of the greatest events of this decade. Lord Yeovil ran a great risk
in bringing it forward. There was, as you may have heard, opposition."

Pencils were poised and an eager air of expectancy made itself felt.

"Can you," Tarleton asked, "tell us which countries opposed the
invitation?"

"The negative votes are recorded by black balls," Grant explained. "I
can only tell you that three were given. No one could say who put them
in."

"Did you hear any rumours as to which countries probably did oppose the
motion?" Jim Havers enquired.

"Nice and Monte Carlo were full of gossip," Grant replied. "But you must
remember that very few people knew even what the system of voting was,
much less that there were three black balls actually recorded. You
gentlemen have made your scoop in being the first to publish that
information. I had meant to have it published here. One of my objects in
revisiting America is to impress upon my fellow countrymen the absolute
necessity of accepting the invitation from the Pact."

"I see," Havers murmured. "You probably have a little more information
up your sleeve, Mr. Slattery."

"I have a few more things to say," Grant confessed. "But I think I've
given you fellows something to be going on with. I noticed that one of
our well-known politicians, in rather a flamboyant speech last night,
declared that America has no enemies. It is a foolish statement to make.
Those three black balls proved the contrary."

"America has done very well so far by keeping out of the Pact," Booker
remarked.

"It has been in accordance with her principles to remain aloof from
European affairs," Tarleton put in.

"She occupies a mighty powerful position as a looker-on," Havers
declared.

"All that belongs to the past," Grant explained earnestly. "America's
policy in keeping out of all these compacts except the Limitation of
Armaments may have been a sound one. Personally I am inclined to contest
it. However, it is of the future we have to think. Times and conditions
have changed. You must remember too that the constitution of the Pact is
peculiar. Subscription to its principles and inclusion in its membership
makes war between any of the nations belonging impossible. On the other
hand any member or members of the Pact may make war against any nation
outside the Pact without breaking their covenant. In fact, it would be
against its established principles for any nation belonging to the Pact
to intervene."

"You're not seriously suggesting, Mr. Slattery," Booker enquired, after
a brief silence, "that any nation or combination of nations would
actually dream of attacking the United States?"

"I have not said so, but I see nothing absurd in the idea," Grant
assured them. "We are a mighty country in wealth, man power and brains,
but we have faithfully obeyed the statutes of the Limitation of
Armaments and we are to-day no stronger than many a poorer country,
either on land or on sea. A combination of any two powers you can name
would have the advantage of us."

"It would take a great deal to start a war scare in this country,"
Havers remarked with a smile.

"There were a great many people who didn't believe war was possible in
nineteen-fourteen," Grant pointed out. "It came, nevertheless. The
trouble is that the United States of America are governed too much by
men who have never left their own country. To them America is
omnipotent. To us, who have travelled and seen other things, she is
not."

"We've got something more than we expected from this visit," Jim Havers
admitted frankly. "I won't promise you that my paper, for one, is going
to record your views sympathetically, Mr. Slattery. But whether they put
them up like a puppet horse, to knock them down again, or whether they
espouse them for their own, there's going to be some big type used."

"I'm quite content," Grant replied. "I'm here to be laughed at, if you
will. But I'm here to tell you what I believe to be the truth, and I'm
going on to Washington with a few more little facts to lay before some
friends of mine up there. I want to see America accept that invitation,
naturally, cordially, and freely. Then I am going to throw my hat into
the air. And I shall have cause to do it too."

"I'd like a few more of your reasons for adopting this attitude," Havers
suggested.

"You won't have them to-day," Grant told them bluntly. "I have an
appointment with an important person in the newspaper line later in the
day, and I am going to Washington on Thursday. When I get back we'll see
how things go. I have some more facts up my sleeve, but I've got to
build up my case. Good morning, gentlemen. Take another cigar, won't
you, Mr. Havers? Glad to see any of you when I get back from
Washington."

They filed out with a handshake and a word of thanks. Miss

Phoebe Smiles lingered behind. She waited until the door was closed. She
was very neatly and smartly dressed. She had an appealing air and an
exceedingly engaging smile. She smiled now at Grant.

"Mr. Slattery," she begged, "you might tell me the truth about that
romantic stowaway."

"My dear young lady," he replied, "I have already told you, you and the
others, that the story was a fabrication."

"That's all very well for the others," she pleaded, "you see they're
good chaps and sportsmen and they couldn't press the point, with a lady
in it. But the story's bound to come out, Mr. Slattery, and I should
know just how to handle it. You were once engaged to marry the Princess
von Diss, weren't you?"

"Yes, and she jilted me," Grant acknowledged. "What is the object of
reminding me of that little episode, Miss Smiles?"

"Now you're angry," she cried regretfully. "I'm so sorry. Only, you see,
Mr. Slattery, journalism is so much more difficult for a woman than a
man and it would be such a wonderful thing for me if you felt inclined
to tell the truth about that stowaway."

He opened the door.

"Miss Smiles," he said, "I can only add this to what I have already told
your fellow visitors,--she took milk three times a day and scraps when
she could get them. But here is your scoop as you insist upon it. She
had green eyes, green passionate eyes, and her name was not Lizzie at
all, it was Henrietta. Come back when the others come, won't you. Miss
Smiles."

The young lady smiled and pouted a little.

"You look so nice and yet you're so hard," she complained, lingering on
the threshold.

"You are mistaken. I am really very susceptible," Grant assured her.
"That is why I am going to lock my door as soon as you are out of
sight."

She heard the key turn in the lock as she made her way towards the
passage from which the lift descended. Whilst she waited she looked at
herself in the glass and gave a little sigh. She was not used to
rebuffs.

"It must be this hat," she decided, giving it a little push on one side.
"I was never sure about it. Down, please."



CHAPTER II

Grant, a little later in the morning, presented himself at the office of
the newspaper in New York which was generally considered to be the most
influential and weighty in the Metropolis. Its correspondents were to be
found in every capital of the world. One of the editors was received
weekly at the White House. It stood for what was sane and beneficent in
American legislation and the cause which it espoused was seldom known to
languish. The editor, Daniel Stoneham, was an old friend of Grant's, and
on sending up his card he was shown at once into his presence. The two
men shook hands warmly.

"Good man. Grant!" Stoneham exclaimed. "Glad to see you back again. One
hears of you hobnobbing with Kings and Prime Ministers and the great
people of the earth. Quite time you showed a little interest in your own
country."

"Well, I'm here on the old job," Grant declared sinking into the
easy-chair to which his friend had pointed and accepting a cigarette.

"The deuce you are!" the other observed, with some surprise. "I thought
since you had become a millionaire you'd turned slacker. I haven't heard
anything of you for a year or so."

"I've been doing much more difficult and unpleasant work than ever
before in my life," Grant confided. "I've been doing Secret Service work
which is only half official. That is to say, that if I get into trouble
I'm not acknowledged and if I do any good work the Department gets the
credit. That doesn't matter, though. The point is that I've made a scoop
on my own. There's trouble brewing."

"What sort of trouble?" Stoneham demanded. "Do you mean anything in
connection with the invitation from Nice?"

"Well, I'll tell you this for one thing. That invitation would never
have been sent but for me."

"Say, you're not pulling my leg, are you?"

"I was never more in earnest in my life. It was touch and go with Lord
Yeovil's proposition. There were three votes against it. Four would have
barred it. The fourth man had been bought for fifty thousand pounds. I
imitated the methods of the adventurous novelists and abducted him. I
kept him out at sea all night and the voting took place without him. If
he'd got there in time, Lord Yeovil's motion would have been defeated,
America would never have been invited to join the Pact and the trouble
which is even now brewing against her would have developed very
rapidly."

"Serious business this, Grant," Stoneham remarked.

"The most serious part of it is that it's the truth," Grant rejoined
drily. "However, the first stage in the battle has been won. The
invitation has been despatched to Washington. Now I tell you where the
second stage of the battle begins and where America will need the aid of
every one of her loyal citizens. There will be, without the slightest
doubt, an immense and cunningly engineered propaganda to prevent
America's accepting that invitation. I want to fight that propaganda,
Daniel. I want you to help me."

The editor sat back in his chair and his thoughtful grey eyes studied
Grant's face. He was a short man, clean-shaven, with smooth black hair
streaked with grey. Whenever any one wished to annoy him they called him
the Napoleon of journalism. Still the likeness was there.

"Whose were the three votes against the invitation being sent to
America?" he enquired.

"Germany, Japan, and Russia."

"And the one which would have been given but for your intervention?"

"Scandinavia," Grant replied. "That of course has no political
significance. It was simply that the man himself was bought."

"And what do you suppose is the reason for Germany and Japan voting
against the United States being allowed to join the Pact?" Stoneham
asked.

"I believe it is their intention to attack us," Grant pronounced. "The
Pact only forbids aggressions between the countries belonging. She has
no jurisdiction even over her own members who find cause to quarrel with
an outside country. We've been a little too high and mighty, Stoneham.
If we'd decided to adopt the attitude of remaining outside the affairs
of the world, we should never have subscribed to the Limitation of
Armaments. To-day, for all our great wealth, our immense man power, and
our supreme civilisation, the combined armaments of Japan and Germany
are precisely double our own."

"Of course," Stoneham said, "if any other man in the world were to come
to me and talk like this, I should say that he was a lunatic."

"I am no lunatic, Dan," Grant declared. "I know very well what I am
talking about."

"Have you any proofs?"

"I sent them to Washington an hour after I landed. You don't need them,
Dan. You believe me, I know."

"Yes, I believe you."

"And you'll help? You'll put that in the forefront of your whole policy,
the acceptance by the United States of this invitation from the Pact?
You'll press it home to the people, Dan? Remember, it's our last chance.
We've refused twice."

Stoneham was curiously silent. He was looking for a moment out of the
uncurtained window, away over the skyscrapers and chimney pots to where
little flashes of the blue Hudson, with its tangle and burden of sea and
river-going craft were visible, There was something smouldering in his
eyes.

"Grant," he said at last, "you've brought me news. I have some to give
you. In a way, although I never realised it before, my news bears upon
yours."

"Get along with it," Grant begged.

"A commanding interest in this paper--three quarters of the shares in
fact--was signed away last night. The control of the paper has gone out
of our hands altogether."

"Who is the buyer?" Grant demanded eagerly.

"Felix Pottinger," was the quiet reply.

"And who's behind him?"

"They tried to keep that secret. But I found out by an accident. The
real buyer is Cornelius Blunn of Berhn."

Grant was thunderstruck.

"Fifteen days ago," he confided after a brief silence, "I was a guest at
a dinner party given by that man. A few days before that we were
scrapping on my yacht. He tried to start a mutiny. Offered ten thousand
pounds to some of my youngsters to get the yacht back in time for his
Scandinavian friend to vote at the Nice Conference. Blunn and I have had
the gloves oflf all the time. He sent some one down from Berlin to spy
on me at Monte Carlo. My God! This comes of our hospitality to
foreigners. This is where we make the laughing stock of ourselves for
all the world. Cornelius Blunn! The German multimillionaire! The man who
hates America, her industries and her politics, is calmly allowed to
come here and buy the only great American newspaper which represents no
other interests save those of America."

"There is a certain amount of irony in the situation," Stone-ham
admitted. "You know what happened, I dare say. The Chief, after fifteen
years of wisdom, went on to Wall Street a few months ago. He lost
between five and ten millions and had a stroke. I suppose this will just
see him through."

"I thought the old man wouldn't have done it if he'd been himself,"
Grant muttered. "I suppose I'd better go and see Dawson."

"You'll have a hard nut to crack. I heard Dawson speak only last night
at a dinner. His references to the invitation were very perfunctory
indeed. He's one of the men who believe in America for the Americans,
You needn't look so depressed, though. What about me? I shall be out of
a job within a week."

"Come and have some lunch?" Grant invited.

Stoneham shook his head.

"I guess not. We're all in a state of nerves here. Waiting to hear
what's going to happen. The sale seems to have been a lightning-like
affair. We're expecting a visit from Potinnger in a minute. Shouldn't be
surprised if he takes us over within twenty-four hours."

"Couldn't you get one article in?" Grant suggested.

"I'll try," Stoneham assented. "Where are you?"

"The Great Central. They're getting my flat ready at Sherrey's if I stay
on. Things seem a trifle uncertain at present."

"I'll ring you up," Stoneham promised.

Grant lunched at his club, where he met many of his friends and
acquaintances to whom he was simply a rather restless, much to be envied
millionaire. Whenever he could, he brought the subject of conversation
round to the Nice invitation. To a certain extent he was dismayed by the
prevalent criticisms.

"Guess there's no one in the world so thick-skinned as a Britisher," one
man declared. "You can't keep him in his place unless you tie him there.
What does America want, sending her best men away from home and spending
her time and money on these wearisome conferences? They don't amount to
anything, anyway."

"England's got a scare about something or other and wants to hold her
big relation's hand," another usually well-informed man remarked. "For
all their strength, there was never a less self-reliant nation."

"It's just like English statesmanship to make it difficult for them down
in Washington," a third occupant of the room pointed out. "It simply
puts our Government in an embarrassing situation. Nobody wants to seem
ungracious, and it won't be easy to say no. At the same time, I can't
see that a shadow of good can come of acceptance. They're always
squabbling at the Pact meetings, like they are at the Limitation of
Armaments. The latest canard now is that Japan has secretly built some
flying ships which could destroy any fleet afloat."

Grant remained a listener only. He left the club about the middle of the
afternoon, and, after a few minutes' anxious deliberation, was driven to
the Hotel des Ambassadeurs.

"Is the Princess von Diss staying here?" he asked the clerk at the desk.

"Not at present, sir," the young man replied, with a curious glance at
Grant.

"I saw by the newspapers that she was in Newport," the latter persisted,
"and was coming here."

"We have been asked for no reservation at present," he was assured.

Grant scribbled the name of his hotel and the number of his suite on the
back of a card and passed it across.

"If the Princess should arrive," he begged, "will you let her have
this?"

"With pleasure, sir."

Grant went back to his sitting room and considered the situation. If he
approached Dawson, the editor and part-proprietor of the next most
important paper to the New York, he was absolutely sure of an
unsympathetic hearing. Dawson, already prejudiced, would believe nothing
without proofs, and such proofs as Grant possessed were, by this time,
in the hands of his official sponsor in Washington. He changed early,
dined at another of his clubs and wandered into two or three more of
which he was a member. He found nowhere any particular interest in the
subject which was to him such a vital one. Everybody was hugely
concerned with his own affairs, the price of American stocks, the latest
singer at the Opera, the winning of the amateur golf championship of
the world by an American, the success of the American tennis players on
the Riviera. A few people seemed to regard Lord Yeovil's proposition as
a kindly act, but altogether unnecessary, America was splendid in her
isolation, strong and secure as the Rock of Gibraltar. No wonder there
was a desire on the part of the other nations to fasten like limpets
upon her. One didn't wish to hurt England's feelings, but it would have
been better policy to have enquired first whether such an invitation
would be acceptable.

"And how the mischief," Grant was driven at last to observe, "could
America have replied to that? We haven't an official, even the
President, with sufficient authority. The matter now is put on a
definite basis. The Senate must decide."

"Sure," the young man to whom he had been speaking agreed listlessly.
"Look here. Grant," he went on with a sudden accession of interest,
"you must have seen the Hoyt brothers play over at Monte Carlo. Is it
true what they say,--that the elder's getting stale? I've a thousand
dollars on their match against the Frenchmen."

"I saw very little tournament tennis," Grant answered. "The Hoyts are
great favourites for the match, anyhow."

He found his way back to his rooms comparatively early. There was no
telephone message from the "Ambassadeurs,"--only a scribbled note from
Stoneham.


Dear Grant, it said,

Thought you'd like to know Pottinger took us over at six o'clock, asked
to see the leading article for to-morrow's paper and tore it into small
pieces. He's in possession. We're out, lock, stock, and barrel. You'd
better get to work.

Dan.


Grant tore the note thoughtfully across and put through a long distance
call to Washington. Then he threw himself wearily into an easy-chair.
The roar of the city, abating but slightly as night advanced, still
mercilessly insistent, soothed him. He closed his eyes, mindful of
sleepless nights. The tinkle of the telephone bell awoke him. In a few
moments he was through to Washington.

"Brendon, Secretary, speaking," a voice announced. "Is that Mr.
Slattery?"

"Grant Slattery speaking," was the prompt rejoinder.

"Can you come to Washington to-morrow? The Chief would like to see you."

"I'll catch the ten o'clock train," Grant promised.

He went to bed better satisfied. The struggle had commenced.



CHAPTER III

Grant felt that on the whole he was well received at Washington. A very
great man indeed vouchsafed him his confidence.

"I am going so far as to tell you, Mr. Slattery," he said, "that I,
personally, am in favour of accepting the invitation of the Pact of
Nations. I have met Lord Yeovil once or twice and I am perfectly certain
that he is sincere in his friendship for this country. The attitude of
isolation, which some of our most brilliant statesmen have acclaimed, is
not, in my opinion, a sound one in these days of practical politics. I
would welcome a decision of my Government which brought us into line
with the great Powers of Europe. At the same time, to be equally frank
with you, I cannot for one moment believe that there exists any Power in
the world or any combination of Powers which would dream of flaunting
the world's desire for peace and making an unprovoked attack upon this
country."

"Neither should I, sir," Grant answered hastily, "unless I had lived in
the shadow of these people and had imbibed their hopes and ambitions.
Take, for one moment, Japan. I have lived in Tokyo, and other cities of
the country, for a year. I lived there not as an American but as an
Englishman. Japan is a very proud country. The sons of her
over-populated Empire have penetrated with difficulty but still without
vital resistance into most quarters of the world. It has remained with
America to place an embargo upon her citizenship, to enunciate the great
principle of the inferiority of the yellow races. There, sir, lies the
cause of the undying enmity of the people of Japan for the Government of
this country."

"It was really an affair of state, not international legislation," his
host reminded him.

"That has not affected the question," Grant insisted. "The feeling is
there. Then take the case of Germany. She cannot strike against England
or France. They are members of the Pact. But do you think that twenty
years, or two hundred years, would quench that desire for revenge which
has been part of the birthright of every living German to-day? There
remains of her foes only America. Do you realise, sir, the anomaly of
subscribing to the Limitation of Armaments and refusing to accept the
protection of the Pact of Nations?"

"Theoretically, again, yes," was the considered reply. "But,
practically, I am entirely with my advisers. I do not believe in the
possibility of any hostile action against this country. At the same time,
you will see that I am quite frank with you, for I admit I should prefer
to be associated with the Pact of Nations. My efforts will be devoted
in that direction."

"I beg that you will make them strenuous efforts, sir," Grant enjoined.
"You have read the memoranda I addressed to the Secretary?"

"With great interest and some amusement," was the smiling reply. "Am I
really to accept the account of the happenings on board your yacht as
being authentic?"

"They are not even exaggerated, sir," Grant assured his auditor
earnestly. "If I had not kept Funderstrom out all that night, Lord
Yeovil's motion would have been lost."

"I must accept your word, of course. On the other hand you must admit
that the whole thing reads like a piece of _opéra bouffe_. Before we leave
this subject, Mr. Slattery, I should like to ask you one more question.
You have spoken of the hostile intentions of Japan and Germany against
this country. Have you ever come to any conclusion as to the manner in
which this hostility was to be displayed?"

"Sir," Grant replied, "I am a wealthy man, so this is of no moment, but
I have spent a hundred thousand dollars trying to get hold of a
perfectly simple document which I know to be in existence. There is an
elaborated scheme agreed to by Japan and Germany, which is intended to
strike at the very heart of our existence, and for which I have the
strongest reasons for believing that Mr. Cornelius Blunn is responsible.
There are two people from whom I hope to obtain it. Both have, so far,
disappointed me. Nevertheless I shall get it some clay. As regards the
part of the conspiracy dealing with direct warfare, that, without a
doubt, is to be conducted by sea,--the German fleet coming from
eastwards to the Atlantic seaboard, the Japanese fleet, to San
Francisco. I might point out, sir, that the American fleet, honourably
kept within the Limitation of Armaments Statutes, would be utterly
unequal to dealing with both adversaries arriving from opposite
directions."

"You drive me to the conclusion, Mr. Slattery, that I am devoid of
imagination," his host observed, smiling. "I cannot conceive the
spectacle of those two fleets approaching our shores with a hostile
purpose. You need not take it as a cause for alarm that I am unable to
embrace your theory. So far as you are concerned, I am with you on the
practical side of the matter. My influence will be directed towards
securing an acceptance of Lord Yeovil's proposition."

Grant rose to his feet. His companion laid a detaining hand upon his
shoulder.

"My wife desires that you will give us the pleasure of lunching with
us," he said. "Her mother and yours were friends, as you may know. And
I, myself, was at Harvard with your uncle. I knew your father, too,
although he graduated a year or two before me. You are, I hope, free?"

"I shall be honoured," Grant acceded.

Luncheon was an informal meal. A few officials were present, two ladies
who were distant relatives of the host, a recent arrival amongst the
diplomats and a newly elected senator. The presiding genius of the
establishment took Grant under her special protection.

"I'm not going to pretend to be tactful, Mr. Slattery," she declared,
"because you know that Gertrude's mother and I were great friends, and I
was, at one time, very fond of Gertrude. I think I was one of the first
to notice her friendship with Otto von Diss, and certainly one of the
first to disapprove of it. I'm a terrible gossip, and I read all the
society papers. So of course I know that you have been meeting at Monte
Carlo. Tell me, has she changed?"

"She is as beautiful as ever," Grant said, "but she has certainly
changed. She has gained a great deal, and I think lost something."

"She can't possibly be still in love with that ridiculous little husband
of hers."

Grant was silent for a moment. Under ordinary circumstances he felt that
his hostess's lack of reserve was really the truest form of tact. But
the things she did not know were burning in his brain.

"I did not see a great deal of Gertrude in Monte Carlo," he confided.
"Her husband arrived unexpectedly, and I think that he is of a very
jealous temperament."

"Were you speaking of Gertrude von Diss?" one of the women from across
the table interposed. "I see from the paper that she is in Newport, just
arrived from Europe."

His hostess turned enquiringly towards Grant.

"I heard the same rumour," the latter remarked, "but I scarcely think
that it can be true. I enquired in New York, but no one there knew
anything about her. At the same time it is certainly a fact, as I
learned this morning, that her husband's friend, Cornelius Blunn, who
was with us all at Monte Carlo, landed in New York two days ago. The Von
Disses may have come with him."

Grant's host frowned for a moment.

"Blunn seems to have a great many friends in this country," he observed.
"He appears to spend half his time going back and forth."

"His present visit seems to have been to some purpose." Grant declared a
little bitterly.

"In what respect?"

Grant was, for a moment, taken aback.

"You know about Mr. Cornelius Blunn's purchase, sir," he ventured.

"I've heard nothing," was the somewhat impatient reply.

"I am sure I beg your pardon, sir. It would have been my first item of
news, but I never imagined that Gordon Marsham would have acted without
giving you notice."

"What's Gordon Marsham got to do with it?"

"Just this much, sir," Grant pointed out. "He has sold the New
York to Cornelius Blunn. A man named Pottinger is the new editor.
Stoneham's article which should have appeared this morning, welcoming
the invitation from the Pact, was torn into small pieces."

Grant's host was more perturbed than he had been during the whole of the
morning.

"Marsham's action," he declared, "is absolutely unbelievable. He knows
perfectly well that the New York has become almost the mouthpiece of
the Government. It was practically a subsidised journal. To dispose of
it secretly, just now, to a German-American, without even advising us,
is an amazing proceeding. You are sure that you are not misinformed, Mr.
Slattery?"

"Absolutely certain," was the confident reply. "The discourtesy to you,
sir, can only be explained by Mr. Marsham's breakdown in health."

"It is a very serious event," was the grave acknowledgment. "The New
York was the one great American paper--a paper which, when things
really mattered, brushed aside minor issues and preached the gospel of
real things. One of the editors used to be here every week. I always
treated him with the utmost confidence."

"Have you ever met Cornelius Blunn, sir?" Grant enquired.

"Once only. A genial, simple fellow he seemed, for such a master of
industry. I could scarcely believe that I was talking to the owner of so
many gigantic commercial undertakings."

"He is outwardly the most simple and good-natured, and actually the most
inscrutable person I ever came across," Grant confided. "There is a
rumour about him that he carries wherever he goes, night and day, locked
and padlocked in a little casket of gold, a letter written by his father
on his deathbed."

"How romantic!" one of the women murmured.

"Has any one any idea as to its contents?" some one else asked.

Grant shook his head.

"I was once told," he said, "that if one could read that letter one
could read the riddle of Blunn's life. I have formed mv own idea about
it."

"A secret?" his hostess enquired.

"Not amongst us," Grant replied. "I believe that it is an injunction from
Blunn senior--who died, they say, of a broken heart, some years after
the signing of the Peace of Versailles--to his son to devote his life
towards avenging Germany's humiliation. Personally, I believe that that
is the motive before Blunn day and night. I believe that with that end
in view he is deliberately working to upset the peace of the world."

