The Pawns Count
A Story'of Secret Service and the Great War
E. Phillips Oppenheim
“Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo,” “The Double Traitor,” etc.
LUTCHESTER breathed the air of Washington and felt almost homesick. The stateliness of the city, its sedate and quiescent air after the turmoil of New York, impressed him profoundly. Everywhere its diplomatic associations made themselves felt. Congress was in session, and the faces of the men whom he met continually in the hotels and restaurants seemed to him some index of the world power which flung its farreaching arms from beneath the Capitol
One afternoon a few days after his arrival he called at the Hastings’ house, a great Colonial mansion within a stone’sthrow of his own headquarters. The mention of his name, however, seemed to chill all the hospitality out of the smiling face of the southern butler who answered his ring. Miss Van Teyl was out, and from the man’s manner it was obvious that Miss Van Teyl would continue to be out for a very long time. Lutchester retraced his steps to the British Embassy, where he had spent most of the morning, and made his way to the sitting-jroom of one of the secretaries. The Honorable Philip Downing, who was eagerly waiting for a cable recalling him to take up a promised commission, welcomed him heartily.
“Things are slack here to-day, old fellow. Let’s go out to the Country Club and have a few sets of tennis or a game of golf, whichever you prefer,” he suggested. “I’ve done my little lot till the evening.”
“Sho^ on to-night, isn’t there?” Lutchester inquired.
“Just a reception. You’re going to put in an appearance?”
“I fancy so. Have you got your list of guests handy?”
The young man dived into a drawer and produced a few typewritten sheets.
“Alphabetical list of acceptances, with here and there a few personal notes,” he pointed out, with an air of self-satisfaction. “I go through this list with the chief while he’s changing for dinner.”
Lutchester ran his forefinger down the list.
“Senator Theodore and Mrs. Hastings,” he quoted. “By the by, they have a niece staying with them.”
“Want a card for her?” the Honorable Philip inquired with a grin.
“I should like it sent off this moment,” Lutchester replied.
The young man took a square, giltedged card from a drawer by his side, filled it out at Lutchester’s dictation, rang the bell, and dispatched it by special messenger.
“I’ve got my little buzzer outside,” he observed. “We’ll make tracks for the club, if you’re ready. . . .”
SYNOPSIS: Capt. Graham, an English officer, invents a new explosive of tremendous power and tells about it at a fashionable London restaurant in the nearing of a number of people, including John Lutchester, another Enghsnman; Pamela Van Teyl, an American girl; Oscar Fischer, a German-Amencan, and Baron Sunyea, a Japanese. The formula disappears and Graham is murdered. Pamela Van Teyl returns to America on the same boat as Fischer and finds that he is sharing rooms in New York with 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, lie 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 learns the contents. Fischer proves to be a mcmof a group of German-Americans 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, but the attempt fails. Lutchester tells Pamela that the formula she took from Graham was not the right one. Fischer endeavors to reach the President with an offer of alliance similar to that proposed to Japan through Senator Hastings, Pamela’s uncle.
The two men played several sets of tennis and afterwards lounged in two wicker chairs, underneath a gigantic plane tree in a corner of the lawn. The place was crowded and Philip Downing was an excellent showman.
“Washington,” he explained, “has never been so divided into opposite camps, and this is almost the only common meeting ground. Everyone has to come here, of course. The German staff play tennis and the Austrians all go in for polo. Here comes Ziduski. He’s most fearfully popular with the ladies here—does us a lot of harm they say. He’s a great stickler for etiquette. He used to nod and call me Phil. Now you watch. He’ll bow from his waist, as though he had corsets on. As a matter of fact, he’s a good sports-
Count Ziduski’s bow was stiff enough, but his intention was obvious. He stopped before the two men, exchanged a somewhat stilted greeting with Philip Downing, and turned to Lutchester.
“I believe,” he said, “that I have the honor of addressing Mr. Lutchester?”
Lutchester rose to his feet.
