The Pawns Count
A Story of Secret Service and the Great War
E. Phillips Oppenheim
Author of “Mr. Rex of Monte Carlo,” “The Double Traitor,” etc.
"NOW, indeed, I feel that I am in New York,” Pamela declared, as she broke off one of the blossoms of the great cluster of deep-red roses by her side, and gazed downward over her shoulder at the far-flung carpet of lights. “One sees little bits of America in every country of the world, but never this.” Fischer, unusually grave and funereallooking in his dinner-clothes and black tie, followed her gesture with thoughtful eyes. Everything that was ugly in the stretching arms of the city seemed softened, shrouded and bejewelled. Even the sounds, the rattle and roar of the overhead railways, the clanging of the electric car bells, the shrieking of the sirens upon the river, seemed somehow to have lost their harsh note, to have become the human cry of the great live city, awaking and stretching itself for the night.
“I agree with you,” he said. “You dine at the Ritz-Carlton and you might be in Paris. You dine here, and one knows that you are in America.”
“Yet even here we have become increasingly luxurious,” Pamela remarked, looking around. “The glass and linen upon the tables are quite French : those shaded lights are exquisite. That little band, too, was playing at the Ritz three years ago.
I am sure that the maître d’hotel who brought us to our table was once at the Café de Paris.”
“Money would draw all those things from Europe even to the Sahara,” Fischer observed, “so long as there were plenty of it. But millions could not buv our dining-table in the clouds.”
“A little effort of the imagination, fortunately,” Pamela laughed, looking upwards. “There are stars, but no clouds.” “I guess one of them is going to slip down to the next table before long,” Van Teyl observed, with a little movement of his head.
They all three turned around and looked at the wonderful bank of pink roses within a few feet of them.
“One of the opera women, I daresay,” the young man continued. “They are rather fond of this place."
Pamela leaned forward. Fischer was watching the streets below. Only a short distance away was a huge newspaper building, flaring with lights. The pavements fringing it were thronged with a little stationary crowd. A row of motor-bicycles was in waiting. A night edition of the paper was almost due.
“Mr. Fischer,” Pa-
SYNOPSIS: Capt. Graham, an English officer, invent* o new explosive of tremendous power and tells about it at a fashionable London restaurant in the hearing of a number of people, including John Lutchester, another Englishman; Pamela Van Teyl, an American girl; Oscar Fischer, a German-American, and Baron Sunyea, a Japanese. The formula disappears and Graham is murdered. Pamela Van Teyl returns to America on the »am* boat as Fischer and finds that he is sharing rooms in New York wtih her brother with a Japanese valet named Nikasti. The valet proves to be in the Japanese secret service and, believing Pamela to have the stolen formula, he tries to force it from her. She is rescued by Lutchester, who has also journeyed to America. Fischer has James Van Teyl in his power and promises to release him if Pamela will give him the document. She gives him a document believing it to be the formula. Immediately Fischer and Baron Schwerin, a German envoy, give Nikasti a message to be delivered by him to the Japanese Emperor, proposing a secret treaty between the two countries. Lutchester takes the document by force from Nikasti and team* the contents. Fischer proves to be a member of a group of German-Amerieans plotting to prevent by violence the shipping of munitions from the United States to the Allies. He plots to have a gun-man kill Lutchester.
mela asked suddenly, “what about that news?”
He withdrew his eyes from the street. Almost unconsciously he straightened himself a little in his place. There was pride in his tone. Behind his spectacles his eyes flashed.
“I would have told it you before,” he said, “but you would not have believed it. Soon—in a very few moments—the news will be known. You will see it break away in waves from that building down there, so I will bear with your incredulity. The German and British fleets have met, and the victory has remained with us.”
“With us?” Pamela repeated.
“With Germany,” Fischer corrected himself hastily.
“Is this true?” James Van Teyl almost shouted. “Fischer, are you sure of what you’re saying? Why, its incredible!”
“It is true,” was the proud reply. “The German navy has been a long time proving itself. It has done so now. To-day every German citizen is the proudest creature breathing. He knew before that his armies were invincible. He knows now that his fleet is destined to
make his country the mistress of the seas England’s day is over. Her ships were badly handled and foolishly flung into battle. She has lost many of her finest units. Her navy is to-day a crippled and maimed force. The German fleet is out in the North Sea, waiting for an enemy who has disappeared.”
“It is inconceivable,” Pamela gasped.
“I do not ask you to believe my words," Fischer exclaimed. “Look.”
AS though the flood-gates had been suddenly opened, the stream of patient waiters broke away from the newspaper building below. Like little fireflies, the motor-bicycles were tearing down the different thoroughfares. Boys like ants, with their burden of news sheets, were running in every direction. Motor-waggons had started on their furious race. Even the distant echoes of their cries came faintly up. Fischer called a messenger and sent him for a paper.
“I do not know what report you will see,” he said, “but from whatever source it comes it will confirm my story. The news is too great and sweeping to be contradicted or ignored.”
“If it’s true,” Van Teyl muttered, “you’ve made a fortune in my office today. It looks like it, too. There was something wrong with Anglo-French beside your selling for the last hour this afternoon. I couldn’t get buyers to listen for a moment.”
“Yes, I shall have made a great deal of money,” Fischer admitted, “money which I shall value because it comes magnificently, but I hope that this victory may help me to win other things.”
He looked fixedly at Pamela and she moved uneasily in her chair. Almost unconsciously the man himself seemed somehow associated with his cause, to be assuming a larger and more tolerant place in her thoughts. Perhaps there was some measure of greatness about him after all. The strain of waiting for the papers became almost intolerable. At last the boy reappeared. The great black head-lines were stretched out before her. She felt the envelopment of Fischer’s triumph. The words were there in solid type, and the paper itself was one of the most re-
GREAT NAVAL BATTLE IN THE NORTH SEA. BRITISH ADMIRALTY ADMITS SERIOUS LOSSES.
