THE WRATH TO COME
E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM
A diplomatic intrigue showing how insularity of United States may doom the world to catastrophe in the coming generation.
IT IS a passage which might well be haunted with memories of the famous courtesans,
dignitaries, criminals “de luxe” and aristocrats of the world—the long straight stretch of passage leading from the Hotel de Paris to the International Sporting Club of Monte Carlo. Nevertheless it seemed to Grant Slattery a strange place for this meeting which, during his last two years’ wandering about Europe, he had dreaded more than anything else on earth. Complete recognition came slowly. Each slackened speed as the distance between them diminished. When they came to a standstill there was a moment’s silence.
“Gertrude!” he exclaimed.
“Grant!” she murmured.
The purely automatic exercise of this conventional exchange of greetings helped him at first through what must always have been a bitter and terrible moment. For though Grant Slattery had every quality which goes to the making of a man, he had also, about some things, a woman’s sensitiveness.
“It is a long time,” she said softly. ¿
“Time is entirely relative,” he remarked didactically. She seemed a little helpless. It was an embarrassing situation for her and a painful one for him, this encounter with the girl who had jilted him publicly in the face of all Washington society and eloped with his rival. This meeting in the curved archway passage with a flunkey at either end was the first since he had taken leave of her at her house one night three years ago, after a visit to the opera. She had lain in his arms for a moment, her lips had met his willingly—even, that night, as he had often remembered since—with a touch of somewhat rare passion. And on the morrow she had become the Princess von
Diss, and had
sailed for Berlin.
bound to happen some day,” she said, regaining her self-possession almost to the point of calmness. “I hope that >ou are going to be nice to me.”
“I was prepared even to be grate-' ful,” he answered, with a little bow.
“Alas! now that I see you I find it impossible.”
“Very nice indeed,” she approved. “I don’t think I have changed much have I?”
“You’re looking more beautiful than ever,” he assured her.
She smiled. His eyes told her that he spoke the truth.
“And you,” she went on, “you’re just the same—a little more dignified perhaps. Theytell me that you
have since left the diplomatic service. Is that really so?” “Yes.”
“No work left,” he replied. “We move on towards the millennium.”
THEIR eyes met for a moment. There was a silent question in hers which he ignored.
“Where were you going?” she enquired.
“I’ve been lunching at the Club,” he answered. “I was just going to stroll across to the tennis courts for an hour.” “You can come to the Rooms with me instead,” she ‘suggested. “We will find two chairs and talk for a little time. We can’t part like this.”
“Am I likely to meet your husband?”
“My husband is not in Monte Carlo at present. I hope you’re not going to be horrid about him, Grant—you . won’t want to fight a duel or anything of that sort?”
“ f I had felt that way about it,” he answered, “it would have been at an earlier stage of the proceedings. A woman has a right to change her mind. I have harboured no grievance against any one.”
He turned with her and they made their way to the Bar
—almost deserted at that early hour, for it was barely four o’clock and the Rooms were only just opened. They found two comfortable chairs and sat for a few mo-
ments in silence. Each was taking stock of the other. He had spoken the truth when he had declared that she was more beautiful than ever. She was very fair, her complexion exquisitely creamy, with scarcely a tinge of colour. Her eyes were so deep a blue that they seemed at times almost to attain to that rare and wonderful shade,
commonly termed violet. Her hair was yellow, the colour of the faint gold in the morning sky. Her lips were a little fuller than the delicacy of her complexion indicated, but beautifully shaped. Her figure he thought improved. She still possessed the grace of long limbs and a slender body, but she had passed from a threatened thinness to a gracious but still delicate shapeliness. He looked admiringly at her beautiful fingers as she withdrew her gloves.
“You always liked my hands,” she murmured, studying them for a moment.
His eyes were fixed upon a ring she wore—a thin platinum guard with a single beautifully set pearl. She smiled at him. '
“Terribly wrong of me to keep it, I know,” she admitted. “But I have. Do you want it back, Grant?” “No,” he answered, a little brusquely. “But—”
“I am not going to flirt with you,” he declared.
She threw her head back and laughed.
“The same familiar Grant, honest to the point of pugnacity. Why, my dear man, how do you ever expect to shine as a diplomatist?”
“I have given up the idea,” he reminded her.
“So you are not going to flirt with me,” she sighed.
He avoided the challenge of her eyes, secretly delighted that he found it so easy.
“Since we are here, we must order something,” he insisted, summoning the waiter. “The fellow has been watching us reproachfully for the last five minutes.”
“It’s very early, but I’ll have some tea,” she acquiesced, resignedly.
Grant gave the order and turned back to his companion. He was forced to make conversation in order to avoid drifting too readily into the intimacies of the past.
“You find life amusing in Berlin?” he asked politely.
“Not at all. Berlin bores me. That is why I’m here. And I can see per-
fectly well that you are going to do your best to bore me too. I am disappointed in you.”
“That,” he complained, “is a little hard. Now that I am a free man, I am full of intelligent interest in Berlin. I Loped that you might gratify my curiosity.”
“You were there yourself for two years,” she reminded him drily.
“But that was five years ago. The evidences of what I suppose must be called the Royalist movement had only just then begun to appear. Prince Frederick, for instance, was still at school— he had scarcely shown himself in public. Now they tell me that he is almost a popular idol.”
Gertrude von Diss gazed thoughtfully into her little gold mirror, and used her powder puff with discretion.
“My husband being a member of the Government,” she said. “I never discuss politics—I wonder if I shall find a place at one of the Baccarat tables. I have lost so much in my small way at Roulette that I think I shall give it up for a time. It is not amusing to lose always.”
“I’ll go and see if you like,” he offered politely. “Presently. Tell me about yourself. Why did you give up the Diplomatic Service?”
“Because there are no diplomatic activities left nowadays for the citizens of the United States,” he replied. “The whole world has become a gigantic mart for tradespeople to buy, sell, and exchange wares. Consuls can do
our business______And then I came into the van Roorden
money and turned lazy, I suppose.”
“I don’t follow you at all,” she declared. “Even if commercial achievement has become the guiding lamp of the world, I don’t in the least know what you mean by saying that there is no diplomacy left for the United States. Commerce is one of the chief reasons for diplomatic exchanges, isn’t it? I know my adopted country-people think so.”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“Very likely,” he confessed. “Don’t take me too seriously. I was only inventing a justification for my laziness.”
She indulged in a little grimace.
“You are distressingly uncommunicative,” she observed. “I begin to suspect that we are both very clever people. All the same,” she went on reflectively, “I don’t see why we shouldn’t exchange confidences. It might be amusing.”
“It wouldn’t be a fair bargain,” he assured her. “Your husband holds a high official position in Berlin. He must be brought into touch with people who are intimately acquainted with the trend of political thought in every country. I am nobody and I know nobody.”
A smile played for a moment at the corners of her lips. “You have developed a new and most becoming trait,” she declared. “You’re the first modest man I’ve met for years. We don’t raise them in Berlin.”
“The conceit passed out of my system three years and two months ago,” he answered a little bitterly.
She laid her hand upon his. Her voice was almost caressing.
“There is something I shall tell you about that, some day,” she promised, “something which will help you to understand. Meanwhile try and believe that I too have suffered I was not so callous as I seemed.”
The old spell was upon him for a moment but he told himself that it was only his senses which were enchained —the rest of him was free.
“I am glad to hear that,” he told her with well-simulated indifference......
THE room was invaded by a crowd of young people, mostly in flannels, who had evidently come down from the tennis courts. The young woman who seemed to be the ring-leader of their gaiety—a very attractive-looking young person indeed in her white tennis clothes and smart hat—flashed a smile of welcome at Grant as she entered the room. The smile was modified as she glanced a little curiously at his companion. When they had settled down for tea at an adjacent table, however, she looked over her shoulder.
“We are having a riotous party to-night,” she announced, “dining first at the Villa, coming down here and going on to dance somewhere afterwards. Will you be my escort?”
“With the utmost pleasure,” he assented promptly. “But shan’t I be getting into trouble? What about Bobby?”
She shook her head dolefully and dropped her voice. “Misbehaved,” she confided. “Seen at Nice when he ought to have been playing tennis, yesterday afternoon— terrible! Something Russian, covered with jewels! Bobby can’t afford that sort of thing, you know. We’re sending him to Coventry for at least two days.”
“Poor fellow!” Grant murmured sympathetically.
“Don’t be a hypocrite,” the girl laughed. “You know you’re glad. I don’t think I shall ever look at him again.
And I’m all rebound!......Not later than eight-thirty
dinner, please. Dad told me that he wanted to see you, but we’re not going to leave you at home to study bridge problems.”
“I shall be punctual,” Grant assured her.
“Can’t talk any more,” §he concluded, turning away. “These greedy people are eating all the chocolate eclairs. As it is, every one’s had more than their share. You are a pig, Arthur!”......
“Who is she?” Gertrude enquired under her breath. “I dislike her anyhow. I wanted you to dine with me.”
“I don’t know whether I ought to apologize,” he observed, “for having lost the American habit of introducing. Her name is Susan Yeovil. She’s very charming, and very popular. Her little set keep things moving down here.”
“Is she by any chance the daughter of the English Prime Minister?” Gertrude asked eagerly.
“Lord Yeovil is down here for the International Congress,” he replied. “They have a villa at Cap Martin.” “What does he want to see you for?”
“I thought that you might have learnt our secret from what Lady Susan said,” he confided. “We solve the ‘Field’ bridge problems together. Very interesting, some of them.-”
“You’re simply horrid,” she declared impatiently.
It was the old pout which he remembered so welland a momentary tenderness beset him. He crushed it back.
“What are you in Monte Carlo for alone, just now, Gertrude?” he demanded, turning the tables upon her.
CHE drew a newspaper cutting from a thin gold case, ^ and handed it to him. It contained a list of visitors at the various Riviera hotels, his own name amongst them—underlined. He took the slip of paper from her fingers and looked at it long .and earnestly. Then he handed it back without remark.
“That is why I came,” she confessed. “It is perhaps just as foolish an impulse as the impulse which swept me off my feet and made a horrible woman of me three years and two months ago. But it came and I yielded to it. And now, the first night that I am here you are dining out. You actually accept an invitation from that forward young woman whilst you are sitting by my side.”
He smiled imperturbably. His impulse of tenderness had passed. He knew now why she had come, and the knowledge gave him an advantage. She had no i dea that she had betrayed herself'.
“I told you that I had lost my conceit,” he said, “and I am not going to take you literally. There is no hardship, you see, in exchanging Berlin for Monte Carlo, in February.”
“There are other places on the Riviera,” she reminded' him. “We have a villa at Cannes, and quite a number of friends there. Let me know the worst, Grant. What about to-morrow?”
“To-morrow I am entirely at your service,” he replied, “except for the matter of some tennis in the afternoon. We must lunch together.”
She sighed contentedly.
“You aren’t going to be absolutely horrid, then?”
“I couldn’t be for long,” he assured her. “All the same,
I am afraid that I’m running a terrible risk.”
Again the smile—and with it the little stab at his heart. He was a man with faithful instincts.
“I may be running that risk myself,” she whispered.
PRESENTLY Grant and his companion~rose and moved to the Rooms, crowded now with a strange medley of people, men and women of every nationality, and speaking every tongue, differing racially but brought into a curious affinity—the women by the great dressmakers of the world, the men by the unwritten laws of Saville Row. The corner in which they found themselves was an auspicious one and they stood for a moment or two looking on. They themselves were the objects of some attention. Gertrude, after her last season divided between London and Paris, had become recognized as a beauty of almost European fame. Her companion— M!r. Grant P. Slattery, was the name upon his visiting card— had also acquaintances in most of the capitals of the world. In a way he was a good foil to the woman bÿ whose side he stood—a tall, good-looking young American, a little slimmer than the usual type, looking somewhat older than his thirty years, perhaps because of a certain travelled.air, a quiet assurance, born of his brief but successful diplomatic career in three of the great capitals.
“My adopted country-people are back again in force,” Gertrude remarked.
“They interest me more than any other people here,” Grant confessed. “It is as though the nation had changed its type.”
“Explain yourself, please,” she invited.
“I must speak frankly if I do,” he warned her.
“As frankly as you please. I hold no brief for my husband’s country-people. I like some of them and hate others.”
“Well, then,” he continued, “it seems to me that the women are no longer blowsy and florid and over-dressed, the men no longer push their way and swagger. Somehow or other the women have learnt how to dress and the men
manners. They are not in the least like the travelling Germans of say thirty years ago—just before the war.”