“That is my name,” he admitted.
“We have met in Rome, I think, and in Paris,” the Count reminded him. “If I might beg for the favor of a few moments’ conversation with you.”
The two men strolled away together. The Count plunged at once into the middle of things.
“It is you, sir, I believe, whom I Save to thank for the abrupt departure of Mademoiselle Sonia from New York?”
“Quite true,” Lutchester admitted.
“Under different circumstances,” the Count proceeded, “I might regard such interference in my affairs in a different manner. Here, of course, that is impossible. I speak to you out of regard for the lady in question. You appear in some mysterious manner to have discovered the fact that she was in the habit of bringing entirely unimportant and non-political messages from dear friends in France.”
“Mademoiselle Sonia,” Lutchester said calmly, “had for a brief space of time forgotten herself. She was engaged in carrying out espionage work on your behalf. I believe I may say that she will do so no more.”
'T'HE Count was a man of medium -*■ height, thin, with complexion absolutely colorless, and deep-set, tired eyes. At this moment, however, he seemed endowed with the spirit of a new virility. The cane which he grasped might have been a dagger. His smooth tones nursed a threat.
“Mr. Lutchester,” he declared, “if harm should come to her through your information, I swear to God that you shall pay!”
Lutchester’s manner was mild and unprovocative.
“Count,” he replied, “we make no war upon women. Sonia has repented, and the knowledge which I have of her misdeeds will be shared by no one. She has gone back to her country to work for the Red Cross there. So far as I am concerned, that is the end.”
The two men walked a few steps further in unbroken silence. Then the Count raised his hat.
“Mr. Lutchester,” he said, “yours is the reply of an honorable enemy. I might have trusted you, but with Sonia is half of my life. I offer you my thanks.”
He strolled away, and Lutchester rejoined his young friend.
“The lion and the lamb seem to have parted safely!” the latter exclaimed. “Now sit by my side and I will show you interesting things. Those four irreproachable young men over there in tennis flannels are all from the German Embassy. The two elder ones behind are Austrians. AH those women are the wives
of Senators who sympathize with Germany. Their husands look like it, don’t they? To-day they have an addition to their ranks—the thin, elderly man there, whose clothes were evidently made in London. That’s Senator Hastings. He is
a personal friend of the President. Jove, what a beautiful girl with Mrs. Hastings!”
“That,” Lutchester told him, “is the young lady to whom you have just sent a card of invitation for to-night.”
“Then here’s hoping that she comes,” Philip Downing observed, finishing his glass of mint julep. “Is she a pal of yours?”
“Yes, I know her,” Lutchester admitted. «
“Let’s go and butt in, then,” Downing suggested. “I love breaking up these little gatherings. You’ll see them all stiffen when we come near. I hope they haven’t got hold of Hastings, though.” The two men rose to their feet and crossed the lawn. Fischer, who had suddenly appeared in the background, whispered something in Mrs. Hastings’ ear. She swung round to Pamela, a second too late. Pamela, with a word of excuse to the young man with whom she was talking, stepped away from the circle and held out her hand to Lutchester.
“So you have really come to Washington!” she exclaimed.
“As a rescuer,” Lutchester replied. “I feel that I have a mission. We cannot afford to lose your sympathies. May I introduce Philip Downing?”
Pamela shook hands with the young man and took her place between them.
“I’ve been envying you your seat under the tree,” she said. “Couldn’t we go there for a few moments?”
Mrs. Hastings detached herself and approached them. She received Philip Downing’s bow cordially, and she was almost civil to Lutchester.
“I can’t have my niece taken away,” she protested. “We are just going in to tea, Pamela.”
Pamela shook her head.
“I am going to sit under that tree with Mr. Lutchester and Mr. Downing,”
she declared. “Tea doesn’t attract me'in the least, and that tree does.”
Mrs. Hastings accepted defeat with a somewhat cynical gracefulness. She closed her lorgnettes with a little snap.
