The Great Samara
The story of a stenographer who swayed a nation—of international intrigue — of the lure of Monte Carlo—and of a regenerated Russia. A serial complete in four huge instalments.
E. Phillips Oppenheim
MISS SADIE LOYES, manager of the Hotel Weltmore Typewriting and Secretarial Bureau, set down the receiver of the telephone which had its place upon her desk and looked thoughtfully around at the eleven young ladies who comprised her present staff. She stood there, an angular, untidy-looking person, tapping a pencil against her teeth, unconscious arbiter, not only of the lives of two very interesting people, but
also of the fate of á great nation. Portentous events depended upon her decision. A man’s life in this teeming city of New York was a small enough matter of itself. The life of this prospective client of hers, however, waiting now in his suite on the eleventh floor for the help which he had summoned was hung about with destiny.
Meanwhile, Miss Sadie Loyes continued to tap her teeth with the pencil and reflect. Which should it be? The nearest and apparently the most industrious? Her eyes rested disparagingly upon Miss Bella Fox’s goldenbrown coiffure. These were dressy days in New York and style was all very well in its way but there was no mistaking the abbreviations of the young lady’s costume—very low from the throat downward and displaying a length of limb which, although perhaps sanctioned by fashion, paid no excessive tribute to modesty. Miss Fox’s jewelry, too, was a little too much in evidence and there were rumors about dinners at the Ritz!
On the whole, perhaps it would be better to keep this particular young lady back for one of these western millionaires. Dorothy Hamilton might do; a young woman of far more modest appearance, but a little careless with her shorthand. Possibly it was as well not to risk her on an important assignment. Then there was Florence White—expert enough, but a little mysterious in her private life, and the recipient of too many boxes of candy and offerings of roses from her clients to inspire her employer with thorough confidence as to her commercial ability. Then the pencil stopped. Miss Borans! Nothing whatever against her—efficient self-contained, reserved alike in dress and demeanor, but with an air of breeding which none of these others possessed. Absolutely the obvious choice.
“Miss Borans,” the manager called out, in a shrill tone “just step this way, please.”
The young lady addressed rose with composure, pushed her chair back into its place, and approached her employer. Space was limited in the Hotel Weltmore, and the Typewriting and Secretarial Bureau was really a railedoff portion of the lounge on the first floor reserved for “Ladies Only.”
“I guess you’d better slip up to Number 1180,” Miss Loyes directed. “I’ll send a machine and the rest of the stuff right along—gentleman there in a hurry—his secretary caught the fever while he was in Washington. Samara his name is—the good Lord knows where he got it!”
The girl seemed to stiffen.
“Samara, the Russian envoy?” she asked.
“You’ve got it, honey. Speaks with an English accent, though, you could cut with a knife.”
“I would rather not work for Gabriel Samara,” the girl declared.
IT TOOK a great deal to surprise Miss Sadie Loyes, but this newest recruit to her secretarial staff had certainly succeeded.
“How?” she exclaimed. “’What’s that?”
Miss Borans had not in the least the appearance of a young woman of mercurial or changeable temperament. Nevertheless, she seemed already to be repenting her rather rash pronouncement.
“I beg your pardon, Miss Loyes,” she said. “That was perhaps a foolish speech of mine. Number 1180, you said. I will go there at once.”
“Say, do you know anything of this Mr. Samara?” the manager asked.
“Nothing, personally,” was the prompt reply.
“You haven’t worked for him before? He hasn’t tried to be fresh with you or anything of that sort?”
“Then what’s the grouch, eh?”
Miss Borans hesitated. “I am of Russian descent,” she confided. “One has prejudices. It was foolish.”
Miss Sadie Loyes had had a great deal of experience of the younger members of her sex, and she studied her employee for a minute thoughtfully. Miss Catherine Borans conformed to no type with which she was familiar. She was a young woman of medium height, slim and with the promise of a perfect body beneath the almost Quakerlike simplicity of her gown. She was rather full-faced, with a broad forehead, dark, silky eyelashes and clear brown eyes. Her features were distinguished by reason of their clean-cut clarity ; her mouth was perfectly shaped, although her lips, were a little full. Her expression was not to be reckoned with, for during the few weeks she had been employed at the Bureau she had wrapped herself in a mantle of impenetrable reserve.
“I guessed you were a foreigner,” Miss Sadie Loyes remarked finally. “Well, anyway, this Mr. Samara is a great guy over there, isn’t he? The papers here are giving him a lot of publicity.”
Miss Sadie Loyes had spent a busy life in narrow ways and, leaving out England, France and Germany, “over there” represented for her the rest of Europe.
“In his way I have no doubt that he is a great man,” Miss Borans acknowledged coldly. “I was foolish to have any feeling in the matter.”
She passed on with her notebook in her hand, a noticeable figure in the bustling promenades of the hotel, both from the quiet distinction of her appearance and from her utter indifference to the cosmopolitan throng through which she passed. She took her place in the crowded elevator, alighted at the eleventh floor, received a pleasant nod from the young lady seated on guard at the corner of the corridor, and touched the bell of Room 1180.
“Mr. Samara’s right there now,” the latter observed from behind her desk. “I guess he’s needing help badly too. They’re talking of having to take his secretary away to the hospital. Stomach trouble, I guess. These foreigners eat different than us.”
The door in front of them was suddenly opened. Miss Borans was confronted by a person of somewhat alarming appearance: a man more than six feet in height and broad in proportion, florid, blue-eyed and truculent. Not even the studious somberness of his attire could bring him into line with any recognized type of domestic servitor. He stared at this visitor without speaking.
“I have come from the Typewriting Bureau downstairs to do some work for Mr. Samara,” she announced.
TYPISTS, especially of this order, were unknown quantities in the world where Ivan Rortz had spent most of his days, but he stood aside and ushered her through the little hall to the sitting-room beyond. It was of the ordinary hotel type, but flooded with light, overheated, and, as it seemed to her in those first few seconds, almost overcrowded with flowers. Everywhere they flaunted their elegance against the uncouth decorations of the room; a queer contrast of exotic beauty and pretentious ugliness. A man swung round from a writing-
desk to look at her—a man who she knov at once must be Samara.
His study of her was superficial and incurious. She, on the other hand, brought all her powers of observation to bear upon the man whom it was her daily lesson to learn to hate. The illustrated press of many countries had made his features in a sense familiar—yet in a further sense it had never done him justice. She saw a man well over middle height, broad-shouldered yet with a tendency to stoop. His face was as hard as granite, cruel, perhaps, and as expressionless as her own, yet redeemed by a mouth which had wonderful possibilities of tenderness and humor. His hair was black and short, his eyebrows
overheavy, his clear gray eyes almost unduly penetrating..
“Well?” he exclaimed curtly.
“I am from the typewriting office,” she announced once more.
He nodded. “Where is your machine?”
“On the way up.”
He pointed toward the book she was carrying.
“You write shorthand?”
“Take down some letters. Sit where you please. I usually walk about. Some I will give you direct to the typewriter, when it arrives.”
She seated herself deliberately at the end of the table, opened her book, and glanced at her pencil to be sure that it was sharp. Then she waited. He rose and stood with his back to her, looking out of the window. Presently he swung round, took up a sheaf of letters from the desk, and grunted as he inspected them.
“Rubbishy work,” he declared, “but it must be done. Invitations to every sort of function under the sun. One reply will do for the lot: ‘Mr. Gabriel Samara regrets thathe is unable to accept the invitation, etc., etc., owing tothe shortness of his stay in the United States.’ . . . Got that?”
“Yes,” she answered.
TIE THREW a selection of the letters on the table JEl before her, destroying the remainder. Then he made his way back to the desk and loitered there with his hands in his pockets.
“I can’t do these until the typewriter arrives,” she reminded him.
“Naturally,” he replied dryly. “I was wondering about the rest of the work. Here is your machine.”