Grant's pronouncement was received, as he had expected, with disfavour.
His host merely smiled. The senator from the west, who had been waiting
impatiently for in opportunity to join in the conversation, cleared his
throat and leaned a little forward.

"Sir," he said, "I guess every man in this country is free to express
his opinions. Those may be yours, but I'd like just to tell you how the
people down in my State look upon such talk. They say that trouble is
made by talking about it, that most of the wars of the world have come
about through newspaper discussion in advance and mischievous people
going about putting belligerent thoughts into the minds of peaceful
people. If I heard you, sir, make such a statement as you have just made
on a public platform, I should conceive it to be my duty to use every
gift of oratory with which I have been endowed to demonstrate to your
audience the futility, the absurdity, and the immorality of such a
statement. Hearing it under this roof, sir, I say no more than this. War
and the desire for war is dead amongst the civilised nations of the
world. We are every one of us grappling hard with social and economic
problems of far greater consequence. The whimper of a person like
Cornelius Blunn, for all his millions, is less than the voice crying in
the wilderness, when one considers the majesty and colossal power of the
chief nation against whom that voice is raised."

Grant inclined his head courteously. The bombast of the senator's words
had appealed slightly to the sense of humour of most of them. Yet Grant
was perfectly well aware that the man had spoken the truth when he
declared that he was voicing the views of the people of his State. It
was a representative expression of opinion. He could even see a
qualified but vital assent to it in the faces of most of the little
party. His host applied the closure.

"Well," he said, "we must not drift into too serious argument. We shall
all have an opportunity of expressing our views presently upon this
subject."

"In the meantime, sir," Grant begged, "might I ask Mr. Senator Ross one
question?"

"By all means," was the prompt assent.

"Would you, sir," Grant went on, turning towards the senator, "vote for
the United States accepting the invitation of the Pact of Nations to
join them?"

"I should not," was the decided reply. "The Pact of Nations may have
need of the United States. The United States has no need of the Pact. As
a citizen of the United States I am prouder of the present isolated
attitude of my country than I am, even, of her undoubted supremacy in
every field of economics and civilisation."

The senator's sonorous statement was the signal for the breaking up of
the little party. Grant was accompanied to the door by one of the
secretaries with whom he had some previous acquaintance.

"The old type remains, I see," the former remarked, with a smile.

"It's the type beloved of the semi-professional politician," the young
man declared. "We have one of them to lunch every week. The chief can't
stand them in larger doses. But you know they have an enormous backing."

Grant felt the warning behind his friend's words, as he walked slowlv
back towards the club where he was staying. It was the West, the big,
brawny West, with its polyglot population and immense material
prosperity, which he chiefly feared.



CHAPTER IV

Grant left Washington with a curious mixture of impressions. He had
spent a fortnight in the political capital of his country and yet he came
away with a strange conviction that he had been somewhere on the edge of
real things, that he had talked of vital events with men whose interest
in them was chiefly academic. Washington might be the furnace, but
impulse took him where the fuel lay. He spent four days in Chicago. He
went on to St. Louis and Minneapolis. Then he crossed the continent to
Boston, where he breathed an entirely different atmosphere. The editors
of two great newspapers believed in him and were ready to preach his
doctrine. Nevertheless when, after six weeks' absence, he found himself
back in New York, it was with a feeling rather of discomfiture than of
self-satisfaction that he viewed his progress. The magnificent
self-assurance of his country seemed impregnable. Even where he had been
listened to most kindly he felt that he was receiving the indulgence
accorded to a crank.

Arrived in the sitting room of his hotel he took up his pile of letters
and sorted them through. One by one he passed them by. He had commenced
his task with a sinking heart. He finished it with a curious admixture
of feeling. There was no letter from Gertrude. He rang up the
Ambassadeurs. They had received no news of any projected visit from the
Princess. He felt himself face to face with a new situation. The
problems with which he had expected to be confronted seemed to have
melted away. Yet to him there was something ominous and disconcerting in
this state of negation, something which seemed like the corollary of his
own threatened failure in the larger enterprise which he had embraced.
He was not an abnormally temperamental person but a fit of black
depression suddenly swept over him. The thought of Susan, her sweet,
girlish charm, her ingenuous appeal, tugged at his heart strings with
swift and passionate little bursts of memory. He cursed himself for the
hesitation which had kept him that last night at the Villa, when they
had stood alone upon the balcony, and the chance had been his, from
taking her into his arms. That one kiss which he had craved from her
would have clad him in the armour of a gigantic selfishness towards
every other claim or appeal. She had been right. The difference between
their ages was a trifling matter, something to be reckoned with if she
had been a simpering schoolgirl of her years, but for Susan--with her
understanding, her insight, her delightful womanliness--a thing not
worthy of consideration. What was she thinking of him now, he wondered?
There had been a certain guardedness in the Press but the story of
Gertrude's flight had blazed along the Riviera, the more ardently
believed in because of the mystery surrounding it. Lord Yeovil's
letters, kindly still and even friendly, betrayed signs of it. There was
no mention of Susan or any message from her, a certain restraint in
dealing in any way with personal topics. Grant moved restlessly to the
window. Although it was his own city, the loneliness of a stranger in
New York seemed to have enveloped him in a cloud of deepening
depression. The magnitude, the sombre magnificence of it all, the
towering buildings, the height from which he looked down at the streets
like illuminated belts, the tangle of distant lights upon the river, the
dull roar of ever proceeding traffic, seemed almost terrifying. A city
honeycombed with people, moving on at the hand of destiny; a
contemplation for the philosopher, an invitation towards lunacy to the
lonely individual. Grant momentarily lost his courage. He seemed cut off
from his friends, the destroyer of his own happiness. The sight of a
familiar face, the sound of a cheery voice at that moment, would have
been a joy to him. He answered almost eagerly the knocking at his door.
A man entered, a man with the two things for which he had felt himself
craving--a smile and a cheerful face--but the last person in the world
from whom he was expecting to receive a visit. "Blunn!" he exclaimed.

The newcomer laughed cheerfully as he deposited his silk hat and Malacca
cane upon the table and withdrew his evening gloves.

"Well, well," he said, "I thought we might meet over here. I'm not
offering to shake hands although I'd be very glad to. I've come for a
chat, though, and when I chat, I like to be comfortable. May I have an
easy-chair, a whisky and White Rock, and a cigar? I have just left the
Opera, and I am a little exhausted with the wonder of it. Your new _prima_
_donna_ is marvellous."

Grant rang for the waiter.

"What on earth have you come to see me about, Blunn?" he asked.

"My dear fellow, what a question!" the other replied, looking round the
room and finally selecting his chair. "Enemies always visit one another.
It lends spice to combat. Now the one of us with the keener brain will
leave this interview the gainer. Which of us will it be, I wonder? A
most interesting speculation. By the bye, might I suggest a little ice
with the whisky and White Rock?"

Grant gave the order. He was in the frame of mind to welcome the
presence even of Mr. Blunn.

"After your magnificent banquet in Monte Carlo my last evening there,"
he observed, "I think that you are making very slight demands upon my
hospitality."

"I shall make larger ones upon your patience, perhaps," Blunn declared.
"You're not looking well, Mr. Slattery. This rushing around from one big
city to another, these alarmist conclaves in Washington, do not agree
with you so well as the sunshine of the Riviera."

"You seem pretty well-informed as to my movements."

"Naturally. We do not keep a large and expensive Secret Service going
here for nothing. I could give you a most faithful record of your
movements on every day since your arrival, starting with your visit to
your friend Stoneham of the New York, your luncheon at the club and
your subsequent visit to the Hotel des Ambassadeurs and winding up with
the telephone message which called you to Washington."

"Wonderful!" Grant murmured, affecting unconcern, but in reality a
little staggered. "Here's your whisky and White Rock," he added, as the
waiter entered. "Will you help yourself?"

Mr. Blunn prepared his highball with care, lit his cigar and leaned back
in his chair.

"I am thankful," he confessed, "that prohibition in this country was
before my time. It did some good, they tell me. Swept away the saloons
and kept the alcoholic strength of spirits down. On the whole, however,
it must have been very uncomfortable."

"The statute was modified almost out of existence before I took an
interest in such things," Grant remarked.

Blunn was silent for a moment or two. He had completely the air of a man
steeped in the atmosphere of the music he has enjoyed and dropping in
for some slight refreshment with a friend.

"Mr. Slattery," he said, a little abruptly, "one of the objects of my
visit is to congratulate you upon your failure."

"My failure," Grant repeated.

"Precisely. At Monte Carlo you scored a daring and well-deserved
victory. There were a dozen ways by which we could have outwitted you,
but luck was on your side. You brought off one of the crudest pieces of
amateur, melodramatic brigandage I ever remember to have read of in the
pages of your most flamboyant novelists. Still, you brought it off. You
scored the trick. Dazzled a little, shall we say, by success, you start
off now to attempt the impossible. Here, my young friend, you are, in
plain parlance, up against a hopeless proposition. You want to drive
home to the statesmen and people of the United States the fact that a
certain combination of forces, with Germany, of course, as the villain
of the play, is planning a warlike enterprise of some sort or another
against this country in revenge for their intervention in
nineteen-seventeen. You cannot do it."

"Can't I?" Grant murmured.

Cornelius Blunn smiled. Very reluctantly he knocked the ash from his
cigar.

"Well, ask yourself how far you have succeeded at present," he went on.
"You have had every possible advantage. You have visited Washington as a
_persona grata_, you have talked with officials and statesmen to whom you
are personally well known, and whom your high character and reputation
must influence largely in your favour. You had a very pleasant time
socially, everybody was very nice to you. How much progress did you
make?"

"Go on, please."

"You have since visited most of the principal cities in the States. You
have interviewed a great many newspaper proprietors. You have given four
lectures. The only place where you really created an impression was in
Boston and there the ground was already prepared for you. I do not think
that I am far from the mark when I offer you my congratulations upon
your failure."

"But why congratulations?" Grant asked. "Why not sympathy?"

Mr. Blunn pinched his cigar and smiled thoughtfully.

"If you had been a real danger to us," he confided, "we should have had
to take steps--very regretful steps. You can scarcely imagine that a
completely organised Secret Service, of whose existence I have just
given you proof, can be without agents who are prepared to go to any
lengths which necessity might demand."

"You mean that you would have had me assassinated?"

Blunn shrugged his shoulders.

"We should have tried to avoid melodrama. You would probably have met
with an accident."

"This is very interesting," Grant admitted. "I am alive on sufferance,
then--?"

"Don't put it like that, I beg you."

"Supposing I become dangerous?"

"Why conjure up these disagreeable possibilities," Cornelius Blunn
expostulated. "I do not see any immediate prospect of your becoming
dangerous. You have no organisation, no definite propaganda, no real
evidence of the things which you fear. For your information I may tell
you this. Short of an absolute upheaval, there is not the slightest
doubt but that the Senate will refuse their sanction to the President to
accept this invitation of the Pact of Nations."

"Why are you so anxious that America should not join the Pact?" Grant
asked.

Mr. Blunn smiled.

"If you knew that," he announced, "then perhaps we should have to label
you dangerous, which, as I have previously explained, would not be good
for your health. Now, my young friend, we have had a pleasant talk.
Shall I tell you what I really came to see you about?"

Grant glanced at the clock. It was long past midnight.

"Perhaps it would be as well."

"I came," Blunn said, "to ask whether you can give me any information as
to the whereabouts of my friend Von Diss's wife."

"I have not the slightest idea as to her whereabouts," Grant assured him
coolly. "In any case, why come to me?"

"There is an impression upon the Riviera and elsewhere that the Princess
left Monaco on your yacht."

"The impression is ridiculous," Grant declared.

"Is it?" Blunn murmured. "Well, well! The Princess--"

Grant stopped him with an imperative gesture.

"Do you mind leaving the Princess out of this conversation?" he
interrupted. "I do not care, at any time, about discussing women. The
Princess is an old friend of mine, a new friend of yours. Some other
subject of conversation, if you please, or I shall be forced to remind
you that the hour is late."

"Quite a sound attitude," Mr. Blunn remarked reflectively. "Still, you
might remember that I am her husband's oldest friend, and domestic
relations in Germany are treated, I think, a little more sacredly than
in most countries. I might even go so far as to say that I represent the
Prince."

"As to the Prince's representative," Grant retorted, "there is the door.
To Mr. Cornelius Blunn, my enemy, I know, but whose conversation and
sense of humour attract me, I would suggest another whisky and White
Rock."

Blunn helped himself sparingly and rose to his feet. He knew his man,
and the ostensible object of his visit remained unfulfilled.

"_A propos_ of our former subject of conversation, Mr. Slattery," he said,
"take my advice. Don't become too prominent in your propaganda, and,
above all, don't be too inquisitive. There are some things which you
would give a great deal to discover, but the discovery of which would
mean death. You are a young man and reasonably fond of living, I am
sure."

"Not only that," Grant replied, "but I mean to live until my work is
done."

Mr. Blunn finished his highball slowly and thoughtfully. Then he rose,
put on his hat, and hung his overcoat over his arm.

"A very pleasant chat, Mr. Slattery," he concluded. "I like you, you
know. You are a young man of imagination and spirit. I wish that you
were a German."

Grant held open the door.

"If you had been endowed with a conscience at your birth, you wouldn't
have made a bad American," he reciprocated.



CHAPTER V

Cornelius Blunn had in no wise exaggerated the mighty Juggernaut of
propaganda which had already been set in movement in every city and in
every State. Its extent and the magnitude of its operations were almost
inconceivable. There was scarcely a magazine or review published which
did not contain an article by some brilliant writer, preaching the
doctrine of American independence and self-determination. A small army
of lecturers were at work upon the same theme. There were letters to the
newspapers, public meetings, and a vast distribution of free literature.
Stoneham, who had been taking a brief vacation, was brought back to New
York by an urgent cable from his friend. They discussed the situation,
dining at a famous club, on the night of his return.

"I am with you. Grant, you know that," the newspaper man said, "both
from conviction and as a pal. But you're up against a simply absurd
proposition. Plenty of us over here know that for twenty years Germany
has been preparing for this sort of thing. She has a perfect machinery
of propaganda which only needed a touch of the finger to set it going.
Blunn has set his hand upon it. Look at the result. There is scarcely a
magazine of repute into which they haven't bought their way. They have
their own newspapers and they are hanging on to the fringe of a good
many others. They're well in with the reviews, they have a strong hold
in the colleges, the book counters are flooded with their practically
free literature. On the other side there are a fair number of thinking
people who would advocate America's joining the Pact. But there is no
organisation, nothing to bring them together, no means of spreading
their opinions. You've done as much as one man could do. Five thousand
of you might have made a little headway. As it is, Cornelius Blunn and
his friends are absolutely convincing the great majority of the
inhabitants of the United States that America will sacrifice her
independence if she accepts this Pact, that Great Britain is jealous of
America's supremacy in commerce and finance, and that this invitation is
merely a trap. People can't help believing a thing they are always being
told. That is the first principle of successful propaganda."

"I know, Dan," Grant acknowledged. "But we're not going to knuckle under
without a fight. We are late starters but fortunately I've got a few
millions to spare. I want you to look round and collect as many young
writers and lecturers as you can who are inclined to come in on our
side. Take those who agree with us from conviction where possible, but
pay them well. We may be late starters, but remember this thing won't be
voted on finally for two or three months to come yet. I was talking on
the 'phone with Entwistle at Washington only this afternoon. It's a
complicated procedure and, after all, you know, we have something on our
side. The President and most of his entourage are with us. That must
count for something."

"There are drawbacks to democracy," Stoneham sighed. "Also a ridiculous
side to it. The German confectioner in the next street has exactly as
much voting weight on this or any other matter as a Harvard professor
who has made a study of European politics and probably visited every
capital. Decision by votes is always bound to have its fallacies. Look
at prohibition, for instance, imposed upon the people of America against
their wish, by votes. I'm not at all sure that in a thousand years' time
absolute monarchy won't be recognised as the only sane form of
government."

"In the meantime," Grant suggested, "let's get busy. I'll open an
account for you to-morrow at any bank you say. Put yourself down for any
salary you like and pay for contributions just what you think they're
worth. Scour round the city for the young men who can write what we
want--lecturers, magazine writers. We may be late starters, Dan, but
we've a great gospel to preach. We've logic on our side, too. America
was the first of the nations of the world to propose a reduction of
armaments and to strip herself of the means of offensive warfare, just
at the time when she, better than any other in the world, was able to
afford it. She is still the leading spirit in the Limitation of
Armaments. Why, then, should she remain outside the Pact? She lays
herself open to conspiracies galore. She refuses the protection of the
Pact and accepts the restrictions which her own generosity imposed upon
her. And, Dan, let them rub it in. Let them ask where all this stream of
literature on the other side is coming from. Tell them straight it's
coming from Germany. Ask them if they think Germany has forgotten."

They made many plans and Grant succeeded in awakening a measure of
enthusiasm in his companion. On their way out they met an acquaintance,
laughing over a cartoon in a weekly newspaper. He held it up for them to
see. There was a little circle of diners, Lord Yeovil in the middle, and
before him one miserable chicken, on which the eyes of the sixteen
seated around the table were fixed hungrily. A short distance away the
allegorical Jonathan was seated alone at a table with a magnificent
turkey in front of him. Lord Yeovil, risen to his feet, was addressing
an almost plaintive invitation.

"Won't you come across and join us, Brother Jonathan, and bring the
bird?"

"Propaganda," Stoneham murmured. "It's damned clever, too. That sort of
thing impresses."

On their way up town they passed a procession. They stopped for a while
to see it go by. There was a long line of youths marching in fours,
dressed in the uniform of boys scouts, with several bands playing. They
carried banners, on most of which was inscribed the same or a similar
message:


EUROPE AND EUROPE'S TROUBLES FOR EUROPE. AMERICA AND
AMERICA'S PROSPERITY FOR AMERICA.


"I know that Association," Stoneham remarked. "They call themselves the
'National Scouts of Free America.' They have free uniforms, free bands,
about six excursions into the country in the year, also free, and the
treasurer to the fund which keeps them going is a Mr. Hans Klein. More
propaganda!"

"Oh, our enemies are thorough enough," Grant agreed bitterly. "They take
their disciples from the cradle and rub it all in with the alphabet.
And, yet, you know, carefully though they were prepared for it, although
they chose their own time, had every advantage science and pre-ordination
could give them, they lost the Great War. Their detail was wonderful
enough, but you can't win on detail alone. I'm optimist enough, Dan, to
believe that, as these people failed once before, so they will fail
again, and for the same reason."

"You're rather inspiring to-night," Stoneham confessed. "Expound!"

"I do not believe in the ultimate success of any cause," Grant continued
earnestly, "which is utterly devoid of spirituality. The Germans started
out in nineteen-fourteen with every advantage, but with a boldly
proclaimed battle cry of material gain. They were opposed by a nation,
fighting for their own land and womankind, and there is no cause which
can provoke a greater spirituality. They were opposed too by the
British, fighting with no shred of self-interest, with no possible hope
of aggrandisement, fighting to redeem their word to Belgium, and
fighting against the principles which threatened the very foundations of
civilisation. Then we came in. It took us a long time, but it was very
far from being our quarrel. Anyhow we came in. And Germany, who started
with every advantage, lost. I know as certainly as we walk here side by
side, Dan, that Germany means to go to war again, partly a war of
vengeance, partly a war of aggrandisement. Well, I think that we shall
stop her. There's no soul to her cause. Nothing can flourish or live
without a touch of the spirit."

"It isn't argument, Grant," Stoneham observed, "but I see your point. To
a certain extent it's convincing."

"Argument is not the infallible solution of any subject," Grant
persisted, "any more than the brain is the only adjudicator. Take the
hereafter, for instance. We all have a feeling that something of the
sort exists. But argument with a non-believer would be impossible. We
set too much store by our brains."

They had emerged into Broadway, with its medley of blazing lights, its
throng of people, its indefinable but ever existent fascination. Grant
stopped short and pulled his companion up as they watched a couple
descend from an automobile and cross the pavement towards a famous
supper place.

"Some one you know?" Stoneham enquired.

His companion nodded.

"Slightly. The man was at Monte Carlo, in attendance upon the Japanese
Ambassador. Itash, his name is. The girl was one of the dancers at the
Café de Paris. That's rather a coincidence seeing them here."

"Why?"

"Because," Grant explained, "I very nearly got hold of some wonderful
information from the young woman who used to be the sweetheart of Itash
before he took up with this girl. How she got it from him I don't know,
but she got it. She was half mad with jealousy and she sent for me. By
the time I got there, though, Itash had made it up with her, and she
would tell me nothing. Now--if one could only get hold of her now, there
might be something doing."

Stoneham shrugged his shoulders.

"A Japanese diplomatist," he said, "even the youngsters, are not noted
for their ingenuousness. I can't imagine that young man, Itash, as you
call him, giving much away."

"Neither can I," Grant agreed, "but she was very positive, and she did
tell me one or two things."

"Then if I were you," Stoneham suggested, "I should get into touch with
her as quickly as possible. Send her a cable and tell her what's going
on. She wouldn't be the first jealous woman who's saved or lost an
empire."

They passed away from Broadway again and reached Grant's hotel. They sat
in the sitting room, discussing plans till the small hours of the
morning. Just as they were separating Stoneham put his arm round the
other's shoulder.

"Grant, old fellow," he said, "I am with you right through this
business. But there's just one thing I want to tell you before you go
too far. We're on a loser. America will decide against the Pact. I saw a
first forecast of the voting yesterday. The majority for rejecting the
invitation was more than two to one."

"I should put it down as even less favourable than that," Grant replied.
"And still I don't despair. I've a few more irons in the fire, Stoneham,
than I've had time to tell you about yet. I've a capital fellow out in
Japan, going on with the work I began. The British police patrols are on
the scent of something there, and I paid rather an interesting visit to
Archangel a few months ago. I'm not relying on our propaganda alone,
Dan. Before that vote is taken in the Senate, I'm hoping to launch a
thunderbolt or two from very unsuspected places. We've got to have the
propaganda going, but don't you be surprised, old fellow, if, at any
moment, I find you a new sort of fuel."

"We can do with it," his friend assured him. "These things that you are
talking about concern chiefly the Limitation of Armaments Congress. I'm
afraid a few surreptitious ships here and there won't have much effect
on public opinion."

Grant smiled.

"You wait until the first of my thunderbolts is launched," he enjoined.



CHAPTER VI

Grant met Cornelius Blunn on Fifth Avenue one morning a week or so
later,--Cornelius Blunn resplendent in a light grey suit, with a
waistcoat cut very low, a carefully arranged white tie, white spats, and
a white Homburg hat. He had the air of a man pleased with his
appearance.

"Well, my young friend," he exclaimed, stopping Grant. "How goes it?"

"I think you are winning," was the frank reply.

"That's a sure thing," Blunn declared. "I mean, how do you amuse
yourself?"

"Indifferently," Grant confessed. "Your accursed organisations are
getting on my nerves."

"To tell you the truth, you're getting on mine a little," Blunn
confided. "You know, I'm not thin-skinned, but you've been getting a
trifle savage lately. I should very much dislike anything to happen to
you, but it has been suggested to me once or twice that New York would
be a healthier place without you."

"The old threat," Grant rejoined lightly. "By the bye, why shouldn't two
play at that game? I look upon you as one of the greatest enemies to the
world's peace at present existing. Why shouldn't I kill you?"

"Too risky, my young friend. You're not in touch with the criminal
organisation of this city, and to attempt anything of the sort yourself
would be madness."

"I'm not so sure about the madness," Grant replied. "I think that I
could prove justifiable homicide."

Blunn smiled.

"That's just your trouble," he expostulated. "You can't prove anything.
You've got some very sound ideas in your head. You've insight all right.
You can trace the natural sequence of events. But the trouble is you're
short of facts."

"Perhaps I am," Grant acknowledged. "Perhaps I know a little more than
you imagine."

Blunn looked thoughtfully along the crowded pavement.

"I should hate very much to think that you did," he said. "It would
leave me only one alternative."

"I wonder," Grant meditated, "how much you understand of the science of
bluff."

"Nothing," was the emphatic reply. "I have always treated you with the
utmost candour. I tell you everything that may be for your good. Now
I'll tell you another thing which you probably do not know because for
some reason or other it has been kept rather secret. I only knew myself
a few hours ago. The next meeting of the nations subscribing to the
Limitation of Armaments has been fixed for about five weeks ahead. That
will be before a final decision can be arrived at with reference to the
matter in which we are interested."

"In Washington?" Grant demanded.

"In Washington."

"Lord Yeovil will be present?"

"Naturally. You will have an opportunity of telling him of the progress
you have made. Our friends over here will arrange to finish the meetings
of the Limitation of Armaments and bid their guests farewell before the
news of their adverse decision with reference to the Pact is known."

"You are really a very interesting fellow to meet," Grant admitted. "You
are always full of information."

