The Pawns Count
A Story of Secret Service and the Great War
E. Phillips Oppenheim
Author of “Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo,” “The Double Traitor,” etc.
THE Japanese held out his hand, broke the seal of the envelope, and read. His face remained immovable. When he had finished he looked up at his visitor.
“I am permitted to take a copy?” he asked.
He touched a bell, spoke down a mouthpiece, and with almost necromantic swiftness two young men were in the room. A camera was dragged out, a little flash of light shot up to the ceiling, and the attachés vanished as quickly as they had come. The Ambassador replaced the document in its envelope, handed a stick of sealing-wax and a candle to Lutchester, who leaned over and resealed the envelope. “The negative?” he enquired.
“Will be kept under lock and key,” the Ambassador promised. “It will pass into the archives of Japanese history. In future we shall know.”
Once more he touched a bell. The door was opened. Lutchester found himself escorted into the street. He was back at the Embassy in time to meet a little stream of departing guests.
He made his way out into the garden. The darkness now was a little more sombre, and he had to grope his way to the palings. Soon he stood before the dark outline of the adjoining house. In the window towards which he was making his way a single candle in a silver candlestick war burning. He paused underneath and listened. Then he took a pine cone which he had picked up on his way and threw it through the open window. The candle was withdrawn. A shadowy form leaned out.
“I’m quite alone,” she assured him softly. “Can you throw it in?”
“I think so.”
His first effort was successful. The seal followed, wrapped up in his handkerchief. A moment or two later he saw Pamela’s face at the window.
“Good-night!” she whispered. “Quickly, please. There is still some one about downstairs.”
The light was extinguished. Lutchester made his way cautiously back, replaced the gate upon its hinges and reached the shelter of the Embassy, denuded now of guests.
IV/TR. OSCAR FISCHER and his friend, Senator Theodore Hastings, stood side by side, a week later, in the American Bar of one of the most fashionable of New York Hotels. They were passing away the few minutes before Pamela and her aunt would be ready to join them in the dining-room above.
Very little news, I fancy,ft Hastings remarked, glancing at the tape which was passing through his companion’s fingers.
“Nothing—of any importance,” Fischer replied. “Nothing.”
The older man glanced searchingly at his companion, the change in whose tone was ominous. Fischer was standing with the tape in his hand, his eyes glued upon a certain paragraph. The Senator took out his eyeglasses and looked over his friend’s shoulder.
“What’s this?” he demanded. “Eh?” Fischer was fighting a great battle and fighting it well.
“Something wrong, apparently, with Frank Roughton,” he observed; “an old college friend of mine. They made him Governor of Winnisimmet only last year.” Hastings read the item thoughtfully.
Governor Roughton this morning tendered his resignation as Governor of the State of Winnisimmet. We understand that it was at once accepted. Numerous arrests have taken place with reference to the great explosion at the Bembridge powder factory.
“Looks rather fishy, that,” Hastings observed.
“I’m sorry for Roughton,” Fischer declared.
“He was a perfectly straight man, and I am sure he has done his best.”
“Great friend of yours?” the other asked curiously.
“We were intimately acquainted,” was the brief answer.
The two men finished their cocktails in silence.
On their way upstairs the Senator took his companion’s arm.
“Fischer,” he said,
“you’ll forgive me if I put a certain matter to you plainly?”
“Within the last few days,” Hastings proceeded, “there have been seven explosions or fires at various factories throughout the States.
It is a somewhat significan circumstance,” he added, after a slight pause, “that every one of these misfortunes has occurred at a factory where munitions of some sort for the Allies have been in process of manufacture. Shrewd men have naturally come to the conclusion that there is some organization at work.”
“I should doubt it,” Fischer replied. “You must remember that there is always a great risk of disasters in factories where explosives are being handled. It is a new thing to many of the manufacturers here, and it is obvious that they are not making use of all the necessary precautions.”
“I see,” Hastings observed, reflectively. “So that is how you would explain this epidemic of disasters, eh?”
“At the same time, Fischer, to set my mind entirely at rest,” Hastings continued, “I should like your assurance that you have nothing whatever to do with any organization, should there be such a thing, including in its object the destruction of American property.”