There was a knock at the door and a boy arrived with the typewriter, which he set upon the table. As Catherine Borans commenced her task, the telephone bell rang, and Samara motioned her to answer it.
“A gentleman from the New York Hemisphere would like to see you,” she announced.
He shook his head. “You can answer all applications from journalists in the same manner,” he said. “Just tell them that Mr. Samara has nothing to communicate to the press—with one exception, mind. A Mr. Bromley Pride will ring up from the New York Comet. I will accord him an interview. And, while we are on this subject, be so good as to inform the young lady outside that I will not. have people waiting about in the corridor to waylay me when I come out. My lips are sealed. I have nothing to say to any one.”
Miss Borans carried out her instructions faithfully. Then she recommenced her task. Suddenly Samara paused in his restless perambulation of the room and looked at her intently.
“Are you to be trusted, young lady?” he inquired brusquely.
She abandoned her typing for a moment and looked up at him.
“I should say not,” she replied.
AMARA was distinctly taken aback.
His expression was one of incredulous surprise, mingled with some irritation.
“What do you mean?” he demanded.
“My reply to your question,” she explained, “was truthful, though of course, relative. I should not, as a matter of fact, care to be trusted with any of your important political correspondence.”
“And why not?”
“I prefer not to discuss the matter further.”
He smiled with gentle sarcasm.
“May I ask if this self-advertised untrustworthiness is universal among the young ladies of the bureau from which you come?”
She considered for a moment. “Of course you can send for some one else if you like,” she said. “I would not trust any one of them with confidential documents, though. Your private secretary is the person to deal with them.” “But my private secretary,” he confided, “is ill. They are talking of taking him to hospital.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “That is unfortunate,” she admitted. “Still, you have an Embassy in Washington and a Russian consul here. Surely they should be able to help you.”
“You are without doubt a young w'oraan of resource,” he declared with an indulgent smile. “Nevertheless, there are reasons why I do not wish to avail myself of the services of any one having an official connection with my country.”
“Then,” she advised, “I should write my letters myself.”
HE STOOD looking down at her, his hands in his pockets, his thick eyebrows almost meeting in a heavy frown. She felt her heart beating a little more quickly. Notwithstanding her even manner and her very equable poise toward life, she was conscious of something in this man’s presence which was akin to fear.
“Your candor,” he said, “inspires me with a certain amount of confidence. I hate writing letters. My brain moves so much more quickly than my clumsy fingers that anything which I put on paper is generally illegible. There is a boat leaving to-night for Cherbourg where I have a special agent waiting, and it is necessary that I send an account of my negotiations here. What is to be done?” '
“I can only repeat that if your report has to do with your negotiations with the President, I should write it by hand and hope for the best,” she rejoined coolly.
His eyes flashed. For a moment he seemed almost to lose control of himself.
“What in the name of all the Holy Saints of Russia do you know about my negotiations with the President?” he demanded.
“Nothing more than a few million other people of the city,” she replied. “I am an intelligent student of the daily press, like most American girls.”
He looked at her suspiciously. “I am not at all sure that you are an American girl,” he growled.
“I have lived in New York for twenty-three years,’’she said meekly.
“You may not think it but I can assure you that has not left me much time to imbibe the instincts of other nationalities.”
He sat at the opposite end of the table staring at her, his hands in his pockets, his expression dominated by the uncertain curve of his lips. For a brief mo-
ment she wondered whether he were not laughing at her.
“Are all the young ladies of the Weltmore Typewriting Bureau gifted with such glib tongues?” he inquired.
“By no means,” she assured him. “Believe me, I am quite an exception. I think I was sent because I was considered the most serious-minded.”
“Heaven help the others!” he muttered. “Now listen. I am going to trust you to a certain extent against your own advice. I shall dictate to you all except the vital part of my communication. A great deal of what you are going to take down I should prefer you to forget! The most private part of all I shall write in my own hand, and God grant that some one at the other end will be able to read it.”
CATHERINE BO,RANS thrust a new sheet of paper into the typewriter and bent over her task. For half an hour or more the man opposite to her dictated. Then he took the sheets which she had typed over to his desk and drew pen and ink toward him.
“You can go on with the other work,” he enjoined. The scratching of his pen ceased almost as she addressed the last of her envelopes. He turned in his chair just as she had risen to her feet.
“Don’t go yet,” he begged, throwing another pile of letters upon the table. “There are all these to be attended to and it is necessary for some one to be here to answer the telephone. Besides, I have a question to ask you.”
“A question?” she repeated doubtfully.
“Yes. I am a stranger in your country and I hope that you will gratify my curiosity. If I had dictated the vital part of this letter to you, wherein lay the fear of your probity? Do you mean that you would have sold its contents to. the press?”
“That would have been a temptation,” she confessed, carelessly tapping the keys of her typewriter. “I am a working girl, you know, and am supposed to be well paid at thirty dollars a week. I think that any newspaper in New York would probably give ten thousand dollars for a true account of your conversation with the President and the arrangement at which you arrived. Fancy the clothes I could have bought and the countries I could have visited with ten thousand dollars!”
“Yes,” he admitted thoughtfully, “I suppose I was running a certain amount of risk. By the by, I presume it would have been the press with whom you would have dealt?”
“With whom else?” she asked.
“There are others,” he observed, watching her keenly “—politicians, shall we call them?—who would like to know the precise conclusions at which we arrived in Washington yesterday.”
“Naturally,” she assented.
“Even in Europe,” he went on, “this business of secret societies and international espionage is a little on the wane. One nation only continues to use it as her great weapon. In America I never dreamed of coming across anything
of the sort. Have I by some chance stumbled upon thé unexpected, Miss—I beg your pardon, I have forgotten what you told me your name was.”
“I have not told you my name.”
“Please repair the omission.”
“I do not see the necessity,” she objected. “I am a typist from the hotel bureau. You have been unfortunate inasmuch as I am the only one in the office likely to be interested in your mission and its results. To-morrow you had better ask for some one else. There are two or three there, perhaps not more trustworthy than I, but who will take down anything you dictate without a glimmer of comprehension. I should recommend Miss Bella Fox.”
HE SHOOK his head. “The name is sufficient,” he declared. “I should dislike Miss Bella Fox and I could not dictate to her. I shall ask for you. Tell me how to do so.”
“My name is Catherine Borans.”
“And if I had dictated to you what I have written with my own hand, what would have been the nature of the risk I should have run?”
“I decline,” she said, “to answer your question.”
The telephone at her elbow rang while Samara stood scowling down at her. She turned and took the call. As she listened she frowned slightly.
“Tell me your name again, please?” she asked.
The name was apparently repeated. The girl spoke into the receiver.
“Please wait,” she begged. “I will tell Mr. Samara that you are here.”
She laid down the receiver and pushed the instrument a little away. Then she turned toward her companion.
“There is a gentleman downstairs who says that his name is Bromley Pride and that he has called from the New York Comet to see you.”
Samara nodded. “That is quite in order,” he assented. “He can come up. Please tell him so.”
She did not at once obey. She was evidently perplexed. “Since you are so much interested in my affairs,” her companion continued, “I will tell you that the President himself, looking upon the paper which I understand Mr. Bromley Pride represents, as his official mouthpiece has suggested that I confide to him a certain portion of thp result of our negotiations.”
“Indeed,” she murmured.
“Recognizing to the full,” he went on, with a faint note of sarcasm in his tone, “and thoroughly appreciating that kindly interest, I would yet point out that this is a matter which is already decided. Will you kindly therefore ask Mr. Pride to step up?”
“I would do so,” she replied, dropping her voice a little and holding the telephone receiver still farther away, “but, as a matter of fact, he is not there.”
“What do you mean?” he demanded.
“I happen to know Mr. Bromley Prid equite well,” she explained. “I am also very well acquinted with his voice.
The man who is impersonating him downstairs is a stranger!”