“QUEEN MARY,” “INDEFATIGABLE,” AND
MANY FINE SHIPS LOST.
Pamela looked up from the sheet.
“It is too wonderful,” she whispered,
with a note of awe in her tone. “I don’t think that anyone ever expected this. We all believed in the British navy.’1 “There is nothing,” Fischer declared, “that England can do which Germany cannot do better.”
“And America best of all,” Pamela said. Fischer bowed.
“That is one comparison which will never now be made,” he declared, “for from to-night Germany and America will draw nearer together. The bubble of British naval omnipotence is pricked.” “Meanwhile,” Van Teyl observed, putting his paper away, “we are neglecting our dinner. Nothing like a good dose of sensationalism for giving us an appetite.” Fischer was watching his glass being filled with champagne. He seized it by the stem. His eyes for a moment travelled upwards.
“I am an American citizen,” he said, with a strange fervor in his tone, “but for the moment I am called back. And so I lift my glass and I drink—I alone, without invitation to you others—to those brave souls who have made of the North Sea a holy battle-ground.”
He drained his glass and set it down empty. Pamela watched him as though fascinated. For a single moment she was conscious of a queer sensation of personal pity for some shadowy and absent friend, of something almost like a lump in her throat, a strange instinct of antagonism towards the man by her side so enveloped in beatific satisfaction—then she frowned when she realized that she had been thinking of Lutchester, that her first impulse has been one of sympathy for him. The moment passed. The service of dinner was pressed more insistently upon them. James Van Teyl, who had been leaning back in his chair, talking to one of the maîtres d’hotel, dismissed him with a little nod and entrusted them with a confidence.
“Say, do you know who’s coming to the next table?” he exclaimed. “Sonia!” They were all interested.
“You won’t mind?” Fischer asked diffidently.
“In a restaurant, how absurd!” Pamela laughed. “Why, I’m dying to see her. I wonder how it is that some of these greatest singers in the world lead such extraordinary lives that people can never know anything of them.”
“Society is tolerant enough nowadays,” her brother observed, “but Sonia won’t give them even a decent chance to wink at her eccentricities. She crossed, you know, on the Prince Doronda’s yacht, for fear they wouldn’t let her land.”
“Here she comes,” Pamela whispered. There was a moment’s spellbound silence. Two maîtres d’hotel were hurrying in front. A pathway from the lift had been cleared as though for a royal personage. Sonia, in white from head to front, a dream of white lace and chinchilla, with a Russian crown of pearls in her glossy black hair, and a rope of pearls around her neck, came like a waxen figure, with scarlet lips and flashing eyes, towards her table. And behind her —Lutchester! Pamela felt her fingers gripping the tablecloth. Her first impulse, curiously enough, was one of wild fury with herself for that single instant’s pity. Her face grew cold and hard. She felt herself sitting a little more upright. Her eyes remained fixed upon the newcomers.
Lutchester's behavior was admirable. His glance swept their little table without even a shadow of interest. He ignored with passive unconcern the mistake of
Van Teyl’s attempted greeting. He looked through Fischer as though he had been a ghost. He stood by Sonia’s side while she seated herself, and listened with courteous pleasure to her excited admiration of the flowers and the wonderful vista. Then he took his own place. In his right hand he was carrying an evening paper with its flaming headlines.
“That,” Fischer pronounced, struggling to keep the joy from his tone, “is very British and very magnificent!”
PAMELA had imperfect recollections of the rest of the evening. She remembered that she was more than usually gay throughout dinner-time, but that she was the first to jump at the idea of a hurried departure and a visit to a musichall. Every now and then she caught a glimpse of Sonia’s face, saw the challenging light in her brilliant eyes, heard little scraps of her conversation. The Frenchwoman spoke always in her own language, with a rather shrill voice, which made Lutchester’s replies sound graver and quieter than usual. More than once Pamela’s eyes rested upon the broad lines of his back. He sat all the time like a rock, courteous, at times obviously amused, but underneath it all she fancied that she saw some signs of the disturbance from which she herself was suffering. She rose to her feet at last with a little sigh of relief. It was an ordeal through which she had passed.
Once in the lift, her brother and Fischer discussed Lutchester’s indiscretion volubly.
“I suppose,” Van Teyl declared, “that there isn’t a man in New York who wouldn’t have jumped at the chance of dining alone with Sonia, but for an Englishman, on a night like this,” he went on, glancing at the paper, “say, he must have some nerve!”
“Or else,” Fischer remarked, “a wonderful indifference. So far as I have studied the Anglo-Saxon temperament, I should be inclined to vote for the indifference. That is why I think Germany will win the war. Every man in that country prays for his country’s success, not only in words, but with his soul. I have not found the same spirit in England.”
“The English people,” Pamela interposed, “have a genius for concealment which amounts to stupidity.”
“I have a theory,” Fischer said, “that to be phlegmatic after a certain pitch is a sign of low vitality. However, we shall see. Certainly, if England is to be saved from her present trouble, it will not be the Lutchesters of the world who will do it, nor, it seems, her navy.”
They found their way to a large musichall, where Pamela listened to an indifferent performance a little wearily. The news of what was termed a naval disaster to Great Britain, was flashed upon the screen, and, generally speaking, the audience was stunned. Fischer behaved throughout the evening with tact and discretion. He made few references to the matter, and was careful not to indulge in any undue exhilaration. Once, when Van Teyl had left the box, however, to speak to some friends, he turned earnestly to Pamela.
“Will it please you soon,” he begged, “to resume our conversation of the other day? However you may look at it, things have changed, have they not? An invincible British navy has been one of the fundamental principles or beliefs in American politics. Now that it is destroyed, the outlook is different. I could
go myself to the proper quarter in Washington, or Von. Schwerin is here to be my spokesman. I have a fancy, though, to work with you. You know why.” She moved uneasily in her place.