“They are feeling their way,” she remarked cynically.
He looked down at her with the air of one who has listened to wise words. In reality it was he who was feeling his way.
“I am not so sure,” he reflected. “I wonder sometimes whether the whole nation has not changed, whether the . war did not purge them of their boastfulness and conceit, whether this present generation has not acquired a different and a less offensive outlook.”
“Do you really believe that?” she asked.
“I am simply speculating,” he answered. “To begin with there is a great change in your aristocracy. Young Prince Frederick, for instance. Every one says that he has modelled himself exactly upon what the present King Edward VIII of England was like when he was a lad of twenty. All the older statesmen tell us that he was the most popular young man in the civilized world, modest, democratic, charming. These are not Teutonic qualities, you know, but your Prince Frederick is certainly developing them.”
“I wonder,” she murmured.
“Tell me, what is your own attitude towards your husband’s country-people?” he went on, almost bluntly. “Do.you like them or don’t you? And, more important still, do you believe in them or don’t you?”
CHE looked around her a little nervously. The Rooms ^ were thronged with people, but the corner in which they were standing was still almost isolated.
“My friend,” she confided, “I am a simple woman and not a psychologist. I live amongst the German people. I do not dislike them as I am sure I should have disliked the Germans of thirty years ago, but I do not understand them. You must remember that of the Germans who made their country the most hated in the world before the war of nineteen-fourteen, I naturally knew nothing. I wasn’t even born when the Peace of Versailles was signed. The German of those days is, so far as I am concerned, as extinct as the dodo!”
“If he is not extinct,” Grant said, “he is at least, not in the limelight.”
“He has perhaps learnt to wear the sheep’s clothing,” she suggested. “You will not be able to induce me to say^ one word either for or against these people whom I confess that I do not understand. If you would really like to know all about them,” she went on, “shall we ask the one man who ought to know? Have you ever met Prince Lutrecht?” 11
“Never,” Grant replied. “I know of him, of course, and I have heard Lord Yeovil speak of him several times lately. They meet most days, of course, at Nice.”
“I shall present you,” she promised. “You will find him a most interesting and delightful man, and, if my husband is to be believed, it is h'e who, for the next generation, will decide the destinies of his country.”
“It will give me great pleasure to meet him,” Grant assured her. “He was not in office when I was in Berlin, but I remember being told he had a great dislike to America and Americans.” • __
She shrugged her shoulders.
“His father was of the Hohenzollern regime,” she remarked, “and the Republican Government of to-day is a bitter pill for the aristocracy of a score of generations. He seems to be alone just now. Wait until I call you.”
She crossed the room, and was welcomed cordially, by a tall, exceedingly aristocratic-looking man, apparently about sixty years of age, dressed with the utmost care, handsome and with a charming smile. A moment or two later he made his way with Gertrude by his side to where Grant was standing. He brushed aside Gertrude’s formal introduction.
“I had interests in the Foreign Office at Berlin when Mr. Slattery was at the American Embassy,” he said. “I remember him quite well. I regret very much to hear that you have left the Service, Mr. Slattery. We need all the help we can get nowadays from Americans of your status and culture.”
“Germany has shown lately that she needs no help from any one, sir,” Grant replied.
The Prince smiled gravely. '
“You are very kind. Thëre is no power on earth which could hinder the German people from attaining to their destiny. But we need understanding and we need sympathy. We are not always represented to our friends as
we should wish......I hope that I shall see more of you in
Monte Carlo, Mr. Slattery. I am staying at the Villa Monaco and shall be glad to receive your visit. I am usually to be found at home, at any time when the Congress at Nice is not sitting.”
HE PASSED on, with a low bow and a whispered farewell to Gertrude, leaving in Grant’s mind a curious impression of unfriendliness, for which he could not in the least account. Even his civility had seemed unnatural.
“They say that he is to be our next President,” Gertrude confided.
Her companion watched the Prince thoughtfully as
the latter paused to accept the greetings of a friend.
'“I don’t think I ever met a man who looked so ill-fitted to be the President of a great democracy,” he remarked drily.
“Could you think of a more suitable post for him?” she
He nodded. ' ,
“I could more easily imagine him the Mephistophelian chancellor of an autocrat.”
“Back in Hohenzollern days?”
“Or in the days which may be in store for us,” he replied.
She looked into the Baccarat room.
“An empty place at my favourite table!” she exclaimed. “Call on me early to-morrow, Grant, and we’ll plan something. Forgive my hurrying. I can’t afford to
He watched her pass into the outer room and seat herself contentedly in the vacant place. Then he strolled from table to table, risking a louis now and then, but scarcely waiting to see the result. A spirit of restlessness pursued him. He stood aloof for some minutes, watching Gertrude immersed in Baccarat. Then he wandered into the Bar, where Susan Yeovil presently found him. She sank into a chair by his side.
“Broke!” she announced ruefully, turning her little . sacque inside out. “Not a louis left, and the others won’t be ready to go home for an hour yet.”
“Can I be of any assistance?” he ventured.
She shook her head.
“I’ve been too nicely brought up. I couldn’t possibly borrow money from you. Tell me about the beautiful lady.”
“She was very well known three or four years ago in Washington as Gertrude Butler,” Grant confided. “She is the woman to whom I was engaged and who married Prince Otto von Diss.”
She was instantly grave.
“You poor thing!” she exclaimed. “How horrid for you meeting her like that. Did you mind much?”
“I don’t know,” he replied.
“I was asking myself that question as you came up. I have never quite been able to analyze my feeling for her, either during those days of our engagement or since. I was very much in love with her, if that counts for anything.”
“It doesn’t,” she assured him. “Being in love is just a spring disease. I fancied myself in love with Bobby before I heard of him advertising himself with that Russian lady in Nice. Six sets of tennis this afternoon, three eclairs and the cocktail you are going to give me presently have completely cured me.”
“Fancy intruding your own experiences in such a serious matter! You are only a child,” he reminded her with a smile. ‘
“I’m nineteen,” she retorted. "Surely that is old enough for anything. I am of age for the great passion
itself, if only it would arrive, and arrive quickly......I
believe I heard that croupier call out number fourteen. I know I shall end by besmirching my good name and borrowing a louis from you.”
He laid a handful of notes upon the table. She shook her head again.
“Don’t tempt me,” she begged. “Besides I think I would rather talk. I am interested in the Princess. Tell me^just how you are feeling about her.”
“I couldn’t,” he confessed.
“Is she here without her husband?”
“Cat! Of course she’s come to flirt with you.”
I don’t think so. I think she has come here with an altogether different purpose.”
He smiled at her with affected tolerance. t After all, you know,” he said, “young people should» t be too curious.”
She drew away from him petulantly.
“I wonder,” she complained, “why you always persist in treating me as though I were a child.”
“Well, aren’t you?” he rejoined. “Nineteen isn’t very old, you know.”
“Anyway, if father can tell me things,” she argued, “I don’t see why you should be so secretive.”
“What does your father tell you?”
“Nothing that I am going to repeat to you. Mr.
Inquisitor. I will tell you this, though,” she went on, dropping her voice a little. “He isn’t at all happy about the way things are going over at Nice. Did you know that it was he who insisted upon sittings being suspended for a day, and that he and Arthur sent no less than twenty cables away last night?”
“Yes, I knew,” he admitted, “but I had no idea that you did.”
She permitted herself a friendly little grimace.
“I only mentioned it just to show that every one doesn’t ignore me as you do,” she observed. “Here’s Arthur. He’s having a day off, isn’t he?”
THE young man came up and displayed a handful of plaques. He was good-looking in a pale, rather tired way.
“Why do I slave for your father, Lady Susan,” he demanded, “for a vulgar pittance, when there are thousands to be picked up here without the slightest effort?” “Vulgar pittance!” she scoffed. “I’m sure Dad,or rather the country, pays you quite as much as you’re worth. Besides, look at the number of free meals you get!”
“This to the private secretary of a Prime Minister!” the young man groaned. “Why , my dear child—”
“I’m nobody’s ‘dear child’!” she interrupted. “I am ‘Lady Susan’ to you two men, except perhaps after a dance, or in the moonlight, or on the river, when I feel yielding, and let either of you call me ‘Susan.’ Please, get it into your heads that I am nobody’s ‘child.’ In this age of flappers, nineteen is almost passée. I could be married to-morrow if I chose.”
“Heaven forbid!” Arthur exclaimed. “At any rate unless it were to me.”
“You’d have to change considerably before I’d marry either of you,” she declared. “If you’ve won all those
plaques, you can lend me one. You can get it out of Father to-night.” - ;
“And you refused to borrow from me,” Grant said reproachfully.
“Well, you see Arthur is one of the household,” she explained, “and I don’t feel the same way about him. Besides, I shall probably repay him in ten minutes. I feel that I-ought to have a flutter—that my luck is in.”
She strolled off. The Honourable Arthur Lymane sank into her vacant place.
“You’re coming up tonight, Slattery?”
“The Chief wants to see you particularly,” Lymane confided, dropping his voice. “He’s already cabled to Washington. There’s a damned funny atmosphere about the proceedings at Nice this time. Nothing that amounts to anything, I don’t suppose, but every one seems to be so jolly mysterious.”
“Is that so?” Grant murmured.
“The Chief took the bull by the horns yesterday when he suspended sittings for twentyfour hours. It gives us a breathing spell, anyway.” “Have you any idea what’s at the bottom of it all?” Grant asked.
His companion shook his head.
“The Chief will talk to you to-night. He may be more communicative with you than he has been with me. By jove! Grant, old fellow!” he exclaimed, his tone suddenly changing to one of wondering admiration. “There’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life. Coming straight at us, too.”
The young man had already risen to his feet as though about to take his departure, but, as Gertrude crossed the room towards them, he remained transfixed, watching her. His look was no ordinary stare. The admiration it expressed was, in its way, too subtle and too involuntary.
“She’s coming straight at us,” he repeated, in an agitated whisper. “For heaven’s sake, if you know her, Slattery, present me.”
Gertrude came smiling towards them. She seemed already to appreciate the situation. Grant rose to his feet.
“Congratulate me!” she exclaimed. “I’ve won thirty thousand francs.”
“Come and celebrate with us,” Grant invited, drawing out a chair for her. “Let me present my friend, Mr. Arthur Lymane—the Princess von Diss.”
THE uproarious little dinner party at the Villa Miranda drew to a close. Lord Yeovil rose to his feet and laid his hand on Grant’s shoulder.
, “My young friend,” he said, “let us leave this scene of debauchery for a few minutes. You and I will take our coffee together in my den. Thank heavens none of my colleagues or any members of our new Yellow Press were present here to-night. You were the only silent person, Arthur,” he added, pausing on his way to the door. “You look as though you had seen a vision.”
The young man, whose silence had indeed been noticeable, looked up.
“I have,” he admitted.
“Arthur has fallen in love with a beautiful stranger,” Susan called out. “Something must be done about it. Now that we’ve sent Bobby to Coventry we can’t really spare Arthur. Dad, isn’t it one of the duties of a Prime Minister’s private secretary to flirt with his daughter when she feels so disposed?”
“Certainly,” Lord Yeovil agreed.
“It is also,” Grant reminded her, with a slight smile, “part of the duties of a Prime Minister’s daughter to see that his secretary doesn’t fall under the influence of fascinating but mysterious strangers.”
“That settles your hash, young man,” Susan declared, across the table. “You stick to me to-night.”
“I think I’ll resign,” Arthur announced. “These Conferences are a great strain on my nervous system as it is.” "Wouldn’t you be scared if Dad took you at your word!” Susan observed, reaching over the table for the cigarettes. “You’d never get another job.”
“You’re all very rude to me,” Arthur complained, with a show of dignity. “I am considered in political circles to be a young man of much promise. That is what the Daily Sun said of me last week.”
There was a chorus of derision, in the midst of which Grant and his host made their way to a small sitting-room at the back of the house. Coffee and liqueurs were upon the sideboard, and upon the table was a copy of the Field and two packs of cards.
“No-w, my young friend,” Lord Yeovil invited, “help yourself to anything you fancy, and there upon the table you will find a highly interesting bridge problem —by way of bluff. Only, whatever we may have to say to one another let us get it over quickly. The great thing is not to keep Susan waiting. She doesn’t understand the interference of international
history with her amusements!......
First of all, have you anything fresh to report?”
“Nothing very definite, sir,”
Grant acknowledged. “But, in a sense, my cruise to Archangel was a success.”
“You mean that you were right in your suspicions?”