HE other seemea for a moment to be puzzled and unable to appreciate the significance of his companion’s words.
“In any case,” he rejoined, “beg whoever is down there to come up. Mr. Pride has probably sent a substitute.” Catherine leaned over the instrument with expressionless face.
“Is it Mr. Bromley Pride himself speaking?” she asked.
“You are to come up, then.”
She laid down the receiver without remark.
“Well?” Samara demanded impatiently.
“The man who is below insists that he is Mr. Bromley Pride,” she announced.
“And you still don’t believe him?”
“I know that he is not,” she replied. “I have worked for Mr. Bromley Pride. We are old acquaintances.” “Some journalistic dodge, perhaps,” he muttered.
She began gathering together the paraphernalia connected with her machine.
“It is not my business,” she continued quietly, “to offer you advice. I am not sure that I am disposed to do so, but as a matter of common sense I must say that I wonder at your admitting to your apartment a man who is visiting you under a false name when you have a document, presumably of some interest to the world, lying there on your desk. But, of course, it is your own affair.” Samara looked at her with wide-open eyes.
“But my dear young lady,” he protested, “we are in the very centre of civilization. This is New York!”
“A city of which you are evidently extremely ignorant.”
Her attitude suddenly inspired him with disquietude. He began to reflect. “There are some people, of course,” he muttered, “who would give the price of a kingdom to know of this before I got home.
She interrupted him.
“Mr. Samara,” she said quietly, “I have read several biographies of you. In every one of them, the chronicler has observed that, for a diplomatist of world-wide fame, you were possessed of a remarkably unsuspicious nature. I agree with your chroniclers. Good morning.”
“Stop!” he begged her.
There was the sound of the bell. It was rung in quite an ordinary manner, but to both of them there seemed to be something sinister in its drawn-out summons. She looked at him.
“He is sitting with my secretary, An drewKroupki.”
“I will answer the door,” she said, as she quietly arose. “And remain, if you please,” he insisted.
SHE turned away, threw open the outside door, and returned a moment later, ushering in a visitor. She made no comment as she stood aside to let him pass, but both she and Samara himself studied the newcomer curiously. He was a pleasant-looking man, neatly dressed, with an amiable expression, and the shoulders of an athlete. He carried a black portfolio under his arm, which he set down carefully upon the table, close to the typewriter, before proceeding to introduce himself. His voice, when he spoke, was distinctly a home product and free from any foreign accent.
“I am very pleased to meet you, Mr. Samara,” he said, as he gripped the latter’s hand. “This is an honor I appreciate very highly.”
Samara motioned his visitor toward a chair, wondering meanwhile at his quickly conceived dislike of the man.
“I must tell you, Mr. Pride,” he explained, “that my own desire was to have kept absolutely secret the nature of my negotiations with your government until I had had an opportunity of setting them before my advisers in Moscow. Your President, however, thought that complete reticence as to my mission would be too much to ask of your press and that therefore an idea of the arrangement concluded had better be given to a representative journal such as your own.”
“Quite so,” the visitor murmured. “My paper holds almost an official position here.”
"May I ask what post you occupy on it?” Samara inquired.
“I am a member of the Board,” was the prompt reply. “I am also editorial writer on international affairs.”
“And your name is Pride?”
“Yes—James D. Bromley Pride. You can speak right out to me. No need to keep a thing back!”
A QUIET voice from the other end of the room suddenly intervened. The words themselves seemed harmless enough, but their effect was cataclysmic.
“There is surely some mistake. Mr. Bromley Pride of the New York Comet is in Philadelphia.”
Samara himself was a little taken aback by the unexpected intervention of his temporary secretary. The expression on his visitor’s face was momentarily illuminative.
“Who is this?” he demanded sharply.
“My name is Catherine Borans,” was the composed reply. “I belong to the typewriting bureau downstairs. I have often worked for Mr. Pride. You are not he.”
The pseudo Mr. Pride had regained his presence of mind. He pointed to the card which he had laid upon the table.
“This young woman’s interference is impertinent and absurd,” he declared. “If I am not Bromley Pride of the
New York Comet, how is it that I am here at all? I [re-
ceived my instructions from the editor himself this morning.”
Samara looked across toward Catherine.
“Telephone the editor of the New York Comet,” he directed. “Ask him to send some one round to identify this gentleman. I do not wish to be offensive,” he went on, turning to his visitor, “but your identity is a matter upon which I must be entirely assured.”
The sang-froid of this caller of disputed personality was amazing. Before Catherine could take off the receiver he stepped quickly toward the telephone and faced them both.
“The young lady has spoken the truth,” he confessed. “I am not Bromley Pride. I am, as a matter of fact, the representative of a rival newspaper. You do not need to be told, Mr. Samara, that here in New York a live journalist will go further than assume another man’s name to get hold of a big beat—and then some! He will risk more even than being thrown down eleven flights of stairs! Is there any price you are inclined to name, sir, for the particulars which you were about to hand to the New York Comet?" Samara’s eyes flashed and his frown was menacing.
“An impostor!” he exclaimed. “I request you to withdraw at once from my apartment.”
“And I decline,” was the prompt reply. “I may tell you right away that I am prepared to go to any length to secure this information from you.”
“Indeed,” Samara scoffed. “May I ask in what direction you propose to make your effort?”
The visitor stretched his hand backward and, from one of the folds of that harmless-looking black portfolio which he had left propped against the typewriter, he drew out an automatic pistol of particularly sinister appearance. His mask of amiability had gone. There was a malicious gleam in his eyes, a cruel twist to his mouth.
“Gabriel Samara,” he announced, “I am no journalist at all. I am, as a matter of fact, in another line of business altogether. It is up to me to discover what arrangements you have come to with the President, and how far such arrangements are going to help you with your plans in Russia. I do not desire to alarm either you or the young lady, but I am going to have the truth.”
Samara smiled contemptuously. There was not a flicker of expression in Catherine’s face.
“Pray set your mind at ease so far as we are concerned,” he begged. “Neither the young lady nor I am in the least
alarmed at your braggadocio. As a matter of curiosity,” he went on, “supposing I were disposed to submit to this highway robbery, how do you know that I should tell you
The intruder pointed to the typewriter and to the
written sheets on the desk.
“There is only one task upon which you could be engaged this morning,” be said. “I guess those sheets will be good enough for me, anyway.”
“And supposing by any remote chance I should refuse to give them to you,” Samara persisted, “is it your purpose, may I ask, to assassinate me?”
“To be candid, yes,” was the blunt reply. “But for the fear of canonizing you in your own country, you would have been assassinated long ago. To-day things are different. Even Russia can spare you. Let the young lady fetch the papers and hand them to me.”
“The young lady will do nothing of the sort,” Samara declared firmly. “So much of the result of my mission as I propose to make public at present you can read in the New York Comet to-morrow. Now, if it is your intention to assassinate me, you had better get on with it.”
The gun was slowly raised to a horizontal position. The face of the man behind it was hideously purposeful.
“What you don’t realize,” he said deliberately, “is that I am in earnest. You are a marked man, Gabriel Samara, less popular in your own country than you were and hated in mine. Sooner or later this would have been your end anyway, but listen —I’m telling you—your time has come now, unless you place those papers on the table in front of you—before I count five. Before I count five, mind, or I shall shoot!”
SAMARA looked around the room quickly. There was no tear in his face, only the reasonable search of a man who loves life, for some means of escape. There was none which he could apprehend. His assailant was between him and the bell, and the breaking of a window on the eleventh floor—even if it attracted any attention in the street—would be unlikely to bring help in time. All the while the young woman behind the typewriter was watching him, with steady eyes and unmoved expression. “One—two—three—four—’ ’
“I shouldn’t worry,” her quiet voice interrupted soothingly. “That gun will not hurt you.”