“You leave us all desolated, my dear Pamela,” she said. “You remind us of what your poor dear father used to say— ‘Almost any one could live with Pamela if she always had her own way.’ ”
Pamela laughed as she strolled across the lawn.
“Aren’t one’s relatives trying!” she murmured.
CHAPTER XXX11I. pHILIP DOWNING very soon justified the profession to which he belonged by strolling off with some excuse about paying his respects to some acquaintances. Pamela and Lutchester immediately dropped the somewhat frivolous tone of their conversation.
“You know that things are moving with our friend Fischer?” she began.
“I gathered so,” Lutchester assented. “His scheme is growing into shape,” she went on. “You know what wonderful people his friends are for organizing. Well, they are going to start a society all through the States and nominate for President—Uncle Theodore.”
“Will they have any show at all?” Lutchester asked curiously.
She shrugged her shoulders.
“Who can tell? The German-Americans are very powerful indeed all through the west, and then the pacifists will join them. You see, I believe that although the soul of the country is with the Allies, England is the most tactless country in the world. She is always giving little pinpricks to the Government over here, either about maritime law or one thing or another. Then all those articles in the papers about America being too proud to fight, the sneering tone of some, even, of the leading reviews, did a lot of harm. Uncle Theodore is going to stand for what they call the true neutrality. That is to say, no munitions, no help for either
“Well, 1 don’t know anything about American politics, Lutchester confessed, “but I shouldn’t think he’d have an
“Money is immensely powerful,” she went on reflectively, “and all the great money interests of the country are controlled by German-Americans. Mr. Fischer has almost thrown me over politically, but Uncle Theodore is crazy about the idea of a German pledge to protect America against Japan. That is going
to be the great argument which he will keep up his sleeve until after the nomina“Fischer’s trump card,” Lutchester observed. “He hasn’t shown you a certain autograph letter yet, I suppose?” She shook her head.
“He may have shown it to Uncle Theodore. I’m afraid he doesn’t mean to approach me again. He seems to have completely changed his attitude towards me since the night he saw us at the RitzCarlton dining together. He was going to show me the letter the first day after his arrival in Washington. Instead of that he has been in the house for hours at a time without making the slightest attempt to see me.”
“Faithless fellow!” Lutchester murmured. “Nothing like an Englishman, after all, for absolute fidelity.”
“Do you really think so,” Pamela inquired anxiously. “Do you think I should be safe in trusting my heart and future to an Englishman?”
“To one particular Englishman, yes!” was the firm reply. “I was rather hoping you might have made up your mind.”
“Too many things to think about,” she laughed. “How long are you going to stay in Washington?”
“A few hours or days or weeks—until 1 have finished the work that brought me
“And what exactly' is that?"
“You ask me lightly,” he replied, “but, if you are willing I have decided to take you into my confidence. Our friend Nikasti will be here to-morrow. He was to have sailed for Japan yesterday, but he has postponed his voyage for a few days. Do you know much about the Japanese, Miss Pamela?”
“Very little,” she acknowledged.
“Well, I will tell you one thing. They are not very good at forgiving. There was only one way I could deal with Nikasti in New York, and it was a brutal way. I have seen him twice since. He wouldn’t look me in the eyes. I know what that means. He hates me. In a sense I don’t believe he would allow that to interfere in any way with his mission. In another sense it would. The Allies, above all things, have need of Japan. We want Japan and America to be friends. We don’t want Germany butting in between the two. Baron Yung is a very clever man, but he is even more impenetrable that his countrymen generally are. Our people here admit that they find it difficult to progress with him very far. They believe that secretly he is in sympathy with Nikasti’s reports — but you don’t know about those, I suppose?”
“I don’t think I do,” she admitted.