“I obtained a good deal of evidence in support of it, evidence which is now in the hands of the British Admiralty. I was at Archangel for a fortnight and I had letters of introduction to two of the Russian Admirals. I spent a lot of time on their ships. They were almost as hospitable as the sailors of the old regime.”
“Tried to drink you under the table and that sort of thing, I suppose.”
“I survived the ordeal, but I am afraid that my liver is temporarily deranged,” he admitted. “I obtained a lot of quite useful information. Personally I am absolutely convinced now that the Russian fleet has never been trained or adjusted to form a separate unit. It is intended to act in conjunction with the German fleet in some unknown enterprise. A number of the engineers
and gunners are Germans and there is a distinct atmosphere of German discipline about the whole outfit. In addition, as I dare say you’ve heard, they’re all armed with Germany guns......Of course, even a non-expert can
easily understand,” he went on, after a brief pause, during which he accepted and lit a cigar which his host had silently passed him, “that two nations like Germany and Russia might easily keep within the tonnage allowed them by the Washington Conference, and yet, if each concentrated upon a particular sort of armament, they would, when brought together, be a more formidable fighting unit than the united forces of any two countries who had each spread out their tonnage to make an individual unit.”
“You think that is the basis of this understanding between Germany and Russia?” Lord Yeovil asked.
“I am convinced of it,” Grant replied. “Internal evidence was more difficult to get than external, but I have obtained a certain amount of proof that, contrary to the provisions of the Pact, there exists a secret naval understanding between Germany and Russia. Fortunately for us and for every one, it is Great Britain’s turn this year to police the seas, so I have made an exhaustive report to your Admiralty. I’m pretty certain that there’ll be British warships in the Baltic before many weeks are past.” “You didn’t come back in the yacht?”
Grant shook his headi
“I came back overland, sir. I spent four days in Berlin—my second visit as a traveller from the Bethlehem Steel Company.”
“Pick up anything?”
“Not much,” was the grim acknowledgment. “They’re Pretty close-lipped in Berlin just now, and I had to be careful. I came away, however, with the absolute conviction that there is something in the air. There
is what we used to call ‘cyclonic disturbance’ about, and the trail led here. You probably know more about it than I do.”
“'T'HAT ‘cyclonic disturbance’ is brewing all right,” A the other assented. “We’re in the thick of it at Nice. The day before yesterday we came almost to a deadlock over a question which Lutrecht persisted in
raising and which we discussed for hours. ... I am going to treat you with a great deal of confidence, as I always have done, Grant. Years ago, when you were First Secretary at your Embassy in London, and I was Foreign Minister, I discovered that you shared one conviction which has been at the root of the whole of my policy from the moment I entered the Cabinet. That conviction is that the interests of Great Britain and the United States of America are inèxtricably and inevitably identical. I shan’t dilate. There it is in plain words, the text of my political life, and because I know that you share it, I have treated you with a confidence I have not extended even to one of my own countrymen. I am now going beyond the limits of official propriety. I am going to tell you what the trouble has been at the last two meetings of the Pact. It has been this: Lutrecht, apparently out of a clear sky, has enunciated this principle and claims the confirmation of the Pact; that, whereas every nation of the Pact stands together against aggression by any member of it against another member, there is nothing in its constitution to prevent two members of the Pact arriving at a separate and individual understanding, as regards proceedings directed against any nation not a member of the Pact. Do you follow me, Grant?”
“To the bitter end,” was the grim reply. “The thing’s as plain as a pikestaff. I have felt this coming for years. We are close on the trouble now.”
“Well,” Lord Yeovil continued, “I suspended proceedings for twenty-four hours to obtain the opinion of some international jurists. I shall delay them for another twenty-four hours until after to-morrow’s meeting.”
Grant leaned a little forward in his chair. It was obvious that he was deeply moved.
“I can’t tell you, sir, how much I appreciate your
confidence,” he said, “and honestly I think the fact that you have been willing to give it to me has been and will be helpful to the peace of the world. And now I am going to ask you something else. You are postponing the consideration of Prince Lutrecht’s arguments until after to-morrow, as you admit, with a purpose. Is that purpose your intention to propose to the Conference that the United States be once more invited to join the Pact?”
The Prime Minister eyed his vis-a-vis, for a moment, with inscrutable countenance. He was no longer the indulgent father of a tomboy daughter or the genial host of a young people’s party. He looked every inch of him the great politician he really was.
/‘Where did you get that from, Grant?” he demanded.
“You know my position, sir,” the young man replied earnestly. “I am the one secret service agent my country can claim. Even then I’m not official. I have money to spend and I spend it. I have sources of information and I use them. I have friends in Washington, too, with whom I am in touch hour by hour. This is not a question of betrayal, it is more divination. They expect that invitation on the other side, sir. And the best of them hope for it. Will it be forthcoming?”
Lord Yeovil considered for a full minute. Then he knocked the ash from his cigar.
“Well,” he admitted, “you’ve seen your way to the truth, Grant. I’m going to risk it. . . . It’s a big thing so far as I am concerned. If, by any chance, the Conference opposes me, my resignation will be inevitable. If by any chance, I get the thing through, and Washington refuses I shall be the most discredited politician who ever placed his country in a humiliating position.” “I don’t think the United States will refuse,” Grant declared. “It is most unfortunate that the matter will have to go to the Senate and be publicly discussed, because, of course, as you know, there are always malignant influences in a polyglot country like ours. But I know the feeling of the people who count. They want to come in like hell.”
“I expect you’ve been supplying them with a little information,” Lord Yeovil observed.
Grant nodded. “I never leave them alone,” he admitted. “To a certain extent I’m afraid they look upon me as an alarmist for the simple reason that there is scarcely a single citizen of the United States who doesn’t believe absolutely in the impregnability of his country. However, I think I’ve stirred them up a little in Washington, and there’s more to be done in that way, yet. ... Do you feel inclined to tell me, Sir, what would be the prospects of the voting if you bring forward your motion to-morrow?”
“They appear to me to be in our favor,” was the deliberate reply. “When the Pact was first formed any invitation to join it had to be unanimous. Lately, however, that has been modified. Unless there are four dissentients now, any nation proposed, becomes, if willing to join, ‘ipso facto’ a member of the Pact. I can conceive two, it might be possible to conceive three, dissentients. I can put my finger upon no possible fourth.”
“I see,” Grant murmured. “By the bye, was Baron Naga at Nice yesterday?”
“Do you know if he has received any dispatches from home since the last sitting?”
Lord Yeovil considered for a moment.
“He must have,” he acknowledged, “because he was able to give us a very crude description of these flying boats of theirs, which the Italians are so curious about. He had no information at all two days ago when the matter came up.”
“I’d give in the neighborhood of a million dollars to see that dispatch,” Grant declared.
There was still a great deal of noise in the dining-room and in the passage. Lord Yeovil walked to the door and locked it. Then he came back to his place. He spoke slowly and with the air of one choosing his words.
“Slattery,” he said, “it has been in my mind for two years to propose a further invitation to your country to join the Pact, because, in my opinion, conditions during the last decade have entirely altered, and the position of your country outside the Pact, even though she may be considered the greatest power in the world, has become anomalous and dangerous. She has subscribed to the Limitation of Armaments, which she herself inaugurated, and has scrupulously carried out her obligations. With all her power and wealth she is unable to launch a single battleship or put under arms a single regiment of soldiers, beyond the proportion allotted to her by the other subscribing powers. Yet, although she is in this position, she is not a member of the Pact. That is to say, that, legally speaking, any two or three nations who do belong to the Pact might attack America with superior forces and the other members of the Pact would be powerless.”
“You have placed the matter in a nutshell, sir,” Grant agreed. “It was the consideration of these things which brought me to Europe and keeps me employed here. . . . America when the great call came rose
magnificently to her opportunities. She stretched across to Europe, and though, indeed, others bore the brunt of the burden, she ended the war of nineteen-fourteen. Since then, without a doubt, she has had a political relapse. Her statesmen have lost a certain measure of insight and vision. She has sunk back into the parochial. Politics have become more than ever a game, and a profession. Her statesmen are so busy fighting over their own national problems that they have never envisaged the danger upon the horizon. That has been my view. It is my view to-day.”
“Go on,” Lord Yeovil invited. “You have not been in Europe during these last twelve months for nothing.” “I am convinced,” Grant declared, “that Germany and Japan havo arrived at an understanding to strike at America. I am convinced for that reason that they will oppose your invitation to America to-morrow. If they do not and I have wasted my time, then God be thanked for it. I shall go back to polo and golf, hunt
the hounds at Pau, and never take myself seriously again.”
The older man helped himself to a cigarette and tapped it thoughtfully upon the table without lighting it.
“There is just one thing, Slattery,” he said. “I have the greatest respect and liking for Naga. I cannot somehow believe that he would oppose me to-morrow unless he first gave me some intimation of his intention. Besides he isn’t in the least bellicose. I believe him to be an honorable man, and I can’t imagine his being mixed up in any Teutonic plot.”
“I, too,” he agreed, “have a great respect for Naga. At the same time, with these Orientals, one has to remember it is their country first, their country second, their country all the time.”
There were warning sounds from outside—the exodus of all the young people into the hall. Insistent voices called for Grant. He slipped across and unlocked the door.
“You had better go,” his host advised. “We understand one another and there is nothing more to be done at present. To-morrow, after the meeting of the Conference, we shall know where we stand.”
“It’s a private meeting, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Thank God, we’ve managed to keep the Press out. Between you and me, Grant, if there were no newspapers, all the nations of the world would be sitting round in a family party. There would be no wars and very few quarrels. It is the enlightened Press of this generation which provides the fuel for tragedy.” The door was thrown open.
“ ‘X to lead the ace of hearts and make the grand slam!’ ” Lady Susan cried. “Do come along, Grant. Whatever do grand slams in print matter? I have liqueurs on with Arthur that we’re in the Club in twelve minutes, Do you think your Rolls-Royce is equal to it?”“Nine-and-a-half is my time,” Grant replied. “Nine, if you run up the stairs. Come on!”
The little party hurried off, their automobile lights flashing through the darkness of the curving drive,
their voices disturbing the owls and waking many echoes in the violet stillness. Then the last car glided off down the hill and the Villa was left in silence. . . .
Towards it, from the other side of Nice, came thundering through the darkness a great limousine, with its four lights flaring and siren whistle blowing. Outside, the driver sat with a face like a graven mask, with one thought in his brain. Inside, a man lay back amongst the cushions, upon whose forehead the sign of death seemed to already rest.
LORD YEOVIL, after the departure of the young ' people of the house, settled down to spend an evening after his own heart. He rang for his servant, ordered the wood fire to be replenished, exchanged his dinner-coat for a smoking jacket, and lit a batteredlooking briar pipe, which was the delight of his life. He was beginning to feel the need for a period of cool and impartial deliberation. For the last ten days he had been presiding over the meetings at Nice of the Pact of Nations, an organization established in Paris in nineteen-thirty, and now, twenty years later, the guiding force of the world. Its bitterest critics—and, at its inauguration, there had been many—were forced now to admit that the Pact had become one of the brilliant successes of the century. Its conception had first been mooted at a Trade Conference at Genoa in nineteen-twenty-two, and its provisions, subsequently drawn up with the utmost care by a committee of European law-makers, practically made war amongst its members impossible. France had been able to abandon herself at last to a sense of complete and luxurious security. Germany, admitted after some hesitation, had apparently been amongst its most lawabiding members. The Limitation of Armaments, the great pacific scheme initiated by the President of the United States, early in nineteen-twenty-two, was still carried on as a separate institution but with numerous affiliations. There was only one great drawback to the
Pact, one flaw alone, which prevented its being the greatest association ever formed during the world’s history, and that drawback was the fact which, at the present moment, was giving both Grant Slattery and Lord Yeovil cause for the greatest apprehension. The United States, after a period of profound deliberation, during which great dissensions had arisen, had decided to be the one great power outside its influence. For the same reasons which had kept her for so long out of the war of nineteen-fourteen, she had reiterated her policy of self-determination, and had once more declared Europe outside the sphere of her political interests. Her position had been the principal subject of discussion amongst statesmen and thinkers for many years. No administration, however, had been strong enough to change it, and it was universally accepted now as an unassailable attitude. She had ample justification for believing herself strong enough to fight her own battles and defend her own honor. Her position was in its way magnificent and evoked the florid and rhetorical praise of many of her own writers, especially those who were in any way Teutonic in their origin. Those who, like Grant Slattery, saw the sinister side of the situation, were few and their voices unheard in the great glad paean of thanksgiving in which her Press, day by day, and month by month, glorified and exaggerated her unexampled and amazing prosperity. Without a doubt America had become the richest country in the world.