“I have no idea,” she objected, “what it is that you have to propose. Besides I am only just a woman who has been entrusted with a few diplomatic errands.” “You are the niece of Senator Hastings,” Fischer reminded her, “and Hastings is the man through whom I should like my proposal to go to the President. It is an honest offer which I have to make, and although it cannot pass through official channels, it is official in the highest sense of the word, because it comes to me from the one man who is in a position to make himself responsible for it.” Her brother came back to the box before Pamela could reply, but, as they parted that night, she gave Fischer her
“Come and see our new quarters,” she invited. “I shall be at home any time to-morrow afternoon.”
It was one of the moments of Fischer’s life. He bowed low over her fingers.
“I accept, with great pleasure,” he murmured.
SONIA had an air of one steeped in an almost ecstatic content. On her return from the roof garden she had exchanged her wonderful gown for a white silk negligee, and her headdress of pearls for a quaint little cap. She was stretched upon a sofa drawn before the wide-flung French windows of her little sitting-room at the Ritz-Carlton, a salon decorated in pink and white, and filled almost to overflowing with the roses which she loved. By her side, in an easy chair which she had pressed him to draw up to her couch, sat Lutchester.
“This,” she murmured, “is one of the evenings which I adore. I have no work, no engagements—just one friend with whom to talk. My fine clothes have gone. I am myself,” she added, stretching out her arms. “I have my cigarettes, my iced sherbet, and the lights and murmur of the city there below to soothe me. And you to talk with me, my friend. What are you thinking of me—that I am a little animal who loves comfort too much, eh?”
"We all love comfort,” he replied. “Some of us are franker than others
She made a little grimace.
“Comfort! It is my own word, but what a word! It is luxury I worship— luxury—and a friend. Is that, perhaps, another word too slight, eh?”
He met the provocative gleam in her eyes with a smile of amusement.
“You are just the same child, Sonia,” he remarked. “Neither climate nor country, nor the few passing years, can change you.”
“It is you who have grown older and sterner,” she pouted. “It is you who have lost the gift of living to-day as though to-morrow were not. There was a time, was there not, John, when you did not care to sit always so far away?” She laid her hand—ringless, overmanicured, but delicately white—upon his. He smoothed it gently.
“You see, Sonia,” he sighed, “troubles have come that harden the hearts even of the gayest of us.”
“You are not going to remind me—” she began.
“If I reminded you of anything, Sonia,” he interrupted, “I would remind you that you are a Frenchwoman.”
She stretched out her hand restlessly and took one of the Russian cigarettes from a bowl by her side.
“You are not, by any chance, going to talk seriously, dear John?”
“I am,” he assured her, “very seriously.”
“Oh, la, la!” she laughed. “You, my dear, gay companion, you who have shaken the bells all your life, you are going to talk seriously! And to-night, when we meet again after so long. Ah, well, why should I be surprised?” she went on, with a pout. “You have changed. When one looks into your face, one sees the difference. But to me, of all people in the world! Why talk seriously to me? I am just Sonia, the gipsy nightingale. I know nothing of serious things.”
“You carry one very serious secret in your heart,” he told her gravely, “one little pain which must sometimes stab you. You are a Frenchwoman, and yet—”
Lutchester paused for a moment. Sonia, too, seemed suddenly to have awakened into a state of tense and vivid emotion. The cigarette burned away between her fingers. Her great eyes were fixed upon Lutchester. There was something almost like fear in their questioning depths.
“Fmish! Finish !” she insisted. “Con-
“And yet,” he went on, “your very dear friend, the friend for whose sake you are here in America, is your country’s enemy.”
She raised herself a little upon the couch.
“That is not true,” she declared furiously. “Maurice loves France. His heart aches for the misery that has come upon her. It is your country only which he hates. If France had but possessed the courage to stand by herself, to resist when England forced her friendship upon her, none of this tragedy would ever have happened. Maurice has told me so himself. France could have peace to-day, peace at her own price.”
“There is no peace which would leave France with a soul, save the peace which follows victory,” Lutchester replied sternly-
She crushed her cigarette nervously in her fingers, threw it away, and lit another.
"I will not talk of these thines with you.” she cried. “It was not. for this that vou sought me out. eh? Tell me at once? Were these the thoughts you had in your mind when you sent your little note?—when you chose to show yourself once more in my life?”
ïï*OR the first time of his own accord A he drew his chair a little nearer to hers. He took her hands. She gave him both unresistingly.
“Listen, dear Sonia,” he said, “it is true that I am a changed man. I am older than when we met last, and there are the other things. You remember the Chateau d’Albert?”
“Of course!” she murmured. “And the young Duc d’Albert’s wonderful house party. We all motored there from Paris. You and I were together! You have forgotten that, eh?”
“I lay in that orchard for two days,” he went on grimly, “with a hole in my side and one leg pretty nearly done for.
I saw things I can never forget, in those days, Sonia. D’Albert himself was killed. It was in that first mad rush. Of the Chateau there remains but four blackened walls.”
“Pauvre enfant!" she murmured. “But you are well and strong again now, is it not so? You will not fight again, eh? You were never a soldier, dear friend.” “Just now,” he confided, “I have other work to do. It is that other work which has brought me to America.”
She drew him a little closer to her. Her eyes questioned him.
“There is, perhaps, now,” she asked, “a woman in your life?”
“There is,” he admitted.
She made a grimace.
“But how clumsy to tell me, even though I asked,” she exclaimed. “What is she like? . . . But no. I do not wish to hear of her! If she is all the world to you, why did you send me that little note? Why are you here?”
“Because we were once dear friends, Sonia,” he said, “because I wish to save you from great trouble.”
She shrank from him a little fearfully. “What do you mean?”
“Sonia,” he continued, with a note of sternness in his tone, “during the last two years you have gone backwards and forwards between New York and Paris, six times. I do not think that you must make that journey again.”