There was a second’s stupefaction, then the sound of a harmless click. The silence which followed seemed intolerable, broken though it was in a matter of moments by the piercing shrillness of the whistle which Catherine held to her lips. For the first time Samara himself was dumbfounded: so was his would-be murderer, who was staring openmouthed at his useless weapon.
“You see,” the young woman who had dominated the situation explained to Samara, “this bungling conspirator —really he ought to take a lesson from one of the novelists —put down his satchel behind the cover of my typewriter, having opened it himself first—to get at his gun easily, I suppose. I saw the glitter, so while he was indulging in one of his little bursts of eloquence, I slipped out the cartridge roll.”
She held it up. Outside there was the sound of a key in the door.
“I have a smaller gun of the same pattern at home myself, so I understand all about them,” she went on equably. “By the by, I hope you don’t think I was blowing that whistle for its musical properties. It belongs to the hotel detective. What are you going to say to him?” The door was thrown open and a stalwart, broadshouldered man entered hastily. He was in plain clothes but the stamp of officialdom was unmistakable.
“T’M BROWN, the hotel detective,” the newcomer announced sharply. “What’s wrong here?”
The pseudo Mr. Pride shrugged his shoulders resignedly. “I’m a free-lance journalist,” he declared. “Have connections with half a dozen New York papers. I wanted Mr. Samara’s news and I tried to bluff him into giving it to me.”
“A little more than that, I fancy,” Samara observed. “There wasn’t much bluff about your automatic.”
“Are you carrying firearms?” the detective asked.
The man who called himself Pride handed over his gun. “I’m through,” he confessed. “If I could have bluffed Mr. Samara into giving me a report of his interview in Washington yesterday it would have been worth fifty thousand dollars to me. I failed and I guess it’s up to me to take the consequences.”
The detective was impressed but non-commital. He appealed to Samara.
“Is this all there is to it?” he inquired.
Samara shook his head. “The man threatened to assassinate me and appeared to be in earnest,” he replied. “If the young lady there had not withdrawn the cartridges from his automatic pistol, he would probably have done so: I do not believe that he is a journalist at all. It is, I imagine, a political affair.”
The detective turned to Catherine. Her deep brown eyes were filled with what appeared to be amazement. She shook her head.
“Mr. Samara was naturally alarmed,” she said, “but I do not believe that he was in any actual danger.”
The detective looked quickly from one to another of the three people in the little tableau. Their faces were an interesting study. Both Samara and his would-be assassin were obviously surprised; the latter, however, quickly concealed his emotion.
“You don’t think that he meant business, then?” the detective asked.
“My impression is that he was only bluffing,” was the confident reply.
“Then why did you blow that whistle?” her questioner persisted.
“I am ratheb a nervous person,” she confided. “I hated the thought that there might be trouble while I was in the room.”
SAMARA’S amazement was genuine and sincere. He came a little farther into the centre of the apartment and stood looking down at Catherine.
“You didn’t hear the click, then, when he pulled the trigger of his gun?”
“Did he pull it?” she asked. “Well, it wasn’t loaded.” He pointed to the roll of cartridges.
“But you admitted yourself that you took those out of his gun.”
She smiled enigmatically. “This has been rather a shock to you, hasn’t it?” she said. “I was quite worked up myself. I think we probably took the whole matter too seriously.”
The self-styled journalist, who, during the last few moments had been suffering from an amazement equal to Samara’s, recovered himself and played up to his cue.
“Of course,” he declared, “it is ridiculous to imagine that the whole thing was more than a bluff. I wanted the news and I failed. Well, there you are! Fine or prison, it’s all the same to me. I’ll pay the price!”
“Have you any charge to offer, sir?” the detective inquired of Samara.
The latter considered the matter under its new aspect.
“If you will undertake,” he stipulated, “to keep that man under surveillance until I am out of the country, that will satisfy me. I am convinced, however, that he is a dangerous person, and, notwithstanding all that has been said, I am also convinced that he is capable of making a deliberate attempt upon my life.
Under the circumstances, however, I can make no charge. If you take my advice you will inquire into his antecedents and his connection with journalism. You may be surprised.”
The detective was inclined to be disappointed at this tame conclusion to the affair.
“I guess we’ll take you to headquarters,” he decided, turning to Bromley Pride’s impersonator. “The magistrate can ask you a few questions and we’ll have you bound over.
I’ll take care of your gun if you don’t mind, and you can hand me over those cartridges, young lady. Will you go with us, Mr. Samara, and state your case?”
Samara shook his head. “In the face of the young lady’s statements,” he observed dryly, “I don’t think that my evidence is necessary. Do what you will about the man.”
The detective and his charge left the room. As the latter neared the threshold he looked curiously back at Catherine. Her face, however, was inscrutable. The door closed upon them. Samara and his temporary secretary were alone. The former took a cigarette and lit it.
“X yfTSS BORANS,” he began, “will you permit me to iVl thank you for having saved my life, and then unless you wish me to die of curiosity, will you tell me at once why you gave false evidence to the detective and placed me in a rather absurd position?”
Catherine continued her task of collecting her belongings.
“If you have no more work for me,” she said, “the office will be expecting me to report. They will charge you for this extra half hour as it is.”
Samara frowned. “I engaged you for the day,” he declared.
“You must arrange that with Miss Loyes,” she replied coldly. “I have an assignment at three o’clock.”
He took up the telephone receiver.
“Typewriting bureau—urgent,” he demanded. “Good . . . Mr. Samara speaking. Can I secure the services of the young lady who is with me now for the rest of the day? . . . Good! . . . Certainly.”
He replaced the receiver and turned round with a faint smile of triumph.
“You belong to me for the day,” he announced.
Her fingers strayed over the keys of her machine.
“My secretarial accomplishments,” she reminded him, “not my confidence.”
Samara had never been more than a casual observer of women, had never studied them intimately, certainly had never appreciated them. Other passions had laid more closely intertwined with his life. He scrutinized Catherine for the first time with half-reluctant interest, realizing the finer qualities of her, the delicate femininity, coupled with an amazing self-reliance. He realized, too, that in the subtlest of all ways she was beautiful.
“Did you know that assassin whose cause you suddenly espoused with such vigor?” he asked, a little abruptly.
“I never saw him before in my life,” she declared.
"Then in the name of wonder,” he begged, “tell me
why you chose to sit there and tell deliberate falsehoods for his sake.”
“It happened to amuse me,” she observed, smiling. “After all, you have nothing to complain of. I saved your life and subsequently I prevented your taking vengeance upon your would-be murderer. We might call it quits, I think.”
Samara was immensely puzzled. He frowned down at her moodily.
“Sheer sentimentality,” he muttered. “I hate cutthroats. It’s a dirty business shooting at unarmed men.”
HE WASN’T a pleasant person,” she agreed. “I disliked his mustache and the color of his tie. Shall we decide to forget him? ... I am at your disposal for the rest of the day. Have you letters to give me?”
He shrugg d his shoulders. It was a novelty, this, to find a woman with a will as strong as his own. Then he danced at his watch.
“I have to go out for half an hour,” he announced. “I shall be glad if you would arrange the typewritten sheets I gave you and pin in the pages I wrote by hand in the proper order.”
She looked at him in surprise.
“But this is the document all the trouble has been about!” she exclaimed. “I might read it!”
He crossed the room to the desk where he had been writing, collected the sheets and brought them over to her.
“My dear young lady,” he said, “you are welcome to read my little contribution—if you can.”
She studied the closely written pages with an apparently puzzled air.
“So that is Russian,” she remarked.
He nodded. “Looks terrible, doesn’t it? Here is my servant back again . . . Ivan, bring me my coat and hat and watch over this young lady while I am away. With Ivan Rortz about the place,” be continued, “no one will be likely to disturb you. I shall give orders outside, too, that no visitors are permitted to enter.”
She was still gazing at those sheets filled with strangelooking words.
“Very well,” she assented, “I will have this all in order by the time'you get back.”