TT WAS of America that Lord Yeovil, who had once ■*been an exceedingly popular Ambassador at Washington, was thinking as he smoked his disreputable pipe, lounging in an easy-chair, his feet upon the fender. He had a profound respect for Grant Slattery, whose handling of various intricate matters, whilst First Secretary in London, had won his unqualified approval. The young man had seemed at that time assured of an Ambassadorship, and bis complete withdrawal from the Diplomatic Service had been a mystery even to his intimates. Lord Yeovil knew the reason for that withdrawal and was day by day growing more thoroughly to appreciate it. He was thinking of it now as he smoked his meditative pipe, wondering exactly how much real information Grant had picked up in Berlin, wondering, too, whether that small cloud which had already appeared on the political horizon was destined to seriously disturb the thirty years of peace.
The sound of wheels in the drive and the pealing of the bell broke into his reflections. He glanced at the clock. It was a few minutes past eleven—an impossible hour for an ordinary caller. Presently Andrews, a young typist, employed by his private secretary, knocked at the door and entered.
“I’m sorry to disturb you, sir,” he said, “but Baron Naga is here and asks if you will receive him.”
“Baron Naga!” the Prime Minister repeated in amazement. “At this hour of the night!”
“He seems to have come straight from Nice,” the young man confided.
“I will see him, unofficially, of course, delighted. But what on earth is the urgency?”
“His Excellency gave me no intimation, sir.”
“You can show him in,” Lord Yeovil directed. “Explain that I’m out of harness and spending a quiet evening.”
Baron Naga himself was obviously paying no visit of ceremony. He had not changed his clothes for the evening, and was wearing the frock coat and dark trousers in which he usually appeared at meetings of the Conference. His complexion was always rather more waxen than sallow, but to-night it seemed positively ghastly. His little formal bow before he advanced to shake hands, was unsteady. A man of another race and different manner of life might have been suspected of drunkenness.
“My dear Baron!” Lord Yeovil said hospitably, “this is very friendly of you. I hope you do not bring me bad news. Sit down, please,” he invited.
THE Ambassador sank into an easy chair. He was most undoubtedly ill.
“I am much obliged to you, sir, for receiving me at this late hour,” he said. “My errand is of some importance. I have come to announce to you, in the first place, that my Imperial Master has accepted my resignation from the highly honorable post of Ambassador to Great Britain, and also, from the representation of Japan at the Pact of the Nations. I shall not, therefore, be attending the meeting to-morrow.”
"God bless my soul!” Lord Yeovil exclaimed. “I regret very much to hear this.”
“Your lordship is very kind,” was the agitated reply. “Baron Katina is on his way from Berlin to take my place at the Pact of Nations, and Count Itash is already on the spot if anything of urgency should occur. My Imperial Master has not, I believe, as yet signified his wishes so far as regards my successor at St. James’s.” “But, my dear Baron, this is most terrible news!” the other declared. “Most unexpected, too. If you will allow me to say so, there is no one with whom it has
been a greater pleasure to work or whose loyal support during the past sessions of the Pact I have more appreciated.”
“You are very kind, Lord Yeovil, most gracious,” his visitor repeated, a little wistfully. “It has come to pass, however, that on a very vital matter I have found myself unable to conform to the desires and policy of those in whose hands the destiny of my country rests. It is a great grief to me.”
“I ám sure it must be,” the Prime Minister assented,, watching his visitor closely. “You have made me very curious. I was not aware that there was any subject of policy at present under consideration which could give scope for a difference of opinion of such drastic moment.”
“The greatest tragedy of this matter is now to come,” Baron Naga continued solemnly. “For my country’s sake I am here to betray her confidence. I shall place you, sir, in possession of certain information which, as President of the Pact of Nations, should be disclosed to you. After I have spoken you will hear of me no more. It is for the ultimate good of Japan and my people—but for the moment the words I must speak are treason and for speaking them I must pay the price.” Lord Yeovil was seriously disturbed. There was something in his visitor’s attitude and demeanour which were beyond his comprehension.
“But my dear Baron,” he began— .
The Ambassador moved uneasily in his chair. There were blue lines under his eyes. It was more than ever obvious that he was very ill.
“A thousand pardons,” he interrupted weakly, “but I have • perhaps under-estimated the action—I am weaker than some of my years—listen, I implore you!” Lord Yeovil hastened to the little sideboard and poured out a glass of brandy.
“Don’t distress yourself, Baron,” he begged. “You can tell me anything you wish to presently. I am always at your service. Drink this, please.”
Baron Naga clutched at the glass—clutched at his throat. He made a passionate attempt to speak. The words, however, were almost incomprehensible.
“Katina and—Lutrecht—America—the beginning— the great scheme—Itash knows—God of my parents!” The glass rolled from his fingers. His head dropped forward. Lord Yeovil rushed to the bell.
“Telephone for a doctor,” he directed the butler, who answered it. “Baron Naga is ill.”
But Baron Naga was no longer ill. Both master and servant knew the truth as they stood and looked at the crumpled-up figure upon the chair.
THERE is an inner annexe to the Bar at the Sporting Club, at either end of which a discreet flirtation is entirely in order. Grant, wandering in for a whiskey and soda towards midnight was suddenly transfixed by the sight of Gertrude and Arthur, their heads very close together, the young man’s air of devotion unmistakable. He watched them with a deepening frown. Suddenly he felt a touch upon his arm. Susan stood by his side. Her voice was as gay as usual, but she was pale and a little tired.
“Disgraceful, isn’t it?” she exclaimed. “We’re absolutely deserted. I’m afraid Arthur’s lost his head altogether.”
“He’s a fool!” Grant declared.
She looked at him a little wistfully.
“Do you mind so much?”
“I mind because—”
He broke off in his sentence. After all, his peculiar knowledge of Gertrude was better kept to himself for the present. - *
“Well, I don’t like to see him make a fool of himself,” he concluded, a little awkwardly. “The Princess is a married woman and has a jealous husband. She is also a hardened flirt.”
“We thought of going on directly,” she announced. - “What ought we to do about Arthur?”
“I’ll go and tell him as soon as you’re ready,” Grant offered.
“We’re all here now. Rose and Tommy are outside, and Bobby’s gone for his coat. We’ve had to forgive him. He’s so terribly penitent. We’re four without him if you like. I suppose you could look after me with an effort,” she added, looking up at him.
“Of course I could, but we ought to let him know we’re going,” Grant decided. “I’ll step across and tell him.”
Susan turned towards the cloak-room, and Grant made his way towards the two people whom they had been discussing. Gertrude welcomed him with a smile, half challenging, half provocative. Her companion was inclined to be querulous.
“Lady Susan wants to know whether you’re coming along with us, Lymane?” Grant said. “We’re all quite ready.”
The young man glanced at the clock.
“Much too early,” he grumbled. “There’ll be no one there before one o’clock.”
“The others seem to wish to go.”
“Well, there are four of you,” Lymane pointed out. “I’ll come along presently.”
“I think you’d better come with us,” Grantpersisted. “That is, if the Princess will spare you.”
“But I will not spare him,” she laughed. “I like him very much. He says much nicer things to me than you do and I do not see why you should hurry him away,, just as we are getting on so nicely.”
“Neither do I,” Lymane agreed. “Make my excuses* there’s a good chap. I’ll come along within half-an-hour or so. Lady Susan is in your charge, anyway, not mine. I’m the odd man out.”
Grant turned away with the slightest of bows. He found the little party waiting for him downstairs, reinforced by the advent of another young man, a friend of the Lancasters.
“Arthur is hopelessly enslaved,” Grant announcéd. “The beautiful Princess has him in her clutches. He says he’ll come along presently. I should doubt whether we see him again this evening.”
“It doesn’t really matter whether we do or not,” Susan remarked as she stepped into the car, by Grant’s side. “That nice Wheeler boy who plays tennis so well is coming along so we shall get all the dancing we want. Are you going to dance with me, Grant? And why do you look so cross?”
“I’m not really cross,” he assured her, “but Arthur, when he likes, can be such a hopeless young ass. Any way I’ll get the first dance with you.”
THEY glided across the square, past the gardens and into the quiet street on the right-hand side. They entered the restaurant to the strains of modified jazz music, ordered champagne and sandwiches and sat down at a round table.
“You do dance well, you know, Grant,” Susan told him after their second turn.
“You’re rather wonderful yourself after eight sets of tennis,” he observed. “ís it my fancy or are you a little pale?” '
“I did feel tired a little time ago,” she admitted. “It’s passed off now, though. What a shame one of you have to sit out.”
“Bobby isn’t going to sit out long,” he pointed out. “Young rascal!”
They watched the young man lead away one of th^ professional danseuses. Susan laughed heartily.
“Just like Bobby,she declared. “He can’t dance for nuts. If he wanted to dance with a professional though I wonder why on earth he didn’t choose the little one at the next table to us.”
Grant glanced at the girl whom his companion had indicated, at first carelessly, but afterwards with genuine interest. She was seated at a small round table close to their own, dark, pale, almost sallow, with rather narrow eyes, of a deep brown shade, silky eyebrows and eyelashes, and black hair, in which as she moved her head to the music, there seemed to be a gleam of wine colour. She was plainly dressed in a black taffeta gown and she wore no jewellery of any sort. There was something about her expression peculiarly inscrutable and yet Grant fancied that as his eyes met hers she intended in some mysterious way to let him know that she had observed his interest.
“What a quaint creature,” he observed. “I wonder who she is?”
“She’s one of the professional dancers,” Susan told him. “She was here on Monday, and when we were here the week before. She -was dancing all the time with the Japanese Count then, the young man who does the interpreting at Nice. Look at Bobby being taught new steps, isn’t he priceless?”
The evening wore on in the usual way. The little party danced incessantly, drank a moderate quantity of champagne and a great many orangeades, and watched the curious.throng of people with a certain amount of interest. Suddenly Susan touched Grant on the arm.
“A tragedy!” she whispered. “Look at the dark young woman’s face. Her Japanese Count has just come in with another woman.”
GRANT turned around and was just in time to catch an expression on the girl’s face which, for a moment, almost shocked hin). The slightly scornful air of inscrutability was gone, the lips had parted, there was a gleam of white teeth, her eyes had narrowed1 almost into slits, and her eyebrows had drawn closer together. I.t was all over in a moment, so quickly indeed’ that Grant wondered whether it had really been murder that he had seen there. She even glanced across theroom and nodded carelessly at the young man and thegirl, a dancer from a neighbouring café. Gtant exchanged a questioning glance with Susan.
“Do you know,” he said, “it seemed to me, for a moment, that she was going to play the virago.”
“She looked like a little fiend,” Susan replied. “Bother, here comes Arthur. I suppose I shall have to dance this with him.”
Continued on page 47
Continued from page 18
Lymane came in, full of apologies. He was a little absorbed in manner and took the chaff to which he was subjected in a somewhat spiritless fashion.
“Don’t see what any one’s got against me, he remarked, as he helped himself to a glass of wine. “You’re a man over, already. What about this dance, Lady Susan?”
“The next,” she answered, waving him away. “After that, you, please, Grant.”
Grant and Arthur Lymane were left 'alone. At the adjoining table the dark girl with the inscrutable face was smoking
cigarettes and drinking tea, glancing occasionally towards them.
“Lymane,” his companion said, “may I take a liberty with you?”
“I don’t think you’re altogether wise to cultivate your acquaintance with the Princess von Diss.”
“Why the devil not?” the young man demanded.
“If you’re going to take it like that, there’s no more to be said about it. Sorry I interfered.”
“At any rate von Diss is not a particu-
lar friend of yours, is he?” the young man asked meaningly.
Grant rose to his feet.
“Look here, Lymane,” he protested, “there are limits to the disagreeable things you may say to me. I think—”
It was one of those happenings which Grant could never explain, even to himself. He rose to his feet simply with the intention of leaving his companion for a moment or two. As he did so, unseen to him, the girl at the next table rose also. She held up her arms quite naturally, without saying a word, without even looking directly towards him. No word of invitation passed from either one to the other. When, afterwards, Grant asked himself how that dance had come about, he could only surmise that the girl had willed it.
“T SUPPOSE,” Grant remarked, after 1 their first turn of the room, “that I must be psychic.”
“Why?” the girl asked.
“Because, although you have never addressed a word to me, not even since we commenced to dance, I believe that you have something to say.”