She was standing now, with one hand gripning the edge of the table.
“John! . . John! . . What do
you mean?” she demanded, and this time her own voice was hard.
“I mean,” he said, “that when you leave here for Paris you will be watched day and night. The moment you set foot upon French soil you will be arrested and searched. If anything is found upon vou. such as a message from your friend in Washington—well, you know what it would mean. Can’t vou see, you foolish child, the risk you have been running? Would you care to be branded as a spy? —vou, daughter of France?”
She struck at him. Her lace sleeves had fallen back, and her white arm. with its little clenched fist, flashed through the twilight, aimlessly yet passionately.
“You dare to «'all me a snv! You, John?” she shrieked. “But it is hor-
“It is espionage.” he told her gravely, “to bring a letter from any person in a friendly capital and deliver it to an enemy. That is what you have done, Sonia, many times since the beginning of the war, so far without detection. It is because you are Sonia that I have come to save you from doing it again.”
She groped her way back to the couch. She th»-ew herself upon it with her back towards him, her head buried in her hands.
“The letters are only between friends,” she faltered. “They have nothing to do with the war.”
“You may have believed that,” Lutchester replied gently, “but it is not true. You have been made the bearer of confidential communications from the Austrian Embassy here to certain people in Paris whom we will not name. I have pledged my word, Sonia, that this shall cease.”
CHE sprang to her feet. All the ^ feline joy of her languorous ease seemed to have departed. She was quivering and nervous. She stood over her writing-table.
“A dispatch form!” she exclaimed. “Quick! I will not see Maurice again. Oh, how I have suffered! This shall end it. See, I have written ‘Good-bye!’ He will understand. If he comes, I will not see him. Ring the bell quickly. There—it is finished!”
A page-boy appeared, and she handed him the telegram. Then she turned a little pathetically to Lutchester.
“Maurice was foolish—very often foolish,” she went on unsteadily, “but he has loved me, and a woman loves love so much. Now I shall be lonely. And yet, there is a great weight gone from my mind. Always I wondered about those letters. You will be my friend, John? You will not leave me all alone?”
He patted her hand.
“Dear Sonia,” he whispered, “solitude is not the worst thing one has to bear, these days. Try and remember, won’t you, that all the men who might have loved you are fighting for your country, one way or another.”
“It is all so sad,” she faltered, “and you—you are so stern and changed.” “It is with me only as it is with the whole world,” he told her. “To-night, though, you have relieved me of one anxiety.”
Her eyes once more were for a moment frightened.
“There was danger for poor little me?” He nodded.
“It is past,” he assured her.
“And it is you who have saved me,” she murmured. “Ah, Mr. John,” she added, as she walked with him to the door, “if ever there comes to me a lover, not for the days only but pour la vie, I hope that he may be an Englishman like you, whom all the world trusts.” He laughed and raised her Angers to his lips.
“Over-faithful, you called us once,” he reminded her.
“But that was when I was a child,” she said, "and in days like these we are children no longer.”
T UTCHESTER left Sonia and the RitzG Carlton a few minutes before midnight, to find a great yellow moon overhead, which seemed to have risen somewhere at the back of Central Park. The broad thoroughfare up which he turned seemed to have developed a new and unfamiliar beauty. The electric lamps shone with a pale and almost unnatural glow. The flashing lights of the automobiles passing up and down were almost whimsically unnecessary. Lutchester walked slowly up Fifth Avenue in the direction of his hotel.
Something—the beauty of the night, perhaps, or some faint aftermath of sentimentality born of Sonia’s emotion— tempted him during those few moments to relax. He threw aside his mask and breathed the freer for it Once more he was a human being, treading the streets of a real city, his feet very much upon the earth, his heart full of the simplest things. All the scheming of the last few days was forgotten, the great issues, the fine yet devious way to be steered amidst the rocks which beset him; even the depression of the calamitous news from the North Sea passed away. He was a very simple human being, and he was in love. It was all so unpractical, so illusionary, and yet so real. Events, actual happenings—he thrust all thoughts of these away from his mind. What she might
be thinking of him at that moment he ignored. He was content to let his thoughts rest upon her, to walk through the moonlit street, his brain and heart revelling in that subtle facility of the imagination which brought her so easily to his presence. It was a vividly real Pamela, too, who spoke and walked and moved by his side. His memory failed him nowhere, followed faithfully the kaleidoscopic changes in her face and tone, showed him even that long, grateful, searching glance when their eyes had met in Van Teyl’s sitting-room. There had been times when she had shown clearly enough that she was anxious to understand, anxious to believe in him. He clung to the memory of these; pushed into the background that faint impression he had had of her at the roof-garden, serene and proud, yet with a faint look of something like pain in her startled
A large limousine passed him slowly, crawling up Fifth Avenue. Lutchester, with all his gifts of observation dormant, took no notice of its occupant, who leaned forward, raised the speaking-tube to his lips, and talked for a moment to his chauffeur. The car glided round a side street and came to a standstill against the curb. Its solitary passenger stepped quietly out and entered a restaurant. The chauffeur backed the car a little, slipped from his place and followed Lutehester.