“I will do more than answer your question in the direct negative,” was the firm reply. “I will assure you that no such organization exists.”
“I am relieved to hear it,” Hastings confessed. “This resignation of Roughton, however, seems a strange thing. Most of the fires have occurred in his State. . Ah, there is Senator Joyce waiting
for us, and Pamela and Mrs. Hastings.”
A/IR. HASTINGS as a host was in his element. H i s manners and tact, which his
enemies declared were far too perfect, were both admirably d i splayed in the smaller ways of life. He guided the conversation into light yet opportune subjects, and he utterly ignored the fact that Senator Joyce, one of the great politicians of the day, whose support of his nomination was already more than half promised, seemed distrait and a little cold. It was Pamela who quite inadvertently steered the conversation into a dangerous channel.
“What has Governor Roughton been doing, Mr. Fischer?” she asked.
There was a moment’s silence. Pamela’s question had fallen something like a bombshell amongst the little party. It was their guest who replied.
“The matter is occupying the attention of the country very largely at the moment, Miss Van Teyl,” he said. “It is perhaps unfortunate that Governor Roughton seems to have allowed his sympathies to be so clearly known.”
“He is a German by birth, is he not?” Pamela inquired.
“Most decidedly noL” Fischer asserted. “I was at Harvard with him.
“All the same,” Pamela murmured under her breath, “I think that he was born at Stuttgart.”
“He is an American citizen,” Senator Joyce observed, “and has reached a high position here. We of the Administration may be wrong,” he continued, “but we believe, and we think we have a right to believe, that when a
man of conscience and ideals takes the oath, he is iiee from all previous p red judice. He is an American citizen—
certainly nothing more and nothing less.” “Of course, that is magnificent,” Pamela declared, “but it isn’t common sense, is it, and you haven’t answered my original question yet.”
“I am not in a position to do so, Miss Van Teyl,” Joyce replied. “The trouble probably is that Governor Roughton has been considered incompetent as so many of these disasters have taken place unhindered in his State.”
“There was a rumor,” Pamela persisted, “that he was under arrest.”
“Quite untrue, I am sure,” Fischer muttered.
There was a general diversion of the conversation, but the sense of uneasiness remained. Pamela and Mrs. Hastings, at the conclusion of the little banquet, acting upon a hint from their host, made their way to one of. the small drawingrooms for their coffee. Left alone, the three men drew their chairs closer together. Joyce’s fine face seemed somehow to have become a little harder and more unsympathetic. He sipped the water, which was his only beverage, and pushed away the cigars in which he generally indulged.
“Mr. Hastings,” he pronounced, “I have given the subject of supporting your nomination my deepest consideration. I was at one time, I must confess, favorably disposed towards the idea. I have changed my mind. I have decided to give my support to the present Administra-
C'ISCHER’S face was dark with ^ anger. He even allowed an expletive to escape from his lips. Hastings, however, remained master of himself.
“I will not conceal from you, Mr. Joyce,” he confessed,“that I am exceedingly disappointed. You have fully considered everything, I presume—our pledge, for instance, to nominate you as my successor?”
“I have considered everything,” Joyce replied. “The drawback in my mind, to be frank with you, is that I doubt whether you would receive sufficient support throughout the country. It is my idea,” he went on, “although I may be wrong, of course, that the support of the German-Americans who, you must allow me to maintain, are an exceedingly unneutral part of America, will place you in an unpopular position. Should you succeed in getting yourself elected, which I very much doubt, you will be an unpopular President. I would rather wait my time.”
“You have changed your views,” Fischer muttered.
“To be perfectly frank with you, I have,” Joyce acknowledged. “These outrages throughout the States are, to my mind, blatant and criminal. Directly or indirectly, the German-American public is responsible for them—indirectly, by inflammatory speeches, reckless journalism, and point-blank laudation of illegal acts; directly—well, here I can speak only from my own suspicions so I will remain silent. But my mind is made up. A man in this country, as you know,” he added, “need make only one mistake and his political future is blasted. I am not inclined to risk making that one mistake.”
Hastings sighed. He was making, a brave effort to conceal a great disappoint. ment. .
“One cannot argue with’you, Mr. Joyce,” he regretted. “You have come to a certain conclusion, and words are not likely to alter it. There is no one I would so dearly have loved to number amongst my supporters, but I see that it is a privilege for which I may not hope. We will, if you are ready, Fischer, join the ladies.”