“Nikasti was sent to England some years ago to report upon us as a country. Japan at that time was meditating an alliance with one of the great European Powers. Obviously it must be Germany or England. Nikasti travelled all through England, studied our social life, measured our weaknesses; did the same through Germany, returned to Japan, and gave his vote in favor of Germany. I have even seen a copy of his report. He laid great stress upon the absolute devotion to sport of our young men, and the entire absence of any patriotic sentiment or any means of national defence. Well, as you know', for various reasons his counsels were over-ridden, and Japan chose the British alliance. That was entirely the fault of imperfect German diplomacy. At a time like this, though, I cannot help thinking that some elements of his former distrust still remain in Nikasti’s mind, and I have an idea that Baron Yung is, to a certain extent, a sympathizer, I’ve got to get at the bottom of this before I leave the States. If I need your help, will you give it me?”
“If I can,” she promised.
They saw Mrs. Hastings’ figure on the terrace, waving, and Pamela rose reluctantly to her feet.
“I don’t suppose,” Lutchester continued, as they strolled across the lawn, “that you have very much influence with your uncle, or that he would listen very much to anything that you have to say, but if he is really in earnest about this thing he is going to play a terribly dangerous game. As things are at present he has a very pleasant and responsible position as the supporter and friend of a very able man. With regard to this new movement he may find the whole ground crumble away beneath his feet. Fischer is playing the game of a madman. l,t isn’t only political defeat that might come to him, but disgrace—even dishonor.”
“You frighten me,” Pamela confessed gravely.
“Your uncle,” he went on, “is one of those thoroughly conceited, egotistical men who will probably listen to no one. You see, I have found out a little about
him already. But they tell me that her social position means a great deal to your aunt. Neither her birth nor her friends could save her if Fischer drags your uncle at his chariot wheels.”
“Do you think, perhaps, that you underestimate Mr. Fischer’s position over here?" she asked thoughtfully.
“I don’t think I do,” he replied, t‘but here is something which you have scarcely appreciated. Fischer has had the effrontery to link himself up with a little crowd of Germans all through the States, who are making organized attempts to destroy the factories where ammunitions are being made for the Allies. That sort of thing, you know, would bring any one, however distantly connected with it, to Sing-Sing. . . . One moment,” he
added quickly, as Mrs. Hastings stepped forward to meet them, “the reception at the British Embassy to-night?”
“The others are going,” she said. “My aunt didn’t feel she was sufficiently-”
“We sent you a card round especially this afternoon,” Lutchester interrupted. “You’ll come?”
“How nice of you! Of course I will," she promised.
CHAPTER XXXIV. “OMALL affair, this,” Downing observed, as he piloted Lutchester through the stately reception rooms of the Embassy. “You see, we are all living a sort of touchy life here, nowadays. We try to be civil to any of the German or Austrian lot when we meet, but, of course, they don’t come to our functions. And every now and them some of those plaguey neutrals get the needle and they don’t come, so we never know quite where we are. Guadopolis has been avoiding us lately, and I hear he was seen out at the Lakewood Country Club with Count Reszka, the Rumanian Minister, a few days ago. Gave the Chief quite a little flurry, that did.”
“There’s an idea over in London,” Lutchester remarked, “that a good deal of the war is being shaped in Washington nowadays.”
“That is the Chief’s notion,” Downing assented. “I know he’s pining to talk to you, so we’ll go and do the dutiful.”
Lutchester was welcomed as an old friend by both the Ambassador and his wife. The former drew him to a divan from which he could watch the entrance to the rooms, and sat by his side.
“I am glad they sent you out, Lutchester,” he said earnestly. “If ever a country needed watching by a man with intelligence and experience this one does to-
“Do you happen to know that fellow Oscar Fischer?” Lutchester asked.
“I do, and I consider him one of the most dangerous people in the States for us,” the Ambassador declared. “He has a great following, huge wealth, and, although he is not a man of culture, he doesn’t go about his job in that bullheaded way that most of them do.”
“He’s trying things on with Japan,” Lutchester observed. “I think I shall manage to checkmate him there all right. But there’s another scheme afloat that I don't follow so closely. You know Senator Hastings, I suppose?” .