By chance the little throng of people here became thicker for a few moments and then ceased. Lutchester drew
a little sigh of relief as he saw before him almost an empty pavement Then, just as he was relapsing once more into thought, some part of his subconscious instinct suddenly leaped into warning life. Without any actual perception of what it might mean, he felt the thrill of imminent danger, connected it with that soft footfall behind him, and swung round in time to seize a deadly and uplifted hand which seemed to end in a shimmer of dull steel. His assailant flung himself upon Lutchester with the lithe ferocity of a cat, clinging to his body, twisting and turning his arm to wrest it free. It was a matter of seconds only before his intended victim, with a fierce backward twist, broke the man’s wrist and, wrenching himself free from the knees which clung around him, flung him forcibly against the railings which bordered the pavement. Lutchester paused for a moment to recover his breath and looked around. A man from the other side of the street was running towards them, but no one else seemed to have noticed the struggle which had begun and finished in less than thirty seconds. The man. who was half-way across the thoroughfare, suddenly stopped short. He shouted a warning to Lutchester, who swung around. His late assailant, who had been lying motionless, had raised himself slightly, with a revolver clenched in his left hand. Lutchester’s spring on one side saved his life, for the bullet passed so close to his cheek that he felt the rush and heat of the air. The man in the centre of the road was busy shouting an
alarm vociferously, and other people on both sides of the thoroughfare were running up. Lutchester’s eyes now never left the dark, doubled-up figure upon the pavement. His whole body was tense. He was prepared at the slightest movement to spring in upon his would-be murderer. The man’s eyes seemed to be burning in his white face. He called out to Lutchester hoarsely.
“Don’t move or I shall shoot!”
He looked up and down the street. One of the nearest of the hastening figures was a policeman. He turned the revolver against his own temple and pulled the trigger. . .
Lutchester and an inspector of police walked slowly back along Fifth Avenue. Behind them, a little crowd was still gathered around the spot from which the body of the dead man had already been removed in an ambulance wagon.
“I really remember nothing.” Lutchester told his companion, “until I heard the footsteps behind me, and, turning round, saw the knife. This is simply an impression of mine—that he might have descended from the car which passed me and stopped just round the corner of that street.”
“He’s a chauffeur, right enough,” the inspector remarked. “It don’t seem to have been a chance job, either. Looks as though he meant doing you in. Got anv enemies?”
“None that I know of.” Lutchester answered cautiously. “Why, the car’s there still,” he added, as they approached the comer.
“And no chauffeur,” the other muttered.
The inspector searched the car and drew out a license from the flap pocket. The commissionaire from the restaurant approached them.
“Say, what are you doing with that car?” he demanded.
“Better fetch the gentleman to whom it belongs,” the inspector directed.
“What’s up, any way?” the man persisted.
“You do as you’re told,” was the sharp reply.
The commissionaire disappeared. The inspector studied the license which he had just opened.
“What’s the name?” Lutchester inquired.
The man hesitated for a moment, then passed it over.
“Oscar H. Fischer,” he said. “Happen to know the name?”
F UTCHESTER’S face was immovable.
4 He passed the license back again. They both turned round. Mr. Fischer had issued from the restaurant.
“What’s wrong?” he asked hastily. “The commissionaire saÿs you want me, Mr. Superintendent?”
The inspector produced his pocket-book.
“Just want to ask you a few questions about your chauffeur, sir.”
Fischer glanced at the driving-seat of the car, as though aware of the man’s disappearance for the first time.
“What’s become of the fellow?” he inquired.
"Shot himself, the inspector replied, “after a deliberate attempt to murder this gentleman.”
Mr. Fischer’s composure was admirable. There was a touch of gravity mingled with his bewilderment. Nevertheless he avoided meeting Lutchester’s
“You horrify me!” he exclaimed. “Why, the fellow’s only been driving for me for a few hours.”
“That so?” the inspector remarked, with a grunt. “Got any character with him?
“As a matter of fact, I did not,” Fischer admitted frankly. “I discharged my chauffeur yesterday, at a moment’s notice, and this man happened to call just as I was wanting the car out this afternoon. He promised to bring me references tomorrow from Mr. Gould and others. I engaged him on that understanding. He told me that his name was Kay—Robert Kay. That is all that I know about him, except that he was an excellent driver.
I am exceedingly sorry, Mr. Lutchester,” he went on, turning towards him, “that this should have happened.”
“So you two know one another, eh?” the inspector observed.
“Oh, yes, we know one another!” Lutchester admitted dryly.
“I shall have to ask you both for your names and addresses,” the official continued. “I think I won’t ask you any more questions at present. Seems to me the magistrate had better take this on.”
“I shall be quite at your service,” Lutchester promised.
The man made a few more notes, saluted, and took his leave. Fischer and Lutchester remained for moment upon the pavement.
“It is a dangerous custom,” Lutchester remarked, "to take a servant without a reference.”
“It will be a warning to me for the remainder of my life,” Fischer declared.
“I, too, have learnt something,” Lutchester concluded, as he turned away.
TjMSCHER, as he waited for Pamela the following afternoon in the sitting-room of her flat on Fifty-Eighth Street, felt that although the practical future of his life might be decided in other places, it was here that its real climax would be reached. Pamela herself was to pronounce sentence upon him. He was feeling scarcely at his best. An examination in the court-house, which he had imagined would last only a few minutes, had been protracted throughout the afternoon. The State attorney had asked him a great many questions, some rather awkward ones, and the inquiry itself had been almost grudgingly adjourned for a few hours. And here, in Pamela’s sittingroom, the first things which caught his eye were the headlines of one of the afternoon papers:
WESTERN MILLIONAIRE ENGAGES THE GIRL HESTE’S MURDERER AS CHAUFFEUR!
ATTEMPTED MURDER AND SUICIDE IN FIFTH AVE.
Fischer pushed the newspaper impatiently away, and, in the act of doing so, the door was opened and Pamela entered. She came towards him with outstretched hand.
“I see you are looking at the account of your misdeeds,” she said, as she seated herself behind a tea-tray. “Will you tell me why a cautious man like you engages, without reference, a chauffeur who turns out to be a murderer?”
Fischer frowned irritably.
“For four hours,” he complained, “several lawyers and a most inquisitive magistrate have been asking me the same question in a hundred different ways. I engaged the man because I needed a chauffeur badly. He was to have brought his references this morning. I was only trusting him for a matter of a few hours.” “And during those few hours,” she observed, “he seems to have developed a violent antipathy to Mr. Lutchester.”
“I do not understand the affair at all,” Mr. Fischer declared, “and, if I may say so, I am a little weary of it I came here to discuss another matter altogether.” She leaned back in her place.