"We must see more of one another," Blunn murmured. "Meanwhile--"

They saluted with great politeness and passed on. Grant was obsessed
with only one thought. Lord Yeovil might be out at any time within the
next month and probably Susan. He had written to her once or twice and
received no reply. He suddenly swung round and caught up with Blunn
again.

"May I ask you a question?" he begged.

"Why, my dear fellow, of course," was the immediate response.

"You have alluded to a ridiculous rumour that the Princess von Diss
accompanied me on my yacht when I left Monaco. Was that
rumour--prevalent?"

"From one end of the Riviera to the other. There was scarcely any one
who did not believe it."

"Thank you," Grant muttered.

He strode off, furious with the malicious turn of fate, which Blunn's
news had brought into the forefront of his mind. Of what benefit to him
was Susan's coming? What joy would he find in seeing her? Probably by
this time she had cast him out altogether from her thoughts as an
adventurer, one of those most hopeless of all people in the world to
deal with,--a man with the spirit of a _boulevardier_, a poseur in love
as in life. He walked rapidly away and back to his hotel. There was a
letter to be written that night,--a letter which it would cost him a
great deal to write, a letter which from any point of view must mean an
accusation against himself. He ascended to his rooms full of his
purpose. As he entered the salon, however, he stopped short. The person
who had been in his thoughts for days was seated there, smoking a
cigarette and, apparently, waiting for his return. A pile of magazines
was strewn before her, the pages of which she was turning over a little
listlessly. At Grant's entrance she pushed them all away from her with
an air of relief. She looked across at him sombrely, yet gladly. There
was not a flicker of emotion, not an effort at coquetry. She was just
now as she was when they had fought their little duel once before,
silent, imperturbable, a trifle contemptuous.

"Mademoiselle Cleo!" he exclaimed.

"Monsieur," she replied. "You have been a long time coming."

"Not so long. Mademoiselle," he replied promptly, "as you have been in
keeping your word."

She rose to her feet. More than ever there seemed to be feline
suggestions about the way she looked and stretched herself.

"Be so kind," she begged, "as to order me some tea and some more
cigarettes. I think--I am almost sure--that I have made up my mind to
tell you the things you desire to know."

Grant rang the bell and gave the waiter an order. Then he pulled up an
easy-chair for her and seated himself opposite.

"Did you come with Itash or did you follow him?" he asked simply.

"I followed him," she acknowledged. "What I was told I could not
believe. Last night I saw with my own eyes. He has brought Yvonne here,
brought her to New York. He, who had promised me a hundred times--but
that makes no matter."

"Did you come alone?"

"I came alone. It was an evil day for Itash when I came."

"Tell me this," he said. "You profess to know Itash's secrets, yet Itash
is a very clever young man. Did he confide in you, or did you steal
papers?"

"Neither," she answered.

"Then will you tell me," he begged, "exactly how it is that you are in a
position to dispose of his secrets?"

She smiled.

"That is my affair," she declared. "Some day--very soon--you shall
know."



CHAPTER VII

Cornelius Blunn was a guest such as hotel proprietors dream of and very
seldom have the chance to entertain. His demands were always on a
magnificent scale and no spendthrift prince in the days when there were
such beings could have shown less disposition to haggle. At the Great
Central Hotel in New York he had a suite of five or six rooms, the most
simple of which was his own bedchamber. Notwithstanding his affability
and democratic habits, he was a person difficult of approach. In an
outer room there were always two or three typists. In the next apartment
were the travelling advisers connected with his various enterprises,
who, with his direction and lavish cabling, influenced the destinies of
his industrial ventures when he was from home. Then came a smaller
chamber occupied by his secretary,--a somewhat colourless young woman of
twenty-nine or thirty years of age, with thin sandy hair, and
intelligent forehead, close-lipped, silent, a woman of deliberate ways
and quiet speech. Beyond was a pleasant little reception room, with a
lavishly furnished sideboard, plenty of magazines and easy-chairs, and,
leading from it, Blunn's sitting room, an apartment with a great writing
table, a special telephone and very little else in the way of furniture.
The chair occupied by his visitors was a comfortable one enough, but it
faced the north light. Even Itash blinked behind his spectacles as he
subsided into its depths.

"You have news, my young friend?" Blunn enquired of his caller.

"There is very little," the latter answered, speaking with his usual
deliberation. "Four more names have been sent in from our headquarters
at San Francisco. They are all vouched for. They all desire places of
responsibility. One of them, a fruit grower in California, is well known
to me. His father was in the service of our family."

Cornelius Blunn nodded.

"Good," he said. "You have places for them?"

"For the first three," Itash replied. "The man I spoke of last, I have
sent for. I propose to take him into the Intelligence."

"You have no other news?"

"There is no other news. May I smoke?"

Blunn nodded his permission. He sat back in his chair apparently
studying his visitor. Itash was by no means a pleasant personality. The
strength of his face lay rather in its cunning than in any other
quality. His mouth was cruel. His eyes, as bright as beads, too shifty.
His complexion was yellow even for an Oriental. His black hair reeked of
the productions of the barber's shop. The handkerchief which he had been
holding in his hand seemed steeped with some powerful scent. The
cigarette which he presently began to smoke had a pungent and almost
sickly odour.

"Count Itash," Blunn said at last, "you are a very clever young man of
the Oriental school, but you have one fault. You are too fond of women."

Itash removed his cigarette from his mouth. He seemed a little uncertain
how to take the other's speech. In the end he grinned.

"In your country," he retorted, "it is wine and beer, and food. In mine
it is flowers and women."

"You may dabble in horticulture as much as you choose," Blunn observed
drily, "but women are dangerous."

"I have learnt to manage them," the young man declared.

"So far as your personal comfort is concerned, no doubt that is so,"
Blunn acknowledged, "but you must remember that, to me, and many others,
you do not exist as a young scion of the Japanese nobility who desires
to achieve success as a diplomatist and walk meanwhile in the flowery
ways. You are something more vital. You are a part depository of the
greatest secret the world has ever known. Itash, if a single bead of the
truth has sweated out of your carcass, you shall be looking for your own
particular corner in hell before the moon changes."

Blunn struck the table in front of him, not heavily, but with a sharp
menacing tap. There were lines in his face now which few people ever
saw. His cheeks seemed to have sagged a little, his eyes sunken. His
lips had parted, and one of his teeth, always a slight disfigurement,
had, for the moment, the appearance of a fang. Itash dropped his
cigarette. The sudden attack had paralysed him. He looked like a person
stricken through fear into idiocy.

"Pick that up," Blunn directed, "and speak the truth, or nothing that I
have ever threatened you with will count by the side of the things which
shall surely happen. What have you told Cleo, the dancing girl of Monte
Carlo?"

"Nothing, upon the tomb of my fathers!" the young man swore.

He picked up the cigarette. Blunn's questioning eyes still held him.

"Upon the great matters," he went on, "I have never spoken in my life
with any human being, and as to women--they are my toys. I have never
treated one seriously. It is not our way in Japan. There is not one of
them who knows a thought that is in my brain, a feeling that comes from
the heart. Not one, not one!"

"You know that this dancing girl has followed you to New York?" Blunn
demanded.

"What has that to do with the matters that count?" Itash enquired
wonderingly. "She has been the companion of my idle moments, she has
never asked a question; she is like the others, a being for the dance,
the wine, an hour or so of love. I tire of her and I take another
companion. Sometimes you change wine for beer, is it not so? She is a
foolish being and my notice has been pleasant to her. She is
jealous--women are made like that. What does it matter?"

"I hear your words," Cornelius Blunn said. "Now listen to this, Itash,
and tell me what you make of it with your Oriental wisdom. This dancing
girl has followed you from Monte Carlo to New York. Two nights ago she
visited Grant Slattery, was in his room for two hours. What do you make
of that?"

"It is her profession," Itash sneered.

"You think so? That is the Oriental kink in you," Blunn declared. "A man
like Grant Slattery doesn't amuse himself with the cast-off mistresses
of such as you. Now listen! Of your wisdom answer me this. Why, on the
morning after her visit, did Grant Slattery himself interview the
managers of the three great steel companies with whom Japan has dealt in
this country?"

Itash's face expressed only bewilderment. He seemed utterly unable to
read the riddle of Blunn's words.

"I am foolish," he confessed. "I cannot see what distresses you. I
cannot understand what Cleo--"

Blunn pulled him up. He was convinced that the young man was at least a
harmless agent of his own undoing.

"Listen," he interrupted. "You are one of the few persons in a position
to call the attention of people whom it might concern to the fact that
Japan, during the last three years, has purchased more steel in the
United States than would build her six battleships allowed her by the
Limitation of Armaments twice over and re-lay every line of railway she
has in Japan. Cleo, your sweetheart, comes to see Grant Slattery, and
Grant Slattery interviews representatives of these three steel companies
the very next morning."

"Never have I opened my lips to Cleo upon any such subject in my life,"
the young man asserted fervently. "She knows nothing. She can know
nothing."

"Humph!" Blunn grunted. "The puzzle remains then. But I do not
understand it. I am uneasy--it is one of the most unfortunate things
which could have happened that this annual meeting of the Limitation of
Armaments should be fixed for a date just before the question of joining
the Pact comes up in the Senate. We keep our secrets well--we, who
understand these things--but there are other matters besides the secrets
of your country's warships which are there to be discovered, if the
fortune went against us. A scare at the Conference might undo all our
great work."

"There will be no scare," Itash declared. "Our extra battleships are
hidden. No one knows that each one has a sister-ship."

"There remains that visit," Blunn muttered. "I shall brood over it
until I have some explanation. I am not happy about you and your
hobbies, Itash. Women are best left out of the game. I had rather you
collected butterflies."

"I should be as likely to tell the butterflies my secrets," the young
man scoffed. "You should know that we do not treat our womankind as you
do. They are the marionettes who dance for our pleasure. To treat them
seriously would spoil our joy of them."

Cornelius Blunn seemed to be slowly coming back to himself again. His
tone was almost good-humoured.

"Listen," he said. "You sup every night with your little lady from the
Café de Paris at the _Folies Bergeres_, is it not so?"

Itash was a little startled.

"I am usually there," he admitted.

"To-night," Blunn announced, "I am your host. I remember the young lady.
I have danced with her myself. I will dance with her to-night, whilst
you look on and are sulky. You need not be afraid," he went on. "I have
no designs on your belongings. It pleases me to spend an hour or so with
you both. At midnight, at the _Folies Bergeres_! You have always the
corner table on the right, have you not?"

"I have never seen you there," Itash remarked suspiciously, as, in
obedience to the other's gesture of dismissal, he rose to his feet.

"I have never been there," Blunn acknowledged. "But I know most things
that go on in New York."



CHAPTER VIII

The supper party that night at the _Folies Bergeres_ was unexpectedly gay,
although, in one respect, the arrangements made by Itash miscarried.
Mademoiselle Yvonne had found a friend, a Belgian young lady, who had
attained some celebrity in the music halls as Mathilde Leroy, and some
notoriety in the Press, owing to the number of her admirers and the
eccentricity of her toilettes. Itash, who preferred to retain his own
dancing companion, invited Mademoiselle Mathilde to make a _partie_
_carree_. But though Cornelius Blunn was graciousness itself and the
hilarity of the little party was chiefly due to his efforts, he evinced
a partiality for Mademoiselle Yvonne which was somewhat disconcerting
for her escort, and most disappointing for Mademoiselle Mathilde.

"You will make him jealous, my poor Itash," Yvonne declared, laughing,
as, for the third time following, she suffered Blunn to lead her amongst
the dancers. "He likes so to dance with me, the poor boy. Mathilde
wearies him, for she talks of nothing but her jewels, and her gowns, and
her need for money."

"And what do you talk to him about?" Blunn asked.

She sighed a little.

"Of what is there one can speak," she complained, "with such as Itash?
Oh, he is a good boy. He never flirts with the other girls, and he gives
what he can. But women to him are just things without a soul. Often I
wish that I had a friend who lived in the great world and who would
speak to me of the things he did, of his triumphs, even of his troubles.
That would make life more interesting. Some one, for example, like
Monsieur."

"Does Itash never speak to you of serious things?" he persisted.

"Never, one word," she answered fervently,

"Do you think that he ever spoke to Cleo of such?"

"But why?" she demanded. "I have as much intelligence as Cleo, and he
preferred me. It was unfortunate for Cleo, but it came about so. It is
not all happiness, Monsieur Blunn," she whispered, "to have for a friend
a young man often so morose and gloomy. Because I dance with you and he
sees that I am happy, he will scarcely speak to me for days. He will not
stay away. Oh, no. I shall have no liberty. When he has finished his
work he will come, and lie still and smoke, and watch me. I must be
there for him to look at, to dance for him, if he wishes it, but of
conversation, of companionship, of the good time together,--nothing."

"Yet you came with him, here."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"He is constant," she admitted. "In his way he is generous. What would
you have? He deserted another and came to me. When another comes whom I
prefer I shall desert him. It is the life."

He leaned and whispered something in her ear. She laughed back at him
softly.

"A man like you," she murmured. "That would be paradise for any girl.
See, let us sit and talk. Itash is dancing with Mathilde, after all. He
swore that he would not again. But there they go. We will sit down. I
will have some more champagne. We will talk, yes."

They left the dancers and sat down at their table. Blunn gave an order
to the waiter who filled their glasses and departed for more wine.

"He dances well, at any rate," Blunn remarked, watching Itash and
Mathilde. Yvonne was looking into her gold mirror, with a little powder
puff poised between her fingers.

"He dances well, but like a monkey," she declared, without looking away.
"He is what I call a gymnast. He does not make you feel the joy of it."

She suddenly pushed her vanity case on one side. She leaned across
towards him; all the coquetry of her nature shone out of her eyes, lured
him from her curving lips.

"Ah, Monsieur," she said, "you make me speak unkindly but I think that
you make me love you. Shall I? Would you have me love you?"

"Mademoiselle, it would only be fair," he replied. "For you I adore."

"It is true?" she whispered, leaning a little closer. "You assure me
that it is true?"

He smiled at her. Then he patted her hand.

"It is true, Mademoiselle Yvonne," he assured her, "yet listen to me. I
shall not treat you as my young friend Count Itash does. I shall speak
to you as a woman of understanding, of sympathy, of sweetness."

"Proceed, Monsieur," she begged. "You intrigue me very much."

"The memory of you will remain with me," he went on, "until the time
comes when I may remind you of to-night, and we may, perhaps, look for
happiness. But I am a man who is living through these days with one
thought. I have a purpose from the accomplishment of which I never
swerve. When that is finished, then my feet press the earth again. It is
then I seek Yvonne."

"You seemed like that," she murmured. "All the time I knew that you
played with words, I am disappointed. You make me unhappy, Monsieur."

"On the contrary," he declared, "I am going to make you happy. I have a
little surprise for you--if you will do me the honour of accepting it--a
little present."

"Monsieur!" she exclaimed.

She shook with eagerness. A present! The most appealing word in the
language to one of her order.

"I am faced with a problem," he explained, "which I think that you can
solve. If you can I shall beg your acceptance of this trifle. If you
cannot--well, I shall ask you to accept it all the same."

She looked at the morocco case which he held in the hollow of his hand,
saw the lid fly open, and gave a gasp of delight. She was a good judge
of jewellery, and diamonds set in platinum appealed to her.

"But it is magnificent!" she cried.

Blunn replaced the case in his pocket. A touch of his foot spelt out a
warning.

"This is not for Itash," he murmured. "Later on."

Itash, morose, but intensely polite, returned. Mademoiselle Mathilde
certainly did her best to further his wishes. Besides, she very much
preferred Cornelius Blunn.

"You are not fair," she whispered to him. "All the time you talk and
dance with Yvonne, and poor Count Itash--he bores himself with me,
shaking with jealousy. I am disheartened."

Blunn poured out the wine.

"Mademoiselle," he invited, "you will dance with me, perhaps, next time.
You must remember that Yvonne is an older friend, and when one nears
fifty one does not offer oneself so readily as a partner to
acquaintances. One lacks the courage."

"But you dance wonderfully," she assured him. "Come, the music is
beginning. I have been impatient for an hour to get you to myself. The
time has come."

They danced, talked nonsense, and danced again. Mathilde would have been
more than content to have spent the whole of the evening with her
partner. Itash, too, would very much have preferred it. And yet, by some
means or another, the master-mind of the four had his own way. Without
the slightest apparent effort things came to pass as he desired.
Professedly a little weary, he found himself sitting with Yvonne.
Mathilde and Itash, with the precision of dancing dolls, were performing
a tango.

"This is my question, Yvonne," Cornelius Blunn said simply, as he drew
the case from his pocket. "By some means or other Itash, who I believe
is an honourable man, has betrayed to Mademoiselle Cleo, the young lady
whom you supplanted, a secret of great importance. I do not believe that
he wilfully communicated it to her. I do not believe that he has ever
committed a word to writing. Yet she knows. Now, can you, dear little
friend, give me any idea how this has come to pass?"

For a moment Yvonne looked utterly blank. She seemed genuinely
perplexed. She began to shake her head. And then a sudden light flashed
across her face. She threw herself back in her chair and laughed for a
moment heartily. She laid her hand on Mr. Blunn's shoulder. She drew his
head down to hers.

"_Mon Dieu_!" she whispered. "It is easy. I have heard strange things
myself, to which I have paid no attention. He talks in his
sleep--talks--talks--ah, how he talks--sometimes all through the night!"

The little case was in her fingers. She dropped it into her bag.
Cornelius Blunn sat by her side, grim and silent, a veritable
Nebuchadnezzar, brooding over the terrible writing. Thirty years of his
own toil, thirty years of a nation's agony, a stealthy creeping forward
through the ages, the brains of two greedy empires concentrated upon one
end, building and toiling and planning,--these things were all
imperilled, because a dancing girl had known jealousy!



CHAPTER IX

Stoneham returned from a lecturing tour in the West, dispirited, and
with a frank confession of failure. He presented himself at Grant's
rooms just as the latter was finishing breakfast.

"I've bad news, old chap," he declared at once. "I've done my best, and
I guess I've made about as much impression upon my audiences as if
Pussyfoot Johnson had come back to life and were preaching prohibition
once more. They won't have it at any price."

Grant pushed a box of cigars across the table and rang for a waiter to
remove his tray.

"'America outside' still their motto, eh?" he observed, as he drew a
chair up to the open window.

"You see," Stoneham went on, "they've never forgotten what a triumph it
was for American diplomacy that our people, in those days, refused all
invitations to join the Genoa Conference. We scored immensely all round
by remaining outside, and you know what a general muddle that affair
ended in. The fact of it is," he continued, selecting and lighting his
cigar, "our people over here have never regained their faith in British
diplomacy since those days. They can't see that they stand to be hurt in
any way by remaining outside, and they can see that they might be drawn
into a lot of trouble if they got involved in some of these economic
disputes. We make our own rules now and play our own game, and we're the
richest country in the world. It's a pretty hard situation to shake.
Grant."

Grant was less perturbed than his companion had imagined possible.

"I've talked with Cornelius Blunn, since you've been away," he
announced, "I've heard the same story from him. I believe he's right. I
believe you're right. I believe that if the matter were to be decided upon
to-day, the invitation to join the Pact would be rejected by an
overwhelming majority. Fortunately, the meeting of the Limitation of
Armaments is to come first."

"Sure, but what difference does that make?" Stoneham enquired.

"It's going to make all the difference," Grant assured him. "I'm on the
track of things already, and the Conference doesn't take place for
another month."

"Am I to be wise to this?"

"You are. But we've got to move warily. Blunn can afford to be
good-natured about our fight against him so far as it has gone. He knows
very well that his propaganda department is in perfect order. He can
practically count his votes. He knows that on a fight as things are at
present, we haven't a chance. The moment he realises that we are getting
round his flanks, though, he'll be dangerous. Dan, you remember my
telling you about Cleo, the little dancing girl, who used to go about
with Count Itash?"

"Quite well."

"Well, Itash has brought the other girl over here. Cleo has followed,
and Cleo paid me a visit the day before yesterday. She gave me a hint
and I verified it. She is coming here again this morning."

"Do you trust her?" Stoneham asked doubtfully. "Do you think it really
likely that a man like Itash would have told her secrets."

"Of course he wouldn't," Grant agreed. "But this is the point. Itash has
a habit of which he is ignorant. He talks in his sleep. Cleo admits that
she thought nothing of it, at first;--that she did not even listen. Then
some of the things he said struck her as being strange. Finally she
understood. He was worrying over a failure of his to keep secret two
great contracts for steel given last year and the year before. I
followed this up. It happened to be rather in my line. What about this
for a bombshell, Dan? Japan bought steel plates enough in Germany during
the last two years to build every scrap of naval armament to which she
was entitled. She also bought from different firms in America, some in
the name of China, and some in her own name, three times the same
quantity of steel, all of which was shipped."

"But, say, how could she get away with a thing like that?" Stoneham asked
incredulously.

"Largely bluff. The steel plates from Germany she declared faulty and
announced her intention of using them for factory construction. Germany,
with unusual complacency, actually admitted at the last meeting of the
Limitation of Armaments that the plates were unfit for battleships, and,
nominally, received a large compensation. This is the first little hint
Mademoiselle Cleo has given me, Dan, and by the time I get my despatches
in from Japan--I have a good man out there, thank God--I think I shall
be able to give the Limitation of Armaments Conference a shock. Cleo has
a few other little matters to tell me about, too."

"Say, this is great!" Stoneham exclaimed. "Pity you couldn't have got
her to make a complete disclosure while she was about it."

"I did my best," Grant assured him. "I offered her everything in the
world except my hand and fortune, and I don't think she'd have accepted
those. She's simply crazy over this fellow Itash. She's going slowly in
case he relents."

Stoneham, with a start, sat upright in his chair. A sudden recollection
had flashed into his brain.

"My God!" he cried. "Whatever have I been thinking about? What did you
say her name was?"

"I've never heard her called anything but Mademoiselle Cleo. What about
her? Don't tell me anything's happened already."

Stoneham caught up one of the newspapers from the table and pointed to a
paragraph on the first page.

"Haven't you read that, man?" he demanded.

"Haven't looked at a paper," was the feverish reply. "I hadn't finished
my mail when you came in."

Grant read the paragraph eagerly. It occupied only a short space but the
headlines were thick and prominent.


ATTEMPTED MURDER ON BROADWAY_

Famous French Danseuse Shot by a Rival
_
At a few minutes before two o'clock this morning, what seems to have
been a deliberate attempt at murder took place on the corner of Broadway
and Thirty-seventh Street. It appears that Count Itash, who is here on
an official mission to the Embassy of his country at Washington, was
leaving Mason's Restaurant with Mademoiselle Yvonne, a well-known French
dancer, when two shots were fired from amongst the crowd of passers-by.
Mademoiselle Yvonne was slightly wounded but was able to return home in
a taxicab. The assailant was distinctly seen by several of the
passers-by, but managed to temporarily escape during the confusion. Her
identity is known, however, and her arrest is momentarily expected._
_
Later:_
_
Count Itash, on being interviewed, declared himself wholly unable to
account in any way for the incident. He was not aware that the young
lady by whom he was accompanied had any enemies in New York or any
acquaintances at all. He was inclined to believe that the shot might have
been intended for himself. Mademoiselle Yvonne, who is in a state of
nervous prostration, declines to be interviewed at present. Her wound is
apparently very slight but she is suffering from shock. Mademoiselle
Yvonne was premiere _danseuse_ last season in the Cafe de Paris in Monte
Carlo, and has many friends both in Paris and over here. Her photograph
appears on another page._
_
Later:_
_
Mademoiselle Yvonne has denounced Mademoiselle Cleo, of Monaco, a rival
_danseuse_, as her attempted murderess.


"Fool!" Grant exclaimed. "We are done, Dan. The police will have her,
and if I know anything of Mr. Cornelius Blunn, she won't see daylight
again until it's too late."

His companion was thoughtful for a moment.

"I'm not sure," he reflected, "that the best thing in the world for us
won't be to have her safely under arrest. Blunn's gang can't get at her
in prison anyhow. And she can be seen there."

"Blunn has a terrific pull with the police," Grant reminded him.

Stoneham moved towards the telephone.

"I'll ring up Police Headquarters and see if she's been arrested," he
announced. "I know a man there who'll look after this for us."

His hand was already upon the telephone when there was an imperative
knock at the door. He glanced around. Grant rose to his feet. Before
either of them could say a word, the door was thrown open and closed
again. Cleo stood there, with her back to it, holding tightly to the
handle, panting for breath.

"They're after me," she cried. "There's scarcely a minute. Ring up
Itash. Quick! 1817 Plaza."

Stoneham asked at once for the number.

"What do you want to say to Itash?" Grant demanded. "Tell me the rest
quickly. You're French. Itash is in league with the Germans."

"Bah!" she sobbed. "He could be in league with the devil if he would
come back to me. Listen. I ask him. He shall hear what I know. Then he
shall choose. He shall take me and my silence and leave her for ever, or
I will kill her and I will tell you his secrets."

"Is that 1817 Plaza?" Stoneham enquired.