TO ALL appearance nothing had happened when Samara returned from his visit to a great banking house in Wall Street. He gave his coat and hat to Ivan, who was sitting—a grim, silent figure—in the little hall. Then he passed into the inner room where Catherine, having apparently completed her task, was leaning back in her chair, turning over the pages of the document which she had pinned together.
“Well?” he asked, with sardonic pleasantry. “Did you make anything out of it?”
She laid it down and glanced up at him. “Naturally,” she replied. “I read it.”
“But the Russian part?”
She nodded. “The Russian part, of course. It was the most interesting.” He stared at her. “What do you mean?” he demanded. “You can’t read Russian?”
She laughed. “What an accusation!”
For a moment he looked at her. All the time he had been troubled by a sense of a vague likeness; not, perhaps, to any particular person, but to a type.
“Surely you told me that you were an American?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Oh, no!” she replied. “I told you that I had lived in America for twenty-three years.” “Then what are you?”
“As much a Russian as you are,” she assured him, smiling.
SAMARA, for a great statesman and undoubtedly a great ruler, was a man of unsuspicious temperament and had more than once committed what might have turned out to be diplomatic blunders. He was also, however, at all times a man of action. He locked the door behind him, drew a chair in front of the telephone and sat facing the young lady whom he had engaged to be his secretary for the day.
“I think,” he said, “we will have an explanation.”
Continued on page 51
The Great Samara
Continued from page 19
She smiled graciously. “As I now know exactly the arrangements you have made with the government of this country,” she remarked, “I am perfectly willing to tell you anything you want to know.”
“In the first place, then,” he asked, “are you a spy, and, if you are, in whose interests are you working?”
“I am nothing of the sort,” she assured him. “I am in effect exactly what I seem to be. I am a young woman of New York City of scanty means, earning a living by typewriting and secretarial work.”
“But you are Russian?”
“My father and mother were both Russians,” she acknowledged. “I recognize it as my country. I have lived here all my life, however.”
“We are getting on,” he said. “Is Borans your real name?”
“A sufficient portion of it,” she answered. “The rest of it is not important.” “Will you explain to me,” he went on, “why you first saved my life and then behaved so strangely with regard to my would-be murderer?”
“Now that I have read this document,” she said, touching it with her fingers, “I am disposed to explain to you. I am not a spy in any sense of the word, but I am a patriotic Russian. I belong to a little circle of Russians living here, who are filled with one idea as regards our country. We have not even the dignity of being a secret society. Every one knows everything about us and every one laughs at us. We look upon you with respect but as a very obstructive person.”
“Upon me?” he exclaimed. “And you call yourself a patriot! Don’t dare to tell me that you are a Bolshevist!”
“I am not,” she replied indignantly. “I am free to confess that you have wiped Russia clean of a great curse. You have done a splendid work but you have not done it our way.”
“What in Heaven’s name are you, then?” he asked impatiently. “What party do you represent? I have dragged
Russia out of the slough. I have re-established her institutions, her economic position. Already she is lifting her head among the nations of the world.”
“I admit all that freely,” she acknowledged. “It is because I realize what Russia owes you that you are alive. I do not wish, however, to tell you any more at present about myself and my political views. I saved your life because I believed that you are still necessary to Russia; but in a certain sense, I and your would-be assassin are alike. We share one great grievance against you. We resent—or perhaps some might say fear—your great scheme of demilitarization.”
Samara laughed a little harshly. “Really,” he said, “I never imagined that life in New York could be so interesting. The atmosphere of this room, however, is getting on my nerves. I have been through all I can stand for one morning. I can hear the click of that wicked-looking pistol even now. Young lady, where are your friends? Why do I not know them? I thought most of the Russians in New York who had aims or views had been to see me.”
She shook her head.
“Not all,” she told him. “There are still a few of us who hold aloof.”
“Miss Borans,” he invited, “will you please do me the honor of taking lunch with me?”
She rose to her feet with alacrity.
“Not in the hotel,” she begged. “It isn’t allowed. Anywhere else, with great pleasure. I warn you, though, that my morning’s work has given me an absurd appetite.”
“I shall be proud to minister to it,” he assured her.
THEY lunched at a secluded table in the balcony of the Ritz-Carlton. Gabriel Samara, like many another man whose life is immersed in his work, and who finds himself committed to an unusual action in his everyday routine, was
conscious of a curious light-heartedness. He felt as if he were a schoolboy at play. He, Gabriel Samara, taking his companion of a morning to luncheon in a restaurant!
“It intrigues me,” she remarked, “to think that notwithstanding all your diplomats here and Mr. Bromley Pride of the New York Comet—who, by the by, telephoned to say that he is on his way back from Philadelphia and will see you this afternoon—I am the only person in the world with whom you can discuss the result of your mission to Washington.” “What I shall do with you, I can’t imagine,” he groaned. “Everything will come out in due course, naturally, but premature disclosure before I .get back might do an enormous amount of harm. I have a very strenuous opposition to face, as you may realize.”
“You need not be afraid,” she assured him. “If you are really going to give me lobster newburg I shall keep your secret! I warn you if I thought that disclosure would aid our own cause, not all the precious stones in your mines could have kept me silent, nor all the gold which will soon be flowing into your banks. As it is you are safe.”
“That is something to be thankful for, at any rate,” he declared. “Miss Borans, treat me with confidence. You interest me. Let us talk frankly. If indeed you are a patriotic Russian, and have studied in any way the history of our times, you will know that I too am one. Wherein does my policy of reconstruction differ from yours? Why don’t you approve of demilitarization? Why should I consent to my country keeping under arms the greatest war machine in Europe to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for another nation?” “There I agree,” she admitted. “There must be no more wars.”
“But for my errand here,” he continued, “there would have been war within a few years. You cannot keep four million men under arms indefinitely without trouble. If you knew the tension at the present moment, the stream of proposals, the envoys who have been continually sent to me!”
SHE nodded. “Don’t tell me too much about them,” she warned him. “You might find that I am not so much on your side as you think.”
“But this demilitarization,” he persisted. “You must approve of that. We have three perfectly trained armies, of a million men each, ready to fight at a moment’s notice. Why? You know why, and so do I. Isn’t it a sane thing to disband a million according to my arrangements, now that I have been able to obtain a credit in Washington for the reconstruction of the industries for which we can use their labor? Think! In six months’ time, not a man oPthat million will be bearing arms. They will be miners, or on the land, working in factories, on the railways, or road-making, just according to their natural bent. Why. it’s blood and bone in the country; a million productive toilers instead of a million wastrels!” “Theoretically I agree,” she acknowledged. “It is because I agree that I saved your life.”
“Then why did you save him?” he demanded bluntly.
“Because, although our point of view and ultimate aim are entirely different,” she replied, “your would-be assassin stands, in a sense, for the same things that we do.”
Samara gave the waiter an order and leaned back in his place.
“Explain,” he insisted. “In as few words as possible, please. I am weary of not understanding.”
“Why should I explain?” she murmured. “It is all very simple. We grant you that you have lifted Russia out of the slough, but we do not believe that your methods, that your system of government, will place her back where she has a right to be.”
THE light broke in upon him then. “I see!” he exclaimed. “Who are your friends here? Can I meet them?”
A sudden deepening of the little lines at the corners of her eyes and the twitching of her lips betrayed a genuine amusement.
“What a sensation I should cause if I took you to see them!” she laughed. “I see their faces when I present you! It would be amazing!”
“Risk it,” he begged. “Why not? I am proud to look any Russian patriot in the face and tell him who I am.”
She was interested.
“V^ES, I suppose you do feel like that,” I she observed, after a moment’s pause. “Why shouldn’t you? Sometimes I, myself, make almost a hero of you. I’m quite sure that I shall always be proud to think that I have lunched with the great Samara. I shall be grateful too for other reasons. Do you find me very greedy?” “Delightfully so,” he admitted. “All healthy people are greedy. The vice of it only creeps in with the lack of self-restraint.”