“What have you come to discuss, Mr. Fischer?”
“That depends so much upon you,” he replied. “If you give me any encouragement, I can put before you a great proposition. If your prejudices, however, remains, as I think they always have been, on the side of England, why then I can do nothing.”
“If I counted for anything,” Pamela said, “I mean to say if it mattered to anyone what my attitude was, I would start by admitting that my sympathies are somewhat on the side of the Allies. On the other hand, my sympathies amount to nothing at all compared with my interest in the welfare of the United States. I am perfectly selfish in that respect.” “Then you have an open mind to hear what I have to say,” Fischer remarked. “I am glad of it You encourage me to proceed.”
“That is all very well,” Pamela said, stirring her tea, “but I cannot help asking once more why you come toTne at all?
What have I to do with any proposition you may have to make?”
“Just this,” he exclaimed. “I have a serious and authentic proposition to make to the American Government. I cannot make it officially—although it comes from the highest of all sources—for the most obvious reasons. It may seem better worth listening to to-day, perhaps, than a week ago, so far as you are concerned. That is because you believed in British invincibility upon the sea. I never did.”
“Go on, please,” Pamela begged. “I am still waiting to realize my own position in all this.”
“I should like,” Fischer declared, “my proposition to reach the President through Senator Hastings, and Senator Hastings is your uncle.”
“I see,” Pamela murmured.
“My offer itself is a very simple one,” Fischer continued. “Your secret service is so bad that you probably know nothing of what is happening. Ours, on the other hand, is still marvellously good, and what I am going to tell you is surely the truth. Japan is accumulating great wealth. She is saving her ships and men for one purpose, and one purpose only. Europe could not bribe her highly enough to take a more active part in this war. Her price was one which could not be paid. She demanded a free hand with the United States.”
“This,” Pamela admitted, “is quite interesting, but it is entirely in the realms of conjecture, is it not?"
“Not wholly,” Fischer insisted. “At the proper time I should be prepared to bring you evidence that tentative proposals were made by Japan to both England and France, asking what would be their attitude, should she provide them with half a million men and undertake transport, if at the conclusion of the war she desired a settlement with the United States. The answer from France and England was the same—that they could not countenance an inimical attitude towards the States.”
“You are bound to admit, then,” Pamela remarked, “that England played the game here?”
“The bribe was not big enough,” Fischer replied dryly. “England would sell her soul, but not for a mess of pottage. To proceed, however, Japan has practically kept out of the war. She is enjoying a prosperity never known before, and for every million pounds’ worth of munitions she exports to Russia, she puts calmly on one side 25 per cent to accumulate for her own use. At the conclusion of the war she will be in a position she has never occupied before, and while the rest of the world is still gasping she will proceed to carry out what has been the dream of her life—the invasion of your Western States.”
“I admit that this is plausible,” Pamela confessed, “but you are only pointing out a very obvious danger, for which I amagine that we are already fairly well prepared.”
“Believe me,” Fischer said earnestly, “you are not. It is this fact which makes the whole situation so vital to you. Later on in our negotiations I will show you proof of your danger. Meanwhile let me proceed to the offer which I am empowered to make, which comes direct from the one person in Germany whose word is unshakable.”
DAMELA changed her position a little,
as though to escape from the sunlight which was finding its way underneath the
Continued on paffe 72
The Pawns Count
Continued from page 46
broad blinds. Her eyes were fixed upon her visitor. She listened intently to every word he had to say. Despite some vague feeling of mistrust, which she acknowledged to herself might well have been prejudice, she found the situation interesting, even stimulating. Her few excursions into the world of high politics had never brought her into such a position as this. She felt both flattered and interested—attracted, too, in some nameless way, by the man’s personality, his persistence, his daring, his whole-heartedness. The situation was instinct with interest to
“But why make it to me?” she murmured.
“You are to be my delegate,” he answered. “Take the substance of what I say to you to your uncle. Try, for your country’s sake, to interest him in it The offer which I make shall save you a vast amount of sacrifice. It shall save your dislocating the industries of the country and sowing the seeds of a disturbing and yet inadequate militarism. I offer you, in short, a German alliance against Japan.”
“The value of that offer,” Pamela remarked thoughtfully, “would depend rather upon the issue of the present war. wouldn’t it?”
Fischer’s face darkened. His tone was almost irritable..
“That is already preordained," he said firmly. “You see, I will be quite frank with you. Germany has lost her chance of sweeping and complete victory. The result of the war will be a return to the status quo ante. Yet, believe me, Germany will be strong enough to settle some of the debts she owes, and the debt to Japan is one of these.’
“Still, there is the practical question of getting men and ships over from Germany to America,” Pamela persisted.
“It is already solved,” was the swift reply. “At the proper time I will show you and prove how it can be done. At present, not one word can pass my lips. It is one of the secrets on which the future of Germany depends.”
“And the price?” Pamela asked.
“That America adopts our view as to the high seas traffic,” Fischer replied. “This would mean the stopping of all supplies, munitions and ammunition from America to England. We ofTer you an alliance. We ask only for your real and actual neutrality for the remainder of the war. We offer a great and substantial advantage, a safeguard for your country’s future, in return for what? Simply that America will pursue the course of honor and integrity to all nations."
“America,” Pamela declared, “has never failed in this.’
Fischer shrugged his shoulders.
“There is more than one point of view,” he reminded her. “Will you take my message with you to Washington to-morrow?”
“Yes,” Pamela promised, “I will do that. The rest, of course, remains with others. I do not myself go so far, even,” she added, “as to declare myself in sympathy with
“And yet,” he insisted, with swift violence, “it is your sympathy which I desire more than anything in the world—your sympathy, your help, your companionship; a little—a very little at first—of your love.”