"It is Count Itash who speaks," was the slow rejoinder.

"Mademoiselle Cleo is here in 940, Hotel Great Central, the apartment of
Mr. Grant Slattery. She desires you to come."

Cleo sprang across the room. She snatched the receiver in her own hand.
She broke into a stream of incoherent French, rocking herself back and
forth all the time, as though distracted with pain.

"I heard you speak those things," she cried. "I know the great secrets.
I know what they would give me the price of a kingdom to have me tell.
Very well, then, very well. Come here, then, before the police can touch
me. Come to me here. Give up Yvonne for ever, and there shall be a seal
on my lips as though the finger of the Virgin rested there. I have never
deceived you, I am always faithful. I am always true. I am racked with
pain and jealousy, Itash. Take me back. I have spoken the word. It shall
be as though Her finger rested upon my lip."

She threw down the receiver. She turned towards them with a smile of
triumph upon her lips.

"He comes," she announced. "Now we shall see!"



CHAPTER X

Cleo threw herself into a chair, sprang up again, listened for a moment
at the door, her hand pressed to her side.

"Mademoiselle," Grant said to her soothingly, "consider. You're in no
such great danger. Mademoiselle Yvonne is, I understand, unhurt. Even if
you should be arrested the charge will not be a serious one."

"They will keep me in prison a month, perhaps two months," she cried.
"And all that time he will be with her. It is not to be borne. I meant
to kill her. I wish I had killed her."

He tried to reason with her.

"Mademoiselle Cleo," he pointed out, "you are young, extremely
attractive, a wonderful dancer. I will take an apartment for you and
have you appointed principal danseuse at one of our best restaurants
here. You shall have two thousand dollars a month and an automobile. I
will present to you the young men of the city. Why worry about that
faithless Itash? I will do all this for you, if you will tell us in
these few seconds, while you still have time, those things which remain
in your memory."

"In five minutes you will know," she replied. "In five minutes if Itash
will not promise to give up Yvonne, I shall tell you all for nothing.
Then we will see."

"You will trust to his promise?"

"If he lies, he knows that this time I shall kill him. I am not a girl
who can be treated as he has done. He shall learn that."

There was a slow and somewhat ponderous knocking at the door. She turned
towards it, breathless, expectant. Then suddenly she gave a little cry.

"It is too soon," she exclaimed. "It must be those others.
Protect me. For heaven's sake, don't let them take me before Itash
comes."

The knocking was repeated, and this time the door was instantly opened.
There was no doubt about the character of the two men who entered;
detective was written on every feature. One stood by the door. The other
advanced a little into the room.

"Mr. Slattery, I believe," he said. "Sorry to intrude upon you, sir, but
I have a warrant for the arrest of that young woman. You're Mademoiselle
Cleo?" he went on.

"What do you want with me?" she demanded.

"I'll have to take you to the police station, young lady," was the
brusque reply. "Charge of shooting with the intent to murder. You'd
better keep your mouth closed till you get to headquarters."

She looked around her a little wildly.

"Can't you make them wait until Itash comes?" she begged of Grant. "He
will, perhaps, arrange with them. I didn't mean to hurt her. All that I
want is Itash."

"Say, young lady," the detective interposed, "our orders are that you
are not to talk. We've an automobile outside and if you'll just allow me
to run you over first for arms, I guess we can let you walk ahead of us
and no fuss."

"I have no weapons," she declared, holding out her arms. "You can search
me if you like."

"Who's this Itash she's talking about?" the detective enquired, as he
passed his hands over the girl's quivering body.

"Count Itash. The Japanese gentleman who was with the girl she is
supposed to have shot at," Grant told him.

"So he was the cause of the trouble, was he?" the man observed. "Well,
young lady, he'll be able to see you at Police Headquarters after you've
been examined."

"Before I go," she began

"Stop it!" the detective insisted. "My orders are strict. You are not to
be allowed to talk. Special orders from the Chief of Police. I don't
want to do anything harsh and I don't wish to lay hands on the young
lady," the man went on, turning to Grant, "but she's got to cut out the
gab. This way, young lady."

They had already taken a step towards the door when it was suddenly
opened. The second detective stood on one side, as Itash walked in. He
was looking very pale and solemn, but, as usual, neatly and correctly
dressed. Cleo would have rushed towards him, but for the restraining
hand upon her shoulder.

"Sammy!" she cried. "You see what they're doing to me. They are taking
me to prison. Tell them about it, Sammy. It was not really my fault.
Send them away, please. Give them money. Tell them I am sorry. Anything.
And tell me that it is finished with Yvonne. Take me away with you,
Sammy."

He looked at her without changing a muscle of his countenance. Then he
turned to the detective.

"Where are you taking her?" he enquired.

"To Police Headquarters," the man replied. "And it's about time we were
off."

"Do not let me detain you," Itash said coldly. "Police Headquarters is a
very good place indeed for that young lady. She was once a friend of
mine, but she is so no longer. She tried to murder the young lady who
was my companion last night. I have no wish to stand in the way of her
punishment."

Mademoiselle Cleo seemed to have become suddenly calm. Only her eyes
burned as she looked towards Itash.

"It is thus you speak to me?" she moaned. "You have no pity. No longer
any love."

"It is finished," he pronounced.

She beckoned to Slattery, who stepped quickly forward. The officer would
have thrust his hand over her mouth but he was too late. She whispered
for a moment in Grant's ear. Then she turned to the detective.

"I am quite ready," she announced. "This time you have only a small
charge against me. I shot to frighten, not to kill. There is a time
coming before very long when I shall kill. Farewell, Itash. You have
done an evil day's work for yourself. If you knew how many of your
secrets still lurk in my brain besides those which I have shared with
our friend, Mr. Slattery, here, you would not stand like a piece of
marble and watch me being led away to prison while you go to take the
_dejeuner_ with Yvonne. You would be shaking in every limb,
Itash,--shaking. I tell you. For in your heart you know very well that
you are a coward."

"Secrets!" Itash repeated scornfully. "What secrets could you know
of? I have given you my caresses--never my confidence."

She threw her head back and laughed.

"So you did not understand me over the telephone? Go and call on your
friend, Mr. Cornelius Blunn," she jeered. "He knows."

"Say, young lady, I have been very patient, but orders are orders," the
detective declared savagely. "Out of this room you go and if you utter
another word you go with my hand over your mouth."

"It pleases me to depart," she replied haughtily. "_Au revoir_, Mr.
Slattery. Come and see me in prison. There is more to be--"

The detective's patience was at an end. His hand closed upon her lips.
He pushed her from the room. In the hallway they heard her muffled
laugh.

"Gentlemen," Itash said, "I am sorry that you should have been troubled
in this matter. I did not know that it was to the apartments of Mr.
Grant Slattery that I was coming."

"Mademoiselle Cleo is an acquaintance of mine from Monte Carlo," Grant
reminded him. "You doubtless remember our little supper party there."

"With much pleasure," Itash assented. "Nevertheless, Mr. Slattery, a
word of caution may not be out of place. The young lady is not
altogether trustworthy. Her tempers are violent. She is not truthful.
She is, indeed, dangerous."

"Then we are both well rid of her. Count," Grant observed drily.

"It grieves me to speak ill of one of her sex," the young man continued,
drawing on his gloves. "Mademoiselle Cleo was once my very good friend.
I tire of her and take another, and she will not accept the situation.
It was foolish."

"Very foolish indeed," Grant assented.

"The situation," Itash proceeded, "was probably clear to you when I had
the honour of inviting you to supper at the Carlton at Monte Carlo. You
are a man of the world, Mr. Slattery. I have been told that Mademoiselle
has made scandalous talk of me. You will understand from whence comes
the idea to speak evil."

"The whole situation," Grant assured him, "is most transparent."

Itash bowed low.

"I should not mention this matter at all," he went on, "but we, who are
in the Diplomatic Service of our country--you, Mr. Slattery, I believe
were once thus engaged--can so easily have mischief made around us--a
malicious word, a suggestion of a confidence betrayed, it is sufficient
to do much harm. You will bear this in mind, Mr. Slattery, if, by
chance, Mademoiselle should have come here with mischievous intent."

"I will bear it in mind," Grant promised.

"No word concerning the affairs of my country, no single sentence of
political import of any sort whatsoever has ever passed my lips when in
the presence of Mademoiselle Cleo," Itash declared. "Therefore what she
says she knows, she invents. I wish you good morning, gentlemen."

He made a dignified and leisurely exit. They heard the door close behind
him, heard him pass down the corridor towards the lift.

"What did she whisper to you?" Stoneham asked.

"She was a trifle cryptic," Grant replied. "She spoke in French. What
she said was simply this--'The secret of the world is to be found in two
small volumes hidden in the box of gold, in number twelve hundred and
eight.' Box of gold! What the mischief was she driving at?"

There was a sudden change in Stoneham's expression.

"Why, Grant," he exclaimed, "haven't you ever heard the story about
Cornelius Blunn's father?"

"I've heard one version of it," Grant acknowledged. "Tell me yours."

"You remember his history, of course. He was a great friend of the
Kaiser Wilhelm's--one of the war party, one of those who really believed
in Germany and her divine right to rule the world. The Treaty of
Versailles broke his heart. On his deathbed he wrote a letter, which he
placed in a gold casket which the Kaiser had once given him, containing
the freedom of the city of Berlin. The idea always has been that that
letter was a charge upon his son to see that some day or other Germany
was avenged. Cornelius Blunn carries that casket always with him. If
there really does exist any document in the world, any secret treaty or
understanding between Germany and, say, Japan, having for its object a
consummation of this injunction, why that's the likeliest place in the
whole world to find it."

"What about the twelve hundred and eight?" Grant asked.

"That was what put me on the scent," Stoneham replied. "Twelve hundred
and eight is the number of Cornelius Blunn's suite on the twelfth floor
of this hotel."



CHAPTER XI

Itash proceeded to pay his morning call upon the person whom the
newspapers had christened "The Mid-European Napoleon of Modern Finance
and Diplomacy." He was passed through into the presence of the great man
within a very few minutes. He entered courteous, self-assured,
dignified. He was reduced within a few seconds to a state of abject
collapse. For years afterwards he remembered the horror of those
moments. Cornelius Blunn's opening words filled him with blank
amazement, his final ones stripped him of every shred of confidence and
self-respect.

"I have been associated at different times," the latter concluded, "with
rogues and hucksters, thieves, liars and fools. I have never yet
entrusted the destinies of a great nation to a man who cannot keep his
mouth shut, even in his sleep."

"But how could I tell?" the young man gasped. "How do I know even now
that what you tell me is true?"

"Let me remind you of this," Blunn went on. "We talked for hours one
night in Monte Carlo on the matter of steel. With two companies over
here we are all right. Over the third we have no control or any
influence. We discussed the possibility of this third company adding up
the amount of your contracts with their two rivals--even leaving out the
steel plates we sent you from Germany--and of presenting a report to the
Limitation of Armaments Conference. You remember that conversation?"

"I remember it perfectly," Itash groaned.

"You left me with your mind full of the subject. It was at the time when
Mademoiselle Cleo was your fancy. Very well, the other day Mademoiselle
calls upon our friend Grant Slattery, and the next morning he visits the
representatives of each one of those steel firms. Can't you see that
trouble or suspicion at the Conference might upset everything we have
done?"

"I know," Itash muttered. "Still, they will not discover anything that
counts in time. We have been very clever. We have four secret harbours
and two secret dockyards, besides the one in China. Each battleship we
built was duplicated. The two were given the same name. We kept even the
work people in ignorance. The flying ships are safe. They are up in
Ulensk. Now I shall send a cable. The four battleships which have been
launched must steam away northward. The four that are ready to be
launched under the same name must take their place. Everybody will
believe that it is the same ships returned. I am not afraid. There are
American spies in Tokyo, but our secret harbours have never been
visited."

"Go and send your cable and come back again," Blunn directed, "Warn your
people that without a doubt investigations will be made. Let your fleet
be manoeuvred in every way so as to confuse undesired onlookers. But
remember, nothing must interfere with its final assembly. You know the
date."

Itash smiled for the first time.

"On November the first," he said, "we have the most complete and
wonderful plan of movement. Units of the fleet will appear from all
sorts of unexpected places. They have their final meeting place only
five days' steaming from San Francisco."

Blunn nodded.

"Go and send your cables," he ordered. "Then return here. I suppose you
can rely upon your code?"

"My code is undecipherable to any human being except the person to whom
it is addressed," Itash declared. "It is based upon the ancient priests'
language of my country, two thousand years old, and untranslatable save
by a Japanese scholar. That again is coded and has never left my
person."

He opened his coat and waistcoat and showed a band around his
underclothes. Blunn waved him away.

"Good!" he approved. "Be back within two hours. You will not sleep
before then!"

For a few moments after the departure of Itash, Cornelius Blunn sat
motionless in his chair, his eyes fixed upon the calendar which stood on
his table. Finally he rose to his feet, opened the door and called to
his secretary.

"Miss Herman," he enjoined, "for half an hour I am engaged. You
understand? Not even a telephone message."

"I understand perfectly, sir," she replied. "It is as usual." She
returned to her place. Blunn re-entered his sitting room, carefully
locking the door behind him. The apartment, before the changes
necessitated by his demands, had been an ordinary hotel sitting room,
with heavy plush furniture and curtains. There were two windows, across
which he carefully drew the curtains until every scrap of daylight was
excluded. He then turned on the electric light and made his way to the
ponderous safe, which looked as though it were built into the further
wall. He undid his coat and waistcoat and released the chain which was
wound around his body. At the end of it were two keys. With one, after a
few minutes' adjustment, he opened the safe. From underneath a pile of
papers he drew out a curiously shaped and heavy box fashioned of beaten
gold. On the left-hand side of the lid were the arms of the city of
Berlin. On the right the arms of the Hohenzollerns. In the middle was an
inscription in German:


To Cornelius Blunn, the faithful servant of this city and friend of his
Kaiser.

WILHELM.

Nineteen-thirteen.


Blunn closed the door of the café and returned to his place at the desk,
carrying the box with him. He lit the electric lamp which stood upon the
table and, with the other key, unlocked the casket. Its contents were
simple enough in appearance--two small morocco-bound volumes resembling
diaries at the top and a few sheets of parchment on which were several
great seals; underneath a letter, yellow with age, crumpled a little at
the corners, and showing signs of slight tear in one of the folds. With
careful fingers Cornelius Blunn spread the latter out on the table
before him. At either end he placed a small paperweight. Then he folded
his hands and read its contents to himself in a very low undertone. The
roar of the city seemed muffled by the closely drawn curtains. One
thought of a dark and silent mosque in the middle of a sunlit Oriental
city. Here was a man at his devotions,--and this was what he read:


My Beloved Son,

I write you this message from my deathbed with the last fragment of
strength with which an inscrutable Providence has endowed me. I go
before my work is accomplished, and, for that reason, a heavier burden
must rest upon your shoulders. You will bear it worthily because of the
purpose. My son, the chosen people of God were often called upon to face
suffering--aye, and humiliation. But in the end they triumphed.
Greatness will always survive, and the greatest thing upon this earth is
the soul of the German people.

Have nothing to do, Cornelius, with those who would write her apologia.
The empires of the world were built up with blood and sacrifice, and the
knowledge of these things was in our hearts,--we, who planned the war
and believed that we should see Germany the ruling power of the world
from Palestine to London. We struck too soon or too late. History may,
perhaps, tell you. Next time the hour must be chosen so that failure is
an impossible element.

All that shall happen in the future and the way to our glorious goal has
been discussed between us many a time. My charge upon you is this.
Remember the maxims of those who made Germany. The man whom you forgive
will never forgive you. The man to whom you show a kindness will owe you
a grudge for it. Hate your enemies in life, in death, and after death.
When the time comes, every man and woman of the United States of
America, of France, of England is your enemy. Never did the Philistines
oppress and humiliate the children of Israel as these people have done
the nation of His later choice. Show no mercy. Strip them,--those whom
you leave alive--of wealth, women and honour. Let them feel the iron in
their souls which that accursed Treaty of Versailles has brought into
the souls of our own people. When Germany strikes again see that she
climbs for ever to the highest place amongst the peoples of the earth.
By the sword Germany came into being, and by the sword she shall fight
her way to the chosen places. Farewell, Cornelius, and remember my last
words. NEVER SPARE AN ENEMY OR MISUSE A FRIEND.

Cornelius Blunn.


The sound of the man's low voice ceased. Yet for several moments he sat
quite still. A breath of wind, coming through the opened upper part of
the window, moved the curtains an inch or two, and a thin sharp shaft of
sunlight fell like a glancing rod of gold across the table, resting for
a minute upon his face. All that there was of coarseness, even the
humanity of good-fellowship and humour, seemed to have vanished.
Cornelius Blunn had become the prototype of his country, fashioned
according to his father's mandate of blood and iron. He might indeed
have posed, in those few moments, for a statue of the great avenger.
There was implacable hatred in every feature and line of his face,
unforgiving, unmerciful. He was the incarnation of a real and living
spirit.

The ceremony was over. With reverent fingers the letter was restored to
its place at the bottom of the box. For a few minutes he pored over the
contents of the two morocco-bound volumes. Finally he returned
everything to the box, carried it to the safe, reset the latter's
combination, and carefully locked it. Then he turned out the lights,
drew back the curtains, lit a cigar and unlocked the door.

"Business as usual. Miss Herman," he said.

"Mr. Gurlenheim from the new London Steel Company is waiting to see you,
sir," she announced.

A shadow of anxiety rested for a moment on Blunn's face.

"I will see him at once," he decided. "Count Itash too, immediately he
returns."

Mr. Gurlenheim was a short, rather pudgy man, with flaxen hair streaked
with grey, a guttural voice, and a fussy manner. He accepted a chair,
but got up again directly.

"My friend," he exclaimed, as soon as he had shaken hands, "it is a
serious matter on which I have come to see you. We have received a
communication signed by the Secretary of the Limitation of Armaments
Conference requiring a statement of all steel sold to Japan for the
period of the last two years. We are asked to prepare it at once, as it
may be referred to at the next meeting of the Conference."

"Nothing to worry about," Blunn declared, pushing a box of cigars across
the table. "The Conference have accepted the position so far as the
steel supplied from Germany is concerned--faulty plates. Our people
conceded--on paper--an enormous reduction in price. As regards the steel
from America--well, Japan over-bought. That's all she can say. There
seemed a possibility of shortage in steel and she decided to cover
herself. We're only limited to building, not to making provision for
building."

"But what about the building, my friend?" Mr. Gurlenheim enquired
anxiously. "Japan has gone a little beyond her specified limit, eh?"

"We are not fools, we and those others," Cornelius Blunn told him
calmly, "What has been done in Japan it is better for you not to know.
But whatever has been done has been accomplished in such a manner that
it would take a year to discover anything, and before then the time will
have arrived."

Mr. Gurlenheim drew a very large silk handkerchief of florid design from
his pocket and mopped his forehead.

"This year will seem like ten to me," he confessed. "It is all very well
for you, my friend. You will be in Germany when the storm bursts.
Supposing the people should take it into their heads to wreak vengeance
upon us here? They might--if they knew."

Cornelius Blunn smiled scornfully.

"If you feel like that," he said, "you'd better go to the Riviera for a
few months, and leave some one else your share of the plunder here. Only
you must let me know quickly. You are down for very unimportant work,
nothing that exposes you to the slightest risk, but I want to be sure of
even the weakest link in the chain."

"I shall stay," Gurlenheim declared. "I know what I have to do. But,
supposing--supposing for one moment, Blunn, that anything went wrong.
Say, for instance, that things came out at the Limitation of Armaments
Conference and that America decided to join the Pact?"

"In that case there would be a postponement," was the grim
acknowledgment. "The end might not come in your days or mine."

"No fear of the whole scheme leaking out with names and that sort of
thing?" Gurlenheim persisted.

"There is no fear of that," Blunn assured him. "The only complete list
of names and stations in this country never leaves my possession. I have
been looking at it to-night. No one else ever sees it."

Mr. Gurlenheim began to feel a man again,--or as much of a man as nature
intended him to be. He accepted the cigar which he had previously
ignored, pinched it carefully and admired its quality.

"It is a great thing to be a very rich man like you," he sighed. "Money
comes fast enough over here, but not fast enough for the years. I am
fifty years old and I have barely a million."

Blunn smiled.

"Before this time next year you can call it ten," he promised. "The
wealth of the world is coming to us, Gurlenheim. It is coming because
we're going to take it. To-night, at dinner, drink a glass of wine to
the memory of the men who drew up the Treaty of Versailles, and who
thought that war could only be made with ships and men."

"That war could only be made with ships and men!" Gurlenheim repeated,
as he rose to his feet. "Good! I will drink that glass of wine. I will
drink that toast."



CHAPTER XII

Grant drew a little sigh of relief as, in response to his invitation,
the door of his room was opened and his long-expected visitor arrived.
He rose at once to his feet. For a person whose enthusiasms were chiefly
latent, his manner was almost exuberant.

"Colonel Hodson," he declared, "you're the one man in the States I've
been longing to have a chat with ever since I landed. I'm afraid I'm
responsible for bringing you back from your vacation."

The newcomer smiled slightly as he shook hands. He was a tall,
fine-looking man, with strong features and a dignified carriage. His
eyes wandered from Grant to Stoneham who was seated at the table writing
a letter.

"This is my friend, Mr. Dan Stoneham, late editor of the New York,"
Grant explained. "He is with me up to the eyes in this business. Dan,
come here and shake hands with Colonel Hodson, head of the--well, what
do you call your department now, Hodson? Home Secret Service it used to
be before the word 'Secret Service' became taboo."

"'Service A' we call it now," Hodson confided. "Nothing much in a name,
anyway. And nothing much in the job lately. I'd been over in Honolulu a
month when they cabled for me."

Grant pushed up an easy-chair, produced cigars, whisky and a syphon, and
rang for ice.

"I was afraid they weren't going to send for you after all," he
observed. "They didn't seem in any way anxious to put me in touch with
you. Tell me honestly, Hodson, what do they think of me in the
Department?"

"They are interested," the latter acknowledged, stretching himself out
and lighting a cigar. "They have a great respect for your insight on all
ordinary matters, but in the present instance they are inclined to think
that you have a bee in your bonnet."

"I was afraid so," Grant admitted. "I'm not surprised at it."

"They think that you've been mixing with the foreigners, and especially
with the British, pretty freely, over on the other side," Hodson
continued, "and that you've got a lot of un-American stuff in your
blood. You know Secret Service and foreign plots and all these 'German
cutn Japanese' scares don't cut much ice in Washington these days. You
should hear Senator Ross on the subject."

"I've heard him," Grant groaned. "I know the spirit, too, and I know
perfectly well, Hodson, that if I'd been living in America for the last
twenty years and hadn't been out of it except as a tourist, I should
probably be feeling exactly the same way. Ross is wrong. I should have
been wrong. There's a very terrible crisis looming up before us. You and
I, Hodson, are going to avert the greatest calamity with which the world
has ever been threatened."

"Let me warn you," Hodson said, "my instructions are to go dead slow
with you. I am to do nothing which will make a laughing stock of the
Department or which will evoke even questions from nations with whom we
are upon friendly terms."

"I quite understand your position," Grant assured him. "When you're
convinced, as you will be soon, you'll be with me body and soul. Until
then, I'll take you by the hand carefully."

"Let's get to work then," Hodson suggested. "Give me an outline of your
suspicions and show me the loose threads that you can't lay hold of
yourself."

"Right!" Grant declared. "First of all then. In Monte Carlo I came
across a plot to prevent that invitation being sent to America to join
the Pact of Nations. I frustrated it. Over dinner some time I'll tell
you how. That doesn't matter for the moment. The information upon which
I acted came partly from the Princess von Diss, who was sent from Berlin
to Monte Carlo to see what I was up to there, and partly from a dancing
girl, the sweetheart of Count Itash, a young man who has held various
diplomatic positions in Japan and whom I should describe as Japan's arch
intriguer, just as Cornelius Blunn is Germany's. The information she
gave me was correct."

"Is this man Itash the sort of person who gives away his secrets to his
feminine companions?" Hodson asked quietly.

"Not in the least," Grant acknowledged. "As a matter of fact, we have
only just discovered the truth. He talks in his sleep. The girl
unfortunately is madly in love with him and only gives him away
piecemeal. A few days ago in a fury of jealousy--Itash has brought
another woman out here--she told me that he was worried about Japan's
contracts with the steel houses here, in addition to their importations
from Germany. I spoke to Washington on the telephone. They have agreed
to take the matter up. They have already applied to their own steel
companies for particulars of steel supplied to Japan during the last two
years, and when they get it, which they will before the Limitation of
Armaments Conference, if will be a staggerer. That's only a tiny little
link in the chain, though. Japan's clever enough to wriggle out of that,
or to keep the thing going until it's too late. It just helps, that's
all. Last night the girl was fool enough to try and shoot her rival. She
escaped arrest and came to me. She declared that unless Itash promised
to give up the other woman she would tell me wonderful things. We
telephoned Itash, who was still ignorant of his nocturnal indiscretions
and who came round at once. His attitude towards the girl was brutal and
I am convinced that she was on the point of making a full disclosure of
all she knew. Cornelius Blunn, however, had discovered the leakage, and
Blunn, I am sorry to tell you, Hodson, is, I believe, on very friendly
terms with certain members of your police organisation here. They
managed to effect the girl's arrest just as Itash had reduced her to a
state of fury, and they did their best, acting under special orders, to
prevent her saying a word to me. She told me one thing in French. She
whispered that the whole secret of a great internal conspiracy against
America could be discovered in a little gold casket which never leaves
Blunn's possession. It is at present in room twelve hundred and eight of
this hotel."