They rose from the table a few minutes later. Fischer, who had been eagerly watching his opportunity, drew Senator Joyce on one side for a moment as they passed down the crowded corridor.
“Mr. Joyce,” he said, “I have heard your decision to-night with deeper regret than I can express, yet more than ever it has brought home one truth to me. Our position towards you was a wrong one. We offered you a reversion when we should have offered you the thing itself.”
Senator Joyce swung around.
“Say, Fischer, what are you getting at?” he asked bluntly.
“I mean that it is Hastings and I who should have been your supporters, and you who should have been our candi-
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date,” Fischer suggested boldly. “What about it? It isn’t too late.”
“Nothing doing, sir,” was the firm reply. “Theodore Hastings may not be exactly my type of man, but I am not out to see him cornered like that, and besides, to tell you the honest truth, Mr. Fischer,” he added, pausing at the door, “when I stand for the Presidency, I want to do so not on the nomination of you or
your friends, or any underground schemers. I want the support of the real American citizen. I want to be free from all outside ties and obligations. I want to stand for America, and America only. I not only want to be President, you see, but I want to be the chosen President of the right sort of people. . . I am
going to ask you to excuse me to the ladies and our host, Mr. Fischer,” he concluded, holding out his hand. “I had a note asking me to visit the Chief Attorney, which I only received on my way here. I have an idea that it is about this Roughton business.”
FISCHER returned to the others alone.
Hastings was clearly disturbed at his guest’s departure. His friend and .supporter, however, affected to treat it lightly. ,
“Joyce is like all these lawyers, he declared. “He is simply waiting to see which way the wind blows. I have come across them many times. They like to wait till parties are evenly balanced, till their support makes all the difference, and clinch their bargain then.”
“I should have said,” Pamela remarked, “that Mr. Joyce was a man above that sort of thing.”
“Every man has his price and his weak spot,” her uncle observed didactically. “Joyce’s price is the Presidency. His weak spot is popular adulation. I agree with Fischer. He will probably join us later. . . .”
Mr. Hastings was summoned to the telephone a moment or two later. Mrs. Hastings sat down to write a note, and Pamela moved her place over to Fischer’s side. His face brightened at her spontaneous movement. She shook her head, however, at the little compliment with which he welcomed her.
“This afternoon,” she said softly, “I met Mr. Lutchester.”
“Is he back in New York?” Fischer asked, frowning.
“He told me something which I feel inclined to tell you,” she continued, glancing into her companion’s haggard face with a gleam of sympathy in her eyes. “You’ll probably see it in the newspapers to-morrow morning. Governor Roughton’s resignation was compulsory. He is under arrest.”
“For participation,” was the grave reply. “Mr. Lutchester has been down to— the city where these things took place. He only got back late this afternoon.” “Lutchester again!” Fischer muttered. “You see, it’s rather in his line,” Pamela reminded him. “He is over here to superintend the production of munitions from the factories which are working for the British Government.”
“He is over here as a sort of general mischief-maker!” Fischer exclaimed fiercely. “Do I understand that he has been down in Winnisimmet?”
“He went down with one of the heads of the New York police.”
She turned away, but Fischer caught at her wrist.
“You know more than this!” he cried hoarsely.
The agony in the man’s face and tone touched her. After all, he was fighting for the great things. There was nothing mean about Fischer, nothing selfish about his lying and his crimes.
“I have told you all that I can,” she whispered, “but if you hurried you could catch the New York to-night—and I think I should advise you to go.”
FISCHER, on leaving his unsuccessful dinner-party, drove direct to the residence of Mr. Max H. Bookam, in Fifth Avenue. The butler who admitted him looked a little blank at his inquiry.
“Mr. Bookam was expected home yesterday, sir,” he announced. “He has not arrived, however.”
“Has there been any telegram from him?—any news as to the cause of his non-return?” Fischer persisted.
“I believe that Mr. Kaye, his secretary, has some information, sir,” the man admitted. “Perhaps you would like to see him.”