“I suppose,” she remarked, “my manners are good; but if you only knew how I longed to see whether he has remembered the olives with the chicken! . . . Hold tight to your chair now, please, and prepare for a shock. I am going to ask you a sickeningly obvious question. Tell me how you like America.”
Gabriel Samara looked around him thoughtfully. He answered the spirit which prompted the question rather than the question itself.
“I venerate America,” he declared. “Why shouldn’t I? In a sense I am the champion of modern democracy. America is a shining light to all other nations, yet I maintain that Russia with its unified population has a better chance of reaching the supreme heights.”
“I sometimes wonder,” she sighed, “whether the true spirit of a republic can flourish in a land which knows such terrible extremes of wealth and poverty?” “It is a drawback,” he agreed. “That is where we in Russia have an advantage. We are framing a new constitution. Our laws are adapted to meet existing circumstances. Communism is dead, but we shall never tolerate the multimillionaire.”
“Do you think,” she asked, “that Germany will ever let you become really powerful?”
“Not willingly,” he replied, “but the monarchical sentiment in Germany is not strong enough yet to upset the government of the country. Germany, of course, will bitterly resent the success of my mission over here, but she will have to get rid of her republic before we need take the war scare seriously.”
She looked at him across the table. “Do you think that the monarchist party in Germany is gaining ground?” she asked.
'T know little about German internal affairs,” he answered evasively. “I have more than enough to do to keep in touch with the trend of opinion in my own country.”
The thread of conversation appeared to be suddenly broken. Samara began to ask questions about the people by whom they were surrounded. The restaurant on this fine spring day seemed like a great nosegay of brilliant flowers. Threequarters of the guests were women and it was a season of abandonment in color, with yellow and pink predominating. New York, no less than Paris, was a city of subtle perfumes, cunningly distilled and exotic. Samara, smoking his cigarette with the air of an epicure, found much to interest him in his environment.
“These people are like Russians in one way,” he remarked. “They spend their money.”
“I have a German friend here,” she confided, “who argues that there is always more extravagance under a republic. His point is that the bourgeoisie make money easily and spend it readily. The aristocrat who has to keep up a great appearance is compelled to be the more miserly of the two, apart even from the question of good taste.”
“Is this the prelude to a discussion upon the ethics of government?” he suggested, smiling.
“Indeed, no,” she replied, “I am not so presumptuous. My principles are matters of instinct with me. I do not argue about them. I accept them.”
She helped herself to one of his proffered cigarettes and he paid the bill.
“/"\UITE the monarchical touch,” he observed. “If you are postponing your return to your native land, however, until there is a czar upon the throne I am afraid you are doomed to a very long spell of homesickness.”
“Who knows?” she exclaimed carelessly. “Revolutions are rather the fashion just now. I may return to find you in chains and the knout cracking once more.” She had spoken lightly enough, but he chose to take her seriously.
“As a matter of fact,” he confided, “there is a certain amount of very disquieting truth in what you say. I have
stamped out bolshevism in Russia forever. The spirit of anarchistic communism, at any rate, is dead, but I honestly believe that, especially among the peasantry, there is an unwholesome sort of craving for the burdens of czardom.”
“That is almost the most interesting thing that you have said,” she remarked as they rose to go. “Thanks very much for my wonderful luncheon. Do you really require my services this afternoon?” “Without a doubt,” he insisted. “I am going on from here to pay a call. At four o’clock I shall be back in my rooms. Let me find you there, if you please.”
They were about to part in the hallway of the restaurant, when Mrs. Saxon J. Bossington intervened. She sailed’ down upon them with the air of taking both into custody; ample, yet fashionably dressed, a triumph of artificiality, forty, or perhaps fifty, lisping with the ingenuousness of childhood.
“Well, well, is this where you young women who earn your living lunch as a rule?” she exclaimed, gripping the none too willing hand of Samara’s companion. “Every time I’ve asked you to make up one of our little luncheon parties here, Catherine, you have told me that you couldn’t play idle rich on work days.” Catherine presented the appearance of a young person of good breeding, striving to be polite while in bodily pain.
“To-day is an exception,” she said. “I am lunching with a fellow countryman.”
MRS. SAXON J. BOSSINGTON smiled graciously. She had just sufficient discernment, borne of her social cravings, to appreciate distinction even when it did not conform to type. Catherine, with a deprecating glance at her companion, murmured his name. Samara bowed—a little lower perhaps than was usual in a city where hand-shaking is almost sacramental. He did not seem to notice, however, the pearl gloved hand so frankly extended.
“Mr. Gabriel Samara, who has come over from Russia to see our President?” Mrs. Bossington exclaimed breathlessly.
“My name,” he replied, “is Gabriel Samara. I know of no other. I have just come from Washington, where your President was good enough to receive me.” Mrs. Saxon J. Bossington was naively delighted to meet such a personage and she made no effort to conceal her excitement.
“I want to tell you, Mr. Samara, right now,” she declared, “that you’ve met the one woman in New York who has read every line that’s been written about you since you landed and who has been just crazy to meet you. This is going to be wonderful. Catherine’s bringing you tonight, of course?”
“I beg your pardon,” he observed, genuinely perplexed. “I have not the honor—•”
“Catherine? Miss Borans, of course— you will come to-night with her? It’s the meeting, you know. Why, it will be great. Prince Nicholas is coming, General Orenburg, Colonel Kirdorff, the dear Grand Duchess—all of them! It’s most opportune!”
Samara turned to his companion. He was guilty of a gross breach of manners. He addressed her in Russian.
“What is this woman talking about?” he demanded.
MRS. BOSSINGTON was delighted.
She rippled on before Catherine had had a chance to reply.
“Such a wonderful language!” she exclaimed. “Sometimes they talk it in conclave and I can assure you, Mr. Samara, it just thrills me. Some people call it harsh. I love it. Don’t you think, Catherine, dear,” she went on, hei tone becoming almost wheedling, “that you could persuade Mr. Samara to come a little earlier and dine with us first to-night—just a very small affair—twenty covers or so? Joseph would be so pleased!”
Catherine laid her hand upon the arm of her loquacious acquaintance.
“Mrs. Bossington,” she said, “I am afraid you don’t quite understand. Mr. Samara is a Russian, of course, and a very distinguished one, but his aims are scarcely the aims of our friend^. I do not think we should agree. It never even occurred to me to bring Mr. Samara to the meeting.” Mrs. Bossington couldn’t understand this.
“My dear,” she cried, “you’re crazy! There you are, a dozen of you, all Russians out of a home and out of a country and
longing to get back again. A nd here’s the very man who can help you! Get together and talk it over. I’m only thankful it’s my turn to entertain you. I should be the proudest woman in New York to think that Mr. Samara had paid me a visit. If we could only fix up that dinner!”
GABRIEL SAMARA was a little
weary. His eyes were straying through the windows to the sunlit streets. The close atmosphere of the lounge, the heavy perfumes, the din of conversation were beginning to nauseate him.
“I have a call to make in the hotel, Miss Borans,” he reminded her. “If you and Mrs.—Mrs. Bossington, I believe— will excuse me I will take my leave. The Ambassador from my country is expecting me at half-past two.”
His would-be hostess gripped him by the arm.
“Not one step do you move from here,” she insisted, “until you have promised to come and see these good people to-night.” “So far as that is concerned,” he replied, “I am in Miss Borans’ hands. If it is her wish—if they are country people of mine who desire to meet me—I shall be charmed.”
Mrs. Saxon J. Bossington had attained her object. She saw some friends to whom it was necessary that she should immediately communicate the fact that she had been discussing Russian politics with Mr. Gabriel Samara. With a little shower of farewells she departed. Catherine glanced up at her companion. There was something of mutual comprehension in their smile.
*It appears to be our fate to spend the evening together,” he remarked.