"Has she anything more to tell?" Hodson asked.

"I know that she has," Grant assured him. "But, although the charge
against her can scarcely be a very serious one, as the girl was
uninjured, they refuse to allow me, or even a lawyer, whom I engaged, to
see her at all. She is at present in the Tombs. The charge against her,
I suppose, could be handled in many different ways, but can she be kept
legally from seeing either a lawyer or a friend?"

"She cannot," Hodson declared.

"Then let this be your start," Grant begged. "Go to the Tombs this
minute. You have the right to insist upon seeing her. Do so. Tell her
you come from me. Here is my card."

"Accompany me," Hodson suggested after a moment's reflection. "We will
interview the young lady together."

Colonel Hodson, it appeared, was after all a little sanguine. At Police
Headquarters he left Grant in the waiting room while he made his way to
visit a personage in authority. Instead of the few minutes he had
mentioned, however, he was gone nearly half an hour. When he returned
there was a marked change in his manner. He seemed, subconsciously, to
be treating Grant with a little more respect.

"Well, you're right, so far, Slattery," he confessed. "There's a
conspiracy here to keep that young woman from communicating with anybody
at all, a conspiracy which is entirely against police regulations and
which is going to lead to a whole heap of trouble later on. However,
there it is, and they're in it deep enough to run a pretty considerable
risk. They've tried every mortal bluff they can think of, but their
present attitude clean gives the show away. In an hour's time they will
be compelled to let me visit her. Until then we'll take a drive round
and I'd like to hear a little more of your story. I'll frankly admit,
Slattery," he acknowledged as they left the place together, "that my
interest is growing."

They drove about for an hour, and Grant confided to his companion a
great deal of the result of his wanderings and investigations during the
last two years. Hodson listened imperturbably. He realised the note of
conviction in his companion's tone but he himself kept an open mind.
Notwithstanding his official position, he had the instincts and the
outlook of a citizen. Deliberate warfare with its hideous wastage of
human life and its ghastly uncertainty seemed to him a visionary idea, a
phantasy of the disordered and over-imaginative brain. A single person
of disordered mentality might brood upon such a cataclysm; no normal
group of persons in these sober days was likely to tolerate the idea.
All these little happenings and tendencies to which Grant alluded
might so easily be traced to lesser things. He made only one comment.

"Supposing for a moment," he said, "that there was the least truth in
your prophecy and that a naval attack from outside was to be
supplemented by an enormous and wide-reaching internal conspiracy, do
you realise what a terrible reflection that would be upon my
Department?"

"I can't help it, Hodson," Grant declared. "Of course I realise it. I'm
not going to blame you. No one can be blamed for not searching for what
they don't believe exists, but I do beg you to remember that if there's
a thousand to one chance that my view of things is correct, you ought
not to leave my side until we're through with this business. And so far
as you personally are concerned, now listen. During the last two years I
have submitted between forty and fifty reports dealing with this matter
to the Department in Washington. Have those reports been handed on to
you?"

"Not one of them," Hodson replied. "I had no idea, even, that you had
ever made them."

"Then you must remember," Grant pointed out, "that at the worst, the
chief responsibility rests with those higher up. My reports should every
one of them have come to you, and you should have made the
investigations on this side to which they pointed. Can you tell me
offhand whether there are any great patriotic societies formed to keep
Germans together in this country?"

"There's one," Hodson acquiesced. "'Brothers in Love,' they call
it--kind of Odd Fellows affair. It exists chiefly for charity and does
an enormous amount of good. It must have two or three million members."

"Anything with the Japanese?"

"There is one, but I don't know much about it," Hodson confessed. "It is
rather a different class thing, founded to teach the lower classes the
arts of agriculture and to keep the others in touch with Japanese
culture and literature."

"Quite so," Grant murmured. "I haven't the faintest doubt that those
societies are on the surface everything they appear to be. Neither have
I the slightest doubt that behind them, committee behind committee, are
the people who deal with Blunn and Itash."

Hodson smiled a little doubtfully.

"I'm in a receptive frame of mind, Slattery," he admitted, "but don't
try me too high. Processions, brass bands, and picnics are all I can
think of in connection with the 'Brothers in Love.' The Japanese I never
quite understood. Here we are back again. I see the governor's car here.
Now we ought to have some fun."

Grant again waited for his friend, who this time was gone for a little
more than ten minutes. When he returned there was a steely glint in his
eye.

"Slattery," he announced, "you win all round, so far as this girl's
concerned. They've had her up before headquarters while we've been away,
discharged her, and they have the effrontery to assure me that they let
her walk out of the court without asking where she was going to, or
without having her followed. They've just turned her loose in New York
and left us to hunt. I don't like it. Come along!"

"Where to?" Grant asked.

"To see some friends of mine, who can tackle this job," was the stern
reply. "We ought to be able to find her before many hours are passed."



CHAPTER XIII

HODSON and Grant dined together that evening in the latter's room, and
Grant was in the middle of his promised story of Funderstrom's abduction
when the telephone rang. A man's voice asked for Colonel Hodson. Grant
passed over the receiver.

"An urgent call for you, Hodson," he announced.

Hodson spoke a few brief words and listened.

"We'll be along in ten minutes," he said as he laid down the receiver.

"Slattery," he went on, "that was a man from Poynter's Detective Agency
speaking. They're the people we called on this morning about this young
woman. They think they've found her. Will you come along with me?"

"Sure," Grant assented. "Anything wrong, do you think?"

"I rather gathered so," was the grave reply.

They jumped into a taxi and Hodson gave the man an address on the other
side of the Park. In about twenty minutes they pulled up outside what
was evidently a second-class lodging house. On the steps a young man was
waiting.

"Colonel Hodson?" he asked.

"Right," Hodson answered. "Are you from Poynter's?"

"Yes, sir. Mr. Poynter's upstairs himself. He left me here to wait for
you. Will you go up to the top floor?"

They climbed six flights of stairs--narrow stairs, and dark--passing
through mixed atmospheres of cooking, stale tobacco, of beer and
_patchouli_. There were theatrical cards stuck on some of the panels; now
and then a door was stealthily opened and the intruders scrutinised. On
the sixth floor Mr. Poynter, the famous detective, who had once been in
the Government service, stood waiting. He shook hands with Hodson and
nodded to Grant.

"We're up against a nasty piece of business, Colonel," he announced. "I
wanted you to see exactly how things stood for yourself before the
police got hold of it."

"Get on with the story, Poynter," Hodson invited.

"In the first place," the detective pointed out, "the girl's bell is
cut. You see the wire there. It's a clean cut, been done with a pair of
nippers, within the last hour or two. Now come inside, sir. But," he
added, his hand upon the handle of the door, "you must be prepared for
something unpleasant."

"The young lady?" Grant exclaimed.

"She is dead," Poynter answered gravely. "The scene is set for suicide.
Personally I think there is not the slightest doubt but that she was
murdered. The door of her room was locked and the key is nowhere in her
room. I picked the lock after I had tracked her down. This way, sir. The
smell is still bad, but I have had the window open an hour."

They entered what was little more than a garret bedroom. On the bed lay
the body of Mademoiselle Cleo. Mr. Poynter raised the sheet which he had
drawn over her face and let it drop almost immediately. Above the girl's
head was the gas jet and from it a small piece of tube hung downwards.
The remains of the imprisoned gas were still escaping by the open
window.

"She was quite dead when I picked the lock," Poynter told them, "and for
the moment I thought that the gas would get me. I managed to make a rush
for it to the window, though."

"But surely all this points to her having committed suicide?" Grant
queried.

"I am perfectly certain all the same that she did not," the detective
replied. "Not only has her bell been cut but the telephone is cut too.
She was lying half across the floor, trying to reach it or the window
when I found her, and the window was fastened down with a nail which had
only recently been driven in. There is not the least doubt but that some
powerful person entered her room, held her down until the last moment,
then rushed out, locking the door behind him. There are marks upon the
girl's throat which could not possibly have been self-inflicted."

Grant searched the room for a note or letter, but in vain.

"What she knew," Hodson decided at last, "she has taken with her. You
had better notify the police, Poynter, and stand by while they take note
of the things you have pointed out to me. You can say that we two have
seen them."

"And don't let them take her away," Grant insisted. "I will be
responsible for the funeral arrangements."

"There's just one thing," Mr. Poynter said, casting his professional eye
once more around the room. "I have a perfectly definite idea of my own
as to the type of person who was following this poor girl. Am I to go
on?"

"Absolutely," Hodson replied. "You can treat it as a Government affair,
Poynter, and take your orders from me. The young lady was suspected of
having political secrets in her possession."

"I'll make a report in a few days," Poynter promised.

They descended to their taxi and drove away. Both men were silent. Grant
was filled with a sense of horror. The sordidness of the little scene,
its atmosphere of tragedy, its cruelty, had brought the tears into his
eyes.

"If ever I get my fingers on the throat of that brute Itash," he
muttered, "I think that I shall kill him. What did you think of the
matter, Hodson?"

"I think that Poynter was entirely right," was the confident reply. "And
every moment I am coming round to your point of view. I am beginning to
believe that this conspiracy really exists."

"You're coming in?" Grant enquired, as the taxi drove up to the Great
Central Hotel.

Hodson shook his head.

"You'll see nothing of me for twenty-four hours or so," he announced. "I
am going to work in directions you can't approach. You and Stoneham go
on with your propaganda, even though the thing looks hopeless. Let your
friends think that's all you've got to depend upon. Don't go away from
your rooms for more than an hour or two without leaving word where
you're to be found. There may be some big things doing when I get
started."

Grant made his way through the crowded vestibules of the hotel and down
the main lobby. On one side was the supper and dancing room, and, as he
passed the entrance, he came face to face with Itash, who had apparently
just arrived. A few yards away Yvonne was handing her cloak to the
attendant. Grant hesitated for a moment and then came to a standstill,
affecting not to notice hash's outstretched hand.

"I have a piece of information which may be of interest to you, Count
Itash," he said.

"You are very kind to trouble," was the studiously courteous reply.

"I have just come from a very sorry apartment in a squalid part of the
city," Grant went on. "I was summoned there to identify the dead body of
Mademoiselle Cleo."

If Itash felt anything, he effectually concealed it. He passed his
fingers over his sleek black hair and bowed slightly. A gesture of his
hand kept Yvonne from advancing.

"This is very terrible news," he said. "I had noticed that the young
lady seemed to be in a very depressed state. It is to be feared,
perhaps, that she took her own life?"

"Nothing of the sort," Grant answered bluntly. "She was murdered."

Then, for the first time, Itash showed signs of feeling. His eyes
glittered, his lips seemed to grow tight against his teeth.

"That is very terrible," he confessed. "In Japan we do not think so much
of suicide. One leaves life when one is tired. But a murder is a
terrible thing. Who, in this country, would dream of murdering poor
Cleo? She had no money, but little jewellery."

"She might have had something more valuable than either," Grant
observed.

Itash shook his head.

"Oh, no," he murmured. "I know what you mean, but those were fancies of
hers. If she has ever imagined that she heard anything from my lips of
import she has been mistaken. My country has no secrets, neither have I.
I grieve for your sad news, Mr. Slattery. I thank you."

"You are dancing?" Grant enquired.

"I am dancing," Itash acknowledged, offering his arm to Yvonne. "This is
the last night in New York of my friend. Mademoiselle Yvonne. She is
summoned back to Paris and sails to-morrow."

Grant remained perfectly immovable, regardless alike of

Yvonne's proffered greeting and Itash's low bow. They passed together
into the ballroom. Grant watched them with a strange inexplicable
disgust, a disgust which seemed to be born of his passionate but silent
anger. In his mind he saw Cleo followed home from the Police Court to
her dreary apartment, saw her walk into the little chamber of death,
into the toils prepared for her. She was, after all, very young, and she
loved. She was still lying in that little chamber, with a sheet over her
face,--and Itash danced.

"I think," Grant said to himself, as he turned away, "that I shall
certainly kill Itash."

The next morning there were no sensational headlines, even in the most
melodramatic of the newspapers. In two or three of them was a short
paragraph, headed:

"SAD SUICIDE OF A FRENCH DANSEUSE."

Not a single newspaper gave more than a few lines to a description of
the event. The New York was perhaps the fullest. It told how, after
being very leniently treated by the judge at the Police Court, she had
been discharged, on a promise to leave the country within a week, and
not to molest Mademoiselle Yvonne again. She had then, the paragraph
continued, apparently gone straight back to her apartments, had locked
the door, turned on the gas, attached a piece of rubber to the jet,
fastened the window, and lain down to die. A more determined suicide,
the police reported, they had very seldom come across.



CHAPTER XIV

It was three whole clays before Grant saw anything more of Hodson. Then
the latter appeared in his room about seven o'clock in the evening and
demanded a cocktail.

"Glad you've remembered my existence," Grant grumbled good-humouredly,
as he gave the necessary orders. "Stoneham and I have been pegging away.
There are heaps of things I want to know about."

Hodson nodded.

"There are big events close at hand," he announced. "A great deal of
what you suspect is true, with a few other trifles thrown in. Can you go
to England to-morrow?"

"England!" Grant exclaimed. "Why, the Limitation of Armaments Conference
starts here in a little over a fortnight."

"You'll be back for it," the other assured him. "I want you to catch the
Katalonia to-morrow morning. She sails at eight o'clock. Let me see,
to-morrow's Saturday. You'll be in Plymouth Wednesday, and in London
Wednesday night. Lord Yeovil will be expecting you. You can sail back on
Saturday in the Sefaloni. You'll probably return with Yeovil and his
staff."

"What am I to do in England?" Grant asked, trying to keep back an alien
and most disturbing thought.

"Deliver despatches from Washington," was the prompt reply. "I have them
in my pocket. I came through from Washington to-day. Great Britain
polices the eastern waters for the Limitation of Armaments Conference,
and we want a sea-plane patrol over certain specified districts. There
are a few other little matters to be enquired into, too."

"Look here," Grant expostulated. "You're not sending me over to play
messenger boy, are you?"

"Not likely!"

"What's the game then? Do you want to get me out of the way?"

"Not precisely that. Where are you dining?"

"With you, anywhere, I was going up to the Lotos Club. Stoneham
generally drops in there."

"I'm tired," Hodson confessed. "I'd like to hear some music and look at
some pretty women. I'll go round and have a bath and change and call for
you in half an hour. We'll get a corner table at Sherry's. I think, as
we're saving empires, we can afford some terrapin and a bottle of
champagne."

"You're serious about that trip to England--because I must have my
fellow pack?"

"Serious! My God, I am!" was the emphatic answer. "You'll be the chief
spoke in the wheel for the next ten days. You won't miss anything here,
either. I'm gathering up some wonderful threads but I'm doing it
silently. I'll come round in half an hour. I'm on your floor."

A fit of restlessness seized Grant. He gave his servant the necessary
orders, interviewed the travel manager in the hotel and secured the best
accommodation possible on the steamer. Then he permitted himself to
think deliberately, opened up the closed chambers in his mind, welcomed
reflection and memory. He would see Susan. He would find out what her
silence really meant, what she thought or believed about him. In a
sense, it was all very hopeless. He had been forced into an accursed
position. He scarcely knew even now how to appraise it. And yet the big
thing remained unaltered and still seemed to tower over everything
else,--he loved Susan. There was not a grain of affection in his heart
for anybody else. She was his only possible companion. Was he so much
less fit for her than any other of the young men by whom she was
surrounded? He tried to judge himself and his position fairly. The
trouble was that it could never be represented to any one else in the
same manner. He remembered and brooded with gloomy insistence over that
slight vein of prudery in Susan, something altogether unconnected with
the narrow ways, or any unduly censorious attitude towards life, which
seldom in fact expressed itself in speech, but was more a Dart of
herself, a sort of instinctive and supercilious shrinking from the small
licences of a world which she never judged in words. Perhaps he had
fallen for ever in her esteem; perhaps the one sin recorded against him
would have cost him already what he had sometimes fancied that he had
won. Now that he was going to see her so soon, he wondered how he had
been content to wait to know the truth. Next Thursday he would be in
London. It was the height of the season and she would certainly be
there. Next Thursday or Friday they might meet. He told himself that he
would know in the first ten seconds whether his disaster had been
irredeemable.

The two men dined at Sherry's in a retired corner. They dined, as Grant
complained, like profiteers and gourmands. Hodson ordered caviare and
lobster Newburg, terrapin, saddle of lamb, asparagus and champagne.

"A disgraceful meal," Grant declared, as he sipped his cocktail. "Do you
really think we shall get through it?"

"Of course we shall," Hodson laughed. "To tell you the truth I've
scarcely eaten anything for two days. They were a tough lot on the
trains to Washington and back. I can manage better in the cities."

"What do you mean?" his companion asked curiously.

"Well, the same powers that murdered that poor girl and translated it
into suicide were out for me," Hodson explained. "If they had known that
it was you who started me off, I expect you'd be in the same position.
My own little crowd are pretty useful though. And Poynter's men are
wonderful. There are two of them at the next table. They look all right,
don't they?"

"They look just like two successful business men talking over a deal,"
Grant observed.

"Well, they aren't," Hodson assured him. "They're two of Poynter's
shrewdest detectives. They've got guns in their pockets and their job is
to see that no one tries to steal a march on me from the lounge. One of
my men is down in the kitchen. I dared not eat anything on the train,
for they were in with the chef there. I've been shot at twice in the
last twenty-four hours. They nearly got me, too. It's a great storm
that's gathering. Grant."

"Exactly why are you sending me to England?"

"Listen," was the earnest reply. "This is official. It comes from the
White House. You know who owns the New Year now. You know the power at
the back of the greater part of our Press. They want to make bad blood
between Great Britain and this country. You can guess why. They're at it
already, and the British Press, quite naturally, is beginning to take it
up. Use all your influence with Lord Yeovil. Tell him the truth. Get him
to take you to see his own big newspaper people and try to keep the
feeling down. Beg him to disregard any attacks upon him personally,
either before he comes or directly he lands. It's all part of the game.
It will all be over, tell him, in two months, and for heaven's sake do
what you can to stop trouble."

"I certainly will," Grant promised. "I used to have a certain amount of
influence with Lord Yeovil."

"That's why we're sending you. One reason, at any rate. Then--Hullo!
another farewell party, I see."

"Why farewell?" Grant asked, looking curiously at the newcomers.

"I hadn't come to that. Cornelius Blunn is sailing for England
to-morrow. He'll be your fellow passenger."

"Where the devil is he off to?"

"A dozen of the most astute brains in the States, besides my own, have
tried to solve that question," Hodson replied. "At present, I must
frankly admit that we don't know. I have a theory. He's getting a trifle
shaken up in New York. Not exactly scared, but nervy. He wants to
re-establish confidence. There's a dinner of German bankers in London at
which he is advertised to take the Chair. He imagines that his
attendance at that function just now will put us off the scent. He'll
probably come back by your steamer."

"Is he taking the casket with him, I wonder," Grant reflected.

"I may consider some day," Hodson said deliberately, "that within the
last few hours I have made the mistake of my life. That girl's whisper
to you was probably the vital part of all that she had to tell. I
honestly believe that the key to the whole conspiracy--and there is a
great conspiracy. Grant, I'll tell you that--is in that casket, side by
side, no doubt in affectionate communion, with that letter from old man
Blunn, the present man's father, which we know he always carries with
him. They'll risk a lot for sentiment, these people. I honestly believe
I ought to have raided his private room with a dozen picked men, broken
open his safe and casket and shot myself if I found nothing. I believe
it was a fair risk. Honestly, Grant, it wasn't that I funked it. It was
just because I knew all the time how Cornelius Blunn would have laughed
at me if the thing had been a fake, how the Department would have
laughed at me, how the Press would have poked fun, and the novelists
pointed to me in triumph as one who carried the skein of fancy farther
even than their imaginative brains had ventured. The fact of it is,
Slattery, that ridicule is a much more powerful factor in our daily
lives than we are willing to acknowledge. A great many men are
susceptible to ridicule who are immune to fear."

"All the same," Grant proposed a little doggedly, "give me a dozen men
and a plan of campaign and I'll run the risk."

"As a last resource," Hodson declared, "it is always open to us.
Personally, I have some hopes in other directions. Now, let us see whom
our friend, Cornelius Blunn, is entertaining. H'm! A respectable lot but
suggestive. The two great steel men, Pottinger, the new editor of the
New York, Admiral Purvin--he's all right but inclined to be
talkative--and Doctor Sinclair Forbes, the great Jewish educationalist.
A respectable party but a dash of the Teuton about most of them. A
farewell party that amounted to anything would have been given in his
rooms. By the way. Grant, if you speak to Blunn on the way out, don't
tell him you're sailing to-morrow. I've arranged for you to be quarter
of an hour late. They'll put the gangway down again for you. I'm
beginning to have great faith in Blunn's organisation. If he considered
your presence in England likely to prove inconvenient, I think it's very
doubtful whether you would reach the steamer in time. Now he's seen us.
Wave your hand, Slattery. Play his game. Love your enemies on the
surface. Be glad to see the people you wish were at the bottom of the
sea. It's a great game as Blunn plays it. How he must hate to see us
together. And yet, behold! A great honour is coming to us."

Blunn had risen to his feet, with a word of excuse to his guests, and
came across the room to them. He beamed upon Grant and shook hands with
Hodson cordially, reminding him of a previous meeting at Washington.

"I am giving a little farewell party," he announced. "I have decided,
rather at the last moment, to accept an invitation to visit London."

"Didn't I once hear you say that you seldom visited England?" Grant
queried.

"Your memory is excellent, Mr. Slattery," Blunn admitted. "To tell you
the truth, I do so now more from a sense of duty than with the
expectation of any pleasure. The whole world knows that my father hated
England, and, in a milder form, I have inherited his dislike. But, in
these days of settled peace, what can one do? What good does it do to
ourselves or to the world to keep open the old sore? I have been asked
to preside at the Anniversary Dinner given to celebrate the reopening of
the German banks in London. I must confess that at first I refused but
strong pressure has been brought to bear upon me. I have decided to go.
Naturally my presence on such an occasion must mean the burying forever
of all feelings of ill will."

"I think you are quite right," Hodson remarked.

"So do I," Grant echoed. "Your presence there will be of great
significance. By the way, are you returning to the States?"

"I am not sure. My friend Lutrecht, who is coming over to represent us
on the Limitation of Armaments Conference, is very anxious that I should
be here, but, personally, I think it exceedingly doubtful. My affairs in
Germany require my presence, and I have promised to visit Hamburg within
the next few weeks. I will only say '_au revoir_', gentlemen. Mr. Slattery
and I, at any rate, are citizens of the world, and we are likely to meet
in most unexpected places."

He returned to his table and the two men exchanged a smile.

"Even Cornelius Blunn," Hodson murmured, "has a knack of telling the
truth sometimes."



CHAPTER XV

There was humour rather than tragedy in the inevitable meeting between
Cornelius Blunn and Grant on the Katalonia. On the morning after their
departure, Grant, while promenading the deck, heard a feeble tapping
against the glass which enclosed the small promenade of one of the
magnificent private suites, for which the vessel was famous. Inside Mr.
Cornelius Blunn, almost unrecognisable, swathed in rugs, with a
hot-water bottle at his feet and a servant by his side, was gazing out
at the world with lack-lustre eyes. Grant obeyed his summons, pushed
back the sliding door, and stepped inside.

"So you are here, my young friend," Cornelius Blunn said weakly. "What
does it matter? I am sick in the stomach. I do not think that I shall
live till we reach Southampton."

"Not so bad as that, I hope," Grant ventured.

"It is worse," Blunn groaned, "because I am beginning to hope that I
shall not. Go away now. I am going to be ill. I wanted to be sure that I
was not already seeing ghosts. If this were only your yacht!"

Grant hurried out with a word of sympathy.

"An object lesson in proportionate values," he reflected, as he walked
down the deck,--and then, his little effort at philosophy deserted him.
He himself found great events dwarfed by small ones. His heart was
pounding against his ribs. He was face to face with Gertrude von Diss!

His first impulse was ludicrously conventional. He hastened to relieve
her of the rug she was carrying. Behind her came a maid with coat,
pillows, and other impedimenta of travel.

"Gertrude!" he exclaimed, as he stood with the rug upon his arm. "Where
have you come from? Where have you been?"