Fischer did not hesitate, and was conducted at once to the study in which Mr. Bookam was wont to indulge in various nefarious Stock Exchange adventures. The room was occupied on this occasion by a dejected-looking young man, with pasty face and gold spectacles. The apartment, as Fischer was quick to notice, showed signs of a strange disorder.
“Where’s Mr. Bookam?” he asked quickly.
The young man walked to the door, shook it to be sure that it was closed, and came back again. His tone was ominous, almost dramatic.
“In the State gaol at Winnisimmet, sir,” he announced.
“What for?” Fischer demanded, breathing a little thickly.
“I have no certain information,” the secretary replied, with a non-committal air. “All I know is that I had a long distance telephone to burn certain documents, but before I could do so the room and the house were searched by New York detectives, whose warrant it was useless to resist."
“But what’s the charge against Mr. Bookam?”
“It’s something to do with the disasters in Winnisimmet,” the young man confided. “The Governor of the State, who is Mr. Bookam’s cousin, is in the same trouble. . . Better sit down a mo-
ment, sir. You’re looking white.”
Mr. Fischer threw himself into an easy chair. He felt like a man who has built a mighty piece of machinery, has set it swinging through space, and watches now its imminent collapse; watches some tiny but ghastly flaw, pregnant with disaster, growing wider and wider before his eyes.
“What papers did the police take away with them?” he asked.
“There wasn’t very much for them,” the secretary replied. “There was a list of the names of the proposed organization which, owing to your very wise intervention, was never formed. There was a list of factories throughout the United States in which munitions are being made, with a black mark against those holding the most important contracts. And there was a letter from Governor Roughton.” “Mr. Bookam hasn’t drawn any cheques lately for large amounts?” Fischer inquired eagerly.
“There are three in his private chequebook, sir, the counterfoils of which are not filled in,” was the somewhat dreary admission.
Fischer groaned as he received the
“Have you any idea about those cheques?” he demanded.
“I am afraid,” the other acknowledged, “that Mr. Bookam was not very discreet. I reminded him of your advice—that the money should be passed through Sullivan —but he didn’t seem to think it worth
“Look here, let me know the worst at once,” Fischer insisted. “Do you believe that any one of those cheques was made payable to any of the men who are under arrest in Winnisimmet?”
“I am afraid,” the secretary declared sadly, “that the proceeds of one were found on the person of Ed. Swindles intact.”
Fischer sat for a moment with his head buried in his hands. “That any man could have been such a fool. An organization would have been a thousand times safer. Max Bookam was only a very worthy and industrious clothing manufacturer, with an intense love for the Fatherland and a great veneration for all her institutions. What he had done, he had done whole-heartedly but foolishly. He was a man who should never have been trusted for a moment in the game. After all, the pawns count. . . .” .
FISCHER took his leave and reached his hotel a little before midnight. Already he had begun to look over his shoulder in the street. He found his rooms empty with a sense of relief, marred by one little disappointment. Nikasti was to have been there to bid him farewell—Nikasti on his way back to Japan. He ascertained from the office of the hotel that there had been no telephone message or caller. Then he turned to his correspondence, some presentiment already clutching at his strained nerves. There was a letter in a large envelope, near the bottom of the pile, addressed to him in Nika^ti’s fine handwriting. He tore open the envelope, and slow horror seized him as he realized its contents. A long photograph unrolled itself before his eyes. The first few words brought confusion and horror to his senses. His brain reeled. This was defeat, indeed! It was a photograph of that other autograph letter. The one which he had given to Nikasti to carry to Japan lay—gross sacrilege!—about him in small pieces. There was no other line, no message, nothing but this damning proof of his duplicity. ■ . . . , .
A kind of mental torture seized him. He fought like a caged man for some way out. Every sort of explanation occurred to him only to be rejected, every sort of subterfuge, only to be cast aside with a kind of ghastly contempt. He felt suddenly stripped bare. His tongue could serve him no more. He snatched at the telephone receiver and rang up the number for which he searched eagerly through the book.
“Is that the dock office of the American Steamship Company?” he asked.
“What time will the New York sail?” “In three-quarters of an hour. Who’s speaking?”
“Mr. Oscar Fischer. Keep anything you have for me.”