“I am afraid that I am not a very satisfactory person from that point of view,” Pamela confessed. “I have a great sympathy with every man who is really out for the great things, but so far as you are concerned, Mr. Fischer, or any one else,” she went on, after a moment’s hesitation, “I have no personal feeling.”
“That shall come,” he declared.
“Then please wait a little time before you talk to me again like this,” she said, rising and holding out her hand. “At present there is no sign of it.”
“There is so much that I could offer you,” he pleaded, gripping the hand which she had given him in farewell, “so much that I could do for your country. Believe me, I am not talking idly.”
“I do believe that,” she admitted. “You are a very clever man, Mr. Fischer, and I think that you represent all that you claim. Perhaps, if we really do negotiate-”
“But you must!” he interrupted impatiently. “You must listen to me for every reason — politically for your country’s sake, personally because I shall offer you and give you happiness and a position you could never find elsewhere.”
For a moment her eyes seemed to be looking through him, as though some vision of things outside the room were troubling her. Her finger had already touched the bell and a servant was standing upon the threshold.
“We shall meet in Washington,” Mr. Fischer concluded, with an air of a prophet, as he took his leave.
IT was within half an hour of closing time that same afternoon when Lutchester walked into James Van Teyl’s office. The young man greeted him with some surprise.
“Will you do some business for me?” Lutchester asked, without any prelimin-
“How many Anglo-French will you buy for me? I can obtain credit by cable tomorrow through any bank for twenty or thirty thousand pounds.”
“You want to buy Anglo-French?" Van Teyl repeated softly.
His visitor nodded.
Lutchester hesitated, and Van Teyl continued with an apologetic gesture.
“I beg your pardon. That’s not my job, anyway, to ask questions. I’ll buy you twenty-five thousand, if you like. Guess they can’t drop much lower."
Lutchester sat down.
“Thank you,” he said, “I will wait.’’
A little ripple of excitement went through the office as Van Teyl started his negotiations. It seemed to Lutchester that several telephones and half a dozen perspiring young men were called into his service. In the end Van Teyl made out a note and handed it to him.
“I could have done better for you yesterday,” he observed. “The market is strengthening all the time. There are probably some rumors.”
A boy went by along the pavement outside waving a handful of papers. His cry floated in through the open window:
REPORTED LOSS OF MANY MORE GERMAN BATTLESHIPS.
BRITISH CLAIM VICTORY.
Van Teyl grinned.
“You got here just in time,” he murmured, “but I suppose you knew all about this.”
“I have known since three o’clock,” Lutchester replied, “that all the reports of a German victory were false. You will find, when the truth is known, that the German losses were greater than the British.” “Then if that’s so,” Van Teyl remarked, “I’ve got one client who’ll lose a hatful which you ought to make. Coming up town?”
“I should like, if I may,” Lutchester said, “to be permitted to pay my respects to your sister.”
“Why, that’s fine!” Van Teyl exclaimed unconvincingly. “We’ll take the subway up to Fifty-Eighth Street.”
They left the office and plunged into the indescribable horrors of their journey. When they stepped out into the sunlit street on another atmosphere. Van Teyl laid his hand upon his companion’s arm in friendly fashion.
“Say, Lutchester,” he began, “I don’t know that you are going to find Pamela exactly all that she might be in the way of amiability and so on. I know these things are done on the other side, but here it’s considered trying your friends pretty high to take a lady of Sonia’s reputation where you are likely to meet your friends. No offence, eh?”
“Certainly not,” Lutchester replied. “I was sorry, of course, to see you last night. On the other hand, Sonia is an old friend, and my dinner with her had an object. I think I could explain it to your sister.”
“I don’t know that I should try,” Van Teyl advised. “For all her cosmopolitanism, Pamela has some quaint ideas. However, I thought I’d warn you, in case she’s a bit awkward. . . .”
Pamela, however, had no idea of being awkward. She welcomed Lutchester with a very sweet smile, and gave him the tips of her fingers.
“I was wondering whether we should see you again before we went,” she said. “We are leaving for Washington tomorrow'.”
“By the three o’clock train, I hope?” he ventured.
She raised her eyebrows.
“Why, are you going, too?”
“I hope so.”
“I should have thought most of the
munition works,” she observed, “were further north.”
“They are,” he acknowledged, “but I have business in Washington. By the by, will you both come out and dine with me to-night?”
Van Teyl glanced at his sister. She shook her head.
“I am so sorry,” she said, “but we are engaged. Perhaps we shall see something of you in Washington.”
“I have no doubt you will,” Lutchester replied. “All the same,” he added, “it would give me very great pleasure to entertain you this evening.”
“Why particularly this evening?” she asked.
t_T E looked at her with a queer direct*■ ness, and Pamela felt certain very excellent resolutions crumbling. She suffered her brother to leave the room without a word.
“Because,” he explained, “I think you will find a different atmosphere everywhere. There will be news in the evening papers.”
“News?” she repeated eagerly. “You know I am always interested in that.”
“The reports of a German naval victory were not only exaggerated,” Lutchester said calmly, “they were untrue. Our own official announcement was clumsy and tactless, but you will find it amplified and explained to-night.”
Pamela listened with an interest which bordered upon excitement.
“You are sure?” she exclaimed.
“Absolutely,” he replied. “My notification is official.”
“So you think if we dined with you, the atmosphere to-night would be different?” she observed, with a sudden attempt at the recondite.
Lutchester looked into her eyes without flinching. Pamela, to her annoyance, was worsted in the momentary duel.
“We cannot always choose our atmosphere,” he reminded her.
“Mademoiselle Sonia is perhaps connected with the regulation of the munition supplies from America?”
“Maidemoiselle Sonia,” Lutchester asserted, “is an old friend of mine. Apart from that, it was my business to talk to her.”
Lutchester assented with perfect gravity.
“Within a day or two,” he said, “now, if you made a point of it, I could explain a great deal.”
Pamela threw herself into a chair almost irritably.