“It is not you who are psychic,” she replied. “It was I who conveyed that impression to you. We will stop now. Come this way, please.”
She led the way to two easy chairs set in a retired corner of the Bar, which was just then almost deserted.
“What will you have?” he asked, as a waiter drew near. “Some champagne?” “Thank you,” she replied. “I never drink wine. I will have some tea and some cigarettes.”
“Aren’t you a little unusual for a place like this?” he asked.
“Very,” she admitted. “At first they did not wish to take me. Now they know better. I can bring them custom when I choose.”
“You speak very good English,” he said, “but you are not English, are you?” “My mother,” she told him, “was Japanese. My father was a Levantine. I was born in Alexandria. There are only two things I can do in the world—dance and speak many languages. But no, there is a third. I can hate.”
“Well, I hope you won’t hate me?” he remarked smiling.
She studied him for a moment and it seemed to him that it was the first time that their eyes had met.
“No,” she assured him. “I shall never hate you, nor shall I ever love you. Perhaps that is as well or the young lady at your table would be jealous.”
“There is no one at my table who is particularly interested in me,” he deel ared.
“That is not true,” she replied. “Lady Susan Yeovil is very much interested in you.”
HE WAS half amused, half inclined to be irritated at what seemed like presumption.
“The young lady and I are very good friends,” he observed.
“That may be your feeling, but it is not hers,” she said composedly. “You may look as though you thought that it were not my affair. It is not. I will speak to you”of another matter.”
“As soon as you please. I must be getting back to my friends before long.”
She stirred her tea lazily.
“I shall not keep you from them,” she promised. “Do you know the man who came in with Yvonne Cortot from the Cafe^de Paris?”
“I have never seen him before,” Grant replied.
“His name is Itash,” she confided, “Count Itash. Some of the girls call him Sammy—I do not know why. You are an American, are you not?”
“I am,” he admitted.
“You are a patriot?”
“I think I may call myself one,” he assented, a little bewildered.
“Then you should beware of Count Itash,” the girl said slowly. “Count Itash, whom Yvonne christened Sammy. Count Itash does not love your country. He would hurt you if he could.”
Grant felt that she was watching him out of the corners of her eyes. He laughed with pretended scorn.
“My dear young lady,” he protested, “all that sort of thing died a natural death many years ago, I don’t suppose there is
any great friendliness between our nations but we get on all right nowadays.” “Do you? I am not so sure. Count Itash does not think so either. I have heard him speak of disputes in Washington.”
“Count Itash seems to be a very indiscreet young man,” Grant observed. “There may have been a little trouble lately but all these things are settled now in a friendly way.”
“There is something coming soon,” she warned him, “which will not besettleed in a friendly way. There is a demand soon to be made ín Washington which may end in a threat.”
“A threat of what? The days of wars are over.” ~ .
She turned her head slightly.
“Only for those,” she reminded him, “who belong to the Pact of Nations.” “What on earth do you know about the Pact of Nations?” he asked curiously.
“I know everything there is to be known. I have a capable instructor.”
“I am more than ever convinced,” he said drily, “that Count Itash is a very indiscreet young man.”
She knocked the ash from her cigarette on to a plate.
“Count Itash has never addressed a word to me on the subject in his life,” she assured him.
“Who is your informant, then?”
“You indulge in conundrums,” ' he remarked.
“Why waste time on the unimportant?” she quèried scornfully, “I can tell you great truths. What does it matter how I came by them? You would scarcely believe me if you knew-, and it really does not matter. The truth is all that matters.” “Who is it that you imagine to be plotting against my country?” he asked.
“Japan and Germany. Possibly China also. You know what Germany lives for? Revenge. As the years go by, her schemes mature. She is nearer the end now than at any time. Shall I tell you of two things which will happen before many years have passed?”
“I fancy that you’re a prophet of woe. But let’s hear, anywav.”
“Prince Frederick will have been proclaimed Emperor of Germany, and Germany and Russia will have declared war against the world.”
“Has your informant also vouchsafed the information as to where the money is to come from?”
“From the conquest of America.”
“God bless my soul!” Grant gasped.
THE orchestra were playing a waltz now. The music seemed to reach them in little ripples of melody. The sound of voices was louder, and even the popping of corks more insistent. A young man came round towards the Bar, and paused to glance meditatively at the two occupants of the almost empty room. Afterwards he ignored them, and seated himself on one of the stools in front of the Bar.
“Itash is uneasy,” she whispered. “He does not wish very much that I talk to you. He has no idea that I know what I know, but you see how restless he is. Something tells him that there is danger about. Sammy!”
The young man swung round on his stool and came towards them at once.
“Let me introduce to you my new friend, Mr. Grant Slattery-,” she said coolly. “Count Itash.”
“I am very glad to meet you, sir,” Itash declared, speaking English with a somewhat guttural accent for one of his race.
“And how is it that you have left Yvonne?” the girl enquired. “You had better hurry back, or she may make you jealous. There are many here who like to dance with her.”
“Yvonne! That is nothing!” he answered. “An affair of the moment. Will you dance with me, Gleo? That is if you, sir, will permit,” he added, turning to Grant,
“By all means,” the latter assented, “but Mademoiselle will return?”
“I shall most certainly return,” the girl promised. “There is a great deal more that I have to say to you, Mr. Slattery. I like very much to talk to you. You understand so well the things that interest me.”, Grant rejoined his party.
“You’re engaged to dance this with me,” Susan reminded him, rising to her feet.
They moved off, danced, and waited for the encore.
‘T wish you hadn’t been so attentive to that young woman,” Susan said abruptly. “Why?”
She waited for a moment until they were out of the crowd.
“There’s some trouble between them already,” she whispered. “Was he jealous of you, do you suppose?”
GRANT looked across the room. Itash ■ and the girl were seated at a table together, Itash leaning towards his companion, his face dark and even threatening. The girl smiled back at him with a look of obvious disdain. Close at hand, Yvonne, the little danseuse from the Cafe de Paris, whom Itash had brought with him, watched them both with growing anger.
“I’m afraid there’s going to be trouble there,” Susan observed. “This is just the sort of thing which makes one realize, after all, that these places are rather sordid.”
They danced again once or twice. Afterwards Susan was claimed by Lymane and Grant strolled across towards the Bar. As soon as she saw him alone, Mademoiselle Cleo rose to her feet with the obvious intention of joining him. Itash laid his hand upon her wrist, leaned forward and spoke to her fiercely. She only laughed. Grant, however, who had caught the young man’s expression, was suddenly anxious. He had a feeling that the field of action had broadened, that they were no longer in the little night Restaurant, but on the arena of a prospective and far-reaching battle ground. Itash, his face dark with anger, had risen to his feet. Yvonne came up and touched him on the arm. He only pushed her away. She went off, laughing, with some one else. Cleo. ignoring Itash’s attempts to detain her, came smiling towards Grant.
“I am afraid,” he said politely, “that you are in trouble.”
“Yes,” she assented. “I am in trouble with my friend Count Itash. If he knew what I had told you—what I am going to tell you—he would certainly kill me. The most amusing part of it is that, as he sits there, biting his nails and cudgelling his brains, he cannot imagine how it is that I know.”
“How do you know?” Grant asked curiously. “Have you spied upon him, listened to private conversation, stolen his papers?”
“Not one of these,” she answered. “Yet I know. I know of the great plot, started six years ago, and now rapidly drawing near to fruition.”
“Are you going to tell me about it?”
“As I learn the details, yes,” she promised. “Day by day and week by week, you shall know, everything. In the meantime, alas! I must make friends with him again. Unless we are friends there are some things which I shall never know. But when I do know them, you shall be told. It is my will to wreck Ms schemes.” “Who is working with him?” Grant enquired.
SHE looked across the room to where the young man’s vengeful eyes seemed to be glaring at them from behind his spectacles.
“Your intelligence should tell you that,” she replied. “Germany, of course. Well, I like Germany well enough. They are a great people. I am not so fond of England......But Itash is to be destroyed.”
“Is it my fancy,” Grant asked, as she rose to her feet, “but are you just a little unforgiving?”
She looked back at him over her shoulder.
“I despise all people,” she said, “who forgive. I never change, I never forgive, I never forget, I never break a promise. I go back to Itash now because there are things I do not know, but he will have little joy of me. I promise you that.”
She swung across the room, laughed down at the young man who awaited her, and sat by Ms side. He began talking in a low, fierce tone. She leaned back, fanning herself. Grant returned to his own table.
A young man who had just entered approached Lymane, and whispered in his ear. They talked for a few moments in agitated monosyllables. Then Lymane turned towards the others.
“Andrews has just brought some extraordinary news,” he announced. “Baron Naga motored over from Nice to the Villa to-night, was taken ill and died there an hour or so ago.”
Grant looked across the room. Itash was still talking volubly. Cleo was still listening, with the same inscrutable look.
GERTRUDE was more than content with her luncheon companion on the following morning. In some subtle but unmistakable way Grant’s attitude seemed to have changed. He looked at her with undisguised admiration and the table which he had selected was in the most secluded corner of the famous Restaurant at the end of the Arcade. She gave a little cry of delight as she leaned over the great bowl of pink roses which were waiting her.
“How wonderful!” she exclaimed. “How wonderful to have you here,” he murmured gallantly.
She looked at him with a faint air of surprise. Yesterday he bad seemed all reserve, sometimes even a little cold. Today his deportment was almost that of lover.
“Why are you so much nicerthan yesterday?” she asked, as she took her place.
“-My resistance is weakening,” he confessed.
She gave a little sigh of content.'
“I think,” she confided, “that I am going to enjoy my luncheon. But before we say another word—tell me some more about this horrible tragedy. What was it? Heart disease?”
“The doctor thought so. I believe that he is making a further examination.” “Why did Naga motor all the way from the other side of Nice to see Lord Yeovil so late last night?” she enquired.
“Something to do with the meeting at
Nice,” he replied indifferently...... “Let’s
talk about ourselves, Gertrude.”
Again she looked at him searchingly. “Why are you so changed since yesterday?”
“Yesterday the old soreness had come back,” he explained. “I loved you and hated you. To-day things seem to have fallen into a clearer perspective. I don’t hate you any more.”
“And do you—love me a little?”
He looked into her eyes which before his earnest gaze became faintly troubled.
“Grant,” she whispered. ‘T don’t know whether I want you to talk to me like this. I have a horrible feeling somehow that you’re not serious. And besides —supposing I were to lose my head.” “Even then,” he said, “you might look upon it as atonement.”
SHE became silent for a time, obviously disturbed. The subjects which had filled her mind had been forcibly ejected.
“I can’t think—really I can’t think, Grant, what possessed me in those days,” she murmured reminiscently. “Otto was so furiously in love with me, and he was so violent. I hesitated and then he seemed to have it all his own way. And I rather wanted to be a Princess.”
“Don’t let’s talk about the past,” he begged, his mouth hardening a little. “The only correct philosophy is to live from day to day. Let us talk about to-day, and then to-morrow.”
She was almost embarrassed.
“Grant, dear,” she expostulated, “you mustn’t make love to me like this before everybody. Prince Lutrecht always comes here to lunch and Cornelius Blunn arrived early this morning.”
“Cornelius Blunn,” Grant repeated. “One of the most interesting men in Europe, I should think.”
“He is an intimate friend of my husband’s,” she remarked drily, “and for widower, he’s rather great on the domestic virtues. If we meet him I’ll present you.” “How much of the rest of your day am I permitted to claim?” he enquired. ‘T should think we could dodge this virtueloving millionaire somehow or other.
“But what about poor Mr. Lymane?” she demanded. “He has sent me a roomful of roses already this morning.”
“Life,” Grant declared, “is going to be full of disappointments for that young man.”
“Meanwhile,” she suggested smiling, “supposing we leave off talking nonsense for a little time. I should like to hear some more about Baron Naga. Have you been up to the Villa this morning?”
“Yes, I went up to see if there was anything I could do. They are terribly upset, of course.”
“Why did he come all the way from Nice at that time of night?” she asked for the second time.
“There was no particular reason that I know of, except that things are not going
quite so smoothly as they should at the Conference,” he confided. “Baron Naga, I think, wanted to explain his position.” “In Berlin they say that the Pact is breaking up,” she told him, dropping her voice a little. “I never thought that it would last so long. America did well to keep out of it.”
He nodded with assumed self-satisfaction-.
“Yes, I think we did the right thing,” he agreed. “America doesn’t need allies, and she certainly doesn’t want to be dragged in to pull the chestnuts out of anyone else’s fire. She is great enough to stand alone. No one can hurt her, Thank God no one wants to.”