He threw down the receiver for fear of a refusal, packed a few things feverishly, in a dressing-bag, dashed the rest of his correspondence into his pocket, and with the bag in one hand, and an overcoat over the other arm, he hastened out into the street. He was obliged at first to board a street car. Afterwards he found a taxi-cab, and drove under the great wooden shed as the last siren was blowing. He hurried up the gangway, a grim, remorseful figure, a sense of defeat gnawing at his heart, a bitter, haunting fear still with him even when, with a shriek of the tugs, the great steamer swung into the river. He was leaving for ever the work to which he had given so much of his life, leaving it a fugitive
and dishonored. The blaze of lights, the screaming of the great ferry-boats, all the triumphant, brazen noises of the mighty city, sounded like a requiem to him as in the darkest part of the promenade deck he leaned over the railing and nursed his agony, the supreme agony of an ambitious man—failure.
CHAPTER XXXVII. “TT7HAT has become,” Mrs. Theodore ' * Hastings asked her niece one afternoon about a month later, “of your delightful friend, Mr. Lutchester?”
Pamela laid down her book and looked across at her aunt with wide-open eyes.
“Why, I thought you didn’t like him, aunt?”
“I cannot remember saying so, my dear,” Mrs. Hastings replied. “I had nothing against the man himself. It was simply his attitude with regard to some of your uncle’s plans, of which we disapproved.”
Pamela nodded. They were seated on the piazza of the Hastings’ country house at Manchester.
“I see! . . . And uncle’s plans,”
she went on reflectively, “have become a little changed, haven’t they?”
Mrs. Hastings coughed.
“There is no doubt,” she admitted, “that your Uncle Theodore was inveigled into supporting, to a certain extent, a party whose leaders have shown themselves utterly irresponsible. The moment these horrible things began to come out, however, your uncle finally cut himself loose from them.”
“Very wise of him,” Pamela murmured.
“Who could have believed,” Mrs. Hastings demanded, “that men like Oscar Fischer, Max Bookam and a dozen other well-known and prominent millionaires, would have stooped to encourage the destruction of American property and lives, simply through blind devotion to the country of their birth? I could understand,” she went on—“both your uncle and I perfectly understood that their sympathies were German rather than English—but we shared a common belief that notwithstanding this they were Americans first and foremost. It was in this belief that your uncle was led into temporary associations with them.”
“Bad luck,” Pamela sighed. “I am afraid it hasn’t done Uncle Theodore any
Mrs. Hastings went on with her knitting for a moment.
“My child,” she said, “it has probably imperilled, if it has not completely ruined, one of the great hopes which your uncle and I have sometimes entertained. We are both of us, however, quite philosophical about it. Even at this moment I am convinced that if these men had acted with discretion, and been content to wield political influence rather than to have resorted to such fanatical means, they would have represented a great power at the next election. As things are, I admit that their cause is lost for the time. I believe that your uncle is contemplating an early visit to England. He is of the opinion that perhaps he has misunderstood the Allied point of view, and he is going to study matters at first hand.”
“I think he is very wise, aunt,” she declared. “I quite expect that he will come back a warm advocate of the Allies. No one would have a ghost of a chance who went to the country here on the other ticket.”
“I believe that that is your uncle’s point of view,” Mrs. Hastings assented.
“Why don’t you ask Mr. Lutehester down for a couple of days?”
“If you mean it, I certainly will,” Pamela agreed.
“Quite incidentally,” her aunt continued, “I heard the nicest possible things about him in Washington. Lady Ridlingshawe told me that the Lutchesters are one of the oldest families in England. He is a cousin of the Duke of Worcester, and is extraordinarily well connected in other directions. I must say he has a most distinguished appearance. A wellbred Englishman is so different from these foreigners.”
Panic’i laid down her book and drew her writing block towards her.
“I'll write and invite him down at once,” she suggested.
“Your unde will be delighted,” Mrs. Hastings purred. . .
I UTCHESTER received his invitation in New York and arrived in Manchester three days later. Pamela met him at the station with a couple of boatmen by her side.
“If you don’t mind sailing home?” she proposed. “The house is practically on an island, and the tide is wrong for the waterway. These men will take vour luggage.”
They walked down to the little dock together. Pamela talked all the time, but Lutehester was curiously tongue-tied.