The Ambassador nodded.
“Senator Theodore Hastings,” he repeated thoughtfully. “Yes, he’s rather a dark horse. He is supposed to be the President’s bosom friend, but I hear whispers that he'd give his soul for a nomination, adopt any cause or fight anyone’s battle.”
“That’s my own idea of him,” Lutchester replied, “and I think you will find him in the field with a pretty definite platform before long.”
“You think he’s mixed up with Fischer?” the Ambassador inquired.
“I’m sure he is,” Lutchester assented. “Not only that, but they have something up tjieir sleeve. I think I can guess what it is, but I’m not sure. How have things seemed to you here lately?”
“To tell you the truth, I haven’t liked the look of them,” the Ambassador confided. “There’s something afoot, and I can’t be sure what it is. Look at the crowd to-night. Of course, all the Americans are here, but the diplomatic attendance has never been so thin. The Rumanian Minister and his wife, the Italian, the Spanish, and the Swedish representatives are all absent. I have just heard, too, that Baron von Schwerin is giving a dinner-party.”
Lutchester looked thoughtfully at the little stream of people. The Ambassador left him for a few moments to welcome some late-comers. He returned presently and resumed his seat by Lutchester’s side.
“Of course,” he continued, lowering his voice, “all formal communications between us and the enemy Embassies have ceased, but it has come to be an understood thing, to avoid embarrassments to our mutual friends, that we do not hold functions on the same day. I heard that Von Schwerin was giving this dinner party, so I sent round this morning to inquire. The reply was that it was entirely a private one. One of our youngsters brought us in a list of the guests a short time ago. I see Hastings is one of them, and Fischer, and Rumania and Greece will be represented. Now Hastings was to have been here, and as a rule the neutrals are very punctilious.”
“I .suppose the way that naval affair was represented didn’t do us any good,” Lutchester observed.
“It did us harm, without a doubt,” was the lugubrious admission. Still, fortunately, these people over here are clever enough to understand our idiosyncrasies. I honestly think we’d rather whine about a defeat than glory in a victory.”
“Diplomatically, too,” Lutchester remarked thoughtfully, “I should have said that things seemed all right here. The President comes in for a great deal of abuse in some countries. Personally, I think he has been wonderful.”
The Ambassador nodded.
“You and I both know, Lutchester,” he said, “that the last thing we want is to find America dragged into this war. Such a happening would be nothing more nor less than a catastrophe in itself, to say nothing of the internal dissensions here. On the other hand, as things are now, Washington is becoming a perfect arena for diplomatic chicanery, and I have just an instinct—I can’t define it in any way —which leads me to believe that some fresh trouble has started within the last twenty-four hours.”
T ADY RIDLINGSHAWE motioned to her husband with her fan, who rose at once to his feet.
“I must leave you to look after yourself for a time, Lutchester,” he concluded. “Youttl find^ plenty of people here you know.,, Don’t go until you’ve seen me
Lutchester wandered off in search of Pamela. He found her with Mrs. Hastings, surrounded by a little crowd of acquaintances. Pamela waved her fan, and they made way for him.
“Mr. Lutchester, I have been looking
everywhere for you!” she exclaimed. “What a secretive person you are! Why couldn’t you tell me that Lady Ridlingshawe was your cousin? I want you to take me to her, please. I met her sister out in Nice.”
She laid her fingers upon his arm, and they passed out of the little circle.
“All bluff, of course,” she murmured. “Find the quietest place you can. I want to talk to you.”
They wandered out on to a balcony where some of the younger people were taking ices. She leaned over the wooden
“Listen,” she said, “I adore this atmosphere, and I am perfectly certain there is something going on—something exciting, I mean. You know that the Baron von Schwerin has a dinner-party?”
“I know that,” he assented.
“Uncle Theodore is going with Mr. Fischer. He was invited at the last moment, and I understand that his presence was specially requested.”