“I wonder,” Gertrude reflected. “America has enemies, you know.”
“Pooh! None that really ebunt,” he assured her. “Japan, of course—furious because we won’t let her little yellow men come in and become citizens. And I suppose a portion of Germany’s historic hatred descends upon us, too. Apart from that we are all right.” •
“Supposing America were asked to join the Pact to-day, do you think she would consent?”
“I’m sure she wouldn’t,” he replied confidently. “Not a ghost of a chance of it. She’s been out for all these years, making her own commercial treaties, and is easily, to-day, the richest country in the world: Why should she change?” “Why, "indeed,” Gertrude murmured, “I was just interested to know how you felt about it.”
“I feel as our President feels,” he continued, “and most of our thinking men. We are satisfied. We shouldn’t get into a state of nerves even if Japan got leave to start building a couple more cruisers
a year......By the bye, I wonder whom they
will send to take Naga’s place at the Pact?”
“Katina is coming from Berlin,” she told him. “I believe he is on his way already......I don’t suppose I should have
told you that,” she added, with a little laugh, “but you see I’m beginning to have confidence in you—or rather in your indifference to these things.”
“Why did you ever doubt me?” he asked. “I told you yesterday that I had finished with politics.”
“Well,” she explained, “you know how careful Germans are. You used to be in the Diplomatic Service and I’ve heard you spoken of once or twice as a person who ought to be watched. I think I can clear your character now, though.”
“I’m afraid I’m too lazy,” he ¡answered, “to be seriously interested in anything. The van Roorden millions wrecked my ambitions. You’d have been a very rich woman if you’d waited, Gertrude.”
_ “If I’d waited,” she sighed, looking at him, for a moment, and then dropping her eyes......
THE Restaurant, which had been almost empty at their first coming, had now filled up. Gertrude looked about her in surprise.
“Why, I never saw these people come in,” she declared. “There’s Prince Lutrecht over there. And a whole party of your friends. I don’t think Lady Susan iikes me.”
Susan nodded and smiled across the room. Her eyes, however, had a shade of reproach in them as they met Grant’s.
“Like you? Of course she likes you,” he protested. “If there’s an unpopular one in the party, it isn’t you. Look how Lymane is glaring at me. Gertrude, you won’t dine with him, will you?”
“My dear Grant, how on earth am I going to get out of it?” she asked.
“I’ll get you out of it all right,” he promised. “Tell me, who is the corpulent gentleman of pleasant appearance, with the hat too small for his head who is standing upon the threshold, beaming at you?”
“That is Cornelius Blunn,” she whispered. “He’s a dear thing. Do be civil to_ him for my sake. He could make mischief with Otto if he wanted to, and I m afraid he’s coming to speak to me.” The newcomer was crossing the room— stout, genial and jovial, smiling as though the whole of Monte Carlo was some tremendous joke and the fact of meeting the princess its supreme consummation. He lumbered up like a great elephant, moving clumsily on his rather short legs. But the air with which he raised Gertrude’s fingers to his lips was the air of a courtier. •
, “Why, Princess,” he exclaimed. “How delightful to find you, and how good for
one’s national self-respect to discover that no one in this wonderful place can even hold a candle to a compatriot.”
“Always a flatterer,” she smiled. “Let me introduce Mr.” Grant Slattery. Mr. Gornelius Blunn.”
Mr. Blunn shook hands pleasantly, but without enthusiasm. His manner suggested that Grant’s presence as Gertrude’s sole companion needed some further explanation.
“Mr. Slattery is one of my oldest friends,” she continued. “We were children together in Washington.”
Mr. Blunn beamed. A great smile seemed to rise from the depths of his nature. He was a man of sentiment and he recognized the claim of old friendships. He took the affair under his protection.
“Delightful!” he exclaimed. “Mr. Slattery, you must not doubt my sincerity when I say that it is always a pleasure to meet an American. I am no stranger in New York. I was one of the first who dared show himself there after the terrible days of the war. I was a youngster then—but it hurt. Still, I said to myself, I will go there. It is the home bf many of my race. If there is still bad feeling between us, it must perish. And it has perished. Of that I am assured. It has indeed.”
“Do you travel in England, too?” Grant asked.
Mr. Blunn was no longer a completely happy man. He sighed.
“In England—no,” he answered. “That
is another matter......Princess, I kiss your
fingers. My luncheon will be a happier meal for the pleasure you have brought into the room. Mr. Slattery, I envy you, sir. So does every man,‘but I bear you no grudge.” “ Ü
HE DEPARTED, ponderous yet lightfooted, elephantine yet dignified. Grant gazed after him with genuine curiosity.
“If I were up against that man in a business deal or a political imbroglio,” he murmured, “I should feel that I needed all my wits about me. A person of that type is more dangerous than all the Lutrechts in the world.”
“Dangerous? But how, dangerous?” she queried. “Mr. Blunn is a great philanthropist, and an enthusiastic patron of the arts. In what respect could he be dangerous?”
“Only if he chose to be,” Grant answered carelessly.
“Could I be dangerous, if I chose to be?” she demanded.
“You are dangerous,” he assured her. “You are the most dangerous woman in the world, to my peace of mind. And the terrible part of ■ it all is that you are a German. You belong to a race with whom the domestic virtues are a positive fetish.”
“Just because I married Otto?”
“Just because you married Otto,” he acknowledged. “Germans have the knack of making Germans of their wives.” “Absurd!” she laughed. “What is there Teutonic about me? German women haven’t my figure, and they certainly couldn’t wear my clothes.”
“Externally you have advantages,” he admitted. “All the same you have married a German and you are a governed woman.”
“How you hate my adopted country,” she exclaimed.
“I do not,” he objected. “I hate neither the country nor the people. My feeling is entirely different. I don’t mind admitting that if I were a seriously minded politician I should be afraid of them.”
“But why?” she asked. “What is there to fear? Industrially the world is open to every one since war was done away with.” “Perhaps so.”
"But hasn’t it, Grant, really? The Pact includes every European nation, as well as Japan. Then there’s the Limitation of Armaments as well. Every nation is more or less on an equal footing, and they are all pledged not to fight one another. You must admit that Germany has kept the conditions of the Pact faithfully. Where can fear lie?”
“Where, indeed? You mustn’t take me too seriously, Gertrude. I only meant that, so far as I can see, Germany is well on the way to becoming the second most powerful nation in the world. But honestly I don’t know why we’re talking politics. I lost all interest in them years ago. Do you know what I did yesterday?” “Tell me,” she begged.
“I wired to Cannes for my yacht. It should be here to-morrow.”
She looked at him for a moment steadily. Then a tinge of colour stole into her cheek. She seemed suddenly a little nervous.
“I wish I knew which-was the real Grant,” she murmured.
“What do you mean?”
“The Grant of yesterday—or the Grant of to-day.”
“ANE needs to be long-suffering to C' cope with one’s friends,” Susan remarked, when an hour later she found herself seated side by side with Grant on a bench at the tennis-courts. “Last night you showed marked attentions to a danseuse; this morning you have been flirting disgracefully with that beautiful princess, thereby reducing poor Arthur to despair, and now you propose to devote a few minutes to me for the first time to-day. I am beginning to fear, Mr. Grant Slattery, that you are going to be a disappointment to me.”
“Not at tennis, anyhow,” he assured her. “You and I are going to wipe the ground with the Lancasters.”
“Our thoughts are on different planes,” she declared. “I speak of life and you of tennis. I think we shall beat them, if you stand up to the net and don’t poach.” “How’s your father to-day?” he asked a little abruptly.
“Quite all right, considering. It must have been a terrible shock to him, to see that poor old man collapse with scarcely a moment’s warning.”
“Naga was a great statesman,” Grant remarked. “One of the last of the old
school......Come on, it’s our court.”
On the way across, an acquaintance hailed Grant. By his side stood Count Itash—sometimes called Sammy.
“Slattery, Count Itash says that he has only an informal acquaintance with you and would like an introduction,” the former said. “Count Itash—Mr. Grant Slattery.”
Grant held out his hand. The other, after a little bow, accepted it. He was an insignificant-looking person amongst the athletic young men by whom he was surrounded, but his eyes, behind his hornrimmed spectacles, were exceptionally hard and piercing.
“I am glad to meet you, Mr. Slattery,” he said. “Could you, before you leave the courts, spare me a minute or two?”
“With pleasure,” Grant assented. “We are going to play the best of three sets here. I’ll look for you afterwards.”
“You are very kind, sir.”......
“Who’s your little friend, Grant?” young Lancaster enquired curiously. “He’s the fellow we saw at the Carlton . last night, isn’t he?”
“That’s the chap,” Grant replied. “He rejoices in the name of Itash. I believe I have heard that he is attached to the Japanese Embassy in Berlin, and is doing secretarial work for their section here. Queer looking card, isn’t he?”
“I couldn’t make out where I’d seen him before,” Lancaster observed. “I remember now, I used to see him driving about with Baron Naga. Dismal looking beggar, isn’t he?”
“I expect the poor young man is upset about his Chief,” Susan remarked. “What did he want, Grant?”
“Wanted to speak to me,” was the indifferent reply. “He’s going to wait until after we’ve finished our three sets.” “You’re going to get some part of what’s coming to you,” Susan laughed. “You took his dancing companion away last night and you spoiled Arthur’s luncheon to-day. Why don’t you get a girl of your own?”
“I try,” Grant confessed humbly. “I’m afraid I’m not popular with the sex.” “That’s your fault,” Susan insisted. “A nicely brought-up girl always likes a wellbehaved man. Now get up to the net, and remember we’ve money on this set. Serve!”......
THE tennis-courts presented a gay scene as the afternoon wore on. There was the usual crowd of English and French people, the women nearly all in white, the men, especially the foreigners, showing a little more variety in their costumes. The sun was shining and every one seemed inspired by the soft exhilaration of the air, the beauty of the glittering blue sea below, and the mountains behind. There was a crowd, too, of more elaborately dressed spectators, a fluttering of manycoloured parasols, and all the time the cheerful hum of light-hearted conversa-
tion in many tongues. With characteristic patience, Count Itash—sometimes called Sammy—sat on his solitary bench and waited—a solemn, almost ghoul-like figure, on the outskirts of the gaiety. At the conclusion of their sets, Grant, after he had received the congratulations of his partner, went over and seated himself by his side.
“What do you wish to say to me, Count Itash?” he enquired.
“I offer apologies, but I am in some trouble,” the young man explained earnestly. “It concerns the lady with whom you talked last night.”
“The young lady who is so-called,” Itash assented. “She has been my companion for some time here in Monte Carlo. I will now be very truthful. I have taken a fancy to another girl. Such things happen.”
“Quite so,” Grant agreed. “But I can’t exactly see how this concerns me.”
* “It is in this way. Cleo is very, very angry. She knows that I am _ in the Diplomatic Service—'that I am, in fact, occupying a very confidential and important position down here. She makes a pretence of having obtained possession of secret information concerning the affairs over which I watch, and she threatens to make use of it.”
“But I have never confided in her, not one word,” the young man declared. “We Japanese are not like that. We do _ not talk. We carry our secrets in our brain.”
“Then if you have told her nothing what are you afraid of?” Grant asked. -
“I have told her nothing,” Itash repeated vehemently, “nor can I think-of a single written line of a compromising nature which could possibly have come into her possession. Yet I am disturbed in my mind. Cleo is a strange being. She has the gift of speaking the truth. Not all people have it. When she speaks a thing, one’s heart feels that it is true. So when she tells me that there are secrets of mine which have come within her knowledge, I am afraid. She came to you last night, and she talked to you earnestly. I ask you, sir, •did she tell you anything of those affairs confided to me, the disclosure of which, could amount in any way to a breach of faith?”
“Not a word,” Grant assured him. “To be quite frank, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The young man passed his hand across, his forehead.
“Mr. Slattery, sir,” he confessed, “I am in great distress of mind and body. The death of my Chief last night was terrible, and all the time I cannot escape from this load of anxiety which weighs upon me.”
“I should use a, little common sense,” Grant advised. “If you know that you ' have told her nothing, if you know that you have committed none of your secrets, whatever they may be, to paper, can’t you •realize that she is only trading upon your fears?”
“That must be so,” Itash muttered.
“Furthermore,” Grant continued, “if she had secrets to tell, why on earth should she bring them to me? I am the last person in the world likely to be interested in them.”
THE young man shot a sudden quick glance at his companion. Then he blinked a great many times behind his spectacles.