“We shall see,” she murmured. “Shall I expect you about four?”
“I shall not be later,” he promised. Samara watched his departing companion as she passed through the little throng of gossiping women on her way to the street. Among all this flamboyant elegance, these vivid splashes of color and elaborate toiletes, there was something almost aloof in her still drabness—her disdain of all those freely displayed arts. Yet so far as sheer femininity was concerned, Samara felt the spell of her so strongly that not one of the many attractive women by whom he was surrounded, several of whom looked at him with friendly curiosity, seemed in any way comparable to her. He watched her disappear, and turned back into the hotel to keep an appointment with the Ambassador of his country, who had followed him from Washington the night before. His eagerness for the approaching discussion, however, had suddenly evaporated.
“I am after all a pagan,” he muttered, as he stepped into the elevator to make his call. “For the moment I had forgotten Russia.”
CATHERINE, on her return to Samara’s suite at the Hotel Weltmore, found the sofa in the sitting-room occupied by a young man who stared at her with curious eyes as she entered. He was tall, phenomenally thin and phenomenally sallow. The hollows in his cheeks were so pronounced that the higher bones themselves seemed to be almost on the point of pushing their way through the flesh. His coal-black hair was long and disheveled, and his unshaven condition added to the wildness of his appearance. Catherine, with the instinct of her sex, took note only of his obvious ill-health, and her tone as she addressed him was kindly.
“You must be Andrew Kroupki, Mr. Samara’s secretary,” she said, removing the cover from her typewriter. “Mr. Samara scarcely expected that you would be well enough to get up to-day.”
“I cannot lie in bed here,” he declared feebly. “I become nervous. It is terrible to be ill so far from home. There is only Ivan, and Ivan hates me.”
“Why should he do that?” she asked soothingly.
“Because he and I live closest to the chief,” was the impatient reply. “Ivan is jealous. He is very foolish. It is his strength which protects, and my brains. We are allies but he will not have it so. Have you been working for the chief?” “All the morning,” she answered. “I still have a long list of invitations to decline. He is returning at four o’clock.”
“Do you know anything about a dispatch for Cherbourg?” he continued. “My brain was on fire this morning. I could not even ask.”
“The dispatch is finished and Mr. Samara took it away with him,” she confided. “Part of it I typed and the more important part he wrote in by hand.”
The young man closed his eyes for a moment.
“It is terrible to be like this,” he groaned, “when one is needed.”
She rose from, her seat and came over to the couch, laid her hand for a moment upon his head and felt his pulse.
“Have you seen a doctor?” she inquired.
He nodded. “Yes, I am taking some medicine. He told me to lie in bed and let my brain rest.”
“Would you like a drink? Some iced water?”
He made a little grimace. “I hate it,” he muttered. “In Russia we do not drink water.”
She drew a vial of eau-de-cologne from her bag, soaked her handkerchief with it and laid it upon his head.
“That is very pleasant,” he sighed gratefully.
“I wonder,” she said, “would you care for some tea—tea with lemon, freshly made and clear-colored?”
“Wonderful!” he assented, eagerly.
She sent for the floor waiter, procured some materials, and busied herself for a few minutes with the equipage which he brought. The young man sipped the beverage when she handed it to him with something approaching ecstasy.
“I have had nothing like this since the fever came,” he told her. “What is your, name?”
He looked at her with wide-open eyes. Already there was a gleam of something more than admiration in them.
“Where do you come from?” he asked.
“The Weltmore Typewriting Bureau downstairs,” she replied. “Now, try to go to sleep for a little time. Do you think that the sound of the typewriter will disturb you? If so, I will write some of these letters by hand. I do not think that Mr. Samara would mind.”
He shook his head. “It will not disturb me,” he assured her. “I should like to lie here and watch you work. You are a very wonderful person. Are you an American?”
She smiled. “You are not to talk any more,” she enjoined. Close your eyes and try to sleep.”
“I like to watch you,” he murmured.
CATHERINE was a person unafflicted with self-consciousness, so she continued her work methodically, although every time she looked up she found his eyes upon her.
“More tea,” he begged once.
She gave him another cup, and renewed the eau-de-cologne on her handkerchief. Presently he closed his eyes, and when Samara returned he was sleeping peacefully.
“You didn’t tell me that I was to be hospital nurse as well as typist,” she remarked, speaking in an undertone.
Samara crossed the room and looked down at the young man.
“You’ve done very well with him,” he said. “His respiration is better, the fever is down. What have you been giving him? Tea? It smells ve~y good. I should like to try it myself.”
She made some more and he drank it gratefully. He appeared to be a little tired; his interview had not been altogether satisfactory.
“You have the Russian touch for tea,” he told her. “There is nothing like it in the world. I drink wine and spirits— everything—but tea like this is better than all.”
“A.nd better for you,” she observed.
He laughed dryly. “Sometimes its exhilaration is not rapid enough,” he said.
The young man stirred in his place. His master’s tone was suddenly kind as he turned ¿toward him.
“You are feeling better, Andrew?” he asked in Russian.
“Much better,” was the eager reply. “This young lady has been very good to me. Did you find her by accident, sir?” “By accident,” Samara assured him. “She is intelligent?”
“She is adequate,” was the expressionless reply. “I need your help though, Andrew. Get well quickly.”
“I am almost well now,” the young man declared, sitting up. “In a few days I shall be able to do anything. It is fortunate for you, master,” he went on, still speaking in his own language, “that you hate women.”
“I do not hate them,” Samara protested. “I simply do not appreciate them.” “You hate them,” Andrew repeated emphatically. “Even when you play with them you show it in your manner. It is fortunate for you. This young lady might cause you trouble.”
SAMARA glanced behind uneasily.
Catherine was continuing her task with immovable face.
“I am going to take you to your room now, Andrew,” he announced. “Your leaving it was against the doctor’s orders.” “I am content,” the young man assented. “I am very weary but I feel sleep coming.”
They crossed the room together, the young man leaning on Samara’s arm. At the door he turned back.
“Thank you very much, miss,” he said, in English.
She smiled. “Get well quickly,” she enjoined.
Samara returned a few minutes later. Catherine leaned back in her chair.
“Thank you for being kind to Andrew,” he said.
“He seems delicate,” she remarked.
“A little neurotic and, I am afraid, consumptive,” Samara agreed. “He is the son of one of my great friends, the man who first helped me to fight against the anarchists. When he died I took the lad to work for me. He is able and devoted but he has exaggerated ideas of everything. Your kindness has been good for him. He is already asleep.”
“He is very devoted to you,” she said. “Almost foolishly so,” he admitted. “There are times when I have trouble with him . . . Tell me now about these friends of yours. I see that I was right in my assumption. You and your companions are among those who hope for the impossible things.”
“If I may, I will explain,” Catherine suggested. “My mother died when I was three years old in this country and left as my patroness the exiled Grand Duchess Alexandrina Sophia of Kossas. I have been brought up, therefore, indirectly attached to a strange little circle. Would you really like to know about them?” “Most certainly,” he assured her emphatically. “They are Russians.”
“Very well, then,” she continued. “There are six of them. We live in an apartment house a long way the other side of Central Park. We all share a sitting-room for purposes of economy. Every one is poor, every one is shabby, every one is miserable. Now, if you wish, I shall tell you about them, one by one.”
“If you please,” he murmured.
“ÜIRST of all, then, there is Nicholas F Imanoff,” she began. “He is the nearest living descendant of the last czar. He is twenty-five years old, was educated with great difficulty at Harvard, and ekes out an embittered existence selling bonds on commission for a New York stock-broking firm. He calls himself Mr. Ronoff, but every one knows who he is, and I think it very probable that the little business he gets is because he appeals to people’s curiosity. He is rather badtempered, does not take enough exercise, drinks a little more than is good for him, but is quite capable at times of justifying his descent.”
“An admirable sketch,” Samara declared. “Proceed, please.”