"Stateroom number eighty-four," she replied, "and I am on my way to that
chair, and please don't ask me whether I have been ill. Come and tuck me
up as a well-meaning fellow passenger should."

He obeyed at once. The maid assisted his efforts, a deck steward
supplemented them. Presently Gertrude declared herself comfortable and
her entourage faded away. Grant sat by her side.

"I am going to break orders," he said gently. "I am afraid that you have
been ill."

There were hollows in her cheeks. The freshness of her exquisite
complexion had departed. Her eyes seemed to have receded. She was thin
and fragile.

"Yes," she admitted. "I have been ill. A nervous breakdown, accompanied
by great weakness of the heart was all that the doctor could find to say
about it. I might have helped his diagnosis."

"Don't, Gertrude!" he begged.

"My dear man, don't be afraid that I am going to break into reproaches!
There is nothing more illogical in the world than the position of the
woman who complains of a man because he doesn't care for her. It is no
sin of yours that you didn't love me, Grant. It was most certainly no
sin of yours that, for a few hours, I made you pretend to. That was
entirely my affair,--entirely my cunning scheme, which went wrong. Some
idiot once wrote that 'love begets love!' I thought that with my arms
around your neck I could have brought about a sort of transfusion,
forced a little of what was in my heart into yours,--and you see I
couldn't. In the morning I knew. You were very dutiful. Your lips were
there for me if I wanted them. Your arms were ready for my body if I had
been content to come. You were prepared to take advantage of all the
nice and proper little arrangements which the circumstances had placed
at my disposal. And of love there was not a scrap. I had made my venture
and lost."

"Gertrude, this is terrible," he groaned.

"It is terrible because it is the truth," she continued. "We have that
much in common, we two. We both love the truth. I have prayed for this
moment, that it might come about just as it has done, that these few
plain words might be spoken, and that for the rest of our Uves, we
should know!"

"I was a brute," he muttered. "I tried, Gertrude."

"What a horrible condemnation," she laughed bitterly. "And so true--so
damnably true. You did try. I watched you trying hour by hour. I watched
you drink champagne at night. You tried to pretend. It was I who had to
make the excuses--because I knew. I who had to pretend not to see your
look of relief. You never deceived me for a single moment, Grant. It was
I who gambled and lost."

"I am sorry."

"Don't be sorry," she enjoined. "Now, I will tell you something.
Notwithstanding the great humiliation through which I have passed, I am
glad. I am glad that it all happened. When this pain is lightened, I
shall be more glad still. I was restless and unhappy whilst I believed
that I could reawaken your love. Now, I am every day more rested, more
content. And here is the wickedness of me, Grant--I am glad about it. I
do not regret for a single moment my experiment. The only regret I have
is that I failed."

"You know why?" he ventured.

"You were very frank about it," she admitted, "but somehow or other I
couldn't believe that you knew, yourself. You are a man of parts, even a
little older than your years, and Susan Yeovil, for all her charm, is
young. I used my brain upon the matter--foolishly--the one thing brain
has nothing to do with. Finished, my dear Grant! That rug a little more
closely round my left foot, please. And don't imagine for a moment that
I am going to offer you my eternal friendship. About some matters my
sentimentalism is not of the sloppy order. There's a jagged edge about
our relations and always must be. But that's no reason why you shouldn't
make the deck steward bring me some of that delicious bouillon."

"Where have you been and where are you going?" Grant asked, as soon as
he had ministered to her wants.

"I've been in New Hampshire," she told him, "staying with one of the
neglected aunts of my family. A wonderful spot amongst the hills.
Incidentally I was ill there."

"And now?"

"Well--I have plans but they are not concluded. My book, please, and
then you can continue that swinging walk of yours. Afterwards pay me the
little attentions one fellow passenger may offer to another, if you
like. But rest assured that your liberation is complete."

Grant chose another deck for his promenade. The magnificent and
primitive selfishness of his sex had asserted itself. He found nothing
but relief in this meeting with Gertrude. He could, at least, go to Susan
with his hands free, so far as he ever could be free. The trouble of it
was that, for all her worldliness, he feared her standards, feared that
vein of idealism which he had once or twice detected in her. Of course
there was something artificial about the whole outlook. A thing which
she knew, that everybody else knew, ranked a little differently to that
nebulous past which, by common consent, was somewhere locked away in the
back chambers of a man's life. Yet, with it all, Susan's common sense
was admirable. There was her father to guide her.

Later in the day he revisited Cornelius Blunn and found little
improvement in his condition. The only moment when a spark of his old
spirit showed itself was when, with a pitiful groan, he murmured:

"And to think that I must return!"

"You are coming back to the States, then?" Grant asked quickly.

For a single moment the man's self-control reasserted itself. He shook
his head feebly.

"I have too many affairs on hand," he said, "to make plans. Maybe at
once, maybe in many months.

"One thing is very certain. I shall not stay in England long. My own
country I love. America I love. But England, no. Excuse me, Mr.
Slattery. I can talk no longer. I find it exhausting. Your look of
health offends me. You look as though you were on your way to eat a
hearty meal, and that offends me more. Come and see me when I am
stronger, Muller!"

Grant strolled away, smiling. It was a very harmless and helpless
Cornelius Blunn, this. But for how long?



CHAPTER XVI

The preliminaries of Grant's mission to London seemed to him, eager to
get into touch with the vital things, monotonous and a little wearisome.
He paid his respects to his own Ambassador and received the _entree_ to
the Embassy. Afterwards he made a formal application for an appointment
with Lord Yeovil, and, after a brief delay, was accorded an interview in
Downing Street at six o'clock that evening. The interval he filled up by
calling with the Naval Attache of his Embassy upon the Admiralty, and
with the Military Attache upon the War Office. At six o'clock precisely
he was received in Downing Street by Arthur Lymane, who welcomed him
with a certain amount of surprise.

"Glad to see you and all that, Slattery," he said, "but I never thought
of you as being on the official side of anything. I thought you'd
absolutely chucked the service some years ago."

"I'm on a special mission," Grant explained. "They've sent me over to
see one or two people here and especially Lord Yeovil. I'm going back on
Saturday."

"We shall all be fellow passengers then," Lymane observed. "Do you think
America will be able to stand the troupe of us? Because we're all
coming--even bringing our own little typists this time."

"Is Lady Susan--" Grant began hesitatingly.

"Yes, Lady Susan's coming along."

"She's all right, I suppose," Grant enquired. "I don't seem to have
heard anything of her for some time."

"In the pink. She's been doing the honours for her father this season
and doing them wonderfully, too."

"Engaged yet?" Grant ventured with a ridiculous affectation of
carelessness.

"Nothing announced," was the cautious reply. "There are three or four of
them running neck and neck. Bobby Lancaster's fallen behind a bit,
although he's as keen as ever. Lord Glentarne's chief favourite for the
moment, and there are a lot of rumours going about that Buckingham
Palace has its eye on her. No matrimonial news about you, I suppose,
Slattery?"

"None."

A little bell rang, and Grant was ushered into the presence of the man
who, a few months ago, notwithstanding the difference in their ages, had
been his most intimate friend. From the moment of his entrance, however,
he understood that those days were past. Lord Yeovil was courteous, even
friendly. Nevertheless the change in his demeanour would have been
apparent to a man of fewer perceptions than Grant.

"Very glad to see you again, Slattery," the Prime Minister said,
motioning him to a seat. "It seems a long time since we used to sit
cudgelling our brains about those bridge problems."

"History is giving us something much more serious with which to occupy
ourselves, sir," Grant replied. "All the things which you and I used to
speak about in those days are coming to pass."

Lord Yeovil nodded.

"This time, I gather, you come to me officially."

"That is true, sir. I am the bearer of a message and representations
from my Government to yours. May I beg for your serious attention?"

"By all means," the Prime Minister acquiesced. "My car is ordered for
seven o'clock. Till then I am at your service. I will just give Arthur a
few messages and leave word that we are not to be disturbed."

Until a quarter to seven Lord Yeovil was an attentive listener. When his
visitor had at last finished, he was looking very grave.

"I have always felt a premonition of something of this sort," he
confided. "My invitation to the States was practically founded upon it.
But I must confess I had no idea that things were so imminent. Nor even
at the present moment is it quite clear to me how Germany and Japan
propose to work this thing."

"There is a great deal that we have to discover yet, sir," Grant
declared. "We're reconstructing the scheme more thoroughly, day by day,
but, from the facts we have, it seems as though the central idea is that
the Japanese fleet, which we have reason to believe is much larger than
it should be, will approach the west coast of America at exactly the
same time that the German fleet approaches the east coast,--the German
fleet, by the way, augmented, without a doubt, by the Russian. We in
America, as you know, sir, being the instigators of the Limitation of
Armaments, have been most scrupulous in keeping zealously to our
official tonnage in every class of battleship, and the consequence seems
to be that the American fleet, even if it could meet either of these
others undivided, would be greatly inferior in numbers, and the idea of
dividing it to meet these two opposing forces simultaneously would be
simply to court disaster."

"This, of course, is all supposition," Lord Yeovil observed.

"Founded upon a certain amount of proof, which I shall presently
produce," Grant went on. "The most urgent matter, however, which I was
begged to discuss with you, sir, was the attitude of certain portions of
the American Press towards yourself and this country. I shall offer you
presently an explanation of that attitude and I am to beg you most
sincerely, in the name of the President and the Government, to use your
influence with the Press of your own country to avoid, so far as
possible, recrimination and reprisal."

"It is true, I suppose," Lord Yeovil enquired, "that the New York is no
longer conducted in the interests of your Government?"

"The New York," Grant replied, "has been purchased by Cornelius Blunn,
and is the most dangerous organ in the States to-day."

The Prime Minister glanced at his watch.

"I fear that, for the present, we must postpone our discussion," he
announced. "It has been a great pleasure to see you again, Slattery, and
to receive you in an official capacity. No one could have been more
welcome--as a representative of your people."

Grant felt a sudden chill. He took his courage into both hands, however.

"I fear, sir," he ventured, "that I seem to have forfeited in your eyes
the position of which I was once very proud--the position of being a
friend of your household."

Lord Yeovil hesitated. The young man's directness was almost
disconcerting.

"I would not say that," he rejoined, a little more kindly. "I am
naturally a man of the world, and I am not a hard judge of any man's
actions. This is a matter, however, which, if you choose, we will
discuss at another time."

Grant rose to leave. There was again a very perceptible hesitation on
his host's part.

"To-night," he said, "I am giving a reception at Yeovil House, a sort of
farewell before I leave for Washington. Most of the diplomatic people
will be present. If you care to attend, it will give me great pleasure
to see that you have a card. You are staying at the Embassy?"

"At Claridge's."

"You will have a card within an hour."

Grant once more summoned all his courage.

"Shall I have the pleasure of meeting Lady Susan?" he asked.

"My daughter has made her debut this season as a political hostess," was
the polite but somewhat cold reply. "She will be assisting me to-night."

It was gone, then, the old cordiality, the easy terms of familiarity on
which Grant had stood in the household. Lord Yeovil had become to
him--as he was to most of the world--a courteous and polished diplomat,
kindly and gracious in words and demeanour, but a person who seemed
almost outside the amenities of life. And, if the change was so
noticeable in him, what had he to expect from Susan?

He was in a somewhat depressed frame of mind when he called in at
Carlton White's, selected the most beautiful roses he could find, and
sent them to Yeovil House. Afterwards he went back to the Embassy and
was kept there until eight o'clock. There were many questions raised
over the despatches he had brought, which were full of vital interest to
various members of the staff. Grant could not help contrasting the
atmosphere here and the atmosphere in Washington. Geographically the two
were not so far apart. The Press, cables, wireless, rapid travel had, in
the language of the journalists, brought the two hemispheres side by
side, and yet there was an extraordinary difference in outlook, in
political perspective. Things which in Washington seemed far away,
phantasmal, hatched in the brain of the alarmist, inconceivable in near
life, here assumed a different appearance. Here, at any rate, it was
realised that Europe had become once more a huge whispering gallery of
intrigue, that the curtain might at any moment be raised once more upon
the great drama of war and bloodshed. Facts were the same in both
capitals. The atmosphere alone was different. The incredible in one
place was the grimly possible in the other.



CHAPTER XVII

It was after half-past ten when Grant, in the suite of his own
Ambassador, mounted the stairs of Yeovil House and waited for some time
in the block which had collected at the entrance to the reception rooms.
From where he stood he suddenly recognised Susan, recognised her with a
little shock of mingled pleasure and apprehension. His first impression
was that she had changed, had grown older in some marvellous fashion,
without the loss of any of her beauty or freshness. She wore the gown in
which, only a few months ago, she had been presented. Her hair, in the
midst of a galaxy of brilliant coiffures, was arranged as simply as in
the old Monte Carlo days, and the jewellery she wore consisted only of a
simple rope of pearls. Yet she seemed to have assumed without effort and
with perfect naturalness a becoming dignity and ease, wholly in keeping
with her position as the hostess of a great gathering, and having a
certain piquant charm when associated with her extreme youth. She talked
gaily and without embarrassment to every one, passing them on with that
tactful little word which is sometimes a hostess's greatest difficulty
and having always the air of thoroughly enjoying her position, of
finding real joy in welcoming individually members of the distinguished
crowd which streamed slowly by. More than once Lord Yeovil, who in his
court dress and dazzling array of orders was himself a striking figure,
found time to glance for a moment, half in amusement, half in delight,
at the girl by his side, whom the society papers of to-morrow were all
to acknowledge as one of London's most promising hostesses. Step by step
they moved on. Glancing upwards, Grant fancied once that she recognised
him. If so, there was no change in her expression. She welcomed the
Ambassador, talked for a moment with his wife, exchanged some jest about
a golf match with the Naval Attache, and finally turned away, to find
Grant standing before her. She gave him her hand and smiled as frankly
as ever. There was no trace of self-consciousness in her manner. Yet
Grant was aware of a great chill of disappointment.

"Welcome back to London, Mr. Slattery," she said, "You really are a
globe trotter, aren't you? I hope you've brought some new bridge
problems with you for father. He needs a little distraction, poor dear,
with all those terrible newspapers of yours hurling thunderbolts at his
head."

"Glad to see you, Slattery," Lord Yeovil added, "You'll find Arthur in
the room to the left. If dancing amuses you, he'll introduce you to some
good partners."

And that was the end of it. Grant found himself one amongst seven or
eight hundred people, meeting an old acquaintance occasionally as he
strolled about, introduced by Lymane to one or two young women with whom
he danced, and all the time conscious of a vague but sickening sense of
disappointment. This was the meeting to which he had looked forward so
eagerly. He was judged and condemned, wiped out, finished with. And why
not? Who in the world would believe that Gertrude had come to him as a
stowaway? And, worse still, whom could he tell? It was a little trap of
fate, into which he had fallen, a problem to which there seemed no
solution.

Later in the evening Arthur Lymane sought him out and presented him to a
white-haired, lean-faced man, in the uniform of an admiral.

"Admiral Sullivan would like to have a word or two with you. Grant," he
said, "Unofficially, of course. The Admiral is head of our Naval
Intelligence Department."

"I have heard of Admiral Sullivan often," Grant declared, shaking hands,
"Once in Tokyo, where he wasn't very popular, and again in Archangel."

"Don't mention that," the Admiral begged, with a little grin, "Tokyo I
don't mind, I hear you fellows are getting the wind up on the other side
of the pond."

"We're shaking in our shoes," Grant assured him, "Can we find a place to
talk?"

"I know the runs of this house," was the cheerful reply. "Come along."

They passed outside the formal suite of reception rooms into an
apartment opening from the billiard room,--a small den, in which were a
few easy-chairs, a quantity of sporting literature, several decanters,
and some soda water.

"This is Arthur Lymane's little shanty," Grant's cicerone explained.
"Can I mix you one? Say when."

They subsided into easy-chairs. The Admiral's blue eyes were still
twinkling.

"By the bye," he confided, "I'm the man who handled your reports from
Archangel and Berlin."

"You didn't throw them into the waste basket, I hope?"

"Not on your life," was the prompt assurance. "I acted upon them, and
jolly quick too. They tell me you've been doing S. S. work for
Washington for the last two years."

"Two years and a half, to be exact," Grant admitted. "I'm beginning to
piece things together now."

"Interesting!" his companion murmured. "There have been rummy things
going on all over the world--heaps of loose threads we've got hold of
ourselves. I wonder whether your conclusions are the same as mine?"

"There is no secret about my conclusions, so far as you're concerned,"
Grant replied. "I am convinced that there is a most venomous plot
brewing against my country. That is why I am so thankful that the
question of our joining the Pact has been raised again. My only fear is
that it's a trifle late."

The Admiral selected and lit a cigar with deliberate care.

"Well," he said, "the world knows my opinion of Pacts and Limitation of
Armaments Conferences, and all that sort of twaddle. They are started by
philanthropic fools to be taken advantage of by rogues. I've given
Yeovil seven questions to ask the Japanese representative at Washington,
and I tell you that there isn't one of them which he will be able to
answer."

"Thank heavens the Conference comes before the matter of joining the
Pact is voted on by the Senate," Grant exclaimed fervently.

"Damned good job, I should think," the other agreed. "It's easy enough
to see that your country's being riddled with propaganda. As regards
that Conference, how long is it supposed to last?"

"Usually about a fortnight."

"Well, I'll tell you something. This time it won't last for twenty-four
hours."

"Go on, please," Grant begged.

"There'll be a most unholy row," the Admiral confided. "The only two
countries who have kept to their programme are yours and mine. France
has built twice her allotted number of submarines, and, to be frank,
we've winked at it. Germany and Russia between them, as you found out,
have kept on exchanging ships and building ships for one another till
even the experts can't keep pace with conditions. If you take my advice,
Slattery--and they tell me you've got the ear of your Government--you'll
cable home and urge your administration with all the eloquence you can
pump out of your brain, to accept Yeovil's invitation and join the Pact
and fight it out with the Senate afterwards. You people have got lots of
the right stuff in you, I know, and you can't believe that anything on
God's earth could hurt you, but you take it from me, there's a hell of a
lot of trouble brewing. Get 'em to sign on to the Pact, Slattery. We
shall all have a finger in the pie, then, anyway."

"I went straight back to Washington from Monte Carlo," Grant confided,
"and I can assure you that I have done my best. The trouble of it
is--just as you pointed out a few minutes ago--there's a propaganda
going on over there which one can't deal with, unless something happens
which will drive the truth home to the people. That fellow, Cornelius
Blunn, has founded an organisation, with branches in every city in the
United States, and that organisation exists primarily to stop America
joining the Pact, and secondly, I am convinced, for her destruction. The
Press has been tampered with. Blunn has even succeeded in buying the New
York."

"But surely your Government can't be absolutely blind to what's going
on?"

"They've only just begun to realise it," Grant assured his companion.
"That's why for this visit they've given me an official status. If the
vote were taken to-day, I think the Senate would reject the proposal to
join the Pact by a majority of three to one."

The Admiral nodded sympathetically.

"It's a filthy business," he admitted. "I hate this underground work,
myself. All the same, you don't need to worry. When you people really
are waked up, it doesn't take you long to get going, and the first few
hours of the Limitation of Armaments Conference will send all Cornelius
Blunn's propaganda sky high."

"I must say you put heart into a man," Grant declared gratefully.

The Admiral rose with a glance at the door and a welcoming smile.

"Well," he said, "here comes the young lady who's taken the heart out of
a great many of us. Lady Susan, we've made free with Arthur's room and
we've drunk his whisky. I don't know what's going to happen to us. My
only excuse is that your father told me off to have a chat with Mr.
Slattery."

She laughed.

"Why should you need an excuse? There isn't a room in the house where
you're not welcome. Admiral. I was scouting round with Arthur to see if
there were any shirkers from the dancing room. We're so short of men.
And, Mr. Slattery, my father wishes to see you before you leave."

"I'm quite at his service," Grant replied, rising.

By some means or other the thing he had so greatly desired came to
pass--he was left a few yards behind with Susan. She neither avoided nor
sought for this contingency. She walked by his side, humming slightly to
herself, entirely at her ease.

"Lady Susan," he began, with less than his usual confidence, "may I
remind you of our parting at Monte Carlo, of something I said to you?"

She looked at him with slightly uplifted eyebrows.

"I should consider your doing so in atrociously bad taste," she replied.

He winced a little. Perhaps she saw that he was genuinely suffering.
Perhaps that love of fair play, which was so strong in her, rebelled
against the idea of any possible misunderstanding.

She slackened her pace. She made sure that they were well out of hearing
of the other two.

"I detest hearsay evidence," she said. "I shall ask you a question. A
terrible thing to do, I suppose, but I shall ask it all the same. Did
the Princess von Diss accompany you on your yacht from Monte Carlo to
America?"

"She did," Grant admitted.

"And was she not also a passenger on the steamer from which you landed
yesterday?"

"She was, but--"

"Please do not continue, Mr. Slattery," she begged. "I hated asking you
these questions, but I was determined that there should be no risk of
any misunderstanding. I do not wish to quarrel with you. I found you a
very pleasant companion at Monte Carlo. I hope that we shall continue
friends. We can only do so if you will remember that, although I do not
think that I am a prude, I should consider any reference to our last
conversation at Monte Carlo as an insult. Angela dear, what luck to meet
you here! I want to present Mr. Grant Slattery, who is dying to
dance,--Lady Angela Brookes. Mr. Slattery is an American, Angela, and I
will vouch for his dancing. He used to try and teach me complications,
but I am not nimble enough. And, Angie, I don't think you'd better lose
your heart to Mr. Slattery. He makes love to single ladies most
fluently, but he runs away with the married ones. And I never thanked
you for your roses, Mr. Slattery. Goodnight, all of you. I must go back
to my post of duty."

Grant offered his arm to the very pretty girl to whom he had been
introduced.

"I suppose we must obey orders," she said.

"Part of them," he answered, a little desperately. "Part of them I hope
you will forget."

She laughed up at him. He had seemed very grave, but perhaps after all
he was going to be amusing.

"I'll see how well you dance," she promised.



CHAPTER XVIII

Grant was fully aware, on the afternoon before his return, that he had
brought his mission to a most successful conclusion. The English Press
was receiving the American attacks upon Lord Yeovil and his invitation
with good-humoured magnanimity. He had collected more evidence--evidence
of a very sinister nature--as to the brooding air of unrest which
everywhere prevailed, and, in view of certain contingencies, firmly
fixed in his own mind but only half believed in by other people, he had
obtained pledges of the utmost value and importance. Yet, so far as he
personally was concerned, he felt very strongly that his visit had been
a failure. The more he thought of it, the more he became convinced that
its failure had been inevitable, that his advertised delinquencies could
have been looked upon in no other way. And yet he smarted under the
judgment. The man in him rebelled.

In Bond Street that afternoon, he heard his name pronounced by a woman
alighting from a motor car just in front of him. He recognised her with
some difficulty. It was indeed Gertrude, looking entirely her old self.

"Still in London," he remarked, as he stood by her side for a moment.

"Still here," she assented. "I had orders to wait--to meet my husband."

"Your husband!"

She smiled with faint irony.

"My husband. Are you surprised? He arrives to-day. He is quite excited
at the idea of seeing me again."

"I can well believe it," Grant observed, a little bewildered.

"But you," she went on. "You have not the appearance of amusing yourself
at all. You are worn to a shadow, my dear Grant. Why do you worry so
about this little game of politics? Believe me, for all your efforts,
the world will be very much the same in five or ten years' time."

"The philosophy of sloth," he reminded her, smiling.

"Perhaps so. But you seem, indeed, very miserable," she continued,
studying him for a moment. "What is the matter? Are your love affairs
progressing ill?"

"I have no love affair," he answered.

She looked at him for a moment searchingly, and her lips slowly parted.
She laughed--laughed the more as his frown deepened.

"You poor man!" she exclaimed. "And after all your sacrifices! Perhaps
it was not so much of a sacrifice, though," she went on, glancing
unconsciously at her reflection in the plate-glass window of the shop in
front of which they were standing. "I suppose I have gone off. What do
you think, Grant?"

"You looked ill upon the steamer," he told her. "To-day you look as well
as you ever have done in your life."

"I hope I do," she murmured. "Otto would feel at once that he had been
cheated out of something if I had lost my looks. I can never quite make
up my mind," she went on reflectively, "how much of my appearance I owe
to my clothes. I have a wonderful flair for clothes, you know. Grant,
and for wearing them."

"People have remarked upon it," he agreed a little drily.

She smiled.

"You're getting bored," she declared. "The trouble about me is that I'm
so self-centred. I'm always talking about myself, and, of course, I
ought to be sympathising with you. But how can I, Grant? You fix your
mind and affections upon an ingenue of the most British type and then
you nurse a broken heart because the inevitable happens."

He broke away from the subject.

"May I take it, then," he asked, "that you and your husband are
reconciled?"

"We are about to be," she admitted. "It is very amusing. I made the
first overtures, or rather Mr. Cornelius Blunn made them on my behalf.
He pleaded my cause most eloquently. I have been given to understand
that I am forgiven. My husband arrives to-day. We are staying at the
Ritz. I think I will not ask you to call."