“I see that,” he acknowledged......“You
are not in the Diplomatic Service, Mr. Slattery?”
“In my younger days I was secretary at Berlin and London for a short time,” Grant told him. “When I came into my money, however, I chucked it. The young lady’s choice of me as a confidant would havebeen ridiculous.”
“Just so,” Itash agreed. “Then she told you nothing?”
„ “Nothing at all.”
“Nor did she give you the impression that she had anything to tell?”
“She gave me no impression at all, except that she was rather a mysterious young person, suffering from an acute fit of jealousy.”
Itash rose slowly to his feet. He held -out his hand.
“I apologize humbly, Mr. Slattery,” he said. “I see that I have been very foolish. Thank you for listening to me. I will go now.”
“You are not going to play?”
Itash shook his head sorrowfully.
“It would not be reverent. In a week or two, perhaps, if I am still here.”
He made his way towards the gate—an odd figure, in his ceremonious black apparel. Susan looked after him curiously.
“Well, have you promised to let him have his girl back again?” she asked Grant, as he returned to her side.
“I have assured him that I am not a serious rival for her favours,” he rejoined. “The young man seems comforted.”
“Got your hands pretty full as it is, haven’t you?”
“Look here,” Grant said severely. “Kindly remember that I have just steered you to victory on the tenniscourts, and in a day or two, if you behave yourself, I will be able to take you for a cruise in the Grey Lady. Incidentally I should be glad if you would further bear in mind the fact that I am a great many years your senior. A little more respect, please. Now, come along, and I’ll give you a lift down to the Club for tea.”
“Thank you. I thought of going with Bobby.”
“You may have thought of it, but you are going with me,” he insisted.
“Rather a bully, aren’t you?” she observed coolly. “However, perhaps I’d better. Bobby gets so affectionate in those little voitures—thinks one needs steadying all the time. You’re above that sort of thing, aren’t you?”
“The springs of my Rolls-Royce,” he began—
“Oh, bother the springs of your RollsRoyce,” she interrupted. “I’m coming with you because I want to get to the Club quickly and because I like your car.”
“The worst of being a millionaire!” Grant complained gloomily, as he took his place at the wheel. “One is tolerated only for one’s possessions.”
“They’re generally the best thing about a millionaire,” Susan declared. “All the same if there were an unattached English one in the market, I think that I should like to marry him.”
“What’s the matter with a perfèctly good American one?” he suggested.
“Entrancing idea, but illusionary,” she rejoined drily. “I hate syndicates, or rechauffes. I’m going in to tidy up, Grant. Try and get the round table in the corner.”
She jumped out and ran lightly up the steps. Grant backed his car to the pavement and was in the act of following her when the blue-liveried commissionaire, hat in hand, accosted him mysteriously.
“A young lady asked me to give you this as soon as you arrived, sir,” he announced, presenting a twisted up half sheet of paper.
“Sure it’s for me?” Grant asked a little doubtfully.
“Mr. Grant Slattery,” the man declared. “The young person knew your name, sir.”
Grant thrust the note into his waistcoat pocket. He felt a curious conviction as to its source. To add a touch of coincidence to the affair, on the opposite side of the ■way, Itash was leaning over the_ wall, apparently watching the shipping in the harbour.
AS A yachtsman Mr. Cornelius Blúnn did not shine sartorially. As a guest and conversationalist at Grant’s improvised cruise on the following day he was easily the most popular man on board. Susan, who had-been his neighbour at lunch, watched him pacing the deck, with a look almost of affection in her face.
“Princess,” she confided to Gertrude, “I think your friend, Mr. Blunn, is the most amusing man I’ve ever met.” Gertrude smiled.
“He is one of those impossible persons who never grow up,” she declared. “A picnic like this is the joy of his life. He was simply delighted when I gave him Mr. Slattery’s message. The strange part of it is that he can scarcely cross the gangway of a steamer without being violently ill. Yet a cruise like this he simply revels in.”
“Make his fortune as a raconteur on the music-hall stage,” Bobby Lancaster chuckled. “Some of the stories he told after you girls had come up on deck!— there was one about a little Dutch girl. I really must—”
“Bobby,” Susan interrupted severely, “I am ashamed of you. The story will reach us all in due course through the proper channels. You will tell your sister, of course. She will tèll me. And so on.” “Then there was another about an Italian maid.”
His sister rose to her feet and thrust her arm through his.
“Bobby,” she said, “you and I will take a little walk. You have brought this upon yourself. I can’t see you chuckling there and leaving me to wonder what it’s about all the time. We’ll stroll down to the bows.”
“This roundabout business is trying but decent,” Susan observed. “I suppose I shall have to wait at least another quarterof-an-hour. In the meantime, Mr. Slattery, I adore your yacht.”
“She really is wonderful, Grant,” Gertrude intervened. “You hadn’t anything like this in the old days, had you?”
“Perhaps it was as well,” Susan murmured, with a rare impulse of ill-humour.
Gertrude smiled across at her rival. Grant had scarcely left her side all day and she was beginning to feel a little sorry for this very charming young English girl to whom her coming was likely to prove so disastrous. Even the picnic had been arranged at her suggestion.
“Well, the yacht has arrived, and other things,” she remarked. “It is never too late in this world, so long as one has the will. Grant, I want to go to the Dutch East Indies.”
“I’d better tell him to put in at Naples and coal, then,” he suggested.
“You will kindly remember,” Susan observed, “that you have the Prime Minister of the greatest Empire in the world on board, who will be required at Nice at a quarter to eleven to-morrow morning to preside over the little teaparty there.”
“That is unfortunate,” Gertrude sighed. “Such a quarrelsome little teaparty too, isn’t it?”
_ Lymane, who was seated in the little circle, moved in his chair uneasily. Grant turned slightly towards her.
“Quarrelsome, is it?” he repeated. “How do you know that?”
, “Oh, the air is full of rumours,” she answered carelessly. “Yesterday, for instance, everybody was saying thát the poor dear Baron Naga had committed suicide because America was to be invited once more to come into the Pact.”
“I thought it was because he found he had one funnel too many on his. latest cruiser,” Bobby Lancaster remarked.
“Idiot!” his sister exclaimed. “That’s the business of the Limitation of Armaments Congress, not the Pact.”
_ “Naga, as a matter of fact, represented his country on both Boards,” Lymane pointed out. “Too much for one man. I know that he dreaded that journey to Washington every year.”......
THE stewards appeared with tea. Lord Yeovil and Cornelius Blunn joined the little group. The latter removed his hat, dragged his chair out to where he could get the full benefit of the sunlight and the breeze, and smiled on every one beatifically.
“Mr. Slattery,” he said, “you are, without exception, the most fortunate man in the world. You own the most perfect yacht I have ever seen, you have no business or other cares, you have the friends who make a man happy. It is a wonderful existence.”
“Rather a lazy one, I am afraid,” he admitted.
“Laziness is the only sound philosophy of life,” Blunn insisted. “If you have no need to work for yourself, why do it? If you spend your time working for others, you meet with nothing but ingratitude. I grudge the time I have to give to the management of my own affairs, but I am always deeply grateful that I was never tempted to dabble in politics. I am training up young men, and in five years’ time I shall be free from all cares. When that time comes, I shall lie like a lizard in the sun of good fortune. I will never write a letter and seldom read a newspaper.”
“I thought that all Germans were politicians by instinct, from their cradles upwards,” Lord Yeovil remarked smiling.
“Not in these days,” Blunn replied, helping himself to his third cake. “My father, of course, was a rabid politician, but he lived in terrible times. A prosperous Germany is so much to the good, of course, but her sons naturally lack the inspiration of what used to be known as patriotism. The fact of it is,” he went on, “that industrially Germany has come in for a great heritage. If she had been as prosperous in nineteen-fourteen as she is to-day, that wicked old Kaiser of ours might have rattled his sabre for ever and
no one would have listened. What people have often failed to understand about my country is, that we are not seekers after glory. We want money and the ease and comfort and happy days that money brings.”
“You don’t think that Germany wants another war, then?” Bobby Lancaster asked.
“My dear young man,” Blunn assured him emphatically, “there isn’t a leader living or a cause in existence which could induce the German of to-day to exchange the loom for the sword. There isn’t a nation which rejoices so thoroughly in the Pact. I thought that this was absolutely understood by now. Even the English sensationalists have begun to trust us.”
He smiled around upon them all. Somehow or other he seemed to feel the inspiration of the circle of interested auditors.
“There is only one thing needed,” he continued, “which my friends the politicians tell me would end the last hopes of the militarists, and that is that the Pact of Nations, over which my honoured friend here, Lord Yeovil, so ably presides, should induce the United States of America to join them and abandon for ever her present aloofness. I do not understand myself the means by which this could be done, or the etiquette necessary, but as a representative German citizen my hand of comradeship is ready at any moment.”
“I wonder,” Lord Yeovil speculated, “whether you really do speak as a representative German citizen.”
“Believe me, I do,” was the earnest reply. “My simple tastes in life are shared by millions. What the German of to-day wants is his beer, his wine, his music and his women-kind. He wants to spend his spare time with his children and to be able to buy his little home early in life. I am not a great traveller. I don’t know how it is with other nations. I know how it is with my own. We want to live out our days, comfortably and pleasantly. We are natural human beings, filled with
natural desires......I have eaten too many
cakes. I shall walk for a little time or I shall have no appetite for this wonderful dinner, which our gracious host has promised us. Princess, will you do me the honour?”
Gertrude rose from her place.
“I am not a great walker, Mr. Blunn,” she warned him, “but for ten minutes I will be your companion.”
“That ten minutes,” he rejoined, “will be the crown of my day.”
THEY all looked after him a little curiously as he stepped out upon his promenade. Lord Yeovil was very much interested.
“I am delighted, Grant,” he said to Slattery, “that you have given me an opportunity, through your friend the Princess von Diss, of meeting Mr. Blünn. I find him an extraordinarily intriguing personality.”
“For a multi-millionaire he seems to be a very simple creature,” Rose Lancaster observed.
“ ‘Multi’ is inadequate,” Grant interposed. “He is reputed to be worth anything from forty to sixty million pounds. It is hard to see how any one could have handled such wealth and have remained so apparently ingenuous.”
“Do you distrust him?” Susan asked a little bluntly.
Grant hesitated. He seemed to be watching Gertrude and Blunn as they walked together—Gertrude superbly beautiful, walking with the perfect grace of her long limbs and exquisite poise, Blunn striding along cheerfully by her side, a figure, by contrast, almost of absurdity.
“Well, I don’t know,” he acknowledged. “You remember what our own Ambassador said many years ago. ‘Trust everybody but a German, and trust a German when he is dead.’ ”
Lord Yeovil smiled.
“Nevertheless, Grant,” he confessed, “I have a leaning towards Mr. Blunn. I am almost sorry that he is not a politician. I would rather have him seated at the Conference table than our friend Lutrecht. What about a rubber of bridge until cocktail time? We can play on deck.”
Blunn stopped short in his promenade. “Bridge?” he repeated, with a broad smile. “Did I hear some one say anything about bridge?”
“Mr. Blunn is a fanatic,” Gertrude declared. “Grant, you will have to come and entertain me, unless you are very anxious to play.” /
He rose at once to his feet and gave an order to the' steward whom he had summoned.
“I will show you the chart room,” he suggested. “There are plenty to play without me.”
They strolled off together. -Susan sat watching them with interlaced fingers. -Suddenly she became aware that Blunn’s eyes were upon her.
“Lady Susan and I against any two,” he proposed jovially. “Take me out if I double ‘no trumps’ with your best suit, partner. Discard from weakness. Always support me when you can, and we’ll win
all the money there is on the yacht...... -
Between ourselves I have a yacht almost as large as this, lying up in Kiel harbour even now. I daren’t use her because of the socialists.”
“Socialists!” Lord Yeovil repeated. “One never hears of them nowadays.” “They’ve all come to Germany,” Blunn confided. “They are like mice—they always go for the ripening cheese. ' They are just a slur upon our too great prosperity. One ‘no trump,’ partner. I knew it. You have brought mé luck. I am going to hold every card in the pack.”
GERTRUDE’S interest in the intricacies of nautical science abated as soon as she found herself alone with her host in the chart room. They sat on cane chairs, and she swiftly brushed aside his explanation as to the problems suggested by the compass.
. “My dear Grant,” she laughed, “I don’t care a bit how you set the course of your yacht or where you go to. What I should really like to know is, why you don’t hold my hand?”