Lutchester stood for a short time in an absorbed and sombre silence. In the deep blue twilight his face seemed to have fallen into sterner lines. Without a doubt he was disturbed. Pamela looked at him anxiously.
“Is anything the matter?” she asked.
He shook his head.
“Nothing definite, only for the last few hours I have felt that things here are reaching a crisis. There is something going on around us, something which seems to fill Fischer and his friends with confidence, something which I don’t quite understand, and which it is my business to understand. That is really what is worrying me.”
She nodded sympathetically and glanced around for a moment.
“Let me tell you something,” she whispered. “This evening my uncle came into my room just before dinner. There is a little safe built in the wall for jewelery. He begged for the loan of it. His library safe, he said, was out of order. I couldn't see what he put in, but when he had closed the door he stood looking at it for a moment curiously. I made some jesting remark about its being a treasure ¿¿3t, but he answered me seriously. ‘You are going to sleep to-night, Pamela,’ he said, ‘within a few yards of a dozen or so of written words which will change the world’s history.’ ”
Lutchester was listening intently. There was a prolonged pause.
“Well?” he asked, at last.
She glanced at the little Yale key which hung from her bracelet.
“Nothing! I was just wondering how I should be able to sleep through the night without opening the safe.”
“But surely your uncle didn’t give you the key?”
She shook her head.
“I don’t suppose he knows I have such a thing,” she replied. “He has a masterkey himself to all the safes, which he used. This is one the housekeeper gave me as soon as I arrived.”
Lutchester looked out into the darkness.
“Tell me,” he enquired, “is that your house—the next one to this?”
“That’s the old Hastings’ house,” she assented. “They are all family mansions along here.”
“It looks an easy place to burgle,” he remarked.
She laughed quietly.
“I should think it would be,” she admitted. “There are any quantity of downstair windows. We don’t have burglaries in Washington, though—certainly not this side of the city.”
A little bevy of young people had found their way into the gardens. Lutchester waited until they had passed out of earshot before he spoke again.
“I have reason to believe,” he continued, “that in the course of their negotiations' Fischer has deposited with your uncle a certain autograph letter, of which we have already spoken, making definite proposals to America if she will change her attitude on the neutrality question.”
“The written words,” Pamela murmured.
Lutchester’s hand suddenly closed upon her wrist. She was surprised to find his fingers so cold, yet marvellously tenacious.
“You are going to lose that key and I am going to find it,” he said, quietly. “I am sorry—but you must.”
“I am going to do nothing of the sort,” Pamela objected.
His fingers remained like a cold vise upon her wrist. She made no effort to
draw it away.
“Listen,” he said; “do you believe that the Hastings-cum-Fisher party is going to be the best thing that could happen for America?”
“I certainly do not,” she admitted.* “Then do as I beg. Let me take that key from your bracelet. You shall have no other responsibility.”
“And what are you going to do with it?”
“You must leave that to me,” he answered. “I will tell you as much as I can. I stopped Nikasti sailing for Japan, but I made a mortal enemy of him at the same time. He has come to Washington to consult with his ambassador. They are together to-night. It is my mission to convince them of Germany’s duplicity.” “I see . . . And you think that
these written words-?”
“Give the key to me,” he begged, “and ask no questions.”
She shook her head.
“I should object most strongly to nocturnal disturbers of my slumbers!”
It seemed to her that his frame had become tenser, his tone harder. The grip of his fingers was still upon her wrist.
“Even your objection,” he said, “might not relieve you of the possibility of their advent.”
“Don’t be silly,” she answered, “and, above all, don’t try to threaten me. If
you want my help-”
She looked steadfastly across at the looming outline of the Hastings house.
“I do want your help,” he assured her. “How long should you require the letter for?”
“One hour,” he replied.
She led him down some steps on to the smooth lawns which encircled the house. They passed in and out of some gigantic shrubs until at last they came to a paling. She felt along it for a few yards.
“There is a gate there,” she told him. “Can you do anything with it?”