She saw the displeasure in his face. For a moment she faltered. She was
gripping her little gold purse tightly with the fingers of her left
hand.

"I seem to you flippant?" she went on. "Well!--you must make allowances
for me. This is not exactly the happiest day of my life. I suppose
really I should look for happiness in other ways--trying to do good and
all that sort of thing. If I were to play the much admired part of
long-suffering heroine in the cinema romance of life, I should, of
course, put on my plainest clothes, wait mysteriously upon your young
ingenue, confess the whole truth to her at the cost of my own undying
humiliation, and not leave her until I had shown her the truth. Then I
should telephone you. You would leap into a taxi and drive to Yeovil
House. I should take a last look at your photograph and an overdose of
_veronal_. Curtain to slow music!"

Grant's feelings had suddenly changed. He realised the state of strain
in which she was.

"You're talking a great deal of nonsense, Gertrude," he said. "I am glad
to have seen you. I am glad to hear your news. If I may be allowed to
say so, I do indeed wish you happiness. I wish that I could have had my
share in bringing it to you."

He passed on a little abruptly, and Gertrude made her delayed entrance
into the establishment where hovering satellites had been eagerly
awaiting her. To Grant, the interview had been, in its way, a painful
one. From a material point of view, Gertrude's reconciliation with her
husband was certainly the best thing that could have happened to her.
Yet, during the whole of their conversation, he had been conscious of an
uneasy environment of misery. The meeting, notwithstanding a certain
sense of relief which it brought him, had only increased his depression.
He strolled on without any particular idea as to where he was going. At
the corner of Bond Street and Piccadilly he heard a familiar voice and
felt a friendly hand upon his shoulder.

"Why so woebegone, my young friend? You ought to be up in the seventh
heavens to think of all the excitement you are causing."

Grant was suddenly down again in the world of real things. He shook
hands heartily with his new friend.

"Good morning, Admiral," he said. "Do I look as though I were indulging
in a fit of the blues?"

"If I hadn't been a brave man," Sullivan declared--"we're all brave in
the navy!--I wouldn't have ventured to speak to you. Come along and
lunch."

Grant hesitated. His companion took him by the arm.

"Ritz Grill Room--my favourite corner table," he insisted. "We ought to
have heaps to talk about--except that I am too hungry to talk at all.
I've been up since five o'clock on your business--in the Marconi room at
the Admiralty, most of the time."

"Any news?"

"Not much that's fresh, anyway. We're getting things into shape for the
moment we receive word from Washington. There's a Cabinet Council
to-day, you know. Lucky some of our friends can't get hold of the
agenda. We should have the whole world by its ears to-morrow."

They descended the stairs and remained for a moment in the lounge of the
Grill Room, while Sullivan ordered luncheon from an attentive _maitre_
d'hôtel. The barkeeper was content with a nod.

"You like your cocktails dry, of course," Sullivan went on. "I brought
you here instead of the club because all the fellows would want to meet
you and talk, and we're not loquacious, just at present, except to one
another."

"Very thoughtful of you," Grant approved. "I had an idea that you might
be coming across with us."

"Can't be done. We shall work the show from here. All the same, I must
confess I had rather be in Washington. Have you sent that cable?"

"I've sent one a yard long. The trouble is the Government are pretty
well convinced already. It's the voters we want to get at. What I'm
afraid of all the time is that the trouble will commence before the
President has been empowered to sign."

The Admiral rose to his feet in reply to a summons from the _maitre_
_d'hôtel_ and led his guest towards the table which had been prepared for
them.

"Don't worry too much about that, young fellow," he enjoined cheerfully.
"I'm a sailor, not a politician, but I can see my hand before my face in
the daylight. If half the members of the pact go on the rampage--well, I
shouldn't be surprised if the other half didn't follow suit. Now then,
sit in that corner and try an English lobster."

"Another thing that rather puzzles me," Grant remarked, as they
proceeded with their luncheon, "is why our friends, the enemy, should
have chosen for their enterprise the year in which England is policing
the Asiatic seas on behalf of the Limitation of Armaments Committee. If
it had been Germany's year, for instance, they could have done what they
liked."

"Well, there are two reasons for that," his companion explained. "The
first is that the most important year, so far as secrecy is concerned,
was last year, when some of their phantom ships were actually laid down.
Last year, as you know, Germany policed the whole of the eastern waters
and reported everything O. K. Then, their second reason, no doubt, is
that England polices very strongly, and it means at least two capital
ships and subsidiary craft detached from the main fleet. They think
they've got rid of those units in case, by any chance, we should break
the Pact and intervene. As a matter of fact, we have made a few
changes," he went on, lowering his tone. "Our best battleship and three
destroyers are on their way home now. Australia's replacing them for
us."

"I am going to ask you the most improper question a person in my
position could ask of a person in yours," Grant declared. "If the German
fleet entered the Atlantic steaming westwards, before America had had
time to join the Pact, should you interfere?"

Sullivan grinned merrily.

"The politicians have to decide that," he reminded his guest. "But a
look round our naval ports to-day would probably surprise you."

"How would your strength work out?"

"A trifle to their advantage on paper," the Admiral admitted, "if you
count the Russians in. But there might be a little difficulty about
Russia keeping her appointment. They have just been served with a notice
to receive a police patrol of inspection for a report to the Limitation
of Armaments Committee. They will either have to show their hand or stay
in their harbour. Then there's another point to be borne in mind. I am a
terribly pigheaded and prejudiced Britisher, and I swear by our own
forces, but the French submarines have gone one or two ahead of us. I
had sooner face the devil himself than the flotilla which is collecting
in Cherbourg harbour."

Grant's eyes flashed for a moment.

"You mean that France--"

"Pooh! My dear fellow. I don't mean anything," Sullivan interrupted.
"I'm a sailor, not a politician. But I'll tell you this. France is very
often misjudged. Thirty years ago the world thought her self-centred,
selfish, neurotic. So would any of us have been after what she went
through. You wait. Jove! There's our hostess of last night. Ripping,
isn't she? She'll be the _partie_ of the season. They say young Suffolk's
making the running. Makes one wish one were young again. Why not an
international alliance, Slattery? Why don't you go in with your
millions? Old Yeovil thinks no end of you."

Grant endured his companion's careless banter without moving a muscle.
Susan, the centre of a gay little party, looked round as she entered the
inner room and nodded to the two men. There was a smile for each--the
smile of a happy, light-hearted girl, who has nothing but good will for
the whole world. And yet somehow or other it was a smile which Grant
hated. He felt that it put the seal upon his ostracism.



CHAPTER XIX

Grant was conscious of a queer presentiment as he stopped to speak with
Cornelius Blunn on the first day out from Southampton. Blunn was
occupying his usual suite and was lying in splendid isolation in his own
little portion of the deck. He had come on board the day before, to all
appearance his usual self. Now, within twenty-four hours, he was again
writhing in misery. There was something in his look of misery, as he
glanced up at Grant, which touched the latter.

"Sit down and talk to me for a minute, my young enemy," he invited. "The
doctor tries to tell me that part of this seasickness is nervousness.
One should seek distraction, he says. Tell me how you succeeded in
London."

"Admirably," Grant replied, accepting his invitation. "But I'm not going
to cure your seasickness by telling you my secrets."

Cornelius Blunn smiled faintly.

"You're a nice lad," he said. "Pity you aren't a German. I'd have made a
great man of you."

"I am very glad I am not a German."

"Why?"

Grant shrugged his shoulders.

"Well," he pointed out, "of course every nation has its characteristics,
bad and good. Your people are industrious, domesticated, subject to
discipline, and full of courage. On the other hand they are the most
egregiously selfish and egotistical race upon the face of the earth. It
is Germany first, and let any one else exist that may. That is what I
don't like about your people."

Cornelius Blunn did not reply for a moment.

"It may seem so to the world," he conceded presently. "You see we are a
nation of individualists."

"Why are you alone?" Grant enquired, after a moment's pause.

The troubled look returned to Blunn's face.

"A chapter of accidents has befallen me," he explained. "Muller, my
body servant, and Felix, my secretary, who came over with me, missed the
boat at Southampton. Both were executing commissions for me late in
London, and I sent them down by car. They had an accident, twelve miles
from Guildford, and both were too injured to continue the journey. The
steward does his best, but I am not used to being alone. If any other
boat could have got me over in time for the Conference, where my
presence in an advisory capacity is required, I should have postponed my
departure."

Grant murmured a few words of sympathy and presently departed. On the
deck he met Lord Yeovil, with whom he turned and walked.

"Blunn seems to be quite ill," he confided.

"Unfortunately men do not die of seasickness," the other rejoined. "It
sounds a brutal thing to say, I suppose, but, in my opinion, it would be
a great benefit to the world if Blunn were to be removed from it. I have
come to the conclusion within the last few weeks, Slattery, that, more
than any other man living, Cornelius Blunn represents the spirit of
warfare and unrest. He is the personification of all that is evil in the
German system. I can quite believe your story that he carries with him
day and night a famous letter of hate, inscribed by his father on his
deathbed. He not only carries the letter, but he carries the spirit."

"One is so often tempted to like the man," Grant remarked. "And yet I
know that you're right. If all that we suspect of his domestic intrigues
in America is true, he is a very terrible person. I hope Lady Susan is
keeping well. I haven't seen her about."

"She is playing deck tennis forward," her father replied. "A pleasant
game but a trifle energetic for this warm weather. Lutrecht and his
faithful henchman, Von Diss, are playing _ecarte_ in the smoke room. Did
you know, Slattery, that Von Diss was to be one of the German
entourage?"

"I had no idea of it," Grant answered hastily and with perfect truth. "I
met the Princess in Bond Street the day before we sailed and she told me
that her husband was arriving in London that afternoon. She gave me no
idea that it was for the purpose of proceeding to the States or that she
was accompanying him."

"They keep their secrets well, these Germans," Lord Yeovil mused. "They
have method and reticence. I must go and spend my usual hour with
Arthur. I don't think I ever had such a mass of material to master in my
life--pretty terrible, some of it, too."

Grant strolled on and threw himself into a chair close to the rail.
"Method and reticence!" He thought for a moment of Cleo's whispered
words. If they were true, and he had never doubted them, the whole
secret of the poisonous domestic conspiracy, as much or more to be
dreaded than any avalanche of foreign aggression, was contained in two
small volumes--neat, they would be; precise, they would be; venomous,
they would surely be--and never so nearly within his grasp as now. He
fell to studying the ethics of the much debated problem of justification
by result. Cornelius Blunn, at the present moment, was probably more
helpless than he would ever be found again. Was it worth the risk of
failure, the plan that was slowly forming itself in his mind?

Von Diss, very neat and dapper in white flannel trousers and blue serge
coat of nautical cut, came up and touched Grant on the arm. He always
made a show of being very friendly with the rival whom he hated.

"I saw you talking to our friend, Cornelius Blunn," he said. "His
condition puzzles me. It is a terrible thing to suffer so from such a
simple cause. Incomprehensible, too! He enjoys sailing as much as any
man, and yet directly he gets on a big steamer, he collapses
altogether."

"He was very ill coming over," Grant remarked. "Yet he was himself again
the night after landing. His speech at the Whitehall Rooms was an
admirable production."

Von Diss nodded.

"He is not old," he went on, half to himself. "He is a strong man. His
mentality is amazing. Yet this simple illness seems to have thrown him
into a strange disorder. I made a harmless request to him this morning,
and he ordered me away."

"A harmless request!" Grant felt a sudden inspiration. "A harmless
request!" Bearing in mind Cornelius Blunn's unprotected state, Von Diss
had probably asked for the care of the casket or that it be deposited in
the ship's safe. It was a perfectly reasonable suggestion.

"I expect you will find him better to-morrow," Grant observed. "The
Princess is, I trust, not suffering?"

"She is a little tired, but she has no _mal de mer_," her husband
replied. "I go now to fetch her. Presently I shall talk with our friend,
Cornelius Blunn, again."

He wandered off and Grant made his way to where the deck tennis was
proceeding. He sat down and watched the players for a time. Presently,
without noticing who her neighbour was, Susan came and shared his seat.
She gave a little start as he spoke and made an involuntary movement.
Grant rose at once to his feet.

"Pray let me go away," he begged. "I am sorry that you find my presence
so utterly distasteful."

He was angry with himself directly he had spoken. She only laughed at
him and settled herself down more comfortably.

"Don't be absurd," she said lightly. "Only I didn't happen to notice who
it was. Don't you play any of these games?"

"Sometimes."

"We're having a competition," she confided. "So far Charlie Suffolk and
I have beaten everybody. Oh, I must go," she added, slipping off. "I see
there is another couple ready for us."

He watched her for a moment or two and turned away. He tried other parts
of the ship, but some fascination seemed to draw him always back to that
little enclosed space where Cornelius Blunn lay with half-closed eyes.
He had lost a great deal of his natural colour and seemed somehow to
have shrunken. Grant hesitated at the round glass door for a moment or
two, wondering whether or not to enter. Then he realised that Blunn was
asleep. He stooped down, withdrew the key from the lock of the door, and
placed it in his pocket. Afterwards he walked away.



CHAPTER XX

After resisting the impulse at least half a dozen times, Grant finally
found his way, after dinner that evening, to the dancing deck aft. It
was a very beautifully arranged space, given over in the daytime to
various games, and at night covered with a specially prepared floor for
dancing. The windows opened all the way round, and in hot weather the
roof rolled back. From one of the window seats he watched for some
little time. Susan was, as usual, surrounded by admirers, but she was
unlucky in her partners. Three or four times he saw her finish a dance a
little abruptly and stroll with her companion on the open portion of the
deck. After watching a particularly unsuccessful effort, he made his way
towards her. Although he concealed his condition admirably, no neophyte
fresh from boarding school and attending his first dance could have been
more nervous.

"May I have a dance, Lady Susan?" he asked.

She looked at him without immediately replying. For a moment she was
more like the Susan of Monte Carlo, even though there was something
faintly resentful in her expression. It was at least feeling of a sort.

"I'm so sorry," she said, "but do you know I really can't get my feet to
go to-night? I think I must have played too much tennis. Tell me, have
you heard how Mr. Blunn is this evening?"

"I haven't enquired since dinner," Grant replied. "I will let you know
if I hear later."

He turned away and walked out on to the open deck. There was nothing
more to be done. He was in a hopeless position. There was nothing he
could say to her, no complaint he could make, no excuse he could offer.
He drew a wicker chair to the side of the rail, threw himself down, lit
a pipe, and began to smoke. Somehow or other the tobacco tasted wrong,
even the beauty of the night seemed to increase his depression.
Presently he left of? smoking, leaned back in his chair and closed his
eyes. They were playing a waltz he used to dance with Susan. He lay
still and listened.

Susan, crossing the deck in search of her father, discovered him in
conversation with the Prince and Princess von Diss. She stopped and was
half inclined to retreat. Gertrude, however, had already turned towards
her.

"Lady Susan," she said, "I was just sending my husband to look for you.
Will you come and sit with me for a moment?"

Susan glanced meaningly towards her father, who she had been told was
looking for her. He mistook her appeal for help and smiled acquiescence.

"Do, Susan," he enjoined. "I only sent for you to say that I was going
to the smoke room. Von Diss and I will finish our little discussion
there."

Gertrude led the way towards a distant corner where there were two
comfortable chairs. Susan walked by her side, apparently at her ease,
but inwardly fuming. There was something about this woman which always
made her feel young and unformed.

"Of course, my dear Lady Susan," Gertrude began, "I know that you detest
having to talk to me. But you see it really can't be helped. My husband
is meeting your father officially and, so long as my husband has decided
to make me so, I am a perfectly respectable woman."

"I have had very little experience in the ethics of such matters," Susan
replied. "I am content as a rule to follow my own judgment."

Gertrude settled herself quite comfortably in her chair.

"Ah, well," she sighed, "you're very young. It is just your youth which
makes your judgment so absurd. You're very angry with Mr. Grant
Slattery, aren't you?"

"Whatever my feelings may be with regard to Mr. Slattery, or any other
man," Lady Susan rejoined quietly, "they concern--if you will forgive my
saying so--myself alone."

"Very foolish," Gertrude murmured. "Listen to me, please. Poor Grant, he
really is in a ridiculous position. If there weren't just a spice of
tragedy attached to the situation, I am sure I should never accept the
role of obvious idiot which seems thrust upon me."

"I hope you're not going to offer me any confidences," Susan begged. "I
do not desire them."

"My dear Lady Prig, you're going to hear what is good for you," Gertrude
continued calmly. "You can't get up and leave me, because I am an older
woman, and it would be very rude of you. You probably think that when
Mr. Slattery said good-by to you in Monte Carlo he knew that I was going
to America with him. Well, the poor man didn't know anything of the
sort."

"He didn't know?" Susan repeated incredulously. "Why, it was the night
before."

"Precisely," Gertrude acquiesced. "You see, I was very fond of Grant
Slattery, and I couldn't quite believe that he had lost all feeling for
me. Sheer vanity of course,--for which I suffered. I knew quite well
that if I had asked him to take me away he would have refused
point-blank--because I had already asked him and he had refused--but I
wanted to go away with him and I took a risk. I went on board his yacht
as a stowaway. He hadn't the faintest idea I was there until the yacht
was a day and a half out. He wouldn't have known, even then, if I hadn't
nearly fainted from hunger."

Susan sat quite still for a moment. She was struggling to emulate her
companion's composure.

"It sounds incredible," she murmured.

"It is the truth, nevertheless," Gertrude assured her. "When I disclosed
myself, he was aghast. He took no pains to hide from me the fact that my
presence there was utterly undesired. For some time he considered
landing me at Gibraltar. That, however, would have made the matter no
better from any point of view, and I suppose he realised that it would
have been a particularly brutal act. So he let me stay. He had to."

There was a pause. Gertrude seemed to be listening to the music.
Suddenly she recommenced.

"Of course, the rest of the story is absurd, as well as being
humiliating. Why I tell it to you I really don't know. I made an idiot
of myself in the usual way, and I forced Grant into the usual hopeless
position. I suppose because he was in love with you, he played the Sir
Galahad for some time with almost ridiculous perfection. Then one night
we ran into a terrible storm. I was frightened, and Grant--he is really
very kind-hearted--began to realise that he had been hurting me badly
every moment of the time. I became emotional and finally desperate. I
will spare you the rest of the story--but I gave Grant no chance.
Afterwards I understood how hideous one-sided love can be. If I had
wronged my husband I paid in the suffering of those three or four days
before I could get Grant to land me at Newport. I only saw him for a few
minutes at meal times and afterwards when he used to come and try to
make polite conversation to me, but the whole affair was ghastly. I had
done the most absurd thing a woman could possibly attempt. I had tried
to secure for myself the man who was in love with another woman. There
were those few hours I spoke of during the storm. After that--nothing. I
did not see Grant again until we met by accident on the steamer coming
back to England. I had been ill in a little country place in New
Hampshire and he had no idea even where I was. I wonder whether you
would be very kind now and go and ask my husband to give me his arm. I
think we must be somewhere near the screw. I am beginning to feel the
motion."

Susan rose to her feet. Something in her expression warned Gertrude.

"My dear child!" she exclaimed, "if you say a single word of what I can
see in your face I shall scream. I am an impossible person who has told
you an impossible story for an impossible reason. Please do as I ask
you."

Susan rose to her feet and conveyed his wife's message to the Prince.
Then, for a moment, she hesitated. Two or three young men moved towards
her but she waved them away.

"In a minute," she called out. "I am coming back."

She walked out on to the open part of the deck. A few yards away Grant
was still seated, gazing gloomily across the sea. She drew nearer and
nearer to his chair. He heard the sound of her hesitating footsteps and
turned around. Suddenly he sprang to his feet. He could scarcely believe
his eyes. She was smiling at him, a little plaintively, with just a
touch of appeal about her mouth.

"I was stupid, Grant," she whispered. "Would you care to dance this?"

"Susan!" he exclaimed.

"Very stupid indeed," she went on. "Let's have a good long dance like
we used to and then do something terribly obvious--go and look at the
bows or something."

He had sense enough to ask no questions, to accept what came to him.
Gertrude watched them for a moment as she passed along, leaning on her
husband's arm.

"Really," she remarked, "I suppose the papers are right when they call
that young woman beautiful. I used to think she lacked expression."

The Prince looked at the young couple through his horn-rimmed eye-glass.

"She does very well," he agreed. "They have the looks, these young
Englishwomen, and the figure--sometimes the wit. They move all the time,
though, in a very narrow world."

Gertrude continued her walk.

"I suppose the stony and narrow way has its compensations," she sighed.



CHAPTER XXI

The Sefalonia was due in New York on Wednesday morning, and, on Tuesday
night Grant and Susan sat out on deck together until almost eleven
o'clock. Susan glanced at her watch reluctantly.

"If this voyage were going on any longer, Grant," she said, "I should
have to tell people that we were engaged in self-defence. We really do
such outrageous things. Do you know that I didn't dance with any one
else to-night?"

"I know I am getting very unpopular," Grant observed, smiling, "and,
curiously enough, I don't care a bit."

"Nor do I, really," she agreed.

"The one thing I am glad about," he went on, "is that we are approaching
a country which has most civilised ideas as regards matrimonial
arrangements. No putting banns up and waiting three weeks and that sort
of thing."

"You don't suppose I'm going to be married over here, do you?" Susan
exclaimed.

"I am hoping so," he replied patiently. "I thought a quiet little
wedding in Washington would round of? proceedings there,--if we are any
of us left alive."

"You've some very serious work to do first, Grant," she reminded him.

"Very," he assented. "So has your father. Mine may lead me into more
trouble, perhaps, but your father's is the greater responsibility. I
don't think there is another man in the world who would be able to
handle the situation he will have to handle in a few days. There is a
terrible crisis closing upon us, Susan."

"The thought of it makes our little affairs seem almost unimportant,
doesn't it?" she sighed.

He leaned over and kissed her daringly. "Just for luck," he murmured.

On his way to his stateroom Grant passed the entrance to Cornelius
Blunn's suite. He raised the curtain. The steward was seated outside the
closed door.

"How's Mr. Blunn to-night?" he enquired.

"He's been a little easier, I think, sir," the man replied.

"I wonder whether he'd like to see me?"

"I don't think I'd disturb him, sir. He's locked the door and he seems
quite quiet now."

"Are you going to sit there all night?"

"Mr. Blunn's giving me ten dollars a night not to move, in case he wants
me. The chief steward's put another man on to look after some of my
rooms. Lucky I'm used to sleeping in a chair."

"Goodnight," Grant wished him.

"Goodnight, sir."

Grant made his way to his own stateroom, exchanged his patent shoes for
some dark-coloured ones with rubber soles, his dinner jacket for a blue
serge coat which buttoned close up to his throat, slipped the latest
thing in automatics into his pocket, and went up on deck again by a
roundabout way. It was nearly midnight now, and only a few people were
still in evidence. He drew a chair into the recess close up against the
glass-enclosed space in front of Blunn's suite and waited until one by
one they dispersed and he was entirely alone. Then he rose to his feet,
opened the sliding door to which he had the key, and found himself in
the little sheltered portion of the deck allotted to the suite. The door
opening into the outer room was left upon a hook. There was no sound to
be heard inside, although a light was burning. Softly he lifted the hook
and peered in. The apartment was evidently the sitting room of the suite
and was untenanted. He stepped inside and listened. Opposite to him was
another door, also on the hook, leading to the sleeping room, from which
a thin gleam of light shone. He approached it noiselessly. There was
still no sound to be heard, not even the breathing of a sleeping man.
For some seconds he paused, puzzled by the unbroken silence, then
slowly, and with the utmost care, he lifted the hook and pushed the door
open, inch by inch. At last the opening was wide enough to admit the
upper part of his body. He leaned forward and stood quite still gripping
the side of the door. The bed was empty, although in disorder. Cornelius
Blunn was seated on a chair before a round table, leaning forward, his
head resting upon his arms. He was wearing a heavy dressing gown over
his pyjamas, and was apparently in an extraordinarily deep sleep. His
left hand was stretched out across the table, and gripped between its
fingers was the end of a chain and some keys. A few inches farther away
still was a box of dull yellow metal.

The seconds crept on. Grant could almost feel his own heart thumping. He
stepped into the room, hooked the door again, and drew nearer and nearer
to the silent figure. Then, as he bent over it, a new horror faced him.
He forgot for a moment the great object of his search,---forgot that the
secrets of a world's salvation were there within his grasp. He stooped
down to peer into the stricken face. Human nature, all his powers of
restraint, failed him. He gave a little cry. It was a terrible thing to
look thus into the face of a dead man. He recovered himself at once. The
cry, he realised, had been almost fatal. The steward outside had heard
him. There was a heavy knocking at the door. He took no notice. The
knocking continued. Then Grant made the effort of his life. He seized
the stiffening fingers and dragged from them the end of the chain,
unbuttoned the other end from the belt underneath the pyjama jacket,
slipped it into his pocket and took the casket into his hands. With
stealthy footsteps he stole away, unhooked the door and hooked it again,
crossed the sitting room, reached the little glass-enclosed deck, passed
through on to the main deck, and went staggering towards the farther
end. He stood for a moment in the wind to recover himself. They were
making about thirty knots an hour through a tumbling sea with little
showers of spray thrown glittering into the air. Grant felt the sting of
them on his face and in a moment he was himself again. He walked round
the bows, descended the gangway from the other side and hurried to Lord
Yeovil's suite. There was still a light in the sitting room. He knocked
at the door and entered. Lord Yeovil, half undressed, was finishing a
whisky and soda. He looked at the intruder without saying a word. Grant
slipped the bolt through the door.