“I will speak of my patroness, the Grand Duchess,” Catherine continued. “She is a fair, fat old lady of sixty-eight. She dresses abominably, her walk is almost a waddle, she takes no care about her person, and she earns a few dollars a month making artificial roses. She calls herself Mrs. Kossas.”
“Less interesting,” Samara commented. “Proceed.”
“There is Boris Kirdorff,” she went on. ‘‘Sometimes, I believe, he uses an obsolete title of ‘Colonel.’ I think that he has more brains than any of the others, and certainly less conscience. He comes from a great family, as I dare say you know. His is a cold unattractive personality, but he is a born schemer and if ever the others have hopes it is through him they are expressed. He is secretary to a very bourgeois card club, but I think the greater part of his small earnings is pent in gambling. General Orenburg is a more pleasing personality, but he is older. He is the only one who has any money, and that is a very small amount. He puts it into the common stock. He spends his whole day at the libraries, and he has
fifteen different schemes for bringing about a monarchist rising in Russia.”
“Any other young people?” Samara inquired.
“There is Cyril Volynia Sabaroff of Perm and his sister, Rosa. Cyril is interested in the sale of automobiles. His income varies a great deal, though. Rosa is engaged as reception clerk at a photographer’s shop. They are less serious than the rest of us, and, if only they had money, I think they would be content to stay in this country for the remainder of their days. The others of us, as you may have gathered, have only one desire in life, and that is to return to Russia.”
“Why not?” Samara observed. “You are all Russians. You have a perfect right to live in your native land.”
There was a moment’s silence. Catherine was gazing across the top of her typewriter at her companion. Samara was lounging on the other end of the table, his hands in his pockets, a cigar which he had lit without remark, between his lips.
“You seem to forget,” she said quietly, “that there is such a thing as a decree of banishment against the absentee aristocracy of Russia.”
“Rubbish!” he exclaimed. “Out of date! Antediluvian! I’ll revoke it the day I get back. You can consider it revoked now. Mind you,” he went on, striking the table a mighty blow with his fist, “there is another decree in Russia which will never be suspended. It is my aim to make Russia the freest country in the world, but if I find an anarchist in cafe, street or public meeting, he is shot within the hour. Against anarchists the law of Russia is as the law against vermin—death, summary and unquestionable! . . . There is no one else calling himself a Russian who is not welcome to take his place in the community.”
“Will you repeat this to my friends?” she asked, and there was very nearly a tremor in her tone.
“Take me to them,” he invited.
“I shall call for you at nine o’clock,” she promised. “Please let us work now. I feel that I am wasting your time.”
IT WAS a dejected, almost a pathetic little crowd that gathered round the sparsely laid dinner table in a back apartment on Amsterdam Avenue. The furniture, the table appointments, the faded carpet on the floor were all according to type. The prospect from the solitary window was of brick and masonry and a jumble of telegraph wires. Occasionally the room shook with the thunder of an elevated train passing near by. A colored servant, whose dress seemed to have been put on in scraps, was serving the meal from the sideboard. There were two jugs of water and a carafe of light beer on the table; in its center a little vase with a handful of cheap flowers. General Orenburg sat at one end and Alexandrina of Kossas at the other. Conversation was scanty. They all appeared to be engrossed in their own thoughts.
“Catherine is late to-day,” Alexandrina observed.
“Catherine is late, but here,” the young lady in question remarked, opening the door in time to hear the sound of her own name.
They all looked at her with interest. She seemed somehow or other to represent the vitality of the little circle, which brightened visibly at her coming. Kirdorff whom nothing in this world escaped, watched her curiously, as she took her place. His was a queer, hawklike face with black eyes and indrawn lips. His hair, thin about the temples, and carefully brushed, was unexpectedly light-colored.
“Catherine has something to tell us,” he observed.
“I have something very wonderful to tell you,” Catherine confessed, as she pushed aside a bowl of very unappetizing soup. “You need not bother about my dinner. I lunched at the Ritz Carlton, and I shall eat a great many of Mrs. Saxon J. Bossington’s sandwiches later on. Listen to me, everybody. Of all men in this world, with whom do you think I lunched? It is absurd to ask you to guess. I lunched with Gabriel Samara!”
A thunderbolt through the roof could scarcely have created a greater sensation. There were exclamations in every key. Then, with the passing of that first wave of astonishment, came a fierce and intense interest. Kirdorff leaned across the table, his fists clenched, his eyes protuberant. The Grand Duchess talked to herself in
broken sentences. Nicholas Imanoff spoke.
“How came you to meet Samara?” he demanded.
“In the most natural way possible,” Catherine explained. “He telephoned to the bureau for a typist—his secretary has been taken ill. The assignment was given to me. My work pleased him. He invited me to lunch.”
“You lunched with that man!” Nicholas muttered.
“There are very few men I wouldn’t lunch with at the Ritz Carlton,” Catherine rejoined coolly, “but I will tell you this now of Gabriel Samara. He stands for other principles than ours, but he is a man. He is what Cyril Volynia here, when he came back from England, called a ‘sportsman.’ We met Mrs. Saxon J. Bossington, and she spoke of to-night. Samara asked me who my Russian friends were, and I told him. Then listen to what he said: ‘They are Russians. Why do they live in New York? Why do they not go back to Russia?’ ”
“Samara said that!” Kirdorff intervened.
“Absolutely!” Catherine continued. “I reminded him of the decree of banishment. He scoffed at it. He undertook that it should be revoked. He has told me in plain words that you are all of you free to return to Russia.”
THERE was an almost awed silence.
Alexandrina was sobbing quietly into her handkerchief. Kirdorff was drumming upon the table.
“Free to return!” he muttered. “Why not? If one could only breathe there— could live—”
“Or die,” General Orenburg interrupted feverently, “so long as it was in Russia!” “There is surely a living to be made there as well as here,” Cyril Volynia declared. “Perhaps my firm would let me open a branch depot at Moscow.”
“Listen,” Catherine warned them. “You must make up your minds to this. It is necessary and it may lead to great things. You must meet Samara.”
The Grand Duchess left off sobbing. The suggestion was so astounding that the words themselves seemed to convey no definite meaning to her.
“Meet Samara!” Kirdorff reflected. “He will want to know our attitude toward his government, of course. He will require pledges.”
“I have not the faintest idea what he will say to you,” Catherine observed. “I can only tell you this: He is a brave man. He is rash. He is broad-minded. He is ingenuous. He does not in the least resemble one’s idea of a democratic leader.” Nicholas Imanoff looked across the table. There was a note of covert jealousy in his tone.
“Does he know who you are?” he asked.
“He does not, and I desire that he should not know,” she rejoined. “I have spoken of Alexandrina of Kossas as my patroness.”
“npELL us this,” Kirdorff asked A quietly, the instincts of the conspirator stirring within him. “In the course of your work to-day did you come to any conclusion as to the success or failure of his mission over here? Have you formed any idea as to how far he means to go with this mad scheme of his?”
“We will talk of that later,” Catherine replied. “It is better for you to know nothing to-night. What I want you all to remember now is that in half an hour’s time we leave here to hold one of our formal meetings under the roof and patronage of Mrs. Saxon J. Bossington.” “You are coming with us, Catherine?” the Grand Duchess demanded.
“I am going back to the hotel to fetch Mr. Samara,” was the unexpected rejoinder.
Nicholas half rose to his feet. “I will escort you,” he declared.
Catherine smiled at him coldly. “You will do nothing of the sort, Nicholas,” she said. “If you take my advice you will remember what I say. So far as Gabriel Samara knows, I am a typist from the Weltmore Secretarial Bureau. It is my wish that he know no more than this. Kindly remember that.”
Kirdorff nodded approvingly. “Our little sister knows best,” he pronounced.
Another intriguing and swiftly-moving instalment will appear in the April l'Jssue of Mac Lean's.