It was fastened by an old lock. He lifted it off its hinges, and they both passed through.
“Keep behind the shrubs as much as you can,” she whispered. “There is a way into the house from the verandah here.” They reached at last the shadow of the building. She paused.
“Wait here for me,” she continued. “I would rather enter the house without being seen, if I can, but it doesn’t really matter. I can make some excuse for coming back. Don’t move from where you
She glided away from him and disappeared. Lutchester waited, standing well back in the shadow of the shrubs.
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From the Embassy came all the time the sound of music, occasionally even the murmur of voices; from the dark house in front of him nothing. Suddenly he heard what seemed to be the opening of a window, and then soft footsteps. Pamela appeared round the corner of the building, a white spectral figure against that background of deep blue darkness. She came on tiptoe, running down the steps and holding her skirts with both hands.
“Not a soul has seen me,” she whispered. “Take this quickly.”
She thrust an envelope into his hands, and something hard with it.
“That is Uncle Theodore’s seal," she explained. “He sealed up the envelope when he put it in there. Now come back quickly to the Embassy. You must please hurry with what you want to do. If I have left when you return, you must come back to exactly this place. That window”—she pointed upwards—“will be wide open. You must throw a pine cone or a pebble through it. I shall be waiting.”
“I understand,” he assured her.
They retraced their steps. Once more they drew near to the Embassy. The night had grown warmer and more windows had been opened. They reached the verandah. She touched his hand for a moment.
“Well,” she said, “I don’t know whether I have been wise or not. Try and be back in less than an hour if you can. 1 am going in alone.”
* I 'HE left him and Lutchester, after a few brief words with the Ambassador, hurried away to his task. In twenty minutes he stood before a tall, grey-stone building, a few blocks away, was admitted by a Japanese butler, and conducted, after some hesitation, into a large room at the back of the house. An elderly man, dressed for the evening, with the lapel of his coat covered with orders, was awaiting him.
“I am a stranger to you, Baron,” Lutchester began.
“That does not matter,” was the grave reply. “Ten minutes ago I had an urgent telephone call from our mutual friend. His Excellency told me that he was sending a special messenger, and begged me to give you a few minutes. I have left a conference of some importance, and I am
“A few minutes will be enough,” Lutchester promised. “I am engaged by the English Government upon Secret Service work. I came to America, following a man named Fischer. You have heard of him?”
“I have heard of him,” the Ambassador acknowledged.
“In New York,” Lutchester continued, “he met one of your countrymen, Prince Nikasti, a man, I may add,” Lutchester went on “for whom I have the highest respect and esteem, although quite openly, years ago, he pronounced himself unfavorably disposed towards my country. The object of ^Fischer’s meeting with Prince Nikasti was to convey to him certain definite proposals on behalf of the German Government. They wish for a rapprochement with your country. They offer certain terms, confirmation of which Fischer brought with him in an autograph letter.”
There was a moment’s silence. Not a
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word came from the man who seemed to have learnt the gift of sitting with absolute immovability. Even his eyes did not blink. He sat and waited.
“The proposals made to you are plausible and deserving of consideration,” Lutchester proceeded. “Do not think that there exists in my mind, or would exist in the mind of any Englishman knowing of them, any feeling of resentment that these proposals should have been received by you for consideration. Nothing in this world counts to those who follow the arts of diplomacy, save the simple welfare of the people whom he represents. It is, therefore, the duty of every patriot to examine carefully all proposals made to him likely to result to the advantage of his own people. You have a letter, offering you certain terms to withdraw from your present alliances. Here is a letter from the same source, in the same handwriting, written to America. Break the seal yourself. It was brought to this country by Fischer, in the same dispatch box as yours, to be handed to some responsible person in the American Government. It was handed to Seator Theodore Hastings. It is to form part of his platform on the day when his nomination as President is announced. It must be back in his safe within three-quarters of an hour. Break the seal and read it.”
To be Concluded.