“You’ll find Uncle Theodore, and aunt, too, most amusing,” she confided. “It is perfectly obvious that there is nothing uncle regrets so much as his temporary jinking up with Fischer and his friends; in fact, he is going to Europe almost at once—I am convinced for no other reason than to give him an excuse, upon his return, for blossoming out as a fervent supporter of the Allies.”
“Are you going too?” Lutehester inquired.
“Shall I? Well, I am not really sure,” she declared, as they reached the little wooden dock. “I suppose I shall, especially if I can find something to do. I may even turn nurse."
“You will be able to find plenty to do,” he assured her. “If nothing else turns up, you can help me.”
They stepped on to the yacht. Pamela a radiant vision in white, with white flannel skirt, white jersey and tam-o’-shanter, took the helm, and was busy for a few moments getting clear. Afterwards she leaned back amongst the cushions, with Lutehester by her side.
“In tjie agitation of missing that buoy,” he reminded her, “you forgot to answer my last suggestion.”
“Is there any way in which I could help you?” she asked.
“You can help me in the greatest of all ways,” he replied promptly. “You can give me just that help which only the woman who cares can give to the man who cares for her, and if that isn’t exciting enough,” he went on, after a moment’s pause, “well, I dare say I can find you some work in the censor’s department.”
“Isn’t censoring a little dull?” she murmured.
“Then you choose—”
Her hand slipped into his. A little breeze filled their sails at that moment. The wonderful blue water of the bay sparkled with a million gleams of sunshine. Lutehester drew a great breath of content.
“That’s aunt on the landing-stage, watching us through her glasses,” Pamela pointed out, making a feeble attempt to withdraw her hand.
“It will save us the trouble,” he observed, resisting her effort, “of explana-
LUTCHESTER found his host and hostess unexpectedly friendly. They even accepted with cheerful philosophy the news that Lutchester’s work in America was almost finished for the time, and that Pamela was to accompany him to Europe almost immediately. After dinner, when the two men were left at tha table, Hastings became almost confidential.
“So far as regards the sympathies of this country, Mr. Lutchester,” he said, “the final die has been cast within the last few weeks. There has always been,” he proceeded, “a certain irritation existing between even the Anglo-Saxon Americans and your country. We have fancied so often that you have adopted little airs of superiority towards us, and that your methods of stating your intentions have not always taken account of our own little weaknesses. Then America, you know, loves a good fight, and the Germans are a wonderful military people. They were fighting like giants whilst
you in England were still slacking. But it is Germany herself, or rather her sons and friends, who have destroyed her chances for her. Fischer, for instance,” he went on, fingering his wineglass. “I always looked upon Oscar Fischer as a brilliant and far-seeing man. He was one of those who set themselves deliberately to win America for the Germans. A more idiotic bungle than he has made of things I could scarcely conceive. He has reproduced the diplomatic methods which have made Germany unpopular throughout the world. He has tried bullying, cajolery, and falsehood, and last of all he has plunged into crime. No GermanAmerican will henceforth ever have weight in the counsels of this country. I do not mind confessing,” Mr Hastings continued, as he himself filled his guest’s glass and then his own, “that I myself was at one time powerfully attracted towards the Teuton cause. They are a nation wonderful in science, wonderful in warfare, with strong and admirable national characteristics. Yet they are going to lose this war through sheer lack of tact, for the want of that kindliness, that generosity of temperament, which
exists and makes friends in nations as in individuals. The world for Germany, you know, and hell for her enemies ! . . But
I am keeping you.”
“Pamela is sitting on the rocks there,” Mr. Hastings observed. “I think that she wants to sail you over to Misery Island. We get some unearthly meal there at ten o’clock and come back by moonlight. It is a sort of torture which we always inflict upon our guests. My wife and I will follow in the launch.”
“To Misery Island!” Lutchester repeated.
His host smiled as he led the way to the piazza steps. Pamela had alreadystepped into the boat, and with the help of a boatman was adjusting the sail. She waved her hand gaily and pointed to the level stretch of placid water, still faintly brilliant in the dying sunlight.
“You think that we shall reach MiseryIsland before the tide turns?” she called out.
Lutchester stepped lightly into the boat and took the place to which she pointed.
“I am content,” he said, “to take my chance.” •