"I've got it," he announced breathlessly. "I've got the casket and the
key. I want you to put it at once into one of the official boxes."

"Any struggle?" Lord Yeovil asked.

"None," was the awe-stricken reply, "but it was horrible all the same.
Cornelius Blunn is dead."



CHAPTER XXII

There was pandemonium on the Sefalonia for the last four hours before
she reached dock. The horror of a death on shipboard was deepened by the
fact that Cornelius Blunn, who had consistently declined to allow any
doctor to examine him, had shown no signs whatever of the heart disease
which had ended his life so abruptly. But apart from the tragedy itself
there were two men on the steamer, Prince Lutrecht and Prince von Diss,
whom the event seemed to have reduced to an almost hysterical state. The
captain scarcely knew how to deal with the situation which their
importunities created. They refused even to leave his room. Their
persistence was becoming intolerable.

"Commander," Prince Lutrecht said earnestly, "you are an Englishman, and
I know that you are a lover of fair play. I tell you that last night
there was stolen from Cornelius Blunn's room a casket containing
political documents of the most vital importance to the future of the
world. Those documents, if they fell into the wrong hands, might lead to
a terrible and disastrous war. They were carried about by Cornelius
Blunn in defiance of our wishes and it might very well be that he has
met with his death in defending them. But they have been stolen and are,
at the present moment, concealed upon this ship, and I appeal to you, as
the one responsible person here, to assist us towards their
restoration."

"But what can I do, Prince?" the captain expostulated. "I have nine
hundred and seventy-five passengers on board. Do you wish every one of
them searched?"

"Not every one," Prince Lutrecht replied. "The person who must be
responsible for this robbery is Mr. Grant Slattery. He and Cornelius
Blunn were enemies, yet he was always stopping to speak to him. He
learned the way into his suite. Without a doubt Slattery was the thief."

"I have already done more than I have any right to do in that matter,"
the commander pointed out. "I have had Mr. Grant Slattery's rooms
searched. Besides, the steward saw him going down into his stateroom at
a reasonable hour. I cannot see the slightest evidence against the young
man."

"He has probably passed the casket on to some one," Prince von Diss
declared. "We must insist upon having the staterooms and baggage of his
friends searched."

"Including, I presume, the belongings of Lord Yeovil?" the commander
asked with a patient smile.

"The casket must be found," Prince Lutrecht persisted.

"Gentlemen," the commander said, "I will discuss the matter with my
officers and see whether any search in conjunction with the Customs
examination can be effected. I tell you frankly that, so far as regards
the personal and official luggage of the Prime Minister of my country, I
should not allow it to be touched. You must excuse me. We shall be
taking up the pilot within half an hour."

"Captain," Prince Lutrecht announced in desperation, "I am prepared to
give a reward of one million dollars for the recovery of that casket and
its contents."

"There is no harm in announcing the fact," was the cold reply. "You must
excuse me now. I have my duties to attend to."

Nothing happened. No discovery was made. As the great steamer backed up
to her place alongside the dock, she was boarded by a small army of
detectives, members of the police force and journalists. The Customs
House officials, miraculously worked into a state of intense excitement,
made almost savage onslaughts upon the general baggage. There was a
rumour--many people declared they had seen it in black and white--that a
million dollars would be paid for a small casket of dull yellow metal
which had been stolen on board the Sefalonia. A great many people
thought a million dollars a very useful sum of money and did their best
to earn it, the consequence being that the majority of the passengers
from the Sefalonia were detained many hours before they got away. Grant
Slattery, who was met by Hodson, with Lord Yeovil and Susan, were
amongst the earliest to leave. They all drove together towards the hotel
in Park Avenue at which the latter were staying the night before their
departure for Washington. Halfway there, Hodson, who had been looking
out of the little window behind, redirected the driver.

"We are being followed," he announced, "by at least two taxicabs. I have
told him to drive to Police Headquarters. It is the only safe place for
an hour or so. Sorry to detain you and your daughter. Lord Yeovil, but
if we had gone on to the hotel there would only have been some shooting
on the sidewalk. There'll be some trouble here, but we'll do it on the
rush."

The only luggage they had with them were two official-looking black
boxes on which the name of the Right Honourable the Earl of Yeovil was
painted in white letters. These had not been subjected to search and
were inside the car with them.

"Which one?" Hodson asked.

Grant touched the box nearest to him with his foot. Hodson picked it up.

"It is just three steps across the sidewalk," he said. "Even if they
wing me I'll get there. Don't let the young lady move. We won't hang
round many seconds. They'll probably try a rush."

Susan passed her arm through Grant's.

"You must stay and protect me," she insisted.

He patted her hand. The light of battle was in his eyes.

"It may take both of us to get that safely inside," he warned her.

They swung round the last corner. Hodson held the box under his arm.
Grant, with his automatic in his right hand, crouched by his side.
Before they had drawn up against the curb, Hodson had flung the door
open and made his spring. A taxicab from behind came crashing into the
back of their car, without, however, doing serious damage. Hodson, quick
on his feet, was halfway across the sidewalk before the first shot was
fired. He staggered for a moment and Grant, rushing past him like a
footballer who takes a pass, snatched the box from under his arm and,
bending low, dashed past the astonished bystanders into the shelter of
the building. Hodson stumbled after him. Policemen and detectives came
running up, closing around them.

"Get those fellows in the taxicabs, if you can," Hodson cried, stooping
down to feel his leg. "Green and his gang, by the looks of them. This
way, Grant!"

They penetrated into the heart of the building, Hodson limping slightly
from the effects of the bullet which had grazed his shin bone. They
entered without ceremony an inner room. An astonished-looking secretary
jumped up from the table and his Chief, recognising Hodson, looked more
astonished still.

"My God, we've done it!" the latter exclaimed. "Sorry, sir. We've got
the material here to hang a thousand men. Cornelius Blunn's handbook to
the German Empire in America, and all the rest of it."

The functionary stood up.

"You'd better get to work," he advised. "Your last report was perfectly
true, Hodson. I shouldn't be surprised if they attempted to bomb the
place."

Grant produced the key to the casket, and Hodson drew out the books. The
police official spoke on the telephone and half a dozen detectives with
automatic pistols guarded the door, while a small corps of policemen
guarded the entrance to the building.

"Now," Hodson said, "I think we can get to work on this little
business."

Grant left Police Headquarters half an hour later to find Lord Yeovil
and Susan still waiting. They drove off towards the hotel, and Grant at
once unburdened himself.

"It is the most amazing scheme that's ever been conceived," he declared.
"Scores of names in every city in the States, every one with their
exactly assigned task on an exactly stipulated day. They all had their
station, all their peculiar functions. Brooklyn Bridge, for instance,
would have been blown up the day the German fleet appeared in sight. So
far as we could see, there wouldn't have been an important bridge left
in the country. The Japanese programme out west was worse. There will be
over two hundred arrests to-day. There will be trouble in the city
to-night, though, if the news gets about."

They arrived at the hotel.

"You're staying here, Grant?" Lord Yeovil enquired.

Grant shook his head.

"I will come and dine, if I may, sir," he replied. "I haven't got a
scrap of writing now of any sort, but I'm a marked man. I'm best away
from your hotel."

"How absurd!" Susan exclaimed. "Why, we're in this as much as you are.
We brought the box away."

"To tell you the truth," Grant confided, "I think we are all quite safe
for the moment. They must know that our object in going to Police
Headquarters was to leave the documents there."

The car drew up at the hotel in Park Avenue. Grant walked across the
pavement first and back again.

"All clear," he announced. "No one's bothered even to follow us.
Listen."

They stood at the entrance to the hotel, listening. Away down towards
the city, they heard the sound of three or four dull explosions,
following one another quickly.

"That is the end of the civil war," Grant said grimly. "Or the beginning
of it."



CHAPTER XXIII

The opening session of the Limitation of Armaments Conference was held
in an environment outwardly calm, but with mutterings of the storm very
clearly audible to those who knew something of the real position. The
actual surroundings all made for peace,--a stately and dignified
chamber, with carefully shaded windows, cool white walls, and oaken
furniture, massive, and beautiful with age. There were twenty-six
representatives present and six secretaries at the side table, amongst
whom Slattery, by special appointment, found a place. He was next to
Itash, but the two men exchanged no greetings. At the appointed hour the
President entered the room and spoke a few words of welcome. His
allusions to the world's desire for peace seemed to contain, perhaps, a
faint note of irony; otherwise there was nothing to indicate any
foreknowledge of untoward events. After he had extended his usual formal
invitation to luncheon he left the room, and his place was taken by the
Secretary of State, who embarked at once upon the proceedings. He
declared that on a matter of urgency he had given permission to the
English representative. Lord Yeovil, to make a statement before the
agenda was entered upon. There was a little movement, a rustling of
papers, as Lord Yeovil, on the right-hand side of the Secretary of
State, rose to speak, a slim, dignified figure in the cool, soft light.
He spoke slowly and very gravely, and his words seemed chosen to attain
to the essence of brevity.

"Mr. Secretary and members of the Conference," he said, "as you know,
certain of the Powers have assumed year by year the duty of policing the
waters and lands of the earth, in order to satisfy ourselves that the
regulations imposed by you, gentlemen, are dutifully and honourably
carried out. I have to present to you a report from the Commander of the
English flotilla in eastern waters to the effect that Japan, by a system
of duplication, described in the papers which I have the honour to lay
before you, has during this and the preceding year, exceeded her
allowance of marine tonnage by two hundred and fifty thousand tons, and
also that, in the harbour of a port on the Chinese coast, leased to her,
or on an adjacent island, there have been constructed and are now ready
for flying, a score of flying ships of a new type, obviously designed
for offensive purposes. The papers containing particulars of this
divergence from the principles and ordinances of the Conference, I had
the honour to hand to Mr. Secretary of State last night, and a copy has,
I believe, been prepared for the inspection of each of you."

There was a tense silence. One of the young men from the side table
arose, with a little pile of papers in his hand, which he distributed
around the table. The Secretary allowed a few minutes to elapse while
everyone studied the very simple document laid before him, translated in
each case into the language of each separate representative. Then he
rose to his feet.

"It is my duty," he said, "to call upon the representative of Japan, His
Excellency Prince Yoshimo, to afford us an explanation and reply to this
very serious charge."

Itash moved silently from his place and stepped behind the
representative of his country, who was also the Ambassador to the United
States. Prince Yoshimo rose slowly to his feet. He seemed imperturbable
and wholly unembarrassed.

"Mr. Secretary," he said, "and gentlemen, the charge of Lord Yeovil has
come as a surprise. I can only say that, as has happened before, a
little too much zealousness has been shown, a little too great--great--"

"Credulity," Itash whispered.

"--credulity displayed," the Ambassador went on. "The so-called
duplicate ships are nothing but coal barges, and the flying boats are
for commercial purposes. That is my reply."

Lord Yeovil rose once more to his feet.

"The statement of His Excellency Prince Yoshimo," he announced, "is in
direct contradiction to my information."

Once more Prince Yoshimo rose, calm and soft-tongued.

"Mr. Secretary," he said, "I have afforded you the explanation you
desired. Let others go and see. Our harbours, and the harbours of such
part of the Chinese coast over which we have influence, are free to the
vessels of any one of the powers here present."

The Secretary turned to Lord Yeovil, who rose once more to his feet.

"I desire, sir," the latter begged, "a postponement of any further
discussion for two days."

The routine business of the Conference was continued, but it was very
hard to secure the close attention of any of the members. The questions
which they were called upon to decide seemed of infinitesimal importance
compared to the magnitude of the issues which had already been raised.
The morning session drifted away, however, and the afternoon session,
without further incident. The proceedings terminated about five o'clock.
Slattery, leaving the place alone, came face to face with Itash in one
of the lobbies. No form of salutation passed between them, but Itash
stopped and the beginnings of a smile curved his lips unpleasantly.

"Is this wonderful information," he asked, "part of the babble I am
supposed to have talked in my sleep and Mademoiselle Cleo to have
repeated?"

"And for repeating which she was murdered." Grant added.

Itash was unmoved.

"I so seldom read the newspapers," he said. "I understood that she had
committed suicide. That was quite reasonable. Why not? We each have
the right. But you do not answer my question."

"Nor do I intend to," Grant replied. "But I will be very rash indeed and
tell you this. It was Mademoiselle Cleo who conveyed to us your fear
that Mr. Cornelius Blunn yielded too much to sentiment. The deepest
vault in the Safe Deposit Company of the City should have held that
little casket of gold."

Itash drew a queer little breath. It was as though he had been attacked
suddenly by asthma. No thunderous exclamations or furious expletive
could have contained half the feeling of his simple words, each one
detached from the other, slow and pregnant of a certain agony.

"What--do--you--mean--?"

"Ah!" Grant murmured. "Explanations are so tedious. I will leave you a
little puzzle with which you may occupy the rest of the day. Prince
Lutrecht is sharing your anxiety. So, I think, is Prince von Diss. Very
soon you will know."

"The casket contained nothing but the letter of Cornelius Blunn, the
elder, to his son. A personal letter of no importance."

Grant passed on with a little smile. Itash watched him down the long
corridor, watched him disappear. Then he turned back and hurried to the
room where Prince Lutrecht and Von Diss were still talking.

"Prince," he confided, drawing Lutrecht on one side, "I have just spoken
with Slattery, the man who has been doing all this evil work for
America. He either jibed at me or the books were in the casket."

Prince Lutrecht shrugged his shoulders. He was a philosopher and a man
of great mind.

"My friend," he said, "everything that could be done to recover that
casket was done. It escaped from our hands. We did our best. I refuse to
believe that Cornelius would have trusted himself upon the ocean,
carrying such a treasure, without a bodyguard. Besides, two or three
days have passed, and nothing has happened. There would have been a
thousand arrests and the papers would be seething with their discovery,
had the books been there."

"But," Itash began

Prince Lutrecht waved him away.

"I will not be worried with possibilities," he declared. "We have others
matters to face."

Slattery spent a wonderful hour in a quiet room of an official building,
talking through a private wire to Hodson in New York. Afterwards he
dined at the British Embassy, where all official entertainment had been
postponed. He was able to sit alone with Susan on one of the broad
piazzas afterwards, watching the rising of the moon, and the fireflies
in the meadow at the bottom of the garden.

"Your father was splendid," Grant told her. "He said just enough. The
day after to-morrow will come the bombshell. Hodson has done splendidly
too," he went on. "They have raided thirty or forty mansions in New
York, St. Louis, and even Philadelphia, and discovered documents which
afford them absolute proof. They are trying to keep the Press muzzled
until after to-morrow, but I'm afraid it will be difficult."

"It seems an amazing tangle," she murmured.

"We're making history at express speed," he replied. "I wonder whether
we couldn't walk down and see if those really are fireflies."

She rose to her feet, took his arm, and they passed down the broad walk,
through the ornamental gardens, to the little wood beyond. After which
they talked no more of politics.



CHAPTER XXIV

On the Wednesday morning, the day but one after the opening Conference,
the members assembled at the same time and place, with one notable
absentee. At the appointed hour for commencing the proceedings the
Secretary of State made a momentous announcement.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I have to announce that Prince Yoshimo, the
representative of Japan, has sent me formal notice on behalf of his
Government that he desires to withdraw from this Conference."

There was a little murmur of excitement. Prince Lutrecht rose to his
feet.

"Mr. Secretary, and Gentlemen," he began, "I am not in any way an
apologist for the action taken by my distinguished confrere on the
instigation of his Government. On the other hand I must point out to you
that the charges brought by Lord Yeovil against the honour of a great
nation, publicly and before you all, were of a nature to provoke most
intense and poignant reprisals. I regret very much that they were made.
I foresee from the retirement of the representative of Japan from this
Conference--a retirement which I fear may be final--a serious blow to
its utility. The item upon the agenda for discussion this morning deals,
I see, with a supposed secret naval and military understanding between
Russia and my country to the exclusion of other members of the Pact. If
it is proposed to interfere in any way with the arrangements which I
admit exist between the Russian and German naval forces, for joint
practice and manoeuvres, I desire to tell this meeting at once that I
offer my strongest protest and shall follow the example of my friend,
the Japanese Ambassador, in retiring from participation in the
Conference."

Prince Lutrecht resumed his seat. Lord Yeovil glanced towards the
Secretary of State. The latter nodded and rose once more.

"I think," he announced, "that Lord Yeovil has a reply to make to Prince
Lutrecht, but before we proceed with what is the apparent business of
this Conference, I desire to make an unofficial announcement to you all,
which you will learn when you leave this room, but which it was the
President's wish that you should know of in conjunction with such events
as are now taking place. The Japanese Ambassador last night tendered to
the Government of the United States a formal demand that all persons of
Japanese birth, desiring to do so, shall be permitted to acquire land
and American citizenship on an equality with other nations."

Monsieur Lafayel, the French representative, for a moment, lost his
head.

"_Mon Dieu_!" he exclaimed. "A declaration of war!"

"My distinguished friend technically anticipates," the Secretary
observed. "But the attitude of the United States of America to such a
demand is, perhaps, too obvious for any other construction to be placed
upon the situation."

Lord Yeovil rose once more to his feet. He looked around the table
before he spoke with the air of one who desires to impress on his mind
the memory of a scene destined to become historical. He spoke slowly and
with unflurried tone.

"Mr. Secretary and Gentlemen," he said, "I address you once more in
reply chiefly to the remarks of my distinguished friend, Prince
Lutrecht. I speak to you, not only as the representative of Great
Britain, but as the representative of the Power chosen in rotation for
the duty of policing the seas and enforcing the regulations imposed by
this Conference. I have to announce to you that I am in possession of
absolute proof of the ill-faith of the seceding nation--Japan--from this
organisation. I have to-day received cabled information from the Admiral
commanding the police forces of the organisation in eastern waters, that
he has, in accordance with instructions received, destroyed the four or
five battleships built in excess of Japan's rights and also the nest of
flying ships lying in the harbour of Yulensk, and built and armed
without the cognisance of this Assembly."

It is, perhaps, doubtful whether spoken words have, at any time,
produced a greater effect upon a gathering of men than these words of
Lord Yeovil's. Amazed and half-incredulous interest was the prevailing
note. Lutrecht, however, seemed like a man stricken. Every scrap of
colour left his cheeks. His eyes burned like dry fires. His tongue was
perpetually moistening his lips. He seemed to be trying to speak, but he
made no effort to rise to his feet.

"Further," Lord Yeovil continued, "and in reply to Prince Lutrecht, I
have to inform him that the evidences as to the secret understanding
between the naval forces of Germany and Russia are not in accordance
with the terms of this Conference, and I have ventured, on behalf of the
powers with which I am endowed, to anticipate your permission to act
according to our statutes. A small portion of the British fleet has
surprised the Russian battleships lying at Archangel and, on behalf of
the Conference--not, I beg you will understand, in any way on behalf of
Great Britain, but acting simply in the interests of all--has taken
possession of those ships and disarmed them, pending a satisfactory
settlement. I may add that we found them provisioned and ready to sail
to join the German fleet at a rendezvous off the north coast of
Ireland."

Prince Lutrecht rose a little heavily to his feet. All his effrontery
had deserted him.

"Mr. Secretary," he announced, "I have no alternative but to follow the
example of His Excellency, the representative of Japan, and sever my
allegiance to this Conference."

"A course which I naturally follow," the representative of Russia
declared, rising in his place.

"It will afford my country the greatest regret," the chairman said
drily, "that this Conference, for the inauguration of which America was
responsible, and to whose conventions we have zealously, and it seems at
great risk to ourselves, been true, exists no longer. But I may add that
it is still more to our sorrow that the circumstances of the breaking up
of the Conference point clearly to disloyalty on the part of two of the
subscribing nations."

Prince Lutrecht made one effort.

"Disloyalty, sir?" he repeated, half-turning on his way to the door.

"I regret to have to use that word, Prince," the Secretary observed
gravely. "I shall offer no explanation at this time. If you require one,
read the Press of to-night and to-morrow morning. You will find there
bad news. This is the last word."

Lutrecht left the room. The Secretary waited until the door was closed.

"I have no other course, gentlemen," he continued, "painful though it
may be, than to declare that this Conference has come automatically to
an end until some further understanding can be arrived at amongst the
nations, based upon principles which seem to have been deserted by the
representatives of the two seceding Powers. The United States of America
must in future guard their own freedom."

There was a rustling of papers, shuffling of feet, and then every one
began to talk at once. The Limitation of Armaments Conference ended, as
most similar assemblies had done,--in a mixture of exaltation,
confusion, and misunderstanding.

There was a very fateful and wonderful meeting, convened on behalf of
his Government by the Secretary of State an hour or so later, and
attended by Lord Yeovil, Prince Yoshimo, and Prince Lutrecht. They met
in the Secretary's official room in the White House. No one shook hands,
no civilities of any sort were offered. The Secretary himself locked the
door.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I have asked you to meet me because, whatever our
feelings may be, the United States of America, more than any other
country, hates war, deprecates revenge, and seeks for the truest
expression of civilisation. By a series of fortuitous incidents America
has become apprised of the hostile intentions of Japan and Germany. Let
me remind you, Prince Lutrecht, that, if you persevere, you are without
the aid of the Russian navy, and your fleet will be met, before it
enters the Atlantic, by the combined navies of France and England, and
probably Italy. The fact that, for the moment, America stands outside
the Pact has, thanks to the generous instincts of the nations of the
world, been ignored by them, in the face of recent discoveries. You,
Prince Yoshimo, have lost that superiority of naval forces by means of
which you intended to inflict disaster upon our fleet and coasts, and to
impose your will upon our people. If your fleet sails it will be met by
the American fleet in its entirety, and I imagine that, under the
present conditions, the advantage in material would rest slightly with
us. The schemes you produced for disorganising the mentality of our
country have been discovered and dealt with. Fifty citizens of this
country--some of them citizens of repute--are to-day in jail. Five
hundred more are under police supervision. The points of danger from New
York to San Francisco which it was their duty to attack have been
guarded and will be guarded. Now, gentlemen, you have heard what I have
to say. Are you going through with your abortive schemes? If so, you can
have your papers within half an hour."

Amazing man of an amazing race. Prince Yoshimo bowed.

"There have been many misunderstandings," he said. "Japan, too, loves
peace. I think, under the circumstances, I can anticipate my Imperial
Master's decision. I desire to withdraw the documents I had the honour
to present to the Government of the United States yesterday."

"And I," Prince Lutrecht added, "desire to assure you, and through you
your Government, that gross exaggeration has been used in describing the
attitude and aims of my country. It seems to be the hard fate of Germany
to be continually striving for peace and to be always suspected of
bellicosity. I offer the fullest pledges of our peaceful intentions. On
behalf of my Government I acquiesce in the cessation of the
understanding between Russia and ourselves. I declare for peace."

The Secretary bowed.

"This," he pronounced, "is not the place or the hour to discuss the
future. The Limitation of Armaments Conference has ceased to exist. The
Pact, I imagine, must be either dissolved or reconstructed, full account
having been taken of the dangerous position in which your two countries,
gentlemen, have placed the peace of the world. That, I think, is all we
can say at present."

Prince Lutrecht bowed sombrely. Prince Yoshimo followed his example.
They left the room together, undismayed, with little apparent loss of
dignity. Lord Yeovil accepted a cigarette and lit it thoughtfully.

"Queer brains, some of these people," he observed.

The Secretary smiled.

"What about a cocktail and some luncheon?" he suggested. "The Chief
would like to see you."

Lord Yeovil glanced at his watch.

"I am taking a day off," he announced. "And, by the bye, I shall have to
hurry. My daughter is being married to Grant Slattery at one o'clock,
and we have a little family party afterwards at the Embassy. Your wife
will have received a note by now. I hope we may have the pleasure of
seeing you both."

"I am quite sure that you may count upon us," the other replied
heartily. "Let me offer you at once, however, my best wishes for your
daughter's happiness. Grant Slattery's a fine fellow. Only a very few of
us will ever know how much our country owes to him for his work during
the last two years."

"Not only your country, but the world," Lord Yeovil acquiesced. "War
brings equal disaster to victor and vanquished."

"A relic of the Middle Ages," the American statesman declared, "in which
the victors sometimes derived an illusionary benefit from the simple
fact that international commerce consisted merely of a primitive attempt
at barter, and the complication of exchanges was unknown."

"And yet," Lord Yeovil sighed, "there will always be wars."



THE END



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