“You have the cult of being mysterious, Mr. Lutchester,” she declared. “To be quite frank with you, you seem to be the queerest mixture of any man I ever knew.”
“It is the fault of circumstances,” he regretted, “if I am sometimes compelled to present myself to you in an unfavorable light. Those circumstances are passing. You will soon begin to value me at my true worth.”
“We had half promised,” Pamela murmured, “to go out with Mr. Fischer this evening.”
“The more reason for my intervention,” Lutchester observed. “Fischer is not a fit person for you to associate with.”
She laughed curiously.
“People who saw you at the roof-garden last night might say that you were scarcely a judge,” Pamela retorted.
"People who did not know the circumstances might have considered me guilty
of an indiscretion,” Lutchester admitted, “but they would have been entirely wrong. On the other hand, your friend Fischer is a would-be murderer, a liar, and is at the present moment engaged in intrigues which are a most immoral compound of duplicity and cunning.”
“I shall begin to think,” Pamela murmured, “that you don’t like Mr. Fischer!” “I detest him heartily,” Lutchester confessed.
“I find him singularly interesting,” Pamela announced, sitting up in her
“I dare say you do,” Lutchester replied. “Women are always bad judges of our sex. All the same, you are not going to marry him.”
“How do you know he wants to marry me?” Pamela demanded.
“And what do you mean by saying that I am not going to marry him?” “Because,” Lutchester announced, “you are going to marry someone else.”
Pamela rose to her feet. There was a little spot of color in her cheeks.
“Am I, indeed!” she exclaimed. “And whom, pray?”
“That I will tell you at Washington,” Lutchester promised.
“You know his name, then?”
“I know him intimately,” was the cool reply. “What about our dinner to-night?” “We are going to dine with Mr. Fischer,” Pamela decided.
“I really don’t think so,” Lutchester objected. “For one thing, Mr. Fischer will probably have to attend the police court again later on.”
“For having hired a famous murderer to try and get rid of me,” Lutchester explained suavely.
“Do you really believe that?” Pamela scoffed. “Why should he want to get rid of you? What harm can you do him?” “I am trying to find out,” Lutchester replied grimly. “Still, since you ask the question, the pocket-book which is on its way to Germany, and which I picked up
when Nikasti was taken ill-”
“Oh, yes, I know about that!” Pamela interrupted. “That is the one thing that always sets me thinking about you. What did you do it for.? How did you know what it meant to me?”
“Divination, I imagine,” Lutchester answered, “or perhaps I was thinking what it might mean to Mr. Fischer.”
SHE looked at him and her face was a study in mixed expressions. Her forehead was a little knitted, her eyes almost strained in their desire to read him; her lips were petulant.
“Dear me, what a puzzle you are!” she exclaimed. “All the same, I am going to wait for Mr. Fischer. It doesn’t matter whether one dines or sups. I suppose he will get away from the police court sometime or other.”
“But any way,” he protested, “you’ve heard all that Mr. Fischer has to say. Now I, on the other hand, haven’t shown you my hand yet.”
“Heard all that Mr. Fischer has to say?” she repeated.
“Certainly ! Wasn’t he here for several hours with you this afternoon? Didn’t he promise you an alliance with Germany against Japan, if you could persuade certain people at Washington to change their tone and attitude towards the export of munitions?”
“This,” she declared, trying to keep a
certain agitation from her tone, “is mere bluff.”
Lutchester was suddenly very serious indeed.
“Listen,” he said, “I can prove to you, if you will, that it is not bluff. I can prove to you that I really know something of what I am talking about.”
“There is nothing I should like better,” she declared.
“To begin with, then,” Lutchester said, “the pocket book which Nikasti is supposed to have stolen from your room, the pocket-book of young Sandy Graham, which Mr. Fischer has sent to Germany, does not contain the formula of the new explosive, or any other formula that amounts to anything.”
“Just how do you know that?” she demanded.
“To continue,” Lutchester said, playing with a little ornament upon the mantelpiece, “you have an appointment—within half an hour, I believe—with Mr. Paul Haskall, who is a specialist in explosives, having an official position with the American Government.”
She had ceased to struggle any longer with her surprise. She looked at him fixedly but remained silent.
“It is your belief,” he proceeded, “that you are going to hand over to him the formula of which we were speaking.”
“It is no belief,” she replied. “It is a certainty. I took it myself from Graham’s pocket.”
“Good !” have you opened it?”
“I have,” she declared. “It is, without doubt, the formula.”
“On the other hand, I am here to assure you that it is not,” Lutchester replied.
Her hand was tearing at the cushion by her side. She moistened her lips. There was something about Lutchester hatefully convincing.
“What do you mean?” she demanded. “Is this a trick? You won’t get it! No one but Mr. Haskall will get that formula from me!”
“It will only puzzle him when he gets it! To tell you the truth, the formula is rubbish.”
“I don’t believe you,” she said firmly. “If you think you are going to interfere with my handing it over to him, you are mistaken.”
“I have no wish to do anything of the sort,” Lutchester assured her. “Make a bargain with me. Mr. Haskall will be here soon. Unfasten the little package you are carrying somewhere about your person, hand him the envelope and watch his face. If he tells you that what you have offered him is a coherent and possible formula for an explosion, then you can look upon me for ever afterwards as the poor, foolish person you sometimes seem to consider me. If, on the other hand, he tells you that it is rubbish, I shall expect you at the Ritz-Carlton at half-past
There was a ring at the bell. She rose to her feet.
“I accept,” she declared. “That is Mr. Haskall. And, by the by, Mr. Lutchester, don’t order too elaborate a dinner, for I
am very much afraid you will have to eat it all yourself. Now, au revoir,” she added, as the door was opened in obedience to her summons and a servant stood prepared to show him out. “If we don’t turn up to-night, you will know the reason.”
“I am very hopeful,” Lutchester replied. as he turned away.
To be Continued.