“I am placing a great restraint upon myself,” he assured her. “My Captain is on the left-hand side of the bridge there, and my First Officer on the right.”
“Why you have a room with all these silly little windows, I can’t imagine,” she complained. “I’m feeling unusually gracious this afternoon. It was really very sweet of you to arrange this party and to let me bring Cornelius Blunn. _ He was most anxious to meet Lord Yeovil.”
“I wonder why?” Grant -remarked. “He appears to hate politics, and most serious matters.”
“He does, but he loves men,” she explained. “Men, and women, too, for that matter. A new type interests him. He has more friends than any man I ever met, and the number of his women acquaintances is scandalous.”
“He seems quite a simple person. I should never have believed that he was the Cornelius Blunn one - reads so much about—the great capitalist, the huge speculator, the man who controls the brains of so many great enterprises.” “Mostly newspaper talk,” she observed carelessly. “He holds the majority of the shares in a great many of these companies by inheritance, but he takes no active part in their management. I wonder what Lord Yeovil thought of his suggestion that America ought to be asked again to join the Pact of Nations.”
Grant’s expression was one of bland indifference.
“I have no idea,” he confessed, “what Lord Yeovil’s own views on the matter may be,” he confessed. “We seldom talk
politics______How does a man like your
friend Blunn, now, get on with politicians, say of the type of Prince Lutreeht?”
“Well, they are entirely different,” she said thoughtfully. “Lutreeht is a born statesman. He comes from a stock of diplomatists. He would never have the broad views of Cornelius Blunn.”
“This matter of America, for instance?”. Grant hazarded.
"“How should I know anything about it,” she queried, a little impatiently, “and why do we waste time talking politics? You’re not nearly so nice as you were yesterday. Have you nothing more interesting to say?”
“And if I have, what would be the use?” His tone seemed full of bitterness, his glance was certainly reproachful. She leaned towards him and took his hand boldly.
“Can’t I make up, just a little, Grant?” she whispered. i
“Do you want to?” he demanded.
“I think so.”
“And then go back—to Berlin?” ’
“Who knows?” she sighed. “You yourself have had proof that I am a creature of impulse. When I feel strongly enough I have no will.”
THERE was a knock at the door. A steward brought in a message scribbled on a piece of paper. Grant glanced at it and nodded.
“We had better go down,” he said, turning to Gertrude. “The Captain wants to consult me about the course. I have promised Lord Yeovil that he shall be back at ten o’clock. And I have an appointment myself later.”
“What sort of an appointment?” she asked a little jealously.
“Nothing of any moment,” he assured her.
They descended the steps, Grant pausing to speak for a few moments with the Captain.
“I’m tired of all these people,” Gertrude declared abruptly. “Take me into your music-room and I’ll play to you.” He shook his head. Lymane was glowering at them from the rail, and Rose Lancaster was sitting alone.
“Alas!” he murmured. “You must remember that I am a host.”
“I shall flirt with Arthur Lymane,” she threatened.
“You’ve done that already,” he answered drily.
“Nonsense, I’ve only trifled with him,” she laughed. “He’s a nice boy but conceited. Walks in his master’s shadow and fancies himself a diplomatist. He is—as some one once said of your war time Prime Minister—full of small reticences and bubbling over with ingenuous disclosures.” “How did you discover that?”
“When I talk to him I have to pretend to be interested in politics,” she replied evasively. “There is nothing else he can talk about.”......
Susan cut out of the rubber and Rose Lancaster took her place. Grant crossed over and sank into a chair by the former’s side.
“Any luck?” he enquired.
“Thirty francs, thanks to Mr. Blunn. He’s a daring caller but he plays the cards wonderfully.”
“A most interesting character,” he remarked.
“Father seems to like him,” she agreed. “The only German he ever has liked.” “And you?”
“I like him, too, or rather I think I do,” she replied, after a moment’s hesitation. “There are just odd moments when he gives me rather a quaint impression of
insincerity. I dare say that’s fancy......
Grant, you’re giving us a wonderful day.” “I want it to be,” he answered. “It’s very nice to get you all here, and I fancy it must be rather a relief to your father to be right away for a few hours. No messages or cables possible. Hullo!”
HE LOOKED up at the masthead.
Susan followed his example. There was a little crackling of blue fire there.
“I’m afraid I spoke too soon,” he pointed out. “A wireless for somebody. I meant to have had it disconnected.” Lord Yeovil, who was playing a hand, paused for a moment and looked up curiously.
“I should like to have been Prime Minister to Queen Elizabeth,” he grumbled. “One might have had a chance of a few hours’ holiday then.”
“Not you, Dad,” Susan exclaimed. “You’d have found making love to her all the time much more strenuous than lawmaking.”
“My knowledge of history is slight,” her father rejoined, “but I don’t fancy that Queen Elizabeth showed much amorous interest in elderly widowers.”
The Marconi operator presented a message to Lord Yeovil. He tore it open, nodded, and waited till the young man had retired. Then, after a moment’s hesitation, he glanced across towards Gertrude, who was leaning against the rail, with Lymane by her side.
“My news is official,” he said, “but there is, I imagine, no secrecy about it. It will probably interest you, Princess.” “Me!” Gertrude exclaimed, looking genuinely surprised.
“It is a cable from Berlin,” Lord Yeovil continued, “which Andrews has wirelessed on to me. ‘Baron Katina left this morning with cabled credentials to take Naga’s place here. I am informed that he is accompanied by Prince von Diss.’ ”
“Otto! My husband!” Gertrude cried. Lord Yeovil assented.
“Is your husband, by any chance, a Japanese scholar, Princess?” he asked.
“He understands Japanese,” she re-
plied. “He learnt it at Tokio years ago. He has been over there once or twice since on Missions.”
“That probably explains the matter,” Lord Yeovil pointed out. “Katina has the reputation of being a great diplomatist, but he has only just commenced the study of European languages. The Prince is probably coming with him as interpreter.”
Y Gertrude’s face was, for a moment, scarcely beautiful. She was looking across at Grant. Susan intercepted the glance, and laughed, for her, a little maliciously.
“What a catastrophe!” she murmured......
A steward handed round cocktails. Blunn looked at the beautiful glasses, with their slight frosting, and rose to his feet, as he accepted one.
“To my friend and host,” he said, addressing Grant. “I drink to you fervently, sir. You are the Prince of hosts. Three minutes ago I felt that slight uneasy sensation, that faint but insistent desire for alcoholic sustenance, which sometimes prompts me at about seven o’clock to press the bell for my own butler, or if I am in an hotel or at my club, to make certain suggestions to the waiter. The feeling comes and within three minutes it is gratified. Wonderful!” He raised his glass to his lips and drained it.
“Have another,” Grant invited, “there’s a shakerful behind.”
“I will,” Mr. Blunn assented, without hesitation. “I like your cocktails, sir. I like the time and manner in which they are served. I like everything about them. It is indeed a very happy day. I am going two ‘no trumps.’ ”
Gertrude raised her glass.
“Well,” she said, “I suppose I must drink to the end of my grass-widowhood.” She looked across at Grant. He smiled iriscrutably. _
“You anticipate,” he reminded her. “The Prince cannot arrive until the morning after to-morrow.”
“In that case,” she decided, “I shall drink to something else.”......
DINNER, served as they crept at half speed towards the harbour, was a wonderful meal. Grant’s chef, who had ransacked Monte Carlo on the previous day, and motored over to Nice to collect the materials for one of his favourite sauces, had surpassed himself. Every one except Gertrude seemed in the highest possible spirits. Cornelius Blunn, growing pinker with every course, sat like an overgrown and over-eaten child—sometimes witty, sometimes ingenuous, always amusing. Rose Lancaster on one side and Susan on the other were admirable and appreciative foils for# his gallantries. Gertrude, on Grant’s right, was a little silent and intense, Lymane, on her other side, sulky and inclined to be melodramatic. He was continually endeavouring to inveigle his neighbour into a whispered conversation which she, as persistently, discouraged. She declined altogether to take him seriously. v
“My dear man,” she protested, “don’t you understand the situation? I cannot flirt with you any longer. My husband will be here within a few hours. I must bring myself into the necessary state of mind to receive him. It is, perhaps, a calamity, but it must be borne.”
“You have the whole of to-morrow,” he muttered.
“It will take me the whole of to-morrow to find myself,” she assured him. “Here have I been encouraging Mr. Slattery and, at any rate, listening to you, with all the licence of a fairly respectable but susceptible grass-widow. Otto is very jealous and I am a very dutiful wife. I have little more than twenty-four hours to forget you both. I must be left entirely alone. I have promised to dine with Mr. Slattery tomorrow night, and a promise is a thing I never break. I warn him, however, that it will be—well—”
[í¡> “I rather understood,” Lymane interrupted bitterly, “that you were dining with me and coming somewhere to dance afterwards.”
“That was the night after, my friend,” she replied. “And, alas! there’s nothing in the least modern about Otto. I’ll give every one fair warning that while he is here I shall not be allowed to dine or flirt with any one. To-morrow night is my last evening of freedom. Don’t be surprised, Grant, if I lead you a terrible dance.”
“Why should they have a dinner to themselves?” Cornelius Blunn exclaimed, turning to Rose Lancaster. “I will give a dinner-party to-morrow night. I invite everybody. I have some other friends, over at Nice. I will wire for them. Prince Lutrecht and his wife shall come. I will spend the whole of to-morrow arranging it. I cannot equal this festival but I will see what can be done. Accept quickly, please, every one of you.”
There was a little affirmative chorus. Cornelius Blunn looked across at Gertrude. She set her lips and shook her head.
“I shall not give up my own dinner,” she declared, defiantly, “and I decline to let Mr. Slattery off.”
“Very well,” Blunn acquiesced goodhumouredly. “I shall either alter the date of mine or it shall be an opposition. I shall probably have refinements which have never been thought of before. I shall have the roof removed from the Hotel de Paris for a quarter of an hour only and presents dropped down from aeroplanes for every one. I shall have Mademoiselle Lebrun from Nice to sing to us and Coquinet to tell us stories. I shall—”
“Don’t give it all away,” Gertrude interrupted. “If you are trying to tempt me, I am quite firm. If you give your dinner to-morrow night I shall dine with Mr. Slattery.”
“My attitude towards your husband in this matter,” Blunn declared, “will be one of pained but remorseful silence.”
, “So long as it really is silence,” Gertrude laughed......
“I have ordered coffee and liqueurs on deck,” Grant announced. “We are just entering the bay and the moon is up. You ladies may need your wraps but it is quite warm.”
THEY trooped up the companion-way.
Grant looked for Susan, but she had hurried on with young Lancaster. On deck they found that they were already headed for the narrow opening between the red and green lamps of the harbour. The great sweep of the bay was outlined by by a glittering arc of lights; the towering hill-side in the background was bespangled with little points of fire. The Casino flared out in front. The moon, yellower and fuller at every moment, seemed to give a note almost of artificiality to the little scene; they could even hear the sound of music from the open windows
of the Concert Room......Susan and
Lancaster found their way into the bows and stood watching the phosphorus. -Lymane brought Gertrude her coffee to the chair which she had chosen close to the rail. '
“Do you really mean it about tomorrow?” he asked. \
“Of course I do. Why not?”
“You were not engaged to dine with Grant Slattery,” he complained. “You made that up.”
“What if I did,” she answered coolly, “Mr, Slattery is .an old friend, he is very amusing and he talks about things that interest me.”
“Don’t I?” he demanded.
“To be quite frank, you don’t,” she confessed. “You are very young, you know, and you think because you are private secretary to a Prime Minister, that you have to wrap yourself in a mantle of impenetrable reserve. I’m positively ill at ease talking to you. I am so afraid that I shall ask something which will provoke one of your diplomatic replies.” He leaned a little nearer to her.
“Come out to supper with me to-night,” he begged. “And I’ll talk about anything you like in thé world.”
“Supper, to-night,” she repeated, a little dubiously. “But shan’t we be tired?” “No,” he answered eagerly, “you can rest for two or three hours. Let me call for you, say, at twelve o’clock.”
She considered the matter for a moment. Then she nodded.
“Well, you can come and see me at twelve o’clock, anyway,” she agreed. “You’re a very nice boy, and I didn’t really mean to be angry with you. You remember our bargain?”
“Rather!” he answered rapturously. She looked over her shoulder. Grant had descended from the bridge and was coming down the deck. For/once the young man was quick to understand.
“I shan’t say a word about it, of course,” he assured her.
She laughed back at him.
“I see there are hopes for you, after all,” she declared.
To be Continued